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. Mon, 29 Sep 2014 21:20:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars 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 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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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.

12_2

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

13

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.

14_1

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.)

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

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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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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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2014 Cadillac ELR to Lease for $699 a Month http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/2014-cadillac-elr-to-lease-for-699-a-month/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/2014-cadillac-elr-to-lease-for-699-a-month/#comments Wed, 22 Jan 2014 12:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=704690 If you thought the $75,000 price of admission for ownership of the 2014 Cadillac ELR was too high, the luxury automaker may have another option for your consideration: A lease contract of $699/month with a few stipulations. In order to lease the luxury plug-in hybrid — based upon the $34,000 Chevrolet Volt — you’ll need […]

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2014-Cadillac-ELR. Photo courtesy AutoGuide.com

If you thought the $75,000 price of admission for ownership of the 2014 Cadillac ELR was too high, the luxury automaker may have another option for your consideration: A lease contract of $699/month with a few stipulations.

In order to lease the luxury plug-in hybrid — based upon the $34,000 Chevrolet Volt — you’ll need to either own or lease a GM product screwed together from 1999 forward. Next, you’ll need around $5,000 at signing for a lease that will last just 39 months. Then, you’ll have to deal with the usual tax-title-license-dealer fee-optional equipment gauntlet, plus whatever price the dealer sets for the whole thing.

Finally, whip out your magnifying glass and reading glasses: The fine print states that price of the ELR has an MSRP of $76,000, and that you can only drive a total of 32,500 miles before paying 25 cents per additional mile; if you were to average 13,476 miles/year — the national average, as it turns out — the additional 11,297 miles would total $2,824.25 over the limit.

If interested, you have until the end of January 2014 to sign the papers.

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Review: 2014 Dodge Durango Limited V8 (with Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-dodge-durango-limited-v8-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-dodge-durango-limited-v8-with-video/#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2014 15:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=695921 Car shopping used to be so simple: you could buy a truck or a car. Then came the wagon, minivan, sport utility and the latest craze: the crossover. There’s just one problem with the crossover for me however: it’s not a crossover. With a name like that you’d assume that a modern crossover blended the […]

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2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-002

Car shopping used to be so simple: you could buy a truck or a car. Then came the wagon, minivan, sport utility and the latest craze: the crossover. There’s just one problem with the crossover for me however: it’s not a crossover. With a name like that you’d assume that a modern crossover blended the lines between a truck/SUV with a car/minivan. The reality of course is that the modern three-row crossover is just a front-driving minivan that doesn’t handle as well or haul as much stuff. In this sea of transverse minivans in SUV clothing lies just one mass-market vehicle that I can honestly call a three-row crossover: the Dodge Durango. Instead of a car that’s been turned into an AWD minivan with a longer hood, the Dodge uses drivetrains out of the RAM 1500 combined with a car-like unibody. While rumors swirled that the Durango would be canceled in favor of a 7-seat Jeep, Dodge was working a substantial makeover for 2014.

Click here to view the embedded video.

So what is the Durango? Is it an SUV? Is it a crossover? In my mind, both. If a Grand Cherokee can be a unibody SUV and not a crossover, the Durango must be an SUV. But if a crossover is a hybrid between a car and a truck, then the Durango is one as well. While the first and second generation Durangos were body-on-frame SUVs based on the Dakota pickup, this Durango is a three-row Grand Cherokee, which is a two-row Jeep version of the three-row Mercedes ML which is quasi related to the Mercedes E-Class, which is quasi related to the Chrysler 300. Lost yet?

Exterior

2014 brings few changes to the outside of the Durango. The design first released in 2011 still looks fresh to my eye but that could be because I don’t see many on the road. Up front we get a tweaked corporate grille and new lamps while out back we get “race track” inspired light pipes circling the rump. Aside from a lowered right height on certain models and new wheels, little has changed for the Durango’s slab-sided profile, which I think is one of the Dodge’s best features. No, I’m not talking about the plain-Jane acres of sheet metal, I’m talking about RWD proportions. Bucking the trend, this three-row sports a long (and tall) hood, blunt nose, short front overhang and high belt-line.

To create the Durango from the Grand Cherokee, Chrysler stretched the Jeep’s wheelbase by 5-inches to 119.8 inches and added three inches to the body. The result is four-inches longer than an Explorer but two inches shorter than the Traverse, Acadia and Enclave triplets. Thanks to the Durango’s short front overhand, the Dodge has the longest wheelbase by a long way, beating even the full-size Chevy Tahoe. Speaking of the body-on-frame competition, the Durango may have been a size too small in the past, but this generation is just 8/10ths of an inch shorter than that Tahoe.

DG014_043DU

Interior

Body-on-frame SUVs have a practicality problem when it comes to space efficiency. Because the frame sits between the body and the road, they tend to be taller than unibody crossovers despite having less interior volume. Like the rest of the crossover crowd, this allows the Durango to have a spacious interior with a comparatively low entry height. 2014 brings a raft of much-needed interior updates to the cabin including a new soft touch dashboard, Chrysler’s latest corporate steering wheel with shift paddles, revised climate controls, Chrysler’s latest uConnect 2 infotainment system and a standard 7-inch LCD instrument cluster. Like the other Chrysler products with this LCD, the screen is flanked by a traditional tachometer, fuel and temperature gauge. Oddly enough, the standard infotainment screen is a smallish (in comparison) 5-inches.

Front seat comfort proves excellent in the Durango which was something of a relief, as the last few Chrysler products I have driven had form and oddly shaped seat bottom cushions that make me feel as if I was “sitting on and not in the seat.” As with all three-row vehicles, the accommodations get less comfortable as you move toward the back. By default all Durango trims are 7-passenger vehicles with a three-across second row. For $895 Dodge will delete the middle seat and insert a pair of more comfortable captain’s chairs and a center console with cup holders and a storage compartment. The third row is a strictly two-person affair and, like most crossovers, is best left to children and your mother in law. Those who do find themselves in “the way back” will be comforted by above average headroom and soft touch plastic arm rests. With large exterior proportions you’d expect a big cargo hold like in the cavernous Traverse, alas the RWD layout that makes the Durango so unique renders the interior less practical. With more of the body used up for “hood,” we get just 17 cubes of space behind the third row. That’s three less than an Explorer, seven less than GM’s Lambda triplets and about the same as a Honda Pilot. On the bright side this is more than you will find in a Highlander or Sorento and shockingly enough, more than in the Tahoe as well.

DG014_030DU

Infotainment

uConnect 2 is the first major update to Chrysler’s 8.4-inch touchscreen system that launched in 2011 and the first version of this system the Durango has ever had. Based on a QNX UNIX operating system, the system features well polished graphics, snappy screen changes and a large, bright display. For the second edition of uConnect, Chrysler smoothed out the few rough edges in the first generation of this system and added a boat-load of trendy tech features you may or may not care about. In addition to improved voice commands for USB/iDevice control, uConnect 2 offers smartphone integration allowing you to stream audio from Pandora, iHeart Radio or Slacker Radio. You can have text messages read to you and dictate replies (if your phone supports it) and search for restaurants and businesses via Yelp. In addition to all the smartphone-tied features, uConnect 2 integrates a CDMA modem on the Sprint network into the unit for over-the-air software updates and access to the new “App Store” where you will be able to buy apps for your car. Since there’s a cell modem onboard, uConnect can be configured to act as a WiFi hot spot for your tablets and game devices as well. Keep in mind speeds are 3G, not Sprint’s WiMAX or LTE network.

Completing the information assault is SiriusXM’s assortment of satellite data services which include traffic, movie times, sports scores, fuel prices and weather reports. As with uConnect data services, there’s a fee associated after the first few months so keep that in mind. 2014 also brings uConnect Access which is Chrysler’s answer to GM’s OnStar providing 911 assistance, crash notification and vehicle health reports. Garmin’s navigation software is still available as a $500 add-on (standard on Summit) and it still looks like someone cut a hole in the screen and stuck a hand-held Garmin unit in the dash. The interface is easy to use but notably less snazzy than the rest of the system’s graphics. If the bevy of USB ports has you confused, you can rock your Cat Stevens CD by paying $190 for a single-slot disc player jammed into the center armrest.

2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-001Drivetrain

Dodge shoppers will find two of the Grand Cherokee’s four engines under the hood. First up we have a 290HP/260lb-ft 3.6L V6 (295HP in certain trims) standard in all trims except the R/T. R/T models get a standard 360HP/390lb-ft 5.7L HEMI V8 which can be added to the other trims for $2,795. 2014 brings a beefed up cooling system and a number of minor tweaks in the name of fuel economy. Sadly Chrysler has decided to keep the V6 EcoDiesel engine and 6.4L SRT V8 Grand Cherokee only options, so if you hoped to sip diesel or burn rubber in your three row crossover, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Both engines are mated to a ZF-designed 8-speed automatic. V6 models use the low torque variety made by Chrysler while V8 models use a heavy-duty 8HP70 made in a ZF factory. If you’re up to date on Euro inbreeding, you know this is the same transmission used by BMW, Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover and Rolls Royce. To say this is a step up from the vilified Mercedes 5-speed or the Chrysler 6 speed (the 65RFE featured some of the strangest ratio spacing ever) is putting it mildly. Fuel economy jumps 9% in the V6, 10% in the V8. No small feat in a 4,835lb SUV (as tested). All Durangos start out as rear wheel drive vehicles but you can add a two-speed four-wheel-drive system for $2,400. Although Dodge bills this as AWD, it is the same transfer case that Jeep calls 4×4 in Selec-Trac II equipped Grand Cherokees. Thanks to the heavy-duty drivetrain towing rings in at 6,200lbs for the V6 and 7,400lbs for the V8. Like the Jeeps the Durango has moved to more car-like 5-lug wheels which should widen after-market selection.

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior

Drive

The engineers took the refresh opportunity to tweak the Durango toward the sportier side of the segment with stiffer springs and beefier sway bars. While far from a night-and-day transformation, the difference is noticeable and appreciated out on the roads. While never harsh, it is obvious the Durango is tuned towards the firm side of this segment. Thanks to the long wheelbase the Durango feels well composed on the highway or on broken pavement.

With a nearly 50/50 weight balance, wide 265-width tires, and a lower center of gravity than a “traditional SUV”, the Durango is easily the handling and road feeling champion. That’s not to say the Durango is some sort of sports car in disguise, but when you compare a well balanced 360 horsepower rear wheel drive elephant to a slightly lighter but much less balanced front driving elephant on skinny rubber, it’s easy to see which is more exciting. Thanks to the Mercedes roots there’s even a whiff of feedback in the steering, more than you can say for the average crossover. Despite the long wheelbase and wide tires, the Durango still cuts a fairly respectable 37-foot turning circle.

Those statement may have you scratching your head if you recall what I said about Jeep on which the Durango is based, I must admit I scratched my head as well. Although the Dodge and the Jeep share suspension design elements and a limited number of components, the tuning is quite different. The Grand Cherokee Summit rides 3.1-inchs higher and was equipped with the off-road oriented air suspension.

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-005

When it comes to performance, the new 8-speed automatic makes a night and day difference shaving a whopping 1.4 seconds off the 0-60 time versus the last V8 Durango we tested. The reason is all in the gear ratios. While the 545RFE and 65RFE transmissions suffered from some truly odd ratios, the ZF unit’s ratios are more evenly spread and dig deeper in the low gears. The result is a 6.0 second sprint to highway speeds which finally nips on the tails of the Explorer Sport which we’re told will do the same in 5.9-6.0 (TTAC hasn’t tested one yet). This proves what extra gears can do for you because the Explorer is 200lbs lighter and has a far more advantageous torque curve thanks to the twin turbos.

You can also thank the ZF transmission for the Durango’s robust towing numbers. V6 models are now rated for 6,200lbs while the V8 can haul up to 7,400lbs when properly equipped. That’s nearly 50% more than you can tow in any of the crossover competition and just 1,000 lbs shy of the average full-size body-on-frame hauler.

The transmission is also responsible for a whopping 20% increase in fuel economy. The last V8 Durango I tested eked out a combined 14.8 MPG over a week while the 2014 managed 18.0 MPG. While 18 MPG isn’t impressive in wider terms, it is 1/2 an MPG better than GM’s Lambda crossovers or the Ford Explorer on my commute cycle. The V6 yields improved fuel economy at the expense of thrust, but you should know that although the acceleration provided by the V6 is competitive with the V6 three-row competition, the 20 MPG average falls short of the new Highlander, Pathfinder and the rest of the FWD eco-minded competition.

After a week with the Durango I was no closer to answering the biggest question car buffs have: is this Dodge a crossover or an SUV? One thing is sure however, the Durango is likely the most fun you can have with 6 of your friends for under $50,000.

 

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

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.4

0-60: 6.0

1/4 Mile: 14.6 Seconds @ 96 MPH

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 69dB @ 50 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 18 MPG over 811 miles

 

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-014 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-013 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-009 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-004 2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-002 2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-001 2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-003 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-002 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-001 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-005 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-006 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-007 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-008 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-012 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-011 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-010 DG014_058DU DG014_057DU DG014_051DU DG014_043DU DG014_030DU

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Review: 2014 Ford Focus ST (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-ford-focus-st-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-ford-focus-st-with-video/#comments Thu, 09 Jan 2014 14:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=691530 Hot hatches are all the rage in Europe but represent a fairly small segment of American consumption. The formula is fairly simple, you take a compact hatchback, insert a turbocharged engine, stiffen the springs and add an anti-roll bar that can lift the inner rear wheel in corners if you really push it. The result […]

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2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior

Hot hatches are all the rage in Europe but represent a fairly small segment of American consumption. The formula is fairly simple, you take a compact hatchback, insert a turbocharged engine, stiffen the springs and add an anti-roll bar that can lift the inner rear wheel in corners if you really push it. The result is the polar opposite of a pony car.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

For 2014, the American hot hatch shopper is spoiled for choice. There are a whopping two options: the 2014 Ford Focus ST and the 2014 Volkswagen GTI. If you’re patient enough, VW plans on releasing a new GTI for the 2015 model year and the Mazda rumor mill is rife with 2015 Mazdaspeed3 assumptions. I must therefore rule the Focus ST the most attractive hot hatch in America and put the comparatively boring GTI in last place, or second. However you want to look at it. For performance duty Ford takes the already handsome Focus, lowers it by nearly half an inch and swaps in some new wheels, a front bumper, tweaked spoiler, rear valance and exhaust tips. If you haven’t noticed by now, there is no sedan variant of the Focus ST. Sorry America.

Although the parts list is short, I found the transformation impressive. I haven’t warmed to the Euro nose that the current generation Focus wears while the ST’s more conventional single grille look manages to be both more grown up and more aggressive when compared to the donor car. (Don’t worry, you can get your Focus in colors other than “Tangerine Scream”.) The ST shares hoods with the lesser Focuses (Foci?) there is an oddly large gap between the hood and front bumper that is so uniform (and is on every ST model I have seen) that it must be intentional, however distracting. The reason is that the regular model’s hood doesn’t mate directly with anything as it is styled to be the upper part of the front grille. I have a feeling that if and when the Mazdaspeed3 lands, it will take the crown as I find the Mazda3 the most attractive entry in the compact hatchback segment.

2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-005

Interior

Like the Volkswagen GTI, the first thing you will notice about the Focus when you hop inside will be the very European color palate. In other words, black. The soft injection moulded dashboard combines with the black headliner, black carpets and predominantly black upholstery to create a very Germanic interior. All Focus models sport a double-bump style dashboard with the infotainment positioned in a prominent position and the ST trim tops off the binnacle with standard gauges for oil temperature, oil pressure and turbo boost.  This is the same cabin that European shoppers get with one exception: the Recaro seats aren’t standard on our side of the pond. Neither is that 8-inch touchscreen.

Although the ST starts at $23,625 my realistic base price jumps to $25,845 by adding the “ST2″ package which I consider essential. This package adds the 8-inch screen, automatic climate control and the Recaro seats that you see in all the photos and reviews of the Focus ST. The base seats lack the aggressive bolstering or the exceptional comfort of the half-leather Recaro thrones. ST2 shoppers can opt for two-tone seats (as seen in our tester) in blue, yellow or black-on-black. Checking the ST3 box brings the ST up to $28,000 and adds completely leather faced seats (black only), seat heaters, HID headlamps, LED daytime running lamps and standard navigation software.

2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-004

During my week with the ST I put over 1,100 miles on the Tangerine Scream including a 650 mile road trip. The Recaro thrones proved to be supportive, comfortable and superior to the GTI’s seats for long road trips. Unfortunately the rear passengers weren’t as happy since the Focus has a fairly cramped rear seat. Adding the Recaro seats to the Focus seems to drop the rear seat room by a hair as well making the Focus a great deal tighter than the GTI despite the Focus being the longer car by six inches. Where do those inches go? Some of them are consumed by the Ford’s longer nose, but plenty can be found in the ST’s 50% larger cargo hold.

Since I mentioned the Mustang earlier, that tight rear seat is one of the main reasons you’d select a Focus ST over a V6 ‘Stang. Despite being smaller than a GTI, the ST offers two extra doors, three more inches of leg room and a 5th seat belt. In addition to the added passenger room the Focus also boasts 10 more cubic feet of widget storage in the back.

2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-002

Infotainment

Base ST shoppers get basic entertainment to go with their basic seating. All STs come standard with a 6-speaker audio system sporting a 4.2-inch color LCD, SYNC voice commands and a sea of buttons. The unit is housed in the same binnacle as the 8-inch system so there’s plenty of blank space to remind you that you didn’t pony up for the MyFord Touch system. The ST3 package that is my realistic base for the ST solves this by removing the button bank and inserting the screen you see above. Bundled with the resistive touchscreen is an upgraded 10-speaker Sony speaker system with a subwoofer and a center channel. Sound quality in the 6-speaker system was disappointing while the Sony system impressed. One thing to know if that the Sony system tends to have exaggerated treble and bass tuning by default but it is adjustable.

This is about the time when I usually comment on MyFord Touch being somewhat sluggish and suggest that the competition has an acceptable alternative. The alternative however is Volkswagen’s ancient infotainment lineup. All GTIs share the same 8-speaker sound system that slots between Ford’s base and up-level system in both speaker count and sound quality but everything else pales in comparison. The GTI has no SYNC-like voice command system in any model and the base GTI doesn’t even get a color LCD in the cabin. The Driver’s Edition GTI gets VW’s low-cost navigation unit which, when compared to MyFord Touch, is like taking a Palm Pilot to an iPad fight. Hopefully VW will up their game for 2015, but more than likely Ford’s only real infotainment competition will come from Mazda’s slick MazdaConnect system.

2014 Ford Focus ST Engine-002

Drivetrain

The last Focus ST was powered by Volvo, a logical choice since Volvo’s S40 and Ford’s Focus were cousins to begin with. This generation Focus is 100% Ford. Instead of the oddly-alluring 2.5L five-cylinder, we get a 252 horsepower tune of Ford’s 2.0L EcoBoost engine cranking out 270 lb-ft of torque. (There is a bit of confusion on the HP numbers, in the video I mention Ford’s initial numbers of 247 HP and 266 lb-ft which was later updated to 252/270. Apparently running 87 octane gasoline in your ST will yield 247 while 93 will get you 252.) This is the same four-cylinder turbo used in the Ford Edge and Taurus except that the boost has been cranked up and it is mated to a 6-speed manual transmission. (As far as we can tell this is no longer the Volvo M66 transmission manufactured by Getrag.)

Drive

Compared to the VW, the Focus is 52 ponies more powerful and serves up 63 more lb-ft while the Mustang V6 beats the Focus by 48 horsepower and 10 lb-ft. As you would assume with numbers like that, the Mustang is faster t0 60, but thanks to the turbocharger on the Focus the difference in our testing was just 1/10th of a second and is more down to driver skill and traction than vehicle output. The VW on the other hand can’t makeup for the power deficit by being 100lbs lighter and was 3/10ths slower.

2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-006

The big difference between a Mustang and a hot hatch is of course which wheels are getting the power. Because the ST funnels all its power through the front wheels, torque steer is a genuine concern. Rather than limit engine power in 1st and 2nd like Mazda did with the old Mazdaspeed3, or use a limited slip differential like Honda uses on occasion, Ford decided to program the electric power steering to compensate. Coupled with the EPAS system is a stability control system programmed to torque vector power across the front using the car’s large front brakes. The system works passably well but not as well as the Ford’s “Revo Kunckle” which they use on their larger cars. Due mostly to the greater output, torque steer in the ST is more pronounced than in the GTI, but much less noticeable than in the old Mazda. I’ve always found mild torque steer in a fast front-driver an entertaining phenomenon so it never bothered me.

Helping the steering tendencies is a variable ratio steering rack that uses a quick 1.8 turns lock to lock vs 2.1 in the GTI, 2.8 in the standard Focus and 3.1 in the V6 ‘Stang. Thanks to the ratio the ST feels very nimble and eager to change direction. Unless you need to U-turn of course which is when you will discover that this tiny hatch has a nearly 40-foot turning radius.

2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-009

Thanks to a light 3,200 pound curb weight (100lbs heavier than the VW but 300lbs lighter than a V6 Mustang), 235-width Eagle F1 Asymmetric tires and a well tuned suspension, the Focus ST sticks to the road like glue. TTAC doesn’t have access to a skidpad to confirm or deny the Mustang trouncing Gs the plucky hatch can pull, but after a week making passengers sick on winging mountain roads I’m a believer. What makes the Focus more impressive is how neutral the car feels despite being a front-heavy front-driver. It’s more lively, less civilized but more rewarding to drive than the GTI. The V6 ‘Stang does give you rear-wheel- drive dynamics and more shove in a straight line, but I’d be willing to bet I’d be faster around a track in the Focus ST.

What surprised me about the Focus the most however was how livable it is. The suspension is firm but never harsh and my spine didn’t revolt on a 5 hour drive to Los Angeles. Cabin noise was high at 76 dB but that’s not far from the last Golf I measured and average for the economy car segment. Thanks to an active noise generator that opens a valve to pipe sound into the cabin from when at full throttle, normal driving happens without the incessant droning of a Fiat Abarth. While the Tangerine Scream paint job and yellow trimmed seats scream “boy racer”, the truth is the Focus is quite the grown up. With a starting price some $1,300 less than a GTI the Focus delivers a solid value proposition. Fully loaded the difference narrows to less than a grand in cash but more than $3,000 when you factor in the Ford’s greater feature content. While I’m sure that 2015 will bring a VW GTI with more refinement and an improved interior, VW has confirmed the ST will still be the horsepower champion and likely the value leader as well. Compared to that RWD Ford on the lot, the pony car is less expensive but less practical as well. For the cost difference between the Mustang and the ST, you could buy all manner of performance mods for your pony to compete with the ST, but I have a feeling I’d still buy the Focus. For 2014 Ford’s hot hatch is without a doubt the hottest hatch on sale in America, but with Volkswagen planning on sending their 290HP Golf R to the USA and Ford’s own high-power Focus RS rumored, things are just starting to warm up.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.3

0-60: 5.95

1/4 Mile: 14.36 Seconds @ 98.5 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 25.7 MPG over 1210 Miles

Sound Level at 50 MPH: 76.4 dB

 

2014 Ford Focus ST Engine 2014 Ford Focus ST Engine-001 2014 Ford Focus ST Engine-002 2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior 2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-001 2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-002 2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-003 2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-004 2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-005 2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-006 2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-007 2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-008 2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-009 2014 Ford Focus ST Exterior-010 2014 Ford Focus ST Interior 2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-001 2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-002 2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-003 2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-004 2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-005 2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-006 2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-007 2014 Ford Focus ST Interior-008

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Review: 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-ford-fiesta-hatchback-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-ford-fiesta-hatchback-with-video/#comments Fri, 03 Jan 2014 14:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=683986 For many Americans, the words “Ford Fiesta” dredges up memories of a claustrophobic rattle-trap competing with “Geo Metro” for the title of Worst American Small Car. Personally, the only time I ever wanted a fiesta was during a drunken weekend in Cabo, and it had more to do with tequila than cars. But that was […]

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2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior

For many Americans, the words “Ford Fiesta” dredges up memories of a claustrophobic rattle-trap competing with “Geo Metro” for the title of Worst American Small Car. Personally, the only time I ever wanted a fiesta was during a drunken weekend in Cabo, and it had more to do with tequila than cars. But that was four years ago and 214,000 Fiestas ago. Since then the Fiesta has proved that an American car company is capable of creating a desirable compact car. Is the party over, or is the car’s first refresh a sign that the party has just begun? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

After being on the market for just four years I hadn’t expected much for 2014 which makes me all the more impressed with the Fiesta’s transformation. Ford’s new “Astonesque” grille which debuted on the new Fusion turned the plain-Jane family hauler into one of the sexiest cars Ford has ever made, and Ford indicated the look was going to trickle down the lineup. I was worried. You see, when a new nose is penned for a new cars, and the existing line-up is modified to accept the new schnozz, you end up with something like the questionable looking Lexus GX 460. Fear not , Ford didn’t just paint on a their trapezoidal grille, they poked and prodded the hood and lamps as well until things looked right, and right they do. The launch photos looked impressive but the final product was even better in person.

It’s hard to avoid Aston Martin Cygnet references so I’ll just say it now: add some hood louvres and a leather dash and Ford’s compact would be more Aston than the iQ based Cygnet. Paired with the new nose, is a tweaked rear end featuring new tail lamps. The only downside in my mind is that the minor nip/tuck to the rear fails to bring the Fiesta’s rump up to the same level as the front. Park the Fiesta nose first in your driveway, and nobody will notice. But back it in, and passers-by are likely to be impressed. As before there is a considerable difference in dimensions between the sedan and the hatchback with the sedan being a whopping 13-inches longer. Thanks to that length, the sedan looks less like a caricature than it would otherwise.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-006

Interior

Four years ago I praised the Fiesta’s interior as class leading in terms of materials choices and fit/finish. That largely remains true despite the Fiesta undercutting the Kia Rio in price. That’s not to say the Fiesta is a revolution, but compared to the hard plastics in the competition, the Fiesta looks and feels more premium. The injection molded dashboard, refreshed steering wheel and seats would not be out of place in the slightly larger compact car category. I found our tester’s black-on-black interior somewhat cold while the lighter interiors available on my local Ford lot were warmer, more attractive and showed off the optional ambient lighting better. (The upper half of dashboard is black on all models.) Helping the Fiesta’s new “premium compact” theme is ability to add real leather seats as opposed to the “leatherette” you find in all but the Kia Rio. Dominating the dashboard in our tester was Ford’s downsized MyFord Touch infotainment system, lower trim levels get a revised SYNC display nestled in a similar binnacle. As you’d expect with any car starting at $14,100, base “S” trim cars suffer severe de-contenting with manual windows, no dome lights, no ambient lighting, only one 12V outlet and no cruise control. This is an important distinction as the majority of the competition feel like upper trim levels are base models with do-dads added.

The front seats don’t offer much thigh or back support unless you opt for the sporty Fiesta ST with its Recaro thrones. Even the Titanium model lacks the range of motion, or support, you’ll find in most mid-sized sedans and power seats are not an option at any price. Even so, the Fiesta’s seats are among the more comfortable in the class. Finding an ideal driving position is easy thanks to a tilt/telescopic steering wheel. Rear seat passengers encounter the same firm padding in the sedan or hatchback, and essentially the same amount of headroom with the sedan form factor taking only a 1/10th of an inch toll and ranking near top of the class. Sadly however, the Euro origins are clear when it comes to rear legroom. The Fiesta trails here, and not by a small amount. The Sonic and Rio offer three 3-inches more while the Versa Note is a whopping 7.1-inches more spacious. Likewise, cargo hauling ability of 12.8 cubes in the sedan and 15.4 in the hatchback are on the smaller end of the spectrum.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-004

Infotainment

My major gripe about the 2011 Fiesta was a lack of infotainment love. The SYNC-only 2011-2013 models used a small red display in the center of the dashboard while Kia and Nissan were offering touchscreen navigation units. To address, Ford shrunk their 8-inch MyFord Touch system down to 6.5 inches and dropped the system in a new binnacle on the dash for SE and Titanium Fiestas. Because Ford reduced the system’s dimensions, not the resolution, the system’s graphics have a crisper and high-quality look to them when compared to the 8-inch system in the Focus. There are a few ergonomic downsides however. The screen’s high position on the dash means it’s quite far from the driver requiring a decent reach for most functions and it makes the screen look smaller than it actually is. Also, because the “buttons” have shrunk, it’s easier to stab the wrong one. Thankfully most system operations can be controlled via voice commands negating the need to touch the screen for the most part. Ford’s latest software update (3.6.2 in August 2013) seems to have finally fixed the crashing and random re-boots that plagued earlier versions of the software.

Some buyers won’t care about the 6.5-inch woes as the snazzy system is standard on the Titanium, a $995 option on the SE and not available on the base model. Those shoppers will be happy to know that the Fiesta delivers one of the better audio system values. S and SE models come with six standard speakers, two more than you usually find in a stripper sub-compact, while Titanium models swap in an 8-speaker Sony branded audio system. The base speaker package is notably more crisp and accurate than the four-speaker fare in the competition while the Sony audio system sounded almost too bright at times. Both the S and SE models share the same AM/FM/CD/USB/iDevice head unit with SYNC voice commands and smartphone streaming integration.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Engine-002

Drivetrain

The big news under the hood for 2014 is the arrival of a 3-cylinder turbo option. Sadly one was not available for testing, so keep your eyes peeled for that review later in 2014. All trims get a standard 1.6L four-cylinder engine producing the same 120 HP and 112 lb-ft as last year, meaning that three-banger is optional, yes optional, for 2014. Aside from the novelty of paying $995 to have one cylinder removed, the 1.0L Ecoboost engine promises 32 MPG in the city, 45 on the highway and 37 combined which is a 7 MPG bump on the highway and 5 in the combined cycle. If the fuel economy wasn’t enough to pique your interest, the 1.0L engine cranks out 123 HP and 125 lb-ft across a flat torque curve, with a 15 second overboost good for 145 lb-ft. Ford mates the boosted engine exclusively to a 5-speed manual while the 1.6 can be mated to an optional 6-speed dual-clutch box.

Ford’s 6-speed PowerShift gearbox has received plenty of criticism from owners and Consumer Report. After talking with a number of Fiesta owners I have come to the conclusion the problem is mainly a lack of understanding. You see, PowerShift is Ford-speak for DSG. While Volkswagen’s robotic dual-clutch manual is smoother under certain circumstances (thanks to their use of wet clutches) VW seems to do a better job marketing and explaining their fuel-sipping tranny. Inside the Fiesta’s gearbox lies essentially two robotically shifted manual transmissions, one handling the even gears and the other taking the odd ones. The lack of a torque converter increases efficiency, and the twin-clutch system allows shifts to happen faster than in an automatic. By their very nature, dual-clutch transmissions feel more like a hybrid between a manual and an automatic. When you start from a stop, you can feel the clutch slip and engage. If you’re on a hill, the car will roll backwards when the hill-hold system times out. Occasionally you can hear a bit more gear noise and shifting noise than in a traditional slushbox and reverse has that distinctive sound. Because the Ford system uses dry clutches, starts are more pronounced than in VW’s DSG units with wet clutches (not all DSGs are wet clutch anymore).  2014 brings a major software update that noticeably improves shift quality but there is still a difference in feel. My opinion is: I’ll take PowerShift over a standard automatic any day as I prefer fuel economy and rapid shifts to “smoothness.” What say you?

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-002

Drive

Little was done to the Euro suspension for American duty, making the Fiesta the firmest ride in the segment, tying with the Mazda 2. The Honda Fit is a close second, but the Japanese compact is starting to show its age, feeling less refined and composed over rough pavement. The Versa Note feels composed but delivers more body roll, while the Rio’s suspension feels softer than I prefer while at the same time transmitting more road imperfections to the driver’s spine. Regardless of trim, the Fiesta handles incredibly well. This is due as much to the suspension as the light curb weight. Ranging from 2537lbs to 2628lbs, the Fiesta is a featherweight in America and it shows when you toss the Ford into corners, being far more willing to change direction than a Focus.

When it comes to straight line performance, the 6-speed PowerShift scooted our tester to 60 MPH in 9.08 seconds, a full second faster than the last manual-equipped Fiesta hatchback we tested. The reason for the variation is down to the gear ratios in the 5-speed manual. Ford combined low first and second gears with a tall fifth gear (taller than the Euro Fiesta) for better hill starts and improved EPA numbers but the decisions take a toll on performance and driveability. By dropping first and second, the delta between second and third grows to an odd gap that hampers acceleration after 50 MPH while the tall top gear means frequent downshifts on moderate inclines. Although I normally prefer a manual to any automatic, the Fiesta is one of my exceptions. The PowerShift box seemed to always have the right gear for the situation and made hill climbing a much less frustrating experience.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-008

The Fiesta has always been small, but the Fiestas and Festivas of my youth were mainly known for being cheap. The new Fiesta however is all about value. Ford’s new pricing strategy is a mix of an aggressive $14,100 starting price for the sedan, a $500 premium for the hatchback and an options list that pushes most Fiestas on the lot to between $17,000 and $18,000. Fully loaded, (excluding the ST) the most expensive Fiesta you can get is $21,705. My realistic starting point for the Fiesta is the SE at $15,580 which includes all the essentials the S lacks.

When you compare that to the competition, the Fiesta starts only $110 more than a Versa Note and at the top end is just $855 more than a Rio. Nissan’s Note stacks up best at the bottom of the food chain, delivering more room, better fuel economy and a similar level of equipment for less. Putting things nicely, the Mazda 2 is outclassed by the Fiesta in every way at every level, while the Kia matches the Ford closely in terms of price for content. Although the Rio is the more spacious alternative and it offers a more powerful engine and 6-speed manual, the Fiesta is more attractive and more fun to drive. Chevy’s Sonic suffers from a bargain basement interior and a price tag that doesn’t offer much of a discount vs the Ford, even when you take into account some of the features Chevy offers that aren’t available on the Fiesta.

What the Fiesta does best of all however is wear that $21,705 price tag. No matter how you slice it, the Rio, Sonic and Fit feel like an economy car at the top end of their price range. The Fiesta Titanium however feels like a decent deal for the cash. Those shopping lower in the food chain benefit from a cabin that feels like a cheap version of a more expensive cabin, unlike the Versa Note SL which feels like an expensive version of a cheap car. Plenty of you will baulk at a Fiesta that lists over 21-grand when a base Fusion is just 2000 bucks more, but those looking for mid-size sedan comforts and luxuries in a compact carrying case will do well to drive a Fiesta.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.4 Seconds

0-60:9.08 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.9 Seconds @ 81.6 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 31.5 MPG over 561 Miles

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 72.5 db

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Engine 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Engine-001 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Engine-002 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-001 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-002 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-003 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-004 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-005 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-006 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-007 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-008 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-009 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-010 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-001 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-002 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-003 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-004 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-005 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-006 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-007 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-008 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-009 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-010 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-011 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-012 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-013

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Analyst: GM to Own Tesla in 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/analyst-gm-to-own-tesla-in-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/analyst-gm-to-own-tesla-in-2014/#comments Sun, 29 Dec 2013 15:56:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=688698 While one analyst implored Apple to go into the automotive industry by purchasing Tesla Motors to the bemusement of all, another analyst is suggesting that General Motors may be the one to pull the trigger in the coming year. Yra Harris, a veteran trader with Praxis Trading, told CNBC earlier this week that Tesla’s brand […]

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Tesla Model S

While one analyst implored Apple to go into the automotive industry by purchasing Tesla Motors to the bemusement of all, another analyst is suggesting that General Motors may be the one to pull the trigger in the coming year.

Yra Harris, a veteran trader with Praxis Trading, told CNBC earlier this week that Tesla’s brand of luxury EVs would be a perfect fit with GM overall, especially in terms of technology and service.

The key to purchasing Tesla comes down to valuation, an issue CEO Elon Musk has warned about for months on end. Currently, the EV automaker holds a market capitalization of over $18 billion, with shares trading at 100-plus times forward earnings. Still, should a market correction occur — and should Musk decide he’d rather make a Lotus Esprit into a functional submarine now than build an electric truck in 2017; he has said he wouldn’t sell Tesla until the third-generation models were produced — then perhaps Harris’ prediction will come to pass in the new year.

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