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. Sat, 31 Jan 2015 17:30:36 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 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/ Reader Review: 2015 BMW X3 28i http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/reader-review-2015-bmw-x3-28i/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/reader-review-2015-bmw-x3-28i/#comments Sat, 31 Jan 2015 17:30:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=991458 If you’ve been around the automotive journalism long enough (and by long enough, I mean like three months in total), you’ll begin to realize that a lot of press vehicles you drive aren’t indicative of what most people actually buy. Most test vehicles have five figures worth of options, with features that at most, an […]

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X3 Exterior

If you’ve been around the automotive journalism long enough (and by long enough, I mean like three months in total), you’ll begin to realize that a lot of press vehicles you drive aren’t indicative of what most people actually buy. Most test vehicles have five figures worth of options, with features that at most, an auto journalist will expend 50 words on. Meanwhile, on lots across the country, most dealers probably have one or two very loaded cars which end up being discounted heavily towards the end of the quarter.

My experience of full-optioned press cars had to do with a silver BMW 335i xDrive Gran Turismo at a local auto journalist event. While the base price of the car was $47,775, this car had almost $12,000 in options, or enough to buy an E36 M3 in good condition. “Let’s give it the more powerful engine, all-wheel-drive, the dynamic handling package, and the M Sport package” the person in charge of configuring the 3-Series GT must have thought, “at least auto journalists will say it handled very well and forget about the styling.” This car even had head-up display and the $650 M Sport brakes.

Even when I was searching for road tests of the X3 online, I good majority were reviews of the powerful xDrive35i version or for the new diesel model. So when I had access to a 2015 X3 xDrive28i for a few days, I leapt at the opportunity to write a review on it, because it was the version most X3 buyers purchased.

Now, this 2015 BMW X3 xDrive28i that I’m writing about is not a vehicle designated for press people. In fact, it belongs to my dad, and while he chose the color combination, I chose most of the options. As a result, I can’t blame whoever specs BMW’s press vehicles. So the fact it doesn’t have the navigation system, which saves me a paragraph describing it? My fault. That it doesn’t have heated seats? My lapse. The fact that it doesn’t have parking sensors or a rear-view camera? My bad. The fact that I still don’t know what the $500 “Enhanced USB/Bluetooth with Smartphone Integration” option does? I really need to get on that.

As for the things I am proud of, it’s the Deep Sea Blue exterior color and Oyster color interior. (A quick note on the Oyster leather: it’s surprisingly easy to stain, so be careful when wearing jeans or leaving a pen on the seat.) This one also has the Premium Package with a massive moonroof and keyless entry, the xenon lights, and the Harman/Kardon sound system. And all of it was available at an MSRP south of $50K.

Before reading the rest of the review, you might think, “He must have recommended this car to his dad if he’s writing about it! This is totally going to be a love story about the X3!” Believe it or not, I recommended the Jeep Grand Cherokee Ecodiesel, as a very well-equipped one came in easily under $50,000, got good fuel mileage, and I thought it handled very well for its size. But my dad drove it and dismissed it as too big.

Other cars considered were Lexus RX (too soccer mom-ish), Toyota 4Runner (too truck-ish), Toyota Highlander (this is for replacing the minivan). The Mercedes GLK, Audi Q5, and Range Rover Evoque were dismissed as my dad is a BMW person. (For background, the man kept an E39 530i running for 13 years, which is two more than the 1990 Accord he had.) I don’t think he drove any of those alternatives, and neither have I, so I won’t definitively say the X3 is the best out of all those alternatives.

First, I’ll focus on the interior, which is about the same size as the interior of the first-generation X5. It’s a pleasant place with chrome accents and wood trim in the right places. The Oyster interior helps considerably too. The cupholders are usable, which is important when coming from a car in which both cupholders (if you can call them those) are broken. The panoramic moonroof that’s part of the Premium package was great for the scenic photos when driving down Highway 1. In fact, the X3 managed to easily fit five adults and their luggage for a weekend. Moreover, the Harmon/Kardon sound system is a pretty good upgrade from the normal sound system.

However, if you’re over 6”3’, more than 200 pounds, and might need a third seat, don’t consider the X3. Otherwise, when sitting in the driver’s seat, your head will hit the ceiling and you’ll probably find the seat not wide enough. Additionally, while I wrote in the last paragraph that the X3 could seat 3 full-size adults, just make sure the cumulative weight doesn’t exceed 500 pounds. And if you’re a family of four who takes their dog with them on road trips, the X3 is not your car.

Though the options list is long, there’s surprisingly (for a BMW) a lot of standard features. The storage package, which includes cargo nets, a collapsible cargo box, and a reversible mat, is standard. So is the automatic climate control. Even the ambient lighting that I praised is standard. The tailgate and side mirrors are power-operated. However, the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel is not power-operated, which coming from the 530i, was a disappointment.

Whenever I discuss the exterior, I generally don’t focus too much on styling. But the X3 was facelifted for the 2015 model year, with most of the differences being on the front clip, with the headlights that connect to the grille. BMW offers two appearance packages: the xLine package and the M Sport body kit. Personally, I don’t like the look of the M Sport package (or sport packages in general), while the xLine has the silver trim bits for the faux off-roader look, which I don’t mind. There are also turn signals on the side mirrors. One thing I did like was the exterior lighting beneath the door handles when getting into the car. BMW got the ambient lighting very, very right. Also, the X3 comes with the foot sensor as standard

Regarding performance, I didn’t push the X3 to its limits because a) it belongs to my dad and not BMW of North America, and b) it has less than 1400 miles on the odometer so the drivetrain still needed to be broken in. It has a 2.0-liter inline-four with a twin-scroll turbo that makes about 240 hp. According the BMW website, it can go from 0 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, which is quicker than the 530i it’s replacing. On the highway, I never found myself complaining about lack of power, even when it was fully loaded with five people. If you need something faster, the xDrive35i with 300 horsepower is about $5,000 more.

I briefly played with the different powertrain modes, which were: Comfort, Sport, and Eco Pro. Eco Pro makes the X3 rear-drive only and ensures the transmission is in the highest gear possible for the best mileage. I found myself using it in high traffic situations, where quick throttle response wasn’t needed. Sport mode sharpened up throttle response, but I found myself never using it and suspect most owners won’t either. Usually I drove the X3 in its default mode, Comfort, in which I didn’t need to press the throttle closer to the floor and when all-wheel-drive was on.

For those of you contemplating the diesel version of the 2015 X3 (the xDrive28d model), I considered that one too. In fact, I even put a deposit on one until we were informed that Hawaii (no joke!) was allocated the last X3 diesel build slots for a 2014 delivery. However, since the diesel is $1,500 more expensive and the price of premium gas has gone down significantly, the normal xDrive28i is a viable alternative. Also, my dad test drove the diesel X3 (while I was in the back seat playing with the air vents) and found the power deficit noticeable compared to the normal version and noisy at lower speeds.

Ultimately, if you have $50,000 to spend on a luxury five-passenger crossover, you can’t go wrong with the X3. When we were buying the X3 at the end of last year, it became easier to find a 7-Series in a dealer’s inventory in Northern California than any version of the X3. It was even easier to find an Audi S4 than an X3. They’re that popular. So BMW must be doing something right with the X3 (or they’re exporting more abroad for higher profits, or the X4 took up a good portion of the assembly line) that people are snapping them up left and right.

In the end, I understand why. The xDrive28i is surprisingly well-priced as long as you don’t go overboard with the options.  It handles nicely, can accelerate quickly, has a pleasant interior, has four years of free maintenance, and can take a lot of cargo. My dad, and not me, made an excellent decision, and neither of us have any regrets. Except for the “Enhanced USB/Bluetooth with Smartphone Integration” option. I still haven’t figured that one out.

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Satish Kondapavulur is a writer for Clunkerture, where about a fifth of the articles are about old cars and where his one-time LeMons racing dreams came to an end, once he realized it was impossible to run a Ferrari Mondial. He still prefers the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel.

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An Audi A Day, At Fifty-Nine Bucks: Silvercar For Dummies http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/audi-day-fifty-nine-bucks-silvercar-dummies/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/audi-day-fifty-nine-bucks-silvercar-dummies/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 14:30:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=990450 From now until the end of February, visitors to eight major markets in the United States will be able to rent a 2014 or 2015 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro for fifty-nine dollars a day. If you drive through an automated tollbooth with the car, you’ll be charged the actual amount of the toll charge. If […]

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From now until the end of February, visitors to eight major markets in the United States will be able to rent a 2014 or 2015 Audi A4 2.0T Quattro for fifty-nine dollars a day. If you drive through an automated tollbooth with the car, you’ll be charged the actual amount of the toll charge. If you forget to fill the car up, they’ll fill it for street price plus five bucks. The company is called “Silvercar” and you can get their app on your smartphone in just seconds.

At this point, you can just read the next article, right? Given that an Altima or Fusion from Hertz will run you between $35 and $55 per day at most of those airports, what’s to think about? Either you don’t care what you rent, in which case paying for an Audi seems stupid, or you are anxious to not be seen driving a rental car, in which case paying $59 a day for an Audi instead of $149 a day for a Cheap-class Benzo is beyond obvious.

What? You want to know how it works? Okay. Click the jump.

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Silvercar works much like FedEx did back in the early days of FedEx, which is to say they emphasize a narrow range of service and attempt to excel within that range. As previously noted, they operate in just eight markets, and they don’t have a conventional airport rental office. This is presented as an upscale feature — your Silvercar concierge will meet you with your car! — but in practice it means taking a shuttle to a parking lot somewhere so Silvercar can avoid airport concession fees. This is about as upscale as it sounds.

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My Silvercar experience lasted six days and started at LAX, where I took a shuttle out to a parking lot and met my concierge. He directed me to use my smartphone to scan the QR code on the windshield. Insofar as it as night time, this did not go well. Eventually we settled on using his phone for a light and my phone for a scanner. I mention this to show that the company is still working out some issues, like how do we rent a car to someone when the ball of fire that lights the world is sleeping with Persephone or something like that.

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The actual specification of the Silvercar itself is quite fascinating to a former Audi owner such as myself. It’s not a car you can buy in the United States, at least not from a dealer. It has a full suite of infotainment features including a built-in Wi-Fi hotspot and navigation, but it has single-zone climate control. Also, the keyless entry features are disabled, no doubt to prevent various issues at their garage facilities. Some of the cars have Sport aero, others don’t. There are no shift paddles on the wheel, either. However, it’s the single-zone climate that will reliably identify former Silvercars in the used lots of the future.

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In Silvercar spec, the A4 exudes complete and total acceptability but not much else. The combination of the small engine, Quattro drivertrain, and semi-dim-witted eight-speed automatic isn’t magic, although when you really need to force the issue the Audi will hustle in a way that a four-cylinder Malibu or Sonata simply cannot. Driving this back-to-back with a 2014 Camry SE, I had to wonder where, exactly, the sixty-percent markup was going.

In any kind of race with my Accord V6, this Audi wouldn’t see which way the Honda went. However, a thirty-mile canyon run with The Smoking Tire‘s Matt Farah and his tuned-up Fiesta ST showed that the Audi has absolutely trustworthy chassis behavior. There are few cars out there that I’d want to take to tire-squeal territory on a completely unfamiliar mountain road — but that’s also an indictment of the A4’s relatively low limits. Low, but wide; you can make a few mistakes and the nose-heavy balance will combine with a bit of torque-to-the-rear and fix things pretty well. Under no circumstances will this car behave neutrally. If you want that, go get a Camry and learn to hop off the throttle in midcorner. Seriously.

There’s also the fact that this generation of Audi has been around for eight years now, without much in the way of improvement. While I’m pretty happy with the MMI navigation and audio interface, having used it for two years in my lime-green S5, every passenger I had in the Silvercar was utterly disgusted with the twist-and-press school of entering addresses or searching for music.

Although Silvercar has a return method that is very similar to their pickup method, I chose instead to visit their base of operations near LAX to inspect the facility and see just how fly-by-night it was. The answer: not at all. They had perhaps eighty cars in stock, all of them clean and in outstanding shape. The whole place was quiet and dirt-free. The return process was easy enough, and I suspect they’d have run me to the airport had I asked.

As a way to try-before-you-buy with an Audi A4, Silvercar makes excellent sense. As a limited-scope replacement for a rental car, it makes excellent sense. At full retail price, whatever that price turns out to be, when these Audis have thirty thousand miles on them? At that point, you might want to consider that Camry from Hertz.

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Toyota Unveils Silicon Carbide Semiconductor Trial http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-unveils-silicon-carbide-semiconductor-trial/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-unveils-silicon-carbide-semiconductor-trial/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 14:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=991218 Toyota unveiled its plans Wednesday to trial a new hybrid system using silicon carbide power semiconductors that could find its way into hybrids and EVs. The trial will compare the new silicon carbide semiconductors with silicon units currently found in many a hybrid’s, FCV’s and EV’s power control unit, which are linked to a 20 […]

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Toyota unveiled its plans Wednesday to trial a new hybrid system using silicon carbide power semiconductors that could find its way into hybrids and EVs.

The trial will compare the new silicon carbide semiconductors with silicon units currently found in many a hybrid’s, FCV’s and EV’s power control unit, which are linked to a 20 percent loss in overall electric power. The aim is to increase powertrain efficiency by mitigating said losses through the new semiconductors.

The test subjects will be a Camry hybrid prototype and a fuel-cell bus. The bus trial began in early January, when Toyota started data collection on a setup featuring SiC diodes in the FCV’s voltage step-up converter. Meanwhile, the Camry — whose SiC components are in both the hybrid’s voltage step-up and inverter — will hit the road for a year beginning early next month. Both tests are being carried out in Toyota City, Japan.

Toyota hopes to have the SiC technology — developed in a partnership with Denso Corporation and Toyota Central R&D Labs, Inc. — ready for practical use as soon as possible.

Toyota Camry SiC Prototype Toyota SiC FCV Bus Toyota SiC Power Control Unit 01 Toyota SiC Power Control Unit 02 Toyota SiC Power Control Unit In Camry

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US Debut of Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV Delayed Until 2016 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/us-debut-mitsubishi-outlander-phev-delayed-2016/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/us-debut-mitsubishi-outlander-phev-delayed-2016/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 12:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=991170 Those waiting for the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV to come to North America will need to keep holding their breath until next year. According to Automotive News Mitsubishi Motors North American executive vice president Don Swearingen announced during last year’s Los Angeles Auto Show that the crossover PHEV — already on sale in Japan and Europe […]

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Those waiting for the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV to come to North America will need to keep holding their breath until next year.

According to Automotive News Mitsubishi Motors North American executive vice president Don Swearingen announced during last year’s Los Angeles Auto Show that the crossover PHEV — already on sale in Japan and Europe since 2013 — will arrive in the United States around April of 2016. The delay is due in part to a shortage in battery packs, as well as a California mandate requiring the fitment of battery-degradation sensors to said packs.

Once it does hit the showrooms, the crossover will face competition from the likes of the Volvo XC90 PHEV and the equally oft-delayed Tesla Model X. The Outlander PHEV derives its power from a 2-liter gasoline engine and a pair of electric motors fore and aft, and boasts a range of 32.5 miles in electric-only mode.

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Land Rovers, Jaguars Et Al Leave Höegh Osaka After Month At Sea http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/land-rovers-jaguars-et-al-leave-hoegh-osaka-month-sea/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/land-rovers-jaguars-et-al-leave-hoegh-osaka-month-sea/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 11:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=991122 Having spent most of January on its side, the Höegh Osaka returned to Southampton, England Tuesday to unload 1,400 premium vehicles bound for Germany. According to The Daily Mail, the car carrier was intentionally run aground in the Solent off the Isle of Wight January 3 when it began to list at 52 degrees shortly […]

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Land Rover Hoegh Osaka

Having spent most of January on its side, the Höegh Osaka returned to Southampton, England Tuesday to unload 1,400 premium vehicles bound for Germany.

According to The Daily Mail, the car carrier was intentionally run aground in the Solent off the Isle of Wight January 3 when it began to list at 52 degrees shortly after departing for Germany through the English Channel. Around 1,400 premium vehicles were onboard, including Land Rover Defenders, Jaguar XFs, MINIs, a Rolls-Royce Wraith, and a Porsche Boxster.

Presently, each of the 1,400 vehicles aboard are being inspected for any damage, especially the type that would mean a final ride to the crusher. The final total won’t come until early next week at the latest, though a decision to follow in Mazda’s footsteps — the automaker scrapped 4,700 units aboard the Cougar Ace in 2006 — would prove costly; the total value of Höegh Osaka’s cargo stands at £30 million ($45 million USD).

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Rental Review: 2013 Ford Focus SE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/rental-review-2013-ford-focus-se/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/rental-review-2013-ford-focus-se/#comments Thu, 29 Jan 2015 23:12:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=989778 You never know what car you’re going to get at the rental counter. Whether you’re at an airport in Anchorage, a Milwaukee suburb, or in Tahiti, you won’t know how you’ll get from Point A to Point B, or if you’ve ever vacationed in Tahiti, Point A to Point A. It could better than your […]

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You never know what car you’re going to get at the rental counter. Whether you’re at an airport in Anchorage, a Milwaukee suburb, or in Tahiti, you won’t know how you’ll get from Point A to Point B, or if you’ve ever vacationed in Tahiti, Point A to Point A. It could better than your usual car, a newer version of your usual car, worse than your usual car, or horribly worse than your usual car, the last category reserved for the Dodge Avenger and Chevy Spark.

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When I was at the counter, my reservation specified a full-size car, so that thankfully meant no Avenger or Spark. The Taurus and Impala, the perennial full-size rentals, have gotten pretty good, so I was really looking forward to one of those. Alas, there were no full-size or even mid-size cars at my Hertz Local Edition. So I was supposed to get a 2013 Corolla. I didn’t want the Corolla, as it looked tired and had Iowa plates, so it a) definitely had plenty of miles on it, and b) the plates were going to make me a target for California law enforcement.

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After asking the rep about all the available cars he had (“How about that Avenger that just came in?”), I ended up with a Tuxedo Black 2013 Ford Focus parked way back in the lot. That’s right. 2013. You might be thinking, “Oh, it probably didn’t have much mileage so Hertz decided to keep it in the fleet.” Well, I can safely write that wasn’t the case. It had 44,594 miles on the odometer. That is not a typo. Hertz seriously does keep cars in their fleet for that long.

On my drive home, many issues made themselves known. The car had obviously sat in the lot of my Hertz Local Edition for such a long time that the interior was stuffy, the air-conditioning blew musty air, the transmission’s clutches weren’t in the best condition, and there was so much static coming from the stereo. Additionally, the transmission never seemed to choose the right gear when climbing up the steep hill to get to my house.

I’m not going to discuss the interior that much since most of you have probably rented the Focus, sat in it at an auto show, bought it, read the brochure, seen the TV ads, made out in the back seat, etc. But I liked it. The gauge cluster and stereo interface were very intuitive. I didn’t notice any large panel gaps like I would’ve in a 2005 Ford Focus after 40,000 miles. The touch points still felt fine. The seats were surprisingly comfortable after that much rental car duty. The only qualm I had was with SYNC addressing me in Spanish since someone named Arturo had plugged in his iPhone at some point.

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I didn’t like the engine. The valve-timing system wasn’t the best, especially when climbing steep hills. 160 horsepower was not enough for this especially in the higher gears. However, if your goal is to travel at the speed limit on local roads and highways, the engine has more than enough strength to hold its own.

More important to discuss than the engine, however, is the transmission. Around town, even if you’re used to dual-clutch transmissions (which is what Ford’s PowerShift transmission is), this car is horrible. The clutches always feel like they’re going to go every time you accelerate from a stoplight. When I got the car, the rep had taken special care to inform me that how the throttle and transmission acted was normal.

I wish Ford would’ve made the gears selectable, instead of giving us the usual PRNDL, which makes most drivers treat the transmission like they would any automatic. As an owner of a 40,000-mile Jetta 2.0T with the DSG, my VW struck me as more refined (though I’m very careful with my footwork in traffic), and I found it interesting Ford doesn’t recommend transmission fluid changes at some of the service intervals.

The handling was something that brought a smile to my face. Ford got the suspension tuning spot-on. On a winding road, I didn’t feel compelled to brake in the bends, and the tires didn’t squeal either. Traction control is incredibly fair, and though the intervention is noticeable, it still lets you enjoy the car. After 40,000 miles worth of rental car abuse, I was amazed at the amount of feel I got through the steering.

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As for trunk space, the area is enough for two to three suitcases, but it probably wouldn’t be able to swallow as much cargo as a Jetta. Thankfully though, the spare tire, housed beneath the trunk, is full-size. Furthermore, rear legroom was fine, but I don’t think most people would be capable of sitting there for more than two hours, like in most compact cars.

Now, I wanted this review to be about what a Focus would be like after 44,000 miles. I wanted to ensure the car had been maintained, wasn’t involved in any accidents, and was loved unconditionally by its owner. Therefore, whoever would be considering a 2013 Focus, or any other 2013 Focus with 40,000 miles, would know what they were getting themselves into.

As a result, I went the extra mile (not that the Focus needed it) and ran the Autocheck on the car to have an idea of what it went through. It gave me no details, except for the car’s initial registration date. After more than 44,000 miles, there were dents all over the car, including a major one on one of the doors (seriously, the inspection form when I signed for the car is marked all over). Also, the car had to have been through a few services, none of which appear on the report. And according to the Hertz rep who signed out the car to me, the windows had been replaced after being smashed with the last renter. I only knew that bit after asking about the pieces on paper in the rear passenger windows. Even those details didn’t show up on the Autocheck report.

But I found even more worrying things when I simply entered the car’s VIN into Google. I managed to discover that Hertz actually had my very car for sale on eBay back in December at around 44,500 miles. I also managed to catch a Google-cached November listing of the car on the Hertz Auto Sales website. By the way, to the surprise of no one by this point, the Autocheck report didn’t catch this too. Meanwhile, Hertz has known for at least the last two months that it needs to get rid of this car!

So how on earth did I end up with a car that Hertz couldn’t sell? My guess is Hertz ended up pulling it from their sales lot once the holiday demand for rental cars happened, and automakers were too busy selling cars to individual customers that they perhaps didn’t have enough inventory to push into fleet sales. As a result, when I looked at the 2013 Ford Focuses on the website of the local Hertz Auto Sales, not one had below 50,000 miles, and some had well above 60,000, demonstrating that rental companies aren’t turning over their fleet as much as they used to.

In the end, should you buy a 2013 Ford Focus SE with over 40,000 miles on the clock?

I don’t think it would be a bad idea, as long as the transmission is inspected, you’ve ensured all recall work is done, and you have an idea of the service history.

But should you buy a high-mileage ex-rental car, particularly one that a rental company was incapable of selling to normal people and one with a questionable dual-clutch transmission?

As my car might’ve told me after hearing my voice commands in broken Spanish, “No way, Jose.

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Toyota Marketing Mirai With $8K Hydrogen Credit Despite Expiration http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-marketing-mirai-8k-hydrogen-credit-despite-expiration/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-marketing-mirai-8k-hydrogen-credit-despite-expiration/#comments Thu, 29 Jan 2015 14:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=989970 Despite the recent expiration of the $8,000 federal credit for hydrogen vehicles, Toyota is still marketing its Mirai as if it never happened. Autoblog reports that Toyota is well-aware of the expiration, and is calling upon both houses of Congress to reinstate the credit. Were that to occur, the $57,500 MSRP on the Mirai would […]

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Despite the recent expiration of the $8,000 federal credit for hydrogen vehicles, Toyota is still marketing its Mirai as if it never happened.

Autoblog reports that Toyota is well-aware of the expiration, and is calling upon both houses of Congress to reinstate the credit. Were that to occur, the $57,500 MSRP on the Mirai would fall to $49,500. Other state and local credits would drop the price further, as well; California customers would pay just $44,500 for their FCVs, for example.

The problem, per the automaker’s energy and regulatory affairs director Robert Wimmer, is predicting where the tax process would go:

The two challenges we have now are that both houses of Congress are Republican and also that there has been talk for a while about comprehensive tax reform. If that moves forward, then extenders would probably be put on the back burner as comprehensive tax reform is discussed.

Even if the credit was reinstated, it may only last as long as year or two instead of the three years Toyota wants for the first-gen Mirai. The automaker has been lobbying Congress to act, though Wimmer could not say to what extent.

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Kia Lowers K900 Pricing With New Premium Trim http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/kia-lowers-k900-pricing-new-premium-trim/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/kia-lowers-k900-pricing-new-premium-trim/#comments Thu, 29 Jan 2015 13:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=989946 Shopping around for a Korean premium sedan with rear-wheel drive and V8 power, but not looking to spend much? Kia just might have what you need. Motor Authority reports the brand recently dropped the price on its K900 sedan with the help of a new Premium trim that deletes niceties like LED headlights, chrome and […]

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2015 Kia K900

Shopping around for a Korean premium sedan with rear-wheel drive and V8 power, but not looking to spend much? Kia just might have what you need.

Motor Authority reports the brand recently dropped the price on its K900 sedan with the help of a new Premium trim that deletes niceties like LED headlights, chrome and Nappa leather. The price of admission, as a result, begins at $55,400. To get those back, consumers would have to upgrade to the Luxury trim, which begins at $59,500; the previous sole K900 model had an MSRP of $60,400.

No matter if your K900 is loaded or barely stripped, the sedan still has its 5-liter, 420-horsepower V8, and still costs less than similar machines from Lexus or Mercedes. That said, Kia may need all the help it can get to move its flagship out of the showroom, having sold just 1,330 units in 2014 in comparison to the brand’s other premium and near-premium models, the David Bowie-enhanced Cadenza (9,267), and the Jaguar XF-esque Optima (159,020).

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Volkswagen Moving Ahead With New Phaeton Despite Itself http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/volkswagen-moving-ahead-new-phaeton-despite/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/volkswagen-moving-ahead-new-phaeton-despite/#comments Thu, 29 Jan 2015 12:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=989922 Despite cost-cutting measures meant to save the automaker €5 billion annually by 2017, Volkswagen is moving ahead with a new Phaeton by 2018 at the latest. Reuters reports the revamp of the €76,000 ($86,000 USD) executive car would cost up to €650 million ($733 million) according to Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst, flying in the […]

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phaetons

Despite cost-cutting measures meant to save the automaker €5 billion annually by 2017, Volkswagen is moving ahead with a new Phaeton by 2018 at the latest.

Reuters reports the revamp of the €76,000 ($86,000 USD) executive car would cost up to €650 million ($733 million) according to Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst, flying in the face of a pledge by VW to cut production costs and non-profitable models in order to save €5 billion ($5.6 billion) annually by 2017. He adds that the Phaeton — the €1 billion ($1.13 billion) pet project of Chairman Ferdinand Piech that has lost €28,000 ($32,000) per unit sold between 2002 and 2012 alone — is “the most irrational project” as far as budgeting goes, yet lives on because Piech and CEO Martin Winterkorn “cannot let go of their fondness for luxury products.”

Additionally, the Phaeton would not only have a hard time doing battle against the likes of the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and BMW 7 Series as far as sales go (85,000 units annually for the S and 64,000 for the 7 compared to an estimated 11,900 for the new model between 2017 and 2020), but it would also struggle against its own stablemate, the Audi A8. U.S. sales are another likely challenge, as well, considering the automaker’s own struggles in understanding the U.S. market.

Nonetheless, VW is preparing the second-gen Phaeton for its showroom debut between 2017 and 2018, with a PHEV version coming down the pipe, as well.

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General Motors Discussing Jeep Wrangler Challenger For GMC http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/general-motors-discussing-jeep-wrangler-challenger-gmc/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/general-motors-discussing-jeep-wrangler-challenger-gmc/#comments Thu, 29 Jan 2015 11:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=989898 Remember when we told you about GMC’s Duncan Aldred wanting a “professional-grade” Jeep Wrangler? General Motors thinks it’s a good idea, too. The Wall Street Journal reports GM recently sought feedback from its dealers regarding the market viability of a Wrangler challenger joining GMC’s lineup of trucks, crossovers and SUVs, the idea of which has […]

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2015 GMC Sierra

Remember when we told you about GMC’s Duncan Aldred wanting a “professional-grade” Jeep Wrangler? General Motors thinks it’s a good idea, too.

The Wall Street Journal reports GM recently sought feedback from its dealers regarding the market viability of a Wrangler challenger joining GMC’s lineup of trucks, crossovers and SUVs, the idea of which has been “kicked around real hard” according to one insider. The automaker’s growing interest comes as 150,000 units of the iconic vehicle left for the Rubicon or college in 2014, some of them going for as much as $50,000 fresh out of Ohio. The Wrangler also boasts one of the highest resale values around, second only to the Toyota Tacoma in 2015 per Kelley Blue Book.

As for what a GMC Wrangler would look like, GM said its Jeep would take cues from Hummer’s orphaned offerings; Hummer joined Pontiac, Saturn and Saab in the afterlife back in 2009 during the dark days of the Great Recession. The new model — still in the discussion phase without a name or a green light — would also help GMC capitalize on the brand’s own success, with sales rising 11 percent on the backs of the Sierra and Yukon in 2014 to 501,853.

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Back Home Again In Indiana: Mercedes-Benz To Move R-Class Production To Its Old U. S. Hometown http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/back-home-indiana-mercedes-benz-move-r-class-production-old-u-s-hometown/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/back-home-indiana-mercedes-benz-move-r-class-production-old-u-s-hometown/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 20:13:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=989242 As a tyke growing up in South Bend, Indiana, my father and I would often stake out the lots behind the Studebaker factories with hopes of spotting the next generation Avanti or Lark. Too often all we spied were rows of Mercedes-Benz automobiles due to the fact that Studebaker was the U.S. distributor for the German brand up […]

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mercedes-benz-r-class-courtesy carnewschina.com

As a tyke growing up in South Bend, Indiana, my father and I would often stake out the lots behind the Studebaker factories with hopes of spotting the next generation Avanti or Lark. Too often all we spied were rows of Mercedes-Benz automobiles due to the fact that Studebaker was the U.S. distributor for the German brand up until shortly before the closure of their South Bend operations in 1963.

Yesterday it was announced that Mercedes-Benz was returning to South Bend to build the R-Class crossover at the AM General plant, producer of the military Humvee and the late GM Hummer. Mercedes-Benz once moved their headquarters from South Bend to New Jersey and soon to the South (Atlanta) and now R-Class production is moving from the South (Alabama) to South Bend. Got it?

Slow sales of the R-Class in the U.S caused Mercedes-Benz to stop offering it here in 2012 but they continued to assemble the crossover in their Vance, Alabama plant for export to China. The cavernous R-Class is naturally a great fit for chauffeur-driven Chinese consumers.

Demand for Mercedes SUVs has put a strain on their Alabama factory so the automaker chose the AM General plant to build up to 10,000 R-Classes annually beginning this summer. The facility is also located a few miles from Elkhart, Indiana and its dozens of recreational vehicle factories so an experienced assembly-line talent pool is readily available. It took the UAW about 20 seconds after the Benz press release to announce that the AM General plant is already under their control, leaving the Alabama facility as the only non-union Mercedes-Benz factory in the world.

The only remaining question is: if Benz brings back the high-performance R63, will its AMG tag now stand now for AM General?

 

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Nissan Looking Beyond Federal Credits For Leaf http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/nissan-looking-beyond-federal-credits-leaf/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/nissan-looking-beyond-federal-credits-leaf/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 14:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=989562 Though Nissan has sold over 77,000 Leafs since 2010, the automaker has plans for when the federal credits end with the 200,000th unit of the popular EV. According to Ward’s Auto, Nissan North America product planning chief Pierre Loing says the automaker is looking to negotiate increasing the limit, proclaiming that the current 200,000-unit limit […]

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Though Nissan has sold over 77,000 Leafs since 2010, the automaker has plans for when the federal credits end with the 200,000th unit of the popular EV.

According to Ward’s Auto, Nissan North America product planning chief Pierre Loing says the automaker is looking to negotiate increasing the limit, proclaiming that the current 200,000-unit limit harms EV adoption:

Being the first ones on the market, we should be among the first ones to reach 200,000, and you penalize those who’ve tried to be first?

That said, even when the $7,500 credit goes away, Nissan has plans to make the Leaf more attractive, from increasing the range to reducing the cost of the EV’s lithium-ion battery pack. Loing admits that the latter’s cost issue hasn’t improved quickly enough, and worries that falling oil prices aren’t going to help much either.

He was pleased with how well the Leaf fared in 2014, however; 30,200 units left U.S. showrooms that year, an all-time record for Nissan.

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Carter To Musk: Hydrogen Just One Basket For Toyota’s Eggs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/carter-musk-hydrogen-just-one-basket-toyotas-eggs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/carter-musk-hydrogen-just-one-basket-toyotas-eggs/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=989546 Remember when Tesla CEO Elon Musk declared that Toyota was a fool to invest in hydrogen? Twice? Toyota had a few words to say in return last week. Ecomento reports Toyota Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations Bob Carter took Musk to task regarding comments made during the latter’s annual Tesla shareholders meeting last June, […]

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2016 Toyota Mirai

Remember when Tesla CEO Elon Musk declared that Toyota was a fool to invest in hydrogen? Twice? Toyota had a few words to say in return last week.

Ecomento reports Toyota Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations Bob Carter took Musk to task regarding comments made during the latter’s annual Tesla shareholders meeting last June, as well as those made earlier this month at the Automotive News World Congress, when Musk suggested methane or propane as a better energy storage mechanism while declaring hydrogen “an incredibly dumb one to pick”:

I’m a little disappointed in Mr. Musk’s comments in Detroit last week. But I understand. If I was in a position that I had all of my eggs in one basket I would perhaps be making those same comments. When you take a look at the future, [FCVs are] not a 24- to 36-month play. When you start looking in the 2020s, anybody that would deny [the potential of] moving from an oil-based economy to a hydrogen-based economy [isn’t] looking at the future correctly.

Carter’s response, made last week during the J.D. Power Automotive Summit in San Francisco, come on the heels of Toyota’s unexpected response to its Mirai FCV. Though not due in U.S. showrooms until later this year, the automaker received over 16,000 requests for information on the car. Meanwhile, the FCV has 1,500 confirmed pre-orders in its home market of Japan, with Toyota likely to boost production as interest in the Mirai grows.

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Chicago 2015: Kia Bringing Rugged Concept To Show http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/chicago-2015-kia-bringing-rugged-concept-show/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/chicago-2015-kia-bringing-rugged-concept-show/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 11:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=989506 Joining Mitsubishi, Honda and Chevrolet in the rugged category at this year’s Chicago Auto Show is Kia with a rough-and-tumble concept debut of its own. The all-too-brief official release mentions that the concept “re-imagines one of the brand’s most popular vehicles,” with styling to come out of Kia’s design studio in California. Said concept echos […]

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TTAC-2014_Kia-Soul-SX-Luxury-white-front

Joining Mitsubishi, Honda and Chevrolet in the rugged category at this year’s Chicago Auto Show is Kia with a rough-and-tumble concept debut of its own.

The all-too-brief official release mentions that the concept “re-imagines one of the brand’s most popular vehicles,” with styling to come out of Kia’s design studio in California. Said concept echos a similar intent behind the Hyundai Santa Cruz concept from the 2015 Detroit Auto Show earlier this month: a vehicle for “city dwellers seeking an adventurous escape and intended to enable a variety outdoor activities.”

Though little more was mentioned, Autoblog speculates the vehicle providing the foundation for the concept may be the Soul, which is offered with a SUV Styling Pack for the European Domestic Market. The publication adds that the name and a teaser image will be revealed Thursday, per Kia representative Emily Grannis.

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Aldred: 2018 Opel Adam Could Become A Buick http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/aldred-2018-opel-adam-become-buick/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/aldred-2018-opel-adam-become-buick/#comments Tue, 27 Jan 2015 13:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=989026 Buick may want to slap its badge on the face of the Opel Adam, but it will be a while before it has the opportunity to take on Fiat and MINI. According to Automotive News, Buick/GMC U.S. vice president Duncan Aldred believes the Adam “would make a great Buick,” despite the city car not being […]

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Opel_Adam_1.4_Glam_–_Frontansicht,_15._Januar_2014,_Düsseldorf

Buick may want to slap its badge on the face of the Opel Adam, but it will be a while before it has the opportunity to take on Fiat and MINI.

According to Automotive News, Buick/GMC U.S. vice president Duncan Aldred believes the Adam “would make a great Buick,” despite the city car not being engineered with the U.S. domestic market in mind. Bringing the Adam up to snuff for American consumers would be “cost-prohibitive” at present, he adds, though the next-gen Adam would be tailored for the market.

The next such opportunity for a Buick Adam would come as early as 2018, which Aldred believes would be another opportunity to change consumer expectations of a brand once associated with senior citizens going to Denny’s for the early-bird special. In the meantime, another Opel — the Cascada — is in the process of Americanization, and should hit U.S. showrooms early next year.

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Toyota, BMW Working On Entry-Level MINI Minor Model http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-bmw-working-entry-level-mini-minor-model/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-bmw-working-entry-level-mini-minor-model/#comments Tue, 27 Jan 2015 12:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988994 Been waiting for a MINI that actually lives up to its name? Toyota and BMW are working on such a thing, called the Minor. Automobile Magazine reports the Minor is in the earliest phases of development, and would likely pull its looks from the 2012 Rocketman concept and the current Paceman crossover. Pricing would range […]

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MINI-Rocketman-Concept-2012-widescreen-01

Been waiting for a MINI that actually lives up to its name? Toyota and BMW are working on such a thing, called the Minor.

Automobile Magazine reports the Minor is in the earliest phases of development, and would likely pull its looks from the 2012 Rocketman concept and the current Paceman crossover. Pricing would range between $14,500 and $16,000.

As far as platforms go, the two automakers are going all in on a “bargain basement effort” for the Minor — including a reduction in size and content — instead of using a similarly sized platform like that of the Toyota Aygo, BMW preferring the Minor to not be a badge-engineered product developed and assembled elsewhere.

The new MINI would be one of five new models coming into the portfolio between now and 2018, including an all-new 2016 Countryman and a Superleggera roadster for 2018.

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Plan To Increase US Porsche Macan Allocation In The Works http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/plan-increase-us-porsche-macan-allocation-works/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/plan-increase-us-porsche-macan-allocation-works/#comments Tue, 27 Jan 2015 11:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988970 Been waiting a while for a chance to drive home a Porsche Macan? The automaker plans to increase supply to meet demand in 2015. According to Automotive News, Porsche Cars North America COO Joe Lawrence says his subsidiary is pushing for more units because of the Macan’s popularity thus far, and to ensure no customers […]

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2015 Porsche Macan S

Been waiting a while for a chance to drive home a Porsche Macan? The automaker plans to increase supply to meet demand in 2015.

According to Automotive News, Porsche Cars North America COO Joe Lawrence says his subsidiary is pushing for more units because of the Macan’s popularity thus far, and to ensure no customers waiting in line will go seek solace in an X4 or Evoque.

Said wait has been six months and above since the premium crossover went on sale in the United States last May: 7,241 units left the showroom from May through December 2014.

As for how many will be allocated in 2015, Lawrence couldn’t confirm, citing production constraints at the automaker’s factory in Leipzig, Germany and high global demand as factors. A diesel model is also expected in the U.S. by the end of this year.

However many Macans do hit the road this year will help Porsche reach its goal of 50,000 sold in the U.S. annually three years ahead of schedule; 47,007 911s, Cayennes, Macans et al were sold in 2014.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Honda CR-V Touring http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-2015-honda-cr-v-touring/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-2015-honda-cr-v-touring/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 14:20:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988578 The Honda CR-V was America’s best-selling SUV in 2014, just as it was in six of the seven previous years. (We’re using the term “SUV” loosely here in order to avoid constant delineation.) CR-V volume increased to previously unseen levels in 2014. Honda reported 335,019 CR-V sales last year, 28,807 more than Ford managed with […]

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2015 Honda CR-V TouringThe Honda CR-V was America’s best-selling SUV in 2014, just as it was in six of the seven previous years. (We’re using the term “SUV” loosely here in order to avoid constant delineation.) CR-V volume increased to previously unseen levels in 2014. Honda reported 335,019 CR-V sales last year, 28,807 more than Ford managed with its second-best-selling Escape; 31,115 more than Honda achieved with the CR-V one year earlier.


• USD As-Tested Price: $33,775

• Horsepower: 185 @ 6400 rpm

• Torque: 181 @ 3900 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 23.8 mpg


American consumers look favourably upon Honda’s reliability reputation. The CR-V is also a long-established nameplate in a relatively fresh category. But there must be numerous other reasons for the CR-V’s wild success.

More specifically, there must have been numerous other reasons at the tail end of 2014, as a refreshed 2015 CR-V like the one Honda Canada sent to our driveway began to outsell not only all other SUVs with increasingly large margins but also all passenger cars, as well.

2015 Honda CR-V TouringClearly tens of thousands of consumers are willing to overlook the CR-V’s faults, few though there may be. The CR-V’s new continuously variable transmission, implemented surprisingly well alongside the a 185-horsepower 2.4L four-cylinder, periodically allows revs to fall so low that an unnecessary amount of vibration enters the cabin. This Touring-trim CR-V is the full meal deal, but it lacks any form of power adjustment for the passenger seat. The interior, particularly at this lofty USD $33,775 price tag, is mostly inoffensive but offers luxury only in terms of equipment, not in its materials or design flair. And the interior can certainly offend, with Lilliputian buttons accompanying a touchscreen which failed on all but one occasion to come to life before the five-minute mark of a morning drive. Speaking subjectively, the CR-V is not the prettiest girl next door – Paris’s Place de l’Étoile doesn’t have as many intersecting lines as the CR-V’s front end. We’re also left to wonder why Honda hires wheel designers whose efforts wouldn’t be good enough for Pontiac circa 2001.

However, the CR-V is near perfect where it counts. It’s less than 180 inches long but packs 101 cubic feet of completely usable passenger volume into the tidy package. Rear seat passengers enjoy a flat floor that makes three-across trips a distinct possibility. Rear seats up, the CR-V provides 37 cubic feet of cargo capacity. The Ford Escape is one inch shorter than the CR-V, bumper to bumper, but offers 8% less cargo volume, 3% less passenger space, and 4% less rear legroom. It feels like the dimensional differences are more distinguishable than those figures suggest, especially aft of the rear seat.

2015 Honda CR-V interiorFor young families who might have sought out an Accord in a previous era, the 2015 CR-V’s space efficiency, easily accessed seat-folding levers, low load floor, and semi-lofty ride height form a winning ticket.

Fortunately, it drives nicely, as well. There is nothing sporty here, although the steering is well weighted and the brake pedal is nicely modulated. The CR-V accelerates more swiftly than you might expect for a 3642-pound high-rider: Car & Driver says 0-60 mph takes 8.2 seconds. Especially as revs rise to a more Honda-like level, the CR-V doesn’t require more power, but don’t take that as an indication that the CR-V will adequately satisfy your urge to scoot up off-ramps like your fellow hockey parents in their Santa Fe Sport 2.0Ts and Forester XTs. It won’t.

The CR-V may not ride quite as sweetly for MY2015 as it did before the refresh, but overall refinement is still the name of its game. Of greater consequence is the fact that the 2015 CR-V continues to marry subdued ride quality to a nimble chassis. Honda engineers crafted an SUV that feels decidedly compact in routine driving and one which remains rather level-headed through corners, seemingly treading the middle ground between the mature Nissan Rogue and the enthusiastic Mazda CX-5.

2015 CR-V Tourings include most of the features from Honda’s storehouse: all-wheel-drive, navigation, LaneWatch (right side only, of course), keyless access, perforated leather seating, power tailgate, sunroof, and a bevy of safety abbreviations from ABS, EBD, and VSE to CMBS, ACC, LDW, and LKAS, the final being a semi-autonomous steering function that helps to reduce driver fatigue on long highway stints.

CR-V touchscreenCR-Vs start at $24,325 in LX trim. All-wheel-drive adds $1250 to the price of any equipment level: LX, the $26,425 EX, $29,025 EX-L, $30,525 EX-L Navi, or the $32,525 Touring. We averaged 23.8 mpg over the course of a week with the CR-V Touring AWD, which tips the scales with 145 extra pounds compared with the base all-wheel-drive CR-V. Cold temperatures, winter tires, frequent snow coverage, and a disproportionate amount of time spent in the city caused the CR-V’s observed fuel economy to come up short of both the official combined rating of 28 mpg and the 26 mpg city rating.

The CR-V is certainly not the most exciting small utility vehicle on the market today, nor is it the only one capable of cramming a shocking amount of humankind and stuff into a small space. But it does most things better than most of its potential competitors. There are a couple of niggling issues Honda could quickly resolve, but clearly no issues Honda needs to resolve in order to keep the CR-V at the top of the sales leaderboard.

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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A Last Look: 2014 Camry SE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/last-look-2014-camry-se/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/last-look-2014-camry-se/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 13:17:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988538 Any veteran of the Detroit Auto Show knows that you can find some pretty impressive metal in the hotels and parking lots surrounding the auto show. While a significant percentage of the media is flown to the show courtesy of GM, Ford, and a few other manufacturers, another nontrivial number of journos arrive in loaners […]

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MemphisCamry 006 (Medium)

Any veteran of the Detroit Auto Show knows that you can find some pretty impressive metal in the hotels and parking lots surrounding the auto show. While a significant percentage of the media is flown to the show courtesy of GM, Ford, and a few other manufacturers, another nontrivial number of journos arrive in loaners ranging from AWD 911 Targas to BMW X-somethings. Truth be told, however, I couldn’t even stir myself to be jealous of those freeloaders. After all, I’d won the rental car lottery and gotten something I prefer to even the most chrome-laden of winter press whips.

My fondness for Toyota’s semi-sporty take on the family car is well documented. After reading Tim Cain’s experience with a new-gen V6 XSE I’m very eager to get one of those on the racetrack and see if it can match up to my Accord V6. Of course, I’ve been a committed Accord-ian for a year now, enough that I was also eager to take one final spin in the old car to see if it matched up to my memory.

MemphisCamry 007 (Medium)

This 2014 model benefited from a revised infotainment system, with more #PixelsAndStuff than the last SE I drove. Other than that, it was the same car it’s been for a few years now. As with my previous car, the powertrain is the 2.5L I-4 putting 178 horsepower through a six-speed automatic. I was curious to see how the Camry would start and run in the well-below-freezing weather surrounding the show; the first night I had the car it was four degrees about zero and when I spilled a bit of soda on the Camry’s doorsill it froze solid before I could wipe it off. I needn’t have worried. Only a few rough shifts in the first few minutes betrayed the temperature, and the heater was actually working within four minutes of starting. I suppose that’s what happens when you have a bored-out block with extremely tight water jackets.

The 2013 revisions to the Accord put the Camry a bit behind in the surprise-and-delight segment. Honda’s LaneWatch in particular is simply brilliant and I prefer it to the warning light you get with anything else (including Acura’s TLX). With that said, the Toyota isn’t without its charms. I prefer the Camry’s steering wheel to anything Honda offers nowadays. The seats, too, are demonstrably more supportive and less fragile than what you get in an Accord Sport. On the other hand, Honda offers proper climate control at the same price that gets you two vague knobs in the Camry, and the price you pay for two center-stack displays in the Toyota gets you three in the Accord.

Not that you’re reading this review for an Asperger’s-approved price-corrected feature comparison. You can get that other places, or so I’m continually told by the Internet. What you want to know is how the Camry compares to the four-cylinder Accord dynamically, so you know which one to rent for your next flyaway trackday. Well, my friend, go ahead and ring that bell, because it’s Camry by a knockout in the middle of the first round.

Or the first corner of your third lap, anyway, which is about all it takes for you to realize that Honda has no idea how much thermal capacity a modern sedan needs to slow down repeatedly from speed. The Accord is horribly underbraked and that’s true no matter what variant you get because if you don’t plump for the V-6 you get even smaller brakes than the Flintstones-spec garbage on my coupe. On top of that, the Camry is more tossable, gives you more feedback through the wheel, and has an automatic transmission of proven non-breakable-ness for people who won’t shift their own sedans, which is pretty much everybody.

Had Toyota been kind enough to offer a six-speed in a V-6-powered Camry sedan, I’d have taken that in a heartbeat over the Accord even though 2014 was obviously this Camry’s swan song. Because they didn’t, the Accord pulled two effective units ahead in the retail sales race and now you are going to be subjected to my one-year Accord review in the next few weeks. It’s a damn shame because I’m not sure Toyota doesn’t have the better V-6. I’m almost certain they have a slightly better four.

MemphisCamry 010 (Medium)

During a 470-mile trip through Michigan’s frozen wasteland that included a fair amount of time spent at a pawnshop in addition to the usual dinners and parties, my Camry returned 31.3mpg. I did not spare any of the 178 horses. I fed it winter-blend 87 octane. More than once I let it idle outside my hotel for ten minutes or longer because I was lazy and I thought I’d combine the loading-up process with the warming-up process. Once, in a fit of age-and-injury-induced weakness, I started it up and immediately revved it to five grand for a whole minute so the heat would work.

You get the idea. I was pretty hard on this Camry, harder than perhaps I was entitled to be for thirty-seven dollars a day or whatever the rate was. Yet the fact remains that I’ve never rented a Camry that seemed terribly fazed by the abuse that I and others heaped upon it. No, it’s not the Lexus-in-all-but-name that the ’92 Camry was, but it’s also cheaper in real dollars and it doesn’t appear to be significantly less reliable. All the Camry has to be is be as good as the competition in empirical terms and close to them on the intangibles and it can win because it’s a proven quantity.

Yet the Camry hasn’t been winning lately, at least not with retail customers. Maybe it’s the new-car smell of the revised and upscale-looking Accord, maybe it’s the knowledge that there’s a new Camry on the way, maybe it’s the fact that Honda offers a stick-shift and a coupe and sometimes both together. Regardless, this is a worthwhile choice, both new and used.

Against the rest of the segment, the old Camry’s superiority is more clear-cut. Having recently rented a CVT Altima for some time on a Texas racetrack, I can attest that the Camry whips it six ways to Sunday: in power, handling, and brake effectiveness. The Malibu? Be serious. The Fusion? That’s a more expensive car for a different kind of buyer. The Mazda6? You can get it with a stick but it’s actually not as good on a racetrack as a Camry. (Unfortunately, I drove the Mazda for another outlet so I can’t give you all the details here, but suffice it to say that I’d take the Camry.) The Sonata and Optima? Not everybody’s ready to make the 100,000-mile bet on them even if the warranty runs that long.

With any luck, I’ll be able to check out the 2015 in the near future. I promise to get one on the track as soon as possible and take some scalps with it. In the meantime, the current car is more than good enough at the price, as a rental proposition, and an ownership one.

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De Nysschen: Small Cadillac CUV Due In Four Years’ Time http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/de-nysschen-small-cadillac-cuv-due-four-years-time/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/de-nysschen-small-cadillac-cuv-due-four-years-time/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 13:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988490 Ballers looking for a much smaller Cadillac Escalade may need to wait four years before such a beast arrives, per president Johan de Nysschen. Reuters reports the small crossover will be priced under the Escalade’s current $72,970 base price, and will be part of the brand’s overall $12 billion lineup expansion plan that will see […]

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Ballers looking for a much smaller Cadillac Escalade may need to wait four years before such a beast arrives, per president Johan de Nysschen.

Reuters reports the small crossover will be priced under the Escalade’s current $72,970 base price, and will be part of the brand’s overall $12 billion lineup expansion plan that will see eight vehicles introduced between now and the end of the decade.

Also coming in 2019: diesel-power for both cars and crossovers/SUVs. De Nysschen said he wants to start pushing for market share in Europe during the 2020s, explaining that “if you want to play in Europe, you better have some diesels.” Said diesels would also be sold in the U.S. market.

Meanwhile, he expects sales to remain flat for 2015, linked to the lack of new product beyond the upcoming CT6 flagship until late into 2017. De Nysschen adds that the strengthening U.S. dollar would leave a dent in his brand and those of his U.S.-based competitors, while Asian and European automakers use the currency challenge to cut prices on their respective offerings.

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Next-Gen Honda Accord Foregoing Takata Airbags http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/next-gen-honda-accord-foregoing-takata-airbags/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/next-gen-honda-accord-foregoing-takata-airbags/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 12:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988450 When the next-gen Honda Accord arrives in U.S. showrooms in August 2017, no Takata airbags will be used in the sedan’s safety system. Reuters reports the automaker has chosen competitor Toyoda Gosei to supply driver-side, knee and curtain airbags for the North American version of the Accord. Additionally, Toyoda Gosei will supply units for the […]

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2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-012

When the next-gen Honda Accord arrives in U.S. showrooms in August 2017, no Takata airbags will be used in the sedan’s safety system.

Reuters reports the automaker has chosen competitor Toyoda Gosei to supply driver-side, knee and curtain airbags for the North American version of the Accord. Additionally, Toyoda Gosei will supply units for the CR-V and Odyssey starting in 2016.

As for the airbags currently in play, Honda signed an agreement with another airbag competitor, Autoliv, to start production of replacement units for the 13 million-plus vehicles recalled by the automaker due to Takata-supplied airbags since 2008. Honda is also in discussions with Daicel Corporation for more replacement parts, as well.

The move toward Toyoda Gosei from Takata follows a request from General Motors for the supplier to share specs with both TRW Automotive and Autoliv in the event the automaker needs to replace airbags in its own vehicles. Over 21 million vehicles from 10 different manufacturers around the world have been recalled due to the potential for catastrophic failure of airbags made by Takata, resulting in five fatalities and several dozen injuries thus far.

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Carlypso: PHEVs To Reach 1 Percent Market Share In Q1 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/carlypso-phevs-reach-1-percent-market-share-q1-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/carlypso-phevs-reach-1-percent-market-share-q1-2015/#comments Mon, 26 Jan 2015 11:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=988434 By the end of Q1 2015, PHEVs are expected to take 1 percent of the overall U.S. domestic market despite fuel prices continuing their downward spiral. Online used-car resell agent Carlypso reports that while just over 50 percent of U.S. new-car sales are focused on light-duty pickups, falling fuel prices haven’t done much to boost […]

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2016-Chevrolet-Volt-2

By the end of Q1 2015, PHEVs are expected to take 1 percent of the overall U.S. domestic market despite fuel prices continuing their downward spiral.

Online used-car resell agent Carlypso reports that while just over 50 percent of U.S. new-car sales are focused on light-duty pickups, falling fuel prices haven’t done much to boost sales during the January 2013 – December 2014 period from whence the report collected its data, based on a sample of 16.3 million units.

The report also looked at over 28 million car sales in the same period, finding that PHEVs and EVs like the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt and BMW i3 made up 217,217 — or 0.86 percent — of said sales. In December 2014 alone, the Leaf, Volt, i3 and Tesla Model S collectively made up over 70 percent of U.S. PHEV/EV sales, despite the average price at the pump hitting $2.43/gallon that month; the current average is $2.05/gallon, down $1.23 from a year ago.

Carlypso co-founder Nicholas Hinrichsen says the findings show that consumers aren’t changing their behavior with the pump, opting to buy whatever they want as far as features and branding are concerned. He added that a vehicle’s value and demand isn’t going to change with the oil market either, advising consumers to let investors worry about how much West Texas Intermediate will go for per barrel.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Jeep Renegade http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-2015-jeep-renegade/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-2015-jeep-renegade/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 15:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=987530 When the Jeep Renegade made its official debut at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show, I initially described it as “… a Panda 4×4 dressed up in Carhartt jeans and Red Wing boots.” With a Fiat platform, powertrain and assembly plant, the Renegade isn’t the first CUV to come from the Fiat Chrysler braintrust – but […]

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IMG_9630

When the Jeep Renegade made its official debut at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show, I initially described it as “… a Panda 4×4 dressed up in Carhartt jeans and Red Wing boots.”

With a Fiat platform, powertrain and assembly plant, the Renegade isn’t the first CUV to come from the Fiat Chrysler braintrust – but represents the most ambitious attempt to create a global crossover suitable for all markets. And it’s also FCA’s best effort yet.

The Alfa Romeo – excuse, Compact U.S. Wide – platform underpinning the Jeep Cherokee ended up providing the mid-size Jeep with some sub-optimal packaging characteristics, namely inadequate rear seat space and a dearth of cargo room. While I happened to like the controversial styling, the Cherokee’s look polarized many observers. For the Renegade, Jeep has played it safe, with a slab-sided exterior that looks like a “super-deformed” version of a Wrangler Unlimited.

Although the Renegade’s footprint is about the same size as a Nissan Juke or Kia Soul (which FCA had on hand as competitive vehicles), the Renegade is far heavier. While the Juke weighs in on either side of 3,000 lbs depending on spec, the Renegade starts at 3,300 lbs, and can approach 3,500 lbs at its heftiest. And you feel every additional pound behind the wheel.

In a vacuum, it’s not such a bad thing. The extra el-bees lend a substantial feel to the car, which makes it feel like a more solid vehicle than a B-segment crossover that shares a common ancestor with the less-than-stellar Fiat 500L. Half of the drive route consisted of winding, Northern California backroads, which we tackled in a fairly simple 1.4T equipped Latitude FWD model. While the 6-speed Renegade is no speed demon, it felt as lively and responsive as a Nissan Juke – which is a pretty fun vehicle in its own right. The long, EPA-optimized gearing of the 6-speed box means constant shifting between second and third to keep the buzzy little 1.4 motor on the boil, but it only adds to the fun of whipping the boxy little Jeep through switchbacks. The clutch is easy enough to modulate and the shifter is decidedly mid-pack in the “transverse shift quality” sweepstakes.

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Driving the Renegade was such a hoot that I completely forgot to take pictures of the interior. The photo above, borrowed from Auto Express, shows what a well-equipped Renegade looks like on the inside. You will get a smaller version of UConnect, and Cherokee-like HVAC knobs and an electronic parking brake. Lower trim models get a more stripped down version of UConnect, with a less intricate display unit. Both of our demos had light fabric interiors which were quite handsome, especially when paired with the earth tone exterior colors. Avoid the black and heavier hues, lest you be mistaken for a Patriot owner.

The other half of the drive route was set up on an off-road course at California’s Hollister Hills State Vehicle Recreation Area. In addition to the 2.4L/9-speed Renegade, we also took out a Soul, a Juke, (both of which had been tested not long ago) and a Buick Encore. And holy hell does the Jeep feel like a porker. Despite handling the twisty roads with aplomb, the weight penalty over the competition (including the 3200 lb Encore) was immediately noticeable when getting out of the AWD 2.4L Renegade. Between the need for a diesel engine, a stout, Trail Rated 4×4 system, five-star crash test ratings on multiple continents and the appropriate “macho” looks, FCA engineers had to juggle numerous competing requirements that conceivably led to the Renegade weighing as much as 200 lbs more than a brand new Honda CR-V. Still it’s hard to wrap your head around such a porky figure for a B-segment CUV.

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While Jeep laid out two different off-road courses for us to test the Renegade Trailhawk on, it’s difficult to evaluate its prowess, namely because I’m a city kid who thinks that a gravel driveway calls for switching into 4WD. With a five-mode selector switch and a first-gear low range (ala the Cherokee Trailhawk), the automatic only Trailhawk version of the Renegade easily handled the rocks and whoops on the Jeep designed course. A more qualified off-road driver is a better source of impartial information. On road, the 9-speed seems to have become a smoother, more civilized gearbox than the frenetic iterations found in other FCA vehicles.

Starting at $17,995 for a bare bones Sport (and we’re talking A/C as an option), the Renegade slots in between the $16,995 Patriot and the $18,995 Compass, which are vastly outdated, less visually appealing both inside and out, and likely unable to match the Renegade’s off-road abilities. But they represent a greater hurdle for the Renegade, even more so than the Juke, the Soul or any of the upcoming compact CUVs from Honda, Mazda and Chevrolet. Just as the qualitatively inferior Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger torpedoed sales of the Dart, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where heavy incentives and a dealer body eager to move the older CUVs could push prospective buyers into a Patriot or Compass – especially if they want an automatic vehicle but don’t want to pony up for the 2.4/9-Speed versions. Assuming the two older vehicles are phased out (or replaced by a single model), volumes in the USA should rise from our initial estimates of between 60,000-70,000 units. FCA didn’t mention a number during their briefings, but that’s our best guess.

In any case, North America is hardly the most important market for the Renegade. China, India, Brazil, Russia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East…these are the locales where the Renegade must really make it happen for Jeep. The B-Segment CUV is the hottest segment in the world market, and the combination of Fiat diesel engines, Jeep styling and brand image and a global manufacturing base will help the Renegade achieve FCA’s long desired push to turn Jeep into a global SUV brand – and a premium one at that. Don’t bet against it.

 

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The Scion iQ Is Dead: Here’s Why http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/scion-iq-dead-heres/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/scion-iq-dead-heres/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 13:30:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=987898 Reports last week that the Scion iQ is not long for this world came just weeks after Toyota USA issued a sales release showing that iQ volume was chopped in half in 2014. One year earlier, Toyota’s sales report showed iQ sales falling 54% from 2012 levels. • iQ sales decline every month • Scion […]

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2014 Scion iQReports last week that the Scion iQ is not long for this world came just weeks after Toyota USA issued a sales release showing that iQ volume was chopped in half in 2014.

One year earlier, Toyota’s sales report showed iQ sales falling 54% from 2012 levels.


• iQ sales decline every month

• Scion sales down 66% from 2006 high


More specifically, U.S. sales of the iQ tumbled in each of the last 24 months. Only once, in December 2012, the iQ’s first opportunity at posting a year-over-year improvement, did it do so, surging 32% compared with its first month on the market.

But the iQ was slow from the start and didn’t possess the kind of initial appeal we often see even from cars which eventually become wildly unpopular. For example, Mercedes-Benz’s Smart Fortwo generated 24,622 in its first year on the market before posting three rapid sales declines, but the iQ’s first full year in America resulted in only 8879 sales.

After the iQ’s best month – March 2012, when 1285 were sold – sales progressively decreased in each of the five following months. As the theory goes, those who really wanted one already had one. And rather unfortunately, there weren’t many who wanted one.

By the fourth-quarter of 2014, the worst ever quarter for the iQ, only 288 copies left Scion showrooms, a 58% year-over-year decline and an 86% drop compared with the fourth-quarter of 2012. In mid-January, Cars.com’s inventory listings show only 186 iQs available.

TTAC Toyota Lexus Scion sales chart 2014The main issues which had a negative impact on the iQ included its size, its more spacious competition, its more spacious and more affordable competition, and perhaps even the logo above its front grille. “Physics are physics,” Scion’s Doug Murtha said, “and they’re nervous about driving a vehicle that size.”

Undoubtedly, yet other tiny cars prove capable of finding greater success. The Fiat 500 was on sale nine months before the iQ, for instance, and generated more sales activity in its first ten months than the iQ has done all-time.

The Chevrolet Spark arrived eight months after the iQ. GM sold 85,674 Sparks in the nameplate’s first 30 months, nearly nine times more than the number of iQs sold in the same period.

Toyota’s own Yaris steadily became more unpopular over the last six years, but it sold nearly six times more often than the iQ over the last two years.

Yes, those cars are larger, but this isn’t Europe. The fact that the iQ is small was not to its credit in the United States. Brilliant packaging doesn’t invariably equate with sufficient space, after all.

All four of the potentially competitive cars mentioned so far are either equally affordable or distinctly less expensive. There were other knocks against the iQ. Its continuously variable transmission is poorly calibrated, rear drum brakes seem particularly antiquated when a car is charging a dimensional deficiency premium, the rear seats exist but aren’t genuinely usable, there’s very little interior storage, and fuel economy simply isn’t that impressive. At an EPA highway-rated 37 mpg, the iQ trails many compact cars.

Worst of all, the iQ was brought to America as a Scion, a brand that’s suffering as interest in their all of their products is drying up rapidly. That’s an odd trait in the current American automotive scene. U.S. consumers registered more new vehicles in 2014 than at any time since 2006. Scion sales in 2014 fell to the third-lowest full-year total in the brand’s history, down 15% year-over-year; down 66% compared with 2006.

Would the iQ have been a hit if it was a Toyota? No. But would it have flopped this hard if they’d made it a Toyota instead? No.

The iQ was an experiment, but it certainly wasn’t a brand-saving day in the laboratory.

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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BMW, Volkswagen Team With ChargePoint For Bi-Coastal Network http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/bmw-volkswagen-team-chargepoint-bi-coastal-network/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/bmw-volkswagen-team-chargepoint-bi-coastal-network/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 13:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=987810 More charging stations are on the way for EV owners, thanks to a new partnership between BMW, Volkswagen and ChargePoint. The first phase of the partnership will be 100 DC fast chargers running north to south between Portland and San Diego on the West Coast, Boston and the District of Columbia on the East Coast. […]

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BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf DC Charging

More charging stations are on the way for EV owners, thanks to a new partnership between BMW, Volkswagen and ChargePoint.

The first phase of the partnership will be 100 DC fast chargers running north to south between Portland and San Diego on the West Coast, Boston and the District of Columbia on the East Coast. Each station will have up to two 50 kW DC Fast or 24 kW DC Combo Fast chargers for most EVs like the BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf, as well as Level 2 chargers for all EVs. Access to each location is granted by a ChargePoint or ChargeNow membership card.

The new stations will be in metro and intercity locations — such as restaurants, malls and rest stops — spaced up to 50 miles apart for long-distance travel, joining a network of over 20,000 ChargePoint stations throughout the United States. The first location is online now in San Diego County, Calif., with the other 99 expected by the end of 2015.

Express Charging.Infographic.300dpi

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