The Truth About Cars » 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 05 Jul 2015 17:40:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Silent but Violent: Watch Rhys Millen’s All-Electric Run Up Pikes Peak http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/silent-but-violent-watch-rhys-millens-record-run-up-pikes-peak/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/silent-but-violent-watch-rhys-millens-record-run-up-pikes-peak/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 18:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1104865 All-around fast driver and New Zealander Rhys Millen had roughly 20 miles of experience behind the wheel of his Latvian-made eO electric race car before Sunday’s race. That apparently didn’t matter as he piloted the first electric car to an overall win at the 93rd running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on Sunday. Millen’s […]

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All-around fast driver and New Zealander Rhys Millen had roughly 20 miles of experience behind the wheel of his Latvian-made eO electric race car before Sunday’s race.

That apparently didn’t matter as he piloted the first electric car to an overall win at the 93rd running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on Sunday.

Millen’s 9:07.222 final mark was a long ways from Sebastian Loeb’s incredible, insane and probably-never-coming-down 8:13.878, but it’s interesting to note that Millen’s qualifying time was some 30 seconds off of Loeb’s pace, and his electron-powered 1,368 horsepower car should only get faster toward the top.

Millen said during qualifying that there was “20 percent” in the car that he wasn’t using, and adjusting to the car’s pace would ultimately be the deciding factor on how quickly he could run up to the finish line at more than 14,000 feet.

Awful conditions at the top hampered this year’s race and underscored that the road to the top, which covers nearly 13 miles and more than 4,000 feet of elevation change, is a constantly changing racetrack.

It can’t be missed that this year’s Pikes Peak International Hill Climb was tragically marked by the death of 39-year-old motorcyclist Carl Sorensen during Thursday’s practice session.

Japanese veteran racer Nobuhiro “Monster” Tajima — who is 64 years old and infinitely cooler than most people his age — finished second in his Rimac E-Runner.

IMG_1321

Electric cars taking the top two positions is significant for motorsports, better for the automotive industry and could signal an era that the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb is the new ‘Ring. 

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You Should Be Watching The Goodwood Festival of Speed, And You Can http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/you-should-be-watching-the-goodwood-festival-of-speed-and-you-can/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/you-should-be-watching-the-goodwood-festival-of-speed-and-you-can/#comments Fri, 26 Jun 2015 13:35:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1100665 The Goodwood Festival of Speed is underway and you should be watching it. Thanks to the powers of the internets, you can, right now, on YouTube.

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The Goodwood Festival of Speed is underway and you should be watching it.

Thanks to the powers of the internets, you can, right now, on YouTube.

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2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4×4 Reader Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-toyota-tacoma-trd-sport-4x4-reader-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-toyota-tacoma-trd-sport-4x4-reader-review/#comments Thu, 25 Jun 2015 18:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1098737 Maybe it’s the horrific condition of most New England roads. Maybe it was because we just had snowiest winter in Boston since anyone’s been counting. Or maybe, just maybe, I have finally fully succumbed to my Napoleon Complex. “The great proof of madness is the disproportion of one’s designs to one’s means.” ―Napoleon Bonaparte  What […]

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2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 with Rebecca Turrell

Maybe it’s the horrific condition of most New England roads. Maybe it was because we just had snowiest winter in Boston since anyone’s been counting. Or maybe, just maybe, I have finally fully succumbed to my Napoleon Complex.

“The great proof of madness is the disproportion of one’s designs to one’s means.”
―Napoleon Bonaparte 

What started off with me buying my first liter bike has blossomed (*tear*) into the purchase of my first pickup truck: 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4×4 double cab short bed with a…..dun dada dun….6-speed manual gear box. I know the Tacoma has remained relatively unchanged since 2004 – actually, it’s pretty much the same truck I’ve been lusting over since 2007. I know that it doesn’t have great fuel economy. I know that there are trucks with better technology in them. But hear me out!

Like every vehicle I’ve ever owned (with the exception of one moment of weakness that lasted for a month…don’t judge me), a manual transmission is a requirement. So when I started my quest for a pickup truck, the list quickly narrowed:

  • Colorado/Canyon twins manual only in RWD base models. I also can’t deal with this giant plastic lip. On what planet does that look good?
    colorado
  • Nissan Frontier: Is there an explanation needed? It’s a big plastic baby rattle
  • Anything full sized No manual option unless I’m a parts runner (which I’m not…)

Other requirements included:

  • Double cab
  • V6 or greater
  • 4×4
  • Tow Package
  • Audio controls on the steering wheel (a taller order than I had anticipated)

Anticipated uses include pulling my trailer, hauling motorcycles in the back for work and play, home improvement projects, and, God willing, some off-roading. While I’ve driven many trucks, I’ve only ever owned compact sports cars (Z4, GS-R, SI, 328i, 330ci, etc), so the joy of the driving experience is important to me.

While I ran through the options – both foreign and domestic – I kept coming back to my long time crush: Toyota Tacoma. 70 percent residual after 36 months, tons of aftermarket parts and accessories available, it checked all of my boxes, and it’s cute! (Is that a turn off? Ah well.) I had to order the truck because, as my boyfriend points out, “there are 15,000 Tacomas on the ground at dealerships and none of them are what you want!” After a couple of months, and some parts shopping, she was finally home!

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4

Yes, that is the TRD exhaust and TRD Trail Team wheels in the back of the truck that I ordered before we ever even met.

40 miles and less than 24 hours later she looked like this:

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4

In the 500 miles that I’ve had her, I’ve picked up sod, pulled a trailer and transported three motorcycles. The truck came with four D-rings, four cleats and a trailer hitch, making all of this a breeze.

How does she compare to other trucks? I’ve clocked a decent amount of miles on a variety of trucks (with and without trailers), which should qualify me to make these comparisons: Nissan Frontier, Dodge Ram 1500, F-150 extended cab V6 non-Ecoboost, V6 Silverado regular cab, Z71 Silverado, F-350 stake body, and that one time I was allowed to drive a manual transmission Sterling box truck.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room, the transmission. Why a manual? Maybe I’m a control freak, but I rarely drive an automatic without saying at some point “why did we shift there?” Especially in the snow, a manual gives you more control (ex: downshifting rather than braking). I also find that it keeps me more alert and, finally, it’s way more fun. Where the transmission becomes especially significant is in my experience with other V6 trucks. I’m just going to call them gear hunters, because that is all they do. Without a trailer, uphill, downhill, cruise on or off, they never seem to find the right gear. I cursed the F-150’s gear indicator for letting me know it was in fourth the majority of the time rather than sixth. It’s like the transmissions and engines are mismatched. Maybe they are. On the same stretch of highway, I was able to take the Tacoma and two bikes up and downhill for an hour in sixth gear. I was always in the power, and never once had to downshift to accelerate or maintain speed.

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 with motorcycle

The Tacoma is very smooth, especially compared to a Frontier. It handles well and is much easier to maneuver in parking lot situations than a full-sized truck. The steering wheel doesn’t require heavy inputs, but also doesn’t feel like it’s going to fly away from you. It is also fairly thick, making it quite comfortable. The 2014 F-150 drives like absolute butter, but has this annoying residual vibration every time you close the door or hit a bump. Rams tend to ride like a boat and fling me around the cabin going over bumps. The Z71 Silverado I had the pleasure of taking home a few nights this winter was a dream: tons of power, smooth, comfortable, and looked great. Biggest complaint was lack of audio controls on the steering wheel.

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 interiorI had to have a double cab for getting stuff in and out of the backseat. I hate having to open one door in order to open another. There is also plenty of storage under and behind the seats of the Tacoma. I’ve been keeping all of my towing and tie down accessories in there and out of the way. The Tacoma also came with a cargo bed power outlet, which I look forward to trying out eventually. The manual option gives you a third cup holder, which has been fairly useless so far because the throws on the shifter are sooooo long and will knock over any bottle in it. I have the Toyota short throw “quick shifter” for it and I’m hopeful it will both improve the driving experience and create enough space for that third cup holder. The e-brake is a “pull and twist” style which has grown on me and seems to be pretty secure on inclines. Fold down headrests in the back are a lifesaver for reversing since I don’t quite trust the backup camera yet.

My final note about this truck is there’s a wealth of information available, as well as aftermarket parts and accessories. You can get analysis paralysis reading through all of the modifications and upgrades. I have already emotionally spent thousands more on a lift kit, bed extender, sliders, skids, and a hidden winch mount (because everyone needs a hidden winch, right?). I already have a tailgate reinforcement on order, as well as some other motorcycle hauling accessories. 31-inch tires should have definitely come on this truck from the factory. Same with the TRD exhaust; quiet at idle, but has a clean and deep note under acceleration. Everyone keeps telling me I need the TRD supercharger (you know who you are), but I find the truck to have more than enough power for my needs.

From a girl who has only owned “sporty” cars, this is the most excited I have been about a vehicle since my BMW days.

This reader review was written by Rebecca Turrell.

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 with motorcycles 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 interior 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 with Rebecca Turrell 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 with motorcycles 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 with motorcycle 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4

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2015 Ford F-150 Platinum 4×4 3.5L Ecoboost Review [With Video] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-ford-f-150-platinum-4x4-3-5l-ecoboost-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-ford-f-150-platinum-4x4-3-5l-ecoboost-review-video/#comments Mon, 22 Jun 2015 12:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1094033 Ford’s F-150 is an important vehicle for Ford and it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say it’s an important vehicle for America. In 2014, the F-150 was not just the most popular truck in America, it was the most popular anything in America, selling more than 740,000 examples. For those that love their […]

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2015 Ford F-151

Ford’s F-150 is an important vehicle for Ford and it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say it’s an important vehicle for America. In 2014, the F-150 was not just the most popular truck in America, it was the most popular anything in America, selling more than 740,000 examples. For those that love their numbers, that is more F-150s than everything Hyundai sold in the USA put together.

Redesigning the F-150 isn’t just putting Ford’s profits on the line. Hundreds of suppliers and countless employees are worried about Ford’s aluminum gamble.

First let’s talk aluminum. There seems to be plenty of confusion about the first “all aluminum pickup.” Here’s the deal: the F-150 is aluminum bodied. If you were worried about how an aluminum frame would hold up, fear not, the F-150’s body rides on a high strength steel frame, which is half the reason for the high towing and payload numbers. The other half is the aluminum body. Although, there has been plenty of argument about the supposed 700 pound weight saving, Ford does say that about 450 lbs comes from the aluminum body alone. In a simplistic sense, for every pound you take out of the body, you can put it right back in the form of payload. This is the single largest reason the F-150 has payload figures that are 400-600 lbs higher than comparable GM and RAM models.

The majority of the body is made of 6000-series aluminum, which is about 33% lighter than sheet steel of the same thickness. Ford heat treats most of the F-150’s aluminum panels to improve strength and saves a little bit of money by using less expensive 5000-series aluminum in areas like the cab floor and interior parts. According to an engineer at BAE Systems, aluminum also has better dent, ding and corrosion resistance than steel, which is why it is used in military vehicles where those properties are important. If you’re thinking about how easily an aluminum soda can bends, a steel can of that same thickness would dent easier and, according to the engineers, shatter more easily. This is a huge benefit in the bed of the F-150, where Ford was able to make the panels thicker and still save weight. The bugaboo of course is the cost of repair. Body shops have less experience with aluminum, it’s more expensive to replace and labor costs are higher at the moment.

2015 Ford F-158

Exterior
As you’d expect from a modern American pickup, the F-150 is bigger, bolder and angrier up front than the model it replaces. If you’re willing to pony up the cash, Ford will sell you the segment’s first full-LED headlamps, but I found the headlamp brightness to be somewhat lackinglike all the main players in this segment. Out back we find a new tailgate design that is not only lighter because it’s aluminum but also damped like the Japanese competition so it doesn’t slam down on you. The benefit of an aluminum tailgate is immediately evident as it was much easier to close than the competition even though our model had the integrated tailgate step.

Although I think the RAM is attractive, the growing overbite is a design I’d have left on the cutting room floor, and GM’s square wheel arches have always made me scratch my head. Therefore the pickup aesthetics award goes to Ford since the 2015 model brings just enough “butch” without looking ridiculous.

2015 Ford F-166

Interior
When designing a vehicle that spans from $26,100 to over $62,000 there will invariably be trade offs. If you use the same core interior parts in all models, you have to either be willing to make the base models look and feel more expensive, or be willing to have some hard plastics in the top end trims. Ford, like GM and Chrysler, chose the latter. This means that our nearly fully-equipped Platinum model sported real wood trim and soft leather, but inches away were hard plastic door panels and trim pieces. Note: that’s not a negative, it’s simply a statement of fact. Personally, I don’t have a problem Ford’s use of hard plastics because that’s the norm in the pickup truck segment. It would only be a problem if nobody else was doing it.

While I think the RAM’s interior is better looking, especially in the brown and tan version, the F-150 is the king of the hill in terms of parts quality, especially in the platinum trim where you get acres of aluminum trim and fit and finish beats the competition. While I found the base front seats in the Silverado to be more comfortable than the Ford, the Platinum model gets Ford’s massaging and anti-fatigue system. Basically, it’s the same system we saw in the Lincoln MKS. Ford places several air bags inside the seat bottom and back cushion that are tied to a compressor and computer-controlled valve system. In addition to providing multi-way adjustable lumbar support, the software can inflate and deflate the bags in sequence to “massage” your back and improve leg circulation. At first, it just seemed like the truck was slowly groping my bottom, but after an hour and a half in the seat I was hooked. Most luxury cars with similar systems only run for 15 to 20 minutes, but the Ford system stays on until you turn off the car or the compressor noise gets to you.

 

2015 Ford F-162Infotainment
Ford’s touchscreen infotainment system is slated to be replaced by the highly anticipated SYNC 3 system as soon as next year. Until then, the F-150 soldiers on with the same infotainment systems we’ve seen for some time. Base models get a 4.2-inch color LCD radio with SYNC voice recognition software and 4-speakers. Top end trucks jump to 11 speakers (with a subwoofer) and the screen grows to an 8-inch touchscreen with navigation, satellite and HD radio.

Dropping LCDs into the instrument cluster is all the rage, and Ford has three to choose from. Base models get a small 2.3-inch LCD, mainly for trip computer functions; mid-level trucks use a 4.2-inch LCD and top end trims get customizable 8-inch display. Compared to the RAM and Chevy disco dashes, the Ford LCD looks more polished and was more responsive than the system in the Chevy

Drivetrain
The big three have chosen different paths to fuel efficiency nirvana. Chrysler is doubling down on the ZF 8-speed automatic, GM designed a new family of 6 and 8 cylinder engines with aggressive cylinder deactivation and Ford has chosen a two prong strategy with aluminum bodies and small displacement turbo V6 engines.

smart-trailer-moduleThe engine lineup starts with Ford’s familiar 3.5L V6 used in everything from the Explorer to the Taurus. Good for 283 horsepower and 255 lb-ft, the V6 is a little down on power vs the Chrysler 3.6L V6 and certainly less “torquey” than GM’s new pickup-only 4.3L V6. Instead of a V8, the next stop is a 325 horsepower 2.7L V6 with twin turbos. While that sounds down on power vs the GM 5.3L V8, keep in mind the Ford is lighter than the Chevy and the 375 lb-ft of torque comes to the boil sooner and hangs out longer than GM’s V8. Chrysler’s 5.7L HEMI and 8-speed automatic yield better power, torque and 0-60 performance, but fuel economy is drastically lower.

Next up is the only V8 on offer, but it’s not the top-end engine option. Producing 385 horsepower a 387 lb-ft, the 5.0L produces more torque just above idle and over 3,000 RPM, but at certain speeds the 2.7L actually beats the V8. The halo engine is the same 3.5L twin-turbo V6 we have seen for a while. For 2015, it’s tuned to 365 ponies and 420 lb-ft of twist but Ford has implied it will get some significant updates for the upcoming Raptor.

15F150-3.5L-EcoBoost_01_HR

All four engines are mated to a 6-speed automatic and available four-wheel-drive. This puts Ford two speeds behind most RAM models and the 6.2L Chevy which finally gets GM’s heavy-duty 8-speed. The Raptor will receive Ford’s new 10-speed automatic and we should see that filter down to other V6 models, but Ford hasn’t said when. In the mean time, the most efficient F-150 is the RWD 2.7L Ecoboost model at 22 MPG combined while the least efficient, the 5.0L V8 4×4, rings in at 17 MPG combined. Meanwhile the Chevy ranges from 17-20 (despite the cylinder deactivation on the 4.3L V6) and the RAM runs from 15-24 thanks to a thirsty 5.7L V8 and the fuel sipping diesel at the top end.

2015 Ford F-155

Drive
Although the F-150 was put on a diet, the base V6 still feels a bit sluggish compared to the competition. RAM’s heavier 1500 has a hair more torque, a lower first gear and 33% more gears to choose from overall. GM’s 4.3L V6 offers considerably more low-end torque which allows it to feel peppier when towing.

Of course, the naturally-aspirated V6 and V8 engines are arguably less important to the F-150 shopper since a whopping 63% of sales have been twin-turbo equipped. Ford hasn’t broken out sales of the 2.7 and 3.5L Ecoboost engines separately, but I suspect the new 2.7L engine is quiet popular. While our tester was 3.5L equipped, I spent a day in a dealer provided 2.7L model for comparisons.

Although the 3.5L Ecoboost is fun, I think the 2.7 fits my needs better. The turbos largely make up for the slight torque reduction you get compared to the competition’s V8s, and although the 5.7L HEMI and 8-speed auto are faster and nicer to tow with, the 2.7L engine is quite simply the most well-rounded truck engine out there. There’s more than enough torque for towing 7,500 lb trailers with ease, dropping 2,000 lbs into the bed, or piling the kids into your SuperCab. Over 110 miles in the 2.7L RWD tester, I averaged 21 MPG, below the EPA numbers but still above the V8 competition.

2015 Ford F-153

The 3.5L twin-turbo engine allows up to 12,200 lbs of towing in some configurations thanks to the healthy torque figures. 0-60 times came in at 6.45 seconds, among the faster times in this segment, but thanks to GM’s new 8-speed automatic, the 6.2L  Silverado is fastest. Fuel economy in the 3.5L Ecoboost model was lackluster, coming in at 16.4 MPG during our week, nearly 1MPG behind the 2014 6.2L Silverado before GM added the 8-speed to the mix.

Apples to apples comparisons are hard because of the multitude of cab, bed, axle, tire, wheel and drive line choices in all the trucks in this segment, but you can bet if everything were equal, the F-150 would be the handling champ simply because it is lighter. When it comes to the ride, the RAM 1500 wins hands down due to the coil springs in the rear and the available cushy air suspension system.

I hinted about it earlier, but the main benefit to the reduced curb weight of the F-150 is not fuel economy but load capability. It’s most obvious when we compare like model to like model as shown below. All three models are within $1,000 of one another with the F-150 being the most expensive at $43,950 and the RAM the least expensive at $43,010. I chose the 2.7L V6 in the Ford because it is seen as the alternative to an entry-level V8.

F-150 TowingFord advertises a maximum 3,300 lb payload capacity and 12,200 lb towing limit, but like every other truck, most configurations are below the maximum. The take away here is that the payload is consistently higher than the competition. Keeping in mind that the payload is the total of cargo and passengers, it is easy to see how this improves practicality. In the F-150 you and your two 190-pound friends can grab 1,500 lbs of concrete at Home Depot with ease. In the Ram or Chevy you’d have to make two trips. Opt for the 5.0L V8, and the payload jumps to 3,020 pounds and towing increases to 9,200 in the same configuration. If that’s not enough the 3.5L Ecoboost will tow 10,700 in approximately the same configuration. You should note that conventional towing over 10,000 pounds will require a commercial Class-A or non-commercial Class-A license in some states, so depending on where you live, towing over 10,000 may not be material.

If my money were on the line, I suspect I would be torn between the 2.7L F-150 and the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel. In that mash-up, the EcoDiesel with the air suspension would be my choice largely because I tow more than I haul and the EcoDiesel not only has a higher tow rating but the way it tows it also superior thanks to the epic torque and the 8-speed automatic. Does that make the RAM the better truck? No, it’s just the one that suits my need better. After a week with the F-150, I have to say the 2.7L engine is a 10-speed automatic away from perfection and the 3.5L Ecoboost would be perfect if the fuel economy was 4 MPG better.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.4 Seconds

0-60: 6.45 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.12 Seconds @ 92.56 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 16.4 MPG

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2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Review – The Loneliest Number http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-volkswagen-jetta-tdi-review-the-loneliest-number/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-volkswagen-jetta-tdi-review-the-loneliest-number/#comments Thu, 18 Jun 2015 11:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1094945 Diesel torque? Fuel efficiency? Compact three-box sheetmetal? You only have two non-premium choices in the U.S.: the Chevrolet Cruze and this, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI. That’s a serious dearth of variety. Even after expanding body style and size limitations to mid-size sedans, hatchbacks, and coupes, that still only includes two brands offering up all of […]

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2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (4 of 8)

Diesel torque? Fuel efficiency? Compact three-box sheetmetal? You only have two non-premium choices in the U.S.: the Chevrolet Cruze and this, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI.

That’s a serious dearth of variety.

Even after expanding body style and size limitations to mid-size sedans, hatchbacks, and coupes, that still only includes two brands offering up all of the available diesel cars in the non-premium bracket. More importantly, Volkswagen has embedded itself into the collective diesel consciousness and Chevrolet isn’t even a blip on the radar. You need to actively think of today’s diesel options before you remember the Cruze even exists.

VW’s ingrained diesel association and the Jetta’s more affordable compression-ignition cost of entry compared to the Cruze shows in the sales numbers. The Jetta TDI outsells the Cruze 2.0TD by more than 5 to 1. In fact, GM sells so few Cruze diesels, a California DMV employee is more likely to register a new e-Golf – yes, the all-electric VW Golf that wasn’t even on sale last year – or the California compliance Fiat 500e than a Cruze diesel.

So, when it comes to arrive-and-drive-away compact diesel sedans, there’s only one real option. But, does that alone make the Jetta worth buying?


The Tester

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI SEL [USA]/Highline [Canada]

Engine: 2.0L DOHC I4, turbodiesel w/ intercooler, direct injection (150 horsepower @ 3500-4000 rpm, 236 lbs-ft @ 1750-3000 rpm)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, DSG with Tiptronic

Fuel Economy (Rating, MPG): 31 city/46 highway/36 combined
Fuel Economy (Observed, MPG): 42 mpg, approx. 60% highway

Options: Technology Package (Canada, similar to Driver Assistance and Lighting Package in the U.S.)

As Tested (U.S.): $30,020 (sheet)
As Tested (Canada): $33,890 (sheet)


2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (2 of 8)

After four years of taking its beatings over the decontented sixth-generation Jetta, Volkswagen has said they’ve had enough and won’t be phoning it in anymore. For 2015, the Jetta receives a laundry list of improvements as part of a mid-cycle refresh – though you wouldn’t know it to look the compact sedan square in the face. While it might be cliche, it’s what’s inside the Jetta that counts.

For starters, the Jetta receives a new version of the ubiquitous 2.0L TDI I4, now pumping out 150 hp and 236 lbs-ft of torque, up 10 hp over last year. Even with the power uptick, the new engine will stretch a tank of diesel farther than before, now rated at 36 mpg combined versus 34 mpg pre-refresh. This particular tester, the exact same Jetta our resident sales expert Tim Cain tested back in March, returned a stellar 42 mpg in my hands. Tim did even better at 44.4 mpg, though this is likely down to Mr. Cain’s home being located in a suburban neighborhood versus my more urban digs.

While fuel economy and torque are key with diesels, I’d have given up a bit of either – or both – for improved drivability. The Jetta refused to wake up when given a moderate application of throttle from a standing start. Yes, it’s a diesel. I get it. However, even during multiple attempts to compensate for the Jetta’s lack of gumption by giving it more pedal only resulted in some fairly embarrassing launches that caused my passenger to question my chosen profession. Over the span of a week, I did eventually find a happy medium, but it was finicky at best and didn’t inspire much in the way of confidence as I tried to navigate intersections with heavy cross traffic.

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (5 of 8)

On the bright side, shifts from the 6-speed DSG automatic were as crisp as one could hope and completely devoid of the abrupt engagements felt in the ZF-sourced automatics found equipped in some Chrysler and Land Rover products. Also, since CVT isn’t part of the Volkswagen lexicon in North America, we don’t have to listen to the hollow, shiftless version of the diesel inline-four’s drone.

Ride quality rates fair with road imperfections exacerbated by 17-inch wheels and thin sidewalled rubber. However, thanks to suspension upgrades over the past few years, the Jetta is at least a better handler than before. While you’re not about to start another Jetta TDI Cup with the latest batch of sixth-generation sedans, it could actually be called fun to drive, even if it felt a bit heavy in the bends.

What wasn’t fun were the brakes. While it might have been just this particular tester, the first inch or so of pedal travel was soft and lacked any kind of engagement. This wasn’t the first diesel VW I’ve experienced laden with squishy brake pedal syndrome, but I can’t really find or explain a cause. It was easily rectified by just giving it more pedal and I never once felt in any danger of not stopping.

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (6 of 8)

Just like the Jetta’s driving dynamics, the interior is a mixed bag. While all the materials in this top spec model were of a much higher calibre than those of just a couple years back, there were still some glaring deficiencies.

For starters, the infotainment system was a bust. If you really like a sharp looking 7- or 8-inch display sitting proudly within the dash, look elsewhere. The Jetta got nuthin’ for you. Same with USB ports. Not a single one to be found in the VW. And before you say, “But VW said they’ll be putting them in next year!”, you’ve just proved my point – wait until next year because 2015 doesn’t cut it.

On the bright side, this sunroof-equipped Jetta did surprise me in one very important way: I had head room. At 6-foot-1, I am not a giant, but I am far from being short and can greatly appreciate headroom in cars equipped with sunroofs. Yes, I do put my seat all the way to the floor when I can, but some other cars still encroach my aerial space in the same seating configuration. Also, having my butt on the floor wasn’t the only position in which I felt comfortable. I found no less than three different seating/steering wheel positions where I felt completely at ease. If there’s one thing this car had, it was adjustability for drivers of all shapes and sizes.

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (1 of 8)

Speaking of shapes, the Jetta still rocks a classic three-box sedan look that’s slowly becoming extinct in the compact segment. As most of VW’s competitors are chasing sloping roofs and higher beltlines, Volkswagen is content with its conservative approach. That’s not a bad decision. Critics have been quick to point out the Jetta is a bit dull looking, but I think this is all by design, literally and figuratively. I challenge you to point to any of the previous Jetta designs and say they haven’t aged gracefully. Individual Jettas in the real world, well, that’s a different story.

Does the Cruze offer up anything to justify the need to hunt one down versus just showing up at any VW dealer and signing on the dotted like for a TDI? Nope. You still have more options with the Jetta, even a manual transmission if you so choose.

That doesn’t mean you should buy the TDI. The 1.8 TSI is now the superior choice for the fuel agnostic. However, if you are dead set on an oil burner, this is the only viable compact sedan option, for better or for worse.

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2015 Opel Adam Rocks European Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-opel-adam-rocks-european-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-opel-adam-rocks-european-review/#comments Tue, 16 Jun 2015 15:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1089305 They call it the first A-segment CUV in the world, which should be enough to make you run in the opposite direction. An SUV the size of a Fiat 500 is something that should never exist on any planet I want to live on. But, surprisingly, after driving one for a week, I realized that […]

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They call it the first A-segment CUV in the world, which should be enough to make you run in the opposite direction. An SUV the size of a Fiat 500 is something that should never exist on any planet I want to live on. But, surprisingly, after driving one for a week, I realized that it may, in fact, have a point and a purpose.

And I came close to answering the crucial question – would Opel Adam Rocks make a good Buick David? Or would it be better to import something bigger?

Being European and a motoring journalist, I’m not a big fan of CUVs. I prefer my hatchbacks and wagons to sit low, how they’re supposed to, and not to try being something they’re not. Some jacked up wagons – Volvo XC70 and Škoda Octavia Scout come to mind – are better than standard versions, but those are the exceptions.

So why make a CUV out of a tiny little car? Why would anyone want an off-road city hatchback? What’s the point of putting plastic cladding and lifted suspension on a car that will probably spend its life on boulevards?

To answer these questions, I borrowed an Opel Adam Rocks for a week. In marketing speak, the Adam Rocks is a CUV based on the Opel Adam – which means someone put some plastics on already expensive, very small car, lifted its suspension 15 mm (slightly over half an inch), added a sliding canvas top and called it a new car, massively increasing the price in the process.

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The interesting part is the Adam itself is not exactly a cheap car. Depending on the market, it costs about the same as the one-size-bigger Corsa, or a few thousand Euros more. In Czech Republic, it is almost as expensive as the Astra family hatchback (that’s the one the Verano is based on). Unlike the Volkswagen Up!, Renault Twingo and Peugeot 108, it’s not meant to be cheap city transportation. It’s meant to be stylish and to go after the Fiat 500 and Citroën DS3 and after people who bought the Mini before it turned into the Maxi.

Judging by what I see in the streets, it hasn’t worked, but that’s because Czechs haven’t really warmed up to the concept of an expensive small car and buy Škoda Fabias instead. In Western Europe, it’s apparently a sales success, which has emboldened Opel’s marketing department to think of more ways to milk money from their A-segment cash cow. Or at least I think it was the marketing dept., because I can’t imagine an engineer inventing such a thing as the Adam Rocks.

It may also be a good way to capitalize on the American obsession with CUVs and endear the tiny Adam to a new audience on the New Continent; maybe even improve the CAFE numbers for Buick’s truck fleet.

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So I did my usual thing and imagined that I’m driving a Buick David instead of an Opel Adam. Would such a thing work? Could it improve Buick’s image? Wouldn’t it be better to make a Buick out of the bigger, cheaper Corsa instead?

Surprisingly, the last question was the easiest one. The new Corsa is touted as “all-new”, but it’s really an old model with a duckface stuck to the front and some new technology. The engine is brilliant (more about that later), but overall, it’s just an average European small hatchback. It’s not as good at playing the “big car” thing as Škoda Fabia, and it’s far less fun to drive than Mazda2. And it’s too close to the Aveo in most areas.

So, the Adam it is. But would it work? And would the Adam Rocks be better than the normal one?

I was very skeptical about this, but it took just a first few miles through Prague to change my opinion. Prague, being a large, old and crowded capital, has really terrible street surfaces. And while the raised suspension probably won’t help you on any off-road adventure, it does help on cobblestones, tram tracks and other urban obstacles. Even on the fancy (and ugly at the same time) 17” wheels, the Adam was fairly comfortable – or at least as comfortable as you can reasonably expect of a car with the wheelbase of a matchbox. It still rocks and bobs on road undulations, but it’s quite smooth, all things considered. And on some reasonable wheels (15-inches would be great) it would be really comfy.

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Unlike the Corsa, which is notable for the tendency of its rear to hop and jump on broken surfaces so much it loses contact with the road, the Adam Rocks is quite sophisticated and well-mannered. The steering is a bit too sharp, but otherwise, the Adam Rocks is a nice car to dart around in, especially thanks to the wonderful engine.

The one-liter, three-cylinder turbo engine is probably the feature of the Adam that’s least likely to appear on the American market, but it’s also the best part of the package. I like downsized turbo engines in small cars, a lot. I loved the first 1.0 EcoBoost, and I’m pretty fond of VAG’s 1.2 TSI. But this one is the best I’ve driven so far. Like the EcoBoost or the TSI, it has lots of grunt in the low and mid range, and it’s even smoother than the Ford’s inline three. But at the same time, it is almost as revvy and as fun as 1.5 SkyActiv in Mazda2 that I loved so much in my previous review.

It was slightly more engaging in the Corsa than the Adam, probably because the engine is louder in the former, while everything else is quieter – which is probably result of the Adam’s canvas top causing significant aerodynamic noise. But in the lighter Adam, it was a perfect engine for the type of driver who’s likely to buy one. No matter the revs, it pulls – which makes it easier to forget about its slightly sub-par gear action and the engine would probably work very nicely with an automatic transmission.

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The engine, in fact, does a great impression of a much larger mill – it’s quiet and torquey enough for an ordinary driver to think it’s a 2.0 or something similar, nicely complementing the car’s premium attitude. Unlike Corsa (and our Corsa press loaner was pretty much top-of-the-line), the Adam manages to convey at least some kind of luxury feel inside. Sufficiently nice leather is present not only on seats and steering wheel, but also on the door panels, center armrest and other parts of the interior that can be ordered in a cool black/white combination. The instruments have cool red needles, there’s chrome everywhere and everything feels “near-luxurious”. You will also find some features quite uncommon in such a small car, like a heated steering wheel.

On the other hand, most of the switchgear is still quite obviously sourced from the GM parts bin, and it’s quite apparent that striving for a “premium feel” was limited to the places most visible, while anything out of your immediate sight is your typical Opel/GM stuff. I didn’t notice that one of the HVAC control knobs has a different feel and sound than than others, but our photographer did – and the kind of person who pays almost $25,000 (including VAT, $20,000 without tax) for a tiny car probably will, too. The infotainment system feels like it was lifted from some $15,000 econobox, with its stupid controls and lack of proper buttons for anything, including the radio volume.

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Verdict

The Adam is not perfect, and the lifted Adam Rocks is probably even less so. But if Buick wants to aim at young urban customers in America, this may be its best shot at the moment. Being the only CUV in the segment (Mini Paceman and Fiat 500X are huge in comparison) would be a massive advantage, and Adam can also appeal to those who want a stylish small car, but hate the whole retro thing, which is getting a bit old by now. It also comes with an engine able to give it either Prius-like fuel economy or power required by a typical American driver, though not both (spirited driving sends fuel economy from almost 50 mpg to less than 30 mpg). And, last but not the least for those of us who believe brands should keep their mojo, with its soft suspension and torquey engine, it still feels a bit like a Buick, however tiny it is.

@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, www.Autickar.cz. After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives an Alfa 164 Diesel he got for free. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

Photography: David Marek

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2015 Can-Am Spyder F3-S Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/review-2015-can-spyder-f3-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/review-2015-can-spyder-f3-s/#comments Mon, 15 Jun 2015 13:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1090953 Let the record show that, on the morning that I rode one hundred and seven miles each way to ride the new Cam-Am Spyder F3-S, I nearly dropped my motorcycle. I’m still not quite sure how it happened. Something like this: I was turning my VFR800 Anniversary Edition around on the slope of my driveway. […]

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Let the record show that, on the morning that I rode one hundred and seven miles each way to ride the new Cam-Am Spyder F3-S, I nearly dropped my motorcycle.

I’m still not quite sure how it happened. Something like this: I was turning my VFR800 Anniversary Edition around on the slope of my driveway. My left foot slipped on a bit of oil or maybe just water and the whole 539-pound machine fell as my foot continued to slide. About a tenth of a second before it would have been too late, I caught some traction with the outside of my heel and then all I had to do was arrest the slide with my left arm. It felt like deadlifting twice my weight and, for a moment, I thought my thrice-broken left wrist was going to snap again and add a medical bill to the cost of a replacement fairing.

When everything came to a halt and I’d yanked the VFR to vertical, I paused for a moment to consider the following: I’m forty-three years old, I’ve broken eighty-plus bones, and the day that I drop a motorcycle is coming fast. So with that in mind, I clutched in, grabbed first gear, and headed north to meet what I was now quite happy to think of as an un-droppable motorcycle.


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This is my cellphone shot of the F3-S, but because the trike has so many edges and curves, and because there were so many other trikes around, it’s not easy to see what it actually looks like. Let’s use a PR photo, shall we?

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It’s really quite handsome in an odd way and very different from the Spyder RS that I absolutely hated when I rode it a bit over four years ago.

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Fox shocks…

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Brembo brakes. What else can you get for $20,999 that has this kind of equipment? Oh, and it had cruise control, apparently. The contrast-color trellis frame has the same appeal here that it has on a Ducati or KTM sportbike. You can see plenty of the engine, which is not the case with the other members of the Spyder family.

To push the Spyder’s 850-pound dry weight, Can-Am offers a Rotax-badged 1330 cc triple capable of putting out 115 horsepower and 96 pound-feet of torque. That’s as much motor as you can get in a Spyder, and it’s the same one that pushes the full-dresser RT tourer now, but we live in an era where most sport-touring motorcycles have over 150 horsepower. Even my conservative old-man VFR has 110 horsepower. So if you’re expecting to keep up with your neighbor’s Beemer K1600GT or Kawaski Concours-14 as they rip to 10.3-second quarter miles, you should walk right past the Spyder and ask for the Yamaha V-Max.

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Before I was allowed to ride the Spyder F3-S on public roads, I had to complete a small autocross course with it. Really just an oval with a small chicane down the back straight, intended to be taken at about 15 mph. I negotiated it easily, remembering that the Spyder doesn’t steer like a motorcycle. The fellow who was coaching the novices gave me a solid piece of Can-Am advice I wish I’d gotten back in 2011: “Push the outside end of the handlebars away from you to turn instead of pulling on the inside handlebar.” This also gives you some leverage to get your body moved over to the inside of the turn, which is absolutely necessary if you don’t want to just roll over into a ditch.

Having completed Spyder School without incident, I was then allowed to choose my Spyder. I picked a grey one with the six-speed manual transmission. The majority of Spyders, I am told, are sold with the electronically activated semi-auto. I had no fear of stalling it as I headed down the road for my lead-follow thirty-minute test ride. Only a moron could stall this thing. It’s all torque and no action. I was the second rider of a four-trike group in which both the lead and last rider were Can-Am employees, but the fellow in front wasn’t inclined to take it easy on me and I soon found myself using full throttle to keep up.

The back roads around Lodi, Ohio are rather beautiful. There’s a lake and there’s some elevation change and there are a bunch of great curves and, in short, it’s a completely fucking terrifying place in which to ride a Can-Am Spyder. To begin with, the roads have heavy crown and they’re narrow. On a motorcycle you’d deal with this by riding the centerline unless there was traffic; in a car you’d just deal with it period. But the Spyder wanted to fall into the ditch all the time and my instinctive countersteering motions just helped it in this goal.

With that said, the new seating position in the F3 really helps matters compared to the Spyder RS I rode in Atlanta. You’re sitting in the trike, not on it. The footrests are ahead, not under. It’s much like a Harley V-Rod in that way and the footpegs are adjustable to make sure you can stretch out as you like. The lower seat really helps you lean in the turns and, as a result, the F3 never feels quite as ornery as the older Spyders. The swept-back bars are similar to the ones found in the newer touring bikes, and they’re chock-full of controls, including a button that you must press in order to be allowed to start the bike. “Pressing the button signifies that you’ve read the owner’s manual,” I was told.

“I can in no way see that holding up in court, especially since the button is labeled ‘ECO’,” I replied. Nevertheless, you have to do it.

There’s an electric parking brake. But there’s no hand brake lever. Only a big rubber pedal for your right foot. This alone was almost enough to cause me to crash the Spyder no fewer than four times. I don’t use the rear brake foot lever on my motorcycles. Maybe once a ride to clean off the machinery, but that’s it. My VFR has linked brakes, so squeezing the front brake applies the back brake a bit, and my CB550 has a near-totally useless drum back there that I only activate when it’s raining. Time and again I found myself squeezing air when it was time to stop. If you want proof that the Spyder is meant for “cagers”, there you go. No hand brake. How hard would it be to add one as an option? Well, the Can-Am has ABS to go with its ESP, so maybe pretty hard.

My next beef with the trike was this: In a car, you only need to find two smooth lines in a bumpy rural road. On a bike, you only need one. But a trike needs three. If there’s a pothole or a pavement wave out there, a Spyder can find it, and the steering geometry seems ideally suited to following grooves in the road. So I was constantly struggling to keep it going straight on the frost-heaved Ohio two-lane. Now were you to find yourself on a freeway, you’d appreciate the stability of three wheels against wind and fatigue – but ripping down a twisty backroad, it’s miserable.

I also noticed that applying full throttle on said backroads with pavement waves and ripples was quite exciting, causing me to hang off the thing left and right like I was in the original version of Mad Max. Luckily, the F3-S isn’t a Hayabusa and the same amount of twist that gets the VFR to 110 or more only shoves the Spyder to maybe 65-70. If a modern V-6 Camry wants to run you for pink slips, be aware that you’re in what the old hands at the dragstrip call a “driver’s race.”

On the positive side of things, the transmission could not be easier to use. I found myself bumping past neutral into first a lot, but that just speaks to

a) me being a cack-footed moron who rides a 1975 CB550 in traffic
b) the excellence of Can-Am’s synchros.

Less fun is the difficulty I had operating the throttle smoothly while still using the handlebars for leverage. This is where you’re spoiled on a motorcycle because unless you’re in the middle of the Isle of Man TT you really aren’t leaning on the bars very much. I can operate the VFR with fingertips only on the bars at well over 100 mph but you’d be a fool to do something like that on the Spyder. So in left turns I kept over-throttling. This is called “whiskey throttle” by experienced trike riders, apparently. And when you do it, the front end gets light because hey, you’re accelerating HARD. Which reduces the front end’s ability to turn. Scary as hell.

Several times I thought I was going to get the Patrick George Award For Crashing A Vehicle During A Lead-Follow Event, but each time I managed to huck my big ass off the seat in the right direction and calm things down. I got not a single bit better at this during the course of the half hour.

The end of the test ride came not a moment too soon for my personal satisfaction. I respect this machine, but I don’t enjoy riding it and I think it would take me a long time to learn how to operate it safely. “You sure liked that center line,” smirked the Can-Am fellow who was leading the ride.

“Well, being away from it, toward the white line on the side, scared the shit out of me.” He smirked again. I felt like telling him that I’d driven the Zanardi line at Laguna Seca to take first in a race, then realized I didn’t care what he thought of me and neither did he. At that point, I was 100% done with the whole idea of the Spyder.

But as I walked around the Can-Am tent and saw the people who were showing up for the next lead-follow ride, I noticed that most of them were not what I think of as “bikers”. They were older, they were female. More than a few of them didn’t have their “M” endorsement. There were two different African-American couples that were interested in the Spyder RT full-dresser, and they shared with me that they liked the idea of it being stable on the freeway.

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As I got back on my Interceptor 800, which to my immense relief steers in the direction I’m leaning and responds to my wishes without any particular force on my part, I thought about how much longer I could ride something like this. My wrists hurt a bit from the hundred-plus mile ride up and my hands had been a bit numb when I arrived at the demo-ride area. With one more serious joint injury I’ll be done with motorcycling as I know it – or maybe another decade’s worth of arthritis and joint degradation, to say nothing of my right ACL’s refusal to magically reappear, will call time on my riding aspirations. At the age of 23, I could ride my Ninja from dawn till dusk. At 28, I could ride my YZF600R five hundred miles then go for a mountain-bike sprint. Today, at 43 years of age, I can still ride three or four hundred miles in a day if I’m careful. Where will I be when I’m sixty? Confined to my 911 or Boxster or maybe a Corvette droptop? How will I feel about the Can-Am Spyder’s freeway stability and relaxed riding position and relatively modest pace then?

On Route 71, heading down a tree-lined section that I’ve long used as a free-fire zone of personal irresponsibility, I leaned over the tank and twisted the Honda’s throttle from my 85 mph cruising pace. One hundred. One ten. One twenty. One thirty. I felt good. As the end of the wooden section approached, complete with a crossover where the Ohio Highway Patrol loves to sit, I crossed into the middle lane and sat up, using my Fieldsheer-clad bulk to airbrake down below go-to-jail speed. Not a problem. I’m not too old to ride this thing, not too frail. Not yet.

But a few miles later, as I alternated the pressure of my weight between my hands to keep the tingles out, I saw a fellow on an old GoldWing conversion trike heading the other way, across the median. He saw me. And he didn’t just do the little nod that bikers do, or the dropped-two-finger cooler-than-thou salute. He actually waved. With his whole arm. It was hopeful, it was friendly, it suggested that we were brothers of a sort, pursuing the idea of being out in the elements and doing our own thing, albeit in different fashion.

I looked up, saw the sun illuminating the white clouds, then I, too, raised my whole hand. And waved. As I will to Spyder drivers, the next time I see one.

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2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-ford-mustang-ecoboost-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-ford-mustang-ecoboost-review/#comments Fri, 12 Jun 2015 15:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1084361 I’m giddy like a school girl when the Mustang shows up. This is my ride to southern New Jersey for the 24 Hours of Lemons race, and it’s a perfect tool for the job. I think the new Mustang looks much better in person than pictures. This color combination is love at first sight. Upon closer inspection, it has the coveted […]

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I’m giddy like a school girl when the Mustang shows up. This is my ride to southern New Jersey for the 24 Hours of Lemons race, and it’s a perfect tool for the job.

I think the new Mustang looks much better in person than pictures. This color combination is love at first sight. Upon closer inspection, it has the coveted Performance Package, and a peek inside reveals its optional Recaro seats and, most importantly, a proper six-speed manual transmission! Yes, the car Gods have smiled upon me.

Yet, the biggest surprise is when I start the engine…

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…which sounds like the Ford Escape.

Yup – it’s the new four-cylinder Mustang EcoBoost. That deep V8 tone, pronounced by a sweet rumble at start-up that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, is gone. Instead, I get the sound and fury of a CUV.

I keep an open mind because surely no one at Ford would put this four-banger into a Mustang if it’s anything but great. To be honest, to me, this is the most interesting engine of the three available, if for no other reason than I simply don’t not know what to expect.

Right away, this engine feels different than most sporty turbocharged fours. For one, it feels heavy. It does not rev very freely, as if there is a heavy flywheel attached. Interestingly, I said the exact same thing of the 1.0-liter three-cylinder in the Fiesta. Secondly, the torque curve is very flat and without much lag, both good. Ford says the engine’s peak 320 lb.-ft. is available between 2500 and 4500 rpm. There are 310 horsepower at 5500 rpm and it seems to drop off when approaching the redline.

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Accompanying that power from 2500 rpm up is the sweet sound of turbo whistle – quite addictive. During street acceleration or highway passing, this engine whistles blissfully while pulling hard, and it almost makes up for the lack of the V8 sound. Almost. But I question the noise: is it organic or is Ford fooling me?

So it’s got torque, but is it fast? That’s depends on your definition of fast. Buff books say the EcoBoost ‘Stang will achieve 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds and complete the quarter in 13.9 seconds. That was fast some years ago, but today that’s hardly quick; a V6 Accord is just two tenths slower through the traps. The EcoBoost Mustang requires persuasion to really move fast, whereas a V8 engine would seemingly have all the power, all the time.

Even when driven in anger, I wouldn’t go racing any V8 Mustangs and, trust me, every Mustang driver on the road will want to race you. Just look away. If you’re into modifying, you’ll be happy to know there are EcoBoost Mustangs running around with 400 horsepower at the rear wheels.

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Despite being the smallest of the three American muscle cars, the Mustang isn’t a small sports car, being six inches longer and two and a half inches wider than the BMW 428i coupe. It weighs 3,532 pounds, which is about 100 pounds more than the Bimmer and 170 less than an equivalent Mustang GT.

While it feels heavy, Ford has somehow managed to make this weight work, and it’s damn fun to drive on any road. Despite being at a race track, I did not have permission to do any laps in the ‘Stang, but I am certain it would do quite well with the Pirelli P-Zeros as part of the Performance Package.

What I’m disappointed with is the fact Ford went through all this effort to make the F-150 body out of aluminum but only the hood and fenders on the ‘Stang. Less weight, which one would expect in the change to a four-cylinder engine, would drive the fun factor way up. It would improve the fuel economy, too, which the EPA rates at 22 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined. On my somewhat casual New Jersey Turnpike drive I got about 27 mpg. With the overall trip average, which included the fun Merritt Parkway and crowded Bergen County, I averaged 23 mpg. For comparison, the manual V6 gets 17 mpg city and 28 highway, while the V8 manual is rated for 15 mpg city and 25 highway. Not that fuel economy is a selling point of the Mustang.

2015 ford mustang ecoboost interior details 2

The rest of the car, to be brief, is great. The Recaro seats, despite lacking side bolster adjustments or bottom cushion extension, are very comfortable for the six-foot-two me and drew cheers from the dozen guys who asked me if they could check out the car. While supportive, the seats are not difficult to get in and out of and not at all tiring over my six hour drive. Unlike the conventional seats, the Recaros are not heated or ventilated, and they don’t return to their original position after accessing the rear seat. If I had one wish, it would be for slightly more headroom for the times one is wearing a helmet. The rear seats are best suited for shorter folks.

The shifter is damn near perfect for enthusiastic driving – not too short, with only the sixth gear not always where expected; little to the right. It was as if the car wanted to shift naturally from fifth to fourth, but going into sixth requires more decisiveness, which makes sense. The clutch pedal feels a bit stiff, reminding you this is no econobox, but it is not difficult when stuck in gridlocked traffic on the George Washington Bridge approach.

2015 ford mustang ecoboost exterior details

Once seated, forward visibility is very good and much improved over the previous generation, but the side mirrors are a bit small. The dash is nicely laid out, with all controls within easy access. Some things, such as the toggle switches chrome-like trim or the “ground speed” speedometer, may not be to everyone’s taste, but everything worked very well. It has taken me many years, but I have finally warmed up to the love-it-or-hate-it, soon to be replaced MyFord Touch system, which in this car was complimented by the Shaker audio system. The HID headlights are excellent, too.

What irks me are the selectable drive and steering modes. There are four driving modes (normal, snow-wet, sport, and track) and three steering modes (comfort, normal and sport). With each restart they default to normal. I understand all automakers do this now for various reasons, but I shouldn’t need to tell my Mustang to be sporty each time I get into it. It should have two modes: Go! and LMHBSMA!, let-me-hoon-but-save-my-ass track mode.

2015 ford mustang ecoboost other details

The 2015 Mustang EcoBoost starts at $25,300. This Premium model punches it up to $29,300. The Shaker audio system is $1,795, adaptive cruise control is $1,195, Performance Package (19” wheels with Pirellis, 3.55 LSD, thicker rear sway bar, bracing, larger rotors and 4-piston front calipers, larger radiator, gauge pack) is well worth $1,995, $1,595 for Recaro seats, few other minor options and destination charge bring the price of the reviewed vehicle to $38,585. For comparison, an equally equipped GT model would cost over $5,000 more.

Minor annoyances aside, I really like this ‘Stang. I love how it looks (especially in this color combination, which seemed especially tricky to photograph). I like all the features, the fun-to-drive factor, comfort, refinement, and its surprisingly large trunk – but it does leave me somewhat puzzled. It’s not significantly lighter, cheaper, or economical than a Mustang with the proper V8 engine. It’s also not much faster than the V6. It exists so Ford can sell the Mustang around the world, but anyone who buys one anywhere will be reminded they should have gotten the V8 every time they start the engine.

2015 ford mustang ecoboost

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. He and his team were doing really great in the race right until they blew the engine

Ford Motor Company provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review. 

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China 2015: The 10 Most Impressive Chinese Carmakers at Auto Shanghai (Part 1) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/china-2015-10-impressive-chinese-carmakers-auto-shanghai-part-1/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/china-2015-10-impressive-chinese-carmakers-auto-shanghai-part-1/#comments Thu, 11 Jun 2015 12:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1070250   We ended our last overseas adventure, the Trans-Siberian Series, in Mongolia with an exploration of the best-selling cars in this cold country. I’m resuming my exploration of this part of the world, leaping South to Shanghai in China where the biennial Auto Show took place in April. Now that the dust has settled, it’s time […]

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60. Foton Tunland Big Foot

Consistently loud: Foton

We ended our last overseas adventure, the Trans-Siberian Series, in Mongolia with an exploration of the best-selling cars in this cold country. I’m resuming my exploration of this part of the world, leaping South to Shanghai in China where the biennial Auto Show took place in April.

Now that the dust has settled, it’s time to investigate the plethora of Chinese carmakers at the show (over 40) and trim it down to the 10 most impressive. It’s an abashedly subjective ranking. However, know that many aspects were considered to establish it: from interior/exterior quality and design of the models revealed, the number/validity of new cars, concept cars, brochures, staff availability, savviness and friendliness, as well as whether or not they improved since last year at the Beijing Auto Show.

In brackets are the ranking I gave these manufacturers at the Beijing Auto Show in 2014.

Discover the carmakers ranked from #10 to #6 below the jump…

10. (25) Foton

Most Chinese manufacturers are so busy trying to hide their cheapskates by climb up the premium ladder with more designs and improved quality (all commendable efforts by the way) they forget to carve themselves a unique positioning in the market.

Not Foton.

The manufacturer is a heavy/medium truck specialist, notably through a joint-venture with Daimler selling its products under the Auman brand, ubiquitous on any Chinese construction site.

62. Foton Sauvana interior

Foton Sauvana interior

The brand only dabbles in the passenger car segment. In Shanghai, they launched the Sauvana SUV and the Toano van, two of their better-designed offerings to-date. The music was old-fashioned, the press conference was Wheel of Fortune-loud, the ‘Big Foot’ style Tunland pickup was obnoxious and the V3 microvan equipped with oversized speakers was booming. Yes, their positioning is totally unique among domestic (and foreign) brands present in China.

63. Foton Sauvana interior 2

Foton Sauvana interior

61. Foton V3

The Foton V3 “Nightclub” – the back door unveils the mother of all loudspeakers…

Foton is targeting the construction site set, the low hanging fruit already very familiar with their brand – whether it be the truck drivers that don’t actually own the trucks they drive, the site manager, engineer, etc. It’s smart, they know their target market, don’t shy away from it, embrace it and give this market exactly what it wants.

The Sauvana’s interior has nothing superfluous but is comfortable and sturdy. All the big Chinese lads that were wearing their sunnies inside the hall were sucked in. Everything about Foton’s delivery at Auto Shanghai was consistent. Well done.

74. Baojun 560

Baojun 560

9. (12) Baojun

Since Beijing last year, Baojun (a brand born from the SAIC-General Motors joint venture) has multiplied its monthly sales in China by 10 thanks to the most successful passenger car launch in the country’s history, the 730 MPV, now clocking up 30,000 deliveries on average each month. So you would forgive them for basking in the glorious sun for a bit. That would be underestimating Baojun. Completely unbeknownst to me and showing another stroke of genius and ballsiness, Baojun cleared all its other models from its stand, including the 730, to make room for what could soon be one of China’s best-selling SUVs: the 560.

75. Baojun 560 interior

Baojun 560 interior

The stand technically also includes the Wuling brand (specialised in microvans and MPVs) but no models were shown. With a price starting at 80,000 yuan (12,900 USD), a satisfyingly modern design and an interior quality matching the 730, the Baojun 560 has all elements needed to be a hit at home. I’m very impressed by how fast Baojun is tapping into the main trends at play in the Chinese market, namely the MPV and SUV sales surge.

76. Soueast DX7

Soueast DX7

8. (18) Soueast

Soueast is Mitsubishi’s joint venture partner to produce the Japanese manufacturer’s Chinese lineup. But Soueast is making huge progress at emancipating itself from Mitsubishi and has come a very long way since Beijing.

76. Soueast DX7 interior

Soueast DX7 interior

The hero in the Soueast stand was the DX7 SUV, the brand’s very first entrant in the booming segment, sticking very faithfully to the R7 concept presented in Beijing last year. The interior feels expensive and comfortable and I loved how the rotary shifters feel smooth and heavy under the fingers.

77. Soueast DX7 interior 2

Soueast DX7 interior

But it doesn’t stop there. The V Cross crossover had some of the best-sounding door ‘clomp’ of the Chinese industry. The Soueast range brochure, matte-covered with shiny Chinese writing, is in the Top 3 premium looking for a Chinese carmaker. And Soueast ticks the new energy box with a good-looking V5 EV presented at the Show.

Only piece of constructive feedback for Soueast would be to take a leap of faith and rid the stand of the Mitsubishi models you produce. It’s a proud signal that you can produce Japanese quality, but the honest truth is that it drives potential customers away from the brand.

You are doing it right, Soueast. The year-on-year improvement is spectacular.

78. Chana Oussan 1

Chana Oussan

7. (8) ChangAn

Relaxed presenters at the ChangAn press conference showed a confident brand. Honest interior quality and great door clomps on the ChangAn CS75 and Raeton – among the best for Chinese models – are in line with my observations on the brand last year in Beijing. ChangAn has been delivering fantastic sales results as of late. Last year, a bright pink Eado XT added a touch of playfulness. This year, an aggressive bright yellow Eado XT racecar plays a similar role. However, not including the CS75 and Raeton, most models still feel rather cheap.

79. Chana Oussan interior

Chana Oussan interior

It’s the commercial vehicle stand (where ChangAn becomes Chana) that lifts ChangAn to such a high position in my ranking. Keen hostesses gave away goodie bags to everyone passing by, and that bag tagged along with me all the way to the Russian border in Mohe before dropping dead – a good effort. A charging station keeps people inside the stand and there’s a rather cheesy activity with models dancing and jumping around. However, with this year’s imposed starlet-drought, it kept photographers happy and snapping. Big thumbs up for clearing the stand of all other models to focus on the all-new Oussan MPV – the same way Baojun did for the 560.

Chana’s Commercial Manager Allen was eager to engage in a friendly yet professional manner with me, asking all kinds of questions about my opinion of Chinese cars and what boxes they need to tick for me to be satisfied. I was the one being interviewed for once and it was rather refreshing.

When I asked him why there were no other Chana models exhibited on the stand, he had the perfect answer: “People have known these vehicles for years, so we don’t really need to show them again. If someone is interested I can give them all the information they need,” pulling out leaflets for the entire Chana lineup with a big smile.

On top of your game Allen.

80. ChangAn Raeton

ChangAn Raeton interior

The negative – as is the case for so many Chinese carmakers – is the branding: the new Oussan MPV had a Chana logo on it, whereas I was told Chana was ChangAn’s commercial vehicle arm. It, as well as the entire stand, had a distinct passenger vehicle feel. Even Allen was a little confused. Although, when you step inside the Oussan, despite the shiny tablets attached to the back of the front seats, the contrast with the sleek exterior design is blatant with a dashboard made of too much shiny plastic. In fact, it looks and feels like this is an MPV manufactured by an LCV company. Oh, wait…

80. Qoros stand

Qoros stand

6. (25) Qoros

Qoros, a joint-venture between Chery and Israel Corporation, has been touting itself as the most European of Chinese car manufacturers, hiring European designers and engineers to come up with their first offering, the 3 hatchback and sedan. Although their product is very well finished and up to European standards, they’ve sold just 39 units in 2014 in their test European country (Slovakia) and less than 4,000 at home in China. Their claims of a 150,000 units annual production capacity have made me struggle to give Qoros much credibility.

80. Qoros Phev 2 concept

Qoros PHEV 2 concept

Auto Shanghai may be the turning point to change all that. It’s one thing to claim you want to achieve European standards with your cars, but it’s another to convince people you are on the right track.

The Qoros press conference was the most culturally relatable to a foreign media audience, using a conversational format between two presenters speaking English the whole time. But the real game changer from Qoros was its stand, mimicking a European café, complete with high stools and tables, a coffee bar and waiters serving complimentary finger food. Granted, this has nothing to do with cars, but Qoros is aggressively creating a very distinct and clear brand image for itself that’s essential if it wants to achieve the bold targets it has set itself. And it worked wonders at Auto Shanghai: the Qoros stand was packed to the rafters during the entire first media day, something no other manufacturer can claim, Chinese or foreign.

80. Qoros 3

Qoros 3 crossover

Now – the cars. The bright red 3 crossover was nothing really new yet looked pretty good. The big novelty on the Qoros stand was the PHEV 2 concept, creatively going against the grain. Its confronting design turns a few conventions on their heads, one being the shape of the headlights, at a 90 degrees angle from absolutely all concept cars exhibited at Auto Shanghai. One thing though: in the midst of all this aspiring European vibe, the PHEV 2 featured big ‘made in China’ badges both on the front grille and on the back bumper, which, although obviously correct, is at odds with the rest of what Qoros is showing us here.

So are we European or Chinese Qoros?

81. Qoros stand

Qoros stand at Auto Shanghai 2015: packed to the rafters.

80. Qoros Coffee

Qoros coffee

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2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk Meets Moab: A Desert Duel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-jeep-cherokee-trailhawk-meets-moab-desert-duel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-jeep-cherokee-trailhawk-meets-moab-desert-duel/#comments Tue, 09 Jun 2015 13:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1086081 Jeeping in Moab isn’t only a neologism — it’s also a tradition. Like most traditions (anniversaries, birthdays, etc.) it’s hard to pin when the rites began, why they started, or – most importantly – why they continue. For people who live in and around Moab, Jeeping is a mostly tolerable exercise that pours money into […]

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2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab

Jeeping in Moab isn’t only a neologism — it’s also a tradition. Like most traditions (anniversaries, birthdays, etc.) it’s hard to pin when the rites began, why they started, or – most importantly – why they continue. For people who live in and around Moab, Jeeping is a mostly tolerable exercise that pours money into the small, southern Utah town that welcomes more its hikers, bikers and frequent hitchhikers to its two spectacular national parks than any rolling convoy of rock-crawling muscle.

I’m guessing very few people in the town can remember why the first person took a motorized vehicle up a beautiful geological formation and into the sand behind it.

Jeeping is also mildly entertaining for locals, up until the moment someone rolls up the hill in a car that looks like it has very little business being there. Then it becomes wonderfully fascinating for everyone.

As we began to climb, the tourists in Hummers peered over their canopied seats to witness firsthand something they may watch again later on YouTube. Jacked-up Suzukis and Wranglers pulled to the side to let us pass as their drivers looked on in disbelief. Wonderful.

And weird, which is how I felt creeping up on the slick rock and hopelessly male-affirming high-five gauntlet of “Hell’s Revenge,” a trail named far-too manly for something so desperately pretty. I guess calling it “Gorgeous Rock Formation” doesn’t get the same number of high fives.

I could see the looks on their faces at the top: No one brings a new Cherokee up here.

2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab

The miles of winding sand, slick rock and brush is hailed as a beginner’s rite of passage for off-roaders, a necessary challenge before tackling hairy-chested boulders drivers routinely tumble down.

The 2015 Jeep Cherokee, for all its grumblings and detractors, has mostly wriggled its way into the American consciousness, helping Jeep sell more cars last month than ever before (many of them were Wranglers) and finding traction in suburban parking lots all over the U.S.

Moab felt like a frontier the Cherokee should finally conquer, albeit carefully.

(Jeep brought a steady stream of international journalists to Moab to taste firsthand how an American icon crawls up another American icon. Most of the assembled foreign journalists were unaware, when it was announced, the Cherokee went over like a proverbial turd with hardcore Jeep fans — or, you know, the type of people who take their Jeeps to Moab — in the states screaming all the while. I wanted to find out if that fuss was entirely accurate. Also, there’s probably uncomfortably close-up footage of me eating salmon on Korean TV.)

A personal note: I learned how to drive in a 1984 Jeep Cherokee when I was 13 years old. The four-speed, two-door Cherokee had less power than a UN resolution and its plaid seats reeked of stale cigarettes and sweat. The driver’s seat was also broken, which made stamping the clutch impossible. I loved it.

To be fair, we weren’t exactly driving 1986 Toyota Camrys down “Fins and Things” (another famously tricky spot out in the desert). These were stock Cherokee Trailhawks, which are supposed to be tough, ready to crawl and conquer anything, and wear shirts without sleeves – or something. Jeff Hammoud, who is a Jeep design manager, talked us through the approach and departure angles of the Trailhawk (29.9 and 32.2 degrees, respectively) that translated to most of us as: “If you can see it, try it.”

2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab

The Trailhawks given to us were 3.2-liter V6 specimens with 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft of torque, which are splendid smaller-bore versions of Chrysler’s Swiss Army engine, their Pentastar V6. What differentiates the Trailhawk from other models – aside from the bright red tow hooks that look like nerdy suspenders – are the unique front and rear fascias aggressively cut back toward the wheels for better climbing angles, a 1-inch factory lift, locking rear differential (that we used exactly once) and marvelous 17-inch Firestone Destination A/T shoes that could take more torture than the entire SEAL Team Six. Those are wonderful tires.

Of course, beyond the Cherokee’s aero-friendly looks, detractors have pointed to the impossibly complicated 9-speed automatic transmission as reason enough to never buy a new Jeep again. The busy 948TE ZF box, which has been called here “as calm as Robin Williams,” has stumbled out of the gate — and that’s putting it kindly. The question on my mind was whether the box could get out of the way fast enough and let me get to banging on the Trailhawk’s skid plates.

At least, I hoped that thud was a skid plate.

Through two days and a couple hundred miles of more punishment than any vehicle should be asked to handle, the Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk soaked up horrendous heat and pounds of dust to deliver us from one postcard setting to another. With the A/C blasting, ventilated seats prohibiting pervasive, smelly man-ass from staining the cabin (and our souls) and satellite radio piping in Ed Lover, I quickly discovered this is how every explorer should traverse the desert from now on.

IMG_1051

I was reminded Jeep offers the Cherokee Trailhawk with a smaller engine – a 2.4-liter four – that I would have liked to try on the trail, but we didn’t drive those. Flogging that engine through dusty roads and up small mountains would have sent me 20 years into the past, diving through the back roads of Montana with my dad in the Bathroom Beige Jeep, which I lovingly dubbed “The Heep.”

For nearly $40,000, the Cherokee should be able to at least meet expectations — which aren’t high for most people — but the Trailhawk exceeded mine. Yes, Jeep Jamboree staff meticulously handled the trails, and the lines over technical areas were clearer than a desert sunrise, but the Cherokee can crawl over seriously tricky stuff with or without help. No, really. It can.

And the Cherokee’s only significant flaw out here wasn’t its 9-speed transmission — off-roading with low-range selected keeps it in low gears all the time, and that’s just fine — but rather its electric power rack.

After the first day, our Cherokee developed a sick front suspension (my best guess was an out-of-whack lower control arm or something, I’m not much of a wrench) that sounded like hell but drove just fine. Absolutely none of the suspension’s trauma came through the steering wheel, which led me to believe we could have completely lost the wheel and never been the wiser. It’s hard to believe the new generation Wrangler could have the same rack, but I sincerely hope not.

2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab

After two days and 14 hours of hard banging, scraping and scrambling up slick rock, we exited the trails and passed a supreme Wrangler Unlimited with an LS3 swap up front, a child seat in the rear and out-of-state plates. The woman driving, who looked to be in her late 50s, stared at our train of foreign journalists driving roughly 20 Cherokees down the red rock like a Labrador retriever stares a ceiling fan.

No one brings a new Cherokee up here, I could read on her face.

Well, they can. And I think that’s the point.

2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab

2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab 2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab 2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab 2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab 2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab 2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab 2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab 2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab 2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab 2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab 2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab 2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab

 

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2015 Infiniti Q50S Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-infiniti-q50s-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-infiniti-q50s-review-video/#comments Mon, 08 Jun 2015 14:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1078809 When Infiniti launched their original G sedan, the brand started gaining a reputation as “the Japanese BMW” due to its sharp handling and V6 engine that loved to rev. Today, the Lexus IS and Cadillac ATS have taken the 3-Series’ place as the compact luxury sedans with the sharpest handing and best feel. What of […]

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2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior

When Infiniti launched their original G sedan, the brand started gaining a reputation as “the Japanese BMW” due to its sharp handling and V6 engine that loved to rev. Today, the Lexus IS and Cadillac ATS have taken the 3-Series’ place as the compact luxury sedans with the sharpest handing and best feel. What of the Japanese BMW then? To answer that question, Infiniti sent me a 2015 Q50S with all the options, including the controversial steer-by-wire system.

It’s my opinion the run-away sales success of the 3-Series (142,000 sold in the USA alone last year) has more to do with BMW being the ultimate marketing machine, not making the “ultimate driving machine.” The current generation 335i is certainly fast, but compared to the E36, it’s bigger, softer, more numb, more luxurious and better built than ever before. That’s not a slam because those qualities are exactly why I like the 3-Series more now than ever before. Rather than chasing the “old 3-Series” as Lexus and Cadillac have in many ways, Infiniti decided to create their own definition of the ultimate driving machine.

Before we go much further, you should remember when Infiniti launched the Q50 as a “replacement” for the G37, they kept the G37 around and renamed it the Q40 (still available as a 2015 model). This is an interesting twist on the norms in this segment. Most of the competition simply drops a lower output engine in the same vehicle rather than keeping the old model on as the discount alternative. This means the IS 250, 320i, A3 and CLA 250 all start below the Q50’s $37,150 price tag and compete more directly with the Q40. Although some have called the Q50’s sales “weak”, when you look at the whole picture, the Q40 and Q50 combined have outsold the Lexus IS 250 and IS 350 by 4,000 units and together are nipping at the Lexus ES’ heels.

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-005

Exterior
Styled after Infiniti’s Essence concept, the Q50’s exterior combines sleek, flowing lines with an enormous maw and angry LED headlamps. Although I know that some of our readers have referred to the Q50 as an “angry fish,” I actually like the look. I don’t think it’s as aggressive as the ATS or as refined as the new C-Class but it is far more distinctive than the 3-Series and A4 and less controversial than the IS 350 F-Sport. For some reason, the side and rear of the Q50 remind me a great deal of the Mazda6. Let me know what you see down in the comment section.

Infiniti’s entry in this segment has always been on the larger side of things and that continues with the Q50. At 189.1 inches long, the Infiniti is a hair bigger than the Audi A4 and slightly smaller than the 3-Series GT hatchback. In case you were wondering, that’s still several inches shorter than the Acura TLX and Lexus ES which are 5-Series sized but 3-Series priced.

2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior

Interior
The Q50 wears the best interior that Infiniti has ever made. While no hands have rubbed silver dust into the Q50’s optional maple trim (as in the Q70), this cabin is easily one of the best in the segment. The new Mercedes C-class still wears the interior design and workmanship crown, but the compact Infiniti climbs up the luxury ladder to a place above the Acura TLX and a small notch above the BMW 3-Series. (The maple trim is only offered on top-end trims.)

Thanks to the Q50’s generous exterior dimensions, we have rear seats with more leg room than any of the compact luxury sedans, but you will find more room in the 3-GT. Unfortunately, like many compact luxury entries, rear headroom suffers due to the car’s sexy side profile. If you were hoping for a large trunk, you’ll be disappointed. The Q50’s trunk holds just 13.5 cubic feet, only a hair bigger than the Mercedes CLA or BMW 3-Series despite the car being larger in general. If you opt for the Q50 Hybrid then trunk volume shrinks to a decidedly convertible like 9.4 cubic feet, a hair less than BMW’s ActiveHybrid 3.

2015 Infiniti Q50S Infotainment-003

Infotainment
The Q50 is the first Infiniti to receive the new 2-screen InTouch infotainment system which uses both an 8-inch touchscreen LCD and a 7-inch touchscreen LCD. Like the last generation Infiniti systems, you can also control most of the system’s functions via a joystick-like button on the steering wheel. But wait! There’s more! Infiniti also includes a new navigation control wheel in the center console behind the shifter a la iDrive and MMI. This gives the driver three different input methods to choose from. However, not all features can be accessed via the steering wheel control or the control wheel, and some options will need to be ‘touched’.

2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-001

Some passengers were truly and permanently perplexed by the 2-screen layout, but I adjusted to the software quickly. While this sounds like Acura’s 2-screen system, Infiniti’s solution is better thought out and both screens are touch-enabled rather than just one as in the Acura system. Acura’s advertised goal was to allow you to keep the top screen for navigation while you used the lower screen to play with your audio device, but that’s only half true as the top screen is needed to perform a large number of audio functions. In the Infiniti, the function overlap between the screens is large, so you can browse your media device and perform select other operations via either screen. This level of choice seems to be what confuses some shoppers. I have never seen a car infotainment interface that has so many ways of doing the same thing. On the flip side, by the second day, I settled into the system preferring to ignore the controller in the console and use a combination of steering wheel controls and the lower touchscreen.

2015 Infiniti Q50S Engine-001

Drivetrain
Rather than starting with a turbocharged four-banger, Infiniti skips entry-level power and makes a 328 horsepower 3.7L V6 standard on all Q50 models. (Other world markets get a Mercedes sourced four-cylinder turbo gasoline mill and four-cylinder diesel as well.) The engine’s 269 lb-ft of torque slots between the 2.0L turbo and 3.0L turbo competition. Should you need more oomph, Infiniti’s answer is not forced-induction, but hybridization. The Q50 Hybrid uses the same hybrid system we first saw in the M35h. Engine displacement drops to 3.5L and power to 302 horsepower. The engine is then mated to a 67 horsepower electric motor for a combined 360 horsepower and an undisclosed torque figure. (I estimate it at 380-400 lb-ft.)

Both engines are mated to essentially the same 7-speed automatic transmission and an optional mechanical AWD system. The key differences in the hybrid model (aside from the electric motor) are the additions of a dry clutch between the engine and the 360V AC motor and a wet clutch inside the transmission case that allows the wheels to be decoupled from the transmission. This allows the batteries to charge while the car is stationary and smooths out EV-to-gasoline mode changes.

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-0011

Drive
Our tester was the “S” model which “sported” sport brakes, sport seats, sport suspension, magnesium paddle shifters staggered summer tires (245/40R19 front and 265/35R19 rear). Even with 3,675 pounds of curb weight to hustle, the Q50S corners exceptionally well and the double wishbone suspension and dual-mode dampers keep the suspension settled over broken pavement. Opt for the standard all-season rubber and grip is a little lower than the more athletic competition. Where the Q50 splits from the pack is in the feel.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: the optional Direct Adaptive Steering system. That’s what Infiniti calls their steer-by-wire system in the Q50 and, to be perfectly blunt, it makes the Q50 feel “video game-ish.”

2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-002

Unless the system detects a fault, there is no mechanical connection between the wheels and the steering wheel. If a fault is detected, or if the power is off, a clutch pack closes giving a mechanical connection. This allows the steering system to “compensate” for things like potholes, cross winds, grooved pavement, etc by keeping the wheels pointed the direction you’ve indicated by the steering wheel regardless of slight inputs from the road. The car can send back as much feedback as it wants, but this is kept to a minimum. This reduces driver fatigue on long trips, but the feeling of the car moving slightly in the lane in response to external forces while the steering wheel does nothing is unusual to say the least.

In addition to the steer-by-wire system, the Q50 gets “active trace control”, which uses the brakes to slow individual wheels “vectoring” you around the corner. The result of all these systems together is steering that may almost be “too precise.” In a corner, at even eight-tenths, you expect to get a slight hint of understeer. You may not even realize that your car is doing this because it is so “normal.” The Q50, however, goes exactly where you point it, something that takes some getting used to. Infiniti’s interpretation of the “ultimate driving machine” philosophy seems to be one that prioritizes actual steering precision and road holding over feel and connection.

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-010

Steering feel aside, the Q50 acquits itself well in every other area. The S model accelerates with the best in the segment, posting a 5.05 second run to 60 in our RWD tester and a 60-0 distance of a scant 111 feet. Non S rear-wheel drive models will be a hair slower due to the reduced traction. Also, since there was essentially no wheel slip in the rear-wheel drive Q50S, the AWD model will actually slow the 0-60 time by a hair. If you want something faster, the hybrid model will dip below 4.8 seconds. There are few entries faster than the Q50 and if you want to get to highway speeds faster than the Q50 Hybrid, you’ll be left with just the 335i, C400 and S4.

Fuel economy in the Q50 is similar to the other 300+ horsepower entries in this segment, with the exception of the Volvo S60 T6 Drive e and BMW 335i that can average in the mid 20s when driven gently. Jump in the hybrid and you can average over 30 mpg if you keep your highway speeds under 75 mph. The economy is similar to the GS 450h but 0-60 and passing performance is dramatically better.

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior.CR2-002

For 2015, the Q50 starts at $37,150, which is closer to the less powerful four-cylinder competition. That is just $600 more than the sluggish IS 250, $910 more than an ATS 2.0T and manages to actually be $350 less than a base 328i. Audi’s A4 is a decent deal starting $1,650 less than the Q50, but you get 108 fewer ponies and they are all prancing through the front wheels via a CVT. When it comes to the 300 hp crowd, the Infiniti is $5,000 less than the ATS 3.6 and $2,000 less than even the Volvo S60 T6. Start adding options to your Q50 and some of the discount shrinks, but the Q50 remains the discount RWD alternative. The Q50 Hybrid is $4,400 more than a comparable gasoline Q50, but $10,000 less than a comparably equipped BMW ActiveHybrid 3.

If you know me, you know that I love a bargain. The very word “value” causes my loins to burn. The Q50 is the best RWD value in this luxury segment. Period. We get more standard power and performance, a well-appointed cabin, standard LED lamps and two screens for less with reasonable resale value expectations.

Perhaps the most important thing to know about the Q50 is Direct Adaptive Steering is not standard – you do have to select the $3,100 “Deluxe Touring Package” to get it. On the downside, that package includes real wood trim, auto dimming mirrors, power tilt/telescopic steering column, memory seats, parking sensors and the nifty 360 view camera. Not selecting that package gets you a steering rack that is still un-engaging but feels considerably more traditional. The rumor mill tells us that the G37’s hydraulic steering rack is likely to be resurrected and grafted into the S trims of the Q50 for 2016. Let’s hope that happens soon.

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-003

While the ATS and IS 350 are more dynamic options, I suspect I’d buy the Q50 instead due to its interior, infotainment system, performance and price. I have to admit that I would also buy the model with DAS if I was unable to wait for 2016. No, I don’t actually “like” DAS, but I like the features bundled with it more than I dislike it. If there’s one thing that becomes obvious when you drive over a hundred cars a year, it’s that actual buyers adjust to the way a car feels much more readily than journalists do. Is the Q50’s steering odd feeling? Sure, in a comparative sense it is, but you’ll also get used to it after a few days and then it will feel perfectly normal to most shoppers. I wouldn’t call the Q50 the ultimate driving machine, but if my money were on the line, I’d get the Q50S AWD Hybrid.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.1 Seconds

0-60: 5.05 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.45 Seconds @ 104.2 MPH

2015 Infiniti Q50S Engine1 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior.CR2 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior.CR2-001 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior.CR2-002 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior.CR2-003 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-001 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior1 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-002 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior2 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-003 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-004 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-005 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-006 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-007 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-008 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-009 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-010 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-0011 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-011 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-0021 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-0031 2015 Infiniti Q50S Gauges 2015 Infiniti Q50S Gauges-001 2015 Infiniti Q50S Infotainment 2015 Infiniti Q50S Infotainment-001 2015 Infiniti Q50S Infotainment-002 2015 Infiniti Q50S Infotainment-003 2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior 2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-001 2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior1 2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-002 2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-003 2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-004 2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-005 2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-006 2015 Infiniti Q50S Trunk 2015 Infiniti Q50S Trunk-001 2015 Infiniti Q50S Engine 2015 Infiniti Q50S Engine-001

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Danger Girl Bids Farewell To The Old New Camaro http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/danger-girl-bids-farewell-old-new-camaro/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/danger-girl-bids-farewell-old-new-camaro/#comments Thu, 04 Jun 2015 13:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1080601 “You don’t have to meet me inside the airport,” I said, as Danger Girl led me by the hand to the baggage claim area of the Albuquerque Sunport. “I’m not a ten-year-old.” “I just didn’t want you to get lost.” “Lost?” My attention was briefly diverted by a curvaceous Latina in some sort of slutty-jumpsuit […]

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camaro6

“You don’t have to meet me inside the airport,” I said, as Danger Girl led me by the hand to the baggage claim area of the Albuquerque Sunport. “I’m not a ten-year-old.”

“I just didn’t want you to get lost.”

“Lost?” My attention was briefly diverted by a curvaceous Latina in some sort of slutty-jumpsuit made from translucent fabric. “This is, like, the fourth-smallest commercial airport in North America.”

“Lost,” DG clarified, following my glance to the young lady who was now obliviously bending over to fix her sandal, “like that.”

“Oh.”


“I’m still angry about what happened last week, you know,” she said, tossing my luggage into the cargo compartment of her newest rental car. “I didn’t get credit for that rental.”

“So?”

“So, it was the rental that was going to put me over the top for my next free rental day.”

“Wait. You’re angry because you didn’t get credit for stealing a Challenger?”

“Because I would have gotten a free rental certificate.”

“But you didn’t pay for the Challenger!” I sputtered. “It was a free rental day all by itself.”

“Not the same,” DG declared, in a this conversation is over voice. “And this new rental car is broken. It’s really slow. I would never buy a Kia.”

“This,” I exhaled, already worn to a frazzle by seven days in which I drove over two thousand miles and flew over nine thousand, “is a Fiat 500L.

“It looks like a Kia,” DG proclaimed. “And it’s broken. See?” She floored the accelerator down Central Avenue. A homeless person leapt to safety from his perch on the curb.

“No, I think that’s about how fast they are supposed to be.”

“Well, it’s no wonder that you never see Kias out there. I call it the Poky Little Puppy. Did you read that book?”

“Recently?”

“No, as a kid, like everyone else. This is a Poky Little Fucking Puppy. I’m going to get another car from the rental agency.” Sure enough, the next morning she returned in a V6 Camaro.

camaro5

“How much did they charge you?” I asked.

“How much did they charge me?” The disbelief in her voice was palpable.

“Yes. How much did they charge you to change cars.”

“Nothing. It would have been twenty-five dollars for a Mustang. But the Camaros and Challengers are free. The airport lot is full of them. Because people in ABQ think that a cheap Camaro with tiny wheels is just the fucking pinnacle of human achievement out there, the best you can get. Hey, is that a Nova up there? I used to have a Nova. Let’s go look at it.” And she pinned the accelerator to its stop. Some sort of sizable lizard passed under the wheels with a sodden thump. “This one has balls. Definitely faster than a Tahoe. Hey, here we are. I really like that Nova. But what I want, I’ve decided, is not a Nova, but instead the Lexus RC-F. I cannot be impressed by that Nova, or this Camaro, after having ridden in the Lexus RC-F.”

“They are not,” I responded, “even remotely close to the same price.”

“But I can afford either, so it’s like they are the same price. And the Camaro that was $75,000 was super sucky.”

“You mean the Z/28.”

“Yes. It’s no Lexus RC-F.”

camaro9

“To me,” Danger Girl continued, “the Camaro has always been a girl’s car compared to the Mustang. And it doesn’t look like an old Camaro at all. The Challenger looks just like an old Challenger. And why does this have a screen in the dash there’s no backup camera? Is this the same car your friend Patrick, whom I met at that party at Alex Roy’s place, crashed?”

“He crashed the new one.”

“He couldn’t have been going very fast. This is slower than my old 1970 Monte Carlo. Uh-oh.” Ahead of, a white 2004-ish Escalade and a black 2004-ish Escalade were blocking both lanes of the street for what seemed like no reason.

“Should you honk or something?”

“We’ll get shot,” DG reminded me. “This is downtown Albuquerque.” In a moment, the two Escalades drove away and began playfully swerving at each other. “Both of those people,” my companion told me, “live in trailers. But they have Escalades.”

“Well, those are older Escalades.”

“It still makes me want to vote something that is more Republican than the Republicans.”

“Like, the take-Escalades-away-from-poor-people party?”

“Those people,” she replied with a trace of scorn, “could not get elected in New Mexico.”

camaro7

We stopped at a motorcycle shop where DG expressed interest in a red-white-and-blue Honda CBR500. The salesman told her, “That’s a lot of bike for a lady just starting out.”

“I had a Harley Softail when I was a teenager,” she snapped.

“Well then… let me show you the CB1000.” Afterwards, having purchased no motorcycles and having damaged only one on the showroom floor (I backed into the mirror of a new Honda CTX1300, causing the housing to snap off and fall) we cruised out to the far side of town and I thought long and hard about the virtues of this erstwhile New Camaro. Nominally speaking, the 2012-on V6es with their new integrated headers can be massaged via bolt-ons into a 13.9-second quarter mile, right there with the Ferrari Testarossa and the Porsche 964 and my Accord V6. In practice, however, these are kind of poky little puppies, emitting a horrible thrashing noise as the automatic takes its sweet time grabbing a lower gear and causing the entire interior to vibrate its brittle grey 1989-Cavalier plastic. The 2011-on Mustang was much nicer inside even if it lacked the sharply-creased exterior drama that still makes this low-rent rental look muscular and menacing despite the tall sidewalls and asthmatic exhaust.

Yet the execution of this fifth-generation car is depressingly Fiero-2M4-esque. To begin with, anything the Camaro can do, the Pontiac G8 could do better. It’s been a long time since coupes were lighter than their sedan relatives, and you can blame things like side-impact regulations for that, but the Camaro’s weight gain was always particularly egregious and it imbues even the big-motor variants with a sort of lackadaisical inertia at all times. The outgoing Mustang was no sports car but it sure as hell seemed like one when driven back to back with a Camaro.

If the insurance companies permit such a thing, a 2015 Camaro will be a great car for an adventurous teenager in 2025 or thereabouts. To a generation raised in the rear seat of Highlanders and Pilots, this will seem like quite the balls-out adventure-mobile, and for kids who grew up in the shadow of the monster Sequoia (the Toyota, not the tree), this coupe won’t seem terribly oversized.

New-car buyers will want to wait for the sixth-gen car, which should be like the ’89 Fiero GT to the current model’s ’84 Indy Pace Car. New GM might still be late to the party whenever possible (see HHR, Chevrolet and SRX, Cadillac) but it no longer terminates model lifespans right when the vehicle involved slouches into acceptability. My guess is the next ponycar conflict will closely resemble its Nineties predecessor: the Camaro will be faster and more capable, and the Mustang will be more usable and more popular.

On the way to the airport at oh-dark-thirty, DG was all smiles. “With this rental, I’ll finally get that free day that they cheated me out of before,” she assured me. “And I’ll have some free upgrades, too.”

“You could rent a Porsche,” I suggested, “or a Mercedes.”

“What I really want,” she replied, “is to rent a Lexus RC-F. But, if you’ve noticed, you will see that nobody ever has an RC-F to rent. Or any Lexus.” As we arrived at the return area, and the Camaro’s door closed with a sickly rattle, and the trunk popped up unevenly on the thick stamped hinges, DG’s brow briefly crinkled. “Why do you think that is?”

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2015 Dodge Charger R/T Road and Track Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-dodge-charger-rt-road-track-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-dodge-charger-rt-road-track-review-video/#comments Mon, 25 May 2015 11:18:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1071058 The first car I bought new was a 2000 Chrysler LHS. (I single handedly lowered the model’s average age demographic.) It was the very pinnacle of Chrysler’s Iacocca turn-around. It was large, competitive and made from Chrysler’s universal parts bin. Then Mercedes came on the scene promising to “synergize” product development with their luxury brand. The […]

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21015 Dodge Charger RT Road and Track Exterior

The first car I bought new was a 2000 Chrysler LHS. (I single handedly lowered the model’s average age demographic.) It was the very pinnacle of Chrysler’s Iacocca turn-around. It was large, competitive and made from Chrysler’s universal parts bin. Then Mercedes came on the scene promising to “synergize” product development with their luxury brand. The plan had a promising start with the 300 HEMI C concept, but the production reality was a big sedan with a plastacular interior and Mercedes hand-me-down parts.

Now that Mercedes and Chrysler have divorced, we’re starting to see what a real German-American synergy looks like. For 2015, the Dodge Charger has gone under the knife to look leaner and meaner with a new German transmission. Like my 2000 LHS, this may just be the pinnacle of the Marchionne turn around. It’s big, it’s bold and it’ll make you forget why you stopped to look at that Toyota Avalon last week.

Identify the Competition
The Charger is a segment oddity because it’ll be the only four-door muscle car after the Chevrolet SS drives into the sunset. No, the Hyundai Genesis doesn’t really count – that’s a luxury entry and it’s American cross-shop would be the Chrysler 300. That leaves the Charger to battle the Avalon, Taurus, Impala, Cadenza, Maxima and Azera. (Or, if you buy the Hellcat, a ballistic missile.) Sure, you can compare anything to anything, but the Charger is tough to categorize, so I’ll just focus on this main segment.

Exterior
As the only RWD entry in this segment, the Charger has very different proportions than the rest of the crowd with its ever-so-long hood. Since 2015 is a refresh rather than a redesign, the hard points remain the same as before but the style has been significantly altered and essentially every panel has been changed. I’m not entirely sure that the “Daddy Dart” look up front is the style I would have chosen, but it looks far more grown up than the 2014 model. Out back we get better integrated exhaust tips and a refinement of the Dodge “race track” light strip.

21015 Dodge Charger RT Road and Track Interior-003

Interior
While the engineers touched every panel on the outside, interior changes are minor. The same 8.4-inch uConnect touchscreen is still nestled in the dash (SE models get a 5-inch screen) and the style is still decidedly retro. On the driver’s side we get a new 7-inch color LCD between the speedometer and tachometer in all models. There are still some hard plastics to be found and the dashboard is a little rubbery, but that places the Charger on equal footing with the Impala while the Avalon and Cadenza have slightly nicer interiors.

FCA reps said that no changes were made to the seat cushion design for 2015, but our tester lacked the pronounced hump found in the 2012 model we last tested, an issue that make me feel like I was sitting on a very large gumdrop.

In a car this big, you’d expect a big booty, but the smallish trunk lid foreshadows the decidedly mid-size trunk at 15.4 cu-ft, 7 percent smaller than a Ford Fusion’s cargo spot and only 15 percent bigger than that of the compact Ford Focus. In general, the full-size car label no longer guarantees large luggage capacity. So, on paper, the Charger’s smallish trunk is fairly competitive with the likes of the Toyota Avalon (14.4) but the Taurus’ ginormous booty will schlep 25 percent more warehouse store bagels. The rear seats fold down to reveal a large pass-thru and the wide and fairly flat rear seats make three baby seats across a tight but entirely doable adventure.

21015 Dodge Charger RT Road and Track Engine

Drivetrain
SE and SXT models use the familiar 3.6L Pentastar V6 tuned to 292 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Adding the $1,495 Rallye Group on the SXT adds eight ponies and four lb-ft. This puts the Dodge right in line with the front wheel drive competition in terms of power.

Unlike the competition, the Charger offers some more powerful engines to choose from. Scroll down the spec sheet and you find not one, not two, but three different V8s on offer. R/T and R/T Road and Track trims get the popular 5.7L V8 good for 370 hp / 395 lb-ft, R/T Scat Pack and SRT 392 models make do with a 485 hp / 475 lb-ft 6.4L V8, and if you want to throw caution to the wind there’s a 6.2L supercharged V8 making a whopping 707 horsepower.

8HP

Last year most models had the old Mercedes 5-speed automatic with just some trims getting the new ZF-sourced 8-speed. This year every Charger gets the 8-speed and the difference is eye-opening.

For those of you unfamiliar with the transmission world, ZF is a German company that makes transmissions and licenses transmission designs for a wide variety of performance and luxury cars. You’ll find ZF transmissions lurking under the hoods of twin-turbo V12 Rolls Royces, inline-6 BMWs and AWD Audis, so the Charger is rubbing elbows with some classy company.

21015 Dodge Charger RT Road and Track uConnect 8.4.CR2-001

Performance
Not only does the new 8-speed have a lower first gear for improved acceleration, it also has a taller top gear for improved highway economy. If you ever wondered how much difference a transmission alone can make, the Charger is a perfect test case. Last year, the V6 with the 5-speed needed 8.5 seconds to run to 60, this year it’s 7.0 flat, making the V6 Charger competitive with the pack. The 5.7L V8 model was about as fast as the last Maxima at 6.1 seconds. This year, the same engine will do it in 5.0 seconds with the Road and Track rear axle ratio and 5.1 seconds without it. That means the Taurus SHO competitor is no longer the 6.4L V8 but the 5.7L model we’re testing.

Let’s tally this up so we keep this in perspective. The V6 is now competitive with the competition and the 5.7L V8 is now a hair faster than the SHO. What makes the Charger crazy is  we still have two engines left. Add the Scat Pack to the R/T, or choose the SRT 392 and acceleration drops to 4.2-4.3 seconds as long as the tires can find grip. The Hellcat, as I’m sure you’ve heard, is the fastest production sedan with a blistering 2.9 seconds to 60 if you are willing to wear racing slicks and put your life on the line.

An interesting note of trivia is that Charger Pursuit police cars still get ye olde 5-speed with both the 3.6L and 5.7L engines. The reason likely has more to do with the 5-speed automatic’s column mounted shifter in Pursuit guise than any durability benefit.

21015 Dodge Charger RT Road and Track Exterior-001

Drive
In many of the trims the Charger comes across as “under-tired.” Before you get your flamethrowers out, allow me to explain. The Charger SE is a 4,000lb vehicle riding on low rolling resistance 215/65R17 tires; handling isn’t its forte. The SXT gets 235/55R18 all-season performance tires with a 245-width option. Handling is easily equal to the Avalon despite weighing 500lbs more due to the Charger’s near perfect weight balance. The R/T gets 245/45R20 rubber, which honestly feels a little skinny for 370 hp, especially if you get the Road and Track. On the flip side, it’s easy to smoke your tires if you’re into that. The Scat Pack feels as under-tired as the SE because it adds 115 horsepower, some curb weight and changes essentially nothing else. If you like a car that has a very lively rear end, this is your car. The SRT 392 significantly upgrades the brakes, tires (275/40R20), and suspension and I found it to be well balanced in terms of power vs grip. Then the Hellcat comes along with 222 extra horses and no extra grip. You get the picture.

Under-tired doesn’t translate to less fun – quite the opposite in my book. In fact, the Charger reminded me of the base Mustang and FR-S. Confused? Toyota’s mission with the FR-S was supposed to be a car to explore RWD dynamics without breaking the bank. Know what? That’s actually the Charger. Starting at $27,995, it’s only $1,000 more than an automatic FR-S and $2,000 more than a V6 Mustang with the auto. Unlike the FR-S, you get a power seat, dual-zone climate control, the 7-inch LCD in the gauge cluster, a much snazzier radio, three extra gears in your transmission and usable back seats. Will it dance around an autocross track like an FR-S? No, but you have almost as much fun and still use the car on the school run. Our R/T Road and Track tester was the same sort of thing taken to the next level.

21015 Dodge Charger RT Road and Track Exterior-003

All versions of the Charger deliver a civilized ride thanks to the well designed suspension and a long wheelbase as much as the size and weight of the vehicle. As with all modern cars, electric power steering sucks some of the fun out of the RWD platform, but the boost is adjustable. And because the front wheels are only responsible for steering, you get considerably more feedback than in the FWD or AWD competition. Despite the heft, braking fade was well controlled, although distances are a little longer than I’d like due mostly to the tire sizes involved.

Compared to the SHO, the Charger has a more polished ride. The SHO has an enormous trunk and a more accommodating back seat. The SHO is all-wheel-drive which gives you better traction, but the Charger has better weight balance and more accurate feel on the road. Compared to the FWD competition, the Charger feels more substantial out on the road, more precise and certainly handles the corners with less drama. There’s no torque steer and surprisingly neutral handling even in the heavier 6.4L models.

21015 Dodge Charger RT Road and Track Exterior.CR2-005

At $42,265, our model as tested managed to be $1,000 less than a comparable Avalon Limited, $2,000 less than a Cadenza Limited and, although it was slightly more expensive than the Taurus SHO, it had about $1,800 more equipment. The Charger’s discount price tag honestly surprised me. I had expected our tester to be a few grand more than the SHO.

What should you buy?
I’m glad you asked. Skip the V6. What’s the point of going RWD if you’re going to get the V6? I wouldn’t get the 5.7L V8 either. If you like the 5.7, buy the Chrysler 300. It has a nicer interior, a few extra available features and I think the front end is more attractive. I wouldn’t buy the Hellcat either, because I know I’d be “that guy” who wrapped it around a tree 5 minutes after driving it off the dealer lot. I am, however, eternally grateful the engineers created the bat-shit-crazy 6.2L engine because it makes the 485 hp 6.4L HEMI seem like a rational and practical engine choice. When driven very gently on level highway at 65 mph, the 6.4L V8 can deliver 28 mpg thanks to cylinder deactivation. My fuel economy in the 6.4L engine hovered around 18, just 2 mpg shy of the last Avalon I tested (the 5.7L scored 19.5 over almost 700 miles). When driven like you stole it, massive wheel spin, effortless donuts and 4.1 second runs to 60 with one of the best soundtracks money can buy are the order of the day. When your maiden aunt asks why you needed nearly 500 horsepower, you can safely say you didn’t get the most powerful one. With logic like that, how can you go wrong?

FCA provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of fuel for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.05 Seconds

0-60: 5.0 Seconds

1/4 mile: 13.3 @ 114

Average fuel economy: 19.5 MPH over 678 miles

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

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2015 Ford Explorer Exterior Three Quarter

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

You know how it’s done.

– Ice Cube, Down For Whatever

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

Then the whole Firestone thing happened.

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

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

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

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

2015 Ford Explorer Dash Interior

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

2015 Ford Explorer Middle Row Interior

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

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

2015 Ford Explorer Instrument Panel

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

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

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

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

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

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2015 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

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

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

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

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

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

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Forget 2016: Is Now The Time To Buy A 2015 Honda Pilot? Many Thousands Say It Is http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/forget-2016-now-time-buy-2015-honda-pilot-many-thousands-say/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/forget-2016-now-time-buy-2015-honda-pilot-many-thousands-say/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 12:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1071794 After U.S. sales of the Honda Pilot soared to a seven-year high in calendar year 2013, the fifth year for the second-generation Pilot, sales predictably declined 14% last year. Even in a booming SUV/CUV market, the Pilot was old and boxy; the Toyota Highlander was new and, well, less boxy. Yet over the final two […]

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2014 Honda Pilot

After U.S. sales of the Honda Pilot soared to a seven-year high in calendar year 2013, the fifth year for the second-generation Pilot, sales predictably declined 14% last year. Even in a booming SUV/CUV market, the Pilot was old and boxy; the Toyota Highlander was new and, well, less boxy.

Yet over the final two months of 2014 and the first four months of 2015, Pilot volume has shot through the roof. During this six-month span, U.S. sales of the outgoing Pilot have improved by 44%, a gain of nearly 21,000 sales, year-over-year.

You know why, of course. Deals on the Pilot finally became wonderfully attractive. Right now, for example, just as Honda finally allows publications to render their verdict following Kentucky test drives from weeks ago, American Honda is advertising lease deals on the Pilot SE AWD with payments of $289 over three years with $2,899 due at signing.

As Pilot inventory dwindles – there are fewer than 9,000 in stock at U.S. dealers according to Cars.com for a vehicle which is routinely selling more than 11,000 copies per month – dealers are offering significantly more than $5,000 off 2015 Pilots. A TrueCar Pricing Trend example suggests the average price paid for a Pilot fell by 9% over the last five months.

2016 Honda Pilot Elite

The new Pilot will be more efficient, safer, arguably more attractive, and more spacious (particularly behind the second row) but the base price for the 2016 model will only be $125 higher than it was in 2015. That slight MSRP differential ignores the out-the-door price paid for a remaining 2015 model and the no-incentives price of the brand spanking new Pilot that’ll be roaming parking lots near you very shortly.

So is now the time to buy a 2015 Honda Pilot, seven years after its launch, with crash test results like this, AWD city fuel economy of 17 mpg rather than 19, and a cargo area shaped like this rather than this?

Over the last four months, 48,103 U.S. buyers have answered with a resounding, “Yes,” to that question, compared with 30,796 at this time last year.

Healthy Pilot sales have been vital for American Honda this year, as the Accord, Civic, Crosstour, CR-Z, Insight, Odyssey, and Ridgeline have all posted notable sales decreases. Excluding the CR-V (America’s best-selling utility vehicle) and the Pilot, Honda brand sales are down 7%, a 20,000-unit loss.

Lineup fully intact, Honda sales are up 1% through the first four months of 2015.

Indeed, the numbers for the outgoing Pilot may be so strong that, one year down the road, what should turn out to be generally healthy sales for the forthcoming third-gen Pilot may appear weak in comparison. That’s one sign of an aggressive clear-out.

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

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

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2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front Quarter-001

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

Exterior

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

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

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

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior

Interior

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

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim-003

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

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

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Center Console

Infotainment

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

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Engine-001

Drivetrain

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

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

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior LCD Instrument Cluster.CR2

Drive

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

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

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior -001

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

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

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior.CR2-001

Pricing

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

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

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Rear.CR2-001

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

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

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.26 Seconds

0-60: 6.15 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.8 Seconds @ 92.5 MPH

Average economy: 20.3 MPG over 699 miles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Tester

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or just wait for the diesel.

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

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

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2015 gmc canyon front 34

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

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

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

2015_gmc_canyon_canyon dash

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

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

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

2015 gmc canyon dash radio

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

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

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

2015 gmc canyon extra cab doors

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

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

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

2015 gmc canyon extra cab bed long

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

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

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

2015 gmc canyon extra cab rear 34

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. He used a different camera for this review and most pictures came out crappy. He is sorry about that. 

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

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AAA: Memorial Day 2015 To See Highest Travel Volume In Ten Years http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/aaa-memorial-day-2015-see-highest-travel-volume-ten-years/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/aaa-memorial-day-2015-see-highest-travel-volume-ten-years/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 19:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1066930 Memorial Day 2015 will see the highest volume of travel in a decade as 37.2 million Americans hit the road to begin their summer season. The 2015 figure projected by AAA Travel is a 4.7 percent increase over 2014’s 35.5 million travellers during the same period, the highest growth rate projected since Independence Day back […]

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway Circa Memorial Day Weekend 2011

Memorial Day 2015 will see the highest volume of travel in a decade as 37.2 million Americans hit the road to begin their summer season.

The 2015 figure projected by AAA Travel is a 4.7 percent increase over 2014’s 35.5 million travellers during the same period, the highest growth rate projected since Independence Day back in 2012. The increase is fueled by various economic factors encouraging consumer confidence, and boosting disposable income.

As for how those millions of Americans will begin their summer, 33 million — 88 percent — will take to the highways, thanks in part to lower fuel prices at the pump. AAA says most motorists will pay the lowest price per gallon in five years during this year’s Memorial Day period; current national average is $2.66/gallon.

Meanwhile, 2.6 million will take to the skies with the help of lower fares, while 1.64 million choose other transportation options; the latter is a decrease of 3.4 percent compared to 2014.

In exchange for lower fares and fuel, travellers will be paying more for lodging. AAA’s Leisure Travel Index expects Two Diamond hotels to average $144/night and Three Diamonds to average $182/night, an increase of 16 percent and 23 percent, respectively.

[Photo credit: momentcaptured1/Flickr/CC BY 2.0]

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

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TRD Camry XSE Pace Car

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Lap of America TRD Scion FR-S

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s pretty bad ass. Seriously.

So how did the Camry do on track?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/review-2015-land-rover-discovery-sport/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/review-2015-land-rover-discovery-sport/#comments Thu, 07 May 2015 14:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1051793 With CUV sales surpassing those of their sedan counterparts, it should be no surprise every manufacturer is trying to get in on the high ride height action. Land Rover, virtually absent from the hot CUV segment, has finally released the all-new Discovery Sport to replace the dated LR2. The new Disco Sport is first vehicle in what […]

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2015 land rover discovery sport front right

With CUV sales surpassing those of their sedan counterparts, it should be no surprise every manufacturer is trying to get in on the high ride height action. Land Rover, virtually absent from the hot CUV segment, has finally released the all-new Discovery Sport to replace the dated LR2. The new Disco Sport is first vehicle in what will become a family of Discovery SUVs, all styled similarly with cues to the big Range Rover, but differing in size.

2015 land rover discovery sport grill

Aimed straight at the Audi Q5 and BMW X3, the new Disco is based on a modified Range Rover Evoque platform, giving it a longer wheelbase to increase rear seat volume. Most importantly, with some clever packaging, Land Rover has managed to squeeze an optional third row seat into the Discovery Sport. They call it a “5+2 seating configuration” and make no secrets the third row is best suited for taking kids across town.

Those without kids may ask: Why do so many parents want CUVs with a third row seat? The answer: kids have friends and those friends, along with one’s own kids, need to be chauffeured around. CUVs this size are popular because, due to their small footprint, they’re easy to drive. Yet very few – none in the premium segment – offer a third row seat besides the new Land Rover. Seating flexibility alone could be reason enough for buyers to choose the Discovery Sport over its direct competitors. (Please note the vehicle pictured was not equipped with the optional third row seat.)

2015 land rover discovery sport dash

The original Discovery, known as the LR4 in its current generation, is known for its commanding seating position. Unfortunately, due to the Disco Sport’s size, that same seating arrangement could not be replicated. However, it does offer windows bigger than most other CUVs. In concert with a huge glass roof, the Disco Sport evokes a sense of spaciousness. Likewise, rearward visibility is also improved over most CUVs, with parking sensors and a backup camera further aiding reversing, parking, and tight maneuvering.

The Sport has JLR’s new Autonomous Emergency Braking providing visual and audible warnings when it senses an impending collision. The system is capable of stopping the vehicle or, at the very least, slowing it down to reduce the severity of a crash. Other active safety features, such as Lane Departure Warning, trailer stability assist and hitch assist, are also included. (The Disco Sport can tow up to 4,409 lbs, although probably slowly.) An additional traffic sign recognition system displays the current speed limit on the gauge cluster, though it often sees yellow highway truck ramp signs and interprets them as normal highway speed limits. Thankfully, all of those features can be disabled for the driving heroes among us.

2015 land rover discovery sport interior details

The Discovery Sport has an all-new (or at least all-new-ish) infotainment system which will eventually make its way across the model lineup. It is similar in look and feel to the old system (hence, the -ish) but improved in every way, especially in terms of speed and ease of use. The system’s eight-inch screen has a somewhat low resolution at 800×480 pixels, but offers a WiFi hotspot and does a great job of streaming music from the various apps on your phone. You can connect up to two Bluetooth devices, with one of them being for phone and music and the other for music only. Four high-wattage USB ports make sure everything stays charged on the move.

The 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is a direct transplant from the Range Rover Evoque, but in the Disco Sport is mated to a new 9-speed automatic transmission, good for 20 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. The engine makes 240 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, enough to move the little Rover around but not enough to win many stoplight drag races. The Haldex all-wheel-drive system is controlled by Land Rover’s Terrain Response system, allowing the driver to choose the type of driving surface so the Landie can automatically adjust throttle response, gearbox, braking, and stability systems for maximum traction. Few will take their Disco beyond the dirt in the little league field parking lot, but this system works surprisingly well in the bigger Range Rovers.

2015 land rover discovery sport details

It is difficult to describe how any new CUV drives, because they all drive fine. They’re all comfortable. They can all take an on-ramp much faster than they should. They all stop better than sports cars from a time not too long ago. Some manufacturers claim their CUVs are “sportier” than others, but how can you quantify that? Sure, compared to large SUVs such as the Lexus GX 460 or Land Rover’s own LR4, anyone can consider this to be sporty, but no one is going to autocross it, either. In the end, this Discovery Sport is a family-friendly, kid-hauling grocery-getter. And you know what? It drives just fine.

The Discovery Sport starts at $37,070 for the SE model. The HSE starts at $41,570 and adds power seats, HID headlamps, glass roof, power tailgate, 19-inch wheels, and various styling bits. The HSE LUX is $45,570 and it adds upgraded leather, better audio system, and a various items that are optional on lower models as standard. Third row seats are a $1,750 option on all models.

Land Rover finally brought a gun to the CUV gun fight. While it is not technically extraordinary, the Discovery Sport is a good looking vehicle, has all the features desired by its intended buyers including the cachet of being a Land Rover, and is competitively priced in its class. The Defender lovers of the world may hate it and all the other CUVs like it, but as our former Managing Ed. said, “millions of Americans couldn’t care less and have very rational reasons for buying them, nor are they in the grip of some false consciousness and in need of a vanguard to liberate their minds from the shackles of automotive marketing.” I imagine this vehicle will be the volume sales leader for Land Rover.

2015 land rover discovery sport rear left

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. He once spent six weeks driving a Defender 110 around southern Africa and currently owns a green Bruder Defender 90.

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

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Fitch: Marginal Losses Projected For Subprime Auto Loans In 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/fitch-marginal-losses-projected-subprime-auto-loans-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/fitch-marginal-losses-projected-subprime-auto-loans-2015/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 20:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1063010 Despite the risks subprime auto loans carry, the market is likely to experience only marginal losses through 2015 according to a recent analyst forecast. Analysts at Fitch Ratings found in Q1 2015 subprime delinquencies of 60 days and above ticked up 3.56 percent, compared to 2.8 percent in 2014, Automotive News reports. Net losses on […]

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Buy Here Pay Here Subprime Financing Extravaganza Circa September 2014

Despite the risks subprime auto loans carry, the market is likely to experience only marginal losses through 2015 according to a recent analyst forecast.

Analysts at Fitch Ratings found in Q1 2015 subprime delinquencies of 60 days and above ticked up 3.56 percent, compared to 2.8 percent in 2014, Automotive News reports. Net losses on an annualized basis also went up in the quarter, from 4.96 percent last year, to 6.58 percent now.

Though those increases have given cause for alarm among analysts and the federal government alike, as well as the ever-increasing volume for subprime loans, Fitch claims the loans are performing as they should. However, the rating agency expects the performance to deteriorate over the course of the year, citing factors including easier lending approvals and lower wholesale prices as potential problems.

[Photo credit: Daniel Oines/Flickr/CC BY 2.0]

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2015 Porsche 911 GT3: The Capsule Track Test http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-porsche-911-gt3-capsule-track-test/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-porsche-911-gt3-capsule-track-test/#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 14:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1032033 19 months ago, the illustrious Jack Baruth wrote a brilliant op-ed painting the Porsche faithful akin to a battered spouse in a Lifetime film about empowerment. No, the other film about empowerment. No, the one with Tiffani Amber Thiessen. No, I mean the other one with Tiffani Amber Thiessen. Nevermind, it doesn’t matter When it […]

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19 months ago, the illustrious Jack Baruth wrote a brilliant op-ed painting the Porsche faithful akin to a battered spouse in a Lifetime film about empowerment. No, the other film about empowerment. No, the one with Tiffani Amber Thiessen. No, I mean the other one with Tiffani Amber Thiessen. Nevermind, it doesn’t matter

When it comes to Porsche, I am pre-empowerment Tiffani Amber Thiessen.

I am exactly what Jack described. I sit happily behind a pair of oversized sunglasses to hide my black eye after I “walked into the door again.” The boys from Stuttgart can do little wrong in my world. Part of that is my childhood obsession with all Porsches. Mom had a 914. Risky Business and Weird Science both hit during my developmental years. Somewhere in my attic in a VHS copy of No Man’s Land and I have not suffered the infamous intermediate shaft failure in either of my 996s. I also willingly owned two 924s when I was stationed in Germany.

So when I was given the chance to drive the GT3 coaching for a “supercar on a real racetrack“ event, I was pointed west to Hallett Motor Racing Circuit in Jennings, Oklahoma before you could say “lift throttle over steer.”

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D.M. Armstrong, a noted Scientific Realist, held a theory of universals that states relations can be treated just like non-relational concepts. He further asserts that relations, where the number of terms in the relation, varies across instance.

That’s right, I just went from “Fastlane” to Philosophical discussion in three paragraphs.

The notion of varied relations is key to this discussion. The slowest car available this weekend was the Corvette. The Vette is a proper grand touring coupe and unquestionably fast car. But it was an Army Ranger in a room of mostly Navy Seals. Sitting in the corner of that room is a US Air Force Pararescueman. He possesses many of the same traits of the Seals, but has a very different mission and a unique method to complete it. That is the Porsche 911 GT3.

A Barrett .50 cal in a container of HK MP5s – it is superlatively stunning in a realm of supreme machines. One of only two 6-cylinder cars in an arsenal of V8s, V10s and V12s. It was the only normally aspirated six, and at 475 ponies, one of only two cars with less than 500 horses. (The other was the Corvette at 460.) It is unique in its class and in a collection of class leaders.

Now I do love 911s, but I was and I still am miffed about the lack of “proper” gearbox for the GT3. My first interaction with a PDK was behind the wheel of an Audi TT in 2005 at the now-defunct Panoz race school at Road Atlanta. I approached this gearbox with the same suspicion and distrust. My verdict was the same as it was in 2005.

I was wrong.

Even when compared back-to-back with the 458 Italia’s magnificent transmission, the GT3’s PDK has crossed the line into precognition.

“Hey GT3, we are coming out of turn 9 and I was thinking we need…oh, that gear then? Well I guess…Holy crap GT3! You were right! Much better than my idea!

Don’t get me wrong. I would still love a human-rowed selector. But the GT3 in this configuration is matchless. By Saturday I was wondering if I was being blinded by my love for the infamous AENSC like a hung-over freshman after his first college hook-up. So I started talking with my fellow instructors.

Porsche 911 GT3

My close friend Chris Mills has helped me with stories at TTAC and is a Hallett’s lead HPDE instructor. He also hates 911s and spends his free time texting me pictures of old VW Beetles. But after a morning session, even he had to agree, it was a surgical scalpel of a track car in the midst of X-Acto knives.

PCA Champion, IMSA Driver and frequent client crush du jour Kristin Treager however is a Porschephile like me. Even with her vast experience in racing 911s, she confirmed the GT3 was as good as I believed. In fact, despite its numerical disadvantage, all of the instructors agreed, it was simply the fastest car on the track. Words fail to convey the difference in capabilities of this car from its supercar stable mates. It takes action. The 911 spoke volumes on the track. Running down more powerful hyper cars from Italy was child’s play.

In another seldom made observation, the GT3 works. Not just in a reliability sense, having never missed a beat all weekend, but in usability. Often clients of stature (politically correct for “big ole Okie farm boys”) were steered away from the Gallardo or Maca because they simply couldn’t fit. The Porsche fit them all. In fact, it was big enough for folks who had issues getting in the Nissan GT-R.

Now that I have completed my lascivious description of the GT3, allow me to relax in the post coital bliss and point out some of the flaws. Yes, the brakes are the terrestrial equivalent to a black hole in a straight line. But in mid-corner they will upset the GT3 in a manner unlike the 458, Huracán or even F-Type.

What’s that over there? A dead horse? Let me grab my beating stick! It still needs an option for the manual transmission. However, after driving this car for the better part of three days, I am not sure I would take that option.

Porsche 911 GT3

My fanboi-battering masters in Stuttgart can go on all they want about calming the unique lift throttle turn characteristics of the 911, and while they have addressed it, this is still a 911. One client discovered this mid-turn when an overly aggressive throttle application was answered with a total lift, reducing us both to passenger status. It stayed on the track, but the GT3 is that barely broken wild horse on the farm. Every now and again it bucks a rider to remind you.

Finally, for its capabilities, it’s a bit plain. It’s a t-shirt and jeans in a realm of Brioni suits. Both inside and out, there is no “Look at me! I am a world beating supercar!” In fairness, that’s always been the 911’s style. Mila Kunis is still a traffic stopper without makeup and the 911 will always command some level of attention.

So, should you get one? No.

What? Mental! You led me down a Tiffani Amber Thiessen fueled, 1,364-word black hole about how great this car is to tell me no?

Yes. Like most supercars, it’s useless in the real world. Granted, you can drive this one everyday and it would probably work really well. But DD a GT3? No. At least the other exotics can impress the 20-somethings; the ones that can tell a GT3 from a standard 911 will probably conclude you have no idea how to drive it.

Porsche 911 GT3

Unless you’re in the very narrow market for a factory-built supercar track special, you would be better off with the 911 Targa. But should you ever get the chance to slip behind the wheel of the GT3, especially on a track, do it. Ignore the anti-PDK hype and take it. Yes, you may come away a bit battered. But if you want to feel empowered, take this car for a heated lap around a race course. It’ll set you right far better than anything ever shown on Lifetime.

Top image courtesy Nicolas Seymour.

Of course, Porsche contributed absolutely nothing to this review. It was researched over three days in Oklahoma coaching with Xtreme Xperience, burning their gas, using up their tires while driving and riding in their collection of exotics. Christian was compensated by Xtreme Xperince, but they had no influence over the outcome of this review.

Christian “Mental” Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. This weekend he will be racing with the Three Pedal Mafia at LeMons Real Hoopties of New Jersey. You can follow that impending debacle on Twitter, Instagram and Vine at M3ntalward. 

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2015 Buick LaCrosse Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/review-2015-buick-lacrosse/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/review-2015-buick-lacrosse/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 14:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1052529 My name is Satish Kondapavulur. I am what most baby boomers would call “a millennial.” I like Vampire Weekend, streaming movies on Netflix, and playing Gran Turismo. My plans this weekend involve driving to Berkeley, going to whatever eardrum-splitting concert my friends want to see, with my dinner plans probably being a burger and fries […]

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2015 Buick Lacrosse

My name is Satish Kondapavulur. I am what most baby boomers would call “a millennial.” I like Vampire Weekend, streaming movies on Netflix, and playing Gran Turismo. My plans this weekend involve driving to Berkeley, going to whatever eardrum-splitting concert my friends want to see, with my dinner plans probably being a burger and fries from In-N-Out picked up at midnight. My daily driver is a 2002 BMW 530i, one of the best BMWs ever made. My favorite movie is American Graffiti, a film which involves plenty of loud exhausts, racing on city streets, and a 30-year-old Harrison attempting to pass for a teenager. And I liked my Buick LaCrosse test car.

“He likes the Buick LaCrosse?!” you might think. “But he’s a millennial! He drives a BMW! He’s likely glued to his smartphone all day! He probably doesn’t know what DOS is! ” And I do have a few of those “millennial” characteristics. I don’t like wearing cardigans, playing golf nearly every afternoon, or eating dinner at 5:30 pm. I don’t drive 5-10 mph slower than everyone else. I don’t look forward to moving into a retirement community at any point in my life, though I am looking forward to the senior discounts at the movie theater, when renting a car, and at Ben and Jerry’s. (Those savings really add up. Like enough to buy another smartphone.)

2015 Buick Lacrosse

But I like the Buick LaCrosse. Yes. Really. I like it. I like the fact I don’t have to brace myself for upcoming bumps on California highways. [What? You have those? -Canada] I like that I’m not a target for any highway patrol officers. I like that the head-up display gives me all the necessary information without having to look at the screen in the center console. I like that it’s quiet enough on the highway so I can listen to “Unbelievers” on the 11-speaker Bose sound system without a pothole interrupting the high notes. I like that it has enough sensors to drastically minimize whatever chances I have of getting in a car accident. I like that OnStar can back me up if I get hopelessly lost and my phone can’t find a signal. I think it even looks good.

Now, the first thing I’ll discuss regarding my Buick LaCrosse test car is its price. It was more than you would expect. Try $45,955. Yes, it was about the same price as a Lincoln MKS, base-level Audi A6 2.0T, Lexus ES350, or a fairly loaded Hyundai Genesis V6. For that price, you would expect plenty of tech features crammed into the car, a powerful engine, large wheels, free maintenance, and a day of dunking lessons with Shaquille O’Neal. The LaCrosse had all of that, with a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 304 horsepower, 20-inch wheels, two years of free scheduled maintenance, and so many tech features I’d need an entire paragraph to list them. Sadly, dunking lessons with Shaq aren’t on the Monroney sticker, likely because customers might ask for free throw lessons, too.

2015 Buick Lacrosse - Engine

The options on my test car included a head-up display, a blind spot warning system, a lane departure warning system, HID lights, a rear cross traffic alert system (which works surprisingly well when backing out of a driveway), a sensor which indicates the distance between my car and the car in front, and a forward collision alert system. All of those features I just listed are part of the $2,125 “Driver Confidence Package #1.” There was also a “Driver Confidence Package #2” on my test car that provided adaptive cruise control and front automatic braking, the latter a perfect feature for the modern millennial distracted by his or her smartphone. Additionally, since my LaCrosse had the Premium II trim level, it came standard with a Bose sound system, heated and cooled front seats, navigation, a keyless entry and ignition system, XM radio, 6 months of full OnStar Coverage, and 5 years of the OnStar base coverage.

One feature that Buick and General Motors advertise heavily is OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi connectivity included with all 2015 LaCrosses. It can connect to up to seven devices as long as they are within 50 feet of the car, like phones, tablets, laptops, refrigerators, coffee makers, GoPro cameras, microwaves, etc. Buick offers a 3 month or 3 GB data trial of the OnStar 4G LTE service, after which customers must sign up for a data plan ranging from $5 to $50 a month for 200 MB to 5 GB, similar to those for phones. According to OnStar’s website, AT&T customers can add the car to their wireless share plan for an extra $10 a month. The Onstar 4G LTE ended up being one of the many features I didn’t sample, since I had a smartphone with a data plan and streaming American Graffiti perhaps would’ve used up the data allocation.

The LaCrosse drove surprisingly well. Since my prior experience with Buick involved a 1990s LeSabre that exhibited tire squeal and an extraordinary amount of body roll during “spirited” driving, I wasn’t prepared for how well the LaCrosse could stick to the road in corners and power out of them. If I needed power, the V6 provided enough pull and it was immediate. The car had a sport mode (I only used it once; it detracts from the driving experience) that adjusted the shift points and allowed the transmission to stay in a gear until it hit a higher rpm. Furthermore, the car had real-time damping and Hi-Per Strut suspension which I’m sure helped the ride and handling dramatically despite the 20-inch wheels. During my week with the car, I drove it down the Pacific Coast Highway from Monterey to Big Sur and had no complaints.

2015 Buick Lacrosse - Interior

Inside, the Buick was a very quiet and pleasant place. The controls were very easy to use, especially when operating the climate control or tuning the radio. I liked that I could rest my arm on the gear selector knob when reaching to tune the radio. The head-up display was very sharp, especially at night, but it wasn’t as good as BMW’s head-up display where one can easily scroll through radio stations and whose display is much more readable when facing directly into the sun. In the back, there was plenty of legroom and access to a 120 volt outlet, presumably for charging laptops to use the onboard 4G connection. An aspect of the interior I didn’t like were the thick A-pillars, which affect visibility and take some getting used to. Additionally, the LaCrosse was difficult to parallel park without the help of the rear camera, hearing the warning of the sensors, the feeling the vibration of the seats if you were getting too close. (The seats also vibrated if there were cars passing by when backing out of my driveway.)

When I had the Buick, thanks to a lot of highway driving, I managed to get around 24.5 miles per gallon during. However, fuel economy in the city, thanks to the 3.6-liter V6, wasn’t very good, especially once I hit stoplights where the indicated fuel economy would go down a few tenths. If fuel economy is a major concern for you, there is the option of a 2.4-liter inline-four with eAssist (a mild hybrid system fitted to the powertrain) which enables the LaCrosse to get an EPA-estimated 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway. Jack Baruth had the eAssist-ed LaCrosse last year and managed over 31 mpg with the car while describing the powertrain as “satisfactory.” (He drove it around New Jersey Motorsports Park too, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

Buick has for a while been my favorite out of all of the General Motors brands. In the past, people drove Buicks rather than Cadillacs when they didn’t want to come across as having plenty of money or as being ostentatious. After a week with the LaCrosse, I feel the same. While your neighbors will be attempting to one up each other with the latest from Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi, and Lexus, you can have the Buick LaCrosse in the driveway and feel absolutely satisfied. With the Buick, you’ll have something comfortable, simple to use, and much less expensive with the same toys as cars commanding $10,000 to $20,000 more. When your coworkers rave about the blind spot warning, head-up display, and active cruise control systems in their cars, you’ll be fine knowing your car has the same systems.

And above all, you won’t be a target for law enforcement, you won’t have to complain of discomfort after long trips, and you will get away with wearing the cardigan you’ve always wanted.

Buick provided the vehicle, insurance, and a tank of gas for the road test.

Satish Kondapavulur is a writer for Clunkerture, where about a fifth of the articles are about old cars and where his one-time LeMons racing dreams came to an end once he realized it was impossible to run a Ferrari Mondial. He’s currently taking golf lessons in between attempting to qualify for GT Academy.

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