The Truth About Cars » GM http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 18 Apr 2014 22:58:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 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 » GM http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com EGR-equipped Buick Regal Hits 40 MPG http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/egr-equipped-buick-regal-hits-40-mpg/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/egr-equipped-buick-regal-hits-40-mpg/#comments Thu, 10 Apr 2014 10:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=791809 EGR Buick Regal Gets 40 MPG

The current Buick Regal is an excellent car. I know, because I have one parked in my garage (it’s sweet). Still, it could be better- and the guys at the SouthWest Research Institute (SWRI) have figured out a way to enhance the mid-range Buick so that it produces fewer harmful carbon emissions and gets better fuel economy.

Can’t beat that!

Far from being pie-in-the-sky thinking, however, the motivation for building this 40 MPG ultra low-emission Buick Regal comes out of necessity. Namely the 2025 CAFE regulations that will force automobile manufacturers to achieve a 54.5 miles per gallon EPA rating across their product range. At the same time, the EPA is also expected to release new, more stringent emissions standards in a bid to improve air quality and save lives. Those two factors mean there is considerable industry focus on improving both emissions and fuel efficiency without incurring huge R&D costs- and the EGR system built into the SWRI team’s 2014 Buick Regal might play a big part in that.

EGR, for those not in the know, stands for exhaust gas recirculation. In the case of the Buick Regal tester, the 2.0 Liter engine was modified so that exhaust from one dedicated cylinder is run with a rich mixture of fuel and air to reform hydrocarbon fuel into carbon monoxide and hydrogen. The reformulated exhaust gas is then cooled and looped into a patented mixer where the exhaust gasses are mixed with fresh air before going into the engine intake. “By running one cylinder rich, the excess fuel is reformed into hydrogen and carbon monoxide,” added Chris Chadwell, manager of SWRI’s Spark Ignition Engine R&D section. “The in-cylinder reformation slightly reduces the carbon dioxide and water vapor while producing large volumes of carbon monoxide, which is a good fuel, and hydrogen, which is an outstanding fuel. That provides an octane boost and a flammability boost, and extends the EGR limit of the engine.”

It’s all pretty trick stuff, in other words- and it’s not that far away from being a production-ready piece. Let’s hope the next generation of Buick Regals- heck, let’s hope they build a new ROADMASTER!- has enough slick SWRI stuff on it to still be legal, then. In the meantime, you can check out an under hood shot of the SWRI EGR-equipped 2014 Buick Regal, below. Enjoy!

 

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Source | Photos: SWRI; Originally published on Gas 2.

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Subprime Lending Still On The Rise As GM Financial Grows Prime Lending Operations http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/moodys-subprime-on-the-rise/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/moodys-subprime-on-the-rise/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 20:05:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=780737 450x236xGM-Establishes-GM-Financial-1024x539-450x236.jpg.pagespeed.ic.I-LWSrSJhA

Subprime auto financing continues to grow, and while one analyst at Moody’s says that banks are largely staying out of the subprime space, overall lending continued to rise, with retail banks seeing some of the strongest growth. This expansion in lending, particularly subprime, was attributed as a key driver in auto sales. SNL cited forecasts for a SAAR of between 16 and 16.7 million in 2014, up from 15.5 million in 2013.

SNL Financial, a finance industry trade publication, directly attributed strong auto sales to the increase in subprime financing, drawing a connection between the increased SAAR and an increase the portfolios of subprime lenders. Consumer Portfolio Services Inc saw a 37 percent growth in receivables year-over-year, with over $1.2 billion in receivables for Q4 2014.

The increase in subprime lending along with looser underwriting standards has led ratings agencies to view the sector in a negative light. Fitch, which has issued a negative outlook in the sector as a whole, told SNL that overall, losses were at “historical lows” and that the increase in lenders will make the segment more competitive.

SNL also reports that Moody’s has cast an eye on underwriting standards, with Moody’s VP Mark Wasden stating that longer loan terms (due to higher prices, more durable cars and increased ownership periods) is a major factor.

While Wasden noted that banks were remaining “relatively conservative” regarding subprime lending, savings banks saw the biggest growth in overall lending among depository institutions, growing 16.06 percent year over year (compared to 11.24 percent for credit unions and 10.04 percent for commercial banks). Even so, commercial banks remained the dominant force, issuing $331.92 billion in loans, with savings banks accounting for just $21.49 billion.

Another notable development is the increasing reliance of GM Financial on General Motors – while this sounds redundant, General Motors vehicle financing now accounts from 70 percent of GM Financial’s business, and receivables have more than doubled to $33 billion in Q4 2013 from just $13 billion a few years ago. GM Financial, once known as AmeriCredit Corp, was largely a subprime focused business when GM bought it in 2010, but plans are underway to transition GM Financial to prime lending. While GM Financial is now stepping into the role that the legendary GMAC once occupied, Ally (GMAC’s successor), is shrinking from the auto lending market, suggesting a reversal of roles for GM’s two finance arms .

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Hammer Time: Rediscovering My Inner Jersey http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/hammer-time-rediscovering-my-inner-jersey/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/hammer-time-rediscovering-my-inner-jersey/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 11:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=764689 sev1

114 car dealers. Every single last one of them looking for an impossibly good deal among the 150 vehicles at the auction on a near-Arctic Monday morning.

Even if it’s a seemingly bad deal. It doesn’t matter during this time of year.

This is officially tax season… which means that cars that couldn’t even get a $500 down payment during the post-Christmas drought will soon be picked up in earnest by the sub-prime, debt happy public. A $1200 down payment as their first financial tombstone of 2014 will be followed by a long line of bogus fees, and a note that will hopefully be flipped into funny money (now known as sub-prime asset backed securities) before the drowning debtor becomes financial roadkill.

Everything is high. But surprisingly not as high as in years past. Orphaned brands are mostly cheap. Minivans are cheap, and everything from older luxury coupes to younger hatchbacks can be had for decent money if they’re not sporty or popular.

Speaking of popular. Let me show you a little somethin’.

sev2

This 1980 Cadillac Seville is the King of Swing and the purveyor of all things cool.

sev3

I’m not even sure if I can give this vehicle justice by these pics. Like a lot of older cars that are unfashionable but well cared for, this Seville has “it”.

sev1.1

The paint is a perfect compliment to the design. Unlike the wretched vinyl tops, two tone medicine blues, and malaise era engines that made this car into a rolling joke, this Seville seems to be one of the few exceptions to the rule that was GM mediocrity.

sev12

For starters, it’s an 80′ model with no smoke. Which means it ended up with a decent engine. The 6.0 Liter Cadillac V8 which produces… well… let’s just say it’s the best of the worst.

sev8

The black interior and low seating position is designed for the future low riders of these models. You know. The ones who were busy listening to UTFO and the Breakin’ soundtrack instead of Snoopy and that Two-pack dude.

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That’s all original. I’m still not sure if it’s real wood or fake wood. Let’s just call it Cadillac wood and move on.

sev32

Everything still works on this vehicle. The auto temp control. The radio. The instant mpg calculator which rarely goes above 25 mpg. It’s all there. Actually I was hitting around 28 mpg on that thing. But I’m not sure if that was due to the equipment getting some Imperial calculations between 1980 and today.

sev9

93,000 miles. Original. Well, it is a repaint and I have  to work on a few wires (cough! cough!). When I saw it, I knew I would never see anything quite like it ever again. Time marches on and the unpopular rides of yesteryear get dumped into the hardcore and borderline psychopathic of car owners. I know enough of my fellow compatriots to realize that come hell or high bidding, I was going to have to buy this thing.

sev36

So I did my usual trick. I hid in the back with my leather jacket and jeans against the cold cement wall. I saw my friend, the auctioneer, who knew me back when I was an auctioneer. He started at 3k. I made eye contact. Shucked two fingers onto my U2 leahter jacket. And quickly put them back in my pocket as my friend wailed, “Habadagive two grand! 21! I got money! 21! Habadagive 21!”

Except no one believed him. I had put in the bid within three seconds of his downward cadence from three grand, to two grand, to what was usually a grand opening bid. Most starting bids go down about $2000 to $3000 at the auctions before they head back up to where the sellable range is.

sev13

This particular time, there would be no uptick.  After about five seconds of low ball signs of one finger (for $1000) and the words $1500 mouthed out to the auctioneer… the hammer fell. I had bought one of the last of the pseudo-luxurious mohicans for $2000 plus a $155 auction fee.

Was it a steal? Hell no! I bought it because I want to enjoy the experience of owning it, and then later, sell it to someone who will love it a bit more than yours truly. One of the first rules of the car business is, “Never fall in love.” So I’m going to play around with it for a few weeks, and then let it go to an enthusiast who will make this baby Caddy endure.

sev11

Oh, one other thing. Cadillac may have screwed up their brand big-time throughout the 1980′s. From this Seville to the Allante, Cadillac was completely castrated during this time and I have no fondness for the bean counters and the Howdy Dowdy CEO who guided them during the Reagan Era.

sev6

However this Fisher Body Seville, with an engine solely (and soul-ly) given to the Cadillac division represents a high mark within the low mark.

This downsized Seville rides just like one of those older, floaty Cadillacs from the 1970′s. It’s an amazing ride. Easy to steer, and a beauty to behold in the flesh.

I plan on selling it for $2500.

sev5

 

 

 

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Junkyard Find: 1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Troféo http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1992-oldsmobile-toronado-trofeo/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1992-oldsmobile-toronado-trofeo/#comments Wed, 26 Feb 2014 14:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=754577 13 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinYou like rare cars? How about a final-year-of-manufacture Olds Toronado Troféo? I’ll bet there aren’t more than a few hundred ’92 Troféos left in the world! Here’s one that I spotted last week at a snowy Denver self-service yard.
08 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI have an unhealthy obsession with the products of GM’s mid-80s-to-early-90s efforts to compete toe-to-toe with German luxury marques (or at least drop the average age of Buick, Oldsmobile, and Cadillac purchase from 96 to maybe 70 years old), and so I’m always happy to write about cars such as the Buick Reatta, Cadillac Allanté, and Olds Troféo. This car is the third Troféo in this series, after this ’89 and this ’90.
09 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinEven a 70-year-old in 1992 must have been aware that the Buick 3.8 V6 wasn’t exactly cutting-edge technology in the luxury-car world.
07 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinLook, a driver’s-side airbag!
22 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAnd, depressingly, molded-in fake stitching on the not-quite-leather door panels.
20 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIf this thing had had the touch-screen Visual Information Center, I’d have pulled it and bought it on the spot. Just analog gauges, though.
21 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWith all its flaws, the ’92 Troféo has a certain amount of cool going for it.

Presented without comment.

01 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 -1992 Oldsmobile Toronado Trofeo Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Editorial: Canada’s Auto Industry Is Hooked On Subsidies, And It Won’t End Well http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/editorial-chryslers-investment-demands-prove-that-canadas-auto-industry-is-hooked-on-subsidies/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/editorial-chryslers-investment-demands-prove-that-canadas-auto-industry-is-hooked-on-subsidies/#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 13:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=739225 windsor

Just a few short years after the Canadian and Ontario government bailed out General Motors and Chrysler, a familiar scenario is playing out along Highway 401. Chrysler is reported to be negotiating with both the Ontario and Canadian federal government regarding subsidies for their Windsor assembly plant that builds the Dodge Caravan and Chrysler Town & Country minivans.

While auto makers like Ford and Toyota have received government money recently, the size and scope of the subsidies are said to be unprecedented. And according to reports, Chrysler is threatening to leave if they don’t get what they want. According to the Financial Post, Chrysler is looking for a total of $460 million (compared to the $71 million and $34 million received by Ford and Toyota respectively), which would represent about 20 percent of the planned $2.3 billion investment. Chrysler is said to be seeking funding for R&D work on the new vans, as well as money to revamp Windsor to a new flexible assembly plant that can build sedans, minivans and crossovers. Reports from the Windsor Star quote Ontario government officials as stating that they are in “serious negotiations” with Chrysler. When reached by TTAC Chrysler Canada refused to comment.

While the minivan market is shrinking in America, Windsor is still running flat-out, with three shifts running and both nameplates ranking among the top sellers in the segment. Chrysler is slated to transition one nameplate to a crossover while keeping the other as a traditional minivan. But Chrysler and CEO Sergio Marchionne have flip-flopped on this decision so many times that it’s tough to keep track of what was said last. As early as the end of January, Marchionne made comments that hinted at a secure future for Windsor at a launch sometime between 2015 and 2016 model years.

But the recent developments, as well as the expiration of Chrysler’s contract with Unifor (formerly the Canadian Auto Workers) could prove to create an opportunity for Chrysler to make a hasty exist from Windsor. The hardball talk is backed up by the very real fact that Chrysler has the capacity in other plants that could enable a move for their minivans. Mexico is one option, with production of the Fiat 500 moving to Poland and the Dodge Journey said to be leaving Mexico for Sterling Heights, Michigan. Either plant could be a candidate for minivan production, assuming the new vans ride on the CUSW architecture used for the Dart, Chrysler 200 and Jeep Cherokee.

Both levels of government are captivated by a desire to keep Canada’s auto industry intact, even at great expense to the taxpayer, and Chrysler head Sergio Marchionne is likely banking on this. With elections looming in the next couple of years, Marchionne and his team know that the threat of moving production to the United States or Mexico is potent enough to get the governments to acquiesce to his demands. With roughly 4,700 jobs at Windsor, Chrysler is the town’s biggest employee, and crucial electoral districts are up for grabs as well.

The wrong decision could have political consequences in tightly contested elections at both the provincial and federal levels. The negotiations with Chrysler are occurring against a gloomy backdrop for the Canadian auto industry. Production levels have been on the decline, as a strong Canadian dollar, lower labor costs and generous incentives from other jurisdictions have made Canada an unpopular choice for new assembly plants. The lion’s share of new investment has gone to the United States and especially Mexico, which has seen a boom in auto assembly plants from Japanese and European auto makers.

While a recent slump in the Canadian dollar will help Canada’s overall export picture, it’s this author’s opinion that Canada’s auto industry will eventually meet the same fate as Australia’s. The Canadian auto market is roughly the same size as Australia, and though it does not have such a competitive and fragmented selection of brands, it does share Australia’s proximity to low-cost assembly locations that have reciprocal free-trade agreements. The Minivan may stay in Windsor, given the costs associated with moving production, and Marchionne’s prediliction for blusters. But it’s this author’s opinion that when the Vitality Commitment between General Motors and the Canadian government ends in 2016, the Oshawa assembly plants will close, ending a century-long tradition of auto assembly in that town.

The move will devastate an already vulnerable municipality, but every vehicle built in Oshawa is already built at another, lower-cost assembly plant, and GM CEO Dan Akerson made up his mind long ago, calling Canada “the most expensive place to build a car“. Like Windsor, the timing of the Oshawa closure could easily coincide with the expiration of the current CAW/Unifor labor agreement, allowing for a clean break.

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Dealership Wheel Thefts Spotlight Security Risks http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/dealership-wheel-thefts-spotlight-security-risks/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/dealership-wheel-thefts-spotlight-security-risks/#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 05:10:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=739025  

 

Demontrond+Thefts+003

In an era where even mundane family cars are shod with 18-inch-plus rims direct from the factory, dealers are prime targets for mass thefts. One Texas Chevy dealer took a big hit on Sunday, when 22 new cars were shorn of their wheels and tires by a gang of thieves.

Houston CBS affiliate KHOU reports that DeMontrond Chevrolet in Texas City suffered the loss sometime late Saturday or early Sunday. 88 tires and wheels went missing, as thieves pulled all the rims off the vehicles they hit. Photos from the scene show cars held up by bricks, jack stands, and other assorted junk. Unfortunately for the dealer, some of these cars fell off their precarious foundations. The resulting frame and body damage will add tens of thousands of dollars to the already steep replacement cost of the wheels. Insurance will probably pick up the tab for the direct financial losses, but the indirect costs of time and storage are likely to be significant.

From the pictures, it appears that new Camaros, Impalas, and a few trucks were targeted by the thieves. It’s easy to see why: a brand new set of Camaro takeoff wheels sells for around two grand  online. Neither the Camaro nor the Impala have wheel locks as standard equipment. GM does offer a set of locking lug nuts for both models as a $90 accessory. Such locks won’t foil the most determined thieves, who can pick or drill out the nuts. Even so, they may deter the street-level thief looking for an easy opportunity, if not the sophisticated dealership bandit.

This wasn’t the first time a Texas dealership targeted for a mass wheel theft. Back in May of last year, Mac Haik Ford in Georgetown lost nearly 200 wheels off of 48 vehicles in another overnight theft. Row after row of shiny new cars and trucks with wheels worth several hundred dollars apiece are an irresistible plum to thieves. Given the trend towards larger, more expensive rims on mass-market vehicles, OEMs owe it to their dealers and their customers to start taking wheel thefts seriously. Standard locking lug nuts will help, but it may be time to start exploring alternative technologies.

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Chicago 2014: Deep Dive with the 2015 Chevrolet Colorado http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/chicago-2014-deep-dive-with-the-2015-chevrolet-colorado/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/chicago-2014-deep-dive-with-the-2015-chevrolet-colorado/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 10:54:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=734601 2015 Chevy Colorado | Gas 2

A few short hours ago, I was in McCormick Place with a handful of auto journalists and GM’s 2015 Chevy Colorado team. It was a lucky break- a last-minute invitation to meet with some GM brass before the hectic onslaught of the 2014 Chicago Auto Show’s press days and ask them the questions that my fellow alt-fuel/cleantech gear heads wanted answers to.

So, here it is: the 2015 Chevy Colorado, in the 72 dpi digitized flesh and packed with some seriously trick goodies. Will this (and its GMC Canyon twin) be enough to reclaim the compact truck throne, however? You’d better believe it- the Colorado is that good!

 

2015 Chevy Colorado: the Look


Make no mistake, this is one seriously good-looking trucklet. Chevy’s 2015 Colorado is a true mid-sizer, but the look is more F-150-fighter than Nissan Frontier. Size-wise, more than one of my fellow deep-divers commented that “it’s the perfect size”, and I think it’s just short enough to make a reasonable case for having one in Chicago.

Chevy Colorado Z71

Chevy Colorado Z71

Chevy Colorado Z71

As you take a look at the photos of the Z71 off-roader version of the Colorado, look at the soft, velvety look of the black plastics and the crisp inner workings of the headlight. This is a far cry from the old S-10 EXtreme and its “generic level 2″ plastics.

Chevy Colorado Z71

Chevy Colorado Z71

 

2015 Chevy Colorado: the Cockpit


Inside, the truck’s 2015 MyLink infotainment system is decidedly more Chevy Sonic than Chevy Cruze, and that is a very good thing. All the buttons were logically labeled, there didn’t seem to be any of the convoluted “touch screen + button + more screen-touching” command sequences that made me loathe the Cruze’s MyLink. It had another neat trick, as well: a fully-functional Pandora app.

Is that game-changer? I’m much more excited about my Pandora stations than I am about XM/Sirius, so- yes? Just pretend you can already hear my blasting Shakira and Ke$ha as loud as the Chevy Colorado’s speakers will let me.

Chevy Colorado Interior

Chevy Colorado Interior

Chevy Colorado Interior

Chevy Colorado Interior

 

2015 Chevy Colorado: Seating


The biggest complaint anyone ever had about a compact pickup (think old Chevy S-10, 90s-00s Ford Ranger, etc.) wasn’t that they weren’t capable enough, it’s that getting in and out of the things was always a pain. It was a pain when I was 23, and it would be a bigger pain today, more than a decade later. I’d never climb over a front seat to get into a side-facing jumper again, and- in a truck that’s the size of the new 2015 Chevy Colorado, I won’t have to.

Ingress and egress seems straight-forward enough. You just open the solidly-mounted, triple-sealed doors, climb into the quality-feeling vinyl/cloth seats, and shut the door with a satisfying, Mercedes C-Class level “whooomp”. Actually, open the door and slam it shut a few more times. It is a hugely satisfying feeling that was totally absent in my 1991 GMC Jimmy, even with the rose-colored lenses of nostalgia firmly in place.

Colorado-DeepDive_25

Colorado-DeepDive_26

Colorado-DeepDive_15

Colorado-DeepDive_08

Colorado-DeepDive_12

The 2015 Chevy Colorado has a cleverly adjustable seatbelt that adjusts at the shoulder AND at the hip. More comfortable belts are more likely to be worn, so this is a huge step towards 100% adoption of belts- especially out in rural ‘Murica where the Big Gulp comes in more than one size of early-onset diabetes.

Colorado-DeepDive_13

 

2015 Chevy Colorado: the Tough Questions


I hate to tell you this, guys- but I didn’t get the scoop on the 2015 Chevy Colorado’s EPA fuel economy. I can’t tell you what the EPA numbers on the 2016 diesel will be, either. I also couldn’t tell you if the truck is E15 or E20 compatible, because the GM engineer on hand (a lovely, polite woman who I mistook for another journalist, despite the Riot Grrl leanings of my youth) didn’t know. I also couldn’t tell you if GM plans to include the Colorado in its CNG fleet plans, but I was told, wink-wink, nudge-nudge style, to expect a bi-fuel announcement from GM soon.

A few things I did find out? The upcoming V6 version of the 2015 Chevy Colorado- which uses the same 3.6 liter VVT V6 engine used in Cadillacs and Buicks …

Colorado-DeepDive_24

colorado_engine

… and that, in truck duty, the V6 is expected to be able to haul up to 6700 lbs (!?). That’s more than enough to safely haul any number of RVs, fishing boats, and (dare I say it?) race cars- and the Colorados will be available with fully integrated receiver hitches and easy-to-access wiring for 4 and 7 pin connectors.

So, that’s something- no? What do you guys think? Am I right in thinking Chevy’s hit a home run with this new 2015 Colorado, or do you think Nissan and Dodge will out-Darwin it with their 28 MPG full-size diesel half-tons? Let us know what you think in the comments, below. Enjoy!

 

Originally posted to Jo’s other site, Gas 2.

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GM, Isuzu Put Another $60 Million Into Moraine, Ohio Diesel Plant http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/gm-isuzu-put-another-60-million-into-moraine-ohio-diesel-plant/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/gm-isuzu-put-another-60-million-into-moraine-ohio-diesel-plant/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 10:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=734673 1M6600-02

General Motors and Isuzu announced that they will be investing $60 million in their joint venture DMAX Ltd., which makes diesel engines for heavy duty trucks. Reuters reports that thw investment in technologies at the Moraine, Ohio plant will make design changes to meet future emission regulations easier. GM says that 500 jobs will be retained due to the expenditure. DMAX has produced almost 1.6 million diesel engines since it started operations in 2000. Isuzu owns 40% of DMAX and GM owns the remaining 60% controlling interest.

The investment brings the total amount the two companies have put into the plant to $760 million. The Moraine facility currently builds the Duramax 6.6-liter turbo diesel engine used in the heavy-duty versions of the Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickup trucks as well as the Chevy Express and GMC Savana full-size commercial vans.

GM has announced that starting in the 2016 model year, the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon mid-size pickups will offer the 2nd generation Duramax four cylinder diesel in a 2.8 liter turbocharged version and the company is considering offering a diesel option on the the regular duty versions of the Silverado and Sierra. It’s not clear if either of those engines will be assembled in Moraine. A 2.5 liter version of GMs new diesel is currently assembled in Thailand.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Buick Regal Turbo AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/capsule-review-2014-buick-regal-turbo-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/capsule-review-2014-buick-regal-turbo-awd/#comments Mon, 03 Feb 2014 14:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=729570 2014 buick regal

Time: 2332, Eastern. Outside temperature: six degrees. Speed: 83 mph, climbing.

 One needs to remind himself of following distance when letting the dogs run.

Thoughts appear as bullet points in the frontal cortex.

  • Led Zep II makes me hammer down
  • The left lane is clear, but there are some right lane travellers that could become obstacles.

One thousand one…

One thousand two…

“I should have quit you, baby, long time ago…”

One thousand three…

“down on this killing floor, break it down for me now…”

One thousand four…

  • Prius just oozed into the left lane to pace, not pass, the fuel tanker putting up considerable spray.
  • Headlights are dirty. Need to slow down anyway.
  • Too bad.

Wait a second, I’m lamenting having to back off while driving a Buick!

“People worry I can’t keep you satisfied…”

This 2014 Regal Turbo AWD is a parts-bin car. A re-badge, and yet, it’s one hell of a highway flyer. The Regal is also surprisingly adroit in kinkier situations. It’s kind of a damn shame that this car is an automotive Palestinian. It’s sold as a Buick, but it started off as an Opel with a side of Saab, and was supposed to be a Saturn. For many, the Regal does nothing to recommend itself. That changes when you drive it, but if you think about it too much, it’ll piss you off.

The Regal Turbo AWD makes me angry with General Motors. Where the hell were cars like this in the ’80s and ’90s? GM passed those decades playing Program Objective Bingo. Does the under-engineered, over-budget, late-to-market shitbox du jour tick all the boxes for the Vehicle Line Director? If yes, proceed directly to market. Lather, rinse, bankrupt.

Regals then were GM-10 (later W) platform garbage. Nostalgia has already kicked in. The myth goes that a vicious public bought in to so much “hype” over the Camry and Accord and didn’t give the all-around-solid GM front-drivers a fair chance. Fiction. In reality, now is the only time in a generation that General Motors has built a modern midsize sedan that isn’t lashed together from pig iron and offal.

2014 buick regal

General Motors is making complete-package cars that compete. Why did it take so long? Did it really require kicking the blue-collar backbone in the jewels and a quick-rinse bankruptcy for GM to get it? It didn’t have to. It shouldn’t have had to, and that’s why I’m upset by the Regal.

The last time a Regal wasn’t a total shitbox was…gosh, was it ever not a shitbox? Maybe the first Colonnade Regal, or the last-gasp G-body? It’s been at least thirty years since the Regal was anything but woefully assembled with dull orange-peel paint covering slap-dash bodywork with chintz horror chamber interiors.

Now we have this 2014 Regal, which wasn’t even supposed to be a Buick. Inside left me more impressed than a Lexus ES. On the road, you can feel the benefit of the Russelsheim engineering. Punch it and will fly. The structure feels brick-outhouse solid. This is the kind of car we used to wish GM could make. What the hell took so long?

2014 buick regal

There’s a whole bunch of cousins built off the Epsilon II architecture the Regal is based upon. Among the Malibus, LaCrosses and XTSes, the Regal Turbo with AWD is the most compelling.  Yup, it’s not that roomy, but neither is the Audi A4, the revered BMW 3 Series or even the Infiniti G37. The reality is that the back seat space, while snug, is actually better than those other cars, and the Regal has a 14.2 cubic foot trunk, also actually pretty good.

The Regal draws an inevitable comparison to the Cadillac ATS. It’s only natural, the cars are priced closely together, and they appear a close match size-wise. You can’t knock the Regal on space and then turn around and say “king me” to an ATS. It’s got a teensy 10.2 cubic foot trunk, and there is no interior dimension that is larger than the Regal. It’s no surprise, then, that the ATS interior is just 90.9 cubic feet, noticeably tighter than the Regal’s 96.8 cubic feet.

2014-buick-regal-4

Ah, but the Regal is also too expensive to play in this sandbox, even if the ATS and its weaker value are on your automotive fantasy team. The Regal definitely isn’t as special as the ATS, the 3 Series, or heck, even a milquetoast-spec Mercedes-Benz C-Class. But if the Regal with turbo engine, AWD, leather, Driver Confidence Package #2, Premium II Package, and Power Moonroof is too pricey at $40,000, then what does that make the ATS equipped roughly the same way at about $47,000? Remember, there’s less space all around and the maddening burden of CUE, so clearly the differentiator is the driving experience. The ATS is indeed better to drive, but is it $7,000 better?

That’s a question best answered on your own, but most would say no. If you’re the practical sort, wait a year or two and take advantage of the Buick’s more prodigious depreciation for a great pre-owned deal. The Regal is great to drive. It’s precise, responsive and powerful. The ride is on the stiff side of compliant. The exhaust is on the drone-y side of throaty. Switch the traction control off, though, and you will be shocked to find that you can rotate this thing with the throttle. It may be FWD-based, but that tail will wag. The HiPer Strut front end, with its tuned-up geometry does its thing like a grown up. All the smooth wheel control would be better served by more feedback at the steering wheel rim, though.

The Regal gets a cleaned-up dashboard for 2014. There’s fewer buttons on the center stack, and the layout is logical. Ergonomics for the hard controls are good, though a knob for fan speed control would be more elegant than the up/down buttons. The touch panels for temperature and seat heater control look great, but are dismal to use. They’re unresponsive and distracting. The latest version of Intellilink drives the larger in-dash LCD, but it suffers from organization problems and too many sub-menus. The system also has a speed issue, sometimes hanging up for a few seconds while tuning through radio stations or calling up functions. I’d be especially upset to be making monthly payments for that kind of underachievement.

2014-buick-regal-5

The Driver Confidence Package, by the way, is something you can completely live without. Skip it and drop the price of this weaponized midsizer back into the $30,000s. The dynamic cruise control is pretty well-tuned, but everything else is just unnecessary for an attentive driver. Of course, the flip side of that is that it may be more than necessary to offer the blinking lights, beeping warnings and last-ditch interventions. Those features give Buick some safety talking points, and when buyers opt for it, the profit margin puffs up.

The Regal Turbo AWD is a good car in a tough spot. From behind the wheel, it’s surprisingly good. But it’s between a rock and a hard place. Even within the GM family, it’s not as good as the ATS, but it’s a lot better than the ho-hum Malibu. The Regal does have the chops to keep a reasonable enthusiast entertained, but it falls short in the cars-by-the-pound measures of space and stuff for the lowest price.

The 2014 Regal Turbo AWD is a charmer of sorts, but its like trying to get someone’s attention in a room full of Kennedys. There’s pressure on all sides, and even though the Regal has done yeoman’s work to drop the average age of Buick buyers and driven a bunch of conquest sales for Buick, it will probably finish its life as it started: a carpet-bagger Opel that’s mostly irrelevant, nice enough, and surprisingly frisky.

Regal_Ext_11 Regal_Ext_5 Regal_Ext_6 Regal_Ext_4 Regal_Ext_3 Regal_Ext_10 Regal_Ext_9 Regal_Ext_8 Regal_Ext_7 Regal_Ext_2 Regal_Int_12 Regal_Int_11 Regal_Int_10 Regal_Int_9 Regal_Ext_1 Regal_Int_8 Regal_Int_7 Regal_Int_6 Regal_Int_5 Regal_Int_4 Regal_Int_3 Regal_Int_2 Regal_Int_1 ]]>
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Review: 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-chevrolet-spark-ev-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-chevrolet-spark-ev-with-video/#comments Tue, 28 Jan 2014 14:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=705962 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior

Outside North America, this little blue pill of an A-segment car is known as the Daewoo Matiz Creative. It may look an obsolete computer peripheral (or a pregnant roller skate), but GM claims that the Chevrolet Spark has more torque than a Ferrari 458 Italia. As a self-described technology lover, and card-carrying resident of the Left Coast, I had to check it out.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

The Spark EV starts its life in Changwon, South Korea where gasoline and electric sparks are built by GM Korea, which was once known as Daewoo. But the heart of the Spark comes from America. GM is building the permanent magnet motors in Maryland, and instead of LG batteries made in Korea (like the Volt) GM is using American-made batteries courtesy of B456 (formerly A123. I’m not making this up). For reasons we don’t understand, GM isn’t “doing a CODA” and shipping cars sans-drivetran to America for assembly. The plant in Maryland ships the batteries and drivetrain to Korea, GM Korea inserts it in the car and ships the completed unit back to the USA.

The Spark EV exists because of my home state of California. The California Air Resources Board has mandated that Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Ford, GM and Chrysler make a total of 7,500 zero emissions vehicles available for sale by 2014 and 25,000 by 2017. By 2025, this number is expected to rise tenfold.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-006

Exterior

Overall length slots the Chevy between the two-door Fiat 500e and the four-door Honda Fit EV but the small Chevy is narrower than both by a decent amount. Like the Fiat and other small cars, there’s something “cartoonish” about the Spark that is endearing. It’s all about proportions. The headlamps, tail lamps and grille are all fairly standard in size, but they are large in relation to the overall vehicle. The Spark isn’t alone in this, the same thing can be said of the Mini Cooper, Fiat 500 and Fiat 500L.

Because small cars tend to value practicality in design, the Spark has a tall roofline and the wheels have been pushed as close to the four corners as possible. This mechanical necessity pays dividends in handling and interior space but causes the Spark to look unusually tall when viewed head-on.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior-005

Interior

As with the gasoline version, the front seats are flat, firmly padded and offer little lumbar support. The hard plastics on the doors make for an uncomfortable place to rest your elbow, but there is a padded armrest in the center for the driver only. This isn’t unusual for compact cars, but electrification makes for strange bedfellows and the Leaf, Focus EV and Fiat 500e are direct competition that all offer more driver and passenger comfort.

Because of the Spark’s narrow width, the Chevy is a strict four-seater putting it on par with the 500e but one passenger behind the Fit, Leaf and Focus. It was surprisingly easy to put four tall adults in the Spark, a task that is more difficult in the considerably larger Focus because of its sloping roof-line. Still, passengers will be more comfortable in the Honda Fit which offers a bit more room for four, seating for five and more headroom all the way around. Despite the Leaf’s rear seat numbers being average, because of the way the seating position in the Leaf most people will find the Nissan roomier.

As with most gas to EV conversions, the Spark loses a bit of cargo volume in the process dropping 2 cubes to 9.6 cubic feet of cargo space. That’s slightly larger than the 500e, but a long way from the Leaf’s spacious 24 cubic foot booty. Unlike the Fiat 500e however, GM chose not sacrifice passenger footwell space for battery storage.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV MyLink-001

Infotainment

All Spark EVs get the same touchscreen head unit that is optional in the gasoline car. The system’s layout is simple, attractive and intuitive. Along the bottom of the screen sits a row of touch buttons for power, volume and a home button. After a week with Chevy’s entry-level system I was left wondering why every GM car can’t have this software. The system isn’t the height of modernity compared to uConnect or SYNC. It does not offer integrated voice commands, integrated navigation software or snazzy animations. This system’s claim to fame is in its simplicity and its integration with your smartphone.

Once you have an Android or iPhone paired with MyLink you can voice command your phone, your tunes, and anything on your device with the voice command button on the steering wheel. This means the mobile services provided my MyLink are limited to the app selection on your device. GM has taken another step that other manufacturers would do well to copy: integrated smartphone navigation. For $5 you can download the BringGo navigation app to your smartphone and the MyLink system will use the app as the processing engine and the car’s display as the user interface. This gives you a large, bright map with controls that look like a standard integrated navigation system coupled with the ability to pre-program addresses using the app before you get into the car.

In the Spark EV the MyLink system also handles vehicle charging control. You can choose to charge immediately, at a specific time, or you can program your electrical rates into the system and have the car charge when it is most economical. We of course get the typical power flow meter which is getting a little silly in the 21st century and a display that shows what percentage of your battery was used for driving, cabin heating/cooling and battery conditioning. Driving your Spark, or any EV, in a “polar vortex” will reduce battery life due to both cabin heating and battery heating.
2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Drivetrain

Drivetrain

As with most EVs on the road power is delivered by a 3-phase AC motor connected to a fixed-speed reduction gear. EV’s don’t have a transmission in the traditional sense in order to reduce weight. If you want to go in reverse you spin the motor backwards and if you need neutral you simply disconnect the motor from the electrical path. Power output is rated at 140 horsepower and torque comes in at a whopping 400 lb-ft. (Most EV makers choose to electronically limit torque to reduce torque steer and improve battery life.)

Power is supplied by a 560lb, 21.3 kWh lithium battery pack located where the gas tank is in the gasoline Spark. As with the Chevy Volt, GM is taking the cautious path to battery preservation equipping the pack with an active heating and cooling system. That’s a stark contrast to the Nissan Leaf which uses a passive cooling system. Thanks to the lightest curb weight in the group (2,989lbs), the Spark scores 82 miles of EPA range and the highest efficiency rating of any EV to date. Depending on the weight of my right foot, my real world range varied from 70-100 miles.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Charging Port

For any battery, heat is the enemy. Especially when charging or discharging rapidly or when charging in hot desert climates. As a result I would anticipate that all things being equal, the Spark, 500e and Focus should suffer less capacity loss and battery degradation over time than the passively cooled Nissan Leaf.

The big news for 2014 is the world’s first implementation of the new SAE DC fast charging connector. I’m a bit torn on this twist in EV development. While I agree that the DC “combo connector” is more logical and compact than the competing CHAdeMO connector found on the Nissan Leaf and most EVs in Japan, there are already several hundred CHAdeMO stations in the USA and right now there is one SAE station. I’m told there is unlikely to be an adapter so this makes three charging standards on offer in the USA. One for Nissan and Mitsubishi, one for Tesla and one for GM and BMW (the i3 will use it as well.)

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Wheels

Drive

The biggest thing people forget about an EV isn’t charging related, it’s heat related. When you want to heat the cabin in a gasoline car you are using “waste” energy to do it. If you didn’t have the heater on, that heat would just end up dissipating via the engine’s radiator. Electric cars produce little heat when running and rely on resistive heating elements to heat the cabin and an electric air conditioning to cool the cabin. Heat pumps would be more efficient because they “move” heat rather than “creating” heat but so far the Nissan Leaf (SV and higher) are the only production cars to adopt this tech. In 50 degree weather on a 60 mile journey nearly 15% of the energy consumed went into heating the Spark’s cabin, while on my way home when it was 80 degrees only 8% of the energy was used to cool the cabin.

Thanks to a better weight balance vs the gasoline model and staggered tires, 185/55 front 195/55 rear, the Spark handles surprisingly well. Many have posited that this is simply a band-aid measure due to the weight shift in the car but all sources point to the Spark EV still being heavier in the front. This means the tire selection was likely done for handling reasons, which makes sense because the Spark beats the 500e in fun-to-corner metrics. The extra weight has also improved the ride in the small hatchback which, although still choppy on the freeway like many small hatches, it much smoother in EV trim. Steering is numb but accurate, a common complaint with EVs.

With 140 horsepower and 400lb0ft of twist routed through the front wheels, the Spark is probably the 2014 torque steer king. Is that bad? Not in my book. I found the effect amusing and perhaps even a challenge to control on winding mountain roads. The competition limits their torque output to reduce torque steer but in doing so they reduce the fun-factor as well as performance, something that really shows in the Spark’s 7.08 second run to 60, notably faster than the competition.

When it is time to stop the Spark comes up short. Stopping distances and fade aren’t the issue, it’s feel. The brake pedal is softer than average and the transition between regenerative and friction braking is probably the poorest, excluding the current generation Honda Civic Hybrid. When the system is entirely in friction braking mode (if the battery is full and you are going down hill) the brakes get even more vague, requiring more travel than when the system is regenerating to get the same effect.

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-010

Pricing

At $26,685, the least expensive EV on the market excluding the Mitsubishi i-MiEV. For $27,010 the 2LT trim swaps cloth seats for “leatherette” and adds a leather wrapped steering wheel. That’s about the fastest and cheapest model walk in the industry. GM tells us that the DC quick charge port is an independent $750 option and it cannot be retrofitted to a Spark shipped without it. The Spark undercuts Nissan’s Leaf by nearly $2,000 and the Fiat by more than $5,000. While I might argue that the Nissan Leaf is more practical than the Spark, GM’s aggressive pricing screams value at every turn, especially if you lease. At the time of our loan GM was offering a $199 lease deal on the Spark with $1,000 down plus the usual miscellaneous fees.

The Spark’s main sales proposition for many is as a commuter car. When you factor in everything the Spark is the cheapest way to drive in California’s carpool lanes (you know, other than actually carpooling.) Despite not being less attractive than a Fiat 500e, less practical than a Nissan Leaf and less luxurious than a Focus EV, I’d probably pick the Spark.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.72 Seconds

0-60: 7.08 Seconds

 1/4 Mile: 15.78 Seconds @ 86 MPH

Average observed economy: 4.3 miles/kWh

Sound level at 50 MPH: 70dB

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Charging Port 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Drivetrain 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Drivetrain-001 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-001 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-002 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-003 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-004 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-005 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-006 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-007 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-008 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-009 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Exterior-010 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior-001 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior-002 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior-003 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior-004 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior-005 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior-006 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior-007 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Interior-008 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV LCD Gauge Cluster 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV MyLink 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV MyLink-001 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Wheels ]]>
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Review: 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-buick-regal-gs-awd-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-buick-regal-gs-awd-with-video/#comments Thu, 23 Jan 2014 14:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=698417 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior

In my mind, Volkswagens used to be the “Euro Buick.” Positioned one note above the mass market rabble,  VW’s Passat shared parts with Audi’s A4, while the Touareg and Phaeton were luxury cars with a mass market logo on the hood. Then Volkswagen decided this was the wrong strategy for them, so they repositioned VW as the German alternative to Toyota and Chevrolet. This left a gaping hole in the market for shoppers looking to step into a European near-luxury vehicle that flew under the radar. And then Buick stepped in.Buick’s Opel-based product offensive has transformed the brand from Barcalounger wheels for the octogenarian, to a window into the soul of GM’s German brand. This transformation isn’t an easy one as Buick’s problem wasn’t just blue-haired buyers and slinky-soft springs. Buick is the penultimate middle child. Jammed between Chevrolet and Cadillac, brand B’s mission is to give Chevy buyers something to aspire to and Cadillac buyers something to graduate from.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

When you say “Regal GS” my mind immediately leaps to the fourth-generation Regal (2nd generation W-body) with the supercharged 3.8L V6. When I was car shopping in 2000 I dearly wanted a Regal GS but there were two problems: Buick’s grandmotherly image and the price tag. As a result I bought an entirely different old person car: a Chrysler LHS. But I digress. This GS is an entirely different beast. Buick’s latest middle child is none other than Opel’s largest sedan, the Insignia. Refreshed for the 2014 model year, the differences between the Insignia and the Regal are most pronounced on the exterior where a Buick waterfall grille and logo have been inserted into the same opening as the Opel and ventiports have been added to the hood. And… that’s about it.

Two things are obvious when looking at the Buick Regal: it was designed in Europe and it was designed to to be both a Buick and an Opel from the start. Rather than looking out of place (like the Chrysler 300 to Lancia Thema transition) the Regal looks “meant to be.” Although the Regal is related to the Chevy Malibu, there’s essentially no exterior resemblance. The Regal GS I spent a week in gets the tweaked front and rear bumpers from Opel’s Insigia OPC model which ditches the foglamps for extra ventilation and integrates the exhaust tips into the rear bumper cover. Circling back around to those ventiports: I still think they look silly, but thankfully the Regal has the right number (four) and they are smaller and less conspicuously placed than on other Buick models I could mention.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-003

Interior

2014 brings a new interior to the Regal based around a standard 8-inch touchscreen and new center console. Although you will still find a few hard plastics in the cabin, overall materials quality has improved and is firmly competitive with the Volkswagen CC, Audi A4 and Acura TL. Most cabin touch points feel more premium than the more expensive Lexus ES but the Volvo S60/S80 still lead the segment. Non-GS shoppers can opt for a handsome two-tone interior that combines a brown steering wheel and upper dash with a light grey/tan seats and carpet which would be my preference. GS models however are stuck with a very Germanic black-on-black theme. Part of the GS package is an 8-inch LCD instrument cluster and a chunkier steering wheel with sport grips, soft leather and a flat bottom. The disco dash is not as configurable as Chrysler’s 7-inch unit but the graphics are more modern and the system allows you full access to your media device, something uConnect still lacks.

For reasons unknown Buick chose not to borrow the Recaro seats found in the Insignia OPC, opting instead for more aggressively bolstered versions of the standard seat design. This may be because Buick owners are less likely to need the 5-point harness design, but it is most likely because we Americans are fatter so fewer of us would fit in the narrow seats. My 6-foot and slightly overweight frame fit snugly and comfortably in the front seats but the ceiling in the rear of the Regal proved too low for me to sit without cocking my head to the side. The lack of rear seat headroom was disappointing because the Regal offers several inches more rear leg room than the RWD Cadillac ATS and CTS and three inches more than the Volvo S60 and S80.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Buick Link

Infotainment

Like the LaCrosse, the Regal and the Opel Insignia now uses a modified version of Cadillac’s CUE. For reasons I don’t understand however, Buick doesn’t get Opel’s interesting touchpad with “finger writing” recognition that Opel has been advertising across the pond. I’m guessing this is so that Buick doesn’t step on Cadillac’s toes. Compared to CUE there are a few other changes for Buick-duty. The expensive glass capacitive touchscreen (looks like a modern smartphone) is swapped for a resistive unit that isn’t as crisp or as glare reducing and we have physical buttons for some system features, a marked improvement over Cadillac’s touchscreen only interface. Aside from these charges, the majority of CUE remains.

Like Ford’s MyFord Touch system, IntelliLink is sluggish in general and sometimes totally unresponsive. The software also suffers from unintuitive menu layouts and old-school mapping software that doesn’t jive with the system’s high-resolution screen. Like CUE, some multi-touch gestures are supported, but the different touchscreen is less able to decipher your intent leading to some frustrating moments. On the bright side, CUE’s selling points remain. The system’s voice command system features natural language commands and instead of treating the USB ports as separate inputs, the system aggregates them into one large music library allowing you to voice command songs without specifying the device.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Engine 2.0L Turbo-001

Drivetrain

Nestled sideways under the hood is the same 2.0L direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder engine that the Cadillac ATS and CTS use. Good for 259 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of twist, this is the same engine that you find in the “regular Regal.” That’s right, no longer does “GS” stand for “more power.” This means the GS looses 11 ponies vs 2013 but the turbo Regal gains 39 vs 2013. To differentiate things, GM does alter the torque curve to deliver all 295 twists at 2,500 RPM instead of 3,000 in the non-GS model. GM hasn’t completely ruled out the 325 horse 2.8L twin-turbo V6 the Insignia OPC uses for the American market, but I’d call it a long shot.

GS shoppers can choose either a 6-speed manual transaxle or a 6 speed automatic, but if you want the optional Haldex AWD system you’re forced to select the auto.  Although the GS uses the same AWD system as the regular Regal AWD, the engineers tossed in an electronically controlled limited slip rear differential. GS trims also bump the suspension up a notch by combining GM’s HiPer Strut technology with active dampers on all four corners. The suspension offers three modes: normal, sport and GS. The feel ranges from European family sedan to firm.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Gauges-001

Drive

GM’s HiPer Strut suspension is designed to bring the steering axis more in line with the tire centerline, something you typically find in rear-wheel drive cars. Aligning the axis more closely results in better tracking, less torque steer and a front tire with a more consistent camber across the suspension’s travel. Versus the outgoing model, the front tires contact patch is improved in corners when the front suspension is loaded resulting in higher grip. Coupled with an AWD system that sends 50% of the power to the rear under hard acceleration, we get the first Buick in a long time with virtually zero torque steer.

The downside to the trendy new steering knuckle design is feel. Steering is very precise but suffers from the same Novocaine-laced feedback as everything else out there with electric power steering. Despite a 58/42 F/R weight distribution, the Regal GS has impeccable manners up to 9/10ths, where it starts to lose composure. Trouble is, without steering feedback it’s hard to tell where 9/10ths is located. In contrast, the Volvo S60 T6 AWD and S80 T6 AWD offer less grip but more feel.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-007

Driving a FWD Regal back to back with our AWD tester, I kept thinking “there’s just something I dislike about the FWD model”. As it turns out, there is a reason the FWD Regal felt unsettled in the rear over broken pavement, the AWD model gets an entirely different “H-Link” independent rear suspension. Coupled with the active dampers, the Regal felt well composed on a variety of road surfaces despite being tuned firmer than the rest of the American and Swedish competition. Rather than being the softest entry in the segment, the GS is among the firmer.

Put your foot to the floor and the GS will run to 60 in 6.7 seconds, exactly the same as the W-Body Regal GS I remember with fond memories. The difference is, the W-Body’s torque steer made the car feel like it was part car, part carnival ride. The 2014 model tracks straight and true with zero drama all the way to a 15.2 second 1/4 mile. Stacking this up with the competition, the Regal is notably slower than the Cadillac CTS/ATS 2.0T and Volvo’s S60 T5 AWD; and a hair slower than the 3.7L Lincoln MKZ, Lexus ES 350 and Acura TL. Despite similar power figures, the Volvo ran to 60 nearly 7/10ths faster which caused me to question my numbers. However, a loaner provided by a local dealer confirmed my findings. The reason seems rooted both in the GS’ gear ratios and the more advantageous torque curve from Volvo’s funky 5-cylinder.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-010

At $37,830 starting, $40,195 with AWD and $44,975 full-loaded, the Regal undercuts the Volvo S60 T5 AWD and Acura TL by a couple thousand across the board (comparably equipped) and is more than $5,000 cheaper than the Lexus ES depending on your configuration. The Acura TL is in its final year of production and is, as you would assume, outclassed by the Regal in most ways. The recently refreshed Volvo delivers better road feel and a slightly more premium interior at the expense of more cash and less grip. The Lexus ES suffers from soft springs, an uncompetitive interior and steep price tag.

Over 611 miles I managed a reasonable 22.1 MPG in the GS which bests the real-world numbers from the V6 competition but comes short of the turbo Caddy and Swede. Why do I keep coming back to Cadillac? Because as hard as GM has tried to keep Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac from stepping on each other’s toes, the Regal GS is about the same price as the 2014 Cadillac ATS. It’s hard enough to go up against what is probably the second best vehicle GM has ever produced, but it is made doubly hard when there are so many combined Buick/Cadillac dealers. This means you’ll frequently find the Regal GS next to a sharp handling Caddy is on the same lot. Trickier still is the base Cadillac CTS which is slightly cheaper than a loaded GS, and, you guessed it: is often parked right next to the Buick.  Buick seems to have finally gotten the hang of being the middle child and in the process they have given not only Chevy owners but Volkswagen owners something to aspire to. That said, I’d be hard pressed to choose the Regal over an ATS 2.0T.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.67 Seconds

0-60: 6.7 Seconds

1/4 Mile:15.2 Seconds @ 93 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 22.1 MPG over 611 miles

Interior sound level at 50 MPH: 68.5 dB @ 50 MPH

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2014 NAIAS: How Hard Is GM Trying to Sell the Chevy SS? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/2014-naias-how-hard-is-gm-trying-to-sell-the-chevy-ss/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/2014-naias-how-hard-is-gm-trying-to-sell-the-chevy-ss/#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2014 19:05:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=700961 Can you spot the Chevrolet SS in Chevy's display at the 2014 NAIAS?

Can you spot the Chevrolet SS in Chevy’s display at the 2014 NAIAS?

Unless you’ve lived through it, you have no idea what it’s like to slog through the colossal Detroit auto show media preview. There were something like 50 new vehicle reveals spread out over two days, a press conference every 45 minutes or so. In the blur it’s easy to miss something. Fortunately, I live in the Detroit area so if I manage to not get photos or video of an important reveal or new-to-the-NAIAS vehicle, I can always go back during the Industry Preview that follows the press days. While reading Derek Kreindler’s NAIAS recap I realized that one of the cars that I missed was the Chevrolet SS performance sedan. A couple of months ago our colleague Bark M speculated that General Motors was not trying very hard to sell the new $44,000 SS. After photographing the SS at the NAIAS, I think that Bark M might have been on to something.

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I was wondering how I missed the SS until I went back to Cobo Hall during the industry days. While it’s not as crowded as the public show, just about anyone in Detroit can probably figure out a way to get a ticket so there are still more people than during the media event and from the crowds (or lack of them) around the vehicles you can get an idea of which ones are likely to be popular when the show goes public. As I worked my way through the half dozen or so photographic fill-ins that I needed I headed towards the Volvo booth along the far northern wall of the convention center. On my way to Volvo I passed right by the Chevrolet booth. Scanning the display, at first I couldn’t find the SS, it wasn’t on the show floor. Figuring I could check again after shooting the V60 sportwagon, I turned towards the Volvo booth and as my head spun I caught a flash of red from the smaller upper deck of Chevy’s two story display. Ah, so that’s where it is.

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Chevy had devoted the upper level to motorsports, more specifically Indycar and NASCAR, with a couple of the Dallara built cars used in the open wheel series, a Gen 6 NASCAR racer in Chevy SS trim, a Chevy SS pace car used in that series, and, on the public side of the barriers, that red Chevrolet SS. Now the funny thing is that I’d been upstairs in the Chevy display before. I shot video of the Z06 and C7R Corvette reveals from the stairs and I’d set my camera back up near the Indycars. Perhaps my powers of observation are declining in my advancing old age and decripitude, and I was rather focused on getting a decent sight line to the stage, but I hadn’t noticed either the pace car or the street SS when I was up there. I did notice the Indycars, and the Borg Warner Trophy in a display case, but the NASCAR display was at the far end of the upper level.

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Actually, if you didn’t take the time to go upstairs, you wouldn’t know that it’s devoted to the Chevy SS and Chevy motorsports. There’s a sign at the very top of the stairway, but no signboards or anything downstairs that might drive foot traffic to the upper part of the display. To give you some historical perspective of how Chevy regards that upper level’s ability to help sell retail product, if I’m not mistaken, last year they used the second floor to display some of Chevy’s international products, vehicles not for sale in North America.

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After I finished shooting photos of the SS and pace car, as I walked towards the staircase, two men passed me. I only caught a glimpse of one of them as I hurried, but the name Ryan Newman on his credentials made the synapses connect and I wheeled around to follow them as they walked towards the SS. The other man was Jim Campbell, who is in charge of performance cars and motorsports at General Motors. No matter what the upper level folks in GM’s PR department think about TTAC, as a writer I’ve always been treated graciously by people working for GM, including Campbell.

Seizing the opportunity, I asked Newman if he thought it’d be possible to build an actual stock car racer, from a production vehicle, with an advanced roll cage, and have the result be as safe as the scratch built tube frame Gen 6 cars, and he said not at the speeds they currently race at, mentioning the 218 mph he did at Michigan International Speedway. Then I asked Campbell why, if they were serious about selling the Chevy SS, did they hide it upstairs? He said that the motorsports display was a great place to promote the SS. He has a good point, but it was obvious that there was less foot traffic up there than down on the show floor. At the time, I believe that we were the only ones upstairs.

During the industry preview, foot traffic on the floor was much heavier than on the upper level of Chevy's booth.

During the industry preview, foot traffic on the floor was much heavier than on the upper level of Chevy’s booth.

Nothing reaches production and goes on sale at a car company these days without some kind of business case being made for it. I’ve written about the factory NHRA drag racers like the COPO Camaro, Drag Pak Challenger and Cobra Jet Mustang and the people at GM, Chrysler and Ford unanimously told me that their programs had to be justified on a dollars and cents basis. I assume the same is true of the Chevrolet SS but it sure doesn’t look like they’re trying that hard to sell that many examples of a car that you and I would probably enjoy driving.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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GM To Recall 370,000 Silverado/Sierra Trucks For Fire Risk http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/gm-to-recall-370000-silveradosierra-trucks-for-fire-risk/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/gm-to-recall-370000-silveradosierra-trucks-for-fire-risk/#comments Sat, 11 Jan 2014 17:35:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=696537

The new-for-2014 Silverado charmed our very own Winston Braithwaite when he tested it earlier this year. But if you ran right out to buy one after reading the review (YES ADVERTISERS THIS HAPPENS EVERY DAY) you might be without it for a few days in the near future.

GM is reportedly aware of eight issues where 4.3-liter and 5.3-liter 2014-model trucks caught fire due to “overheated exhaust areas”. These incidents all happened during “very cold weather”, and the company is encouraging owners not to let their trucks idle. Given that half of the reason people buy these sleds is to let ‘em idle in the winter, it seems unlikely this advice will be honored in the observation more than the breach, so to speak.

The fix will be available starting Monday and appears to be a software reprogramming.

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VW Set to Sell More Cars in China than GM for the First Time in 9 Years http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/vw-set-to-sell-more-cars-in-china-than-gm-for-the-first-time-in-9-years/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/vw-set-to-sell-more-cars-in-china-than-gm-for-the-first-time-in-9-years/#comments Thu, 26 Dec 2013 15:33:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=688082 494x288---DB2013AL02432_small

For the first time in nine years Volkswagen AG will likely sell more vehicles in China than General Motors, retaking the crown for the biggest foreign automaker selling cars in Chian, the world’s biggest automotive market. Both companies will sell more than 3 million cars and light trucks by the end of the year. Through November, VW is ahead by about 70,000 vehicles at 2.96 million, 17% ahead of 2012 figures. Competition is fierce between the two companies, who have planned to spend a combined $36 billion on operations in China in the near future. Last month VW said that it will be investing $25 billion over the next five years on expansion in China.

Jochem Heizmann, president and CEO of Volkswagen’s China operations, said last month that a lack of capacity prevents VW from selling even more cars in China. ”You really have to understand that at present, we really have capacity problems. We could sell more.”

2014 will see VW’s Audi brand, the best selling luxury marque in China, launching a locally assembled A3 and an updated A4. Other group introductions for the Chinese market will be the VW Bora and the Skoda Octavia sedans.

One reason analysts have given for VW surging ahead is GM’s lack of new models. GM will introduce four new models in China in 2014, wearing the Chevrolet brand.  SAIC-GM-Wuling will also be expanding the low coast Baojun brand with a compact hatchback and a multipurpose vehicle.

GM’s sales figures in China include the Buick, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Opel and Baojun nameplates, along with the Wuling brand of small commercial vehicles. If  you exclude Wuling from the total, the Volkswagen brand alone outsells Buick, Chevrolet and Cadillac combined.

As a whole, the auto industry have done well this year. Total vehicle sales, including heavy trucks and buses, were 19.9 million units through November. This year China is likely to become the first country to ever book more than 20 million in annual vehicle sales.

In other Chinese auto sales news, Jaguar Land Rover sales are up 28% compared to the same period last year, to 83,499 on strong Evoque and Range Rover Sport sales. Sales should go up even more when local production begins next year since those cars will not be subject to the country’s 25% import duty. Volvo Car Group, owned by China’s Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co.,  had sales that were up 45% from last year. Ford overtook Toyota for fifth place on the strength of the EcoSport and Kuga SUVs, and lingering hostility to Japan by Chinese unhappy over disputed islands. Ford is having a record year in China, selling 840,975 vehicles so far, up 51%. Ford’s Focus is China’s best selling car. Toyota sold 809,000 cars and light trucks, up 8% from last year.

 

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GM Selling PSA Stake http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/gm-selling-psa-stake/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/gm-selling-psa-stake/#comments Thu, 12 Dec 2013 18:17:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=678810 peugeot-boxer-cargo-van-628

General Motors will sell off their 7 percent stake in PSA, but will continue joint developing select vehicles and technologies. In a statement, GM’s Steve Girsky said

“Our equity stake was planned to support PSA in their efforts to raise capital at the time of the creation of the GM and PSA alliance, and that support is no longer needed,” said GM Vice Chairman Steve Girsky. “The alliance remains strong with our focus on joint vehicle programs, cross manufacturing, purchasing, and logistics.  We’re making good progress while remaining open to new opportunities.”

GM and PSA will continue to develop a small MPV type car and a small crossover, while working together on commercial vehicles.

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Alpha: General Motors Last Hope For The Commodore http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/alpha-general-motors-last-hope-for-the-commodore/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/alpha-general-motors-last-hope-for-the-commodore/#comments Thu, 12 Dec 2013 12:30:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=678394 U113P5029T2D429719F31DT20120109160003

I believe 2013 will be a year that Australia decides whether it wants to have an auto industry or not,“ 

-Mike Devereux, Holden’s former Managing Director, in November, 2012

Those ominous words spoken by Mike Devereux last year have taken on an almost eerie significance in light of yesterday’s events. After more than a half century of building cars in Australia, Holden will now become a “national sales company”, ostensibly selling rebadged global General Motors products, manufactured in places like Korea and Thailand.

But veiled remarks about the Australian auto industry aren’t the only words uttered by Devereux that caused us to take notice. At the launch of the latest VF Commodore, Devereux made a vague statement about the Commodore’s future, implying that it would be built on a global platform at the Adelaide factory. While the latter is no longer possible, there’s still hope that the Commodore could live a GM architecture. The only question is, which one?

Originally, Devereux claimed that two global architectures were coming to Adelaide after 2016 – and one of them would be the next Commodore.

“This [Commodore] will run through to the end of 2016. After that time we are going to be putting two global architectures into the [Adelaide] plant, one of them will underpin the next Commodore.”

To make sure he wasn’t misunderstood, Devereux repeated: “There is another Commodore coming after this one. We’re going to build it in Adelaide on a [global] architecture.”

While production at Adelaide is off the table, there is still the matter of which architecture could be used, with two schools of thought on the matter.

The predominant theory is (or was – until Holden decided to close up shop) that the Commodore would move to the front-drive Epsilon II architecture, and become little more than a rebadged Chevrolet Impala or Buick Regal (media reports suggested that the next Commodore would be a front-drive car the size of a Toyota Camry and sold as a Buick in other markets).

There are plenty of good reasons to do this. Despite the broad fanfare the rear-drive Aussie sedans attract among North American enthusiasts, they are similar to other enthusiast pet interests, in that their sales and profitability does not measure up to the mythology surrounding them. Australian car buyer tastes have shifted away from cars like the Falcon and Commodore to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars – attributes better suited to front wheel drive platforms than rear drive layouts.

Smaller cars like the Toyota Corolla, Mazda3 and Hyundai i30 are dominating the sales charts currently, along with pickups like the Toyota HiLux. Hanging on to fifth place is the Holden Commodore, which is enjoying its strongest sales in some time. But even then, front drive rivals like the Toyota Camry aren’t far behind (the Camry currently sits in 9th place). The market for sedans is still there, but which wheels are driven may not matter as much.

However, the Commodore brand is not just another nameplate. Is is arguably Australia’s national car, and a front-wheel drive Commodore would be a dramatic departure from the familiar formula that Australians are used to. General Motors experiment with a Holden badged Malibu (based on Epsilon II) hasn’t been terribly well received either.

That leaves another global platform in GM’s selection, one that drives the proper wheels and crucially, has the potential for scale. The Alpha platform, currently used only on the Cadillac ATS and CTS, and eventually, the next generation Camaro, could make for a very nice next-generation Commodore. Its use as a CTS shows that it can be adapted to the size that Aussie full-size buyers (or what’s left of them) expect in a Commodore. The platform can accommodate everything from GM’s 2.0T 4-cylinder, to the 3.6L V6 in both turbo and naturally aspirated forms and crucially (for marketing, purposes at least) whatever V8 the next-generation Camaro opts for.

The three nameplates using Alpha right now won’t allow for significant volumes, given that they are luxury and nice sports car vehicles. But a new Commodore – sold as a Holden in Australia, a Buick in China and the United States and perhaps even as another sporty Chevrolet as a successor to the SS – could help Alpha get the volume it needs, while leaving Commodore diehards happy. Of course, it wouldn’t be built in Australia. Only GM’s Lansing, Michigan plant and a factory in Shanghai build Alpha. A Made In China Commodore, no matter how good, is probably the opposite of what Holden wants to deal with from a marketing perspective.

I’m not going to pretend that this is anything other than a bit of wishful thinking sprinkled with a basic understanding of auto industry economics. Nevertheless, I find it hard to believe that GM would go to the trouble of engineering an all-new rear-drive architecture and restrict it to three nameplates that will do 99 percent of their volume in North America. There has to be further use for Alpha, and I hope that the next Commodore is one of them.

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GM Rumored To Be Shuttering Australian Manufacturing Operations In 2016 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/gm-rumored-to-be-shuttering-australian-manufacturing-operations-in-2016/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/gm-rumored-to-be-shuttering-australian-manufacturing-operations-in-2016/#comments Thu, 05 Dec 2013 16:25:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=671786 450x270xcalais-450x270.jpg.pagespeed.ic.TX40bBUuCM

Reports out of Australia claim that GM will be ending Australian vehicle production by 2016, turning Holden into a brand that sells imported cars, rather than locally produced vehicles.

Holden has been relying on government assistance from previous administrations, but the current right-leaning coalition is said to be wavering on any new funding. Meanwhile, GM is said to have come to a final decision regardless of what the government decides.

While the official announcement won’t come until early 2014, it appears to have been a long time coming. High labor costs, declining market share, lower tarrifs on imported vehicles and changing market tastes have all led to a decline in popularity for domestic Australian vehicles like large, rear-drive sedans and Ute pickup trucks, the kind made by Holden and Ford’s now defunct Australian arm.

Imports of Thai-built mid-size pickups and small cars built in South Korea, Japan and elsewhere have taken a bite out of Holden sales. The Commodore, once Australia’s best-selling car, can now barely crack the top 10, despite an acclaimed redesign. Models like the Cruze and Colorado are currently imported from South Korea and Thailand respectively, as local production has been deemed too expensive to be profitable.

The 2016 date is also the expiration for GM’s agreement with the Canadian government over maintaining minimum production levels in Canada. Previous TTAC reports have suggested that Oshawa may be the next plant to go, and given the similarities between Australia and Canada’s economies and automotive sectors, don’t be surprised if GM delivers a one-two punch to both countries.

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Iran Is Open For Business: 1.5 Million Annual Unit Sales At Stake http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/iran-is-open-for-business-1-5-million-annual-unit-sales-at-stake/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/iran-is-open-for-business-1-5-million-annual-unit-sales-at-stake/#comments Tue, 26 Nov 2013 18:21:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=664114 parsimg1fi9

Weeks prior to the historic deal reached between Iran and the “P5+1″ group of nations, TTAC reported on some of the machinations going on behind the scenes regarded the United States, France and their respective auto industries ability to do business in Iran. We put forth the theory that any deal with Iran would be a boon to auto manufacturers, who would have access to a market expected to be worth 1.5 million units in a few short years, with a very young population and a standard of living that is substantially better than many highly touted emerging markets.

At the time of publication, we encountered significant dismissal, if not disagreement. But as it turned out, negotiations had been ongoing since the start of 2013, and the preliminary deal appears to make the auto industry a big winner.

Within the next 6 months, the auto industry is expected to inject as much as $500 million into Iran. The auto industry, currently worth over 1 million units annually, will be a hotly contested ground for foreign firms looking to break into the market.

Despite apparently being muscled out of Iran by their alliance with General Motors, PSA’s arrangement with GM is now as good as dead, and that means that PSA has the chance to claw their way back to the top of Iran’s market. Last year, PSA sold nearly 458,000 units in Iran (CKD kits which are being erroneously referred to as spare parts kits). Renault, which sold roughly 100,000 Logans in Iran last year, will also be able to resume business.

But American firms also appear to have designs on Iran’s auto market, with French firms becoming increasingly concerned that American companies are trying to muscle them out of Iran. Speaking to Just-Auto, an unnamed official from IKCO, PSA’s former partner in Iran, said

“This is a new day for automakers. More than [just] previous partners, we can also host more automakers which are interested to come to invest in the automotive sector of Iran.”

French officials have previously asserted that GM’s desire to have PSA end its relationship with IKCO was a way to clear out Iran’s auto market prior to the resumption of trade between the two countries. Indeed, the sanctions regime, as well as pressure from GM, caused Renault and PSA respectively, to withdraw from Iran – leaving a 585,000 unit hole in a 1.2 million unit marketplace.

Previous TTAC reports have outlined how GM officials have been clandestinely meeting with Iranian officials via intermediaries – at the time it appeared to be in violation of sanctions, but new information, asserting that high-level talks between the two countries had been going on since early 2013, have given those discussions some legitimacy.

But now, Iran is open for business not just for GM or any other American firm, but auto makers in Germany, Italy and beyond. The broader questions – whether the deal between Iran and the West is a good one, or whether it’s worth negotiating such a deal in return for the associated economic opportunities – are best left for another arena. What’s germane to our discussion is the future of Iran’s auto market and who stands to benefit.

A foothold, if not outright dominance, of a major emerging market is substantial prize for any automaker forced to compete in a mature global market with an over-saturation of brands and increasing need for volume and scale. Prior to the deal, auto makers were looking to Indonesia, South Africa  and other markets that are substantially poorer, with lesser prospects for growth. The BCG report on emerging markets even shied away from speculating on Iran due to political instability. But all of a sudden, Iran is now open for business, and by the end of the decade, its auto market is expected to be 50 percent larger than Australia’s. It’s unclear which auto makers will rush in to this market. But Iran appears to be wasting no time.

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Capsule Review – 2011 Holden Commodore, Pontiac G8, Chevy SS, Chevrolet Caprice http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/capsule-review-2011-holden-commodore-pontiac-g8-chevy-ss-chevrolet-caprice/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/capsule-review-2011-holden-commodore-pontiac-g8-chevy-ss-chevrolet-caprice/#comments Tue, 26 Nov 2013 16:01:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=664226 Courtesy of GM Middle East

Courtesy of GM Middle East

My boss and I drive the same style rental slug Toyota over here, but when his was due for service, instead of a replacement Fortuner, I spotted a 2011 Chevy Caprice in his parking spot. Having spent almost a year without a proper V-8 under my foot, I convinced him we needed to take that one out.

I also introduced him to a new term…hooning. Mental's Abu Dhabi Dispatches

The staff and contributors here get a fairly standard rash of comments about perceived anti-GM bias. I don’t think it’s accurate, but it’s hard to not get annoyed with GM. Not because of their vehicles, but what they do with the good ones.

You can't control me! I'm a hoon!

You can’t control me! I’m a hoon!

This car is maddening. It works, and it works very well. When GM recognized the need for a RWD platform for LEO sales, they imported this version after Pontiac and its impressive G-8 left the landscape. Bark M recently pointed out the god-awful job GM has done to promote this car, even after it became their primary NASCAR platform.

This particular sedan was a 2011 with just over 54,000 kilometers (33,500 miles) on the clock. 2011 was the introduction of a “new” interior and standard features. This base model had the standard rental quality plastics and faux wood but Bluetooth stereo and dual climate controls are standard features. Both are excellent, once I realized the volume was on the other side of the stereo (Australian, remember?)

No seriously, how do I turn up the radio?

No seriously, how do I turn up the radio?

Without the leather interior, remote start or full integrated navigation system; stateside this would be a great mid-priced sedan. Given the NASCAR tie in, this car would sell itself, not just to rental fleets, but to GM loyalists who believe they don’t need leather and fancy interiors but do absolutely need a V-8. Trust me, those customers are out there, I am related to a lot of them. The fact that Chrysler sells a ton of non-SRT/8 Chargers underscores my point.

I showed my southern roots very quickly after slipping behind the wheel, I had deftly turned off the stability control before making the hard 90 degree right onto the expressway. Exiting the turn I planted the throttle and was rewarded with a proper growl from under the bonnet and controlled wheelspin until the transmission shifted. My boss held the syllable he was speaking at the time as the big sedan pulled. By the time I let off he was giggling with me.

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Oh Blessed Lady of Acceleration, please forgive me. I did not mean to stray from your house, I was pulled away kicking and screaming into a midsized SUV. I have missed your song and your touch. It’s so pleasant to speed up without downshifting. Just a toe prod onto the pedal and off she goes. The LS series is such a wonderful engine.

An airport pickup left me with the chance to sample the traffic manners of the big Chevy. It was fine, this is not a BMW or a Mercedes but it’s a solid platform and well mannered. It is what a RWD Caprice has always been.  Here, you can option these cars to the stratosphere or just get the trim level you need. The seats are comfortable enough but not side bolstered. The driver’s seat will extend far enough back to pull my feet off the pedals completely, the rear seat is usable and I haven’t seen a trunk as big in any of my beloved German offerings. This is why it’s maddening as a fan of GM. Why does this car start in Cadillac pricing territory? Why can’t I just order a mid-level trim car?

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After dinner I gave the keys back to my boss, who took the chance to mimic some of my shenanigans. Rolling slowly through a puddle from a sprinkler he floored it. Dual wheelspin and a delightful sound had all three of us grinning.

When the G8 was introduced, I was impressed but not interested. But before it all came crashing down, there was talk of the Aussie-designed ute coming to US shores. For the first time in my life, I began to save for a down payment for a new car. When it all went wrong, I was heartbroken.

The G8 was not the strong seller it should have been for a variety of reasons, and now GM is making the same marketing mistakes with this car.

On the way home, the excellent Bluetooth was streaming iTunes top downloads. Lana Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness” came on. A 550 AMG passed us, and with the slightest prod the LS put us in its wake, drafting the big German saloon without breathing hard.

“I’m feelin’ electric tonight, Cruising down the coast goin’ ’bout 99”

The next morning, it was back to the Toyota.

Sigh.

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Review: 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/review-2014-chevrolet-silverado-1500-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/review-2014-chevrolet-silverado-1500-with-video/#comments Tue, 19 Nov 2013 15:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=649338 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I’ve never cared for the phrase “as American as apple pie” as apple pie is far from an American invention. Instead, we should say as “American as the pickup truck.” In 1925 Ford crafted the “Ford Model T Runabout with Pickup Body” and America’s love affair began. The Chevrolet Silverado, and its mechanical twin the GMC Sierra, may not be the best-selling vehicle in America (that award goes to the aging Ford F-150) but the Chevy alone has outsold the Toyota Camry by 55,000 units this year. Toss in the Sierra and there are more GM trucks sold on our shores in a year than all the Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche products put together. The high sales number and high profit margins explain the intense Ford vs Chevy vs RAM rivalry. With a new RAM in 2013 and a light refresh only a year later, GM is firing back with an all-new Silverado and Sierra. Does Chevy’s new half-ton have what it takes to be king of the hill?

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Outside, the 2014 Silverado retains Chevy’s classic styling cues with stacked headlamps and plenty of straight lines. Although I didn’t think it possible, the wheel wells have become even more square for 2014.  GM’s trucks have long been the sedate option in the half ton market, but Chevy has decided to inject a more passion for 2014. Up front we get a bolder grille, and following in Ford and Chrysler’s footsteps, there’s the vaguest hint of “big rig” styling in the hood stamping. New projector headlamps and an enormous chrome bumper round out the transformation.

Although the Silverado has grown slightly over the last generation, the difference isn’t huge. One major change for 2014 that does increase the truck’s size is the availability of the standard bed (6′ 6″) and crew cab combination making this combo 10 inches longer than the 2013 crew cab model and just shy of 20-feet. Also increasing in size for 2014 are the enormous square wheel wells. Square wells with round wheels have always looked a little peculiar to my eye. Be sure to sound off in the comment section. Although it’s a GM design cue that’s lived on for years, I think the square wheel wells would look better with a square-themed wheel. The ginormous openings will likely make aftermarket tuners happy since it’s easier to stuff bigger rubber on the Silverado without modification, but it made out tester’s enormous 20-inch wheels look small. Despite the squareness, and my family’s allegiance to the RAM brand, I think the Silverado manages to be the best looking half ton on the market by a hair.

2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes
Interior

While the outside impressed me with bold, aggressive styling and impressive fit and finish for a pickup truck, I was honestly disappointed by the interior. I found the Silverado a better place to spend my time than the Ford, but the 2014 RAM is not only more pleasing in style, but also more functional and Chrysler offers an extensive upgrade list including real wood trim and leather door panels. Practical features have long been a selling point and that continues for the Silverado. We get two glove boxes, large door storage pockets and a new center console in 5-passenger models. The wide console sports a whopping five USB ports, two of which are linked to the infotainment system while the others are charge only. There are multiple 12V DC outlets and an optional 120V inverter if you click the right option box. The console storage has been improved for 2014 but I found it to be slightly less useful than Ford or RAM’s stashes due to the cup holder module which “kinda-sorta” covers the front of the console. (Check out the picture above.)

Front seat comfort is easily the best in the half-ton market regardless of trim level. RAM’s front seats suffer from the same ergonomic flaw as many of Chrysler’s latest products: seats you sit on, not in. The Chevy’s seats on the other hand seemed perfectly shaped while the foam ranged from plush in our LTZ tester, to moderately firm in the base models. Likewise the rear seats scored top in the class with soft padding and seat bottom cushions that provided more thigh support than the competition.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Infotainment

If you’re a regular reader, you will know that I have praised GM’s low and mid-range touchscreen systems as some of the best in the business. Sadly the Silverado does not use that system. Instead, the Silverado joins the Impala and Buick LaCrosse in using a modified version of Cadillac’s CUE. So as not to step directly on their luxury brand’s toes, there are a few changes made to the system for truck duty. The expensive glass capacitive touchscreen (looks like a modern smartphone) is swapped for a resistive unit that isn’t as crisp or as glare reducing. The Chevy and Buick systems also get physical buttons for some system features, a marked improvement over Cadillac’s touchscreen only interface. Aside from these charges, the majority of CUE remains.

Like Ford’s MyFord Touch system, MyLink is sluggish in general and sometimes totally unresponsive. The software also suffers from unintuitive menu layouts and old-school mapping software that doesn’t jive with the system’s high-resolution screen. Like CUE, some multi-touch gestures are supported, but the different touchscreen is less able to decipher your intent leading to some frustrating moments. On the bright side, CUE’s selling points remain. The system’s voice command system features natural language commands and instead of treating the USB ports as separate inputs, the system aggregates them into one large music library allowing you to voice command songs without specifying the device.

Overall this implementation of MyLink ties with Toyota’s Entune system in the Tundra for third, with MyFord Touch coming in second and Chrysler’s uConnect taking the lead. uConnect is far more intuitive, the graphics are more pleasing to the eye and the system is generally more responsive. Thanks to a 2014 software update the RAM now offers OnStar like emergency services as well as app integration in the head unit.  The last thing you should know about MyLink is that it is hard to avoid. Most models of the Silverado on the lot have either the large screen or small screen version with only the most basic trim levels getting a standard radio/CD player unit.

2014 5.3L V-8 EcoTec3 AFM VVT DI (L83) for Chevrolet Silverado aDrivetrain

Instead of aping and releasing a new model with old engines, GM packs in three brand-new engines for 2014. Dubbed the EcoTec3 engine family, the Silverado comes standard with a 4.3L V6, an optional 5.3L V8 and soon there will be a 6.2L V8. All three engines share design elements, push rods and direct-injection. The 4.3L V6 is exclusive to GM’s trucks, not shared with cars and crossovers like Ford and Chrysler, the reason is obvious when you look at the power numbers. At 285 HP and 305 lb-ft of torque, the large V6 produced less power but considerably more torque than Ford’s 3.7 or or RAM’s 3.6. Thanks to variable valve timing and the direct-injection sauce, the V6 Silverado manages 18/24 MPG (City/Highway) without any special fuel economy trim parts added. While it doesn’t beat the RAM SFE’s 25 MPG highway number, it beats everything else.

Our tester had GM’s volume engine option, the 355 HP and 383 lb-ft 5.3L V8. In addition to the same variable valve timing and direct-injection systems the V6 gets, both V8 engines feature cylinder deactivation to improve highway MPGs. The 5.3L engine cranks out less power and twist than RAM’s 5.7L HEMI, but is competitive against Ford’s 5.0L V8. Those interested in V8 bragging rights will want to jump up to the 6.2L V8 which produces a class leading 420 ponies and 440 lb-ft of torque.

Regardless of the engine you choose, a GM 6-speed automatic will be sending power to the ground. The rumor mill is alive and well that an 8-speed automatic is in the works but GM has no official line on that. That puts GM on par with the 6-speed F-150 and two cogs behind the 2014 RAM 1500. You’ll find the usual part-time four-wheel drive systems and an off-road package in the Silverado but you won’t find the 2014 half-ton game changer under any Silverado’s hood: a small diesel. If your interest is piqued, come back for our review of the 2014 RAM 1500 diesel in a few weeks.

2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Towing and Payload

Trucks are all about hauling and towing and GM came to this fight to win. While most pickup trucks advertise high payloads yet only deliver those payload numbers in very specific model/trim combinations, the Silverado boasts large numbers across the board. Ranging from 1,875 to 2,100 pounds, the Silverado easily bests the RAM’s 1,340-1,620 pound payload range (now that the RAM 1500 “Heavy Duty” has been axed) and likewise is more impressive than the F-150′s 1,510-2,090 range. (The F-150 is available in a heavy-duty frame model which uses F-250 frame and suspension parts and F-150 sheet metal, I don’t consider that a half-ton truck.) The big thing to know about the Silverado’s payload numbers however is how simple the payload chart is and how little it varies from one model to the next unlike Ford’s payload chart that is pages long.

When it comes to towing, Toyota would like us all to know that they are the only one with a SAE certification when it comes to towing. Does that matter? Probably not. With the 4.3L six-banger the Silverado is good for 5,900-7,200lbs of conventional trailering, 1,100 more than Ford’s base V6 but lower than the RAM V6 thanks to their new ZF-sourced 8-speed automatic. 5.3L models jump to 6,800-11,400, ahead of the RAM and Ford and if serious towing is your bag, the 6.2L V8 can haul a 12,000lb trailer. Of course anything over 10,000lbs is probably academic for half-ton owners, since most states require you to have a commercial license to haul that kind of weight. When it comes to towing capacity, the Silverado V8s are king, but how about towing feel? That’s a different story.

2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesDrive

With my 7,500lbs trailer attached, the Silverado and the RAM’s towing abilities are defined by their transmission. With two fewer gears to choose from, the Silverado felt less capable despite the stouter numbers on paper. It’s all about the feel, especially when hill climbing. The Silverado’s V6 may put out more torque than Chrysler’s 3.6L car engine, but as Archimedes said “give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” ZF’s 8-speed automatic seemed to always have the right gear for every situation with the V6. Things get even better in RAM-land when you hitch the sheep up to Chrysler’s more powerful 5.7L HEMI. And that’s before we even talk about RAM’s new 3.0L diesel engine with 420 lb-ft of twist mated to the same transmission. This places the Silverd0, yet again, second in the class behind the RAM but ahead of the Ford.

The RAM beats the Silverado when it comes to ride quality as well.  Whether the RAM is loaded or empty, equipped with the standard coil springs or the optional air suspension, the ride is both softer and more composed than the Chevy. The RAM’s ability to load-level with that optional suspension puts even more daylight between the RAM and the GM pickups. I have to temper that with the reality that the RAM can’t tow or haul as much as the Silverado. Shoppers will need to decide if payload and towing limits are more important than ride quality since needs will vary. Likely due to the F-150′s age, the Ford feels more disconnected than the Silverado both on and off the road.
2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Gauges-001

Although a 16.8 MPG average might sound bad to Camcord shoppers, that’s not a bad number for a V8 pickup truck on a daily commute cycle with 120 miles of weekend trailer towing. GMç 6-speed transmission has a fairly tall 6th gear and the Ecotec3 family of V8 engines has an aggressive cylinder deactivation program. Combined they allow the Silverado with the 5.3L V8 to get 23 highway MPGs in 2WD trim and 22 MPG in 4WD trim according to the EPA. On a level highway with the cruise control set to 68 I had no troubles averaging 26-27 MPG when the ending was in 4-cylinder mode. Despite the RAM’s 8-speed transmission, the Silverado delivers superior EPA and real world MPG numbers while sipping on regular gasoline (RAM recommends mid-grade in HEMI models.)

Our Silverado Z71 LTZ 4WD tester rang in at $50,475 thanks to a bevy of options from park assist to a heated steering wheel and 20-inch chrome wheels. However you configure your Silverado, the 2014 model will be asking a $1,500 premium over the 2013 model thanks to a late price hike from the general. Although there are still plenty of cash on the hood offers, many dealers are complaining that the price tags are scaring away potential shoppers. This means the MSRP for our Silverado was between $1,500 and $2,500 higher than competitive Ford or RAM trucks with the difference widening slightly when you adjust for feature content. When you factor in GM’s deeper discounts the difference becomes negligible but the crazy logic remains the same.

At the end of a week, I was sorry to see the Silverado go but I was also sad GM didn’t delay the Silverado for a year. With the 2013 RAM meeting press and sales success, I think there was a missed opportunity to put the Silverado on hold, toss in a new transmission and an optional self leveling coil spring rear suspension. Doing so would have made the Silverado more competitive in this high volume, high profit segment. Still, the Silverado has a great deal going for it. With the highest payload and towing capacities in the market combined with the best real world fuel economy numbers there are some good reasons to put the Silverado at the top of your list. For the rest of us, the RAM’s better road manners, snazzier feature list, top-notch infotainment system and excellent 8-speed automatic will seal the deal.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.13 Seconds

0-60: 8.17 Seconds

 1/4 Mile: 16.5 Seconds @ 87.5 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 16.8 MPG over 784 Miles

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 67 dB

 

2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-001 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-002 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-003 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-005 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-007 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-009 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-010 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-011 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-012 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior-013 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Gauges 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Gauges-001 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Infotainment-001 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior-001 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior-002 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior-004 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior-005 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior-006 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior-007 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes ]]>
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Akerson Wants Next GM CEO To Be “Change Agent” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/akerson-wants-next-gm-ceo-to-be-change-agent/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/akerson-wants-next-gm-ceo-to-be-change-agent/#comments Fri, 15 Nov 2013 07:01:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=651818 Chevrolet Kicks-Off 2011 Woodward Dream Cruise

With reports circulating that General Motors CEO Dan Akerson will step down sometime next year, the executive told Automotive News that he wants his successor to be a change agent and a risk taker. ”There’s no prototypical CEO,” Akerson said. “A good leader has to be innately bright, intellectually curious. They have to be a change agent, never satisfied with the status quo.”

Akerson, whom some say brought more accountability to GM’s bureaucracy said, “You have to establish accountability and an orientation to risk, recognizing that we’re not a fault-free company,” he said. “Have the humility and audacity to say ‘I made a mistake,’ and back up and go down the other way.”

Akerson, 65,  wouldn’t comment on a timeframe for his retirement and said that the choice of someone to replace him will be made by the GM board of directors, which he heads as chairman. ”I think we do have people here that I think fit that bill,” Akerson said, without naming anyone. “Of course, I’m on the board and I’ll have an opinion. But that’s kind of what I would look for.”

Akerson was hired in 2010, an outsider to what he perceives as a insular, parochial industry. He put Bob Ferguson, like himself a former telecommunications executive, in charge of the Cadillac brand. He also picked Mary Barra to be in charge of GM’s global product development though she has a relative lack of experience in vehicle engineering. Barra is considered one of the front runners to replace Akerson when he retires. More recently Akerson gave Barra oversight over GM’s $75 billion purchasing operations.

Besides Barra, others said to be on the short list of those who could replace Akerson are GM North America President Mark Reuss, CFO Dan Ammann and Vice Chairman Steve Girsky.

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Review: 2014 Buick Enclave (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/review-2014-buick-enclave-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/review-2014-buick-enclave-with-video/#comments Wed, 13 Nov 2013 14:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=642841 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I’ve dished out plenty of Buick love lately. The Verano beats Acura and Lexus at the entry-luxury game and the tiny Encore is an oddly attractive (albeit underpowered) crossover that is outselling the Mini Countryman and Range Rover Evoque by a wide margin. What can we attribute this sales success to? I posit that the original Buick Enclave is the impetus. Landing in 2007 as a 2008 model, it was the poster child of the “new Buick.” On the surface, the Enclave was the replacement for the Buick Rainier, the only GMT360 SUV I haven’t owned. (Just kidding, I’ve only owned 2 of the 11 varieties.) But that’s a simplistic view. In reality the Enclave was intended to elevate the brand enough to compete with three row luxury crossovers from Germany and Japan. This brings us to today’s question: six years and a mild face-lift later, does the Buick still have the goods?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Like Rainier, the Enclave is closely related to a GMC and Chevy version. Unlike the Rainier, the Enclave has only two doppelgängers instead of the 6-11 stablemates the Rainier contended with (depending on how you count your GMT360 and related SUVs.) The Chevy Traverse tackles the bottom of the market, the GMC Acadia handles the middle, and Buick occupies the top rung. That means the $38,740 to $52,925 Buick is targeted at the same shoppers as the Acura MDX, Infinti JX35/QX60, Lincoln MKT, the aging Volvo XC90 and if you believe GM, the Audi Q7.

Exterior

Although there is a strong family resemblance, GM managed to style the closely priced Acadia and Enclave differently enough that the Buick looks more expensive when parked next to the GMC. The Traverse, on the other hand, shares very similar styling cues and the family resemblance is more pronounced. This could be a problem for potential shoppers as the only other entry in this segment that shares heavily with a mass-market variant is the Infiniti. (The Nissan Pathfinder’s twin.)

Despite the parts sharing, the Buick cuts an elegant form that my eye hasn’t tired of. The mid-cycle refresh brings new front and rear end styling to bring the Enclave up to date with the rest of the Buick lineup. Although I like the look of the Enclave, I don’t find it as appealing as the new MDX or Q7. In terms of style, I’d call it a tie between the Buick, Infniti and Volvo. Even though Buick’s questionable “ventiports” are continuing to grow and migrate to the top of the hood, the engineers made sure you can’t see them from inside the car.

The other thing the engineers managed to hide is the sheer size of the Enclave. Buick’s curvaceous design language managed to fool a friend of mine who said he was looking at an Enclave because he thought his Escalade was too big and too hard to park. Let’s look at the numbers. The Enclave is exactly 6/10ths of an inch shorter than the big Caddy and rides on a wheelbase nearly three inches longer. The Buick is 5 inches shorter than the Cadillac making it easier to get in a short garage, but it’s just as wide at 79 inches. Don’t assume it’s easier to park wither since it cuts a turning circle one and a half feet bigger. This is the kind of Buick I remember: ginormous.

2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesInterior

I consider myself something of a dashboard connoisseur. I like my dashboards elegant, tasteful, squishy and preferably made from cow. I was therefore surprised to find the Enclave has best injection molded dashboard available. GM starts out with a single piece molded dashboard designed to look like leather with different textures pieced together. The molded product is then stitched with a sewing machine to insert thread along the injection molded faux-seams.

The result is impressive. Unfortunately the rest of the Enclave’s interior didn’t receive this level of attention. This means the old Enclave’s thin steering wheel is still shared with the defunct Buick Lucerne and the only real wood you’ll find is on that optional half-wood tiller. Odder still is the fact that no attempt is made to have the real wood look like the face wood in the car with the fake wood having a grey hue and the steering wheel veneer being nutty brown. I know I’m going to get complaints from this statement, but here I go. In a market where everyone but Acura is doing real wood, the aces of forest-substitute stick out like a sore thumb. (Note: the Canadian MDX can have real tree as an option.)

2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The Enclave counters these interior mis-steps with large and comfortable front seats and the only 8-seat configuration in this class. That 8th seat is important because it allows the Enclave to compete not only with the competition we have mentioned so far, but also with large body-on-frame SUVs like the Cadillac Escalade, Lexus LX 570, Infiniti QX56/QX80. In this context the Buick has a significant price advantage over the larger competition starting $25,000 lower than the Cadillac. Because those large competitors are aging and often draw heavily from their mass-market donor trucks, the Buick represents a decent value without looking like a cheap alternative.

As with all three-row SUVs, seats get less comfortable as you move towards the back. The middle captain’s chairs in the 7-seat Enclave are the most comfortable among the 3-row crossover segment while the optional three-seat middle bench drops  to class average. Due to the Buick’s age, you won’t find power flip/fold seats like the Acura or kid-friendly second row seats that can move forward with a child seat strapped in place. The Enclave regains its class leading comfort status in the third row with the most head room and cushiest thrones.

2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Buick Intellilink, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment
Being a refresh and not a redesign, 2014 doesn’t being an infotainment revolution to the Enclave. As it turns out this is a good thing. GM created a new integrated navigation and entertainment system that could be fitted to all their older vehicles to make them competitive with the systems coming out of Ford, Chrysler and BMW. This “stop-gap system” (my words, not GM’s) is one of my favorites on the market regardless of class. Although it is sold under the same Intellilink brand name as the Cadillac CUE derived system in the new LaCrosse, this system is totally different and in my eyes, superior.

Shared with the Encore, Verano and a few other GM products, the software is responsive, intuitive, and makes use of a bank of physical buttons that make navigating the system easy. As with other systems that I lean towards, Buick’s allows you to use either a control knob, the touchscreen or an extensive voice command library to interact with the system. Although a 7-inch screen is smaller than many of the competitors, I’d rather interact with Buick’s interface on a daily basis than Audi’s MMI. For a complete dive into the touchscreen interface, check out the video at the top of the review.

2013 GM 3.6L V-6 VVT DI (LLT) for Buick Enclave

Drivetrain

GM’s ubiquitous 3.6L direct-injection V6 is the only engine on offer in the Enclave cranking out the same 288 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque as in the other Lambda crossovers. (The Traverse also uses a 281 horsepower variant on base models.) Those power numbers put the Encore in the middle of the pack with the 240 HP Volvo being the least powerful and the Lincoln MKT being the most powerful at 303 ponies from its 3.7L V6. Having the HP crown wasn’t enough for Ford, so they also make their 365 HP twin-turbo V6  available.

Sending power to the front wheels is a 6-speed transaxle that has been reprogrammed for more civilized shifts and less lag when downshifting. Like last year, you can add AWD for $2,000 more. I should point out now that although the Audi Q7 is still a front heavy crossover, it is the only rear-wheel biased crossover in this segment and as such uses ZF’s silky-smooth 8-speed automatic.

2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

The Verano may be an Opel in American clothing, but the Enclave is traditional Buick out on the road. The enormous and high-profile tires (255/65R18), soft suspension and quiet cabin soak up the road around you allowing you to comfortably rack up the highway miles. When the road starts winding, the same tires and springs that allow for a compliant ride conspire with the nearly 5,000lb curb weight to take a toll on handling. That heavy curb weight also has an effect on performance, with the Enclave talking 7.3 seconds to hit 60, nearly a full second behind the Acura. Why? It’s all about the weight with the Acura being 700lbs lighter and even the cast-iron Volvo is 400lbs slimmer. Although I can’t say that 7.3 seconds to get to 60mph is excruciating, even the Infiniti JX35 with a tall first gear and the least torque in the group manages the task before the Buick. Only the ancient Volvo XC90 and the diesel Q7 slot in after the Enclave.

If you’re the kind of shopper that wants to hit the back country roads after dropping the kids off at preschool, the MDX is the clear winner in the segment. Surprisingly, the Enclave didn’t end up at the bottom of the segment when it comes to road manners. That’s where you’ll find the soft, CVT equipped Infiniti and the Volvo. Middle of the road manners and segment average pricing means the Enclave manages a “decidedly Toyota” middle of the pack finish. Unless you select that eight-seat option.

Now I must come back to that full-size SUV digression. If you’re looking for a three row vehicle that seats eight, you don’t have many options. If you want something that seats 8 and had some luxury pretense you have even less choice. It also means you’re going to end up with either a GM Lambda platform crossover, or a luxury body-on-frame product that dates back to the 1990s when “tarted up Tahoes” were all the rage. When pitted against this competition, the Enclave’s handling, steering feel and fuel economy go from class middling to class leading. While the Enclave isn’t as fast as the Escalade or the QX56/QX80, it beats the Lexus to freeway speeds. The Buick is also easier to park, easier on the eyes and easier on the wallet.

After six years on the market, the Buick that started the brand’s resurrection is starting to show its age. The Enclave is crossover in the truest sense of the world straddling the middle ground between the minivan like entries like the Infiniti and the large and thirsty truck-based options like the Cadillac Escalade. My final word is that if you’re looking for a 7-seat three row utility vehicle, there are plenty of better options out there, but if you’re looking for an 8-seat utility vehicle then the Enclave should be on the top of your list. In the end, that 8th seat is probably the best thing the Enclave has going for it.

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

0-30: 3.06 Seconds

0-60: 7.3 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.9 Seconds @ 86 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 17.5 MPG over 559 miles

Interior sound level at 50 MPH: 68 db

2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-001 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-002 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-003 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-004 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-005 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-006 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Exterior-008 2014 Buick Enclave Interior 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-001 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-002 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-003 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-004 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-005 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-006 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-007 2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-010 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-011 2014 Buick Enclave Interior, Buick Intellilink, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-013 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-014 2014 Buick Enclave Interior-015 ]]>
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Editorial: Unrealistic Timelines At Cadillac http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/editorial-unrealistic-timelines-at-cadillac/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/editorial-unrealistic-timelines-at-cadillac/#comments Mon, 11 Nov 2013 15:31:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=647842 ATS-front-quarter-550x412

Readers of our departed EIC’s chronicles will no doubt understand that building a luxury brand is a gradual, concentrated effort that won’t bear fruit for many years. Over at Audi, it took Herr Schmitt and Herr Piech the better part of two decades to morph Audi from an oddball line of tarted up Volkswagens into a global luxury player, and that journey was not without its own mishaps.

Audi wasn’t the only one to trudge down that road either. Bob Lutz’s latest book recalls the genesis of the BMW naming convention (naming their cars the 3, 5 and 7-Series), arguably the start of their rise from, well, an oddball line of Bavarian built cars into one of the auto industry’s blue-chip luxury car makers.

So who is Uwe Ellinghaus, Cadillac’s new marketing chief (an ex-BMW man) to think that building Cadillac into a global luxury brand will take about 10 years? Cadillac’s main markets right now are America and China, with the two countries accounting for about 90 percent of sales. Even so, Cadillac is badly outgunned in America, with Mercedes-Benz and BMW (and Lexus as well) each doing roughly one-and-a-half times the volume that Cadillac does in its home market. In China, supposedly Cadillac’s second most important market, Audi is outselling Cadillac by roughly 10 to 1. In Europe, Cadillac is a non-entity, selling just 2,274 cars in 2012.

The idea that Cadillac will be a global player in the luxury car world in as little as 10 years is at worst a fantasy, at best a demonstration of profound ignorance. As a former BMW marketing exec, Ellinghaus should know that Cadillac lacks key products (like a small crossover, a proper flagship and diesel engines) needed to compete in the all important European market, and that competitors like Lexus have yet to crack the “global” part of the equation despite arguably having a higher profile in the luxury world.

The best summation of the entire situation comes from TTAC commenter edgett

This is American marketing at its worst. The idea that the content of the product is overcome, or recreated, at the hand of “branding” is how they got into this in the first place. What if the brand identity for Cadillac became “The Standard of the World”, and they spent all of their “branding” money on creating a product which epitomized that identity?

 

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GM Seeks “Contemporary Wagon” For Americans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/gm-seeks-contemporary-wagon-for-americans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/gm-seeks-contemporary-wagon-for-americans/#comments Thu, 07 Nov 2013 14:30:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=644746 Chevy Cruze Wagon

Unless you pay a visit to Mr. Lang’s lot on the right day or really love Volkswagen, the only wagons available for Americans today are mostly Teutonic, and all come with a high price tag. According to GM North American President Mark Reuss, that’s a problem, and one he’d like to fix pronto.

Aside from filling holes in markets GM doesn’t have anything for as of yet — including compact vans like the Ford Transit Connect, or a Panamera-fighter for the Buick lineup — Reuss wants to give consumers “a contemporary wagon for mainstream America” that is more affordable than anything on the lots of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, or even Cadillac. He also promises, for what it’s worth, that the wagon won’t have faux-wood paneling as an option. Sorry, hipsters.

One easy candidate would be to bring over the Cruze Wagon from Europe; Reuss already has eyes on a five-door hatchback version of the compact when the second generation rolls off the ramp, but why stop there? Sometimes not even a hatch is enough for some tasks, and since there are no small pickups or utes around anymore (in the United States, anyway), a business case could be made in federalizing the Cruze Wagon for sale on our shores.

Of course, if a Cruze meets the criteria for “a contemporary wagon for mainstream America,” then what does that say about the Teutonic tourers or the art and science behind Cadillac’s CTS? Are they too Lady Gaga for the masses?

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Family Jewels: What Dribbled Down To You? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/family-jewels-what-dribbled-down-to-you/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/family-jewels-what-dribbled-down-to-you/#comments Sat, 02 Nov 2013 15:08:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=640409 Photo Courtesy of Cardomain.com

Photo Courtesy of Cardomain.com

Today, my wacky morning DJ, right after he said democracy was a joke and called me “dude,” hit us with this fun fact: 39% of young people choose the same brand of car their parents drove. I’m not sure if that is impressive as the previous day’s fact, that 20 million pounds of candy corn are sold annually in the United States, but it made me think about my father’s preference in vehicles and whether or not I had followed suit. Despite the fact that my old man had pretty good taste in cars, the answer, oddly enough, is “no.”

Like the late, great Jean Sheppard once wrote about his own father, my father was an Oldsmobile man. Of course today Oldsmobile is as dead as the Huppmobile and unless I want to reach back into history and buy one on the used market, I’m never going to own the same brand of car my dad did. I have owned a few other GM cars over the years, a GMC Jimmy, my current Pontiac Torrent, a Geo Metro and a few well used Novas I found dead in people’s yards but, truth be told, I am not GM guy. I, for whatever reason, am a Mopar guy.

I’m not really sure why I settled on a Dodge Shadow back in early 1988. My buddy Rick had an old Dodge Charger for a while, but other than that I really had no experience with the brand and looking back there were some really great cars on the market for similar money. I could have had a Toyota Corolla Twin-Cam, a Honda CRX like my friend John bought, Nissan had two or three little coupes on the market including the Turbo 200SX and Chevrolet offered both the Baretta and the Z24 Cavalier as direct competitors to the little Dodge Turbos. For whatever reason, I passed them all by and went to my local Dodge shop.

Which would you choose?

Which would you choose?

My experience with the Dodge wasn’t entirely trouble free, but considering the amount of abuse I dished out the little car held up remarkably well. As a result I have always thought of myself as a “Dodge guy” and always shop their products when I am looking to purchase a new vehicle. The 300M I owned and my recent purchase of our new Town & Country have their roots in my positive, early experiences with the brand and I think that more Chrysler products will eventually follow.

But will my kids be Chrysler fans? Given all the recent mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures, I‘m not sure it really matters. Eventually, they’ll have a chance to take the controls and decide whatever they like on their own, and my only hope is that they feel the same passion for cars and driving that I do. If they get that, then I’ll consider my job as one well done.

Let me ask though, how much does you parents’ brand loyalty or ownership experience play into your own brand affinity? Are you loyal to a single brand at all? A single country’s product? I’d like to hear about it.

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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