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. Sat, 23 May 2015 15:11:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 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 » Car Reviews http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/reviews/ Greetings From Belle Isle: Crashed Camaros and Brakeless Bimmers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/greetings-belle-isle-crashed-camaros-brakeless-bimmers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/greetings-belle-isle-crashed-camaros-brakeless-bimmers/#comments Sat, 23 May 2015 15:06:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1073698 Chances are if you have an Internet connection and even a passing interest in automobiles, you’ve heard about the “Jalopnik Camaro crash.” If not, here’s a quick catch-up: Patrick George, who covers a variety of topics for Gawker’s cars-and-planes-and-wow-just-wow blog, managed to understeer his way out of a lead-follow pace lap at Detroit’s Belle Isle […]

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Chances are if you have an Internet connection and even a passing interest in automobiles, you’ve heard about the “Jalopnik Camaro crash.” If not, here’s a quick catch-up: Patrick George, who covers a variety of topics for Gawker’s cars-and-planes-and-wow-just-wow blog, managed to understeer his way out of a lead-follow pace lap at Detroit’s Belle Isle Grand Prix course and into a wall. Damage to the car was relatively minor. He was then removed from the event by GM security, in marked contrast to the kid-glove treatment given About.com writer and part-time The Onion-wannabe Aaron Gold after Mr. Gold managed to put a Camaro ZL1 in the tire wall at VIR for no reason whatsoever.

The veritable blizzard of publicity for both Jalopnik and GM in the week that followed has caused some of the more jaded observers of the autojourno game to wonder if perhaps the whole thing isn’t a masterstroke of guerilla marketing. I have to admit I had my own doubts as to the authenticity of the incident, doubts that have not been completely erased by discussions with Patrick and other members of the Jalop staff.

After watching the video a few times, however, I’ve come to believe that it’s probably genuine. I’ve also come to believe that many of Patrick’s harshest critics on YouTube and elsewhere might have found themselves “in the wall” given the same set of circumstances. So if you want to know what Patrick did wrong, why the incident unfolded as it did, and how it relates to an off-track incident I witnessed myself the day before Patrick’s crash, then click the jump and I’ll explain it all!

If you haven’t already watched the Jalopnik video, please do so now – and also, please watch the video above featuring a BMW driver who just can’t seem to remember to use his brakes. The second video was taken by the Performance Data Recorder (PDR) in a 2015 Corvette Z51 I was driving around Summit Point’s Shenandoah circuit last Saturday. In many ways, it’s the same incident seen two different ways. In both cases, the driver fails to slow down enough and then exits the track surface at an angle. The primary differences between Patrick’s video and mine are the Belle Isle circuit is surrounded by walls, and the M3 is going much faster.

What I’d like to suggest is that the cause for both incidents was the same. That cause was what I like to call the “out of bandwidth problem”. This is not to be confused with Iain Banks’ Outside Context Problem. Rather, it’s a product of the way the human mind works.

I frequently tell my driving students they can really only learn one thing per instructional session. They can also really only focus on one problem in any given session. To show you why, I’ll give you an exercise you can do at home, slightly modified from an exercise given to me by Ross Bentley in a driver-coaching class and also demonstrated in his book, Inner Speed Secrets.

Sitting at your desk, take your right hand and place it on your left knee briefly before removing it. At the same time, raise your left leg off the chair a few inches to meet your hand. Then do the same thing with your left hand and your right knee. Then return to the right hand and left knee. Try to do that in rhythm for a moment. Got it? Now, while continuing your alternating hand-and-knee motion, start counting backwards from 100 while you do it. Still good?

Now try counting backwards from 100 in increments of seven.

confused-man

I’ve never had a student who could do it on the first try without some problem. Usually, they say, “100… uh… 93… uh… um…” After they struggle for a few minutes, I show them I can do it effortlessly. I’m not the most graceful or elegant individual, so this is confusing. I then explain I’ve memorized the numbers. 100 – 93 – 86 – 79 – 72 – 65. I’m not doing the math in real time, I’m reciting a memorized series of numbers I already know.

The brain is very good at doing several things at once, as long as all those things are familiar to it. That’s why older drivers aren’t as likely to crash while texting or eating or operating the infotainment system. They have more experience with the primary task (driving) and therefore they have plenty of processing power for secondary tasks.

By contrast, how often have you been on the phone with someone who is driving somewhere and is lost? What does that conversation sound like? There are usually a lot of pauses as the person tries to compute new directions or evaluate their surroundings. “So, I was… uh… talking to Bob, and… uh… he said that the numbers look good but… uh, hold on, I just want to see if this is my turn.” Talking to someone during their daily commute is very different. We all know our daily commute very well, often to the point that we don’t quite remember how we got to the end of it. It’s all handled by subconscious routines.

Those of you who have been on a racetrack before probably remember just how confusing your first time was. There was so much to look at, so many new rules, and so many cars that seemed to appear out of nowhere behind you. To make things worse, your car didn’t behave the way you expected it to, because it was being operated at a much higher speed. This is why I make my novices stay in fourth gear for their first few sessions, and why I “take the mirror away” by adjusting all mirrors so that I, not the student, watch for traffic. Doing so reduces the number of things on which the student has to focus, and allows him to have more success doing the limited number of tasks remaining. When he can remember the layout of the track, and when he has learned the basics of looking around him in this new environment, I’ll let him start shifting before corners, and I’ll let him use his own mirrors – but not until he’s mastered those other tasks.

Sensory Overload

Human beings have a limited ability to process new information and perform new tasks in real time. It’s a bandwidth problem. You can only focus on a certain amount of sensory data. If a small part of that data is unfamiliar – say, a new car on a well-known track – you can deal with that new data. If you have more than that – a new car, on a new track, with traffic around you – then you have a problem. No matter how experienced you are. You still have a problem. Even Formula One drivers often experience difficulty performing at their best at a new track and developing new features of a car at the same time.

In the case of the BMW who went off-track ahead of me, it turns out that he was “driving his mirrors”. He’d been holding me up for nearly an entire lap and I’d been flashing my headlights at him. Instead of letting me by, his ego got involved – That’s some bearded hick in a Corvette! – and he decided to try to stay ahead of me and win the trackday. Therefore, his entire attention going into that hairpin turn was focused behind him, on me. How close was I? Was I going to try a pass? Was I going to tailgate him? He was so busy watching me that his mind had no bandwidth left. Therefore, faced with the necessity of slowing down for the corner, his mind chose the more familiar program – let’s call it Street Braking – instead of the unfamiliar program of Track Braking. In his effort to watch me, he underbraked and drove off the track into the dirt.

Had he been a more experienced driver, with some racing time under his belt, he would have been better able to multi-task between the challenges of operating the car at its limit and watching my position. But although he was a “black group” advanced driver, he still did not have a lot of experience running nose-to-tail at over 100 mph, so he ran out of processing power and had an incident. This sort of thing is monotonously common at open-lapping days, by the way.

What about Patrick? He’s an experienced track rat by media standards, with dozens of lapping days and events to his credit. But listen to his voice as he talks to the camera. Do you hear the bandwidth shortage? In the “uh” and the pauses? What’s going on? It’s as simple as this: he was trying to do all of the following:

  • Operate an unfamiliar car
  • On an unfamiliar course
  • While evaluating that car in the context of its predecessor
  • And describing it to the camera

That’s too much to ask out of nearly anyone. I’ve done it myself, and it’s mentally exhausting. To make things worse, our expectations for in-car videos are set by the scripted, high-budget Top Gear episodes where the actors recite a couple of well-rehearsed lines to their cameramen, interspersed with footage of professional drivers. So Patrick is under pressure to make a one-take video sound as polished and insightful as a million-dollar television episode.

No wonder he can’t focus on the proper line, or he fails to listen to what the car is trying to tell him about available grip. Those two tasks require bandwidth he doesn’t have. By the time the incident starts, he’s already mentally maxed-out.

The YouTube commenters on this particular video like to focus on the fact that Patrick has his arms crossed. That’s the one thing that he does right on his way to the wall. His consistent hand positioning is the sign of a driver who has received some training at least. But let’s analyze the final moments of the crash for a second. He could have avoided the incident by doing one of two things:

  • Reducing steering input and braking input, allowing the car to steer out of the situation
  • Unwinding the wheel to straight and engaging ABS at full strength.

Either would have been okay. The proximate cause of the accident is that Patrick reacted to a loss of steering traction by winding on more steering – first to the limits of his crossed arms, then further by shuffling – while also braking. This overloaded the front wheels. A more experienced driver would have reduced steering and brake pressure and searched for grip. That’s the process that a race driver goes through in every turn: trail-braking until the maximum cornering grip is achieved. When my students make Patrick’s mistake, I reach over and unwind their steering until the car grips and we make it through the turn correctly.

But Patrick had no instructor – he had a cameraman and an assignment to discuss the vehicle with that cameraman. That was the ultimate cause of the incident: bandwidth overload. Too many tasks. In a conversation with me, Patrick readily identified that as the problem, with no prompting from me. I doubt he’ll do it again.

And in the long run, it was harmless. Nobody was hurt. The car that received damage would have been crushed eventually anyway. There was plenty of publicity to go around and everybody will make money as a result. So if a car crash hurts nobody and benefits everyone involved, is it really a car crash? Process that for a moment, why don’t you?

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2015 Ford Explorer Limited Rental Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-ford-explorer-limited-rental-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-ford-explorer-limited-rental-review/#comments Sat, 23 May 2015 14:35:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072858 I’ll put the pedal to the flo-ah/of my two-tone Ford Exploh-ah You know how it’s done. – Ice Cube, Down For Whatever The great O’Shea Jackson penned that lyric in 1993, and I know exactly what Ford Explorer he meant. Back in the day, the Explorer Sport was a three-door SUV that could be bought […]

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2015 Ford Explorer Exterior Three Quarter

I’ll put the pedal to the flo-ah/of my two-tone Ford Exploh-ah

You know how it’s done.

– Ice Cube, Down For Whatever

The great O’Shea Jackson penned that lyric in 1993, and I know exactly what Ford Explorer he meant. Back in the day, the Explorer Sport was a three-door SUV that could be bought as either RWD or 4WD. It was based on the Ranger, and it was available in a black-and-silver combo that would have undoubtedly pleased Cube, who was the world’s most famous Raiders fan (somewhat presciently, he also accented the word Fleeeeeeex in that song). Back then, the Explorer was being leased by everyone from wannabe rappers to bored Northern Virginia Housewives because Ford was guaranteeing residual values that were simply otherworldly. It was the first SUV that I can remember being that ubiquitous.

Then the whole Firestone thing happened.

For those that are too young to remember that, here’s a brief history as told by Wikipedia. The tl;dr version is that over 250 deaths and 3,000 serious injuries were linked to Ford Explorers rolling over when their Firestone tires experienced tread separation, earning the popular SUV the nickname “Exploder.” In a 2015 world, it’s hard to believe that neither Ford nor Firestone’s parent company, Bridgestone, were sued into oblivion.

But, remarkably, the Explorer name survived. Today’s Explorer, however, bears little resemblance to Ice Cube’s ride. Let’s all just call it what it is now – a crossover, based on the same D4 platform as its much less popular cousin, the Taurus. Ford refuses to admit this; they still call it an SUV, and they still use truck trim level names like XLT.

When I bought my own Ford Flex nearly three years ago, I cross-shopped the Flex against the Explorer and came away massively disappointed with the latter. Same OEM, same platform, same motor, yet the Flex was a much better driver. So when I selected this blacked out Ford Explorer Limited with about 6,000 miles on the clock from the rental car lot, I was prepared to be disappointed again.

Spoiler alert: I wasn’t. Well, not entirely.

2015 Ford Explorer Dash Interior

The interior on the Limited trim is splendid in its execution. Everything about the ergonomics of the car simply works. Granted, I daily drive not one, not two, but three Fords. The 12-speaker Sony sound system worked well for everything from Iggy Azalea to Iggy Pop. The seating position is perfect for smaller female drivers as well as 5’9″ men. Visibility everywhere is outstanding. The ride is quiet to the point of isolation for highway driving. My only complaint is that it should just feel bigger inside than it actually does. The second row is surprisingly small – I wouldn’t recommend that anybody larger than I sit there for any length of time. The third row is useless for anyone larger than Verne Troyer, but when folded down, it provides adequate storage space for a couple of 27 inch suitcases. I’m not sure that the lack of headroom and legroom matters all that much, considering that the target audience for the Explorer nowadays is thirty-something women who need to take two kids, two lawnchairs, and a crate of juice boxes to the local soccer field. The Explorer’s diminutive cabin might actually feel cozier and less intimidating for such a customer.

2015 Ford Explorer Middle Row Interior

That being said, the floating roof look of the Explorer, especially in black, makes it the most masculine of the choices in this segment. Between the Highlander, Traverse and Explorer, I know which one I’d feel coolest driving (cool is relative term when it comes to car-based crossovers, obviously). When I pulled up to meet a colleague for breakfast, she couldn’t find me in the lot because she knew that I was driving a rental car and, as she put it, “That thing looks like it cost a lot of money.” Which is good, because it does, but we’ll get to that soon enough.

The 3.5L V6 doesn’t hurt, either. While the Limited doesn’t have EcoBoost as an available engine, the 290(!!) horsepower and 255 lb-ft of torque means you won’t find yourself on the losing end of too many stoplight races or squeezed out of highway merges. Ford quotes a 0-60 time of somewhere around eight seconds, but it feels much stronger than that on the butt dyno. And, of course, what crossover doesn’t need giant 20-inch rims? I mean, if you ain’t rolling on twenties, you ain’t really rolling.

2015 Ford Explorer Instrument Panel

However, all that power and ballerness comes at a cost, and that cost is fuel economy. While my Flex averages around 21-22 MPG in combined driving, that same engine in the Explorer returned considerably less – around 18 MPG. The ride on the highway is spectacularly smooth, but in-town driving in hip and trendy Downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan was a less pleasant experience. Potholes and cracks in the road were translated much more directly to the driver than I would have liked for a vehicle of this size. I spent all of my time driving in FWD mode, although I wish I had been able to experience Ford’s Terrain Management System, which gives the suburban mom who likes to go mud running on the weekends four different selectable options to “optimize traction electronically.”

In my dream world, I would use this Explorer Limited to tow around a matching black Shelby GT350 to racetracks around the country where I would dominate all, because it’s rated to pull around about 5,000 pounds with ease. Okay, maybe an F-150 makes a little bit more sense as a tow vehicle, but the Explorer is certainly capable.

So why did my disappointment rear its ugly (lack of) head(room)? Because it still isn’t as good as a Flex. The Flex does everything that the Explorer does, and it does it all just a little bit better. And in Limited Trim, optioned exactly the way my rental was, this Explorer is going to sticker out at $43,695 before all incentives. While that’s a relative bargain when compared to a similarly engined and equipped Highlander, it still just feels like a big chunk of money for a CUV – excuse me, SUV – from a non-premium brand.

My recommendation? Definitely grab one from the rental lot if you have the chance. But for your own driveway, go find a Flex SE or SEL.

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BMW Debuts 3.0 CSL Hommage Concept http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/bmw-debuts-3-0-csl-hommage-concept/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/bmw-debuts-3-0-csl-hommage-concept/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 18:25:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1073578 BMW has dug into its history books, picked out one of the prettiest, fastest, lightest cars of note, and built this as a tribute – the BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage Concept. Details are light at the moment as BMW has yet to send out a release, but the bustling crowd at the 2015 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este […]

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Fat Car, Erwin Wurm photo - flickr user russelljsmith

BMW has dug into its history books, picked out one of the prettiest, fastest, lightest cars of note, and built this as a tribute – the BMW 3.0 CSL Hommage Concept.

fat-car-by-edwin-wurm222.jpg

Details are light at the moment as BMW has yet to send out a release, but the bustling crowd at the 2015 Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este has already been afforded a first look of BMW’s latest concept. The new car features widened bodywork and a dramatic rear wing in the style of the original CSL.

We will have more on BMW’s latest Hommage as the story develops.

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GM Putting $2,000 on Hood of 2015 Camaro Z/28 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/gm-putting-2000-on-hood-of-2015-camaro-z28/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/gm-putting-2000-on-hood-of-2015-camaro-z28/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 14:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072658 Just after the 2016 Camaro was introduced at Belle Isle last weekend, General Motors upped incentives on the current generation car. The best part? The General has placed the highest incentive amount directly on the hood scoop of the 2015 Camaro Z/28. According to CarsDirect, General Motors has combined two incentive offers: a $1,000 rebate that applies […]

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2015 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

Just after the 2016 Camaro was introduced at Belle Isle last weekend, General Motors upped incentives on the current generation car.

The best part? The General has placed the highest incentive amount directly on the hood scoop of the 2015 Camaro Z/28.

According to CarsDirect, General Motors has combined two incentive offers: a $1,000 rebate that applies to all Camaros and an additional $1,000 specifically for Z/28. If you are leasing a non-GM vehicle, an additional $500 can be applied.

The car shopping website says the rebate might be due to the Z/28’s availability – currently there are more units in the wild than its supercharged brother, the ZL1 – and limited appeal due to being a manual-only affair with few creature comforts.

While Camaro has typically outsold Ford Mustang since 2010, this year the bowtied offering is struggling to keep up with the blue oval pony car.

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Nissan IDx is Super-Dead, But Parts May Live On in FWD Platform http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/nissan-idx-is-super-dead-but-parts-may-live-on-in-fwd-platform/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/nissan-idx-is-super-dead-but-parts-may-live-on-in-fwd-platform/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 13:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072786 Nobody at Nissan is talking about IDx. That’s what we learned from Pierre Loing, Vice President of Product Planning for Nissan North America. But, there’s a chance certain styling elements could make their way to other products, or possibly even a front-wheel drive performance option below 370Z. While at the 2016 Nissan Maxima media preview […]

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Nissan IDx Freeflow Concept

Nobody at Nissan is talking about IDx.

That’s what we learned from Pierre Loing, Vice President of Product Planning for Nissan North America. But, there’s a chance certain styling elements could make their way to other products, or possibly even a front-wheel drive performance option below 370Z.

While at the 2016 Nissan Maxima media preview in Nashville, Tennessee, we had a chance to prod Loing on what could be the future of IDx considering its overwhelmingly positive reception in Tokyo and Detroit.

Nissan IDx Freeflow / IDx NISMO

“IDX is an interesting project; a show car that received good reception. But, to go from concept to production, the reality always kicks in,” Loing said about the future of IDx as we saw it revealed in Tokyo.

The reality is auto manufacturers are finding it difficult – or impossible – to build a small, rear-wheel drive performance vehicle and make money. Either a current platform, like that of the 370Z, needs to be shrunk down, or a whole new platform needs to be engineered to serve one niche vehicle.

2016 Nissan 370Z NISMO

Unfortunately, at least for Nissan, the 370Z platform isn’t an option.

“Small, sporty cars are very attractive for consumers but not in huge numbers. To do them properly – in our case – you can’t rely on an existing rear-wheel drive platform, because its dimensions are for a much larger powertrain. So, for us, it would mean developing a different rear-wheel drive platform and then we are bumping into the same obstacles every other automaker has: the volumes of a small, sporty car are not enough to justify the investment,” said Loing.

With the current Z doing quite well, at least in the eyes of Nissan as top-dollar NISMO models make up nearly 20 percent of units sold, going down-market is going against the market. Also, based on Loing’s remarks about size, it doesn’t look like we will be getting a smaller Z car next time around.

But, since it was the IDx’s design garnering the most attention, could it transfer to something else?

“It wouldn’t be the same design because, of course, the proportions are based on a rear-wheel drive platform,” Loing explained. “But that kind of retro 510 inspired design was very well received in Japan and in the U.S. (when Nissan debuted in Tokyo and Detroit), and to some extent in Europe as well. So, yeah, that could be an option – among other ones, it could be an option.

“I think we may still have some room (to add a retro-inspired car). We have a wide lineup.”

And with the new Maxima pumping out 300 horsepower to the front wheels alone, a FWD performance compact is possible.

Renault Megane RS 275

“If you look at the Alliance, Renault has some extremely strong front-wheel drive cars that are very sporty; Megane RenaultSport, for example, holds the front-wheel drive record on the Nurburgring. So, yes, it is possible within the limitations of front-wheel drive today.”

But, is that something Nissan is considering? Loing held his cards close to his vest.

“You will have to come back in a few years to see if it has materialized or not. *laughs* But, we do show cars to test reactions all the time, so those reactions are included in the debate on future global products. Sometimes they will be the deciding factor to go one way or another. Sometimes they won’t.”

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Marchionne: AWD Minivan Will Lose Stow ‘N Go or Gain Electric Motor http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/marchionne-awd-minivan-will-lose-stow-n-go-or-gain-electric-motor/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/marchionne-awd-minivan-will-lose-stow-n-go-or-gain-electric-motor/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 17:45:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072338 Move over, Toyota. You won’t be the only automaker hocking an all-wheel drive minivan when the new Town & Country arrives next year. According to Sergio Marchionne, the next minivan will get all-wheel drive, but something’s gotta give. Packaging constraints as they are, and the Town & Country’s features as they are, the next generation […]

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2015 Chrysler Town & Country

Move over, Toyota. You won’t be the only automaker hocking an all-wheel drive minivan when the new Town & Country arrives next year.

According to Sergio Marchionne, the next minivan will get all-wheel drive, but something’s gotta give.

Packaging constraints as they are, and the Town & Country’s features as they are, the next generation minivan can only bring all-wheel drive to fruition in one of two ways: ditch Stow ‘N Go to free up space under the passenger floor or implement a hybrid system with an electric motor driving the rear wheels. “It’s not that complicated. We’re exploring both,” said Marchionne, Automotive News reports.

Considering the popularity of Stow ‘N Go for Chrysler’s minivan twins, the latter option seems most likely, and it isn’t without precedent.

Starting with the second-generation Cube in Japan, Nissan offered a system called “e4WD” that sent power to the electrically-driven rear wheels when the front wheels slipped. It also eliminated the need for a center coupling and reduced parasitic loss typically associated with mechanical all-wheel drive systems.

The new Chrysler minivan will debut at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in January before heading off to dealers later the same year as a 2017 model.

[h/t AutoGuide]

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2016 Volvo XC90 First Drive (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2016-volvo-xc90-first-drive-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2016-volvo-xc90-first-drive-video/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 15:30:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1069282 Volvo seems to be on the long road to recovery. Although sales have continued to slip in the USA, the numbers were up worldwide last year. In an interesting twist, 2014 was also the first year more Volvos were sold in China than North America. That could be cause-and-effect since Volvo had been more focused on […]

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2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD

Volvo seems to be on the long road to recovery. Although sales have continued to slip in the USA, the numbers were up worldwide last year. In an interesting twist, 2014 was also the first year more Volvos were sold in China than North America. That could be cause-and-effect since Volvo had been more focused on their European-only new compact sedan and wagon. 2016 finally showers some Swedish love on America with a complete redesign of the XC90, the SUV originally designed for us. Because China is now a bigger market than we are, this XC90 isn’t just for us, but for China and the growing number of big crossovers clogging up Europe as well.

Exterior
The Volvo DNA is undeniable, but an Audi influence is also readily apparent. While I admit I like Audi’s design language, I am a little saddened the very distinct Volvo styling cues from the original S80, S60 and XC90 continue to get softened over time.

Up front is a bolder, flatter grille (thanks to pedestrian impact regulations), distinctive optional LED headlamps and a shorter front overhang than ever before. The shorter overhang is possible because this is the first Volvo in ages designed to accept only 4-cylinder or smaller engines under the hood. Out back, the distinctive Swedish hips are nearly gone, replaced by a more sloping profile that is more aggressive but less extraordinary. The Audi influence is most apparent out back where U.S.-bound models get red turn signals instead of the amber blinkers found on the European model. While Audi supposedly makes the amber-to-red change because the amber lamps from the EU don’t cover enough surface area, Volvo’s switch is purely aesthetic.

Interior
Until the new Q7 lands and we can look inside, the new XC90 has the best interior in the segment with no exceptions. After stepping into a Range Rover Sport after the event, I can safely say the Volvo compares well with the next category up. Momentum trims make do with injection moulded door and dash components, while Inscription models slather everything within reach in acres of cowhide, more wood trim than a modern Jaguar and a simple style that is distinctly Scandinavian. (Which is surprising since the lead interior designer is American.)

The new SUV gets Volvo’s first complete seat redesign in ages. The Swedish thrones have long had a reputation for impressive ergonomics, but a refresh was overdue. The new design allows for 4-way lumbar, adjusting side bolsters, extending thigh cushions and ventilation in addition to heating. I was unable to sample the less capable base seat, but 8 hours in the top-end model confirms Volvo has improved the adjustability without sacrificing their legendary comfort and support.

Hop in the back and you’ll notice the XC90’s length may have grown over time, but interior height is actually down in some measures. This makes the third row very unusual. The seats are some of the most comfortable mother-in-law-row seats I’ve had the pleasure to sit in, but the headroom limits their usefulness to those under 5’8. The cargo area is surprisingly generous behind the third row with enough room to stuff roller bags in the long way, but I suspect most folks will keep the way-back seats folded. If that describes your typical third row usage, you may want to lobby Volvo for the seating accoutrements in the picture below.

Volvo XC90 Excellence - interior

As we’ve all heard, chauffeurs are cheap in China and being driven is preferred to driving. To satisfy this growing segment of Chinese society, Volvo will build the XC90 Excellence, which can be had as either a 3 or 4 seat model. No, Volvo didn’t bring one to sample to the event, but I mention it because the concept sounded way out in left field when I first saw the blog posts about it a few weeks ago. After having experienced the new interior, however, I have to say it makes sense. All but the steering wheel airbag cover is Range Rover competitive and I wouldn’t mind seeing a 5-seat variant with a little extra “plush” in the back. Just call it something other than the “XC90 Excellence.” Please.

Infotainment
Volvo placed a 9.3-inch touchscreen in the middle of the dash, which acts more like a tablet computer than a traditional infotainment system. The display actually works a little more smoothly than Tesla’s ginormous 17-inch model, although it’s much less snazzy. The overall concept allows four different data “zones” to coexist on-screen at the same time, customizable by the user. To interact with them, you touch the option and it expands while shrinking the others. This allows you to see the nav system’s map and your next turn directions while also seeing your media information, fuel economy, vehicle status and other pertinent bits. Touch responses were lightning fast, just like the latest tablet computers. The system offers iDrive-like levels of adjustment and vehicle customization.

2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD

Over on the driver’s side is an all-new and all-gigantic 12.3-inch LCD instrument cluster. The gauge design is elegant and well-laid out using nearly 1/3 of the display for either your media functions or a navigation map, even when a destination is not set. I’d say the new Volvo display ranks on par with the new Mercedes S-Class and ahead of the Jaguars and Land Rovers with disco dashes in terms of design. Speaking of JLR products, I have one gripe: like the English disco dashes, Volvo has little ability to customize the LCD aside from colors and some minor gauge changes. Although GM has only four different layouts to chose from in Cadillac CUE, that’s three more than Volvo and the looks are all different.

Safety
For 2016, Volvo reprises most of its safety systems, updates several of them and adds some new ones for good measure. The usual suspects – like a plethora of airbags and anti-whiplash seats – are standard. Volvo’s City Safety autonomous braking system gets an under the covers overhaul. Previously, the system came in two different versions: the base version relied solely on a laser scanner and camera to detect traffic and the second version was bundled with the adaptive cruise control using a radar sensor to expand coverage to pedestrians and cyclists. This generation of City Safety doesn’t increase the speeds above 31 mph, but the radar sensor and expanded sensing is now standard, as is a software tweak to improve accident avoidance in intersections. The new radar sensor replaces the laser scanner and is located in the same housing behind the rear-view mirror. The new location is less susceptible to ice build-up or snow packing in cold weather and may reduce repair costs in minor accidents.

Safety seems to be a game of diminishing returns, so the new systems focus on higher hanging fruit. The run-off-road protection uses the City Safety camera to determine if you are leaving the road surface. If you do, new seatbelt tensioners will pull you into place and a deforming seat frame makes sure when you launch into the air and land, spinal forces are reduced by 1/3. There’s also a rear-end collision warning that lets you know a drunk is about to plow into your hind end. The system will tension the seat belts, flash the hazard lights to attract the attention of the other driver, and will use the brakes to keep the car under control during and after the collision.

Volvo 2.0L T6 Drive E Engine

Drivetrain
As advertised, Volvo has kicked their 5- and 6-cylinder engines to the curb with the new XC90. While there are a selection of engines available in the EU, the only one making it to the USA is the turbocharged and supercharged 2.0L direct-injection four-cylinder. In the SPA platform, there’s a little more room for the plumbing. So, power is up slightly from the XC60 Drive-E to 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, nearly the equal of the BMW N55 in most tunes. The only transmission is an 8-speed Aisin automatic. All T6 models get a standard Haldex AWD system that will send up to 50 percent of available power to the rear whenever it wants. And, depending on the situation, the system will send up to 80 percent of power to the rear axle if a front wheel slips. If you need more power, Volvo doesn’t give you a bigger engine; they add a hybrid system in addition to the turbo and the supercharger. Say what? You heard that right, the XC90 T8 is a plug-in turbocharged and supercharged 400 horsepower hybrid.

Volvo’s hybrid system is thematically similar to Acura’s RLX hybrid. Things start with the same 316 hp engine and 8-speed auto as the T6, but they jam a 46 hp, 103 lb-ft electric starter/motor/generator between the engine and torque converter. The engineers ditched the Haldex AWD so they could stuff a water-cooled 9.3 kWh lithium ion battery in the tunnel between the front seats. The mechanical AWD is replaced by a 87 hp, 177 lb-ft electric motor connected to the rear axle sending power through a fixed 10:1 reduction gear. With a maximum discharge rate of 87 hp from the battery, the power and torque curves combine to give the driver 400 ponies and 475 lb-ft of torque. (Official US numbers are not final.) If you live in the snow belt, you should know while the T6 can send 158 hp to the rear on a whim, 87 is the most you’ll ever get in the T8. If that sounds like the Lexus and Acura eAWD systems, you’re right, so expect similar snow and ice performance.

2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD

Drive
I was honestly a little surprised Volvo designed an entirely new suspension system for the SPA platform in addition to everything else. Instead of MacPherson struts, Volvo fits double wishbones up front producing a positive impact on handling. Out back, the XC90 sports a funky single composite leaf-spring in the independent multi-link suspension. The rear suspension design (except the leaf spring part) is quite similar to what Jaguar is using in the new XE. Logical, since both were started while Volvo and Jaguar were owned by Ford. The new design makes it easier to integrate the optional four-corner air suspension fitted to all XC90s at the testing event. The new suspension design, the lightened front end and the widest tires Volvo has ever put on a production car (275 width) improve handling just as you’d expect.

This puts the XC90 closer to the X5 than the MDX or QX60 in terms of grip. Configured comparably, the X5 will out handle the XC90 thanks to a RWD dynamic and better weight balance. But, the XC90 is less expensive. So, configured to a similar price, the Volvo will likely win. Speaking of price, the XC90 and the MDX price out almost identically. Although the XC90 starts higher at $48,900, it comes with standard AWD and the Acura doesn’t. Similarly configured an MDX Advance and a XC90 Momentum (with appropriate options) end up just $100 apart, a decent discount vs the other Euro options.

The all-new XC90 features a completely new chassis, front and rear, including a double wishbone front suspension.

The all-new XC90 features a completely new chassis, front and rear, including a double wishbone front suspension.

The engineers are claiming a 6.1 second 0-60 time – the same time advertised by BMW for the X5 in both RWD and AWD forms. Unfortunately, I was unable to 0-60 test the Volvo. Going back in our logs, I discovered that the 2015 X5 xDrive35i is the only BMW in recent memory to take longer to get to 60 than BMW’s claimed. The X5 hit 60 after 6.5 seconds, meaning the Volvo may be a hair faster. Check back for full specs when we get our hands on one for a full review. Add the hybrid hardware and Volvo says 0-60 drops to 5.7 seconds – notably faster than the QX60 hybrid (7.1) but a far cry from the 4.4L turbo X5 (4.7).

Numbers aside, the small engine in the XC90 certainly has a different feel than the 3.0L engine in the BMW. Low end torque from idle lags then comes on strong. Passing torque is excellent at most speeds, and at high RPMs the engine feels a hair more out of breath than the larger displacement options.

2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD

The XC90 isn’t a game changer for Volvo in America. It can’t be. A brand is more than one car. However, if the XC90 is a window into Volvo’s future, then I have high hopes. If the Swedes can make over their entire lineup fast enough, they may also salvage their American sales numbers. This kind of interior quality in a 3-series sized vehicle would give even the all-new and all-tasty C-Class a run for its money. Just two things stand in their way: a distinct lack of marketing to let Audi shoppers know there is a better crossover for sale and the worrying thought it may be another 12 years until this XC90 gets redesigned. If you’re shopping for a luxury 3-row and don’t give the XC90 a look, you’re missing out on one tasty meatball.

Volvo provided the vehicle at a lunch event.

2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD 2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD

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Fiat Aegea Is the Dodge Dart for Elsewhere http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/fiat-aegea-is-the-dodge-dart-for-elsewhere/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/fiat-aegea-is-the-dodge-dart-for-elsewhere/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 14:18:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072098 Fiat, in conjunction with Tofaş R&D, revealed its new compact three-box Aegea sedan project at the Istanbul Motor Show. The new sedan, which will get a different name when it goes to production, is the first of three new models to be introduced for the EMEA region, replacing the Linea sedan and Bravo hatchback. Designed in Italy and engineered […]

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Fiat Aegea

Fiat, in conjunction with Tofaş R&D, revealed its new compact three-box Aegea sedan project at the Istanbul Motor Show. The new sedan, which will get a different name when it goes to production, is the first of three new models to be introduced for the EMEA region, replacing the Linea sedan and Bravo hatchback.

Designed in Italy and engineered in Turkey, the Aegea project sits atop the same ‘small wide’ platform as the Fiat 500L/500X, Jeep Renegade and (to a lesser degree) Dodge Dart. With a wheelbase of 2,640 mm (103.9 inches), the Aegea is only 2.5 inches shorter than the Dart at the wheels. The new sedan sits at 4,500 mm (177.2 inches) long, 1,780 mm (70.1 inches) wide and 1,480 mm (58.3 inches) tall. Fiat also states the sedan is “large enough to seat 5 well built passengers comfortably with a load capacity of over 510 litres.”

Four engines will be available in the Aegea family. Two Multijet II turbodiesels and two gasoline engines, mated to manual and automatic transmissions, will produce between 95 and 120 hp.

The Ægea name pays tribute to the Aegean Sea that is “the symbolic bridge between East and West.”

The new sedan will go on sale in Turkey in November and later in other EMEA markets.

NOTE: The car will be built at the same plant where there’s currently a labor dispute. That November on-sale date could slide a bit if the situation isn’t resolved soon.

Fiat Aegea Fiat Aegea Fiat Aegea Fiat Aegea Fiat Aegea

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This Is The 2016 Nissan Maxima’s Pumped-In Engine Note http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/this-is-the-2016-nissan-maximas-pumped-in-engine-note/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/this-is-the-2016-nissan-maximas-pumped-in-engine-note/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 12:51:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072026 Earlier this week, I was able to drive the 2016 Nissan Maxima around the great state of Tennessee and enjoy some of the twistiest roads outside of the Tail of the Dragon. While I can’t share driving impressions just yet, there is one thing I can offer up: the Maxima’s piped-in engine note. Again, thanks to embargoes, […]

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2016 Nissan Maxima Front Three-Quarter

Earlier this week, I was able to drive the 2016 Nissan Maxima around the great state of Tennessee and enjoy some of the twistiest roads outside of the Tail of the Dragon. While I can’t share driving impressions just yet, there is one thing I can offer up: the Maxima’s piped-in engine note.

Again, thanks to embargoes, we can’t tell you much. However, here were the circumstances of the recording: we were cruising at about 35-40 mph while I held my iPhone against a speaker on the passenger side and asked the driver to give it some gas. The system – called Active Sound Enhancement – is similar to that in the new Camaro. Both are provided by Bose in conjunction with Active Noise Cancellation.

If you’d like to know anything other than that, you’ll have to come back on June 3rd for the full review.

 

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Crapwagon Outtake: 1988 Honda CRX Si http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/crapwagon-outtake-1988-honda-crx-si/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/crapwagon-outtake-1988-honda-crx-si/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 12:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1071858 I needed a car. Any car. My dad and I were limping my dying ’85 Nissan Maxima around town to multiple car dealers, looking for an appropriate replacement. I was 19, I think, and since I commuted thirty miles a day to college (when I went to class) I needed reliable, efficient transport. A second-generation […]

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1988 Honda CRX

I needed a car. Any car. My dad and I were limping my dying ’85 Nissan Maxima around town to multiple car dealers, looking for an appropriate replacement. I was 19, I think, and since I commuted thirty miles a day to college (when I went to class) I needed reliable, efficient transport.

A second-generation CRX, much like this one, caught my eye and we climbed in. One problem arose, however, as both my dad and I were well north of 300 pounds each, and the stock springs were sagging a bit. Oh, and the streets near the dealer had rough, rutted cobblestones. We were lucky to return with an intact exhaust, and I reluctantly moved on to a roomier Accord coupe.

This 1988 Honda CRX Si looks nearly showroom fresh, especially to a guy from the salt-encrusted Midwest – those rear wheel wells would be perforated up here. Black on black looks quite good, though the supposedly-cursed Y-49 Barbados Yellow is my preferred shade. Most of these have seen the darkest aisles of Pep Boys, so an unmodified car is refreshing.

$6,800 seems steep for a twenty-seven year old Honda, but the CRX is a truly special car, and we may see the really good ones fetch serious money someday soon.

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2015 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-smart-fortwo-electric-drive-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-smart-fortwo-electric-drive-review/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 14:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1071066 I like Smarts. It’s not a guilty pleasure, for I am not ashamed. It is a bizarre pleasure, however, lacking consistency and believability. I’m a true blue car enthusiast with a love of V8 rumble, turbocharged torque, supercharged sizzle, manual shifters, and performance wagons. And yet, I can’t help myself: I like the way the […]

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2015 Smart Fortwo ED

I like Smarts.

It’s not a guilty pleasure, for I am not ashamed. It is a bizarre pleasure, however, lacking consistency and believability.

I’m a true blue car enthusiast with a love of V8 rumble, turbocharged torque, supercharged sizzle, manual shifters, and performance wagons. And yet, I can’t help myself: I like the way the Smart Fortwo steers. I’ve adapted to the way it wants to be shifted. I love the feeling of interior airiness. And I periodically enjoy well and truly pushing a car to its limits just to make proper forward progress. Approaching the limits in those performance cars I love? That’s a recipe for jail time.

As much as I like Smart Fortwos, my wife likes them a whole lot more. So in 2009, after our old Topaz, a new Civic, and a Santa Fe company car, she leased a second-generation model during a week of ridiculous Mercedes-Benz discounting that made the Fortwo significantly more affordable than any other new vehicle. The W451 wasn’t as efficient as the diesel model with which she fell in love in 2004, but it was thousands of dollars less expensive, much roomier inside, built better, and – in concert with the severe price cut – free to maintain. (The diesel 450 most certainly was not.)

2015 Smart Fortwo ED rear

She rarely drove the car outside the downtown core where we lived. Chief among the car’s annoyances wasn’t the transmission – the car really does force you into an unconventional acclimatization – but rather the difficulty of holding steady at the posted speed limit of 110 km/h. Fortwos prefer to settle in at an easy 130, a speed at which highway fuel consumption sharply increased. Cargo capacity and flexibility never ceased to amaze. The observed mileage far exceeded the Smart’s official ratings.

RATIONALIZING
Surely, nostalgia alone would be sufficient to melt her heart when an electric version of the Smart Fortwo appeared in our driveway in early May, loaned to us for a week by Mercedes-Benz Canada. It’s been years since we ran a Fortwo; lifestyle changes long since made a Smart an impossibility in our family. But a gas-free Smart, with all the charm of the conventional car plus the ability to plug it into our house, is unquestionably a winning ticket, no?

2015 Smart Fortwo ED interior

No, not in our province, not in our lives, not even as a second car. A $30,000 two-seater with no performance credentials to speak of, no available tax rebates, lengthy charging times, and a dearth of ordinary creature comforts isn’t a recipe for success. This whole “compliance” electric car production works in a buyer’s favor with the right lease deal, in the proper U.S. jurisdiction, if they plan to operate a different primary car, and, of course, if they like Smarts.

DRIVING
Attempting to draw comparisons between an electric Smart and cars we typically drive is virtually impossible. This feels nothing like a conventional automobile, more unlike the Nissan Micra I drove the week before than a Prius is unlike a Camry.

More unusual is the stark difference between the way the Fortwo Electric Drive makes its way down the road in comparison with a normal second-generation Fortwo. The electric version is 16% heavier, and with the added weight settled low in the structure, the Electric Drive rides more sedately. But the steering is very heavy and rather unwilling to move far off centre.

cargo collage

Throttle calibration is nicely weighted, and the initial surge of torque is genuinely pleasing, as in so many electric cars. With no shifts to be completed, the Fortwo ED simply continues to build speed in a strange manner, so very unlike the normal Fortwo which, while in possession of passing power at highway speed, doesn’t exactly race down an on-ramp. The Electric Drive, on the other hand, is out of breath at higher speeds.

Brake feel is dreadful in this electric car, but the regen modes (through which you can cycle using the paddle shifters) can be so effective that one-pedal driving becomes commonplace. One-pedal driving is the best.

From a handling perspective, the weight which improves ride quality greatly reduces the feeling of agility that makes the regular Fortwo such a blast in the city. As a result, much of my reasoning for labelling the Fortwo as “fun” is lost, because this car isn’t nearly as enjoyable to hustle around town as the gas car.

RULING
Approximately 16 hours of charging (in a standard outlet) resulted in a range read-out of 140 km, well in excess of the car’s official 109 km (68 mile) range. The estimator was accurate for the duration of the car’s stay. Driving for 40 km resulted in around 40 km of range reduction. (I opted against testing the full limit of the car’s range for obvious reasons.) For the record, in 30 months, my wife’s 2009 Fortwo averaged 40 (U.S.) mpg in city driving, around 46 on the highway.

interior collage

A Fortwo Electric Drive and a normal Fortwo share another trait. They are most definitely acquired tastes, even for the previously indoctrinated. On day one, the Fortwo Electric Drive comes across as weird and mildly humorous. A day later, it’s simply weird. On day three, you’ve surely encountered an experience that causes it to be unfortunately weird and you’re not especially humored. Day four brings your mind around to weird but decently useful. On days five and six you’ve learned to drive the Fortwo as it wants to be driven, making it both weird and moderately fun.

By week’s end, it’s weird and likeable. But not sufficiently likeable, not with such limited range or at such a lofty price. Similarly equipped gas-fired Fortwos are at least $10,000 less, ride worse but handle better, accelerate slower but cruise more effectively, and are not limited by a charging cycle.

WAITING
Any interest in a new Smart, whether electric or gas, must be tempered by the realization that the third-generation Fortwo is set to arrive shortly. It won’t simply be newer – it will also be much better. Not only is the outgoing Fortwo Electric Drive not the most newfangled electric car, it’s based on a design that originated seven years ago.

2015 Smart Fortwo ED badge

The 2016 Fortwo will be slightly larger but still blissfully small. While the size causes such consternation in legions of buyers worried for their personal well-being, I always believed the Fortwo’s tidy dimensions produced odds which were ever in my favor. After all, there’s a lot less of me to hit.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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It’s Time To End The Non-Sporty Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/its-time-to-end-the-non-sporty-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/its-time-to-end-the-non-sporty-coupe/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 12:12:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1071410 Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to bring an end to an automotive segment that simply needs to die: the non-sporty coupe. For those of you who aren’t sure what I mean when I say “non sporty coupe,” allow me to describe the two types of coupes that currently exist today. One is the sporty coupe. […]

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2015 Honda Civic

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to bring an end to an automotive segment that simply needs to die: the non-sporty coupe.

For those of you who aren’t sure what I mean when I say “non sporty coupe,” allow me to describe the two types of coupes that currently exist today. One is the sporty coupe. This is a car with sleek styling, and a cool interior, and a lot of power, and some modicum of performance suspension, or performance brakes, or something performancey, like a faux carbon fiber door panel.

Examples of the sporty coupe include the Porsche 911, the Ford Mustang, the Subaru BRZ, and – if you ask the Germans – the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, though the rest of us just consider that to be an overpriced sedan.

And then you have the other type of coupe. The non-sporty coupe. This is a car that was a sedan, until some auto industry geniuses got ahold of it and decided they could create an entirely new segment by just throwing on a new, two-door body and marketing it as “sporty.” Examples include the Honda Civic, the Honda Accord, and, well, that’s about it.

2015 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 Coupe

There’s a reason those are the only options: because everyone else has gotten out of this segment. For years, we had the Toyota Camry coupe, later called the Camry Solara. It’s gone. The Chevy Monte Carlo. It’s gone. The Chevy Cobalt coupe, the Chevy Cavalier Coupe, the Ford Tempo coupe, the Ford Focus coupe (look it up!), the Dodge Avenger, the Chrysler Sebring coupe. Gone, gone, gone, gone, gone. All gone. The Nissan Altima Coupe. Gone. All because this segment is a massive dud; the automotive equivalent of Kevin Costner’s Waterworld.

So why is Honda still in it?

My theory is Honda has abandoned every other sporty car they’ve ever had – from the NSX and the S2000 on down to the CR-Z – so they feel like they have to offer some piece of “performance” somewhere in their lineup. So they offer the Civic in sedan and coupe varieties, even though virtually everyone else has realized the actual place to be, when it comes to compact cars, is sedans and hatchbacks.

Interestingly, it seems like Honda still doesn’t have the hatchback memo. At this year’s New York Auto Show, Honda displayed a bright green Civic intended to preview what’s to come for the compact car’s next generation. So what body style did it use? The highly popular sedan model, which accounts for more than 80 percent of all sales? A hatchback to let us know they’re finally going to take on the Ford Focus, the Mazda3, the Kia Soul, and the Volkswagen Golf?

No: they showed off a Civic Coupe, suggesting they plan to continue the non-sporty coupe even after everyone else has jumped ship.

It’s the same situation with the Accord. Every time there’s an Accord redesign, I expect Honda to finally announce that they’re doing away with the Accord Coupe. And every time there’s an Accord redesign, Honda instead surprises me and brings it back for another round.

The question I have for people who buy these cars is: WHY?????

If you really examine the Civic Coupe and the Accord Coupe, what you’ll find is that both models are really just less practical versions of the sedans. Neither one is a sports car. Neither one offers especially sleek styling. In fact, if you ask me, the Civic Coupe is actually a bit ungainly in its current form, in the sense that it appears, at any moment, that it may be blown over by a strong gust of wind.

So basically, the “non sporty coupe” is just a sedan with less practicality. Same Accord styling. Same Accord engines. Same Accord equipment, and platform, and suspension, and brakes. The only difference: in the regular Accord, you can get out of the back seat without making the front passenger get up and exit the vehicle first.

I’ve talked to a few people who own these vehicles, and I’ve come to learn they actually believe these are sports cars. “Well,” they say. “I couldn’t afford a 370Z. So I decided to get an Accord Coupe.” As if the two are equals. This would be like saying that you couldn’t afford a place overlooking Central Park, so you instead decided to get a studio apartment in downtown Newark.

So I guess the simple truth here is that Honda is going to continue to make these things as long as people keep buying them. But as the market shrinks, and as people realize they’d really rather have a sedan, and as the tens of buyers disaffected by the cancellation of the Chevy Cobalt coupe move on to something else, I hope Honda wises up and gives us hatchbacks instead. Because the days of the non-sporty coupe are coming to an end.

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Don’t Expect a McLaren SUV Anytime Soon… Or Ever http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/dont-expect-mclaren-suv-anytime-soon-ever/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/dont-expect-mclaren-suv-anytime-soon-ever/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 14:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1062970   In our post about McLaren having no interest in producing a sports car for the masses, I mentioned I didn’t ask Wayne Bruce, McLaren’s communications director, if the company was considering producing an SUV like many of the other expensive marques. Well, Mr. Bruce read the post and contacted me, saying that he wished […]

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Aston Martin DBX concept

Aston Martin DBX concept

In our post about McLaren having no interest in producing a sports car for the masses, I mentioned I didn’t ask Wayne Bruce, McLaren’s communications director, if the company was considering producing an SUV like many of the other expensive marques. Well, Mr. Bruce read the post and contacted me, saying that he wished I had indeed asked him that question because the answer goes to the heart of what the McLaren brand means to the company and to its customers. Other car companies might be well served to emulate the clarity with which McLaren understands their own brand.

 

"Urusside" by 72Dino - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Urusside.jpg#/media/File:Urusside.jpg

Lamborghini Urus

Mr. Bruce’s title is Global Communications Director and he communicates so well that I’ll reproduce his rather charming email (I like the touch of describing the quintessentially advanced McLaren Technology Centre in Woking as “humble”) in its entirety:

Thank you for contacting me. And do call me Manbat…

Was trying to get back to you about the story you wrote following our chat at NY in which you said you didn’t ask me if we were considering an SUV … like Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Aston Martin, Maserati, Lotus, erm … anyone I’ve forgotten?

Well, I wish you had. Because I would have said categorically that we are not. We don’t need to. And we wouldn’t want to.

We don’t need to because we already have a profitable and therefore sustainable business. We showed for the first time together at NY our three product families: Sports Series, Super Series and Ultimate Series. These together set the blueprint for McLaren’s future, a future as we discussed hand crafting sports cars and only sports cars out of our humble facility in Woking, England.

We wouldn’t want to because our passion is making sports cars. It’s what we know. What we do well, I hope you’d agree. And as importantly, it’s what our customers know and love us for.

That question cleared up, I’ll pass on your details to my US based colleague JP to see if he can put you in a 650S.

Very best

Wayne

Note: That last little bit about getting me in a 650S is about the possible loan of a review car, not a purchase. Like they say, champagne tastes and a beer budget.

[Photo credit: “Urusside” by 72Dino – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons]

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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2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-lincoln-mkc-2-3-ecoboost-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-lincoln-mkc-2-3-ecoboost-review-video/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 12:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1065114 Lincoln has been working to get their luxury mojo back for a while, but up to this point it has tried to sell models a half-step larger to luxury shoppers. That meant a major value proposition, but engineers often skimped on luxury to keep prices low. The MKC is an entirely different animal however. This […]

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2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front Quarter-001

Lincoln has been working to get their luxury mojo back for a while, but up to this point it has tried to sell models a half-step larger to luxury shoppers. That meant a major value proposition, but engineers often skimped on luxury to keep prices low. The MKC is an entirely different animal however. This Lincoln is essentially the same size as the Lexus NX and Mercedes GLK. Although the MKC is finally the same size as its competition, it marches to a different drummer, and after a week I finally realized something. It’s refreshing to have something different.

Exterior

Let’s talk competition first. The MKC is Lincoln’s answer to the X3, Q5, NX, XC60, and GLK. This seems to confuse some folks who assume the MKC and the Lexus NX were designed to compete against the X1 and Evoque. Looking at the specs, the MKC sits right between the GLK and Q5 in overall dimensions.

By now you’ve probably heard the MKC is the “Lincoln Escape”, but what does that really mean? The MKC shares safety systems and body structure designs with the Escape. However, it shares no sheetmetal with the Ford. Lincoln didn’t just re-skin the Escape, either. They widened the body and the track while they were at it, resulting in a lower, wider stance that’s more appropriate in the luxury segment than the perky upright character of the Escape. This is essentially the same formula that Lexus used to make the Lexus NX, which is a cousin to the RAV4. Like the NX and RAV4, parts of the Escape lurk inside the MKC, but you have to look fairly hard to find them.

The MKC receives Lincoln’s latest grille design, which is more restrained than the MKT’s odd-looking schnoz. Although pictures of the MKC seem polarizing, passers-by thought the MKC was attractive in person. If you think something about the rear looks a hair unfinished, you’re not alone. It’s the lack of a protruding bumper of any sort. Aside from the unfinished aesthetic, lacking any real bumper means mishaps with taller vehicles are likely to damage the rear hatch in addition to the bumper cover, increasing repair costs.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior

Interior

The MKC wears the best interior Lincoln has ever created. Period. More than that, the model with real leather is arguably a nicer place to spend your time than the current Q5, GLK, QX50, RDX, or XC60. Opt for the Black Label package and things are taken to the next level. Lincoln shoppers have more ability to customize their crossover than most of the competition with four different upholstery colors that coordinate with three different dashboard and door colors and two wood veneer options (you can’t mix and match). Opting for the Black Label edition gives you an additional four “themes” to choose from. If you want this kind of selection, the MKC and Evoque are really your only options, and the Range Rover doesn’t allow as much customization on base models.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim-003

Front seat comfort depends greatly on your body shape. I’m 6-feet tall and found the seat bottom cushions oddly short and lack thigh support. A 5-foot 4-inch tall person told me the seats fit like a glove. Despite being smaller than all but the Mercedes GLK, the rear seats proved comfortable and easily as accommodating as the XC60.

The cargo area is the biggest compromise in the MKC. It’s notably smaller than most of the competition with just 25 cubes of room behind the rear seats. You’ll find about 20 percent more room in the Volvo.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Center Console

Infotainment

MyLincoln Touch is oddly named for sure, and it’s received more than its share of bad press. Does it crash now and then? Sure. But I actually think MLT is a reason to put the MKC on your list, not take it off. Volvo’s Sensus Connect uses a smaller screen and, despite the new connected features, still lacks decent control of iOS/USB media devices. Audi’s MMI and Mercedes COMAND are attractive systems, but lack the voice command library you get in the Lincoln. iDrive is still my preferred infotainment option, but Lincoln may give it come competition with SYNC3, due out next year.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Engine-001

Drivetrain

Under the hood, the order sheet starts out with a 2.0L direct-injection turbo engine good for 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. Instead of a 6-cylinder engine filling out the top of the range like the Europeans, Lincoln opted to borrow the 2.3L turbo from the new Mustang instead. Five years ago, that would have been derided as insane, but Lexus has gone 4-cylinder only in the new NX and Volvo has committed to the demise of their five and six cylinder turbos as well. Sadly, the 2.3L engine loses some grunt in the translation, dropping from 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft in the Mustang to 285 ponies and 305 lb-ft of twist. 2.0L shoppers can choose between front- or all-wheel drive while the 2.3L model gets all-wheel drive as standard.

Both engines are mated to the 6F35 6-speed automatic transaxle. The 6F35 transaxle is likely the reason for the power reduction from the tune used in the Mustang. Although Ford does not specifically list torque capabilities like General Motors, the Ford 6F35 is substantially similar to the GM 6T50 transaxle, topping out at 260 lb-ft. (GM and Ford designed their 6-speed transaxles together.) Since the engine cradle design in the MKC is largely unchanged from the Escape, the higher torque capacity 6F50 and 6F55 transaxles likely didn’t fit. In order to accommodate the 2.3L engine, Ford replaced the 6F35’s standard torque converter with a higher torque unit but no transmission internals were changed. This allowed the entire package to have approximately the same dimensions as the 2.0L drivetrain. I suspect this also explains why the maximum tow rating drops 1,000lbs when equipped with the 2.3L engine.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior LCD Instrument Cluster.CR2

Drive

In an interesting twist, most MKCs on dealer lots will have a suspension with active dampers. This is a significant difference between the Lincoln and the competition which generally doesn’t have active dampers available at any price. This means we must have a quick suspension lesson since active dampers are a huge part of the MKC’s personality.

Springs and dampers work together to make a car ride and handle a certain way. Springs support the vehicle’s ride height and compress and rebound to conform to the road surface. Dampers control the movement of the spring in both directions. Spring and damping rates are carefully matched by vehicle engineers and in most cars they are fixed. In vehicles with dynamic dampers, the spring rate stays constant and the damping rate becomes a variable. In order for this to work, you have to start with a “soft” spring and when you want a firmer ride you attempt to compensate with “firmer” damping. While systems like this greatly improve the ride and allow the driver to customize the suspension within a particular range, they can feel quite different.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior -001

The first hint Lincoln had a different mission in mind for the MKC is obvious when you start driving. If the suspension is in comfort mode, you get the softest ride in this segment by a mile. The MKC is so soft in this mode that I initially assumed the baby Lincoln was 1,000lbs heavier. With the suspension in normal mode, the MKC feels more buttoned down, but there is still plenty of tip and dive and body roll. “Sport” firms things up but the feeling isn’t the same as you’d find in a traditionally sprung vehicle. The reason is that although the dampers can restrict motion, the springs are still pillowy soft.

Initially I was disconcerted by the soft suspension and assumed the athletic abilities would be harmed as a result. I was wrong. With a 0-60 sprint of 6.15 seconds, the MKC 2.3L beats most of the entries, matches the 325 hp XC60 R-Design and only lags the X3 xDrive35i and RDX in the non-performance category. It also stopped from 60 MPH in an impressive 112 feet in our tests and a respectable .83Gs in Edmund’s skidpad test. (TTAC doesn’t have access to a skidpad.) That’s all possible because the MKC is light for a luxury crossover, ranging from 3,791 in FWD 2.0L trim to to 3,989 lbs in the AWD 2.3L model.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior.CR2-001

Pricing

As you’d expect from Lincoln, pricing starts low at $33,100, undercutting BMW by over $5,000, and we get about $500 of additional equipment in the base MKC. Adding AWD to the base model tacks on $2,495. That sounds steep but Lincoln bundles the dynamic suspension and a few other goodies with it. Our 2.3L AWD tester started at $40,145 and had $7,775 of options added to make an essentially fully loaded MKC.

The Black Label model is an interesting option. Black Label is about luxury and customization, not performance. This means you can get the 2.0L engine with front wheel drive in Black Label trim starting at $46,205. For the extra dosh, a “shopping assistant” will help you choose from four unique interior themes, five unique wood veneers and some extra paint options. The interior is further upgraded with faux-suede headliners and more standard features. In addition to the goodies, you get improved service with scheduled maintenance and wear item coverage (shocks, belts, etc), a loaner car when yours is in for service, lifetime car washes at a Lincoln dealer and annual detailing services.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Rear.CR2-001

I have to admit when I first took the MKC out on the road, I didn’t like it. The well-appointed interior is attractive, but the ultra-plush driving dynamics took some getting used to. Then an odd thing happened. A friend of mine who is in her early 30s said “I’m tired of the harsh ride in my X3 but I still want a crossover.” I had her drive the MKC and it was love at first tip and dive. I suddenly realized: from the Lexus NX to the Mercedes GLK, every one of the competition is trying to be the soft-roader that can lap the Nurburgring in under 9 minutes. Except the MKC.

The Lincoln can hang with the middle of the pack in terms of handling, but the handling feel is an entirely different matter. The soft suspension makes turn-in feel lazy, steering feel non-existent and the cabin hushed. The combination means the MKC is eminently capable with high limits, but the design of the vehicle makes it hard to determine where those limits are located. If that sounds like the kind of product Lexus used to be known for (before they too started chasing BMW), you’re right. Once I stopped chasing the X3, I realized how refreshing it was to have a competitive product without the “me-too.” Bravo Lincoln.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.26 Seconds

0-60: 6.15 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.8 Seconds @ 92.5 MPH

Average economy: 20.3 MPG over 699 miles

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Engine.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Engine 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Engine-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Engine-002 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior -001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front .CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front -001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front Quarter 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front Quarter-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front_ 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Headlamp 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Rear.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Rear.CR2-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Rear 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Side 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior_ 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Cargo Area 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Cargo Area-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Cargo Area-002 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Center Console.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Center Console 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior LCD Instrument Cluster.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior LCD Instrument Cluster.CR2-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior LCD Instrument Cluster 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Seat Controls.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Seats 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Seats-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Speaker 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Steering Wheel.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim-002 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim-003 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior.CR2-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior.CR2-002 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior.CR2-003 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior-001

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2016 Chevrolet Camaro – Same Recipe, New Ingredients http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2016-chevrolet-camaro-same-recipe-new-ingredients/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2016-chevrolet-camaro-same-recipe-new-ingredients/#comments Sun, 17 May 2015 20:22:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1069698 “From every angle, you’ll never mistake this for anything but a Camaro,” said Tom Peters, design director for the sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro. That’s probably because it hasn’t changed that much, at least visually. Yet, under the skin, the new Camaro drops some 200 lbs thanks to its new Alpha platform bones and gains a new […]

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The 2016 Chevrolet Camaro was introduced May 16, 2015, at a special event in Detroit. The all-new muscle car is approximately 200 pounds lighter than the current model and offers more powerful V-6 and V-8 engines.

“From every angle, you’ll never mistake this for anything but a Camaro,” said Tom Peters, design director for the sixth-generation Chevrolet Camaro. That’s probably because it hasn’t changed that much, at least visually. Yet, under the skin, the new Camaro drops some 200 lbs thanks to its new Alpha platform bones and gains a new base engine – a 2.0L turbocharged Ecotec four-pot.

2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS

The new Camaro introduces a turbocharged 2.0L Ecotec powerplant for the first time, bringing with it more horsepower and the same torque figure as the same engine in the Malibu. That puts the new base model Camaro at 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of twist. GM says 90 percent of those torques will be available between 2,100 rpm and 3,000 rpm, making the sixth-generation Camaro good for a 60 mph sprint in under 6 seconds while still returning 30 mpg by their own estimates.

Note that I said “base model” above. Unlike Mustang, the Camaro will offer up their four banger as the economy option instead of a premium lightweight option like in Ford’s pony car.

An all-new 3.6L V6 will join the piston party as well with 335 hp and 284 lb-ft of torque. The most notable addition to the now mid-range engine offering is cylinder deactivation. The system will shut down two cylinders effectively turning the V6 into a V4. While the V6 does offer up more output versus its predecessor (323 hp, 278 lb-ft) and claims best-in-class power, it should also return better fuel economy.

A new-to-Camaro 6.2L LT1 V8 will be the headliner, boasting 455 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque, just 5 lb-ft down from on the Corvette.

All engines will be mated to either a six-speed manual transmission (SS models receive Active Rev Match for downshifts) or all-new Hydra-Matic eight-speed automatic (8L45 in LT, 8L90 in SS) with steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, further enhancing fuel economy and performance. Also, unless there’s a change to the preliminary output figures, it seems GM won’t be penalizing customers by slashing engine output for those who choose the automatic transmission in SS models.

Unfortunately, the new platform is so sound dead, all Camaros will have their engine note pumped in one way or another. All four-cylinder models will have active noise cancellation. If you opt for the Bose audio system, you’ll receive the aforementioned faux engine noise delivered by speaker. Thankfully, it can be disabled at the whim of the driver. V6 and V8 models will offer up “enhanced” sound through mechanical means by pumping analog audio into the passenger compartment. A dual-mode exhaust will also bypass the mufflers under hard acceleration for better performance and “better” sound.

2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS

Underpinned by the same Alpha platform as the Cadillac ATS and CTS, the new Camaro does shed some unneeded weight, but its dimensions shrink only slightly. Think of the new model as a nip-tuck job over the last generation.

GM claims the Camaro, depending on the model, will lose “200 lbs or more” mass – meaning no matter what the trim, we should expect at least a 200 lb weight reduction. We will see about that when official curb weights are published. The skeptic in me thinks this will not be the case.

The brakes bringing everything to a stop are about the same size in LT (I4/V6) models as the previous generation, but SS models see their brake disc diameters shrink from 14/14.4 inches (front/rear) to 13.6/13.3 inches (front/rear).

With a new platform also comes new suspension setups. Up front are new multi-link MacPherson strut solutions while the rear sees a new five-link independent suspension GM says reduces “squat” during hard launches. Also for the first time, the Camaro SS will be available with Magnetic Ride Control, a much welcomed enhancement over the crashy previous-gen SS suspension.

Another first for Camaro will be an assortment of driving modes, including Snow/Ice, Tour, Sport and Track settings. The latter setting is only available on SS models. The following table provided by GM outlines the different settings in each mode.

DRIVER MODE SELECTOR SETTINGS
Snow/Ice Tour Sport Track
(SS only)
Electronic throttle progression SNOW/ICE NORMAL NORMAL TRACK
Automatic trans.
shift map
NORMAL NORMAL SPORT TRACK
Automatic trans. Performance Algorithm Shift N/A N/A AVAIL. AVAIL.
Engine sound management
(if equipped with dual-mode exhaust)
STEALTH TOUR SPORT TRACK
Electric power steering calibration TOUR TOUR SPORT TRACK
StabiliTrak – Competitive Driving and Launch Control N/A N/A AVAIL. AVAIL.
Magnetic Ride Control
calibration (if equipped)
TOUR TOUR SPORT TRACK
Ambient lighting
(if equipped)
ICE BLUE BLUE RED ORANGE

An all-new, driver-focused interior in the 2016 Chevrolet Camaro features performance-optimized ergonomics, including new seats, a new, flat-bottom steering wheel and a new center console designed for easier manual-transmission shifting.

One thing needing as much attention as the “My 600-lb Life” levels of bloat was the incredibly cramped, cheap interior. Judging from the photos, the quality of materials has gone up, but issues still remain.

Those not fans of the dual-pod gauges will be pleasantly surprised. While the dual-pod hood remains, the remainder of the pods are gone. Instead, the Camaro is now available with an optional 8-inch screen in the instrument panel. In addition tonavigation and infotainment details, the screen will also provide a location for new digital performance gauges, taking them away from their previous location in front of the shifter where they were virtually useless. And, as before, another 8-inch screen will sit mid-dash.

Another improvement – and this one is quite ingenious – is a redesign of certain HVAC controls, turning them into rings around the low mounted air vents. This gives driver and passenger an easy way to make adjustments through a physical control while still saving space like the touchscreen controls used by other manufacturers.

However, there are two downsides to the new Camaro cabin. One – you won’t be doing any emergency brake induced drifting in the new-gen car thanks to its electronic parking brake. The other, and more crucial issue, is GM seems not to have done anything about visibility. With a fairly high beltline and even taller rear deck, the new Camaro continues its trend of being the worst pony car for rearward visibility.

All in all, the new Camaro has conformed to the new normal by being a more economical, lighter weight and nimbler offering. However, its execution is still decidedly traditional, providing an American coupe shape that prioritizes style over functionality.

The 2016 Camaro will be bolted together in Lansing, Michigan and goes on sale later this year.

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2015 Škoda Fabia European Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-skoda-fabia-european-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-skoda-fabia-european-review/#comments Sun, 17 May 2015 15:38:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1068698 Small cars used to be for the city. Now, they say a small car can work just like a big one. To find out what’s what, I borrowed a current Škoda Fabia, then took another new Fabia on a 400 mile trip. I’m writing this in a hotel room balcony with a beautiful view of the Alps […]

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fabia_front_side_against_sky

Small cars used to be for the city. Now, they say a small car can work just like a big one. To find out what’s what, I borrowed a current Škoda Fabia, then took another new Fabia on a 400 mile trip.

I’m writing this in a hotel room balcony with a beautiful view of the Alps and Wörthersee lake, paid for by Škoda. The company wanted me to see the tuner culture at Wörthersee GTI Treffen (more about that in later article) and some of their concepts. To do that, they handed me the keys to a new Fabia, almost identical to a press tester I drove not even a month ago.

fabia_rear_down

Both cars are fitted with the most powerful 110 hp 1.2 TSI engine in quite unlikely (at least for Czech market) “journo spec” with tons of options (price as tested around 400,000 CZK [MATH ERROR CORRECTED: $16,600 USD] including 22% VAT). The only important difference, save for colors, is the transmission. The one I drove at home for a week is equipped with a six-speed manual. On the trip to Austria I drove one with the seven-speed DSG automatic.

Both are very good. Hardly any Škoda made today is bad. But after yesterdays 7-hour drive, I think the automatic is the better option. I never thought I’d say that about a small car, but the DSG suits the Fabia’s character much more than the manual. The reasons for it are pretty much what defines the Fabia and sets it apart in its class.

To show what I mean, let me digress for a little bit. Last week, I drove a current Mazda2 in relative poverty spec (rare sight among journo cars) powered by the 75 hp Skyactiv 1.5 engine with a price of 311,000 CZK (approx. $13,000 USD, including 22% VAT). It was one of the most brilliant small cars I have ever driven. Yet, it couldn’t be any more different from Fabia.

The Mazda is playful and dynamic in its design, both inside and out. It’s immensely fun to drive with tail-happiness on throttle lift-off and an engine that’s just splendid, even in its least powerful form. I didn’t think it was possible these days to make a small, naturally aspirated engine that’s so rev happy, so pleasant to the ear and so joyous to use. But, the Mazda is also a bit cramped in the back thanks to a really small trunk and the doors make a tin sound when closed. Even if we discount for the cheap spec and slow engine, it just wouldn’t be the car you would want to take on a road trip. Alternatively, around town or on backroads, it’s wonderful. It was great on my 100 mile trip in the countryside. But a great car for long journeys it isn’t.

fabia_facing_right

The Fabia is just the opposite. It’s design is not very playful. In a world of today’s aggressive cars, it’s not. It’s square. It looks like something Volvo could have made – if it was still in the business of making Volvos and wanted to make a small car. And it’s not different inside. The interior is clearly that of a Volkswagen product. Of course, the materials are cheap even when compared to the Polo, but the cold German style and precision is still there. It looks like a cheap, baby Audi. A nice place to be, but not very fun to look at.

It’s the same story with driving. The 1.2 TSI is one of the better examples of downsizing. With reasonable grunt at low revs making it feel like a much larger engine, and with great fuel economy (we did 5.8 l/100km on the way here, at fairly quick European highway speeds), it’s still not very fun companion. You can rev it, and it seems you have to rev it a little bit more than the old 1.2 TSI, but there’s no fun in it. And, at most speeds, there’s no point. It sounds nice, with a pleasant growl, but it won’t excite you like the Mazda. And while the shift action is nice, the car just feels better with the DSG automatic.

It’s the same with suspension. The Mazda is agile and surprisingly supple, but the Fabia is more stable, slightly better at smoothing out broken surfaces and feels much more “grown up”. With the manual, you can even find some fun hustling it around back roads – especially if you don’t drive small cars regularly and transferred to it from your full-size American sedan. But adjusting the line with throttle? Revving the engine just for the hell of it? Nah. It’s kid stuff. The Fabia doesn’t like that.

Fabia_stoh

Where it works surprisingly well is on the highway. During the seven hours I spent behind the wheel, it felt right at home on both Czech and Austrian highways. And I felt right at home inside – the interior was roomy and nice enough for spending long periods of time, and my arse only started to get sore in the last 30 or so miles. After whole day, I got out of the car not really fresh, but not beaten up either.

In fact, the only thing that gave away I was driving a supermini and not a Golf of Focus sized car was the lack of power. Even with the most powerful engine available, the Fabia was quickly lost its oomph over 80 mph, and trying to keep up with two 170 hp 2.0 TDI Octavias required flooring it regularly with the DSG downshifting two or three cogs at a time. It can cruise at 110 mph, but even at 85 or 90, every time you brake due to other cars and get up to speed again, the Fabia feels strained. An American, used to large, powerful engines as standard on the other side of the pond, or a stranger to the idea of having to floor a car and rev it to the redline, would probably consider it unbearably slow with the 1.2 TSI.

But us Europeans are different and we even consider the lower powered variant of this engine to be acceptable for the much larger Octavias or Jettas.

The Verdict

The Fabia is a small car only in size, not in character. It’s not fun and lovable like a little puppy. It’s like the kid that’s all grown up, wants to wear grown up clothes, prefers talking to grown ups and hates playing kiddy games. It’s not very fun, and if you want your small car to behave like it, you won’t be satisfied. But if your reason for buying a small car is simply because you can’t afford a large one, and even if buying said small car is a sign of your status and what you’ve achieved in life, it’s exactly the car for you.

Fabia_stoh fabia_part_rear fabia_rear_down fabia_down_front fabia_front_side_against_sky fabia_moon fabia_rear_side_sky fabia_side_sky fabia_rear_against_hill fabia_facing_right fabia_church fabia_cottage

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Audi A7 vs. Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class – Which One Wins The U.S. Sales Race? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/audi-a7-vs-mercedes-benz-cls-class-one-wins-u-s-sales-race/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/audi-a7-vs-mercedes-benz-cls-class-one-wins-u-s-sales-race/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 14:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1068130 With a broader product portfolio and extra decades of established premium status in the United States, Mercedes-Benz USA sells a lot more vehicles than Audi USA. Through the first four months of 2015, Mercedes-Benz sales were up 9% to 107,344, excluding Sprinter. Audi, globally favored, was up 12% to 56,925. But again, the comparisons are […]

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2012 Mercedes-Benz CLS63 AMG

With a broader product portfolio and extra decades of established premium status in the United States, Mercedes-Benz USA sells a lot more vehicles than Audi USA. Through the first four months of 2015, Mercedes-Benz sales were up 9% to 107,344, excluding Sprinter. Audi, globally favored, was up 12% to 56,925.

But again, the comparisons are difficult to make because the lineups simply don’t, well, line up. We’ve discussed the CLA and A3 before, but even there, Audi is offering different bodystyles under one banner, which Mercedes-Benz does not. The S-Class has a significantly higher base price than the A8. The E-Class is available as a sedan, wagon, coupe, and convertible – the A6 is sedan only. The GL is significantly pricier than the Q7; the Q7 offers more seats than the ML. The C-Class is new; we might as well wait for a new A4 to draw realistic comparisons. The SLK is a hardtop convertible; the TT is either coupe or convertible.

You get the idea. Only in a handful of zones do the two brands offer truly direct rivals. GLA vs. Q3, GLK vs. Q5, and the matter at hand, Mercedes-Benz CLS vs. Audi A7.

The CLS is a swoopier E-Class, in a sense, just as the A7 is the more style-centric A6. The CLS starts at $65,990, offerings more performance at $73,200, and is just plain crazy as a $106,550 CLS 63 AMG S 4Matic. The Audi A7 starts at $68,300, rises to $82,900 as an S7, and begins its RS7 scheme at $108,900. Similar.

2015 Audi S7

They are two German mid-rung offshoots with six, eight, or overwhelming eight-cylinder power. There’s very little to separate the two.

Yet the Audi A7 consistently outsells the Mercedes-Benz CLS.

The margins are slim, but sufficient so as to be noticeable.

Audi USA sold 6,270 A7s in 2011, the A7’s first (abbreviated) year of sales. Mercedes-Benz USA, having already sold 44,389 CLS sedans in the six years before the A7’s launch, achieved a 165% year-over-year sales increase in 2011, but fell 605 sales shy of the Audi despite having an extra three months in which to sell.

The A7 outsold the CLS by 533 units in the Audi’s first full year of 2012. A7 sales then slipped 1% to 8,483 in 2013, still enough to outsell the CLS (down 0.4%) by 451 units in 2013.

Last year, A7 sales dropped 4% to 8,133 units, but the CLS’s 13% decline made an 1,152-unit victory possible for the Audi.

And through the first four months of 2015, the A7 is ahead by a scant 34 units with 1,835 year-to-date sales.

What makes the A7 so capable of staying ahead of the Benz? Both cars have had recent supply constraints that caused U.S. volume to drag: CLS sales were down 61% through the fourth-quarter of 2014; A7 sales are down 36% over the last six months. But even in those strange circumstances, the A7 stays just ahead. The Audi has outsold the Benz in 31 of the 49 months in which the Audi has been available.

Audi A7 hatchback

Could it be the tailgate?

Sure, the A7 and CLS line up head-to-head in so many ways. But Audi builds the A7 as a hatchback.

Moreover, Audi builds a diesel version of that hatchback.

Yes, America, the diesel hatchback outsells the sedan that they call a coupe. In a manner of speaking.

Audi A7 hatchback 2

Of course the diesel isn’t all that common. Only 13% of the A7s, S7s, and RS7s currently listed by Cars.com’s inventory are fitted with the V6 diesel. But that, in concert with the fact that the A7 offers 60% more cargo capacity, may be all that’s needed.

After all, the A7 is only just barely pipping the CLS on the TTAC sales-o-meter.

Where’s the CLS350d Shooting Brake when you need it?

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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2015 GMC Canyon SLE 4×4 V6 Review – Full-Size Experience, Mid-Size Wrapper http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-gmc-canyon-sle-4x4-v6-review-full-size-experience-mid-size-wrapper/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-gmc-canyon-sle-4x4-v6-review-full-size-experience-mid-size-wrapper/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 12:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1067506 Today we are running two reviews of the GMC Canyon at the exact same time – one V6 and one 4-cylinder – for your reading pleasure. If there ever was a time to compare the same truck with different powertrains (and two reviewers with different perspectives), this is it. The last (and only) truck to […]

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2015 GMC Canyon V6 SLE All Terrain (2 of 18)

Today we are running two reviews of the GMC Canyon at the exact same time – one V6 and one 4-cylinder – for your reading pleasure. If there ever was a time to compare the same truck with different powertrains (and two reviewers with different perspectives), this is it.

The last (and only) truck to grace my driveway in an ownership role – a 2008 Ford Ranger – taught me as much about itself as it did pickups in general. The 3.0-liter Vulcan V6, while durable, was as effective as a donkey pulling a container ship for towing. And just because a truck is rated to tow or haul X pounds certainly doesn’t mean it should. There were also times I would’ve rather had an automatic transmission, like when I inadvertently jumped on Connecticut’s Merritt Parkway. In a snowstorm. With a trailer. 3-4-5-4-5-4-3-4-5. Wipe sweat. 3-4-5-4-5-4-3-4-5.

For better or worse, the Ranger did everything I absolutely needed of it: haul, tow and not throw a rod as I traveled the no-stop, shoulderless freeways over Louisiana swamp.

Creature comforts? Fuhgeddaboudit. Crank windows. No A/C. Not even a CD player.

The new GMC Canyon, with its 3.6-liter V6 engine and semi-plush interior in SLE trim, is nothing like my long departed Ranger. And while it’s logical to compare the Canyon to the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier on most fronts, it’s more fitting to put it up against the full-size competition on others.


The Tester

2015 GMC Canyon SLE 4×4 Crew Cab w/ Standard Box (6’2) and All Terrain Package

Engine: 3.6L DOHC V6, direct injection, VVT (305 horsepower @ 6800 rpm, 269 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, Driver Shift Control, tow/haul mode

Fuel Economy (Rating, MPG): 17 city/24 hwy/20 combined
Fuel Economy (Observed, MPG): 17.4 mpg, approx. 75% city

Options: All Terrain Package, SLE Convenience Package, engine block heater, heavy-duty trailering package, wheel locks, 3″ round step bars, rear sliding window, spray-on bed liner

As Tested (US): $38,605 (sheet)
As Tested (Canada): $42,060 (sheet)


2015 GMC Canyon V6 SLE All Terrain (12 of 18)

Dimensionally speaking, the Canyon takes on the American-built Japanese options head-to-head. The 6-foot-2 bed in the tester is just a smidgen bigger than the long bed options available on the Tacoma (6 feet, 1 and 1/2 inches) and Frontier (6 feet, 1 and 19/64 inches). The width between the wheel wells is also the same for the Canyon and Frontier (44.4 inches), while slightly less in the Tacoma (41.5 inches). If you’re like me and would rather load up two sportbikes in the back of a pickup than hook up a trailer and lug around all that extra weight, space between the wheel wells matters. You’d also probably like to close the tailgate if at all possible.

The payload rating for our particular truck is limited to 1,470 lbs which more than enough to take your toys with you on a camping trip. Towing capability rings in at 3,500 lbs or 7,000 lbs when equipped with the optional Z82 trailering package. Compare that with the maximum 6,500 lbs of towing ability in the Tacoma only achievable in Access Cab configuration.

2015 GMC Canyon V6 SLE All Terrain (10 of 18)

Wheelbase dimensions are dead-on across the board as well. All currently available mid-sizers float around 140 inches in long-wheelbase guise. However, even with a similar suspension setup as the more established offerings, the Canyon delivers a superior ride. Not car-like, but definitely within the realm of what one might call comfortable. The typical wheel chatter of a pickup with a light rear-end is virtually eliminated. Further cementing the Canyon’s position within the pack of current trucklets is its overall length. While it might be visually hefty, it’s only within a couple of inches of the Tacoma and Frontier.

 

GMC puts their fully-loaded Canyon right beside a poverty spec Tacoma on GMC.com.

GMC puts their fully-loaded Canyon SLT right beside a poverty spec Tacoma on GMC.com’s comparison tool.

Under the hood is the same 3.6-liter V6 you’ll find in any other GM product. With 305 horsepower and 269 lb-ft of torque, the Canyon bests the Japanese pair on horsepower but loses out to the Frontier on torque (281 lb-ft). Also, to hit those peak numbers in the Canyon, you really need to give it some revs. Luckily, a fair amount of torque is available further down the curve, so you’re unlikely to need to punch it often. During the week-long stint with GMC’s newest truck, I tallied a 17.4 mpg high score, just 0.4 mpg off the official city number; acceptable when you consider nearly 3/4 of my driving was on city streets.

Sending power to all four wheels is GM’s Hydra-Matic 6L50 six-speed automatic transmission with a 4.10 final drive (the same transmission is used in the four-pot version with a 3.42 final). Whether it is electronic controls or mechanicals, the six-speed is slow to shift when the Canyon’s accelerator is planted with urgency. However, it does make up for that slowness with smooth gear changes in day-to-day, stop-and-go driving.

Inside the Canyon isn’t airy and open, but it isn’t claustrophobic like the Frontier with its A-pillar placed in such a way that you’re constantly aware of its presence – directly in front of your face.

And this is where comparisons to the Tacoma and Frontier end. The Canyon is smoother, more powerful, sized the same and generally competitive with the rest of the mid-size pack. But, as soon as you sit inside the upmarket Colorado, it makes more sense to treat it like a full-size pickup hit with a low-powered shrink ray.

2015 GMC Canyon V6 SLE All Terrain (15 of 18)

Up front, the dash and seats make you feel as if you’re sitting in a 9/10ths Sierra. There’s nothing wrong with that. I quite like the Sierra interior, especially now that GM has discarded button blanks, a design element also implemented in the Canyon. It’s an exceptionally quiet mid-size truck, too, another inherited trait from its bigger brother. Switches and knobs, particularly the physical HVAC controls, are plain and easy to use. (Thank you, GM.) And the red stitching on the seats and dash – part of the All Terrain package – don’t feel out of place in the dark grey pickup. It is all quite … upscale.

2015 GMC Canyon V6 SLE All Terrain (17 of 18)

Remember how Mr. Cain said Colorado and Canyon sales weren’t having a negative impact on those of the Tacoma and Frontier? I think the sense of being in a full-size pickup when in the Canyon explains it. With Toyota and Nissan, you get a decidedly mid-size truck experience. In the Canyon you get a full-size experience in a mid-size wrapper.

That is until you do anything aft of the front row. The back half of the cab brings you right back to mid-size reality. For starters, if you expect a 6-foot-ish person to sit behind another 6-foot-ish person for a long trip, consider a full-size truck instead. The Canyon won’t be hauling crews to and from the work site anytime soon.

Also, when you flip up the rear seat for more loading space, you will be introduced to a plastic holding area instead of a flat floor. Large objects requiring a level load space are relegated to the outside bed. You can flip down the back cushion of the seat if you so desire, but then you’re just putting seat on top of seat on top of stupid plastic holding area and seriously compromising your cargo volume for taller objects.

2015 GMC Canyon V6 SLE All Terrain (16 of 18)

GMC IntelliLink (called MyLink in the Colorado) is another infotainment system I could wholly do without. Confusing, clunky and slow, IntelliLink is the Vega of infotainment systems. And since GM is going through the trouble of installing an 8-inch screen in my dash, why can’t they just give me navigation? Our tester didn’t have on-screen GPS, a deficit that would force a buyer into making a potentially embarrassing phone call to OnStar for directions to Dildo, Newfoundland. (We tried this during the Silverado launch. The OnStar operator didn’t even fucking giggle. Words cannot describe my disappointment.)

Even though the Canyon one-ups its competitors in almost every measurable way, there’s one fact you can’t escape: it’s as close as makes no difference to $40,000. That’s a lot of coin for a “budget” truck. As much as I like this right-sized pickup – as it fits my lifestyle, at least – I can’t justify spending forty grand on a Canyon when I can buy a decent amount of Sierra, Silverado, Ram or F-150 for the same coin.

That said, if I was replacing my aging Ranger today, the Canyon is still the best option – just not configured like this tester. If I needed something to tow and haul my mechanical mistakes from home to track and back, I’d have this Canyon SLE Extended Cab 4×2 V6 without options for nearly $10,000 less.

Or just wait for the diesel.

General Motors Canada provided the vehicle and insurance for this review.

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2015 GMC Canyon 4×4 2.5L Extended Cab Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-gmc-canyon-4x4-extended-cab-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-gmc-canyon-4x4-extended-cab-review/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 12:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1058706 Today we are running two reviews of the GMC Canyon at the exact same time – one V6 and one 4-cylinder – for your reading pleasure. If there ever was a time to compare the same truck with different powertrains (and two reviewers with different perspectives), this is it. Let’s begin this review with a […]

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2015 gmc canyon front 34

Today we are running two reviews of the GMC Canyon at the exact same time – one V6 and one 4-cylinder – for your reading pleasure. If there ever was a time to compare the same truck with different powertrains (and two reviewers with different perspectives), this is it.

Let’s begin this review with a disclaimer: I don’t get pickup trucks.

Having lived in or near a big city my whole life, I simply don’t understand the need or appeal of the pickup. To me they are work vehicles with cramped cabins and no trunks. Heavy and inefficient, too. They were great when I worked construction in college, where we loaded the bed with crap and trailered a skid-steer behind, but I just can’t understand why anyone would choose to drive a pickup daily. But two million Americans buy pickups every year, so clearly they must know something I don’t.

2015_gmc_canyon_canyon dash

The first thing about the mid-size Canyon (and its Chevy Colorado twin) is there is nothing mid-size about it, measuring up about on par with mid-90s Ford F-150 and significantly bigger than its Sonoma ancestor as professionally eyeballed by me when both trucks were parked nearby. Have you not been in a full-size pickup in the last decade? Go sit in one. They are huge! GM is betting that for thousands of buyers full-size trucks are just too big they won’t cry for a V8, either. This is in stark contrast to Ford and RAM who chose to go big and offer only full-size trucks, albeit with more interesting engine choices.

Unlike full-size trucks, where the cabin feels amazingly wide and one needs to stretch to adjust the radio or climate controls, the Canyon cabin feels just right. There is plenty of room in all directions for the driver and front passenger. The overall interior layout is simple and easy to use, with all switches and controls exactly where you’d expect them to be. Visibility is good but those not used to pickups may find parking and reversing a bit more intimidating – this is a vehicle longer than most SUVs. Interestingly, while windows, door locks and the driver’s seat have powered controls, the outside mirrors on this base truck do not.

This lower trim level model had the optional IntelliLink audio system with a wide angle back-up camera, Bluetooth, and USB and auxiliary audio inputs. It also came with an app to stream Pandora off your phone which worked great. However, it did not have satellite radio and the system was not too happy streaming that off my phone app. Part of this audio system upgrade is OnStar, including control buttons on the rear view mirror, which I accidentally called while adjusting my view.

2015 gmc canyon dash radio

Not surprisingly, the rear seats of this extra cab model are useless for anyone over five feet tall, but my seven year old daughter and her friends loved sitting there; they didn’t even need booster seats. My three year old son’s big Recaro toddler seat surprisingly managed to fit in there and he even had room for his little legs when the front seat was about mid-point on its tracks. If you’re serious about having more than one passenger in the Canyon, I strongly suggest the Crew Cab model.

For those insisting on the extended cab model, which should really be called regular cab as there is no conventional regular cab offered, GM has an interesting solution for those bulky car seats. Removing the headrest from the rear jump seat and inserting it into the bottom cushion extends the length of the cushion, giving the toddler seat more support. Oddly, I did not see this written in the owner’s manual and I only realized it when writing this review.

The best use of the space behind the front seat, however, is as storage. In my time with the Canyon, I had to drop off three boxes of stuff at a donation place. I placed them in the bed in the morning. Midday, I had to move them inside the cab due to rain. When I picked up my daughter from school, I once again had to move the boxes into the bed. When I parked the truck for the night, I had to move the boxes back inside the cab once again because I didn’t make it to the donation place during the day. I understand that the aftermarket offers a ton of bed caps and covers, but a lockable, waterproof “trunk-in-bed” like on the Honda Ridgeline or the RAM boxes does make sense.

2015 gmc canyon extra cab doors

The extended cab model is available only with a 6’2” bed, whereas the Crew Cab is available with either 5’2” or 6’2” bed. Whichever bed you choose, it will be 57.8” wide at floor, with 44.4” between wheel-wells, and 20.9” deep. A sheet of plywood would need to be transported above the wheel wells, with an open tailgate on long bed models. There is a light in the bed, which is not very bright, and very useful steps integrated into the rear bumper like on the Sierra/Silverado. Part of the Convenience Package is an EZ Lift-and-Lower tailgate utilizing an internal torsion bar and a damper for easier opening and closing. It works great. While the tailgate is lockable, it is not connected to the vehicle’s central locking system.

The vehicle in this review was equipped with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder DOHC engine making 200 horsepower and 191 lb-ft of torque. The rear wheel drive version can me matched to a manual transmission but a vast majority of buyers will likely opt for the excellent automatic. In my opinion, GM has always done a great job of programing their automatic transmissions and here they didn’t disappoint. That transmission doesn’t have much to work with however, as this engine seems inadequate for duty in this 4,100 pound truck.

The truck was fine in casual driving around town or highway cruising. However, when the road gets hilly or highway passing is required, it screamed for more power with the gas pedal to the floor. Like most pickup trucks on the road, the bed of mine was empty. I can’t imagine hauling anything of substantial weight or towing with it at highway speeds. If this was a car, I would say its four-cylinder engine sounds a bit unrefined, too, but it gets a pass as truck engine.

2015 gmc canyon extra cab bed long

This combination of engine, driveline, and chassis is rated by the EPA to get 19 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. According to the on-board computer I got 19 mpg driving at a leisurely pace from Boston to New York City and 17 mpg on the way back driving with a heavier foot. All driving was done at night with minimal traffic. The difference between the real world numbers and EPA is quite stark in this case and feels like it’s because this little engine had to work a lot harder than the V6 would in its place. The maximum payload for this truck is 1,470 lbs. If it had a trailer hitch, as all pickups should, this Canyon would be rated to tow 3,500 lbs. A V6 model with a trailer towing package can tow up to 7000 lbs.

The base GMC Canyon 4-cylindeer 2WD extended cab starts at under $22,000 with designation charges. The vehicle in this review, a 4-cylinder, 4WD, extended cab has a starting price of $27,935. The Convenience Package is $590; factory spray-on bed liner is $475; and the upgraded audio system is $275. Total MSRP for this vehicle, with destination charges, is $30,200. A fully loaded V6, 4WD, extended cab with a long bed model can clear $45,000.

Full-size pickup trucks, especially the quad-cab models with short covered beds, have become the modern large American sedans. They can even look like sedans from certain angles and interior can be optioned out to compete with luxury sedans. But despite what some manufacturers claim, full-size pickups are not for everyone and there is a good business model to sell smaller trucks, as Toyota has proven over many decades. GM saw that large gap in the highest volume market and filled it with what seems like a great not-so-little truck.

2015 gmc canyon extra cab rear 34

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. He used a different camera for this review and most pictures came out crappy. He is sorry about that. 

General Motors provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review. 

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Jalopnik Drove Our Crapwagon Outtake Citroen C6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/jalopnik-drove-our-crapwagon-outtake-citroen-c6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/jalopnik-drove-our-crapwagon-outtake-citroen-c6/#comments Wed, 13 May 2015 14:49:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1067426 Remember that Crapwagon Outtake Citroen C6 we ran last week? Well, since it’s located in New York, the guys at Jalopnik went out and actually drove it. Color us as green as this French automobile with envy. [Photo: Raphael Orlove/Jalopnik]

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Citroen C6 - Jalopnik

Remember that Crapwagon Outtake Citroen C6 we ran last week? Well, since it’s located in New York, the guys at Jalopnik went out and actually drove it.

Color us as green as this French automobile with envy.

[Photo: Raphael Orlove/Jalopnik]

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Bark’s Bites: This Is Not The One Lap of America FR-S, Per SE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/barks-bites-not-fr-s-per-se/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/barks-bites-not-fr-s-per-se/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 17:58:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1066362 Over its long and illustrious sales career, the Toyota Camry has been described in many ways by so-called automotive enthusiasts. Most of them, to be honest, haven’t been particularly flattering. Words like “appliance” tend to find themselves in close proximity to the Camry whenever it’s been discussed elsewhere. But this is The Truth About Cars, […]

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TRD Camry XSE Pace Car

Over its long and illustrious sales career, the Toyota Camry has been described in many ways by so-called automotive enthusiasts. Most of them, to be honest, haven’t been particularly flattering. Words like “appliance” tend to find themselves in close proximity to the Camry whenever it’s been discussed elsewhere.

But this is The Truth About Cars, dammit!, and we have never been ones to drink the proverbial Kool-Aid on any car. Our own Jack Baruth has proven time and time again that the Camry, particularly in SE trim, is a capable and dynamic car at the track. I have personally piloted a Camry SE around Nelson Ledges. While it wasn’t quite keeping the pace of my Boss 302, it was no slouch, either.

That’s all fine and good. But what about putting it in a real race, with a real professional driver? How would it do under those circumstances?

Well, the fine folks at Toyota Production Engineering got as close to that as they possibly could by running a four-cylinder Camry SE in the One Lap of America last week. That’s right. They really ran a bone-stock, off-the-lot Camry in a time trial. The story of how they got there is just as interesting as the decision to drive the Camry itself.

Toyota Production Engineering team members have participated in the 24 Hours of LeMons series since 2008, highlighted by an overall win at Gingerman Raceway in 2011. This year, they made the decision to expand their racing efforts to other motorsports activities and, with full Toyota support, they decided to enter One Lap of America. Leading the effort for Toyota was Anthony Magagnoli, a young man whom I’ve gotten to know as a competitor and a fine driver in the American Endurance Racing series.

Anthony has a great resume as a driver: he won his class in the 2010 OLOA, finishing fourth overall and winning the Rookie of the Year award. He’s also a SpecE30 National Champion. Most importantly, he’s an engineer at Toyota’s Northern American Manufacturing headquarters. Providing support to Anthony, who would be doing all of the track driving, was Stephen Byington, another Toyota production engineer who’s an experienced crew member for open wheel and drag racing teams. Clearly, they had half of the equation required for winning. Now, they just needed a car. They settled on a favorite of many TTAC readers, the Scion FR-S, (What? What about the CAMRY? Patience, grasshoppers.)

One Lap of America TRD Scion FR-S

Anthony reached out to Toyota Racing Development to help with the FR-S build. The TRD Scion FR-S Project Car was built as the inspiration to the Release Series 1.0. The project car included a GReddy turbocharger, lower compression pistons, stronger rods, TRD coilovers and larger brakes and safety equipment upgrades.

Here’s what the TRD FR-S looked and sounded like at High Plains Raceway (OMG, dat blow off valve):

Over twenty engineers and co-ops from Toyota Production Engineering worked on the FR-S, which they only obtained roughly three weeks before the beginning of the event. They entered the SS GT2 Small Bore category for sports coupes under $50,000 MSRP and under 3.5L engine displacement. And they were competitive from the start, battling back and forth for the class lead in SS GT2 SB with a 600hp BMW 1M.

When the team arrived at Motorsports Ranch in Cresson, TX on Wednesday May 6th, they were sitting 8th overall and 10 points away from the lead in class. However, after 2 strong morning runs, they suffered terminal engine seizure in the afternoon session, attributed to failure of aftermarket crankshaft bearings.

I spoke with Magagnoli by phone recently and he had this to say about the decision to continue on:

“We knew that we didn’t want to drop out – we knew that we wanted to be there for the end. We had a few options, one of which was our press support vehicle, a Camry XSE. However, in the end, we opted to get a Camry SE four-cylinder and compete as an exhibition entry in the stock sedan class.”

That’s pretty bad ass. Seriously.

So how did the Camry do on track?

Magagnoli was impressed. “The Camry dealt with the rigors of the track easily soaking up curbs and adjusting its direction in accordance to just minor adjustments of the throttle. The paddle shifters made gear selection a breeze and the car hit a peak of 102.9 mph, with a single best lap time of 2:46.4 on the Grand Course at the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park. The cumulative lap time for the 3 laps of 8:30.111 in the first session was good for 35th out of the 48 cars that ran in the morning! In the afternoon, our time dropped to 8:23.343, good for 37th out of 45. Our stock 2015 Camry SE 4-cylinder posted times faster than a Porsche 944, MINI Cooper GP, Cadillac CTS-V wagon, supercharged Acura NSX, and a Porsche Carrera GT.”

Yeah, yeah, that’s all good – but let’s watch the VIDEO:

Obviously, the Camry is a little prone to understeer. It could also benefit from some better tires. And WTF is that Ford LTD wagon doing out there? But other than that, it looks pretty damned capable on what is considered to be a rather challenging course, hitting a maximum speed of over 100 MPH. And it beat a freaking Carrera GT! You can even quote me on that.

“The Camry SE is a superior track car to the Carrera GT.” –Bark M., not a former Porsche Employee

So the next time that one of your know-it-all friends who considers himself a “real racer” because he once did an HPDE 1 session in his BMW E46 says your Camry SE is an “appliance,” just make this simple statement to him: There’s only one way to settle this. A race. And if you’re a real driver, like Anthony Magagnoli, you’ll probably win.

All photos and video are courtesy of Toyota Production Engineering. You can read more about Toyota Productions Engineering’s race team at www.toyotalemons.com, or at their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/ToyotaPEMotorsports. You can also see more videos of the TRD FR-S in action at their YouTube page.

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2015 Jaguar XJL AWD Portfolio Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/review-2015-jaguar-xjl-awd-portfolio/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/review-2015-jaguar-xjl-awd-portfolio/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 11:45:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1038649 In February of 2013, when speaking to the opening breakfast of the Chicago Auto Show, Andy Goss, the head of Jaguar Land Rover of North America, made a couple of comments about the luxury market in the United States. He said that 90 percent of vehicles with luxury nameplates are sold with V6 engines and […]

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2015 Jaguar XJL AWD

In February of 2013, when speaking to the opening breakfast of the Chicago Auto Show, Andy Goss, the head of Jaguar Land Rover of North America, made a couple of comments about the luxury market in the United States. He said that 90 percent of vehicles with luxury nameplates are sold with V6 engines and  you can’t sell a luxury car north of the Mason-Dixon line if you don’t at least offer all-wheel drive. The 2015 Jaguar XJL AWD Portfolio is the result of Goss’ perception of the lay of the luxury land.


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There are those who believe true luxury starts at eight cylinders but the simple truth is most Jaguars ever made, including most of the cars that have carried the XJ nameplate, were powered by six cylinder engines, specifically the classic DOHC inline six in 3.8 and 4.2 liter versions. I’ve owned one of those XJs so the idea of driving Jaguar’s biggest, most luxurious sedan with ‘only’ a six doesn’t bother me. Besides, Jaguar’s current supercharged V6 is tuned to provide 340 horsepower. While that’s 10-15% less power than Jaguar’s naturally aspirated V8 puts out, by my standards it was quick enough. A friend and customer of mine has been driving leased Jaguar XJs for more than a decade and he told me that he didn’t like the performance of the XJ with the six. Another XJ owner, whose car does have a six, told me she loved it. Jaguar quotes a 0-60 time of 6.1 seconds. Whether that’s quick enough for you, well, that’s up to you.

 

The pewter colored paint looked great when clean, but got pretty dirty in winter driving. Full gallery here.

The pewter colored paint looked great when clean, but got pretty dirty in winter driving.

As I said, it’s quick enough for me. Over the past few years I’ve reviewed a variety of Jaguar XF and XJ models. At the 2015 New York Auto Show, Jaguar had the formal introduction of their new XF, which is now based on Jaguar’s aluminum architecture and hundreds of pounds lighter than the XFs I’ve driven in the past. The reason for that change is the bigger XJ was actually lighter and had better performance and handling than the previous XF when equipped with the same powertrains. Jaguar’s head of design Ian Callum acknowledged that at the NY show. Though the XJ is big, and the longer wheelbase XJL even bigger, it’s relatively light and nimble, and I don’t think many people will find the lack of an eight cylinder engine to be a significant performance detriment.

When the current body style XJ was introduced, Callum’s use of black trim blending in with the rear window to visually isolate the roof panel was criticized by many. It seems as if Callum is being validated by other designers, as the new Nissan Maxima and Lexus RX, introduced earlier this month at the New York Auto Show, both feature somewhat similar black panels.

In one area, handling, the smaller and lighter six may help offset the additional weight of the components needed to drive the front wheels as well as the back. Of course, without driving them back to back I can’t say for sure, but based on memory the AWD XJL feels just as balanced and handles just as well as the V8 powered rear-wheel drive versions I’ve driven. As mentioned, the XJL feels nimble. You don’t get the feeling you’re driving one of the largest cars on the road. It’s the automotive equivalent to a gentleman or lady’s well fitted suit. While the XJ’s flanks are substantial, visibility is outstanding thanks to a third side light of glass at the C pillar.

If the 340 horsepower V6 seems up to the task of powering a full scale luxury sedan, what about all-wheel drive, Andy Goss’ other benchmark for selling luxury cars in this market? Jaguar’s all-wheel drive system is now available in all of their cars – XJ, XE and the new XF introduced earlier this month at the New York show. The AWD unit, developed with the expertise of the Land Rover side of the company, worked very well. I specifically asked Jaguar if they had an AWD car for me to test out this winter and, fortunately for this review, the Detroit area got about two inches of snow the morning the XJL was dropped off. Ideal conditions to see how the all-wheel drive performed in poor traction conditions. Well, almost ideal conditions. The test car came equipped with all-season tires.

As it turned out, though, the lack of true winter tires ended up demonstrating just how well Jaguar’s AWD works. While the XJL has aluminum construction, it’s still a big car and the AWD version tips the scale at over two tons. There’s some mass to contend with and 340 hp is more than enough to spin tires in bad traction conditions. I was deliberately being ham fisted with the car, trying to make it slide and get out of shape on turns. Because of the all-season tires’ lack of grip in the snow, it was indeed sliding, and it would start to get out of shape, but the AWD, traction control and stability control would step in and keep the car traveling in my intended direction. It wasn’t particularly subtle, and there were some odd sounds going on, but the systems did get the car under control. If you do get an AWD Jaguar, you can afford a set of proper winter tires. Throw on some Blizzaks and your Quattro equipped Audi driving neighbors won’t have anything on you.

The rest of the car was as expected from Jaguar. Space, pace and grace. The cabin was first rate; the seats very comfortable and everything within easy reach. With the L designation in the model name comes substantial rear seat room. Six footers should easily be able to sit behind people just as tall.

While it isn’t world class, the infotainment system is a huge improvement over the clunky Jaguar interface most reviewers dinged a few years ago. I’d say it was competitive with other systems if not at the head of the class. My Samsung Android phone worked seamlessly via Bluetooth. While the light brown leather interior at first looked a bit visually jarring, that was only because I’ve gotten so used to black and grey interiors. Over the week the aesthetics of the brown leather grew on me.

What is world class, I think, is the Meridian branded audio system – a truly audiophile quality set of components. Car sound systems are getting very, very good. One mark of a good sound system is resolution and transparency, allowing you to hear individual instruments instead of a blurry mess. You gain a new appreciation for what you thought were familiar recordings. With this system, you can count just how many acoustic guitars Jimmy Page multi-tracked on Over The Hills And Far Away.

I’m cynical about the business of car audio system branding. The Panasonic-made audio systems in Volkswagen cars carry the Fender brand because those three companies believe American consumers are likely to associate the name Fender more generally with music and rock ‘n’ roll than as a company noted for the distinctive distortion of its guitar pickups and amplifiers. The audio system in the XJL was so good I’d have a hard time believing the audio experts at Meridian, an elite UK audio brand, were not involved in its application.

Also first rate is the way Jaguar engineers have calibrated the 8-speed ZF automatic transmission. Upshifts are so smooth as to be almost imperceptible, and the way the transmission and ECU work together to slow the car when coasting down to a stop was very impressive. I don’t think I could use engine braking and downshifting as effectively myself with a clutch and manual gearbox.

Besides yielding more than adequate performance, one result of the 8-speed transmission and six cylinder engine is rather impressive fuel economy. The XJL is about as big a car as you’ll find on the American road and in about 600 miles of mixed driving, half urban/suburban and the other half on interstate highways, I saw 24.7 mpg. If I recall correctly, my old mid 1980s Jaguar XJ with the 4.2 liter inline six got 14 mpg.

Speaking of fuel, why do cars that require premium fuel typically call for 91 octane, whereas the vast majority of gasoline stations only offer 87, 89, and 93 octane? There’s no point in paying for more octane than you need so I typically blend 89 and 93 half and half to save money.

Rear passengers in the long wheelbase XJL get their own climate controls. Full gallery here

Rear passengers in the long wheelbase XJL get their own climate controls, with heated and cooled seats, which I’m sure will be appreciated when Shanghai gets hot and humid.

 

Not liking to be a cheerleader, I wish I could find things to criticize about the XJL AWD Portfolio, but everything worked flawlessly, even down to the automatically adjusting windshield wipers. While it’s cliche to say there aren’t any bad cars sold today, it’s not cliche to say there are a lot of great cars you can buy at just about every price point. I don’t have a problem saying the XJL AWD is a great car. When I’m reduced to complaining the automatic climate control seemed to be calibrated a couple of degrees off from what I’m used to, how could I say otherwise?


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Jaguar Land Rover of North America provided the car, insurance and a tank of premium gasoline.

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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2015 Volkswagen GTI 2-Door Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-volkswagen-gti-2-door-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-volkswagen-gti-2-door-review-video/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 12:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1061210 Although GTI sales are on an upward trend, the American hot hatch is a rare breed as there are just three options. We have the aging Ford Focus ST, and a new pair of hatches from Germany: the Volkswagen GTI and the MINI Cooper S. (Yes MINI fans, I’m calling the MINI German.) The last […]

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2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Front

Although GTI sales are on an upward trend, the American hot hatch is a rare breed as there are just three options. We have the aging Ford Focus ST, and a new pair of hatches from Germany: the Volkswagen GTI and the MINI Cooper S. (Yes MINI fans, I’m calling the MINI German.) The last time I reviewed the GTI and Focus ST, the Focus came out on top despite the greater refinement Volkswagen offered. This time we have an all new GTI while Subaru has kicked the 5-door WRX to the curb, BMW has redesigned the MINI Cooper JCW and Ford has “gone Euro” by jamming a 2.3L turbo in the Mustang. Where does that leave the GTI?

Exterior

Although the MK7 GTI looks nearly identical to the outgoing MK6 GTI, park them next to each other and you’ll start to see the differences. This GTI is longer, lower and wider with a significant stretch to the passenger compartment. VW pushed the front wheels 2-inches farther forward and gave the Golf a longer hood for better proportion. The headlamps get an angrier look and the tail lamps ditch the cute round theme for a more aggressive motif.

Sounds like a moderate refresh, right? Wrong. What VW did with the Golf is akin to swapping clothes with a stranger. It may look the same at first glance, but this stranger is different underneath and the clothes fit a little better as well. That’s all possible because this GTI rides on Volkswagen’s new MQB platform which also underpins the 2015 Audi A3. The promise of MQB is to deliver faster product development cycles, lower costs, improve parts sharing and achieve better fuel economy. Indeed, the GTI is lighter than before; however, the weight difference isn’t as dramatic as I was lead to believe at just under 100 pounds. Of course the GTI did get bigger and lighter at the same time, but the top-end 3,086 pound curb weight is about the same as a 2005 GTI.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Interior-004

Interior

VW was once known as the “discount Audi” in America. But as part of their mission to increase sales on our shores, VW divorced the Passat and Jetta from their Euro twins and started cutting back on their other models. Thankfully, a few models escaped this fate and are still pair-bonded to the model sold in the EU. The Golf is one of them and, as a result, feels a notch above the American Passat in interior quality. From the fabric-covered A-pillars to the soft-touch door panels and dashboard bits, the feel upon entering the Golf in any form is in some ways “more Audi” than the A3. Without a doubt, the Golf has the best interior in this category, which oddly enough applies as much to the $17,995 base Golf as to the $25,095 GTI or $36,595 Golf R. MINI’s recent redesign has seriously improved its interior, but the VW is arguably on par with the JCW model in terms of parts quality despite being $10,000 less in some configurations.

Perhaps the “price” for the interior refinement is a distinct lack of power seating in most models. If you want more adjustability up front, you have to step up to the Autobahn model, which means you also receive leather instead of the attractive GTI tartan fabric. A little known fact about the GTI (and the Golf in general): the three-door and five-door versions are the same length and deliver identical interior dimensions. This means that our seemingly small three-door GTI was able to swallow two 6-foot tall passengers and a skinny third in a pinch. More surprising was the ability to squeeze a rearward facing child seat behind a 6-foot tall passenger up front. That’s different than the MINI which has a cramped back seat and even more cramped cargo hold.

2015_golf_tsi_3989

Infotainment

The redesign of the GTI includes a refresh of VW’s infotainment system. Sadly, this is the one area where revolution would have been preferable to evolution. The VW software lags behind the competition and if you want navigation it is only available in the most expensive trim. All units feature expanded voice commands, finger gestures (like scrolling), and a proximity sensor to clean up the interface when your digits aren’t near the screen. Most of the system’s graphics have been improved and the media interface is more attractive than before (including the elusive navigation software). But, the system still lacks the ability to voice command your media library, and still uses a proprietary VW connector for media devices.

As much heat as MyFord Touch has received over the years, the system in the Focus ST is light-years ahead of this. Since MINI gets BMW’s iDrive on a MINI scale, it takes the top slot in this segment. However, you will have to pay some serious coin as MINI’s options list is long, confusing, and expensive. Volkswagen tells us to expect significant changes “soon” to address the deficiencies, including the VW/Audi proprietary cable.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Engine-001

Drivetrain

As you’d expect from a hot hatch, a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine sits under the GTI’s hood. For 2015, the 2.0L engine has been reworked to deliver 210 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. That’s a slight power bump but a fairly healthy torque increase over the last gen GTI. Thanks to the turbocharger and direct-injection, we get the expected “power plateau” rather than a curve with all 210 ponies pulling from 4,500-6,200 RPM and all the torque available from a low 1,500 RPM to 4,400. If you opt for the $1,495 performance package, peak power rises slightly to 220 hp from 4,700-6,200 while torque remains unchanged at 258 lb-ft but hangs out for 200 more RPM at the top end.

All GTIs start with a standard 6-speed manual transmission including the top end Autobahn trim. Shoppers can add a 6-speed DSG to any trim. In a nod to enthusiasts, the DSG and performance package are neither forcibly bundled nor mutually exclusive. Standard on all models is VW’s XDS system which has caused some confusion among potential shoppers so allow me to explain. XDS is not a true limited slip differential. Instead, it is an advanced software package added to the car’s ABS and Stability Control systems. The software reads yaw, steering angle, wheel slip, etc and uses the vehicle’s brakes to act as both a limited slip differential and a torque vectoring differential depending on the situation. The system will gently brake the inside wheel in a corner to help “vector” torque to the outside wheel and give a more balanced feel to the car. The system also responds to potential torque steer making all GTI models more civilized.

The performance package adds an electronically controlled limited slip differential; although the design is very different than the eLSDs you see in RWD applications, the function is similar. The VAQ system (Vorderachsquersperre in German) uses a multi-plate clutch pack to deliver limited slip, full locking and torque vectoring across the front axle. VAQ does not replace XDS, instead you get both systems working for you at the same time.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Manual Shifter-001

Drive

The GTI we got our hands on for a week was a four-door model without the performance package. I’m glad I was able to test a GTI in this configuration because it allows me to say: get the performance package. Not for the additional ponies, or even the trick eLSD, but for the upgraded brakes and the ability to get the $800 dynamic damper package (DDC). The previous generation GTI was so eager to please, it was easy to overwhelm the standard brakes. Although the new model appears to have improved this on base trims, the upgraded stoppers are worth every penny. The standard suspension can feel a little too firm over broken pavement and at times this causes the rear to get unsettled on a poorly paved corner. The DDC package allows the suspension to deliver a more compliant highway ride and a firmer autocross ride. It also helps settle the GTI’s rear end on rough pavement.

Our best 0-60 run rang in at a 5.75 seconds which is an improvement of nearly a half second over the last generation GTI, 2/10ths faster than the last Focus ST we tested and 4/10ths faster than a dealer provided MINI Cooper JCW. If you opt for the DSG, your 0-60 runs will be a hair slower but much more consistent. Interestingly enough, this is only a hair slower than the EcoBoost Mustang.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Gauges-002

The mission of the hot hatch could not be more different from the pony car. The Mustang is a large coupé with rear wheel drive, sexy lines and V6 and V8 engines that are shared with the F-150 pickup. The hot hatch formula starts with a practical compact hatchback, then you add stiff springs and bolt a turbo charger to a small displacement engine. For 2015, Ford added independent suspension and a 2.3L turbo to the Stang making comparisons more rational.

Obviously, driving dynamics are what separate the GTI from the Mustang, but it’s more about feel than speed around a track. As our friends over at MotorTrend recently discovered, the better balanced rear wheel drive Mustang was actually slower around a figure-eight than the GTI. Although that proclamation surprised some, it didn’t surprise me at all, given the VW weighs nearly 500lbs less. You’ll notice I haven’t said anything about steering feel. That’s because there isn’t any. A wise man once told me to never confuse steering weight with steering feel. The GTI’s tiller is well weighted but the FWD layout and the electric power steering suck all the life out of it.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Rear1

Part of the reason the GTI did so well is the standard XDS system which nearly eliminates torque steer. In concept it is quite similar to what Ford uses to control the Focus ST’s front end but in the real world the VW system is more effective. Trouble is, half the fun of having a hot hatch is “riding a bull” – where your foot is on the floor and your hands and mind are fully engaged trying to keep the car going in a straight line. (The old Mazdaspeed3 acted like its steering rack was possessed by demons from hell.) MINIs Cooper JCW slots between the GTI and the Focus ST in civility. Add the VAQ eLSD to the GTI and things go to the next level with very little drama when accelerating around sharp corners. While I found the feeling a little artificial at times, I can’t deny it is faster.

Pricing for 2015 starts at $25,095 for the 3-door GTI and tops out at $35,950 for the 5-door Autobahn edition with all the options. Although VW limits navigation to the top-trim, you can add the DSG to any trim for $1,100, Performance Package for $1,495, steering HID headlamps for $995 and for $695 they will tack on front/rear parking sensors and a radar based collision warning system. If you want the $800 DDC (dynamic dampers), you have to start with the SE trim with the Performance Package ($29,280 3-door, $29,880 5-door). In a nice change from the industry norm, the transmission selection doesn’t alter the availability of the other options and the top-end Autobahn doesn’t force you to get the DSG.

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Rear-002

Ford’s Ecoboost Mustang starts $300 higher than the GTI while the Focus ST starts nearly $2,000 lower. The MINI is in a universe all to its own with the JCW starting over $8,000 higher. The ‘Stang gets standard HID lamps in the turbo trim making both Ford models less expensive than the VW when comparably equipped. Unlike VW, Ford also allows you to add navigation to their less expensive trims and the ST gets some seriously comfortable Recaro seats in most trims.

At the end of the week, the GTI’s charms were clear: this is a hot hatch with few compromises. The MINI is cute but slower and much more expensive. The GTI has a more comfortable back seat than the Mustang and, although it’s less fun, it is faster in some situations. The WRX isn’t a hatch anymore and if you want an automatic your only option is a soul-sucking CVT. The Focus gives a more raw and direct experience, but the added weight means it’s no faster than the GTI in just about any situation. The final nail in the coffin for the competition is the GTI SE with the limited slip differential, dynamic suspension and the DSG. For $32,000, a GTI equipped in that way won’t be as much fun as others, but with all that and 28 MPG combined, it may be the best daily driver on sale. Sacrilege you say? Perhaps, but that configuration is the truest to the hot hatch concept: make a daily driver as much fun as possible.

Mission accomplished.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.5 Seconds

0-60:5.75 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.31 @ 98 MPH

Average Economy: 29.8 MPG over 675 miles

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Long-Term Tester Update: FiSTing Around at the Autocross http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/long-term-tester-update-fisting-around-autocross/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/long-term-tester-update-fisting-around-autocross/#comments Mon, 11 May 2015 11:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055833 Ever since I wrote this post about autocross back in November, there’s been something that has really bothered me about the way a lot of people responded to it. People seemed to have read the headline, reacted immediately, and then actively and somewhat irresponsibly made my post into something it wasn’t – I never said autocross was […]

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Bark's Fiesta at autocross

Ever since I wrote this post about autocross back in November, there’s been something that has really bothered me about the way a lot of people responded to it. People seemed to have read the headline, reacted immediately, and then actively and somewhat irresponsibly made my post into something it wasn’t – I never said autocross was easy, or that it wasn’t a heck of a lot of fun, or that I was any good at it. I never said autocross was a bad idea, or a waste of time, or even that wheel-to-wheel racing was better. I just said it wasn’t racing – a statement, by the way, that the SCCA agrees with (they prefer to call it a “driving skill contest”).

Despite this, the responders on various forums (the post was shared over two thousand times) mostly fell into one of the two following categories:

  1. “That guy sucks at autocross and here’s my screenshot of one time that I beat him.” Duh. I specifically said I wasn’t that good at it. I’d like to congratulate you on your excellent reading comprehension. Of course, they cherry-picked results that supported their statements. They never took screenshots of the times I won trophies at both National Tours and ProSolos in highly subscribed classes. There was one guy in particular who was super excited to point out that he beat me by over a second at a local autocross. He also, of course, neglected to point out that I was co-driving a friend’s totally stock car (in a Street Touring class) that was nearly completely undriveable due to a combination of worn tires and stock suspension (my friend, who was a multiple national champion, actually finished behind me that day with all dirty runs). He also neglected to mention that, despite this, I beat his girlfriend by a large margin, but that’s probably because he didn’t want me to point out that I had a significant weight advantage over his girlfriend. That’s fine – if I can make somebody feel better about themselves, I’m happy to do it.
  2. “He’s right, and road racing is way better and manlier.” Come on, man. I didn’t say that. Both autocross and wheel-to-wheel racing have their own merits. I actually really like local autocross. I just feel like the people on the national scene take it a little too seriously at times. I mean, at the end of the day, we’re all still driving around a parking lot at speeds that wouldn’t impress your average teenaged Driver’s Ed student.

That all being said, there have been times in the last three years where I really missed autocrossing. Since I now have my Fiesta ST, which appears to be the car to beat now in SCCA “H Street” Solo, I thought I’d take it out to see how well it performed as a totally stock, out-of-the-box autocrosser. To find out, I headed over to my local region’s website and registered for the next autocross.

I have to admit, I was a tad curious to see how I’d be received by the locals. After all, I hadn’t autocrossed with them in about three years, and I wrote an article that appeared to many to diminish their favorite hobby. However, I needn’t have worried: they’re all much nicer and better people than anybody has to right to expect them to be. Think about it: the average autocross lifer is somebody who’s glad to give up his entire Sunday for the benefit of others. He’s up at 6 a.m., laying out a course with cones that he knows people are going to complain about because it doesn’t suit their car. Or he’s staying late to pack up the trailer, long after everybody has gotten their plastic trophies and gone home. He does this knowing he’ll receive exactly zero pay and likely zero thanks from his fellow competitors. That kind of person likely spends exactly zero time worrying what somebody like me thinks about him.

However, I was surprised to see how much of the club had turned over since my last event. Out of the fifty-seven participants, I probably only recognized a dozen or so. Of that dozen, at least ten of them made a point of saying how happy they were to see me out again. They shook my hand, came over and checked out the Fiesta, and wished me good luck. I replied I would definitely need it. Autocrossing isn’t like riding a bike, after all. It’s a skill that greatly diminishes with time. Besides, I’d never autocrossed a front-wheel drive car before. I was pretty certain I’d be giving a whole new crop of people a result they’d be able to screenshot for the forum of their choice. Oh, well – what the hell. Let’s go check out the course.

Hand-drawn track map

This is an approximate rendering of the course as drawn by the course designer, a local legend simply known as “Bucky” to all. As you can see, Bucky did a great job of including several different elements on a lot that is slightly larger than a Bolivian postage stamp. As I walked the course, I counted at least three corners that really made me think hard about how to enter and exit them, especially in a car about which I had very little knowledge of how it would behave.

My only other H Street competition for the day was a young man who had finished second overall in the previous event in his 2013 Honda Civic Si on BFGoodrich Rivals – in other words, he had real autocross tires. I had OEM Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires on my whip that could best be described as “crap”, but which would actually be considered illegal at a national event because of their 140 treadwear rating. (This opens up another can of worms about the silliness of the SCCA rule book: how can a car be illegal for street class as it sits new on a lot?) I didn’t like my chances.

Okay, so I’m about a thousand or so words into this update and I haven’t mentioned anything about how the car performed. Oops. Let’s do that now.

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For my first run, at approximately 10:30 a.m., there were still wet spots on the ground from the previous night’s rain and it was roughly 45 degrees. The Bridgestones did not care for that combination of conditions AT ALL. After I turned off AdvanceTrac completely for my first run, the tires spun on a 3,000 RPM launch all the way from the start to the first slalom cone, after which they clunked into place when I upshifted into second. The slightest nudge of throttle in the slalom threatened to send the back end around on me, so I settled in nicely at moderate throttle and headed out of the slalom into the first turnaround.

For autocrossing purposes, the Fiesta doesn’t need any more brakes than it has in stock trim. It quickly scrubbed off speed, and I was pleased by the low-end grunt of the EcoBoost in second gear as I came out of the left hander into the only straightaway on course. I came close to the limiter in second gear before getting on the brakes again for the sweeper in front of the trailer, tossing the car sideways and kicking the tail slightly out as I exited the turn. The torque vectoring is somewhat surprising if you’ve never experienced it; my initial reaction was to stop accelerating, but the Fiesta proved up to the task if I kept my foot in it. One can definitely feel the little Ford working to keep the right amount of power heading to the right wheel under slight shock compression, but it always feels sure-footed and steady, even as the Bridgestones gave way and started sliding a bit sideways.

I hit a cone nobody else hit all day; I crushed the entry cone as I came up to the final turn before the exit. Why did I do such a thing? Because the Fiesta goes where you point it. That section of the course was a bit off camber and I was expecting a bit of tail-happiness and slip sliding around the turn. Nope. The ST just stuck and turned. Oops. Plus one. I came in slightly faster than my competitor in the Civic for my first run, and he was also plus a couple of cones. Yay! I didn’t suck as bad as I feared I might.

With each run, I learned a bit more about what the Fiesta could and couldn’t do. I began to seriously curse the Bridgestones, as they simply weren’t up to what I was asking of them in the corners, especially with such little heat in them. Even so, the Fiesta showed it was the real deal. The suspension that can be a bit jarring on the open road is perfectly suited for a lower-grip autocross surface. It handled elevation and camber changes effortlessly. I think somebody could have a shot at a national trophy in one of these sleds with just a set of Bridgestone RE71Rs or BFG Rivals and some lightweight wheels. The car is so well-sorted out of the box it doesn’t need much else. In that sense, it reminded me of the Mazda RX-8 when it first showed up on the scene a little over a decade ago.

The young man in the Civic and I both found a little more time over our six runs for the day, but he found about eight tenths of a second more than I did and claimed the victory. After the first of two heats, he was second overall and I was fifth out of about twenty-seven cars. For a bone stock car with a rusty driver, I couldn’t have been more pleased.

Autocross results

The good news? If you’re just planning to go and have fun at a local autocross a few times a year, you can drive your stock Fiesta ST directly to the lot and have a blast. The car will easily handle the wear and tear of the event with minimal impact. The Bridgestones, while not super fun for autocross, could last through a couple of hundred runs and still have thousands of miles left for the street. You’ll be competitive with just about anybody, and you’ll be able to do it for nothing out of pocket other than your monthly Fiesta ST payment.

The bad news? I’m currently looking at wheel/tire combos online. I’m researching sway bars. I’m contemplating better shocks. I’m considering renewing my SCCA membership. I even put one of my old ProSolo trophy license plates on the front of the car.

You know why? Because the Fiesta ST reminded me of something I had forgotten somewhere on the way to one of those national events somewhere in the middle of nowhere: Autocrossing a good course with a bunch of good people is a pretty decent way to spend thirty-five bucks and a Sunday afternoon.

Curse you, autocross. I guess we haven’t broken up yet, after all.

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Motorcars, Manhattan and Money http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/motorcars-manhattan-money/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/motorcars-manhattan-money/#comments Sat, 09 May 2015 15:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1054641   It’s impossible to visit Manhattan without noticing wealth and privilege. Though I’m loathe to use the P word as it’s been corrupted by politics, how else can you describe someone driving a S Class Mercedes-Benz with “MD” New York license plates other than as affluent and expecting special treatment from parking enforcement that won’t be extended to […]

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Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse, $2.4 million

It’s impossible to visit Manhattan without noticing wealth and privilege. Though I’m loathe to use the P word as it’s been corrupted by politics, how else can you describe someone driving a S Class Mercedes-Benz with “MD” New York license plates other than as affluent and expecting special treatment from parking enforcement that won’t be extended to some zhlub from Jersey in a Camry?

New York City generates so much wealth that the people there can afford the opportunity and real costs involved with insane traffic, general congenstion and expensive infrastructure. I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, then, that the New York International Auto Show is where car companies go to show off their goods from the top shelf.

 

Aston Martin Vulcan

Aston Martin Vulcan

Detroit may not be the center of the universe that NYC is, but the North American International Auto Show in Detroit is a huge event with the participation of a number of the largest corporations on the planet. Some of the displays cost millions of dollars to build. The Chicago Auto Show is, by some measures, even larger than the Detroit show. And while the Detroit show is more about new product and concept reveals, the Chicago show is about selling cars. While they sell a few cars in America’s second city, car enthusiasts living outside the NYC metropolitan area have a tendency to regard that region as hostile to automobiles, but the fact is the metro region is one of the biggest car markets in the world. Combine that fact with the area’s wealth and you end up with a car show that has, literally, tons of high end cars.

 

Koenigsegg Agera HH

Koenigsegg Agera HH

There was a time, before the auto industry’s existential crisis of 2007-2009, that just about every car manufacturer of note in the world had a presence at the Detroit show, including the ultra-luxury and exotic automakers. Ferrari used the Detroit show to introduce the 612 Scaglietti, Rolls Royce had press conferences at the Detroit show, and VW’s Lamborghini brand and Aston Martin, then owned by Ford, also had displays. Those brands haven’t had official stands at the NAIAS in years, nor have they had corporate presence at the Chicago show. Since Fiat was given Chrysler in the government bailout in 2009, you might have occasionally seen a Ferrari on the FCA stand, but lately Sergio’s outfit has been promoting Alfa Romeo and Maserati, so both of those brands had some cars at the big midwest shows this year, but nary a prancing horse could be seen at Cobo Hall or McCormick Place.

 

Maserati's stand at the New York Auto Show

Maserati’s stand at the New York Auto Show

However, the Maserati displays at the Detroit and Chicago shows this year were just small sections of the larger FCA stand. At the New York show, they had their complete North American lineup. The Maserati display was larger than those of BMW, Lexus and Mercedes-Benz, and about the same square footage as FCA’s Dodge and Chrysler brands had. Maserati does sell cars in New York – I saw one on the West Side Highway near Canal Street and the Holland Tunnel, though I’d say the most common luxury car that I saw in Manhattan was the S Class Merc.

 

Lamborghini Aventador

Lamborghini Aventador, just $400K

Aston Martin not only had their full line out for inspection, they had their limited edition Vulcan track car front and center in their display; not quite the ideal car for Manhattan. Rolls-Royce, which hasn’t had an official display at the Detroit or Chicago show in years, had their full lineup in New York, as did their former stablemate Bentley.

 

Lamborghini Huracan

Lamborghini Huracan

It wasn’t just high end automakers, either. While in the long run the introduction of the new Chevy Malibu – hundreds of pounds lighter than the outgoing model while being larger and with more interior space – may prove to be the most significant new product reveal at the NYIAS, it was the introduction of two American luxury flagships, the production Cadillac CT6 and the concept version of the next Lincoln Continental, that seemed to have gotten the bulk of the attention. Besides the big Mercedes sedans, I also noticed more than a few slightly older, big Cadillacs, like 10-15 year old Devilles and STSes. They were privately owned, not livery cars, so maybe there’s a market for the CT6 in Manhattan.

 

McLaren 650S Spider

McLaren 650S Spider

Another mainstream luxury car maker, Jaguar Land Rover, used the New York show to introduce the Range Rover SVAutobiography, which has $120,000 worth of luxury and “bespoke” kit added to the $80,000 base Range Rover. Jaguar executive board member and director of design, Gerry McGovern, alluded to the maximum Range Rover as being at home in New York’s affluent Hamptons, and closed his description of the SVAutobiography with, “And, it’s very expensive.”

 

Range Rover VeryExpensive SVAutobiography

Range Rover VeryExpensive SVAutobiography

As Jaguar Land Rover and America’s two luxury brands introduced models at the top of their lineup, McLaren used the New York show to bring their carbon fiber based supercars down to a new price point, going after the Porsche 911 market with the McLaren 570S. Like Aston Martin and Maserati, the McLaren display featured examples of all of their current models, the new 570S, the 650S Spider, a 675LT, and the GTR dedicated track version of the top of the line hybrid hypercar McLaren P1. I don’t know a single car enthusiast that doesn’t regard the McLaren enterprise with respect, so all of those remarkable sports cars would have drawn me in, but for the occasion McLaren brought out a truly legendary automobile, a Gordon Murray designed F1. Not just any F1, but one of the three F1 GT “longtail” cars built by the factory to homologate bodywork used in the 1997 FIA GT Championship.

 

The new McLaren 570S

The new McLaren 570S, note the kiwi shaped cove in the door. McLaren’s logo is a stylized kiwi. Bruce McLaren was from New Zealand.

Jalopnik’s Raphael Orlove was photographing the F1 longtail while I was at the McLaren display and he concurred when I said that I could spend the whole day at their stand.

 

The 570S from the rear

The 570S from the rear

If you go to as many corporate auto shows and enthusiast car shows as I do, you can get a little jaded. I generally don’t take photographs of 1957 Chevy’s, ’69 Camaros or perfectly restored Isetta microcars. It was hard to feel jaded near the McLaren display, and not just because of their own cars. Right next to the McLaren stand was a display from Brian Miller’s Manhattan Motorcars, which has franchises for Porsche, Rolls-Royce, Bentley, Lamborghini, Koenigsegg, Bugatti, and Lotus. Porsche, R-R, and Bentley, as mentioned, had their own displays, so Miller brought out some exotics.

 

McLaren 575LT

McLaren 575LT

Maybe it was because their fellow Italians at Ferrari skipped the NYC show, but Lamborghini didn’t have an official display, so Manhattan Motorcars had a red Aventador and a metallic orange Huracan. The two Lambos are not common cars, but they were flanking an even rarer car, a Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Grand Sport Vitesse. The 1,200 HP Bugatti is the fastest production roadster ever made.

 

McLaren's dedicated track P1, the P1 GTR

McLaren’s $3.1 million dedicated track P1, the P1 GTR

Even rarer than modern day Bugattis, though, are cars from Koenigsegg. Christian Koenigsegg, the mad genius from Sweden, has built just over 100 cars since he started building hypercars about a dozen years ago. The Koenigsegg Agera HH on display at the NY show is as rare as they come, a one-off Agera R customized by the factory for David Heinemeir Hanson, a Danish computer programmer who was responsible for Ruby on Rails, a web application development framework that has made him a very wealthy man. The car is painted in his favorite color scheme of blue and black, to match his one off Pagani Zonda HH.

 

FActory owned McLaren F1 XP GT "longtail" homologation prototype.

FActory owned McLaren F1 XP GT “longtail” homologation prototype.

I’ve been to lots of auto shows including one of the top three concours in the U.S. and I don’t think I’ve ever seen as concentrated automotive wealth as sat on the McLaren and Manhattan Motorcars stands (with the possible exception of the classic luxury car section of the Henry Ford Museum with its Bugatti Royale and Duesenberg J). I was only able to get retail prices on nine of the ten cars at those two displays. Not counting the McLaren F1 Longtail, there was about $9 million in cars. If you include the F1 you could at least double that figure. In 2012, one of the 10 competition F1 Longtails that were built for racing sold for over $13 million. No doubt the factory owned prototype would fetch similar or even more money, perhaps even enough to buy a nice Manhattan condominium.

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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