The Truth About Cars » Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 30 Jul 2015 22:00:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 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 » Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 2015 Lexus RC F Review (with Video) – Is F Greater than M? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-lexus-rc-f-review-video-f-greater-m/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-lexus-rc-f-review-video-f-greater-m/#comments Mon, 20 Jul 2015 13:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1111321 The last Lexus coupé-only model to grace luxury Japanese dealer lots was the 1991-2000 Lexus SC 300/SC 400. Since then Lexus has tried to satisfy luxury coupé and convertible shoppers simultaneously with the hardtop SC and IS convertibles since 2001. That is until the folks in Japan decided to change their strategy to compete more directly with BMW, […]

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2015 Lexus RC F Exterior

The last Lexus coupé-only model to grace luxury Japanese dealer lots was the 1991-2000 Lexus SC 300/SC 400. Since then Lexus has tried to satisfy luxury coupé and convertible shoppers simultaneously with the hardtop SC and IS convertibles since 2001.

That is until the folks in Japan decided to change their strategy to compete more directly with BMW, Mercedes and Audi in every segment. The result is the development of the RC.

Perhaps because Lexus decided against a 2-coupé strategy, as utilized by BMW and Mercedes, the RC is mix mash between the compact IS and the mid-sized GS — with a little bit of Lexus IS C tossed in for good measure.

In theory, the new coupé was also to serve as the basis for an all-new convertible. Unfortunately, the dealer network revolted and demanded another change in course, redirecting efforts into a 3-row crossover. As a result, the all-new RC is sold alongside the aging Lexus IS C convertible, a situation that’s unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. Fortunately for enthusiasts, Lexus developed their M4-fighter at the same time as the more pedestrian RC 350, otherwise the very-blue 467-horsepower RC F you see above may have met the same fate as the moribund convertible.

Exterior
Lexus’ last M fighter, the IS F, was as unassuming as the RC F is bold. The Lexus ES says, “I’m on my way to the mall,” while the front end of RC F says, “I’m on my way to an anger management intervention.” Base RC 350 coupés have a grille that’s bigger and angrier than Lexus has ever used before. For the RC F, the visual impact gets downright ferocious.

Something struck me as odd when I first set eyes on the RC F a few months back in New Orleans: I’m not a fan of the front end on the IS, largely because the daytime running lamp is divorced from the headlamp. In the RC F, this theme actually works. The difference is the rest of the IS’ form is mainstream and the headlamps themselves look like any other lamp module, making the swoosh seem out of place. For the RC, Lexus reshaped everything, giving the design a more three dimensional feel with concave headlamps. The look works, especially with the optional tri-beam LED headlamp modules (a $1,160 option) fitted to our tester. The only thing missing from this nose are the tiny LED fog lamps you find in the RC F-Sport. At the launch event I attended, Lexus claimed their desire for “no-compromise cooling” meant the fog lamps were left on the cutting room floor.

Now to identify the competition. The RC F obviously has the BMW M4 in its sights and Lexus features an Audi RS 5 in a few commercials, but there are two other players: the new Cadillac ATS-V and the current Mercedes C63 AMG coupé. (The new C63 Coupé should be out in 2016 as a 2017 model, but my local dealer still has three 2015 models on the lot.)

Cadillac’s ATS sedan appears small when stacked against the BMW 3-Series and Lexus IS, but the coupé segment is different and all the entries are but a hair apart. The largest variation at work here is the wheelbase. The Lexus has the shortest span at 107.5 inches and the M4 the longest at 110.7 inches. This helps accentuate the M4’s low and long profile. The other main difference is curb weight. Thanks to standard Quattro, the RS 5 is the heaviest at 4,009 pounds and the M4 is the lightest at 3,530. Curb weight is crucial in a performance vehicle and that’s a sizeable variation. The RC F weighs in second heaviest at 3,958 (or about the same weight as a Jaguar XJ). The Merc is a cupcake lighter and the Caddy straddles the middle at 3,700 pounds.

2015 Lexus RC F Interior-008

Interior
Although the RC is a hybrid of the IS and GS, the interior is pure IS — which I found a little disappointing. Instead of the upright dash and large wide-screen infotainment screen you find in the GS 350, we get a multi-tired dash and a small LCD with narrow proportions. As with the IS, I find the interior somewhat jarring, mainly because of the enormous airbag bump on the passenger side.

The RC F suffers from the same problem as every other entry in this segment: an interior designed for a car half the price. This isn’t unusual. In fact, the RC borrows its interior from the IS 250 while the M4 leverages the basics from the 320i. Also similar to the competition, you won’t find real cow in the base RC F. Lexus insists the NuLuxe pleather seating is a premium feature as it’s bonded to the seat’s foam and won’t “pucker” or “wrinkle” like leather. However you slice it, it still won’t faux anyone.

2015 Lexus RC F LCD Gauges-002

The only major change to the IS interior for coupé duty is a rearrangement of the cupholders and the incorporation of Lexus’ new infotainment controller. F models get a different partial LCD instrument cluster versus the RC 350 with a small fixed speedometer on the right and everything else replicated by the disco dash. In terms of overall parts quality and design, I found the ATS, RC and M4 to all be quite comparable while the aging RS 5 is still the most pleasing to my eye. Narrowing the ranking, I put the M4 above the ATS and the RC F last. If the ATS had the LCD cluster we see in the CTS, it would take top honors, and the RC F is last because the large expanse of injection molded dashboard can’t compete with the extra touches we get in the rest.

I found the front seats to be comfortable and on par with the Audi RS 5 and a notch above the old C63’s narrow seat backs. As we have come to expect from BMW recently, the M4’s front seats are excellent and offer more adjustability than we find in the RC. Unexpectedly, Cadillac has taken a page from BMW’s playbook and offers your choice of 16- or 18-way adjustable seats with more range of motion than you find in the Audi or Lexus.

2015 Lexus RC F Interior Enform Navigation-001

Infotainment
Since the RC shares its dashboard with the IS sedan, the coupé also adopts the small LCD infotainment screen of its four-door sibling. U.S.-bound models get a standard 7-inch LCD screen perched high on the dash. Unfortunately, the distance from the driver and the large plastic bezel conspire to make the screen look smaller than it is. The problem is further compounded by the screen measuring smaller than the competition. As with the IS sedan, the standard display audio system is the only way you can escape the infamous Lexus Remote Touch system. Thankfully, the base system is well featured with HD Radio, SiriusXM, CD player, iPod/Bluetooth integration and weather/traffic displays.

I find myself very conflicted about the Lexus Enform navigation and infotainment system. When coupled with a touchscreen — as in the Lexus GX 460 — I find the system easy to use and intuitive. Admittedly, the software lacks some of the polish of BMW’s iDrive, but it is still one of my favorites. Sadly, in most Lexus vehicles, the touchscreen has been swapped for a joystick-like device which transforms the system from easy to use to frustration itself. For 2015, Lexus is trying something new: a track pad in the RC and NX. The laptop-like unit works essentially the same as the former joystick and offers haptic feedback in addition to some limited pinch and scroll gestures. HD Radio support and traffic information via HD radio are standard, so you don’t need an XM subscription to get a color-coded map. If you can get beyond the input method, the system proved reliable and moderately intuitive. Overall, however, I rank this system below BMW’s iDrive, Audi’s MMI, Infiniti’s new two-screen setup, and even Mercedes’ aging COMAND system. On the flip side, Lexus is one of the few manufacturers to offer complete voice command of your USB/iDevice a la MyLincoln Touch and the luxury automaker continues to expand the number of smartphone integrated app features. New for 2015 is an OnStar-like app that gives you all the standard “did I lock my car” telematics features in addition to alerting you if the car is speeding (handy if Johnny Jr. drives your RC F to school), exceeding a geo-boundary or violating curfew.

2015 Lexus RC F Engine 5.0L V8

Drivetrain
This segment is split in two camps. On the left we have the turbocharged, six-cylinder engines from Cadillac and BMW, and on the right we have the naturally aspirated V-8s from Lexus and Audi. (Next year is likely to bring a unicorn to this segment: a twin-turbo V-8 from Mercedes.)

F buyers get a reworked 5.0L V-8 from the discontinued IS F. Based on the 4.6L V-8 found in the LS 460, the 5.0L version has some significant changes in addition to the displacement bump. We get the usual bevy of performance tweaks, such as titanium valves, a fuel surge tank and high-lift cams. We also get something unusual on a performance vehicle: the ability to operate on the Atkinson cycle. (Technically, a modified Otto cycle.) Unlike most engines, however, this V-8 can switch between Otto and Atkinson cycles, depending on what is needed at the time. This is accomplished by swapping the variable valve timing system found on the old 5.0L design with a new electronically controlled unit on the intake side, allowing a greater deal of control over both valve lift and duration. When efficiency is needed, the intake valve stays open part way into the compression cycle, effectively making the compression stroke “shorter” than the expansion stroke, improving efficiency. According to the engineers, the advantage to employing this fuel-sipping tech is that switching back to max-burn mode takes less time than cylinder deactivation and it can be done across a broader range of engine RPMs. The advantage to the consumer is the solution is 100 percent transparent; cylinder deactivation systems can change the exhaust note and decrease engine smoothness. Thanks to these modifications, the RC F produces more power than the hybrid implementation of this engine present in the LS 600hL while still delivering a 2 mpg bump in the EPA highway score of 25 mpg. The RC F achieves 19 mpg on the combined cycle.

Sending power to the rear is an eight-speed automatic made by Aisin. For those into trivia, this is a variant of the first production eight-speed automatic (in the Lexus LS) for automotive use and was introduced a year before the ZF eight-speed that’s sucked all the air out of the room. For F-duty, Lexus beefs up the internals and allows the torque converter lockup clutch to engage in gears 2-8. (Lexus calls this SPort Direct Shift, or SPDS, but it the same concept used in many modern automatics like Mazda’s SKYACTIV six-speed.) Aft of the transmission is a standard Torsen limited-slip rear differential or an optional electronically controlled, torque-vectoring rear axle as part of the performance package.

2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-007

Drive
Every coupé in this segment handles incredibly well, zips to 60 in the blink of an eye, and stops on a dime compared to your average compact luxury sedan. In truth, the difference out on the road — aside from the raw numbers when it comes to 0-60 times and road holding — is down to personal preference and how your priorities stack up against the facets of the car’s road personality.

Let’s start with the big dog, the artist formerly known as the M3 coupé. At just over 3,500 pounds, the M4 is light for this segment. Despite making 10-percent less power than the Lexus, the BMW is faster to 60 because it is nearly 15-percent lighter and turbocharged. Thanks to less mass, the torque curve flattening effects of the German hairdryer, and the quick-shifting dual clutch transmission, the Bimmer will run to 60 half a second faster than the Lexus — if you can find the traction.

2015 Lexus RC F Exterior Headlamp LED

On the downside, this is not the E92 M3 you’re longing for. The steering feel in the Lexus is a hair more precise and, overall, it’s an easier car to drive hard. I’ll leave the track day diaries to Jack Baruth, but when pitted back to back, there is something artificial about the Lexus torque-vectoring rear axle. Unquestionably, it allows the rear of the RC F to rotate in ways the standard Torsen diff can’t (I had the opportunity to test a few cars at NOLA recently), but the feeling isn’t as satisfying as the M4, despite the M4 having a torque-vectoring rear end as well.

That said, the RC F is just as quick around most tracks; I chalk that up to how easy it is to pilot and the programming of the eight-speed auto that aggressively downshifts based on your braking Gs. Back out on the paved road, the transmission’s shift logic lost its charm. When you’re on your favorite mountain highway having a little fun, you look like a dweeb while the transmission hangs onto 2nd gear as you cautiously pass a pack of cyclists. It also means that real-world passing maneuvers take considerably less time in the M4 as the DCT is far less reluctant to downshift. On the flip side, the ride on the RC F is more livable, is likely to be more reliable, and my insurance guy tells me it’d cost me a lower premium, too.

2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-022

Audi’s RS 5 is seriously spendy ($8,500 more than the RC F) and it is the oldest car in the group now that Mercedes has sent the C63 out to pasture. Like most Audis, the RS 5 has a weight balance “problem” because the engine and part of the transmission hang out ahead of the front axle. The resulting 59/41 (F/R) weight distribution is the most skewed of the bunch (identical to a Honda Accord Sport or Mazda6), but thanks to Audi’s engineering it hides it fairly well — though push the RS 5 in the corners and you get more plow and less feeling from the front axle. Although I find the RS 5 the best looking option, the heavy curb weight, standard AWD, electric power steering, weight balance and high price tag make the RS 5 a dynamic choice only on an ice circuit.

Then we have the ATS-V which, aside from the surprisingly cheap looking instrument cluster, is my choice. A few years ago, the mainline auto press would have scoffed at Cadillac putting a turbocharged six-cylinder engine under the hood of a BMW M fighter — except that’s exactly what BMW has done. Cadillac, for their part, kicked it up a notch further. The larger displacement V-6 approaches the RC F’s horsepower figure at 464, but crushes the segment with 445 lb-ft of torque at just 3,500 rpm. With the new GM 8L90 automatic transmission and a curb weight that’s 200 lbs heavier than the BMW, the Cadillac is slower off the line — by a slim 1/10th of a second. GM also offers a six-speed manual in the ATS if you prefer to row your own, and get to 60 slower. As good as the Lexus eight-speed is, GM’s new slushbox is better. The shifts are faster and crisper and the shift logic is more country-road appropriate than the DCT in the M4. The 8L90 will hold gears in Sport mode like the rest, but it’s more willing to up-shift after you’ve passed the slow poke.

2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-013

As a package, the ATS is more willing to turn in and it feels more nimble than the BMW or the Lexus. The transmission isn’t as sharp as BMW’s dual-clutch box, but it is more livable for a daily driver in stop and go traffic. As with the ATS sedan, the steering feel and general dynamics are superior, but it lacks the polish you get with the German. Where the ATS really scores is value. When priced similarly to our $74,000 Lexus tester, the Cadillac offers more comfortable seats, a heads-up display, adaptive suspension, the best automatic in the group, and an overall style that splits the difference between the more sedate Germans and the over-the-top Lexus.

Lexus’ latest performance vehicle is the finest example of what Lexus does best: incremental changes. The RC F is the sum of everything Lexus has learned over the years about competing in the luxury market and, lately, the performance luxury market. The “Lexus way” is to continually improve while taking the “safe route” with a naturally aspirated engine and a proven traditional automatic. Unfortunately, playing it safe is what puts both the M4 and the RC F tied in second place. Although each vehicle has its pros and cons, they balance out on my tally sheet. While the M4 is faster and more direct, BMW is also playing it safe with conservative styling and road feel that isn’t as direct as the Cadillac. It’s hard to go wrong with the 2015 RC F, but the Cadillac ATS-V is a new instrument cluster away from perfection.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 4.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 12.5 @ 115 MPH

Average Economy: 20.8 MPG

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Mercedes Teasing C63 Ahead of Frankfurt Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/mercedes-teasing-c63-ahead-frankfurt-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/mercedes-teasing-c63-ahead-frankfurt-debut/#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2015 21:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1113065 Pictures of the next-generation Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe are making the rounds on the Internets after Mercedes teased the coupe previously in a video dubbed “Something Fast Is Coming.” Mercedes revealed the new photos on its Facebook page, which most people believe will be the coupe to be shown at the Frankfurt auto show in September. If […]

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Pictures of the next-generation Mercedes-AMG C63 Coupe are making the rounds on the Internets after Mercedes teased the coupe previously in a video dubbed “Something Fast Is Coming.”

Mercedes revealed the new photos on its Facebook page, which most people believe will be the coupe to be shown at the Frankfurt auto show in September.

If the C63 Coupe adopts the same engines as the C63 Sedan, the 4.0-liter biturbo under the camouflaged hood should pump 469 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque in normal guise. The C63 S bumps those specs up to 503 hp and 516 lb-ft. Both engines propel the sedan to 60 mph in 4 seconds or less.

Details are few and far between in the photos. A new nose looks to grace the alleged C63 Coupe along with super quick, wide 255/35 Z-rated 19-inch front tires.

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2015 BMW M235i Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-bmw-m235i-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-bmw-m235i-review-video/#comments Mon, 01 Jun 2015 11:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1076194 We’ve talked about BMW’s portfolio expanding faster than an American on a midwest diet before, but I’m going to do it again because it’s the key to understanding the 2-series in general and the M235i in particular. The M235i is not an M2, it is not a 235i M Sport, and it is more than […]

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2015 BMW M235i Exterior1

We’ve talked about BMW’s portfolio expanding faster than an American on a midwest diet before, but I’m going to do it again because it’s the key to understanding the 2-series in general and the M235i in particular.

The M235i is not an M2, it is not a 235i M Sport, and it is more than the former 135is. Are you confused yet? The M235i is the first of BMW’s “M Performance” vehicles which are not to be confused with “M Sport.”

Here’s how BMW’s new four-tier system works:

Things start with M Sport which is a “looks fast/handles well” package, then we get “is” which adds a dollop of performance, followed by the new M Performance where we put M in front of a three digit model number (M235i) denoting increased power, improved handling, improved braking and suspension tweaks, before going full-on-M.

In theory, the full treatment includes body modifications like wheel well enlargements, carbon fiber bits and a dual-clutch transmission. If you’re not totally confused yet, continue reading.

OK, so we have an M that’s not an M, but there’s more you should know. The only “35” version of the 2-Series is the M235i. While the other sport variants exist in BMW’s lineup, they don’t all exist in the same model, so there is no 235i M Sport and no 235is. The other thing to know is the 2-Series is very closely related to the current generation BMW 3-Series and 4-Series, sharing crash structures, large portions of the engine bay, suspension design themes and even interior components. In some ways you could even say BMW now has two different coupé and two different convertible versions of the 3-Series. That last part is important because the M235i weighs 3,535 pounds, just 100 pounds less than the 435i. More amazing is the four-door 335i is just 60 pounds heavier.

2015 BMW M235i Exterior-005

The Competition
The 2-Series lacks natural competition, but this time it’s not part of BMW’s diabolical plan. By shrinking the 3-Series and removing two doors, the 2-Series is the only RWD entry in a sea of European front drivers. While that’s not too much of a problem if you are buying a car for weekend wine tasting, it is a big differentiator when we’re talking performance metal. Therefore, I put the CLA45 AMG, Audi S3 and Euro-only RS3 in a different category. The forthcoming Mercedes C-Class coupé will compete with the 4-Series and the Porsche Cayman and Cayman S lack rear seats. If you want a small RWD luxury coupé with a back seat, this is it.

If you don’t like my re-categorization of the CLA45, ponder this: it’s the same size as the Volvo S60 Polestar, delivers similar horsepower and is based on a FWD vehicle just like the Volvo. Would you stick the S60 in the M235i mash-up? I thought not.

2015 BMW M235i Exterior.CR2-003

Exterior
Although related to the 335i and weighing about the same, the M235i is notably more compact. At 175.9 inches long, our tester was nearly eight inches shorter than a 3-Series sedan or 4-Series coupé. Think of the 2-Series as the modern 318i. The lower, wider, longer look of the 2-Series certainly looks more elegant and refined than the older 1-Series, but I always thought the cartoonish proportions of the 1 were part of the charm.

Like the 318i, the 2-Series is the discount entry point for traditional BMW shoppers. We have the familiar kidney grille up front and the classic BMW side profile with a long hood and a perky trunk. The biggest clue to the 228i’s low starting price is out back where we get one-piece tail lamps that are part of the body instead of the split design where half of the lamp is on the trunk. This design change reduces costs while simultaneously reducing the dimensions of the trunk opening.

2015 BMW M235i Interior-001

Interior
At $32,100, the 2-Series is one of the least expensive BMWs in the USA, so you shouldn’t be surprised that it also has one of the least luxurious BMW interiors. That said, the 2-Series’ interior is closer to the 4-Series than you’d think in overall materials quality and fit-and-finish despite being $8,200 less expensive. (What does that say about the 4-Seires?) Compared to your average mass market vehicle around $30,000, the 2-Series’ interior looks better put together, but the luxury move toward pleather in base models still strikes me as a false economy.

M235i models get BMW’s comfortable sport seats as standard with power adjustable side bolsters, 4-way lumbar and a manually extending thigh cushion for both the driver and front passenger. Taller drivers will want to consider deleting the sunroof as seat comfort is epic but headroom is limited. Surprisingly, there’s almost as much space in the back seat as you’ll find in the 4-Series despite the wheelbase shrinking a few inches vs its bigger cousin. In fact, the 435i’s spec sheet claims just 7/10ths of an inch more room. Although the size difference between the 2 and the 4 can be explained by the smaller trunk, it’s only about one cube smaller leaving me to wonder where the eight-inch-stretch goes.

If the 2 and 4 are similarly sized inside, why get the 4? It’s all about features. BMW doesn’t offer heads up displays, blind spot monitoring, lane keeping systems or radar cruise control on the M235i for any price. 2-Series models also lack the range of color and trim options and the optional all-around camera you find on the 4. Also, while BMW describes the leather the same way on both models, the leather on a dealer provided 428i felt softer.

2015 BMW M235i Interior-005

Infotainment
The 2-Series gets essentially the same infotainment options as the 3-series and 4-series. Like the 3 and 4, basic Bluetooth and USB/iDevice support is standard. For $500 BMW adds the ability to pair two phones at the same time, browse your Bluetooth media library, voice command contacts and music, and use the BMW Mobile Office software. (Calendars, voice memos, emails, tasks, etc.) This “Enhanced USB” package used to be bundled with BMW’s navigation software, but not for 2015. If you want all that functionality and navigation, add that to the $2,150 navigation package that also adds smartphone app integration. The current app suite allows you to Facebook, tweet and stream internet radio from your iPhone to the car’s radio. Although iDrive is the most expensive infotainment system in this small segment, the tasteful high-res graphics, fast interface and superior phone integration also make this the system to beat – if you can afford it.

Because of the 2-Series’ entry-level position in the BMW line-up, the up-level sound system delivers 360-watts and 12-speakers instead of 600-watts and 16 speakers as in the 4-Series.

2015 BMW M235i Engine.CR2-001

Drivetrain
228i models use BMW’s familiar 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder tuned to 240 horsepower and 255 lb-ft while M235i models get a tweaked version of BMW’s single-turbo inline six. The 320 horsepower is the same as the outgoing 135is while torque bumps up to 330 lb-ft. If you opt for rear wheel drive, both engines are mated to your choice of a 6-speed manual transmission or a ZF 8-speed automatic. Sadly, selecting BMW’s xDrive system nixes the manual.

The availability of xDrive in M Performance models can be seen as a way to placate all-wheel drive fans while keeping “true” M models pure. Purity aside, driving all four wheels is the fastest way to speed with the M235i xDrive scooting to 60 mph 2/10ths faster than the RWD model. Purists will likely want to wait for the M2 which should be tuned to between 360 and 370 ponies.

2015 BMW M235i Exterior.CR2-002

Drive
The M235i offers an interesting dilemma for the driving enthusiast. If you want the fastest model, that’s the one with an automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. The slowest is the rear wheel drive model with the manual. My how times have changed. What hasn’t changed is the most fun is had in the row-it-yourself rear driver. Our tester scooted to 60 in 5.0 seconds, which is a hair behind BMW’s quoted 4.8 seconds, mainly because traction is an issue and I wasn’t as willing to roast the clutch as some. Get the 8-speed auto and the sprint drops to 4.6 seconds. The AWD M235i xDrive will accomplish the task in 4.4. That’s faster than the S3 and, depending on the transmission, a hair faster than Mercedes’ CLA45 AMG. Thanks to the 200 pounds gained compared to the outgoing 135is, the M235i’s extra twist doesn’t compensate and it’ll be a hair slower. Want a Cayman that fast? Be prepared to shell out for a Cayman S, GTS or GT4.

Although the M235i weighs about the same as the 335i and the 435i, BMW manages to make it feel different out on the road. The quick steering rack, slightly shorter wheelbase and tweaked suspension design make the M235i feel more nimble. You’ll notice I said feel. If you put the same rubber on a 435i that our M235i wore, it’d likely post identical skidpad numbers. Anyway you slice it, the old 1M will out-handle the M235i. The combination of electric power steering and BMW’s variable gear ratio steering rack (dubbed Variable Sport Steering) can make the M235i twitchy and a hair lifeless at highway speeds. That said, the RWD M235i has more steering feedback and better poise than the front-heavy CLA45 or S3 can ever hope for. Adding AWD to the M235i doesn’t make it feel like a CLA45 or S3. The CLA45 and S3 have to keep the center coupling locked most of the time in order to avoid FWD dynamics, while the M235i xDrive keeps the power to the rear unless its needed up front.

2015 BMW M235i Shifter

All M235i models get BMW’s adaptive M suspension tuned more towards the daily driver side of things than I expected. Drop the suspension into Sport mode and things firm up, but no mode in this suspension will make it as hard as the M4, something I’m grateful for. While this also means a hair more tip, dive and body roll than a “true M car,” it means the M235i xDrive is a 4.4 second daily driver – rain or shine.

Because BMW has been slowly morphing into the new Mercedes, none of what I have said so far surprised me. What did surprise me was the M235i’s price tag. Priced between $43,100 for a base RWD model with either transmission and $55,825 for a fully loaded AWD model, the BMW seriously undercuts the spendy CLA45 AMG and is just $2,000 more than the slower Audi S3. The Porsche Cayman is almost as different from the M235i as the CLA45 AMG is, but be prepared to spend at least $20,000 more on a Cayman if you want similar performance figures.

2015 BMW M235i Exterior

BMW has created one of the best performance buys around with the M235i. But, if you’re looking for a light, “chuckable” BMW, you will need to keep waiting. The M235i is a hoot, but like most modern BMWs, it’s more grand tourer than sports car.

After a week with the M235i, one thought came to my mind: this is the perfect Mercedes SLK. It’s faster and more fun than an SLK 350, significantly less expensive without feeling that much cheaper, and has a usable back seat. This isn’t the raw and direct coupé BMW enthusiasts are longing for, and that’s exactly why I like it. As much as I appreciated my time with the 6-speed rear wheel drive M235i, I have to admit if my money were on the line I would buy the M235i xDrive. I still think that the myriad of BMW performance trims is insane and confusing, yet I have to wonder what a 500 horsepower M550i xDrive would be like.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.3 Seconds

0-60: 5.0 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.8 Seconds @ 106 MPH

2015 BMW M235i Cargo Pass Thru 2015 BMW M235i Engine.CR2 2015 BMW M235i Engine.CR2-001 2015 BMW M235i Engine.CR2-002 2015 BMW M235i Exterior.CR2 2015 BMW M235i Exterior.CR2-001 2015 BMW M235i Exterior.CR2-002 2015 BMW M235i Exterior.CR2-003 2015 BMW M235i Exterior 2015 BMW M235i Exterior-001 2015 BMW M235i Exterior1 2015 BMW M235i Exterior-002 2015 BMW M235i Exterior-003 + 2015 BMW M235i Exterior-005 2015 BMW M235i Gauges 2015 BMW M235i Gauges-001 2015 BMW M235i Interior.CR2-001 2015 BMW M235i Interior 2015 BMW M235i Interior-001 2015 BMW M235i Interior-002 2015 BMW M235i Interior-003 2015 BMW M235i Interior-005 2015 BMW M235i Shifter 2015 BMW M235i Trunk 2015 BMW M235i Trunk-001

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Honda Civic Hatch “Near Identical” To NY Coupe Concept, Will Get Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/honda-civic-hatch-near-identical-ny-coupe-concept-will-get-hybrid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/honda-civic-hatch-near-identical-ny-coupe-concept-will-get-hybrid/#comments Fri, 01 May 2015 10:59:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1058010 If a report from Britain’s AutoExpress is to be believed, the front clip of the next-generation Honda Civic hatchback – due to arrive in North America for the first time since 2000 (in non-Si form) – will look “near identical” to the Civic Coupe concept revealed in New York. Head of Honda UK, Philip Crossman, […]

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Civic Concept

If a report from Britain’s AutoExpress is to be believed, the front clip of the next-generation Honda Civic hatchback – due to arrive in North America for the first time since 2000 (in non-Si form) – will look “near identical” to the Civic Coupe concept revealed in New York.

Head of Honda UK, Philip Crossman, told the UK outlet the next Civic hatchback will only differ from the coupe at the rear third of the car and all sheetmetal fore of that will be the same. In addition to a coupe, sedan, and hatchback, AutoExpress also posits a new Tourer model will likely be available, though we can’t see this version of the Civic coming to our shores.

The Civic will ride on a common architecture for both European and North American models. Under hood will be a brand new drivetrain with a hybrid version available later.

“We’ll come back with a class-leading hybrid powertrain in the next five years,” said Crossman, “and it’s likely to make as much impact as the VTEC valve system.”

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Piston Slap: A Silver Arrow Through the Heart? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-silver-arrow-heart/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/piston-slap-silver-arrow-heart/#comments Mon, 16 Feb 2015 13:47:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1001802 TTAC commentator confused1096 writes: Sajeev, I need some insight and good advice from yourself and the B & B. Here’s the problem: After my wife’s back surgery we no longer use my ’99 Buick Riviera Silver Arrow (#120) since it’s not comfortable for her to sit in (too low down, shape of seat etc.). We […]

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Silver Arrow desktop

TTAC commentator confused1096 writes:

Sajeev, I need some insight and good advice from yourself and the B & B. Here’s the problem: After my wife’s back surgery we no longer use my ’99 Buick Riviera Silver Arrow (#120) since it’s not comfortable for her to sit in (too low down, shape of seat etc.).

We find ourselves racking up the miles on my old ’97 Fat Panther or her own ’08 Pacifica with the 4,0 engine and the B-W 6-speed transmission. The Silver Arrow sits in storage most of the time although I take it out regularly to prevent the battery from dying. I’ve spent some money on this car, had the aluminum hood repainted, new shocks/struts, correct manifold and so forth but now I am starting to wonder if it is worthwhile keeping it, especially since we are planning to relocate to the KC area in the near future.

Usually a decisive person, I don’t seem to be able to make up my mind. Need some wisdom, please! Should I:

  • Option 1: Keep the car, hoping that it will appreciate enough to make it worthwhile in the longer term?
  • Option 2: Trade it in for a black-on-black Mark VIII? Although I always thought the Riv was better looking….
  • Option 3: Sell it and use the proceeds to buy a fuel injected late-model Triumph Bonneville?

Sajeev answers:

The story of the Silver Arrow, along with other custom bodied GM products, is a fantastic notion lost to automotive history.  Why not make a custom bodied Infiniti Q60 Coupe with touches Nissan’s design studio only dream for mass-market consumption?

And no hackjob clichés intended for the SEMA show: I’m talkin’ serious Bill Mitchell type shit.  And with that in mind…

Option 1: your Silver Arrow is just a trim job on a low-interest production coupe, it won’t appreciate “enough to make it worthwhile.”  Keeping a last-gen Riv that isn’t a time capsule (i.e. original paint, super low miles) is a fool’s errand: it’s no people’s champ like a similar Mustang, Camaro, Lexus SC, Mercedes SL, etc. Generating demand will be tough: you gotta like having it around to justify that effort.

Option 2: Same problem. The Mark VIII, unlike the Riv, is awash in more unique components (air suspension, misc. electronic boxes) that are sometimes painful to keep alive. Even with the not bean-counted design from GM’s truly dark ages, desirable rear wheel drive and V8 propulsion, the Mark is no rapidly appreciating classic.

Option 3: If you like bikes, well, that’s a pretty cool one.  Compared to your other options AND your plan to move elsewhere, it might be the smartest move.  Provided the Silver Arrow isn’t worth having around.

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

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

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Piston Slap: Divorced Sleeper Flew The Coupe? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-divorced-sleeper-flew-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-divorced-sleeper-flew-coupe/#comments Mon, 29 Dec 2014 13:21:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=963722   TTAC Commentator raresleeper writes: Hello, Sajeev! I need your wisdom and sound advice, Kind Sir. After what could be called a much needed separation from my wife (undoubtedly the beginning of a very long divorce proceeding), I purchased myself a vehicle. A 2006 Accord Coupe v6 6-Speed. On cold mornings, I have noticed that […]

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Honda-Accord-Coupe-EX-L-V6-2006-1920x1080-007

TTAC Commentator raresleeper writes:

Hello, Sajeev!

I need your wisdom and sound advice, Kind Sir. After what could be called a much needed separation from my wife (undoubtedly the beginning of a very long divorce proceeding), I purchased myself a vehicle. A 2006 Accord Coupe v6 6-Speed.

On cold mornings, I have noticed that the steering is hard to turn if the car isn’t moving. Once the car revs just slightly, anything other than idle, the steering effort gets “normal” again. I also hear a whine under the hood on cold mornings, so I am fairly certain that is the power steering pump showing its weakness. Every once in a great while, there is a slight intrusion upon shifting into 3rd. It rarely affects my shifting, but there is a slight notch (best way I can describe it) that I sometimes need to put the extra effort to guide the shifter into while grabbing third.

I paid $9K. The car is the EX model, it has everything besides navigation and the “sport” appearance package (spoiler, etc.). 120k miles. I love this stinkin’ car. I went right to a car which I love and the fact that my estranged wife would hate everything about it makes me smile a little more. It’s a quick little machine.

Is there anything else I need to have checked maintenance-wise (other than timing belt) before getting too comfortable tossing it about during my morning commute?

As always, thank you kindly. Your assistance here is certainly appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

That’s not a bad machine to celebrate your newfound singlehood!  Congrats on this next step in your life.

“I also hear a whine under the hood on cold mornings, so I am fairly certain that is the power steering pump showing its weakness.”

I am certain that’s normal, most vehicles are less than thrilled with molasses-cold fluids.  These parts are designed to spin warmer liquids, hence the need for a proper warm up routine.

Regarding the transmission and the current mileage, perhaps its time for a fluid swap with fresh Honda fluid or maybe–MAYBE–aftermarket fluids compatible with your transmission.  Or perhaps it’s totally normal with cold fluid, if that’s a valid correlation in your case.

We’ve discussed the basics of used car upkeep before, and I focus on neglected rubber bits: tires, belts and hoses. And new shocks might be a worthwhile upgrade at this age, if a like-new ride (or better than new, with performance parts) matters. Always RFTM for the basics and do a comprehensive visual inspection to make sure nothing else is wrong. (i.e. physical damage from the last owner’s mistake)

Don’t be afraid to get that visual inspection from a mechanic if you have any doubts, especially since they can put it on a lift.

Off to you, Best and Brightest!

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

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Review: 2014 Honda Civic Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/review-2014-honda-civic-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/review-2014-honda-civic-coupe/#comments Wed, 04 Jun 2014 13:46:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=836401 Once upon a time, the Honda Civic was like McDonalds: its wide-ranging menu had something to offer for everyone, in an easily-digestible and economical format. There was even a time when the Japanese compact was offered as a sedan, coupe, and a hatchback (and for a brief spell, it even offered some British go-fast goodness!). The […]

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2014-Honda-Civic-Coupe-12-of-29-550x366

Once upon a time, the Honda Civic was like McDonalds: its wide-ranging menu had something to offer for everyone, in an easily-digestible and economical format. There was even a time when the Japanese compact was offered as a sedan, coupe, and a hatchback (and for a brief spell, it even offered some British go-fast goodness!).

The Civic used to be a fantastic thing.

Unfortunately, the ninth-generation Civic was a bad hamburger. When Honda served it up in 2012, they were treated to numerous complaints about the cheap interior, inexcusable road noise, and incompetent suspension. The outcry was so loud that Honda did something they’d never done before.

“Let us reheat that for you,” they said.

I’ll make one thing clear from the get-go: I didn’t get a chance to drive the Honda Civic Coupe in ’12 or ’13. Not that I’m overly sad about it. From the multitude of reviews available, it looks like I didn’t miss much.

However, I did own one of the last sporty-ish, mildly-hot Civics sold on our shores.

My 2000 Honda Civic Coupe, in Canadian Si trim (EX to you Yanks), was certainly no sports car. Yet, with a real trunk, upon which rested a fairly sharp spoiler, and a sleek-yet-subdued body, my silver Civic at least looked the part without being pretentious or trying too hard. Its SOHC VTEC-equipped 1.6-litre D-series four-cylinder gave a somewhat exciting growl above 6,000 revs. The shifter, too, felt very mechanical, providing a certain notchiness when throwing the lever into each gate.

Most of all, I felt connected with my old coupe. It got me back and forth to work each day before doing double-duty as an evening pizza delivery car. We spent a lot of time together and shared many great memories.

Unfortunately for me, and maybe Honda as well, I crawled into the new ninth-generation coupe with some possibly misplaced nostalgia.

2014 Honda Civic Coupe (15 of 29)

My tester was a mid-level EX trimmed coupe with only a single option – the continuously variable transmission, which is new for this year and replaces Honda’s venerable 5-speed automatic transmission. The gearless transmission, along with a big, green ECON button to the left of the steering wheel, dashed all hopes of connecting with the latest Civic.

2014 Honda Civic Coupe (11 of 29)

Powered by a 1.8-litre SOHC i-VTEC four-cylinder engine, the Civic is still motivated by aspirations of driving something faster on your way to the dragstrip. The engine has been slightly improved and now produces 143 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque (up from 140 hp and 128 lb-ft the year before), but you can still do better in the compact coupe segment. The Hyundai Elantra Coupe and Kia Forte Koup, equipped with identical 2.0-litre mills, get 173 hp and 154 lb-ft. If you desire more power, you may want to look across the street.

2014 Honda Civic Coupe (28 of 29)

The new fangled continuously variable transmission may keep engine revs at the peak of the power band, but it’s far from exciting, especially with ECON mode engaged. Fuel economy was the main reason for introducing the CVT, though a real-world average of 29 MPG is far from the official mixed EPA rating of 33 MPG. The difference means you’d pay an extra $184 per year at today’s US average regular gas price of $3.67 per gallon if you drive 12,000 miles per year.

Fuel economy aside, the CVT’s paddle shifters provide some entertainment for the Gran Turismo set, and even some fairly quick ‘shifts’, but those of us familiar with clutch pedals or traditional automatic paddles will be disappointed.

mark

In fact, the only connection made between myself and the Civic Coupe was with the headliner and my skull each time I sat in the car. The EX model tester came equipped with a power sunroof that takes away a serious amount of headroom for a 6’1″ human being. Even with the driver’s seat height adjustment all the way to the floor, my head made frequent contact with the Civic’s ceiling. My only way out of this situation was to go into “gangsta lean” mode, which, now that I think about it, explains the driving position of so many Civic Coupe drivers.

Elsewhere inside, the two-door did provide acceptable ergonomics. Materials were, again, acceptable, but the design did nothing for me in comparison to the knockout interiors in the Mazda3 and Toyota Corolla. Infotainment wise, Honda is still well behind the curve, and that applies to more than just the Civic. Even the Acura MDX, lauded in some circles, has a horribly designed headunit.

2014 Honda Civic Coupe (23 of 29)

It wasn’t all bad, however, as the Civc did provide a good balance between ride and handling. Not all cars need to be sprung like race cars (I’m looking at you Hyundai and Kia) and, gladly, none of my head-on-ceiling contact in the Civic was suspension induced. Steering was slightly vague, though not bad by any margin.

Outside, the Civic Coupe still isn’t going to win any awards for earth-shattering design. While the emergency refresh available this year is certainly an improvement over the launch model, it’s still too close to the eighth-generation model to really be considered all-new. The painted pocket 16-inch wheels are a try-hard move to catch up to the Koreans, while the the overall shape screams “I’m mildly edgy!”

2014 Honda Civic Coupe (14 of 29)

Overall, it seems like Honda is now fully content with resting on their laurels, bringing in repeat customers who’ll never cross shop. Considering this version of the Civic is built solely for North America, maybe Honda just doesn’t want to drop a ton of money into a vehicle with limited marketability. Hell, the Civic isn’t even sold in Japan anymore; Europe gets their own version that’s actually appealing with a nice selection of engines.

However, back on our shores, the 2014 Honda Civic Coupe is a bad hamburger, slightly warmed over.

Mark Stevenson is a freelance automotive journalist based in Nova Scotia, Canada with a certain penchant for dead brands, on both two and four wheels. He’s a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), former member of Texas Automotive Writers Association (NAMBLA), and the human pet of two dogs – Nismo and Maloo

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No Replacements For MINI Coupe, Paceman, Roadster http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/no-replacements-for-mini-coupe-paceman-roadster/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/no-replacements-for-mini-coupe-paceman-roadster/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 12:38:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=774977 BMW’s MINI may not replace the Coupe, Paceman or Roadster when their day comes, opting to focus on three “pillar” models that allow the brand to be “more relevant to more people,” according to MINI head of product management Oliver Friedmann. Automotive News Europe reports Friedmann’s first priority for MINI “is to roll out a […]

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2012 Mini Coupe

BMW’s MINI may not replace the Coupe, Paceman or Roadster when their day comes, opting to focus on three “pillar” models that allow the brand to be “more relevant to more people,” according to MINI head of product management Oliver Friedmann.

Automotive News Europe reports Friedmann’s first priority for MINI “is to roll out a portfolio that has strong pillars,” with each pillar being clear in what it means to the overall brand. With the original hatchback and Countryman identified as the first two pillars, a potential third pillar could come in the form of a compact model based upon the Clubman concept shown in Geneva.

As for the Coupe, Paceman and Roadster, Friedmann says the trio aren’t a priority to the brand at this time, with the possibility all three may end up in the crusher of history in the near future.

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Lexus Reveals RC Coupe, LF-NX Concept http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/lexus-reveals-rc-coupe-lf-nx-concept/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/lexus-reveals-rc-coupe-lf-nx-concept/#comments Mon, 04 Nov 2013 17:20:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=641737 Two of the newest Lexus products got an early reveal prior to their Tokyo Motor Show debut. The Lexus RC (above) is a coupe version of the new IS, with the IS350’s 3.5L V6 carrying over. World markets will get a hybrid version, dubbed the RC300h. Also debuting is the LF-NX concept, expected to preview […]

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2013.10.29 LPMPD

Two of the newest Lexus products got an early reveal prior to their Tokyo Motor Show debut. The Lexus RC (above) is a coupe version of the new IS, with the IS350’s 3.5L V6 carrying over. World markets will get a hybrid version, dubbed the RC300h. Also debuting is the LF-NX concept, expected to preview a sub-RX sized crossover.

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Review: 2014 Scion tC (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/review-2014-scion-tc-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/review-2014-scion-tc-with-video/#comments Tue, 17 Sep 2013 16:23:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=517425 Many assumed that with the new FR-S hitting the dealers, it would only be a matter of time before the front-wheel-drive tC was sent out to pasture. However with an average buyer age of 28, the tC is isn’t just the youngest Toyota, it’s the youngest car in America. With demographics like that, product planners […]

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2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Many assumed that with the new FR-S hitting the dealers, it would only be a matter of time before the front-wheel-drive tC was sent out to pasture. However with an average buyer age of 28, the tC is isn’t just the youngest Toyota, it’s the youngest car in America. With demographics like that, product planners would be fools to kill off the tC and so the “two coupé strategy” was born. The last time we looked at the tC, the FR-S had yet to be born, this time the tC has been refreshed in the FR-S’ image. Which two door is right for you? Click past the jump, the answer might surprise you.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Let’s start with the nitty-gritty. Starting at $19,695 and barely climbing to $20,965, the tC is 25% cheaper than an FR-S. This pricing delta is why (in my mind) the tC’s sales numbers haven’t fallen since the FR-S was released with 2012 slightly above 2011. If you think of the tC as the budget FR-S alternative, the two-coupé strategy starts to make more sense. From dealers I have spoken with it seems to be working. Prospective buyers that can’t quite afford an FR-S or are having troubles justifying the cost to themselves have been looking at the less expensive tC.

With strategy in mind, Scion decided to remake the front-driver in the FR-S’ image. Wise choice since the FR-S is one of the best looking modern Toyota designs. Because hard points remain the same on this refresh, tweaks are limited to new bumper covers, headlamps, tail lamps and wheels. I think the tC’s new nose suits the coupé surprisingly well since most nose jobs range from peculiar to downright Frankenstein. Similarly, the new rear bumper cover fixed the 2013’s tall and flat rear bumper cover by breaking it up with a black panel and a non-functional triangular red lens. What’s the lens for? That’s anyone’s guess.  To see how the two Scions stack up, check out my 5-second Photoshop mash-ups.

tC vs FR-S Front  tC vs FR-S Back

While some found the new clear tail lamps too “boy racer,” I think they work better on the tC and with the tC’s target demographic than the old units. As is obvious by the photos,the FR-S is quite low to the ground with a low slung cabin creating the low center of gravity it is known for. The tC on the other hand is mainstream economy coupé.

Since this is just a refresh, the tC’s major styling problem is still with us: the ginormous C-pillar and small rear window. Aside from my personal belief that the look is awkward, the shape has a serious impact on visibility creating large blindspots for the driver and not permitting rear passengers to see the scenery. The new tC’s new looks should be enough to get FR-S shoppers short on cash to give the tC a once-over before cross-shopping. Mission accomplished. Compared to the other FWD competition I rank the tC second, below the new Kia Forte Koup and above the somewhat bland Honda Civic.

2014 Scion tC Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Once inside the tC, FR-S shoppers are likely to be disappointed as there is very little FR-S inside Scion’s FWD coupé. Hard plastics in a mixture of black and charcoal hues continue to dominate the cabin, something I was OK with in 2011 because the competition was coated in hard polymer as well. Nearly three years later, the competition has upped the game with the 2013 Civic bringing soft injection molded dash parts to the segment followed by the 2014 Forte’s stylish new interior. It’s also worth noting that Scion continues to offer the tC in one interior color: black. Sticking with Scion’s model of streamlined inventory, all tCs have a standard dual-pane glass sunroof which is an interesting touch but I think I would trade it for upgraded materials.

Front seat comfort is strictly average in the tC.  Front seats offer limited adjustibility and little lumbar support (the seats do not have an adjustable lumbar support feature). tC drivers sit in a more upright fashion than in the FR-S thanks to the tC’s overall taller proportions but thanks to that large C-pillar, visibility is worse than the low-slung FR-S. The tC’s rear seats are a different matter. At 34.5 inches, the tC sports nearly two inches more rear legroom than the Forte Koup (2013 numbers), four more than the Civic and five more than the FR-S. Combined with a surprising amount of headroom, it is possible to put four 6-foot tall adults in the tC for a reasonable amount of time. Thanks to the hatch back design and a trunk that’s 50% larger than the Civic and more than 110% larger than the FR-S, you can jam luggage for four in the back of the tC as well.

2014 Scion tC Interior, BeSpoke Autio System, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment & Gadgets

The only major change inside the tC is a new Pioneer head-unit. Instead of borrowing radios from Toyota, Scion has generally gone for consumer branded units that are designed for Scion but share nothing with the Toyota parts bin. The notable exception was the old Toyota derived navigation unit which was found in a few Scion models with an eye watering $2,250 price tag. For 2014 Scion is using a new Pioneer made system featuring 8-speakers, HD Radio, iDevice/USB integration and an integrated CD player. The software looks like a blend of Pioneer’s interface and something from Toyota’s new Entune systems. The over all look is less elegant and far more “aftermarket” than the well-integrated systems from Kia or even Honda’s funky dual-level system in the Civic. Sound quality however was excellent in the tC with well matched speakers and moderately high limits.

Should you feel particularly spendy, you can pay Scion $1,200 to add the “BeSpoke Premium Audio System” which is a fancy way of saying navigation software and smartphone app integration. Take my advice, spend your $1,200 on something else. The tC’s lack of infotainment bling is troubling since Scion positions themselves as a brand for the young. At 33 I’m still in the vicinity of the tCs target market (average age 28) and even to my elderly eyes, the entire Scion brand lags in this area. Yes, the idea is: buy an aftermarket radio and have it installed, but I can’t be the only one that wants a super-slick system with a large touchscreen, navigation and smartphone apps as the standard system. Anyone at Scion listening?

On the gadget front, the tC and the Civic are well matched but Kia’s new Forte is rumored to offer goodies like a backup camera, color LCD in the gauge cluster, dual-zone climate controls, push-button start, keyless entry, HID headlamps, power seats, etc. That leaves the Scion in an odd position having no factory options at all and competing only with relatively base models of the competition.

2014 Scion tC Engine, 2.5L Four Cylinder, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain & Drive

The tC uses the same four-cylinder engine found under the hood of the Camry and RAV4. The 2.5L mill has lost 1 horsepower and 1 lb-ft for 2014 (for no apparent reason) dropping to 179HP at 6,000 RPM and 172 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 RPM. Sending power to the front wheels is a standard 6-speed close ratio manual transmission and an optional revised 6-speed automatic that now features throttle matched down-shifts. If those numbers sound healthy, they should. I have a preference toward engines “symmetrical” power numbers (HP and tq are nearly equal) as they usually provide a well-rounded driving experience. That is certainly true of the tC, especially when you compare it to the 2.0L engine in the FR-S.

Boo! Hiss! I know, it’s sacrilege to say anything less than positive about a direct-injection boxer engine, but let’s look at the fine print. The FR-S’ 200 ponies don’t start galloping until 7,000RPM, a grand higher than the Camry-sourced 2.5, but the real problem is the torque. The FR-S has only 151 lb-ft to play with and you have to wait until 6,600 RPM for them to arrive. That’s 2,600 RPM higher than the 2.5. This has a direct impact on the driveability and the character of the two coupés. The FR-S needs to be wound up to the stratosphere to make the most of the engine while the tC performs well at “normal” engine RPMs. Hill climbing and passing are the two areas where the difference in character is most obvious. The FR-S needs to drop a few gears in order to climb or pass while the tC can often stay in 6th. Sure, the FR-S sounds great when singing at 7-grand, but you’re not always on a majestic mountain highway, sometimes you’re just on the freeway in rush hour. Thanks to a lower curb weight and gearing differences, the FR-S ran to 60 in 6.7 seconds last time we tested it, 9/10ths faster than the tC.

2014 Scion tC Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Don’t mistake me, the FR-S has higher limits than the tC pulling more Gs in the corners and having a very neutral handling RWD nature while the tC plows like a John Deere in the corners. What might surprise you however is that despite the nose-heavy FWD nature of the tC, in stock form, at 8/10ths on a winding track, the FR-S is likely to pull away. Some of that has to do with the tC’s improved suspension and chassis for 2014, but plenty has to do with the stock rubber choice on the FR-S. Scion fits low-rolling-resistance tired to the RWD coupé in order to improve fuel economy AND to make the FR-S capable of tail-happy fun with only 151lb-ft of twist. When it comes to the hard numbers we don’t have a skidpad in the Northern California TTAC testing grounds so I’m going to have to refer to “Publication X’s” numbers: FR-S 0.87g, tC 0.84g. Say what? Yep. regardless of the publication the tC scores shockingly close to the FR-S in road holding. Surprised? I was. More on that later.

How about the competition? Let’s dive in. The Civic Si is a bit more hard-core. Available only with a manual transmission, a wide demographic has to be removed from the comparison. However those that like to row their own will find a FWD 6-speed manual transaxle that is, dare i say it, better than many RWD transmissions. The shift feel and clutch pedal are near perfection and the limited slip front differential helps the Civic on the track. In the real world there’s less daylight between the two however with essentially the same curb weight, equal torque numbers and only a 20HP lead by the Honda. The result is a Civic that ties in my mind with a better interior and better road manners but higher price tag ($22,515) and a loss of practicality when it comes to cargo and people hauling.

2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I’m going to gloss over the Golf because, as I learned on Sesame Street, one of these things is not like the other. How about the Hyundai Elantra Coupe? It’s considerably down on power (148 HP / 131 lb-ft), has a cheaper interior and handles like a damp noodle. If you’re wondering why the Elantra GT had to get its bones stiffened, the Elantra Coupé is why. How about the GT? Like the Golf, it’s not quite the same animal. Altima? Dead. Eclipse? Ditto. The Genesis plays with the FR-S and the other bigger boys which brings us to the oddly spelled Kia Forte Koup.

The 2014 Koup has yet to be driven, but based on our experiences with the 2013 Koup and the 2014 Forte 4-door sedan, I expect great things. Kia has announced the Koup will land with an optional 1.6L turbo engine good for 201 ponies and 195 lb-ft of twist. I expect the chassis and manual transmission to still be a step behind the Honda Civic Si, but the interior and gadget count on the Koup look class leading. Unless Kia gets the Koup all wrong, I expect it to slot in around 20-23K. I also expect it to lead my list.

2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

That brings us full circle to the tCs fiercest competitor: its stable mate the FR-S. No matter how you slice it, the tC isn’t as good-looking. It may seat four with relative ease, but the interior isn’t as nice as the FR-S either. It delivers good fuel economy and is plenty of fun on the road, but the appeal of the tC is more pragmatic than emotional. Still, when the numbers are added up the tC delivers 75% of the FR-S’ looks, 85% of the handling and 90% of the performance for 78% of the price. Being the deal hound I am, that makes the tC the better Scion.

 

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • Well priced
  • Excellent handling (for a FWD car)

Quit it

  • Cheap plastics inside continue
  • The steering isn’t as precise as the Civic Si.
  • Lack of premium or tech options young buyers demand

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

Specifications as Tested

0-30: 2.8 Seconds

0-60: 7.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.8 Seconds @ 89 MPH

Cabin Noise: 76db @ 50 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 29.6 MPG over 459 miles

 

2014 Scion tC Engine 2014 Scion tC Engine, 2.5L Four Cylinder, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Exterior 2014 Scion tC Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Exterior-002 2014 Scion tC Exterior-003 2014 Scion tC Exterior-004 2014 Scion tC Exterior-005 2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Exterior-007 2014 Scion tC Exterior-008 2014 Scion tC Exterior-009 2014 Scion tC Exterior-010 2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Interior 2014 Scion tC Interior-001 2014 Scion tC Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Interior-003 2014 Scion tC Interior-004 2014 Scion tC Interior-005 2014 Scion tC Interior, BeSpoke Autio System, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Scion tC Interior-009 2014 Scion tC Interior-010 2014 Scion tC Interior-011

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BMW 3, We Hardly Knew Ye http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/bmw-3-we-hardly-knew-ye/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/bmw-3-we-hardly-knew-ye/#comments Fri, 14 Jun 2013 18:37:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=492178 I don’t think I’ll ever get used to calling it a “428i xDrive”, but I’m also not buying one. In any case, here it is, the BMW 4-Series, official photos.

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006-2014-bmw-4-series-coupe-leak

I don’t think I’ll ever get used to calling it a “428i xDrive”, but I’m also not buying one. In any case, here it is, the BMW 4-Series, official photos.

001-2014-bmw-4-series-coupe-leak 002-2014-bmw-4-series-coupe-leak 006-2014-bmw-4-series-coupe-leak 007-2014-bmw-4-series-coupe-leak 029-2014-bmw-4-series-coupe-leak

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Review: 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/review-2013-bmw-640i-gran-coupe-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/review-2013-bmw-640i-gran-coupe-video/#comments Thu, 08 Nov 2012 14:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=465269 What do you get when you add two doors to a 6-Series coupé? Last year the answer was: a 7-Series. Of course that was last year, now BMW has an all-new answer: the Gran Coupe. Of course, calling your latest sexy sedan a “coupé” is nothing new (Mercedes has done it since 2004), what is […]

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What do you get when you add two doors to a 6-Series coupé? Last year the answer was: a 7-Series. Of course that was last year, now BMW has an all-new answer: the Gran Coupe. Of course, calling your latest sexy sedan a “coupé” is nothing new (Mercedes has done it since 2004), what is new is the process by which this “coupé” arrived. Normally manufacturers introduce a new sedan, then within a year they delete two doors, lop off some trunk, give it a sporty grille and launch it as a coupé and convertible. The 6-Series Gran Coupe (GC) on the other hand is what happens when you take a an expensive coupé and add doors. In BMW speak, this process created a four-door coupé. Confused yet? Allow me to explain: apparently all you have to do to create a coupé is remove the sashes from the windows. (This means that Subaru buyers have driven coupés all these years and didn’t know it.) Can the sexy 6-Series beat Mercedes at their own CLS game? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

BMW’s engineers started with the 6-Series coupé and stretched the body 4.4 inches and the wheelbase by 4.5 inches. They kept all the stretching work in the middle of the 6 meaning the bumper covers are interchangeable and the parts that were changed stay true to the sleek 6-Series profile. Of course, BMW’s 5, 6 and 7 are all brothers from the same mother, and logically the 6 is the middle child in many ways. The GC’s curb weight and exterior dimensions certainly slot between the 5 and 7, but 6 is all about the sexy profile.

Quibbles about door counts and naming conventions aside, there’s something about the proportions and low-slung style that set my loins on fire. I had feared the 6’s perfect two-door dimensions would be destroyed by the additional entry points, but I was wrong. After mulling the GC over for a while, I came to the conclusion that while it isn’t as sexy as a “real” coupé, it is more elegant and certainly better looking than the 5 or the 7.

Interior

While the 6-series’ imposing dashboard and low seating position (shared with the coupé and convertible) made me feel “small” (at 6-feet tall and 200lbs this is no easy task), it also serves to highlight BMW’s impeccable attention detail. I have a sneaking suspicion that the only reason BMW designed the dashboard and center console to meet the way they do is to show off their french seam precision. BMW borrowed the 10.2-inch iDrive screen from the 7 series, but instead of placing it in a binnacle of its own (as in the 5 and 7), the high-resolution LCD gets perched high on the dashboard in a prominent satin-nickel frame. This is easily the most luxurious and elegant cockpit BMW has ever made, and that includes the new 7-Series.

Our tester came with optional 24-way front thrones which contort in more ways than a Cirque du Soliel artist. Upgrading from the 10-way seats opens the door to ventilated anti-fatigue cushions which use air bladders to cut road-trip butt-fatigue. They work as advertised but the feeling of having your backside slowly groped takes some getting used to. Should faux-suede and snazzier leather be your thing, BMW would be happy to slather the ceiling in acres of Alcantara, broaden your hide palate by an extra 6 colors and toss in more exclusive wood for the princely sum of $8,300. It’s good to be king.

Rear seat room is the reason to buy a GC over the regular 6, but it’s also the reason to buy a 7. Of course the 6 and 7 have different missions with the 7 targeted as much to those that drive as those that are driven. In the GC there is no question the driver’s seat is for the guy that owns the car. That being said, rear seat room in the GC is surprising good compared with the CLS but, rear legroom lags behind the Audi. All three can swallow four adults in comfort, but the GC with its optional four-zone climate control and attention to detail in the back will make your rear passengers feel more special. What sets the GC apart is the middle rear seat. Yes, it’s a joke for adults with nowhere to put your legs and the hump is so exaggerated your shoulders hit the ceiling, but child seats fit perfectly and thanks to the wide body, it was possible (but not comfortable) to fit one child seat and two adults in the rear. Try that in a CLS or A7.

Infotainment & Gadgets

Like the coupé and convertible, the GC can be had with more gadgets than a Best Buy checkout isle. The gizmos range from radar cruise control, lane departure warning, self-parking and pre-collision warning systems that are becoming commonplace to the unique full-color heads up display and FLIR (Forward Looking InfraRed) camera system with pedestrian detection. Of course they are expensive, so if you love gadgets and can’t afford a six-figure car, don’t stop at the BMW dealer.

iDrive has come a long way since its introduction, and although complicated at times, it’s still the ultimate in-car attraction for my inner nerd. For some reason the latest version of the system (found in the new 3-Series) hasn’t found its way to the 6 yet. The key differences are improved integration with the heads up display and a media button on the iDrive controller reflecting the relative importance of CDs and media devices in this century. iDrive still offers one of the better iPod/USB device integration systems in the luxury market although no iDrive version sports voice commanding your iDevice music library ala Cadilla’s CUE or Lincoln’s SYNC. Like the rest of the BMW portfolio, you can add the $250 apps package to your GC allowing you to Tweet, Facebook, Wikipedia and SMS message while you drive. (For our in-depth look at iDrive, check out the video review above.) Compared to Audi’s MMI, iDrive lacks the Google satellite view mapping but the system is more responsive, more intuitive and more polished than MMI. I’d like to compare it to Mercedes’ COMAND system but that woud be like comparing the GC to the Model T.

Drivetrain

Until BMW introduces an M version of the GC, there are two engines on offer. Both mills were both borrowed from the 7-Series rather than the 5-Series to help set the GC apart. The 640i GC uses BMW’s new “N55HP” 3.0L twin-scroll turbo inline-6 that has been tweaked from the “N55″ engine in the 535i to deliver 315HP at 5,800RPM and 330lb-ft of twist from 1,200 to 5,000RPM, an increase of 15HP and 30lb-ft. Meanwhile, the 650i GC brings BMW’s 4.4L twin-turbo V8 to the party. Of course, as with the I6, the V8 has also had its power bumped to deliver 445HP and 480lb-ft of twist, an increase of 45HP and 30lb-ft over the 550i. Both engines are bolted to ZF’s 8-speed automatic and the 650i can be equipped with an optional $3,000 AWD system to help apply those 480 torques to the tarmac. If you opt for the fire-breathing V8, you’ll want that AWD option. Trust me. The ZF 8-speed is as up-shift happy in the GC as it is in the other BMW models and this does take a toll on spirited driving. On the up-side the 640i GC manages an EPA 20/30MPG score while the more powerful 650i GC somehow eeks out a 17/25MPG rating. During our week with the 640i GC we averaged the same 24MPG that BMW claims for the EPA combined MPG figure.

Drive

The last time I had a 535i on the track I was disappointed. In the relentless pursuit of creating the perfect Mercedes, the BMW felt nose heavy and lethargic, especially when driven back-to-back with the Lexus GS and the current Mercedes E350. Despite being heavier than the 535i and being closely related, the 640i GC was surprisingly neutral in the bends with a pleasant and predictable tail when your right foot gets happy. Of course expectation management is important, so you need to keep in mind the 6-Seies in any flavor is a quintessential GT car with grippy rubber, a heavy nose, soft suspension and plenty of shove. Because the GC leans more toward relaxed driving, the light and numb steering didn’t bother me much. Of course with electric power steering being all the rage among the luxury car set, everyone is this numb. The BMW however has two tricks up its svelte sleeve that compensate for the lack of feel in my mind: a self-parking system that will parallel-park your ride automagically and suspension tuning that can make this 4,200lb whale dance. In sport mode.

The GC proved a faithful companion in most driving situations with a glassy-smooth ride on the highway and roll-free corner carving in the mountains. If you want even more roll reduction BMW would be happy to sell 650i shoppers an active rear roll bar for $2,500. Into each life a little rain must fall and so it was with our week and the Gran Coupe. Driving in suburbia brings a questionable active suspension tuning choice to light: the rear suspension bottoms out easily in the softer “comfort” and “normal” modes. Driving at 20MPH over “road humps” or  “undulations” (not speed bumps) caused the suspension in the GC to bottom out, even when I was the only cargo on board. The 6-Series coupé suffers from this problem as well to a degree, but it required 4 passengers and some cargo before it is obvious. The GC however exhibited this unfortunate tendency across a wider variety of road types and situations. While not exactly a solution, simply putting the adaptive suspension system into “Sport” mode solved the complaint. (Admittedly sticking to the 15 MPH speed recommendation worked as well, but no other car I have tested in the last 2 years has had this problem.)

Suspension complaints will likely subside when you plant your foot on the throttle. 315HP motivating 4,200lbs may sound like a leisurely activity, but the 640i GC scooted to 60 in an impressive 5.3 seconds (1/10th faster than the A7) thanks to the torque plateau and the fast-shifting ZF transmission. If that’s not fast enough for you, the 650i burnt rubber while taking 4.4 seconds and the AWD 650i xDrive pounded out the same task in an eye-popping (and drama free) 4.1 (2/10ths faster than the CLS and very close to the CLS 63 AMG). Because our love/hate relationship continues with Porsche, a Panamera was unavailable for direct testing but based on some quick tests with dealer-provided Panameras, the 640i and 650i are a few tenths faster than the Panamera and Panamera S while the Panamera Turbo and Turbo S win awards for the most insane four-door coupés.

Why all this talk of Porsches? It would be easy to think BMW had the A7 and CLS in their sights when crafting the Gran Coupe. Until you see the price tag. The 640i starts at $76,000, $18,000 more than an A7. If that’s not sticker shock, consider that adding $32,000 of options takes surprisingly little effort. If you’re looking at the CLS 4MATIC or the Audi S7, then the 650i xDrive is a quasi-competitor but starting at $86,500 and ending north of $123,000, it’ll set you back $14,500-$32,000 more than a comparable CLS and $10,700-$34,000 more than an S7. With prices like this and one of the best interiors this side of Aston Martin it’s obvious that BMW had different competition in mind: the Panamera and beyond. For only $2,000 more, the Panamera delivers a nicer interior, a brand with more sporting pedigree and the option of even more powerful engines at the expense of looks. Seriously, saying the Panamera is less attractive from some angles is being kind. While it may sound crazy to call a BMW fitting competition for a Maserati or even the budget alternative to the Aston Martin Rapide, this is the new Mercedes we’re talking about. Just don’t call it a sedan.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 5.3 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.75 Seconds @ 103 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 24.1 MPG

 

2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Gran Coupe Logo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, LED headlamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, LED headlamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Engine, 3.0L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Engine, 3.0L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Engine, 3.0L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Exterior, active grille shutters, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, cargo room, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, rear seats folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, doors, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, 24-Way seat controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, driver's side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, center console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, iDrive controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, iDrive Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, iDrive Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, Leather Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 640i Gran Coupe, Interior, Leather Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Capsule Review: 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/capsule-review-2012-cadillac-cts-v-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/capsule-review-2012-cadillac-cts-v-coupe/#comments Thu, 25 Oct 2012 10:01:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=464860 Upon graduation from Belfast Teacher’s Training College in the late ’60s, my father found himself summoned into the headmaster’s office. A heavy oaken drawer was opened and an object placed upon the green baize of the blotting pad: “Ye’ll be needin’ this.” “This” was the strap, thick leather symbol of martial law in the classroom. […]

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Upon graduation from Belfast Teacher’s Training College in the late ’60s, my father found himself summoned into the headmaster’s office. A heavy oaken drawer was opened and an object placed upon the green baize of the blotting pad: “Ye’ll be needin’ this.”

“This” was the strap, thick leather symbol of martial law in the classroom. Dad left it lying where it was, left behind the tobacco-scented claustrophobia of that small office, left behind the small-minded bigotry of that blood-soaked island, and built himself a new home in the wilds of British Columbia.

From my birth, this has been my template for the masculine ideal: resolve, courage, intelligence, compassion. In the latter stages of his career, my father – long an administrator – could walk in and quell any classroom by his mere physical presence. And so, I’ve endeavoured to emulate him. To refrain from roarin’ an’ shoutin’. To be calm, yet firm of purpose. To be a man.

Of course, five minutes behind the wheel of this thing and it’s, COME AT ME BRO!


Don’t get me wrong, I’m awfully fond of the CTS-V, particularly in wagon form. It’s just not particularly subtle.

While I won’t go into an involved discussion of the design (read Sajeev Mehta’s thorough critique here instead), it’s sort of a visual caps-lock. You get the sense that they’d have built the entire thing out of grille if they’d have been able to get away with it.

When I remarked that going from a black/black FR-S to the ‘V felt like Robin-to-Batman, Jack B dubbed it the “Batbro,” and I can’t do better than that. If your utility belt is filled with hair-gel capsules and cocaine, then this is the sled for you.

Moving into the interior with some difficulty, due to the fiddly ‘Vette-style door latches, one finds a surprisingly high seating arrangement and a colour-combination clearly put together by a Boston Bruins fan. The details are fairly nice though.

Not as nice as the interior of a high-trim ATS however – the upcoming CTS update should fix things up a little, but this design has been around a while. Also, and I’m kicking myself for not snapping a quick shot of it, there’s a three-inch piece of fake carbon-fibre trim to the right of the steering wheel, and it’s stuck on at about fifteen degrees off the correct angle. Shoddy.


This centre-stack will doubtless soon be supplanted by the CUE system and all its haptic-touch trickery. I sort of prefer the buttons, myself, but the retractable navigation screen wobbles quite a bit when you go over bumps.

Two really great things to note: first, the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel is excellent, and great at wicking away moisture from sweaty palms. Second, they’ve put the traction-control toggle right on the steering wheel.

Which brings us around to the question of performance.


Yes, the CTS-V is a bit of an automotive tribal tattoo – Conan the Vulgarian. On the other hand, great googly-moogly does it back up those looks with volcanic power levels.


The supercharged 6.2L LSA is nearly imbecilic in its ferocity, howling and bellowing out those twin centre-mounted exhausts. Flick off the overworked traction control so that it can go off and have a therapy session, and the blown V8 scorches the tires and rams repeatedly into the rev-limiter with a noise like a T-Rex choking on Jeff Goldblum.

I know, I know. Mr. Hyperbole’s come to tea again.

I assure you, this car both looks like Brock Lesnar and punches things in the face like Brock Lesnar. It’s not an alternative to an M3, it’s an alternative to PCP.

While a six-speed manual is also on offer, the higher take rate will surely be this, the paddle-shifted six-speed automatic. It works quite well, although there’s so much power, you could probably hook the LSA up to a two-speed Powerglide and it’d still be fine.

Cadillac/GM’s magnetic-ride suspension is here too, and the widened track and lowered height of the coupe certainly makes this ‘V much nimbler than the last one I drove (a wagon). I don’t think you’d call it a sportscar though.

Leave the traction-control sensibly on, and the CTS-V is quite a nice street car, apart from the mail-slot visibility. The Brembos scrub speed just fine for street-applications, and the zero-delay power-delivery is endlessly entertaining. And expensive.

Here’s the thing though. This car might be perfectly capable of smacking around some of the normally-aspirated German stuff, but like Mr. Lesnar, it’s gotten a bit old for the ring. It’s not in MMA competitions any more, it’s more like a member of the WWE.

Herein lieth some redemption: even with the clock-cleaning Shelby out there and ridiculous twin-turbo Teutons on the rise, the ‘V is still a character-filled car. It’s entertaining and burly and something of a self-parody.

But look out – that guy’s got a folding metal chair!

Cadillac supplied the car and insurance. I supplied the fuel, more fool me.

Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Next-Gen Mustang Confirmed For Ecoboost, IRS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/next-gen-mustang-confirmed-for-ecoboost-irs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/next-gen-mustang-confirmed-for-ecoboost-irs/#comments Fri, 24 Aug 2012 15:24:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457782 Few cars are subject to such intense rumor-mongering as the Ford Mustang. Luckily, an Automotive News report has confirmed two nuggets of information that will mark some of the biggest changes to Ford’s pony car. AN reports Ford brass have confirmed that an Eco-Boost engine will be added to the future portfolio. A smaller-displacement, high-output […]

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Few cars are subject to such intense rumor-mongering as the Ford Mustang. Luckily, an Automotive News report has confirmed two nuggets of information that will mark some of the biggest changes to Ford’s pony car.

AN reports

Ford brass have confirmed that an Eco-Boost engine will be added to the future portfolio. A smaller-displacement, high-output V6 (code-named Nano) would provide ample grunt while likely improving efficiency.

V6 Mustangs still carry a bit of a stigma with the muscle car faithful, but an Ecoboost Mustang would be a bit like a modern day SVO Mustang. The Buick Grand National substituted a turbo for a couple of cylinders, and it never lost any credibility or performance to its V8 brethren.

Also on deck for the next-generation Mustang is that

Ford will finally eschew the live rear axle in favor of an independent rear suspension, likely adding a bit of modern refinement to the occasionally raw (though energetic) feel of the contemporary car, which swings out easily from the tail

Again, we’ve seen an IRS setup on the venerated ’03 Cobra, though the independent-versus-live rear setup is still a subject of debate for Mustang enthusiasts. Ford seems to be looking at marketing the Mustang overseas, and these changes, along with more modern styling, are likely necessary to turn the Mustang into a “world car”/

 

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Review: 2012 BMW M6 Convertible http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/review-2012-bmw-m6-convertible/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/review-2012-bmw-m6-convertible/#comments Thu, 23 Aug 2012 13:00:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=456668 When the “F01″ 7-Series arrived in 2008 followed by the “F10″ 5-Series in 2009, I saw the writing on the wall; BMW is the new Mercedes. My theory was “proved” after a week with the 2011 335is and 2012 X5M. BMW fans decried my prophesy as blasphemy. I repeated my statement with the 2012 328i […]

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When the “F01″ 7-Series arrived in 2008 followed by the “F10″ 5-Series in 2009, I saw the writing on the wall; BMW is the new Mercedes. My theory was “proved” after a week with the 2011 335is and 2012 X5M. BMW fans decried my prophesy as blasphemy. I repeated my statement with the 2012 328i and caught the eye of egmCarTech. A Mercedes fan tried to run me over in a parking lot. My colleagues in the press thought I lost my mind. BMW’s media watchers were eerily silent. A month later I was told that BMW would allow me a week in the all-new 2012 M6 Convertible. Would the most expensive M car change my mind or prove the point once and for all?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The previous 6 suffered from Chris Bangle’s posterior, a design that was either loved or hated. The new 6 replaces the awkward trunk with curves and creases that seem to please everyone. Despite being lower and wider than a 650i with plenty of unique sheetmetal, the casual observer was unable to tell just how much was altered to create the M6. Who knew the M6 would be a sleeper?

BMW continues to employ a soft top with “classic” 6-Series buttresses on either side of the rear glass, bucking the retractable hardtop trend that’s sweeping the three-pointed star. Aside from the weight benefits, the canvas lid maximizes trunk space, has less impacted on weight balance when the top is down, and most importantly: it operates at speeds up to 25MPH. Compared to the Jaguar XK-R, the M6 is larger and more aggressive. Thankfully, as aggressive as the M6 looks, the profile and details are more elegant than the Mercedes SL63 whose hood vents and trunk spoiler look overdone.

Interior

Inside the changes to the 650i donor car are less dramatic and limited to trim tweaks, lightly restyled seats, new steering wheel, and M-themed shifter. Despite sharing heavily with the plebeian 640i, the cabin is completely at home in a $120,000 luxury coupe with perfect stitched dashboard seams and soft leather everywhere. The only problem I found is the steering column shared with the lesser models. The M6’s airbag is considerably smaller, perfectly round and in the center of a thin three-spoke tiller making the rectangular plastic steering column extremely visible.

During my week with the M6 I acted as a quasi-pace-car driver for a 40-mile charity walk. Four of us spent two 10-hour days driving from one stop to another and hours in the seats getting sunburnt waiting for the walkers to arrive at the next stop. Normally four people jammed into a luxury convertible would be a trying experience, but  the M6 was surprisingly comfortable with a useable back seat and supportive front seats. In comparison, the XK’s rear seats are more of a joke than an actual feature, the Mercedes SL doesn’t have any back seats and the Maserati GranCabrio has a similar amount of legroom but awkwardly angled seat backs.

Infotainment & Gadgets

As with most modern BMW products, the M6 comes with BMW’s standard 10.2-inch iDrive system. Unfortunately the minor tweaks made to the new 3-series have not made it to the 6-Series meaning you still have a CD button rather than a media button and the head-up display won’t show you infotainment info. If you want to know more about iDrive, checkout our video on the 2012 650i or click on over to the 650i Coupe and 650i Convertible reviews.

For some reason, BMW’s excellent radar cruise control is not available on the M6, but the rest of the 6-Series’ gadgetry can be added. Our M6 was equipped with the $4,900 “Executive Package” which included full LED headlamps, a heated steering wheel, satellite radio, anti-fatigue front seats, soft-closing doors and BMW’s “apps” package for iDrive. Should your gadget-love know no budget; lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring, all-around video camera and electronic speed limit info can be had for $1,900. Ventilated front seats are a $500 stand alone option, as is the $2,600 night vision system with pedestrian detection. The essential option is the $3,700 Bang & Olufsen sound system. The standard 12-speaker BMW audio system is balanced strangely toward the bright side of normal. If you’re throwing down six figures on your topless weekend car, checking this option box won’t hurt.

iDrive alone puts the M6 at the top of the gadget lover’s list, but let’s compare anyway. With a starting price over $30,000 higher than the M6, the SL63 brings active lane keep assist and radar cruise control to the party but lacks BMW’s night vision, all-around camera, anti-fatigue seats, LED headlamps and, let’s face it, COMAND should be sent out to pasture. The XKR-S looses this battle as well with a $20,000 premium, Jaguar’s aggravating infotainment system, and no gadgets to speak of.

Drivetrain

With CAFE regulations looming, twin-turbo engines are the latest craze for luxury marques and even BMW’s mighty M division has caved. The result is a step backwards and forwards with the bespoke V10 replaced by a modified version of BMW’s 400HP 4.4L twin-turbo V8 (N63). The same basic engine (S63) first debuted under the hood of the 555HP X5M and X6M. For M5 and M6 duty, BMW tweaked the engine by adding Valvetronic, increasing the compression ratio from 9.3:1 to 10:1 and bumping peak boost. The result is a minor increase in horsepower to 560 and a flattening of the power curve from a peak at 6,000RPM, to a plateau from  5,750-7,000. Torque remains steady at a stump-pulling 500lb-ft but broadens to 1,500-5,750RPM. BMW revised the 7-speed “M-DCT” dual clutch transmission from the last M5/M6 and tossed in a new electronic rear differential. While not strictly a drivetrain change, BMW swapped the floating rear subframe for a fixed unit to improve handling and power delivery.

In comparison, the Jaguar XKR-S delivers 550HP and 502lb-ft of twist from its blown 5.0L V8 and the all-new Mercedes SL63 offers your choice of 530HP/557lb-ft or 590HP/664lb-ft from AMG’s new 5.5L twin-turbo V8. Jaguar has continues to stick to the tried-and-true ZF 6-speed automatic while Mercedes continues their love affair with their 7-speed automatic sans torque converter. While each of these transmission types has an advantage, BMW claims their M-DCT transmission shifts in half the time of the competition.

Drive

It often takes a week for me to decide how I like a car. With the M6 it took 50 miles. Why? Because of how well BMW has blended savage acceleration with a soft luxurious ride and comfy seats. The M6 has turned into the ultimate road trip convertible.

Don’t get me wrong, the M6 is a serious performance contender. Bury the throttle and 60 passes in 3.75 seconds followed shortly by a blistering 11.89 second 1/4 mile at an eye popping 123MPH. These numbers are without launch control which, strangely enough, elevated our times by about 3/10ths. Just let the nannies do their thing. The numbers below show the M6 “suffers” slight turbo lag from 0-30. From 30-60, the M6 is a beast taking 0.70 fewer seconds than the XKR-S. By 120MPH the lighter weight of the Jaguar helps it stay right on the heels of the BMW. By the end of the 1/4 mile, the BMW finishes ahead by a car length. My seat time in the SL63 was limited and we weren’t able to get it out on the track, but don’t expect it to be much faster to 60. Despite the serious power advantage, the rear tires are skinnier than the Jag or BMW and traction is king.

2012 Jaguar XKR-S           2012 BMW M6 Convertible

0-30: 1.18 Seconds                 1.8 (Thank the turbos for that)

0-60: 3.83 Seconds                 3.75 (It’s all about the torque curve baby)

0-120: 11.84 Seconds             11.80 (curb weight means something)

1/4 mile: 12.0 @ 122 MPH       11.89 @ 123 MPH

A word about 0-60 numbers. With high horsepower cars, traction is the limiting factor. Because road surfaces, tires, etc. vary greatly. Our track times cannot be directly compared to other publications as they are not performed on the same surface – nevertheless, we’re all in the same ballpark. We use a 10Hz GPS meter for our testing. According to the manufacturer,accuracy is  +/-0.2MPH on 0-60 runs and +/-0.4MPH on 1/4 mile tests. According to our drag-strip verification, the system is within +/-0.3MPH over a 1/4 mile.

Out on the track, the XKR-S and M6 are well matched. While the XKR-S is a bit heavier in the nose and has narrower tires up front, the rear seems to find grip more easily and the steering is more direct and responsive. The English competitor is also 429lb lighter with a firmer suspension, less body roll and an absolutely savage 0-30 time. The M6 counters with lightning fast dual-clutch shifts and seemingly endless mid-range power. For 2012, BMW polished M-DCT’s software and the result is one of the smoothest “robotic manuals” I have ever driven. I’d like to compare it to the Mercedes SPEEDSHIFT transmission in the SL63, but I still have harsh-shift related whiplash from my test drive.

On the broken roads of Northern California, it’s a different story. BMW’s adaptive suspension makes the M6 more composed than the SL or XKR-S on broken pavement, even at higher speeds. It’s not that the Jag or Merc are unrefined by any measure, its that the M6 rides like a 7-Series while it handles like an overweight M3. Thank you modern technology.

The softer ride and number steering mean the M6 is less engaging in the bends. On the flip side, the M6 is a car you can drive every day while the SL63 and XKR-S exact some practical compromises. The M6 is the more comfortable car, it seats four and the monstrous trunk can hold luggage for 3 easily. What the BMW can’t counter is the visceral roar produced by Jag’s 5.0L V8. The M6 in comparison is quiet, some might even say demure.

 

If you want the best track car, get a GT-R. It will “out everything” the M6 on the track. If you want the best sounding V8 engine, get the XKR-S. If you want the sexiest coupe, get a Maserati. If you want the best all-around sports luxury coupe, look no further than the BMW M6. I admit that after a week with the most expensive M, I am smitten. But have I fallen for the M6 for all the “wrong” reasons? I value the M6’s perfect interior, comfortable seats, electronic do-dads and LED headlamps over straight-line or corner performance. In other-words, I elevate all the values I was raised to associate with Mercedes-Benz. But here in front of me is a BMW that embodies all the luxury I demand yet sacrifices only a smidgin of track performance in the process. I will leave the discussions of branding to more qualified writers, but I will say that nobody I met felt the Mercedes SL brought any more cachet than the M6, despite its price tag. Mercedes has been put on notice. BMW’s M6 reigns alone as the king of the German luxury coupe. AMG: you have been found wanting. (You know, except for that whole SLS thing.)

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

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 1.8 Seconds

0-60: 3.75 Seconds

1/4 Mile:  11.89 Seconds @ 123 MPH

Average fuel economy: 16.1 MPG over 825 miles

2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, backup camera, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, exhaust, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, rear, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, rear, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, wheels, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, headlamp, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, side, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, front, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, BMW logo, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Exterior, M6 logo, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, engine, 4.4L twin turbo, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, engine, 4.4L twin turbo, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, window switches, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, steering wheel controls, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, steering wheel controls, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, shifter, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, iDrive controller, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes2012 BMW M6 Convertible-023 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, start/stop button, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, seat controls, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, back seat, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, aerial view, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, head up display, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, Heads up display, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, gauges, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, iDrive, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, iDrive, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, iDrive, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, iDrive, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, door sill, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, shifter and key, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, steering wheel, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, dashboard, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Convertible, Interior, Picture courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 BMW M6 Monroney Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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2013 SRT Viper Banking On 90’s Nostalgia http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/2013-srt-viper-banking-on-90s-nostalgia/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/2013-srt-viper-banking-on-90s-nostalgia/#comments Fri, 17 Aug 2012 15:05:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457225 A few days ago, I heard Nirvana’s “Come as you are” on a classic rock station. It’s hard to think of a grune song as qualifying for “classic” status, but we are creeping up on nearly 20 years of Nirvana. On the car front, there’s already been a re-issue of the Mustang 5.0, and now the […]

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A few days ago, I heard Nirvana’s “Come as you are” on a classic rock station. It’s hard to think of a grune song as qualifying for “classic” status, but we are creeping up on nearly 20 years of Nirvana. On the car front, there’s already been a re-issue of the Mustang 5.0, and now the Mopar folks are taking a similar path.

The 2013 SRT Viper looks a hell of a lot like the first Viper GTS Coupe, launched back in 1996. I doubt that this is a mere coincidence. The blue/white paint is basically the only thing separating this car from the standard Vipers. Somewhere deep inside, my inner 8 year old can barely contain himself.

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Review: 2012 and 2013 MINI John Cooper Works (JCW) Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/review-2012-and-2013-mini-john-cooper-works-jcw-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/review-2012-and-2013-mini-john-cooper-works-jcw-coupe/#comments Sun, 29 Jul 2012 16:38:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=453630 Before 2011, if you were looking for a hot hatch but wanted something MINIer than a Cooper, your options were limited to the less than smart Smart BRABUS. With fuel costs on the rise and fuel economy targets looming, MINI and Fiat are hoping to tempt “sporty” shoppers into something smaller and more practical. This […]

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Before 2011, if you were looking for a hot hatch but wanted something MINIer than a Cooper, your options were limited to the less than smart Smart BRABUS. With fuel costs on the rise and fuel economy targets looming, MINI and Fiat are hoping to tempt “sporty” shoppers into something smaller and more practical. This week we have the MINI answer to the question: why doesn’t MINI make a heavier John Cooper Works (JCW) without back seats? We kid, we kid. But in all seriousness, why would you buy the MINI Coupé instead of the four-seater JCW Cooper, JCW Roadster or even the sexy Italian we tested last week?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The modular car strategy has been around for some time, but few auto makers take the “one sausage, different lengths” school of design to these heights. The MINI Coupé is instantly familiar with its large headlights, hood scoop and perky side view mirrors. To “coupify” the basic building blocks of the MINI brand, the engineers raked the windshield back, lowered the roof, ditched the hatchback for a “liftback” with a faux-trunk and added the infamous ” backwards baseball cap” spoiler. MINI prefers to call this design cue a “helmet,” but to my eye it’s just funky. And not in the groovy kinda way. Completing the look is a spoiler that deploys from the faux-trunk at 50MPH and retracts at 40 MPH. My bottom line: if you wan an attractive 2-seat MINI, just buy the Roadster.

While this may be splitting hairs, MINI tells us the Coupé is based on the Roadster which is based on the Cabriolet which is ultimately based on the Cooper. This game of semantics lineage is important because while the Coupé rides on the same 97.1-inch wheelbase as the Cooper, it inherits all the chassis stiffening from the Cabriolet and the Roadster, then adds the rigidity imparted by a solid top. Oh, and it ditches the Cooper’s rear seats.

Interior

All MINI models share more than just their design DNA – the interior bits are shared across the range, too. This is by no means a dig against MINI, as on the whole MINI’s parts bin is a nice place to be. As with every other MINI, the interior greets you with a ginormous round speedometer front-and-center and more chrome toggle switches than you can imagine. As always, the speedometer’s location means it’s more of a styling exercise than a useful gauge and thankfully MINI continues to provide a digital speed readout in the tachometer on the steering column. If you were hoping the MINI Coupé would improve on the few problem areas of the modern MINI, you’ll be disappointed. The same blend of first-rate stitched leather and bargain-basement headliners still exist.

The relative roominess of the Cooper gives way to a cabin that feels cozy, bordering on “tight.” The raked exterior design required moving the driver’s seat rearward which yields a seating (position relative to the wheels) that is similar to many RWD coupés. Headroom is still fairly good despite the lowered roof thanks to the novel way the headliner is molded with “divots” above the driver and passenger. Although this is unlikely to be a feature tested regularly, these “head wells” mean the MINI Coupé is one of the few cars I have tested recently where you can sit in a comfortable driving position wearing a helmet and not have it constantly hitting the ceiling.

Infotainment

The infotainment system on the JCW Coupé is a basic, 6-speaker AM/FM/XM/HD Radio/CD unit. That’s right, iDevice  integration and a Bluetooth interface are $500 extra. If you’re a gadget hound like I am, be ready to open your wallet because the options list is extensive, full featured and high-priced. An extra $500 (or $250 if you planned to get the armrest anyway) gets you the MINI Connected system (without navigation). MINI Connected is essentially BMW’s iDrive (circa 2011) with a rounded LCD and a more minimalist control interface. Like iDrive, Connected provides an elegant, snappy interface for browsing your tunes along with iPhone app integration. As with BMW’s iPhone app, you can Tweet, Facebook, stream internet radio, Google, and view some additional “sport” themed instrumentation on the LCD.

MINI takes the app thing to a new level with their “Dynamic Music” and “Mission Control” apps. 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 option daily.

Like a gateway drug, once you have MINI Connected, it’s hard to say no to the $750 nav. Once you have the nav, it’s easy to up-sell the $750 Harman/Kardon speaker system. 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 and we have only just begun. The JCW Coupé has a base MSRP of $31,900 ($32,050 for 2013), but if you’re buying “off the lot,” expect to pay around $38,000 according to our survey of 4 local MINI dealers. Our tester rang in at $38,450 and included metallic paint, the Connected system with navigation, chrome accents, black headlamps, sport stripes, white turn signals, chrome mirror caps and the up-level speaker system. This represents a nearly $2,000 premium over a similarly equipped four-seat JCW hatchback.

Drivetrain

Powering the JCW Coupé is the same 1.6L four-cylinder engine shared with every MINI model (as well as select BMW, Citroën and Peugeot models), only this one’s had a twin-scroll turbo and direct-injection bolted on. New for 2013 is a variable valve event system based on BMW’s Valvetronic technology to reduce emissions (power output remains the same.) The JCW tuning increases power to 208HP at a lofty 6,000RPM and torque jumps to 192-lbft from 1,850-5,600RPM. MINI incorporates an “over-boost” function to bump torque to 207 lb-ft (2,000-5,200RPM) automatically under the right conditions. A six-speed manual is the only cog-swapper on JCW models in 2012, but for 2013 MINI has announced you’ll be able to have the car shift for you. MINI has yet to release official pricing on 2013 options, but expect the Aisin six-speed automatic to add around $1,250.

Drive

Before our week-long stint in the JCW, I had an opportunity to drive a similarly equipped JCW Coupé on Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca. The impression that resulted is a classic problem in our business. The JCW Coupé impressed with impeccable track manners, incredible grip, perfect poise in the corkscrew, moderate steering feel and a feeling of confidence. Note that I didn’t say “fast.” Sorry MINI fans, with only 208 horses motivating 2,811lbs, the power to weight ratio ends up around 13.5:1 (lbs:HP.) This means the JCW Coupé scoots to 60 in 6.6 seconds, notably slower than the Volvo XC60 R-Design we had last month (5.6 seconds) or even a V6 Camry (6 seconds).

Back to the problem with testing a road car on a track. First and most obvious, the only place you’ll find perfect pavement in California is on a track. The rest of us must contend with potholes, loose pavement, stop-light races, off camber corners, and parking lots. The “glued to the ground” handling feel the JCW exhibited on the track was replaced by a vehicle that felt decidedly unsettled over corners with broken pavement. The increased chassis rigidity, stiffer springs  and run-flat tires that made the JCW Coupé a delight on the track also make it a back killer on Highway 101. The road noise that wasn’t a problem when you were wearing a helmet was a problem when you’re trying to have a hands-free conversation on the speakerphone. On the track you’re looking forward, on the road, the roof design and B pillars cause enormous blind spots while the seating position and small rear window make rearward visibility poor with the spoiler down and nearly non-existent with the spoiler deployed. Keep in mind, these trade-offs are nothing new, many manufacturers follow exactly the same formula to create performance versions, especially those with low curb weights.

There is little practical reason to buy the JCW Coupé over the regular hatchback JCW Cooper, unless you live in an area with three-person HOV lanes and your carpool is a dynamic duo.The regular JCW Cooper delivers 99% of the fun for nearly $2,000 less, has two extra seats, more cargo room and is far more attractive. If money is no object MINI has an even better solution for you: the MINI JCW Roadster. The drop-top MINI two-seater solves all the aesthetic issues of the Coupé and goes topless to boot. The problem? The price. A roadster is $3,300 more than the Coupé in 2012 and $4,350 more for 2013.

Because of how great the JCW Coupé felt on the track, I spent an entire week trying to find a compelling reason to buy one over the regular JCW Cooper hatchback. I’m still searching. Likewise the MINI Coupé seems to be the answer to a question few have asked. If you are one of the few people I met that liked the way the Coupé looked, or you just want one of the rarest MINIs around, then the JCW Coupé is for you. Everyone else should stop at the Fiat dealer and check out an Abarth on their way to buy the JCW Cooper hatchback.

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

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.8 Seconds

0-60: 6.6 Seconds (I’m sure a professional driver could eek out a 6.4)

1/4 Mile: 15.0 Seconds @ 98MPH

Average fuel economy: 25.6MPG over 754 miles

 

2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Exterior, wheels, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Exterior, spoiler, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Exterior, front , Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Exterior, exhaust tips,  Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Interior, Steering wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Interior, cargo area, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Interior, cargo area, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Interior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Interior, seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Interior, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Interior, steering wheel, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Infotainment, MINI connected nav, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Infotainment, MINI connected LCD, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Infotainment, MINI connected LCD, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Infotainment, MINI connected LCD, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Infotainment, MINI connected mission control, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Infotainment, MINI connected LCD, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Infotainment, MINI connected LCD, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Infotainment, MINI connected controls, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Engine, 1.6L turbo, 211HP, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Engine, 1.6L turbo, 211HP, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Engine, 1.6L turbo, 211HP, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI JCW Coupe, Engine, 1.6L turbo, 211HP, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 MINI JCW Coupe Monroney Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

 

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Coming Soon: Not Your Father’s Third Wife’s Lexus SC430 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/coming-soon-not-your-fathers-third-wifes-lexus-sc430/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/coming-soon-not-your-fathers-third-wifes-lexus-sc430/#comments Mon, 16 Jul 2012 13:24:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=452913 Back in November at the launch of the Lexus GS, a product planner who shall remain nameless turned the tables on me; when I started asking him questions about future products, like the possibility of a Lexus GS-F, he began to grill me about competitive product. One car that seemed to have captured his interest […]

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Back in November at the launch of the Lexus GS, a product planner who shall remain nameless turned the tables on me; when I started asking him questions about future products, like the possibility of a Lexus GS-F, he began to grill me about competitive product.

One car that seemed to have captured his interest was the Audi S5. We spoke about how beautiful it was and how even if it wasn’t as fast or dynamic as a BMW M3, it still managed to capture the attention of enthusiasts and the general public. I asked him point-blank whether Lexus was going in this direction, but he only said that the absence of the SC430 left a void in the Lexus lineup.

The SC430, of course, was better at carrying golf clubs and tall lattes than doing any kind of real driving. The new coupe will apparently resemble the LF-LC concept coupe revealed earlier this year, and use a 2+2 seating configuration with a hybrid powertrain. According to a report by Automotive News, pricing and positioning would be closer to the Porsche 911 Turbo and Aston Martin Vantage – a potentially tough feat for the brand, given that it’s never sought such lofty heights before (notwithstanding the LFA).

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Review: 2012 Audi TT RS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/review-2012-audi-tt-rs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/review-2012-audi-tt-rs/#comments Mon, 16 Jul 2012 13:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=452753 Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that the Audi TT is based on the VW Golf, which can be had for under $18,000. And it can seem silly when people buy an econobox then pour multiples of the purchase price into mods. When Audi does the same to create the $57,725 TT RS, how can […]

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Anyone who’s been paying attention knows that the Audi TT is based on the VW Golf, which can be had for under $18,000. And it can seem silly when people buy an econobox then pour multiples of the purchase price into mods. When Audi does the same to create the $57,725 TT RS, how can we take the end result seriously?

Audiphiles will notice the subtle changes Audi has made to distinguish the RS from other TTs, and approve. The rest of us will see an Audi TT with a tasteful, non-retractable wing spoiler and gorgeous five-spoke alloy wheels. We might notice the enlarged intakes beneath the headlamps. There’s nothing to proclaim to those not in the know that they’re in the presence of a 360-horsepower bullet. Aside the big grille that started them all, outrageous styling details just aren’t the Audi way. The TT itself remains as iconic and beautiful as the day it sent car designers around the world racing back to their sketch pads. The car’s shape authentically communicates its front-engine, all-wheel-drive layout.

Little of the extra money over the $39,175 base TT went into the RS’s interior. The nappa seats (with faux suede center panels and contrasting stitching) and door panel inserts pass muster, but much of the rest looks and feels suited to a car half the TT RS’s price. Such is the danger with any special performance model where over $16,000 goes towards upgraded hardware. This said, little seems cheap, just purposeful (though the clicky buttons on the base audio system wouldn’t make the cut at Hyundai). Amenities are limited; a universal garage door opener, rain-sensing wipers, and heated power front seats are standard, but keyless ignition and driver seat memory aren’t even available. One owner commented that a sunroof would have been nice to let some light into the dark interior. Also, Audi’s latest infotech hasn’t yet made it to the TT. A note for all auto makers: metal has no place on top of a manual shift knob. You’ll want driving gloves on hot, sunny days.

The front seats are very supportive and moderately comfortable (as is often the case with my particular back, no position of the four-way lumbar felt quite right). The back seat is headroom-limited to preteens and height-challenged adults, and these only if the people up front are willing and able to shunt forward a few inches (we had two kids in back for one short trip, not something we’d want to do daily). But there is at least a back seat for those who sometimes need one, and it folds in two sections to nearly double the 13 cubic foot cargo area. The TT’s windows aren’t large, but they all start low enough and the pillars are thin enough that you can easily see all around the car from the driver’s seat, in sharp contrast to a 370Z (the predecessor of which lifted more than a little styling inspiration from the TT). The forward position of the windshield header can obstruct traffic signals, but this lesser crime doesn’t crimp confidence once underway.

Make that rapidly underway. Volkswagen’s rarely praised long-stroke 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine has been boosted and heavily modified to yield 360 horsepower (at 5,500 rpm) and 343 pound-feet of torque (at 1,650), a healthy 95-horsepower bump over the already quick four-cylinder TTS. Ford’s EcoBoost V6 produces similar numbers at a higher torque peak—with an extra liter of displacement. I’ve driven plenty of highly pressurized engines that feel much less torquey at low rpm than their specs suggest they ought to. A torque peak south of 2,000 rpm often doesn’t mean much in practice. This isn’t such a case. The TT RS mill explodes out of even the tightest corners. Wind it out, and the shove only grows more forceful, with a throaty burr from the exhaust once over 3,500. The sound isn’t that of sophisticated machinery, but it’s also far from agricultural and clearly not that of an inline four. Hit the Sport button to open up the dual mode exhaust sooner (it still doesn’t drone when cruising). The information center suggests that boost builds gradually, but there’s never a sensation of lag, only a tsunami-class surge.

In other TTs a clutch is no longer available. In the TT RS, it’s mandatory. Clutch and shifter efforts are fairly high, but their action is so fluid and precise that this meatiness energizes rather than tires. The slop-free electro-mechanical steering has a similar character, with a more direct feel and more nuanced feedback than I’ve experienced in any other recent Audi. Pushing the car hard through turns, your fingertips and the seat of your pants know exactly which direction the front tires are pointing and how much they’re slipping. At highway speeds, the steering becomes very firm and virtually locked on center (with sport mode bumping it up another notch). Oddly, the one car I’ve driven in the past year with similar steering was a Cadillac, albeit the much-praised CTS-V.

Unlike with the CTS-V, fuel economy surprises in a positive direction. The trip computer reported an average of 8.5 miles per gallon for a few hot laps around my favorite handling loop, but I’ve observed as low as five in some other cars.The EPA rates the TT RS at 18 city, 25 highway. The car’s trip computer routinely reported much better numbers: low-to-mid 20s in the suburbs, and high 20s to low 30s on the highway. Doubting its veracity, I asked a man who owns one. He measured low 20s in aggressive mountain road driving. A MazdaSpeed3, with nearly 100 fewer horses and front-wheel drive, has the same EPA ratings.

All-wheel drive ensures a drama-free transfer of the turbo-five’s prodigious power to the road, even when exiting sharp curves with your foot planted. Others report reaching sixty in a little over four seconds. On the other hand, all-wheel drive combined with the very nose-heavy 60/40 distribution of the car’s 3,300 pounds (only 153 more than a base 211-horsepower TT) means that the TT RS isn’t going to handle like a conventional sports car. But until you approach the tires’ high (but not quite Boxster S-high) limits, the Audi doesn’t understeer substantially (a change from the less graceful first-gen TT). Instead, it feels like a solid chunk of machinery that simply goes where it’s pointed with little if any untoward drama. With a smooth hand on the wheel and a steady foot on the throttle, the rear tires initially slip about the same time as the fronts, defying physics. Extreme measures withstanding, oversteer isn’t happening, even with the stability control disabled. I tried to provoke some in a large, empty parking lot, and failed. Nail the brake with the steering wheel turned, and you just scrub the hell out of the outside front tire. The tight chassis nevertheless engages, even titillates. The weight distribution extracts the largest penalty from braking. Hit the pedal hard at speed and the front tires are much more easily overloaded than in a more balanced car. A 2013 Boxster (no new Cayman until next year) should prove more playful on a road twisty enough to exercise it and open enough to wind out its peaky flat six. But I’ve never driven a four-second-to-sixty car that is remotely as easy to flog around my off-track “track” as the TT RS. Yet it’s also a blast, literally and figuratively. In the cut-and-thrust of suburban driving the Porsche does its best to mimic the livability of a Toyota while the Audi continues to entertain. Not for a moment in the latter car will you forget what you’re driving.

And the Audi’s livability? Not bad, actually. The ride is firm, but unless you engage sport mode it’s rarely harsh. The lightning-quick adaptive dampers earn their keep. Restrict their range with sport mode, and the car jostles more on imperfect roads and rhythmically bounces down a concrete highway much like a late model STI or Z. The difference with the TT RS is that this bouncing is avoidable. A Jetta GLI reacts more sharply to broken pavement and generally seems less refined. (At less than half the price, it better.) An Evo is considerably more brutal, and a non-NISMO 370Z rides much like the Audi does in sport mode, while a 2013 Boxster (when fitted with its own trick shocks) is modestly easier on the teeth. Noise levels inside the TT RS are moderately high on concrete highways—if you need quiet, get a bigger Audi—but a Z or Corvette is much harder on the ears. One nit: if you lower the windows at highway speeds, there’s buffeting. But if you’ve lived with any other high-performance sports car on a daily basis, you can easily live with this one.

The tested TT RS included a $2,700 bundle of “titanium” (i.e. metallic gray) wheels, “titanium” grille, and sport exhaust (which allegedly deepens the tone a bit). For rear obstacle detection, steering-linked headlights, nav, and a Bose upgrade from the marginal base audio you need the $3,500 Tech Package. Or not. Neither package seems a good value unless you absolutely must have their contents.

Not twins, a.k.a. under the influence

At the TT RS’s price there are plenty of other contenders. Among sports cars without drop tops, the Nissan 370Z NISMO is over $16,000 less before adjusting for feature differences and about $11,000 less afterwards (based on TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool), but it’s much harder to see out of, much trickier to handle, and generally much harder to live with. A Chevrolet Corvette 3LT with adaptive shocks costs about the same as the Audi. The more brutal Corvette weighs less, but feels larger, partly because it is ten inches longer but also because GM has yet to get the car’s steering quite right (we’re all hopeful for the C7). If you can’t instantly choose between these two cars, you don’t know what you’re looking for. Do without any options, and the recently superseded 2012 Porsche Cayman S listed for “only” $5,000 more than a TT RS. But check enough boxes to equip the Porsche roughly the same, and it flew another $12,000 out of the ballpark. Of course, if you happen to need either a limited-utility rear seat or all-wheel-drive, then the TT RS becomes your only option in the bunch.

Beyond the back seat and all-wheel drive, the TT is simply a different animal than the others. As much as I’ve sung the praises of rear-wheel-drive dynamics, I find myself drawn to this highly charismatic, chuckable chunk of an Audi. Perhaps this is because I’ve also long had a thing for hot hatches. I own a Protege5, greatly enjoy the MazdaSpeed3, and am very much looking forward to the Ford Focus ST. Take that class of car, with its inherently safer handling yet often more lively “point and shoot” disposition at legal speeds, dial the engine and chassis up to 11 while lowering the driving position, tune these bits and pieces to form an unusually coherent firm-but-not-stiff whole, and you essentially have the Audi TT RS. Yes, there’s a Golf under there somewhere, but for anyone who has loved a hot hatch this could well prove a deal maker rather than a deal killer.

Audi provided the TT RS with insurance and a tank of gas.

Scott Vollink of Suburban Porsche in Farmington Hills, MI, provided a 2013 Boxster S so I could compare the two cars. His dealership also sells Audis. Scott can be reached at 248-741-7980.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, an online source of car reliability and pricing information.

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How To Buy A New(er) B13 Nissan Sentra SE-R For $2,887 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/how-to-buy-a-newer-b13-nissan-sentra-se-r-for-2887/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/how-to-buy-a-newer-b13-nissan-sentra-se-r-for-2887/#comments Wed, 11 Jul 2012 16:50:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=452207 In response to a comment regarding Nissan’s social media plans for product development, and the revival of the B13 Sentra SE-R, I felt that I should share this nugget of gold with any readers adventurous enough to go marauding in Mexico in pursuit of a well-preserved sport compact. Once upon a time, a friend of […]

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In response to a comment regarding Nissan’s social media plans for product development, and the revival of the B13 Sentra SE-R, I felt that I should share this nugget of gold with any readers adventurous enough to go marauding in Mexico in pursuit of a well-preserved sport compact.

Once upon a time, a friend of mine was dating a Mexican national, and had planned to bring back a mint air-cooled Beetle to turn into some kind of Baja off-road racer. I had always been interested in the Mexican version of the B13 Nissan Sentra, known as the Tsuru after reading Sport Compact Car’s infamous “Nissan Tsuru Review”  (perhaps one of the formative pieces that made me want to write about cars)

A little digging around online (and my poor High School-level Spanish) led me to find that the Sentra SE-R had continued on years after its 1991 demise. The Tsuru GSR-2000 was essentially the legendary B13 SE-R with a funny name. They tended to be in the $3,000-$5,000 range a couple years back, but the end of my friend’s relationship put my plans to rest before logistical issues could torpedo them for good.

Today’s comment led me to Google search again, and prices haven’t moved much at all. SE-R’s of any stripe are impossible to find in the snowbelt (save for the impostor, QR25 powered versions) and the rest seem to have been turned into race cars. If I had some time, a trailer and no semblance of financial responsibility, I’d be tempted to head down and bring one back with me. You can’t even get a decent Civic for 38,500 pesos!

 

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Subaru BRZ Already Comes With Cash On The Hood http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/subaru-brz-already-comes-with-cash-on-the-hood/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/subaru-brz-already-comes-with-cash-on-the-hood/#comments Tue, 10 Jul 2012 16:43:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=452009 While the Scion FR-S is performing well in its initial months of sales, the lower volume Subaru BRZ already has some cash on the hood, to the tune of $400. While the BRZ was never intended to be the volume seller, the slightly pricier BRZ moved 818 units in June, compared to 2,684 examples of […]

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While the Scion FR-S is performing well in its initial months of sales, the lower volume Subaru BRZ already has some cash on the hood, to the tune of $400.

While the BRZ was never intended to be the volume seller, the slightly pricier BRZ moved 818 units in June, compared to 2,684 examples of the FR-S. Data from TrueCar, provided to USA Today, shows a $400 incentive for the BRZ, which seems fairly early for a brand new, well-hyped sports car so early on in its life.

One area where the BRZ has the FR-S beat is transaction price. While the BRZ carries a price premium of $1,315 over the FR-S (which stickers for $24,930 for the manual, or $26,030 for the automatic), the BRZ’s average transaction price is a fair bit higher; $29,085 for BRZ, versus $25,653 for the FR-S. The Scion only comes with one trim level and a few options, while the BRZ is available in two trim levels, with both models featuring more equipment than their Scion sibling. Given the respective demographics of Scion and Subaru, the transaction price discrepancy isn’t so shocking. Though some of our xB owning readers will surely beg to differ, the odds of an FR-S owner working at McDonalds to pay the car note is far higher than that of someone buying a BRZ.

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Scion FR-S Sells Well, But It’s Early http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/scion-fr-s-sells-well-but-its-early/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/scion-fr-s-sells-well-but-its-early/#comments Fri, 06 Jul 2012 16:55:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=451602 So often we hear analysts and fans excuse a car’s poor initial sales performance with a phrase like, “But it’s early.” Oddly, the very same phrase is legitimately used when discussing a new car’s surprisingly successful first month. In just its second month on sale, in just its first full month on sale, the Scion […]

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So often we hear analysts and fans excuse a car’s poor initial sales performance with a phrase like, “But it’s early.” Oddly, the very same phrase is legitimately used when discussing a new car’s surprisingly successful first month. In just its second month on sale, in just its first full month on sale, the Scion FR-S did not sell poorly.

Rarely has a car generated such an avid fan base before any independent testing had been completed. In a market that’s been starved by the disappearance of the Toyota Celica, Acura Integra, Honda Prelude, and Mazda RX-8; insulted by the long hiatus of Ford’s performance-oriented Focus; and offended by the weight gain of Mitsubishi’s Eclipse, a lightweight rear-wheel-drive sports car is a gift at $25,000.

Not that they’re direct rivals, but so-called sports sedans like the Volvo S60, Lexus IS, Acura TSX did not sell as frequently as the Scion last month. Mini’s best-selling variant, the Cooper and Cooper S hardtop, sold 2601 times in June. Volkswagen sold 1508 GTI hatchbacks plus 447 copies of the Golf R. Subaru Impreza WRX sales jumped 72% to 1138. Scion tC sales climbed 4% to 2128. The rear-wheel drive BMW 1-Series found 701 buyers. Sales of the Mazda MX-5 Miata improved 30% to 659. Honda CR-Z sales slid 58% to 409 units. Besides the American muscle car trio, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe (numbers for which are folded into the Genesis’s 3374-unit total), and the curious Hyundai Veloster, 3232 of which were sold in June, the FR-S fared better than other sporting cars.

As the best-selling Scion in June, FR-S sales reached 2684 units. That’s 32% of Scion’s U.S. total. Incidentally, in its first Canadian sales month, the FR-S delivered 51% of Scion’s volume.

Would a potential FR-S buyer consider acquiring a Mustang instead? Regardless, sales of the Ford pony car surged to 10,263 in June. Chevrolet Camaro sales rose to 9123. Dodge sold 4009 Challengers, marking that car’s best ever June.

One car we know to be a direct rival of the FR-S is the virtually identical Subaru BRZ. 271 BRZs left dealers in May, another 818 in June. Subaru never intended the BRZ to be the comparatively high-volume car that Scion’s FR-S now clearly is.

But it’s early. And to quote another painful analyst phrase, “Only time will tell.”

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Hyundai Gen Why Intramural League, Third Place: 2012 Elantra Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/hyundai-gen-why-intramural-league-third-place-2012-elantra-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/hyundai-gen-why-intramural-league-third-place-2012-elantra-coupe/#comments Fri, 22 Jun 2012 14:30:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=449627 This is the first installment of a three-part series on Hyundai’s three newest offerings, the Elantra Coupe, Elantra GT and Veloster Turbo. As I casually sauntered over to the gunmetal Elantra GT, I my mind began to ponder Jack’s piece on the Lamborghini and the politics of masculinity, until a Hyundai PR rep stopped me […]

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This is the first installment of a three-part series on Hyundai’s three newest offerings, the Elantra Coupe, Elantra GT and Veloster Turbo.

As I casually sauntered over to the gunmetal Elantra GT, I my mind began to ponder Jack’s piece on the Lamborghini and the politics of masculinity, until a Hyundai PR rep stopped me in mid-daydream. “Oh, you guys are driving the Elantra Coupe this morning.”

How fitting. The compact coupe. The chick car par excellence. Favored by grade school administrators and recent divorcees, with a rich lineage dating back to the Mercury Cougar (the front-drive version), the third-generation Mitsubishi Eclipse and the Nissan 240SX (yes, it skewed predominantly female in the pre-drifting era).

The Elantra Coupe finishes third not because it’s a bad car, but because it’s just less desirable and less fun than the other two cars here.  While Mercedes made the coupe version of the S-Class (the CL) look extremely elegant and attractive, Hyundai’s coupe looks like a shortened Elantra – not a bad thing, since the Elantra is already a pretty attractive car.

Under the skin, it’s the same thing, too. Same chassis, same 148 horsepower 1.8L 4-cylinder engine, though there are a couple unique bits, such as a revised electric power steering system and a unique rear suspension setup with an integrated swaybar. Interior dimensions remain largely the same, save for a bit of a reduction in rear headroom.

Our drive route took place along mostly arterial roads, with a few twisties thrown in to help us get a taste of the Elantra Coupe’s capabilities. There’s a reason for the heavy bias towards normal driving; the Coupe ain’t sporty. There’s a fair amount of body roll, the steering is heavier but doesn’t really provide much feedback and whatever responsiveness that’s built into the engine is sacrificed at the altar of fuel efficiency – tall gearing helps it get that coveted 40 mpg highway rating. The clutch and shifter are nothing to write home about either. To its credit, the Elantra Coupe has a lot of well thought out elements, but none of them have to do with driving. Things like Bluetooth, and heated seats are standard. The center console is very intuitive, with Hyundai avoiding the “button explosion” issue that plagues cars like the Chevrolet Cruze. There are cup holders and storage compartments everywhere. And that’s all on the $17,745 GS trim level, which serves as the base model. At $23,095 fully loaded with Navigation and automatic transmission, the Elantra Coupe Technology Package has all the “premium” features one might ever want.

Hyundai is honest about the Elantra’s mission as a mainstream, rather than a performance car, but their positioning may need to be tweaked. Ostensibly aimed at Gen Y customers, the Elantra Coupe will likely fall into the same trap that snared the Scion xB and Honda Element (and apparently, the Veloster, which has its fair share of buyers that could be the parents of Generation Y customers). They will be snapped up by a more mature crowd, looking for a swoopy, youthful two-door that’s easy to get in and out of, won’t beat them up on the way to work and most of all but has neither the boy-racer stigma nor the inherent compromises of a real sporty 2-door. According to Hyundai, they are considering a performance-oriented version of this car. They said it wouldn’t happen with the Veloster, but a year later, they did introduce a turbo version. Right now though, think of this car as a Celica GT or a Saturn Ion Coupe for the second decade of the 21st century.

Gen Y on the other hand, doesn’t have such a favorable view of coupes. A 3-Series or a Mustang gets a pass, but for many of us, sedans can have their own prestige too. We may not have grown up riding in Dad’s “personal luxury coupe” – our contemporary, well-to-do father figure likely had some kind of 4-door Japanese sedan that coddled its passengers and let the driver have some fun as well. Look at the demise of the Monte Carlo and Impala-dominated lowrider movement and the birth of the “VIP car” scene if you need further proof. An Elantra sedan may very well be an acceptable vehicle to Gen Y’s sensibilities, since 4-doors don’t carry that kind of stigma. If anything, the two-doors might be viewed as a try-hard, perpetual-bachelor type of vehicle, if memories of the Ford Probe and third-generation Mitsubishi Eclipse still linger.

The Elantra Coupe will be a very appealing product for an undeserved but prominent market segment, that still likes the idea of owning a 2-door car, but wants some comfort, convenience and efficiency. They may be underwhelmed with their Civic Coupe, looking to get rid of their aging Celica GT or hoping to downsize from their Altima. They won’t be in my cohort.

Hyundai provided flight, accomodations, meals and press vehicles. Thanks to Morgan Segal for augmenting my own crappy photos with his stock photography.

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BMW 135is, Because We Can’t Have The 1M Anymore http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/bmw-135is-because-we-cant-have-the-1m-anymore/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/bmw-135is-because-we-cant-have-the-1m-anymore/#comments Tue, 15 May 2012 18:59:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=444533 Even though the BMW 1 Series M Coupe is gone forever, performance-minded 1-Series customers must  have a high-end performance model, even if a lot of them don’t even know if the car is front-drive or rear-drive. With a 320 horsepower 3.0L twin-turbo six making 317 lb-ft or torque (versus 300/300 for the regular car), the […]

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Even though the BMW 1 Series M Coupe is gone forever, performance-minded 1-Series customers must  have a high-end performance model, even if a lot of them don’t even know if the car is front-drive or rear-drive.

With a 320 horsepower 3.0L twin-turbo six making 317 lb-ft or torque (versus 300/300 for the regular car), the 135is can be had with either a 6-speed stick or a 7-speed dual clutch gearbox. A coupe will cost you $44,195 while a ragtop will run $44,895.  Whether the extra 20 horsepower, 17 lb-ft and cosmetic tweaks justifies the price premium ($1,895 for the coupe, $795 for the convertible) is up to the buyer.

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Pre-Production Review: 2013 Scion FR-S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/pre-production-review-2013-scion-fr-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/pre-production-review-2013-scion-fr-s/#comments Wed, 09 May 2012 13:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=443221 Scion has had a sordid past. Originally, Scion was Toyota’s solution to a lack of 18-25 year old shoppers. Over the past 9 years however Scion has lost their way and lost their youth. Their median buyer just turned 42. The tC coupe, which started out as a car for college kids, now has a […]

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Scion has had a sordid past. Originally, Scion was Toyota’s solution to a lack of 18-25 year old shoppers. Over the past 9 years however Scion has lost their way and lost their youth. Their median buyer just turned 42. The tC coupe, which started out as a car for college kids, now has a median buyer of around 30. Scion claims the FR-S is a halo car – to me, that means the FR-S will be bought by older drivers (who can actually afford it), attracting younger buyers to their showrooms. Despite being out of the target demographic, Scion flew me to Vegas to sample the FR-S’s sexy lines to find out.

The rear-drive layout, boxer engine and low center of gravity all play out in the car’s distinctive exterior. Toyota claims it was meant to pay homage to classic Toyotas of the past, but if Porsche and Lotus were charged with penning a Scion, this is what it would look like. Our time with the FR-S was limited to a 100 mile drive and about 6 hours of SCCA style autocross and road course track time in a pre-production FR-S. Jack will be flogging a production FR-S on track sometime this summer, assuming the stars align.

Inside, Scion opted for snazzy faux-suede instead of the coarse fabric of the base Subaru BRZ (the BRZ is available with  leather/faux-suede seating in the Limited model). Scion also swapped out the silver dash trim for something that looks like it might be imitating carbon fiber but is actually a motif based on the letter “T.”

Click here to view the embedded video.

Like all Scion models, the standard radio is a Pioneer unit with standard Bluetooth and iPod/USB interfaces. Instead of bringing Toyota’s Entune system to the Scion brand, Pioneer was engaged to bring their “App Radio” into what appears to be its first OEM use. Unlike traditional nav systems, the “BeSpoke” system (as Scion is calling it) is essentially just an iPhone app. The app runs solely on your phone and the head unit merely controls the app and displays the video generated by the phone. This means an iPhone is required for it work (Android phones are not supported.) It also means navigating eats up your data plan and you must be in a cellular service area for it to work. The system is expected to cost under $90 and since it’s an App on your phone, it’s never out of date. Much like iDrive, BeSpoke will also offer Facebook, Twitter and internet radio integration.

Under the lies the fruit of the Subaru/Toyota marriage: a 2.0L direct-injection boxer engine. Although it’s based on Subaru’s Impreza engine, it has been re-engineered to incorporate Toyota’s “D4S” direct-injection tech. The addition of GDI boosts power by 52HP to 200HP. Since the engine is naturally aspirated, the torque improvement is a more modest 6lb-ft bringing the total 151 at a lofty 6,600 RPM, while peak horsepower comes in at seven grand. Despite the online rumors, Scion Vice President Jack Hollis indicated there will be no turbo FR-S.

Since the FR-S is intended to be “baby’s first track car,” Scion’s event was held at the Spring Mountain Motor Resort in Pahrump, Nevada. Out on the track, the FR-S isn’t as slow as an early Miata, but it’s not especially quick either. However, the low center of gravity and light curb weight make the FR-S fairly adept in the corners, whether you’re on track or on an autocross course. The lack of torque is the one major blight, whether on or off track. This deficiency was made more obvious by my trip landing in the middle of a week with Hyundai’s 2013 Genesis 2.0T which delivers more power at far more accessible RPMs, despite its porkier stature.

Unlike most “sporty” RWD cars, the FR-S is tuned toward neutral/oversteer characteristics. When combined with the standard Michelin Primacy HP tires, the FR-S is far more tail happy on the track than the V6 Mustang or Genesis 2.0T. The lively handling is undoubtedly more fun, but inexperienced drivers beware:  getting sideways can be hazardous to your health, not to mention your insurance premiums. Without empirical numbers, I cannot say if the FR-S will out-handle the Genesis 2.0T on the track, however the Genesis feels more composed and less likely to kill you, thanks to a chassis tuned towards understeer and staggered 225/245 series tires (front/rear.) Contrary to the web-rumors, the FR-S is not shod with “Prius tires” as we would know them. The Primacy HP is a “grand touring summer tire” with “lower rolling resistance” tech added. The tire is used on certain Lexus GS, Mercedes E-Class, Audi A6 models and a JDM market only Prius “with performance pack.” Still, the tire isn’t as “grippy” as the FR-S deserves, so buyers should plan on swapping them for stickier rubber ASAP.

Scion’s “single-price with dealer installed options” philosophy continues. Starting at $24,930, the only options are: $1,100 for the automatic transmission, around $900 for the BeSpoke radio and a variety of wheels, spoilers and other appearance accessories. That’s about $1,295 less than the BRZ, although the gap narrows to almost nothing when you add the BRZ’s standard navigation system and HID headlamps. The nicer standard upholstery, more controlled pricing and a plethora of manufacturer supported (and warrantied) accessories make the FR-S a compelling choice vs the BRZ, but speed daemons will want to drive past the Scion dealer and test drive the Genesis 2.oT. If you want an FR-S, be prepared to wait as Scion expects supplies to be somewhat limited starting June 1st.

 Scion flew me out to Vegas, put me up in a smoky casino and provided the vehicle, insurance, gasoline, track time and admission to the state park for the photography.

 Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.6 Seconds

0-60: 6.7 Seconds

Fuel Economy: 22MPG average over mixed roads (track time not included)

 

2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, side 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Front grille, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Scion logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, FR-S logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Exterior, Boxer Engine Logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, on the track, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, on the track, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, on the track, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, on the track, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, on the track, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Scion FR-S, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Toyota Motors 2013 Scion FR-S, Interior, seats and dash, Photography Courtesy of Toyota Motors 2013 Scion FR-S, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Toyota Motors 2013 Scion FR-S, Interior, seats, Photography Courtesy of Toyota Motors 2013 Scion FR-S, 2.0L boxer engine, Photography Courtesy of Toyota Motors Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

 

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