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, 01 Apr 2015 02:59:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Car Reviews http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/ 2015 Chevrolet Colorado: Reviewed! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2015-chevrolet-colorado-reviewed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2015-chevrolet-colorado-reviewed/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 20:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1033177 The Chevrolet Colorado is a good little truck, certainly sturdy enough, leading me to believe that it is a capable enabler of various human endeavors that involve catapulting, hurtling, or generally straining one’s body across hill, dale, snow-capped extremity and Ace Hardware parking lot alike. But its obvious novelty—one that so enraptured a certain publication’s staff […]

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The Chevrolet Colorado is a good little truck, certainly sturdy enough, leading me to believe that it is a capable enabler of various human endeavors that involve catapulting, hurtling, or generally straining one’s body across hill, dale, snow-capped extremity and Ace Hardware parking lot alike.

But its obvious novelty—one that so enraptured a certain publication’s staff to bestow it a pair of calipers that will hardly strain the Colorado’s 1500lb-plus payload—lies in its rejection of the idea that every pickup truck must be the approximate size of a Normandy landing craft.

That’s right—our cars are creeping ever so bigger, ever so clumsier, and if all cars must expand then trucks must do so exponentially, until comes the day when a Silverado rear-ends a Ram, causing Santa Monica to fall into the ocean. But we can do good to admit, even against American exceptionalism, that not every man, woman, and child needs a full-sized truck. (Are those black helicopters I’m hearing?) Until the day that we stop believing in the weirdness of the front-drive mini-truck, a Southern Hemisphere vestige as bizarre as cuy chactao and the Plymouth Scamp, this conveyance in Red Rock Metallic is exactly what some of us deserve: a vehicle that can’t haul as much, can’t tow as much, can’t be ordered with High Country leather the color and texture of your grandfather’s elbows—but something so refreshing that it snaps us awake from thinking that every new pickup needs to be bigger, squarer, more chrome-laden, more ready for ramming than the last hulking beast it replaces.

And yet, the Colorado still manages to dwarf a jellybean F-150 from the Clinton administration—that tenth-generation F-150, has a 10-inch shorter wheelbase and length in its smallest configuration than even the shortest Colorado. Think about that.

Long truck is long.

Long truck is long.

Meanwhile the Colorado seems to defy spatial logic. It looks enormously long but feels small; it feels narrow but it’s hamstring stretching tall; it’s long and narrow and tall but it drives with surprising nimbleness. Yes, even this four-doored long-box. (Remember when such trucks only belonged to railroad companies?) Those coming out of a full-sized Silverado will find little culture shock within its cabin, which is scaled down, sure, narrower now, but never snug and never cramped.

I didn’t get a chance to take the Colorado off-road, or to Colorado, or even to the nearest Canyon. Instead, I drove it around Los Angeles, committing occasional errands, then a sprint up the 101 Highway to a stupendously lavish hotel where the valets asked excitedly not about what I would be driving but about what I was.

The 3.6-liter V6 is a stout little engine, usually relaxed—but ask it firmly and it’ll muster up 305 horsepower with enthusiasm and a nice noise. The six-speed automatic transmission takes some time and a lot of throttle to react, but when on the move it’s plenty smooth. Brakes are very controllable and very powerful, and the accurate and evenly weighted steering isn’t just pretty good, for a truck—it’s pretty good, period. Body motions are nicely reduced to the occasional rumble and jostling, reinforcing the feeling that it’s Like A Bob Seger Song.

Plenty of USB ports! Switchgear feels reassuringly imbued with quality.

Plenty of USB ports! Switchgear feels reassuringly imbued with quality.

Inside, it’s a quiet place to be. Nice and roomy. MyLink dominates the center console, same as in your Impala, y’know—all square buttons and sharp gradients, homely but effective. The flat, two-color gauges are easy to read but also gravely stark. Seats are firm like a doctor’s waiting room, while the rear bottom cushions flip up to stash various unmentionables, just like the Silverado’s. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is terrific to behold.

The rear benches flip up, but clearly not in this photo.

The rear benches flip up, but clearly not in this photo.

Praise to Corvette for its trick temperature gauges, an idea so neat it’s trickled down to every Chevy product, with a retrofit for the 1987 Celebrity Eurosport VR available sometime next Monday—evidently the same people who design showerheads figured out the Colorado’s automatic climate control, because the temperature swings wildly from the ass-freezing cold to Florida-esque mugginess within a single knob click.

The Colorado starts at a hair over $20,000. Which is good. Because the one I tested was nearly twice that—and for $38,870 you get sweet darkened five-spoke wheels ($1,000), leather seats ($950), MyLink ($495), lane departure and frontal collision warnings ($395, and remember, the life you save could be mine), and another thousand-dollar luxury package, which means the aforementioned touchy automatic controls and chrome bits. Humans love shiny things, and pick-em-up truckers even more so.

Sure is shiny!

Sure is shiny. And handsome. But also shiny.

Macho posturing aside, the Colorado is far more accessible than any full-sized truck out there—small enough for a city, even one with four-lane boulevards, yet big enough to trick you into seeming invincible. Chevrolet’s marketing department imagines armies of scruffy young men in artfully cuffed denim and Target Merona plaid shirts staining their pits as they heave entire REI storefronts into the back, giving hardly a worry to the optional factory spray-in bedliner, before cranking the Black Keys through the seven-speaker Bose audio system (a $495 option!) and setting off to reclaim their manliness in lofty and Walden-esque ways, or at least tubing at Mt. Baldy. I don’t disagree with any of that. I know I’ve certainly helped load plenty of tents into tiny pickups during my time with Boy Scout Troop 227 of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, before heading off to summer camp and bounding down dirt roads at McRae-aping speeds while passing branches play drum solos off the A-pillars. Big trucks lumber, small trucks bound.

That would make a pretty good bumper sticker. Get me Chevrolet’s marketing department.

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“The new Colorado: guaranteed to fit into 65% of Los Angeles parking garages!”

We imagine such possibilities of vehicles like the Chevrolet Colorado, the Nissan Frontier, the Toyota Tacoma—both of which are getting upgraded, soon enough—and, of course, it may be the nostalgia portion of my mind that remembers the 2001 Nissan Xterra of my childhood that enabled so many trips, so many adventures, so many ideas of taking the next off-ramp from the 101 and winding up thoroughly and wonderfully lost, so far away from water. Is it a truck, or a call to arms? The easy-access Colorado carries forth a go-get-‘em lifestyle that that sneakily guilts us into getting off our asses, to take up mountain biking or drywall installation.

Which makes sense—because pickup truck.

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Rental Review: 2015 Nissan Altima 2.5 CVT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/rental-review-2015-nissan-altima/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/rental-review-2015-nissan-altima/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 19:30:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1031561 Well, it’s well into 2015, and time for another Nissan Altima review. My Casamigos hampered research tells me TTAC has done a review of the Altima every year since 2006, except for 2011. Go ahead, search for Nissan Altima, I’ll wait. You are the B&B and you’ll probably find the review I missed. It looks […]

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Well, it’s well into 2015, and time for another Nissan Altima review. My Casamigos hampered research tells me TTAC has done a review of the Altima every year since 2006, except for 2011. Go ahead, search for Nissan Altima, I’ll wait. You are the B&B and you’ll probably find the review I missed.

It looks like I was the first one this year to lose rental car roulette.

I spent 2013 in the Middle East. My default vehicle was a capable and reliable Toyota Fortuner, but those in a lesser position were saddled with a CVT equipped Altima. On an outing where I didn’t drive because I was hammered, looking to enjoy local culture, we usually took a Nissan of questionable maintenance.

Out of the gate, I loathe this car. I know hormonal teenage One Direction fans amped on Diet Mountain Dew more capable of making a decision than the Nissan CVT transmission.

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This is my opening mindset before I spent an hour in line at the Dollar Counter at Houston’s William F. Hobby Airport to get my reserved full size car.

I was told I could take any car along line “M.” I surveyed my choices, a gray Nissan Altima, a black Nissan Altima and a white Nissan Altima. Apparently Dollar Rent A Car does not read TTAC or they would realize that it is a midsized car.

Dear reader, I share this with you to place you in my state of mind when I climbed into the Altima. Yes, I allowed emotions and previous experience to cloud my analysis of this car. My neutral journalistic aspirations could use some training, but my integrity is fully intact.

I left Dollar’s parking lot en route to my hotel in 20 miles away. My first observation is the lack of a USB port. Petty yes, but a Chevrolet Sonic rental comes with Bluetooth and USB.

Once in motion, the CVT transmission did not disappoint. It was the same rev-happy, indecisive collection of rubber bands I remembered. I took stock of the interior. The seats are terrible, flat and hard; I fiddled with the controls for most of the trip. I suspect that was mostly the mileage. I would bet there was more than one occasion that the window had been left open during a rainstorm.

At dinner, I parked in front of a Chevy Malibu. Visually, the dimensions aren’t that far off. The Malibu is marketed as a full-sized car in some rental fleets, so I may have been judgmental. My mood improved with some calories and on the return I tried the “S” setting on the transmission. Nissan should re-label this “T” for tolerable. It ‘s not sporty, but seems to be more agreeable.

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Interfaces aside, the stereo is not bad and capable of annoying the next car at a stoplight with a Foo Fighters tune.

Before dawn I was back in the Altima, in a better mindset. I knew the secret to the transmission was “S” and the seats were bad. Maybe I had been a bit harsh on the old gal.

Nope. I was still right. Not quite hormonal fans of One Direction, but certainty hormonal teenage level. Freeway on ramps are an absolute conflict of perception and reality. The engine is revving for all its worth giving indications of what should be a neck-snapping launch. The reality is more 80’s Hyundai speed for the on ramp and a “please have mercy on me” merger.

For all of its sound and fury, the Altima’s sensation of speed was like an 80’s VW diesel. The numbers tell me this car hits 60 a gnat’s hair under 8 seconds. That makes it quicker than a Camry base and places it on par with an entry level Accord. So I have to logically conclude this is my flawed perception, due in large part to the transmission and the noises from the engine. Which ads credence to this car being better than I will admit.

The obvious advantage of the CVT transmission is the fuel economy, for which I am ashamed to say I cannot give a solid observation. I was in Houston for a very rainy race and the racecar’s fuel consumption was half of what was planned, so my tank was filled at the track in an effort to empty the team’s transfer tank. Driving 20 miles from the airport to the hotel, then another 18 to the track barely moved the gas gauge. After the tank was overfilled, I drove over 20 miles to dinner, 20 back to the hotel,  then almost another 20 back to the rental car counter. This did not deviate the needle from the “F” on the gauge. So that was almost 60 miles, with a probably “sticky” fuel gauge, but at any rate, I cannot complain about the MPG. In fact, its pretty impressive.

So for all of my venom, I honestly cannot call this a bad car. As I get farther from my time with the Altima I am forced to judge it on merits rather than impressions and it stacks up better than I would have admitted last weekend. But there is a reason it was all that was left in Dollar’s lot. It is simply an uninspiring car, long in the tooth, due for a refresh and the folks at Nissan have gotten lazy with the needed upgrades to keep it competitive with Honda and Toyota.

If you are looking for a capable comfortable sedan, and your waistline has expanded a bit since you graduated, you’d be very happy in an Altima. If you spend a lot of time in rush hour traffic, the transmission would undoubtedly yield superior returns on MPG. It’s not expensive, but not cheap. My internet search produced consistant prices of $23,5 for the 2.5 base, but a limited selection at most dealers in the Atlanta metro.

But you are the B&B. You willingly operate old slant 6 Darts, and Ford Flex’s. You are discriminating consumers and deserve better. You know Kia and Hyundai offer a superior product for less and you enjoy vehicles with at least some impression of a personality and dare I say, soul. While I cannot call Altima a bad car, I am comfortable saying that if you have bothered to read this far, then the Nissan Altima not the car for you, and that includes as a rental.

Christian “Mental” Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is a graduate of Panoz Racing School, still loves cartoons and once exceeded the speed of sound. Married to the most patient woman in the world; he has three dogs, a Philosophy degree and an actual Yamaha Vino scooter, so this wasn’t his first CVT transmission. Follow him on Twiiter, Instagram and Vine at M3ntalward

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Review: 2015 Cadillac Escalade http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-cadillac-escalade/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-cadillac-escalade/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 12:30:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1031241 The first-generation Cadillac Escalade was a breathtaking statement of contempt for the American automobile buyer, differing from the GMC Yukon Denali in only the most minor, British-Leyland-style details, but in the years that followed General Motors has worked steadily to distance this Chevrolet Silverado 1500 derivative from all its other Chevrolet Silverado 1500 derivatives. This […]

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The first-generation Cadillac Escalade was a breathtaking statement of contempt for the American automobile buyer, differing from the GMC Yukon Denali in only the most minor, British-Leyland-style details, but in the years that followed General Motors has worked steadily to distance this Chevrolet Silverado 1500 derivative from all its other Chevrolet Silverado 1500 derivatives. This new-generation ‘Slade, therefore, is much like the Cadillac Fleetwood Talisman that stole my heart a few years ago. It’s the Maximum Cadillac, the only vehicle in the lineup with enough brand equity to escape the latest round of alphabet-souping. As with the Talisman, the MSRP is as obscene as the GWVR, and you just know that some percentage of the markup from the current Denali is just so your neighbors understand you have the ability to spend nearly a hundred grand on a truck, the same way the Talisman’s additional features in no way justified the extra money.

I’m on record as being a genuine fan of the Seventies GM sleds from Grand Ville to de Ville, so I approached this monstrous Cadillac in the Hertz lot with unfeigned enthusiasm and cheerfully paid well over a hundred dollars a day to squire it around Salt Lake City for a long weekend.

That enthusiasm didn’t last.


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Let’s start with the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question? Is it better than the revised-for-2015 Lincoln Navigator? The answer is an unqualified affirmative, and that’s part of the reason I really disliked the Escalade despite being rather ambivalent about the big Lincoln. The Navigator is just a relatively pleasant re-skin of a relatively pleasant old truck, sold at about a 20% discount to the equivalent Cadillac. That keeps the expectations at a level that the Lincoln can fulfill. The Escalade, on the other hand, promises more. For the as-tested price of $86,060, you get a brand-new vehicle full of brand-new thinking. It’s loaded head-to-toe with Cadillac-specific details — that just doesn’t work very well. Take the following photo as an example:

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That’s my finger attempting to operate the top row of CUE controls. Normally, you can’t see those controls; they only activate as the system senses your hand in close proximity. So you need to look at the screen a few times: once to get a sense of where your finger needs to approximately arrive, then again to make sure the controls came up (they don’t always, you see, and I have no idea why), then a final time to guide your digit to the PEZ-sized control icon. When you active the control, the screen will vibrate in iPhone-like sympathy, although those of us familiar with Cadillac reliability through the last thirty years will be excused for having a brief moment of unalloyed terror every time the car shakes.

This sequence of events would be merely annoying were it not for the styling touch of a prow above the display that makes it difficult to actually get your finger to the top row. Keep in mind I have relatively delicate hands and wear between a Large and XL men’s glove. Imagine you’re a fiftysomething Phoenix drywall contractor with the frame of a lowland gorilla and the gnarled hands of a dockworker and you’ll see how CUE just ain’t gonna work for some of the intended audience.

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What have we circled here? Why, it’s the same kind of defroster attachment that goes bad on nearly every GMT900 SUV. It’s an utterly loathsome arrangement, being simultaneously fragile and poorly situated. For eighty-three grand, is it possible to do better? You betcha.

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This interior is virtually all unique to the Escalade, with a few exceptions — AWD control and the like. Many of the materials are very nice, but the fit and finish is still problematic. As an example, the exterior doorhandles have some sort of nickel or stainless steel covers, but in my test car none of them lined up correctly.

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With the third row of seats up, luggage space is effectively nonexistent, but the power folders work quickly and without difficulty. I used them immediately so I could get my roller bag in the back. This is really a five-seat car, just like its Blazer ancestors.

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“Upcoming maneuver!” You have to love it. I don’t know if the phraseology is the mistake of an overseas development team or a tacit acknowledgement of the Escalade’s Yamato-class heft, but it made me smile every time I saw it. Less cheer-inducing: the ten-second or longer delay from startup to navigation function. Like it or not, CUE is slow to do everything and it frequently displays the same sort of indecision I associate with my old Galaxy SIII phone. Bluetooth audio from that phone, by the by, stutters and starts in precisely the way it does not in a Ford Fiesta or even a Chevrolet Spark. Nor is the sound quality terribly compelling; vocals and stringed instruments tend to disappear into the mix. The steering-wheel-mounted control buttons are not exactly intuitive, doing different things when you push them straight into the bezel than when you let them wobble up or down from the same push. No sir, I don’t like it.

With that said, I want to make it absolutely plain, if possible, that nothing about the execution of the Escalade smacks of indifference. This isn’t a 1984 deVille. It’s a damn-the-torpedos effort that just happens to come up short. The people who actually buy these things won’t care too much; their checkbooks will be pried open by the outrageously intimidating front end and the wide expanses of metal and iPhone-buzzing glass on the center console. They’ll like the opening animation that makes the three gauges appear to fly onto the full-LCD dashboard and they’ll appreciate the extra USB power ports and most of all they will like the fact that only from the side does this look anything like a $46,300 Tahoe.

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Oh, wait: I’ve forgotten to mention what it’s like to drive. Okay. Let’s go over that. It’s very, very, very quiet. So quiet that you can hear the transmission whining up to the clunky next shift the same way you could hear it in a base-model ’73 Catalina. Super vintage, yo. The suspension has two modes — Tour and Sport. The difference is that Tour somehow lets the nose scrape on driveways when you’re in a hurry, despite the K2-like altitude of said nose.

Compared to the Navigator, the Cadillac feels much more solid and milled-from-a-piece, as you’d expect. The 420/460 V8 can’t match the EcoBoost from a stop but if you let it run you’ll see some serious speeds in short order. The brakes, on the other hand, could use some work; they’re more than capable of locking the 22″-inch wheels (Can’t lose with 22s!) on demand but at sub-ABS pressure levels they are soft and unresponsive. Handling is about what you’d expect from a three-ton vehicle on rubber-band all-season M+S tires. I observed 16.5mpg in mixed use and 20.2mpg in a sustained 85mph freeway run, not much worse than my old Town Car despite having half again the weight and nearly twice the power.

It’s common to portray the Escalade as the last true Cadillac. It has a real name, it is unashamedly V-8-powered (for now, anyway; there’s a V-6 turbo on the way) and more-than-full-sized. It looks the part. It’s a very sensible argument and one I’ve made in the past but after three days with this monster truck I’m no longer convinced. Cadillacs should have style and this sled just doesn’t. It’s just a big Tahoe with a bunch of shiny stuff on it. It’s offensively large and largely offensive, a blatant statement that the driver can’t even be bothered with the appearance of moderation. It’s not just larger and heavier than the 1977 downsized C-body de Ville/Fleetwood that served as a masterclass in large-car design, it’s larger and heavier than the really, really, massive ’76 Talisman. You can’t blame Cadillac for giving the people what they want, but I have no trouble blaming them for their decision to effectively terminate full-sized sedan development in the Carter administration.

If the new CT6 has the same basic features as this truck in a proper sedan form factor, it will deserve some measure of success. Cadillac says they are “daring greatly”, and I hope they are. As it is, there’s nothing daring about this Escalade. And, I would add, nothing great.

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New York 2015: Lincoln Continental Concept Revealed Ahead Of Show http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-lincoln-continental-concept-revealed-ahead-show/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-lincoln-continental-concept-revealed-ahead-show/#comments Mon, 30 Mar 2015 04:51:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1032425 Here it is: the Lincoln Continental Concept, revealed ahead of its trip down the ramp at the 2015 New York Auto Show. Power for the concept comes from a 3-liter EcoBoost V6 made exclusively for Lincoln, while the brand’s ride-enhancement technology and adaptive steering help keep things under control. No power figures were given at […]

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Here it is: the Lincoln Continental Concept, revealed ahead of its trip down the ramp at the 2015 New York Auto Show.

Power for the concept comes from a 3-liter EcoBoost V6 made exclusively for Lincoln, while the brand’s ride-enhancement technology and adaptive steering help keep things under control. No power figures were given at this time.

Inside, the occupants will be treated to a premium interior composed of Venetian and Alcantara leathers, rose gold and bright chrome trims, a satin headliner, soft-gold LED lighting, shearling wool carpet, and patented 30-way adjustable seating meant to adapt to a given occupant’s shape and size. The passenger-side rear seat can also fully recline when the front passenger seat is moved forward.

Other features include: Revel Ultima audio system; SPD SmartGlass tinting sunroof; tablet-supporting trays for the rear occupants; E-latch door handles; parking and pre-collision assists; 360-degree camera; and LED headlamps with laser-assist high beams.

The Lincoln Continental Concept is also a preview of the brand’s all-new fullsizer — to be called Continental — due next year

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Capsule Review: 2015 Ram Quad-Cab Tradesman http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-dodge-ram-quad-cab-tradesman/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-dodge-ram-quad-cab-tradesman/#comments Sun, 29 Mar 2015 15:40:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1031329   Recently I had to go pick up a pallet of mortar for a temporary job I was managing. My Suburban was not up to the task, and I didn’t want impossible-to-vacuum-while-still-getting-into-every-crack concrete dust sitting in my wife’s BMW X1 for the next decade. So I snagged the keys to a coworker’s 2015 Ram 2WD 1500 […]

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Recently I had to go pick up a pallet of mortar for a temporary job I was managing. My Suburban was not up to the task, and I didn’t want impossible-to-vacuum-while-still-getting-into-every-crack concrete dust sitting in my wife’s BMW X1 for the next decade. So I snagged the keys to a coworker’s 2015 Ram 2WD 1500 Quad Cab. I’ve driven Rams in the past, but this is my first interaction with the new ZF 8-speed transmission. It was introduced on the 2014 model year Rams, but the hardworking, good-looking editors here at TTAC elected to skip the launch to review another rented Ford Fusion Ecoboost[Not true-DK].

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 This particular Ram listed at $35K, but came off the lot at $27,000 before a trade-in. Ram dealers in the Atlanta area are throwing money at customers, despite growing sales. Even though Ram has seen double-digit percentage sales increases over the last two years they are very short of the number GM is pushing off the lots. For sheer numbers, believe Dennis Leary, Ford is the king of pickup sales.

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 Last year, Matt Gasnier piloted a Ram V-6 EcoDiesel across this vast and great land and had very positive reviews. Eight years ago I traveled from Montgomery Alabama to Altamont California in a 2005 Ford F-150 STX. I did not have the same pleasant experience, and it was actually my own truck. That speaks volumes for the ride quality improvement in trucks across the board. Alex Dykes also had a great review of the diesel 1500 Ram and gave it high marks. But dear reader, this is not a review of a sinister oil burner here pollutin’ up my green city with parh-tic-you-lates and whatnot.

IMG_0199No sirrie bubba, this here is an old-fashioned, pee-trol-fueled, 5.7-liter “Hemi” putting out 396 horses and 425 lb. feet of torque. That may not sound like a lot of twist in a conversation about diesels, but in a frame just over 3 tons and mated to the aforementioned 8 speed, this thing will go, and in a hurry. I discovered this as I pulled away from the worksite. Applying a little too much throttle I was rewarded with wheelspin. The owner wasn’t nearly as impressed as I was (Maybe it was the “Yee-Haaaww!” and throwing the horns out of the window). My experience with Rams of the past found their power and acceleration on par with the offerings from GM and Ford. But this transmission really makes a difference. The zero to 60 times don’t tell the same story on paper, but trust me; you could school some Gee-Em and FoMoCo pickup driver in this thing.

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In stark contrast to the modern drivetrain, the cabin is sparse even by truck standards. I was a little surprised to find the asking price north of $30,000 and even $27K might be a little much for this interior. When Ram “revolutionized” their trucks in the early 90’s, one of their selling points was a cabin designed for working. This tradition still carries with this Tradesman model, but at the expense of the material quality. It’s not the amenities, but the materials. The black door inserts are particularly out of place and look malaise era cheap. I can’t help but wonder how well these items will wear in a work environment compared to other pickups, including the imports. The seats are fine and comfortable, but the back seats are a bit of a joke. The headroom is great, but there is no room for a normal human being’s knees with another normal human sitting in the front.

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The stereo however, is excellent. with quality sound and compatibility for an entry level. The controls on the steering wheel, while a bit small, are instinctive and work well. The wheel-mounted shifters responded quicker that I expected, but ultimately the truck will override bad decisions and shift the truck with enough throttle input.

IMG_0202 It’s a good-looking truck; with chrome wheels raised white letter tires and factory dual exhaust. It’s an excellent, stable and comfortable ride. While it’s mostly an evolution of the 09 redesign, the transmission really transforms this into a vehicle that can be driven on the freeway and in complete comfort as was referenced by the cross-country trip. The owner is seeing upwards of mid 20’s in Atlanta traffic with makes my 11-year old Suburban downright embarrassing in comparison.

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The new all aluminum F-150 is much more expensive even before the repair costs are weighed in. In the realm of work trucks, the market Ram has clearly targeted, this is a real factor to consider. Even if you are fine with the nicks and dings that come with a truck that earns its’ living, it will have a negative effect on resale. Atlanta area Chevy and GMC dealers are putting cash on the hood, but it’s an eminence front (see what I did there?), as they are not getting their similarly equipped models under $30K. Why? Because here the Eh Tee El, they don’t have to. Those trucks will sell regardless, your market may vary.  Nissan doesn’t offer a Titan quad cab below $32 and good luck finding an entry level one at the dealer. Toyota Tundras start at $28, but when optioned to even this sparse level they hit $30K while being down on HP and MPG to the Ram.

So for a truck that will see work beyond hauling petunias from Home Depot on weekends, the Ram 1500 might be worth a test drive. Especially if your dealer is as aggressive about making a deal as this one was.

Ram didn’t contribute a thing to this test. The truck is privately owned and was a replacement for a previous 2004 Ram Quad Cab that blew a head gasket at 200,000 miles.  Mental did owe the owner lunch after boiling his tires like a drunken redneck in a Miranda Lambert song.

Christian “Mental” Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is a graduate of Panoz Racing School, still loves cartoons and once exceeded the speed of sound. Married to the most patient woman in the world; he has three dogs, a Philosophy degree and makes Derek wonder if English is actually his first language. Follow him on Twiiter, Instagram and Vine at M3ntalward. 

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Review: 2016 Acura ILX (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2016-acura-ilx-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2016-acura-ilx-video/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:55:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1026105 It has been two years since we last looked at the ILX, and my conclusion went like this: The 2.4L engine needs an automatic and some infotainment love, the 2.0L engine needs more grunt and the hybrid needs to be euthanized. Without changes like these, the Acura ILX will remain a sensible Civic upgrade but […]

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2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front.CR2

It has been two years since we last looked at the ILX, and my conclusion went like this:

The 2.4L engine needs an automatic and some infotainment love, the 2.0L engine needs more grunt and the hybrid needs to be euthanized. Without changes like these, the Acura ILX will remain a sensible Civic upgrade but as a competitor to Buick’s new-found mojo, Acura has some catching up to do.

2016 brings what I was expecting: a mid-cycle refresh with a new nose and new rump to keep the photos fresh. What I didn’t expect was for Acura to also address the major mechanical systems that we all complained about. Neither did I expect the ILX to be so transformed by a “simple” heart transplant. Can the ILX live up to the legendary Acura Legend? I snagged the keys to a “A-Spec Technology Plus” model to find out.

Exterior

Acura is not the kind of company that dishes out one daring design after another, especially since the Acura “beak” went over so poorly. As a result this ILX, like its predecessor, plays right to the conservatively styled heart of the traditional Acura shopper.

As has been said in the past, the ILX is related to the Honda Civic, but the relation is more third-cousin than sister. The ILX never shared sheetmetal or glass with its plebeian platform mate, and the ILX isn’t a simple re-skin either. While the wheelbase is shared with the Civic, nearly every hard point was changed from the A-pillar moved 8-inches rearward, trunk and door openings modified to the lowered roofline, the 2016 ILX shares as much with the Civic as the original Chrysler 300 shared with the Mercedes E-Class.

As expected, Acura swapped in a set of full-LED headlamps styled after the multi-beam modules we first saw in the MDX and RLX, and further massaged the front end to look more like the larger TLX. Acura’s quest to give the ILX more of a “wedge like” appearance rather than a tall hood translates to a somewhat pointy front to the side profile. Out back the changes are minimal but the A-Spec trim our tester wore gives the sedate sedan a bit more style and a tasteful chrome strip on the trunk spoiler.

2016 Acura ILX Interior Dashboard.CR2-001

Interior

Interior parts quality is right in line with the Buick Verano which, as expected, is a notch below the more expensive A3, CLA, S60, IS 250 and 320i. As you’d expect in a “near-luxury” vehicle, most of the ILX touch-points are soft plastic but you will find hard plastic lurking below the faux-metal trim and making up most of the center console. Front seat comfort is good but the lack of adjustable lumbar support is surprising. All models get an 8-way power driver’s seat, but only upper trims offer seat memory or a power passenger seat. An important side-effect of Acura’s modifications to the platform’s roof-line is limited headroom. Headroom is further limited up front by the standard sunroof, a nice value feature for sure, but at 6-feet tall my head missed touching the ceiling by millimeters. Acura will no doubt show taller shoppers the TLX.

The ILX’s rear seats are slightly less comfortable than the Verano, but a step above the mainstream compact segment with more thigh support for adults and considerably more legroom than the Mercedes CLA, Volvo S60, and despite the spec sheet saying otherwise, the A3 sedan as well. The key seems to be in combined front and rear legroom where the ILX shines. On the downside, Acura chose to share the rear seat frame with the Honda Civic giving the ILX a 100% folding bench seat that is far less practical than the more common 60/40 variety. This would be less of a problem if the trunk had grown in 2016, but it is still stuck at a smallish 12.3 cubes, smaller than the Verano, Lexus CT or Mazda3.

2016 Acura ILX Interior Shift Paddles

Speaking of the Mazda3, the small Mazda is in many ways a similar vehicle despite Mazda and Acura targeting different demographics. Interior parts quality is quite similar, although the ILX is more of a mixed bag by borrowing switchgear from both the Civic and the TLX. Where they differ notably is the steering wheel, gauge cluster and infotainment systems where the ILX shares more heavily with the more expensive Acuras while the Mazda is a little more constsient but lacks the spendy parts.

To keep things simple, Acura bundles features into packages, leaving essentially no stand-alone options. The base model comes well equipped with dual-zone climate control, 5-inch infotainment display, LED headlamps, Bluetooth/iDevice integration, backup camera, keyless entry/go and a cabin air filter for $27,900. Since the base model is rarely the volume leader, the second trim is the most interesting because the $29,200 “AcuraWatch Plus” trim adds radar adaptive cruise control, collision warning, collision mitigating autonomous braking, lane keep warning, lane keep assist, and electric pre-tensioning front seat belts. This safety system package is included in every trim above as well, making the ILX one of the least expensive vehicles with this kind of tech near-standard. (If you want all that in your TLX it will set you back $42,600.) The $29,900 Premium adds leather seating, blind spot monitoring, cross traffic detection, XM radio and a sub-woofer to the base 6-speaker system, swaps the 5-inch infotainment screen for a dual screen system featuring an 8-inch display high in the dash and a 7-inch touchscreen lower in the dash. The last jump is the $32,900 Technology package adds factory navigation to the 8-inch screen, 10 speakers, AcuraLink (Acura’s answer to OnStar), an upgraded backup cam, color LCD in the gauge cluster and GPS-reading/solar-sending to the climate control system. The only option is the $1,999 A-sped sport trim package netting the buyer 18-inch wheels, fog lamps, faux-suede inserts in the seats, a spoiler and some aluminum pedals.

2016 Acura ILX Interior Infotainment Navigation System-003

Acura’s two-screen infotainment system isn’t as polished as BMW’s iDrive but it is considerably snazzier than you’ll find in any mass-market competitor like the Mazda. The base system lags behind the Verano’s touchscreen radio, while the two-screen system tops it in elegance. Why two screens? The engineers say the concept is as follows: the lower touchscreen handles the audio, freeing the upper screen for navigation and other tasks. My opinion of the system has improved since I first encountered it on the MDX but I still think the casserole needs more time in the oven. You can skip tracks/albums using the touchscreen, but changing playlists or more detailed browsing requires the rotary/joystick lower in the dash and the 8-inch screen at the top. In my mind, this sort of kills the dual-screen sales proposition. On the positive side, the system is very responsive and the graphics are all high-resolution and attractive. Compared to the other entries in this segment, it lacks the online connectivity features found in Volvo’s Sensus Connect and Audi’s latest MMI, but offers more screen real estate and a more modern feel than either connected system.

2016 Acura ILX 2.4l EarthDreams Direct Injection Engine-001.CR2

Drivetrain

When it launched, the ILX borrowed the complete engine line-up from the Civic, including the lackluster 1.5L engine, 5-speed auto, underpowered hybrid, and the rev-happy 2.4L from the Civic Si mated only to a 6-speed manual. The 2.4L engine was the only engine worth buying, but slow manual sales meant it was a small portion of the sales pie. For 2016, Acura dropped all three engines in favor of the direct-injection 2.4L four-cylinder engine from the TLX. Closely related to the 2.4L in the Honda Accord, the  “EarthDreams” engine is tuned for slightly higher output. At 201 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of twist, this looks similar to the Civic Si’s 2.4L until you look at the power and torque curves. Thanks to the new design, and the direct-injection system, both power and torque arrive lower at RPMs and stay strong at higher revs.

Sending power to the wheels is the same 8-speed dual-clutch transmission as the bigger Acura. DCTs are nothing new, but Acura takes things a step beyond Audi and Mercedes with an 8-speed unit and a torque converter tossed in for good measure. The biggest issue with DCTs is their unrefined low-speed / hill-start performance. The torque converter solves that by allowing the clutch to completely engage first gear at low speeds.

2016 Acura ILX Interior Gauge Cluster-002

Drive

On the surface of things, the Frankenstein transmission sounds like the unholy union of all that is wrong with an automatic and a manual. Part of this is because early DCT adopters told us that torque converters were the root of all evil and DCTs were so blindingly efficient that the relatively poor 0-10  performance is compensated by brilliant 10-60 performance. In reality, the combination creates one of the finest transmissions in the world. No kidding. The Acura DCT is at the same level as ZF’s 6-speed and 8-speed automatic. Rather than hamper performance, the torque converter improves off-the-line acceleration because it can transmit more power to the gearset than a slipping clutch can. After the initial start, the converter spends most of the time “locked up” giving the drivetrain a very linear, manual-like feel. When shifting is called for, it delivers the speed of a dual-clutch transmission (slightly faster than most of ZF’s offerings) and the smoothness of an automatic because the torque converter is momentarily “unlocked” to soak up vibration during the shift. My only complaint is that Acura didn’t jam at least a low-pressure turbo on the 2.4L engine because this transmission deserves more power. Or AWD, or both.

The difference in refinement is immediately noticeable when driven back-to-back with the A3′ wet-clutch DSG and night-and-day different from the DCT in the Mercedes CLA. (The Mercedes transmission has been improving, but is still shockingly rough around the edges.) Likely largely to the new transmission, 0-60 times are a full second faster than the 2015 2.4L model and a blazing 3-seconds faster than the 2015 base model. Some of the credit goes to the new engine since the Civic Si engine has to scream like a leaf blower to deliver maximum thrust. This engine has a more luxury car appropriate torque band. In absolute terms, the 6.2 second sprint to 60 is faster than the Verano Turbo we tested, faster than the A3 2.0T, IS 250 and a just 4/10ths slower than the CLA 250 and S60 T5 Drive-e.

2016 Acura ILX Exterior Rear-001

Handling was never an issue with the ILX and that continues for 2016, despite what the folks at CR may say. The light curb weight of 3,093lbs is impressive, not just because it is 100lbs less than the lightest A3 in America and nearly 200lbs lighter than a CLA 250, but because the ILX is 6-inches longer than the German as well. With a similar weight distribution to the A3 and CLA and 225/40R18 tires (A-Spec), you’d expect the ILX to run with the sportier entries in this pack and you’d be right, with a twist. The light curb weight and wide tires provide excellent grip, but even in the A-Spec trim the ILX avoids bruised kidneys with a surprisingly refined suspension. Acura’s “dampers with two valves” allow the damping to be firm and body roll to be well controlled under most conditions while soaking up large imperfections like a sedan with a softer suspension. The system retains 95% of the Civic Si’s road holding ability while delivering a ride more composed than the turbo Verano. Similarly, the steering is a little less direct than the Si but yields better feel than the Buick. The ILX lacks the precision and astonishing grip you find in the CLA, but taken as a whole the ILX is the best balanced since it lacks the jarring ride of the CLA with the sport package but gives up little grip in the process. The CLA is a hoot and a half on your favorite winding mountain road, but the ILX is the kind of car you can also stick your mother-in-law in and she won’t think you’ve gone “all boy-racer” after turning 30. Limits are lower in the non-A-Spec trim largely due to the 215-width tires, but driving the ILX back-to-back with a Audi A3 1.8T made me question the sanity of the folks at Consumer Reports who berated the handling. Go figure.

Fuel economy was a concern of mine because of the torque converter, and indeed I averaged 2 MPG lower than the EPA combined 29 MPG, but that may have had something to do with my driving style. Treating the ILX gently it was possible to get 35 MPG out of the baby Acura on the open highway besting most of the entries in this segment and matching Volvo’s new Drive-e engines.

Despite sharing quite little with Honda’s Civic and not looking like a fancy Civic, the 2015 ILX felt like a fancy Civic. Now there’s nothing wrong with that per se (after-all the success of the Lexus ES is largely due to the fact that for many years it was little more than a fancy Camry), but that’s not the Acura that the brand’s faithful remember. This ILX however is that Acura. The drivetrain and excellent pricing scheme, more than the infotainment system or LED headlamps, are the reason. Sure the ILX has some discount plastic, but the interior on the whole feels like a TLX that’s been discounted than a Civic that’s been “tarted up.” While the old ILX could only be compared with the Verano, Mazda3 and similar vehicles with a straight face, the 2016 model is different. No, I would not call it direct competition to the 320i, IS 250, CLA 250 or S60 per se, but with pricing up to $10,000 less than those models comparably equipped, the ILX is unquestionable the value alternative. While the Acura RL may have replaced the Legend in 1995, the 2016 ILX is its true successor.

Acura provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.4 Seconds

0-60: 6.2 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.8 @ 95 MPH

Interior sound level: 72db @ 50 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 27.1 MPH over 981 miles

 

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New York 2015: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Ready For Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-2016-infiniti-qx50-ready-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-2016-infiniti-qx50-ready-debut/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 10:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030185 It’s official: the 2016 Infiniti QX50 will make its debut at next week’s New York Auto Show. MotorAuthority reports the updated crossover will takes its cues from the Chinese-market QX50 Long-Wheelbase like the one in the image above. This means a longer wheelbase for additional rear legroom and cabin space. The updated model will also […]

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It’s official: the 2016 Infiniti QX50 will make its debut at next week’s New York Auto Show.

MotorAuthority reports the updated crossover will takes its cues from the Chinese-market QX50 Long-Wheelbase like the one in the image above. This means a longer wheelbase for additional rear legroom and cabin space. The updated model will also have a slightly higher stance than the current model.

Potential power for the QX50 points to the same 3.7-liter V6 found solely in the crossover now, rated at 325 horsepower. Price of admission is expected to be around $35,995, the base sticker price for the 2015 edition.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-chevrolet-malibu-ltz/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-chevrolet-malibu-ltz/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 20:35:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029937 The Malibu was pretty good. It looked good. It drove nicely enough. It sold in decent numbers. But that was between 2008 and 2012. • U.S. Market Price As Tested: $33,380 • Horsepower: 196 @ 6300 rpm • Torque: 191 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm • Observed Fuel Economy: 23.5 mpg The 2013 Malibu wasn’t so […]

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2015 Chevrolet Malibu Butte RedThe Malibu was pretty good. It looked good. It drove nicely enough. It sold in decent numbers.

But that was between 2008 and 2012.


• U.S. Market Price As Tested: $33,380

• Horsepower: 196 @ 6300 rpm

• Torque: 191 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 23.5 mpg


The 2013 Malibu wasn’t so great. It didn’t look good. It didn’t drive so nicely. It wasn’t very pleasant inside. It didn’t sell so well.

But with the speed of a cat lover furiously favouriting tweets of bathing felines, GM refreshed the Malibu for the 2014 model year. Verdict: the refresh was inadequate.

GM deserves credit, and I’m not even kidding, for understanding that the 2013 Malibu wasn’t good enough, and even more brownie points for realizing that the updated 2014/2015 Malibu is unsatisfactory, too. GM will therefore introduce a new Malibu for model year 2016, fast-forwarding to the next generation with all due haste in a market that sees Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys linger for at least five years.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu rearI’ll be honest, I didn’t think the 2015 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ loaned to me for a week from GM Canada was a bad car, not at all. I don’t say that because, as some would suggest, “There’s no such thing as a bad car in 2015,” but rather because a CAD $35,810 midsize sedan is likely a half-decent place to spend time in 2015. This is not a Mitsubishi Mirage. Nor is it a 2007 Chevrolet Malibu.

But there are big issues. Combined, the issues led me to believe that most intermediate cars in 2015 are better than the Malibu in most ways.

The 2016 Malibu must not suffer the same fate.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu LTZIn order to make the current Malibu more fuel-efficient – the base 2012 Malibu was rated at 22/33 mpg, this car is 25/36 – a stop-start system was put in place to stop all the idle guzzling. That’s fine, or it would be, but the stop-start system in the Malibu is the worst I’ve encountered. Stop-start systems are supposed to reignite the engine mellifluously, even surreptitiously. In the 2015 Malibu, in order to pull away from an intersection when the light turns green, the car cranks up as though it’s the first time on a winter’s morning in Winnipeg. This needs to be fixed for MY2016.

The 196-horsepower 2.5L-four-cylinder isn’t a great powerplant aside from its diseased stop-start system. Coarse above 4000 rpm, also known as 2300 rpm shy of the 2.5L’s power peak, the 2.5L causes the Malibu to feel slower than it actually is because you won’t want to rev it and it doesn’t want to rev.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ interiorOh, but of course you can upgrade the powerplant to GM’s 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder (63 extra horsepower and a hefty 295 lb-ft of torque), and at this price point, why haven’t you? Forego some of the LTZ’s features in favour of an LT with the proper engine and the Malibu erases one of its key faults.

A different engine won’t dramatically alter the ride and handling, and that’s not the end of the world. The Malibu doesn’t ride poorly, but there is some stiffness that lacks a commensurate return in handling agility and precision. Honda’s Accord and the Mazda 6 also transmit impacts into the cabin, but they pay dividends on a back road. When pushed, the Malibu fees larger to drive than it really is. Nevertheless, in mundane driving, the light steering and surprisingly responsive and progressive brakes cause no offense.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu rear seatOffense may well be taken by people behind the driver, however, not just inside the Malibu but in the vehicle abaft. Subjectively speaking, the front end of the Malibu is handsome, but the rear is cartoonish and heavy-handed, thus causing the driver of the car behind you to avert his eyes. As for rearward occupants, scalloped front seats introduced for 2014 offered little noticeable improvement for rear seat passengers. A massive centre hump severely restricts three-across comfort. There may be no Malibu demerit more egregious than its compact car-like rear cabin.

Up front, the interior is laid out effectively, but we had some annoying moments with Chevrolet’s MyLink, an experience that didn’t occur during the prior week with a Buick LaCrosse. Turning the knob to cycle through satellite radio stations periodically accomplished nothing, but then a glance back at the screen a moment or two later revealed an intense scrolling, presumably caused by what I perceived to be my unsuccessful attempt at scanning through the list of channels. Overall, the system continues to be sufficiently intuitive but was persistently laggy in this car.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu interior storageIt all adds up to an undesirable machine, a transportation device that is unlikely to cause undue harm but struggles to do its job as effectively as its rivals. Still, I’d argue that a devoted GM buyer doesn’t need to look outside the Chevy showroom. A Cruze, particularly a loaded one that’ll still cost thousands less than this Malibu test specimen, does a faithful impersonation of a big car in dynamic terms. The Cruze’s interior is only 5% smaller. And if big car space is truly required, a V6-engined Impala is only slightly more costly than this specific Malibu. Forget the Malibu LTZ’s features: space is luxury.

Or you could just wait. As we’ve come to learn, there’s always a new Malibu around the corner.

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

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2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Pulling From Volt Playbook http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2016-chevrolet-malibu-hybrid-pulling-volt-playbook/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2016-chevrolet-malibu-hybrid-pulling-volt-playbook/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 14:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029809 Pulling a few pages from the Volt playbook, Chevrolet will offer a “strong hybrid” version of the 2016 Malibu set to bow in New York next week. Power for the Malibu Hybrid comes from a 1.8-liter direct-injection four-cylinder paired with a modified two-motor drive unit from the 2016 Volt meant to aid the engine during […]

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2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Lithium-Ion Battery System, 1.8L En

Pulling a few pages from the Volt playbook, Chevrolet will offer a “strong hybrid” version of the 2016 Malibu set to bow in New York next week.

Power for the Malibu Hybrid comes from a 1.8-liter direct-injection four-cylinder paired with a modified two-motor drive unit from the 2016 Volt meant to aid the engine during acceleration. Total horsepower comes to 182, and its estimated combined mileage is projected to be 45 mpg. Electric power comes from an 80-cell lithium-ion pack providing 1.5 kWh to the hybrid system, which can allow the Malibu to travel up to 55 mph on electric-only travel.

The gasoline engine is also Chevrolet’s first to have exhaust gas heat recovery, improving fuel economy and engine warm up as well as providing heat to the cabin. Further fuel economy improves come from exhaust gas recirculation, while its regenerative braking system — also shared with the 2016 Volt — helps maintain charge in the pack

The hybrid will leave Kansas City, Kan. for showrooms next spring.

2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Lithium-Ion Battery System, 1.8L En 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid 1.8L Engine and Drive Unit 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Lithium-Ion Battery System

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New York 2015: Mazda MX-5 Miata Club Edition Set To Bow http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/nyias-2015-mazda-mx-5-miata-club-edition-set-bow/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/nyias-2015-mazda-mx-5-miata-club-edition-set-bow/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029737 Coming next week, Mazda will unveil its most aggressive version of the new MX-5 Miata when it brings the MX-5 Miata Club Edition to New York. Though little information was given about what the Club Edition will bring to the party, Mazda says the model will amplify the driving experience already found in the standard […]

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Coming next week, Mazda will unveil its most aggressive version of the new MX-5 Miata when it brings the MX-5 Miata Club Edition to New York.

Though little information was given about what the Club Edition will bring to the party, Mazda says the model will amplify the driving experience already found in the standard model, “harking back to the early lightweight sports cars that inspired it, but serving as a beacon for the future as a thoroughly modern, sophisticated package.”

Speculation points to the Accessories Design Concept from the 2015 Chicago Auto Show for inspiration, as well as the current Club Edition, including black wheels, limited-slip differential, and an appearance package.

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Volkswagen Bringing Aggressive Crossover Styling To USDM Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/volkswagen-bringing-aggressive-crossover-styling-usdm-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/volkswagen-bringing-aggressive-crossover-styling-usdm-market/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 10:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029713 Feeling its style isn’t metal as it could be, Volkswagen is unleashing a more aggressive language for its upcoming compact and midsize crossovers. Automotive News reports the crossovers’ styling will take cues from the T-Roc and Cross Coupe GTE concepts, including sharp-angled character lines, notch-tooth grills, and imposing faces. Design boss Klaus Bischoff says the […]

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Volkswagen-T-ROC-Concept

Feeling its style isn’t metal as it could be, Volkswagen is unleashing a more aggressive language for its upcoming compact and midsize crossovers.

Automotive News reports the crossovers’ styling will take cues from the T-Roc and Cross Coupe GTE concepts, including sharp-angled character lines, notch-tooth grills, and imposing faces. Design boss Klaus Bischoff says the new language is needed to help make a stronger impact in the United States market, considering that the automaker’s 2 percent market share pales in comparison to the double-digits it enjoys in Europe, China and other global markets.

Bischoff admits that the more conservative Euro-centric approach to design had been the company’s philosophy “for a long time,” adding that while it did work in Europe, it didn’t seem to be “the remedy for the rest of the world.”

The first model to wear the new design language will be the seven-passenger midsize crossover — pulling cues from the Cross Coupe GTE — set to leave Chattanooga in 2016. This will be followed by a redesigned Tiguan and a Golf-based crossover — the latter taking its style from the T-Roc — both due in 2017.

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2015 Ford S-Max Can Drive 55 Via Intelligent Speed Limiter http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2015-ford-s-max-can-drive-55-via-intelligent-speed-limiter/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2015-ford-s-max-can-drive-55-via-intelligent-speed-limiter/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 14:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028945 Can’t drive 55? If you’re behind the wheel of a 2015 Ford S-Max, you’ll have no choice, thanks to its Intelligent Speed Limiter. Ford of Europe says its limiter, being first offered on the seven-seat crossover, can allow drivers to set a maximum speed manually that can be dialed up or down in 5 kph […]

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2015 Ford S-Max Intelligent Speed Limiter - TTAC Zaibatsu Style

Can’t drive 55? If you’re behind the wheel of a 2015 Ford S-Max, you’ll have no choice, thanks to its Intelligent Speed Limiter.

Ford of Europe says its limiter, being first offered on the seven-seat crossover, can allow drivers to set a maximum speed manually that can be dialed up or down in 5 kph (5 mph) increments, as well as doing all the work for the driver.

The latter is accomplished through traffic-sign recognition technology, which provides the driver with speed limit information, cancellation signs and overtaking restrictions via the S-Max’s instrument cluster. Functionality begins at 30 kph (20 mph), and ends at 200 kph (120 mph), and drivers can set a speed tolerance of 5 kph above the limit.

Active safety chief Stefan Knappes says the system is meant to remove “one of the stresses of driving, helping ensure customers remain within the legal speed limit,” explaining that drivers sometimes aren’t aware of their speed until an accident or a fine occurs. The system will hit the road in Europe this summer, when the first S-Max deliveries begin.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-sahara/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-sahara/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 13:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1026617 In the darkest depths of the Cerberus era, nobody at Chrysler could have predicted how popular the all-new “JK” Jeep Wrangler would be. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the incredible cross-section of people buying the Wrangler. Everyone from suburban parents, white-collar upper management types and my own mother. This, by the way, is a vehicle that still […]

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2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara side yellow

In the darkest depths of the Cerberus era, nobody at Chrysler could have predicted how popular the all-new “JK” Jeep Wrangler would be. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the incredible cross-section of people buying the Wrangler. Everyone from suburban parents, white-collar upper management types and my own mother. This, by the way, is a vehicle that still utilizes a full frame and live axles!

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara front yellow

In my own opinion, the Wrangler’s success comes from several different factors. The most obvious is the availability of the long wheel base Unlimited model, which offers 4 doors and a proper rear seat. Second, the JK and JKU have been significantly improved over the TJ; in addition to a stronger frame and a better body, things like the roof options were greatly improved, while creature comforts like the heater were brought into the modern era. Third, it has been continually improved since its introduction; a new interior in 2011, an all-new engine in 2012, and various features, options, and trims over the years. All of this was done without taking away the Jeepness of it; removable doors, drain plugs, folding windshield, and unmatched off-road capability. Think about it, it has a freakin’ folding windshield! In 2015!

The JK is now in the autumn of its years, but it is as young as the day it was born. It can be configured as a base short soft-top model with steel wheels all the way up to a fifty thousand dollar four-door Rubicon with heated leather seats, Alpine audio, roof liner, climate control, and remote start. You can have half doors or full doors and three different tops in nine different trim levels. Take your pick of a proper six-speed manual or a pretty damn good five-speed automatic. There are catalogs thicker than 1989 phone books filled with accessories. AEV will drop a HEMI V8 and convert one into an awesome pickup truck for you. How much money you got?

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara interior seats trunk

One of my hard-core-ish Jeep buddies (clean TJ with 3” lift, wheeled in summer) said that it’s sacrilegious to have some of these options on a real Jeep and something about Jeeps being built not bought. My other Jeep buddy (fuel-injected ’84 CJ-8 on 33s, wheeled very often) loves how the Wrangler has evolved and would buy one if he had the money. Search any Jeep internet forums and it is evident that people who off-road their Wranglers love them as much as those who haul kids in them. 33s can be stuffed in without a lift kit, 35s with a $200 spacer kit. A winch can be hidden behind the factory bumper, and fenders can replaced for high clearance ones with a few hours of work. The Rubicon comes from the factory with Dana 44 axles, locking diffs, and electronically disconnecting sway bars for increased axle articulation. I don’t understand why idiots risk illegally importing Land Rover Defenders when the Wrangler is just so good.

There is no denying that the Wrangler drives like a truck on the street. It doesn’t like sudden maneuvers but it was not dramatic when I needed to avoid a moron who couldn’t see a huge yellow Jeep in his side mirror. The seating position is high, so look far ahead and drive defensively.  Respect the Wrangler, and it will make a fun daily commuter. Or you can go buy the idiot-proof Grand Cherokee. Highway ride is much less tiresome than it was in older Jeeps but ain’t no Range Rover.

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara interior dash steering wheel

Wranglers are a ton of fun, but they are not for everyone. The doors are small, the front seats lack lumbar support, rear seat backs are near vertical, and the hatch is kind of a pain. Wranglers are loud, tall, bouncy, and thirsty (16 city/21 hwy). None of that really matters, as you have either already stopped reading this or you are busy planning a weekend for the semiannual ritual of hard-top to soft-top swap. It’s a perfectly imperfect vehicle for winter snow and summer sun alike, and in my opinion all enthusiasts should own one in their lives.

The Wrangler starts at around $23,000 and the Unlimited around $27,000. The very Baja Yellow pictured Wrangler Unlimited Sahara, which comes standard with color-matched fenders, power windows and doors locks, and side steps starts at $32,295. The Sahara offers options that may not be available on other models, such as leather heated seats for $1300 and body-colored hard-top for $1895, remote start $495, Alpine audio, which sounds really good considering the fact that it is in a tin can, is $795. The Uconnect system with nav, hard drive, SiriusXM, and a USB port is $1895. Throw in a connectivity package, automatic transmission, and a destination change and you’re looking at $41,515. That is a lot, but it is still a lot cheaper than any beat up Defender 110.

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara rear side yellow

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. His first vehicle was an ’84 CJ-7. One day he met a cute chick who was driving a black TJ with a manual transmission. He married that chick and now they have two kids who love Jeeps, but sadly don’t own a Jeep!

FCA US LLC provided the bright yellow vehicle for the purpose of this review. Seriously, the yellow body with yellow top and yellow fenders is a bit much. I tried to get it muddy but my favorite construction site was fenced off, so I only managed to get it salty. 

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Reithofer: Government Programs Key To BMW i3 Success http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/reithofer-government-programs-key-bmw-i3-success/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/reithofer-government-programs-key-bmw-i3-success/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 11:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028841 BMW’s i3’s success is helped by a number of government incentives in a few of the automaker’s key markets, according to CEO Norbert Reithofer. According to Automotive News Europe, Reithofer said that sales figures for the i3 are connected to political initiatives toward electric mobility, adding that when those initiatives are there, “the registration figures […]

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2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-007

BMW’s i3’s success is helped by a number of government incentives in a few of the automaker’s key markets, according to CEO Norbert Reithofer.

According to Automotive News Europe, Reithofer said that sales figures for the i3 are connected to political initiatives toward electric mobility, adding that when those initiatives are there, “the registration figures for the BMW i3 soar.”

The CEO cited Norway as an example, where the government not only has a charging infrastructure where owners can park and recharge for free, but does not levy sales or registration taxes on EVs. Those incentives have helped BMW move 2,000 i3s in 2014.

Meanwhile, significant financial subsidies in the United States, as well as privileges such as use of dedicated HOV lanes, led to sales of 3,000 units in California alone, a figure that is half of all i3s sold in the U.S.

Other incentives include looser licensing restrictions in Shanghai, circulation tax exemptions for 10 years from date of first registration in Germany, and company car tax exemptions for life in France.

Speaking of Germany, where 2,000 i3s were sold in 2014, Reithofer said his country’s government needs to “pick up the pace” in pushing electric mobility. Germany wants 1 million EVs on its roads by 2020, and has plans to offer additional incentives to achieve its goal.

In the meantime, BMW will introduce its DriveNow car-sharing service this spring, beginning in London. San Francisco will be the first U.S. city in the program by May, while the German cities of Hamburg, Berlin and Munich will join in July. The program is meant to help boost acceptance of electrification, and widening the tech’s appeal among younger drivers.

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Study: Mercedes Holds Highest Average Labor Costs Among US Manufacturers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/study-mercedes-holds-highest-average-labor-costs-among-us-manufacturers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/study-mercedes-holds-highest-average-labor-costs-among-us-manufacturers/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 10:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028817 Who among all automakers has the highest labor costs in the United States? A study points to Mercedes-Benz. According to Reuters, a study of 2014 labor costs by the Center for Automotive Research found that the automaker’s sole U.S. plant in Vance, Ala. averages $65/hour, while Volkswagen and BMW held the lowest averages overall and […]

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Who among all automakers has the highest labor costs in the United States? A study points to Mercedes-Benz.

According to Reuters, a study of 2014 labor costs by the Center for Automotive Research found that the automaker’s sole U.S. plant in Vance, Ala. averages $65/hour, while Volkswagen and BMW held the lowest averages overall and among the transplants, coming out to $38 and $39 per hour, respectively.

As mentioned previously, General Motors and Ford have the highest costs among the Detroit Three, averaging $58 and $57 per hour compared to FCA US’ $48. The three automakers are also the only ones whose employees are represented by the United Auto Workers, whose 2007 contract created the two-tier wage system meant to help the trio remain competitive against the transplants, as well as to stay afloat during the darkest days of the Great Recession.

Other automakers with business in the U.S. include Honda ($49/hr.), Toyota ($48/hr.), Nissan ($42/hr.), and Hyundai/Kia ($41/hr.).

The averages in the study were based on pay for both direct-hire and temporary employees working full-time. The research group also found that Japanese transplants had the highest percentages of temporary employees, helping to cut down on labor costs.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Buick LaCrosse AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-buick-lacrosse-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-buick-lacrosse-awd/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 13:45:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1027585 Full disclosure: this is not my kind of car. Buick sold 51,468 LaCrosses last year, a 10,000-unit decline compared with 2010, even though the overall car market was 33% stronger last year than it was in 2010. Reach a whole decade back to discover that Buick sold 170,213 LaCrosses, LeSabres, and Park Avenues in 2005. […]

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2015 Buick LaCrosseFull disclosure: this is not my kind of car.

Buick sold 51,468 LaCrosses last year, a 10,000-unit decline compared with 2010, even though the overall car market was 33% stronger last year than it was in 2010. Reach a whole decade back to discover that Buick sold 170,213 LaCrosses, LeSabres, and Park Avenues in 2005.


• USD Price As Tested: ≈ $48,485

• Horsepower: 304 @ 6800 rpm

• Torque: 264 lb-ft @ 5300 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 18 mpg


It’s not just a Buick thing. U.S. sales of the Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus, Hyundai Azera, Lexus ES, Nissan Maxima, and Toyota Avalon combined to slide 9% in 2014, year-over-year. LaCrosse sales actually increased slightly in 2014, but 2015 is off to a rough start with sales down 17% through two months.

More disclosure: big Buick sedans are increasingly not your kind of car, either. And by “your”, I’m referring to the market as a whole.

That doesn’t mean I can’t be converted. Despite its terribly light steering, one week with the 2014 Chevrolet Impala LTZ led me to tell my wife that we should pick up a used one in a couple years. She laughed at me. “We’re not your grandparents,” she said. I hope she felt really guilty about reminding me that all my grandparents are, you know, dead.

2015 Buick LaCrosse AWD in snowI enjoyed a week last summer with the latest all-wheel-drive Hyundai Genesis, as well. Granted, its rear-wheel-drive-based architecture does offer a different vibe. The Ford Taurus is too small inside, but the Chrysler 300? Ever more cool to my eyes. The Dodge Charger is available with more than 700 horsepower, and that Hellcat rubs off nicely on all the lesser Chargers.

But the 2015 LaCrosse, a Lexus ES-fighting, 3.6L V6-powered, all-wheel-drive big car with a surprisingly tight 13.3-cubic-foot trunk and an as-tested Canadian price of nearly $52,000, is not my kind of car. True, it’s a nicely executed version of what it’s supposed to be. Alas, what it’s supposed to be is not for me, and the figures suggest, it’s not for you, either.

2015 Buick LaCrosse AWD PremiumLoaned to us for the week by GM Canada, the LaCrosse is supremely quiet, albeit let down by a set of noisy Hancook winter tires on our tester. The rear seat is expansive with plenty of width for three if need be. Buick’s Intellilink infotainment unit is sufficiently straightforward and simple, not the best but certainly not the worst interface in the automobile world. From most angles, the LaCrosse looks quite nice, as well, and certainly more premium than it did when this second-generation debuted half a decade ago. Interior material quality is quite posh, even on the rear doors.

Unfortunately, there’s more than a hint of old Americana in the way the LaCrosse makes its way down the road. The engine’s bounty is noticeable, but so is the car’s 4140-pound curb weight. While the LaCrosse is surprisingly composed when driven with a moderate level of increased urge down a twisty road, the level of surprise arrives in large part due to your own expectations. And the fact that the LaCrosse feels better at six-tenths than three-tenths is troublesome. Sure, it always manages to mask pavement imperfections, but it’s working so hard to do so that there’s a faint but constant sensation of up-and-down-side-to-side of body movement, like a waiter who consistently provides refills but always seems to be hovering over your table.

2015 Buick LaCrosse AWD Premium InteriorThe LaCrosse’s steering is sharper than the Impala’s, but its overall ride and handling balance lags behind the Chevy, which feels much smaller to drive than it actually is. All-wheel-drive availability is one key differentiating factor; a buyer’s locale determines the degree to which four driven wheels are essential.

Refreshed for MY2014, the second-gen LaCrosse is now in its sixth model year. Even in old age, it proves Buick can do luxury well. Combine that premium quotient with the Verano Turbo’s Euro-like balance, the Regal’s snappier exterior styling, and the Impala’s vast cargo area and perhaps the LaCrosse is transformed into my kind of car.

It’d help if they got rid of the capacitive touch climate controls, too. My grandparents wouldn’t have a clue what to do with those.

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

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Subaru Considering Paths For Upcoming Seven-Passenger Crossover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/subaru-considering-paths-upcoming-seven-passenger-crossover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/subaru-considering-paths-upcoming-seven-passenger-crossover/#comments Tue, 24 Mar 2015 12:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028257 Could there be a Subaru Grand Outback in the future? That’s what the automaker is considering for its seven-passenger crossover due in showrooms in 2017. Automotive News reports the automaker is deciding on either a “big brother” crossover to the Outback, or be its own crossover with styling distinct from said model. Either way, the […]

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2015 Subaru Outback

Could there be a Subaru Grand Outback in the future? That’s what the automaker is considering for its seven-passenger crossover due in showrooms in 2017.

Automotive News reports the automaker is deciding on either a “big brother” crossover to the Outback, or be its own crossover with styling distinct from said model. Either way, the execs don’t want to take it down the same styling road that helped lead to the Tribeca’s demise last year.

Fuji Heavy Industries senior vice president of global marketing Nobuhiko Murakami says the seven-seater being developed mainly for the U.S. domestic market “will be roomier than the Tribeca and have three rows of seats,” though arrangement “is still under discussion.” He adds that the crossover will need to differentiate itself from its competitors, including the Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder and Honda Pilot.

Alas, for those hoping the Levorg wagon would come over, Murakami says the new crossover will keep the wagon away, citing Subaru’s priority toward the Legacy sedan designed for the U.S. No sales forecasts for the upcoming model were mentioned at this time, which leave the automaker’s facility in Indiana in 2017.

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Long-term Tester Update: Fiesta ST vs. The Family of Four http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/long-term-tester-update-fiesta-st-vs-family-four/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/long-term-tester-update-fiesta-st-vs-family-four/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 14:02:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1027521 I’m approximately one month and seven hundred eighty miles into my twenty-four month lease of my 2015 Ford Fiesta ST. I have no desire to make TTAC my own personal blog about my car (I mean, who doesn’t have a blog nowadays?), but I do wish to keep y’all updated on what it’s like to own […]

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I’m approximately one month and seven hundred eighty miles into my twenty-four month lease of my 2015 Ford Fiesta ST. I have no desire to make TTAC my own personal blog about my car (I mean, who doesn’t have a blog nowadays?), but I do wish to keep y’all updated on what it’s like to own or lease one of the hottest cars on the enthusiast landscape today.

Today’s installment focuses on what it’s like to have the Fiesta ST as a family car. For the sake of this discussion, let’s pretend like there isn’t a Ford Flex hiding behind the white garage door in the picture above, and that I have to use the Fiesta for my daily driver for my four-person family. I did my best to simulate those conditions during my first month of leasership, but this happened:

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For the first couple of weeks, the Fiesta ST (or as I like to call him, Zippy) spent a good deal of time in my driveway, underneath big brother Boss’ car cover. In retrospect, I think seeing the Boss in the garage and the Fiesta underneath the car cover may have inspired the SuBaruth (RIP) to commit suicide. Since I have yet to acquire any snow tires or steel wheels for Zippy, he sat like this about two weeks. Next winter, since I won’t have the Lego wagon anymore, I’ll be able to give you a little bit better perspective on how the Fiesta fares in the snow.

But, for now, let’s focus on what it’s been like since all the powder melted away in the grand Commonwealth of Kentucky. Well, let me put it to you this way—the above picture was the only time that the Boss has left the garage since I acquired the Fiesta. I haven’t had any need or desire to drive it, because the ST is simply that good.

However, we’re going to save the driving dynamics for another time. Most importantly, how has it fared as a family truckster?

Well, the suspension is tuned pretty stiffly. The potholes that appeared in the highways as a result of the winter weather are downright deadly for the Fiesta. The kids feel each and every bump when seated in the back. Mrs. Bark remarked that it was remarkably similar to riding in my old RX-8 when it was prepared for SCCA B Stock Autocross on revalved Koni Yellows.

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Despite the bumpy ride, the kids love riding in it. As you can see, there’s plenty of room for a seven-year-old in a booster seat. Even though it lacks the pure volume of the Boss 302’s Coyote-powered roar, the turbo whine that is pumped into the cabin by the sound symposer makes them laugh and command Dad to go faster. Kevin still prefers that I pick him up from school in the Mustang, but he’s a fan of Zippy, as well.

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How about for daily tasks like buying groceries for a family of four? As you can see above, $170 of groceries fits just fine into the cargo area, provided that you move the floor down to its lowest position (yes, we go through a lot of toilet paper). Other items that the Fiesta has swallowed quite comfortably under the hatch include my 27″ suitcase (although the carry-on has to go in the back seat—there’s no additional room), Kevin’s tri-fold posterboard for his science project, and the vast amount of materials required when one adopts a cat.

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Complaints from a family hauler perspective? The rear windshield is small. Like, super small. When two kiddos have their heads elevated by their car seats, it becomes pretty difficult to see out of the back.

The side impact safety rating for the rear seats is two stars—in other words, it’s dismal. It causes Ford to have to place an asterisk on the Monroney sticker, which indicates an “area of concern.” I don’t mind putting the kids back there for 25 MPH trips to school and the grocery store, but I’d feel a bit worried about having them back there at highway speeds for any length of time.

Along those same lines, I’m simply not used to being in such a small car on the highway. Sometimes I have found myself unexpectedly making an emergency evasive maneuver simply because a larger SUV or semi didn’t see me.

The stereo is not so great. While the MyFordTouch has worked flawlessly so far, the tinny sound of the speakers makes listening to the “Frozen” soundtrack even more annoying than usual.

Could you live with a Fiesta ST as your only car with a young family of four? You could, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it, if only because of the safety concerns. It’s the sort of thing that a childless Bark wouldn’t have even thought about ten years ago, but especially after the accident that Jack had last year, in which his son and my nephew (does that clarify things a bit?) was miraculously unharmed, I can’t ignore it.

Next week, we will do a little comparison with another B segment car from an American automaker with a young lady from whom we haven’t heard in quite some time…be prepared, TTAC faithful.

 

 

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Toyota Returning To WRC With 2017 Yaris, Homologation Special Planned http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/toyota-returning-wrc-2017-yaris-homologation-special-planned/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/toyota-returning-wrc-2017-yaris-homologation-special-planned/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 12:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1027441 Find the Toyota Yaris a bit ho-hum? Thanks to FIA’s homologation rules for the World Rally Championship series, it soon won’t be. Motoring.au reports that Toyota’s return to WRC in 2017 after a near-two-decade absence will be pinned upon the second-gen Yaris/Vitz, set to hit showrooms for the 2016 model year. That beast will be […]

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2015-toyota-yaris-wrc

Find the Toyota Yaris a bit ho-hum? Thanks to FIA’s homologation rules for the World Rally Championship series, it soon won’t be.

Motoring.au reports that Toyota’s return to WRC in 2017 after a near-two-decade absence will be pinned upon the second-gen Yaris/Vitz, set to hit showrooms for the 2016 model year. That beast will be driven by a 1.6-liter turbo-four pushing above 300 horsepower to all corners, and is undergoing testing in Europe as of this writing.

Speaking of Europe, that is where the 2,500 homologated versions of the Yaris WRC will likely turn up in order for the automaker to be able to compete two years from now. However, power for the homologated model will come from the Lexus NX 200t’s 2-liter turbo-four, capable of 235 horses and 258 lb-ft torque. The power would be directed by a six-speed manual.

Whether the Yaris WRC will be seen elsewhere is not for certain. Those in Europe who are lucky to get their hands on one will pay around €33,900 ($36,650 USD) for the honor, the same price for Volkswagen’s own WRC entrant, the Polo R.

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Rental Review: 2015 Ford Taurus Limited http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-taurus-limited/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-taurus-limited/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 12:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1027185 The plan: to drive nine hundred and seventy-two miles between 8PM Friday night and 1AM Sunday morning. The purpose: for me and my music partner Patrick, familiar to my blog readers from our indefensible habit of trying to arrange, learn, and perform new songs in a two-hour window, to spend Saturday afternoon at Wooten Woods, […]

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Wooten 017 (Custom)

The plan: to drive nine hundred and seventy-two miles between 8PM Friday night and 1AM Sunday morning. The purpose: for me and my music partner Patrick, familiar to my blog readers from our indefensible habit of trying to arrange, learn, and perform new songs in a two-hour window, to spend Saturday afternoon at Wooten Woods, a “Bass (pronounced “base”) and Nature Camp” sixty miles west of Nashville, TN, jamming with Victor Wooten. The loadout: two six-foot-two men, five guitars, two bass guitars, a Two-Rock Gain Master 35 amplifier, plus clothing and accessories. The available rental candidates: Chrysler 200, VW Passat, Ford Taurus.

Well, duh.

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I’d have chosen the Taurus on the basis of the trunk alone; even after the 2010-model-year restyling, Ford’s biggest sedan retained a truly impressive amount of trunk space. There are very few cars on the market where you can put guitar cases in as shown above, and that includes my old Lincoln Town Car. But the Taurus has more to offer than a spacious trunk. Nearly six years ago, I attended the press preview for this car and was impressed at how quiet and composed the Taurus was on the freeway. “Ninety-five percent of the Lincoln MKS experience for about sixty percent of the price” was my verdict. As a car with which to burn serious freeway mileage in a short amount of time, the Taurus truly excels.

The problem, if there was going to be one, would be in what has traditionally happened to the Taurus during the mid-cycle refresh. The 1986 Taurus impressed everybody from the buff books to the buyers with its materials and quality — but in 1992, Ford took a hatchet to the thing and cut costs everywhere from the dashboard to the deletion of the center rear armrest. The new-for-1996 model was stylish and expensive-looking, but Ford cut features just eighteen months after its introduction. (Halfway through 1996, Ford introduced the “Taurus G”, a bare-bones, low-price stopgap to get Taurus base prices under nineteen grand. I was a Ford salesman at the time and I suggested to customers that the Taurus G was the “choice of discriminating, or discriminated-against, gangsters.”) The 2000 Taurus was an even more egregiously poverty-spec approach to the 1996 platform, featuring drum brakes and interior fabric that would have shamed an ’82 Escort.

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The possibility was distinct, therefore, that when the teenaged Enterprise “manager” brought my 2015 Taurus Limited around I would find it to be a de-contented shadow of its former self. The fact that Ford has struggled to maintain sales volume for the model ever since 2011 did not reassure me on the subject.

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First impressions were good. The 2013 facelift was both minor and tasteful. As is always the case with Ford D-platform automobiles, I’m never really aware of just how large the Taurus is until it’s parked next to something else. It’s 202 inches long on a 112-inch wheelbase and it’s nearly 61 inches high against a width of 76 inches; closer to an S-Class than an E-class in the overall scheme of things. The odd proportions and high seating position are mostly to blame here. It’s just not shaped the same way that most sedans are.

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In creating this car from the bones of the old Five Hundred, Ford rolled the dice on a fashion-forward interior design that was rendered even more impressive by the mid-cycle refresh. No costs cut in here; to the contrary, everything from the center console to the door-mounted window switches feels distinctly premium and a clear cut above what Honda and Toyota have to offer in this price range. The difficulty is that the Taurus isn’t any more spacious than an Accord. To the contrary, the wide center console and sloping dashboard combine with the low roof to produce the distinct feeling that you, the driver, are being lowered into an extremely long and narrow cockpit. Like it’s an F-104 Starfighter or something. It definitely feels like you’re sitting on top of the Taurus, rather than in it, a feeling that is not helped by the relatively low beltline compared to the high-mounted seats. Very different from everything else in this class; the closest non-CUV analogy that comes to mind is the Rolls-Royce Ghost, which offers a similar ergonomic layout. One minor annoyance, shared with the rest of the Ford D-platform cars, is the Tetris-shaped footwell. I’m sure it’s very good for safety — these are cars that do remarkably well in crash tests — but it can be annoying because there are very few places to just rest one’s foot during long drives.

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As with Lincolns of recent memory, there’s the strange combination of a capacitance-touch center console and the pressure-touch MyFordTouch control screen. The Navigator I tested last year had pressure-switch buttons in place of the old capacitance pads so I’d look for the next Taurus to do the same. Not that there will be a “next Taurus” in the United States, mind you. [Note: We’ve heard that it’s on, then it’s off, then on again. Anyone from the Blue Oval care to chime in? -DK]

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The current generation of MyFordTouch is fast, accurate, and far superior to competing systems in my semi-unbiased opinion. It certainly handles phone integration better than my 2014 Accord does. The re configurable dashboard is nice but without the Track Apps you get in the Mustang it feels very neutered and workaday. The standard-equipment Limited stereo is adequate but not sparkling. There’s an optional Sony system, but if you want stellar sound in this vehicle you’ll need to get the version that says MKS on the trunk.

Wooten 051 (Custom)

The Taurus easily passes the sit-behind-myself test. It’s more spacious for rear-seat passengers than the people up front, because the center console doesn’t intrude. It’s probably very comfortable for criminals; one in six Taurus sales is a Police Interceptor.

Wooten 058 (Custom)

The 288-horsepower 3.5L Duratec is unspectacular but effective in this application and shifts from the 6-speed D-platform automatic are both quiet and unobtrusive. Choosing “S” enables limited and dilatory control of the transmission from a rocker switch on the shifter, but if you need to get ahead of traffic summoning the kickdown will blur the scenery in satisfactory fashion. There’s a two-liter EcoBoost available in the Limited for a little more money but it’s a ridiculous choice unless you’re obsessed with highway fuel economy. Not that you’d buy a Taurus for fuel economy, even with the two-liter. This car weighs over two tons and has the frontal area of an Imperial Star Destroyer. I observed 24.5 average MPG running 80mph through Kentucky and Tennessee and about 22 driving around town. My manual-transmission Accord coupe does better on both counts, as does the Avalon V6.

While handling and braking are both entirely acceptable in the modern Euro-influenced Ford fashion, where this Taurus truly shines is in long-distance driving. I’ve made the Columbus-to-Nashville trip two dozen times in the past four years in machinery ranging from my Porsche 993 to a Chrysler Town&Country, and this Taurus has the whole field beat for comfort and low fatigue. It’s exceptionally quiet, crosswinds don’t bother it, and it tracks exceptionally well on low-quality pavement. It’s easily equal or superior to the mid-luxury Japanese offerings in that respect. It’s much better than my Accord, most notably in the quality and quantity of interior noise.

The Friday night trip from Ohio to Tennessee seemed to fly by. The next day, Patrick and I spent seven hours in a variety of jam sessions. Victor took an interest in me and gave me three important pieces of feedback:

“That’s some good… singing.” (Referring to a song in which I both sang and played guitar.)

“Don’t leave your guitar cases on the table, it’s keeping people from eating their lunch.”

“Do you hear how loud your amp is? I shouldn’t have to tell you to turn down, man. Respect the other musicians.”

He also signed my Fodera YYS, to my immense delight. I think we’re still friends. At one point he nodded approvingly at a Wes-Montgomery-style octave line I played. I think that was because I had my amp turned really low and he wanted to encourage that behavior. I think I’m allowed to come back, although that’s because I negotiated the issue with Victor’s wife and not Victor himself. You have to know where your strengths lie in this world.

Leaving Wooten Woods at 8PM Ohio time, after a day of playing my heart out, didn’t exactly fill me with cheer. Yet the Taurus was a worthy companion on the way back. Few cars are less tiring to operate on long drives. No, it’s not fast and it’s not terribly modern in its packaging but compared to a car that can deserve both of those accolades (like, say, a BMW M4) I’d take this Taurus for a long trip in a heartbeat.

Equipping a 2015 Limited to the standard of our rental car would cost $32,230. For that money you get a reasonably complete equipment package including front seats that are both heated and cooled, but you really want a few options on top of that: the moonroof and the auto-dim driver’s mirror. Another few grand gets you the Sony stereo and laser cruise control but at that point you could also start thinking about a Lincoln MKS. Best to keep the sticker under $35k and shoot for a transaction price of thirty flat. At that price, this is a good car and a good value.

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DeltaWing Entering GT, Eyeing Future Showroom Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/deltawing-entering-gt-eyeing-future-showroom-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/deltawing-entering-gt-eyeing-future-showroom-debut/#comments Mon, 23 Mar 2015 10:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1027369 Coming soon to a track near you, DeltaWing will bring its signature design to the GT class, and eyes set on the showroom down the road. The latest racing variant is expected to demonstrate on the track “that with far less horsepower than many of today’s best sports cars, a two-seat performance car based on […]

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DeltaWing GT race car concept chassis

Coming soon to a track near you, DeltaWing will bring its signature design to the GT class, and eyes set on the showroom down the road.

The latest racing variant is expected to demonstrate on the track “that with far less horsepower than many of today’s best sports cars, a two-seat performance car based on the DeltaWing® architecture would deliver the same performance, yet with previously unimagined fuel economy and efficiency.”

The GT will, like the DWC13 Coupe campaigned by DeltaWing Racing Cars, be a coupe using weight distribution to its advantage, thanks to its narrow nose and wide backside putting 30 percent up front, the rest in back. The project won’t interfere with the team and its efforts in IMSA’s TUDOR series.

Meanwhile, that same basic design forms the basis for two- and four-passenger prototypes that could lead to a road-legal version of the DeltaWing. Preliminary data suggests the design would net “an unadjusted EPA fuel economy rating of nearly 74 mpg Highway and over 57 mpg combined rating,” adding that if one could buy a DeltaWing from the showroom today, they would have a vehicle that was not only the most fuel efficient conventionally powered vehicle in the United States, but would also meet the 2025 54.5 mpg standard. The ratings are for a DeltaWing powered by a 138-horsepower 1.4-liter engine placed in the four-passenger variant.

Aside from traditional ICEs, the company says the prototype could be fitted with hybrid, diesel, CNG, hydrogen and electric power, with results ranging from better range for diesel, EV and FCV versions, to a 42 percent reduction in emissions for gasoline models.

DeltaWing GT race car - early concept 1 DeltaWing GT race car - early concept 2 DeltaWing GT race car concept chassis DeltaWing common chassis

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European Review: Citroën C4 Cactus 1.6 BlueHDI http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/european-review-citroen-c4-cactus-1-6-bluehdi/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/european-review-citroen-c4-cactus-1-6-bluehdi/#comments Sat, 21 Mar 2015 13:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1019770 Thanks to endless regulations surrounding crash safety and emissions, the modern car is increasingly homogenous. Pedestrian safety regulations mean that a high hood and a flat front end are a must, while environmental requirements dictate a “reverse-teardrop” shape and a big, turbocharged engine to deal with the weight of the other passive safety features, not […]

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Thanks to endless regulations surrounding crash safety and emissions, the modern car is increasingly homogenous. Pedestrian safety regulations mean that a high hood and a flat front end are a must, while environmental requirements dictate a “reverse-teardrop” shape and a big, turbocharged engine to deal with the weight of the other passive safety features, not to mention all of the creature comforts and electronic active safety gadgets that are considered mandatory by many consumers.

Unless you’re Citroen. Then you create the Cactus.

What more would you expect from the company that brought you the DS, the SM, the XM and of course, the 2CV? It looks like a supervillain-designed lunar rover from the outside and a cross between Enterprise spaceship and the iconic 2CV from the inside.

It would almost be sinister looking if not for the Airbump panels, which gave the car its name. They’re basically the vehicular equivalent of bubble wrap. The soft plastic with air underneath protects the bodywork from parking-lot dings, which is brilliant. They are a bit like the spikes on a Cactus, designed to protect the rest of the exterior in the same way that the prickly stuff protects the fruit of the plant from being eaten by predators.

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And the interior isn’t too shabby, either. Citroën dispensed with traditional instrument panel and controls on the dashboard and center panel. They have been replaced by a display in front of the driver and touchscreen in the middle. The main display replaces the instrument panel with digital graphics straight out of a 1980s sci-fi flick. It probably looks exactly like something 1980s designers would use, if they could. It looks kind of like 1988 Oldsmobile without the technology constraints.

The touchscreen in the middle is far more conventional affair. It’s basically the same one you can also find in a Peugeot 308 and many other PSA models. It’s quite good, with nice graphics and fairly quick reactions, but I don’t really like the fact that it replaces almost everything else that normal car places on the central panel. Like HVAC controls or basic radio controls. And there is no way to split the screen for several functions. If you’re in radio menu and suddenly want to change the temperature or direction of the ventilation, you have to go to the HVAC main screen, do the changes, return to the main Media screen, and go back through everything. Not exactly convenient, let me tell you.

But on a positive note, this move has freed up a lot of space, which was, smartly, used to provide actual space. In a way, the Cactus’ interior feels similar to old American cars, with bench seats and no consoles. It is really trying to mimic an old 2CV, but with general increase in car dimensions, it is more like a 1960s Plymouth Valiant or maybe the aforementioned 1980s Oldsmobile, with plush armchairs for the seats.

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It’s even possible to get something that’s as close to bench front seat as you get in 2015 car. The tested car was a manual version with two individual seats and some space in between, but if you opt for the automated ETG transmission (which is probably Citroën’s code speak for a drunken chimpanzee in a box, based on its sophistication), you get an armrest which fits flush with the seats, creating a de-facto bench seat.

Together with the plush suspension and tall sidewalls, this makes for quite a comfortable ride and lets you forget that what you’re driving is basically a mediocre French hatch with rather unsophisticated McPherson/torsion beam suspension. It’s distinctively unsporty, but as long as you don’t test the limits and don’t go farther than, say, 7/10ths, it’s quite pleasant to drive. Around town, it’s fun and tossable, and at modest highway speeds, it remains surprisingly comfortable for such a small car. It doesn’t really shine at higher speeds and crosswinds at 100+mph are tiresome, but I can imagine taking it om holiday several hundred miles away.

Part of its appeal comes from the combination of torquey, punchy 1.6 HDi diesel with 100hp (EDIT: not 136hp, as previously stated – thanks to reader Vega for correcting me!), and lightweight construction. The diesel Cactus weighs just 1,160kg (just under 2600 pounds) and the gasoline ones are even lighter, which makes up for seemingly weak engine line-up. And it helps with fuel economy, too. It’s easy to get 45mpg and with a proper 6-speed transmission, the numbers would be even better. The drive would be better, too – the transmission is not only missing a cog, but also clearly comes from the days before the PSA found out how to build a good one (about 4 years ago). It’s rubbery and imprecise, not really on par with competing cars.

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And there’s one more area where Cactus hides its city car roots. Even though it’s based on C3 supermini (and not C4 family hatch), it’s surprisingly roomy inside. Rear seats can accommodate a pair of fully grown adults, although their flatness and firmness makes them more suitable for child seats. And the trunk, with 348 litres (12.3 feet) of volume is suitable for a small family as well. Both cabin and trunk offer space comparable to the Volkswagen Golf which, in theory, should be a class above Cactus.

The Cactus really is a weird car that works. It overcomes its humble roots and offers an enticing combination of fun, comfort and originality. It’s unique enough to be cool, small enough to fit in the city and roomy enough to fit your family. And it brings hope that cars don’t have to be boring to be good.

P.S.:

It is brown, it’s diesel, it’s manual and it can be considered a wagon. And it’s a Citroën! Somebody call Jalopnik!

@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 ratty Chrysler LHS. 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.

Photo: David Marek

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Cadillac CT6 To Receive Turbocharged, Naturally Aspirated V6 Engines http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/cadillac-ct6-fitted-pair-v6-engines/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/cadillac-ct6-fitted-pair-v6-engines/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 23:14:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1026649 When the Cadillac CT6 hits showrooms later this year, power for the flagship will come in the form of two V6 engines. The mills are a 3.6-liter naturally aspirated unit, and a 3-liter twin-turbo. Both engines are equipped with active fuel management and start-stop, helping to improve fuel economy when compared to the engines they […]

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2016-Cadillac-CT6-Powertrain-LGW-V6-006

When the Cadillac CT6 hits showrooms later this year, power for the flagship will come in the form of two V6 engines.

The mills are a 3.6-liter naturally aspirated unit, and a 3-liter twin-turbo. Both engines are equipped with active fuel management and start-stop, helping to improve fuel economy when compared to the engines they will replace in other Cadillac products.

Power figures for the 3.6-liter come to 335 horsepower and 284 lb-ft of torque, while the twin-turbo engine pumps out 400 horses and 400 lb-ft of torque. Both V6s will be paired with versions of General Motors’ Hydra-Matic eight-speed auto: the 8L90 for the turbocharged unit, the 8L45 for the naturally aspirated engine.

Both engines use aluminum blocks with more structuring in the bulkhead for increased rigidity; forged-steel crankshafts; polymer-coated, high-copper-content cylinder heads; cushioned chain sprockets for greater noise reduction; and a new two-pump oiling system for greater fuel efficiency and quieter operation.

Both V6s will be produced at GM’s Romulus Powertrain Operations in Romulus, Mich. — thanks to a $540-million investment to build the new engines — and will be placed under the bonnet of CT6 prior to delivery, which is set to begin between October and December of 2015.

The all-new 3.6L V6 for the upcoming Cadillac CT6 incorporates n 2016-Cadillac-CT6-Powertrain-LGW-V6-007 2016-Cadillac-CT6-Powertrain-LGW-V6-006

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Review: 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender aka i3 REx (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-bmw-i3-range-extender-aka-i3-rex-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-bmw-i3-range-extender-aka-i3-rex-video/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 16:24:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1018290 Some call it a hybrid, some call it an EV. Some have called it a REx, a BEVx, a landmark vehicle in EV production, and others simply call it ugly. One things is for sure however, the 2015 BMW i3 turns more heads in Northern California than a Tesla Model S. Not since I last […]

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2015 BMW i3 Range Extender
Some call it a hybrid, some call it an EV. Some have called it a REx, a BEVx, a landmark vehicle in EV production, and others simply call it ugly. One things is for sure however, the 2015 BMW i3 turns more heads in Northern California than a Tesla Model S. Not since I last drove the Jaguar XKR-S have I received as many questions while parked at the gas pump, or visited a gas pump so frequently, but I digress. In a nutshell, the i3 is technically a hybrid or an EV depending on the version you get.

 

BEVx

The “hybrid” i3 isn’t the kind of hybrid you’re used to, this is an all-new classification of car defined by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as a “Battery Electric Vehicle with Range eXtender” or BEVx. BEVx is the key to understanding why the i3 operates the way that it does and why the Euro version operates differently.

California has decided (for better or worse) that some 22% of cars sold in the state must be zero-emissions vehicles (ZEV) by 2025. While that sounds straightforward, nothing cooked up by the government and lobbyists can ever be easy. Rather than an actual percentage of cars sold, CARB created a credit system where an alphabet soup of classifications (PZEV, AT-PZEV, TZEV, etc) get partial credits and true ZEVs can get multiple credits. Into this complicated world came the unicorn that is the BEVx. Despite having a gasoline burning engine, BEVxs get the same credits as a vehicle with the same range and no dinosaur-burner. The distinction is important and critical. If the BEVx requirements are met, the i3 gets the same 2.5 credits as the i3 EV, if not it would get a fractional credit just like a regular Prius. The requirements are: the fossil fuel range must be less or equal to the EV range, EV range but be at least 80 miles, the battery must deplete to a low level before the generator kicks in and may not be charged above that level. In addition the fossil fuel generator or APU must meet CA’s SULEV emissions standards and have a long battery warranty. There’s one important catch: the carpool stickers. While BMW gets to have the i3 REx treated like an EV for credits, i3 REx owners are treated like hybrid owners for the carpool sticker program. The EV model gets the coveted (and unlimited) white carpool lane stickers, while the REx gets the same quantity-limited green stickers as the Chevy Volt. If CA follows course, the green sticker program will eventually sunset like the yellow-sticker hybrid program did in 2011.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-004

Construction

The i3 is about more than just ZEV credits, it’s about putting new materials and processes into production for real drivers to experience with some funky modern style tossed in for good measure. In some ways the i3 is a return to body-on-frame construction, you see this is not a 100% carbon fiber car as some have incorrectly said.

The i3 is composed of two distinct parts. On the bottom is the drive module which is an aluminum chassis that holds the drivetrain, suspension, battery and crash structures. Connected to the drive module is the “life module” which is made of carbon fiber reinforced plastic or CFRP. While obviously a little heavier than a car made entirely out of CFRP, the aluminum crash structure is more easily repaired in the event of a minor collision. The result is an EV that tips the scales about a cupcake shy of a Mazda MX-5 with an automatic transmission (2,634 pounds). Adding the range extender adds just 330 more. That’s about 370lbs lighter than the already impressive 3,000 pound (approximate) curb weight of VW’s new eGolf.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior Turn Signal

Exterior

Up front the i3 gets a familiar BMW roundel and a blue interpretation of the signature kidney grill. What’s different about the i3 is that the kidney isn’t used for cooling, even in the range extending version. The biggest departures from BMW norms however are the headlamps which lack the “angel eye” rings BMW has been known for and the high beams that are placed lower in the facia. (No, those are not fog lamps.) Regardless of the trim or paint color you choose, the hood, lower valance, side trim and rear hatch will always be black.

The side view generated the most head turns due to the undulating greenhouse and “pinched” look to the rear windows. I didn’t find the look unattractive, but it does reduce rearward visibility in what is ostensibly a practical city car. Out back the hatch is composed of two sheets of glass, one for the rear windscreen and the other forms the “body” of the hatch and actually covers the tail lamp modules creating a very sleek look. Turn the steering wheel and passers-by will immediately forget about the pinched greenhouse and focus on the tires. Yes, they are as skinny as they look, but the proportion is the real key to the “bicycle wheel” look as one passenger called it. Our tester was shod with 155/70R19 tires up front and 175/70R19 in back. For reference a Toyota Sienna uses a T155 tire as a spare. Thinking critically, there have been plenty of cars with tires this narrow, but I can’t think of a single one where the width combined with a nearly flat wheel that was 19 or 20 inches across.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Seats Doors Open

Interior

Freed from the usual front-engine, rear-drive layout of every other BMW, the Germans decided to reinvent the cabin. Because the drive module under the cabin houses the majority of the crash structure, the CFRP body was built without a structural pillar between the front and rear seats. The suicide door design means that getting in and out of the rear seat is surprisingly easy, as long as you haven’t parked too close to another vehicle. Without the transmission tunnel the HVAC system was pushed as far forward as possible allowing the driver and front passenger’s footwell to become merged. (There are just two floor-mats, one up front and one in back.)

The doors aren’t the only unusual thing about the i3’s interior, the design is decidedly Euro-funky. From the steering column mounted shifter to the “floating” iDrive display and glove box on the “top” of the dash rather than the front, the i3 designers went out of their way to think out of the box. The concept-car like theme doesn’t stop at shapes, the materials are a little unusual as well. The upholstery in our model was a wool/recycled-plastic blend fabric and the dashboard and door panels are made from a bioplastic reinforced with kneaf fibers (a kind of jute.) Front seat comfort proved excellent despite lacking adjustable lumbar support. The rear of the i3 was surprisingly accommodating, able to handle six-foot tall folks without issue. Because the dash is so shallow, a rear facing child seat can be positioned behind that six-foot person without issue. As with other small EVs on the market, the i3 is a strict four-seater. My only disappointment inside was the small LCD instrument cluster (shown below) which is notably smaller than the i3’s own infotainment/navigation LCD.

Under the hood of the i3 you’ll find a small storage area (also called a “frunk”) that houses the tire inflater and the 120V EVSE cable. The i3’s frunk is not watertight like you’ll find in the Tesla Model S, so don’t put your tax paperwork inside on your way to the IRS audit in the rain. Cargo capacity behind the rear seats comes in at 11.8 cubes, about the same as your average subcompact hatch. Getting the i3 sans range extender won’t increase your cargo capacity as the area where the range extender fits remains off limits from your luggage.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster

Drivetrain

Being a rear wheel drive electric car, the i3’s motor is located under the cargo floor in the back. With 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque on tap, the i3 is one of the more powerful EVs on the market. The light curb weight and gearing in the single-speed transmission allow a 6.5 second sprint to 60 in the EV and 7.0 in the REx. Powering all the fun is a 22kWh (18.8 kWh usable) battery pack in the “drive module” coupled to a 7.4kW charger capable of charging the car completely in just over 2.5 hours on AC. Should you need more electrons faster, you can opt for the new SAE DC-Fast-Charge connector capable of getting you from zero to 80% in under 30 minutes. 18.8kWh sounds much smaller than the  37kWh Tesla battery in the Mercedes B-class, but the i3 is much more efficient putting their range figures just 5 miles apart at 80-100 miles for the EV and 70-90 for the REx.

Next to the motor is the optional range extender. It’s a 34 peak horsepower 0.65L 2-cylinder engine derived from one of BMW’s motorcycle powerplants. Permanently to a generator, it can supply power to the motor, or charge the battery until it hits about 6%. The 1.9 US gallon gas tank is capable of powering the small engine for an additional 70-80 miles depending on your driving style. There is no mechanical connection at all between the engine and the wheels. Think of the battery as a ballast tank, you can pull 170 HP out whenever you want, but the supply refilling the ballast flows at a maximum of 34. This means that it is entirely possible to drain the battery and have just 34 HP left to motivate your car.

Battery Flow

Sounds like the Volt you say? Yes and no. The Volt is more of a plug-in hybrid with some software tweaks and the i3 is a range extending EV. I know that sounds like splitting hairs but some of this comes down to the way GM decided to market the Volt when it launched. The Volt’s transaxle and 2-motor/generator system is actually much closer to the Ford/Toyota hybrid design than anything else on the market. Because of that design it can operate as an EV, as a serial hybrid or as a parallel hybrid. Interestingly enough however, maximum performance happens in gas-burning mode, just like the plug-in Prius and plug-in Ford Energi products. With the i3 however, performance is always the same (unless the battery is totally dead.) Also in the Volt you can opt to “reserve” your EV capacity for later, and that isn’t allowed in US bound i3 models (you can in Europe) in order to get that coveted BEVx classification.

Technically speaking, it is possible for any hybrid (i3 included) to enter a “limp mode” where the battery is depleted and all you have left is the gasoline engine. The difference is what you have left when this happens. The i3 has far less oomph in this situation than even the 80 HP Volt, 98 HP Prius or 141 HP in the Fusion/C-Max Energi.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Shifter

Drive

The i3’s steering is precise and quick with just 2.5 turns lock-to-lock and the turning circle is 10% smaller than a MINI Cooper at 32-feet. Due to the combination of a fast steering ratio, narrow tires, electric steering assist and the incredibly light curb weight, the i3 can feel twitchy on the road, responding immediately to the slightest steering input. That feeling combined with low rolling resistance tires (that squeal long before they give up grip) make the i3 feel less capable than it actually is. Once you get used to the feeling however, it turns out to be the best handling non-Tesla EV currently made. Is that a low bar? Perhaps, but the i3 leaps over it.

BMW’s “one pedal concept” is the fly in the ointment. Here’s the theory: if you drive like a responsible citizen, you just use the accelerator pedal. Press on the pedal and the car goes.  Lift and the car brakes. Lift completely and the i3 engages maximum regenerative braking (brake lights on) and takes you to a complete stop. As long as the road is fairly level, the i3 will remain stopped until you press the go-pedal once more. On paper it sounds novel, in practice it annoyed me and made my leg ache. The reason is that in order to coast you either shift to neutral or hover your foot in the right position. If the i3 could adjust the “foot-off” regen, I’d be happy. Driving the i3 back to back with VW’s new eGolf didn’t make the one-pedal any better because the VW allows you to adjust the regen from zero to maximum in four steps easily and intuitively.

BMW i3 One Pedal Operation Concept Brake Neutral Go

The i3 EV’s wider rear tires mean that despite being RWD and almost perfectly balanced you get predictable understeer as the road starts to curve. You can induce some oversteer if you’re aggressive on the throttle, but BMW’s stability control nanny cannot be disabled and the intervention is early and aggressive. Toss in the range extender’s 300+ pounds and understeer is a more frequent companion. You can still get the REx a little tail happy if you try however. The i3 will never be a lurid tail happy track car like an M235i, but the fact that any oversteer is possible in an EV is a rare feat since nearly everything else on the market is front heavy and front wheel drive. Put simply the BMW i3 is the best driving and best handling EV this side of the Model S.

Now let’s talk range extender again. After hearing the complaints about the i3’s “limp” mode when you’re left with just 34 ponies, I tried to make it happen to see what the fuss was about. I hopped in the car with the battery at 6% and started off to work. Climbing from 700ft to 2,200ft worked out just fine at 45-50 MPH on a winding mountain road, going down from 2,200 to sea level at 60 MPH was uneventful as well. I hopped on CA-85 and set the cruise control to 65 since the rumor mill told me the top speed would max out at 65ish with the battery dead. 15 miles later my battery was still very much alive so I kicked it up a notch to 75 and switched over to Interstate 280 where rolling hills would tax the battery further. 20 miles later the range extender was humming like a dirt bike in my blind spot but I wasn’t slowing down. I decided drastic measures were needed. I kicked the i3 up another notch to [intentionally left blank] MPH and watched as the battery gauge ran to zero. Finally. Except it wasn’t that exciting. It didn’t feel like I hit the brakes, it simply felt like someone had backed off the throttle. It took me around 1.5 miles to drop from [intentionally left blank] MPH to 55 MPH which was more than enough time for me to put my tail between my legs and move four lanes to the right.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster-001

Hitting the “34 HP barrier” as I started to call it proved a little easier at closer-to-legal speeds when hill climbing, and the effects were a little more drastic. On a winding road where driving a car hard involves heavy braking before corners and full throttle exits, the i3 ran out of steam after 4 miles. The i3 then spent the next 8 miles with the go-pedal on the floor at speeds ranging from 37 to 50 MPH.

When running on the range extender, I averaged 60-65 miles before I refilled the tiny tank which came out to somewhere around 38 MPG. The number surprised some, but personally it sounds about right because the energy losses in a serial hybrid can be high (up to 20% if you believe Toyota and Honda). What did surprise me is just how livable the i3 REx was. Despite BMW constantly saying that the REx wasn’t designed to be driven like a hybrid, over 300 miles of never charging I never had a problem driving the car just like I’d drive a Prius, only stopping more often for fuel. Way more often. The i3 REx can drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles stopping every 60 miles for gas, I’m not sure I’d do that, but it is nice to know I could.

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Dashboard

Starting at $42,400 in EV form and $46,250 for the REx model, the i3 has the same kind of sticker shock as all EVs. However if you qualify for the maximum incentives the i3 REx comes down to a more reasonable $36,250 which is a little less than a 2015 328i. That slots the i3 between the rabble and the Tesla and more or less the same as the Mercedes B-Class, the only real i3 competition. In this narrow category the i3 is an easy win. It is slightly more fun to drive than the B-Class, a hair faster, considerably more efficient, has the ability to DC fast charge and the range extender will allow gasoline operation if required. The i3 is funky and complicated and BMW’s 320i is probably a better car no matter how you slice it, but none of that changes the fact the i3 is probably one of the most important cars of our time. Not because the i3 is a volume produced carbon fiber car, but because we are likely to see may more “BEVx” category “range extending” vehicles in our future (for more unicorn credits) and this is now the benchmark.

 BMW provided the vehicle, insurance and 1.9 gallons of gasoline for this review.

 Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.0 Seconds

0-60: 7.0 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.5 Seconds @ 86 MPH

2015 BMW i3 Range Extender 19 inch wheel 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender BMW logo 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Cargo Area.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Cargo Area 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Dashboard.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Doors Open 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior Turn Signal 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior . 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior1 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-002 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-003 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-004 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-005 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-006 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-007 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-0011 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Front Trunk Frunk.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Front Trunk Frunk 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Glove Compartment 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Hatch and Tail Lamp 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender iDrive Screen.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender iDrive Screen 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Instrument Cluster-001 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Dashboard.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Dashboard 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Seats Doors Open 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior Seats 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior.CR2 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Interior-001 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Rear Quarter 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Rear Seats Folded 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Rear Seats 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Refueling 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Shifter 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Steering Column 2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Steering Wheel.CR2

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Report: ‘Hundreds’ Of Recalled New Vehicles Sold Without Prior Repairs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/report-hundreds-recalled-new-vehicles-sold-without-prior-repairs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/report-hundreds-recalled-new-vehicles-sold-without-prior-repairs/#comments Fri, 20 Mar 2015 13:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1025769 In an investigative segment on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday, ABC News purchased a vehicle under recall from a dealer who had not repaired it. Automotive News reports the vehicle, a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado, was purchased by an undercover producer from Hawthorne Chevrolet in Hawthorne, N.J. The truck was under recall for a potential risk […]

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2014 Chevrolet Silverado Crew Cab Z71

In an investigative segment on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Thursday, ABC News purchased a vehicle under recall from a dealer who had not repaired it.

Automotive News reports the vehicle, a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado, was purchased by an undercover producer from Hawthorne Chevrolet in Hawthorne, N.J. The truck was under recall for a potential risk of rolling away while the transmission was in neutral, as well as the possibility for the transfer case to switch to neutral while being driven, leading to loss of power and an increased crash risk.

The recall, issued in June 2014, affected 467,000 2014 and 2015 Chevrolet and GMC Silverados, Suburbans, Tahoes, Sierras, Yukons and Yukon XLs. Per General Motors, 86 percent of the trucks and SUVs — 402,000 units — have been repaired thus far. The Silverado purchased by ABC News was not among them, however, in violation of federal law that requires dealerships to repair vehicles with a safety defect, including those under recall, prior to delivery.

GM representative Alan Adler said his employer spoke with Hawthorne after the segment aired, stating that no disciplinary action is planned. Adler added that while the incident occurred at a Chevrolet dealership with a GM product, such incidents aren’t exclusive to the automaker. ABC confirmed this in its report, having found “hundreds” of new cars from various manufacturers in New York and New Jersey that were under recall, but were not repaired prior to sale.

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