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. Thu, 30 Jul 2015 18:00:42 +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 Subaru Legacy Rental Car Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-subaru-legacy-rental-car-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-subaru-legacy-rental-car-review/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 14:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1129105 In my youth I was a vital, virile, male Manly Man. So manly that when I got a new ’86 GTI as my first “nice” car, I left off not only the automatic transmission but also the power steering. Mind you, it drove great — when it drove at all. One night my parents tossed me […]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photography provided by the manufacturer.

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

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2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS

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

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

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

2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS

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

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

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

2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS

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

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

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

2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS

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

General Motors contributed nothing to this review.

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

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

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2015 Ford Edge Exterior Front-002

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.65

0-60: 7.5

1/4 Mile: 15.80 Seconds @ 86 MPH

Average Economy: 24.6 MPG

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_0706 (Large)

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

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

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

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

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

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2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (1 of 14)

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

We all know exactly how this is going to go:

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

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

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


The Tester

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

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

Transmission: 6-speed automatic, DSG with Tiptronic

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

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

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


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

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (8 of 14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (11 of 14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (7 of 14)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Frankfurt show begins Sept. 15.

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

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2015 Lexus RC F Exterior

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 Lexus RC F Interior-008

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

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

2015 Lexus RC F LCD Gauges-002

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

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

2015 Lexus RC F Interior Enform Navigation-001

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

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

2015 Lexus RC F Engine 5.0L V8

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

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

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

2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-007

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

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

2015 Lexus RC F Exterior Headlamp LED

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

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

2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-022

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

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

2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-013

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

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

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 4.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 12.5 @ 115 MPH

Average Economy: 20.8 MPG

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

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

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2015-Chevrolet-CorvetteZ06-016-sm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (1 of 11)

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

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

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


The Tester

2015 Ford Mustang Convertible EcoBoost Premium (Automatic)

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

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

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

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


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

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

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (6 of 11)

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

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

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (10 of 11)

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

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (3 of 11)

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

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

2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible (7 of 11)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2015 Lamborghini Huracán

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

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

So, why not see what the hype is about?

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

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

Not that I wouldn’t try…

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

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

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

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

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

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

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

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

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

Holy.

Freaking.

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

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

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

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

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

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

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

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

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

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

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

2015 Lamborghini Huracán

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

Photography by Nick Boris.

Lamborghini contributed absolutely nothing to this review. It was researched over 18 separate days in at tracks in Oklahoma, Georgia, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan and New Jersey coaching with Xtreme Xperience, burning their gas and using up their tires while driving and riding in their collection of exotics. Christian was compensated by Xtreme Xperince, but they had no influence over the outcome of this review.

Christian “Mental” Ward has owned over 70 cars and destroyed most of them. Next month he will be racing with those madcap Baruth brothers in Michigan. You can follow that impending debacle on Twitter, Instagram and Vine at M3ntalward. 

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

 

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

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2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (9 of 13)

We just had a fight.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Damn, I want this car.”

What?

Did I just think that?

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

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


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

“Damn, I really want this car.”

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

“Not a single one?”

“Nope.”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It will be mine. Eventually. Hopefully. Maybe.

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

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

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2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (2 of 13)

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

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

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

And I couldn’t care less.


The Tester

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD SXT w/ Rallye Pack

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (3 of 13)

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

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (7 of 13)

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

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (10 of 13)

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

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

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

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (12 of 13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (11 of 13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (4 of 13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know I will.

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (1 of 13) 2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (2 of 13) 2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (3 of 13) 2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (4 of 13) 2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (5 of 13) 2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (6 of 13) 2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (7 of 13) 2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (8 of 13) 2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (9 of 13) 2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (10 of 13) 2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (11 of 13) 2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (12 of 13) 2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (13 of 13)

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2015 Volkswagen Golf TDI SEL Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-golf-tdi-sel-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-golf-tdi-sel-review/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 12:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1101225 Why yes, it has been only three weeks since our last Volkswagen Golf feature story. Why do you ask? Maybe it’s because the little VW is on fire. The car is nearly single-handedly bringing back hatchback sales with the introduction last year of its 7th generation model. Winner of numerous national and international auto journo awards, MkVII Golf […]

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IMG_0279

Why yes, it has been only three weeks since our last Volkswagen Golf feature story. Why do you ask?

Maybe it’s because the little VW is on fire. The car is nearly single-handedly bringing back hatchback sales with the introduction last year of its 7th generation model. Winner of numerous national and international auto journo awards, MkVII Golf sales in the U.S. are up 230% through June over the same period last year, and are tracking towards a record-setting 84,000 sales for 2015.

There are two 2015 Golfs in my driveway this week: my own two-door GTI 6-speed and today’s tester, the above four-door TDI SEL with the DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. This is not a comparison test but the variation between the two cars’ equipment levels makes for some interesting perspectives.

The wide range of 2015 Golf models and drivetrain options available is one reason for all the hype and sales growth. From the base Golf to the sporty GTI, the all-electric e-Golf to the 292 hp all-wheel drive Golf R, and even this TDI Clean Diesel, Volkswagen has all hatchback prospects covered.

The Golf TDI’s turbocharged and intercooled 4-cylinder diesel motor produces 150 horsepower at 3,500 rpm and 236 lb-ft of torque at only 1,750 rpm. Our tester came with Volkswagen’s slick dual-clutch six-speed DSG transmission. A handful of diesel TDIs are produced with a 6-speed manual transmission, but are actually slightly slower in acceleration than DSG-equipped cars. (A friend at a West Coast Volkswagen/Audi store thinks that VW only builds stick-shift diesels to satisfy the TDI “evangelist” — owners who are on their third diesel and sit around his showroom while their cars are in for service, telling everyone how their 200,000-mile TDI is still on its original clutch. He says they are the same folks who ask about “that European diesel that gets 70 mpg that Volkswagen won’t sell in the US.”)

The car comes in three versions, all available as a four-door model only. The base S model starts at $22,345 and comes well equipped with heated outside mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, side curtain airbags, a hill holder (!), split folding rear seats, rear wiper and washer, and a tilt and telescoping steering wheel.

Step up to the $25,895 SE model and you add 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, a power glass sunroof, heated front seats, rain-sensing windshield wipers, front fog lights, a rearview camera and a 400-watt Fender audio system.

Our tester is the top of the line SEL model wearing an MSRP of $28,329. It adds 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels, a navigation system, automatic climate control, keyless entry, push-button start and a 12-way power driver’s seat. Our tester had pleasant grey and black “pleather” seats. (In the strange world of Volkswagen option packages, leather seating is only available on the sporty GTI and R models.)

IMG_0303

Our car also came with the $995 Lighting Package, which features bi-xenon headlights and an adaptive front-lighting system I found far superior to the standard lighting on my GTI. The $695 Driver Assistance Package, which includes front and rear parking distance control and a forward collision warning alarm, was a bit sensitive. I also think the package needs to add blind spot warnings in the mirrors to make it a worthwhile value.

The total MSRP of our TDI was a heart-stopping $32,005. According to auto broker TrueCar, the average discount available nationwide on this model is around $1,050. Volkswagen is currently offering 1.9% APR financing for up to 60 months on all TDIs, as well as a $249/month lease special for 36 months on the base model TDI.

A full 76% of the TDIs available for sale within 200 miles of me are the base S model. My Volkswagen dealer friend says the SEL variant sells well but availability is scarce so, like I learned with my GTI, getting the exact options and color you want will be near-impossible unless you are willing to order one and wait 6 months.

The TDI’s 18-inch wheels and Night Blue Metallic paint actually makes the hatchback look downright luxurious. (I wanted to use the phrase “screams luxurious” but then I would have to determine what my two-door GTI “screams” and all I could think of was “USC exchange student.”)

I have previously lamented how I should have purchased the 4-door variant of the GTI and the TDI drives the point home: while interior volume is identical on two- and four-door Golfs, ingress and egress to the roomy back seat can be a pain. Fold down the rear seats and you have the cargo room of a small CUV.

I have also learned why I’m apparently the only Golf owner who likes the 5.8-inch touchscreen infotainment center: my GTI does not have navigation. This TDI has this option and, between the too-small screen and its too-low location (not to mention its silly graphics), the system is awful. Word is that an 8-inch touchscreen is coming next year on all VWs. As I said about my GTI, the dash and controls are near Audi-worthy.

IMG_0289

The TDI’s keyless start/stop button is located on the console next to the shift lever — exactly where it belongs — rather than on the dash. You can push the button and grab the shift lever in one simple move. Why do most other carmakers put it on the dashboard?

At idle, the torquey diesel is barely louder than a direct injection Mercedes. Hit the accelerator from a standing start and you discover what may be the TDI’s biggest glitch: a hesitation followed by a too-sudden drivetrain engagement, enough to squeal the tires at three-fourth’s throttle. Our esteemed Managing Editor noticed the same thing in his test of a TDI Jetta. After a week in the saddle, I barely noticed it.

The TDI has been clocked at around 8 seconds for the 0 to 60 sprint. For most traffic situations, the car responds instantly to your right foot. It could use a little more highway passing power, but that is the price you pay for great fuel economy. The DSG shifter lived up to its hype: shifts are crisp and quick whether in automatic or manual mode.

While not quite a GTI, the TDI is also a lot of fun in the curves. It remains stable and firmly planted, though does share the slightly-sloppy steering of other Golf models. I did miss the World’s Largest Dead Pedal from my GTI in the turns.

The TDI eats up the miles on the open road with little tire or wind noise. My only complaint was a bit of monkey butt after a few hours from the seats being a bit too hard, but I will take that as the seats are super-supportive.

The TDI is EPA rated at 31 mpg city and 43 mpg highway. This car’s fuel consumption indicator showed 41.0 mpg after a spirited mixed-use 350 mile run. I was skeptical of this number and sure enough, upon fill-up I hand-calculated the drive at 38.6 mpg. It turns out that other media outlets have also spotted this over-optimism of the fuel economy calculator. Let us hope that at least the Golf’s speedometer is accurate. (Perhaps we should add the feature from 1970s buff book tests that measured “Actual” vs. “Indicated” speedometer numbers. I seem to recall “Indicated” speed was usually 3 to 10% higher than “Actual” speed before Japanese brands came along and started hitting the mph number on the head.)

IMG_0316

Two- and four-door Golfs have the same exterior dimensions and interior volume.

What kept running through my mind as I was testing the TDI was that this automobile is two steps away — leather seats and better navigation — from being an Audi A3. Apparently Audi agrees as they are bringing back the A3 Sportback this year and among its engine options will be the TDI motor.

My friend at the VW/Audi dealership notes that the A3 hatch may hurt the TDI as Audi’s superior residual values means that lease payments on a higher-priced Audi may actually be lower than those on a VW TDI, as is currently the case on the A3 TDI Sedan. Although few diesel customers lease their cars, this payment disparity is one of the challenges created by Audi and Volkswagen sharing platforms.

The Golf TDI is a sophisticated high-mileage hatch that does a lot of things well. It is the most fun you can have at 40 mpg.

Picks:

  • Another variation of the all-around goodness of the Golf
  • Smooth and quiet TDI diesel motor
  • An Audi in disguise

Nit Pics:

  • Out-of-date navigation system and display
  • Loaded SEL model is pricey at $32,000
  • Off-the-line acceleration hesitation

Wife Sez: So tell me again why we did not get a moonroof in our GTI?

Volkswagen provided vehicle for one week along with insurance and one tank of gas.

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Silent but Violent: Watch Rhys Millen’s All-Electric Run Up Pikes Peak http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/silent-but-violent-watch-rhys-millens-record-run-up-pikes-peak/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/silent-but-violent-watch-rhys-millens-record-run-up-pikes-peak/#comments Wed, 01 Jul 2015 18:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1104865 All-around fast driver and New Zealander Rhys Millen had roughly 20 miles of experience behind the wheel of his Latvian-made eO electric race car before Sunday’s race. That apparently didn’t matter as he piloted the first electric car to an overall win at the 93rd running of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb on Sunday. Millen’s […]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_1321

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

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

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

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

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

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2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 with Rebecca Turrell

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

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

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

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

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

Other requirements included:

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

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

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

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4

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

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

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4

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

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

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

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 with motorcycle

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

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

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

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

This reader review was written by Rebecca Turrell.

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

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

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2015 Ford F-151

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

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

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

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

2015 Ford F-158

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

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

2015 Ford F-166

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

15F150-3.5L-EcoBoost_01_HR

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

2015 Ford F-155

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

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

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

2015 Ford F-153

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.4 Seconds

0-60: 6.45 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.12 Seconds @ 92.56 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 16.4 MPG

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

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2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (4 of 8)

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

That’s a serious dearth of variety.

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

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

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


The Tester

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

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

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

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

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


2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (2 of 8)

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

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

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

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (5 of 8)

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

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

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

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (6 of 8)

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

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

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

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (1 of 8)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Verdict

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

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

Photography: David Marek

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

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

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

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


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

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

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Fox shocks…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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…which sounds like the Ford Escape.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 ford mustang ecoboost exterior details

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

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

2015 ford mustang ecoboost other details

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

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

2015 ford mustang ecoboost

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

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

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

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60. Foton Tunland Big Foot

Consistently loud: Foton

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

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

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

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

10. (25) Foton

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

Not Foton.

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

62. Foton Sauvana interior

Foton Sauvana interior

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

63. Foton Sauvana interior 2

Foton Sauvana interior

61. Foton V3

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

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

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

74. Baojun 560

Baojun 560

9. (12) Baojun

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

75. Baojun 560 interior

Baojun 560 interior

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

76. Soueast DX7

Soueast DX7

8. (18) Soueast

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

76. Soueast DX7 interior

Soueast DX7 interior

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

77. Soueast DX7 interior 2

Soueast DX7 interior

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

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

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

78. Chana Oussan 1

Chana Oussan

7. (8) ChangAn

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

79. Chana Oussan interior

Chana Oussan interior

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

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

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

On top of your game Allen.

80. ChangAn Raeton

ChangAn Raeton interior

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

80. Qoros stand

Qoros stand

6. (25) Qoros

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

80. Qoros Phev 2 concept

Qoros PHEV 2 concept

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

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

80. Qoros 3

Qoros 3 crossover

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

So are we European or Chinese Qoros?

81. Qoros stand

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

80. Qoros Coffee

Qoros coffee

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

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2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab

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

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

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

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

IMG_1051

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

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

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

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

2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab

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

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

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

2015 Jeep Cherokee Moab

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

 

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

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2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior

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

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

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-005

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

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior

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

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Infotainment-003

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-001

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Engine-001

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

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-0011

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

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-002

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

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-010

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

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior.CR2-002

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

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

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-003

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

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.1 Seconds

0-60: 5.05 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.45 Seconds @ 104.2 MPH

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

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

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

“I just didn’t want you to get lost.”

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

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

“Oh.”


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

“So?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Recently?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You mean the Z/28.”

“Yes. It’s no Lexus RC-F.”

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

“He crashed the new one.”

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

“Should you honk or something?”

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

“Well, those are older Escalades.”

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

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

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

camaro7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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