The Truth About Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 27 Mar 2015 17:45:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Question Of The Day: How Will Indiana’s “Religious Freedom” Bill Affect Subaru? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-will-indianas-religious-freedom-bill-affect-subaru/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/question-day-will-indianas-religious-freedom-bill-affect-subaru/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 17:40:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030561 The state of Indiana has just signed a new bill ostensibly designed to safeguard “religious freedom”. Those opposed to it claim that it will lead to discrimination against LGBT individuals. So what does this mean for Subaru? Subaru’s entire U.S. manufacturing base is based in Lafayette, about 60 miles outside of Indianapolis. The Japanese auto […]

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Subaru Indiana - Picture courtesy mibz.com

The state of Indiana has just signed a new bill ostensibly designed to safeguard “religious freedom”. Those opposed to it claim that it will lead to discrimination against LGBT individuals. So what does this mean for Subaru?

Subaru’s entire U.S. manufacturing base is based in Lafayette, about 60 miles outside of Indianapolis. The Japanese auto maker is expanding their plant to help meet growing demand for their cars in the United States, as the car buying public grows increasingly receptive to the brand’s AWD-centric lineup of cars and SUVs.

But one of Subaru’s core constituencies has been the LGBT community. Jokes about their likelihood of owning a Subaru have become commonplace – and resulted in the downfall of our former EIC. Businesses like Salesforce.com have decided to boycott the state, while the NCAA, which hosts the Final Four in Indianapolis, has expressed its concerns over the bill.

I’ll be curious to see how Subaru responds to the bill. It’s reasonable to expect that a good portion of their customers beyond the LGBT community will be unhappy with it as well.

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Dispatches do Brasil: Compact SUV Fever http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/dispatches-brasil-compact-suv-fever/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/dispatches-brasil-compact-suv-fever/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:51:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030537 Like it or not, compact SUVs, particularly B-segment vehicles, are the segment to be in right now. They may be anathema to enthusiasts in the developed world, but in developing markets, their is no hotter property. In Brazil, where the Renault Duster and Ford Ecosport have reigned supreme, the market has just gotten a bit more crowded. […]

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Like it or not, compact SUVs, particularly B-segment vehicles, are the segment to be in right now. They may be anathema to enthusiasts in the developed world, but in developing markets, their is no hotter property. In Brazil, where the Renault Duster and Ford Ecosport have reigned supreme, the market has just gotten a bit more crowded.

Launched in 2003, the compact SUV may well be a Brazilian invention. In Europe, Ford had launched a micro minivan thing based on the Fiesta of the times and it was offered to Brazilians as, confusingly enough, the Fusion. Ford do Brasil took one look at it and declared it not good. But using that experience, they played around with the idea, squared off the lines, made them butcher and arrived at something any Brazilian would recognize as a “jipe”, a Portuguese version of the Jeep name that came to symbolize that special kind of car. The EcoSport was Ford’s jipe and it is credited with keeping Ford alive in Brazil based on it almost doubling Ford’s then withering participation in this market.

Competitors played around with the idea, showing off various concepts at different times, but only at the end of 2011 would a direct competitor arrive. It was the Renault Duster. Larger than the EcoSport, it soon took the sales title from it, losing it again when the re-styled, present-Fiesta-based EcoSport was launched. No matter, both cars proved the market was hungry for such things.

Now in 2015, Jeep is making a big splash with the Renegade. It has set off the blogsphere and apparently has what is takes, from price to availability. Being that Jeep is an FCA brand, and that Fiat is well established here and present in every nook and cranny in Brazil, the Renegade has sparked a renaissance of the Jeep brand. There were 45 Jeep dealers in Brazil last year, and at launch there are now 120. Until the end of the year, there will be 200 of which 150 will be exclusively Jeep.

Honda meanwhile has been more discreet with its launch. They made their compact SUV, called HR-V, available at dealers even before allowing the press to drive the car. Honda has about the same number of dealers as Jeep will have until the end of the year, but is of course dwarfed by FCA’s presence in this country.

For both makers, however, this is a very important launch as evidenced by the presence of top suits in Brazil. The General Director for Fiat Latin America Sérgio Ferreira is highly optimistic and has a good grasp of what the market wants. He highlights that this is the first Jeep factory out of the USA. It consumed an investment of 7 billion reais to be made and will have a capacity to build 250,000 Jeeps that will also be exported to other South American markets.

Ferreira points out the main competitors for the Renegade. He cites the EcoSport, Duster as well as the less succesful Chevrolet Tracker and Mitsubishi Pajero TR4, besides the new Honda. He stresses however that the Jeep will not only attract compact SUV buyers, but that it will bring in new consumers into the segment. According to him, SUVs have a global market participation of 18% while in Brazil it is just 9% and he believes the market is hungry for more. He said, “this is not a hole in the market, this is an ocean [of opportunity]”. He said Jeep is strongly focused on the after market, too. “We know how much it costs to keep a Duster or an EcoSport and our prices will be aggressive” and that 80% of Renegade parts come from Brazilian suppliers. He points out that the Renegade will not sell on price alone. Depending on version and trim, the Renegade has potential to seduce buyers looking for comfort as well as adventure.

Nahoisa Morishita, who was the leader of the HR-V’s global development project doesn’t seem to be so attuned to the Brazilian market. He speaks of the HR-V as a “superior” product and specifically cites the EcoSport and Duster as non-competitors. According to him, “taking into account an international competitor we can say it [the HR-V] is comparable to the Nissan Qashqai. In functionality we have as a reference the Audi Q3. In other words, though compact, it is a luxurious car and of a highly superior quality”. He stresses that the car was developed keeping in mind market demands in global markets such as the US and China. As evidence of the superiority of the car he cites safety, driveability and the presence of such items such as an electronic parking brake, “only available in superior cars, like BMW” (forgetting that the Renegade, for one, offers this, too).

The two cars are of course different, and do look more modern than the Renault Duster though Ford EcoSport in in the running in this aspect. The two predecessors start off quite basic, but have very good equipment levels in higher trims. Both EcoSport and Duster start off at around 50 thousand reais and top off at 70 almost 80. Base engines in both are 1.6 units and top trims get a 2.0. The Ford has a Powershift DCT automatic while top trim Dusters get an old 4-speed auto. Both offer 4×4 versions.

The Renegade starts off at 68 thousand reais in its Sport version and maxes out at 117 thousand for the Trailhawk. The base engine is a Fiat-built ecoTor-Q 1.8 16 V that produces 132 hp and can run on both Brazilian gasoline (E27-ish) and ethanol (E100). In all versions (except the top trim), that can be coupled to a five-speed manual or a 6-speed auto. All versions can get a 2.0 turbodiesel that puts forth 170 hp and is mated to the 9-speed already available on American Renegades. All version also go above and beyond what is usually on offer for the Brazilian market. Besides the trivial, there are more airbags, ABS, and diverse electronic aids that help the driver.

Shorter, but wider and taller than the Honda HR-V, the Renegade has a design that harks back to the original Jeep. It has attracted quite good evaluations from the public though some balk at it saying it is cartoonish. The Jeep offers a wide variety of colors even in the Brazilian market and promises to happily give our streets a splas of color. Though they don’t give an exact number, they cite leadership of the compact SUV market as their ambition. They affirm pre-orders has made them step up production at the new factory.

The Honda HR-V meanwhile takes another view on design. Honda affirms there are traces of a coupe on the top part of the vehicle and that it is all SUV on the bottom part. The lines are decidedly more “urban” and might appeal or not to a more “serious” buyer. And that is good since in Brazil has absolutely no off-road appeals at all. Besides the lower ride height than all competitors (including Duster and EcoSport),4×4 traction is not an option on any Brazilian HR-V. All HR-Vs will be front wheel drive only and will sport the same 1.8 16v engine already used by the Brazilian Civic. It too can drink Brazilian gas or ethanol. That engine will couple either with a six-speed manual or Honda’s worldwide CVT. Starting off at R$69,900 ($21,620) and will top off at R$88,700($27,370). Only the lower trim level will offer the manual, while the intermediate and top trim will only come with the CVT.

Taking a step inside, the ambiance is more somber than the Renegade’s, while more elegant than either the Duster’s or EcoSport’s. Hard plastics are harder to find here than in the other cars while fit and finish is undeniably excellent. In typical fashion though, the HR-V is quite stingy with equipment levels and such things as unpainted window buttons are found. Sharing 50% of its parts with platform brother Fit, the magic Honda seats are also available, making it a clever car with a wide array of packaging possibilities.

The HR-V is longer than either Ford EcoSport and Jeep Renegade and enjoys a longer wheel base than both those competitors, it is shorter, less tall and has a smaller wheelbase than the Renault Duster however. It is only wider than the EcoSport (by 1 cm). It is also less tall than the Renegade.

Due to capacity constrictions at its Brazilian units, at first Honda will cut back on City, Fit and City production to accommodate the HR-V. Honda claims the sales target is of 50 thousand units. If this is reached, they will outsell both “non-competitors” EcoSport and Duster. With Jeep wanting to take the lead in this segment, and the declining market, that target can be considered quite ambitious.

The compact CUV market in Brazil is now on fire. With four big competitors in the ring, it will be hard to forecast the winner. At this level of the market, consumers are somewhat less price sensitive and look for something more. The Ford EcoSport has the tradition and pioneering position in the market, a design that is modern and the possibility of very high equipment levels. The Renault Duster offers a more rugged design that is attractive to some, less equipment than rivals, but is bigger than most of them with undeniable internal and boot space superiority. The Jeep Renegade uses and emotionally appealing design that polarizes more and challenges people to love it or hate it with a plethora of personalization possibilities, the most variation in engines and transmission options, versions designed for city and even possibly heavy off-road use and the attraction of being the first Brazilian Jeep in 32 years. The Honda HR-V possibly appeals to more grown up people in its modern aesthetic, a proven drivetrain, and the big H out in the front and its promise of superior reliability.

Who will come out on top? Stay tuned.

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Crapwagon Outtake: The Answer *IS* Miata http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/crapwagon-outtake-answer-miata/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/crapwagon-outtake-answer-miata/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030121 I like the aesthetic properties of old British cars. The way they drive, leak fluids and operate on a sporadic basis is another matter. So, what could be better than a British car with a modern, Japanese powertrain and modern brakes? As far as I’m concerned, not a whole lot. Ideally, I’d go one further, […]

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hillmanhusky

I like the aesthetic properties of old British cars. The way they drive, leak fluids and operate on a sporadic basis is another matter.

So, what could be better than a British car with a modern, Japanese powertrain and modern brakes? As far as I’m concerned, not a whole lot. Ideally, I’d go one further, with a modern steering system and as much of the electrical system brought up to spec as possible (is that even possible?).

This Hillman Husky is pretty close to the ideal. With the drivetrain out of an early Miata, Willwood brakes with 4-piston calipers and a host of other modern upgrades, it remedies most of the faults (or charms) of Little British Cars. Unlike the coarse, utilitarian 1.8L BP-ZE motors, the early 1.6L engines were freer revving and had a modicum of character. Plus, it has the added benefit of not being an MGB or a Spitfire. You can keep your M Coupe. I’ll take something like this. And maybe convert it to carbs or ITBs, just to add a little bit of unpredictability to the mix.

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The Best (Volume) Or Nothing http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/best-volume-nothing/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/best-volume-nothing/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:50:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030497 A few days shy of April 1st, Mercedes-Benz has announced that they will build a luxury pickup truck for world markets. While M-B clearly has their eye on the VW Amarok, not to mention the countless markets where a pickup truck is a logical next step up from one of their vans, the whole thing […]

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A few days shy of April 1st, Mercedes-Benz has announced that they will build a luxury pickup truck for world markets.

While M-B clearly has their eye on the VW Amarok, not to mention the countless markets where a pickup truck is a logical next step up from one of their vans, the whole thing has the undeniable stench of “fuck it, we’re all out of ideas”.

The German luxury brands have been on an insatiable quest for volume over the past few years, and it’s led them down a strange path; front drive minivans, coupe-like SUVs, compact cars.

There is no bigger advocate in the automotive media for products that have a solid business case, but at a certain point, you have to wonder where the erosion of brand equity begins. In the world of quarterly results and responsibility to shareholders, these new products are a good idea. But when your barista is leasing a CLA at $299 per month, the very notion of luxury and exclusivity is gone.

Personally, I think the end game is going to be the inevitable rationalization of their model lineups, with unnecessary variants getting the ax. But go ahead, tell me why I’m wrong.

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Generation Why: Invasion Of The Bodystyle Snatches http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/generation-invasion-bodystyle-snatches/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/generation-invasion-bodystyle-snatches/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:32:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030465 We don’t have the rights to run the spy photos of the Scion iA concept, but you can check them out here. The above rendering, from TopSpeed, is 99.9% accurate, for better or for worse. On the surface, it looks like an uglier version of the Mazda2 sedan, with the unfortunate catfish maw grafted on […]

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We don’t have the rights to run the spy photos of the Scion iA concept, but you can check them out here. The above rendering, from TopSpeed, is 99.9% accurate, for better or for worse. On the surface, it looks like an uglier version of the Mazda2 sedan, with the unfortunate catfish maw grafted on in place of the rather handsome Mazda front end treatment. The on paper sepcs aren’t exactly thrilling either.

We at TTAC estimate a 1.5L Skyactiv 4-cylinder making 106 horsepower, with a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic gearbox. From what we’ve seen, the tablet-style screen present on all Mazdas will make its way over, and it’s possible that even the excellent HMI Commander knob will too.

On the surface, it seems like a cynical attempt by Scion to cash in on the low end of the market without building a car of their own. But this kind of thing has been happening for years and years in the Japanese Domestic Market. The Civic (well, really the Domani, aka the Acura EL) itself was lent out to Isuzu and sold as a Gemini, with literally no modifications beyond a couple of “Isuzu” emblems slapped on in strategic locations.

The iA will at least have a different front end (ugly as it may be), and the dealer network for Scion is a lot more extensive than Mazda.  106 horsepower seems a bit lackluster, but keep in mind that in hatch form, the car weighs 2270 lbs. The Skyactiv unit will almost certainly return outstanding fuel economy, and both gearboxes are among the best in the industry. It’s basically the Isuzu Gemini we never got – and it won’t amputate your legs in an accident.

And let’s not forget this either: Mazda can use ever dollar that comes its way. The deal with Toyota is probably a nice cash infusion for the company, and helps use some capacity at its new Mexican plant.

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Honda S660: A Case Study In Avoiding Bloat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/honda-s660-case-study-avoiding-bloat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/honda-s660-case-study-avoiding-bloat/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:16:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030441 On the left, we have a Honda Beat. On the right the new Honda S660. Nearly 25 years separate the two cars, but their size has stayed roughly the same. Perhaps there is hope.

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On the left, we have a Honda Beat. On the right the new Honda S660. Nearly 25 years separate the two cars, but their size has stayed roughly the same. Perhaps there is hope.

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Compact SUVs Gain Popularity At Expense Of Midsize, Compact Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/compact-suvs-gain-popularity-expense-midsize-compact-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/compact-suvs-gain-popularity-expense-midsize-compact-cars/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 14:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030297 While compact SUVs are doing well in the showroom, their success comes at the expense of midsize and compact car sales. In a report from Edmunds, 63 percent of compact SUV owners traded a midsize SUV, compact car or midsize sedan for a compact SUV like the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Nissan Rogue. Fourteen […]

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2015 Honda CR-V Exterior.CR2

While compact SUVs are doing well in the showroom, their success comes at the expense of midsize and compact car sales.

In a report from Edmunds, 63 percent of compact SUV owners traded a midsize SUV, compact car or midsize sedan for a compact SUV like the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Nissan Rogue. Fourteen percent, meanwhile, traded like for like.

Either way, both groups have their reasons for choosing models from this segment:

Compact SUV popularity is truly a product story. They are a desirable size, but concede very little in efficiency and are comparably priced with models in other popular segments. They combine aspects of the market’s best-selling and pragmatic segments — establishing a new middle.

The report says that transaction prices for compact SUVs are on par with midsize sedans, averaging $26,420 compared to the latter’s $25,887 average. It adds that the popular segment is having an effect on dealer inventories as well, as midsize and compact cars take the longest to leave the lot; the aforementioned Rogue has 36 days-to-turn, while the Sentra takes 85 days to do the same.

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Review: 2016 Acura ILX (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2016-acura-ilx-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2016-acura-ilx-video/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:55:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1026105 It has been two years since we last looked at the ILX, and my conclusion went like this: The 2.4L engine needs an automatic and some infotainment love, the 2.0L engine needs more grunt and the hybrid needs to be euthanized. Without changes like these, the Acura ILX will remain a sensible Civic upgrade but […]

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2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front.CR2

It has been two years since we last looked at the ILX, and my conclusion went like this:

The 2.4L engine needs an automatic and some infotainment love, the 2.0L engine needs more grunt and the hybrid needs to be euthanized. Without changes like these, the Acura ILX will remain a sensible Civic upgrade but as a competitor to Buick’s new-found mojo, Acura has some catching up to do.

2016 brings what I was expecting: a mid-cycle refresh with a new nose and new rump to keep the photos fresh. What I didn’t expect was for Acura to also address the major mechanical systems that we all complained about. Neither did I expect the ILX to be so transformed by a “simple” heart transplant. Can the ILX live up to the legendary Acura Legend? I snagged the keys to a “A-Spec Technology Plus” model to find out.

Exterior

Acura is not the kind of company that dishes out one daring design after another, especially since the Acura “beak” went over so poorly. As a result this ILX, like its predecessor, plays right to the conservatively styled heart of the traditional Acura shopper.

As has been said in the past, the ILX is related to the Honda Civic, but the relation is more third-cousin than sister. The ILX never shared sheetmetal or glass with its plebeian platform mate, and the ILX isn’t a simple re-skin either. While the wheelbase is shared with the Civic, nearly every hard point was changed from the A-pillar moved 8-inches rearward, trunk and door openings modified to the lowered roofline, the 2016 ILX shares as much with the Civic as the original Chrysler 300 shared with the Mercedes E-Class.

As expected, Acura swapped in a set of full-LED headlamps styled after the multi-beam modules we first saw in the MDX and RLX, and further massaged the front end to look more like the larger TLX. Acura’s quest to give the ILX more of a “wedge like” appearance rather than a tall hood translates to a somewhat pointy front to the side profile. Out back the changes are minimal but the A-Spec trim our tester wore gives the sedate sedan a bit more style and a tasteful chrome strip on the trunk spoiler.

2016 Acura ILX Interior Dashboard.CR2-001

Interior

Interior parts quality is right in line with the Buick Verano which, as expected, is a notch below the more expensive A3, CLA, S60, IS 250 and 320i. As you’d expect in a “near-luxury” vehicle, most of the ILX touch-points are soft plastic but you will find hard plastic lurking below the faux-metal trim and making up most of the center console. Front seat comfort is good but the lack of adjustable lumbar support is surprising. All models get an 8-way power driver’s seat, but only upper trims offer seat memory or a power passenger seat. An important side-effect of Acura’s modifications to the platform’s roof-line is limited headroom. Headroom is further limited up front by the standard sunroof, a nice value feature for sure, but at 6-feet tall my head missed touching the ceiling by millimeters. Acura will no doubt show taller shoppers the TLX.

The ILX’s rear seats are slightly less comfortable than the Verano, but a step above the mainstream compact segment with more thigh support for adults and considerably more legroom than the Mercedes CLA, Volvo S60, and despite the spec sheet saying otherwise, the A3 sedan as well. The key seems to be in combined front and rear legroom where the ILX shines. On the downside, Acura chose to share the rear seat frame with the Honda Civic giving the ILX a 100% folding bench seat that is far less practical than the more common 60/40 variety. This would be less of a problem if the trunk had grown in 2016, but it is still stuck at a smallish 12.3 cubes, smaller than the Verano, Lexus CT or Mazda3.

2016 Acura ILX Interior Shift Paddles

Speaking of the Mazda3, the small Mazda is in many ways a similar vehicle despite Mazda and Acura targeting different demographics. Interior parts quality is quite similar, although the ILX is more of a mixed bag by borrowing switchgear from both the Civic and the TLX. Where they differ notably is the steering wheel, gauge cluster and infotainment systems where the ILX shares more heavily with the more expensive Acuras while the Mazda is a little more constsient but lacks the spendy parts.

To keep things simple, Acura bundles features into packages, leaving essentially no stand-alone options. The base model comes well equipped with dual-zone climate control, 5-inch infotainment display, LED headlamps, Bluetooth/iDevice integration, backup camera, keyless entry/go and a cabin air filter for $27,900. Since the base model is rarely the volume leader, the second trim is the most interesting because the $29,200 “AcuraWatch Plus” trim adds radar adaptive cruise control, collision warning, collision mitigating autonomous braking, lane keep warning, lane keep assist, and electric pre-tensioning front seat belts. This safety system package is included in every trim above as well, making the ILX one of the least expensive vehicles with this kind of tech near-standard. (If you want all that in your TLX it will set you back $42,600.) The $29,900 Premium adds leather seating, blind spot monitoring, cross traffic detection, XM radio and a sub-woofer to the base 6-speaker system, swaps the 5-inch infotainment screen for a dual screen system featuring an 8-inch display high in the dash and a 7-inch touchscreen lower in the dash. The last jump is the $32,900 Technology package adds factory navigation to the 8-inch screen, 10 speakers, AcuraLink (Acura’s answer to OnStar), an upgraded backup cam, color LCD in the gauge cluster and GPS-reading/solar-sending to the climate control system. The only option is the $1,999 A-sped sport trim package netting the buyer 18-inch wheels, fog lamps, faux-suede inserts in the seats, a spoiler and some aluminum pedals.

2016 Acura ILX Interior Infotainment Navigation System-003

Acura’s two-screen infotainment system isn’t as polished as BMW’s iDrive but it is considerably snazzier than you’ll find in any mass-market competitor like the Mazda. The base system lags behind the Verano’s touchscreen radio, while the two-screen system tops it in elegance. Why two screens? The engineers say the concept is as follows: the lower touchscreen handles the audio, freeing the upper screen for navigation and other tasks. My opinion of the system has improved since I first encountered it on the MDX but I still think the casserole needs more time in the oven. You can skip tracks/albums using the touchscreen, but changing playlists or more detailed browsing requires the rotary/joystick lower in the dash and the 8-inch screen at the top. In my mind, this sort of kills the dual-screen sales proposition. On the positive side, the system is very responsive and the graphics are all high-resolution and attractive. Compared to the other entries in this segment, it lacks the online connectivity features found in Volvo’s Sensus Connect and Audi’s latest MMI, but offers more screen real estate and a more modern feel than either connected system.

2016 Acura ILX 2.4l EarthDreams Direct Injection Engine-001.CR2

Drivetrain

When it launched, the ILX borrowed the complete engine line-up from the Civic, including the lackluster 1.5L engine, 5-speed auto, underpowered hybrid, and the rev-happy 2.4L from the Civic Si mated only to a 6-speed manual. The 2.4L engine was the only engine worth buying, but slow manual sales meant it was a small portion of the sales pie. For 2016, Acura dropped all three engines in favor of the direct-injection 2.4L four-cylinder engine from the TLX. Closely related to the 2.4L in the Honda Accord, the  “EarthDreams” engine is tuned for slightly higher output. At 201 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of twist, this looks similar to the Civic Si’s 2.4L until you look at the power and torque curves. Thanks to the new design, and the direct-injection system, both power and torque arrive lower at RPMs and stay strong at higher revs.

Sending power to the wheels is the same 8-speed dual-clutch transmission as the bigger Acura. DCTs are nothing new, but Acura takes things a step beyond Audi and Mercedes with an 8-speed unit and a torque converter tossed in for good measure. The biggest issue with DCTs is their unrefined low-speed / hill-start performance. The torque converter solves that by allowing the clutch to completely engage first gear at low speeds.

2016 Acura ILX Interior Gauge Cluster-002

Drive

On the surface of things, the Frankenstein transmission sounds like the unholy union of all that is wrong with an automatic and a manual. Part of this is because early DCT adopters told us that torque converters were the root of all evil and DCTs were so blindingly efficient that the relatively poor 0-10  performance is compensated by brilliant 10-60 performance. In reality, the combination creates one of the finest transmissions in the world. No kidding. The Acura DCT is at the same level as ZF’s 6-speed and 8-speed automatic. Rather than hamper performance, the torque converter improves off-the-line acceleration because it can transmit more power to the gearset than a slipping clutch can. After the initial start, the converter spends most of the time “locked up” giving the drivetrain a very linear, manual-like feel. When shifting is called for, it delivers the speed of a dual-clutch transmission (slightly faster than most of ZF’s offerings) and the smoothness of an automatic because the torque converter is momentarily “unlocked” to soak up vibration during the shift. My only complaint is that Acura didn’t jam at least a low-pressure turbo on the 2.4L engine because this transmission deserves more power. Or AWD, or both.

The difference in refinement is immediately noticeable when driven back-to-back with the A3′ wet-clutch DSG and night-and-day different from the DCT in the Mercedes CLA. (The Mercedes transmission has been improving, but is still shockingly rough around the edges.) Likely largely to the new transmission, 0-60 times are a full second faster than the 2015 2.4L model and a blazing 3-seconds faster than the 2015 base model. Some of the credit goes to the new engine since the Civic Si engine has to scream like a leaf blower to deliver maximum thrust. This engine has a more luxury car appropriate torque band. In absolute terms, the 6.2 second sprint to 60 is faster than the Verano Turbo we tested, faster than the A3 2.0T, IS 250 and a just 4/10ths slower than the CLA 250 and S60 T5 Drive-e.

2016 Acura ILX Exterior Rear-001

Handling was never an issue with the ILX and that continues for 2016, despite what the folks at CR may say. The light curb weight of 3,093lbs is impressive, not just because it is 100lbs less than the lightest A3 in America and nearly 200lbs lighter than a CLA 250, but because the ILX is 6-inches longer than the German as well. With a similar weight distribution to the A3 and CLA and 225/40R18 tires (A-Spec), you’d expect the ILX to run with the sportier entries in this pack and you’d be right, with a twist. The light curb weight and wide tires provide excellent grip, but even in the A-Spec trim the ILX avoids bruised kidneys with a surprisingly refined suspension. Acura’s “dampers with two valves” allow the damping to be firm and body roll to be well controlled under most conditions while soaking up large imperfections like a sedan with a softer suspension. The system retains 95% of the Civic Si’s road holding ability while delivering a ride more composed than the turbo Verano. Similarly, the steering is a little less direct than the Si but yields better feel than the Buick. The ILX lacks the precision and astonishing grip you find in the CLA, but taken as a whole the ILX is the best balanced since it lacks the jarring ride of the CLA with the sport package but gives up little grip in the process. The CLA is a hoot and a half on your favorite winding mountain road, but the ILX is the kind of car you can also stick your mother-in-law in and she won’t think you’ve gone “all boy-racer” after turning 30. Limits are lower in the non-A-Spec trim largely due to the 215-width tires, but driving the ILX back-to-back with a Audi A3 1.8T made me question the sanity of the folks at Consumer Reports who berated the handling. Go figure.

Fuel economy was a concern of mine because of the torque converter, and indeed I averaged 2 MPG lower than the EPA combined 29 MPG, but that may have had something to do with my driving style. Treating the ILX gently it was possible to get 35 MPG out of the baby Acura on the open highway besting most of the entries in this segment and matching Volvo’s new Drive-e engines.

Despite sharing quite little with Honda’s Civic and not looking like a fancy Civic, the 2015 ILX felt like a fancy Civic. Now there’s nothing wrong with that per se (after-all the success of the Lexus ES is largely due to the fact that for many years it was little more than a fancy Camry), but that’s not the Acura that the brand’s faithful remember. This ILX however is that Acura. The drivetrain and excellent pricing scheme, more than the infotainment system or LED headlamps, are the reason. Sure the ILX has some discount plastic, but the interior on the whole feels like a TLX that’s been discounted than a Civic that’s been “tarted up.” While the old ILX could only be compared with the Verano, Mazda3 and similar vehicles with a straight face, the 2016 model is different. No, I would not call it direct competition to the 320i, IS 250, CLA 250 or S60 per se, but with pricing up to $10,000 less than those models comparably equipped, the ILX is unquestionable the value alternative. While the Acura RL may have replaced the Legend in 1995, the 2016 ILX is its true successor.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.4 Seconds

0-60: 6.2 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.8 @ 95 MPH

Interior sound level: 72db @ 50 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 27.1 MPH over 981 miles

 

2016 Acura ILX 2.4l EarthDreams Direct Injection Engine.CR2 2016 Acura ILX 2.4l EarthDreams Direct Injection Engine-001.CR2 2016 Acura ILX Exterior A-Spec Wheel.CR2 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front.CR2 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front-001 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front-002 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front-003 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front-004 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front-005 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Grille.CR2 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Headlmap Turn Signals.CR2 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Headlmap Turn Signals.CR2-001 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Headlmap Turn Signals 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Headlmap Turn Signals-001 2016 Acura ILX Exterior ILX Logo 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Rear Side 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Rear Side-001 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Rear 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Rear-001 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Rear-002 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Side 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Side-001 2016 Acura ILX Exterior Side-002 2016 Acura ILX Interior 2016 Acura ILX Interior AcuraLink Telematics 2016 Acura ILX Interior AcuraLink Telematics-001 2016 Acura ILX Interior AcuraLink touchscreen.CR2 2016 Acura ILX Interior AcuraLink touchscreen 2016 Acura ILX Interior CMBS 2016 Acura ILX Interior Dashboard.CR2 2016 Acura ILX Interior Dashboard.CR2-001 2016 Acura ILX Interior Dashboard 2016 Acura ILX Interior Dashboard-001 2016 Acura ILX Interior Gauge Cluster 2016 Acura ILX Interior Gauge Cluster-001 2016 Acura ILX Interior Gauge Cluster-002 2016 Acura ILX Interior Gauge Cluster-003 2016 Acura ILX Interior Glove Box 2016 Acura ILX Interior Infotainment Navigation System 2016 Acura ILX Interior Infotainment Navigation System-001 2016 Acura ILX Interior Infotainment Navigation System-002 2016 Acura ILX Interior Infotainment Navigation System-003 2016 Acura ILX Interior Rear Seats Folded 2016 Acura ILX Interior Rear Seats 2016 Acura ILX Interior Rear Seats-001 2016 Acura ILX Interior Seat Controls 2016 Acura ILX Interior Seat Controls-001 2016 Acura ILX Interior Seats 2016 Acura ILX Interior Shift Paddles 2016 Acura ILX Interior Steering Wheel Controlls.CR2 2016 Acura ILX Interior Steering Wheel Controlls.CR2-001 2016 Acura ILX Interior Steering Wheel Controlls 2016 Acura ILX Interior Steering Wheel 2016 Acura ILX Interior Trunk 2016 Acura ILX Interior Trunk-001

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While You Were Sleeping: March 27th, 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/sleeping-march-27th-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/sleeping-march-27th-2015/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:45:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030401   The newest hobby for Silicon Valley types? Racing. Racing and track days have become the new hobby for tech types in Silicon Valley. BMW says car sharing will never replace ownership. Ford is looking to triple exports from India, starting with the EcoSport SUV. Roughly half of Toyota’s next generation vehicles will ride on […]

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The newest hobby for Silicon Valley types? Racing.

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Oakland PD Turns Over 4.6M License Plate Dataset Via Public Records Request http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/oakland-pd-turns-4-6m-license-plate-dataset-via-public-records-request/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/oakland-pd-turns-4-6m-license-plate-dataset-via-public-records-request/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 13:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030273 Via a public records request, the Oakland Police Department has turned over 4.6 million reads of 1.1 million unique plates recorded between 2010 and 2014. Ars Technica made the request, resulting in the aforementioned license-plate reader dataset made between December 23, 2010 and May 31, 2014. The publication then hired a data visualization specialist to […]

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Via a public records request, the Oakland Police Department has turned over 4.6 million reads of 1.1 million unique plates recorded between 2010 and 2014.

Ars Technica made the request, resulting in the aforementioned license-plate reader dataset made between December 23, 2010 and May 31, 2014. The publication then hired a data visualization specialist to organize the dataset for its investigation into the practice.

With the permission of those contacted, the publication was able to track the movements of each individual based on their license plate, information that provides an insight into a given person’s life, according to University of California, Berkeley law professor Catherine Crump:

Where someone goes can reveal a great deal about how he chooses to live his life. Do they park regularly outside the Lighthouse Mosque during times of worship? They’re probably Muslim. Can a car be found outside Beer Revolution a great number of times? May be a craft beer enthusiast—although possibly with a drinking problem.

Crump adds that, as LPR technology comes down in price and becomes ubiquitous on the backs of police cars and in traffic lights, citizens should support restrictions on the data collected, from how long it’s stored and who can access it, to why it should be accessed in the first place.

Ars Technica also obtained data on OPD vehicles, discovering that a single unit — a 2007 Ford P71 — was scanned 879 times between January 15, 2012 and May 31, 2014 while it travelled through Downtown Oakland and North Oakland; nearly all of the 100 OPD in the dataset were also scanned several hundred times over.

As for how the publication was able to have this data in the first place, neither the OPD or the Oakland City Council has set a formal data retention limit; the police department deletes information as needed for new data, however. All OPD officers also have access to the LPR information at any time, and need not give a reason for accessing the data when searching for a given plate, though policy says such searches require “a legitimate law enforcement purpose, such as following up on a criminal investigation.”

Finally, OPD police captain Anthony Toribio explains that the data is publically available to anyone who asks, citing transparency as the reason:

I think it’s important for a law enforcement organization to be transparent, and it goes to being credible and establishing legitimacy in the community.

The OPD dataset is the second-largest LPR dataset to be released via request, the largest being one from a request by the American Civil Liberties Union to the Seattle Police Department in 2010. The request resulted in a dataset of over 7.3 million scans.

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EPA: Industry Exceeded National GHG Emissions Standards In 2013 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/epa-industry-exceeded-national-ghg-emissions-standards-2013/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/epa-industry-exceeded-national-ghg-emissions-standards-2013/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030249 According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the auto industry outperformed national greenhouse gas emissions standards for a second consecutive year. For MY 2013 vehicles, the average GHG emission came to 12 grams per mile — 1.4 miles per gallon — better than what was required by the 2013 standard. The EPA also found that MY […]

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2013 Ford C-MAX Energi Plug-In Hybrid, Exterior, Rear 3/4 View, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the auto industry outperformed national greenhouse gas emissions standards for a second consecutive year.

For MY 2013 vehicles, the average GHG emission came to 12 grams per mile — 1.4 miles per gallon — better than what was required by the 2013 standard. The EPA also found that MY 2013 vehicles delivered an all-time high average fuel economy of 24.1 mpg, while CO2 emissions remain at a record low. The agency notes that automakers are achieving these gains through the use of optional flexibilities, including fleet averaging and improved air conditioning systems.

The GHG standards cover light-duty vehicles made from MY 2012 through MY 2025, and are expected to save 12 billion barrels of oil while cutting 6 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases “over the lifetimes of vehicles sold in these years.” The EPA says most manufacturers — “representing more than 99% of sales” — met both 2012 and 2013 standards, while the rest have “several more years to come into compliance.”

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Operation Ruse Control Brings The Hammer Down On Deceptive Dealer Practices http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/operation-ruse-control-brings-hammer-deceptive-dealer-practices/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/operation-ruse-control-brings-hammer-deceptive-dealer-practices/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 11:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030209 The Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday its results from Operation Ruse Control, a collection of investigations over deceptive dealer practices. The FTC-led campaign involved 32 law enforcement agencies in the United States and Canada, resulting in 252 enforcement actions (187 in the U.S., 65 in Ontario and British Columbia), six of them involving monetary judgements […]

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Cory Fairbanks Mazda Dealership

The Federal Trade Commission announced Thursday its results from Operation Ruse Control, a collection of investigations over deceptive dealer practices.

The FTC-led campaign involved 32 law enforcement agencies in the United States and Canada, resulting in 252 enforcement actions (187 in the U.S., 65 in Ontario and British Columbia), six of them involving monetary judgements of over $2.6 million.

Two of those cases involved vehicle purchase add-ons, defined by the agency as “the practice of a dealer or other third party adding to the vehicle sales, lease, or finance agreement charges for other products or services.” In both, National Payment Network made promises to save consumers money, but the associated fees were too high to deliver on the promise. NPN agreed to refund $1.5 million and waive $949,000 in fees, while partner New Jersey-based dealership network Matt Blatt — the latter having received commissions for each of the 1,000 consumers it enrolled into NPN’s scheme — will pay $184,000 in fines to the FTC.

Three cases involving deceptive advertising on the part of Cory Fairbanks Mazda of Longwood, Fla., Jim Burke Nissan of Birmingham, Ala. and Ross Nissan of El Monte, Calif. led to all three from “misrepresenting the purchase cost or any other material fact about the price, sale, financing or leasing of a vehicle,” with the former two also barred from “representing that a discount, rebate, bonus, incentive or price is available unless it is available to all consumers or all qualifications and restrictions are clearly and conspicuously disclosed.”

The last of the six involves a lawsuit against Florida-based Regency Financial Services. The company is alleged to have charged consumers upfront for auto loan modifications, only to deliver nothing in exchange. The FTC is seeking a permanent injunction to stop RFS’ practices, as well as to refund deceived consumers.

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New York 2015: 2016 Infiniti QX50 Ready For Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-2016-infiniti-qx50-ready-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-2016-infiniti-qx50-ready-debut/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 10:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1030185 It’s official: the 2016 Infiniti QX50 will make its debut at next week’s New York Auto Show. MotorAuthority reports the updated crossover will takes its cues from the Chinese-market QX50 Long-Wheelbase like the one in the image above. This means a longer wheelbase for additional rear legroom and cabin space. The updated model will also […]

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It’s official: the 2016 Infiniti QX50 will make its debut at next week’s New York Auto Show.

MotorAuthority reports the updated crossover will takes its cues from the Chinese-market QX50 Long-Wheelbase like the one in the image above. This means a longer wheelbase for additional rear legroom and cabin space. The updated model will also have a slightly higher stance than the current model.

Potential power for the QX50 points to the same 3.7-liter V6 found solely in the crossover now, rated at 325 horsepower. Price of admission is expected to be around $35,995, the base sticker price for the 2015 edition.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-chevrolet-malibu-ltz/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-chevrolet-malibu-ltz/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 20:35:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029937 The Malibu was pretty good. It looked good. It drove nicely enough. It sold in decent numbers. But that was between 2008 and 2012. • U.S. Market Price As Tested: $33,380 • Horsepower: 196 @ 6300 rpm • Torque: 191 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm • Observed Fuel Economy: 23.5 mpg The 2013 Malibu wasn’t so […]

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2015 Chevrolet Malibu Butte RedThe Malibu was pretty good. It looked good. It drove nicely enough. It sold in decent numbers.

But that was between 2008 and 2012.


• U.S. Market Price As Tested: $33,380

• Horsepower: 196 @ 6300 rpm

• Torque: 191 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 23.5 mpg


The 2013 Malibu wasn’t so great. It didn’t look good. It didn’t drive so nicely. It wasn’t very pleasant inside. It didn’t sell so well.

But with the speed of a cat lover furiously favouriting tweets of bathing felines, GM refreshed the Malibu for the 2014 model year. Verdict: the refresh was inadequate.

GM deserves credit, and I’m not even kidding, for understanding that the 2013 Malibu wasn’t good enough, and even more brownie points for realizing that the updated 2014/2015 Malibu is unsatisfactory, too. GM will therefore introduce a new Malibu for model year 2016, fast-forwarding to the next generation with all due haste in a market that sees Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys linger for at least five years.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu rearI’ll be honest, I didn’t think the 2015 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ loaned to me for a week from GM Canada was a bad car, not at all. I don’t say that because, as some would suggest, “There’s no such thing as a bad car in 2015,” but rather because a CAD $35,810 midsize sedan is likely a half-decent place to spend time in 2015. This is not a Mitsubishi Mirage. Nor is it a 2007 Chevrolet Malibu.

But there are big issues. Combined, the issues led me to believe that most intermediate cars in 2015 are better than the Malibu in most ways.

The 2016 Malibu must not suffer the same fate.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu LTZIn order to make the current Malibu more fuel-efficient – the base 2012 Malibu was rated at 22/33 mpg, this car is 25/36 – a stop-start system was put in place to stop all the idle guzzling. That’s fine, or it would be, but the stop-start system in the Malibu is the worst I’ve encountered. Stop-start systems are supposed to reignite the engine mellifluously, even surreptitiously. In the 2015 Malibu, in order to pull away from an intersection when the light turns green, the car cranks up as though it’s the first time on a winter’s morning in Winnipeg. This needs to be fixed for MY2016.

The 196-horsepower 2.5L-four-cylinder isn’t a great powerplant aside from its diseased stop-start system. Coarse above 4000 rpm, also known as 2300 rpm shy of the 2.5L’s power peak, the 2.5L causes the Malibu to feel slower than it actually is because you won’t want to rev it and it doesn’t want to rev.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ interiorOh, but of course you can upgrade the powerplant to GM’s 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder (63 extra horsepower and a hefty 295 lb-ft of torque), and at this price point, why haven’t you? Forego some of the LTZ’s features in favour of an LT with the proper engine and the Malibu erases one of its key faults.

A different engine won’t dramatically alter the ride and handling, and that’s not the end of the world. The Malibu doesn’t ride poorly, but there is some stiffness that lacks a commensurate return in handling agility and precision. Honda’s Accord and the Mazda 6 also transmit impacts into the cabin, but they pay dividends on a back road. When pushed, the Malibu fees larger to drive than it really is. Nevertheless, in mundane driving, the light steering and surprisingly responsive and progressive brakes cause no offense.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu rear seatOffense may well be taken by people behind the driver, however, not just inside the Malibu but in the vehicle abaft. Subjectively speaking, the front end of the Malibu is handsome, but the rear is cartoonish and heavy-handed, thus causing the driver of the car behind you to avert his eyes. As for rearward occupants, scalloped front seats introduced for 2014 offered little noticeable improvement for rear seat passengers. A massive centre hump severely restricts three-across comfort. There may be no Malibu demerit more egregious than its compact car-like rear cabin.

Up front, the interior is laid out effectively, but we had some annoying moments with Chevrolet’s MyLink, an experience that didn’t occur during the prior week with a Buick LaCrosse. Turning the knob to cycle through satellite radio stations periodically accomplished nothing, but then a glance back at the screen a moment or two later revealed an intense scrolling, presumably caused by what I perceived to be my unsuccessful attempt at scanning through the list of channels. Overall, the system continues to be sufficiently intuitive but was persistently laggy in this car.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu interior storageIt all adds up to an undesirable machine, a transportation device that is unlikely to cause undue harm but struggles to do its job as effectively as its rivals. Still, I’d argue that a devoted GM buyer doesn’t need to look outside the Chevy showroom. A Cruze, particularly a loaded one that’ll still cost thousands less than this Malibu test specimen, does a faithful impersonation of a big car in dynamic terms. The Cruze’s interior is only 5% smaller. And if big car space is truly required, a V6-engined Impala is only slightly more costly than this specific Malibu. Forget the Malibu LTZ’s features: space is luxury.

Or you could just wait. As we’ve come to learn, there’s always a new Malibu around the corner.

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

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New York 2015: Mercedes-Benz ML Renamed “GLE” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-mercedes-benz-ml-renamed-gle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-mercedes-benz-ml-renamed-gle/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 20:28:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029929   As part of its efforts to re-brand crossovers, the Mercedes-Benz ML is now the “GLE”, the X5 to the GLE Coupe’s X6. Along with a diesel 4-cylinder and a gasoline V6 (with or without turbos), there is an AMG version, the GLE63 AMG and an “S” version. The diesel, dubbed the GLE300d makes 2.1-liter, four-cylinder […]

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As part of its efforts to re-brand crossovers, the Mercedes-Benz ML is now the “GLE”, the X5 to the GLE Coupe’s X6.

Along with a diesel 4-cylinder and a gasoline V6 (with or without turbos), there is an AMG version, the GLE63 AMG and an “S” version. The diesel, dubbed the GLE300d makes 2.1-liter, four-cylinder diesel making 201 hp and 369 pound-feet of torque, while the atmospheric V6 3.5-liter V6 makies 302 hp and 273 lb-ft. The turbo V6 makes 329 hp and 354 lb-ft. The AMG versions use the familiar twin-turbo V8 will make 550 or 577 hp depending on grade. A plug-in hybrid version will also be available. Full details will be announced at next week’s New York Auto Show.

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New York 2015: Scion iA Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-scion-ia-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-scion-ia-revealed/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 20:02:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029913 Spy photographers have caught the Scion iA sans camo ahead of its New York Auto Show debut. For the full set of pictures, please click here.

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Spy photographers have caught the Scion iA sans camo ahead of its New York Auto Show debut. For the full set of pictures, please click here.

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Whatizit? Shoulda Known Myron Vernis Had Something to do With It http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/whatizit-shoulda-known-myron-vernis-something/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/whatizit-shoulda-known-myron-vernis-something/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 16:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1028081 But of course! While researching this post I discovered that a previous owner of its subject is actually someone that I know, Myron Vernis. I featured his Mazda Cosmo and Toyota Sports 800 in a post on last year’s Eyes On Design show. Myron owns what has to be the world’s finest collection of oddball cars so […]

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Full gallery here

Full gallery here

But of course! While researching this post I discovered that a previous owner of its subject is actually someone that I know, Myron Vernis. I featured his Mazda Cosmo and Toyota Sports 800 in a post on last year’s Eyes On Design show. Myron owns what has to be the world’s finest collection of oddball cars so the fact that this literally unique vehicle ended up in his hands came as no surprise.

The research that ended up  with a phone call from Vernis started with a post by Jason Torchinsky over at Jalopnik, the second in a series of articles asking readers to identify relatively obscure motor vehicles simply from a photo of the drivetrain. Like many of Torch’s ideas, it’s clever and I’m not saying that just because we tend to write about similar topics. Well, maybe a little, but he’s one of the writers over there whose stuff I try not to miss.

A lot of manufacturer’s engines have ended up in smaller companies’ products so there is some challenge to the game. So far his two photographic riddles have involved the 1951 Tempo Matador commercial van and the Zamboni ice resurfacing machine. Both of those vehicles happen to be powered by air-cooled VW Beetle engines.

That reminded me of another unusual car with an air-cooled flat four, one that I’d personally photographed at the Orphan Car Show in Ypsilanti a few years back. At first I was just going to email Torchinsky a photo to suggest that he’d really stump his audience with it, since this is a one of of a kind car. Then I thought to myself, why should I give Jason content for free when I can get paid for it here not entertain some of own readers here at TTAC instead of helping another site’s traffic?

So what do you think it is? The answer is after the next break.

Photo courtesy of Myron Vernis. Photo credit: Wolfgang Blaube

Photo courtesy of Myron Vernis. Photo credit: Wolfgang Blaube

It’s a Gregory, a one-off project of Ben F. Gregory, an American pioneer in front wheel drive automobiles and the creator of the Vietnam War era M-422 Mighty Mite four wheel drive mini-truck. Small and of light weight so it could be transported and dropped by aircraft, 5,000 of the aluminum intensive M-422s were made by American Motors for the U.S. Marines. Ben seems to have been a bit of a character as well.

Benjamin F. Gregory was born in Missouri in 1890 and lived most of his life in the Kansas City area where he operated one of America’s first commercial air services along with a flight training school. He took his first flight in 1913 but didn’t really gain an interest in aviation for a few years.

gregoryad

After his discharge from the Army following World War One, he began a lifelong interest in automotive design, particularly front wheel drive. Per Griff Borgeson’s The Golden Age of the American Racing Car, between 1918 and 1922 Gregory assembled ten or so front-wheel-drive automobiles, approximately contemporaneously with the development of the Citroen Traction Avant in Europe and a year or so before the first of racing pioneer Harry Miller’s FWD race cars. Apparently Gregory paid for those experimental front drive cars by barnstorming a track racer powered by a Hispano-Suiza airplane engine.

Ben sdfa

Ben Gregory and his eponymous sports car

Attending an American Legion air show in 1920 got him interested in flying again, not as a just as a hobby, but as a business. By 1921 he was flying a three seater plane, offering passengers a seven minute flight for $5. That was a lot of money in the 1920s but then flying was a very novel experience then. He flew more than a half million passengers,  using the slogan, “Fly With Ben”.

In 1930, Gregory upgraded to the first of what would be five Ford trimotors, with a top speed of 90 mph and capable of carrying 13 passengers. I don’t know if the “mile high club” existed back then, but Gregory did perform marriage ceremonies, as captain of the ship, for at least 90 couples while aloft. Ever the promoter, Gregory mounted $15,000 worth of lights and smoke machines to do nighttime meteorite imitations, and nicknamed the plane “The Ship From Mars”.

He had a bit of luck, too, surviving seven plane crashes, including three of his Trimotors. He was too old to be a military pilot during World War II, but he contributed to the war effort flying commercially until a serious crash put him out of commercial aviation. He continued to fly as a hobby, though.

Returning to his passion for automobiles and inspired by the wartime jeep, Gregory, in 1946, started work on what became the M422 Mighty Mite, a lighter, smaller version of the same concept. He incorporated MARCO, the Mid-America Research Corporation and hired a number of the engineers who worked for Bantam designing the original jeep. MARCO debuted the MM100 in 1950. It had an aluminum body, sat on a tiney 64.5 inch wheelbase and it was powered by a 52 hp, 1.5 liter flat four made by Porsche. It had a novel suspension, independent all around, using swing arms and cantilevered quarter elliptical springs at each corner. Both front and rear ends had differentials with aluminum cases as well as inboard brakes.

Helicopters came into their own during the Korean War and the Marine Corps was interested in a jeep-like vehicle that was light enough to be airlifted into battle by the rotary wing aircraft. The USMC was impressed with how well the MM100 performed in their tests and they wanted to go forward with the project, but only if the Porsche engine was replaced with something sourced in America. In 1954, Gregory turned turn the fledgling American Motors, which was working on it’s own air-cooled V4. AMC started building what was called the M422 in 1960. However, the production run was short, some say less than 4,000 and no more than 5,000 were built. What happened is that in the ten years between concept and production, helicopters got stronger and could carry a standard jeep.

In the mid 1950s, Gregory devoted himself to building a front wheel drive sports roadster with a tube space frame and a hand formed aluminum body. Road & Track tested it in 1956. Though at first glance you might think that’s air-cooled flat four is from a VW, but if you look closely it’s actually a Porsche engine, capable of 70 horsepower, roughly double the power output of a Vee Dub motor of that time. I’m guessing that the Porsche motor was left over from the MM100 project. That engine sits in front of the front axle, facing in the opposite direction that it would have been in a bathtub Porsche. A transaxle sits behind the engine and drives the front wheels. R&T reported that the 1,925 lb roadster could approach 100 mph. The steering geometry featured center point steering with a vertical pivot. Rzeppa constant velocity joints at the wheel end of the equal length drive axles were housed inside oversized wheel bearings.

Full gallery here

Myron Vernis at the wheel of the Gregory. Full gallery here

Initial plans were to build and sell 20 of the roadsters at a price of $5,000, a considerable sum of money in the mid 1950s. To compare, a 1956 Corvette had a MSRP of $3,120. It’s not clear if the high price was a factor but Gregory never put his car into production. He did, however, drive it regularly for the rest of his life, putting over 300,000 miles on it. After he died in 1974, his widow gave the sports car to his friend John Burnham of Colorado, who raced it and then sold it. When Bob Chinnery saw that the Gregory was part of a collection that was being liquidated he knew that he had to buy it. A former drag racer, he had a small collection of motorcycles and race cars. He knew about the car because Bob Gregory once approached him at his race shop, pointed to Chinnery’s Jaguar XK120 and asked him if he wanted a ride in a “real sports car”. They ended up becoming good friends.

Chinnery planned to restore the car, still in almost completely original condition, but passed away before that could be done. Myron Vernis bought the car from Chinnery’s estate. He told me that it drove well, and had no torque steer because of the equal length half shafts, but that it did steer a little oddly because of the center pivot steering.

When I photographed the car at the 2011 Orphan Car Show in Ypsilanti, Michigan, it was in Vernis’ collection, but he’s since sold it to the Lane Museum, which says something about the Myron’s taste and eye as a collector.

Speaking of his collection, I suppose that the next car scheduled to join it could be described as mainstream. When I told him I’m in the middle of writing a review of Dodge’s Scat Pack Challenger, Vernis replied, “Oh, I ordered a Hellcat Charger,” rather matter of factly. Well, not quite so matter of factly. I could hear him grin over the phone. Myron has a sly grin that gives me the impression that he knows how it all works. “I wanted the Charger because it has four doors,” he explained. What could be more mainstream than a four door Dodge?

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

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2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Pulling From Volt Playbook http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2016-chevrolet-malibu-hybrid-pulling-volt-playbook/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2016-chevrolet-malibu-hybrid-pulling-volt-playbook/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 14:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029809 Pulling a few pages from the Volt playbook, Chevrolet will offer a “strong hybrid” version of the 2016 Malibu set to bow in New York next week. Power for the Malibu Hybrid comes from a 1.8-liter direct-injection four-cylinder paired with a modified two-motor drive unit from the 2016 Volt meant to aid the engine during […]

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2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Lithium-Ion Battery System, 1.8L En

Pulling a few pages from the Volt playbook, Chevrolet will offer a “strong hybrid” version of the 2016 Malibu set to bow in New York next week.

Power for the Malibu Hybrid comes from a 1.8-liter direct-injection four-cylinder paired with a modified two-motor drive unit from the 2016 Volt meant to aid the engine during acceleration. Total horsepower comes to 182, and its estimated combined mileage is projected to be 45 mpg. Electric power comes from an 80-cell lithium-ion pack providing 1.5 kWh to the hybrid system, which can allow the Malibu to travel up to 55 mph on electric-only travel.

The gasoline engine is also Chevrolet’s first to have exhaust gas heat recovery, improving fuel economy and engine warm up as well as providing heat to the cabin. Further fuel economy improves come from exhaust gas recirculation, while its regenerative braking system — also shared with the 2016 Volt — helps maintain charge in the pack

The hybrid will leave Kansas City, Kan. for showrooms next spring.

2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Lithium-Ion Battery System, 1.8L En 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid 1.8L Engine and Drive Unit 2016 Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid Lithium-Ion Battery System

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Cain’s Segments: Small Luxury Crossover Sales In The United States – February 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/cains-segments-small-luxury-crossover-sales-united-states-february-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/cains-segments-small-luxury-crossover-sales-united-states-february-2015/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:11:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029409 Sales of small luxury crossovers jumped 40% in February 2015 and so far this year are up 40% compared with the first two months of 2014. Subtract the newcomers from that equation and the continuing nameplates, those which were on sale at this time last year, posted a 3% February improvement but are down 1% […]

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2014 Volvo XC60, Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Teknikens VärldSales of small luxury crossovers jumped 40% in February 2015 and so far this year are up 40% compared with the first two months of 2014.

Subtract the newcomers from that equation and the continuing nameplates, those which were on sale at this time last year, posted a 3% February improvement but are down 1% through two months.

Those new players – NX, MKC, Macan, X4 – generated 29% of the small lux CUV activity in January and February. Yet their collective arrival, both at the lower end with the NX and MKC and at the higher end with the Macan and X4, aren’t slowing down the Acura RDX, Volvo XC60, and Range Rover Evoque.

The RDX is the class leader at the start of 2015, just as it was in calendar years 2013 and 2014. Interestingly, the Lexus NX has taken off early on in its tenure, generating more sales than the slowing (and aging) Audi Q5 and all other German contenders.

Auto
Feb. 2015
Feb. 2014
% Change
2 mos. 2015
2 mos. 2014
% Change
Acura RDX
3,862 2,911 32.7% 7,379 5,641 30.8%
Lexus NX
2,666 5,478
Audi Q5
2,493 2,643 -5.7% 5,420 5,417 0.1%
BMW X3
3,124 3,301 -5.4% 4,465 6,000 -25.6%
Volvo XC60
1,954 1,146 70.5% 3,471 2,088 66.2%
Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class
1,781 2,624 -32.1% 3,179 4,926 -35.5%
Lincoln MKC
1,558 3,160
Land Rover Range Rover Evoque
1,107 927 19.4% 2,510 1,806 39.0%
Porsche Macan
624 1,420
BMW X4
466 862
Infiniti QX50
177 220 -19.5% 365 417 -12.5%
Land Rover LR2
10 358 -97.2% 46 721 -93.6%
Total
19,822
14,130 40.3% 37,755 27,016 39.7%

The Q5’s slowdown occurs in conjunction with the Q3’s arrival. Combined Q3/Q5 volume is up 35% through two months; the duo was up 34% in February 2015 compared with February 2014, when the Q3 wasn’t yet on sale.

The situation was similar at Mercedes-Benz, where the sharp downturn in sales of the aging GLK takes place as the GLA begins to roundly and routinely outsell its more costly sibling. Combined sales are up 41% this year compared with the first two months of 2014 when the GLK was on its own to collect Mercedes-Benz small SUV buyers.

2016 Land Rover Discovery SportOther utility vehicles worth mentioning in this group are the entry-level trio from Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz (Q3, X1, GLA sales totalled 7073 units in January and February), the Cadillac SRX (which starts below $38,000 and is down 23% to 7294 year-to-date), and the Lexus RX, America’s top-selling premium brand utility vehicle. RX sales are up 16% to 13,059 in early 2015, not slowed in the least by the NX.

We make a large number of crossovers eligible for this grouping, including the especially premium-priced Evoque, Macan, and X4. The next big change in the category? Land Rover’s Discovery Sport will bring seven-seat availability to the mix.

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

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Mahindra & Mahindra In Negotiations To Buy Pininfarina http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/mahindra-mahindra-negotiations-buy-pininfarina/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/mahindra-mahindra-negotiations-buy-pininfarina/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029785 Pininfarina designs many things: Ferraris, scissors, Coke machines. Now, Mahindra & Mahindra wants the Italian house’s talents. Bloomberg reports the Indian manufacturer — known in the United States for its tractors and its attempt to bring its trucks over to these shores — is close to closing the deal with Pininfarina after weeks of negotiation, […]

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Pininfarina Sergio Concept

Pininfarina designs many things: Ferraris, scissors, Coke machines. Now, Mahindra & Mahindra wants the Italian house’s talents.

Bloomberg reports the Indian manufacturer — known in the United States for its tractors and its attempt to bring its trucks over to these shores — is close to closing the deal with Pininfarina after weeks of negotiation, though those negotiations still have a chance to collapse.

If successful, Mahindra could use Pininfarina to add more style to its and subsidiary Ssangyong’s offerings. The design house has worked with the manufacturer in the past, helping to develop its SUVs and designing its Halo electric sports car that was unveiled at last year’s Delhi Auto Show.

Mahindra’s bid for Pininfarina follows ChemChina’s bid for Italian tire manufacturer Pirelli in a series of foreign takeovers of Italian companies as Italy slowly emerges from its cycle of recessions.

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Junkyard Find: 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1989-buick-lesabre-estate-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/junkyard-find-1989-buick-lesabre-estate-wagon/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 13:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029577 The traditional full-size Detroit station wagon was in trouble by the end of the 1980s, thanks to the rise of the minivan. Increasingly car-like SUVs would kick the other leg out from under big rear-drive wagon sales during the 1990s, and so this great big GM B-platform wagon is one of the last of its […]

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02 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe traditional full-size Detroit station wagon was in trouble by the end of the 1980s, thanks to the rise of the minivan. Increasingly car-like SUVs would kick the other leg out from under big rear-drive wagon sales during the 1990s, and so this great big GM B-platform wagon is one of the last of its type. Look, it’s even a woodie!
04 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Buick Estate name goes way back in GM history. The version we’re looking at in this Northern California wrecking yard is from the final generation of the Estate Wagon, built on the downsized B platform for the 1977 through 1990 model years (after that, you could get a Roadmaster Estate).
09 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe “wood” on this car isn’t particularly convincing.
11 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe cassette deck came with auto-reverse, still a futuristic technology in the eyes of Buick customers in 1989.
14 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe non-wagon LeSabre had gone to the front-drive H-body platform by this time, which must have been a bit confusing for Buick shoppers.

02 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1989 Buick LeSabre Estate Wagon Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Williams: UAW Vows To ‘Bridge The Gap’ Between The Tiers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/williams-uaw-vows-bridge-gap-tiers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/williams-uaw-vows-bridge-gap-tiers/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 12:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029753 During his speech at the 2015 UAW Bargaining Convention in Detroit, president Dennis Williams proclaimed that the time for sacrifice and tiers are over. According to Automotive News, Williams stated before the 900-strong delegates inside Cobo Center that the UAW’s goal was to “raise everybody up and bridge the gap” between Tier 1 and Tier […]

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UAW Wages

During his speech at the 2015 UAW Bargaining Convention in Detroit, president Dennis Williams proclaimed that the time for sacrifice and tiers are over.

According to Automotive News, Williams stated before the 900-strong delegates inside Cobo Center that the UAW’s goal was to “raise everybody up and bridge the gap” between Tier 1 and Tier 2 employees in the union’s upcoming contract talks with the Detroit Three: FCA US, Ford and General Motors.

Not only did he vow to roll back Tier 2 toward Tier 1, he had this to say about Ford’s and GM’s desire to create a third tier for lower-skilled employees:

We’ve got too many damn tiers now!

Though preventing a Tier 3 from occurring could be a possibility, bringing Tier 2 on par with Tier 1 may prove difficult for Williams and the UAW.

Established in 2007 as a temporary measure to help the Detroit Three weather the storm of the oncoming Great Recession, the two-tier wage system is now firmly entrenched among the trio, with FCA holding the most Tier 2 employees at 42 percent of its workforce. Around 33,000 employees hired since the middle of 2011 are Tier 2, making up 29 percent of the overall Detroit Three’s 137,000 employees.

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New York 2015: A Preview Of The Next Kia Optima http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-preview-next-kia-optima/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-preview-next-kia-optima/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:44:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029881 This is all we’ve got on the new Kia Optima. You’ll have to wait until next week for official details, but expect the same specs as the current Hyundai Sonata.

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2016 Kia Optima SX

This is all we’ve got on the new Kia Optima. You’ll have to wait until next week for official details, but expect the same specs as the current Hyundai Sonata.

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New York 2015: Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Debuts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-toyota-rav4-hybrid-debuts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/new-york-2015-toyota-rav4-hybrid-debuts/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:36:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029849 Toyota is set to debut a hybrid RAV4. I’m not sure what’s taken them so long. With the Lexus NX using a 2.5-liter 4-Cylinder paired with an electric motor, moving that drivetrain to its platform-mate, the RAV4, was an obvious choice. In the NX, it produces 200 hp while returning 33/30 mpg city/highway. Perhaps we’ll see […]

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2016-Toyota-RAV4-Hybrid-rear

Toyota is set to debut a hybrid RAV4. I’m not sure what’s taken them so long.

With the Lexus NX using a 2.5-liter 4-Cylinder paired with an electric motor, moving that drivetrain to its platform-mate, the RAV4, was an obvious choice. In the NX, it produces 200 hp while returning 33/30 mpg city/highway. Perhaps we’ll see slightly better numbers in the RAV4?

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While You Were Sleeping: March 25th, 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/sleeping-march-25th-2015-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/sleeping-march-25th-2015-2/#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 11:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1029561 Jaguar will create 1,300 jobs to help build their new crossover. Kia will build the Forte and an unnamed small car at its new plant in Mexico. The University of Michigan thinks that gasoline consumption is at its lowest in 30 years. UAW will aim for “pattern bargaining” in the next round of contract talks. […]

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Jaguar-F-PACE-teaser

Jaguar will create 1,300 jobs to help build their new crossover.

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