The Truth About Cars » Car Reviews http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 06 May 2015 12:00:57 +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/ Fiat Compact Sedan to Debut at Istanbul Autoshow http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/fiat-compact-sedan-debut-istanbul-autoshow/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/fiat-compact-sedan-debut-istanbul-autoshow/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 15:26:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1062298   In related news: Istanbul has an auto show. The new built-in-Turkey sedan is described as a “compact three-box,” hinting the model will be a fairly basic affair. We expect it to be a replacement for the Fiat Linea (pictured), a compact sedan sitting atop the GM Fiat Small LWB platform that currently underpins the Opel Meriva and […]

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Fiat Linea

In related news: Istanbul has an auto show.

The new built-in-Turkey sedan is described as a “compact three-box,” hinting the model will be a fairly basic affair. We expect it to be a replacement for the Fiat Linea (pictured), a compact sedan sitting atop the GM Fiat Small LWB platform that currently underpins the Opel Meriva and Ram ProMaster City.

Fiat states the car will be sold in 40 countries in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region and will have “excellent interior comfort and load capacity.”

Again, Istanbul has an auto show.

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2015 Buick LaCrosse Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/review-2015-buick-lacrosse/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/review-2015-buick-lacrosse/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 14:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1052529 My name is Satish Kondapavulur. I am what most baby boomers would call “a millennial.” I like Vampire Weekend, streaming movies on Netflix, and playing Gran Turismo. My plans this weekend involve driving to Berkeley, going to whatever eardrum-splitting concert my friends want to see, with my dinner plans probably being a burger and fries […]

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2015 Buick Lacrosse

My name is Satish Kondapavulur. I am what most baby boomers would call “a millennial.” I like Vampire Weekend, streaming movies on Netflix, and playing Gran Turismo. My plans this weekend involve driving to Berkeley, going to whatever eardrum-splitting concert my friends want to see, with my dinner plans probably being a burger and fries from In-N-Out picked up at midnight. My daily driver is a 2002 BMW 530i, one of the best BMWs ever made. My favorite movie is American Graffiti, a film which involves plenty of loud exhausts, racing on city streets, and a 30-year-old Harrison attempting to pass for a teenager. And I liked my Buick LaCrosse test car.

“He likes the Buick LaCrosse?!” you might think. “But he’s a millennial! He drives a BMW! He’s likely glued to his smartphone all day! He probably doesn’t know what DOS is! ” And I do have a few of those “millennial” characteristics. I don’t like wearing cardigans, playing golf nearly every afternoon, or eating dinner at 5:30 pm. I don’t drive 5-10 mph slower than everyone else. I don’t look forward to moving into a retirement community at any point in my life, though I am looking forward to the senior discounts at the movie theater, when renting a car, and at Ben and Jerry’s. (Those savings really add up. Like enough to buy another smartphone.)

2015 Buick Lacrosse

But I like the Buick LaCrosse. Yes. Really. I like it. I like the fact I don’t have to brace myself for upcoming bumps on California highways. [What? You have those? -Canada] I like that I’m not a target for any highway patrol officers. I like that the head-up display gives me all the necessary information without having to look at the screen in the center console. I like that it’s quiet enough on the highway so I can listen to “Unbelievers” on the 11-speaker Bose sound system without a pothole interrupting the high notes. I like that it has enough sensors to drastically minimize whatever chances I have of getting in a car accident. I like that OnStar can back me up if I get hopelessly lost and my phone can’t find a signal. I think it even looks good.

Now, the first thing I’ll discuss regarding my Buick LaCrosse test car is its price. It was more than you would expect. Try $45,955. Yes, it was about the same price as a Lincoln MKS, base-level Audi A6 2.0T, Lexus ES350, or a fairly loaded Hyundai Genesis V6. For that price, you would expect plenty of tech features crammed into the car, a powerful engine, large wheels, free maintenance, and a day of dunking lessons with Shaquille O’Neal. The LaCrosse had all of that, with a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 304 horsepower, 20-inch wheels, two years of free scheduled maintenance, and so many tech features I’d need an entire paragraph to list them. Sadly, dunking lessons with Shaq aren’t on the Monroney sticker, likely because customers might ask for free throw lessons, too.

2015 Buick Lacrosse - Engine

The options on my test car included a head-up display, a blind spot warning system, a lane departure warning system, HID lights, a rear cross traffic alert system (which works surprisingly well when backing out of a driveway), a sensor which indicates the distance between my car and the car in front, and a forward collision alert system. All of those features I just listed are part of the $2,125 “Driver Confidence Package #1.” There was also a “Driver Confidence Package #2” on my test car that provided adaptive cruise control and front automatic braking, the latter a perfect feature for the modern millennial distracted by his or her smartphone. Additionally, since my LaCrosse had the Premium II trim level, it came standard with a Bose sound system, heated and cooled front seats, navigation, a keyless entry and ignition system, XM radio, 6 months of full OnStar Coverage, and 5 years of the OnStar base coverage.

One feature that Buick and General Motors advertise heavily is OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi connectivity included with all 2015 LaCrosses. It can connect to up to seven devices as long as they are within 50 feet of the car, like phones, tablets, laptops, refrigerators, coffee makers, GoPro cameras, microwaves, etc. Buick offers a 3 month or 3 GB data trial of the OnStar 4G LTE service, after which customers must sign up for a data plan ranging from $5 to $50 a month for 200 MB to 5 GB, similar to those for phones. According to OnStar’s website, AT&T customers can add the car to their wireless share plan for an extra $10 a month. The Onstar 4G LTE ended up being one of the many features I didn’t sample, since I had a smartphone with a data plan and streaming American Graffiti perhaps would’ve used up the data allocation.

The LaCrosse drove surprisingly well. Since my prior experience with Buick involved a 1990s LeSabre that exhibited tire squeal and an extraordinary amount of body roll during “spirited” driving, I wasn’t prepared for how well the LaCrosse could stick to the road in corners and power out of them. If I needed power, the V6 provided enough pull and it was immediate. The car had a sport mode (I only used it once; it detracts from the driving experience) that adjusted the shift points and allowed the transmission to stay in a gear until it hit a higher rpm. Furthermore, the car had real-time damping and Hi-Per Strut suspension which I’m sure helped the ride and handling dramatically despite the 20-inch wheels. During my week with the car, I drove it down the Pacific Coast Highway from Monterey to Big Sur and had no complaints.

2015 Buick Lacrosse - Interior

Inside, the Buick was a very quiet and pleasant place. The controls were very easy to use, especially when operating the climate control or tuning the radio. I liked that I could rest my arm on the gear selector knob when reaching to tune the radio. The head-up display was very sharp, especially at night, but it wasn’t as good as BMW’s head-up display where one can easily scroll through radio stations and whose display is much more readable when facing directly into the sun. In the back, there was plenty of legroom and access to a 120 volt outlet, presumably for charging laptops to use the onboard 4G connection. An aspect of the interior I didn’t like were the thick A-pillars, which affect visibility and take some getting used to. Additionally, the LaCrosse was difficult to parallel park without the help of the rear camera, hearing the warning of the sensors, the feeling the vibration of the seats if you were getting too close. (The seats also vibrated if there were cars passing by when backing out of my driveway.)

When I had the Buick, thanks to a lot of highway driving, I managed to get around 24.5 miles per gallon during. However, fuel economy in the city, thanks to the 3.6-liter V6, wasn’t very good, especially once I hit stoplights where the indicated fuel economy would go down a few tenths. If fuel economy is a major concern for you, there is the option of a 2.4-liter inline-four with eAssist (a mild hybrid system fitted to the powertrain) which enables the LaCrosse to get an EPA-estimated 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Jack Baruth had the eAssist-ed LaCrosse last year and managed over 31 mpg with the car while describing the powertrain as “satisfactory.” (He drove it around New Jersey Motorsports Park too, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

Buick has for a while been my favorite out of all of the General Motors brands. In the past, people drove Buicks rather than Cadillacs when they didn’t want to come across as having plenty of money or as being ostentatious. After a week with the LaCrosse, I feel the same. While your neighbors will be attempting to one up each other with the latest from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, and Lexus, you can have the Buick LaCrosse in the driveway and feel absolutely satisfied. With the Buick, you’ll have something comfortable, simple to use, and much less expensive with the same toys as cars commanding $10,000 to $20,000 more. When your coworkers rave about the blind spot warning, head-up display, and active cruise control systems in their cars, you’ll be fine knowing your car has the same systems.

And above all, you won’t be a target for law enforcement, you won’t have to complain of discomfort after long trips, and you will get away with wearing the cardigan you’ve always wanted.

Buick provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas for the road test.

Satish Kondapavulur is a writer for Clunkerture, where about a fifth of the articles are about old cars and where his one-time LeMons racing dreams came to an end once he realized it was impossible to run a Ferrari Mondial. He’s currently taking golf lessons in between attempting to qualify for GT Academy.

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BREAKING: Worker Crushed To Death At Grand Cherokee, Durango Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/breaking-worker-crushed-death-grand-cherokee-durango-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/breaking-worker-crushed-death-grand-cherokee-durango-plant/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 13:23:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1062082 UPDATE: Previous incident at Jefferson North included at bottom. UPDATE 2: Added name of worker and clarified details. A worker was crushed and ultimately succumbed to his injuries this morning at Chrysler’s Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango plant. At around 6:30 a.m., 53-year-old Donald Megge, of Sterling Heights, was crushed in a press and declared dead […]

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Jefferson North Assembly Plant

UPDATE: Previous incident at Jefferson North included at bottom.

UPDATE 2: Added name of worker and clarified details.

A worker was crushed and ultimately succumbed to his injuries this morning at Chrysler’s Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango plant.

At around 6:30 a.m., 53-year-old Donald Megge, of Sterling Heights, was crushed in a press and declared dead at the Jefferson North Assembly Plant in Detroit. The accident happened during the day’s first shift, confirmed a FCA spokesperson speaking with CBS affiliate WWJ in Detroit. He was performing preventative maintenance duties at part of the first shift of the day starting at 5:30 a.m.

“A plant employee was killed at the waste water treatment plant. The company is currently working with local officials to investigate the incident. All of the FCA family extends its deepest sympathies to the employee’s family during this difficult time.”

An investigation into the incident is ongoing.

This isn’t the first time a death has befallen Jefferson North in recent years. As Automotive News reports, a worker was stabbed by another worker at the plant in 2012 during a dispute over a woman. The attacker later took his own life off-site.

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2015 Toyota Prius, Track Tested Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/review-2015-toyota-prius-track-tested/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/review-2015-toyota-prius-track-tested/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 12:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1060434 You may have heard about the challenge I laid down to Jalopnik’s Travis Okulski. You’re probably read about brother Bark’s experience at NJMP this past weekend. But if you haven’t, the story goes like so: A team of scrappy Midwesterners fought a bunch of Euro-weenies and high-net-worth individuals on the mean streets straights and curves […]

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2015 Toyota Prius Track Test

You may have heard about the challenge I laid down to Jalopnik’s Travis Okulski. You’re probably read about brother Bark’s experience at NJMP this past weekend. But if you haven’t, the story goes like so: A team of scrappy Midwesterners fought a bunch of Euro-weenies and high-net-worth individuals on the mean streets straights and curves of New Jersey. They endured fatigue, crippling expense, and hair-raising 100-mph off-track excursions to challenge their inner demons and define themselves.

This is not their story.

This is the story of the Prius they drove. Over 1,600 miles. From Ohio to New York to New Jersey to Philly and back to Ohio.

Plus fifteen laps on a racetrack.

2015 Toyota Prius Track Test

Stress and nervous tension are now serious social problems in all parts of the galaxy and it is in order that this situation should not be in any way exacerbated that the following facts will now be revealed in advance:

  • I thought the Prius was absolutely brilliant, and I’m going to give you ten reasons why.
  • I also thought the Prius was depressingly cheap and annoyingly outmoded, and I’m going to give you five reasons why.
  • My opinion about the Prius has been changed forever.
  • My opinion about the bulk of Prius owners remains unchanged.

Alright, let’s get to it. This is the TTAC of 2015, so instead of telling you a sordid tale about a bottle-blonde working girl named Natalya who stood next to me and told her date, “I’m worth the money” as I watched Mike Stern, Anthony Jackson, and Lionel Cordrew just kill it at 55 Bar in the Village last Wednesday night, we’re going to have a listicle.

Ten Reasons The 2015 Prius Is Absolutely Brilliant. Number Six Will Blow Your Mind.

1. No tumblehome. The sides of the third-generation Prius are actually concave. The side windows reach straight up from a surprisingly low doorsill to a squared-off meeting with the roof. This car feels hugely roomy and comfortable to me, more so than any other car with its footprint on sale today, and that’s why.

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2. Reasonable driver position. There’s plenty of room to be had between the door card and the floating console. The blank space ahead of you, where the instrument panel would be in, say, a Ferrari F12berlinetta, is grey plastic adorned with a “Synergy” waveform pattern that also appears in every glass divider in the lobby of every mid-price hotel in America. And maybe it’s because I’d driven a ’99 Camaro SS right before getting into the Prius, but the distance to the windshield base was positively reasonable.

3. The vision thing. There’s no “DLO Fail”, as our own Sajeev Mehta would say. The front quarter windows are useful for parking. The rear quarter windows have heating elements on them. Driver vision is clear and nearly unobstructed. And the rear double window in the hatch – holy fuck, man, when was the last time you drove a car that let you see the license plate of the car following you? This is the opposite of the face-down-ass-up thing that most modern sedans have. Love it.

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4. Uninvaded space. The Prius had room for three people, their luggage, their race equipment, and a carbon-fiber Rainsong jumbo on which I played “Ramble On” after practice on Friday. “Jesus,” my brother said, “make that stop.” The packaging just plain works for both people and luggage.

5. You can turn the DRLs off. Every car in the world should offer this feature. Combined with the “EV mode”, to be discussed shortly, this would make the world’s greatest night-time drive-by vehicle ever. Room for a Bulgarian AK-47 clone in the back? Check! The ability to roll silent? Check! No DRLs to alert your rivals? Check!

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6. The hybrid powertrain, as implemented in this car, is beyond reproach. From Columbus to Manhattan, the Prius returned about 51 mpg despite being asked to cruise at 80-90 mph. But it was on the road to Chinatown that I had my own road-to-Damascus moment. Exiting the Holland tunnel, I pressed the “EV mode” button. The engine didn’t turn on until we arrived at the hotel and had to wait for the valet. No fuss. No drama. Half an hour on the battery, stopping, starting, listening to Father John Misty on the crank-up. It would have been two gallons’ worth of gas in anything else.

What Toyota has done with this Prius is simply brilliant. You can watch the energy displays if you like, but you don’t need to. Only once was I caught out by the Synergy Drive; making a left turn onto a crowded four-lane, I pumped the throttle to sneak into a hole between two cars and was unexpectedly braked by the Toyota’s decision to cut the engine. That’s it. That was the only time I didn’t like the system in the space of 1,600 miles. I’m a believer.

7. The quiet aero. True, my current fleet of vehicles, containing two Porsches, two Honda motorcycles, and a car (the Honda Accord) which has been infamous for road noise since 1976, tends to damage my idea of what a quiet car is. Still. This Prius has less wind noise than anything else I’ve ever driven. You can have a reasonable conversation at 90 mph.

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8. The handling. Yeah, it’s on those low-roll Avids, which aren’t great. But when I took the Prius around New Jersey Motorsports Park’s Lightning course, the Prius was a capable and friendly partner. It can hit 96 mph on the front straight before recovering sixty watt-hours braking at the “4” mark. You can rotate it – wait, I’m laughing as I type – you can rotate it at turn entry on the Synergy Drive recovery mode of the brake pedal. No, it’s not fast, but it’s not undriveable. More importantly, the Prius ended its tour of the track with a firm brake pedal, no worrying heat smells, and two bars of battery left in reserve. Hey, it’s got two controversial F1 technologies: a CVT (hey, Williams!) and battery energy recovery (hey, every F1 team during KERS development except Williams!) The only caveat: The stability control doesn’t like high-G maneuvers at freeway speeds.

9. The air conditioning. Oh what a feeling, to sit in the Prius on a hot Jersey day and just let the battery run the A/C for you while the engine sleeps. Guilt-free motoring at its finest.

10. The stereo. Best cheap-car stereo I’ve heard in a while. The dynamics of it won’t cause my friends at Stereophile to pen any rapturous tributes but at least it’s loud enough for a 43-year-old man who has been deafened by years of unmuffled club racers and Benelli shotguns operated indoors.

After six days with the Prius, I was ready to buy one without question. Keep in mind that only the existence of my personal fleet would make such an idea palatable; I’m about as likely to buy a Chinese-made dress shirt as I am to make a car that can’t break 100 in the quarter my only vehicle. Still, for ninety-five percent of the driving that I do, the Prius makes more sense than anything else on the road. And trust me, after blasting out to the lead of a forty-one-car pack while the Bimmers behind you bang fenders loud enough for you to feel it in your chest, getting into a car that “turns on” with a beep is oddly comforting.

Of course, the Prius has problems, and here are five of them:

1. The dashboard is garbage. Forget the fact that it’s in the center. The displays themselves are a strange mixture of cheap monochrome LCD and monochrome segment LCD and backlit icons like you’d find on a God-damned ’79 Tercel. Every time you look at the display, you’re reminded of just how they found the money for the Toyota Synergy Drive in a $24,000 car. No Ford made after the Tempo looks this cheap inside.

2. The rest of the car is cheap, too. You can load these things up but my rental-spec “Prius One” lacked basic features such as a three-blink turn signal. It’s equipped like a base Accent despite costing half again as much. There’s no reason for it other than to push you upmarket to the five trim levels above. It’s exploitative and stupid in the best GM practice.

3. It also treats you like an idiot. Yes, we all know the kind of people who buy these things in droves: feckless, mouth-breathing Whole-Foods-shopping asexuals who treat the government like a surrogate parent and use phrases like “I’m not okay with that” and “Here’s why that’s a problem.” Some day it will be legal to cut those people down from horseback like a Dothraki, but in the meantime they have to be coddled by a car that BEEPS INSIDE WHEN YOU’RE BACKING UP. I know I’m backing up, damn it! I also don’t need the car to flash some tacky-ass additional display every time I touch the Volume button. I know I’m touching the Volume button, because I’m a functioning human. What’s worse: the “you’re-touching-a-button” display lights up when you touch the button, but you have to press the button more to get it to do anything.

4. The seats are fairly miserable. Front and back. They’re shaped oddly and made of mouse fur. Toyota knows how to make a great seat – the Lexus RC F that showed up at our race proves that. They just don’t give you one here.

5. It’s really slow. Yes, I know that’s part of the package. But I hate it. I don’t see why there isn’t some KERS-style maximum-discharge mode for when you really want to get up to that open spot in the lane next to you.

And that’s it.

A thousand miles in a Prius will make you a believer, as long as you understand what it is. It’s not a Swiss Army Knife, it’s not a Hellcat, it’s not a Tesla Model S. It’s the most intelligently-executed basic transportation since the Model T. As such, it lacks both surprise and delight. If you don’t like it, get an Accord V6.

The Prius is not brilliant because it’s a hybrid. By and large, hybrids suck and it doesn’t matter if you’re referring to the Highlander Hybrid or the Panamera Hybrid. The hybrid concept only works when you apply it to the Prius, the same way that a double-clutch transmission is racetrack magic in a McLaren 650S but utterly miserable in your commuting Fiesta. The Prius isn’t brilliant because it’s a hybrid. It’s brilliant because it is designed for a single purpose – efficient transportation – and the HS-Drive is a part of that design. A Prius without the battery would be a better commuter than an Elantra with one. But as a single, unified system, the standard Prius is flat fucking wonderful.

If only I didn’t feel dirty after driving it, like I’d been caught reading a Jezebel article about The Top Ten Ways Men Are Stare-Raping You At The Gym or something. I think I can fix that. If you’ll excuse me, I have a superbike that needs some conspicuous wheely-ing.

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McLaren Will Not Go Further Down Market From the 540S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/mclaren-will-not-go-market-540s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/mclaren-will-not-go-market-540s/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 11:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1057778   It sounds funny to say a car that costs almost $185,000 is a move downmarket, but the new McLaren 570S introduced at the recent New York Auto Show, and the detuned 540S version of the same “Sport Series” chassis (~$150K), are exactly that. The first McLarens to cost less than a quarter of a […]

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The new McLaren 570S

The new McLaren 570S

It sounds funny to say a car that costs almost $185,000 is a move downmarket, but the new McLaren 570S introduced at the recent New York Auto Show, and the detuned 540S version of the same “Sport Series” chassis (~$150K), are exactly that. The first McLarens to cost less than a quarter of a million dollars are aimed squarely at the Porsche 911. Since I’ve always been a best bang for the buck kind of a guy, whether I’m talking cars or stereo equipment, I wondered if McLaren might be interested in using their resources to bring their kind of high performance to an everyman’s sports car. So I asked Wayne Bruce, McLaren’s global director of communications, if there might be a sub-six-figure McLaren some day.

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I’m guessing that if I had a dollar for every time Bruce has heard a Batman joke referencing his name, I could probably afford even more than one new “entry level” carbon fiber McLaren. In any case, it’s an interesting coincidence he has a last name that’s the same as the first name of the company founder, racer and constructor Bruce McLaren. Speaking of carbon fiber, Bruce said it was just one reason why the company has no interest in making cars for the masses. He said that the company’s carbon fiber technology simply can’t be implemented at such a low price point.

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Understand that McLaren is a relatively tiny company. They don’t have resources the likes of BMW, which is putting over a billion dollars into the supply chain for the CFRP parts used in the i3 and i8. While the i cars at BMW are primarily seen by outsiders as an effort to make electric cars, much of the program is aimed at reducing the cost of making car parts and cars out of carbon fiber.

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The only sub $100,000 car being sold today with carbon fiber architecture is the Alfa Romeo 4C – starting at about $54,000 – though it doesn’t have a completely carbon fiber unibody. It has a carbon fiber passenger cell, with front and rear aluminum subframes attached to the central tub.

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Because it’s located on the bottom of the dihedrally operating door, you can’t see the logo for the Bowers & Wilkins audio system while driving, but you will see it every time you get in the 570S.

Bruce said McLaren is now profitable and they wouldn’t risk their profitability to make the immense investment needed to make a mass market car. A “McLaren Miata” would require economies of scale far beyond the company’s abilities.

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Though he didn’t use the word “cheapen”, he indicated that a mass market McLaren would not be good for the brand; their current customers expect a certain level of exclusivity. In 2013, McLaren delivered about 1,400 cars. Bruce said the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking has the capacity to build about 4,000 units a year and they anticipate reaching that limit once their new Sport models swing into full production. He continued that number would likely be the ceiling for McLaren production and they have no plans to expand the capacity of the Woking facility or to build another factory.

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I didn’t ask Mr. Bruce if McLaren, like other companies associated with high levels of performance or luxury (Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin, Maserati and Lotus), is also considering some kind of CUV.

Photography by Ronnie Schreiber. For more photos of the vehicles in this post, please go to Cars In Depth.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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2016 Mercedes-Benz G-Class – New Engine Candy, Same Old Boxy Wrapper http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2016-mercedes-benz-g-class-new-engine-candy-old-boxy-wrapper/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2016-mercedes-benz-g-class-new-engine-candy-old-boxy-wrapper/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 18:10:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1061002 As Mercedes-Benz rolls out its all-new 4.0-liter V8, engineers in Stuttgart have decided the bi-turbo mill will fit right at home in the aging Gelandewagen, a luxo-utility military-born vehicle that hasn’t seen a major update in 25 years. The immediately recognizable box-on-wheels is due for a complete overhaul for 2017. In the meantime, Mercedes-Benz needs to keep their […]

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Mercedes-Benz G-Class (BR 463) 2015

As Mercedes-Benz rolls out its all-new 4.0-liter V8, engineers in Stuttgart have decided the bi-turbo mill will fit right at home in the aging Gelandewagen, a luxo-utility military-born vehicle that hasn’t seen a major update in 25 years.

The immediately recognizable box-on-wheels is due for a complete overhaul for 2017. In the meantime, Mercedes-Benz needs to keep their top-line SUV fresh to captivate the attention of celebrities and athletes and their conspicuous consumption. That’s not to say the updates are insignificant, however.

The new 4.0-liter bi-turbo V8 in the G550 is a variation of that found in the Mercedes-AMG GT and C63. In the G-Class, the V8 is good for 416 hp and 450 lb-ft of torque sent to all four wheels, compared to its 5.5L V8 predecessor with 382 hp and 391 lb-ft of twist.

Other G-Class models see bumps in power as well, including the 571 hp V8 powered G63 and 612 hp V12 motivated G65 – the latter coming to the U.S. for the first time. All V8 powered models are said to improve fuel economy thanks to a new start/stop system.

One model many would love to come to North America – the diesel V6 powered G350d – will continue to be forbidden fruit for those of us in the colonies.

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2015 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-lexus-350-f-sport-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-lexus-350-f-sport-review-video/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 12:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1056498 BMW moved over 140,000 3-Series’ last year in America. They didn’t do this by being the most luxurious option or by being the best handling option. (The truth is hard to hear, I’m sorry.) Instead, BMW did this by doing exactly what shoppers asked for; luxury car buyers want a comfy ride with a luxury logo […]

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BMW moved over 140,000 3-Series’ last year in America. They didn’t do this by being the most luxurious option or by being the best handling option. (The truth is hard to hear, I’m sorry.) Instead, BMW did this by doing exactly what shoppers asked for; luxury car buyers want a comfy ride with a luxury logo on the front, good fuel economy and to read reviews that extol the track-day virtues of their car of choice. The average buyer will never be on a track, but it’s critical to know your car belongs there.

What BMW dealers don’t want you to know: there are two sedans in this segment that are arguably better on the track than a 328i or 335i and we’re talking about one of them today, the IS 350 F Sport.

Exterior

Lexus’ exterior styling used to strike me as graceful, sophisticated and reserved. Apparently, however, the front end got no respect on the Autobahn, so the F Sport nose was created. While I can’t say if it commands more respect in Germany, the ginormous grille on our IS 350 F Sport looked ready to devour small children and subcompact cars alike. While some folks have said they dislike the gaping maw, I actually like it. What I’m not a fan of are the separate headlamp and “Nike-swoosh” daytime running lamp modules; I find the look a little discordant. Whether you like it or not, you have to admit this front end is more dramatic than anything on offer from BMW, Mercedes, Audi or Infiniti.

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Out back, less has changed, with the rear being more reserved than the front. But it’s the side profile where things really divert. The IS is 3.5 inches longer than the last generation model and most of the increase goes to the rear seat area – although, some of it also goes to the trunk, making the IS look more balanced than before. Thanks to pedestrian impact regulations in Europe, the front end has become blunter (just as we have seen from the Europeans lately), which actually helps the front 3/4 view. I think the Cadillac ATS is the most attractive sedan in this segment, but the IS in F Sport trim leaps up the scale to number 3, just behind the ATS and 3-Series.

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Interior

While BMW and Audi have opted for an open and expansive interior theme, the IS feels tight and close to the driver by design with a high beltline and tall center console. F Sport models get a configurable LCD disco dash instead of the white-on-black gauges we normally expect from the brand. Similar to Volvo’s new LCD instrument cluster, the display can seem a little lost in the binnacle as the binnacle normally houses a wider traditional dial cluster. Since Cadillac has yet to move their large LCD instrument cluster down-market to the ATS, there really isn’t any competition for this display at the moment.

As you’d expect from Lexus, one can still get acres of stained wood and soft leather, but neither are standard. Like most entries in this segment, leather is reserved for specific packages and wood is an optional upgrade. Front seat comfort proved excellent during my week. The sport seats easily bested the Audi A4, Cadillac ATS and the base seats in the BMW 328i or Mercedes C300. Wider folks should know that the bolstering is pronounced and the F Sport trim doesn’t have an option to delete the sport seats.

Thanks to the wheelbase stretch, combined legroom is up by 2.6 inches inside which places the IS towards the top of the group in total legrooom. Nobody expected the BMW 3-Series to grow as much as it did in its latest incarnation, which becomes quite obvious when you run the numbers. The 3-Series boasts the second best legroom figures behind the much larger Infiniti Q50. The Lexus offers a slightly larger trunk, but I found the overall trunk dimensions to be more advantageous in the BMW.

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Infotainment

The 2014 redesign of the IS brought a raft of new features from traffic maps on non-navigation equipped models to predictive traffic, improved voice recognition and smartphone integration. Alas, the lord giveth and he taketh away. Along with the new software comes Lexus’ Remote Touch input device, or as I prefer to call it: the Lexus joystick. I find little joy in the mouse-like controller, but it is better than the trackpad you find in the NX. The controller is the textbook example of the difference between an intuitive input method and one that is optimized for use in a car. The joystick is intuitive, it’s just not well suited to a vehicle as it requires much more eye-off-the-road time. I grabbed a few friends and had them perform a few identical functions in the Lexus and a BMW with iDrive while I watched their eyes. It simply takes longer for you to find what you need in the Lexus system. Oddly enough, the same Lexus software without a touchscreen is one of the least distracting available, but you can only get that in the GX and LX. If you don’t buy navigation, you still get the 7-inch screen but trade the joystick for a rotary knob.

Lexus doesn’t offer any sort of heads-up display a la BMW, but you can gadgets like radar cruise control, Mark Levinson branded audio system, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning.

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Engine

Standing somewhat alone in this segment is a 100-percent naturally-aspirated engine lineup. While everyone but Infiniti has moved to a turbo four to fill the bottom end, Lexus has stuck with their tiny V6. (I’m not counting the 2.5-liter four-banger in the base ATS. Why? Who would?) Displacing 2.5 liters and sporting direct injection, the IS 250 is good for 204 ponies and 185 lb-ft of torque. [It’s the least powerful V6 currently on sale. -Ed] While many in the industry would once have complained about a base luxury model without an inline-6 engine, this V6 now competes with four-cylinder engines. Although a V6 isn’t as balanced as an I6, it’s miles ahead of an I4. The model we tested is the 3.5-liter V6 IS 350. Adding a liter bumps power to 306 and torque to 277. For reasons known only to Lexus’ product planning team, the 220 horsepower IS 300h remains forbidden fruit on our shores.

Lexus tends to be a cautious company when it comes to adopting new technology and, as a result, the 2.5-liter V6 and AWD models of the 3.5-liter have to make do with ye olde 6-speed automatic from Aisin. If you get the RWD version of the IS 350 that we tested, you get Aisin’s new 8-speed auto, a variant of the transmission used in the Corvette and select Cadillacs.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Instrument Cluster_

Drive

The naturally aspirated engine lineup is the first thing you will notice about the IS out on the road. Much like the 3.6-liter V6 in the ATS and the 3.7-liter V6 in the Q50, power builds in a linear fashion. This is quite different from the C400, 335i and other turbo entries which typically have torque and horsepower “plateaus” with sharp drops on either end. 0-60 acceleration in our F Sport tester came in at 5.6 seconds – not a bad time by any stretch. However, Volvo’s front-wheel-drive S60 T6 Drive-e will do the same sprint in 5.4. The purist in me prefers the feel and unadulterated sound a naturally-aspirated engine delivers, but the pragmatist in me realizes the C400, 335i, S4 and S60 T6 will all beat the IS to the freeway ramp. Opting for Lexus’ AWD system improves grip, but the loss of two gears causes the 0-60 time to stretch to 5.7 seconds, getting close to the less powerful BMW 328xi. AWD shoppers also have to live with an odd hump in the front foot-well caused by the transfer case and driveshaft to the front axle.

The responsiveness of the IS in tight corners demonstrates how much time Lexus spent engineering the suspension. The old IS came across as isolated, perhaps even sloppy, while this chassis is sharp and crisp. Every system feels like a team player, from the suspension to the transmission shift logic and the revised double-wishbones up front. The IS quite simply delivers the best feel in the corners and out on the track with every system tuned to near perfection. (Bear in mind we still have electric power steering, so it’s all relative.) The IS actually manages to feel a hair more precise, although not as engaging, than the E90 3-Series (previous generation). The F30 (current generation) has traded handling prowess for a softer ride and a ginormous back seat. And therein lies the rub: the change has improved BMW’s sales rather than stopping the gravy train. Meanwhile, the Audi and Volvo plow like a John Deere when they encounter a corner and the Mercedes feels just as you would expect – heavy and soft. The purist in me prefers the crisp handling and impeccable feel of the IS on a track. The pragmatist in me is keenly aware that feel doesn’t actually get you around a track. That’s where power comes in. Because of the power deficit, the 335i, S60 T6 AWD, C400 and S4 are all faster around your average track. If you’re talking autocross, the IS has a chance, but even the Volvo will beat it around Laguna Seca.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Headlamps

Competition

Comparing the IS 350 with the 335i seems like the natural thing to do – after all, they both have “3” in the model number – but a more apt comparison is the 328i. The IS 350 slots between the 328i and the 335i in both price and performance, but price is critical. Meanwhile IS 250 performs more like the 320i than the 328i.

The IS 350 F Sport manages to be a hair less than a comparably equipped 328i M-Sport, which is an excellent start. Despite costing a fraction less, the Lexus delivers considerably more refinement under the hood, better acceleration and more driving feel in the twisties. Our F Sport was notably less expensive than a Mercedes C300, and even when you add AWD to the Lexus, it’s still the more willing partner on your favorite mountain highway.

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Audi’s A4 ends up being around the same price as the IS 350 while Volvo’s S60 is the discount option. Both the Audi and the Volvo start as FWD vehicles but add AWD to compensate for their front heavy designs. Unless you step up to the considerably more expensive S4, the Audi comes across as underpowered and all versions of the A4 feel nose heavy in comparison. The Volvo has a similar weight issue up front but the Swedes will happily drop a powerful turbo engine under the hood, mate it to AWD and sell it for less than the Lexus. The resulting S60 R-Design will out-pace the IS 350 F Sport but the experience will be much different. The Volvo will be understeering like mad in the corners; the IS will feel balanced and poised. Unfortunately, the Lexus’ driver will have to enjoy the feel while looking at the S60’s tail lamps.

The Infiniti Q50 is the often forgotten competitor. Nissan’s luxury arm has never quite reached the same status as Lexus as far as brand perception – perhaps that’s why. Never the less, the Infiniti has good looks and a low price tag on its side. Even the $37,150 base model starts with a 328 horsepower 3.7-liter V6. It’s still slower than BMW’s 335i, but at 5.2 seconds to 60, it is among the faster options. If you want more power and better economy, Infiniti will sell you their hybrid version that scoots to highway speed in 4.9. Comparably equipped, the Q50 is about $2,000 less than the F Sport we tested, making it the best RWD deal in this segment.

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After a week with the IS 350, I’ll admit I was torn. The way the IS drives and feels on my mountain road commute is incredible. The way the IS feels on a track is alluring. And the value proposition is undeniable. Lexus’ well deserved reliability reputation and generally lower operating costs means the IS will cost less to own. All these things should mean my purist and pragmatic boxes will be well and truly checked. The Lexus has the luxury and track-day-diary cred to compete with the competition, but the infotainment system in the IS and slower 0-60 time keep the Lexus from being my choice in this segment. If my money were on the line, I’d live with Infiniti’s questionable steer-by-wire system and get the Q50S hybrid instead. You get more room inside, a 0-60 time matching the 335i and 31 MPG. While the IS 350 F Sport represents a good value against BMW’s volume 3-Series model, they still have nothing to compete properly with the 335i. Yes, the IS 350 F Sport feels better and road holds better than a comparably equipped 335i. But, as BMW has recently shown, perhaps going around a corner perfectly isn’t all that important after all.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 5.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.8 Seconds at 100 MPH

Average Observed Economy: 20 MPG over 674 miles

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Lifted Rally Miata Proves It’s Still The Answer To Everything http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/lifted-rally-miata-proves-still-answer-everything/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/lifted-rally-miata-proves-still-answer-everything/#comments Sun, 03 May 2015 13:59:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1059482 The ongoing automotive journalist meme that Mazda’s nearly perfect Miata is the answer to everything may not technically be true. But, this “Lifted Rally” Miata sure makes a good case in its favor. This example is an original NA Miata featuring none other than British Racing Green paint. It’s been lifted with longer springs and FM upper […]

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The ongoing automotive journalist meme that Mazda’s nearly perfect Miata is the answer to everything may not technically be true. But, this “Lifted Rally” Miata sure makes a good case in its favor.

This example is an original NA Miata featuring none other than British Racing Green paint. It’s been lifted with longer springs and FM upper perch spacers, though the owner admits he wouldn’t take it off-road as the spring are at “near factory rate”. Inside, the seats have been reshod in new vinyl, a “vintage” roll hoop has been added, and the owner claims the car itself is completely rust free. If you don’t feel like dealing with the hardtop, the MX-5 is equipped with the latest in tan glass window top fashions. (Sorry, hardtop not included.)

The rally-wannabe NA MX-5 is listed on Grassroots Motorsports with a $4,200 asking price in Roswell, GA.

[h/t Bring A Trailer]

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Volkswagen Won’t Cut Prices to Chase Market Share in U.S. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/volkswagen-wont-cut-prices-chase-market-share-us/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/volkswagen-wont-cut-prices-chase-market-share-us/#comments Sat, 02 May 2015 15:37:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1059338 Even with a depressed euro and sales falling 2.7 percent in April, Volkswagen is staying the course. According to Automotive News, Volkswagen has no plans to change its current pricing strategy to chase market share. The brand has seen steady declines in the U.S. even as the market overall has been growing. “We believe it’s […]

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Even with a depressed euro and sales falling 2.7 percent in April, Volkswagen is staying the course.

According to Automotive News, Volkswagen has no plans to change its current pricing strategy to chase market share. The brand has seen steady declines in the U.S. even as the market overall has been growing.

“We believe it’s the right strategy over the long term,” Christian Klingler told AN.

He stated Volkswagen has a long-term approach to protecting profits and won’t try to chase volume at its expense. Similar problems are being experienced in other markets like Brazil. Also, even with the euro down versus the American dollar, most U.S. sales volume comes from North American-built vehicles, negating any possible positive currency impact.

Much of Volkswagen’s sales slump can be attributed to their current model mix. The brand does not offer a competitive crossover between the long-in-the-tooth Tiguan and much more expensive Touareg, a segment currently experiencing significant growth.

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2016 Mazda6 Wagon 2.2D AWD A/T European First Drive http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/european-first-drive-mazda-6-wagon-2-2-d-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/european-first-drive-mazda-6-wagon-2-2-d-awd/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 12:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1050497 The current Mazda6 is revered for its Skyactiv naturally aspirated gasoline engines and nimble, light-footed handling. Replacing one of the last great N/A engines in its class with a turbo-diesel seems a bit like heresy. Opting for an automatic transmission and four-wheel drive is mutiny. But, will those choices make a great driver’s car boring? Or […]

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Mazda-6-Modelljahr-2015-fotoshowBigImage-345f48b6-825173

The current Mazda6 is revered for its Skyactiv naturally aspirated gasoline engines and nimble, light-footed handling. Replacing one of the last great N/A engines in its class with a turbo-diesel seems a bit like heresy. Opting for an automatic transmission and four-wheel drive is mutiny. But, will those choices make a great driver’s car boring? Or will they actually make it better?

Being invited to the press launch of a bunch of facelifted models isn’t much reason to celebrate for most automotive journos. But, when I got a chance to attend a recent Mazda press conference, I jumped at the chance; not to prove there’s such a thing as a free lunch, nor because it was – conveniently – about three miles from my house. I was eager to go because, between the end of my gig at the Czech edition of Top Gear and the point when my own website really got going, I managed to miss a whole generation of Mazdas.

From what I’d heard and read – both from my colleagues at home and on TTAC – the new crop of Mazdas was really good. So I wasn’t in it for the deer with creamy sauce (although it was delicious). I was in it because I wanted to drive the cars.

First, I drove the Mazda3, which wasn’t even new. It was great, but you already know that. Derek liked one so much he bought it.

Then it was time for the facelifted Mazda6. I went for the best one: gasoline sedan with manual transmission; lightest of the bunch with an engine that’s legendary (easy to do, being a large, naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four in a world of downsized turbo plants) and a lovely manual gearbox.

It was as good as I expected. For a large sedan – in Europe, non-premium sedans don’t get much better than this – it shows a great dose of sportiness and provides an unusual amount of fun. You have, especially with the facelifted version, all the bells and whistles to which you’re accustomed. At the same time, there’s a whiff of jinba ittai (a horse and a rider as one) from the Miata. It’s easy to find a proper driving position; steering wheel close to your chest, seat low and the backrest at nearly vertical feels comfortable. The gearshift is gloriously precise with a deliciously short throw. The suspension works exactly as you want; compliant when presented with ruts and potholes and still stable and resists roll remarkably well.

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The engine isn’t going to spoil the fun, either. It’s hungry for revs. With its aforementioned enjoyable gearshift along with nicely placed and spaced pedals, the Mazda6, especially with the European-spec 2.0 engine, just begs to be revved. Rev-matching downshifts are a breeze. For many buyers, the engine will be the main reason for buying the Mazda’s family sedan – more so than the suspension, and maybe even more so than all those new, shiny and clever things they told us about at the press event (and which I wasn’t able or willing to try out on my short drive). Most competitors use touchscreens, which can be annoying and even dangerous, but the Mazda6 uses an iDrive-esque control that’s more to my liking.

Then – something strange happened.

With no great expectations, I jumped behind the wheel of a CX-5 crossover with a diesel engine. I wasn’t really surprised that flinging it around my favourite backroad (conveniently located some two miles from the event venue) was much more fun than any family crossover has the right to be. Yet, what really got me interested was its engine.

I’m afraid that I will be condemned by JDM fans, purists and petrolheads all around the world, but I enjoyed the diesel version even better than the Last Mohican of the N/A gasoline engines. That might be caused by my affinity to large engines with their deep exhaust notes, dislike for revs, and lots of grunt low down, but I found the diesel engine’s growl more pleasant than the shriek of its gasoline counterpart. While revving the N/A four was fun, the turbodiesel was quite happy in the upper part of the rev counter as well – allowing for relaxed driving without having to shift all the time.

Thinking about this on the way back, I got a hunch. If the CX-5 is still fun and if the diesel engine can sound more pleasant (to my ears) than the gasoline one…could the diesel Mazda6 actually be the better option? Maybe the newly introduced AWD could, in fact, improve the driving experience.

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With that in mind upon returning the CX-5, I requested a diesel wagon with AWD with the automatic. All the previous cars were manuals (yes, in our part of the world, the standard transmission is still that – standard). If the diesel is so good in a CUV, it should be even better in a wagon, right? And AWD should help, too. The modern part-time AWD systems are good enough to be useful even on dry pavement – a comparison a few years back of a standard Passat with one equipped with 4Motion proved that.

After getting the keys, I set off with great anticipation. This should, in theory, be the best car of the lot. But it didn’t begin well. While the FWD, gasoline sedan was admirably compliant and comfortable, the diesel AWD wagon wasn’t. For some reason, the ride was noticeably more choppy and even small imperfections of the road were transmitted into cabin. I suspected the wheels, but both cars were fitted with 19s.

It has to be something else. There are two main suspects. The AWD system may have something to do with it, but I lean towards blaming it on weight. The wagon itself is a bit heavier than its trunked counterpart, and the diesel engine is probably much heavier than gasoline one. I’ve seen several cars ruined by a heavy engine and the stiffer springs/shocks that go with it.

On my favorite back road, though, the news was much more positive. As in the CX-5, the diesel engine is unexpectedly pleasant – in its sound, hunger for revs or lots of torque everywhere. I wouldn’t say it’s really better from a driver’s perspective, but it’s not worse, either. I can imagine drivers that would prefer each one of them.

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Next big difference is the AWD. It was useful from the beginning, helping me to launch from the side road without front tires scraping for traction. And it made itself worthwhile on the open road as well. You probably won’t notice it in sweeping curves, but in tighter ones, no more spinning of the inner wheel; just lots of nice, clean traction. It even helps mitigate the understeer a bit.

So, is this the best possible Mazda6? Of course not. It’s not a diesel manual wagon. While that may sound like a cliché (at least in North America – in Europe, it’s a pretty standard and boring mode of transportation), the manual transmission would really enhance the driving experience. While the automatic isn’t really bad, it’s far too slow for someone spoiled with DSGs and modern automatics, like the ubiquitous 8-speed ZF. A click of the paddle right before the corner, when you would just snap in a lower cog with a nice throttle blip, usually produces nothing more than information on the displey in the dash. Something like “we’re working on it“.

Expecting an automatic in a diesel family wagon to act “sporty“ is a bit unrealistic, especially from a small-ish automaker like Mazda. But if someone buys it for the driving experience, they would probably pick the manual and can rest assured that even by choosing the boring combo of diesel wagon with AWD, he didn’t sacrifice much of the wonderful handling for which this car is synonymous.

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

Photography courtesy of Mazda

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Honda Civic Hatch “Near Identical” To NY Coupe Concept, Will Get Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/honda-civic-hatch-near-identical-ny-coupe-concept-will-get-hybrid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/honda-civic-hatch-near-identical-ny-coupe-concept-will-get-hybrid/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 10:59:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1058010 If a report from Britain’s AutoExpress is to be believed, the front clip of the next-generation Honda Civic hatchback – due to arrive in North America for the first time since 2000 (in non-Si form) – will look “near identical” to the Civic Coupe concept revealed in New York. Head of Honda UK, Philip Crossman, […]

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Civic Concept

If a report from Britain’s AutoExpress is to be believed, the front clip of the next-generation Honda Civic hatchback – due to arrive in North America for the first time since 2000 (in non-Si form) – will look “near identical” to the Civic Coupe concept revealed in New York.

Head of Honda UK, Philip Crossman, told the UK outlet the next Civic hatchback will only differ from the coupe at the rear third of the car and all sheetmetal fore of that will be the same. In addition to a coupe, sedan, and hatchback, AutoExpress also posits a new Tourer model will likely be available, though we can’t see this version of the Civic coming to our shores.

The Civic will ride on a common architecture for both European and North American models. Under hood will be a brand new drivetrain with a hybrid version available later.

“We’ll come back with a class-leading hybrid powertrain in the next five years,” said Crossman, “and it’s likely to make as much impact as the VTEC valve system.”

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Oshawa Camaro Production Ceases November 20, Reduced To Three Shifts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/oshawa-camaro-production-ceases-november-20-reduced-three-shifts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/oshawa-camaro-production-ceases-november-20-reduced-three-shifts/#comments Thu, 30 Apr 2015 17:50:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1057122 First announced December 19, 2012, GM Canada’s Oshawa Assembly facility will officially cease production of the Camaro on November 20, 2015 in conjunction with the car’s next generation, GM announced today. Camaro production remained at the Oshawa plant a year longer than initially promised in 2012. Assembly shifts will be reduced from four to three […]

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2011 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible at the Oshawa Assembly Plant

First announced December 19, 2012, GM Canada’s Oshawa Assembly facility will officially cease production of the Camaro on November 20, 2015 in conjunction with the car’s next generation, GM announced today. Camaro production remained at the Oshawa plant a year longer than initially promised in 2012.

Assembly shifts will be reduced from four to three between the “Flex” and “Consolidated” lines. Currently, the “Flex” line is on three shifts while the smaller line is on one shift. GM Canada will “begin a voluntary retirement canvass” to reduce worker head count before implementing any layoffs. GM Canada President, Stephen K. Carlisle, stated “60 percent of our hourly workforce are nearing retirement” age and the company will offer incentives to eligible employees looking to retire early.

Chevrolet Impala, Buick Regal and Cadillac XTS production will continue on the “Flex” line for now. Regal production is scheduled to move to Germany by 2017 while the XTS will be discontinued at the end of its lifecycle in 2019. Both the XTS and Impala are also produced in Michigan. The “Consolidated” line currently builds the Impala Limited – a previous-generation W-body sedan – and the Chevrolet Equinox, the latter which is also produced in Ingersoll, Ontario.

GM Canada and Unifor are working together to “examine a range of longer-term opportunities and competitiveness enhancements for Oshawa Assembly,” stated the release today. The future of Oshawa will be announced after Unifor national bargaining next year.

On the same day, GM also announced $5.4b in investments aimed at the company’s Pontiac, Lansing, and Warren, Michigan facilities.

The announcement comes after GM Canada committed $800m to Ingersoll and another 100 jobs toward expanding connected car and green technology development at GM Canada’s Oshawa Engineering Centre.

 

 

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2016 Cadillac CTS-V Undercuts BMW M5 by $10,000, On Sale This Summer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/2016-cadillac-cts-v-undercuts-bmw-m5-10000-sale-summer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/2016-cadillac-cts-v-undercuts-bmw-m5-10000-sale-summer/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 17:09:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1056466 Cadillac has announced its next V-Series model will sport more than just big horsepower numbers when the third-generation CTS-V arrives to do battle with its German competition. Following the launch of the brand-new ATS-V coupe and sedan this spring, deliveries of the larger CTS-V sedan will begin this summer with a base price of $83,995 before taxes and […]

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2016 Cadillac CTS-V

Cadillac has announced its next V-Series model will sport more than just big horsepower numbers when the third-generation CTS-V arrives to do battle with its German competition.

Following the launch of the brand-new ATS-V coupe and sedan this spring, deliveries of the larger CTS-V sedan will begin this summer with a base price of $83,995 before taxes and destination. Dealers are accepting orders now for the 640 horsepower, 6.2-liter supercharged V8-powered full-size Cadillac that’s capable of getting to 60 mph in 3.7 seconds on its way to a top speed of 200 mph.

With that price, the new Caddy undercuts the BMW M5 by nearly $10,000 while offering up more horsepower and torque, making it a performance bargain in the segment. Whether its any good versus the M5 is yet to be seen.

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2015 Chevrolet Malibu LT Rental Car Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/rental-review-2015-chevrolet-malibu-lt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/rental-review-2015-chevrolet-malibu-lt/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 12:30:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1052513 He was a nice young man working the Enterprise counter, but I wasn’t buying his upgrade spiel. “Ya know, if you’re going to Joliet, there will be a lot of big trucks on the highway, I can upgrade you to a full size for just $15.”  Thanks, but no thanks, I will take my Kia and […]

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He was a nice young man working the Enterprise counter, but I wasn’t buying his upgrade spiel. “Ya know, if you’re going to Joliet, there will be a lot of big trucks on the highway, I can upgrade you to a full size for just $15.”  Thanks, but no thanks, I will take my Kia and be on my way. But when I met Anthony at the parking lot I was told; “Mr. Ward, I see we have you for an economy car, but I have none left. How about this Chevy Malibu?”

Ka-Ching!” I win, looks like I’ll be saving that $3 a day for coffee.

Despite the upgrade, I wasn’t exactly pumped about the Malibu, I was hoping for a Charger or even a 300. I hadn’t tried the Malibu, but the previous generations had left me wanting. There, the gleaming silver bullet, sat with just over 13,000 miles. I was in a much better mood than my trip to Houston last month, and Enterprise had managed to get me in and out in less than 15 minutes, including the bus ride from Midway Airport.

So when I climbed into the stripper ‘Boo, I was prepared to give it a fair shake. The trunk had already swallowed my bag and would have taken two more full size bags and probably three backpacks as well.

With the engine already running, MyLink connected to my phone is less than 5 minutes and I eased onto Chicago’s surface streets headed south to Autobahn Country Club. As you would expect, the Chevy was quite comfortable soaking up the potholes around the airport. Not outstandingly so, but well. I actually liked the steering. It felt weighted with a nice on center feel. Good feedback; not quite to Accord standards, but that may be a matter of preference.

I eased onto the freeway and started to make my way southwest. I made it almost 4 whole miles before I encountered traffic. There I would stay, in one form or another, for the next 2 hours. It gave me a chance to spend a little Q time with this weekend’s ride. As superior as I was feeling when I rejected the upgrade offer, this car would have been worth the extra money. The big seats in the Malibu are more comfortable and offer a greater scope of adjustment than the Altima and certainly more than the econobox I reserved. The stereo was pretty good – lots of cubbyholes for things and even a space behind the stereo screen.

That evening I ended up with three passengers, my 6 ft. frame the shortest of them. Despite some criticism of a lack of rear seat room, the Malibu took all of our gear and us to the hotel that night and track the next day. I was actually surprised at how well the Ecotec handled the additional weight. With only 196 hp, the real advantage is 191 lb-ft of torque through the slick shifting 6-speed auto. You won’t win any stoplight sprints against its competitors (unless it’s a Altima), but that doesn’t matter much when you quadruple the passengers.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu

With the size upgrade, I only had to return the tank ½ full, so I didn’t observe any real fuel numbers. But, after driving over 150 miles in a mix of freeway and surface, the tank barely broke the halfway mark. So the claimed 25/36 is probably accurate, which was another pleasant surprise.

This was absolutely the stripper base rental car fleet model, but a “build and price” excursion on GM’s website tells me its $22,465 before the $825 destination charge. It showed me 17 in stock units around the Atlanta metro that match the build ranging from $23,300 to $23,600. With $2,400 down and $1,000 cash back, the Malibu can be had for $294 a month at 1.9%. This places it squarely in the price point of a similar Camry or Accord, but slightly above a Chrysler 200 and under a Ford Fusion, which is kind of where it lives.

I expected disenchantment because that is what GM sedans have always delivered. But the Malibu surprised me. It’s not a market-shattering bargain propelling GM to the top of the market, but it is a good, competent vehicle, competitively priced in a very difficult segment. It offers good value by every measure of a car for the investment. The clear choice in this segment really comes to flavor and the aggressiveness of your chosen dealer to put you in their car rather than the competition.

Which means “Ka-Ching” for anyone looking to buy in this segment.

Photography courtesy Nick Boris

2015 Chevrolet Malibu 2015 Chevrolet Malibu 2015 Chevrolet Malibu 2015 Chevrolet Malibu 2015 Chevrolet Malibu 2015 Chevrolet Malibu 2015 Chevrolet Malibu 2015 Chevrolet Malibu 2015 Chevrolet Malibu 2015 Chevrolet Malibu 2015 Chevrolet Malibu 2015 Chevrolet Malibu 2015 Chevrolet Malibu 2015 Chevrolet Malibu 2015 Chevrolet Malibu 2015 Chevrolet Malibu 2015 Chevrolet Malibu 2015 Chevrolet Malibu

 

General Motors contributed nothing to this review. But Enterprise did rent me the car and offered outstanding customer service in doing so. Speaking of great work, how about these photos?  No crappy iPhone pics for the B&B this time. As I promised my buddy Nick Boris gets credit for every shot. 

Christian “Mental” Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is married to the most patient woman in the world, lives in Atlanta and is racing his silly Nissan truck in the 24 Hours of LeMons this weekend at Carolina Motorsports Park. You can follow that and all his other shenaningans on Instagram, Twitter and Vine at M3ntalward. 

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SPIED: 2016 Toyota HiLux, Inside and Out http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/spied-2016-toyota-hilux-inside/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/spied-2016-toyota-hilux-inside/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 11:25:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1056082 After releasing an all-new Tacoma to take on the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, and Nissan Frontier in North America, the Toyota HiLux is being readied for other parts of the world and it seems engineers haven’t been able to keep this one a secret. Admittedly, these aren’t the first spy shots we’ve seen of the new HiLux in […]

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2016 Toyota Hilux Three-Quarter

After releasing an all-new Tacoma to take on the Chevrolet Colorado, GMC Canyon, and Nissan Frontier in North America, the Toyota HiLux is being readied for other parts of the world and it seems engineers haven’t been able to keep this one a secret.

Admittedly, these aren’t the first spy shots we’ve seen of the new HiLux in the metal, but they’re certainly the clearest.

2016 Toyota Hilux Three-Quarter

The front fascia of the HiLux gets a thorough makeover, ditching the mid-grille bump for a cleaner appearance. The middle grille slats flow right into the LED headlights for a cohesive design. Further down, a trapezoidal grille gives the HiLux a little corporate DNA to tie it together with other Toyota products.

2016 Toyota Hilux Front/Rear

The rear design seems to be fairly basic, excluding the chrome handle. Taillights look like they could be cribbed directly from the last-generation Tacoma.

2016 Toyota Hilux Interior Dash

However, the interior looks as modern as any, presenting the driver with a fully-featured radio and well-placed climate controls just below.

Four engines are expected to power the new Euro-Taco, ranging from 2.4- and 2.8-liter turbodiesels and a 2.7-liter naturally-aspirated gasoline engine. Other engines will likely come to the fore in due course.

[Editor’s Note: We have seen these images from multiple sources. If you know to who they can be properly attributed, please let us know.]

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2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Review – What, No Entourage? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/2015-hyundai-santa-fe-review-no-entourage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/2015-hyundai-santa-fe-review-no-entourage/#comments Tue, 28 Apr 2015 15:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055473 Americans have spoken with their wallets and we can, for the most part, forget minivans. Consumers accept the loss of much of a minivan’s practicality and flexibility so long as their new vehicle still provides three rows of seats and gains a measure of all-weather usefulness. • U.S. Market Price As Tested: $41,545 • Horsepower: […]

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2015 hyundai santa fe xl

Americans have spoken with their wallets and we can, for the most part, forget minivans. Consumers accept the loss of much of a minivan’s practicality and flexibility so long as their new vehicle still provides three rows of seats and gains a measure of all-weather usefulness.


• U.S. Market Price As Tested: $41,545

• Horsepower: 290 @ 6400 rpm

• Torque: 252 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 18.8 mpg


Exhibit A: the Hyundai Santa Fe, which is ostensibly a second-generation Hyundai Veracruz, a vehicle which joined many a three-row crossover in killing off vans like Hyundai’s own poorly named Entourage, which didn’t actually have an entourage of any kind. No following to speak of whatsoever.

Oh, there are still minivans. In 2015, Toyota will likely sell more than 150,000 Siennas in America for the first time since 2006. But total minivan volume is down 12% through the first-quarter of 2015 and minivans only accounted for 3.4% of all U.S. new vehicle sales in calendar year 2014, down from 6.5% a decade ago. 

Perhaps you’ve decided that a minivan isn’t necessary, yet you’re not yet ready to lose all the practicality. You’re asking yourself, “How much seating flexibility do I need?” For those who answer, “Not all that much, actually,” Hyundai has a solution. Take the bigger seven-seat Santa Fe, not the Santa Fe Sport, and allow passengers to luxuriate in the space created by the removal of one middle-row seat.

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe XL rear

Inside the Santa Fe, we’re now distancing ourselves rather far from eight-seat minivans and their near-40 cubic feet of space behind the third row – the Santa Fe has but 13.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the third row – but we’re also dealing with a much smaller vehicle overall. The Santa Fe is seven inches shorter, bumper to bumper, than a 2015 Toyota Sienna, four inches narrower, and two inches shorter at the roof. Compared with a top-trim AWD Sienna, the Santa Fe is 650 pounds lighter, as well.

As a result, we’ve also distanced ourselves from the era where enthusiasts decried the ess-you-vee because, in part, “Minivans are so much more carlike.” True, the Santa Fe is a big crossover with a comfort-minded suspension setup, but it’s no bus. Even compared with the much improved 2015 Sienna, America’s best-selling minivan so far this year, the Santa Fe’s on-road behaviour is markedly superior. You don’t buy either vehicle to film an audition for Furious 8, but if you’re in sudden need of a rural road hustle, this prototypical successor to the SUV of yore is undeniably the one I’d take.

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe interior dark

And not only because the Santa Fe simply doesn’t handle poorly. Frankly, the 3.3L, 290-horsepower V6 feels genuinely mighty in the Santa Fe.

Throttle tip-in is measured, acceleration is brisk, torque is always at the ready, and the 6-speed automatic thankfully does its job as an automatic transmission ought to: by not drawing any attention to itself.

Observed fuel economy of 19 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving was on par with the official EPA combined figure but would have been better had I not sought satisfaction in the act of hurling the Santa Fe down highway on-ramps.

Not remotely unpleasant to drive then, but is time spent inside the Santa Fe enjoyable? Loaned to us for a week in April by Hyundai Canada, this is, in Canadian-speak, a $45K Santa Fe XL Limited, equivalent in the U.S. to a $41,545 Santa Fe Limited with the $4650 Ultimate package. (Santa Fes start at $31,045 in the U.S. All-wheel-drive adds $1,750.)

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe XL collage

Proximity access, panoramic sunroofs, heated steering wheels, heated rear seats, ventilated front seats, two-position memory seats, and power liftgates tend to alter verdicts in the auto reviewer world. Indeed, the predictable Hyundai feature load doesn’t hurt. But I enjoyed the Santa Fe’s interior more because of the appropriate six-seat space utilization than the 19-inch alloys, leather seating, or hands-free tailgate (which never works for me anyway.) The third row is by no means voluminous, but there’s room for adult feet under the second row seats, there are separate climate controls, and access to the third row is more straightforward thanks to the gap in the middle row. Both second-row seats can be moved forward a couple of inches without sacrificing the ability to stretch out and get comfortable. For little people, the beltline will be too high for scenic enjoyment, but then again, if you’ve forked out enough coin, your children can scan the skies through the glass roof.

A minivan buyer who’s considering a Santa Fe, or vice versa, may not be so interested in the six-seat version of the Hyundai. But for consumers who don’t require seven-seat capacity, the removal of that seat makes a big difference in the way people live and move and stretch out aft of the parents.

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe XL collage 2

Yet if the Santa Fe isn’t a minivan alternative, what about more direct rivals? I’d take the Toyota Highlander’s interior layout (and its useful shelf up front), the 2016 Honda Pilot’s space behind the third row, the Mazda CX-9 on a twisty road, the Nissan Pathfinder’s smooth second-row operation, and the exterior styling of the Dodge Durango or Ford Flex. In certain areas, there are three-row crossovers that outperform the Hyundai. But the 2015 Santa Fe is a difficult vehicle to fault, particularly because of its powerplant and the value we’ve come to expect from Hyundai, especially in lower trim levels.

Just don’t assume it’s quite as family-friendly as a minivan. None of those crossovers can pull off that trick.

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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2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4×4 Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/2015-nissan-pathfinder-4x4-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/2015-nissan-pathfinder-4x4-review-video/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 12:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1049737 Nissan’s path to the modern Pathfinder has been long and wandering. In 1985 the 2-door truck based Pathfinder was the answer to Chevy’s Blazer and Ford’s Bronco. In 1995 Nissan changed absolutely everything and made the Pathfinder a 5-door unibody SUV to compete head-on with Jeep’s successful Grand Cherokee. Nine years later, Nissan started over, […]

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2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Exterior

Nissan’s path to the modern Pathfinder has been long and wandering. In 1985 the 2-door truck based Pathfinder was the answer to Chevy’s Blazer and Ford’s Bronco. In 1995 Nissan changed absolutely everything and made the Pathfinder a 5-door unibody SUV to compete head-on with Jeep’s successful Grand Cherokee. Nine years later, Nissan started over, yet again, with a body-on-frame design to do battle with the myriad of General Motors midsize SUVs choking up suburban expressways. Then, in 2013, Nissan went back to the drawing board for a fourth time with a new mission: build a spacious and well-priced soft-roader to battle the new Explorer and the GM Lambda platform triplets (Acadia, Traverse, Enclave).

Exterior

Before we dive deep into the Pathfinder, we have to identify this breed’s natural habitat, and that means forgetting every Pathfinder that came before. While you’ll still find WD21 Pathfinders climbing rocks, this Pathfinder is more at home on the school run. I mentioned GM’s Lambda CUVs earlier because this Pathfinder is big. Really big. That means the Pathfinder isn’t the most direct competitor to entries like the Kia Sorento that’s more than a foot smaller or even the Toyota Highlander that is 6 inches shorter. The mission of the Sorento and Highlander is to carry 4-5 adults in comfort while providing a third row for children, mothers-in-law or emergencies. The Pathfinder however was intended to carry 7 adults in relative comfort.

Because the new Pathfinder’s mission is people hauling, not rock climbing, you won’t find aggressive approach and departure angles on the nose and rump. Instead, we get slab sides, a variant of Nissan’s truck grille up front and a rather vertical hatch in the back. The overall look is simple and clean but lacks the excitement (yes, I used that word in a CUV review) you’d find in entries like the new Sorento.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Third Row Seat-001

Interior

The Pathfinder sports the most combined legroom in this segment (1st row + 2nd row + 3rd row) and combined legroom is important. Other entries claim to have more third row legroom (like the Traverse), but if the other two rows are cramped, you end up sliding those seats back cutting down on the room left in the mother-in-law-row. Looking deeper, the Traverse claims 3.4 inches more 3rd row room but you’ll find that the Chevy’s 1st row is 1 inch smaller and the middle row is 5 inches smaller. This means with the driver’s seat adjusted ideally for me at 6-feet tall (not giving a toss about the folks in the back) I can adjust the second row seat to have 2-3 inches of leg room and have a similar 2-3 inches of legroom in the third row of the Pathfinder as well. I’m a little surprised Nissan chose not to make an 8-passenger version of the Pathfinder because the 3rd row is as accommodating as the Highlander’s 3-seat rear bench. Speaking of the Highlander, you’ll notice upper trims come only with captains chairs in the middle row, meaning passenger number five has to sit in the cramped third row.

The second reason to buy a Pathfinder is for the trick second row seat. If you’re a parent with two or three child seats in the middle row, you’ll appreciate that Nissan designed the 40% section of the bench to contort in a way that allows adults to get in to the third row. While it is possible to get into the back in other 3-row vehicles with a child seat in the middle, it isn’t easy.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Second Row Folding Child Seat

Legroom isn’t everything, of course, so Nissan kept the roofline high at the rear of the Pathfinder giving a generous 37.8 inches of 3rd row headroom. If you want this kind of room without a Nissan logo on the hood, you’ll be looking at full-size SUVs. I am talking Suburban-sized since the Tahoe actually offers 6 inches less total legroom than the Pathfinder. If you need something bigger than that, you’re in Blue Bird bus territory.

The Pathfinder’s generous legroom comes at a price: the small cargo area. Admittedly, the 16 cubic feet of space behind the last row is 1 more than you get in the Tahoe, but it’s 8 less than the Traverse and 23 less than the Suburban. So, while the Pathfinder is as accommodating as a Suburban for 7 adults, you can’t fit 7 suitcases in the back.

Also on the down side is a cabin that’s starting to show its age. The seats are class leading in terms of comfort, but the cabin is full of hard plastics. I’m not one to bash hard plastics off-hand, but casting the primary dashboard touch points out of hard plastic is unusual in this segment and it makes entries like the Durango, Sorento and Enclave look and feel more premium.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Interior Infotainment.CR2

Infotainment

Although the Pathfinder isn’t that old, the base “S” trim gets you a 6-speaker audio system and in-dash 6-CD changer … and that’s it. No Bluetooth, no AUX input and no USB/iPod interface. If you want those, you have to step up to the $32,990 SV trim which includes a 7-inch infotainment LCD. Although I dislike the stripper trim concept, you should know the SV is still about $2,000 less than a comparable Highlander. (Keep in mind Toyota’s base model lacks a V6.) SL Tech trims get an 8-inch infotainment display and the same 13-speaker Bose sound system as the Infiniti QX60. At $38,090, it’s also the cheapest way to get navigation. Any way you slice it, however, Nissan’s infotainment options are a step behind the new entries like the Sorento, Highlander, Durango and 2016 Pilot.

On the up-side, Nissan’s touchscreen infotainment system was one of my favorites last decade, so in terms of functionality it fares quite well. GM’s Lambda SUVs all get small infotainment screens set low in the dashboard due to the age of the platforms and, interestingly, a Traverse with navigation is just $250 less. On the down-side, the Pathfinder is at least five years behind the rest, especially compared to Toyota and Chrysler’s latest systems. GM’s refreshed infotainment options in the Lambda CUVs operate on a smaller 6.5-inch screen but look more modern.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 AWD control

Drivetrain

Under the hood lies Nissan’s ubiquitous 3.5-liter V6 tuned to 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque, 5 hp and 8 lb-ft less than the same engine in the QX60. In addition to being down a few ponies compared to its luxury cousin, it’s also the least powerful in its class. As you would expect from Nissan, power is sent to the front wheels via a CVT, but this one has been revised to handle a 5,000 lb tow rating. The new transmission uses a steel chain instead of a steel belt for durability, but importantly the ratios stay more-or-less unchanged. Nissan’s reps confirmed the transmission is the primary reason for the QX60 and Pathfinder’s different tow ratings.

If towing with a FWD crossover doesn’t sound like fun, $1,690 buys you AWD. The system normally defaults to FWD mode for improved fuel economy but as a (small) nod to the Pathfinder’s history, the system has a lock mode mechanically connecting the front and rear differentials so power flows 50:50 (front:rear). Unlike more traditional transfer case setups, the clutch-pack allows a small amount of slip so the system can be used on dry pavement without binding. Leaving the AWD system in “Auto” keeps power to the front unless fairly significant slippage occurs (in order to improve fuel economy).

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Gauges

Drive

The Pathfinder is loosely based on Nissan’s D-Platform which underpins the Altima, Murano and the last generation Maxima. One thing all those vehicles have in common is being light for their category and that’s true of the Pathfinder as well. At 4,317 lbs in FWD trim and topping out at 4,506 in AWD trim, that’s about the same weight as Toyota’s Highlander V6 and 300-500 lbs lighter than a comparable GM crossover. The weight reduction and other efficiency differences pay dividends with real world fuel economy in the AWD model coming in around 21.5 MPG in mixed driving. That’s around 11 percent better than the Traverse, 15 percent better than the Enclave and 18 percent better than the Tahoe on my same fuel economy route. While a few MPG doesn’t sound like much, at this end of the scale it equates to $450 lower annual fuel bills vs the Buick.

The comparatively light curb weight and CVT compensate for the lower torque numbers and allowed our tester to scoot to 60 in 7.1 seconds. While not the fastest in the pack, this is better than the majority of three row crossovers on the market. This is despite the CVT’s final drive ratio being tuned toward fuel economy. The CVT’s main benefit is it allows the engine to hang out at the peak of its power band for maximum acceleration. For 2015, Nissan programmed the CVT to imitate a traditional stepped automatic when in “D.” Not surprisingly this results in lower performance because it negates the major benefit of a CVT in the first place and actually causes a 2/10th longer run to 60 (7.3 seconds) than when the transmission is in “L” and ditches the imitation shifts.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Exterior Hitch Receiver

Everything has a trade off and so it is with the Pathfinder. The CVT’s low ratio isn’t terribly low at 13.5:1 (low gear and final drive), this doesn’t compare all that well with the lower 15.2:1 that you find in the Ford Explorer and higher overall than basically all the competition. This tall starting ratio conspires with the soft springs and compliant sway bars to make the Pathfinder feel about 1,000 lbs heavier on the road. In the stop-light races, most of the competition will beat the Pathfinder to 30 mph because of that ratio choice. Past 30, the Pathfinder picks up steam and may win the race overall, but in the real world that 0-30 time is more important.

More than most new cars, we have to separate lateral grip from handling “feel” when discussing this Nissan. Why? Because the Pathfinder actually road-holds as well as a Mazda CX-9 according to most publications (TTAC doesn’t have access to a skidpad) but the feeling is night and day different. Steering turn-in is lazy. Soft springs that give one of the best rides in the segment make body roll excessive. There’s plenty of pitch and dive when accelerating and braking. This is the prefect example of numbers not giving you the complete picture. The Pathfinder is faster than almost all of the competition, it stops from 60 mph in a short 125 feet and pulls lateral Gs like a Mazda crossover. Get behind the wheel however and the Pathfinder feels enormous.

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Exterior-007

Towing with a CVT is an unusual experience to say the least. I attached a 5,000 trailer and gave it a whirl. As expected, the tall starting ratio in the transmission makes for sluggish starts, but when I started climbing hills things went just fine. Like Chrysler’s 8-speed automatic, the ability to find an “ideal” ratio for the moment is what saves the Pathfinder here. Sure, you hear plenty of the 3.5-liter V6 in the cabin when the engine is revving its nuts off, but it feels peppier on a 15 percent grade than a GMC Acadia with the same trailer.

With the Pathfinder, Nissan has created one of the best crossovers on paper. It has legroom to spare, the highest fuel economy among its direct competition, and delivers great acceleration, braking and handling numbers, but it looses something by the time you add it all up and drive one yourself. Perhaps the toll to be paid for checking every box the crossover shopper wants is engagement. The Pathfinder is a crossover I have recommended and will continue to recommend if you want an honest to goodness usable third row and great fuel economy. It also remains one of the better buys in this segment thanks to its low starting price and aggressive equipment bundles. Unfortunately, if driving pleasure, interior refinement, or modern infotainment are higher on your shopping list, there are better options.

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

Specifications as testesd

0-30: 2.7 Seconds

0-60: 7.1 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.24 Seconds @ 93 MPH

2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 AWD control 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Cargo Area 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Cargo Area-001 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Cargo Area1 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Cargo Area-002 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Cargo Area-003 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Center Console 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Engine 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Engine-001 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Exterior Hitch Receiver 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Exterior 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Exterior-001 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Exterior-002 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Exterior-003 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Exterior-004 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Exterior-005 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Exterior-006 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Exterior-007 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Gauges 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Instrument Cluster 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Interior Dashboard 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Interior Dashboard-001 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Interior Dashboard-002 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Interior Infotainment.CR2 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Interior Infotainment 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Interior 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Power Seat Controls 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Rear Air Vent 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Rear Air Vent1 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Seats 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Second Row Child Seat 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Second Row Folding Child Seat 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Second Row Seat 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Second Row 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Second Row-001 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Second Row-002 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Start Stop Button 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Third Row Seat 2015 Nissan Pathfinder 4x4 Third Row Seat-001

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Canada Loans €400M to Volkswagen for Chance at Supplier Table http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/canada-loans-e400m-volkswagen-chance-supplier-table/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/canada-loans-e400m-volkswagen-chance-supplier-table/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 11:35:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055073 As Volkswagen plans to expand in Chattanooga and Puebla, the Canadian government is loaning €400 million ($433.8 million USD) to the German automaker in exchange for possible future supplier business. Export Development Canada, a Crown corporation (an entity owned entirely by the Government of Canada), announced the “financing is designed to create opportunities for qualified small and medium-sized […]

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Volkswagen Chattanooga Tower

As Volkswagen plans to expand in Chattanooga and Puebla, the Canadian government is loaning €400 million ($433.8 million USD) to the German automaker in exchange for possible future supplier business.

Export Development Canada, a Crown corporation (an entity owned entirely by the Government of Canada), announced the “financing is designed to create opportunities for qualified small and medium-sized Canadian companies to win new business with the global automotive giant as they grow their operations in North America.” The loan is being extended to Volkswagen with “market-rate interest and administrative fees.”

“There’s no doubt Canada needs Volkswagen more than Volkswagen needs Canada,” said Phil Taylor, spokesperson for EDC, to the Windsor Star.

The financial agreement gives smaller Canadian companies exposure to Volkswagen as they tool up their North American operations for future product. Suppliers can register their products or services on a website run by EDC.

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BREAKING: Piëch Resigns Chairmanship, Winterkorn Continues as CEO at VW http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/breaking-piech-resigns-chairmanship-winterkorn-continues-ceo-vw/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/breaking-piech-resigns-chairmanship-winterkorn-continues-ceo-vw/#comments Sat, 25 Apr 2015 17:26:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1054273 While Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn wears bruises from the conflict, Ferdinand Piëch has paid the ultimate of price and resigned his chairmanship with immediate effect. According to Reuters, the ongoing row between CEO and Chairman at Volkswagen eased this past week, but when the group’s supervisory board put their support behind Winterkorn, the 78-year-old grandson of Ferry Porsche was […]

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"It wasn't Domino's. Someone delivered Wiedekings head." Piech and Winterkorn.  Picture courtesy handelsblatt.de

While Chief Executive Martin Winterkorn wears bruises from the conflict, Ferdinand Piëch has paid the ultimate of price and resigned his chairmanship with immediate effect.

According to Reuters, the ongoing row between CEO and Chairman at Volkswagen eased this past week, but when the group’s supervisory board put their support behind Winterkorn, the 78-year-old grandson of Ferry Porsche was left “isolated” in a five-to-one vote. Sources told the newswire service Piëch’s decision to not support Winterkorn put his own position in jeopardy. Piëch’s wife, Ursula, also resigned her positions within the company.

Piëch will be replaced by Deputy Chairman Berthold Huber in the interim. A vote on when a new Chairman will be chosen has not been announced.

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Dispatches do Brasil: Renault Re-Invents Itself in Latin America http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/dispatches-brasil-renault-re-invents-latin-america/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/dispatches-brasil-renault-re-invents-latin-america/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 16:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053257 Among the first to come to Brazil when the market was opened up again in the 1990s – after a hiatus of almost 50 years when this country closed itself off to the world – Renault has seemingly reached a limit in Brazil. Its market participation has hovered around 6 percent for years. Now, hungry for […]

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Renault Logan

Renault Logan

Among the first to come to Brazil when the market was opened up again in the 1990s – after a hiatus of almost 50 years when this country closed itself off to the world – Renault has seemingly reached a limit in Brazil. Its market participation has hovered around 6 percent for years. Now, hungry for more, the French company is showing its new plans that will deeply affect their operations in Latin America at large and shake up their manufacturing base in South America, most especially Mercosur (namely Brazil and Argentina).

When their Ayrton Senna factory was opened in São José dos Pinhais in Paraná state, their line was in tune to what they produced in Europe. They offered the Clio, Kangoo, Mégane and Scénic. With an emphasis on safety, even the lowly Clio offered dual frontal airbags. At that time, the relative parity between the Brazilian real and American dollar allowed them to import systems such as the aforementioned airbags on the cheap. The minivan Scénic offered space for five, a large trunk, modular seating and became a favorite for families. The Mégane and Kangoo meanwhile suffered at the hands of more established competition and never made a dent in Volkswagen Golf, Fiat Stilo or Ford Focus sales. The Fiat Doblò passenger and commercial versions plus the Uno-based Fiat Fiorino conspired to keep the Kangoo down.

In the Brazilian market, reception was mixed. At the entry level, the Clio had lukewarm success. The majority of compact level car buyers are not exactly flush with money, so buying a new entry into that market was seen as a risky proposition. The Scénic and other minivans slowly, but surely, decimated the station wagons then available on the market. Together with Citroën minivans, Renault owned that market. As it became a favorite, the prices of this type of car rose above the rest of the competition and became expensive to buy.

Undeniably, Renault and other French makes suffered a perception problem. While most think their engines are robust and can take the pressure, suspension systems were and remain under suspicion in the eyes of Brazilian consumers. So, despite placing rather high in consumer satisfaction surveys, Renaults take a hit at re-sale time.

Brazilian Clio

Brazilian Clio

Over the years the American dollar and euro appreciated against the Brazilian real and growing sales plateaued. Renault’s reaction was to cheapen their offerings. Soon, the Clio lost its airbags, losing its appeal to the better off buyers that seemed to favor it over the VW Gol or Fiat Uno. When it was re-designed, it kept the previous car’s internal design. A new Scénic was launched in Europe, but citing cost complications, Renault chose to keep building the old one. Renault also tried to gain market penetration by locally building and selling a Mégane sedan and station wagon. Inevitably, Renault’s line became outmoded and nothing on offer in Europe was sold here.

Of course, errors in reading the market collaborated to their downfall. In the early 2000s, Renault was challenging Ford for fourth place in the Brazilian market. Ford reacted by launching the EcoSport and new Fiesta, new engines, and soon saw the distance between it and Renault grow. Besides the cheapening and non-updating of the line, beginner errors abounded. In Brazil, the Scénic was a solid middle class car, even higher middle class, and not the cheap and cheerful family transportation pod it was in Europe. As such, Brazilian dealers clamored for black and silver Scénics while the French continued offering it in purple, red and other colors the middle class rejected. The Clio, besides keeping the same interiors forever, never changed wheel cover designs or had new versions launched (tricks in which the traditional Brazilian Big Four – Fiat, GM, Volkswagen and Ford – are experts).

In the late 2000s, Renault re-made itself in Brazil. The Scénic was gone. The Kangoo was now only a commercial vehicle. The Clio soldiered on unmolested and seemingly only existed so Renault could keep a foot in the entry-level market. A solution was found though and it was the result of the deepening of the synergies and integration within the scope of the global Renault-Nissan Alliance.

Renault underwent the so-called “Dacia-lization” (Dacia being a Romanian company that Renault uses as its low-cost brand in Europe). The Logan, Sandero and eventually the Duster were launched. In spite of the insipid design, the cars used a Renault-Dacia version of a modern Nissan platform. The Logan family’s claim to fame and a space in the market was that it offered a lot of space for modest prices. Size-wise similar to Focus and Toyota Corolla type cars (sometimes even bigger, trunks tended to be larger), but priced similarly to smaller cars like Gol or Fiat Siena, they appealed to a more rational buyer. After a few years, with the launch of the Duster CUV, Renault was again encroaching on Ford and distancing itself from the Asian brands that were finally “acclimatizing” (by offering compact cars similar to market favorites) to Brazil and had been threatening Renault’s (by then traditional) fifth place in Brazilian sales rankings.

Nov-Ford-Ka-SEL-2015 (3)

As the 2000s became the 2010s, Renault was again under assault. Competition grew. Everybody copied their idea of a larger cars for more modest prices. Fiat launched a bigger Palio and a Grand Siena. Volkswagen do Brasil got into the compact sedan market again with its Voyage. Ford brought the new Fiesta and conjured up the highly competitive new Ka. GM came strong based off of its GM Korea know-how and re-invented themselves in Brazil, becoming the leader of in-car mobile electronics. Toyota got serious in Brazil and the Etios family has been gaining ground, horrible design notwithstanding, based on modern mechanics and a good ride. Hyundai’s HB20 has done the opposite: it has conquered image conscious consumers due to the success of it fluidic design language, in spite of the bad ride. All these companies and cars offered up new technologies and engines, bringing more fuel economy to buyers, extra gadgets and crept up on the Logan family’s cost benefit advantage.

Reacting, Renault has launched a re-designed Logan and Sandero. Though the new designs have been well-accepted and increased sales, this growth has been deemed insufficient. Both Hyundai and Toyota routinely sell more than Renault on a monthly basis and could soon take fifth place in overall sales. As such, Renault studied its South American operations and has cooked up a plan.

Renault Oroch Concept

Renault Oroch Concept

An “un-Dacia-lization” of sorts seems to be in place. Logan and Sandero production is being moved to Argentina. The company is investing heavily in their ancient Santa Isabela factory in that country. Duster production will be kept in Brazil and soon the Oroch pickup (based on the Duster and rumored to be a 1 ton pickup) will be launched. From what the press has been able to piece together, both Duster and Moroch will be produced off of the current platform and updates will be infrequent, following the age-old strategy of competing on price and, also, space. The Duster is larger than EcoSport and the recently launched Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V and Peugeot 2008. The Moroch will dwarf the current Fiat Strada (new, larger version of which has been seen tooling around the factory), VW Saveiro and the old-as-the-hills, barely competitive Chevrolet Montana.

The Moroch however is an indication of the deepening of the CUV event horizon presciently seen by our recently departed Derek Kreindler. Renault is going all-CUV-in. The Renault Captur, a current Clio-based mini CUV is a foregone conclusion. Renault is not even hiding it anymore and it has been seen around the factory in Paraná and on highway tests. This lends credence to the thesis Renault is re-inventing itself. The new Brazilian Clio, the same again as the Euro Clio, should also appear soon, albeit placed in a category above the current Brazilian Clio’s status. Suppliers also say Renault is quoting prices for a sedan version of the Clio (non-existent in Europe) and indicative of the soon to come demise of its midsize sedan offering, the Fluence. Informed journalists in Brazil have stated that the Espace, Renault’s large (and former) minivan, which has turned into a sort of a CUV, is slated to be introduced in Brazil in 2016 as a locally-produced offering.

The current Brazilian Clio is also on its last days. Though reports are conflicting, either a version of Nissan’s own low-cost brand Datsun Go will be built here in Brazil, or a version of the concept recently shown in world Auto Shows by Nissan called the Sway (supposedly an early version of a substitute for the March/Micra line), could gain a Renault badge and come strong in the lower echelons of the Brazilian market.

Meanwhile, in Argentina, besides the heavy modernizing investments at the local plant and the responsibility of building the Logan family, current cars will remain in production. And very interestingly, the new Frontier/Navara pickup that will used by Mercedes Benz to offer its own global midsize pickup (compact PU for Americans) will also gain a Renault badge for sale, initially, all over Latin America. Internally called the Raptur, this will be Renault’s first incursion into the traditional midsize pickup market. It is an important step and will allow Renault to compete in an important market spanning the entirety of Latin America. Coming soon (reports say early 2016) you could soon take your pick and buy your midsize pickup in your preferred flavor – Nissan, Mercedes or Renault – as they will all be built side-by-side at the Argentinian factory.

The next few years will be very important for Renault in Latin America. It will keep and modernize entry-level cars. It will continue offering competitively priced compact cars that offer a bit more and are the bulk of the Brazilian market. It will make new tries, with new product, to gain a presence in upper middle-class garages by “Euro-pizing” its Brazilian production. It will sell CUVs for all pockets. Pickups, small and large will further broaden Renault’s Latin American presence.

If this will be enough to keep Toyota and Hyundai at bay remains to be seen. However, it seems if they will be offering cars, CUVs and trucks, the market wants. Sounds like a plan.

Brazilian Clio Ayrton Senna Factory Hyundai HB20 Nissan Frontier Renault Oroch Concept Santa Isabela Factory Renault Logan Renault Captur European Clio Renault Fluence Renault Kangoo Express Toyota Etios

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Mercedes Slapped With $56M Fine in China for “Price Fixing” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/mercedes-slapped-56m-fine-china-price-fixing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/mercedes-slapped-56m-fine-china-price-fixing/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1052089 The Chinese province of Jiangsu has levied a 350 million yuan ($56 million USD) fine against Mercedes-Benz in continued efforts to break perceived monopolies in car and part sales. It’s the largest fine given to an automaker to date. The latest fine aimed at a foreign automaker comes after similar actions against a “Chinese venture of […]

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Mercedes-Maybach-S600-Pullman

The Chinese province of Jiangsu has levied a 350 million yuan ($56 million USD) fine against Mercedes-Benz in continued efforts to break perceived monopolies in car and part sales. It’s the largest fine given to an automaker to date.

The latest fine aimed at a foreign automaker comes after similar actions against a “Chinese venture of Volkswagen and a sales unit of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ Chrysler division” amounted to a combined $46 million, says the report from Automotive News. The specifics of the Mercedes fine point at the automaker forcing dealers to set minimum prices for cars and spare parts. The pricing regulator in Jiangsu province also fined Mercedes dealers to the tune of 7.7 million yuan ($1.25 million USD).

Mercedes-Benz China said they accept the decision taken by the provincial pricing regulator and has “taken all appropriate steps” to comply with the law in the future.

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QOTD: How Would You Rename All The Lincolns? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-rename-lincolns/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-rename-lincolns/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 10:31:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1051921 Continental. Zepher. Coronation. Lincoln has some great names in its history – much better than the MK-add-a-letter-here nomenclature of today. Actually, if your model naming scheme is best described as nomenclature, you’re probably doing it wrong. I won’t bore you with the Lincoln history you already know. Wikipedia can do that for me. I just want to talk […]

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Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 7.06.36 AM

Continental. Zepher. Coronation. Lincoln has some great names in its history – much better than the MK-add-a-letter-here nomenclature of today. Actually, if your model naming scheme is best described as nomenclature, you’re probably doing it wrong.

I won’t bore you with the Lincoln history you already know. Wikipedia can do that for me. I just want to talk about names, anyway.

Yesterday, the news Lincoln may use proper model names was met with great joy amongst the Best & Brightest. And for good reason. The Continental has always been gorgeous in the most American way possible. It’s a massive barge of freedom; as much as 2.85 Imperial tons of freedom in the ’60s. That’s a lot of freedom.

But, what about every other model in the current Lincoln lineup? What other names from Lincoln’s past (or future…*dun dun dun*) could be used to rename its current set of cars and SUVs?

Also, don’t bother renaming the MKT. We’ll just assume it’s dead so this process is easier on all of us.

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2015 Infiniti QX70S RWD Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-infiniti-qx70s-rwd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-infiniti-qx70s-rwd/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 16:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1050265 Fifteen years ago, buying a practical luxury car to replace a Honda Accord meant going down to your BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, or occasionally, Audi showroom and coming back with a 5-Series, E-Class, GS, or if you were particularly brave, an A6. All these brands except Audi had SUVs at the time though, but they were hardly replacements […]

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2015 Infiniti QX70

Fifteen years ago, buying a practical luxury car to replace a Honda Accord meant going down to your BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, or occasionally, Audi showroom and coming back with a 5-Series, E-Class, GS, or if you were particularly brave, an A6. All these brands except Audi had SUVs at the time though, but they were hardly replacements for a midsize luxury sport sedan. The Mercedes ML handled like a truck while the RX300 wasn’t exactly intended for the sport sedan driver, something emphasized by the number of moms and AARP members who bought them at the time. Meanwhile, my dad test drove an X5 and 5-Series back to back and promptly bought a 530i.

But no one fifteen years ago would have considered Infiniti, whose only rear-drive sedan was the full-size Q45, which no one bought. A few years later, Infiniti went through a product renaissance, bringing out the Infiniti G35 (which many people bought), the M (the one based on the JDM Nissan Gloria few people bought), and an updated Q45 (which even fewer people bought). In 2003, they also brought out a sporty crossover – the FX. It was meant to compete with the X5, Porsche Cayenne, and XC90, but the FX was dramatically better on-road than off-road compared to most of its competitors. The FX, despite being smaller and not capable of tackling off-road trails, became a sales success for Infiniti.

And that success influenced its competition. The Cayenne became less off-road oriented, losing its dedicated two-range transfer case and getting much more rounded styling. BMW ended up creating the X6 from the X5. Acura joined the fray with the ZDX. Mercedes is finally entering the “crossover-coupe” market with the GLE Coupe.

Meanwhile, Infiniti now calls the FX the QX70 as part of Infiniti’s new naming system. It was last redesigned in 2008, around the time the X6 was released. The V8 is no longer available. Instead of the rounded trapezoid grille, the grille is now shaped like a wide rounded hourglass with a massive Infiniti emblem in the center.

First off, I cannot complain about the QX70’s performance, especially with the $3,550 Sport Package. Though the active rear steering and continuous damping control features that used to be part of the sport package are gone for 2015, the QX70 handled like any other sport package-equipped midsize luxury sedan. Driving it on the country roads around my house, the QX70 stuck to the road in corners at speeds where most SUVs would begin squealing their tires largely thanks to its black-colored 21-inch Enkei wheels. The 3.7-liter V6 had plenty of power handy while the seven-speed transmission was always selecting the right gear during my period of spirited driving.

The sport package also added to the visual effects of the QX70 with the aforementioned Enkei wheels, a black painted front grille, roof rails, and miscellaneous exterior and interior trim bits. It further included heated and cooled seats with power-adjustable bolsters. However, as good as the Sport Package was on a smooth and winding roads, I didn’t like it on the highway; the ride was compromised by the potholes and uneven pavement surfaces of Northern California’s roads. If you care more for the ride, but want upgraded interior trim and the heated/cooled seats, select the $3,300 Deluxe Touring Package which comes with 20-inch wheels too.

As for the interior, the front seats were very comfortable. I drove the QX70S to Napa from San Jose and back in one day (probably four to five hours of driving total) and I or my passenger didn’t feel stiff at all. An aspect of the seat some potential buyers might dislike is that the lumbar support is only adjustable two ways (forwards and backwards). Hopefully, future QX70 models can correct that. Additionally, thanks to the high seating position, I had a much better view of the road unlike most sedans. However, while the front seats are satisfying, there isn’t enough legroom for rear seat passengers. While the back seats are fine for children, most adults can tolerate sitting in the back of the QX70 for two hours at the most, though adults who are well over six feet won’t like sitting in the back at all. As a result, if you regularly travel with many passengers, getting a larger crossover or a midsize luxury sedan may be a better call.

Another aspect of the interior I noticed was that the trunk doesn’t have much more room than a large sedan thanks to the rakish styling. It would be difficult to fit a normal bicycle inside the interior even with all the rear seats folded down. Despite the lack of cargo space, Infiniti does include a temporary spare tire under the trunk placed around the Bose subwoofer. Additionally, I didn’t like the oval-shaped analog clock in the dashboard, which I thought detracted from the sporty interior theme of the QX70. I’m hoping an updated version of the QX70 will have a much-better designed clock.

When it comes to the onboard toys, which is where most Infinitis shine, the QX70 oddly lacks a few key features like the availability of a blind spot monitoring or warning system. However, my test car had the Lane Departure Warning system, part of the $2.950 Technology Package, which does sound if the wheels go onto the shoulder. When I was driving the QX70 on the highway, I ended up turning off the Lane Departure Warning since whenever I swerved to avoid potholes or uneven pavement surfaces (which happens with regularity on California highways), the alarm would sound. The car was also equipped with Forward Collision Warning, warning me if the car in front suddenly slowed down; and Distance Control Assist, which assessed the gap between me and the car in front. Both features were quite useful.

On the subject of fuel economy, the QX70S didn’t deliver as good numbers as I’d hoped. The EPA figures are 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway with 19 mpg combined for the rear-drive model. All-wheel-drive models are rated at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway with 18 mpg combined. For a modern crossover with a V6, the QX70 should deliver better numbers, preferably well over 20 mpg combined. Though I managed around 22.5 miles per gallon, indicated by the display in the gauge cluster, that figure was achieved with plenty of highway driving. Once you hit stop-and-go traffic, fuel economy immediately begins to suffer thanks to the amount of fuel needed to sustain all 3.7 liters of that V6.

The price of my rear-drive QX70 test car came to $58,085 with a $995 destination charge, which is in line with most midsize luxury sport sedans that have similar levels of equipment. Considering a six-cylinder BMW X6, Porsche Cayenne, and the upcoming Mercedes GLE Coupe have prices well above $60,000 with a similar level of equipment (though they all have all-wheel-drive standard), the Infiniti is priced very well. Even at its base price of $46,845 including destination, there’s a plenty of standard equipment such as the Bose sound system, the Infiniti Intelligent key, the 10-way power seats, power-folding mirrors, and power liftgate.

In conclusion, if you want something different from the usual Lexus GS or BMW 5-Series, appreciate a high riding height, don’t want to pay the insane prices for a Porsche Cayenne or BMW X6, and don’t need a large three-row luxury SUV like an Acura MDX or Audi Q7, the Infiniti QX70 might fill that gap. It handles very, very well while maintaining a degree of comfort for the driver and lacks the extra weight and complexity of its competitors. In this day and age, it’s now possible to consider a crossover rather than a sport sedan, and the QX70 is a solid choice if you want a tall, well-handling touring vehicle all to yourself.

Infiniti provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas for the review. 

Satish Kondapavulur is a writer for Clunkerture, where about a fifth of the articles are about old cars and where his one-time LeMons racing dreams came to an end once he realized it was impossible to run a Ferrari Mondial. His current car is an E39 BMW 530i with an automatic transmission, no sports package, and a newly fixed cooling system.

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Attack Of The Orphaned Acuras http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/attack-orphaned-acuras/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/attack-orphaned-acuras/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 15:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1042906 My friend and fellow auto journo Tyson Hugie is the ultimate Acura fanboy. He owns a 2013 Acura ILX 6-speed with the personalized plate ILX, a 1994 Legend GS Sedan 6-speed and a 1992 NSX 5-speed which just hit 100,000 miles. He was honored by American Honda for passing 500,000 miles on his 1994 Legend […]

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My friend and fellow auto journo Tyson Hugie is the ultimate Acura fanboy. He owns a 2013 Acura ILX 6-speed with the personalized plate ILX, a 1994 Legend GS Sedan 6-speed and a 1992 NSX 5-speed which just hit 100,000 miles. He was honored by American Honda for passing 500,000 miles on his 1994 Legend LS Coupe 6-speed. And he is currently searching for a Vigor 5-speed in Arcadia Green.

Hugie clearly has a case of ADHD – Acura Definite Hyperactivity Disorder.

So naturally we had to take his orphaned Acuras along with the greatest discontinued Honda ever – a S2000 roadster, my 2008 with 32,000 miles – for a run up Tucson’s twisty Catalina Highway to Mount Lemmon and bemoan the demise of these late, great Honda cars. All in the name of automotive research, of course.

We were joined by the owner of a 144,000-mile 1993 NSX 5-speed and a group of Southwest auto writers credited at the bottom of this post. We tried in vain to find an example of the other great discontinued Acura, an Integra R or GSR. We recently wrote about this 1997 R in Phoenix, but it was in the process of being sold for $43,000, and every other one we spotted on Craigslist had aftermarket rear wings too tall for the low hanging trees on our drive. Apparently original 1990s Integras are as rare as original 1990s Legends.

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Kulikowski joked about us doing a running Le Mans start to see who could grab an NSX for first leg. I hopped in Hugie’s 1992 and was first struck by how low the car sits; I was actually looking up at the S2000. The mid-engine NSX is simply sensational to drive, with 270 horses over your shoulder, the precise Honda stick shift and near-neutral cornering. Said Jason, “The NSX was intimidating to me at first but in typical Honda tradition, the car instantly felt familiar and easy to drive. Everything feels raw and mechanical. This is a sensation you just can’t find anymore.”

Both NSXs had over 100,000 miles on their clocks but you could barely tell, a testament to Honda durability. They were rock solid with not a squeak or rattle to be heard. I doubt there are many 100K Ferraris to be found in such condition. Whether you fall into the “it can’t be an exotic because it is a Honda” camp or the “it is built by Honda so it is an exotic that will not break” group, most will agree that the NSX is one of the greatest sports car ever sold in America.

Acura Fanatic: Tyson Hugie's 4 Acuras have a combined 901,224 miles

Tyson’s Corner: Acura fanatic Hugie’s 4 Acuras have a combined 901,224 miles

I had one of the first Gen 2 Legend Coupes as a “demo” back in 1991 and I still remember what a sensation it was at the time. I doubt I will ever drive a 500,000+ mile car as strong as Hugie’s coupe. We only drove the car briefly due to a dying clutch. The suspension was also a little iffy but the silky 6-cylinder motor pulled as willingly as the sedan’s. Amazingly, this Legend has only been towed once – when its original fuel pump let go at 399,750 miles. The car has been through seven timing belts and Hugie’s goal is seven more.

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It is no surprise that everyone loved the S2000. I told the gang that below 6,000 RPM, the Honda is the World’s Crappiest Miata: rough-riding, loud and not much torque. At that point the VTEC kicks in (yo!) and the motor screams towards its 8,200 rpm redline. This may be Honda’s greatest engine ever: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder with 240 horsepower in the original AP1 version, 237 horsepower from 2.2 liters in this second-generation AP2, or 7 more than in the Legends’ engines.  All agreed the convertible was the best car for the serpentine and smooth Catalina Highway and the sunny 70 degree weather we enjoyed.

As for that lack of low-end umph: I did have a ride in high school that had less torque. I don’t remember the model but I remember it was made by Schwinn.

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We all agreed on the car that surprised us the most: the 147,000-mile Legend Sedan. The last flagship Acura sedan available with a manual transmission, it was quiet, quick and comfortable. Said Pawela, “The big glass greenhouse and low dash made for an excellent view out. When it came time to toss this big boy around some corners, I was amazed how composed and level the body remained.” Thanks to Acura’s designers and its stealthy Desert Mist Metallic paint, the sedan was also voted the car “Most Likely to be Ignored by the Highway Patrol.”

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Both Legends came standard with a cool now-discontinued feature: AN ACTUAL NAME rather than being an “Acura RTIGLX.” Stop me if you have heard this one before: if Acura had kept the name “Legend” and stuffed a V8 under its hood, the luxury car landscape would be vastly different today.

Our chase car was a new Lexus RC350 (which we all loved for its great seats alone), allowing us to put the cars in perspective. Said Lee, “Having the Lexus kind of gave a unique experience – here, you have all these cars designed to be “driving” cars; there was a certain connection between the driver and the car. As the driver you felt a sense of control; in fractions of a second you have to decide if you need more or less steer, adjust your throttle or your braking. Going between the NSX, S2000, and the Legend 4-Door and then back into the Lexus you can see a massive difference in how and what a car is suppose to do.”

NSX in Mirror

Honda and Acura still sell mainstream cars with a sporty twist, but none like these. There is a revived S2000 and NSX on the horizon but they will feature turbos and hybrids, be bluetoothed and 27 air-bagged, and probably even have power steering which two of our testers lacked. In other words: the days of basic (read manual transmission and normally aspirated) unique, fun luxury and sports cars are dwindling due to the realities of today’s auto business. Build a screaming 4-cylinder convertible that only gets 18 mpg in town today? No way due to CAFE regulations. Put a stick shift in a luxury coupe? Who would buy it? Build an exotic mid-engine sports car? Sure, that will be $150,000 please – or more like $250,000 after Acura dealers are done ADMing the new NSX.

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The greatest compliment we can pay these classic vehicles is this: go check out the soaring prices being asked for clean, unmodified examples.

We plan to do Part Two this fall and it may take that long to find decent copies of an Integra GSR, CRX Si, CRX HF, and 4th generation Prelude. Or if Honda drops the CR-Z as they did recently with the Crosstour and Hugie finds his Vigor, we will find a Honda del Sol and take all four cars on another run – the Crappy Orphaned Hondas Tour…

Thanks to Tyson Hugie, James Lee, Jason Pawela, Peter Kulikowski, Kelvin Chang and photographer Beau MacDonnell for making this event happen!

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Lincoln Is Already Coming Back http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/lincoln-already-coming-back/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/lincoln-already-coming-back/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 13:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1049449 I remember back when I first wrote on The Truth About Cars that Lincoln, noted creator of cars for airport limo drivers, would make a comeback. The comments broke down like this: a few of you agreed with me. The rest of you accused me of being either a paid shill for Lincoln or an […]

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I remember back when I first wrote on The Truth About Cars that Lincoln, noted creator of cars for airport limo drivers, would make a comeback. The comments broke down like this: a few of you agreed with me. The rest of you accused me of being either a paid shill for Lincoln or an idiot, which, in your minds, appeared to be approximately the same thing.

Well, here we are two years later, and Lincoln is already clawing its way back.

I say this because I recently spent time in the MKC, which is a small luxury crossover designed to rival everyone else’s small luxury crossover: the Mercedes GLK, the Lexus NX, the Acura RDX, the Infiniti QX50, and a wide range of other models with indecipherable acronym names that make heavy use of the letter “X.”

And you know what? The Lincoln MKC is pretty damn good.

Let’s go over the details. It’s starts at $34,000, which makes it cheaper than virtually all its rivals. It gets better mileage than most of them, too. Options include rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, an automated parallel parking system, and one of the best infotainment systems in the entire industry. Yes, I know MyFord Touch sucked when it came out, but that was five years ago – and if you haven’t driven a car equipped with it since then, you’re missing out.

You can choose between two engines: a 240-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder and a 285-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder that offers more power than most rival V6s. There’s a standard backup camera. Standard voice control. Standard dual-zone automatic climate control. Standard keyless access with push-button start. Standard power front seats, which is something that Audi has been trying to figure out for the last two decades. In other words: on paper, this car is a worthy adversary for every single modern compact luxury crossover. It’s not some flag-waving also-ran.

And in practice?

In practice, it’s just as damn good. A few car journalists have knocked Lincoln interiors for offering a little too much cheap plastic, but I think these people need to spend time in other luxury SUVs. The Mercedes GLK interior looks like a factory for plastic. The RDX interior makes it seem like Acura is the largest consumer of plastic buttons outside the Target women’s department. Any objective person would say the MKC fits right in with these rivals.

And then there’s the driving experience. It’s quick. It’s comfortable. It’s plush. No, it’s no sports car, but let’s be honest: the MKC was never going to take down the BMW X3. Lincoln is going after the enormous “I want a luxurious luxury car” segment currently being abandoned by “Let’s Make It Look Crazy” Lexus, and they’re doing a damn good job.

All-New 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

So then we move to Lincoln’s “other” new product: the MKZ. I’ve driven the MKZ. I like the MKZ. I find the MKZ to be one of the most attractive new cars on sale, giant taillight and all. If I were interested in a smooth, comfortable luxury car, I’d find my way over to the Lincoln dealer long before I ever set foot in Lexus of My Hometown. Largely because the Lexus dealer scares me, since it looks like all the SUVs are going to eat my extremities.

Now, I know I’m in the minority when it comes to the MKZ, primarily due to its polarizing exterior styling. But you have to agree that this car, too, looks pretty damn good on paper. Turbo 4-cylinder. Optional V6. Available hybrid model that costs nothing extra and does 40 mpg in combined driving. Cheaper than Lexus, and more equipment. For those of us who don’t think it looks like a beached whale, this is a pretty damn good car.

And I suspect Lincoln will continue coming out with these damn good cars over the next few years. This is, after all, the same company that brought Ford from a football-shaped Taurus with a pushrod engine to a handsome, desirable Fusion in just a decade. They can do it with Lincoln, too.

Now, I’m the first to admit that Lincoln’s turnaround will be a long and bumpy one – especially if they believe their flagship vehicle, the Navigator, can continue in its current form as a warmed-over Expedition with a ten-year-old chassis and a fraction of the features its rivals have.

And then there’s the brand’s name. Cadillac has been turning around for a decade now, and you’d still get a nasty look from any non-car enthusiast if you told them you were buying a Cadillac. “A Cadillac?” they would say. “For you? Or your grandfather?” And then they would laugh and laugh, as they walk out to their cool new BMW or Audi, which aren’t associated with old people, but rather sorority girls from the North Shore of Long Island.

So it’s a long road ahead, but I think Lincoln is going about it the right way: by delivering high-quality products packed with features, loaded with equipment, and equipped with some of the best engines on the market. This process won’t be done in two years, or even five years, but it’s headed in the right direction. Just like I said.

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