The Truth About Cars » News Blog http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 24 Nov 2014 18:48:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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 is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » News Blog http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/news-blog/ Next-Gen Jeep Wrangler Confirmed For 8-Speed Automatic http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/next-gen-jeep-wrangler-confirmed-8-speed-automatic/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/next-gen-jeep-wrangler-confirmed-8-speed-automatic/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 18:48:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=950225 A two-pedal Jeep Wrangler might be sacrilege to some, but the next-generation off-roader will be packing an 8-speed automatic for those who don’t want to row their own. According to Automotive News, the next Wrangler is confirmed for the 8-speed auto, based on an SEC filing. The 8-speed will not only be used on the Wrangler, […]

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A two-pedal Jeep Wrangler might be sacrilege to some, but the next-generation off-roader will be packing an 8-speed automatic for those who don’t want to row their own.

According to Automotive News, the next Wrangler is confirmed for the 8-speed auto, based on an SEC filing. The 8-speed will not only be used on the Wrangler, but all rear-drive FCA products, save for heavy duty trucks and the Viper.

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Editorial: Look To The Future For Further Ford Fuel Savings http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/editorial-look-future-ford-fuel-savings/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/editorial-look-future-ford-fuel-savings/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 17:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=950129 With its unprecedented shift to an aluminum body for the next Ford F-150, the Blue Oval appeared to be pivoting towards a serious improvement in fuel economy. But with the release of the official EPA figures, the newest truck appears to offer only modest improvements. Ford’s own release stresses a comparison between the new truck […]

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With its unprecedented shift to an aluminum body for the next Ford F-150, the Blue Oval appeared to be pivoting towards a serious improvement in fuel economy. But with the release of the official EPA figures, the newest truck appears to offer only modest improvements.

Ford’s own release stresses a comparison between the new truck and the 2008 model equipped with the now obsolete 4.6L V8 engine. One could make the argument that Ford is attempting to show how a returning customer might see significant gains from his old, V8 truck versus a brand new Ecoboost V6 rig. But Ford also didn’t compare the figures to the outgoing 2014 model, which is the typical convention.

That may be because the gains, on paper, are modest at best. Of the two carry-over engines, the 3.5L Ecoboost now returns 17/24/20 mpg (city/highway/combined), versus 16/22/18 mpg for the 2014 model. The 5.0L now gets 15/22/18 mpg versus 15/21/17 mpg. And the Ecoboost engines are notorious for doing well on standard EPA tests, while delivering lower results in real world driving.

If Ford’s past product rollouts are any indication, we will see incremental improvements over the next few years. A 10-speed automatic, due within the next 1-2 years, is sure to add further improvements in fuel economy. A new V6 diesel engine, set to compete with the Ram 1500 and its 28 mpg highway rating, is also said to be in the works.

 

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Coast to Coast 2014: Monument Valley, Arizona-Utah http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/coast-coast-2014-monument-valley-arizona-utah/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/coast-coast-2014-monument-valley-arizona-utah/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 16:23:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=950065 Albert all set for his first Hollywood movie. * You can see all my USA Coast to Coast Reports here! * I think most of you will agree that a Coast to Coast trip wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory stop at the very photogenic Monument Valley. So after pausing in New Mexico at Albuquerque and Gallup, we […]

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Albert Monument Valley 1Albert all set for his first Hollywood movie.

You can see all my USA Coast to Coast Reports here! *

I think most of you will agree that a Coast to Coast trip wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory stop at the very photogenic Monument Valley. So after pausing in New Mexico at Albuquerque and Gallup, we now drive north on US 163 to reach the legendary set of so many Hollywood Western movies, located across the Arizona/Utah state line. The vehicle landscape analysis, official sales data, a special feature on the most popular rental cars in the country, an update on how my valiant Ram 1500 EcoDiesel (Albert) is behaving and a healthy amount of spectacular and oh-so American pictures are below.

Gallup Las VegasToday’s New Mexico-Arizona-Utah-Nevada stretch, courtesy of Google Maps.

Ford F-150 ArizonaFord F-150 in Arizona

Crossing Arizona on the way to Monument Valley, the ratio of pickup trucks in the traffic goes up to 70% compared to around 60% in New Mexico before crossing the Arizona state line, logically as this is one of the most remote and rural parts of Arizona. The new generation GMC Sierra is stronger than usual, Ram pickups are now almost exclusively the Tradesman base model identical to the one I am driving (Albert) and there is a strong heritage of previous generation Chrysler 200 but no new gen yet. The Ford F-150 2-door base model like the one pictured above rules Arizona roads as it does in numerous U.S. states.

Nissan Altima Monument ValleyNissan Altima in Monument Valley AZ

The most recent Arizona sales data I managed to get my hands on dates back from the first half of 2012, courtesy of MSN Autos. I will update this article if/when JATO Dynamics communicates more recent data. At the time, the Ford F-150 logically topped the sales charts with 5,839 units, but the two other nameplates on the podium are a bit of a surprise: the Ford E-250 at #2 makes its first appearance that high in a sales ranking so far in this Coast to Coast trip, and the Nissan Altima ranks third, confirming the trend that dictates U.S. states close to the Mexican border to particularly favour Nissans.

Dodge Ram Monument ValleyDodge Ram 1500 in Monument Valley AZ

Even though we only dipped into Utah to enter the Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, with the valley drive located entirely in Arizona, I thought it’d still be worthwhile sharing some official Utah models sales data, as this is what I do after all. The Ford F-150 once again tops the charts thanks to 1,662 units sold. And once again the two other nameplates on the podium are unexpected: the Ram 2500 (not 1500) takes 2nd place ahead of the Hyundai Sonata.

Monument Valley 1Monument Valley AZ

From halfway between Gallup and Monument Valley onwards, the majority of the traffic is composed of rental vehicles as this qualifies as one of the most touristic areas in the country. Most popular are the Chevrolet Captiva, Equinox and the ever-present Impala, Nissan Versa, Sentra and Kia Sorento. The Ford Explorer seems to be the only ‘legit’ Arizona success on our journey – read not rental-based. Not long ago, The Truth About Cars published info about America’s top rental cars and this confirms my observations in and around Monument Valley.

America Top rentals. Picture courtesy of Polk Automotive

In 2013, almost all Chevy Captivas (now discontinued) went to rental fleets and nearly 75% of GMC Yukon XL did. This is indeed a model I have encountered at a very high rate since the start of this Coast to Coast trip, along with the GMC Yukon coming at #7 and a bit above 40% and the Chevrolet Suburban at #8 and a round 40%. Unsurprisingly, the Chevrolet Impala is 4th in the list of cars with the highest sales ratio to rental fleets at just under 60% and the Chrysler 200 ranks 6th, while 3 Dodge close the Top 16: the Avenger, Caravan/Grand Caravan and Charger.

Monument Valley 2Monument Valley AZ

Now that we have cleared the sales aspects of both Arizona and Utah, let’s get into some Monument Valley trivia. This is the second time I visit this breathtakingly beautiful region, the first time was exactly 20 years ago. I will never forget how shocked I was that the area was actually so small, with in fact only a handful of these striking-looking buttes. These have featured in so many movies, ads and TV shows that if you have never visited the area it is easy to imagine that the entire West of the country looks like this. In the words of movie critic Keith Phipps: “Its five square miles have defined what decades of moviegoers think of when they imagine the American West.”

Stagecoach. Picture courtesy nytimes.comA scene of Hollywood movie Stagecoach set in Monument Valley.

Monument Valley has been featured in at least 50 Hollywood movies. The first one, John Ford’s 1939 film Stagecoach, starring John Wayne, has had an enduring influence in making the Valley famous. John Ford shot a whopping nine additional Westerns in the Valley, including My Darling Clementine (1946), Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), Wagon Master (1950), Rio Grande (1950), The Searchers (1956) and How The West Was Won (1962).

Albert Monument Valley 3Albert in Monument Valley AZ

Other notable Hollywood movies featuring Monument Valley include Billy the Kid (1941), Angel and the Badman (1947), Sergio Leone‘s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968), Easy Rider (1968), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Thelma & Louise (1991)Forrest Gump (1994) and Mission: Impossible II (2000). Most recently, in 2014’s most popular movie at the worldwide box-office Transformers: Age of Extinctionthe scene in which the surviving Autobots reunite was shot in Monument Valley.

Monument Valley 3Monument Valley AZ

Monument Valley pickup trucksMonument Valley pickup trucks

The implied association with John Wayne’s tough, macho character also made the Monument Valley buttes a natural choice as the background for the Marlboro Man from the 1950s onwards. Finally, the rugged desert scenery for the Coyote and Road Runner cartoons takes much of its inspiration from Monument Valley.

Albert ArizonaAlbert getting some Love’s after being pushed hard.

This is the part of the trip where we pushed Albert a little more than before: the Monument Valley drive is 100% unsealed and at time rather abrupt climbs or drops. For the first time in this trip I was glad to be driving a pickup truck with a 4WD option rather than a standard sedan rattling its bumpers on scorched rocks. Don’t get me wrong this was no harsh terrain, but having to slow to an almost stop in order to negotiate ruts wasn’t uncommon. Also, the way to and from Monument Valley had very little traffic so we encouraged Albert all the way to 100mph and he seemed to enjoy this newfound freedom to its fullest. The result upon arrival in Las Vegas NV: a fuel economy shooting back up to 28.8mpg average! Well done Albert.

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and runs a car sales statistics website and consultancy: BestSellingCars which just celebrated its 4th anniversary.

Many thanks to David Curry for the photos in this report.

Albert mpg Vegas NVAlbert’s fuel economy after a day at high(er) speeds – and a morning parked under the sun, hence the extravagant outside temperature…

Toyota Camry Ford Escape Monument ValleyFord Escape, Toyota Camry and Albert at John Ford’s Point in Monument Valley AZ

Arizona RoadArizona road

Arizona skyArizona sky

Albert Monument Valley 2Albert in Monument Valley AZ

Albert Monument Valley 4Albert in Monument Valley AZ

Albert Monument Valley 5Albert in Monument Valley AZ

Monument Valley 4 Totem Pole in Monument Valley AZ

Monument Valley 5Monument Valley AZ

Arizona Road 2Arizona road

Arizona Road 3Arizona Road

Chrysler 200 x 2 ArizonaChrysler 200 x 2 in Arizona

Dodge Van Monument ValleyDodge Van in Monument Valley

Road to Monument ValleyThe road to Monument Valley

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Musk: I Won’t Be Tesla’s CEO Forever http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/musk-wont-teslas-ceo-forever/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/musk-wont-teslas-ceo-forever/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 15:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=950041 Everybody wants to rule the world one way or another, but forever? Not if you’re Elon Musk. Per HybridCars, the CEO of Tesla stated in an interview with Auto Bild that while he would never leave the company, he would step down as its leader within the next three to four years, through the production […]

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Elon Musk

Everybody wants to rule the world one way or another, but forever? Not if you’re Elon Musk.

Per HybridCars, the CEO of Tesla stated in an interview with Auto Bild that while he would never leave the company, he would step down as its leader within the next three to four years, through the production of the Model 3.

As for Tesla itself, Musk said the automaker did fail three times, and burned through its cash to nil, thanks to the fallacies of using the Lotus Elise as an inexpensive foundation to launching a vehicle, and depending upon the powertrain by AC Propulsion to move it. He also proclaimed that he should have been the company’s CEO from the outset, marking the delay as one of his greatest regrets.

As for where he sees himself in the future, Musk says he’d like to go to Mars for a while, return to Earth, then return to Mars in his mid-70s to die under the blue sunset.

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2015 Ford F-150 Pulls 22 MPG Combined, 12,000 Pounds Of Boat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/2015-ford-f-150-pulls-22-mpg-combined-12000-pounds-boat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/2015-ford-f-150-pulls-22-mpg-combined-12000-pounds-boat/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 14:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=950017 So, how many miles per gallon did the 2015 Ford F-150 gain for the trouble of losing 700 pounds by gaining an aluminum body? How does 22 mpg combined sound? The 4×2 model with the 2.7-liter EcoBoost delivers 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. The 19/26/22 rating bests the 2008 […]

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2015 Ford F-150

So, how many miles per gallon did the 2015 Ford F-150 gain for the trouble of losing 700 pounds by gaining an aluminum body? How does 22 mpg combined sound?

The 4×2 model with the 2.7-liter EcoBoost delivers 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. The 19/26/22 rating bests the 2008 model with the 4.6-liter V8, which brought a rating of 14/19/16 to the party.

Aside from the 2.7-liter mill, the F-150 can be had with a standard 3.5-liter Ti-VCT V6, 3.5-liter EcoBoost, or 5-liter Ti-VCT V8. Horsepower ranges from 282 for the V6, to 385 for the V8, while torque comes at 253 lb-ft for the former, 420 lb-ft for the 3.5-liter EcoBoost.

As far as towing boats and hay are concerned, the larger EcoBoost 4×2 pulls the most at 12,200 pounds, whereas the 5-liter V8 edges out the EcoBoost with a max payload of 3,300 to 3,270.

Per Ford, new models are being shipped to dealers now, though special orders will be delayed until February.

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Piston Slap: The Looooooong Cult of Panther Love? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/cult-of-panther-love/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/cult-of-panther-love/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:48:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=948985   TTAC Commentator Nick 2012 writes: Archangel of the Panther Platform – A nice looking 2005 LWB Lincoln Town Car with only 107,000mi popped up for sale at a nearby dealer with a what-I-hope-to-be-optimistic $8,000 asking price. As any follower of the good book of fat Panther Love(tm), I keep my eye out for a […]

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Because SedanLimo. (photo courtesy: forums.vwvortex.com)

TTAC Commentator Nick 2012 writes:

Archangel of the Panther Platform –

A nice looking 2005 LWB Lincoln Town Car with only 107,000mi popped up for sale at a nearby dealer with a what-I-hope-to-be-optimistic $8,000 asking price. As any follower of the good book of fat Panther Love(tm), I keep my eye out for a good one on the local boards.

I took a new position a while back that has me commuting about 65mi a day – about 90% interstate. Going from my comfortable, competent Accord to the extremely comfortable TC would cost me about $10/week in increased fuel costs if I exclusively used the TC (which I wouldn’t do).

For a number of reasons – weekend trips to the lake, grandparents needing a real car with room for car seats, traveling to-from LeMons build sessions, conveying gravitas and refined taste when showing up at friends’ houses, hoonage, and taking stress of the DD Accord that is accumulating mileage like a space shuttle, a third car would be a nice thing to have, even though I’m aware it is probably cheaper to just run the Accord into the earth.

But I miss the cult of Panther and secretly want one and all the fun parts my kids and I could bolt on it. Also, my folks would probably use it somewhat regularly. In my first ‘third car’ experience, they were happy to informally allocate running costs as they used it a lot more than they thought. My Dad’s Focus just isn’t the kind of freeway ride he wants at his age, so I think he’d secretly be rooting for this purchase.  Long term, it might be an appropriate car hauler or cart hauler if Jr is interested in such things.

The LWB is more than I planned to spend for a third car, but not an unreasonable amount. LWB models with well in excess of 300,000 miles seem to go for no less than $4000-5000 on eBay. As long as its not wrecked, I’m figuring that the thing wouldn’t depreciate much if kept in good shape.

Which leads me to my questions:

- Am I self rationalizing about the depreciation and would it be better to scoop up a Marquis/Vic/regular Town Car when one hits the sweet spot for me for less than half the price?
- How much better are the 2003s than the earlier models?
- Does the LWB body bring any special challenges or limit tasteful aftermarket modification?

– anything to look out for with these?

I think the dealer is selling this through the wrong channel and I’m hopeful it’s going to not attract a lot of foot traffic at a retail car dealer.

Sajeev answers:

Well this archangel certainly thinks the LWB Town Car (black on black, if possible) is totally the way to rise up the ranks in the cult of Panther Love. But since most of our readers are of the boring “ZOMG Panthers are horrible” crowd, let’s keep it brief. To your questions:

Am I self rationalizing about the depreciation? : It’s a safe bet that LWB Town Cars (and Marauders) with good paint/interiors will hold their value well.  Not true for other Panthers, but it is The Great American Sedan: even for GM guys looking for a newer ride.

How much better are the 2003s than the earlier models?: they are still “skinny” Panthers (skinniest is 1998-2002, especially 1998), as the 90-97 models (especially 1995) are the Fat Panthers in terms of fit/finish and overall lack of bean counting in everything from dashboards to the number of Lincoln-y tail light clusters.

But the 2003 model has significant chassis (hydroformed bits, aluminum bits), steering (rack and pinion) and electronic upgrades that make them better…even without yesteryear’s plush ride and creature comforts.  They are still better because they soaked up engineering advancements over the years. Except journalists say the Panther hasn’t changed much since 1979, they’d rather not do their homework and shame FoMoCo for neglecting it to death

…what a load of trash! 

Does the LWB body bring any special challenges or limit tasteful aftermarket modification?: Suspension, engine, transmission, etc are all the same.  Honestly they look better than the short wheel base model, I don’t expect any challenges. Even the rear stereo controls are probably compatible with aftermarket stereos, as they have conversion harnesses that work with auxiliary controls (normally the ones on the steering wheel.)

Anything to look out for with these?: Be careful of how awesome you feel after owning a “skinny panther” Lincoln Town Car. But seriously, check for normal wear and tear and the condition of the transmission and ATF.  Everything else is pretty robust, even if a module goes bad, replacement bits are cheap and plentiful.  Also try not to go nuts with Panther Love modifications after you do an SCT engine/trans tune, because that’s one of the few bang for the buck modifications that’ll work.

I think the dealer is selling this through the wrong channel: Wrong!  You think fleet buyers don’t look for cars in your corners of the Interweb? You think their employees don’t have buddies in the fleet car trade that are foaming at the mouth for it? Be it Panther, Land Cruiser, or whatever automotive poison, the fanbois are all over the web looking for it.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Rental Review: Doing Some Soul Searching http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/rental-review-soul-searching/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/rental-review-soul-searching/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:30:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=945969 About five years ago, I made a career decision that I wish I had made much earlier: I decided to get into the Learning and Development field. Unfortunately for about twenty or so people, I had spent the previous fifteen years managing sales people, and I fired a lot of them. As a result, I […]

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About five years ago, I made a career decision that I wish I had made much earlier: I decided to get into the Learning and Development field. Unfortunately for about twenty or so people, I had spent the previous fifteen years managing sales people, and I fired a lot of them.

As a result, I also spent a great deal of time interviewing people. One of the things that every HR person will tell you about interviewing is that you’re supposed to look for what they call “contrary evidence.” As an interviewer, you’re going to form an opinion about a candidate pretty quickly—it’s human nature. So you’re supposed to ask questions that could lead to evidence that is contrary to your original impression. If you naturally like a candidate, you should ask questions that could reveal negative things about him, and vice versa.

Thus, when I selected a 2015 Solar Yellow Kia Soul Plus for my one-day trip to the ATL last week, I looked for things to dislike about it.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t find any.

I’ve always been a fan of the Soul. Why? Simple. It’s the closest thing to a compact wagon currently for sale in the United States. It’s a quirky-looking car, with love-it or leave-it looks. The hamster campaign from years ago was easily the best and most memorable ad run by an automaker in recent history. I’ve owned three Hyundais, and all were excellent cars, so I have no K-car bias. In fact, if I were in my mid-twenties, I’d be in the market to buy one.

Yet, as I bypassed some of my favorite rental selections to pick the Soul, including a V6 Impala, I realized that I had formed all of my opinions just like the best Facebook and YouTube commenters do—that is to say, I had never driven one. I figured it was time to fix that.

My first impression of the Soul? It’s much, much bigger inside than I expected. I hopped in the back seat just to verify, and my 5’9″, 165 lb frame would have been entirely comfortable on a journey of any length. But while the Soul excels at people carrying, the storage with the back seats up isn’t sufficient for a 27″ suitcase, or for carry-on luggage for more than two. Not a huge deal unless you’re planning to make it your primary vehicle for a family of four.

The interior is cleanly designed, with simple, intuitive controls. My rental only had about 2K miles on it, so I don’t know how it will hold up over time, but all the interior materials appeared to be of acceptable quality. Unlike my previous week’s rental, a 2015 Ford Escape SE, everything inside the Soul makes sense. My iPhone was easy to pair, and the stereo system lived up to its rapping rodent credentials. While the clarity wasn’t the best, it thumps out the bass with effortless joy. I didn’t get the upgraded UVO infotaintment in my rental, but I don’t know if I’d want it—this one seemed to work just fine.

The seating position is one of the best I’ve seen in any car—it’s upright but still very comfortable. The visibility is quite good through the windshield as well as through the mirrors.

However, the joy of driving the Soul was about to be severely tested by a commute from the airport to the Perimeter North part of town. In ideal traffic conditions, it should take about twenty-five minutes. In this particular morning’s rush hour, it took nearly ninety.

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No matter. The XM Radio gave me plenty of choices for music and/or talk radio, and the Soul handled the start-stop nature of the traffic without much consternation. The 2.0 liter, 164 HP, direct fuel injection motor is neatly paired with a six-speed automatic that never seems to search for the right gear. My rental didn’t have the Idle Stop and Go option, but still managed 24 MPG along the way, which is one of the best ATL traffic numbers I’ve seen.

Even so, the motor gives more than enough power when called upon, and definitely more than I expected from the little four-banger. Max torque can be found at around 4000 RPM, which helps in dealing with the seventh circle of traffic Hell known as “Atlanta.” I was able to dart and dodge through I-75 and I-85 traffic quite fluidly, as the size of the Soul made it easy to fit into the tightest of spots.

I swear I tried to find things not to like about this car. It just does everything well, and it does many things very well. The only thing I can really think of is the price. A Soul Plus optioned out exactly as my rental was stickers at $19,400, which just seems like a bit too much for this car. I’d probably look for a base Soul with the 1.6 liter four cylinder and manual transmission for my own car—but I would just be looking for an airport commuter and fuel saver. For those looking for a true daily driver, the Plus would be the way to go. Also, the Solar Yellow isn’t available on the base car…damn. Okay, I’d get the Plus, too.

Having previously driven the Cube and the xB, this car is, by far, the best choice in this category. The interior is light years ahead of the Toyota and Nissan offerings, and the motor is the equal of the ubiquitous Toyota 2.4 2AZ-FE in the xB (and so much better than the Cube that it’s not even funny). Although it’s purely subjective, I think you’d have a hard time finding anybody who didn’t think the Soul was the best looking of the trio, too.

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In fact, the highest compliment I can pay the Soul is that, for the only the second time ever after driving a rental car (which I do over 25 times per year), I went to the OEM site to configure and price one. The first time I did that, I ended up buying a Ford Flex. I’m not saying I’ll end up buying a Soul, but only because I don’t have a need for one right now.

So, yes, if I were interviewing the Soul, I’d hire it immediately. And if you’re currently interviewing compact cars, make sure that you bring the Soul in for a look. You’ll be glad you did.

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Tales Of Redesign Timing: Two Traditional Detroit Products Get Refreshed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/tales-redesign-timing-two-traditional-detroit-products-get-refreshed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/tales-redesign-timing-two-traditional-detroit-products-get-refreshed/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:04:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=948721 Ford’s facelifted 2016 Explorer debuted at the auto show in Los Angeles this week. Admittedly, it’s more than a facelift for the Explorer, as a better EcoBoost four-cylinder will serve as the vehicle’s smallest powerplant. Ford will also begin selling a higher-grade Platinum trim level and, in all models, an improved interior will take centre […]

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Explorer 300 sales chartFord’s facelifted 2016 Explorer debuted at the auto show in Los Angeles this week. Admittedly, it’s more than a facelift for the Explorer, as a better EcoBoost four-cylinder will serve as the vehicle’s smallest powerplant. Ford will also begin selling a higher-grade Platinum trim level and, in all models, an improved interior will take centre stage.

At the same auto show, the 2015 Chrysler 300 also appears quite similar to the outgoing model, although the changes underneath are perhaps more thorough. The exterior, while not wildly different, is certainly altered to the point that you’ll know the difference.

These two redesigns of two prototypical Detroit products with wildly different backgrounds occur at very different life stages for these product lines as the two vehicle lines head in opposite directions.

The Explorer, which has not been a true truck-based SUV for years, carries on with one of the most successful and iconic SUV nameplates in history. The 300 initially grew out of Mercedes-Benz “partnerships”, but as a vast, rear-wheel-drive car, it probably represents America’s big sedan history more accurately than any other vehicle currently on the market.

2016 Ford ExplorerBut while the Explorer is America’s fifth-best-selling SUV/crossover nameplate and sales have risen 9% this year, the fifth consecutive year of improved Explorer volume, 300 sales are tumbling. Sales of the big Chrysler fell 18% last year, a loss of 23,023 units. 300 volume is down 9% through the first ten months of 2014. It’s currently America’s 42nd-best-selling car. It ranked 14th in 2006.

Like the 300, the Explorer doesn’t sell like it once did. As recently as 2002, Ford reported more than 400,000 Explorer sales in America. The nameplate then decreased in volume in seven consecutive years.

Nevertheless, these two vehicles are on different tracks travelling to different destinations. America’s passenger car market is hardly growing despite steady increases in the size of the overall new vehicle industry, and the 300 is just one of many big cars with falling sales. Azera, Taurus, Impala, Avalon, LaCrosse, and the 300’s Charger twin are all down this year, as well.

2015 chrysler 300The Explorer, on the other hand, is part of a utility vehicle sector that’s rising 12% this year, earning more than 470,000 extra sales for the industry over the last ten months.

A new 300 isn’t going to return Chrysler to the days of 140K annual sales rates, nor will a facelifted Explorer cause Ford to sell more than 400,000 per year.

One redesign stands a chance at stemming the tide; the other should help maintain its heady position.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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VW Bringing Golf SportWagen 4Motion, Alltrack To US In 2016 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/vw-bringing-golf-sportwagen-4motion-alltrack-us-2016/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/vw-bringing-golf-sportwagen-4motion-alltrack-us-2016/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949993 Looking to muscle in upon Subaru territory, Volkswagen will be bringing over the Golf SportWagen 4Motion in standard and Alltrack models for 2016. Automotive News reports the plan was announced by Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn during last week’s LA Auto Show, citing demand from dealers and consumers alike. The Alltrack variant, unveiled […]

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Looking to muscle in upon Subaru territory, Volkswagen will be bringing over the Golf SportWagen 4Motion in standard and Alltrack models for 2016.

Automotive News reports the plan was announced by Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn during last week’s LA Auto Show, citing demand from dealers and consumers alike.

The Alltrack variant, unveiled at the 2014 Paris Auto Show, will be paired against the Subaru XV Crosstrek with the aim of capturing a piece of the U.S. small crossover market, gain more overall U.S. market share, as well as using more of the Puebla, Mexico factory where the Golf is assembled now.

As for the standard SportWagen, FWD versions will arrive sometime this coming spring, while tooling for the AWD 2016 model is beginning to be installed. Horn expects the SportWagen to make up 50 percent of all Golf sales once VW completes its lineup expansion.

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Honda Calls For Compliance From Consumers Regarding Recalls http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/honda-calls-compliance-consumers-regarding-recalls/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/honda-calls-compliance-consumers-regarding-recalls/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 12:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949969 Just as the federal government wants Honda and Takata to fix the airbags in the former’s vehicles, Honda would like consumers to bring in said vehicles for repair. Even if it means involving the government. Bloomberg reports Honda is asking for “some support on the state level” to make consumers comply with recall orders, per […]

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Just as the federal government wants Honda and Takata to fix the airbags in the former’s vehicles, Honda would like consumers to bring in said vehicles for repair.

Even if it means involving the government.

Bloomberg reports Honda is asking for “some support on the state level” to make consumers comply with recall orders, per Honda North America executive vice president Rick Schostek in testimony before Congress last week. One of his suggestions would be to decline registration of a vehicle under recall until the defects were repaired, in a manner similar to emissions testing.

Schostek’s suggestions have found support from the likes of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and the Center for Auto Safety, with Nissan stating it was too early to comment, and General Motors, Toyota and Ford remaining silent thus far.

At present, automakers are required to notify the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of any problems a model may be experiencing, while owners aren’t required to do anything.

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US Data Privacy Guidelines Not Compatible With Euro Privacy Laws http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/us-data-privacy-guidelines-compatible-euro-privacy-laws/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/us-data-privacy-guidelines-compatible-euro-privacy-laws/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 11:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949937 Just as with emissions and headlamps, standards recently adopted in the United States regarding consumer data and privacy won’t be compatible elsewhere, specifically in Europe. Per Automotive News Europe, Stephan Appt, legal director of Munich, Germany-based international law firm Pinsent Masons, says the standards developed by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of […]

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Just as with emissions and headlamps, standards recently adopted in the United States regarding consumer data and privacy won’t be compatible elsewhere, specifically in Europe.

Per Automotive News Europe, Stephan Appt, legal director of Munich, Germany-based international law firm Pinsent Masons, says the standards developed by the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and the Association of Global Automakers to both handle said data and ensure privacy “are a step in the right direction,” but aren’t enough for European authorities.

Issues concerning the standards — which were agreed upon earlier this month by BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen — include vague and broad statements within the framework, as well as consumers giving “implicit consent to allow data processing based (upon) their mere usage of vehicle technologies and services,” an act that would run afoul of European privacy standards.

Appt added that support for the guidelines shows that automakers “are taking the issue of protecting driver data seriously enough to put aside their differences and collaborate,” and hopes those in Europe would do the same to mitigate risk in violating local privacy laws.

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Audi USA Sold More A3s Than A4s In October 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/audi-usa-sold-a3s-a4s-october-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/audi-usa-sold-a3s-a4s-october-2014/#comments Sun, 23 Nov 2014 13:41:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=948681 Are times changing, or was October nothing more than an optimal arranging of circumstances in favour of Audi’s smallest sedan? Audi USA sold more A3s than A4 sedans in October 2014, a serious shift from a year ago when the old A3 hatchback was dead and Audi sold 3040 A4s. Before we assume this will […]

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2015-Audi-A3-beauty-exterior-005Are times changing, or was October nothing more than an optimal arranging of circumstances in favour of Audi’s smallest sedan?

Audi USA sold more A3s than A4 sedans in October 2014, a serious shift from a year ago when the old A3 hatchback was dead and Audi sold 3040 A4s.

Before we assume this will be the new way forward for Audi in America, remember that the A4 is at the end of its rope. The next generation A4 has already been spotted in camo form, and while the current car clearly remains competitive in the marketplace, it is an older design.

The A3, on the other hand, was released in the United States in new sedan form earlier this year.

Additionally, the A4’s figures don’t take into account the Allroad (basically a jacked-up and cladded A4 Avant, which is no longer available in North America) and the A3 lineup’s second offering, a convertible, began reaching showrooms this fall. Include the Allroad in the A4’s total and the A3 trailed the bigger car by 292 units in October. The A3 Cabriolet, meanwhile, makes up 17% of all A3 inventory as we speak.

Nevertheless, it’s a meaningful moment in time, a snapshot of a downward-stretching “luxury” market that needs additional entry-level models to create greater volume. Along with the 2380 A3s Audi sold in October 2014, there were another 683 Q3 crossovers. Together, they accounted for one in five Audi sales last month.

The brand’s best-selling Q5 was up 6% to 3571 units, equal to 24% of all Audi sales. Top-end models – A6, A7, A8, Q7 – collectively rose 7% to 4671 October sales, 31% of the brand’s total. Equivalent lineups at Mercedes-Benz – E-Class, CLS-Class, S-Class, GL-Class – have produced 40% of the brand’s (significantly higher) sales through the first ten months of 2014.

Yet so often this year, the more interesting shift in the premium market has seen Audi consistently outselling Cadillac: in April, May, June, August, September, and October, and by 4681 sales year-to-date. Cadillac outsold Audi by nearly 25,000 units in the U.S. last year, when Cadillac sales jumped 22% and Audi rose 13%. One key difference between the two brands is the breadth of Audi’s lineup at the top and bottom of the range. While not Mercedes-Benz-like, Audi’s broad range makes the narrow scope of the Cadillac portfolio all the more apparent. Cadillac lacks products which could directly take on the TT, R8, A8, A7, Allroad, and Audi’s new entry-level cars, the A3 and Q3.

Together, those vehicles were responsible for 28% of Audi sales last month. At Cadillac, their non-existent rivals produced 0% of the brand’s October sales.

12a4allroadCadillac’s missing parts creates a story for another day and an issue their new boss, Johan de Nysschen appears willing to take a look at only if it means Cadillac will make more money.

Back among German automakers, the A3 trailed Mercedes-Benz’s CLA by 216 units in October 2014 but leads the CLA by 1512 sales since the beginning of April, when the A3 arrived in real numbers. The GLA, in its second month, outsold the Q3, in its third month, by 1324 units in October.

When luxury automakers dive down to this price bracket, volume certainly matters. How much relevance Audi places on the A3’s A4-beating performance in October is another matter, of course, not just because of the A4’s age. With numerical assistance from a wagon, the A4 was actually the more popular product last month. Imagine that, a wagon, of all things, helped the A4 rise to the top of Audi’s car leaderboard.

Regardless of their position in the rankings, the new A3 has undeniably been a far more successful car for Audi USA than the old hatchback. Audi has already sold twice as many A3s in the last seven months than the old model ever managed in a full calendar year.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Chart Of The Day: Jaguar vs. Land Rover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/chart-day-jaguar-vs-land-rover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/chart-day-jaguar-vs-land-rover/#comments Sat, 22 Nov 2014 13:10:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=947857 The reasons for the drop of the red line and the steady rise of the grey line on today’s chart are perhaps too numerous to count. Additional product for one brand. Less intervention at another. A move toward high-riding vehicles helped one brand. A move away from traditional cars harmed the other. These two factors […]

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Jaguar vs Land Rover sales chartThe reasons for the drop of the red line and the steady rise of the grey line on today’s chart are perhaps too numerous to count.

Additional product for one brand. Less intervention at another.

A move toward high-riding vehicles helped one brand. A move away from traditional cars harmed the other. These two factors are made all the more apparent when one brand employs a full lineup of SUVs/crossovers and the other has yet to bring its first utility vehicle to market.

One brand’s message has been artfully constructed over a few decades; the other’s has been muddied for at least a generation.

Both have been labelled as dreadfully unreliable at different points. One brand has had trouble discarding that label; the other has succeeded in spite of it.

Both British brands were Ford-owned but now find themselves under the wing of India’s Tata Group.

These lines could yet head in similar directions. Jaguar will begin to sell a crossover and a lower-priced sedan. Land Rover’s Discovery Sport could buoy the brand’s lower range, as the majority of the company’s U.S. sales are produced by the trio of Range Rover-branded products.

At the moment, however, Land Rover USA sales are better than they’ve ever been thanks to a market which is increasingly keen on this type of vehicle and the brand’s broadest product range ever. Jaguar USA, on the other hand,  sold nearly 16,000 S-Types in 2002 but might not sell that many XJs, XFs, XKs, and F-Types in total this year.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Mazda2 Sedan Gives Hints To Next Scion http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/mazda2-sedan-gives-hints-next-scion/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/mazda2-sedan-gives-hints-next-scion/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 22:40:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949377 The long-rumored Mazda2-based Scion is a step closer to reality, with Mazda unveiling the sedan version of the Mazda2. With the Scion iM serving as the hatchback in Scion’s new lineup, the next Scion will be a traditional sedan. The unnamed Scion will be built at Mazda’s Mexican factory, and is likely to retain the […]

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The long-rumored Mazda2-based Scion is a step closer to reality, with Mazda unveiling the sedan version of the Mazda2.

With the Scion iM serving as the hatchback in Scion’s new lineup, the next Scion will be a traditional sedan. The unnamed Scion will be built at Mazda’s Mexican factory, and is likely to retain the 1.5L Skyactiv engine for superior fuel economy.

 

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Just Accept It: Autocross Isn’t Racing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/just-accept-autocross-isnt-racing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/just-accept-autocross-isnt-racing/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 22:30:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=939601 Back in 2006, when I started autocrossing my Mazda RX-8 on stock shocks and Dunlop all-seasons, I took great pride in telling all of my friends that I was “going racing” each weekend. They would look at me in awe, and say, “You race cars?” “I sure do,” I would reply, and I then I […]

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Back in 2006, when I started autocrossing my Mazda RX-8 on stock shocks and Dunlop all-seasons, I took great pride in telling all of my friends that I was “going racing” each weekend. They would look at me in awe, and say, “You race cars?”

“I sure do,” I would reply, and I then I would show them pictures of my car, resplendent with number and class magnets. I usually neglected to mention that I never got out of second gear during these “races,” or that I typically drove faster on the way to the event than I actually did at the event. Nor did I mention that these “races” tended to occur in parking lots, and that most of my competitors were dorky, middle-aged men with social anxiety disorder who wore funny hats and jorts.

No, I let them have their image in their mind of me as a modern-day James Hunt, a fast-living, hard-drinking rebel who carelessly risked his life every weekend in the name of glory and passion. What’s worse, however, is that I started to believe some of my own fiction. I really thought I was racing.

Frankly, I was never all that great at autocross—I trophied at several national tour events and pro solos, but I was never a contender to win a national title. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it immensely…or at least, I thought I did. No, actually, that’s not true at all. I hated it.

Here’s why: National-level Autocross can best be summed up this way—you spend incredible sums of money and drive thousands of miles to spend six minutes driving your car at relatively low speeds around a parking lot. The rest of your day is spent standing out in the middle of the parking lot and picking up cones that other drivers knock over. If you win, you probably had a good day. If you didn’t, you’ve got to drive those same thousands of miles home replaying your runs over and over in your head, wondering where you lost that two tenths of a second. However, you’ve got a pretty good shot at winning because there are 236 different classes.

Of course, this is a simplified and not entirely honest description. The speeds, while low, do seem very fast when you’re inside the car. The driving does require very precise inputs and footwork, and I have great respect for those who do it well.

The SCCA National Solo circuit is full of really good people. They compete in earnest, and they are mostly supportive of their competitors. They hardly ever cheat, and even when they give lifetime bans to competitors for cheating, they don’t really mean it. One gets the feeling that they are largely the kind of people who were slightly socially awkward in high school, but they have now found a group of a couple of thousand kindred souls who find solace and joy in tinkering around with cars and shaving thousandths of seconds off their course times.

I don’t mean to rob any of them of their joy in what they do, but every time I see a Facebook status update from an autocrosser saying, “I’m going racing in the morning!” I have to seriously restrain myself from saying, “No, you aren’t!”

Autocrossers love to talk about how much skill and car control is involved in their hobby, and how they see more turns than an F1 driver does, and how the course is different every time. I can’t dispute any of those points.

However, it isn’t racing.

Wheel-to-wheel racing requires every skill that autocross does, and sometimes exponentially so. In addition to those skills, a racer must learn how to drive in traffic, how to execute a pass, how to drive the course when his preferred line isn’t available, how to avoid a spinning car in the middle of the track, and how to drive at speeds that are more than double the fastest speed any autocrosser will ever experience. But that’s the least of his worries.

He must conquer fear.

Autocrossers don’t have walls to deal with. They don’t have multiple car crashes. They don’t have to worry about totaling a perfectly good car. They don’t have to worry about injury or death. They simply put on their open face helmets and drive. And that’s why it’s not racing.

Every time I frantically strap myself into a car during a driver change of an enduro race, I wonder: Is this the last time I will do this? Even if I drive perfectly, will another driver take my life in his hands today? Even though we’ve checked the brakes and tires compulsively, what if one of them fails and sends me hurtling toward a steel barrier? What if, God forbid, I endanger another man’s life with my mistake?

I keep waiting for that fear to subside. It never does. And I don’t think it ever will.

I could see myself autocrossing again for fun someday. The SCCA has re-classed the Boss 302 into the class where it should have been all along, F Street. But, if somebody asks me what I’m doing that weekend, I will say, “I’m going autocrossing.”

This article originally appeared at www.barkm.com

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Dispatches do Brasil: How I Killed the Sports Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/dispatches-brasil-killed-sports-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/dispatches-brasil-killed-sports-car/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:13:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949249 Reading here on TTAC that a BMW executive declared the sports car dead was a sad day for me. Yes, I am one of those who bemoan the passing of beautiful, personal cars like those, whether or not sprinkled with the fairy dust of power. I’m not talking Ferrari here, I’m talking simpler things, like an Opel […]

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Reading here on TTAC that a BMW executive declared the sports car dead was a sad day for me. Yes, I am one of those who bemoan the passing of beautiful, personal cars like those, whether or not sprinkled with the fairy dust of power. I’m not talking Ferrari here, I’m talking simpler things, like an Opel Tigra, or a Ford Puma, maybe even an old VW Karmann Ghia or a fiberglass, old Beetle motivated, Brazilian Puma GT. Cars like those allowed their everyday owners, with common pocketbooks, to dream of performance and a more enchanted life, in spite of sometime ordinary engines, as their designs were always something else.

Reflecting on the implications of the assertion I remembered that day. That day I had my favorite mainstream-make, exotic–inspired, common-hardware-bundled-up-in-a-an-affordable-package car all to myself. And thinking on that drive made me realize I’m partially responsible for this CUV-dominated, ignonimous state of affairs. You see, instead of living out my playboy fantasies, I decided to live out a fantasy of another kind, more country if you will, and bought a Ford Ranger. My 2-year experience with that ill-handling brute can best be resumed thus: So happy the day I bought it, happier still the day it was gone.

The year 2000, recently divorced, I decided that my new marital status deserved something more fun than the competent, but staid, Fiat Siena. I was no longer a family man, I didn’t need 5 seats, and neither a trunk. So I started looking into other things. It was a good time to buy cars like these. Due to the sudden freeing of importations in the early 90s, there was an abundance of different used cars available, things that up until then were uncommon here. Basically I started looking into jeeps and sports cars. I test drove a Daihatsu Feroza, a Suzuki Sidekick, found them all lacking. That off-road type vehicle search led me to pickups and I thought the Dodge Dakota would look fine in my garage, though eventually I chose the Ranger for better ride and more commodious cabin.

At the same time, I looked into two-seater cars. I test drove an Opel Calibra, a beast of a car, but an interior so pedestrian as to be off putting. Drove quite of few of the Japanese, too, but really, none inspired me except the Mazda Miata and MX3. However, the fact that all the small Japanese makes were getting their butts kicked in the market and falling like flies made me wary. Also, I was looking for something fun, but not desperate and oh-my-big-winged like a Mitsubishi Eclipse or a Hyundai Tiburon.

Finally, one day, I saw it. A Fiat Coupé. I was aware of it, of course, keenly aware as it drew my eyes like no other. But the thing was so expensive when it was brand new, it had slipped my radar. Now a 1996 model was going for the same price of a 1998 Ranger. Buyable indeed. Serendipity struck and I got a call from a friend.

He had decided to sell his green Coupé. It had very low mileage as it was basically his weekend car. Better yet, he was going off to Rio to work for the day and he would let me keep his car all day provided I took him to the airport at the crack of dawn and picked him up on his return at night. Of course!

There it was. Looking for all the world like a small Ferrari, the quality of the design oozed from every angle. The front was aggressive, but not overly so, and the head lights, encased in that plastic shroud, called all eyes. The high intensity projectors were something new here and at night you knew it was a Coupé coming just from the beam of light it projected. The hood was long as befits a sports car, the roof low, but no way claustrophobic, in fact sight lines were quite good for that kind of car, especially to the front and side. Backing up did require care and a prayer to be sure.

The wheel wells are the coolest I have ever seen. Cut like a knife, it as chiseled and suggested power. The wheels themselves made a nice composition with those lines. The back, of course, wow, those round lights! That and their positioning, immediately put me in mind of a Ferrari. Not only me of course, the car was known worldwide as Fiat’s mini-Ferrari. All the way, it was quite grownup, no hint of a wing or an extraneous line anywhere.

Inside, oh my gosh! Difficult to describe the beauty. The external color-coded-metallic-finished stripe on the dash immediately drew the eyes. Quite unusual and striking. The gauges lit up in a deep red, suggesting performance, and the idiot lights were aligned in a tastefully set up strip below the gauges. The steering wheel was the only deception inside. Common to other cars in the Fiat line, it only distinguished itself by being bound in leather. The seats were big and a perfect balance between comfort and support. As the name Coupé suggested, the car was a 2+2, and in the back, a couple of bags could be fit or two children. Not that I cared much, but the trunk held 310 liters, about the same as a Ford Focus hatch of today.

Of course, the famous Pininfarina logo emblazoned that dash. At the time I believed the car was his work, though later research showed that the famous Italian design house “only” did the interior. The exterior had been penned by Fiat’s in-house Centro de Stilo, that was at the time commanded by a talented American, none other than the famous Chris Bangle of BMW fame.

So, I dropped my friend off at the airport and hit the road. I decided to take the famously curvy BR-262 highway. Known as the road of death, there is a stretch further out into the country that has literally hundreds of curves in the less than 50 kilometers of road. I wouldn’t have time to venture out that far. Starting from Belo Horizonte, I decided to go to Itabira. In that stretch of road there is the famous Curva do Sabão (soap curve), near Caeté, a curve that was designed wrong and due to the inclination, tends to throw you car off into the wrong direction.

Getting there I explored the breadth of the engine. Though later Euro versions used more powerful and turbo equipped engines, the Brazilian version used the same 137 hp, 2.0, 16v of Fiat’s own Tipo Sedicivalvole. Putting out the same horsepower as in the Tipo, in the Coupé the engine was reworked as to noise. It was amazing, and no 4 cylinder engine has the right to sound so good. The noises made will be forever in my head. I remembered reading in Brazilian magazine at the time that the Coupé made the 0-62 mph dash in a hair over 10 seconds and got close to 205 km/h at top speed. Due to the heavy traffic and limits of the road, I couldn’t get near those limits.

However, I didn’t really care. I was enjoying too much the curves and trucks along the way. Powerful enough to provide strong bursts of speeds, getting around the trucks, buses and other slow moving cars was a simple as dropping a gear and stepping on it. The precise steering and handling guaranteed that it was a point it and it’ll get there affair. The suspension was a work of art. It soaked up the imperfections nicely and never got unsettled. Disc brakes all around guaranteed the necessary stepping power.

The car’s behavior was provided by an all independent suspension. McPherson struts were used up front and in the back there were longitudinally-mounted oscillating arms. The back never threatened to break out no matter how fast, at least on this road and in the hands of this driver. The Coupé made short work of the infamous curve mentioned previously and I went back on forth on this stretch of road maybe 20 times. It was clearly overkill the setup Fiat used. I can only imagine how the most powerful Coupé must have been. The figures were breathtaking and the top Euro turbo Coupé used a 2.0, 20v, 5 cylinder engine, good for 223 horses. Imagine greater indeed.

As I headed back into the city, crossing it, finding the car pliable enough for city driving as well, I pondered on what to do. The car tugged on me like no other. Beautifully designed, comfortable, it had an unmatchable and undeniable presence, especially in this country. However, only about 1,300 had been imported into Brazil, possibly making maintenance a problem (though that proved untrue as mechanically it was similar to the much more successful Tipo). Also, I had just asked to be transferred back from Brasília to Belo Horizonte and moving could be a problem in that car. If I bought a Ranger, I could do it myself as I would only be taking clothes, books and such…

Besides, this one was green. Had it been blue or red, or better yet, yellow (the most striking color for it in my evaluation) I would not have resisted, I think.

Thankfully such cars as the Mini Cooper, Fiat Cincuecento Abarth, Volkswagen Beetle R, BMW M3 still exist and serve and enthusiast well. However, they are the opposite of what a Coupé was. The modern cars take an extraordinary engine and drop it into a common car. The Coupé and others like it did the opposite, they took an ordinary engine and installed it into an unusual car. Works much better for me.

Alas, the world moves on and there seems to be no place for cars like that (being PSA with the Peugeot RCZ and Citroën DS3 and Mazda with the Miata, exceptions) anymore. They live on in the memories of guys like me who saw them there, in the flesh, and lusted for them. We can only hope they make a comeback.

Excuse me now as I have to go. Let me hop into my Renault Duster and go pick up my kid.

 

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NHTSA, USDOT Demand National Recall Action From Takata, Automakers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/nhtsa-usdot-demand-national-recall-action-takata-automakers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/nhtsa-usdot-demand-national-recall-action-takata-automakers/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 16:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949217 While we were looking over the latest and greatest from the 2014 LA Auto Show, the Takata band played on. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation are both calling for a national recall of all vehicles with Takata’s airbags, citing a catastrophic failure of a module outside the high-humidity […]

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takata-corp

While we were looking over the latest and greatest from the 2014 LA Auto Show, the Takata band played on.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation are both calling for a national recall of all vehicles with Takata’s airbags, citing a catastrophic failure of a module outside the high-humidity zone previously established in an earlier recall.

The NHTSA also issued a General Order to the airbag supplier and 10 automakers — BMW, Chrysler, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Subaru and Toyota — requiring all to submit documents regarding “completed, ongoing or planned testing” of the supplier’s inflators outside of the current recall zone, with the goal of having all involved come correct with the agency and the American public about what they all plan to do about the airbags. Takata alone received a Special Order, regarding the propellent used in its airbags.

Responses to both orders are due by December 5.

Three of the 10 automakers involved with the General Order — Ford, GM and Honda — may likely have the hardest time replacing Takata completely. Per Bloomberg, the trio worked closely with the supplier to develop special features for their vehicles — Ford’s Adaptive Steering system, GM’s front center airbags — features that would take a while to work out with a new supplier if a deeper relationship were to take hold.

Meanwhile, only 6 percent of the 8 million vehicles equipped with Takata’s airbags have been repaired thus far, a rate critics of the supplier and its client base find appalling. The pace isn’t likely to quicken, however; Toyota says it would take a year at minimum to test and replace its units with those from other suppliers, while Nissan said doing the same for itself wasn’t feasible.

Returning to the Beltway, Reuters reports Takata had presented documents to the NHTSA linked to a 2009 accident involving its airbags, only for the agency to decline, as it had closed its investigation on the supplier and Honda, whose vehicle was involved in said accident. The NHTSA informed the news agency that the documents “would not have added to the agency’s understanding of the issues involved in that particular investigation.”

Speaking of Honda, senior executive Rick Schostek admitted before Congress that his company failed to notify the NHTSA or its customer base about the issues with Takata’s airbags, promising to offer consumers a loaner if their affected vehicles are repaired quickly due to supply shortages. As for Takata’s Hiroshi Shimizu, Automotive News says he went on the defensive, going so far as to claim that it was “hard” for him to “answer yes or no” to several questions asked by the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, much to the dismay and bemusement of the committee members.

Prior to the call for a nationwide recall, the regional-specific actions, as well as the NHTSA’s order to consumers to have their airbags replaced immediately, contributed to public anxiety over whether or not the airbag before them would disfigure or kill in an accident. According to Bloomberg, Takata itself believes a national recall would only further exacerbate those fears, potentially diverting resources “from where they’re needed, putting lives at risk.”

Meanwhile, Reuters reports the Monclova, Mexico facility where the defective units were assembled had issues from the moment it opened its doors in 2000. Aside from the units made in 2001, 2002 and 2012, an explosion in 2006 — one some workers claim was fueled by the same ammonium nitrate used in Takata’s airbags as a propellent — jump-started a production run where quality slipped against hourly quotas. Whether the top brass knew of the problems, however, is a different story, as it never sent permanent staff to Mexico from its headquarters in Japan.

Over in Germany, BMW is working with the supplier to have its airbags made closer to home in Freiberg, transferring production from Mexico. The move only applies to BMW, who expects additional production to come online by mid-December. Alternative arrangements would take two years and “divert attention from current recall efforts,” per the automaker.

Finally, U.S. Air Force First Lieutenant Stephanie Erdman gave her testimony before Congress, detailing what had happened to her when a vehicle turned in front of her 2002 Honda Civic in September 2013. According to The Detroit News, the resulting injuries and ongoing surgeries led to a lawsuit against Honda, whose certified dealership in Destin, Fla. failed to notify Erdman of the February 2010 driver’s side airbag recall or what would happen if the airbag deployed in the wrong conditions, nor did the dealership replace the unit in question. She also feared that once the spotlight subsides on Takata et al, the problems would still be there, and urged Congress to continue to hold all accountable for their actions.

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De Nysschen: $250K Cadillac Flagship Ready By 2029 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/de-nysschen-250k-cadillac-flagship-ready-2029/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/de-nysschen-250k-cadillac-flagship-ready-2029/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 15:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949177 The upcoming Cadillac CT6 may be the premium brand’s flagship for now, but president Johan de Nysschen has a grander flagship in mind for the next decade. Reuters reports the future flagship would likely arrive in 2029 with a price of $250,000, bringing Cadillac up to par against the likes of Rolls-Royce and Bentley. This […]

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Cadillac President de Nysschen poses with the Cadillac ATS-V during the model's world debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in Los Angeles

The upcoming Cadillac CT6 may be the premium brand’s flagship for now, but president Johan de Nysschen has a grander flagship in mind for the next decade.

Reuters reports the future flagship would likely arrive in 2029 with a price of $250,000, bringing Cadillac up to par against the likes of Rolls-Royce and Bentley. This would supercede not only the CT6, but a planned range-topping flagship due to arrive by 2020 per de Nysschen’s roadmap for his brand.

In the meantime, the CT6 is expected to be priced “in the 70s,” just above the current XTS. De Nysschen is also eyeing a vehicle below the ATS that would go up against the Mercedes-Benz CLA, as well as pondering additional crossovers to lend aid to the SRX, citing the Germans’ wide array of crossovers for inspiration.

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Grand Cherokee, Durango Going Grayscale Until February 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/grand-cherokee-durango-going-grayscale-february-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/grand-cherokee-durango-going-grayscale-february-2015/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 14:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949153 Were you hoping to have a red Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT or Dodge Durango Ron Burgundy Edition in your driveway in time for Christmas? You may have to try your luck on the lot, as new orders will be painted black, white, gray and silver all over for the next few months. Automotive News reports […]

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2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-004

Were you hoping to have a red Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT or Dodge Durango Ron Burgundy Edition in your driveway in time for Christmas? You may have to try your luck on the lot, as new orders will be painted black, white, gray and silver all over for the next few months.

Automotive News reports the grayscale look will be in until at least next February due to upgrades at Chrysler Group’s Jefferson North Assembly’s paint shop in Detroit. The upgrades would allow the shop to paint vehicles with more complex colors than it could prior to the changeover.

The changeover, which follows those at the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ subsidary’s Warren Truck and Sterling Heights facilities, will also shut production down for three weeks beginning December 22, the first time the plant has been shut down for that long in several years.

Until then, shoppers can comb through the lot to find a red or maximum steel SUV of their dreams: around 19 percent of 24,500 unsold 2015 Grand Cherokees and 8 percent of 719 unsold Dodge Durangos come in colors outside of the grayscale range.

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Versa Still Rules Roost As Fit Sales Reach 42-Month High In October http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/versa-still-rules-roost-fit-sales-reach-42-month-high-october/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/versa-still-rules-roost-fit-sales-reach-42-month-high-october/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:21:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=947057 American Honda reported the Fit’s best October ever last month. At 6851 U.S. sales, Fit volume was up 83% year-over-year to the highest total since April 2011, when Fit sales shot up 73% to 8116. The new Fit, the third version of Honda’s sub-Civic car for North America has certainly been well-received early on in […]

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Honda Fit EXLAmerican Honda reported the Fit’s best October ever last month. At 6851 U.S. sales, Fit volume was up 83% year-over-year to the highest total since April 2011, when Fit sales shot up 73% to 8116.

The new Fit, the third version of Honda’s sub-Civic car for North America has certainly been well-received early on in its tenure. With Honda sales rising to the highest October level ever and a new Mexican-built version of the brand’s least costly car finally readily available, seeing the Fit rise to new heights was not an unexpected occurrence.

It’s no E-Type on the outside, but the Fit’s purposeful design pays dividends inside for owners and even passengers. It is in some ways a mini-MPV with a very monobox shape. It’s not conventional, but its flexibility makes it strangely desirable as a result. Honda’s share of the subcompact category grew to 17.8% in October 2014, up from 10.8% a year ago and 10.6% in calendar year 2013 as a whole. It’s worth noting, as well, that the Fit is available only as a hatchback, while the four other members of the subcompact category’s October top five are sold as hatchbacks and sedans.

It’s also worth noting that the category continues to be controlled in large part by the cheap-and-roomy Nissan Versa, sales of which improved 29% in October 2014 to 11,097 units, 28.8% of the segment’s total.

With a higher price tag and fewer build options, it’s hard to see the Fit unseating the Versa any time soon, even on a semi-long-term basis.

Added competition may pose the greater danger to the Fit over the next few years, however. And we don’t mean competition from more subcompact hatchbacks. While Nissan Canada has seen Versa sales tumble 43% over the last three months as the Micra slotted in below and stole sales (and added many more), Honda will challenge their own Fit and Civic with the new HR-V, set to be displayed in detail at the Los Angeles auto show this week.

It’s a long-running theme. America’s new vehicle market is expanding at a 5.5% clip in 2014, and while subcompact sales shot up 11.5% in the month of October, specifically, subcompact volume is up just 3.4% this year. That outpaces the overall passenger car market, which is up just 1.2%. But combined sales of the Buick Encore, Mini Countryman and Paceman, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, Nissan Juke, and Subaru XV Crosstrek are up 28.2% to a combined 181,370 units. Sure, as a group they’re not as popular as subcompact cars – they’re certainly more costly, too. Yet their growth does represent a real turning of the tide.

Nissan Versa NoteBack in the here and now, Detroit subcompacts, in the form of the Chevrolet Sonic and Ford Fiesta, have earned 31% market share in 2014. Sales of the Hyundai Accent rose 34% to 4839 in October and are up 5% this year; Kia Rio volume was down 12% both in October and through the first ten months. Combined Prius C/Yaris sales are down 19% in Toyota showrooms in 2014. Mazda 2 sales have increased 34% in advance of the next 2’s arrival, but October volume plunged 38% to just 457 units.

Meanwhile, America’s four top-selling compacts – Corolla, Civic, Cruze, Focus – combine to outsell the whole subcompact category by more than two-to-one.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Accuracy Issues Real Reason For Free Hydrogen For FCV Owners http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/accuracy-issues-real-reason-free-hydrogen-fcv-owners/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/accuracy-issues-real-reason-free-hydrogen-fcv-owners/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949129 Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell owners will be able to refuel their new FCVs for free for three years, but only because it’s hard to put a price on hydrogen. According to Autoblog, a seminar held at the Mirai launch regarding hydrogen revealed the fueling stations currently in place in the United States […]

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Toyota Mirai and Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell owners will be able to refuel their new FCVs for free for three years, but only because it’s hard to put a price on hydrogen.

According to Autoblog, a seminar held at the Mirai launch regarding hydrogen revealed the fueling stations currently in place in the United States aren’t able to accurately measure how much hydrogen is pumped into a given vehicle. Without that accuracy, no FCV owner can be charged for the fuel, a problem the California Air Resources Board is working to fix. Deputy Executive Officer Alberto Ayala explains:

If you think about it, it’s a real simple yet real practical challenge. If you’re going to pay for X amount of hydrogen, you’re actually getting that amount of hydrogen… We are at a point where we are solving multiple remaining questions [with hydrogen infrastructure], and that just happens to be one of them.

National Fuel Cell Research Center director Scott Samuelsen adds that this was once the issue with gasoline, with agencies like California’s Department of Food and Agriculture and Department of Weights and Measures setting standards for fuel pumps, then routinely inspecting said pumps to ensure they remained accurate. Once “the right meter” to measure hydrogen is in place, the new consumer fuel source would fall in line.

A solution to this problem is expected to arrive within a year’s time at the latest.

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Obama Nominates Rosekind To Top NHTSA Post http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/obama-nominates-rosekind-top-nhtsa-post/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/obama-nominates-rosekind-top-nhtsa-post/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 12:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949105 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration may have finally found its new administrator. Autoblog reports President Barack Obama nominated National Transportation Safety Board member Mark Rosekind to the agency’s top post. Rosekind served on the NTSB for four years, where he focused on accident investigations, impaired driving and fatigue concerns. He also directed NASA’s Fatigue […]

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration may have finally found its new administrator.

Autoblog reports President Barack Obama nominated National Transportation Safety Board member Mark Rosekind to the agency’s top post. Rosekind served on the NTSB for four years, where he focused on accident investigations, impaired driving and fatigue concerns. He also directed NASA’s Fatigue Countermeasures Program, and headed the space agency’s aviation operations branch in flight management and human factors division.

Rosekind would replace deputy administrator David Friedman, whose 10-month tenure has been fraught with accountability issues regarding the February 2014 General Motors ignition switch recall, as well as the ongoing Takata airbag recall crisis.

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Arizona AG Files $3B Lawsuit Against GM Over Ignition Recall http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/arizona-ag-files-3b-lawsuit-gm-ignition-recall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/arizona-ag-files-3b-lawsuit-gm-ignition-recall/#comments Fri, 21 Nov 2014 11:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949089 Going its own way, Arizona has filed a $3 billion lawsuit against General Motors over the February 2014 ignition switch recall. The New York Times reports Arizona attorney general Thomas C. Horne threw down the lawsuit Wednesday, alleging the automaker defrauded the state’s consumers through advertising, public statements and its website. In so doing, Horne […]

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Recalled GM ignition switch

Going its own way, Arizona has filed a $3 billion lawsuit against General Motors over the February 2014 ignition switch recall.

The New York Times reports Arizona attorney general Thomas C. Horne threw down the lawsuit Wednesday, alleging the automaker defrauded the state’s consumers through advertising, public statements and its website. In so doing, Horne and Arizona are going it alone, breaking off from a group of 48 states pursuing a multi-state investigation into the recall; Arizona was on the executive committee of said investigation:

We’re proceeding with our own suit because it’s the best way to protect the citizens of Arizona. General Motors represented that it was taking care of the safety of its cars, and in fact there were serious defects that it did not disclose to the public for years.

The suit also asserts some of GM’s senior execs — including CEO Mary Barra — knew of the defects at the same time as those below their status. Arizona is fining the automaker $10,000 per vehicle found in violation of state statutes, totalling $3 billion for 300,000 units.

For its part, GM vows to fight the suit, proclaiming it “misrepresents the facts” behind the performance of its vehicles, as well as its commitment to the safety of its customer base.

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Los Angeles 2014: 2016 Acura ILX Fully Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/los-angeles-2014-2016-acura-ilx-fully-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/los-angeles-2014-2016-acura-ilx-fully-revealed/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 18:30:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=948753 To the soothing strains of The Sex Pistols, Acura fully revealed the second-gen ILX at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show [UPDATE - 12:05 p.m. Pacific, 11/20/2014: Live photos now available - CA]. The entry-level luxury sedan’s powertrain is a standard 2.4-liter four sending 201 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed dual-clutch […]

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2016 Acura ILX

To the soothing strains of The Sex Pistols, Acura fully revealed the second-gen ILX at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show [UPDATE - 12:05 p.m. Pacific, 11/20/2014: Live photos now available - CA].

The entry-level luxury sedan’s powertrain is a standard 2.4-liter four sending 201 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission — with torque converter for smooth launches to the office park — to the front. A retuned suspension and added sound-deadening help keep things quiet and stable.

Trim levels are also doubled for the 2016 model, with six to select from the catalog. Additionally, one can select the A-SPEC package — which can be combined with the Premium and Technology packages for maximum luxury — to bestow upon the ILX a trunk spoiler, front fog lights, 18-inch alloys, red instrument illumination et al.

Technology-wise, ILX shoppers can use the sedan’s AcuraLink nav system to connect their smartphone to the car for mapping out the best routes to Applebee’s, while AcuraWatch keeps all safe with adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping, lane departure and collision mitigation.

2016 Acura ILX 2016 Acura ILX 2016 Acura ILX 2016 Acura ILX 2016 Acura ILX 2016 Acura ILX 2016-Acura-ILX-LA-Auto-Show-1 2016-Acura-ILX-LA-Auto-Show-2 2016-Acura-ILX-LA-Auto-Show-5 2016-Acura-ILX-LA-Auto-Show-7

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Los Angeles 2014: Next Chevrolet Volt Partially Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/los-angeles-2014-next-chevrolet-volt-partially-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/los-angeles-2014-next-chevrolet-volt-partially-revealed/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 17:13:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=948697 You’ll have to wait until Detroit to see the Full Monty. So far, we know that the Volt will have a larger 1.5L engine and an electric drive unit weighing 100 lbs less than the current one. No word on range figures or whether the price will come down.

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Chevy-Volt-Teaser

You’ll have to wait until Detroit to see the Full Monty.

So far, we know that the Volt will have a larger 1.5L engine and an electric drive unit weighing 100 lbs less than the current one. No word on range figures or whether the price will come down.

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