The Truth About Cars » crossover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 20 Mar 2015 17:19:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » crossover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 2015 Chevrolet Trax: Reviewed! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/2015-chevrolet-trax-reviewed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/2015-chevrolet-trax-reviewed/#comments Thu, 12 Feb 2015 14:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=996354   The plan was simple. Fly into New York City at some ungodly hour, a time when only drunks and degenerates are still awake. Drive to Massachusetts. The wedding, my buddy Jay’s, with whom I grew up in Boy Scouts, started that evening. Drive back to New York. Fly back to LA at 9pm. Land […]

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The plan was simple. Fly into New York City at some ungodly hour, a time when only drunks and degenerates are still awake. Drive to Massachusetts. The wedding, my buddy Jay’s, with whom I grew up in Boy Scouts, started that evening. Drive back to New York. Fly back to LA at 9pm. Land at some ungodly terrible hour, thereby earning my jet-set stripes: from the Best Coast to the Beast Coast, sneering at flyover country the entire way. How trendy!


People were freaking out about the impending blizzard that I was flying into: twenty feet of snow, roads clogged with snowdrifts, cars abandoned in the street, New Yorkers huddled around barrels for warmth. Cats and dogs living together, you know. But it was not to be. By the time our flight landed, the mercury had risen to a positively balmy 35 degrees—any impending doom snow had conveniently turned itself to rain. The sort of thing East Coasters just shrug off underneath our Burlington Coat Factory peacoats. It was 5am. The world was aglow in amber, and the air was crisp yet warm, and I was landing with probably two hours of sleep—but there was to be no sleep til Brooklyn, so I climbed into the bright orange Trax LTZ AWD and set off.

Chevy Trax trucks 2

The Trax is a quiet little thing, for the most part. The engine doesn’t speak unless spoken to, and its 1.4-liter turbocharged four-banger musters 138 slightly frazzled horses. But there’s precious little sound deadening from below. And in the waning hours before the snowplows, every invisible chunk of ice explodes in the wheelwells like a landmine, ka-pinging across the cabin…

There’s an expansive view out of the windshield, coupled with an absurdly upright seating position where your legs will form perfect 90-degree angles, just the way your Catholic schoolteachers intended. But the headlights, for some reason, are painfully dim. And small side mirrors are strangely shaped, and 18-wheelers to disappear in the Trax’s blind spots—somewhere out there is one such truck, headed to Massachusetts, who helped remake Duel within the span of an on-ramp.

The Trax’s steering is full of feedback, building resistance evenly, a pleasant surprise. So too is the ride, nicely controlled and cushy. You can shift your own gears, but you wouldn’t want to. The Hydra-Matic 6T40 automatic moves slowly through six gears, via a dorky button on the side of the shifter: all the power and control, in your thumb! GM loves that, for some reason, in the Trax’s only transmission. Rowing your own is so passé.

For smartphone obsessives, there is one USB port tucked away in the upper glovebox. There’s no good place to put your phone where you can see it. This is a problem, because Chevy’s MyLink runs navigation from a smartphone app. It’s called BringGo. And it costs 99 cents, which might not seem much, but still smacks of nitpicky hidden fees: “I already paid for the car, now I gotta pay for this?

This press photo of the Chevy Trax shows all of the fun places where you can misplace spare change, iPhone cables, and half-empty tubes of ChapStick.

This press photo of the Chevy Trax shows all of the fun places where you can misplace spare change, iPhone cables, and half-empty tubes of ChapStick.

The lack of phone visibility is a strike against the supposedly car-hating #millennials to whom GM must grovel. The rest of the interior is straightforward, yet strangely forced: no armrest, sure, but two weird cubbyholes on either side of the center vents, which look like vents themselves, but are instead destined to store loose change and loose rectangles of Trident gum and not much else. Sonic-ish motorcycle-aping gauges make a welcome appearance. The steering wheel is wrapped in smooth leather, but the seats are faux leather, grippy cloth evidently too plebian for eager-to-impress, moneyed types buying Chevrolet’s cheapest CUV. The Bose sound system, however, is bitchin’—sharp and punchy, especially for 90s hip-hop.

Chevy Trax donuts 3

By 8am I was in Carroll Gardens, getting a coffee and a #saturdaymorningbagelrun sandwich with whitefish and smoked salmon, which shall all go on the record, Your Honor. (It was an “everything” bagel. No more questions.) For this urban-hopping business, the Trax is quite good. It’s easy to park and has a great turning radius, both boons to the snowed-in New Yorker who has a full 24-hour weekend solely reserved for standing in line to get brunch—the two-hour wait for the still-hungover Manhattan- or Brooklynite, compounded into various Bennies and unlimited mimosas, an epicurean wonder that lasts until 2pm and a good three meals.

#saturdaymorningbagelrun

A photo posted by Jeff (@jeffjablansky) on

I didn’t have time for this. I still had three good hours of driving, in shaky weather, to get through. So around 10am I jumped back into the Trax and headed up I-95 through Connecticut, where the snow was still falling. But the storm gathered a second wind by Massachusetts, and the fresh powder was racing the snowplows on the freeways—and, truth be told, the Trax doesn’t inspire very much confidence when the snow starts falling…

A photo posted by Blake Z. Rong (@bzrong) on

The front wheels tug at every little bit of slush, following like an excited bloodhound, and the steering wheel pulls accordingly. The AWD system is fairly rudimentary, sending half the torque to the rear wheels only when needed. (At $1,500, it’s Chevrolet’s cheapest AWD option.) LTZ also adds heated seats. So even if one were to buy a Trax as a winter beater, as I suspect an adolescent New Englander will in ten years to deliver pizzas to used-car lots, one minor detail prevents it from being weather-ready: the wipers don’t flip up. I readily noticed this when pulling into a parking lot of Harrington Farm, in the foothills of Wa-Wa-Wachusett Mountain, packed full of Subarus with their blades turned skyward like anti-aircraft guns. How more New England does that get?

Alright dogg let's get MARRIED! Let's get married to a LADY!

Alright dogg let’s get MARRIED! Let’s get married to a LADY!

“We ah gathahed heah today,” said the officiant, “heaht to heaht, foah the union of Jess and Jay—” Jay, it must be noted, had become an Eagle Scout with me, who once owned a Pontiac GTO and a Subaru Legacy Spec B, in that order. I’m never going to own anything front-wheel drive, he swore over margaritas the week before. That to me sounded like a good goal to have—to have and to hold, in sickness and in health.

The cutting of the ice cream cake. Because ice cream cake is awesome.

Ice cream cake is awesome.

The next day, I drove back to New York. I filled up on the way back and found 24 miles per gallon, most of which was bounding down freeways. (The AWD Trax is rated at 24/31 mpg, city/highway.) That’s what happens, I suppose, when Connecticut drivers will curb-stomp you below 75mph while the AWD system adds 400 pounds to a car resembling a squishy shoebox.

That Sunday night, I flew on a redeye to Los Angeles. (“JFK->LAX: #TodaysOffice,” and all that.) The next day, the real blizzard hit.

Before I left, I eyeballed the sticker on my LTZ, AWD Trax: $27,995.

Twenty-eight thousand Tricky Dick Fun Buxx for a plasticky, uncharismatic Sonic that resembles a children’s toy and deserves to be $5,000 cheaper, at most—that’s what it comes down to. That’s what you get for over $300 per month. It just so happens that immediately after my time with the Trax, two other young, #hip, #activelifestyle #millennials spent time with it. Jablansky drove a red one. Patrick George of Jalopnik drove an orange one. The exact same one as me, down to the window sticker, but Texas-plated. “You can do better,” George noted, before concluding: ” I’m sure the Trax will sell in respectable numbers, possibly even great ones. But I can’t say it’s a great choice to make.”

Jablansky spoke in similar terms. “Gutless,” he said, “and way overpriced. The Trax is dumpy, like a summer camp girlfriend: she’s durable but kind of flimsy. But Becca didn’t have AWD.”

Chevy Trax donuts 2

We all know the refrain, from our mouths to God’s ears: “there are no bad cars anymore.” No, there are no bad cars: twenty, thirty years ago, the only people brave enough to drive a Korean-built car through a snowstorm would be serial killers, presumably on the way to their next victims. But believe me, there is plenty of mediocrity, sheer and yawning mediocrity, and plenty of mediocre cars that leave no impression in its users, nothing particularly negative and certainly nothing positive. Mediocrity is the enemy of the car enthusiast, but it is also the bane of the daily driver. It is insidious to spend the second most amount of money anyone will shell out in a lifetime, on a car that doesn’t do anything particularly well.

Competent but never confidence inspiring, the Trax reflects the notion that sometimes, mediocrity is more expensive than you ever expected.

Chevy Trax trucks 3

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Acura Mulling Sub-RDX Crossover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/acura-mulling-sub-rdx-crossover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/acura-mulling-sub-rdx-crossover/#comments Thu, 05 Feb 2015 15:25:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=994042 While Acura is making a renewed push on the passenger car side, with the TLX and a thoroughly refreshed ILX, the brand’s crossovers are arguably its strongest offerings. But there’s little room for growth above the three-row MDX, meaning Acura has only one way to go if they want to expand their offerings. Speaking to Ward’s […]

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2016 Honda HR-V

While Acura is making a renewed push on the passenger car side, with the TLX and a thoroughly refreshed ILX, the brand’s crossovers are arguably its strongest offerings. But there’s little room for growth above the three-row MDX, meaning Acura has only one way to go if they want to expand their offerings.

Speaking to Ward’s Auto, American Honda Executive Vice President John Mendel said that Acura was currently studying a version of Honda’s new HR-V crossover, which is the same size as vehicles like the Buick Encore and BMW X1.

Aside from a new offering in the North American market, the addition of a small crossover would be a big boost for the brand in markets like China and Russia, where CUVs, particularly small ones, are all the rage. Presumably, the business case for such a vehicle isn’t so tough to make. Finding production capacity might be a different matter. While the HR-V is built in Honda’s all-new plant in Mexico, the HR-V is destined to be a hot seller. An Acura version will bring higher profit margins, but could also put a crimp on volume.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Buick Encore http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/capsule-review-2015-buick-encore/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/capsule-review-2015-buick-encore/#comments Wed, 04 Feb 2015 14:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=989690 Against all odds, the Buick Encore has managed to sell in fairly decent numbers. Despite looking like a four-wheeled rollerskate, Buick’s trucklet moved nearly 49,000 units in 2014, up from roughly 31,000 during its debut in 2013. Part of the Encore’s success must be attributed to the fact that it was the first to show […]

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Against all odds, the Buick Encore has managed to sell in fairly decent numbers. Despite looking like a four-wheeled rollerskate, Buick’s trucklet moved nearly 49,000 units in 2014, up from roughly 31,000 during its debut in 2013. Part of the Encore’s success must be attributed to the fact that it was the first to show up to the party. The small CUV craze is only just heating up now in America, and the Encore is arguably the premiere (in terms of chronology, not quality) premium entrant in the segment. Demand is strong enough that GM has expanded production to two plants (Mexico and Spain as well as the initial Korean location) and will import 50 percent more units versus last year.

For the life of me, I can’t understand why. The Encore is one of the worst cars I’ve driven in a long time.

Ok, to be fair, there is a case to made for an Encore – a flimsy one – but it does exist. According to Automotive News, the Encore is a hit with empty-nesters who are between the ages of 45 and 65 and looking to downsize. This is right in the sweet spot for Buick’s demographic, and the Encore lets buyers have the comfort of a CUV (the ride height, the ease of entry and exit) in a compact package that’s easy to park and maneuver. Seriously, it’s not half bad to steer around, owing to its Chevy Sonic roots.

The steering is light but responsive and the chassis seemed, dare I say it, agile, while providing a comfortable, utterly silent ride. The Buick version of MyLink isn’t bad either. Not as good as UConnect, but so much better than Cadillac’s CUE system, and right around the same level as the new MyFord Touch system. And that’s about it. And really, that’s probably all that the target buyer is looking for. From any other perspective. The rest of the car is an absolute mess.

The Encore could very well be GM’s ugliest car since the Aztek. It’s difficult to make a vehicle with the proportions of a roller skate look attractive, but the Buick-appropriate levels of chrome (including the wheels, grille and ventiports) make the car look like a four-wheeled approximation of an apple-shaped, post-rehab Liza Minelli sashaying in a sequined evening gown. Inside isn’t much better. The materials and surfaces deserve some credit, but GM’s approach to the center stack appears to be “stick all of the buttons, everywhere”.

In concept, this isn’t a bad idea. Older buyers are more likely to gravitate to tactile controls rather than complicated touch screens. In execution, it rarely works (Acura is also guilty of this on the last generation TL, for example), since there are so many functions on modern cars that a button-based user interface ends up looking cluttered and haphazard. In the Encore, they don’t feel very good either. For a $32,000 car, it’s not much better than what you’d find in a $14,000 Sonic, and no amount of faux-stitching on the dashboard panels can make up for that.

The Encore’s chassis and 1.4T engine are worthy of merit on their own, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts. With a curb weight of 3200 lbs, 138 horsepower and 148 lb-ft is simply not going to cut it – especially when the power is delivered by GM’s 6-speed automatic. This unit, which appears on a wide range of transverse-layout cars, is a wretched one. Shifts occur in what seem to be geological ages, and it only serves to exacerbate what should be “plain old underpowered” into a situation where 60 mph comes up in over 10 seconds. It’s not particularly smooth or conducive to outstanding fuel economy either. While the EPA rates the Encore AWD at 23/30/26 mpg city/highway/combined, you’ll end up hammering the gas to make any reasonable forward progress – about the worst thing you can do for a turbo engine. Replacing the transmission would be one of the best things GM can do for its entire lineup, and would go a long way to redeem the Encore. Not even a Trifecta Tune can solve this problem. It looks like GM is considering a larger engine as well.

As a crossover, the Encore doesn’t hold up particularly well either. At 18.8 cubic feet of cargo room (48.4 cubic feet with the seats down), it’s not particularly spacious. Honda’s HR-V has 24.3 feet of space for stuff with the seats up, and an additional 10 feet over the Encore when the seats are down. At best, the Encore is built for four. You can forget about stuffing an adult in the rear middle seat, and anybody over 6 feet is going to have a miserable time on anything approaching a long trip.

Our tester, a fully loaded AWD model, stickered at $32,000. That’s big money for a tiny crossover with a barely premium badge and equipment that is shared with lesser GM models. If I were to invoke the hyperbolic prose that journalists tend to fall back on, I’d question why anyone bought this car (particularly when there’s the Jetta Sportwagen blah blah blah). But I get it. Even though it’s not very good at doing anything particularly well, there’s a growing demographic of older, affluent buyers who want something with the ride height of a CUV and the footprint of a smaller car and the soft, quiet driving experience of a luxury car. The Encore fills that niche. When placed in the wider context of the automotive market, it starts to look silly.

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Reader Review: 2015 BMW X3 28i http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/reader-review-2015-bmw-x3-28i/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/reader-review-2015-bmw-x3-28i/#comments Sat, 31 Jan 2015 17:30:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=991458 If you’ve been around the automotive journalism long enough (and by long enough, I mean like three months in total), you’ll begin to realize that a lot of press vehicles you drive aren’t indicative of what most people actually buy. Most test vehicles have five figures worth of options, with features that at most, an […]

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X3 Exterior

If you’ve been around the automotive journalism long enough (and by long enough, I mean like three months in total), you’ll begin to realize that a lot of press vehicles you drive aren’t indicative of what most people actually buy. Most test vehicles have five figures worth of options, with features that at most, an auto journalist will expend 50 words on. Meanwhile, on lots across the country, most dealers probably have one or two very loaded cars which end up being discounted heavily towards the end of the quarter.

My experience of full-optioned press cars had to do with a silver BMW 335i xDrive Gran Turismo at a local auto journalist event. While the base price of the car was $47,775, this car had almost $12,000 in options, or enough to buy an E36 M3 in good condition. “Let’s give it the more powerful engine, all-wheel-drive, the dynamic handling package, and the M Sport package” the person in charge of configuring the 3-Series GT must have thought, “at least auto journalists will say it handled very well and forget about the styling.” This car even had head-up display and the $650 M Sport brakes.

Even when I was searching for road tests of the X3 online, I good majority were reviews of the powerful xDrive35i version or for the new diesel model. So when I had access to a 2015 X3 xDrive28i for a few days, I leapt at the opportunity to write a review on it, because it was the version most X3 buyers purchased.

Now, this 2015 BMW X3 xDrive28i that I’m writing about is not a vehicle designated for press people. In fact, it belongs to my dad, and while he chose the color combination, I chose most of the options. As a result, I can’t blame whoever specs BMW’s press vehicles. So the fact it doesn’t have the navigation system, which saves me a paragraph describing it? My fault. That it doesn’t have heated seats? My lapse. The fact that it doesn’t have parking sensors or a rear-view camera? My bad. The fact that I still don’t know what the $500 “Enhanced USB/Bluetooth with Smartphone Integration” option does? I really need to get on that.

As for the things I am proud of, it’s the Deep Sea Blue exterior color and Oyster color interior. (A quick note on the Oyster leather: it’s surprisingly easy to stain, so be careful when wearing jeans or leaving a pen on the seat.) This one also has the Premium Package with a massive moonroof and keyless entry, the xenon lights, and the Harman/Kardon sound system. And all of it was available at an MSRP south of $50K.

Before reading the rest of the review, you might think, “He must have recommended this car to his dad if he’s writing about it! This is totally going to be a love story about the X3!” Believe it or not, I recommended the Jeep Grand Cherokee Ecodiesel, as a very well-equipped one came in easily under $50,000, got good fuel mileage, and I thought it handled very well for its size. But my dad drove it and dismissed it as too big.

Other cars considered were Lexus RX (too soccer mom-ish), Toyota 4Runner (too truck-ish), Toyota Highlander (this is for replacing the minivan). The Mercedes GLK, Audi Q5, and Range Rover Evoque were dismissed as my dad is a BMW person. (For background, the man kept an E39 530i running for 13 years, which is two more than the 1990 Accord he had.) I don’t think he drove any of those alternatives, and neither have I, so I won’t definitively say the X3 is the best out of all those alternatives.

First, I’ll focus on the interior, which is about the same size as the interior of the first-generation X5. It’s a pleasant place with chrome accents and wood trim in the right places. The Oyster interior helps considerably too. The cupholders are usable, which is important when coming from a car in which both cupholders (if you can call them those) are broken. The panoramic moonroof that’s part of the Premium package was great for the scenic photos when driving down Highway 1. In fact, the X3 managed to easily fit five adults and their luggage for a weekend. Moreover, the Harmon/Kardon sound system is a pretty good upgrade from the normal sound system.

However, if you’re over 6”3’, more than 200 pounds, and might need a third seat, don’t consider the X3. Otherwise, when sitting in the driver’s seat, your head will hit the ceiling and you’ll probably find the seat not wide enough. Additionally, while I wrote in the last paragraph that the X3 could seat 3 full-size adults, just make sure the cumulative weight doesn’t exceed 500 pounds. And if you’re a family of four who takes their dog with them on road trips, the X3 is not your car.

Though the options list is long, there’s surprisingly (for a BMW) a lot of standard features. The storage package, which includes cargo nets, a collapsible cargo box, and a reversible mat, is standard. So is the automatic climate control. Even the ambient lighting that I praised is standard. The tailgate and side mirrors are power-operated. However, the tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel is not power-operated, which coming from the 530i, was a disappointment.

Whenever I discuss the exterior, I generally don’t focus too much on styling. But the X3 was facelifted for the 2015 model year, with most of the differences being on the front clip, with the headlights that connect to the grille. BMW offers two appearance packages: the xLine package and the M Sport body kit. Personally, I don’t like the look of the M Sport package (or sport packages in general), while the xLine has the silver trim bits for the faux off-roader look, which I don’t mind. There are also turn signals on the side mirrors. One thing I did like was the exterior lighting beneath the door handles when getting into the car. BMW got the ambient lighting very, very right. Also, the X3 comes with the foot sensor as standard

Regarding performance, I didn’t push the X3 to its limits because a) it belongs to my dad and not BMW of North America, and b) it has less than 1400 miles on the odometer so the drivetrain still needed to be broken in. It has a 2.0-liter inline-four with a twin-scroll turbo that makes about 240 hp. According the BMW website, it can go from 0 to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds, which is quicker than the 530i it’s replacing. On the highway, I never found myself complaining about lack of power, even when it was fully loaded with five people. If you need something faster, the xDrive35i with 300 horsepower is about $5,000 more.

I briefly played with the different powertrain modes, which were: Comfort, Sport, and Eco Pro. Eco Pro makes the X3 rear-drive only and ensures the transmission is in the highest gear possible for the best mileage. I found myself using it in high traffic situations, where quick throttle response wasn’t needed. Sport mode sharpened up throttle response, but I found myself never using it and suspect most owners won’t either. Usually I drove the X3 in its default mode, Comfort, in which I didn’t need to press the throttle closer to the floor and when all-wheel-drive was on.

For those of you contemplating the diesel version of the 2015 X3 (the xDrive28d model), I considered that one too. In fact, I even put a deposit on one until we were informed that Hawaii (no joke!) was allocated the last X3 diesel build slots for a 2014 delivery. However, since the diesel is $1,500 more expensive and the price of premium gas has gone down significantly, the normal xDrive28i is a viable alternative. Also, my dad test drove the diesel X3 (while I was in the back seat playing with the air vents) and found the power deficit noticeable compared to the normal version and noisy at lower speeds.

Ultimately, if you have $50,000 to spend on a luxury five-passenger crossover, you can’t go wrong with the X3. When we were buying the X3 at the end of last year, it became easier to find a 7-Series in a dealer’s inventory in Northern California than any version of the X3. It was even easier to find an Audi S4 than an X3. They’re that popular. So BMW must be doing something right with the X3 (or they’re exporting more abroad for higher profits, or the X4 took up a good portion of the assembly line) that people are snapping them up left and right.

In the end, I understand why. The xDrive28i is surprisingly well-priced as long as you don’t go overboard with the options.  It handles nicely, can accelerate quickly, has a pleasant interior, has four years of free maintenance, and can take a lot of cargo. My dad, and not me, made an excellent decision, and neither of us have any regrets. Except for the “Enhanced USB/Bluetooth with Smartphone Integration” option. I still haven’t figured that one out.

DSC_0174 DSC_0175 DSC_0177 DSC_0179 DSC_0184 IMG_20150130_201148 X3 Exterior X3 front X3 Rear

Satish Kondapavulur is a writer for Clunkerture, where about a fifth of the articles are about old cars and where his one-time LeMons racing dreams came to an end, once he realized it was impossible to run a Ferrari Mondial. He still prefers the Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Jeep Renegade http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-2015-jeep-renegade/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/capsule-review-2015-jeep-renegade/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 15:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=987530 When the Jeep Renegade made its official debut at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show, I initially described it as “… a Panda 4×4 dressed up in Carhartt jeans and Red Wing boots.” With a Fiat platform, powertrain and assembly plant, the Renegade isn’t the first CUV to come from the Fiat Chrysler braintrust – but […]

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When the Jeep Renegade made its official debut at the 2014 Geneva Auto Show, I initially described it as “… a Panda 4×4 dressed up in Carhartt jeans and Red Wing boots.”

With a Fiat platform, powertrain and assembly plant, the Renegade isn’t the first CUV to come from the Fiat Chrysler braintrust – but represents the most ambitious attempt to create a global crossover suitable for all markets. And it’s also FCA’s best effort yet.

The Alfa Romeo – excuse, Compact U.S. Wide – platform underpinning the Jeep Cherokee ended up providing the mid-size Jeep with some sub-optimal packaging characteristics, namely inadequate rear seat space and a dearth of cargo room. While I happened to like the controversial styling, the Cherokee’s look polarized many observers. For the Renegade, Jeep has played it safe, with a slab-sided exterior that looks like a “super-deformed” version of a Wrangler Unlimited.

Although the Renegade’s footprint is about the same size as a Nissan Juke or Kia Soul (which FCA had on hand as competitive vehicles), the Renegade is far heavier. While the Juke weighs in on either side of 3,000 lbs depending on spec, the Renegade starts at 3,300 lbs, and can approach 3,500 lbs at its heftiest. And you feel every additional pound behind the wheel.

In a vacuum, it’s not such a bad thing. The extra el-bees lend a substantial feel to the car, which makes it feel like a more solid vehicle than a B-segment crossover that shares a common ancestor with the less-than-stellar Fiat 500L. Half of the drive route consisted of winding, Northern California backroads, which we tackled in a fairly simple 1.4T equipped Latitude FWD model. While the 6-speed Renegade is no speed demon, it felt as lively and responsive as a Nissan Juke – which is a pretty fun vehicle in its own right. The long, EPA-optimized gearing of the 6-speed box means constant shifting between second and third to keep the buzzy little 1.4 motor on the boil, but it only adds to the fun of whipping the boxy little Jeep through switchbacks. The clutch is easy enough to modulate and the shifter is decidedly mid-pack in the “transverse shift quality” sweepstakes.

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Driving the Renegade was such a hoot that I completely forgot to take pictures of the interior. The photo above, borrowed from Auto Express, shows what a well-equipped Renegade looks like on the inside. You will get a smaller version of UConnect, and Cherokee-like HVAC knobs and an electronic parking brake. Lower trim models get a more stripped down version of UConnect, with a less intricate display unit. Both of our demos had light fabric interiors which were quite handsome, especially when paired with the earth tone exterior colors. Avoid the black and heavier hues, lest you be mistaken for a Patriot owner.

The other half of the drive route was set up on an off-road course at California’s Hollister Hills State Vehicle Recreation Area. In addition to the 2.4L/9-speed Renegade, we also took out a Soul, a Juke, (both of which had been tested not long ago) and a Buick Encore. And holy hell does the Jeep feel like a porker. Despite handling the twisty roads with aplomb, the weight penalty over the competition (including the 3200 lb Encore) was immediately noticeable when getting out of the AWD 2.4L Renegade. Between the need for a diesel engine, a stout, Trail Rated 4×4 system, five-star crash test ratings on multiple continents and the appropriate “macho” looks, FCA engineers had to juggle numerous competing requirements that conceivably led to the Renegade weighing as much as 200 lbs more than a brand new Honda CR-V. Still it’s hard to wrap your head around such a porky figure for a B-segment CUV.

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While Jeep laid out two different off-road courses for us to test the Renegade Trailhawk on, it’s difficult to evaluate its prowess, namely because I’m a city kid who thinks that a gravel driveway calls for switching into 4WD. With a five-mode selector switch and a first-gear low range (ala the Cherokee Trailhawk), the automatic only Trailhawk version of the Renegade easily handled the rocks and whoops on the Jeep designed course. A more qualified off-road driver is a better source of impartial information. On road, the 9-speed seems to have become a smoother, more civilized gearbox than the frenetic iterations found in other FCA vehicles.

Starting at $17,995 for a bare bones Sport (and we’re talking A/C as an option), the Renegade slots in between the $16,995 Patriot and the $18,995 Compass, which are vastly outdated, less visually appealing both inside and out, and likely unable to match the Renegade’s off-road abilities. But they represent a greater hurdle for the Renegade, even more so than the Juke, the Soul or any of the upcoming compact CUVs from Honda, Mazda and Chevrolet. Just as the qualitatively inferior Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger torpedoed sales of the Dart, it’s easy to imagine a scenario where heavy incentives and a dealer body eager to move the older CUVs could push prospective buyers into a Patriot or Compass – especially if they want an automatic vehicle but don’t want to pony up for the 2.4/9-Speed versions. Assuming the two older vehicles are phased out (or replaced by a single model), volumes in the USA should rise from our initial estimates of between 60,000-70,000 units. FCA didn’t mention a number during their briefings, but that’s our best guess.

In any case, North America is hardly the most important market for the Renegade. China, India, Brazil, Russia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East…these are the locales where the Renegade must really make it happen for Jeep. The B-Segment CUV is the hottest segment in the world market, and the combination of Fiat diesel engines, Jeep styling and brand image and a global manufacturing base will help the Renegade achieve FCA’s long desired push to turn Jeep into a global SUV brand – and a premium one at that. Don’t bet against it.

 

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Ssangyong Making Moves Towards US Market Launch http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/ssangyong-making-moves-towards-us-market-launch/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/ssangyong-making-moves-towards-us-market-launch/#comments Wed, 24 Dec 2014 13:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=964530 Ssangyong has trademarked two nameplates in America, ostensibly in preparation for an American launch. Consumer Reports claims that the two models will be known as the Tivoli (the small SUV shown above) and the Luvent (a compact car based on the same platform). The Tivoli will launch in the South Korean market in January at […]

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Ssangyong has trademarked two nameplates in America, ostensibly in preparation for an American launch.

Consumer Reports claims that the two models will be known as the Tivoli (the small SUV shown above) and the Luvent (a compact car based on the same platform).

The Tivoli will launch in the South Korean market in January at the equivalent price of $15,000 with a six-speed manual transmission; a six-speed automatic transmission will add about $1,500 to the cost. The base two-wheel drive Tivoli will come with a 125-hp, 1.6-liter  gasoline engine. All-wheel drive and a 1.6-liter diesel variant will be available as part of Ssangyong’s build plan. 

Standard safety features in the South Korean market will include seven air bags, electronic stability control, brake assist, hill start assist, and seat-belt pretensioners. If extreme brake force is applied, the car will automatically illuminate the emergency flashers in the rear taillamp cluster. About 40 percent of the car’s body will be made of advanced high-strength steel.

Although Ssangyong’s target markets have been in Central America, Eastern Europe, Africa, China, and India, the Tivoli was designed with U.S. crash and emissions certification in mind, Ssangyong sources told Consumer Reports.

While CR notes that Ssangyong has trademarked names in the past without ever making an appearance in America, there have been sustained rumors about a launch for the brand. The brand itself, backed by Mahindra, would likely change its name to sound less Korean.

 

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VW Inches Closer To Badly Needed Crossover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/vw-inches-closer-badly-needed-crossover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/vw-inches-closer-badly-needed-crossover/#comments Wed, 10 Dec 2014 17:15:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=958305 After throwing enthusiasts a few wagon-shaped bones at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Volkswagen is set to debut the long-roof product that really matters for the auto maker’s American division: a crossover. A concept version of a future Tennessee-built crossover is set to debut at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. Unlike the high-end Touraeg and the […]

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After throwing enthusiasts a few wagon-shaped bones at the Los Angeles Auto Show, Volkswagen is set to debut the long-roof product that really matters for the auto maker’s American division: a crossover.

A concept version of a future Tennessee-built crossover is set to debut at the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. Unlike the high-end Touraeg and the compact Tiguan, the future CUV will be a traditional five and seven seat affair, like a Ford Explorer or a Honda Pilot.

A VW CUV may be anathema to the enthusiast idea of VW as a purveyor of Euro-diesels and GTI hatchbacks, but the CUV represents a way to fill a glaring hole in VW’s American lineup, which is not getting much traction in a constantly-growing American car market.

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Quote Of The Day: The Sports Car Is Dead http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/quote-day-sports-car-dead/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/quote-day-sports-car-dead/#comments Tue, 11 Nov 2014 17:04:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=944129 “The sports car market is roughly half of what it used to be,” Ian Robertson, BMW’s head of sales, said in an interview at the manufacturer’s headquarters in Munich. “Post-2008, it just collapsed. I’m not so sure it’ll ever fully recover.” Speaking to Automotive News, Robertson noted that SUVs and crossovers have replaced the sports car’s […]

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“The sports car market is roughly half of what it used to be,” Ian Robertson, BMW’s head of sales, said in an interview at the manufacturer’s headquarters in Munich. “Post-2008, it just collapsed. I’m not so sure it’ll ever fully recover.”

Speaking to Automotive News, Robertson noted that SUVs and crossovers have replaced the sports car’s function as a status symbol, while emerging markets tended to gravitate towards large sedans that one can be driven in.

While those of us who love driving will scoff at the notion that a CUV could ever replace a sports car as the most desirable automobile, market data has shown that the CUV is the most desirable body style not just in North America, but in many emerging markets – in both locales, it serves as a symbol of affluence and high status, despite what we may consider to be inferior attributes vis a vis a passenger car.

The other factor is that driving conditions have changed. Increased congestion, urbanization and a demonization of speeding (backed by harsh, if not draconian penalties) has made the notion of a sports car an outmoded one for many people. Even the latest 991 Porsche 911 GT3 has abandoned the manual transmission. And while Porsche claims this was done in the name of technological advancement, let’s not fool ourselves: it was a careful, calculated move designed to appeal to the poseur who wants the GT3 because of its racing heritage, despite never intending to take it on track, much less above 60 mph.

 

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Capsule Review: 2015 BMW X1 28i http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/capsule-review-2015-bmw-x1-28i/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/capsule-review-2015-bmw-x1-28i/#comments Mon, 10 Nov 2014 19:13:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=941049 At a base price of $30,900, the BMW X1 is the cheapest new vehicle you can buy with a Roundel. That price tag, as well as the crossover body style and a lack of a manual transmission, hasn’t endeared the X1 to the BMW faithful, or the enthusiast crowd. When a friend of mine asked […]

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At a base price of $30,900, the BMW X1 is the cheapest new vehicle you can buy with a Roundel. That price tag, as well as the crossover body style and a lack of a manual transmission, hasn’t endeared the X1 to the BMW faithful, or the enthusiast crowd.

When a friend of mine asked for suggestions for a compact CUV, I initially suggested segment favorites like the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape and Mazda CX-5. She ended up stopping by the BMW dealer, drawn in by the heavily subsidized lease deals and the idea of driving something with a roundel on the hood.

She ended up walking away with the X1 shown above: a 28i xDrive model with the Technology Package, Driver Assistance Package, Panoramic Moonroof and heated front seats. A $32,700 CUV (base price for an AWD X1) suddenly rang up to $41,720. A backup camera, front and rear parking senors, navigation, Satellite radio and wood trim are just some of the items that you have to pay extra for – and you still don’t get real leather (though the Sensatec leatherette is quite good). Of course, you have to pay to play if you want a German luxury vehicle (specifically, the badge that comes with it). At least the X1 has a value add. It’s still quite good to drive.

With its roots in the outgoing 3-Series, the X1 still feels, well, like a proper BMW, and not like the reasonable facsimile of a 3-Series that is the defining vehicle for this generation of Bimmer. Hydraulic power steering is still present on the all-wheel drive X1, though it’s not as heavy or direct as the E90 3-Series. Nevertheless, its far ahead of what one could expect from the F-Series 3 and 4-Series cars, which feel like a video game force feedback wheel in comparison.

The now-ubiquitous 2.0L turbocharged I4 and 8-speed automatic transmission are present on the X1, and while the N20 engine may lack the character of the much-loved I6, it delivers plenty of power. 240 horsepower is on tap, but with 260 lb-ft available from just 1250 rpm, the X1 never lacks forward motivation. The 8-speed transmission is a great match for this motor, delivering great fuel economy (on a trip from Indianapolis to Nashville, we just touched 29 mpg despite doing 70 mph on the Interstate) while also reacting with verve when a downshift was called for.

Dynamically, the X1 doesn’t seem to suffer from a slightly higher ride height and center of gravity. The culprit here appears to be the Goodyear Eagle LS run-flat tires, which I suspect impose an artificial ceiling on the car’s dynamic envelope. But for the target buyer, they do the job just fine. The ride is quiet and comfortable, and those interested in something more performance oriented can opt for the Sport package, which comes with a brawnier wheel and tire package (and likely, a harsher ride).

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As this graphic from Car and Driver shows, the X1 is dimensionally similar to the 328i wagon – but that doesn’t seem to insulate it from verbal barbs from the enthusiast community, which regards it with the same kind of disdain it tends to reserve for the Nissan Rogue. I’m not one to talk – I held that view until I actually drove the X1 and realized that it’s basically a wagon, but not marketed as such, lest the X1 become a commercial failure. I know that my friend feels the same way. She was all set to buy a Volvo V60, but as a new immigrant to the United States, she had no credit, and was thus given no lease or financing options. If that weren’t the case, she might have been one of a handful of people who bought a new Volvo station wagon. But now she’s behind the wheel of a BMW wagon, marketed as a crossover and sold for thousands of dollars less than a comparable 328i wagon. She’s as happy as I am impressed by the least expensive Bimmer. If only it had a manual.

The owner provided this vehicle to TTAC for the purposes of this review.

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Chevrolet’s Fleet Queen Abdicates The Throne http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/chevrolets-fleet-queen-abdicates-throne/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/chevrolets-fleet-queen-abdicates-throne/#comments Thu, 06 Nov 2014 12:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=941353 Chevrolet is ending American imports of the Captiva Sport, a fleet-only crossover that was popular with rental car companies. With the introduction of the Trax, Chevrolet no longer needs the Captiva Sport in its lineup. The Captiva was originally designed to pick up the slack of the Equinox, which was in tight supply when the […]

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Chevrolet is ending American imports of the Captiva Sport, a fleet-only crossover that was popular with rental car companies.

With the introduction of the Trax, Chevrolet no longer needs the Captiva Sport in its lineup. The Captiva was originally designed to pick up the slack of the Equinox, which was in tight supply when the Captiva Sport was introduced in 2011. Automotive News reports that the Trax, built in Korea, is expected to take up the position that the Captiva did, and also offer a third crossover option for Chevy’s retail customers.

Despite the enthusiast interest generated by the Captiva’s fleet-only status, the Captiva received two damning reviews from both Jack and Bark M.  On occasion, I’ve been offered a Captiva as an “upgrade” from my usual Escape or Impala at the Avis counter, and I’ve declined every single time, based on the condemnation of Jack and Bark. I may not get a chance to review a rental Captiva, but it doesn’t look like I’ll be missing much.

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Mazda Planning Product Onslaught For Los Angeles Auto Show http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/mazda-planning-product-onslaught-los-angeles-auto-show/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/mazda-planning-product-onslaught-los-angeles-auto-show/#comments Tue, 28 Oct 2014 15:51:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937106 Mazda will debut an all-new crossover, and facelifted versions of two of its most popular models at next month’s Los Angeles Auto Show. The CX-3 crossover, shown above, will be unveiled, alongside revised versions of the larger CX-5 crossover and the Mazda6 sedan. The CX-3 will be based on the Mazda2’s underpinnings, and compete with […]

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Mazda will debut an all-new crossover, and facelifted versions of two of its most popular models at next month’s Los Angeles Auto Show.

The CX-3 crossover, shown above, will be unveiled, alongside revised versions of the larger CX-5 crossover and the Mazda6 sedan. The CX-3 will be based on the Mazda2’s underpinnings, and compete with the Nissan Juke, Honda HR-V and other small crossovers.

The CX-3 is expected to get a 2.0L 4-cylinder engine, but will likely only be offered with all-wheel drive. The CX-5 and Mazda6 will get styling updates both inside and out, as well as a new infotainment system currently used on the Mazda3.

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American-Spec Honda HR-V Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/american-spec-honda-hr-v-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/american-spec-honda-hr-v-revealed/#comments Tue, 21 Oct 2014 18:05:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=934570 As we learned last week, Honda’s first SUV wasn’t a Honda at all. Caught flat-footed by the SUV boom, Honda took some desperate measures to get bring something to market that had an “H” on the grille. While the CR-V came out at exactly the right time, Honda waited nearly a decade after the Passport’s […]

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As we learned last week, Honda’s first SUV wasn’t a Honda at all. Caught flat-footed by the SUV boom, Honda took some desperate measures to get bring something to market that had an “H” on the grille.

While the CR-V came out at exactly the right time, Honda waited nearly a decade after the Passport’s launch to come up with a large SUV. This time, they’re a little quicker in responding to the next wave of the SUV boom – the subcompact crossover.

The HR-V, already revealed as the “Vezel” in world markets, will go head to head with the Nissan Juke and Chevrolet Trax. Next month will bring the HR-V’s debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show, along with details on powertrain, equipment levels and maybe even pricing. Given the success of the CR-V and Pilot, it’s safe to assume that this will be a huge hit for Honda.

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The Narcissism Of Small Differences, Part 2 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/narcissism-small-differences-part-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/narcissism-small-differences-part-2/#comments Thu, 09 Oct 2014 15:42:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=928161 Following our discussion on the difference between a CUV, a wagon and a hatchback, (and the ever blurring line between them), we got a note from AutoGuide.com‘s Mike Schlee, via our Facebook page. According to Schlee, even the GLA lineup is split amongst the designations. Schlee, who was at the GLA launch, claims that The […]

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Following our discussion on the difference between a CUV, a wagon and a hatchback, (and the ever blurring line between them), we got a note from AutoGuide.com‘s Mike Schlee, via our Facebook page. According to Schlee, even the GLA lineup is split amongst the designations.

Schlee, who was at the GLA launch, claims that

The GLA 45 AMG is actually classified as a car (hatchback) due to it’s lowered height and lower sitting bumpers. Mercedes was not allowed to classify it official as a ‘truck’ in the USA.

But the taller GLA 250 is classified as a ‘truck’ and is allowed to have crossover things like rear and side tinted windows.

So, there you have it. I never knew that the ubiquitous “privacy glass” was a”truck” only item, but that can easily be solved with a $200 trip to the tint shop.

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Question Of The Day: The Narcissism Of Small Differences http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/question-day-narcissism-small-differences/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/question-day-narcissism-small-differences/#comments Wed, 08 Oct 2014 13:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=927562   “When you decide to be something, you can be it. That’s what they don’t tell you in the church. When I was your age they would say we can become cops, or criminals. Today, what I’m saying to you is this: when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?” – Jack Nicholson, The Departed […]

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“When you decide to be something, you can be it. That’s what they don’t tell you in the church. When I was your age they would say we can become cops, or criminals. Today, what I’m saying to you is this: when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?” – Jack Nicholson, The Departed

So why is the Mercedes-Benz GLA a crossover, and a Porsche Macan is a crossover, but something like a Mazda3 Sport is a hatchback?

Well, two reasons

  1. CAFE
  2. Calling something a crossover makes it sell. Calling it a wagon or a hatchback does the opposite.

This, of course, is the opposite of what happens in the strange, insular world of automotive enthusiasm. There is a reflexive hatred of anything CUV, even when the CUV in question, like the Mazda CX-5, drives better than some passenger cars. Or witness the gnashing of teeth that accompanied the Audi Allroad’s rise and the death of the Audi A4 Avant. Both vehicles drive like lifeless appliances for those who think a Toyota Venza is beneath their station in life. But the Allroad attracted the scorn of countless forum posters, even though the two cars are basically the same, minus some cladding and a raised ride height that has zero effect on handling dynamics.

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As tempting as it is to rail against the ill-informed knee-jerk disdain for crossovers, I’ll bring it back to the original question. What is the tangible difference between the GLA “crossover” and the Mazda3 Sport “hatchback”? Why does one raise the ire of enthusiasts merely by virtue of its classification (a discrete criticism on its own, rather than being lumped in with the idea of a front-drive, entry level Benz) while an identical car is lauded with Hossanas for carrying to hatchback/pseudo-wagon torch.

Over to you, B&B.

Photo Credit: Alex Nunez/Road & Track

*For the record, I think the base GLA is a cheap, nasty looking thing designed to fleece the terminally self-conscious out of their $299 each month. I’d take the Mazda3 all day, every day. But the 345 horsepower GLA45 AMG? Well, that’s another story.

**As far as the CUV hatred phenomenon goes:  You might think they are the worst attributes of an SUV and a car combined in one, but millions of Americans couldn’t care less, and have very rational reasons for buying them, nor are they in the grip of some false consciousness and in need of a vanguard to liberate their minds from the shackles of automotive marketing. Get over it, or start buying new station wagons in meaningful numbers again.

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Paris 2014: Renault Espace Crosses Over http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/paris-2014-renault-espace-crosses/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/paris-2014-renault-espace-crosses/#comments Thu, 02 Oct 2014 19:58:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=924985 The latest victim (or beneficiary, depending on how you look at it) of the crossover craze currently captivating Europe is the Renault Espace, which has transformed from Europe’s first minivan to yet another two-box CUV. With 1.2 million versions of the Espace sold, Renault has a ton of equity in the nameplate. While Renault’s Dacia […]

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The latest victim (or beneficiary, depending on how you look at it) of the crossover craze currently captivating Europe is the Renault Espace, which has transformed from Europe’s first minivan to yet another two-box CUV.

With 1.2 million versions of the Espace sold, Renault has a ton of equity in the nameplate. While Renault’s Dacia brand and the subcompact Captur crossover have been huge hits for Renault, their large car business – including the now 11-year old Espace – has been lagging. Renault is hoping that the Espace will act as a de facto flagship for the brand, while also keeping current customers in the fold (a three-row version will remain on offer).

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The First Minivan Becomes The Next Crossover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/first-minivan-becomes-next-crossover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/first-minivan-becomes-next-crossover/#comments Wed, 01 Oct 2014 13:12:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=922249 On October 3rd, 1984, American Motors announced that the Renault Espace would be imported to North America as an AMC product. 30 years later, the Escpace’s minivan heritage will come to an end. The Espace is to Europeans what the Chrysler minivans are to us – the first example of a modern, mass-produced minivan that […]

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On October 3rd, 1984, American Motors announced that the Renault Espace would be imported to North America as an AMC product. 30 years later, the Escpace’s minivan heritage will come to an end.

The Espace is to Europeans what the Chrysler minivans are to us – the first example of a modern, mass-produced minivan that set the standard for the entire segment. A front-drive, neatly packaged three-row people mover that proved to be far more modern than the Fiat Multipla or Volkswagen vans.

At this week’s Paris Auto Show, the Espace will be revealed, after undergoing a radical transformation. No longer a minivan, the Espace is now being marketed as a crossover. No more sliding doors or the distinctly French two-box profile that was a trademark of the Espace. The new version is a bling-bling pseudo-CUV with shades of CR-V in the D-pillar.

For Renault minivan customers, the Scenic will still be available. But the Espace, like the wildly successful Captur, is an attempt to give consumers more of what they want – in this case, crossovers – but with the people carrying abilities of the minivan (or MPV) body style.

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2015 Honda CR-V: Will it Hang On To Compact SUV Sales Crown? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/2015-honda-cr-v-will-hang-compact-suv-sales-crown/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/2015-honda-cr-v-will-hang-compact-suv-sales-crown/#comments Tue, 30 Sep 2014 13:28:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=921713 The Honda CR-V has been the compact SUV sales champion for 7 of the past 10 years. But with competition in the segment heating up, Honda is hoping that their mid-cycle refresh will keep the CR-V attractive to buyers in the fastest-growing segment in the new car market. Styling tweaks aside, the CR-V gains a […]

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The Honda CR-V has been the compact SUV sales champion for 7 of the past 10 years. But with competition in the segment heating up, Honda is hoping that their mid-cycle refresh will keep the CR-V attractive to buyers in the fastest-growing segment in the new car market.

Styling tweaks aside, the CR-V gains a new direct-injection 2.4L engine. Horsepower is unchanged, but torque is up 11 percent to 181 lb-ft, while a CVT replaces the venerable 5-speed automatic gearbox. The interior has also undergone a restyling that adds a more modern look and what appear to be better materials.

As of September 1st, the CR-V led the Ford Escape by just under 10,000 units in year-to-date sales. The new mid-cycle changes should help put a bit more distance between the two vehicles, but the CR-V must also contend with new entrants like the Nissan Rogue, Jeep Cherokee and Subaru Forester, which are vying for market share in a segment ripe with conquest sales.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Lincoln MKC http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-lincoln-mkc/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-lincoln-mkc/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 18:38:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=917954 You all know the story by now. Journalist gets Lincoln. Lincoln has some obvious flaws. Journalist says some over the top (but accurate) things about Lincoln. Lincoln gets mad, pulls access. TTAC’s commenters step in to save the day. But the story isn’t over. In the 12 months since, Lincoln has been hard at work […]

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You all know the story by now. Journalist gets Lincoln. Lincoln has some obvious flaws. Journalist says some over the top (but accurate) things about Lincoln. Lincoln gets mad, pulls access. TTAC’s commenters step in to save the day. But the story isn’t over.

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In the 12 months since, Lincoln has been hard at work at their most critical launch since the MKZ. Other vehicles in their portfolio might be more important from a brand standpoint, but this is the four-wheeled ATM, the high-margin version of the Ford Escape that will lead a Lincoln renaissance among a crossover-crazed consumer set both in the United States and the all-important Chinese market.

The Fusion may have been a game changer in what we expect from mid-size sedan styling, but the MKZ didn’t move things forward in terms of value proposition. At the very least, the MKC offers some appreciable advantages over the regular Escape.

For starters, the interior is much nicer than either the rental-spec Escape I drove, or the higher grade Titanium versions I’ve seen while helping friends and family members shop for a new crossover. I still don’t like the push button gear shifter – it feels unnatural, and I instinctively reach for a gear shifter the same way that I find myself pressing on a phantom clutch pedal when I get in an automatic transmission vehicle.

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Everything else, from the response of the MyFord Touch system, to the fit and finish of the interior materials, to the paint work and the panel gaps, seemed to be far beyond what I last experienced with a Lincoln product. I invite readers to take a look at the MKC on dealer lots and let me know if they see anything unsavory. I plan on doing so in the near future.

Although the Ford 6-speed automatic has never been one of my favorite transmissions in the industry, the new 2.3L Ecoboost engine is a peach. Throttle response is crisp, lag is minimal and the power delivery is linear and strong through the rev range. Given that this engine needs to move 4,000 pounds of crossover, it should be more than enough to motivate the 2015 Mustang Ecoboost. Hit the “S” button, and the throttle mapping, shift points and the active dampers all heighten their responses. It’s a bit much for what is ostensibly a plush luxury SUV, but it adds to the MKC’s already impressive dynamics. Then again, the Escape is one of the better handling CUVs, and starting with strong bones always helps.

That also comes with downsides. Like the Escape, the MKC’s rear seats aren’t the most comfortable or the roomiest. Fuel economy, never a strong point with the Ecoboost engines, was rather poor, returning about 15 mpg in town and 23 mpg on the highway. As I’ve said before, there’s plenty of boost with Ford’s newest engines, but a dearth of “Eco”.

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Unfortunately, my time with the MKC was cut short, since Ford of Canada apparently needed the MKC back early for a charity event. I hope they weren’t afraid that a certain writer had gotten their hands on a Lincoln and was about to take it out behind the woodshed. The MKC may not be the best luxury crossover in its class, but it’s undoubtedly competitive – and that’s more than can be said for other products in its lineup. Not to mention, an encouraging sign for the future of the brand.

Ford of Canada provided the fuel, insurance and vehicle for the purposes of this review.

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Volkswagen’s American Phaeton Will Start At $70k, Will Surely Fail Again http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/volkswagens-american-phaeton-will-start-70k/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/volkswagens-american-phaeton-will-start-70k/#comments Tue, 23 Sep 2014 15:15:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=916994 Hot on the heels of Volkswagen’s apparent plans for a Chinese-market luxury sedan, Automotive News is reporting that Volkswagen’s next-generation Phaeton, destined for the American market once again, will start at $70,000. According to AN, the next Phaeton will include a plug-in hybrid, as well as a V8 TDI engine. A W12 is also expected to make […]

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Hot on the heels of Volkswagen’s apparent plans for a Chinese-market luxury sedan, Automotive News is reporting that Volkswagen’s next-generation Phaeton, destined for the American market once again, will start at $70,000.

According to AN, the next Phaeton will include a plug-in hybrid, as well as a V8 TDI engine. A W12 is also expected to make a return, though this will likely not be sold in the United States.

Despite sorely needing a larger crossover and a refresh for key products like the Jetta, Volkswagen is persisting with their dream of selling a high-end sedan in the United States, at a price point that is encroaching on their premium marques like Audi and Porsche. The Phaeton, for all its engineering excellence, was a massive flop in the United States. 

On the other hand, the product VW most sorely needs in America, is conspicuously absent from their lineup, and VW has only just settled on where it will be produced, after a round of serious horse trading and internecine squabbling. The Phaeton, according to AN, has apparently been completed already, but VW seems content to continue the current car’s production run, owing to its popularity in China.

This, dear readers, is a great example of how the company continually seems to misunderstand the American market. Rather than get to work on plugging the biggest hole in its lineup, the company persists on a fool’s errand masquerading as a vanity project.

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Editorial: Cadillac Reversing Course On Crossovers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/editorial-cadillac-reversing-course-crossovers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/editorial-cadillac-reversing-course-crossovers/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 17:54:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=916490 This summer, we heard news that Cadillac was scrapping plans for a three-row crossover set to slot between the SRX and the Escalade. But according to new Cadillac head Johann De Nysschen, that vehicle might be back on the table, along with a slate of new products designed to raise the stature of Cadillac in […]

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This summer, we heard news that Cadillac was scrapping plans for a three-row crossover set to slot between the SRX and the Escalade. But according to new Cadillac head Johann De Nysschen, that vehicle might be back on the table, along with a slate of new products designed to raise the stature of Cadillac in the minds of a new generation of buyers.

In an interview with Automobile Magazine, De Nysschen outlined his vision for Cadillac over the next 10 to 15 years. Among the products De Nysschen talked about were two large sedans above the upcoming RWD flagship, a successor to the ELR plug-in hybrid, more performance variants and crucially, more crossovers.

Yes, I can hear the groans now, but even De Nysschen recognizes the need for more crossovers as a part of Cadillac’s lineup, stating

We only have two sport/utilities. It’s a sad day when the Germans have more crossovers than we. There’s clearly some room for us to do something between SRX and Escalade; I think there’s an opportunity even to do something sub-SRX.

 

De Nysschen clearly knows which way the wind is blowing. Cadillac wants to expand in the all important Chinese market, not to mention Western Europe and North America. A larger crossover and a sub-SRX model (ala the BMW X1, Audi Q3 or Mercedes-Benz GLA) is also a great way to bring in Millennial buyers, who De Nysschen expects to account for 50 percent of premium car purchases by the end of the decade. A larger crossover slotting between the SRX and Escalade is a no brainer, especially given the easily accessible Lambda architecture used by the Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave. Such a vehicle will be a veritable ATM for Cadillac, and it’s shocking that the program was canned in the first place.

Like it or not, these two products alone will mean more for Cadillac than any number of rear-drive, V8 powered models. The automotive market is inexorably moving towards crossovers as the bodystyle of choice for global automotive consumers. But as we stated before, his grand plans are all contingent on GM getting out of his way and letting him do things his way: slowly, gradually, with a deliberate, focused effort on building Cadillac up into the brand that it needs to be.

 

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2015 Honda CR-V Gets New Look, New Transmission http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/2015-honda-cr-v-gets-new-look-new-transmission/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/2015-honda-cr-v-gets-new-look-new-transmission/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 14:23:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=916346 Our own Jack Baruth is full of praise for Honda’s CVT transmission, and it looks like the 2015 CR-V could be the next vehicle from the Big H to adopt it, replacing the 5-speed automatic gearbox. While Honda has released just a single photograph of the 2015 CR-V, we have it on good authority that […]

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Our own Jack Baruth is full of praise for Honda’s CVT transmission, and it looks like the 2015 CR-V could be the next vehicle from the Big H to adopt it, replacing the 5-speed automatic gearbox.

While Honda has released just a single photograph of the 2015 CR-V, we have it on good authority that the CVT will be part of the CR-V’s mid-cycle refresh. It’s unlikely that consumers will notice the changeover, despite the howls of protest from certain corners of the enthusiast community. And the CR-V is unlikely to lose its dominant spot on the top of the crossover sales charts.

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Fiat’s Renegade Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/fiats-renegade-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/fiats-renegade-revealed/#comments Tue, 16 Sep 2014 15:29:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=913362   What you’re looking at is the Fiat 500X, the sister car to the Jeep Renegade and the most important Fiat-brand product in memory. This leaked shot of the new subcompact Fiat SUV shows what Fiat’s third North American vehicle will look like. Expect it to use the FCA 1.4L MultiAir Turbo 4-cylinder engine, along […]

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What you’re looking at is the Fiat 500X, the sister car to the Jeep Renegade and the most important Fiat-brand product in memory.

This leaked shot of the new subcompact Fiat SUV shows what Fiat’s third North American vehicle will look like. Expect it to use the FCA 1.4L MultiAir Turbo 4-cylinder engine, along with front or all-wheel drive (though it won’t be as rugged as the Renegade Trailhawk’s off-road oriented AWD).

Why is the 500X so crucial for Fiat? Simple. The Fiat brand is struggling globally – its push into the American market has been less than successful, and it has little traction outside of South America. Fiat recently idled its Serbian factory (which produces the 500L) due to weak demand, and American dealers are crying out for new product. The small crossover market is the one global bright spot in the automotive industry and this is Fiat’s chance to capture some market share in the segment. The Renegade might be a little too bold, brash or “American” for some consumers both at home and abroad. This is FCA’s chance to give them an alternative.

 

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Another Bad Sign For Oshawa As GM Moves Chevrolet Equinox To Mexico http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/another-bad-sign-oshawa-gm-moves-chevrolet-equinox-mexico/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/another-bad-sign-oshawa-gm-moves-chevrolet-equinox-mexico/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 14:38:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=903322 News that GM will be sending some production of the Chevrolet Equinox to their Ramos Arizpe, Mexico plant passed without much fanfare – GM’s PR machine was much more interested in touting the move of the Cadillac SRX to Spring Hill, Tennessee. While the Equinox’s move to Mexico will backfill capacity at that plant, it […]

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News that GM will be sending some production of the Chevrolet Equinox to their Ramos Arizpe, Mexico plant passed without much fanfare – GM’s PR machine was much more interested in touting the move of the Cadillac SRX to Spring Hill, Tennessee. While the Equinox’s move to Mexico will backfill capacity at that plant, it spells another blow for the future of GM’s Oshawa, Ontario plant.

The Equinox (and its GMC Terrain twin) is primarily built at GM’s CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario. Currently overflow production is handled by Oshawa and Spring Hill. For the next generation, Ingersoll and Ramos Arizpe were in direct competition for the new crossovers, with Ingersoll eventually winning out.

The Theta crossovers (as the Equinox and Terrain are known internally) have been a big success for GM, necessitating the overflow production at two sites. But with the move to Mexico, it’s merely another bad sign for Oshawa, which has had a succession of product moving away from the plant, and absolutely nothing in the way of investment announcements or product commitments.

At this rate, Oshawa’s closing in 2016 (when GM’s bailout-related obligations to the Canadian government expire) is almost a certainty.

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Buick Envision Spied On The Eve Of Its Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/buick-envision-spied-eve-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/buick-envision-spied-eve-debut/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 19:18:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=901778 Right before its debut at the Chengdu Auto Show, the Buick Envision was spied outside an exhibit hall as it prepares to make its debut in China, a crucial market that is hungry for both crossovers and Buick brand vehicles. Although the Envision is almost certain to make its way to North America, GM has […]

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Right before its debut at the Chengdu Auto Show, the Buick Envision was spied outside an exhibit hall as it prepares to make its debut in China, a crucial market that is hungry for both crossovers and Buick brand vehicles.

Although the Envision is almost certain to make its way to North America, GM has made no formal announcement of its arrival. Reports indicate that a Q2 2015 launch is likely, with the GM 2.5L 4-cylinder joining alongside the corporate 2.0T engine powering the Chinese version.

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Look What We’re Missing: Suzuki Shows Off New Vitara http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/look-missing-suzuki-shows-new-vitara/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/look-missing-suzuki-shows-new-vitara/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 19:03:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=901730   Suzuki may no longer be with us, but they’re readying the next generation Vitara for sale in world markets. With the new Vitara, Suzuki appears to be moving away from the off-road ready Vitara that was so popular with its North American fanbase. The new Vitara looks to be positioned as a Nissan Qashqai-fighter. […]

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Suzuki may no longer be with us, but they’re readying the next generation Vitara for sale in world markets.

With the new Vitara, Suzuki appears to be moving away from the off-road ready Vitara that was so popular with its North American fanbase. The new Vitara looks to be positioned as a Nissan Qashqai-fighter. A smart move from a commercial standpoint (since that’s where the market is going), but no doubt a blow to the Suzuki faithful.

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