The Truth About Cars » camcord http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 01 Aug 2014 21:12:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » camcord http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com First Drive Review: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/first-drive-review-2014-honda-accord-hybrid-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/first-drive-review-2014-honda-accord-hybrid-with-video/#comments Wed, 09 Oct 2013 10:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=612689 As of October, the most fuel-efficient mid-sized sedan in America is the Honda Accord. Or so Honda says. After all, Ford has been trumpeting a matching 47 MPG combined from their Fusion. Who is right? And more importantly, can the Accord get Honda back into the hybrid game after having lost the initial hybrid battles […]

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2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-007

As of October, the most fuel-efficient mid-sized sedan in America is the Honda Accord. Or so Honda says. After all, Ford has been trumpeting a matching 47 MPG combined from their Fusion. Who is right? And more importantly, can the Accord get Honda back into the hybrid game after having lost the initial hybrid battles with their maligned Integrated Motor Assist system? Honda invited us to sample the 2014 Accord Hybrid as well as a smorgasbord of competitive products to find out.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

I have always been a fan of “elegant and restrained” styling which explains my love for the first generation Lexus LS. That describes the 2014 Accord to a tee. Like the regular Accord, the hybrid is devoid of sharp creases, dramatic swooshes, edgy grilles or anything controversial. This is a slightly different take than the Accord Plug-in which swaps the standard Accord bumper for a bumper with a slightly awkward gaping maw. In fact, the only thing to show that something green this way comes are some  blue grille inserts and  LED headlamps on the top-level Touring model.

This means the Accord and the Mercedes E-Class are about the only sedans left that sport a low beltline and large greenhouse. Opinions on this style decision range from boring to practical and I fall on the latter. I think the Ford Fusion is more attractive but the Hyundai Sonata’s dramatic style hasn’t aged as well as its Kia cousin’s more angular duds. The Camry failed to move my soul when it was new and it hasn’t changed much over the years. This places the Accord tying with the Optima for second place.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Despite sporting an all-new interior in 2013, you’d be hard pressed to identify what changed over the last generation Accord unless you owned one. Instead of radical design buyers will find incremental improvements and high quality plastics. The dash is still dominated by a double-bump style dashboard with the second binnacle housing a standard 8-inch infotainment display. With manufacturers moving toward slimmer dash designs the Accord’s remains tall and large. For hybrid duty Honda swiped the Plug-in’s tweaked instrument cluster with a large analogue speedometer, no tachometer, LED gauges for battery, fuel and a power meter. Everything else is displayed via a full-color circular LCD set inside the speedometer.

Front seat comfort is excellent in the accord with thickly padded ergonomically designed front seats. There isn’t much bolstering (as you would expect from a family hauler) so larger drivers and passengers shouldn’t have a problem finding a comfortable seating position. The product planners wisely fitted adjustable lumbar support and a 10-way power seats to all trims.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Speaking of trim levels, in most ways (with the exception of that driver’s seat), the Accord EX serves as the “feature content” base for the hybrid. This means you’ll find dual-zone climate control, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, standard Bluetooth, a backup camera, keyless entry/go and active noise cancellation.

Thanks to a wheelbase stretch in 2013, the Accord hybrid sports 1.3 inches more legroom than the last Accord and is finally class competitive with essentially the same amount of room as the Fusion and Camry and a few inches more than the Koreans. The Accord’s upright profile means getting in and out of those rear seats is easier than the low-roofline competition and it also allows the seating position to be more upright. Honda’s sales pitch about the low beltline is that it improves visibility for kids riding in the back, I’m inclined to believe them. As with most hybrids, there’s a trunk penalty to be paid but thanks to energy dense Lithium-ion cells the Accord only drops 3 cubic feet to 12.7 and I had no problem jamming six 24-inch roller bags in the trunk.  Honda nixed the folding rear seats, a feature that the competition has managed to preserve.

2014_Accord_Hybrid_Touring_043, Picture Courtesy of Honda

Infotainment, Gadgets and Pricing

Base Accords use physical buttons to control the standard 8-inch infotainment system and sport 6 speakers with 160 watts behind them.  Honda wouldn’t comment on the expected model split of the Accord, but I suspect that most shoppers will opt for the mid-level EX-L which adds a subwoofer, 360 watt amp, and adds a touchscreen for audio system controls. The dual-screen design struck me as half-baked when I first sampled it in the regular 2013 Accord and although I have warmed up to it a bit, I think it could still use a few minutes in the oven if you opt for the navigation equipped Touring model.

Honda’s concept was to move all the audio functions to the touchscreen thereby freeing the upper screen for some other use like the trip computer or navigation screen. The trouble is the lower screen simply selects sources and provides track forward/backward buttons meaning you still have to use the upper screen to change playlists or search for tracks. That minor complaint aside, the system is very intuitive and responsive. Honda’s improved iDevice and USB integration is standard fare on all models and easily ties with the best in this segment.

2014_Accord_Hybrid_EX-L_ Picture Courtesy of Honda

Starting at $29,155, the base Accord Hybrid is the most expensive mid-sized hybrid sedan by a decent margin especially when you look at the $25,650 starting price on the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. However, the Accord Hybrid delivers a high level of standard equipment including standard Pandora smartphone app integration and Honda’s Lane Watch system. Lane watch still strikes me as a little gimmicky since the Accord has such small blind spots and the best outward visibility in the segment already. Instead of stand alone options Honda offers just three trim levels. The next step is the $31,905 EX-L model which adds leather seats, a leather steering wheel, upgraded audio system with two LCD screens, memory driver’s seat, power passenger seat, moonroof, a camera based collision warning system and lane departure warning. While the base model is a little more expensive than cross-shops, the EX-L becomes a decent value compared to comparably equipped competitive hybrids.

Working your way up to the top-of-the-line $34,905 Touring model the Accord is no longer the most expensive in the class, that award goes to the $37,200 loaded fusion. At this price the Accord is less of a bargain compared to the competition, although you do get full LED headlamps and an adaptive cruise control system. In comparison the Camry spans from $26,140 to $32,015, the Sonata from $25,650 to $32,395, Optima from  $25,900 to $31,950 and the Fusion from $27,200 to $37,200. How about the Prius? Glad you asked. The Prius that is most comparable to the base Accord Hybrid is $26,970 and comparably equipped to the Accord Touring is $35,135.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Being the drivetrain geek that I am, what’s under the hood of the Accord hybrid is more exciting than the Corvette Stingray. Seriously. Why? Because this car doesn’t have a transmission in the traditional sense. Say what? Let’s start at the beginning. The last time Honda tried selling an Accord hybrid, they jammed a 16 HP motor between a V6 and a 5-speed automatic. The result was 25MPG combined. The 2014 hybrid system shares absolutely nothing with the old system. No parts. No design themes. Nothing.

Things start out with the same 2.0L four-cylinder engine used in the Accord plug-in. The small engine is 10% more efficient than Honda’s “normal” 2.0L engine thanks to a modified Atkinson cycle, an electric water pump, cooled exhaust gas return system, and electric valve timing with a variable cam profile. The engine produces 141 horsepower on its own at 6,200 RPM and, thanks to the fancy valvetrain, 122 lb-ft from 3,500-6,000 RPM.

The engine is connected directly to a motor/generator that is capable of generating approximately 141 horsepower. (Honda won’t release details on certain drivetrain internals so that’s an educated guess.) Next we have a 166 horsepower, 226 lb-ft motor that is connected to the front wheels via a fixed gear ratio. Under 44 miles per hour, this is all you need to know about the system. The 166 horsepower motor powers the car alone, drawing power from either a 1.3 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, or the first motor/generator. Over 44 miles per hour, the system chooses one of two modes depending on what is most efficient at the time. The system can engage a clutch pack to directly connect the two motor/generator units together allowing engine power to flow directly to the wheels via that fixed gear ratio. (Check out the diagram below.)

Front Wheel Drive Biased

Pay careful attention to that. I said fixed gear ratio. When the Accord Hybrid engages the clutch to allow the engine to power the wheels directly (mechanically), power is flowing via a single fixed ratio gear set. The fixed gear improves efficiency at highway speeds, reduces weight vs a multi-speed unit and is the reason the system must use in serial hybrid mode below 44 mph. There is another side effect at play here as well: below 44 MPH, the system’s maximum power output is 166 horsepower. The 196 combined ponies don’t start prancing until that clutch engages.

So why does Honda call it an eCVT? Because that fits on a sales sheet bullet point and the full explanation doesn’t. Also, a serial hybrid can be thought of as a CVT because there is an infinite and non-linear relationship between the engine input and the motor output in the transaxle.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

Let’s start off with the most important number first: fuel economy. With a 50/45/47 EPA score (City/Highway/Combined), the Accord essentially ties with the Fusion on paper and, although Honda deliberately avoided this comparison, is only 3MPG away from the Prius-shaped elephant in the room. In the real world however the Accord was more Prius than Fusion, averaging 45-46 mpg in our highway-heavy (and lead-footed) 120 mile route and easily scoring 60-65 mpg in city driving if you drive if like there’s an egg between your foot and the pedal of choice. Those numbers are shockingly close to the standard Prius in our tests (47-48 MPG average) and well ahead of the 40.5 MPG we averaged in the Fusion, 35.6 in the Hyundai/Kia cousins and 40.5 in the Camry. Why isn’t Honda dropping the Prius gauntlet? Your guess is as good as mine.

Due to the design of the hybrid system, I had expected there to be a noticeable engagement of the clutch pack, especially under hard acceleration when the system needs to couple the engine to the drive wheels to deliver all 196 combined ponies. Thankfully, system transitions are easily the smoothest in this segment besting Ford’s buttery smooth Fusion and night and day better than the Camry or Prius. Acceleration does take a slight toll because of the system design with 60 MPH arriving in 7.9 seconds, about a half second slower than the Fusion or Camry but half a second faster than the Optima or Sonata and several hours ahead of the Prius.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

At 69 measured decibels at 50 MPH, the Accord hybrid is one of the quietest mid-sized sedans I have tested scoring just below the Fusion’s hushed cabin. This is something of a revelation for the Accord which had traditionally scored among the loudest at speed. When driving in EV mode (possible at a wide variety of highway speeds) things dropped to 68 db at 50 MPH.

When the road starts winding, the Accord Hybrid handles surprisingly well. Why surprisingly? Well, the hybrid system bumps the curb weight by almost 300 lbs to 3,550 (vs the Accord EX) and swaps in low-rolling resistance tires for better fuel economy. However, unlike the Camry and Korean competition, the Accord uses wide 225 width tires. Considering the regular Accord models use 215s, this makes the Accord’s fuel economy numbers all the more impressive. The Fusion is 150 lbs heavier and rides on either 225 or 235 (Titanium only) width tires which also explains why the hybrid Fusion Titanium gets worse mileage than the base Hybrid SE model. I wouldn’t call the Accord Hybrid the equal of the gas-only Accord EX on the road, but the difference is smaller than you might think.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Helping the Accord out on the road are “amplitude reactive dampers” or “two mode shocks” as some people call them. These fancy struts have worked their way down from the Acura line and use two different valves inside the damper to improve low and high-speed damping performance. The difference is noticeable with the Hybrid having a more compliant ride, and thanks to thicker anti-roll bars the hybrid is more stable in corners. Still, for me, the Accord gives up a hair of performance feel to the Fusion hybrid out on the road. It’s just a hair less precise, not as fast to 60 and lacks the sharp turn-in and bite you get in the Fusion Titanium with its wider and lower profile tires. However, keep in mind that Fusion Titanium takes a 1-2MPG toll on average economy in our tests dropping the Fusion from 40.5 to 38-39 MPG.

The Accord may not be the best looking hybrid on sale, (for me that’s still the Ford Fusion) but the Accord’s simple lines and unexpectedly high fuel economy make the Honda a solid option. Being the gadget hound I am, I think I would still buy the Fusion, but only in the more expensive Titanium trim. If you’re not looking that high up the food chain, the Accord Hybrid is quite simply the best fuel sipping mid-size anything. Prius included.

 

Honda provided the vehicle, insurance and gas at a launch event.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.2 Seconds

0-60: 7.9 Seconds

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 69 db

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 45.9 MPG over 129 miles.

 

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Engine 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-001 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-003 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-005 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-006 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-007 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-002 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-003 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Trunk

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Review: 2014 Mazda6 (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2014-mazda6-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2014-mazda6-video/#comments Thu, 08 Aug 2013 17:20:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498456 Whenever I talk to car shoppers, the Mazda6 comes up. No, it’s not because people are confused if it’s a “Mazda 6″ or a “Mazda6″ or a “Mazda Mazda6.” Although, it does top the Land Rover Range Rover Sport Autobiography for the strangest name on the market. (I prefer to call it a Mazda6.) The […]

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2014 Mazda Mazda6 Exterior

Whenever I talk to car shoppers, the Mazda6 comes up. No, it’s not because people are confused if it’s a “Mazda 6″ or a “Mazda6″ or a “Mazda Mazda6.” Although, it does top the Land Rover Range Rover Sport Autobiography for the strangest name on the market. (I prefer to call it a Mazda6.) The reason Mazda’s mid-sized sedan comes up, is because it seems to be a car often shopped, but rarely purchased. In June, it scored 14th in sales for the segment. Surprised? I was. Even the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger (9th and 12th place) outsold it by a wide margin. The low sales numbers piqued my interest enough that I hit Mazda up for a cherry red model to see why.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

2014 brings Mazda’s new corporate grille to the Mazda6, and I have to say, it’s a beautiful schnoz. I was a little worried the gaping maw would be too large in person, (in pictures it looks enormous) but up-close-and-personal it has to be the second most attractive front end after the Fusion. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but during the week I was unable to find anyone who disagreed with me. So my opinion reigns supreme. I’m worried however, the proportions look perfect on the Mazda6, so what will the Mazda3 be like? Why am I worried? Because if you park the Mazda6 next to a CX-9 or CX-5, the crossovers look more cartoonish than if they park alone. Just like your girlfriend seems pretty until you park her next to Megan Fox. Although the 2014 model looks longer than the outgoing Mazda6, overall length has been cut by about two inches. Adding “visual length” as well as much-needed rear seat room, the wheelbase has been stretched by two inches to 111.4.

2014 Mazda Mazda6 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Mazda’s nose may be a notch below the Ford in my style-guide, but out back it’s a different story. I find the Fusion’s rump to be a little awkward. It’s almost as if Ford ran out of time and “hurried” the back end of their family hauler. Not so with the Mazda6 which has a finished look from the “raised eyebrow” tail lamps to the twin chrome exhausts. Thanks to the best butt in the business, I call the Ford v. Mazda beauty contest a tie. How about the Koreans? I never warmed to the Sonata, but the Optima is aggressive and attractive, just not as emotional as the Mazda6. Thanks to the low sales volume, the Mazda is also a step outside the ordinary, something that attracts me.

2014 Maxda Mazda6 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior
The British would have called the old Mazda6′s interior “cheap and cheerful” with shapes that failed to offend, but plastics that were far from premium. For 2014, Mazda increased the plastic budget and coated the interior with soft injection moulded material. Bucking the latest trend, Mazda skipped the stitching treatment on the dash, although you will find sewing machine tracks on the doors. ZoomZoom also nixed the faux-tree in favor of a black-cherry (or just black) plastic trim panel that bisects the tall dashboard. Aside from the infotainment binnacle that seems a bit too large for the screen, this is the most harmonious and simple dashboard in this segment. I hate to beat on the old Mazda6, but “simple and harmonious” is not a phrase I would have used.

Front seat comfort was excellent for my average six-foot frame, regardless of the trim level. In an interesting move, Mazda chose to make the base manual seat adjust in all the same ways as the optional powered seats. The inclusion of manual lumbar support on base seats is a nice touch as well, something the competition often skips in “stripper” models. In keeping with Mazda’s self-proclaimed sporty image, the front seats feature aggressive (for a Camcord segment car) front seat bolsters and are therefore quite different from the Barcaloungers in the Camry, Accord and Altima. The bolsters aren’t as pronounced as a C63 AMG, but the “like a glove” fit was a huge selling point for me. On the down side, seats like these are less comfortable for larger folks as they provide precious little muffin top accommodation.

Rear seat legroom is up thanks to the increased wheelbase and is now competitive with the CamFusCord. Because the way that car companies measure leg room varies it’s hard to go by the published numbers. According to the numbers the Mazda6 delivers the same rear legroom as the meat of the competition but skimps on front legroom. In reality the Mazda6 felt roomier than its old cousin the Ford Fusion while the Camry still feels larger somehow. Some of that is thanks to the Camry’s generous rear headroom, something that sexy sedan profiles take a toll on. Thankfully Mazda didn’t cut the rear doors as low as Ford did making it easier to get in and out of the Mazda. With more room on the inside and a shorter overall car, it’s no surprise that the looser in this battle is the trunk. At 14.8 cubic feet the 2014 model looses two cubes compared to last year shifting it from one of the larger trunks in the segment to among the smallest.

2014 Maxda Mazda6 Interior, Infotainment Control Knob, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment & Gadgets

Mazda’s limited budget is readily apparent when you look at the Infotainment system. I’m not talking about the base 6-speaker AM/FM/CD system that you will only find in the most basic trim Mazda6 with the manual transmission, that one is lovely, I’m talking about the 5.8-inch touchscreen. Simply adding the automatic transmission bundles the touchscreen infotainment system on the base model and it’s standard on all other models meaning you can’t get away from it. If you’ve read my reviews before, you know that I love me some touchscreen infotainment, but Mazda’s leaves me scratching my head.

First off, the screen is small. With the Accord boasting two ginormous LCDs in the dash, 5.8-inches is nothing to brag about. The size of the screen’s binnacle makes me hopeful a mid-cycle refresh will being some 8-inch touch-love, but that could be a pipe dream. The software’s graphics are suitably slick and the interface is easy to navigate via the touchscreen or the Audi MMI style knob in the center console. Alas the lord giveth and he taketh away. The software is sluggish at best, some of the control screens are half-baked and the integration of TomTom navigation is clunky. I’m not a huge fan of Chrysler’s uConnect with Garmin software, but at least that system has the screen real estate allowing you to read the awkward menus and stab what you need, not so in the Mazda. When using the control dial it’s difficult to distinguish between the option that’s selected and the cursor position since they are the same color and nearly the same shape.

2014 Mazda Mazda6 Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Plug in any music device and you’ll encounter my other beef, and something Mazda forum posters have been complaining about as well. The media interface is incredibly slow. I n c r e d i b l y  s l o w. So slow that at first I assumed the head unit had frozen so I plugged, unplugged, plugged, unplugged to no avail. Then I gave up and listened to the radio. (Gasp!) A full 4 minutes later, the system switched to the iDevice and started to play my tunes. (Yes, I tested it with USB sticks and it did the same thing). If you think this is a momentary aberration, think again. The system has to fully index your entire USB/Android/iDevice music library before it starts playing. It does this whenever you unplug/plug or when you stop/start the car. Every. Single. Time. The larger your library, the longer it takes. Users on the Mazda forum reported a 10+ minute delay when playing larger devices while I averaged just over three minutes. Want tunes on a short journey? I hope you enjoy AM Gold. Mazda hasn’t confirmed a software update, but I pray one happens soon. This was so aggravating it colors my whole opinion of the interface, if Mazda fixed this one thing I could forgive the small screen and quirky menu system.

On the gadget front, Mazda lags behind Ford but does offers most of the gadgetry you’ll find in the competition and a few things you won’t. Our tester had the optional adaptive radar cruise with collision warning, xenon headlamps, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic detection, rain sensing wipers and keyless entry/go. Also available as part of the $2090 Technology Package on iGrand Touring models is lane departure warning and an auto high beam system bundled with Mazda’s i-ELoop micro hybrid system. Notably absent on the Mazda6 are lane departure prevention and self-parking, features starting to trickle down into this segment.

2014 Mazda Mazda6 Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

SkyActiv is Mazda’s fuel saving “brand,” but it’s more than just a set of engine tweaks. Mazda’s fuel sipping umbrella includes weight savings, aerodynamics, optional energy regeneration and a slick new transmission. Lets start with weight savings. At 3,232lbs (automatic transmission) the 2014 is  about three hundred pounds lighter than the old model, 200lbs lighter than a Fusion, and a hair heavier than a Camry or Optima. Under the hood you’ll find the latest 2.5L Mazda four-cylinder engine with direct injection and variable valve timing. Mazda uses a 13:1 compression ratio in the American bound models to allow it to run safely on regular unleaded, so this isn’t exactly the same engine in other markets. Power output is 185 HP and 184 lb-ft which stacks up well against the competition especially when you look at the torque curve which is lower and broader than most of the competition. While Ford offers no less than four engine options in the Fusion, the 2.5L is the only engine available until the SkyActiv diesel appears.

Something that has confused reporters in the past is Mazda’s new transmission. Some describe it as a hybrid between a dual clutch and a traditional automatic, some have even suggested that it can “disable” the torque converter. In addition to the 6-speed manual transmission you can opt for the SkyActiv branded traditional automatic transaxle. Traditional? What about the fancy clutches? Here’s what Mazda did.

Lock-up torque converters are nothing new, having been introduced in 1949, but in our age of efficiency companies are using them more aggressively. By locking the impeller and turbine (input and output) of the torque converter, you increase efficiency by cutting most of the impelling losses in the torque converter (there are still some because it’s still spinning, but it’s greatly reduced). Old transmissions only did this in their final gear and relatively infrequently. Modern automatics like GM/Ford’s 6-speed transaxle spend about half their time in lock-up and will engage the locking “clutch” in most gears. Mazda’s new slushbox is programmed with an aggressive lockup agenda and will lock in every gear. In addition, it spends more time in lockup (80% or more) than a competitive unit on the same driving cycle. The result is a more connected 1:1 relationship between the engine and wheels than you find in a CamFusCord.

2014 Mazda Mazda6 Exterior-002

Drive

The aggressive lockup is noticeable out on the road, especially in hill driving where the Mazda6 feels more connected to the drivetrain than the competition. “Connected” is a word that repeatedly came to mind when driving the Mazda6 in the real world and during an event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca where Mazda had the guys to let a writer’s group flog a sedan on the track. The Zoom-Zoom brand has long been known for an emphasis on handling, so it shouldn’t surprise you that the Mazda6 is one of the most enjoyable front wheel drive cars on the road, but it also proved amusing on the track. No, not as amusing as the BMW X1 that was on hand, but the Mazda delivered surprising agility, well controlled body motions, little roll and just a hint of brake fade after 6 laps. For a CamFusCord competitor, there is no higher praise. Ultimate grip is easily the equal of the new Ford Fusion, the only other entry in this large segment with any handling prowess at all. Another feather in the Mazda6′s cap is steering with the vaguest hint of feeling, a quality that would have been laughable a decade ago, but in our age of electric power steering even the suggestion of feedback is welcome.

I was a bit less impressed with the Mazda6′s manual transmission, yes it has possibly the best shift feel in the segment, but is that saying much? The clutch pedal feel is superior to the new Accord as well, but with only 184HP on tap and 3,200lbs to motivate the automatic does a better job on the average commute. Boo! Hiss! Another manual hater?!? Not at all, I love the fact that Mazda builds most trim levsls of the Mazda6 with a manual. The problem is the slushbox is moderately engaging and gets 1MPG better mileage (26/38 for the auto). It’s easy to see why the average shopper would let the car row the gears. At the stop-light races, the 2014 model feels stronger than the outgoing model despite the modest bump in power, this is thanks to the improved torque curve, weight reduction and that SkyActiv transmission. Proving that CVTs are the performance king (seriously) the four-cylinder Accord spanks the ZoomZoom to 60 MPH with a 6.83 second score to the Mazda6′s 7.4 but both of those are faster than the Fusion’s base or 1.6L Ecoboost options by over half a tick.

2014 Mazda Mazda6 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The i-ELoop micro hybrid system is part of a $2,090 option pack on the top trim of the Mazda6. This is similar to BMW’s active alternator, in that the system is only capable of recovering a portion of the kinetic energy and provides no motive assistance. When braking, a variable voltage alternator charges a large capacitor, the system uses this to power vehicle systems. When accelerating, the system disengages the alternator to reduce the load and runs the accessories on the reserved charge. Mazda claims the system is good for an extra 2MPG on the highway bumping the mid-sized sedan to an impressive 40MPG. I was unable to get my hands on one for testing, but I easily beat the 30 MPG combined score despite driving it more aggressively during the week than the competition.

So if the Mazda6 handles well, delivers decent fuel economy and is priced and featured in line with the competition, why are the sales so slow? After a week with the 2014 incarnation I’m no closer to answering this automotive enigma. Many have conjectured the ZoomZoom brand lacks the advertising resources to push their wares, that is certainly true when you compare their marketing budget to Toyota, but then again Kia and Hyundai have raised themselves from obscurity on budgets that started small. Some posit the lack of a stout V6 option is to blame, but 90% of the cars in this segment are four-bangers, so toss that logic out the window. Even with the most aggravating infotainment system sold in America, the Mazda6′s other attributes compensate enough to put it near the top of my list, just under the gadget loaded, 2.0L Ecoboosted Fusion and the four-cylinder Accord. Why doesn’t the Mazda6 sell? Will the diesel engine turn the Mazda6 into an oil-burning Passat killer? These are questions we may never have answered. What do our readers have to say?

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • One of the best looking cars in the segment.
  • Excellent fuel economy.
  • Turbo diesel dreams.

Quit it

  • Aggravating infotainment system.
  • No turbocharged four and no V6 option for “performance” shoppers.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.75 Seconds

0-60: 7.4 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.786 Seconds @ 88.5 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 30.5 MPG over 534 miles

2014 Maxda Mazda6 Interior 2014 Maxda Mazda6 Interior-001 2014 Maxda Mazda6 Interior-002 2014 Maxda Mazda6 Interior-003 2014 Maxda Mazda6 Interior-004 2014 Maxda Mazda6 Interior-005 2014 Maxda Mazda6 Interior, Infotainment Control Knob, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Maxda Mazda6 Interior-007 2014 Maxda Mazda6 Interior-008 2014 Maxda Mazda6 Interior-009 2014 Maxda Mazda6 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Maxda Mazda6 Interior-011 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Engine 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Exterior 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Exterior-001 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Exterior-002 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Exterior-003 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Exterior-004 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Exterior-005 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Exterior-006 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Exterior-007 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Exterior-008 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Instrument Cluster 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Trunk 2014 Mazda Mazda6 Trunk-001

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Review: 2013 Honda Accord EX (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/review-2013-honda-accord-ex-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/review-2013-honda-accord-ex-video/#comments Fri, 10 May 2013 17:10:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=487583   Our last look at the Accord was back in September when we ran a two-parter (part 1, part 2) after being invited to the launch event. Yes, shockingly our invite wasn’t lost in the mail. As TTAC has said in the past, there are problems with launch events. Usually you’re running around in a […]

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2013 Honda Accord EX, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesOur last look at the Accord was back in September when we ran a two-parter (part 1, part 2) after being invited to the launch event. Yes, shockingly our invite wasn’t lost in the mail. As TTAC has said in the past, there are problems with launch events. Usually you’re running around in a pre-production car that may not be “quite right” yet, you have to split your driving time with some dude from another publication (shout out to Hooniverse on that trip).  Drive time is limited, and exclusively done on roads selected by the manufacturer. Sometimes you don’t get the trim level you want either. What I wanted was one step up from the base model, the mainstream EX and I wanted it on the same roads I’ve driven the other Camcord competitors. Here’s that review.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Honda has long been known as a serious kind of car company. Press events are orderly, the Honda folks wear suits and their products are similarly starched. While we have a new corporate nose up front with a chrome “smiley” face and aggressive headlamps, the rest of the profile is buttoned up and professional. The large (and low) greenhouse says “I have kids,” an image that Honda has been embracing with their latest commercials, essentially admitting they are leaving descriptives like “sexy” and “dramatic” to Hyundai and Ford. I have to admit I am quite torn, I love the Fusion’s sexy sheetmetal making it my first pick in terms of looks, but oddly enough the “plain Jane” Accord is number two for me because it’s simple clean. The new Kia Optima is a very, very close third thanks its nose job for 2014. I’m not convinced that the Camry’s nose or the Sonata’s dramatic character lines will age well, let me know what you think in the comment section. Something important to keep in mind is the Accord has bucked the growth trend and has shrunk on the outside compared to the previous generation making it among the smallest in this segment. Good if you live in the city, bad if you were hoping for a Honda land yacht.

Typical for Honda, the Accord has no factory installed options to choose from, you simply pick your trim: LX, EX, Sport EX-L, or Touring. LX, EX and Sport models can be had with a manual or a CVT while EX-L and Touring models are CVT only with the four cylinder and auto only with the V6. Aside from the lack of fog lights in the LX and a tiny bit of black trim on the LX and EX models, the only visual clues to which Accord you’re driving are the wheels and exhaust tips. When it comes to sleepers, there’s nothing that fits that description like an Accord.

2013 Honda Accord EX, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Honda’s interiors have long been known for their simple functionality rather than opulence or elegance and Honda is still singing the same tune. Despite being an all-new model for 2013, Honda hasn’t radically changed the interior design, opting instead for incremental improvements and more standard features. All Accords now get standard dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth phone integration, a backup cam and active noise cancellation. Honda seems to have listened to the complaints from reviewers and customers and took a methodical and dedicated approach to making the Accord quieter on the road. In addition to the fancy noise cancelling software, there’s more foam, more carpet and a one-piece dash designed to prevent squeaks later in life.

Honda’s seat engineers seem to be designing seats specifically for my back lately. The Accord and the refreshed Civic both sport supportive seats that coddled by back and backside on long journeys. There is a caution I must toss in however, the lumbar support in Sport, EX and LX models is fixed and pronounced. If you need some adjustability in your back support, you’ll need to step up to a leather model to get it. 2013 has brought a raft of materials improvements to the Accord cabin from improved seat fabrics to more squishy dash bits and the ever-so-popular stitched pleather. Thankfully Honda spares potential owners the shame of faux wood trim, instead opting for a modern brown pattern that I found attractive. The trim and the style are not as stylized or futuristic as the competition, but controls are easy to locate, and consistent in their high quality feel.

2013 Honda Accord EX, Interior, Dashboard Trim, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Thanks to the Accord’s upright profile, getting in and out of the back seats is an easy task, something I can’t say of the Fusion. Once inside the height pays further dividends with more headroom than the coupé-like competitors. Despite being smaller on the outside and having a smaller wheelbase than the outgoing model, legroom is up by a welcome 1.3 inches in the rear and the trunk has grown to a [finally] competitive 13.7 cubic feet. On the down side, Honda forgot that sometimes people need to carry large items and three people, not possible in the Accord if you fold down the rear seat since it folds as a single unit.

Even base model Accords are well equipped with dual-zone climate control, auto headlamps, cruise control, backup camera, and a one-touch up/down window for the driver. Because of the comfortable seats and high level of standard gadgets, the Accord is the poster child of “easy to live with” like that comfortable sweatshirt.

2013 Honda Accord EX, Radio Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

Honda’s relentless drive to streamline options means a high level of standard tech on the Accord. All Accords get an 8-inch high-res screen in the middle of the dash, Bluetooth integration for speakerphone and audio, iDevice/USB interface, Pandora internet radio app integration and SMS messaging features if your smartphone supports it. (At the time of our drive, Pandora radio is restricted to Apple iDevices and SMS messaging to Android devices, Honda giveth and taketh away.)

Browsing the lots of my nearest Honda dealers, it seems the EX and EX-L models account for the bulk of purchases and lot space, not surprising since they straddle the middle in terms of price from $24,605 for a manual EX to $32,070 foe an EX-L V6. All EX models get keyless entry/go, Honda’s up-level audio system and their Lane Watch blind-spot viewing system. (Trust me, LW is more exciting than it sounds). Stepping up to the EX-L model or above gets you a higher resolution 8-inch screen and a 5-inch touchscreen LCD in the center of the dash that acts as the primary audio control interface. The addition of the second display allows you to see some audio information at the same time as the 8-inch display either shows you the navigation screen (if you’ve opted for it) or some other information source. Want to know more? Check out that video above.

2013 Honda Accord EX, Engine 2.4L EarthDreams Direct-Injection I4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

I know we’re here to dream of EarthDreams (which is quite possibly the worst thing anyone has ever named an engine family), but we should start out with that optional V6.  As before the V6 has cylinder deactivation tech, but Honda decided that the old system which would cut out 2 or 3 cylinders depending on the load was more trouble than it was worth, so for 2013 the V6 will only drop to 3 cylinders but the range of operation has been expanded. Thanks to the tweaks and a new 6-speed automatic, the V6 is good for 278HP and 252 lb-ft of torque while delivering 21/34MPG. The V6 has a well-tuned exhaust note and scoots to 60 in the same 6.2 seconds that the Altima 3.5 managed, but the Accord lags the Altima in real-world fuel economy by 3 MPG. This isn’t the engine you want.

What piqued my interest at the launch event was Honda’s new 2.4L direct-injection four cylinder engine. The engine and new CVT turned my impression of the Accord on its head. The engine’s 185HP still arrive at a very-Honda high RPM of 6,500, but thanks to the direct-injection sauce torque jumps to a [nearly] HP matching 181 lb-ft with a strong pull from idle and a peak at a decidedly un-Honda 3,900RPM. If you choose the 6-speed manual, you no longer have to rev the nuts off the engine to get the Accord in motion. Most shoppers however will findP a Continuously Variable Transmission under their Accord’s hood, although they may not even notice. Why? This is quite possibly the world’s best CVT.

2013 Honda Accord EX, Fuel Economy, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Yes, I know I have a rep for the love-that-dare-not-speak-its-name, but I have my reasons for liking a CVT: fuel economy, mountain climbing, and maximizing acceleration in underpowered cars like the 107HP Versa. This CVT is actually pleasant to drive. I’m not sure how the boffins managed it, but Honda’s new CVT switches ratios quickly and crisply with a feel that is so close to a standard automatic the average person might not be able to tell the difference. If you have driven a Nissan with a CVT, you get what some call a “rubber band” feeling that pressing the throttle gets instant response but builds, levels, then after you release the throttle it takes a while for the engine to “return” to a dull roar.

The Accord on the other hand has the feeling of a downshift where the engine shifts to a high RPM almost immediately, then like a normal CVT, stays there while you accelerate and when you lift it drops rapidly like a normal transmission upshifting. Passengers in the car were confused, some thought they detected shifts and thought it was an auto, while a few realized it was just a good CVT. This is as it should be. If you need another reason to give the CVT a shot, the 27 city, 36 highway and 30 combined MPG rating should make a believer out of you. In my mixed driving I averaged a stout 32.5 MPG. If you absolutely must have the manual, you’ll be limited to four-cylinder LX, EX and Sport models (the V6/MT combo is Accord coupé specific). The manual will save you $1,200 at the register but cost you more at the pump with fuel economy dropping to 24/34 and in my testing the combined number was some 5MPG lower than the CVT.

2013 Honda Accord EX, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The Accord has long been known for its double wishbone front suspension, a design that some prefer because of increasing negative camber gain as the suspension reaches the end of travel. On the downside it’s heavier, more expensive and according to Honda contributed to the NVH that owners and reviewers whined about. What does that have to do with anything? The wishbone is gone, replaced by a MacPherson strut arrangement like just about every other FWD car in the USA. Does it matter? Not really, most people would be hard pressed to tell the difference since the Accord is hardly a track day car. Or is it?

The mid-size sedan is the ultimate comprise car, just watch a sedan add some time. They are supposed to schlep the kids to daycare and then carve that canyon on your way to your impressive day job where everyone congratulates you on making the smart decision to buy the family car instead of the Mercedes roadster. Truth be told, any mid-size sedan carves corners with shocking aplomb, holds at least two car seats with ease, looks good enough to valet park and manages to keep from breaking the bank. You know, except for that Dodge Avenger I’m trying to forget. But I digress.

2013 Honda Accord EX, Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Honda made a big deal out of the weight reduction at the launch event, but in truth the 3,336lb curb weight merely represents a tend in the right direction and lands the Accord in the middle of the fray. What is different is how Honda chose to tune the Accord. Out on the road the steering is moderately heavy with a hint of feedback (more than can be said for most sedans these days) and the suspension is firm for a family car. The combination create a feel that I would almost describe as “Germanic,” something that paradoxically cannot be said of the latest Passat. When the feel and suspension are mated with 215/55R17 rubber on the EX and EX-L models, the Accord can dance with the best of the competition. The Sport model’s 235 width tires might sound attractive but beware, the rubber is bundled with new steering stops that increase the turning circle from good to enormous. My suggestion would be to buy a regular model, jump to 225s and deal with the occasional rubbing.

Thanks to a combination of excellent road manners, a surprisingly quick 6.8 second jump to 60 and the best mid-sized non-hybrid/non-diesel fuel economy we have tested so far and the Accord EX becomes my favorite four-cylinder mid-size sedan. It’s not as sexy as the Fusion, but it’s cheaper by a nose, more exciting than a Camry, more mainstream than a Kia or Hyundai (yes, I did use that as a factor because you know shoppers will) and statistically more reliable than some of the other options on the road. There’s always a “but” and here it is: the Altima 3.5 starts at $25,760, weighs the same as the four-cylinder Accord, clears 60 in 5.5 seconds and averaged a shocking (and totally worth it) 27.6 MPG during our week.

 

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • The best CVT ever created.
  • Our average fuel economy was only 1MPG lower than a Civic.
  • Excellent chassis dynamics.

Quit it

  • Lane Watch is as gimmicky as it sounds.
  • You have to upgrade to the EX-L to avoid the urethane steering wheel.
  • I still don’t understand the split screen radio/nav situation. Someone explain that to me over a beer.

 

 Honda provided the vehicle, insurance and gas for this review

Specifications as tested

 0-30: 2.8 Seconds

0-60: 6.83 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.25 Seconds @ 93 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 32.5MPG over 659 miles

2013 Honda Accord EX 2013 Honda Accord EX-001 2013 Honda Accord EX-002 2013 Honda Accord EX-003 2013 Honda Accord EX-004 2013 Honda Accord EX, Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord EX-006 2013 Honda Accord EX-007 2013 Honda Accord EX, Grille, Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord EX, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord EX-010 2013 Honda Accord EX, Interior, Dashboard Trim, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord EX, Radio Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord EX-013 2013 Honda Accord EX-014 2013 Honda Accord EX-015 2013 Honda Accord EX-016 2013 Honda Accord EX-017 2013 Honda Accord EX-018 2013 Honda Accord EX-019 2013 Honda Accord EX, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord EX-021 2013 Honda Accord EX-022 2013 Honda Accord EX, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord EX-024 2013 Honda Accord EX-025 2013 Honda Accord EX-026 2013 Honda Accord EX-027 2013 Honda Accord EX-028 2013 Honda Accord EX-029 2013 Honda Accord EX-030 2013 Honda Accord EX-031 2013 Honda Accord EX-032 2013 Honda Accord EX-033 2013 Honda Accord EX-034 2013 Honda Accord EX-035 2013 Honda Accord EX, Engine 2.4L EarthDreams Direct-Injection I4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord EX-037

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Review: 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/review-2013-ford-fusion-hybrid-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/review-2013-ford-fusion-hybrid-video/#comments Mon, 11 Mar 2013 07:08:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=480224 Want a fuel-sipping, tree-hugging sedan with stunning good looks? Ford thinks they have the answer in the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid. Can jamming a gasoline/electric drivetrain behind Ford’s sexy grille continue the love affair the press has had with Ford’s world-car? More importantly, can this Ford hybrid live up to its EPA numbers? Let’s find […]

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Want a fuel-sipping, tree-hugging sedan with stunning good looks? Ford thinks they have the answer in the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid. Can jamming a gasoline/electric drivetrain behind Ford’s sexy grille continue the love affair the press has had with Ford’s world-car? More importantly, can this Ford hybrid live up to its EPA numbers? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The new Fusion is as striking as the old one was bland. Up front we have an Aston-Martin inspired grille, angry headlamps and a tastefully reserved quantity of chrome. Out back we have a less daring rear end that some of my friends thought looked “unfinished”  as if Ford just cut the sausage to the desired length. The stubby tail makes parallel parking a bit easier since it’s easy to know where your Fusion ends but I suspect rear-end repairs will be more costly than sedans with a more traditional bumper protrusion. The aggressive looks from the Optima and Fusion are refreshing in a segment full of humdrum slab sides and unrestrained chrome bling. I find the new Accord elegant in a 1990s Lexus sort of way, but the large green house screams family sedan. Toyota seems to have mated an edgy nose with refrigerator flat door panels to create a Camry that’s far from ugly but also far from sexy. Meanwhile VW’s Passat TDI strikes a very conservative pose with a large horizontal grille and segment-standard slab sides.

Interior

The new Fusion’s cabin has a level of refinement normally associated with European brands, and that makes sense since our Fusion is their Mondeo. The fit and finish in our tester was excellent with perfect seams and substantial feeling controls. While the new tiller doesn’t get soft split-grain leather like the new Accord, Ford’s new button arrangements are easier to use, easier to reach and feel better built than the wheel in the C-MAX and Escape. Like other Fusion models, most Hybrids sitting on the lot will look as if they were carved out of a single piece of black plastic. Selecting the tan cloth or the [seemingly] rare tan leather interior helps the interior feel warmer but there’s no way to avoid the large expanse of black that is the dashboard, carpet and large portion of the doors. If you love tan, keep in mind the Titanium comes only in black.

Front seat comfort is excellent although a step behind the Honda Accord which has the most comfortable seats in the segment. The Camry’s thrones are more “American-sized” but they aren’t as bolstered as those in the Fusion. Since seat preferences are as unique as people, spend some time behind the wheel before you buy. Unlike some of the competition, Ford’s tilt/telescoping steering wheel provides a large range of motion making it easy to accommodate drivers of different heights. Hybrid Fusions get standard10-way powered seats with an optional three-position memory system (standard on Titanium). As you would expect, the passenger doesn’t get the same kind of seat-love with your choice of manual or 4-way power adjusting.

Rear seats are as low to the ground as any in this segment, and far less bolstered than those in the front. Thanks to the sexy side-profile getting in and out of the rear seat required ducking more than in the competition and it cuts down on head room. If you find yourself needing to carry passengers in the rear that are over 6’1”, get the Camry, Passat or wait for the Accord. As always, I recommend you take your whole family with you shopping, stuff them all in the car and see how comfortable everyone is. Want to know more about the seating and cargo room? Check out the video review.

In an effort to increase useable cargo capacity (and improve mileage) Ford shifted from nickel based batteries to trendy and energy dense lithium-ion cells. The battery now sits on the floor of the trunk behind the rear seats and thanks to its reduced size, the rear seats are able to fold, something not possible with last year’s model. The folding rear seats are a novelty in this phone-booth sized segment with the Optima and Sonata ditching theirs entirely and the Camry offering a letter-box sized ski pass-through behind the passenger seat preventing long items from being inserted. When it comes to final capacity the Fusion lands in the middle with 12-cubes of cargo room compared to the Camry’s 13.1 and the Korean’s 9.9. If you click on the gallery at the bottom of this review you’ll see that the Fusion’s trunk is shaped so that it is possible to put roller bags on top of the battery making the trunk a bit more useful than the slightly larger Camry’s cargo hold.

Infotainment & Gadgets

All SE models start with a basic radio featuring six speakers, USB/iDevice control, XM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth phone integration and SYNC voice commands. If you don’t want your Fusion to be possessed by Ford’s touchscreen daemons, this is your only choice but at least it is an easy one to live with. Even the base SE model comes with power windows and door locks, a perimeter alarm, power driver’s seat, auto headlamps, body-colored mirrors and the keyless entry keypad that’s been a Ford hallmark for ages.

Most shoppers will need to get used to Ford’s temperamental touchscreen.  If you want to check pretty much any option box on the Fusion, MFT either needs to be selected first or it is included in the bundle. Want dual-zone climate control, a backup cam, blind spot monitoring, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a 120V outlet, cross traffic alert, etc? Better like MFT as well.

The $895 MFT option (standard on Titanium) consists of an 8-inch LCD in the dash, twin 4.2-inch LCDs in the gauge cluster, improved voice commands which now include climate control and touch-sensitive buttons for your HVAC system. Also bundled with the system is a backup camera and a 110V outlet in the center console. Thankfully, the latest version of Ford’s software seems to have resolved the frequent software crashes that plagues the system when it launched but the responsiveness issues persist. Perhaps worse for Ford than the slow graphics is that the competition has caught up and now offers similar levels of voice control and media device integration. MFT may still be one of the best looking systems on the market and it does bring a partial LCD dash to the party, but with viable options from the competition it has lost some of its shine.

While I’m not the biggest fan of Ford’s touch controls, they did prove more dependable than Cadillac’s new touch button setup and we noticed none of the fine scratched I have noticed on the Accord and Camry’s infotainment controls. If you want the best in factory entertainment, you should know the 12-speaker Sony branded audio system is only available in the more expensive Titanium.

The SE and Titanium trims can both be had with an impressive list of options from an automated-parking system to adaptive cruise control and an innovative lane departure prevention system. Unlike most of the LDP systems up to this point, the Ford system doesn’t apply the brakes to one side of the car to get you back on track – it simply turns the steering wheel. The system is both slightly creepy and very effective. With the ability to apply more force to keep you in the lane than competing systems, the steering input feels more like a hand on the wheel than a gentle suggestion. If safety is your shtick, it’s worth noting that the Fusion and Accord scored well in the new IIHS small-overlap test while the top-selling Camry tied with the Prius V for the worst of the group according to the IIHS.

Drivetrain

Under the hood you’ll find Ford’s completely redesigned hybrid system with a downsized 2.0L Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine good for 141HP and 129lb-ft of twist. This is down slightly from the old 155HP 2.5L engine but Ford makes up for that with the hefty 118HP motor/generator inside their all-new HF34 hybrid transaxle. The combined system is good for 188HP and a TTAC estimated 200-220lb-ft of torque.

Rather than offering different hybrid systems for different vehicles like Toyota does, Ford uses the same system across their line up from the C-MAX to the Lincoln MKZ. While the heart of the system may be the new engine, the soul is the new 1.4kWh battery which is not only smaller and more energy dense than the old nickel pack, it can charge and discharge more rapidly as well. This improved battery “bandwidth” coupled to the stronger motors in their in-house hybrid transaxle allow the new Fusion Hybrid to motor down the highway on electrons alone up to 62MPH. It’s also the reason Ford claims the Fusion gets 47MPG City, 47MPG Highway and 47MPG on the combined cycle.

Oh that fuel economy

Fuel economy is a tricky business because your driving style, topography and curb weight are huge factors. I would caution readers to never compare our numbers with other publications because the driving conditions and styles are different. Still, nobody seems to be getting the vaulted 47MPGs in the latest Ford hybrid vehicles, TTAC included. Over a week and 568 miles our Fusion averaged 41MPG in mixed driving and my mountain commute, about 5/10ths lower than the C-MAX Hybrid I had two months earlier. Despite the fact that both the C-MAX and the Fusion Hybrid weight about the same (3,600lbs), the C-MAX was never able to get more than 45MPG no matter what I did.

The Fusion on the other hand managed 49MPG on a 36 mile level drive in moderate traffic and 46MPG on a level highway at 68MPH. While I wouldn’t say the Fusion meets expectations when it comes to fuel economy, it is better than the Kia’s 35.6MPG on the same course and a hair better than the Camry’s 40.5MPG. While I’m disappointed Ford’s new hybrid system hasn’t lived up to its advertising, the Fusion Hybrid is still the most efficient mid-sized sedan and it beats Ford’s 1.6L Ecoboost model by 12.5MPG in my tests.

I’ve included the Passat TDI here because I know a large segment of our readers would complain if it was missing. Still, I have trouble believing that many gasoline/electric hybrid shoppers would seriously cross shop the TDI. Should they? That depends. When we last had the Passat TDI we averaged 37MPG in mixed driving, 44 on the highway and around 29 in the city. If you commute in traffic, most of the hybrid options would deliver better mileage. Another thing to keep in mind is the cost of diesel in America, out here on the left-coast the cheapest diesel around according to GasBuddy.com was $4.09, a $0.25 premium over regular unleaded. This translated into $400 more in fuel costs per year over the MPGs we averaged in the Fusion Hybrid.

Drive

Despite having a decidedly American-sized 112.2-inch wheelbase, it’s obvious Ford’s European division took the lead when it came to the chassis. The result is a ride that is incredibly composed, tight in the corners and as communicative as anything with electric power steering. The surprises continue when you shift your right foot over to find linear brake feel, absolutely no Taurus-like brake fade and short stopping distances. Of course this is the hybrid model so there is still a transition point where the car adds friction braking in addition to the regenerative braking as you stop so things aren’t as smooth as with the “regular” Fusion. However, Ford’s new HF35 hybrid transaxle is quite simply the smoothest hybrid system this side of the Lexus LS 600hL easily besting the Camry and Lexus ES 300h in terms of hybrid system polish.

The Fusion provides, hands down, the best driving experience in this segment. Our tester ran to 60 in 7.31 seconds, only a hair behind the Camry, 1 second faster than the Optima and 2 seconds ahead of the Passat TDI, but it’s not straight line performance that I’m talking about. Thanks to wide 225-width rubber the Fusion is the first hybrid sedan I can describe as “fun” on mountain roads. I wouldn’t call it a corner carver, but it doesn’t immediately head for the bushes like an out of control land-yacht either. Sadly my theory for why the Fusion fails to live up to its 47MPG highway ratings is inexorably linked to its fun quotient. The larger your contact patch with the road, the more resistance you get and the lower your fuel economy will be. Still, looks sell (just ask Victoria’s  Secret) and the Fusion’s combination of dashing good looks, excellent (but well below claimed) fuel economy and the best hybrid driving dynamics the Fusion is quite simply the best fuel-sipping mid-sized sedan for 2013.

Hit it

  • Best pre-collision system in the segment, if you can afford it.
  • Sportiest hybrid sedan on the market.
  • Aston Martin’s mini-me.

Quit it

  • Rear seats are cramped for adult passengers.
  • Fuel economy doesn’t live up to the lofty claims unless you’re driving 55 on a flat highway.
  • MyFord Touch now has some serious competition.

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

0-30: 3.15 Seconds

0-60: 7.31 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.86 Seconds @ 90.4 MPH

Average Fuel Economy:41MPG over 568 Miles

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Hybrid Logo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Tail lamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Gauge Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Infotainment, MyFord Touch 2013, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Infotainment, MyFord Touch 2013, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Infotainment, MyFord Touch 2013, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Infotainment, MyFord Touch 2013, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Infotainment, MyFord Touch 2013, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Infotainment, MyFord Touch 2013, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Memory Buttons, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard and Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Front Cabin, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Rear Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Engine, 2.0L Atkinson Cycle Ford Hybrid HF35, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Engine, 2.0L Atkinson Cycle Ford Hybrid HF35, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Rear Seats Folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid Fuel Economy Display, 49MPG, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Hit it or Quit It? Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Review: 2013 Nissan Altima SL 3.5 (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-nissan-altima-sl-3-5-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-nissan-altima-sl-3-5-video/#comments Sun, 30 Dec 2012 14:32:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=471393 The “family sedan” may not be very exciting, but without midsized sales auto makers would be in a pickle. Ponder this: the five best-selling midsized sedans in America accounted for 1.3 million of the 12.8 million vehicles sold in 2011. With numbers like that, it’s important to get your mass-market people mover right. This means […]

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The “family sedan” may not be very exciting, but without midsized sales auto makers would be in a pickle. Ponder this: the five best-selling midsized sedans in America accounted for 1.3 million of the 12.8 million vehicles sold in 2011. With numbers like that, it’s important to get your mass-market people mover right. This means competitive fuel economy, a low base price and swipe as much tech from your luxury brand as possible. Either that or just wear a Nissan badge on the front. Say what? The last generation Altima was the second best-selling car despite being long in the tooth and filled with Chrysler quality plastics. That made me ask an important question: Is the fifth-generation Altima any good, or is it selling well (now in third place thanks to the new Accord and Nissan’s model change over) just because it has a Nissan logo on the front?

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

A design that doesn’t alienate the customer you expect to return and buy their second or third car is critical. Just ask Ford how that bubble-Taurus redesign went in 1996. Still, midsize sedan shoppers demand some style so Nissan’s design team jammed a bit of Maxima, a pinch of Infiniti M and a “whole-lotta” Versa into a sausage press and cut the Altima off at 191.5 inches. This makes the new Altima longer than a Camry, a hair longer than a Maxima and essentially the same size as the Accord and Fusion. Nobody will confuse the Altima with an Aston Martin, nor will they think their neighbor is driving a budget Bentley. Instead the slab-sided Altima delivers clean lines and elegant good looks. Think of it as the Midwestern farm girl to the Fusion’s Los Angeles call girl.

Interior

Before we hop in, let’s have a moment of midsized honesty. The last gen Altima, much like the former Sentra, was a plastic penalty box on the inside that belonged in a Hertz garage, not mine. It appears Nissan took the criticism to heart and made such a drastic improvement to the Altima’s interior I suspect Infiniti’s interior decorators lent a hand. Yes, the interior design is somewhat bland, but nobody’s $20,000-$30,000 is very exciting and that’s just how midsized shoppers like it. In sharp contrast to the Fusion’s Germanic black-on-black-on-black interior, our Altima was covered in acres of light beige leather, pleather and soft-touch plastics. The lighter materials make the cabin look  larger and warmer than the numbers indicate with headroom and legroom falling in line with the competition. Some reviews I have seen complain about the cabin’s materials but I’m honestly not clear why. The Altima’s plastics and pleather are better than those in the Camry and Passat and equal to or better than the new Fusion and Accord. Fear not TTAC faithful, there is a low point in the interior: only the SV and SL models eschew the rubbery-plastic tiller for leather wrapping.

Since our tester was the top-of-the-line SL, the cockpit featured a heated tilt/telescopic steering wheel, an 8-way power driver’s seat and manually adjustable lumbar support. Shoppers that chose the 3.5L V6 will be treated to a pair of the best looking and best feeling magnesium paddle shifters this side of a BMW M6. Seriously. There’s just one problem: paddle shifters on a car with a CVT make as much sense as a parking brake on a french poodle. (Yet for some reason I found myself caressing their magnesium goodness non-stop when I was behind the wheel.) Like the most entries in this segment, the front passenger seat remains manually adjustable regardless of trim level and upholstery. Thanks to Nissan’s “Zero Gravity” seat design, the front seats proved comfortable and didn’t’ aggravate my temperamental knee during a 2 hour road trip. Since manufacturers “march to their own drummer” when measuring legroom, take your family to the dealer and jam them all in the car before making a purchase.

Drivetrain

While others are downsizing from V6s to turbo fours in search of improved MPG numbers, Nissan stuck to their I4/V6 lineup. The base Altima is four-cylinder only while the S, SV and SL models are available with either engine. In addition to the extra cylinders, V6 shoppers get wider tires and  shift paddles.

The 2.5L four cylinder mill is good for 182HP at 6,000RPM and 180lb-ft of twist at 4,000RPM while the 3.5L V6 (VQ35DE) turns up the dial to 270HP at 6,000RPM and 258lb0-ft at 4,400RPM. Both engines send the power to the front wheels via a revised Nissan Xtronic CVT with tweaks to reduce friction, improve acceleration, and reduce the “rubber-band” feeling that journalists whine about.

Our tester was a V6 SL which does battle with the Camry and Accord V6 and the 2.0L direct-injection turbos from Ford, Hyundai and Kia. Although V6 sales have dwindled to around 10% of Altima sales, 10% of the second best-selling sedan is a big number. Compared to the competition’s 2.0L turbos, Nissan’s V6 has a torque disadvantage. To combat this, the Altima was put on a diet now tipping the scales at a svelte 3,178/3,335lbs (I4/V6).

Infotainment, Gadgets & Pricing

To improve inventory turnover, Nissan followed VW’s lead and cut back on options. The 2.5L engine starts with the rental-car-chic base model for $21,760 (sans destination). Want options? Sorry, other than color choices there are no options on base and S models. Stepping up to the $22,860 S gets you auto headlamps, keyless entry/go, 6-way power driver’s seat, pollen filter, cruise control and two more speakers (six total). The $24,460 SV is the first model to get some USB/iDevice love, 5″ LCD radio, leather tiller, satellite radio, Pandora integration, backup camera and the ability to check options boxes. The $27,660 SL model adds leather, fog-lights, 8-way driver’s seat, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, and nine Bose speakers. Thankfully 2013 brings standard Bluetooth phone integration with Bluetooth audio streaming and an AUX input jack to even the rental-car destined base model.

The 3.5 S is $2,900 more than the 2.5S and in addition to the V6 adds the shift paddles and wider tires. Adding the 3.5 to the SV will set you back $3,800 due to the bundling of a moonroof and a few other items that are optional in the 2.5. The 3.4 premium on the SL model is $2,900 and in addition to the wider rubber Nissan tosses in Xenon headlamps. If HIDs are your thing, this is the only way to get them.

For $595 on the SV you can add Nissan’s new 7-inch touchscreen nav system dubbed “Nissan Connect.” The system looks like an improved version of their former “Low Cost Navigation” system in the Versa. In addition to a larger display, Nissan polished the UI, added Pandora, Google-send-to-car, faster processing, voice commands and XM NavTraffic/NavWeather. The system won’t voice command your iDevice or climate control like SYNC, but that’s a small price to pay for a responsive system that doesn’t crash, is easy to use and incredibly well priced. While I still have a love for MyFord Touch that dare not speak its name, Nissan Connect is now one of my favorite infotainment systems. Note to Nissan: put this in the S model as well. SL shoppers beware, Nissan Connect will cost you $1090 because it is bundled with blind spot warning, lane departure warning and moving object detection.

There is one more reason to get Nissan Connect: the plastic surrounding the base and 5″ display audio systems scratches easily. Our nav-free tester looked like someone had run a Brillo Pad across the front and just running my finger across the plastic (not my fingernail) caused fine scratches. This is a pity, but not a problem exclusive to the Altima, the new Accord and Camry suffer from this as well.

Drive

The crash diet and CVT pay dividends at the pump.  The Altima 2.5 manages 27/38/31 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) and does so without direct injection, start/stop, batteries or aero packages. What about that V6? Nissan’s focus on weight has made the Altima 3.5 lighter than the Accord V6 and Fusion 2.0 Ecoboost by over 200lbs. In our 3.5 SL I averaged an impressive 27.6MPG over a week of mixed driving. This is notably above the 25MPG combined EPA score despite my commute and the 2,200ft mountain pass I cross twice a day. You can thank the light curb weight and CVT for that. The Accord V6 matches the Altima’s combined EPA number and the Fusion trumps it by one MPG on paper. In the real world, the Altima beat both by 4MPG. My average was so surprising I dropped by a dealer to try another one. The result was the same. I took to the pumps to “pump-drive-pump-calculate-pump-drive-pump-calculate.” The results came within 1MPG of the car computer.

Nissan’s new CVT has dulled the “rubber band” feeling earlier CVTs inflicted upon drivers. This version also “downshifts” faster, although it still takes longer to get from the highest ratio to a “passing” ratio than a conventional 6-speed automatic when accelerating from 50-70 MPH. Aside from economy, the other benefit of a CVT is that it can keep the engine at an optimum RPM for maximum acceleration and drama-free hill climbing. Despite being down on torque compared to the turbo competition and having a less advantageous torque curve, CVT helped the Altima to scoot to 60MPH in an impressive 5.5 seconds (traction control disabled).

As much as I like CVTs, they are not the dynamic choice for “gear holding”. Sure Nissan has those sexy paddles on the Altima, and they have programmed the CVT to imitate a 7-speed automatic. Unfortunately the transmission’s “shifts” are slow and mushy, feeling  more like a worn out Hydramatic than a modern 7-speed. When you’re on your favorite back-country road, take my advice: caress those sexy paddles, but whatever you do, don’t pull them.

When the road curves, a light chassis will only get you so far, thankfully Nissan tuned the Altima’s suspension to be compliant but surprisingly agile. Adding to the fun-factor, all V6 models are shod with 235/45R18 rubber, notably wider than the V6 Camry’s standard 215 or optional 225 tires. The suspension, curb weight and tires combine to give the Altima a slightly higher road holding score than the Fusion 2.0 Ecoboost we got our hands on, but numbers aren’t everything. The Fusion’s steering may be numb, but it manages more feeling than the Altima and even I have to admit the CVT sucks the fun out of aggressive driving. If that matters to you, drive past the Nissan dealer and pick up a Fusion 2.0T with or without AWD.

Brand reputation is one of the largest factors when it comes time for a shopper to drop 25-30 grand on their family sedan. It’s the reason the old Altima sold as well as it did, and as far as I can see, it’s the only reason the Camry sells in record numbers. Rather than selling on reputation alone however, Nissan has proved they can build a sedan worthy of its lofty sales goals.

Some may call this a cop-out, but in my book the Accord, Fusion and Altima tie for first place in my mind. Here’s why: each of this trio plays to a different audience. The Fusion is gorgeous, more dynamic than the Altima but has stumbled with the 1.6L Ecoboost quality issues. The Accord is a traditional choice with a solid reputation and greater visibility thanks to an enormous greenhouse. Meanwhile the new Altima is a stylish elegant sedan with a powerful and seriously efficient V6. If I were dropping my own money on a sedan in this category I would have a hard time choosing between the Altima 3.5 SL and a Fusion 2.0 Ecoboost.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.6 Seconds ( 3.2 with traction control)

0-60: 5.5 Seconds ( 6.2 with traction control)

1/4 Mile: 13.9 Seconds @ 104 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 27.6 MPG over 670 Miles

2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima SL, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Cargo Area, trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, paddle shifters, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, paddle shifters, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, paddle shifters, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, center console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, front cabin, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, glove boxc, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL Monroney 2013 Nissan Altima Sedan, Infotainment, Nissan Connect System, Picture Courtesy of Nissan Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

 

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Pre-Production Review: 2013 Honda Accord – Part 2 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/pre-production-review-2013-honda-accord-part-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/pre-production-review-2013-honda-accord-part-2/#comments Mon, 10 Sep 2012 13:55:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=459369   Five days ago we released the first part of the 2013 Accord review. It’s not how we normally do things, but in order to get our hands on the second best-selling mid-size sedan in America we had to agree to keep you all in suspense. If you want to know about the new Accord’s […]

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Five days ago we released the first part of the 2013 Accord review. It’s not how we normally do things, but in order to get our hands on the second best-selling mid-size sedan in America we had to agree to keep you all in suspense. If you want to know about the new Accord’s drivetrain, interior and infotainment systems, click on over to part one and then head back here when you’re done. I promise we’ll wait for you.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Drive

The 2013 Accord is the first real foray into the CVT world for Honda. Yes, I know the Civic Hybrid and some GX models use a CVT, but they are low volume niche vehicles. Let me get one thing straight right off the bat. I love CVTs. The reason for my love-that-dare-not-speak-its-name, and the reason we find one under the hood of the new Accord is efficiency. For optimum efficiency, you want an engine to operate as close to its most efficient RPM as possible over a wide variety of speeds. For performance, you want to get the engine to its power band and keep it there as you accelerate. The problem of course has been that CVTs take a while to transition from one ratio to another which is a strange feeling if you are used to a transmission downshifting in milliseconds. Honda didn’t explain how, but somehow, the new Accord makes CVT ratio changes almost as fast as a traditional automatic. The difference behind the wheel is dramatic. If you are cruising at 60MPH and you “floor” a Nissan or Audi CVT, you get nothing for a moment, then the car starts to accelerate slowly while the tach rises. Once the tach reaches a certain point, you get maximum acceleration. Lifting the pedal produces a moment where you’re still accelerating as the CVT readjusts, then you’re back to normal. Performing the same maneuver in the Accord is more like an automatic in that the transmission shifts to a lower ratio very rapidly and returns to the higher ratio without the “rubber band” effect when you’re done passing. Compared to Honda’s 5 or 6 speed autos, I’d take the CVT any day.

From a stand still, the 185HP, 2.4L engine motivatess the Accord respectably thanks to its low-end torque (181lb-ft at 3,900RPM) and the new CVT. If you live in a mountainous area like I do, the CVT has another benefit; when hill climbing the CVT constantly varies the ratios, allowing you to keep a more consistent speed than with a traditional automatic. As much as I love a CVT, the manual transmission would be my personal preference. Available on the base, LX, Sport and EX trims, the 6-speed manual is a typical Honda close ratio manual that is skewed to the shorter end of the ratio scale for performance. The relatively low-end torque of the 2.4L engine seemed very “un-Honda” but is a welcome change. In true Honda fashion, the small four cylinder sounded perfectly happy to rev high and keep the fun going.

The 278HP, 3.5L V6 from last year is back with some tweaks to improve fuel economy. The exhaust is tuned toward a decidedly sporty note that was pleasant without being overbearing. Honda’s new 6-speed automatic sends power to the front wheels only meaning the V6 torque-steers with the best of them. The revised cylinder management system proved to be seamless and effective easily allowing the V6 sedan to average 35MPG on a 20 mile highway trip. On the flip side, the V6 lacks the low-end torque that the latest 2.0L turbos provide and Honda’s 6-speed auto isn’t the most responsive automatic. What could Honda do with a 2.0L direct injection turbo and their new CVT? Let’s hope we find out some day.

If road holding is your game, then the Sport model is for you, primarily because of the rubber choices. Most of our day was spent behind the wheel of the base LX model whose firm suspension seemed at odds with its road holding ability. When it came time to swap into an Accord Sport, the reason for the deficiency was obvious. Base Accords get 16-inch, 205-width 65-series rubber. EX and Touring Accords are fitted with 215/55E17s while sport models share the 235/45R18s with the V6 Accord Coupe. Despite the loss of the Accord’s double-wishbone suspension, the new Accord had no problems corner-carving like a solid alternative to the Mazda 6. Road noise has dropped compared to the outgoing Accord, but it is still above some of the competition. Despite the new active noise cancelling system, the Accord is still louder on the road than the Camry and the latest eerily quiet Buicks.

Drive – 2014 Accord Hybrid

Not due out until mid 2013, Honda allowed me a long drive in a prototype 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid. This new hybrid is a complete departure from everything that Honda has done in the past. Prior attempts at “hybridizing” the Accord were focused on adding some electric mojo to their V6 model for even more performance. This time around, Honda is aiming the Accord Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid squarely at the Chevy Volt, Fusion Hybrid and Camry Hybrid and even the Toyota Prius.

The first thing to cover is the system’s operation. The Civic is often derided by Prius drivers because the engine can never be disconnected, so even in “EV mode”, the engine is spinning. The Accord takes this to the opposite extreme. Under 40 MPH, the engine is incapable of driving the car directly. At speeds below about 40MPH, motor two is driving the wheels drawing power from the lithium-ion battery pack or from the engine via motor one acting as a generator. At around 40MPH, the car may engage a clutch pack that directly connects motor one and motor two together allowing power to flow from the engine to the wheels. (Whether the car clutches the engine in or not depends on the battery’s state of charge). Once this clutch pack is connected the system is capable of delivering a combined power output of 196HP, and in EV mode it is limited to about 166HP.

If you’ve driven a Civic Hybrid, you know that the system is less than smooth from a wide variety of angles. Regenerative braking is grabby and strange, transitions between EV and hybrid modes are met with unrefined jerks and vibrations. Perhaps Honda’s biggest battle with the Accord will be in convincing shoppers to give the hybrid a chance. Honda’s larger traction motor and the ability to completely remove the engine from the drivetrain makes regenerative braking as smooth as any EV on the market. More surprising is the clutch engagement when the car enters hybrid mode. Despite my best attempts, the engagement was always perfectly seamless, making the Toyota Synergy Drive system seem rough in comparison. That’s something that cannot be said of the Infiniti M35h or the Hyundai/Kia hybrid system.

Out on the road the hybrid Accord drove more like the base LX model thanks to the low rolling resistance rubber and increased weight from the hybrid system. The suspension seemed to be tuned towards a softer ride than the other models -something I appreciated, if I can be candid for a moment. It wasn’t possible to get hard acceleration numbers for the Hybrid, but the “butt dyno” and the power figures indicate it should perform above the 2.4L and below the V6. I averaged a solid 42MPG in my 45-mile, hour long test drive of the Plug-In after the battery was exhausted.

 

Drive – Coupe

With the Solara gone from the market, the mid-sized volume coupé is a strange market to try to corner, but Honda is giving it the old college try. The Accord Coupé’s selling point is an enormous back seat. The back seat dimensions may make the coupé’s side profile a little unusual, but the increase in utility is impressive. Since the Coupé is only slightly shorter than the sedan with only a slight reduction in the wheelbase and just a few pounds shed, it drives pretty much like the sedan. The exception of course is the V6 model which can be equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission. Honda was cagey on what is different about the V6′s cog swapper, but the ratios seem to be different vs the four cylinder and the clutch action is firmer and more precise. If you’re going to opt for the coupé, keep in mind that aerodynamic differences reduce fuel economy numbers vs the sedan by 1-2MPG. In addition, the 6-speed manual equipped V6 looses the variable displacement system dropping highway economy by 6MPG to 28MPG. Oddly enough, I found the Accord sedan with the “Sport” package and the four cylinder engine to be a more enjoyable drive.

 

 

Honda has announced that the base LX model accord with the standard backup cam, 8-inch infotainment screen, 16-inch alloy wheels and dual-zone climate control will start at $21,640, or a modest $200 increase over 2012. Meanwhile, the top-of-the-line Touring model, which tosses in radar cruise control, LED headlamps, leather seats, dual exhaust, the V6, and all of Honda’s new active safety tech will set you back $33,430. Overall pricing is right in line with the competition, with the Hyundai/Kia ringing in lower and the Camry a bit more expensive if you account for the feature differences. Honda has yet to release pricing on the Accord Hybrid, but expect it to start around the same$27,500 neighborhood as the Camry and Fusion hybrids. Expect the plug in to command at least a $10,000 premium over the hybrid. It’s obvious that this 9th generation Accord has some serious competition ahead with the new Ford Fusion, but Honda hasn’t taken this lying down. The Accord has doubled down on interior comfort and value by jamming more electronic goodies in every model. Their new infotainment system is finally up to par being less attractive than MyTouch but far more responsive. Camry shoppers who are looking for something a bit more fun to drive would also do well to drop by the Honda dealer.

 

Honda paid for airfare and two nights at a swanky resort, travel expenses to the resort came out of my own pocket since I drove.

2013 Honda Accord Coupe 2013 Honda Accord Coupe-001 2013 Honda Accord Coupe-002 2013 Honda Accord Coupe-003 2013 Honda Accord Coupe-004 2013 Honda Accord Coupe-005 2013 Honda Accord Coupe-006 2013 Honda Accord Coupe-007 2013 Honda Accord Coupe-008 2013 Honda Accord Coupe-009 2013 Honda Accord Coupe-010 2013 Honda Accord 2013 Honda Accord-001 2013 Honda Accord-002 2013 Honda Accord-003 2013 Honda Accord-004 2013 Honda Accord-005 2013 Honda Accord-006 2013 Honda Accord-007 2013 Honda Accord-008 2013 Honda Accord-009 2013 Honda Accord-010 2013 Honda Accord-011 2013 Honda Accord-012 2013 Honda Accord-013 2013 Honda Accord-014 2013 Honda Accord-015 2013 Honda Accord-016 2013 Honda Accord-017 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord-019 2013 Honda Accord-020 2013 Honda Accord-021 2013 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 Coupe 2014 Honda Accord PHEV 2014 Accord PHEV 2014 Accord PHEV 2014 Accord PHEV 2014 Honda Accord PHEV, Picture Courtesy of Honda America 2014 Honda Accord PHEV Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

 

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Pre-Production Review: 2013 Honda Accord, Part 1 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/pre-production-review-2013-honda-accord-part-1/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/pre-production-review-2013-honda-accord-part-1/#comments Wed, 05 Sep 2012 16:13:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=458708 Redesigning the second best-selling midsize sedan in America is no easy task. It’s also one that doesn’t happen very often for fear of getting it wrong. Still, even with all the bad press the new Civic received, sales have been booming. By all appearances this has not made Honda sit on their hands however when […]

The post Pre-Production Review: 2013 Honda Accord, Part 1 appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

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Redesigning the second best-selling midsize sedan in America is no easy task. It’s also one that doesn’t happen very often for fear of getting it wrong. Still, even with all the bad press the new Civic received, sales have been booming. By all appearances this has not made Honda sit on their hands however when it came to the new Accord. Honda invited us to Santa Barbara to sample the all-new, smaller, 9th generation Honda Accord. This is a bold launch event with not just a new engine and transmission under the hood, but an all new hybrid technology on offer as well. If you want to know how it drives, or how much it costs, our Honda overlords have decreed our lips must be sealed until the 10th at 6AM Eastern. Set yourself a reminder then click-through the jump for part one.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The previous generation Accord suffered from some slightly cartoonish styling flairs, like “bulging” headlamps and a “Jaguaresque” sloping trunk. For 2013 Honda went back to a more traditional, some might even say sedate, exterior. In contrast to the swoopy styling from Hyundai and the “wannabe Camaro” tail on the Malibu, the Accord is simple and undeniably elegant. Compared to thew new Fusion, the Accord seems decidedly less sexy. In contrast to the other entries in this segment (apart from the Camry perhaps), the Accord is playing to the family demographic with low belt-lines for better visibility for kids and high roof lines for better headroom in the rear. There are of course the requisite minor front-end tweaks to the different Accord trim-lines for differentiation. Meanwhile, the all-new Hybrid accord wears a completely different, and strangely more aggressive front end with LED headlamps. While the sedate styling isn’t really news for Honda, the Accord’s dimensions are. Despite gaining both cargo and passenger room, the 9th generation Accord is nearly four inches shorter than last year and rides on a one-inch shorter wheelbase. Despite the right-sizing, suspension changes for 2013 result in a minor increase in turning circle to 38.1, notably larger than the Camry, Sonata, and even the Fusion.

As before the Accord will also be available as a large two-door coupé. Our time with the coupé was limited, but it impressed with an expansive trunk and rear seat. The options matrix is largely the same for the two-door Accord with the exception of the V6 and 6-speed manual combination which is exclusive to the coupé.

Interior

The interior of the Accord is likely to be its biggest selling point. Honda knows their audience well and it shows with a well featured, but simply laid out interior. For 2013 Honda hasn’t radically changed the interior design, opting instead for incremental improvements on the previous model. The new dashboard is soft touch and made out of one piece of plastic to reduce squeaks and rattles. The steering wheels have been redesigned for improved comfort and in most models are not trimmed in split grain leather worthy of Lexus. Joining these improvements is a much quieter cabin than before, a common complaint about the 2012 model. Honda achieved the quieter ride by not just adding more foam, but installing an active noise cancellation system in all Accord models. The system works much like the noise cancelling headphones you wear on an airplane.

As you would expect, seat comfort was excellent for my 6-foot, 190lb frame and thanks to a standard power driver’s seat and tilt/telescope steering wheel it was easy to find a comfortable seating position for a 2 hour drive. Also improved are the touch points on the dash, doors and center console to reduce fatigue on long journeys. Despite being smaller on the outside and having a smaller wheelbase than the outgoing model, legroom is up by a welcome 1.3 inches in the rear and the trunk has grown by 1.8 cubes to 13.7 total finally putting the Accord in line with the competition. Even base model Accords are well equipped with dual-zone climate control, auto headlamps, cruise control, backup camera, and a one-touch up/down window for the driver. Largely because of the comfortable seats and standard gadgets, “easy to live with” is a phrase that kept coming to mind.

 

Infotainment & Gadgets

The mid-sized sedan market is an interesting segment because shoppers want reliability and the latest gadgets, at bargain basement prices. Honda hasn’t announced pricing yet, but expect a hike of at least a few Benjamins on the base LX model. Countering the inevitable increase is a bevy of new standard equipment including an 8-inch infotainment screen with HondaLink. The new infotainment software is similar in function to Toyota’s Entune and Ford’s MyFordTouch systems allowing smartphone app integration and voice commands. Honda has also tossed in SMS text messaging integration for good measure. In an interesting twist the Pandora radio and a few other functions are restricted to Apple iDevices and SMS messaging to Android devices for the moment.

Stepping up to the EX model gets you Honda’s new “LaneWatch” system which puts a CCD camera in the side view mirror and displays your blind spot on the 8-inch infotainment screen. You also get keyless entry/go and a few more speakers.

Stepping up to the EX-L model or above gets you a higher resolution 8-inch screen and a 5-inch touchscreen LCD in the center of the dash that acts as the primary audio control interface. The addition of the second display allows you to see some audio information at the same time as the 8-inch display either shows you the navigation screen (if you’ve opted for it) or some other information source.

Honda’s new infotainment software is very responsive providing a sharp contrast to Ford’s sluggish touch screen interface. Compared to Toyota’s Entune system the Honda system is a little better thought out, more responsive and has a much larger library of voice commands. All three systems perform similarly when it comes to voice commanding tunes from your iDevices, USB thumb drive or (optional) hard drive music library. Of course the big news on the Honda front is that unlike Entune and MyTouch, HondaLink is standard.

Should your pockets know no depths, Honda will be happy to sell you the latest in driving aids like radar cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, LED headlamps and more.

Drivetrain

No all-new sedan would be complete without an all-new engine, and no all-new engine would be complete without an eco-friendly name and a new transmission. Enter the Honda Earth Dreams 2.4L four cylinder engine and Honda’s all-new CVT. While I’m still not clear what Earth Dreams is supposed to mean, the new mill’s numbers are what are important. As you would expect from a Honda engine, 185HP arrives at a lofty 6,500RPM. What you wouldn’t expect is 181-lbft of torque arriving at a low 3,900 RPM. Should you need some V6 love, the EX-L V6 and the new Touring model come with a lightly re-worked 3.5L V6, good for 278HP and 252lb-ft of twist. Like last year, the V6 continues to feature Honda’s “variable cylinder management” system which will turn off the rear bank of cylinders when cruising at highway speeds. Honda has tweaked the system for 2013 removing the four-cylinder mode and expanding the range that the three-cylinder mode operates in. While the new 2.4L engine can be mated to either the 6-speed manual or the new CVT, the V6 is only available with a new 6-speed automatic in the sedan while the 6-speed manual is available in the coupé. If fuel economy is what you need, the CVT is the best choice delivering 27 city, 36 highway. The 6-speed manual drops economy to 24/34 and the V6 is the thirstiest in the bunch at 21/34 with the 6-speed automatic.

All-new hybrid system

The previous Accord Hybrid was an odd duck. Instead of improving fuel economy, Honda used their IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system to improve performance. The system’s lack of electric only operation and 40% lower fuel economy than the Camry Hybrid made shoppers scratch their heads and buy something else before Honda euthanized the model in 2007. For 2013 Honda went back to the drawing board and created an entirely new hybrid system from the ground up. The system starts with a new 2.0L, 137HP four-cylinder engine that uses Honda’s VTEC system to switch between an Otto and an Atkinson profile making this the first engine I have ever  heard of capable of switching between these two cycles. The engine is directly connected to a motor/generator that is used to start the engine and generate power (motor one). Meanwhile, the wheels are connected via a reduction gearset to a 166HP electric motor (motor two).

If this setup sounds similar to the Volt, let me throw a wrench in here. The Volt is more like a Prius since they both use a planetary gearset as a power splitting device. The Accord does not have a planetary gearset at all. At speeds below about 40MPH, motor two is driving the wheels solo drawing power from either the lithium-ion battery pack or from the engine via motor one acting as a generator. As you accelerate, at around 40MPH, the car will engage a clutch pack that directly connects motor one and motor two together allowing power to flow directly from the engine to the wheels. Once this clutch pack is connected the system is capable of delivering a combined power output of 196HP.

Want to know how the Accord drives? Want to know how much it costs? Check back with TTAC on the 10th at 6AM Eastern time when the embargo lifts. (Oh, and we’ll have a video with more details then you’ll ever need about the Accord Hybrid)

 

Honda paid for airfare and two nights at a swanky resort, travel expenses to the resort came out of my own pocket since I drove.

 

2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Interior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Interior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Interior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, wheel, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, four cylinder engine, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, four cylinder engine, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Internal, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Internal, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, V6 engine, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, V6 Engine, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, V6 engine, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, wheels, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, trunk, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 Sedan, Picture Courtesy of Honda America 2013 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 Sedan, Picture Courtesy of Honda America 2013 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 Sedan, Picture Courtesy of Honda America 2013 Honda Accord PHEV 203 2013 Honda Accord PHEV drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Honda America Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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New or Used: The CamCord of SUVs? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-the-camcord-of-suvs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/12/new-or-used-the-camcord-of-suvs/#comments Fri, 23 Dec 2011 14:53:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=422952   Josh writes: I’m currently in the market for a 2005 or 2006 Chevy Tahoe Z71 and was wondering about when would be the best time to buy. Before you question the Tahoe, I’m probably one of the only people who can justify one. I live in Colorado and spend almost every weekend in the […]

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Josh writes:

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

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

Steve Answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sajeev Answers:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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