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. Thu, 18 Dec 2014 19:02:27 +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/ Supercars To Go, Third Place: Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2 AP http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/supercars-go-third-place-lamborghini-gallardo-lp550-2-ap/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/supercars-go-third-place-lamborghini-gallardo-lp550-2-ap/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 16:22:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961969 The idea of a rear-wheel-drive Gallardo was so obvious that it’s a wonder it took six years for it to appear on the market as a limited edition and another year after that to join the standard lineup. Indeed, the 550-2 was popular from the moment it appeared in dealer order sheets, though not for […]

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The idea of a rear-wheel-drive Gallardo was so obvious that it’s a wonder it took six years for it to appear on the market as a limited edition and another year after that to join the standard lineup. Indeed, the 550-2 was popular from the moment it appeared in dealer order sheets, though not for the reason you’d initially suspect.

We’d all like to believe that the “purist” Gallardo sold well because Lamborghini owners naturally gravitated towards a more thrilling, more authentic Lamborghini experience, preferably with a manual transmission. A few people did stump up for the mack daddy clutch-and-RWD combo, but far more people chose the 550-2 Spyder e-gear. After all, the 550-2 was cheaper than the 560-4 we discussed yesterday. Why not use the savings to pay for the droptop, particularly given the fact that you, the Lamborghini customer, live in a sunshine state anyway?

So though you will occasionally see an AWD Gallardo coupe hammering through some miserable weather in Manhattan or Chicago or Powell, Ohio, the customers always really wanted the cheapest convertible they could get. Thus, the triumph of the 550-2; not as a fine-tipped, metal-topped brush with which to paint the fastest laps on a concrete canvas, but as the lowest number in the list of Spyder suggested retail prices.

Our test car is half-pure, if you will; though it has no canvas top, it is equipped with the same e-gear transmission seen in the LP560-4. Like most of its 550-2 siblings, it has a more conservative front and rear fascia than the AWD variant. As an “AP” version, it boasts a quilted-leather interior. This is surprisingly relevant to the trackday task at hand. Observe:

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In a standard Gallardo, that quilted roof is replaced by a double-bubble felt headliner that offers a full extra inch and a half of headroom. The difference that makes in the comfort of operation for taller drivers wearing a helmet is impossible to exaggerate. In this 550-2, I had to keep my head tilted at all times. No amount of slouching could let me sit upright in it. Had I brought my top-vented helmet to the track that day instead of my open-face instructor’s model, I’d have been unable to drive the 550-2 around the track.

Which would have been a genuine shame.

Somewhere inside my twisted, oft-broken ribcage beats a heart that absolutely despises this automobile’s undisputed and massive superiority over the 560-4. After all, it’s the height of douchebag spec-sheet press-kit in-flight journalism to mindlessly prefer the “right-wheel-drive” version of a supercar. I could have delivered this verdict to you from my home office and thus enjoyed four days playing Fleet Foxes covers on my ragged-wood ’74 Gibson J-40 instead of suffering through over one hundred and fifty teeth-grinding coaching sessions in Oklahoma. Any idiot with a twelve-month-old username on Jalopnik can tell you that the 550-2 is better. How I prayed for this car to suck as I took my cramped seat behind the wheel and prepared to pull onto the front straight at Hallett. I was dead set against the white Lamborghini, stabbing from hell’s heart into its flat-surfaced face with all the hate I could muster. The words came unbidden to my mind’s typewriter as I opened the door:

A cynical attempt to persuade nouveau-riche keyboard racers that they aren’t being coddled by everything from hyper-active ESC to safety-first tire stagger, the 550-2 proves to be the two-percent milk of Lamborghinis, a Lambo For Dummies too ill-educated to understand the benefits of AWD on the racetrack…

But look ye, Starbuck, what is said in heat, that thing unsays itself. And it took just one turn — one turn for me to put aside the ridiculous conceit of hating the RWD Gallardo for hate’s sake. How joyously it bent into the first fast left, the steering both smoother and lighter for the loss of the front axles! How it balanced in the midcorner on the throttle, and how it leapt from the exit with just a touch of stutter-step as the V10 fed a Diablo’s worth of twist to the forty-five-percent differential! I pulled the paddle and the shift was smoother and faster than in its quad-driven sister. Over the blind hill I went as the speedometer rang the triple digits and I pulled the paddle again and was heartily shoved in return and then finally it was time to trust the brakes, that trust returned with a shudder of the ABS and an arresting-hook swing of the speedo’s needle even as I roared down through the gears to second for the track’s slowest corner.

Forget the spec sheet, for it fails to show you the most important item included when you choose the cheapest Gallardo: joy. There’s a tradeoff, of course: when it rained, the lack of a driven front axle made everything more of a challenge, including full-throttle acceleration in a straight line. In that respect, however, it was no worse than a Corvette.

The rest of the thing is as the LP560-4: understated interior even with the quilted leather, plenty of visibility, a feeling of manageable size, an engine that manages the neat trick of being torquey and rev-happy, a suspension that balances the competing demands of ride and handling well enough to work on an ancient racetrack.

With less visual gingerbread than virtually any other Gallardo variant, in the Econoline-van white paint, and already suffering from the not-quite-Lamborghini proportions that failed to shock even back in 2004, this car definitely won’t impress anybody in Palm Springs or Miami. Your neighbors will wonder why you can’t afford a Huracan, and your frenemies on the Internet will automatically assume you paid whatever the lowest listing price on eBay for any Gallardo is. The Estonian call girls and NYU SeekingArrangement adventurers will turn up their noses at your attempts to climb the supercar ladder. At the Cars and Coffee, it will be suggested behind your back that you own the Acura ILX of Lamborghinis.

All of that, as well as everything else that troubles you, can be safely and easily forgotten the moment you exit pit lane at your local track. Dismissed by the posers, this bull is, instead, the toreador’s choice.

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MBUSA Looking South For New Home http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/mbusa-looking-south-new-home/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/mbusa-looking-south-new-home/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 15:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962394 With Cadillac getting its inner hipster on in SoHo, and Subaru trekking four miles west to conduct its American hustle in Camden, N.J., Mercedes-Benz USA is feeling the urge to heed the song of the South and go with the wind. Automotive News reports MBUSA is looking at relocating its 800 employees to either Georgia, […]

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With Cadillac getting its inner hipster on in SoHo, and Subaru trekking four miles west to conduct its American hustle in Camden, N.J., Mercedes-Benz USA is feeling the urge to heed the song of the South and go with the wind.

Automotive News reports MBUSA is looking at relocating its 800 employees to either Georgia, Florida or North Carolina, leaving Montvale, N.J. after 42 years. Representatives for the company wouldn’t confirm or deny the plans, believing it to be nothing more than rumor and speculation.

The company is currently looking over tax incentive packages, with New Jersey working on its own package in the hope of keeping MBUSA’s headquarters in Montvale. JLL Inc., the commercial real estate firm that is helping Toyota move its U.S. headquarters to Texas from California, is also lending assistance to the company.

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Detroit 2015: Honda FCV Concept Ready For North American Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/detroit-2015-honda-fcv-concept-ready-north-american-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/detroit-2015-honda-fcv-concept-ready-north-american-debut/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962370 With the FCX Clarity now out of the picture, Honda is looking forward to the FCV’s replacement, a preview of which is set to bow at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. The Honda FCV Concept will be making its North American debut under the lights of Cobo Hall in January, having made its world debut […]

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With the FCX Clarity now out of the picture, Honda is looking forward to the FCV’s replacement, a preview of which is set to bow at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.

The Honda FCV Concept will be making its North American debut under the lights of Cobo Hall in January, having made its world debut last month in Japan. The concept is meant to show the evolution of the automaker’s plans for a new FCV, first seen with the FCEV Concept that bowed during the 2013 LA Auto Show.

As for when the production version of Honda’s next hydrogen vehicle will enter showrooms, the FCV will arrive in Japan March 2016, then land in the United States later on.

Once across the Pacific, the FCV will have quite a few locations to refuel, thanks to a $13.8 million investment deal between Honda and FirstElement Fuel to build more hydrogen refueling stations in California.

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Detroit 2015: New Lexus F Model Teased http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/detroit-2015-new-lexus-f-model-teased/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/detroit-2015-new-lexus-f-model-teased/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962338 More teasers from Toyota, this time from its luxury brand, Lexus, which is bringing over a new F model to the party at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. The new vehicle, the second in the F high-performance series after the RC F, will roll into the spotlight January 13 at 8:40 a.m. Eastern. More details […]

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More teasers from Toyota, this time from its luxury brand, Lexus, which is bringing over a new F model to the party at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.

The new vehicle, the second in the F high-performance series after the RC F, will roll into the spotlight January 13 at 8:40 a.m. Eastern. More details will likely be revealed closer to showtime, as is sometimes the case with these teasers.

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Alfa Romeo Readies New Engines For 2015 Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/alfa-romeo-readies-new-engines-2015-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/alfa-romeo-readies-new-engines-2015-debut/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 12:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962314 Aside from rebuilding itself in North America, Alfa Romeo is set to introduce a new family of high-performance engines into the lineup, the first of which will come in the next six months. Automotive News Europe reports three of those engines — two gasoline, one diesel — will debut with the automaker’s new midsize sedan […]

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Aside from rebuilding itself in North America, Alfa Romeo is set to introduce a new family of high-performance engines into the lineup, the first of which will come in the next six months.

Automotive News Europe reports three of those engines — two gasoline, one diesel — will debut with the automaker’s new midsize sedan in June 2015, hitting showrooms sometime in 2016.

The main unit will be a direct-injection 2-liter turbo-four with MultiAir VVT on-board. That engine, dubbed the Global Medium Engine, is expected to produce 180-330 horsepower, with the power directed to the back or all four corners via a range of automatic and manual transmissions. A 2.2-liter turbodiesel four-pot will also be available, delivering 135 to 210 horses in the same manner.

The crown jewel, however, will be a 2.9-liter direct-injection twin-turbo V6 — remade from Ferrari’s 3-liter unit found in the Maserati Quattroporte and Ghibli — which will throw down up to 480 stallions for the trouble.

VM Motori has also been called upon, working with Alfa to develop a new version of the 3-liter V6 diesel found in a handful of Jeep and Maserati products. Two variants are expected, ranging from 275 horsepower — like the current mill — to 340 horsepower. The engines will be used in AWD applications, and will only be found under the hoods of a large sedan and midsize SUV down the road.

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Detroit 2015: Toyota Teases New Tacoma Again http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/detroit-2015-toyota-teases-new-tacoma/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/detroit-2015-toyota-teases-new-tacoma/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 11:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962290 You saw part of its backside. Now, behold the façade that is the 2016 Toyota Tacoma. Just like before, Toyota didn’t say anything about the third-gen pickup, other than when it would turn up at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show: January 12, 12:50 p.m. Eastern. As previously stated, the Tacoma is the king of the […]

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You saw part of its backside. Now, behold the façade that is the 2016 Toyota Tacoma.

Just like before, Toyota didn’t say anything about the third-gen pickup, other than when it would turn up at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show: January 12, 12:50 p.m. Eastern.

As previously stated, the Tacoma is the king of the mid-size hill, but its third incarnation will be facing two new upstarts in addition to the aging Nissan Frontier: the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon.

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Supercars To Go, Fourth Place: Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/supercars-go-fourth-place-lamborghini-gallardo-lp560-4/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/supercars-go-fourth-place-lamborghini-gallardo-lp560-4/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 16:41:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961945 I truly love the Best&Brightest of TTAC. So much so that one of the common attack vectors used by my involuntarily-celibate, low-T, sub-neurotypical detractors is to parody that affection in a manner that reveals more about their fumbling attempts to interact with their “MLP:FiM” Meetups than it does about my admittedly wide range of personal […]

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I truly love the Best&Brightest of TTAC. So much so that one of the common attack vectors used by my involuntarily-celibate, low-T, sub-neurotypical detractors is to parody that affection in a manner that reveals more about their fumbling attempts to interact with their “MLP:FiM” Meetups than it does about my admittedly wide range of personal flaws. Nevertheless, I do occasionally find myself frustrated by the B&B’s relentless desire to nitpick the articles that we put up.

As an example: Due to the distressingly low number of contributors close-knit team at TTAC, it’s often necessary for one of us to pitch in during the off-hours to get a story up. And sometimes that call comes during what I think of as “The Ketel One Hour”, leading me to make inebriated mistakes like referring to deposed Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood as “Roy Batty” or “Scott LaRock”. The typical response of the readers is to completely pounce on me (or, more often, Derek) for making these mistakes, forgetting that if we had a so-called “editor” to “edit” what we write, we wouldn’t have any money to rent Camrys for track tests.

So, with that in mind, we’re on our third Supercars To Go test, and not a single member of the B&B has been sufficiently incensed to hit the “Reply” button and e-scream:

“NONE OF THESE ARE SUPERCARS!!”

It’s true. While the use of the word “supercar” is almost as old as Shaw’s use of the word “superman”, it didn’t really stick until, by the agency of one LJK Setright, the Lamborghini Miura was yclept thus. Therefore, a supercar is a mid-engined twelve-cylinder automobile with outrageous styling. It is permissible to exceed the requirements of this formula — hello, Cizeta Moroder V16T! — but not to provide less. I ask you, dear reader, is the Fiero 2M4 a supercar? No? Then how is the Audi R8, with barely twice the cylinder count and no more adventurous an interior design, a supercar?

Nor is the Ferrari 458 a supercar, being the direct descendant of the very non-supercar-ish Dino 246. The Gallardo is not a supercar, being the descendant of the (ugh) Jalpa. The McLaren MP4-12C is not a supercar because the “12” in the number has nothing to do with the number of cylinders. The GT-R is not a supercar in the same way that a fish is not a bicycle.

So why call this a “supercar” test? Well, the company that rents these cars, Xtreme Xperience, calls them supercars. Given that they are basically in the rental business, and the rental business is the one place in the world where a Chevrolet Malibu is a “full-sized” car and a Corolla is a “mid-size” car, it makes sense. Hertz calls the 911 C4S a “dream car”, and who’s dreaming of driving some wack-ass waterboxer with a droptop and a PRNDL shifter?

We also live in an era where people actually refer to a Mustang as a “sports car”. The distributed illiterate intelligence of the Web has bleached the meaning out of words like a decade’s worth of Texas sun at high noon, which is why young women describe “pad thai” food as “amazing!” and Chinese-sewn Lululemon pants that inadvertently display one’s pudenda (Latin: “the shameful thing”) every time you bend over as “awesome!”

When I was about nine years old, Lee Iacocca appeared on the television to show America the Dodge Omni and Plymouth Horizon “Miser” models beneath a sign that said “52 MPG”.

“That’s incredible, if it’s true,” I said to my mother, who snapped back,

“Your use of the word ‘incredible’ means that you do not ‘credit’ it, which means you don’t believe it. Therefore, you’ve managed to contradict yourself quite nicely in a short but indifferently constructed sentence.” Did I mention that my mother spoke seven languages and delighted in exposing my logical fallacies in the harshest manner possible, starting around my third birthday? Not to worry, I’ll tell my analyst, as soon as I can find one who looks like the sexy blonde analysts in the Ratt videos.

Where we we? Oh, yes, the Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4. It’s no supercar, but never was there a Miura that could have seen a distant glimpse of this thing’s origami-folded ass around a racetrack. It runs the quarter in 11.2 seconds. This particular Gallardo being one of the very last built, it has a thoroughly-revised e-gear transmission that works quickly and smoothly around a racetrack. The “paddle” shifters are really long metal handles that will be intimately familiar to anyone who has ever driven a Bentley Continental GT or, ahem, installed and VAG-COM-coded those same paddles to work on their Phaetons. It can be a little difficult to find them when the blood is hot and the pace is hard. Only after this test did I meet a Lamborghini factory driver who showed me the best way to do corner-exit upshifts on cars with steering-column-mounted paddles, like this and the Huracan: you use the left hand to steer the car and the right hand to shift. It’s very suave, when you do it correctly.

The Gallardo four-wheel-driver suffers from the same basic issues as the Audi R8 in terms of front axle activity and tire stagger, but having that 552-horse V10 behind you allows you to adjust these issues on the fly with copious amounts of torque and 8000-rpm power. It’s also possessed of a more responsive and informative steering system, which is odd because I’m pretty sure that the spec sheet has the same parts listed for both cars. I drove two different 560-4s that weekend and they were identical and both very good, so like Timothy B. Schmit I can’t tell you why that’s so.

The Gallardo’s low roof makes it a tight fit for me (six foot two, 32″ inseam) when wearing a helmet. The 560-4 is much more comfortable than the 550-2, however, for reasons I’ll discuss in the article on that car. The interior is a sort of Audi’s Greatest Hits with the addition of some chromed bespoke switches. If you own an old A4, you’ll recognize the temperature controls straightaway. Still, with the addition of some leather and chrome here and there, it actually works as an exotic-car interior. The old Italian cars from the Seventies were black plastic and chrome, and so is this. The difference is that none of the buttons are inoperative. You can track this car all day with the A/C on if you like. It doesn’t get hot, it doesn’t misbehave, it doesn’t flash warning lights at you. Compared to the Ferrari 430, it’s flashier on the outside and more subtle on the inside. If that’s your sort of thing, you’re in luck.

While there’s a “Corsa” mode for the stability control, this LP560-4 is perfectly safe and easy to drive with the ESC completely disengaged. You can feed it full power at any remotely sane point in the corner and though it won’t play differential games like a GT-R to tighten your line, neither will it loop the bitch around on you. The brakes are a bit wooden but they work very well even over the course of a full day’s lapping session. I had several female students who chose this car, none of whom had any track experience, and they were all able to enjoy themselves immediately.

The sense of worrisome size that accompanies the big Lambos like the Murcielago doesn’t exist here. The Gallardo feels smaller than a Corvette when you’re driving it, largely because you’re near the front axle plus it’s both narrow and slab-sided. I’d always thought of the Gallardo as a jerk-off car for jerk-off drivers but as the days went on and I saw just how well it worked for my students I came to really respect it. During my own drives of the car I found it to be superbly stable and adequately thrilling.

In dry conditions, with decent tires, you should be able to show heels to a stock C6 Z06 in this car. Add a bit of rain or poor track surface to the mix and the Lambo will leap away. This is particularly true for drivers without a lot of experience.

So what’s wrong with the car? Well, the styling was never as dramatic as it should have been, even if this final-facelift version looks suitably aggressive. The interior is a little too executive-sedan for my taste. It needs more tire to exploit the power. I’d rather have it with a six-speed manual. Most of all, however, that driven front axle just soaks all the potential drama out of the car. The LP560-4 is just too bolted-down, too safe, too sane, to be maximally thrilling. What it needs is the weight and dynamic gains that would come from ditching the front half of the drivetrain. Luckily, that’s an option, as we’ll see.

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NHTSA Ready To Force Nationwide Takata Airbag Recall http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/nhtsa-ready-force-nationwide-takata-airbag-recall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/nhtsa-ready-force-nationwide-takata-airbag-recall/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 14:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962073 The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is ready to force Takata and three of its clients into a nationwide recall over the catastrophic failure of the supplier’s airbags. The Detroit News reports the agency will bring Ford, FCA US and BMW to court if necessary, compelling the automakers to recall 5 million affected vehicles in […]

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is ready to force Takata and three of its clients into a nationwide recall over the catastrophic failure of the supplier’s airbags.

The Detroit News reports the agency will bring Ford, FCA US and BMW to court if necessary, compelling the automakers to recall 5 million affected vehicles in addition to those already recalled.

The first act in bringing the named parties to trial will be a formal demand letter issued to all concerned. Upon refusal, the NHTSA will file a suit against each party in U.S. District Court, a process that could last for months, if not years.

The die was cast when Takata rebuffed the agency’s request earlier this month to expand its recall efforts beyond high-humidity locations in warm climates around the United States, including Florida and Hawaii.

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Chrysler Group Now FCA US LLC http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chrysler-group-now-fca-us-llc/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/chrysler-group-now-fca-us-llc/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 13:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962041 Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Chrysler Group is dead; long live FCA US LLC. The subsidiary made the name change official today, following the naming convention established by its parent company. Fiat, too, has cast its old corporate identity to the wind of change, now going by the name FCA Italy SpA. Other entities under the FCA […]

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Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Chrysler Group is dead; long live FCA US LLC.

The subsidiary made the name change official today, following the naming convention established by its parent company. Fiat, too, has cast its old corporate identity to the wind of change, now going by the name FCA Italy SpA. Other entities under the FCA Group umbrella will follow in due time.

The changes won’t filter down into individual brands or marketing, so the B&B will still be able to buy a Fiat 500 or Chrysler Town & Country without seeing an FCA badge.

The move marks the first time in the U.S. subsidiary’s history without the Chrysler name, first given by its founder, Walter P. Chrysler, in 1925.

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Detroit 2015: New Cadillac CTS-V Debuting January 13 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/detroit-2015-new-cadillac-cts-v-debuting-january-13/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/detroit-2015-new-cadillac-cts-v-debuting-january-13/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 12:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962009 It’s been a long time coming: Cadillac’s third-gen CTS-V will hit the ramp at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. Autoblog reports the high-performance premium sedan will bow January 13, though little else was mentioned at this time. The previous CTS-V threw down against the likes of the BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E63, thanks to a […]

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It’s been a long time coming: Cadillac’s third-gen CTS-V will hit the ramp at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.

Autoblog reports the high-performance premium sedan will bow January 13, though little else was mentioned at this time.

The previous CTS-V threw down against the likes of the BMW M5 and Mercedes-AMG E63, thanks to a detuned 6.2-liter V8 lifted from the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. The publication speculates Cadillac could use that play again, with the assist coming from the 650-horsepower supercharged V8 under the hood of the Corvette Stingray Z06.

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Seven Finalists Announced For Europe’s 2015 Car of the Year http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/seven-finalists-announced-europes-2015-car-year/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/seven-finalists-announced-europes-2015-car-year/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 11:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961993 After months of deliberation, Europe’s Car of the Year panel has narrowed down the field of 31 to seven finalists. Autoblog reports the panel has chosen the following nominees for the 2015 Car of the Year: BMW 2 Series Active Tourer Citroën C4 Cactus Ford Mondeo Mercedes-Benz C-Class Nissan Qashqai Renault Twingo Volkswagen Passat The […]

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renault-twingo-03-1

After months of deliberation, Europe’s Car of the Year panel has narrowed down the field of 31 to seven finalists.

Autoblog reports the panel has chosen the following nominees for the 2015 Car of the Year:

  • BMW 2 Series Active Tourer
  • Citroën C4 Cactus
  • Ford Mondeo
  • Mercedes-Benz C-Class
  • Nissan Qashqai
  • Renault Twingo
  • Volkswagen Passat

The winner will be announced during the 2015 Geneva Auto Show this coming March. Previous winners include the Peugeot 308, Volkswagen Golf and Opel Ampera, with the first title awarded 50 years ago to the 1964 Rover 2000.

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Supercars To Go, Fifth Place: Audi R8 4.2 R-Tronic http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/supercars-go-fifth-place-audi-r8-4-2-r-tronic/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/supercars-go-fifth-place-audi-r8-4-2-r-tronic/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 20:48:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961697 Let’s start with this: Under no circumstances is a Lamborghini Gallardo “just an Audi R8″. The Gallardo was already old hat by the time the R8 arrived, having gone through three model years and one major revision. If anything, the R8 is a Gallardo, not the other way ’round. Except it isn’t, which is both […]

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Let’s start with this: Under no circumstances is a Lamborghini Gallardo “just an Audi R8″. The Gallardo was already old hat by the time the R8 arrived, having gone through three model years and one major revision. If anything, the R8 is a Gallardo, not the other way ’round.

Except it isn’t, which is both good and bad.

I’ve driven most variants of the Audi R8, starting from a 4.2 six-speed on the day that I met Murilee Martin for the first time all the way to the V10 Plus S-Tronic during last year’s R&T PCOTY. It would be an understatement to say that I’m fond of the model. There’s so much to admire: the aesthetically satisfying yet completely usable interior design, the superb amount of passengerr space compared to pretty much any other supercar, (including the Gallardo, which has a much lower roof) and the way it combines exotic-car looks with everyday practicality.

I was surprised at how often my single-serving students at the Xtreme Xperience mentioned Tony Stark and “Iron Man” as the reason they’d chosen to drive the R8. I never really thought of it as the “Iron Man” car. Apparently everybody else does. Not that the Audi doesn’t continue to look futuristic in its ninth year on the market. You can argue that it’s better-looking than the Gallardo. It’s certainly more noticeable on the street; through the miracle of fourteen thousand sales and a rather conservative shape, the baby Lamborghini no longer turns many heads.

Most people can comfortably wear a helmet in the R8. It’s not that difficult to park or maneuver at low speeds. The stereo and navigation are Audi-standard. Entry and exit is easier than in, say, a Viper (had to mention it for the sake of the B&B’s self-satisfaction!) and the seating position is also somewhat better than what you get in the Italians or the McLaren. If you had to cross the county in one of our Final Five, you’d take the Audi, no question about it. Even the climate control is luxury-car-spec, as I discovered when testing the original 4.2L cars during a Texas summer.

In isolation, the R8 feels rapid. There’s a brilliant noise from the 8250-rpm 4.2L V8, the R-tronic single-clutch automated manual doesn’t get confused on-track, and the acceleration seems more rapid than the 12.8-second quarter-mile time suggests. The front axle is always working, but it rarely works very hard. In wet conditions, it’s very confidence-inspiring and it can take full throttle in anything short of a full-on rainstorm.

Yet the modest tire size and significant stagger (235 in front, 285 in back) both make it easy to reach the R8 limits on-track and contribute to the Audi’s pace being noticeably lower than that of the other cars in this comparison. More so than any other car I drove that weekend, the R8 offers gentle, progressive, controllable understeer and very little sense of the heavy engine behind you. It’s the Cessna 172 of supercars: slow, stable, easy to get out of trouble. Dropping the tire stagger to 30mm or so, as I’ve done with my Porsche 993, would go a long way towards restoring the natural balance of the chassis, at the expense of predictability.

As the car with the oldest transmission technology in the group, the R8 has the worst automatic mode. For my students, I left the car in manual and shifted it for them. It was simply in the wrong gear at the wrong time otherwise. In manual mode, as noted above, it works fine, as long as your expectations are based on single-clutch hardware. This is not a Ferrari 458, which will handle repeated and random stabbing at brakes and throttle with instantaneous gearcharges perfectly chosen to maximize power or stability depending on one’s twist of the manettino. But it’s a bit better than the F430’s single-clutcher.

If you’re careful with the front tires, the R8 delivers a surprising amount of midcorner speed. It did, however, prove tricky in the turn known at Hallett as “The Bitch”. The Audi was simply more sensitive to low grip there than any of the other cars, likely because of the combination of narrow tires and significant rearward weight distribution of 44/56. (The Gallardo is usually quoted at 43/57 but I’d be surprised if the difference between the cars was a full percentage point.) Still, overall I’d say my students got more out of the R8 than they did out of anything but the GT-R.

So why fifth place? Well, it’s just this: The R8 looks like a supercar but it struggles to stay with V8 M3s and C6 Corvettes around a road course. The weight of 3,650 pounds or so is pretty considerable for the 415 horsepower on tap, particularly given the fact that torque peaks up at 4500rpm. It’s more show than go. If you choose the Audi R8 V10 Plus model, you’ll get a dual-clutch transmission and nearly a Gallardo’s worth of power — but the R8 V10 Plus doesn’t feel as light on its feet or as enthusiastic around a racetrack as the Gallardo LP-560. And in so doing, you’ll lose the V8 model’s characterful noises and real-world focus.

The best R8 to get is a six-speed manual 4.2V8 post-2012 model. If you get one of those, you’ll have all of Tony Stark’s style and daily usability to rival a Lexus ES350. You’ll just have to put on your turn signal when a real supercar appears. The next four cars in this test are on another level of performance entirely.

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Tesla’s Tanking U.S. Sales And The World Of Automakers Falsifying Sales Numbers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/teslas-tanking-u-s-sales-world-automakers-falsifying-sales-numbers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/teslas-tanking-u-s-sales-world-automakers-falsifying-sales-numbers/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 13:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=958665 The auto journo world is in a tizzy because electric automaker Tesla refuses to post its car sales numbers on a monthly basis and the numbers they do divulge are suspicious as they are without detail and they vary widely from actual registration numbers. Our friends at Jalopnik ranted about it last week, calling on Tesla to start […]

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Teslas in a row Courtesy ibtimes.com

Tesla’s first fleet deal? Around 100 Model S’s were sold to a Las Vegas startup taxi service.

The auto journo world is in a tizzy because electric automaker Tesla refuses to post its car sales numbers on a monthly basis and the numbers they do divulge are suspicious as they are without detail and they vary widely from actual registration numbers. Our friends at Jalopnik ranted about it last week, calling on Tesla to start reporting sales consistently. They based their story on a report by Seeking Alpha that deduced that Tesla may have as many as 12,000 unsold Model S’s, based on registration figures and the automaker’s quarterly financial reports.

We say congratulations, Elon Musk, you truly are the head of an American car company now, as reporting bogus sales numbers to the press is a normal part of an automaker’s modus operandi. Auto manufacturers claiming they sold more cars than they actually did is nothing new.  Sales numbers in the US are based on those deliveries reported by dealers, not when the automakers wholesale the vehicles to the retailers as some believe. Carmaker execs at times may be motivated to look good to their bosses or shareholders or to outsell a rival. They will then pressure, coerce and bribe dealers with one-time cash incentives to have them report bogus sales at month or year-end, often to the dealer themselves as loaner or demonstrator cars.  The vehicles are never driven and then sold as new, ideally as quickly as possible as their warranty clocks are ticking. Dealers who do not comply are thus put in an unfavorable price disadvantage with competing same-brand stores.

The Japanese automakers pioneered this practice during the high-demand, low supply days. At American Honda from the 1970s to the early 1990s, dealers reported every unsold car as sold at the end of each month or they risked losing precious future allocations. Those were the days when every Honda dealership employee “bought” a dozen cars a year and then the dealer would turn to the white pages of the phone book to find more “buyers.” It is not an urban car legend that a California Honda dealer once sold Accords to customers named “Mickey Mouse” and “Donald Duck.”

In December 2012 BMW North America, in their zeal to beat Mercedes-Benz in the US, reported 37,399 vehicles sold, an amazing 69% higher than their 2012 average monthly sales rate, thus claiming the US luxury brand crown. That December the industry rose 21% over the 2012 average due to it being the heaviest incentive month of the year and this no doubt contributed to the rise in Bimmer sales. However, BMW dealers that I spoke with in January 2013 complained that half of their inventory had been reported as sold in December.  BMW got tons of pub for beating Benz but few noticed that when actual registration numbers came out a few months later it was revealed that Mercedes-Benz outsold BMW for 2012. Incredibly, in one of the few occasions where the media sniffed out this practice, the Wall Street Journal had reported about BMW’s shady sales numbers just months before.

It was one thing to report cars sold as loaners or demonstrators under the direction  of the factory; it is another to do report ghost sales when your dealership needs the incentive cash to stay afloat. We covered the story of a South Carolina Suzuki dealer who was convicted of fraud earlier this year for doing just that. It probably did not help his case that he was also convicted of a cornucopia of illegal advertising and finance practices.

As far as Tesla sales this year, here are the facts as near as we can determine: Automotive News has estimated Tesla’s reported sales in the US through October were 19,530 units. Actual registration numbers for the same period were 11,731 cars, a full 40% below the sales figures.  Further, these registration figures show Tesla off 22% from the same period in 2013.  Other sources have pegged the drop off at 26% this year.  This may explain why Tesla may be dabbling in the fleet market for the first time, as pictured above.

Elon Musk responded to these reports by saying they are selling every car they build and his team issued a response saying that don’t report monthly sales because, “the media tends to read all sorts of nonsense into deliveries.” They also pointed out that a car could be sold one month and not registered until the next. Why, yes, just like every other automaker.

 

Elon Musk Courtesy static1.businessinsider.com

If GM or Ford stopped reporting monthly sales and started spewing such drivel, the press would vilify them but the rules are different for Musk.  If he told the media that Tesla sold 200,000 cars one month, outsold all the other luxury carmakers combined and that he personally just got back from Mars, the slobbering press would not question him and resultant news stories would send Tesla stock into orbit.

Don’t get us wrong. We think that a new auto company selling 15,000 high dollar electric cars annually in the US through a unique, direct sales channel is an incredible accomplishment.

The Tesla Model S is one of the most innovative cars available today and Musk is one of this century’s greatest entrepreneurs, not to mention an amazing PR man. Who cares if can’t tell us the truth about how many cars his company sells?

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Volvo Entering Digital Sales, Limiting Show Appearances http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/volvo-entering-digital-sales-limiting-show-appearances/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/volvo-entering-digital-sales-limiting-show-appearances/#comments Tue, 16 Dec 2014 11:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961729 Volvo may not be ready to directly sell its models to the public in the same way Tesla does, but the automaker is ready for online orders. Reuters reports Volvo will gently wade into Internet sales around the globe, and increase spending on digital advertising, though consumers will still need to visit their nearest dealer […]

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Volvo may not be ready to directly sell its models to the public in the same way Tesla does, but the automaker is ready for online orders.

Reuters reports Volvo will gently wade into Internet sales around the globe, and increase spending on digital advertising, though consumers will still need to visit their nearest dealer to complete the transaction for now, per sales boss Alain Visser. He adds that around 80 percent of the automaker’s base are already well-versed in online shopping, and believes the habit will transfer into cars soon enough.

Just as Volvo adjusts its backwards cap and velcro sneakers before rolling out onto the information superhighway upon its magic keyboard, however, the automaker will not be attending as many auto shows as it once did. Instead, it will hit a single show per year in Asia, Europe and North America — specifically, Shanghai/Beijing, Geneva and Detroit — preferring to produce its own annual global event for the latest and greatest.

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Trucks, SUVs Best Premium Sedans In Over $50K US Segment http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/trucks-suvs-best-premium-sedans-50k-us-segment/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/trucks-suvs-best-premium-sedans-50k-us-segment/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 14:00:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961313 Keep those Benzes, BMWs and Audis in the garage, son: $50,000-plus trucks and SUVs are where it’s at for the ballers and players these days. TrueCar says trucks and SUVs account for six of the top 10 best-selling vehicles in the United States market, specifically the segment where transaction prices of $50,000-plus are the norm. […]

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Keep those Benzes, BMWs and Audis in the garage, son: $50,000-plus trucks and SUVs are where it’s at for the ballers and players these days.

TrueCar says trucks and SUVs account for six of the top 10 best-selling vehicles in the United States market, specifically the segment where transaction prices of $50,000-plus are the norm.

The biggest of them all? The Ford F-150, whose projected 2014 volume of 189,776 “will likely surpass total U.S. volume of luxury car benchmarks including BMW’s combined 3, 5 and 7 Series sales or total deliveries for the Audi brand this year.” The Blue Oval will see revenue of $10.8 billion from those high transactions, making up a third of an estimated $33.2 billion for the overall F-Series portfolio.

The demand for looking California and feeling Minnesota is helped in part by a recovering U.S. economy, improved vehicle quality, and a growing supply of cheap gasoline, which is helping the $50,000-plus transaction segment, as well: approximately 8.1 percent of total 2014 sales will transact at that level, up from 6.6 percent in 2013.

Finishing out the podium per TrueCar is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Ram truck lineup, with sales of 76,266 at the $50,000 transaction level, Mercedes taking third with its E-Class at 67,006.

TrueCar 2014 50K USD Transaction Table

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Supercars To Go: The Non-Contenders http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/supercars-go-non-contenders/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/supercars-go-non-contenders/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 13:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961009 When it comes to rental supercar tests, the people have spoken! And you’re going to get five of the original eight cars ranked between today and Saturday. But when you choose five from eight, you still have three that didn’t make the cut. I’ll explain why below. Non-Contender Number Zero: Ferrari F430 F1. Periodically, I […]

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When it comes to rental supercar tests, the people have spoken! And you’re going to get five of the original eight cars ranked between today and Saturday. But when you choose five from eight, you still have three that didn’t make the cut. I’ll explain why below.

Non-Contender Number Zero: Ferrari F430 F1. Periodically, I think to myself: “Self, you should buy a Ferrari 430. They’re under a hundred grand now and they are pretty reliable as far as Ferraris go and they are pretty cheap to maintain as far as Ferraris go and wouldn’t you like to have a Ferrari before you die?” After spending a weekend driving one and coaching in one, I can answer that with a solid “Nope.” To begin with, it’s neither vintage-charming like an F355 or fantastically competent like a 458 Italia. It has a performance envelope that sits comfortably inside that of something like a C6 Z06 or a 2005 Viper.

It’s not handsome; the proportions just don’t work on this or the 360 Modena. The F1 shift genuinely sucks. I’d rather spend my Ferrari money on a 575M, which is no faster but is a grand-touring twelve-cylinder in the classic style. Or you could buy a 328GTB and an early C6 Z06 for the same money, netting you a better-looking Ferrari and a faster track car. In isolation, it’s pretty charming, but the 458 makes it look like a used Mercury Monarch. More annoyingly for the tifosi, the Gallardo does as well.

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Non-Contender Number One: Mercedes-AMG SLS Roadster. As a Black Series gullwing, the Mercedes-AMG is the stuff of legends and it wowed the crowd at PCOTY 2013. When I took one to Toronto Motorsports Park, home of our sister publication AutoGuide’s track tests, I immediately set what would have been their all-time best lap — while I was warming up. Capable isn’t the word. It’s one of the all-time greats.

As a convertible, without the wings and things? Well, it’s still very fast. The final form of the hand-assembled “6.3” V-8 is splendid from tickover to torque peak to rev limit, carrying the eternal mail like it’s been harpooned by Queequeg before sounding for a final time. The double-clutch transmission is a nearly perfect ally and responds as if it only had a GTI’s worth of power to transmit instead of thrice that. The brakes work. After a while, you get used to the nose hanging out there, just like you do with a Viper.

Yet this isn’t truly a supercar; it’s a grand tourer that happens to haul ass. You need the laser-sharp focus of the Black Series to make it competitive with the mid-engine Italians or the Z06 Corvette. As a way to get around Beverly Hills, it’s the alpha dog, but around a racetrack it’s too big, too soft, and too relaxed. Also, and I feel I should mention this, it’s an absolute nightmare in the wet. As in, it’s the only car I thought I might scratch up during the recon laps every morning, because it oscillated heavily under power in the rain. So beware, Real Housewives and all who adore them.

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Non-Contender Number Two: 2009 Nissan GT-R Premium You’ll notice that I’ve included the year and the model of the GT-R here. There’s a reason for that. When I drove the Nismo GT-R for PCOTY 2014, I was utterly convinced by the reborn Nissan’s poise, power, and back-road fling-ability. Though it costs a pretty penny, the Nismo is worth all the money, in large part because all the pieces have finally come together. The engine is making the right amount of power and delivering it in the right fashion, the transmission and diffs have been to Senna school, and the bonded-and-seam-welded chassis feels all of a piece. Go buy one with my blessing, even if I would personally rather have a Viper TA for less money.

That Nismo GT-R represents five years of continuous effort and improvement over the original R35 GT-R, and the difference is easy to feel when you drive the old one. There’s far less subtlety and speed in the way the power gets transferred to the different corners of the car. Furthermore, while I in no way want to contribute (further!) to the computer/video-game stereotype about this car, it does feel distant and physically large most of the time. This is exaggerated, of course, when you’re coming to it from a McLaren MP4-12C instead of from, say, a Mustang or Infiniti G37 coupe. It never really shrinks around you the way a Viper does; you are always aware that you are piloting a very tall, very large, very heavy automobile.

With that said, it’s easily fast enough to get you into trouble that the computers can’t solve, so don’t believe all the hype about it being idiot-proof. With that said, we’ll leave the GT-R behind for now, because while the current version is ready for the world, this one is now about as impressive as a first-generation iPad.

That leaves us with five:

* Ferrari 458 Italia
* Lamborghini Gallardo 560-4
* Lamborghini Gallardo 550-2
* McLaren MP4-12C
* Audi R8 4.2 R-tronic.

I’ll mail a TTAC Racing shirt to the first poster who correctly guesses the finishing order. See you tomorrow!

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Tesla Losing Chinese Chief After Less Than Nine Months http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/tesla-losing-chinese-chief-less-nine-months/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/tesla-losing-chinese-chief-less-nine-months/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 13:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961289 After less than nine months at the helm, Tesla China president Veronica Wu will be resigning from the top job, and leaving the company behind. Bloomberg reports Wu, who joined the automaker from Apple last December, took the wheel after previous subsidiary chief, Kingston Chang, left earlier this year. Her replacement will be Tom Zhu, […]

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Veronica Wu

After less than nine months at the helm, Tesla China president Veronica Wu will be resigning from the top job, and leaving the company behind.

Bloomberg reports Wu, who joined the automaker from Apple last December, took the wheel after previous subsidiary chief, Kingston Chang, left earlier this year. Her replacement will be Tom Zhu, who currently is in charge of Tesla’s charging network development in China.

Wu’s last day with Tesla is unknown, nor are her plans upon leaving the company.

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Aston Martin Plans To Raise Financing For Portfolio Expansion http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/aston-martin-plans-raise-financing-portfolio-expansion/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/aston-martin-plans-raise-financing-portfolio-expansion/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 11:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961225 Aston Martin is preparing to crowdfund the old-fashioned way — shares and bonds — its portfolio expansion, per sources close to the automaker. Reuters reports the funds will be used to expand the Aston portfolio to include crossovers, hybrids and premium sedans, as well as add three years to the company’s ongoing recovery plan, with […]

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Aston Martin is preparing to crowdfund the old-fashioned way — shares and bonds — its portfolio expansion, per sources close to the automaker.

Reuters reports the funds will be used to expand the Aston portfolio to include crossovers, hybrids and premium sedans, as well as add three years to the company’s ongoing recovery plan, with the planned deadline to come in 2020. The fundraising plan — based on debt- or equity-raising options made to current investors — would bring in £100 million – £150 million ($156 million – $234 million USD).

The news comes as Aston Martin bids farewell to 2014, which began with a recall of 17,590 units over counterfeit accelerator pedals from a Chinese supplier. Last month, the automaker was granted an exemption from United States safety regs for the DB9 and Vantage. It also gained a new CEO this year, when Andy Palmer left Renault-Nissan to take up where Ulrich Bez left off upon retirement in 2013.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Cadillac XTS Vsport http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/capsule-review-2015-cadillac-xts-vsport/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/capsule-review-2015-cadillac-xts-vsport/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 13:30:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=957466 GM delivered the Epsilon II platform to the company’s most upmarket division to produce a car with, among other things, more flamboyant styling. Later on, Cadillac added all-wheel-drive, threw in enough equipment to call it a Platinum edition, and by replacing the 3.6L V6 with a twin-turbocharged 3.6L V6, yielded enough straight-line performance to justify […]

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2015 Cadillac XTS VsportGM delivered the Epsilon II platform to the company’s most upmarket division to produce a car with, among other things, more flamboyant styling. Later on, Cadillac added all-wheel-drive, threw in enough equipment to call it a Platinum edition, and by replacing the 3.6L V6 with a twin-turbocharged 3.6L V6, yielded enough straight-line performance to justify the Vsport label.

This all-wheel-drive Cadillac XTS is not an outright Cadillac V car, not like the XLR-V, the STS-V, and what will soon be the third-generation CTS-V. Instead, the Vsport tag, first seen on the third-gen CTS, is a midway point. Except in the XTS’s case, there will be no V, presumably because upping the ante would just be silly, given that the 410-horsepower XTS Vsport already manifests torque steer despite its AWD configuration.

This, therefore, is Maximum XTS, the latest, flashiest, fastest car in a long line of big Cadillacs stretching back to your grandfather’s Fleetwood Brougham and his boss’s post-war Sixty Special.

In the United States, a base front-wheel-drive XTS starts at $45,655, destination fees included. $51,995 is the starting point for the all-wheel-drive XTS. The Vsport model begins at $63,730, but the Vsport Platinum ($70,780) can be optioned up beyond $72,000 with rear seat DVD. The XTS Vsport is rated by the EPA at 16 mpg in the city; 24 on the highway. Our XTS Vsport Platinum, supplied for the week by GM Canada, averaged 16 mpg over the course of the week and was priced at (CAD) $77,565 with fees and options, including $1295 for the lustrous crystal red tintcoat.

2015 Cadillac XTS Vsport rearThe sense of high quality is deeper than the paint. Moving inside, the XTS’s headliner and pillars are slathered in alcantara. There’s real wood sourced from real trees. Four of the 14 Bose speakers are perched just above the front occupants’ shoulders for impressive surround sound audio. CUE, though sluggish and frustrating when in use, makes for a stylishly minimalistic flip-up centre panel. The XTS Vsport’s gauge cluster is light years beyond the setup so often decried in the ATS.

Moreover, if “premium” and “luxury” and “upscale” still go hand in hand with acreage, the XTS is a winner regardless of equipment levels and material quality. It’s 19.2 inches longer than the ATS, 6.5 inches longer than the CTS, with a cabin that’s 7.4% larger than the CTS’s. If you want bigger luxury, long-wheelbase Germans are the way to go. The Audi A8L is 5.4 inches longer with 2.9 inches of extra rear legroom and a cabin that’s 17% larger. But the A8L, like most cars, can’t beat the XTS’s 18 cubic feet of cargo capacity.

(Compared with the final version of its DTS successor, the XTS is 5.6 inches shorter and nearly two inches narrower with marginally less rear legroom and 2.4 fewer inches of rear hiproom. The trunk and the overall cabin size are both slightly smaller than they were a generation ago, as well.)

2015 Cadillac XTS Vsport frontFortunately, once on the move the XTS doesn’t feel as immense as its dimensions suggest. Visibility is far better than in the smaller CTS and the XTS’s steering is more than light enough to ease slow-speed maneuvering. Naturally, there’s a lot of weight (4215 pounds) to toss around a corner. That avoirdupois, combined with slow and feathery steering and braking response that’s not up to the standards of modern performance cars, discourages the truly aggressive driving which the CTS Vsport constantly invites. Yet at the same time, the XTS performs the trick of driving like a somewhat (and only somewhat) smaller car, which becomes its most encouraging dynamic trait.

Still, the general lack of any feeling or connection causes you to question the legitimacy of the V badge on the XTS’s trunklid, if you haven’t already. But the road will open up, and when it does, you’ll be taken aback by the instant-on torque (369 lb-ft at just 1900 rpm) and the seemingly endless wave of power. As the speedometer’s readout climbs higher and you anticipate an ocean’s worth of disconcerting float, Magnetic Ride Control keeps body motions in check. The XTS Vsport’s ride quality isolates road imperfections to the extent that passengers were never aware of the imperfections. And though wind noise, more noticeable because of the otherwise hushed interior, barely creeps in around the A-pillars, passengers are not aware of the actual rate of speed.

2015 Cadillac XTS Vsport interiorRemembering the potency of this engine, you didn’t reach such speeds quite as quickly as you expected. The 3.6L twin-turbo makes 10 more horsepower and 61 more lb-ft of torque when placed under the hood of the CTS Vsport, which weighs less than 4000 pounds and sends power to the rear wheels with an 8-speed automatic. By the standards of that car’s transmission, the XTS Vsport’s 6-speed automatic is sluggish, but its all-around smoothness will be appreciated by the XTS’s dwindling clientele.

U.S. XTS sales are down 26% to just 22,059 units through the first eleven months of 2014. Thus, it may not have mattered if the XTS Vsport was equipped with a Hellcat-like V8 and ZF’s famed 8-speed automatic, as this still wouldn’t be a vehicle in which the typical car buyer of today has any interest. (And does the typical buyer of yesterday have any interest in battling the Cadillac User Interface on a daily basis?) Though relatively fleet-friendly, the XTS sells less often than the far pricier and recently redesigned Mercedes-Benz S-Class; more often than the Audi A6, Buick Regal, and Lexus GS. Cadillac sold more than 80,000 Devilles as recently as 2003, a year in which Lincoln sold more than 56,000 Town Cars.

2015 Cadillac XTS Vsport frontThe market has moved away from traditional full-size sedans and is moving away from Cadillac’s car division, too. The brand’s passenger cars are down 15% to 79,139 units with one month remaining in 2014 as Cadillac reportedly pursues a premium image not in keeping with price cuts.

Indeed, ever since the as-tested price was mentioned, you’ve been wanting to pipe in with the names of countless other cars available at a similar price point: BMW 550i xDrive, Lexus LS460, Audi A7 TDI, and Jaguar XJ, cars with reputations for athleticism, refinement, technological prowess, and panache which Cadillac can’t match. That might be missing the point. The XTS Vsport won’t be the car you buy because of how well it stacks up against the competition. It’s the XTS you buy because you were going to buy an XTS anyway, and this is the maximized XTS.

Of course, I wasn’t going to buy a regular 304-horsepower XTS. Sales figures suggest you weren’t going to either. But I won’t deny that for the prospective XTS buyer, this Vsport provides the kind of accelerative experience that makes the conventional XTS feel dreadfully pedestrian.

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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Ford Kills MyFordTouch, Introduces SYNC 3 Connected-Vehicle System http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/ford-kills-myfordtouch-introduces-sync-3-connected-vehicle-system/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/ford-kills-myfordtouch-introduces-sync-3-connected-vehicle-system/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 12:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=959081 Joy to the world, MyFordTouch is dead. In its place, Ford introduced Thursday its new SYNC 3 connected-vehicle system. Pulling from suggestions and comments from 22,000 consumers, in combination with clinics and surveys, the QNX-based SYNC 3 aims to be more intuitive than the outgoing technology, delivering an interface similar to those found on smartphones […]

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SYNC 3

Joy to the world, MyFordTouch is dead. In its place, Ford introduced Thursday its new SYNC 3 connected-vehicle system.

Pulling from suggestions and comments from 22,000 consumers, in combination with clinics and surveys, the QNX-based SYNC 3 aims to be more intuitive than the outgoing technology, delivering an interface similar to those found on smartphones and tablets. The system also offers day and night settings, reduced complexity, and better voice recognition.

Speaking of smartphones, users can connect theirs via SYNC 3’s AppLink, allowing them to control their smartphones through voice commands. The latest version of AppLink can automatically discover music and news apps such as Spotify, iHeartRadio Auto and NPR One.

Software updates can now be achieved via Wi-Fi: once a user links the system to their home network, updates can happen while the car is parked in the garage or on the driveway.

Finally, users can dial 911 via the subscription-free 911 Assist service, which uses a Bluetooth-connected phone to call first responders in the event of an accident, and providing detailed information location, whether airbags were deployed, how many seat belts were used, and the type of crash that occurred.

Owners can expect SYNC 3 to arrive in the 2016 model year, with full replacement by New Year’s Eve 2016. Lincoln will have a slightly touched-up version for its customers, as well.

SYNC 3 SYNC 3 SYNC 3 SYNC 3 SYNC 3 SYNC 3 SYNC 3 SYNC 3 SYNC 3 SYNC 3 SYNC 3 SYNC 3 SYNC 3 SYNC 3

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Volvo Unveils New Drive-E Three-Cylinder http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/volvo-unveils-new-drive-e-three-cylinder/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/volvo-unveils-new-drive-e-three-cylinder/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 11:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=958977 Volvo unveiled its new Drive-E three-cylinder engine Thursday, with prototype testing already underway. The engine was developed in-house, and is considered “a natural next step in Volvo’s strategy of downsizing.” Horsepower and torque are unknown at this time. Per powertrain vice president Michael Fleiss, the new Drive-E is being developed alongside Volvo’s CMA architecture, and […]

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Volvo 3-Cylinder Family

Volvo unveiled its new Drive-E three-cylinder engine Thursday, with prototype testing already underway.

The engine was developed in-house, and is considered “a natural next step in Volvo’s strategy of downsizing.” Horsepower and torque are unknown at this time.

Per powertrain vice president Michael Fleiss, the new Drive-E is being developed alongside Volvo’s CMA architecture, and will also power Volvo’s 60 Series with a little help from turbocharging. R&D senior vice president Dr. Peter Mertens adds the engine “can be built on the same production lines” as the four-cylinder Drive-E engines, providing “flexible production potential” as needed.

Neuer Dreizylinder-Motor von Volvo Cars Neuer Dreizylinder-Motor von Volvo Cars Neuer Dreizylinder-Motor von Volvo Cars Neuer Dreizylinder-Motor von Volvo Cars Neuer Dreizylinder-Motor von Volvo Cars Neuer Dreizylinder-Motor von Volvo Cars Neuer Dreizylinder-Motor von Volvo Cars Neuer Dreizylinder-Motor von Volvo Cars Neuer Dreizylinder-Motor von Volvo Cars

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Mobius Leads Path Toward Local Manufacturing For African Consumers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/mobius-leads-path-toward-local-manufacturing-african-consumers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/mobius-leads-path-toward-local-manufacturing-african-consumers/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 15:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=958457 Today, 50 units from Nairobi-based manufacturer Mobius are set to be delivered to customers, marking the first step for the company as it aims to prove Kenya — and the continent of Africa — can produce just as well as it supplies raw materials. Reuters reports the vehicle, known as the II, will go for […]

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mobius-motors-two-front-three-quarters-view-outdoors

Today, 50 units from Nairobi-based manufacturer Mobius are set to be delivered to customers, marking the first step for the company as it aims to prove Kenya — and the continent of Africa — can produce just as well as it supplies raw materials.

Reuters reports the vehicle, known as the II, will go for KSh950,000 ($10,500 USD) before taxes, and is meant to tackle the rough roads the Chinese have yet to pave over. Thus, for ease of maintenance and repairs, the II has little more than a front windscreen, minimal electronics, and a sturdy suspension upon which its aluminum body rests. Forty-five percent of the vehicle is derived from local sources, while the engine and other pieces come from outside suppliers.

Mobius joins Ugandan automaker Kiira Motor Project in designing, building and selling an African-made vehicle for Africa, overcoming long-standing concerns that the continent cannot make anything like the II for its people, let alone the rest of the world; the last attempt by a local concern — the Nyayo Pioneer in 1990 — fell apart soon after production began.

So far, Mobius is doing well for itself with its business model, with enquiries from neighboring nations, western Africa and beyond. Kiira, meanwhile, received an initial commitment of $70 million from the Ugandan government, and is seeking a total of $350 million to build a factory for its planned vehicle, a $20,000 sedan in the vein of the Toyota Camry aimed at office workers and executives.

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Ferrari May Follow FCA Out Of Italy For Fiscal Reasons http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/ferrari-may-follow-fca-italy-fiscal-reasons/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/ferrari-may-follow-fca-italy-fiscal-reasons/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 14:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=958433 Just as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles left Italy to escape the tax man, Ferrari is considering the same as it moves closer to leaving the nest by next October. Bloomberg reports the automaker is also considering remaining in Maranello, though a change in its fiscal address wouldn’t affect manufacturing and engineering operations. A final decision either […]

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ferrari-laferrari-fxxk_100493646_l

Just as Fiat Chrysler Automobiles left Italy to escape the tax man, Ferrari is considering the same as it moves closer to leaving the nest by next October.

Bloomberg reports the automaker is also considering remaining in Maranello, though a change in its fiscal address wouldn’t affect manufacturing and engineering operations. A final decision either way could come in the next few months, per the publication’s anonymous sources.

Such a move would prove devastating to Italy beyond the nation’s economy, as Ferrari is considered a national treasure. Milan Bicocca University professor of public finance Ugo Arrigo said the move would show investors and companies alike that the country and its fiscal system as uncompetitive; Italy’s corporate rate is 31.4 percent, whereas the United Kingdom — where FCA calls its fiscal home — has a rate of 21 percent, soon to be 20 percent.

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Review: 2014 Chrysler 300 V6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/review-2014-chrysler-300-v6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/review-2014-chrysler-300-v6/#comments Thu, 11 Dec 2014 13:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=957793 Hey! You! Over there in the corner! I see you looking at that leather-interior Accord or Camry or Altima or Fusion or whatever. How’d you like to buy a lot more car for just a little more money? The four-cylinder Honda Accord EX-L is $28,420. It’s a hell of a car and it has a […]

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300ccover

Hey! You! Over there in the corner! I see you looking at that leather-interior Accord or Camry or Altima or Fusion or whatever. How’d you like to buy a lot more car for just a little more money?

COTASamsung 002

The four-cylinder Honda Accord EX-L is $28,420. It’s a hell of a car and it has a remarkably complete set of virtues. A Camry XLE with a moonrood is $30,060. That, too, is a solid automobile. I could go on, but you see the point, right? A four-cylinder family car with most of the options will run you between twenty-eight and thirty-two grand, depending on what badge you want on the nose and what you need in the way of particular equipment. You can also plump for a six-cylinder or turbocharged four-cylinder engine in nearly all the segment contenders, but most people don’t bother to do so. The modern big-stroke four-bangers (hee hee) offer enough power for daily use and they make up a majority of purchases that is both considerable and continuing to grow.

For $33,645, you can have the Chrysler 300 pictured above, complete with panoramic two-row sunroof. That’s before the deals and the discounting and the rebates for this and that. We all know that you’ll get a better price at a Chrysler dealer than you will at a Honda shop, although the days when our very own Steve Lynch reigned sort-of-supreme over Honda dealer allocation and ADP stickers were SuperGlued to the window of every Accord hatchback are long gone. I paid under invoice for my Accord V6 and I think you probably should as well. But Honda will never do the kind of rebates and incentives that are just part of business as usual under the Pentastar.

I had the good fortune to rent this nearly-new, extremely low-mileage 300 for a recent trip to Oklahoma. Back and forth I went from Tulsa to Oklahoma City, driving a mix of 75mph toll roads and unimproved dirt tracks. I’m very well acqainted with the five-speed old-school Pentastar Charger, but this was my first chance to sample the eight-speed automatic and the V6 together, not to mention the wide range of interior and exterior upgrades that differentiate the Charger and 300 in this soon-to-be-replaced generation. (Derek’s driving the new one even as we speak.)

COTASamsung 006

As much as I loved the Pentastar Charger, I have to admit that I have always found the tiny uConnect screen and the acres of vaguely/variously dark plastic to be a real letdown. For that reason alone, I’d take a 300 with my own money over the Dodge. Every surface you see and touch is improved, from the decent leather in the seats to the cheerful luminescent gauges. While the shifter takes some getting used to — am I in Park? If so, why? How do I get out? Why can’t I get back in? — it’s a much more upscale-feeling affair than the old five-speed gate, which felt and looked like something that didn’t quite make the cut for the pre-facelift Avenger.

There’s also a real improvement in acceleration and responsiveness with the extra three cogs between engine and rear wheels. This now feels like a quick car and I have no doubt that it will dust all the four-cylinder family sedans out there. How it would fare against a Camry V6 is a different matter; this is, after all, a larger and heavier automobile than any of the FWD competition. Still, it’s no trouble to run up to eighty or so out of a toll booth in a hurry, something you’ll do fairly often in the Southwest.

Once at speed, two things about the 300 immediately stand out vis-a-vis both the Charger and the competition:

* The lack of road noise, which is wonderful.
* The stereo system, which is very good for the class.

There’s a “Beats” audio upgrade available for this car but surely only the most boom-bastic of pimp-juices will require it. Really, this has to be the best standard-equipment offering in the class. For all the hype about the ELS system in the Acura TLX, most of that hype being well-deserved, this is just as good, and it has the advantage of operating in a quiet, more soothing automobile. The rest of the uConnect system is just as good as it’s always been, by the way.

Dynamically, the 300 is absolutely perfect for American freeways. Although it’s probably the spiritual successor of the M-body Gran Fury and Diplomat, it rolls down the road with a stateliness more reminiscent of the last truly full-sized New Yorkers. Yet there’s still a suggestion of the Daimler contributions beneath; when I had to dodge a blown retread on fairly short notice, the change of direction was prompt and easily handled without flashing the ESC or plowing the nose. Control efforts are light, reassuring, and well-matched.

While this 300 continues to share many components with the egg-crate-grille 2005 model, there’s simply nothing to indicate that to the driver except the annoyingly small windows. It’s faster, quieter, better-behaved, more comfortable, better-built, and far better in all the little details. Now, as then, it continues to have no direct competition. Everybody else is offering a front-wheel-drive platform or a much smaller footprint for the same money. In fact, they usually offer both. Probably the competitor offering the nearest match in terms of general virtues is Lexus with the ES350, but I find that the Camry/Avalon origins of that vehicle are too indifferently disguised in the current model.

In a perfect world, everybody who was going to buy a cheap Bimmer or Audi would try this Chrysler out. They’d see that it offers the same rock-solid feel, comparable interior materials, and acceptable performance, all in a platform that more closely resembles the next size up of the sausage by dint of being a distant cousin to an old E-Class. No, the 300 isn’t perfect. It has cliff-face interior panels and about as much window area as a 688-class submarine. It weighs more than it should and offers less rear-seat room than you expect. The “five-meter car” justification for having the short trunk on the Chrysler compared to the Dodge should have been jettisoned when the 300’s pretensions to Euro-market relevance hit the recycle bin seven years ago. Surely the next platform for this car will offer the same quiet ride and bump resistance through the miracle of a modern unibody, not a Lena Dunham level of interior panel padding.

When all is said and done, however, the 300’s biggest enemy is the HEMI-engined 300. The omnipresence in the media of that automobile, particularly in dearly-departed SRT-8 form, made the Pentastar look like a weak sister or a bargain-basement choice instead of the perfectly decent automobile it truly is. Yeah, the V-8 is well worth the additional money, but that doesn’t mean that the six is a bad deal. If you’re planning on buying a $45,000 mid-luxury car, there are more modern, more dynamically capable, and more feature-laden choices available than the loaded 300C. At thirty-three grand, however, wouldn’t you really rather have a… Chrysler?

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Coast to Coast 2014: Final destination Los Angeles and Final Albert Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/coast-coast-2014-final-destination-los-angeles-final-albert-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/coast-coast-2014-final-destination-los-angeles-final-albert-review/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 16:13:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=958025 Albert made it to Hollywood * You can see all the USA Coast to Coast Reports here! * This is it! After 5.722 miles or 9.209 km Albert and I have made it across the United States of America from Coast to Coast and have arrived in Los Angeles. This is the final instalment in this Coast to […]

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Albert Hollywood 3Albert made it to Hollywood

You can see all the USA Coast to Coast Reports here! *

This is it! After 5.722 miles or 9.209 km Albert and I have made it across the United States of America from Coast to Coast and have arrived in Los Angeles. This is the final instalment in this Coast to Coast series. It features Los Angeles car landscape and impressions, a final long-term review of Albert and my Top 10 highlights of the trip.

Los AngelesNearly there…

The drive from Palm Springs to Los Angeles is supposed to be a breezy 2 hours, which rapidly escalated to 4 hours due to a gigantic highway traffic jam before and upon entering I10. I know some of you suggested to take the Palms to Pines Hwy (74) straight to the Pacific Ocean for a much more enjoyable experience however we opted for the (supposedly) fastest way as we were running out of time and daylight for Santa Monica Pier snaps before returning Albert the day after. Well to tell you the truth I still wish we took the Palms to Pines option because we ended up taking as much time to reach Santa Monica Pier on the excruciatingly boring I10. Oh well, next time…

Albert Santa MonicaAlbert posing next to Santa Monica Pier

Move over Texas, California is where drivers are truly reckless, whooshing past on the right lane at over 100mph. To their credit though, Californian drivers ended up being very predictable in their recklessness, and provided you expect everyone will drive 20mph above every indicated speed limit, it is actually possible to weave through the traffic at high speed driving a full-size pickup truck, an object getting rarer and rare as we approach Los Angeles.

Santa Monica 1The Pacific Ocean at last

I won’t deny it, I got a little emotional when I spotted the Pacific Ocean for the first time approaching Santa Monica Pier. You don’t realize it, but the USA is a very large country and even though I took a much longer route than I could have (but also I believe much more interesting). Can’t help but think of the first Western pioneers travelling on horsecarts in constant danger of being attacked by hostile Native American tribes. Well done you guys. Or maybe I have it all romanced in my head, having watched too many Western movies.

Los Angeles 2Everyday traffic in Los Angeles CA

Back to reality in LA which is, I’d rather be honest for a minute, just one big fat and endless traffic jam. Take a wrong turn to a different interstate and by the time you turn around and find your way back in stalled traffic, even if you take the first exit humanely possible, you’ve just lost 45 minutes right there. For those of you readers who live in LA: I simply do not know how you do it.

Honda Insight Los AngelesHonda Insight in Hollywood Hills, Los Angeles CA

Squeezing Albert through the tiny (one way?) uphill streets of Hollywood Hills in order to find the perfect spot for his selfie enabled me to discover how Hollywood stars, producers, filmmakers and reality TV personalities (can’t use the word star here) spend their money, but also how faithful they are to their first hybrid love. Proof: this first generation Honda Insight papp’ed above. As a reminder the Insight was the first hybrid car to go on sale in the US in December 1999 – 6 months before the Prius.

Toyota Corolla Los AngelesToyota Corolla in Hollywood Observatory, Los Angeles CA

Unsurprisingly, Los Angeles – and in particular the Hollywood area – is the kingdom of Toyota Prius. They are absolutely everywhere and seeing 3 of 4 in a row in traffic is a common occurrence. After all, it’s Hollywood actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, Sandra Bullock, Natalie Portman, Orlando Bloom or Julia Roberts that essentially did all the advertising for this car, so nothing more logical than seeing it plastered at every street corner in Hollywood. The Prius family (also including the Prius c small hatchback and Prius v MPV) is logically the best-selling nameplate in California. True to form, the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla are also very common in Los Angeles as their respective California state rankings (#2 and #5) indicate. The full Californian Top 10 best-sellers were published here.

But let’s beat around the bush no more – I know a lot of you have been eagerly anticipating Albert’s final review.

So here goes…

Albert Hollywood 1

Albert great

The truck we all know as Albert by now is a Ram 1500 ecoDiesel Tradesman Crew Cab 4×4 Model Year 2014. This is the lowest trim level in the Ram Pickup range. All-in-all and I will say this in all honesty, I have been extremely impressed with Albert. This was the first time I got to drive a full-size US pickup truck over a long distance and I was expecting a laborious drive at best. Turns out, the Ram 1500 combines features from a spacious passenger car, some of the convenience of an MPV, the off-road abilities of a crossover and the practicality of a pickup truck. The best of all worlds? Quite possibly so… Here is what I particularly liked about Albert.

30 mpg

FUEL ECONOMY

  • Reaching a 30 mpg average over thousands of miles – even for a short time after a particularly long highway drive – was in my view the most impressive feat Albert achieved during this Coast to Coast trip. The EcoDiesel 3.0L V6 engine is just perfect for this type of vehicle and trip, in fact it makes you wonder why other manufacturers haven’t launched diesel variants for their base full-size pickups yet.
  • Albert’s fuel economy gauge (below the average) updates in real time, and this is a great way to influence it once you digest what triggers it to go up and down as you drive (Essentially driving as smoothly as possible on the highway). Not rocket science but seeing the instant fuel economy vary second by second is a great way to keep you honest – in a less guilty way than the Prius does.
  • Albert’s final fuel economy over the entire trip stood at an excellent 26.2 mpg over almost 6.000 miles. Had I not spent hours stuck in traffic in both LA and New York it would have been even higher, but I guess that brings the ‘city’ mileage into the combined equation and keeps the average realistic. 26.2 mpg combined is outstanding for this type of vehicle and confirms the Ram really is the most fuel efficient full-size pickup around. These figures are actually markedly better than the official EPA fuel economy figures advertised for this specific 1500 EcoDiesel 4×4 model: 27 mpg highway, 22 mpg combined and 19 mpg city. It is also way better than the equivalent all-new 2015 Ford F-150 4WD models: the ecoboost 2.7L gets 23/18/20 mpg highway/city/combined and the 3.5L gets 23/17/19 mpg.

8. Albert New Mexico

HIGHWAY PERFORMANCE

  • This is one of the areas where I had the least expectations for Albert, in fact I was a little sceptical of how comfortable and/or enjoyable a full-size pickup ride would be on thousands of miles of highway, day in, day out. When I set out on this Coast to Coast trip a few of my automotive press colleagues raised eyebrows asking why oh why did I not opt for a sexier ride like a Ford Mustang. My motivation was simple: I wanted to cross the country in a quintessential American vehicle, and the Mustang ticks that box – granted, but one that defines America’s tastes in vehicles like no other. No other country in the world worships full-size pickups like the US and Canada do. In one word, what makes American consumers different to the rest of the world is those pickups. The Ram 1500 being the fastest-growing pickup in US sales in 2014, it was the perfect choice. I was prepared to sacrifice driving pleasure to experience what the majority of Americans do when they roll their full-size pickup truck around. And the truth is I didn’t have to sacrifice much, or anything for that matter.
  • The 3.0L EcoDiesel V6, on top of being very frugal, has also been set up to not let you down when you need it most. The best example of this happened on Californian highways before hitting standstill in downtown Los Angeles. After being stuck in a gigantic traffic jam on the highway, I had to reach LA before the last sunset of the trip to ensure optimal photo exposure. So for two hours I needed to weave through fast-moving yet heavy traffic as fast as physically possible, flirting with speed limits and changing lanes every 10 seconds or less to be sure to advance to the next inch of free highway space as effectively as possible. A good way to test Albert’s psycho driving skills.
  • Californian drivers, in their regimented recklessness, allow this to happen by keeping traffic fluid but most importantly I am happy to report that no other vehicle was able to link Palm Springs to Los Angeles faster than Albert on that stretch of road while keeping within the limits of the law. The engine and its 8-speed automatic transmission responds without delay when called upon to overtake suddenly, giving you torque when and where you need it. Very reassuring and to my view very satisfying for a vehicle of this weight.
  • Pushing Albert above 100mph in New Mexico did not transform the cabin into a whirring, shaking hell in the least. In fact Albert swallowed the increasing speed levels very stoically indeed. Engine noise is (somewhat disappointingly – I miss the gargling diesel sound) kept to a very low level at all speeds: driving at 60 or 110mph brings almost no difference. Certainly not what I expected from a diesel pickup. Pleasantly surprised.
  • When not in need of nervous driving, the Ram 1500 can easily slot itself into a very precise cruise control you can adjust to the mile and that returns to the pre-set figure once you have accelerated to pass a slower vehicle. A standard ‘set and forget’ system common on most vehicles today but a welcome addition to a set of features that made driving Albert on the highway for 6.000 miles a total breeze. Among them also: an ergonomic driver seat that left me with no back pain even after many stretches of 8-hour drive days in a row. You don’t know my back, but it’s still thanking Albert as we speak.

Albert Charleston

CITY DRIVING

  • Taking the wheel in Uptown Manhattan NY on the first day Albert was delivered to me was daunting. The width of the truck and the tiny, double-parked-to-the-brim one way streets did not seem to agree with each other in the least at the start. For the first couple of minutes only though. Very responsive commands and efficient power steering make Albert extremely manoeuvrable and very predictable in its movements.
  • So much so that once used to the enormous size of the vehicle, reverse parking becomes an effortless manoeuvre you could almost achieve with one thumb on the steering wheel (almost). Although I do consider myself a reverse parking ace thanks to very smart French driving school instructors in my youth, I have to admit I didn’t expect Albert to be more nimble than my mom’s good old tiny Peugeot 206. And it was.
  • Driving Albert in America (even in cities) gives it what you could call an unfair advantage as U.S. roads and streets are for the most part built to accommodate this type of pickup truck’s turning circle, however it does work. U can U turn in one go on a majority of roads.
  • Finally as a confirmation of the very low cabin noise review on the highway, you have to prick up your ears to hear the engine when stopped at a traffic light. Stepping out to snap pictures on a busy Manhattan street, it is impossible to guess whether the engine is running or not.

3. Albert Death Valley 1

SUSPENSION AND HARSH CONDITIONS DRIVING

  • A bout of late-night driving in a particularly weakly-lit suburban Dallas street resulted in Albert having a forced speed date with a sizeable middle-street sidewalk: after the initial surprise, the truck’s suspension absorbed the change of terrain admirably and forgave my mistake to the point where the passengers hardly noticed.
  • Admittedly I didn’t push Albert into truly harsh 4WD driving as Monument Valley’s unsealed and sometimes abrupt drive was as close as it came to being unleashed in the wild. Still, it did the job as a willing workhorse would: flawlessly.
  • Albert hardly noticed we ventured into Death Valley. It seemed he was made for this type of harsh climate, and the climb to Coffin Peak was not even sanctioned by heavy engine cooling panting at the end. Nup, silent. Content. Impressive.
  • Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to test Albert’s towing capabilities during this trip, however the next US trip will definitely correct this.

Ram 1500 ecoDiesel Albert gearbox

SPACIOUS, NO NONSENSE INTERIOR

  • At $35.805 base price and $40.495 for the model I have driven, Albert is a lot of truck for the money. Two tall adults could easily fit in the truck bed and sleep there for the night. But where I was clearly surprised to find that much space was inside. Albert is a Crew Cab meaning the equivalent of a large passenger car inside, with a truck bed stuck on the back of it. I wasn’t the only one impressed by interior space: showing Albert’s back row to a few moms along the trip raised more than a few eyebrows. Plenty of leg space both at the front and back added to Albert’s extensive width and a middle front seat folding back means you can fit 6 people quite comfortably in this base Ram.
  • Call me stupid but somehow I am used to having a trunk in which to hide my luggage when I drive. Seeing the open truck bed when I took Albert’s keys I had a half-second of horror thinking my photographer would throw a sizeable tantrum at having to leave his $5.000 photo equipment bags for all to see on the back seats at each of our stops. Not to worry: the back windows are heavily tinted so you can store your luggage there without anyone knowing.
  • The dashboard and commands are simple but sufficient and intuitive for the most part. They may not be complete as as we’ll see further down but this is a functional truck to operate smoothly for sure. You can see a more detailed review of Albert’s commands here.
  • There were some clever bonuses that just put a smile on my face every time I used them. Having started to drive at a time where discmans were all the rage (the CD version of a walkman – if you were born after 1990 just ignore this), I just sigh with contentment every time I step into a car with a USB port. Simple pleasures I know. The gearshift rotary dial on the central console (pictured above) replacing the traditional shift lever on the steering column both freed leg space and made me very happy, as well as the coin holder located inside the central container and keeping Albert in touch with its Tradesman label, roots and target market. Finally the cup holders are both tight and flexible enough to unscrew any bottle with one hand while driving. Very handy indeed.

Albert back Death Valley

Albert improve

Some of these improvement points come from the fact that Albert is the very base Tradesman model and therefore has been optioned-out to the max. Still, I would have expected the below features to be included.

HEADLIGHTS

The Ram 1500 Tradesman Crew Cab 4×4 Spec sheet says one of the exterior features is Halogen Quad Headlamps. They are simply not strong enough and I found myself scrambling to action high beams while already being on high beams. Change the headlights if you buy one of Albert’s brothers.

COMMANDS

Although globally intuitive, there are a few missing elements in Albert’s commands. There are no volume and track rockers on the back of the wheel, which means you have to fiddle with the central console every time you want to change anything. It keeps your eyes away from the road for too long and could be fixed by actually adding a right control bar on the back of the wheel: at the moment there is only a left one. The GPS is also MIA, which is kind of a big deal when crossing the country. Luckily the Google Maps app of my iPhone was totally up to the task and the USB port kept it fully charged at all times.

HEAVY RAIN DRIVING

A caveat here is I drove Albert on arrival in Savannah GA in the worst stormy rain I ever got to drive in in my entire life (true story). Cars were literally stopped in the middle of the highway for lack of visibility, or driving off their lane without realising it. Heavy rain driving is my pet hate, and Albert’s wipers, even maxed out, were not fast enough to handle this type of weather which, based on the comments I got from the locals, seems to be rather frequent in that part of the country. High speed driving under heavy rain did not seem like a great idea either as the weight of the truck can mess with clean braking and the tail tends to wobble a little.

TRADESMAN LOOK

By this I mean Albert’s black front grille and bumper. I will confess I have spent the most part of the trip hesitating between liking this look and not liking it so much. And I still haven’t decided. It does make Albert appear rough around the edges and ready to rumble in a good way. Although I do love the chrome of his higher spec’ed brothers…

Albert Hollywood 2

10 highlights

I’ll finish this series by very subjectively selecting my 10 highlights of the trip, they are all linked to the corresponding reports, just in case you missed any of them. I hope you enjoyed the journey!

1. Elvis Presley museum in Memphis

2. Bourbon Street and jambalaya in New Orleans

3. Blue bird café in Nashville

4. Modern living in Palm Springs

5. Driving Albert through Manhattan

6. Majestic Monument Valley

7. Motel-ing it all through the trip

8. Art deco roadside stops along Route 66

9. Surviving Death Valley

10. Real America in Fort Worth – Texas

Stay tuned for more world travels!

The Photo Report continues below.

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and runs a car sales statistics website and consultancy: BestSellingCars which just celebrated its 4th anniversary.

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