The Truth About Cars » drive http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 22 Apr 2015 12:30:29 +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 » drive http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Capsule Review: 2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-sahara/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-jeep-wrangler-unlimited-sahara/#comments Wed, 25 Mar 2015 13:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1026617 In the darkest depths of the Cerberus era, nobody at Chrysler could have predicted how popular the all-new “JK” Jeep Wrangler would be. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the incredible cross-section of people buying the Wrangler. Everyone from suburban parents, white-collar upper management types and my own mother. This, by the way, is a vehicle that still […]

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2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara side yellow

In the darkest depths of the Cerberus era, nobody at Chrysler could have predicted how popular the all-new “JK” Jeep Wrangler would be. Perhaps the biggest surprise is the incredible cross-section of people buying the Wrangler. Everyone from suburban parents, white-collar upper management types and my own mother. This, by the way, is a vehicle that still utilizes a full frame and live axles!

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara front yellow

In my own opinion, the Wrangler’s success comes from several different factors. The most obvious is the availability of the long wheel base Unlimited model, which offers 4 doors and a proper rear seat. Second, the JK and JKU have been significantly improved over the TJ; in addition to a stronger frame and a better body, things like the roof options were greatly improved, while creature comforts like the heater were brought into the modern era. Third, it has been continually improved since its introduction; a new interior in 2011, an all-new engine in 2012, and various features, options, and trims over the years. All of this was done without taking away the Jeepness of it; removable doors, drain plugs, folding windshield, and unmatched off-road capability. Think about it, it has a freakin’ folding windshield! In 2015!

The JK is now in the autumn of its years, but it is as young as the day it was born. It can be configured as a base short soft-top model with steel wheels all the way up to a fifty thousand dollar four-door Rubicon with heated leather seats, Alpine audio, roof liner, climate control, and remote start. You can have half doors or full doors and three different tops in nine different trim levels. Take your pick of a proper six-speed manual or a pretty damn good five-speed automatic. There are catalogs thicker than 1989 phone books filled with accessories. AEV will drop a HEMI V8 and convert one into an awesome pickup truck for you. How much money you got?

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara interior seats trunk

One of my hard-core-ish Jeep buddies (clean TJ with 3” lift, wheeled in summer) said that it’s sacrilegious to have some of these options on a real Jeep and something about Jeeps being built not bought. My other Jeep buddy (fuel-injected ’84 CJ-8 on 33s, wheeled very often) loves how the Wrangler has evolved and would buy one if he had the money. Search any Jeep internet forums and it is evident that people who off-road their Wranglers love them as much as those who haul kids in them. 33s can be stuffed in without a lift kit, 35s with a $200 spacer kit. A winch can be hidden behind the factory bumper, and fenders can replaced for high clearance ones with a few hours of work. The Rubicon comes from the factory with Dana 44 axles, locking diffs, and electronically disconnecting sway bars for increased axle articulation. I don’t understand why idiots risk illegally importing Land Rover Defenders when the Wrangler is just so good.

There is no denying that the Wrangler drives like a truck on the street. It doesn’t like sudden maneuvers but it was not dramatic when I needed to avoid a moron who couldn’t see a huge yellow Jeep in his side mirror. The seating position is high, so look far ahead and drive defensively.  Respect the Wrangler, and it will make a fun daily commuter. Or you can go buy the idiot-proof Grand Cherokee. Highway ride is much less tiresome than it was in older Jeeps but ain’t no Range Rover.

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara interior dash steering wheel

Wranglers are a ton of fun, but they are not for everyone. The doors are small, the front seats lack lumbar support, rear seat backs are near vertical, and the hatch is kind of a pain. Wranglers are loud, tall, bouncy, and thirsty (16 city/21 hwy). None of that really matters, as you have either already stopped reading this or you are busy planning a weekend for the semiannual ritual of hard-top to soft-top swap. It’s a perfectly imperfect vehicle for winter snow and summer sun alike, and in my opinion all enthusiasts should own one in their lives.

The Wrangler starts at around $23,000 and the Unlimited around $27,000. The very Baja Yellow pictured Wrangler Unlimited Sahara, which comes standard with color-matched fenders, power windows and doors locks, and side steps starts at $32,295. The Sahara offers options that may not be available on other models, such as leather heated seats for $1300 and body-colored hard-top for $1895, remote start $495, Alpine audio, which sounds really good considering the fact that it is in a tin can, is $795. The Uconnect system with nav, hard drive, SiriusXM, and a USB port is $1895. Throw in a connectivity package, automatic transmission, and a destination change and you’re looking at $41,515. That is a lot, but it is still a lot cheaper than any beat up Defender 110.

2015 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara rear side yellow

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. His first vehicle was an ’84 CJ-7. One day he met a cute chick who was driving a black TJ with a manual transmission. He married that chick and now they have two kids who love Jeeps, but sadly don’t own a Jeep!

FCA US LLC provided the bright yellow vehicle for the purpose of this review. Seriously, the yellow body with yellow top and yellow fenders is a bit much. I tried to get it muddy but my favorite construction site was fenced off, so I only managed to get it salty. 

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Review: 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee Altitude 4×4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-2015-jeep-grand-cherokee-altitude-4x4/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-2015-jeep-grand-cherokee-altitude-4x4/#comments Fri, 27 Feb 2015 13:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1008770 The current Grand Cherokee has been a huge success for the Jeep brand. The handsome vehicle is available with four engines, five drivelines, and in many trims, best of which can give the Range Rover a run for its money. The Altitude, introduced for 2014, is an interesting model, where Jeep takes many desirable features, […]

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2015 jeep grand cherokee altitude side

The current Grand Cherokee has been a huge success for the Jeep brand. The handsome vehicle is available with four engines, five drivelines, and in many trims, best of which can give the Range Rover a run for its money. The Altitude, introduced for 2014, is an interesting model, where Jeep takes many desirable features, wraps them in a monotone exterior with sporty black wheels, and prices the package well.

In the past I have reviewed Grand Cherokees with V8 and diesel engines. The Overland V8 felt like a hot-rod with tons of instant power but the fuel economy was predictably poor. The EcoDiesel is a smooth operator with a ton of torque and great gas mileage, but it comes at a high price. Could this nicely optioned V6 model be the happy medium?

2015 jeep grand cherokee altitude front

The Pentastar 3.6-liter generates 290hp, which is more than the hot rod 5.9 Limited did in the late 90s, and 260lb-ft of torque. In this configuration it is mated to a new-for-2014 eight-speed transmission and the base Quadra-Trac I 4WD system with a single-speed transfer case. The EPA rates this combination for 17mpg in the city and 24mph on the highway, with 19mpg combined. Those numbers are very close to the ones I got real world driving, where I averaged about 18mpg with somewhat of a heavy foot around southern Florida.

This engine is surprisingly smooth, quiet, and has plenty of power on tap. Acceleration and highway passing are effortless and it loves to cruise. The transmission has a regular mode, which makes things a little lethargic until you really stomp the gas pedal, and a sport mode which magically quickens the throttle response and changes shift points to where they should really be. There also an evil Eco button which is suppose to save more fuel when engaged but in really it just makes things slower.

2015 jeep grand cherokee altitude interior details

The Pentastar-powered Grand Cherokees are rated to tow a maximum of 6200lbs. Unless towing is a serious buying objective, or you have a perfectly understandable diesel fetish, there is really is no good reason to select any of the other engines for the basic purposes of getting to work or hauling the kids around. The EcoDiesel and V8-powered Grand Cherokees, including the SRT, are rated to tow up to 7400lbs (7200lbs for 4×4 models).

The black twenty-inch wheels, which are wrapped in 265/50 GoodYear Fortera HL rubber, don’t exactly scream “Trail Rated” but the ride is surprisingly smooth and quiet. A tire’s side profile is the percentage of its width, so despite this being a dub, there is still a good amount meat to absorb potholes. I know a handful of people who own the JGC with twenty-inch wheels and none of them has bent a wheel yet. I reviewed the EcoDiesel Grand Cherokee with similarly sized wheels in the winter and that Jeep got through deep (6″-8″) fresh snow surprisingly well. The Altitude has the base coil-spring suspension with conventional shocks, unlike some other models that have the height adjustable air suspension. Like the V6 engine, for a vast majority of people this setup offers a very nice blend of ride comfort, handling, and payload.

2015 jeep grand cherokee altitude side profile

The dash is cleanly laid out with the minimum amount of buttons and just the right amount of knobs. The gauge cluster consists of center screen which is configurable in a multitude of ways via steering wheel controls. The seats are comfortable but could use more support overall, and the headrests have a nice tilt feature which can support your neck on long drives without putting you to sleep. The center console has a cubby for your phone with all connections, two cup holders, and a large segregated closed compartment. The rear seats recline and are split 60:40, but don’t have a center pass-thru. The rear window does not pop up like it once used to.

The touchscreen Unconnect is one of the most user-friendly systems on the market, with soft buttons for all major functions and auxiliary audio controls on the back of the steering wheel. If there is a downside, it’s that the heated seats/wheel controls are also hidden in it. The system streams music over every phone app imaginable, including Pandora and IHeartRadio. Your phone can be connected via Bluetooth, USB, or auxiliary input. There is also an SD card slot. The system even has a hotspot (subscription required) to stream music independently of your phone data program.

2015 jeep grand cherokee altitude other details

The interior is not perfect, however. The visibility is not great and there are blind spots in the back as well as in the front due to a large A-pillar, big side mirrors, and mirror mounts. Being picky, I noticed some wiring and not covered metal body under the seats, visible when you drop something, for instance, and uneven trim around the sunroof when looking from the outside in. The biggest annoyance is the electronic shifter which toggles like a joystick, requiring a look down or at the gauge cluster for gear indication.

The Altitude is priced and positioned between a loaded Laredo and Limited with some options. For $37,095 the Altitude offers SRT-like body-colored claddings, fascia, and grill, glossy black badges, black light trim, and black wheels. Inside are black heated leather and suede seats (the only color choice) and a large 8.4″ Uconnect touch-screen, sans nav. The driver gets a power seat but it lacks the memory feature. Power hatch, 115vAC receptacle, and a remote start round out the Altitude package. Sunroof is $1095 extra, 506-watt audio is $495, back-up camera with sensors is $395, and the destination charge is $995, for a total of $40,075 as seen here.

2015 jeep grand cherokee altitude wheel

The Altitude has many desirable features and it certainly looks good. It is priced well by skipping the features that the majority of buyers won’t care for, but it lacks some things, such as the roof rack. Some options are not available on it, specifically blind spot detection and the active forward collision warning and crash migration which can literally save your life – those are only available on the loaded Limited and higher models. Other versions of the Grand Cherokee provide some very impressive off-road hardware and/or road performance but no one will buy the Altitude for its power or off-road abilities but rather for the peace of mind and functionality that an all-wheel-drive SUV provides.

2015 jeep grand cherokee altitude side rear

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. In the past he has owned two Jeeps, a CJ-7 and a TJ Wrangler. His mother just bought a new Wrangler which he may have started modding. 

FCA US LLC provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review while I was thawing out in Florida. 

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Review: 2015 Subaru Outback 2.5i Premium http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-2015-subaru-outback-2-5i-premium/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/review-2015-subaru-outback-2-5i-premium/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2015 14:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=995058 The SUV craze of the 1990s caught Subaru by surprise. The company simply did not have a product that everyone wanted. The North American division of Fuji Heavy Industries had no choice but to play the cards they were dealt.  The engineers looked into the VW Golf Country 4×4 for inspiration, then took a Legacy […]

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2015 Subaru Outback side

The SUV craze of the 1990s caught Subaru by surprise. The company simply did not have a product that everyone wanted. The North American division of Fuji Heavy Industries had no choice but to play the cards they were dealt.  The engineers looked into the VW Golf Country 4×4 for inspiration, then took a Legacy wagon and lifted it, added some molding, big fog lights with mesh screens, and a roof rack. The marketing people ingeniously called it the Outback and hired the best known Aussie in America, Paul Hogan, to promote it.

The results of this marketing brilliance were sales that exceeded expectations, possibly saving the company. The Outback was such a huge hit Volvo and Audi followed suit and jacked up their own wagons, creating the Cross Country XC and the allroad quattro.  At the 2014 New York International Auto Show, with yours truly in attendance, two models first dressed as vegan organic French-press coffee drinking hipster hikers, and later as that blissfully ignorant well-dressed couple that every thirty year old yuppie think they will always be, unveiled the fifth generation of the Outback.

2015 Subaru Outback front

Three inches taller, four inches longer, and five inches wider than the original, the new Outback is the same as the old Outback. Some found the styling of the new car lacking originality. Those are the same people who would have complained that Subaru killed a great product had the Outback looked any different. I was never a fan of the previous generation Legacy/Outback, so I found the new, dare I say more generic, look rather refreshing.

But Subarus have never been about looks. In fact I would go so far as to the say that most Subaru cars have been ugly in a cute way, sort of like a Pug or a Bulldog. Subarus have always been about functionality, reliability, all-weather traction, and price. The new Outback continues these traditions placing function over form and cost over perceived opulence. From the outside, the two-tone scheme of the original has been reduced, the fog lights got smaller, and the roof rack more pronounced but the two-box shape on stilts cannot be mistaken for anything other than an Outback.

2015 Subaru Outback interior frotn details

Inside, functionality and simplicity triumphs, but its quality has significantly improved over the previous generations. The infotainment system is much improved, it is now easier to see, and simpler to use and set up. The test vehicle did not have a navigational system, but controlling the radio, phone, and auxiliary input devices is similar to using a Windows tablet. In the front of the center console is an auxiliary audio input and two USB ports (that’s two more than Audi). The audio system did sound pretty good, too, for what is essentially a base vehicle. Looking from inside out, at night, the headlights are not overly bright given the recent technical advances in headlight technology.

Dual zone climate controls are equally simple to use, but there are no vents for rear passengers. There are cup-holders in the center console, bottle holders in the doors, big door pockets, sunglass holder on the roof, a simple covered cubby for phones, and a large glove box. It’s these little things that make daily life easy and it’s amazing how many automakers cannot get that right (I’m looking at you Range Rover). Nothing is perfect, however, and my eight year old daughter, who reads a dozen books a week, completely wrote the Outback off for not having reading lights for rear passengers.

The front seats are comfortable, but the headrests could use a rake adjustment and bottom cushions could be longer. Someone at Subaru finally figured out that heated seat buttons are invisible when they are located under the center armrest and moved them to climate control panel. The rear bench is wide with plenty of leg and head room. The seatback is split 60:40, but there is no center pass-thru, so skiers with more than two rear passengers have to use the meaty-looking roof rack. That roof rack itself is functional, too, with standard cross-bars that slide and fold into the rails when not in use. There are also four tie down loops which can secure up to 150 pounds of cargo.

2015 Subaru Outback details

With high ground clearance and a high center of gravity, Subaru did not intend to make a driver’s car out of the Outback. The 2.5-liter pancake engine also won’t impress anyone with its 175hp and 174 lb-ft of torque. Worse, this engine is attached to a continuously variable transmission. This powertrain combination makes buzzy and whiney noises turning an otherwise quiet cabin into a noisy one. For that noise buyers are rewarded with fuel economy of 25mpg in the city and 33mpg on the highway, which was once considered excellent for a small econobox. Despite all that, the Outback somehow manages not to be a soulless appliance and is somewhat fun to drive. Perhaps it’s the car-like seating position and the jacked-up ride height, along with suspension tuned to nicely absorb the winter ridden roads, that create the feeling of being a rally driver.

Subaru makes a big deal of their AWD system, so it was a nice coincidence that the Northeast got hit with a big snow storm while the Outback was in my possession. It is common knowledge that tires are the most important thing in winter driving but this car was equipped with a set mediocre Bridgestone Dueler H/P Sport. Automakers like to use these tires because they are cheap, quiet, comfortable, and last long. I have personally had some bad experiences with these tires, so I was very cautions driving the Outback in the snow. To my surprise, the big wagon proved capable; granted the snow was packed and it wasn’t deep. In an empty lot near my work I turned the hoon knob up a little and even then, with stability control off, the vehicle stayed totally composed and controllable. There is a good reason why New England and Denver are Subaru’s biggest markets – with a proper set of snow tires this would be an amazing winter vehicle.

2015 Subaru Outback rear hatch open

The test vehicle was equipped with Subaru’s EyeSight system, which is optional on all but the base Outback. The system works off two cameras mounted between the rear view mirror and the windshield. The system is able to detect speed differentials, brake lights, pedestrians, and bicycles. It has the ability to cut power, apply brakes, and bring the vehicle to a complete stop, if not avoiding an accident completely, than at least minimizing the impact. It tells those who bury their heads into their phones at traffic lights that the vehicle in front has moved. When reversing, it calmly alerts you that a vehicle is coming from the side. The whole system can be fully disabled for those with mad driving skillz, but for the majority of buyers this is a no-brainer option – it can protect the not only vehicle occupants but everyone else on the road, too, and will likely repay for itself in the first near-hit.

The base Outback, steel wheels and all, starts at about $26,045. The 2.5i Premium model seen here starts at $27,295. EyeSight with power tailgate package is $1695, mirror compass is $199, and rubber floor mats are a bargain at $72. For some reason Subaru charges a mandatory $300 for the vehicle to meet the Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle standard. Total price, with destination charges, is a very reasonable $30,111. Other options on the 2.5i Premium are sunroof and a nav system. Limited model comes with leather and the 3.5R Limited has more powah!

For thirty grand, the mid-level Outback gives you large SUV functionality, solid reliability, and all-weather traction while not looking like a cookie-cutter CRA-V4. Fun-to-drive factor, latest and greatest safety systems, and good gas mileage are the icing on this frosty cake. I was surprised by home much I liked this Outback and I would put it high on my shopping list of two-row SUV-ish vehicles, along with the Grand Cherokee and the 4Runner.

2015 Subaru Outback rear

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. He is known to enjoy organic coffee made in a French press, day hikes, and nights out on the town. He has yet to find one ideal vehicle for all those activities.

Subaru of America, Inc. provided the vehicle for the purpose of this review. 

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Piston Slap: Byzantine Transmissions in Frozen Highlands http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-byzantine-transmissions-frozen-highlands/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-byzantine-transmissions-frozen-highlands/#comments Mon, 01 Dec 2014 13:12:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=953745   Mehran writes: Greetings to you Sajeev and your evil twin Sanjeev, (yeah he’s dead to me – SM) First of all thank you very much for answering my other question, just to give you an update on that, I ended up not buying the extended warranty. Now we recently bought a 2012 Toyota Highlander […]

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Dat Complexity. (photo courtesy: byzantineempire1.weebly.com)

Mehran writes:

Greetings to you Sajeev and your evil twin Sanjeev, (yeah he’s dead to me – SM)

First of all thank you very much for answering my other question, just to give you an update on that, I ended up not buying the extended warranty. Now we recently bought a 2012 Toyota Highlander Limited to replace my wife’s old car(V6, 5 Speed automatic with the towing package which adds the trans cooler) it has 34K miles and this one has the extended warranty (100K or 2019). The issue that we have with the car is as follow, after a cold start (in the morning) if I put it in any gear (D or R) something funny happens, the transmission acts funny, it goes in and out of the gear couple of times. For example if I want to back-out of the garage when I put in R and give it a little gas it starts going but for a quick second it seems like that the transmission dis-engages and then re-engages and the tachometer jumps from 1K to 3K. If I wait about 10 sec after I start the car and then put in gear everything is OK.

The other day something strange happened, 3 min after cold start, I wanted to merge onto the highway so I mashed the gas all the way to the floor but it stayed in the same gear and did not kick down, now this has only happened once.

I did take it to the dealer and they gave me the “Could not replicate the issue” answer. I looked at the Highlander forums but did not find anything.

Any idea what might be the issue? I looked at the trans fluid, it seems OK and there is no evidence that the previous owner has done any towing with the car and it has always been serviced at the dealer.

Regards,
Mehran

Sajeev answers:

Automatic transmissions (and transaxles) are smart cookies, what with all their fancy electronic controls controlling a byzantine system of fluid pipes, valves, clutches, fans etc. There’s a reason why internal transmission problems are normally handled by repair techs with a particular set of skills. Like this guy:

Click here to view the embedded video.

If there are no check engine lights, the electronics are probably spot on.  That leaves the fluid or that byzantine system to blame. Since your ride is under warranty, I’d leave it with them overnight to see if they can recreate the problem first thing in the morning. Pick an especially cold week for this, and insist it’s kept outside (if they don’t already).  Odds are the dealer is right, it’s operating within specifications. It’s just that the fluid is maple syrup-ish when cold.

There’s a good chance that switching to fresh fluid (maybe even synthetic, if this is true) will help the byzantine system work better when cold, mostly because newer fluid could be more viscous when cold. That is, cold fluid can be thicker, harder to move in the system and resulting in everything moving much sloooooower.  Be respectful of that and the transmission will respect your time and money.

If you want to keep the Highlander past the warranty, consider a preemptive fluid change at 75,000-ish miles.

 

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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Hypercar Documentary Previewed At Second Annual Jalopnik Film Festival http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/hypercar-documentary-previewed-second-annual-jalopnik-film-festival/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/hypercar-documentary-previewed-second-annual-jalopnik-film-festival/#comments Tue, 07 Oct 2014 19:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=927506 Are you a movie buff? Do you love films about the automobile? If so, and if you’re in New York during the early days of November, the second annual Jalopnik Film Festival will be held between November 5 and 6 this year. One of the headlining films for this year’s festival is “Apex: The Story […]

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ferrari-laferrari-side-doors-open

Are you a movie buff? Do you love films about the automobile? If so, and if you’re in New York during the early days of November, the second annual Jalopnik Film Festival will be held between November 5 and 6 this year.

One of the headlining films for this year’s festival is “Apex: The Story of the Hypercar,” a production of TangentVector and Drive. The film follows the development of several hypercars — like the LaFerrari, 918 Spyder and P1 — and those who bring the vehicles to life.

Shot in 4K Ultra HD, “Apex” will be shown as a 30-minute short preview prior to its full debut sometime next year.

More details on the festival can be found here: How To Get Your Tickets To The Second Jalopnik Film Festival.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Jaguar F-Type V6S Convertible http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2014-jaguar-f-type-v6s-convertible/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2014-jaguar-f-type-v6s-convertible/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=918066 I felt very conflicted following a quick nighttime Boston-to-New York City drive in this new Jag. It just did not meet my expectations. The car drove nice on the twisty and hilly Merritt Parkway but it was neither the sports car I desired, nor the grand tourer that the XKR was. Something was clearly wrong. […]

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2014 Jaguar F-type convertible rear left

I felt very conflicted following a quick nighttime Boston-to-New York City drive in this new Jag. It just did not meet my expectations. The car drove nice on the twisty and hilly Merritt Parkway but it was neither the sports car I desired, nor the grand tourer that the XKR was. Something was clearly wrong. Upon reaching my destination I carefully re-read Derek’s reviews and quickly realized that I am an idiot and that this F-Type has failed me in another way altogether.

2014 Jaguar F-type convertible top up top down

Like any proper modern sports car, the F-Type has a number of settings and adjustments available to its driver; suspension, transmission, steering, stability control, and even exhaust. I fiddled with the transmission and the exhaust because those settings were convenient, but I did not know that the others even existed. In my re-reading of Derek’s F-Type V6S review I came upon these words:

“Oh, and you absolutely must get the car with the “Configurable Dynamic Mode”, which adds another $3,000 to the base price, but effectively gives you two cars for the price of one.”

Son of a gun. My car had that option but I just dismissed it as a stability control setting that allows you to wag the rear-end like a pro, which I had no desire to do. Selecting it changes suspension, steering, transmission, and exhaust settings to ‘dynamic’. Like in many other sports cars, notably BMW’s M cars, this button transforms a smooth and quiet roadster that my mother would love, into a loud and quick sports car that I want. I am not exactly sure what the checkered flag button physically does, but all that a potential buyer needs to know is that it takes a vehicle that feels like an entry-level Mercedes SL and turns it into a Porsche Boxster.

2014 Jaguar F-type convertible dash

But I had another issue with this Jag, and here is where this Jag has clearly failed me. In his review, Derek was going on all about how every woman in the world loved this car and its driver. Reading deeper into his writing, women were literally throwing themselves at Derek just to be chauffeured around in the slick new roadster for a bit. The car has transformed him from being a humble but righteous autoscribe into a playboy that surpasses the likes of Lapo Elkann.

That did not happen to me. Not a single woman has expressed any interest what so ever in this car. I even made a point of dressing a little better when driving it and ensuring that my pricey mechanical timepiece was visible to all passer-bys. Not one woman even looked at me. Not even my wife. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Point. Zero. Now I’m no Jack Baruth, I got zero game, but c’mon, I did not even get a gander from the ladies.

2014 Jaguar F-type convertible exterior details 2

But the car did attract a lot attention, except that it was from every single balding middle-aged man in vicinity. They inquired about the British Racing Green paint and how it glistened in the sun. They needed to know the engine specs. One asked if it was a V12. They needed to hear it. I was tailgated by a young guy in a 3-series and challenged to a drag race by a Cayman owner. Even a homeless man yelled at me from across the sidewalk “how about five bucks for a bottle wine, stylin’ man!?” Five bucks!

I understand that attention as the F-Type is a gorgeous car. From bonnet to boot, there is not a wrong line on this car. There are however some questionable details and cost-cutting, such as the sculpted bolts on the rims of the wheels or plastic roll-bar covers which should really be aluminum. Open the huge front-hinged bonnet and you’ll see a plastic engine cover and not hand-polished aluminum velocity stacks. No complaints about the interior, other than outside visibility with the top up and the outdated infotainment system. The seats are adjustable in umpteen ways and wrapped in soft leather that has an intoxicating smell.  Only the British can do leather like this.

2014 Jaguar F-type convertible interior details

While fun in the corners and highway ramps, the ride is bouncy when the road gets bumpy. There was also surprisingly more wind noise with the top up than one would expect, and the Meridian audio system did not sound nearly as good as the one in the Range Rover. The best solution to those problems is lowering the top and pressing the active exhaust system button.

In alfresco cruising wind buffing is kept to a minimum, with only a slight breeze over the top of the driver’s head. The heater vents are positioned so that hot air blows directly over the 2/3 and 9/10 hand positions on the steering wheel, which itself is heated. The top setting for the heated seats is akin to sitting on hot lava rocks, which makes me believe this car could be fun with the top down over three seasons.

2014 Jaguar F-type convertible front left top

The 2015 Jaguar F-Type convertible starts at $69,000. The more powerful F-Type S, such as the one pictured here starts at $81,000. The test vehicle was splashed in $1500 British Racing Green paint, stanced with 20” $1500 Tornado wheels, outfitted with a $2000 Premium Pack 2, $2400 Vision Pack 2, $3400 Performance Package, heated seats and steering wheel for $600, Meridian audio for $1200, Ivory headliner (not made of real ivory) $500, HD and Sirius radio $450, and extended leather package for $1925. The total price of the test car, with delivery, came to $97,400. Those wanting more power can opt for the $92,000 F-Type V8 S. All trims are available in a coupe version for about $4000 less each. Additionally, the coupe is available in the even more powerful $99,000 550hp F-Type R trim.

Currently there are surprisingly many premium sports cars and roadsters on the market. Their abilities surpass those of supercars of only few years ago and are only limited by the driver’s skills, and even that is vastly supplemented by modern electronics. The question of which to buy is no longer answered by buff-book performance numbers, but rather by finding one that best matches your desires – there are no bad choices.

2014 Jaguar F-type convertible vaz 2303 23033 lada

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. 

Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC provided the vehicle for this review.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Ford Escape Titanium http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-ford-escape-titanium/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2015-ford-escape-titanium/#comments Mon, 22 Sep 2014 12:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=914362 Today’s cute compact crossovers are slowly replacing mid-size sedans as the most popular vehicle on the market, and with good reason too. They have smaller footprints, are easier to drive, are more versatile, more economical, and AWD systems provide a piece of mind during foul weather. Is the Escape a…wait for it…game changer?   The […]

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2015 ford escape titanium ecoboost side

Today’s cute compact crossovers are slowly replacing mid-size sedans as the most popular vehicle on the market, and with good reason too. They have smaller footprints, are easier to drive, are more versatile, more economical, and AWD systems provide a piece of mind during foul weather. Is the Escape a…wait for it…game changer?

 

2015 ford escape titanium ecoboost dash interior

The interior is unmistakably Ford, with clear analog gauges and the MyFord Touch system high and center. The seats are very comfortable, heated in the front, and the angle of the headrests is adjustable so they will not press against the back of your head like some other Fords. The rear seat is best for two passengers but three adult butts or three booster seats will fit. The rear bench folds flat and is split 60:40. The dash is made of at least four different types of materials which do not always complement one another or match up perfectly, such as where the A-pillar meets the dash. HVAC controls and other buttons are small, low in the dash, and obscured by the shifter. At night the interior ambiance lighting can be adjusted in color and intensity to match your mood.

The MyFord Touch system received a slew of upgrades over the years and is now actually usable by a novice. Some of the touch-screen buttons are small and shorter drivers may need to stretch to touch the screen. Those truly adventurous can opt to shout at the system to get it to do what they want. The system easily connected to my phone and offers a ton of options and features which will likely go unused by most buyers. An Audi or Lexus-like knob would make this one of the best systems on the market.

2015 ford escape titanium ecoboost interior details

The previous generation had large square windows but this one, like the rest of the auto industry, has smaller windows all around. Despite that, visibility in all directions remains surprisingly good. Doors are large and open wide, making the chore of loading kids into the car a task that won’t break your back. Auto up and down on all windows, as opposed to just the driver’s window, is a nice touch. The rear bumper height is low, making loading and unloading easy. The big rear power hatch can be opened by waving your foot under the bumper, but it is slower in operation than other cars.

The top engine choice is a 240hp and 270lb-ft 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder which is very nicely matched to the vehicle; smooth, quick, and responsive. The six-speed automatic has two driving modes, D and S. In S it downshifts sooner and holds the gears longer, but not too long, where it becomes annoying. The ride is smooth and when tossed into a highway ramp, the Escpape remains neutral and composed, if a bit top-heavy. In this 4WD configuration, the EPA rates the Escape at 21mpg city and 28mpg on the highway. When equipped with a Class II trailer tow package, the little Escape can tow a 3500lb trailer.

2015 ford escape titanium ecoboost exterior details

The 2015 Ford Escape starts at $22,610 for the base SE model with a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine and 2WD. Those wanting 4WD need to step up to the SE with the 1.6-liter EcoBoost engine (178hp/184tq) which starts at $26,810. Our Titanium model, with the 2.0-liter EcoBoost ($1195 over the 1.6-liter), starts at $31,965. Equipment Group 301A adds HID headlights, blind-spot detection, automatic wipers, and parking sensors for $1735. Navigation system is $795 and destination charges are $895 for a total MSRP of $35,150. At the time of this writing there was a $750 factory incentive.

The Escape is a nice vehicle overall, but aside from the peppy engine it does not bring anything new to the market. While none of its competitors feel more exciting in any comparable way, it feels like Ford decided to make just another vehicle to fill the market niche. The powerful engine is nice, but this is a price driven category where competitors offer one engine at a much lower overall price.

2015 ford escape titanium ecoboost rear side

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. 

Ford provided the vehicle for this review.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Nissan NV200 SV Cargo Van http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/capsule-review-2014-nissan-nv200-sv-cargo-van/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/capsule-review-2014-nissan-nv200-sv-cargo-van/#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2014 12:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=881666 For decades buyers made the pickup truck the bestselling vehicle in North America. Despite its utilitarian roots, the pickup truck has morphed from a working man’s appliance into a replacement for big body-on-frame American luxury sedans. Sure, that V8 Crew Cab is a nice vehicle, but what are you really going to do with a five-and-a-half-foot bed? […]

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2014 Nissan NV200 cargo front

For decades buyers made the pickup truck the bestselling vehicle in North America. Despite its utilitarian roots, the pickup truck has morphed from a working man’s appliance into a replacement for big body-on-frame American luxury sedans.

Sure, that V8 Crew Cab is a nice vehicle, but what are you really going to do with a five-and-a-half-foot bed?

2014 Nissan NV200 cargo volume rear

For those not paying attention, there is a van revolution going on in the United States. The American vans that we have known and loved are about to die. Ford is replacing their E-series with the European Transit and the smaller Transit Connect. Chrysler ditched its full-size vans a decade ago and just recently replaced them with rebadged front-wheel-drive Fiats, under the Ram ProMaster line. Soon they will be adding a smaller Ram ProMaster City.

Nissan was one of the early pioneers in the next-gen van space, with the big, if awkward looking, NV-series vans. The big NVs come with V6 and V8 engines, and can be ordered in varying wheelbase lengths, heights, and capacities. They recently followed it up with the smaller, front-wheel-drive based NV200 that you see above. The NV200 also serves as a basis for New York City’s Taxi of Tomorrow, which can been bogged down by all kinds of politics.

2014 Nissan NV200 cargo dash

When compared to a compact pickup truck (a segment that many seem to dearly miss), the advantages of any van are clearly apparent. The most obvious one is the large lockable cargo space that can protect one’s belongings from theft or the elements. Cargo space on the NV200 is 122.7 cubic feet, comparably bigger than most capped pickup beds. Furthermore, it is accessible not only from the rear, via two large barn doors, but also via a large sliding door on each side. The floor of the cargo area is lined with rubber and there a six D-rings to tie objects down.

That cargo area is 53 inches high and 54 inches wide, with 48 inches between the wheel-wells, which is the width of a standard piece of plywood. That plywood will be easy to load, too, as the loading floor is just 20 inches off the ground – no Man Step® needed here. The maximum length of that plywood is limited to 82.8 inches. Longer items, up to 116 inches, can be transported when the passenger seat back is folded down. All that cargo space can be filled with up to 1500 pounds of people and things, which is more than some full-size pickups.

2014 Nissan NV200 cargo interior details

The passenger portion of the interior is finished in a typical commercial-grade heavy durable plastic. This SV model was equipped with Nissan-typical infotainment system which consists of a slightly outdated nav system, USB port, CD player, Bluetooth, satellite radio, Pandora streaming, and a handy back-up camera. Secondary steering wheel mounted controls are a nice touch. While there are plenty of storage cubbies, none of them are particularly large or covered. Many small business owners would probably appreciate additional USB ports and a 120vAC receptacle. The seats are covered in durable cloth, but with a short bottom cushion and a hard headrest that presses on the driver’s head, they are not very comfortable overall.

The NV200 is powered by a 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine which makes 131hp and 139lb-ft of torque. It is matched up with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) which sends that power to rather small looking fifteen inch wheels that are wrapped in 185/60-15 tires. NV200’s major utilitarian shortfall, in part due to that engine, is that it is not recommend for trailer towing, something that every pickup truck will happily do. The EPA rated the little van at 24mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway, which is superior to any pickup with the exception of the new Ram 1500 EcoDiesel.

2014 Nissan NV200 cargo exterior details

The small wheels may not inspire confidence but a Nissan product development guy assured me that they have beat the crap out of them in testing and found no faults. I traveled in the NV200 around some very industrial roads that have a lot of heavy truck traffic, and dirt roads that leads to my local junkyard, and found no issues. Many trucks and vans beat up on their passengers when driven unloaded, but the NV200 was pretty smooth. Unfortunately, the only cargo I was able to transport with the NV200 was a pair of Specialized Stumpjumers and some parts for my project car, both of which were of no significance in terms of space or weight.

In city driving, an empty NV200 has just enough power. It will get out of its own way, but drag racing even the slowest of bicycles cars should be avoided. It somehow feels a little livelier on the highway, but passing or merging maneuvers should be planned well in advance. Smart packaging makes the NV200 a rather narrow vehicle, and allows it to easily zip around cities and fit into parking garages – something that was likely inspired by the needs of van customers in Europe and Asia. Despite the large mirrors, rear windows, and a back-up camera, reversing can still be intimidating to some.

2014 Nissan NV200 cargo side sliding door open

The NV200 S starts at $20,490. The SV model starts at $21,480 and it surprisingly does not come with many extra features but it allows the buyer to select many more options, whereas the S is strictly a stripper. The pictured Red Brick SV came with a Technology Package ($950), rear glass ($190), and painted bumpers ($190). Add destination and handling and the total price comes to $23,670.

Nissan NV200 comparison

With Ford’s Transit Connect and the upcoming Ram ProMaster City, this segment of the market is about to get red hot. Nissan is strong out of the gate with the early availability, strong price point, and the best gas mileage. Being slightly envious of all these vans, General Motors will have its own mini cargo van called City Express, which forgoes imitation and in the most flattering way replaces the Nissan badge with a bowtie.

2014 Nissan NV200 cargo rear

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. Read his ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. 

Nissan provided the vehicle for this review.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Subaru WRX Premium http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/capsule-review-2015-subaru-wrx-premium/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/capsule-review-2015-subaru-wrx-premium/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 12:30:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=828394 Please welcome Hooniverse editor Kamil Kaluski for his first review for TTAC. Like much of the Playstation Generation, I spent much of the 90’s ogling over the forbidden fruit from the Land of the Rising Sun: Type Rs, EVOs, WRXs  – fun, reasonably priced, reliable, econobox-based sports cars with great potential. Naturally, I bought a […]

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2015 subaru wrx (1)

Please welcome Hooniverse editor Kamil Kaluski for his first review for TTAC.

Like much of the Playstation Generation, I spent much of the 90’s ogling over the forbidden fruit from the Land of the Rising Sun: Type Rs, EVOs, WRXs  – fun, reasonably priced, reliable, econobox-based sports cars with great potential. Naturally, I bought a WRX as one as soon they debuted in 2002. Six months later I promptly sold it.

I didn’t hate the original bug-eyed WRX – I was just disappointed by it. The chassis, even with a set of Eibach springs, still rolled and yawed in every direction. The engine had no power below 3500rpm, and then, out of nowhere, burst to life in a boost-filled fury. The gear ratios of the five speed manual transmission made accelerating fun, at the expense of any highway comfort.  The fuel economy would have been poor for a V8 – for an economy car four-cylinder (even a boosted one) it was abysmal.

2015 subaru wrx (5)

If you were to blindfold a past owner and put them behind the wheel of the newest WRX, they’d immediately know what car they were in. Little cues, like the seating position, the shift knob and of course, the unmistakable, off-beat boxer hum, all remind you that underneath the much improved skin, beats the same rambunctious heart. Then again, the window switches seem to be carried over from the year 2002.

Outside of its Corolla-on-steroids looks, the biggest difference in the WRX is the engine. The displacement is back to two thousand cc’s, but there’s now variable valve timing and direct injection. The result is 268hp, which in the days of 300hp+ V6 Mustangs does not sound like much.The real news is the 258lb.-ft. that is available between 2,000-5,200rpm. Now that there’s some torque being made as low as 1000 rpm, daily driving is a lot more pleasant, while cruising on the highway isn’t going to drive you into madness. And it still screams all the way from 3000 rpm up to redline.

2015 subaru wrx (2)

But wait! There is more! For the first time ever, the WRX also manages to get decent gas mileage. With a 6-speed manual transmission, the 2015 WRX  is EPA rated at 21mpg in the city and 28mpg on the highway. My real-world heavy-footed trip down the New Jersey Turnpike resulted in a dash-computer calculated average of 27.7mpg, which I would say is pretty darn good. A CVT is a $1200 option, but really, why bother?

With the exception of a ride that is slightly rough over the worst of northeast’s post apocalyptic winter roads, Subaru has removed any objectionable behavior from the WRX that may be encountered during daily operation. Some may find it to be sprung too softly for serious at-the-limit driving, but Subaru really needed something more than a few horsepower and a big wing to justify the existence of the STI. Overall it’s a nice compromise for the enthusiasts and that incidental WRX buyer who just wanted an Impreza with more power.

2015 subaru wrx (4)

While remaining typical Subaru (that is to say, spartan if we’re being polite), the interior also received some updates. The biggest difference is one that you won’t see: road noise. The 2015 version is orders of magnitude quieter than the boomy, gusty examples previously sold here. More than the crappy fuel economy or the wonky gearing, this was my biggest annoyance when it came to driving long distances in my old WRX.

Head and leg room is abundant for all passengers, even on sunroof-equipped vehicles such as this one, and the manual seats are comfortable and supportive. All controls, with the exception of heated seat buttons, are logically located and easy to use. With small inoperable vent windows, door-mounted mirrors, and thinner than average A-pillars, the visibility all around is excellent.

The radio/infotainment system feels dated. The main display consists of segmented characters, and some information displayed on it may be incomplete. All controls are made via a bunch of small buttons and one knob. There are auxiliary controls on the left side of the steering wheel. There is also a secondary screen higher up on the dash which shares duties with the onboard computer, fuel economy gadget, and a boost gauge. Aux and USB inputs are located in the center console. The climate controls consist of three simple knobs – it might be the most efficient setup on the market, yet everyone else insists on more complex controls. It baffles me.

2015 subaru wrx (7)

Those unimpressed by its lack of evolution should be happy to know that Subaru has managed to refine the coarser elements of past examples, without eliminating any of its character or thrills. With a starting price of just $26,295, the WRX is one of the best performance car deals on the market. And if it looks a bit too sedate or Civic-esque for you, there’s always the hotter, sharper-edged STi.

2015 subaru wrx (9)

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

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Review: 2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-volkswagen-passat-tdi-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-volkswagen-passat-tdi-with-video/#comments Fri, 20 Dec 2013 14:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=679274 Once of the most frequent car advice emails I get is from consumers looking to cut down their fuel bills while still hanging on to a family sedan. Until recently, this question narrowed the field down to a few hybrid sedans and the Volkswagen Passat TDI. Today, there are more hybrid options than ever and soon […]

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2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI

Once of the most frequent car advice emails I get is from consumers looking to cut down their fuel bills while still hanging on to a family sedan. Until recently, this question narrowed the field down to a few hybrid sedans and the Volkswagen Passat TDI. Today, there are more hybrid options than ever and soon Mazda’s diesel powered Mazda6 will enter the fray. While we wait for the Mazda’s new SkyActiv diesel to ship, I picked up a Volkswagen Passat TDI to find out if a little diesel could bring some cost reduction to my commute.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

First off we have to dispense with the fallacy that buying a new commuter car will save you money. Of course we all know that is rarely true, especially if you are simply replacing one family sedan with another. (This disclaimer is just for the readers that may object to the forthcoming cost savings comparisons.) Second you must think about what kind of driving you do before you start looking at technologies to reduce your gas bill. If your commute is highway heavy, then a diesel or amvery efficient conventional vehicle may be the better choice for you. If your commute is balanced between highway and city or city heavy, then many hybrid technologies may be the winner.

Exterior

While other VWs get expressive fascias, VW’s sedan line is pure conservative German design. We have a three-slat horizontal grille up front, a flat character line and little detaining on the side and nothing terribly expressive out back. The adjectives that came to my mind were simple, elegant, and unemotional. No matter how you park it, the Passat never strikes a pose that would offend a conservative mid-size shopper.If you want Euro flair, VW would be happy to sell you a CC which sports more aggressive bumpers, more chrome and sexier tail lamps. However the Passat TDI is competing with the hybrid versions of the Fusion, Camry, Accord, Optima and Sonata, as well as the “we hope its not a mirage” Mazda6 diesel. While some in the press have called the Passat boring, I would posit the sedate lines will help the Passat age more gracefully than some of the competition, most notably the Sonata and Camry, however I think the Fusion and Mazda6 are more attractive and dramatic.

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-012

Interior
Mid-size shoppers demand expansive rather than expensive cabins, and VW took note when they redesigned the sedan for the 2012 model year. Our Euro friends may notice that this doesn’t look quite like the Passat you know in Europe, and that’s because the American Passat isn’t the same car as the Euro Passat anymore. Although both Passats are related, the NMS Passat gets a 4-inch body stretch and a 3.7-inch wheelbase stretch, the beneficiary being the rear seat which goes from cozy in the Euro model to ginormous in the American model. Although the numbers would indicate that the Fusion and Passat’s rear legroom are similar, the devil is in the details of how car makers measure and the Passat is the clear winner here.

Sadly Camcord shoppers place fuel economy, electronic doodads and rear-seat leg room higher on their list than squishy dash bits and VW was happy to oblige. As a result the Passat’s plastics are attractive to look at but just as mainstream to feel as the competition slotting in below the new Accord and well ahead of the aging Korean competition. Speaking of attractive, I find the traditional “single bump” dashboard layout to be a refreshing change from the massive dashboards that are creeping into every mis-sized sedan lately. Front seat comfort proved excellent for long car trips, tying with the Accord and Fusion while the rear seats, although large, weren’t as comfortable as Honda’s sedan.

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-015

Infotainment

Because there is no “S” trim Passat TDI, base diesel lovers get a slight feature bump compared in the infotainment department. The base 6.5-inch touchscreen system is joined by 8-speakers, HD Radio and standard Bluetooth for a decent base package. The systems iDevice and USB integration offers no voice commands like you find in most of the competition, but it is reliable and intuitive. VW offers two different navigation systems depending on how far up the trim ladder you want to walk. SE models with the sunroof can get the “RNS-315″ which uses a 5-inch touchscreen and very basic navigation software.

Jumping up to the SEL model adds a Fender branded speaker package and a 6.5-inch high resolution navigation system with satellite radio and Sirius Travel Link live traffic and information services.  While most of the information is superfluous, the fuel pricing and locations proved handy as locating a diesel station can be tricky. The traffic and Travel Link features require a Sirius subscription and VW tosses in a 6-month trial for free. Sadly VW’s navigation systems predate the 2012 Passat refresh by a decent window and are among the oldest and least feature rich in the mid-size sedan segment barely scoring a win over the ancient system in the Chrysler 200. You won’t find smartphone apps, slick graphics and VW has even reduced the number of voice commands the system can recognize because the hardware was unable to handle it with reasonable performance. With Toyota and Honda recently launching their new infotainment systems and Ford’s MyFordTouch system getting a much needed refresh, this puts VW in next to last place, just in front of the dreadful navigation system lurking in the Mazda6. 

Passat TDI  engine, Picture Courtesy of Volkswagen

Drivetrain & Pricing

Powering the Passat is the same 2.0L turbodiesel found under the hood of every diesel VW in America except the Touareg. The small diesel engine features twin cams, 16 valves, aluminum head, iron block and a variable geometry turbocharger to deliver 140 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. Funneling the power to the front wheels via a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic, the Passat doesn’t feel as slow as 140 ponies might suggest. The gasoline electric hybrids on the market are peppier, with the Camry delivering 200 ponies, with the Optima and Sonata nearly tying at 199, while we get 188 from the Fusion and 166 from the Accord. Normally, the high torque is a bonus when you compare a TDI to a small gasoline engine. However, modern hybrids deliver diesel-like torque with flat torque curves thanks to their electrification. The Koreans serve up 235 lb-ft and the Accord cranks out 226 with both curves being more advantageous than the TDI. Ford and Toyota do not release official torque numbers, but I suspect they are both in the 220-230 lb-ft range.

Because of tightening emissions regulations in California, the Passat now comes with a urea injection system also known as “diesel exhaust fluid” or DEF to reduce NOx emissions. This is a significant difference from Mazda’s new SkyActiv diesel engine which they claim does not require this additive to achieve the same emissions compliance. This is significant not only because owners won’t have to buy DEF every few thousand miles, but also because VW decided to put the DEF filler port in the trunk rather than by the fuel filler on the side of the car (like other manufacturers do.) The result is an inconvenience on the VW side and, according to Mazda, a power bump on the SkyActiv diesel which they expect to come in around 170 ponies (if we get the high-output version) and 300 lb-ft of torque which should put the Mazda neck-and-neck with the hybrids.

The Passat TDI starts at $26,295 for the SE trim and tops out at $32,995 for the loaded SE. This price walk essentially mirrors the Passat V6 and feature for feature is substantially similar to the Camry, Optima, Sonata and Fusion hybrid sedans meaning the TDI doesn’t have a price advantage initially compared to the gas-electric competition. Honda’s Accord Hybrid starts at $29,155 making it the highest base price in this bunch, but the top-level Accord at $34,905 seems reasonable compared to a fully-loaded Fusion Titanium Hybrid at $38,870.

Because the mid-size sedan segment is so competitive, when you calculate the value of standard feature content, most of the pack ends up within a few hundred bucks of one another except for the Optima which undercuts the pack by nearly a grand. The higher top-end pricing on the hybrid competition is largely due to the availability of more features like radar cruise control, self parking, lane departure prevention that you won’t find on the Passat.

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-007Drive

The Americanization of the Passat has had an effect on the way VW’s large sedan drives. The difference is most obvious if you drive the VW CC and the Passat back-to-back. The CC has a more solid and connected feel and the handling limits are higher. That’s not to say the Passat will let down the VW faithful with Camry-levels of grip, but in the pursuit of higher fuel economy narrower tires we required. In the pursuit of rear leg room, the wheelbase and chassis had to get longer making the American sedan drive larger than the European model. The result is a Passat that slots below the Mazda6, Accord Sport and some levels of Fusion in terms of handling, but notably above the Camry and Korean competition  which have less refined suspension manners.

Diesels have never been known for spirited performance despite the modern crop of torque-strong turbocharged designs. Our TDI tester clocked 60 MPH in just over 8 seconds which is on the long end of the green pack with most of the hybrid competition in the low to mid 7 second range. Diesels have a dedicated following largely due to their high fuel economy, high torque numbers and the plateau like horsepower and torque curves. Today’s hybrids however deliver much the same experience thanks to electric motors that deliver their maximum torque at low speeds without the turbo lag experienced in turbo Diesel engines. This negates many of the claims popular in the TDI forums.

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-011

Once upon a time when Toyota’s unique planetary gearset power-splitting hybrid system was the only game in town, many shoppers and reviewers disliked CVT-like feel of the Hybrid Synergy Drive system. Despite the fact that CVTs are more efficient, I’ll admit that there’s something about gear changes that I find satisfying. If that describes you, then there are now hybrid options, like the Sonata and Optima, that combine electric motors with traditional automatics for a more “normal” feel.

This now brings us to fuel economy. During a week and 732 miles, I averaged 36.5 MPG, slightly higher than the EPA number and on a one-way level highway journey I managed 47 MPG on  a 50 mile trip with the cruise control set to 68 and the AC on. The more time you spend in stop and go traffic or on city streets, the lower your number will be. That’s a sharp contrast to most hybrids that excel in city and heavy traffic because they can keep the engine off for most low speed maneuvers. This segment is the poster child of “your mileage may vary.” If your commute is characterized by long highway stretches cruising at 70MPH, the Passat will be the mileage winner. If however you drive in moderate to heavy traffic or find yourself running around town on the city streets, a gasoline hybrid is going to be the mileage champ.

2014 Volkswagen Passat TDI-009

A few short years ago the Passat TDI was the clear choice for high mileage cruisers that didn’t want a softly sprung Camry hybrid. Unfortunately today’s Passat has some serious competition from the handsome Fusion hybrid which posted similar economy numbers while being faster and costing less to operate. We also have the new Accord hybrid. The Accord may cost $2,850 more than the Passat TDI, but it delivers more feature content in the base model and an incredible (and personally verified) 50 MPG in the city with a combined 47 MPG score and road manners that equal or exceed the Passat. When you factor in the higher cost of diesel and the diesel exhaust fluid the VW requires, the Accord “breaks even” vs the TDI at 60,000 miles. Perhaps the biggest problem for the Passat TDI’s proposition as a thrifty commuter is the Kia Optima delivered the same mileage while drinking cheaper fuel, is less expensive to purchase and has a longer warranty. My experience with the Passat TDI left me wondering if I should really be as excited about the Mazda6 diesel as I am, or should I instead be hoping VW jams the Jetta’s hybrid system into the Passat? The Passat TDI isn’t without its charms, but after a week burning the midnight oil, my heart and my pocket book were dreaming gasoline hybrid dreams.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.0 Seconds

0-60: 8.01 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.4 Seconds @84 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 36.5 MPG over 721 miles

Sound level at 50 MPH: 71 dB

 

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This Dorky Kid Is Really Cool, Actually http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/this-dorky-kid-is-really-cool-actually/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/this-dorky-kid-is-really-cool-actually/#comments Thu, 14 Feb 2013 14:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=477386 “It fuel starves on left turns on about… seventy Ohms.” Now that is not something you hear every day about a “tuner car”, is it? DRIVE’s Matt Farah checks out a homemade contraption consisting of a late-first-gen RX-7 and a five-liter Ford V-8. (The old five-liter, mind you, not the Coyote mod motor.) “Never a […]

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“It fuel starves on left turns on about… seventy Ohms.”

Now that is not something you hear every day about a “tuner car”, is it?

DRIVE’s Matt Farah checks out a homemade contraption consisting of a late-first-gen RX-7 and a five-liter Ford V-8. (The old five-liter, mind you, not the Coyote mod motor.) “Never a dull moment,” he says, and he’s correct.

The owner, Corbin, is a modern example of a recurring American character: The Kid In The Garage Building His Own Hot-Rod Car. Since we’re in 2013, he’s an awkward Asperger’s case hiding behind sunglasses instead of a James Dean wannabe with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his shirtsleeve, but the dynamic is the same. Built, not bought; invented, not acquired. Watching this video is a great way to wash the taste of the Magnus Walker hagiography out of your mind. Check it out, and leave a comment so the DRIVE team knows you’re watching.

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