The Truth About Cars » Car Reviews http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:00:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 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 » Car Reviews http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/ Too Big To Fail, Too Confused To Operate: Analysis Of 619 Pages Of Cobalt Engineering Documents [w/ Full Text] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/too-big-to-fail-too-confused-to-operate-analysis-of-619-pages-of-cobalt-engineering-documents-w-full-text/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/too-big-to-fail-too-confused-to-operate-analysis-of-619-pages-of-cobalt-engineering-documents-w-full-text/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 14:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=799138  

DSC_9144
The House Energy & Commerce Committee recently released the documents GM submitted for investigation, which includes emails and internal reports documenting GM’s response to reports of their early Chevrolet Cobalt and Saturn Ion models inadvertently shutting the car “off” while driving due to an ignition cylinder that was, simply, too easy to turn out of the “run” position; and in the case of several accidents, allowed the ignition cylinder to rotate out of the run condition before or during accidents, causing the airbags to not deploy when required.

The documents, totaling 619 pages (some with repeat info), reveal just how deep seated “old GM” was in their cost cutting ways (Driving down supplier costs to the point of sacrificing quality, admittedly poorly designed ignition cylinder, and removing internal quality control on the parts), and just how blind sided “new GM” was during their investigations. It also confirms how suspended engineers Ray DeGiorgio and Gary Altman were involved in the ignition switch response, and fuzzy problem solving. Full text and an analysis of key documents below.

We already know the basics of how this happened, but it’s still surprising just how ingrained GM was in putting the issue aside. The key issues are these:

  • GM became aware of the ignition issue in the 2001 preproduction Saturn Ion and the 2005 preproduction Chevrolet Cobalt.
  • Gary Altman initiated the report that lead to the insert, and Ray DeGiorgio consulted on the fix and argued against ignition switch changes.
  • Many different options were proposed, including suggestions from Delphi.
  • Cost played a major role in the decision to not recall the ignition switch early on.
  • The later key insert was the result, and was seen not as a fix, but as a “containment.”
  • GM also had very little oversight on parts from Delphi, only relying on Delphi’s incomplete testing.
  • GM’s engineers knowingly put the cars to market with a defective ignition switch.
  • This lead to ISB #05-02-35-007.
  • In 2006, DeGiorgio eventually signed off on design changes for Delphi, that included a stronger spring and plunger for the detent mechanism in the ignition cylinder, which provides a physical resistance between the different key positions.
  • When implemented in 2007, the new ignition cylinders cost less than a dollar per unit more than the original design; $400,000 to retool the production lines. These are the same changes that were deemed “not an acceptable business case” in 2005
  • As company, however, no one knew who signed off on the change until the Melton family lawsuit.
  • In court, DeGiorgio testified that he was unaware of changes to the ignition cylinder that would have effected the detents, only mentioning the key change..
  • Later investigations showed that the Cobalt had a substantial number of airbag warranty claims.
  • Higher level GM representatives broadsided by NHTSA’s investigations and disapproval of their slow reaction to other recent recalls.

First up, Gary Altman’s and Ray Giorgio’s role in the ignition cylinder issue is a problem. In court, Altman claimed that he did not feel that the Melton’s car was “unsafe.” This coming after submitting the initial mechanical complaint about the ignition falling out of run, in 2004:

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf
During the investigation, several different approaches to modify the ignition cylinder were brought up to DeGiorgio. All of which were quickly dismissed by DeGiorgio, because the switch was already “very fragile,”

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (1)
Later on, all fixes were dropped, as it wasn’t deemed necessary. With a tight deadline and budget, the engineers could not justify any of the fixes at the time, as it wasn’t an “acceptable business case.”

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (2) docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (3) docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD017.pdf (4)

In 2006, DeGiorgio finally signed off on a design change for Delphi. The design change included  a stronger spring and longer detent plunger to increase the force needed to switch the key between different positions, along with an unrelated electrical upgrade. In an unexplained move, DeGiorgio did not assign a new part number to the improved switch design. The design change added 90 cents to the parts cost, and about $400,000 in tooling costs.

 

cobalt report 3
docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD047.pdf (1)

But, with this large of a role in the decision to delay the redesigned ignition switch, DeGiorgio claimed that he was not aware of any mechanical changes to the switches during his testimony in the Melton family suit against GM:

docs.house.gov meetings IF IF02 20140401 102033 HHRG-113-IF02-20140401-SD056.pdf
Though, he did sign off on the changes, and worked with Delphi to test batches of ignition cylinders that contained an upgraded PCB (Printed Circuit Board), and detent plunger:

cobalt report 14

democrats.energycommerce.house.gov sites default files documents GM-Commodity-Validation-Sign-Off-2006-4-26.pdf

 

Curiously enough, though, is that GM had very little oversight on Delphi’s quality control, and Delphi did not check the rotational torque needed to turn past the switches detents. GM simply accepted Delphi’s parts and trusted their QC. But with rumored tensions between GM and Delphi, it’s said that cost cutting measures might be to blame as GM forced Delphi to push prices down, sacrificing parts quality. If this were true, GM’s choice to outsource QC to the supplier left them in the dark for too long, preventing them from seeing the immediate effects of their problems with Delphi:

cobalt report 4cobalt report 18

While this was going on, GM released the key insert as a “containment solution;” it would be the minimum needed to alleviate the problem for effected customers. This was chosen over two other modifications to the ignition cylinder, which were seen as a “partial solution” in the case of adding an additional detent mechanism to add more resistance to rotating the key out of park, and a “sure solution” involving moving the ignition switch higher up on the column, using a gear drive system to reach the rotary switch responsible for selecting which electrical circuit to run on. The added gearing would also increase rotational torque, the design stated.
cobalt report 11
cobalt report 12cobalt report 13
In 2007, the NHTSA began to probe into the surprising number of airbag-related complaints, despite “GM’s indications that they see no specific pattern.”
cobalt report 15

The issue was set aside, for the most part, until GM was informed by the Melton suit that there was a possible design change in the switch, based on an investigation into junkyard-found switches from the effected models. The testing showed that there was a noticeable change in detent torque, but no documentation from GM to show the changes. The GM engineers and representatives in the case were caught off guard by this design change, and began an internal investigation. This investigation lead GM engineer Brian Stouffer to find the documents that showed DeGiorgio signing off on design changes with no part number change.

cobalt report 5cobalt report 16
Finally, the most impressive point of this story comes from GM’s reactions to the NHTSA’s investigations. The NHTSA emailed GM asking for clarification on several other recalls, documenting GM’s reactions to other product issues with a disdain for GM’s penchant for doing the least amout possible to avoid full recalls; ie: regional recalls for parts failures in the rust-belt states. Saying that some were broadsided by this information would be an understatement:

cobalt report 19[...]
cobalt report 19

The response by Mike Robinson, VP for environment, energy and safety policy, sums up GM’s perception and confusion over their responses to the Cobalt issue, and several other poor recall responses in the past. “This note from NHTsA, both the content and tone, comes like a bolt out of the blue,” he states, “We worked way too hard to earn a reputation as the best and we are not going to let this slide.”

cobalt report 19
To summarize, GM is its own worst enemy. They responded poorly to incredibly early reports, dismissing the issue too quickly as a casual problem. With reports going back to 2001, during the Saturn Ion development, there is no reason why the switch should have come unmodified to the Cobalt development; never mind the dismissal of the problem before the car was produced. Ray DeGiorgio’s role in this problem is larger than he initially lead on in the Melton case, though his motive in this discrepancy is unknown at this time.

Full text to all 619 pages can be find here.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/too-big-to-fail-too-confused-to-operate-analysis-of-619-pages-of-cobalt-engineering-documents-w-full-text/feed/ 1
Tesla Charging Station Coming To Carl’s Jr. In Gila Bend, Arizona http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/tesla-charging-station-coming-to-carls-jr-in-gila-bend-arizona/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/tesla-charging-station-coming-to-carls-jr-in-gila-bend-arizona/#comments Thu, 17 Apr 2014 12:18:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=801170  Gila Bend 2

Pity poor Tesla Motors. The General Motors recall crisis has knocked the electric automaker out of the auto industry headlines. There were times when half the news stories on industry feeds like this one would be about Tesla. TTAC is here to help get the company back on track to maintaining their 3:1 News Stories-To-Cars Sold Ratio.

The above picture was taken in the parking lot of a Carl’s Jr. fast food restaurant in dusty, desolate Gila Bend, Arizona. If you have ever been to Gila Bend you can attest to the fact that the shot is actually in color.

It was quite a jolt to spot this under-construction Tesla Supercharger station in Gila Bend this week as I was headed towards California. It proves Tesla is well on its way to building a coast-to-coast network of charging outlets. Gila Bend sits between San Diego and Tucson on I-8 at the turnoff for Phoenix, so West Coast owners on their way to Phoenix can stop here or at the Hilton Garden Inn in Yuma, Arizona to “fill up.” (Curiously, Tesla’s website currently shows no San Diego chargers or any in Tucson.)

I am sure that part of Tesla’s strategy to is locate its Superchargers at the most upscale establishments available with easy access to the interstates. In Gila Bend the best place in town is this greasy burger chain. It will certainly be a new experience for Tesla drivers to eat a Western X-tra Bacon Thickburger or walk next door to the Love’s Truck Stop during their 75 minute stopover. Certainly, members of the Tesla Motors Club are excited about Gila Bend.

If Tesla should ever go out of business, perhaps due to having no traditional dealer network as Mercedes-Benz USA CEO Steve Cannon suggested yesterday, or due to an end to their subsidies from the government, their charging station stanchions will become as collectable as Route 66 signs.

I want one from Gila Bend.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/tesla-charging-station-coming-to-carls-jr-in-gila-bend-arizona/feed/ 10
New York 2014: 2015 Volkswagen Jetta Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-volkswagen-jetta-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-volkswagen-jetta-live-shots/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 21:59:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=800898 2015-Volkswagen-Jetta-13

Though the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta bowing at the 2014 New York Auto Show may be refreshed, most of the work may just be too subtle to notice at first.

Updates to the outgoing model include LED running lights for daytime cruising, new tail and trunk lighting, revised rain gutters, and underbody shrouding.

Under the hood, three gasoline engines and one turbodiesel help move the Jetta along. The all new 2-liter TDI with a six-speed manual holds a combined 37 mpg while pushing 150 horses with 236 lb-ft of torque through the front wheels.

Inside, the biggest change is an upgrade in technology for the Jetta, including blind-spot monitoring, adaptive front lighting with Bi-Xenon headlamps, and rear cross-traffic alert. Other interior upgrades include new fabrics, air vent controls and ambient lighting.

The new Jetta will arrive in U.S. showrooms Q3 2014.

2015-Volkswagen-Jetta-01 2015-Volkswagen-Jetta-02 2015-Volkswagen-Jetta-03 2015-Volkswagen-Jetta-04 2015-Volkswagen-Jetta-11 2015-Volkswagen-Jetta-13 2015-Volkswagen-Jetta-15 2015-Volkswagen-Jetta-16 ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-volkswagen-jetta-live-shots/feed/ 20
New York 2014: 2015 Hyundai Sonata Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-hyundai-sonata-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-hyundai-sonata-live-shots/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 21:52:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=800810 2015-Hyundai-Sonata-10

Unveiled in South Korea last month, the 2015 Hyundai Sonata made its United States debut during the 2014 New York Auto Show.

The sedan, set to roll out of Hyundai’s Montgomery, Ala. plant this summer, offers an improved ride quality thanks to a stiffer chassis and lower co-efficient of drag. Up front, either a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated four-pot or turbocharged 2-liter put less power to the front wheels than the previous generation of engines, with the former creating 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque while the latter churning 245 horsepower and 260 lb-ft torque. Both engines are forever linked to a six-speed automatic.

Those opting for the turbo-four can add the Sport trim to their Sonata, bringing bigger brakes, 18-inch alloy wheels, quad exhaust, and more aggressive bodywork to the package.

Stepping inside the sedan, those who test-drove the Genesis sedan may feel a sense of deja-vu thanks to the driver-oriented center stack. Meanwhile, Hyundai will be offering a number of safety conveniences for the Sonata, including blind-spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and rear cross-traffic alert.

2015-Hyundai-Sonata-10 2015-Hyundai-Sonata-8 2015-Hyundai-Sonata-5 2015-Hyundai-Sonata-9 2015-Hyundai-Sonata-6 2015-Hyundai-Sonata-2 2015-Hyundai-Sonata-1 ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-hyundai-sonata-live-shots/feed/ 38
New York 2014: 2015 Acura TLX Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-acura-tlx-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-acura-tlx-live-shots/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 21:52:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=800698 2015-Acura-TLX-22

As the Acura TL and TSX are both dropped into the crusher of history, their replacement, the production-ready 2015 TLX, took the stage today at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

Having made its world debut at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show earlier this year, the TLX in New York will retain the former’s beak nose and bejeweled headlamps on its way to the showroom later this year.

As for what future TLX drivers will receive, two engines will put the power to either the front or all four wheels: 2.4-liter four-pot with 206 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque through an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission, and 3.5-liter V6 producing 290 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque through a nine-speed automatic. The four-cylinder FWD model will be augmented by Acura’s PAWS all-wheel steering system, while the V6 receives the SH-AWD handling system when AWD is selected on the options list. Combined fuel economy is expected to be 28 mpg for the 2.4-liter 4, 25 mpg for both FWD and AWD V6 models.

Inside, drivers will enjoy soft-touch plastics, wood and alloy accenting, leather, Acura’s AcuraLink infotainment system, GPS-linked climate control, and premium stereo sound.

And the price? Acura will make that announcement closer to the launch of the TLX.

2015-Acura-TLX-22 2015-Acura-TLX-21 2015-Acura-TLX-18 2015-Acura-TLX-17 2015-Acura-TLX-16 2015-Acura-TLX-6 2015-Acura-TLX-13 2015-Acura-TLX-14 2015-Acura-TLX-11 2015-Acura-TLX-10 2015-Acura-TLX-9 2015-Acura-TLX-7 ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-acura-tlx-live-shots/feed/ 37
New York 2014: 2015 Nissan Murano Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-nissan-murano-revealed-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-nissan-murano-revealed-2/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 21:52:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=800586 2015-Nissan-Murano-10

The 2015 Nissan Murano showed off its new looks before the world at the 2014 New York Auto Show, and brought some improvements to the table, as well.

The Murano has a 3.5-liter V6 putting 260 horsepower to the front or all four corners through its CVT, weighs 130 pounds less than the outgoing Murano, and should match said crossover in fuel economy at around 18 city/24 highway.

Outside, the crossover boasts Nissan’s new design language, including “boomerang” head- and tail lamps, while the inside proclaims 60 percent less stitching in the upholstery and an infotainment system featuring 11 Bose speakers.

2015-Nissan-Murano-10 2015-Nissan-Murano-9 2015-Nissan-Murano-8 2015-Nissan-Murano-7 2015-Nissan-Murano-5 2015-Nissan-Murano-4 2015-Nissan-Murano-3 2015-Nissan-Murano-2 2015-Nissan-Murano-1 2015-Nissan-Murano-6 2015-Nissan-Murano-16 ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-nissan-murano-revealed-2/feed/ 10
New York 2014: 2015 BMW M4 Convertible Unveiled http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-bmw-m4-convertible-unveiled/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-bmw-m4-convertible-unveiled/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 19:53:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=800498 2015-BMW-M4-Convertible-07

There was more than one high-performance convertible taking its top off at the 2014 New York Auto Show today, as the 2015 BMW M4 Convertible made its grand entrance among those attending.

The M4 boasts a retractable metal roof, perfect for deterring thieves so long as the roof is up and the thieves aren’t particularly motivated. Meanwhile, power comes from a twin-turbo 3-liter I6 driving 425 horsepower and 406 lb-ft of torque through either a single-clutch six-speed manual or optional M-DCT seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Either option brings the M4 Convertible from nil to 60 in under 4.5 seconds.

As for weight and performance, BMW used aluminium and carbon fiber-reinforced plastic throughout its construction — from the fenders and hood, to the driveshaft and front strut brace — bringing the beast down 90 pounds to 4,055 for the U.S. market.

The M4 Convertible should arrive in showrooms this summer, though no word thus far on how much it will cost to do burnouts under the sun.

2015-BMW-M4-Convertible-07 2015-BMW-M4-Convertible-06 2015-BMW-M4-Convertible-10 2015-BMW-M4-Convertible-03 2015-BMW-M4-Convertible-04 2015-BMW-M4-Convertible-13 2015-BMW-M4-Convertible-05 2015-BMW-M4-Convertible-01 2015-BMW-M4-Convertible-02 ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-bmw-m4-convertible-unveiled/feed/ 7
New York 2014: 2015 MINI Countryman Debuted http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-mini-countryman-debuted/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-mini-countryman-debuted/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 19:53:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=800442 2015-MINI-Countryman-Cooper-S-8

The biggest MINI of them all, the Countryman, debuted its refreshed looks for the guests at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

The compact SUV still rides on its current platform, and still uses the 1.6-liter four-pot that pushes anywhere from 121 to 208 horsepower, depending upon whether the owner selects the Cooper, Cooper S or John Cooper Works trims. A six-speed manual is standard on all, with a six-speed auto available for a few more dollars. All-wheel drive is optional for the Cooper and Cooper S, standard for the John Cooper Works model.

Starting price for the 2015 Countryman is expected to be around $23,000, and will arrive in showrooms this July.

2015-MINI-Countryman-Cooper-S-1 2015-MINI-Countryman-Cooper-S-8 2015-MINI-Countryman-Cooper-S-7 2015-MINI-Countryman-Cooper-S-5 2015-MINI-Countryman-Cooper-S-4 ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-mini-countryman-debuted/feed/ 20
New York 2014: 2015 Scion FR-S Release Series 1.0 Unveiled http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-scion-fr-s-release-series-1-0-unveiled/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-scion-fr-s-release-series-1-0-unveiled/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 18:26:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=800370 2015-Scion-FRS-RS-1_0-03

Tucked away in the darkened Scion section at the 2014 New York Auto Show, the 2015 Scion FR-S Release Series 1.0 may light up the room with its bright yellow paint, but the owner will still have to be the one to make it light up its tires.

The Release Series 1.0 — limited to 1,500 examples — comes with a number of Toyota Racing Development enhancements, such as a new aero kit, lowered springs, the aforementioned yellow “Yuzu” paint, and a quad-tip exhaust. However, the song remains the same under the hood: a 2-liter flat-four pushing 200 horses and 151 lb-ft of torque to the back through either a six-speed auto or manual.

Price of admission for the the limited edition series will be around $30,000.

2015-Scion-FRS-RS-1_0-03 2015-Scion-FRS-RS-1_0-05 2015-Scion-FRS-RS-1_0-09 2015-Scion-FRS-RS-1_0-15 2015-Scion-FRS-RS-1_0-19 2015-Scion-FRS-RS-1_0-13 ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-scion-fr-s-release-series-1-0-unveiled/feed/ 28
New York 2014: 2015 Mercedes-Benz S63 AMG Coupe Debuted http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-mercedes-benz-s63-amg-coupe-debuted/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-mercedes-benz-s63-amg-coupe-debuted/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:34:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=799778 2015-Mercedes-S63-AMG-Coupe-01

For the well-moneyed customer who likes the Accord but prefers a German badge, Mercedes-Benz unveiled the S63 AMG Coupe at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

Under the bonnet lies a twin-turbo 5.5-liter V8 driving 577 ponies through all four wheels while providing 644 lb-ft of torque to any driver feeling the need to take down a redwood forest or two. Air suspension, lighter weight and optional ceramic brakes add to the performance alongside the usual AMG enhancements.

As for how much to pay for this experience, look forward to spending somewhere around $150,000 when the S63 AMG Coupe arrives in showrooms.

2015-Mercedes-S63-AMG-Coupe-01 2015-Mercedes-S63-AMG-Coupe-front-nose 2015-Mercedes-S63-AMG-Coupe-front 2015-Mercedes-S63-AMG-Coupe-side 2015-Mercedes-S63-AMG-Coupe-wheel 2015-Mercedes-S63-AMG-Coupe-04 2015-Mercedes-S63-AMG-Coupe-gauges-01jpg 2015-Mercedes-S63-AMG-Coupe-interior-steering-wheel 2015-Mercedes-S63-AMG-Coupe-seats-interior 2015-Mercedes-S63-AMG-Coupe-badge ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-mercedes-benz-s63-amg-coupe-debuted/feed/ 11
New York 2014: 2015 Ford Focus Sedan Unveiled http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-ford-focus-sedan-unveiled/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-ford-focus-sedan-unveiled/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:34:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=800058 2015-Ford-Focus-02

In Geneva, we saw the world debut of the 2015 Ford Focus hatchback. At the 2014 New York Auto Show, it’s the 2015 Focus Sedan’s turn to be unveiled.

Like the hatchback, the sedan now boasts the new nose found on the likes of the Fusion and Fiesta, while under the hood will include a 2-liter four-pot or — for the U.S. market — the 1-liter EcoBoost three-cylinder, both of which will be mated to a new six-speed manual. An SE Sport Package will also be available, swaping the manual for an automatic with paddle shifters in addition to tuning upgrades for the suspension and 17-inch wheels.

Safety features on-board include a standard rearview camera paired with a choice of two monitors, blind-spot monitoring and lane-keep assist.

Both the hatchback and sedan will enter U.S. showrooms early in 2015.

2015-Ford-Focus-02 2015-Ford-Focus-01 2015-Ford-Focus-03 2015-Ford-Focus-10 2015-Ford-Focus-04 2015-Ford-Focus-05 2015-Ford-Focus-07 2015-Ford-Focus-09 2015-Ford-Focus-13 2015-Ford-Focus-15 2015-Ford-Focus-16 2015-Ford-Focus-14 ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-ford-focus-sedan-unveiled/feed/ 31
New York 2014: 2015 BMW X4 Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-bmw-x4-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-bmw-x4-live-shots/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:33:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=799946 2015-BMW-X4-06

For those who wanted an X6 in a smaller package, BMW revealed its new X4 Sports Activity Coupe crossover at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

The X4 can be had as either the xDrive28i for a base entry of $45,625, or for about $3,000 more, the xDrive35i. Both trims come with an eight-speed automatic and all-wheel drive, but the 28i posseseses a 2-liter turbo-four capaable of 240 horsepower under its bonnet, while the 35i makes do with a 300-horsepower I6.

Further enhancements can be had with X4′s M Sport Package, including tighter suspension and unique seats, while its less-useful trunk can be opened with a wave of your foot — perfect for doing the hokey-pokey after a bit of grocery shopping at Whole Foods Market.

Expect the X4 to give it you later this spring.

2015-BMW-X4-06 2015-BMW-X4-07 2015-BMW-X4-09 2015-BMW-X4-14 2015-BMW-X4-13 2015-BMW-X4-10 2015-BMW-X4-11 2015-BMW-X4-05 2015-BMW-X4-01 2015-BMW-X4-03 2015-BMW-X4-04 2015-BMW-X4-08 ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-bmw-x4-live-shots/feed/ 5
New York 2014: 2015 Corvette Z06 Convertible Live Shots http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-corvette-z06-convertible-live-shots/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-corvette-z06-convertible-live-shots/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 17:33:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=799682 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-12

Turning up alongside the new-for-United States Chevrolet Trax, the 2015 Corvette Z06 posed topless before the cameras at the 2014 New York Auto Show. Speaking of, the top can be raised at speeds of up to 30 mph, while the car itself can go from naught to 60 in 3.5 seconds; the time matches that of the hardtop variant.

As for what’s under the more airy clothes, a chassis that is 20 percent stiffer than the hardtop, upon which rests the same 6.2-liter V8 pushing approximately 625 horsepower and 635 lb-ft of torque toward the back tires. The engine will be mated with a choice of either a seven-speed manual or eight-speed automatic, the latter’s fast shifts could prove venerable on the track once a roll bar is installed.

The Z06, in both guises, will arrive sometime in 2015, and can be upgraded with the Z07′s list of goodies, with Chevrolet providing an open options list for future owners.

2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-12 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-13 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-15 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-2 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-4 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-7 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-5 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-10 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-3 2015-Chevrolet-Z06-Convertible-9 ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-corvette-z06-convertible-live-shots/feed/ 9
New York 2014: 2015 Toyota Camry Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-toyota-camry-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-toyota-camry-revealed/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 14:27:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=799506 2015-Toyota-Camry-18

Toyota’s champion revealed its new look before the world and those in attendance at the 2014 New York Auto Show. Beneath the new Camry’s updated, more aggressive appearance, Toyota added spot welds throughout the chassis for added stiffness as well as a revised suspension, all of which is aimed at improving handling and ride quality.

The SE trim will continue going into the 2015 model year, paired alongside the premium XSE, while the hybrid will receive some of the SE’s performance goodies when all three enter showrooms later this year. The engine options will remain the same, however: 2.5-liter four-pot, 3.5-liter V6, and 2.5-liter Atkinson cycle hybrid motor.

2015-Toyota-Camry-18 2015-Toyota-Camry-2 2015-Toyota-Camry-15 2015-Toyota-Camry-14 2015-Toyota-Camry-13 2015-Toyota-Camry-11 2015-Toyota-Camry-10 2015-Toyota-Camry-9 2015-Toyota-Camry-5 2015-Toyota-Camry-4 2015-Toyota-Camry-1 ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/new-york-2014-2015-toyota-camry-revealed/feed/ 146
Toyota Looking To Conquer Africa http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/toyota-looking-to-conquer-africa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/toyota-looking-to-conquer-africa/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 11:58:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=798514 Toyota Land Cruiser 79 Bakkie

Though Toyota already has a presence in South Africa, the automaker is eyeing the last untapped market in the world: The African continent.

Automotive News reports Toyota patriarch Shochiro Toyoda gave his son, current president Akio Toyoda, a mission last year to explore markets outside of the “Asia-Europe-America” sphere, especially those where the younger Toyoda had not visited. His travels took him to a knockdown factory in Kenya, where there are 40 cars per 1,000 people according to IHS Automotive, laying the early groundwork for an all-out campaign to get as much of the final frontier as possible.

Success in the market may have to come in the long term, however; IHS predicts GDP per capita in Sub-Saharan Africa won’t reach the threshold of $3,000, as well as the ownership rate of 70 units per 1,000 people, until 2030 at the earliest. Toyota Africa CEO Johan van Zyl, who is scouting for new factory locations outside of South Africa, knows this reality well:

It’s a growing market, a market with a future. We have quite an ambitious [annual sales] target. But we must also understand, this is not going to happen overnight. We have to put the right things in place. And that is what we are busy doing, to ensure that we have the right foundation for the business in the future in Africa.

In the meantime, the automaker will launch the Quest compact in South Africa next month. The Quest — based upon the previous-gen Corolla — will help boost production towards full capacity at Toyota’s Durban plant; while max capacity is 220,000 annually, current production is 160,000 units per year. Unlike many auto makers, Toyota is not pursuing a new brand or platform for their new, low-cost car.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/toyota-looking-to-conquer-africa/feed/ 93
Cadillac Flagship, Redesigned LaCrosse To Be Made In Detroit By 2016 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/cadillac-flagship-redesigned-lacrosse-to-be-made-in-detroit-by-2016/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/cadillac-flagship-redesigned-lacrosse-to-be-made-in-detroit-by-2016/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 11:30:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=798938 2013 Cadillac Elmiraj Concept

In light of General Motors’ recent announcement of a $384 million investment in its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant, two vehicles from Cadillac and Buick could wind up being produced alongside the next-generation Volt.

Edmunds reports IHS Automotive senior analyst Stephanie Brinley expects Cadillac’s all-new flagship to be produced in late 2015, with the Buick LaCrosse — currently assembled in Fairfax, Kan. — joining the flagship in 2016 for the latter’s next redesign.

Though GM hasn’t said much about the flagship, industry insiders claim the vehicle will be aimed at the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS and Mercedes S-Class, and may be priced as much as $100,000.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/cadillac-flagship-redesigned-lacrosse-to-be-made-in-detroit-by-2016/feed/ 104
Wash. Governor Inslee Signs Pro-Tesla Legislation, Hackers Find Ubuntu Inside http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/wash-governor-inslee-signs-pro-tesla-legislation-hackers-find-ubuntu-inside/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/wash-governor-inslee-signs-pro-tesla-legislation-hackers-find-ubuntu-inside/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 13:45:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=797458 Ubuntu_GNOME_13.10_ScreenShot

Automotive News reports Washington state governor Jay Inslee signed legislation that would allow Tesla to continue with its direct-sales business model within the state while also clarifying current law that favors traditional franchise dealership networks by preventing other automakers from following in Tesla’s path. The EV automaker thanked the state government “for supporting a culture of innovation and ultimately making the right decision for consumers” with the introduction of the bill into law.

In other government news, the California Air Resources Board is considering cutting EVs priced at $60,000 and above from the agency’s Clean Vehicle Rebate Program as funding continues to run low, according to Capitol Weekly. Though the move would be temporary, the cap would push-out both the Cadillac ELR and Tesla’s Model S and upcoming X, a move that Tesla feels is disappointing:

[CARB] aims to paint Tesla as the sole purveyor of EVs (electric vehicles) to the wealthy, while disregarding the fact that individuals of similar affluence may still continue to receive a rebate by purchasing a different EV.

Finally, Autoblog Green reports a group of tech-savvy Tesla owners have dug into their EV’s console via its exposed Ethernet connector, discovering a subsystem powered by Linux distribution Ubuntu. The individual behind the dig, known only as ‘nlc,’ was contacted by the automaker through its service center, warning him that his exploration could void his car’s warranty should he persist.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/wash-governor-inslee-signs-pro-tesla-legislation-hackers-find-ubuntu-inside/feed/ 30
Honda Pursues 70k Annual US Fit Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/honda-pursues-70k-annual-us-fit-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/honda-pursues-70k-annual-us-fit-sales/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 13:30:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=797498 2014-honda-jazz-2015-honda-fit-photo-gallery-medium_17

In 2008, Honda sold nearly 80,000 Fit subcompacts to the United States, and is preparing to move 70,000 annually from the lot to the driveways of America thanks to its new Celaya, Mexico plant.

Ward’s Auto reports the automaker had a difficult time hitting the milestone set in 2008 due to production constraints at home and fervent demand abroad. With the new plant, however, Honda will be able to make 200,000 Fits annually, as well as the Fit-based crossover set to begin production later this year.

As for who Honda expects will buy the 70,000+ Fits aimed for the U.S. market — aside from lifestyle bloggers — product planner Hiroaki Hamaya says the subcompact is already “capturing the highest household income and percentage of college grads.” Data from J.D. Power bears this out: Fit buyers hold an average income of $75,000 while 64 percent of them have graduated college. However, median age and percentage of buyers under 35 currently lag behind competitors such as the Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Sonic.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/honda-pursues-70k-annual-us-fit-sales/feed/ 27
Ur-Turn: Congratulations, You’ve Been Upgraded http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ur-turn-congratulations-youve-been-upgraded/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ur-turn-congratulations-youve-been-upgraded/#comments Mon, 14 Apr 2014 11:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=797370 IMG_20140405_144902

Friend of TTAC Anand Ram writes about getting more than he bargained for at the Avis counter.

There’s an explosive truth I want to share: We writers don’t make a lot of money. While you gather yourself from the recoil of that bullet, here’s another: It doesn’t really stop us from wanting nice things.

Perhaps, then, the choice for this young writer’s first ever rental car makes little sense: Luxury.

Well, “luxury.” I’m not a car guy. I can name several pricey models, but I’ve driven around in my dad’s Toyota Corolla for most of my life. I know how a BMW 328i differs from a 335i in literal terms, but not on the road.

So my latest vacation to Florida was an opportunity to try something a little fancier. After a few clicks around rental sites, I decided on Avis. I reserved a “Lincoln MKS or similar” for 5 days, amounting to $459 with a discount. My wife, to her credit, only called my purchase ridiculous and unnecessary. Most husbands would call that a victory.

One turbulent plane ride later, we landed in Orlando fairly late at night. Tired and cranky, we made our way down to the Avis booth. There, the cheerful, young woman behind the counter chatted us up. Eventually I realized it was an upsell.

“You like convertibles?”
“No.”
“Really!?”

I don’t fault her–hustling is a valuable skill, but I was not in the mood. To be frank, I’m also not a convertible guy. I prefer, as I said, luxury. Quiet, smooth, comfortable. Politely–as Canadian as I could be at 11:30 PM–I told her as much. She left and came back with some keys.

“Okay, you’re in a Lincoln Navigator and–” I looked at my wife with wide eyes and turned.
“Sorry, the SUV?” I interjected. “I thought I rented a car?”
“We don’t have that model right now.”

That wouldn’t do. Alongside my father’s Corolla, I had also driven his Toyota Sienna for a number of years. That heavy beast turned me off the concept of big SUVs and vans. Also, driving on unknown roads in a monster like a Navigator didn’t interest me – never mind the gas bills I’d be facing. So our friendly Avis associate went off to see what she could do. She came back with more unexpected news.

“Okay, so you’re in a BMW.”

Did I mention I have the lousiest poker face in the wold?

“Sorry, what…uh…what model was that?” A question you’d call nonchalant, because of how obvious it was.
“5 series.”

The only thing that made this Indian writer happier was that the upgrade came at no extra charge. You can reserve a BMW 528i from Avis, but it costs twice what I paid–as does the Navigator. But there it was: A freshly washed white example.

IMG_20140408_163153

A thousand thoughts through my head, but what really stood out was how it excited me. I was smiling as I got in. Coming from a Corolla, the 528i may as well have been a space shuttle.

Of course, it only took a minute to shake all that off and actually get to driving the thing. I couldn’t tell you what that 2.0 liter engine was doing or how it did it (I may not know a lot about cars, but I remember when the letters on the back represented the size of the engine), but the end result was a very enjoyable ride.

The leather-wrapped wheel didn’t have the heavy German feel that I was expecting. Neither the brakes nor the throttle were overly sensitive. The trunk was more than adequate for our suitcases and carry-ons. The seats had more adjustment positions than I knew what to do with. I was finding reasons to call this the car my wife and I should buy–even going so far as to say it was the practical choice.

Although I my flight ended in Orlando, I still had to make my way to Tampa. Normally, any drives longer than 45 minutes make me sleepy. In the BMW, a two hour drive felt like nothing. Quiet, smooth and comfortable. The world rarely gives you what you ask for.

Florida’s roads, seemingly wider than what we see here in Toronto, were perfect. Even the Sunshine State’s states of no sunshine–the occasional torrential downpours–didn’t feel as scary. The car held its own in 30 to 40 minutes of zero visibility rain, never a lost sense of control.

The only strange part was the Start-Stop system, something I had never experienced before. Every time the car stopped, the entire engine cut out, in an effort to save fuel. A strange feature, considering I rarely stopped for that long, and even if I was down for a little bit, the engine would come back to life to power the A/C. Eventually, I chose to disable that function and enjoyed the experience a lot more.

Now, if I gush about how the car felt to drive, it’s because I, admittedly, know very little about good cars. But when it comes to good consumer technology, I’m in my wheelhouse.

Which is why I found the navigation system a mixed bag. The screen was quite large and easy to read, with a useful split-screen function. It wasn’t a touchscreen, though, and that’s just something that a tech guy like me expects –  especially since so many affordable cars now have them.

IMG_20140408_163206

It was controlled by a dial next to the gear shifter, with buttons to directly switch between radio, phone, navigation and menus. Depress the dial in to select, move to the left to go to a previous menu, turn it to scrub up and down options. This was the spaceship part–but the tedium in plotting a course made me realize how few cars get navigation right.

The actual route guidance was fantastic, with flawless turn-by-turn directions. Another helpful element was a distance and direction display next to the speedometer, in case my eyes wandered. The voice input, however, was garbage. Trying to speak out an address in Orlando gave me a suggestion in California.

But as nice as the 5-Series was, I couldn’t make heads or tails of the secondary controls. In that rainstorm, I was constantly frustrated with trying to figure out the wiper speed controls or how to turn them off. The handbrake pushed up, down and also had an auto function. And the most frustrating of all: the bloody indicators.

Push up to turn right, push down to turn left. Actually, push slightly up to flash to the right twice. Push harder up to keep them flashing, then pull down slightly to cancel it. I was lucky I didn’t get pulled over for confusing traffic behind me. There are certain things that don’t need improving.

IMG_20140406_171905

Despite the minor gripes, I loved driving that car. It made me feel like a big shot. I told my mother to pretend I was the doctor she thought I’d be at one point. Of course, being Florida, there are Jags and Lamborghinis around to really remind you of the small fish you are. That didn’t change how I felt. I was still smiling.

But starting at $51,000, it will never be more than a vacation for me.

IMG_20140405_144902 IMG_20140408_163153 IMG_20140406_171905 IMG_20140408_163206 ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/ur-turn-congratulations-youve-been-upgraded/feed/ 107
2015 Honda Fit Deep Dive http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/2015-honda-fit-deep-dive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/2015-honda-fit-deep-dive/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 18:56:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=793874 2015 Honda Fit - Red

By now, you’ve heard what driving the new 2015 Honda Fit is like. You’ve seen what riding in a new Fit is like, too- and, maybe, you’ve figured out how they got one into a tiny bar (I haven’t). Still, we haven’t spent much time actually talking about the nuts and bolts and whys and hows of the new Honda. Until now, that is.

2015 Honda Fit is SO New, it Has a New Home


Honda factory in Celaya, Mexico

For starters, just about everything on the 2015 Honda Fit is new or modified compared to its 2014 siblings- and that includes where it’s being made. Instead of a mostly Chinese-built product, the new Fit has North American roots, being built in Celaya, Mexico. The new production facility is supposed to separate North American demand from global demand, giving dealers better selection, more freedom in ordering, and (of course) cutting costs for Honda, itself.

The new plant in Celaya will also start building a Honda Fit-based mini-SUV to slot below the CR-V later this year, bringing total North American vehicle production capacity to over 1.9 million units. That bump in capacity from Celaya means that some 98% of Hondas sold in North America will be built in North America.

 

2015 Honda Fit Body + Chassis


fit_bar_4

The new Fit is 1.6″ shorter than the outgoing 2014 model, but thanks to Honda’s “packaging magic” design, the 2015 Honda Fit has more than 3″ of additional rear seat room, and 1.4″ of additional rear seat leg room. That’s a great distinction to make, by the way, for customers who’ll be stuffing baby seats- rather than adults- into the back of the thing. The new Fit also gives the front passengers more slide-adjustment in the front seats.

So, despite the reduced length of the Fit, it’s roomier. That happy mindf*** comes courtesy of a new, contortionist fuel tank that twists and turns around the Fit’s floor frames and contorts itself around the new, shorter, rear trailing arms more closely than the outgoing Fit’s tank. It’s a trick worthy of Gumby- just pray that you’re not the tech who has to replace one, because I imagine it would be a b***h to do without some advanced robotics.

The suspension that the tank wraps around is worth mentioning, as well- it’s all new, a rigid, torsion-beam style rear suspension and conventional-ish struts up front. It feels a lot more advanced than that, however, thanks in large part to the new Honda Fit’s electric power steering and a new VSA stability program that seems to serve to keep the car neutral. Whatever the actual reason is, the new Fit handles far better than anything with a glorified solid rear axle should.

 

2015 Honda Fit Earth Dreams Drivetrain


fit-engine

Back in 1989, Honda introduced the original, 1.6 liter, 160 HP B16A and B16A1 engines in Europe and Japan. 25 (twenty-five) years later, Honda’s newest 1.5 liter, direct-injection i-VTEC engine makes “just” 130 HP. Granted, that’s a huge improvement over the last Honda Fit’s 117 HP engine- but a 29 MPG combined EPA rating for the 6 speed and 31 MPG combined rating for the CVT version doesn’t exactly scream “25 years of progress!”

Still, the 2015 Honda Fit has more power, more torque, offers better fuel economy, and puts out fewer emissions than the 2014 model- so that’s a step in the right direction.

Sadly, Honda took a step in the wrong direction in terms of transmissions. For starters, the new 6 speed manual transmission might seem like an upgrade from the old 5 speed- but the “new” 6th gear is the same as the “old” 5th gear. So, while you might find snappier performance in the more closely-spaced 1-5 ratios, you’ll still have the same high-rpm buzz you had in the old Fit at highway speeds. At the 80-85 MPH cruising speeds common on Illinois’ I-90, the Fit’s 1.5 is revving at a positively raucous 4000-ish RPM. In this tester’s opinion, it’s a horrific experience- and one that makes the CVT option a no-brainer, no matter how much you like to row your own … which brings us to our next dubious transmission choice: the CVT’s “gears”.

Honda spent an awful lot of time and money developing a CVT that was capable of keeping the new Earth Dreams at its peak power and efficiency while infinitely adapting the gearing around it (between 2 hardware-determined limits, of course). That was good- then they lost the plot completely by setting 7 pre-determined “shift points” into the Fit’s S-mode, which can be manually selected via paddles on the steering wheel. If you understand the purpose and function of a CVT at all, you’ll immediately realize how stupid this is.

Left on its own, however, the 2015 Honda Fit’s CVT is more than capable of doing its job. Stay away from the paddles, in other words, and you’ll do just fine. More than fine, in fact, since Honda’s CVT is one of the best in the biz (the best CVT setup I’ve experienced, by the way, was also in a Honda).

 

2015 Honda Fit Earth Dreams Interior + Trim


2015 Honda Fit Interior

For 2015, Honda upgraded the plastics on the Fit- offering leather for the first time, as well. Gone are the old “Base”, “Sport”, and “Navi” trim levels, which are replaced with a more Honda-like LX, EX, EXL (for “leather”), and Navi versions. The infotainment system, too, is a major upgrade from before with a large, easy-to-read screen on all models, and a clever phone/nav integration on the EX that (despite a long boot/load time) works exactly as expected. Mostly (my pre-production tester had no “backspace”, so we had to back ALL THE WAY OUT of the Nav screen and start again if we mis-typed anything).

Still, the real magic of the 2015 Honda Fit interior isn’t in the upscale materials- it’s in the seats. The Honda Fit seats can be configured in a number of ways. There’s the standard “passenger mode”, as well as 4 other modes for carrying people and things. These being “Cargo Mode” (for cargo- spluh), “Long Mode” (for carrying long items with passengers sitting in tandem), “Tall Mode” (for carrying tall items like plants and big-screen TVs), and “Refresh Mode”, which was the highlight of my initial “passenging impressions” article.

Those different modes were part of the old Fit, as well- and looked like this here …

 

Honda Fit seat modes

… but I’d never seen or heard of a Honda Fit having “modes” (refreshing or otherwise), so it’s news to me. Judging by the amount of people currently looking at pictures of my limited-edition slip-on Converse, though, it’s probably news to a lot of people- and really one of the strongest selling points for considering the 2015 Honda Fit as a second car.

 

2015 Honda Fit Pricing


Honda’s product planners explained that the new 2015 Honda Fit would cost a bit more than the outgoing Base and Sport models, with the LX starting at $15,525 and the EX-L Navi topping out at $20,800. That’s not a huge bump from last year’s $15,425-$19,790 range- and that $19,790 didn’t get you 130 HP, leather, or a 7″ screen. So, yeah- the new 2015 Honda Fit is an objectively superior machine than the 2014 it replaces, but what do you think?

Did Honda do enough to place the new Fit in the premium compact class occupied by the Mini Coopers of the world, or is its move upmarket a step in the wrong direction? Let us know what you think, in the comments. Enjoy!

 

Sources | Photos: Honda, FitFreak. Originally published on Gas 2.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/2015-honda-fit-deep-dive/feed/ 117
Toyota Unveils New Duo Of Fuel-Efficient Engines http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/toyota-unveils-new-duo-of-fuel-efficient-engines/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/toyota-unveils-new-duo-of-fuel-efficient-engines/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 10:30:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=793594 1.3L_gasoline_engine

Toyota has unveiled this week two new fuel-efficient gasoline engines that will serve as the basis for as many as 14 global powerplants by 2015, and boost economy by 10 percent.

Automotive News reports the two engines — 1.3-liter four-pot and 1-liter three-pot — are Atkinson cycle powerplants co-developed with partner Daihatsu, and feature fuel-efficiency goodies such as EGR, VVT and stop-start technology.

On the power front — especially since Atkinson cycle engines are more known for their efficiency than for destroying ‘Ring times — the Toyota engines will deliver high compression ratios of 13.5 for the larger engine, 11.5 for the smaller. In turn, thermal efficiency in the duo will hit a maximum of 38 percent and 37 percent, respectively.

As for where the duo and their children will reside, expect the home market to have the first crack via the automaker’s line of non-hybrid compacts before taking the global stage the following year in both non-hybrid and hybrid vehicles, as well as larger premium offerings.

1.3L_gasoline_engine 1.0L_gasoline_engine exhaust_pipe Tumble ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/toyota-unveils-new-duo-of-fuel-efficient-engines/feed/ 59
Wolff Out, Woodhouse In As Lincoln Design Director http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/wolff-out-woodhouse-in-as-lincoln-design-director/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/wolff-out-woodhouse-in-as-lincoln-design-director/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 10:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=793642 Max Wolff, Lincoln Exterior Design Chief

The Lincoln division of Ford has replaced former design director Max Wolff with David Woodhouse, the former head of the Blue Oval’s Premier Automotive Group, as part of the premium division’s $1 billion makeover.

Bloomberg reports Wolff will remain with Lincoln as the brand’s exterior design boss, and that the change occurred in December with little fanfare, as Ford no longer issues press releases for promotions below the vice president level, according to spokesman Stephane Cesareo. Both design chiefs were brought over from General Motors to Ford, with Wolff arriving in 2010 from Cadillac, and Woodhouse from GM’s design studios in 1999.

Wolff’s biggest mark on Lincoln is the current MKZ, which he reworked immediately upon arrival in 2010. Though the premium sedan — based upon the Ford Fusion — faced production problems that saw the overall brand’s sales fall to a low not seen in over 30 years, the MKZ’s success boosted Q1 2014 sales to 36 percent.

Aside from his styling work with PAG, Woodhouse was in charge of Ford’s advanced design studio in California between 2004 and 2009, and guided Lincoln’s strategy between July through December of 2013 before becoming the brand’s new director of design.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/wolff-out-woodhouse-in-as-lincoln-design-director/feed/ 48
Mercedes-Benz To Support First Responders With “Rescue Assist” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/mercedes-benz-to-support-first-responders-with-rescue-assist/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/mercedes-benz-to-support-first-responders-with-rescue-assist/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 09:15:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=793425 Benz Jaws Of Life Demo Courtesy www.autoevolution.comWith little fanfare Mercedes-Benz recently announced a claimed first-of-its-kind program designed to help firefighters and EMTs at sites of severe accidents involving Mercedes-Benz vehicles.  With Rescue Assist, the company is installing QR code stickers on their cars so First Responders will be able to use a Smartphone to bring up a schematic of the vehicle showing where airbags, the fuel tank, and other critical structural components are located. Their intent is to make the accident scene safer for rescue folks and passengers, particular in cases where the “Jaws Of Life” are needed.

The QR code stickers will be applied to the inside of the fuel filler cover and the B-Post on the opposite side of the fuel tank. All Mercedes-Benz vehicles produced after October 31, 2013 have had the QR code adhesive labels installed at the factory. Rescue Assist retrofit kits were shipped to U. S. Mercedes-Benz dealers last week. Owners of 1990 to present models will be offered the product for free when they come in for service while more enterprising Benz stores may reach out to its eligible customers via direct marketing campaigns.

The following video includes supposedly unscripted comments from firefighters about Rescue Assist.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Naturally, the ultimate assessment of the validity of Rescue Assist will be to hear from the B&B, particularly those of you who are employed as First Responders…

 

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/mercedes-benz-to-support-first-responders-with-rescue-assist/feed/ 8
GM Seeks Aid From NASA, Issues New Ignition-Related Recall http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/gm-seeks-aid-from-nasa-issues-new-ignition-related-recall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/gm-seeks-aid-from-nasa-issues-new-ignition-related-recall/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 09:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=793690 gm-headquarters-logo-opt

Autoblog reports 2.19 million of the same vehicles under the current General Motors ignition recall are under a new ignition-related recall, as well. The new recall warns of a problem where the key can be removed without the switch moved to the “off” position. According to GM, the automaker is aware of “several hundred” complaints and at least one roll-away accident resulting in injury, and is instructing affected consumers to place their vehicles in park or, in manuals, engage the emergency brake before removing the key from the ignition until repairs are made.

Regarding the original recall, The Detroit News reports has called upon NASA’s Engineering & Safety Center to review whether or not the 2.6 million affected Chevrolets, Pontiacs and Saturns are safe to drive with just the ignition key in position. The agency, which has performed similar reviews in the past, will look over the work performed by the automaker in the latter’s effort to make the affected vehicles safe to drive, as well as review its overall approach to safety concerns.

On the financial front, Automotive News says GM will take a $1.3 billion charge in Q1 2014 for the original recall, 40 percent greater than the $750 million charge originally estimated at the end of last month. The charge — which includes repair costs and loaners for affected owners — comes on the heels of a $400 million charge tied to currency challenges in Venezuela, the total sum of which threatens to knock out most if not all of the automaker’s Q1 2014 earnings set to be announced toward of end of this month.

Meanwhile, The Detroit News reports Michael Carpenter, the CEO of former GM financial arm Ally Financial, says his company will complete its exit from government ownership by Election Day of this year:

The U.S. Treasury is quite happy today. My own view is they will definitely be out before the election and we are close to having Treasury and U.S. government ownership in the rearview mirror.

By the end of trading Thursday, Ally’s IPO netted taxpayers $17.7 billion with a profit of $500 million on the $17.2 billion bailout of the consumer finance company, while the Treasury currently holds 17 percent of its remaining shares after selling 95 million for $25 per share at the opening bell; share price fell 4.4 percent to $23.50 at the closing bell.

In lawsuit news, Automotive News reports GM settled with the families of two Saturn Ion drivers who lost their lives in 2004 when their respective cars’ airbags failed to deploy. The two fatalities were identified by the publication as the earliest of 13 linked to the out-of-spec ignition switch at the root of the current recall crisis. In addition, while one case was settled out-of-court in September of 2007, the second case drew its settlement terms after the automaker filed for bankruptcy in June of 2009, placing the plaintiffs and their lawyer with other unsecured creditors.

The Detroit News reports Cadillac and Buick are at the top of their respective lists for dealer service satisfaction as determined by the J.D. Power & Associates U.S. Customer Service Index Study. Cadillac’s dominance over the luxury brand category comes as former No. 1 Lexus — who held the top spot for five consecutive years — falls to third behind Audi, while Buick leads Volkswagen, GMC, Mini and Chevrolet in the mass-market brand category.

Finally, Autoblog reports the last of eight Corvettes swallowed by the sinkhole that formed inside the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Ky. back in February has been recovered. The 2001 Corvette Mallett Hammer Z06 will need extensive work performed to bring it back to its original state, but not before it joins its brethren in a new exhibit entitled “Great 8″ beginning next week. The exhibit will last until the museum’s 20th anniversary in late August, at which point GM will begin restoration work on the eight Corvettes.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/gm-seeks-aid-from-nasa-issues-new-ignition-related-recall/feed/ 13
Review: Skoda Octavia RS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/review-skoda-octavia-rs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/review-skoda-octavia-rs/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 04:01:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=790905 aIMG_9292

Originally, I wanted to borrow an Octavia RS as the ultimate example of the “nice things you Americans can’t have”. But then I decided not to. I had three reasons. First, the RS, unlike “ordinary” Skodas, isn’t readily available in any shade of brown. Second, I had already tested a diesel, manual wagon recently. And third, the diesel wagon really isn’t the Octavia RS you really want. It’s a compromise, something you choose as a company car, because gasoline engines are verbotten by your company’s policy and you need the space for hauling stuff to your vacation home each weekend.

Instead, I opted for the closest thing Skoda has to a sportscar; the Octavia RS with the 2.0 TSI/220hp engine, 6-speed manual transmission, and a liftback body. The choice of the engine was kind of obvious – if you want “sporty”, you don’t want diesel. No matter what diesel fans will tell you, diesels are always rattly, reluctant to rev and heavy, compared to the gasoline counterparts. They may be miracles compared to their predecessors from two decades ago, but if you want a fun to drive car, you want it to burn the right fuel.

 aIMG_9386

And the body? Wagons are cool, and they will, one day, make their way back to America, because they just make sense. But here in Europe, we have one more body style, which is even cooler than wagon. So cool that not even Jalopnik readers know about it. It’s called a liftback. From the outside, it looks much like a modern sedan, with a really short trunk. But when you open the trunk – voilá! – the whole rear hatch opens.

You say it’s like wagon, just less practical? Well, not really. For one, it doesn’t look like a wagon, which is apparently important to some people – even in Europe. And for a second, it’s not really that impractical. In some ways, it’s maybe even more practical.

While the liftback offers a bit less space than a wagon (and is a bit worse in case you want to transport really high items or stack stuff up to the roof), it has this HUGE trunk opening. Wagons, even fairly large ones, require you to push stuff inside them. Which can be a bit of pain with stuff like bicycles. A Liftback allows you to just place the thing inside from above – or reach over the sides, if you, for example, need to move the bicycle to the inside of the car, so you can close the trunk. In other words, liftbacks rock!

So, what do we have here? Basically, the Octavia is Europe’s take on Jetta (yes, the real Jetta is sold here as well, but no one really buys it). Unlike the Jetta, it is based on current generation of Golf and not the previous one, so it uses the new MQB modular system, basically the same engine line-up as Golf, it has a nearly identical suspension and the same electronic architecture. The radio/satellite navigation line-up to the fancy modern gizmos like adaptive cruise, lane assist and automatic parking can be had in Octavia. The RS, then, can be viewed as a slightly larger Golf GTI, with a huge trunk.

 aIMG_9341

But when you look at it, the word “Volkswagen” doesn’t really pop up in your mind. The word that does, though, is “Audi”. The stance, the edgy lines, even the bright blue paint really does make it look like a junior S4.  While the GTI is still kind of youthful car that doesn’t try to hide it’s relatively humble origins, the Octavia RS seems to be aimed at people who aspire to own this very car. Especially here, in its home market, the $30k (with tax) Octavia RS is sort of a mild luxury.

The only difference is that in Czech Republic, the RS gets more attention on the street than an Audi. Or even than the Town Car I drive. Or than just about anything else, short of supercars, American classics or a hot rodded New York cab (I daily drove that, for some time). With Skoda being the only domestic car maker,with just over 30 percent market share, the Octavia itself is fairly ubiquitous. But the RS is still quite new, and since it’s the top version of a car everyone has, did have, thinks about having or aspires to, it really gets people’s interest. It’s the Czech equivalent of a pony car or a fancy truck.

 aIMG_9325

But I digress. Let’s stop looking, and take the thing for a drive. Once you sit inside, the “junior Audi” idea re-establishes itself. Similar design, similar materials, similar take on quality – just less of everything. My special bonus points are awarded for the fact that the seats, while sporty, are flat enough to comfortably get in and out of, and that the steering wheel is round. My super special bonus points are awarded to the MQB modular system for the low window line and relatively narrow A-pillars. Compared to the Astra I tested previously, this makes the Octavia pleasantly easy to see out of.

At start-up, the engine doesn’t make much of a fuss, but throwing the sweet shifter into first reveals gobs of torque from low down, making it almost impossible to stall. What made me more anxious was the ride. The “sporty” VW products, including Audis, which this car tries to mimic, tend to be on the harsh side. And with 18” wheels (which are, by the way, extremely pretty, and also very prone to scratching) on a relatively small car, this is a reason to worry. But the RS surprises here. While it’s definitely not a plushy, comfy ride, it perfectly bearable even on the broken city surfaces I usually drive on. While it looks much more aggressive than last month’s Astra, it’s got enough ground clearance to not scratch under any normal circumstances. Nice, liveable and rational. Just as a Skoda should be.

 aIMG_9334

What’s a bit less rational is the driving style this car invokes. In this country, Octavia RS drivers are known as one of the biggest jerks on the road – up there with Audi drivers. It’s easy to see why. The car works like it was designed for you to drive like a total asshole. While 220hp doesn’t sound like much, the ever present torque really helps, and the RS has a way of disguising speed that makes you drive like a total lunatic and not even think about it. You’re just leaving the traffic lights like a normal, sane person, when the little devil inside the car just whispers to you “See that gap between the slow car in the left lane and another slow car in the right lane? You can totally fit in there!”. And before you know it, you’re weaving in and out of traffic at twice the posted speed limit. It takes some restraint to start driving like a normal person again.

And this theme continues when you leave the city limits. Most of all, the RS is super easy to drive fast. The combination of torque, the traction provided by the XDS (a fake electronic LSD in the front), the grip and the stability lets you cover the ground at huge rates of speed, without the car asking anything back. Between the XDS and the unkillable ESP, it’s a car that your grandmother could drive stupidly fast. A 100+ mph run on backroads? No problem. And no drama.

 aIMG_9364

It’s even quite easy on gas. You can get over 35mpg in real life, it you’re driving sanely (e.g. in a way that won’t put you in jail), around 20mpg during “slightly spirited” city driving, and maybe 15-16mpg on the backroads, driving in the manner that would definitely put you in jail Stateside.

Which sounds totally great. But it also reveals a great problem for some of us. That the Octavia RS is not even a little bit like homemade mayonnaise, and that it doesn’t resemble an automatic watch in the slightest.

What I’m blabbing about? Let me explain.

 aIMG_9339

The “petrolheads”, or driving enthusiasts, are like any other enthusiasts in the world. They want two things. They want to stand out of the crowd by earning things, and they want things not to be fake. Like foodies, who will spend their lives perfecting their perfect recipie for artisanal Sriracha mayonnaise, instead of just going out and buying bottled, mass produced stuff. They do it because the homemade stuff is better, but also because they like the challenge, and they like the notion that they are just better than those ordinary folks who don’t know any better than going to the supermarket. Or you can compare them to watch enthusiasts, who will spend unbelievable amounts of money on watches that, in the end, do their job significantly worse than a $20 Casio. They will despise anything with “Quartz” written on it, because it’s not real watch. And they put high value on the manufacturer making its own movements, because using someone else’s, not matter how nice watch you put them into, is just “not right”.

And this is where the problems with Octavia RS come to light.

You have your electronics to help you stay on the road, and fake electronic LSD, helping you get loads of traction, but also disrupting already artificial (or, ahem, fake) steering feel. In hard cornering, the steering wheel sometimes gets heavy when you would expect it to be light. You can get used to it, but it’s not really the connection with the car you really want. At least the quick engine responses make it quite easy to do non-fake heel and toe throttle blips, although the pedals are not well positioned to do that, with the accelerator being too far below and to the right.

And then there’s the sound. In the “sport” mode, something called a “performance sound generator” is active, emitting deep, fake engine sounds from the speaker somewhere on the firewall. Not only is it fake – it even sounds worse than the natural, raspy engine sound in the “normal” mode. Luckily, this feature is optional and you can avoid it. In fact, I would be willing to pay for it not to be there.

The “fake” theme continues with the design as well. There are fake exhaust tips, fake grilles and fake inlets in the front bumper.

 aIMG_9318

If you’re looking for honesty, driving enjoyment and tactile experience, you will be better off in a much slower and cheaper Skoda Rapid. The Octavia RS is not the car for petrolheads. It is not a car for people who spend all the time thinking about cars and driving.

It is, though, a perfect car for someone who likes fast cars, would like to have a car that is fast, and likes other people to see that he has a fast car, but is not willing to sacrifice anything to the idea. For the same price, a Renault Clio RS (at least the previous generation), a used M3 or a Miata will get you much, much more reward from getting your driving right. The Octavia RS will be a perfect choice for a family guy, who wants to soothe his mid-life crisis, but isn’t in position to buy a dedicated sportscar. With this, he can have a bright-coloured, lightning fast machine, and a reasonable family car – all in one reasonably priced package.

aIMG_9355 aIMG_9310 aIMG_9292 aIMG_9280 aIMG_9325 aIMG_9318 aIMG_9313 aIMG_9341 aIMG_9339 aIMG_9334 aIMG_9386 aIMG_9364 aIMG_9347 aIMG_9344 ]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/review-skoda-octavia-rs/feed/ 25