The Truth About Cars » Diesel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 30 Oct 2014 21:19:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Diesel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Streets Of R-Ado http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/streets-r-ado/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/streets-r-ado/#comments Wed, 29 Oct 2014 18:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=936762 I felt like a spy within my own company. It was a hot summer day in 2003 and I was at the DaimlerChrysler proving grounds in Laredo, Texas to attend a focus group on the upcoming 2006 Mercedes-Benz R-Class minivan/crossover/sport touring wagon. My dozen or so fellow attendees were all wealthy owners of high-end Mercedes-Benz cars. I was here because the […]

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2006 R500 Courtesy cimg.carsforsale.com

I felt like a spy within my own company. It was a hot summer day in 2003 and I was at the DaimlerChrysler proving grounds in Laredo, Texas to attend a focus group on the upcoming 2006 Mercedes-Benz R-Class minivan/crossover/sport touring wagon. My dozen or so fellow attendees were all wealthy owners of high-end Mercedes-Benz cars. I was here because the Mercedes-Benz USA focus group invite filter did not recognize my net worth nor the fact that I worked for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services. And I was not about to tell anyone that…

The Laredo facility included an assortment of handling, hill-climb and torture tracks, all on the infield of an imposing high-banked 5-mile circle track. The first impression of the scene was intoxicating to a car nut: Hey, there’s a Dodge Magnum, looks just like the spy photos! There goes the next generation S-Class! We were shown the upcoming GL-Class and the next-generation M-Class SUVs. Those vehicles, as well as the future S-class circling the track, were lightly masked but easily recognizable while the “sport touring wagon” was heavily, almost comically, disguised.  It looked like a giant black shoe box with a sloping hood.

My group of five folks and an engineer jumped into the future R-Class. The interior was well-crafted and amazingly roomy: I could stretch my legs out in the third row. Our moderator led us through the various obstacle courses around the grounds, switching drivers along the way. Finally we headed for the 5-mile circle. It was “Clockwise Day” which seemed strange to someone used to driving counterclockwise on oval tracks.  Our leader cranked it up to an indicated 150 mph and took one hand off the wheel to demonstrate the wagon’s stability. We were duly impressed.

We then each proceeded to take two laps each behind the wheel and several of us hit the magic 150 mph barrier. We were quietly cruising with six people aboard and blasting past Plymouth Neons on the inside lane doing endurance testing.  The original R500 with the 302 hp V-8 had a governed top speed of 135 mph. The Benz engineers would not answer questions about this drivetrain. In retrospect, I think it must have been the 503 hp V-8 from the planned R63 AMG under the hood.

We always said the R-Class would make a great hearse...

We always said that the R-Class would make a great hearse…

Years later I think: Were we really doing 150 mph with six passengers in a prototype with a drag coefficient of Melissa McCarthy?  Was the speedometer clocked? Or is driving on a banked, circular track as safe and easy as driving in a straight line? Regardless, I highly doubt there are many car companies who would allow a bunch of yahoos to drive their mock-up models at high speeds on their secret proving grounds. That day in Laredo was one of the highlights of my time in the car business.

Two years later when I first saw a production R-Class, I was shocked: it looked awful, a combo of awkward lines. I thought about Laredo. Were they hiding the R’s styling from us because previous groups had given it a thumbs down? Or was Germany so proud of the edgy styling that they did not want it leaked?  By disguising its looks, letting us behind the scenes to drive flat-out at their proving grounds, and not talking price or specs, were they guaranteeing that we each would  vote an enthusiastic “yes” when asked if we would consider buying one, which we did?

I was pleased to see one suggestion from our focus group about the poor location of the third-row shoulder belt hanger had been addressed.

 

It appears the Daimler is now selling their Laredo test track. Note the 2-mile oval track within the 5-mile highbank circle.

Daimler is now selling their Laredo test track. Note the 2-mile oval track inside the 5-mile circle track

The R-Class was released in the summer of 2005 to the sounds of crickets on the showroom floors. Press reactions were mixed, (“It’s big and it’s ugly, but inside it you can live like a king,” said the Sunday Times.) Within 30 days of the launch, Benz had to add dealer incentives to counter consumer resistance to the base MSRP of $48,000 for the R350 and $55,500 for the R500. A constellation of factors led to the R-class being a rare failure for Daimler: high pricing, murky marketing and product positioning, mediocre gas mileage, the recession and most of all due to its undeniable ugliness.

Sales of the R-Class in the US peaked at 18,168 units in 2006, far short of the corporate objective of 50,000 sales per year. Less than 3,000 were sold each year between 2009 and 2011 before the car was discontinued in North America in 2012. The R-Class continues to be assembled in Mercedes’ Alabama factory for sale in overseas markets. (US dealers toured the plant recently and upon seeing the R line, several joked, “Oh noooo, it’s back!”)

I had an R-Class company car in 2009 and it rode as well as I remembered, every bit an S-Class on the highway. Even better was the fact it was the CDI diesel variant with its gobs of torque and great gas mileage, a truly underappreciated engine.

I still think the R stands for Repulsive but if I could find one of those eighty 2007 R63 AMGs brought into this country…

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Porsche Injecting Diesel Power Into Macan For US Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/porsche-injecting-diesel-power-macan-us-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/porsche-injecting-diesel-power-macan-us-market/#comments Wed, 15 Oct 2014 13:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=931418 Porsche Macan enthusiasts in the United States who want diesel power will be able to order such a thing over a year from now, as Porsche is now hard at work bringing a diesel Macan to life. Automotive News reports the diesel-powered crossover will get its power from a reworked 3-liter turbo V6 diesel sold […]

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Porsche Macan enthusiasts in the United States who want diesel power will be able to order such a thing over a year from now, as Porsche is now hard at work bringing a diesel Macan to life.

Automotive News reports the diesel-powered crossover will get its power from a reworked 3-liter turbo V6 diesel sold in its native Europe and other markets, delivering at least 245 horsepower to all four corners. The vehicle would slot between the S and Turbo models as far as price is concerned, coming in at around $60,000 to start; the S has an MSRP of just over $49,000, while the Turbo begins at $72,300.

As for when the diesel Macan would arrive, the crossover may debut at the 2015 Los Angeles Auto Show before entering the showroom near the end of 2015 or at the start of 2016.

Meanwhile, those hoping for a base Macan in the U.S. will be waiting to exhale for quite some time. Porsche Cars North America vice president of marketing, Andre Oosthuizen, says there isn’t enough capacity to build the base model, sold in the United Kingdom and China, and won’t be under consideration “for the foreseeable future.”

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Hyundai/Kia Reconsidering US Diesel Market Stance http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/hyundaikia-reconsidering-us-diesel-market-stance/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/hyundaikia-reconsidering-us-diesel-market-stance/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 13:00:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=930882 With their portfolio of hybrids and EVs in place in the United States, Hyundai/Kia are now reconsidering their stance on bringing diesel power over to the market. According to Ward’s Auto, Hyundai/Kia America Technical Center powertrain director John Juriga says his employer sees “some value with diesels,” stating the South Korean duo had planned to […]

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With their portfolio of hybrids and EVs in place in the United States, Hyundai/Kia are now reconsidering their stance on bringing diesel power over to the market.

According to Ward’s Auto, Hyundai/Kia America Technical Center powertrain director John Juriga says his employer sees “some value with diesels,” stating the South Korean duo had planned to bring them over as far back as 2009, only to back out due to then-upcoming regulations for cleaner diesels, the costs in creating them, and the higher price of diesel compared to gasoline. He says that while those issues “haven’t necessarily been eliminated, they’ve been understood better,” leading to a “more direct path” toward a U.S. diesel lineup.

Additionally, CAFE targets — especially the 2025 fleet target of 54.5 mpg — could necessitate Hyundai/Kia to add diesel to its green weapons arsenal. Juriga stated Hyundai may bring cylinder deactivation, PHEVs and EGR between 2016 and 2021, while nine- and 10-speed automatics could further its fuel efficiency game between 2021 and 2025.

That said, the duo’s diesel efforts would need to find the right fit in the U.S. in order to achieve success. Juriga explained that the Chevrolet Cruze Diesel made up just 3 percent of overall Cruze sales, and that the vehicle chosen by Hyundai/Kia would also have to go against Volkswagen strong diesel lineup. Though he didn’t offer what vehicle the duo had in mind, he believes the automakers’ customer base would be “more accepting of the technology and willing to pay a premium for the engine type in the correct product.”

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A 21st Century 240D http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/21st-century-240d/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/21st-century-240d/#comments Thu, 18 Sep 2014 20:16:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914898 The Mercedes-Benz ML is the latest victim of powertrain downsizing, but this time, it’s the diesel version that’s getting its cylinder count trimmed. For 2015, the ML350, with its 3.0L V6 diesel, will be killed off, replaced by an ML250, using the 2.1L 4-cylinder diesel used in the GLK and E-Class diesel. While the old […]

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The Mercedes-Benz ML is the latest victim of powertrain downsizing, but this time, it’s the diesel version that’s getting its cylinder count trimmed.

For 2015, the ML350, with its 3.0L V6 diesel, will be killed off, replaced by an ML250, using the 2.1L 4-cylinder diesel used in the GLK and E-Class diesel. While the old V6 was good for 240 horsepower and 455 lb-ft of torque, the new 4-cylinder will put down 200 horsepower and 362 lb-ft. Fuel economy is said to improve with the new mill, but a big car and a small engine tends to sometimes hurt real world figures, as the smaller mill must work harder to motivate the same amount of mass. Official fuel economy and towing ratings will be released later.

While AutoGuide.com quotes an M-B product manager as saying that the change comes from consumer demand for increased fuel economy, you can bet that CAFE had a lot to do with this change. Mercedes-Benz sells plenty of gas-guzzling cars, SUVs and AMG models and has been fined over $260 million for not meeting CAFE standards. No surprise that M-B has been a vocal opponent of the regime, which it says favors large trucks and SUVs.

So what better way to juice their CAFE averages than by saddling a large SUV with a tiny diesel engine? It’s not like this is something unknown for Mercedes-Benz. How many gutless, MB-TEX equipped 240Ds did they foist upon the American public, painted in hideous hues and sold at prices far beyond what many Americans expected a Cadillac or Lincoln to sticker at. Decades later, you’ll still have to fork out a $50,725 base price for the privilege of driving an ML250 BlueTec.

We may not exactly be in the Second Malaise Era – not with the advances made in automotive safety, fuel economy and power outputs, that let us have a 22 mpg Hellcat – but this ML250 is mostly definitely a modern day Brougham. Or a 250TD, if you prefer.

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Piston Slap: Have a SEAT in Spain? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-seat-spain/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/piston-slap-seat-spain/#comments Mon, 15 Sep 2014 12:20:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=912322   Phil writes: I am going to Spain for 2-3 years for work but I have decided to sell my truck and only ship my motorcycle. Once I am there I will be looking to buy a cheap used small car, preferably a hatchback with a manual transmission. I am aware of some European brands […]

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greeting Medas Islands

(photo courtesy: www.whattoseeinibiza.com)

Phil writes:

I am going to Spain for 2-3 years for work but I have decided to sell my truck and only ship my motorcycle. Once I am there I will be looking to buy a cheap used small car, preferably a hatchback with a manual transmission. I am aware of some European brands like Seat, Alfa, Peugeot, Renault, etc. but do not know much about their modern line up. Gas or diesel is fine, can you help me with some recommendations?

Sajeev answers:

Since I don’t live in Europe and don’t know your budget–what’s up with you people not telling EVERYONE ON THE INTERNET how much money you have to spend on a car?–I say what I usually say: test drive a lot of cars in your price range.

And do a lot of virtual touring via Google Image search to see if you like a particular design.

Me? After seeing the SEAT Ibizia in person, I’d kinda go for that.  Or a Rio Brown MKI Ford Sierra Ghia…no wait, that’s already been done. Plus, SEAT is the Spanish offshoot of VW, with nice regional flare inside and out.  Lastly, depending on your budget, repairing a warranty-less VAG product in Europe is far easier/cheaper than in the Toyota-centric U.S. of A.

Luckily you have a motorcycle, there’s no reason to rush into anything.  Enjoy the buying process, and enjoy the local flavor by brand. Me thinks you’ll have a preferred brand in no time. Of course you can’t go wrong with a MKI Ford Sierra Ghia…even when you do.

Off to you, Best and Brightest!

 

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

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Mazda 6 Diesel Delayed Due To Need For After-Treatment http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/mazda-6-diesel-delayed-due-need-aftertreatment/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/mazda-6-diesel-delayed-due-need-aftertreatment/#comments Fri, 12 Sep 2014 16:43:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=911226 The Mazda6 diesel, long awaited as the first major competitor to the Volkswagen Passat TDI, is being delayed due to difficulties meeting emissions standards without the need for after-treatment. TTAC has learned that Mazda is changing their strategy to incorporate an after-treatment, to help meet both emissions and performance benchmarks. According to our source, the after-treatment […]

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The Mazda6 diesel, long awaited as the first major competitor to the Volkswagen Passat TDI, is being delayed due to difficulties meeting emissions standards without the need for after-treatment. TTAC has learned that Mazda is changing their strategy to incorporate an after-treatment, to help meet both emissions and performance benchmarks.

According to our source, the after-treatment free Skyactiv-D diesel engine was unable to meet stringent US diesel emissions standards. When engineers finally produced a compliant package, the power output was reportedly considered too low to meet consumer expectations, leading to a major re-think of the diesel program.

The solution will apparently be an unspecified after-treatment, with the first diesel car slated to debut in one year’s time. While the Mazda6 is the first candidate for a diesel engine, our source said that its success could mean diesel variants of other vehicles like the Mazda3 and CX-5.

Mazda’s diesel engines previously came under scrutiny for reliability issues in Australia, which led to speculation that the diesel’s delay in our market was due to this issue. Perhaps these issues (of which there is no true solution) will be ironed out as well when the diesel arrives in North America.

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General Motors Prepares To Enter Diesel Car, Light-Duty Pickup Games http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/general-motors-prepares-enter-diesel-car-light-duty-pickup-games/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/general-motors-prepares-enter-diesel-car-light-duty-pickup-games/#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2014 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=883258 General Motors has few diesel-powered wares at the moment, but with the U.S. diesel market expected to hit 10 percent of the overall market by 2020, GM wants as much as it can get. Automotive News reports GM vice president of global powertrain Steve Kiefer announced his employer’s diesel plans before those in attendance at […]

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General Motors has few diesel-powered wares at the moment, but with the U.S. diesel market expected to hit 10 percent of the overall market by 2020, GM wants as much as it can get.

Automotive News reports GM vice president of global powertrain Steve Kiefer announced his employer’s diesel plans before those in attendance at the 2014 Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, Mich., proclaiming the current Chevrolet Cruze “will be the first of many diesel-powered passenger cars General Motors will offer in the United States.”

Meanwhile, the Duramax V8 offered in GM’s heavy-duty pickups will soon be joined by a 2.8-liter four-pot under the bonnets of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsize pickups. Beyond this, Kiefer hints that torque will be the driving factor on where more diesels will go. Thus, light-duty versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra may receive diesel engines to compete against the likes of the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel and the upcoming Ford F-150 SFE.

Kiefer concludes by stating GM will introduce more diesel power into the market “as appropriate and as the market accepts them.”

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Capsule Review: 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500HD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/capsule-review-2014-chevrolet-silverado-2500hd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/capsule-review-2014-chevrolet-silverado-2500hd/#comments Tue, 05 Aug 2014 14:05:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=881746 This Duramax-powered 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD possesses an as-tested price that’s precisely triple the as-tested price of the 2014 Mazda 3 hatchback I drove around for a week back in late May. The Mazda had half as many cylinders as the Silverado HD, less than one-third the engine displacement, and no turbocharger. The Silverado […]

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2014 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD LT

This Duramax-powered 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD possesses an as-tested price that’s precisely triple the as-tested price of the 2014 Mazda 3 hatchback I drove around for a week back in late May.

The Mazda had half as many cylinders as the Silverado HD, less than one-third the engine displacement, and no turbocharger. The Silverado has 20% more seating capacity, a wheelbase that’s within eight inches of the Mazda’s overall length, 278% more cargo bed volume than the Mazda has cargo capacity behind the rear seats, and 2.6 times the weight.

The Silverado’s 6.6L turbocharged V8 diesel produces 242 more horsepower while generating more than five times the torque. Yes, it’s not quite three times as heavy as the Mazda, but the Silverado has the torque of five Mazda 3s. Mazda’s 3 operates only as a front-wheel-drive vehicle, but the Silverado can send power to all four wheels. Both utilize a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Naturally, none of this should be taken as a reflection of my opinion on the Mazda 3, which is probably the best car in its class at this moment. Take it as a prelude to my father’s concerns about my financial well-being. After all, GM Canada supplied me with the Silverado HD for a week, but the Cains supply the fuel.

See, I had told my parents that I could pick up their first-born and his wife and two of their kids and all their luggage at the airport in the Silverado HD so the patriarch and matriarch wouldn’t have to take two cars in order to manage the load. I was told that it would be quite late, and since I get quite sleepy rather early; since it’s a slightly longer drive from my house to Stanfield Airport way outside the city; since they’re anxious to see a family they haven’t seen in a year, I should just stay at home.2014 Chevrolet Silverado HD 2500 long box

The next day, however, I found out it was actually because my father didn’t think I should spend the money on fuel. Indeed, later in the week when we appeared at their place in our own car and not the Silverado HD, he once again asserted the view that it was because of fuel economy concerns, despite the fact that in long-box form, the Silverado simply didn’t fit in their parking lot. I kid you not.

But in real world terms, the diesel Silverado 2500 crew cab only consumed twice as much fuel as the Mazda. Let’s not kid ourselves, it’s certainly more than twice as capable.

Moreover, to what extent is (or should) fuel economy be a concern for buyers of a truck that costs $76,000 (before deep discounts) in Canada? That price, by the way, includes $23,040 in options on an LT-trim Silverado 2500, including the $11,115 Duramax diesel/Allison transmission combination, a combo which costs $8395 in the United States.

The Duramax isn’t installed in GM’s 2500/3500 pickups simply as a means of saving fuel. Diesels are the engines of choice in heavy duty pickup trucks because of the way in which their torque is delivered.

All of it comes on stream at 1600 rpm in the Ram Cummins, Ford PowerStroke, and this Duramax, although the Ram and F-Series diesels produce more torque, and the F-Series quite a bit more horsepower, too.2014 Chevrolet Silverado HD LT tow haul modeUnloaded and without a trailer, the Silverado HD didn’t so much feel like a torque monster as much as it felt like a very fast automobile. I can’t imagine how a full array of passengers, a fair amount of cargo, and anything less than a 6000-pound trailer would cause it to feel slow.

During its stay at our house, the Silverado didn’t max out its tow rating, I didn’t use a front end loader to throw a gigantic boulder into its bed like they used to in old Like A Rock commercials, and I didn’t transport five construction workers to a paving project on a main artery at rush hour.

This may have caused me to appreciate the Silverado’s range of abilities all the more, as its ride quality, mighty brakes, and genuinely normal handling by light-duty modern truck standards convinced me. I enjoy hushed cabins, comfortable thrones, masses of rear legroom, built-in bumper steps, and softly-sprung tailgates.

Outside of those extreme moments (of which there are surely more for the buyer of a truck like this) when the Chevrolet is pushed to its limits, this is a normal truck. And we live in an age in which normal trucks are very pleasant places in which to spend time. You won’t always tow a horse trailer. The bed will not always be loaded with lawn mowers and sod and mulch. I wanted to know if the Silverado HD was liveable, a normal vehicle to operate at times when it’s not executing abnormal job duties. It is.

I don’t like GM’s MyLink infotainment unit, because it’s slow, crawling through satellite radio stations like a snail who ingested too many of Colorado’s unique brownies. There’s quite a bit of disconnect in the steering for the first two inches or more on either side of center, though not an unexpected amount.

I’d like the HD version to be more stylistically differentiated from the 1500 trucks. The Z71 badges on the side of a bed this vast either need to disappear or grow large enough to look tough. Optional 20-inch wheels should look a lot more exciting than this quartet. If the front row’s middle occupant is going to be punished by a massive centre hump, couldn’t GM figure out a way to give them more than just a lap belt?

It’s also tough not to be tempted by the extra torque available in the GM twins’ two rivals. One might also assume that at some point, despite the goodness of their trucks, the concern analysts have over lost market share and the angst auto news writers have over recalls will cause GM’s actual buyers to rethink their own “time for a new Chevy pickup” notions.2014 Chevrolet Silverado HD LT woodsIncidentally, I did end up making it out to the airport. The neighbours and their 80-pound Husky/Border Collie didn’t want to pay to leave their car in long-term parking for nine days, and one morning they looked outside and saw an eight-foot bed attached to a four-door truck in the driveway next door. As you’d expect, the massive WestJet-approved dog crate and a load of luggage that included 50 pounds of meat for the dog didn’t test the cargo or payload capacity of the Silverado. Nor did the six pieces of eight-foot long quarter round trim I bought on the weekend.

Yet isn’t it interesting that the Duramax travelled 20.5 miles per gallon of diesel on that highway jaunt to the airport? (That’s about the same economy achieved by the Silverado 2500 HD in Winston Braithwaite’s hands.) Maybe it wouldn’t have been such a bad idea for the truck to complete the airport run earlier in the week, either, particularly considering the fuel economy of the Outback and Elantra that actually did make the trip: 23.5 and 31.4 mpg, respectively. Especially now that, in Nova Scotia’s regulated fuel market, diesel costs 23 cents less per gallon than regular gasoline.

Yes, this means instead of three Mazda 3s, you should buy one Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD Crew Cab.

In order to save money.

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Kia Eyeing Diesels For U.S. Market http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/kia-eyeing-diesels-for-u-s-market/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/kia-eyeing-diesels-for-u-s-market/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 15:20:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=863481 Kia is apparently looking at expanding into the niche diesel market in the United States – but not just yet. Speaking to Just Auto, Kia’s Orth Hendrick, who is VP of Product Planning, said “The problem right now is that there are different emissions standards in Europe and the US, which means we would be faced […]

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Kia is apparently looking at expanding into the niche diesel market in the United States – but not just yet.

Speaking to Just Auto, Kia’s Orth Hendrick, who is VP of Product Planning, said

“The problem right now is that there are different emissions standards in Europe and the US, which means we would be faced with different after-treatments, and that makes it very expensive…But with EU6 in 2017-18 there would be the same standards in both Europe and the US, and that gives us a better chance.”

Now, the question is, what will be Kia’s first diesel? If I had to place a bet, I’d say the next-generation Soul.

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FCA Is Hungry For Diesels http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/fca-is-hungry-for-diesels/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/fca-is-hungry-for-diesels/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 15:22:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=860921   Fiat Chrysler is hungry for more 3.0L VM Motori V6 diesel engines, but capacity constraints are limiting how many engines can be allocated for North America. VM Motori, a subsidiary of FCA, can build about 100,000 V6 diesel engines, with about half of those destined for North America. The V6 is offered in both […]

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2014-Ram-1500-diese-logo-450x337Fiat Chrysler is hungry for more 3.0L VM Motori V6 diesel engines, but capacity constraints are limiting how many engines can be allocated for North America.

VM Motori, a subsidiary of FCA, can build about 100,000 V6 diesel engines, with about half of those destined for North America. The V6 is offered in both the Ram 1500 pickup as well as the Jeep Grand Cherokee.

But a report in Automotive News paints an interesting picture of the demand for the V6 in each vehicle. The take rate for diesel Grand Cherokees has leveled off at about 8 percent, or 15,000 units annually.

By contrast, Ram boss Reid Bigland claims that

“We got well in excess of 10,000 orders in just the first few days that we opened this thing up, and that ordering and demand has really sustained itself,”

According to Bigland, the EcoDiesel Ram 1500s spend an average of 13 days on dealer lots, versus 94 days for gasoline versions. A search of Cars.com shows just 1,839 EcoDiesel Rams, but 3,907 Grand Cherokees, suggesting that the Ram (which sells in much bigger numbers) has a much tighter supply of their oil-burners.

Even so, Manley and Bigland denied that they are horse trading over diesel allocation for their respective brands.

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Next-Generation Jeep Wrangler To Take Fight To Soft-Roaders, Hold Rubicon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/next-generation-jeep-wrangler-to-take-fight-to-soft-roaders-hold-rubicon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/next-generation-jeep-wrangler-to-take-fight-to-soft-roaders-hold-rubicon/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 12:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=860793 With more SUVs preferring the high street over muddy, rocky trails, Jeep boss Mike Manley plans for the next-generation Wrangler to better compete against these soft-roaders while still maintaining its Rubicon cred. Automotive News reports Manley’s plan to include “continued improvements of the powertrain package,” which may mean being fitted with Chrysler’s eight-speed automatic and […]

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With more SUVs preferring the high street over muddy, rocky trails, Jeep boss Mike Manley plans for the next-generation Wrangler to better compete against these soft-roaders while still maintaining its Rubicon cred.

Automotive News reports Manley’s plan to include “continued improvements of the powertrain package,” which may mean being fitted with Chrysler’s eight-speed automatic and either a smaller gasoline engine than the current 3.6-liter V6 or a diesel like that found in Ram’s 1500 EcoDiesel.

Regarding weight, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne believes aluminium would be another key ingredient in not only bringing down weight, but improving fuel economy on top of the aforementioned powertrain upgrades.

As for the solid front and rear axles that give the Wrangler its off-road prowess to compensate for increased weight and rougher highway travel, Manley didn’t say whether or not they would stay for the next generation of the iconic vehicle — due sometime in 2017 at the earliest — though he vowed Jeep would not “dilute what Wrangler stands for,” citing his killing of the two-wheel-drive Wrangler upon taking the brand’s reins.

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Capsule Review: Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-jeep-grand-cherokee-ecodiesel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/capsule-review-jeep-grand-cherokee-ecodiesel/#comments Sat, 05 Jul 2014 16:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=848298 To most North American consumers, diesel is an exotic powertrain option, full of promise when it comes to torque and efficiency. It rarely delivers on the promise. Based on our impressions of the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, the same 3.0L V6 fitted to the Jeep Grand Cherokee seemed to be extremely promising – especially now that […]

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To most North American consumers, diesel is an exotic powertrain option, full of promise when it comes to torque and efficiency. It rarely delivers on the promise.

Based on our impressions of the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, the same 3.0L V6 fitted to the Jeep Grand Cherokee seemed to be extremely promising – especially now that gas prices have spiked to record highs. But something was lost in the transition from truck to SUV.

The most jarring difference is the lack of smoothness that won us over in the Ram. The same engine that is nearly silent and effortlessly smooth in the Ram seems to have a much more audible, agricultural note, with inferior NVH characteristics. Somehow, the leisure-oriented SUV ends up feeling more like the work vehicle.

Diesel die-hards may shrug this off as panty-waist behavior from someone not used to compression ignition engines, but convincing customers to spend the extra $4,500 is going to be a tough sell for anyone who didn’t buy a diesel Grand Cherokee last time around. Especially when they hit the remote start only to be greeted with a school-bus soundtrack on cold starts.

That’s not to say that there are only drawbacks with the diesel. There is prodigious torque on tap (420 lb-ft, and 240 horsepower), and all that power is a great match for the silky smooth 8-speed ZF gearbox. Even compared to the 5.7L Hemi, passing is effortless at speed, while highway cruising tends to downplay the drivetrain noise. Only the woosh of the turbo is heard when you summon the prodigious twist of the VM Motori V6.

The rest of the car, like all Grand Cherokees, is superb. The steering has more feel than many passenger cars, while the air suspension gives superb ride characteristics on any road. I am on record as being UConnect’s biggest fan, and I can think of no better car to cover long distances in. Except for a gasoline powered Grand Cherokee.

Even though the EcoDiesel returned about 27 mpg (and that’s cruising at 75 mph with the A/C on – the EPA rates it at 28 mpg highway), I would find it hard to justify buying anything beyond the Pentastar V6/8-speed combo, similar to what Jack’s father bought.

If you are doing serious towing, or covering enough miles to justify the added cost of the diesel engine (and the higher resale value of the diesel should also help), then perhaps it makes sense. For myself, and many other consumers, the V6, V8 – hell, even the SRT – models will make more sense, given how quickly the higher trim level Summit models with the EcoDiesel can breach the $60k barrier.

As far as I’m concerned, the Grand Cherokee is still the best SUV on sale at any price. It has just the right mix of luxury, performance and discretion to be appropriate in any environment. The driving experience is more in line with premium European offerings than anything built by America or Japan. And given all this, I had high hopes for the diesel, and it did deliver on the promise of V8-like power with much better fuel economy. But I’m not sure it’s the all-purpose solution that many people were expecting. For me, that would be a nicely equipped Laredo with the gasoline V6.

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Don’t Hold Your Breath For A Diesel Jeep Cherokee http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/dont-hold-your-breath-for-a-diesel-jeep-cherokee/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/dont-hold-your-breath-for-a-diesel-jeep-cherokee/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 12:30:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=853345 The Jeep Grand Cherokee received a diesel option earlier this year, but don’t look for the Cherokee to get one any time soon – at least not in North America. Speaking to Automotive News, Manley said that while the Grand Cherokee diesel take rate is about 8 percent, that number would have to increase before the […]

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The Jeep Grand Cherokee received a diesel option earlier this year, but don’t look for the Cherokee to get one any time soon – at least not in North America.

Speaking to Automotive News, Manley said that while the Grand Cherokee diesel take rate is about 8 percent, that number would have to increase before the Cherokee could get a diesel

“Cherokee is slightly different because of its weight and size. When I think about bringing Cherokee diesel here, I would like to see Grand Cherokee diesel get much higher than 8 percent…It would have to be in mid-double digits.”

While a diesel Cherokee likely has many fans on the internet, reality is more complex. A diesel Cherokee would have to sell in sufficient numbers to meet very stringent U.S. regulations, and would have to come in at a pricepoint that is palatable to American buyers. In the Grand Cherokee, the diesel carries a $4,500 premium.

There’s also the matter of capacity. With Jeep building about 250,000 units globally at its Toledo, Ohio plant, they may not have room to mess with the current model mix by adding a diesel. The Cherokee may not be tops on the compact CUV sales charts, sales are brisk and inventories are well controlled. Jeep is likely selling every Cherokee they can produce for the U.S. market, and a diesel may not be necessary – yet.

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Cadillac Won’t Give Up On The Dream Of European Success http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/cadillac-wont-give-up-on-the-dream-of-european-success/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/cadillac-wont-give-up-on-the-dream-of-european-success/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 11:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=853321 Despite a flimsy dealer network, a lack of diesel engines and a poisonous brand, GM still hasn’t given up on the idea of making Cadillac a global luxury brand that can sell cars in Europe. Speaking to AutoExpress, GM President Dan Amman expressed his desire to sell Cadillacs in Europe, despite its past failures. Amman […]

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Despite a flimsy dealer network, a lack of diesel engines and a poisonous brand, GM still hasn’t given up on the idea of making Cadillac a global luxury brand that can sell cars in Europe.

Speaking to AutoExpress, GM President Dan Amman expressed his desire to sell Cadillacs in Europe, despite its past failures. Amman also tacitly admitted that Cadillac would never be able to become a high volume brand or take on the German luxury brands – despite the fact that Cadillac has nakedly chased them in their home market of America

“But in the long term there is a role for Cadillac in Europe. Is it going to be a high-volume contender in the medium to long term future? Probably not. But is there a role for something other than the three German luxury brands? I think there is…We’ve got to figure out what it is, what our portfolio is, a different value proposition. But trying to out-German the Germans will not be the path to success. We have to have a different proposition.”

With a skeletal dealer network, unsuitable product for European tastes and road conditions (no diesel options is a complete non-starter) and an undesirable brand, it’s worth asking, why even bother?  Cadillac sold just 430 cars in Europe in 2012, with sales peaking at 3,000 cars in 2007. The brand has 40 dealers on the entire continent, and with diesels accounting for a reported 80 percent of premium car sales, this looks like nothing more than a vanity project, with GM wanting to sell Cadillacs in Europe just to bring the fight to the Germans on home turf – similar to VW’s folly in going after premium cars with the Phaeton, because Daimler dared to launch the compact Mercedes A-Class. And we know how that turned out.

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Ford’s Got A (Focus) ST-D http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/fords-got-a-focus-st-d/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/fords-got-a-focus-st-d/#comments Fri, 27 Jun 2014 01:33:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=853993   Ford’s Focus lineup has got an ST-D. D for diesel, that is. The Focus ST Diesel gets a 2.0 diesel making 182 horsepower and an 295 lb-ft of torque. On the European cycle, it gets 64.2 mpg and emits 114 grams per km of CO2. 60 mph comes up in 8.1 seconds, compared to […]

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Ford’s Focus lineup has got an ST-D. D for diesel, that is.

The Focus ST Diesel gets a 2.0 diesel making 182 horsepower and an 295 lb-ft of torque. On the European cycle, it gets 64.2 mpg and emits 114 grams per km of CO2. 60 mph comes up in 8.1 seconds, compared to 7.5 seconds for the VW Golf GTD.

The gasoline powered Focus ST gets a new start-stop system, while both cars get an updated interior with Ford’s revised SYNC system.

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Ford To Debut Focus ST Diesel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ford-to-debut-focus-st-diesel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/ford-to-debut-focus-st-diesel/#comments Mon, 23 Jun 2014 20:02:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=850322 A new Ford Focus ST is set to be debuting at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this weekend. In addition to a facelift (to better align it with the facelifted 2015 Focus), Just-Auto is also reporting that a diesel variant will be offered alongside the 2.0L Ecoboost engine. Any bets on whether it will arrive in […]

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A new Ford Focus ST is set to be debuting at the Goodwood Festival of Speed this weekend.

In addition to a facelift (to better align it with the facelifted 2015 Focus), Just-Auto is also reporting that a diesel variant will be offered alongside the 2.0L Ecoboost engine. Any bets on whether it will arrive in North America? I’ll say “no”. The ST Diesel wagon is sure to be the new “most lusted after” hot hatch on the interwebs. You can bet on that.

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Nissan Aiming For European Diesel Van Fleets With e-NV200 EV http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nissan-aiming-for-european-diesel-van-fleets-with-e-nv200-ev/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/nissan-aiming-for-european-diesel-van-fleets-with-e-nv200-ev/#comments Mon, 23 Jun 2014 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=850162 Though diesel rules the delivery fleet in Europe, Nissan would like fleet managers to leave oil-burning behind for the all-electric e-NV200. Automotive News Europe reports brand general manager for product strategy and planning Thomas Ebeling believes the EV would be a better fit over diesel power, thanks to 40 percent lower costs of operation and […]

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Though diesel rules the delivery fleet in Europe, Nissan would like fleet managers to leave oil-burning behind for the all-electric e-NV200.

Automotive News Europe reports brand general manager for product strategy and planning Thomas Ebeling believes the EV would be a better fit over diesel power, thanks to 40 percent lower costs of operation and better handling due to the van’s low center of gravity and wider stance than the competition. The brand says 200,000 commercial vans are in service over European roads at present, and though it hasn’t offered how many e-NV200s will be sold to replace them, Nissan believes all of those vans are potential customers.

There are a few challenges to meeting that goal. For starters, the van is currently made in one location: Barcelona, Spain. Output is expected to reach 1,200 units in 2015 for the global market, 2,742 by 2020. Another factor is price: German fleet operators pay €16,480 ($22,418 USD) with tax for petrol versions of the NV200, and €18,390 ($25,017) for diesel power. The e-NV200, by comparison, would cost €29,819 ($40,564) with tax and battery purchase, though operators could also pay a monthly rental fee of €87 ($118) for the pack, dropping the price to €23,919 ($32,538).

The e-NV200 is already in showrooms in Italy, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom, and will arrive in Teutonic and Nordic countries later this summer before entering Japan in October. As for the United States, Nissan is currently conducting trial runs to determine market viability before deciding whether to bring the commercial EV to market.

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Reader Review: BMW 120d http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/reader-review-bmw-120d/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/reader-review-bmw-120d/#comments Tue, 10 Jun 2014 12:00:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=840642 Reader Antoun sends us this review of a BMW 120d rental car from his most recent trip to Europe.  The BMW 120d is right at the bullseye of unrequited desire for – well, you, assuming you’re a compulsive reader of car blogs, where the irrationality of the wagon-on-stilts crossover craze and needlessly-complicated hybrid technology are […]

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Reader Antoun sends us this review of a BMW 120d rental car from his most recent trip to Europe. 

The BMW 120d is right at the bullseye of unrequited desire for – well, you, assuming you’re a compulsive reader of car blogs, where the irrationality of the wagon-on-stilts crossover craze and needlessly-complicated hybrid technology are well-worn topics. On paper, the 120d is the best of both worlds. To the performance junkie, it could be a sports car: rear-wheel drive, a touch over 3100 lbs of curb weight, and a turbo motor that kicks out 184 horsepower (measured in the Euro way, optimistic by US standards) and – get this – 280 ft/lbs of torque. Best of all, it can still be ordered with a 6-speed manual transmission and a real clutch pedal.

The 120d is also a practical five-door daily driver, with a reasonably sized and reasonably square cargo area accessible through a usefully yawning hatchback. At 170.2 inches long, it’s 4 inches shorter than an E36 3-series and a whole foot shorter than the current 3-Series.

So, is it the epiphany that internet forum-dwellers expect from the spec sheet? I spent ten days using a rental 120d for a variety of tasks, including carrying friends, family, and lots of luggage back and forth from train station to hotel. Several of our guests were of the occasional-traveler variety, with all of the ill-advised and oversize luggage choices that implies. We never ran out of room. A US-spec 1-series coupe would have had us running for a roof rack and ratchet straps.

I also spent time schlepping up the A1 highway between Rome and Florence with a fair number of detours to Tuscan towns on Italian country roads.

The local Italian drivers seem to always have their personal mannetinos set to “corsa” – Italian driving has less in common with an American commute than with the chaotic 3rd hour of a 24 Hours of Lemons race. In that context, the 120d’s chassis was a welcome dance partner, nice enough to make enthusiasts of 1990s BMWs quit kvetching. On both highways and bumpier secondary roads, the ride had the suppleness you would expect of a much larger car. Importantly, this car came with Bridgestone Turanza 300ER tires, which in this application are not of the run-flat variety. This takes a lot of the high-frequency jitteriness out of the ride when compared to the US-spec 3-series. It rolls much less than you’d expect given the compliant ride, and never seemed to run out of suspension travel. The car will hold a line through corners without getting unsettled by bumps, camber changes, or changes of elevation. It’s adjustable, albeit within narrow limits: the rear end will wiggle a bit if you are aggressive with the gas pedal in 1st or 2nd gear, but it never seems to step out at a massive angle despite all that torque. Overly-aggressive entry speeds will bring understeer, but the front tires never wash out to the “uh-oh” point, even with the stability control turned fully off.

What the 120d lacks is ultimate grip. Those Bridgestones are only 205/55-16s and designed for low rolling resistance – so if you’re looking for a mini-M3 this isn’t quite it. But the predictability of the chassis setup makes it a great tool for covering unfamiliar ground quickly, and the process is definitely fun.

The brakes – very important in Roman traffic! – are also fantastic. They have lots of feel, are easy to modulate, and able to brake beyond the limits of tire grip. On mountain roads of the variety that car commercials sell you, we never felt fade, even when loaded up with 2 people and lots of luggage.

One downside is the steering. The steering has moved to an electromechanical system with this generation of 1-series, but – surprise! – feedback is not really the issue. Yes, it lacks the kick and fizz of an E90’s wheel, but it gives more feedback than the current 3-Series and a lot more than an Audi A3 or A4. The real issue here is that the steering is weirdly non-linear: dead right on center, then responsive, then slower toward the end of the lock. The net effect is that it’s hard to steer smoothly, particularly into longer faster bends. When driving an unfamiliar car in the cut-and-thrust of Roman ring road traffic, hilarity and head-tossing ensue.

The interior was very familiar to those who have ridden in a modern BMW. Finely-grained plastics and rubber-coated knobs and buttons are all nice to touch. The cloth seats were ridiculously good, as comfortable as the more-bolstered Sport seats that BMW fits. For me, the seats fitted to non-Sport-package US BMWs usually don’t have a long enough bottom cushion to be supportive, but these seats had no such problems. 3- and 4-hour stints behind the wheel were pain-free.

So the car has a lot of the known BMW virtues, with a bit more old-skool BMW-ness than you might expect. What about that forbidden-fruit motor, so tempting to car guys trapped in the Garden of CUVs? It’s a turbo 4 with all the modern electronics that BMW can put an InterCapped marketing moniker on (TwinPower, EfficientDynamics, etc). Whoever tuned the exhaust deserves a promotion: from inside the car you hear a silky and deep-throated thrum that sounds nothing like the Cummins in a half-ton truck. Fans of Volvo red-block motors and 5-cylinder Audis will find this engine sounds familiar. More importantly, it felt at least as smooth, and maybe smoother, than the Audi TDIs that are this car’s natural showroom rival. With the windows rolled down you hear somewhat more rackety diesel noises, but in a world where direct-injection gas motors are fairly clickety-clackety, this engine sounds good.

The upside to this motor is the massive torque, and the price you pay for it is the narrow powerband. It has some turbo lag below about 1400 RPM, and runs out of breath noticeably at 4500 before redlining at 5500. In between – which, let’s face it, is where most real-world driving happens – the car feels revvy and eager. It’s got enough torque to lug around in 3rd gear all day long without feeling flat-footed. BMW says it goes from 0-60 in 7.2 seconds, and I don’t doubt it, but in the midrange it feels more like a low-6-second car. The disappointment here is that right at the point on the tach where you expect a BMW to take a deep breath and start charging harder, in the 120d it’s time to upshift.

And since you’re using that gearshift often enough to star in your own personal remake of BJ and the Bear, you will quickly come to find that it’s engineered for low NVH rather than a positive feel. The side-to-side action is well-sprung and pleasantly mechanical, but sliding the lever forward or back into gear is uncomfortably rubbery. There’s at least a half-inch of additional squishy action after the lever is actually in a gear. It takes some of the tactile joy out of driving the car fast on twisty roads. But the clutch takeup is perfect and the shift action is nothing a short-shift kit couldn’t fix. I’d still choose the manual over an automatic.

Our rental was the Unique trim level. A little irony, that: there’s nothing unique about yet another silver BMW with a black interior. Apparently this trim level gives you additional electronic and power toys (USB and phone jack input, Bluetooth, power seats) without going all the way to the expensive navigation system. iDrive is there, now with slightly flashier graphics and less infuriating user interface. If you like your cars to have a blinky screen on the dash, then you’ll probably think this one is okay, but not quite as great as a full-lux Audi MMI. If you’re old enough that your perception of “luxury” has nothing to do with accessibility to your Twitter feed, then this car’s interface will be perfectly adequate.

After nearly 1000 miles, I came to think that this car would be a perfect daily driver, in a way that our US-market 1-series, with its less practical coupe-only body style, wouldn’t be for most people. Prices are notoriously difficult to compare across continents, but in the UK it’s about 15% cheaper than an X1 crossover with the same engine. It gives up 2 inches of rear legroom and 10% of its cargo space compared to the X1, a difference that solo commuters and families with baby-seat-age kids might never notice.

I also came away thinking that the car would be even more of a driver’s car with more power at the top end of the rev range, like you might get from oh, say, a gasoline-fed inline-6. It’s not surprising that the M135i version of this hatchback, powered by the same 300-horse turbocharged motor found in our US-market 235s and 335s, has been a darling of the European press.

Here’s the kicker, though: We used only one and three-eighths of a tank of gas, over the course of a 1000 mile trip. We averaged over 55 MPG according to the trip computer, slightly above the car’s UK urban rating of 53MPG and well below its “extra-urban” rating of 69MPG. The M135i is rated at 27.4 urban / 35.3 extra-urban on the same UK rating scale. Would you give up 2000 RPM of powerband to get a 120d’s fuel economy? In hybrid-obsessed America, there is clearly a demographic that would. Are there enough of them to justify BMW’s cost to certify the motor in the U.S.? There is some astute spreadsheet jockey deep in the bowels of BMW’s product planning group who, I’m sure, knows the answer. The question, as always, is whether BMW’s U.S. product lineup reflects this spreadsheet jockey’s gimlet-eyed analysis of demand, or whether there is a truth that has not yet filtered up to the boardroom.

N.B. we are using a rights-free image due to a lack of original photography, hence the discrepancy between the article and the photo.

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Diesel Grows In Popularity Despite Price Fluctuations At The Pump http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/diesel-grows-in-popularity-despite-price-fluctuations-at-the-pump/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/diesel-grows-in-popularity-despite-price-fluctuations-at-the-pump/#comments Fri, 23 May 2014 12:00:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=829361 Though diesel power is experience increased popularity among United States consumers, the wild fluctuations in the price for a gallon of diesel may put some potential oil-burner owners back on the gasoline bandwagon. Detroit Free Press reports the price fluctuations are linked to circumstances unrelated to those affecting prices for gasoline. Gasbuddy.com chief oil analyst […]

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Though diesel power is experience increased popularity among United States consumers, the wild fluctuations in the price for a gallon of diesel may put some potential oil-burner owners back on the gasoline bandwagon.

Detroit Free Press reports the price fluctuations are linked to circumstances unrelated to those affecting prices for gasoline. Gasbuddy.com chief oil analyst Tom Kloza explains that part of the swings that occurred this winter was due to the similarities between diesel and heating oil in wide use throughout Europe and the Northeastern United States. Another factor was increased demand for natural gas, prompting utilities and businesses to use diesel to generate electricity. Those and other unnamed factors drove the global price for a barrel of diesel between $119 to $130 in Q4 2013 and Q1 2014.

As for the overall market, organizations such as IHS Automotive and Diesel Technology Forum expect adoption rates of 6 percent to 9 percent by 2020, compared to 3 percent of the U.S. market currently. In addition, some 40 new vehicles are expected to enter showrooms within the next two years, ranging from pickups and SUVs to compact cars.

Diesel’s new-found popularity in the U.S. and developing economies means the oil fuel is the most common around the globe, surpassing gasoline. In turn, refiners and governments will see more profit in production and taxation from diesel.

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2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen Will Not Have AWD – Yet http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/2015-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen-will-not-have-awd-yet/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/2015-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen-will-not-have-awd-yet/#comments Tue, 13 May 2014 21:25:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=819938 Volkswagen officially announced their new 2015 Golf Sportwagen (nee Jetta Sportwagen) for the US market. And they’re still unclear about whether it will get 4Motion AWD. Despite rumors to the contrary, Volkswagen told TTAC that they are still “investigating AWD”. For now, FWD will be the only option, along with a 1.8T gas engine (with […]

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Golf SportWagen Exterior

Volkswagen officially announced their new 2015 Golf Sportwagen (nee Jetta Sportwagen) for the US market. And they’re still unclear about whether it will get 4Motion AWD.

Despite rumors to the contrary, Volkswagen told TTAC that they are still “investigating AWD”. For now, FWD will be the only option, along with a 1.8T gas engine (with a 5-speed manual or 6-speed auto) or a 2.0 TDI with either 6-speed manual or DSG gearboxes. VW says that cargo space will rival many small SUVs, and now it’s up to all of you to buy them, rather than just let the internet know how great wagons are.

Golf SportWagen Trunk Golf SportWagen Interior Golf SportWagen Exterior

 

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Junkyard Find: 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Diesel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/junkyard-find-1980-volkswagen-dasher-diesel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/junkyard-find-1980-volkswagen-dasher-diesel/#comments Fri, 09 May 2014 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=817145 The original Volkswagen Passat, which was essentially an Audi 80, was sold in the United States as the Dasher. We saw this two-door diesel Dasher at a Northern California wrecking yard last year, then this first-cousin gasoline-burning ’75 Audi Fox a couple months back, and now we’re heading back to California for a super-rare four-door […]

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24 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe original Volkswagen Passat, which was essentially an Audi 80, was sold in the United States as the Dasher. We saw this two-door diesel Dasher at a Northern California wrecking yard last year, then this first-cousin gasoline-burning ’75 Audi Fox a couple months back, and now we’re heading back to California for a super-rare four-door diesel Dasher.
02 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car was slow even by generous 1980 standards, but diesel fuel economy must have made diesel VW buyers feel smart. I took my driver-training classes in a Rabbit Diesel, and I’m pretty sure the top speed of that car was about 52 mph.
13 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car appears to have been driven down from Alaska, judging from the body rust, moss growing on the trim, and these parking stickers.
14 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior is packed with damp Alaska Airlines aircraft shop manuals, probably a couple hundred pounds of them.
15 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI’m sure I could have picked up a Boeing manual for cheap or even free, but I decided that I’d be able to live without it.
09 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWas it still running when it got scrapped? Who can say?
16 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt’s hard to use up a car this thoroughly.

01 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 1980 Volkswagen Dasher Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Volkswagen Delivers The Holy Grail With Golf SportWagen 4Motion TDI http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/volkswagen-delivers-the-holy-grail-with-golf-sportwagen-4motion-tdi/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/volkswagen-delivers-the-holy-grail-with-golf-sportwagen-4motion-tdi/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 19:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=793858   This is Volkswagen’s Golf SportWagen concept, which the automaker will be bringing to New York’s Auto Show. The “concept” shown here is what we can expect when the car goes on sale in early 2015, save for two key details. The upcoming Golf SportWagen is confirmed for the corporate 1.8T gasoline four-cylinder engine. This […]

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This is Volkswagen’s Golf SportWagen concept, which the automaker will be bringing to New York’s Auto Show. The “concept” shown here is what we can expect when the car goes on sale in early 2015, save for two key details.

The upcoming Golf SportWagen is confirmed for the corporate 1.8T gasoline four-cylinder engine. This concept has a 2.0L TDI engine and all-wheel drive, satisfying the wishes of the Internet Product Planning Brigade by saving them from the horrific ignominy of having a front-drive, diesel wagon. And yes, it will have a manual gearbox and a DSG option.

Both the 1.8T and a front-drive TDI SportWagen seem like done deals. The prospect of an AWD version has been a long-standing rumor, with VW apparently looking at it as an alternative to the Subaru Outback.

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Ford, King Ranch “Brownout” the Houston Rodeo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ford-king-ranch-add-extra-brown-to-the-houston-rodeo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/ford-king-ranch-add-extra-brown-to-the-houston-rodeo/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 12:03:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=779481 Perhaps you haven’t lived in a flyover state where brown leather gear dominates your town during Rodeo season.  While the Ford+King Ranch press release celebrating the 15th Anniversary of those famous brown leather pickups reached the autoblogosphere, only a local writer with an internationally known knack for automotive snark both finds the sweet mochalicious lede and […]

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Perhaps you haven’t lived in a flyover state where brown leather gear dominates your town during Rodeo season.  While the Ford+King Ranch press release celebrating the 15th Anniversary of those famous brown leather pickups reached the autoblogosphere, only a local writer with an internationally known knack for automotive snark both finds the sweet mochalicious lede and refuses to bury it in the dirt.

And what does that mean?  You gotta click to find out.

I’ve been blacklisted (brownlisted?) from Ford PR events as long as I remember, but I attended this shindig via the King Ranch side of the Ford+King Ranch love fest.  So I donned my cheap cowhide boots, my thrift store boot cut jeans and herded the Duratec Ranger’s 150-ish horses to the Rodeo…pardner.

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As the massive complex–housing the once amazing Astrodome—filled up, I noticed how this Rodeo’s grown in the last 10-20 years.  Ford’s booth hawked their latest wares much like any auto show, complete with a “media only” area for us bloggers, social media influencers and local autojournos. There was the new aluminum F-150, the new-ish Expedition and the current Super Duty…all in King Ranch guise, ‘natch.

And yes, the King Ranch is actually a famous Ranch, much like Bill Blass was a name on Lincolns attached to an actual person. They sold cowboy grade stuff nearby at their Saddle Shop at the Rodeo, too. But I digress…

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So what does a native Houstonian think of the aluminum cage’d F150? Pretty cool inside and out, as their design/engineering embodies continuous improvement, even if the rig is far too big for its own good. The doors close with less vault-like heft of the last-gen steel body, but it still feels great. And even the door card is all kinds of broughamy from the days of Ford LTDs with covered headlights and Ghia-clad Granadas.

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Now, even more than before, Ford’s take on the American Workhorse is the unquestioned Audi of Pickups.

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The new Expedition is a modest evolution, lacking the “WTF” face of the Tahoe’s buzz saw headlights. Its refined snout is a pleasurable throwback to the beard trimming grille of the UR-Fusion.

The hallmark all-wheel independent suspension and the massive fold flat 3rd row seat still bowl me over: shame on GM for not following suit.  But the interior feels distinctly cheap compared to the F-150. But every Ford product takes an R&D back seat to the almighty F-series, right? #pantherlove

 

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The Super Duty (ever present on the Rodeo’s dirt floor) has a new oil-burnin’ motor for 2015, but the stuff you can touch looks about the same.  The new-ish center stack loaded with SYNC looks functional enough, but again, the interior lacks the refinement of the F150.  Ditto the exterior.  But the King Ranch trimming in all three models drove home the fact that this is the brownest lineup in the car biz. Or at least the truck biz…and it’s been that way for 15 years now?

And, as a founding member of the Brown Car Appreciation Society on Facebook, a tail-wags-the-dog group that made brown as “important” as diesels and manual transmissions to auto journos and to the PR flacks that do anything to get their attention, it’s nice to believe our mission adds to the King Ranch’s reach. Because brown makes the King Ranch a cut above, even if the leather isn’t as buttery soft as before: hopefully the lack of tenderness means it’ll hold up better than older models.

Ford also had a brief presentation, after most guests Frank Bacon-ized themselves with free food/booze in the luxury suite.  Succumbing to the urge I felt in 2011 when buying my Ranger, I asked the Ford F-series rep why Dearborn talked me out of an F-150 by making it impossible to configure what I wanted: a regular cab, XLT, short bed, 4×4, limited slip differential with the 6.2L Hurricane-Boss V8.  You know, a Ford Tremor without the poseur trim, the tacky console and a half-ton of big block V8 instead of that funny soundin’ EcoBoost motor.

The rep went into some detail about the cost-benefit of offering everything under the sun (a fair point for any corporation, to some extent) and then threw me a bone:

“You definitely know what you want, maybe we can accommodate you in the future.”

So if the BOSS V8 ever shows up in some twisted FoMoCo homage to the GMC Syclone…well…YOU ARE WELCOME, SON. For now, enjoy these chocolatey photos showing a time when Ford, King Ranch and a lot of brown joined forces to impress rodeo-going pistonheads.

 

 

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Hammer Time: The Third Set http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/hammer-time-the-third-set/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/hammer-time-the-third-set/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 17:16:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=772345 “Gimme Carter!!! Gimme Carter!!!” “You can have him!” My brother Lewis, a lifelong conservative was watching me, a hyperactive  six year old, pointing eagerly at our home’s only TV. “I’m voting for Reagan.” “Pa-tau!!1 Pa-tau! To a 1st grader’s ear, the word Reagan sounded just like “Ray gun”. And for all I knew, Carter and […]

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“Gimme Carter!!! Gimme Carter!!!”

“You can have him!” My brother Lewis, a lifelong conservative was watching me, a hyperactive  six year old, pointing eagerly at our home’s only TV.

“I’m voting for Reagan.”

“Pa-tau!!1 Pa-tau! To a 1st grader’s ear, the word Reagan sounded just like “Ray gun”. And for all I knew, Carter and Reagan were locked in some Star Wars parallel universe fighting each other for control of the presidency.

Lord knows that 34 years later, I would need every single ounce of that youthful imagination to get through a day long movie shoot.

My wife and I always try to spend one day out of the month together. No kids. No work responsibilities. Just the privacy and solitude that comes with two people who are well-matched in what has become a picky, picky world.

She wants to get back into the film and video world, part-time, and so I took it upon myself to get two vehicles that would be a good fit for that elusive older car that looks neither brand new nor decrepit.

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The 1980 Cadillac Seville that I mentioned last week was the optimal fit for this journey.  Black on black. Perfect leather seats. A little bit of wear. But not enough to make it look like anything more than a five year old car for the one to two seconds it would wind up on film.  After I put in a new master cylinder and properly bled out the brakes, it was good to go.

The second car was a more interesting case. I had sold a 1983 Mercedes 300D Turbodiesel to a fellow that I thought was a hardcore Mercedes enthusiast for all of $1700. I only made about $400 out of the deal. But I always take personal pride in making sure older cars are given to true enthusiasts. Instead of chucking it to someone looking to donate a car to the human hurricane within their family.

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I got a great deal on that old Benz and in turn, left nothing to chance. New filters, fluids, brakes, two new tires. I spent about $300 prepping it for sale in parts and sold it to a guy who I thought would do a good job keeping it.

The good news is he didn’t abuse it. The bad news was that I couldn’t find out whether he took the lease amount of effort of changing the oil.

He said he did it recently. But a quart low already? The alignment is off? And that inner-tie rod end needs to be replaced? Mother of pearl!

A friend of mine who works for Porsches and Maseratis decided to give me the full-report on it while I handled the Cadillac.  The Cadillac was flawless. The Mercedes? Still tight. Just minor stuff…

“You’re getting picky-picky with this one Steve! Damn things old enough to be a Grandma in Alabama.”

“My wife wants to drive it out to a movie shoot. She hates big cars. So I’m gonna be drivin’ out the Caddy.”

“Get her an Impala or a Malibu instead Steve. I hate the smell of this diesel…$^^%$!!!”

My wife came by with her 1st gen Prius, and after I spent over ninety-five dollars filling the two vehicles up, we headed straight for Conyers, Georgia. A small town located somewhere between civilization and Deliverance.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The drive was the usual homicidal freakshow that is Atlanta traffic.  Folks don’t use their turn signals. Cell phones are surgically attached to most commuters, and two people driving 65 mph are justifiably banished to the right side of the freeway where they belong.

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The Cadillac was just majestic. GM ‘s styling may have been a bit off the mark for this generation of Seville. But the 6.0 Liter Cadillac 368 engine was just perfectly matched to this particular generation, and it’s a shame that GM decided to off it after only one year for their diesel and 8/6/4 abominations. As for steering and handling,  you can do the same exact one finger cruising with this car that you can do for nearly any good Lincoln or Cadillac of days gone by… and it’s easier to drive than the Mercedes.

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The Mercedes was meh. A 300D is expected to be infinitely higher in decibels than an old school Caddy and, even for the time, it wasn’t quite a luxury car.

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I will admit that the material quality alone is easily a parallel universe beyond the Cadillac.  All the fake wood and cheaper vinyl of the Cadillac pales to the glory that is the W123’s design and engineering excellence.

That difference though is eliminated once you turn the key.

For the experience that is daily driving through a busy metropolitan area, I preferred the Cadillac. It has enough luxury to keep you isolated from the rampant vehicular stupidity that surrounds, you while allowing the driver to hear the smoothness of a big Detroit 6.0 Liter V8 over the 3.0 Liter clackety-clack-clack of the Mercedes. This noise difference is especially noticeable during the interminable traffic jams that happened on the ride back.

We didn’t hit anything other than air molecules for this first 35 miles journey. We arrived early. Just in time for the most important event for movie extras between the waiting and the shooting.

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The eating. Lunch for a successful TV program is a true wonder to behold, and since there were only a few extras for this show which we’ll assume is called, “Go And Throw Ice At The Devil!”. Since there were only two of us at the time, we were spared of the usual culinary segregation and got to eat with the cast and crew.

I saw a familiar face as soon as I got out of the Seville. “Steve! I miss that old yellow pickup truck!”

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“It’s down the street from me. The guy is using it for his lawnmower repair business.”

“He’s not restoring it? Damn! I wanted that thing.”

“I’ve been to his house. The family doesn’t believe in anything after 1984. He spent an hour going through the truck and it’s now the ugliest good running truck in town. ”

Brando and I caught up on life, and my wife caught up on crossword puzzles. At least until the opening shoot.

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It was supposed to easy. The main character leaves his driveway in some Grizwold 1970’s woody wagon. My wife’s car goes straight past. The Caddy turns right, a Ford truck turns left, and a Triumph TR6 idles away at a stop sign.

Sounds easy enough? Not when you don’t have enough walky-talkies.

We did the shot 16 times. 16 TIMES! And every time I did the shoot, I got an unwelcome surprise.

The police officer blocking off the road I turned into decided to change his cruiser’s parking position after each shoot. Why? I have no idea. His vehicle wasn’t even in the camera shot. But sure enough, every single time I made that turn, I found myself performing another new and exciting three point turn with a 34 year old Cadillac.

“Ka-thunk! Ka-thunk!” Asthamtic sounding acceleration back to position. Then wait….

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I also discovered something else. Black on black plus even a 70 degree time will equal about 90 degrees inside one of these things. The A/C worked, thanks to the prior owner who converted it into R134. Unfortunately the director wanted the vehicles to idle at all times. So we likely wasted about $30 worth of gas in the shooting process.

None of the cars broke down or even overheated. However the Triumph had more blue smoke than anything I had ever seen that didn’t already have a two stroke engine in it. I’m willing to bet that the thing was dirtier than any old scooter you can find… but it ran. That vehicle was a bit rough around the edges. But this gorgeous Riviera helped smooth out the line-up that day.

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After the shoot, we had dinner and then… a holding cell. No joke. The extras had to stay four abreast in a 2 foot by 10 foot room with no nuttin’ for two hours.

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Conversation, yes. Smartphone? Wonderful! A TV? Surely, you’re joking Mr. Feynman.

Once the clock struck exactly 8:48 P.M. we were out on parole. No overtime this time. Brando signed us out and we quickly made a 37 mile skedaddle towards the north Georgia woodlands we call home.

Will we do it again? Probably. However, Georgia weather is rather nasty and brutish during the summer time. A Malibu with light colored cloth and a snow white exterior may be the perfect match for the next set.

 

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Review: 2014 Opel Astra Manual Diesel Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/review-2014-opel-astra-manual-diesel-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/review-2014-opel-astra-manual-diesel-wagon/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 12:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=761313 Recently, Mark Reuss told media that he would like GM to have an American wagon. If this happens, the prime candidate is the Chevy Cruze Wagon, which already exists – and is also offered with diesel engine and manual transmission. But what if GM wanted something more upscale? What if Reuss’ dream wagon is meant […]

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Recently, Mark Reuss told media that he would like GM to have an American wagon. If this happens, the prime candidate is the Chevy Cruze Wagon, which already exists – and is also offered with diesel engine and manual transmission. But what if GM wanted something more upscale? What if Reuss’ dream wagon is meant to be a Buick?

Several cars in the Buick line are siblings to European Opels (or Vauxhalls, in Great Britain). Two of them are also available as wagons – the Insignia Sports Tourer is basically Buick Regal Estate Wagon, and the Opel Astra Sports Tourer would make, with some re-badging, a nice Buick Verano Estate Wagon. The Astra/Verano is probably the better candidate for the American wagon, since it’s almost as roomy inside as Regal/Insignia (with seats folded flat, it actually has more cargo space), and is significantly cheaper.

Why not go all the way, and make it a sporty diesel, manual wagon. Last year, the Astra’s engine line-up was enhanced by addition of the 190hp 2.0 CDTI Biturbo version. Actually, it’s more than just an engine option – Biturbo comes as  a separate equipment level, somewhere half-way between ordinary Astras and the full-on sporty OPC version. It doesn’t have the same clever Hi-Per strut front suspension the OPC and GTC (that’s the three door hatch coupe version), but it’s been lowered, fitted with stylish 18” wheels and dual exhaust tips, special seats and a trick front spoiler.

The core of the Biturbo package is the engine. Two-liter diesel plant with common-rail direct injection offers some 190 horsepower and 235 lb-ft (320 Nm) sent to the front wheels through the six-speed manual gearbox. That puts the Astra Biturbo right on the border of the diesel hot hatch/hot wagon territory – but the Biturbo is not nearly so ostentatious. In fact, seeing that it’s not called the “OPC diesel”, it seems that Opel really wanted it to be more of a fast GT than a realy sports wagon.

The Biturbo’s exterior is quite restrained – no wings or flares or vivid paint to tell everyone you bought “the fast one”. Thanks to the slightly different front bumper, large (and really pretty) wheels and lowered ride height, the Biturbo looks more handsome than “ordinary” Astras, but unless parked beside one, most people will never notice why it even looks different. They’ll just like it a bit more than they usually like Astras. It makes for a wonderful sleeper.

Once you open the door, things change. The seats with red highlights and a silly “tire tread” motif seem incongruous with the discreet exterior. And I suspect that older people will have slight problem getting out of the front ones, since they’re really heavily sculpted.

But as the driver, you will probably love them. They offer lots of support, and even the base version is widely adjustable (you can add more adjustment as an option). I would really like to have an adjustable headrest, as it was too much forward, but overall, the seats are nice. And it gets even better once you reach for the wheel. The fact that it’s adjustable both in rake and reach is pretty much normal these days, but most cars are lacking in the range of adjustment. If you like to sit in the “proper” position, with the steering wheel high and close to your chest, and the backrest as vertical as you can bear, you run into all sorts of problems – usually with not enough range. In the Astra, it took me just a few moments to find a nearly perfect driving position. And the steering wheel’s thickness and diameter was spot-on as well, although the shape was not. I have never understood what was wrong about steering wheels being round… this ain’t no racecar, dudes!

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Remember everything you heard about the modern diesels being so refined you hardly even know that you’re not running on gas? This is not the case, even though the Astra uses a very sophisticated common-rail system. The Biturbo two-liter may sound more refined than the old N/A plants from W123 or W124 Benzes, but it isn’t that much quieter.

Shifting into first brings much more positive thoughts. The shifter action is light and quite precise. Maybe not the best in the business, but certainly pleasant to use. Leaving the parking lot, you notice the first difference between the Biturbo and ordinary Astra, in the form of loud scratching sound when the front splitter hits the ground for the first of many times. In the beginning, you drive slow and carefully to prevent this from happening. Then, you realize it’s pointless exercise and just wonder when you’ll rip it off (as I found out later, Opel employees bolted the splitter to the bumper to prevent journos from losing it somewhere).

From a European perspective, the Astra feels massive inside. Compared competitors like the Ford Focus or Renault Mégane, it seems to be just so much bigger – which gives you a feeling of safety, but also makes parking quite tricky. If you’re buying one, don’t forget to add both front and rear parking sensors, or, better yet, a back-up camera.

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I may have criticized the Tesla Model S for having no tactile controls, but the Astra is at the other end of the spectrum. There’s incomprehensible sea of buttons, captioned with confusing acronyms. If you’re new to the car, you will be hopelessly lost. I did find myself acclimating to this layout as I drove it, but I’d be worried if that didn’t happen.

Quibbles aside, the Astra is a nice car to drive. Even with the Biturbo’s stiffer suspension and on large 18” wheels, it’s reasonably supple. Hit the sport button and you’re treated to less steering assistance, quicker accelerator response and the red glow of the instruments – of, and the adjustable dampers firm up, making the ride a bit more brittle. Luckily, you can disable any of these. I really hated the red instruments.

While most of the diesel hot hatches seem stuck on getting the best Nurburgring lap time – and suffering for it in the real world- the Astra feels more grown-up, more comfortable . On our drive into the twisties, with sport mode on and the radio turned down, the Astra delivered a competent, but not exactly exhilirating performance. Handling was fairly neutral, even with the heavy diesel engine up front. Like most modern racks, the steering has a bit of a dead-zone on-center, but it’s well weighted. The clutch and gear change are all nicely done.

But American wagon enthusiasts need to temper their expectations. This is not a fiesty hot hatch like the Focus ST. It feels much more like a GT, at home on highways rather than back roads, and all its heft – perceived or real (it weighs about 3700 lbs) makes it feel like it was meant to be a Buick from the beginning.

The only trouble is that once you get to cruising speed and the engine noise fades into background, it’s replaced by even more unpleasant road and aerodynamic noise. At typical A-road speed of 50-70mph, it’s a bit annoying, but not terrible. At highway speeds of 80 or 90mph, it starts to bother you. And if you’re in the hurry and try to keep the Astra at 110-120mph, it’s hard to even listen to the radio.

Fuel economy is one area that doesn’t disappoint. At a typical relaxed pace (55-60mph on major roads), the Astra can get over 40 mpg. And only when driven really hard in the twisties, with the pedal to the metal on each and every straight and the speedo needle sometimes nudging 100mph, it barely gets under 20mpg. High-speed, cruising with speeds in the triple digits brought similar numbers.

Astra_05

 But, would the diesel Verano (GSD, maybe?) be a good car for America? I’m not sure. First of all, the economics for a diesel passenger car rare make sense with fuel prices so low (yes, I know, resale and all that matters too). And as much as North Americans may fetishize the idea of a diesel performance wagon, I’m not sold on the tradeoffs in refinement that the Biturbo Astra requires. In Europe, this car costs as much as a Ford Focus ST wagon, which is much faster, much more fun and not much worse on fuel when cruising on the highway.

But if you’re really hell bent on getting a diesel, manual wagon, this would be a nice choice.

@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic, who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, www.Autickar.cz and serves as editor-in-chief at www.USmotors.cz. After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives a borrowed Lincoln Town Car. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

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