The Truth About Cars » drivetrain http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 20:36:40 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 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 » drivetrain http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Review: 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-ford-c-max-hybrid-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-ford-c-max-hybrid-video/#comments Fri, 14 Dec 2012 15:55:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=467787

Up till now there hasn’t been a “real” Prius alternative on the market. Sure Honda has the Civic and Insight, but their real-world MPGs can’t hold a candle to the green-car poster child and Honda’s IMA hybrid system is far from smooth and refined. The Volt is more of a novelty with its lofty price tag and the last time we tested one we revealed a lowly 32MPG average when running gasoline only. This brings us to the blue oval. Despite Ford using essentially the same technology as Toyota for their hybrid systems, Ford resisted creating a dedicated hybrid model. Until now. Meet the 47MPG 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid. Of course we’ve all heard the news that the C-MAX doesn’t hit 47MPG, so click-through the jump to find out what we averaged and whether or not that should matter to you.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

What Ford didn’t do was create a futuristic wedge-shaped car on a dedicated platform crafted from light-weight ultra-eco-friendly materials in an attempt to create the most efficient car in America. Disappointed? Don’t be, because the benefits may just outweigh the drawbacks. Instead Ford took the existing (since 2011) Focus-based C-Max from Europe, stuffed Ford’s most powerful hybrid drivetrain under the Euro sheetmetal and slapped some wide (for a hybrid) tires on what might just be the first hybrid hot hatch.

Speaking of that sheetmetal, the C-MAX strikes an interesting pose on American roads looking like the product of crossbreeding a Focus and a Windstar. The resulting hatchback has a tall greenhouse, tall roof-line and some crossover styling cues no doubt to confuse entice the suburban set. Measuring in at 173 inches long, the C-MAX is 2 inches longer than the Focus hatchback on which it is based, but 3 inches shorter than a Prius and 8 inches shorter than a Prius V.

Of course none of this really explains the strange “C-MAX” name. Yes, that’s what it’s called in Europe, but why? Still, it’s no stranger than “Prius” and whatever you think of its name, the C-MAX is considerably more attractive than Toyota’s bulbous hybrid wagon.

Interior

The C-MAX doesn’t just look like a wannabe crossover on the outside, it does on the inside as well. There’s a reason for this. Instead of sharing heavily with the Focus hatch as you might assume, the C-MAX shares parts and interior styling with the 2013 Escape. The only major style change to the dash is a unique instrument cluster similar with twin 4.2-inch LCDs like the Fusion hybrid. Unlike the Prius, you won’t find any thin, hard, weight saving plastics in the cabin. There are no blue-tinted transparent button arrays, no shifter joystick and no center-mounted disco dash either. Instead you will find a premium cabin that would pass muster in any $30,000 vehicle and looks notably more premium than the Lexus CT 200h. The Prius on the other hand is full of plastics and fabrics more at home in a $16,000 econo-box.

The C-MAX seats can be had in your choice of charcoal or a “greyish” tan fabric or leather but regardless of your choice, the majority of the interior is black-on-black. The overly black theme is both very European (in a good way) and a bit cold (in a bad way) for my tastes. Front seat comfort is good thanks to a relatively upright seating position, wide seat cushions and a good range of motion when you get the power driver’s seat. The tilt/telescopic steering wheel made finding a comfortable driving position quick and easy. The upright seating is what allows the C-MAX to have Prius matching rear leg room, an improvement of three inches over the Focus hatchback’s more reclined thrones.

The rear seats are a bit close to the floor for adult passengers but are the right height for most children and young teens. Despite looking tall and narrow, the C-MAX is more than three inches wider than the Prius and this allows three to sit abreast in the rear in greater comfort. The rear seat backs fold completely flat with the 24.5 cubic foot cargo area. Because the C-MAX wasn’t designed as a hybrid from the start, the battery pack occupies all the spare tire space in the C-MAX as well as a few inches on the cargo area floor. The reduced cargo space is a few cubes larger than the Prius liftback but smaller than the Prius V. Despite the cargo hauling reduction vs the European gasoline-only model, the C-MAX easily swallowed four roller bags with room to spare.

Infotainment

Like the Android vs iPhone debate, “infotainment systems” spark fierce debate. No system other than iDrive has received as much bad press, fan-boy rave reviews and healthy imitation as the strangely named “MyFord Touch.” (Really, what was wrong with SYNC?) The system (optional on SE, standard on SEL trim) combines your climate, entertainment, telephone and navigation chores into one integrated system that looks snazzy and responds via voice commands to your every whim. When it landed in 2010 it became obvious the software was rushed to market complete with more bugs than a bag of 5-year-old flour. Still, the system is still unique in the market for allowing you to voice command just about everything from your destination to your temperature and what Madonna track you want to listen to from your iPod.

The C-MAX benefits from a major software update released in March of 2012 (for all Ford products) to make the system more responsive. While the system never had a melt-down during my testing (a first for MFT), the slowness the system is known for persists. Like most MFT equipped vehicles, the C-MAX teams a snazzy in-dash touchscreen with twin 4.2-inch LCDs on either side of the speedometer. Perhaps a first for a hybrid vehicle, you won’t find a single screen on the main MFT screen that displays hybrid system information. No animated screen with a battery/motor/engine scree, no wacky driving hints, no fuel economy charts. Aside from the efficiency leaves that replace the climate option on the right-side 4.2-inch LCD and the intuitive kW gauge on the left LCD, there is nothing to identify the C-MAX as a trendy gasoline/electric people mover, and I think I like the move. Despite the system’s obviously flaws, MFT is far slicker and user-friendly than the Prius or Volt’s infotainment options.

Is Ford’s transmission a Toyota transmission?

The short answer is no. Long before Ford produced a hybrid vehicle, Ford and Toyota put out plenty of prototypes and concept cars. Both companies recognized the similarities of their competing hybrid designs and geared up for lawsuits. (Both designed shared plenty of cues from a TRW system from the 1960s.) Ford and Toyota did something rare in our litigious society, they settled and cross-licensed each-others technologies but (and most importantly) NOT their specific designs. Ford continued developing the Escape Hybrid solo and Toyota went on their way with Hybrid Synergy Drive. Some confusion was caused by Ford choosing Aisin build their hybrid transaxle for the Escape and Fusion hybrids because they didn’t have the capacity or expertise internally. Fast forward to 2012. Ford decided that in order to reduce costs and drive hybrid sales (for some CAFE credits of course) they had to take the design and manufacturing of hybrid systems in-house.  This means that Ford’s hybrid system’s level of vertical integration is vastly similar to Toyota.

Drivetrain

Under the stubby hood of the C-MAX you’ll find Ford’s completely redesigned hybrid system with a downsized 2.0L Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine good for 141HP and 129lb-ft of twist. This is down slightly from the old 155HP 2.5L engine in the old Fusion and Escape hybrids, but considerably higher than the Prius’s 98HP mill. In order to achieve the 188 system horsepower (11 more than the old Ford system and 54 more than the Prius) and a TTAC estimated 200-220lb-ft of twist, Ford put a hefty 118HP motor/generator into their in-house designed HF35 hybrid transaxle. If you want to know more about how the Ford and Toyota Hybrid systems work, click here.

Beneath the cargo area in the C-MAX sits a 1.6kWh lithium-ion battery pack. The lithium battery chemistry allows the hybrid system to charge and discharge the pack at rates higher than the old nickle based battery pack (used in the Escape and the Prius). This new battery allows the C-MAX to drive electric only up to 62MPH vs the 34MPH of the Prius. In addition, the C-MAX doesn’t need you to be as gentle on the throttle as the Prius or the older Ford hybrids.

Oh that fuel economy

Fuel economy is a tricky business because your driving style and topography are the biggest factors involved. I would caution readers to never compare my numbers with other publications because the driving conditions and styles are different. The 2012 Prius, when driven gently on my commute, (120 miles round trip with a 2,200ft mountain pass) averaged 46-47MPG which is fairly close to its 51/48/50 EPA rating (City/Highway/Combined). The C-MAX on the other hand averaged 41.5 during our 568 miles of testing and the lowest one-way figure on my daily commute was 39MPG. Sound good so far? There’s a problem, even on a level freeway at 65MPH the C-MAX struggled to get better than 45MPG in 60 degree weather. The Prius in the same situation averaged 50MPG. The Prius V suffered a similar shortfall in my week of testing coming in four MPG below its EPA combined 42MPG rating. We need to put these numbers in perspective. Driving 15,0000 miles a year with gas at $4 a gallon the C-MAX would cost $144 a year more to operate than a Prius and $148 less than a Prius V.

On the road

There are a few reasons the C-MAX fails to meet Ford’s fuel economy claims. The first is the portly 3,600lb curb weight, the second is the wide 225/50R17 tires which have a 23% larger contact patch than the Prius’ 195/65R15 rubber. On the flip side, the wide low-profile rubber pays real dividends when the road bends and the heavy curb weight helps the C-MAX to feel lass “crashy” than a Prius over broken pavement. Coupled with a Focus derived suspension, the tires help the C-MAX set a new benchmark for hybrid handling easily besting the CT 200h. While the electric power steering robs the hybrid hatch of 99% of its road feel, it still manages to be more engaging than a Prius. Admittedly not a hard thing to do.

Stomp on the C-MAX’s accelerator pedal and something surprising (for a hybrid) happens: acceleration. If the road surface is right you’ll even get some one-wheel-peel. Despite weighing a whopping 600lbs more than a Prius, the C-MAX sprints to 60MPH 2 seconds faster posting a solid 7 second run to highway speeds. I’d like to compare it to the Prius V and  Lexus CT 200h, but I gave up after 9.5 seconds. This makes the C-MAX as fast as the Focus ST and faster than a Volkswagen GTI.

In addition to being more powerful, the C-MAX’s hybrid system is capable of operating in EV mode at higher speeds and in a broader range of conditions than the Prius. While it doesn’t seem to help the C-MAX hit its advertised 47/47/47 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) it is a novelty that entertained drivers and passengers alike. Thanks to a more powerful motor, faster discharging battery, and aggressive software, it’s possible to accelerate up to40 MPH in EV mode without pissing off the cars behind you. Doing so brings the C-MAX’s other selling point to light: Ford’s sound deadening measures are extensive and make the C-MAX the quietest hybrid this side of the insane LS 600hL.

Ford has wisely priced the C-MAX aggressively starting at $25,200 and there’s already a Ford $1,000 cash back offer dropping the price to the same as the 2013 Prius’ MSRP and $2,450 cheaper than a Prius V. The up-level SEL model which comes standard with leather, heated seats, rain sensing wipers, backup sensors, ambient lighting, keyless entry/go for $28,200. Should you desire some plug-in love, the Energi model will set you back $32,950. The deal gets even better when you consider the C-MAX has more standard equipment and features and options unavailable in the Prius at any price.

The week after Ford lent me the C-MAX hybrid Consumer Reports’ “bombshell” about the C-MAX’s fuel economy numbers dropped. But does it matter? Is a 41MPG C-MAX a failure? No, and here’s why. The only measurable way the Prius is better than the C-MAX is real world fuel economy where the Prius will save you a few Grants a year. In every other way the C-MAX is superior to the Prius and even the Lexus CT 200h. Does this compensate for the “lackluster” fuel economy? It does in my book. If you’re willing to spend $144 a year in higher fuel costs for a more entertaining ride, this Ford’s for you. The C-Max isn’t just a shot across Toyota’s bow, it’s the first honest-to-goodness competitor on the market. Better yet, it’s not a me-too Prius, it’s a unique and compelling alternative.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.9 Seconds

0-60: 7.05 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.55 Seconds @ 92 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 41.5MPG over 625 Miles

 

2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, hybrid logo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Exterior, wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, cargo area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, front seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, front seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, instrument cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, instrument cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, interior, instrument cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Infotainment, MyFord Touch, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Infotainment, MyFord Touch, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid, Picture Coutesy of Ford Motor Company 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid Transmission Diagram, Picture Coutesy of Ford Motor Company 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid Transmission Diagram, Picture Coutesy of Ford Motor Company Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Pre-Production Review: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/pre-production-review-2013-nissan-pathfinder/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/pre-production-review-2013-nissan-pathfinder/#comments Tue, 23 Oct 2012 18:46:40 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=464554

If you’re like most Americans, you either drive an SUV or want one. Don’t believe me? One in three vehicles sold on our shores in the past 12 months was an SUV or crossover, despite skyrocketing fuel prices. Of course, those fuel prices mean the demographic of the SUV smorgasbord has shifted from gas-guzzling truck-based off-roaders to unibody “crossovers.” Although Nissan is a little late to the soft-road party, they are countering their tardiness by doubling down on standard towing and fuel economy. What’s the reality and what’s it like to drive? Click through the jump and find out as we go off-roading and tow an Airstream.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Despite having made the transition to unibody construction in 1996 (and back to body-on-frame in 2005) Pathfinders were recognizable as Pathfinders. The 2013 model on the other hand is instantly recognizable as a Nissan, but the Pathfinder lineage is far less obvious. The reason for this of course is that the 2013 model is a clean-sheet design that was penned at the same time as its close cousin the Infiniti JX. Nissan’s first unibody design was an attempt to compete with the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the fourth generation Pathfinder has Ford’s Explorer and the GM Lambda triplets in its crosshairs. Mission accomplished.

Interior

The outgoing Pathfinder shared its interior with the Frontier and as a result had a more rugged, lower-rent truck-like interior. The 2013 Pathfinder’s transformation is much like GM’s GMT360 to Lambda transformation. The new Pathfinder has an upscale interior with near-luxury fit and finish and a more sedan-like cockpit. Parts sharing with the Infiniti JX35 is high with air vents, switch gear, seat frames and LCD shared between the two. This top-down parts sharing is good for Pathfinder shoppers, but only time will tell if there is enough differentiation between the Pathfinder and JX to make Infiniti shoppers happy. As with the Infiniti JX, seat comfort declines the further right and rearward you go. The front passenger seat lacks the power lumbar adjustment of the driver’s seat. The second row seats are comfortable, but not as padded as the front seats with cushions designed for children or shorter passengers. As with most three-row crossovers the last row should be reserved for small children, coworkers you hate or your mother-in-law.

Infotainment

For Pathfinder duty, Nissan lifted their corporate infotainment systems without much change. The base $28,270 Pathfinder S combines a 6-speaker audio system and in-dash 6-CD changer. The base model’s glaring omissions include the lack of: Bluetooth, AUX input and a USB/iPod interface. Stepping up one trim-level (to the $31,530 SV) gets the driver a 7-inch LCD, Bluetooth, AUX input and a USB/iPod interface at the cost of the 6-disc changer (all other models get a single disc MP3/CD player.) Hopping up to the SL Premium (Nissan hasn’t released pricing on this one) gets the buyer the same 13-speaker Bose sound system as the mid-level trims of Infiniti JX35, right down to the Bose subwoofer. As long as you don’t need your bass to rattle your windows, the system is impressive.

Should navigation be on your short list, you’ll need to jump up to the $39,170 Platinum. Doing so gets you an 8-inch high-resolution touch-screen display pared with the Bose system and an in-dash DVD player. This Nissan system is one of the more responsive and intuitive systems on the market providing easy iPod/USB integration and an interesting novelty in the automotive world: a navigation joystick/wheel, steering wheel navigation controls and a touchscreen. This allows you to choose whether you enter data on the steering wheel, use the joystick/wheel device or just touch the screen.

Pricing

Nissan has set the starting price for the Pathfinder S (FWD) at $28,270, undercutting all the primary competition. As with most CUVs, beware, prices build quickly. Due to the way Nissan has structured the options list, the minimum point of entry for navigation is $39,170, nearly $4,000 more than an Explorer but only about $1,000 more than a Traverse. Most of the models we had on hand to test were well equipped SL models around $38,000 or fully loaded Platinum models around $44,000.

Drivetrain

Under the hood lies Nissan’s ubiquitous 3.5L V6 tuned to 260HP and 240lb-ft of torque, 5HP and 8lb-ft less than the same engine in the JX35. In addition to being down a few ponies compared to its luxury cousin, it’s also the least powerful in its class. As you would expect from Nissan, power is sent to the front wheels via a CVT, but this one has been revised to handle a 5,000lb tow rating. The new transmission uses a steel chain instead of a steel belt for durability, but importantly the ratios stay more-or-less unchanged. Nissan’s reps confirmed that the transmission is the primary reason for the JX35 and Pathfinder’s different tow ratings.

If towing with a FWD crossover doesn’t sound like fun, $1,600 buys you AWD. The system normally defaults to FWD mode for improved fuel economy but as a (small) nod to the Pathfinder’s history, the system has a lock mode that mechanically connects the front and rear differentials so that power flows 50:50 (front:rear) in all situations. Unlike more traditional transfer case setups, the clutch-pack allows a small amount of slip so the system can be used on dry pavement without binding. Leaving the AWD system in “Auto” keeps power to the front unless fairly significant slippage occurs (in order to improve fuel economy). The result is a decidedly FWD feel under most circumstances.

Drive

The engine right-sizing, CVT and unibody combine to drop the curb weight by 500lbs to 4,149lbs for the base 2WD model to 4,471lbs in the AWD Platinum. The weight reduction and other efficiency changes pay dividends with fuel economy rising from 15/22 and 14/20 (2WD/4WD) to 20/26 and 19/25. Compared to the unibody Explorer, the Nissan bests the Ford by 3MPG in the city and 1 on the highway in 2WD form and 1/2 mpg with AWD. However, if you seek crossover-fuel-sipping-nirvana, look no further than Ford’s 28MPG 2.0L Ecoboost Explorer.

Because the Pathfinder started as a rugged off-road vehicle, Nissan felt it necessary to take us to a cattle ranch to spend some time climbing hills and towing trailers. There are two realities we must keep in mind. First, automakers sometimes go overboard trying to prove that a new vehicle matches the older vehicle’s abilities. Second, the majority of shoppers will never tow or take the vehicle off-road so it really doesn’t matter anyway.

The first I noticed during our romp on the steep grassy hills was: ground clearance has dropped from 9-inches in the 2012 to 6.5 (lower than the Explorer’s 7.6 and the Traverse’s 7.2). Off-roading angles also decrease from 28/23/22 to 14/22/16 (approach/departure/break-over). The result is a Pathfinder that is more stable on-road thanks to a lower center of gravity, but a vehicle that may have difficulties going over the hill and through the woods. Does that matter to anyone? Probably not.

The second thing our adventure demonstrated was: the CVT and final drive ratio favor fuel economy. How so? By skewing the range toward the high-end of the CUV competition. The result is an effective low ratio of 13.5:1 that is notably higher than the Explorer’s 15.2:1 and a higher final gear of 2.0:1 vs the Explorer’s lower 2.2:1. The result is better fuel economy than the Explorer on the highway, but when we encountered steep terrain on the ranch, the Pathfinder felt out of its element and out of breath.

Back on the highway the Pathfinder presents its best argument for success: road manners. The suspension is firm for a crossover but not uncomfortable and was well composed over a variety of broken road surfaces, something that could not be said about the previous generation Pathfinder. Wind and road noise have also been drastically reduced in the cabin giving the Nissan a premium feel not unlike the Buick Enclave.

The towing demonstration was largely ignored by my journalist peers, but my own towing needs caused my interest to be piqued. I was initially concerned that the taller gearing of the CVT and the lower torque rating of the Nissan V6 would be a problem, but I was only half right. Unless you’re towing at capacity in San Francisco, the CVT makes a strangely enjoyable tow partner. Takeoffs are slow due to the gearing choices, and Ford’s Ecoboost V6 feels decidedly more confidant, but the CVT has advantages. When hill climbing it’s easier to maintain a constant speed because the CVT can constantly vary the ratio to keep you from doing the “slow down, down-shift, speed up, up-shift, slow down” ballet that I’m used to when towing with my GMT360 SUV.

While the Pathfinder may have shed much of its heritage in its fourth generation, so has everyone else. Unfortunately, this also means a select few shoppers (like yours truly) that need to tow 6,500lbs regularly with an AWD mid-size SUV are left with the Dodge Durango as your only new car choice in this segment (until Chrysler kills it in 2015). Instead Nissan has delivered exactly what 95% of SUV/CUV shopper want: 20% better fuel economy, some rugged good looks and the ability to handle Tahoe when the ski-bug bites. While I will mourn the loss of the Pathfinder along with a certain segment of rock-crawlers in the square states, you should put the Pathfinder at the top of your shopping list.

Nissan invited me to a local Pathfinder event, paid for the hotel and stuffed us full of food.

Specifications as tested

0-30:3.6 Seconds

0-60: 6.9 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.16 @ 91 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 20.5 MPG over 189 Miles

2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, Dashobard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, AWD selector, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, Dashobard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, Dashobard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, Dashobard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, 2nd row seating, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, 3rd row, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, cargo area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, cargo area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, cargo area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, cargo area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, HVAC/Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, display audio screen, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, display audio screen, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, display audio screen, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, display audio screen, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, inftiainment controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Interior, console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, Engine, 3.6L V6, Picture Courtesy of Nissan 2013 Nissan Pathfinder, offroad, Picture Courtesy of Nissan Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Buick Regal To Get Doubly Hybridized http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/buick-regal-to-get-doubly-hybridized/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/buick-regal-to-get-doubly-hybridized/#comments Fri, 13 Nov 2009 19:41:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=335338 how well has this timeline worked out?

Crank up production of the big green Hybrid stickers, ’cause the Regal is going to sport some serious hybrid regalia. No less then two of GM’s raft of hybrid systems may find their way into the Opel/Buick. gm-volt.com cites a report in Ward’s Auto [subscription] that GM will start production of an updated version of their not-even mildly successful mild-hybrid belt/alternator/starter BAS system in late 2011. The current version of that hybrid in name only system was available on the Malibu, but its economics compared to the four cylinder/six speed automatic made it irrelevant, as in canceled. But this new version has a plus symbol attached, so its going to really fly this time:

The new BAS+ has a 120 V li-ion pack, so it takes up less space and has 33% more belt yanking ability. But that’s not all: The Regal’s line director, Jim Frederico, told Ward’s that the Regal is just the right size to also host the upcoming 2-mode transverse plug-in drivetrain as well. You haven’t forgotten about that one yet, have you. It’s the one that was intended for the Saturn VUE. After the VUE’s demise, GM said it would have its second coming in a similar-sized small Buick SUV.  Negative public feedback killed that plan stat, and GM has been mum about where the drivetrain would re-appear. Since  Buick is going to take on Lexus and California, it’s going to bring its HS 250 killer to the hybrid shootout.

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Review: 2010 Audi S4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/review-audi-s4/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2009/11/review-audi-s4/#comments Mon, 09 Nov 2009 16:15:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=334566 audis4

Once upon a time, S was for Audis what M was for BMWs. A decade ago Audi took an A4, added a pair of turbos to the V6, stiffened the suspension, plus-oned the alloys, and tagged the result the S4. A special driving experience that became more special (if less moddable) when the 250-horsepower turbo V6 was replaced by a 340-horsepower V8 a few years later. The A4 was redesigned for 2009, and this year there’s a new S4. The V8 has been tossed in favor of a supercharged 3.0-liter V6 that kicks out 333 horsepower. Is the resulting car worthy of the S?

With the B8 A4, Audi rearranged the drivetrain bits to shift the front axle forward four inches. The primary goal: lose the nose-heavy feel that has long plagued Audis. But this change also improved the car’s proportions—having the front wheel opening just a couple inches from the front door cut is never pretty. Other changes included some BMW-influenced (but more tastefully done) “flame surfacing” on the lower bodysides. Even with these changes, the current A4 looks much like the previous one at a glance. It’s a handsome car. But the closely related A5 coupe is stunning.

audis4sideThe new Audi S4 looks nearly identical to the A4 on which it is based. The wheel design is unique, but such a subtle difference will be lost on all but the most ardent Audi fans. The fascias might also be tweaked, but I couldn’t tell. I literally checked the badges prior to entry to verify that I was indeed getting into an S4 rather than an A4.

The S4′s stealth act continues in the interior. Good thing then, that Audi has led the industry in interior design and construction for at least the last decade. While the S4’s cabin is largely up to snuff, some bits seem cheaper than in the previous car, most notably the silver plastic trim plate across the top half of the instrument panel face and the hard plastic door pulls. Other manufacturers wrap the latter, a key touch point, in leather, and it feels good. Why doesn’t “the interior design leader?”

The new S4, like the A4 on which it is based, is 4.6 inches longer and 2.1 inches wider than the old one. This larger exterior translates to a larger interior. In the front seat, you sit a bit lower behind a more imposing instrument panel than before and the cabin feels noticeably wider. These changes, together with the longer wheelbase, lend the B8 an almost midsize feel. This can be good or bad. Buying a compact sedan only because it costs less? Then good. Buying a compact sedan because you like the more agile, more intimate feel of a smaller car? Not so good. audis4int

The S4 does have standard sport buckets. The prominent side bolsters provide excellent lateral support, but are just short of uncomfortably tight for me–and I have a fairly slim build. Larger people might find these seats unbearable. My seat recalls the old S4’s Recaro buckets much more fondly.

In the back seat, knees have about an inch more space, which is significant since many adults couldn’t quite fit into the back of the old S4. As in nearly every competitor, the rear seat remains too low to the floor to provide adults with thigh support. As before, the rear seat folds in two parts to enlarge the trunk. Try finding that in a Japanese competitor.

The new Audi S4 is available with two transmissions, a six-speed conventional manual and a seven-speed automated dual clutch manual (“DSG” in VW-speak, “S tronic” in Audiese). I drove the former. Start up the new S4 and get going, and the first thing you’ll notice is that the shift lever is a too tall for comfort. First mod? Otherwise, the new car’s shifter feels smoother than that in any other Audi I’ve cogswapped.

The next thing you notice is that, when driving the new Audi S4 casually, there isn’t much to notice. In the old V8-powered S4, a sporty burble reminded you at all times that you were driving something special. In the new one, noise from all sources, including the engine, is low. In some supercharged engines (Ford’s V8 comes to mind), the blower assaults the eardrums. With this one, my ears failed to notice it.

audis4engineIs the new S4 quick? Absolutely. The supercharged engine doesn’t pack the now-off-now-on wallop I recall in the old biturbo V6—power builds more linearly and without a lag—but it does pull very strongly. You’re at sixty-plus before your senses have time to process the (non) experience. Fuel economy benefits from the engine swap: EPA ratings go from 13/19 to 18/27—goodbye gas guzzler tax. The benefits don’t end here—Audi has also cut the price by a few thousand to reflect the lower manufacturing cost of this engine. And yet, something is also lost. As Baruth noted in his drive of the A6 3.0T, the supercharged V6 verges on characterless. It has none of the spine-tingling soul of the V8.

Like the new A4, the new S4 has more communicative steering and more balanced handling than the old one. The nose no longer seeks the outside curb in hard turns. Any curve taken at semi-sane speeds is carved without complaint. And yet the edge that marks the best performance sedans is absent. The driver gives orders, and the car faithfully executes them, but the two don’t meld. On the flip side, the ride is surprisingly absorbent.

A couple of performance-oriented options were absent from the “stripper” S4 I drove. An $1,100 active rear differential should lend the S4 more of the feel of a rear-wheel drive car, with (hopefully) throttle-induced oversteer on demand. Spend an extra $3,950 for the Audi Drive Select Package, and this audis4rearactive differential is joined by active steering, ultra-quick electrically-adjustable shocks, and a switch to alter the calibrations of both. The adjustable steering and shocks get stellar reviews in every Audi in which they’re offered. With them, the latest S4 might be the most thrilling yet.

Problem is, without them the new Audi S4 feels much like a regular A4, just with 50 percent more power. If Audi had called the car I drove an A4 3.0T, as it does when the A6 is fitted with this engine, then I’d have no complaints. But an S4 should be more special. As it is, it’s just a very quick and very competent but otherwise normal-feeling car.

My suggestion: give the car I drove the regular A4’s more accommodating buckets and rename it the A4 3.0T. The S4 nameplate should be reserved for a car with a more thrilling engine note, the trick suspension and steering, and tuning that thoroughly engages the driver in the experience. Otherwise, the S badge seems like little more than a marketing afterthought.

[Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta.com, a provider of car reliability and real-world gas mileage information]

Performance: 5/5
By any objective standard, the supercharged six is strong. Just soulless.
Ride: 4/5
The biggest pleasant surprise–the ride doesn’t suck. Tar strips? What tar strips?
Handling: 4/5
More balanced and communicative, but (at least without the optional trick shocks are rear end) it lacks a sporty edge.
Exterior: 4/5
A handsome car. But why is it so hard to distinguish from the A4. And why can’t it look more like the A5?
Interior: 3/5
Less special without the B7′s Recaros and with the additional hard plastic.
Fit and finish: 3/5
The bits fit together well. But have I mentioned the hard plastic door pulls?
Toys: 2/5
Nothing special on the base S4.
Desirability: 4/5
Those who buy based on stats will want one. Those seeking a passionate romance…will keep waiting for a car company to remember that it’s not all about the stats.
Price as tested: $47,200.
Overall rating: 4/5
Highly competent. Now just needs a soul.
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