The Truth About Cars » car review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 19 Oct 2014 11:58:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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 » car review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Car Review: A Tale of Two Darts, Part the Second, 2014 Dodge Dart GT 2.4L http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/car-review-a-tale-of-two-darts-part-the-second-2014-dodge-dart-gt-2-4l/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/car-review-a-tale-of-two-darts-part-the-second-2014-dodge-dart-gt-2-4l/#comments Fri, 20 Jun 2014 12:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=839522 Four hundred cubic centimeters. That’s not a whole lot of volume. A cylinder that’s about 3 inches in diameter and 4 inches tall. It’s rather amazing what a difference that about a coffee cup’s worth of displacement will make in the character of an automobile. In my first look at the Dodge Dart, I felt […]

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Four hundred cubic centimeters. That’s not a whole lot of volume. A cylinder that’s about 3 inches in diameter and 4 inches tall. It’s rather amazing what a difference that about a coffee cup’s worth of displacement will make in the character of an automobile. In my first look at the Dodge Dart, I felt that the Dart is a nice compact car, but that it was deeply compromised by a powertrain that combined the 2.0 liter four cylinder with a six speed automatic transmission. In a quest for a calibration that yields impressive EPA fuel economy numbers, Chrysler produced a car that’s a chore to drive. Now that I’ve had a chance to drive the Dart with the 2.4 liter MultiAir Tigershark engine, I’m happy to report that those 400 ccs of displacement make a night and day difference, changing “chore to drive” to “fun to drive”. While it’s not a direct comparison, the 2013 Dart that I reviewed was in Limited trim, pretty much loaded, while the 2014 model that I tested was a Dart GT, with less equipment but with the GT package and the 2.4 liter engine that’s now standard in all Darts but the Aero and base SE models.

While I wouldn’t say that the car is fast, the 184 horsepower four moves it along quickly enough that the GT badge isn’t a joke. Actually, the development team in Auburn Hills seems to have taken their design brief seriously at least in terms of the chassis. While not a continental “grand tourer” in the classic sense, the Dart GT is definitely aimed at an enthusiast crowd. If not the direct spiritual heir to the Neon ACR of lore, it’s certainly in the same lineage.

Most of the differences between the Limited and GT models have to do with the way the cars handle. In my review of the Limited, I said that the Dart wants to handle but that the powertrain’s mapping gets in the way of enthusiastic driving. The Dart GT fulfills that promise, and then some. The chassis is most decidedly tuned towards the handling side of the ride quality / handling trade-off. The GT has a more aggressive stance, more aggressive rubber, trick shock absorbers and much stiffer springs.

How much stiffer? Though I didn’t find the ride as objectionable as some reviewers have, the chassis is stiff enough that once, when I hit the driveway apron as I pulled into a gas station, the tuning knob for the radio was jarred from the Grateful Dead channel to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. While I didn’t personally find the stiff suspension objectionable, I did start getting a bit tired of the rear body structure drumming when the back tires hit irregular pavement.

With Michigan roads in the sorry state they are in, there was ample opportunity to test the ride quality and it was uniformly firm. Though it’s very firm, I didn’t find it harsh. I do think that most American consumers would find it too firm and would probably be happier with the less sporting trim lines.

All that stiffness results in a car that you can hustle through the corners at a rapid pace. There’s a ton of grip and while there’s the modern problem of not a huge amount of steering feel, the Dart’s steering is weighted nicely at all driving speeds. The steering is very quick, 2.5 turns lock-to-lock or maybe even a bit less than that, with a sharp turn in.

The car I tested came with leather seating surfaces, some solid, some perforated with a red tint in the perforations, a bit less fancy than the Limited’s full leather. While the Limited came with more “luxury” features, the final sticker price of both cars was pretty much the same ($25,125 for the GT and $25,180 for the Limited, destination charges included, Monroney sheet here) and I didn’t miss what the GT didn’t have. As long as it has A/C (Chrysler’s very good automatic climate controls are usually “set it at 68 and forget it” for me) and a decent sound system I’m good to go, though this car did have the 8.4 inch UConnect infotainment system, which is nice to have. Like I said, everything I’d need or want, without anything superfluous.

The 2.4 liter engine was backed by the same 6 speed automatic and while the combination wasn’t flawless, it is a solid improvement over the two liter motor with the same gearbox. Unlike with the smaller motor, I didn’t feel the need to autostick it because there was sufficient acceleration letting the car shift itself. Some reviewers have said that the gearbox is busy, but I didn’t notice it. I did notice that when slowing down, the 5 -> 4 downshift is rather dramatic, perhaps because of a big jump in gear ratios. Fuel economy was improved over the two liter Dart. I averaged 28.2 mpg over a tank’s worth of suburban driving, which was better than the ~26 mpg real world mileage I was getting when having to autostick the 2.0L/6AT Dart. The engine does run a bit roughly at startup, but though it’s not the most sophisticated four banger in the world, it does have a pleasant growl when you get on it.

While the Dart GT seems aimed at enthusiasts, at first it’s a bit surprising that there’s no sport mode to electronically activate. Perhaps that’s because someone in Auburn Hills may think that it’s superfluous to give a car with a fair amount of sporting character such a mode. The engine is peppy enough that Car & Driver’s reviewer thought the throttle tip-in off of idle is a bit quick (something that didn’t bother me), the chassis is competent and the car can handle, and the seats have good side bolsters that hold you in front of the wheel as you’re hustling around curves. About the only thing that isn’t sporting about the Dart GT is the braking system. The brakes are perfectly adequate around town and on the highway, but I wouldn’t take the Dart GT out on a track without some attention to improving how the car stops.

Fit and finish was fine and the only quality problem that I noticed was that with a bit more than 5,000 miles on the odometer, the driver’s side power window was making a bit of a rattling noise at the upper end of its travel. One problem that I had with the first Dart, almost burning my hand on the prop rod for the hood, which is stored right above the radiator and gets very hot, was apparently remedied with a small rubber insulating grip. I don’t know if that grip was added for the 2014 model year or if the first example of the Dart that I drove was simply missing it, but I was glad to see it.

My tester came in bright white and with the blacked out grille elements that come with the GT package (and Rallye and Blackout appearance groups too), it looked pretty sharp. While driving both Darts people complimented how they look. While the GT did not have the upgraded sound system that came in the Limited, it sounded perfectly serviceable.

Perhaps as a weight saving effort, the Dart GT, unlike the 2013 Limited, doesn’t come with a spare tire. Instead, nestled in a expanded polystyrene foam carrier that fits in the spare tire well, is an electric pump with a (hopefully replaceable) canister of tire sealant.

My drives of the two Darts sandwiched a ride and drive event for the new 2014 Toyota Corolla. While the Dart, based on Fiat Chrysler’s Compact U.S. Wide platform, is a bit larger than the typical compact car sold in America, and heavier by a few hundred pounds, it’s priced to play in the Corolla’s segment. How does it stack up against the Corolla, which dominates that segment along with the Honda Civic? Combining the two Darts that I drove, I think that a Dart in one of the mid-level trim lines, with the 2.4 L engine and the features most people would want, would make a reasonable alternative for someone not zealous with the Toyonda reliability faith. Is the Corolla more refined than the Dart? Maybe by a little bit, though the Dart handles better, feels quicker, and  is roomier, at least up front. At the very least, if you’re shopping for a new compact car, it’s worth it to at least cross-shop the Dart and talk to owners about their experiences.

In my review of the Dart Limited I mentioned how the Dodge Neon showed promise but that Chrysler let it die on the vine by not giving it continuous upgrades. The fact that Sergio Marchionne and his team acknowledge that they screwed up the initial Dart launch by not getting the powertrain mix correctly and that they’ve remedied it by putting the bigger motor in most Darts bode well. Unfortunately that botched launch may have permanently harmed the Dart’s market chances. The Civic and Corolla both sell 300,000+ units a year. In 2013, Chrysler sold about 83,000 Darts, and halfway through this year they’ve sold fewer than 31,000 units.

John_Horace_Ride_First_Dodge

In November of 2014, John and Horace Dodge had this publicity photo taken of them sitting in the first Dodge Brothers automobile in front of John Dodge’s mansion on Detroit’s Boston Blvd. (the same location as used in my photos of the Dart GT). The Dodges started selling cars under their own brand after a decade of being Henry Ford’s primary supplier.

As far as enthusiasts are concerned, if you’re looking for something that’s moderately sporting and can still carry a small family, a Dart GT isn’t a bad idea, providing your spouse doesn’t object to the stiff ride. Still, considering that the new Chrysler 200 and Jeep Cherokee are also based on the CUSW platform and that those two vehicles are offered with Chrysler’s outstanding ~300 hp Pentastar V6, it’s easy to guess that a SRT version of the Dart with that engine (and, I was going to say, the bigger brakes from the 200 but I see that it shares the Dart’s 12″ front rotors) would be even more fun to drive than the GT.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Click on the settings icon to select 2D or your choice of 3D formats.

Chrysler provided the vehicle, insurance and a tank of gasoline.

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

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Review: 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/review-2013-mitsubishi-lancer-evolution-mr/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/review-2013-mitsubishi-lancer-evolution-mr/#comments Wed, 30 Jan 2013 14:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=475621 I review fairly few new cars, but when I head to the American Irony 24 Hours of LeMons race at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois, I feel like I need to take on a country club sort of approach. That means I need the appropriate press car for an official at the race […]

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I review fairly few new cars, but when I head to the American Irony 24 Hours of LeMons race at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Illinois, I feel like I need to take on a country club sort of approach. That means I need the appropriate press car for an official at the race that feels like Caddy Day at the Bushwood Country Club pool. In 2011, I tried to get Chrysler to get me an Avenger R/T, because who wouldn’t want the fallback rental-car Dodge with 283 front-drive horsepower? Instead, I got the Challenger SRT8 392, which was fun but certainly no Avenger R/T. For the 2012 American Irony race, I decided that what I needed was the nice version of Mitsubishi’s contribution to the current rental-car gene pool: the Galant SE. What I got, thanks to Mitsubishi axing the Galant (though not cold blasting it) and generally acknowledging that the Evo is the only big Mitsubishi blip left on Americans’ car-awareness radar, was this white ’13 Evolution MR. Hey, that’s what I’ve got, that’s what I’ll review.
Actually, what ended up happening was that a helpful LeMons team gave me the use of a very nice Piaggio Ape 50 pickup for the race weekend, and of course I ended up parking the Evo and reviewing the Ape instead. That’s understandable, because who wouldn’t prefer the three-wheeled Italian truck built by a scooter manufacturer? However, I did drive the Lancer from the airport to the track, and then back and forth to the hot-sheet flophouse of a crackhouse hotel that my cheapskate, press-car-destroyin’ boss chose for the LeMons staff, so I was able to get an idea of what this car is about.
What you get with the ’13 Lancer Evolution MR is a 3,517-pound commuter sedan that has been hit with a batshit-crazy 291-horse engine huffing huge boost, all-wheel-drive, lots of scoops and flares and maws straight out of Manny, Moe, and Jack’s most fevered dress-up-accessory dreams, Recaro crypto-race seats, and a couple of decades of race-winning heritage.
The package feels more like a machine put together by crazed hot-rodders in a little shop behind an Osaka noodle house than a production vehicle built by a major automaker. That’s both good and bad.
The Evolution’s ability to deal with a given driving situation can always be determined by asking one simple question: How much does this task resemble screaming balls-to-wall down some Scandinavian dirt while dodging rally spectators?
Driving around the 25-MPH-limit streets of Joliet in a bouncy, noisy, paddle-shift-automatic-equipped, cramped-yet-large car isn’t much like a rally stage, and therefore the Evo falls somewhere between the Dodge Nitro and the Misery Edition Toyota Corolla for this slice of the driving experience.
However, drag-racing a brand-new VW GTI out of the tollbooths on a rain-soaked Chicago highway is something like a maniacal dirt-eating race, and for that situation the Evolution MR becomes the best possible choice of vehicle (yes, the GTI got stomped so bad that I felt vaguely guilty for the rest of the evening). They say this car is good for high-13-second quarter-mile times, which is a bit slower than my ’65 Impala, but the madness of the engine in this car makes it feel much quicker.
As further evidence that we are currently living in The Golden Age of Engines, I present the MIVEC (Mitubishi’s catchy acronym for variable valve timing) 2.0 liter four. If Mitsubishi had been able to build something one-third this good for the Cordia, Things Would Have Been Different for Mitsubishi USA. Every time I felt like laughing at this silly, expensive ($38,960 as tested), flimsy-feeling car, the incredible competence of this powertrain changed my mind.
The numbers of die-hard Mitsubishi fans in America have been dwindling since the heyday of the Starion and Eclipse as mainstream sporty-car options, but I did meet this young Evo VIII owner and her “Live Fast” Santa Cruz License Plate tatt in a LeMons paddock. Perhaps the berserkitude of the Lancer Evolution will keep the Mitubishi brand in our minds long enough for the company to come up with a new line of vehicles that will— finally— make significant quantities of American car shoppers say, “Yes! I must own that!” On that subject, has anyone seen a regular Lancer on the road lately?
The ride is race-car rough and bouncy, of course, and the interior falls somewhere between “rental car” and “sporty.” The Recaro seats are covered with the same type of sweat-proof petroleum-based fabric that faux-Aeron office chairs get, and they’re made for drivers with way narrower shoulders— e.g., wiry Finnish rally drivers— than I have.
The baseball-style stitches on the “Sportronic” automatic shifter add a bit of Nippon Ham Fighters flavor to the interior, but the overall impression feels more Detroit than Tokyo, something like the world’s nicest 1998 Chrysler Sebring.
I couldn’t find anything in the owner’s manual about the “AWC” button (as a former technical writer, I know exactly how this stuff gets left out of manuals: the writers’ eyes glaze over during the 114th slide of a 4,358-slide PowerPoint presentation and they miss some features), but I suspect it unlocks the center differential. When driving on wet roads, I decided I wasn’t going to be The Writer Who Stuffed a Press Car Into a Concrete Abutment and opted to keep the hoonage to a minimum. It grips hard on wet asphalt, and I’ll bet it lets go real sudden-like.
Anyway, the button made some change to the way the all-wheel drive system took care of business.
Overall, the ’13 Lancer Evolution MR is sort of annoying to live with, except for the moments when it’s the greatest car ever built. Were I to own one, I think I’d spend about 95% of my Evo driving time being mildly annoyed and the rest of the time laughing maniacally. Worth nearly forty grand? Strangely, yes.

01 - 2008 Piaggo Ape 50 Europe - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 27 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 28 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 29 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 30 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 31 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 32 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 33 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 34 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 35 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 36 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 37 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 38 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 39 - 2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin 39 - Mitsubishi Live Fast Tattoo - Picture Courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Review: 2012 Audi A7 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/review-2012-audi-a7-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/review-2012-audi-a7-2/#comments Thu, 27 Sep 2012 14:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=461637 After I went to California and induced some dude at Toyota to loan me a Hot Lava Orange Scion FR-S earlier in the month, I figured I’d see if Audi’s PR types had forgotten how I compared the R8 to my hooptiefied ’92 Civic. Sure enough, Audi’s institutional memory proved to have some threadbare spots, […]

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After I went to California and induced some dude at Toyota to loan me a Hot Lava Orange Scion FR-S earlier in the month, I figured I’d see if Audi’s PR types had forgotten how I compared the R8 to my hooptiefied ’92 Civic. Sure enough, Audi’s institutional memory proved to have some threadbare spots, and so I was able to arrange for the use of an Audi A7 for my trip to California for the Vodden the Hell Are We Doing 24 Hours of LeMons at Thunderhill Raceway. That meant a lot of rural highway driving, a lot of loading of race equipment into the cargo area, and exactly zero pushing-the-edge-of-the-performance-envelope 11/10ths-tyle driving. We’ll follow up Mr. Karesh’s impressions of the A7 from last year with a few of my own.
First of all, the idea of a car with a bootsplash screen when you fire it up— not to mention the 10-second delay before all systems are ready— tells you more than any single cue that we’ve gone past the era of computer-enhanced vehicles and into the computers-on-wheels era. I haven’t looked at the wiring diagram (i.e., I didn’t feel like spending a couple of months navigating the Audi bureaucratic labyrinth in order to avoid spending a bunch of my own cash for a shop manual), but I’ll bet this car boasts plenty of multiplexed control systems. We’ll get back to some of the implications of this a bit later in this review, because right now I want to talk about good old-fashioned switches.
See, regardless of what goes between a switch and the device it controls, be it a length of wire or a digital control unit, you still have a brute-force physical electrical contact that a human touch will control. The A7 has a bewildering quantity of switches available to the driver; in fact, it has so many that I made bad LeMons drivers count them as a penalty during the race.
So, what happens when schmutz gets into the switch contacts, when corrosion and normal mechanical wear take their toll a few years down the line? I’m not saying that Volkswagen Group products have a well-documented history of electrical-system glitches stretching back decades, because that gets us into anecdotal territory best explored by our readers, but the sheer number of such opportunities for failure here means that maddening electrical gremlins may crop up early on in the A7 ownership experience. Right, that’s not what new-car reviews are for, so let’s move on.
When I got this car, I was all set to make a very clever comparison between Apple and Audi, based on my observations that the crossover between owners of products from both companies is so high. However, that idea crashed like a Quadra 650 showing a Sad Mac when I saw the head-spinning complexity of this car’s controls and displays; take a look at about 10% of the information available to the driver under ordinary conditions. Steve Jobs figured out that ordinary users of electronics (e.g., your grandma) don’t want complexity. They don’t even want on/off controls, it turns out, because they don’t want to learn new stuff. If Jobs had consulted on the design of this car, it would have about six controls and one big primary-color gauge showing Driving Situation Quality or some such Cupertinonian metric.
However, the thing that Audi products do have in common with Apple products is compelling design. The A7 is beautiful, of course (just as the packaging around your new Macbook is beautiful), and it features intimidatingly correct ergonomics throughout. At this point, we need to think about the person the A7 buyer wants to be; in my mind, this person is a man with cruelly small rimless glasses who works as a “creative” in some discipline that requires him to be conversant in the work of impenetrable philosophers like Lacan, while demonstrating insider knowledge of obscure facets of urban popular culture (say, the acid house scene of Minsk). He lives in an edgy neighborhood in some unearthly expensive city (Helsinki, Singapore, etc.) and he experiences physical pain when exposed to a piece of bad design. In other words, the kind of guy who always made me feel like a total ignorant, mouth-breathing schlub in grad school and even today reduces me to a state of excessive italicization. I’m not saying this is what actual Audi buyers really are, any more than real-world Corvette buyers match the idealized Corvette owner (no, we’re not going there… this time).
Unfortunately, Audi’s need to reduce the level of existential terror in its target demographic while keeping the sticker price of the A7 below six figures (the car I drove lists at $68,630) means that there’s a lot of cool-looking shit that gives off a strong “I’m gonna break” vibe. Say, the plastic covers that hide the unsightly hinge mechanism on the hatch; 15 years ago, when deconstructionist thought was the postmodern flavor-of-the-month, you could get away with mechanical innards showing. Not today.
Still, though, we get back to that good-design thing wherever one looks in the A7. These little tie-downs in the cargo area would get a lot of use, were I to daily-drive an A7. Yeah, sure, they’re more fragile than they need to be, but Audi seems to believe their drivers would feel that their senses had been flayed with an electrified cat-o-nine-tails if they caught sight of some dowdy J.C. Whitney-grade tie-down.
The cargo area beneath the hatch is usefully large; in fact, I was able to fit more LeMons Supreme Court bribe booze in here than I was able to fit in the ’11 Escalade.
The power hatch was kind of neat at first, but then became utterly maddening once I realized that all opening and closing of the hatch must be done by the car, at its own pace. When I tried to close it manually and felt the car refuse to allow such manhandling, I felt shamed. Shamed like I was some gristly sunburned toothless uranium prospector in Nevada bashing the tailgate of my ’61 IHC Travelall, after rinsing my bloody gums with a deep swill of generic vodka out of a plastic bottle, and a stern German engineer caught me at it and frowned sadly at the spectacle.
My feelings of disapproval in the view of imaginary cold-eyed German engineers just grew as the weekend with the A7 progressed, because this car knows better. For example, those who read LeMons Judge Magazine’s review of the Escalade Platinum Hybrid may recall that the Cadillac did pretty well as the mobile sound unit in the Macho Man Penalty. Not so with the A7. I cued up “Macho Man” on the iPod, made the miscreant drivers don the hats and mustaches, and began a disco-dancing tour of the Thunderhill Raceway paddock. The E30-driving Macho Men weren’t putting their hearts into it, so I did what any self-respecting LeMons Supreme Court Judge does at that moment: popped open the driver’s door to harangue them. Unfortunately, the programmers of the A7 decided— in the name of sicherheit— that opening the driver’s door should apply the parking brake, and the Macho Men ended up staggering into the Audi’s rear bumper. After that, the car remained bitter and resentful over my scandalous breach of common sense, ignoring the gearshift’s position, turning down the music, and so on. Naturally, this got me to thinking about the mischief that could be caused by nihilistic hackers, were they to get into the A7’s code; we’ll discuss those possibilities in a later post.
Now that we’ve veered into (or at least glanced off of) the subject of the sound system, the A7’s standard “Multi-Media Interface” setup sounds very good and has a less frustrating interface than most systems I’ve seen in my somewhat limited experience of 21st-century automotive entertainment-system technology. There’s less lag between input and result than in most such systems (though a $150 smartphone manages to have no delay in its touchscreen input). The only real weakness is the lack of serious audio power; I felt that I needed to listen to a lot of bass-heavy Massive Attack to really get into the European-ness of the A7, but even top volume wasn’t loud enough. I suspect that the system is capable of pushing more watts through its excellent-quality speakers, but that an invisible German safety monitor knows that excessively loud music is deleterious to one’s health and keeps audio levels down.
On the plus side, the interior of the A7 looks gorgeous. Everything you see and/or touch is made of top-shelf materials, and the overall effect is of being in the totally sensible (yet gangsta-grade) office of the Lacan-quoting dude with the Cruelly Small Glasses.
Just look at the visual composition of this door panel (and pay no mind to the 29 electrical contacts in all those switches that will spend their lives enduring temperature extremes, vibration, and moisture).
The back seat works as well, though I didn’t get a chance to put any very tall passengers back there. On the subject of comfort, the A7 delivers a reasonably smooth ride for such a sporty-handling machine, but the road noise is pretty bad when you’re on not-so-smooth rural two-laners (as I was for much of the weekend). In fact, the tire noise was so loud I had to wonder whether there might have been some problem with the tires on this 11,000-mile press car.
I didn’t come close to flogging the hell out of this thing and learning all that race-y stuff that automotive journalists are supposed to write about, but the A7 certainly is a powerful and asphalt-gripping beast.
The 310-horse supercharged V6 and 8-speed automatic deliver respectable and usable power, roaring safely through even the hairiest passing situations involving drunks towing horse trailers behind space-saver-spare-equipped F-150s on State Highway 162. Because only Alfa Romeo seems capable of making a V6 that sounds great, you don’t get the kind of engine noise that a good V8 or I6 gives you, but the power is real. In 345 miles of mostly highway driving, I achieved a genuine 23.35 miles per gallon (of 91-octane), which is about five MPGs better than I’d expect from a biggish car with this kind of acceleration.
The navigation system, with its Google Maps integration, manages to be both cool-looking and helpful, though the interface is as busy as everything else the A7 driver sees.
Could I see driving the A7 every day? Sure, I’d be willing to put up with the Safety Police overseers and road noise in exchange for the blown V6 power, all-wheel-drive, and cargo-hauling practicality. However, I’d be sweating over the complexity and expecting hefty annual maintenance bills once the car hit about age four.

39 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 27 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 28 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 29 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 30 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 31 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 32 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 33 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 34 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 35 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 36 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 37 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 38 - 2012 Audi A7 - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12EscaladePlatinumReview-67 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Review: 2013 Mazda CX-5 Sport http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/review-2013-mazda-cx-5-sport/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/review-2013-mazda-cx-5-sport/#comments Fri, 06 Jul 2012 14:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=451210 After I reviewed a Mazda that’s no longer being made, I decided that perhaps my next Mazda review ought to involve a vehicle that’s actually available for purchase. We’ve experienced Jack Baruth’s impressions of throwing the CX-5 around Laguna Seca and Brendan McAleer’s extensive review of the optioned-up CX-5 Grand Touring, and now I’m going […]

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After I reviewed a Mazda that’s no longer being made, I decided that perhaps my next Mazda review ought to involve a vehicle that’s actually available for purchase. We’ve experienced Jack Baruth’s impressions of throwing the CX-5 around Laguna Seca and Brendan McAleer’s extensive review of the optioned-up CX-5 Grand Touring, and now I’m going to share my experience of putting the base CX-5 Sport through the meat-grinder of a weekend enforcing discipline at a far-from-civilization 24 Hours of LeMons race.
My plan: pick up the CX-5 at LAX on Thursday, meet some friends for dinner in Los Angeles, drive 133 miles north to Merle Haggard country, use the CX-5 to haul race gear around Buttonwillow Raceway Park, and then go back to LAX. This being a 24-hours-straight race, I figured I might have to nap in my vehicle instead of driving the 15 miles to and from the Bedbugge Inn, which made the CX-5 seem a more practical choice than, say, a Miata. So, I got on the horn to the Mazda PR guys and demanded a CX-5 Sport, a case of Brass Monkey, and the keys to the JDM ’82 Cosmo in the magical basement below Mazda USA headquarters. All I got was the CX-5, which I then drove around Los Angeles looking to recreate the photograph from the cover of Double Nickels On the Dime (sadly, State Route 11 became part of I-110 in 1981, so the shot above is the best I could do).
No problem, though; I had a large selection of Los Angeles music to play through the CX-5’s AUX jack, starting with (pre-Hagar) Van Halen and then right into X, Ice-T, War, and Fear. The audio system in this car pumps out some excellent bass and features digital controls orders of magnitude less maddening than most. However, the USB jack in mine was on the fritz (by holding pressure on the connector I was able to give my USB-charging phone enough juice to stay alive) and the location of the 3.5mm AUX jack seems calculated to break and/or get packed with Doritos residue. I’d just fix that stuff with a buck worth of parts and a soldering iron, were I to own this vehicle, but I’m betting most owners won’t be willing to do that.
The Sport’s interior is all nondescript-but-competent plastic and cloth, of the sort that doesn’t feel particularly expensive but also doesn’t leave a weird petrochemical residue on your fingers (see: every Chrysler-built rental car made between 1981 and the reign of Marchionne). Overall, very pleasant interior, something most could live with in a daily driver for… well, nobody can say how many miles the CX-5 ought to be good for. As this photograph shows, the view out the rear quarter windows is pretty bad, so you’ll be as dependent on your mirrors as the driver of a Value Van.
I headed to downtown Los Angeles, to have some refreshments with former LeMons judge Jonny Lieberman.
During the course of our conversation, it occurred to me that most of Repo Man was filmed in downtown LA. Naturally, we set out to find some of the locations that Alex Cox chose for what I consider to be the greatest car movie of all time. I was reasonably sure that the scene in which J. Frank Parnell dies of radiation poisoning from the aliens in the trunk of the Malibu was filmed very close to our watering hole
Sure enough, 544 Mateo Street was just a few blocks away.
I wanted to shoot the Mazda at more Repo Man locations, but I had to get to Buttonwillow (where, in a meta-Plate O’Shrimp Moment, a LeMons team showed up with a CRX driven by J. Frank Parnell and converted to full Repo Man ’64 Malibu specs).
But I’ll be heading back to Los Angeles when we do the Arse Freeze-a-Palooza race in Chuckwalla, and I’ll be sure to shoot some car photos at the Repo Yard… plus maybe a few at some Double Indemnity locations.
Heading north on I-5, I soon found myself climbing up the steep grade to the Grapevine (of “Hot Rod Lincoln” fame). I’ve driven this route many times, as those who followed my 1965 Impala Hell Project series know, in vehicles ranging on the power-to-weight spectrum from an unregisterable ’83 Sentra running on three cylinders to a ’68 Mercury Cyclone with souped-up 351 Windsor engine, and the CX-5 Sport’s 155 horsepower/150 lb-ft-o-torque was sufficient to keep the speed up even on the toughest slogs of the Grapevine. This car had the six-speed manual transmission, however, and so I can’t say whether the slushbox would have shifted at the right moments to keep the revs up. Lose momentum on the Grapevine without big torque and you’ll find yourself trapped for eternity in the slow lane with the octogenarians in their Celebrity Eurosports.
Some might say that 155 horses isn’t enough for 3,300 pounds, but then you might as well ask why you need a truckish-looking car with big ride height instead of the minivan that would probably serve your needs— if you’re looking for the fuel-economy/cargo-capacity combo that CUV shoppers look for— better. Wait, did I really say that? Anyway, I found myself spinning the engine to redline in every gear on freeway onramps, which is a worthwhile tradeoff for fuel economy that hovers around 30 miles per gallon (more on that later).
I wouldn’t feel comfortable hurling this thing through the Corkscrew, Baruth-style, but that’s just because my mediocre-at-best track skills coupled with the feeling of height in this car would freak me out too much. The two-wheel-drive CX-5 feels very car-like during sub-11-tenths driving maneuvers, and that’s what matters to those who want truck-esque macho lines without Peterbilt-grade handling.
One of the things I like about 21st-century Mazdas is the lack of gingerbread-for-its-own-sake complexity in the instruments and controls. Drilling down through endless nested menus on a touch-screen is fine for a smartphone, but let’s just say that the world’s best user-interface software engineers don’t work for car companies and leave it at that. Here we have a a couple of legible gauges and a little display screen with relevant information.
Same goes for the climate controls. They’re a bit dated-looking, but they work a lot better than their similar-looking 1990s ancestors. Of course, I’d be willing to sacrifice a lot of functionality in order to have a retro-futuristic Mars Base Style cockpit, with all the wildest features of the Mitsubishi Cordia Turbo and Subaru XT Turbo instrument panels, but the Japanese seem to have lost the ability to design such masterpieces in our new century.
After dropping off my stuff at the Scabies-n-Domestic-Violence Motel in the meth-and-lot-lizards universe that is the Buttonwillow highway oasis, I proceeded to the third annual Arse Sweat-a-Palooza 24 Hours of LeMons. At this point, my memories become a jumble of 1959 Humber Super Snipes, Olds Diesel-powered Corvettes, dust, and fatigue. Around the paddock, back to the motel, back to the track. Repeat, endlessly.
So, most of my driving of the CX-5 took place under conditions of hallucinatory levels of exhaustion, on construction-pocked stretches of I-5 populated by aggressive drunks in Ford Excursions. I think it’s a measure of the ease of driving the CX-5 that it was always easy to pilot the thing under such sub-sub-optimal conditions.
Photograph courtesy of Nick Pon
I didn’t come close to overwhelming the Mazda’s cargo capacity; it inhaled boxes of penalty-box supplies and my suitcases with ease. You don’t get as much room for your crap as in a minivan, but it beats the space of the Mazda3 hatchback by quite a bit and it doesn’t carry the grim cultural baggage of minivan ownership.
So, it’s pleasant to drive, looks pretty good, and appears to be well built. My only substantial complaint about driving this car is the hyper-touchy brake pedal; the brakes appear to have been designed for the application of a single dainty toe wielded by Twiggy (however, keep in mind that I’ve been spending a lot of time behind the wheel of a primitive steel box on wheels with manual drum brakes that require Paul Bunyan-grade force for ordinary stops) and I came close to detaching my retinas during a few stops. You’d get used to it after a few days.
I did get the chance to take the CX-5 onto a race track, but I was scanning the (yellow) weeds for lost (yellow) transponders and didn’t crack 20 MPH. That means I can’t indulge in any table-pounding tirades about understeer at the limit.
The tallness of the CX-5 tends to lead to a certain amount of highway wandering when high winds start kicking up the Tulare dust. This might lead to some nervous moments once the suspension gets a bit loose, but that’s many years down the line.
I wanted to pull off a door panel and take a look at the hidden connectors, in order to see how much low-bidder hardware Mazda might have installed in order to save a few yen. I didn’t have time for that, what with the 136 bad-driving LeMons teams I had to keep under quasi-control, but what I found under the hood looked pretty decent.
One quick litmus test I like to give new vehicles is a glance at the battery connectors, because you can bet that any car company that saved four cents per unit with a crude stamped-steel battery connector will have cut corners in a lot of places you can’t see. Mazda uses a no-frills-but-sturdy connector that ought to last through all the battery changes the car will get during its lifetime.
After packing up the race gear, I headed back to Los Angeles to catch a Denver-bound 737. Filling the tank, I came up with 27.6 miles per gallon for a trip that was equal parts stop-and-go traffic and high-speed highway driving, with 97-degree temperatures and the AC on full blast most of the time. Mazda claims 26 city/35 highway for this car, so my results seemed about right. If my way of life mandated a CUV, would I buy this one for the as-tested MSRP of $20,695? Short answer: yes.

Mateo Street Los Angeles 2 - Picture courtesy of RepoManFilm.com 01 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 27 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 28 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 29 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 30 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 31 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 32 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 33 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 34 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 35 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 36 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 37 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 38 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 39 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 40 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 41 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 42 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 43 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 44 - 2013 Mazda CX-5 Review - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Mateo Street Los Angeles 1 - Picture courtesy of RepoManFilm.com LBW12-Winners-IOE LBW12-Winners-JudgeChoice Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Review: Citroen DS5 Hybrid 4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/review-citroen-ds5-hybrid-4/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/review-citroen-ds5-hybrid-4/#comments Thu, 03 May 2012 12:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=442498 I hate France. I hate it with a vengeance.  Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of landing at Charles De Gaulle Airport will understand what I mean. So when a colleague from “Die Welt” (“The World”, a major German newspaper) returned from his drive of the Citroen DS5 and excitedly exclaimed “This is the […]

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I hate France. I hate it with a vengeance.  Anyone who has ever had the misfortune of landing at Charles De Gaulle Airport will understand what I mean. So when a colleague from “Die Welt” (“The World”, a major German newspaper) returned from his drive of the Citroen DS5 and excitedly exclaimed “This is the best French car in 20 years!”, we haters just laughed. He might as well have returned covered in pustules, exclaiming “This is my best syphilis infection in 20 years!” I also hate hybrids. This too is easily comprehensible by anyone who has a look at the smug ignoramuses driving these ugly gravity lenses. And I hate diesel. It is the fuel of lorries and Satan.

So now I’m looking at a car that is all three of these things: the Citroen DS5 Hybrid4. It’s also a spaceship full of chrome. Elvis would approve, but still buy a Cadillac. It’s quite good-looking in a overdesigned way. You can appreciate it in the same way you’d enjoy a Hollywood set made of papier-mache. Those twin wide tailpipes? You can shake hands through them. The bulging bonnet? Half of it is empty space, interrupted only by a few spindly, rusting metal stripes that hold something in place.

The complex drivetrain has a diesel engine driving the front wheels with up to 120 kW and an electric motor driving the rear wheels part-time with up to 27 kW, but, due to a French penchant for unnecessary complexity, it puts out 20 kW in most situations. The main engineering effort went into the “Auto”-Mode, which is an economy mode that becomes completely overwhelmed if you try to actually *drive* the car: “Eek! Full throttle! What should I do? I’ll change down. No, up! Nnng… or better down again? I think I’ll start the electric motor and go have some coffee…”

Every gear change of the automated manual transmission takes *years*, in which the car slows down. Despite a plethora of windows, you can’t see the road very well. It’s hopeless. It gets better in “Sport”, but the facade crumbles quickly. Regardless of mode, frugal it isn’t: I logged between 24 to 34 mpg in “Auto” – not from the guesswork of a French dashboard computer, but from real measurements over 1500 miles. An old 2003 BMW 320d we had as a company car did nearly 40 mpg on the same routes under the same driver.

At this point we have lost the internet-ADD crowd, and can work with the small, but patient segment that is game for more in-depth analysis. The DS5 can be quite wonderful as soon as you stop trying to go quickly. Sure, the chassis can corner at high speeds, which suits the “never brake” school of economy and range. But just sit back, relax, coast along, caress the throttle, and it becomes a very nice rolling lounge in that funky French. Yes, the hybrid drive costs more money than it can ever save, which even Citroen themselves admit. But you don’t buy it to save money. You buy it because it is a cool technical gimmick to own. You can have permanent 4WD in winter, when you drive up to the chalet with your skis. You can silently return to your garage at night on the electric drive alone. The DS5 is quiet at all speeds, a truly nice place to chat and trundle along the motorway no matter what distance . I sit,, listening to Isabelle Boulay on the car stereo, and began to feel some kind of affinity with the French. If they built this, perhaps they can be, in a very far future, forgiven for also having built CDG.

So, should you consider buying one? No. The boot is ridiculously small for the exterior size and if you fold the rear seats down, the battery still intrudes into the cargo area. It’s useless as a family car. And judging from what a bit of spring rain did to mine, by the time a DS5 has completed its journey over the atlantic, you will have bought 1.8 tons of pure rust. No, you shouldn’t buy one yourself.

But you should try to convince your company to lease you one. As a long distance hauler that belongs to someone else, it is superb. It is also a symbol of what Citroen excels at; being interesting, being playful, being brave, being (yes) French, being everything that something like an Opel isn’t. I cannot in clean conscience recommend buying a DS5 H4 for yourself, but I want to recommend watching Citroen closely, and even giving one a try. They might surprise you. They surprised me.

“Clemens Gleich is German writer and aspires to mad scientist mainly by experimenting on himself. He covers topics from cars and motorcycles to nucular power generators and the nanoscopic silicon baby kittens that die in their billions every time you open up Youporn. You can try a Google translate on www.mojomag.de for further education on this. It’s better for the kittens.”

citroen-thumb Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail IMG_0668 IMG_0663 IMG_0588 IMG_0580 IMG_0556 IMG_0547 IMG_0539 Photo courtesy Clemens Gleich. IMG_0324 IMG_0302 Citroen DS5 Hybrid4. Photo courtesy Citroen. IMG_0674

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Review: BMW 335i 6MT Sport Line http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/review-bmw-335i-6mt-sport-line/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/review-bmw-335i-6mt-sport-line/#comments Sun, 29 Apr 2012 21:45:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=442004 Last month we reviewed the 2012 BMW 328i and found it less than ultimate as driving machines go. But the reviewed car was a “Luxury Line” sedan with an automatic transmission. For driving enthusiasts, BMW offers the new F30 with different options, among them a larger engine, a six-speed manual transmission, a “Sport Line” trim […]

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Last month we reviewed the 2012 BMW 328i and found it less than ultimate as driving machines go. But the reviewed car was a “Luxury Line” sedan with an automatic transmission. For driving enthusiasts, BMW offers the new F30 with different options, among them a larger engine, a six-speed manual transmission, a “Sport Line” trim level, adaptive dampers, and staggered 19-inch summer tires. Check all of these boxes, and the next M3 might seem superfluous. Or not.

Red paint, blacked-out trim, and larger, five-spoke alloys dependably make a car appear sportier. It is somewhat shocking that 19-inch wheels now seem the appropriate size, aesthetically, for a 3-Series. Shod with them, the new car appears as compact as 3s used to be. The previous generation E90 looked good with mere 18s. The next M3 will likely wear dubs. Ever since reading a reader comment on Sajeev’s design critique, I cannot stop noticing the cut line at the leading edge of the hood. BMW’s previous practice of extending the hood all the way to the grille and headlights yielded a much cleaner nose.

Inside, the Sport Line is available with black, gray, or red seats, aluminum or black trim, and coral (more red) or black accents. Whoever ordered the press car went with the most conservative options, so we have classic black leather (that doesn’t look or feel much different from the standard leatherette) with bright red stitching to lend some visual interest. The aluminum trim on the center console was already knicked in a couple of places, suggesting either that it won’t hold up well or that journalists badly abuse the machinery. The Sport Line includes front bucket seats with bolsters that are both larger and (unlike on the current F10 5-Series) power-adjustable. For anyone who’ll be taking turns at speed, these are a must-have. As in the 328i, both the rear seat and trunk are much roomier than in past 3s. For those willing to forego these for a smaller, lighter, more agile car, it’s time for a four-door 1-Series.

Despite kicking out 60 more horsepower than the 328i’s turbocharged 2.0-liter four, the 335i’s 300-horsepower turbocharged 3.0-liter inline six does not feel much stronger. BMW’s official test track numbers back up this impression. Pair both engines with a manual transmission, and the six is only 0.3 seconds quicker to sixty, 5.4 vs. 5.7. What gives? Through the mid-range the 50-percent-larger engine is only about 15 percent more powerful, and this is partially offset by an additional 165 pounds of mass. Peak torque is 300 pound-feet with the six, 260 with the four. Only once over 5,000 rpm is the big engine significantly more powerful. Audi’s supercharged “3.0T” feels torquier. It’s time for a new BMW six that’s as power dense as the new four.

The six of course sounds smoother, but its soundtrack is all exhaust (no whirring mechanical bits) and almost generic. BMW has offered sweeter-sounding sixes in the past. When cruising the exhaust drones a bit much. The four’s much more varied repertoire is arguably inappropriate for a $40,000+ car, but is also more interesting.

The EPA ratings suggest that the six isn’t significantly less efficient than the four. Figures for the latter paired with the automatic transmission have been revised downward from 24 city, 36 highway to 23/33. The six with the same transmission? Also 23/33. And the heavier, all-wheel-drive 528i xDrive…would you believe 22/32? Me neither. Something ain’t right. I suspect only one powertrain was retested. You take a hit with the manual transmission. In the 335i it’s rated 20 city, 30 highway. In my driving, the trip computer reported numbers from five to ten miles-per-gallon lower with the 335i 6MT than with the 328i 8AT. While I was able to “Eco Pro” the latter over 40, it proved a challenge to nudge the former over 30. In typical suburban driving, the trip computer reported low-to-mid 20s in the 335i and high 20s to low 30s in the 328i. The harder you are on the gas, the smaller the difference between the two. Count on a sizeable difference on the highway with the manual transmission: it has a shorter top gear (0.85 vs. 0.67) AND a shorter final drive ratio (3.23 vs. 3.15).

Given the manual’s lesser efficiency and equal purchase price, is there a point to it? If you have to ask this question, then no, there isn’t. (I only asked it out of journalistic obligation.) My only issue with the manual other than the fuel economy hit is that second gear can be difficult to find on a quick downshift, a byproduct of locating the lockout-free reverse to the left of first.

With the Sport Line’s sport suspension and the “M Adaptive Suspension” set to “Sport”, the new 3 does feel tighter than the Luxury Line car, but still looser than I’ve come to expect from a BMW. In turns, especially those with imperfect pavement or where you’re being a little too aggressive with the accelerator, the rear end can bobble about a bit. Somehow the car’s line isn’t disturbed, only the driver’s confidence – and not by much. The bond with the F30 isn’t as immediate as with past 3s, but one learns that, when driven with a modicum of sanity, the 335i will go precisely where you want it to go. The misbehavior some people (who clearly don’t know what they’re talking about) refer to as ”snap oversteer”? There’s none of that. Get on the go pedal in a turn and the rear end slides out progressively. Left entirely on, the stability control will cut in too soon. There’s no need to deactivate it; the Sport+ setting puts the threshold about where it ought to be. The electric power steering is no more communicative here than in other recent BMWs. Perhaps BMW reasons that, since the car virtually reads your mind, there’s no need for it to converse. I’m not sure I’d drive the 335i better with more communicative steering, but I would enjoy the experience more. EPS notwithstanding, the 335i becomes enjoyable if you can really push it, the problem being that this is rarely a legal possibility in populated areas. During my week with the 335i I constantly felt like I had to back off just as the fun was starting. I didn’t drive the 328i and 335i with the same suspension, but as best as I can tell, the car feels heavier and less agile with the six, a typical consequence of adding 165 pounds over the front wheels.

One option not on the tested car: the $300 “variable sport steering.” This isn’t the complex active steering offered in the previous 3-Steries. Instead, the steering ratio quickens more rapidly as the wheel is turned. On center, the standard steering is 15:1, the VSS 14.5:1. By the time the wheel has been turned 100 degrees (roughly the amount needed to turn at a typical intersection) the standard steering has quickened to 10.1:1, but the VSS has reduced to an ultra-quick 7.7:1. Intrigued, I dropped by a dealer to sample a car with this option. As the specs suggest, the optional system doesn’t feel much different on-center or in medium-to-large radius curves. Only in tight curves does the steering feel noticeably different, and even then, it’s only really apparent after hopping back into the car without it. The largest difference will be felt in parking lots, where fewer turns are needed to maneuver into a space. Unlike with active steering, the character of the car isn’t dramatically affected. But since VSS is only another $300, I’d opt for it.

The upside of the F30’s less sporty sport suspension? The car rides more smoothly than previous sport-suspension equipped 3ers. I could live with the suspension set to “Sport” all the time, a good thing, as the car can bounce about far too much when set to “Comfort.” (Yes, you’ll need to switch it every time you start the car.) Given the underdamped nature of the default setting, the Sport Line’s standard suspension is probably the way to go. This will also save you $900. To save another $900, stick with the Sport Line’s standard 18-inch wheels. They look and handle about as good and ride significantly better. The 19s don’t ride harshly much of the time, but hit even a small pothole and it sounds like you’ve taken out a wheel. Non-run-flat tires would likely do better, but BMW does not offer them.

Equipped with most but not all options, the tested 335i lists for $55,745. Seem like a lot for a compact sport sedan? As just noted, you can save $1,800 by doing without the 19s and adaptive dampers. If you can live without nav and a head-up display (which would be more useful if it included a tach), then you’ll remove another $2,550. Keep cutting the non-essentials, add the optional steering, and you’ll arrive at a mere $47,195.

Still too steep for a vinyl-upholstered compact sedan? Well, there’s a good way to save another $3,700. The 328i is nearly as quick, is considerably more fuel efficient (despite similar EPA ratings), and handles better. Overall, even with the various sport options the new 3-Series feels a little soft and uninvolving for my taste. BMW focused on providing a very well-rounded car, and clearly left room for a future “is” or “M Sport.” Among the current offerings, the 328i Sport Line is the one to get.

BMW provided the tested car with insurance and a tank of gas. Erhard BMW of Farmington Hills, MI, provided the car with VSS.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online source of car reliability and real-world fuel economy information.

335i engine, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 335i front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 335i front, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 335i instrument panel, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 335i interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 335i rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh 335i side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Review: 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/review-2012-jeep-wrangler-rubicon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/review-2012-jeep-wrangler-rubicon/#comments Fri, 10 Feb 2012 15:53:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=429357 I love progress, I love technology, and I don’t have an aversion to comfort. With that in mind, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and I seem like an unlikely pairing. Jeep promises however that they have made the most civilized Wrangler ever without sacrificing off-road performance. While Wrangler shoppers with kids and a commute may be […]

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I love progress, I love technology, and I don’t have an aversion to comfort. With that in mind, the Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and I seem like an unlikely pairing. Jeep promises however that they have made the most civilized Wrangler ever without sacrificing off-road performance. While Wrangler shoppers with kids and a commute may be inclined to opt for the four-door Jeeplet, the 2-door variety has a large California following from the hip urban set to “rural-suburbanites” like myself, especially since GM killed off Hummer.

While the Wrangler has its roots in the Willys CJ, the Wrangler as we know it started in 1987 when AMC decided the off-roader needed some on-road creature comforts to boost sales. Back in 2007 Jeep ruffled more feathers by stretching the Wrangler’s wheelbase and track several inches to improve road manners. Despite 25 years of continual improvements to make the Wrangler more suited to the commuter shopper, thankfully little has been done to alter the look of the go-anywhere brand. Much like Porsche’s dedication to the 911’s classic styling, Jeep has resisted styling the Wrangler into a mainstream SUV. From the flat black fenders, rubber hood straps, to the removable doors and roof, the Wrangler seems to have lost little of its off road charm over the years.

Because of the off-road ready height, jumping into the Jeep isn’t a euphemism. Once inside the tall cabin, it’s obvious the Wrangler’s new interior was designed with daily driving comforts in mind. While some portions of the interior may well be waterproof and you can still remove the carpet to access drain plugs, I’d keep the garden hose away from the dashboard and seats. The off-road faithful will be glad to hear that the dash plastics, while more visually appealing are still hard and easy to wipe down. The rest of us will just be glad to know that Chrysler finally decided to add some sound insulation to the cabin. Our Rubicon model came equipped with a few luxury features never before seen on a Wrangler, including heated front seats, heated side view mirrors and steering wheel audio controls.

While the serious off-roader will likely scoff at butt-warmers as further evidence that the Wrangler is getting soft in its old age, an end to “Wrangler minimalism” brings beneficial changes to the commuter and weekend off-roader with stability control, tire pressure monitoring (when I’m rock climbing I’d like to know if my tire is flat) electronically locking differentials and sway bars that can be disconnected at the touch of a button. While “electronic sway bar disconnect” may sound like a superfluous option, it helps the new Wrangler maintain serious suspension travel for rock crawling without the safety issues of permanently removing the sway bars as some Wrangler owners have in the past. Despite these improvements, the rear seat remains an afterthought with difficult access and little room.

Wrangler shoppers have never had so many options to choose from, including 6 different trim-lines, multiple axle choices, two transfer cases, two different door styles (glass or plastic window), a variety of radio and navigation options and of course a manual transmission is still available. Our tester was the Rubicon model which is perhaps paradoxically the most luxurious model and the most “hard core off-road” model sporting a 4:1 low range transfer case and large 32-inch BFGoodrich off-road tires.

Regardless of which Wrangler you choose, all Wrangler models share the same engine: the new 3.6L “Pentastar” V6 which replaces last year’s ancient push-rod 3.8L V6. The new mill uses an aluminum block and dual variable valve timing to crank out a best-ever 285HP and 260lb-ft of torque, an improvement of 83HP and 23lb-ft versus the outgoing engine, while improving highway mileage by 2MPG. Chrysler didn’t just pluck the engine out of the Caravan and drop it into the Wrangler, as they tweaked the exhaust, added a variable speed electric fan for better cooling, relocated the alternator high up on the block and pointed it rearward to keep it dry and installed an intake snorkel (you can see it on the left in the picture above) to improve the Wrangler’s water fording ability. While the new V6 is considerably quieter and more refined than the 3.8L, it lacks the iconic sound the old AMC inline-6 delivered. While I’m still wondering why Jeep didn’t pull a ZF 6-speed off the shelf, the Mercedes W5A580 5-speed automatic is much better suited to the Wrangler than the Grand Cherokee, delivering fairly quick shifts and a willingness to hold lower gears when called upon. Also available is a 6-speed manual for those that prefer to row your own. Forum fan-boys are complaining that the old skid plates are incompatible due to the new engine’s exhaust routing, so bear that in mind before trying to reuse your old accessories.

I’ll leave comparisons of the off-road abilities to the rock crawler rags, but I will say that a brief trip to Hollister Hills SVRA with the Wrangler and the Toyota FJ proved the benefit of a short wheelbase, wide track and steep approach and departure angles. If road manners matter in your next SUV, look somewhere else. On the highway, its obvious that Jeep’s passion remains off the beaten path; the Wrangler is still a pig with plenty of body roll, vague recirculating ball steering, mushy pedals, and a really twitchy rear end on the skidpad. The poor on-road performance has as much to do with the seriously heavy-duty Dana 44 solid front and rear axles as the 10.3 inches of ground clearance, mud tires and 3,800lb curb weight.

Instead of 2012 bringing the slick new large-screen uConnect systems from the Chrysler 300 or Jeep’s own Grand Cherokee, Wrangler buyers have to make do with Chrysler’s last generation radios and nav systems. The “Media center 130″ is the standard unit with MP3 playback from a data CD or USB stick, an aux input jack and six speakers. Sahara and higher models get a 7-speaker setup with a subwoofer by Infinity and steering wheel audio controls, but strangely, Bluetooth phone integration and iPod connectivity are optional on all models. Sahara and Rubicon models can optionally choose between the $1,035 Garmin based navigation system, or the $1,845 Harmon based navigation system which includes some more sophisticated GPS equipment and allows voice command of the navigation system. Both navigation systems offer XM radio and XM traffic (1 year subscription included), Bluetooth phone interface and iPod integration. Before commuter-types scoff at the price of the nav systems, you should know that this generation uConnect doesn’t exactly love the iPhone 4 and browsing your iPod playlists on the base radio is a real drag. Step up to the basic nav or just go aftermarket.

Despite complaints of high sticker prices, a base $29,995 Wrangler Rubicon is firmly “average” in the new car market according to last year’s sales data. Take solace in the fact that the Wrangler only increased $225 for the Sahara and $175 for the Rubicon vs last year’s model. Our Wrangler was equipped with $2,930 in options including: the $735 hard top, $385 Bluetooth and iPod connectivity, $685 for power windows, locks and mirrors and $1,125 for the automatic transmission.

Toss in the steep $800 destination charge and our Wrangler topped out at $33,725 or about $1,500 less than a similarly configured Toyota FJ cruiser. While I was temped to draw FJ comparisons, the Wrangler is more powerful, smaller, considerably lighter, and is available with a locking front axle for the serious off-roader. In the end, the Wrangler continues to be a unique vehicle in a class all to its own. Despite some serious on-road shortcomings, with the 2012 improvements, the Wrangler has achieved a decent balance of being a passable commute car for the weekend trail warrior.

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

statistics as tested

0-30 MPH: 2.63 Seconds

0-60 MPH: 7.27 Seconds

1/4 mile: 15.67 Seconds at 86.9 MPH

Observed Fuel Economy: 18.3 MPG over 629 miles

2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, Rubicon, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, trail rated badge, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, trail rated badge, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, wheel, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, hard top removed, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, hard top removed, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, hard top removed, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, storage, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, storage, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, rear seats folded, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, cargo area, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, subwoofer, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, front seats, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, steering wheel, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, 4WD and gear selector, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, front door, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, axle lock and sway bar controls, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, gauge cluster, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Interior, gauge cluster, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, Jeep logo, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, Jeep logo, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Exterior, Jeep logo, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, 3.6L "Pentastar" V6 engine, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, 3.6L "Pentastar" engine, Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2012 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon, Intake "snorkel", Picture courtesy of Alex L Dykes wranglerthumb Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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