The Truth About Cars » 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 28 Nov 2014 11:00:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Coast to Coast 2014: Among Coffins, Furnaces And Devils In Death Valley http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/coast-coast-2014-among-coffins-furnaces-devils-death-valley/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/coast-coast-2014-among-coffins-furnaces-devils-death-valley/#comments Thu, 27 Nov 2014 14:36:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=952105 Albert’s first incursion below sea level at Badwater, Death Valley CA * You can see all the USA Coast to Coast Reports here! * We now leave Las Vegas to enter the final state of this Coast to Coast trip: California. Crossing the state line, we enter Death Valley National Park and this is the perfect location for […]

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Albert Badwater with sea levelAlbert’s first incursion below sea level at Badwater, Death Valley CA

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

We now leave Las Vegas to enter the final state of this Coast to Coast trip: California. Crossing the state line, we enter Death Valley National Park and this is the perfect location for an extended photo session with Albert. I give you the Photo Report, California sales data, Death Valley trivia and a review of how Albert coped with Death Valley heat below.

Ford F-150 AmargosaFord F-150 at Amargosa Hotel, Death Valley Junction CA

Just past Nevada is Death Valley Junction, home of the sleepy Amargosa Hotel and… Opera House. Yep. In the middle of the desert. We almost missed this gem and are so glad we persevered despite windows decidedly harbouring a ‘closed until further notice’ look. The Amargosa Opera House, aka Martha Becket’s Opera House (more detail on www.amargosaoperahouse.com), has a fantastic story worth relating here.

In March 1967 while finishing her One Woman Show tour of America, actress, dancer, choreographer and painter Marta Becket came to Death Valley Junction to repair a flat tire at the former service station. While exploring the abandoned buildings, Marta found the old social hall in pretty bad disrepair. She rented the building, moved in and has lived here ever since! Marta began performing to empty seats as she was not known yet, so she decided to paint an audience as murals inside the Opera House. She began performing to a live audience in February 1968 and did so for over 40 years. Now aged 90, Marta still lives in a room in the adjacent Amargosa Hotel, but was resting when we visited. We would definitely have said hi otherwise!

Amargosa (2000), Todd Robinson’s documentary about Marta Becket, won a 2003 Emmy Award for cinematographer Curt Apduhan.

3. Albert Death Valley 1There’s no denying it now Albert…

Less than 20 miles further West from Death Valley Junction is the actual entrance of Death Valley National Park and time for Albert to prove he’s been here with a pose next to the road sign above. It was late September when we visited so still in the midst of summer. As its name indicates, Death Valley is a pretty extreme place to be finding ourselves in. The free Visitor Guide and Map available at information points peppered through the park airs stark warnings for all visitors. Among them:

  • Clothing keeps you cooler. If you are not wearing a shirt, sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat you are not prepared to walk anywhere in Death Valley! 
  • The most common cause of death in the park is not heat but single car accidents. A moment of inattention can send you, your car and your loved ones flipping into the rocky desert! 

Death valley deaths

But this remains my favourite warning:

  • Do not rely on technology! Your cell phone will not work in most of the park. GPS devices frequently tell Death Valley visitors to turn off well-travelled roads, and take “shortcuts” over the desert and into canyons. Common sense and good judgement are far more reliable

Sadly, Death Valley keeps justifying its name year after year and this Summer there has been 2 heat-related deaths in the valley.

4. Death ValleyThe view upon Death Valley from Coffin Peak

But how hot is it really in Death Valley? Based on temperatures recorded at the official weather station at Furnace Creek down at what felt like the hottest point in the entire National Park, the average maximum temperature is at its coldest in December at 65°F (18°C) but reaches 110°F in June (43°C), 116°F in July (47°C), 115°F in August (46°C) and 106°F in September (41°C). True to form, Albert’s exterior temperature gauge was stuck at a balmy 105°F (40°C) the entire time we were down the Valley. Not that impressive? Wait there’s more…

5. Chevrolet Impala Coffin PeakChevrolet Impala in Coffin Peak, Death Valley CA

The highest temperature ever recorded on earth was at Furnace Creek on 10 July 1913 at 134°F (57°C). A high temperature of 129°F (54°C) is the closest we have come to tying this record and was recorded on 17 July 1998, 6 July 2007 and 30 June 2013. The heat is coming back strong as you can see… Another interesting record is the driest stretch of weather: only 0.64 inches of rain over 40 months between 1931 and 1934.

6. Albert mpg Coffin PeakAlbert’s mpg average right after the Coffin Peak climb – still a very good 24.2 mpg.

One way to escape the heat is to climb the steep paved road to Coffin Peak and Dante’s View, easily the most breathtaking viewpoint in the park, more than 5000ft (1524m) above the floor of Death Valley. From here you can simultaneously spot the highest and lowest points in the contiguous USA: Mount Whitney at 14,505ft and Badwater at 282ft below see level. The climb is harsh but Albert hardly noticed, with no overheating, no engine ventilation on for decades after we parked (contrary to all other vehicles parked here) and a fuel economy average down, granted, but to a still very impressive 24.2 mpg – that’s higher than the EPA average for the all-new 2015 Ford F-150. This would end up being the lowest mpg Albert would display in the entire trip.

7. Chevrolet Spark Coffin PeakChevy Spark and a slew of rentals at Coffin Peak, Death Valley CA

Expectedly, being almost a tourist-only region, 95% of vehicles in circulation in Death Valley are rentals, but interestingly people haven’t seemed to shy away from the smallest, arguably more ‘tender’ options in these harsh conditions like the bright red Chevy Spark pictured above or the Nissan Versa. The traditional rental staples as described in my Monument Valley report are back with a vengeance: Chevy Impala, Tahoe and Suburban as well as GMC Yukon and Yukon XL, along with the Chevrolet Traverse and Buick Enclave as pictured above in Coffin Peak.

8. Albert Coffin Peak 3Albert in Coffin Peak, Death Valley CA

All in all though, the most frequent car in Death Valley is a rental Ford Mustang, seemingly the preferred way to complete a one-day tour from Vegas. I remember last time I was in Vegas there were special offers for 1-day Mustang convertible rentals that made them cheaper than the smallest car available – difficult not to be tempted, and apparently these ‘special’ offers are still on to this date. Talking about the devil/Mustang, I saw a camouflaged 2015 model zip past Albert as well as a hardly-camouflaged Jaguar XE. Death Valley is a notorious extreme weather testing ground and each summer day a couple of manufacturers are torturing prototypes on the valley’s roads. Last time I was here in 1995, I saw a string of Smart Fortwos a full 3 years prior to their European launch, and at the time they weren’t even scheduled for a North American career which made their presence here all the more interesting…

9. Chevron Furnace Creek 1Lucky we didn’t have to refuel here… (in Furnace Creek, Death Valley CA – 22 Sept 2014)

9b. Chevron Shoshone…nor here! (in Shoshone, Death Valley CA – 22 Sept 2014)

Remoteness and being in one of the worst places in the world for a car breakdown have encouraged service stations in the Valley to practice simply outrageous gas prices, a full 2 dollars per gallon above the prices that were the norm in Las Vegas at the time of our visit (see pictures above). These have receded by now but remain way above the national average. According to Gasbuddy.com, as at 27 November the Furnace Creek Chevron station (first picture) was selling Regular Gasoline at $4.22 per gallon and Diesel at $4.51. Shoshone Chevron prices were unavailable, but should still be at a shamefully extravagant $4.50 Gas and $5 Diesel even if they decreased at roughly the same rate as in Furnace Creek. That’s close to double the national average! Funny thing is Shoshone is much closer to ‘civilisation’ than Furnace Creek yet gas prices are even higher.

10. Ford E-350 Furnace CreekFord E-350 in Furnace Creek, Death Valley CA

Furnace Creek perfectly earned its name by displaying a hair dryer-like heated wind that grips you to never leave you alone as soon as you leave the car, making your eyes water. Even though the visitor centre encourages to turn off air con in the car to lessen strain on the cars and minimise the risk of breakdown, I knew Albert wouldn’t let us down, and he didn’t. In fact, our Ram 1500 ecodiesel was at its best in the heat and a mix of gravel roads and seemingly infinite stretches of bitumen. This workhorse is made for galloping.

11. Albert Devils Golf Course 3Albert at Devil’s Golf Course, Death Valley CA

Another attraction right in the bed of Death Valley is Devil’s Golf Course, an immense area of crystallised salt deposited by ancient salt lakes and eroded by wind and rain into jagged spires. So incredibly serrated that “only the devil could play golf on such rough links.”  On a windy day (not when we were there), you can apparently hear a metallic cracking sound as the salt pinnacles expand and contract.

12. Devils Golf Course 2Devil’s Golf Course, Death Valley CA

13. Devils Golf Course 3Devil’s Golf Course, Death Valley CA

14. BadwaterBadwater, Death Valley CA

Finally our last stop in Death Valley was Badwater, the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere (read the Americas) at 282ft or 85.5m below see level. Death Valley belongs to a worldwide geographic rogues. Finding oneself below sea level is an extremely rare occurrence, a map displayed at Badwaters actually shows only 16 other ‘minus’ locations worldwide, including the Dead Sea in Jordan/Israel at -1360ft / -414m, Lake Assal in Djibouti at – 508ft / – 155m and Lake Eyre in Australia at -49ft / -15m. Like most of these locations, Death Valley was not created by a river’s erosion. Movements in the earth’s crust have dropped it to such great depths.

14. Matt BadwaterIt’s bloody hot out here! In Badwater, Death Valley CA

We’ll finish on the official best-sellers in California, although as we have seen earlier, these do not translate into the car landscape of Death Valley, but are rather a reflection of the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets.

Best-sellers in California – Full Year 2013:

Pos Model 2013
1 Toyota Prius (all models) 69,728
2 Honda Civic 66,982
3 Honda Accord 63,194
4 Toyota Camry 56,788
5 Toyota Corolla 52,167
6 Ford F-Series 41,671
7 Honda CR-V 31,850
8 Nissan Altima 31,029
9 Toyota Tacoma 28,182
10 BMW 3 Series 27,026

California is the second state and in this trip after New York to not feature any pickup truck in its official Top 5 best-sellers, with the Ford F-Series ranking at a paltry 6th place, and the Toyota Tacoma at #9. One can argue the Honda Civic is the real Californian best-seller, as the entire Prius family (including the c small car and the v MPV) is accounted for in its sales figure. Honda also brilliantly places the Accord at #3 and the CR-V at #7 while Toyota positions the Camry at #4 and Corolla at #5. Very impressive performance of the BMW 3 Series in 10th place with over 27,000 sales.

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

Many thanks to David Curry for the photos in this report.

15. Toyota Corolla BadwaterToyota Corolla in Badwater, Death Valley CA

Albert Devils Golf Course 1Albert at Devil’s Golf Course, Death Valley CA

AmargosaDeath Valley Junction CA

Amargosa HotelAmargosa Hotel, Death Valley Junction CA

Albert NevadaAlbert in Nevada just before the California state line 

Land Rover Freelander AmargosaLand Rover Freelander at Death Valley Junction, CA

Dodge Ram 3500 AmargosaDodge Ram 3500 at Death Valley Junction CA

Albert AmargosaAlbert at Amargosa Hotel, Death Valley Junction CA

Nissan Sentra Coffin PeakNissan Sentra in Coffin Peak, Death Valley CA

Albert Coffin Peak 1Albert Coffin Peak 2Albert in Coffin Peak, Death Valley CA

Chevron Furnace Creek 2Chevron Furnace Creek, Death Valley CA

Furnace Creek RanchFurnace Creek Ranch, Death Valley CA

Devils Golf Course 1Devil’s Golf Course, Death Valley CA

Albert Devils Golf Course 2Albert at Devil’s Golf Course, Death Valley CA

Chevrolet Tahoe BadwaterChevrolet Tahoe in Badwater, Death Valley CA

Albert BadwaterAlbert in Badwater, Death Valley CA

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Coast to Coast 2014: New Mexico http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/coast-coast-2014-new-mexico/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/coast-coast-2014-new-mexico/#comments Thu, 20 Nov 2014 14:40:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=948473 The Dodge Dart is the hero in town in Albuquerque NM * You can see all my USA Coast to Coast Reports here! * After detailing the history and highlights of the Old Route 66 from Oklahoma to New Mexico, we now pause in New Mexico to analyse the vehicle landscape in Albuquerque and Gallup. This, a special feature on ethnic […]

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1. Dodge Dart Albuquerque 2The Dodge Dart is the hero in town in Albuquerque NM

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

After detailing the history and highlights of the Old Route 66 from Oklahoma to New Mexico, we now pause in New Mexico to analyse the vehicle landscape in Albuquerque and Gallup. This, a special feature on ethnic car buyers’ preferences and state-wide sales data below.

2. Ford F-250 GallupFord F-250 in Gallup NM

First a bit of trivia about New Mexico: this state is the 5th most extensive (121,589 sq mi or 315,194 km2), the 36th most populous (2.1 million inhabitants) and the 6th least densely populated of the 50 United States. Inhabited by indigenous peoples of the Americas for centuries before European exploration, New Mexico then belonged to the Imperial Spanish viceroyalty of New Spain, then part of Mexico, a U.S. territory before finally becoming the 47th state in 1912. During World War II, the first atomic bombs were designed and manufactured at Los Alamos NM.

3. Ford F-150 GallupFord F-150 in Gallup NM

New Mexico is often mistakenly believed to have borrowed its name from the nation of Mexico. This couldn’t be further from actual facts: New Mexico was originally given its name in 1563 by Spanish explorers who believed the area contained wealthy Indian cultures similar to those of the Mexica (Aztec) Empire. It was only centuries later in 1821 that Mexico, formerly known as New Spain, adopted its name after winning independence from Spain. Interestingly, the two developed as neighbouring Spanish speaking communities, with relatively independent histories.

4. Chevy GallupVintage Chevrolet in Gallup NM

Population-wise, among U.S. states New Mexico has the highest percentage of Hispanics (47%), including descendants of Spanish colonists and more recent Latin American immigrants. We will see a little further that this has an impact on new car sales in the state. It also has the second-highest percentage of Native Americans after Alaska, and the fourth-highest total number of Native Americans after California, Oklahoma, and Arizona – notably Navajo, Apache and Pueblo tribes.

7. New Mexico License plateNew Mexico licence plate

As a result, New Mexico’s culture is unique in the United States for its strong Hispanic and Native-American influences, both of which translated into the state flag: the red and gold colours are inspired from the flag of Spain, while the ancient sun symbol comes from the Zia, a Pueblo-related tribe. Last bit of trivia more closely related to my Coast to Coast Photo Report: we have now driven 4.000 miles since departure from New York City… That’s it for the trivia, now let’s get into the car landscape in the state, with a focus on its largest city Albuquerque as well as Gallup, further down the Old Route 66.

5. Albert AlbuquerqueMy Ram 1500 ecoDiesel Albert in Albuquerque NM

The best-selling models in New Mexico over the Full Year 2013 were as follows:

Pos Model 2013
1 Ford F-150 4,757
2 Chevrolet Silverado 3,601
3 Ram Pickup 3,368
4 GMC Sierra 2,214
5 Ford F-250 Super Duty 1,837

Source: JATO

8. Ram Pickup AlbuquerqueRam Pickup in Albuquerque NM

These figures make New Mexico the second state only so far along my Coast to Coast trip to crown 5 pickup trucks as its Top 5 most popular vehicles, after Oklahoma. Again this can be attributed to the relative rurality of the state but is still a remarkable achievement. At some stages during our crossing of New Mexico in remote areas towards the border with Arizona, up to 60% of all vehicles in circulation were pickup trucks. In Albuquerque, the Ford F-250 lifts its game to almost come as high in popularity as the F-150 as it has sometimes been the case in a few towns so far in this trip. In Gallup NM, the Chevy Silverado seems even stronger than usual and the Ram Pickup’s most popular variant is the Tradesman base model like the one I have been driving (Albert), and this for the first time in this Coast to Coast adventure.

5. Ford Econovan AlbuquerqueFord Econoline in Albuquerque NM

Onto real-life observations in the busy streets of Albuquerque and Gallup. The age of cars is stuck at a much older level than I have been used to during this crossing of the nation, only difference is in New Mexico a lot of these vintage items reach levels of cool unheard of before. Cue 1970s Ford Econovan, 1980s Ford F-150, and a plethora of souped up older generations Dodge Ram Pickups and Chevy Silverados. They say New Mexico is the Land of Enchantment, I say it’s the Land of Car Coolness.

6. Hyundai Elantra AlbuquerqueHyundai Elantra in front of the legendary Frontier Restaurant in Albuquerque NM

In a fascinating turn and in complete contrast to the Top 5 best-sellers state-wise, the most striking element of the car landscape in Albuquerque is the strength of smaller passenger cars, both in numbers and diversity, to a level that I had not seen since Washington DC. I will advance a very simple reason for this phenomenon:  the high ratio of students in town, which houses the University of New Mexico. I saw the first two Fiat 500L of this entire trip in this city, as well as very healthy numbers of Hyundai Elantra, Ford Focus, Nissan Sentra, Versa, Kia Soul, Toyota Corolla and VW Jetta.

8. Albert New MexicoAlbert on the New Mexico state line

But 3 passenger cars stand out even more, and on top of them a complete surprise: the Dodge Dart. A failure since its botched “manual only” launch 2.5 years ago, the Dart has struggled to break into the 50 most popular vehicles in the country. In Albuquerque however, it is as common as the Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic, up there among its competitors in its segment. This is also supported by a very strong heritage of Dodge Neon which was the predecessor to the Dart, discontinued in 2005. So we have an Albuquerque community clearly fond of compact Dodge sedans here, which is an extremely rare feat!

15. Dodge Dart AlbuquerqueMercury Sable and Dodge Dart in Albuquerque NM

Decades of precise vehicle landscape observation in hundreds of cities around the world have given me a solid experience at estimating the best-sellers based on their frequency in traffic, and I rarely get it very wrong. I would see the Dart snapping up a spot in the overall Top 10 Albuquerque best-sellers, at least for a few months since launch. I was not able to confirm nor infirm this observation with hard figures, and if in fact the Dart is at its best in the USA in Albuquerque, this is the most well-kept secret in US car sales statistics as both Melloy Dodge and Larry H. Miller, the two Dodge dealerships in town, repeatedly refused to comment on this (positive) anomaly. Bizarre. If one town has unlocked the Dart’s sales potential, I’d have assumed they’d show off about it. I’m still making the Dodge Dart the Hero in Town in Albuquerque.

9. Toyota Tacoma AlbuquerqueToyota Tacoma in Albuquerque NM

The second passenger car standing out in town is the Chevrolet Impala, and although it is notorious that a large part of Impala sales are to fleets and rentals, Albuquerque is among the towns I have visited so far where it is the most popular, and being neither the most touristic nor the more corporate town of them all, a boost from ‘real’ private sales has to be in order. The third one is a new entrant in my long list of successful cars in various states, regions and cities along this Coast to Coast trip: the Ford Fiesta sedan. Very discreet up until now, a whole herd of them is bustling through the streets of Albuquerque as I write these lines. Here again a perfect student car which could explain its popularity in town.

14. Fiat 500L New MexicoFiat 500L in Albuquerque NM

These last 3 models were the most striking standouts compared to their national ranking, but a large majority of passenger cars are Japanese, with Toyota, Nissan and Honda the most common. I have already covered the fact that as we get closer to the border with Mexico where it is #1 overall with a world-best 26% market share, Nissan’s popularity rockets up. This is also true in New Mexico and Albuquerque, and a recent study of new car sales to ethnic buyers by IHS Automotive confirms it all.

Most ethnic brands - USABrands with the highest rate of ethnic buyers (Source IHS via Autonews)

According to IHS, new vehicle consumption among ethnic consumers, defined as African-American, Asian and Hispanic buyers, is up 8% year-on-year over the first 6 months of 2014 vs. 4% for the overall industry, with Hispanic consumption up an even more impressive 10%, in effect lifting the overall US car market up. Ethnic population growing faster than the national average, this is a very important trend in the U.S. new vehicle market as the share of ethnic buyers in the overall market is bound to become more and more prominent. The side-effect of this is manufacturers doing well with ethnic buyers have great chances to see their national market share outperform the market in the next decade. There should be a red flag here for the Detroit Big 3 as ethnic buyer patterns show a strong preference for foreign brands – albeit most of the cars they purchase still being made in the U.S.

13. Nissan Versa AlbuquerqueNissan Versa in Albuquerque NM. Nissan buyers are 36% ethnic, the highest of any brand.

Unsurprisingly based on our observations during this Coast to Coast trip so far, Nissan is the brand with the highest share of ethnic buyers in America at 36%, followed by Mitsubishi (35%), Toyota (33%) and Honda (31%) while Dodge is the only American brand in the Top 13 brands with the highest rate of ethnic buyers in 5th place with 30%. Could this partly explain the tremendous success of the Dodge Dart in Albuquerque? Notice the exceptional strength of premium marques such as Lexus, BMW both at 29% of ethnic buyers, Mercedes at 28%, Acura at 28% and Maserati at 27%.

Top 10 brands to Ethnic buyersBrands with the highest volumes to ethnic buyers (Source IHS via Autonews)

In terms of market share, Toyota holds almost 18% of the 1.6 million new vehicles ethnic consumers have bought over the first 6 months of 2014 vs. 12.2% share of the overall national market, followed by Honda at 12.2% vs. 8.1% and Nissan at 11.1% vs. 7.9%, Chevrolet at a timid 4th place with 8.6% share vs. 12.6% nationally, while Ford is at an even more unimpressive 8.4% share, that’s almost half the market share it has with the entire American population at 15%.

This is it for New Mexico, next stop is Monument Valley at the border of Arizona and Utah, so stay tuned!

Many thanks to David Curry for the photos in this report.

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

10. Chevrolet Silverado AlbuquerqueChevrolet Silverado in Albuquerque NM

11. Toyota Prius AlbuquerqueToyota Prius in front of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque NM

12. Ford F-150 AlbuquerqueFord F-150 in Albuquerque NM

16. Ford F-250 AlbuquerqueFord F-250 in Albuquerque NM

17. Albert Nissan Versa Note GallupAlbert and Nissan Versa Note in Gallup NM

Chevrolet Silverado Albuquerque 2Chevrolet Silverado in Albuquerque NM

Toyota Corolla AlbuquerqueToyota Corolla in Albuquerque NM

Chevrolet Impala New MexicoChevrolet Impala in Albuquerque NM

Albuquerque street 3Street scene in Albuquerque NM

Hummer AlbuquerqueHummer in Albuquerque NM

Albuquerque street 1Street scene in Albuquerque NM

Nissan Sentra GallupNissan Sentra in Gallup NM

Albuquerque street 2Street scene in Albuquerque NM

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UC Berkeley Study: Lane-Splitting Safety, Acceptance Increase In 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/uc-berkeley-study-lane-splitting-safety-acceptance-increase-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/uc-berkeley-study-lane-splitting-safety-acceptance-increase-2014/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 10:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935970 Motorcycles passing through slow traffic on either side of the rider is a rarity in the United States, where only California officially gives it the thumbs-up when conditions are safe to do so. A recent study of lane-splitting further confirms the safety and acceptance of the practice. According to Autoblog, the study — conducted every […]

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Motorcycles passing through slow traffic on either side of the rider is a rarity in the United States, where only California officially gives it the thumbs-up when conditions are safe to do so. A recent study of lane-splitting further confirms the safety and acceptance of the practice.

According to Autoblog, the study — conducted every year since 2012 by the Safe Transportation Research and Education Center at the University of California, Berkeley — reports 80.6 percent of riders split lanes on freeways, 70.4 percent on non-freeways, and 62.1 percent on both.

As far as safety goes, 4.7 percent of riders told UC Berkeley they were hit by a vehicle on the freeway, down from 8.6 percent in 2012. Non-freeway riders saw the biggest drop in lane-splitting accidents, falling from 8.3 percent in 201 and 7.4 percent in 2013, to just 2 percent this year.

Finally, the rate of acceptance has gone up among drivers, with 46.3 percent believing lane-splitting to be legal on both freeways and non-freeways, up 9.7 percent from last year’s 36.6 percent.

This year’s study surveyed 1,660 — 951 drivers and 709 riders — from 35 cities in 12 counties in around the Bay Area and Southern California.

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Georgia EV Supporters Prepare To Defend State Credit In 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/georgia-ev-supporters-prepare-defend-state-credit-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/georgia-ev-supporters-prepare-defend-state-credit-2015/#comments Wed, 22 Oct 2014 11:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934722 EV supporters in Georgia are gearing up to save the state’s tax credit from the chopping block after nearly losing it earlier this year. According to WABE-FM, the city of Atlanta is second in the EV ownership game in the United States, falling behind the technocratic capital that is San Francisco. The high ranking is […]

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fisker-and-tesla-and-coda-georgia-electric-car-show

EV supporters in Georgia are gearing up to save the state’s tax credit from the chopping block after nearly losing it earlier this year.

According to WABE-FM, the city of Atlanta is second in the EV ownership game in the United States, falling behind the technocratic capital that is San Francisco. The high ranking is due to the state’s credit of up to $5,000 on EVs, helping to take off $12,500 from the bottom line when the $7,500 federal credit is taken into account.

Were the state credit have been cut, EV sales would fall dramatically. EV Club of the South board member Michael Beinenson says the credit — and not wanting to feel like Ed Begley Jr. — is the main draw for consumers in Georgia. He also hopes that the credit’s terms are merely changed instead of the entire credit being guillotined when the state’s legislature meets again next year, and is preparing to defend it to the bitter end with other like-minded supporters.

The credit was set to be removed from the books in 2014, citing lost revenue in the millions of dollars as the reason; the bill that would have made it so died hours before the 2014 session drew to a close.

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Quick Look: 2015 Honda CR-V http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/quick-look-2015-honda-cr-v/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/quick-look-2015-honda-cr-v/#comments Wed, 01 Oct 2014 16:21:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=922257 It’s hard to believe that the CR-V has been on sale for nearly two decades when the 1985 Civic Wagonvan 4WD is still fresh in mind. But Honda has steadily grown the CR-V from a mere 66,000 units in 1997 to over 300,000 units last year. As it stands, the CR-V is the 7th best-selling vehicle […]

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2015 honda cr-v front left

It’s hard to believe that the CR-V has been on sale for nearly two decades when the 1985 Civic Wagonvan 4WD is still fresh in mind. But Honda has steadily grown the CR-V from a mere 66,000 units in 1997 to over 300,000 units last year. As it stands, the CR-V is the 7th best-selling vehicle in the United States.

2015 honda cr-v rear right

The CR-V gets a typical midlife facelift for 2015, which consists of new headlights (LEDs on all but the low LX trim), a new grille, bumper covers, and taillights. There are also bigger, wheels and a new trim level, dubbed “Touring”. Inside there is an upgraded dashboard with a new infotainment interface, rear seat air vents, and new dynamic safety features. Overall, one really needs to see the 2014 and 2015 CR-V side-by-side to see all the differences.

2015 honda cr-v exterior details

More importantly, Honda made changes that have a greater impact on fuel economy, power, comfort, and safety.

The 2.4L DOHC iVTEC engine now sports direct fuel injection and has a higher compression ratio. This translates to the same 185hp, but an increase in torque from 163 to 181 ft-lbs. Both horsepower and torque now peak at lower engine speeds, and the torque curve is flatter. The five-speed automatic was replaced with a CVT. The fuel economy improves to 27/34/29 mpg on front-wheel-drive models and 26/33/28 mpg on AWD models, both increasing +4/+3/+3 mpg over 2014 models.

Interior improvements consist of more sound insulation for a quieter ride, something that was apparently a frequent source of complaints for customers. There are now air vents for rear passengers but there are no separate controls. The infotainment system is also updated, bringing it in line with current Hondas. It is not a system that I personally love; it has too many options, too many settings, and there is no volume knob, just buttons. A back-up camera is standard.

2015 honda cr-v interior details

Honda has also thrown a slew of active safety features into the 2014 CR-V, all designed to avoid accidents. These include: Forward Collision Warning with Collision Mitigation Braking System (it will stop a car if it sense an accident), Adaptive Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist, Lane Departure Warning, and Honda LaneWatch. The last is a camera mounted in the passenger side mirror which displays everything that is typically in the blind spot on the infotainment system. These new features are only available on the Touring, which also adds a power liftgate and memory seats – if you want the full suite of driver aides, you’ll have to shell out the big bucks.

During my quick highway drive the car did feel quiet, and a sound measure test performed by my friend did confirm that interior noise has been reduced. A full review will arrive once I spend some more time with the car, but so far, my biggest complaint rests with the CVT. I’m not a huge fan of them, for the usual reasons, but I doubt that buyers of the CR-V will know what a CVT is or even care that it uses one.

In 1999 my mother was shopping for a new car. The then new and hot E46 3-series was high on her list, as was the Acura TL. She ended up with a blue ‘99 Honda CR-V EX (CR-V EX is a horrible nomenclature, by the way, Honda) with a 5-speed manual transmission. The CR-V of that era was spacious, efficient, and affordable. There was a picnic table in the trunk and seats that folded into a bed, a pop-up rear window and full-size spare tire mounted in the tailgate. We take the CR-V and its ilk for granted now, dismissing them as just another soulless CUV. At the time, it was revolutionary.

The 2015 CR-V is a much different and much improved vehicle. But along with those changes it lost some of its personality. It seems that Honda is making more attempts at staying competitive rather than being a leader in independent design. Whether that is relevant or not is up for a debate as sales of each model are higher than ever. The truth is that CR-V buyers, new and repeat, will be getting a much improved vehicle which will only contribute to its popularity. The 2015 CR-V starts at $23,320 for a FWD LX model and goes up $32,770 for the new loaded Touring model with AWD. It is on sale as of today.

2015 honda cr-v dash

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Review: 2014 Lexus GX 460 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/review-2014-lexus-gx-460/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/review-2014-lexus-gx-460/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=916530 The various models of the Toyota Land Cruiser are some of the most respected off-roaders in the world. But what works elsewhere in the world does not necessarily work in North America. Dressed up in what is perceived to be luxury, how does this fancy Land Cruiser Prado, as its known everywhere else in the […]

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2014 lexus gs 460 side

The various models of the Toyota Land Cruiser are some of the most respected off-roaders in the world. But what works elsewhere in the world does not necessarily work in North America. Dressed up in what is perceived to be luxury, how does this fancy Land Cruiser Prado, as its known everywhere else in the world, perform in the United States?

2014 lexus gs 460 front

Get in and right away you realize that this is a truck and not a car disguised to look like one. It drives like a truck, it handles like a truck, and it feels like a truck. Guess what, it’s a truck. If that’s not your thing please stop reading and consider buying the excellent Toyota Highlander.

The exterior shape is a classic SUV two cube design. Being a Lexus, it has body cladding and running boards which are supposed to make it look upscale and softer in order to attract someone other than rich adventure travelers. New for 2014 is a Lexus family grill, the contours of which do not match vehicle’s utilitarian side profile, and frankly it looks like an add-on made by an Eastern European aftermarket company.

2014 lexus gs 460 dash interior

Hop into the driver’s seat and you will be greeted by a high seating position and large windows which yield a very commanding, Range Rover-like, sitting position. The whole dash has a very vertical feel to it, much different than anything else on the road. I was disappointed to see that the dash felt more like a Toyota, good quality but not pleasant to the senses, rather than any of the excellent new Lexus cars. All the commonly used controls are nicely laid out and very easy to use. Unfortunately the infotainment screen feels old due to its low resolution and inability to perform more than one task at a time. Instead of a new grill Lexus should have invested the money into the dash.

The rear bench is big, soft, and flat – exactly what it’s supposed to be in a vehicle like this. It does not slide, despite being on rails to allow third row access. The two-passenger third row seats are best used for short rides due to difficultly of access and lack of legroom. The third row folds in an interesting way; the bottom cushions slide under the rear cargo floor and then the seat-backs fold flat to form the cargo floor. With the third row folded, the cargo area is large and tall, something rarely seen in the days of sporty CUVs with sloping roofs. The floor is raised several inches, like on the Yukon, to accommodate the folded rear seats. There is no hatch but rather a large door hinged on the right which is a little heavy to operate. The rear window pops up for quick access, but I wish it rolled down into the door like on the 4Runner.

2014 lexus gs 460 third row cargo hatch details

Power comes from an aluminum 4.6-liter DOHC port-injected V8 which puts out 301hp and 329 lb.-ft. The engine feels heavy and it sounds loud, like a truck is supposed to. Several years ago this power would have been sufficient, but now it is lagging behind its competition. The only transmission choice is a six-speed automatic that is connected to a two-speed full-time 4WD transfercase. Compounded by a 5128 lb. curb weight, the GX gets 15mpg in the city and 20mpg on the highway. It’s not a fast vehicle, as it does not like abrupt full-throttle application, but it is smooth at any speed.

Start driving and you will immediately notice the soft suspension, a trait common to vehicles with real off-road abilities in order to allow axle articulation and traction. All potholes, no matter the size get absorbed, even at high speed but at the expense of handling. It’s not that the handling is bad; it’s just truck-like and not CUV-like. Steering feel and braking are also truck-like. To put it simply, the GX 460 requires a certain amount of respect – don’t drive it like a lunatic.

2014 lexus gs 460 interior details

Astute readers and buyers will be interested in how the Lexus GX 460 compares to the Toyota 4Runner. Underneath the sheet metal, those two are basically the same vehicles. Mechanically, the biggest difference is that the Lexus has a V8 engine, standard third row seats, and a hinged rear door. The 4Runner comes only with a V6 engine but offers a choice of 2WD and 4WD, optional third row seats, and has a tailgate with a roll-down rear window. The difference in power is not really noticeable because of the Lexus’ extra 400lb of luxury weight and the two vehicles drive nearly the same. GX’s advantage comes in maximum trailer towing: 6500 lbs. versus 4Runner’s 4700lbs. People who think of actually taking their vehicles off pavement may want to look into the new 4Runner TRD Pro which comes with locking diffs, fancy suspension, and proper mud tires.

2014 lexus gs 460 front side

The 2014 Lexus GX 460 starts at $49,085. As shown here, $4710 Premium Package adds leather, wood, automatic wipers, LED fog-lights, parking sensors, heated/cooled seats, and touch-screen nav. The somewhat flimsy cargo cover is $150 and the wheel locks are pretty pricey at $81. Total comes down to $54,826 before $910 delivery fee. A Luxury model starts at $60,715 and it includes nicer leather, air suspension, fancy headlights, and many other minor upgrades. If you have been noticing more new GX 460s on the road, it is likely because Lexus has had very aggressive lease rates on them, comparable to a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara, a much less expensive vehicle.

Despite what seems like a lot faults, I personally like this truck, but I do have a general bias toward proven off-roaders. It’s honest; it does not try to be all things to all people like, say, the BMW X5. It feels strong and solid, like it could take a lot of abuse and just shrug it off. Fortunately for those disagreeing with me, the market is full of cars that resemble trucks.

2014 lexus gs 460 rear side

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. 

Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. provided the vehicle for this review.

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US Average Gas Price Per Gallon Falling To $3.15 By Year-End http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/us-average-gas-price-per-gallon-falling-3-15-year-end/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/us-average-gas-price-per-gallon-falling-3-15-year-end/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 12:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=917594 Once upon a time, a gallon of regular could be had for under $3. Then, prices climbed as reduced production and geopolitical uncertainty played their respective roles. However, 2014 could feel like 2010 again as prices tumble back down to $3/gallon. A report issued by GasBuddy last week forecasts that the average national price for […]

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Low Gas Prices Circa 2012

Once upon a time, a gallon of regular could be had for under $3. Then, prices climbed as reduced production and geopolitical uncertainty played their respective roles. However, 2014 could feel like 2010 again as prices tumble back down to $3/gallon.

A report issued by GasBuddy last week forecasts that the average national price for a gallon of regular could fall between $3.15 and $3.25 by the end of the year, with 30 states expected to pump gas for prices below $3/gallon during the period.

The report bases its forecast on three factors: the transition from summer to winter-blend gasoline, the latter easier to produce by refiners; lower crude prices per barrel, led in part by boosted production in areas such as Alberta and North Dakota; and a combination of overall lower consumption over the autumn and winter months, more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road, and fewer younger drivers hitting the road.

Right now, 17 states in the South, East Coast and Great Plains already have stations delivering gas at $3 or less per gallon, with the Springfield, Mo. Metropolitan Statistical Area holding the lowest average at $3.005/gallon. Meanwhile, the West Coast will likely keep the highest prices per gallon during the period, though said prices will see the most severe drops through November and December.

Finally, though 2010 is considered a convenient reference point, GasBuddy states this season’s average won’t match that year’s low point, when the average price/gallon was $2.828.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Ford Escape Titanium http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-ford-escape-titanium/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-ford-escape-titanium/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 12:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914362 Today’s cute compact crossovers are slowly replacing mid-size sedans as the most popular vehicle on the market, and with good reason too. They have smaller footprints, are easier to drive, are more versatile, more economical, and AWD systems provide a piece of mind during foul weather. Is the Escape a…wait for it…game changer?   The […]

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2015 ford escape titanium ecoboost side

Today’s cute compact crossovers are slowly replacing mid-size sedans as the most popular vehicle on the market, and with good reason too. They have smaller footprints, are easier to drive, are more versatile, more economical, and AWD systems provide a piece of mind during foul weather. Is the Escape a…wait for it…game changer?

 

2015 ford escape titanium ecoboost dash interior

The interior is unmistakably Ford, with clear analog gauges and the MyFord Touch system high and center. The seats are very comfortable, heated in the front, and the angle of the headrests is adjustable so they will not press against the back of your head like some other Fords. The rear seat is best for two passengers but three adult butts or three booster seats will fit. The rear bench folds flat and is split 60:40. The dash is made of at least four different types of materials which do not always complement one another or match up perfectly, such as where the A-pillar meets the dash. HVAC controls and other buttons are small, low in the dash, and obscured by the shifter. At night the interior ambiance lighting can be adjusted in color and intensity to match your mood.

The MyFord Touch system received a slew of upgrades over the years and is now actually usable by a novice. Some of the touch-screen buttons are small and shorter drivers may need to stretch to touch the screen. Those truly adventurous can opt to shout at the system to get it to do what they want. The system easily connected to my phone and offers a ton of options and features which will likely go unused by most buyers. An Audi or Lexus-like knob would make this one of the best systems on the market.

2015 ford escape titanium ecoboost interior details

The previous generation had large square windows but this one, like the rest of the auto industry, has smaller windows all around. Despite that, visibility in all directions remains surprisingly good. Doors are large and open wide, making the chore of loading kids into the car a task that won’t break your back. Auto up and down on all windows, as opposed to just the driver’s window, is a nice touch. The rear bumper height is low, making loading and unloading easy. The big rear power hatch can be opened by waving your foot under the bumper, but it is slower in operation than other cars.

The top engine choice is a 240hp and 270lb-ft 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder which is very nicely matched to the vehicle; smooth, quick, and responsive. The six-speed automatic has two driving modes, D and S. In S it downshifts sooner and holds the gears longer, but not too long, where it becomes annoying. The ride is smooth and when tossed into a highway ramp, the Escpape remains neutral and composed, if a bit top-heavy. In this 4WD configuration, the EPA rates the Escape at 21mpg city and 28mpg on the highway. When equipped with a Class II trailer tow package, the little Escape can tow a 3500lb trailer.

2015 ford escape titanium ecoboost exterior details

The 2015 Ford Escape starts at $22,610 for the base SE model with a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine and 2WD. Those wanting 4WD need to step up to the SE with the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine (178hp/184tq) which starts at $26,810. Our Titanium model, with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost ($1195 over the 1.6-liter), starts at $31,965. Equipment Group 301A adds HID headlights, blind-spot detection, automatic wipers, and parking sensors for $1735. Navigation system is $795 and destination charges are $895 for a total MSRP of $35,150. At the time of this writing there was a $750 factory incentive.

The Escape is a nice vehicle overall, but aside from the peppy engine it does not bring anything new to the market. While none of its competitors feel more exciting in any comparable way, it feels like Ford decided to make just another vehicle to fill the market niche. The powerful engine is nice, but this is a price driven category where competitors offer one engine at a much lower overall price.

2015 ford escape titanium ecoboost rear side

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. 

Ford provided the vehicle for this review.

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Geely FIA-Certified To Supply Engines For Global Formula 4 Series http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/geely-fia-certified-supply-engines-global-formula-4-series/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/geely-fia-certified-supply-engines-global-formula-4-series/#comments Wed, 17 Sep 2014 10:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=913634 While Formula 1 fans contend with the new, quieter turbo era — a result of rule changes regarding power for the 2014 season — Chinese Formula 4 fans may be celebrating in the stands next year when Geely-powered competitors roar off the starting line. In a partnership with Narcar, the automaker will begin supplying its […]

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geely-f4-b-1

While Formula 1 fans contend with the new, quieter turbo era — a result of rule changes regarding power for the 2014 season — Chinese Formula 4 fans may be celebrating in the stands next year when Geely-powered competitors roar off the starting line.

In a partnership with Narcar, the automaker will begin supplying its 2-liter naturally aspirated motor to the Chinese and global Formula 4 series beginning in 2014. The engine is currently found in both the GX7 SUV and Emgrand EC8 sedan.

Geely’s entry as engine supplier marks the first time any Asian manufacturer has been certified by the by the FIA to provide engines for Formula 4, and will be joining three European manufacturers on the global stage from 2015 forward.

Meanwhile, the engines will help power the local Formula 4 series when the seven-race season begins later this year. The automaker recently provided chassis and engine support to the China Formula Grand Prix, which has been ongoing since 2006.

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Review: 2014 Range Rover Supercharged LWB http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/review-2014-range-rover-supercharged-lwb/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/review-2014-range-rover-supercharged-lwb/#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 16:19:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=906881 In the early 1990s Land Rover realized that their Range Rovers were often used to chauffeur people of wealth and taste. Designed to be capable off-road, the 100-inch wheelbase unfortunately meant limited rear seat leg room. For 1992 Range Rover Country LWB became available, with a wheelbase stretched additional eight inches, all of it going […]

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2014 land rover range rover lwb long wheel base rear 34

In the early 1990s Land Rover realized that their Range Rovers were often used to chauffeur people of wealth and taste. Designed to be capable off-road, the 100-inch wheelbase unfortunately meant limited rear seat leg room. For 1992 Range Rover Country LWB became available, with a wheelbase stretched additional eight inches, all of it going directly into the rear seat legroom. For 2014, Land Rover is bringing the LWB back.

2014 land rover range rover lwb long wheel base side

The LWB adds 7.3-inches to wheelbase of a conventional Range Rover, all of which goes directly into the rear seat leg room. The current Range Rover does not suffer from lack of leg room but this extra space transforms it into something resembling a Learjet, especially when equipped with the “Executive Seating Package”. This test model retains a conventional three passenger bench that is power reclining and folding and has heated and ventilated outboard seats. Features bundled into the LWB model include an extended center console, which oddly takes leg room away from the middle passenger, power window shades, and a panoramic sunroof.

The front seats remain the same as on the SWB model, which is to say really nice; wrapped in soft leather, supportive, with pillow-like headrests, and ergonomically perfect. These may just be the best seats on the market right now, and they were heated, ventilated, and massaging, too. The massage feature is nice, especially on longer drives, but it is not as intense as the chairs at Brookstone. The current Range Rover retains the signature high seating position and large windows all around yield airy cabin feel and outstanding visibility, all rather trivial traits that are rarely seen in modern vehicles.

2014 land rover range rover lwb long wheel base rear door seat

The gauge cluster is actually a 12.3-inch display screen that is cleanly laid out and easy to manipulate via a steering wheel stalk. The same cannot be said for the 8-inch infotainment touch-screen which is slow to respond and simply outdated. In the touch-screen’s defense, it does perform a lot of functions, and there are hard buttons for the most frequently used ones. The rest of the dash is a showcase of simple contemporary design wrapped high quality materials. The upgraded Meridian Premium Audio 825W system will make even Justin Bieber’s music sound good.

For 2014 Land Rover dropped its naturally aspirated V8 in favor of a supercharged V6. The LWB is available only with the more powerful supercharged V8 engine. 510hp and a very flat torque curve that peaks at 461lb-ft offers instantaneous power at anytime, making the 5320-pound Rover move like a sports sedan, and allowing it to accelerate from zero to 60mph in under 5.5 seconds. Having reviewed the V6-powered Range Rover Sport in the past, I think the V8 is worth every penny of its $10,000 premium on the SWB and Sport, Range Rovers. ZF eight-speed automatic transmission is the only choice. It has normal, sport and manual modes, but with this much power, I found myself just keeping the shift knob in D.

2014 land rover range rover lwb long wheel base dash

We, as the car buying and driving public, are jaded by the driving characteristics of modern cars. For instance, never before would some wanker blogger be able to take a 707hp car on a race track and not die within a minute. The same true holds for this Range Rover – the chassis dynamics and overall handling are downright amazing for a vehicle this size, and simply superior any previous Land Rover product. This was something I realized on an enjoyable drive down the Merritt Parkway, a road where more than a decade ago I came close to rolling a Discovery on.

Much of the handling can be attributed to the air suspension, and associated cleverly named subcomponents, which magically manage to filter out just about all road imperfections while keeping the big Rover composed, and dare I say sporty. While air suspension systems have a lot of critics (disclaimer: I’ve owned two vehicles with air suspension and didn’t have any issues), it may be the least compromised way of retaining comfortable ride, great handling, and big load capacity. The ability to raise and lover this vehicle by as much as five inches is an added benefit. Turning radius is now also large sedan-like, as opposed to tractor-like on older Landies.

2014 land rover range rover lwb long wheel base interior details

It is well known that most Range Rovers never leave pavement, but despite that Land Rover does offer some amazing off-road technology that enables these vehicles to be truly capable (11” ground clearance, 35” water fording), as I experienced some time ago (part 1,2,3). What many people forget is that these vehicles also offer 7716-pound towing capacity with 331-pound maximum tongue weight, and 220-pound roof rack capacity. This is in addition to the 82.8 cubic feet of cargo space and 1600-pound load capacity, all just a little less than the GMC Yukon.


2014 land rover range rover lwb long wheel base interior exterior details

All of this goodness comes at a price. First you pay at the dealer: the base Range Rover starts at $84,225. Do yourself a favor and get the “supercharged” one, which is to say V8, for $101,025. The LWB comes with the V8 and starts at $106,225. The test vehicle was equipped with Vision Assist Pack (cameras, swiveling headlights, blind spot detection) for $1760, Lane Departure Warning for $640, Adaptive Cruise Control for $1295, Meridian audio upgrade for $1825, Four Zone Climate Control Package $4150, parking sensors for $1200, rear seat entertainment is $2400, soft closing doors are $600, and towing package which includes a full-size spare and locking rear diff is $1300. This brings the total MSRP to $121, 390. Then you have to pay at the pump to feed an SUV that sips premium gas to the tune of 14/19 mpg city/highway.

While this is not a perfect vehicle, it is the best Range Rover ever. The LWB adds space that most buyers won’t opt for, not because of the cost but because the elongated body visually throws off the proportions. There are dozens of so-called premium luxury SUVs on the market, many of which cost half as much, but none of them, as we will soon find out, are as refined to the level of the Range Rover.

2014 land rover range rover lwb long wheel base front

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. 

Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC provided the vehicle for this review.

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Vellum Venom: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/vellum-venom-2014-mitsubishi-mirage-es/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/vellum-venom-2014-mitsubishi-mirage-es/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 12:04:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=898658   Design School forces considerations outside of a student’s artistic comfort zone: a unique price, demographic, or geography for starters. Just don’t present a pragmatic design based in sociocultural fact: a conventional sedan for the Indian market–isolating the wealthy from their hired help and their untouchable luggage—was a fantastically stupid mistake. Cultural and profit-minded relevance […]

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Design School forces considerations outside of a student’s artistic comfort zone: a unique price, demographic, or geography for starters. Just don’t present a pragmatic design based in sociocultural fact: a conventional sedan for the Indian market–isolating the wealthy from their hired help and their untouchable luggage—was a fantastically stupid mistake. Cultural and profit-minded relevance aside, that’s the not-so-secret secret I’ve mentioned before in this series. Cars are made under a litany of profit-minded constraints, no matter what they may teach in design school.

And some thrive in their design constraints.

1

A slot. Just a slot: no big stupid Audi-esque maw, no poseur Aston Martin grin, no bullshit. The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES is a snub-nosed hatchback working hard to reduce frontal area, with a .28 drag coefficient to boot. It took an unappealing template and made it work with a modicum of functional style and elegant interplay between elements and cut lines.

If only there was an ever-so-slight curve (down into the bumper) to the hood+fascia cut line.

2

Respect the slot…as it slices into the lower bumper.

3

No love for the badge so big that the hood cut line must bend to clear it. This is one excruciating element in modern automotive design, a Britches-Busting Badge dominating many an automotive face for no reason.

Not necessarily Mitsubishi’s fault, but the natural contours of the body must come first.

3_aventador

Oh Lamborghini, why must you bring credence to this abomination of a branding exercise?

5

Several harmonious elements, all with a “flow” that (attempts to) draw your eyes to a long and sleek form. Like how the grille slot’s earth-bound vanishing points are shared with the lower grille. The Mirage’s lower bumper has devil horns at each corner, arcing to the wheels. Then the fog light’s recess with upward slash into the Mirage’s side.   And finally, hood bulges that mimic the headlight’s contours as it flows to the windshield.

6

Transition to the fender: where’d the flow go? Small and cheap cars wind up with bug-eyed headlights on a stump-like face. All the flowy goodness from the last photo is gone in the name of compact car proportioning.

7

After experiencing these in my 1983 Ford Sierra Ghia in dawn/dusk conditions, the gentle glow of the headlight assembly when in parking light only mode is cool. Glad this bulb made it into the US-spec Mirage.

8

There’s a fake bezel and a fake(?) cylindrical housing inside the bumper’s fog light insert. Looked better before I said that, right?

 

9

The lower grille needs a Prancing Horse emblem à la Ferrari 612 Scaglietti. Mostly to be preposterous, but also to reward the clean integration worthy of more expensive metal: a nice contrast to the uber-subtle slot just north.

10

Too bad there isn’t one texture, instead of false teeth, small rectangles and larger rectangles. A dark-colored bolt would be nice too.

11

Here’s where the small car headlights really stand out. Even with the dimensional constraints, kudos to Mitsubishi for stamping out a reasonably bullet-nosed schnoz for such a short (length) and tall (height) machine.

12

Here’s a tidy cowl area, with the requisite windshield-to-fender modesty panel in black plastic. If only the hood extended further back to (presumably) reduce that panel’s size…and still actually open.

12_1

Large gaps around the windshield somewhat disappoint, but the metal work and paint quality remain respectable.

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I used the term “honest” quite often in my review of this machine, no better proof than this antenna.

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The repeater light and its subtle curve can’t take your eyes away from the DLO FAIL for long. Too bad the fender to A-pillar line can’t merge with the door to A-pillar line without losing the Mirage’s faux-sleekosity. (i.e. push the door cut line forward, making it rather boxy)

13_1

Gray rocker covers are unexpected when exposed unibody metal construction are acceptable for a cheap car. I was expecting blue-painted folds, creases and spot welds! Nice.

14

There’s a reassuring linearity and solidarity in these fast yet upright lines. The B-pillar’s black paint is a nice touch, since the belt line rubber demands a harsh transition from window to door frame. Compare this to something zany like the Nissan Cube.

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A dash of tumblehome evident when opening the door: not bad for a small car that’s surprisingly roomy inside.

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Tighter and more uniform panel gaps wouldn’t hurt.

16

The Mirage’s DLO FAIL free rear doors and fixed window free glass was a nice touch at this price. Also note the window’s outline empathizes with the door cut line and the hatchback’s outline.

17

The roofline has a Prius-like, teardrop fall. If it wasn’t for the DLO fail, there’d be an elegant flow from door to roof, to B-pillar. The strong bend above the door handle along with its softer partner below adds visual excitement to an otherwise plump and forgettable form.

18

While not as pretty as the close up you saw two photos ago, the upward belt line matches the trajectory of the two sheet metal bends below. The door cut line is on point with the B-pillar, elegantly encasing the rear door.

19

Step back and it’s still a cheap 5-door subcompact. No matter what!

20

Wait…are those flush mounted, non pull-lever type door handles? My design pet peeve hurdle cleared, the replacement of a conventional key lock for the ES-grade Mirage’s keyless system is logical, ergonomic and cost-effective.

21

A cheap car gets away with this: plus the passenger’s key lock makes sense if the transmitter fails harder than the DLO on a Chevy Cruze.

22

Man, that’s a huge gas door. Except it’s a normal-sized door on a small car with a seriously short overhang. If only there was a more elegant attachment point for the wraparound rear bumper. Considering this car’s intended market (crowded streets in third-world nations) the wraparound bumpers are more than mandatory.

23

The Mirage’s 14” wheels are static and uninspiring, except not: wheels this small are a treat if you’re sick of rubber band side walls from ill-proportioned mad-tite rims.

24

Another pet peeve: those fake slots do no favors to the wheel’s design. Either have real negative area, or make a flat casting.

25

Much like the Dodge Viper coupe’s helmet friendly roof design, the Mirage has little dimples for the hinges. It’s acceptable when viewed with spoiler’s speed bumps. The huge panel gaps, however…

26

It’s a rare occasion when a car actually needs a spoiler to complete the look, and the Mirage needs it more than a Plymouth Superbird!

27

Too many static elements: strong and steady cut line, downward sloping wedge from the quarter panel to the bumper and another lump that expands toward the bumper’s center section. These lumps aren’t structurally relevant, get a rounder bumper cover to mimic the front end’s bullet look instead.

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Yup, round it off. (EDIT: enlightened reader SamTheGeek mentioned this is for aero, contributing to the Mirage’s fantastic numbers. So nevermind.)

28

The Fallout Shelter reflector logo in the deeply sunken housing brings a smile to one’s face.

29

The Venn Diagram worthy tail light cluster looks outdated by today’s standards. But compare the Mirage’s eyes to the cyborg (no pun intended) look of a Chevy Spark, maybe old and boring ain’t so bad.

29_1

The plasti-chrome emblem was unexpected: no cheapie vinyl-jelly decal? While the bumper’s transition to the hatchback is pleasant enough, the hatchback itself could benefit from pushing the tail light “back” to create an uninterrupted flow from the base of the door to the crest of the tail light.

What was that phrase about the shortest distance between two points? Or just a gentle curve instead. Don’t fight the flow!

29_2

Oh wow, another unconventional handle! And that cute little button again! Replicating a design saves money, and these bits are far from offensive the third time ‘round.

29_3

Imagine if the hatchback did indeed move in a solid, singular sweep from its base to the top of the tail light. No matter, console yourself with the clean lines introduced in the wiper arm.

29_4

The spoiler sure has a well-integrated CHMSL, too bad it isn’t red like the tail lights.

30

Again, problems emblematic with the brand: the logo is too big. Uncomfortably close to the handle and the transition to the rear glass, logos must stop dominating vehicle design. And imagine if the hatchback had a smoother line so it wouldn’t play second fiddle to the tail lights!

Yet here’s proof that fundamentally good, honest design lies in the most unexpected places. While the Mirage’s sins are unacceptable at a higher price, these are white lies and not all out deceit. Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine liking the Mirage to this extent. But whatever, life is full of contrasts.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have a lovely week.

 

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Review: 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2014-mitsubishi-mirage-es/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2014-mitsubishi-mirage-es/#comments Sat, 19 Jul 2014 14:55:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=868922   Mitsubishi’s website claims the Mirage is a “small car for a big life.” Possible: while I haven’t done a TTAC review in over a year, know that even the rare automotive sampling of a ball of flaming garbage in a catapult possesses a modicum of engineering /styling/marketing prowess. Good cars exist everywhere, which is […]

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Press Cars: just a Mirage? (all photos courtesy Sajeev Mehta)

Press Cars: just a Mirage? (all photos courtesy Sajeev Mehta)

Mitsubishi’s website claims the Mirage is a “small car for a big life.” Possible: while I haven’t done a TTAC review in over a year, know that even the rare automotive sampling of a ball of flaming garbage in a catapult possesses a modicum of engineering /styling/marketing prowess. Good cars exist everywhere, which is worthy of someone’s “big life.”

And contrary to the rash of negative press, the Mirage is an honest machine worthy of a closer look.

DSCN5986The Made in Thailand DNA is unmistakable: the Mirage feels like an aspirational vehicle for a growing middle class in an emerging market. Living outside of the American design bubble has its perks: peep that demure, wind cheating nose bearing no pretense to corporate branding (cough, Aston Martin grilles) for starters. The low-ish DLO provides excellent visibility without resorting to the artificially large/dorky greenhouses of yesteryear’s subcompacts. The top-line ES sports cheerful 14” alloys while color-keyed fog lights add modest flair to the base model’s surprisingly subtle and cool rear spoiler. You know, for a 5-door econobox.

DSCN5990So pop inside the Mirage’s surprisingly inviting cabin: headroom galore, not uncomfortable bucket seats, dressy black lacquer center stack sporting Rothko-worthy HVAC vents, leather(ish) wrapped wheel, power everything, keyless ignition (on the left like a 911) and admirable ergonomics encased in richly grained, tightly constructed plastics that look more expensive than their fossilized demeanor suggests. That infamous road test mentioned airbag flash casting, which my test Mirage had instead on the E-brake handle. To see such cheapness on a new car under 13 grand ($15,195 as-tested) was horrifying I tell you!

DSCN6006Genuine gripes for a car this cheap? No center armrest, and the small cargo area means the (comfortable) rear seats must fold down for modest amounts of luggage. No biggie, except getting them back up without snagging the shoulder belts in the latch mechanism is a challenge. But the inability to stream audio (SoundCloud) from an iPhone 4 via the glovebox’s USB plug got on my nerves. It defaulted to iTunes, which I rarely use. And forget music when Google Maps’ turn-by-turn navigation is on: since I was denied the best Mirage-related song on the face of the earth, here it is.

Click here to view the embedded video.

DSCN6017And while bright colors add necessary excitement to a bottom rung hatchback, my Radioactive Blue Mirage fought its purple-flecked seat fabrics to no end. Cheap cars rightly show their exterior paint around interior window frames, a colorblind seat fabric is necessary. Feng Shui aside, color coding on the (power) door locks wouldn’t hurt: the lever needs a red decal to warn of threats from potential carjackers from an unlocked portal.

DSCN5997Fire up the Mirage and a pleasant (if you appreciate any mechanical sound) bellow from the three-banger mill makes it clear: this is an honest machine from another era. Even with electronics behind the 7 airbags, ABS, electric steering and active handling nanny in tow, the Mirage provides an unhindered driving joy coming from a suspension managing a mere 2051 lbs. Driving dynamics occasionally delight with its flat powerband, even with the CVT in lieu of a proper 5-speed. Bargain basement fun was a simple trick away. Check it:

Dial into the 1-ton Mirage’s occasionally communicative steering and toss it a corner (off-throttle) and the low-rolling resistance, tall profile rubber holds on with modest body roll. Now mash the throttle a good 2 seconds before hitting your intended apex. Do it right and you’ll fling out the corner with all 74 horses’ howling in passionate protest. Try to stop smiling as traffic becomes a dot in the rear-view.

DSCN5984And on the remote chance you built enough steam for a rapid stop, the vented disc/drum combination is more than adequate for the street. Even the twist-beam axle plays well on bumpy roads, further testament to the joy of a lightweight car.

DSCN6007Forcing the Mirage’s CVT into submission is moderately more infuriating than today’s auto-erratic transaxles. Yet, considering the efficiency boost, the autobox is done: the EPA’s 37/44MPG were matched and quickly surpassed. Light traffic (40-50mph) rewarded with a stunning 50.2 MPG from my house to the local Tesla gallery. And that’s with this featherweight’s (surprisingly robust and standard) automatic temperature control HVAC cranked!

As the 3-pot Mirage burbled buzzed idled next to the Tesla, I pondered if these radical electronic wonders are $85,000-ish better than a 50+ MPG hatchback. Is anything really that much better?

10372084_10152226017973269_3590992957388189892_nQuirky shit-can vibe aside, the Mirage cruises like a larger car, spanking the Smart ForTwo in both speed and stability. While acceleration is never rapid, the CVT keeps the Mirage in its powerband, hovering around 5000 revs. Mash the throttle around 70mph and the CVT revs to 6000, netting acceleration no slower than lower speeds. (In Houston, near sea level.) It’s still molasses slow with a loud engine, but with insane aerodynamics (small frontal area, 0.28 cd) it works. Witness this Easter Egg in the owner’s manual: a Highway Patrol speed warning for another journalist.

10452467_10152230027413269_1482059042706384612_nAnd upon the realization that running the Mirage at 10/10ths is a fool’s errand, one’s rewarded with a ride that soaks up both huge potholes and small pavement imperfections with precision. Impact harshness, so prevalent in modern cars with 18+ inch wheels, is literally smothered by Low Carb Panther Love.

Should you buy the Mirage over its sub-15k competition, or any “superior” used car? Maybe, but given the combo of a low asking price, $1000 rebate with 1.9% APR (this month), robust 10-year warranty and new car smell unavailable in used cars, you’d be forgiven for heading straight to a Mitsubishi dealer, using the extra monthly cash for food, gas, shelter, children, baby momma/daddy drama, medical bills, credit card debt, college debt…see where I’m going with this?

The similarly priced Chevy Spark could excel, depending on incentives. A larger, safer used car gives a fighting chance against wayward SUVs threatening a harsh lesson in the Laws of Physics. But Mitsubishi claims the Mirage meets their (modest) sales goals for good reason: it’s kinda fun and gets the job done with mad respect for your wallet.  And I appreciate that.

DSCN5995Your opinion of our society’s demand for easy credit and “need” for new car smell aside, the Mirage is a valid transportation opportunity for many Americans. If a Mitsubishi dealer is within easy reach, a cost-benefit analysis is certainly on the table.

(Mitsubishi provided the test vehicle, insurance and a full tank of gas for this review.)

 

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Cuban New-Car Sales Total 50 During First Half Of 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/cuban-new-car-sales-total-50-during-first-half-of-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/cuban-new-car-sales-total-50-during-first-half-of-2014/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 12:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=857145 Last year, the Cuban government finally made it legal for its citizens to freely buy new vehicles for the first time since Fidel Castro sent Fulgencio Batista packing in 1959. The people rejoiced right up until they saw the prices on the showroom floor this January, family sedans marked up 400 percent or above as […]

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Cuban Yank tank

Last year, the Cuban government finally made it legal for its citizens to freely buy new vehicles for the first time since Fidel Castro sent Fulgencio Batista packing in 1959. The people rejoiced right up until they saw the prices on the showroom floor this January, family sedans marked up 400 percent or above as if they were Ferraris and Bugattis.

Reuters reports that because of the markup, only 50 cars and four motorcycles left the 11 nationalized lots in Cuba during the first six months of 2014, netting a total of $1.28 million USD in new car sales. The high prices also affect foreign businesses and potential investors, all none too thrilled to seek government permission to import their own vehicles without going through the national showroom floor.

In one example cited by the news organization, a Havana Peugeot dealership wanted $91,000 for a 2013 206, and $262,000 for a 506 of similar vintage, which makes the government’s goal of investing 75 percent of all new-car sales into public transportation easier said than done; most state workers make the equivalent of $20 USD per month.

Meanwhile, used car sales are doing much better, with the average price for a used vehicle — including motorcycles — holding at $23,759. Most of the used stock originates from retired rental car fleets.

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Maserati Sells As Many Units Through June 2014 As It Had For All Of 2013 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/maserati-sells-as-many-units-through-june-2014-as-it-had-for-all-of-2013/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/maserati-sells-as-many-units-through-june-2014-as-it-had-for-all-of-2013/#comments Fri, 20 Jun 2014 11:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=847945 Maserati may have had a slow 2013 as far as sales go, but the Italian brand is on pace to sell within the first half of 2014 as many cars as it had in the last year. Reuters reports CEO Harald Wester said that while the United States was Maserati’s biggest market, China, Italy and […]

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Maserati-Alfieri-Concept-01

Maserati may have had a slow 2013 as far as sales go, but the Italian brand is on pace to sell within the first half of 2014 as many cars as it had in the last year.

Reuters reports CEO Harald Wester said that while the United States was Maserati’s biggest market, China, Italy and Europe as a whole were making big sales waves for the brand, likely helping it move 15,400 units both in 2013 and the first six months of this year. He added that Maserati was on pace to hit its mark of 50,000 units sold annually by 2015, and 75,000 by 2018 as part of parent company Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ five-year plan.

In product news, Wester proclaimed the Levante SUV would head for the showroom late next year or sometime in 2016, followed by the Alfieri in hardtop and convertible forms. Meanwhile, no new factories would be built, with an effort on filling current plants to full capacity in its fight to best the Germans in the sales game.

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Review: 2014 Honda Civic Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/review-2014-honda-civic-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/review-2014-honda-civic-coupe/#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 13:46:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=836401 Once upon a time, the Honda Civic was like McDonalds: its wide-ranging menu had something to offer for everyone, in an easily-digestible and economical format. There was even a time when the Japanese compact was offered as a sedan, coupe, and a hatchback (and for a brief spell, it even offered some British go-fast goodness!). The […]

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2014-Honda-Civic-Coupe-12-of-29-550x366

Once upon a time, the Honda Civic was like McDonalds: its wide-ranging menu had something to offer for everyone, in an easily-digestible and economical format. There was even a time when the Japanese compact was offered as a sedan, coupe, and a hatchback (and for a brief spell, it even offered some British go-fast goodness!).

The Civic used to be a fantastic thing.

Unfortunately, the ninth-generation Civic was a bad hamburger. When Honda served it up in 2012, they were treated to numerous complaints about the cheap interior, inexcusable road noise, and incompetent suspension. The outcry was so loud that Honda did something they’d never done before.

“Let us reheat that for you,” they said.

I’ll make one thing clear from the get-go: I didn’t get a chance to drive the Honda Civic Coupe in ’12 or ’13. Not that I’m overly sad about it. From the multitude of reviews available, it looks like I didn’t miss much.

However, I did own one of the last sporty-ish, mildly-hot Civics sold on our shores.

My 2000 Honda Civic Coupe, in Canadian Si trim (EX to you Yanks), was certainly no sports car. Yet, with a real trunk, upon which rested a fairly sharp spoiler, and a sleek-yet-subdued body, my silver Civic at least looked the part without being pretentious or trying too hard. Its SOHC VTEC-equipped 1.6-litre D-series four-cylinder gave a somewhat exciting growl above 6,000 revs. The shifter, too, felt very mechanical, providing a certain notchiness when throwing the lever into each gate.

Most of all, I felt connected with my old coupe. It got me back and forth to work each day before doing double-duty as an evening pizza delivery car. We spent a lot of time together and shared many great memories.

Unfortunately for me, and maybe Honda as well, I crawled into the new ninth-generation coupe with some possibly misplaced nostalgia.

2014 Honda Civic Coupe (15 of 29)

My tester was a mid-level EX trimmed coupe with only a single option – the continuously variable transmission, which is new for this year and replaces Honda’s venerable 5-speed automatic transmission. The gearless transmission, along with a big, green ECON button to the left of the steering wheel, dashed all hopes of connecting with the latest Civic.

2014 Honda Civic Coupe (11 of 29)

Powered by a 1.8-litre SOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder engine, the Civic is still motivated by aspirations of driving something faster on your way to the dragstrip. The engine has been slightly improved and now produces 143 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque (up from 140 hp and 128 lb-ft the year before), but you can still do better in the compact coupe segment. The Hyundai Elantra Coupe and Kia Forte Koup, equipped with identical 2.0-litre mills, get 173 hp and 154 lb-ft. If you desire more power, you may want to look across the street.

2014 Honda Civic Coupe (28 of 29)

The new fangled continuously variable transmission may keep engine revs at the peak of the power band, but it’s far from exciting, especially with ECON mode engaged. Fuel economy was the main reason for introducing the CVT, though a real-world average of 29 MPG is far from the official mixed EPA rating of 33 MPG. The difference means you’d pay an extra $184 per year at today’s US average regular gas price of $3.67 per gallon if you drive 12,000 miles per year.

Fuel economy aside, the CVT’s paddle shifters provide some entertainment for the Gran Turismo set, and even some fairly quick ‘shifts’, but those of us familiar with clutch pedals or traditional automatic paddles will be disappointed.

mark

In fact, the only connection made between myself and the Civic Coupe was with the headliner and my skull each time I sat in the car. The EX model tester came equipped with a power sunroof that takes away a serious amount of headroom for a 6’1″ human being. Even with the driver’s seat height adjustment all the way to the floor, my head made frequent contact with the Civic’s ceiling. My only way out of this situation was to go into “gangsta lean” mode, which, now that I think about it, explains the driving position of so many Civic Coupe drivers.

Elsewhere inside, the two-door did provide acceptable ergonomics. Materials were, again, acceptable, but the design did nothing for me in comparison to the knockout interiors in the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla. Infotainment wise, Honda is still well behind the curve, and that applies to more than just the Civic. Even the Acura MDX, lauded in some circles, has a horribly designed headunit.

2014 Honda Civic Coupe (23 of 29)

It wasn’t all bad, however, as the Civc did provide a good balance between ride and handling. Not all cars need to be sprung like race cars (I’m looking at you Hyundai and Kia) and, gladly, none of my head-on-ceiling contact in the Civic was suspension induced. Steering was slightly vague, though not bad by any margin.

Outside, the Civic Coupe still isn’t going to win any awards for earth-shattering design. While the emergency refresh available this year is certainly an improvement over the launch model, it’s still too close to the eighth-generation model to really be considered all-new. The painted pocket 16-inch wheels are a try-hard move to catch up to the Koreans, while the the overall shape screams “I’m mildly edgy!”

2014 Honda Civic Coupe (14 of 29)

Overall, it seems like Honda is now fully content with resting on their laurels, bringing in repeat customers who’ll never cross shop. Considering this version of the Civic is built solely for North America, maybe Honda just doesn’t want to drop a ton of money into a vehicle with limited marketability. Hell, the Civic isn’t even sold in Japan anymore; Europe gets their own version that’s actually appealing with a nice selection of engines.

However, back on our shores, the 2014 Honda Civic Coupe is a bad hamburger, slightly warmed over.

Mark Stevenson is a freelance automotive journalist based in Nova Scotia, Canada with a certain penchant for dead brands, on both two and four wheels. He’s a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), former member of Texas Automotive Writers Association (NAMBLA), and the human pet of two dogs – Nismo and Maloo

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AAA Study: Cost Of Ownership Falls In 2014 Due To Lower Fuel Prices http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/aaa-study-cost-of-ownership-falls-in-2014-due-to-lower-fuel-prices/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/aaa-study-cost-of-ownership-falls-in-2014-due-to-lower-fuel-prices/#comments Thu, 15 May 2014 10:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=820770 In its annual Your Driving Costs study, AAA says the cost of owning and operating a vehicle has fallen on the back of lower fuel prices, though its findings leave a little to be desired with current fuel costs. USA Today reports the methodology behind AAA’s study uses fuel prices from the final three months […]

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Salesman With Customer

In its annual Your Driving Costs study, AAA says the cost of owning and operating a vehicle has fallen on the back of lower fuel prices, though its findings leave a little to be desired with current fuel costs.

USA Today reports the methodology behind AAA’s study uses fuel prices from the final three months of the outgoing year. In 2013, prices were beginning to peak during the collection period, peaking earlier this year before falling to current levels. The club’s manager of technical services, Michael Calkins, acknowleged as much during this year’s announcement, but stated that AAA uses its preferred methodology “for consistency in the results.”

Other factors in lowered O&O costs in this year’s study include the increased fuel efficiency in newer vehicles — a result of increasing CAFE targets — as well as lower tire costs. Also noted: Insurance costs remained stable while depreciation fell 1.71 percent to $3,510 per year for the first five years, and maintenance costs climbed 2 percent to 5.06 cents per mile.

As for the cost of ownership for 2014, sedan owners will see a 2.7 percent decrease overall, with an average cost of 59.2 cents per mile and $8,876 per year based upon 15,000 miles driven annually.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Toyota Corolla S Plus CVT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/capsule-review-2014-toyota-corolla-s-plus-cvt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/capsule-review-2014-toyota-corolla-s-plus-cvt/#comments Tue, 06 May 2014 15:12:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=815874 “Are you interested in our Thousand Dollar Test Drive raffle?” the saleslady eagerly asked. A row of new Corollas beckoned at the front of the lot; their freshly redesigned maws were hungry for customers.   The car I wound up driving is not the one in the pictures, but this showroom model is exactly the same […]

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“Are you interested in our Thousand Dollar Test Drive raffle?” the saleslady eagerly asked. A row of new Corollas beckoned at the front of the lot; their freshly redesigned maws were hungry for customers. 

 The car I wound up driving is not the one in the pictures, but this showroom model is exactly the same sans a color change. A combination of threatening weather, pollen, and lens glare prevented me from getting any decent shots of the one on the lot. Just as well, because I greatly prefer this car’s red to the other’s less flashy silver metallic. Even if the redesign turns out to be too adventurous for Toyota’s more conservative customers, I’m a fan. The 17” wheels of the S Plus are harmonious with the car’s overall proportions, and unlike the refreshed Camry there’s no DLO fail in the rear side windows. I will say that the racy elegance of the piano black front grille with chrome surround on the S doesn’t translate well into the cheaper trims. On those, you get a wide swath of “I’m poor” unpainted plastic, much like the unfortunate snout of the Chevrolet SS.

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 The interior is the single greatest area of improvement over the old car. Grab the dash, and you can tell that there’s a greater level of solidity in its construction. Luxurious isn’t the word I’d use to describe it, but everything is in easy-to-use good taste. The piano black and painted silver complement the overall cockpit ambiance without feeling cheesy or me-too. The dash felt high to me, but no worse than most other cars on the market right now. The back-up camera kicks on automatically, but I still prefer the rear window: visibility is reasonable but not great.  At 6’ 2” I had no problem getting comfortable and ready to roll.

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 Speaking of comfort, the seats were the best part of the entire car for me. The lumbar support felt great on my aching, recently operated-on back, and the bottom cushion was supportive but not too firm. I didn’t need to use the orthopedic pad I’ve been dragging around with me, and felt fine throughout my test drive. The six-way mechanical adjustment mechanism was great, especially the up-down function. In short, these seats completely outclass the previous-generation car, my xA, the Focus, the Altima, and pretty much anything else I can think of. If you do a lot of freeway driving and are contemplating a car at around this price and size, the Corolla deserves your consideration for those seats alone.

 The version of Toyota’s Entune infotainment system gave me no problems in my brief experimentation with it. It was easy to Bluetooth sync an Iphone 4 and make a long-distance call, which the recipient had no trouble understanding. I didn’t have any songs on that phone so I couldn’t test the music sync, but the menus were easy to understand. The stereo came through loud and clear- no complaints there. The voice-command system employs a training function that adjusts to the driver with time, so it’s difficult to get a feel for it during a short drive. As a millennial that spends a shockingly small amount of time playing with his phone while driving, I have no complaints regarding anything infotainment-related.

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 The only true negatives to the interior are in the back, but they don’t cancel out the strengths of the front. The rear seats don’t fold flat, and the trunk pass-through is disappointingly narrow. I didn’t have enough room to avoid hitting my head on the headliner, which didn’t surprise me: compact car back seats are rarely my friend. Even so, legroom was more than adequate and therefore should be good for just about anyone who isn’t an NBA center.  The biggest gripe I had was the totally flimsy and destined-to-break collapsible rear cup holder. I would rather sacrifice a small amount of center console room to get one or two molded cup holders, especially given the fact that in many cases rear-seat occupants are likely to be children. A couple toddler kicks is all it will take to bust off that chintzy fold-up mechanism. Another more trivial complaint: the map pocket on the back of the passenger seat is unlined. Instead of durable pleather, it’s some type of clingy foam material which felt thoroughly unpleasant on my hand. There’s also the annoying lack of a rear-seat coathook by the grab handle, a useful feature I have utilized in my xA countless times. What are you supposed to do with your dry-cleaning now?

 In terms of overall road manners, it’s a mixed bag. In the Deep South we’re a little short on freeze-cracked pavement, so I didn’t get to test the ride on rough road as much as I would have liked. Despite this, the car felt thoroughly composed over the bumps I did encounter. This was another area of noticeable improvement over the previous generation. That feeling of flouncy, floppy suspension response typical of the old car is much reduced. It didn’t quite live up to the standards of the Focii or the Cruzes that I have ridden in, but I’d hesitate to render a final verdict without having taken the Corolla over a truly rough stretch of road. I will say that the handling is still the most tedious part of the Corolla experience. You rotate the steering wheel, and the car changes direction. If you want feedback, look elsewhere. The brakes are definitely more inspiring though, with a solid pedal feel no doubt helped by the tested car’s 4-wheel discs.

  This car was equipped with the simulated paddle shift option for Toyota’s new CVT. To its credit, it feels remarkably like the shift-it-yourself systems in other cars with conventional torque-converter automatics. Blip the paddle, and the gearchange feels just like a cog swap in an old-school box. If you enjoy those systems, you’ll appreciate the one in this car. As for myself, I can’t really escape the artificiality of the process. When allowed to do its thing, the CVT is a fine automatic transmission that isn’t intrusive or annoying. It will be a perfectly acceptable replacement for the much-maligned 4-speed, which is still in the fleet-level trims. There is some delay in response when you mash the throttle, but not any more than in most automatics. Like many compacts these days, there’s an “Eco” button on the dash that lights up to tell you you’re not driving like a nutcase. The good news is that a true 6-speed manual is available in this trim level, a nice concession to enthusiasts.

 With $860 in freight charges and a $299 set of floor mats, the tested car stickered for $20,869. For that you get Entune with a 6.1” touchscreen, USB, Bluetooth, and an auxiliary jack. You also get the “shiftable” CVT, backup camera, heated power mirrors, keyless entry, daytime running and fog lights, and 4-wheel discs. It’s not the bargain in this segment, but not the priciest either; about in the middle, in true Corolla fashion. The strongest argument I can make for this car is the seats, in addition to the traditional economy and reliability. The sensibility and comfort of the revised interior combined with the newly stylish exterior has gotten me to seriously consider it as a possible successor to my xA; I couldn’t have said that about the previous generation. I didn’t win the eponymous raffle. Even so, I managed to score a nifty logo towel as a consolation prize; you can judge if my opinion has been bought off. More importantly, the test drive got me, an enthusiast, to take the Corolla seriously once again.

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Review: 2014 Lexus GS 450h http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/review-2014-lexus-gs-450h-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/review-2014-lexus-gs-450h-with-video/#comments Mon, 03 Mar 2014 14:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=750313 Last time TTAC looked at the Lexus GS Hybrid, Jack and I descended upon Vegas, drank too much, shared too much and one of us got purse-slapped (it wasn’t Jack). In other news, Jack found the GS a willing partner on the track, I kept drawing comparisons to the Volvo S80 T6 and Hyundai Genesis, […]

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2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-004

Last time TTAC looked at the Lexus GS Hybrid, Jack and I descended upon Vegas, drank too much, shared too much and one of us got purse-slapped (it wasn’t Jack). In other news, Jack found the GS a willing partner on the track, I kept drawing comparisons to the Volvo S80 T6 and Hyundai Genesis, and both of us agreed the GS 450h would be the car we’d buy. Despite telling you all that we would have a full review in “a few months,” it has in fact been “a few years.” Since that pair of articles hit, the luxury hybrid landscape has changed dramatically.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-001

The GS used to be the only hybrid game in town, but times have changed and nearly everyone has joined the party. BMW has their turbocharged ActiveHybrid 5, Mercedes just launched the E400 Hybrid, Infiniti has re-badged their M Hybrid the Q70 Hybrid, Acura is finally selling the all-wheel-drive RLX Hybrid and Audi has announced the A6 hybrid will come to America “soon” . This means that the S80 T6 and Genesis are no longer on my list, because we have head-to-head competition now.

Exterior

Lexus used to be known for restrained styling but the current generation GS marked a change for the Japanese luxury brand. In addition to taking on more aggressive front end styling, the GS was the first Lexus to wear the new “spindle” grille. The schnozz that seemed so controversial three years ago seems downright demure today, especially since this form has been adapted to the enormous (and some say questionable) LX 470. Perhaps because the GS was the first to wear the corporate grille, the styling seems slightly awkward from the front 3/4 shot (seen at the top) but looks better in person. Unlike the IS, which gets some sheetmetal swooshes on the side, the GS’s profile and rump are luxury car restrained. Overall I think the Infiniti Q70 hybrid, despite being a little long in the tooth, still wins the beauty contest. The Lexus and BMW are a bit too sedate for my tastes, and the RLX and A6 suffer from decidedly front-wheel-drive proportions when compared to the rest and the Mercedes lands smack in the middle.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior

Interior

The GS’ interior is dominated by a large and tall dashboard with a strong horizontal theme highlighting a large 12.3-inch LCD. The interior arrangement is certainly dramatic, but causes the cabin to have a slightly oppressive feel in the black shades our tester was cast in. While other car makers are moving to stitched leather dashed, Lexus seems content to blend stitched pleather and injection molded parts together. The combination of textures and  “un-lacquered” bamboo (exclusive to the hybrid) make the interior look Scandinavian. The light wood is more attractive in person than pictures might indicate, and while I question the “renewable resource” marketing on a large luxury sedan, like the hybrid drivetrain, I’m sure it will make shoppers feel special.

Base hybrid models get very comfortable 10-way power front seats, but most of the GS 450h sedans I saw on the lot were equipped with 18-way seats. The high-end throne sports the same types of articulation as BMW’s excellent “sport seats” with an articulating back, inflating bolsters, adjustable thigh support, four-way lumbar and  “butterfly” headrests. Needless to say, if you have trouble finding a comfortable seating position, you’re not human. This puts the GS hybrid at a distinct advantage in front comfort over the Mercedes, Audi and Infiniti models. Out back the GS’s rear seats are spacious, comfortable and optionally heated. While the Lexus and Infiniti fail to offer a folding rear seat, the Mercedes E400 hybrid has a generous cargo pass-through behind its optional 60/40 rear thrones.

Infotainment

Wide-screen infotainment systems are all the rage, so Lexus dropped a 12.3-inch LCD in the dash. The system ditches the intuitive touchscreen interface Lexus used for the better part of a decade for the Lexus joystick (it’s officially called Lexus Remote Touch) but importantly doesn’t alter the software to adapt to the input method. I hate it. It occupies a great deal of room on the center console, and it takes far more hand-eye-brain coördination than a touchscreen. Every time I am in a Lexus I find myself glancing at the screen and fiddling with the little control pad far more than when I’m in a competitor’s luxury sedan. This increased distraction hasn’t gone unnoticed by my better half who constantly nags me about keeping my eyes on the road. Want to enter an address using the on-screen QWERTY keyboard? It’s obvious why Lexus won’t let you do that in motion.

To soften the blow Lexus throws in the same media device voice command interface as the other Lexus and premium Toyota products receive. The system is snappy, managed to figure out every command I threw at and has a more natural sounding voice than MyLincoln Touch. Helping counter the nagging LRT caused (see how that’s not my fault now), the available Mark Levinson sound system can drown out even the most shrill mother-in-laws.

Perhaps reinforcing that Lexus focuses on the “meat” of the luxury segment and not the one-percent, you won’t find the same level of gee-wizardry in the GS as some of the Euro competitors, even in this top-end hybrid model. You won’t find night vision, a full-leather dashboard, expensive ceramic knobs, massaging front seats, or LCD instrument clusters. Instead, Lexus doubles down on perfect seams, quiet cabins, a high level of standard equipment and quantities of bamboo that would Lumber Liquidators make blush.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Engine-001

Drivetrain

While the GS 350 recently got an update in the form of a new Aisin 8-speed automatic, the GS 450h continues with just a minor software update. This means under the hood you will find the same direct-injection 3.5L Atkinson-cycle V6 engine and RWD hybrid transmission that launched in 2011. Combined with a 1.9 kWh NiMH battery pack in the trunk the system is good for 338 combined horsepower, 286 of which come from the gasoline engine. This is essentially the same engine found in the Highlander and RX hybrids, but the transmission is more similar to what Lexus uses in the LS 600hL. The unit combines the two motor/generator units with a 2-speed planetary gearset to improve efficiency at high speeds (as in on the Autobahn) but without the AWD system standard in the LS 600hL. The 2014 software update improves “sportiness” in sport mode and now imitates an 8-speed automatic instead of a 6-speed. While 338 horsepower compares well with the 6-cylinder competition, the GS 450h has the unenviable task of trying to be both the most efficient GS and the performance version as well. For reasons nobody knows, the more efficient GS 300h which uses a 2.5L four-cylinder engine is not sold in America.

By design, the Lexus hybrid system is very different from the competition. The two motor/generator units and the electrical circuitry combine with a single planetary gearsest to “act” as a continuously variable transmission. This setup allows the drivetrain to act as a serial hybrid (kind of), parallel hybrid, electric generator, or a pure EV at low speeds. In contrast Mercedes, BMW and Infiniti combine a traditional transmission with a single electric motor that replaces the torque converter. Transitions between electric and gasoline drive modes in these systems aren’t as smooth as the Lexus system because of the clutch packs involved in reconnecting the engine. Meanwhile Acura combines a dual-clutch robotic manual transmission with a twin-motor pack in the rear for the only AWD hybrid luxury sedan in this category.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Interior-002

Pricing

GS 450h pricing starts at  $60,430 which is a considerable jump from the $47,700 GS 350, but in true luxury car fashion, you may be disappointed with what $60,000 buys you. Unlike BMW and Mercedes which offer plenty of ala carte options, the GS hybrid comes in three feature levels.  Base models don’t get navigation or snazzy LED headlamps. If you want those toys plus the 18-way front seats, semi-aniline leather, steering headlamps, heated steering wheel, 3-zone climate control, black and white heads up display, blind spot monitoring and a trunk mat, be prepared to lay down $72,062. A fully loaded $76,726 example gets the buyer heated rear seats, headlamp washers, a “high intensity heater” (an electric heater that will heat the cabin faster in cold weather), a windshield de-icer, water-repellent glass, radar cruise control with pre-collision warning, lane keeping assistant, remote engine starter, glass breakage sensor and a rear spoiler.

76 large may sound like an expensive buy, but the ActiveHybrid 5 takes the cake with a starting price of $61,400 and a fully loaded price of $87,185. Acura has been cagey about RLX hybrid pricing but their presentation at the launch indicated they plan on following Lexus’s pricing structure quite closely. Meanwhile, the Mercedes E400 hybrid delivered an unexpected value proposition with a low $56,700 starting price and when fully equipped with features not available on the GS it manages to still be slightly cheaper at $76,095. The Infiniti hybrid hasn’t changed its value proposition despite the name change and the Q70’s $55,550-$67,605 is the lowest in the group. Audi hasn’t announced A6 hybrid pricing but I expect it to slot in around the E400.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-003

Drive

To put things in the right perspective, I have to go back to the GS hybrid’s conflicted mission. Since Lexus decided to kill off the V8 GS sedan in this generation, Lexus doesn’t have a direct answer to the BMW 550i, Mercedes E550, Audi S6, or even the Infiniti Q70 5.6 (formerly known as the M56). This means the GS 450h has a secondary mission as the top-end GS trim while the other hybrids (except for the RLX) are middle-tier options and this puts the GS in an odd bind. Lexus tells us that the reason the GS lacks a V8 is that only 5% of the Germans are shipped with one. While that may be true in Europe, it certainly doesn’t seem to be the case in California.

The split mission is most obvious when it comes to the performance numbers. Despite having more power than the GS 350, the GS 450h is slower to 60 than its gasoline-only stable mate and considerably slower than the BMW, Infiniti, and even the Acura with the only the Mercedes being slower to highway speed. Still, 0-60 in 6-seconds is hardly slow and the GS performs the task with the silence and serenity you expect from a luxury sedan. Although Lexus describes the transmission as an eCVT, this isn’t a belt/pulley CVT like you find in economy cars. As a result, it feels more civilized and less “rubber-bandy.” I found the CVT manners throughly appropriate for a luxury car and the smooth acceleration befits a brand built on smooth drivetrains. Unlike a “real CVT,” engaging the eight imitation speeds is quick and easy with fast shifts from one “gear” to another. Unfortunately this does little for the GS hybrid’s sport credentials and in no way helps it compete with the V8s from the German competition.

2014 Lexus GS 450h Hybrid Exterior-009

Although the GS gives up plenty in the thrust-department, it really shines in the bends. The GS’s chassis is well sorted and nearly perfectly balanced. All GS hybrid models get a standard adaptive suspension system with several levels of damping, but unlike the air suspension in the Lexus LS, the GS’s adaptive suspension is based on electronically controlled struts much like the BMW system. This eliminates the “disconnected” and “floaty” feeling you get with air suspensions found on full-size luxo-barges. When pushed in the corners the GS quite simply feels better than the BMW. Yep. I said it. Today’s 5-series has a more luxurious mission in mind, so the little it gives up to the GS shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Mercedes and Infiniti feel very accurate, although heavy, and the Audi and RLX are a mixed bag. Unless Audi works some unexpected magic, the A6 hybrid will remain decidedly nose-heavy. The Acura RLX, although it has a similar weight distribution problem as the Audi, has a slick torque vectoring AWD system in the back. Not only can the RLX torque vector in power-on situations like a electronically controlled conventional rear axle, but it can torque vector in “neutral” and “power off” situations as well. Although the RLX feels by far the most “artificial” in the group on winding mountain roads, it is one of the better handling sedans and at the moment the only AWD hybrid in this category.

Of course the primary reason for buying a hybrid is to save on gas. Right? Maybe. With a 29 MPG City, 34 MPG Highway and 31 MPG combined rating there’s no doubt that the GS 450h is a fuel sipping 338 horsepower luxury sedan. However at more than $10,000 more expensive than a similarly equipped GS 350 it would take you more than 20 years to “save money.” We did average an excellent 31.5 MPG over 800 miles with the GS hybrid, a notable improvement over the Infiniti hybrid and the short time I spent in the RLX hybrid. Although we haven’t extensively tested the BMW and Mercedes hybrids yet, brief spins in both indicate they will slot in under the GS. There’s one more problem for the GS: Mercedes’ new E250 diesel. No, it’s not a speed daemon, but at 34 mpg combined it not only makes up for the higher cost of diesel with the higher fuel economy, it starts around $9,000 less than a GS 450h as well.

The GS 450h is without a doubt the best Lexus GS sedan available. It gives up little in terms of performance while delivering excellent fuel economy, a quiet and comfortable cabin and most of the gadgets and gizmos a luxury shopper could buy. Trouble is, unless the Lexus dealer is the only game in town, nearly every other alternative in this segment has a list of reasons to buy it over the GS. The RLX has a trendy AWD system despite the discount brand association, the Q70’s brand image isn’t quite as premium but it’s thousands less, the Mercedes takes the sweet spot in the middle known as “value” (how’s that for a surprise?) and the BMW offers the best performance and the biggest list of options if you can afford it. As the top end trim for the GS line the 450h also has troubles coming in just about as expensive as the competition’s V8 offerings but offering no better performance than the GS 350. The biggest problem for the GS however is the price. If the GS 450h was $5,000-$7,000 less expensive,  this would be an easy win. As it is, the GS manages to be the car I liked the most in this segment, but the one I’d be least likely to buy.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.88 Seconds

0-60: 6.01 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.49 Seconds @ 104 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 31.5 MPH over 800 miles

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 68 dB

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Only Select Fiat Dealers Will Get Alfa Romeo Franchises http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/only-select-fiat-dealers-will-get-alfa-romeo-franchises/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/only-select-fiat-dealers-will-get-alfa-romeo-franchises/#comments Tue, 25 Feb 2014 12:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=753569 Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is set to bring Alfa Romeo back into the United States market after a two-decade absence with the 4C, but only the best-performing Fiat dealerships will be selected to sell the first new Alfas when the lighweight $60,000 sports car rolls off the dock in June. The Detroit News reports the majority […]

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Alfa Romeo 4C

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles is set to bring Alfa Romeo back into the United States market after a two-decade absence with the 4C, but only the best-performing Fiat dealerships will be selected to sell the first new Alfas when the lighweight $60,000 sports car rolls off the dock in June.

The Detroit News reports the majority of Fiat dealerships who were promised an Alfa wing will not be along for the ride in 2014. FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne stated that his company would only allow “the best-performing Fiat dealers to participate” based on “simple dealer metrics” and efficacy in representing Fiat. Though he also added that said dealers knew who they were, FCA spokesman Rick Deneau countered his boss’s statement, saying that those dealers “have not been identified yet.”

While the 4C will be the only Alfa offering available this year, it will be joined in 2015 by the Giulia, Giulietta and a new Spider co-developed with Mazda, which will also underpin the latter’s new MX-5 roadster. The 4C is motivated by a turbocharged four-pot driving 240 horses out of the back gate, pushing the 1875-pound sports car from naught to 60 in 4.5 seconds.

However, follow-through hasn’t been FCA’s strong suit regarding Alfa’s return, with the brand originally promised to Fiat dealers in 2012, then last year before settling upon June 2014. The return was also promised to come with a full lineup to display in showrooms, but only the 4C will be setting the pace this year as it goes up against the Porsche Cayman and Chevrolet Corvette Stingray.

According to IHS Automotive, selected Fiat dealers will move 500 4Cs in 2014, with 8,400 more in 2015 once more dealers join the fray. IHS also expects Alfa to move 28,000 units in the U.S. by the end of 2016.

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Review: 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 4×4 (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-jeep-cherokee-limited-v6-4x4-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-jeep-cherokee-limited-v6-4x4-with-video/#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 14:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=739825 The folks at Jeep have known for some time that high volume on-road models have to be part of the mix to keep low volume off-road models viable. From the 1946 Willys Station Wagon and the original Wagoneer, to the Grand Cherokee and the Compass, Jeep has been on a steady march towards the word […]

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2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-002

The folks at Jeep have known for some time that high volume on-road models have to be part of the mix to keep low volume off-road models viable. From the 1946 Willys Station Wagon and the original Wagoneer, to the Grand Cherokee and the Compass, Jeep has been on a steady march towards the word no Wrangler owner wants to hear: “crossover”. Their plan is to replace the off-road capable Liberty and compete with the RAV4, CR-V and 20 other small crossovers with one vehicle: the 2014 Cherokee.

With two ambitious (and contradictory) missions and unconventional looks, the Cherokee has turned into one of the most polarizing cars in recent memory. It is therefore no surprise the Cherokee has been getting mixed reviews. USA Today called it “unstoppable fun” while Consumer Reports called it “half baked” with a “choppy ride and clumsy handling.” Our own Derek Kreindler came away disappointed with its on-road performance at the launch event, though he had praise for the Cherokee’s off-road capabilities. What should we make of the glowing reviews, and the equally loud dissenting voices?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

I’ve always said styling is a personal preference and although the Cherokee is far from my cup of tea, I’m glad Chrysler decided to color outside the lines. The “bent” 7-slot grill still strikes me as peculiar, but what made me scratch my head more is the lighting. You’ll find the headlamps in the middle of the bumper cover behind a smoked plastic lens, while the daytime running lamps and turn signals live in a separate module high up on the front, Meanwhile, the fog lamps are nestled at the bottom of the bumper. Out back the Cherokee is far more mainstream with a fairly plain (and very vertical) rear hatch. Overall the looks are certainly striking and unmistakable, I’m just not sure if that’s a good thing.

The Cherokee is “kinda-sorta” based on the Dodge Dart which itself is more-or-less a stretched and widened Alfa Romeo Giulietta. While some Jeep fans call any car-based Jeep heresy, the Cherokee isn’t the first car/SUV hybrid at Jeep and it won’t be the last. The side profile, specifically the front overhang, is where the Cherokee’s dual mission starts to show. A transverse mounted engine creates a long overhang compared to a traditional RWD SUV. This isn’t a problem in the Patriot, which has much lower aspirations, but does pose a problem for “the off-road crowd.” To compensate, the Cherokee rides higher than the competition (7.8 to 8.8 inches) and uses two different bumper designs. Sport, Latitude and Limited trims get a more traditional (if you can call it that) bumper design with a fairly flat front while Trailhawk models pull the bottom of the bumper up to allow a 50% better approach angle and causing a “wedge-like” front profile. Out back similar changes to the rear bumper improve the Trailhawk’s departure angle.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-004

Interior

While the Grand Cherokee continues it’s mission as the “American Range Rover,” anyone looking for the Cherokee to be the “American Evoque” is going to be disappointed. Even so, I found the the interior to be class leading in many ways, with more soft touch plastics than you’ll find in the competition. Chrysler fitted the Grand Cherokee’s chunky steering wheel to the smaller Jeep which gives the cabin a more premium feel. Most Cherokees on dealer lots will have a leather wrapped wheel, but base models get a urethane tiller. The Cherokee retains the optional steering wheel heater from the Grand Cherokee, but ditches the paddle shifters.

The wide front seats are deeply padded, supportive and easily the best in the segment in terms of comfort. Thankfully, the engineers ditched the “dome-shaped” bottom cushion found in other Chrysler products allowing you to sit “in” the seats, not “on” the seats. Most models get a fold-flat front passenger seat improving cargo versatility, but that option is incompatible with the optional “ventilated front seats and multi-way with four-way power lumbar support” package for the front passenger.

IMG_1374

Although not as comfortable as the front, the second row is easily the most comfortable in the segment. Seat cushions are thickly padded, recline, and slide fore/aft to adjust the cargo area dimensions. (Or get a child seat closer.) The Cherokee offers two inches more rear legroom than CR-V, three more than RAV4 and nearly four inches more than Escape. The seat bottom cushions also ride higher off the ground so adults won’t feel like they have their knees in their chest.

Because of the need for off-road-capable departure angles and ground clearance, a compromise had to be made and I found it behind the [optional] power tailgate. The Cherokee suffers from the smallest cargo hold among its target cross-shops by a wide margin at 24.8 cubic feet. The next smallest entry (the CX-5) will hold over 40% more behind the second row (34 cubes) while the Rogue’s generous booty will swallow 40 cubic feet of whatever. Note: The Cherokee’s spec sheet lists cargo capacity at 29.7 cubic feet but that measurement is taken with the 2nd row adjusted all the way forward in its tracks which cuts rear legroom down to well below the competition.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior uConnect 8.4

Infotainment

Depending on trim level, you’ll find two different systems in the dash. Things start out with uConnect 5.0 in the Sport and Latitude. Running on a Microsoft OS (like Ford SYNC), this unit is more sluggish than the UNIX-based 8-inch system but offers many of the same features excluding navigation. While other Chrysler/Fiat models with uConnect 5.0 have the option to add TomTom navigation at a later date, that doesn’t seem to apply here. The touchscreen features full USB/iPod integration, optional XM satellite radio and a Bluetooth speakerphone in addition to acting as the climate control display and seat heater controls. Sound thumps out via 6-standard speakers, and you can pay $200 for an optional CD player if you haven’t joined the 2st century.

Optional on Latitude and standard on Limited/Trailhawk is the 8-inch QNX UNIX based “uConnect 8.4.” The system features polished graphics, snappy screen changes and a large, bright display. All the features you expect from a connected car are standard, from voice commands for USB/iDevice control to smartphone integration allowing you to stream audio from Pandora, iHeart or Slacker. You can have text messages read to you, dictate replies and search for restaurants or businesses via Yelp. In addition to the smartphone-tied features, it integrates a CDMA modem on the Sprint network for over-the-air software updates and access to the new “App Store.” Since there’s a cell modem on-board, uConnect can be configured to act as a WiFi hot spot for your tablets and game devices. Completing the information assault is SiriusXM’s assortment of satellite data services from traffic updates to fuel prices. 2014 also brings uConnect Access which is Chrysler’s answer to GM’s OnStar providing 911 assistance, crash notification and vehicle health reports.

For an extra $795 you can add Garmin’s navigation software to the system and Chrysler tells us that the nav software can be added after purchase. Our tester had the $395 optional 9-speaker sound system with a subwoofer. Sound quality ranged from average with the standard 6-speaker setup to excellent with the optional speakers. Unfortunately, the up-level speaker package requires you have navigation as well, bringing the price bump to $1190 if you were only after the louder beats.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited 3.2L V6 Engine-002

Drivetrain

All trims start with Chrysler’s 2.4L “Tigershark” four-cylinder engine delivering 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of twist. Optional on all but the Sport is a new 3.2L V6 good for 271 horses and 239 lb-ft. Sadly we won’t get the 2.0L Fiat diesel on our shores, but if you’re lucky enough to be able to burn oil in your country, that engine delivers 170 ponies and 258 lb-ft of twist. Power is sent to the ground via a controversial 9-speed automatic designed by ZF and built by Chrysler. The 9-speed is very similar to the one used in the Range Rover Evoque although few parts are directly interchangeable.

While most crossovers offer a single AWD system Jeep gives you three options. First up we have a traditional slip-and-grip AWD system with a multi-plate clutch pack (Active Drive) that sends power to the rear when required. Jeep combined this with a “rear axle disconnect” feature to improve fuel economy. This is the system you’ll find on most of the Sport, Latitude and Limited Cherokees on dealer lots.

IMG_1376

Available on Latitude and Limited is Active Drive II which adds a segment-exclusive rock crawl ratio. Because of the way transverse transaxles work, this system operates differently than a longitudinal (RWD) system in that there are actually two two-speed transfer cases. Power exits the transmission and enters a “PTU” where power is split front and rear. Up front, power flows from the PTU to a 2-speed planetary gearset and then back into the transmission’s case to the front differential. For the back wheels, power flows from the multi-plate clutch pack and rear axle disconnect clutch inside the PTU to an angle gear unit which rotates power 90-degrees and connects to the prop shaft. The prop shaft connects to another 2-speed planetary gearset and then finally to the rear axle.

Engaging 4-Low causes the PTU to engage the rear axle and engage the primary low ratio gearset.  At the same time, the low ratio gearset in the rear axle unit engages. Vehicle electronics confirm that the system has engaged both units before you can move forward. Should you need the ultimate in off-road ability, the Trailhawk throws in a locking rear differential (this is the third system, called Active Drive Lock), hill ascent/descent control and various stability control programs for off-road terrain. Before you ask “is this a real low-ratio?” 4-Low is 56:1 with the 2.4L engine and 47.8:1 with the 3.2L. That 56:1 ratio is lower than anything Jeep has sold, save the Wrangler Rubicon’s insane 73:1.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-004Modifications

Being the owner of a Jeep with a minor four-inch lift kit installed, after-market options are near and dear. Of course RAV4/CR-V/Escape shoppers aren’t your typical lift-kit demographic, so for many of you, this section isn’t germane. Because of the Cherokee’s design, ride height modifications are not going to be as easy as with solid-axle Jeeps of yore. With longitudinal engine mounting and solid axles, lifting is an easy task up to around four-inches, at which point you may need to start thinking about new driveshafts and possible U-joint replacements. With a design like the Cherokee’s, anything beyond an inch or two can result in serious suspension geometry changes that have a huge impact on handling and tire wear. While it would be possible to design kits with four new half-shafts, springs and suspension bits that would lift and correct the geometry change, I suspect the costs would be prohibitive, so don’t expect much more than a 2-3 inch spring-spacer kit for base models and 1-2 inches for the Trailhawk.

Pricing

Most shoppers will be deciding between the Sport, Latitude and Limited trims starting at $22,295, $24,495 and $27,995 respectively for FWD models. Adding AWD increases the price tag by $2,000 and on Latitude and Limited and you can get the low ratio gearbox with a 1-inch suspension bump for an additional $995. The Sport model comes well equipped compared to the competition with that 5-inch infotainment system, auto-down windows and most creature comforts you expect except for air conditioning. You’ll find A/C in the oddly named $795 “cold weather group” which also includes heated mirrors, a leather steering wheel, remote start, heated front seats and a windshield wiper de-icer. At the base level the Sport is roughly the same price as the Toyota and Honda but adding the $795 package pushes the price comparison in the Jeep’s favor by more than $1,000.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-008

Latitude adds a standard 115V outlet, leather wrapped steering wheel, auto up/down windows, fold flat front seat, ambient lighting, A/C, steering wheel audio controls and fog lamps in addition to allowing access to the more robust AWD system, V6 engine and navigation. Limited tosses in power front seats, the 7-inch LCD instrument cluster (seen above), an auto dimming mirror, heated steering wheel, soft touch plastics on the doors, automatic headlamps, one year of XM radio, turn signals on the side mirrors and the ability to option your Cherokee up to $40,890 by adding self-parking, cooled seats, HID headlamps and more options than I care to list.

Then there is the Trailhawk. As the only CUV with a 2-speed transfer case, locking differential, tow hooks, off-road oriented software programming and all-terrain rubber, this Cherokee is in a class by itself. It’s also priced in a class by itself. Starting at $29,495 and ending at $40,890, the Trailhawk has a similar MSRP spread as the Limited but it trades the optional luxury items for off-road hardware.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-014

Drive

Chrysler decided to make the Cherokee the first recipient of their new technology onslaught. If you’re willing to pay, you can option your Jeep up with a full-speed range radar cruise control, collision warning and collision prevention with automatic braking, cooled seats, lane departure warning and prevention and rear cross path collision detection. The Cherokee is also Chrysler’s first self-parking car, and like the new Mercedes S-Class, the Jeep will back itself into perpendicular spots in addition to parallel parking. The tech worked well and is as easy to use as Ford’s system, although I’m not sure I want to live in a world where folks can’t perpendicular park. (You know, in regular old parking spaces.) If you opt for the ultrasonic parking sensors, the Cherokee will also apply the brakes before you back into that shopping cart you didn’t see.

Most reviewers are so caught up in the way the 9-speed automatic shifts. The truth is, hybrids, dual clutch transmissions, robotized manuals, CVTs and automatics with new technologies are only going to become more common and it’s time we in the auto press adjusted. If you want to know more about why the 9-speed does what it does, check our our deep dive on dog clutches. All I’m going to say here is that I got used to the way the transmission shifts and it never really bothered me.

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At 4,100lbs the Cherokee is 600lbs heavier than a comparable RAV4 or CX-5. The extra weight is caused by the structural reinforcements required for off roading. Unfortunately it causes some on-road compromises. Acceleration with the 2.4L engine is adequate but sluggish compared to the lighter competition. The V6 on the other hand hits 60 MPH in 6.5 seconds which ties with the 2.0L Ecoboost Escape as the fastest in the class. Regardless of the engine you choose, the Cherokee has one of the quietest cabins in the segment thanks to extensive sound deadening. All the foam comes in handy on 2.4L models as the small engine spends more time in lower gears thanks to the Cherokee’s heft.

Once on the highway the 9-speed automatic helped the porky crossover average a respectable 23.7 MPG, just 1.3 MPG behind the much slower RAV4. The economy is all down to the rear axle disconnect feature and the 9-speed transmission. By completely disconnecting the rear axle via a clutch, parasitic losses drop to nearly zero when compared to other small crossovers. The downside to this is that when the system is in “Auto” power is sent 100% to the front axle until there is slip at which point the Cherokee must re-connect the rear axle then engage a secondary multi-plate clutch to move power. This system allows greater economy but is much slower to react and adds some weight to the mix. To compensate, the Cherokee allows you to fully lock the center coupling and engage the rear axle at any speed by engaging various drive modes. Thanks to an extremely tall 9th gear, the V6 spins at a lazy 1,500 RPM at 82 MPH allowing a reported 25 MPG on level ground.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Wheel

The heavy and substantial feel on winding roads and reminded me more of the Grand Cherokee than your average CUV. Soft springs and well-tuned dampers delivered a supple ride on a variety of surfaces and the Cherokee never felt unsettled. However, those same suspension choices allow plenty of body roll in the corners, tip when accelerating and dive when braking. As with most entries, the Cherokee uses electric power steering so there is precious little feel behind the wheel. When pushed near its limits, the Cherokee delivers reasonable grip thanks to wide tires and a 57/43 (F/R) weight balance which is essentially the same as the CX-5. If this sounds like the on-road description of a body-on-frame SUV from 10 years ago, you’re not far off base. But is that a bad thing? Not in my book. Why? It’s all about the other half of the Cherokee’s mission.

With more ground clearance, a rated water fording depth of 20 inches, 4,500lbs of towing capacity and a more robust AWD system, the Cherokee can follow the Grand Cherokee down any trail without fear. Of course both Jeeps should be careful not to follow a Wrangler, as neither is as off-road capable as they used to be, but the gist is that both are far more capable than the average crossover. Jeep’s traction and stability control systems are different than what you find in the on-road oriented competition in that the software’s objective is to move power from wheel to wheel rather than just limit wheel spin. Competitive systems reduce engine power first, then selectively brake wheels. The Jeep system in “Mud” mode is more interested with keeping the wheels all spinning the same than curbing engine power. The Cherokee also allows the center coupling to be locked at higher speeds than the competition, offering a 20-inch rated water fording depth, 7.9 to 8.8 inches of ground clearance and available skid plates. While the Cherokee will never be as much fun off-road as a 4Runner, Wrangler, or other serious off-road options, you can have a hoot and a half at the off-road park in stock Trailhawk trim.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-015

If a crossover is supposed to be a cross between a family sedan and an SUV, the Cherokee is the truest small crossover you can buy. Trouble is, most shoppers are really just looking for the modern station wagon: something with a big cargo hold and car-like manners. In this area the Cherokee comes up short. It’s big and heavy and it drives like it’s big and heavy. But it’s not without its charms, the Cherokee is the only compact crossover capable of the school run and the Rubicon trail. It’s also the quietest and most comfortable crossover going, even if it is short on trunk space. If you’re willing to pay, it’s also the one loaded with the most gadgets, goodies and luxury amenities.

Is the Cherokee half-baked like Consumer Reports said? Perhaps. The Cherokee’s off-roading mission results in limited cargo space and vague handling while the on-road mission demanded a FWD chassis with high fuel economy. But it faithfully manages to give 99% of Liberty shoppers and 80% of RAV4 shoppers a viable alternative. Is that half-baked or a successful compromise? If you’re after a soft-roader to get you from point A to point B with stellar fuel economy, great handling and a massive cargo area, there are better options than the Cherokee. If however you “need” a crossover but “want” a go-anywhere SUVlet, this is your only option.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.15 Seconds

0-60: 6.5 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.75 Seconds

Average observed fuel economy: 23.7 MPG over 453 miles

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 67 dB

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited 3.2L V6 Engine 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited 3.2L V6 Engine-001 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited 3.2L V6 Engine-002 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-001 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-002 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-003 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-004 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-005 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-006 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-007 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-008 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-009 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-010 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-001 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-002 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-003 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-004 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-005 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-006 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-007 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-008 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-009 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-010 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-011 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-012 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-013 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-014 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-015 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Wheel IMG_1373 IMG_1374 IMG_1376

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Review: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-honda-accord-hybrid-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-honda-accord-hybrid-with-video/#comments Fri, 14 Feb 2014 14:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=707986 Now and then you run into a car that just “fits”. It’s like finding a perfect shoe, or a comfy smoking jacket. Until now I have been keeping my secret love on the down-low for several reasons. First off, I’ve always thought having a “favorite car” tends to color one’s judgment when comparing cars, so […]

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2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-001

Now and then you run into a car that just “fits”. It’s like finding a perfect shoe, or a comfy smoking jacket. Until now I have been keeping my secret love on the down-low for several reasons. First off, I’ve always thought having a “favorite car” tends to color one’s judgment when comparing cars, so I try to avoid such statements. Secondly, my dalliance with my automotive flame was fleeting. As most of us know, one-night-stands rarely hold up to the scrutiny of a long-term relationship. And lastly, coming out as a hybrid-lover has been difficult. When folks ask me “what was the best car you drove in 2013?” and my answer is “the 2014 Accord Hybrid,” they stare at me like I have three eyeballs.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The Accord is the mid-size sedan least likely to offend. While some call the tall greenhouse and upright proportions boring, I found them to be elegant and restrained. Indeed the Accord’s side profile reminds me a great deal of former Lexus products, a similarity that was shared by passengers during the week. Several passers by even confused the Accord with a Lexus ES. This is good news for Honda but bad news for Lexus.

Up front the Accord Hybrid wears blue-tinted versions of the regular Accord’s grille and headlamps instead of the Plug-In Accord’s enormous maw. Our Limited trim model was equipped with LED headlamps but lesser trims have to get by with halogen bulbs. Out back the restrained styling continues with hidden exhaust tips, clean lines and plenty of LEDs in the tail lamps. While there are plenty of mid-size sedans out there, the hybrid market is limited to the Accord, Camry, Fusion, Optima and Sonata. In that lineup, I find the Fusion the best looking with the Accord in a solid second place and the refreshed Optima taking third.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-002

Interior

Like the gas-only Accord, the hybrid sports a double-bump style dashboard. The first “bump” houses the same tweaked instrument cluster as the Accord plug-in with a large analog speedometer, no tachometer, LED gauges for battery/fuel and a power meter. Inside the speedo is a circular full-color LCD used for the trip computer, secondary nav instructions (if so equipped) and other vehicle information. Housed in the second “bump” is a standard 8-inch infotainment display.

Front seat comfort has long been a Honda strong suit and the Accord is no different with thickly padded and ergonomically designed thrones. The seats are lightly (and widely) bolstered so larger drivers and passengers shouldn’t have a problem finding a comfortable seating position. Because the EX trim of the gas Accord serves as the “feature donor car” for the Hybrid, all models get adjustable lumbar support, 10-way power driver’s seat, dual-zone climate control, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, standard Bluetooth, a backup camera, keyless entry/go and active noise cancellation.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Instrument Cluster-001

Thanks to the tall green house and complete lack of “four-door-coupé” styling cues, the Accord’s rear seats are the best in the segment. On paper there’s nothing extraordinary about the rear cabin dimension. The truth is in the sitting. The Accord’s rear seats are more comfortable than a Camry and roomier than an Optima or Sonata. The seat back angle is also the most upright of the bunch allowing easier entry and exit when compared to the reclined Fusion. That reclined rear seat is how the Fusion manages to match the Accord when it comes to inches of head room, but the Accord’s rear compartment is far more accommodating.

As with most hybrids, there’s a trunk penalty to be paid. Thanks to energy dense Lithium-ion cells, the Accord only drops 3 cubic feet to 12.7 cubic feet, and I had no problem jamming six 24-inch roller bags in the trunk. The Li-ion cells mean the gas-only Accord’s smallish trunk translates in to a roomy storage area compared to the other hybrids. Sadly everyone else has managed to preserve some sort of cargo pass-through to the trunk while Honda decided to kill it. Honda wouldn’t say what the reason was, but judging by the battery position there was still room for a cargo slot capable of handling a surf board. Call that an opportunity lost.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Infotainment-002

Infotainment

Base models use physical buttons to control the standard 8-inch LCD in the dash, while up-level Accords get the two-screen layout you see above. Bluetooth, SMS voice messaging, Pandora smartphone integration and USB/iDevice control are all standard on base models as is a 6-speaker, 160-watt sound system. The 8-inch LCD handles all infotainment interactions in this base system from playlist browsing to phone dialing. Honda integrates their active noise cancellation technology into the head unit, so keep that in mind if you plan to swap into an after-market unit.

I suspect that most shoppers will opt for the mid-level “EX-L” which adds a subwoofer, 360 watt amp, and a 6-inch touchscreen for audio system controls. For reasons I don’t understand, the touchscreen is surrounded by “sparkly” plastic that looks like someone tossed in some glitter in the last moments of the plastics process. In an otherwise expertly executed cabin this “easter egg” seems out-of-place. This dual-screen setup struck me as half-baked when I first sampled it, and although I think it could still use a few minutes in the oven, I have warmed up to it. Voice commands are easy to use, the system’s layout is intuitive and responsiveness to commands is excellent. However, I still don’t understand why you use the touchscreen for changing tracks and sources, but you have to use the knob and upper screen for changing playlists. I also think it’s a pity that navigation isn’t sold as a stand alone option as you have to pony up $34,905 for the Touring trim to get it.

Front Wheel Drive Biased

Drivetrain

In many ways the Accord Hybrid shares more design themes with the Fisker Karma than a Toyota Prius. Up till now, mainstream hybrids used one of two systems, either an electro/mechanical power split device designed around a planetary gearset like the Ford, Toyota and GM Voltec hybrids, or they sandwich an electric motor between the engine and transmission (Honda, Kia/Hyundai, Mercedes, VW and everyone else). Honda went back to the drawing board and designed a true serial hybrid – as long as you stay under 44 mph. Things start out on the drawing above with a 2.0L, 141 horsepower engine mated directly to a motor/generator that is capable of generating approximately 141 horsepower (Honda won’t release details on certain drivetrain internals so that’s an educated guess). Honda says this is the most thermodynamically efficient four-cylinder engine in production, a title I have no reason to doubt. Next we have a 166 horsepower, 226 lb-ft motor connected to the front wheels via a fixed gear ratio. Under 44 miles per hour, this is all you need to know about the system. The 166 horsepower motor powers the car alone, drawing power from either a 1.3 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, or the engine via the generator and the power control circuitry. Over 44 miles per hour, the system chooses one of two modes depending on which is most efficient at the time. The system can engage a clutch pack to directly connect the motor and generator units together allowing engine power to flow directly to the wheels via that fixed gear ratio, or it can keep operating in serial mode.

When the Accord Hybrid engages the clutch to allow the engine to power the wheels directly (mechanically), power is flowing via a single fixed ratio gear set. The fixed gear ratio is somewhere around a typical 6th gear in terms of gear ratio. This improves efficiency at highway speeds because there is always some loss in power conversion from the generator to the motor. The single ratio is the reason the system must use in serial hybrid mode below 44 mph. There is another side effect at play here as well: below 44 MPH, the system’s maximum power output is 166 horsepower and rises to 196 when the clutch is engaged.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-005

Pricing

Starting at $29,155, the Accord Hybrid is nearly $4,000 more than the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. However, the Accord delivers a high level of standard equipment dropping the real margin to around $1,900. Instead of stand alone options, Honda offers just three trim levels. The next step is the $31,905 EX-L model which adds leather seats, a leather steering wheel, upgraded audio system with two LCD screens, memory driver’s seat, power passenger seat, moonroof, a camera based collision warning system and lane departure warning. While the base model fares poorly in direct cross-shops, the EX-L is a decent value, coming in essentially the same price as a comparably equipped Sonata, Fusion or Optima.

Work your way up to the top-of-the-line $34,905 Touring and you get full LED headlamps, navigation, XM Radio, an adaptive cruise control system and a snazzier backup cam. Although that’s more than a top trim Camry ($32,015), Sonata ($32,395) or Optima ($31,950), the Honda packs more features and when you adjust for the features missing in the competition the difference drops to a few hundred dollars. Meanwhile the Fusion wins the award for the most expensive in this segment at $37,200 with only a few features not found on the Accord.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-004

Drive

The Accord Hybrid’s impressive 50/45/47 MPG EPA rating (City/Highway/Combined) is even more impressive when you look at some of Honda’s design choices. First off all hybrid trims get tires one size wider (225/50R17 vs 215/55R17) than the gas-only Accord to compensate for the 230 lb weight increase. Secondly Honda chose to trickle-down Acura’s two-mode damper technology into the Accord. These two choices define how the car feels out on the road with the Accord barely nudging the Fusion out of first place when it comes to overall on-road performance. The Fusion Hybrid Titanium provides better overall grip, but the Accord has better poise and the two-mode dampers operate as advertised yielding to highway imperfections but maintaining a crisp feel on winding back roads. The take away from this is that the hybrid version of the Accord provides the best balance of grip and poise in the Accord lineup while all other manufacturers make you pay a handling penalty (albeit slight in the Ford) for the improved mileage numbers. Meanwhile the Sonata, Optima and Camry designers swapped in 205 width tires for reduced rolling resistance resulting in those hybrid models handling more like value-priced base entries.

After driving Ford’s latest hybrids, I was skeptical of Honda’s fuel economy claims. The last 47MPG Ford we tested ran between 39.5 and 41 MPG over 560 gingerly-driven miles. Keeping in mind that my commute is hilly and highway heavy I had expected the Accord’s numbers to suffer in relation as the Accord’s highway figure is 2 MPG lower than the Ford. I was wrong. I actually averaged better economy during my week with the Accord than I did at the launch event set in the Texas flat-lands (47.8 vs 45.9.) I attribute some of the difference to final tweaking of the software by Honda and some of the difference to California’s milder climate. The numbers struck me as so good I spent three days driving, filling, driving, filling only to discover the fuel economy was spot on. It is at this point I am surprised that Honda chose not to offer some sort of “eco” trim with skinny low rolling resistance tires, grille shutters and a weight loss regime for more even impressive numbers.

Honda’s new hybrid system switches between modes more smoothly than the Sonata and Optima and on-par with the Toyota and Ford systems. The smooth transitions are a good thing since the Accord spends far more time switching between EV and gasoline operating modes on level highways between 55 and 65 MPH. The system will charge the battery up, turn off the engine and run EV until the battery drops to a point that it needs to be recharged. This is different from the others that generally run engine only once you’re on the highway. Honda swiped the Accord’s brake design from their hydrogen Clarity sedan and it is easily the best I have ever driven. Stops are linear without the “grabby” feel you get in Toyota hybrid models if you transition rapidly from mild to moderate braking. Downhill driving in the Accord is also a vast improvement. Most hybrids transition to engine or 100% friction braking when the battery is full but Honda has a trick up their sleeve. Because of the Accord’s design Honda is able to continue using the traction motor to provide braking assistance. Once the battery is full, the software shuttles this energy over to the generator unit and consumes it by spinning the engine. This results in the most consistent braking feel of any hybrid so far.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-010

The Accord Hybrid drives like an EV below 44 MPH, much like a charged Chevy Volt and in sharp contrast to the Ford and Toyota hybrids. This is of course because the Accord’s electric motor is the only thing that can motivate the car below this speed. Because of the nature of this drivetrain, there there is definite non-linear relationship between the engine and the wheels. Press the throttle down and the engine catches up in a while, climb a hill and the engine will vary between a wail and a dull roar. While I’m sure that will bother some folks, I don’t mind the noises cars with CVTs make and this Accord is no different. Likely due to come software tweaks since I first drove it, 0-60 times dropped a few tenths to 7.0 seconds flat putting the Accord near the top of the pack in acceleration.

The Touring model Honda lent me featured all of Honda’s latest safety gadgets from the Lane Watch system that displays your right-side blind spot on the car’s 8-inch LCD. I honestly found Lane Watch to be a little gimmicky, even after having experienced it several times before. In a car with limited visibility it might be more useful, but the Accord’s large greenhouse and low beltline give it the best visibility in the segment. Touring trim also gets you a full speed-range radar adaptive cruise control with pre-collision warning. Honda’s radar cruise control isn’t the worst on the market but neither is it the best. The system brakes sharply, reacts slowly to traffic speeding up ahead of you and when you set a speed the car dips 5-6 MPH before accelerating back up to the speed you were driving when you hit the button.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-008

With all the numbers tallied the Accord Hybrid is an easy winner. It is more expensive than the competition but that delta shrinks when you account for feature content. The delta becomes immaterial however when you look at our average fuel economy numbers of 47.8 MPG in the Accord and 30 to mid-30s in all of the competition (including that 47 MPG Fusion.) Honda’s hybrid has the best road manners in the pack, the most composed ride, a comfy back seat and a quiet cabin. On my tally list, the Accord’s driving dynamics, fuel economy, performance and comfort more than outweigh my complaints about the cruise control and dual-screen infotainment system.

Being on the down-low, my former last word on the Accord was “The Accord may not be the best looking hybrid on sale, (for me that’s still the Ford Fusion) but the Accord’s simple lines and unexpectedly high fuel economy make the Honda a solid option. Being the gadget hound I am, I think I would still buy the Fusion, but only in the more expensive Titanium trim. If you’re not looking that high up the food chain, the Accord Hybrid is quite simply the best fuel sipping mid-size anything. Prius included.” But now I’ve decided it’s time to come clean. I’d take the Hybrid Accord period. No exceptions, no hair splitting.

 

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

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.8 Seconds

0-60: 7.0 Seconds

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 69 db

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 47.8 MPG over 835 miles.

 

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Drivetrain 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Drivetrain-001 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-001 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-002 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-003 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-004 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-005 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-006 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-007 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-008 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-009 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-010 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-011 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-012 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-013 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Infotainment 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Infotainment-001 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Infotainment-002 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Instrument Cluster 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Instrument Cluster-001 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-001 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-002 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-003 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-004 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-005 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-006 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-007 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-008

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Review: 2014 Nissan Versa Note (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-nissan-versa-note-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-nissan-versa-note-with-video/#comments Fri, 07 Feb 2014 14:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=728514 Making a “cheap” car is a tried and true formula for most auto makers. Making a car with a low sticker and a solid value proposition is tough. Not only do you have to keep the starting price low, but you have to worry about fuel economy, maintenance, insurance and everything that goes into an […]

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2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior

Making a “cheap” car is a tried and true formula for most auto makers. Making a car with a low sticker and a solid value proposition is tough. Not only do you have to keep the starting price low, but you have to worry about fuel economy, maintenance, insurance and everything that goes into an ownership experience. Reviewing cars that focus heavily on value is even trickier. Indeed a number of buff-book journalists were offended by the Versa Sedan’s plastics, lack of features and small engine. My response was simple: what do you expect of the cheapest car in America? Trouble is, the Versa Note isn’t the cheapest hatchback in America, so this review is about that elusive quality: value.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Let’s be frank, the last Versa hatchback to grace our shores was strange looking. This is because Nissan sent us the Japanese market “Tiida” hatchback, while Europeans got the related, but more attractive, Nissan Note. 2014 brings a change, with Nissan aligning America with the redesigned Note from Europe. Meanwhile China and other countries get a redesigned Tiida. (Check out the picture below.) Nissan decided that there was value in the Versa brand so the final product was dubbed the “Versa Note.”

2014 Nissan Tiida Hatchback, Picture Courtesy of NissanI must admit that the product shuffle strikes me as a mixed bag. While the outgoing Versa hatch was undeniably dowdy, I find the new Tiida (above) downright sexy for a small car. The Versa Note? “Note” so much. Nissan tells us the Note is all about practicality, and the math is simple: the squarer the hatch, the more stuff you can jam inside. Thankfully Nissan included a few swoopy door stampings to prevent any 1980s flashbacks, but the resulting design obviously prioritized function over form. At 66 inches wide and 60 inches tall, the Note looks doesn’t just look square from the side, but from the front and rear as well. Proportions like these are hard to avoid with a small hatchback but the Versa’s horizontal grille helps detract from it in a way that the Spark’s tall grille amplifies the effect. When it comes to looks, the Rio and the Fiesta win the beauty pageant.

While the Versa continues to hold the title of “least expensive car in America”, the Chevrolet Spark ($12,995), Smart ($13,240) and Mitsubishi Mirage ($13,790) and Kia Rio 5-door ($13,800)  all ring in below the Note’s $13,990 starting price. For those of you counting, that’s a whopping $2,000 (or 17%)  bump over the Versa sedan. I’m going to cross the Smart car off the list  because it’s a two-seat hatch, and we can call the Mirage and Rio near ties in starting price, but the Spark is a decent $1,000 discount. Since this review is all about value at the bottom of the automotive food chain, I’m not going to cover the more expensive options in this segment.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-001

Interior

Despite the price bump from the Versa Sedan, the Note’s interior is nearly identical. The same hard plastic dashboard, thin headliner and minimalist controls are all cast in the same shade of black. The only notable changes versus the sedan are a steering wheel lifted from the Sentra, and standard folding rear seats. Jumping up to the $15,990 SV trim buys you nicer seat and headliner fabric, but the rest of the interior remains the same. The discount interior is something that doesn’t bother me in the Versa sedan, but the Note is two-grand more. At this price the Rio is made from nicer materials for slightly less and the Fiesta’s classier cabin is a scant $110 more. Materials tie with the Chevy Spark which is great for the Chevy but not so good for the Nissan. Meanwhile the Mitsubishi looks dated both inside and out with the most discount cabin I have seen in a long time.

Base shoppers will find standard air conditioning, 60/40 folding rear seats and sun-visors that extend, but notably missing from the starting price are power windows, power door locks, vanity mirrors and rear cup holders. This is where I say: “what did you expect?” After all, the Spark and Rio don’t offer all the goodies in their base models either. Here comes that pesky “value” proposition again however: the Spark is cheaper so the lower level of equipment seems more appropriate. If that’s not enough of a value proposition, consider this, for $50 less than a base Versa you can get a Spark with all those missing features plus cruise control.

Nissan tells us the bulk of Note volume is the $15,990 SV model which adds a “2-speed CVT,” cruise control, armrest for the driver, leather wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and some Bluetooth love. Trouble is, that Spark gives you all that and a 7-inch touchscreen nav system for less. $995 less to be exact.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-007

Front seat comfort proved good around town, but I found the lack of lumbar support a problem on longer trips. Cushioning is firm but comfortable and the range of motion in the 6-way manual seats is average for this segment. Sadly Nissan doesn’t offer a telescoping steering wheel in the Note like many of the competitors do. I didn’t notice this problem with the Versa sedan, but the Note I had for a week suffered from a footwell that barely fit my size 11 shoes. If you have bigger feet you may have difficulty wedging your footwear in.

The big selling point for this sub-compact is, oddly enough, the back seat. Although sitting three abreast in the rear is a cozy affair due to the car’s width, rear leg room is simply amazing. You’ll find 7 inches more rear legroom than the Rio making it possible, and relatively comfortable, for a quartet of six-foot-five guys on a road trip. No other hatch even comes close to the Note’s rear seat numbers which are just 1/10th lower than a Jaguar XJ. Because the Spark is the narrowest of the group by several inches, it only has two seats in the rear. The Mirage claims to seat five, but if the Note is “cozy,” the narrower Mitsubishi is downright cramped. Thanks to the tall body, the Versa also delivers more headroom than the competition without the rear seats riding on the ground. Cargo volume grows 30% from the Versa sedan to 21 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 38 with the rear seats folded.

2014 Nissan Versa Note NissanConnect -002

Infotainment

Base shoppers get a simple head unit with a CD-player, aux input and four speakers. Here again the Spark beats Nissan to the value game. The base Spark is just as basic, but for the same price as a base Note, Chevy sells you a 7-inch touchscreen, USB integration, 6 speakers, XM Satellite radio, smartphone integration with smartphone-based navigation and OnStar. Getting to this level of technology in the Note will set you back $18,140 and Nissan doesn’t have an OnStar alternative for the Note at any price.

The Note that Nissan lent me for a week was the fully-loaded SL model. This meant I had the NissanConnect system you see above along with an all-around camera system. This low-cost system, also found on Sentra and NV200, is one of my favorite systems on the market. The interface is simple, easy to navigate and intuitive. The latest software builds on their old “low-cost navigation” unit by adding streaming media, smartphone and Google data services. The touchscreen also integrates with the Note’s available around view camera which gives you a bird’s-eye view while parking. Although I found the low-res images lacked in detail, it did help keep the Note scratch-free in tricky parking situations. Now for the fly in the ointment. Nissan puts this head unit in an $800 bundle with the fancy camera system and requires that you also have the $540 package that includes rear seat cup holders and a two-stage load floor in the back. The total cost is $1,340 or a nearly 10% bump in MSRP.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Engine 1.6L

Drivetrain

Like the sedan, the Note gets a 1.6L four-cylinder engine featuring variable valve timing and twin injectors per cylinder to deliver 109HP at 6,000 RPM and 107 lb-ft of twist at 4,400 RPM. This is a reduction of 13 horses compared to the 1.8L engine in the old Versa hatch which seems like a valid trade for improved efficiency. Base S models get a 5-speed manual, but if you want to make the most of the small engine, you’ll want Nissan’s CVT with a twist. The Versa CVT uses a two-speed planetary gearset after the CVT belt/cone unit. This extends the ratio spread to that of a conventional 7-speed auto. When starting out, the CVT is at its lowest ratio and the planetary is in “low.” Once the CVT reaches a high ratio, the planetary gearset switches to high allowing the CVT to reset to a lower ratio as you continue to accelerate. This improves low-end grunt, top-end fuel economy and allows the CVT to “downshift” faster than a traditional CVT by shifting the planetary gearset to “low” rather than adjusting the belt. Meanwhile the Spark and Mirage use a conventional “single range” CVT. (GM swapped out the old 4-speed for 2014.)

Thanks to a curb weight that is only 25 lbs heavier than the sedan (300lbs lighter than the 2012 hatch) and active grille shutters, fuel economy has jumped to a lofty 31/40/35 MPG  (city/highway/combined) with the CVT and a less spectacular 27/36 with the manual. While 109 horsepower sounds less than exciting, consider that the Spark’s 1.2L engine delivers just 84 and the Mirage’s rough 3-cylinder is down another 10 ponies.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-006

Drive

Thanks to a relatively long 102-inch wheelbase, the Note rides more like a mid-size sedan than the Spark or the Mirage. The difference is most notable out on the open highway where the Spark and Mirage “bob around” on washboard pavement. I wouldn’t describe the Note as “refined” in the general sense, but compared to the lower cost entries the Note holds its own. Even when compared with the Kia Rio and the Chevy Sonic, the Versa has a well-engineered feel out on the road. This is where I have to repeat: “keep your expectations priced at $13,990.”

Nissan decided to fit low rolling resistance tires to the Note which help bump fuel economy to a 35 MPG combined score. While the Note manages to out handle the Mirage, the Rio, Fiesta and Sonic whip the Note’s bottom on winding mountain roads. The Spark strikes a middle ground between the Rio and the Note. The electric power steering is accurate but numb. Acceleration is lazy but thanks to the deeper ratios in Nissan’s CVT it easily beats the Spark or the Mirage to highway speeds. Nissan spent considerable time injecting more sound insulating foam in every nook and cranny making this the quietest Versa ever at 70dB.

2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-008

The Note managed a surprising 38.8 MPG during my 761 mile week with the “wee hatch,” as my neighbor called it. The high mileage numbers are largely thanks to the light curb weight, low rolling resistance tires and Nissan’s CVT which allows the Note’s tiny engine to barely spin at highway speeds. Although the Spark has the same EPA rating, I averaged 2 MPG less the last time I was in one. TTAC has yet to test a Mirage, so I’ll have to defer to the EPA’s 40 MPG average.

Being the cheap guy that I am, the more I cross-shopped the Note and the Spark, the less “value” I found in the little Nissan. The Note isn’t without its charms. The huge back seat and enormous cargo hold make it by far the most practical small hatch in America, the problem is all down to value. If you want sporty or luxury, buy the Fiesta but the best value in this compact segment is the Spark. It’s low $12,170 price tag rivals Nissan’s Versa sedan for the least expensive car but the $14,765 “1LT” with the manual is where the value is to be had. Priced several grand less than a comparable Note, the Spark beats Nissan at their own game. Minus one seat.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.39 Seconds

0-60: 9.13 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 17.08 Seconds @ 81.4 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 38.8 MPG over 761 Miles

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 70 dB

2014 Nissan Versa Note Engine 1.6L 2014 Nissan Versa Note Engine 1.6L-001 2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior 2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-001 2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-002 2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-003 2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-004 2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-005 2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-006 2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-007 2014 Nissan Versa Note Exterior-008 2014 Nissan Versa Note Instrument Cluster 2014 Nissan Versa Note Instrument Cluster-001 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-001 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-002 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-003 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-004 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-005 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-006 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-007 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-008 2014 Nissan Versa Note Interior-009 2014 Nissan Versa Note NissanConnect 2014 Nissan Versa Note NissanConnect -001 2014 Nissan Versa Note NissanConnect -002

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Experian: Subprime Financing, Delinquencies To Grow in 2014, 100 Month Terms Coming Soon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/experian-subprime-financing-delinquencies-to-grow-in-2014-100-month-terms-coming-soon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/experian-subprime-financing-delinquencies-to-grow-in-2014-100-month-terms-coming-soon/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 15:41:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=734801 Just over five years after the Great Recession tightened consumer lending standards on everything from cars to houses, Experian Automotive is forecasting growth in the subprime market for 2014, including longer loan terms and increased delinquencies. Automotive News cites Experian Automotive Senior Director of Automotive Credit Melinda Zabritski as saying that most vehicle financing is […]

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Experian HQ

Just over five years after the Great Recession tightened consumer lending standards on everything from cars to houses, Experian Automotive is forecasting growth in the subprime market for 2014, including longer loan terms and increased delinquencies.

Automotive News cites Experian Automotive Senior Director of Automotive Credit Melinda Zabritski as saying that most vehicle financing is still in the prime lending market, butthe subprime market continues to grow as more lenders return to the space vacated en masse back in Q3 2008. Whether the market continues to grow depends on how many of those loans go into delinquency, though Zabritski expects a modest increase in delinquencies this year in comparison to the run-up to Q3 2008 beginning in 2007.

As far as the length of those loans are concerned, she sees 72-month terms becoming common as lenders compete for business while consumers negotiate for favorable monthly payments. The average term loan currently holds at 65 months, but Zabritski sees that average steadily climb as more 72-month loans are made with no sign of stabilizing five years forward, and terms over 100 months emerging soon.

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Auto Sales In Turkey Fall 8 Percent In January http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/auto-sales-in-turkey-fall-8-percent-in-january/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/auto-sales-in-turkey-fall-8-percent-in-january/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 15:39:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=734857 Vehicle sales in Turkey fell 8 percent in January to 32,670 vehicles from the previous high of 35,523 units in January 2013 according to national industry group Otomotiv Distribütörleri Derneği and Automotive News. Sales for the outgoing year rose 10 percent to 856,378 units from 777,761 in 2012. ODD predicts sales of 800,000 to 860,000 units […]

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2014 Renault Fluence

Vehicle sales in Turkey fell 8 percent in January to 32,670 vehicles from the previous high of 35,523 units in January 2013 according to national industry group Otomotiv Distribütörleri Derneği and Automotive News.

Sales for the outgoing year rose 10 percent to 856,378 units from 777,761 in 2012.

ODD predicts sales of 800,000 to 860,000 units moved from the showroom to the road in 2014, but warns a tax hike on passenger vehicles and banking regulations meant to curb the growth of Turkey’s current account deficit would put a dent on the forecast.

Turkey’s market could be in for more losses as a wave of bearishness on the health of emerging markets has become the predominant model of thinking among financial observers. Turkey in particular was expected to be a bright spot in the automotive world once the BRIC markets had matured.

 

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Chicago 2014: Deep Dive with the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/chicago-2014-deep-dive-with-the-2015-chevrolet-colorado/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/chicago-2014-deep-dive-with-the-2015-chevrolet-colorado/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 10:54:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=734601 A few short hours ago, I was in McCormick Place with a handful of auto journalists and GM’s 2015 Chevy Colorado team. It was a lucky break- a last-minute invitation to meet with some GM brass before the hectic onslaught of the 2014 Chicago Auto Show’s press days and ask them the questions that my […]

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2015 Chevy Colorado | Gas 2

A few short hours ago, I was in McCormick Place with a handful of auto journalists and GM’s 2015 Chevy Colorado team. It was a lucky break- a last-minute invitation to meet with some GM brass before the hectic onslaught of the 2014 Chicago Auto Show’s press days and ask them the questions that my fellow alt-fuel/cleantech gear heads wanted answers to.

So, here it is: the 2015 Chevy Colorado, in the 72 dpi digitized flesh and packed with some seriously trick goodies. Will this (and its GMC Canyon twin) be enough to reclaim the compact truck throne, however? You’d better believe it- the Colorado is that good!

 

2015 Chevy Colorado: the Look


Make no mistake, this is one seriously good-looking trucklet. Chevy’s 2015 Colorado is a true mid-sizer, but the look is more F-150-fighter than Nissan Frontier. Size-wise, more than one of my fellow deep-divers commented that “it’s the perfect size”, and I think it’s just short enough to make a reasonable case for having one in Chicago.

Chevy Colorado Z71

Chevy Colorado Z71

Chevy Colorado Z71

As you take a look at the photos of the Z71 off-roader version of the Colorado, look at the soft, velvety look of the black plastics and the crisp inner workings of the headlight. This is a far cry from the old S-10 EXtreme and its “generic level 2″ plastics.

Chevy Colorado Z71

Chevy Colorado Z71

 

2015 Chevy Colorado: the Cockpit


Inside, the truck’s 2015 MyLink infotainment system is decidedly more Chevy Sonic than Chevy Cruze, and that is a very good thing. All the buttons were logically labeled, there didn’t seem to be any of the convoluted “touch screen + button + more screen-touching” command sequences that made me loathe the Cruze’s MyLink. It had another neat trick, as well: a fully-functional Pandora app.

Is that game-changer? I’m much more excited about my Pandora stations than I am about XM/Sirius, so- yes? Just pretend you can already hear my blasting Shakira and Ke$ha as loud as the Chevy Colorado’s speakers will let me.

Chevy Colorado Interior

Chevy Colorado Interior

Chevy Colorado Interior

Chevy Colorado Interior

 

2015 Chevy Colorado: Seating


The biggest complaint anyone ever had about a compact pickup (think old Chevy S-10, 90s-00s Ford Ranger, etc.) wasn’t that they weren’t capable enough, it’s that getting in and out of the things was always a pain. It was a pain when I was 23, and it would be a bigger pain today, more than a decade later. I’d never climb over a front seat to get into a side-facing jumper again, and- in a truck that’s the size of the new 2015 Chevy Colorado, I won’t have to.

Ingress and egress seems straight-forward enough. You just open the solidly-mounted, triple-sealed doors, climb into the quality-feeling vinyl/cloth seats, and shut the door with a satisfying, Mercedes C-Class level “whooomp”. Actually, open the door and slam it shut a few more times. It is a hugely satisfying feeling that was totally absent in my 1991 GMC Jimmy, even with the rose-colored lenses of nostalgia firmly in place.

Colorado-DeepDive_25

Colorado-DeepDive_26

Colorado-DeepDive_15

Colorado-DeepDive_08

Colorado-DeepDive_12

The 2015 Chevy Colorado has a cleverly adjustable seatbelt that adjusts at the shoulder AND at the hip. More comfortable belts are more likely to be worn, so this is a huge step towards 100% adoption of belts- especially out in rural ‘Murica where the Big Gulp comes in more than one size of early-onset diabetes.

Colorado-DeepDive_13

 

2015 Chevy Colorado: the Tough Questions


I hate to tell you this, guys- but I didn’t get the scoop on the 2015 Chevy Colorado’s EPA fuel economy. I can’t tell you what the EPA numbers on the 2016 diesel will be, either. I also couldn’t tell you if the truck is E15 or E20 compatible, because the GM engineer on hand (a lovely, polite woman who I mistook for another journalist, despite the Riot Grrl leanings of my youth) didn’t know. I also couldn’t tell you if GM plans to include the Colorado in its CNG fleet plans, but I was told, wink-wink, nudge-nudge style, to expect a bi-fuel announcement from GM soon.

A few things I did find out? The upcoming V6 version of the 2015 Chevy Colorado- which uses the same 3.6 liter VVT V6 engine used in Cadillacs and Buicks …

Colorado-DeepDive_24

colorado_engine

… and that, in truck duty, the V6 is expected to be able to haul up to 6700 lbs (!?). That’s more than enough to safely haul any number of RVs, fishing boats, and (dare I say it?) race cars- and the Colorados will be available with fully integrated receiver hitches and easy-to-access wiring for 4 and 7 pin connectors.

So, that’s something- no? What do you guys think? Am I right in thinking Chevy’s hit a home run with this new 2015 Colorado, or do you think Nissan and Dodge will out-Darwin it with their 28 MPG full-size diesel half-tons? Let us know what you think in the comments, below. Enjoy!

 

Originally posted to Jo’s other site, Gas 2.

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