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. Fri, 31 Oct 2014 19:42:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Car Reviews http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/ Capsule Review: 2015 Honda Fit, Grandma Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/capsule-review-2015-honda-fit-grandma-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/capsule-review-2015-honda-fit-grandma-edition/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 16:09:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938993 (N.B. This review was penned by my grandmother, Yvette Lerner, posted under my account) When my husband, daughter (Derek’s Mum) and I left England in 1961, we left behind a beautiful MG Magnette. Upon arriving in Canada, my husband went out and bought the first car he could find with a V8 engine. We had […]

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(N.B. This review was penned by my grandmother, Yvette Lerner, posted under my account)

When my husband, daughter (Derek’s Mum) and I left England in 1961, we left behind a beautiful MG Magnette. Upon arriving in Canada, my husband went out and bought the first car he could find with a V8 engine. We had left behind the damp flats, the rationing (which still went on when we got married in 1953) and the grey weather for a new life, and my husband felt that the transformation wasn’t complete unless we had a big, 8-cylinder American car to go with it. We wouldn’t drive anything smaller than a V8 until 1973.

In 1965, I got a Mustang 2 door with a V8 and a stick shift. From then on, it was all Chrysler products, culminating in my husband’s pride and joy, a 1970 New Yorker with a 440 V8 as big as our kitchen table. My husband was a clergyman, and we never had much money, but we did love cars. My husband had variously lusted after both a Mercedes-Benz and later on, an Audi owned by my cousin, but he felt that it would be inappropriate as a Rabbi to own a German car when so many of his parishioners had survived Nazi concentration camps just a few decades earlier.

American cars were the default choice. We didn’t even know about Japanese cars, until one day in 1973, when a man in our congregation asked us if we wanted to come and look at a new car he was selling. It was called a “Honda Civic”. It had a tiny 4-cylinder engine and drove the front wheels. When I first saw it, I thought it looked like the little car that Fred Flintstone drove. But with gas prices going nowhere but up, we took a chance on the little Honda.

Our neighbors laughed at us. I even affixed a bumper sticker that said “Stop honking, I’m pedaling as fast as I can”. But we were happy. It was great on gas, and sure enough, when winter came, we were the only ones who didn’t get stuck. In 1991, my husband replaced a 1979 Chevrolet Caprice (with a 350 and aftermarket sway bars) with a 1991 Honda Accord that was briefly owned by Derek’s father, as a Honda company car. My husband drove the Accord until he died in 1998. I ended up trading that car in on a 2000 Honda Civic

If it were not for old age, I’d have kept the Civic. It has enough room for all my groceries and it doesn’t cost me very much to maintain. I keep the car tuned up according to Honda’s schedule, and it’s zippy enough to get me around town. But at 81, I have broken my hip and my pelvis, and I find it hard to get in and out of such a low car. The Civic also has crank windows, and reaching over to wind down the passenger window (something I do often – I love to pull over and chat with friends and neighbors) gets tiresome.

The last few years have been kind to my retirement accounts, and left me feeling comfortable with buying a new car. When Derek was a young boy, my husband and I always had to take him to different dealerships so that he could look at all the new cars – I decided to call in a favor and have him help me look at a new car.

I have to admit that I’ve always liked the Fit since I first saw it, but Derek urged me to look at some others. I did not like the Kia Soul that some of you suggested. It’s too weird for me. The Hyundai Accent looked nice, but I found the driving position to be a bit tough (I’m only 5’2″ and seeing over the instrument cluster and hood caused me to crane my neck far too much). The Kia Rio was the same, and the Mazda3 had the sort of long, blunt hood that I don’t like.

The Fit ended up being, pardon the word choice, a good Fit for me. It sits just a bit higher up than the other cars, which is a lot easier for someone like me to get into. I like that the hood seems to drop down, so I get a nice, clear view of the road. Derek thought that the touch screen would be a bit challenging for me, but I have my own iPod and Android Tablet, and have figured out how to use both on my own! The best part for me is the Magic Seat. Instead of having to put everything in the trunk, I can fold the rear seat cushions upwards, and put things like walkers (don’t laugh), house plants and other parcels on the footwell.

The CVT transmission took some getting used to. I also wasn’t happy with the way the accelerator feels, but Derek told me that all cars feel this way (something about a computer, but my car uses a cable). I don’t find it as responsive as my Civic, but there is a lot more power. I wish I had a sunroof, but the Fit has power windows, locks, a much better stereo (I love music) and is a lot safer. It’s amazing to think that 15 years ago, I paid about $16,000 for my Civic. I didn’t pay too much more than that for my Fit, but I get so much more car, even when you think about inflation (and as a pensioner, I do).

Derek told me that a lot of his colleagues seem to think that the Fit isn’t as fun or as nice as it used to be. I don’t get to drive a new car every week, but I do like to go fast (I told the salesman to make sure the “ECON” button never comes on) and I know that the Fit drives a lot better than my Civic, or any of the cars I’ve rented recently (a Mitsubishi Lancer, a Nissan Sentra and a 2013 Honda Civic). Thank you all for helping me pick a new car!

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Spotlight Shines Brighter On Takata Airbag Failures http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/spotlight-shines-brighter-takata-airbag-failures/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/spotlight-shines-brighter-takata-airbag-failures/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 13:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938913 Investigators unearth more reports of deaths and injuries linked to catastrophic detonations of Takata’s airbags; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sets a deadline for the supplier to submit related documents; and attorneys urge a U.S. district judge to act quickly on a class action against Takata and four of its client automakers. Automotive News […]

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Investigators unearth more reports of deaths and injuries linked to catastrophic detonations of Takata’s airbags; the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sets a deadline for the supplier to submit related documents; and attorneys urge a U.S. district judge to act quickly on a class action against Takata and four of its client automakers.

Automotive News reports a number of cases linked to Takata airbags are coming to the surface as investigators begin their probes into the supplier. A common thread through the cases — such as an incident in Atlanta that left a woman with a speech disorder, as well as caused a number of strokes and one seizure, as a result of a piece of shrapnel from the unit slicing through her carotid artery — is settlement. Most of the cases are being settled out-of-court, just before prosecutors can gather the evidence needed to go after Takata, and just before such cases enter the public eye.

Over in the Beltway, Reuters says the NHTSA has set a deadline of December 1 for Takata to submit documents and answers to questions under oath as part of the agency’s probe into the defects. The order also cites an October 17 report by the news organization about manufacturing issues at the supplier’s Mexico facility, particularly a reference to an email written in March of 2011 that proclaimed “a part that is not welded = one life less,” as well as the discovery of chewing gum in a unit. The agency also wants a list of every death and injury caused by the airbags.

Finally, attorneys representing their clients in a class action suit against the supplier have asked Miami-based U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King to move their case quickly forward. One of the attorneys, Peter Prieto, stated the urging was necessary due to the danger the airbags create among the public. Eighteen plaintiffs in 10 states are involved in the suit, which also names Toyota, Ford, BMW and Honda as defendants. The next hearing will be on December 8.

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Hyundai Developing Dedicated Hybrid To Battle Toyota Prius http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/hyundai-developing-dedicated-hybrid-battle-toyota-prius/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/hyundai-developing-dedicated-hybrid-battle-toyota-prius/#comments Fri, 31 Oct 2014 11:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938833 Though one can already purchase a hybrid from Hyundai — the Sonata Hybrid, to be exact — the South Korean automaker is now planning to follow in the footsteps of Toyota and Honda by building a hybrid that always was from the get-go. Reuters reports the Korean Prius will add onto Hyundai’s green portfolio, which […]

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Though one can already purchase a hybrid from Hyundai — the Sonata Hybrid, to be exact — the South Korean automaker is now planning to follow in the footsteps of Toyota and Honda by building a hybrid that always was from the get-go.

Reuters reports the Korean Prius will add onto Hyundai’s green portfolio, which also includes the Tucson Fuel Cell FCV, as well as act as a hedge against ever-tightening fuel economy and emissions standards. CEO Kim Choong-ho explained as much during the launch of his company’s latest premium sedan, the Aslan:

We will take the lead in the future by raising the competitiveness of our environment-friendly cars like hybrid-only cars, plug-in hybrid cars and fuel cell hydrogen cars.

Hyundai won’t be alone in bringing a new dedicated hybrid to market; Ford plans to do the same on a compact platform by 2019. Kim did not offer a timetable or other details about Hyundai’s hybrid, however.

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Review: 1982 VAZ 21033 – Lada 1300 for the Soviets http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/review-1982-vaz-21033-lada-1300-soviets/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/review-1982-vaz-21033-lada-1300-soviets/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 14:26:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937082 Everyone knows it by its export name, Lada, but its real name was VAZ and that is how it was commonly known in Soviet Union. Like all other Soviet automakers, VAZ is an acronym and it stands for Volzhsky Avtomobilny Zavod, or Volga Automobile Plant. This is not to be confused with Volga cars which were […]

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1982 vaz lada 21033 front 34

Everyone knows it by its export name, Lada, but its real name was VAZ and that is how it was commonly known in Soviet Union. Like all other Soviet automakers, VAZ is an acronym and it stands for Volzhsky Avtomobilny Zavod, or Volga Automobile Plant. This is not to be confused with Volga cars which were made by GAZ, Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod or Gorky Automobile Plant, some 600 kilometers southeast.

1982 vaz lada 21033 rear 34

The 2103 model, like all Ladas in this series, 2101 through 2107, is based off the 1966–1974 Fiat 124 Special. Designed to be the car of the people, in its transformation from Fiat to VAZ, the vehicle lost most things that could have been described as a luxurious. Furthermore, the body and chassis were modified to withstand the harsh Soviet climates; thicker steel, better heater, increased ride height, and a newer Fiat-designed engine. The 2100-series VAZs and Ladas, also known as Classic, Riva, Signet, Laika, or Kalinka depending on the market, were produced from 1970 until 2012 in Russia, and the 2107 is still in production in Egypt!

1982 lada vaz 21033 exterior details

The VAZ 21033 pictured here is one of the more rare models. The 21033 was a less expensive version of the basic VAZ 2103. The differences between the two are limited to the 21033 having a 70hp 1.3-liter engine, versus a 75hp 1.5-liter engine. The 2103 also had a radio with a single speaker, whereas the 21033 did not. Those lucky enough to be able to purchase a new VAZ may have been given the options of some models which included engine size or a wagon body. The price for the 21033 was 8617 Rubles, whereas the price for the more powerful 2103 was 8667 Rubels in 1982. Needless to say anyone who could choose, chose the 2103.

1982 lada vaz 21033 exterior details 2

The story of the pictured 21033 is that it was won in a state lottery by some lady in 1982. Because she was not buying a car, she was not given a choice of model, so she got what no one else wanted. After thirty years of use and abuse, the VAZ was purchased by a young Russian-American enthusiast of Soviet vehicles named Roman. With the exception of paint, he restored mostly by himself in Ukraine and then shipped the car to New York two years ago. After proper federal and state paperwork was completed, the car was issued New York state license plates.

1982 lada vaz 21033 interior dash

Vehicle restorations can vary in forms and qualities; for instance I have a personal distain for cars that have been supposedly restored to factory level, but are in reality over-restored and therefore superior to what they were brand new. Over-restoring any Eastern Bloc car would be a rather simple task given their original built quality, and that is where Roman was extra careful. The car was improved where it seemed practical, so factory issues such as poor panel gaps and overs-pray were avoided.

1982 lada vaz 21033 interior details driver

 

Each part used was an original factory part, many of which proudly display a CCCP logo, otherwise known as “made in USSR”. Brand new parts were used on few rare occasions but most were old, restored to original condition. Since these vehicles have been in production for such a long time, finding the original model year part was not always easy for Roman. One such instance were the front fenders, which varied in style but not in fitment. The replacements for the rusted out original fenders were no longer available, so fenders from a newer model had to be adopted for proper side-marker and trim fitment. Steel wheels with chrome covers are also original, down to what looks like a missing center cap.

1982 lada vaz 21033 other details

All interior parts are original, including seat covering. Shockingly, such luxury item as the rear center armrest was standard but headrests were not added until later in production. Manual seat-belts provide world class insecurity and a lot of the interior had a very familiar Fiat feel. Where he could, Roman added factory accessories, such as the factory radio and with a mono-speaker mounted below it; at the right frequency, the ignition system is very audible. Other interesting features are designed with security in mind, such as quick disconnect wiper blades and side mirror, both of which were frequently stolen in communist Russia.

1982 lada vaz 21033 interior details

The front seats offer little support yet are comfortable, feeling springy like older Mercedes-Benz seats. They give an impression on being seated on, rather than seated in. The rear bench has the same springy feel to it. I was really impressed with the amount of leg and headroom for such a small car; a modern 3-series would not be any more spacious, with the exception of the VAZ being a lot narrower, having smaller doors, and much smaller overall exterior dimensions. This is a small car by modern standards, one can almost hug it!

1982 lada vaz 21033 engine

The trunk is lined with a factory-like vinyl cover which I have never seen before as it was something that was likely easily ripped and therefore quickly discarded. The full-size spare tire fits snugly on the left side and is complimented by two tool kits and a foot air pump, all factory parts. Yes, it may seem mind-boggling by today’s standards, but VAZ owners were expected to perform minor service and repairs by themselves. On the right side of the trunk is the gas tank, which in some other Fiat models was relocated under the rear seat.

1982 lada vaz 21033 tool kit

Around town, the little VAZ keeps up with traffic just fine, but it does struggle a bit at highway speeds. The peak of 70hp and square shape simply does not allow it to cruise like an S-class, or even a new Hyundai Accent. Nor should it, as it was designed in time and place where freeways just did not exist, speeds over 60mph were rarely reached and considered fast. The engine has a narrow power-band and does not like to be spun at speeds that approach the redline. The clutch, the shifter, and the steering feel like they have an organic, unobstructed, mechanical connection to the engine and the chassis; it can be felt and heard. From personal experience of driving similar cars over longer distances, this is amazingly unique these days but it does get tiresome.

1982 vaz lada 21033 side

Once the iron curtain fell, one of the first things people in Eastern Europe did was ditch their crappy commie cars. They wanted something, anything, with more power, better reliability, and improved fuel economy. They wanted to be able to hear the radio while driving and have enough power to safely pass a tractor on a narrow two-lane road. With time they developed taste for status which is best shown by the automobile one drives.  In recent years, however, the Eastern Blok cars have developed a cult and patriotic following. People want to restore and preserve them. To many of those people those once hated but now charming cars represent an important era in history, one that shows perseverance and victory against communist tyranny.

1982 lada vaz 21033 greenwich concours 2014

If you want to learn more about Eastern Bloc cars, I suggest this Facebook page. Additionally, in the past I have reviewed an FSO Polonez and a Lada Niva. On semi-regular basis I do write-ups on Hooniverse about weird and obscure cars and trucks that are living and dying on the streets of Poland; see the many links within that post.

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. 

1982 vaz lada 21033 front

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Next-Gen Nissan Titan Equipped With New Turbodiesel Tech http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/next-gen-nissan-titan-equipped-new-turbodiesel-tech/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/next-gen-nissan-titan-equipped-new-turbodiesel-tech/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 12:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938169 When the next-gen Nissan Titan rolls up to the stage at next year’s Detroit Auto Show, the full-size truck will have a big oil-burner with enough sequential firepower to put all on Truck Mountain on notice. Car & Driver reports the 5-liter Cummins turbodiesel V8 — expected to pump out 300 horsepower and 500 lb-ft. […]

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Nissan Titan Cummins Holset M2 Two-Stage System with Rotary Turbine Control

When the next-gen Nissan Titan rolls up to the stage at next year’s Detroit Auto Show, the full-size truck will have a big oil-burner with enough sequential firepower to put all on Truck Mountain on notice.

Car & Driver reports the 5-liter Cummins turbodiesel V8 — expected to pump out 300 horsepower and 500 lb-ft. of torque — will come equipped with a sequential turbocharging system called the Holset M2 Two-Stage System with Rotary Turbine Control; Holset was an engineering firm in England that was purchased by Cummins in the 1970s, then renamed Cummins Turbo Technologies in 2006.

The system uses an electronically controlled rotary valve to direct exhaust flow to either one of the two turbos feeding power to the engine, shifting focus from the smaller to the larger of the turbos as airflow increases with engine speed and load.

As well as regulating boost pressure, the Rotary Turbine Control can be used as an exhaust brake when the accelerator is lifted. In turn, the increased temperatures resulting from the act help burn off more soot in the engine’s particulate filter.

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Dorizas Leaves Holden, General Motors To Pursue New Ventures http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dorizas-leaves-holden-general-motors-pursue-new-ventures/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/dorizas-leaves-holden-general-motors-pursue-new-ventures/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 11:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938145 Another bell tolls as Holden draws closer to the end of local production in 2017, this time for brand boss Gerry Dorizas, who resigned after serving just eight months in the position. Motoring.com.au reports Dorizas was the fifth Holden head in four years, taking up where Mike Devereaux — who helmed the General Motors subsidiary […]

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Another bell tolls as Holden draws closer to the end of local production in 2017, this time for brand boss Gerry Dorizas, who resigned after serving just eight months in the position.

Motoring.com.au reports Dorizas was the fifth Holden head in four years, taking up where Mike Devereaux — who helmed the General Motors subsidiary from 2010 to 2013 — left off. Current COO Jeff Rolfs will fill the void until a new chief is found.

Dorizas, who proclaimed Holden would retake the top of the podium by 2020, has also left GM altogether “to pursue other opportunities.” Brand communications manager Sean Poppitt did not offer an explanation for the departure, but affirmed it would not change the brand’s goals and strategy.

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2016 Chevrolet Volt Won’t Need Premium To Move http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/2016-chevrolet-volt-wont-need-premium-move/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/2016-chevrolet-volt-wont-need-premium-move/#comments Thu, 30 Oct 2014 10:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938105 When customers arrive to pick up the 2016 Chevrolet Volt late next year, they won’t need to spend money on premium when it eventually comes time to fill the tank. AutoblogGreen reports the 1.5-liter engine taking the place of the outgoing 1.4-liter unit will be more than happy with regular gasoline. Volt chief engineer Andrew […]

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When customers arrive to pick up the 2016 Chevrolet Volt late next year, they won’t need to spend money on premium when it eventually comes time to fill the tank.

AutoblogGreen reports the 1.5-liter engine taking the place of the outgoing 1.4-liter unit will be more than happy with regular gasoline. Volt chief engineer Andrew Farah explained the move was on the suggestion from consumers who didn’t want to pay more for gas than they thought necessary:

The ability to use regular unleaded was based directly on customer feedback. Since the range extender is an all-new engine, it was optimized to use regular unleaded at the outset. Using regular fuel will not have effect on vehicle acceleration or other performance factors.

The new engine is a part of a new global family of engines — ranging in size from 1 to 1.5 liters — and is quieter and more powerful than the mill extending the range of the current Volt.

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FCA Spinning Ferrari Off From Parent Company By 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/fca-spinning-ferrari-parent-company-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/fca-spinning-ferrari-parent-company-2015/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 20:19:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=938057 By this time next year, Ferrari will no longer be a part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, thanks to a plan announced today that will spin the exotic brand off from the rest of the Italo-American automaker. Bloomberg reports FCA will sell 10 percent of its stake to the public, giving the remaining 90 percent to […]

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By this time next year, Ferrari will no longer be a part of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, thanks to a plan announced today that will spin the exotic brand off from the rest of the Italo-American automaker.

Bloomberg reports FCA will sell 10 percent of its stake to the public, giving the remaining 90 percent to the automaker’s own shareholders. The shares will be listed in the United States stock market, with Europe possibly receiving some of those shares, as well.

According to Morningstar analyst Richard Hilgert, the split “unlocks the value” in the Ferrari brand, which could be worth as much as $7.4 billion. He adds that the move helps pull Ferrari out of the shadow of FCA, citing “the street’s perception of low profitability to no profitability” regarding the automaker’s market performance.

Speaking of performance, FCA stock climbed to $11.56 Wednesday after opening at $11.31, falling to $10.85 at the closing bell. Ferrari stock, meanwhile, would go for $5.90/share for FCA shareholders.

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The Streets Of R-Ado http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/streets-r-ado/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/streets-r-ado/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 18:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=936762 I felt like a spy within my own company. It was a hot summer day in 2003 and I was at the DaimlerChrysler proving grounds in Laredo, Texas to attend a focus group on the upcoming 2006 Mercedes-Benz R-Class minivan/crossover/sport touring wagon. My dozen or so fellow attendees were all wealthy owners of high-end Mercedes-Benz cars. I was here because the […]

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2006 R500 Courtesy cimg.carsforsale.com

I felt like a spy within my own company. It was a hot summer day in 2003 and I was at the DaimlerChrysler proving grounds in Laredo, Texas to attend a focus group on the upcoming 2006 Mercedes-Benz R-Class minivan/crossover/sport touring wagon. My dozen or so fellow attendees were all wealthy owners of high-end Mercedes-Benz cars. I was here because the Mercedes-Benz USA focus group invite filter did not recognize my net worth nor the fact that I worked for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services. And I was not about to tell anyone that…

The Laredo facility included an assortment of handling, hill-climb and torture tracks, all on the infield of an imposing high-banked 5-mile circle track. The first impression of the scene was intoxicating to a car nut: Hey, there’s a Dodge Magnum, looks just like the spy photos! There goes the next generation S-Class! We were shown the upcoming GL-Class and the next-generation M-Class SUVs. Those vehicles, as well as the future S-class circling the track, were lightly masked but easily recognizable while the “sport touring wagon” was heavily, almost comically, disguised.  It looked like a giant black shoe box with a sloping hood.

My group of five folks and an engineer jumped into the future R-Class. The interior was well-crafted and amazingly roomy: I could stretch my legs out in the third row. Our moderator led us through the various obstacle courses around the grounds, switching drivers along the way. Finally we headed for the 5-mile circle. It was “Clockwise Day” which seemed strange to someone used to driving counterclockwise on oval tracks.  Our leader cranked it up to an indicated 150 mph and took one hand off the wheel to demonstrate the wagon’s stability. We were duly impressed.

We then each proceeded to take two laps each behind the wheel and several of us hit the magic 150 mph barrier. We were quietly cruising with six people aboard and blasting past Plymouth Neons on the inside lane doing endurance testing.  The original R500 with the 302 hp V-8 had a governed top speed of 135 mph. The Benz engineers would not answer questions about this drivetrain. In retrospect, I think it must have been the 503 hp V-8 from the planned R63 AMG under the hood.

We always said the R-Class would make a great hearse...

We always said that the R-Class would make a great hearse…

Years later I think: Were we really doing 150 mph with six passengers in a prototype with a drag coefficient of Melissa McCarthy?  Was the speedometer clocked? Or is driving on a banked, circular track as safe and easy as driving in a straight line? Regardless, I highly doubt there are many car companies who would allow a bunch of yahoos to drive their mock-up models at high speeds on their secret proving grounds. That day in Laredo was one of the highlights of my time in the car business.

Two years later when I first saw a production R-Class, I was shocked: it looked awful, a combo of awkward lines. I thought about Laredo. Were they hiding the R’s styling from us because previous groups had given it a thumbs down? Or was Germany so proud of the edgy styling that they did not want it leaked?  By disguising its looks, letting us behind the scenes to drive flat-out at their proving grounds, and not talking price or specs, were they guaranteeing that we each would  vote an enthusiastic “yes” when asked if we would consider buying one, which we did?

I was pleased to see one suggestion from our focus group about the poor location of the third-row shoulder belt hanger had been addressed.

 

It appears the Daimler is now selling their Laredo test track. Note the 2-mile oval track within the 5-mile highbank circle.

Daimler is now selling their Laredo test track. Note the 2-mile oval track inside the 5-mile circle track

The R-Class was released in the summer of 2005 to the sounds of crickets on the showroom floors. Press reactions were mixed, (“It’s big and it’s ugly, but inside it you can live like a king,” said the Sunday Times.) Within 30 days of the launch, Benz had to add dealer incentives to counter consumer resistance to the base MSRP of $48,000 for the R350 and $55,500 for the R500. A constellation of factors led to the R-class being a rare failure for Daimler: high pricing, murky marketing and product positioning, mediocre gas mileage, the recession and most of all due to its undeniable ugliness.

Sales of the R-Class in the US peaked at 18,168 units in 2006, far short of the corporate objective of 50,000 sales per year. Less than 3,000 were sold each year between 2009 and 2011 before the car was discontinued in North America in 2012. The R-Class continues to be assembled in Mercedes’ Alabama factory for sale in overseas markets. (US dealers toured the plant recently and upon seeing the R line, several joked, “Oh noooo, it’s back!”)

I had an R-Class company car in 2009 and it rode as well as I remembered, every bit an S-Class on the highway. Even better was the fact it was the CDI diesel variant with its gobs of torque and great gas mileage, a truly underappreciated engine.

I still think the R stands for Repulsive but if I could find one of those eighty 2007 R63 AMGs brought into this country…

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Ford Brings Telematics To Law Enforcement For Greater Safety, Transparency http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ford-brings-telematics-law-enforcement-greater-safety-transparency/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/ford-brings-telematics-law-enforcement-greater-safety-transparency/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 14:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937850 To further transparency and improve safety, Ford and Telogis have debuted a system that will gather information on a given police officer’s driving practices. The Detroit News reports the system — having debuted in both Explorer- and Taurus-based Police Interceptors last week — can track speed, when lights are switched on, whether an officer is […]

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Chicago PD Ford Explorer Interceptor

To further transparency and improve safety, Ford and Telogis have debuted a system that will gather information on a given police officer’s driving practices.

The Detroit News reports the system — having debuted in both Explorer- and Taurus-based Police Interceptors last week — can track speed, when lights are switched on, whether an officer is wearing their seat belt et al, all in real time from its place under the dashboard.

The goal? For agencies to use the information to improve how their officers drive, and to have detailed records linked to any crashes that may occur in the line of duty. Ford’s manager of business and product development, Bill Frykman, explains:

Vehicle accidents are the leading cause of officer fatalities, and even the slightest improvements in driver training and behavior within law enforcement organizations can potentially save lives. Whether in emergency operation or not, vehicle data from this technology, in context with different driving situations will help illustrate to police organizations where changes can be made that will have a profound effect on officer safety.

The telematics technology originated in Ford’s line of commercial fleet models back in 2009, with Telogis coming in to help the automaker bring the system to the law enforcement market. Ford has no access to whatever is recorded, with the data secured between the vehicle and the agency that owns it.

The Los Angeles Police Department will be the first to implement the system, with other agencies coming on-board in early 2015.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Dodge Charger Hellcat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/capsule-review-2015-dodge-charger-hellcat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/capsule-review-2015-dodge-charger-hellcat/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 13:30:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937274 It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Not long ago, we were told that gas was going to $6 a gallon, maybe even higher. CAFE, crash safety regulations and government interference would force us all into autonomous, emissions-free transportation pods. How lucky am I to be filling up a 707-horsepower rear-drive sedan with 93 Octane? […]

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It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Not long ago, we were told that gas was going to $6 a gallon, maybe even higher. CAFE, crash safety regulations and government interference would force us all into autonomous, emissions-free transportation pods.

How lucky am I to be filling up a 707-horsepower rear-drive sedan with 93 Octane? More shocking than an auto journalist paying for his own gas is the fact that 13 gallons of the good stuff cost me about $45.

A sudden plummet in the price of crude oil was a lucky break for enthusiasts. The origin of the Dodge Charger Hellcat isn’t quite as serendipitous. For the Hellcat program to exist, there had to be multiple nameplates to help amortize the cost of development. After the Challenger, the Charger was the next logical step. Don’t be surprised to see this engine wind up in another FCA vehicle, even if it’s not the Viper.

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There are few visual differences between the SRT 392 (aka the former SRT8 Charger) and the Hellcat – the most obvious one being the subtle, stylized feline “Hellcat” badge on the front fender. The same wheel and tire package, red Brembo brakes and rear wing can be had on both cars. Inside, the supple leather, UConnect 8.4 infotainment system and sport seats are present as well. With the programmable SRT Performance Pages (read, adjustments for the suspension, traction control, gear changes and access to the full 707 horsepower) set to “Street”, this car is as sedate and docile as the rental-spec V6 Charger SXT we drove earlier that day. On the highway, the blown V8 spins at just a tick over 1200 rpm. At 70 mph, we saw an indicated 22.4 mpg, while the plush, heated seats, XM Radio and solidly soundproofed cabin made the Hellcat an effortless cruiser.

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If you desire a bit of the old ultraviolence, simply go back to the Performance Pages and change everything to “Track” (you did keep it at full power, rather than limiting it to just 500 horsepower, right?). In the same way that the right combination of settings transform the Jaguar F-Type  from Jamie Oliver on wheels into Harry Brown, inputting the proper cheat codes unlocks the full potential of the Hellcat.

Without having driven the Challenger version, it’s tough to draw comparisons between the two Hellcats. Nevertheless, the straight-line performance of the Charger Hellcat is literally violent. Nothing more needs to be said, and even the most floral Dan Neil prose cannot do it justice. At 1200 rpm, the supercharger 6.2L engine makes as much torque as the old 6.4L SRT V8, which led to a rythmic ritual on the damp backroads of West Virginia: gently press the throttle, wait for the rear tires to lose grip, wait for TCS to kick in, rinse and repeat until you are breaching triple digit velocities. In a Nissan GT-R, you have an army of driver aides and all-wheel drive to help keep you on the pavement. On a Suzuki Hayabusa, you have a motorcycle jacket and a pair of Levis (hopefully more than that) to keep the pebbles and broken glass from tattooing themselves into your posterior. In terms of sheer acceleration and wet weather traction, the Hellcat sits between the two.

The ZF 8-speed automatic gearbox is the gold standard for longitudinal automatic gearboxes, but the reworked edition for the Hellcat manages to make even greater improvements. In track mode, gear changes are executed are faster than a Parisian pickpocket, taking just 120 milliseconds. Only the briefest of pauses in the Hellcat’s .50 BMG exhaust note lets you know that an upshift has occurred. In Street and Sport modes, they help keep the car humming along. It has all the best qualities of a dual-clutch, with none of the drawbacks, and I think that it might be the most significant advancements in modern performance cars.

Lacking an ample supply of sunshine, dry roads and extra-absorbent adult diapers, I was unable to properly put the Hellcat to the test on the track or the street, but its dynamic characteristics will be familiar to anyone who has driven prior LX-chassis SRT cars. Steering is heavy but not exactly the last word in communicative. The big Brembos bring the car to a halt with a consistent pedal feel. The ride is firm without being overly punishing. There is room for five adults and all of their stuff. In Jazz Blue with the saddle leather interior and the dark wheels, it looks less like a photo-enlarged Dart, and more like something that will cross the Barrett-Jackson auction block for the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $1 million at some future date.

In the grand scheme of things, the Charger Hellcat is an irrelevant, low-volume marketing exercise. Most of them will sit in climate-controlled garages, snapped up by dealer principals, waiting for that financially fruitful day under the big tent in Scottsdale. A few will be wrapped around telephone poles mere weeks after they were presented as 16th birthday presents to select members of America’s overindulged youth.

What I love about it can’t be quantified by sales volume, P&L statements or performance data. I love it because no matter how many times we are told by malcontent motoring writers that cars are lack “soul”, or that profligate performance cars are a dying species, we seem to get yet another crop of American muscle car that is exponentially more belligerent and incrementally more efficient. Underneath it all is a statement, a crass, puerile one at that, for which the Charger Hellcat happens to be a vessel. And that vessel is a very good, very grown up car.

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2016 Chevrolet Volt To Have More Power From Stem To Stern http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/2016-chevrolet-volt-power-stem-stern/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/2016-chevrolet-volt-power-stem-stern/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 12:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937794 The Chevrolet Volt came into this world through a combination of engineering, design, and a twee song/interpretive dance number. The second-generation PHEV, due out of Detroit late next year, plans to aim a bit higher than its quirky beginnings. Automotive News reports the new Volt will have a clean-sheet Voltec drive unit that is 100 […]

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2016-Chevrolet-Volt-Teaser

The Chevrolet Volt came into this world through a combination of engineering, design, and a twee song/interpretive dance number.

The second-generation PHEV, due out of Detroit late next year, plans to aim a bit higher than its quirky beginnings.

Automotive News reports the new Volt will have a clean-sheet Voltec drive unit that is 100 pounds lighter than current, and will deliver 20 percent improved acceleration for blasting off the line at your local drag strip, thanks to two electric motors doing the grunt work instead of one.

Speaking of motors, the main four-pot range extender will gain in size for 2016, jumping from 1.4 to 1.5 liters. The new engine is part of a family of small engines — ranging from 1 to 1.5 liters — that will be used throughout General Motors’ global portfolio.

Holding the electricity will be a new battery pack with larger cells and a 20 percent increase in storage capacity. Cell count falls from 288 in the outgoing pack, to 192 in the upcoming unit.

As far range and MPGs are concerned, GM will announce those figures when the new Volt — sans the aforementioned twee song-and-dance number — rolls down the ramp at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show.

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Sovereign Subsidies Fuel Norwegian Tesla Registrations http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/sovereign-subsidies-fuel-norwegian-tesla-registrations/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/sovereign-subsidies-fuel-norwegian-tesla-registrations/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 11:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937762 Not too long ago, Tesla set up shop in Norway, looking to gain some market share in the frosty nation of 5 million. Little did anyone know just how big the share would grow. According to Freakonomics, Norway is the second largest market for the premium EV automaker, with March 2014 being the best month […]

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Tesla_Model_S_delivery_to_Høyres_Nikolai_Astrup_in_Norway

Not too long ago, Tesla set up shop in Norway, looking to gain some market share in the frosty nation of 5 million.

Little did anyone know just how big the share would grow.

According to Freakonomics, Norway is the second largest market for the premium EV automaker, with March 2014 being the best month in Model S orders thus far. However, not only was it the best month for Tesla, it was the best month for breaking a record: 1,493 units registered, the most units ever recorded with Norwegian authorities in one month since Ford moved 1,454 Sierras in May of 1986.

Through the first nine months of 2014, the automaker averaged 435 regisrations per month, despite the price for a new Model S beginning at kr461,000 (~$68,000 USD); never mind how much a used Model S goes for up there.

How is this possible? Subsidies and incentives so huge it would make the Japanese government blush. Those subsidies help bring the price down to levels found among gasoline-powered vehicles, and are fueled, ironically, by a sovereign wealth fund created from Norway’s massive oil reserves. The fund was created to future-proof the nation from “Dutch Disease”: Over-specialization in the production and export of natural resources at the expense of every other industry in a given country.

Alas, those subsidies won’t last long: Only the first 50,000 registrations will enjoy the perks of pushing a green future.

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Tesla, US Bank Team For New Model S Lease Contract http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/tesla-us-bank-team-new-model-s-lease-contract/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/tesla-us-bank-team-new-model-s-lease-contract/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 10:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937714 Want to own a Model S without worrying about a long-term commitment or how much it’ll hurt your bottom line? CEO Elon Musk has a deal for you. Reuters reports U.S. Bank will offer a lease with a 25 percent decrease in the amount paid per month. Per Musk, the bank was chosen due to […]

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Black Tesla Model S

Want to own a Model S without worrying about a long-term commitment or how much it’ll hurt your bottom line? CEO Elon Musk has a deal for you.

Reuters reports U.S. Bank will offer a lease with a 25 percent decrease in the amount paid per month. Per Musk, the bank was chosen due to having a “much lower cost of capital” than Tesla itself. As in previous leases, the lessee only needs to tap once on the vehicle’s touchscreen to agree the terms and conditions of the contract.

In addition to paying less per month a new Model S, Tesla will also offer its Happiness Guarantee to lessees who sign-on. The guarantee allows the lessee to return their vehicle to the automaker within three months if they find anything wrong with the product. However, Musk cautioned that if they wanted a new vehicle right away, they would need to wait a while. Lessees can also upgrade to a newer model after paying a pass-through fee.

U.S. Bank was chosen last year alongside Wells Fargo to enter into a partnership with the automaker to offer potential owners a 10 percent down payment on a new Model S purchase.

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Minnesotan Tesla Owners Offer Test Drives To Potential Customers In Iowa http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/minnesotan-tesla-owners-offer-test-drives-potential-customers-iowa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/minnesotan-tesla-owners-offer-test-drives-potential-customers-iowa/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 13:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=936938 Iowa may be one of the few states where Tesla itself can’t directly sell its vehicles to the public, but it doesn’t mean owners can’t at least promote the California automaker to potential customers. KCCI-TV in Des Moines reports a group of Minnesotan Tesla owners drove to a local supermarket in Urbandale last weekend to […]

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Iowa Tesla Model S

Iowa may be one of the few states where Tesla itself can’t directly sell its vehicles to the public, but it doesn’t mean owners can’t at least promote the California automaker to potential customers.

KCCI-TV in Des Moines reports a group of Minnesotan Tesla owners drove to a local supermarket in Urbandale last weekend to give Iowans the opportunity to see the Model S first-hand.

One owner stated that the group aren’t fighting against the ban, but are about “sharing new technology” up-close with those who might otherwise view the vehicles from afar.

The group also gave test drives to would-be owners, something that the state’s government has also prohibited Tesla from conducting on its own.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Chrysler 200S AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/capsule-review-2015-chrysler-200s-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/capsule-review-2015-chrysler-200s-awd/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 12:14:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=936994 I just spent a week with the all-new, all-wheel-drive 2015 Chrysler 200 S. It was one of Chrysler Canada’s press cars, priced at $38,815. Equipped as it was with big wheels and a dual pane sunroof and blind spot monitoring and navigation, it would have been priced at $35,560 in the United States. Yes, $35,560. […]

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2015 Chrysler 200 S AWD rear angleI just spent a week with the all-new, all-wheel-drive 2015 Chrysler 200 S. It was one of Chrysler Canada’s press cars, priced at $38,815. Equipped as it was with big wheels and a dual pane sunroof and blind spot monitoring and navigation, it would have been priced at $35,560 in the United States.

Yes, $35,560. And that’s not the top of the range. I know this because there are three conspicuous, dare I say ostentatious, blanked-out switches placed on the steering wheel, an owner’s most frequent touch point.

The steering wheel is what you grasp for the duration of your 35-minute commute each morning after you’re done grasping a toothbrush, a spouse, a child, a bagel, and a set of keys. It’s an intimate connection, even private.

You don’t allow anybody else to hold your toothbrush, your bagel, your spouse, or your child first thing in the morning. Similarly, you don’t hand your keys off to a random acquaintance and say, “Yeah, take’er out for a rip.”

You know the stitching of the heated steering wheel’s leather. You know how to find the big cruise control buttons without looking. You and the steering wheel share secrets, like the location of volume controls on the back of the middle spoke. The Bluetooth hang-up button, well, it doth fall readily to thy hand.

Yet all the while, the steering wheel in this rather costly Chrysler 200 tells you, nay, it screams at you: “I could have been better! You could have made me better! Am I not worth it? Did you need to order an unfulfilled version of myself?” And all the while, you’re left to stare at three pieces of glaring evidence every single day. After dropping $35,560 on a Chrysler 200, you’re still $3000 shy of possessing a fully equipped Chrysler 200.

2015 Chrysler 200 S steering wheel buttonsOh, who are we kidding? You didn’t spend $35,560 on a new Chrysler 200. 2015 models have only recently arrived at dealers, yet my local Chrysler store has 200s prominently parked out front with “Save $4000” stickers plastered across the doors and updated stickers on the windshield declaring $5295 discounts. Even with an eye-catching design and a vastly improved interior, a new midsize car trades on the reputation of its predecessor, which in this case was too strongly connected to a product line Chrysler would probably prefer to forget. Thus, Chrysler dealers already know consumers aren’t going to pay top dollar for this car, even if it is now a worthy contender.

Pricing aside, the blanked-out switches can only be an affront because of their high-profile positioning. Many more costly cars feature such buttons, as well, only with less distinguished placement. The only other reason the would-be adaptive cruise control blanked-out switches merit a mention is because of the way they symbolize the 200’s indecisive interior.

At $35,560, the 200 S better be slick inside, and for the most part it is. But the cupholder slider which covers a massive bin between the front seats jiggles about in its tracks. The blue “wood” applique strewn across the dashboard is ghastly. The upgraded Alpine audio system can’t cope with moderate increases in volume and caused many an interior part to quiver long before maximum output was called upon. It is not at all about that bass.

In a mostly hushed cabin, the amount of wind noise when the panoramic roof’s sunshade is open is shocking. The passenger’s seat is not powered. Shift paddles which grow out of volume and tune buttons on the back of the steering wheel are a bit dorky.  Rear seat space is not midsize-like, and the bench would still be deemed uncomfortable even if there was real Camryesque capacity. Visibility for the driver is severely impinged upon by a thick, steeply raked A-pillar and the coupe-like roofline all around. Likewise, the trunk’s 16 cubic feet of capacity is crowded by long goosenecks.

2015 Chrysler 200 S AWD front angleErgonomically, however, the quad-knob layout liberally spread out beside the driver for volume, scrolling, climate, and gear selection is ideal. UConnect is brilliantly straightforward, faster than most equivalent systems, and its touch screen never felt too far away. As much as I want to remain true to convention and call for a traditional gear lever, this third meeting with a rotary dial shifter made for three occasions in which it felt perfectly natural.

There are niggling little nitpicky issues inside the Chrysler 200, but poor visibility and a somewhat tight rear seat are the only characteristics capable of overriding the elegant simplicity encountered by the driver via the oft-used infotainment unit.

In this S-is-for-Sport variant of the new 200, ride quality remains comfortable despite low-profile 19-inch rubber. The 200 S is firm on 235/40R19s, but it’s not busy or crashy. The composed ride doesn’t really pay dividends in terms of outright handling ability, as the all-wheel-drive 200 is simply too heavy for athletics. Chrysler’s all-wheel-drive system has a the ability to disconnect the rear axle, but because it can’t discard and recoup the rear axle on a whim, it adds 322 pounds to a V6-engined 200 S.

2015 Chrysler 200 rotary dial shifterAt 3795 pounds before options – and before adding you, you bagel-eating glutton, you – the 200 S AWD weighs about 100 pounds more than the last all-wheel-drive midsize sedan I drove, Subaru’s Legacy 3.6R. (The weight gap between the 200 S AWD and Ford’s lighter Fusion Titanium AWD is greater.)

As a result of all that girth, 295 horsepower doesn’t feel quite like 295 horsepower. The 200 is undoubtedly a quick car, but it takes some prodding. Toss the 200 into a corner with its weighty but slow steering and it remains nicely level, but it’s not terribly willing to quickly change direction again. Powering out of the corner with haste will require a firm press of the throttle, though, and you might see a kickdown of two or three gears when a single kickdown would have been effective. (At least the intense growl of the engine is musical.)

Indeed, the nine-speed automatic operates much more like it ought to when you demand quicker progress from the car. Meandering about, this 200 was of a mind to shift economically but couldn’t make those shifts happen with alacrity, hanging on to revs before finally falling into second, then third, then fourth. There’s some hunting around in the higher register, though you’ll rarely, if ever, see ninth. But that hunting is more evident in the digital read-out than in sound or sensation. The nine-speed is certainly not what I’d call a good transmission, but those less sensitive to the differences between a great modern eight-speed like ZF’s (or the Ram pickup’s) and this nine-speed likely won’t be bothered.

2015 Chrysler 200 S interiorIn our house, the nine-speed’s suboptimal shift quality couldn’t make up for the 3.6L’s appeal. The poor visibility detracts from what could be an otherwise pleasant interior. At 21 miles per gallon in our mix of city and highway driving, the 200 wasn’t exactly thrifty, either.

Still, going back a number of months, few cars in the affordable realm have appealed to my neighbours and friends as much as this 200. They were enticed by an attractive car which, with a boatload of features and space superior to that of their current compact, can be had at an alluring price they saw on the back of the newspaper they were perusing while waiting to get their flu shot.

With a front-wheel-drive V6 S adding just $1950 to the price of a four-cylinder S, it’s easy to see why they could be seduced.

All-wheel-drive, on the other hand, is only available with the V6 and adds $2250 to the cost of a 200 S V6 or 200 C V6. The subsequent weight increase isn’t worth it when good winter tires will accomplish more.

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Consumer Reports: Infotainment System Woes Mark 2014 Reliability Survey http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/consumer-reports-infotainment-system-woes-mark-2014-reliability-survey/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/consumer-reports-infotainment-system-woes-mark-2014-reliability-survey/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 10:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=936826 Consumer Reports released its Annual Reliability Survey for this year, focusing some of the attention on the woes experienced by a handful of infotainment systems. According to the publication, the absolute worse of the pack in 2014 was Infiniti’s InTouch system in the new Q50, with over one in five owners wanting to take a […]

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Infiniti InTouch - Infiniti Q50

Consumer Reports released its Annual Reliability Survey for this year, focusing some of the attention on the woes experienced by a handful of infotainment systems.

According to the publication, the absolute worse of the pack in 2014 was Infiniti’s InTouch system in the new Q50, with over one in five owners wanting to take a crowbar to the whole thing. The brand itself took a beating, dropping 14 points to 20th out of 28 as a result of the Q50’s issues, as well as the overall reliability issues in the QX60. Other infotainment systems ironing out the bugs included Ford’s MyTouch, Honda’s HondaLink and Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s UConnect.

Concerning overall reliability, Lexus once again took the top of the podium, while Toyota and Mazda respectively brought home silver and bronze, and Honda finished in fourth. Buick, meanwhile, was the only brand among the Detroit Three to place in the top 10, jumping from 16th to sixth on the strength of its entire portfolio.

As for why the other Detroit brands failed to reach the top 10, Consumer Reports says domestic small and compact cars, along with full-size trucks, are holding everyone back. Tesla also didn’t make the list, but that was due to criteria than low quality: the publication only rates brands with a minimum of two models, a situation that will be remedied when the Model X rolls out next year.

Finally, Audi took fifth behind the Japanese makes, while Porsche took ninth ahead of Kia. BMW and Volvo remained within the top 20. Only Mercedes-Benz took a hit among the Europeans this year, falling 11 spots to 24th thanks to the new CLA and S classes.

The Consumer Reports 2014 reliability survey obtained its information from 1.1 million vehicles, the largest survey of its kind in the publication’s history.

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GM: Opel, Vauxhall Edging Closer To The Black Despite Russia http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gm-opel-vauxhall-edging-closer-black-despite-russia/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gm-opel-vauxhall-edging-closer-black-despite-russia/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 14:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=936162 Despite problems with the Russian market, as well as restructuring costs, General Motors says Vauxhall and Opel are on their way out of the red and into the black. Automotive News reports the European duo took a Q3 2014 loss of $387 million, compared to $238 million lost in Q3 2013. The majority of the […]

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Despite problems with the Russian market, as well as restructuring costs, General Motors says Vauxhall and Opel are on their way out of the red and into the black.

Automotive News reports the European duo took a Q3 2014 loss of $387 million, compared to $238 million lost in Q3 2013. The majority of the loss comes from Russia, where GM took $194 million in write-downs. A currency challenge with the ruble contributed $100 million to the overall figure, as well.

Barclays Capital analyst Brian Johnson believes that, putting aside the Russian-linked losses, Vauxhall and Opel are coming close to breaking even:

Backing out the losses from Russia, partly from the one-off charges and other related headwinds and partly from a depreciation in the ruble, Opel/Vauxhall looks to have been close to breakeven for the quarter.

GM is looking toward 2016 as the point where both of its European subsidiaries will be in the black, with future earnings between now and then tied to both the upcoming Corsa — set to arrive in January — and Astra. The Corsa already has 30,000 pre-orders, while the outgoing Astra saw its sales fall 9 percent through August 2014 to 121,950; the next-gen model will arrive in 2015.

Overall, the duo saw a 2 percent increase in sales during Q3 2014, moving 253,000. Annual sales through September climbed 8 percent to 683,797, and market share climbed a percentage point to 6.9 percent.

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Lincoln To Undergo $5B Five-Year Extensive Revamp http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/lincoln-undergo-5b-five-year-extensive-revamp/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/lincoln-undergo-5b-five-year-extensive-revamp/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 13:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=936098 Over the next five years, every Lincoln in the showroom presently will either be redesigned or replaced as part of an overall effort by Ford CEO Mark Fields to return to the premium brand to glory. Reuters reports the plan comes with a significant investment: over $5 billion during the next five years. The money […]

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Over the next five years, every Lincoln in the showroom presently will either be redesigned or replaced as part of an overall effort by Ford CEO Mark Fields to return to the premium brand to glory.

Reuters reports the plan comes with a significant investment: over $5 billion during the next five years. The money will be spent to not only revamp the product portfolio, but to help position the portfolio against those of BMW and Mercedes-Benz at home and in China. $2 billion has already been spent in the previous two years, split between preparing the brand for the Chinese market, and refreshing and expanding the lineup before the plan kicks into gear.

The centerpiece of the restoration plan is the D6 platform, which will provide a base for front-, rear- and all-wheel drive sedans and crossovers as early as 2019. Though the platform will be shared with Ford, D6’s purpose is to help set Lincoln apart from the Blue Oval portfolio, and to make the brand more competitive with a stronger base to build upon.

The first models to be built upon the modular architecture include a mid-size sedan and a seven-passenger crossover that could take up with both the MKZ and MKT could leave off. Before then, however, a few redesigns and replacements are set to come, beginning with the redesign of the MKX and replacement of the MKS between the springs of 2015 and 2016. Following up in 2017, the Navigator would gain a new platform from the upcoming 2015 Ford F-150, with aluminum panels to match, while the MKC would get a redesign in 2018.

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Toyota Sells Some Of Its Stake In Tesla http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/toyota-sells-stake-tesla/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/toyota-sells-stake-tesla/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 11:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935994 Daimler wasn’t the only to sell its Tesla shares last week, as Toyota has done the same with some of its shares in the company. Bloomberg reports the automaker sold part of its 2.4 percent stake in the company Friday, though no details were given as to how much of the $690 million ROI was […]

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2013 Toyota RAV4 EV, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Daimler wasn’t the only to sell its Tesla shares last week, as Toyota has done the same with some of its shares in the company.

Bloomberg reports the automaker sold part of its 2.4 percent stake in the company Friday, though no details were given as to how much of the $690 million ROI was brought back into its coffers. The sale follows Daimler’s full divestment from the company, where it turned over its 4 percent stake for $780 million.

Toyota and Tesla are also winding down their RAV4 EV program before going their separate ways, where the latter supplied battery packs for the former’s 2,600 electrified crossovers over the past three years.

Though the two differ on what future they see — Toyota prefers hydrogen, Tesla opts for more electricity — Toyota representative Kayo Doi says her employer has “a good relationship” with Tesla, “and will evaluate the feasibility of working together on future projects.”

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Nissan, Honda Recall More Takata-Equipped Vehicles http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nissan-honda-recall-takata-equipped-vehicles/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nissan-honda-recall-takata-equipped-vehicles/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 14:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935674 The Takata airbag recall continues to grow, with Nissan adding 260,000 2008 through 2012 models worldwide to the list. Automotive News reports the recall total for Nissan linked to the airbags since 2013 totalled nearly 700,000 prior to the additional vehicles called back. The recall affects vehicles outside of the United States, including the Cube […]

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2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior

The Takata airbag recall continues to grow, with Nissan adding 260,000 2008 through 2012 models worldwide to the list.

Automotive News reports the recall total for Nissan linked to the airbags since 2013 totalled nearly 700,000 prior to the additional vehicles called back. The recall affects vehicles outside of the United States, including the Cube and Micra/March, with the majority of the models located in the automaker’s home market of Japan.

Meanwhile, Honda is replacing the defective units in 3.5 million vehicles in 11 states in the U.S. where high humidity could lead to an airbag exploding with metal shrapnel taking dead aim at all inside. The company also recalled 425,825 units, adding onto the 6 million that have been recalled over the issue since 2008.

Finally, General Motors and Toyota are issuing warnings to their customers not have anyone sit in the front passenger seat until the airbag unit is replaced.

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NYC Taxi Association Take Taxi Of Tomorrow Fight To Albany http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nyc-taxi-association-take-taxi-tomorrow-fight-albany/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/nyc-taxi-association-take-taxi-tomorrow-fight-albany/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935650 Clutching dearly onto their fleet of Panthers, New York’s taxi industry is heading up to Albany to contest the $1 billion plan to replace their vehicles with Nissan’s “Taxi of Tomorrow” NV200. Bloomberg reports the Greater New York Taxi Association will contest the appellate court ruling made this summer that declared the program — meant […]

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Nissan NV200 Taxi of Tomorrow

Clutching dearly onto their fleet of Panthers, New York’s taxi industry is heading up to Albany to contest the $1 billion plan to replace their vehicles with Nissan’s “Taxi of Tomorrow” NV200.

Bloomberg reports the Greater New York Taxi Association will contest the appellate court ruling made this summer that declared the program — meant to bring 15,000 of the new taxis to the streets of Manhattan over the next 10 years — was flawed from the start:

The Taxi of Tomorrow as planned forces owners to purchase a single foreign-made vehicle, which is neither fuel-efficient nor wheelchair accessible.

The lawsuit process began in 2012, after the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission chose the NV200 as its new champion, and mandated all medallion owners to buy the vans to replace their Ford Crown Victorias at $29,700 a pop. The plan was blocked twice prior to the June 2014 ruling in favor, once for the lack of hybrid models, and again for overreach by the commission.

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2017 Jeep Wrangler To Remain Body-On-Frame http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/2017-jeep-wrangler-remain-body-frame/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/2017-jeep-wrangler-remain-body-frame/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 12:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935626 The fate of where the next-gen Jeep Wrangler will be assembled may have been settled, thanks to the fact that there will be no unibody Wrangler anytime soon. Automotive News reports sources from inside and outside Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have stated the 2017 Wrangler will remain body-on-frame, meaning the Toledo, Ohio plant responsible for the […]

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The fate of where the next-gen Jeep Wrangler will be assembled may have been settled, thanks to the fact that there will be no unibody Wrangler anytime soon.

Automotive News reports sources from inside and outside Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have stated the 2017 Wrangler will remain body-on-frame, meaning the Toledo, Ohio plant responsible for the icon’s production won’t see it head elsewhere for now.

As for going aluminum to help make weight in the CAFE fuel economy competition, CEO Sergio Marchionne says it’s still a possibility for the next Wrangler to use the metal so long as production costs are manageable, which may also mean trouble still for Toledo:

If the solution is aluminum then I think unfortunately Toledo is the wrong set up to try and build a Wrangler because it requires a complete, a reconfiguring of the assets which would be cost prohibitive. I mean it would be just be so outrageously expensive for us to try and work out that facility.

Further, the switchover would stop Wrangler production completely — the Toledo plant, which is already operating above capacity, is the only plant where Wranglers are made — eating away at both dealer inventory and corporate profits. The current forecast shows 235,000 units leaving Ohio by the end of 2014, the third consecutive year of record high production.

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Chrysler Group Outsold Toyota USA In September 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/chrysler-group-outsold-toyota-usa-september-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/chrysler-group-outsold-toyota-usa-september-2014/#comments Fri, 24 Oct 2014 11:59:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934538 In September 2014, for the first time since September 2011, the Chrysler Group sold more new vehicles in the United States than Toyota USA. But while the results from three years ago involved post-tsunami struggles for many Japanese automakers and 27,000 extra Chrysler Group sales, September 2014’s numbers point more exclusively to the gains made […]

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The Chrysler Toledo Assembly Complex used to produce Jeep Cherokee in ToledoIn September 2014, for the first time since September 2011, the Chrysler Group sold more new vehicles in the United States than Toyota USA.

But while the results from three years ago involved post-tsunami struggles for many Japanese automakers and 27,000 extra Chrysler Group sales, September 2014’s numbers point more exclusively to the gains made at Chrysler’s five brands.

Once again, Chrysler Group sales increased by around 27,000 units, year-over-year. Toyota sales, including Lexus and Scion, also increased, rising less than 2% last month. In September 2011, total Toyota USA sales tumbled 17%.

In fact, the Chrysler Group outsold Toyota USA on four occasions in 2011: May, June, August, and September. (The earthquake-induced tsunami occurred in March.)

On an annual basis, the Chrysler Group hasn’t outsold Toyota USA since calendar year 2005, when 2.3 million Chrysler products and 2.26 million Toyota products were sold.

Fast forward two years from that point and we arrive at Toyota USA’s best-ever year. 2007 sales rose 3% to 2.62 million sales, 544,000 more than Chrysler, Dodge, and Jeep managed that year. 2007 also marked the beginning of a three-year streak in which Toyota USA outsold the Ford Motor Company. On an annual basis, Ford hasn’t allowed that to happen since 2009.

Toyota Chrysler car sales chart September 2014Lest we assume September marks a return to the days of the Big Three being the quasi-Detroit Three, remember that Toyota, Lexus, and Scion have outsold Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, and Ram by nearly 239,000 units over the course of 2014’s first nine months.

Indeed, the gap in September equalled just 2611 units. Excluding commercial vans, the gap shrinks to 725 units. Excluding commercial vans and pickup trucks, the gap reverses in Toyota’s favour to 15,158 units.

The Chrysler Group is also a prominent builder of SUVs and crossovers, with 67,025 September sales from five Jeeps and two Dodges. Toyota and Lexus combined for 52,459 utility vehicle sales from the Lexus GX, LX, and RX and Toyota’s 4Runner, FJ Cruiser, Highlander, Land Cruiser, RAV4, Sequoia, and Venza.

Toyota Chrysler Light Truck Sales Chart September 2014Do the math and you’ll end up with 85,499 Toyota car sales and 40,063 car sales at the Chrysler Group, Fiat 500L included.

The fact that Chrysler outsold Toyota was little more than an interesting tidbit of September 2014 auto sales news given that, up to this point, it’s only happened once in 36 months. Of far greater interest would be Chrysler Group sales results if the company’s passenger car volume came remotely close to matching industry leaders.

Even without cars, the Chrysler Group sold more trucks, minivans, SUVs, crossovers, and commercial vans in September 2014 than their total vehicle sales in September 2011. More “light trucks” were sold by the Chrysler Group than the complete new vehicle sales totals achieved in September 2014 by American Honda, Nissan/Infiniti, and Hyundai-Kia.

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Gilbert Calls Out Dealers In Wake Of Reinforced Michigan Direct Sales Ban http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gilbert-calls-dealers-wake-reinforced-michigan-direct-sales-ban/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/gilbert-calls-dealers-wake-reinforced-michigan-direct-sales-ban/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935370 Tuesday, Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed into law a bill that included language reinforcing a direct sales ban established over 30 years ago. Wednesday? Detroit billionaire Dan Gilbert — best known as the majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers who penned a letter in Comic Sans typeface in response to LeBron James making the decision […]

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Cavaliers Brown Basketball

Tuesday, Michigan governor Rick Snyder signed into law a bill that included language reinforcing a direct sales ban established over 30 years ago.

Wednesday? Detroit billionaire Dan Gilbert — best known as the majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers who penned a letter in Comic Sans typeface in response to LeBron James making the decision to play for the Miami Heat — had a few words to say about this decision.

According to Detroit Free Press, Gilbert was interviewing fellow NBA team owner Mark Cuban while guest-hosting an episode of CNBC’s “Squawk Box” when he brought up the signing of HB 5606, now known as Michigan Public Act 354 of 2014, proclaiming the move “sends a bad message” as far as how much influence lobbyists — especially the auto dealer lobby — have over legislators. He added that Michigan dealers should “man up” and compete with Tesla instead of forcing the EV automaker to sell through a franchise network.

Morgan Stanley automotive analyst Adam Jonas agreed with Gilbert in a note to the financial giant’s clients, stating it was only “a matter of time” that the issue of direct sales — and Tesla’s link to them — would “likely mushroom into a national issue.” He also said legislation protecting the status quo “exist to support the weakest link in the network.”

On the other side, Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce president Sandy Baruah believes Detroit “should have a business environment where all participants play by a common set of rules.” The chamber also supported the signing, and says it looks forward to the further examination Snyder called for in light of the reinforcement.

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