The Truth About Cars » cuv http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 21 Feb 2015 13:21:21 +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 » cuv 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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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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Editorial: The People’s Champion http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/editorial-peoples-champion/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/editorial-peoples-champion/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 15:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=991114 One thing that sets TTAC apart is our appreciation for the kind of cars that most people would write off as “boring”. Part of it is born from our commitment to serving our readers – more often than not, there is a strong desire to read about cars one would actually purchase, rather than just automotive […]

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One thing that sets TTAC apart is our appreciation for the kind of cars that most people would write off as “boring”. Part of it is born from our commitment to serving our readers – more often than not, there is a strong desire to read about cars one would actually purchase, rather than just automotive pornography featuring the latest supercars. The other half of it is a bit more selfish. The cars that drive the industry (no pun intended); the Corollas, Camrys, Accords and Escapes may not be terribly thrilling to drive (Jack will beg to differ), but they have their own merits, even if they tend to be sneered at by most of the enthusiast press. Case in point, the Honda CR-V.

While Tim Cain was able to test a top-spec Honda CR-V Touring, mine was the equivalent to a CRV EX (known as the SE in Canada). Neverthless, my assesment of the CR-V was the same as Tim’s, even though my example lacked a sunroof, leather interior or some of the other touches that are found on competitors

The CR-V is certainly not the most exciting small utility vehicle on the market today, nor is it the only one capable of cramming a shocking amount of humankind and stuff into a small space. But it does most things better than most of its potential competitors.

The CR-V doesn’t handle like a Mazda CX-5, have the quirky appeal and sophisticated AWD of a Subaru Forester, the off-road cred of a Jeep Cherokee or the high-end tech of a Ford Escape. It’s not much to look at outside, and the interior, while improved in terms of cabin materials, is arguably a step back from the version first introduced in 2012. The new touch screen system looks as dated as the non-touch unit in the first generation Acura RDX, the menus are not intuitive and the tiny buttons are a hassle to operate. The seats are on the wrong side of firm.

On the other hand, the CR-Vs rap for being a boring drive is unfounded. It’s not thrilling, but the steering is decently weighted and fairly accurate, the brakes are linear and strong and the CVT transmission is a great match to the 2.4L four-cylinder engine. I couldn’t see myself buying one ever, but a week with this trucklet immediately opened my eyes as to why Honda sells over 300,000 annually.

The current generation CR-V is without a doubt one of the best packaged cars in the history of the automobile. The H-point is just about perfect, making for one of the most natural ingress/egresses you can find in a new vehicle. The ride height is just high enough, the flat floor in the rear means that three adults can sit in relative comfort in the rear and with the seats in place, there’s still 37 cubic feet of cargo room.

Most brilliant is the load floor. At 5’10 and a 32 inch inseam, the cargo floor hits just at my knee. It may seem like an inconsequential detail, but the difference in ease of loading is immeasurable. Loading anything from grocery bags to strollers to walkers is made so much easier. If the seats need to go down, all it takes is one tug of the strap-like lever and the rear row folds instantly. I’d be willing to bet that those two features, demo’d on the showroom floor by a minimally trained salesman, do more to sell the CR-V than any advanced powertrain, AWD-system or infotainment package. The well-known virtues of Honda reliability and resale value don’t hurt either.

Unlike most enthusiasts, I don’t reflexively hate the CUV. I think they offer a lot of value and practicality in the real world of boring commutes, errands, carpooling and recreation activities, and they’ve gotten to the point where buying one doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning the idea of having fun behind the wheel (see: CX-5, Juke ). The CR-V wouldn’t necessarily be my choice in the segment, but it would be the one I’d recommend to somebody who needs to ask for advice on what car to buy. After all, 300,000 people can’t be wrong.

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Junkyard Find: 1974 International Harvester Scout http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1974-international-harvester-scout/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/junkyard-find-1974-international-harvester-scout/#comments Wed, 28 Jan 2015 14:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=989282 With so many IHC Scouts here in Colorado, many of them wear out, rust out, get crashed, or get replaced by trucks with modern conveniences such as sub-100dB interior noise levels and air conditioning. In this series, we’ve seen this ’70, this ’71, this ’72, this ’73, and this ’74, and now today’s well-used ’74. […]

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18 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWith so many IHC Scouts here in Colorado, many of them wear out, rust out, get crashed, or get replaced by trucks with modern conveniences such as sub-100dB interior noise levels and air conditioning. In this series, we’ve seen this ’70, this ’71, this ’72, this ’73, and this ’74, and now today’s well-used ’74. I saw this truck when I went to a Denver yard to celebrate Half Off Everything Day on the first day of the new year.
11 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIf this is the original engine, it’s an AMC 258-cubic-inch straight-six. Given how Scout owners tend to mix-and-match engines, though, this could be just about any AMC six.
20 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere’s rust. Oh yes, plenty of rust.
04 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOne good thing about trucks of this era is that there wasn’t much soft material in the interior to smell bad. Still, this Scout’s final owner decided that the truck needed That New Car Smell.
06 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinComplicated heater controls aren’t needed— just good old cable-operated levers.
08 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinScout production made it into the 1980s, just barely.
22 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOne of my accomplices at the Half Off Sale party grabbed the grille for hanging on his living-room wall. Only $12!

01 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1974 International Harvester Scout Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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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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Junkyard Find: 2001 Chevrolet Tracker ZR-2 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/junkyard-find-2001-chevrolet-tracker-zr-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/junkyard-find-2001-chevrolet-tracker-zr-2/#comments Wed, 17 Dec 2014 14:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=961497 The second-gen Chevrolet Tracker, a badge-engineered version of the Suzuki Vitara and the descendent of the Geo Tracker Suzuki Sidekick sibling, was sold all over the world with many nameplates. It was never much of a big seller in the United States, so this ZR-2 is an unusual Junkyard Find. It will tow a semi! […]

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09 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe second-gen Chevrolet Tracker, a badge-engineered version of the Suzuki Vitara and the descendent of the Geo Tracker Suzuki Sidekick sibling, was sold all over the world with many nameplates. It was never much of a big seller in the United States, so this ZR-2 is an unusual Junkyard Find.

It will tow a semi! It’s like a (Suzuki) rock!
18 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRemember when the Culture Wars were all about flag-burning? Here’s an early-to-mid-2000s artifact of those days for you.
01 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe ZR-2 option package was all about off-roady stuff. I wonder if any base-model Tracker owner will grab all the skid plates and stuff off this one.
04 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe engine is gone.
15 - 2001 Chevrolet Tracker Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThere’s probably not so much demand for worn-out Florida State tire covers.

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Audi Q7 Further Blurs The CUV/Wagon line http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/audi-q7-blurs-cuvwagon-line/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/audi-q7-blurs-cuvwagon-line/#comments Fri, 12 Dec 2014 19:15:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=960281 The current Audi Q7 is unequivocally a CUV. This one is some sort of David Bowie-esque androgynous mix of CUV and wagon. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Thanks to an aggressive lightweighting program, the Q7 sheds about 700 pounds from its current 5000 lb curb weight. A new 2.0T 4-cylinder will be optional […]

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The current Audi Q7 is unequivocally a CUV. This one is some sort of David Bowie-esque androgynous mix of CUV and wagon. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Thanks to an aggressive lightweighting program, the Q7 sheds about 700 pounds from its current 5000 lb curb weight. A new 2.0T 4-cylinder will be optional for the US market. Rear-wheel steering, similar to the Japanese systems of the 1980’s, will be available. An all-wheel drive diesel plug-in hybrid will be offered, with 373 horsepower and 516 lb-ft acheiving 138 mpgE. But so far, it hasn’t been confirmed for our market.

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Los Angeles 2014: Mazda CX-3 Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/los-angeles-2014-mazda-cx-3-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/los-angeles-2014-mazda-cx-3-revealed/#comments Wed, 19 Nov 2014 15:24:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=947393 Mazda’s sub-compact crossover will go head to head with the Nissan Juke, Chevrolet Trax and Honda HR-V when it debuts next year. It might be the best expression of Mazda’s design language so far. Powered by a 2.0L Skyactiv engine making 155 horsepower, the CX-3 is slated to have an optional AWD system, and a […]

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Mazda’s sub-compact crossover will go head to head with the Nissan Juke, Chevrolet Trax and Honda HR-V when it debuts next year. It might be the best expression of Mazda’s design language so far.

Powered by a 2.0L Skyactiv engine making 155 horsepower, the CX-3 is slated to have an optional AWD system, and a 6-speed automatic online. On the other hand, the automatic is the same excellent unit in other Mazda products, and blends the best attributes of the dual-clutch and traditional automatic gearboxes. Inside, the same excellent HMI Commander from the Mazda3 is used, as well as the instrument cluster and tablet-like LCD screen.

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Junkyard Find: 1979 Subaru BRAT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/junkyard-find-1979-subaru-brat-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/junkyard-find-1979-subaru-brat-2/#comments Wed, 12 Nov 2014 14:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=943729 Where I live (Denver), wrecking yards overflow with old Subarus. I walk past junked early-80s Leones (or GLs or whatever Subaru’s confusing naming conventions of the era were) all the time, but I’ll always stop and photograph a BRAT. So far in this series, the BRAT roster includes this ’79, this ’84, this ’82, and […]

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19 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhere I live (Denver), wrecking yards overflow with old Subarus. I walk past junked early-80s Leones (or GLs or whatever Subaru’s confusing naming conventions of the era were) all the time, but I’ll always stop and photograph a BRAT. So far in this series, the BRAT roster includes this ’79, this ’84, this ’82, and this Sawzall-converted ’86. Last week, I spotted another example, and it still had its Chicken Tax-dodgin’ jump seats.
02 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYes, the personal-injury lawyers loved these seats, but they let Subaru evade the 25% tariff on imported light trucks.
14 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRemember AOL CD spam? This car still has one!
10 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s somewhat rusty (I know, Midwesterners, you don’t consider this to be true rust), but could have been kept on the road a while longer.
15 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinCorn stopped by.
17 - 1979 Subaru BRAT Down on the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe condition of the seats and the AOL disc suggest lengthy outdoor storage of a nondriving vehicle.

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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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Junkyard Find: 1994 Isuzu Amigo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1994-isuzu-amigo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/junkyard-find-1994-isuzu-amigo/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 13:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=937594 Remember the Isuzu Amigo? A descendant of the platform that gave us the Chevy Luv pickup, the Amigo was the cuddly three-door version of the much more popular Isuzu Rodeo. Rodeos are still fairly easy to find here in Colorado, but the Amigo is another story. Here’s a last-year-of sales ’94 I found in a […]

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09 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRemember the Isuzu Amigo? A descendant of the platform that gave us the Chevy Luv pickup, the Amigo was the cuddly three-door version of the much more popular Isuzu Rodeo. Rodeos are still fairly easy to find here in Colorado, but the Amigo is another story. Here’s a last-year-of sales ’94 I found in a Denver self-service yard a few weeks ago.
03 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis spare has been used up real good!
05 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis vehicle shows all the signs of having been beaten to death by wastoid snowboarders, a common fate for small all-wheel-drive machinery in these parts.
06 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin2.6 liters of screaming Isuzu power.
08 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNote the shiny paint and outside rear-view mirror held on by duct tape, indicators that this truck went downhill fast once it got into the hands of its final owners.


Like most members of the Isuzu/Vauxhall/Opel Co-Prosperity Sphere, the first-generation Opel MU was available with a bewildering variety of marques and badges. This truck could be purchased as a Chevrolet, a Holden, a Vauxhall, or a Honda, as well as numerous flavors of Isuzu. Here’s a German ad for the ’94 Opel Frontera.

01 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1994 Isuzu Amigo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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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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Exclusive: Lincoln’s Upcoming RWD Crossover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/exclusive-lincolns-upcoming-rwd-crossover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/exclusive-lincolns-upcoming-rwd-crossover/#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 12:06:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=927137 Thanks to TTAC‘s sources inside the Blue Oval (the same ones who scuttled rumors of a revived Ford GT), we can exclusively reveal that the long awaited RWD Lincoln is in the works, along with a Ford counterpart. But the newest rear-drive Blue Oval vehicle won’t be a sedan ala the Lincoln Continental or a Ford […]

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Thanks to TTAC‘s sources inside the Blue Oval (the same ones who scuttled rumors of a revived Ford GT), we can exclusively reveal that the long awaited RWD Lincoln is in the works, along with a Ford counterpart. But the newest rear-drive Blue Oval vehicle won’t be a sedan ala the Lincoln Continental or a Ford Falcon revival. It’s going to be a crossover.

On the surface, the idea of two rear-drive crossovers makes zero sense at all. Rear-wheel drive is now primarily used for enhanced driving dynamics, and a crossover isn’t exactly the kind of vehicle that stands to benefit from such a layout. But Ford has tried this before with the Australian market Territory (above) a vehicle that was widely lauded for its performance and practicality.

But a closer look at the dynamics of the auto market place shows that a new full-size sedan is a fool’s errand. The full-size market is shrinking with each year, as large crossovers take an increasing bite out of a once dominant segment. The next generation Ford Taurus is rumored to be dead in the water after it bombed a series of design clinics – instead, a large Ford sedan based on the Fusion’s CD platform will be built for the Chinese market, alongside Project GOBI, a large Lincoln sedan, akin to the MKS, but focused on Chinese tastes and sold world wide.

Aside from the growing crossover market, there’s also the matter of police car sales. Year-to-date, the Explorer Police Interceptor sales are up 52 percent while Taurus Interceptor sales are down 7 percent, with the Explorer outselling the Taurus by a 2:1 margin. By combining the SUV bodystyle and rear-drive dynamics in a Pursuit rated package, Ford could offer a police vehicle that offers law enforcement officials the best of both worlds, while also offers an alternative to the Chevrolet Tahoe that is more fuel efficient and able to use the same mounting points for police hardware as previous Ford vehicles.

A civilian version would be a slightly different beast. Although rear-drive would be a way to differentiate itself from the Edge and MKX, most of the new upcoming RWD CUVs would likely leave the showroom with AWD. We don’t know much about powertrains, styling details or even a moniker for the future Lincoln, but we do know the name for the upcoming Ford version.

Explorer.

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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 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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Piston Slap: Why So Uncool Minivan? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-uncool-minivan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-uncool-minivan/#comments Wed, 10 Sep 2014 12:07:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=908561   Josh writes: What is the deal with minivans? I was thinking the other day that as an outdoor person, minivan’s are perfect. They have lots of room for people and gear, AWD (in some cases), lots of roof space, and better MPG’s than an SUV. But apparently I can’t own one because they’re not […]

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1972 Ford Carousel (photo courtesy: forum.chryslerminivan.net)

Josh writes:

What is the deal with minivans? I was thinking the other day that as an outdoor person, minivan’s are perfect. They have lots of room for people and gear, AWD (in some cases), lots of roof space, and better MPG’s than an SUV. But apparently I can’t own one because they’re not cool. I could get a wagon though. Isn’t a minivan just a super-sized wagon?

Will minivans ever be cool to own?

Sajeev answers:

What’s the deal with minivans? From public perception, CUV popularity, fleet usage, etc. the “uncool minivan” is indeed a sad reality.  But there is plenty to love here on TTAC, from the Farago era to something brilliantly Baruthian.  My second favorite rental vehicle was the 3.6L Pentastar Caravan: it was quick and comfortable with chassis/suspension/steering components ready to play. No surprise, my fav rental was a white 2011 Crown Vic. But I digress…

Isn’t a minivan just a super-sized wagon?  Not really, even if they (kinda) ended the station wagon era. Uncool minivans are a radical rethink: eschewing the traditional notions of the family wagon and the creepster’s van with the adoption of a modern front-wheel drive layout (Aerostar and Astro notwithstanding) for maximum utilization of a traditional two box design, while adding the styling of a family sedan/wagon for curb appeal. Supposedly the Chrysler minivan’s early concepts were lifted from Ford’s work in the early 1970s: possible since Lee Iacocca famously left FoMoCo after butting heads with Henry II far too many times, and took some design staffers with him…though that’s the subject of some controversy.

Will minivans ever be cool to own? Keep in mind the Minivan was and remains an enlightened design: that will attract people. Just like so many Pistonheads go nuts over vintage wagons these days (especially with wheels you’d expect on a restomod ’69 Camaro), the uncool minivan will come back to win our hearts.

Until then, who gives a crap what people think? Go buy one and brush off the haters, no matter what they say!

 

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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This Is Not The Hyundai Crossover You Are Looking For http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/hyundai-crossover-looking/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/hyundai-crossover-looking/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 11:30:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=889065 Here’s an interesting study in how two markets, with a similar affinity for small crossovers, will get wildly different products. Hyundai is planning on launching a new small crossover in America, one that will reportedly be akin to the Nissan Juke: small, targeted at Millennial buyers and, ahem, distinctively styled. The ix25, shown above at […]

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Here’s an interesting study in how two markets, with a similar affinity for small crossovers, will get wildly different products.

Hyundai is planning on launching a new small crossover in America, one that will reportedly be akin to the Nissan Juke: small, targeted at Millennial buyers and, ahem, distinctively styled.

The ix25, shown above at Carnewschina, is probably not it. Hyundai has shown a concept of the ix25 before, but this version will reportedly be for the Chinese market only. Built in China and based on the Kia Soul platform (look hard and the resemblance is obvious), the ix25 is designed to compete with the Ford Ecosport and other B-segment crossovers.

Offering the ix25 and the North American Juke-fighter would probably result in overcrowding in Hyundai showrooms, not to mention, fierce competition for finite marketing dollars. But it’s a nice looking vehicle that would be a solid competitor to the Honda HR-V and Chevrolet Trax, if nothing else.

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Question Of The Day: Who Will Win The Luxury Compact Crossover Sales Race? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/question-of-the-day-who-will-win-the-luxury-compact-crossover-sales-race/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/question-of-the-day-who-will-win-the-luxury-compact-crossover-sales-race/#comments Tue, 29 Jul 2014 17:28:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=875425 With pricing for the Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA announced, the fight for the luxury compact crossover sales crown is officially on. It’s going to be the most important battle of the year for the luxury car market. Crossovers are, without a doubt, the hottest sales segment right now, and one of the most profitable […]

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With pricing for the Audi Q3 and Mercedes-Benz GLA announced, the fight for the luxury compact crossover sales crown is officially on. It’s going to be the most important battle of the year for the luxury car market.

Crossovers are, without a doubt, the hottest sales segment right now, and one of the most profitable segments for OEMs. Take some normal car underpinnings, add a bit of cladding, a higher ride height and a two-box body and all of a sudden, you can charge a hefty premium over what you’d normally have to sell a sedan for. And what better way to lower your CAFE rating than to sell a ton of “light trucks” that get the kind of fuel economy that you’d normally find in a compact or mid-size car? These little trucklets/wagonlets are going to float the ability of the German brands to keep making AMG, M and RS cars by keeping things kosher with the Feds. Remember that when you bemoan the lack of wagons on sale today.

Audi’s Q3 starts at $33,325, versus $29,900 for an A3, though the Q3, unlike the A3, does come standard with AWD .  The Q3 is front-drive, but it does have a 2.0T engine, unlike the A3’s 1.8T mill. A Mercedes-Benz GLA starts at $32,225 for a front-drive model versus $29,900 for a front-drive CLA. The one wildcard is the BMW X1, which is both rear-wheel drive and $30,900, making it the cheapest BMW in the entire model range.

I’m going to put my money on the Q3 taking the crown, just because Audi is very much the brand of the moment. This segment is a fickle, fashion-driven one, and products live and die by how cool they are. The Audi A3 quickly toppled the Mercedes-Benz CLA from the small sedan sales charts, and this won’t be any different.

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Buick Envision Photos Leaked http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/buick-envision-photos-leaked/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/buick-envision-photos-leaked/#comments Mon, 28 Jul 2014 21:27:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=874801 The first photos of the Buick Envision have leaked, with prices said to be ranging from $26,000-$32,000 USD. Car News China is reporting that the Envison will be unveiled at the Chengdu Auto Show, with sales starting in Q4 of this year. The Envision is also said to be based on the Delta compact car […]

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The first photos of the Buick Envision have leaked, with prices said to be ranging from $26,000-$32,000 USD.

Car News China is reporting that the Envison will be unveiled at the Chengdu Auto Show, with sales starting in Q4 of this year. The Envision is also said to be based on the Delta compact car platform, rather than the Theta CUV platform that underpins the Chevrolet Terrain and GMC Equinox.

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Chrysler’s Crossover Will Share Minivan Architecture http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/chryslers-crossover-will-share-minivan-architecture/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/chryslers-crossover-will-share-minivan-architecture/#comments Thu, 24 Jul 2014 17:37:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=872946 What’s obvious to us isn’t always clear to the rest of the automotive world. To anyone who frequents TTAC, the upcoming Chrysler three-row CUV was destined to be built off of the minivan platform, but some other corners of the auto world didn’t seem to get the memo. Chrysler brand boss Al Gardner took the time […]

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What’s obvious to us isn’t always clear to the rest of the automotive world. To anyone who frequents TTAC, the upcoming Chrysler three-row CUV was destined to be built off of the minivan platform, but some other corners of the auto world didn’t seem to get the memo. Chrysler brand boss Al Gardner took the time to clear that up.

Speaking to Motor Trend, Gardner all-but confirmed that the front-drive crossover will share the next-gen front-drive architecture that will be utilized by the next-generation vans. A close reading of FCA’s 5-year plan, as well as Chrysler’s overall product portfolio suggests that the three-row crossover is a great way to help lower their CAFE rating, especially with a plug-in hybrid variant – which the new minvan will have from the get-go. You can bet that the CUV will get this technology as well.

According to MT, the Dodge Durango was ruled out because “simply isn’t large enough for many customers in the segment and is too aggressive”. I can’t say I agree with the former, but even so, it’s a moot point. Leveraging the front-drive architecture, with its superior fuel economy, regulatory and packaging characteristics is a no-brainer for a company that badly needs to put a dent in its CAFE ratings.

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Chart Of The Day: Crossovers Are King http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/chart-of-the-day-crossovers-are-king/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/chart-of-the-day-crossovers-are-king/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:33:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=867074   This chart, courtesy of IHS Automotive, shows that for the first time in America, crossovers have edged out sedans as the most popular body style. While the data only shows new vehicle registrations through May, 2014, don’t expect this trend to reverse any time soon. The crossover’s rise to market dominance is an inexorable […]

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This chart, courtesy of IHS Automotive, shows that for the first time in America, crossovers have edged out sedans as the most popular body style.

While the data only shows new vehicle registrations through May, 2014, don’t expect this trend to reverse any time soon. The crossover’s rise to market dominance is an inexorable fact of our automotive landscape, both in America and around the world.

Now you see why Nissan isn’t so crazy to forgo the new IDx in favor of the Juke. Sure, nobody will ever cross-shop the two cars, but one plays in a space that is constantly growing, while the other competes in a market that has a future that’s slightly worse than the U.S. Postal Service. If you were an auto executive with a few billion to spend on a new car that must turn a profit (so, no fantasy brown wagon projects), the choice would be easy.

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Buick Gets Another Crossover – What Took So Long? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/buick-gets-another-crossover-what-took-so-long/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/buick-gets-another-crossover-what-took-so-long/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 18:10:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=856833   Buick will launch a new mid-size crossover, dubbed “Envision” in China first, then presumably in other markets. All we can say is “hurry up”. Given the sales strength of the Enclave and Encore, it’s amazing that Buick isn’t busting their hump to get this thing on sale tomorrow. Then again, China is Buick’s most […]

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All-new high-end midsize SUV, the Buick Envision, will make its

 

Buick will launch a new mid-size crossover, dubbed “Envision” in China first, then presumably in other markets. All we can say is “hurry up”.

Given the sales strength of the Enclave and Encore, it’s amazing that Buick isn’t busting their hump to get this thing on sale tomorrow. Then again, China is Buick’s most important market, and their thirst for CUVs seems nearly impossible to satiate. No word on what platform this new CUV will ride on, but the Theta chassis that underpins the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain is a good bet.

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