The Truth About Cars » Japan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 01 Sep 2015 18:20:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 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 » Japan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Union Leader Blasts Obama on Pacific Trade Talks http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/union-leader-blasts-obama-pacific-trade-talks/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/union-leader-blasts-obama-pacific-trade-talks/#comments Wed, 26 Aug 2015 21:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1153377 The head of the AFL-CIO in the United States is criticizing the current presidential administration for its pursuit of a trade zone in the Pacific that could open up Asian markets to America and vice versa, the Detroit News is reporting. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka wrote the administration a letter saying that a free-trade agreement with […]

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Trans-Pacific Partnership Circa 2010

The head of the AFL-CIO in the United States is criticizing the current presidential administration for its pursuit of a trade zone in the Pacific that could open up Asian markets to America and vice versa, the Detroit News is reporting.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka wrote the administration a letter saying that a free-trade agreement with countries such as Japan jeopardizes American jobs because those countries may be able to source cheaper parts from outside the negotiated area, according to the report.

“I hope it is not the case that the Canadian and Mexican negotiators are actually holding a harder line than our own government on this issue. But due to the unaccountable lack of transparency from USTR, absolutely critical decisions are being made without our input or voice. Thousands of good American jobs and an iconic American industry are at risk, and we don’t even know what our government’s negotiating position is.”

According to the Detroit News, a free-trade agreement with Asia would be high on Obama’s priorities before his administration ends.

Trumka said there would be no guarantee for American automakers to gain a foothold in Japan if the Trans Pacific Partnership were created.

Instead, he said, the deal would make it easier for American automakers to source cheaper parts from China and Thailand, or other developing nations, which would come at the expense of American auto workers. Under current free trade rules in North America, 62.5 percent of a car or light truck must originate within the trade zone to be tariff free. Mexico, which is currently building nearly 4 million cars a year, would like to increase that to 65 percent. Japan is proposing a 45-percent threshold for vehicles and 30 percent for parts.

The agreement could also end the 25-percent import tax on light pickups, commonly called the “Chicken Tax.”

Automakers have said they’d prefer to renew the Chicken Tax or slowly roll the tax back after years — or even decades.

According to the story, Japan doesn’t place any import tax on American-built cars, and has said they’ve spent billions building production facilities in America — which American automakers haven’t yet done in Japan.

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2016 Honda Pilot Review – The Sensible 8-Hauler http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2016-honda-pilot-review-sensible-8-hauler/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2016-honda-pilot-review-sensible-8-hauler/#comments Tue, 18 Aug 2015 15:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1139410 2016 Honda Pilot Elite AWD 3.5-liter i-VTEC SOHC V-6, direct injection, cylinder deactivation, CVVT (280 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm, 262 lbs-ft @ 4,700 rpm) 9-Speed ZF 9HP automatic 19 city/26 highway/22 combined (EPA Rating, MPG) 21.6 mpg (Observed, MPG) Tested Options: Elite Trim Base Price: $30,875* As Tested: $46,420* * Prices include $880 destination charge. My sister-in-law announced that she […]

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2016 Honda Pilot Exterior

2016 Honda Pilot Elite AWD

3.5-liter i-VTEC SOHC V-6, direct injection, cylinder deactivation, CVVT (280 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm,
262 lbs-ft @ 4,700 rpm)

9-Speed ZF 9HP automatic

19 city/26 highway/22 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

21.6 mpg (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Elite Trim

Base Price:
$30,875*
As Tested:

$46,420*
* Prices include $880 destination charge.

My sister-in-law announced that she and her husband were having child number four. As a result of this announcement, they decided it was finally time to sell the five-seat sedan and buy another crossover. Since she is constantly flooded with a parade of visiting family members, she asked what sounded like a simple question: What’s the best 8-passenger crossover with a comfortable third row and room for cargo. My answer: Buy a minivan. No, seriously, just buy a minivan. Think you need AWD? Get some winter tires. Really, really need AWD? Get a Sienna.

I’m sure you can guess what she said: “I am not driving a minivan.”

The problem is, aside from minivans, there are few 8-passenger options that aren’t expensive, full size, body-on-frame SUVs. Those options are: the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and GM’s identical triplets — the Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave. That’s it. If you need more room, be prepared to shell out for a Suburban, Escalade, Navigator or a few other spendy options.

Today we look at the freshest entry in this phonebooth-sized segment, the all-new 2016 Honda Pilot.

Exterior
Back when the crossover segment started, shoppers were drawn to truck-like proportions and boxy shapes. The last-generation Pilot wore some of the same questionable styling cues you see on body-on-frame SUVs like the Nissan Armada where the third-row window line doesn’t jibe with the rest. Perhaps because the crossover segment is maturing, or perhaps because everyone is finally admitting that the 3-row crossover is the modern-day minivan, Honda’s designers penned a body that looks the CR-V and Odyssey mashed together. The overall look is sleeker and more modern, but certainly less like a traditional SUV.

Base models get halogen headlamps while Elite trims like ours receive Honda’s new LED low beams. Although the Acura MDX is a close relative, Honda did their best to differentiate the products. Aside from the general dimensions, the DNA is well hidden. As we’ve seen from other crossovers, ground clearance drops from an SUV-like 8 inches to 7.3; still more than your average minivan but less than the truck-based people carriers. The decrease in ride height and addition of sleek lines help hide the three inch stretch Honda gives the Pilot for 2016.

2016 Honda Pilot Interior-002

Interior
The biggest change for 2016 is inside where Honda ditched the discordant faux-truck theme of the last Pilot for a more elegant and restrained look. In the center of the dash is a single 8-inch LCD, which surprised me since the Accord uses Honda’s 2-screen system. If the CR-V is the “‘Civic Crossover” then surely the Pilot is the “Accord Crossover”, so you’d think it would sport the same infotainment setup. The most logical reason for this change is that Honda didn’t want the Pilot to look like a bargain MDX on the inside. Whatever the reason, the infotainment system looks more like the Civic than the Accord. In another twist, Honda didn’t use a variant of the Accord’s instrument cluster like we see in the CR-V, instead opting for three dials and a digital speedometer in all models — again, rather like the Civic.

Front seat comfort proved excellent in our Elite tester, but I actually found the cloth EX model to be a hair more comfortable. Like other Honda products, front seats have generous lumbar support and a soft bottom cushion designed for hours of comfortable highway cruising. On the down side, even our top-of-the-line Elite model gives the front passenger electric adjustability in just four directions.

2016 Honda Pilot Interior-005

The second row in LX through Touring models ia a comfortable three-across 60/40 folding bench, but our Elite model swaps in captain’s chairs reducing the seat count to seven. The three-across third row surprises with more headroom and legroom than you find in most large SUVs but only a hair more width than the tight Highlander. This is thanks to the Pilot’s minivan-like profile and by the engineers cramming the seat bottom cushion as low as possible. The obvious downside to seats that are so low is the lack of thigh support for adults. Kids should be fine and Honda shows their love for LATCH anchors by giving you four sets in most Pilots — three for the middle row and one on the right side of the third.

Why bother with the three-across third row? It does have a practical application. It is possible to jam two skinny folks in the way-back and fold the row’s 40% side down. Those two would need to be skinny, friendly, or my mother in law. If you can make it work, you can put cargo on that 40% side and squeeze in 7 people and more cargo than large 7-seat crossovers like the Pathfinder.

Although the Pilot has grown for 2016, it is still among the smaller 8-passenger vehicles on sale. This lack of length is primarily a problem with it comes to cargo hauling where the Acadia/Traverse/Enclave have considerably more room behind the third row (the Pilot will haul more widgets than the Highlander however). Honda says that four carry-on sized roller bags will fit behind the third row in the vertical position, but it is a tight fit.

2016 Honda Pilot Interior-022

Infotainment
2016 brings Honda’s latest Android-based touchscreen infotainment OS. Using an 8-inch capacitive LCD, the new system is similar in appearance to what we see in the Honda Civic with some important differences. The system now runs Android OS and uses a new processor making the user interface snappier. The graphics have also been tweaked for the higher-resolution screen and Garmin now provides the optional navigation software. Like Chrysler’s uConnect system, the nav interface looks very much like someone jammed an aftermarket windshield-mount nav unit into the dash. Operation is easy and intuitive and familiar to anyone using Garmin products.

Perhaps the biggest change between this system and the similar looking one in the Civic is that the Pilot does not support smartphone-based navigation integration. With the Civic you can buy a $60 app and the car’s touchscreen LCD displays the interface while your phone does the processing. Also absent is Android Auto or Apple Car Play support which we see in the new Accord. Honda has yet to comment officially on the lack of smartphone love, but since the system in the Accord is related, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in 2017.

2016 Honda Pilot Engine-001

Drivetrain
All Pilot trims get the same 3.5-liter V-6 we see in a variety of Honda products, from the lowly Accord to the upper-end Acura MDX. As usual, the engine is tuned differently from Honda’s other applications. Versus the Acura, power drops to 280 horsepower primarily because the Pilot is tuned to run on regular and the MDX is tuned for premium.

Power is routed to the front wheels via a Honda 6-speed automatic in LX through EX-L trims, or a ZF-sourced 9-speed in Touring and Elite. The $1,800 AWD system is optional on all trims, except the Elite where it’s standard. Pilots with the “i-VTM4″ AWD are the first Honda branded vehicles in America with a torque vectoring rear axle.

The AWD system is functionally similar to the latest SH-AWD system used in the 2016 MDX, but the software is programmed very differently. In addition, the Pilot appears to lack the “overdrive” unit that spins the rear wheels 2.7-percent faster than the fronts under certain conditions. Regardless of which transmission you get, towing ratings are 3,500 pounds in front-wheel-drive models and 5,000 pounds in AWD trims.

2016 Honda Pilot Interior-030

Drive
Offering the 9-speed in top-end trims is an interesting alternative to offering an engine re-tune that might step on Acura’s toes. Adding 10 or 15 horsepower to a top-end trim would have a negligible impact on your acceleration times, but adding three extra gears to the Pilot makes it go from 0-60 a half second faster.

How is that possible? It’s all about gearing. The 9HP transmission not only has more gears, it also has an extremely broad ratio spread. Honda chose to use this ratio spread differently than Fiat Chrysler did in their Jeep Cherokee. The Jeep engineers wanted high-speed fuel economy improvements for the European market. In the V-6 Jeep, 9th doesn’t engage until over 85 mph and the low ratio is a fairly average 15.3:1. Honda doesn’t sell the Pilot in Europe and only Texas has speed limits that high in the U.S., so they took a different approach and tuned the final drive for acceleration. The result is an incredibly low 20:1 stating ratio vs a 14:1 ratio with the same engine and the 6-speed auto. That means that in normal driving, the Elite is done with first gear by 10 mph. By the time you’ve hit 40, you’ve used more gears than the LX possesses. On the flip side, the deep first gear and closely spaced 2nd have an enormous impact on the Pilot’s 0-30 time. Of course, if you skip the AWD system entirely, you’ll get plenty of torque steer and one-wheel peel.

Remember how I said the AWD system wasn’t exactly the same as the MDX’s SH-AWD system? You’ll notice this on the road if you drive them back-to-back. SH-AWD employs a few tricks to make the MDX dance like an X5 alternative. The two most important being the aggressive side-to-side torque vectoring and the overdriving of the rear axle. By making the rear differential spin slightly faster than the front and then shunting all the power to one side, the MDX can feel more like a RWD-biased AWD car under power. The torque vectoring function on the Pilot appears to be much less aggressive, although it does feel more nimble than most of the mass-market competition. If you’re after the best driving dynamics in this segment, you’ll have to give up a few seats and get the RWD Dodge Durango.

2016 Honda Pilot Exterior-005

When it comes to dynamics, the Pilot feels large and moderately soft. The suspension is tuned firmer than GM’s Lambda triplets or Nissan’s Pathfinder, but a little softer than some versions of the Highlander. The steering is light — as numb as you’d expect from electric power steering — but more accurate than the Buick Enclave. Elite trims get 20-inch alloy wheels and suspension tuning tweaked to be a little softer than the Touring model. The result is an entirely competent crossover sitting near the top of the pack.

When comparing crossovers, keep in mind that the Santa Fe and CX-9 are both more engaging, but neither seats eight. Nissan’s Pathfinder is more comfortable and delivers a superb highway ride, but again, no eighth seat. Toyota’s Highlander feels more nimble in the four-cylinder version, but considerably less refined. The Acadia, Traverse and Enclave are all quite heavy for this segment with top-end Buick trims nearly hitting 5,000 pounds. There’s just no denying physics; although the GM crossovers ride well, the handling, performance and braking all take a toll. Toss in aging styling and lacklustre fuel economy, and the only thing they have going for them are two inches of legroom and about 30-percent more cargo space.

2016 Honda Pilot Interior-025

Honda priced their new people hauler aggressively for 2016. The ladder starts at $29,995 for a base front wheel drive model, which is about $3,000 less than a base GMC Acadia or the base V6 trim of the Highlander. (The $29,765 Highlander has a 2.7-liter four cylinder.) Pricing is also in line with the $30,700 Explorer or the $30,150 Santa Fe — again, those two don’t offer an eighth seat. I was initially worried that the $46,420 Elite represented a decent value compared to a full-loaded Buick Enclave at $50,340. The Enclave gets a softer suspension but the Elite brings a 9-speed transmission, newer infotainment systems, a torque vectoring AWD system and LED headlamps to the party. After sitting in an Enclave, Pilot Elite and MDX back-to-back, the Elite model made more sense. This is perhaps more direct competition with the Buick than the Acura.

2016 Honda Pilot Exterior-011

Thanks to some steep discounts on GM crossovers, you can expect the Traverse to be the bargain entry in this segment. However, the Plain Jane Traverse is probably my least favorite 3-row crossover. It’s large, thirsty and lacks the modicum of design given to its GMC and Buick siblings. Of course, the real problem here is that none of the three row crossovers really excel at carrying a family of 6 or 7 and their luggage in comfort, something that is supposed to be the role of a large family vehicle. The modern three-row CUV has taken the place of the minivan for modern families. Unfortunately, it trades style and perceived capability for capacity.

This is where Honda’s Odyssey comes in and blows the Pilot out of the water. The Odyssey is 8-inches longer and all of the additional length goes straight to the cargo area and third row. Because the Odyssey isn’t pretending to be an SUV, the shape is optimized for interior room and you get a whopping 13-inches more combined legroom, more than double the cargo room behind the third row (38.4 cubic feet) and nearly twice the cargo room if all rows of seats are folded. That’s before you consider the practicality gained by removing the seats, something not allowed in a crossover. Although the Odyssey can be a hair more expensive than the Pilot, lacks AWD and Honda detuned the engine a hair, they drive more alike than crossover shoppers want to hear. And the minivan has a vacuum. Because: kids.

Although the Pilot is hands down the best 8-passenger crossover available in the USA and one of the best three-row crossovers on sale, the best vehicle for my sister-in-law is the Odyssey. Sorry Rachelle.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.7 Seconds

0-60: 6.7 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.85 Seconds @ 94 MPH

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Japan Gets a New Toyota Land Cruiser, Ours May Come Soon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/japan-gets-new-toyota-land-cruiser-can-trade/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/japan-gets-new-toyota-land-cruiser-can-trade/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 21:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1144225 Toyota announced its updated Land Cruiser in Japan today, with a starting price of $38,000 (!?) for the off-roading legend. The seven-seater over there serves as the base for our Lexus LX over here, which was unveiled over the weekend in California alongside the turbo’d Lexus GS, and our version has all the grille. Based […]

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Toyota Land Cruiser

Toyota announced its updated Land Cruiser in Japan today, with a starting price of $38,000 (!?) for the off-roading legend.

The seven-seater over there serves as the base for our Lexus LX over here, which was unveiled over the weekend in California alongside the turbo’d Lexus GS, and our version has all the grille.

Based on initial reception of the LX, when will we get the new Land Cruiser?

According to a Toyota spokesman, the automaker has “something” to tell us about the Land Cruiser tomorrow.

According to Toyota in Japan, the Land Cruiser 200 received a mild upgrade over the last generation. Although their prices are much lower than our $80,000 truck, the Land Cruiser in Japan is fitted with a smaller 4.6-liter V-8, instead of the 5.7-liter V8 found here in the States, which partially accounts for the price difference.

Both SUVs are extremely small volume cars for Toyota so changes are usually made globally.

So those of you (all 200 a month) who want to spend actual money for an actual Land Cruiser instead of a LX, your saving grace could be just around the corner.

2016_Lexus_LX_570_002_E038135E3D78DF586A79062DBAC9331BF8123955

land1508_01

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Reuters: Subaru Success Fueled By Marginalized Foreign Workers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/reuters-subaru-success-fueled-by-marginalized-foreign-workers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/reuters-subaru-success-fueled-by-marginalized-foreign-workers/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 20:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1128529 Reuters Investigates has a scathing report on foreign workers in Japan at some of Subaru’s most important suppliers. According to the news agency, due to the combination of a booming “Abenomics”, Japan’s 2010 asylum seeker program, and manufacturers looking for cheap sources of expendable labor, foreigners are taken advantage of and treated as second- and […]

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2015-Subaru-Forester

Reuters Investigates has a scathing report on foreign workers in Japan at some of Subaru’s most important suppliers. According to the news agency, due to the combination of a booming “Abenomics”, Japan’s 2010 asylum seeker program, and manufacturers looking for cheap sources of expendable labor, foreigners are taken advantage of and treated as second- and third-class workers. Another program meant to help Chinese citizens learn manufacturing skills in Japan is also implicated in helping Subaru take advantage of marginalized immigrant workers.

Subaru isn’t the only automotive manufacturer named as the same suppliers also feed parts to Honda and Toyota.

The long, detailed report states there are nearly 18,000 foreign residents in Ota, Subaru’s manufacturing home base in Japan, “making it a rare example of multiculturalism in a country stubbornly resistant to immigration” at three times the national average by percentage of population.

However, that immigration isn’t officially of the economic variety as is typically seen between industrialized nations, but of asylum seekers looking for a better life and finding their way into Japan through labor brokers and as indebted trainees. The situation has also been an example of institutionalized racism within Japan.

From Reuters:

In Ota’s auto industry, labor brokers and a manager at a Subaru supplier said ethnicity plays a part in how workers are placed: Japanese workers are at the top of the chain, followed by Brazilians of Japanese descent, who have been in the country longer under a special visa category and can speak the language. They’re followed by South Asians, many of them asylum seekers, and lastly, African workers at the bottom of the pyramid. An executive at one local manufacturer said he favored asylum seekers from Nepal, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh, who he said are more willing to take on difficult jobs for lower pay.

“We carefully examined the matter and confirmed that this was not the case,” Subaru said in a written response to questions from Reuters.

The conditions for asylum-seekers-turned-workers in Ota are fueled by Subaru’s popular Forester, Reuters states in the report, running counter to the company’s “Love Promise” to make “a positive impact in the world.” Some workers make as little as minimum wage — $6.60 an hour — before labor brokers take their own cut off the top for housing, utilities and “dispatch fees” for arranging employment.

Many of the employees, typically on short-term contracts, are working illegally while on provisional release from immigration detention centers.

From Reuters:

Asked how people on provisional release were supposed to survive if they were barred from working, Hidetoshi Ogawa, a senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said they should rely on support from their relatives, friends and local charities. He said provisional release was a humanitarian measure to avoid long-term detention, “but in truth, these people should leave the country.”

The terms of employment, conditions of work, and treatment of the workers is fully detailed in the report and not what you’d expect from a supposed First World country like Japan.

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2015 Lexus RC F Review (with Video) – Is F Greater than M? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-lexus-rc-f-review-video-f-greater-m/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-lexus-rc-f-review-video-f-greater-m/#comments Mon, 20 Jul 2015 13:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1111321 The last Lexus coupé-only model to grace luxury Japanese dealer lots was the 1991-2000 Lexus SC 300/SC 400. Since then Lexus has tried to satisfy luxury coupé and convertible shoppers simultaneously with the hardtop SC and IS convertibles since 2001. That is until the folks in Japan decided to change their strategy to compete more directly with BMW, […]

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2015 Lexus RC F Exterior

The last Lexus coupé-only model to grace luxury Japanese dealer lots was the 1991-2000 Lexus SC 300/SC 400. Since then Lexus has tried to satisfy luxury coupé and convertible shoppers simultaneously with the hardtop SC and IS convertibles since 2001.

That is until the folks in Japan decided to change their strategy to compete more directly with BMW, Mercedes and Audi in every segment. The result is the development of the RC.

Perhaps because Lexus decided against a 2-coupé strategy, as utilized by BMW and Mercedes, the RC is mix mash between the compact IS and the mid-sized GS — with a little bit of Lexus IS C tossed in for good measure.

In theory, the new coupé was also to serve as the basis for an all-new convertible. Unfortunately, the dealer network revolted and demanded another change in course, redirecting efforts into a 3-row crossover. As a result, the all-new RC is sold alongside the aging Lexus IS C convertible, a situation that’s unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. Fortunately for enthusiasts, Lexus developed their M4-fighter at the same time as the more pedestrian RC 350, otherwise the very-blue 467-horsepower RC F you see above may have met the same fate as the moribund convertible.

Exterior
Lexus’ last M fighter, the IS F, was as unassuming as the RC F is bold. The Lexus ES says, “I’m on my way to the mall,” while the front end of RC F says, “I’m on my way to an anger management intervention.” Base RC 350 coupés have a grille that’s bigger and angrier than Lexus has ever used before. For the RC F, the visual impact gets downright ferocious.

Something struck me as odd when I first set eyes on the RC F a few months back in New Orleans: I’m not a fan of the front end on the IS, largely because the daytime running lamp is divorced from the headlamp. In the RC F, this theme actually works. The difference is the rest of the IS’ form is mainstream and the headlamps themselves look like any other lamp module, making the swoosh seem out of place. For the RC, Lexus reshaped everything, giving the design a more three dimensional feel with concave headlamps. The look works, especially with the optional tri-beam LED headlamp modules (a $1,160 option) fitted to our tester. The only thing missing from this nose are the tiny LED fog lamps you find in the RC F-Sport. At the launch event I attended, Lexus claimed their desire for “no-compromise cooling” meant the fog lamps were left on the cutting room floor.

Now to identify the competition. The RC F obviously has the BMW M4 in its sights and Lexus features an Audi RS 5 in a few commercials, but there are two other players: the new Cadillac ATS-V and the current Mercedes C63 AMG coupé. (The new C63 Coupé should be out in 2016 as a 2017 model, but my local dealer still has three 2015 models on the lot.)

Cadillac’s ATS sedan appears small when stacked against the BMW 3-Series and Lexus IS, but the coupé segment is different and all the entries are but a hair apart. The largest variation at work here is the wheelbase. The Lexus has the shortest span at 107.5 inches and the M4 the longest at 110.7 inches. This helps accentuate the M4’s low and long profile. The other main difference is curb weight. Thanks to standard Quattro, the RS 5 is the heaviest at 4,009 pounds and the M4 is the lightest at 3,530. Curb weight is crucial in a performance vehicle and that’s a sizeable variation. The RC F weighs in second heaviest at 3,958 (or about the same weight as a Jaguar XJ). The Merc is a cupcake lighter and the Caddy straddles the middle at 3,700 pounds.

2015 Lexus RC F Interior-008

Interior
Although the RC is a hybrid of the IS and GS, the interior is pure IS — which I found a little disappointing. Instead of the upright dash and large wide-screen infotainment screen you find in the GS 350, we get a multi-tired dash and a small LCD with narrow proportions. As with the IS, I find the interior somewhat jarring, mainly because of the enormous airbag bump on the passenger side.

The RC F suffers from the same problem as every other entry in this segment: an interior designed for a car half the price. This isn’t unusual. In fact, the RC borrows its interior from the IS 250 while the M4 leverages the basics from the 320i. Also similar to the competition, you won’t find real cow in the base RC F. Lexus insists the NuLuxe pleather seating is a premium feature as it’s bonded to the seat’s foam and won’t “pucker” or “wrinkle” like leather. However you slice it, it still won’t faux anyone.

2015 Lexus RC F LCD Gauges-002

The only major change to the IS interior for coupé duty is a rearrangement of the cupholders and the incorporation of Lexus’ new infotainment controller. F models get a different partial LCD instrument cluster versus the RC 350 with a small fixed speedometer on the right and everything else replicated by the disco dash. In terms of overall parts quality and design, I found the ATS, RC and M4 to all be quite comparable while the aging RS 5 is still the most pleasing to my eye. Narrowing the ranking, I put the M4 above the ATS and the RC F last. If the ATS had the LCD cluster we see in the CTS, it would take top honors, and the RC F is last because the large expanse of injection molded dashboard can’t compete with the extra touches we get in the rest.

I found the front seats to be comfortable and on par with the Audi RS 5 and a notch above the old C63’s narrow seat backs. As we have come to expect from BMW recently, the M4’s front seats are excellent and offer more adjustability than we find in the RC. Unexpectedly, Cadillac has taken a page from BMW’s playbook and offers your choice of 16- or 18-way adjustable seats with more range of motion than you find in the Audi or Lexus.

2015 Lexus RC F Interior Enform Navigation-001

Infotainment
Since the RC shares its dashboard with the IS sedan, the coupé also adopts the small LCD infotainment screen of its four-door sibling. U.S.-bound models get a standard 7-inch LCD screen perched high on the dash. Unfortunately, the distance from the driver and the large plastic bezel conspire to make the screen look smaller than it is. The problem is further compounded by the screen measuring smaller than the competition. As with the IS sedan, the standard display audio system is the only way you can escape the infamous Lexus Remote Touch system. Thankfully, the base system is well featured with HD Radio, SiriusXM, CD player, iPod/Bluetooth integration and weather/traffic displays.

I find myself very conflicted about the Lexus Enform navigation and infotainment system. When coupled with a touchscreen — as in the Lexus GX 460 — I find the system easy to use and intuitive. Admittedly, the software lacks some of the polish of BMW’s iDrive, but it is still one of my favorites. Sadly, in most Lexus vehicles, the touchscreen has been swapped for a joystick-like device which transforms the system from easy to use to frustration itself. For 2015, Lexus is trying something new: a track pad in the RC and NX. The laptop-like unit works essentially the same as the former joystick and offers haptic feedback in addition to some limited pinch and scroll gestures. HD Radio support and traffic information via HD radio are standard, so you don’t need an XM subscription to get a color-coded map. If you can get beyond the input method, the system proved reliable and moderately intuitive. Overall, however, I rank this system below BMW’s iDrive, Audi’s MMI, Infiniti’s new two-screen setup, and even Mercedes’ aging COMAND system. On the flip side, Lexus is one of the few manufacturers to offer complete voice command of your USB/iDevice a la MyLincoln Touch and the luxury automaker continues to expand the number of smartphone integrated app features. New for 2015 is an OnStar-like app that gives you all the standard “did I lock my car” telematics features in addition to alerting you if the car is speeding (handy if Johnny Jr. drives your RC F to school), exceeding a geo-boundary or violating curfew.

2015 Lexus RC F Engine 5.0L V8

Drivetrain
This segment is split in two camps. On the left we have the turbocharged, six-cylinder engines from Cadillac and BMW, and on the right we have the naturally aspirated V-8s from Lexus and Audi. (Next year is likely to bring a unicorn to this segment: a twin-turbo V-8 from Mercedes.)

F buyers get a reworked 5.0L V-8 from the discontinued IS F. Based on the 4.6L V-8 found in the LS 460, the 5.0L version has some significant changes in addition to the displacement bump. We get the usual bevy of performance tweaks, such as titanium valves, a fuel surge tank and high-lift cams. We also get something unusual on a performance vehicle: the ability to operate on the Atkinson cycle. (Technically, a modified Otto cycle.) Unlike most engines, however, this V-8 can switch between Otto and Atkinson cycles, depending on what is needed at the time. This is accomplished by swapping the variable valve timing system found on the old 5.0L design with a new electronically controlled unit on the intake side, allowing a greater deal of control over both valve lift and duration. When efficiency is needed, the intake valve stays open part way into the compression cycle, effectively making the compression stroke “shorter” than the expansion stroke, improving efficiency. According to the engineers, the advantage to employing this fuel-sipping tech is that switching back to max-burn mode takes less time than cylinder deactivation and it can be done across a broader range of engine RPMs. The advantage to the consumer is the solution is 100 percent transparent; cylinder deactivation systems can change the exhaust note and decrease engine smoothness. Thanks to these modifications, the RC F produces more power than the hybrid implementation of this engine present in the LS 600hL while still delivering a 2 mpg bump in the EPA highway score of 25 mpg. The RC F achieves 19 mpg on the combined cycle.

Sending power to the rear is an eight-speed automatic made by Aisin. For those into trivia, this is a variant of the first production eight-speed automatic (in the Lexus LS) for automotive use and was introduced a year before the ZF eight-speed that’s sucked all the air out of the room. For F-duty, Lexus beefs up the internals and allows the torque converter lockup clutch to engage in gears 2-8. (Lexus calls this SPort Direct Shift, or SPDS, but it the same concept used in many modern automatics like Mazda’s SKYACTIV six-speed.) Aft of the transmission is a standard Torsen limited-slip rear differential or an optional electronically controlled, torque-vectoring rear axle as part of the performance package.

2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-007

Drive
Every coupé in this segment handles incredibly well, zips to 60 in the blink of an eye, and stops on a dime compared to your average compact luxury sedan. In truth, the difference out on the road — aside from the raw numbers when it comes to 0-60 times and road holding — is down to personal preference and how your priorities stack up against the facets of the car’s road personality.

Let’s start with the big dog, the artist formerly known as the M3 coupé. At just over 3,500 pounds, the M4 is light for this segment. Despite making 10-percent less power than the Lexus, the BMW is faster to 60 because it is nearly 15-percent lighter and turbocharged. Thanks to less mass, the torque curve flattening effects of the German hairdryer, and the quick-shifting dual clutch transmission, the Bimmer will run to 60 half a second faster than the Lexus — if you can find the traction.

2015 Lexus RC F Exterior Headlamp LED

On the downside, this is not the E92 M3 you’re longing for. The steering feel in the Lexus is a hair more precise and, overall, it’s an easier car to drive hard. I’ll leave the track day diaries to Jack Baruth, but when pitted back to back, there is something artificial about the Lexus torque-vectoring rear axle. Unquestionably, it allows the rear of the RC F to rotate in ways the standard Torsen diff can’t (I had the opportunity to test a few cars at NOLA recently), but the feeling isn’t as satisfying as the M4, despite the M4 having a torque-vectoring rear end as well.

That said, the RC F is just as quick around most tracks; I chalk that up to how easy it is to pilot and the programming of the eight-speed auto that aggressively downshifts based on your braking Gs. Back out on the paved road, the transmission’s shift logic lost its charm. When you’re on your favorite mountain highway having a little fun, you look like a dweeb while the transmission hangs onto 2nd gear as you cautiously pass a pack of cyclists. It also means that real-world passing maneuvers take considerably less time in the M4 as the DCT is far less reluctant to downshift. On the flip side, the ride on the RC F is more livable, is likely to be more reliable, and my insurance guy tells me it’d cost me a lower premium, too.

2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-022

Audi’s RS 5 is seriously spendy ($8,500 more than the RC F) and it is the oldest car in the group now that Mercedes has sent the C63 out to pasture. Like most Audis, the RS 5 has a weight balance “problem” because the engine and part of the transmission hang out ahead of the front axle. The resulting 59/41 (F/R) weight distribution is the most skewed of the bunch (identical to a Honda Accord Sport or Mazda6), but thanks to Audi’s engineering it hides it fairly well — though push the RS 5 in the corners and you get more plow and less feeling from the front axle. Although I find the RS 5 the best looking option, the heavy curb weight, standard AWD, electric power steering, weight balance and high price tag make the RS 5 a dynamic choice only on an ice circuit.

Then we have the ATS-V which, aside from the surprisingly cheap looking instrument cluster, is my choice. A few years ago, the mainline auto press would have scoffed at Cadillac putting a turbocharged six-cylinder engine under the hood of a BMW M fighter — except that’s exactly what BMW has done. Cadillac, for their part, kicked it up a notch further. The larger displacement V-6 approaches the RC F’s horsepower figure at 464, but crushes the segment with 445 lb-ft of torque at just 3,500 rpm. With the new GM 8L90 automatic transmission and a curb weight that’s 200 lbs heavier than the BMW, the Cadillac is slower off the line — by a slim 1/10th of a second. GM also offers a six-speed manual in the ATS if you prefer to row your own, and get to 60 slower. As good as the Lexus eight-speed is, GM’s new slushbox is better. The shifts are faster and crisper and the shift logic is more country-road appropriate than the DCT in the M4. The 8L90 will hold gears in Sport mode like the rest, but it’s more willing to up-shift after you’ve passed the slow poke.

2015 Lexus RC F Exterior-013

As a package, the ATS is more willing to turn in and it feels more nimble than the BMW or the Lexus. The transmission isn’t as sharp as BMW’s dual-clutch box, but it is more livable for a daily driver in stop and go traffic. As with the ATS sedan, the steering feel and general dynamics are superior, but it lacks the polish you get with the German. Where the ATS really scores is value. When priced similarly to our $74,000 Lexus tester, the Cadillac offers more comfortable seats, a heads-up display, adaptive suspension, the best automatic in the group, and an overall style that splits the difference between the more sedate Germans and the over-the-top Lexus.

Lexus’ latest performance vehicle is the finest example of what Lexus does best: incremental changes. The RC F is the sum of everything Lexus has learned over the years about competing in the luxury market and, lately, the performance luxury market. The “Lexus way” is to continually improve while taking the “safe route” with a naturally aspirated engine and a proven traditional automatic. Unfortunately, playing it safe is what puts both the M4 and the RC F tied in second place. Although each vehicle has its pros and cons, they balance out on my tally sheet. While the M4 is faster and more direct, BMW is also playing it safe with conservative styling and road feel that isn’t as direct as the Cadillac. It’s hard to go wrong with the 2015 RC F, but the Cadillac ATS-V is a new instrument cluster away from perfection.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 4.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 12.5 @ 115 MPH

Average Economy: 20.8 MPG

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Nissan May Be Ending Rogue Select Sales in U.S. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/nissan-may-ending-rogue-select-sales-u-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/nissan-may-ending-rogue-select-sales-u-s/#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2015 20:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1113041 Nissan announced yesterday that the current-generation Rogue would be concurrently produced for U.S. sales in Japan, Korea and the automaker’s Smyrna, Tennessee plant, which had us wondering: What about the Rogue Select? According to a Nissan spokesman, the Rogue Select (which is essentially the last-generation Rogue) won’t be built alongside the current-generation Rogue in Japan, […]

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2014 Nissan Rogue Select

Nissan announced yesterday that the current-generation Rogue would be concurrently produced for U.S. sales in Japan, Korea and the automaker’s Smyrna, Tennessee plant, which had us wondering: What about the Rogue Select?

According to a Nissan spokesman, the Rogue Select (which is essentially the last-generation Rogue) won’t be built alongside the current-generation Rogue in Japan, which may spell the end of the Select model in the states.

It’s unclear how many Rogue Selects Nissan sells in the U.S. Nissan doesn’t differentiate in its sales data between the two Rogue models. Last year, Cars.com reported that as much as 43 percent of new Rogues on dealer lots were Rogue Selects.

Nissan sells the 2015 Rogue Select for $2,990 less than 2015 Rogue.

A Nissan spokesman didn’t specify how many Rogues on sale in the U.S. would be built in Japan, Korea or the U.S.

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Nissan Can’t Build Rogues Fast Enough in Tennessee, Apparently http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/nissan-cant-build-rogues-fast-enough-tennessee-apparently/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/nissan-cant-build-rogues-fast-enough-tennessee-apparently/#comments Thu, 09 Jul 2015 19:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1112241 Nissan announced today they’ll expand production of the current-generation Nissan Rogue to its Japanese plant and import those cars into the U.S. Nissan’s Kyushu plant produces a version of the Rogue already on sale in the U.S., called Rogue Select. It’s unclear if the current-generation Rogue and last-generation Rogue will be produced side-by-side or if […]

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Nissan announced today they’ll expand production of the current-generation Nissan Rogue to its Japanese plant and import those cars into the U.S.

Nissan’s Kyushu plant produces a version of the Rogue already on sale in the U.S., called Rogue Select. It’s unclear if the current-generation Rogue and last-generation Rogue will be produced side-by-side or if Nissan will discontinue selling the Rogue Select.

U.S.-sold Rogues are sourced from Nissan’s Symrna, Tennessee plant and Busan, Korea.

In April, the Rogue became America’s second-favorite compact crossover behind the Honda CR-V, and helped fuel a sales surge for the automaker.

Year-over-year sales jumped 41 percent in March, and Nissan reported January to June sales of the CUV were up 36 percent from the same period last year.

Selling two generations of a car made in three different countries may not be enough. June sales for the Rogue were up 54.3 percent over last year, the automaker reported.

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Police Releasing Former Toyota Executive Jailed for Pain Pills http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/police-releasing-former-toyota-executive-jailed-pain-pills/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/police-releasing-former-toyota-executive-jailed-pain-pills/#comments Tue, 07 Jul 2015 18:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1109025 Former Toyota communications chief Julie Hamp will be released from jail Wednesday, according to Bloomberg News (via Kyodo News). Hamp was jailed June 18 for allegedly mailing herself 57 Oxycodone pills, which are illegal in Japan. She resigned her position with Toyota on June 30 as one of the global automaker’s highest-ranking female executives. The reason for […]

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Julie HampFormer Toyota communications chief Julie Hamp will be released from jail Wednesday, according to Bloomberg News (via Kyodo News).

Hamp was jailed June 18 for allegedly mailing herself 57 Oxycodone pills, which are illegal in Japan. She resigned her position with Toyota on June 30 as one of the global automaker’s highest-ranking female executives.

The reason for Hamp’s release is unclear. Bloomberg reported that prosecutors in Japan didn’t have enough evidence to indict Hamp on the charges. Kyodo News (via translator) reported prosecutors determined Hamp’s actions weren’t malicious and her resignation may have been enough punishment.

According to Kyodo News, police can’t hold Hamp longer than Wednesday without pressing charges.

On the day of her arrest, Hamp was named to PR Week’s “Power List” as a top communications executive. Before working at Toyota, Hamp worked at General Motors and Pepsi. She was promoted to her position on March 4.

According to a Bloomberg report, Hamp may be questioned up to 6 hours every day during her detention. Police in Japan can detain suspects for up to 23 days without formally charging them with any crime. If Hamp were charged and convicted, she could have faced 2 1/2 years in prison with two years suspended.

Japan is famously strict on prescription medications. The U.S. Embassy in Japan warns visitors to leave over-the-counter medication, such as allergy medicine and even asthma inhalers, at home. Common U.S. drugs such as Prozac or Viagra are sold on the black market in Japan and can carry jail sentences if purchased illegally, the embassy warns.

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Nissan, Toyota, Honda Team to Build Fuel-Cell Infrastructure in Japan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/nissan-toyota-honda-team-build-fuel-cell-infrastructure-japan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/nissan-toyota-honda-team-build-fuel-cell-infrastructure-japan/#comments Thu, 02 Jul 2015 17:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1106169 According to Toyota, three Japanese automakers — Honda, Toyota and Nissan — are working together to build hydrogen fuel stations around for future fuel-cell cars. The program, which will subsidize fueling stations up to 11 million yen ($89,500) per year for each station, is meant to boost the nation’s infrastructure for hydrogen-powered cars. The agreement […]

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According to Toyota, three Japanese automakers — Honda, Toyota and Nissan — are working together to build hydrogen fuel stations around for future fuel-cell cars.

The program, which will subsidize fueling stations up to 11 million yen ($89,500) per year for each station, is meant to boost the nation’s infrastructure for hydrogen-powered cars.

The agreement was formed in February between the large automakers, but began accepting applications July 1.

The program also boosts “awareness” of the FCVs by offering incentives for stations to stay open longer and offer more services.

A similar alliance between automakers in the U.S. could boost FCV participation rates, but maybe we can’t have nice things.

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Julie Hamp Could Face Criminal Intent Charges Over Controlled Drug Importation http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/julie-hamp-could-face-criminal-intent-charges-over-controlled-drug-importation/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/julie-hamp-could-face-criminal-intent-charges-over-controlled-drug-importation/#comments Thu, 25 Jun 2015 16:15:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1100065 Toyota PR exec Julie Hamp isn’t having the best time in Japan right now, and the situation could worsen thanks to the nation’s strict drug importation laws. As explained by Jalopnik‘s Kat Callahan, Japan requires users of any controlled substance brought into the nation to walk in a limited amount of the prescribed meds before […]

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Julie Hamp Not In BlackToyota PR exec Julie Hamp isn’t having the best time in Japan right now, and the situation could worsen thanks to the nation’s strict drug importation laws.

As explained by Jalopnik‘s Kat Callahan, Japan requires users of any controlled substance brought into the nation to walk in a limited amount of the prescribed meds before customs, declare the drugs, and present a doctor’s note translated into Japanese before they can be allowed into one’s medicine cabinet. Otherwise, narcotics like the Oxycodone brought in by Hamp are verboten, and cannot even be sold by or found in a pharmacy in Japan; they can’t also be mailed.

Non-controlled drugs, meanwhile, don’t need a translated note, but must now be walked in and declared, and only a one-month supply is allowed to enter the country.

While Hamp could attempt to plead ignorance on the laws of the land, her case would need to depend on her not hiding the Oxycodone in a box marked “Necklaces” among a ton of toy necklaces, and thus, avoiding customs declarations in so doing. Unfortunately, this is the scenario which played out, giving prosecutors the ability to declare criminal intent on the part of Hamp; it’s also why Toyota’s HQ was raided by police a few days ago.

Should the criminal intent charge stick, Hamp would be in prison for a long time before finally given the boot out of the country for the rest of her life.

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BREAKING: Toyota Offices Raided In Tokyo In Connection With Hamp Arrest http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/breaking-toyota-offices-raided-in-tokyo-in-connection-with-hamp-arrest/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/breaking-toyota-offices-raided-in-tokyo-in-connection-with-hamp-arrest/#comments Tue, 23 Jun 2015 15:36:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1097897 Reuters is reporting police have raided Toyota’s office in Tokyo in connection with the arrest of communications chief Julie Hamp over alleged drug importation offences. When asked, a Toyota spokesman declined to comment on the nature of the police presence, but said the company is cooperating with police. Hamp, the first female senior executive at Toyota, […]

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Julie HampReuters is reporting police have raided Toyota’s office in Tokyo in connection with the arrest of communications chief Julie Hamp over alleged drug importation offences.

When asked, a Toyota spokesman declined to comment on the nature of the police presence, but said the company is cooperating with police.

Hamp, the first female senior executive at Toyota, has a long road ahead of her if there’s enough evidence to bring her to trial, as we covered last week.

[Source: Reuters]

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Reputation, Status Keys To Judicial Fate For Toyota’s Julie Hamp http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/reputation-status-keys-to-judicial-fate-for-toyotas-julie-hamp/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/reputation-status-keys-to-judicial-fate-for-toyotas-julie-hamp/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 16:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1095921 Yesterday, TTAC reported on the arrest in Japan of Toyota Chief Communications Officer Julie Hamp on drug smuggling charges. We have new information on what awaits Hamp now. Through our anonymous source, Hamp’s alleged receipt of 57 Oxycodone pills — marked in a parcel dubbed “necklaces” — in the mail at Tokyo’s Narita Airport is […]

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Julie HampYesterday, TTAC reported on the arrest in Japan of Toyota Chief Communications Officer Julie Hamp on drug smuggling charges. We have new information on what awaits Hamp now.

Through our anonymous source, Hamp’s alleged receipt of 57 Oxycodone pills — marked in a parcel dubbed “necklaces” — in the mail at Tokyo’s Narita Airport is a fairly common practice, where U.S. citizens in Japan take over housing from another foreigner, then use the previous occupant’s name to ship whatever drugs they desire. Japanese authorities routinely intercept the packages, which are then delivered as usual prior to a raid hours later.

The idea for allowing the delivery to go through as planned is if the package was delivered in error, the current occupant would either return it to the post office, or bring it to the nearest police station if thought to be suspicious. In most cases, the raid finds the package is already opened, and the drugs partially consumed.

Our source adds Hamp has a few things going for her as she navigates through Japan’s judicial system, including social status, reputation, and Toyota itself. The process of investigation, trial and verdict would take around 80 days to complete, with Hamp leaving the country almost immediately following a guilty plea, or upon serving 18 months in prison if she pleads innocent and is found guilty; there are no plea bargains under said system.

Speaking of Toyota, president Akio Toyoda apologized for the arrest during a press conference on the matter, Reuters reports:

To me, executives and staff who are my direct reports are like my children. It’s the responsibility of a parent to protect his children and, if a child causes problems, it’s also a parent’s responsibility to apologize.

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2015 Infiniti Q50S Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-infiniti-q50s-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-infiniti-q50s-review-video/#comments Mon, 08 Jun 2015 14:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1078809 When Infiniti launched their original G sedan, the brand started gaining a reputation as “the Japanese BMW” due to its sharp handling and V6 engine that loved to rev. Today, the Lexus IS and Cadillac ATS have taken the 3-Series’ place as the compact luxury sedans with the sharpest handing and best feel. What of […]

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2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior

When Infiniti launched their original G sedan, the brand started gaining a reputation as “the Japanese BMW” due to its sharp handling and V6 engine that loved to rev. Today, the Lexus IS and Cadillac ATS have taken the 3-Series’ place as the compact luxury sedans with the sharpest handing and best feel. What of the Japanese BMW then? To answer that question, Infiniti sent me a 2015 Q50S with all the options, including the controversial steer-by-wire system.

It’s my opinion the run-away sales success of the 3-Series (142,000 sold in the USA alone last year) has more to do with BMW being the ultimate marketing machine, not making the “ultimate driving machine.” The current generation 335i is certainly fast, but compared to the E36, it’s bigger, softer, more numb, more luxurious and better built than ever before. That’s not a slam because those qualities are exactly why I like the 3-Series more now than ever before. Rather than chasing the “old 3-Series” as Lexus and Cadillac have in many ways, Infiniti decided to create their own definition of the ultimate driving machine.

Before we go much further, you should remember when Infiniti launched the Q50 as a “replacement” for the G37, they kept the G37 around and renamed it the Q40 (still available as a 2015 model). This is an interesting twist on the norms in this segment. Most of the competition simply drops a lower output engine in the same vehicle rather than keeping the old model on as the discount alternative. This means the IS 250, 320i, A3 and CLA 250 all start below the Q50’s $37,150 price tag and compete more directly with the Q40. Although some have called the Q50’s sales “weak”, when you look at the whole picture, the Q40 and Q50 combined have outsold the Lexus IS 250 and IS 350 by 4,000 units and together are nipping at the Lexus ES’ heels.

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-005

Exterior
Styled after Infiniti’s Essence concept, the Q50’s exterior combines sleek, flowing lines with an enormous maw and angry LED headlamps. Although I know that some of our readers have referred to the Q50 as an “angry fish,” I actually like the look. I don’t think it’s as aggressive as the ATS or as refined as the new C-Class but it is far more distinctive than the 3-Series and A4 and less controversial than the IS 350 F-Sport. For some reason, the side and rear of the Q50 remind me a great deal of the Mazda6. Let me know what you see down in the comment section.

Infiniti’s entry in this segment has always been on the larger side of things and that continues with the Q50. At 189.1 inches long, the Infiniti is a hair bigger than the Audi A4 and slightly smaller than the 3-Series GT hatchback. In case you were wondering, that’s still several inches shorter than the Acura TLX and Lexus ES which are 5-Series sized but 3-Series priced.

2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior

Interior
The Q50 wears the best interior that Infiniti has ever made. While no hands have rubbed silver dust into the Q50’s optional maple trim (as in the Q70), this cabin is easily one of the best in the segment. The new Mercedes C-class still wears the interior design and workmanship crown, but the compact Infiniti climbs up the luxury ladder to a place above the Acura TLX and a small notch above the BMW 3-Series. (The maple trim is only offered on top-end trims.)

Thanks to the Q50’s generous exterior dimensions, we have rear seats with more leg room than any of the compact luxury sedans, but you will find more room in the 3-GT. Unfortunately, like many compact luxury entries, rear headroom suffers due to the car’s sexy side profile. If you were hoping for a large trunk, you’ll be disappointed. The Q50’s trunk holds just 13.5 cubic feet, only a hair bigger than the Mercedes CLA or BMW 3-Series despite the car being larger in general. If you opt for the Q50 Hybrid then trunk volume shrinks to a decidedly convertible like 9.4 cubic feet, a hair less than BMW’s ActiveHybrid 3.

2015 Infiniti Q50S Infotainment-003

Infotainment
The Q50 is the first Infiniti to receive the new 2-screen InTouch infotainment system which uses both an 8-inch touchscreen LCD and a 7-inch touchscreen LCD. Like the last generation Infiniti systems, you can also control most of the system’s functions via a joystick-like button on the steering wheel. But wait! There’s more! Infiniti also includes a new navigation control wheel in the center console behind the shifter a la iDrive and MMI. This gives the driver three different input methods to choose from. However, not all features can be accessed via the steering wheel control or the control wheel, and some options will need to be ‘touched’.

2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-001

Some passengers were truly and permanently perplexed by the 2-screen layout, but I adjusted to the software quickly. While this sounds like Acura’s 2-screen system, Infiniti’s solution is better thought out and both screens are touch-enabled rather than just one as in the Acura system. Acura’s advertised goal was to allow you to keep the top screen for navigation while you used the lower screen to play with your audio device, but that’s only half true as the top screen is needed to perform a large number of audio functions. In the Infiniti, the function overlap between the screens is large, so you can browse your media device and perform select other operations via either screen. This level of choice seems to be what confuses some shoppers. I have never seen a car infotainment interface that has so many ways of doing the same thing. On the flip side, by the second day, I settled into the system preferring to ignore the controller in the console and use a combination of steering wheel controls and the lower touchscreen.

2015 Infiniti Q50S Engine-001

Drivetrain
Rather than starting with a turbocharged four-banger, Infiniti skips entry-level power and makes a 328 horsepower 3.7L V6 standard on all Q50 models. (Other world markets get a Mercedes sourced four-cylinder turbo gasoline mill and four-cylinder diesel as well.) The engine’s 269 lb-ft of torque slots between the 2.0L turbo and 3.0L turbo competition. Should you need more oomph, Infiniti’s answer is not forced-induction, but hybridization. The Q50 Hybrid uses the same hybrid system we first saw in the M35h. Engine displacement drops to 3.5L and power to 302 horsepower. The engine is then mated to a 67 horsepower electric motor for a combined 360 horsepower and an undisclosed torque figure. (I estimate it at 380-400 lb-ft.)

Both engines are mated to essentially the same 7-speed automatic transmission and an optional mechanical AWD system. The key differences in the hybrid model (aside from the electric motor) are the additions of a dry clutch between the engine and the 360V AC motor and a wet clutch inside the transmission case that allows the wheels to be decoupled from the transmission. This allows the batteries to charge while the car is stationary and smooths out EV-to-gasoline mode changes.

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-0011

Drive
Our tester was the “S” model which “sported” sport brakes, sport seats, sport suspension, magnesium paddle shifters staggered summer tires (245/40R19 front and 265/35R19 rear). Even with 3,675 pounds of curb weight to hustle, the Q50S corners exceptionally well and the double wishbone suspension and dual-mode dampers keep the suspension settled over broken pavement. Opt for the standard all-season rubber and grip is a little lower than the more athletic competition. Where the Q50 splits from the pack is in the feel.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room: the optional Direct Adaptive Steering system. That’s what Infiniti calls their steer-by-wire system in the Q50 and, to be perfectly blunt, it makes the Q50 feel “video game-ish.”

2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-002

Unless the system detects a fault, there is no mechanical connection between the wheels and the steering wheel. If a fault is detected, or if the power is off, a clutch pack closes giving a mechanical connection. This allows the steering system to “compensate” for things like potholes, cross winds, grooved pavement, etc by keeping the wheels pointed the direction you’ve indicated by the steering wheel regardless of slight inputs from the road. The car can send back as much feedback as it wants, but this is kept to a minimum. This reduces driver fatigue on long trips, but the feeling of the car moving slightly in the lane in response to external forces while the steering wheel does nothing is unusual to say the least.

In addition to the steer-by-wire system, the Q50 gets “active trace control”, which uses the brakes to slow individual wheels “vectoring” you around the corner. The result of all these systems together is steering that may almost be “too precise.” In a corner, at even eight-tenths, you expect to get a slight hint of understeer. You may not even realize that your car is doing this because it is so “normal.” The Q50, however, goes exactly where you point it, something that takes some getting used to. Infiniti’s interpretation of the “ultimate driving machine” philosophy seems to be one that prioritizes actual steering precision and road holding over feel and connection.

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-010

Steering feel aside, the Q50 acquits itself well in every other area. The S model accelerates with the best in the segment, posting a 5.05 second run to 60 in our RWD tester and a 60-0 distance of a scant 111 feet. Non S rear-wheel drive models will be a hair slower due to the reduced traction. Also, since there was essentially no wheel slip in the rear-wheel drive Q50S, the AWD model will actually slow the 0-60 time by a hair. If you want something faster, the hybrid model will dip below 4.8 seconds. There are few entries faster than the Q50 and if you want to get to highway speeds faster than the Q50 Hybrid, you’ll be left with just the 335i, C400 and S4.

Fuel economy in the Q50 is similar to the other 300+ horsepower entries in this segment, with the exception of the Volvo S60 T6 Drive e and BMW 335i that can average in the mid 20s when driven gently. Jump in the hybrid and you can average over 30 mpg if you keep your highway speeds under 75 mph. The economy is similar to the GS 450h but 0-60 and passing performance is dramatically better.

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior.CR2-002

For 2015, the Q50 starts at $37,150, which is closer to the less powerful four-cylinder competition. That is just $600 more than the sluggish IS 250, $910 more than an ATS 2.0T and manages to actually be $350 less than a base 328i. Audi’s A4 is a decent deal starting $1,650 less than the Q50, but you get 108 fewer ponies and they are all prancing through the front wheels via a CVT. When it comes to the 300 hp crowd, the Infiniti is $5,000 less than the ATS 3.6 and $2,000 less than even the Volvo S60 T6. Start adding options to your Q50 and some of the discount shrinks, but the Q50 remains the discount RWD alternative. The Q50 Hybrid is $4,400 more than a comparable gasoline Q50, but $10,000 less than a comparably equipped BMW ActiveHybrid 3.

If you know me, you know that I love a bargain. The very word “value” causes my loins to burn. The Q50 is the best RWD value in this luxury segment. Period. We get more standard power and performance, a well-appointed cabin, standard LED lamps and two screens for less with reasonable resale value expectations.

Perhaps the most important thing to know about the Q50 is Direct Adaptive Steering is not standard – you do have to select the $3,100 “Deluxe Touring Package” to get it. On the downside, that package includes real wood trim, auto dimming mirrors, power tilt/telescopic steering column, memory seats, parking sensors and the nifty 360 view camera. Not selecting that package gets you a steering rack that is still un-engaging but feels considerably more traditional. The rumor mill tells us that the G37’s hydraulic steering rack is likely to be resurrected and grafted into the S trims of the Q50 for 2016. Let’s hope that happens soon.

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-003

While the ATS and IS 350 are more dynamic options, I suspect I’d buy the Q50 instead due to its interior, infotainment system, performance and price. I have to admit that I would also buy the model with DAS if I was unable to wait for 2016. No, I don’t actually “like” DAS, but I like the features bundled with it more than I dislike it. If there’s one thing that becomes obvious when you drive over a hundred cars a year, it’s that actual buyers adjust to the way a car feels much more readily than journalists do. Is the Q50’s steering odd feeling? Sure, in a comparative sense it is, but you’ll also get used to it after a few days and then it will feel perfectly normal to most shoppers. I wouldn’t call the Q50 the ultimate driving machine, but if my money were on the line, I’d get the Q50S AWD Hybrid.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.1 Seconds

0-60: 5.05 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.45 Seconds @ 104.2 MPH

2015 Infiniti Q50S Engine1 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior.CR2 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior.CR2-001 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior.CR2-002 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior.CR2-003 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-001 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior1 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-002 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior2 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-003 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-004 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-005 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-006 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-007 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-008 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-009 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-010 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-0011 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-011 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-0021 2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-0031 2015 Infiniti Q50S Gauges 2015 Infiniti Q50S Gauges-001 2015 Infiniti Q50S Infotainment 2015 Infiniti Q50S Infotainment-001 2015 Infiniti Q50S Infotainment-002 2015 Infiniti Q50S Infotainment-003 2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior 2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-001 2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior1 2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-002 2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-003 2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-004 2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-005 2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-006 2015 Infiniti Q50S Trunk 2015 Infiniti Q50S Trunk-001 2015 Infiniti Q50S Engine 2015 Infiniti Q50S Engine-001

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While You Were Sleeping: Cadillac Minuses V8 ATS-V+, Volkswagen Picks Boring Font and Ford Releases Patents into the Wild http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/while-you-were-sleeping-cadillac-minuses-v8-ats-v-volkswagen-picks-boring-font-and-ford-releases-patents-into-the-wild/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/while-you-were-sleeping-cadillac-minuses-v8-ats-v-volkswagen-picks-boring-font-and-ford-releases-patents-into-the-wild/#comments Thu, 28 May 2015 10:25:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1077130 The ATS-V+ rumored by Motor Trend is definitely not happening according to Cadillac spokesperson David Caldwell. The proposed new model would encroach too much into CTS-V territory for comfort. Here’s what happened overnight. No V-8-Powered ATS-V Plus In The Pipeline, Says Cadillac (Motor Authority) A big, emphatic “no” was uttered by Cadillac spokesperson David Caldwell […]

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Cadillac ATS-V

The ATS-V+ rumored by Motor Trend is definitely not happening according to Cadillac spokesperson David Caldwell. The proposed new model would encroach too much into CTS-V territory for comfort.

Here’s what happened overnight.

Cadillac ATS-VNo V-8-Powered ATS-V Plus In The Pipeline, Says Cadillac (Motor Authority)
A big, emphatic “no” was uttered by Cadillac spokesperson David Caldwell when speaking to Motor Authority about the possibility of a V8-powered ATS-V+.

Johnnie Walker sponsor wallTodt says F1 will not ban alcohol sponsorship (Motorsport.com)
Despite a report from the European Alcohol Policy Alliance suggesting F1 fans were exposed to alcohol brands to an excessive degree, FIA head honcho Jean Todt has said the sponsorships will continue unabated.

BSK Elise K20An Unquestionably-Japanese Lotus (Speedhunters)
Fluffy leopard upholstery, RAYS’ Volk Racing TE27 wheels, and a Honda K20 to give it motivation, this Elise is as Japanese as it gets.

145640_cars_KJH_10 dealership terms you may not know (Detroit News)
“Be back”, “mini deal”, “pack” and “skate”. These are 10 dealership terms all customers should know.

Ford Focus Electric. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.orgFord to make EV technology patents available to rivals (Automotive News)
Ford is following Tesla’s lead and opening up its portfolio of patents for competing products.

GM First Day as a Public Company CelebrationJudge puts GM suits on hold pending appeal (Detroit News)
The question of bankruptcy immunity will be the deciding factor in a number of ignition switch lawsuits filed against General Motors. A federal judge has put the suits on hold as they await a ruling from another court.

Volkswagen FontVW Changes Their Corporate Font To Something Less Interesting (Jalopnik)
Even Volkswagen’s marketing is becoming more beige as the German automaker adopts a new font for sales materials.

The post While You Were Sleeping: Cadillac Minuses V8 ATS-V+, Volkswagen Picks Boring Font and Ford Releases Patents into the Wild appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

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Jeep Returns To Tokyo Motor Show After Eight-Year Absence http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/jeep-returns-to-tokyo-motor-show-after-eight-year-absence/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/jeep-returns-to-tokyo-motor-show-after-eight-year-absence/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 20:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1073146 The last time the Detroit Three turned up at the Tokyo Motor Show was in 2007. One recession later, Jeep returns to Tokyo to represent the Motor City. Jeep will join Abarth, Alfa Romeo and Fiat on FCA Japan’s stand when the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show kicks off in late October, Automotive News reports. Jeep […]

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2015 Jeep Renegade

The last time the Detroit Three turned up at the Tokyo Motor Show was in 2007. One recession later, Jeep returns to Tokyo to represent the Motor City.

Jeep will join Abarth, Alfa Romeo and Fiat on FCA Japan’s stand when the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show kicks off in late October, Automotive News reports. Jeep will also be sole representative for U.S.-born manufacturers, as Ford, General Motors and Tesla sit out of this year’s festivities.

The off-road brand is currently No. 7 in import sales in the Japanese Domestic Market, having rose 21 percent to 2,298 units between January and April of this year. Though still behind the likes of Mercedes, BMW and MINI, Jeep is outperforming fellow domestic competitors Ford (1,625 units through April 2015), Chevrolet (313) and Cadillac (297).

Jeep’s presence at the show is also a boon for the show’s organizers, seeking to standout against bigger shows across the sea in China; the 2013 edition overlapped the show in Guangzhou, as well as the Los Angeles Auto Show.

[Source: Jeep]

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2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-lincoln-mkc-2-3-ecoboost-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-lincoln-mkc-2-3-ecoboost-review-video/#comments Mon, 18 May 2015 12:00:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1065114 Lincoln has been working to get their luxury mojo back for a while, but up to this point it has tried to sell models a half-step larger to luxury shoppers. That meant a major value proposition, but engineers often skimped on luxury to keep prices low. The MKC is an entirely different animal however. This […]

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2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front Quarter-001

Lincoln has been working to get their luxury mojo back for a while, but up to this point it has tried to sell models a half-step larger to luxury shoppers. That meant a major value proposition, but engineers often skimped on luxury to keep prices low. The MKC is an entirely different animal however. This Lincoln is essentially the same size as the Lexus NX and Mercedes GLK. Although the MKC is finally the same size as its competition, it marches to a different drummer, and after a week I finally realized something. It’s refreshing to have something different.

Exterior

Let’s talk competition first. The MKC is Lincoln’s answer to the X3, Q5, NX, XC60, and GLK. This seems to confuse some folks who assume the MKC and the Lexus NX were designed to compete against the X1 and Evoque. Looking at the specs, the MKC sits right between the GLK and Q5 in overall dimensions.

By now you’ve probably heard the MKC is the “Lincoln Escape”, but what does that really mean? The MKC shares safety systems and body structure designs with the Escape. However, it shares no sheetmetal with the Ford. Lincoln didn’t just re-skin the Escape, either. They widened the body and the track while they were at it, resulting in a lower, wider stance that’s more appropriate in the luxury segment than the perky upright character of the Escape. This is essentially the same formula that Lexus used to make the Lexus NX, which is a cousin to the RAV4. Like the NX and RAV4, parts of the Escape lurk inside the MKC, but you have to look fairly hard to find them.

The MKC receives Lincoln’s latest grille design, which is more restrained than the MKT’s odd-looking schnoz. Although pictures of the MKC seem polarizing, passers-by thought the MKC was attractive in person. If you think something about the rear looks a hair unfinished, you’re not alone. It’s the lack of a protruding bumper of any sort. Aside from the unfinished aesthetic, lacking any real bumper means mishaps with taller vehicles are likely to damage the rear hatch in addition to the bumper cover, increasing repair costs.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior

Interior

The MKC wears the best interior Lincoln has ever created. Period. More than that, the model with real leather is arguably a nicer place to spend your time than the current Q5, GLK, QX50, RDX, or XC60. Opt for the Black Label package and things are taken to the next level. Lincoln shoppers have more ability to customize their crossover than most of the competition with four different upholstery colors that coordinate with three different dashboard and door colors and two wood veneer options (you can’t mix and match). Opting for the Black Label edition gives you an additional four “themes” to choose from. If you want this kind of selection, the MKC and Evoque are really your only options, and the Range Rover doesn’t allow as much customization on base models.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim-003

Front seat comfort depends greatly on your body shape. I’m 6-feet tall and found the seat bottom cushions oddly short and lack thigh support. A 5-foot 4-inch tall person told me the seats fit like a glove. Despite being smaller than all but the Mercedes GLK, the rear seats proved comfortable and easily as accommodating as the XC60.

The cargo area is the biggest compromise in the MKC. It’s notably smaller than most of the competition with just 25 cubes of room behind the rear seats. You’ll find about 20 percent more room in the Volvo.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Center Console

Infotainment

MyLincoln Touch is oddly named for sure, and it’s received more than its share of bad press. Does it crash now and then? Sure. But I actually think MLT is a reason to put the MKC on your list, not take it off. Volvo’s Sensus Connect uses a smaller screen and, despite the new connected features, still lacks decent control of iOS/USB media devices. Audi’s MMI and Mercedes COMAND are attractive systems, but lack the voice command library you get in the Lincoln. iDrive is still my preferred infotainment option, but Lincoln may give it come competition with SYNC3, due out next year.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Engine-001

Drivetrain

Under the hood, the order sheet starts out with a 2.0L direct-injection turbo engine good for 240 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque. Instead of a 6-cylinder engine filling out the top of the range like the Europeans, Lincoln opted to borrow the 2.3L turbo from the new Mustang instead. Five years ago, that would have been derided as insane, but Lexus has gone 4-cylinder only in the new NX and Volvo has committed to the demise of their five and six cylinder turbos as well. Sadly, the 2.3L engine loses some grunt in the translation, dropping from 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft in the Mustang to 285 ponies and 305 lb-ft of twist. 2.0L shoppers can choose between front- or all-wheel drive while the 2.3L model gets all-wheel drive as standard.

Both engines are mated to the 6F35 6-speed automatic transaxle. The 6F35 transaxle is likely the reason for the power reduction from the tune used in the Mustang. Although Ford does not specifically list torque capabilities like General Motors, the Ford 6F35 is substantially similar to the GM 6T50 transaxle, topping out at 260 lb-ft. (GM and Ford designed their 6-speed transaxles together.) Since the engine cradle design in the MKC is largely unchanged from the Escape, the higher torque capacity 6F50 and 6F55 transaxles likely didn’t fit. In order to accommodate the 2.3L engine, Ford replaced the 6F35’s standard torque converter with a higher torque unit but no transmission internals were changed. This allowed the entire package to have approximately the same dimensions as the 2.0L drivetrain. I suspect this also explains why the maximum tow rating drops 1,000lbs when equipped with the 2.3L engine.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior LCD Instrument Cluster.CR2

Drive

In an interesting twist, most MKCs on dealer lots will have a suspension with active dampers. This is a significant difference between the Lincoln and the competition which generally doesn’t have active dampers available at any price. This means we must have a quick suspension lesson since active dampers are a huge part of the MKC’s personality.

Springs and dampers work together to make a car ride and handle a certain way. Springs support the vehicle’s ride height and compress and rebound to conform to the road surface. Dampers control the movement of the spring in both directions. Spring and damping rates are carefully matched by vehicle engineers and in most cars they are fixed. In vehicles with dynamic dampers, the spring rate stays constant and the damping rate becomes a variable. In order for this to work, you have to start with a “soft” spring and when you want a firmer ride you attempt to compensate with “firmer” damping. While systems like this greatly improve the ride and allow the driver to customize the suspension within a particular range, they can feel quite different.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior -001

The first hint Lincoln had a different mission in mind for the MKC is obvious when you start driving. If the suspension is in comfort mode, you get the softest ride in this segment by a mile. The MKC is so soft in this mode that I initially assumed the baby Lincoln was 1,000lbs heavier. With the suspension in normal mode, the MKC feels more buttoned down, but there is still plenty of tip and dive and body roll. “Sport” firms things up but the feeling isn’t the same as you’d find in a traditionally sprung vehicle. The reason is that although the dampers can restrict motion, the springs are still pillowy soft.

Initially I was disconcerted by the soft suspension and assumed the athletic abilities would be harmed as a result. I was wrong. With a 0-60 sprint of 6.15 seconds, the MKC 2.3L beats most of the entries, matches the 325 hp XC60 R-Design and only lags the X3 xDrive35i and RDX in the non-performance category. It also stopped from 60 MPH in an impressive 112 feet in our tests and a respectable .83Gs in Edmund’s skidpad test. (TTAC doesn’t have access to a skidpad.) That’s all possible because the MKC is light for a luxury crossover, ranging from 3,791 in FWD 2.0L trim to to 3,989 lbs in the AWD 2.3L model.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior.CR2-001

Pricing

As you’d expect from Lincoln, pricing starts low at $33,100, undercutting BMW by over $5,000, and we get about $500 of additional equipment in the base MKC. Adding AWD to the base model tacks on $2,495. That sounds steep but Lincoln bundles the dynamic suspension and a few other goodies with it. Our 2.3L AWD tester started at $40,145 and had $7,775 of options added to make an essentially fully loaded MKC.

The Black Label model is an interesting option. Black Label is about luxury and customization, not performance. This means you can get the 2.0L engine with front wheel drive in Black Label trim starting at $46,205. For the extra dosh, a “shopping assistant” will help you choose from four unique interior themes, five unique wood veneers and some extra paint options. The interior is further upgraded with faux-suede headliners and more standard features. In addition to the goodies, you get improved service with scheduled maintenance and wear item coverage (shocks, belts, etc), a loaner car when yours is in for service, lifetime car washes at a Lincoln dealer and annual detailing services.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Rear.CR2-001

I have to admit when I first took the MKC out on the road, I didn’t like it. The well-appointed interior is attractive, but the ultra-plush driving dynamics took some getting used to. Then an odd thing happened. A friend of mine who is in her early 30s said “I’m tired of the harsh ride in my X3 but I still want a crossover.” I had her drive the MKC and it was love at first tip and dive. I suddenly realized: from the Lexus NX to the Mercedes GLK, every one of the competition is trying to be the soft-roader that can lap the Nurburgring in under 9 minutes. Except the MKC.

The Lincoln can hang with the middle of the pack in terms of handling, but the handling feel is an entirely different matter. The soft suspension makes turn-in feel lazy, steering feel non-existent and the cabin hushed. The combination means the MKC is eminently capable with high limits, but the design of the vehicle makes it hard to determine where those limits are located. If that sounds like the kind of product Lexus used to be known for (before they too started chasing BMW), you’re right. Once I stopped chasing the X3, I realized how refreshing it was to have a competitive product without the “me-too.” Bravo Lincoln.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.26 Seconds

0-60: 6.15 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.8 Seconds @ 92.5 MPH

Average economy: 20.3 MPG over 699 miles

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Engine.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Engine 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Engine-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Ecoboost Engine-002 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior -001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front .CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front -001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front Quarter 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front Quarter-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front_ 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Headlamp 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Rear.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Rear.CR2-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Rear 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Side 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior_ 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Cargo Area 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Cargo Area-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Cargo Area-002 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Center Console.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Center Console 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior LCD Instrument Cluster.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior LCD Instrument Cluster.CR2-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior LCD Instrument Cluster 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Seat Controls.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Seats 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Seats-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Speaker 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Steering Wheel.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim-002 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior Wood Trim-003 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior.CR2 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior.CR2-001 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior.CR2-002 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior.CR2-003 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior 2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Interior-001

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2015 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-lexus-350-f-sport-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-lexus-350-f-sport-review-video/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 12:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1056498 BMW moved over 140,000 3-Series’ last year in America. They didn’t do this by being the most luxurious option or by being the best handling option. (The truth is hard to hear, I’m sorry.) Instead, BMW did this by doing exactly what shoppers asked for; luxury car buyers want a comfy ride with a luxury logo […]

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2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Exterior -002

BMW moved over 140,000 3-Series’ last year in America. They didn’t do this by being the most luxurious option or by being the best handling option. (The truth is hard to hear, I’m sorry.) Instead, BMW did this by doing exactly what shoppers asked for; luxury car buyers want a comfy ride with a luxury logo on the front, good fuel economy and to read reviews that extol the track-day virtues of their car of choice. The average buyer will never be on a track, but it’s critical to know your car belongs there.

What BMW dealers don’t want you to know: there are two sedans in this segment that are arguably better on the track than a 328i or 335i and we’re talking about one of them today, the IS 350 F Sport.

Exterior

Lexus’ exterior styling used to strike me as graceful, sophisticated and reserved. Apparently, however, the front end got no respect on the Autobahn, so the F Sport nose was created. While I can’t say if it commands more respect in Germany, the ginormous grille on our IS 350 F Sport looked ready to devour small children and subcompact cars alike. While some folks have said they dislike the gaping maw, I actually like it. What I’m not a fan of are the separate headlamp and “Nike-swoosh” daytime running lamp modules; I find the look a little discordant. Whether you like it or not, you have to admit this front end is more dramatic than anything on offer from BMW, Mercedes, Audi or Infiniti.

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Out back, less has changed, with the rear being more reserved than the front. But it’s the side profile where things really divert. The IS is 3.5 inches longer than the last generation model and most of the increase goes to the rear seat area – although, some of it also goes to the trunk, making the IS look more balanced than before. Thanks to pedestrian impact regulations in Europe, the front end has become blunter (just as we have seen from the Europeans lately), which actually helps the front 3/4 view. I think the Cadillac ATS is the most attractive sedan in this segment, but the IS in F Sport trim leaps up the scale to number 3, just behind the ATS and 3-Series.

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Interior

While BMW and Audi have opted for an open and expansive interior theme, the IS feels tight and close to the driver by design with a high beltline and tall center console. F Sport models get a configurable LCD disco dash instead of the white-on-black gauges we normally expect from the brand. Similar to Volvo’s new LCD instrument cluster, the display can seem a little lost in the binnacle as the binnacle normally houses a wider traditional dial cluster. Since Cadillac has yet to move their large LCD instrument cluster down-market to the ATS, there really isn’t any competition for this display at the moment.

As you’d expect from Lexus, one can still get acres of stained wood and soft leather, but neither are standard. Like most entries in this segment, leather is reserved for specific packages and wood is an optional upgrade. Front seat comfort proved excellent during my week. The sport seats easily bested the Audi A4, Cadillac ATS and the base seats in the BMW 328i or Mercedes C300. Wider folks should know that the bolstering is pronounced and the F Sport trim doesn’t have an option to delete the sport seats.

Thanks to the wheelbase stretch, combined legroom is up by 2.6 inches inside which places the IS towards the top of the group in total legrooom. Nobody expected the BMW 3-Series to grow as much as it did in its latest incarnation, which becomes quite obvious when you run the numbers. The 3-Series boasts the second best legroom figures behind the much larger Infiniti Q50. The Lexus offers a slightly larger trunk, but I found the overall trunk dimensions to be more advantageous in the BMW.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Interior -003

Infotainment

The 2014 redesign of the IS brought a raft of new features from traffic maps on non-navigation equipped models to predictive traffic, improved voice recognition and smartphone integration. Alas, the lord giveth and he taketh away. Along with the new software comes Lexus’ Remote Touch input device, or as I prefer to call it: the Lexus joystick. I find little joy in the mouse-like controller, but it is better than the trackpad you find in the NX. The controller is the textbook example of the difference between an intuitive input method and one that is optimized for use in a car. The joystick is intuitive, it’s just not well suited to a vehicle as it requires much more eye-off-the-road time. I grabbed a few friends and had them perform a few identical functions in the Lexus and a BMW with iDrive while I watched their eyes. It simply takes longer for you to find what you need in the Lexus system. Oddly enough, the same Lexus software without a touchscreen is one of the least distracting available, but you can only get that in the GX and LX. If you don’t buy navigation, you still get the 7-inch screen but trade the joystick for a rotary knob.

Lexus doesn’t offer any sort of heads-up display a la BMW, but you can gadgets like radar cruise control, Mark Levinson branded audio system, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Engine-004

Engine

Standing somewhat alone in this segment is a 100-percent naturally-aspirated engine lineup. While everyone but Infiniti has moved to a turbo four to fill the bottom end, Lexus has stuck with their tiny V6. (I’m not counting the 2.5-liter four-banger in the base ATS. Why? Who would?) Displacing 2.5 liters and sporting direct injection, the IS 250 is good for 204 ponies and 185 lb-ft of torque. [It’s the least powerful V6 currently on sale. -Ed] While many in the industry would once have complained about a base luxury model without an inline-6 engine, this V6 now competes with four-cylinder engines. Although a V6 isn’t as balanced as an I6, it’s miles ahead of an I4. The model we tested is the 3.5-liter V6 IS 350. Adding a liter bumps power to 306 and torque to 277. For reasons known only to Lexus’ product planning team, the 220 horsepower IS 300h remains forbidden fruit on our shores.

Lexus tends to be a cautious company when it comes to adopting new technology and, as a result, the 2.5-liter V6 and AWD models of the 3.5-liter have to make do with ye olde 6-speed automatic from Aisin. If you get the RWD version of the IS 350 that we tested, you get Aisin’s new 8-speed auto, a variant of the transmission used in the Corvette and select Cadillacs.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Instrument Cluster_

Drive

The naturally aspirated engine lineup is the first thing you will notice about the IS out on the road. Much like the 3.6-liter V6 in the ATS and the 3.7-liter V6 in the Q50, power builds in a linear fashion. This is quite different from the C400, 335i and other turbo entries which typically have torque and horsepower “plateaus” with sharp drops on either end. 0-60 acceleration in our F Sport tester came in at 5.6 seconds – not a bad time by any stretch. However, Volvo’s front-wheel-drive S60 T6 Drive-e will do the same sprint in 5.4. The purist in me prefers the feel and unadulterated sound a naturally-aspirated engine delivers, but the pragmatist in me realizes the C400, 335i, S4 and S60 T6 will all beat the IS to the freeway ramp. Opting for Lexus’ AWD system improves grip, but the loss of two gears causes the 0-60 time to stretch to 5.7 seconds, getting close to the less powerful BMW 328xi. AWD shoppers also have to live with an odd hump in the front foot-well caused by the transfer case and driveshaft to the front axle.

The responsiveness of the IS in tight corners demonstrates how much time Lexus spent engineering the suspension. The old IS came across as isolated, perhaps even sloppy, while this chassis is sharp and crisp. Every system feels like a team player, from the suspension to the transmission shift logic and the revised double-wishbones up front. The IS quite simply delivers the best feel in the corners and out on the track with every system tuned to near perfection. (Bear in mind we still have electric power steering, so it’s all relative.) The IS actually manages to feel a hair more precise, although not as engaging, than the E90 3-Series (previous generation). The F30 (current generation) has traded handling prowess for a softer ride and a ginormous back seat. And therein lies the rub: the change has improved BMW’s sales rather than stopping the gravy train. Meanwhile, the Audi and Volvo plow like a John Deere when they encounter a corner and the Mercedes feels just as you would expect – heavy and soft. The purist in me prefers the crisp handling and impeccable feel of the IS on a track. The pragmatist in me is keenly aware that feel doesn’t actually get you around a track. That’s where power comes in. Because of the power deficit, the 335i, S60 T6 AWD, C400 and S4 are all faster around your average track. If you’re talking autocross, the IS has a chance, but even the Volvo will beat it around Laguna Seca.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Headlamps

Competition

Comparing the IS 350 with the 335i seems like the natural thing to do – after all, they both have “3” in the model number – but a more apt comparison is the 328i. The IS 350 slots between the 328i and the 335i in both price and performance, but price is critical. Meanwhile IS 250 performs more like the 320i than the 328i.

The IS 350 F Sport manages to be a hair less than a comparably equipped 328i M-Sport, which is an excellent start. Despite costing a fraction less, the Lexus delivers considerably more refinement under the hood, better acceleration and more driving feel in the twisties. Our F Sport was notably less expensive than a Mercedes C300, and even when you add AWD to the Lexus, it’s still the more willing partner on your favorite mountain highway.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Exterior -006

Audi’s A4 ends up being around the same price as the IS 350 while Volvo’s S60 is the discount option. Both the Audi and the Volvo start as FWD vehicles but add AWD to compensate for their front heavy designs. Unless you step up to the considerably more expensive S4, the Audi comes across as underpowered and all versions of the A4 feel nose heavy in comparison. The Volvo has a similar weight issue up front but the Swedes will happily drop a powerful turbo engine under the hood, mate it to AWD and sell it for less than the Lexus. The resulting S60 R-Design will out-pace the IS 350 F Sport but the experience will be much different. The Volvo will be understeering like mad in the corners; the IS will feel balanced and poised. Unfortunately, the Lexus’ driver will have to enjoy the feel while looking at the S60’s tail lamps.

The Infiniti Q50 is the often forgotten competitor. Nissan’s luxury arm has never quite reached the same status as Lexus as far as brand perception – perhaps that’s why. Never the less, the Infiniti has good looks and a low price tag on its side. Even the $37,150 base model starts with a 328 horsepower 3.7-liter V6. It’s still slower than BMW’s 335i, but at 5.2 seconds to 60, it is among the faster options. If you want more power and better economy, Infiniti will sell you their hybrid version that scoots to highway speed in 4.9. Comparably equipped, the Q50 is about $2,000 less than the F Sport we tested, making it the best RWD deal in this segment.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Exterior -011

After a week with the IS 350, I’ll admit I was torn. The way the IS drives and feels on my mountain road commute is incredible. The way the IS feels on a track is alluring. And the value proposition is undeniable. Lexus’ well deserved reliability reputation and generally lower operating costs means the IS will cost less to own. All these things should mean my purist and pragmatic boxes will be well and truly checked. The Lexus has the luxury and track-day-diary cred to compete with the competition, but the infotainment system in the IS and slower 0-60 time keep the Lexus from being my choice in this segment. If my money were on the line, I’d live with Infiniti’s questionable steer-by-wire system and get the Q50S hybrid instead. You get more room inside, a 0-60 time matching the 335i and 31 MPG. While the IS 350 F Sport represents a good value against BMW’s volume 3-Series model, they still have nothing to compete properly with the 335i. Yes, the IS 350 F Sport feels better and road holds better than a comparably equipped 335i. But, as BMW has recently shown, perhaps going around a corner perfectly isn’t all that important after all.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 5.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.8 Seconds at 100 MPH

Average Observed Economy: 20 MPG over 674 miles

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Trans-Pacific Partnership Fears Hover Over Detroit Three http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/trans-pacific-partnership-fears-hover-detroit-three/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/trans-pacific-partnership-fears-hover-detroit-three/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 17:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055241 The Detroit Three are among those expressing concern over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, specifically what it would do to the industry. Last week, both houses of Congress approved President Barack Obama’s request for an up-or-down vote to fast-track the free-trade agreement involving 12 nations and affecting 40 percent of the global economy, The Detroit […]

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Trans-Pacific Partnership Circa 2010

The Detroit Three are among those expressing concern over the Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement, specifically what it would do to the industry.

Last week, both houses of Congress approved President Barack Obama’s request for an up-or-down vote to fast-track the free-trade agreement involving 12 nations and affecting 40 percent of the global economy, The Detroit News reports. The urgency comes amid warnings that if the TPP isn’t put into effect as soon as possible, China, not the United States, would be the one creating similar trade deals.

Though the TPP has few fans among unions, activists, and most Democrats in Congress, the Detroit Three have their own concerns about the fast-tracking proposal: once enacted, the 2.5-percent tariff on cars and parts, as well as the infamous 25 percent “Chicken Tax” on imported light-duty trucks, would disappear over a period of time. The latter has been used to protect the domestic truck market by keeping competitors out unless the latter were willing to build trucks in the U.S.

According to the trio, were the tariffs – which they want to keep around for 25 more years at minimum – to disappear, and if Japan weakens its currency to better compete against them, domestic automakers would eventually be undercut by Japanese automakers. In turn, the Detroit Three would face considerable pressure to return fire, with those on the factory floor likely to be the hardest hit.

Another issue surrounding Japan is importation of U.S. vehicles, which the trio state has been difficult to accomplish over the years due to a number of trade barriers, tariffs not being among them as far as Japan’s importation policy is concerned. Japanese automakers counter that so few U.S. vehicles are imported annually because the Detroit Three haven’t made much of an effort to sell them to Japanese consumers in the first place. While the former has spent billions and employed thousands to build vehicles in the U.S., Detroit hasn’t done the same at all.

Currently, their lobbyists are working to add an enforceable currency provision to the TPP to protect Detroit’s standing. So far, the provision has yet to be added to the pact.

[Photo credit: Gobinero de Chile/Flickr]

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QOTD: Is It Time for Lefty Countries to Drive on the Right Side of the Road? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-time-lefty-countries-drive-right-side-road/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-time-lefty-countries-drive-right-side-road/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 11:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055017 After only selling close to 250 Volts in Australia since its introduction in 2012, the decision was made to not import the second-generation extended range electric vehicle, even though it features less-quirky styling and an improved electric drivetrain. But, if Australia was a left-hand drive country, would this be an issue? Thanks to laws in Australia prohibiting […]

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Brooker Hwy 25, Australia

After only selling close to 250 Volts in Australia since its introduction in 2012, the decision was made to not import the second-generation extended range electric vehicle, even though it features less-quirky styling and an improved electric drivetrain.

But, if Australia was a left-hand drive country, would this be an issue?

Thanks to laws in Australia prohibiting the sale of left-hand drive vehicles, should an automaker want to sell a vehicle Down Under, it must be converted to right-hand drive. For a number of vehicles, due to packaging constraints, this is not feasible from an engineering perspective. More often than not, while it might be technically doable, it just isn’t financially prudent – as is the case with the newly-cancelled Holden Volt.

Countries driving on the left or right

Folks, its 2015 and we still live in a world where, depending on what country you live in, you drive on one side of the road or the other. Isn’t it time for this to change?

It would certainly make it a lot easier for automakers to develop, engineer, and sell global models. It would make roadways safer (every year there’s always at least one tourist here driving on the wrong side of the road, usually around a roundabout). Australians could get all the Volts and F-150s they want. We could have saved the Australian ute. Everyone could have been happy.

What do you think, B&B? Is it time to ditch right-hand drive?

[Image source: Wiki ian (Own work) [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons/Benjamin D. Esham [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]

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Fifth-Gen Honda Step WGN Debuts With New 2016 Civic Engine, Tailgate System http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/fifth-gen-honda-step-wgn-debuts-new-2016-civic-engine-tailgate-system/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/fifth-gen-honda-step-wgn-debuts-new-2016-civic-engine-tailgate-system/#comments Thu, 23 Apr 2015 17:00:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1052169 Honda revealed the fifth-gen Step WGN for the Japanese market Thursday, which not only features a new flexible tailgate, but the same engine planned for the 2016 Civic. The main draw for the seven-passenger Step WGN is the “Waku Waku” tailgate, which can be lifted up in most circumstances, or can be opened from the side […]

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Honda Step WGN 01

Honda revealed the fifth-gen Step WGN for the Japanese market Thursday, which not only features a new flexible tailgate, but the same engine planned for the 2016 Civic.

The main draw for the seven-passenger Step WGN is the “Waku Waku” tailgate, which can be lifted up in most circumstances, or can be opened from the side via the tailgate’s sub-door. The sub-door has three levels of opening angles, allowing greater ease of access to cargo for occupants when the kei van is parked in a tight space, such as a shopping center or home garage. Third-row passengers can also use the door to exit without opening the full tailgate when the door is paired with the third-row 60-40 Magic Seat.

Under the hood is the 1.5-liter direct-injection VTEC turbo set to provide power for the 2016 Civic. Horsepower and torque figures were not mentioned at this time, but Honda claims output is “equivalent to that of a 2.4-litre engine even while driving with multiple passengers and on hilly roads.” Power is directed to the front or all four corners via CVT.

[Photo credit: Honda]

Honda Step WGN Gallery

Honda Step WGN 01 Honda Step WGN 05 Honda Step WGN 09 Honda Step WGN 02 Honda Step WGN 06 Honda Step WGN 10 Honda Step WGN 07 Honda Step WGN 08

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Suzuki Recalls 2M Amid Reports Of Smoking Ignitions http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/suzuki-recalls-2m-amid-reports-smoking-ignitions/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/suzuki-recalls-2m-amid-reports-smoking-ignitions/#comments Wed, 22 Apr 2015 22:00:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1051009 Suzuki is recalling a record 2 million vehicles to replace ignition switches amid reports of smoke and fumes being emitted from the part. The recall adds 1,873,000 vehicles to the 168,000 previously recalled late last month, Reuters reports. Both figures apply to nine models made in Japan, including the Chevrolet Cruze, Mazda AZ-Wagon, Mazda Carol, […]

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2003 Suzuki Wagon R

Suzuki is recalling a record 2 million vehicles to replace ignition switches amid reports of smoke and fumes being emitted from the part.

The recall adds 1,873,000 vehicles to the 168,000 previously recalled late last month, Reuters reports. Both figures apply to nine models made in Japan, including the Chevrolet Cruze, Mazda AZ-Wagon, Mazda Carol, and Suzuki’s own Alto, Wagon R and Swift. The recall for the latter three covers vehicles built between 1998 and 2009.

Another 133,700 models in the new recall were sold overseas in Australia and Europe, including the aforementioned Swift, Alto and Cruze.

Thus far, 67 reports of smoking switches have been reported, including 18 in police cars. The reports have all come from Japan.

[Photo credit: Kuha455405/Wikipedia]

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Japan Hydrogen Ambitions Fall Short Of March 2016 Target http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/japan-hydrogen-ambitions-fall-short-march-2016-target/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/japan-hydrogen-ambitions-fall-short-march-2016-target/#comments Thu, 16 Apr 2015 13:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1045250 Japan’s ambition to have 100 hydrogen fueling stations by next March may fall short of reality now that the deadline to apply for subsidies has passed. Reuters reports only 76 such stations were approved for subsidies by the government, which had set aside ¥21.4 billion ($178.4 billion USD) over three years for the sole purpose […]

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Eneos Gas Station With Hydrogen Pumps

Japan’s ambition to have 100 hydrogen fueling stations by next March may fall short of reality now that the deadline to apply for subsidies has passed.

Reuters reports only 76 such stations were approved for subsidies by the government, which had set aside ¥21.4 billion ($178.4 billion USD) over three years for the sole purpose of helping would-be hydrogen-station operators build them; each station costs $5 million to build, with the government pitching in $2.5 million in aid.

Though a representative for the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry stated the government is considering increasing the amount given to encourage more infrastructure development, energy companies are asking for proof that building the stations are worth the investment in the first place. In turn, consumers may find the lack of said stations off-putting as far as considering an FCV like Toyota’s Mirai goes, while FCVs themselves need government incentives to attract said consumers.

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Orders For Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Final Edition Now Being Taken In Japan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/orders-mitsubishi-lancer-evolution-final-edition-now-taken-japan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/orders-mitsubishi-lancer-evolution-final-edition-now-taken-japan/#comments Tue, 14 Apr 2015 13:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1043746 If you live in Japan, you can now place your order for one of the 1,000 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Final Edition models before the Evo fades into history. Autoevolution reports Mitsubishi isn’t saying how much power the Final Edition has under the hood, but the publication notes that the GSR-based Evo won’t have the 2-liter […]

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mitsubishi-lancer-evolution-final-edition-ordering-books-open-in-japan-photo-gallery-94369_1

If you live in Japan, you can now place your order for one of the 1,000 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Final Edition models before the Evo fades into history.

Autoevolution reports Mitsubishi isn’t saying how much power the Final Edition has under the hood, but the publication notes that the GSR-based Evo won’t have the 2-liter 4B11T turbo-four and its 473 horses from the Final Concept shown at this January’s Tokyo Auto Salon; the Final Edition uses a 2-liter MIVEC turbo, instead.

Aside from the turbo-four and Mitsubishi’s S-AWC AWD system, Final Edition owners can expect sodium-filled exhaust valves, 18-inch BBS wheels, Recaro seats, Bilstein and Eibach suspension pieces, and Brembo brakes for their ¥4,298,400 (approximately $36,000 USD). Owners can also choose from red, white, blue, black or gray and a white- or black-painted roof panel.

Orders for the 1,000 Evos began last Friday, with deliveries set for August. After that, the Evo will be no more the world over.

mitsubishi-lancer-evolution-final-edition-ordering-books-opened-in-japan-photo-gallery_1 mitsubishi-lancer-evolution-final-edition-ordering-books-opened-in-japan-photo-gallery_2 mitsubishi-lancer-evolution-final-edition-ordering-books-opened-in-japan-photo-gallery_3 mitsubishi-lancer-evolution-final-edition-ordering-books-opened-in-japan-photo-gallery_4 mitsubishi-lancer-evolution-final-edition-ordering-books-opened-in-japan-photo-gallery_5 mitsubishi-lancer-evolution-final-edition-ordering-books-opened-in-japan-photo-gallery_6 mitsubishi-lancer-evolution-final-edition-ordering-books-opened-in-japan-photo-gallery_7 mitsubishi-lancer-evolution-final-edition-ordering-books-open-in-japan-photo-gallery-94369_1 mitsubishi-lancer-evolution-final-edition-ordering-books-opened-in-japan-photo-gallery_9 mitsubishi-lancer-evolution-final-edition-ordering-books-opened-in-japan-photo-gallery_10

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BMW i3 Models Now Available Through Amazon Japan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/bmw-i3-models-now-available-amazon-japan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/bmw-i3-models-now-available-amazon-japan/#comments Wed, 08 Apr 2015 11:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1039553 You can order a lot things from Amazon, including books, CDs and giant drums of lubricant. If you’re in Japan, though, you can also order a BMW i3. Yahoo Maktoob News reports sales of the i3 began on Wednesday, a move BMW Japan hopes “will cover the entire market more thoroughly” alongside the 46 dealers […]

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2015 BMW i3 Range Extender Exterior-002

You can order a lot things from Amazon, including books, CDs and giant drums of lubricant. If you’re in Japan, though, you can also order a BMW i3.

Yahoo Maktoob News reports sales of the i3 began on Wednesday, a move BMW Japan hopes “will cover the entire market more thoroughly” alongside the 46 dealers already selling the model in Japan, widening the sales channel while providing more convenience to potential owners in so doing.

Those who do order their i3 will have their choice of either the electric-only model or the range-extender version. However, the purchase will only be completed once BMW calls up the would-be owner to request documentation regarding parking and charging space for the vehicle.

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Review: 2016 Acura ILX (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2016-acura-ilx-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/review-2016-acura-ilx-video/#comments Fri, 27 Mar 2015 15:55:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1026105 It has been two years since we last looked at the ILX, and my conclusion went like this: The 2.4L engine needs an automatic and some infotainment love, the 2.0L engine needs more grunt and the hybrid needs to be euthanized. Without changes like these, the Acura ILX will remain a sensible Civic upgrade but […]

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2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front.CR2

It has been two years since we last looked at the ILX, and my conclusion went like this:

The 2.4L engine needs an automatic and some infotainment love, the 2.0L engine needs more grunt and the hybrid needs to be euthanized. Without changes like these, the Acura ILX will remain a sensible Civic upgrade but as a competitor to Buick’s new-found mojo, Acura has some catching up to do.

2016 brings what I was expecting: a mid-cycle refresh with a new nose and new rump to keep the photos fresh. What I didn’t expect was for Acura to also address the major mechanical systems that we all complained about. Neither did I expect the ILX to be so transformed by a “simple” heart transplant. Can the ILX live up to the legendary Acura Legend? I snagged the keys to a “A-Spec Technology Plus” model to find out.

Exterior

Acura is not the kind of company that dishes out one daring design after another, especially since the Acura “beak” went over so poorly. As a result this ILX, like its predecessor, plays right to the conservatively styled heart of the traditional Acura shopper.

As has been said in the past, the ILX is related to the Honda Civic, but the relation is more third-cousin than sister. The ILX never shared sheetmetal or glass with its plebeian platform mate, and the ILX isn’t a simple re-skin either. While the wheelbase is shared with the Civic, nearly every hard point was changed from the A-pillar moved 8-inches rearward, trunk and door openings modified to the lowered roofline, the 2016 ILX shares as much with the Civic as the original Chrysler 300 shared with the Mercedes E-Class.

As expected, Acura swapped in a set of full-LED headlamps styled after the multi-beam modules we first saw in the MDX and RLX, and further massaged the front end to look more like the larger TLX. Acura’s quest to give the ILX more of a “wedge like” appearance rather than a tall hood translates to a somewhat pointy front to the side profile. Out back the changes are minimal but the A-Spec trim our tester wore gives the sedate sedan a bit more style and a tasteful chrome strip on the trunk spoiler.

2016 Acura ILX Interior Dashboard.CR2-001

Interior

Interior parts quality is right in line with the Buick Verano which, as expected, is a notch below the more expensive A3, CLA, S60, IS 250 and 320i. As you’d expect in a “near-luxury” vehicle, most of the ILX touch-points are soft plastic but you will find hard plastic lurking below the faux-metal trim and making up most of the center console. Front seat comfort is good but the lack of adjustable lumbar support is surprising. All models get an 8-way power driver’s seat, but only upper trims offer seat memory or a power passenger seat. An important side-effect of Acura’s modifications to the platform’s roof-line is limited headroom. Headroom is further limited up front by the standard sunroof, a nice value feature for sure, but at 6-feet tall my head missed touching the ceiling by millimeters. Acura will no doubt show taller shoppers the TLX.

The ILX’s rear seats are slightly less comfortable than the Verano, but a step above the mainstream compact segment with more thigh support for adults and considerably more legroom than the Mercedes CLA, Volvo S60, and despite the spec sheet saying otherwise, the A3 sedan as well. The key seems to be in combined front and rear legroom where the ILX shines. On the downside, Acura chose to share the rear seat frame with the Honda Civic giving the ILX a 100% folding bench seat that is far less practical than the more common 60/40 variety. This would be less of a problem if the trunk had grown in 2016, but it is still stuck at a smallish 12.3 cubes, smaller than the Verano, Lexus CT or Mazda3.

2016 Acura ILX Interior Shift Paddles

Speaking of the Mazda3, the small Mazda is in many ways a similar vehicle despite Mazda and Acura targeting different demographics. Interior parts quality is quite similar, although the ILX is more of a mixed bag by borrowing switchgear from both the Civic and the TLX. Where they differ notably is the steering wheel, gauge cluster and infotainment systems where the ILX shares more heavily with the more expensive Acuras while the Mazda is a little more constsient but lacks the spendy parts.

To keep things simple, Acura bundles features into packages, leaving essentially no stand-alone options. The base model comes well equipped with dual-zone climate control, 5-inch infotainment display, LED headlamps, Bluetooth/iDevice integration, backup camera, keyless entry/go and a cabin air filter for $27,900. Since the base model is rarely the volume leader, the second trim is the most interesting because the $29,200 “AcuraWatch Plus” trim adds radar adaptive cruise control, collision warning, collision mitigating autonomous braking, lane keep warning, lane keep assist, and electric pre-tensioning front seat belts. This safety system package is included in every trim above as well, making the ILX one of the least expensive vehicles with this kind of tech near-standard. (If you want all that in your TLX it will set you back $42,600.) The $29,900 Premium adds leather seating, blind spot monitoring, cross traffic detection, XM radio and a sub-woofer to the base 6-speaker system, swaps the 5-inch infotainment screen for a dual screen system featuring an 8-inch display high in the dash and a 7-inch touchscreen lower in the dash. The last jump is the $32,900 Technology package adds factory navigation to the 8-inch screen, 10 speakers, AcuraLink (Acura’s answer to OnStar), an upgraded backup cam, color LCD in the gauge cluster and GPS-reading/solar-sending to the climate control system. The only option is the $1,999 A-sped sport trim package netting the buyer 18-inch wheels, fog lamps, faux-suede inserts in the seats, a spoiler and some aluminum pedals.

2016 Acura ILX Interior Infotainment Navigation System-003

Acura’s two-screen infotainment system isn’t as polished as BMW’s iDrive but it is considerably snazzier than you’ll find in any mass-market competitor like the Mazda. The base system lags behind the Verano’s touchscreen radio, while the two-screen system tops it in elegance. Why two screens? The engineers say the concept is as follows: the lower touchscreen handles the audio, freeing the upper screen for navigation and other tasks. My opinion of the system has improved since I first encountered it on the MDX but I still think the casserole needs more time in the oven. You can skip tracks/albums using the touchscreen, but changing playlists or more detailed browsing requires the rotary/joystick lower in the dash and the 8-inch screen at the top. In my mind, this sort of kills the dual-screen sales proposition. On the positive side, the system is very responsive and the graphics are all high-resolution and attractive. Compared to the other entries in this segment, it lacks the online connectivity features found in Volvo’s Sensus Connect and Audi’s latest MMI, but offers more screen real estate and a more modern feel than either connected system.

2016 Acura ILX 2.4l EarthDreams Direct Injection Engine-001.CR2

Drivetrain

When it launched, the ILX borrowed the complete engine line-up from the Civic, including the lackluster 1.5L engine, 5-speed auto, underpowered hybrid, and the rev-happy 2.4L from the Civic Si mated only to a 6-speed manual. The 2.4L engine was the only engine worth buying, but slow manual sales meant it was a small portion of the sales pie. For 2016, Acura dropped all three engines in favor of the direct-injection 2.4L four-cylinder engine from the TLX. Closely related to the 2.4L in the Honda Accord, the  “EarthDreams” engine is tuned for slightly higher output. At 201 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of twist, this looks similar to the Civic Si’s 2.4L until you look at the power and torque curves. Thanks to the new design, and the direct-injection system, both power and torque arrive lower at RPMs and stay strong at higher revs.

Sending power to the wheels is the same 8-speed dual-clutch transmission as the bigger Acura. DCTs are nothing new, but Acura takes things a step beyond Audi and Mercedes with an 8-speed unit and a torque converter tossed in for good measure. The biggest issue with DCTs is their unrefined low-speed / hill-start performance. The torque converter solves that by allowing the clutch to completely engage first gear at low speeds.

2016 Acura ILX Interior Gauge Cluster-002

Drive

On the surface of things, the Frankenstein transmission sounds like the unholy union of all that is wrong with an automatic and a manual. Part of this is because early DCT adopters told us that torque converters were the root of all evil and DCTs were so blindingly efficient that the relatively poor 0-10  performance is compensated by brilliant 10-60 performance. In reality, the combination creates one of the finest transmissions in the world. No kidding. The Acura DCT is at the same level as ZF’s 6-speed and 8-speed automatic. Rather than hamper performance, the torque converter improves off-the-line acceleration because it can transmit more power to the gearset than a slipping clutch can. After the initial start, the converter spends most of the time “locked up” giving the drivetrain a very linear, manual-like feel. When shifting is called for, it delivers the speed of a dual-clutch transmission (slightly faster than most of ZF’s offerings) and the smoothness of an automatic because the torque converter is momentarily “unlocked” to soak up vibration during the shift. My only complaint is that Acura didn’t jam at least a low-pressure turbo on the 2.4L engine because this transmission deserves more power. Or AWD, or both.

The difference in refinement is immediately noticeable when driven back-to-back with the A3′ wet-clutch DSG and night-and-day different from the DCT in the Mercedes CLA. (The Mercedes transmission has been improving, but is still shockingly rough around the edges.) Likely largely to the new transmission, 0-60 times are a full second faster than the 2015 2.4L model and a blazing 3-seconds faster than the 2015 base model. Some of the credit goes to the new engine since the Civic Si engine has to scream like a leaf blower to deliver maximum thrust. This engine has a more luxury car appropriate torque band. In absolute terms, the 6.2 second sprint to 60 is faster than the Verano Turbo we tested, faster than the A3 2.0T, IS 250 and a just 4/10ths slower than the CLA 250 and S60 T5 Drive-e.

2016 Acura ILX Exterior Rear-001

Handling was never an issue with the ILX and that continues for 2016, despite what the folks at CR may say. The light curb weight of 3,093lbs is impressive, not just because it is 100lbs less than the lightest A3 in America and nearly 200lbs lighter than a CLA 250, but because the ILX is 6-inches longer than the German as well. With a similar weight distribution to the A3 and CLA and 225/40R18 tires (A-Spec), you’d expect the ILX to run with the sportier entries in this pack and you’d be right, with a twist. The light curb weight and wide tires provide excellent grip, but even in the A-Spec trim the ILX avoids bruised kidneys with a surprisingly refined suspension. Acura’s “dampers with two valves” allow the damping to be firm and body roll to be well controlled under most conditions while soaking up large imperfections like a sedan with a softer suspension. The system retains 95% of the Civic Si’s road holding ability while delivering a ride more composed than the turbo Verano. Similarly, the steering is a little less direct than the Si but yields better feel than the Buick. The ILX lacks the precision and astonishing grip you find in the CLA, but taken as a whole the ILX is the best balanced since it lacks the jarring ride of the CLA with the sport package but gives up little grip in the process. The CLA is a hoot and a half on your favorite winding mountain road, but the ILX is the kind of car you can also stick your mother-in-law in and she won’t think you’ve gone “all boy-racer” after turning 30. Limits are lower in the non-A-Spec trim largely due to the 215-width tires, but driving the ILX back-to-back with a Audi A3 1.8T made me question the sanity of the folks at Consumer Reports who berated the handling. Go figure.

Fuel economy was a concern of mine because of the torque converter, and indeed I averaged 2 MPG lower than the EPA combined 29 MPG, but that may have had something to do with my driving style. Treating the ILX gently it was possible to get 35 MPG out of the baby Acura on the open highway besting most of the entries in this segment and matching Volvo’s new Drive-e engines.

Despite sharing quite little with Honda’s Civic and not looking like a fancy Civic, the 2015 ILX felt like a fancy Civic. Now there’s nothing wrong with that per se (after-all the success of the Lexus ES is largely due to the fact that for many years it was little more than a fancy Camry), but that’s not the Acura that the brand’s faithful remember. This ILX however is that Acura. The drivetrain and excellent pricing scheme, more than the infotainment system or LED headlamps, are the reason. Sure the ILX has some discount plastic, but the interior on the whole feels like a TLX that’s been discounted than a Civic that’s been “tarted up.” While the old ILX could only be compared with the Verano, Mazda3 and similar vehicles with a straight face, the 2016 model is different. No, I would not call it direct competition to the 320i, IS 250, CLA 250 or S60 per se, but with pricing up to $10,000 less than those models comparably equipped, the ILX is unquestionable the value alternative. While the Acura RL may have replaced the Legend in 1995, the 2016 ILX is its true successor.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.4 Seconds

0-60: 6.2 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.8 @ 95 MPH

Interior sound level: 72db @ 50 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 27.1 MPH over 981 miles

 

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