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. Fri, 01 Aug 2014 20:56:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 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/ Honda Dealerships Asked To Issue Waivers Over Defective Airbags http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/honda-dealerships-asked-issue-waivers-defective-airbags/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/honda-dealerships-asked-issue-waivers-defective-airbags/#comments Fri, 01 Aug 2014 10:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877626 Ever wonder what would happen if Dethklok decided to go into the automotive business, especially with the virtual band’s use of pain waivers as a legal means to protect themselves from whatever death and/or dismemberment would likely occur during a concert? Wonder no more: Honda is asking its dealers to ask their customers to sign […]

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Scholfield Honda Dealership

Ever wonder what would happen if Dethklok decided to go into the automotive business, especially with the virtual band’s use of pain waivers as a legal means to protect themselves from whatever death and/or dismemberment would likely occur during a concert?

Wonder no more: Honda is asking its dealers to ask their customers to sign a waiver acknowledging the used car they’re about to buy off the lot may have an Takata airbag that, in the event of a crash, could kill them upon deployment.

Automotive News reports the automaker’s Airbag Inflator Recall Disclosure and Acknowledgment waiver affects the following Honda and Acura vehicles:

  • 2001-2005 Accord V6
  • 2001-2007 Accord I4
  • 2002-2003 TL
  • 2002-2003 CL
  • 2002-2004 Odyssey
  • 2002-2006 CR-V
  • 2003-2006 MDX
  • 2003-2007 Pilot
  • 2003-2011 Element
  • 2005 RL
  • 2006 Ridgeline

Most dealers believe the waiver is a smart move by Honda, citing liability concerns. However, New Jersey lawyer Eric Chase says the waver could prove to be a problem for both parties:

If a dealer called me and said, “We’re talking about something that is under recall but we can’t repair it and it’s dangerous to the point we’d have to warn them about death,” I’d say, “You’ve got to do everything you legally can to make sure a consumer does not get behind that wheel.”

Meanwhile, a Honda representative said that once the automaker has gone through its VIN database and those of all 50 states’ DMVs to find and recall all vehicles affected by the Takata airbag crisis, dealers won’t need to issue the wavers come purchase time, instead using a VIN search to determine any potential problem with a given vehicle.

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Panasonic, Tesla Enter Into Gigafactory Agreement http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/panasonic-tesla-enter-gigafactory-agreement/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/panasonic-tesla-enter-gigafactory-agreement/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 20:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=877393 It’s official: Panasonic and Tesla have signed an agreement regarding their partnership involving the Gigafactory. In their joint press release, Tesla will be responsible for preparing, providing and managing the basics of the factory, while Panasonic will build and provide the cylindrical lithium-ion cells needed for Tesla’s battery packs, as well as any equipment Tesla […]

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Tesla Model S Test Drive At The Panasonic Center Tokyo

It’s official: Panasonic and Tesla have signed an agreement regarding their partnership involving the Gigafactory.

In their joint press release, Tesla will be responsible for preparing, providing and managing the basics of the factory, while Panasonic will build and provide the cylindrical lithium-ion cells needed for Tesla’s battery packs, as well as any equipment Tesla may need. Tesla will also continue to purchase cells from Panasonic’s factories in Japan to meet projected demand.

Tesla Chief Technical Officer J.B. Straubel said the Gigafactory “represents a fundamental change in the way large scale battery production can be realized,” especially when it comes to dramatically reducing the cost of energy storage “across a broad range of applications.” Panasonic Executive Vice President Yoshihiko Yamada added that the Gigafactory partnership would “accelerate the expansion of the electric vehicle market” once production of Panasonic batteries begin.

The Gigafactory is expected to produce 35 GWh of cells and 50 GWh of packs annually by 2020 for both electric vehicles and stationary applications, employing up to 6,500 to produce the batteries.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-2015-chevrolet-silverado-2500hd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-2015-chevrolet-silverado-2500hd/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:07:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873761 Time was, a pickup truck like this would have beat a man senseless. This heavy-duty Chevy can tow till your heart’s content. A big-rig underscore is provided by the 6.6 liter Duramax diesel and stout Allison 1000 transmission. Take off from a stop, and the variable-vane turbocharger goes “tweeeeeee” just like a mini Kenworth, and […]

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Time was, a pickup truck like this would have beat a man senseless.

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This heavy-duty Chevy can tow till your heart’s content. A big-rig underscore is provided by the 6.6 liter Duramax diesel and stout Allison 1000 transmission. Take off from a stop, and the variable-vane turbocharger goes “tweeeeeee” just like a mini Kenworth, and those vanes can also close down and act like an exhaust brake. With modern emissions controls, the diesel powertrain is clean, too. At least until some knucklehead makes it belch clouds of particulates.

This isn’t the only heavy-duty diesel pickup, everyone’s got one, but for now it’s the newest. Technology and engineering advances have given us 700 hp ponycars that are housecat tame and four-wheel-drive pickups with impressive press-release talking points.

  • 397 hp and 765 lb-ft of torque.
  • Allison 1000 6-speed automatic
  • 19,600 lbs towing capacity on the factory hitch
  • 23,200 lbs fifth-wheel capacity
  • 7,374 lbs maximum payload
  • Integral exhaust brake and trailer brake controller

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The Silverado 2500HD is a big slab of pickup. That’s no surprise, you expect a heavy-duty pickup truck to be rugged and capable; they always have been. The biggest surprise is how little it makes you pay for the ability to tow that 45-foot New Horizons Majestic you’ve had your eye on.

The Silverado HD will lighten your wallet efficiently. There it was on the sticker, a $60,000 bottom line. That’s not even fully-loaded, but a crew cab 2LT with some options including MyLink, navigation, and Bose audio. The four-wheel drive system is the kinder, gentler kind, actuated by electronic minions engaged by a knob on the dashboard. Refinement is also not new  to heavy-duty pickups, but the 2014 Silverado HD elevates the practice.

No matter how many phone calls I started with “hey, you know that car/trailer/scrap metal you need to move…?” I didn’t stand a chance of stressing the high payload or tow rating. The spray-in bedliner, soft-opening tailgate, hydroformed frame, factory tow hitch, front suspension made up of forged steel and cast iron control arms and all the other big-muscle details were forlorn and lonely. Instead, I basked in the way this truck serves as a refuge. Shut the door and the clamor of the jobsite is effectively sealed from the cabin. There is no transfer case lever protruding from the floor, the seats are ventilated and upholstered in perforated leather. An enormous center console with a row of USB ports and a 120-volt AC outlet sits in between the very comfortable power front buckets. The pedals power-adjust to meet you. A man could get used to this.

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Instead of pounding the kidney stones out of you, the ride is benign, even riding high on the jacked-up Z71 heavy-duty suspension. It’s a truck and you know it, but these things used to churn milk into butter. The easy way I could chew highway and achieve fuel economy around 20mpg has done nothing to blunt the dream of hauling some of Murilee’s highly-restorable Junkyard Finds back to the rust belt for fun and profit. Long miles pass beneath the Silverado 2500 HD without penalty. The 6.6 liter Duramax is strong, but feels laggy. You need to be firm with it if you need all the power, and the peak torque number trails the Ford and Ram offerings. The Allison transmission, on the other hand, is very smooth.

One area where the Silverado lets you down are the electronic extras. The audio system is slow to respond to the hard-to-find controls that are on the back of the steering wheel spokes. It’s a nice idea cribbed from Chrysler, but it’s not done as well here. It’s also a long reach to the tuning knob. The climate system has a bunch of small buttons with pictograms arrayed around the fan knob. It takes a second to figure out which one will give you what you want, and I have my doubts that it’ll be easy to operate with gloves. I also kept setting the alarm off when opening the door with the key. Weird.

It’s easy to get hung up on the facts and figures, or become offended by the idea of leather and navigation in a working truck, especially when the final tally pushes $60,000. There’s more configurability and choice in the truck market than anywhere else in all of autodom, and Chevrolet says the Silverado is the king of having it your way. You can configure this thing a zillion different ways, and the price drops to around $50,000 if you skip most of the options. Go for the gas engine instead of  the diesel and you’ll save over $7,000, putting you around $43,000 before the astounding incentives start. The Duramax is one expensive steroid, but have you seen the kinds of deals they’re making on anything with wheels lately?

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No wonder sales are juiced beyond belief. Get in on it now, before it totally collapses. If you do pull the trigger on a Silverado HD, you’ll get a brawny truck that can mix it up on the commute with surprising ease. You’ve got to take some care with the following distance and braking, but that’s because the Silverado 2500HD is so docile otherwise. It’s big, sure, but other than that, there’s little difference between driving a Malibu and this truck. That agreeable nature coupled with the quiet cabin and smoothed-over ride put the Silverado HD right in the middle of the field. A Ram 2500 Laramie with the 6.7 liter Cummins can be dressed up with an interior that feels more luxurious for around the same price. The Ford F250 Super Duty Lariat gets to diesel 4×4 with leather upholstery territory a few thousand dollars sooner, but it feels dated and cheap inside.

If all you want is a work truck from one of the leading brands, just throw a dart. They’ll all pull their guts out and get the job done. On the other hand, if you want something that straddles the line between burly mechanicals and baroque cabin luxury, the differences become more clear. On that measure, the Chevy is firmly in the middle of the road for the class.

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Classic Review: 1986 Pontiac Fiero GT V6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/classic-review-1986-pontiac-fiero-gt-v6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/classic-review-1986-pontiac-fiero-gt-v6/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:07:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876441 The Pontiac Fiero is one of those cars that is forever showing up on lists. A simple on-line search finds that it’s one of the 100 worst cars ever built, one of the ten cars that should be avoided by tall people, one of the worst ever Indy 500 Pace Cars and, because of its […]

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The Pontiac Fiero is one of those cars that is forever showing up on lists. A simple on-line search finds that it’s one of the 100 worst cars ever built, one of the ten cars that should be avoided by tall people, one of the worst ever Indy 500 Pace Cars and, because of its poor sales, one of the 10 greatest automotive financial disasters of all time. Other lists, however, rate the little two-seater as one of the best sports cars of the 1980s, call it one of the ten unexpectedly best cars for tall people and even rank it as one of the best choices for future collectability. Oddly enough, the Pontiac Fiero also appeared on my own personal list of potential purchases a few months ago and, despite the fact that I ended up choosing one of its contemporaries, when I recently found a wonderful, low-mileage example at KC Classic Autos in near-by Kansas city, I knew I must see it.

The history of the Pontic Fiero is an open book. Originally conceived as a two seat, mid-engine sports car with an advanced, all-new suspension and a powerful V6 engine, the Fiero was castrated prior to its birth by GM’s bean counters who worried that the proposed car might end up stealing sales numbers from the Corvette. As a result, the new car was toned down. The powerful V6 was replaced with GM’s 2.5 liter “Iron Duke” four-cylinder, a slow-revving long-stroke iron block engine intended for economy cars, and the advanced suspension was dropped in favor of a parts bin approach that used existing bits and pieces from economy cars like the Citation and Chevette. The result was rather lackluster and the media received it with mixed reactions. Motor Trend gave the Fiero a decent review in 1984 but other magazines felt that, as an aggressively styled mid-engine car, it needed to have more performance. Whatever the case, the public loved what they saw and bought almost 187,000 units in 1984.

For 1985 Pontiac addressed the critics’ need for more power by adding an optional 140 HP V6 to the line-up but sales dropped to around 74,000. In 1986, the – in my opinion – much better looking fastback Fiero GT was added beginning mid-year and sales climbed to almost 84,000 units. 1987 brought general improvements and more power to the four cylinder model but sales were definitely trending downward and only 45,851 cars left the showroom that year. In 1988, Pontiac introduced a more sophisticated suspension, based on the original design the bean counters had initially kept out of the car, and this model year is said to be the most desirable among collectors. But alas, only 26,402 were sold before Pontiac discontinued the model and today they are a might thin on the ground. All totaled, 370,168 Fieros of all types were sold over the course of five years.

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Like so many GM products before it, the Fiero is one of those cars that was killed just about the time its full potential was being realized. Initially the cars suffered from quality issues and design problems. The 1984 model year also experienced a number of well publicized fires and despite the fact that, according to Wikipedia, only 148 reports were made to the NHTSA detailing just six injuries, the Fiero, much like the Ford Pinto, has an enduring reputation for combustability. The truth is that within a couple years of the Fiero’s introduction, the car was well sorted and the 1986 model I was able to ride in is a great example of just how far the design had come.

I appeared unannounced at KC Classic Autos late in the afternoon and, after paying my $1 entrance fee to the “museum” and introducing myself, was given the run of the place. I have had the opportunity to visit a few classic car dealers over the years and this one stacks up rather well with a clean facility and plenty of interesting cars on hand that I could get up close and personal with. After spending far too much time looking at a stunning 1969 Nova SS and several other classic American muscle cars, I finally decided to ask if I could get a ride in the 1986 Fiero they had parked close to the front door. I had two reasons for choosing this particular car, first I hope to be invited back to ride in and report on more of the classic machines that were further back in the showroom and second, because I wanted to compare my little Shelby to the much better preserved Pontiac.

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I’ve already spent some time talking about my Dodge in other articles but it’s important to do so again so I can do a little comparing and contrasting. At 31 years old, the Shelby is a well presented little car that recently had a great deal of work done to it. Despite its lumpy idle and its slightly rich smelling exhaust, it runs like a top and moves out just fine when I get on the gas. Thanks to the work that has been done, on the outside it looks almost new, but the inside is another story and the car’s threadbare interior shows almost every one of its three decades plus one year of existence.

I’ll write more on it in detail in an upcoming article, but suffice to say that my little Dodge really is an old car. It buzzes, it rattles and it has strange smells, but at a time when this Pontiac was sitting safe and secure in a temperature controlled garage, the Shelby was out living its life, running errands, hauling kids and generally being enjoyed by its owner. Every scar, every tear and every rattle inside the car has a story that goes with it and although as a second owner I can never really know what happened, I can respect the fact that this car was a valued member of someone else’s family for many years. It has, I think, a real sense of having been used, enjoyed and loved.

At 28 years old, the 1986 Pontiac Fiero GT I saw yesterday is still very much a new car. With right around 20,500 miles on the clock, it still looks new inside. The carpets are unworn and the seats are still firm and flawless. The internal plastics have been unaffected by the sun and the gauge faces were are still as bright and clear as the day the car came off the line. The two-seater started instantly at the first turn of a key and burbled happily as it rolled out of the show room. It was simply stunning in the light of the afternoon sun.

Like I would do with any new car I am reviewing, I spent a lot of time circling the Fiero and looking for flaws. Although it’s used, I had no complaints about anything I saw. Panel gaps were good, the interior pieces fit together well. Of course the switchgear is clearly 1980s GM but it still looked modern and good in the car. Overall, I found it to be a pleasant, clean little Pontiac and I was eager for a chance to ride in it.

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Why this car would appear on a list of vehicles that should be avoided by tall people is a mystery to me. In the mid ‘80s, I am sure this low slung, high belted design would have felt like sitting in an old fashioned bath tub, but compared to modern muscle cars I found the Fiero roomy, easy to see out of and I had no problems getting my sizeable corn-fed All American ass into and out of the passenger seat. Although my driver, KC Classic’s president, Kim Eldred, took it a little easy on the first leg of our drive I thought the car picked up and ran along the city streets without problems. Unlike my Shelby, there were zero rattles or strange smells and it is simply so clean that my mind cannot comprehend the fact that this is an “old” car.

As we made our turn-around on an empty back street, Kim jumped on the gas and I got a chance to see just a little of what the V6 could do. Hampered by an automatic transmission, initial acceleration was sluggish in first gear but second gear, however, was downright surprising. As it made the shift, I felt myself pushed back into the seat with enough force to put a lasting smile on my face and, although the car was not blindingly fast, it was pleasantly snappy. Overall, it was a good ride.

In the weeks since my Shelby arrived I have had to take a good long look in the mirror. I remember the 1980s with some fondness, and in my mind’s eye the colors remain neon bright, the tunes fun and happy and the cars as solid, modern machines. The idea that they, like the man who looks back at me from across the bathroom sink, have gone soft over the years and are not capable of the things that they once did so easily makes me wonder if they ever could. Were the ‘80s, I ask myself, really the way I remember them or were they simply an illusion of youth? This Pontiac, so well preserved, has put those doubts to rest. The 1980s really were good times and I know now without a doubt that the cars, even one with such a mixed reputation as the Pontiac Fiero, really were capable of the things I remember.

If my purchase of the Shelby Charger was an attempt to regain a piece of my youth by marrying the prom queen that eluded me back in 1984 now that she is now the divorced grandmother of three, this Pontiac is a true piece of history recently removed suspended animation and put on sale for the relatively reasonable price of $12,900. All it needs now is a new owner to use it, enjoy it and to love it. You perhaps?

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My thanks to KC Classic Auto for allowing me to wander around their show room and for their willingness to take me out in one of their cars for this review.

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Honda Fit EV, Insight Discontinued http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/honda-fit-ev-insight-discontinued/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/honda-fit-ev-insight-discontinued/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 13:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876985 It’s official: the Honda Fit EV and Insight have been discontinued. Edmunds reports the Insight will cease production later this summer, while inventory will be available at dealerships through the end of 2014. Meanwhile, the Fit EV — of which 1,100 were ever going to be built for the United States market — will remain […]

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It’s official: the Honda Fit EV and Insight have been discontinued.

Edmunds reports the Insight will cease production later this summer, while inventory will be available at dealerships through the end of 2014. Meanwhile, the Fit EV — of which 1,100 were ever going to be built for the United States market — will remain in production until sometime this autumn, with Honda providing customer support through each vehicle’s lease period.

As for the future, representative Sage Marie said the automaker would focus on “a new generation of electromotive technologies,” such as the expanded use of its two-motor hybrid system found in both the Accord Hybrid and Accord Plug-In Hybrid. In addition, a decision will be announced regarding the FCX Clarity, especially with a successor — influenced by the FCEV from last year’s LA Auto Show — waiting in the wings.

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Marchionne: Alfa Romeo Still Not For Sale http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/jaguar-reveals-face-2016-xe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/jaguar-reveals-face-2016-xe/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 12:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876841 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne is open to forming new alliance with other automakers as far as cost-savings are concerned, but he maintains that Alfa Romeo is not for sale. Automotive News Europe reports Marchionne said as much during a conference call regarding Fiat’s Q2 2014 earnings, reaffirming the parent company’s commitment to Alfa […]

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne is open to forming new alliance with other automakers as far as cost-savings are concerned, but he maintains that Alfa Romeo is not for sale.

Automotive News Europe reports Marchionne said as much during a conference call regarding Fiat’s Q2 2014 earnings, reaffirming the parent company’s commitment to Alfa Romeo and proclaiming his company is not “in the business of brand-trading.”

Said commitment includes a €5 billion ($6.7 billion USD) investment to help the premium brand become a sought-after global brand of eight new models — underpinned by the upcoming Giorgio RWD/AWD platform — with annual sales of 400,000 by 2018, up from 74,000 in 2013.

As for alliances, Marchionne is open to the idea, though nothing is on the table as of this writing.

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Jaguar Reveals Face Of 2016 XE-S Ahead Of September Official Unveiling http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/jaguar-reveals-face-2016-xe-s-ahead-september-official-unveiling/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/jaguar-reveals-face-2016-xe-s-ahead-september-official-unveiling/#comments Thu, 31 Jul 2014 11:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876897 Behold the face of the 2016 Jaguar XE-S. Also: Scottish recording artist Emeli Sandé. Autoblog reports the sports sedan will be launched in early September through a sound + vision extravaganza called FEEL XE. Sandé will be kicking off the festivities in a secret location near the Thames, with influence from social media from now […]

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Behold the face of the 2016 Jaguar XE-S. Also: Scottish recording artist Emeli Sandé.

Autoblog reports the sports sedan will be launched in early September through a sound + vision extravaganza called FEEL XE. Sandé will be kicking off the festivities in a secret location near the Thames, with influence from social media from now until September 8 deciding the direction of the extravaganza. Fashion designer Stella McCartney and actor Idris Elba will also be a part of the promotion through separate projects.

As for the XE-S itself, it may possess under the bonnet either a turbocharged variant of the new Ingenium 2-liter four-cylinder engines, or the 3-liter supercharged V6 from the F-Type S. The XE range as a whole will feature aluminum throughout 75 percent of its architecture, and may be the most fuel-efficient Jaguar ever built to date once official numbers are revealed.

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Report: Nissan Scraps Small Truck Plans, Navara Now On For North America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/report-nissan-scraps-small-truck-plans-navara-now-north-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/report-nissan-scraps-small-truck-plans-navara-now-north-america/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 19:15:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876322 Our industry source who reported that Nissan would use an old version of the Frontier has reported back to us with some bittersweet news. The reported next-generation Frontier, which would have been based on the bones of the old, first-generation Frontier, has been abandoned. According to our source, bringing the old technology up to modern […]

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Our industry source who reported that Nissan would use an old version of the Frontier has reported back to us with some bittersweet news.

The reported next-generation Frontier, which would have been based on the bones of the old, first-generation Frontier, has been abandoned. According to our source, bringing the old technology up to modern crash standards was too onerous a task, and the costs were simply too high – even with using an already paid for architecture.

The big issue at hand is this: Nissan still wants to have a small, basic, fuel-efficient affordable truck, since they see it as an untapped niche. Their original thinking was that the D22 Frontier would let them get their in a cost-effective way (remember, small trucks are low-margin, difficult to price and carry significant regulatory burdens). But now that this option is off the table, Nissan is forced to use the all-new Navara as a starting point.

From a superficial perspective, that’s not such a bad thing. The Navara is a modern, global mid-size pickup that is a proven design and a sales success across the globe. The problem is that, as it sits now, it’s far too expensive for what Nissan USA is looking for. So, the North American truck will use the Navara architecture, due to its crashworthiness, and ability to fit a modern, diesel engine under the hood, but the tradeoff will be a fair amount of content will not make it across the ocean.

As with the now dead D22, Nissan Mexico will be responsible for engineering the truck to meet NAFTA standards. This “clean sheet” approach, if it can be called that, will cause further delays. The current Frontier will soldier on until 2018, when the new truck arrives. A diesel variant arrives a year later. The new truck will likely have a different look and stick to the original mandate of being akin to a modern-day Hardbody. But instead of actually being a a modern day Hardbody, it will be a revamped modern truck.

Nissan had planned to give North American truck buyers something truly unique, but it was not to be. We will be getting what is arguably the better, more modern option, but this new approach will just add more time, effort and expense to the program. The goal of a low-cost, fuel-efficient pickup is still in sight. Nissan will just be approaching it in a different way.

 

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European Review: Peugeot 208 GTi http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/european-review-peugeot-208-gti/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/european-review-peugeot-208-gti/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 14:05:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=875793   The Peugeot 205 GTI is one of the legends of hot hatch history. It took off where the original VW Golf GTI started, with sufficient space and practicality, lots of speed and a reasonable price. And it was even more fun to drive. With about 120 horsepower and weighing under a ton, it was […]

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The Peugeot 205 GTI is one of the legends of hot hatch history. It took off where the original VW Golf GTI started, with sufficient space and practicality, lots of speed and a reasonable price. And it was even more fun to drive. With about 120 horsepower and weighing under a ton, it was quite quick for 1980s, and its tail-happy attitude gave it the reputation of a challenging car to drive. Its fondness of going through the hedges backwards may helped its popularity – people like to think that they are better drivers than others, and driving a car notorious for unforgiving handling can thus be a great ego booster.

Now, after nearly three decades and a string of lackluster hot hatches in recent years, Peugeot wants to reignite the flame with the 208 GTi. It promises to be much more interesting and fun to drive than the fast versions of previous 206 and 207, but it also enters a market segment full of very competent rivals.

While the 205 was sleek and chic, the 208 is a bit fat and too complex in its design. But what modern car isn’t? Besides, the beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so you better just look at the pictures and decide for yourself.

The interior is a bit different matter. Here, the design is not just about beauty, but also about useability and ergonomics. We can ignore the mish-mash of shapes, colors and materials. It’s even not important that the nav screen looks like an afterthought (after all, the ones in modern Mercedes products are even worse). But there are a few things that need to be mentioned.

First, the steering wheel. I don’t know what’s wrong with the round ones, and this one is not only flat at the bottom, but is weirdly shaped overall. It’s strange to look at, and it’s awkward to hold – too thick, too small, too unevenly shaped. On the other hand, it’s good it’s so small, because with the strange placement of instrument cluster (very high up, like in cars with the mid-mounted instruments), the only way to get a good view of the instruments is to set it very low in your lap and look over it instead of through it. With the bigger wheel in the standard car, this must be a royal pain.

Second, there’s the gear knob. Much like with the steering wheel, someone probably tried too hard to make the driver feel like he’s driving an alien racing spaceship. Which may be the reason why gear knob looks like severed alien’s head. Made of metal. Which makes it rather unpleasant to hold under most circumstances, and almost impossible to hold when the car has been left in the sun.

But we’re not here to look around. We’re here to drive.

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First impressions: deep bucket seats are very good, with lots of comfort and lateral support. The controls are well placed, and most of all, very light. Only the gearshift has a whiff of mechanical clunkiness in it, but not too much – just enough for you to feel like you’re really driving a real machine.

The lightness of controls in a car like this may come as a bit of a surprise. Most hot hatches try quite hard to be as sporty as possible, with meaty steering and pedal feel, stiff suspension and intense sound. The 208 GTi does almost exact the opposite.

The first thing you notice is probably the sound, of lack of any. We know that the turbocharged 1.6 under the hood can sound pretty awesome – it’s the powerplant of choice for roaring, burbling and cracking, fire-spitting Mini Cooper S John Cooper Works after all. Even in Peugeot’s own RCZ, it at least sounds interesting from the inside, even though it’s more similar to a loud vacuum cleaner from the outside. But here, nothing. Just the vacuum cleaner. I think that has to be intentional, but we’ll get to that.

The next thing to notice is the lightness of the pedals. Here, it posses no problem at all for the sporting pretensions of the car. On the contrary, the light and quick-to-react accelerator makes heel’n’toe throttle blips incredibly easy. Just a touch of the gas pedal with the right edge of your shoe, and the revs shoot up.

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It’s when you reach the first corner at speed when you notice the biggest problem: the steering. While its lightness is totally in keeping with the lack of any sporty sound and featherlight pedal action, it may actually be the single biggest flaw of this vehicle. While the lightness itself wouldn’t pose a huge problem, the total and utter lack of feel does. Judging by the steering wheel reactions, you have no idea whether you have plenty of grip left, or whether your front wheels are ploughing out of the corner.

But this wouldn’t be such a great problem, if it weren’t for the GTi’s chassis balance. Like many other modern hot hatches, the 208 GTi makes full use of the fact that the mandatory ESP can correct the inherent unstable behaviour, and is set to be quite a bit tail-happy in the corners. It is a bit like the jet fighters are set up in a way that they wouldn’t even fly without a computer.

This is, by the way, one of the biggest things the electronic nannies brought to the “driving enthusiasts’” world – car makers are now not afraid of building a fun to drive, oversteery car, which would, had it not been for the ESP, make it all too easy for drivers to kill themselves, bringing negative press and expensive lawsuits along the way. As it is, you can turn the ESP off and have fun, and if you crash (like I did, with the Focus ST), it’s totally your fault for being stupid.

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In this case, though, the playfulness of the 208′s tiny French ass is a bit of a problem. With the absent steering feel, you constantly worry that you overshoot the steering input, sending your car ass-backwards into the ditch. And while this scenario will most likely never happen (I only managed to send the car into oversteer with especially harsh treatment on slightly wet track), it is enough to discourage you from exploring the car’s limits, or even going anywhere near them, on public road.

Is it a bad hot hatch, then? Not at all. While the 208 GTi is not a hardcore tiny sportscar like hot Mini Coopers or the previous generation Clio RS, it offers other things. It’s still mighty fast, but it also offers surprising ride quality. It resembles the old Peugeots of 1990s, like 306 or 406, with their fluid, stable, but not stiff suspensions. And with the ride quality and quite comfy seats added to the mix, the whole car starts to make sense.

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While most hot hatches chase after the “hardcore sportscar” ideal, with loud exhausts, beefy controls and harsh suspensions, the 208 GTi puts emphasis on the first two letters in its name. For those who need one practical car for little cash, this is a “poor man’s GT”. It can cover ground at a great rate of speed – in fact, I think it is as fast a car as you may ever need. It is quite comfortable and if need be, it can transport four adults. And it can even offer a bit of a driving fun from time to time, although not as much as the best competitors in its class.

I would call it an “adult’s hot hatch”. And it’s up to its potential buyers to decide whether that’s a good or bad thing.

@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic, who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, www.Autickar.cz and serves as editor-in-chief at www.USmotors.cz. After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives a borrowed Lincoln Town Car. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

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Versatile 2015 Mercedes Vito Van Puts Power To Front, Rear Or All http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/versatile-2015-mercedes-vito-van-puts-power-to-front-rear-or-all/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/versatile-2015-mercedes-vito-van-puts-power-to-front-rear-or-all/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876185 If you run a very large flower shop somewhere in Europe, and are in need of a van that could be configured to your needs — including where the power from the engine will go — Mercedes has a van just for you. Jalopnik subsidiary Truck Yeah! reports the 2015 Vito — part of Mercedes’ […]

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Der neue Vito / The New Vito

If you run a very large flower shop somewhere in Europe, and are in need of a van that could be configured to your needs — including where the power from the engine will go — Mercedes has a van just for you.

Jalopnik subsidiary Truck Yeah! reports the 2015 Vito — part of Mercedes’ V-Class — can be had with RWD and AWD — like the V-Class — as well as optional FWD. The previous Vito had FWD for only the EV variant, while the new one puts diesel power to the front of the line alongside the rest of the family.

Autoblog adds said power comes turbocharged through four-pots ranging from 1.6 liters to 2.1 liters, with anywhere from 136 to 190 horsepower pushed to wherever it’s meant to go through either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic.

Der neue Vito / The New Vito Der neue Vito / The New Vito Der neue Vito / The New Vito Der neue Vito / The New Vito

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NLRB: Mercedes Violated Labor Act In Alabama Facility http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/nlrb-mercedes-violated-labor-act-in-alabama-facility/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/nlrb-mercedes-violated-labor-act-in-alabama-facility/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 12:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=876081 The National Labor Relations Board ruled this week that the U.S. branch of Mercedes-Benz violated the right to organize among its employees at the automaker’s Vance, Ala. plant by prohibiting the distribution of union literature in common areas outside working hours. Automotive News reports Judge Keltner Locke found for the plaintiffs on one complaint out […]

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MBUSI Mercedes-Benz Alabama

The National Labor Relations Board ruled this week that the U.S. branch of Mercedes-Benz violated the right to organize among its employees at the automaker’s Vance, Ala. plant by prohibiting the distribution of union literature in common areas outside working hours.

Automotive News reports Judge Keltner Locke found for the plaintiffs on one complaint out of a number of complaints made against MBUSI regarding its violation of the National Labor Relations Act. In his decision, Judge Locke determined the areas where the subsidiary considered off-limits to dissemination were mixed-use areas — and thus, areas where material could be distributed freely — and that by “maintaining a solicitation and distribution rule which employees reasonably could understand to prohibit all solicitation in work areas,” MBUSI was in violation of the act.

Though no penalties were levied in the decision, the ruling ordered MBUSI to amend its rule so that off-the-clock employees may solicit other such employees. Mercedes stated that while they were pleased with most of Judge Locke’s ruling, citing his affirmation of its neutrality with regard to its employees, they disagreed with some aspects and were “evaluating next steps.”

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GM: Colorado, Canyon Aimed At Small Crossover, Pickup Shoppers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/gm-colorado-canyon-aimed-at-small-crossover-pickup-shoppers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/gm-colorado-canyon-aimed-at-small-crossover-pickup-shoppers/#comments Wed, 30 Jul 2014 10:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874897 General Motors’ upcoming midsize truck twins — the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon — look to do more than attract those seeking a smaller pickup by also seeking out small crossover consumers. Autoblog reports GM wants to go after crossover shoppers for their new pickups, going as far as to bring a Ford Escape for […]

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General Motors’ upcoming midsize truck twins — the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon — look to do more than attract those seeking a smaller pickup by also seeking out small crossover consumers.

Autoblog reports GM wants to go after crossover shoppers for their new pickups, going as far as to bring a Ford Escape for a competitive test drive at the automaker’s Milford, Mich. facility during the twins’ media day.

On paper, GM believes the interior quality and exterior styling will be the main draws for those looking at Escapes, CR-Vs and RAV4s. The pickups’ power and utility could also help sway those buyers, along with pricing similar to those on the windows of small crossovers. Mileage, on the other hand, may be less than what said consumers prefer, especially when the aforementioned trio delivers a combined 26 mpg.

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Review: 2015 Chevrolet Malibu Eco LS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-chevrolet-malibu-eco-ls/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-chevrolet-malibu-eco-ls/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 15:45:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=875249 Exterior photography by Rachel Gibbs What did the American people get for the fifty billion dollars they spent and the eleven billion they lost on the General Motors bailout? Well, they got stability, they got the retention of perhaps a million jobs, they avoided what might have been a last straw in what a posterity […]

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Exterior photography by Rachel Gibbs

What did the American people get for the fifty billion dollars they spent and the eleven billion they lost on the General Motors bailout? Well, they got stability, they got the retention of perhaps a million jobs, they avoided what might have been a last straw in what a posterity unblinded by the contemporaneous media’s Obama-as-messiah drumbeat will recognize as the greatest depression since the Great one, and they got the C7 Corvette.

All good things, if you ask me.

But they also got garbage like this.

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I thought the original Malibu was pretty okay. Its replacement, I felt, was worse, but I held out the possibility that a round of 2014-model-year changes might improve the situation somewhat. It has to be said that General Motors did a good job of getting its tame mouthpieces to spread the word about the “new” Eco drivetrain being just as efficient as the old-for-2013 edition despite the fact that it loses eAssist in favor of a simple stop-start system. For that reason I thought that perhaps the 2014 Malibu wouldn’t be a disaster.

Well, here’s the good news up front, for what it’s worth: I couldn’t get the 2013 Malibu LTZ four-cylinder to exceed 27mpg average. The 2015 Malibu Eco LS that I drove from Columbus to Evansville, IN and back did this:

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over this distance:

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That’s approximately what I saw in a 2014 Accord EX-L CVT. It’s not a surprise that General Motors, a company which has focused on the raw numbers when measuring competitiveness to a sometimes embarrassing extent, (cf.: the ads for the Pontiac 6000 where they compared it with the BMW 533i) has managed to come within striking distance of Honda’s four-cylinder fuel economy. It’s also not a surprise that the experience of operating the Malibu powertrain is, subjectively speaking, monstrously unpleasant in contrast to the Accord setup.

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On the move, the Malibu is spectacularly gutless, digging deep into the transmission with a herk and a jerk for the mildest grades. The Accord four is a rocketship compared to this. I’m not going to say it’s dangerously slow because it isn’t. However, we’ve come to take a certain amount of, shall we say, adjustability via the throttle in a modern car. As in: “If this merge is dicey I can jam the throttle and just get in front of this truck.” In the Malibu, you won’t have that adjustability. You’d better plan ahead. Not like you would in a 240D, but like you would in a three-liter Taurus from 1995. If your current car is an old four-cylinder Malibu, you’re unlikely to have any complaints. If it’s a four-cylinder Camry of recent vintage, you’re going to be unpleasantly surprised.

Everyone else will be unpleasantly surprised by the unbelievably cack-handed stop-start. Whatever nonsense you thought about stop-start when you first heard about in reference to the Insight or Prius or AMG E63 wagon or whatever — it isn’t reliable, it takes a bit of time to start, it’s noisy, it sounds like you’re wearing the car out — is actually true in the case of the Malibu Eco.

Most of the time, coming to a halt in the ‘Bu will cause the engine to fall dead and the tach needle to fall to “auto stop”. So far so good and other than a discernible drop in the efficacy of the A/C there’s not much about which you could complain. Release the brakes and the engine immediately spins up and delivers power, and off you go.

No, wait.

That’s how it works in other cars.

In the Malibu it goes WHIRRRRRRRRRRRREEEEEEAAARRRRRRRRGH and the engine reluctantly coughs into life like a freakin’ 1982 Citation Iron Duke and the car briefly shudders with the violence of it and THEN the car moves forward. It’s easily the least confidence-inspiring powertrain I’ve experienced in a post-Millennium automobile. In what should be perfect weather for this sort of system — eighty degrees and sunny — I had genuine concerns that the Malibu just wouldn’t come back to life at a given stop. Performing left turns across traffic and whatnot were made frightening, so I developed the “Malibu Pokey”:

You put your right foot in
You take your right foot out
It makes the stop-start start up
and run the engine
That’s what it’s all about!

As satisfying as the Malibu Pokey was while driving around downtown Louisville, I resigned myself to the fact that I couldn’t do it very often because it wouldn’t let the Chevrolet post its best possible fuel economy. Left turns became exciting again.

The removal of the eAssist from the Malibu Eco was supposed to give us the trunk back, but if that’s the case I’d hate to see what it was like before. This has to be the smallest trunk in a mid-sized car by some amount; it’s significantly less useful than the cargo area in my Accord Coupe and the Altima I drove immediately after this Malibu shamed it in that regard. A normal-sized guitar hard case fits very awkwardly in this Malibu, to the point that I gave up and started putting everything in the back seat. I was willing to accept the old Malibu’s restricted storage room because I dug the minimalist aesthetic of the whole car, but this thing is to its predecessor like a ’77 Colonnade Monte Carlo is to a ’68 Chevelle, styling-wise. GM Design pulled out all the Malaise stops on this indifferently flame-surfaced disaster and the result is an odd combination of a Silverado, a Camaro, and a Pinewood Derby car. It literally couldn’t have any more front end on it, likely because GM wanted it to share “design DNA” with the trucks, and therefore it tapers to the back like one of those nightmare lantern-jaw fish of the unfathomable deep.

Things don’t improve once you get inside, particularly at night, where the trademark “GM Aqua LCD” color is extended to some, ahem, mood lighting. The General’s managed to do something unprecedented in human history: they’ve managed to make a color feel cheap. After well over two decades of indifferently-backlit aqua-esque instrument panels in cars that committed sins from subterranean resale value all the way to attempted-murder-via-ignition-switch-was-the-case-that-they-gave-me, the use of this color should require a “trigger warning” on the door jamb.

The seats are uncomfortable, the steering’s dead, the brakes are touchy, and everything you touch in this LS variant has the mark of cost-cutting Cain all over it.

In other words, this heavily-revised Malibu is significantly less pleasant to operate than an old Cruze. I cannot imagine than anybody would test-drive this and Ye Olde Daewoo Laecetti back-to-back and pick this. I cannot imagine that anybody would test-drive this and an Altima, Camry, or Accord back-to-back and pick this. I have no idea why anybody would buy this car. As tested, it’s $23,165. For that money you can get any number of decent cars, including a Cruze 2LT. If you can wait a few months, you can get the revised Cruze, even. Or you could take advantage of whatever incentives can be had now and you can buy a Cruze LTZ. There is no way in which a Cruze LTZ is not preferable to this Malibu.

That’s disappointing as hell because the Cruze is a Daewoo, excuse me, GM Korea, and the Malibu is a product of the home team and it’s a half-decade newer. We should be able to do better. We can do better. Go try out a C7 Corvette. It’s brilliant in ways I can’t describe without sounding like Dan Neil desperately firing the third spasm of the day into his battered thesaurus. Go check out a Cadillac ATS. The interior’s cramped and sucky but they’ve completely cracked the handling code. Take a look at a current Tahoe; it’s the finest, fastest, most spacious station wagon in history.

It isn’t that GM can’t make good product. It’s that sometimes they don’t try. So in the case of the Malibu, you shouldn’t bother.
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BMW Unveils $6,500 Suitcase-Size EV Charger http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/bmw-unveils-6500-suitcase-size-ev-charger/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/bmw-unveils-6500-suitcase-size-ev-charger/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 11:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874913 Owners of BMWs i Series vehicles may soon have more places to charge their vehicles, all thanks to the automaker’s new, less-expensive, suitcase-sized charger. Automotive News reports the 100-pound, 24-kilowatt chargers, made by Bosch Automotive Service Solutions, will be available to companies who partner with BMW for the low price of $6,500, and can recharge […]

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Owners of BMWs i Series vehicles may soon have more places to charge their vehicles, all thanks to the automaker’s new, less-expensive, suitcase-sized charger.

Automotive News reports the 100-pound, 24-kilowatt chargers, made by Bosch Automotive Service Solutions, will be available to companies who partner with BMW for the low price of $6,500, and can recharge other EVs from other automakers like General Motors, Volkswagen and Ford.

According to BMW of North America EV infrastructure manager Robert Healey, BMW hopes that by making its new charger available at a discount, the companies who sign on would help the automaker establish a nationwide network similar to Tesla’s exclusive Supercharger network:

Our focus is on getting as many DC fast chargers out there as possible, but the cost has been a hindrance. We want to remove every perceived barrier for our potential customers. We want to ensure that customers see these chargers.

The first of the new chargers will go online at BMW dealerships in August, with more to come as third-party companies begin to partner with BMW.

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Panasonic, Tesla Enter Into Production Equipment Agreement http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/panasonic-tesla-enter-into-production-equipment-agreement/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/panasonic-tesla-enter-into-production-equipment-agreement/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 10:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874865 It’s almost official: Panasonic and Tesla will enter into a basic agreement where the former will supply the latter with battery-production machines for the automaker’s up-and-coming Gigafactory. Reuters reports the deal — which will be officially announced by the end of this month — comes with a price tag of ¥20 billion – ¥30 billion […]

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Tesla Model S Test Drive At The Panasonic Center Tokyo

It’s almost official: Panasonic and Tesla will enter into a basic agreement where the former will supply the latter with battery-production machines for the automaker’s up-and-coming Gigafactory.

Reuters reports the deal — which will be officially announced by the end of this month — comes with a price tag of ¥20 billion – ¥30 billion ($196.4 million – $294.7 million USD) paid to Tesla by Panasonic.

The battery maker, which wants to be the sole entity under the roof of the as-yet-to-be-located factory, will invest $1 billion overall into the ambitious project, estimated to cost $5 billion in total investment.

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Reader Review: 2010 Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagen http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/reader-review-2010-volkswagen-jetta-sportwagen/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/reader-review-2010-volkswagen-jetta-sportwagen/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 15:51:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874393 Reader Phil Brown shares his experiences with his Jetta Wagon Volkswagen still has the temerity to sell a compact station wagon in an American market scarfing up CUVs, and bless them for it. I should have been in the heart of the CUV market when looking for a new vehicle in 2010, but I ended […]

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Reader Phil Brown shares his experiences with his Jetta Wagon

Volkswagen still has the temerity to sell a compact station wagon in an American market scarfing up CUVs, and bless them for it. I should have been in the heart of the CUV market when looking for a new vehicle in 2010, but I ended up in a MkVI Jetta Sportwagen. It isn’t brown and it doesn’t burn diesel, but after four years and 51K miles of ownership I can understand some of the fervor of wagon fans here on TTAC. There is just something so fundamentally sound and good about the way this car drives, the way it goes down the road, and the surprising utility it offers. With the recent ascension of the Volkswagen Golf to the MQB platform and the 1.8TSI engine on North American shores, I thought it would be an appropriate time to share my longer-term ownership experience of the outgoing platform.

The VW replaced a second-hand 1996 “champagne” beige Camry (how appropriate, for what better title could you give a 1996 Camry than the Champagne of Beiges?) which I had owned for 8 responsible years. Despite being the crème de la crème of 1990s sedans and exhibiting a build quality rarely seen in a Toyota showroom since, it was completely lifeless from behind the wheel and falling badly behind on safety features. Kids were coming. ABS, side airbags, and LATCH anchors were suddenly a priority, and I wanted at least a whiff of driver involvement. Time in a Focus ZX5 and the joker-faced Mazda 3 had opened my eyes to affordable driving enjoyment, and I wanted some of that in a package that could haul a couple of kids and their accompanying detritus.

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Turns out that was a lot to ask from a $21K budget when a hatchback/wagon body style was mandatory. Lightly used CUVs were ruled out after realizing they were as dull as the Camry despite acing the functional criteria. It’s hard to swallow 4 years of payments on a used vehicle when you don’t actually like it. Every other hatchback or wagon had a fatal flaw, whether too small in the cargo area (xB & Soul), too small in the backseat (Mazda3), or too cheap and nasty to warrant the asking price (Matrix). The Jetta Sportwagen was about the only offering left, and poking around one at an auto show left a really good impression. Subsequent test drives only improved on that.

I never thought I’d walk into a VW dealership after seeing the pages of Consumer Reports splattered like a crime scene with black dots from the infamous Mk IV days, but once those Mk Vs landed in 2005 the dots turned to white and red. So I put aside brand bias and worked with a very professional and low-pressure sales manager to order a base S model with the 5 cylinder engine and 5 speed manual from the factory. Five weeks later, the Mexican-assembled wagon arrived wrapped in bug-splattered plastic.

Most will openly wonder why on God’s Green Earth one would special order a gas Sportwagen instead of picking a TDI already on the lot. The answer is $4500, the price difference between the cheapest TDI with its obligatory bundled options and an already well-equipped base 2.5S. Being trendy and undersupplied, TDI Sportwagen inventories were low in my area that year and the dealers weren’t about to budge a nickel on them. I wasn’t seeing $4500 worth of value there, but time will tell if the higher depreciation and fuel costs wash out the initial price savings.

Regardless of engine choice, this car treats both the driver and passengers well. It provides some feedback and involvement without beating up or cramping passengers, and provides class-atypical levels comfort and refinement without completely anesthetizing the driving experience. The suspension and structure absorb broken pavement, potholes, and jarring ripples with poise and composure that no Civic or Elantra can manage, yet the handling is still responsive. The steering provides respectable feel and precision at speed, with no center dead zone and none of the tiring dartiness some quick ratio systems provide. The driving position is excellent and seat comfort is superb. It is hushed, stable and confident on the highway and just eats up miles for hours on end without fatiguing you. I’m six feet tall and can still find a good driving position with twin rear-facing toddler seats behind me, although anyone taller will have trouble. An SUV’s worth of cargo capacity resides behind the backseat so I can haul both kids and gear. Without the family aboard, I can turn off the traction control and dump-n-ride the clutch to shriek the tires across half an intersection if I’m feeling like an abusive imbecile. That is a smile you cannot get from a CR-V.

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The interior of this generation of Golf/Jetta received unanimous praise in the media, and it is well-deserved because the materials quality is closer to an entry-level luxury car than a $20K compact. Happy little details are hidden everywhere, from the glovebox lined in faux felt to the brilliant tilt-and-telescope center armrest to the standard heated seats to the real metal door pulls that release the latch with such a satisfying feel and sound. The speedometer is absolute genius, marked in 10 mph increments until 80 and in 20 mph increments beyond, so you can have your stupid obligatory 160 mph speedometer and not sacrifice legibility in the 0-80 mph range. The interior shows no wear on the touch points, so whatever shoddy craftsmanship plagued the MkIV interiors is not present here.

The interior and solid structure can perhaps be cheerfully compared to Audi, but several things remind you this car was built to a low price. The HVAC fan roars like a tornado and the air conditioning is a bit tepid. There is no modern infotainment technology to speak of. No trip computer. No Bluetooth. No USB integration. You get AUX and a CD slot with a stereo head unit that is laughably basic even if the sound that it routes through the eight speakers isn’t bad. My biggest complaint involves the brakes, which are mushy and require a surprisingly good stomp to extract all of the mediocre performance despite being four-wheel disc. The unparalleled bitching about the 2011 Jetta’s rear drums was amusing considering it stops in a shorter distance than my car.

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The engine won’t fool an Audi owner either, but for $20K why should it? VW’s 2.5 liter 5 cylinder is controversial, I believe it deserves a final defense. The 5 cylinder was never going to engender anything but irritation from journalists narrowly focused on acceleration stats or how vigorously the needle swings to redline. Well, ignore their regurgitated groupthink because this is an affordable workhorse that is more relaxed and well-suited to everyday driving than most C-segment engines it competed with. The oft-quoted torque peak occurs above 4000 rpm, but 90% of that is available at 2000 rpm, so it pulls better at those engine speeds than a GLI with its sleeping turbo. Going for a hole in traffic doesn’t usually require a downshift. You can move out nicely in 3rd gear at 30mph and that gives you an advantage against a lot of other average cars that need to wake up and downshift before they can provide much thrust. In Everyday Car and Driver Land, this is more important than a 0-60 sprint.

If those sprints still interest you, the tires will chirp going into second but the engine doesn’t really rev eagerly and feels pretty much done by 5000 rpm. Expect an automatic Sonata to keep pace with you. Expect the GLI to flatten you. You’re just not going to win many stoplight races. Rest in peace anyway, noble 5-cylinder. You were a decent effort considering VW has approximately zero interest in normally aspirated engines.

I find the notorious fuel economy of this engine to be…adequate, but getting less so each year, as the industry extracts more power from the same amount of fuel. I get 28-34 mpg on the highway depending on whatever. It’s a 3200 pound car with 170hp so I wasn’t expecting 40 mpg, but cars of this weight and power should be getting 10-15% better. A section of the brain fixates on that, even if it doesn’t really dent the pocketbook.

I suppose we need to discuss reliability. No VW review is complete without stories of hellacious repair records, preferably of experiences 10, 20, or 30 years ago extrapolated far beyond the proper scope of inference to every VW model and powertrain produced today. Look, either you believe data collected by Consumer Reports and TrueDelta or you don’t. Those sources show the MkV Golf/Jetta far outperforming the MkIV and achieving parity or better with the rest of the industry, particularly for 5-cylinder cars. This is my personal experience: in 51K miles I’ve had one repair stop, a faulty ignition coil at 15K miles that didn’t leave me stranded or make me late to anything. The rear seat ski pass-through likes to jam as well and I have had that addressed 3 times during oil changes. Apparently it is a model-wide design flaw, but it’s not as if the window is dropping into the door. Otherwise, the car has been flawless. I don’t expect an easy 200K, but if I can run it for 10 years and 150K miles without headache you won’t ever see me criticizing this model’s reliability on the comment boards. Bulletproof reliability beyond 200K is something for the second owner to worry about, as the Camry taught me that 15 years of perfect operation is a critical asset only if you want to keep the car for 15 years.

I’ll probably pay for that reliability gap when I try to sell this thing in a world where used Civics fetch such high prices, and I’m fairly certain the manual transmission will be a resale hurdle as well. That’s OK. The modest gain in resale at the tail end of the depreciation curve is not worth driving a car I do not enjoy for a full decade. Volkswagen converted a skeptic here, and should this wagon not implode on me in the next 100K miles and render me an embittered hater of all budget German metal, I may just move into a GTI.

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Lexus GX Sales Double, Profits Pile Up http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/lexus-gx-sales-double-profits-pile-up/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/lexus-gx-sales-double-profits-pile-up/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 14:53:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874489 The Lexus GX seems to truck along in the American marketplace with little fanfare. Aside from a brief rollover scare, the GX’s most notable achievement appears to be as the ride of choice for family members of Lexus dealer principals and Central Asian warlords. But Ward’s Auto reports that a bit of magic by Lexus product […]

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The Lexus GX seems to truck along in the American marketplace with little fanfare. Aside from a brief rollover scare, the GX’s most notable achievement appears to be as the ride of choice for family members of Lexus dealer principals and Central Asian warlords. But Ward’s Auto reports that a bit of magic by Lexus product planners has helped double sales in just over a year.

According to Ward’s

Adding a lower-priced base grade for the GX’s ’14 refresh, by substituting fake leather for real leather and deleting some content, was key to this year’s sales jump, putting the SUV’s starting price on par with 3-row midsize CUVs.

Keep in mind that this is an SUV that starts at a hair under $50,000 – and only 20 percent of buyers are even opting for the base model. Most customers go for the $53,795 GX Premium, which ostensibly offers real leather and other stuff that one would expect on a pricey SUV.

Brian Smith, VP of Marketing for Lexus, told Ward’s that

“I think there’s a need for towing capability, without having to go all the way to a (fullsize) LX…So we’re doing everything we can to continue to keep Toyota focused on the need for GX.”

Sure, there is a need for towing capacity with these vehicles, but there’s another, unspoken reason why Lexus keeps the GX around: profit. The GX is based on the Toyota Land Cruiser Prado, a body-on-frame SUV related to the Toyota 4Runner, and sold in world markets as a family vehicle.

Taking an inexpensive vehicle that has had most of its costs amortized already (and is relatively simple to design, engineer and manufacture) and marketing it as a luxury item is a tried-and-true recipe for enormous gross margins that other players like GM, Ford and Nissan have all been exploiting for years now. It even works on unibody designs too (think Honda Pilot/Acura MDX or even Toyota Camry/Lexus RX). The body-on-frame design used by the GX just happens to be very simple technology that doesn’t cost a whole lot. When it’s sold as a silk purse, it becomes a very, very lucrative sow’s ear.

No wonder Smith speaks of his desire to “keep Toyota focused on the need for GX”. The SUV might as well be a printing press for the Lexus division, not just in America, but also in markets like China and Russia, where Lexus can charge whatever they please. And doubling sales of a product like this sure doesn’t hurt either.

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Kia In Talks With Mexican Officials Over $1.5B Nuevo Leon Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/kia-in-talks-with-mexican-officials-over-1-5b-nuevo-leon-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/kia-in-talks-with-mexican-officials-over-1-5b-nuevo-leon-plant/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 12:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874337 With the need to increase supply to meet U.S. demand, Kia is in talks with Mexican officials about building a new factory in the country. Reuters reports the $1.5 billion facility would pump out 300,000 units annually, and would be located in Monterrey. The output would consist of two small vehicles to start, augmenting the […]

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With the need to increase supply to meet U.S. demand, Kia is in talks with Mexican officials about building a new factory in the country.

Reuters reports the $1.5 billion facility would pump out 300,000 units annually, and would be located in Monterrey. The output would consist of two small vehicles to start, augmenting the output at Kia’s sole plant in the Southeastern United States.

Nuevo Leon secretary of economic development Rolando Zubrian, along with other state and federal officials, began talks last week with the automaker, and hopes a deal would be made sometime during the first two weeks of August. The plant may also pave the path toward a resumption of bilateral free trade negotiations between South Korea and Mexico.

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Fired Ford Engineer Under FBI Spotlight On Espionage Claims http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/fired-ford-engineer-under-fbi-spotlight-on-espionage-claims/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/fired-ford-engineer-under-fbi-spotlight-on-espionage-claims/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 11:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874313 A former Ford engineer is currently under the gun amid espionage claims levied by the automaker with the help of the FBI. Autoblog reports the Blue Oval called upon the agency in the former’s investigation of Sharon Leach after security found and seized eight recording devices used in her meetings with her now-former colleagues. In […]

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A former Ford engineer is currently under the gun amid espionage claims levied by the automaker with the help of the FBI.

Autoblog reports the Blue Oval called upon the agency in the former’s investigation of Sharon Leach after security found and seized eight recording devices used in her meetings with her now-former colleagues. In turn, FBI agents arrived at Leach’s home with warrants to seize more such devices — along with computers, jump drives and financial records — fearing whatever may be on them would be destroyed if the agency issued the former engineer a subpoena.

Though Leach has yet to state anything publicly, her attorney, Marshall Tauber, says she used the devices in note-taking:

I think you’re dealing with a person who was seeing how sharp the new kids are and maybe feeling a need to keep up with them. And maybe she realized that she’s not as attentive as she once was and needs a little assistance. Maybe her memory was failing her on the technology end but she didn’t want to admit it.

The case is now in the purview of the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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Challenger Week Outtake: 2015 Dodge Challenger V6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/challenger-week-outtake-2015-dodge-challenger-v6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/challenger-week-outtake-2015-dodge-challenger-v6/#comments Sun, 27 Jul 2014 20:44:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874017 Five seconds: that’s the lap time difference between the V6 Challenger Track Pack and the SRT Hellcat around PIR. How much money do you save by being willing to take it a bit slower? Even if you doubt some of Chrysler’s math, there’s no arguing the fact that this year’s V6 Challenger is a much […]

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Five seconds: that’s the lap time difference between the V6 Challenger Track Pack and the SRT Hellcat around PIR. How much money do you save by being willing to take it a bit slower?

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Even if you doubt some of Chrysler’s math, there’s no arguing the fact that this year’s V6 Challenger is a much better proposition than it was previously. Coming straight out of Brampton, ON and featuring an available Super Track Pack with 13-inch front brakes and two-piston calipers, the V6 has 305 horsepower to push 3,834 pounds. That’s not quite an Accord V6 Coupe’s worth of power-to-weight, nor will it trouble the Camaro which is 180 pounds lighter plus offers a manual transmission to hurry things along.

Still, with the eight-speed automatic transmission providing remarkably snappy shifts across an optimized range of gearing, you’d be ill-advised to take the most modest Challenger lightly, particularly if you’re driving something from before the current era of HGH-fueled automobiles. Think of it as an LT1 Z/28′s worth of performance, with the modern telematics and 30mpg capability thrown in as a bonus.

Around PIR, however, the 8AT proved to be a bit of a problem. I rode along with the first journalist to drive the V6 on-track. During his second lap, the transmission decided that manual mode was no longer available. Sliding the shifter to the left produced an immediate upshift-and-hold in sixth gear. This happened when I tried the car approximately half an hour later, as well, and probably cost me a tiny bit of lap time. Left to itself, the Challenger isn’t brilliant at determining how and when to shift, and that slowed it down a fair amount. On the street, you’d be fine; a non-pre-production car would also probably not suffer from the same amount of difficulty.

It would be nice to have a manual-transmission V6 Challenger — but who’d buy it? In this day and age, it’s already a minor miracle that you can get a six-speed manual on all the other variants. Still… it would be a really decent car, the same way the V6 Mustang six-speed is a really decent car.

Chrysler’s careful to emphasize that that the Chally’s size is considered an asset by buyers, who overwhelmingly cite the interior space advantage over the other ponycars as a purchase decider. Still, the weight and the size don’t help it around PIR, where the Super Track Pack brakes simply aren’t up for the challenge, ahem, posed by the V6′s power. It’s a decent handler and it feels well-balanced, but something like a 328i coupe would be more rewarding on-track even if it didn’t offer the same amount of curb appeal.

The interior upgrades that impress in the other trim variants are present here and the cloth seats are surprisingly decent. If this was all the Challenger you could afford, you wouldn’t regret the decision. It’s a good solid personal-luxury-car with a lot of pace, a lot of looks, and a lot of technology on offer. The only real problem is this: you’d wish you’d gotten the HEMI, wouldn’t you? Of course you would.

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Review: 2015 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack 6MT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-dodge-challenger-rt-scat-pack-6mt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-dodge-challenger-rt-scat-pack-6mt/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 12:08:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873114 This doesn’t feel like something I should admit in public, let alone in the electronic pages of this august publication, but I always had a tiny little problem with the Challenger SRT8, way down in my super soul. If you haven’t seen Vanishing Point, put your laptop down, get out of the bathroom, and go […]

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This doesn’t feel like something I should admit in public, let alone in the electronic pages of this august publication, but I always had a tiny little problem with the Challenger SRT8, way down in my super soul.

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If you haven’t seen Vanishing Point, put your laptop down, get out of the bathroom, and go watch it. While it’s far from flawless, the movie that made the Challenger immortal has much to recommend it. I can imagine that modern filmgoers might have a bit of trouble understanding how it all comes together; were it to be remade today there would probably be fifteen minutes of explanatory voiceover a la Pacific Rim. “My name is Kowalski. I was a cop once, and I became disenchanted with authority, and so on, and so forth…” Thankfully, that isn’t the case with the original.

Of course, the Vanishing Point Chally is a white R/T. Which means that, by definition, the coolest possible Challenger is a white R/T. Unfortunately, until now that meant the coolest possible Challenger wasn’t much use on a track, particularly in the stopping department. Until now.
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Chrysler directly compares this new R/T “Scat Pack” to the old SRT8 Core. As you can see in the graphic above, there’s more equipment for less money. Another valid comparison might be to the old R/T 5.7 Track Pack, which was underpowered and underbraked compared to a 5.0 Mustang. Not so this new car, which has 485 horsepower and four-piston Brembos front and back.

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The track analysis I did earlier this week puts the Scat Pack 6MT neatly between the V6 and the Hellcat, as you’d expect. What’s less clear is that the Scat Pack is a massive, massive improvement over the old R/T as a dynamic proposition. It’s not just that it has more brake and better handling than its predecessor, it’s that it’s better-balanced despite having an additional hundred and fifteen horsepower. Yes, the nose feels heavier than that of the V6, but that’s a lot like saying that dating Monica Bellucci would pose a bit of a language problem compared to dating Lena Dunham. Who cares.

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It’s a decent car on the track, and I’d say it’s at least in the vicinity of the 5.0 Mustang, particularly in the way it sheds speed, but it’s hard to imagine most Scat Packs ever seeing a racetrack. Let’s talk street. In order to get to the rather truncated track time we were offered with the Challengers, I first had to drive and ride for three hours through the rural areas surrounding Portland in a six-speed Scat Pack. Much of that drive took place at 30mph or slower thanks to heavy concentrations of cyclists on the road, but that was a bit of a blessing because it gave me a chance to evaluate the Challenger’s low-speed manners.

The control efforts are absurdly low, and I mean that literally. This car has four hundred and eighty-five horsepower and it’s no more difficult to drive than a Mazda3. The shift action is fingertip-light and the Tremec TR6060 has clearly defined gating. I was never troubled by any skip-shift silliness. Your grandmother could drive this car, as they used to say in the car rags. Plus it’s quiet until you stand on the throttle and then it’s merely stirring, not annoying.

With this round of interior revisions, Chrysler’s finally bringing the Challenger up to the standards of its sedan siblings. I’d say that the brightwork and plastics quality place the Scat Pack about halfway between the dismal Charger and the enchanting 300C. There’s real stamped aluminum scattered throughout the interior and a fashionably thick steering wheel. My driving partner for the event was befuddled that the “shift paddles” didn’t work, but he eventually accepted my explanation that they were to control volume and track selection on the 8.4-inch uConnect.

“Yeah, I guess it makes sense that the shifter on the console would have to move while you’re paddle shifting,” he opined.

“Excuse me,” I said, “there’s something really important on my phone I have to pay attention to for an hour or so.” This latest uConnect is as good as it is elsewhere and I was able to complete a fairly detailed Bluetooth phone call while repeatedly throttling up and down through the gears. The climate-control knobs are a little wobbly, the same way they are in a Fiat 500L, but remember: this is an engine that you’d have to pay a significant tariff to get in a German car. My old Audi S5 was twenty thousand dollars more expensive and brought just three-quarters of the power to the table. The current Audi S5 has that candy-ass supercharged V-6, which is just as fast as the old V8 but that’s like saying that a Double Quarter Pounder weighs the same as a filet mignon from Ruth’s Chris. Who cares.

The car’s a middle finger to every CO2-restricted, low-testosterone, involuntarily-celibate German coupe out there. It will run twelve-second quarter-miles with no trouble and it gets attention everywhere it goes. The modest external changes for 2015 are improvements, particularly the “6.4L” logo. There’s now a set of Bimmer-style angel eyes on the thing, too, which will matter to someone.

You can get it in white and then you’ll have a proper Vanishing Point car. There goes the Challenger… the super-driver of the golden West. My test car was $44,875 including navigation and leather. Yeah, a Mustang five-liter will hang with it most anywhere but it’s not the same thing and we both know it. Go ahead and buy one with my blessing. It’s better than ever, and it’s finally got the right badge.

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Ford Falcon Receives New Face http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ford-falcon-receives-new-face-in-its-twilight-age/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/ford-falcon-receives-new-face-in-its-twilight-age/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 12:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873042 This will be the face of the last of the V8 interceptors for Ford’s Falcon, and that’s only the beginning. Autoblog reports the Falcon’s new face is in line with the upcoming Mustang, as well as the Fusion and Mondeo. Unlike the front-drivers, however, the Falcon’s new look — beginning with the XR8 — will […]

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This will be the face of the last of the V8 interceptors for Ford’s Falcon, and that’s only the beginning.

Autoblog reports the Falcon’s new face is in line with the upcoming Mustang, as well as the Fusion and Mondeo. Unlike the front-drivers, however, the Falcon’s new look — beginning with the XR8 — will come with firepower in the form of a 5-liter supercharged V8, as well as a trio of six-cylinder engines and the EcoBoost four-pot.

Other touches include LED tail lamps meant to show off the Falcon’s backside to the Commodores trailing behind it, and headlamps with that are specific to the Australian sedan. Beyond this, the Falcon’s facelift is but a mid-cycle refresh for the record books.

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Nissan Loses Money On Every Leaf Replacement Battery Sold http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/kuhlman-nissan-loses-money-per-leaf-replacement-battery-sold/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/kuhlman-nissan-loses-money-per-leaf-replacement-battery-sold/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 11:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873026 In June, Nissan announced that Leaf owners could obtain a replacement battery pack for $5,500 upon trading in the old unit. While a boon to said owners, the automaker is losing blood on the deal every time a pack is sold. Green Car Reports interviewed Nissan vice president of global communications Jeff Kuhlman, who explained […]

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In June, Nissan announced that Leaf owners could obtain a replacement battery pack for $5,500 upon trading in the old unit. While a boon to said owners, the automaker is losing blood on the deal every time a pack is sold.

Green Car Reports interviewed Nissan vice president of global communications Jeff Kuhlman, who explained that the low price for the new pack was the result of his employer subsidizing the price, though he declined to state how much Nissan spends per replacement. Thus, no profit is being made at this time off of the exchange.

However, Nissan isn’t yet hurting on this “customer-first” initiative. According to Kuhlman, no one has taken the automaker up on its Leaf battery replacement program.

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Audi Leaves CVTs Behind For Dual-Clutch Automatics http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/audi-leaves-cvts-behind-for-dual-clutch-automatics/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/audi-leaves-cvts-behind-for-dual-clutch-automatics/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873010 CVT haters, rejoice: Audi’s latest set of Multitronic CVTs will be the automaker’s last. According to The Motor Report, the automaker believes it has done all it can with CVTs, and will instead focus on the S-tronic dual-clutch automatic family of transmissions. Both the S-tronic and traditional automatic offerings will fill the void left behind […]

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CVT haters, rejoice: Audi’s latest set of Multitronic CVTs will be the automaker’s last.

According to The Motor Report, the automaker believes it has done all it can with CVTs, and will instead focus on the S-tronic dual-clutch automatic family of transmissions. Both the S-tronic and traditional automatic offerings will fill the void left behind when the models so equipped with Multitronic are updated or replaced.

However, Audi may also do away with the traditional automatic, as well. Currently, the automaker is hard work on an S-tronic built to handle the torque loads and AWD that are being handled by eight-speed autos at present. No word on when the traditional auto’s day may come to pass.

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Japanese Government To Push FCVs Via $20k Subsidy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/japanese-government-to-push-fcvs-via-20k-subsidy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/japanese-government-to-push-fcvs-via-20k-subsidy/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 12:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872802 With Toyota ready to make big moves with its 2015 FCV, the Japanese government is ready with their own big move: $20,000 USD in incentives. Autoblog Green reports the government will offer buyers of the hydrogen-powered sedan $20,000 in subsidies, which may bring down the reported $69,000 MSRP down to $49,000; EV subsidies in Japan […]

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With Toyota ready to make big moves with its 2015 FCV, the Japanese government is ready with their own big move: $20,000 USD in incentives.

Autoblog Green reports the government will offer buyers of the hydrogen-powered sedan $20,000 in subsidies, which may bring down the reported $69,000 MSRP down to $49,000; EV subsidies in Japan max out at $8,500 per vehicle for comparison.

Meanwhile, the FCV will likely sell for $50,000 in the United States when it leaves the container ships next summer, and will be joined by Honda’s own FCV — name to be determined later — sometime in 2015.

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