The Truth About Cars » Editorials http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 27 Aug 2015 22:00:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Editorials http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/editorials/ Bark’s Bites: We All Need a Bad Influence or Two in Our Lives http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/barks-bites-need-bad-influence-two-lives/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/barks-bites-need-bad-influence-two-lives/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 14:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1153729 “Just passed this on Michigan Avenue outside of Dearborn. Manufacturer plate.” The above picture of a GT350R in the wild and the accompanying text found their way across the LTE network to my phone last Thursday. My good friend — let’s call him Acd — and I have a habit of supporting each other’s addictions. […]

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GT3502

“Just passed this on Michigan Avenue outside of Dearborn. Manufacturer plate.”

The above picture of a GT350R in the wild and the accompanying text found their way across the LTE network to my phone last Thursday. My good friend — let’s call him Acd — and I have a habit of supporting each other’s addictions. In the therapy world, they call such people “enablers.”

In the car junkie world, we call them “kindred souls,” and I’m fortunate to have more than a few of them in my life.

Let’s be real with each other for a moment here, shall we? We might all be Car Guys, but to the rest of the world, we’re simply “idiots.”

I already have a perfectly good, much-fast-for-the-real-world Mustang, and yet every time I see a picture of a GT350R I start doing math in my head to see how I might possibly be able to swing one. Although I’m what some might call upper middle-class, I’m not so well off that the sticker price of a GT350, avec ou sans R, is an insignificant sum. The financially responsible thing would undoubtedly be to hold on to my Boss 302 and “let somebody else take the depreciation hit” on a 2016 GT350 — as if these things are going to appreciably depreciate any time soon.

In a culture that simultaneously encourages outlandish consumerism and then shames anybody who actually engages in it, one often finds himself wrapped in a paradox that I have previously called the “Nobody Needs That” societal ideal. On the rare occasions that I feel this pang of guilt, I thank the Lord above that I have stupid, reckless, and immature friends like WW to inspire me to do stupid, reckless, and immature things. Otherwise, I might occasionally do something intelligent with my money, like, oh, I don’t know, save some of it.

My friend Acd knows this. Therefore, he’ll do things like send me pictures of EFFING AMAZING LOOKING GT350Rs IN THE WILD. My other friend, David, does things like send me pictures of all the cars he can buy with his truckload of cash that his employer simply dumps in front of his apartment every other Thursday. We egg each other on. We encourage irrational buying behavior. We celebrate it when we do something completely stupid like lease a completely superfluous car. I’m just as excited to see the first shots of any of my friends’ new whips on Facebook as am to see all of those completely unique and original shots of their kids’ First Day of Fourth Grade (guilty, by the way).

And it’s not just new cars that my Car Guy friends and I encourage each other to over-consume. We geek out over new exhausts that serves no other purpose than turning a V8 up to Eleven. We high-five over 140 treadwear tires that might not last an entire summer. We celebrate the finding of a pristine NA Miata with a mere 200,000 miles on the engine for less than two grand. I think I received more comments about my 1996 Subaru Legacy Wagon (RIP) than I did about anything I’ve ever bought, because a certain segment of my Car Guy friends thought that it was awesome I found a running Subaru for less than the cost of a set of winter tires.

We nudge each other. We implore each other. We justify the insane for each other. We rationalize the need for new cars, new parts, new trips to new racetracks — anything that helps us feed the fire for each other. And thanks to the power of the Internet, we are normally thousands of miles away from each other when we do it. That doesn’t weaken the connection, though. If anything, it thrills me to be in Miami, sending pictures of exotic cars in Epic Hotel’s roundabout to my few friends that actually afford them in Atlanta.

It’s classic Relationship Builder behavior. A bunch of guys from different walks of life, from all over the country, encouraging each other to wring one last dollar out of our wallets to pursue our passions. Without our dearly departed editor, Derek (he’s not dead, you know, he just isn’t here), I probably would have never pulled the trigger on leasing my Fiesta ST. Without my brother on the phone, calming me down after I screamed at a New Car Manager, I wouldn’t have a School Bus Yellow monster in my garage.

And without my dear friend, Acd, I wouldn’t be looking at GT350 build sheets as I type this. Without all of these morons in my contact list, egging me on to pursue my passion with more vigor than any normal father of two has the right to do, I’d have a lot more money, no question.

But I’d also have a lot less Life.

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Don’t Do Me Like That, Honda! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/dont-like-honda/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/dont-like-honda/#comments Thu, 27 Aug 2015 13:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1153737 If my personal relationship with Honda had a Facebook status, that status would be the one so beloved of mistresses, side pieces, and FWBs — namely, “It’s Complicated”. A decade ago, I took a gig reverse-engineering a piece of production-line equipment for them. I had never owned a Honda automobile at the time and I’d […]

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accordcoupe1

If my personal relationship with Honda had a Facebook status, that status would be the one so beloved of mistresses, side pieces, and FWBs — namely, “It’s Complicated”. A decade ago, I took a gig reverse-engineering a piece of production-line equipment for them. I had never owned a Honda automobile at the time and I’d long since sold my first CB550. The car I drove to work at Honda was a black Volkswagen Phaeton.

Fast-forward to 2015. It’s been some time since I took the King’s shilling, so to speak, and the balance of payments between me and Ohio’s finest automaker is very far in my personal favor. But as I write this, I am the owner of four Hondas. And I’d buy another one, if they’d just quit screwing with me about the details.


Long-time TTAC readers know about my Accord V6 6MT Coupe. You’ve heard about its stout-hearted engine and its rounded-off front tires and its paper-thin OEM floormats. And if you’ve been on the site for a while, you might know about Kellee, the CB550 that I bought in 2012 and put back on the road in 2015 with help from my friend Josh.

But I’m also the owner of two more Hondas: a VFR800 25th Anniversary and, as of about forty-five days ago, a new CB1100 “standard”. As a result of that and my decision to sell my 944 at the beginning of the year, the scoreboard in my garage that used to read “Porsche 3: Honda 1″ now reads “Porsche 2: Honda 4″. I’d like to tell you all about the CB1100, from the 527-mile ride that I took on it the day I bought it, to the way it flat fucking leaps from a low-rev roll, to what it is like to have a beautiful woman on it sitting behind you with her arms around you and her eyes closed in blissful repose — but this is The Truth About Cars, not The Romantic Discussion Of Unfaired Motorcyles And Pretty Girls And Riding Around Downtown Columbus With No Helmet While Pretending To Be David Lee Roth At 1:34 In The “Panama” Video, so we’ll save that for another time.

Let’s talk, instead, about my Accord. I’m reliably informed by this very website that “non-sporty coupes” are on the way out. I’m also pretty sure that this is the last generation of Accord that will offer a V6. It’s certainly the last generation of Accord that will offer the combination of a manual transmission and that bad-ass J35Y2 straight out of Anna, Ohio where you can smell the metal in the air when you get off the freeway and the Subway is basically the local fine-dining restaurant and the nineteen-year-olds come out in the afternoon with smudges on their perfect cheekbones, laughing in the sun and engaged in their private conversations while you lean against your Phaeton in a white shirt with someone else’s name sewn above the pocket.

For that reason, I’ve considered selling my 2014 Accord, which is about to reach the 24,000-mile mark, and buying the 2016 Accord to replace it. Objectively this makes no sense; the 2016 Accord differs from the 2014 Accord in visual particulars and an upgrade to the in-car electronics. But you have to look at it like this: If there are no more Accord V-6 coupes, ever again, then it’s best to have the newest and freshest one possible. Buying a new Accord means that I will be able to drive this kind of car two years or 24,000 miles longer before giving up and setting my future fifty-something self into whatever bullshit bug-eyed, phone-booth-esque, CVT-shifted, turbo-three-cylinder crossover turns out to be the final and solitary result of the current automotive market’s quantum possibility collapse.

I have at least eighteen months to make this decision, since I figure that the 2017 model year will be identical to the 2016 and Honda’s unlikely to can the six-speed halfway through 2016. At worst they’ll pare-down the lineup in 2017 to make room for the inevitable Accord SE and I’ll scramble for a remaining 2016 model. But which model would that be? And therein lies the annoyance.

Believe me, I truly appreciate Honda’s steadfast commitment to making the manual transmission available. It’s why I’m driving an Accord instead of a Camry XSE V6. But the manual V6 coupe is the stepchild of the line. In 2014, it was available in just three colors, two of which (“Modern Steel” and Black) are not colors so much as they are the absence, or totality, of color. In 2015, Honda threw a really nice white pearl with an ivory interior into the mix, too late for me to make that choice.

The company has also failed to make its top-of-the-line “Touring” model available as a coupe here in the United States. (Elsewhere, there are apparently four-cylinder and six-cylinder Touring Coupes). That means that if you want LED headlamps in your Accord you have to get a sedan. For 2016, however, there’s a Touring Coupe for the United States. It has LED headlamps. Woo hoo! And nineteen-inch wheels. That’s probably an ugh!, given what heavier wheels do to light-footed cars like the current Accord.

When I heard that there was going to be a Touring-trim V6 coupe, I figured that was pretty much the tipping point for swapping my car out. I didn’t have an invite to the press event, so I had to wait until the information on trim and equipment became common knowledge. This morning, Honda emailed me an invitation to look at the 2016 Accord configurator. Sure enough, there’s a Touring coupe. It’s available in seven colors, including the fascinating-looking Opal Blue Pearl. And…

…it’s automatic-only. If I want a manual, I’m stuck with the same model (EX-L V6) that I have currently. And, unless I want to drive a bright-blue Accord coupe, which I don’t, I’m stuck with the same choices of red, black, and grey from 2014. At least the price didn’t go up too much and the i-MID display is multi-color now.

You know, I keep thinking that at some point, someone at Honda is going to get it. They’re going to realize that the high-end V-6 Accords are basically the Yukon Denalis to the Acura TLX’s Escalade, attracting a more favorable demographic of wealthier, more settled and brand-loyal customers than the pimped-out version across the street. And when they realize that, they’re going to do something like offer a fully-loaded V6 manual coupe, and a fully-loaded V6 manual sedan, and they are going to capture the business of people who would otherwise drop $60,000 on a loaded-up S5 or 335i coupe. Don’t laugh; there are a lot of Accords next to BMWs in the garages of the midwest.

On the other hand, maybe I should be grateful for Honda’s less-than-perfect marketing. If their marketing team were as efficient as, say, Porsche’s, then I’d be able to get any color I wanted for my Accord. But I’d probably be stuck with an automatic no matter what color I got, the same way buyers of the current 911 Turbo and 911 GT3 are assumed to be incapable of using a clutch. And I’d still be stuck with a manual day/night mirror unless I wanted to pay $1,195 for a Porsche Doppel-Mirror-System option package that made it impossible to have another option that would be similarly overpriced but also desirable, like Carbon Fiber Temperature Display Surround Variant Three. And at some point, I’d probably have to take my Accord in for an engine replacement, instead of the transmission replacement that the slush-shifted V6 Hondas used to get.

Maybe Honda will throw another color in the hopper for 2017. If you’re listening, oh sacred marketing people of Torrance, where the sun always shines and no manufacturing takes place, then perhaps you’ll hear my plea. How about… lime green?

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Let’s Break Down The Ford Ranger and Bronco Rumors, Shall We? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/lets-break-ford-ranger-bronco-rumors-shall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/lets-break-ford-ranger-bronco-rumors-shall/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 19:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1153297 News today that the Ford Ranger pickup and Bronco utility could return to the United States and Canada is being met by very enthusiastic ears, including yours truly. According to multiple outlets, the two vehicles could be built at Ford’s Wayne, Michigan plant, the same plant that will lose Focus and C-MAX production to Mexico in 2018. […]

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everestfront

News today that the Ford Ranger pickup and Bronco utility could return to the United States and Canada is being met by very enthusiastic ears, including yours truly.

According to multiple outlets, the two vehicles could be built at Ford’s Wayne, Michigan plant, the same plant that will lose Focus and C-MAX production to Mexico in 2018.

But, is everything as it seems? Let’s dive into the Ford product portfolio and try to make some sense of it.

First, the Ranger rumor: The global Ranger — dubbed T6, which just received a refresh for 2015 and will likely be due for a redesign for MY2019 — will make a return to the United States and Canada.

There has been some recent Ranger activity around Ford facilities in Michigan. However, the larger evidence at play to support the rumor is growing interest in smaller trucks.

Tacoma sales are up even though the next-generation truck hasn’t really started selling yet. The GM twins — Canyon and Colorado — are flying off lots as quickly as the General can build them. Why there’s an increased interest in the mid-size pickup segment is unclear; it could be that full-size pickups have just grown too big for a decent segment of the truck-buying public, that people again see mid-size trucks as alternatives to the seemingly dead, truck-based SUV segment (see: Xterra), or increased competition and marketing is making mid-size trucks more visible to consumers.

The fact the Wayne, Michigan facility needs product is another strong support for the rumor. The previous plant to build the Ranger has been shut down, so it can’t go there.

I have professed some “Charger Love” as of late and would never consider a full-size pickup. However, a mid-size offering would certainly fit my own lifestyle, as I’m sure it would for many others.

The second and more involved rumor: The Everest will come stateside with the Bronco moniker.

This rumor requires some finessing of the Ford lineup, which means we must examine the Explorer and Taurus.

It’s no secret that the Ford Explorer and Taurus gain a significant number of their sales from police departments.

Year-to-date, nearly 20 percent — 5,929 to be exact — of the Taurus’ 29,967 total sales are of the Police Interceptor variety. The other 80 percent of Taurus sales aren’t just retail; those sales are split between retail and other fleets. While a breakdown isn’t available, it does mean less than 24,038 Tauruses were sold retail year-to-date. (For comparison, FCA has sold 28,889 units of the Chrysler 300 to retail and fleet.)

The Explorer has become far more popular with police departments than the Taurus. Year-to-date, Ford has sold 14,920 Explorers to police departments, but it makes up a smaller percentage of the Explorer’s 145,785 total sales — just over 10 percent. Currently, the Explorer is the 6th most popular SUV in America behind the Nissan Rogue and ahead of the Jeep Cherokee.

The Taurus, as TTAC has reported in the past, is not long for this world … at least the American world. The sedan is likely to continue on in China, but is expected to be cancelled here. Other D4 platform mates — Lincoln MKS, Ford Flex and Lincoln MKT — have also been rumored for the guillotine. That means if Ford wanted to keep the Explorer in its current form, it would likely be the only vehicle riding on a platform currently shared between five different models. Goodbye, economies of scale.

So, let’s assume that even though Explorer sales are doing fine, it’s not going to stick around either, leaving a significant hole in the Ford lineup above the Edge and below the Expedition. That hole is very similar to another one found within the Lincoln lineup between the MKX and Navigator.

Enter Everest — or, as you might be calling it in the future, the Ford Bronco (or possibly Explorer) and Lincoln Aviator.

The Everest is based on the Ranger, so the “Bronco”/Explorer and Aviator would both be a body-on-frame, rear-wheel drive SUVs. Instead of a Wrangler competitor, this would be a Grand Cherokee/Durango competitor. If you were hoping for a droptop Bronco, you’re out of luck here, folks.

“By 2020, we expect to expand the segments that we participate in by adding two new nameplates to the Lincoln brand,” said Stéphane Cesareo, spokesman for Lincoln, when we inquired on the Lincoln Aviator rumor, and the Everest would fit the bill for a premium, rear-wheel drive SUV for the Lincoln brand in addition to the return of Continental. There’s your two “new” nameplates.

This possible plan leaves Ford without a full-size sedan to sell to police departments and lacking a livery car for the Lincoln brand. However, that new Lincoln Continental could do livery duty, and a Ford-badged Continental derivative could fill the spot left by Taurus.

Whether this all comes to fruition, we’re not sure. However, as far as speculated plans are concerned, this seems like the only option for Ford (and Lincoln) going forward if the “Bronco” is anything but a rumor.

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The Modern Automobile Is Killing Chivalry http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/modern-automobile-killing-chivalry/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/modern-automobile-killing-chivalry/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 16:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1152969 On April 1, 2014, I met my girlfriend Jennifer for the first time. We sipped on our coffee and tea late into the night at a local coffee joint while sharing stories and generally just trying to figure each other out. But, after a while, my legs grew restless, my rear had gone numb on […]

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2015 Nissan Micra S (1 of 10)

On April 1, 2014, I met my girlfriend Jennifer for the first time. We sipped on our coffee and tea late into the night at a local coffee joint while sharing stories and generally just trying to figure each other out. But, after a while, my legs grew restless, my rear had gone numb on the provided polypropylene seat, and I was long done with my coffee.

“Want to go for a drive?” I asked.

“Sure,” she replied.

I have no problem telling people that Jennifer and I met on Jack’s pick-up app of choice, Tinder. Jenn and I chatted back and forth for a couple of days before finally meeting. Thankfully, being an automotive journalist, I was prepared. On this particular week in April, I was driving a near-as-makes-no-difference $100,000 Audi A7 with as many options as the public relations budget could bear.

As we walked out of the coffee shop — let’s call it Jim Dortons — I reached into my pocket, pulled out the keys and unlocked the Audi’s doors.

I went to the driver’s side, she to the passenger’s side, and we both slipped into the German executive liftback.

“Wow, this is nice,” she exclaimed with the mild surprise I’ve come to love.

We explored the snow-covered streets of the city I now call home. Now and then, I let the rear of the A7 slide ever so slightly so I could prove my driving chops to my future Miss.


Earlier this year, and more than a year after Jennifer and I met each other on that dark wintery night in a coffee shop, Nissan loaned me a Micra S — base model spec with nary an option. It is, by far, one of the most basic examples of personal transportation money can buy in a First World country.

The Miss and I tend to both enjoy a burger here and there, so we headed to a local fast food joint after both putting in 10+ hours of work for the day.

We sat, traded the day’s stories (Warning to TTAC writers: She knows everything about you), and enjoyed our grill-fired deliciousness on a balmy summer evening. Nothing could be better in this moment.

When it was time to go, we walked out of the fast food joint — let’s call it Gag & Spew — I reached into my pocket, and …

… I walked to the passenger side of the car to unlock the door.

This is the first time you’ve ever physically unlocked a door for Jenn, I said to myself as the epiphany hit me like a fully loaded Amtrak train.

Not only that, I followed the unlocking action by opening the door for her.

She stood there, looked at me for mere seconds — but those seconds felt like an eternity — with a face usually reserved for times when she sees a fluffy, fresh out of the wrapper puppy (eyes that say “Awwweeee!” without the mouth needing to do so), gave me a kiss and jumped in the car. I closed the door for her.

While we can have a massive conversation about gender equality or traditional gender roles, the fact remains: until this moment, I had never unlocked nor held a car door open for Jenn. Not once. Not ever. And it all comes down to power door locks and, well, me never thinking to do it.

The same logic can probably be applied to climate control systems. Not so long ago, if your significant other was getting a little warm over on the passenger side, she might have said, “I am getting a little warm.”

“No problem, I can take care of that, dear,” you’d reply, adjust the single-zone temperature control so both of you would be comfortable — or you might even take one for the team and bear being uncomfortable yourself so she’d be content — and she would likely be appreciative of your efforts, however small it may be.

Nowadays, your reply might be, “You have your own temperature control knob, dear. You can set it to whatever you want!” Feminists might call that empowerment. I call it a missed opportunity.

All these modern features — remote power locks, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote automatic starters (the end of “Don’t worry dear. I can go out and start the car for you.”), roadside assistance (the end of “Yes, dear, I can drive out and help you change that tire.”), and numerous others — are all aimed at making the car more convenient, but also fly in the face of car guys being a chivalrous sort. Even bench seats are limited to pickups these days, unless you want to pick up an Impala Classic through a friendly fleet manager.

While Jenn and I did end our coffee date all those months ago with a kiss, I wonder: If I had held the door open for her, would I have received that kiss before our drive? And would our drive have turned out to be a much different experience?

Maybe, maybe.

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Bark’s Bites: All Kids Love Fast Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/barks-bites-kids-love-fast-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/barks-bites-kids-love-fast-cars/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 14:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1152809 On the rare occasion that my schedule gives me the flexibility to do so, I am always thrilled to pick my son up from school. It’s such a treat to see the little ones with their faces pressed against the glass of the exit doors, bursting with the excitement of the end of the school […]

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boss parking grass

On the rare occasion that my schedule gives me the flexibility to do so, I am always thrilled to pick my son up from school. It’s such a treat to see the little ones with their faces pressed against the glass of the exit doors, bursting with the excitement of the end of the school day, counting down the seconds until their teachers finally open up the proverbial floodgates and unleash them into the waiting arms of their parents.

My son is usually among the first to bound out of the building, and when he sees that I’m the one who has the happy job of retrieving him for the day, his eyes always light up just a little bit more. Unfortunately, it has nothing to do with his love for dear old Dad.

And if I, for just one second, happen to think that he might be particularly excited to see me, he always puts an immediate pin in my balloon with the following question:

“Did you bring the Mustang today?”

As a parent of young children, I find that much of my responsibility in life is to eliminate as much of the disappointment from their lives as possible. Unfortunately, the older that they get, the more challenging that becomes; there are already disappointments from which I have no power to shield them. So when I have the power to make them happy, even in the smallest of ways, I try my best to do it.

I have long since learned answering the boy’s question with, “No, I brought the Fiesta,” brings a swift and severe look of disappointment to my little guy’s face. Therefore, even though it’s a hassle to put the car seat in and out of my Boss 302, and even though I have to contort myself into poses that would make Tony Horton proud of me on “Yoga X” day just to buckle my son into his seat, the look on his face is all worth it.

But one might expect the son of an automotive enthusiast to also have a passion for cars, so there’s nothing terribly unusual about that. No, what has always struck me is the way every single child in that building responds to a pony car that wears a paint scheme normally reserved for a vehicle that’s much more common in a school parking lot.

When the Boss is on the scene, my son makes sure to call out a hearty “Bye!” to all of his friends, just so they can see him getting into the car. The reactions I’ve heard from them are not only universal, they’re priceless:

“Wow! That car is awesome!”

“Hey, Mom — can we get one of those?”

“Aww, man. Your dad’s car is faster than my dad’s car.”

One particularly sunny afternoon, I parked next to a shiny, candy apple red Prius with temporary tags. The owner, a rather peppy-looking grandmother, was excited to show her grandson her new car when she picked him up. He took one look at the Prius, looked at my 302 sitting adjacent to it, and treated us all to a dose of that glorious honesty that all children of preschool age possess in spades:

“Nana, can you take it back and get one of those instead?

And it’s not just a Boy Thing, either. Now that my daughter has begun preschool, she’s made her preference for her afterschool chariot known as well.

“Just don’t go super fast on the way home, Dad,” she reminds me. “I kinda like going fast, but I kinda don’t.”

Seeing the purely visceral response that all of these ten-and-under boys and girls have to a car that sometimes seems like it was visually designed to impress ten-and-under boys and girls makes me wonder: At what age does society request — nay, require — us to take a more common sense approach to cars?

After all, it’s not like the other parents couldn’t afford a Mustang. In the sea of Tahoe LTZs and Explorer Limiteds, one could make the argument that the Boss 302 places right about in the middle of the parking lot’s economic strata. There’s one other somewhat older dad who picks his young son up in his gorgeous green Boxster, but the rest of the vehicles are nondescript variations of the same silver, white, or black CUV.

On some level, there’s a practicality that exists in a CUV that simply isn’t found in my Mustang. Yet I still manage to pick up two children, place them safely in car seats, put their backpacks in the trunk, and head home. One dad approached me and asked me if there was enough room in my car for kids and all their stuff. I replied that I wouldn’t necessarily want to drive to Disney World in it, but that it worked just fine as a daily commuter.

“Good,” he replied. “I really want one of those Shelbys.” Then he grinned and walked back to his Traverse. That was over a year ago. He still has the Traverse.

My guess is that he just couldn’t sell the idea to his wife — or, more likely, that he just couldn’t sell the idea to himself. Back when I had my G8, I remember feeling almost sad for a coworker who had his young son strapped in the back of a New Edge Mustang — like maybe he couldn’t afford a proper family car. Society has us all convinced that we need to make safe, easily defensible choices when it comes to our cars. Just as I’m entirely certain that every kid in that parking lot loves the Mustang, I’m entirely certain that nearly every parent judges me for putting my kids in it. Society tells us that we need a crossover for our family lives, and as the owner of one, I’m not entirely convinced society is wrong.

But you know what? I’m not entirely convinced that society is right, either. Because along with that judgment comes a piquant hint of envy. Maybe it’s a longing look from a guy who traded in his Camaro on a Grand Caravan. Maybe it’s a smile from a woman whose boyfriend used to take her out in a convertible V6 ‘Stang back in high school — or maybe she had one of her own. But, at some point, almost every right-thinking adult took that lust for a fast, loud, brash car and shoved it squarely into the deepest recesses of his brain. So, after a momentary lapse of reason, the envy goes back to that limbic part of the brain, and the cerebral part goes back to justifying the smart, sensible choice of buying a Ford Edge.

Well, I’m here to tell you that sometimes your cerebral part of your brain betrays you. Sometimes it’s okay to go back to being that nine-year-old boy who wants his car to go fast. Maybe you don’t have to go Full Mustang. Maybe you can get a slightly bigger engine in your Camry or Accord. Maybe you can look at a Charger instead. Maybe your CUV can have a Hellcat engine.

Let your inner nine-year-old out. Then, when your nine-year-old child hugs you just a little tighter for bringing his favorite car to pick him up, you’ll both be reminded why you loved cars so much in the first place.

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If You Drive A Smart Today, You Can Drive An Exotic Later http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/drive-smart-today-can-drive-exotic-later/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/drive-smart-today-can-drive-exotic-later/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 13:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1152137 Two weeks ago, I wrote about the slings and arrows of car2go membership. A few members of the B&B took issue with my claim that car2go was the cheapest way to operate an automobile. One of them decided to do the math. And did he ever. If you have a modern version of Microsoft Excel […]

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Two weeks ago, I wrote about the slings and arrows of car2go membership. A few members of the B&B took issue with my claim that car2go was the cheapest way to operate an automobile. One of them decided to do the math.

And did he ever.

If you have a modern version of Microsoft Excel you can download his spreadsheet at this link. It doesn’t work perfectly in OpenOffice, but other than “Free Software” nutjobs such as myself I doubt anybody uses OpenOffice, so that’s totally fine.

“Being in finance allows me to separate hype from speculation (most of the time),” he notes, and since he’s one of our readers who hails from outside the United States, about sixteen hours by air outside in this case, I’ll give him a pass on the idea that “being in finance” and “speculation” are anything but joined at the hip. The spreadsheet allows you to plug in various values for leasing vs. buying vs. car2go. What I like about it is that it allows you tweak nearly every parameter instead of limiting you to fixed assumptions about pricing or residuals.

Having fussed with the spreadsheet for an hour or so, I can tell you that it is very difficult to make the numbers come out in favor of leasing or owning unless you really get funny with your assumptions or you plan for some very long trips behind the wheel of a Smart. But even TTAC readers who have no intention of ever getting behind the wheel of a shared automobile will enjoy the lease vs. buy calculations.

Some of us, however, require a little more out of our lives than the quiet satisfaction of knowing that one has thoroughly crunched the numbers and reduced one’s transportation expenses to a minimum, all the better to save a million dollars or so in today’s Bernankified fiat currency for an extra thirty days’ worth of life in a nightmarish assisted-living facility at the dementia-ridden end of one’s mortal coil. So our anonymous-by-request B&Ber has thoughtfully added a corner to the spreadsheet that allows one to plan a splurge with one’s savings. It includes a flight to California and an exotic-car rental. There’s even space for some expenses at the Chateau Marmont, where your humble author took a BMW i8 a few months ago and where it is possible, given the right combination of car, cash, and confidence, to engage in unprotected sex with someone who had a minor role in an episode of a made-for-cable sitcom. If that is not an incentive to save a bit on your daily grind, I don’t know what is!

I’d encourage you to download the spreadsheet and try your own calculations. Let us know how it goes. As for me — well, I compared car2go with leasing an Aventador or buying a Viper ACR, and I can state with conviction that the car-share service is definitely the lowest-cost option.

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Junkyard Find: 2000 Volvo S80 T6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/junkyard-find-2000-volvo-s80-t6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/junkyard-find-2000-volvo-s80-t6/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 11:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1152257 I promised more 21st-century Junkyard Finds recently, so here’s a high-end Volvo with turbo boost rivaled only by its turbocharged depreciation levels. Yes, it’s the Volvo S80, complete with twin-turbo 286hp tranverse-mount straight-six. Looks like an insurance-auction car, and it was a runner. Except for the banged-up hood (which may have been the result of […]

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18 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin

I promised more 21st-century Junkyard Finds recently, so here’s a high-end Volvo with turbo boost rivaled only by its turbocharged depreciation levels. Yes, it’s the Volvo S80, complete with twin-turbo 286hp tranverse-mount straight-six.
17 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin

Looks like an insurance-auction car, and it was a runner.

03 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin

Except for the banged-up hood (which may have been the result of junkyard employees prying it open after the inside release failed), the body and interior look to be in nice shape.

13 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin

I’ve heard possible urban legends stating that this engine — yes, it’s possible to get six cylinders sideways in an engine compartment — will bolt up to the bellhousing in a manual-transmission Volvo 760, which opens the door to all sorts of fun with 240 swaps. The crazy Swedes building a 500-horse Volvo 142 drift car have a couple of these engines stashed in the shop for future projects.

15 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin

I’m not sure what’s going on with the steel mesh over the grille.

My goodness!

It was a futuristic-looking car, 15 or so years ago.

00 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 01 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 02 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 03 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 04 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 05 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 06 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 08 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 09 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 10 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 13 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 15 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 17 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 18 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 19 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 20 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 21 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 22 - 2000 Volvo S80 T6 Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin

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QOTD: What Are You Supposed to Drive Making Minimum Wage? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-supposed-drive-making-minimum-wage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-supposed-drive-making-minimum-wage/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 11:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1151873 After two years at a grocery store making $4.25, I got my first raise as a member of the U.S. workforce: I could eat all the nearly expired yogurt in the dairy I could ever want. Unfortunately, yogurt doesn’t buy a car. And after two years of checking, stocking, bagging and mopping, I had a […]

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09 - 1998 Toyota Corolla Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

After two years at a grocery store making $4.25, I got my first raise as a member of the U.S. workforce: I could eat all the nearly expired yogurt in the dairy I could ever want.

Unfortunately, yogurt doesn’t buy a car. And after two years of checking, stocking, bagging and mopping, I had a pair of turntables and records to show for my hard work.

Fortunately, I was in high school and could “work” off my car loan with grades. But for 3.3 million Americans who make the minimum wage — or less — there may not be such a deal.

And at $7.25 an hour, or $15,080 a year, your car-buying options are fairly limited.

I know what bootstrap Republicans will say: “Take the bus!” But remember, west of the Mississippi River, public transportation is often a time-consuming and inconvenient process. And if you’re making minimum wage, chances are you need more than one job, which means lost time commuting is lost money that’s sorely needed.

Geezers may scoff: “In my day, I worked for a dollar an hour and was thankful for the opportunity!” That’s true. In 1967, the minimum wage was $1 an hour, but a new Camaro also cost $2,466 MSRP — which meant your buck an hour could buy you a Camaro after one year of hard work. Try that today with your $15,080 and the 2016 Camaro starting at more than $26,000.

Budget buyers would say: “Craigslist is full of $500 Corollas! Buy one of those!” But remember that a bad asset is another word for a liability. Cars today are infinitely more complicated for home mechanics, and more expensive to fix at a shop. There’s nothing worse than a money pit, or worse, walking away from something you can’t recoup later. Even the average price for a used car is out-of-reach, the Detroit News reported that an average used car transaction is $18,800.

So what say you B&B? What’s a working man supposed to buy if minimum wage can’t even pay attention?

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In Which An Editor Goes Car Shopping http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/editor-goes-car-shopping/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/editor-goes-car-shopping/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 18:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1151457 At virtually every other automotive outlet for whom I’ve worked, the communication between writer and reader has been a one-way street. I give advice. The reader listens. Whether the reader acts on that advice is completely unknown. Also, the reader never gives advice to the writer. Thankfully, TTAC is different and the Best & Brightest […]

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At virtually every other automotive outlet for whom I’ve worked, the communication between writer and reader has been a one-way street. I give advice. The reader listens. Whether the reader acts on that advice is completely unknown. Also, the reader never gives advice to the writer.

Thankfully, TTAC is different and the Best & Brightest will drop a nugget of information in the comments that I can use not only in my professional life, but in my personal life as well.

And it’s on this advice that I drove 2 1/2 hours to Moncton to drive a 2015 Dodge Charger R/T Road and Track.

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Thanks to BunkerMan’s information, I sent an email to Moncton Chrysler Jeep Dodge to make sure the car was in stock. It was. Within 30 minutes, my girlfriend and I planned a day trip to Moncton.

I know I can be long winded, so I am going to keep the rest of this short. Here were my impressions of the car and new-car shopping in general.

The Charger R/T sounds incredible, but the Road and Track package takes away a number of characteristics from the Charger SXT Rallye V6 AWD that made me fall in love with the LX-platformed four door.

  • The R/T Road and Track comes with 20 inch wheels as standard with minimal tire sidewall, hampering comfort.
  • “Sport Suspension” appears on the order sheet.
  • The plush seats are gone, replaced with sport buckets that mimic school bus benches in their comfortability. This is exacerbated by the fact I couldn’t get the power-adjustable seat low enough.
  • There’s not much more in the power department over the V-6, though there isn’t a massive jump in price either.

That said, there is a Scat Pack nearby now, but I’m fairly certain based on my test drive of the R/T Road and Track that the more performance-oriented model won’t be for me either. It looks like I’ll need to find a normal R/T before making any decisions.

Besides the car itself, the dealership itself turned me off from the whole car shopping experience. I don’t mean the salesman. Paul was a stellar guy and far from pushy. He knew I wouldn’t be buying that day but still catered to my needs. The dealership was holding a “sale weekend”, complete with plexiglass cash grab booth and a showroom floor — devoid of cars — covered in “free” household appliances.

I thought we were beyond this kind of sales gimmickry, but it looks like I was wrong.

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2015 Ford Mustang GT Review – No Longer A One-Trick Pony (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ford-mustang-gt-review-no-longer-one-trick-pony-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ford-mustang-gt-review-no-longer-one-trick-pony-video/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 16:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1149057 2015 Ford Mustang GT Premium 5.0-liter, DOHC V-8, CVVT (435 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm; 400 lbs-ft @ 4,240 rpm) 6-speed Getrag MT82 manual 15 city/25 highway/19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG) 18.2 mpg (Observed, MPG) Tested Options: GT Premium Trim, Ruby Red Paint, 401A Package, Performance Package, Adaptive Cruise Control, Navigation, Recaro Seats Base Price: $30,875* As Tested: $45,470* * All prices include $900 destination charge. Ford’s Mustang is […]

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2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-010

2015 Ford Mustang GT Premium

5.0-liter, DOHC V-8, CVVT (435 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm; 400 lbs-ft @ 4,240 rpm)

6-speed Getrag MT82 manual

15 city/25 highway/19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

18.2 mpg (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: GT Premium Trim, Ruby Red Paint, 401A Package, Performance Package, Adaptive Cruise Control, Navigation, Recaro Seats

Base Price:
$30,875*
As Tested:

$45,470*

* All prices include $900 destination charge.

Ford’s Mustang is as American as the hot dog and KFC Double Down, but for 2015 it received an internationally-focused makeover. Since 1964, the Mustang has been the place to find a large V8, a manual transmission and a solid rear axle. That solid axle has been a point of contention for foreign auto journalists who frequently compared the Ford’s handling to a pickup truck, and decried the GT as a one-trick pony: the car that was excellent in a straight line at a drag strip — and that was about it. That’s a problem when Ford’s new mission is greater harmony in their lineup worldwide.

While 2015 retains the large V8 engine, manual transmission and rear wheel drive we’ve all come to know and love, it brings the first completely independent suspension to every Mustang in over 50 years. Also big news for 2015 is the resurrection of a 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine, something we haven’t seen since the Fox body Mustang of the early 1990s. In a nod to our friends in Old Blighty, a factory-made right hand drive model is also in the works. All of these changes are because this Mustang is suddenly thrust into a much bigger pool of competitors.

Can Ford teach this pony some new tricks to compensate?


Exterior
The first thing you’ll notice about the new Mustang is the Aston Martin meets Fusion meets Mustang styling. The sheetmetal looks more elegant and more intentional than before. While the 2014 looked cartoonish from some angles, the 6th generation ‘Stang doesn’t seem to have a bad angle to be found. It’s clear Ford not only spent more time styling their new 2-door, but is also spending more on stamping the metal as we have more curves and angles providing visual interest. The front quarter panel for instance rises up, then curves back down to meet the hood panel, giving the front of the Mustang something of a “proto-fin.” We’re hyped that 2016 will bring back turn signals integrated into the hood vents (visible to the driver) in certain trims.

2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-014

All Mustang models now come standard with HID headlamps, a nice touch in a segment that generally lacks modern lighting. Out back, the sequential turn signals are now made from LED strips inside large vertical plastic housings with deep recesses between the lamp modules. The look is striking, but proved more effort to clean than I had considered.

The sleek profile belies the sixth generation’s shrinkage of about two inches versus the out outgoing model. The loss in length helps the Mustang slightly in international markets where the Ford is considered a large two-door. In terms of comparisons, the Mustang is nearly a foot longer than the BMW M235i we recently reviewed, about the same size as a 435i, and a foot shorter than a Dodge Challenger. The main reason for the long body, of course, is the massive engine bay designed to longitudinally accommodate large engines.

There was a great deal of speculation about Ford’s right-sizing program. Would a weight reduction be part of the package? The answer is no, the Mustang has actually gained a little weight in this generation. Contrary to the earlier rampant “weightgate” speculation, curb weight is up just 20 to 80 pounds, depending on how you compare a 2014 trim to a 2015 trim.

2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-004

Interior
The one area that didn’t receive as much attention is the interior. The style is fresh and instantly recognizable as a Mustang, but we only get an incremental improvement in the feel of the parts. There are still plenty of hard plastics lower in the interior including the center console and areas where your knee and leg are likely to rest. (Remember that the Mustang starts under $24,000.) The new steering wheel is loaded with buttons, but thankfully I found the layout intuitive. Lovers of thick-rimmed steering wheels will be disappointed to find that the tiller is no thicker than the Ford Edge we recently tested.

When looking at the Mustang parked next to a BMW 2-Series, you might assume the Ford would be larger inside. You would be wrong. The Mustang and the 2016 Camaro have about the same amount of front and rear seat legroom as the baby Bimmer, with the Mustang actually being slightly smaller inside. This mainly has to do with the position of the engine in the Mustang and the size of the engine bay which makes the nose longer to give it a proportion similar to a British sports coupé. Meanwhile, BMW pushes the engine a little further back making the overall packaging more compact. On the upside, the Mustang has more footwell room making it more comfortable for folks with larger feet.

2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-011

Our tester had the nearly $1,600 optional Recaro seat package. If you track your car regularly, and need the aggressive bolstering, and are about my size or smaller, get them. Everyone else should avoid them entirely. The standard seats are softer and more comfortable, they offer more lumbar support and the Premium trim of the Mustang would normally get memory-linked power seats, adjustable lumbar support as well as heating and ventilation. All of those features are given up for the Recago logo, and it’s just not a good trade. A quick spin in a dealer provided GT without the Recaro seats, but with the Performance Package, confirmed that the firmer suspension is also easier to live with if you get the base seats. The difference is more pronounced when you consider the Mustang comes with very comfortable seats in every other version, beating the current Camaro and Challenger easily, and are actually quite competitive with the standard seats in the 2-Series, 4-Series and Lexus RC.

Hop in the back and you are reminded the Mustang is best described as a “2+2 coupé” where the last digit is a little smaller than the first. While not as tight as a Jaguar XK, the back seat should be reserved for small children or your legless friends. With the driver’s seat adjusted comfortably for my 6-foot frame, there was a 3-inch gap between my seat back and the rear seat bottom cushion. (I prefer an upright position when driving a manual.) Convertible shoppers will be pleased to know that rear headroom actually increases if you chose the rag top. At 13.5 cubic feet, the Mustang’s trunk is also similar in size to the BMW 2-Series, but Ford thankfully uses hidden hinges to make the most out of the trunk. You should know that the optional ShakerPro speaker package consumes just over a cubic foot of space.

2015 Mustang My Ford Touch

Infotainment
Our pony car had Ford’s optional MyFord Touch infotainment system. This software is due to be replaced in 2016 by Ford’s completely redesigned SYNC3 system. MFT is one of the most maligned infotainment systems on the market, but it is also one of the most fully featured. Even in 2015, there are still mainline brands that don’t offer voice command of your USB-connected music library. At this point, Ford has addressed most of the major issues that plagued MFT, except for the speed. Interacting with the touchscreen requires patience as screen changes are considerably slower than the Hyundai, Chrysler and GM alternatives. SYNC includes an integrated telematics system that emails vehicle health reports, allows you to call a concierge, request emergency assistance and knows when your airbags have gone off. On the downside, this system is dependant on a paired Bluetooth phone to actually make the calls — so if you’ve forgotten your phone and you get in an accident, the car can’t dial for help.

Our tester included the optional navigation software and the up-level ShakerPro branded speaker system. The 12-speaker system uses a trunk mounted subwoofer, a dash-mounted center channel speaker and a 550-watt 9-channel amp. The system is certainly tuned with a significant bass punch, but overall it is still well balanced. It had no problems rocking my Vanilla Ice album all the way to A1A Beachfront Avenue.

2015 Forg Mustang GT Engine-003

Drivetrain
The big engine news for 2015 isn’t that the 3.7-liter V-6 lost a few ponies, or even that Vanilla’s five-point-oh is still available; it’s that we have the first four-cylinder Mustang in quite some time. To make room for the new EcoBoost mill, Ford de-tuned the V6 slightly to 300 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 280 lb-ft of twist at 4,000. That means that unlike the Camaro, the four-cylinder is an upgrade, not the base engine. Checking the EcoBoost box gives you 310 horsepower at a lower 5,500 rpm and a whopping 320 lb-ft at a low 3,000 rpm. But I’m here to talk about what separates this American from the European and Asian options. Five. Point. Oh. Revving up to 7,000 rpm and featuring twin independent variable valve timing, the Coyote V-8’s only modern omission is direct-injection. Power comes in at 435 horsepower at 6,500 rpm and 400 lb-ft at 4,250 rpm. (The recently announced 5.2-liter V-8 Shelby is a perfect example of naturally aspirated engine designs vs turbo engine design. The 2016 Shelby GT350 will bump power by 91 horsepower but torque by only 29 lb-ft. Compared to the twin-turbo German V8s, the horsepower is similar but torque is notably lower.)

Unusual in 2015, even in performance cars, is your choice of manual or automatic transmissions on all models (in 2016, the Shelby will be manual only) and your choice doesn’t interfere with the options packages. That means you can get the GT and EcoBoost Mustangs with radar cruise control, all the goodies and still get the 6-speed stick. (There have been some complaints about the Getrag MT82 manual transmission but I didn’t experience an unusual shift feel during my week. Be sure to let us know if you’ve had a problem with yours in the comment section below. There has been quite a bit of forum buzz regarding “clunks and thunks”.) Also a little unusual these days is the option of multiple rear axle ratios. For those that are unfamiliar, axle ratios are the final “link” in the chain for your drivetrain. The transmission’s 3.65:1 first gear ratio is multiplied by the rear axle you chose — 3.31, 3.55 or 3.73 — to get the effective total ratio of 12:1, 12.9:1, or 13.6:1. (All three ratios are available in the EcoBoost model but just the 3.55 and 3.73 are offered in the GT). That has a big impact on acceleration and fuel economy since the 6th gear ratios have the same variance. The available axle ratios are why fuel economy has dropped in the V-6’s EPA test, as Ford is no longer offering the 2.73:1 rear axle in the V-6 like they did in 2014. This means the base V-6 in 2015 is much peppier, but the MPGs drop two steps. This is where the EcoBoost model steps in with 31 or 32 mpg combined (depending on the transmission) despite giving you more power, more torque and a more aggressive rear axle ratio than the base 2014 V-6. On the downside, power and economy figures for the 5.0 and 2.3 are based on premium unleaded.

2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-001

Drive
Over twenty years ago, I was learning to drive on my neighbor’s 1988 2.3-liter four-cylinder Mustang LX with a shot clutch. My how times have changed. Back then 300 horsepower was a pipe dream, the GT’s 6.3 second 0-60 time was rad to the max and a 32 mpg Mustang was as likely as a blue unicorn. Even ten years ago, the thought that the Mustang would be serious competition to the imports was wishful thinking, but the sixth-generation pony offers 300 horses standard, the mid-range model gets over 30 mpg on the highway, and every version is faster to 60 than it was in 1988. Combined with a more refined and capable suspension, this is that unicorn.

The 2014 Mustang’s rear end got upset on broken pavement and felt heavy in the corners. The 2015 feels composed and significantly lighter in comparison, despite actually being heavier. The GT still feels slightly front heavy in the corners, no surprise with a large V8 under the hood, but the EcoBoost model feels much better balanced. Thanks to the gearing and tire selection, all versions are tail happy when prodded. Next year brings us a new Camaro with a Cadillac ATS-derived chassis and suspension, something that bodes very well for the bowtie brand as well. However, this is 2015 and the current Camaro is a notch behind the outgoing Mustang. Absolute handling is obviously a factor of your tire choice, and ours was equipped with the optional Pirelli PZero summer rubber in a staggered 255/40R19 front, 275/40R19 rear setup. In an interesting twist, the suspension is quite firm but there’s more body roll than you’d expect.

2015 Ford Mustang GT Interior-007

If you’re a traditionalist, fear not. The Mustang, especially our GT tester, is still about well-priced straight-line performance. The V-6 will sprint to 60 in 5.8 seconds, the turbo will do it in 5.6, and our GT in a swift 4.6 seconds with launch control enabled and the 6-speed manual. A nice touch: Unlike many cars out there with launch control, Ford keeps it crazy simple. Once enabled in the LCD between the speedo and tach. it stays on. Period. That means you don’t have to worry about fiddling with menus; you just floor it, release the clutch and let the nannies do their thing. The car retains the setting even through ignition cycles. You can improve things further by double-tapping the traction control button and enabling sport mode which allows a little more action in the rear. (Note: Ford says that both systems should be used on the track only. Sure…) Of course, you’ve probably also heard about Ford’s nifty line lock feature that allows perfect burnouts every time without wearing your rear brake pads.

The GT’s 7,000 rpm redline means that the ‘Stang sings like a high-revving European sports coupé more than a Camaro or Challenger. Since all the ponies come to a trot at 6,500 rpm, you’ll spend a great deal of time at those lofty heights. The good news is thanks to the throttle mapping and general character of the 2015, it revs easily, happily and sounds great while doing it.

2015 Ford Mustang Exterior-009

Thanks to electric power steering, the Mustang’s wheel is as numb as most of the competition, although BMW and Nissan manage to transmit more road feel in the M235i and 370Z. Skipping the Performance Package makes the GT more driveable on a daily basis in terms of suspension tuning, and in that form the body roll seems well-balanced with the spring firmness. The downside of skipping the pack is the reduced grip. If I were shopping in this segment I’d probably skip the package and use the cash to swap in some sticky rubber. If you do get the package, I suggest some stiffer sway bars.

Ford set the base price for 2015 low — very low. At $23,800, the Mustang undercuts the Camaro and Genesis Coupé by $3,000 and the 370Z by nearly $6,000. That means that for the price of the base 2.0-liter, 275-horsepower 2016 Camaro, or the Genesis Coupé V-6, you could get a 2.3-liter EcoBoost ‘Stang with an option or two. A base Z will cost you more than a well-equipped V-6 Ford or only about $2,500 less than a Mustang GT. At $32,850, the BMW 228i is a whopping $7,550 more than the more powerful EcoBoost model, and the M235i is $11,850 more than a Mustang GT. Why all this focus on the M235i? Because the Mustang actually reminded me a great deal of the small BMW. The Mustang finally feels light and nimble, and at the same time the M235i feels far more substantial than small BMWs of the past. While the BMW does feel more refined, the delta has never been smaller. With previous generations, one could have argued that the BMW’s greater refinement was worth $10,000. With this generation, I wouldn’t pay more than $1,000 for the extra feel in the BMW. That’s a problem because in order for the M235i to be as fast as our $45,470 tester, you would need to add the 8-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, both of which would make it less fun. Better in the rain, but less fun. The added hardware also makes the M235i xDrive tip the scales at 3,695 pounds, just 10 pounds lighter than the Ford, and still considerably more expensive. Although the BMW’s suspension is better sorted and more settled, if you shod them with identical tires, the Mustang will be right on the 2-Series’ bumper.

Is the Mustang perfect? No. I wish the interior was a little more comfortable and the automatic transmission needs a few more gears in order to match the competition. Hyundai, BMW, GM and Chrysler have gone 8-speed and even Nissan is one cog higher at 7 in the 370Z. That means there is still a toll to be paid for selecting the automatic, while the competition’s slushboxes promise improved fuel economy and improved acceleration. Still, the Ford holds true to what the Mustang has always promised: performance at a reasonable price. The big news is that those reasonable prices come with surprisingly few compromises and it’s entirely possible to consider the Mustang as a value alternative to a German coupé. Comparing a Pony Car to a compact German coupé used to be ridiculous, but this pony is a blue unicorn that’s learned a few tricks.

Ford provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.0 Seconds

0-60: 4.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13 Seconds @ 112 MPH

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Viper Pit on Woodward – It Always Has to Be Snakes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/viper-pit-woodward-always-snakes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/viper-pit-woodward-always-snakes/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 14:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1148121 I have a friend and colleague, for the purposes of this post we’ll name him Jack, that races cars and has an active social life with attractive women. It’s not likely that he’d be jealous of a decrepit grandfather like me, but indeed his envy was as green as his old Audi S5 when I […]

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I have a friend and colleague, for the purposes of this post we’ll name him Jack, that races cars and has an active social life with attractive women. It’s not likely that he’d be jealous of a decrepit grandfather like me, but indeed his envy was as green as his old Audi S5 when I recently got to tour the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant where FCA assembles the Viper.

That’s because Jack is an unabashed and unashamed fanboy of Dodge’s handbuilt V10 powered American supercar.

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Jack’s also about the most loyal person I know who doesn’t share some chromosomes with me (and more loyal than even some of my relatives), so if I can do him an act of kindness — or better yet, find an angle with which I can needle him — I will. After all, isn’t mockery and humiliation what friends are for? All of my friends make fun of me. Oh, yours don’t? Never mind.

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Anyhow, in conjunction with Chrysler’s extensive Woodward Dream Cruise activities (which included thrill rides and drag racing out at the old Pontiac Silverdome), Fiat Chrysler hosted a Motor City Viper Owners Club meet at their corporate display in the shopping center parking lot at 13 Mile Road and Woodward — pretty much ground zero for the Dream Cruise. I was already in the neighborhood to check out Roger Penske’s Indy 500 pace car parade and by the time that was over there were some Vipers heading down Woodward. I figured I’d check out the Viper meet and hopefully get some material for a post here at TTAC and maybe even something with which I could gibe my friend.

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Jack’s rather opinionated. Maybe you remember this post that passionately expresses how he’d own the previous Z06 version of the Vette but never a Corvette with an automatic transmission (or convertible top) because, to him, the slushbox Vettes say “soft old man”.

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As I watched the MCVO members show up, park their cars where directed, and dismount their reptilian steeds, two things about Vipers occurred to me. The first was that it is apparently de rigueur that if you own a Viper, you must get vanity plates. The other is that it looked like the average Viper owner fit the stereotype of older, bald, tanned, gold-chain-bedecked Corvette owners better than Corvette owners themselves. I think I saw maybe two owners who looked to have a prayer of being younger than Baruth’s 43. More than a few were older than me and I remember John Kennedy getting elected.

The guy on the left was about the youngest Viper owner there, and even he has a touch of grey.

The guy on the left was about the youngest Viper guy there (he was representing a Viper tuner), and even he has a touch of grey.

I even joked about the Corvette stereotype to one Viper driver and he agreed. “Well, at least you don’t have the gold chain,” I pointed out. That’s when he laughingly reached into the neck of his shirt to show me that he came complete with 14K.

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It was pretty hot that day and I was getting some shade under an umbrella where they were taking applications for credit cards. As a gift for possibly dinging your credit rating, they were giving out metal Viper and Hellcat wall plaques. “Wait,” I thought to myself, “I know someone who really likes Vipers.”

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I have more than 60 egg crates filled with automotive press kits and swag I’ve accumulated over the past 15 years, so it’s not like I really needed the wall hanging. I sent Jack a text message.

“You want this Viper wall hanging?”

“Of course I do. That’s badass”

“These Viper owners fit the Vette stereotype better than Vette owners. Seriously, driving a Viper would peg you as one of the “olds” quicker than a Corvette rag top.”

“Yeah, but I don’t care.”

Got to admire a man who will put aside his passions so he can stick to his convictions.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Slow Drive: Jaguar F-TYPE V6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/slow-drive-jaguar-f-type-v6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/slow-drive-jaguar-f-type-v6/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 13:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1151377 Earlier this year, I got a weekend job doing what I always thought was a dream job — driving brand new cars around; almost all makes and models. It turns out that even a “dream job” can quickly turn into “Oh great, I have to go to work again”. But forget that. The cool part […]

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Earlier this year, I got a weekend job doing what I always thought was a dream job — driving brand new cars around; almost all makes and models.

It turns out that even a “dream job” can quickly turn into “Oh great, I have to go to work again”. But forget that. The cool part is still cool and I still get to drive brand new VWs, Audis, BMW’s, Porsches, Hondas, everything. Everything except Cadillacs. I don’t think I’ve driven a new Caddy yet. That part is great!

There’s one catch to this job of mine. I have to stick to a speed limit. “Who doesn’t?” you may ask. Well, this speed limit is a little lower than most. I’m stuck doing 15 miles per hour. 15 mph. Oh, and no radio and rarely A/C.

Here’s what I’ve noticed: Driving slowly gives you a chance to learn the vehicle more. How’s the ride? How’s the interior? When you’re in traffic or on a back road, you’re busy worrying about deer, the guy on his cell phone, and what the road is doing ahead of you. I’m not worried about those things. It’s just me and the car. So what I’m trying out here is a unique spin on the car review. You’re not going to get handling at the limit. You’re not going to get maximum acceleration. You’re going to get what I notice while driving 2-5 miles at 15 miles per hour — a Slo-Mo Review.

Let’s start with a good one. The Jaguar F-TYPE V6.

I’m getting in the F-TYPE because the guy in front of me couldn’t get the door open. It’s simple. You push on the dimple, the handle pops out, you open the door, and get in. Move the seat all the way back, all the way down. The seat controls are on the door. I always like that because I can move the seat without getting in or bending over.

I can fit in this car. It’s low and I’m tall so sometimes it’s a bit of a squeeze. Nice inside; leather everywhere. Everything seems bolted together tightly. The door panel doesn’t move when I rest my knee on it. That’s surprisingly rare.

Ok, push the start button. Whoa! The supercharged V-6 sounds amazing, and it blips the throttle when you start it. Sounds amazing — enough to get a stare from the boss every single time. Sorry boss, it’s not me, it’s the car! Ok, the revs settle down — and what the hell is that? The vents are RISING UP OUT OF THE DASH! SWEET! You know what? That’s fascinating. I’m gonna turn it off and back on just to hear the engine and watch the vents. Did I do that four times? Maybe. What are you going to do about it? You’d do the same. Vents go up! Vents go down.

Pull away and everything feels good. No twitchy throttle. No grabby brakes. This is a bumpy lot, but the car’s not rattling or squeaking. Sure, it’s brand new, but that doesn’t mean anything. The Jag rides well for a sports car. It’s understeering at a snail’s pace, but suspension blocks will do that. Don’t worry, they take those out. I’m just gonna keep blipping the throttle and listening to the engine. I’ve heard the F-TYPE is one of the loudest new cars. Based on 1/8th throttle and 2000 rpm, I believe it.

The Jaguar F-TYPE is great in a parking lot. Great for a while anyway. Wonder how long before those pop-up vents start to act like pop-up headlights? It’s a Jag. I’m sure it’ll be fine — right? Yeah, the Jag is great, but lots of cars are terrible.

Stay tuned and you’ll get more greats, and more monstrosities. Like how 1 in 4 A3’s I’ve driven had the steering wheel offset about 1 inch to the left. How does that even happen?

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Junkyard Find: 1986 Chevrolet Nova Sedan, Wisconsin Rust Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/junkyard-find-1986-chevrolet-nova-sedan-wisconsin-rust-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/junkyard-find-1986-chevrolet-nova-sedan-wisconsin-rust-edition/#comments Mon, 24 Aug 2015 12:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1151025 Every summer, I go to Wisconsin to stay in a cabin on Lake Michigan owned by my wife’s family. Mostly I’m rendered too immobile by excessive cheese curd and cured-meat consumption to do much junkyard exploring, but this trip I managed to hit Green Bay to check out a self-service yard full of very rusty […]

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00 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin

Every summer, I go to Wisconsin to stay in a cabin on Lake Michigan owned by my wife’s family. Mostly I’m rendered too immobile by excessive cheese curd and cured-meat consumption to do much junkyard exploring, but this trip I managed to hit Green Bay to check out a self-service yard full of very rusty and/or late-model Detroit inventory. Among all the 9-year-old Malibus and endless stretches of Buicks in the GM section, I spotted this NUMMI-built Nova.
09 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin

I grew up in the East Bay where NUMMI was (and Teslas are built today), and I visited the plant numerous times when it was producing Novas and Corollas, so I always get a little nostalgic moment when I see this sticker under a junkyard car’s hood.

04 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin

This one doesn’t have many miles, by Corolla standards (the 1985-88 Nova was an AE82 Toyota Corolla/Sprinter behind its Chevy badges), but it has the kind of rust you expect on old Japanese cars in the rusty Upper Midwest.

17 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin

I think I would not feel comfortable trusting the integrity of the suspension mounting points in this car.

11 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin

The good old 4A engine, one of the all-time Toyota legends.

06 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin

In this series so far, we’ve seen a fair number of NUMMI-built cars, including this ’87 Nova hatchback, this ’87 Nova sedan, this ’92 Prizm, this ’87 Corolla FX16, and this ’88 Nova sedan (not to mention this hyper-rare ’90 Prizm GSi), which reminds me that it’s about time I started shooting some junked NUMMI-made Pontiac Vibes now that those cars are getting so easy to find in the self-service yards.

Reading the list of standard features on a new Chevy Nova can get pretty boring.

00 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 01 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 03 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 04 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 05 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 06 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 07 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 08 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 09 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 11 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 13 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 14 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 15 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 16 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 17 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin 19 - 1986 Chevy Nova Junkyard Car - photo by Murilee Martin

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Chevrolet Says Journalist’s Packed-up Corvette Z06 Had Dirty Oil http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/chevrolet-says-journalists-packed-up-corvette-z06-had-dirty-oil/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/chevrolet-says-journalists-packed-up-corvette-z06-had-dirty-oil/#comments Sat, 22 Aug 2015 14:02:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1150809 Last time we heard from Fox’s Gary Gastelu, he was reporting that his test Z06 gave up during his track run in a spectacular shower of oil and grease and bits and fun. Now, he says Chevrolet has told him what went wrong and it’s a familiar story: After bringing it back to Chevrolet HQ for […]

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Last time we heard from Fox’s Gary Gastelu, he was reporting that his test Z06 gave up during his track run in a spectacular shower of oil and grease and bits and fun.

Now, he says Chevrolet has told him what went wrong and it’s a familiar story:

After bringing it back to Chevrolet HQ for inspection, the engineers determined that the likely cause was a piston connecting rod bearing that was damaged by debris in the oil that was left behind after tapping the threads for the oil filter. Once a piece gets jammed in there, it starts creating more debris, which keeps making things worse until finally … kablooey. In this case, it took out a few more pistons with it.

Chevrolet says that the number of affected engines are in less than one percent (they all seem to be early engines, with contaminated oil and fewer than 2,000 miles) of all Z06 cars.

Gastelu said the tester Corvette he drove never received the oil change after 500 miles that Chevrolet recommends to keep the engine from catastrophic failure. The cause for the failure may be thread shavings for the oil filter that may have made their way into the engine and circulated through the engine.

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China 2015: Cars of Yanji, Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/china-2015-cars-yanji-korean-autonomous-prefecture/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/china-2015-cars-yanji-korean-autonomous-prefecture/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 14:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1148281 After Changchun, we hop on a short 45 minute flight to Yanji, capital of the little-known Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, next to the North Korean border. Yanbian was created in 1955 as a reward for Koreans who fought on the side of the communists in the Civil War and is the only minority prefecture in the […]

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1. Hyundai Elantra Yanji

After Changchun, we hop on a short 45 minute flight to Yanji, capital of the little-known Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, next to the North Korean border. Yanbian was created in 1955 as a reward for Koreans who fought on the side of the communists in the Civil War and is the only minority prefecture in the north of China. Many Koreans refer to it as the “third Korea” — after the South and North, given it’s around half the size of South Korea. However, it’s home to just two million inhabitants, including roughly 400,000 in Yanji.

2. Chery QQ Yanji

Chery QQ in Yanji (notice the Russian sign)

It’s a fascinating and unexpected experience to see most street signs including shops, restaurants and hotels bilingual in Chinese and Korean (and even Russian, sometimes), newspapers in Korean and hearing Korean spoken instead of Chinese.

As has been the case in China’s western Xinjiang province with its Uyghur population, the percentage of ethnic Koreans in Yanbian has fallen from 60  in the 1950s to 38 percent today.

 

China map with Yanji TTAC

Yanji localization in China

 

2. Kia K3 Yanji

Kia K3 and Hyundai Mistra

Apart from taxis that account for a good 25 percent of cars in circulation in the centre of town and composed at 75 percent of 2000 Hyundai Elantras (still sold in China, the rest are VW Jetta König), it is not the Korean car tidal wave I expected. The Kia K3, Sportage R, Hyundai ix35 and Mistra are present in good numbers, but not much more than expected given their respective national rankings. The Kia Sorento may have had its sales inflated by the region’s proximity of Korea, but that would be about it.

 

3. VW Jetta Chery QQ Yanji

Chery QQ and VW Jetta under a Korean-style arch in Yanji.

Chinese manufacturers represent roughly 1/3 of all cars in the centre of town (excluding taxis), a ratio that increases as we reach the outskirts of the city. In any case, a slight improvement over the 25-30% of Changchun — with the added specificity that in Shanghai (Roewe) and Changchun (FAW) one local carmaker clearly dominated — here the landscape is a lot more varied and most main domestic manufacturers are fairly well represented.

 

7. Yanji Street scene 2

Yanji street scene

The Yanji car park is markedly older than in Changchun where it seemed that almost every private car in circulation had been bought in the past year. Sedans rule by far, but are skewed towards smaller sizes and more affordable brands — a logical trend as we step out of the big cities and revenue per inhabitant goes south. SUVs are frequent but not a craze yet, and we remain at a very low pickup ratio in traffic, dominated by the Dongfeng Oting, JMC and Great Wall Wingle.

 

4. Dongfeng V07S Yanji

Dongfeng V07S

 

FAW V70 Yanji

FAW V70

Microvans, however, are back in force — though this time the brand spread is very large. It’s not just Wulings and Chanas like the national sales figures indicate. Other lesser-known models have their time in the limelight here: the FAW V70 is at its most popular here versus anywhere I’ve been in China so far (see further down this report for an illustration), and I spotted generous amounts of Dongfeng V07S, Beijing Auto Weiwang 205, Karry Youyi and various Jinbei and Hafei models.

 

5. Wuling Hongguang Yanji

2 x Wuling Hongguang in Yanji

 

Wuling Hongguang Yanji 2

Wuling Hongguang

Overall though, the Wuling Hongguang should top the sales charts in Yanji as it does nationally, with the Chana Honor also strong and the Karry K50 starting to show itself.

 

6. Chery E3 Yanji

Chery E3

 

Chery Tiggo5 Yanji

Chery Tiggo5 (notice the Korean characters above the Chinese ones)

Two brands are clearly noticeable much more often in Yanji than in other Chinese cities I have visited so far. The first one is domestic manufacturer Chery. I am willing to bet the 2013 Chery QQ ranks inside the Top 5 in Yanji, with the Tiggo3 inside the Top 10 and the Tiggo5 and E3 small sedan inside the Top 15. That’s a spectacular success for a brand that has been relatively discreet on the national stage for the past couple of years. The Fulwin 2 hatchback is also a very frequent sight.

Chery Fulwin 2 Kia Sportage Yanji

Chery Fulwin 2 and Kia Sportage R

 

Chery Cowin 2 and E3 Yanji

Chery Cowin 2 and E3

But the most interesting element about Chery’s success in Yanji is that it seems to be relatively recent, as there is no significant heritage of previous generations QQ or Tiggo. If this is true, it would make for a very interesting insight as it shows a Chinese brand is reclaiming lost territory in the sedan and SUV segments with low-end models. Cities like Yanji are the reason why affordable sedans like the E3 are still manufactured by Chinese carmakers even though their success nationally is relatively limited. These aren’t successful in big cities, but in smaller ones where new car sales are growing the fastest.

Citroen C-Quatre Hyundai Elantra Yanji

Citroen C-Quatre and Hyundai Elantra taxi

The second brand that captured my attention by its unusual frequency — albeit at a much lower level than Chery — is Citroen, in particular with the C-Quatre hatchback and sedan that seem to be very successful here. This is in contrast with Peugeot,  which is almost inexistent bar one single 408 and a couple of 2008. I also saw the first DS 5LS of this trip in Yanji.

 

Nissan Sylphy Yanji

Nissan Sylphy

 

Nissan Teana Yanji

Nissan Teana

 

Nissan Sunny Yanji

Nissan Sunny

Although Citroen was stronger than expected, the most popular foreigner overall here seems to be Nissan, whose Sylphy is a blockbuster seller in Yanji, and the Tiida, Sunny, X-Trail and Teana also very strong in this order. Logical in a city keen on affordable sedans, the Toyota Vios is a hit in Yanji (as is the Yaris L), while in the Honda aisle the XR-V and Vezel twins are already frequent, which is extremely impressive given they have been in market for just a handful of months.

 

Ford Escort Yanji

Ford Escort

Volkswagen is still successful here but nowhere near as much as in Changchun. The Santana, Lavida and Jetta are the most popular. Ford’s Kuga (Escape in the U.S.) is a winner and I already saw one Escort. Obviously, and this is becoming comical, we have our residents Toyota Tundra (two in fact) and Ford F-150 Raptor in Yanji. No pictures yet but there will be some in the next stops…

Brilliance H330 Yanji

Brilliance H330

 

BAW BJ40 Yanji

BAW BJ40

 

ChangAn CS75 Yanji

ChangAn CS75

Back to the Chinese: Apart from the Chery QQ, Yanji consumers are avid buyers of all its minicar competitors. The BYD F0, JAC A10 and ChangAn Benben are all popular here. ChangAn does very well indeed in Yanji, the CS35 is very well established and the CS75 is becoming quite frequent already. Brilliance also gets noticed with its V5 SUV (I spotted 3 in a matter of meters) and the H330 sedan pictured above. The FAW Besturn X80 is once again among the best-selling SUVs in Yanji – although a lot weaker than in Changchun. I spotted two BAW BJ40s, the first Leopaard Q6 of the trip (facelifted Mitsubishi Pajero), and half of all police sedans are of the Haima family with the other half of the police fleet comprising of VW Jetta Königs.

 

Great Wall M4 Yanji

Great Wall M4

Finally, there is a very solid heritage of Great Wall M4, C20R and C30. Now that these models are being phased out, it will be interesting to see where these specific consumers (mainly women from what I saw) report their next sales. The Haval H1 — in effect a modernised Great Wall M4 — would be the first possible choice, but the door is open for another domestic manufacturer to win the sale.

 

Jaguar XJ Yanji

Jaguar XJ in Yanji

Next we are going further north to Mudanjiang in the Heilongjiang province… Stay tuned!

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and runs a website dedicated to car sales, trends and analysis called BestSellingCarsBlog.

Buick Excelle GT YanjiBuick Excelle GT

Yanji Street scene 3Yanji street scene

Geely EC7 YanjiGeely EC7

Yanji Street scene 1Yanji street scene

Foton Pickup YanjiFoton Pickup

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Bark’s Bites: The Different Types of Car Guys http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/barks-bites-different-types-car-guys/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/barks-bites-different-types-car-guys/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 13:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1149401 It doesn’t take long in any conversation in which I am a participant for some car-related topic to arise. It could be about hobbies, or jobs, or interests — I’m probably going to mention cars in some way, shape, or form if you ask me about any of the above. Where the conversations go from […]

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It doesn’t take long in any conversation in which I am a participant for some car-related topic to arise. It could be about hobbies, or jobs, or interests — I’m probably going to mention cars in some way, shape, or form if you ask me about any of the above.

Where the conversations go from there, however, can be nearly anywhere, based on the type of guy who’s asking. And I think that’s kind of cool.

Once they find out I’m into cars, men tend to want to know the following four things, and nearly always in this order (or something close to it):

  1. What kind of car do you have?
  2. Have you done any modifications to it?
  3. How fast have you driven it?
  4. Have you ever taken it out on a track?

The reactions that they have to my answers puts them into one of these categories:

The Tinkerer
This guy is normally thrilled to hear “Boss 302” come out of my mouth in response to the first question, only to be followed by swift disappointment when I say “absolutely none” in response to the second. The Tinkerer likes to talk about the custom tune he’s done to his car, or maybe about the special parts he’s had fabricated for it. Very rarely does the Tinkerer have a late-model car; it’s almost always something a little bit older that he’s been working on for quite some time. He’ll rattle off a list of modifications that he’s made, along with how long it took him to do it and how much it cost him.

Older Tinkerers tend to gravitate toward American Muscle, while younger Tinkerers are more likely interested in Boost Buggies. In fact, younger Tinkerers are often more excited to hear “Fiesta ST” than “Boss 302.” I’m guessing that this is due to both the rise of the Fast and Furious culture and the fairly large price delta between your typical muscle/pony car and an early-model Evo. Sometimes The Tinkerer likes to take their creation to the drag strip, but they more often find joy in the garage.

I love Tinkerers because they’re very left-brained as a whole, which means that they love to make a long-term plan and work on it. I’ve met Tinkerers who have been working on a car for three years and have another three to go — and it doesn’t bother them one bit. They’re also not necessarily attached to that car. They’ll happily finish the project, sell it, and start another.

TTAC Example: Murilee Martin, a little bit of Sajeev (and Sanjeev) Mehta

The Stats Guy
This guy tends to be really interested in the first and third questions. Once he finds out what kind of car I’ve got, he’s immediately recalled from his vast reservoir of automotive stats that it runs about a 4-second zero-to-sixty and a mid-twelve quarter. He might ask me what other cars I’ve owned in the past, or what cars I benchmarked my purchases against.

Stats Guy tends to be somewhat agnostic when it comes to brand loyalty. He’s equally comfortable telling me what size engines were available in the 1994 Nissan Sentra as he is telling me how much horsepower rumbles from an ACR Viper.

However, most of what Stats Guy knows can be attributed to a nearly fanatical absorption of buff books and automotive forums. He’s almost certain to have never driven his car on any sort of track, and it’s even possible that he’s never owned one of the cars he’s committed to memory. He’s like the basketball analytics guy who never played the game. I love Stats Guy because it’s all about the numbers for him. He’s the coolest possible kind of savant.

TTAC Example: Tim Cain, a little bit of Alex Dykes

The Relationship Builder
This guy is SUPER EXCITED (!!!) about your car — but only because YOU are. He wants to hear all about the purchase experience. He wants to know why you picked that color. He’s incredibly impressed that you’re brave enough to track it, and wants to know the coolest track you’ve ever driven. He definitely knows somebody else who has the same car that you do, and he would love to connect the two of you.

For the Relationship Builder, it’s all about the personal connection. He’s probably the moderator of his marque forum, and while he might have some technical or historical knowledge of cars, he’s much more interested in the social aspect of cars. He loves everybody else’s car just as much as he loves his, and he’s the first one to post pictures from Cars and Coffee.

Not only does he have a great relationship with YOU, he’s got a great relationship with HIS car. Every scratch in the paint has a story, but it won’t be there long because he’s intimately familiar with how to use a clay bar. He’s not a car flipper, but when the time to say goodbye comes, his Craigslist ad usually says something like, “I hate to do it, but I have to sell my baby.”

I love the Relationship Builder because he’s the guy who’s up early at 7:00 a.m. to set up the autocross course. He’s the one who encourages new people to join the club. He’s a friend to everyone who shares his passion. Cars are his emotional home. He might be a little awkward outside the scene, but he fits right in with his car buddies.

TTAC Example: Chris Tonn, Ronnie Schreiber

The Weekend Warrior
This cat is intense. Whether it’s autocross, drag racing, or wheel-to-wheel racing, this dude takes his helmet-wearing time very, very seriously. He might have a few extra stickers on his car — either autocross contingency stickers or a myriad of track outline stickers from the circuits where he’s piloted his car (guilty) — but his car is almost never what one might consider “clean.” Only question number four really matters to him. Quite often the Weekend Warrior races a car that isn’t necessarily considered to be “cool” by the general public, like a Neon or an old E30.

Mechanical ability doesn’t hurt, but it isn’t a must to be a weekend warrior (also guilty), because he might have “a guy.” He’s more interested in tire pressures and shock settings than in anything else. His car has undoubtedly been on a dyno at least once. He knows every nook and cranny of the rulebook, and he knows exactly how far he can bend those rules without breaking them.

I love the Weekend Warrior because he understands the true nature of competition, but note that I don’t include “Track Day Guy” under this category. Weekend Warrior is willing to risk tens of thousands of dollars in equipment — or even his very life — just so he can get a chance to get his hands on a plastic trophy that will mean almost nothing to anybody else in his life. His non-racing friends undoubtedly think that he’s nuts for spending so much time and effort on his hobby, but he simply can’t quit. He’s got the racing flu.

TTAC Example: Jack Baruth, Mental Ward [and you, you idiot -Mark]

There are several more categories that I could talk about (Hellaflush Guy, Exotic Guy, Collector Guy), and some people might even fall into a few different ones, but I think that the important thing to realize here is that all of us are car guys. Too often we tend to think that our personal variety of Car Guy is the best or only type that there is; I know I’ve been guilty of it in the past. Just because we don’t love cars in the same way, that doesn’t mean that we don’t all love cars.

Regardless of the type that you might be, I’ve the maddest of respect for you. Thanks for being part of this great community that we’ve built here together.

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QOTD: How Is The Toyota 4Runner So Damn Popular? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-how-is-the-toyota-4runner-so-damn-popular/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-how-is-the-toyota-4runner-so-damn-popular/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 11:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1149489 A few days ago, we all woke up to the sad news that the Nissan Xterra is going to be cancelled. This is especially depressing for people who post Instagram photos of themselves lifting weights. Personally, I could take or leave the Xterra. It’s outdated, it’s trucky, it’s too tall, it’s a bit expensive, and […]

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2014 Toyota 4Runner dirt path

A few days ago, we all woke up to the sad news that the Nissan Xterra is going to be cancelled. This is especially depressing for people who post Instagram photos of themselves lifting weights.

Personally, I could take or leave the Xterra. It’s outdated, it’s trucky, it’s too tall, it’s a bit expensive, and it lacks a wide variety of modern technology. By this I am not referring to forward collision warning, or lane keep assist, or blind spot detection. I mean the base model doesn’t have a height-adjustable driver’s seat.

So the Xterra’s fifteen-year run is coming to an end, and we must all marvel at the fact that yet another off-roady vehicle won’t be available to us anymore. In the land of reasonably priced off-road vehicles, they all seem to vanish: the Toyota FJ Cruiser. The Suzuki Vitara, and Sidekick, and Samurai. The Ford Bronco. The K5 Blazer. All gone, replaced by something more mainstream, or not replaced at all, leaving the Jeep Wrangler to soldier on as today’s sole off-road vehicle choice.

Well, not quite today’s sole off-road vehicle choice. There’s also the Toyota 4Runner.

That’s right ladies and gentlemen: the 4Runner is still on sale, flying in the face of the trend that has seen virtually every automaker either cancel their body-on-frame SUV, change it into a crossover (Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder), or move it upscale, like the Toyota Land Cruiser and the Range Rover. Indeed, the 4Runner still soldiers on, using the same old and trucky design it always has.

Who the hell is buying it?

You might think my question is unfounded, so allow me to explain myself. For one thing, the 4Runner starts at $34,500 with shipping. This isn’t tremendously expensive until you discover two things. Number one: the 4Runner comes standard with only basic items, like cloth seats, manual dimming mirrors, two-wheel drive, and a manual passenger seat. And number two: the Toyota Highlander starts at $30,500 with shipping, or roughly four grand less than the 4Runner.

Although I don’t consider the Highlander to be a true competitor to the 4Runner, I bring it into this discussion for an obvious reason: If you’re a family and you’re looking for a new family car, do you pick the smooth, car-based, easy-to-drive, well-equipped Highlander? Or do you spend four grand more and get the loud, truck-based, off-roader, overstyled 4Runner? You or I may choose option number two, but the vast majority of buyers would rather save the four grand and go for the more family-friendly vehicle.

So it must be off-roaders buying the 4Runner, then. And yet, the 4Runner seems like an expensive proposition if you’re taking it on the trails. A 4-door Jeep Wrangler starts at just $27,700 — around seven grand less than a base-level 4Runner. The average asking price for a new 4Runner on Autotrader is $39,905. And there are some models that cost more than fifty grand.

So the 4Runner isn’t comfortable enough to be a family crossover, and it’s too expensive to be an off-roader. So maybe the 4Runner competes with other trying-to-be-bold midsize SUVs, like the Nissan Murano and the Jeep Grand Cherokee?

The problem here is the 4Runner’s lack of technology. While those cars offer forward collision warning this and blind spot that and automatic this and touchscreen that, the 4Runner’s greatest safety advancement is a backup camera. And its best high-tech gadget is a push-button starter. A push-button starter that you can only get on the 4Runner Limited, which starts at $44,900 with shipping.

Now, is there a coalition of car buyers out there interested in an expensive, off-road-ready but sized-like-a-midsize-SUV, low-tech vehicle? Apparently the answer is yes, there is. I’m just curious exactly who it is.

I say this because Toyota’s SUV lineup now includes an almost amazing five vehicles — the RAV4, the Highlander, the 4Runner, the Sequoia, and the Land Cruiser. And this is without a subcompact Honda HR-V-sized vehicle, which we can only assume Toyota is poised to make in the next few years. So with all those models and all those choices, how are they still finding buyers for the 4Runner?

To me, it’s impressive: despite the segment crashing down around it; despite newer technology everywhere else; despite cheaper rivals better suited for daily duties; despite its high pricing, the 4Runner has braved it all. How does it do it? Has its 4Runner name achieved cult status, like the Jeep Wrangler? Who’s still buying the Toyota 4Runner?

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I Tried To Buy A Charger Again, And Failed Again http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/tried-buy-charger-failed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/tried-buy-charger-failed/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2015 16:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1145953 The automotive journalism industry is infinitely weird. I’m much more likely to be recognized by someone in a foreign land than I am in my own city. Just recently, during Halifax’s Pride Parade, a man I didn’t know walked up to me and asked, “Are you Mark Stevenson?” It’s the first time that’s ever happened to me […]

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2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (3 of 13)

The automotive journalism industry is infinitely weird. I’m much more likely to be recognized by someone in a foreign land than I am in my own city. Just recently, during Halifax’s Pride Parade, a man I didn’t know walked up to me and asked, “Are you Mark Stevenson?” It’s the first time that’s ever happened to me in Halifax. Maybe I have the local LGBT demographic on lock, or at least the “G” part of the initialism.

Regardless of my popularity with the sharply dressed set, I can walk into virtually any local dealer and nobody will know who I am — which is absolutely perfect when you run into a salesman who states: “Let me be honest with you: I make $100,000 a year at this place and it’s made me not care about cars anymore.”

Of course, this was at a Dodge dealer that lacked any kind of automotive enthusiasm on its lot.

Undeterred, I am still occasionally Charger shopping. There are three Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/RAM dealers in my immediate vicinity.

The first one I went to is a 10 minute walk down the street from my house; incredibly easy to spot from the highway thanks to all the bright orange Ram 1500s and neon-stickered minivans. Oh, and there’s always a Jeep sitting atop a man-made boulder. Always. The dealer doesn’t have a single Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger or Dodge Challenger and very few Dodge Darts, Dodge Durangos and Jeep Grand Cherokees. Even the used lot is as exciting as a Christian stripshow attempting to convey a message to its audience. Oh look, it’s a Charger! … 2014 SE automatic. Oh look, there’s a Challenger! … with horrible aftermarket wheels, Pep Boys portholes and a V-6 engine.

Needless to say, I wouldn’t be stopping by that particular dealer again, especially after the uninterested attitude I received last time from their sales staff. Instead, I went to another dealer that also sells Fiats and sits beside an Acura store, hoping that combination might spur said dealer into offering a wider selection.

Boy, was I wrong.

This second dealer — owned by a local, family-named dealership group — is certainly bigger than the first, but the models there were the same as the first, just more of them. The most interesting vehicle on the lot was a clapped-out Subaru Baja … owned by someone taking a peeking glance at a Jeep Patriot. I pray for her to this day.

I drove around the lot fully knowing I was not going to see a new Charger. As you may already know, the last time I was searching for a larger-engined Charger I went to the interwebs and came up with zero results within 200 miles. However, I was hoping I might see a used, previously fleet-owned 2015 Charger to satiate my desires.

The lower lot provided nothing but Journey after Grand Caravan after Cherokee. Holy, the Cherokees. The only “fun” members of the lot were some turbocharged Fiat 500s and a lone Challenger V-6 automatic. This was not going well. To the upper used lot I went.

My mother and her significant other had been here just a week previous and said there was a Chrysler 300 closely resembling what they’re looking to buy. Mom’s beau is now well into retirement and looking for a final rolling resting place for his last years at the wheel. Being a man of large stature, the 300 is well suited for him — but not so for me. I want a Charger, and the upper lot did have a few of 2014 and earlier vintage. No V-8s. No 2015s.

I was just about to leave when a salesman, likely in his late 40s, came rolling up the hill on his Yamaha golf cart. Instead of peeling out, I rolled down my window.

“Can I help you with something today, sir?”

(I have always hated when someone older than me calls me “sir”, but that’s outside the context of this story.)

“Maybe,” I replied. “Do you have any 2015 Chargers?”

“No, we didn’t get many, and they ones we did get are gone.”

While someone might get disenchanted with the response, I saw an opportunity.

“When does your 2016 model year allotment come in?”

“Well, normally it would be closer to the fall. We should have one then.”

They should have one then. I take a stab.

“Any chance it would be a V-8 model?”

It’s at this point Mr. Golf Cart opens up.

“Ohhh, ha ha, definitely not. We’re similar, you and I. We want to have fun with our cars. But, we would never order that in for the lot. Let me be honest with you: I make $100,000 a year at this place and it’s made me not care about cars anymore.”

On that last conversational highlight, we exchanged pleasantries and cards, and I went on my way.


One week later, I had the chance to speak with a Chrysler Canada employee and I figured this would be the time to ask him some questions.

“Did you read my piece on the Charger?” I asked him.

“Yes, I did,” he replied, seemingly unsure of where the conversation was going.

“So, I tried again to buy a Charger but I haven’t written it up yet. I asked the salesman if they would get any V-8 Chargers in for 2016 and he said no. What’s going on?”

He went on to explain the situation through an anecdote.

Before his current position, his place was in sales. At one point, he dealt with a dealer that would only order vehicles of certain colors. Nothing too flashy; just silver, white, and black. Red cars didn’t sell on his lot, the dealer complained. For years, this dealer would only order those three colors, and this former sales rep asked him, “Well, if you never have those colors, how are they supposed to sell?”

The dealer, likely in a fit of rage to prove himself correct, ordered one of his least favorite colors — and it promptly sold.

Jack hit the nail on the head when he explained we are not the manufacturer’s customers — dealers are. However, manufacturers still hold some considerable sway in what dealers receive in annual allotments.

There’s another dealer semi-local to me that just opened. It’s a Nissan store in the middle of nowhere. As part of their initial floorplan, Nissan Canada made the dealer take nearly 40 Nissan Titans. I don’t mean the new, Ford-esque Titan that Carlos Ghosn is looking to carve a niche for itself by sitting between the 1500s and 2500s of the Detroit automakers. I mean the old Titan that virtually nobody is buying and Nissan itself isn’t even talking about these days.

If Nissan can saddle that dealer with nearly 40 Titans, I am sure Chrysler could make each dealer in the region take one or two Chargers.

It’s a shame though as the 2015 Charger is vastly superior to that of just the year prior, but dealers are still making decisions based on it being the same car as before — just like customers do. One can walk into any Ford dealer here and test drive a Coyote-powered Mustang GT, and those dealers will sell every last Mustang they stock. If the Dodge dealers took a chance on a few V-8 Chargers, they might sell like hotcakes.

Might.

Unfortunately for me, they absolutely know those minivans, Jeeps and Rams will sell within the next month or two.

There’s also no impetus for Chrysler Canada to force Chargers on my local dealers in particular. The new car is wildly successful in other markets and the automaker can simply send more units to those areas where they also know the full-size LX cars will sell.

But, that leaves me feeling just like the salesman at the second Dodge store I visited. If I need to live in a world where fun is completely erased from the automotive landscape, I don’t want to do this anymore, and you’d have to pay me $100,000 to continue doing it.

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Designers and Their Cars – Automotive Patent Art Revisited http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/designers-cars-automotive-patent-art-revisited/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/designers-cars-automotive-patent-art-revisited/#comments Thu, 20 Aug 2015 12:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1146281   Aaron Cole’s post about automotive patent art gladdened my heart. Years ago, I decided to check out some of Les Paul and Leo Fender’s original patents on their electric guitars and I discovered the artistry of patent drawings. These days the United States Patent and Trademark Office, as well as patent offices around the world, […]

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A Brooks Stevens concept.

A Brooks Stevens concept.

Aaron Cole’s post about automotive patent art gladdened my heart. Years ago, I decided to check out some of Les Paul and Leo Fender’s original patents on their electric guitars and I discovered the artistry of patent drawings. These days the United States Patent and Trademark Office, as well as patent offices around the world, accept digitally produced artwork. However, before the digital age, an inventor had to hire someone skilled at technical drawing to produce the various exploded and see-through sketches needed to describe the “preferred embodiment” of a process patent.

Of course the “inventor” of a design patent — a slightly different form of intellectual property that protects the design and look of a product — is more often than not, the actual designer.

Following up on Aaron’s post, I decided to put the names of some notable automotive designers into a patent search engine to see what I could find. My hypothesis was that in the case of a design patent, particularly for a car, the artwork for the patent application was likely to have been drawn by the designer. A patent is a big deal to any engineer or designer and he’d likely want to be the one responsible for representing his own idea best.

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Clare MacKichan’s Chevy Nomad

Yes, sometimes the boss takes credit for subordinates’ work. Harley Earl, General Motors’ first head of styling, was known not to draw very well. Designers and clay modelers working for him, though, said he had a masterful way of waving his hands that communicated well to the designers the vision he had in his mind’s eye. Car design is a collaborative process, involving people you work with and work for. Guys like Earl, his successor Bill Mitchell, or carrozzeria boss Nuccio Bertone had some justification in putting their names on patents, even if they only had supervisory roles.

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Car body designed by Harley Earl in 1921 when he was still working for his father’s custom body shop in Los Angeles, before he was hired by Alfred Sloan to start GM’s styling department in 1927.

Next to lead designer Hank Haga’s name, the Chevrolet Aerovette patent carries Mitchell’s name along with that of senior designer Chuck Jordan (who succeeded Mitchell as head of GM Design) as well as GM designer Jerry Palmer. A similar situation exists with the current Mustang convertible, whose patent bears Ford design chief J Mays’ name along with those of designers Moray S. Callum, Joel Piaskowski, Darrell Behmer, and Kemal Curic.

A Ray Dietrich design.

A Ray Dietrich design.

I’m willing to guess that even if Earl, Mitchell or Mays didn’t render the patent drawings themselves, they assigned a senior designer with the task of their posterity, not some intern. Regardless of who did the actual drawings, they were very well executed.

Enjoy:

Eugene "Bob" Gregorie was Ford's first head of styling.

Eugene “Bob” Gregorie was Ford’s first head of styling.

One of Virgil Exner Sr's Chrysler-Ghia show cars.

One of Virgil Exner Sr’s Chrysler-Ghia show cars.

Harley Earl's name is on this Cadillac design from the early 1950s.

Harley Earl’s name is on this Cadillac design from the early 1950s.

This Motorama concept, called L'Universelle, was a front wheel drive passenger van designed by Chuck Jordan.

This Motorama concept, called L’Universelle, was a front wheel drive passenger van designed by Chuck Jordan.

One of Ian Callum's Jaguars

One of Ian Callum’s Jaguars

A more recent, digitally rendered Jaguar

A more recent, digitally rendered Jaguar

Marcello Gandini's Lamborghini Diablo

Marcello Gandini’s Lamborghini Diablo

Giorgietto Giugiaro's DeLorean DMC12, an update of an earlier design of his.

Giorgetto Giugiaro’s DeLorean DMC12, an update of an earlier design of his.

JB's editors at R&T might think that Paul Bracq designed the BMW M1, but it's Giugiaro's name on the design patent. Bracq did the BMW Turbo, on which the M1 was based.

JB’s editors at R&T might think that Paul Bracq designed the BMW M1, but it’s Giugiaro’s name on the design patent. Bracq did the BMW Turbo, on which the M1 was based.

Aerovette.

Aerovette.

Art Ross' Golden Cutlass Motorama car

Art Ross, who headed Cadillac and Oldsmobile’s studios, rendered the Golden Rocket Motorama car

Raymond Loewy coupe concept from the early 1960s.

Raymond Loewy coupe concept from the early 1960s.

One of Virgil Exner Sr's last cars for Chrysler.

One of Virgil Exner Sr’s last cars for Chrysler.

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A Corvair concept by Larry Shinoda.

One of Bill Mitchell's Corvette concepts, perhaps the Mako Shark.

One of Bill Mitchell’s Corvette concepts, perhaps the Mako Shark.

Camilo Pardo's Ford GT

Camilo Pardo’s Ford GT

The current Ford Mustang

The current Ford Mustang

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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No Fixed Abode: You Don’t Want A Jeep Pickup, You Pansy! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/no-fixed-abode-dont-want-jeep-pickup-pansy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/no-fixed-abode-dont-want-jeep-pickup-pansy/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 13:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1145497 Last week, rookie TTACer Aaron Cole called the RAM Rebel a Jeep pickup. I don’t think it would be impossible to make the case that the Rebel is a successor of sorts to the J10 and J20 full-sizers like the one that Jalopnik is rebuilding right now. Those pickups were discontinued after Chrysler acquired AMC […]

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brute

Last week, rookie TTACer Aaron Cole called the RAM Rebel a Jeep pickup. I don’t think it would be impossible to make the case that the Rebel is a successor of sorts to the J10 and J20 full-sizers like the one that Jalopnik is rebuilding right now. Those pickups were discontinued after Chrysler acquired AMC because there just wasn’t enough money in the hopper to update them and do a new Dodge Ram truck. Shame, really, because the “FSJ” did have some fans and there are still people willing to pay sixty grand for a ’91 Grand Wagoneer.

Chances are, however, than when you think of a “Jeep pickup” you’re not thinking about a full-sizer at all. Rather, you’re envisioning what’s known as a “CJ-8″. It’s perfectly possible to buy a modern CJ-8. It’s also perfectly impossible that Jeep will ever be willing to sell you one. The reason? Why, it’s basically the same reason that the Camry V6 is not the most popular cop car in existence.


1982-Jp-Scrambler-rt-sd-color

Over the weekend, my son and I went to the Air Force Museum near Dayton, Ohio. It was his third trip to the facility and maybe my twentieth. It’s a great place to visit and it’s completely free. It is also under military jurisdiction. This is important in the event that, say, you have a felony assault warrant in your name and you’re looking for a place to hang out all day where you are absolutely guaranteed to not see a police officer. I’m just mentioning that for your future awareness.

The focus of our trip was cargo planes. Having just finished the LEGO Technic cargo plane, the boy was eager to take a close look at the real thing. In the Korean War gallery, tucked back near the double-decker Superfortress variant, there was a Jeep — more properly, a quarter-ton Willys truck. It looked, frankly, like a toy; like something adults had no business owning or driving. It took me a second to put it into perspective and remember that my idea of “Jeep” was based on the last CJ-descendant I drove: a forty-thousand-dollar, long-wheelbase, leather-lined, Pentastar-powered super-Jeep of sorts. Next to my lady friend’s Sahara Unlimited, this quarter-ton Willys stacks up like so. First number is the Willys, second is the Sahara:

  • Length: 132.2 / 184.4in
  • Width: 62.0 / 73.9in
  • Height: 69.0 / 73.7in
  • Curb Weight: 2,453 / 4,255lb

While the original composite Willys/Bantam M38 was always overweight from the very first prototype — the Army had hoped for a curb weight in the 1,500-pound range — it was remarkably compact for its carrying capacity and durability. This compactness had at least one unforeseen effect: When the Army replaced the M38 with the semi-monocoque Ford M151 “Mutt”, the Mutt’s sixty-four inch width meant that only one row of Mutts could fit into the C-141 cargo plane, compared to the double-row loading possible with the Jeep for which the C-141 was originally designed. And if the Mutt was a little bit bigger than the Jeep, the AMC-built Jeeps that followed were bigger still, with the coil-sprung 1997 “TJ” model representing the most complete break from the past in terms of both construction and dimension. The current Wrangler, of course, casts a larger shadow than any “CJ” or “Wrangler” before it.

Willys M38

While the original M38 had a utility body that was most often configured as two seats and a small open bed, most civilian Jeeps were four-seaters. It wasn’t until the long-wheelbase CJ-8 arrived in 1981 that you had a Jeep with a “real” pickup bed. The CJ-8 offered a 61.5-inch box in an era where a “short-bed” pickup came with a six-footer, so it still wasn’t considered a serious challenger to existing mini-trucks from Toyota, Nissan, et al. It also didn’t sell worth a damn.

I could end this article right here and say, “There’s no Jeep pickup because nobody bought one the last time such a vehicle was for sale,” but to do that would be to ignore both the vast changes in the personal-transportation market since 1987 and my personal duty to give you more than a glib answer on the subject. Let’s instead focus on what a current-model Jeep pickup would need to be successful and whether it would be possible to build such a creature. To do that, we need to think about the changes in pickup trucks since 1987.

The most obvious change: today’s pickups have become physically massive two-and-a-half-ton beasts that frequently bring around four hundred horsepower to the table and are expected to meet the ride and handling standards for full-sized sedans of the previous decade. No vehicle that was even approximately based on the JK Wrangler could approach the exterior size or interior space of something like the current F-150. So any Wrangler-ish truck that you could buy would be closer to a Chevrolet Colorado or Toyota Tacoma in size. That’s a problem right there because the American public has shown again and again that it will only really take interest in a smaller pickup if that pickup comes from Toyota or Nissan. They’ve also shown that they don’t want to pay full-size prices for mid-sized trucks.

No chance, then, for something that was related to a Wrangler but looked more like a regular truck. Any Wrangler-based pickup would have to literally follow the CJ-8 template and simply be a Wrangler with a long bed. As it turns out, such a vehicle can be purchased for about $70,000. It’s called the AEV Brute Double Cab and it’s a Wrangler with a sixty-one-inch bed. You can also get it with a HEMI installed, if you’re so inclined, making it basically a ninety-grand Tonka toy.

aev_brute_doublecab_utah_setting

The AEV price premium of forty to sixty thousand dollars exists mostly because they have to take a Wrangler apart to build a Brute. I cannot imagine that the price premium for a factory-built Brute Double Cab HEMI from Jeep itself would be more than ten grand. Maybe less than that. For between forty and fifty grand, therefore, you could have a proper Jeep pickup. That’s pretty much heads-up with the RAM Rebel, and who can doubt that a Jeep “Double Cab” HEMI would be significantly cooler and more capable off-road than a Rebel? There has to be a reason that Jeep doesn’t build one, and that reason cannot have anything to do with avoiding intra-company competition. We live in a world of niches now. If BMW can make at least three different versions of the 3-Series with a swing-up hatch, then surely “Fiatsler” can offer two bad-ass off-road trucks at once.

I’d suggest that my comment above about cops and Camrys has something to do with it. Once upon a time, cops just drove the same car as everybody else, only with some extra “cop motor, cop brakes” beefing-up. As late as the early Eighties, you had plenty of people who bought Dodge Diplomats for police use and plenty of people who bought Diplomats for personal use. Yet when the M-body Diplomat private buyers traded in for a K-based Dynasty, the cops didn’t follow suit. Why? I’m sure every police officer who surfs TTAC has his own reasons, but the real reasons for the refusal to follow the American public into FWD mid-sizers was simply a perception of required capability and required image.

Cops didn’t like the look of the Accord or Camry, and they didn’t like the low-testosterone connotations of driving a FWD car. It didn’t matter that even a four-cylinder Accord could dust a Crown Vic around a handling-test course. They didn’t like the lack of “law enforcement presence” that came with the short hoods and friendly faces of the modern mid-sizers. The actual capabilities of the cars, which were proven to be entirely adequate in most cases, didn’t matter. Police departments all across the country began dreaming-up specifications that FWD cars couldn’t meet, like “jump a curb at 40mph”, to make sure that they stayed in Crown Vics and the like.

When the Crown Vic was discontinued, some departments panicked at the idea of being forced to drive a Taurus. Yet when the Explorer Police Interceptor appeared, they went for it in droves, even though the Explorer is basically a Taurus. Why? It’s simple: they liked the visual presence and implied capabilities of the Explorer. It said “cop car” to them in a way that a Taurus does not, even though a Taurus is superior to an Explorer in every dynamic test you can dream up.

Cops are people too, and pickup-truck buyers are also people, and those people are also obsessed with perceived capabilities and required image, and that is why you can travel this great land and rarely find anything beyond a bag of groceries in the back of a pickup truck. The people who buy trucks buy them for the look, for the perceived capability, and for the image. Nobody uses their truck for anything that can’t be done with a Camry, at least not often enough to justify owning a truck over owning a Camry and renting a truck. As Heath Ledger once said, I’ll show you: If you have an F-150 instead of a Camry, and you drive 15,000 miles a year, you’re buying 1,000 gallons of fuel instead of 500. That’s a $1,500 annual cost of F-150 ownership. My local Enterprise will rent me an F-150 for about seventy-five dollars a day. So, if you owned a Camry instead of an F-150, you could also have an F-150 for twenty days a year, and it would always be a nearly-new F-150. Do you use the additional capabilities of your pickup truck twenty days a year?

By the same token, getting a Jeep pickup truck over a standard Jeep Wrangler would impose additional costs — in fuel economy, purchase price, parking space, garage-ability, and so on. Even if it’s only five grand extra for the Scrambler body, that’s still $100 a month the way everybody (but you, Cash Money Internet Millionaire) buys cars. Jeep people will pay five grand extra every day of the week for a Rubicon package or a winch or something like that, but a pickup bed? They’ve already got the image thing covered, because they’re already buying a Wrangler. The only reason they would buy the pickup bed would be if they honestly needed the pickup bed. And since nobody needs a pickup bed, they don’t bother.

In case you’re wondering, that’s what killed the El Camino and Ranchero. Nobody needs a pickup bed, so buying a family car with a pickup bed makes no sense. People buy pickups because they are pickups, not because they have pickup beds. They buy pickups because they don’t want CAFE-friendly snub-nose FWD blobs, because they want to at least sit level with the SUVs that dominate traffic, because they think pickups last longer, because they think pickups are safer in a crash. Most of all, they buy pickups because the modern American life is an out-of-control spiral to the bottom where your healthcare costs more every year and your job pays less and your home is worth less but renting an apartment costs more and there is absolutely nothing you can do about any of it. Owning a pickup is what Margot Timmins would call your “horse in the country”. It’s a machine that deceives you into thinking you have some control over your life.

Which is also what a Jeep is.

So the real reason there’s no Jeep pickup is this: A Jeep and a pickup are the same thing. And you’re not a rebel for owning either one, are you?

Photos by AEV; AlfvanBeem (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons; and Jeep.

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Junkyard Find: 1978 Porsche 924 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/junkyard-find-1978-porsche-924-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/junkyard-find-1978-porsche-924-2/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 11:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1137850 Many Internet Car Experts believe that any Porsche, no matter how battered, is worth big money. Spend some time around the 24 Hours of LeMons and you’ll learn otherwise, and of course you can always find 924s, 944s, 914s, and even the occasional 928 in the cheap self-serve wrecking yards. The 944 is the most […]

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00 - 1978 Porsche 924 Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Many Internet Car Experts believe that any Porsche, no matter how battered, is worth big money. Spend some time around the 24 Hours of LeMons and you’ll learn otherwise, and of course you can always find 924s, 944s, 914s, and even the occasional 928 in the cheap self-serve wrecking yards. The 944 is the most common, but for some reason I have never shot one for this series. I’ll remedy that soon, but for now here’s a much-abused 924 I spotted in Denver not long ago.
08 - 1978 Porsche 924 Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

My favorite Fun Porsche 924 Fact is that you could buy a DJ-5 mail Jeep with just about the same Audi engine as the Porsche 924 (you could get the engine in other AMCs as well, including the Gremlin).

09 - 1978 Porsche 924 Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Still, the 924 was fairly sporty for its time, and I’ve seen plenty of well-driven ones knock out decent lap times on road courses.

01 - 1978 Porsche 924 Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

This one doesn’t seem rusty, but we can assume that its last half-dozen owners were not meticulous types who treated it gently.

05 - 1978 Porsche 924 Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

There’s a 944 at the same yard now, and I’m still bummed that some guy beat me to its nice VDO gauges by about 30 seconds at the All-You-Can-Carry-For-$59.99 junkyard sale. I’ll go back and photograph it soon.

00 - 1978 Porsche 924 Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 01 - 1978 Porsche 924 Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 03 - 1978 Porsche 924 Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 04 - 1978 Porsche 924 Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 05 - 1978 Porsche 924 Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 07 - 1978 Porsche 924 Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 08 - 1978 Porsche 924 Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 09 - 1978 Porsche 924 Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 10 - 1978 Porsche 924 Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin 13 - 1978 Porsche 924 Down On the Junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

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2016 Honda Pilot Review – The Sensible 8-Hauler http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2016-honda-pilot-review-sensible-8-hauler/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2016-honda-pilot-review-sensible-8-hauler/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 15:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1139410 2016 Honda Pilot Elite AWD 3.5-liter i-VTEC SOHC V-6, direct injection, cylinder deactivation, CVVT (280 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm, 262 lbs-ft @ 4,700 rpm) 9-Speed ZF 9HP automatic 19 city/26 highway/22 combined (EPA Rating, MPG) 21.6 mpg (Observed, MPG) Tested Options: Elite Trim Base Price: $30,875* As Tested: $46,420* * Prices include $880 destination charge. My sister-in-law announced that she […]

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2016 Honda Pilot Exterior

2016 Honda Pilot Elite AWD

3.5-liter i-VTEC SOHC V-6, direct injection, cylinder deactivation, CVVT (280 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm,
262 lbs-ft @ 4,700 rpm)

9-Speed ZF 9HP automatic

19 city/26 highway/22 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

21.6 mpg (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Elite Trim

Base Price:
$30,875*
As Tested:

$46,420*
* Prices include $880 destination charge.

My sister-in-law announced that she and her husband were having child number four. As a result of this announcement, they decided it was finally time to sell the five-seat sedan and buy another crossover. Since she is constantly flooded with a parade of visiting family members, she asked what sounded like a simple question: What’s the best 8-passenger crossover with a comfortable third row and room for cargo. My answer: Buy a minivan. No, seriously, just buy a minivan. Think you need AWD? Get some winter tires. Really, really need AWD? Get a Sienna.

I’m sure you can guess what she said: “I am not driving a minivan.”

The problem is, aside from minivans, there are few 8-passenger options that aren’t expensive, full size, body-on-frame SUVs. Those options are: the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and GM’s identical triplets — the Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave. That’s it. If you need more room, be prepared to shell out for a Suburban, Escalade, Navigator or a few other spendy options.

Today we look at the freshest entry in this phonebooth-sized segment, the all-new 2016 Honda Pilot.

Exterior
Back when the crossover segment started, shoppers were drawn to truck-like proportions and boxy shapes. The last-generation Pilot wore some of the same questionable styling cues you see on body-on-frame SUVs like the Nissan Armada where the third-row window line doesn’t jibe with the rest. Perhaps because the crossover segment is maturing, or perhaps because everyone is finally admitting that the 3-row crossover is the modern-day minivan, Honda’s designers penned a body that looks the CR-V and Odyssey mashed together. The overall look is sleeker and more modern, but certainly less like a traditional SUV.

Base models get halogen headlamps while Elite trims like ours receive Honda’s new LED low beams. Although the Acura MDX is a close relative, Honda did their best to differentiate the products. Aside from the general dimensions, the DNA is well hidden. As we’ve seen from other crossovers, ground clearance drops from an SUV-like 8 inches to 7.3; still more than your average minivan but less than the truck-based people carriers. The decrease in ride height and addition of sleek lines help hide the three inch stretch Honda gives the Pilot for 2016.

2016 Honda Pilot Interior-002

Interior
The biggest change for 2016 is inside where Honda ditched the discordant faux-truck theme of the last Pilot for a more elegant and restrained look. In the center of the dash is a single 8-inch LCD, which surprised me since the Accord uses Honda’s 2-screen system. If the CR-V is the “‘Civic Crossover” then surely the Pilot is the “Accord Crossover”, so you’d think it would sport the same infotainment setup. The most logical reason for this change is that Honda didn’t want the Pilot to look like a bargain MDX on the inside. Whatever the reason, the infotainment system looks more like the Civic than the Accord. In another twist, Honda didn’t use a variant of the Accord’s instrument cluster like we see in the CR-V, instead opting for three dials and a digital speedometer in all models — again, rather like the Civic.

Front seat comfort proved excellent in our Elite tester, but I actually found the cloth EX model to be a hair more comfortable. Like other Honda products, front seats have generous lumbar support and a soft bottom cushion designed for hours of comfortable highway cruising. On the down side, even our top-of-the-line Elite model gives the front passenger electric adjustability in just four directions.

2016 Honda Pilot Interior-005

The second row in LX through Touring models ia a comfortable three-across 60/40 folding bench, but our Elite model swaps in captain’s chairs reducing the seat count to seven. The three-across third row surprises with more headroom and legroom than you find in most large SUVs but only a hair more width than the tight Highlander. This is thanks to the Pilot’s minivan-like profile and by the engineers cramming the seat bottom cushion as low as possible. The obvious downside to seats that are so low is the lack of thigh support for adults. Kids should be fine and Honda shows their love for LATCH anchors by giving you four sets in most Pilots — three for the middle row and one on the right side of the third.

Why bother with the three-across third row? It does have a practical application. It is possible to jam two skinny folks in the way-back and fold the row’s 40% side down. Those two would need to be skinny, friendly, or my mother in law. If you can make it work, you can put cargo on that 40% side and squeeze in 7 people and more cargo than large 7-seat crossovers like the Pathfinder.

Although the Pilot has grown for 2016, it is still among the smaller 8-passenger vehicles on sale. This lack of length is primarily a problem with it comes to cargo hauling where the Acadia/Traverse/Enclave have considerably more room behind the third row (the Pilot will haul more widgets than the Highlander however). Honda says that four carry-on sized roller bags will fit behind the third row in the vertical position, but it is a tight fit.

2016 Honda Pilot Interior-022

Infotainment
2016 brings Honda’s latest Android-based touchscreen infotainment OS. Using an 8-inch capacitive LCD, the new system is similar in appearance to what we see in the Honda Civic with some important differences. The system now runs Android OS and uses a new processor making the user interface snappier. The graphics have also been tweaked for the higher-resolution screen and Garmin now provides the optional navigation software. Like Chrysler’s uConnect system, the nav interface looks very much like someone jammed an aftermarket windshield-mount nav unit into the dash. Operation is easy and intuitive and familiar to anyone using Garmin products.

Perhaps the biggest change between this system and the similar looking one in the Civic is that the Pilot does not support smartphone-based navigation integration. With the Civic you can buy a $60 app and the car’s touchscreen LCD displays the interface while your phone does the processing. Also absent is Android Auto or Apple Car Play support which we see in the new Accord. Honda has yet to comment officially on the lack of smartphone love, but since the system in the Accord is related, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in 2017.

2016 Honda Pilot Engine-001

Drivetrain
All Pilot trims get the same 3.5-liter V-6 we see in a variety of Honda products, from the lowly Accord to the upper-end Acura MDX. As usual, the engine is tuned differently from Honda’s other applications. Versus the Acura, power drops to 280 horsepower primarily because the Pilot is tuned to run on regular and the MDX is tuned for premium.

Power is routed to the front wheels via a Honda 6-speed automatic in LX through EX-L trims, or a ZF-sourced 9-speed in Touring and Elite. The $1,800 AWD system is optional on all trims, except the Elite where it’s standard. Pilots with the “i-VTM4″ AWD are the first Honda branded vehicles in America with a torque vectoring rear axle.

The AWD system is functionally similar to the latest SH-AWD system used in the 2016 MDX, but the software is programmed very differently. In addition, the Pilot appears to lack the “overdrive” unit that spins the rear wheels 2.7-percent faster than the fronts under certain conditions. Regardless of which transmission you get, towing ratings are 3,500 pounds in front-wheel-drive models and 5,000 pounds in AWD trims.

2016 Honda Pilot Interior-030

Drive
Offering the 9-speed in top-end trims is an interesting alternative to offering an engine re-tune that might step on Acura’s toes. Adding 10 or 15 horsepower to a top-end trim would have a negligible impact on your acceleration times, but adding three extra gears to the Pilot makes it go from 0-60 a half second faster.

How is that possible? It’s all about gearing. The 9HP transmission not only has more gears, it also has an extremely broad ratio spread. Honda chose to use this ratio spread differently than Fiat Chrysler did in their Jeep Cherokee. The Jeep engineers wanted high-speed fuel economy improvements for the European market. In the V-6 Jeep, 9th doesn’t engage until over 85 mph and the low ratio is a fairly average 15.3:1. Honda doesn’t sell the Pilot in Europe and only Texas has speed limits that high in the U.S., so they took a different approach and tuned the final drive for acceleration. The result is an incredibly low 20:1 stating ratio vs a 14:1 ratio with the same engine and the 6-speed auto. That means that in normal driving, the Elite is done with first gear by 10 mph. By the time you’ve hit 40, you’ve used more gears than the LX possesses. On the flip side, the deep first gear and closely spaced 2nd have an enormous impact on the Pilot’s 0-30 time. Of course, if you skip the AWD system entirely, you’ll get plenty of torque steer and one-wheel peel.

Remember how I said the AWD system wasn’t exactly the same as the MDX’s SH-AWD system? You’ll notice this on the road if you drive them back-to-back. SH-AWD employs a few tricks to make the MDX dance like an X5 alternative. The two most important being the aggressive side-to-side torque vectoring and the overdriving of the rear axle. By making the rear differential spin slightly faster than the front and then shunting all the power to one side, the MDX can feel more like a RWD-biased AWD car under power. The torque vectoring function on the Pilot appears to be much less aggressive, although it does feel more nimble than most of the mass-market competition. If you’re after the best driving dynamics in this segment, you’ll have to give up a few seats and get the RWD Dodge Durango.

2016 Honda Pilot Exterior-005

When it comes to dynamics, the Pilot feels large and moderately soft. The suspension is tuned firmer than GM’s Lambda triplets or Nissan’s Pathfinder, but a little softer than some versions of the Highlander. The steering is light — as numb as you’d expect from electric power steering — but more accurate than the Buick Enclave. Elite trims get 20-inch alloy wheels and suspension tuning tweaked to be a little softer than the Touring model. The result is an entirely competent crossover sitting near the top of the pack.

When comparing crossovers, keep in mind that the Santa Fe and CX-9 are both more engaging, but neither seats eight. Nissan’s Pathfinder is more comfortable and delivers a superb highway ride, but again, no eighth seat. Toyota’s Highlander feels more nimble in the four-cylinder version, but considerably less refined. The Acadia, Traverse and Enclave are all quite heavy for this segment with top-end Buick trims nearly hitting 5,000 pounds. There’s just no denying physics; although the GM crossovers ride well, the handling, performance and braking all take a toll. Toss in aging styling and lacklustre fuel economy, and the only thing they have going for them are two inches of legroom and about 30-percent more cargo space.

2016 Honda Pilot Interior-025

Honda priced their new people hauler aggressively for 2016. The ladder starts at $29,995 for a base front wheel drive model, which is about $3,000 less than a base GMC Acadia or the base V6 trim of the Highlander. (The $29,765 Highlander has a 2.7-liter four cylinder.) Pricing is also in line with the $30,700 Explorer or the $30,150 Santa Fe — again, those two don’t offer an eighth seat. I was initially worried that the $46,420 Elite represented a decent value compared to a full-loaded Buick Enclave at $50,340. The Enclave gets a softer suspension but the Elite brings a 9-speed transmission, newer infotainment systems, a torque vectoring AWD system and LED headlamps to the party. After sitting in an Enclave, Pilot Elite and MDX back-to-back, the Elite model made more sense. This is perhaps more direct competition with the Buick than the Acura.

2016 Honda Pilot Exterior-011

Thanks to some steep discounts on GM crossovers, you can expect the Traverse to be the bargain entry in this segment. However, the Plain Jane Traverse is probably my least favorite 3-row crossover. It’s large, thirsty and lacks the modicum of design given to its GMC and Buick siblings. Of course, the real problem here is that none of the three row crossovers really excel at carrying a family of 6 or 7 and their luggage in comfort, something that is supposed to be the role of a large family vehicle. The modern three-row CUV has taken the place of the minivan for modern families. Unfortunately, it trades style and perceived capability for capacity.

This is where Honda’s Odyssey comes in and blows the Pilot out of the water. The Odyssey is 8-inches longer and all of the additional length goes straight to the cargo area and third row. Because the Odyssey isn’t pretending to be an SUV, the shape is optimized for interior room and you get a whopping 13-inches more combined legroom, more than double the cargo room behind the third row (38.4 cubic feet) and nearly twice the cargo room if all rows of seats are folded. That’s before you consider the practicality gained by removing the seats, something not allowed in a crossover. Although the Odyssey can be a hair more expensive than the Pilot, lacks AWD and Honda detuned the engine a hair, they drive more alike than crossover shoppers want to hear. And the minivan has a vacuum. Because: kids.

Although the Pilot is hands down the best 8-passenger crossover available in the USA and one of the best three-row crossovers on sale, the best vehicle for my sister-in-law is the Odyssey. Sorry Rachelle.

Honda provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.7 Seconds

0-60: 6.7 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.85 Seconds @ 94 MPH

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Get Your Feet Off My Dash! The Prequel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/get-feet-off-dash-sequel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/get-feet-off-dash-sequel/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 13:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1144409 Do not click the link in the next paragraph if you are at work. It’s one of the most popular posts in TTAC history, and it’s absolutely emblematic of the Bertel Era here at this site. It’s completely not safe for work and before you click it, I want you to think about whether you […]

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Do not click the link in the next paragraph if you are at work.

It’s one of the most popular posts in TTAC history, and it’s absolutely emblematic of the Bertel Era here at this site. It’s completely not safe for work and before you click it, I want you to think about whether you are at work, and if you are at work, do not click this link with horrifying non-work-safe pictures that you should not view at work.

The link above? Don’t view it at work. It’s disgusting.

The article is called A Day in the Life of a Trauma Surgeon: Get Your Foot Off of My Dash and it contains graphic photographs of what can happen to your feet if they are on a car dashboard when the airbags go off. At the time, I considered the article, and the included photographs, to represent the absolute nadir of this website’s management and content selection.

But there is at least one person out there who probably wishes she’d been forced to read it, graphic images and all. Unfortunately for her, it was published three years too late.


Back in 2010, Bethany Benson, a young woman in her early twenties, was road-tripping with her boyfriend and she had her feet up on the dashboard. A chain-reaction accident ahead of her led to a stopped tractor-trailer dead ahead. When her boyfriend failed to stop in time…

…okay, hold on a moment.

A loaded tractor-trailer requires over five hundred feet to come to a halt from 65 mph. A Pontiac Sunfire like the one driven by Benson’s boyfriend can do it in about 170 feet. Given the photographs of the Sunfire, it was probably doing 30 mph or more when it struck the stopped trailer. So there’s perhaps four hundred feet of inattention involved here. At sixty-five miles per hour, that’s four complete and total seconds of not paying attention to the road ahead of you.

Now it’s possible that the tractor-trailer was still moving at the time, which means that Benson’s boyfriend wasn’t asleep at the wheel. He simply allowed himself to be out braked by an 80,000-pound truck with what was probably first-generation ABS and retread tires. I don’t know what to say at that point. If you get out braked by a truck, tear up your license and go home, because you have no business driving on a freeway. I understand that following the one-car-length-per-ten-miles-per-hour rule in modern traffic conditions will result in cars swerving around you and filling the space. So when something happens like an Audi S8 out braking the Land Cruiser behind it, you have to chalk it up to the way things are. But getting out braked by a tractor-trailer?

What happened next was traumatic for Ms. Benson, of course.

Because of the proximity of her legs to the airbag, it forcefully hit her hamstring, causing her feet to push up and through the windshield.

As a result, her knees slammed into her eyes, causing her left eye socket and cheekbone to crack. In addition, she broke her nose, eight bones in her left foot, and three bones in her right foot.

Many of her external injuries have healed, but she still lives in constant pain. She takes a pharmacy worth of pills every days, she is required to wear expensive orthopedic shoes, and the bleeding in her brain resulted in irreversible effects.

The article goes on to suggest that Ms. Benson has regressed to the level of a thirteen-year-old, at least in the expressed opinion of her mother, who also made sure to inform reporters that she would no longer be able to retire because she’d be taking care of her daughter. Part of me wants to open a Bible to Matthew 6:5 and hit that person over the head with it so she gets the message; another part of me just hopes that Ms. Benson isn’t consigned to a community-theater production of “Misery” in the form of this self-pitying woman looking after her for the rest of her life.

This story has spread through the Internet like the proverbial wildfire in the past few days. But if you know anybody who continues to put her — and let’s face it, it’s always her — feet on the dashboard, you might want to talk to her about it. And while severed toes and the like make for a wonderfully shocking story, the real tragedy is in what happens in the long years after you leave the trauma surgeon’s office.

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Volkswagen Sued Researchers To Hide Key Hacking Flaw http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/volkswagen-sued-researchers-hide-key-hacking-flaw/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/volkswagen-sued-researchers-hide-key-hacking-flaw/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 18:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1143545 Volkswagen has spent over two years trying to block the publication of a research paper which reveals a key hacking vulnerability in many of their models as well as thousands from other manufacturers. According to Bloomberg, a team of researchers discovered the vulnerability in 2012 and notified Volkswagen in May 2013. Instead of working with […]

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Volkswagen has spent over two years trying to block the publication of a research paper which reveals a key hacking vulnerability in many of their models as well as thousands from other manufacturers. According to Bloomberg, a team of researchers discovered the vulnerability in 2012 and notified Volkswagen in May 2013. Instead of working with the researchers to resolve the issue, Volkswagen argued that the paper would increase the risk of theft and sued them to stop the publication.

The research paper was blocked by an injunction from the United Kingdom High Court for two years and was finally released after originally being blocked from presentation at the 2013 USENIX Security Symposium. The researchers were able to negotiate an agreement with Volkswagen to allow the paper to be published once they removed one sentence that described a component of the calculations on the chip.

The hack describes a vulnerability in transponders that use the Megamos Crypto algorithm that allows brute force attacks to defeat the security mechanism. A similar attack was described by Silvio Cesare last year which allows a radio transmission device to generate potential unlock codes that can be sent to a car until it is opened. This attack goes one step further by using a similar mechanism to generate a response that defeats the immobilizer systems in the affected vehicles and allows them to be started.

The research team of Roel Verdult and Baris Ege from the Netherlands along with Flavio Garcia from the United Kingdom were able to reverse-engineer the Megamos Crypto security mechanisms and were able to recover the 96-bit secret key and transmit it using an RFID device. Their first type of attack is able to exploit a weakness in cipher design which allows recovery of a portion of the secret key by listening in to two legitimate communications between the vehicle and key. The second type of attack uses brute force to send updates to the immobilizer in the vehicle.

This procedure allowed the researchers to generate a secret key in about 30 minutes that was able to start the car. Their last type of attack uses a similar brute force method, but exploits systems that use a weak cryptographic key. These systems can be hacked using a standard laptop in a few minutes due to the fact that they may use a shorter secret key or lack safety mechanisms such as pseudo-random number generators in their algorithm.

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Models Affected By The Vulnerability (Models In Bold Tested By Researchers)

This type of security flaw is not something that can be corrected with a software update but would require new keys as well as new immobilizer hardware inside the cars which could be costly for Volkswagen and other manufacturers. Since the flaw did not constitute a safety issue it would not require a recall in most countries.

Volkswagen not only put its own vehicles at a higher risk of theft by suppressing the research, but also caused the risk to go unknown for many other manufacturers who use the same algorithm. Volkswagen states that the current models such as the Golf and Passat use a new algorithm that is immune to this type of attack, but have not offered any assistance to owners of older vehicles with vulnerable systems.

The main issue with the response from Volkswagen is that they look to protect their design by relying on the “security through obscurity” safety mechanism. While lawsuits and injunctions will keep legitimate researchers from publishing information about these flaws, thieves will eventually find a way to break through themselves. This was demonstrated with the Keeloq algorithm in 2007 when proprietary design information was discovered by Russian hackers and leaked online.

The better way to approach these issues is to invite these researchers and white hat hackers to work with the manufacturer once a security system is developed in order to reveal vulnerabilities and fix them before they reach thousands of cars.

[Main Photo Credit: Yahya S/Flickr/CC BY 2.0]

[Affected Vehicles Chart Credit: Verdult, Garcia, and Ege]

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2016 Toyota Tacoma Review – Full-size Silent Assassin http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2016-toyota-tacoma-review-full-size-silent-assassin/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2016-toyota-tacoma-review-full-size-silent-assassin/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 16:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1143473 2016 Toyota Tacoma 4×4 Engines 3.5-liter D4S (direct and port injection) Atkinson cycle V-6 with variable valve intake and exhaust (278 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 265 pounds-feet @ 4,600 rpm). 2.7-liter DOHC I-4 with variable valve intake (159 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm; 180 pounds-feet @ 3,800 rpm) Transmissions Standard 5-speed manual (2.7-liter); optional 6-speed automatic […]

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2016 Toyota Tacoma 4×4

Engines
3.5-liter D4S (direct and port injection) Atkinson cycle V-6 with variable valve intake and exhaust (278 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 265 pounds-feet @ 4,600 rpm).
2.7-liter DOHC I-4 with variable valve intake (159 horsepower @ 5,200 rpm; 180 pounds-feet @ 3,800 rpm)

Transmissions
Standard 5-speed manual (2.7-liter); optional 6-speed automatic with ECT (2.7-liter)
Standard 6-speed manual (3.5-liter); optional 6-speed automatic with ECT (3.5-liter)

Fuel Economy Ratings
19 mpg city/ 21 mpg highway/ 20 mpg combined (2.7-liter 5-speed manual 4×4)
19/23/21 (2.7-liter 6-speed automatic 4×2)
19/22/20 (2.7-liter 6-speed automatic 4×4)
19/24/21 (3.5-liter 6-speed automatic 4×2)
17/21/19 (3.5-liter 6-speed manual 4×4)
18/23/20 (3.5-liter 6-speed automatic 4×4)

MSRP
Prices start at $24,185 *and go up to $38,705*.
*Price includes $885 destination

Let’s get this out of the way first: there is no groan long enough or loud enough for how I feel about the 2016 Toyota Tacoma’s ballyhooed interior GoPro mount. The 30 cents of branded plastic to film your “eXtreme!” adventures feels more contrived and commercially unnecessary than a TedX talk at your nearest community college. It’s there, it’s usable and I want to talk about the tens of thousands of other parts around that windshield mount.

For the most part, the world of mid-sized pickups has stayed the same since the Clinton administration. (I mean Bill’s years for anyone reading this in 2017.)

Updated slightly in 2005, but mostly unchanged since the 1990s, the Toyota Tacoma has stayed firmly ahead of its time despite playing catch up to the full-size galoots. What I mean is, the Tacoma has a habit of selling far more at the end of its lifecycle than it does at the beginning. Go fig.

For example, take the last year for the Tacoma. Despite being a truck that hasn’t changed much for 10 years, the Tacoma managed to sell more than 17,000 trucks in July, its best sales month ever, en route to 180,000 sales this year, which would be its best sales year, ever. By volume, the Tacoma is the fifth best-selling truck in America, just behind the GMC Sierra, and well behind the three domestic full-size big boys. (The, um, new Tundra was sixth, by the way.)

Plummeting gas prices has helped moved metal, and so has cheap money, but the Tacoma is a very, very solid pickup and the growing chasm between reality and the price of a full-size truck leaves something to be desired for $25,000-$30,000 out the door.

So why fix something that isn’t broken? Toyota said it had nothing to do with Chevrolet and GMC hopping into the mid-size market with the Colorado and Canyon respectively. It doesn’t even have anything to do with the new Nissan Frontier coming to market soon too.

Nope, Toyota says it updated the Tacoma to step on the necks of the others and bring forward the Tacoma into the 21st century. This is as close as Toyota will get to going for the jugular.

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Exterior
The Tacoma falls into the corporate lockstep by following closely the Tundra’s front-end design. Its chunkier face, with a more open trapezoidal grille, is bookended by two LED headlights with daytime running lamps and a more angular hood. The Tacoma’s lower jaw gets a little bit of an underbite this year with its black cladded front air dam, and the fog lamps are now visually connected with black plastic all the way across its front.2016_Toyota_Tacoma_(5_of_21)

From the side, the Tacoma looks virtually unchanged from last year, and the rear end would be the same story if it weren’t for the stamped tailgate with the words “TACOMA” to tell the world what you’re driving. The rear bumper is in three pieces, which is handy for something that probably will see a lot of action in its lifetime, but the front bumper is still one piece, which seemed weird.

The Tacoma’s handsome proportions stay the same. The hood looks like it takes up more than one-third of the overall 127.4-inch wheelbase (140.6 with a long bed) and the rear end takes more than a third as well. The Tacoma’s two cab configurations — Access and Double Cab — gets sandwiched in the middle, which gives the Tacoma a muscular, compact look.

According to Toyota, more than 80 percent of the Tacomas on the road will be Double Cabs, 85 percent will be V-6, and 97 percent will be with an automatic transmission. Consequently, it wears the four doors most naturally, with the shorter Access Cab models looking somewhat incomplete. All of the models we had a chance to drive were four-door, V-6, automatic and 4×4, so we can’t really report on any variation outside of that.

(P.S. Reps from Toyota said the only people who actually buy four-cylinder Tacomas are Northeasterners who are likely to be upset that the “low boy” 4×2 is gone for this generation, and that they only account for 1 out of every 10 sales.)

All of the 2016 Tacomas will be built on the same tall chassis, regardless of whether they have a transfer case. Whether by design or by accident, the deeply black wheel wells hide the Tacoma’s wheels and tires, and it was hard for us to tell the difference between the available 16-, 17- and 18-inch wheel sizes. (The latter is standard on Limited trim only.)

Toyota Tacoma Limited 34

Interior
The interior of the 2016 Tacoma received more extensive improvements than the exterior did. Inside, most Tacomas will wear either a 6.1- or 7-inch touchscreen display with Entune apps, six speakers, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, and Siri Eyes Free. For the most part, the system is easy to use and straightforward, except the integrated navigation system commits the cardinal sin of not being usable when the car is in motion. Like other writers here, I sincerely wish automakers would use the passenger-side airbag sensor to determine whether someone else were riding along and unlock commands when a passenger is present. It would be helpful to use that touchscreen sometimes.Toyota Tacoma Limited 35

A useful 4-inch multifunction display in the instrument cluster relays vital information (and looks like a Camry, by the way) including tire pressure, temps and fuel range. Thankfully, the Tacoma’s outdated tachometer and speedometer have been replaced with smaller, plainer dials that ditch the white halo and just give me the straight dope.

The interior, including door inserts, dash and seats, are a stitched together combination of medium-grade fabrics, passable vinyl and touchable, textured hard plastics. In all, I’m thankful that the Tacoma is so readily rough and tumble — especially in lower trims — but I don’t feel the same way about its touchscreen infotainment system. I’ve coated one of those things in dust before and it’s a mess to clean. It also doesn’t feel like it’d be particularly useful with gloves on.

Thankfully, every trim above the SR model (which goes SR5, TRD Sport, TRD Off-Road and Limited) gets a leather-wrapped steering wheel that’s firm and comfortable to grip, albeit with limited telescoping ability.

Last generation’s Neolithic climate control knobs have been replaced with a more modern, compact LCD system (dual-climate controls are standard in Limited, available in TRD Off Road and Sport packages) that’s easy to read and isn’t lifted from any other Toyota that I recognize. I like that.

Gated shifter? Check. Hand operated parking brake? Check. Better transmission boot around the shifter? I can’t fault any of these things.

I would, however, like for Toyota to revisit the ergonomics of its steering wheel-mounted controls. Anyone who can naturally find the volume control without looking gets a cookie. It’s impossible.

(Interior images provided by the manufacturer)

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Powertrain
The biggest news this year is the outgoing 4-liter V-6, which is giving way to a smaller, more potent 3.5-liter Atkinson cycle V-6 with direct and port injection.

And the latter mill makes the most of available technology from Toyota. The Tacoma is the first Toyota-branded vehicle to use direct and port injection (direct is used to make lower speeds more efficient, port is used at higher rpms to boost available output) and the first truck application for that system. Paired with a smaller displacement and an Atkinson cycle, the new Tacoma powertrain manages 15 percent to 20 percent better fuel economy, all while gaining 42 horsepower. The only sacrifice: the Tacoma loses its distinctive roar.

2016_Toyota_Tacoma_(8_of_21)The 4-liter’s noise is gone and has been replaced by the quiet hum of the 3.5-liter V6. Although Toyota never wants to use the word Tacoma and Camry in the same breath, their relationship is undeniable. The new Tacoma drives like a Camry, and that’s not altogether bad.

Toyota didn’t make available its I-4, nor did they want to talk about it all that much. Including that engine in the newest generation of Tacoma didn’t wholly make a lot of sense to me, and I wouldn’t be completely surprised if a version of their turbo four (beefed up for truck duty) made its way into the lineup sometime soon.

Power is handed off to the Tacoma’s 6-speed automatic (for both I-4 and V-6), 5-speed manual (I-4 only) or 6-speed manual (V-6). The smooth-shifting automatic had an easy time keeping the revs low on the street, but required more guidance off road. Without using ECT (gear holding) or engaging the Tacoma’s low-range, the truck searched for gears on dirt roads and felt a little too eager to shift up. That could be inevitable to achieve higher fuel economy ratings, but it’s noticeable.

In TRD Off Road packages the Tacoma gains a crawl control feature that famously unsticks it from sand, or traverses down a mountain. You could make a case that serious off roaders who are interested in banging their Tacomas around the mountain probably don’t need automated throttle controls or advanced hill descent features, but I don’t know many people who could manage to unbury all four wheels. Bring on the robots.

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Drive
It takes an enormous amount of confidence to update a truck that’s selling so well now, and Toyota is smarter than to stifle its own success.

In reality, Toyota didn’t do much to its Tacoma that couldn’t have been done before. A different head unit, some better interior materials and better packaging isn’t revolutionary — they’re evolutionary.

The 3.5-liter V-6 does its best to replace an engine that wasn’t great to begin with, and it’s a solid start. The Tacoma is a comfortable drive and a capable off roader.

The Tacoma doesn’t go for the throats of the other mid-size truck makers, and it certainly doesn’t exhibit any killer instinct. In reality, the Tacoma is just a killer pickup, and that’s it.

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