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. Sun, 25 Jan 2015 13:30:18 +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/ Capsule Review: 2015 Jeep Renegade http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-2015-jeep-renegade/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-2015-jeep-renegade/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 15:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=987530 When the Jeep Renegade made its official debut at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show, I initially described it as “… a Panda 4×4 dressed up in Carhartt jeans and Red Wing boots.” With a Fiat platform, powertrain and assembly plant, the Renegade isn’t the first CUV to come from the Fiat Chrysler braintrust – but […]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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


• iQ sales decline every month

• Scion sales down 66% from 2006 high


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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BMW i3 and Volkswagen e-Golf DC Charging

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

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

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

Express Charging.Infographic.300dpi

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Volvo Considers Expanding Cross Country Range http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/volvo-considers-expanding-cross-country-range/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/volvo-considers-expanding-cross-country-range/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 12:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=987770 The V40, V60 and upcoming S60 Cross Country models won’t be alone for too long, as Volvo plans to expand the Cross Country range. Autocar reports Volvo’s vice president of product strategy Lex Kerssemakers was taken aback by the interest in the S60 Cross Country that recently bowed in Detroit, noting the potential for additional […]

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The V40, V60 and upcoming S60 Cross Country models won’t be alone for too long, as Volvo plans to expand the Cross Country range.

Autocar reports Volvo’s vice president of product strategy Lex Kerssemakers was taken aback by the interest in the S60 Cross Country that recently bowed in Detroit, noting the potential for additional models to gain a few inches in lift, but without the need to enter XC territory:

The XC models are clearly for people who want an SUV; Cross Country models offer some of the benefits and looks, without the same capability or price. So long as Cross Country models have some capability — all-wheel drive, hill descent control — then they are giving customers what they want, and that is enough for them to be considered authentic.

Kerssemakers also noted that when production of the S60 Cross Country begins in the next few months, it will have been eight months since the high-riding sedan was conceived. He cites the automaker’s size and independence as factors in bringing the model to market as quickly as it did.

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Cadillac Gaining 700 Boutiques To Augment Flagship Stores http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/cadillac-gaining-700-boutiques-augment-flagship-stores/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/cadillac-gaining-700-boutiques-augment-flagship-stores/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 11:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=987730 Want to go boutiquing for your next Cadillac? Brand CEO Johan de Nysschen has plans to make that a reality. At present, Cadillac has over 900 dealerships in the United States, 200 of which are flagships. De Nysschen’s plan would be to complement the flagship dealers with 700 smaller boutiques that would feature “exclusive Cadillac […]

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Cadillac Model Dealership Interior

Want to go boutiquing for your next Cadillac? Brand CEO Johan de Nysschen has plans to make that a reality.

At present, Cadillac has over 900 dealerships in the United States, 200 of which are flagships. De Nysschen’s plan would be to complement the flagship dealers with 700 smaller boutiques that would feature “exclusive Cadillac consumer touch points, highly trained sales and service staff and luxury amenities.”

Additionally, showroom visitors would be able to pick their new CT or XT from a virtual display, including the possibility for holograms a la Tupac and Liberace to help see what the real thing would look like in a given configuration.

De Nysschen says that all dealerships present and future, as well as those who sell Volts, Regals and Yukon XLs alongside ELRs, “should strive to create a premium showroom atmosphere and the sophisticated brand experience that luxury consumers expect.” There are no plans to reduce the number of current dealerships.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Mitsubishi Outlander 3.0 GT S-AWC http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-2015-mitsubishi-outlander-3-0-gt-s-awc/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-2015-mitsubishi-outlander-3-0-gt-s-awc/#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2015 16:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=986962 To say that Mitsubishi has been struggling on the North American market would be an understatement. Long gone are the days of the capable Montero, hot-selling Galant, and the exotic 3000GT. For years the Outlander Sport has been the company’s bread winner and the Lancer Evolution its only icon. In order to jumpstart its sales, […]

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2015 Mitsubishi Outlander GT side

To say that Mitsubishi has been struggling on the North American market would be an understatement. Long gone are the days of the capable Montero, hot-selling Galant, and the exotic 3000GT. For years the Outlander Sport has been the company’s bread winner and the Lancer Evolution its only icon. In order to jumpstart its sales, in 2014 Mitsubishi dove deep into the highest volume markets with the introduction of the inexpensive Mirage and the third generation of its three-row CUV, the Outlander.

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander GT front

It has been said many times over that there is no such thing as a bad modern car on the North American market. Or may be there are, I don’t know anymore. The truth is that a purchase of any new car will result in a product that is safe and one that will provide years of reliable service. The new Outlander is probably not an exception, as it is a reasonably priced vehicle with a 5-year warranty and good crash test results. The question is, is it a good vehicle?

From the driver’s perspective, the dash layout is simple and rather similar to other vehicles in its class; two big gauges with a screen in-between, infotainment system with a bigger screen, two knobs and some buttons, and simple HVAC controls below. Unfortunately that middle screen does not display much information, the big screen has some small font, the Rockford-Fosgate system does not like to stream the Pandora app from my iPhone as it kept defaulting to the music stored on the phone, and there are no separate climate controls for the rear of the vehicle. Other frequently used buttons, such as the power hatch and display change button for gauge cluster screen are obscured by the steering wheel. Furthermore, the power windows, door locks, and mirror buttons are poorly illuminated and difficult to use at night.

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander GT dash

Taking your eyes up from the dash and its mismatched piano-black and wood plastic trim, the visibility is good in all directions, certainly better than average. This is probably thanks to Mitsubishi’s liberal use of high strength steel. The Outlander is also a smaller vehicle than other three-row CUVs in just about every dimension, making it easy to maneuver. That smaller size and the use of that high strength steel translates into significantly lower curb weight than other three-row CUVs, and similar to that of many smaller CUVs, such as the Honda CR-V.

Seats are covered with a mix of fabric and hard leather. Front seats are and generally comfortable, heated, but only the driver’s seat is powered. The middle row has less legroom than other comparable vehicles and the rear doors do not open as wide or are as big, making getting kids into their seats more challenging for already tired parents. The biggest problem is with the third row seats, however, which have hardly any legroom when middle row in its native position, slid all the way to the back. Sliding the middle row forward give third row passengers more legroom, but at the expense of comfort of the people sitting in the middle row. The cargo area is also smallest in class no matter which seats are folded down and there are no visible HVAC vents anywhere in the back.

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander GT rear seats

Lower Outlander models come with a four cylinder engine, but this GT model came with Mitsubishi’s 6B31 which has been around for some time. The 60-degree SOHC 24-valve 3.0-liter V6 engine is port-injected with variable cam timing and is rated at 224hp and 215lb-ft of torque, the least in its class. It is matched up to a six-speed automatic transmission and Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC®) all-wheel drive system. This combination is rated for 20mpg in the city and 28mpg on the highway. In my leisurely mixed city/highway/mountain driving I observed 24mpg, which is very good for a three-row CUV.

My driving was leisurely because the Outlander never seems to be in the hurry. The transmission is conservatively programmed to always be in the lowest gear possible, which I found especially annoying in the mountains of Vermont, both on the way up and down. There are four transmission modes; eco, snow, lock, and normal. I have only used the normal mode, supplemented by the paddle shifters in the mountains. The engine does have plenty of power to move the Outlander, but requires a lot of motivation from your right foot.

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander GT trunk

There are many new car buyers for whom nothing matters more than the bottom line. The base Outlander ES starts at $23,195. The reviewed GT model starts at $28,195. The GT Touring Package, which includes nav system, lane departure warning, forward collision migration, sunroof, leather, power tailgate, and premium audio costs $6100. With $850 destination charge, the total comes to $35,145. A quick look at TrueCar shows that actual selling price is few grand lower.

The three-row CUV market is one of the most competitive in the industry and any company with limited resources will have difficulties offering the best vehicles. It is unfortunate that in the world of good cars, there have to be some that relatively aren’t. What frustrated me the most about this vehicle was that it could have been better with some engineering changes that would have minimum impact on overall engineering costs. While the Outlander isn’t perfect it does have some good things going for it, such as five-star overall score on NHTSA crash tests, 5-year/60,000 mile warranty with 10-year/100,000 miles for the powertrain, and the price.

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander GT rear

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. 

Mitsubishi Motors North America, Inc. provided the vehicle for this review.

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Toyota No. 1 Global Automaker In 2014, Volkswagen Close Behind http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-no-1-global-automaker-2014-volkswagen-close-behind/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-no-1-global-automaker-2014-volkswagen-close-behind/#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2015 14:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=987066 Once again, Toyota is the No. 1 largest automaker in the world, but Volkswagen is waiting close behind for the chance to take the crown. Automotive News reports Toyota sold 10.23 million units in 2014 with help from its Daihatsu and Hino partners, the first time the automaker sold over 10 million units in a […]

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WEC 6 Hours of Fuji

Once again, Toyota is the No. 1 largest automaker in the world, but Volkswagen is waiting close behind for the chance to take the crown.

Automotive News reports Toyota sold 10.23 million units in 2014 with help from its Daihatsu and Hino partners, the first time the automaker sold over 10 million units in a single year. Volkswagen took second on the podium with 10.14 million, and General Motors took third with 9.92 million.

2014 marks the second consecutive year Toyota has held the top spot, having regained it from GM in 2012 after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami greatly hindered production for the majority of that year. The automaker originally took the top spot from GM in 2008, the latter having dominated the podium for 80 years prior; Toyota also held the title in 2009 and 2010.

As for 2015, Toyota is forecasting deliveries of 10.15 million due to decreased demand at home and in emerging markets, as well as from falling oil prices and Japan’s increased national consumption tax. Volkswagen, meanwhile, is ahead of schedule as far as taking the crown goes, CEO Martin Winterkorn stating such a thing would occur by 2018 at the earliest before 2014’s results showed otherwise.

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Chicago 2015: 2016 Honda Pilot, Acura RDX Debuting http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/chicago-2015-2016-honda-pilot-acura-rdx-debuting/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/chicago-2015-2016-honda-pilot-acura-rdx-debuting/#comments Thu, 22 Jan 2015 13:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=987034 Within an hour of each other on February 12, Honda and Acura will debut the 2016 Pilot and RDX at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show. Honda says the redesigned three-row, eight-passenger Pilot — which is teased above — is meant to represent “a dramatic shift in design while showcasing new standout technologies, versatility, and dynamics […]

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All-New 2016 Honda Pilot SUV to Make Global Debut at 2015 Chicago

Within an hour of each other on February 12, Honda and Acura will debut the 2016 Pilot and RDX at the 2015 Chicago Auto Show.

Honda says the redesigned three-row, eight-passenger Pilot — which is teased above — is meant to represent “a dramatic shift in design while showcasing new standout technologies, versatility, and dynamics currently unavailable in the mainstream SUV segment.” Like the previous two generations, the upcoming Pilot was designed in Los Angeles and Ohio. The SUV will leave the Lincoln, Ala. facility for showrooms this summer.

Over at Acura, the RDX’s own redesign is expected to blend “numerous fresh exterior and interior design elements to further enrich its sport and luxury qualities, all with a cohesiveness that speaks to its new capabilities.” Said capabilities include new premium and safety features, as well as improvements to performance and comfort. No word on when the premium crossover will arrive in showrooms as of this writing.

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Bark’s Bites: Two Years With the CUV That Flexes from Long Beach to Texas http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/barks-bites-two-years-with-the-cuv-that-flexes-from-long-beach-to-texas/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/barks-bites-two-years-with-the-cuv-that-flexes-from-long-beach-to-texas/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 19:34:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=985722 “I’m NOT buying that thing. It looks like one of the cars that the Nazis rode around in.” Ah, the Ford Flex. It is one of those cars that all “car people” seem to love, while the general public seems to be slow to adopt—perhaps because it looks like one of those cars the Nazis […]

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flexdriveway

“I’m NOT buying that thing. It looks like one of the cars that the Nazis rode around in.”

Ah, the Ford Flex. It is one of those cars that all “car people” seem to love, while the general public seems to be slow to adopt—perhaps because it looks like one of those cars the Nazis rode around in.

At least that’s what Mrs. Bark said in the summer of 2013 when it became painfully obvious that our 2011 Chevrolet Equinox LT was no longer meeting the needs of our expanded family. I did a good deal of comparison test reading as well as renting of larger CUVs in my journeys around the country in those days, anticipating the day when the Equinox would need to go. I drove them all—Pathfinder, Highlander, Pilot, Traverse, and Explorer—but the one that I always loved to see in the Emerald Aisle was the Flex.

National Car has several of them in the Great Lakes area airport fleets, mostly in Limited trim. I enjoyed driving them as rentals, simply because they drove more like a car than any of their lifted competitors. The Explorer and Flex, while nearly identical in most other respects, were simply not comparable in the joy-to-drive category. The Flex never drove as big as it was—from the driver’s seat, it actually felt smaller than our Equinox did.

Also, for those of you who don’t obsess over the personal vehicle purchases of TTAC writers, you may not remember that I’m not the first contributor here to own a Flex. Nope, that honor belongs to Jack, who had a baller two-tone Flex Limited that he used to tow his racing rig around the Midwest. I remember not being a huge fan of the aesthetics of the car (okay, I may have said that it looked like a hearse), but it always seemed like it would have been a great family car.

So, when the day came that a third-row was no longer simply desirable but mandatory, I only seriously considered the Explorer and Flex. In SE trim, each could be had for well under $30K, including all rebates and X-Plan pricing. And when I took Mrs. M. to drive them, even she had to begrudgingly admit that the Flex was the more enjoyable car to drive—which was important, because our Equinox had seen over 25k miles per year of driving through the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. The 2013 refresh of the Flex, which strays from the design language of both the Ford cars and Ford SUVs, improved the looks of the CUV to the point where she relented on her objections to its quadratical form. Of course, once we settled on the Flex, there really was no other color to consider other than “Mineral Gray,” or as TTAC readers might call it, “Brown.”

Well, here we are two and a half years later, and the Flex has over 55k on the clock. How has it fared? What’s the quality been like? Most importantly, would I buy it again, given the chance?

For the TL:DR crowd, the answers are:

Fantastic.
Amazingly good.
Heck to the yes.

Those who would like to know more can continue on.

I think I can describe my Flex ownership most accurately in the following way: I can’t think of any other vehicle that would do what I need it to do nearly as well as the Flex has.

The importance of the Flex’s ride height simply cannot be overstated. Not only can my six and four-year-old children get themselves in and out of the second row easily, so can my sixty-eight year old mother. This is the one area where it outshines every other vehicle in its class. I don’t know why middle-class America has decided that the elevated ride height of CUVs is a feature rather than a detriment, but I think it would only take a week or two behind the wheel of the Flex to change their collective minds. Not only has entry and exit been easier, loading groceries and Black Friday shopping runs into the cargo area is MUCH easier than in any other third-row CUV.

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While the SE doesn’t have all the entertainment options available on higher priced models, that can largely be remedied with a $69 dual-screen DVD player. However, it is missing a feature that I desperately wish I had sprung for—the second-row bucket seats. The SE has the bench seat in the second row. Although my kids like having the middle seat available for stuffed animal and LeapPad storage, it makes getting back to the third row nearly impossible for adults, especially if car seats are installed. I would love a re-do on that buying decision.

Also, the third row seats shouldn’t be used by anybody larger than a non-Jack member of the Baruth family—which is to say, nobody over 5’9″ or 165 lbs should try to sit back there for any length of time. I’ve done it, but I didn’t enjoy it. My son, on the other hand, loves it back there. I think it’s the closest thing to a modern-day rear facing station wagon seat, where children can envelop themselves in their own little worlds of creativity while the adults drone on in the first two rows.

Fuel mileage, you say? Well…it isn’t good. In fact, it’s bad. Granted, Kentucky is not fuel mileage friendly, what with its picturesque rolling hills of blue grass and truckers who are determined to patrol the left lane of highway 64 with extreme prejudice. That being said, I’ve experience about 21 combined MPG from the non-EcoBoost V6. I think drivers who have a flatter commute could realistically expect closer to 24. Meh.

The compromise you make for lackluster fuel mileage is easily justified when power is applied with the right foot. Real-world acceleration has been incredibly good, even when weighed down with kids and luggage. The Flex has never met an on-ramp it didn’t like. While 0-60 might only be in the 7.5 second range, the 5-60 grunt from the torquey sixer means that you’ll never have trouble merging, and the old-school transmission never searches for the right gear (looking at you, Highlander).

No, not everybody loves the looks of it. But those who do really, really do. I field nearly as many questions from fellow motorists about the Flex as I do about my Boss. The 2013 refresh makes for a much more masculine looking ride—I never feel like I’m driving the Mom Taxi when I’m behind the wheel. In fact, when given the choice for daily driving, I pick the Flex far more often than I pick the Mustang. Sacrilege? Not really. The Flex is just an easier car to drive.

The more utilitarian of you might be wondering, “Why not a minivan?” The Flex doesn’t do minivan things as well as a minivan does, for certain. But it does car things much better. You can take a Flex out on the town and not feel like people are wondering why you’re out without your kids. Yes, you can get a base model like mine, but if you were so inclined, you could spend $50K on a murdered-out Limited and have one bad-ass urban assault vehicle.

It’s simply a matter of preference. After thirty months or so of Flex ownership, I can’t give the car anything but the highest marks. Maintenance cost has been limited to oil changes and standard scheduled maintenance. It is still running on the OEM tires and shocks. It’s inexpensive, it’s unique, and it’s wildly functional.

The Flex is also a fantastic example of a car that isn’t a huge seller yet still retains a great deal of its value on the used car market. A quick AutoTrader search reveals that it’s difficult to find one for less than $20K that isn’t either at least four model years old or has over 100k on the clock. So go ahead and take advantage of the fact that some Ford stores have a hard time unloading them and get a new one equipped exactly the way you like.

I anticipate driving my Flex until it hits the 150K mark, myself, and its flawless mechanical performance over the first nearly 60K gives me no reason to think that it won’t easily hit that milestone and beyond. However, when it comes time to replace it, I hope that Ford is still making new examples. Unlike nearly every other car I’ve ever owned, I have no itch to replace it with anything other than another one just like it.

Seems to me like that’s as good of a recommendation as I could make. If you’re in the market for a CUV, you should be in the market for a Flex.

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Hyundai, Kia $360M US Justice Department Settlement Approved In District Court http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/hyundai-kia-360m-us-justice-department-settlement-approved-district-court/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/hyundai-kia-360m-us-justice-department-settlement-approved-district-court/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 16:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=986762 The $360 million settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and Hyundai and Kia for overstating fuel economy figures was approved Tuesday by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The Detroit News report the approval also rejected a request from the attorneys general in New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, […]

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2013 Hyundai Accent

The $360 million settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and Hyundai and Kia for overstating fuel economy figures was approved Tuesday by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Detroit News report the approval also rejected a request from the attorneys general in New York, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island and Vermont, asking the court set aside a minimum of $25 million for their states’ respective electric vehicle programs. The court sided with the Justice Department in its ruling, warning that such a request would threaten the original settlement agreement with more complex and lengthy negotiations.

The agreement includes $100 million in civil penalties, $50 million for independent auditing of the Korean duo’s offerings, and a forfeiture of $210 million in greenhouse emission credits. It also ends the Environmental Protection Agency’s investigation into the overstated figures, and affects 600,000 Hyundai and 300,000 Kia models made between 2011 and 2013.

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Four Former Chrysler Dealerships Could Reopen Following US Appeals Court Ruling http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/four-former-chrysler-dealerships-reopen-following-us-appeals-court-ruling/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/four-former-chrysler-dealerships-reopen-following-us-appeals-court-ruling/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 15:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=986738 After five years of fighting and a U.S. appeals court ruling, four former Chrysler dealerships could have a shot at opening their doors once more. Automotive News reports three Detroit area dealerships — Livonia Chrysler Jeep Inc., Fox Hills Chrysler Jeep and Village Chrysler Jeep — and one based in Las Vegas — Jim Marsh […]

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2015 Chrysler 200 S AWD front angle

After five years of fighting and a U.S. appeals court ruling, four former Chrysler dealerships could have a shot at opening their doors once more.

Automotive News reports three Detroit area dealerships — Livonia Chrysler Jeep Inc., Fox Hills Chrysler Jeep and Village Chrysler Jeep — and one based in Las Vegas — Jim Marsh Chrysler Jeep — could reopen after the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that a federal arbitration law allowing 789 dealers to fight against closure by Chrysler overruled state laws allowing local dealers to legally fight against nearby competitors from opening doors.

The court added the victory wasn’t an unconditional reinstatement, yet “should meaningfully facilitate incorporation of prevailing dealerships back into the network.” FCA US issued a statement praising the district court for its decision, and is reviewing legal options to take regarding the four dealerships.

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Toyota Breaks Ground On $350M Texas Headquarters http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-breaks-ground-350m-texas-headquarters/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-breaks-ground-350m-texas-headquarters/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 14:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=986714 With a little help from a 2015 TRD Pro Series Tundra and its plow, Toyota broke ground on its new $350 million headquarters in Plano, Texas. Aside from the truck-assisted groundbreaking, the automaker also revealed a 10-foot-tall, 64-foot-wide “TOYOTA” installation during the ceremonies. Each letter held a Texan Yaupon Holly “wish tree,” all of which […]

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Toyota North America Groundbreaking Ceremony

With a little help from a 2015 TRD Pro Series Tundra and its plow, Toyota broke ground on its new $350 million headquarters in Plano, Texas.

Aside from the truck-assisted groundbreaking, the automaker also revealed a 10-foot-tall, 64-foot-wide “TOYOTA” installation during the ceremonies. Each letter held a Texan Yaupon Holly “wish tree,” all of which will be permanently planted once construction is completed. Local high school students were invited to tie handwritten wishes to the trees, as well; the notes will be placed in a time capsule to be buried on-site later on.

The new headquarters will be completed by early 2017 at the latest, and is located at the intersection of Headquarters Drive and Palomino Crossing. The groundbreaking marks the next phase in Toyota’s move to Texas from California, which began with the automaker’s announcement last year. Around 4,000 employees — half from California — are expected to call Texas home in the next couple of years.

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Redesigned 2016 Honda Pilot Arriving In US Showrooms After HR-V http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/redesigned-2016-honda-pilot-arriving-us-showrooms-hr-v/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/redesigned-2016-honda-pilot-arriving-us-showrooms-hr-v/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 13:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=986690 Soon after the 2016 Honda HR-V hits the showroom this spring, the redesigned 2016 Pilot will follow. Edmunds reports the new SUV “will redefine what is possible with an eight-passenger midsize SUV,” according to Honda’s U.S. automotive division vice president John Mendel. Power will likely remain the 3.5-liter V6 found in the current Pilot. Competitors […]

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Soon after the 2016 Honda HR-V hits the showroom this spring, the redesigned 2016 Pilot will follow.

Edmunds reports the new SUV “will redefine what is possible with an eight-passenger midsize SUV,” according to Honda’s U.S. automotive division vice president John Mendel. Power will likely remain the 3.5-liter V6 found in the current Pilot. Competitors include the Ford Explorer and Toyota 4Runner.

Further down the road, Mendel says “a completely reengineered” Ridgeline will turn up, either as a 2016 or 2017 model. The Ridgeline will be doing battle against the Chevrolet Colorado/GMC Canyon twins, as well as the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma.

Finally, Honda will have a turbocharged model by the end of 2015 that has one of the automaker’s forthcoming new VTEC turbo-four family of engines under the hood, while the FCV Concept’s production-ready version will hit U.S. showrooms next year, followed by a PHEV and EV by 2018.

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Volkswagen Eyeing Golf R400, Van For US Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/volkswagen-eyeing-golf-r400-van-us-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/volkswagen-eyeing-golf-r400-van-us-market/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 12:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=986674 Aside from its crossover-SUV expansion, Volkswagen has some plans for its overall United States lineup, including the possibility of seeing the Golf R400 and a van in the showroom. Automotive News reports the automaker is close to making a decision on producing the 395-horsepower concept, which made its debut at the 2014 Beijing Auto Show […]

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Aside from its crossover-SUV expansion, Volkswagen has some plans for its overall United States lineup, including the possibility of seeing the Golf R400 and a van in the showroom.

Automotive News reports the automaker is close to making a decision on producing the 395-horsepower concept, which made its debut at the 2014 Beijing Auto Show last April. The move to press forward, however, depends on “good conditions,” per development boss Hans-Jakob Neusser.

As for the van, Volkswagen of America CEO Michael Horn says either the Caddy or next-gen Crafter are likely candidates to take on the likes of the Ford Transit and Ram ProMaster City.

Meanwhile, a few models will be cast into the crusher of history to further VW’s crossover/SUV-heavy strategy, with the Eos — which made up 1 percent of the automaker’s 2014 U.S. sales with 3,411 sold — high on the list.

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Review: 2015 Chevrolet Spark LT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/review-2015-chevrolet-spark-lt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/review-2015-chevrolet-spark-lt/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 18:09:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=985554 How the mighty have fallen. I don’t mean General Motors, which once literally made the earth tremble from its world-war-winning industrial prowess but which has now effectively given up on the idea of engineering a small car in the United States. Nor do I mean Gibson Guitar, operator of the Beale Street Custom Shop pictured […]

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How the mighty have fallen. I don’t mean General Motors, which once literally made the earth tremble from its world-war-winning industrial prowess but which has now effectively given up on the idea of engineering a small car in the United States. Nor do I mean Gibson Guitar, operator of the Beale Street Custom Shop pictured above, which has struggled to effectively counter an exceptionally negative media and web-forum general opinion of its heavily-revised 2015 lineup.

I just mean me, myself, and I, that sort of thing.

MemphisToLA 009

Experienced TTAC readers will remember this photo location from another of your humble author’s long-distance road tests, namely Fleetwood Talisman Part Two. It goes without saying that the Talisman, a Detroit-engineered behemoth from the Cretaceous Era of GM full-sizers, was at home on the American highway, and I found that it made the trip from Nashville to Memphis with diffident ease. I remember the trip fondly, not least because I never drove that stretch of road again.

As fate would have it, however, last week I found myself once again making plans to drive from Nashville to Memphis via Franklin, TN. I’d managed to get an interview for an upcoming R&T feature scheduled for the morning after the closure of the Detroit Auto Show. Just getting from Allen Park, MI to home then to the Columbus airport in time required no small amount of luck, not least because I spent over an hour doing some guitar shopping at a pawnshop on 8 Mile before heading south. When I landed at BNA, however, I knew my luck had run out. My naive decision to select “Manager’s Choice” on my Hertz rental reservation form meant that the manager of the Nashville Airport Hertz could make the “choice” to screw me over by giving me a Chevy Spark for a 450-mile highway roadtrip.

My first impression of the Spark was: it looks like a toad that’s in the process of being vertically squished by transparent Lexan panels. My second impression was more positive: it’s possible for, ahem, full-sized people to actually fit in the thing comfortably. Like the one-class-up Honda Fit and like pretty much every other car globally in the sub-sub-compact segment, the Spark creates space by having the passengers sit upright. That’s how you get this much space in something that isn’t much wider or taller than a 1979 Civic. The seating position combines with the relatively low door glass to create a surprisingly CUV-like perspective on the world. The FR-S or Miata driver next to you seems to be sitting a foot lower than you are, and the Camry driver’s at a lesser but not entirely nonexistent disadvantage.

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As a result of the unusual proportions, the Spark drives very differently from a traditional subcompact. You’re sitting very close to the front wheels without even the suggestion of a bonnet ahead, and the paper-thin doors have virtually no tumblehome whatsoever. The net effect is a sensation of being in a driving simulator, since there’s obviously not much car around you. For most of the developed world, the “supermini” and its box-on-wheels proportioning is old news, but here in the United States the Spark is still new enough to, uh, shock.

With a few exceptions, a Spark with its rear seats up should be able to hold everything you’re allowed to carry onto an airliner. The cargo area is wide and tall but not deep. The passenger space in those rear seats is fine for smaller people or shorter distances, though I cannot “sit behind myself” with any comfort. One minor bit of admirable packaging is the cupholder molded into what would be the center rear seat of a wider automobile.

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The “motorcycle” instrument cluster is cheap-looking enough to be at home in any Nineties Suzuki bike, but the LCD screen packs a remarkable amount of information that includes what in a Spark is a very important piece of information: distance to empty. The fuel tank is just 9.2 gallons, making fillups frequent.

Those fillups will be more frequent than you’d expect if your Spark-enabled travel plans include a freeway. I-40 between Nashville and Memphis is reasonably hilly and speeds of 80-85mph are common. It’s fair to say that with just 84 horsepower to push approximately 2300 pounds, the Spark doesn’t shine here. However, the new-for-last-year CVT helps quite a bit. Acceleration to freeway speeds is safely adequate, with a quarter-mile in the eighteen-second range. The little Chevrolet’s aerodynamic profile doesn’t help here, though there is surprisingly little wind noise at speed given the barn-door shape of the thing. Nor is fuel economy particularly spectacular in real-world usage; I obtained a rough 33mpg overall on a trip that was eighty percent freeway driving.

Compared to the Aveo I drove five years ago, the Spark might well have been an S-Class in its highway demeanor even though it’s from the size class below. I didn’t push the needle above 85mph but it seemed like there was a little bit of power left even at that speed. Around town, the CVT enables a surprising amount of low-end shove. It’s possible to compete with some pickups trucks and four-cylinder economy cars from stoplight to stoplight, although something like a modern Ecoboost Fiesta will whip the Spark six ways to Sunday in that situation.

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LT Sparks get this snazzy radio-and-Bluetooth media center that most emphatically does not have a CD player. If you’re coming to this from an Audi S8 or a Burmester-equipped Porsche, you’ll be horrified by the sound quality, but if you’ve been driving an old Pontiac around you’ll be thrilled. Given that Spark customers are more likely doing the latter, this is fine. With that said, the system isn’t really loud enough to cover up the wind and road noise, particularly above 70mph. Used as a speakerphone, the sound system is better at speaking than listening. I found myself switching to my handset more often during drives than I would in, say, a Camry.

I can’t believe that we’ve gotten all the way to the end of this review without mentioning handling. It’s okay. There you go. A Fiesta or Mazda2 is far better to drive than this Spark will ever be, for the same reason the Spark whips them on interior space: packaging. With a center of gravity this high, on 155/55R15 wheels, there’s just too much potential tipover for pushing the limit to ever seem like a good idea. Encouraged by a fellow racer around a long on-ramp in Memphis, I experimented with trail-braking and lift-throttle oversteer.

Kids, just don’t do it.

The ECS intervenes early and often in the Spark. That’s for a good reason: keeping the roof off the ground. I’d be slightly worried about any genuine evasive maneuvers at freeway speeds, honestly. It’s best to drive the Spark the way you’d drive a Jeep Wrangler: with plenty of room around you at all times. The brakes,

If you don’t care about handling or power, the Spark delivers something much closer to a “real car” experience than the more conventional entries in the class. While I haven’t driven this car back to back with a Mirage, it’s my belief that the Spark is simply superior as a real-world operational proposition. There’s more room, a better driving position, and enough NVH control to make it livable.

Price as tested was $15,920. You can’t get this much equipment — the Spark includes power locks and cruise control in this trim — for this much money anywhere else. While I’d personally rather have a Hyundai Accent with less equipment, or even the mythical slightly-used-Civic-going-for-75-percent-of-original-MSRP that the Internet recommends to all car shoppers without ten million dollars saved for early retirement, the Spark is more than fit for purpose. Even if that purpose includes occasional freeway driving. It’s no Cadillac, to be sure, but neither is it a Chevette.

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Geneva 2015: Next-Gen Audi R8, R8 E-Tron Bowing In March http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/geneva-2015-next-gen-audi-r8-r8-e-tron-bowing-march/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/geneva-2015-next-gen-audi-r8-r8-e-tron-bowing-march/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 15:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=985506 Audi announced Monday it would be bringing its next-gen R8 to the 2015 Geneva Auto Show in March, with two versions set for the ramp. CarAdvice.com.au reports one of the versions bowing in Geneva will be an all-electric model promising future owners a range of around 250-310 miles per charge. The range figure is the […]

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Audi announced Monday it would be bringing its next-gen R8 to the 2015 Geneva Auto Show in March, with two versions set for the ramp.

CarAdvice.com.au reports one of the versions bowing in Geneva will be an all-electric model promising future owners a range of around 250-310 miles per charge. The range figure is the result of Audi tech development board member Ulrich Hackenberg pulling the plug on the previous R8 e-tron project due to its low 136-mile range:

First I did agree to stop such a project. The project had to be re-engineered because the range was 220km – it was not enough. So what I made with the team was to continue to work on this, and we could realise between 400 and 500 [kilometres battery range]. Or something beyond 400km.

The revised R8 e-tron will be joined by a gasoline-powered version that will lose its manual transmissions entirely, going all in on dual-clutch automatics instead. Hackenberg says that such gearboxes are best “for the record of [one’s] personal lap time” over rowing one’s own.

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Manley: 2017 Jeep Wrangler Could Be A Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/manley-2017-jeep-wrangler-hybrid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/manley-2017-jeep-wrangler-hybrid/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 14:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=985490 Are you ready for a hybrid Jeep Wrangler? The 2017 model may likely be just that to help the icon navigate through tighter fuel economy standards. According to Auto Express, brand boss Mike Manley says hybridization is a possibility for achieving fuel efficiency in the upcoming Wrangler, while also ensuring that it keeps its looks […]

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Are you ready for a hybrid Jeep Wrangler? The 2017 model may likely be just that to help the icon navigate through tighter fuel economy standards.

According to Auto Express, brand boss Mike Manley says hybridization is a possibility for achieving fuel efficiency in the upcoming Wrangler, while also ensuring that it keeps its looks and improves its on-road prowess. Such a hybrid would be more focused on off-roading and the issues that could come up:

Where you have to be careful with the Wrangler is range. If you are eight hours and four miles into a trail, there is not a hybrid that we could do which could provide the battery support. The way that combination is calibrated would be more unique for a Wrangler than it would, for example, a Grand Cherokee.

Other options for greater fuel economy include diesel power, as well as usage of aluminum and high-strength steel in the Wrangler’s construction.

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Toyota Increasing Crossover, SUV Production To Meet US Demand http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-increasing-crossover-suv-production-meet-us-demand/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/toyota-increasing-crossover-suv-production-meet-us-demand/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 13:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=985474 With U.S. demand for its crossovers and SUVs expected to increase in 2015, Toyota is responding in kind by increasing production at home and in Canada. Bloomberg reports the production increase will prove challenging to president Akio Toyoda’s strategy of squeezing more vehicles — such as the RAV4, RX and NX — from the plants […]

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2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy pf Alex L Dykes

With U.S. demand for its crossovers and SUVs expected to increase in 2015, Toyota is responding in kind by increasing production at home and in Canada.

Bloomberg reports the production increase will prove challenging to president Akio Toyoda’s strategy of squeezing more vehicles — such as the RAV4, RX and NX — from the plants already in place before considering new construction after March 2016.

Further, Toyota North America CEO Jim Lentz says the automaker plans to add smaller crossovers and SUVs to help it gain more overall market share in the U.S. against competitors like Volkswagen, maintaining its position on the top of the global sales podium in so doing.

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EPA: 2016 Honda HR-V Nets 31 MPG Combined http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/epa-2016-honda-hr-v-nets-31-mpg-combined/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/epa-2016-honda-hr-v-nets-31-mpg-combined/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 12:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=985450 Those shopping for a small, fuel-efficient crossover can now add the 2016 Honda HR-V to the list, thanks to its EPA-certified 31 mpg combined rating. Autoblog reports the HR-V also delivers 28 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway, but only if one opts for the FWD model with CVT. Adding power […]

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2016 Honda HR-V

Those shopping for a small, fuel-efficient crossover can now add the 2016 Honda HR-V to the list, thanks to its EPA-certified 31 mpg combined rating.

Autoblog reports the HR-V also delivers 28 mpg in the city and 35 mpg on the highway, but only if one opts for the FWD model with CVT. Adding power to the back brings the rating down to 27 city/32 highway/29 combined, while swapping the CVT for a six-speed manual in the FWD variant pushes the savings down to 25 city/34 highway/28 combined.

The FWD HR-V’s figures best those from competitors like the Nissan Juke, Kia Soul and Chevrolet Trax at the pump, while Mazda’s CX-5 can keep up on the highway figure; the CX-3, which awaits EPA-certification, may do better than the HR-V, however. Its platform-mate, the Fit, outperforms the crossover at 33 city/41 highway/36 combined.

The 2016 HR-V is due in U.S. showrooms this spring.

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Korean Market Hyundai Veloster Receives Seven-Speed DCT For 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/korean-market-hyundai-veloster-receives-seven-speed-dct-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/korean-market-hyundai-veloster-receives-seven-speed-dct-2015/#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 11:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=985290 The current Hyundai Veloster will gain some new features for this year, but only in its home market for the time being. Autoblog reports the biggest feature for the hatchback is the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that will replace the outgoing six-speed unit in the Turbo variant. The DCT will help funnel the 1.6-liter turbo-four’s 204 […]

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KDM 2015 Hyundai Veloster 01

The current Hyundai Veloster will gain some new features for this year, but only in its home market for the time being.

Autoblog reports the biggest feature for the hatchback is the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission that will replace the outgoing six-speed unit in the Turbo variant. The DCT will help funnel the 1.6-liter turbo-four’s 204 horses and 195 lb-ft of torque to the front.

Other features include new wheels, Turbo upholstery graphics on the seats, an engine sound equalizer with six sounds from which drivers can choose, and a revised instrument cluster.

Price of admission for the newish Veloster ranges from ₩18.45 million ($18,550 USD) for the base Younique edition, to ₩23.7 ($22,000) for the Turbo model. No word thus far on whether any of these features will be headed to North American showrooms down the road.

Below are the spec/price sheets for those who can read Hangul:

KDM 2015 Hyundai Veloster Spec + Price Sheet 01

KDM 2015 Hyundai Veloster Spec + Price Sheet 02

KDM 2015 Hyundai Veloster 01 hyundai-veloster-refresh-023-1 hyundai-veloster-refresh-025-1 hyundai-veloster-refresh-022-1 hyundai-veloster-refresh-024-1 hyundai-veloster-refresh-008-1 hyundai-veloster-refresh-028-1 hyundai-veloster-refresh-021-1 hyundai-veloster-refresh-033-1 hyundai-veloster-refresh-032-1

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Capsule Review: 2015 Toyota Camry XSE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-2015-toyota-camry-xse/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-2015-toyota-camry-xse/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 14:47:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=984793 The Camry connoisseur, if there is such a thing, would spot the difference. Unlike some well-known TTAC authors who don’t hide their Camry admiration, I wasn’t on board the Camry love boat. The last SE I drove disappointed me with unimpressive efficiency figures, an interior in need of polish, and an overall sensation of obsolescence. […]

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2015 Toyota Camry XSE blue crush metallicThe Camry connoisseur, if there is such a thing, would spot the difference.

Unlike some well-known TTAC authors who don’t hide their Camry admiration, I wasn’t on board the Camry love boat. The last SE I drove disappointed me with unimpressive efficiency figures, an interior in need of polish, and an overall sensation of obsolescence. And it was in fact obsolete, as Toyota Canada delivered a Camry Hybrid SE to my driveway in October 2014 when the refreshed 2015 car was already a thing.


• USD Base Price: $27,725

• Horsepower: 268 @ 6200 rpm

• Torque: 248 lb-ft @ 4700 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 19.3 mpg


Nevertheless, I’ll readily admit I appreciate that Toyota finally located the Camry’s sense of style. When this particular car pulled up in front of our house, I noticed right off the bat that it was an XSE, a trim level Toyota introduced for 2015 to combine XLE luxury with the SE’s sporting intentions. The Blue Crush Metallic also represents top-notch taste.

While it’s my job and I do my best and I take a measure of pride in these things, I didn’t notice key signifiers: twin tailpipes. Granted, Blue Crush arrived on Monday, January 5, the busiest work day of the year for a sales-oriented auto writer like myself. I backed the car into our driveway, refusing to take time out of my busy schedule for an unnecessary late night Volkswagen GTI-like drive to the grocery store. “It’s not like it has a V6,” I muttered.

Yet there may be no V6 more captivating than a surprise V6 in an increasingly competent midsize sedan. You see, 24 hours after my muttering, I was heading into town to collect dog food. After a few miles of routine driving behind slow-moving traffic, I hit the highway under heavy throttle to see if Toyota further isolated the 178-horsepower, 2.5L four-cylinder’s inherent vibration. Except I couldn’t answer that question, because I was approaching my exit with more than enough pace to mutter, “This feels like an engine Lotus would squeeze into an Evora.”

Yes, Camry fanbois (if there are such a thing) would have understood the meaning behind Blue Crush’s dual exhaust outlets. But even in XSE trim, Toyota completely bypasses the V6 badging process. It’s debadged. Or at least unbadged.

Toyota is therefore cool, like the guy who ordered his Porsche 911 without all the extra taxonomical addenda. Or at least sort of like that guy.

2015 Toyota Camry XSEToyota says the 3.5L generates 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft. It’s such a rev-hungry, buttery engine, however, that it feels like there are 300-plus of each. 0-60 mph times below six seconds bring believability to such feelings. The 6-speed automatic lacks all manner of aggression and rewards paddle shift inputs not at all, but it’s a sufficiently cooperative partner for the V6, never flubbing a shift or causing the driver to worry over fragility.

Blue Crush was much more than just an engine. Indeed, the XSE can be had for thousands less without the V6 powerplant. As a whole, the Camry is a stronger package now than it was last year. With “unique shock absorbers, firmer bushings, higher-rate coil springs, specially-tuned steering,” the XSE bears that out more clearly. The structure is stiffer, enabling Toyota to more finely tune the suspension for a very pleasing real-world balance. The ride is only just on the firm side of average, yet the Camry XSE handles ham-fisted, mid-corner adjustments easily and without fuss. The steering is still too slow and light for the XSE to be a genuine sports sedan; brake feel (said to be improved) and brake performance are not confidence-inspiring. But if this suspension configuration represented the conventional Camry’s layout, I believe enthusiasts would grow very fond of the midsize Toyota, and they would wonder just how good TRD’s engineering team could make it if given free rein.

The Mazda 6 is a sharper corner carver, but it rides more stiffly and is noisier inside. Dynamically, the Ford Fusion is very nicely balanced, but not every buyer will put up with Ford’s current infotainment unit when the Camry’s system is so straightforward and intuitive. Hyundai and Kia, with the Sonata and Optima, aren’t yet able to mate serene ride quality to their more aggressive suspension tunes. For a moment, it seemed as though Nissan built the better Camry with their fifth-gen Altima, but the 2015 Camry refresh is a significant one.

Not surprisingly then, the Blue Crush’s prime competition comes in the form of America’s second-best-selling car, the Honda Accord. It’s a game of personal preference at that point.

2015 Toyota Camry XSE interiorPersonally, I’m pleased to discover a Camry that appeals on a large number of different levels. It’s still not the most handsome sedan, its interior is completely devoid of expression, it will quickly become terribly commonplace, it drank at a sub-20-mpg rate during its stay with me. But the Camry XSE is the place where solidity, reliability, and space marry moderate degrees of fun, modestly increased levels of vehicular passion, and mature amounts of back road frolicking.

And it’s relatively affordable. In the United States, Camry XSEs start at $27,725. That’s $2310 more than the SE and the same price as the XLE.

Adding the V6 to a 2015 Toyota Camry XSE costs another $5220, but the V6 XSE includes a raft of equipment that’s optional on the four-cylinder model. It’s worth it. If you’re going to buy America’s best-selling car in large part because the sampling size which helped establish its image of dependability is so large, you owe it to yourself to get the best version of America’s best-selling car.

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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Repair Estimates For Tesla Model S Higher At Certified Shops http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/repair-estimates-tesla-model-s-higher-certified-shops/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/repair-estimates-tesla-model-s-higher-certified-shops/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 14:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=985162 No matter how minor or major an accident, Tesla Model S owners and their insurers will feel the financial pain from Tesla’s certified shops. According to Green Car Reports, the EV’s nearly all-aluminum frame and body panels make repair work on even a minor fender-bender difficult, though that is only half of the story. Reported […]

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Black Tesla Model S

No matter how minor or major an accident, Tesla Model S owners and their insurers will feel the financial pain from Tesla’s certified shops.

According to Green Car Reports, the EV’s nearly all-aluminum frame and body panels make repair work on even a minor fender-bender difficult, though that is only half of the story. Reported estimates from Tesla’s certified shops include:

  • $10,000 to repair a “minor but long” scratch
  • $45,000 for “minor front-end damage”
  • $7,000 for repair of a small dent and scratch that required no replacement of parts
  • $30,000 for “minor fender and door damage”
  • $11,000 for a minor scrape on the rear panel, including a $155 charge to “ensure battery remains charged” during the repair

As aluminum “has no memory,” per Peotter’s Body Shop owner Larry Peotter, repairing a Model S is much harder than a vehicle with steel components. Rivets and bonding agents made specifically for use with the metal also add to both time and labor. Authorized shops also pass the costs associated with Tesla’s repair training program — with equipment and tools worth $100,000 alone — to their customers, though Peotter didn’t say by how much.

Though insurance pays for these costs, Model S owners — especially those who never owned a premium vehicle before — are still finding these prices hard to swallow. Some owners have gone as far as to take their vehicle to non-Tesla certified shops experienced with aluminum, coming away with estimates some two-thirds less than what they were charged at Tesla-approved businesses. On the other hand, Tesla won’t sell parts to any shop other than those it trained.

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New York 2015: Lexus Debuting 2016 RX 350 In April http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/new-york-2015-lexus-debuting-2016-rx-350-april/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/new-york-2015-lexus-debuting-2016-rx-350-april/#comments Mon, 19 Jan 2015 11:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=985090 Skipping Chicago after Detroit as far as debuts are concerned, Lexus will unveil its 2016 RX 350 at the 2015 New York Auto Show in April. Edmunds reports the crossover will grow in size to distance itself from the Toyota RAV4-based NX 200t, while also losing weight through the use of lightweight materials for better […]

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2013 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport-005

Skipping Chicago after Detroit as far as debuts are concerned, Lexus will unveil its 2016 RX 350 at the 2015 New York Auto Show in April.

Edmunds reports the crossover will grow in size to distance itself from the Toyota RAV4-based NX 200t, while also losing weight through the use of lightweight materials for better fuel economy. The size increase may mean a third-row seat for two more passengers, as well; the RX 350 has always been a five-passenger crossover since its birth in 1998.

As far as styling goes, Lexus’ trademark Predator face may be jazzed-up with the rest of the exterior, but the premium brand isn’t likely to flip the script on its No. 1 best-seller entirely.

The 2016 RX 350 is set to arrive in showrooms later in 2015.

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Volkswagen: Golf-Based CUV May Slot Under Next-Gen Tiguan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/volkswagen-golf-based-cuv-may-slot-next-gen-tiguan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/volkswagen-golf-based-cuv-may-slot-next-gen-tiguan/#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 15:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=984321 With the Volkswagen Tiguan going bigger for the United States market in 2017, senior execs believe a smaller entry-level crossover could soon take its place. Ward’s Auto reports the new crossover would be Golf-based, and would become the fourth crossover in VW’s U.S. lineup alongside the aforementioned Tiguan, the upcoming midsize CrossBlue, and the larger […]

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Volkswagen-T-ROC-Concept-02

With the Volkswagen Tiguan going bigger for the United States market in 2017, senior execs believe a smaller entry-level crossover could soon take its place.

Ward’s Auto reports the new crossover would be Golf-based, and would become the fourth crossover in VW’s U.S. lineup alongside the aforementioned Tiguan, the upcoming midsize CrossBlue, and the larger Touareg. The smaller crossover could take its cue from the T-ROC two-door crossover that bowed in Geneva last year, and may likely be built at the automaker’s facility in Puebla, Mexico, where the Golf, Jetta and Beetle are assembled.

Speaking of the CrossBlue, that seven-seater will likely add more models to the lineup, such as one similar to the Cross Coupe GTE PHEV from this year’s Detroit Auto Show. Both of those models would be produced in Chattanooga, Tenn.

As for the next-gen Tiguan, production is expected to begin in North America in 2017, possibly joining the Golf-based crossover in Puebla, as well. The Tiguan will also grow to over 185 inches in overall length, gain a third-row seat, and be able to hold seven passengers, all to better market the crossover to consumers in the U.S.

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Capsule Review: 1983 Ford Sierra Ghia 2.0 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-1983-ford-sierra-ghia-2-0/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-1983-ford-sierra-ghia-2-0/#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 13:44:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=981897     “Wait! Is that a…” “Are you British?”  “I haven’t seen one of these since I left Venezuela as a teenager, only rich people had Sierras!” Behold random responses from gawkers of TTAC’s Project Car. The surprises continue after several hundred miles under the Ford Sierra’s belt, as life with this fish out of water is […]

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559672_10151672335673269_340180691_n

 

“Wait! Is that a…”

“Are you British?”

 “I haven’t seen one of these since I left Venezuela as a teenager, only rich people had Sierras!”

Behold random responses from gawkers of TTAC’s Project Car. The surprises continue after several hundred miles under the Ford Sierra’s belt, as life with this fish out of water is far from a compromise.

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To see it is to not know it: like most hyper-futuristic designs past their prime, a head turner in conservative 1982 England is a familiar profile in conservative 2015 Texas.  Aside from the steering wheel on the wrong side!

But critical eyes notice the Ghia’s grille-free nose and alien headlights. The conversation’s tenor changes: there’s no better compliment to Mr. Uwe Bahnsen and his gifted team than the subtle and thoughtful reactions a Sierra earns a full thirty-three years after liftoff.

Get behind the wheel and the modern theme continues, because it drives like a newer vehicle.

Reasonable drag coefficient (.34) and almost nothing frontal area aside, the finest late-70s technology helps the Sierra match (or trump) the manners of new vehicles at most (legal) speeds.  Strut front suspension with rack-and-pinion steering is right, even without modern aluminum componentry. The semi-trailing arm rear looks modern-ish with exposed webbing on the differential: credit the beginnings of finite element analysis.

(photo courtesy: Ford Press Release)

At 2500-ish lbs, the ho-hum Ford Sierra is a balanced rear-wheel drive, fully-Germanic chassis on a family car body. Which means that roads normally tortured by flaccid CUVs now tango with something Miata-sized.

Captain Mike, the mastermind of this plan, behind the wheel at the Nürburgring.

Thrills start at the tiller: no power assist means road feel harkens to a dance with a soul mate. Manual steering effort is no chore with 165mm wide tires that rarely lack grip on city streets. Emergency maneuvers are effortless, understeer is progressive with the possibility of gentle, controlled oversteer.

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Go round-abouting and the Sierra hangs tight as speeds near 25mph. Above 25 and the front wheels howl as your grin grows. Add a dab of oppo, scandinavian flicks, badass drifter talk blah-blah-blah: with more go-juice, steering modulation and you could duplicate this:

Fiesta THIS.

Like all Sierras thrashed-then-trashed in Europe, its a joy to drift at low speeds even if hamstringed by saggy, original springs and plush dampers. But it’s a pleasant ride/handling tradeoff.  Potholes disappear with 80-series sidewalls smoothing imperfections to the point the big-rimmed Rolls Royce Phantom hangs its NVH-soaked head in shame. How Britishy!

Too bad about the buzzy powertrain: 105 bigger-than-you-think horses from a 2.0L OHC four-banger (sporting a large 2bbl Weber) means the Sierra rarely struggles, but makes a helluva ruckus.

It’s a wonderful powerband: diesel-like torque from a standstill with a smooth-ish (but L-O-U-D) demeanor all the way to 6000 emissions control free revs. The 3-speed auto schools modern units with an effortless 1-2 upshift and a reassuring push to 3rd at full throttle: all autoboxes should shift this sweet.

Brakes?  Credit the light weight for the Sierra’s discs/drums bringing the machine down from 60mph with the hustle of a modern machine. ABS would help, ditto weight adding life-saving technology like airbags, larger door bars, etc.  I reckon with today’s weight shedding tech (aluminum engines, plastic hoods/intakes, etc) offsetting the safety goodies, the Sierra’s fighting form wouldn’t gain a pound.

In the right place. (photo courtesy: Ford Motor Company)

And Ghia spec Ford Sierras are a nice place for average Americans and most Europeans, aside from the previous owner’s decision to order it sans air conditioning: antique English vehicle shopping FTW, SON MATE!

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Fleet-spec Sierras don’t stand a chance, but the real wood trim and buffet-worthy options list protect Ghias from modern motoring irrelevance. Power windows (front 2 or 4), crank moonroof, adjustable reading lamps and a four-speaker cassette stereo are far from impressive. But heated seats, roll up rear sunshades, headlight washers and a gen-u-wine electronic trip computer are touches you’d pay extra for even today.

Mediocre overall, as integration is the killer app.

IMG_4441

Because 1980s. (photo courtesy: Ford Motor Company)

The dash, less radical than the wraparound polycarbonate bumpers, organizes controls in zones for easy use: one to the right of the gauges, another to the left, a third atop the center stack (dark chocolate) and a 4th in the lighter brown region. It’s charming in a proto-modern, Atari 2600 human factors kind of way.

2012-03-10_15-31-20_63-XL

The interior bits are from a dumber era in polymer construction, yet texture/fit/finish from the doors, vent registers, levers and switches is pure Germanic craftsmanship. Aside from the (period excellent) brown velour, the interior’s aged well.

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But goodness, those seats are magical.  Don’t let the benign seams fool you: the Ghia sucks you in, cradling you. All passengers get thick, luxurious cushions with brilliant thigh support and Volvo-worthy head restraints. Even the Velcro-like velour provides impressive lateral support for everyone but latex-wearing fetishists.

While the stereo is barely adequate, while the vintage Hitachi deck’s discman input smartphone jack provides turn-by-turn Google navigation and streaming audio, don’t forget the tunes held in a handy hatchback with 42.4 cu-ft of space!

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And the beat goes brown.

Considering fuel economy numbers near 30mpg for highway-skewed driving (no overdrive) the Ford Sierra is an antique you could daily drive. (Just find one with A/C.)

But the original MKI design asks for more. It deserves more. 

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Back on the trailer for big upgrades: more gears, power and period-correct emissions processing for a powertrain worthy of that efficient body.

Yes, this Sierra has the power of contemporary V8s in a superior chassis. And it’s quite the time capsule, even difficult to find in Europe…but at what cost to cutting-edge design?

Next time you see TTAC’s Ford Sierra, prepare for an even larger threat to the notion of a modern car!

 

2012-03-10_15-31-20_63-XL 314875_239307882787242_35442316_n 190755_175144755870222_1403373_n IMG_4441 252857_191309494253748_372970_n 254272_191309870920377_8346766_n 1005039_10151858112953269_1584136033_n 559672_10151672335673269_340180691_n 66933_10151644286878269_1675348576_n IMG_4444 10678751_10152458015928269_5632059352482689779_n 424093_10150542670218269_1278572108_n IMG_4437

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