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, 30 Aug 2015 23:20:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 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 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek Manual Review – Field Manual http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-subaru-xv-crosstrek-manual-review-field-manual/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-subaru-xv-crosstrek-manual-review-field-manual/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 13:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1154809 In 1919, then-Army Major Dwight D. Eisenhower embarked on a transcontinental journey with a military convoy to show off to the country the mechanical might used to conquer the Kaiser. From Washington D.C. to San Francisco, Eisenhower traversed the Lincoln Highway over 62 days. The going was relatively easy until Kansas, but the hardest part, […]

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In 1919, then-Army Major Dwight D. Eisenhower embarked on a transcontinental journey with a military convoy to show off to the country the mechanical might used to conquer the Kaiser.

From Washington D.C. to San Francisco, Eisenhower traversed the Lincoln Highway over 62 days. The going was relatively easy until Kansas, but the hardest part, he wrote, came in Utah.

“Aug. 20 (1919) Departed Salt Lake City, 6:30 am. … Last 6 miles was natural desert trail of alkali dust and fine sand up to 2 (feet) deep, with numerous chuckholes. No rain for 18 weeks and traction exceedingly difficult,” Eisenhower wrote in his journal.

“Aug. 22 (1919) Departed Granite Rock (Utah) 6:30 a.m. … Personnel utterly exhausted by tremendous efforts, and will rest at Black Point. … Reduced morale.”

Admittedly, my journey in a 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek would be less dramatic. In Utah, Eisenhower reported the convoy of 80 vehicles took 7.5 hours to do 15 miles in near-biblical sand in lieu of bad roads. I could manage 80 miles an hour in the diminutive hatchback with 148 horsepower — which likely has more horsepower than the entire 1919 convoy. Resemblance? I have a few.

(At least my five-speed manual, five-door compact wagon was a hue Subaru called “Desert Khaki,” a color resembling a faded, fatigue greenish-brown. That has to count for something, right?)

2015_Subaru_XV_Crosstrek_(1_of_2)You could say I was partially retracing Eisenhower’s steps on his formative journey, but I would say I was putting the Crosstrek through the toughest test I could imagine — hauling a 1,000-pound, loaded U-haul over the Rockies. (In fact, I was moving my girlfriend over the Rockies and into Denver, in the least likely tow vehicle imaginable.)

To be fair, I’ve driven an XV Crosstrek through “Jurassic Park” in Hawaii and another through the middle of Iceland in a blizzard. I wasn’t concerned with the Crosstrek’s performance as much as I was worried about my patience: U.S. 6 south of Price has all the visual charm of a sopping wet bath mat.

Interestingly, very few Crosstreks are purchased with a manual transmission. As the automaker celebrates its most successful sales month ever for the Crosstrek in July (more than 8,500 sold in the U.S., nearly three times as many BMW X3s sold in the same timeframe) exceedingly fewer and fewer of them are of the row-your-own variety.

That’s counter-intuitive for a car that has earned a rep for having less strength than the League of Nations. You’d think buyers would want to wring every last drop of horsepower from the busy little mill.

So, appropriate five-speed manual to tow, and fully commanding all 148 horses powered by the Subaru’s horizontally opposed four-cylinder engine, I set off along Interstate 80.

The most useful statistic: Seats down, the XV Crosstrek manages 51.9 cubic feet of cargo room, which is less than a Jeep Cherokee and Kia Sportage, but more useful considering its wide rear opening and fold-down seats. That’s enough room to fit a closet full of clothes, a TV, three backpacks, a dog and some snacks purchased in a daze from Harmon’s near the interstate.

Our Crosstrek piled on the extras too: a 6.2-inch multimedia display with Bluetooth, subwoofer, heated seats and trailer hitch with 4-pin connector. The Beverly Hillbilly Special, I believe the package is called.

All that matters very little when you have a 500-mile drive with a 1,000-pound trailer and a 50-pound puppy to haul. The most useful measure? The drama-free interior as your steed chugs along the highway.

From best to worst, the Crosstrek ranges somewhere in the middle when it comes to interior comfort. When it was introduced, the Crosstrek was louder inside than a cramped Louisiana cellblock (don’t ask me how I know), but Subaru has since added more sound deadening material to quiet things down. On the road, hauling a trailer, the Crosstrek managed to keep a subdued drone as we wound through the passages of southeastern Utah.

The hill climb? Well, that’s a different story.

Not exactly retracing Eisenhower’s steps, I opted for Interstate 70 instead of I-80, up over the Rockies, ascending to more than 11,000 feet before descending into the Mile High City.

At altitude, the Crosstrek is straining for oxygen to ignite. Its furious engine is gasping for any clean breath to pull its (probably ridiculous) load up a mountain and back down again. The ability to snatch my own gears with the five-speed manual would be my saving grace, I figured.

I figured wrong. In fact, it wasn’t the engine that kept the Crosstrek from running easily up the mountain and back down, it was my gear searching that proved difficult. The Crosstrek never dipped below 40 mph or second gear, but that figure probably would have improved if I had the benefit of computers working for me. The Crosstrek’s continuously variable transmission may be joyless like a civics class, but at least it keeps the engine constantly in its sweet spot. I can’t say the same for myself.

The results? More than 1,200 miles of driving in two days with a load on halfway and a puppy with a load on all the way, and the Crosstrek managed just over 24 mpg. Oh, and it made it.

Eisenhower could say the same. But his journey took 62 days and was so bad he created the Interstate Highway System in 1956 — which included I-80 — so no one would have to do that again.

The Crosstrek has might. Maybe not enough to win a war, but at least it won this battle.

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2015 Nissan Murano SL AWD Review – Suave Ugly Duckling http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-nissan-murano-sl-awd-review-suave-ugly-duckling/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-nissan-murano-sl-awd-review-suave-ugly-duckling/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 22:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1152009 2015 Nissan Murano SL AWD 3.5-liter VQ35DE DOHC V-6, Continuously Variable Timing Control System (260 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 240 lbs-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm) Xtronic continuously variable transmission (2.413:1 – 0.383:1 range, 0.958:1 final drive) 21 city/28 highway/24 combined (EPA Rating, MPG) 22.4 mpg on the Soccer Dad test cycle, 75 percent city (Observed, MPG) Tested Options: SL trim, all-wheel […]

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2015 Nissan Murano (1 of 13)

2015 Nissan Murano SL AWD

3.5-liter VQ35DE DOHC V-6, Continuously Variable Timing Control System (260 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 240 lbs-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm)

Xtronic continuously variable transmission (2.413:1 – 0.383:1 range, 0.958:1 final drive)

21 city/28 highway/24 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

22.4 mpg on the Soccer Dad test cycle, 75 percent city (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: SL trim, all-wheel drive

Base Price (S FWD):
$30,445* (U.S.)/$31,858* (Canada)
As Tested Price:
$39,435* (U.S.)/$41,393* (Canada)

* All prices include $885 destination fee (U.S.) or $1,860 destination fee, PDI and A/C tax (Canada).

“Damn, that’s ugly,” I thought to myself — in addition to saying it openly amongst my automotive journalist friends when Nissan unveiled the new, third-generation Murano at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

“Who’s going to buy this?” I asked myself — in addition to everyone who would possibly listen to my whining.

“I bet this won’t sell,” proclaimed my inner monologue — in addition to my external one.

Boy, was I wrong on that last point. The new Murano’s year-to-date sales in Canada have already eclipsed last year’s entirely (sales surpassed 1,000 units in June 2015 for the first time ever in Canada), and it will likely sell more in the U.S. than it has in the last couple years at the very least.

When I had a chance to drive the newest “lifestyle” crossover from Nissan, I realized why my predictions were so wrong. If you can look past the sheet metal, the aging VQ35DE V-6 engine and the continuously variable transmission that’s become ubiquitous with the Nissan brand, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what is arguably the best lifestyle crossover on the market.

That should be no surprise. One could make a case for the Nissan Murano being a pioneer in this segment. Back in 2002, Nissan rolled out the first-generation Murano to either fanfare or fiery criticism, depending on who you asked.

The non-luxury softroader was born — whether you liked it or not.

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Exterior
To better understand the Murano and its “Predator with a Beverly Hills facelift” styling, one must understand the competition — namely the Ford Edge. Neither vehicle communicates a modicum of off-roading intentions, even though both are available with all-wheel drive. Both are targeted directly at yuppie dinks with money to burn and status to reinforce. They want a vehicle that’s visually loud so they can be unique just like everyone else.

Compared to prior generations, the Murano is more visually windswept up front due to its corporate V-motion grille and Z-inspired headlights. It’s a cohesive design regardless of how visually off-putting I might personally find it.

Around the side, the Murano flaunts the same floating roof treatment craze that’s seeing more use at Nissan and elsewhere. Our mid-trim SL tester wore standard 18-inch wheels shod with 235/65R18 rubber that didn’t visually fill the wheel wells as much as the 20 inchers available on the Platinum trim, but still did a much better job of not making the car look plebeian compared to the Edge on its smaller wheels. Actually, the 18s make the Murano look trendy, expensive and — viewing it as a car guy — comfortable.

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Around back are some of the most confusing shapes and surfaces you’ll find on any crossover on sale today. The rear lamps sport the same boomerang styling as those up front. The blacked-out floating roof section, when inspected closely, even has some metallic flake in the plastic so it doesn’t look flat and cheap. Like the side, a chrome strip breaks up the lower body cladding and high-gloss paint, like a belt separating black pants and a loudly colored button-up shirt.

Overall, the Murano looks expensive and expressive, but its execution is far from my cup of tea. The Ford Edge ticks the same boxes without being visually nauseating.

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Interior
Years ago, I listened to a stand-up comic — whose name completely escapes me — do a bit on yuppies and yard sales.

“Yuppie yard sales are just like normal ones — except nothing is for sale. Yuppies just want you to look at their stuff.”

Nissan knows the typical Murano buyer isn’t going to have kids — or if they do have that elusive single child, the chances of he or she having more than two friends willing to ditch their Facebooks and video games to actually drive somewhere is pretty slim. Instead, what yuppies do have is personal belongings — or at least more personal belongings than their kid has friends — so, understandably, there’s no third row seating. In its place is a cavernous cargo area so you can take all your stuff to the local yuppie yard sale, show it off, and bring it home in a flashy ride.

Unfortunately for the Murano, the Edge can hold even more yuppie junk in its upwardly mobile trunk; 32.1 cu. ft. of cargo space is available behind the second row in the Murano (minus 1 cu. ft. with the moonroof) versus 39.2 cu. ft. in the Edge.

You’d think that maybe the Murano is shorter than the Edge, but it’s actually longer on the outside by 4.7 inches. Wheelbases are similar at 111.2 and 112.2 inches respectively. And, as far as I can tell, the space isn’t being shifted to the passenger compartment.

2015 Nissan Murano (12 of 13)Murano (w/o moonroof)

Front headroom – 39.9 inches
Front legroom – 40.5 inches
Front hip room – 55.4 inches
Front shoulder room – 59.5 inches
Rear headroom – 39.8 inches
Rear legroom – 38.7 inches
Rear hip room – 55.2 inches
Front shoulder room – 58.8 inches

Edge

Front headroom – 40.2 inches
Front legroom – 40.5 inches
Front hip room – 55.9 inches
Front shoulder room – 60.3 inches
Rear headroom – 40.3 inches
Rear legroom – 40.6 inches
Rear hip room – 57.5 inches
Front shoulder room – 60.5 inches

(Bold is the greater measure.)

I’m flummoxed.

Regardless of the numbers, the Murano is incredibly comfortable up front and I didn’t once think I lacked space for my 6-foot-1-inch lanky frame. Nor did passengers ask for me to scootch the driver’s seat up to give them additional rear legroom. However, if you’re a sizable dink, you might want to opt for the Edge.

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When you do find your place of comfort in the driver seat, you’re greeted by a steering wheel that could be found in almost any other Nissan. The push-button start is easily found in the center dash instead of tucked somewhere being the steering wheel. Other controls are quite simple, with HVAC knobs and buttons located below the infotainment screen and shortcuts to navigation, radio and other infotainment features placed on either side. Nissan says it has decreased the number of buttons needed to operate their system and this amount seems like a happy medium.

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The instrument panel consists of two large dials separated by a very clear, 7-inch LCD screen with pages that are easily accessible through the steering wheel mounted controls. Unlike the Micra, the Murano is fitted with an actual fuel gauge and not just an LCD representation.

As I mentioned above, the front seats are incredibly comfortable, though they do have a look of cheapness. Maybe it’s the semi-gloss sheen. I just wish they looked as good as they felt. Same goes for the rear.

At least you will be safe, with a full suite of airbags that includes a driver’s knee airbag, just in case.

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Powertrain
The 3.5-liter VQ35DE V-6 sitting under the hood of the Murano has to be one of the oldest engines on sale today. Introduced in 2001, the VQ series engine has been constantly updated and comes in a number of tunes depending on its application. However, it doesn’t come with direct injection or some of the other goodies found in competing products.

That said, the VQ is still one of the best sounding engines money can buy — probably because it doesn’t come with direct injection or the other goodies. Even when paired with Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission, the VQ rumbles with its all-but familiar growl.

When Nissan started fitting its lower-end, four-cylinder cars with CVTs, I moaned a great moan. But this — with the V-6 and some torque to keep revs low — makes boatloads of sense and is exceptionally smooth without the typical whine experienced with smaller engines mated to similar transmissions. To top it all off, Nissan’s combination is 4 mpg easier on fuel on the combined cycle than the Edge, representing a $350 annual savings according to the EPA calculator.

2015 Nissan Murano (13 of 13)

Infotainment
Nissan’s Around View has been on the market for quite some time, but this is the first time it’s been fitted to the Murano (incidentally, after it was fitted to the Versa Note). As one can expect, images from the camera are fairly distorted to give you a better field of vision, but there’s something else that bothers me about it. Image quality is, well, a bit subpar. Even though other systems obviously don’t give you a full 360-degree view of the vehicle on an 8-inch screen, the images offered on the Nissan system look pixelated to the point where you might actually miss something — though if that something is moving, the Moving Object Detection should pick it up. Meanwhile, the “Camera” button on the console lets you activate the system when parking nose first, which is great for someone like me who can’t place a vehicle square between two white lines.

Around View aside, the new NissanConnectSM system is enhanced over the last generation, though its ease of use has been hampered because of it. Thanks to a number of new connectivity features and other digitial knickknacks, the Nissan infotainment system is a bit more bloated. If you like fully featured infotainment, this is a great solution, but this might not be a selling point if you are like the vast majority of vehicle buyers who don’t use all the features provided by automakers.

Drive
What sets the Murano apart from the rest is how it drives. The 3.5-liter engine is as smooth as you can get. The CVT will do some “shifting,” but only so you can feel a little bit of torque transmitted into the seat now and then. Also, those seats are as good as they come.

However, these pieces aren’t the Murano’s killer app. Instead, its suspension tuning and decent tire sidewalls on our SL-trimmed tester that give the Murano a ride befitting its Infiniti luxury brand. Platinum models give you 20-inch wheels as standard, and I’m not sure that’s a good buy if ride quality is No. 1 on your car hunt.

In addition to the suspension, the Murano’s electric power steering also makes it light to handle. Who cares if it feels a bit disconnected? If you are looking for an engaging drive, you are shopping in the wrong segment by looking at the Murano. For a few thousand more, there are some interesting options from the Germans, though you might have to downsize.

Aaron Cole, Chris Tonn, and I all had a chat about the Murano styling. They quite like the Nissan … and they’d take it over the Ford Edge. I’d rather the Blue Oval, based on styling alone, inside and out. Yet, if the Edge didn’t drive as nice as the Murano (and I’m not sure if it does but an Edge is on the way) I’d probably have the Murano … the fuel economy bump for me is a nice to have.

If you’re a yuppie with some coin to spend, the Murano and Edge are like white and red wine: they’re both wine and they both get the job done of looking classy, but it’s all a matter of taste. The Murano, to most, will taste just fine.

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2015 Ram 1500 Rebel Review – Identity Crisis http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ram-rebel-review-identity-crisis/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ram-rebel-review-identity-crisis/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 19:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1141673 2015 Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4×4 5.7-liter, variable valve timing, multi-displacement system Hemi V-8 (395 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm; 410 pounds-feet @ 3,950 rpm) 8-speed 8HP70 automatic 15 city/21 highway/17 combined (EPA Rating, MPG) 15.1 mpg, 60 percent highway/30 percent off-road/10 percent at a lousy, never-ending stoplight (Observed, MPG) Tested Options: Rebel Package; Dual rear […]

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2015 Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4×4

5.7-liter, variable valve timing, multi-displacement system Hemi V-8 (395 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm; 410 pounds-feet @ 3,950 rpm)

8-speed 8HP70 automatic

15 city/21 highway/17 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

15.1 mpg, 60 percent highway/30 percent off-road/10 percent at a lousy, never-ending stoplight (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Rebel Package; Dual rear exhaust with bright tips; Luxury group, $560 (Heated mirrors, auto-dimming mirrors); Protection group, $150 (Transfer case and front suspension skid plating); Monotone paint; Rear Camera and Park Assist, $595 (Backup camera, ParkSense rear park assistant); ZF 8-speed automatic, $500; Anti-spin differential rear axle, $325; 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, $1,150; Rebel instrument cluster, $175; Four corner air suspension; Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen w/nav, $1,005; RamBox cargo management system, $1,295; Trailer brake control, $230; Spray-in bedliner, $475.

Base Price (Ram 1500 Rebel 4×4):
$45,195*
As Tested Price:
$52,375*

* All prices include $1,195 destination fee.

Any debate about Jeep inevitably ends on a common, agreeable topic for all parties involved:

“Jeep really needs to make a pickup already.”

The idea that stuffed shirts at Auburn Hills, who make more in a day than we do in a year, have somehow missed the point is entirely possible (remember the center-mounted exhausts in the Grand Cherokee SRT8, effectively prohibiting any sort of towing?) but highly unlikely.

In fact: Jeep now has a pickup. It’s called the Ram Rebel.

Obligatory disclosure: I have no skin in the pickup game. None. My father owned exactly one of the following: A white Ford F-150, a black Chevrolet Silverado and a green Dodge Ram (when they were called as such). They were all new when he bought them, of 1990s-era vintage and equally pampered. No, we were not a wealthy family, and no, I still couldn’t back up a trailer with a gun pointed to my head.

To be even clearer: The only pickup I fondly remember is a dingy 1996 Toyota Pickup (pre-Tacoma years) that my brother took to college. It was five in speeds and six in cylinders; gutless and indestructible. It couldn’t run up a hill and run the A/C at the same time, but it felt like it could run over anything.

Put simply, in the domestic pickup war for dominance, I am Switzerland.

Now that you know where my allegiances fall, let’s get on to the important stuff.

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Powertrain
The nuance and variation in pickup powertrain and configuration options is dizzying and, in some places, probably an accredited college course for matriculating majors. I shall do my best.

Our Ram Rebel came equipped with the optional 5.7-liter Hemi V-8. The 395 horsepower mill bests any option from Ford (for now), but falls short of the 6.2-liter V-8 offered by GM by 25 ponies — if the tale of the tape is the sort of thing matters to you.

2015_Ram_Rebel_(16_of_18)Ram’s 5.7-liter V-8 is getting a little long in the tooth and isn’t my favorite all-around application in the Ram 1500 anyway — the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 takes that crown. But in the Ram Rebel, the V-8 is saved by the smartly cautious and clever 8-speed ZF slushbox. The eager mill keeps the Rebel in check on highway driving, keeping revs low and mileage high. Off road, the 8-speed decently held gears depending on yaw and steering angle, and I seldom used the steering-wheel-mounted gear selection buttons to adjust the ZF’s gear selection. (The gearbox’s Achilles heel is freeway passing; mash the pedal to the right between 55 mph and 80 mph and wait for a second before the revs and speed react accordingly. Eh.)

The motor is decisively torquey and moderately responsive, but certainly not nervous. On a couple ascents, I adjusted the throttle position ever so slightly forward to encourage the mighty motor to climb, but I wouldn’t consider it to be deficient or lagging. After all, I would expect a 13-year-old truck engine to be about as spry and useful as three bad knees.

(Strangely, I would have imagined Ram could have pulled out its 6.4-liter Hemi V8 for the Ford Raptor-esque Rebel. Perhaps that gets a little too close for comfort with the Power Wagon?)

In back, the power is transmitted through a standard 3.92 rear axle or an optional 3.21 rear axle, both available with an anti-spin rear differential if you’re so inclined to add it to your 4×4. Our tester was fitted with the former, optioned with anti-spin, and could climb and sprint like a champion. (Predictably, our mileage with the higher ratio wasn’t great.)

Our Rebel’s rated towing capacity is 9,600 pounds and its payload capacity is 1,211, according to the manufacturer. We opted to find the nearest mountain to climb instead.

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Exterior
Choose your own adventure!

Do you think Ram’s new design language is awesome? (Skip to Paragraph 1)

Do you think Ram’s new direction isn’t awesome? (Skip to Paragraph 2)

Paragraph 1: Head to toe, the Ram Rebel is the most polarizing truck on the market. Undeniable.

Paragraph 2: If the Rebel’s front end has evolved into a snout, then the rear end is most certainly an ass.2015_Ram_Rebel_(7_of_18)

When Ram took the wraps off the Rebel earlier this year, it was clear that the truckmaker couldn’t
outrun its Dodge days fast enough. The rear end, which sports a “Ram” brand visible from space, doesn’t pass the breakfast test for me. The front end boasts a Ram logo that is big enough to be an intention and not a brand (i.e. “I’m going to RAM you with my RAM truck now!”) is saved by the amount of black plastic hiding its sharp lines. If you get past both braggadocios ends, then Ram makes a case as a sensible alternative to Ford’s Art Deco movement and GM’s wallpaper paste movement.

(The hood-mounted nostrils are more my speed, and I wish Ram had left it at that.)

Between the head’s fangs and the tail’s, um, pipes, is the heart of the Ram. Thankfully, chunky 285/70R17 Toyo Open Country A/T tires aren’t hidden by the Ram’s black wells; deep gray wheels pull the rubbers from the wells. There is a little more cladding than I’d like, but it gives the Rebel a sense of purpose and a dare to drivers: Use me.

I really do like Ram’s overall style; I just wish it were subtler that their current approach — which is understated like a five-finger ring.

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Interior
You could find more comfortable chairs than the ones found in the Ram (or any other full-size FCA car for that matter), but they’d probably have the word “La-Z-Boy” written on them somewhere. The overstuffed-oversized thrones are deeply comfortable and I’m highly suspicious that they’ll last any longer than a couple years.

2015_Ram_Rebel_(10_of_18)The high-contrast red on black interior is a visual cue to the Rebel’s unique position within Ram’s lineup — just incase you missed the giant “Rebel” emblazoned on the glove box and instrument panel. There were nice touches everywhere, like the embroidered Ram on the sides of the driver and passenger seat, and the embossed tread pattern on the seat backs, but in all, the Ram Rebel is a nice place to be — even on rocky roads.

The controls and gear selector knob all have a feel of being usable and accessible, even with work gloves on, and I can appreciate its tactile feeling. Ram may have to catch up to GM in terms of ergonomics and accessibility, but we’re talking about a 7-year-old design compared to a 2-year-old design — there will be generational differences.

You want gripes? I have a few. The Rebel’s unique instrument cluster isn’t very easy to read, and its 12-volt power plug is buried in the small storage opening.

But I love the gripped phone holders, which are placed in the small storage opening underneath the infotainment. That’s a 30-cent solution to a million-dollar problem. Engineering at its finest.

2015_Ram_Rebel_(13_of_18)Infotainment
Ram’s 8.4-inch Uconnect screen (yeah, that Uconnect) was stuffed into the dash of our tester and performed adequately. For my money, General Motors still has the least fussy, easiest-to-understand system (yes Mark, I know) but Ram’s Uconnect isn’t bad.

It could use a few more pixels and a better Bluetooth interface, but I wouldn’t kick Uconnect out of bed.

I’m also petitioning for better navigation-to-instrument cluster integration, but I’m assuming that’s already on the horizon.

Drive
Unexpectedly, the Ram Rebel was stiffer than I was expecting. Its interstate manners were sorted, but the Bilstein dampers aren’t doing it any favors there. The road ride is stiff (but not as painful as a Power Wagon) and the Rebel pines for extra-road activity.

Off road — though, admittedly not the most technical course in the world — the Rebel shines. The extra inch of ground clearance the Rebel gains over the Ram helps to increase its approach angle by some 2.5 degrees (22.9 vs. 25.3), and it can climb moderately steep inclines. (I’d figure that we shimmied up a 30-degree incline without scraping anything.)

2015_Ram_Rebel_(4_of_18)The Rebel is equipped with an adjustable air suspension that raises or lowers the truck four inches from top to bottom. We spent more time in Aero mode — which is below Normal and Off Road heights, but above Entry/Exit height — because “aerodynamic truck” feels like an oxymoron. That’s just who I am, people.

Around the bumpy stuff, the Rebel is communicative and expressive. It’s timbre and buck expressed the uncertainty of its footing below the bed, but remained relatively quiet inside. On highways, the chunky tires drone. On the trail, the chunky tires grip and plant. It’s a wonderful toy.

Which is why, after days behind the wheel, I realized what kind of truck Ram made with the Rebel. It isn’t a logical competitor to the Raptor. In fact, it’s not even close.

In reality, the Rebel feels like the next step up when a Wrangler Rubicon just isn’t big enough. And despite the massive Ram badge on the back, I know exactly what the Rebel is: It’s a Jeep.

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China 2015: The Cars of Changchun http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/china-2015-cars-changchun/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/china-2015-cars-changchun/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 15:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1140666 After exploring the Shanghai car landscape, we are now headed North to land in Changchun, the capital city of the Jilin province and known as the Chinese Detroit.   The city itself has 3.6 million inhabitants. Including the greater Changchun, this figure climbs to 8 million, or almost as much as Paris or London! Yes, you’ve […]

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VW Jetta taxi in front of the Chanchun Railway Station

After exploring the Shanghai car landscape, we are now headed North to land in Changchun, the capital city of the Jilin province and known as the Chinese Detroit.

 

Where is Changchun?

Where is Changchun?

The city itself has 3.6 million inhabitants. Including the greater Changchun, this figure climbs to 8 million, or almost as much as Paris or London! Yes, you’ve read that right: There are cities in China you may not have heard of that are larger than most European cities. Changchun was the Japanese capital of Manchukuo between 1933 and 1945. It houses the former residence of Puyi, the Qing dynasty’s final emperor (also known as the ‘puppet emperor’), whose story was made into the 1987 movie “The Last Emperor”. Adequately, Changchun also used to be the capital of the Chinese film industry in the ’50s and ’60s.

Nowadays, Changchun is known as China’s Detroit. It is the largest vehicle manufacturing, research and development centre in China, producing roughly 10 percent of the country’s automobiles in 2014. First Automobile Works (FAW), you would have guessed, is the first ever Chinese carmaker and has its headquarters here along with its various joint ventures with foreign manufacturers including FAW-Volkswagen and FAW-Toyota. This impacts the Changchun car landscape greatly as we will discover in a lot more detail below. Anecdotally, Changchun also produces 50 percent of all passenger trains in China.

 

FAW Besturn B50 taxi and BMW X1 in Changchun

FAW Besturn B50 taxi and BMW X1 in Changchun

Landing in Changchun means we have arrived in what I call ‘the real China’: I did not see a single foreigner the entire time I stayed here (24 hours) and my very presence in the streets has everyone glued to their bus windows in curiosity, waving and smiling at me like they just spotted a movie star. Having around 50 bus patrons turn their head all in the same motion to keep staring while the bus drives on is a very interesting experience indeed. Must be the beard.

 

FAW Xenia S80 at Changchun Longjia Airport

FAW Xenia S80 at Changchun Longjia Airport

As soon as I step on the airport tarmac, the evidence I’m in FAW city awaits in the form of a FAW Xenia S80 minivan in its Changchun Longjia Airport livery. It is the start of a constant flow of FAW models streaming through Changchun, but they were not the ones I expected. The FAW Xiali sedan, a decade ago among the best-sellers nationwide — although not produced in Changchun but 850km South in Tianjin — is nowhere to be seen. I only spotted two lonely Xiali N5s. It goes the same for the lower end of the FAW lineup: only a couple of Oley sedans and Xiali N7 hatchbacks and one Junpai D60.

 

FAW Besturn X80

FAW Besturn X80

No. What Changchun drivers can’t get enough of are the more upmarket FAW offerings, namely the Besturn sub-brand. The Besturn X80 SUV is absolutely everywhere; 2 or 3 of them at every block, no less. While only ranking #91 nationally in 2014, in Changchun it is flirting with the pole position.

 

FAW Besturn B70

FAW Besturn B70

Also very popular are the Besturn B50 and B70 — all generations of them (they both launched in 2006), with the 2014 B70 model already very present in the Changchun streets. I would safely bet on a Top 10 ranking here, even potentially Top 5.

 

FAW Besturn B50 and Jinbei Haise

FAW Besturn B50 and Jinbei Haise

The first generation Besturn B50 also accounts for roughly 5 percent of all taxis here. Only the flagship B90 has yet to become a local favourite, potentially because of its 139,800 yuan pricetag (US$22,800). I did see one FAW Hongqi H7, the first time I’ve seen one of these out and about, and Hongqi has one H7 exhibited in the Departures hall of the Changchun Airport along with very sleek brochures. To know more about the Hongqi prestige brand, check out my coverage of the Shanghai Auto Show here.

 

FAW Hongqi H7 at Changchun Dongjia Airport

FAW Hongqi H7 at Changchun Dongjia Airport

As such, FAW secures itself the lion’s share of domestic carmakers who account for roughly 25-30 percent of a car park still largely dominated by sedans. SUVs are starting to be relatively popular, but there is no heritage of any SUV buying pattern in the past. Meanwhile, minivans and microvans are relatively rare compared to cities like Chongqing, and pickup trucks are non-existent.

 

Changchun street scene

Changchun street scene

In Changchun, we see the return of the Wuling Hongguang — well established here but a long way from matching its #1 national ranking — as well as a sprinkling of the microvans that preceded it. I spotted the first two Wuling Hongguang Vs and the first four Baojun 730 MPVs in circulation, confirming the mesmerising sales starts of these two nameplates are no legend but well and truly confirmed in the streets.

 

Haval H1

Haval H1

Great Wall is relatively strong here and I learned by studying the Changchun traffic that the Haval H6 Sport has, in effect, replaced the H6 over the past 18 months in terms of sales. That is before the new generation H6, unveiled at Auto Shanghai this year, will take the relay. Also of note were the success of the Dongfeng X3 SUV and ChangAn CS75.

 

VW Jetta

VW Jetta

That’s it for the Chinese. What brands compose the remainder of the Changchun park?

One word: Volkswagen. Or two: VW Jetta.

Being produced locally since 1991, the Jetta is logically the best-seller in Changchun whether it be with taxi companies or private buyers. I spotted hundreds of them in the streets in the space of only a few hours. The first generation Jetta (1991-1997) and its facelifts König (1997-2010) and Pionier (2010-2013) still account for around 75 percent of the Changchun taxi park, with the current generation called Jetta Night (2013-) holding a 20-percent share and growing. Come back in a few years time and the new gen will be dominant.

 

VW Jetta taxis in Changchun

VW Jetta taxis in Changchun

In fact, all mass-market Volkswagens produced in Changchun are popular here: the Sagitar (the Chinese name for the Jetta we know in the U.S.) follows the Jetta, ahead of the Bora, Magotan and Golf. Changchun is the first Chinese city where I spotted the European best seller in significant numbers, including one station wagon.

 

Chery E3

Chery E3

Even though Toyota produces in Changchun, it’s Honda that could snap the title of most popular Japanese manufacturer with a regular flow of Criders, CR-Vs, Citys, Civics and Accords, whereas in the Toyota camp only the Vios and to a lesser extent the Yaris L and RAV4 have made a real mark so far. Mazda has also made a very strong and very recent impression with the 3 Axela and 6 Atenza — the names of the latest generations have taken to differentiate them from the earlier ones still on sale — placing way above their respective #84 and #150 national rankings. Korean-wise, the Hyundai Mistra and Kia Optima have also struck a chord with Changchun car buyers, and the ix25 small SUV is off to a great start.

 

Mercedes C-Class

Mercedes C-Class

There is one car of choice for the wealthy: the Audi A6L, surprisingly frequent despite its price starting at a whopping 355,000 yuan (US$57,300). But it doesn’t stop there. Changchun wealth is clearly visible through the cars that roam its streets, including three Porsche Macans spotted in one hour, a handful of BMW X5s and X6s, a new generation Mercedes C-Class, and a dozen Audi Q3s and Q5s produced locally.

 

Changchun street scene

Changchun street scene

Let’s finish on an American note: It would seem that each Chinese city has one resident Ford F-150 Raptor scaring its pedestrians and Changchun is no exception — with the added surprise of one Toyota Tundra. Next stop is Yanji in the Yánbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture at the border with North Korea…

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and runs a website dedicated to car sales, trends and analysis called BestSellingCarsBlog.

 

Toyota Yaris L

Toyota Yaris L

Changchun street scene

Changchun street scene

VW Jetta taxi 

VW Jetta taxi

Hyundai Mistra

Hyundai Mistra

Maxus M80

Maxus M80

Haval H6 Sport

Haval H6 Sport

FAW Xiali N7

FAW Xiali N7

FAW Besturn B70

FAW Besturn B70

Porsche Macan and Audi A6L

Porsche Macan and Audi A6L

Toyota Vios

Toyota Vios

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2015 BMW X6 M Review – Paid in Full http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-bmw-x6-m-paid-full/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-bmw-x6-m-paid-full/#comments Wed, 12 Aug 2015 15:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1138914 2015 BMW X6 M 4.4-liter, twin turbocharged V-8 with direct injection and variable valve control (567 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 553 pounds-feet of torque @ 2,000-5,500 rpm)8-speed M Sport automatic 14 city/19 highway/16 combined (EPA Rating, MPG) 16.8 mpg combined, 60 percent highway, 40 percent asshat (Observed, MPG) Tested Options: Driver Assistance Plus – $1,900; Executive […]

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2015BMWX6M-1

2015 BMW X6 M
4.4-liter, twin turbocharged V-8 with direct injection and variable valve control (567 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 553 pounds-feet of torque @ 2,000-5,500 rpm)8-speed M Sport automatic

14 city/19 highway/16 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

16.8 mpg combined, 60 percent highway, 40 percent asshat (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Driver Assistance Plus – $1,900; Executive Package – $4,500; Enhanced Bluetooth and smartphone – $500.

Base Price:
$103,050 w/ $950 destination charge
As Tested Price:
$109,950 w/ $950 destination charge

For most people who find themselves burdened with the choice between fast and big: Salud, you’ve made it somewhere. For the small number of people who scoff at those physical encumbrances: pay your taxes, please. You’re using the road more than the rest of us. 

Imagine, if you can, a Venn diagram of two relatively equal circles representing a traditional buyer’s decision between two cars that, everything else being equal, represent the physical problem of mass and its direct effect on velocity. Two unrelated sets of realities — speed and size — very rarely converge in the physical world, unless those sets are colored Castrol red, Bavarian blue and of course, purple, I guess.

I’m making this point because the BMW X6 M seems, well, kind of pointless. On paper, the big SUV doesn’t scream that it wants to be taken off road (and dent those 21-inch wheels?!) nor does it seem like it wants to go that fast. After all, 5,185 pounds is large enough to have its own weather system.

The curve toward the speed of light, Albert Einstein taught us, gets exponentially steeper toward the top because moving any mass closer to the speed of light requires infinitely greater energy, but I’m not sure that Einstein ever gazed at BMW’s 4.4-liter, twin-scrolling turbocharged V-8 lump under the hood of the X6 M.

2015BMWX6M-7

Powertrain
The mill, which is new despite having the same displacement as the old engine, outputs 567 horsepower and 550 pound-feet of torque, up 12 horsepower and 53 pound-feet from the last generation. The subdued symphony of turbos and pounding pistons rockets the two-and-a-half ton machine up to 60 mph in about four seconds. Yikes.

Married to a traditional 8-speed automatic, the X6 M swaps cogs fast enough to keep up with its angry motor. The decision to use a normal torque converter instead of a dual-clutch box makes sense for two reasons: first, takeoff is much smoother in the traditional automatic; and second, there’s virtually no benefit to shaving milliseconds in a car that has no business at the track anyway.

Yes, yes, I’ve seen and heard the “can,” but astride the X6 M’s massive shoes and hulking 5,000-pound mass, one really ponders “should.” Chewing through the X6 M’s wide, 325-millimeter rubbers in the rear is no pleasure; you’re defying physics to catch up with the pack, not mastering the machinery.

Since BMW started applying its M badges — and presumably M mechanicals — to SUVs in the States in 2009, more than 20,000 examples have rolled off the lots and on to the streets. That’s hardly commonplace, but it is brisk for a series of cars that cost six figures to start — the X6 M starts at $103,050. The X6 M has company too: Porsche’s Cayenne Turbo, Range Rover’s coming SVR, Maserati’s upcoming unnamed SUV, and Jeep’s Grand Cherokee SRT8 (and likely Trackhawk) all play in the super-sized performance SUV category for near-to-makes-no-difference $100,000.

The X6 M will play ball with them all, if only because its engine qualifies as one of the engineering marvels of the known universe.

2015BMWX6M-2

Exterior
All of those new competitors forced BMW’s hand to remake the X6 M a little faster than it would have liked, I’m guessing.

You could be forgiven for confusing the second generation from looking pretty similar to the first. This year’s car is barely longer, wider or higher than the outgoing generation, and the 115.5-inch wheelbase is the same. From the side, the two cars are nearly identical — except for the larger wheels, which were 20-inch shoes last time around. This year’s X6 M sports an updated front fascia with a classier grille and sharper snout. Around back, the rear haunches have been overemphasized and it’s squat, quad pipes in the back relay the engine’s quiet riot to the outside world. The wider arches, deeper chin and shouty pipes hint for bystanders at what the impossibly wide tires confirm: the X6 M is a wholly different beast altogether.

If you’re looking for something practical, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for something that looks completely different on the road — well, here’s your steed.

If you asked me what was different from the last generation without much time to prepare, I’d say the rear quarter is the only thing new on the surface. A week later, I still feel the same way. Oh yeah, and the grille, I guess.

2015BMWX6M-9

Interior
Inside the X6 M is the best of what BMW’s upper echelon cars can provide. Soft leathers, comfortable seating and power everything is what we’d expect from a German luxury carmaker, but oh my goodness is it expensive. As a BMW owner, the diverging materials the company is using in their cars sadden me, but I understand why it’s happening.

Not long ago, the parentage was unmistakable in an entry-level BMW and its most expensive model. Nowadays, the difference between an entry-level 320i and this X6 M is the difference between the Four Seasons and an air mattress in your grandmother’s garage. The interior of the X6 M is gorgeous, and it absolutely needs to be.

Rear legroom and headroom is down slightly from the last generation, but anyone who’s buying the X6 M looking for practicality should be scissor-kicked by reality: its rear cargo room is comically small and there’s people you could afford to hire to haul your kids, go to the grocery store and pick up your dry cleaning. If you must: rear legroom is down to 35.6 inches and cargo area is rated at 26.6 cubic feet.

Our tester added ventilated seats, which didn’t work, a connected smartphone harness, which was too small, and a touch-sensitive navigation pad for the infotainment system, which couldn’t read my childish handwriting.

Have I mentioned how god-like the powertrain is?

2015BMWX6M-10

Infotainment
Have I mentioned how god-like the powertrain is?

(In reality, BMW’s 10.2-inch high resolution screen is infinitely sharp and responsive. I prefer Mercedes’ menu navigation and Audi’s newly found compartmentalized approach to infotainment, but BMW’s system is no slouch. The redundant buttons around its clickwheel are easy to memorize and helpful when you’re pushing the car into a mountain corner at 60 mph.)

2015BMWX6M-3

Drive
Behind the wheel, the X6 M is an incremental improvement over the last generation’s car. BMW says a half second was shaved from its 0-60 time and the stopping power has been increased by platter-sized rotors with more stopping power than morning breath, but that’s a minor detail. The X6 M’s biggest improvement, to me, is in its comfortability — or you know, when there are other people in the car.

The three transmission modes, three steering modes, three throttle modes and three damping modes all feature an “easy there, pal” setting that settles the car into a normal routine. That’s useful for when you want to pass a gas station without stopping at it (we observed 16 mpg in hard driving, 19 mpg when we eased off), and when you have kids in the car.

Get it on an open road and dial the car past “easy” and you’ll see how savage it can be. The X6 M is every bit as fun to drive as you’d imagine commanding more than 550 horsepower would be. Rocketing up to speed and maneuvering the car around twisty stuff is more fun than picking on your younger brother, and the X6 M is flatter in the corners than a Kansas accent. You can’t not love this car.

But you can’t test it very well. Despite its ability to hide its weight, the BMW X6 M always surpasses your ability and will never reveal its secret. And it’s secret is that it is fast, but it is very big and can bite back in a big way.

I love that the X6 M exists; I only need fast or big in alternating turns, but I recognize that some of you need both at the same time, to which I say, for nearly $110,000 as tested, you’re more than welcome. You’re just fine right there in the middle.

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2015 GMC Sierra Crew Cab Review – America: The Truck http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-gmc-sierra-crew-cab-review-america-truck/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-gmc-sierra-crew-cab-review-america-truck/#comments Tue, 11 Aug 2015 19:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1138058 2015 GMC Sierra Crew Cab SLT 4×4 6.2-liter OHV V-8, direct injection, cylinder deactivation, CVVT (420 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm; 460 lbs-ft @ 4,100 rpm) Hydra-Matic 8L90 8-speed automatic 15 city/21 highway/17 combined (EPA Rating, MPG) 16.5 mpg, mostly city driving while yelling “AMERICA!” at full trot. (Observed, MPG) Tested Options: 6.2L Ecotec3 V-8, navigation, polished exhaust tips, sunroof, spray-in bedliner. As […]

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output_n6IY1j

2015 GMC Sierra Crew Cab SLT 4×4
6.2-liter OHV V-8, direct injection, cylinder deactivation, CVVT (420 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm; 460 lbs-ft @ 4,100 rpm)

Hydra-Matic 8L90 8-speed automatic

15 city/21 highway/17 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

16.5 mpg, mostly city driving while yelling “AMERICA!” at full trot. (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: 6.2L Ecotec3 V-8, navigation, polished exhaust tips, sunroof, spray-in bedliner.

As Tested (U.S.):
$52,300 w/ $1,195 destination charge (sheet)
As Tested (Canada):
$59,615 w/ $1,795 destination charge and A/C tax (sheet)

A farm, lots of mud thanks to rain from the previous day, and a dose of sunshine to dry out the ground just enough so my feet wouldn’t lose their boots in the slop. This is the perfect location — along with the perfect conditions — to test one of the latest from the pickup crop, the 2015 GMC Sierra.

Or is it?

Under the hood of the SLT-trimmed Sierra sits a V-8 less suited to farm duty and better equipped for automotive trolling.

Before we get into the meat and potatoes of the Sierra, I have a small announcement to make. TTAC now has an off-road area for testing trucks and SUVs. Sort of. It probably won’t be fully available for us for a little while, but shenanigans will be had before the end of the summer. Here’s hoping the automakers send us some metal so we can put it to the test at this newfound playland.

As for this Sierra, well, it isn’t a farm truck. Hell, it’s barely a work truck. The Sierra is available in four different trim levels — base, SLE, SLT and the top-trim Denali. Our SLT-trimmed tester arrived with its bench seat still intact, which is great for mid-summer-romance canoodling and one of the reasons girls dig guys with trucks, maybe.

Interior configuration aside, the real news for this Sierra is under the hood. The 6.2-liter Ecotec3 V-8, with its 420 horsepower and 460 pounds-feet of torque, is a nod to old-school solutions to making power and a pragmatic approach to efficiency. The pushrod V-8 might sound antiquated next to the new turbo and diesel units from Ford and Dodge, but that doesn’t make it any less valid.

2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (1 of 25)

Powertrain
Big power, these days, is easy to make. When you can go out and buy a family sedan with over 700 horsepower for under $100,000, power is almost insignificant — unless you are also trying to pair that power with fuel economy.

Previously only available on the chrome-laden Denali, the 6.2-liter V-8 now finds its way to lesser, more restrained trims like this SLT model — and it’s a punisher. Paired with fairly unassuming looks, the bigger V-8 will give a lot of performance cars a run for their money. We aren’t talking M3-beating performance here. After all, regardless of what you folks may think, I am not completely delusional. Yet, with this combination you could definitely catch a few people off-guard at stop lights.

That would be completely true if it wasn’t for the incredible amount of latency experienced from a standing start. It feels like you can count the number of seconds between your foot depresses the accelerator and the V-8 comes to life. The experience is painful. At busy intersections, you are left questioning the Sierra’s ability to get out of its own way and, more importantly, that of oncoming cross traffic. Why that latency exists, I’m not quite sure. It could be a matter of many causes. It surely isn’t because the engine is lacking power or torque, however.

The modern six-speed automatic transmissions from GM have always impressed me with their smooth-shifting antics regardless of the lazy speed in which they perform those shifts, but the eight-speed slushbox in our tester seems to have lost a little bit of its refinement while still retaining its lethargic nature. Paired with the big eight-cylinder engine, shifts can be abrupt at mid-throttle and deeper into the revs. Thankfully, when putting around town, the Hydra-Matic 8L90 exhibits the same silky demeanor as its six-geared counterpart.

In reality, the eight-speed is meant to deliver increased efficiency and not Rolls-Royce shift quality. In that regard, and in combination with the L86’s cylinder deactivation turning the V-8 into a V-4, direct injection, and CVVT, the V-8 is rated similarly to the Ram 1500’s 5.7-liter HEMI V-8 on fuel economy while delivering 25 more horsepower and 50 more pounds-feet of torque. I call that a win. For the turbo and diesel averse, it’s a no brainer if you’re looking for big numbers. And comparing the Ecotec3 with the HEMI gives GM a win for payload and towing by multiples of hundreds of pounds — when properly equipped, of course.

2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (18 of 25)

Exterior
This category is the only one that separates a GMC from a lesser Chevrolet and it’s also wholly subjective. Personally, I’d take the Sierra over the Silverado for the extra half sandwich it costs for a cleaner, three-lettered grille and headlights that don’t appear to be lifted from one of Michael Bay’s “Transformers.” Aft of the front fascia, the two trucks — save their badging and color choices — are completely identical.

Compared with the F-150, the Sierra looks much more restrained and professional, less Tonka-like and thrown together. Ignoring that the Ram Rebel grille exists, I think the FCA offering is the most handsome of the domestics — and easily much better looking than the Tundra and Titan. Again, wholly subjective.

In profile, the squared-off wheel wells are trimmed well in off-road-looking plastic. However, ignoring that GM design cue, the Sierra and Silverado are slab-sided pickups — and that’s totally, perfectly, absolutely okay. The day I see a BMW-esque flame surfacing on a pickup is the day I give up on humanity.

Around back, GM ignores fancy RamBox and Ford retract-a-step features for customizable anchoring solutions and a notch cut into the bumper for pickup bed ingress. GM seems much more pragmatic when it comes to their trucks, preferring simpler, usable solutions over flashy, marketing-friendly buzzword features like those found on Fords and Rams.

But, if there’s one thing that bugs me about GM trucks, it’s the bed. I will freely admit this is something my somewhat OCD brain thinks is an issue and probably isn’t … but! the ridges in the bed floor are all wrong. Being someone who hauls motorcycles in the pickup beds, I like the very middle ridge in the bed floor to go down, not up, so I can put the tires of the motorcycle I am hauling in the center groove and know for certain the weight of said motorcycle is evenly distributed side-to-side. Also, it helps ease my unfounded worries that the motorcycle tires will slip to one side or the other riding atop one of the ridges. Yes, I know this is a me issue.

2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (19 of 25)

Interior
If you want a quiet place to do your work, you can’t find a much better cabin than that of GM’s full-size pickups. Thanks to clever sealing solutions and active noise cancellation, the Sierra is “library silent” — that is unless you put your foot down for a quick scoot to 60 as the 6.2 still makes enough of a ruckus to be heard loud and clear.

If you order a Sierra without the optional captain’s chairs up front, the middle can be used as a console or additional seat for drive-in theater trips. Also, since the console isn’t fixed, the floor space is open from side to side. Transporting a very important package along with a very important person? You can keep both up front.

The seats themselves, while they do provide a wide range of adjustability along with the moveable steering wheel and pedals, didn’t provide the best comfort. It wasn’t until the very end of the week that I found a seating/pedal/steering wheel position combination where I was somewhat comfortable. The seat leather is just fair. The overall design of the interior is OK.

In the back row of our crew cab tester, space is ample and the seats are easy as pie to fold up. There is no latching. They simply flip up and stay there — sometimes. If you plan on traversing some rougher roads, those latchless seats will flip back down without warning.

All that said, I like the Ram interior more overall, but this bests the F-150 in my eyes.

2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (21 of 25)

Infotainment
I still do not understand how navigation is an option on a $50,000 pickup, especially when the cost of it is probably negligible for the automaker. On a base model? Sure, make people pay for the ability to find their way in an automated fashion across the country. In an almost top-trim truck, well, you’re just taking the piss.

Maybe my brain is wired a bit differently than Aaron’s father — that’s the guinea pig yardstick Aaron uses to figure out if a system is user-friendly or not — because GM’s system always confuses me. On top of that, the screen is so damn far away from the driver. If you need to do anything on the infotainment system while driving, you need to move ahead just short of unbuckling yourself to reach the screen.

2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (8 of 25)

Drive
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to test the Sierra with a load, but the unloaded drive gives a good impression of its capabilities. Effortless power. A smooth (for a pickup) ride. I just wish I was a bit more comfortable.

There’s something to be said for a big, American-style V-8. The Sierra, unlike the EcoBoost F-150, will put a 6.2-liter-sized grin on your face. This is about as close as you can get to a muscle car with a bed in the back. I’d even go far as to say this particular truck probably has more in common with the muscle cars of yesteryear than the modern muscle cars of today to their forebears. It’s unapologetic and without flash. Just a truck with a big engine that does exactly as its throaty lump advertises. The 6.2-liter L89 will completely embarrass that Craigslist Ferrari you’ve been eyeballing and be less of a basket case when it comes to repairs in the long run — not that you’d cross shop the two.

Yet, I cannot emphasize enough that this truck isn’t a workhorse. It might have the capability, but it’s too dear to be used around the cabbage patch. As a family hauler with the might to tow along a travel trailer or boat, however, it would feel right at home.

General Motors provided the vehicle and insurance for this review.

2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (1 of 25) 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (2 of 25) 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (3 of 25) 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (4 of 25) 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (5 of 25) 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (6 of 25) 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (7 of 25) 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (8 of 25) 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (9 of 25) 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (11 of 25) 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (19 of 25) 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (20 of 25) 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (21 of 25) 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (22 of 25) 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (23 of 25) 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (24 of 25) 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4x4 6.2 (25 of 25)

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Case Study of Incentives: 2015 Ford Expedition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/case-study-incentives-2015-ford-expedition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/case-study-incentives-2015-ford-expedition/#comments Mon, 10 Aug 2015 15:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1131497 In my recent test of the 2015 Ford Expedition, I wanted to give a sense of real-word pricing rather than just MSRP, so I quoted TrueCar’s estimate of the average discount available on the vehicle. I had planned to quote available cash and lease incentives direct from Ford’s website, but after 15 minutes of research my head started […]

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2015 Expedition Incentives

In my recent test of the 2015 Ford Expedition, I wanted to give a sense of real-word pricing rather than just MSRP, so I quoted TrueCar’s estimate of the average discount available on the vehicle. I had planned to quote available cash and lease incentives direct from Ford’s website, but after 15 minutes of research my head started hurting and the story would have been longer than DeadWeight’s diatribes on what’s wrong with Cadillac.

So let’s take a separate look at the quagmire of incentives that Ford offers you to buy an Expedition. Before you click the jump, do you know the expansion of the above acronym “RCL” ?

There’s no doubt 99 percent of the B&B know the correct answer is “Red Carpet Lease.” So does the RCL Customer Cash incentive mean Ford will throw $3,750 in trunk money if you lease? The answer is a definite, absolute maybe. The “S3″ asterisk leads to legal mumbo-jumbo, not an explanation of the offer. Nowhere on Ford’s website are details published of the $3,750 lease money or the definition of “RCL.” 

The fine print says, “See dealer for residency restrictions and complete details.” Attention Ford: customers go to your website so they don’t have to go to the dealership to learn about your products and offers.

And don’t get me started on Ford using industry lingo like “RCL.” I have tried to pound this Advertising 101 principle into dealers’ heads for years: Speak in the consumer’s language and not your own. I cringe when I see the phrase “brass hat car” or similar without explanation in a dealership’s promos. You would think Ford and other automakers would know better.

Let’s dive deeper. After building your Expedition, you can click on “Get Local Offers”:

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It says you may receive 72-month, 0% APR financing or $2,750 in trunk money, but the fine print points out the cash is a combination of $1,500 in Customer Cash, $750 in Competitive Lease Conquest and $500 in Ford Credit Bonus Cash. So you would need a leased vehicle in your driveway and finance the Expedition through Ford Credit to get the full $2,750. Nowhere in the fine print does it say you have to trade in your leased vehicle. The competitive model set is identified as all non-Ford products, so your leased Mini counts as a competitor to the Expedition.

But where is my $3,750 in RCL cash? Look under Lease Offers link and you find: “Please contact your local dealer for the latest information on our current lease offers.” (We are not telling you this again!)

The remaining offer buttons show an eye chart of which incentives may be combined and an additional $500 Military Appreciation Bonus Cash offer for active military members only, the latter mentioned in the fine print of many Ford dealers’ ads in font far smaller the their “$XXXX DISCOUNT” headline.

Bottom line: the maximum cash incentive available is $3,250 for military members and $2,750 for non-military if you meet all the requirements. Walk into a Ford dealer to ask the average salesperson about the $3,750 offer and I am sure they can fill you in on the details: “Dunno, but if I get you $3,750 off, will you buy today?”

Stair_Step_Ad_09-10-12 Courtesy NADA.com.jpgThe lack of transparency by Ford on their lease deals may be a case of cowtowing to their dealers as the retailers hate factory-advertised lease specials. The exact configuration of the featured vehicle is rarely available and the deal structure needed to hit the payment not only cuts the dealers’ margin on the sale of the car but also mandates a low money factor and a non-marked up lease acquisition fee so the store’s profit is limited in three areas.

Let us leave you with one more example of the strange world of Ford incentives: there is $500 cash available on the Explorer (but not the Expedition) for current police officials called the “2015 Police Association IUPA and NAPO Appreciation Program.” I am all about supporting our LEOs, but should anyone of a certain occupation get a better deal than other people?

Advertised incentives are only the fin of the shark: most carmakers have a wide range of confidential factory-to-dealer cash programs, some based upon a dealership hitting a specific sales objective. These so-called “Stair-Step” incentives create in theory the situation where one dealer could offer a deeper discount than another. The information on quiet cash programs is as hidden as Hillary’s emails, but among the B&B are many automotive retail folks who will be glad to tell us some incentive horror stories, right?

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2015 Mercedes S550 4Matic Review – The Luxury “Tweener” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-mercedes-s550-4matic-review-luxury-tweener/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-mercedes-s550-4matic-review-luxury-tweener/#comments Mon, 10 Aug 2015 14:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1130945 Luxury shoppers have an interesting “problem.” If you want something spendier and more unique than a Lexus LS, but aren’t ready for a baby-Bentley or Roller, you have but one option: the Mercedes S-Class. Trouble is the last generation S-Class lagged behind more plebian options in both gadgets and luxury. That was a serious problem since the price […]

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Luxury shoppers have an interesting “problem.” If you want something spendier and more unique than a Lexus LS, but aren’t ready for a baby-Bentley or Roller, you have but one option: the Mercedes S-Class. Trouble is the last generation S-Class lagged behind more plebian options in both gadgets and luxury. That was a serious problem since the price tag on the S spans from just under $100,000 to nearly a quarter of a million. Like the new C-Class, the redesigned S-Class is restoring my faith in the premiere German luxury brand.


Exterior
The S-Class has been the pinnacle of the Mercedes line since 1972. There have been long ones, short ones, coupés, sedans and limos. Regardless of the shape, the S-Class has long been the standard by which full-size luxury cars are judged. That was a little bit of a problem for the previous generation Merc which had a somewhat dowdy exterior with a plain profile, small grille and headlamps that looked like Shrinky Dinks that had spent too long in the oven.

The new S-Class receives Mercedes’ latest exterior design cues from the CLS and CLA with a bolder grille and angry headlamps blended with the quaintness of a tri-star hood ornament. As you’d expect from a car destined to chauffeur diplomats, royalty and heads of state, the side profile is upright and traditional, and the greenhouse bends slightly rearward to allow your royal personage a better view of your subjects.

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At rear, Mercedes blended the corporate style-book with classic S-Class cues we’ve seen since 1991, such as tail lamps that won’t wrap onto the trunk lid. This particular style choice has a notable downside: the trunk opening is smaller than many of the other luxury sedans.

Although the new S-Class may look like a re-skinned W220 S-Class, the W222 is an entirely new animal. The biggest change is a new body that is nearly half aluminum. Rather than going all-in on Alcoa like Jaguar and Audi, Mercedes took the more cautious approach by strategically using aluminum to adjust the car’s weight balance as well as shed a few pounds. The result is an S550 that tips the scales at 4,600 pounds and has a weight balance closer to 50/50 than ever before (a hair better than 52/48 we’re told.)

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Interior
Mercedes is a conservative company when it comes to interior style, so this generation doesn’t bring any massive design departures. Although restrained, everything is undeniably premium and this interior escapes the “upscale Buick” vibe the last generation gave off. Our tester has a nearly $6,000 optional leather package which undoubtedly helps. The option consists of premium two-tone hides and contrasting piping throughout the cabin, from the dashboard to the door panels. Even the portions of the door panels that are hidden when the doors close are perfectly stitched cow-hide. Laser cut metal speaker grilles are scattered throughout the cabin, a look that is also featured in the new C-class at more affordable prices.

European shoppers will likely be confused by this statement: Legroom is excellent but not epic in the S550. While the S-Class is ginormous by European standards, it is only 3.6-inches longer than a Ford Taurus and less than one inch longer than a Lincoln MKS. As a result, the 41.4 inches of front leg room is actually slightly lower than some large American sedans. Rear legroom is generous, but not much more than the large sedans by GM, Ford and Chrysler. The back seat is unquestionably comfortable, especially in our tester which came with the reclining rear seat option. However, folks taller than 6-foot-2 won’t be able to stretch completely out on the foot rest. (Your writer’s modest 6-foot frame fit like a glove.) Disappointed? Consider that the XJ, A8 and 7-Series are all available in two lengths and their long-wheelbase models are equivalent to the base S-Class in rear accommodation. Need more room? For a cool $189,350 you can get the S600 Maybach which stretches the S-Class by 8 inches, improving both leg and headroom in the process. Sadly, however, the champagne refrigerator and comfy rear thrones also eat into the trunk space, dropping the S500’s trunk down to a slim 12.3. Tell Jeeves to pack light.

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Mercedes-Maybach
Maybach was to be the German answer to the soaring popularity of Rolls Royce and Bentley. Unfortunately, Mercedes tried competing head-on with a previous generation S-Class stretched to an insane 244 inches that wore a price tag stretched even further to nearly $400,000. It’s no wonder the Maybach 57 and 62 failed to light the sales charts on fire. As of 2013, Maybach as a brand ceased to exist and a new strategy was born. Since the old Maybach was instantly recognizable as a stretched S-Class, they applied the Maybach label to the longest S available and thus the Mercedes-Maybach S600 was born. With a stretch of a more modest 8 inches (versus the three feet that was added to make the Maybach 62) and a similarly more modest price tag, think of the Mercedes-Maybach as a limo version of the S-Class. Oddly enough, the Maybach is not the most expensive S — that’s where the S65 AMG comes in starting at a cool $220,000.

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Infotainment & Gadgets
No luxury car would be complete without a bevy of gadgets and gizmos to entertain and protect (and brag about).

The first thing you notice when you get inside are the twin 12.3-inch LCDs spanning from the center of the car to the driver’s door. The right LCD runs the latest Mercedes COMAND infotainment software while the left handles the gauges and night vision display.

Although the software interface looks familiar, it has been significantly updated for the W222 with a faster processor and more features. The speed difference and smoothness of the graphic transitions is easily noticeable when you compare the S-Class to the E-Class sitting next to it on the dealer lot. Mercedes has improved the voice recognition system in this generation and voice commanding specific tracks on your USB/iDevice is easier and more reliable. Sadly, the online functionality is not as “fully baked” as iDrive or MMI at this point. There is Google Earth driven satellite imagery, but it’s not integrated into the default navigation screen. Likewise, the streaming radio and Yelp location finder apps could be better integrated. Also on the gripe list: there is no dedicated track forward/backward button which makes changing tracks more complicated than other vehicles.

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I am often disappointed by LCD instrument clusters. They offer so much theoretical potential, yet no manufacturer has fully exploited this yet. So far, Cadillac is the only brand whose LCD cluster allows limited customization from a selection of different gauge layouts, colors and themes. The Mercedes display, like essentially everyone else, shows you two views. One with and one without the night vision camera display.

On the gadget front, Mercedes has packed in everything but the kitchen sink. We have an optional split-view screen (right side LCD only) so the passenger can watch a movie while in motion, and a rear seat entertainment system for the rear passengers that can display an airline-esque slideshow of your location, the elevation profile of your journey and the weather at your destination. The front seats massage, the rear seats recline, the shades are all powered and even the rear folks get 3-position seat memory. Sound systems start at impressive and head to “do you really need that?” with a 24-speaker system pumping out 1,940 watts (because 2,000 was too opulent).

More radar sensors than Frankfurt Airport, a bevy of ultrasonic sensors, all around cameras, a separate stereo camera system for forward 3D imaging, and an infrared night vision camera all combine to give the S-Class a bionic view of the road. The radar sensors allow adaptive cruise control functionality, tell you about cross traffic and prepare safety systems for impact when the car behind you decides not to stop. The S-Class will parallel park itself, detect pedestrians and brake to keep from hitting them, and highlight deer and select other animals in the night vision system. Magic Body Control will scan the road ahead and program the suspension to handle a road imperfection before you encounter it. Sadly the snazzy multi-beam LED headlamps don’t make it to the USA because of some silly headlamp regulations on our shores, but the system that automatically injects air freshener into the HVAC system is America bound.

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Drivetrain
Instead of making the hybrid a range-topping model like you see with the Lexus LS 600hL, Mercedes continues to view the S550 plug-in hybrid as more of a volume option. For the same price, shoppers can choose a 449-horsepower, 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8, or a 436-horsepower hybrid system built around a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6. (The turbo six makes 329 horsepower on its own.) The 449 ponies and 516 lb-ft of torque in the V8 model combined with Mercedes’ latest 7-speed automatic transmission and optional 4MATIC AWD allowed out tester to scoot to 60 in an impressive 4.6 seconds.

If you need to get to The Hamptons faster, the S600’s twin-turbo V12 spools up 523 horsepower and 612 lb-ft, but sadly can’t be had with AWD. The S63 AMG gets a 5.5-liter, twin-turbo V8 making 577 horsepower and 664 lb-ft and, thanks to standard AWD, will get the German tank to highway speed in under 4 seconds. The range topping S65 AMG makes the most oomph at 621 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque (88 more twists than a Dodge Hellcat) but because AWD is not offered, it’ll take slightly longer to run to 60 than the S63. Even if you can’t afford the top-end trims, all S class owners can bask in the opulence of a transmission that has two speeds in reverse. Why? Just because.

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Drive
I was a bit skeptical about the Magic Body Control system and, as it turns out, I was right to be. The system uses a stereo camera system to scan the road ahead, but aside from damping speed bumps to the point where it feels like running over a garden hose, I didn’t notice much difference in a dealer provided car. The system seemed to have little or no effect out on the rough highways or potholed streets in the Bay Area. Some of this has to do with the way the system detects the road (it is camera based), but most has to do with the standard air suspension already being very compliant.

Although the S550 has lost weight, it is still one of the heavier options in this segment. The contrast with the Jaguar XJ is sharp. At 3,854 lbs, the English entry is the lightest, beating even the aluminum A8 by 511 pounds. Jaguar ditched their four-corner air suspension in the latest XJ model (the rear has load leveling still) which, combined with the light curb weight, makes it by far the most athletic entry in this segment. However, the XJ isn’t just light for this segment, it’s also 147 pounds lighter than an E350. The S550 on the other hand offers a more traditional large luxury attitude. The air suspension creates a ride that’s like a pillow floating on a cloud.

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Funny thing about clouds: If you pay attention, you realise they’re moving pretty darn fast. Seemingly in defiance of physics, the S550 scoots to 60 mph as fast as a BMW M235i and, thanks to some serious rubber at all four corners, matches a run-of-the-mill 335i in the skidpad. Keep the pedal down too long and you’ll hit the 1/4 mile in 12.8 seconds while doing 110 mph. In silence. In a 17-foot long sedan. The cabin of the S550 is eerily quiet at all times.

The steering is isolated but surprisingly accurate, the body tips, dives and rolls with the best of the luxury set but never feels upset or uncomposed. Thanks to the all-wheel drive system and a near 50/50 weight balance, the S550 is extremely neutral and confident on practically every road surface. A statement like that wouldn’t be surprising when talking about a compact luxury coupé, but we’re talking about a nearly two and a half ton sedan.

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Pricing – Why is it a “tweener”?
I’ve touched on this already, but the most unique thing about the S-Class is the fact that it sits almost in a segment of its own. The 2015 S550 starts at $94,400, which is about $20,000 higher than a base 2015 BMW 7-Series, Lexus LS 460, Jaguar XJ or Audi A8. (For 2016, the 7-Series and A8 rise to just over $80,000 and we should expect a slight increase from Mercedes keeping the distance around 15-large.) A lightly configured S550 can easily sticker for $115,000 and our tester (which lacked a number of options) came in at a cool $137,500. Keeping in mind this is simply where the S550 starts. The sticker on our S-Class with the base engine was already higher than possible for most of the competition.

The next step up is the $141,450 S63, which is about as expensive as an A8 gets. Want a 12-cylinder engine? That’s at least $166,900, about a loaded Honda Accord more than an A8 W12. The Maybach stretch is $189,350, and if you want one of the most powerful 12-cylinder engines made, that’ll be $220,000. The only other vehicle with this kind of price range is the Porsche Panamera. The Porsche has a slightly more premium interior but it’s mission is quite different. The Panamera is more direct, more engaging, but less comfortable, less roomy and I’m told by the old guard in Atherton that it’s too flashy as well. Looking for something spendier? The S65 AMG ends around where Bentley starts.

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The new S-Class has restored my faith in the Mercedes brand. Is it the best value in the luxury car segment? No. But that’s an asset in this category. (If you don’t like that statement, then you’re not the S-Class demographic.) If you want a “value luxury sedan” this size, check out the $60,000 Kia K900.

The S550 4Matic is exactly what I want out of a big luxury sedan. I want it to be big and bold but avoid brash by a hair. I want it to be impossibly quiet, perfectly smooth, insanely powerful, able to stop on a dime (okay, so that part is a little lacking), handle like a sports coupé and get silent nods from the folks at the country club. You can get some of those things in the competition, but this big Merc succeeds at all of them in a way no other sedan does.

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

0-30: 1.99 Seconds

0-60: 4.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 12.8 Seconds @ 110 MPH

Fuel Economy: 18.2 MPG over 782 Miles

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2015 Ford Expedition Platinum Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ford-expedition-platinum-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-ford-expedition-platinum-review/#comments Wed, 05 Aug 2015 15:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1116809 Has there ever been a longer running runner-up in an automotive category than the Ford Expedition? The large three-row SUV has been outsold by the Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon XL twins for years by as much as a 2:1 margin in the ever-shrinking large SUV segment. Throw in the Tahoe and regular Yukon numbers and the Expedition lags even further […]

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Has there ever been a longer running runner-up in an automotive category than the Ford Expedition? The large three-row SUV has been outsold by the Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon XL twins for years by as much as a 2:1 margin in the ever-shrinking large SUV segment. Throw in the Tahoe and regular Yukon numbers and the Expedition lags even further behind. The Expedition does outsell its luxo Lincoln stablemate, the Navigator, by about a 4:1 margin.

It may not be able to overcome the years of momentum and iconic brand image of the Suburban — proclaimed back in 1986 as the “National Car Of Texas” — but the latest iteration of the Expedition is fighting back.


The Tester

2015 Ford Expedition Platinum 4×2

Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC V6 EcoBoost, twin-turbocharged and intercooled, direct injection (365 horsepower @ 5,000 rpm, 420 lbs-ft torque @ 2,500 rpm)
Transmission: 6-speed SelectShift automatic

Fuel Economy (Rating, MPG): 16 city/22 highway/18 combined
Fuel Economy (Observed, MPG): 17.1 mpg, approx. 75 percent city

Options: Power deployable running boards, power liftgate, 600A Equipment Group (power moonroof and voice-activated navigation system), 22-inch polished aluminum wheels, Blind Spot Information System with Cross-Traffic Alert, leather front bucket seats, heated/cooled front seats, heated 2nd-row seats, Powerfold 3rd-row seats, 390W Sony premium audio, SYNC with MyFord Touch, Continuous Control Damping Suspension with three selectable drive modes, HD Trailer Towing Package.

Base Price (U.S.): $59,995
As Tested: $63,750

Additional Reviewer Notes:

Average available savings off MSRP per TrueCar: Los Angeles: $4,974; Dallas: $6,459; Chicago: $6,774; New Jersey: $6,319.

Other styles, base price: XLT, $45,095; Limited, $54,805; King Ranch, $59,035

Add approx. $3,000 for 4WD.

Wheelbase: 119 inches. Add approx. $2,700 for 131-inch wheelbase EL models.

Maximum towing capacity: 9,200 pounds.
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The 2015 Expedition’s refresh highlight was Ford’s dropping the 5.4-liter V-8 engine in favor of the 3.5-liter twin-turbo EcoBoost V-6 power plant. With a jump in horsepower from 310 to 365 and an additional 2 mpg in gas mileage over the V-8, it is hard to argue with this CAFE-driven decision. Other upgrades for 2015 include the optional controlled damping suspension on our tester that offers three driving modes — comfort, normal and sport — and a redesigned center stack.

Exterior changes were minor and included an enlarged grill and tweaked lower bumper, fog lights and taillights. Ford calls these visual updates “fresh and aggressive.” Every automaker calls such changes “fresh and aggressive.”

It may be an 8-year-old design, but the optional 22-inch polished aluminum wheels and Ruby Red Metallic paint on this top of the line Platinum edition make the old war-horse look pretty darn good…until you notice other Expeditions on the street and realize its looks are pretty darn tired.

The first thing you see when climbing aboard is the keyless entry keypad on the doorsill. I had forgotten this feature was still around. first seeing it on a 1990s Lincoln Mk VIII Coupe (which means Sajeev probably has three of the pads in his parts bin). Instructions on how to program the keys and keypad take up 28 pages of the owner’s manual but work intuitively. Open the door and the Escalade-like stainless power running boards whir down to assist you with the two-step climb into the cab.

The voluminous interior is a mix of old and new: tons of outlets, cubbies and cup holders with modern satin aluminum trim clashing with ugly, dark vertical slabs of plastic on the dash. The heated and cooled leather front seats in our tester were comfortable but already showing signs of cracking on the edges after a few thousand miles. It is too bad Ford does not offer a panorama sunroof option because the expanse of black tones made for a dark interior on our tester.

This is a true eight-adult-sized vehicle with third-row seats that fold down at the touch of a button on the back of the seats. Cargo volume is 108 cubic feet (131 cubic feet in the long-wheelbase EL model) with 55 cubic feet available with the 3rd row of seats folded down. A low load height thanks to the independent rear suspension makes access to the rear a snap.

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The last Ford I drove with the MyFord Touch infotainment center was a 2012 Escape and it was fine if you were a Rubik’s Cube champion, but was way too confusing for the average driver. In this redesigned system, with an 8-inch touch screen high sitting in the center stack and twin 4.2-inch LCD screens surrounding the speedometer, every function was easy to find. Syncing phones and iPods was easy and the soft multi-colored glow it emits at night looks great.

One quirk I noted is when you switch the transmission into manual mode a tiny tachometer pops up on one of the small LCD screens and it’s truly comical in appearance.

The center touch screen can be divided into quadrants displaying Phone, Navigation, Entertainment and Climate functions. It resembles an electronic version of the old-school car dealer “Four-Square” closing worksheet. Perhaps Ford could speed up the sales process by programming the elements of the four square into the boxes and you could negotiate your deal with your salesperson during your test drive:

MyFordTouch_Home_screen-640x383 (1) Courtesy extremetech.com

Why yes, I have been in the car business way too long.

It is strange to fire up a 5,600 pound SUV and not hear the rumble of a V-8. You will not miss the sound when you hit the gas on the EcoBoost V-6: the Expedition is quick, whooshing from 0 to 60 mph in the mid 6-second range. There is a touch of turbo lag but the motor shows tremendous flexibility at all speeds, helped along by the smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission. I absolutely loved the brakes, which are firm and easy to modulate.

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Along with its independent rear suspension, our tester had the new Continuous Control Suspension option with three selectable drive modes — comfort, normal and sport. You can actually feel the difference in the each mode. In the sport setting, the slightly sloppy steering tightened up, the cornering was much crisper and the ride much more choppy. The comfort mode may as well be called the wallow mode. All three settings eased the pain of driving Tucson’s crater-filled roads. After fooling around with the settings on the first day, I ended up leaving it in normal mode for the duration of the test. Who needs a sport setting on a school bus anyway?

Despite a tiny bit too much wind and road noise, the Expedition is an extremely comfortable long-distance cruiser.

As far as the comparison to the Suburban, tests indicate the refreshed Ford offers a better ride thanks to its independent rear suspension and adjustable damping, slightly better acceleration and better towing capacity at 9,200 pounds vs. 8,000 pounds. With the Suburban you get a 355-horsepower 5.3-liter V-8 with only a slight sacrifice in gas mileage (16/23) versus the Expedition, but it’s accompanied by less road noise and a more luxurious interior thanks to a generous use of softer materials.

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The Suburban offers much more interior room than our 119-inch wheelbase tester; the 131-inch wheelbase Expedition EL is slightly roomier than the Chevy.

Basically, the Expedition is the better truck and the Suburban the better car.

Comparing similarly equipped models shows a Suburban LTZ stickering at $70,215, or about $3,600 more than a long-wheelbase Expedition Platinum.

Ford is readying a complete overhaul of the Expedition for 2017. Word is they will add a diesel engine option, which Chevrolet has not offered in the Suburban since 2000. (Ford’s even-larger Excursion, discontinued after 2005, did have an available 6.0-liter Powerstroke diesel.) The Mercedes-Benz GL is the only large SUV currently offered with an oil-burner engine and I think an American-brand, full-size SUV with a diesel powerplant would sell very well.

The 2015 Ford Expedition is an old-school SUV with a new-school motor. If you are a road warrior needing lots of room for cargo or kids and tons of towing capacity, this may be the sport-ute for you.

Picks:

  • Powerful EcoBoost V-6
  • Power-folding third-row seats
  • Plush, comfortable ride

Nit Pics:

  • Some cheap interior materials
  • Even 22-inch dubs can’t hide dated look
  • No pano roof available

Wife Sez: I love the power extending running boards!

Ford provided the vehicle for one week, one tank of gas and insurance.

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Porsche Boxster, Cayman Four-Pot Turbo Details Released http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/porsche-boxster-cayman-four-pot-turbo-details-released/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/porsche-boxster-cayman-four-pot-turbo-details-released/#comments Sun, 02 Aug 2015 15:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1131617 According to CAR (via AutoGuide), the next round of Porsche Boxsters and Caymans will have turbocharged, four-cylinder powerplants ranging from 240 to 370 bhp. Porsche could also position a base model Cayman below the Boxster depending on region. The British outlet says the Cayman and Boxster will become four-cylinder-only affairs, except for top-end specials such […]

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2014-Porsche-Cayman-S. Photo courtesy Porsche.

According to CAR (via AutoGuide), the next round of Porsche Boxsters and Caymans will have turbocharged, four-cylinder powerplants ranging from 240 to 370 bhp. Porsche could also position a base model Cayman below the Boxster depending on region.

The British outlet says the Cayman and Boxster will become four-cylinder-only affairs, except for top-end specials such as the GT4.

The new engines will make do with a single fixed-vane turbocharger and measure in from 2 to 2.5 liters in displacement. The base model Boxster and Cayman will produce 240 bhp from its 2-liter turbo. S models will get a 60 bhp bump to 300 bhp from ita 2.5-liter four. GTS models crank up the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine another 70 bhp to 370 bhp.

The 370 bhp, 2.5-liter engine in the GTS will be the most powerful four cylinder money can buy, though not necessarily the most power dense (Mercedes will still wear that crown).

CAR says a base model Cayman could also be priced below the Boxster in order to “increase awareness and boost sales”.

We will likely see the next-generation Boxster and Cayman at 2015 IAA Frankfurt for release in early 2016.

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Don’t Buy a 2015 Buick Regal http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/dont-buy-a-2015-buick-regal/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/dont-buy-a-2015-buick-regal/#comments Sat, 01 Aug 2015 15:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1131353 If you are looking for a new midsize car to add to your driveway and the Buick Regal is on your shortlist, you might want to wait a few months. According to a dealer communique sent out by Buick head Duncan Aldred, the Regal will receive a massive price cut for 2016. Even the top-trim […]

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2015BuickRegalGS-6

If you are looking for a new midsize car to add to your driveway and the Buick Regal is on your shortlist, you might want to wait a few months.

According to a dealer communique sent out by Buick head Duncan Aldred, the Regal will receive a massive price cut for 2016. Even the top-trim Regal GS will have its price slashed to make it more competitive as an older offering in a crowded segment.

The letter, sent yesterday, outlines the changes to the Regal as it struggles toward the end of its lifecycle.

The Regal is being simplified and attractively priced to appeal to a broader share of midsize intenders. The 2016 Regal will be available in four trims, with the popular 1SL, 1SP and 1SX all priced dramatically lower than the 2015 trims — with no change in content. Ultimately, we’re giving our customers greater value without sacrificing the features they want.

You’ll find more details in the attached 2016MY Buick Regal Product and Pricing Guide, but a few highlights of the new pricing structure include:

  • Starting price for 2016 Regal GS is $34,990; more than $3,300 lower than the 2015 model
  • 2016 Regal 1SP is priced below the 2015 Regal 1SN (which has been eliminated)
  • 2016 Regal 1SL is now priced below the Nissan Altima SL — yet offers more standard horsepower (+75 hp), more torque (+100 lb-ft) and standard 18-inch wheels

Regal trims will be realigned, eliminating the “Premium I” (1SN) trim and decreasing the “Premium II” (1SP) trim’s price below that of 1SN. GM states there will be no change in equipment. Base price for the Regal will remain unchanged at $27,065 before destination. The biggest cut is to the GS FWD model at $3,320, bringing its price down to $34,065.

In the midsize sedan segment, the Regal only bests the Volkswagen CC and defunct Dodge Avenger in terms of year-to-date sales, having dropped 23.7 percent. June saw sales drop 12.3 percent versus the same month last year.

So, don’t buy a 2015 Buick Regal — unless it’s the base model or a lightly used example traded in by its original owner after less than a year on the road.

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2015 Buick Regal GS AWD – Get A Grip, Man http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-buick-regal-gs-get-grip-man/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-buick-regal-gs-get-grip-man/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 14:07:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1129617 It’s not often you get to see the future when you look at a car. Admittedly, the 2015 Buick Regal GS AWD looks nothing like a crystal ball — it’s a deep shade of white that I never knew existed and its 20-inch wheels wrapped with summer rubber are … challenging. But I can see […]

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2015BuickRegalGS-3

It’s not often you get to see the future when you look at a car.

Admittedly, the 2015 Buick Regal GS AWD looks nothing like a crystal ball — it’s a deep shade of white that I never knew existed and its 20-inch wheels wrapped with summer rubber are … challenging.

But I can see the future of Buick in this car.


The Tester

2015 Buick Regal GS AWD

Engine: 2-liter, turbocharged I-4 (259 horsepower @ 5,300 rpm; 295 lbs-ft @ 2,500-4,000 rpm)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Fuel Economy (Rating, mpg): 19 city/27 highway/22 combined
Fuel Economy (Observed, mpg): 24 mpg combined; 60/40 highway/city

Options: Driver Confidence Package #2 (Adaptive cruise control, Automatic collision preparation) $1,195; Driver Confidence Package #1 (Following distance sensor indicator, Forward collision alert, Rear cross traffic alert, Lane departure warning, Driver and passenger seat memory settings, Side blind zone alert) $1,040; Power moonroof $1,000 (!); White diamond tricoat $995; 20-inch aluminum wheels w/ summer tires $700; Cargo area tray $140; Floor mats $140; Cargo mat $80.

As tested: $46,025


Allow me to practice my Google-certified armchair psychology for just a moment.

Are you a middle child? Do you find yourself grasping for an identity, sandwiched between two personalities so large that Siegfried and Roy would blush?

Buick would like to talk to you. Their latest effort, the 2015 Regal GS, screams middle child worse than black fingernails or repeated trips to the principal’s office. If you’re a parent (I’m not), or ever been to the principal’s office more than once in a day (I have), then you’ll understand.

The normal Regal — built on the same Epsilon II platform as the Chevrolet Malibu — is a geezer’s paradise of creamy leather, creamy ride and plenty of storage space for Werther’s Original candies. To say that the Regal has no character is wholly inaccurate. The Regal has spirit like “Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts” used to: tightly packed in an easily digestible delivery so smooth you could eat dinner and never miss a beat. For that reason, the Buick Regal may be the Salisbury steak TV dinner of the automotive world.

But the Regal GS is a little different.

Back to middle child syndrome, our tester was priced at more than $46,000 all told, and that’s a lot for not-quite-a-Cadillac. If you look far enough into the future, you can see Chevrolet and Cadillac growing far enough apart that Buick — a brand on the ropes not too long ago — will have a future in the United States. The Regal’s stately presence is a perfect middle between Chevrolet’s no-frills Malibu and Cadillac’s upcoming CT6.

But the Regal GS sticks out like black nail polish on a middle schooler. It’s fine for a while, but you just hope it’s something they’ll eventually grow out of.

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Exterior
The Regal GS sports a little more ‘tude than the Regal and I’m all for that. The neatly packaged exterior is handsome (but not aggressive) and curvy (but not bulbous). The GS separates itself from the Regal with a unique front fascia and rear bumper that integrates the dual exhaust tips. Our tester, clad in white, showed its curves very well despite being white, the color that encompasses — though somehow lacks — all colors.

The Regal GS’s heritage as an Opel is evident. The Insignia-based looks are clean and sharp, and belie the idea that at its heart, the Regal is just a retooled Malibu. Admittedly, I loosely remembered that the Regal was related to the Malibu, but had to double-check my facts when the car first arrived. That’s a good thing.

The Regal GS’s waterfall grille and logo looked a little big to me and felt like overcompensation for a car that wants to very badly be American sports sedan a la ATS-V. It’s not. It has too much Opel. And its all the better for it.

There are some curiosities on the outside. The faux hood vents are a little low-rent, and the underline body crease that extends from the rear wheel forward like a hockey stick is entirely too dramatic.

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Interior
Any conversation about the Regal GS should begin and end with its seats. The deep buckets are soft and comfortable, with pockets for my rump that held me in place when I threw the car around. There are accented trims and stitching to break up the pallid gray world of most mid-sized sedans, and I love that.

But on the rest of the interior, the GS reads like the back of a bottle of mouthwash. Aside from two buttons near the top of the infotainment screen, which read plainly “GS” and “Sport”, you’d be hard pressed to realize you’re in the performance variant of anything. Even the digital instrument readout in front of the driver doesn’t have much special going on. Its customizable performance pages are limited to lateral grip, transmission temperature and oil pressure. That’s not performance so much as it is perfunctory.

In back, the Regal sports rear legroom that’s better than the competition and a copious amount of trunk space for a sports sedan. The Regal GS’s 107.8-inch wheelbase is fully one inch shorter than the BMW 3-Series, but by my measure, Buick takes advantage of its space better, which I can appreciate.

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Infotainment
Fitted with Buick’s IntelliLink system, which is a variant of Chevrolet’s MyLink and Cadillac’s HotLink (I may have made that up), the car’s entertainment and information screens are easily laid out and logisticalistical (I may have made that up too). Among its competitors, the system General Motors uses is among the best and least fussy. The standard measure for how I know such things: I’m confident my father could have figured this thing out in 5 minutes cold. That’s a good sign.

Our tester’s stereo, a Bose-branded, 9-speaker affair, was fantastically clear and rich. I know there’s a habit of dumping on premium sound systems — especially those named Bose — but I wouldn’t imagine anything other than this setup in a Regal GS. Good thing it comes standard.

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Drivetrain
The Regal GS is powered by a turbocharged, 259-horsepower, 2-liter four cylinder and it’s a little bit of question mark. For starters, you should consider that it adds a whopping $14,000 to the bottom line, bumping the price up to $40,075 for the GS model.

I get that the GS is a throwback to Buick’s semi-lucid performance days. Their Grand National coupe was a 1980s legend. That black body could command attention and pink slips at any dragstrip — especially if someone were dumb enough to call it “granddad” while sitting in their Corvette. Recent examples of the Grand National have sold at auction for more than $165,000. Yeah, they’re that awesome.

I’m not as confident that the Regal GS will command the same price at auction in 20 years, but its mechanicals are interesting. The aforementioned 2-liter, turbo four is married monogamously to a six-speed automatic transmission if you opt for all-wheel drive, or a six-speed manual if you choose front-wheel drive. The GS also adds four-wheel independent suspension; MacPhersons up front and four-link in the back with adaptive damping all the way around. Shod with 19-inch shoes — or 20-inch wheels in the case of our tester — the Regal GS will sprint up to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, according to the manufacturer.

Are you not impressed? You should be. Taken alone, the Regal GS reads on paper like an Audi. For serious. No really, it does.

Fire the Regal GS up and let’s chat.

First, you’ll notice that despite having more power under the hood, the Regal GS is just as quiet as its wafty brother.

Second, the turbo four didn’t sound to my ears like it was enhanced at all. I respect that. Its engine doesn’t sound particularly awesome, but hats off to Buick for playing the cards they were dealt.

Third, despite being a sports sedan for Buick and having an automatic transmission, the Regal GS doesn’t have steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. I know, I know, paddle shifters scream “sport” like compression leggings on a 50-year-old — but they’re just par for the course these days. Go fig.

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Drive
Once you get past that, the GS is a hoot to drive. Its 259 horsepower doesn’t do much for its 3,500-pound mass, but the 295 lb.-ft. of twist races up to highway speed with grins along the way. Of all the features the GS does well (interior comfort, exterior looks, and Werther’s Original cubbies) it handles better than your father’s handshake. Our GS AWD shifted its mass and wriggled its way around corners like a competent European sedan. That could have come down to its summer tires wrapped around 20-inch polished wheels — which I’m not sure how many people would actually order in an AWD car — but goodness can the GS grip.

But in my tester, I noticed that by tapping on the Sport or GS buttons very little of the car’s inputs change. According to Buick, GS is a more aggressive setting than Sport, which is a more aggressive setting than normal driving conditions. Aside from its steering firming up a little, I was hard pressed to tell the difference between any of the GS’s three drive modes.

In all, the GS is the best kind of Regal that money can buy, but its $46,000 price tag is a lot of money for this kind of Buick.

And it’s hard to imagine that this kind of Buick has much of a future with Cadillac around.

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2015 Nissan Micra S Review – Lively Lilliputian http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-nissan-micra-s-review-lively-lilliputian/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-nissan-micra-s-review-lively-lilliputian/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 22:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1127761 Staring at a Monroney sticker with a four-digit MSRP would only excite you if spending a weekend clipping Sam’s Club coupons while sipping Faygo is a “fun night in.” With a base price of $9,998 in the Great White North, the Nissan Micra is the definition of Quebec Special: an entry-level car in the lowest of […]

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2015 Nissan Micra S (2 of 10)

Staring at a Monroney sticker with a four-digit MSRP would only excite you if spending a weekend clipping Sam’s Club coupons while sipping Faygo is a “fun night in.”

With a base price of $9,998 in the Great White North, the Nissan Micra is the definition of Quebec Special: an entry-level car in the lowest of trims and absolutely zero options. Wind-up windows. Manual locks. An actual, honest-to-goodness metal key. All it needs is a cassette deck and a bench seat to take you back to a time when parachute pants were cool and Wesley Snipes was paying taxes.

Yet, this diminutive, red hatchback is much more than its price and lack of options suggest. While my predecessor likened the Micra to the EK Civic, I’m going to take it one step further: The Nissan Micra is a four-door Mazda Miata.

 


The Tester

2015 Nissan Micra S [Canada]

Engine: 1.6-liter DOHC I-4, CVVT (109 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm, 107 lbs-ft @ 4,400 rpm)

Transmission: 5-speed manual

Fuel Economy (Rating, MPG): 27 city/36 highway/31 combined
Fuel Economy (Observed, MPG): 32 mpg, 50/50 city and highway, 50/50 eco-driver and small-car, fast-lane lunatic

Options: What you see is what you get, folks.

As Tested: $11,565 (sheet), approx. $8,950 USD.


“Miata with four doors? Have you completely lost the plot?” Maybe, but …

All the important ingredients from the Miata are woven into the Micra’s DNA as well: light weight, just enough power to spin the little front rubber donuts, and the suspension — well, let’s just call it peculiar for now as it needs an explanation all its own.

The bottom line: The Micra provided the most engaging and fun driving experience I’ve had in at least 12 months, and that includes all the 400+ horsepower cars that have graced my driveway over the same timeframe.

2015 Nissan Micra S (1 of 10)

Exterior
Before we get into why the Micra is a four-door Miata, we should talk about its looks for a moment, because this is really the only area where Nissan’s sub-compact could use some effort the next time around.

As much as some writers believe we shouldn’t genderize car design — especially when critiquing said sheet metal — the reality is automakers pen vehicles to appeal to certain demographics: young women, older men and any combination thereof. Certain genders will be drawn to particular design cues more than others.

When I attended the launch of the Micra last year, Nissan representatives were surprisingly upfront about the car being styled to primarily capture the attention and interest of female buyers — and it shows. The Micra is a women’s car whether you want to bury your head in the sand about it or not.

However, the cheap-and-cheerful demeanor of the Micra isn’t so dissentious that male buyers should disregard this wonder of economical automotive manufacturing. In a color other than our tester’s Red Alert, the Micra is a bit more palatable.

With that out of the way, the V-Motion grille is a bit of an architectural afterthought, like an addition to a family home gone awry. Fortunately, this forced design lineage only affects the Micra in the Canadian market. In other regions — where this runabout is named March — a single chrome bar floats within the grille’s crevasse. Headlights are the same globally, finding their place far up the hood much like the Chevrolet Spark and even the Nissan Juke, though their placement much less visually pronounced on the Micra.

A side view of the car brings back memories of the old New Beetle and its perfectly arched roofline thanks to the Micra’s semi-circular window frames. Unpainted door handles and mirror caps are noticeable but not in the same way as black plastic bumpers grabbed your attention on base model Chevrolet Cavaliers. Even though this Micra is the bottom rung on the trim hierarchy, its wheel covers still manage to look higher end than the optional alloys available on the Mirage.

2015 Nissan Micra S (4 of 10)

There’s additional unpainted black plastic at the back, but thankfully it’s limited to just the door handle for the rear hatch. The taillights and bumper seem to have received more stylistic attention than one would expect for a car costing significantly less than its competitors. To top it off, the rear window also provides ample vision from inside the car — and you’ll need it, as there’s no back up camera on this Japanese go-kart. But, you do get a rear spoiler, so at least there’s that.

2015 Nissan Micra S (7 of 10)

Interior
Complaining about the Micra’s interior materials is like going on a tirade at H&M about the quality of their $4.99 fashion-of-the-week, button-up shirts. A car that’s near-as-makes-no-difference $10,000 is going to be incredibly cheap. You don’t buy this type of car for its soft-touch dash and rubberized temperature control knobs. You buy it because it’s usable and serviceable. The plastic knobs are almost translucent in their cheapness, but they work and that’s all they’re meant to do. You should feel lucky the Micra even has a tachometer in this trim.

The only complaint I have — a trivial personal preference more than anything else — has to do with the gas gauge. You are given a digital gas gauge in the Micra — and I hate it. Please, Nissan, just give me a nice little dial so I can more accurately estimate the amount of fuel in the tank.

Other than that, the seats are incredibly simple along with the rest of the interior and not something you’d want to sit in for long jaunts on the highway, but this car isn’t built for long highway jaunts anyway.

2015 Nissan Micra S (9 of 10)Infotainment
I used to have a manual, Vulcan-powered Ford Ranger with a manual transmission. Like the Micra, it didn’t have air conditioning and just a simple radio provided your anthem for the road. When I bought my Ranger, the total came out to nearly $14,000 in used condition. It also featured two speakers — one in each door. The Micra has double the number of speakers and is cheaper in new condition. Folks, by all accounts, that’s a bargain!

In all seriousness, the Micra does come with a CD player and auxiliary input as standard. If you are keen on tuning into some daytime sports talk radio on the AM dial, you can do that, too.

You aren’t locked into the ’90s radio option, however, but you’ll need to spring for the Krom or SR-trimmed Micras to get USB input, Bluetooth and display audio as standard and those models are significantly more expensive than our base model tester.

As you can imagine, audio quality with the simple four-speaker stereo is on par with listening to a alleyway catfight on a string can telephone — tinny, full of treble and all the vocals sound like they’re being performed by Richard Simmons with a throat infection.

The 2015 Nissan Micra will mark a new era of unbeatable value for Canadians when it arrives this spring. Combining Japanese quality with European styling and heritage, Micra will provide Canadians with more fun, more attention to detail and more value than they've ever expected in a small car.

Drivetrain
Under the Nissan Micra’s short hood sits the same 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine found in the Versa Sedan and Versa Note producing 109 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 107 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. These numbers might seem downright dismal in comparison to other slightly more expensive offerings; in the Versa Note equipped with the CVT, this engine is slow, loud and almost as annoying as Social Justice Warrior Comedy Hour. When sent through the standard five-speed manual transmission, the little four pot sings along just like the eager hatchbacks of 15 or 20 years ago. The 1.6 loves to rev, but still has a grunty note that permeates the cabin. Meanwhile, it’s probably the most responsive motor in the sub-compact class with a manual that I’ve driven in recent memory. Even if you opt for the automatic transmission, you will still be welcomed by four real gears instead of the near-ubiquitous Nissan CVT.

However, the Micra isn’t incredibly efficient. Fifth gear in the manual box is too short for highway usage and bumps up fuel consumption a tad. Again, this car is built to be a cheap city grocery-getter and not a cross-country cruiser.

The manual gearbox itself is a tad loose, but it’s fairly forgiving, making missed shifts a rare occurrance. I could also say the clutch needs to provide some more feedback, but then I’m really going down the road of nitpicking. The manual in the Fiesta is better.

2015 Nissan Micra S (3 of 10)

Drive
Even with all the text above extolling the Micra’s cheap car virtues, driving it on a windy road is what makes it a real winner. The five-door Datsun absolutely loves corners — but not in the way you’d expect.

The Mazda MX-5 Miata is highly regarded as being the most-fun driver’s car per dollar. That’s not because the Miata puts up huge horsepower numbers or corners completely flat or does record-setting laps around the Nurburgring. Instead, it’s because the Miata communicates with the driver and doesn’t desensitize the driving experience. If the body rolls a little bit, you’re going to feel it. When braking, the Miata’s brake pedal will communicate to the driver the exact point before ABS kicks in.

The Micra does the same thing.

No, it isn’t going to attack a corner as fast as a Miata, but it feels just as fast. If the brain is tricked into thinking it’s going fast — even if the car is only doing a bit over the speed limit — isn’t that all that matters? You don’t need to be a driving hero. You only need to feel the sensation of being a driving hero.

While we all know this feeling is very hard to quantify, let alone market to the buying public, this is the Micra’s greatest party trick. It’s the slow car you want to drive fast — or at least think you’re driving fast. And it isn’t by accident that the Micra drives the way it does, especially in Canada.

Compared to overseas units, the Micra in Canada has different sway bars — front and rear — and steering tuned specifically for North American roads. This makes the Micra more chuckable, more communicative, and — as a result — a helluva lot more fun.

Unfortunately, those of you in the U.S. won’t be able to enjoy the magic of this micro machine — at least not yet. A year ago, there were rumors swirling about the Micra’s future availability in the U.S. They’ve simmered down before coming to fruition.

It’s unfortunate, really, because when the answer is not Miata, it could surely be Micra.

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2015 Subaru Legacy Rental Car Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-subaru-legacy-rental-car-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-subaru-legacy-rental-car-review/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 14:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1129105 In my youth I was a vital, virile, male Manly Man. So manly that when I got a new ’86 GTI as my first “nice” car, I left off not only the automatic transmission but also the power steering. Mind you, it drove great — when it drove at all. One night my parents tossed me […]

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In my youth I was a vital, virile, male Manly Man. So manly that when I got a new ’86 GTI as my first “nice” car, I left off not only the automatic transmission but also the power steering. Mind you, it drove great — when it drove at all.

One night my parents tossed me the keys to drive them home from the restaurant. Mom’s whip was a mid-trim, 4-pot ’88 Camry. Yes, its limits were low, it was gutless, and it was tailored to bourgeois tastes with pastel upholstery here and fake stitching there. However, it was up front about its limitations, pridefully built, civilized in all its moves, and driving it was just so…easy. I one-fingered steered all the way home and made an earnest mental note.

Fifty VW defects later, I went Japanese and never looked back.

2015_Subaru_Legacy_ext_25This is the set of preconceptions I carried to the Avis counter the other day just before I walked away with the keys to a ’15 Subaru Legacy. My first impression of the car was, boy, boxy car in dull blue. My second was, hey, nice 18” alloys; this must be a high trim. And my third impression confirmed it. Upon opening the door, I encountered perforated — if rather anodyne — black leather, muted — if obviously fake — wood, and soft-touch surfaces everywhere I dash-stroked.

There were no badges inside or out, but I’ve subsequently deduced this example was the top-trim 2.0 Limited, albeit without the graduate-level nannies and navigation. It had the usual stuff to infuriate my Luddite self – the profusion of steering wheel buttons, the ersatz iPad above the console – but the buttons were at least logically arranged, and the HVAC was mercifully set free entirely from the gizmo prison. I heaved a sigh of relief and hit the road.

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The Legacy’s interior doesn’t say “premium,” but it exudes an integrity of build notably missing in, for one example, the embarrassing current-generation Camry. It’s not perfect; there are some odd angles and planes you’d only find in Nipponese iron, and the multi-adjustable driver’s seat only just sort of fits, with a head restraint that deserves its own restraining order. The stereo definitely has a subwoofer, though the treble was either dialed down or left out. The speedo is ringed in glowing blue as a fashion statement. There’s nothing all that fashionable about it anymore, but it’s also not executed via unevenly applied glops of cheapo blue paint like the previous-generation Fusion I once drove. This car was probably built in Indiana, but there’s nothing about it that needs to bow in inferiority to native Japanese workmanship. It reconfirms that American executives, not American workers, are the problem with American cars.

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The Legacy feels smaller and niftier in tight spaces than its size implies. Once underway, the chassis feels tight, body motions are firm but controlled, and the steering is firm and accurate — although electric-numb. Once I went into a decreasing-radius entrance ramp a little hot. The car stuck admirably while giving the driver no clue how it was doing so, which was the desired result but rather unsettling in concept. Whenever I buried the loud pedal, it wasn’t all that loud or coarse, just CVT-annoying like a distant motorboat. It wasn’t all that fast, either.

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Over the road, I distinctly recall the 4-pot Legacy I took out a decade ago for an (almost literal) spin around the block. That car engaged me on pea gravel at 10 mph. This new one didn’t, at any speed. It just did whatever I asked. It tracked true on a wet and windy highway, went easy on its driver, effortlessly swallowed far more people and cargo than I could throw at it, and felt, at least by today’s pound-shaving standards, sturdy and untaxed by all of it.

After I turned in the Legacy, I looked up its road test in that tree-pulp car magazine. They said Subaru had resolved this generation to return the Legacy to its roots. Did they? I think not. Instead, they did something just as noble: Far better than their parent company has bothered to do in recent years, they returned to Toyota’s.

If “love makes a Subaru a Subaru,” it’s not the hot and dirty kind I used to experience with my tempestuous GTI bitch. It’s the kind you feel for the sheepdog who fetches your slippers for you every day of its life. Would I own one? If I got a fantastic deal, and if it had the Six, and I were short of funds for something more fun, mayhaps. But would I recommend one? To the right non-car-person friend, heartily. And I’ll bet they’d thank me for it the next 15 years.

Photography provided by the manufacturer.

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2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS Track Test http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-chevrolet-camaro-ss-track-test/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-chevrolet-camaro-ss-track-test/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 13:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1104209 It is truly a great time to be a gearhead. Not in the sense of there are no bad cars, because there still are, but rather because the cars that are good are really damn good. Take for example this Camaro SS. For three days, I lapped it around the freshly repaved tarmac of Gingerman Raceway in […]

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2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS

It is truly a great time to be a gearhead. Not in the sense of there are no bad cars, because there still are, but rather because the cars that are good are really damn good. Take for example this Camaro SS. For three days, I lapped it around the freshly repaved tarmac of Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, Michigan.

Currently GM offers six versions of the Camaro, from the relatively mild-mannered 323 horsepower 3.6 liter V-6, to the journalist jailing supercharged 580 HP ZL1. This doesn’t include the nearly 17 convertible and specialty variants. This particular Summit White version is a 2SS model with leather interior, a 426 hp 6.2 liter V-8 and 6 speed automatic transmission. Building this car on Chevy’s website comes in a hair under $40K.

Slipping into the wide leather seats, the Camaro immediately reveals its size. It’s not a big car but quite portly at around 4,000 lbs and it feels like it with the over-boosted power steering and long travel brake pedal. That’s not a complete negative because the reality of this car is it will spend it’s life on a daily commuter’s grind with an occasional stoplight blast to remind the owner they bought the V-8.

2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS

However, the track is where the Camaro surprises you. Even with the over-boosted steering and marshmallow power brakes, the Camaro can actually handle itself on a track. In the first turn the SS seems to magically shed 1,000 lbs. It is by no means a track car, but becomes unexpectedly nimble. Where the overbuilt nature of the Camaro comes into play is its ability to repeat this activity for three straight days.

The first trick, of course, is to completely disable the traction control. Either hold the button or press it twice to completely turn it off, otherwise the yaw control will apply the brakes. It won’t upset the car, but it will add wear to the almost overtasked four-wheel discs.

Instead, you learn to use the tires, but be warned that those tires will not last. The SS comes from the Oshawa plant equipped with staggered P245/45R20 front and P275/40R20 rear high-performance summer tires. These are capable shoes, especially in the light of the Camaro’s most likely fate. However, if you are in the market for this and you’re going hit the track, invest in a spare set of rims and tires. This is no different than with the Mustang GT or even the Challenger — they are all fast cars, but they are not Miatas and will consume wear items. Even harking back to their earliest appearances in the late ’60s Trans-Am series, track versions of these cars need upgraded shoes and brakes. Fortunately, there is a host of companies, including GM Performance, that make this an entertaining late night Internet search and endless fodder for web forum debates and bench races.

2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS

Alongside those debates about the best wheels, tires and the worthiness of a GM brake system versus a Wildwood upgrade, you will see discussions on engine enhancements. You don’t need them. The 6.2 LS, even in this form, is plenty. You won’t set any track records, but the 420-foot pounds of torque is more than enough to put you in well over your head.

Leading a pack of supercars could be overwhelming, yet a well-driven SS managed to hold its own. The car would push through turn 2 but slide right onto the outside for a blast into turn 3. With a suspension load, the SS would use the whole track for exit then build a solid head of steam through 4 without lifting and settling on the outside of the entry into 5. Turn 6 was the Camaro’s moneymaker. The trick was to take the exit of 5 all the way to the far side for the 6 entry, hit the apex and roll into the throttle hard. Let the rear wheels spin through the limited slip, stepping the rear slightly out, and glide to the exit. Without fail, this would put a car length on the aggressively driven Nissan GT-R following behind. The right sweeper of turn 7 would give the AWD cars a chance to catch as the Camaro pushed the front end to drive to the outside, but the SS would be impossibly well composed and balanced through the 8/9 combo. Hard into 10a with a hint of trail braking and before letting the big dog run down the the Phoenix Flat, textbook entry for turn 11 and onto the front straight, hard braking up the hill for turn 1.

Gingerman Raceway

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. This would be the SS’s job for three straight days. That is actually where you begin to respect the Camaro. Yes, there are lots of well-built cars that you can drive to the track, enjoy all weekend and drive home, but the SS was here to lead a pack of 9 supercars totaling almost 4,500 horsepower — five of them equipped with all-wheel drive. This was a real trial for the big white whale, and it was honestly up to the task. It is not a supercar. It is just a solid, fast car.

2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS

If you have 40 grand and a need for the occasional backseat you could do worse than the Camaro. Staying out of the option box could keep the cost closer to $35K. That would leave you some room for the modifications you would eventually make. After all, you’re a gearhead, and it’s a great time to be one.

General Motors contributed nothing to this review.

Christian “Mental” Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. He is married to the most patient woman in the world, lives in Atlanta and is racing his a tape covered Honda Civic in the 24 Hours of LeMons this month at Autobahn in Joilet Illinois. You can follow that and all his other shenaningans on InstagramTwitter and Vine at M3ntalward.

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2015 Ford Edge Ecoboost Review with Video http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-ford-edge-ecoboost-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-ford-edge-ecoboost-review-video/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 14:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1116857 The large two-row crossover is a rare breed. With compact crossovers getting less compact and folks defecting to supersized three rows, Toyota and Honda chose to kill the Venza and Accord Crosstour while Ford pressed on with a redesign of the Edge. You can think of the Edge as a “tweener” crossover slotting between the Escape and […]

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2015 Ford Edge Exterior Front-002

The large two-row crossover is a rare breed. With compact crossovers getting less compact and folks defecting to supersized three rows, Toyota and Honda chose to kill the Venza and Accord Crosstour while Ford pressed on with a redesign of the Edge. You can think of the Edge as a “tweener” crossover slotting between the Escape and the Explorer while at the same time being the spiritual successor (in modern form) to the Bronco and two-row Explorers of yesteryear. Although Ford says the Edge is a complete redesign, you could be forgiven for thinking this is more of a refresh, and that’s not a bad thing since the Edge was already one the most appealing options in this phone-booth-sized segment.

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Although the 2015 Edge looks more like a lightly massaged 2014 than an all-new model, it actually rides on a different platform with two all-new engines under the hood and shares surprisingly little with its predecessor in terms of parts. The last-generation Edge was designed around Ford’s “CD3″ parts bin which was co-designed with Mazda and from those building blocks came the last-generation Fusion, Mazda6, MKZ and even the CX-9. For 2015 Ford pulls from the new CD4 parts bin which serves as the basis for the current Fusion and will underpin the new Taurus and Flex among others. Although weight reduction is all the rage these days, the platform swap sheds less than 100 pounds from the Edge’s curb weight.

This change under the sheetmetal explains the Edge’s growth which is up four inches overall with a one-inch wheelbase stretch. The increase gives the Edge a sleeker and less boxy profile than before while offering more interior room. Meanwhile, Ford tacked on a new grille that strikes me as the merger of Hyundai and Ford’s styling cues. Since the Venza and Crosstour are leaving us this year (production has supposedly already stopped) this means the Edge’s direct competition comes in the form of the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Nissan Murano and certain versions of the Kia Sorento which comes as either a two- or three-row crossover for 2016. If you want to expand the pool, the Grand Cherokee and Lexus RX are also plausible cross-shops, although the Jeep is far more off-road focused and the RX truly competes with the Edge’s ritzy brother: the Lincoln MKX.

2015 Ford Edge Interior Dashboard

Interior
Having not sat inside an Edge in about a year, I had to hunt one down to figure out what changed. The short answer is: everything. The long answer is: the design is similar enough to the outgoing model that current Edge shoppers will feel right at home, but different enough to give them a reason to lease another. Ford merged the squarish style of the 2014 interior with design cues from the latest Focus and Fusion. Instead of continuing Ford’s button minimalism strategy, 2015 adds buttons to make the infotainment system and climate control easier to use.

Front-seat comfort is excellent, although you’ll find that the new Murano’s seats are a hair softer and the 2016 Sorento (in top end trims) offers a wider range of seat adjustments. Rear-seat comfort is excellent and I found the rear cabin more comfortable than the competition, especially the Jeep which has strangely stiff seat cushions. Seat comfort is, in general, a reason to upgrade from a compact crossover to this midsized category. Much of the increased comfort comes from increased legroom and headroom. For 2015, the Edge gains three inches of combined room vs the outgoing model. The way legroom is measured seems to be a matter of constant debate, highlighted by the similar legroom numbers you get in the Honda CR-V. However, in the real world, the Edge not only feels larger, but it’s larger in practical terms as well. In the Edge I was able to properly install a rear-facing child seat behind a 6’2″ passenger, something I could not do in the CR-V. In the way-back you’ll find 25 to 40 percent more cargo room than most compact crossovers, but less than the average 3-row crossover with the 3rd row folded.

2015 Ford Edge MyFord Touch

Infotainment
Ford’s touchscreen infotainment system is not long for this world. Starting in the 2016 calendar year, we will see the highly-anticipated SYNC3 system start to roll into Ford models. Until the software refresh hits however, the Edge will soldier on with the base 4.2-inch SYNC system or the optional 8-inch MyFord Touch (optional in SEL and standard in Titanium and Sport). Since LCD love is all the rage, SEL models can be equipped with Ford’s ubiquitous partial LCD instrument cluster (standard in Titanium and Sport) where twin 4.2-inch displays flank a large central speedometer. Base models get a 6-speaker unbranded audio system and shoppers can option up a 9-speaker premium option or a 12-speaker Sony audio system as our tester was equipped. The twin-LCD system is starting to look dated compared to the LCD clusters that are optional in high end trims of the Grand Cherokee and Sorento but on par with what’s in the Murano.

MyFord Touch is one of the most maligned infotainment systems on the market, but it is also one of the most fully featured. Even in 2015 there are still mainline brands that don’t offer voice command of your USB-connected music library. At this point Ford has addressed most of the major issues that plagues the MFT system launch, except for the speed. Interacting with the touchscreen requires patience as screen changes are considerably slower than the Kia, Chrysler, GM and Toyota alternatives.

Integrated telematics systems that email you vehicle health reports, allow you to call a concierge, request emergency assistance and know when your airbags have gone off are seeing a renaissance. This generation of Ford’s infotainment system includes SYNC Services which offers OnStar-like telematics without the integrated modem. On the downside, if you’ve forgotten your phone and you get in an accident, the car can’t dial for help.

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Drivetrain
Last time we looked at the Edge, Ford made the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder a $995 option over the 3.5-liter V6. In an interesting reversal, the V6 is now a $425 optional engine and the 2.0-liter is standard. Despite the identical displacement, the 2.0-liter is almost a new engine. Ford increased the compression, fiddled with the fuel and oiling systems and tacked on a new twin-scroll turbocharger for improved efficiency and a broader torque curve. Power is up 5 horsepower and 5 lb-ft over last year to 245 and 275 respectively with a beefier power band. That’s 35 fewer ponies than the optional V6, but 25 lb-ft more. Also different from last year, you can finally get the small Ecoboost engine with all-wheel drive.

Making the Edge Sport sportier than before is another new engine: the 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 from Ford’s F-150. Inserted sideways under the Edge’s hood, the turbo-six loses a little power but still trumps the outgoing 3.7-liter V6 by 10 ponies and 70 lb-ft (315 hp 350 lb-ft). More impressively, that torque comes to a boil 1,250 RPM sooner. In perhaps the most interesting twist, the Edge Sport doesn’t come with AWD standard. That’s right, all 350 lb-ft of twist are routed to the front wheels only by default. Torque steer? You betcha.

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Drive
Torque steer isn’t just what classifies the 2.7-liter turbo. The 2.0-liter turbo has plenty of that particular demon under the hood as well. (Although I find the act of controlling torque steer amusing, I also willingly bought a new Chrysler LHS at age 18, so take that into consideration.) Put the pedal to the metal and the small turbo engine whirs to life with a hair of lag that’s very similar to BMW’s 2.0-liter turbo. After 7.5 seconds the Edge will hit 60 mph, followed by the 1/4 mile in 15.8 seconds. That’s almost half a second slower than the Murano and V6 Grand Cherokee but only a hair behind the Santa Fe Sport and Sorento with the 2.0-liter turbo. Shoppers should know that a dealer provided 3.5-liter V6 model was just 2/10ths faster to 60 and posted essentially identical 1/4 mile numbers while drinking more fuel. Why is it a $425 option? Because some folks just want six cylinders. (In case you were wondering, a brief test in an AWD Edge Sport (dealer provided) ran to 60 in a scant 5.8 seconds.)

Curb weight ranges from 3,912 pounds in the FWD 2.0-liter Ecoboost base model to a maximum of 4,236 pounds in the FWD Sport model. If you want AWD, it adds around 165 pounds, bringing the AWD Sport to a fairly hefty 4,400 pounds when fully equipped. Despite the weight, the Edge handles surprisingly well. You can thank a few things for that: the wide 64.8 inch track, standard 245-width rubber and a suspension design that’s related to Ford’s global portfolio including the current European Mondeo. Somewhat surprisingly, jumping from the base SE to the Titanium or Sport trims doesn’t buy you wider rubber but the aspect ratio falls from 245/60R18s in the SE to 245/55R19s in the Titanium and 245/50R20s in the Sport. While the aspect ratio and spring rates obviously play a role in lateral grip, the SE and Sport are closer together than you think. (As a late 2015 option Ford will offer an optional 265/40R21 wheel and tire package with summer rubber which we were not able to test.)

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The hefty curb weight, moderately soft springs and 55-series tires combine to give the Edge a compliant highway ride that wafted over potholed and rough pavement without batting an eye. While not as soft as the new Murano, the Edge has a more pleasing balance because the Nissan often feels too soft on your favorite winding mountain road. Hyundai’s Santa Fe Sport actually deserves its name because it feels the most nimble and athletic in the corners. The Hyundai weighs around 500 pounds less which certainly doesn’t hurt, but the suspension is also tuned on the firmer side of this segment. On the other side is the Grand Cherokee which, thanks to its off-road mission, weighs more, is higher off the ground and feels more ponderous. Meanwhile the Sorento straddles the middle of the segment thanks to a light curb weight and moderately firm springs. Steering feel is numb but accurate and I had no problems understanding what the front wheels were up to.

Priced between $28,100 for a FWD SE model and $48,100 for the AWD Sport trim, the Edge starts more expensive and scales higher than the Korean options. However, shoppers need to look beyond the low starting price with the Kia and Hyundai because base Santa Fe and Sorento models come with a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that is considerably less powerful than the Edge’s base engine and the Koreans have fewer features standard as well. Equip the Hyundai and Kia with a 2.0-liter turbo engine so they compare more directly with the Edge and they ring in at $31,250 and $31,100 respectively, giving Ford the upper hand in MSRP. The value pricing continues against Nissan and Jeep with the Edge undercutting the Murano by around $1,000 across the line and the Jeep by $1,500-2,000 depending on the options.

Nissan’s Murano wins the award for being the best highway cruiser in the bunch. The Jeep is the off-road alternative and the Edge is the value leader. The Kia, however, is my top choice. The Sorento has a fresher look, it’s slightly bigger with a nicer interior and a 0-60 time that’s a bit faster as well. The Sorento handles surprisingly well in its latest generation and top-end trims are better equipped than the Edge. While the Sorento EX is more expensive than a base Edge, you do get more feature content in the Kia and by the time you compare top-end trims the Sorento is less expensive. The only trouble with the Sorento is that Kia attempts to compete with the Edge, Escape and Explorer with one vehicle. Get the base Sorento and it’s Escape priced with 2 rows and a weak 2.4-liter engine. The 2.0-liter turbo Sorento is a 2-row luxury-leaning crossover with optional Nappa leather and HID headlamps. Check the box for the V6 and you get a small third row for your mother-in-law as a smaller alternative to the Explorer. This means that V6 Edge competition gets whittled down to just the Nissan and the Jeep.

After a week with the 2.0-liter Ecoboost Edge I have come to a few conclusions. First up, skip the V6 as it really makes no sense. The fuel economy in the 2.0-liter turbo is better and the performance is nearly identical. Second, get AWD even if you live below the snow belt, unless you really love torque steer. Third, the front-wheel peel in a FWD 2.7-liter twin-turbo Edge Sport made me giggle. If you’re shopping for the best 2.0-liter turbo crossover in this segment, stop by your Kia dealer. However, if you want something this size that will put a smile on your face without braking the bank, the Edge Sport is the CUV you’re looking for. The Edge Sport AWD bridges the gap between the fire-breathing Grand Cherokee SRT and a mainstream crossover like the Sorento and Santa Fe Sport. Think of the Edge Sport as the gravel-road version of the Taurus SHO. I’ll take a red one.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.65

0-60: 7.5

1/4 Mile: 15.80 Seconds @ 86 MPH

Average Economy: 24.6 MPG

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2015 Volkswagen Jetta TSI SE Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-vw-jetta-tsi-se-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-vw-jetta-tsi-se-review/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 12:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1122369 In the space of 48 hours last week, I saw a first-generation Jetta plying its rusty way down the middle lane of a freeway near Columbus, Ohio and I saw some spiky-haired hipster girl driving a fourth-gen Jolf on Interstate 75 north of Lexington, KY. It was a reminder of the Jetta’s uneasy position in […]

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In the space of 48 hours last week, I saw a first-generation Jetta plying its rusty way down the middle lane of a freeway near Columbus, Ohio and I saw some spiky-haired hipster girl driving a fourth-gen Jolf on Interstate 75 north of Lexington, KY. It was a reminder of the Jetta’s uneasy position in the Volkswagen hierarchy. On one hand, it’s the uncoolest of the watercooled VWs, the American-market special loathed by the kind of Euro-fanatics who make up the vast majority of the company’s loyalists in the United States. They view the existence of the Jetta as an open expression of German contempt for Baconator-eating Americans, and the sharp divergence between Jetta and Golf that took place in the sixth generation hasn’t exactly poured oil on the waters.

On the other hand… it’s been the best-selling VW in this country more often than it hasn’t. It’s the official VW of sorority girls, single moms, adventurous empty-nesters, and rental fleets. It’s the Volkswagen we deserve, because we sign on the dotted line for it more often than we do the Golf and the GTI and the Tiguan combined. As such, it deserves a full slate of TTAC reviews. Our Managing Editor, Mark Stevenson, had kind things to say about a loaded-up Jetta TDI, and our good friend and itinerant contributor Blake Z. Rong was less complimentary about the GLI. Which leaves just the infamous “2.slow” 115-horsepower base model and the newly-remixed 1.8 TSI mid-ranger.

I chose the latter for a cheerful little 514-mile jaunt the other night, from just south of Asheville, NC to just north of Columbus, OH. It rained for much of the drive. There was fog. I witnessed the aftermath of three massive accidents, including one semi-trailer that had skidded sideways across one of Interstate 40’s most treacherous segments then flopped over in the median. I had some nontrivial time pressure and I’d already been awake for fifteen hours when I got in the car to begin the trip. Lousy circumstances, to be certain. So how did the Jetta do?


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Over the past forty years, VW has become infamous for its Brokeback Mountain-esque inability to quit its old platforms. The Beetle stuck around until 2003, the Mk1 Golf was produced until 2009, the second-generation Passat (Quantum to us) continued to dazzle Chinese buyers until, um, the year before last. No surprise, then, that VW’s decision to continue the Golf unto the seventh generation has yet to apply to the Jetta. Instead, there’s a mild facelift both inside and out for 2015. Perhaps the more important change happened in 2014, under the wide, flat hood: the 170 hp @ 6200 rpm/184 lb-ft@1500-4750 1.8 TSI that shines in the Golf TSI is now standard with the SE trim level. It’s $20,915 as I drove it with the six-speed auto, or $19,815 with a manual transmission.

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That’s two or three grand cheaper than a Camry or Accord, and you’ll still get heated cloth seats, Bluetooth capability, sixteen-inch alloy wheels, push-button start, and cruise control for the money. What you will not get is the room and interior furnishings of even the most basic mid-size Japanese-brand car. The Jetta is adequately spacious front and back, and VW’s managed to do a decent job with the steering wheel and the center stack, but there’s no premium feel here. Everything’s bolted together pretty solidly, however, and if a few of the details (like the seat adjuster) feel deliberately cheapened there’s nothing that requires apologies at this price level.

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As I headed north from Asheville, I figured that I needed to average just over 70 mph for the entire trip to avoid being late for work the next day. Unfortunately for me, that section of 40 runs through the mountains, and there was heavy rain mixed with sections of thick fog. Traffic was light, but it wasn’t breaking the double-nickel in most places. Immediately the 1.8 TSI earned my affection as it chugged up a succession of four-thousand-foot climbs, usually without requiring the transmission to select fourth. The steering in this car is supposedly electric power assist and it’s fairly light, but I found that incipient scrub against wet pavement was telegraphed pretty well, allowing me to run remarkably quickly through the long, damp curves. A few times I got a bit too enthusiastic and felt the front end slip, but this wasn’t too alarming. Simply reducing throttle caused the car to find its line again.

Down the long hills, I used the indifferent Tiptronic selector to maintain speed, but once I realized how well the brakes were holding up I stopped being so deliberate about shifting. Plus, the Jetta has reasonable grade logic built in and it will avoid upshifting all the way if you’re on a nine-percent hill or similar.

IMG_0715 (Large)

In circumstances like these, the Jetta has some clear advantages over something like an Accord. It’s a bit smaller, a bit more manageable, it has 205-width tires that cut standing water pretty well, the turbo engine/six-speed combination feels more enthusiastic and flexible than the big-bore four/CVT setup you get with a Honda or Nissan. I don’t think I could have made the same kind of time in a Camry or even (shhhhhhh) something like a 535i. So as the road flattened out and I saw the signs for Knoxville, I was feeling good about the Hecho-In-Mexico compact VW.

On a straight and dry freeway, however, the Jetta’s absolutely miserable stereo threatened to erase a lot of that good will. The single-zone climate control that seemed incapable of making subtle adjustments didn’t help either. And though there’s very little aero noise in this car, there’s no shortage of tire rumble, mechanical noise, and booming resonance at various rev ranges. All of a sudden, the extra money for something like an Accord EX seems like a solid return on investment. But the Jetta is no penalty box; it’s simply not quite up to the standards set by larger, more expensive competition.

IMG_0706 (Large)

Over the course of the next three hundred miles I came to respect this car despite the above-mentioned flaws. The ergonomics are correct. The controls respond with appropriate weighting and feedback. The cruise control offers adjustment in both one-and-five-mile-per-hour increments, and though it’s not quite as slick as the way Mercedes-Benz does it, at least the feature is present. The seats look like an experiment in using recycled garbage bags to wrap around low-density foam molds but they failed to aggravate the back injury I suffered at Laguna Seca a few weeks back. Compared to the much more expensive seats in the brand-new Porsche 911 I’d been driving earlier in the day, these cheapo buckets were positively delightful. This kind of stuff matters, you know. Like my old 1990 Fox, the Jetta has the basics right and that shines through despite the low-cost execution.

IMG_0711 (Large)

I would be remiss if I did not mention another particular excellence of this automobile: fuel economy. In the mountains, with full throttle the order of the day far more often than would occur in normal driving, the Jetta TSI reported 34.5 mpg. On the long run from Lexington to Columbus, it reported 38.9. These numbers were approximately confirmed when I refueled over the course of the trip. Given that I was running a flat 85 mph most of the time, that’s positively parsimonious. No Accord or Camry is going to turn in numbers like that unless it has the word “Hybrid” somewhere on the rear fascia. I’d be surprised if the Golf TSI could match it; there’s something to be said for the aerodynamics of three inches more wheelbase and quite a bit of trunk to smooth out the airflow in back. Keep in mind, too, that I never self-consciously drove for fuel economy. Operated in the same fashion, my Accord V6 six-speed typically returns about 25 mpg. Hell, my Honda VFR800 can’t return much better than 40 mpg at a steady 85 mph. So this is a big deal and if gasoline returns to four bucks a gallon outside California — you’ll see people taking it into account.

Thanks in large part to the Jetta’s long range on a single tank, I got home a few minutes earlier than I’d planned, letting me catch a quick nap before work. I felt reasonably rested and pain-free despite the length and conditions of the trip. I couldn’t think of another twenty-grand vehicle that would have done any better in this assignment — but I also didn’t feel even a twitch of joy or delight regarding the 2015 Jetta SE TSI. I’d rather have had a new GTI, but there’s six grand of difference between a stick-shift TSI Jetta and the GTI. At that point, if you’re willing to spend real money, you might as well go the whole hog, import a new Phaeton in a container, and rivet on the VIN from some junkyard’s 2005 basketcase W12. Am I right? Of course I’m right.

If we ever get a Mk7 Jetta, if there is even such a thing in the works, it will no doubt be a better car than this is. For today, however, the price is fair and the performance is more than adequate. So what if it’s the “American VW”. This is America. And for my American road trip, this Mexican VW was just fine.

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2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen TDI Review – Hold Right There http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen-tdi-review-hold-right-there/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen-tdi-review-hold-right-there/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 13:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1122873 Great. Another diesel Volkswagen. This time it’s the Golf SportWagen — a car every enthusiast said, “I’d buy that with real, non-Internet money.” We all know exactly how this is going to go: The Golf is better than the Jetta. The Golf SportWagen is better than the 5-door Golf if you have two kids and […]

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2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (1 of 14)

Great. Another diesel Volkswagen. This time it’s the Golf SportWagen — a car every enthusiast said, “I’d buy that with real, non-Internet money.”

We all know exactly how this is going to go:

  • The Golf is better than the Jetta.
  • The Golf SportWagen is better than the 5-door Golf if you have two kids and a dog.
  • The 1.8 TSI is more fun than the 2.0 TDI.
  • The 2.0 TDI is more efficient than the 1.8 TSI, but not enough to justify the increased MSRP when fuel prices are low.
  • You should get the manual if you can.
  • Stop buying Tiguans and get the Golf SportWagen instead. (Never mind. Nobody’s buying Tiguans.)
  • You should also buy this if you care about manuals and wagons and diesels, especially as a package. (Brown is for Luddites.)

It’s with these points in mind I plunged into a week-long test of the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen — just a mere two weeks after driving the Jetta TDI.

And as much as I like it — really, really like it — the long-roof Golf is hard to justify for exactly two reasons.


The Tester

2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI SEL [USA]/Sportwagon Highline [Canada]

Engine: 2-liter DOHC I-4, turbodiesel with intercooler, direct injection (150 horsepower @ 3,500-4,000 rpm, 236 lbs-ft @ 1,750-3,000 rpm)

Transmission: 6-speed automatic, DSG with Tiptronic

Fuel Economy (Rating, MPG): 31 city/42 highway/35 combined
Fuel Economy (Observed, MPG): 39.9 mpg, approx. 70-percent city driving with a light foot

Options (U.S.): Lighting Package, Driver Assistance Package.
Options (Canada): Multimedia Package (includes bi-xenon headlights with AFS, 5.8-inch touchscreen audio with navigation, 8-speaker Fender premium audio, forward collision warning system, LED daytime running lights).

As Tested (U.S.): $33,995 (sheet)
As Tested (Canada): $38,120 (sheet)


But, before we get to that, let’s talk about the car in a vacuum.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (8 of 14)

Exterior
The Golf SportWagen (U.S., in Canada it’s called Golf Sportwagon … like the actual word … in English) replaces the Jetta wagon in Volkswagen’s American lineup. The wagonified compact earns its new name by being more closely related to the Golf than the Jetta this time around. Underneath its sheet metal is Volkswagen’s modular MQB platform shared with the current 3- and 5-door Mk7 Golf and Audi A3.

Thanks to a more modern platform, the Golf SportWagen is roughly 134 pounds lighter than the outgoing Jetta Wagon — and that’s with a longer, wider body. The long-roof Golf is 1.1 inches longer and 0.7 inches wider than the Jetta it replaces, though Volkswagen does make a point to mention the new wagon’s roof is 1.1 inches lower than its predecessor, possibly reducing the car’s frontal area.

The execution of the Golf SportWagon is at odds to the Charger I drove the week before. The Dodge looks completely different from its predecessor despite using the same platform, while the Volkswagen somehow looks more similar to its predecessor even while riding on a whole new platform.

Up front, the SportWagen is all Golf. Put the two side by side and there isn’t much difference. The headlights in our tester were fitted with LED daytime running lights that show up much better in person than they do in pictures on a rainy day. Below the bumper skin is a tiny square, hidden away, that houses the radar gear needed for the adaptive cruise control and other semi-autonomous and safety features. I must say that Volkswagen does a hell of a lot better job at hiding their new-fangled techno gear than most others (FCA and Hyundai, I’m looking at you two).

Around back, the SportWagen receives its own sheet metal and taillights that are tenfold more appealing than the old Jetta wagon. The taillamps festooned to the rear of the Jetta were quite rounded off and lacked even a modicum of personality. The new SportWagen says, “Yes, I’m practical, but I’m oh-so sharp at the same time.”

From the side, the SportWagen does the long-roof body style justice by keeping the D-pillar fairly upright and the lines as simple and cohesive as possible. This is no Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon and it shouldn’t pretend to be. The bright, deep shade of Silk Blue Metallic paint is enough to call attention to this long-wheelbase Golf. Other than the color, the Golf makes no sporting boasts, though the wheels are a tad much.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (11 of 14)

Interior
Inside is the same as any other Golf — good materials, well-planned design, simple dials, decent controls, all wrapped around a cheap infotainment display with crummy navigation and limited media input options — but more on that later.

When you run through a new car every week and have to wash each one, you notice some cars are much, much easier to keep tidy than others. The SportWagen only asked for a simple microfiber cloth to bring luster to the shiny plastic bits and dusting the remaining dash was a breeze.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (12 of 14)The instrument panel is clear and easy to read — thank you, Volkswagen, for getting rid of the stupid, retina-searing blue lighting accents that left ghosts in our vision — and the driving position was perfect for my 6-foot-1-inch frame. The seats are comfortable but nothing to write home about.

But, if there’s one gold star to be given to the SportWagen — and this applies to the Jetta and Golf as well — it’s for visibility. Volkswagen has figured out how to keep passengers safe without lifting belt lines to a driver’s pupils, and that’s doubly important when driving a low vehicle with a large interior volume and a rear window that’s seemingly eleventy billion feet away from your rear-view mirror. This enhanced visibility also contributes to a very open, airy feeling in the cabin.

Infotainment
Remember when I said there are two reasons that make justifying a Golf SportWagen difficult? This is one of them.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (14 of 14)I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you have a modern phone that doesn’t use the old-style iPod/iPhone connector and you don’t need a Volkswagen right freakin’ now, wait until next year. There is supposed to be a better infotainment system and actual, honest-to-goodness USB ports.

Let me be clear: If you buy a Jetta, Golf, or any Volkswagen with this red-headed stepchild combination of haphazard technology and later complain about how much it sucks in the comments, I will link to this review each and every time screaming, “I told you so!” before throwing you to the rest of the B&B. The combination of no USB ports and a sub-par infotainment system in a modern car, especially one in the $30,000 range, is inexcusable in 2015.

Another niggle is the process you’re forced to go through to pair a phone or media device via Bluetooth. You, the driver, must use the steering wheel controls and instrument panel display to pair phone and audio devices instead of the center touchscreen used by every other automaker. Before you say, “Mark, I only ever paired my phone to the car once … when I first bought it,” this design introduces a problem for those of us who have passengers who want to connect their own devices as the driver is then forced to perform pairing process. Expect to see this functionality move to MIB II’s center touchscreen for MY2016 — though, by then, you won’t need it because Volkswagen will finally provide USB ports along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Drivetrain
Just like the diesel Jetta from weeks ago, diesel hesitation from a standing start is evident in the Golf SportWagen as well. Thanks to almost no initial torque from Volkswagen’s turbocharged compression-ignition four cylinder, the Golf is slow off the line until the snail starts to spin. It’s unnerving in the beginning, but you can compensate for it after a couple of days.

The six-speed DSG automatic is the same as the Jetta TDI, too. Crisp shifts are the norm and there’s no driveability issues outside of those detailed above.

The fuel economy surprised me. Even with all the additional weight of the wagon metal, the Golf still nearly crested 40 mpg with minimal effort.

However — and this is a big however — I’d still have the turbocharged, gas-fed 1.8 TSI instead. Unless you are clocking massive mileage or have an unrestrained desire to burn fryer fat on Oregon, the 1.8 TSI is more fun, delivers improved driveability and costs less initially. Also, I’d have the manual, just because.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (7 of 14)

Drive
You know what? As much as journalists admonish the Jetta and heap praise upon the Golf, Volkswagen has taken strides in making the refreshed Jetta a much more compelling proposition. So much so that — and I expect to get a bit of flack for this — the Golf isn’t really that much better than the Jetta, or at least not enough to justify the higher price.

If you were led to each car, the Golf SportWagen TDI and Jetta TDI, blindfolded, and asked to rate which one is better, 95 percent of the buying public would simply shrug and say, “They’re both good to me.”

The Golf SportWagen TDI suffers from the same off-the-line latency as its diesel sedan counterpart. They both have competent suspensions, but both feel a bit heavy, probably due to the big diesel lump at the front. Both testers had brakes you needed to lean on before they’d really grab those discs.

And this is a great segue into the second reason to not get a SportWagen.

Unless you really, really want a wagon, get a Jetta. Now, you probably noticed I didn’t say Golf, and there’s a reason for that, too.

The Golf SportWagen is, like DR Period says, “money”. One cannot simply ignore the massive bargain for which a Jetta can be had. If you are looking to get a car today, go out and lease a cheap Jetta for next to nothing, wait out the term, and go back to the Volkswagen dealer to see what improvements have been made in three years. This is a good solution for the aforementioned infotainment/USB problem above, as well. It gives you the car you need now — even though it might not necessarily be the one you want — and you bridge the gap to newer, better product at a cost that amounts to lint-covered pocket change.

So, there you have it: the best Golf SportWagen TDI is a diesel Jetta. You’re welcome.

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Porsche May Bring Smaller, Electric Panamera-ish Car to Frankfurt http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/porsche-may-bring-smaller-electric-panamera-ish-car-frankfurt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/porsche-may-bring-smaller-electric-panamera-ish-car-frankfurt/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2015 21:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1123433 Porsche may roll out a Tesla-fighting, BMW 5-Series-sized sedan concept at this year’s Frankfurt auto show, L’Automobile Magazine is reporting (via Car and Driver). The smaller sedan would be about a foot shorter than a Panamera, sport an all-electric powertrain — a first for Porsche — and could be offered alongside gasoline, diesel or hybrid-powered engines. Rumors […]

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Porsche may roll out a Tesla-fighting, BMW 5-Series-sized sedan concept at this year’s Frankfurt auto show, L’Automobile Magazine is reporting (via Car and Driver).

The smaller sedan would be about a foot shorter than a Panamera, sport an all-electric powertrain — a first for Porsche — and could be offered alongside gasoline, diesel or hybrid-powered engines.

Rumors about the car, which has been nicknamed “Pajun,” (PA-namera JUN-ior) have been around for some time, but plugging in a motor that runs on electrons and not gasoline would be relatively new for the perpetually speculative car.

The smaller sedan has seemed like a forgone conclusion for the automaker that is expanding into a full-line manufacturer. Even if our own Jack Baruth can’t stand it. 

The Frankfurt show begins Sept. 15.

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2015 Lexus RC F Review (with Video) – Is F Greater than M? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-lexus-rc-f-review-video-f-greater-m/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-lexus-rc-f-review-video-f-greater-m/#comments Mon, 20 Jul 2015 13:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1111321 The last Lexus coupé-only model to grace luxury Japanese dealer lots was the 1991-2000 Lexus SC 300/SC 400. Since then Lexus has tried to satisfy luxury coupé and convertible shoppers simultaneously with the hardtop SC and IS convertibles since 2001. That is until the folks in Japan decided to change their strategy to compete more directly with BMW, […]

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2015 Lexus RC F Exterior

The last Lexus coupé-only model to grace luxury Japanese dealer lots was the 1991-2000 Lexus SC 300/SC 400. Since then Lexus has tried to satisfy luxury coupé and convertible shoppers simultaneously with the hardtop SC and IS convertibles since 2001.

That is until the folks in Japan decided to change their strategy to compete more directly with BMW, Mercedes and Audi in every segment. The result is the development of the RC.

Perhaps because Lexus decided against a 2-coupé strategy, as utilized by BMW and Mercedes, the RC is mix mash between the compact IS and the mid-sized GS — with a little bit of Lexus IS C tossed in for good measure.

In theory, the new coupé was also to serve as the basis for an all-new convertible. Unfortunately, the dealer network revolted and demanded another change in course, redirecting efforts into a 3-row crossover. As a result, the all-new RC is sold alongside the aging Lexus IS C convertible, a situation that’s unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. Fortunately for enthusiasts, Lexus developed their M4-fighter at the same time as the more pedestrian RC 350, otherwise the very-blue 467-horsepower RC F you see above may have met the same fate as the moribund convertible.

Exterior
Lexus’ last M fighter, the IS F, was as unassuming as the RC F is bold. The Lexus ES says, “I’m on my way to the mall,” while the front end of RC F says, “I’m on my way to an anger management intervention.” Base RC 350 coupés have a grille that’s bigger and angrier than Lexus has ever used before. For the RC F, the visual impact gets downright ferocious.

Something struck me as odd when I first set eyes on the RC F a few months back in New Orleans: I’m not a fan of the front end on the IS, largely because the daytime running lamp is divorced from the headlamp. In the RC F, this theme actually works. The difference is the rest of the IS’ form is mainstream and the headlamps themselves look like any other lamp module, making the swoosh seem out of place. For the RC, Lexus reshaped everything, giving the design a more three dimensional feel with concave headlamps. The look works, especially with the optional tri-beam LED headlamp modules (a $1,160 option) fitted to our tester. The only thing missing from this nose are the tiny LED fog lamps you find in the RC F-Sport. At the launch event I attended, Lexus claimed their desire for “no-compromise cooling” meant the fog lamps were left on the cutting room floor.

Now to identify the competition. The RC F obviously has the BMW M4 in its sights and Lexus features an Audi RS 5 in a few commercials, but there are two other players: the new Cadillac ATS-V and the current Mercedes C63 AMG coupé. (The new C63 Coupé should be out in 2016 as a 2017 model, but my local dealer still has three 2015 models on the lot.)

Cadillac’s ATS sedan appears small when stacked against the BMW 3-Series and Lexus IS, but the coupé segment is different and all the entries are but a hair apart. The largest variation at work here is the wheelbase. The Lexus has the shortest span at 107.5 inches and the M4 the longest at 110.7 inches. This helps accentuate the M4’s low and long profile. The other main difference is curb weight. Thanks to standard Quattro, the RS 5 is the heaviest at 4,009 pounds and the M4 is the lightest at 3,530. Curb weight is crucial in a performance vehicle and that’s a sizeable variation. The RC F weighs in second heaviest at 3,958 (or about the same weight as a Jaguar XJ). The Merc is a cupcake lighter and the Caddy straddles the middle at 3,700 pounds.

2015 Lexus RC F Interior-008

Interior
Although the RC is a hybrid of the IS and GS, the interior is pure IS — which I found a little disappointing. Instead of the upright dash and large wide-screen infotainment screen you find in the GS 350, we get a multi-tired dash and a small LCD with narrow proportions. As with the IS, I find the interior somewhat jarring, mainly because of the enormous airbag bump on the passenger side.

The RC F suffers from the same problem as every other entry in this segment: an interior designed for a car half the price. This isn’t unusual. In fact, the RC borrows its interior from the IS 250 while the M4 leverages the basics from the 320i. Also similar to the competition, you won’t find real cow in the base RC F. Lexus insists the NuLuxe pleather seating is a premium feature as it’s bonded to the seat’s foam and won’t “pucker” or “wrinkle” like leather. However you slice it, it still won’t faux anyone.

2015 Lexus RC F LCD Gauges-002

The only major change to the IS interior for coupé duty is a rearrangement of the cupholders and the incorporation of Lexus’ new infotainment controller. F models get a different partial LCD instrument cluster versus the RC 350 with a small fixed speedometer on the right and everything else replicated by the disco dash. In terms of overall parts quality and design, I found the ATS, RC and M4 to all be quite comparable while the aging RS 5 is still the most pleasing to my eye. Narrowing the ranking, I put the M4 above the ATS and the RC F last. If the ATS had the LCD cluster we see in the CTS, it would take top honors, and the RC F is last because the large expanse of injection molded dashboard can’t compete with the extra touches we get in the rest.

I found the front seats to be comfortable and on par with the Audi RS 5 and a notch above the old C63’s narrow seat backs. As we have come to expect from BMW recently, the M4’s front seats are excellent and offer more adjustability than we find in the RC. Unexpectedly, Cadillac has taken a page from BMW’s playbook and offers your choice of 16- or 18-way adjustable seats with more range of motion than you find in the Audi or Lexus.

2015 Lexus RC F Interior Enform Navigation-001

Infotainment
Since the RC shares its dashboard with the IS sedan, the coupé also adopts the small LCD infotainment screen of its four-door sibling. U.S.-bound models get a standard 7-inch LCD screen perched high on the dash. Unfortunately, the distance from the driver and the large plastic bezel conspire to make the screen look smaller than it is. The problem is further compounded by the screen measuring smaller than the competition. As with the IS sedan, the standard display audio system is the only way you can escape the infamous Lexus Remote Touch system. Thankfully, the base system is well featured with HD Radio, SiriusXM, CD player, iPod/Bluetooth integration and weather/traffic displays.

I find myself very conflicted about the Lexus Enform navigation and infotainment system. When coupled with a touchscreen — as in the Lexus GX 460 — I find the system easy to use and intuitive. Admittedly, the software lacks some of the polish of BMW’s iDrive, but it is still one of my favorites. Sadly, in most Lexus vehicles, the touchscreen has been swapped for a joystick-like device which transforms the system from easy to use to frustration itself. For 2015, Lexus is trying something new: a track pad in the RC and NX. The laptop-like unit works essentially the same as the former joystick and offers haptic feedback in addition to some limited pinch and scroll gestures. HD Radio support and traffic information via HD radio are standard, so you don’t need an XM subscription to get a color-coded map. If you can get beyond the input method, the system proved reliable and moderately intuitive. Overall, however, I rank this system below BMW’s iDrive, Audi’s MMI, Infiniti’s new two-screen setup, and even Mercedes’ aging COMAND system. On the flip side, Lexus is one of the few manufacturers to offer complete voice command of your USB/iDevice a la MyLincoln Touch and the luxury automaker continues to expand the number of smartphone integrated app features. New for 2015 is an OnStar-like app that gives you all the standard “did I lock my car” telematics features in addition to alerting you if the car is speeding (handy if Johnny Jr. drives your RC F to school), exceeding a geo-boundary or violating curfew.

2015 Lexus RC F Engine 5.0L V8

Drivetrain
This segment is split in two camps. On the left we have the turbocharged, six-cylinder engines from Cadillac and BMW, and on the right we have the naturally aspirated V-8s from Lexus and Audi. (Next year is likely to bring a unicorn to this segment: a twin-turbo V-8 from Mercedes.)

F buyers get a reworked 5.0L V-8 from the discontinued IS F. Based on the 4.6L V-8 found in the LS 460, the 5.0L version has some significant changes in addition to the displacement bump. We get the usual bevy of performance tweaks, such as titanium valves, a fuel surge tank and high-lift cams. We also get something unusual on a performance vehicle: the ability to operate on the Atkinson cycle. (Technically, a modified Otto cycle.) Unlike most engines, however, this V-8 can switch between Otto and Atkinson cycles, depending on what is needed at the time. This is accomplished by swapping the variable valve timing system found on the old 5.0L design with a new electronically controlled unit on the intake side, allowing a greater deal of control over both valve lift and duration. When efficiency is needed, the intake valve stays open part way into the compression cycle, effectively making the compression stroke “shorter” than the expansion stroke, improving efficiency. According to the engineers, the advantage to employing this fuel-sipping tech is that switching back to max-burn mode takes less time than cylinder deactivation and it can be done across a broader range of engine RPMs. The advantage to the consumer is the solution is 100 percent transparent; cylinder deactivation systems can change the exhaust note and decrease engine smoothness. Thanks to these modifications, the RC F produces more power than the hybrid implementation of this engine present in the LS 600hL while still delivering a 2 mpg bump in the EPA highway score of 25 mpg. The RC F achieves 19 mpg on the combined cycle.

Sending power to the rear is an eight-speed automatic made by Aisin. For those into trivia, this is a variant of the first production eight-speed automatic (in the Lexus LS) for automotive use and was introduced a year before the ZF eight-speed that’s sucked all the air out of the room. For F-duty, Lexus beefs up the internals and allows the torque converter lockup clutch to engage in gears 2-8. (Lexus calls this SPort Direct Shift, or SPDS, but it the same concept used in many modern automatics like Mazda’s SKYACTIV six-speed.) Aft of the transmission is a standard Torsen limited-slip rear differential or an optional electronically controlled, torque-vectoring rear axle as part of the performance package.

2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-007

Drive
Every coupé in this segment handles incredibly well, zips to 60 in the blink of an eye, and stops on a dime compared to your average compact luxury sedan. In truth, the difference out on the road — aside from the raw numbers when it comes to 0-60 times and road holding — is down to personal preference and how your priorities stack up against the facets of the car’s road personality.

Let’s start with the big dog, the artist formerly known as the M3 coupé. At just over 3,500 pounds, the M4 is light for this segment. Despite making 10-percent less power than the Lexus, the BMW is faster to 60 because it is nearly 15-percent lighter and turbocharged. Thanks to less mass, the torque curve flattening effects of the German hairdryer, and the quick-shifting dual clutch transmission, the Bimmer will run to 60 half a second faster than the Lexus — if you can find the traction.

2015 Lexus RC F Exterior Headlamp LED

On the downside, this is not the E92 M3 you’re longing for. The steering feel in the Lexus is a hair more precise and, overall, it’s an easier car to drive hard. I’ll leave the track day diaries to Jack Baruth, but when pitted back to back, there is something artificial about the Lexus torque-vectoring rear axle. Unquestionably, it allows the rear of the RC F to rotate in ways the standard Torsen diff can’t (I had the opportunity to test a few cars at NOLA recently), but the feeling isn’t as satisfying as the M4, despite the M4 having a torque-vectoring rear end as well.

That said, the RC F is just as quick around most tracks; I chalk that up to how easy it is to pilot and the programming of the eight-speed auto that aggressively downshifts based on your braking Gs. Back out on the paved road, the transmission’s shift logic lost its charm. When you’re on your favorite mountain highway having a little fun, you look like a dweeb while the transmission hangs onto 2nd gear as you cautiously pass a pack of cyclists. It also means that real-world passing maneuvers take considerably less time in the M4 as the DCT is far less reluctant to downshift. On the flip side, the ride on the RC F is more livable, is likely to be more reliable, and my insurance guy tells me it’d cost me a lower premium, too.

2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-022

Audi’s RS 5 is seriously spendy ($8,500 more than the RC F) and it is the oldest car in the group now that Mercedes has sent the C63 out to pasture. Like most Audis, the RS 5 has a weight balance “problem” because the engine and part of the transmission hang out ahead of the front axle. The resulting 59/41 (F/R) weight distribution is the most skewed of the bunch (identical to a Honda Accord Sport or Mazda6), but thanks to Audi’s engineering it hides it fairly well — though push the RS 5 in the corners and you get more plow and less feeling from the front axle. Although I find the RS 5 the best looking option, the heavy curb weight, standard AWD, electric power steering, weight balance and high price tag make the RS 5 a dynamic choice only on an ice circuit.

Then we have the ATS-V which, aside from the surprisingly cheap looking instrument cluster, is my choice. A few years ago, the mainline auto press would have scoffed at Cadillac putting a turbocharged six-cylinder engine under the hood of a BMW M fighter — except that’s exactly what BMW has done. Cadillac, for their part, kicked it up a notch further. The larger displacement V-6 approaches the RC F’s horsepower figure at 464, but crushes the segment with 445 lb-ft of torque at just 3,500 rpm. With the new GM 8L90 automatic transmission and a curb weight that’s 200 lbs heavier than the BMW, the Cadillac is slower off the line — by a slim 1/10th of a second. GM also offers a six-speed manual in the ATS if you prefer to row your own, and get to 60 slower. As good as the Lexus eight-speed is, GM’s new slushbox is better. The shifts are faster and crisper and the shift logic is more country-road appropriate than the DCT in the M4. The 8L90 will hold gears in Sport mode like the rest, but it’s more willing to up-shift after you’ve passed the slow poke.

2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-013

As a package, the ATS is more willing to turn in and it feels more nimble than the BMW or the Lexus. The transmission isn’t as sharp as BMW’s dual-clutch box, but it is more livable for a daily driver in stop and go traffic. As with the ATS sedan, the steering feel and general dynamics are superior, but it lacks the polish you get with the German. Where the ATS really scores is value. When priced similarly to our $74,000 Lexus tester, the Cadillac offers more comfortable seats, a heads-up display, adaptive suspension, the best automatic in the group, and an overall style that splits the difference between the more sedate Germans and the over-the-top Lexus.

Lexus’ latest performance vehicle is the finest example of what Lexus does best: incremental changes. The RC F is the sum of everything Lexus has learned over the years about competing in the luxury market and, lately, the performance luxury market. The “Lexus way” is to continually improve while taking the “safe route” with a naturally aspirated engine and a proven traditional automatic. Unfortunately, playing it safe is what puts both the M4 and the RC F tied in second place. Although each vehicle has its pros and cons, they balance out on my tally sheet. While the M4 is faster and more direct, BMW is also playing it safe with conservative styling and road feel that isn’t as direct as the Cadillac. It’s hard to go wrong with the 2015 RC F, but the Cadillac ATS-V is a new instrument cluster away from perfection.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 4.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 12.5 @ 115 MPH

Average Economy: 20.8 MPG

2015 Lexus RC F Trunk-001 2015 Lexus RC F Interior-009 2015 Lexus RC F Interior Paddle Shifters-001 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-018 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-010 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-001 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-009 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-017 2015 Lexus RC F Interior Paddle Shifters 2015 Lexus RC F Trunk 2015 Lexus RC F Interior-008 2015 Lexus RC F LCD Gauges-002 2015 Lexus RC F Interior Enform Navigation-001 2015 Lexus RC F Interior-007 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-016 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-008 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior Headlamp LED-001 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior Headlamp LED 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-007 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-015 2015 Lexus RC F Interior Enform Navigation 2015 Lexus RC F Interior-006 2015 Lexus RC F LCD Gauges-001 2015 Lexus RC F LCD Gauges 2015 Lexus RC F Interior-005 2015 Lexus RC F Interior Back Seat 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-014 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-006 2015 Lexus RC F Engine 5.0L V8-001 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-005 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-013 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-022 2015 Lexus RC F Interior-004 2015 Lexus RC F Interior-014 2015 Lexus RC F Interior-011 2015 Lexus RC F Interior-001 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-021 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-012 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-004 2015 Lexus RC F Engine 5.0L V8 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-003 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-011 2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-020 2015 Lexus RC F Interior 2015 Lexus RC F Interior-010

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Another Corvette Z06 Engine Fails, This Time In Journalist’s Hands http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/another-corvette-z06-engine-fails-this-time-in-journalists-hands/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/another-corvette-z06-engine-fails-this-time-in-journalists-hands/#comments Sat, 18 Jul 2015 18:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1119353 While track testing the latest Z06 Corvette, Gary Gastelu of Fox News experienced an issue that’s becoming a trend for Chevrolet’s supercharged sports car: engine failure. “After a few lapping sessions, the engine in mine unceremoniously called it quits,” reports Gastelu in his review. Unfortunately the cause is still unknown in this instance, though engine […]

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2015-Chevrolet-CorvetteZ06-016-sm

While track testing the latest Z06 Corvette, Gary Gastelu of Fox News experienced an issue that’s becoming a trend for Chevrolet’s supercharged sports car: engine failure.

“After a few lapping sessions, the engine in mine unceremoniously called it quits,” reports Gastelu in his review.

Unfortunately the cause is still unknown in this instance, though engine failures are increasing in occurrence for the 650-horsepower Corvette.

Late last year, Corvette Forum’s member “Lawdogg149″ had the LT4 V-8 in his Z06 implode after only 891 miles on the clock. The failure was with the valvetrain, though root cause of the failure wasn’t reported. GM instructed the dealer servicing the car to return the engine to the mothership unopened for further analysis. The Z06 received a new powerplant covered under warranty.

GM Authority stated as many as three failures have been mentioned on Corvette Forums as of June 2015.

Other issues have been reported, such as reduced power after hard launches or track use, in order for the engine to “survive for 100,000 miles as well as allow the Z06 to meet stringent US emissions regs,” reported Jalopnik last year.

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2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible Review – No Respect http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-ford-mustang-ecoboost-convertible-review-no-respect/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-ford-mustang-ecoboost-convertible-review-no-respect/#comments Thu, 16 Jul 2015 14:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1117449 I pull up next to a previous-generation Mustang — its 5-liter V8 rumbling as it sits at a stop light — and look over to the driver. There is no acknowledgement from him that I exist. Not a nod, glance, nor a typical, Mustang-owner two-finger wave. That’s not surprising though — he probably couldn’t hear me. The 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline four is but a whimper […]

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2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (1 of 11)

I pull up next to a previous-generation Mustang — its 5-liter V8 rumbling as it sits at a stop light — and look over to the driver. There is no acknowledgement from him that I exist. Not a nod, glance, nor a typical, Mustang-owner two-finger wave.

That’s not surprising though — he probably couldn’t hear me.

The 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline four is but a whimper next to the eight cylinders of Detroit aluminum. I give the boosted four banger a slight tip of accelerator. Still nothing from the owner of the “five-point-oh.”


The Tester

2015 Ford Mustang Convertible EcoBoost Premium (Automatic)

Engine: 2.3-liter DOHC I-4, direct injection, twin independent variable camshaft timing (310 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm, 320 lbs-ft @ 2,500-4,500 rpm)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters

Fuel Economy (Rating, MPG): 20 city/30 highway/24 combined
Fuel Economy (Observed, MPG): 23.3 mpg, approx. 70 percent highway

Options: 201A Equipment Group (Shaker Pro Audio System, Memory Driver’s Seat and Mirrors, Blind Spot Information System with cross-traffic alert), Triple Yellow paint, 50 Years Appearance Package, EcoBoost Performance Package, Enhanced Security Package Active Anti­, Theft System with Perimeter Alarm, HID Headlamps with Signature Lighting, Reverse Sensing System, Spoiler Delete, Wheel Locking Kit, 3.55 Limited-Slip Rear Axle, 19-inch-by-9-inch Gloss Black Premium Painted Aluminum Wheels, Raven Black interior, Adaptive Cruise Control with Collision Mitigation and Rain­ Sensing Wipers, SYNC with MyFord Touch, Voice­Activated Navigation System, Premium AM/FM Stereo with HD Radio.

As Tested (U.S.): $45,060 (sheet)
As Tested (Canada): $52,649 (sheet)


It isn’t until the light turns green that my newfound nemesis in the neighboring lane graces me with a single eyeball. Even with the EcoBoost’s bright yellow paint, a pass is required to command the 5-liter’s driver to look to his right and gaze upon my taillights.

Admittedly, this is a very specific scenario. During normal driving, when other Mustang owners are traveling in the opposite direction, any Mustang — no matter the vintage — is still due its two finger, steering-wheel salute. Unless you’re driving a Mustang II.

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (6 of 11)

Exterior
The front fascia of the Mustang is all modern. New headlights. New grille. This is the new look for Ford’s pony car going forward. While I don’t think this is a design Ford will look back on in 2050 and say, “Hey, we should make a retro-modern version of this,” it’s still a much more streamlined than the upright front with its recessed headlights that have graced the faces of Mustangs for the last two generations.

The headlights give the Mustang a purposeful, angry demeanor, while the long hood foretells of engines upwards of eight cylinders, though that hood is a bit of a lie in this case.

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (10 of 11)

On our convertible tester, the looks are greatly improved as soon as you drop the top. There is no cover for the folded roof, but it is neatly packed away behind the rear seats — unlike the Beetle Convertible — and doesn’t really require a covering. The belt line is rather high, but it works in this case. The Mustang is a big-bodied pony car and it should have as much sheet metal as is possible.

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (3 of 11)

The convertible, I’d argue, has a better silhouette than the new coupe. Instead of the awkward rear-window profile, the convertible offers a flatter and seemingly longer, deck lid. Our tester, with the EcoBoost Performance Package and 50 Years Appearance Package had its rear spoiler deleted, which made for one of the cleanest looking forms of the Mustang money can buy.

My only qualms with the Mustang’s design have to do with the rear. The designers at Ford had an opportunity to go all new with their latest creation, but the rear is still stuck in the past.

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (7 of 11)

Interior
Thank you Ford, for real, honest-to-goodness controls. What the Mustang offers up is incredibly user friendly and — save the outgoing version of SYNC with MyFord Touch — amazingly intuitive. The steering wheel controls are not as simple as those in the Dodge Charger I reviewed last week, though there’s definitely nothing wrong with the buttons festooned to the wheel in the Mustang. More options need more buttons.

Below the large MyFord Touch screen and HVAC controls sits a row of toggle switches to change driving mode, steering effort and a few other options. I would prefer these be closer to the driver and out of reach of any underage passengers trying to be clever by flipping between Comfort and Sport steering modes mid-corner.

Another pet peeve: Ford has decided to put the boost gauge right in the middle of the dash, far outside the peripheral vision of the driver. Please, Ford, put this in the instrument panel. At the very least, this could be one of the performance gauges offered up by the digital display between the speedometer and tachometer.

The seats are, well, just fair. I found myself constantly readjusting in order to be comfortable. Also, thanks to the speedometer and tachometer being fairly far apart from each other, the view through the steering wheel to the gauges can be compromised by the steering wheel itself.

The phrase “backseat comfort” in a car like this is an oxymoron, so I’m not even going to mention it.

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (8 of 11)Infotainment
As previously mentioned, the Mustang makes do with the outgoing version of SYNC and MyFord Touch. While other reviewers have called out Ford’s system for being a confusing, four-cornered mix mash, I’ve never had any serious usability problems with Ford’s infotainment system. If anything, my experience has been nothing but glowing — though not due to the screen itself.

SYNC’s voice-activation feature is one of the best systems for people like me who have horrible regional accents. Somehow, whether it be the folks at Ford or Microsoft (the company responsible for the software guts of SYNC) the system is able to figure out how to cut through all my weird ‘ar‘ combinations and other oddball dialectical artifacts.

Beyond that, the optional Shaker audio system might sound great in the coupe, but in the Mustang convertible it sounds like a tinny mess. If you can avoid the extra cost, do so.

Drivetrain
And now we get to the crux of this particular Mustang: its engine.

Ford’s new found love for turbocharging, combined with its “One Ford” plan to send Mustangs to Europe, has resulted in a four-cylinder Mustang with a twin-scroll turbocharger hanging off its side. On top of that, this engine is considered to be a premium choice over the 3.7-liter V6 engine.

Sitting them side by side, the EcoBoost four does, in fact, make more horsepower and torque. However, the quality of how it delivers that power and its attack on your senses is not something I would call premium.

For starters, the EcoBoost engine — even with faux exhaust note pumped through the Shaker audio system — sounds like any other four-cylinder engine on the market. Neither the engine nor exhaust notes are pleasing to the ear. Remember back when Hondas and Acuras would activate all the VTEC goodness at the top RPMs? Remember how great that sounded? The exact opposite is happening here.

That’s not to say the EcoBoost mill is a horrible engine. If your plan is to putt around town and stay out of the boost, the little four pot will return some pretty excellent fuel economy, even with the six-speed automatic. But, if you are looking for an experience pleasing to the ear, get a 6- or 8-cylinder engine.

Drive
I drove the Mustang the week following the Charger, and while I called the Dodge a “four-door pony car,” the two cars are definitely not in the same league.

For starters, the Mustang still sports a stiff ride, even with its new-fangled independent rear suspension. Handling might be improved, but the convertible still communicates a fair amount of chassis flex. With the top up, the Mustang isn’t even close to quiet; in truth, it even seemed quieter with the top down. It’s still a Mustang, foibles and all.

If the V6, automatic, convertible Mustang is the Cheerleader Edition of the Ford’s pony car, this EcoBoost-powered version is for the cheerleader that munches on Adderall from a Pez dispenser. It’s high-strung when pushed, but relaxed when it needs to be. The only time it sounds good is when you can’t hear it. And, to top it all off, this car is nearly $50,000. That’s fifty grand for a four cylinder.

Get the six. Save your money. Invest in the improved auditory experience for yourself and others. Turbocharging is not the answer — at least in this case.

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (10 of 11) 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (2 of 11) 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (3 of 11) 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (1 of 11) 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (6 of 11) 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (5 of 11) 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (4 of 11) 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (9 of 11) 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (8 of 11) 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (7 of 11) 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (11 of 11)

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2015 Lamborghini Huracán Track Test http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-lamborghini-huracan-track-test/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-lamborghini-huracan-track-test/#comments Tue, 14 Jul 2015 13:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1104033 A short time ago, I left you with my impressions of the Porsche 911 GT3. Even now, I am still in love with that car (Tiffany…call me). However, love is blind and everyone’s a critic. Just after the publication of that piece, I got a text from a buddy who published an outstanding review on […]

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2015 Lamborghini Huracán

A short time ago, I left you with my impressions of the Porsche 911 GT3. Even now, I am still in love with that car (Tiffany…call me). However, love is blind and everyone’s a critic.

Just after the publication of that piece, I got a text from a buddy who published an outstanding review on the Lamborghini Huracán. It simply declared “No way a GT3 can keep up with a Huracán.” Well my limited resources were never going to make that track test happen, but I do have access to a pair of Huracáns…

So, why not see what the hype is about?

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

Let’s just get it out of the way; this is not a rehash of Baruth’s write up in Road & Track. This is my lesser driving ability and writing talent on a shorter racetrack filtered through my time with the new baby Lambo. The shorter track is key, because when JB was giving the Lambo the business, I also received a text photo of a recorded 176 MPH saved on the dash. I don’t have enough track or skills to match that.

Not that I wouldn’t try…

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

I have always liked Lamborghinis. I would even bet money my first exposure was the same as yours: The opening scene of “The Cannonball Run” with Tara Buckman exiting the black scissor door and expressing her opinion on the then 55 mph speed limit.

I liked them, but I never loved them. They seemed to be beautifully designed but delicate machines. They never really had the track cred of their Italian neighbors and certainly not the collection of titles from my beloved Stuttgart crew. I never drove one until 2014 when I got behind the wheel of a trio of Gallardo’s at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit. I got a chance to drive both the AWD and rear wheel drive versions. They weren’t bad cars, but even with my svelte 6-foot runners frame, fitting inside became challenging and, after a while, somewhat painful as my helmeted head was always slightly tilted.

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

So when I was first exposed to the Huracán, I dismissed it as a modern Gallardo and went back to dry-humping the GT3. However, Saturday morning found me behind the wheel of the big red beast. You already know this, so chalk it up to verification, but it fits people. Not just taller people, but short ones as well. The Gallardo was not only painful for tall folks, but challenging for short ones; the seat simply did not have the range of motion. This one is much more usable.

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

That doesn’t mean the Lambo has gone all “normal.” The dash is still an aggressive liquid crystal display, even for the center gauges and environmental control display combo. Both theHuracán and Aventador were inspired by the shape of the F-117 Stealth Fighter, so jagged corners permeate the styling. Unlike the McLaren, which feels almost sterile in comparison, the Huracán is unapologetically a Lamborghini, like all before it. That’s a good thing.

The next unapologetic aspect of the car is the 602 horsepower V10 bomb behind the driver.

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

Holy.

Freaking.

Crap. (This is not what I said, but we both have jobs we’d like to keep)

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

That outburst came from a client who had literally only driven one car her entire life: A 1967 Camaro with a well worn 327 cu V-8. So when I asked her to step on the gas and roll onto the track, she literally stomped on the accelerator. The stability control and AWD kept the car pointed forward, but just barely. The demonic howl was enough to interrupt the classroom session next to the track…on the second floor.

The eight-speed transmission clicks off shifts as smoothly and seamless as you would expect, either with the side-mounted paddles or left to its on capable devices. The only possible drawback is the occasional unwillingness to downshift when left in “Strada,” which if you are on a track you shouldn’t do. However, if you are in the right seat, next to a college sophomore who has never driven anything more powerful than Mom’s Honda Pilot, you absolutely leave the car in “Strada.” Don’t worry. The acceleration is still more than enough to cause an audible gasp. Even more impressive is the Huracán’s rolling start. A well-executed entry onto Hallett’s turn 12 and full application of throttle would build speed so quickly, every client I rode with would lift before the marker ½-way down the main straight.

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

Even in New Jersey, at Englishtown’s impossibly tight track with very boisterous locals, I never had to verbally tell anyone to lift down the short straightaway. This is still a Lamborghini and it still scares people. They just did it on their own. The gap from this car and your very fast M3 is farther than the gap between the same M3 and my 1966 El Camino.

In this light, I began to understand Jack’s claim about the Huracán. It is explosive and accelerates like nothing you have experienced. It’s wildly expressive, more communicative than you expect, and scarier than most can imagine. It is blisteringly fast and outrageous as every Lamborghini should be.

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

That’s where I depart from the narrative. The Lamborghini Huracán is indeed staggering. It is the definition of a “supercar” and, in that sense, light years beyond the 911 GT3 — even the GT2. The Audi guts inside are far more reliable than anything featured in “The Cannonball Run” or the litany of knock-offs and sequels. The styling will always command attention from downtown Dallas to your local Cars and Coffee.

As advanced and capable as it is, on a tight track, it’s not a race car. Even under Audi’s stewardship, Lamborghini’s lack of a racing heritage shows. The car will eat 458 Italia’s without breathing heavy, but the Ferrari will always feel more like a driver’s car. The Nissan GT-R cleans up any mess you make like your mother when you have the flu, but the Huracán will effortlessly stomp it to oblivion.

None of that matters, because the Lamborghini Huracán is not a car for the track or to beat other cars. It is an amazing achievement. While most of these specimens will spend too much time in garages or cruising South Beach, the Huracán is a truly great car. You could actually live with one of these everyday, but it was built for one very narrow niche.

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

The Lamborghini Huracán is a car for fans of the Bull. It is the fulfillment of a visual and audio promise made in 1981 when we saw those scissor doors open for the first time. It is a car built for those who truly love Lamborghini, and honestly, it’s about damn time.

Photography by Nick Boris.

Lamborghini contributed absolutely nothing to this review. It was researched over 18 separate days in at tracks in Oklahoma, Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Jersey coaching with Xtreme Xperience, burning their gas and 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. Next month he will be racing with those madcap Baruth brothers in Michigan. You can follow that impending debacle on Twitter, Instagram and Vine at M3ntalward. 

Hurracan19 Hurracan18 Hurracan17 Hurracan15 Hurracan13 Hurracan12 Hurracan11 Hurracan10 Hurracan9 Hurracan8 Hurracan1 Hurracan2 Hurracan3 Hurracan4 Hurracan5 Hurracan7

 

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I Tried to Buy a Charger This Weekend and Failed Miserably http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/i-tried-to-buy-a-charger-and-failed-miserably/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/i-tried-to-buy-a-charger-and-failed-miserably/#comments Wed, 08 Jul 2015 16:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1109033 We just had a fight. Scratch that. We were still having a fight. This was just the tense calm between volleys of verbal mortar fire. I won’t even tell you what we were fighting about. The subject was so stupid it would make my girlfriend and I both look like utter idiots — like those times when you shout at a […]

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2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (9 of 13)

We just had a fight.

Scratch that. We were still having a fight. This was just the tense calm between volleys of verbal mortar fire. I won’t even tell you what we were fighting about. The subject was so stupid it would make my girlfriend and I both look like utter idiots — like those times when you shout at a character in a TV show to grow up and “just say you’re sorry already!”

Instead of doing what any rational human would do, I figured my only chance of peace was to escape the waves of relationship-drama ordnance. I grabbed the keys to this week’s Charger along with my vaporizer and fled the front line to regroup and regain my sanity.

This is nothing new for me — or us, really. We are both passionate people, even if our ancestors are from some of the most stereotypically dispassionate of Western European countries.

Over the years, I have learned to control my anger and one of my methods is to go for a long, highway-bound drive where hooning is virtually impossible. Parking lots also provide that calming effect, but my times spent in empty areas of tarmac are usually followed by repair bills and/or a visit from the local constable giving my still-sticky, partially-molten tires a long, deep sniff along with the associated hand-on-the-hood, warm-engine inspection.

Also, this isn’t my car, so I am not going for rear-wheel-peel therapy on this particular evening. A highway drive it is.

It took about 20 minutes to get from my driveway to Nova Scotia’s Highway 101 that runs from Halifax all the way down to Yarmouth at the southern tip of the province. The cruise control was set. I put the 8-inch uConnect in navigation mode. Music turned off — mostly because I left my iPhone jukebox back at home and partly because all I wanted to hear was the air rushing past the partially opened driver’s side window as I blew vanilla-flavored vapor into the atmosphere.

I could finally “space” and think about what had happened between her and I; how I could fix the situation but not look like a pushover at the same time. However, I was still angry as hell and the last thing I wanted to do in that moment was forgive her. I’m sure she still felt the same at that very moment back at home.

Highway 101 is a mix of 100 km/h highway interspersed with lower limits near towns and other areas where the blacktop narrows. It’s also quite deadly as accidents along the 101 are common and usually tragic due to a lack of division between the two directions of traffic over some stretches.

Even though my mind was elsewhere while the cruise control and lane departure system were doing exactly what they were engineered to do, I was still vigilant of the road ahead and behind. Instead of doing 120 or 130 km/h like the top 10 percent typically do along this road, I set my speed to 110 km/h to make sure the bright-red Charger would not capture the radar-measured attention of patrolling Mounties.

I was nearly 100 km (62 miles) away from home when something struck me.

For a province with an underfunded road system, I couldn’t remember hitting a single bump or pothole during the entire drive. I knew I drove the Charger’s 19-inch tires over at least a couple dozen moderate to severe “road imperfections” since starting out on the journey to sanity, but I didn’t remember them. There was no major jostling about in the seat by way of a pothole or major undulation. The Charger just plodded along, soaking up anything that would dare take my mind off driving and the relationship predicament in which I currently found myself.

It wasn’t like the car was completely transparent to the process of driving, either. Unlike the Toyota Avalon, a car that’s nearly transparent to everyone — including driver, passengers and anyone else on the street who might catch a glimpse of its Camry-esque sheetmetal — the Charger still had enough presence to keep me engaged.

“Damn, I want this car.”

What?

Did I just think that?

I have never thought that — ever — in a press car. Sure, I’ve thought, “This is a car I’d like to have if I was in the market for a crossover/sports car/minivan/family sedan/etc.” But, not once — not ever — have I thought “I want this car. For me.”

Head cleared, I turned around and made my hour-and-a-half long drive back toward home, promptly said what I needed to say and listened to what she needed to say, and went to bed for the night.


The next day started like any other — except this new “fever” remained. I looked out the front window at the Charger sitting in my driveway.

“Damn, I really want this car.”

Okay, so not this car. I want a V8. I want rear-wheel drive. I want something that this car foretells could be good.

Ready for our day, my girlfriend and I head downtown to do errands. I needed a haircut because I’m starting to earn some unwanted hippy cred. She wanted a smoothie.

Hair freshly mowed and smoothies in hand, she asked, “Do you want to go for a walk around downtown for a little while longer?”

“No, not today,” I replied. “I want to go to the Dodge dealer.”


We arrived at the local purveyor of automotive goods from Auburn Hills. The lot was stacked with minivan upon minivan, truck upon truck, CUSW upon CUSW. I parked the press fleet Charger and went inside, finding a salesman on the opposite end of the showroom looking over his inventory of Grand Caravans and Rams like a hawk that had just set out bait for a common vole.

I snuck up behind him and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned.

“Hi. Do you have any V8 Chargers?” I asked. Wow, I already felt incredibly vulnerable.

“Let me look,” he said with a grimace, probably thinking I was taking him away from good minivan-and-truck-and-Jeep selling time.

“We have a few used Chargers, but nothing new.”

“Not a single one?”

“Nope.”

He didn’t even attempt to get me in a Ram or minivan or Jeep — probably for the best.


As soon as I arrived home, I made a beeline for the computer to search for all the Chargers within a 500 km radius.

There was not a single Charger in the whole city. Halifax has three separate Dodge dealers and not a single one had a Charger. One, however, did have a V6 Challenger with an automatic transmission.

I had to search the boonies to find the first LX four door. Another V6. More Chargers popped up the further away I looked and they were all V6 powered. Except for one. It was 416 km (258 miles) away. And it was a 2014. I’m not even going to bother calling.

Just like Jack mentioned a short time ago, I am not the customer. The dealer is the true customer of the automaker. If the dealer doesn’t want to stock V8 Chargers, they aren’t going to stock V8 Chargers.

It’s also made even more difficult because nobody here buys a V8 outside of a pickup and all three dealers in my area care only about volume sellers. Additionally, timing throws another wrench into the mix.

Daniel Labre, product public relations spokesman said in an email: “It’s that time of year where we do transition from one model year to the next … so if they sold out of Chargers in that area, we do have to wait for the 2016 models.”

Considering the above, I can’t see any dealers here bringing in V8 Chargers — even for 2016.

And this is where I either fail or win, depending on your perspective: I absolutely refuse to put down over $40,000 on a car I cannot test drive first. I don’t need to drive the car I want to buy, but I am not about to take a V6 for a test drive, assume everything will be better with the V8, and plunk down tens of thousands of dollars.

So, I sit here Charger-less and waiting for the 2016 model year to roll around, hoping one of the dealers here will order up a V8 Charger so I can take it for a spin like anyone else looking to buy a new car.

It will be mine. Eventually. Hopefully. Maybe.

The post I Tried to Buy a Charger This Weekend and Failed Miserably appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

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2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Review — Four-Door Pony Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-dodge-charger-v6-awd-review-four-door-pony-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-dodge-charger-v6-awd-review-four-door-pony-car/#comments Wed, 08 Jul 2015 15:00:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1110169 Looking at all the full-size sedans available in America is certainly a case of “one of these things is not like the other.” Dodge’s latest iteration of the LX-platformed, rear-wheel drive sedan sticks out like a sore thumb covered in beer and barbecue sauce. The freshly facelifted, second-generation new Charger (it’s the seventh generation overall to use […]

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2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (2 of 13)

Looking at all the full-size sedans available in America is certainly a case of “one of these things is not like the other.” Dodge’s latest iteration of the LX-platformed, rear-wheel drive sedan sticks out like a sore thumb covered in beer and barbecue sauce.

The freshly facelifted, second-generation new Charger (it’s the seventh generation overall to use the nameplate) is exactly what I want in a pony car with four doors: mean looks, lots of power and a suspension more tuned for going in a straight line than around corners.

But, I am not going to say its better than the new Maxima — another full-size(-ish) sedan that makes a sporty claim. Actually, it’s definitely not as good as the Maxima.

And I couldn’t care less.


The Tester

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD SXT w/ Rallye Pack

Engine: 3.6-liter DOHC V6, direct injection (292/300 [Rallye Group] horsepower @ 6,350 rpm, 260/264 [Rallye Group] lbs-ft @ 4,800 rpm)
Transmission: 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters

Fuel Economy (Rating, MPG): 18 city/27 highway/21 combined
Fuel Economy (Observed, MPG): 21 mpg, approx. 75 percent highway

Options: RALLYE Group, AWD Premium Group, Technology Group, Navigation/Rear Back­-Up Camera Group, Redline Tri­Coat Pearl exterior paint, Black Painted Roof.

As Tested (U.S.): $45,570 (sheet)
As Tested (Canada): $48,975 (sheet)


While the 2015 Charger is considered by most to be a facelift and not another notch on the generational headboard, the latest iteration brings with it enough change to completely ignore the 2014 model year should you find one of that particular vintage new (or used with 10 miles on the clock) hanging around a local Dodge dealer. Even with a steep discount, I’d be hard-pressed to spring for the previous model.

In addition to the wildly different front-end design, all Chargers now get an 8-speed, ZF-sourced automatic transmission as standard no matter the driveline or engine choice. From SE to Hellcat, everyone gets an 8-speed transmission — unless you’re a cop. Inside, materials are improved along with upgrades to the three-spoke steering wheel and 7-inch, IP-mounted display.

This is as close as you can get to a whole new generation. The only thing missing is a new platform. That isn’t due to arrive until 2018.

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (3 of 13)

Exterior
Ditching the mildly dumpy headlights of the pre-facelift models, the Charger now sports some sharp eyeliner in the form of LED strips following the edge of the housing. The new lights, along with an updated grille and surrounding sheet metal, finally give the Charger a refined front fascia.

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (7 of 13)

The rear offers up Dodge’s signature racetrack lighting — which would still be cool if designers at FCA didn’t stick the same element on the lowly Dart (I can forgive them for the Durango). A tail end that tapers inward the lower you look doesn’t give the Charger the most menacing look from behind, at least in this tester’s AWD configuration. Also, if you look closely at the picture above, you can plainly see some panel misalignment going on. I’d love to say the Charger is a quality product — because it feels it and looks it almost everywhere else — but misaligned panels are something that should have been eliminated eons ago with robots and lasers. This is just sloppy work. Damn Canadians.

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (10 of 13)

However, those aren’t the worst parts of the Charger’s design. When you get to the side profile, you are greeted by what looks like a Chinese-knock-off Nike swoosh molded into the sheet metal. I think the Charger would look a lot better with a simple body line — or, better yet, nothing at all — to eliminate distraction from a silhouette that easily casts the meanest shadow in the segment.

Another thing you will notice as you stare at its side: the wheels and fender-to-wheel offset. On all-wheel drive models, the Charger is shod with 19-inch wheels instead of the 20 inchers seen equipped with many other trims. Sadly, 19s almost look too small on the Charger, and the fender gap and body offset at the rear looks … weird.

Even with all its foibles, it somehow works together — but only just. It’s like a collection of Lego pieces from different sets being used to build something with a modicum of imagination. And it looks angry — as it should for a car that’s available with a 707-hp supercharged V8.

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (12 of 13)

Interior
At first glance, our tester’s interior is downright garish. The leather seat and door inserts are colored a faded red that doesn’t match in the slightest with the shade of red worn by the car’s exterior panels. The leather itself, while it might be high quality, looks downright cheap due to the color. Thankfully, this particular interior is a Rallye Group option and can be replaced with simple black.

However, what’s not so good is a sense of cheapness exacerbated by certain leather panels that fit a bit looser than they should. I’ve seen this particular issue with leather in modern Chrysler products before — specifically the much-improved Chrysler 200 — and it makes the seats look like they’re wearing clothes one size too big.

Beyond the leather, the seats themselves offer significant support at this trim level, providing comfort for short city jaunts and long, cross-country drives. As I plodded my way down the highway on a late-night drive I took last week (which you will learn about a little later today), there wasn’t a single moment where I thought to pull over and take a break to stretch. Even the sole stop on the drive was of the drive-thru variety (you better believe it was Tim Hortons) and not a park-get-out-and-walk stop.

Aside from the seat and door leather, the look and the touch of the materials are high quality and there didn’t seem to be any fitment issues. My only complaint — if you can even call it that — is whatever material and pattern used for the dash topper seems to attract and holds on to dust like it’s a precious mineral. Wiping the dash with a microfiber cloth makes the issue worse as the soft-touch plastic grips to the cloth and holds onto its fibers.

Controls are well laid out thanks to large knobs and buttons for primary HVAC and audio controls, such as temperature, fan speed and stereo volume. It even has a tuning knob like the good ol’ days of 13-channel television sets.

The rear of the Charger offers just enough room to be borderline comfortable for full-sized adults. With myself plunked in the driver seat and my similarly-tall roommate sitting just aft of me, we had not an inch to spare between us, but I didn’t have to sacrifice my driving position either.

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (11 of 13)

Infotainment
I like almost everything about uConnect — except for the name. Chrysler’s infotainment system, with its large navigational icons placed at the bottom of an 8-inch touchscreen, is one of the best in the business and easily beats those found in the new Maxima, non-Classic Impala and beige-a-tron Avalon.

The Charger also features another high-resolution display sitting between the speedometer and tachometer, offering up vital information for fuel economy, audio, navigation and a multitude of other pages you aren’t likely to spend much time using. The controls for navigating the pages displayed on the IP screen are mounted on the steering wheel and are dead simple to operate — just four arrow buttons and an OK button in the middle.

The tester also came equipped with the optional Beats by Dr. Dre 10-speaker audio system. When you are listening to audio from SiriusXM or your iPod over USB or Bluetooth, you aren’t going to hear much difference between this and other “premium” branded systems from competitors, but if the audio system is the deciding point of buying or not buying a Charger, you’re doing it wrong. That said, my untrained ear didn’t complain about the quality of tunes emanating from the system’s speakers.

Drivetrain
Considering the Charger can be had with the iron sledgehammer that is the 6.2-liter Hellcat V8, choosing a V6 to power your Charger seems like it might not be quite enough to motivate the large sedan. However, at least with our up-rated Rallye Group model, the 300-hp V6 was quite capable of throwing me back in my seat. While the Maxima might have more power thanks to its 3.5L V6, the Charger V6 sends its power to the back — or front and back, in this case — of the car through a real transmission with actual gears.

That transmission — the eight-speed ZF automatic — is great for fuel economy, but it isn’t the best when it comes to drivability. If you want a truly smooth transmission in your next large sedan, get an Impala. If you want a little kick in the backside as you hold mid-throttle going down the highway, stay with the Charger.

You’d think because the Maxima’s V6 is attached to a CVT that it would be the worse sounding option. Yet, thanks to the jesters at Bose, the Maxima pipes a nice engine note into the cabin. The Charger relies on a good, old-fashioned exhaust note to deliver the noise through all its sheet metal. With the Pentastar V6, the audible theater is somewhat underwhelming when at full trot. The engine itself even sounds a little tiny and rattly. I’m sure that can be easily remedied with two extra cylinders, though.

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (4 of 13)

Drive
Since the re-emergence of the Charger during the days of Daimler’s rein, Dodge’s go-to for easy fleet sales has slowly improved to become a valid contender for your hard-earned retail dollars.

To make sense of it, you really need to put it up against the Maxima — even if Nissan doesn’t think they are head-to-head competitors.

For one, the Nissan is the more sporting offering, at least when you are pitting apples-to-apples with available V6 models. While the Maxima will hug a turn and is not likely to get upset by road imperfections during your apex, the Charger still delivers a significant amount of rear suspension judder when passing over expansion joints and the like. You can easily feel the rear of the car come around in those events, albeit slightly, and it is only unsettling until you get used to it and know nothing will happen to you.

Also, Nissan brings all the Maxima’s handling prowess to the table thanks to some well-programmed computers monitoring your every input so it can make active adjustments to brakes and other control systems. The Charger: a sport button that changes the shift mapping and some other simple things easily handled by the ECU. There’s absolutely nothing fancy going on here, and it shows in the handling.

If you are looking for a driver-oriented cockpit, the Maxima wins this round as well, with an interior feeling very similar to the CTS Vsport in the way it encapsulates you. The Charger is much more open up front and lets you put your hand on the leg of the lady next to you.

But, there is no final nail in the coffin in this Charger vs. Maxima debate. The ride in the Charger is much more plush, though that might be down to the high-sidewalled tires of our tester. Also, infotainment and other controls are much more easily learned and utilized in the Charger. It’s certainly a get-in-and-go kind of car as every control is exactly where you think it should be … except the truck-style footwell emergency brake.

The final verdict: if you want a “four-door sports car”, get the Maxima. If you want a “four-door pony car” with a comfortable ride and minus all the technological gimmickry, go with the Charger.

I know I will.

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