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. Sat, 23 May 2015 15:11:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 2015 Ford Explorer Limited Rental Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-ford-explorer-limited-rental-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-ford-explorer-limited-rental-review/#comments Sat, 23 May 2015 14:35:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072858 I’ll put the pedal to the flo-ah/of my two-tone Ford Exploh-ah You know how it’s done. – Ice Cube, Down For Whatever The great O’Shea Jackson penned that lyric in 1993, and I know exactly what Ford Explorer he meant. Back in the day, the Explorer Sport was a three-door SUV that could be bought […]

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2015 Ford Explorer Exterior Three Quarter

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

You know how it’s done.

– Ice Cube, Down For Whatever

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

Then the whole Firestone thing happened.

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

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

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

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

2015 Ford Explorer Dash Interior

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

2015 Ford Explorer Middle Row Interior

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

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

2015 Ford Explorer Instrument Panel

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

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

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

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

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

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2015 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2014 Honda Pilot

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

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

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

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

2016 Honda Pilot Elite

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front Quarter-001

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

Exterior

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

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

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

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior

Interior

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

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim-003

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

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

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Center Console

Infotainment

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

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Engine-001

Drivetrain

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

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

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior LCD Instrument Cluster.CR2

Drive

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

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

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior -001

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

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

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior.CR2-001

Pricing

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

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

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Rear.CR2-001

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

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

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.26 Seconds

0-60: 6.15 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.8 Seconds @ 92.5 MPH

Average economy: 20.3 MPG over 699 miles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Tester

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Or just wait for the diesel.

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

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

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2015 gmc canyon front 34

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

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

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

2015_gmc_canyon_canyon dash

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

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

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

2015 gmc canyon dash radio

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

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

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

2015 gmc canyon extra cab doors

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

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

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

2015 gmc canyon extra cab bed long

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

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

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

2015 gmc canyon extra cab rear 34

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

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

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

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Indianapolis Motor Speedway Circa Memorial Day Weekend 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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TRD Camry XSE Pace Car

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Lap of America TRD Scion FR-S

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s pretty bad ass. Seriously.

So how did the Camry do on track?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2015 land rover discovery sport front right

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

2015 land rover discovery sport grill

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

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

2015 land rover discovery sport dash

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

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

2015 land rover discovery sport interior details

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

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

2015 land rover discovery sport details

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

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

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

2015 land rover discovery sport rear left

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

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

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

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Buy Here Pay Here Subprime Financing Extravaganza Circa September 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I was wrong.

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

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

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

Porsche 911 GT3

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

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

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

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

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

Porsche 911 GT3

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

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

So, should you get one? No.

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

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

Porsche 911 GT3

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

Top image courtesy Nicolas Seymour.

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

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

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

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2015 Buick Lacrosse

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

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

2015 Buick Lacrosse

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

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

2015 Buick Lacrosse - Engine

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

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

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

2015 Buick Lacrosse - Interior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2015 Chevrolet Malibu LT Rental Car Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/rental-review-2015-chevrolet-malibu-lt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/rental-review-2015-chevrolet-malibu-lt/#comments Wed, 29 Apr 2015 12:30:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1052513 He was a nice young man working the Enterprise counter, but I wasn’t buying his upgrade spiel. “Ya know, if you’re going to Joliet, there will be a lot of big trucks on the highway, I can upgrade you to a full size for just $15.”  Thanks, but no thanks, I will take my Kia and […]

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He was a nice young man working the Enterprise counter, but I wasn’t buying his upgrade spiel. “Ya know, if you’re going to Joliet, there will be a lot of big trucks on the highway, I can upgrade you to a full size for just $15.”  Thanks, but no thanks, I will take my Kia and be on my way. But when I met Anthony at the parking lot I was told; “Mr. Ward, I see we have you for an economy car, but I have none left. How about this Chevy Malibu?”

Ka-Ching!” I win, looks like I’ll be saving that $3 a day for coffee.

Despite the upgrade, I wasn’t exactly pumped about the Malibu, I was hoping for a Charger or even a 300. I hadn’t tried the Malibu, but the previous generations had left me wanting. There, the gleaming silver bullet, sat with just over 13,000 miles. I was in a much better mood than my trip to Houston last month, and Enterprise had managed to get me in and out in less than 15 minutes, including the bus ride from Midway Airport.

So when I climbed into the stripper ‘Boo, I was prepared to give it a fair shake. The trunk had already swallowed my bag and would have taken two more full size bags and probably three backpacks as well.

With the engine already running, MyLink connected to my phone is less than 5 minutes and I eased onto Chicago’s surface streets headed south to Autobahn Country Club. As you would expect, the Chevy was quite comfortable soaking up the potholes around the airport. Not outstandingly so, but well. I actually liked the steering. It felt weighted with a nice on center feel. Good feedback; not quite to Accord standards, but that may be a matter of preference.

I eased onto the freeway and started to make my way southwest. I made it almost 4 whole miles before I encountered traffic. There I would stay, in one form or another, for the next 2 hours. It gave me a chance to spend a little Q time with this weekend’s ride. As superior as I was feeling when I rejected the upgrade offer, this car would have been worth the extra money. The big seats in the Malibu are more comfortable and offer a greater scope of adjustment than the Altima and certainly more than the econobox I reserved. The stereo was pretty good – lots of cubbyholes for things and even a space behind the stereo screen.

That evening I ended up with three passengers, my 6 ft. frame the shortest of them. Despite some criticism of a lack of rear seat room, the Malibu took all of our gear and us to the hotel that night and track the next day. I was actually surprised at how well the Ecotec handled the additional weight. With only 196 hp, the real advantage is 191 lb-ft of torque through the slick shifting 6-speed auto. You won’t win any stoplight sprints against its competitors (unless it’s a Altima), but that doesn’t matter much when you quadruple the passengers.

2015 Chevrolet Malibu

With the size upgrade, I only had to return the tank ½ full, so I didn’t observe any real fuel numbers. But, after driving over 150 miles in a mix of freeway and surface, the tank barely broke the halfway mark. So the claimed 25/36 is probably accurate, which was another pleasant surprise.

This was absolutely the stripper base rental car fleet model, but a “build and price” excursion on GM’s website tells me its $22,465 before the $825 destination charge. It showed me 17 in stock units around the Atlanta metro that match the build ranging from $23,300 to $23,600. With $2,400 down and $1,000 cash back, the Malibu can be had for $294 a month at 1.9%. This places it squarely in the price point of a similar Camry or Accord, but slightly above a Chrysler 200 and under a Ford Fusion, which is kind of where it lives.

I expected disenchantment because that is what GM sedans have always delivered. But the Malibu surprised me. It’s not a market-shattering bargain propelling GM to the top of the market, but it is a good, competent vehicle, competitively priced in a very difficult segment. It offers good value by every measure of a car for the investment. The clear choice in this segment really comes to flavor and the aggressiveness of your chosen dealer to put you in their car rather than the competition.

Which means “Ka-Ching” for anyone looking to buy in this segment.

Photography courtesy Nick Boris

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General Motors contributed nothing to this review. But Enterprise did rent me the car and offered outstanding customer service in doing so. Speaking of great work, how about these photos?  No crappy iPhone pics for the B&B this time. As I promised my buddy Nick Boris gets credit for every shot. 

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 silly Nissan truck in the 24 Hours of LeMons this weekend at Carolina Motorsports Park. You can follow that and all his other shenaningans on Instagram, Twitter and Vine at M3ntalward. 

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2015 Infiniti QX70S RWD Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-infiniti-qx70s-rwd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-infiniti-qx70s-rwd/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 16:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1050265 Fifteen years ago, buying a practical luxury car to replace a Honda Accord meant going down to your BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, or occasionally, Audi showroom and coming back with a 5-Series, E-Class, GS, or if you were particularly brave, an A6. All these brands except Audi had SUVs at the time though, but they were hardly replacements […]

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2015 Infiniti QX70

Fifteen years ago, buying a practical luxury car to replace a Honda Accord meant going down to your BMW, Mercedes, Lexus, or occasionally, Audi showroom and coming back with a 5-Series, E-Class, GS, or if you were particularly brave, an A6. All these brands except Audi had SUVs at the time though, but they were hardly replacements for a midsize luxury sport sedan. The Mercedes ML handled like a truck while the RX300 wasn’t exactly intended for the sport sedan driver, something emphasized by the number of moms and AARP members who bought them at the time. Meanwhile, my dad test drove an X5 and 5-Series back to back and promptly bought a 530i.

But no one fifteen years ago would have considered Infiniti, whose only rear-drive sedan was the full-size Q45, which no one bought. A few years later, Infiniti went through a product renaissance, bringing out the Infiniti G35 (which many people bought), the M (the one based on the JDM Nissan Gloria few people bought), and an updated Q45 (which even fewer people bought). In 2003, they also brought out a sporty crossover – the FX. It was meant to compete with the X5, Porsche Cayenne, and XC90, but the FX was dramatically better on-road than off-road compared to most of its competitors. The FX, despite being smaller and not capable of tackling off-road trails, became a sales success for Infiniti.

And that success influenced its competition. The Cayenne became less off-road oriented, losing its dedicated two-range transfer case and getting much more rounded styling. BMW ended up creating the X6 from the X5. Acura joined the fray with the ZDX. Mercedes is finally entering the “crossover-coupe” market with the GLE Coupe.

Meanwhile, Infiniti now calls the FX the QX70 as part of Infiniti’s new naming system. It was last redesigned in 2008, around the time the X6 was released. The V8 is no longer available. Instead of the rounded trapezoid grille, the grille is now shaped like a wide rounded hourglass with a massive Infiniti emblem in the center.

First off, I cannot complain about the QX70’s performance, especially with the $3,550 Sport Package. Though the active rear steering and continuous damping control features that used to be part of the sport package are gone for 2015, the QX70 handled like any other sport package-equipped midsize luxury sedan. Driving it on the country roads around my house, the QX70 stuck to the road in corners at speeds where most SUVs would begin squealing their tires largely thanks to its black-colored 21-inch Enkei wheels. The 3.7-liter V6 had plenty of power handy while the seven-speed transmission was always selecting the right gear during my period of spirited driving.

The sport package also added to the visual effects of the QX70 with the aforementioned Enkei wheels, a black painted front grille, roof rails, and miscellaneous exterior and interior trim bits. It further included heated and cooled seats with power-adjustable bolsters. However, as good as the Sport Package was on a smooth and winding roads, I didn’t like it on the highway; the ride was compromised by the potholes and uneven pavement surfaces of Northern California’s roads. If you care more for the ride, but want upgraded interior trim and the heated/cooled seats, select the $3,300 Deluxe Touring Package which comes with 20-inch wheels too.

As for the interior, the front seats were very comfortable. I drove the QX70S to Napa from San Jose and back in one day (probably four to five hours of driving total) and I or my passenger didn’t feel stiff at all. An aspect of the seat some potential buyers might dislike is that the lumbar support is only adjustable two ways (forwards and backwards). Hopefully, future QX70 models can correct that. Additionally, thanks to the high seating position, I had a much better view of the road unlike most sedans. However, while the front seats are satisfying, there isn’t enough legroom for rear seat passengers. While the back seats are fine for children, most adults can tolerate sitting in the back of the QX70 for two hours at the most, though adults who are well over six feet won’t like sitting in the back at all. As a result, if you regularly travel with many passengers, getting a larger crossover or a midsize luxury sedan may be a better call.

Another aspect of the interior I noticed was that the trunk doesn’t have much more room than a large sedan thanks to the rakish styling. It would be difficult to fit a normal bicycle inside the interior even with all the rear seats folded down. Despite the lack of cargo space, Infiniti does include a temporary spare tire under the trunk placed around the Bose subwoofer. Additionally, I didn’t like the oval-shaped analog clock in the dashboard, which I thought detracted from the sporty interior theme of the QX70. I’m hoping an updated version of the QX70 will have a much-better designed clock.

When it comes to the onboard toys, which is where most Infinitis shine, the QX70 oddly lacks a few key features like the availability of a blind spot monitoring or warning system. However, my test car had the Lane Departure Warning system, part of the $2.950 Technology Package, which does sound if the wheels go onto the shoulder. When I was driving the QX70 on the highway, I ended up turning off the Lane Departure Warning since whenever I swerved to avoid potholes or uneven pavement surfaces (which happens with regularity on California highways), the alarm would sound. The car was also equipped with Forward Collision Warning, warning me if the car in front suddenly slowed down; and Distance Control Assist, which assessed the gap between me and the car in front. Both features were quite useful.

On the subject of fuel economy, the QX70S didn’t deliver as good numbers as I’d hoped. The EPA figures are 17 mpg city and 24 mpg highway with 19 mpg combined for the rear-drive model. All-wheel-drive models are rated at 16 mpg city and 22 mpg highway with 18 mpg combined. For a modern crossover with a V6, the QX70 should deliver better numbers, preferably well over 20 mpg combined. Though I managed around 22.5 miles per gallon, indicated by the display in the gauge cluster, that figure was achieved with plenty of highway driving. Once you hit stop-and-go traffic, fuel economy immediately begins to suffer thanks to the amount of fuel needed to sustain all 3.7 liters of that V6.

The price of my rear-drive QX70 test car came to $58,085 with a $995 destination charge, which is in line with most midsize luxury sport sedans that have similar levels of equipment. Considering a six-cylinder BMW X6, Porsche Cayenne, and the upcoming Mercedes GLE Coupe have prices well above $60,000 with a similar level of equipment (though they all have all-wheel-drive standard), the Infiniti is priced very well. Even at its base price of $46,845 including destination, there’s a plenty of standard equipment such as the Bose sound system, the Infiniti Intelligent key, the 10-way power seats, power-folding mirrors, and power liftgate.

In conclusion, if you want something different from the usual Lexus GS or BMW 5-Series, appreciate a high riding height, don’t want to pay the insane prices for a Porsche Cayenne or BMW X6, and don’t need a large three-row luxury SUV like an Acura MDX or Audi Q7, the Infiniti QX70 might fill that gap. It handles very, very well while maintaining a degree of comfort for the driver and lacks the extra weight and complexity of its competitors. In this day and age, it’s now possible to consider a crossover rather than a sport sedan, and the QX70 is a solid choice if you want a tall, well-handling touring vehicle all to yourself.

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

Satish Kondapavulur is a writer for Clunkerture, where about a fifth of the articles are about old cars and where his one-time LeMons racing dreams came to an end once he realized it was impossible to run a Ferrari Mondial. His current car is an E39 BMW 530i with an automatic transmission, no sports package, and a newly fixed cooling system.

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IHS: PHEVs To Overtake EVs In Europe Within Two Years http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ihs-phevs-overtake-evs-europe-within-two-years/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/ihs-phevs-overtake-evs-europe-within-two-years/#comments Mon, 13 Apr 2015 14:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1043242 Electric vehicles are doing well in Europe, but their dominance over PHEVs may soon draw to a close. Automotive News Europe reports sales of EVs in Europe jumped 73 percent to 58,244 units in 2014, while sales of PHEVs climbed 29 percent in the same period to 39,547, according to industry group ACEA. The best-selling […]

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Electric vehicles are doing well in Europe, but their dominance over PHEVs may soon draw to a close.

Automotive News Europe reports sales of EVs in Europe jumped 73 percent to 58,244 units in 2014, while sales of PHEVs climbed 29 percent in the same period to 39,547, according to industry group ACEA. The best-selling EV and PHEV in 2014 were the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV (15,134 units vs. 19,855), while the largest markets were Norway for EVs (18,090 units), Netherlands for PHEVs (9,938).

According to IHS Automotive senior analyst Ben Scott, PHEVs will overtake EVs this year or in 2016 as far as production goes, forecasting 1.35 million units by 2020, and 2.7 million by 2025. Meanwhile, EV sales will be under 1 million by 2020, as consumers are likely to choose PHEVs for their flexibility in range and use over electric-only vehicles.

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Review: 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-volkswagen-e-golf-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/review-2015-volkswagen-e-golf-video/#comments Sat, 11 Apr 2015 19:24:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1037841 Because I live in California, it seemed only fitting that my first taste of the new Golf arrived in electric form: the 2015 VW e-Golf. (Why e-Golf? Because “Golfe” just sounded silly.) The Golf isn’t just the first Volkswagen EV in the US, it’s also the first VW built on the new MQB platform which […]

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2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-001

Because I live in California, it seemed only fitting that my first taste of the new Golf arrived in electric form: the 2015 VW e-Golf. (Why e-Golf? Because “Golfe” just sounded silly.) The Golf isn’t just the first Volkswagen EV in the US, it’s also the first VW built on the new MQB platform which promises reduced weight and lower development costs. While MQB isn’t a dedicated EV platform like Nissan’s LEAF, it was designed to support electrification from the start rather than being converted like the Fiat 500e. While that may sound like a quibble, the difference is noticeable as the e-Golf feels like a regular VW that happens to be electric. The e-Golf also demonstrates just how rapidly EVs have evolved since the LEAF launched in 2010.

Exterior

Volkswagen has always been a company that prefers restrained elegance when it comes to design and the new Golf is no different. While some described the look as boring, I generally appreciate design evolution more than design revolution because the latter leads to products like the Aztek. The downside to VW’s design evolution is that the Golf doesn’t look all that different from the last Golf, but VW owners tell me that’s how they like it. Park it next to the last VW hatch and you will notice a difference. The 2015 model is longer, wider and lower than its predecessor with a longer hood and a shorter front overhang. The result is a more grown-up hatch than ever before that also schleps more stuff than ever before.

For EV duty, VW swaps in their first US-bound LED headlamps, and (according to a product announcement released when we had the e-Golf) will swap them back out if you opt for the new starting trim of the e-Golf which is coming soon. We also get a revised DRL strip of LEDs curving around the front bumper that gives the electric version a distinctive look in your rear-view mirror. Finishing off the transformation are blue accents here and there, EV specific wheels and unique badging. From a functional standpoint, the electrically heated windshield (ala Volvo and Land Rover) helps reduce energy consumption by heating the glass directly instead of heating the air and blowing it on the glass.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior.CR2

Interior

Changes to the new interior are as subtle as the exterior. It was only after sitting in a 2012 Golf that I realized that parts sharing appears to be somewhere near zero. Although the shapes are similar, everything has been tweaked to look more cohesive and more up-scale. The console flows better from the climate controls, infotainment screen and knick-knack storage all the way to the armrest. The dashboard design is smoother and more Audiesque and the door panels have improved fit and finish with slightly nicer plastics. Keeping in mind that the Golf competes with the Hyundai Elantra GT, Ford Focus, Mazda3, Chevy Sonic, and Fiat 500L, this is easily the best interior in this class.

When it comes to the e-Golf things get murky. Since most auto companies have just one EV model, the electric Golf competes with a more varied competitive set spanning from the Spark EV and 500e to the BMW i3 and Mercedes B-Class Electric. In this competitive set, the VW still shines with an interior that isn’t that far off the B-Class or the i3 in real terms. The only oddity here is that the e-Golf does not offer leather in any configuration. The new base model gets cloth seats which are comfortable and attractive but the top end trim we tested uses leatherette which is attractive but doesn’t breathe as well as leather or cloth. Breathability is a problem the Spark’s leatherette seats also suffer from and is especially important in an EV where you frequently limit AC usage to improve range. Kia’s Soul EV is a stand-out in this area by offering real leather and ventilated seats which consume less power than running the AC.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-0031

Infotainment

The redesign of the Golf includes a refresh of VW’s infotainment lineup. Sadly however, this is the one area where revolution would have been preferable to evolution. The VW infotainment software, even in our up-level unit with nav, still lags behind the competition. The unit features expanded voice commands, finger gestures (like scrolling), snappier navigation software and a proximity sensor to clean up the interface when your digits aren’t near the screen. Most of the system’s graphics have been improved and the media interface is more attractive than before. Sadly however the system still lacks the ability to voice command your media library and the screen is notably smaller than the huge 8-inch screen in the Kia Soul.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior Gauges

Instead of giving EV models a funky disco-dash like most EVs, VW keeps the four-dial analog cluster  and monochromatic multi-information display with a few changes. Instead of a tachometer we get a sensible power meter showing how much oomph you are commanding. Instead of an engine temperature gauge VW drops in an “available power” gauge that tells you how much power you can draw from the battery pack. In cold weather, or when the battery is too hot or too cold the discharge rate will slow.

I appreciate the simplistic gauge cluster, it’s classier than disco-dash in the LEAF while displaying essentially the same information. On the downside, the rest of the e-Golf’s systems lack the EV-specific features we have come to expect in EVs and hybrids. The extent of the EV information in the infotainment system is a single screen that shows your range. Most of the competition provides insight into how much energy your vehicle’s systems are consuming, how much additional range you’d get by turning your AC off or how long your battery would take to charge on various power sources. In fact the only way you’d know how long the e-Golf would take to charge is by plugging it in and reading the display that flashes the time to charge briefly. For more information VW directs you to their smartphone app, but those looking for a more integrated solution should look elsewhere.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Motor-001

Drivetrain

Powering the e-Golf is a 115 HP synchronous AC motor capable of delivering 199 lb-ft of torque at low RPMs. That’s 55 fewer ponies, but the same amount of torque as the regular Golf’s 1.8L turbo engine. Logically the performance is lazy when compared to the turbo Golf thanks as much to the single-speed transmission as to the added weight of the e-Golf’s battery pack. 60MPH happens in a Prius-like 10.03 seconds, about 2-seconds slower than the TSI. Because the MQB platform was designed with EVs and hybrids in mind, the large 24.2 kWh (estimated 21.1 kWh usable) battery fits entirely under the vehicle with no intrusion in the passenger compartment and little overall compromise in terms of cargo capacity.

Early reports indicated that VW was going to liquid cool the battery pack like GM does in their EVs but the production e-Golf uses a passive battery cooling system instead. VW engineers tell us that the lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) cells from Panasonic lend themselves well to packs of this nature and it ultimately helps them reduce weight and complexity. Like most manufacturers VW will warrant the pack for 8 years and 100,000 miles against capacity drop larger than 30%. This means that your EPA range starts at 83 miles and would have to drop to around 53 miles in that window to get it repaired or replaced.

Charging is always a concern with EV shoppers so VW dropped in one of the faster chargers available (7.2kW) which can charge the battery in three hours if you have an appropriate 240V EVSE. Should you have access to one of the new SAE DC Fast Charge stations (also known as CCS), you can zip from 0-80% in under 30 minutes. On the downside, finding a CCS station proved a little tricky in the SF Bay Area where the older competing CHAdeMO standard is more common by at least 5:1. On the up-side if you can find a station it’s unlikely to be occupied since there are few vehicles on the road that support the new connector.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior Gauges-001Drive

According to VW, our e-Golf tips the scales at a svelte 3,391 lbs with 701 of that coming from the battery pack. For those that are counting, that’s only 300lbs heavier than the carbon fiber and aluminum BMW i3 REx which is significantly more expensive and actually has a smaller battery and 359lbs heavier than the Golf TSI. I should also mention that the Golf also scores better in crash tests than BMW’s light weight EV. In addition to being light for an EV, the weight is more evenly distributed than in the gasoline Golf. VW has not released exact details, but the pre-production Golf EV had a perfect 50:50 weight balance and that’s likely true for the 2015 e-Golf as well.

Although VW puts 205-width low rolling resistance tires on the e-Golf, it actually handles better than the base Golf TSI. Some of that is because the TSI gets 195s in base form, but the lower center of gravity and the improved weight balance play a large role as well. This means that unlike other EV conversions, the electric Golf isn’t the least fun trim, it actually ends up middle of the pack between the base Golf and top end TSI and TDI trims. The improved balance is obvious in neutral handling where the EV plows less than the base Golf. The added weight has a positive impact on the ride which seemed a hair more refined than the TSI a dealer lent for comparison. Steering is typical modern VW: moderately firm and accurate but lacking any real feedback.

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Charging Connector

Pricing on the e-Golf initially started and ended at $35,445 due to VW’s one-trim strategy. If you qualify for the highest tax incentives available (state and local) the price drops to an effective $25,445. That’s only a hair more than a comparable gasoline model (the e-Golf SEL Premium’s feature set slots between the TSI S and TSI SE model) but higher than many of the recent mass market EVs. To solve this VW announced the arrival of the “Limited Edition” which cuts $1,995 from the price tag by de-contenting. Cloth seats replace the leatherette (I actually think that’s an upgrade), the LED headlamps are dropped and steel wheels replace the 16-inch alloys. None of those changes are a deal-breaker for me, unfortunately however the last thing on the chopping block is the heat pump. Heat pumps are much more efficient than resistive heating elements so this will mean reduced range in colder climates.

The e-Golf is less of a compromise than the 4-seat Spark and a better deal than the 4-seat i3. Nissan’s LEAF provides a little more passenger and cargo room for less, but the trade-offs include lackluster handling, fewer features and a much slower charger. When cross-shopping Fiat’s 500e you realize just how large the Golf has grown over the years. As you’d expect in a segment that is evolving this rapidly, the toughest competition is found in the other new model: the 2015 Kia Soul EV. Priced from $33,700-35,700 (before incentives) the Soul is slightly more expensive than the VW but you get considerably more for your money. The delta is most pronounced in the Soul EV + which gets real leather, cooled seats, a heated steering wheel, power folding mirrors, an 8-inch touchscreen, and about 20% more battery capacity for $225. Highlighting Kia’s deft hand at cutting the right corners, you will notice that the Soul forgoes LED headlamps, the heated windscreen and has a slightly slower charger. As impressive as the e-Golf’s curb weight is, the Soul EV manages to be a hair lighter at 3,289lbs despite the bigger battery, this weight reduction and deeper gearing allow the Soul EV to scoot to 60 one second faster. This leaves me with a split decision, the e-Golf is the better car but the Soul is the better EV with a longer range, EV focused infotainment software and niceties like the cooled seats and heated steering wheel that extend range by reducing your HVAC consumption. If VW adds a third model sporting cooled seats, real leather and drops back in the gas-Golf’s power seats, they’d have a solid alternative to the Soul EV and even the Mercedes B-Class. Just be sure to check with your tax professional before depending on those EV credits and rebates.

Volkswagen provided the vehicle, insurance and a charged battery for this review.

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 3.44 Seconds

0-60: 10.03 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 17.2 Seconds @ 82 MPH

Average Economy: 4.3 Mi/kWh

2015 Volkswagen eGolf Cargo Area.CR2 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Cargo Area 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Cargo Area1 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Charging Connector SAE CCS DC Fast Charge 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Charging Connector 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior.CR2-001 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior.CR2-002 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior.CR2-003 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-001 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior1 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-002 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-003 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-004 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-005 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-0011 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-0021 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-0031 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-0041 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Exterior-0051 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior Gauges 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior Gauges-001 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior.CR2 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior.CR2-001 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-001 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior1 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-002 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-003 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-004 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-005 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-006 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-007 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-008 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-009 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-010 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-0031 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Interior-0041 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Motor 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Motor-001 2015 Volkswagen eGolf Wheel.CR2

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Review: 2016 Acura ILX (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2016-acura-ilx-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2016-acura-ilx-video/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:55:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1026105 It has been two years since we last looked at the ILX, and my conclusion went like this: The 2.4L engine needs an automatic and some infotainment love, the 2.0L engine needs more grunt and the hybrid needs to be euthanized. Without changes like these, the Acura ILX will remain a sensible Civic upgrade but […]

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2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front.CR2

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

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

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

Exterior

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

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

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

2016 Acura ILX Interior Dashboard.CR2-001

Interior

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

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

2016 Acura ILX Interior Shift Paddles

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

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

2016 Acura ILX Interior Infotainment Navigation System-003

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

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

Drivetrain

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

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

2016 Acura ILX Interior Gauge Cluster-002

Drive

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

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

2016 Acura ILX Exterior Rear-001

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

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

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

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.4 Seconds

0-60: 6.2 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.8 @ 95 MPH

Interior sound level: 72db @ 50 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 27.1 MPH over 981 miles

 

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

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Capsule Review: 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-sahara/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-sahara/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 13:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1026617 In the darkest depths of the Cerberus era, nobody at Chrysler could have predicted how popular the all-new “JK” Jeep Wrangler would be. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the incredible cross-section of people buying the Wrangler. Everyone from suburban parents, white-collar upper management types and my own mother. This, by the way, is a vehicle that still […]

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2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara side yellow

In the darkest depths of the Cerberus era, nobody at Chrysler could have predicted how popular the all-new “JK” Jeep Wrangler would be. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the incredible cross-section of people buying the Wrangler. Everyone from suburban parents, white-collar upper management types and my own mother. This, by the way, is a vehicle that still utilizes a full frame and live axles!

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara front yellow

In my own opinion, the Wrangler’s success comes from several different factors. The most obvious is the availability of the long wheel base Unlimited model, which offers 4 doors and a proper rear seat. Second, the JK and JKU have been significantly improved over the TJ; in addition to a stronger frame and a better body, things like the roof options were greatly improved, while creature comforts like the heater were brought into the modern era. Third, it has been continually improved since its introduction; a new interior in 2011, an all-new engine in 2012, and various features, options, and trims over the years. All of this was done without taking away the Jeepness of it; removable doors, drain plugs, folding windshield, and unmatched off-road capability. Think about it, it has a freakin’ folding windshield! In 2015!

The JK is now in the autumn of its years, but it is as young as the day it was born. It can be configured as a base short soft-top model with steel wheels all the way up to a fifty thousand dollar four-door Rubicon with heated leather seats, Alpine audio, roof liner, climate control, and remote start. You can have half doors or full doors and three different tops in nine different trim levels. Take your pick of a proper six-speed manual or a pretty damn good five-speed automatic. There are catalogs thicker than 1989 phone books filled with accessories. AEV will drop a HEMI V8 and convert one into an awesome pickup truck for you. How much money you got?

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara interior seats trunk

One of my hard-core-ish Jeep buddies (clean TJ with 3” lift, wheeled in summer) said that it’s sacrilegious to have some of these options on a real Jeep and something about Jeeps being built not bought. My other Jeep buddy (fuel-injected ’84 CJ-8 on 33s, wheeled very often) loves how the Wrangler has evolved and would buy one if he had the money. Search any Jeep internet forums and it is evident that people who off-road their Wranglers love them as much as those who haul kids in them. 33s can be stuffed in without a lift kit, 35s with a $200 spacer kit. A winch can be hidden behind the factory bumper, and fenders can replaced for high clearance ones with a few hours of work. The Rubicon comes from the factory with Dana 44 axles, locking diffs, and electronically disconnecting sway bars for increased axle articulation. I don’t understand why idiots risk illegally importing Land Rover Defenders when the Wrangler is just so good.

There is no denying that the Wrangler drives like a truck on the street. It doesn’t like sudden maneuvers but it was not dramatic when I needed to avoid a moron who couldn’t see a huge yellow Jeep in his side mirror. The seating position is high, so look far ahead and drive defensively.  Respect the Wrangler, and it will make a fun daily commuter. Or you can go buy the idiot-proof Grand Cherokee. Highway ride is much less tiresome than it was in older Jeeps but ain’t no Range Rover.

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara interior dash steering wheel

Wranglers are a ton of fun, but they are not for everyone. The doors are small, the front seats lack lumbar support, rear seat backs are near vertical, and the hatch is kind of a pain. Wranglers are loud, tall, bouncy, and thirsty (16 city/21 hwy). None of that really matters, as you have either already stopped reading this or you are busy planning a weekend for the semiannual ritual of hard-top to soft-top swap. It’s a perfectly imperfect vehicle for winter snow and summer sun alike, and in my opinion all enthusiasts should own one in their lives.

The Wrangler starts at around $23,000 and the Unlimited around $27,000. The very Baja Yellow pictured Wrangler Unlimited Sahara, which comes standard with color-matched fenders, power windows and doors locks, and side steps starts at $32,295. The Sahara offers options that may not be available on other models, such as leather heated seats for $1300 and body-colored hard-top for $1895, remote start $495, Alpine audio, which sounds really good considering the fact that it is in a tin can, is $795. The Uconnect system with nav, hard drive, SiriusXM, and a USB port is $1895. Throw in a connectivity package, automatic transmission, and a destination change and you’re looking at $41,515. That is a lot, but it is still a lot cheaper than any beat up Defender 110.

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara rear side yellow

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. His first vehicle was an ’84 CJ-7. One day he met a cute chick who was driving a black TJ with a manual transmission. He married that chick and now they have two kids who love Jeeps, but sadly don’t own a Jeep!

FCA US LLC provided the bright yellow vehicle for the purpose of this review. Seriously, the yellow body with yellow top and yellow fenders is a bit much. I tried to get it muddy but my favorite construction site was fenced off, so I only managed to get it salty. 

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Review: 2015 Acura TLX http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-acura-tlx/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-acura-tlx/#comments Thu, 19 Mar 2015 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1023361 Some time ago the Acura brand has lost its ways. The recent regroup of the brand’s car lineup resulted in the small ILX, midsized TLX, and top-dog RLX in a tried and true same-sausage-in-three-lengths setup. I recently had a chance to sample both the entry-level 4-cylinder TLX, as well as the loaded V6 all-wheel-drive version. […]

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2015 acura tlx profile side

Some time ago the Acura brand has lost its ways. The recent regroup of the brand’s car lineup resulted in the small ILX, midsized TLX, and top-dog RLX in a tried and true same-sausage-in-three-lengths setup. I recently had a chance to sample both the entry-level 4-cylinder TLX, as well as the loaded V6 all-wheel-drive version.

Acura TLX headlight led

The TLX is a combination of the TSX and TL models, which only makes sense because those two cars were so similar. The new vehicle retains the wheelbase of the old TL but gets a few inches chopped off its front and rear overhangs. Increased use of high strength steel and aluminum results in a stiffer chassis and a slight reduction of weight. Style wise, the TLX adopts the brand’s design language seen in the ILX and the RLX, with the much disliked beaked slimmed and trimmed. The headlights, too, get the brand treatment first seen on the MDX, with five bright LEDs per side.

The displacement of each engine remains the same but both get upgraded to direct-injection for the TLX duty. The result is a very slight bump in power to 206hp and a flatter torque curve with a peak of 182 lb-ft at 4500rpm for the four-cylinder. The V6 gains power over the whole rev range but only a small peak gain of 10hp, for a total of 290hp at 6200rpm and 267 lb-ft of torque at 4500rpm. Fuel economy ranges from 24mpg city/35mpg highway for the four-cylinder to 21mpg city/31mpg highway for the AWD V6.

Acura TLX shifter engine wheels

Honda seems to have gone all out on its new transmissions. The I4 is mated to an 8-speed dual-clutch, which cleverly uses a torque-converter for smoother take offs and low speed maneuvering, with typical DCT action afterwards. In daily driving it works great, as all the side effects of a typical DCT are gone, but when the vehicle is really pushed the paddle-shifter requested shifts were not as fast as some of the competitors’ DCTs. This combination is available only in front-wheel-drive.

Often criticized by auto-journalists, and frankly no one else, for its lack of gears, the V6 ditches the 6-speed automatic now gets hooked up to a new 9-speed automatic, probably for no other reason than to shut those guys up. Honda says that the shifts are now five times faster and the gearbox is over sixty pounds lighter than the 6-speed it replaces. The V6 also gets start/stop and an odd, unnecessary in my opinion, push-button and toggle switch shifter which is somehow supposed to inspire performance as it will also be featured on the upcoming NSX. The V6 can be had in front-wheel-drive or in the torque-vectoring Super Handling all-wheel-drive configurations, last of which gets its share of updates.

2015 acura tlx side

Both cars feature adjustable driving modes; Econ, Normal, Sport, and Sport+ modes. The Econ mode must be evil so I didn’t even attempt to drive in it. The Normal mode is good for people who use cars as appliances and are never in the hurry. The Sport was my preferred street mode with liberal shift points and a quicker throttle response. The Sport+ turns each transmission into full manual mode. The four-cylinder is not much faster than my stock ’95 Integra GS-R but on the street I never found it to be really short on power. I would say that the four is more fun to drive than the V6 because it requires more focus from its driver. The V6 is smooth and quiet at highway speeds, but even with its flat torque curve, the 9-speed transmission is forced to kick down a few gears during passing maneuvers.

The front-wheel-drive TLX models feature a four-wheel-steering system cutely named P-AWS. The system supposedly provides better low speed agility and increased high speed stability. Between this and the fancy Super Handling AWD system, these new Acuras should out-handle anything with an M badge on it. But they don’t. The suspension is set for comfort and does a phenomenal job of absorbing road imperfections. Further, Honda took all this fantastic suspension and steering technology and innovation, and topped it off with highway touring tires that belong on a minivan.

2015 acura tlx dash interior

Acura played it safe with the interior, with a focus on function. Front and center are two gauges with a small display in between. On the center pod is a control wheel with function buttons around it, and four climate controls buttons with two toggle switches below the primary touch-screen button. Seats are comfortable, heated, heated and ventilated on the top model, and each occupant has plenty of head and leg room. There is a nifty cubby for cell phones, two cup-holders, big center and glove compartments, deep door pockets with space for bottles, and a sunglass holder. The rear seat has an armrest with cup-holders and the seat 60:40 split seat back folds down.

I have experienced Honda’s new two-screen infotainment center before and found it frustrating. This time I set aside thirty minutes to set everything up; radio presets, phone configuration, Pandora, “favorites”, and such. Then I took my time to learn the basic soft-key placement on the main screen and subsequent menu pop-ups. Even then, even when utilizing the steering wheel controls to the max, there were functions that required me to take eyes off the road for too long to look for something on one of the two screens. The system can also be controlled by voice commands, but I have not tried that. This is a system of great capabilities, but like the similar two-screen system in the Infiniti Q50, it is just too complicated and most buyers will only utilize a fraction of it.

2015 acura tlx interior details

The TLX is a better vehicle than both the TSX and the TL it replaces. It is roomy and comfortable but not big. It is very quiet and it has an amazing audio system. It is a vehicle full of wonderful technology that will never be appreciated. Both engines have good power and fuel economy. On the road the TLX is so reserved that deep thoughts will start going through your mind as if you are Matthew McConaughey, but it is nowhere as dreary as the Lexus ES. For those reasons, the TLX will keep the vast majority of returning TSX and TL buyers very happy. It is the people who are expecting a sport sedan that Acura says this is who will be disappointed.

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. He owns a mint and rather original Acura Integra GS-R. He hauls his two kids around in an Acura MDX.

American Honda provided vehicles for the purpose of this review.

2015 acura tlx profile side rear

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Review: 2015 Nisssan Murano Platinum (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-nisssan-murano-platinum-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2015-nisssan-murano-platinum-video/#comments Fri, 13 Mar 2015 12:45:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1015554 If you look at the numbers, sales of the Murano are on fire with a 72% sales jump in January of 2015 vs 2014 thanks to the new model. Looking more closely however, you’ll see that there was practically nowhere to go but up as the Murano barely outsold the now-dead Venza. Putting that in […]

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2015 Nissan Murano Exterior Front-001.CR2

If you look at the numbers, sales of the Murano are on fire with a 72% sales jump in January of 2015 vs 2014 thanks to the new model. Looking more closely however, you’ll see that there was practically nowhere to go but up as the Murano barely outsold the now-dead Venza. Putting that in perspective, Nissan’s compact Rogue is the 6th best-selling SUV in America and the Murano is 26 rungs lower on the sales ladder. Nissan sells more Rogues in 6 days than Muranos in an entire month. Rather than killing the model as Toyota did with the Venza, Nissan decided to re-invent the formerly bland soft-roader into a flagship crossover. This actually makes sense, because it helps keep the mid-sized 5-seat CUV from being the awkward “middle child” between the 7-seat Rogue and the 7-seat Pathfinder. Does the all-new and all-curvy Murano have what it takes to compete with the Edge, Grand Cherokee or even the RX 350?

Exterior

The exterior of the 2015 model is a sharp departure from the last generation and is as head-turning as the last model was bland. I wasn’t sure what to think about the Murano when it was announced, the first pictures looked like someone had confused a product launch with a concept car. While much of that had to do with the dramatic angles and color of the launch vehicle, the Murano certainly looks more exciting than Ford’s Edge or it’s Korean look-alike (the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport). Thankfully the engineers responsible for the 2015 model didn’t let the questionably styled Juke influence them.

The first clue that the Murano is a production car is the long front overhang since it remains a FWD crossover with optional AWD. Contrary to what some folks I met during the week thought, there is zero relation to the RWD Infiniti QX70 (the artist formerly known as FX37 / FX50). Helping disguise the overhang is a tall hood, pointy snout, heapings of chrome, and angles that draw the eye rearwards. The dramatic lines gyrate up and down and culminate with bulging tail lamps at the rear. As polarizing as the Murano seems in pictures, in person reactions were entirely positive and garnered more looks than most cars I’ve driven in the last 12 months.

2015 Nissan Murano Interior Center Console.CR2-001

Interior

With a starting price of $29,560, Nissan was able to equip the interior with more soft touch plastics than most of the competition save the luxury and near-luxury cross shops. This helps even the top-level Platinum we tested feel more harmonious than, for instance, top-end trims of the Grand Cherokee where a leather dashboard and real-wood are nestled next to hard plastic center consoles and questionable faux-metal finishes. As with the exterior, Nissan took some bold steps inside as well with a “floating” pleather hood over the gauge cluster and dramatic shapes galore.

Out tester was outfitted with “mocha” leather and trim panels that were a cross between silver-colored faux wood and brushed metal. (Faux-brushed-wood?) Meanwhile the light “cashmere” interiors get trim panels with brown “spots” tossed in giving it a white-washed birch appearance. You’d better like the trim, because there’s a ton of it. The faux-brushed-wood starts with large panels on the doors, a band running across the dashboard, and a large expanse covering the center console and a strip bisecting the center armrest. The overall style is decidedly funky, but to my eye is barely escaped crossing over into “bizarre.” Unlike some reviews I have read, the cashmere interior is my favorite because the lighter color and dashboard shapes make the interior feel cavernous.

2015 Nissan Murano Interior Seats.CR2

As with many of Nissan’s latest products, front seat comfort is exceptional, scoring easily above the Lexus, Cadillac and Lincoln competition for my 6-foot frame. Seats in the 2016 Edge and Santa Fe miss the mark slightly, and the Grand Cherokee’s seats are probably the stiffest of any crossover giving you the impression you’re sitting “on the seat not in the seat.” Sadly the passenger seat lacks the same range of motion as the driver’s seat and you should know that lumbar support is of the 2-way variety.

The Murano’s new 7-inch LCD  instrument panel is standard on all trims including the base “S”.  Unlike Jeep, Nissan keeps analog dials for the tachometer and speedometer leaving the LCD for navigation, infotainment, trip computer functions, and other read-outs. Also standard is dual-zone climate control and 39.6 cubic feet of cargo room. I was surprised to find that despite being smaller and “swoopier” than the Pathfinder, the Murano has nearly as much room behind the second row as the larger CUV (third row folded.) The generous cargo hold and comfy front seats are the prime reason to get the Murano over compact crossover options.

2015 Nissan Murano Nissan Connect Radio

Infotainment

While the 7-inch LCD disco-dash is standard, Nissan reserves the 8-inch touchscreen NissanConnect infotainment system for SV trims ($32,620 starting) or as an $860 option on the S trim. Making a different system just for base S trims strikes me as an odd choice, especially since the functionality is largely the same except that it lacks some touch gesture suopport and navigation. The software is a revised version of what is found in the Altima and Rogue with visual and functional refinements, built-in apps and certain smartphone-app integrated features.

In addition to the screen-size bump, the 8-inch system supports multi-touch gestures and built-in navigation software. Regardless of the version you get, Nissan has expanded the voice command library to be competitive with MyFord Touch and Chrysler uConnect. The software proved to be responsive and easy to use, although some features were less intuitive than competitive systems. Our model had the up-level 11-speaker Bose system which is among the best in this class. Unlike many systems, rear USB port link to the head unit and may be used as a media source. (Most rear USB ports are charge-only.)

2015 Nissan Murano Engine.CR2-001

Drivetrain

Sideways under the hood you’ll find the same 3.5L V6 (VQ35DE) as a variety of Nissan vehicles mated to one of Nissan’s continuously variable transaxles (CVT). Because of the CVT, power is tuned down from the high-output variants to 260 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque. Despite sharing engines with the Pathfinder, the transmission is apparently different and more similar to the last generation Murano. The result is a tow rating of just 1,500 lbs vs 5,000lbs in the 3-row Nissan. While towing in mid-size SUVs and CUVs has fallen out of vogue, that’s 500lbs less than the 190 horsepower four-cylinder Santa Fe Sport and on par with a RAV4. Nissan tells us that few tow with vehicles in this category, and they are probably right. Mid-size utility owners like me that do tow should limit their search to the Grand Cherokee, the only option in this segment capable of towing over 7,000lbs.

Thanks to the CVT and a slippery coefficient of drag, fuel economy has improved dramatically for 2015 coming in at 21/28/24 (City/Highway/Combined). Despite AWD adding some mechanical loss and 130lbs to the picture, the EPA numbers remain the same as the FWD variant. You will find more power in the competition, but you’ll be hard pressed to find better fuel economy even in the 2.4L non-turbo Santa Fe Sport. Our FWD tester barely beat the EPA average at 24.2 MPG.

2015 Nissan Murano Interior Instrument Cluster Gauges.CR2

Drive

Driving dynamics weren’t the forte of the last generation Murano and this acorn hasn’t fallen too far from the tree. Nissan chose to tune the chassis toward the softer and more comfortable side of this category giving it a plush ride despite the 20-inch wheels our model sported. As you’d expect, the CVT is an efficient but not especially engaging companion. Thanks to the softer suspension,  235-width tires and plenty of body roll, certain models of the Grand Cherokee actually score higher when it comes to handling, and I’m not talking about the SRT model. The Murano doesn’t handle poorly, in fact I expected less grip than I received on my favorite mountain roads, just don’t expect the curvy Nissan to dance with the new Edge Sport. The steering is numb but accurate, the brake pedal is moderately firm and the action linear.

Thanks to the CVT and a 3,800lb curb weight, our front wheel drive model ran from 0-60 in 7 seconds flat which is a little faster than the V6 Grand Cherokee and on par with the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T and the V6 and turbo versions of the Ford Edge. Obviously the Edge Sport and its 2.7L twin-turbo V6 and the two different V8 Jeeps are in a separate category in this regard.

2015 Nissan Murano Exterior Side.CR2

Spanning from just under $30,000 to $43,745, the Murano is one of the less expensive options in this tiny segment. Only the Sotrento (available as either a 2-row or 3-row crossover in most trims for 2016) and Santa Fe Sport manage to undercut the Murano when adjusting for feature content. Despite the high value, the Murano’s flagship status ends up working thanks to the quality and consistency of the interior, something that can’t really be said of the Edge or Grand Cherokee despite those vehicles offering high-end options and features not found on this Nissan.

When viewed as the budget alternative to the Cadillac SRX, Lincoln MKX or Lexus RX 350 the Murano also fares well despite not offering the same level of high-end features. While the luxury set offers improved leather, real wood, hybrid options and luxury service, the Murano fights back with a polished ride, higher fuel economy, superb front seats and a sticker that is at least $6,000 less. While I’d personally buy the new MKX, I can’t say the $6,500 extra for a comparably equipped model is entirely “worth it.”

If you’re looking for the crossover with the most capable 4WD/AWD system, that’s easily the Grand Cherokee. If you want the best handling option, that’d be the Grand Cherokee SRT and Edge Sport. The Santa Fe Sport is the discount player delivering high value with me-too styling. The Murano, unsurprisingly, strikes a comfy balance in the middle of the segment with exceptional fuel economy. If you’re looking for the best highway cruiser for a wine-tour weekend in Napa for four, the Murano is exactly the tall Maxima you’re looking for.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.37 Seconds

0-60: 7.07 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.44 Seconds @ 95 MPH

Average Economy: 24.2 MPG over 649 miles

 

2015 Nissan Murano Engine.CR2 2015 Nissan Murano Engine.CR2-001 . 2015 Nissan Murano Exterior Front 2015 Nissan Murano Exterior Front-001.CR2 2015 Nissan Murano Exterior Front-002.CR2 2015 Nissan Murano Exterior Front-003.CR2 2015 Nissan Murano Exterior Rear.CR2 2015 Nissan Murano Exterior Rear 2015 Nissan Murano Exterior Rear-001.CR2 2015 Nissan Murano Exterior Rear-001 2015 Nissan Murano Exterior Rear-002.CR2 2015 Nissan Murano Exterior Rear-003.CR2 2015 Nissan Murano Exterior Rear-004.CR2 2015 Nissan Murano Exterior Side.CR2 2015 Nissan Murano Interior 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Cargo Area.CR2 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Cargo Area 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Cargo Area-001 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Center Console.CR2 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Center Console.CR2-001 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Dashboard.CR2 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Dashboard.CR2-001 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Dashboard.CR2-002 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Dashboard.CR2-003 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Dashboard.CR2-004 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Dashboard 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Dashboard-001 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Drivers Side 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Instrument Cluster Gauges.CR2 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Instrument Cluster Gauges 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Rear Seats Folded 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Rear Seats.CR2 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Rear Seats 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Seat Controls.CR2 2015 Nissan Murano Interior Seats.CR2 2015 Nissan Murano Nissan Connect Radio 2015 Nissan Murano Nissan Connect Radio-001 2015 Nissan Murano Wheels.CR2

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Manuals Comprise 20 Percent Of All New USDM Models Available For Sale http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/manuals-comprise-20-percent-new-usdm-models-available/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/manuals-comprise-20-percent-new-usdm-models-available/#comments Fri, 27 Feb 2015 14:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1009330 Enjoy rowing your own instead of allowing Skynet to do the shifting? If you’re in the United States, your manual transmission options are few. Jalopnik‘s commentariat-driven Oppositelock recently compiled a list of every vehicle sold in the U.S. that has a manual transmission. Of note, nearly every subcompact and compact model gives the right to […]

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2011-audi-r8-42-spyder-shifter-photo-416617-s-1280x782

Enjoy rowing your own instead of allowing Skynet to do the shifting? If you’re in the United States, your manual transmission options are few.

Jalopnik‘s commentariat-driven Oppositelock recently compiled a list of every vehicle sold in the U.S. that has a manual transmission. Of note, nearly every subcompact and compact model gives the right to shift to the driver, including the Chevrolet Sonic, Fiat 500, Ford Fiesta, Mitsubishi Mirage, Nissan Versa and Kia Soul.

Among the midsizers, only five have manuals: Buick Regal, Honda Accord, Mazda6, and Volkswagen CC and Passat. SUVs, crossovers and trucks didn’t do so well, either, with most offerings found among Jeep, Mazda, Subaru and Mitsubishi models, and only one big truck — the Ram HD — standing with the mid-size pickups in the manual game.

Finally, quite a few sports cars landed on the row-row-your-car list, including the Audi R8, Chevrolet Corvette, Dodge Viper, Mazda MX5 Miata and Porsche 911, while a handful of luxury models — Cadillac’s ATS and Infiniti’s Q60 among them — threw down for the cause.

In total, 50 of 265 models sold in the U.S. come with manuals, making up 20 percent of the market in 2015. Most of the automakers offer them on 30 to 40 percent of their vehicles, while Mazda, Jeep, Subaru, Mitsubishi and Volkswagen offer one on over 50 percent of their respective lineups.

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Review: 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Altitude 4×4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-2015-jeep-grand-cherokee-altitude-4x4/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-2015-jeep-grand-cherokee-altitude-4x4/#comments Fri, 27 Feb 2015 13:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1008770 The current Grand Cherokee has been a huge success for the Jeep brand. The handsome vehicle is available with four engines, five drivelines, and in many trims, best of which can give the Range Rover a run for its money. The Altitude, introduced for 2014, is an interesting model, where Jeep takes many desirable features, […]

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2015 jeep grand cherokee altitude side

The current Grand Cherokee has been a huge success for the Jeep brand. The handsome vehicle is available with four engines, five drivelines, and in many trims, best of which can give the Range Rover a run for its money. The Altitude, introduced for 2014, is an interesting model, where Jeep takes many desirable features, wraps them in a monotone exterior with sporty black wheels, and prices the package well.

In the past I have reviewed Grand Cherokees with V8 and diesel engines. The Overland V8 felt like a hot-rod with tons of instant power but the fuel economy was predictably poor. The EcoDiesel is a smooth operator with a ton of torque and great gas mileage, but it comes at a high price. Could this nicely optioned V6 model be the happy medium?

2015 jeep grand cherokee altitude front

The Pentastar 3.6-liter generates 290hp, which is more than the hot rod 5.9 Limited did in the late 90s, and 260lb-ft of torque. In this configuration it is mated to a new-for-2014 eight-speed transmission and the base Quadra-Trac I 4WD system with a single-speed transfer case. The EPA rates this combination for 17mpg in the city and 24mph on the highway, with 19mpg combined. Those numbers are very close to the ones I got real world driving, where I averaged about 18mpg with somewhat of a heavy foot around southern Florida.

This engine is surprisingly smooth, quiet, and has plenty of power on tap. Acceleration and highway passing are effortless and it loves to cruise. The transmission has a regular mode, which makes things a little lethargic until you really stomp the gas pedal, and a sport mode which magically quickens the throttle response and changes shift points to where they should really be. There also an evil Eco button which is suppose to save more fuel when engaged but in really it just makes things slower.

2015 jeep grand cherokee altitude interior details

The Pentastar-powered Grand Cherokees are rated to tow a maximum of 6200lbs. Unless towing is a serious buying objective, or you have a perfectly understandable diesel fetish, there is really is no good reason to select any of the other engines for the basic purposes of getting to work or hauling the kids around. The EcoDiesel and V8-powered Grand Cherokees, including the SRT, are rated to tow up to 7400lbs (7200lbs for 4×4 models).

The black twenty-inch wheels, which are wrapped in 265/50 GoodYear Fortera HL rubber, don’t exactly scream “Trail Rated” but the ride is surprisingly smooth and quiet. A tire’s side profile is the percentage of its width, so despite this being a dub, there is still a good amount meat to absorb potholes. I know a handful of people who own the JGC with twenty-inch wheels and none of them has bent a wheel yet. I reviewed the EcoDiesel Grand Cherokee with similarly sized wheels in the winter and that Jeep got through deep (6″-8″) fresh snow surprisingly well. The Altitude has the base coil-spring suspension with conventional shocks, unlike some other models that have the height adjustable air suspension. Like the V6 engine, for a vast majority of people this setup offers a very nice blend of ride comfort, handling, and payload.

2015 jeep grand cherokee altitude side profile

The dash is cleanly laid out with the minimum amount of buttons and just the right amount of knobs. The gauge cluster consists of center screen which is configurable in a multitude of ways via steering wheel controls. The seats are comfortable but could use more support overall, and the headrests have a nice tilt feature which can support your neck on long drives without putting you to sleep. The center console has a cubby for your phone with all connections, two cup holders, and a large segregated closed compartment. The rear seats recline and are split 60:40, but don’t have a center pass-thru. The rear window does not pop up like it once used to.

The touchscreen Unconnect is one of the most user-friendly systems on the market, with soft buttons for all major functions and auxiliary audio controls on the back of the steering wheel. If there is a downside, it’s that the heated seats/wheel controls are also hidden in it. The system streams music over every phone app imaginable, including Pandora and IHeartRadio. Your phone can be connected via Bluetooth, USB, or auxiliary input. There is also an SD card slot. The system even has a hotspot (subscription required) to stream music independently of your phone data program.

2015 jeep grand cherokee altitude other details

The interior is not perfect, however. The visibility is not great and there are blind spots in the back as well as in the front due to a large A-pillar, big side mirrors, and mirror mounts. Being picky, I noticed some wiring and not covered metal body under the seats, visible when you drop something, for instance, and uneven trim around the sunroof when looking from the outside in. The biggest annoyance is the electronic shifter which toggles like a joystick, requiring a look down or at the gauge cluster for gear indication.

The Altitude is priced and positioned between a loaded Laredo and Limited with some options. For $37,095 the Altitude offers SRT-like body-colored claddings, fascia, and grill, glossy black badges, black light trim, and black wheels. Inside are black heated leather and suede seats (the only color choice) and a large 8.4″ Uconnect touch-screen, sans nav. The driver gets a power seat but it lacks the memory feature. Power hatch, 115vAC receptacle, and a remote start round out the Altitude package. Sunroof is $1095 extra, 506-watt audio is $495, back-up camera with sensors is $395, and the destination charge is $995, for a total of $40,075 as seen here.

2015 jeep grand cherokee altitude wheel

The Altitude has many desirable features and it certainly looks good. It is priced well by skipping the features that the majority of buyers won’t care for, but it lacks some things, such as the roof rack. Some options are not available on it, specifically blind spot detection and the active forward collision warning and crash migration which can literally save your life – those are only available on the loaded Limited and higher models. Other versions of the Grand Cherokee provide some very impressive off-road hardware and/or road performance but no one will buy the Altitude for its power or off-road abilities but rather for the peace of mind and functionality that an all-wheel-drive SUV provides.

2015 jeep grand cherokee altitude side rear

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. In the past he has owned two Jeeps, a CJ-7 and a TJ Wrangler. His mother just bought a new Wrangler which he may have started modding. 

FCA US LLC provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review while I was thawing out in Florida. 

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Volvo S60, V60 Polestar Enter Second Run, Middle East For 2015 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/volvo-s60-v60-polestar-enter-second-run-middle-east-2015/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/volvo-s60-v60-polestar-enter-second-run-middle-east-2015/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 12:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1007730 Been wanting a Volvo S60 or V60 Polestar? The Sino-Swedish automaker is making a second batch for 2015, with 13 countries to take delivery this time. Volvo plans to make 750 S60 and V60 Polestars this year for the 2016 model year, citing the performance vehicles’ sales success in 2014 for the second production run. […]

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Volvo S60 and V60 Polestar, model year 2016

Been wanting a Volvo S60 or V60 Polestar? The Sino-Swedish automaker is making a second batch for 2015, with 13 countries to take delivery this time.

Volvo plans to make 750 S60 and V60 Polestars this year for the 2016 model year, citing the performance vehicles’ sales success in 2014 for the second production run.

Meanwhile, the Middle East will see some of the blue Volvos on its roads this year, as Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and United Arab Emirates are the newest additions to the list of markets the automaker sells its high-performance wares, which currently include Australia, Canada, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and United States.

As for what they’ll receive, the Polestars feature power from a turbocharged 3-liter I6 pushing 345 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque through a Polestar-calibrated paddle-shifted six-speed automatic to the vehicle’s Haldex four-wheel drive system. The S60 goes from nil to 60 in 4.7 seconds, while the V60 does it in 4.8 seconds. Top speed is limited to 155 mph, and Brembo brakes stop the 20-inch wheels — shod in Michelin Pilot Super Sports — before any moose are hit. Price of admission in the U.S. starts at around $60,000.

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Review: 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-2015-subaru-outback-2-5i-premium/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-2015-subaru-outback-2-5i-premium/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2015 14:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=995058 The SUV craze of the 1990s caught Subaru by surprise. The company simply did not have a product that everyone wanted. The North American division of Fuji Heavy Industries had no choice but to play the cards they were dealt.  The engineers looked into the VW Golf Country 4×4 for inspiration, then took a Legacy […]

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2015 Subaru Outback side

The SUV craze of the 1990s caught Subaru by surprise. The company simply did not have a product that everyone wanted. The North American division of Fuji Heavy Industries had no choice but to play the cards they were dealt.  The engineers looked into the VW Golf Country 4×4 for inspiration, then took a Legacy wagon and lifted it, added some molding, big fog lights with mesh screens, and a roof rack. The marketing people ingeniously called it the Outback and hired the best known Aussie in America, Paul Hogan, to promote it.

The results of this marketing brilliance were sales that exceeded expectations, possibly saving the company. The Outback was such a huge hit Volvo and Audi followed suit and jacked up their own wagons, creating the Cross Country XC and the allroad quattro.  At the 2014 New York International Auto Show, with yours truly in attendance, two models first dressed as vegan organic French-press coffee drinking hipster hikers, and later as that blissfully ignorant well-dressed couple that every thirty year old yuppie think they will always be, unveiled the fifth generation of the Outback.

2015 Subaru Outback front

Three inches taller, four inches longer, and five inches wider than the original, the new Outback is the same as the old Outback. Some found the styling of the new car lacking originality. Those are the same people who would have complained that Subaru killed a great product had the Outback looked any different. I was never a fan of the previous generation Legacy/Outback, so I found the new, dare I say more generic, look rather refreshing.

But Subarus have never been about looks. In fact I would go so far as to the say that most Subaru cars have been ugly in a cute way, sort of like a Pug or a Bulldog. Subarus have always been about functionality, reliability, all-weather traction, and price. The new Outback continues these traditions placing function over form and cost over perceived opulence. From the outside, the two-tone scheme of the original has been reduced, the fog lights got smaller, and the roof rack more pronounced but the two-box shape on stilts cannot be mistaken for anything other than an Outback.

2015 Subaru Outback interior frotn details

Inside, functionality and simplicity triumphs, but its quality has significantly improved over the previous generations. The infotainment system is much improved, it is now easier to see, and simpler to use and set up. The test vehicle did not have a navigational system, but controlling the radio, phone, and auxiliary input devices is similar to using a Windows tablet. In the front of the center console is an auxiliary audio input and two USB ports (that’s two more than Audi). The audio system did sound pretty good, too, for what is essentially a base vehicle. Looking from inside out, at night, the headlights are not overly bright given the recent technical advances in headlight technology.

Dual zone climate controls are equally simple to use, but there are no vents for rear passengers. There are cup-holders in the center console, bottle holders in the doors, big door pockets, sunglass holder on the roof, a simple covered cubby for phones, and a large glove box. It’s these little things that make daily life easy and it’s amazing how many automakers cannot get that right (I’m looking at you Range Rover). Nothing is perfect, however, and my eight year old daughter, who reads a dozen books a week, completely wrote the Outback off for not having reading lights for rear passengers.

The front seats are comfortable, but the headrests could use a rake adjustment and bottom cushions could be longer. Someone at Subaru finally figured out that heated seat buttons are invisible when they are located under the center armrest and moved them to climate control panel. The rear bench is wide with plenty of leg and head room. The seatback is split 60:40, but there is no center pass-thru, so skiers with more than two rear passengers have to use the meaty-looking roof rack. That roof rack itself is functional, too, with standard cross-bars that slide and fold into the rails when not in use. There are also four tie down loops which can secure up to 150 pounds of cargo.

2015 Subaru Outback details

With high ground clearance and a high center of gravity, Subaru did not intend to make a driver’s car out of the Outback. The 2.5-liter pancake engine also won’t impress anyone with its 175hp and 174 lb-ft of torque. Worse, this engine is attached to a continuously variable transmission. This powertrain combination makes buzzy and whiney noises turning an otherwise quiet cabin into a noisy one. For that noise buyers are rewarded with fuel economy of 25mpg in the city and 33mpg on the highway, which was once considered excellent for a small econobox. Despite all that, the Outback somehow manages not to be a soulless appliance and is somewhat fun to drive. Perhaps it’s the car-like seating position and the jacked-up ride height, along with suspension tuned to nicely absorb the winter ridden roads, that create the feeling of being a rally driver.

Subaru makes a big deal of their AWD system, so it was a nice coincidence that the Northeast got hit with a big snow storm while the Outback was in my possession. It is common knowledge that tires are the most important thing in winter driving but this car was equipped with a set mediocre Bridgestone Dueler H/P Sport. Automakers like to use these tires because they are cheap, quiet, comfortable, and last long. I have personally had some bad experiences with these tires, so I was very cautions driving the Outback in the snow. To my surprise, the big wagon proved capable; granted the snow was packed and it wasn’t deep. In an empty lot near my work I turned the hoon knob up a little and even then, with stability control off, the vehicle stayed totally composed and controllable. There is a good reason why New England and Denver are Subaru’s biggest markets – with a proper set of snow tires this would be an amazing winter vehicle.

2015 Subaru Outback rear hatch open

The test vehicle was equipped with Subaru’s EyeSight system, which is optional on all but the base Outback. The system works off two cameras mounted between the rear view mirror and the windshield. The system is able to detect speed differentials, brake lights, pedestrians, and bicycles. It has the ability to cut power, apply brakes, and bring the vehicle to a complete stop, if not avoiding an accident completely, than at least minimizing the impact. It tells those who bury their heads into their phones at traffic lights that the vehicle in front has moved. When reversing, it calmly alerts you that a vehicle is coming from the side. The whole system can be fully disabled for those with mad driving skillz, but for the majority of buyers this is a no-brainer option – it can protect the not only vehicle occupants but everyone else on the road, too, and will likely repay for itself in the first near-hit.

The base Outback, steel wheels and all, starts at about $26,045. The 2.5i Premium model seen here starts at $27,295. EyeSight with power tailgate package is $1695, mirror compass is $199, and rubber floor mats are a bargain at $72. For some reason Subaru charges a mandatory $300 for the vehicle to meet the Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle standard. Total price, with destination charges, is a very reasonable $30,111. Other options on the 2.5i Premium are sunroof and a nav system. Limited model comes with leather and the 3.5R Limited has more powah!

For thirty grand, the mid-level Outback gives you large SUV functionality, solid reliability, and all-weather traction while not looking like a cookie-cutter CRA-V4. Fun-to-drive factor, latest and greatest safety systems, and good gas mileage are the icing on this frosty cake. I was surprised by home much I liked this Outback and I would put it high on my shopping list of two-row SUV-ish vehicles, along with the Grand Cherokee and the 4Runner.

2015 Subaru Outback rear

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. He is known to enjoy organic coffee made in a French press, day hikes, and nights out on the town. He has yet to find one ideal vehicle for all those activities.

Subaru of America, Inc. provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review. 

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Vellum Venom Vignette: Peak Emblem http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/vellum-venom-vignette-peak-emblem/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/vellum-venom-vignette-peak-emblem/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 16:40:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=997690   Most design students don’t consider Peak Oil in their studies, but The Reckoning was on my reading list back then. While Peak Oil is tangentially connected to car design, we clearly reached Peak Emblem. It cannot get any worse than what’s being introduced in Chicago this week. Emblem size, just like wheel size and body/firewall (versus glass) height has […]

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This just happened. (photo courtesy: Ram)

Most design students don’t consider Peak Oil in their studies, but The Reckoning was on my reading list back then. While Peak Oil is tangentially connected to car design, we clearly reached Peak Emblem.

It cannot get any worse than what’s being introduced in Chicago this week.

Emblem size, just like wheel size and body/firewall (versus glass) height has been on the rise for over a decade.  Park a new Corolla next to a 1995-2000 model for proof.  The problem is empty real estate, sheets of painted metal with no landscaping. A big problem for a top-tier RAM, for the Laramie Limited trim. How do you visually separate a premium model when even the mid-level model has that in-yo-face look from a huge grille and acres of chrome?

Larger and larger emblems, apparently: on the grille and the tailgate.  Damn Son, dat tailgate!

As mentioned before, it’s all about proportioning: big butts need MOAR BLING. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless the proportions are so extreme that creativity is stifled and the sheet metal cannot to rest on its design laurels.  A shame, as the RAM (like many new Chrysler designs) are quite fetching by themselves.

Here’s my suggestion:

1985 Dodge Power Ram (photo courtesy: www.fortrucksonly.com/truckforum)

Stamp a (unique to trim levels like the Laramie Limited) tailgate with negative area, then add a metal insert with small(er that what you did) lettering. Of course Ye Old School Dodge has a much smaller tailgate, but applying the concept of negative area to the Laramie makes sense.  Well, perhaps not the financial sense of slapping the biggest emblems you can make on dat butt.

Peak Emblem is real, it happened.

Thanks for reading, I hope you have a lovely weekend.

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