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. Wed, 30 Jul 2014 14:05:22 +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/ 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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General Motors Issues Six Recalls For 720,000 Vehicles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/general-motors-issues-six-recalls-for-720000-vehicles/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/general-motors-issues-six-recalls-for-720000-vehicles/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 11:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872770 Wednesday, General Motors issued six recalls for a total of around 720,000 vehicles, all assembled within the last five years. Autoblog reports the following have been recalled: 2010 – 12 Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain/Cadillac SRX; 2011 – 12 Chevrolet Camaro, Buick Regal, Buick LaCrosse: Bolt used to secure height adjustor actuator in vehicles with powered seats […]

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2014 Chevrolet SS in Red

Wednesday, General Motors issued six recalls for a total of around 720,000 vehicles, all assembled within the last five years.

Autoblog reports the following have been recalled:

  • 2010 – 12 Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain/Cadillac SRX; 2011 – 12 Chevrolet Camaro, Buick Regal, Buick LaCrosse: Bolt used to secure height adjustor actuator in vehicles with powered seats may loosen on its own, if not fall out, allowing the seat to move freely; 414,333 recalled.
  • 2013 – 14 Cadillac ATS, Buick Encore; 2014 Chevrolet Caprice/SS, Cadillac CTS, Cadillac ELR; 2014 – 15 Chevrolet Silverado/GMC Sierra: Incomplete weld of seat hook bracket assembly, may require track replacement; 124,008 recalled.
  • 2011 – 13 Buick Regal; 2013 Chevrolet Malibu: Single-bulb burnout of turn signal failing to notify driver of issue, reprogramming needed; 120,426 recalled.
  • 2014 Chevrolet Impala: Bad electric ground on power steering module of belt-driven electric steering models — caused by misplaced paint — may lead to sudden loss or reduction of steering power; 57,242 recalled
  • 2014 – 15 Chevrolet Spark: Improperly fastened lower control arm of Korean-built models could lead to separation from the steering knuckle; 1,919 recalled.
  • 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe/GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon Denali: Incorrect retaining nut in interior roof rail could puncture or tear roof-mounted airbags upon deployment; 22 recalled.

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Rental Review: Cadillac ATS 2.0T AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/rental-review-cadillac-ats-2-0t-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/rental-review-cadillac-ats-2-0t-awd/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 13:58:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=869546 11 years ago, Cadillac told us that they were “The Standard of the World”, in a blast of Zeppelin-backed TV spots and aggressively geometric styling. The 2003 CTS wasn’t even the standard for North American luxury cars, but hey, it took Audi another 30 years to even come close to making that claim. Cadillac seems […]

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11 years ago, Cadillac told us that they were “The Standard of the World”, in a blast of Zeppelin-backed TV spots and aggressively geometric styling. The 2003 CTS wasn’t even the standard for North American luxury cars, but hey, it took Audi another 30 years to even come close to making that claim. Cadillac seems to be moving at a much quicker pace.

Despite Cadillac’s confidence in their excellence, they are reticent to lend any press vehicles to TTAC. The timing of a recent trip required a one day rental, and the local Avis counter advertised a special on the “Cadillac CTS” for just $80 a day with unlimited mileage. It turns out that Avis does indeed rent out the CTS, but our particularly branch did not. Instead, we were assigned a silver ATS4 (all-wheel drive) with the 2.0T engine and 6-speed automatic. Remember kids, if it seems to good to be true…

It would be incorrect to say that I was disappointed, but I had hoped for the CTS precisely because a) the relentless hype had me curious about its overall competence b) we are lacking in reviews of the car and c) every ATS I have driven thus far has been a letdown. Around the time of its launch, I briefly sampled a rear-drive 3.6L with all of the bells and whistles, and found it underwhelming. A second drive, in a 2.0T with the 6-speed manual, did nothing to dispel my skepticism. The 6-speed manual was unequivocally one of the worst gearboxes I’ve ever sampled, and the engine’s NVH characteristics were shockingly coarse for a luxury sedan. I could not, for the life of me, understand the praise being heaped upon this car.

After a solid day’s drive, I have a better picture in my head of why the ATS is so highly regarded. Part of it comes down to the fact that the team of engineers, product planners, designers and marketers have managed to great a truly worthy sports sedan. The other half of that equation is that the competition has miraculously managed to recede in overall competence to the point where the ATS is the class leader by default.

The ATS can reasonably lay claim to “The Standard of the World” title by virtue of its 2.0T engine, which is, well, the new standard of the world for virtually every mid-size car that would normally have used a V6 engine, thanks to a combination of regulations and economies of scale. The 2.0T in the ATS isn’t particularly charming or refined, but it does bring 272 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque at just 1700 rpm. Like most of these new turbo four-bangers, the torque builds down low and stays fairly robust throughout the rev range that you’d use in any realistic situation, including spirited back road driving.

Acceleration, passing on two-lane roads and any other task that relies on forward thrust is accomplished with minimal fuss, and it’s hard to see why anyone would bother with the V6 when the power on tap here is so usable in everyday situations. The 6-speed automatic transmission is the superior choice versus the manual, but it doesn’t feel terribly responsive or sophisticated. However, this gearbox will likely be replaced by either the 8L90 GM 8-speed automatic, or the Aisin 8-speed from the Cadillac CTS, so dwelling on its shortcomings is a bit of a moot point.

The most compelling part of the ATS is the chassis, which stands out as a credit to GM’s engineering team. It’s hard to think of a car that is able to so expertly balance ride and handling, delivering a smooth, composed ride no matter what the road surface, while also delivering on the “sport” part of the equation. Befitting its rental car specs, our ATS had a smaller wheel and tire combo than what I normally see on the road, and that may have contributed to the ATS being a bit more sedate. But through twisty stretches of road, the ATS still delivered in a big way, with flat cornering, eager turn-in and communicative, if not particularly weighty steering.

A spirited drive makes it plain why the ATS was met with such a chorus of approval when it debuted. GM has finally made a proper sports sedan that is better to drive than the current BMW 3-Series. Part of this has to do with the fact that current F30 has lost its way in such a severe manner that the ATS assumes this mantle by default: I have not driven the Lexus IS350, our EIC’s favorite sports sedan, and I know that an E90 328i is superior in every way, but right now, the ATS is without a doubt the best handling luxury sports sedan on the market.

Unfortunately, it has two glaring flaws.

  1. The back seat is tiny. Cadillac stole a lot of good things from the BMW playbook. One of them seems to be the size of the E36′s rear seat area. My two passengers, at 5’8″ and 6’2″, were initially enthusiastic about my rental car selection. By the end of it, they were cursing the Caddy.
  2. CUE is unequivocally the worst infotainment system on the planet. By comparison, the early renditions of MyFord Touch look like something running iOS. The haptic controls never quite worked the way they were meant to and even the slightest bump or pothole in the road can send your finger veering off to the tab or menu item that you didn’t intend to touch, leaving you to navigate through a confusing menu system that only leads to distracted driving.

With more time, a more thorough evaluation of the ATS, but for now, I can only determine that somewhere within the bowels of the RenCen, there are a talented group of engineers that are capable of making something that truly is “The Standard of the World”. Their electronics division is another matter…

 

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Galhotra Takes The Reins As Lincoln’s New President http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/galhotra-takes-the-reins-as-lincolns-new-president/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/galhotra-takes-the-reins-as-lincolns-new-president/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 12:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=871938 As one of his first major moves since becoming CEO, Ford’s Mark Fields named vice president of engineering Kumar Galhotra as president of Lincoln, effective September 1. Automotive News reports Galhotra, who will report directly to the new CEO, will be the premium brand’s first president since Al Giombetti left the post in 2007. The […]

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As one of his first major moves since becoming CEO, Ford’s Mark Fields named vice president of engineering Kumar Galhotra as president of Lincoln, effective September 1.

Automotive News reports Galhotra, who will report directly to the new CEO, will be the premium brand’s first president since Al Giombetti left the post in 2007. The move will also reduce executive vice president of global sales, service and marketing Jim Farley’s role with Lincoln, which will be focused on marketing the brand once Galhotra takes over.

The new president — an engineer and product executive who has worked with Lincoln, Ford and Mazda in the past — will bring his marketing experience to the table as Lincoln prepares to launch in China later in 2014; he headed Ford’s Asia Pacific division from 2009 to 2013, and helped bring about the new Ranger pickup to market.

Speaking of the division, engineering director Jim Holland will move from there to replace Galhotra as Ford’s vice president of engineering, reporting to global product development chief Raj Nair.

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Tata To Enter Global Passenger Market With Help Of Jaguar Land Rover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/tata-to-enter-global-passenger-market-with-help-of-jaguar-land-rover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/tata-to-enter-global-passenger-market-with-help-of-jaguar-land-rover/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 10:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=871890 Having done well with Jaguar Land Rover in its portfolio, Tata Motors is now turning to its premium subsidiary for its own foray into passenger cars and SUVs. Drive.com.au reports the parent company is using the technical and design know-how JLR to begin growing its passenger vehicle line in Australia and beyond, though Darren Bowler, […]

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Tata-Xenon-11

Having done well with Jaguar Land Rover in its portfolio, Tata Motors is now turning to its premium subsidiary for its own foray into passenger cars and SUVs.

Drive.com.au reports the parent company is using the technical and design know-how JLR to begin growing its passenger vehicle line in Australia and beyond, though Darren Bowler, managing director of importer Fusion Automotive, assures that no badge engineering would occur between the two brands.

What would be shared, according to Bowler, would be platforms and engines, such as the global platform underpinning the upcoming Nexon SUV that could “be used as an Evoque… a Tata, [or] a Jaguar,” as well as the Ingenium family of four-cylinder engines that will soon turn up under the bonnet of many a JLR product.

In the meantime, Tata Australia plans to tackle the medium- and heavy-duty markets with the Ultra and Prima, both joining the light-duty Xenon.

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Track Analysis: Challenger V6 Track Pack, HEMI Scat Pack, SRT Hellcat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/track-analysis-challenger-v6-track-pack-hemi-scat-pack-srt-hellcat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/track-analysis-challenger-v6-track-pack-hemi-scat-pack-srt-hellcat/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 19:45:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=871714 Getting decent conclusions from very limited data is the sort of thing of which Nobel Prizes are made. What you’re about to read won’t be Nobel-worthy; however, I believe it will help you understand how fast the Hellcat and how it compares to both the other Challengers and the external competition. I got a total […]

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Getting decent conclusions from very limited data is the sort of thing of which Nobel Prizes are made. What you’re about to read won’t be Nobel-worthy; however, I believe it will help you understand how fast the Hellcat and how it compares to both the other Challengers and the external competition.

I got a total of six flying laps at PIR, a place to which I’d never been, in three different cars. I had traffic in my face for all but two of those laps, and I had no truly clear laps in the Hellcat. But let’s start with the basics. I drove these three cars in this order:

Challenger R/T 6.4L Scat Pack 6MT: lap time of 1:38.9 with a top speed of 122mph on the back straight.
Challenger V6 Super Track Pack 8AT: lap time of 1:38.3 with a top speed of 112.5mph on the back straight.
Challenger SRT Hellcat 6MT: lap time of 1:33.7 with a top speed of 136mph on the back straight.

So let’s start by eliminating some of the variables. The only clean lap I got in the Scat Pack was my first-ever lap of PIR. There’s no way I was going to turn a brilliant lap time first time out. Analysis shows I was 6mph slower going into the turn before the long straight than I was in the average of the other cars. My line in the V6 which I drove afterwards was better. After looking at the data and assuming that the Scat Pack can turn about as well as the V6, I’ve guesstimated a 1:36 at 127mph for the Scat Pack.

How did other people do: This video shows SRT’s Vehicle Dynamics Engineer Marco Diniz de Oliveira running a 1:33.0 with the same spec car that I drove. Compared to my videotaped 1:33.7 lap you can see that he didn’t have to lift for a frightened journo like I did on the front straight, and he also didn’t goatfuck the chicane the way I did. (My excuse: I was so annoyed at being balked that I held throttle too long.) I’m reasonably confident that I got about as much out of the Hellcat as I was going to in two laps. Given ten more laps, I think a 1:31.5 was well within reach. Keeping pinned on the straight is worth half a second, doing the chicane right is worth a second and a half, and I could have shortened the braking zone in back.

Another journalist whom I won’t name was kind enough to let me “run data” with them in the V6 Challenger that I drove. He turned a 1:58.3 with a top speed of 105.5mph on the back straight. That two-minute-ish lap time is approximately representative of what most people were doing out there and it’s why I kept running into traffic.

So those are the caveats. Now let’s look at some stats.

First off, acceleration. The corner before the back straight shows the Hellcat with a low speed of 43.5mph against 41.7mph for the V6. That’s the extra tire you get with the Hellcat which is only partially canceled out by the weight of the engine. As we pass the access road on the back straight, the V6 has accelerated to 87mph and the ScatPack to a corrected 93mph. How fast is the Hellcat going? Survey says: 102mph. That is brutal acceleration. More impressively, the gap widens as speeds increase. Supercharged cars often feel breathless at the top of the rev range because they are optimized to push air at low speeds and unlike turbo-supercharged (to use the old phrase) cars there’s no compound effect as the exhaust gases push the turbo faster. As an example, when I drove the GT500 at VIR I found myself dueling a Porsche GT2 on the back straight. The Shelby had legs on the GT500 in the first half of VIR’s long stretch but the GT2 picked up as speeds increased and it wasn’t all due to frontal area.

Now for braking. A similar push of the brake pedal produced a .78g retarding force in the V6, a .86g one in the four-piston Brembo Scat Pack, and .98g in the Hellcat. These numbers have to be understood in context, not as absolutes, because of the way my phone was mounted in the car and the general issues with Android accelerometers. Only the V6 ever felt underbraked in these short lap situations; it doesn’t have enough thermal capacity as supplied for two hard laps. The others were fine, with the Hellcat having a considerable edge in feel and response. My experience with the Z/28 at Thermal Club for last month’s Road&Track showed me that it’s possible to put enough brake on a ponycar, but you have to be willing to spend a LOT of money on it. As expensive as the Brembo system on the Hellcat must be, it ain’t carbon ceramic and when you’re slowing two tons down from a considerable velocity it’s worth getting the right material for the job.

v6lap

This is the V6 lap.

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This is the Hellcat lap.

Cornering isn’t exactly an open and shut case, which is why the V6 might be a satisfying track car if you could upgrade the brakes a bit via pads and fluid. Data for all three cars shows that they are capable of about the same max cornering g and speed, with a slight edge going to the Hellcat in pretty much all the corners. What the data can’t show you is that the Hellcat feels like it’s from a different class with regards to body roll control and suspension dynamics. Given enough time on a racetrack, you’d feel comfortable pushing the Hellcat harder in quick transitions and in long high-g turns. There’s a superiority of feedback that is no doubt due to better tires and higher-quality suspension. With that said, however, this is primarily a laws-of-physics thing. Big heavy cars are never eager to change direction. Unsurprisingly, the V6 is best in transitions and the Scat Pack has the lowest cornering speeds.

As I stated earlier today, you really do get your money’s worth with the Hellcat’s engine and brake upgrades. It’s also a solid handler for its size and class. Let’s do some subjective rankings as far as track-fitness goes, based on things I’ve driven recently:

Viper ACR (previous gen)
Viper TA (current gen)
Mercedes AMG SLS Black Series
C7 Corvette Z51
C6 Corvette Z06
C6 Corvette Z51
Camaro Z/28
Boss 302-LS
Boss 302
Jack’s raggedy old 2004 Boxster S with 48,000 miles
GT500 (not counting the brakes)
Hellcat
The old SRT8 392
Camaro SS
Mustang 5.0 Track Pack
Challenger R/T 6.4L Scat Pack
Mustang V6 Track Pack
Challenger V6 Track Pack
Challenger R/T 5.7 Track Pack

The higher you go up that list, the more comfortable the car feels on track, but at a cost.

I wish I’d had time to drive the standard SRT8, which has 485hp now and offers the big brakes as an option. I believe that car would feel most “balanced” since you wouldn’t be arriving at corners as quickly and therefore the brakes would hold up even better and it would be easier to select the absolutely perfect corner speed — but I’d choose to spend my own money on the Hellcat, plain and simple. There are no downsides. You can pretty much instantly turn it into an SRT8 6.4L just by laying off the throttle a bit on the long straights.

At this point I normally like to talk about what the cars do when they are “out of shape” on track. The truth is that with this little time on an unfamiliar course I didn’t spend too much effort getting the Challengers past their envelope of tire grip. I can say that the Hellcat and Scat Pack can be reliably turned on the throttle and that no Challenger has ever had bad habits on track with regards to overly quick responses in extreme handling situations. If you’re good to the Challenger, it will be good to you. If you’re bad to it, you will still have plenty of time to get things right.

Ponycars are about compromise. They’re about what you’re willing to give up in order to have the admittedly minimal but occasionally mandatory backseat. With the Hellcat, the answer is simple: you’re giving up Mustang-style direction changes but gaining more power at each trim and spec level than the not-so-small Ford can offer. It would be frankly absurd to buy a Hellcat if you primarily planned on using it at the track. But for the low percentage of owners who will try it there, their experience will be positive — even if their tire bills won’t.

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Review: 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT “Hellcat” 6MT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-dodge-challenger-srt-hellcat-6mt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-dodge-challenger-srt-hellcat-6mt/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 12:21:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=870522 To some degree, it’s about the number, right? Seven hundred and seven. The Dodge people certainly made the point again and again about how the Hellcat stacks up to everything from the Z06 to the Murcielago. Mine’s bigger than yours. And that other number — 10.9 seconds with drag radials and 11.2 without. That actually […]

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To some degree, it’s about the number, right? Seven hundred and seven. The Dodge people certainly made the point again and again about how the Hellcat stacks up to everything from the Z06 to the Murcielago. Mine’s bigger than yours. And that other number — 10.9 seconds with drag radials and 11.2 without. That actually isn’t such a big deal; there are people out there who have put stock C6 Z06es with draggies into the tens. Still, they closed the freaking road course after just ninety minutes so the journalists could line up and try their hand at quarter-miles. I didn’t bother to do that. Nor did I get any street time in the Hellcat. What I got was this: four laps, none of them unimpeded. When you come back in the afternoon, I’ll tell you what my TrackMaster data showed about the Hellcat vis-a-vis the 6.4L. But for now let’s talk about what the Hellcat is and what it does.

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat engine

Here’s how you make a Hellcat: Start with the 2015 Challenger and it’s improved interior. Add Hellcat-specific visual cues, most of them related to increasing the amount of air coming through the nose. Then drop the bore size a bit, redo the motor with “91 percent new” engineering and parts, and supercharge the hell out of the cat.

Here’s the press release, there’s no sense in rewriting it:

The 2,380cc/rev blower features integral charge coolers and an integrated electronic bypass valve to
regulate boost pressure to a maximum of 80 kPa (11.6 psi). Its twin-screw rotors are specially coated
with:

• a proprietary formula of polyimide and other resins
• nanometer-sized, wear-resistant particles
• solid lubricants, such as PTFE (Teflon)

The coating accommodates tighter tolerances between the rotors. This reduces internal air leakage and
helps deliver improved compressor performance and higher efficiencies. The coating not only can
withstand the temperatures generated by compression, it provides a superior corrosion resistance.
The new supercharged V-8, sealed for life with premium synthetic oil, boasts a drive ratio of 2.36:1 and
a maximum speed of 14,600 rpm. The drive system’s one-way clutch de-coupler improves refinement,
while allowing for precisely the kind of auditory feedback SRT customers find alluring.
The supercharger gulps air through an Air Catcher inlet port, which replaces the driver’s-side inboard
marker light and connects to a patented twin-inlet, eight-liter air box. The blower further benefits from a
92-mm throttle body – the largest ever used in a Chrysler Group vehicle.
The fuel system keeps pace with an in-tank pump that accommodates variable pressures, half-inch fuel
lines and eight injectors each capable of delivering a flow rate of 600cc/min – enough to drain the fuel
tank in approximately 13 minutes at full power.

The transmissions were re-engineered; the eight-speed automatic has bigger clutches and more gear surface throughout, allowing it to bang out 120-millisecond shifts that, on the drag strip, sound close to dual-clutch. The Tremec TR6060 has a bigger clutch, a relatively light flywheel, and stronger gears. I believe, although I cannot say for sure, that this transmission, like the Hellcat’s HEMI, is made in Mexico.

To stop the car, there’s a 15.4-inch rotor Brembo brake package with 20×9.5 inch wheels. It would appear that there are now three Brembo brake packages on these cars: the four-piston setup on the Scat Pack 6.4L with Super Track Pack, the six-piston SRT8 14.2-inch package, and this high-power six-piston setup which is optional on the SRT8 and standard on the Hellcat.

Other fun features: an available flat-black hood, a removable lower grille for track use, (“Seven screws,” we were told, “it will take owners five minutes”) deliberately plain “SRT” badging, and a track key/valet key setup that also features a user-selectable “valet PIN” to limit the car to 4000rpm. A sunroof is optional, as are a couple of different color-coordinated seat packages.

It’s good value for money; the Scat Pack with a few options runs $46k so this Hellcat at $59,995 feels like a screaming bargain. And you’re almost certain to get your money back when you go to sell, assuming you don’t take too much of a beating at the hands of your dealer.

Okay. It’s late at night and you want to know how it drives. I’ll put video up later on today, but the short version is this: It is to the GT500 as the old SRT8 was to the Boss 302. The clutch is low effort, as is the shifting. The thrust is plainly massive but there’s enough tire under it to make it controllable on a racetrack. It’s very quick, but it doesn’t feel noticeably quicker than a GT500. There’s a certain viciousness you get with a ZR1 or GT500 that is blunted by the Chally’s weight here. Big motor, pushing a big car, and as a result things feel under control. It never occurred to me not to give it full throttle in a straight line on an eighty-degree Portland day. Change this to a Kentucky backroad with accumulated oil and grit, and drop the temperature to fifty, and we’ll talk about it again.

All the Challenger SRT8 virtues survive intact to the Hellcat. It really is just an SRT8 plus power. That’s what you really need to know about it. It’s not compromised or changed in any significant manner. It’s just faster, and unlike the naturally aspirated 6.4L it’s hellaciously strong everywhere, not just when the tach sweeps past four. At 1200rpm it has as much torque as the old SRT8 did at peak. So yeah — fast, effortlessly so, like a literbike.

But it also feels long-legged through the gears in a way that the GT500 doesn’t. My impression, which I’d need to check through a bunch of a documentation to confirm, is that it’s geared longer than the Shelby or the Boss or the Z/28. There’s more room to run in each gear, which given the fact that the Ford 5.4L revs higher than this 6.2L means that it’s geared higher.

On the track, the brakes and tires proved sufficient to the task, as I’ll explain later today with numbers. Unlike the Shelby, it’s far from underbraked, for a ponycar. Don’t expect Corvette-level braking performance here. There ain’t a disc brake big enough for that unless it’s on a triple-seven Boeing. This is a big car with good solid damping and big brakes, but it’s not a Corvette.

Neither is it a Z/28, not that you expected it. The Z/28 has better brakes and a lot more tire compound and it’s a bit smaller. I wouldn’t expect the Hellcat to see the nose of a Z/28 on a track, unless you’re on Road America and it’s the first lap.

I realize it’s a disappointment to say that the Hellcat is merely a faster SRT8, but that’s a hell of an accomplishment. Power like this has never been this accessible and the fact that it’s delivered in this big, comfy package is a technical knockout. You literally give up nothing by taking the high-power option, except perhaps your home equity. The Hellcat has no drawbacks except fuel economy and price. It is fully, thoroughly, completely recommended to anyone who wants a faster Challenger. Drivers who want the on-track aplomb of a Mustang or Camaro need not apply.

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Tesla Idles Plant For Two Weeks For Model X-Related Production Upgrades http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/tesla-idles-plant-for-two-weeks-for-model-x-related-production-upgrades/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/tesla-idles-plant-for-two-weeks-for-model-x-related-production-upgrades/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 12:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=871402 Those who just ordered their Tesla Model S may need to wait a bit, as the premium EV automaker has idled its California factory in order to tool up for the upcoming Model X SUV. Bloomberg reports the reconfiguration — including 25 new robots on the floor and other modifications — began June 20, and […]

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Those who just ordered their Tesla Model S may need to wait a bit, as the premium EV automaker has idled its California factory in order to tool up for the upcoming Model X SUV.

Bloomberg reports the reconfiguration — including 25 new robots on the floor and other modifications — began June 20, and will conclude in two weeks to the tune of $100 million and a 25 percent increase in production.

Tesla has given its assembly workers the option of reporting for maintenance and training shifts during their time off, as well as using that time for vacation.

Once completed, the newly upgraded floor should pump out some 1,000 units of the Model S per week, as well as allow for both the S and the X to be screwed together next to each other. Pricing for the EV-SUV has yet to be announced.

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Mercedes Debuts B-Class Electric Drive To US Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mercedes-debuts-b-class-electric-drive-to-us-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/mercedes-debuts-b-class-electric-drive-to-us-market/#comments Tue, 22 Jul 2014 11:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=871330 If the upcoming Smart ForTwo isn’t quite to your liking, yet you do want something about as small with a tri-pointed star on its nose, Mercedes has brought over its B-Class Electric Drive. Autoblog Green reports the EV compact made its world showroom debut in the United States last week, appearing in 10 coastal states […]

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If the upcoming Smart ForTwo isn’t quite to your liking, yet you do want something about as small with a tri-pointed star on its nose, Mercedes has brought over its B-Class Electric Drive.

Autoblog Green reports the EV compact made its world showroom debut in the United States last week, appearing in 10 coastal states at first before heading inward toward the heartland down the road. Price of admission begins at $41,150, which will net the driver an 87-mile single-charge range and 84 MPGe, about the same as the Nissan Leaf and BMW i3.

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