The Truth About Cars » Compact CUV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 12 Dec 2014 00:01:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 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 » Compact CUV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Junkyard Find: 1983 AMC Eagle SX/4 Sport http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1983-amc-eagle-sx4-sport/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1983-amc-eagle-sx4-sport/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 13:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934978 Ahh, the AMC Eagle! So much car-industry history wrapped up in the Eagle, which was a highly innovative machine made during the very last gasps of American Motors (and continuing as a Chrysler product, briefly, before Chrysler killed the Eagle and kept the name for its new marque, which was then slapped on a rebadged […]

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15 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAhh, the AMC Eagle! So much car-industry history wrapped up in the Eagle, which was a highly innovative machine made during the very last gasps of American Motors (and continuing as a Chrysler product, briefly, before Chrysler killed the Eagle and kept the name for its new marque, which was then slapped on a rebadged and modified Renault 25). Since I live in Colorado, I see Eagles on the street all the time— there are several daily-driver Eagles living within a few blocks of me— and I see them in the local wrecking yards. So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’79 wagon, this ’80 coupe, this GM Iron Duke-powered ’81 SX/4, this ’82 hatchback, this ’84 wagon, this ’84 wagon, and this ’85 wagon. The AMC Spirit-based SX/4 is much less common than the larger AMC Concord-based Eagles, so today’s find (in Denver, of course) is quite interesting.
10 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI don’t see any SX/4 badging on this car, but I’m fairly certain that any Spirit Liftback was sold as an SX/4. AMC experts, please fill us in on the details of Late Malaise Era AMC branding/badging.
05 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one seems to have just about every possible option, including the optional center gauge cluster with clock and vacuum meter.
02 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAutomatic transmission, sporty steering wheel, air conditioning— this car is loaded!
14 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI found an old German 1-mark coin from the pre-Euro era on this car’s floor.
22 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe good old reliable AMC six, which Chrysler kept making into the current century.
18 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese cars aren’t tremendously valuable, so it is not shocking to see this rust-free example about to be crushed.

Yes, the SX/4 was pitched as a sports car.

Two-wheeling in style or four-wheeling in the wild!

01 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1983 AMC Eagle Coupe Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Crossover Sales Soar http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/crossover-sales-soar/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/crossover-sales-soar/#comments Mon, 09 Sep 2013 19:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=513585 If you want to know why Jaguar and Lexus are introducing compact crossover concepts at the Frankfurt Auto Show this week, all you have to do is check the sales data. Crossover sales are soaring, particularly compacts. Last month, Toyota’s RAV4 was up 50% year to year, and the CR-V at Honda had its best […]

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USA_small-suv-sales-chart-july-2013

If you want to know why Jaguar and Lexus are introducing compact crossover concepts at the Frankfurt Auto Show this week, all you have to do is check the sales data. Crossover sales are soaring, particularly compacts. Last month, Toyota’s RAV4 was up 50% year to year, and the CR-V at Honda had its best sales month yet. Car sales in general are good in the United States right now, with overall August sales up 17%, but sales of smaller crossovers have doubled that and then some at 36%. Crossovers have gained market share for 10 straight months and now take just over a quarter of the total market, on a pace to sell about 4 million units this year. Overall crossover sales are up about 2% from last year, with compacts making most of that difference. As recently as 2007, crossovers only made up 15% of U.S. light vehicle sales. Pickup trucks are usually seen as America’s favorite vehicles, but in August crossovers outsold pickups by almost a 2 to 1 margin.

Ford and Honda hope to sell as many as 300,000 Escapes and CR-Vs and Toyota is looking at selling more than 200,000 RAV4s this year, which would be a record for that model. Escape sales were down 5% in August, which Ford attributed to short supplies.

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Review: 2012 MINI Cooper S Countryman All4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/review-2012-mini-cooper-s-countryman-all4/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/review-2012-mini-cooper-s-countryman-all4/#comments Sat, 11 Aug 2012 13:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=454503 MINI is the most unlikely successful new brand in America. Why? Because the brand’s “tiny transportation” ethos is at odds with America’s “bigger is better” mantra. Of course, these contradictory philosophies explain why the modern MINI is nowhere near as mini as Minis used to be. Still with me? Hang on to your hats because […]

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MINI is the most unlikely successful new brand in America. Why? Because the brand’s “tiny transportation” ethos is at odds with America’s “bigger is better” mantra. Of course, these contradictory philosophies explain why the modern MINI is nowhere near as mini as Minis used to be. Still with me? Hang on to your hats because the German owners of the iconic British brand have decided American domination hinges on making the biggest MINI yet. Enter the MINI Countryman. Or as I like to call it, the MINI Maxi.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The outside of the Countryman is full of firsts. It is the first MINI with 5 doors, the first MINI with available AWD, the first MINI longer than 13-feet. And the most dubious honor of all, the first MINI to weigh over 3,000lbs. To be exact, our Countryman S All4 weighed in at 3,220lbs. MINI fans will note this is 655lbs heavier than a two-door Cooper S. The MINI maximization makes the Countryman look like somebody was inflating a MINI balloon and forgot to say “when.” Your opinions will vary, but this overinflated MINI is quite attractive to my eye. From the perky round headlights to the signature hood scoop and the optional sport stripes, nobody will confuse the Countryman for anything-but a MINI.

Interior

A logical shopper would look at the Countryman and assume four doors equals five seats. Not so fast. Keeping with MINI tradition, the Countryman is a four passenger vehicle at heart, and on the lot. A quick search revealed that between the four local MINI dealers, only six of the 134 Countryman CUVs were equipped with the $250 fifth seat option. Availability aside, the middle seat should be thought of as an “emergency” seat due to the narrow proportions of the Countryman. Adding that fifth seat causes another unexpected problem: no rear cup holders. You see, the Countryman uses an interesting center “rail” system that normally stretches from the instrument panel to the rear seat backs. The rails allow you to snap-on various accessories like storage boxes, phone holders, sunglasses storage and most crucially; cup holders. Family minded shoppers should keep in mind that the rear door pockets won’t hold fast-food style sodas. In compensation for the rear amenities, the Countryman offers three times the cargo space of the Cooper with the seats up (16.5 cubic feet) and twice with the seats folded (41.3 cubic feet.)

As with all MINI models, a low rent headliner coexists with snazzy switches, rich leather upholstery, a thick rimmed steering wheel and an occasional smattering of hard plastics. Style rather than luxury is what MINI is all about, as is made most obvious by the ginormous “Disneyesque” speedometer/infotainment/HVAC vent cluster. Practical folks will find the switchgear positioned too low in the dashboard for comfort (it’s an eyes-on-the-road nightmare), but the look is undeniably swish and unlikely to bother the MINI faithful.

Infotainment

Frugal shoppers should skip this section as MINI infotainment price tags are far from mini. All Countryman models start with MINI’s AM/FM/XM/HD Radio/CD unit. Should you want some iDevice love and a Bluetooth speakerphone, add $500 to your tab. An additional $500 (or $250 if you planned to get the armrest anyway) gets you the MINI Connected system sans nav. MINI Connected is BMW’s iDrive (circa 2011) adapted to the smaller screen and MINImalist controls. As with BMW’s iPhone app, you can Tweet, Facebook, stream internet radio, Google, and view some extra “sport” themed instrumentation on the LCD.

MINI takes “the app thing” to a new level with “Dynamic Music” and “Mission Control.” Dynamic Music plays digitized, beat-heavy, music that changes as you drive. Speed up and the tempo increases while the system adds more instruments. Flip your turn signal on and cymbals start ringing out of the speaker on the side that you’re indicating. Mission Control plays canned phrases in stereotypical British accents in response to driver inputs. Floor the MINI and the system says “fulllll throttle!” Press the Sport button and several canned voices have a conversation about sporty driving. While it is entertaining for a day or two, I can’t imagine owners using this app daily.

Like a gateway drug, once you have MINI Connected, it’s hard to say no to the $750 nav up-sell. Once you have the nav, the $750 Harman/Kardon speakers aren’t a huge leap. After all that’s been added, your MINI sales rep will tell you “if you select the Technology Package you can add the parking sensors for half price” ($250.) Total up-sell: $2,750. “Ain’t technology grand?

Drivetrain

Under the hood you will fine the same engines as the rest of the MINI lineup. The base 1.6L engine is good for 121HP and 114lb-ft. As you would expect, pitting 121HP against 3,000lbs results in leisurely acceleration. Our tester was the “Cooper S” which means direct-injection and a turbocharger have been added to bring power up to 181HP and twist to 177lb-ft from 1,600-5,000RPM. MINI’s turbo engine employs an “overboost” feature to bump torque to 192lb-ft from 1,700-4,500RPM under certain conditions for a limited time. Either engine is mated to a standard 6-speed Getrag manual or an optional 6-speed Aisin automatic.

Once you’ve selected the option box for the turbo engine, you have access to the $1,700 Haldex AWD system dubbed “ALL4.” The system is essentially the same as other Haldex implementations and uses a wet clutch pack in place of a center differential. The clutch unlocks during low-speed maneuvers for better handling feel, locks completely during hard acceleration, and varies the connection depending on traction requirements. MINI tells us the system is programmed to keep the clutch pack connected more often than competing systems to improve feel.

MINI has confirmed that 2013 will bring some JCW love to the Countryman. The engine will be the same 1.6L direct-injection turbo as the S model, with the boost cranked to the maximum. MINI has yet to release power figures, but expect it to slot in around 220HP.

Drive

Expectations are important in drive reviews. If you expect the Countryman to drive like a regular MINI despite having AWD, seating for five and a large cargo area, you’ll be disappointed. When the road gets twisty, the Countryman responds exactly like an AWD MINI that’s been jacked up a couple of inches and gained 26% in weight. That being said, expecting the Countryman to handle like a Cooper means you’re missing the point. Compared to the premium CUVs on the market however, the MINI is small, nimble and tight in the corners bringing the classic MINI feel to a CUV. The ride height increase and greater suspension articulation make the Countryman lean in corners but the tradeoff is the ability to tackle some soft-roads when required.

The addition of the Haldex AWD system takes away the perverse pleasure I find in torque steer, but enthusiast drivers will appreciate the change. Enthusiast drivers will also appreciate the fact the ALL4 system makes the Countryman far more neutral than the other MINIs when applying throttle in the bends. Don’t get me wrong, this MINI is still nose-heavy and will head for the grass like a wild horse if you push it too hard, but I wonder what a JCW Cooper hatch with AWD would be like.

MINI has never been known to make fast cars, they make quick cars. As you would expect, 655lbs more car, an additional passenger and twice the cargo causes forward progress to fall from swift to average. A run to 60 took 6.89 seconds with overboost and 7.3 without, which is about the same range as a Camry… Hybrid. Ouch. If you have a need for more speed, MINI has announced that 2013 will bring a JCW Countryman that will hit 60 in a claimed 6.6 seconds, or 0.6 seconds slower than a V6 Camry.

When the Countryman arrived, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. As MINIs go, this thing is huge, but as crossovers go, it’s quite MINI. If you want a German vehicle with British styling, mild off-road prowess, four doors and four seats, this is the vehicle for you. It’s also the American-sized MINI destined to introduce the brand to a wider variety of shoppers. There are only two problems. The first is price. While the Countryman may start at $22,450, the S should be the real base model at $26,050. Why get the CUV if you don’t get AWD?  We’re up to $27,750. Add the minimum in gadgetry and you’re over $30,000. With pricing like this, styling becomes the only reason to buy a MINI Countryman over BMW’s own internal competition: the BMW X1.

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

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.46 Seconds

0-60: 6.89 Seconds

1/4 Mile:  15.38 Seconds @ 88.8 MPH

Average fuel economy: 24.9 over 248 miles

 

2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior,  Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, Driver's side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, steering wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, dashboard, MINI Connected, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, dashboard, MINI Connected, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, MINI Connected controls, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, door panel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, rear seats folded, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman S-011 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, rear seats folded, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, cargo area, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, cargo area, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, cargo area, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Engine, 1.6L Turbo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Engine, 1.6L Turbo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, all 4 logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, wheels, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, Cooper logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, MINI Logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, MINI Connected, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, speedometer and MINI Connected, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, speedometer, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI Countryman, Interior, tachometer, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail 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.

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Chart Of The Day: Compact CUVs In September And YTD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/chart-of-the-day-compact-cuvs-in-september-and-ytd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/chart-of-the-day-compact-cuvs-in-september-and-ytd/#comments Mon, 17 Oct 2011 20:19:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=415078 Though the Compact CUV segment continues to add volume, its starting to become one of the older segments, as models like Escape, Rogue, CR-V and RAV4 approach the ends of their life cycles. And yet only one of those competitors, the Toyota RAV4, has fallen off sharply. The Equinox seems to have permanently passed the […]

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Though the Compact CUV segment continues to add volume, its starting to become one of the older segments, as models like Escape, Rogue, CR-V and RAV4 approach the ends of their life cycles. And yet only one of those competitors, the Toyota RAV4, has fallen off sharply. The Equinox seems to have permanently passed the Toyota model in the YTD race, and the Rogue could end up passing it as well before the year is over. Meanwhile, as we start looking ahead to the new look of this segment, there will be some divergence between the top two models that bears keeping an eye on. The Escape, long a cheap-n-rugged entry in this segment will be replaced with a more premium, European-style global crossover (see the Vertrek concept), while Honda is taking a more conservative approach, adding room but keeping the vehicle’s basic image intact. It should be interesting how those changes affect the top of this segment going forward…

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Review: 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/review-2011-mercedes-benz-glk350/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/review-2011-mercedes-benz-glk350/#comments Fri, 15 Jul 2011 19:09:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=402885 To highlight the “BMW difference,” the marque traveled from dealer to dealer with not only the redesigned X3 but a few competing compact crossovers as well. Among the bunch, one stuck out as not like the others. But it was the Mercedes-Benz GLK350, not the BMW. Different in a good way? Well, that depends on […]

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To highlight the “BMW difference,” the marque traveled from dealer to dealer with not only the redesigned X3 but a few competing compact crossovers as well. Among the bunch, one stuck out as not like the others. But it was the Mercedes-Benz GLK350, not the BMW. Different in a good way? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for.

First off, styling. Unlike other compact crossovers, the Mercedes GLK350 makes no attempt to look sleek or even conventionally attractive. Instead, it’s for those who want the chunky look of the classic G-Wagen, without the six-figure price tag or horrendous fuel economy. Sure, there’s an aesthetic similarity to the related C-Class, as this model was introduced only a couple of years ago (as an early 2010), but with an upright, square profile that’s all truck. (Or all late model Subaru Forester, if we’re being less charitable.)

Inside, the GLK350 is similarly much more trucky than competitors. There’s hardly a curve to be seen, and the overall ambiance one of durability and functionality rather than luxury (despite plentiful wood trim). The MB-Tex upholstery should last much longer than leather—while fooling many who don’t suspect vinyl in a $46,000 car. As in other Mercedes, the cruise control lever is easily mistaken for the turn signals.

The GLK’s windshield is upright in the traditional SUV idiom. The instrument panel is tall—all but the tallest drivers will want to raise the seat. The pillars all around are thinner than most these days. The seats are firm. In back, there’s less rear legroom than in the revised X3 despite the GLK’s upright packaging. Shins can uncomfortably contact the lower edge of the front seatback. In terms of cargo space, the GLK joins the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 at the low end of the segment’s range.

Like many other Mercedes, the GLK350’s powertrain is a 268-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 paired with a manually-shiftable seven-speed automatic. The numbers are competitive, but subjectively this powertrain feels somewhat sluggish compared to the Audi, the BMW, and even the Lexus. There’s enough power here to move the GLK350 4Matic’s 4,200 pounds, but the throttle and transmission programming prioritize something other than on-road responsiveness. Unlike in the BMW, rear-wheel-drive is available, but most buyers will no doubt opt for the 4Matic all-wheel-drive system, which channels torque to the rear wheels until they slip. Despite the trucky looks, there are no fancy off-road-oriented features, or even a low-range. The GLK should do fine in light off-roading, but so will many more car-like competitors. The larger ML might be a little more capable, but is no longer offered with a low-range in the U.S.—no doubt because there was little demand for the option.

The GLK350 handles with commendable balance—the rear-wheel-drive platform pays some dividends—but leans considerably more than the Audi Q5 and BMW X3 in turns. Change lanes quickly at high speeds, and the tail wags in a way it doesn’t in the others. The Mercedes-Benz’s steering is light, with a little slop on center. Here as well the GLK makes little attempt to pass as a car, much less a driver’s car, despite standard low-profile 235/50R19 tires (even larger 20s are optional). On the other hand, the ride is smoother than in the Audi and BMW. Even so, the GLK doesn’t quite have a premium feel to go with its premium price.

The tested 2011 GLK350, with the Premium and Multimedia Packages and heated seats, lists for $46,045. A similarly-equipped Audi Q5 lists for about $800 more, but according to TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool includes about $2,100 in additional features—including leather upholstery and xenon headlights. The X3 xDrive28i with similar features and the $1,550 Sport Activity Package (to get 18-inch wheels, 19s are only available with the xdrive35i) lists for $1,690 more but includes about $2,400 in additional features. Bottom line: once you adjust for feature differences (or spec the GLK up to the same level as the others) the Mercedes is the most expensive of the three, but not by a large enough margin that many people are going to pick one over the others based on sticker prices.

With the exception of BMW, the Germans (and Swedes, for that matter) arrived very late to the compact SUV party. With the Q5, Audi offers the segment’s most car-like entry, and the redesigned BMW X3 shifts in the same direction. Mercedes-Benz, perhaps consciously opting to take a different tack than everyone else, perhaps simply not paying attention to industry trends, went in the opposite direction. The GLK350 is the segment’s most truck-like entry—even the Land Rover LR2 looks, sits, and drives more like a car. As a result, the GLK is far from the best choice for driving enthusiasts. But few buyers in this segment are driving enthusiasts. In what has recently become a very crowded field, it helps to stand apart from the crowd. The GLK350 achieves this. Want some traditional SUV flavor in your premium compact SUV, but care more about the badge or German engineering than luxurious appointments? Then the GLK350 has that space largely to itself.

BMW provided the vehicle for this review at a ride-and-drive event for BMW owners.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

Who are you calling a cute ute? GLK350 front GLK350 interior GLK350 side Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail GLK350 instrument panel GLK350 rear seat GLK350 front seats GLK350 rear quarter 2 GLK350 rear quarter GLK350 cargo

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June Sales: Compact CUVs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/june-sales-compact-cuvs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/07/june-sales-compact-cuvs/#comments Tue, 06 Jul 2010 21:33:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=360366 Ford’s Escape wasn’t the best-selling compact crossover in June, but it only needed to cruise to an easy victory as the best selling compact crossover in the first half of 2010. Honda and Toyota’s offerings are still over 10k units behind the mighty Escape on the half, with the Equinox claiming fourth place, and Rogue […]

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Ford’s Escape wasn’t the best-selling compact crossover in June, but it only needed to cruise to an easy victory as the best selling compact crossover in the first half of 2010. Honda and Toyota’s offerings are still over 10k units behind the mighty Escape on the half, with the Equinox claiming fourth place, and Rogue and Forester neck-and-neck for fifth.

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