The Truth About Cars » All Wheel Drive http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 03 Sep 2015 17:00:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » All Wheel Drive http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 2015 Nissan Murano SL AWD Review – Suave Ugly Duckling http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-nissan-murano-sl-awd-review-suave-ugly-duckling/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-nissan-murano-sl-awd-review-suave-ugly-duckling/#comments Tue, 25 Aug 2015 22:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1152009 2015 Nissan Murano SL AWD 3.5-liter VQ35DE DOHC V-6, Continuously Variable Timing Control System (260 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 240 lbs-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm) Xtronic continuously variable transmission (2.413:1 – 0.383:1 range, 0.958:1 final drive) 21 city/28 highway/24 combined (EPA Rating, MPG) 22.4 mpg on the Soccer Dad test cycle, 75 percent city (Observed, MPG) Tested Options: SL trim, all-wheel […]

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2015 Nissan Murano (1 of 13)

2015 Nissan Murano SL AWD

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

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

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

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

Tested Options: SL trim, all-wheel drive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 Nissan Murano (2 of 13)

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

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

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

2015 Nissan Murano (3 of 13)

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

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

2015 Nissan Murano (5 of 13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edge

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

(Bold is the greater measure.)

I’m flummoxed.

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

2015 Nissan Murano (7 of 13)

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

2015 Nissan Murano (8 of 13)

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

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

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

2015 Nissan Murano (4 of 13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2016 Mazda CX-3 Review – Nomenclature, Be Damned http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2016-mazda-cx-3-review-nomenclature-be-damned/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2016-mazda-cx-3-review-nomenclature-be-damned/#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2015 19:28:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1141002 2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD (U.S.)/GT AWD (Canada) 2.0-liter SKYACTIV DOHC I-4, direct injection, dual S-VT (146 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 146 lbs-ft of torque @ 2,800 rpm) 6-speed SKYACTIV-Drive automatic w/ Sport mode and paddle shifters 27 city/32 highway/29 combined (EPA Rating, MPG) 30 mpg on the camping-gear-laden test cycle, 80 percent highway […]

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2016 Mazda CX-3 GT (1 of 25)

2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD (U.S.)/GT AWD (Canada)

2.0-liter SKYACTIV DOHC I-4, direct injection, dual S-VT (146 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 146 lbs-ft of torque @ 2,800 rpm)

6-speed SKYACTIV-Drive automatic w/ Sport mode and paddle shifters

27 city/32 highway/29 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

30 mpg on the camping-gear-laden test cycle, 80 percent highway (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: i-ACTIVSENSE Safety Package (U.S.)/Technology Package (Canada), i-ACTIV all-wheel drive (U.S., AWD is standard on GT trim in Canada)

Base Price:
$20,840* (U.S.)/$22,680* (Canada)
As Tested Price:
$29,040* (U.S.)/$32,490* (Canada)

* All prices include $880 destination fee (U.S.) or $1,995 destination fee, PDI and A/C tax (Canada).

For as long as I can remember, my parents always had two vehicles while I was growing up. The first one I can vividly remember was the precursor to GM’s dreaded Cavalier and Cobalt, a 1987 Chevrolet Chevette, with an interior as roomy as any compact you can buy today. The second conveyance in our driveway was a 1992 Suzuki Sidekick, Jay Green in color, and rugged as my father needed for his job traversing Cape Breton Island’s vast spaghetti network of logging roads.

In the early 1990s, the Chevette ended with a bang. As I laid on a bed at my grandmother’s apartment, attempting as much as a young child would to get to sleep (translation: not trying at all), I was startled by tire squealing, a loud bang, silence, then more tire squealing. The Chevette had been dispatched by a freshly licensed 16-year-old driving a Hyundai Pony and fueled by Vitamin O. Write-off total: approximately $500 — for both cars.

The Chevette, now off to the scrapyard, was replaced by a Pontiac Firefly five-door, known for its economical three-cylinder engine outputting double-digit horsepower whilst solidly achieving double-digit miles per gallon halfway to the centripulcate. As a daily runabout, it was solid, economical, and — with its wagon-esque virtues — incredibly versatile.

Back then, my parents were about the same age I am now. They were the last of the Baby Boomers and in the 1990s faced what many Millennials face today. My parents were done with school and working on budding careers and a growing family inside their newly acquired home. There are some key differences between them and me however: I have one extra dog (for a total of two), lack children and I don’t own a home.

It’s in this context that my girlfriend and I headed out on one of my family’s favorite pastimes from when I was a child — a weekend camping trip — in the millennial-focused 2016 Mazda CX-3.

Before we get to the driving, let’s talk about what actually is a CX-3 because the nomenclature is, I think, incredibly confusing to consumers. Also, I think it’s one of the reasons why Mazda is having a hard time making inroads in the U.S. market despite fostering some of the best products in the industry.

The CX-3 is a Mazda2 in drag and not a jacked up Mazda3. A jacked up Mazda3 is called a CX-5, which is kind of related to the Mazda5 so few people bought in the U.S. that Mazda killed it off. The Mazda6 is built on its own G platform derivative, dubbed GJ, and is fairly unrelated to everything else. The CX-9 is a Ford.

With that out of the way …

2016 Mazda CX-3 GT (2 of 25)

Exterior
Shapely lines and a flowing beltline make the CX-3 one of the most stylish options in the sub-compact car segment. I say this because whenever we stopped along our journey to and from the campsite, there was always at least one person — if not multiple — checking out the car. And I mean really staring at it. The CX-3 turns heads without voyeurs wearing a horrified but quizzical “what the hell is that thing?” facial expression usually reserved for the Aztek and Nissan Juke.

2016 Mazda CX-3 GT (19 of 25)

Up front, the CX-3 wears the same updated design language as the refreshed Mazda6 and CX-5, which is a slightly angrier yet more refined version of Mazda’s KODO design DNA. The large grille has presence, even if it’s slightly ruined by its license plate soul patch. The chrome grille surrounding meets elegantly with the squinting headlights much like its brethren, and thank you Mazda for making use of LED technology without turning your headlamps into Audi knock-offs.

At its side, the CX-3 welcomes you with the aforementioned high, flowing beltline and lots of dark plastic cladding to support its rough-and-tumble marketing message. At this trim, there’s even a nice chrome runner to give the CX-3 a more upmarket appearance. All in all, the plastic and chrome say, “Yes, I can do some light off-roading … ” while its pregnant-mouse grown clearance qualify the statement with, ” … but I’d rather not today.” Wheels on this Grand Touring model measure in at 18 inches and fill the wheel wells gracefully. Base model CX-3s come fitted with 16-inch shoes that are much more restrained in their design but are a bit more sophisticated and less trendy.

Much like the Mazda3, there is more metal than glass at the rear of the CX-3. Thankfully, the car comes with a standard backup camera to compensate for the lack of rearward visibility.

As a package, the CX-3 is the sharpest of numbers in an increasingly crowded, increasingly competitive segment.

2016 Mazda CX-3 GT (7 of 25)

Interior
2016 Mazda CX-3 GT (4 of 25)At first, the CX-3’s interior looks like standard Mazda fare, which is good. However, you will notice one omission when you try to use the stereo … that doesn’t exist; instead of a head unit, you are presented a CD slot on the dash (why did they even bother?) along with knobs in the center console for audio operation through Mazda’s infotainment system (more on that later). The only physical tracking buttons are on the steering wheel. There are no controls on the dash at all save the CD slot’s eject button. The arrangement is definitely something you’ll need to get used to; I found myself reaching toward the dash all week long to either change a track to adjust the volume, only to realize I’m an idiot again and again before performing the task at hand through the steering wheel controls or center console knobs.

Other gripes: there is no center console cubby or armrest — console- or seat-mounted — in the CX-3. On long drives, that’s irritating when wanting to steer from the bottom of the wheel, but space is a premium in a millennial mobile.

On the other end of the spectrum, the seats are some of the nicest I’ve seen, touched and sat in in any car less than $30,000. They are beautiful to look at, hug well, and despite there firmness are still comfortable for weekend-long journeying.

2016 Mazda CX-3 GT (11 of 25)

Infotainment
Just like the Mazda3, the iPad-on-dash display is present in the CX-3. Love it or hate it, it’s there — and it’s standard equipment. The 7-inch Mazda Connect display is clear and crisp to the eye and still manages to arrange information and functions in a way that’s logically sound when driving. However, the way the HMI Commander Switch interacts with the screen sometimes feels backwards. You navigate options usually by turning the knob, and when you do the highlighted option is sometimes the opposite of what you meant to pick. Maybe this is my issue.

2016 Mazda CX-3 GT (12 of 25)While you may decry my lack of audio-specific impressions on new cars, the fact is I am fairly tone deaf, so my impressions won’t matter. The stereo sounded clear to me. Your musical mileage may vary.

The navigation, on the other hand, is something I feel fully qualified to, well, qualify. It’s dead simple to use and the visual presentation is excellent. Digging into the menus can be slightly confusing, but once you do it once or twice you’re good to go.

Yet, I still don’t understand Mazda’s aversion to letting someone use the touchscreen in motion. Yes, I understand the safety argument, but what about passengers? Why should they be locked out of using the touchscreen functionality? Also, if you are in motion 99 percent of the time you’re in the car, why even bother with having a touchscreen at all? Either unlock the screen and let me use it or get rid of it altogether. Please.

2016 Mazda CX-3 GT (3 of 25)

Powertrain
Here’s another item that further confuses consumers into thinking the CX-3 is based on the Mazda3. Underhood is the same exact SKYACTIV-G 2-liter engine as its sedan and hatchback stablemates. Yet, unlike the Mazda3, the CX-3 is not available with the optional 2.5-liter SKYACTIV mill.

The 146 horsepower and 146 pounds-feet of torque doesn’t make the CX-3 slow by any stretch, and down low the 2-liter is great for the stoplight drag race. On the highway, the SKYACTIV four does show its one flaw, though, and that’s its lack of passing power. When you are traveling on two-lane secondary roads and need to pass an RV piloted by 78-year-old tourists from Connecticut, you really need to pick your moment. Compounding the pain: The issue could be remedied with a manual gearbox, which isn’t an option in North America. Instead, we are saddled with a six-speed automatic as the only transmission offered, unlike other parts of the world.

Now, there’s nothing especially wrong with that six-speed auto. Actually, for an automatic, it’s quite good. Shifts are smooth, as is getting away from a stop. Shifting with the paddles is (gasp!) fun! Sport mode, which holds back shifts just a tad bit longer, won’t get you going any quicker at full trot. However, it isn’t as aggressive as some other sport transmission tuning I’ve experienced in the past, and it actually makes the experience more than bearable.

On our mostly highway-limited trip, the Mazda CX-3 clocked in just above its combined EPA rating of 29 mpg.

Drive
Let’s quickly get a few things out of the way so we can talk about what’s truly important about the CX-3.

  • The ride is good, though has typical Mazda firmness built in for that “sporty” feeling.
  • The seating position is great, a good mix of slightly raised without feeling you’re driving a truck or more conventional SUV.
  • Overall, it’s a great car.

Yet, as a non-car loving consumer, you might think the CX-3 is a jacked up Mazda3, and I am sure Mazda is banking on it.

“Why would I spend $18,945 on a Mazda3 when I can spend $1,000 more and get a crossover based on the same car?” those millennials might ponder to themselves.

Meanwhile, buyers are unknowingly spending $4,000-5,000 over that mythical Mazda2 that doesn’t exist in the U.S. market, taking their new CX-3 home assuming it has the same interior space as the Mazda3, then wondering why Rover keeps hitting his cone-shaped golden retriever head repeatedly on the dome light. It’s at this point the Mazda CX-3 buyer realizes they’ve been had and it’s too damn late.

It’s a good thing we decided to leave the dogs at home.

Let me be crystal clear here: The CX-3 costs more than the Mazda3, and for that extra $1,000 you get 1) less utility, 2) less choice (no manual), and 3) optional all-wheel drive that isn’t meant for off-roading.

My parents, those millennials of yesteryear, had it right. Two vehicles served as solutions to two different problems. The Firefly was a stellar little runabout. The Sidekick was great for my dad’s work and also provided a spacious enough interior to go camping with three meatbags and an additional furry meatbag. The CX-3 tries to solve both while being completely successful at neither.

Fortunately it isn’t a matter of the car itself being bad and Mazda can fix it all by just calling it what it is. Rename the CX-3 the CX-2 or Mazda2 CrossVenza or whatever. But CX-3? Truth in advertising — or in nomenclature — this Mazda is not.

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2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Premium Review (with Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-subaru-legacy-2-5i-premium-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-subaru-legacy-2-5i-premium-video/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 12:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=767697 Subaru’s Legacy is unique in the midsize sedan segment, not just because it is the only entry with standard all-wheel drive, but also because it also comes with a standard continuously variable transmission and the $21,745 price tag is just $405 higher than the least expensive entry, the Passat. The value of that standard CVT and AWD system […]

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IMG_0611

Subaru’s Legacy is unique in the midsize sedan segment, not just because it is the only entry with standard all-wheel drive, but also because it also comes with a standard continuously variable transmission and the $21,745 price tag is just $405 higher than the least expensive entry, the Passat. The value of that standard CVT and AWD system is around $2,600-$3,000 effectively making the Subaru a much better value than the base Volkswagen that is front-wheel drive with a manual. This value proposition is the key to understanding Subaru in general and the Legacy in particular.



By making AWD a core Subaru value, and therefore standard on almost every model, certain costs are unavoidable. How then (or why?) does Subaru give you $3,000 more drivetrain for almost the same base price? Excellent question. The reason is simple: the average shopper has troubles with the concept of value. To be competitive Subaru has to keep their pricing in line with the FWD competition. It’s easier to say “my car has AWD for the same price” than “I know it’s $3,000 more, but we give you AWD and they don’t.”

To keep the MSRP competitive on billboards and pop-up ads, Subaru makes up the difference elsewhere. Building any car in the mainstream segment involves what I jokingly refer to as “cutting corners.” Cash can be saved by strategically placed hard plastics, by skipping a little trim in the trunk, making features optional or streamlining common parts. The trick in this segment is knowing what “corners to cut” and those to leave alone. This is a game that Subaru has been quickly learning. Standard AWD and pricing aside, there’s more about the Legacy that marches to a different drummer.

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Drivetrain
For the uninitiated, almost every modern engine is either an in-line design where the cylinders are lined up in a row, or a “V” engine design where two banks of cylinders interact with a crankshaft at an angle that is either 60 or 90 degrees. Except Porsche and Subaru. Mainly as a nod to nostalgia and uniqueness, these two brands have a dedication to the horizontally opposed, boxer engine. In a boxer design, cylinders are 180 degrees apart in two banks. Four-cylinder boxers are approximately half as long as an inline-four, but considerably wider. Although the boxer design is better balanced than an I-4, the prime benefit to this design has more to do with  the short overall length. The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer is good for 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque while the optional 3.6-liter 6-cylinder boxer bumps that to 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft. The 2.5-liter engine is right in line with the competition but the 3.6-liter lags behind most of the V6 and turbo-four options from the competition. For 2015, both engines are mated to a CVT, although the 2.5 and 3.6 use slightly different transmission internals.

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Subaru’s AWD system has more in common with Audi’s traditional Quattro system than the optional AWD systems you find in the Ford Fusion and Chrysler 200. That’s because the Legacy is the only car in this segment with a longitudinally mounted engine, a mounting choice normally associated with rear-wheel drive vehicles. Like Quattro, Subaru integrates the AWD system and the front differential into the same case as the transmission meaning that the engine and torque converter are entirely in front of the front axle. So, although this layout resembles a RWD layout in a BMW, the weight balance hovers around 60/40 front-to-rear. Subaru likes to advertize the Legacy’s low center of gravity when it comes to handling, but in my opinion the front-heavy weight distribution has more of an impact on the handling than anything else. On the flip side, the overall dimensions of the drivetrain allow the front wheels more room to turn enabling a tighter turning circle than most midsized sedans.

Previous Legacy generations used different AWD systems depending on the transmission and engine choice but 2015 standardizes on Subaru’s latest multi-plate clutch design. Like other systems in the segment the system can lock the clutch pack to send power 50/50 front/rear with no slip and it can direct up to 90 percent of the power to the rear if slip occurs up front. What’s different is the “beefiness” of the clutch pack, this system is designed to send 40 percent of the power to the rear most of the time, while Chrysler’s 200 disconnects the rear axle as often as possible to save fuel and the Ford system defaults to a near 100/0 power split unless slip occurs.

Oil Consumption
Subaru’s new 2.5-liter engine has been the focus of conspiracy theories about oil consumption. Over my nearly 800 miles of driving, the oil level on the dipstick didn’t budge, but I don’t doubt consumption can be higher than some engine designs. First off, the new 2.5-liter engine uses low friction rings and very low viscosity (0W-20) oil. These two design choices invariably lead to higher efficiency and — you guessed it — higher oil consumption. All things being equal, if you add thinner oil and lower friction rings to any engine design, higher oil consumption is a likely byproduct. In addition, the very nature of a horizontally opposed engine may be a causal factor as well. However you feel about the Legacy’s appetite for dinosaur juice, the resulting fuel economy is undeniably high at a combined 30 mpg in the EPA cycle and a very respectable 28.8 mpg in our actual driving sample. Despite being four-wheel-driven, the Legacy is just 1-2 mpg lower than the thriftiest entries in this segment.

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Exterior
Form ultimately must follow function. Even though the Legacy uses longitudinally mounted engines and transmissions, the exterior still sports a long front overhang (like Audis) because of the engine’s location. Thanks to the “squatter” engine design, the hood slopes gently toward the front improving forward visibility. If you notice something un-Subaru in the side profile, you’re probably noticing that this Legacy ditches the frameless window design long associated with Subaru for a more traditional design. The change has a positive impact on wind noise in the cabin.

Borrowing a page from the Fusion’s design book, Subaru decided to give this Legacy a sportier profile with a roofline that starts plunging just after the B-pillar and extends behind the rear wheel. Like the Fusion and 200, which use similar design cues, this style has a direct impact on rear seat headroom. Overall this generation Legacy is far more mainstream than my neighbor’s Legacy GT with the hood scoop and rear wing.

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The rear bumper is a perfect place to see one of the trade-offs for the standard drivetrain. Many vehicles that have single and dual exhaust options use two different bumper moldings but Subaru saves some cash by just using one and inserting a blank in the four-cylinder model. In my mind this is the kind of trade-off that’s worth making for two reasons. The blank is well done (as you can see above) and should you for some reason want to have an exhaust shop upgrade you to a dual exhaust tip look, it’s easier than a bumper swap. In addition Subaru saves a little cash by giving base models steel wheels instead of the alloys found on most base midsize sedans.

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Interior
The same kind of trade-offs can be seen inside the Legacy’s cabin. Base and Premium models lack rear seat air vents, automatic climate control and you’ll find a hair more hard plastic in the cabin than in some of the newer competitors. That said, this Legacy is a definite improvement in terms of interior refinement compared to the last model.

I found front seat comfort to be slightly below average in the base model with the 6-way manual seat, and above average in the 10-way power seat found in Premium and Limited trims. You will find more comfortable seats in the Accord and Altima, but these seats are on par with the Fusion. Another area where costs were recouped is the front passenger seat which is 4-way adjustable only and notably less comfortable than the right seat in top-end trims as a result.

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Because of the roofline’s plunge toward the trunk, headroom is just about as limited as the Ford Fusion and Chrysler 200. (In other words, if you want AWD, be prepared for a height-restricted back seat.) At 6-feet tall, I had to slouch slightly in the rear to keep my head from touching the ceiling. This profile seems to be a trend in this segment and fewer and fewer midsized sedans have the headroom for six-foot-plus folks in the rear, the Accord and Passat are notable exceptions.

At 15 cubic feet the Legacy’s trunk is a hair smaller than the Camry, Passat, Accord, 200 and Fusion. However, Subaru uses a hinge design that doesn’t consume any trunk space meaning the slightly smaller hold is actually more practical. The Altima still takes top honors in this segment for swallowing multiple 24-inch carry-on sized roller bags in the vertical position.

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Infotainment
The Legacy debuts Subaru’s all-new StarLink infotainment software running on either a 6.1-inch or 7-inch LCD depending on the trim level. The new software brings expanded voice commands, finger gestures, climate control integration, improved USB/iDevice integration and optional navigation. The entire interface is snappier and more refined than Subaru’s previous software, although it still lacks direct voice control over your connected media library a la Ford’s SYNC or Toyota’s Entune. The optional StarLink app for your Android or iOS phone enables streaming audio and unlike some of the competitive apps, it doesn’t make you register and create an account in order to work.

One of the more interesting features of StarLink is unfortunately not supported in the United States: MirrorLink. you can think of MirrorLink as the more open alternative and precursor to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Sadly MirrorLink looks to be something consigned to the dustbin, but hopefully this means Subaru will support the other two standards at some point soon. (Note: Although Subaru does not support it in the USA, Subaru owners tell me it does work with a limited number of Android devices.)

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Drive
The Subaru AWD system has a distinct impact on the Legacy’s road manners. Because the system sends 40 percent of the power to the rear without wheel slip, the Legacy is easily the most surefooted and confident on slippery surfaces. [Edit: Shoppers should know that when the temperature drops below approximately 40 degrees fahrenheit winter tires are recommended for optimum traction. AWD does not improve braking or neutral handling but appropriate winter tires will. A FWD car with winter tires will our brake, out handle and likely out accelerate a comparable AWD car with all-season tires in the snow.]

The boxer engine may drop the center of gravity, but it also makes the Legacy just as front-heavy as a V-6 Accord. Like that Accord and every other V-6 front wheel drive sedan, the Legacy feels heavy and reluctant to turn in neutral handling (power-off) situations. Apply power in the corner, and the Legacy feels more neutral and predictable as the car shuttles power to the rear wheels, but the Subaru AWD system does not torque vector in the rear so it’s never going to rotate like a RWD car or an Acura with SH-AWD. The previous generation Legacy 3.6R used a mechanical center differential to give it a slight rear bias, but that has been removed for 2015 in the name of fuel economy.

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Speaking of fuel economy, the Leagcy’s numbers are unexpectedly high. Over the course of a week, I averaged 28.8 mpg in mixed driving with plenty of hill climbing as my commute involves a 2,200-ft mountain pass. Looking back on the recent sedans I’ve tested, the Legacy beat the four-cylinder Camry, tied with the 1.5-liter Fusion, was 1-2 mpg lower than the Passat 1.8T, Altima 2.5 and 4 mpg lower than the Accord with a CVT.

The high fuel economy comes at a slight cost. Subaru’s CVT has a ratio spread of 5.8 (that represents the spread of ratios from low to high, the higher the number the bigger the difference between high and low) which is narrower than most of the other transmissions in this segment. This means that when picking a final drive ratio Subaru had to chose between low end acceleration and fuel economy and they chose the latter. The resulting 14:1 starting ratio is notably higher than the 17.6:1 ratio we find in the four-cylinder Chrysler 200 and explains the Legacy 2.5’s leisurly 8.3 second 0-60 time. Some folks have incorrectly assumed the 2.5-liter boxer is “guttless” at low RPMs, but it really has more to do with this ratio and the torque converter design, as evidenced by the 3.5 second 0-30 time (longer than a Prius). Opting for the 3.6-liter engine certainly adds some scoot, but the big boxer is notably less powerful than the V-6 engines in the competition. Couple that with a tweaked CVT and an even higher starting ratio of 12.8:1 and 3.6R Limited is decidedly sluggish compared to the Fusion’s 2-liter turbo and especially the Chrysler 3.6-liter V-6.

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Subaru’s revised suspension in this generation of Legacy has improved the road manners. While not as soft as the Altima, the Legacy proved to be a smooth highway companion and never seemed upset over broken pavement. This year’s cabin is notably quieter than before in both wind and road noise. This softer side of Subaru translates to plenty of body roll and tip and dive when you’re out on your favorite mountain road, but the Legacy is still firmer than the Altima. The steering rack isn’t as responsive or direct as the Mazda6, Fusion or Accord Sport, opting instead for a middle-of-the-road feel. Subaru has tweaked the suspension further for 2016, but I did not get a chance to sample the change. Although the Mazda6 is not one of the faster options in this segment, it is still the most fun out on a winding road.

In terms of AWD competition, for the 2.5-liter model there simply isn’t any. Ford’s requires you to select the SE or above trims and the 2-liter turbo engine in order to add four-wheel motivation to the Fusion. As a result, the least expensive model is $27,810. Not only is that $6,000 more than a base Subie, the EPA says it’ll cost you $300 a year more to run. Chrysler only bundles AWD with their 3.6-liter V-6, which drops fuel economy to 22 mpg in combined driving and bumps the price tag to $29,562, which is $8,000 more than the base Subaru. On the filp side, the 200 AWD will hit 60 in under 6 seconds, more than a full second faster than the Legacy 3.6R.

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Thanks to high fuel economy and a well chosen feature set, the Legacy 2.5 is a solid alternative to the FWD competition with only few caveats. The 3.6R is another matter. The top end Legacy will set you back 30-large and adding push-button start and navigation bumps this up to around $34,000. For that price, the Chrysler adds real wood trim, ventilated seats, better handling, better performance, heated steering wheel, more comfortable seats, auto high-beams, autonomous parking and a partial LCD instrument cluster.

Taken out of context, the Legacy could seem less than competitive. If you’re looking for the best rear seat accommodations, the highest fuel economy, the best performance or the most luxury features, your future lies elsewhere. But it’ll cost you more and it won’t have AWD. The interesting twist is that even if AWD isn’t terribly important to you, there is little penalty at the pump and almost no price premium at purchase. That means that whether you’re above the snow-belt or not, if you’re looking for one of the best buys in the CamCord segment, drop by your Subaru dealer. If you want the “best AWD family hauler” however, that’s at the 200C AWD from Detroit.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.5

0-60: 8.3

1/4 Mile: 16.2 Seconds @ 87 MPH

Average Economy: 28.8 MPG

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

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2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (2 of 13)

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

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

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

And I couldn’t care less.


The Tester

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD SXT w/ Rallye Pack

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (3 of 13)

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

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (7 of 13)

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

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (10 of 13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (11 of 13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

2015 Dodge Charger V6 AWD Rallye (4 of 13)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know I will.

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2016 Acura RDX AWD Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2016-acura-rdx-awd-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2016-acura-rdx-awd-review-video/#comments Tue, 30 Jun 2015 13:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1098569 Acura has been a brand of highs and lows for a while. The MDX has been a perennial best-seller while their large sedans have largely sat unsold. The RDX, meanwhile, has had an interesting history. Acura’s first attempt at a 2-row crossover was ahead of its time with a 2.3L turbocharged engine producing 240 horsepower […]

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2016 Acura RDX Exterior-005

Acura has been a brand of highs and lows for a while. The MDX has been a perennial best-seller while their large sedans have largely sat unsold. The RDX, meanwhile, has had an interesting history.

Acura’s first attempt at a 2-row crossover was ahead of its time with a 2.3L turbocharged engine producing 240 horsepower and Acura’s Super Handling AWD system capable of sending 90 percent of engine power to the rear. The ride was criticized by Motor Trend as “harsh” and folks complained about turbo lag from the segment’s only four-cylinder turbo engine.

As the segment grew, most entries used naturally aspirated 6-cylinder engines and RDX sales failed to achieve orbit. All indications were that Acura’s compact crossover was destined to be a low-volume niche player in one of the fastest growing segments. Then Acura did something unexpected.

By the 2013 model year, small displacement turbo engines had become a staple in the segment but Acura chose to buck the trend by replacing their 2.3L turbo with a 3.5L V6 during the redesign. The engine swap wasn’t the only thing that surprised Acura fans. Engineers stretched the RDX in every direction, softened the suspension, jacked up the ride height two inches, dialed down the “sport”, removed the SH-AWD system and fitted electric power steering. Proving that the compact luxury crossover shopper isn’t looking for TL Type-S on stilts, RDX sales more than doubled and remain on an upward trajectory, outselling its former BMW nemesis and besting every luxury 2-row crossover save the Lexus RX and Cadillac SRX.

2016 Acura RDX Exterior-004

Exterior
Being a refresh and not a redesign, changes to the exterior are evolutionary. 2016 brings Acura’s signature full-LED headlamps and turn signals which sport three LED projector arrays and two LED reflector arrays for the high beams. (There has been some confusion about the high beams being halogen or LED lamps. The high and low beams are both full-LED but they use different optical systems to focus the light.) In addition to the new beams, there are more creases, a restyled “beak” and some extra chrome. Out back, new LED taillamps join the party with a restyled bumper cover to make the RDX look a little more like the MDX and ILX.

Before we go further, we ought to talk about how this crossover segment boils down. In practical terms, there are three different size classes of luxury 2-row crossover. At the top end we have the Cadillac SRX, Lincoln MKX and Lexus RX, which are all 186-200 inches long. Next we have the semi-segment where the RDX plays with the likes of the GLK, MKC, Q5, NX 200t, XC60 and X3. At the small end of the scale lie the Evoque, Q3, GLA and X1. You can consider the RDX a “tweener” in some ways since it’s at the large end of the middle segment but still 6-inches shorter than a Cadillac SRX.

2016 Acura RDX Interior-003

Interior
Like many companies, Acura limits the interior color options depending on the exterior color you select. Unlike most other companies, however, the choices are more limited. In base RDX models, all colors except “Slate Silver” are tied to a single interior color. Stepping up to the $38,970 RDX with Technology Package allows one more exterior color and adds an additional interior color choice for the black and dark grey exterior. That’s a far cry from the level of customization you get in the competition, especially the Evoque, MKC and X3.

Spanning from $35,270 to $43,420, the RDX is one of the least expensive vehicles in this segment. As a result, it should not surprise you that you have to step up to the $38,940 model to get leather seats and the 8-way power adjustable passenger seat. As with the rest of the Acura lineup in the USA, real wood trim is unavailable at any price, although we now get standard rear climate vents.

Although the RDX is about the same size as the X3 on the outside, you’ll find four-inches more combined legroom in the Acura, split fairly evenly front and rear, making it easier for drivers with long legs to find an ideal driving position. Unfortunately, some taller drivers will notice the RDX has a little less front headroom than the X3. The trade-off for the roomier digs can be found behind the second row where cargo capacity comes in at 26.1 cubic feet, one cube below the X3, 20% smaller than the XC60 and 45% smaller than the cargo hold in the Lexus RX.

2016 Acura RDX Interior-005

Infotainment
Base and “AcuraWatch” models get a 7-speaker sound system with a 5-inch color LCD set high in the dashboard. USB, iDevice and Bluetooth integration are all standard, as is Sirius/XM and Pandora Radio (a smartphone is required for Pandora). Because the RDX uses the same basic dash parts for all models, the small LCD looks a little lost in the dash.

Adding the Technology Package brings the biggest change to the RDX’s interior for 2016: the AcuraLink 2-screen infotainment system. Here’s how Acura has described the split screen rationale: the 8-inch display set high in the dash is used for navigation, leaving the 7-inch touchscreen below to handle climate and audio functions. However, in reality you end up using both screens and their interaction takes some getting used to. While it’s true that you can switch between audio sources with the lower screen while simultaneously watching the navigation map on the upper screen, if you want to browse a playlist, that’s done solely with the upper screen. Entering an address for navigation can be done using either screen with the control wheel/joystick or an on-screen keyboard on the 7-inch screen. The overall design is not as well-integrated as the Infiniti InTouch system in the Q50, but it has grown on me since I first encountered it and the extensive voice command system is one of the best in the segment.

Drivetrain
Instead of starting with a 2.0L turbo engine like most of this segment’s entries, all RDX models use the same engine. 2016 brings a light revision to Acura’s 3.5L naturally aspirated V6, bumping power to 279 horsepower and torque to 252 lb-ft. Acura tweaked the segment’s only cylinder deactivation system to be more aggressive, switching to three-cylinder mode often to improve highway fuel economy. Sadly, the 2016 revision did not bring the direct-injection system found in the TLX, RLX and MDX.

Early indications were that the RDX would get the same 9-speed ZF automatic transmission as the MDX and TLX. However, for 2016 at least, the RDX continues to use the same Honda/Acura 6-speed automatic as last year. Also the same as last year is an AWD system that’s different from the SH-AWD system in the MDX and TLX. In a nut shell, the MDX can send 90% of engine power to the rear by fully locking the center coupling and over-driving the rear axle vs the front. SH-AWD also has a torque vectoring function which can send 100% of the rear axle power a single rear wheel. The RDX isn’t like that.

To cut weight and cost from the second generation RDX, Acura chose to fit a more conventional AWD system. The current AWD system is somewhat unusual in this segment because the majority of systems will fully lock a center coupling allowing power to be split more or less 50-50 front to rear. The RDX won’t send more than 40% of engine power to the rear axle, leaving 60% up front. Without the torque vectoring axle found in the SH-AWD Acuras, the RDX relies on an open differential and brake-based traction control to keep things in check on loose surfaces.

2016 Acura RDX Interior-009

Drive
The lack of SH-AWD means while the AWD MDX is a dynamic competitor to a base AWD X5, the RDX is not a dynamic competitor to the X3 in the same way. Speaking of the MDX, despite having a similar 60/40 weight balance and weighing 300 pounds more, Acura’s three-row crossover actually feels more nimble, especially on winding mountain roads when under power. That’s because the MDX’s rear axle will send more power to the outside rear wheel to help rotate the vehicle and compensate for the front heavy weight balance. That doesn’t happen in the RDX. Because the front wheels in the AWD RDX are handling the majority of the engine power, the front end feels light during hard acceleration and, depending on the surface, you’ll experience mild torque steer. The difference in feel between the XC60/MKC/NX and the RDX in this regard is not huge, but it is noticeable. I will temper that with the reality that FWD luxury crossovers are gaining sales success and the AWD RDX is still more dynamic on the track than the FWD model.

At 3,737 pounds, the base RDX is among the lightest 2-row luxury crossovers around, but adding the AWD system and all the options will push the curb weight to 3,946. If that sounds heavy, Volvo’s XC60 is up to 300 pounds heavier and Audi’s Q5 can be up to 500 pounds heavier. The light curb weight pays dividends when it comes to acceleration and braking with our tester running to 60 in 5.8 seconds and braking from 60 to 0 in a short 116 feet. When it comes to absolute grip, the light curb weight helps, but it can’t compensate for the softer suspension or the increased ride height and the RDX places in the middle of the pack in terms of grip but below average in terms of feel when at 8/10ths. On the flip side, light-weight design and cylinder deactivation system allowed the RDX to average nearly 24 MPG over a week’s driving of 800 miles. That’s better than most of the 4-cylinder entries in this segment.

2016 Acura RDX Interior-006

All RDX models get Acura’s “amplitude reactive dampers” which are a twist on a normal strut design. The strut contains two valves with different operating profiles. One remains closed unless the suspension encounters a large and fast motion – like hitting a pothole – allowing the suspension to “soak” up the large road imperfections while normally using a different valve to give the damper a “firmer” feel over small imperfections. Either way you slice it, this suspension design and the 8.1 inches of ground clearance make the RDX’s ride more Lexus RX than BMW X3. To address the cabin noise complaint from first-gen RDX buyers, Acura fits active noise cancellation to all trim levels.

At $33,100 and $34,480, the Lincoln MKC and Lexus NX 200t (respectively) both start less than the $35,270 RDX, but the Acura comes with more standard equipment and a more powerful V6 engine. Depending on your options, the RDX may come in between $1,000 and $2,000 less than a comparable Lincoln or Lexus, although both offer more customization than can be had in the Acura. As with the Acura ILX, Acura is bundling their “AcuraWatch” system (radar cruise control, collision warning, auto braking, and lane keeping) with more models than in the past, starting with a base model with AcuraWatch for $36,570. The “best value” is found in the fully-loaded AWD RDX for $43,420, which undercuts the Lincoln by $4,000, the Lexus by nearly $5,000 and the BMW by over $10,000.

2016 Acura RDX Exterior-003

Obviously, a BMW X3 comparison is fraught with problems. The X3 is rear-wheel drive by default, has a near perfect weight balance and offers luxury features and customizations not available on the Acura. However, is the improvement in dynamics and luxury worth $10,000-$12,000? That’s not so easy to answer, but perhaps it is the key to understanding Acura’s sales success. Perhaps a better question: is the Lexus RX worth $10,000-$15,000 more? The RDX is more nimble, more engaging, faster, has a hair more leg room and is significantly less expensive. The only real downside to the RDX is the loss of 15 cubic feet of cargo space.

Acura’s refreshed 2016 lineup seems to show it’s getting its mojo back. The 2013 RDX was just what the segment’s shoppers were looking for and the 2016 RDX tacks on trendy LED lamps, radar cruise control love and more LCD real estate in the cabin. I wouldn’t say that makes the RDX the best overall crossover in the segment, but, in my opinion, it is the best value hands down. One thing’s for certain: the 100,000 folks that plan on buying a Lexus RX in 2015 need to visit the Acura dealer. Acura has perfected the classic RX 350.

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

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.4

0-60: 5.8 

1/4 Mile: 14.6 @ 96 MPH

Fuel Economy:  23.8 MPG

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Marchionne: AWD Minivan Will Lose Stow ‘N Go or Gain Electric Motor http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/marchionne-awd-minivan-will-lose-stow-n-go-or-gain-electric-motor/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/marchionne-awd-minivan-will-lose-stow-n-go-or-gain-electric-motor/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 17:45:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072338 Move over, Toyota. You won’t be the only automaker hocking an all-wheel drive minivan when the new Town & Country arrives next year. According to Sergio Marchionne, the next minivan will get all-wheel drive, but something’s gotta give. Packaging constraints as they are, and the Town & Country’s features as they are, the next generation […]

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2015 Chrysler Town & Country

Move over, Toyota. You won’t be the only automaker hocking an all-wheel drive minivan when the new Town & Country arrives next year.

According to Sergio Marchionne, the next minivan will get all-wheel drive, but something’s gotta give.

Packaging constraints as they are, and the Town & Country’s features as they are, the next generation minivan can only bring all-wheel drive to fruition in one of two ways: ditch Stow ‘N Go to free up space under the passenger floor or implement a hybrid system with an electric motor driving the rear wheels. “It’s not that complicated. We’re exploring both,” said Marchionne, Automotive News reports.

Considering the popularity of Stow ‘N Go for Chrysler’s minivan twins, the latter option seems most likely, and it isn’t without precedent.

Starting with the second-generation Cube in Japan, Nissan offered a system called “e4WD” that sent power to the electrically-driven rear wheels when the front wheels slipped. It also eliminated the need for a center coupling and reduced parasitic loss typically associated with mechanical all-wheel drive systems.

The new Chrysler minivan will debut at the 2016 North American International Auto Show in January before heading off to dealers later the same year as a 2017 model.

[h/t AutoGuide]

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2015 Jaguar XJL AWD Portfolio Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/review-2015-jaguar-xjl-awd-portfolio/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/review-2015-jaguar-xjl-awd-portfolio/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 11:45:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1038649 In February of 2013, when speaking to the opening breakfast of the Chicago Auto Show, Andy Goss, the head of Jaguar Land Rover of North America, made a couple of comments about the luxury market in the United States. He said that 90 percent of vehicles with luxury nameplates are sold with V6 engines and […]

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2015 Jaguar XJL AWD

In February of 2013, when speaking to the opening breakfast of the Chicago Auto Show, Andy Goss, the head of Jaguar Land Rover of North America, made a couple of comments about the luxury market in the United States. He said that 90 percent of vehicles with luxury nameplates are sold with V6 engines and  you can’t sell a luxury car north of the Mason-Dixon line if you don’t at least offer all-wheel drive. The 2015 Jaguar XJL AWD Portfolio is the result of Goss’ perception of the lay of the luxury land.


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There are those who believe true luxury starts at eight cylinders but the simple truth is most Jaguars ever made, including most of the cars that have carried the XJ nameplate, were powered by six cylinder engines, specifically the classic DOHC inline six in 3.8 and 4.2 liter versions. I’ve owned one of those XJs so the idea of driving Jaguar’s biggest, most luxurious sedan with ‘only’ a six doesn’t bother me. Besides, Jaguar’s current supercharged V6 is tuned to provide 340 horsepower. While that’s 10-15% less power than Jaguar’s naturally aspirated V8 puts out, by my standards it was quick enough. A friend and customer of mine has been driving leased Jaguar XJs for more than a decade and he told me that he didn’t like the performance of the XJ with the six. Another XJ owner, whose car does have a six, told me she loved it. Jaguar quotes a 0-60 time of 6.1 seconds. Whether that’s quick enough for you, well, that’s up to you.

 

The pewter colored paint looked great when clean, but got pretty dirty in winter driving. Full gallery here.

The pewter colored paint looked great when clean, but got pretty dirty in winter driving.

As I said, it’s quick enough for me. Over the past few years I’ve reviewed a variety of Jaguar XF and XJ models. At the 2015 New York Auto Show, Jaguar had the formal introduction of their new XF, which is now based on Jaguar’s aluminum architecture and hundreds of pounds lighter than the XFs I’ve driven in the past. The reason for that change is the bigger XJ was actually lighter and had better performance and handling than the previous XF when equipped with the same powertrains. Jaguar’s head of design Ian Callum acknowledged that at the NY show. Though the XJ is big, and the longer wheelbase XJL even bigger, it’s relatively light and nimble, and I don’t think many people will find the lack of an eight cylinder engine to be a significant performance detriment.

When the current body style XJ was introduced, Callum’s use of black trim blending in with the rear window to visually isolate the roof panel was criticized by many. It seems as if Callum is being validated by other designers, as the new Nissan Maxima and Lexus RX, introduced earlier this month at the New York Auto Show, both feature somewhat similar black panels.

In one area, handling, the smaller and lighter six may help offset the additional weight of the components needed to drive the front wheels as well as the back. Of course, without driving them back to back I can’t say for sure, but based on memory the AWD XJL feels just as balanced and handles just as well as the V8 powered rear-wheel drive versions I’ve driven. As mentioned, the XJL feels nimble. You don’t get the feeling you’re driving one of the largest cars on the road. It’s the automotive equivalent to a gentleman or lady’s well fitted suit. While the XJ’s flanks are substantial, visibility is outstanding thanks to a third side light of glass at the C pillar.

If the 340 horsepower V6 seems up to the task of powering a full scale luxury sedan, what about all-wheel drive, Andy Goss’ other benchmark for selling luxury cars in this market? Jaguar’s all-wheel drive system is now available in all of their cars – XJ, XE and the new XF introduced earlier this month at the New York show. The AWD unit, developed with the expertise of the Land Rover side of the company, worked very well. I specifically asked Jaguar if they had an AWD car for me to test out this winter and, fortunately for this review, the Detroit area got about two inches of snow the morning the XJL was dropped off. Ideal conditions to see how the all-wheel drive performed in poor traction conditions. Well, almost ideal conditions. The test car came equipped with all-season tires.

As it turned out, though, the lack of true winter tires ended up demonstrating just how well Jaguar’s AWD works. While the XJL has aluminum construction, it’s still a big car and the AWD version tips the scale at over two tons. There’s some mass to contend with and 340 hp is more than enough to spin tires in bad traction conditions. I was deliberately being ham fisted with the car, trying to make it slide and get out of shape on turns. Because of the all-season tires’ lack of grip in the snow, it was indeed sliding, and it would start to get out of shape, but the AWD, traction control and stability control would step in and keep the car traveling in my intended direction. It wasn’t particularly subtle, and there were some odd sounds going on, but the systems did get the car under control. If you do get an AWD Jaguar, you can afford a set of proper winter tires. Throw on some Blizzaks and your Quattro equipped Audi driving neighbors won’t have anything on you.

The rest of the car was as expected from Jaguar. Space, pace and grace. The cabin was first rate; the seats very comfortable and everything within easy reach. With the L designation in the model name comes substantial rear seat room. Six footers should easily be able to sit behind people just as tall.

While it isn’t world class, the infotainment system is a huge improvement over the clunky Jaguar interface most reviewers dinged a few years ago. I’d say it was competitive with other systems if not at the head of the class. My Samsung Android phone worked seamlessly via Bluetooth. While the light brown leather interior at first looked a bit visually jarring, that was only because I’ve gotten so used to black and grey interiors. Over the week the aesthetics of the brown leather grew on me.

What is world class, I think, is the Meridian branded audio system – a truly audiophile quality set of components. Car sound systems are getting very, very good. One mark of a good sound system is resolution and transparency, allowing you to hear individual instruments instead of a blurry mess. You gain a new appreciation for what you thought were familiar recordings. With this system, you can count just how many acoustic guitars Jimmy Page multi-tracked on Over The Hills And Far Away.

I’m cynical about the business of car audio system branding. The Panasonic-made audio systems in Volkswagen cars carry the Fender brand because those three companies believe American consumers are likely to associate the name Fender more generally with music and rock ‘n’ roll than as a company noted for the distinctive distortion of its guitar pickups and amplifiers. The audio system in the XJL was so good I’d have a hard time believing the audio experts at Meridian, an elite UK audio brand, were not involved in its application.

Also first rate is the way Jaguar engineers have calibrated the 8-speed ZF automatic transmission. Upshifts are so smooth as to be almost imperceptible, and the way the transmission and ECU work together to slow the car when coasting down to a stop was very impressive. I don’t think I could use engine braking and downshifting as effectively myself with a clutch and manual gearbox.

Besides yielding more than adequate performance, one result of the 8-speed transmission and six cylinder engine is rather impressive fuel economy. The XJL is about as big a car as you’ll find on the American road and in about 600 miles of mixed driving, half urban/suburban and the other half on interstate highways, I saw 24.7 mpg. If I recall correctly, my old mid 1980s Jaguar XJ with the 4.2 liter inline six got 14 mpg.

Speaking of fuel, why do cars that require premium fuel typically call for 91 octane, whereas the vast majority of gasoline stations only offer 87, 89, and 93 octane? There’s no point in paying for more octane than you need so I typically blend 89 and 93 half and half to save money.

Rear passengers in the long wheelbase XJL get their own climate controls. Full gallery here

Rear passengers in the long wheelbase XJL get their own climate controls, with heated and cooled seats, which I’m sure will be appreciated when Shanghai gets hot and humid.

 

Not liking to be a cheerleader, I wish I could find things to criticize about the XJL AWD Portfolio, but everything worked flawlessly, even down to the automatically adjusting windshield wipers. While it’s cliche to say there aren’t any bad cars sold today, it’s not cliche to say there are a lot of great cars you can buy at just about every price point. I don’t have a problem saying the XJL AWD is a great car. When I’m reduced to complaining the automatic climate control seemed to be calibrated a couple of degrees off from what I’m used to, how could I say otherwise?


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Jaguar Land Rover of North America provided the car, insurance and a tank of premium gasoline.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Piston Slap: Are you Jagsperienced? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-jagsperienced/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/piston-slap-jagsperienced/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 13:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1054761 Allen writes: Sajeev, Hopefully you can offer some light at the end of the tunnel for an issue that a friend has with her 2004 Jag X-type. The car is in great shape for its age and all was well until the bad news came regarding the transfer case. The car recently started acting up […]

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Jaguar-X-Type-033

Allen writes:

Sajeev,

Hopefully you can offer some light at the end of the tunnel for an issue that a friend has with her 2004 Jag X-type. The car is in great shape for its age and all was well until the bad news came regarding the transfer case. The car recently started acting up and the local Jag dealer diagnosed a failed transfer case with a part price of 3,600 with 6+ hours of labor.

I’m not Jagsperienced so I have to take their quote at face value.

Do you know of any resources on a failure of this type? The failure occurred virtually overnight and with the value of the car, it seemingly is a death sentence for what is an otherwise healthy car.

Any wisdom you can offer would be greatly appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

Explain more about this “acting up” before the car needed to go to the dealer.

Allen writes:

Literally overnight: rough, jerky acceleration closely followed by garbage can full of pistons sound and lack of drive. I had changed the plugs the week before. During the test drive after the plugs, I only heard a couple of rough clashes that I wasn’t even sure were from that car because they didn’t repeat and I was in traffic at the time.

Sajeev answers:

Ah-ha!  This problem?

Click here to view the embedded video.

I reckon this happened because of a lack of fluid changes in the transfer case.  Ask her if she followed the service specifications outlined in the owner’s manual. Even if she did, supposedly Jaguar/Ford doesn’t make it very easy: perhaps no mechanic ever touched the transfer case?  Let’s hope not.

You can get a used X type transfer case, finding one might be easy depending on if her Jag has traction control. But considering the inherent weakness found in a lack of fluid servicing, will you get another pile of crap from the junkyard? Remember this: it’s not your car, not your problem.

Tell her to sell it, or roll the dice with an independent mechanic installing a junkyard replacement (and fluid change). The former is a better idea, especially if she’s better off (financially) in a cost-effective vehicle.*

*That’s not a sexist thing, there are plenty of cash-strapped dudes in ticking time bomb, maintenance deferred premium vehicles when they should be in a used Corolla. Your job as a Piston Slap reader is to give people a reality check if or when they need it. 

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

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2015 acura tlx profile side

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

Acura TLX headlight led

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

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

Acura TLX shifter engine wheels

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

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

2015 acura tlx side

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

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

2015 acura tlx dash interior

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

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

2015 acura tlx interior details

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

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

American Honda provided vehicles for the purpose of this review.

2015 acura tlx profile side rear

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Junkyard Find: 1982 Subaru BRAT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/junkyard-find-1982-subaru-brat-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/junkyard-find-1982-subaru-brat-2/#comments Mon, 15 Dec 2014 14:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=960609 Ah, the Subaru BRAT. Just as you can’t find anyone who hates The Ramones, you can’t find anyone who wants to beat on the Subaru BRAT with a baseball bat. As perhaps the best-loved car that shows up in self-service wrecking yards with any regularity, the BRAT always inspires me to whip out my camera […]

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15 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Ah, the Subaru BRAT. Just as you can’t find anyone who hates The Ramones, you can’t find anyone who wants to beat on the Subaru BRAT with a baseball bat. As perhaps the best-loved car that shows up in self-service wrecking yards with any regularity, the BRAT always inspires me to whip out my camera when I see a junked example. So far this series, we’ve admired this ’79, this ’79, this ’84, this ’82, and this Sawzall-ized ’86 crypto-BRAT.
04 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOnly 88,288 miles! I found this car in a well-stocked yard just north of Los Angeles, not too far from the ranch where Ronald Reagan drove his BRAT. Yes, Midwesterners, that means that you’re looking at a low-mile 32-year-old Japanese car without the slighest speck of rust on its body… and it’s going to be crushed, shredded, put in a container in Long Beach, and shipped to China to make Emgrand EC7s.
10 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt has the “Twin-Halo” roof option.
05 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinA time-capsule early-80s Radio Shack cassette deck, complete with the coveted auto-stop feature!
06 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHow many BRATs were made with factory air conditioning?
18 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou can see evidence of a camper shell on this one. Poor doomed BRAT.

03 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1982 Subaru BRAT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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VW Bringing Golf SportWagen 4Motion, Alltrack To US In 2016 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/vw-bringing-golf-sportwagen-4motion-alltrack-us-2016/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/vw-bringing-golf-sportwagen-4motion-alltrack-us-2016/#comments Mon, 24 Nov 2014 13:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=949993 Looking to muscle in upon Subaru territory, Volkswagen will be bringing over the Golf SportWagen 4Motion in standard and Alltrack models for 2016. Automotive News reports the plan was announced by Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn during last week’s LA Auto Show, citing demand from dealers and consumers alike. The Alltrack variant, unveiled […]

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Volkswagen-Golf-Alltrack-6

Looking to muscle in upon Subaru territory, Volkswagen will be bringing over the Golf SportWagen 4Motion in standard and Alltrack models for 2016.

Automotive News reports the plan was announced by Volkswagen Group of America CEO Michael Horn during last week’s LA Auto Show, citing demand from dealers and consumers alike.

The Alltrack variant, unveiled at the 2014 Paris Auto Show, will be paired against the Subaru XV Crosstrek with the aim of capturing a piece of the U.S. small crossover market, gain more overall U.S. market share, as well as using more of the Puebla, Mexico factory where the Golf is assembled now.

As for the standard SportWagen, FWD versions will arrive sometime this coming spring, while tooling for the AWD 2016 model is beginning to be installed. Horn expects the SportWagen to make up 50 percent of all Golf sales once VW completes its lineup expansion.

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Junkyard Find: 1979 Subaru BRAT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/junkyard-find-1979-subaru-brat-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/junkyard-find-1979-subaru-brat-2/#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2014 14:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=943729 Where I live (Denver), wrecking yards overflow with old Subarus. I walk past junked early-80s Leones (or GLs or whatever Subaru’s confusing naming conventions of the era were) all the time, but I’ll always stop and photograph a BRAT. So far in this series, the BRAT roster includes this ’79, this ’84, this ’82, and […]

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19 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhere I live (Denver), wrecking yards overflow with old Subarus. I walk past junked early-80s Leones (or GLs or whatever Subaru’s confusing naming conventions of the era were) all the time, but I’ll always stop and photograph a BRAT. So far in this series, the BRAT roster includes this ’79, this ’84, this ’82, and this Sawzall-converted ’86. Last week, I spotted another example, and it still had its Chicken Tax-dodgin’ jump seats.
02 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYes, the personal-injury lawyers loved these seats, but they let Subaru evade the 25% tariff on imported light trucks.
14 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRemember AOL CD spam? This car still has one!
10 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s somewhat rusty (I know, Midwesterners, you don’t consider this to be true rust), but could have been kept on the road a while longer.
15 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinCorn stopped by.
17 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe condition of the seats and the AOL disc suggest lengthy outdoor storage of a nondriving vehicle.

01 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Junkyard Find: 1994 Isuzu Amigo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1994-isuzu-amigo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1994-isuzu-amigo/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 13:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937594 Remember the Isuzu Amigo? A descendant of the platform that gave us the Chevy Luv pickup, the Amigo was the cuddly three-door version of the much more popular Isuzu Rodeo. Rodeos are still fairly easy to find here in Colorado, but the Amigo is another story. Here’s a last-year-of sales ’94 I found in a […]

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09 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRemember the Isuzu Amigo? A descendant of the platform that gave us the Chevy Luv pickup, the Amigo was the cuddly three-door version of the much more popular Isuzu Rodeo. Rodeos are still fairly easy to find here in Colorado, but the Amigo is another story. Here’s a last-year-of sales ’94 I found in a Denver self-service yard a few weeks ago.
03 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis spare has been used up real good!
05 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis vehicle shows all the signs of having been beaten to death by wastoid snowboarders, a common fate for small all-wheel-drive machinery in these parts.
06 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin2.6 liters of screaming Isuzu power.
08 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNote the shiny paint and outside rear-view mirror held on by duct tape, indicators that this truck went downhill fast once it got into the hands of its final owners.


Like most members of the Isuzu/Vauxhall/Opel Co-Prosperity Sphere, the first-generation Opel MU was available with a bewildering variety of marques and badges. This truck could be purchased as a Chevrolet, a Holden, a Vauxhall, or a Honda, as well as numerous flavors of Isuzu. Here’s a German ad for the ’94 Opel Frontera.

01 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Capsule Review: 2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-subaru-legacy-3-6r-limited/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-subaru-legacy-3-6r-limited/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=920122 In the very recent past, six-cylinder midsize sedans were often the cars consumers acquired because the basic four-cylinder powerplants were insufficient devices. As fuel efficiency became more of a concern, as economic concerns prompted families to consider less costly purchases, and as larger four-cylinder engines became more refined and powerful, the six-cylinder option gradually became […]

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2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R LimitedIn the very recent past, six-cylinder midsize sedans were often the cars consumers acquired because the basic four-cylinder powerplants were insufficient devices. As fuel efficiency became more of a concern, as economic concerns prompted families to consider less costly purchases, and as larger four-cylinder engines became more refined and powerful, the six-cylinder option gradually became less necessary.

In 2014, upgrading from the four to the six means an increase from sufficient power to over-the-top acceleration.

Usually.

Rewind to 2002. The V6-powered Honda Accord, a 3.0L car with 200 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque, was tasked with motivating 3274 pounds. The latest four-cylinder in Honda’s Accord is a 2.4L tasked with propelling only two fewer pounds (in Sport trim) with only 11 fewer ponies than in that 2002 V6. The newer Accord – which just recorded record-high monthly U.S. sales – is two inches longer, its cabin is only slightly larger, and its trunk is 12% more capacious. It’s absolutely fine, completely capable, and as quick as the old V6, if not quicker. Or, if you want to accelerate like an 80s (or 90s?) supercar, you buy the V6.

2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited profileThere’s much more to the new Subaru Legacy than an engine. It’s the only car in the class that comes equipped exclusively with all-wheel-drive. Its cabin is truly vast. The trunk, while shallow, is deep and wide and squared off. Interior quality is a couple of generations ahead of the last car. Road and wind noise has been kept to a minimum, and ride quality is really rather impressive. 576 watts and 12 speakers of Harman Kardon audio provides a positive acoustic experience. The steering and handling lack the edge of third and fourth-generation Legacy 2.5 GTs, body roll being the biggest complaint, but the steering is more natural and weightier than what you’ll find in many intermediate cars, and there’s no secondary jostling of occupants as the car recovers from severe road imperfections.

Driver comfort is enhanced by terrific visibility, and while my lanky frame never felt low enough in the car, there is a sensation of abundant up-front space that’s in keeping with contemporary “mid”-size cars, which easy fill a garage. The extensive list of active safety features (ADC, PCB, PCTM, VLDSW, BSD, LCA, RCTA) on this top-trim Legacy Limited work unobtrusively, unlike the Jeep Cherokee which brings you harshly to an unnecessary halt when reversing, for example.

2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited rearBut in an era which supplies us with perfectly conventional family sedans that tempt consumers to switch out the capable four-cylinder engine for a high-performance V6  – America’s three favourite midsize sedans still offer remarkably quick V6 powerplants – the Legacy’s 3.6L horizontally-opposed six-cylinder reeks of insignificant extravagance. Subaru USA only offers the 3.6L on full bore Limited models and asks for an extra $3100 to take the plunge.

And what a plunge it is, as average fuel economy takes a nosedive from 30 mpg in the 2.5L to 23. The boxer six’s city rating is 20 mpg. In a mix of city and highway driving, we averaged 19.6 mpg over the course of a week. The six-cylinder’s fuel economy ratings are better than the all-wheel-drive V6-engined Chrysler 200’s; not as good as the 2.0L EcoBoost AWD Ford Fusion’s. Granted, in that Fusion, we saw 18.4 mpg. An Accord V6, lacking all-wheel-drive of course, is rated at 21/34/26 city/highway/combined.

2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited steering wheelThe Subaru’s six-cylinder fuel economy is a highlighted issue because it’s yet another penalty you pay, in addition to the higher transaction price, for an insufficient amount of heavy throttle fun. By modern standards, the Legacy 3.6R doesn’t feel like a genuinely quick car, because it’s not a genuinely quick car. Four-cylinder power in a Mazda 6, for instance, will get you away from stoplights more quickly. Indeed, the last Legacy 3.6 accelerates more rapidly. The Subaru is heavier than it used to be, and that’s an undeniable part of the problem, but that weight pays dividends in a structure that feels very solid and a cabin that’s nicely hushed. Indeed, the 3.6L isn’t overwhelming even on paper: with just 256 horsepower, it does not rank among the elite. No, the bigger issue isn’t the Legacy’s overall heft and dearth of impressive specs but rather the connecting element between the engine and the wheels: this is the kind of CVT that gives CVTs a bad name.

Certain that added power cures all CVT ills, I was pleased to discover that the CVT in the latest Outback 2.5i we tested a few weeks ago was mostly inoffensive. Yes, sometimes it made unpleasant sounds. (This 3.6 makes a great noise but its orchestral talents are thrown out of tune by the conductor, the CVT.) But the 2.5’s delivery of power was not hindered by its gearlessness. Knowing this, I assumed that an additional 81 horsepower would only smooth out the CVTness.

Perhaps Subaru made similar assumptions and therefore did not take the time to properly calibrate the pairing, as the dearth of initial acceleration from rest is a miserable disappointment. The paddle shifters offer real assistance, but the frustration of being in a six-cylinder midsize car that simply doesn’t feel like a substantial upgrade over the four is not going to be alleviated by operating the paddles on a constant basis. (A six-speed manual is not available with either of the Legacy’s two engines in the United States; Canadian buyers can select a three-pedal layout with the 2.5L engine.)

2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited Tech interiorFortunately, these disappointing realizations serve to highlight the gains made by more basic Legacys in the Subaru’s latest revamp. The new infotainment interface is quick and uncomplicated; only a long reach to the tuning knob and excessive glare on the screen itself let down an otherwise straightforward centre stack. The outgoing Legacy I drove around last winter was hugely uncompetitive. With all-wheel-drive included in the price and inoffensive styling, perhaps even a handsome front end, the new 2015 Legacy is just as staunchly Subaru as it’s always been, if less athletic, but it now feels as well-built as the category’s top sellers.

North America’s new vehicle market has developed a large appetite for cars and crossovers with four driven wheels. Yet the major midsize players from Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, and Volkswagen have either never entered the all-wheel-drive fray or have forsaken the notion. Massive leaps in refinement have created an opportunity for the 2015 Subaru Legacy to capitalize on its unconventional layout.

The fact that the underperforming CVT-laden six-cylinder option is a terrible value is truly of little consequence on that front. A dollar-minded sedan buyer with a yearning for all-wheel-drive, decent fuel efficiency, and space for four already knows he’s better served by the base engine. Alas, historically speaking, not many of those buyers have actually existed.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. The Legacy was provided for review by Subaru Canada.

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Toyota Tercel SR5 4WD Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/junkyard-find-1984-toyota-tercel-sr5-4wd-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/junkyard-find-1984-toyota-tercel-sr5-4wd-wagon/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914002 I’ve owned quite a few Tercel wagons of this generation (though most of mine were the common-in-California front-wheel-drive type), and I respect these things for their simplicity, cargo capacity, and reliability. True, they were underpowered and not exactly inspiring to drive, but they could be very lovable. Living in Denver, I see these cars just […]

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20 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI’ve owned quite a few Tercel wagons of this generation (though most of mine were the common-in-California front-wheel-drive type), and I respect these things for their simplicity, cargo capacity, and reliability. True, they were underpowered and not exactly inspiring to drive, but they could be very lovable. Living in Denver, I see these cars just about every time I hit the junkyard, but mostly they don’t seem special enough to merit photographing. Realizing that this one is 30 years old, however, inspired me to pull out the camera.
17 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSold in New Mexico, died in Colorado. There’s some rust, but more of the paint-burned-off/snow-buildup variety than the cancerous Midwestern type,
18 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou are awesome!
19 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe notorious “ice maker” next to the license plate. I’ve never been fully clear on what you got with the SR5 package, which was available on just about everything Toyota sold in the 1980s.
06 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 3A engine was harder to kill than rats and cockroaches combined.
04 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBecause the driver had to select front- or four-wheel-drive manually, many owners of these no-center-differential-equipped cars tore up tires and/or wore out drivetrain components by driving 365 days a year on dry pavement in the 4WD setting. Probably most of those Tercel 4WD owners bought Subarus after this happened.
05 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWith the air conditioning turned off, you were jamming econo.
09 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI was able to skip chaining up when driving Donner pass in the winter in FWD Tercels, simply by picking up this emblem at the junkyard and adding it to my cars. Easiest 4WD conversion ever!

01 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1984 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Junkyard Find: 1997 Subaru Legacy AWD Sedan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1997-subaru-legacy-awd-sedan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1997-subaru-legacy-awd-sedan/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 13:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=899666 Living in Denver, I see tremendous quantities of old Subarus in local wrecking yards. Subarus after about 1985 don’t make it into this series (unless they’re XTs or SVXs or 4WD Justys), but the Legacy 4WD sedan is quite rare even by Denver standards so I made an exception for this car. This one has […]

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07 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinLiving in Denver, I see tremendous quantities of old Subarus in local wrecking yards. Subarus after about 1985 don’t make it into this series (unless they’re XTs or SVXs or 4WD Justys), but the Legacy 4WD sedan is quite rare even by Denver standards so I made an exception for this car.
13 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one has a key, which means it probably came from an insurance company auction rather than a city tow yard.
02 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinJust barely over 100,000 miles on the clock.
15 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBy 1997, all Legacies sold in the United States had all-wheel-drive, but this was still special enough to warrant these “AWD” badges.
12 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBy this point, the Outback wagon (still bearing Legacy badging) was so much more popular than the Legacy sedan in the United States that most of us forgot that you could even get this thing in a three-box car shape.
04 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese engines remain legendary (get it?) for blowing head gaskets.
14 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSold in Denver, crushed in Denver.

01 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1997 Subaru Legacy Sedan Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Junkyard Find: 1984 Subaru BRAT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1984-subaru-brat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/junkyard-find-1984-subaru-brat/#comments Fri, 22 Aug 2014 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=892298 The Subaru BRAT, basically a factory El Camino-ized Leone, has quite the lawsuit history in this country, due to the Chicken Tax-evading-but-dangerous jump seats in the bed that made the BRAT a “car,” legally speaking. The BRAT was sold in the United States until the 1987 model year, but it’s nearly impossible to find examples […]

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03 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn RodgersThe Subaru BRAT, basically a factory El Camino-ized Leone, has quite the lawsuit history in this country, due to the Chicken Tax-evading-but-dangerous jump seats in the bed that made the BRAT a “car,” legally speaking. The BRAT was sold in the United States until the 1987 model year, but it’s nearly impossible to find examples built after the early 1980s. Here’s a reasonably nice-looking ’84 that Shawn Rodgers (you may recognize him as the hero of the Junkyard Build Quality Challenges, as well as the captain of the very fast Bunny With a Pancake On Its Head 24 Hours of LeMons Rabbit team) saw in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard last week and was kind enough to photograph for us.
02 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn RodgersI shoot junkyard BRATs whenever I see them, and so far in this series we’ve seen this ’79, this ’82 (which still had its jump seats), and this Sawzall-converted ’86 (I’m a sucker for cruelly hacked-up Subarus).
21 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers73 horsepower, which would be considered absolutely unacceptable in any vehicle attempting to be even vaguely truck-like today.
10 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn RodgersNice nearly-a-T-top double sunroof— called a “Halo Twin Roof”— on this one.
16 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn RodgersJust the lo-fi solution for listening to bad mid-80s AM hits!

In Australia, the BRAT was called the Brumby and it was marketed with ads featuring pig passengers.

In the United States, Ruth Gordon pitched the BRAT.

01 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 02 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 03 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 04 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 05 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 06 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 07 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 08 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 09 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 10 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 11 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 12 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 13 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 14 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 15 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 16 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 17 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 18 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 19 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 20 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 21 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 22 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 23 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 24 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 25 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 26 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 27 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 28 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 29 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers 30 - 1984 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Shawn Rodgers

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BMW Taketh, BMW Giveth (More Traction) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/bmw-taketh-bmw-giveth-more-traction/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/bmw-taketh-bmw-giveth-more-traction/#comments Fri, 06 Jun 2014 19:27:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=838681 Even though BMW foists upon us unfortunate derivative junk like the X4, 3-Series GT and 4-Series Gran Coupe (which, I’ve only recently just made sense of), at least they give us models like the 2-Series. Which just happened to get better for anyone who lives in the snowbelt. Later on this summer, xDrive AWD will […]

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Even though BMW foists upon us unfortunate derivative junk like the X4, 3-Series GT and 4-Series Gran Coupe (which, I’ve only recently just made sense of), at least they give us models like the 2-Series. Which just happened to get better for anyone who lives in the snowbelt.

Later on this summer, xDrive AWD will be available on both the 228i and the M235i, for an extra $1800. As much as the 228i might be the pur sang option, even moreso than the M235i, I would not hesitate to anger forum purists and Build Your Own window shoppers by ordering the xDrive version. Yes, I know that with proper snow tires and a modicum of skill, two wheel drive cars are just fine in the snow – I’ve driven two Miatas with LSDs and no ABS in dreadful winters, and I’ve never had a hairy moment. But there are times when I would have appreciated two extra driven wheels, and if I were in the market for this car, I’d have no qualms with forking over the extra $1,800. In my mind, it’s a WRX coupe with two fewer doors and a nicer interior.

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Is This The New Hyundai Genesis? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/is-this-the-new-hyundai-genesis/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/is-this-the-new-hyundai-genesis/#comments Fri, 18 Oct 2013 16:52:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=627130 It sure would seem so. Despite the best efforts of our IT crew, the TTAC Staff Robot is unable to read Korean,but we can read the word “Genesis” on this car’s front plate. If the new car was rather Mercedes-esque in its choice of borrowed styling cues, the new car is a curious mix of […]

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It sure would seem so. Despite the best efforts of our IT crew, the TTAC Staff Robot is unable to read Korean,but we can read the word “Genesis” on this car’s front plate.

If the new car was rather Mercedes-esque in its choice of borrowed styling cues, the new car is a curious mix of elements from both Japan and Germany. There is a vague Audi A7 resemblence, while the Hoffmeister kink is distinctly BMW. But the car could easily be some kind of new Infiniti derivative, especially the front, which looks like the model formerly known as the Infiniti M. No word on powertrains, but this one will have AWD for the first time.

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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 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 […]

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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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Buick Regal Reskin Neuters GS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/buick-regal-reskin-neuters-gs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/buick-regal-reskin-neuters-gs/#comments Tue, 26 Mar 2013 17:43:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=482379 The General giveth and The General Taketh Away. The 2014 Buick Regal Turbo and Regal GS will now get all-wheel drive as an option, with the ability to send up to 90 percent of the engine’s power to the rear wheels. But both the Turbo and the GS will get the same engine, a 259 […]

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The General giveth and The General Taketh Away. The 2014 Buick Regal Turbo and Regal GS will now get all-wheel drive as an option, with the ability to send up to 90 percent of the engine’s power to the rear wheels. But both the Turbo and the GS will get the same engine, a 259 horsepower, 295 lb-ft 2.0T 4-cylinder. Only the GS model will get a 6-speed manual.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail 2014 Buick Regal 2014 Buick Regal GS 2014 Buick Regal GS 2014 Buick Regal Turbo 001-2014-buick-regal-opt

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Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG Gets AWD, You Get An RS6 Alternative http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/mercedes-benz-e63-amg-gets-awd-you-get-an-rs6-alternative/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/mercedes-benz-e63-amg-gets-awd-you-get-an-rs6-alternative/#comments Thu, 06 Dec 2012 21:06:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=469355 Although I’m not much of a fan of Mercedes current product lineup, the AMG vehicles hold a special place in my heart – they’re not dynamically superior to BMW’s M cars, or even some of the quicker Audis, and you can’t get them with a proper manual gearbox; but they are a naked display of […]

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Although I’m not much of a fan of Mercedes current product lineup, the AMG vehicles hold a special place in my heart – they’re not dynamically superior to BMW’s M cars, or even some of the quicker Audis, and you can’t get them with a proper manual gearbox; but they are a naked display of conspicuous consumption, and for that, I love them. So news of an all-new, all-wheel drive AMG product neither surprises nor disappoints me.

As Car and Driver‘s Csaba Csere points out, AMG has ceased to become a skunkworks special for most customers – instead it’s merely another trim level, and therefore just a status symbol for Mercedes customers. If you want the real goodness, you have to step up to the Black Series.

The 2014 E63 will be sold with rear-wheel drive in world markets, but the North American version will only be offered with 4Matic all-wheel drive. Mercedes denies that this is some kind of move to broaden the AMG cars appeal in the snowbelt. It’s hard to take this denial seriously, but even so, who cares? Most Mercedes cars sold in the United States are 4MATIC anyways, and there are plenty of M5 customers who likely buy their cars due to its pricetag, not performance. AMG now has another competitive advantage against Audi, which is becoming a real threat to both M-B and BMW.

Purists will undoubtedly complain that the AWD system adds “weight” or “complexity”, but let’s be real here; these cars are so heavy and complex that another 130 lbs is inconsequential. And nobody has ever complained about the level of grip in an Evo, GT-R or any of the RS cars. Besides, we now have a reasonable facsimile of the RS6 wagon, that can be bought in America. But it comes with a three-pointed star, rather than four rings.

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Junkyard Find: 1989 Dodge Colt DL 4WD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/junkyard-find-1989-dodge-colt-dl-4wd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/junkyard-find-1989-dodge-colt-dl-4wd/#comments Sun, 18 Nov 2012 14:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=467297 Denver junkyards don’t have quite as many W126 Mercedes-Benzes or 1960s Detroit classics as the ones I grew up exploring in California, but they do have examples of just about every four-wheel-drive Japanese car made during the 1980s. Four-wheel-drive Toyotas, Subarus, and Civics are all represented, though I’m still trying to find a 4WD 80s […]

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Denver junkyards don’t have quite as many W126 Mercedes-Benzes or 1960s Detroit classics as the ones I grew up exploring in California, but they do have examples of just about every four-wheel-drive Japanese car made during the 1980s. Four-wheel-drive Toyotas, Subarus, and Civics are all represented, though I’m still trying to find a 4WD 80s Sentra. But hey, now I can check Mitsubishi off the list of Weird Japanese 4WD 1980s Cars I’ve Seen In The Junkyard, because here’s this Colt!
With “Full Time 4WD,” you didn’t have to work any complicated levers or switches to choose between front- and all-wheel-drive; instead, this car would waste fuel, make extra noise, and wear out driveline components even when driving on dry pavement in June.
Imported For Dodge!
236,581 miles was a lot more than most Mitsubishi products of this era managed. Well done, little Colt 4WD!

22 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1989 Dodge Colt 4WD Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Junkyard Find: 1985 Subaru XT 4WD Turbo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/junkyard-find-1985-subaru-xt-4wd-turbo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/junkyard-find-1985-subaru-xt-4wd-turbo/#comments Thu, 15 Nov 2012 14:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=466944 The junkyards of Colorado don’t have quite the selection of the ones I grew up crawling around in California, but they do have more Subarus than I ever imagined possible. I’ve been a fan of the Subaru XT since it was new— in fact, I’m half-assedly shopping for one now— and so it’s reassuring to […]

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The junkyards of Colorado don’t have quite the selection of the ones I grew up crawling around in California, but they do have more Subarus than I ever imagined possible. I’ve been a fan of the Subaru XT since it was new— in fact, I’m half-assedly shopping for one now— and so it’s reassuring to find them during my junkyard visits and know that I’ll be able to get parts. Today’s find is a rare turbocharged four-wheel-drive version from the XT’s first model year.
The XT Turbo had a cockpit that was wild even by the crazed standards of mid-80s Japanese cars. The instrument cluster moved along with the tilt wheel, so that no steering-wheel setting could obscure your view of the gauges. Wait a minute— the XT didn’t have lowly gauges! When you bought an XT, you got the most video-game-ish digital display of them all, and that includes the Mitsubishi Cordia digital dash.
I didn’t have any tools on me when I found this car, so I didn’t pull the cluster for my collection. Should I go back for it?
“TURBO” was the magic word of the 1980s, but you had to be a special flavor of weird to think that the XT Turbo was as mainstream cool as something like the 300ZX Turbo or even the Starion.
These things weren’t cheap. The list price for the ’85 XT 4WD Turbo was $13,589, which was close to 30 grand in 2012 bucks. That was about $1,200 more than the Nissan 200SX Turbo, nearly $1,500 more than a factory-hot-rod Mazda RX-7 GSL, and close to $2,000 more than a Chevy Camaro IROC-Z.
This one is a bit rusty and generally used-up-looking, but it still has a lot of good parts.
The engine in this car made 111 horsepower, which is 27 fewer than the base engine in the 2013 Kia Rio. Yes, we are living in the Golden Age of Horsepower.
We’re also living in the Not-So-Golden Age of computer nannies; rather than a quaint sticker advising the driver to slow down when the slushbox overheats, today’s cars just go into limp mode.

Alcyone!

26 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1985 Subaru XT Turbo Down On The Junkyard - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Real-World Review: Fleeing Hurricane Sandy Across 8 States In a Rented 2012 Kia Sorento http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/real-world-review-fleeing-sandy-across-8-states-in-a-rented-2012-kia-sorento/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/real-world-review-fleeing-sandy-across-8-states-in-a-rented-2012-kia-sorento/#comments Wed, 14 Nov 2012 13:30:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=466805 So the Halloween Hooptiefest 24 Hours of LeMons at New Hampshire Motors Speedway went well, with the Rust In The Wind Saab-powered Nissan 300ZX taking a very improbable overall win, and we of the LeMons HQ crew were packing up the gear on Sunday afternoon and getting ready to head home… when we heard that […]

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So the Halloween Hooptiefest 24 Hours of LeMons at New Hampshire Motors Speedway went well, with the Rust In The Wind Saab-powered Nissan 300ZX taking a very improbable overall win, and we of the LeMons HQ crew were packing up the gear on Sunday afternoon and getting ready to head home… when we heard that all of our flights out of Logan— in fact, all flights out of the northeastern United States— were canceled due to ZOMG THE END OF THE WORLD IS COMING PANIC YALL!!!1! The plan had been to drive our rental Kia Sorento 70 miles or so to an airport hotel, spend the night there, and grab our flights early Monday morning. We got to the hotel in Burlington, Massachusetts, where we convened an emergency meeting of the very exhausted LeMons brain trust.
The four of us— me, Nick Pon, Jeff Glenn, and Jay Lamm— figured we could hunker down in the hotel for what was shaping up to be at least three days of hurricane hell, probably without electricity and most likely fighting with roaming bands of storm-maddened locals for D batteries and maybe rat carcasses to roast over burning tires… or we could leap into the Sorento and drive west or south in order to get to an airport both out of reach of Sandy’s path and featuring flights to San Francisco (for them) and Denver (for me). If we were going to go for the latter choice, we’d have to start quickly; it was already 8:30 PM and the edge of the fast-approaching storm would soon be closing roads and probably gas stations along any route we might take. We’d all been running on a few hours’ sleep per night for the previous few days— running a LeMons race with 100+ entries takes a lot out of you even when you are catching eight hours of Zs each night— but each of us had plenty of wild-eyed road trip experience and we figured we could split the driving four ways, crank the Melt-Banana to stay awake, and arrive alive. After a flurry of calls to airlines and frenzied study of weather maps— all four guys on laptops and phones— we narrowed our choices to Cincinatti and Charlotte. The storm looked likely to head east, but it had already been south, so we opted for Charlotte, North Carolina, close to 900 miles to the southwest. OK, let’s do it!
Jay Lamm samples Pickle Vodka - picture courtesy of Judge PhilLeMons Chief Perp Jay Lamm, however, decided that he just wasn’t crazy enough to do the drive; he’d tried to dodge Hurricane Irene when in New York the year before and just ended up dealing with more hassle than if he’d just stayed put. So, he handed us the keys to the Kia and all the cash he could spare and sent us on our way. It was 8:50 on Sunday night and we had reservations for flights out of Charlotte for early Tuesday morning. No sweat, as long as we didn’t get trapped by closed roads and/or panic-stricken crowds clogging the roads in an escape frenzy.
Because we had visions of getting trapped on a dead-stalled highway in Maryland or Pennsylvania (I was getting sweated by visions from Cortázar’s endless-traffic-jam story La Autopista del Sur), we blew into the nearby Trader Joe’s to get provisions to last us a few days. I had several bottles of quality bribe booze from racers in my luggage, so I figured we’d be able to barter that for a few tin cups of mulligan stew from friendly hobos camped next to the miles of abandoned cars. Our shopping expedition was a whirlwind affair, since we showed up four minutes before closing time; three race organizers grabbing random stuff off the shelves as the apocalypse bears down results in a strange menu indeed. Two weeks later, I’m still eating leftover Plutonium Joe’s Isotopes-n-Capers Trail Mix™ and Hukbalahap Joe’s Balut Sticks™.
Assuming that the power was about to go out everywhere, we filled up the Sorento at the first gas station we found. While Jeff pumped, I went in to the station to buy Nitrute-Enhanced™ meat-stick snacks and caffeinated beverages. “Stocking up for the storm?” asked the clerk. “Hell no!” I replied, “We’re driving straight to North Carolina!” Everyone in the place turned and gazed upon me with respect. Or something.
The cargo area of the Sorento was just about completely filled with our luggage; we bring all the transponders and a bunch of other bulky race gear with us as checked baggage when we travel to races, so we had a lot of crap. It was a good thing that Jay had decided to stay behind, because we needed the unoccupied rear passenger seats for our food, phone chargers, and other stuff we’d need to be able to reach while the Sorento was in motion. So, if you’re traveling heavy, the Sorento barely has room for three adults and their equipment.
Even though Jeff had just spent a long day as Race Manager in the NHMS tower— that is, the guy who coordinates all the flaggers, emergency crews, pit-in/out staffers, sends me the penalty information, everything, a job akin to being an air-traffic controller combined with a police dispatcher— he swore he felt alert and ready to go and he insisted on driving the first leg of our journey.
We decided that we’d need to give New York City a wide berth, due to the increasingly scary reports of evacuations from the city, and so we planned a route that took us west to Scranton, Pennsylvania, and then southwest to Charlotte. Since Sandy at this time was just off the Virginia coast and moving due north, our route would be taking us down into the storm— or at least its western edge— but we figured we’d be far enough inland to avoid the worst effects.
The wind was getting wilder, the rain was starting to pelt down pretty hard, and I-84 was crowded with erratic-driving hurricane escapees, but Jeff kept saying “I feel great!” and kept the hammer down. The unibody, car-chassis-based Sorento proved to be surprisingly agile for a tall-looking CUV packed to the rafters with passengers and cargo.
One of my jobs as Chief Justice of the LeMons Supreme Court is to write the post-race summaries for the race sponsor, preferably on race day, so I tethered my laptop to my PDANet-equipped smartphone, fired up Photoshop to prep my shots of the winners, and got to work. The Sorento’s back seats aren’t up to, say, Crown Victoria levels of roominess (starting out, we felt that the Crown Vic/Grand Marquis would have been the ideal rental vehicle for this situation) and the ride got fairly bouncy, but I was able to get the job done before the laptop’s battery died. Meanwhile, the final game of the World Series was going on, and lifelong Giants fan Nick was doing his best to pick up the ballgame broadcast on the Kia’s radio.
We managed to pick up the final pitch of the game while we were somewhere in New York, and Nick wanted this shot to immortalize the moment (I’m an Oakland A’s fan, but— unlike most A’s fans— I don’t wish ill upon the Giants). Outside the car, the weather just kept getting uglier, but Jeff rebuffed all suggestions that someone else might take the wheel: “No, no, I feel good.”
At this point, the wind levels were getting worrisome. 18-wheeler drivers were pulling off at rest areas and hunkering down while many of the car drivers were getting increasingly erratic; some were creeping along at 35 while others pulled off head-clutching thread-the-needle passes on the road shoulder. Our Sorento was the quickest thing on the road, hauling distinctly un-CUV-ish levels of ass under dangerous conditions, and yet Nick and I weren’t the slightest bit nervous. Here is the place in this tale where I need to discuss the differences between good drivers and professional racers, because Jeff Glenn is a member of the latter group.
Jeff came from a racing family and was autocrossing an MGB and a Mini years before he was old enough to get a street license. As he got older, he graduated to faster and faster cars, until eventually he was piloting open-wheelers for a living. A few years older than the competition— because he’d opted to get a college degree and “wasted” four years— he realized that the reality of being a pro racer hadn’t turned out to be as much fun as he’d imagined as a kid, and so he became an automotive journalist and, when his editor started putting on goofy races, a race promoter.
Most of the time, Jeff is just the well-organized LeMons HQ staffer who talks to corner-workers on the radio, answers confused questions from racers who can’t figure out how to choose a car number, and makes sure all the gear gets shipped to the correct tracks. It’s when he gets behind the wheel of a vehicle— any vehicle— and the situation turns weird that you realize that you’re dealing with a heavy-duty, alien-DNA driving mutant here. Running late for your flight and need to do a 60-MPH bootlegger turn in an Aveo on a crowded airport road in order to get to the rental-car dropoff in time? No problem, Jeff makes it happen. Or, say you’re in Jamaica on the LeMons corporate retreat, you’ve got a diesel Toyota HiAce with 13 passengers and right-hand drive, and you need to navigate Jamaican roads teeming with stray dogs, overloaded buses, and “drug dons” in Escalades. Again, this is the guy you want driving.
Jeff gets an unnerving sense of focus when a driving situation becomes serious; his responses to communication go all robotic and he lasers holes in the windshield, looking several turns ahead at all times. In Jamaica, he had a way of knowing that there’d be a Montero with a busted axle blocking the road just around the next blind curve and he’d have the HiAce ready for it. In the Sorento, he got faster as the worsening weather conditions chased the other drivers off the highways and we knew that we had to outrace Sandy before she trapped us for three days at the Northern Maryland Chlamydic Lot Lizard Rest Area.
By the time we reached I-81, the southbound direction was empty save for a few hell-bent-for-leather diesel demons determined to get their 18-wheelers out of Sandy’s reach and barreling their wind-tossed trucks along at 85 MPH. The Smokeys were all tied up dealing with storm-related problems, and so Jeff really got on the Kia’s throttle at that point. I can’t say that the Sorento is quiet at speed in a hurricane, nor can I say that its ride is smooth. In fact, all that marketing talk about SUVs coddling you in a cocoon of isolation from the scary world outside— be it full of Uzi-packin’ carjackers or cataclysmic weather extremes— had nothing whatsoever to do with the reality of our Sorento experience. At one point I thought to fret about storm-addled cervidae hurling themselves into our windshield. “Don’t worry,” said Jeff, passing a careening Freightliner uphill as various tree parts bounced along the tarmac, “I’ll see them.” The storm got worse and worse as we blew through Maryland and the corner of West Virginia where we hold the Capitol Offense LeMons races, and we resorted to blasting Blood Sugar Sex Magick, repeatedly, to drown out the road noise. The sound system in our Sorento— I’m assuming the fleet version gets the El Cheapo stereo— was adequate, with a handy USB jack for our iPods, though the rear speakers deliver tinny sound reminiscent of the Flavoradio and the interface is on the maddening side.
We were in too much of a frenzy to keep track of fuel economy, but we had to make several fuel stops to refill its 18-gallon tank. Our all-wheel-drive, squarish pseudo-truck probably didn’t crack the 20 MPG barrier, given our not-so-efficient pace.
We encountered snow and sleet in the hills of Virgina, but the winds began to calm as Sandy and the Sorento headed in opposite directions. Nick and I gave up asking Jeff if he wanted to take a driving break, even as he began talking up the idea of roaring straight through to Atlanta, where we’d be able to catch Monday-morning flights.
Somewhere near the Virginia-North Carolina line, the skies cleared and the sun began to rise. We woke up the LeMons Travel Boss and official moonshine taster and had her start looking to move our flights out of Charlotte from Tuesday to Monday. Success!
Just before 9:00 AM Monday, exactly 12 hours after beginning our journey (that’s an average speed of just over 74 MPH, including fuel stops and the traffic-slowed leg to Scranton), we arrived at Charlotte Airport. We had a few hours to kill before our flight, so we blew some of Jay’s cash on an airport hotel suite to shower and catch a few hours of sleep. Then we dropped off the Kia at the rental-car lot (it turns out that the rental companies waived the drop-off-at-different-airport fees for customers traveling from Sandy-affected areas) and settled down to wait for our flights.
By 3:00 PM Monday, I was on a Denver-bound plane, just six hours later than I’d have been if my Logan-DIA flight had taken place.

As for Jay’s idea to ride out the storm in Massachusetts… well, he tells his story in the official LeMons wrapup video (all the 2012 season’s wrapup videos may be viewed here).

Here’s my (probably) NSFW personal wrapup video of the drive.
As I contemplated rummaging through my troubled fellow passenger’s carry-on bag— yeah, it was very difficult in my sleepless, giddy state to avoid provoking an entertaining incident with Mr. DO NOT Touch— I thought about the 2012 Kia Sorento as high-performance hurricane-fleeing machine. Was its impressive high-speed performance all driver/no car (as was the case when we stuck Randy Pobst behind the wheel of a worse-than-stock MGB-GT at Charlotte Motor Speedway)? If we had it to do over again with a different vehicle, would we have taken the Crown Victoria or— shudder— the Mitsubishi Galant from the rental-car lot? The choice of the Sorento makes more sense when you consider the “what if” scenarios. Say, the nightmare 48 hours stuck in the vehicle when the highway floods and you need to sleep in the thing, or the highway gets covered in a foot of mud and only four-wheel-drive can get you unstuck; in those cases, the Sorento provides the right mix of decent speed and versatility that your discerning race organizer prefers. The Kia Sorento: It’s Reasonably Competent™!

19 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Nick Pon 01 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Nick Pon 10 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 2010 Toyota HiAce  - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 2010 Toyota HiAce - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - Jeff Glenn at Laguna Seca - Picture courtesy of Jeff Glenn Jay Lamm samples Pickle Vodka - picture courtesy of Judge Phil 19 - Psycho Kia Sorento Drive - Picture Courtesy of Google 20- Kia Sorento Drive - Picture courtesy of Nick Pon 21 - Psycho Kia Sorento Drive - Picture Courtesy of Google 22 - 2012 Kia Sorento - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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