The Truth About Cars » 4×4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Apr 2014 16:58:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » 4×4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 4×4 (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-jeep-cherokee-limited-v6-4x4-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/review-2014-jeep-cherokee-limited-v6-4x4-with-video/#comments Thu, 20 Feb 2014 14:00:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=739825 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-002

The folks at Jeep have known for some time that high volume on-road models have to be part of the mix to keep low volume off-road models viable. From the 1946 Willys Station Wagon and the original Wagoneer, to the Grand Cherokee and the Compass, Jeep has been on a steady march towards the word no Wrangler owner wants to hear: “crossover”. Their plan is to replace the off-road capable Liberty and compete with the RAV4, CR-V and 20 other small crossovers with one vehicle: the 2014 Cherokee.

With two ambitious (and contradictory) missions and unconventional looks, the Cherokee has turned into one of the most polarizing cars in recent memory. It is therefore no surprise the Cherokee has been getting mixed reviews. USA Today called it “unstoppable fun” while Consumer Reports called it “half baked” with a “choppy ride and clumsy handling.” Our own Derek Kreindler came away disappointed with its on-road performance at the launch event, though he had praise for the Cherokee’s off-road capabilities. What should we make of the glowing reviews, and the equally loud dissenting voices?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

I’ve always said styling is a personal preference and although the Cherokee is far from my cup of tea, I’m glad Chrysler decided to color outside the lines. The “bent” 7-slot grill still strikes me as peculiar, but what made me scratch my head more is the lighting. You’ll find the headlamps in the middle of the bumper cover behind a smoked plastic lens, while the daytime running lamps and turn signals live in a separate module high up on the front, Meanwhile, the fog lamps are nestled at the bottom of the bumper. Out back the Cherokee is far more mainstream with a fairly plain (and very vertical) rear hatch. Overall the looks are certainly striking and unmistakable, I’m just not sure if that’s a good thing.

The Cherokee is “kinda-sorta” based on the Dodge Dart which itself is more-or-less a stretched and widened Alfa Romeo Giulietta. While some Jeep fans call any car-based Jeep heresy, the Cherokee isn’t the first car/SUV hybrid at Jeep and it won’t be the last. The side profile, specifically the front overhang, is where the Cherokee’s dual mission starts to show. A transverse mounted engine creates a long overhang compared to a traditional RWD SUV. This isn’t a problem in the Patriot, which has much lower aspirations, but does pose a problem for “the off-road crowd.” To compensate, the Cherokee rides higher than the competition (7.8 to 8.8 inches) and uses two different bumper designs. Sport, Latitude and Limited trims get a more traditional (if you can call it that) bumper design with a fairly flat front while Trailhawk models pull the bottom of the bumper up to allow a 50% better approach angle and causing a “wedge-like” front profile. Out back similar changes to the rear bumper improve the Trailhawk’s departure angle.

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Interior

While the Grand Cherokee continues it’s mission as the “American Range Rover,” anyone looking for the Cherokee to be the “American Evoque” is going to be disappointed. Even so, I found the the interior to be class leading in many ways, with more soft touch plastics than you’ll find in the competition. Chrysler fitted the Grand Cherokee’s chunky steering wheel to the smaller Jeep which gives the cabin a more premium feel. Most Cherokees on dealer lots will have a leather wrapped wheel, but base models get a urethane tiller. The Cherokee retains the optional steering wheel heater from the Grand Cherokee, but ditches the paddle shifters.

The wide front seats are deeply padded, supportive and easily the best in the segment in terms of comfort. Thankfully, the engineers ditched the “dome-shaped” bottom cushion found in other Chrysler products allowing you to sit “in” the seats, not “on” the seats. Most models get a fold-flat front passenger seat improving cargo versatility, but that option is incompatible with the optional “ventilated front seats and multi-way with four-way power lumbar support” package for the front passenger.

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Although not as comfortable as the front, the second row is easily the most comfortable in the segment. Seat cushions are thickly padded, recline, and slide fore/aft to adjust the cargo area dimensions. (Or get a child seat closer.) The Cherokee offers two inches more rear legroom than CR-V, three more than RAV4 and nearly four inches more than Escape. The seat bottom cushions also ride higher off the ground so adults won’t feel like they have their knees in their chest.

Because of the need for off-road-capable departure angles and ground clearance, a compromise had to be made and I found it behind the [optional] power tailgate. The Cherokee suffers from the smallest cargo hold among its target cross-shops by a wide margin at 24.8 cubic feet. The next smallest entry (the CX-5) will hold over 40% more behind the second row (34 cubes) while the Rogue’s generous booty will swallow 40 cubic feet of whatever. Note: The Cherokee’s spec sheet lists cargo capacity at 29.7 cubic feet but that measurement is taken with the 2nd row adjusted all the way forward in its tracks which cuts rear legroom down to well below the competition.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior uConnect 8.4

Infotainment

Depending on trim level, you’ll find two different systems in the dash. Things start out with uConnect 5.0 in the Sport and Latitude. Running on a Microsoft OS (like Ford SYNC), this unit is more sluggish than the UNIX-based 8-inch system but offers many of the same features excluding navigation. While other Chrysler/Fiat models with uConnect 5.0 have the option to add TomTom navigation at a later date, that doesn’t seem to apply here. The touchscreen features full USB/iPod integration, optional XM satellite radio and a Bluetooth speakerphone in addition to acting as the climate control display and seat heater controls. Sound thumps out via 6-standard speakers, and you can pay $200 for an optional CD player if you haven’t joined the 2st century.

Optional on Latitude and standard on Limited/Trailhawk is the 8-inch QNX UNIX based “uConnect 8.4.” The system features polished graphics, snappy screen changes and a large, bright display. All the features you expect from a connected car are standard, from voice commands for USB/iDevice control to smartphone integration allowing you to stream audio from Pandora, iHeart or Slacker. You can have text messages read to you, dictate replies and search for restaurants or businesses via Yelp. In addition to the smartphone-tied features, it integrates a CDMA modem on the Sprint network for over-the-air software updates and access to the new “App Store.” Since there’s a cell modem on-board, uConnect can be configured to act as a WiFi hot spot for your tablets and game devices. Completing the information assault is SiriusXM’s assortment of satellite data services from traffic updates to fuel prices. 2014 also brings uConnect Access which is Chrysler’s answer to GM’s OnStar providing 911 assistance, crash notification and vehicle health reports.

For an extra $795 you can add Garmin’s navigation software to the system and Chrysler tells us that the nav software can be added after purchase. Our tester had the $395 optional 9-speaker sound system with a subwoofer. Sound quality ranged from average with the standard 6-speaker setup to excellent with the optional speakers. Unfortunately, the up-level speaker package requires you have navigation as well, bringing the price bump to $1190 if you were only after the louder beats.

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Drivetrain

All trims start with Chrysler’s 2.4L “Tigershark” four-cylinder engine delivering 184 horsepower and 171 lb-ft of twist. Optional on all but the Sport is a new 3.2L V6 good for 271 horses and 239 lb-ft. Sadly we won’t get the 2.0L Fiat diesel on our shores, but if you’re lucky enough to be able to burn oil in your country, that engine delivers 170 ponies and 258 lb-ft of twist. Power is sent to the ground via a controversial 9-speed automatic designed by ZF and built by Chrysler. The 9-speed is very similar to the one used in the Range Rover Evoque although few parts are directly interchangeable.

While most crossovers offer a single AWD system Jeep gives you three options. First up we have a traditional slip-and-grip AWD system with a multi-plate clutch pack (Active Drive) that sends power to the rear when required. Jeep combined this with a “rear axle disconnect” feature to improve fuel economy. This is the system you’ll find on most of the Sport, Latitude and Limited Cherokees on dealer lots.

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Available on Latitude and Limited is Active Drive II which adds a segment-exclusive rock crawl ratio. Because of the way transverse transaxles work, this system operates differently than a longitudinal (RWD) system in that there are actually two two-speed transfer cases. Power exits the transmission and enters a “PTU” where power is split front and rear. Up front, power flows from the PTU to a 2-speed planetary gearset and then back into the transmission’s case to the front differential. For the back wheels, power flows from the multi-plate clutch pack and rear axle disconnect clutch inside the PTU to an angle gear unit which rotates power 90-degrees and connects to the prop shaft. The prop shaft connects to another 2-speed planetary gearset and then finally to the rear axle.

Engaging 4-Low causes the PTU to engage the rear axle and engage the primary low ratio gearset.  At the same time, the low ratio gearset in the rear axle unit engages. Vehicle electronics confirm that the system has engaged both units before you can move forward. Should you need the ultimate in off-road ability, the Trailhawk throws in a locking rear differential (this is the third system, called Active Drive Lock), hill ascent/descent control and various stability control programs for off-road terrain. Before you ask “is this a real low-ratio?” 4-Low is 56:1 with the 2.4L engine and 47.8:1 with the 3.2L. That 56:1 ratio is lower than anything Jeep has sold, save the Wrangler Rubicon’s insane 73:1.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-004Modifications

Being the owner of a Jeep with a minor four-inch lift kit installed, after-market options are near and dear. Of course RAV4/CR-V/Escape shoppers aren’t your typical lift-kit demographic, so for many of you, this section isn’t germane. Because of the Cherokee’s design, ride height modifications are not going to be as easy as with solid-axle Jeeps of yore. With longitudinal engine mounting and solid axles, lifting is an easy task up to around four-inches, at which point you may need to start thinking about new driveshafts and possible U-joint replacements. With a design like the Cherokee’s, anything beyond an inch or two can result in serious suspension geometry changes that have a huge impact on handling and tire wear. While it would be possible to design kits with four new half-shafts, springs and suspension bits that would lift and correct the geometry change, I suspect the costs would be prohibitive, so don’t expect much more than a 2-3 inch spring-spacer kit for base models and 1-2 inches for the Trailhawk.

Pricing

Most shoppers will be deciding between the Sport, Latitude and Limited trims starting at $22,295, $24,495 and $27,995 respectively for FWD models. Adding AWD increases the price tag by $2,000 and on Latitude and Limited and you can get the low ratio gearbox with a 1-inch suspension bump for an additional $995. The Sport model comes well equipped compared to the competition with that 5-inch infotainment system, auto-down windows and most creature comforts you expect except for air conditioning. You’ll find A/C in the oddly named $795 “cold weather group” which also includes heated mirrors, a leather steering wheel, remote start, heated front seats and a windshield wiper de-icer. At the base level the Sport is roughly the same price as the Toyota and Honda but adding the $795 package pushes the price comparison in the Jeep’s favor by more than $1,000.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Interior-008

Latitude adds a standard 115V outlet, leather wrapped steering wheel, auto up/down windows, fold flat front seat, ambient lighting, A/C, steering wheel audio controls and fog lamps in addition to allowing access to the more robust AWD system, V6 engine and navigation. Limited tosses in power front seats, the 7-inch LCD instrument cluster (seen above), an auto dimming mirror, heated steering wheel, soft touch plastics on the doors, automatic headlamps, one year of XM radio, turn signals on the side mirrors and the ability to option your Cherokee up to $40,890 by adding self-parking, cooled seats, HID headlamps and more options than I care to list.

Then there is the Trailhawk. As the only CUV with a 2-speed transfer case, locking differential, tow hooks, off-road oriented software programming and all-terrain rubber, this Cherokee is in a class by itself. It’s also priced in a class by itself. Starting at $29,495 and ending at $40,890, the Trailhawk has a similar MSRP spread as the Limited but it trades the optional luxury items for off-road hardware.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-014

Drive

Chrysler decided to make the Cherokee the first recipient of their new technology onslaught. If you’re willing to pay, you can option your Jeep up with a full-speed range radar cruise control, collision warning and collision prevention with automatic braking, cooled seats, lane departure warning and prevention and rear cross path collision detection. The Cherokee is also Chrysler’s first self-parking car, and like the new Mercedes S-Class, the Jeep will back itself into perpendicular spots in addition to parallel parking. The tech worked well and is as easy to use as Ford’s system, although I’m not sure I want to live in a world where folks can’t perpendicular park. (You know, in regular old parking spaces.) If you opt for the ultrasonic parking sensors, the Cherokee will also apply the brakes before you back into that shopping cart you didn’t see.

Most reviewers are so caught up in the way the 9-speed automatic shifts. The truth is, hybrids, dual clutch transmissions, robotized manuals, CVTs and automatics with new technologies are only going to become more common and it’s time we in the auto press adjusted. If you want to know more about why the 9-speed does what it does, check our our deep dive on dog clutches. All I’m going to say here is that I got used to the way the transmission shifts and it never really bothered me.

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At 4,100lbs the Cherokee is 600lbs heavier than a comparable RAV4 or CX-5. The extra weight is caused by the structural reinforcements required for off roading. Unfortunately it causes some on-road compromises. Acceleration with the 2.4L engine is adequate but sluggish compared to the lighter competition. The V6 on the other hand hits 60 MPH in 6.5 seconds which ties with the 2.0L Ecoboost Escape as the fastest in the class. Regardless of the engine you choose, the Cherokee has one of the quietest cabins in the segment thanks to extensive sound deadening. All the foam comes in handy on 2.4L models as the small engine spends more time in lower gears thanks to the Cherokee’s heft.

Once on the highway the 9-speed automatic helped the porky crossover average a respectable 23.7 MPG, just 1.3 MPG behind the much slower RAV4. The economy is all down to the rear axle disconnect feature and the 9-speed transmission. By completely disconnecting the rear axle via a clutch, parasitic losses drop to nearly zero when compared to other small crossovers. The downside to this is that when the system is in “Auto” power is sent 100% to the front axle until there is slip at which point the Cherokee must re-connect the rear axle then engage a secondary multi-plate clutch to move power. This system allows greater economy but is much slower to react and adds some weight to the mix. To compensate, the Cherokee allows you to fully lock the center coupling and engage the rear axle at any speed by engaging various drive modes. Thanks to an extremely tall 9th gear, the V6 spins at a lazy 1,500 RPM at 82 MPH allowing a reported 25 MPG on level ground.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited Wheel

The heavy and substantial feel on winding roads and reminded me more of the Grand Cherokee than your average CUV. Soft springs and well-tuned dampers delivered a supple ride on a variety of surfaces and the Cherokee never felt unsettled. However, those same suspension choices allow plenty of body roll in the corners, tip when accelerating and dive when braking. As with most entries, the Cherokee uses electric power steering so there is precious little feel behind the wheel. When pushed near its limits, the Cherokee delivers reasonable grip thanks to wide tires and a 57/43 (F/R) weight balance which is essentially the same as the CX-5. If this sounds like the on-road description of a body-on-frame SUV from 10 years ago, you’re not far off base. But is that a bad thing? Not in my book. Why? It’s all about the other half of the Cherokee’s mission.

With more ground clearance, a rated water fording depth of 20 inches, 4,500lbs of towing capacity and a more robust AWD system, the Cherokee can follow the Grand Cherokee down any trail without fear. Of course both Jeeps should be careful not to follow a Wrangler, as neither is as off-road capable as they used to be, but the gist is that both are far more capable than the average crossover. Jeep’s traction and stability control systems are different than what you find in the on-road oriented competition in that the software’s objective is to move power from wheel to wheel rather than just limit wheel spin. Competitive systems reduce engine power first, then selectively brake wheels. The Jeep system in “Mud” mode is more interested with keeping the wheels all spinning the same than curbing engine power. The Cherokee also allows the center coupling to be locked at higher speeds than the competition, offering a 20-inch rated water fording depth, 7.9 to 8.8 inches of ground clearance and available skid plates. While the Cherokee will never be as much fun off-road as a 4Runner, Wrangler, or other serious off-road options, you can have a hoot and a half at the off-road park in stock Trailhawk trim.

2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited V6 Exterior-015

If a crossover is supposed to be a cross between a family sedan and an SUV, the Cherokee is the truest small crossover you can buy. Trouble is, most shoppers are really just looking for the modern station wagon: something with a big cargo hold and car-like manners. In this area the Cherokee comes up short. It’s big and heavy and it drives like it’s big and heavy. But it’s not without its charms, the Cherokee is the only compact crossover capable of the school run and the Rubicon trail. It’s also the quietest and most comfortable crossover going, even if it is short on trunk space. If you’re willing to pay, it’s also the one loaded with the most gadgets, goodies and luxury amenities.

Is the Cherokee half-baked like Consumer Reports said? Perhaps. The Cherokee’s off-roading mission results in limited cargo space and vague handling while the on-road mission demanded a FWD chassis with high fuel economy. But it faithfully manages to give 99% of Liberty shoppers and 80% of RAV4 shoppers a viable alternative. Is that half-baked or a successful compromise? If you’re after a soft-roader to get you from point A to point B with stellar fuel economy, great handling and a massive cargo area, there are better options than the Cherokee. If however you “need” a crossover but “want” a go-anywhere SUVlet, this is your only option.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.15 Seconds

0-60: 6.5 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.75 Seconds

Average observed fuel economy: 23.7 MPG over 453 miles

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 67 dB

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Review: 2014 Dodge Durango Limited V8 (with Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-dodge-durango-limited-v8-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-dodge-durango-limited-v8-with-video/#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2014 15:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=695921 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-002

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

Click here to view the embedded video.

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

Exterior

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

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

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Interior

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

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

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Infotainment

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

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

2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-001Drivetrain

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

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

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior

Drive

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

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

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

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-005

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

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

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

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

 

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

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.4

0-60: 6.0

1/4 Mile: 14.6 Seconds @ 96 MPH

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 69dB @ 50 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 18 MPG over 811 miles

 

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-014 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-013 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-009 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-004 2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-002 2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-001 2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-003 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-002 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-001 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-005 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-006 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-007 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-008 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-012 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-011 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-010 DG014_058DU DG014_057DU DG014_051DU DG014_043DU DG014_030DU ]]>
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Piston Slap: Is The 2WD ‘Burb Ready for The Snow? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-is-the-2wd-burb-ready-for-the-snow/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-is-the-2wd-burb-ready-for-the-snow/#comments Mon, 09 Dec 2013 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=675570

Jay writes:

Professor Mehta,

I have some friends that are moving to Colorado from native South Florida. They’ve never lived in a 4 season climate let alone driven in snow. They own outright a 2007 2WD Suburban (80k miles) L33/LS1 FTW. The other car is an Acura TL he drives for work.

Since I’m the resident car guy, they’ve asked for advice. Should they trade the Suburban and get her a CPO X5 (her dream car)? Or buy an MDX, RX350 AWD?

My thought is they should keep the Suburban, at least for the first winter, and put a really nice set of Blizzaks on it. That way they can learn to drive in snow, and get a feel for what kind of vehicle would thrive in their new town (commute, traffic, snow etc).

After all, if it’s horrible, they can always mosey down to the dealer and trade out. It’s also my concern that AWD would be seen as a cure all and/or bring overconfidence on the road. I told them AWD doesn’t do squat with braking. Am I giving proper advice? What do you think?

Don’t let Sanjeev anywhere near this Piston Slap!

Sajeev answers:

When I was a wannabe-car designer in Detroit, a friend (rural Ohio native) explained why he almost never used four-wheel drive in his Blazer.  He liked the control of a RWD power train, eliminating understeer with tail wagging oversteer as needed. Because, as you mentioned, AWD can inspire overconfidence…and understeer into something unforgiving.

That said, Detroit did plow/salt the roads when needed. And when it really, really snowed, you didn’t want to go outside until the plow could keep up. Such is metropolitan city life: there’s a chance your friends don’t need a 4×4/AWD SUV…unless they live on a real steep hill. Or they live in a suburb with less frequent plowing. Or…

Take it from me: your advice only goes so far with others (especially when that advice is horrible – Sanjeev) so if they either want OR need an AWD vehicle, they should test drive the X5 and some others, and let them buy whatever they want.

See if they’ll put Blizzaks (or similar) on the ‘burb, because it’s the smart use of their money.  That might be enough to make them believers.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Review: 2014 Ram 1500 Eco Diesel (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-ram-1500-eco-diesel-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-ram-1500-eco-diesel-with-video/#comments Mon, 02 Dec 2013 15:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=664570 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-005

There’s just something about a diesel pickup truck that makes grown men regress into Tonka-loving children. Even my Prius-driving environmentalist friends in Berkeley admit they secretly want a diesel pickup. The problem of course is that diesel pickups are expensive (the cheapest diesel Ram 2500 is $36,975 and it doesn’t have an automatic transmission, the cheapest oil-burning F-250 is $38,250) and, for the majority of us, the high payload and towing capacities are overkill. While economical in a specific sense, the large diesel trucks aren’t “fuel-efficient” either. Until now. Mark your calendars folks, The 2014 Ram 1500 Eco Diesel is the half-ton truck in America sporting a small diesel engine.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Although new in 2010 and refreshed for the 2013, the 1500 is undeniably a Ram. That’s because Chrysler prefers evolutionary rather than revolutionary styling when it comes to their volume truck. That’s not a bad thing, since the 1994 style cues that have lived on were sexy back then, and still attractive today. The big-rig  front end still captures my attention, but despite my family’s Ram addiction, I find the 2014 Silverado’s nose to be the better looker. As with most redesigns, the front end got bigger, brasher and has more chrome than ever before.

As you’d expect from Chrysler’s best-selling vehicle, you can get your Ram in a bevy of configurations. There are 9 trim levels, three cabs and three bed sizes available. Mix and match them and you can drive for miles without seeing an identical Ram. Of course two of those 9 trim levels cannot be injected with some diesel love. Thankfully however the trims are excluded are the Sport and Express, meaning the base Tradesman trim is diesel eligible, bringing the diesel pickup entry point down to $28,465, $8,150 less than the cheapest diesel truck in 2013. Interestingly, nothing outside calls attention to the engine under the hood aside from the EcoDiesel badging on the front quarter panels. Out back, we get twin chrome exhaust tips, just like the V8 model and the engine idles so quietly most people assumed a gasoline V6 was under the hood. More on that later.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-002

Interior

As I said in my Silverado review last week, I was surprised that GM didn’t delay the Silverado launch to spend some time polishing up the interior. Despite the re-tweaked 2013 Ram being on the market a year before GM’s truck launched (and the basis for that interior landing in 2010) the Ram still has the best interior in the segment. Your level of interior refinement varies by trim level with the entry-level Tradesman model using plenty of hard plastics while the top-end Ram coats in the interior in stitched leather and real wood trim. In an interesting move, SLT and Laramie models can be optioned to have the same two-ton dash as the top-end Long Horn edition although the real wood and a few other niceties are skipped. Regardless of the trim, controls are conveniently located and easy to operate. While certain models keep a traditional column shifter, most Ram 1500s will be equipped with Dodge and Ram’s Jaguar-like rotary-knob shifter. While I agree that it saves console space vs a console mounted unit, it strikes me as “gimmickier”. I found it tricky to use at first but did become used to it after a week.

Front seat comfort in the Ram is excellent, but a hair behind the Silverado. That’s thanks largely to someone at Chrysler’s ergonomics department that has a concave posterior. All of Chrysler’s latest seat designs have a pronounced (and firm) bottom cushion that feels like you’re sitting on an exercise ball. Although less of a problem in the Ram than in the Chrysler 200, the problem is still present. Despite this I had no issues driving the Ram for 2 hours at a time and I still found it a better place to spend my time than an F-150. Rear seats are lower to the floor than in Chevy’s new truck and slightly less comfortable as well.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-005

Infotainment

Things start off with uConnect 3.0 which is a basic head unit with a 4-line monochromatic display. Similar to Ford’s basic SYNC system, uConnect 3.0 offers full MP3/iDevice integration for media without the fancy graphics. Next we have uConnect 5.0. While this middle tier system may look like the uConnect system we have seen before, it’s actually unrelated. Running on a Microsoft embedded OS and not QNX (a UNIX variant), the unit is more sluggish than the 8.4-inch system but offers many of the same features excluding navigation. While other Chrysler and Fiat models will have the option to add TomTom navigation later, that doesn’t appear to apply to the Ram.

Our Laramie model was equipped with the second generation uConnect 8.4 system. The second generation system adds smartphone app integration, emergency crash notification and 911 assist (along the lines of OnStar). The big deal here is the inclusion of a dedicated Sprint cellular modem integrated into the system. This allows the head unit to function similarly to OnStar in that you don’t have to have a paired Bluetooth cell phone to get emergency services (like you do with Ford’s MyFord Touch). uConnect can also act as a 3G WiFi hot spot if you pay for the right subscription. Software updates can be downloaded over the air and the user can buy/download apps via the integrated app store, just like a smartphone. The standard 6-speaker sound system is not much to write home about, but the seven or nine speaker Alipne system that comes standard with the 8.4-inch touchscreen on most models has a balanced and natural sound.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel Engine-001Drivetrain

Base models still have a 305 horsepower 3.6L V6 borrowed from Chrysler’s passenger cars, good for 269 lb-ft of torque. That’s about the same as Ford’s 3.7L V6 but well below GM’s truck-only 4.3L engine. Shoppers can still get some HEMI-love by checking the box for the second generation 5.7L V8 making 395 ponies and a healthy 410 lb-ft of torque. But gasoline engines aren’t what’s new, it’s the diesel burning 3.0L V6 that we’re all here to talk about. But first we need to walk back in time.

In 2007 GM purchased 50% of the Italian engine maker VM Motori. The logic was that GM needed a smooth Euro compliant diesel engine for the Cadillac CTS (and other models) in order to compete with the Germans. Sadly, GM declared bankruptcy between the engine being designed and the engine actually being used so it sat on a shelf. In 2011 Fiat bought the other half of VM Motori and found the engine gathering dust. Fiat had some quick tweaks done to the engine to make it more suitable for their use and the EcoDiesel V6 was born. While there was much talk about GM getting their hands on this same engine for Silverado duty, Fiat recently snapped up the other half of VM Motri making this a Fiat/Chrysler engine in every way that matters.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel Engine

The high revving single turbo aluminum-block V6 engine produces 240 horsepower and a stout 420 lb-ft of torque. If those numbers sound impressive, consider this. The first 5.9L Cummins engine Chrysler used in the 2500 and 3500 series RAM trucks produced 94 fewer ponies and 20 fewer twists. In the biggest statement of progress I have seen in a while, that Cummins also delivered its power via five fewer gears.

Like the rest of the Ram 1500 lineup (except for one model with a 5.7L HEMI), all 1/2 ton Rams now use ZF’s 8-speed automatic transmission. If you’re worried it’s just a passenger car transmission that’s not up to the task, ZF’s 8-speed transmissions are also found behind the insane twin-turbo V12s that the Germans love so much.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior

Towing & Payload

The 2014 Silverado’s 1,875 to 2,100 pound payload easily bests the Ram’s 1,340-1,620 pound range and even the F-150′s 1,510-2,090 is superior depending on how you align the trim level comparisons. (Ford still offers a “Heavy Duty” package on the F-150 which gives it a stronger frame comparable to the F-250 but Ram and GM have killed similar packages on their models.) Likewise the Ram Eco Diesel’s 9,200lb tow rating pales in comparison with the Silverado’s 12,000lb towing rating. Until you actually tow or haul that is.

Drive

Unless you need those extra pounds of payload capacity (a valid point to be sure), most shoppers will be better off with the Ram. Why? Because of how it tows and hauls. Let’s start with the 8-speed automatic. Even if you don’t choose the diesel engine, the 8-speed automatic’s greater ratio spread and faster gear changes more than bridge the 30-36 lb-ft divide between the Silverado and the Ram V6 and V8. That ratio spread and the high 4,800 RPM redline of the small diesel engine combine to make the Ram drive more like a gasoline V8 truck around town. With my 7,500lb trailer (loaded) attached, the 1500 Eco Diesel pulled effortlessly up steep grades with the transmission cranking out shifts like a Gatling gun. The small diesel and tall final gear allowed the 5,800lb pickup truck to average an impressive 24.2 MPG during my week with the truck which included out towing, hauling and 0-60 tests. On the open highway it had no trouble averaging 29 MPG at 70 MPH.

This is going to sound nuts to some, but I’m actually disappointed with the way the engine sounds. Chrysler fitted an ultra quiet exhaust system and more foam padding than a teenager’s bra to the 3.0L V6. This means that aside from a glow-plug icon on the dash that flashes for a millisecond, you’d be hard pressed to know a diesel is under the hood. After the engine has been started you get a brief moment of diesel clatter before it settles down to a quiet idle. When pressed, the engine clatters a hair more but it never sounds like a 3/4 ton diesel. Pity.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-010

Ram raised eyebrows when they announced that their half ton truck would use coil rather than leaf springs in the rear suspension. The change has been lauded by some and vilified by the folks with Calvin-peeing-on-Ram stickers on their trucks. The truth is of course somewhere in the middle. Coil springs are more complicated to design because the spring doesn’t locate the rear axle, making trailing arms and other links necessary. Coils also handle overloading poorly when compared to a more traditional leaf setup. On the flip side, coils weigh less, provide a better ride, greater articulation and help in reducing wheel hop when the bed is empty. The simple truth is that the vast majority of pickup trucks spend their time with an empty bed. The spring rate chosen is an obvious trade off to deliver the RAM’s class leading road manners but it does result in payload capacity being about 400lbs lower than the Silverado at a maximum. Thankfully Chrysler’s 5-link suspension design, adapted from the previous generations of Grand Cherokee, maintains its poise when fully loaded (unlike GM’s 1960s attempt at coils.)

The bigger benefit of using a four-corner coil suspension is that it was relatively easy for Chrysler to adapt the Grand Cherokee’s height-adjustable air suspension system to the 1/2 ton truck. The $1,695 system is available on all quad cab and crew cab models, in all trims and in every driveline and engine configuration. In my opinion, the air suspension and $230 integrated trailer brake controller are worth every penny. Yes, the suspension allows you to vary the RAM’s ride height from 6.7 inches to 10.7 inches, but the real reason I’d pay money for it is that it also load levels. Keeping the suspension at the middle of its travel results in a better ride and more effective damping whether your truck is loaded or not.

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-009

The Eco Diesel is listed as a $4,000 option over the V6, but there are a few “hidden” costs. The only model that can’t get the 3.0L wonder is the short bed, short cab Tradesman meaning you’ll have to pay $385 for the 8-foot bed to be eligible. You’ll also have to pay $500 extra for the heavy-duty version of the 8-speed automatic bringing the total up to $28,465. That means the true premium is $4,885 at the Tradesman level. Versus the 5.7L HEMI, you’ll pay $3,350 more. When you run the numbers, the diesel won’t save you much over the 3.6L V6 but the V8 is a different matter. Even at the high fuel costs in California (and considering the cost of urea) the diesel would save nearly $750 a year in fuel resulting in a possible payback in under 5 years at 15,000 miles a year.

Even without the Eco Diesel, the Ram is the first choice in the half ton market unless you needed the maximum towing or payload capacities delivered by the 2014 Silverado. It doesn’t hurt that the Ram is slightly cheaper than the Ford or Chevy when comparably equipped. Toss in the first small diesel, the only 8-speed automatic, a load leveling air suspension system and you have quite simply the best tow vehicle in the half-ton segment. Considering that the Ram Eco Diesel is only $2,720 more than a V8 F-150 and $2,560 more than a V8 Silverado, your pay back window is even shorter than compared to Ram’s own HEMI. Or for folks like my dad who are looking to replace their 15 year old RAM 2500 Cummins but are suffering from modern 3/4 ton sticker shock, the 1500 diesel makes an interesting proposition. Compared to that generation of Ram 2500, this Ram 1500 is more capable in nearly every way. Thanks to GM needing a European market diesel Caddy and Chrysler’s bankruptcy and resurrection by Fiat, we have quite simply the most exciting vehicle I have driven this year.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.38 Seconds

0-60: 7.75 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.03 Seconds @ 84 MPH

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 67 dB

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 24.2 MPG over 765 miles

 

2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel Engine 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel Engine-001 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel 3.0L V6 Turbo Diesel Engine-002 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-001 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-002 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-003 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-004 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-005 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-006 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-007 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-008 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-009 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-010 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-011 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Exterior-012 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-001 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-002 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-003 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-004 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-005 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-006 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-007 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-008 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-009 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-010 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-011 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel Laramie Interior-012 2014 RAM 1500 Eco Diesel LCD Instrument Cluster ]]>
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Junkyard Find: Lada Niva http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-lada-niva/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-lada-niva/#comments Tue, 26 Nov 2013 14:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=663946 01 - Lada Niva Down on the Reykjavik Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinWhen I went to Iceland to abuse some Subarus, I managed to visit a couple of Reykjavik junkyards and poke around a bit. In addition to the weird-to-American-eyes French cars and puzzling quantities of 1990s Chrysler products, I found this VAZ-2121 aka Lada Niva 3-door wedged nose-to-tail with a green Megane.
05 - Lada Niva Down on the Reykjavik Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThe car’s doors were locked and the yard’s proprietor didn’t speak much English, so I couldn’t determine this Russian’s year of manufacture. The marker lights and some comments by Lada-admiring Icelanders later suggest that this car is from the early 1980s.
07 - Lada Niva Down on the Reykjavik Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThere’s no way this car could have competed in the United States market, what with all the cheap Subarus, reliable Toyota Tercel 4WDs, and the perception that Ladas were just Fiats built by enslaved Stakhonovites in dirt-floored tents in the Gulag. Elsewhere, however, the Niva built up a reputation for T-34-grade toughness.
02 - Lada Niva Down on the Reykjavik Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee MartinThese days, the Niva’s appeal in Iceland has waned, and so this car will likely end up getting crushed soon.


Not many products benefit from association with the Soviet Union. The AK-47 and the Niva, that’s about it.


That’s how you treat a Lada.


In Iceland, they’re a little rougher on their Ladas.

01 - Lada Niva Down on the Reykjavik Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - Lada Niva Down on the Reykjavik Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - Lada Niva Down on the Reykjavik Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - Lada Niva Down on the Reykjavik Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - Lada Niva Down on the Reykjavik Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - Lada Niva Down on the Reykjavik Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - Lada Niva Down on the Reykjavik Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Junkyard Find: 1976 Jeep Wagoneer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1976-jeep-wagoneer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1976-jeep-wagoneer/#comments Tue, 12 Nov 2013 14:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=648490 01 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSince Willys/Kaiser/Jeep/AMC/Chrysler built the Wagoneer from Biblical times until ten minutes ago (actually 1963 through 1991), and I live in Jeep-centric Colorado, I see these things just about every time I visit a wrecking yard. Mostly, I don’t photograph them (unless I see an unusually late example, such as this ’89, or one resplendent in purple paint and tape stripes, like this ’81), but today’s Junkyard Find— spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area self-serve yard a few weeks ago— was just so incredibly Malaise-y that I felt compelled to document it in its final parking space.
13 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinImagine having the guts to buy something this thirsty just a few years after the 1973 energy crisis, and the sinking feeling that the owner must have experienced when the 1979 energy crisis hit!
07 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinStill, if you need a work truck you have to be willing to pay the fuel bills.
04 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFake woodgrain, refreshingly uncomplicated HVAC controls. Some things about the middle 1970s were pretty good.
15 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe AMC 360-cubic-inch V8 stayed in production all the way through 1991, thanks to Chrysler’s absorption of AMC in 1987.
06 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinStill some good parts left on this one.

Toughest four-letter word on wheels!

01 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1976 Jeep Wagoneer Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Jeep Grand Comanche Episode 2: We Jack ‘Em Up In The Yard http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/jeep-grand-comanche-episiode-2-we-jack-em-up-in-the-yard/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/jeep-grand-comanche-episiode-2-we-jack-em-up-in-the-yard/#comments Thu, 07 Nov 2013 23:24:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=644274 2000 Jeep Grand Comance Project Car

If you haven’t heard by now, there’s a new project car in TTAC’s “garage,” a 2000 Grand Cherokee Limited. I of course use the term garage simply because “gravel driveway” fails to have the same ring. Why a car guy doesn’t have a garage is a story for a different time. All I will say on the matter is that I was promised a garage with a 2-post lift and I am still waiting…  Back to the car. Before we chop the lid off the WJ Grand Cherokee to convert it into a two door, two seat Grand Comanche we needed to tackle a few projects. We need a lift kit, off-road rubber, then we need to ditch the interior and take care of some general housekeeping items.

Iron Rock Off Road 3-inch lift kit

The whole point of this project car is for the Jeep to act as a farm utility vehicle. Since this 2000 Limited model was equipped with the “Up Country” suspension package it had a factory lift of one inch to 10.3 inches of ground clearance. If that sounds better than a John Deere Gator’s 8.5 inches, remember that the farm utility vehicle has a really short wheelbase. Translating that up to the project car meant adding three inches. (Keep in mind that since our Jeep had the factory one inch lift, the three-inch lift kits increase the height by only two inches since their base number uses the stock 4×4 ground clearance. )

After a an intense Googling session, I settled on the $499 Iron Rock Off Road lift kit. My logic was simple: it was the cheapest three-inch lift kit I could find. Why not four? According to the Jeep experts I asked, a four-inch lift would have required more complicated modifications including lowering the transfer case. I fell for the suggestion to toss in a $70 shock upgrade and my out-the-door was $633.98 after shipping.

Lift Kit In Progress

The kit arrived on time and in two large and heavy boxes. Everything was well packaged but the instructions could have been a bit better. While I pride myself as an above average DIY-wrencher, I would have liked some more detailed instructions simply as a safety margin. If you’re not comfortable disassembling your suspension, you’ll be paying hundred for the installation.

Because I’m a moron with a desire to live, when one of my spring compressors gave up on me, I decided instead of compressing the spring on side (and making it look like a big banana) I would just unbolt the suspension from the body so it would be low enough to install the springs without the compressor. This meant jacking the Jeep up one side at a time (two jacks would cost money and I’m cheap), placing a large concrete paver on the gravel to support a jack stand and then raising the other side in the same way. Right about the time I was breaking suspension bolts loose with a 24-inch breaker bar and making the Jeep sway on my dollar-store jack stands I realized this was stupid. Yet I continued.

With the lift kit installed after about 6 hours total I was able to bolt on the next item.

ProCom 16 inch steel wheels

Pro Comp 16-inch steel wheels

No project Jeep would ever be complete without steel rims. Black steel rims. Since I didn’t want to go crazy big and I wanted a large aspect ratio tire, I stick with a 16-inch wheel diameter and jumped up to an 8-inch wide wheel. Cost: $377.88 delivered. Yeehaw.

Pro Comp Xtreme MT2

Pro Comp Xtreme MT2 265/75R16

When it came to the tires my choice was limited. Because I opted for just a three inch body lift, I knew I couldn’t go too crazy on the rubber. I trolled all the Jeep forums I could find and my 30 second research indicated that a 265/75R16 would be the biggest thing I could stuff in there without pushing the wheel outside the body or sawzalling the body to pieces. After 30 seconds of online comparison I found a deal on Pro Comp Xtreme MT2 tires in just the right size for a grant total of $1,007 at my door. In hind sight a 4-inch lift kit would have helped me out here and something around 6 inches would have allowed me to get more serious 33-inch tires, but I was committed at this point.

Because I have a few connections in the fleet world, I was able to snag some time in the mechanic’s bay of a local company with a service vehicle fleet. Being the cheap bastard I am, I mounted and balanced the tires myself for free. This is also why one wheel has about 7 wheel weights on it, although I seem to have balanced them fairly well as there isn’t even a faint vibration on the highway. Score one for the cheap dudes.

Although there are more aggressive tires out there, I decided that it would be handy to be able to drive the Grand Comanche to the feed store directly. The alternative would be to drive something else to the feed store, pick up hay, straw, feed, etc, then swap it into the cut-up-hoopty for delivery. Even so the on-road toll is obvious with the tires being significantly louder than all terrains.

Jeep on alignment rack

Oops

This brings our total to $2,018.86 in parts followed by a $79 four-wheel alignment which is required after you disassemble this much of any car.  Since the car was gifted to the project, I considered this good value thus far. Then I decided to cross the creek and drive through the woods. More on that later.

 

This project is obviously for entertainment value only. My entertainment value primarily, but if you find it interesting to watch then we’re on to something. This means that comments like “why don’t you sell it and buy a X instead?” are pointless. Also obvious is the fact that I’ve never done anything like this before so it is incredibly likely that I’ll be doing stupid things, getting things wrong and generally making an ass of myself. That’s just par for this course. While I may mention specific products, I’m not endorsing anything and no person or company has given this project any free stuff. (This makes me very sad.) Lastly, if you have any suggestions, know of any sources for parts, or are in the area and want to check the disaster out, let us know.

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Review: 2014 Toyota RAV4 (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/review-2014-toyota-rav4-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/review-2014-toyota-rav4-with-video/#comments Fri, 20 Sep 2013 12:58:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=520441  

2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

When the RAV4 landed, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. In a world of unified corporate identity the RAv4 goes off script with a look all to its own. While the old RAV sold on mini-truck looks, the new one is undisguised crossover. The new nose has grown on me slightly since I recorded the video above, but I still find the look a little awkward. Since I was scolded for wearing striped pants with a striped shirt the week I tested the RAV4, feel free take my style opinion with a grain of salt as you click through the jump.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior
The big change for 2014 out back. It’s not what you see, it’s what you don’t. The spare tire that clung to the back of the 2013 model like an octogenarian clinging to the past is gone. The removal of the tire makes completes the RAV4′s exterior transformation from Toyota Trucklet to crossover. By going hatch-mainstream, practicality is greatly improved allowing easier access when parallel parked or parked on a hill. Because of the RAV’s increased dimensions and the new hatch, it is possible to fit 4×8 sheets inside if you leave the hatch cracked.

The RAV4′s cargo hold has one of the lowest lift-over heights for loading in the compact crossover segment. While this makes loading easier, it means the hatch is closer to the ground and makes opening it more awkward. I thought I was alone, but some of our Facebook friends commented that the hatch hit them in the abdomen if they didn’t take a large step backwards when opening it.

2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

The RAV4′s interior is a sea of shapes, not all of which jive with one another. It’s as if the engineers couldn’t decide which styling direction to take, so they gave the interior a bit of everything. On the flip side, the majority of the cabin materials are above the likes of the Kia Sportage. The stitched pleather pieces of the dash help bring the cabin up-market but the urethane steering wheel lets the cabin back down. The carbon-fiber looking plastic trim seems to scratch easily as well and it’s located in high-traffic areas like the cupholder surround and by the window switches. This dichotomy is unique to the RAV4 with rest of the competition being uniform in terms of style, quality and feel. On average the RAV4 is in the upper-middle of the pack, but this double personality leads people to see what they want to see in the interior.

Front seat comfort is merely average in the RAV4 thanks to seats that lack adjustable lumbar support or a power adjustment mechanism. Continuing Toyota’s move away from leather, the Limited model gets SofTex faux-moo instead. Out back, the big change is the lack of a third row option for 2014. Toyota tells us that the take rate was low with most 7-seat shoppers opting to step up to the Highlander. The loss of the extra seats should have given Toyota a bit of room to expand the second row but it has actually shrunk for 2014 by one inch and the rear seats have lost their ability to slide forward/backward. Cargo room slots in at a massive 38.4 cubic feet jumping to 73.4 if you fold the rear seats flat, well above the competition.

2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment
2013 brought Toyota’s refreshed 6.1-inch Entune system standard on all models, and starting in a few months will receive another update to their latest software debuting in the Corolla. I should note now that Toyota has not said if the system can be upgraded to the new software, so if you like what you hear in the upcoming Corolla review you may want to wait.

The current touchscreen unit includes standard Bluetooth and a backup camera in addition to the usual combination of AM/FM and a single slot CD player. The standard 6-speaker audio system is moderately well balanced for a compact crossover. The system is easy to use and offers full voice command of your USB/iDevice media library. Optional on the XLE and Limited models is Entune smartphone app integration and flash-disk based navigation. The nav system is intuitive and easy to use but the system’s screen is easily washed out in strong daylight. Although the system is intuitive and highly functional, Entune is outclassed by the larger touchscreen products in the Ford Escape, GMC Terrain, Kia Sportage and the new Jeep Cherokee to name a few.

2014 Toyota RAV4 Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain
Toyota decided to kill off optional V6 for 2014, leaving the 2.5L four-cylinder the only powerplant. While the switch is likely to offend a few, the vast majority of RAV4 sales were four-cylinder anyway. Toyota’s logic was this: the prime competitor is the CR-V and it’s four-cylinder only. The 2.5L engine is good for 176 horsepower and 172 lb-ft of twist placing it in the thick of the competition. Since the 2.5L is no longer the base engine Toyota fitted it with their 6-speed automatic transaxle to improve performance and fuel economy. MPGs rise to 24 City and 31 Highway in FWD trim which is above the CR-V and GM crossovers but well below the Mazda CX-5′s impressive 26/35 score (2.0L engine and manual transmission.)

For $1,400 Toyota will toss in their full-time AWD system on any trim level. The RAV4′s AWD system follows the same formula as the rest with a multi-plate coupling acting as a quasi center differential. This system is somewhat unusual however because the driver can lock the coupling on demand via a button in the dash. Although the lock will self-disengage over 25MPH, only the Jeep crossovers offer a similar touch. Engaging the car’s “sport” mode alters the throttle mapping, transmission shift points and encourages the coupling to lock more frequently to try and limit the FWD nature of the RAV.

2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The loss of the V6 is a big blow to the RAV4. In our tests, the RAV4 ran from 0-60 in 8.64 seconds in AWD trim, faster than the CR-V but slightly slower than the 2.5L CX-5. If you want anything other than middling performance, you’ll need to drop by the Chevy or GMC dealer for a 301HP Terrain or Equinox.

When the going got twisty, the FWD RAV4 we borrowed from a dealer proved to be competent but not exceptional. Like most crossovers the RAV is softly sprung and exhibits plenty of body roll, tip and dive but it never felt sloppy. Toyota’s structural improvements are noticeable with the rear hatch no longer creaking on uneven driveways. Adding AWD improved the RAV4′s dynamics thanks to software that is programmed to send power to the rear wheels when driving aggressively or when in Sport mode. The system not only prevents the few hints of torque steer the FWD model exhibits, but it also makes the RAV4 more dynamic on the road. Regardless of the model, the steering lacks the precision of the Mazda or Ford, possibly due to the RAV’s higher profile tires but it does rank above the CR-V. If handling is important to you, the Mazda CX-5 is quite simply the best small crossover on the market right now.

2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Toyota has a history of playing to the “meat” of every segment. Rarely does Toyota build anything extreme, be it the cheapest car in its class, the most expensive, fastest, slowest, etc. That describes the RAV4 to a tee. After a week with the RAV4 I wasn’t offended but neither was I enraptured. Toyota’s trucklet is reasonably priced ranging from $23,300-$28,410 and in most trims represents a decent (but not extreme) value compared to the competition. Yes, the CX-5 is more exciting, but like the more luxurious and gadget-rich Escape, it’ll cost you more. The CR-V is quieter but it’s also a few bucks more expensive. The Cherokee is more off-road capable but Chrysler’s reliability reputation isn’t exactly stellar. The Forester is the better choice for wagon lovers and the Sportage and Escape have powerful turbo options that speak to my heart. The GMC Terrain and Chevy Equinox have been refreshed and feature 301 horsepower mills for those that like to count ponies and an infotainment system that’s more attractive than Entune.

The new RAV is, without a doubt, a better 2-row crossover than the model it replaces. It’s also a very pragmatic choice delivering a blend of good fuel economy, large cargo hold, an AWD system that’s more capable than most in the segment and, being a Toyota, it’s likely to have a good reliability record as well. The 2014 RAV4 is a solid crossover and you can’t go wrong by putting one in your driveway. If however you want my advice, and since you’re reading this I assume you do, check out the CX-5 and Escape before you sign on the dotted line.

 

Hit it or Quit It?

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.17 Seconds

0-60: 8.64 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.88 Seconds @ 82 MPH

Sound Level at 50 MPH: 68db

Average Fuel Economy: 25 MPG over 483 Miles

2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-012 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-007 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-002 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior-010 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior-004 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior-009 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior-005 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-001 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-011 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-005 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior-006 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior-012 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-004 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-009 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-003 2014 Toyota RAV4 Interior-008 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior-011 2014 Toyota RAV4 Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Toyota RAV4 Exterior, Picture Courtesy pf Alex L Dykes ]]>
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Alphabet Soup: 4×4 vs 4WD vs AWD Where’s the Differential? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/alphabet-soup-4x4-vs-4wd-vs-awd-wheres-the-differential/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/alphabet-soup-4x4-vs-4wd-vs-awd-wheres-the-differential/#comments Mon, 17 Jun 2013 23:09:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=491128 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, trail rated badge, Photography by Alex L. Dykes

Four wheel drive, all wheel drive, 4WD, AWD, full-time, part-time, 4Hi, 4Lo, 4×4. There are many names and just as many ways of motivating every wheel a vehicle has on the ground. What’s the difference between four-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive? In one word: Marketing. Want to know more? Click past the jump as we dive in the most controversial topic since “Dodge vs Chevy.”

Motivating four wheels in a car isn’t new, we’ve been doing it for over 110 years. If you thought this was a recent affectation, you’re not crazy. Over the last 30 years there has been an explosion in the number of vehicles powering a quartet of tires. There has also been a similar explosion in the number of ways we power four wheels. At the same time the way systems are designed, marketed and used have converged and with them the terms AWD and 4WD have have practically merged. Of course, the SAE does have a definition “an all-wheel-drive vehicle is one that has an on-demand feature that occasionally sends power to the non-primary powered wheels.” But what that means has changed a great deal over time.

The Good Old Days

Let’s set the way-back-machine to 1970. Trucks and “Jeeps” had 4WD aka 4×4 systems. The system had to be engaged manually once you were on a loose surface because they “locked” the inputs of the front and rear differentials together making turning difficult on high traction surfaces. Engaging AWD on pavement could result in damage to the systems, or at the very least strange road manners. These systems were found on vehicles that would otherwise be RWD like trucks and truck-based “things.” Frequently the transfer case featured a reduction gear for more severe situations. 1970 Land Rover Range Rover, picture courtesy of Land Rover

Then came the 1970 Land Rover Range Rover (above), the self-proclaimed “first mass-produced vehicle with full-time AWD.” (Note they didn’t call it 4WD until later.) The system used a lockable center differential that allowed the front and rear axles to spin at different rates on pavement allowing the system to be engaged at all times. The system was designed with off-roading in mind, so the transfer case had a low range like like the rugged truck based systems at the time in addition to the full-lock feature.

Then came the AMC Eagle. AMC jammed a new NP119 transfer case made by New Process Gear behind a Chrysler transmission. The unit featured a viscus coupling to the front axle that would allow power to flow to both axles simultaneously while still allowing them to turn at different rates. But this AMC wasn’t a truck, didn’t have a low-range and had an independent front suspension. Not knowing what to call it, AMC called it 4×4. So much for standards.

16 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin

Then Audi released the Quattro in 1980, but despite featuring a manually lockable center differential, Audi chose to call it “all-wheel-drive” or AWD. (Later Quattros were automatic.) The AWD vs 4WD differentiation was born. Soon everyone was getting into the four-wheel-motivation game but nobody agreed what to call the systems. In 1982 Fiat introduced the world to the first four-wheel-motivated vehicle with a transverse engine layout and a transaxle (the Fiat Panda 4×4). It was the start of a revolution. Some car companies followed Audi’s suit and referred to car systems as AWD while the  Toyota Tercel, Dodge Colt and others sported 4WD or 4×4 labels. This was the start of the “that’s not four-wheel-drive, that’s all-wheel-drive” argument.

By the ’90s SUVs started to roam the land. The box-on-frame creatures borrowed their drivetrains from  truck parts bins and brought with them 4×4 and 4WD monikers. (And a bevy of full-time and part-time systems.) Meanwhile, the proliferation of AWD systems exploded and we soon started seeing them in everything from Chrysler minivans to the Porsche 993. Despite the proliferation, the industry had more-or-less settled on calling longitudinal “truck” systems 4WD/4×4 and “car” systems (especially transverse systems) AWD.

2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The 21st Century

Crossovers happened. In truth the crossover was born in the 20th century, but the era of the “modern crossover” dawned within the last 15 years. In 1995, crossovers were a microscopic segment composed of jacked-up station wagons. By 2005 the non-truck utility vehicles accounted for more than 50% of the segment. At the dawn of the 2014 model year there are few “traditional” SUVs left, especially in the volume mid-sized segment. Those that remain account for a minority of sales.

Back to the marketing. Now, more than ever, the lines between truck and car are being blurred by marketing speak. Ford calls their Explorer AWD while Nissan is claiming the Pathfinder had 4WD and Chrysler says the Jeep Patriot is a 4×4. The truth is all three drivetrains operate on the same general design as that 1982 Fiat Panda: the transverse AWD system. The system Fiat called “4×4″ in the 1980s is now thought of as “AWD” by Fiat in this decade. What gives?

2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Exterior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes

The Current State of Affairs

This brings us to the present. Now that we know the AWD vs 4WD vs 4×4 battle is a war of marketing speak, and we have a bit of history under our belts. Let’s talk about how AWD systems work. Why? Because it’s more important to know how the systems work than what they are called. Let’s go over them one by one. Since I’m not a graphic artist I’ll toss in a rough power-flow diagram to show how each system works.

Part time locking AWD System, Drawing Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Part time locking systems with a longitudinal layout

In the picture above we have a traditional “truck” system, the one that some people will call a “real 4×4.” There is no center differential so the system shouldn’t be used on-pavement because the front and rear axles cannot spin at different speeds. The system has to be engaged by the user in some manner, either with a lever or a button. Most systems use a chain drive to connect the front and rear axles so power flow is (in theory) locked 50/50 front/rear. If one rear wheel is freely spinning, the front wheels will still have grip. If one front wheel and one rear wheel freely spin, the vehicle won’t move. To solve that problem the systems usually include some form of locking or limited slip differential in the rear or both rear and front axles. The systems are typically very rugged and if the system employs fully-locking axles on the front and rear power is exactly 25/25/25/25 percent wheel to wheel and if three wheels lost traction the remaining wheel can consume all 100% of available power. Some systems integrate a low-ratio reduction gear into the transfer case.

Full time locking RWD based AWD System, Drawing Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Full time systems with a longitudinal layout

Based on the part-time systems we just talked about, Land Rover was the first company to use an existing idea to improve their new luxury off-roader and added a center differential after the reduction gear. This system became all the rage after AMC brought it to the mainstream in 1979 for the 1980 Eagle. These systems can take a variety of different forms. The “center differential” can be a simple open unit, a limited slip, a Torsen that apportions power unequally (i.e. 75% rear, 25% front unless slip occurs) or a simple viscous coupling which isn’t technically a differential at all. Each type of stem has benefits and drawbacks depending on your application. Open diffs apportion power equally, but if the front or rear wheels loose traction the car can’t send power to the other axle. Limited slip systems (including manual or auto-locking units) can connect the front and rear together, thus operating like a part-time system when the unit is fully engaged. If the system engaged on pavement however you can get a “binding” feel in tight turns. Torsen units are primarily used in performance oriented systems like high-performance variants of SUVs where you want added traction but a decidedly RWD bias.

You’ll find full-time systems of some description in the current Audi Q7, Jeep Grand Cherokee/Wrangler, Mercedes ML/GL/GLK/G, BMW X1/X3/X5/X6, GM’s full-size SUVs, Dodge Durango, Infiniti EX/FX, Land Rover LR4/Range Rover/Range Rover Sport, Lexus GX/LX, Nissan Armada, Porsche Cayenne, Volkswagen Touareg, Subaru Forester/Tribeca/Outback/XV, Toyota FJ/Land Cruiser/4 Runner/Sequoia.

Is that a long list? Yes. However that a complete list (insofar as I know) of SUVs currently sold on our shores with this type of a system. Why did I bother to list them all? Because it shows how few of this type of system there really are in the utility vehicle segment. Just a few years ago this number was higher and the market share of this system was higher still.

Subaru AWD Comparison, Courtesy of Subaru

Subaru and Audi you ask? Yes indeed. Audi’s longitudinal systems and Subaru’s AWD systems claim to be different or superior to the competition, but in reality the only difference is that they merge the center and front differentials into the transmission housing resulting in a space savings, but not necessarily a weight savings. (Mercedes claims 4Matic will take a scant 150lb toll in 2014, 50lbs lighter than Quattro.) This also means that the Subaru systems share design elements with traditional rugged body-on-frame SUVs, something that Subaru owners seem to rarely know but might want to brag about.

Front Wheel Drive Biased Transverse AWD System, Drawing Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Transverse engine based systems

British Motor Corporation popularized transverse engine front-wheel-drive systems in 1959 with the launch of the original Mini. The drivetrain layout has been so popular that the same basic design is used by 16 of the top 20 best-selling vehicles in America. (Everything but the full-size pickups on the top-20 list.) This drivetrain layout represented a challenge to AWD development, so it wasn’t until 1982 that Steyr-Daimler-Puch produced a four-wheel motivation system based on a transaxle. (For that Fiat Panda.)

What’s a transaxle? Excellent question. A transaxle is a transmission that integrates a front differential into its casing. That’s an important thing to keep in mind because the transaxle is why FWD layouts are preferred for fuel economy. In a transverse transaxle the power doesn’t have to “turn” 90 degrees to spin the front wheels. HOWEVER, in a transverse transaxle based AWD system, the power has to make two 90 degree turns on its way to the rear wheels. First power leaves the transmission, then heads to an angle gear which sends it to the back. Then power flows to the rear differential which turns power 90 degrees to the wheels. This is part of the reason that transverse full-time systems that always send power to the rear are [in general] just as efficient as longitudinal “RWD based” AWD systems. (This is why most of them disconnect the rear wheels whenever possible.)

V70R_AWD_System

While there are exceptions to this rule, 99% of transverse FWD systems have a fundamental difference from longitudinal systems because of the integrated front differential. Instead of creating a purpose built AWD transaxle, what car makers do is just extend the power output of the transmission (before the differential) out of the transmission case and into the angle gear that sends power to the back. (See the diagram above.) This means that the input to the front and rear differentials are tied, just like a part-time locking system that we discussed above. To keep the system from binding and improve fuel economy a clutch pack or a viscus coupling is placed between the angle gear and the rear differential. This allows the rear wheels to be uncoupled, but does nothing about the front wheels. Systems like this are incapable of sending more than 50% of the power to the rear unless the front wheels have zero traction. Acura’s SH-AWD system takes things one step further and uses an “acceleration device” aft of the clutch pack to make the rear wheels spin faster than the front wheels thereby giving the vehicle a slight rear “bias” even when the front wheels have traction.

Transverse systems come in many different flavors so it’s important to know what you’re buying before you sign on the line. Some systems on the market are “slip-and-grip” systems like the Honda CR-V which won’t lock the center clutch pack unless front wheel slip occurs. Then we have systems like the Ford Explorer which usually sends some power to the rear, locks the coupling during hard acceleration and varies it depending on vehicle dynamics. The Honda Ridgeline allows the center coupling to be locked in first gear while Jeep’s Patriot allows the center coupling to be almost fully locked at all speeds.

Jeeo Cherokee Front Wheel Drive Biased AWD System, Drawing Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

2014 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk

Perhaps the ultimate hybrid and head scratcher will be the 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Chrysler has yet to release complete details about the system, but what we can glean from the spec sheets and interviews is a system that meets all the criteria of a “traditional” 4×4/4WD system but has a functional layout similar to the systems “real” off-roaders would laugh and point at. We have a 9-speed automatic, nothing unusual there, but next we get something new for a transverse vehicle: a 56:1 (I4) or 47:1 (V6) reduction gear positioned after the transmission but infront of the differentials. (That’s lower than the Grand Cherokee and not too far off the 71:1 in the Wrangler.) Like the other systems, inputs for the front and rear diffs are mechanically tied and a clutch pack is used to connect or disconnect the rear axle from the transmission. Unlike many of the systems however, the 2014 Cherokee can fully lock the center coupling and Jeep tossed in an electronic locking rear differential.

I’ll close by posing a question: If my 2001 GMC Envoy (GMT360 SUV) with its two-speed transfer case and locking center differential can be considered a 4WD/4×4 vehicle. What is the Cherokee? AWD or 4WD? With 4-Low range and a locking rear differential it meets all the traditional requirements, but under the hood you’ll find a four-cylinder or V6 engine sitting sideways. This author’s humble opinion is that the name doesn’t matter if the vehicle does what you expect of it. That Cherokee? We’ll have to wait and see but I suspect it will be as capable as a Grand Cherokee mostly thanks to a substantially lighter curb weight.

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First Drive: 2014 Acura MDX (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/first-drive-2014-acura-mdx/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/first-drive-2014-acura-mdx/#comments Fri, 31 May 2013 14:01:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489100 2014 Acura MDX Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The RDX may have supplanted the MDX as Acura’s best-selling model, but Acura hopes to put the their mid-sized crossover back on top with the all-new 2014 MDX. To show us how they plan to do that, Acura invited us to Oregon to sample the new MDX for a day around Newberg. Even without the snazzy trip it’s easy to see that regaining the Acura sales crown shouldn’t be difficult. After all, the current MDX is Acura’s second best-selling vehicle and despite being seven years old (ancient in the auto biz) the MDX is still the best-selling 7-seat luxury SUV in America and the second best-selling mid-sized SUV/crossover period. How does one redesign success? Carefully.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

You’d be forgiven for thinking little has changed by just glancing at the MDX, and that’s the way Acura shoppers like it. That statement makes me scratch my head just a little, because the 2014 model still sports the Acura “beak,” the most controversial style decision Acura ever made. We have to keep this in perspective however: nothing about the MDX is overdone, the only reason anyone complained about the beak in the first place is that Acura is known for conservative design cues. This love for conservative, evolutionary design is why the MDX is instantly identifiable as an Acura despite riding on an all-new MDX-exclusive platform and sharing little beyond some transmission parts with the outgoing model.

Bringing the MDX’s signature shape up-to-date we have standard full-LED headlamps which (if I am not mistaken) will make the MDX the least expensive vehicle on the road with the snazzy beams. Since we only had a limited time with the car in the day I can’t say how they perform at night, but the color temperature of the lamps is a pleasing neutral color and not the harsh blue light LED lamps are known for.

2014 Acura MDX Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Although the 2014 looked wider to my eye, it’s lost 1.3 inches in overall width and 1.4 inches of track up front, 1.2 in the rear. Perhaps it’s the loss of 1.5 inches in height over last year that creates the illusion of width? One thing’s for sure however, the MDX is longer and looks longer, gaining 2 inches overall in length and an important 2.8 inches in wheelbase, helping out that tight third row seat.

Interior

The MDX is notable for being a mid-sized crossover with seven seats. This size difference is important to keep in mind because comparisons to the likes of the Infiniti QX56, Mercedes GL, and Lexus GX seem everywhere. The more appropriate cross-shops are the Infiniti JX35 (now the QX60), Buick Enclave, Volvo XC90 and maybe the Lincoln MKT. (If you watch the video, pardon the lack of MKT comparisons, it slipped my mind, as I’m sure it slips the minds of most luxury shoppers.)

2014 Acura MDX Interior, Third row seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Acura continues to stick to their formula of traditional injection molded dashboards and plenty of convincing fake wood. I would be interested to hear your opinions on this choice, so be sure to sound off in the comment section below. While I like the look and the materials are premium in feel, it can’t match the visual impact or feel of a stitched leather/pleather dash, something that the refreshed Buick Enclave does incredibly well. The MDX continues to do have a very uniform feel with perfect seams and gaps and a consistent quality level throughout, something that Buick’s CUV continues to struggle with (the lower dash and door plastics in the Enclave are still a bit cheap.)

The MDX’s front and middle thrones still sport the Acura hallmark “Lady Gaga horny shoulders,” a design cue frequently imitated but never duplicated to the same effect. Like Lexus and Infiniti, Acura still hasn’t discovered seats that more in more than the same basic 8-10 ways as any $25,000 family sedan. Despite having only half the “ways” as BMW’s sport seats, I find the MDX’s redesigned thrones to be among the most comfortable in the segment for my body shape.

2014 Acura MDX Cargo Area, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Most of the MDX’s length increase has gone where current owners wanted it: the cargo area. That means the passenger area is smaller than last year with a drop in headroom ranging from more than an inch up front to two-tenths in the back. Legroom stays largely unchanged but Acura altered the middle seats to slide further forward/rearward allowing either more middle leg room than before or more third-row room than before (not both at the same time.) That third-row is best left to the kids or your mother-in-law, although it’s not as cramped as the Infiniti JX’s rear accommodations. Helping you get back there is a new push-button middle-seat folding mechanism that worked well but reminded me the Infiniti has middle seats that can slide forward to allow ingress while a child seat is strapped in.

The cargo area stretches by 2.75 inches from the third-row seat hinges to the tailgate and 5.88 inches from the third-row headrests to the rear glass. That’s the difference between fitting a 20-gallon cooler and 7-people in your SUV and not. There isn’t much daylight between the Infiniti or Acura and the MDX when it comes to stuffing bags behind the third row, all three beat the old XC90 by a wide margin and all hold considerably less than the Buick Enclave.

2014 Acura MDX Interior, Infotainment, Navigation LCD, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

Honda’s two-screen infotainment/navigation system has filtered up from the 2013 Accord to the RLX and now to the MDX as standard equipment. The logic behind the twin screens is: the lower screen is for your media devices while the upper screen is for navigation. In practice, the lower screen allows you to select sources, skip to a different album and change tracks, but in order to browse or search playlists, songs, change treble, bass, and surround processing, you have to use the upper screen and the rotary control knob. In essence this is the same software as before with a snazzy color touchscreen remote that handles some of the functions. The result is a system that could have been more elegant but the execution seems half-baked. Put it back in the oven and let me know when it’s done.

Although out time with the MDX was limited, I was able to sample my usual audio selection from my iDevice and didn’t notice too much difference between the base 8-speaker audio system, the 501-watt 10-speaker or 529-watt 11 speaker systems. They all exhibit the same balance I have come to expect from Acura: neutral with a somewhat limited range but excellent fidelity for a $42,000-$56,000 vehicle. The Logic 7 systems in the BMW are better, but they are also spendier. If you’re one of the 10 Acura customers that latched on to DVD audio, it’s time to sell those discs on Ebay, DVD-A is dead.

2014 Acura MDX Exterior, Front Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Now is as good a time as any to talk pricing. The FWD MDX starts almost a grand lower than the 2013 AWD model at $42,290 and is only available in four flavors. $46,565 adds the “Technology package” and included rainsense wipers, lane departure warning, collision warning, a color display between the dials, 19-inch wheels (not sure how that’s a tech item) and links your climate control to your GPS position. $48,565 adds on the “Entertainment package” which is a 16.2-inch wide-screen rear entertainment system that allows either a single wide picture or will display two things side-by-side. The system brings two extra speakers, a 110V power outlet, wireless headphones and HDMI in to the party. If you want lane keep assist, full-speed-range radar cruise control, remote start, auto dimming mirrors and parking sensors, you need to pony up $54,505 for the “Advance package” which cannot be had without the rear seat entertainment system for some reason. Want AWD? add $2,000 to those prices. That places the MDX in the middle of the pack with the Enclave delivering similar bang for less buck and the Acura and Infiniti very similarly priced.

Drivetrain

For 2014 Acura has swapped the 3.7L V6 for the new 3.5L “Earth Dreams” mill with direct-injection and “Variable Cylinder Management.” (VCM allows the V6 to drop to a 3-cylinder mode on the highway.) To quell vibrations, the MDX gets unique active engine mounts which generate vibrations opposite to what the engine produces to cancel them out. (Think Bose noise cancelling headphones.) Despite the DI treatment, power is down from 300HP to 290 and torque takes a small drop from 270 to 267 lb-ft as well. To counter the power loss, Acura put the MDX on a diet and 2014 sees 275lbs shed. The weight loss and improved low-end torque mean that performance is up, even with the power down.

2014 Acura MDX

Perhaps the bigger change is not the engine, but which wheels spin. For the first time since the MDX rolled onto the scene there is a FWD model. While I think this dilutes the MDX “brand” because it has been associated with AWD system since its debut, the rational can’t be dismissed: fuel economy and sunbelt sales. According to Acura’s research, the southern states love their 2WD crossovers and while the 2WD RDX compact crossover did eat into sales of the AWD model, combined RDX sales were up some 90% when they added the FWD model. Go figure. We didn’t get our chance to drive a FWD MDX, as none had made it across from the factory in Alabama, but Acura is promising a class leading 28 MPGs on the highway and 20 in the city –  one more highway MPG than the recently announced Infiniti JX35/QX60 hybrid model (25/27 MPG). When equipped with AWD, economy drops to 18/27 MPG, still a huge bump from last year’s 16/21 score.

2014 Acura MDX Exterior, LED Headlamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

Because the MDX has a transverse engine and a transaxle under the hood, weight balance isn’t as ideal as the Audi Q7 or BMW X5 (Acura thinks the X5 is their prime competition). Aside from the fact that Honda/Acura doesn’t have a RWD drivetrain to borrow, the benefit is improved interior packaging evident in the ginormous center console (positioned right where the X5 keeps its transmission). On the down side Acura is two-cogs shy of Audi and BMW with their revised 6-speed transaxle. Before you discount Acura, we must discuss SH-AWD.

“Super Handling All Wheel Drive” may not have been the best name for the system, but it is arguably the best AWD system you can tack onto a transverse FWD platform. The systems used by Infiniti, Lexus, Volvo, Lincoln and just about everyone out there that had an AWD system tacked onto a transaxle has no center differential. Instead the power flows from the final gearset of the transmission to the front diff and the rear diff via gears at a fixed 1:1 ratio. Between this gear arrangement and the rear diff is a clutch pack that allows the car to connect, disconnect or have a varied connection between the transmission and rear axles. When fully connected the power is split 50/50 assuming all wheels have traction.

SH-AWD also uses the same arrangement but adds a unique differential unit in the rear that does two things. First, it has a gearset to “speed up” the rear wheels so that when they are connected, they spin 1.7% faster than the fronts. Next it has a torque vectoring unit that is capable of slitting power 100:0/0:100 left to right. In a straight line, “overdriving” the rear wheels gives the MDX a more RWD feel than otherwise possible and in corners the system is capable of sending up to 70% of the power to the outside rear wheel helping the MDX’s cornering manners and masking the “plowing” tendencies normal in a front heavy car. For 2014 Acura took this a step further and uses a system to brake wheels selectively to improve neutral handling. This is beyond stability control because the system is always active rather than active only when things are going pear-shaped.

2014 Acura MDX Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Thanks to SH-AWD, the Acura is almost the X5′s dynamic dance partner, unfortunately you can’t completely hide the MDX’s extra nose weight. Still, despite Acura’s insistence I can’t see than many X5 shoppers stopping by Acura’s lot. Instead the MDX shines against the Infiniti with a more refined and better performing drivetrain. The JX hybrid is likely to get better combined MPG numbers, but with only 250 ponies on tap and no “sporting” changes, it’s unlikely to be half a hoot, let alone a hoot and a half. Encore shoppers looking for a more premium brand and some handling cred won’t be appointed and Mercedes ML shoppers will find a better value than on the German lot.

How does that FWD model compare? You’ll have to wait for that review as Acura didn’t have any examples on hand. I can posit an opinion however: the driving dynamics will be disappointing. Remove SH-AWD and you have a front-heavy front driver just like base Buick Enclave models. I know that Acura is sure to sell lots of these, but please TTAC readers, check that AWD option box.

 

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • One more MPG on the highway than the Infiniti JX35/QX60 hybrid and the same highway economy as the RX450h.
  • Oddly enough, “Super Handling” really does describe the AWD system.

Quit it

  • I’m not sure what radar cruise and parking sensors have to do with rear seat DVD players. Why are they only sold together?
  • The two-screen infotainment system seems half-baked, put it back in the oven and let me know when it’s done.
  • Fake wood was so 1980s Oldsmobile.

 

Acura flew me to Oregon, stuffed me with poached salmon and craft beer and set me loose on the streets of Oregon for this review (but not in that order necessarily).

2014 Acura MDX Cargo Area 2014 Acura MDX Cargo Area-001 2014 Acura MDX Cargo Area-002 2014 Acura MDX Cargo Area-003 2014 Acura MDX Cargo Area-004 2014 Acura MDX Cargo Area, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura MDX Exterior 2014 Acura MDX Exterior-001 2014 Acura MDX Exterior, LED Headlamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura MDX Exterior-003 2014 Acura MDX Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura MDX Exterior-005 2014 Acura MDX Exterior-006 2014 Acura MDX Exterior-007 2014 Acura MDX Exterior-008 2014 Acura MDX Exterior-009 2014 Acura MDX Exterior-010 2014 Acura MDX Exterior, Front Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura MDX Exterior-012 2014 Acura MDX Exterior-013 2014 Acura MDX Exterior-014 2014 Acura MDX Exterior-015 2014 Acura MDX Exterior-016 2014 Acura MDX Exterior-017 2014 Acura MDX Exterior-018 2014 Acura MDX Exterior-020 2014 Acura MDX Exterior-021 2014 Acura MDX Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura MDX Exterior-023 2014 Acura MDX Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura MDX Interior-001 2014 Acura MDX Interior-002 2014 Acura MDX Interior-003 2014 Acura MDX Interior, Infotainment, Navigation LCD, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes ` 2014 Acura MDX Interior-006 2014 Acura MDX Interior, Third row seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Acura MDX Interior-008 2014 Acura MDX Interior-009 2014 Acura MDX-016

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Review: 2013 Infiniti JX35 (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/review-2013-infiniti-jx35-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/review-2013-infiniti-jx35-video/#comments Fri, 23 Nov 2012 19:11:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=465635

So you think you need to carry seven people in comfort with decent economy but you don’t want to buy a minivan? Enter the three-row crossover. Thanks to stronger fuel economy regulations there are plenty of three-row CUVs to choose from, but you want something with a better brand name under 55-large, what does that do to the playing field? You’re left with the Lincoln MKT, Acura MDX, Volvo XC90, Buick Enclave and the newcomer in this phone booth sized segment: the 2013 Infiniti JX35. The new soft-roader Infiniti is already off to a good start coming in third in sales to the Enclave and MDX despite sales starting in April of this year. What’s it like to live with for a week and how does it stack up? Click through the jump to find out.

Before we dive into the JX, let’s look at the competition. The Volvo XC90 arguably started this segment in 2003 by jacking an S80 up a few inches and adding a third row. In 2006 Acura followed their lead by adding a third row to the Accord-based MDX. Buick got in on the party with their minivan-like Enclave in 2008 and Lincoln with their seemingly hearse-themed MKT in 2010. What do these CUVs have in common? They all have six cylinder engines under the hood and they are all front wheel drive vehicles with optional all wheel locomotion. Before Audi fans start flaming me, I left the Q7 out due to its SUV-like design, RWD biased Quattro system,  larger price tag, and  decidedly SUV-like 5,600lb curb weight.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Infiniti’s bulbous styling may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is a distinctive island in a sea of me-too crossovers. This new take on Infiniti’s “box fish” style isn’t as striking (or polarizing) as when the M debuted in 2010. On the bright side,  now that the design has aged, general opinion in my informal lunch group was overwhelmingly positive. Something I couldn’t say about the 2010 M. Despite heavy parts sharing with the new Pathfinder, the JX is better distinguished than the former generation QX/Armada was and indeed better differentiated than the Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave. The MKT looks just looks downright peculiar front the front with the new Lincoln grille grafted on and the side profile just reminds me of an old station wagon based hearse from the 1970s. The MDX is quite possibly the best looking Acura available at the moment despite the rather prominent Acura beak on the grille. Meanwhile the XC90 is the only vehicle in this bunch that’s not based on a mass market vehicle or platform. While that does mean there isn’t anything on the road that looks related, the design is only modern when parked by itself. I still have a soft spot for the XC90′s upright grille and sexy Swedish hips, but this is one warhorse that should have been sent to the glue factory 5 years ago.

Interior

The JX35′s cabin is covered in soft-touch plastics, leather and acres of highly polished wood trim, just as you expect from Infiniti. In this segment, if you want an interior that doesn’t share parts with a mass-market brand, you’re again limited to the XC90 as every other design team had access to a corporate parts bin. Keeping this in mind, Nissan/Infiniti’s parts bin is a nicer place to spend time than GM’s button-bank. The new Enclave has a very competitive interior, but some of the parts choices fail to blend while the JX is a sea of harmony. Indeed one might say the Pathfinder borrows Infiniti parts and not the other way around. This top-down parts sharing is good for Pathfinder shoppers, but only time will tell if there is enough differentiation to make Infiniti shoppers happy. The XC90′s interior is still competitive thanks to continual tweaks over the past ten years, but that can’t forgive the lack of even a modest refresh from the Swedes.

As with the Pathfinder, JX seat comfort declines the further right and rearward you go. The front passenger seat lacks the power lumbar adjustment of the driver’s seat. The second row seats are comfortable, but not as padded as the front seats with cushions designed for children or shorter passengers. If third row comfort is critical, go back to looking at that QX56 or Escalade, as with most three-row crossovers the JX’s last row should be reserved for coworkers you hate or your mother-in-law. If you regularly carry passengers and progeny in child seats, the JX shares the sliding middle seat design with the Pathfinder allowing a child seat to stay strapped in while passengers climb into the third row.

Infotainment & Gadgets

The standard 7-inch infotainment screen does everything but navigation. iDevice/USB integration is of course standard as is Bluetooth and a 6-speaker audio system with a single disc CD player and XM radio. Opting for the $4,950 “premium package” gets you Infiniti’s easy to use navigation system with a high-resolution 8-inch touchscreen, a 13-speaker Bose sound system, voice control, and Infiniti’s slick all-around camera system. The system uses four cameras and some trick processing to stitch images together to form an “aerial view” making easy work of tight parking situations.

Should you desire the latest in nannies, Infiniti is happy to oblige with radar cruise control, collision warning and prevention, lane departure warning and prevention and an accelerator pedal that fights back. The accelerator pedal is perhaps the nanny that people find the most fault with, despite crossovers not being “driver’s cars.” The feature can be disabled, but left on it will fight your right foot, forcing the pedal back at you if you’re driving uneconomically, if it thinks you are getting too close to a car, or if it feels like it needs to stop the car NOW. While I dislike the thought of a car that drives for me, honestly at least half the drivers on the road need this pedal stat. Not that I condone distracted driving, but if you feel the need to text and drive, the JX helps you accomplish the feat more safely.

Lincoln’s MKT slots in just behind the Infiniti on the gadget tally thanks to Ford’s bevy of collision avoidance options, inflating seatbelts, and the slow but feature-rich MyLincon Touch system. Meanwhile the Enclave’s new Intellilink touchscreen system is sharp, responsive and has more natural voice commands than SYNC. Better yet, Buick’s system is standard on all Enclave models. The MDX puts on a good fight, but Acura’s tech suffers from old school graphics and a confusing control joystick despite being the only other entry to offer voice commands for your USB/iDevice music player. The XC90 has finally been updated to offer the basic infotainment features you would expect from a luxury vehicle including Bluetooth, USB/iDevice integration and blind spot notification, but that’s where the goodies stop. The XC90 still uses Volvo’s “olde” pop-up navigation system from 1999 and cannot be had with radar cruise control, pedestrian and obstacle detection, and a myriad of other features found in the smaller XC60.

Drivetrain

The JX shares its 3.5L VQ-series V6 with the Pathfinder and everything from the Altima to the Quest. In the JX, the engine puts out 265HP at 6,400RPM and 248lb-ft at 4,400RPM, a mild bump over the Pathfinder but notably lower than the Maxima’s 290HP/261lb-ft tune. Like the Pathfinder, the JX sends power either the front wheels or to all four via a Haldex-style AWD system, but this is where the similarities end. While the Pathfinder uses an all-new heavy-duty continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a chain, the JX35 still uses the second-generation Xtronic CVT shared with the Muran0.

When it comes to towing, transmissions choices are important, but so are chassis and suspension design. In the case of the JX, we can logically infer the lack of the Pathfinder’s heavy-duty CVT is the reason for the reduced 3,500lb towing capacity. Meanwhile the Enclave and MKT will haul 4,500lbs while the XC90 and MDX tie at 5,000lbs. Of course, I seem to be the only one who ever tows with a mid-size SUV so this is probably the least important part of this review. That being said, the XC90 despite being down on power would be my towing partner of choice because it has an available load leveling rear suspension.

Drive

Out on the road the JX35 is as nimble as a tall 4,500lb vehicle can be. While the handling crown in this segment still goes to the MDX, thanks to Acura’s SH-AWD system, the JX can handle winding roads faster than your third row passengers will tolerate. The JX’s steering is moderately quick, fairly firm and as numb as any of the other luxury crossovers. Should you be on your own after the school run, the JX’s well sorted suspension will soak up the ruts should you decide that gravel road shortcut you like.

Front wheel drive JX models suffer from mild torque steer from a stand still but once underway the pulling stops and the JX settles down. Opting for the AWD system quells the torque steer daemon and is a further differentiator from the Pathfinder cousin. The Pathfinder’s AWD system allows the driver to lock the system in FWD mode for better economy, lock the center coupling for better grip, or allow the system to decide when to send power to the rear. Instead the AWD system in the JX always operates in Auto mode, which is just as well since I suspect no luxury SUV or CUV shopper will ever notice the difference.

The biggest difference between the other luxury CUVs and the JX35 is the transmission. The effective ratio spread on the JX35′s transmission isn’t as broad as the 6-speed units used in the competition and seemed to be skewed to the higher end of the ratio spectrum for fuel economy. This is most obvious when you look at the JX35′s relatively slow 3.7-second 0-30 time, but thanks to the infinite ratios the JX catches up to the rest of the pack crossing 60MPH in 7 seconds even. Despite the 0-30 sloth, my  real-world fuel economy tests seem to be kind to CVT equipped vehicles with the JX besting its 20MPG combined EPA score by 7/10ths of an MPG over a week. Meanwhile the other CUVs averaged 1-2MPG below their combined figures for me. So many publications spout their MPG figures as gospel, but as with 0-60 times, observed fuel economy is only as good as the driver, driving style and commute.

The JX represents an interesting move for the brand I like to think of as “the Japanese BMW.” But putting practicality and economy before performance they have created a most un-Infiniti crossover. The combination of a nearly perfect interior, smooth CVT and 32% better fuel economy than Infiniti’s QX SUV make a compelling argument for the JX35. While the Enclave plays to a slightly different demographic, MDX shoppers would do well to put the JX on their short list as it is quite possibly the best three-row luxury crossover in America.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.7 Seconds

0-60: 7 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.4 @ 90 MPH

 Average Fuel Economy: 20.7 MPG over 765 miles

2013 Infiniti JX35, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Infiniti 2013 Infiniti JX35, Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Infiniti 2013 Infiniti JX35, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Infiniti 2013 Infiniti JX35, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Infiniti 2013 Infiniti JX35, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Infiniti 2013 Infiniti JX35, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Infiniti 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, center console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, rear controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, third row seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, gauge cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Navigation and Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, Cargo Area,  Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, Cargo Area,  Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Engine, 3.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Engine, 3.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

 

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Review: 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/review-2013-land-rover-range-rover-evoque-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/review-2013-land-rover-range-rover-evoque-video/#comments Tue, 13 Nov 2012 20:31:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=465637

Land Rover and Jeep are the original go-anywhere brands and the brands most resistant to losing sight of their hard-core mission. Unfortunately this focus can’t shelter them from the need to meet evermore stringent emissions and fuel economy standards. What’s an iconic sub-brand like Range Rover to do? Dress up a small cross over in high-fashion bling for the urban set. This presents today’s question: does the Evoque dilute the off-road brand or is it an extension into uncharted waters?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Once upon a time, SUVs roamed the land with large-displacement engines and locking axles and you only bought a Range Rover if you owned a ranch or wore a crown. Now of course a trendy SUV is a fashion statement which explains why Victoria Beckham was chosen to flog the baby Rover. Of course, this makes total sense for the brand since the majority of Range Rover shoppers in America will never take their SUV off-pavement let-alone off-road. This departure from the full-size Range Rover’s Rubicon requirements meant the boffins could sharpen the Evoque’s edges, lower the stance, raise the belt line and slam the rear roofline. The result is perhaps the most aggressive vehicle Land Rover has crafted, and quite a relief to my eye since the Freelander and LR2′s proportions never looked right to me. Further extending the Evoque’s fashion credentials, Land Rover crafted both a three and five door Evoque, although the exterior dimensions are identical. Completing the Evoque’s reputation as the trendy Roverlet are puddle lamps integrated into the side view mirrors that project an Evoque silhouette on the ground when you approach the vehicle. Think of the Evoque as the “clutch purse” to the Range Rover Sport’s diaper bag.

 

Interior

Normally when you work your way down the model-line food chain you get cheaper interior bits. This is almost a universal law and is part of the reason shoppers will buy a 528i instead of a 335i. It would seem that Land Rover didn’t get the memo when designing the Evoque’s interior however as even the base Pure model we tested had a gorgeous stitched/padded pleather dash. Aside from looking good and attracting caresses from passengers, the Evoque’s touch points are notable better feeling than the more expensive Range Rover Sport. The Evoque also benefits from a fairly exclusive parts bin sharing turn signal stalks with the Range Rover line, steering wheel buttons with the Jaguar XJ and the gear selector with the Jaguar XK.

Range Rovers are known for their extensive (and expensive) options lists, but the Evoque take a different tactic bundling high levels of standard equipment into three different trim levels: Pure, Prestige and Dynamic (the two-door is available only in Pure and Dynamic). The base Pure model gets a standard aluminum roof for 2013 turning the ginormous fixed glass lid into an option (standard on Dynamic and Prestige). Also new on the option list for 2013 is a self-parking option that parallel parks your Baby Rover hands-free.

Seating in the Evoque is suitably plush with front thrones that are supportive and well bolstered for sporty driving. However, the driver’s seat doesn’t have the same range of motion as much of the competition and the foot-well is a bit crowded so if your body deviates much from my 6-foot 190-lb frame you should spend some time behind the wheel before you sign papers. The Evoque’s rear cabin is extremely well-appointed with no corner-cutting plastics of harsh seams to be found. Rear space is limited however by the Evoque’s footprint limiting the rear to two passengers with short legs, possibly three in a pinch.

Infotainment

Nestled in the middle of a sea of supple pleather is the same 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system found in the Jaguar XJ and he 2013 Range Rover. If you’ve experienced Land Rover’s old infotainment interface, forget everything you know about it, this is thankfully a totally different system. While the menu interfaces are still not as polished as BMW’s iDrive or Audi’s MMI, they are far more intuitive and responsive than anything Land Rover has done in the past. The system sports excellent USB/iDevice integration although we noticed it was not cable of charging an iPad. In keeping with the Evoque’s premium image, the base audio system is a 380-watt, 11-speaker Meridian surround system that sounded like it belonged in a much more expensive vehicle.

Options bundling helps keep dealer inventory manageable so logically Land Rover limits the gadget menu to two: the Climate Package and the Luxury Package. The $1,000 Climate Package is the only way to get heated front seats and includes the heated thrones, steering wheel, washer jets and an electrically heated windscreen. The only downside to this package is that the heated windscreen’s embedded wires may annoy some drivers, so check that out in sunlight before you buy. The $4,000 Luxury Package (standard on Dynamic and Prestige) is a must for the gadget hound as it includes navigation, digital music storage, keyless go/entry, HID headlamps, auto high beams, a surround camera system and a 17-speaker 825-watt Meridian sound system. While I would honestly rate the system below the offerings from the other Euro brands, the Evoque does score points in my book for allowing  destination entry while in motion.

Powertrain

If  you’re worried about drivetrain reliability ,peeking under the Evoque’s boxy hood will either allay your fears or give you a lesson in world geography. Nestled sideways in the engine bay is a Ford-sourced 2.0L engine shared with everything from the Ford Taurus to the Volvo S80. (Before Land Rover enthusiasts turn their noses up at a Detroit engine, remember that the old Rover V8 was really a Buick 215.) Starting with an aluminum block, Ford added twin cams with independent variable valve timing, bolted on a Borg Warner (KKK) K03 turbocharger and lathered on the direct-injection sauce to deliver 240HP at 5,500RPM and 250lb-ft of twist from 1,750-4,500RPM. The small engine idles as smoothly as BMW’s 2.0L turbo, and like the German mill it has a vaguely diesel sound to it thanks to the direct injection system. Power is sent to all four wheels via an Aisin 6-speed transmission (Aisin is Toyota/Lexus’s in-house transmission company) and a standard Haldex AWD system from Sweden. The international combination is enough to scoot the Evoque from 0-60 in 7 seconds, about the same time as a Range Rover Sport HSE. My only disappointment is that while Tata had their hands in the Ford/Volvo parts bin they didn’t swipe Volvo’s smooth 325HP inline-6 engine for the Evoque Dynamic model.

Drive

No Range Rover would be complete without a bevy of off-road features. Of course, the Evoque is the on-road off-roader so there’s no height-adjustable air suspension, the differentials don’t lock and there’s no low-speed transfer case. Instead, buyers get a simplified terrain management system with push buttons instead of a knob that tell the traction and stability control system what to expect. Our Facebook readers asked us how the Evoque “handles wet leaves,” the answer is: as well as any other crossover. Since this is essentially the same AWD system that is in the LR2 and the Volvo XC60, the Evoque is similarly capable with the going gets wet/muddy/sandy. I wouldn’t want to try my hand rock-crawling with the Evoque, but it’s not claiming to be rock-capable anyway. Sure the Evoque does offer short overhangs, 8.4-inches of clearance and nearly 20-inches of water fording capacity, but the Volvo XC60 offers more.

In reality the Evoque is designed to traverse the urban jungle and it shows with moderately stiff springs, low profile rubber and impeccable road manners. Of course there’s no denying that Evoque is a front-heavy vehicle and it won’t ever feel as nimble as a BMW X1, but it is surprisingly well-behaved when it meets a corner. The AWD system is tuned to lock the center coupling as often as possible resulting in predictable corner carving wet or dry. The Dynamic trim’s optional lower profile rubber and MagneRide active damping suspension further refine the Evoque’s corner carving skills but they do take a toll on refinement delivering a ride that borders on harsh.

When the road straightens, the reality of a 240HP engine motivating 4,000lbs comes to light. While the Evoque’s 7 second 0-60 time isn’t sloe, the 2.0L turbo equipped X1 dispatched 60 in 6.2 seconds with the 3.0L turbo X1 entering sports sedan territory. The BMW X1 is also more efficient than the Evoque dishing out 22MPG City and 33MPg Highway thanks to the 8-speed transmission and a lighter curb weight.

There aren’t too many luxury crossovers that I would willingly flog on the winding mountain back-roads in Northern California, but the Evoque is a member of this select club that includes the BMW X1 xDrive35i and the Volvo XC60 R-Design with Polestar (I still can’t believe how long these names are). There is just one problem, the Evoque’s brakes aren’t up for the kind of abuse the chassis and engine can dole out, fading noticeably during a session that wouldn’t have made the Volvo or the BMW break a sweat. Even so, the Evoque is fun to drive hard and looks good in the process.

Being stylish isn’t cheap. Just ask the folks at Prada. The cost of the Evoque’s style is an MSRP range from $41,995 to $60,095, a stating price nearly $10,000 higher than the faster and more efficient X1. Even adjusting for feature content the difference is still nearly $8,000. This kind of pricing premium is nothing new to the brand, just price a Range Rover out if you don’t believe me. In a way, this pricing premium (and the resulting exclusivity of the mode) and a dedication to world-class interiors are what make the Evoque as much a Range Rover as the go-anywhere Range Rover. Let me answer the “is it worth it?” question with a question: what kind of shopper are you? Do you shop Prada or Wal-Mart?

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

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.6 Seconds

0-60: 7.0 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.4 Seconds @ 90MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 24.5 MPG over 811 miles

 

2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Exterior, Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Engine, 2.0L Direct Injection Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Engine, 2.0L Direct Injection Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, silhouette Puddle Lamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, silhouette Puddle Lamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Interior, Shifter, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Interior, Dashboard,Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Interior, HVAC, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Interior, HVAC controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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New or Used: Seatown, not Snowtown! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/new-or-used-seatown-not-snowtown/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/new-or-used-seatown-not-snowtown/#comments Tue, 16 Oct 2012 14:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=463780

TTAC Commentator Horseflesh writes:

Hey Sajeev and Steve,

Winter is coming. Like any true Seattle suburbanite, I dread the debut of the white stuff. We’re so scared of snow up here that the local insurance company even aired commercials teasing us about it.

I have to admit, the truth hurts, and I am a big snow-baby, choosing to stay off the roads as much as possible. But sometimes, you have to drive. And here’s the question: I need a hand from the Best & Brightest on selecting a snowy steed, because I just don’t have enough experience to know which of our vehicles is best suited to the job.

Option One: 2010 Mini Cooper Clubman, with manual transmission and Michelin Ice-X snow tires. This car is front wheel drive, obviously, including an automagical “dynamic stability control.” Sometimes the DSC light on the dash comes on under hard cornering, so you can be sure that something is happening… but how helpful is the system behind the dashboard light? I have no idea.

Option Two: 2000 Impreza RS, with manual transmission and all-season tires. This is a normally aspirated sedan, with AWD 50/50 power split and a limited slip rear differential. It has no form of electronic stability control. Surprisingly, the Scooby only weighs about 100 lbs more than the Mini. Lastly, if it makes the difference in the Snow Day Showdown, I’ll put on snow tires.

Option Three: 2003 E350 cargo van, with automatic transmission and all-season tires. Weighing more than the other 2 cars put together, and featuring the refinement of a coal train, I cannot see this being a good choice. Also, it is glacier white. The inevitable wreck would therefore be well-hidden from first responders.

What say the B&B? Does a FWD car with stability control and snow tires beat an AWD car without either? If the AWD car gets snow tires, does that change the outcome? There is likely at least one long, snowy drive ahead of me this winter, so I very much appreciate any input.

Cheers!

Steve answers:

It’s a good thing you’re thinking about it. As a former resident of upstate New York, let me clue you in on a few things.

First off, both the Mini and the Impreza will be perfectly fine in the snow. Although I would favor the Mini due to the snow tires and the electronic stability control. All wheel drive will not save your bacon if you don’t have any traction for the wheels. Snow tires make that difference in real world driving.

Front wheel drive is fine for most regions (which is where by the way?).. Snow tires are even better. Electronic stability control is one more strong plus.

The Impreza would offer a bit more ground clearance if you have to commute in an area where the snowfall is near Buffalo levels and the public services are near Detroit levels. All things being equal, I would stick with the Mini. If you really want to improve your snow driving prowess I would encourage you to strike up a few local conversations and watch some Youtube videos.

Sajeev answers:

Aside from LSX-FTW, tires have the most impact to a car’s performance: various sizes, inflation pressures, tread designs and rubber compounds are in play.  The Econoline might be okay with a ton of ballast in the rear, but it’s the worst choice. The best is the rig with the snow tires.  Plus, it’s front wheel drive!

The MINI is the only choice, total no brainer. Unless you sell it and get a Panther with the aforementioned ton of ballast in the trunk.  I only say this because my first car (1965 Ford Galaxie, automatic, open differential) lived in Palouse most of its life, with snow tires and a couple of sandbags in the trunk for ballast. And if my relatives could tough it out (as if) in a Galaxie for decades, why not treat yourself to a Panther?

I’m just sayin’…who else could make this question all about Panthers???

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Review: 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/review-2012-jeep-patriot-latitude/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/review-2012-jeep-patriot-latitude/#comments Sun, 24 Jun 2012 16:13:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=449171

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think the Jeep Patriot was the Cherokee reincarnated; the last utilitarian Jeep with solid axles, four doors and a real back seat. Instead, this boxy “baby Jeep” is the most unlikely offspring of the Chrysler/Mitsubishi alliance that gave birth the “plastastic” Caliber and the Compass (aka the Lady Jeep). Unlikely how? Because the Patriot is as attractive as the Caliber is ungainly.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

From the outside, the Patriot hit the nail on the head when it was released in 2006 with slab-sides, horizontal tailgate, trapezoidal wheel arches, “Wrangleresque” headlamps and high beltline. While 2011 brought major changes to the hot mess that was the Compass’s exterior, only minor tweaks were applied to the Patriot. Those tweaks followed the “don’t fix it if it ‘aint’ broken” mantra; the only exterior tweaks are revised fascias and some standard equipment like fog lights and an increased ride height on the base 4×4 model. (Models with “Freedom Drive II are unchanged.) The overall form screams Jeep, and that’s just how Jeep shoppers like it.

Interior

As a testament to how awful the interior was on the 2007 Patriot, Chrysler hasn’t refreshed the interior once but twice. In 2010 Chrysler killed the awkward “silver effect” center stack and replaced it with a monochromatic hard plastic dash with round vents. 2011 brought another raft of improvements ditching the old steering wheel and Mercedes-like cruise control stalk for the thick-rimmed corporate steering wheel, better upholstery, revised doors, armrests and switchgear. While plastics are a notch below the Honda CR-V and the new Ford Escape, the Patriot starts $6,500 less than the Japanese competition and $2,500 less than even the Kia Sportage. Given what you find in other $16,000 vehicles, the plastics finally are firmly (and honestly) competitive. However, should you option your Patriot Limited up to the nearly $30,000 ceiling, the plastics may seem out-of-place for the price tag.

The Patriot delivers excellent cargo capacity despite being shorter than the RAV-4 and CR-V. As we have said at TTAC before, pay little attention to the official cargo numbers from each manufacturer – the way they are measured doesn’t always translate to real-world useability. While the Patriot is around 10 cubes behind the RAV-4 and CR-V, the square cargo area makes the space extremely useable for bulky items. With the rear seats folded, the numbers are essentially a tie in my real-world comparison and the Patriot trumps with a folding front passenger seat for schlepping those long IKEA purchases. If your cargo is primarily of the human persuasion, the Patriot’s boxy form provides adequate headroom and for a quartet of 6’5″ Americans which is more than can be said of the competition.

 

Infotainment

With a low starting price and a focus on off-roading, corners had to be cut somewhere and the gadget fund took the hit. The base radio and speakers are adequate for people who need basic entertainment; for others, stepping up to the “Media center 430” gets you a 6.5-inch touch screen and the ability to browse your tunes off USB drives. Fortunately, we had no problem playing iTunes AAC files on the head unit. A further bump up to the 430N model (only available in the Limited) gets you the same head unit with a Garmin designed navigation system on the 6.5-inch screen. Moving up the option list to the more expensive head units does nothing to the stock speakers, so if you are looking for a bit more boom, a 548-watt, 9 speaker Boston Acoustics system is also available. The navigation system is easy to use but lacks voice command for destination entry that Ford’s SYNC offers. Buyers beware that to get the integrated flip-down “tailgate boombox” pushed heavily on Jeep’s web page, one has to opt for the $1,295 “sun and sound” package (which includes a moonroof and those Boston Acoustics speakers).

As before, if you need some Bluetooth/Apple iDevice love, be ready to pony up $475 for the uConnect package to add these items. This is a serious omission when most states in America have a hand-held phone ban in place and the competition is starting to offer Bluetooth as standard on some models. Despite the gadget options being somewhat limited, package costs can add up rapidly with the fully loaded Patriot Limited ringing in at $29,260 (just a whisker away from a Grand Cherokee Laredo) so shop wisely.

Drivetrain

Power numbers remain unchanged at 158HP and 141 lb-ft for the 2-liter and 172HP and 165 lb-ft for the optional 2.4-liter engine. With Jeep’s renovation budget being tight we won’t see the revised “Tigershark” engines with improved NVH characteristics under the Patriot’s hood for a while. While both engines can still be described as “gutless and unrefined”, Jeep improved the CVT tuning and sound isolation making the cabin quieter than before. With 3,346lbs to motivate, acceleration in our tester was leisurely but interestingly faster than the “non Trail Rated” model, scooting to 60 in 8.4 seconds vs 9.0 thanks to the lower gearing provided by the Freedom Drive II package.

Jeep would like shoppers to believe the Patriot is the cheap, fuel-efficient alternative to the rest of the Jeep lineup. However the reality is somewhat different because of the Dodge Caliber based AWD system. Unlike the rest of the Jeep lineup, the Patriot has no transfer case, no low-range gearbox, no locking differentials and no center differential. Like most FWD biased systems, the open front and rear differentials are connected via an electronically controlled wet clutch pack. This means that if all wheels have traction and the system is fully locked, the power is split 50/50 (front/rear). While this operation is essentially the same as the systems on the competition, what Jeep does to make the system “Trail Rated” is drop in a lower final drive ratio, tweak the traction control software and raise the ride height to 9-inches. The drop from a 6.12:1 to 8.1:1 final drive is what allows Freedom Drive II package to advertise a 19:1 “rock crawl” ratio (still considerably lower than the rest of the other Jeeps). This is also the reason fuel economy dives from 21/26MPG  to 20/23MPG. FDII’s tweaked traction control system applies the brakes to the wheels that are spinning without reducing engine power to imitate a limited slip differential. Because this essentially “consumes” engine power (because the braking wheel is turning the energy into heat in the brakes) the wheels that do have traction don’t really get a larger share of the power than if all wheels had traction. This also means that if you are using the feature for a long time, especially in combination with steep down-hill runs, brake overheating becomes a worry.

Drive

On the road, the tall and narrow proportions of the Patriot and tall ride height conspire to make the Patriot less nimble in the corners than most other crossovers. The flip side is a soft ride that is more comfortable than many CUVs with sporty aspirations. We took the Patriot to Hollister Hills SVRA and it acquitted itself on the basic traIls, as well as some very moderate ones without issue. As with most stock SUVs, the limitation isn’t snazzy AWD systems, but ground clearance. While the “brake lock” system proved helpful in off-camber situations (deep diagonal ruts), it demonstrated that plenty of slip is needed before the system intervenes. Also, because the brakes essentially consume their wheel’s share of engine power, it leaves the Patriot feeling somewhat out of breath. Despite these short comings I have no doubt that none of the competition except perhaps the Range Rover Evoque (which uses similar software) would have been able to follow us. While our foray into the mud proved the Patriot isn’t the efficient replacement for your lifted Wrangler, it is a vehicle that can handle life on a farm, ranch, or rural countryside without getting stuck as easily as the competition.

While I have to agree with the “forum fan boys” that the Patriot isn’t a real Jeep despite the trail rated badge, it is probably the most capable CUV on the market. The combination of utility, fuel economy that isn’t abjectly horrible, a low starting price and an interior that no longer makes me want to put my eyes out is finally competitive makes the Patriot a CUV that should be at the top of your list if you live in the country. If you’re a city dweller, the off-road looks and low price of the FWD Patriot is also quite compelling. After spending a week with the Patriot, the only problem I foresee  with the baby Jeep is convincing shoppers to take that second look at the Jeep dealer.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.2 Seconds

0-60: 8.38 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.66 Seconds @ 82.2 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 19.9 MPG over 675 miles

 

 

2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, latitude logo, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, rear, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, wheel, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, front, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, Jeep logo, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, fog light, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, trail rated badge, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, rear, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, tow hook, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, rear, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, rear, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, passanger side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, dashboard, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, steering wheel, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, driver's side, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, steering wheel, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, center console, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, 4WD switch, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, front seats, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, rear seats, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, rear seats, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, cargo area, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, cargo area, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, cargo area, rear seats folded, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, dashboard, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, gauge cluster, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Engine, 2.4L "world engine", Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Engine, 2.4L "world engine", Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Engine, 2.4L "world engine", Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Exterior, Jeep logo, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, cargo area, seats folded, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Latitude, Interior, cargo area, seats folded, Photography by Alex L. Dykes 2012 Jeep Patriot Monroney Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Junkyard Find: 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/junkyard-find-1985-toyota-land-cruiser/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/junkyard-find-1985-toyota-land-cruiser/#comments Thu, 10 May 2012 13:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=443683 The Land Cruiser is one of those vehicles that washes up in self-service junkyards only after its body and interior become so thrashed that even bottom-feeder truck shoppers can’t stand the idea of being seen in the thing. Contrast this with the legions of great-looking 1980s Jaguars you’ll find in the very same yards.
Here in Colorado, FJ60s are still all over the streets, being used as suburban family transportation, work trucks, and (very thirsty) daily drivers. Not quite as luxurious as modern SUVs, but simple and durable. Actually, they were pretty luxurious trucks for their time, but the bouncy suspension, cabin noise, and dearth of cupholders seem very dated today.
This much-abused example didn’t quite make 200,000 miles. The interior didn’t smell so good, which was probably the final straw for its last owner.
The Toyota F engine was pure truck, though supposedly the Toyota Crown Police Interceptor (not what they called it, but they should have) got the F. Lots of torque, lots of noise.
This isn’t a great loss to the world, since most of the FJ60s built are still above ground, but it’s a shame to see one of these sturdy machines get used up like a salvage-title Geo Tracker.

16 - 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1985 Toyota Land Cruiser Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Junkyard Find: 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/junkyard-find-1979-jeep-cherokee-golden-eagle/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/junkyard-find-1979-jeep-cherokee-golden-eagle/#comments Fri, 17 Feb 2012 14:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=431169 Ah, the Malaise Era. By the late 1970s, AMC was on the ropes. The Jeep Cherokee still sold well, however, and the brains in Kenosha decided they’d go for the Acapulco Gold-smoking generation and throw a few square yards of decals on the truck. Golden Eagle!
I had forgotten all about the Golden Eagle, which was a classy trim level for the Cherokee, but the sight of this example in a Denver self-service wrecking yard made me remember how I thought these things were semi-cool as a kid. Going to junkyards in Colorado really gives you a sense of the history of four-wheel-drive vehicles in America; this junkyard has at least four more Malaise Cherokees in stock.
It’s got tape stripes.
It’s got extremely 1970s decals on the doors.
It’s got an AMC 360 under the hood.
It’s got denim seats, complete with jeans-style buttons. Not quite as cool as the Levis Edition Pacer, but still cool.
Most of all, it has a giant angry eagle decal across the hood. It must have been fun to see this thing out the windshield at all times.

25 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 01 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 02 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 03 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 04 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 05 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 06 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 07 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 08 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 09 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 10 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 11 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 12 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 13 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 14 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 15 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 16 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 17 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 18 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 19 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 20 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 21 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 22 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 23 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden 24 - 1979 Jeep Cherokee Golden Eagle Down On The Junkyard - Pictures by Phillip 'Kenosha' Greden Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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New or Used: The Right combination of Stupidity and Bravery http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/new-or-used-the-right-combination-of-stupidity-and-bravery/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/new-or-used-the-right-combination-of-stupidity-and-bravery/#comments Tue, 07 Feb 2012 13:13:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=429657
Marcus writes:
My wife has requested that I get a jeep type vehicle that we can use to do some light off road driving, i.e. she wants to drive on the beach.  I see this as an opportunity to buy a fun 4×4.  I would like to take it off road a bit and try to get it stuck.  My requirements are that it be a 4×4, cost $15000 or less and can support a winch.  It does not need to be a daily driver, and manual is OK, but automatic is slightly preferred.  Finally, I am not looking to buy myself a job as a mechanic.
Steve answers:

“I would like to take it off road a bit and try to get it stuck.”

I’ll tell you what. For $15 you could probably have your wife wedge your head in a roll-up window. Then you could get rid of your masochistic tendencies while she enjoys a nice bottle of wine. When the urge for deep pain leaves you, just roll down the window (the right way) and join her.

So you want to get a little hopper for the beach and the rarely beaten path. It won’t be a daily driver, and chances are it will see only a few thousand miles a year.

I would opt for an older Mitsubishi Montero, Suzuki Grand Vitara, Suzuki Sidekick or Geo/Chevy Tracker.

At most you would be spending $5000. Out here in Atlanta, a reliable version of those vehicles regularly hits the $3000 to $3500 mark. Buy one of those and spend the remainder on some good gear.

Once you find yourself perfectly happy with your arrangement, please send the remainder to a good cause. Me. I promise to put the rest of your money to better use.

Sajeev answers:

Try to get it stuck?  Don’t worry, its easy to get any 4×4 stuck if you have the right combination of heat-of-the-moment stupidity and bravery.

The big problem with 4x4s is their cost. Not to initially purchase, but to outfit as you see fit. Perhaps you should buy a pre-modded Wrangler, thereby letting the previous owner take the depreciation hit on both the vehicle, parts and labor needed to install all these goodies.

Then again, a rig with off-road bits is more likely to need more upkeep, unless you are sure it was owned by an urban cowboy who simply had to look cool and never got a spot of dirt under his knobby tires.  And there’s plenty of that in Texas, let me tell you!

Full sizers might be better for a mixed use rig, but since you just want a toy, look at compact trucks: Chevy/Isuzu S-10, Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Ford Ranger and the obligatory Jeep Wrangler. The SUVs based on these platforms are just peachy too, but we’d forgive you for not wanting a 2000 Ford Explorer or Chevy Blazer no matter how great the deal can be. Odds are you can get a 4×4 pickup for less than the Jeep, and the Chevy and Ford will give the best bang for the buck with cheap parts aplenty if you do, um, get yourself stuck.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.
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New or Used: The CamCord of SUVs? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-the-camcord-of-suvs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-the-camcord-of-suvs/#comments Fri, 23 Dec 2011 14:53:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=422952

 

Josh writes:

I’m currently in the market for a 2005 or 2006 Chevy Tahoe Z71 and was wondering about when would be the best time to buy. Before you question the Tahoe, I’m probably one of the only people who can justify one. I live in Colorado and spend almost every weekend in the mountains hauling people and their gear up 4wd trails and snowy roads to trail heads and sleeping in the back.

I figure that given gas prices going up, this summer would probably see the values drop off. I like to do the opposite of everyone else who will be buying fuel efficient vehicles. But then I read an article by Steve that said the used car market is going to be getting worse. I’ve see prices go down some over the last 6 months (been watching the market), but not by much. So does this summer sound good, should I buy now, or wait for the future?

Steve Answers:

The stock market and the car market have one thing in common.

You can’t time them… unless you happen to be the .001% that have reliable inside information.

However you can look at certain indicators such as ‘days in inventory’, incentives, rebates, and unusually generous financing terms. Automotive News and a number of other automotive sites track these figures like clockwork.

But even with these opportunities, you are still going to be subjected to a sophisticated and long shell game at the dealership when it comes time to buy.

There is ‘some’ truth that the last few days of the month may lend themselves to special bonuses and incentives for a given dealership ‘if’ they hit a certain quota. However this numbers game isn’t always linear because not all sales become a reality.

A new car dealership has to deal with the fact that a lot of deals that are ‘written up’ during the weekend fall through the following Monday due to consumer financing issues. You also have folks who will get buyer’s remorse or simply lie when it comes time to buy their supposed new car. They walk away and all the dealership gets is wasted time and recycled paper.

My advice is not to prognosticate your way through this process. If you’re a ‘keeper’, just buy a leftover 2011 and consider that wise decision a healthy victory.

Sajeev Answers:

Don’t look at me: anyone who lives in Texas better NOT hate on someone for buying a Tahoe! That’s an executable offense!

And while I am no Steve Lang, I pretend to be for parties…or any special occasion.

I believe that summertime is the best time to buy. Wintertime brings lower gas prices (sometimes), snow, slick conditions and extended families arriving for the holidays: which brings families together into something more Tahoe like. And everyone knows a Z71, its a brand cache that’s rather hard to avoid in the flyover states. SUVs in your price range are old enough that buying new will never make sense…even if the used market pretty much sucks for a potential buyer at the retail level.

My only advice? Consider avoiding the Tahoe just like any value conscious sedan buyer avoids CamCords. Tahoes are in fact the CamCord of SUVs. Look at the Ford Expedition, it chronically sells for less. I haven’t seen much on the Jeep Commander, but I suspect it will also trade less than a Z71…and be even better off-road.

More to the point: have you considered going Commando(er)?

 

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com, and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

]]> http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-the-camcord-of-suvs/feed/ 103 Junkyard Find: 1987 Subaru GL Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/junkyard-find-1987-subaru-gl-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/junkyard-find-1987-subaru-gl-wagon/#comments Tue, 13 Dec 2011 14:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=422094 You didn’t start seeing Subarus in large numbers in North America until the third-gen Leone showed up. Even so, most of these quarter-century-old veterans are gone now, even in regions they once dominated (e.g. New England, Colorado). I found this more-80s-than-Wang Chung example in a Denver self-service yard a few weeks back, and I had no choice but to document this soon-to-be-rare piece of Subaru history.
You want concentrated essence of 80s? Right here.
Japanese car designers really lost something when they decided to listen to American focus groups and killed off these Mars Base-style futuristic interiors.
When did fuel injection stop being special?

DOTJ-87SubieWagon-15 DOTJ-87SubieWagon-01 DOTJ-87SubieWagon-02 DOTJ-87SubieWagon-03 DOTJ-87SubieWagon-04 DOTJ-87SubieWagon-05 DOTJ-87SubieWagon-06 DOTJ-87SubieWagon-08 DOTJ-87SubieWagon-09 DOTJ-87SubieWagon-10 DOTJ-87SubieWagon-11 DOTJ-87SubieWagon-12 DOTJ-87SubieWagon-13 DOTJ-87SubieWagon-14 ]]>
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Review: 700 Miles In A GMC Denali 2500 HD 4×4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/review-700-miles-in-a-gmc-denali-2500-hd-4x4/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/review-700-miles-in-a-gmc-denali-2500-hd-4x4/#comments Tue, 04 Oct 2011 18:21:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=413477

The last few years have been a struggle for a lot of folks. Financial meltdowns. Millions of bankruptcies. Massive unemployment. Our ‘global’ economy continues to experience a maelstrom of wealth destruction that seems to make nearly everyone guard their money.

It’s been hell for most…. but guess what? In spite of it all you are among the few who have thrived. In fact you are laughing all the way to your nearest dealership.

So get your something nice! Let’s say the budget is up to $65,000. What would you buy for yourself? Would it be a lightly used Lexus with all the trimmings? A new BMW 5-Series? Maybe one of those VW Touaregs with the diesel engine and all the luxury trappings of a neo-Audi.

In my neck of the woods where the suburbs meets the ex-urbs, this question has only one suitable answer… a truck.

This is what you see when you enter the dealership closest to my home. Trucks. Not just any trucks. But 26 consecutive four-door Chevy and GMC trucks that are ripe for the taking. The GMC Denali HD 2500 4X4 is an upscale supersized Cadillac in a town where the only true upscale vehicles have 4WD and altered suspensions.

Don’t even think about getting an Impala or a Malibu in rural America. Those are parked in the back at the dealership. The way back. The Hardy Boys (even 70 year old men are still boys in the South) want you to buy big and haul ass. That’s why they put the trucks as close to your eyeballs as possible.

“Oh… my… gosh… that’s one big puppy!”

Back at home, my wife was completely in awe of the truck that we magically found on our driveway last Monday. No doubt delivered by Brazilian elves who apparently worked for a press fleet company.

The heavy duty truck Marcello’s elves left us bordered on the gargantuan

To call the GMC Denali HD 2500 4X4 large would be a mild understatement. Think about a truck that dwarfs SUV’s and most everything else on the road. How big are we talking about? I’ll put it to you this way. In downtown Atlanta I saw this seemingly small vehicle scurry right past it. I first thought at first it had been a Beetle or a Civic.

It turned out to be a Hummer.

The truck is larger, longer and heavier than the two cars we drive put together. More than seventy five hundred pounds of big. Even with a regular bed. This Denali HD 2500 along with the Ford F-250 and Dodge Ram 2500 want to make the Lincolns and Cadillacs of the road look as low to the ground as coffins on wheels.

They do it…. because that’s what the buyers want.

So with ‘big’ out of the way let’s go straight to price. The 2011 GMC Sierra Denali HD 2500 4X4 Diesel I tested will also tip the scales with a $62,124 price tag which includes over $15,000 in options. That amount alone would give most customers pause… except for a few notable things.


First off you’ll never have to pay anywhere near that price. But more on that later. Let’s first look at what guides the brow of this behemoth. A 6.6L Duramax diesel engine will offers today’s blue collar executive 397 horsepower and 765 lb. ft. of torque. That is tops for the class on paper, and is all well and good.But on the road it’s incredible.This vehicle can go from 30 mph to 70 mph with a Baruthian thrust. The engineers at GM put the torque right at the low to mid end of the scale which means that if you drive normally, you’ll rarely see it go beyond 2000 rpm’s. When you want power, you’re launched. 0 to 60 time is 7.4 seconds which for a work truck is simply unheard of.

So a plain jane Camry with a V6 is faster you say? You’re missing the point. This truck can also haul 21,700 lbs. with a fifth wheel while comfortably going 80+ mph on the open road. No kidding. No lawyers will even want to dispute that number.

Regular towing will yield 13,000 lbs. and the bed alone can haul over two tons. All of these numbers rate it top in the class. In functional terms you can’t buy the power of this truck at this price range in anything other than a new Corvette or an abandoned Libyan airfield.

If power alone could sell trucks the Denali trimmed HD 2500 would be hard to beat. But you have to look at the whole package. Here is the point where I have to throw in a disclaimer. Most work trucks have interiors that look like they came from cars that were half the price.

The one in this truck is nice… in the same way that an Impala LTZ is nice. You get thick leather seats up front that can be heated or cooled. Wood and aluminum accents throughout the cabin that aren’t ‘super-sized’ just because it’s a truck. A navigation system along with a touch screen that is surrounded with too many small plastic buttons that are of little use Plus you get a dashboard and door panels that look to be directly lifted out of a GMC Yukon Denali.

If you love GM full-sized trucks, you will love the interior of this truck.

On the road the overall set-up is tuned towards comfort and ease of use. The ride is slightly stiff without a load which is to be expected in a work truck. But the steering has a directness and precision that is more like a modern full-sized sedan than a truck. The seats in particular put a smile on my face during long drives through Atlanta and North Georgia. Over 750 miles worth in a week. Even in traffic, the Denali was a wonderful vehicle in most every respect and surprisingly easy to drive. But there are still more than a few opportunities for improvement.

GMC’s nav system is not nearly as intuitive or seamless as the Sync on the 2012 Ford F-250. For example, I was able to locate a nearby hotel and have the number called while driving down the road using the nav system quite easily. Other primary functions are easy as well.

Radio controls are on the steering wheel, the display screen is easy to read, and the trip computer offers quick feedback on the fuel economy, fluid levels and tire pressure.
So the main functions work. But I had to also read through the manual more than once to fully understand a lot of the other buttons and features. The small plastic buttons that surround the nav screen are particularly heinous in their feel and design, and should be shelved.

Another weakness? Although the vehicle is 241 inches long the back seats are also works in progress. The rear space is small compared to competitors and although an unusually upright position may be fine for kids and teens, your adult friends may not be happy if you take them on a road trip.

Finally I wish all automakers, GM included, would focus a bit more on upgrading some of the little things in their trucks once they venture into the higher price ranges. The power features along the door panels (windows, door locks, mirrors) would have been perfectly at home in a leftover Chevy Cobalt. The antenna is a base universal screw on and the intake louvre on the hood looks cheap compared to the rest of the vehicle .The bedliner also should have been upgraded with stronger materials to reflect the higher price.


Are these things dealbreakers? Not at all. But in a $62,000 truck these little things should be tended to as well. Especially since we’re talking about a truck with an asking price that can now get you a decent house in the ex-urbs where I live.

Which brings me to the key question. Is this loaded up work truck worth the ‘real world’ price? That answer has a twist given the time of year we find ourselves in.
As a 2011 changeover this model will go for thousands less than the new F-250. More than likely in the mid-50’s. With that you get a better ride, greater hauling capability, an interior that is better proportioned for most drivers, and a powertrain that is far better noted for durability.

If you are the type who buys new and keeps forever, I would consider it. But (and this is one I can’t help mentioning given what I see at the auctions) work trucks have phenomenal levels of depreciation. Due to the economy a lot of work trucks have been repossessed. It’s one of the few vehicles that is not in short supply in the used car market. As a matter of fact, when I parallel parked this truck in a street at the Atlanta zoo I happened to see…

The market on full-sized diesel work trucks is very soft at the moment, new or used. However October and the first fifteen days of November is an absolute dead zone in the car business. No tax refund checks. No Christmas bonuses. No holidays to encourage whatever conspicuous consumption is left in the marketplace.

With this also being the tail end of model changeover time, you should be able to get this truck for a lot less than $62k+. Think about right around $54,000. At that price it’s worth considering.

 A press fleet company provided me with one full tank of gas, insurance, and one nice conversation for this review. This particular model came with a Power Sunroof ($895), 20” Forged Polished Aluminum Wheels ($850), 6” Tubular Chrome Assist Steps ($689), Front Heated & Cooled Seats ($650), Rear Vision Camera System ($450), and a Heated Steering Wheel ($150).I did run over an opossum during the course of this review. I’m thinking about getting it stuffed and taxidermied so I can use it as my profile picture on Facebook. .

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Piston Slap: The budget is Tight, the Ranger is Right? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/piston-slap-the-budget-is-tight-the-ranger-is-right/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/piston-slap-the-budget-is-tight-the-ranger-is-right/#comments Tue, 13 Sep 2011 08:04:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=410908  

Ryan writes:

I have a friend who just got her PhD and is moving to Texas for her post-doc. She has never owned a car, but now needs to get one so she can go out in the field to do research. I’ve agreed to help her find something used, probably a small manual-transmission pickup truck. Needless to say she’s not a car person at all, just wants something inexpensive (under 5k), that she won’t have to worry about too much. I’m recommending something after 96 or so, to get the R134A A/C and maybe a few more airbags and safety features.

I have owned a couple Nissans (Frontier and Rogue), and a Toyota Tacoma, and my brother owned a Nissan Frontier, all were mostly problem free. I also had a 91 Ford Explorer before that, which also gave me few problems up to 200k miles.

Given my experiences, I’ve been thinking Tacoma or Frontier for my friend, I think they will be more reliable at the high mileages she can afford. But looking in the local (Phoenix, AZ) Craigslist – By Owner section, I see that Tacomas are relatively more expensive, older Frontiers are cheaper but less common (many are also heavily modified), and there seem to be lots of less expensive Ford Rangers available.

Do you agree with the 96 or later idea? Or do you think something older could work? What about the Ranger’s reliability as opposed to the imports? Also, are there any other models with a proven track record she should consider? And finally, given that a 10+ year old truck with over 100k miles is going to need maintenance no matter what, what about parts availability and ease-of-maintenance between the brands?

Sajeev answers:

1996 and newer is definitely the way to go: any modern mechanic can diagnose and repair an OBD-II vehicle, and you do get the benefit of better equipment…usually.  Now there was an all-new Tacoma for 1995, and rumor has it that they received OBD-II like their 1996 brothers somewhere in the middle of the production year. From a Piston Slap standpoint, the Tacoma had the nicest motors and are generally regarded as the best in their class in design and fit and finish.  From a “New or Used” standpoint, they are ridiculously overpriced and the Ranger is good enough.

I’d recommend all three: Ranger, Tacoma and Frontier. In that order. Rangers are stupid cheap, unquestionably reliable (especially the 2.3L and 3.0L models) and there will be plenty of cheap spares for decades to come. The Tacoma is great, except for the asking price.  I never liked the Frontier as much as the other two, especially when the Ranger received all the interior and suspension upgrades from the 2nd Generation Ford Explorer.

But honestly, how far off-road will she travel?  I think the original Ford Escape or Toyota RAV4 with AWD and slightly knobby tires will be more than adequate, and might be a better all-around vehicle for her.

Then again, the original RAV4 wasn’t especially refined in my book…so maybe a truly honest pickup is right on the money. The budget is tight, so the Ranger is right.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Land Rover Defends The Faith http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/land-rover-defends-the-faith/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/land-rover-defends-the-faith/#comments Wed, 31 Aug 2011 15:11:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=409621 Often times concept vehicles portray an already-decided future direction. Other times, concepts are built to suggest one possibility in an ongoing debate about a model’s future. Land Rover has taken the latter approach with its new DC100 concept,  telling Autocar that the Frankfurt-bound concept

builds upon essential elements of the Defender’s character and allows us to open the debate and inspire people to dream about Defenders of the future. The DC100 isn’t a production-ready concept, but the beginning of a four-year journey to design a relevant Defender for the 21st century.

Will the new Defender get an all-new version of its rugged, body-on-frame chassis, or will it move to a re-engineered version of the T5 platform that underpins the Discovery and Range Rover Sport? That’s all still to be decided as Landie navigates a sales and regulatory environment that makes life extremely difficult for old-school SUVs. And because the Defender has lost much of its developing-world market to more reliable Toyota 4x4s, I’d guess the next Defender will be a less-traditional interpretation of the original. While that’s all being hashed out ahead of the 2015 launch date, at least we have an attractive concept to go along with a compelling debate.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Land-Rover-DC-100-2 Land-Rover-DC-100-1 Defender of the faith?

 

 

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: A Panda For Every Purse And Purpose Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-the-all-purpose-panda-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/whats-wrong-with-this-picture-the-all-purpose-panda-edition/#comments Tue, 30 Aug 2011 17:39:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=409273

Meet the new Fiat Panda, which is set to debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show. The ur-Panda, nicknamed the “tolle kiste” (crazy/cool box) for its Giugiaro-designed looks and available Puch-designed 4×4 system, was built with only evolutionary changes from 1980 to 2003. Not a bad accomplishment for what was supposed to be a “peasant’s car.” The new (3rd Gen) Panda, based on the Fiat 500/Ford Ka platform, has an even tougher task ahead of it: not only must it pick up sales for Fiat in Europe, but it must also form the basis of Dodge and Jeep B-segment models, aimed at the US market. Is it up to the task?

Given its immediate predecessor’s reputation for driving delight, a Dodge-branded hot hatch should be within reach. But a Jeep-branded 4×4? Martin Schwoerer reckoned the previous Panda 4×4 could “compete with a Land Rover off-road,” but then European and American versions of “off-road” can be very different. Making a Jeep of this latest Panda could be a challenge, as nobody wants a “Sad Panda” repeat of the first-gen Compass.
fiatpanda1 fiatpanda2 fiatpanda3 Hello Panda! fiatpanda5 fiatpanda6 fiatpanda7 fiatpanda8 fiatpanda9 fiatpanda10 fiatpanda11 fiatpanda12 fiatpanda13 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Review: 2011 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/review-2011-cadillac-escalade-platinum-hybrid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/review-2011-cadillac-escalade-platinum-hybrid/#comments Thu, 14 Jul 2011 16:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=401808
A couple months back, Cadillac gave me a bright red, three-ton, rollin’-on-22s, chrome-drenched, hybrid-electric, $88,140 luxury truck to drive while in Michigan for the Campaign To Prevent Gingervitis 24 Hours of LeMons. Since that time, the effort of attempting to write a meaningful review for this ridiculous-yet-amazing machine has caused my brain to develop a severe rod knock. Who is supposed to buy this thing? I asked myself. What can you do with it?

My problem with SUVs, particularly super-luxurious SUVs, is that I believe trucks are supposed to be trucks, that is, you should be able to load a truck up with 900 pounds of swamp-water-soaked particle board and a burlap sack of hog innards and not cringe in the slightest at the thought of that nasty stuff contaminating your interior. A truck should have a bench seat in front, covered with cheap cloth or vinyl, and even air conditioning smacks of excess gingerbread. If you want luxury— and, of course, I do— then you should be driving a vast, strip-club-owner-grade sedan with its soft springs groaning under the weight of luxury options so arcane that you’ll be years figuring them all out.

Right. So, this is what we in the hack-writer business call a dilemma. Personally, I couldn’t think of any way that this beast would improve my life in any meaningful way, were I to decide to drop 90 grand on one. The only place I enjoyed driving it was around the paddock during the LeMons race, for reasons that will be made clear soon enough. Still, it’s extreme enough that it must be absolutely perfect for the correct users, but who are they? Rappers and the gangster elite would never in hell buy anything with big HYBRID badges all over the place, edge-city suburbanites will shy away in horror from the twice-as-much-as-the-Yukon price tag, and urban high-tech hipsters wouldn’t be caught dead in an SUV.

I finally figured out the perfect Escalade Platinum Hybrid buyers, but we’ll get my much-less-relevant driving impressions out of the way first. The Escalade Platinum Hybrid rides like a lumber truck, no doubt thanks to the blinged-out 22″ wheels and low-profile tires exacerbating the already bumpy ride of a big body-on-frame truck chassis.

Man, but those wheels do look beautiful. It goes without saying that you’re not going to be doing anything approaching serious off-roading in your Escalade Platinum Hybrid, and these wheels ensure that you’ll want to keep pavement beneath you at all times. I took the big Cad for a brief jaunt in the muddy grass of the Gingerman Raceway paddock and the slippy-slidy experience did not inspire confidence. You want to go off-road, get an FJ40 Land Cruiser or IHC Scout, right?

The six-liter Vortec V8 was very quiet; in fact, the noise level inside the cab was library-hushed just about all the time, including when parked next to the front straight at Gingerman with Cherry Bomb-equipped RX-7s blaring past. However, the electric motor made weird, distant whining and howling noises, both under acceleration and under regenerative braking. Several times, I found myself looking around for the emergency vehicles running their sirens.

The computer that runs the control center suffers from a slow CPU, kludgy code, or both. The response time for user input could be as much as several seconds. Using the navigation system made me feel like ramming a cinderblock through the screen. Come on, GM, the future moves fast!

The interior was pretty comfy, but some sort of strange bending of space-time was taking place that made several feet in each dimension disappear when you made the transition from massive exterior to not-so-massive interior. The inside of this truck feels cramped, giving the sense that it has about the same interior space as an early Camry. I suspect that this truck is so quiet inside because the side and roof panels are about a foot thick and filled with spray-in insulation.

But what about the fuel economy, you ask. Is it really possible to get decent mileage out of a 6,120-pound, 332-horsepower vehicle with the aerodynamics of a convenience store?

I drove 301.8 miles, mostly highway but also a fair amount of cruising around the Gingerman facilities as well as jaunts to the night life in bustling South Haven. I made no attempt to keep speeds down to gas-sipping levels, and I did a fair amount of pedal-to-floor acceleration. GM claims 20 city/23 highway mileage.

16.711 gallons, meaning I got just a hair over 18 miles per gallon. Considering that the much more slippery, lighter, and less powerful Mercury Grand Marquis doesn’t do a whole lot better in mixed city/highway driving, that’s very impressive.

So, in summary: If I had 90 grand to spend on a vehicle, this thing would be at or near the bottom of my shopping list (a much more sensible Lamborghini Espada would be at or near the top). I didn’t like much of anything about the Escalade Platinum Hybrid… but then who cares what an SUV-hating curmudgeon like me thinks? Let’s take a look at this truck from the point of view of its optimal purchaser, shall we?

Yes, now I’m working for Popular Warlord Magazine! From the point of view of your suitcases-of-Benjamins-brandishing Third World and/or Former Soviet Republic warlord, the 2011 Escalade Platinum Hybrid is the greatest motor vehicle in history!
Background image source for magazine cover: English Russia

Whether you’re a militia leader in the Horn of Africa, a pharmaceutical entrepreneur in the Bolivian rainforest, or a deal-maker in the Caspian oil fields, you know that the days when a self-respecting warlord could climb behind the wheel of a grimy Toyota Hilux are long past. Today’s more urbane warlord needs presence; yes, your Kalashnikov-brandishing entourage can still follow behind you in their Toyotas, but you need to roll into town in a vehicle that shows you’ve arrived.

We’ll start with the interior, since that’s where you’ll be spending most of your time as your driver takes you to meetings, nightclubs, and so on. Some have said that the Escalade Platinum is a bit cramped inside, but we at Popular Warlord Magazine disagree; once you come to terms with the fact that today’s warlord needs only two or three personal bodyguards traveling with him in the vehicle— yes, the wild days when the warlord himself had to carry an assault rifle on his person are behind us— and that those bodyguards will be armed with pistols instead of RPGs and tripod-mounted machine guns, you can see that this truck has room for you, your muscle, and your 19-year-old Ukrainian-supermodel mistress.

It really won’t do your sophisticated image any good if you have to haul a load of jerry-cans in your travels— your Armani suits shouldn’t be exposed to gasoline— and so the hybrid powertrain of this truck will give you the extended range you need to go from say, Addis Ababa to your secret landing strip in the desert without refueling.

You’ll want the little people to know the caliber of warlord they’re dealing with from the very first glance at your vehicle, and the massive Cadillac emblems will let them know that you’re not to be trifled with.

The four-wheel-drive system and vast torque reserves mean that the Escalade Platinum Hybrid should do just fine on the rough dirt roads in your area of influence; you’ll need to get in the Land Rover or the Hilux in order to leave the road, but for everyday post-Soviet potholes the Escalade performs admirably.

In summary, the staff of Popular Warlord gives the 2011 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Hybrid our highest Warlord Rides rating. For the cost of a couple of fat envelopes of cash, you can equip your compound with several of these fine luxury trucks.

OK, so the warlord (or strongman, if you prefer that term) is the Escalade Platinum Hybrid’s ideal buyer, but there’s another person who can get some good value from this truck: the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court Justice! Yes, in addition to writing for Popular Warlord, I’m also moonlighting at…

LeMons Judge Magazine! Yes, the publication for the discerning corrupt race official. Let’s see how this big red truck fares at LJM, shall we?

Judge Sam and myself rolled into the Campaign To Prevent Gingervitis determined to make a proper judgely impression on the rabble, and the Escalade certainly accomplished that. Why, three different racers told us words to the effect of “I could have bought one of these— I have enough cash in hand, you betcha— but I decided that the Tahoe/Yukon was just a better truck.” Yes, they’re a bunch of pathetic slobs, just trying to impress the LeMons Supreme Court with their alleged fat bankrolls… but still, their naked envy at the sight of this $90K machine was gratifying.

Judge Sam, as my cousin (yes, the LeMons Supreme Court firmly supports nepotism in all its forms) and the son of the legendary Dirty Duck, had an instant appreciation for the inherent pimp-grade superiority of this machine, and I had to agree with him.

We think this truck looks much better with the proper emblem on the grille.

So, this truck scores huge in the “impress the worm-like racers” category, but we ran into a serious flaw right away: the Bose 5.1 surround-sound audio system lacks sufficient boom. Rich Boy’s “Throw Some D’s On It” hardly rattled windows a mere 50 feet away, and Dorrough’s “Ice Cream Paint Job?” Forget it. Even the Fiat 500′s stereo cranked out more decibels. Come on, Cadillac, the LeMons Supreme Court needs bass!

You see, a true Judgemobile does more than just cruise around the paddock cranking inspirational tunes. A proper Judgemobile must project its music at sufficient volume for such audio-centric penalties as the Macho Man and the Joe Arpaio Chain Gang. The Escalade Platinum Hybrid’s sound system was just adequate for the Macho Man, as seen here.

However, one aspect of Judgemobile duty at which this truck excelled was the level of comfort provided by the climate-control system. We expect any GM vehicle to produce frigid and/or scalding air on command, and the Escalade Platinum Hybrid delivered and then some, even when temperatures dropped into the 20s and stinging snow howled through the paddock, borne on 60 MPH winds. Those poor freezing miscreants doing the Macho Man made the LeMons Supreme Court feel that much more comfortable inside the truck.

I would have preferred a slightly more La-Z-Boy-ish driver’s seat, but the comfort level was very good for two judges bloated from free bribe booze and Midwestern meat products.

For the West Virginia Homestead penalty, in which miscreants must put their car up on jackstands, remove the wheels, and eat salty snacks while sitting on lawn furniture, the Escalade provided both a pleasant contrast to the racers’ hoopty-ass wheels and a comfortable place for the LeMons Supreme Court to get out of the cold.

Can you see the envy in this Tahoe driver’s eyes?

Speaking of envy, check out this haul of bribes for the LeMons Supreme Court! We’re forced to admit that the storage capacity in the cargo area was somewhat limited, given the size of the truck. This was due to the not-very-useful folding third-row seats. We recommend that the LeMons Judge Edition™ of the Escalade go with a third-row-delete feature, to make more room for cases of beer.

Of course, the second row of seats serve as bribe-booze storage when you’ve got only two judges in the Judgemobile, so this truck should be able to fit the gifts of even the most generous racers.

The automatic fold-out running boards were handy for climbing up into the truck, but judge robes had a tendency to get caught on them.

What’s the verdict on this Judgemobile from the reviewers here at LeMons Judge Magazine? We’re going to give the Escalade Platinum Hybrid a respectable three-gavel rating; not quite up there with the five-gavel Doorless Wheel-Shedding Amazon and Monster Smokescreen Caprice Wagon, but definitely a proper Judgemobile all the same.

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Junkyard Find: Parade of Doomed Eagles Continues http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/junkyard-find-parade-of-doomed-eagles-continues/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/junkyard-find-parade-of-doomed-eagles-continues/#comments Wed, 11 May 2011 13:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=394557
With the AMC Eagle being such a historically significant car, let’s hope at least a few of them survive the next decade. We saw this brown ’85 Eagle wagon last week, and this black ’84 wagon will join it in a Fujian steel plant soon enough.

If AMC had been able to scrape up more than $1.42 in the Eagle’s styling budget and made the car look less like a jacked-up Concord and more like something that didn’t hurt the eyes quite so much… well, things might have been different. However, you could apply that statement to just about the entire AMC product line by the mid-1970s.

As it was, the hit-by-ugly-stick Eagle was highly competent in the snow and mud and reasonably civilized on the street. The AMC six installed in most Eagles was quite reliable (if you overlooked the maddeningly flaky Carter carburetors), though the GM Iron Duke versions managed to combine blender-full-O-roofing-nails noise with donkey-trudging-through-quicksand slowness.

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