The Truth About Cars » luxury car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:29:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » luxury car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com New or Used? : Sadly, Infiniti Will Never Sell An M80 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/new-or-used-sadly-infiniti-will-never-sell-an-m80/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/new-or-used-sadly-infiniti-will-never-sell-an-m80/#comments Fri, 20 Jun 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=847225 Click here to view the embedded video.

Dear Mr. Lang,

Your most recent article put the final nail in the C4 coffin for me and for that, I’m everlastingly grateful.

The VW GTI is but a distant infatuation, another foolish pleasure set aside.

Onward to the Infiniti M35.

My wife, county librarian, needs a reliable safe car to visit her 34 branches.

The M35 sounds like just the ticket. It would also be a good road car for our forays to Las Vegas. Any recommendation on good/bad model years would be appreciated. We’ll find a good home for her ’03 Grand Marquis with 99k. It’s time to move on.

Thanks again for your help.

 

Steve Says:

Wow! 34 branches! Remind me to move to where you live after I get my kids through high school. One of my non-negotiables for what I hope will be the post-Dad phase is a library I can walk to.

Forget about the beach or the mountains. I want a quiet nice place where I can read.

As for your situation, the best way to approach this is to look at everything from the inside out. Let’s start with the M35.

The interiors on these vehicles are pretty much a love/hate affair. My advice is to find one. Let her spend some time inside (without you), and see whether she likes her surroundings.

I have always thought that the dashboard, seats and interior trim are far more important to most owner’s long-term happiness than the exterior design. Sexiness sells, but you will spend 98+% of your time looking at the car from the inside out. Those interior materials make an epic difference for a road warrior, and it sounds like your wife may need to become one.

Second, you are far better off visiting an enthusiast forum than to rely on the opinion of one guy. Let them tell you about the best years, worthwhile modifications, and unique challenges to your vehicle. Every vehicle has a weakness of some sort, and taking advice from actual long-term owners will give you a far better frame of reference than any other source in this business.

Here is the M35 enthusiast forum. Related to that, the M35 happens to also be the most reliable Infiniti car in my long-term reliability study. I recommended it not too long ago, and I think you are making a wise decision by considering it.

Do you a question? A rambling epiphany? Or even a hunch that is carried by nothing but thin air? Feel free to contact me at steve.lang@thetruthaboutcars.com .

 

 

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Capsule Review: 2015 Hyundai Genesis http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/capsule-review-2015-hyundai-genesis/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/04/capsule-review-2015-hyundai-genesis/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 15:51:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=788538 photo (14)

When it comes to luxury cars, there are two factors, often mutually exclusive, that come into play: actual excellence and perceived prestige. Very often, the latter wins out. If you want to know why, ask anyone who bought a Maserati Quattroporte. Or a BMW 528i.

From 1997-2003 the BMW 5-series was the last word in four-door sedans. If you wanted the perceived prestige, then the big V8 cars were sure to impress bench racers and badge snobs. If you wanted actual excellence, you did not pass go, did not collect 282 horsepower, and you went right for the six cylinder cars.

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When I think of the quintessential 5-Series, I think of the E39 525i or 530i. Neither was particularly fast. The cabin did have sumptuous leather and slabs of wood, but by and large it was still full of old school BMW touches like displays with orange illumination and dot-matrix looking typography, a dearth of cupholders and even *gasp* hard black plastic. And yet, they were all things to all people – comfortable commuter, ersatz school bus, peerless long-distance cruiser and even an engaging backroad scalpel.

In roughly a decade, we’ve regressed. You can now spend over $70,000 on an entry level BMW that has a turbo-four engine, just like your insurance broker’s Fusion or a soccer mom’s Santa Fe. And when you drive it, you realize that the 528i is not The Ultimate Driving Machine anymore, nor is it a positional good like the E60 cars were when the end of their life-cycle coincided with the Great Financial Crisis. The F10 528i is, in many respects, a very expensive, longitudinally oriented Camry.

Not much else in the segment is thrilling, however. The Audi A6 and Cadillac CTS are both saddled with 2.0T engines unbecoming of their relative station in life. The Mercedes-Benz E350 has a proper V6, but is softer than a Buick Lacrosse. The Lexus GS and Infiniti M are non-entities.

Nobody would have ever thought that the 2015 Hyundai Genesis would be upholding the mantle of excellence in the large rear-drive segment, but then again, nobody in 2003 would have expected that Hyundai would introduce this car – badged as a Hyundai, sold through the Hyundai dealer network – either.

As with the previous Genesis, the styling is handsome but derivative. If the old car looks like a reasonable facsimile of a Lexus, the new one looks like a reasonable facsimile of an Audi, styled within the framework of today’s emissions and safety regulations. The lack of aesthetic imagination would be all the more damning if it weren’t for the homogenization of everything else on the road, in both looks and driving experience.

Well, almost everything. The two-point-oh-tee engines infesting nearly every car from the C-segment on up are very helpful with meeting all kinds of regulation: CAFE, European emissions standards, EPA fuel economy tests and world market displacement taxes.

With the Genesis, Hyundai is focusing on three major markets: the United States, Korea, and China. That means no boosted fours. Instead, you have the choice of a 3.8L V6 (311 horsepower, 293 lb-ft of torque) or a 5.0L V8 (420 horsepower, 383 lb-ft of torque). The V6 actually loses 22 horsepower, though it gains 2 lb-ft, while the V8 drops 9 horsepower and picks up 7 lb-ft. Not particularly encouraging stuff, given that curb weight is up by about 150 lbs on rear-drive models.

Any doubts about performance dissipate once you’re behind the wheel. Both cars feel much faster than their predecessors, with the 5.0 V8 providing serious forward thrust and an aggressive bellow at higher rpms that sounds like a muffled version of Chrysler’s Hemi V8. Like the old E39 540i, the V8 Genesis is at its best when cruising rapidly in a straight line, tracking perfectly straight without any hands on the wheel, cruising below 2000 rpm in near silence while eating up miles of blacktop.

If you never got a chance to drive the 3.8L V6, you wouldn’t have any qualms about the 5.0′s dynamics. The V8 car isn’t overly engaging, with relatively numb steering, a rather slow turn-in and a grudgingly competent way of taking turns . The V6 is an entirely different animal, as distinct in character as the I6 E39s were from the 540i.

With two fewer cylinders and the engine sitting a bit farther back, the V6 Genesis responds with far more enthusiasm than the 5.0 While the steering isn’t particularly big on feel, there’s a much greater level of feedback from the front tires. Turn-in is quicker, and the whole car responds to inputs in a more enthusiastic manner. The V6 isn’t as effortlessly powerful as the big 5.0 V8, but it responds with enthusiasm, and its own soundtrack is engaging and even raw at higher revs. Nobody would ever complain about the lack of power from the 3.8L engine either. V6 models will have an optional all-wheel drive system developed with Magna, but seat time in that car will have to wait for a later date.

The weak link in the powertrain is the in-house 8-speed automatic transmission, which is neither as sporting nor as refined as the 8-speed ZF gearbox that is near-ubiquitous in today’s premium car offerings. Kudos to Hyundai for making their own in-house design, but ZF has set a very high bar with what might be the best gearbox on the market. And even 8-speeds can’t help save the Genesis from less than stellar fuel economy ratings (18/29/22 mpg city/highway/combined for the V6, 16/25/19 for the AWD model and 15/23/18 for the V8).

But all of this talk of high performance driving is largely academic. The things that the Genesis needs to excel at – namely, a comfortable ride, minimal NVH and a premium interior – are all tasks at which the Genesis acquits itself. There’s a bit of noise around the wing mirrors when traveling at speed, but road and wind noise is largely isolated. The new car manages to strike the appropriate balance between ride and handling as well. Chassis tuning by Lotus (yes, that Lotus) was a big part of Hyundai’s PR push, but driving on bumpy desert access roads and poorly-maintained streets in outlying towns displayed a compliant, well-sorted ride as the primary characteristic. When pushed, the Genesis responds as well as a two-ton luxury sedan could be expected to – more than its European competition can say for themselves.

In its attempt to ape the leading European and Japanese luxury cars, the Genesis can be optioned up with all kinds of the latest cutting edge technology: a lane-keep assist system (that was overzealous and a bit of a nuisance), radar-guided cruise control, haptic feedback through the steering wheel and even a CO2 sensor (which supposedly helps keep drivers from getting too drowsy).

And you don’t need any of it. The best Genesis is the one we spent the most time with – a basic 3.8 V6, with the smaller 8″ display screen, 18″ wheels and only a couple of rows of neatly organized buttons (no iDrive-esque controller like the fully loaded Ultimate Package cars). At $38,000, it’s closer in price to a Honda Accord V6 Touring than a BMW 528i. Both the Honda and the Hyundai are better examples of actual excellence than the now neutered 5er, but in the real world, few have the courage to put character before image. What a shame.

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Review: 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-cadillac-cts-2-0t-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-cadillac-cts-2-0t-with-video/#comments Fri, 27 Dec 2013 14:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=686066 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-001

It’s been decades since Cadillac produced the “Cadillac” of anything. However, when car buffs dismiss the only American luxury brand left, they fail to see Cadillac’s march forward. 2002 brought the first RWD Cadillac since the Fleetwoood. A year later the XLR roadster hit, followed in 2004 by Cadillac’s first 5-Series fighter, the STS. Not everything was rosy. The original CTS drove like a BMW but lacked charm and luxury fittings. The XLR was based on a Corvette, which made for excellent road manners, but the Northstar engine didn’t have the oomph. The STS sounded like a good idea, but the half-step CTS wasn’t much smaller and ultimately shoppers weren’t interested in a bargain option. That brings us to the new ATS and CTS. Ditching the “more car for less money” mantra, the ATS has been created to fight the C/3/IS leaving the CTS free to battle the E/5/GS head-on. Can Caddy’s sensible new strategy deliver the one-two punch fans have hoped for? I snagged a CTS 2.0T for a week to find out.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

I found the outgoing CTS a little discordant, but 2014 brings an elegant more aggressive refresh. GM’s Art and Science theme has matured from “cubism gone wrong” to shapes that flow and jibe with a larger grille and softer creases. The 5-Series continues to go for elegant and restrained, I find the XF and A6′s design a mixture of plain-Jane and snazzy headlamps while the Infiniti Q5o and Lexus GS are going for flowing elegance.

The demur side profile continues with a simple character line to draw your eye from front to rear. One thing you’ll notice during that eye-movement is the distinct RWD proportions that separate the CTS, E, 5, GS, XF and Q50 from the long-nosed Audi A6 and near-luxury FWD options. Out back the CTS’ rump is a bit less exciting but employs all the latest luxury cues from hidden exhaust tops to light piped tail lamps. I was hoping Caddy’s fins would be further resurrected,  but the “proto fins” on the XTS are absent. Pity. Obvious from every angle is an attention to build quality absent from earlier generations with perfect panel gaps and seams.

Structurally, the CTS has jumped ship to a stretched version of the Alpha platform the smaller ATS rides on. Thanks to the automotive taffy-pull, the CTS is now 2.3 inches longer than a BMW 5-series. However, because of the Alpha roots, the CTS has actually shrunk for 2014 by 3 inches in length while getting 2 inches wider and a 2 inch roof height reduction.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-006

Interior

GM has proven they are able to create a car that drives competitively and looks sexy on the outside, but interiors have always been a mixed bag. The last gen CTS felt as if it was built with a mixture of custom parts and Chevy hand-me downs. No more. Like the ATS, the Caddy shares little with the rest of GM’s mass market-rabble. It is hard to find fault in the CTS’s dashboard’s combination of injection molded soft touch plastics, leather, faux suede, real wood, carbon fiber and contrasting stitching. Cadillac continues their dedication to shiny touch buttons on the dash and no luxury sedan would be complete without a little gimmicky drama. The CTS’s motorized cupholder lid ties with the XF’s automated air vents for the feature most clearly designed to brag about. I’m not sure how long that little motor will crank away, but it can’t be any less reliable than Jaguar’s theatrical air vents.

Because of the way Cadillac chose to stretch the CTS’ donor platform, cargo and interior space aren’t the primary beneficiaries. This means that rear legroom actually shrinks for 2014 to the smallest entry in this segment by a hair. Trunk volume also drops from a competitive 13.6 cubes to 10.5 which is a 20% reduction compared to the Lexus and BMW and 30% smaller than the Mercedes. The CTS makes up for some of this with comfortable thrones all the way around and when equipped with the optional 20-way front seats the CTS ranks #2 in the segment just behind BMW’s optional 24-way sport seats in comfort. Taller drivers and passengers beware, dropping the CTS’ roof height made the profile sexier but cuts headroom to the lowest in the segment.

2013 Cadillac ATS Instrument Cluster

2013 Cadillac ATS Instrument Cluster

There is one glaring flaw. The decidedly dowdy base instrument cluster is shared with the ATS (pictured above) and the XTS. Our Facebook followers were so put-off by Caddy’s base dials, the fervor spawned a Vellum Venom Vignette. While the ATS is saddled with the four-dial layout, the CTS and XTS have a savior: the most attractive LCD disco dash available. (My tester was so equipped.) Perhaps it is this dichotomy that is so vexing about the base CTS models. If you don’t fork over enough cash, you’ll constantly be reminded that you couldn’t afford the Cadillac of displays.

The 12.3-inch cluster offers the driver more customization than you fill find in any other full-LCD cluster. Unlike the Jaguar and Land Rover screens that simply replicate analogue gauges, you can select from several different views depending on whether you feel like analogue dials or digital information and the amount of information overload you prefer. (Check out the gallery.) My preferred layout contained a high res navigation map, digital speedo, fuel status, range to empty, average fuel economy, audio system information with album art and track information and the speed-limit on the road I was traveling on.

2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-001

Infotainment

I have been critical of Cadillac’s CUE system but 2014 brings some important software fixes resolving the random system crashes and demon possessed touch controls I experienced in the ATS and XTS. After driving the CTS for 852 miles, the CUE system proved rock solid in terms of reliability. Unfortunately, little has been done to address the sluggish response to inputs, unintuitive menus and old-school nav graphics. Despite the still flaws, I have to stick by my words when MyFord Touch landed: I’d rather have slow infotainment than none at all. BMW’s iDrive still ranks 1st for me because the interface is intuitive, attractive, responsive and elegant. BMW continues to add new features to their system and, unlike other systems, the new features in general operate as smoothly as the rest of the iDrive interface. You may be surprised to know that CUE ranks second for me.

CUE’s graphics are more pleasing to my eye than MMI, COMAND, Sensus, MyLincon Touch, Enform or AcuraLink. COMAND’s software should have been sent out to pasture long ago. The graphics are ancient and trying to load any of the smartphone apps is an exercise in frustration. Instead of reinventing their software, Lexus reinvented the input method taking their system from most intuitive to least in a single move. Senus isn’t half bad but Volvo’s screens are small and the software lacks the smartphone integration found in the competition. MyLincoln Touch is well featured but lacks CUE’s more modern look and the glass touchscreen.

2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-006

The scratch resistant glass touchscreen and proximity sensors used by Cadillac are part of what give the system a clean modern look. Most systems use resistive touchscreens which are pressure sensitive and require that the surface of the screen actually move to sense your touch. This means they need to be made of a ductile plastic which is several layers thick. The consumer comparison is to think of your iPhone or Android phone vs a color Palm Pilot from years past. Cadillac uses the screen to allow intuitive finger-sliding gestures and the proximity sensor to reduce visual clutter when your finger is away from the screen. Move you hand closet to the screen and the less critical interface buttons reappear.

Cadillac continues their relationship with Bose, giving the base model an 11-speaker sound system that brings everything but navigation to the party. Our model was equipped with the up-level 13-speaker Bose sound system, navigation software and the optional single-slot CD player hiding in the glove box. Compared with BMW’s premium audio offerings, the Bose systems sing slightly flatter and lack the volume capable in the German options. However compared to Lexus’ standard and optional systems the Cadillac holds its own.

Ecotec 2.0L I-4 VVT DI Turbo (LTG)

Drivetrain

Thanks to the new GM Alpha platform, all three engines sit behind the front axle which is ideal for weight balance. Base shoppers get the 2.0L direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder worth 272 ponies and 295 lb-ft of torque, besting BMW’s 2.0L by 32 HP and 35 lb-ft. On “Luxury” trim and above you can opt for GM’s ubiquitous 3.6L V6 (321HP/275 lb-ft) for $2,700, but I’d probably stick to the 2.0L turbo if I were you. Aside from being lighter, the turbo delivers more torque at lower RPMs and has a more advantageous power delivery which make it a hair faster to 60.

Shoppers looking for more shove and willing to part with $59,995 can opt for a 420 horsepower twin-turbo V6 in the CTS V-Sport that cranks out 430 lb-ft. Despite sharing thee 3.6L displacement of the middle engine, GM tells us that only 10% of the engine components are shared. Sending power to the pavement in the 2.0T and 3.6 models is essentially the same GM 6-speed automatic transmission BMW used to use in certain models of the 3-series until recently. Optional in the 3.6L and standard on the twin-turbo V6 is an Aisin 8-speed automatic that is essentially shared with the Lexus LS.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-014

Drive

Unfortunately, the first thing you’ll notice out on the road is the coarse sound from under the hood. GM’s 2.0L engine is no less refined than BMW or Mercedes’ four-bangers, but the difference is you can hear the engine in the CTS. In fact, based on the overall quietness of the cabin (a competitive 67 dB at 50 MPH), I can only conclude that Cadillac designed the engine to be heard. I don’t mind hearing the 3.6L V6, but most luxury shoppers would prefer not to be reminded they chose the rational engine every time they get on the freeway. On the bright side, because GM does not offer start/stop tech, shoppers are spared the inelegant starts and stops that characterize 528i city driving.

While I’m picking nits, the 6-speed found in the 2.0T and most 3.6 models lacks the ratio spread and shift smoothness of the ZF 8-speed automatic found in most of the competition. While I prefer GMs 6-speed to the somewhat lazy 7-speed automatic in the Mercedes E-Class, the rumored 8-speed can’t come soon enough. The 8-speed used in the V-Sport (optional on the 3.6L) solves the ratio and marketing issue, but the Aisin unit feels just as up-shift happy and down-shift reluctant as it does in the Lexus LS 460. As a result when you use the shift paddles, your actions feel more like suggestions than commands.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-013

The reason I label those flaws as mere nits is because of how the CTS accomplishes every other task on the road. Acceleration to 60 happens a 4/10ths faster than an E350, a half-second faster than the 528i,  a full second faster than a GS350, and practically years ahead of the A6 2.0T. Part of this has to do with the engine’s superior torque curve and higher horsepower numbers, but plenty has to do with curb weight. At 3,616 lbs, the CTS 2.oT is 200lbs lighter than the BMW or Lexus, 400lbs lighter than an E350. The comparable Audi A6 would be the front-wheel-drive 2.0T model with the CVT at 3,726. If you think that’s an unfair comparison, the 2.0T with Quattro is 3,900lbs and does little to correct the A6′s front-heavy weight balance.

As a result of the CTS’s near perfect 50.3/49.7 % weight balance and the light curb weight, the CTS feels more agile and responsive on winding mountain roads, especially when you compare it to the V6 competitors. The steering is as numb as anything on the market thanks to electric power steering, but you can get faint whiffs of feedback now and then and the steering weight is moderate rather than strangely firm in the 528i. Admittedly we’re splitting hairs here when it comes to steering feel, as there is precious little difference between the CTS, GS and 528i. Even the hydraulic system retained in BMW’s 550i doesn’t feel as crisp on the road. Helping out the handling is a standard moderately firm spring suspension or an optional MagneRide active suspension as our tester was equipped. The adaptive dampers feel more refined than in previous versions, despite them not changing the vehicle’s personality much from regular to sport mode. The CTS never felt out of sorts on rough or uneven terrain and despite being moderately firm, never felt punishing. This places the CTS right in line with the modern Germans. Toss in standard Brembo brakes and the CTS is far more willing to hike up its skirt and dance than the establishment competition.

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-007

For 2014, Cadillac added $6,035 to the MSRP and put “value” on the back burner. At $45,100, the CTS starts $4,400 less than the 528i and $2,600 less than the GS350. Of course the Caddy’s base model has fewer features, so an apples-to-apples comparison brings the delta up to around $1,500 less than the BMW. That’s a much smaller window than there used to be, and it’s not surprising when you consider the CTS’ interior is finally equal to or better than the Germans. The pricing deltas get more interesting as you go up the ladder. The CTS 3.6 is a few grand less than a BMW 535i. In that mash-up, the BMW provides superior thrust but when the road gets winding the CTS is more enjoyable. Then we get to the CTS V-Sport. The V-Sport brings a twin-turbo V6 to a twin-turbo V8 fight. At 420 HP and 430 lb-ft the numbers are stout to be sure, but trail the 443 HP and 479 lb-ft from BMW’s 4.4L V8 and most importantly, the V8 delivers a far superior torque curve delivering all of its torque 1,500 RPM earlier. Still, the Cadillac is 325 lbs lighter, handles better, is $4,830 cheaper and by the numbers gives up little in terms of straight line performance.

The two sweet spots for the CTS are a nearly loaded 2.0T with the LCD disco dash and a moderately well equipped V-Sport. The 2.0T offers the best road manners of its direct competition at a reasonable value. The V-Sport on the other hand offers BMW shoppers an interesting alternative. At an $1,800 up-sell over a comparably equipped 535i and $4,800 less than a 550i, the V-Sport is probably the best value in the luxury segment for 2014. After a week with the middle child Cadillac, GM seems to finally be on the right path with their luxury brand. As long as the XTS is replaced with a large rear driver sedan soon I might even say that the American luxury brand is on a roll. While I can think of a few reasons to buy a BMW 5-Series over a CTS (the base CTS instrument cluster is a good reason), shoppers have no reason to dismiss the CTS as they might have done in the past. Although the CTS is still 20lbs of sound deadening and an 8-speed automatic away from being the Cadillac of mid-size sedans, it is a truly solid competitor.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.3 Seconds

0-60: 5.9 Seconds

1/mile: 14.36 Seconds @ 97.5 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 24.8 MPG over 852 Miles

Sound level at 50 MPH: 67 dB

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Capsule Review: 2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/capsule-review-2014-rolls-royce-wraith/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/capsule-review-2014-rolls-royce-wraith/#comments Tue, 12 Nov 2013 13:45:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=648370 desertside

As part of TTAC’s reboot, we promised you, the readers, many things. One of them was “no more luxury car puff pieces”. Jack and I had every intention of adhering to this rule as well, until our staff email inbox received a message from Rolls Royce Motorcars, asking us to come drive the all-new Wraith.

“Go on the program,” said Jack, “and imagine that you are reviewing a Camry”.

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The Wraith is not the car that one would typically expect from Rolls-Royce. It used to be that Bentley focused on cars that one would personally drive, while Rolls-Royce was the vehicle of choice for those who preferred to sit in the back seat. But ever since the forced seperation of the two marques in 1998, the two have been competing for the same buyers.

Rolls-Royce won’t expressly say that this car is targeted at Bentley customers, just that it’s sportier, with more of a focus on driver engagement and outright performance – the sort of cars that Bentley traditionally offered alongside Rolls-Royce. What they really did say is that the Wraith targeted at “young entrepreneurs in their 20s and 30s”, an assertion that is as starkly detached from reality as Steve Cohen’s remark that the $100,000 sum needed to replace the dead shark in his office was “inconsequential”. Or perhaps there are customers in the BRIC nations who are under 40 and have made their fortune by building a better mouse trap, rather than collecting a parental stipend. Only their marketing team knows.

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In person, the Wraith is as dramatic as the Phantom itself. The enormous front end is a concession to the aesthetic of contemporary high-end luxury goods, which our social betters have decided must be gauche and ostentatious. But the fastback profile is undeniably elegant, with a gently sloping roof line that recalls the coach-built cars of the pre-WWII era. The two-tone paint of my test car highlights the Wraith’s forms, but remains incapable of doing it justice. Another example, finished in a royal blue shade known as Salmanaca, looked like a modern interpretation of a Bugatti Atlantic from aft of the A-pillar.

The overall atmosphere of “bespoke” extends to the interior as well. Whereas contemporary Bentleys leave you with a lingering sense that you’re in a very nicely appointed variant of an Audi A8L, there is but one clue that today’s Rolls-Royce shares its bones with something as upper-middle-class as a BMW 7-Series. The gear selector, mounted on the steering column, will remind you of the very first Bangle Siebener. The newest 7-Series has abandoned the stalk setup for a proper gearstick. but it doesn’t have the superlative interior finishings of the Roller. The wood trim in the Wraith has more in common with a fine hardwood parquet floor than any of the Zebrano veneers that most people are familiar with, while the upholstery wouldn’t be out of place in the leather goods section of  Bergdorf Goodman. Every single panel, knob, switch and interior component is jewel-like, perfectly placed and installed, and for good reason.

The interior is the focal point of this car. It’s what you are supposed to take in as you glide down the road in utter isolation. For all the talk of this being a “driver oriented” Rolls-Royce, it’s more akin to a two-and-a-half ton drawing-room with four club chairs. Even with a 623 horsepower twin-turbo V12, there is nothing beyond a vague sense of forward motion to indicate that you are piloting the fastest production Rolls-Royce ever.  This boosted bent twelve is the last word in linear power delivery. Press the throttle, and the car summons all its might instantaneously, almost like a Tesla Model S with just the briefest pause before you feel maximum torque.

The 8-speed automatic uses a GPS-based system to change gears based on the type of terrain you are navigating, downshifting on grades and upshifting on flat roads to make sure the car is in the right gear at the right time – all without you ever knowing. There is very little feedback from the oversized steering wheel (another beautiful component, but one more at home in a marine application), while the handling and braking capabilities of the car are merely an afterthought. This is a slow speed cruiser, not some sort of grand tourer capable of carving up back roads if need be.

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That impression is only furthered by the Wraith’s concerted attempt to filter out every single bit of sensory feedback from the driving experience. Wind, engine, road and tire noise are perfectly isolated, as are most potholes, bumps and road imperfections. The overall silence borders on eerie – stopping in the middle of the desert to take photographs, I was struck by how the still, motionless desert was actually nosier than when I was inside the car, on account of the passing cars on the two-lane highway. Get back inside the Wraith, and it is utterly silent, something that I’ve only experienced sitting in a canoe on a remote lake in Northern Ontario hundreds of miles from civilization.

The only thing it couldn’t filter out was the homeless man sitting at the end of the freeway ramp, eyeing the Wraith intently when I exited. Lacking any American currency smaller than a $20 bill, I was utterly paralyzed in this situation – to give him spare change would have been an insult. To roll down the window and say “sorry”, or dismiss him with the wave of the hand would have been acceptable in a normal car, but even more distasteful given the circumstances. In a $300,000 Rolls-Royce, there is no option that isn’t unseemly or downright cowardly. Especially if it’s avoiding eye contact and praying for the light to turn green like I did.

There was a time when Rolls-Royce claimed to make the best car in the world. The cost was a by-product of that mission. But in 2013, quantity of MSRP has a quality all its own, and the company now finds itself in the uneasy position of attempting to build vehicles that justify a particular price.

Although I’m far from averse to automobiles that attract attention, there’s a big difference between driving something that makes an advertisement of personal wealth as its primary mission, and an exotic car full of visual and aural drama. When you leave the lights in a Jaguar F-Type, an Audi R8 or a Ferrari F12, you can revel in the noise of the motor, the clacking of the gated shifter or the sheer occasion of being behind the wheel of a front-engined, V12 supercar. Those cars are able to transport you to an alternate world where you are the star of a 9000 rpm music video in full-on sensory overload.

Not so in the Rolls-Royce Wraith. Instead, you glide away in utter silence, feeling, hearing and experiencing nothing that is not in your own mind – sophistry in motion. It is very easy to become disconnected from the rest of the world, to avoid making eye contact with the homeless man and lose touch with the rest of life’s other unpleasant realities. Being alone with your own thoughts, conflicts and internal misgivings is difficult enough. In a $300,000 four-wheeled sensory deprivation tank, it’s downright terrifying.

Rolls-Royce provided airfare, meals, lodging and transfers for the media drive of the Wraith, as well as the vehicle, insurance and a full tank of gas.

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2015 Cadillac Escalade Unveiled http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/2015-cadillac-escalade-unveiled/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/2015-cadillac-escalade-unveiled/#comments Tue, 08 Oct 2013 14:44:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=614841 2015-Cadillac-Escalade-live-photos-11

The nearly decade long wait for the new Cadillac Escalade is over, with the 2015 model debuting in New York city at a special event hosted by GM. Our friends at AutoGuide.com attended and graciously shared their live shots with us.

With the Chevrolet Avalanche gone, the pseudo-truck EXT model is no longer available, but the base and extended-wheelbase ESV models will stick around. Power comes from a 6.2L V8 making 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft via a 6-speed automatic. Cadillac’s CUE system will also appear, as well as a suite of active safety features like forward collision warning, lane departure warning systems and adaptive cruise control. Despite some weight savings, expect fuel economy gains to be modest.

2015 Cadillac Escalade 2015-Cadillac-Escalade-live-photos-01 2015-Cadillac-Escalade-live-photos-02 2015-Cadillac-Escalade-live-photos-03 2015-Cadillac-Escalade-live-photos-04 2015-Cadillac-Escalade-live-photos-05 2015-Cadillac-Escalade-live-photos-06 2015-Cadillac-Escalade-live-photos-07 2015-Cadillac-Escalade-live-photos-08 2015-Cadillac-Escalade-live-photos-09 2015-Cadillac-Escalade-live-photos-10 2015-Cadillac-Escalade-live-photos-11 2015-Cadillac-Escalade-live-photos-12 2015-Cadillac-Escalade-live-photos-13 2015-Cadillac-Escalade-live-photos-19 ]]>
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Kia K900 Could Top $70,000 In The United States As South Korean Sales Slump http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/kia-k900-could-top-70000/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/kia-k900-could-top-70000/#comments Mon, 23 Sep 2013 15:42:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=526129 20120527_kia_k9_1

Is the world ready for a $70,000 Kia? Just days after the moniker for Kia’s new rear-drive flagship was revealed, Automotive News is reporting that top-trim versions will approach the $70,000 mark.

The K900, which is based on the Hyundai Equus, will retail for between $50,000-$70,000, according to AN, with Kia looking to move 5000 units per year. For comparison, Hyundai sold just under 4000 units of the similarly priced Equus last year, suggesting that Kia has rather grand ambitions for this car  in the United States – a puzzling notion given that sales in South Korea are falling far short of expectations.

As part of the K900′s launch, a Super Bowl ad campaign will be used to roll out the car, a year after the $35,000 Cadenza hit showrooms. But selling a competitor to the Toyota Avalon and Chevrolet Impala is a much different proposition than selling what one dealer describes as “a 7-series value for a 5-series price.” No matter how much extra training and revamping Kia’s sales staff and stores receive.

 

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Jaguar Crosses Over http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/jaguar-crosses-over/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/jaguar-crosses-over/#comments Mon, 02 Sep 2013 18:39:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=506433 jaguar-c-x17-concept-preview (1)

Years of unrelenting speculation via the British motoring press are finally coming to fruition: Jaguar is about to launch a crossover, and this concept, dubbed the C-X17, appears to be it.

While officially a concept, the Jag crossover is surely a done deal. Riding on a new modular architecture that will be shared with an upcoming small sedan (slotting below the XF), the crossover will be an important car for adding volume, particularly in key markets like China and Russia where demand for crossovers is strong. Expect a full reveal at the Frankfurt Auto Show next week.

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Infiniti Q30 Concept Previews Compact Luxury Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/infiniti-q30-concept-previews-compact-luxury-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/infiniti-q30-concept-previews-compact-luxury-car/#comments Thu, 29 Aug 2013 11:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=502025 Infiniti Q30 Concept

 

Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi are doing it, so why not Infiniti? The Q30 concept, shown here, previews a front-drive compact luxury car that will likely share its underpinnings with the Mercedes-Benz CLA. The Q30 will make its debut at the Frankfurt Auto Show, while a production version will be built at Nissan’s facility in the UK that also builds the Juke and Qashqai. A European-centric product, the Q30 is reportedly not slated for North American sales or production.

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Cadillac Escalade To Debut In New York City http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/cadillac-escalade-to-debut-in-new-york-city/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/cadillac-escalade-to-debut-in-new-york-city/#comments Wed, 14 Aug 2013 16:14:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=499410 2015-Cadillac-Escalade-Premiere-720x340

While GM’s next-generation SUVs are slated to debut at September’s Texas State Fair, the Cadillac Escalade will get its own launch event in New York City.

Instead, the Escalade will be revealed on October 7th in the Big Apple. There have been conflicting reports over the past year regarding the new truck’s direction. We’ve heard that it will be both more ostentatious and more reserved. October 7th will be the moment of truth.

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QOTD: The No-Frills Luxury Car? Not As Crazy As It Sounds http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/qotd-no-frills-luxury-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/qotd-no-frills-luxury-car/#comments Wed, 10 Jul 2013 14:33:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494759 2010-Lincoln-Town-Car-Sedan-Signature-Limited-4dr-Sedan-Interior

An increasing trend I’ve been noticing is the increasing discomfort that older buyers are experiencing with luxury cars. Even the more tech savvy of the lot are getting frustrated with the rapid influx of technology in their cars of choice.

In the past year, I’ve had two older gentleman ask me for lower-tech alternatives in the luxury segment. One man in his 80′s was interested in a Lincoln MKT, but ended up purchasing a Lexus LS460 after being unable to get a handle on MyLincoln Touch. Another in his mid 60′s, who religiously buys Lexus ES350s, is now looking at a Hyundai Azera after being frustrated with the new mouse-style control for the Lexus infotainment system.

Doug DeMuro brought up a great point on his Kinja blog, namely, what are older buyers gravitating towards when every luxury brand seems committed to attracting younger buyers. Yes, this makes good business sense, lest you become Buick, saddled with a customer base that is literally dying off. But why ignore your customer base, which actually has the money to buy your cars? Why does the Cadillac XTS, a car that will only be bought by those in the over 45-set, offer CUE, a notoriously bad touch-sensitive infotainment system? The XTS is the kind of car that should be elegant but simply laid out for ease of us. A driving experience laden with distractions and repeatedly stabbing a haptic feedback control is the antithesis of luxury.

I wonder if the tide will eventually turn back to traditional buttons, simpler layouts and less reliance on complex, fragile electronic systems. As public beta testing and increasingly disposable electronics become the norm, cars have the opportunity to be a beacon of resilience and quality. But I don’t think I’d be on that.

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Review: 2014 Aston Martin Rapide S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2014-aston-martin-rapide-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/review-2014-aston-martin-rapide-s/#comments Mon, 08 Jul 2013 12:18:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494522 IMG_4306

The penultimate set of bends along the road course at Atlanta Motorsports Park, located in God’s own country about an hour outside of the big city, is a serpentine testament to all of the things that make motoring exciting. Triple-digit speeds approach quickly. The checkered start line quickly becomes a blurred memory. Warm tires grip the tarmac as beads of perspiration mount for the upcoming lap.

 

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Barreling down the track’s final straight – the only section of the track devoid of sharp changes in camber and elevation – induces a childlike sense of wonderment, not unlike that of being directed by a sled down a steep, snow-covered hill. In an ordinary beater, there’s nothing more fun than testing the limits of grip and adhesion. When the track day chariot is the latest iteration of Aston Martin’s six-figure supersedan, the 550-horsepower Rapide S, clenched jaws and white knuckles are mandatory accessories to the dopiest of grins.

The opportunity to try out the brand’s revised four-door coupe on a private, purpose-built racetrack invited a unique opportunity to experience the Rapide S in a way that only a handful of owners might. A crowded, suburban mall parking lot might have been a more realistic test of the Rapide S’s workaday capabilities, but exposure on the track was to demonstrate the most significant upgrades to last year’s model. Key among them is an increase of 80 horsepower and 14 lb-ft. of torque, which give an unnecessary but welcome bump to the 6.0-liter V-12’s already massive power. The last time anyone tried to buy six liters of anything this potent, Mayor Bloomberg made it illegal.

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Along the bends of AMP, this power translated to delightfully quick forward motion, delivered via a conventional, six-speed automatic gearbox. The engine and transmission pairing, devoid of the gimmickry of a dual-clutch transmission, was smooth and fast-acting. Well-heeled buyers will likely be swayed by the ease and relative simplicity of operation as well as the symphonic rush of snaps, crackles, and pops from the exhaust pipe – the humble brag-equivalent of a less than subtle machine.

Aston Martin claim that the Rapide S has a near-perfect weight distribution, and it showed, while hurtling a two-ton sedan along the undulating corners of the track. Roll and dive were neatly controlled and maintained, even in tight spots, and the adjustable suspension was useful in soaking up what few abrasions lay in the tarmac. For those who will use their Rapide S on runs to high-end grocery stores, Comfort mode changes the damping to allow the big Aston to glide over the pavement; in Track mode, the adaptive shocks hunker the Rapide S down.

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On the track, the Rapide S handled brilliantly. Remember that straightaway from a couple of paragraphs ago? In most other high-performance sedans, the sheer mass and proportions would dissuade owners from attending a track day designed to toss them around and plow, head-first, toward a retaining wall. The shared roots of the DB9 are evident here, especially in Track Mode. Be advised that turning Track Mode off is a good idea for your daily commute, lest you spill your latte all over your Incotex trousers.

The most noticeable difference is the one that most drivers will see in their rear-view mirrors: a restyled front grille that now comprises a massive, one-piece unit. The new grille is entirely fitting, regardless of the disapproving opinions of armchair journalists and jaded potential purchasers. Without pretense, this generation of Aston Martins, from the V8 Vantage to the Vanquish, exudes the elegance.The Rapide S is no different, and continues to seduce with elegant character lines that sweep from the front bumpers to the rear hip lines.

The interior receives minimal changes. The hand-sewn, hand-stitched, white glove-treated interior of the outgoing model is retained, along with the navigation system which is frustrating to operate The button-laden center stack, and standard Bang and Olufsen sound system also stick around. The entire cabin smells of a well-treated baseball glove, and not coincidentally, fits the driver and three passengers like one. Much has already been made about the rear bucket seats, and entry into them and egress from them. Put simply, they are more than sufficient for short trips, even for full-size adults. But buyers in this luxury segment have other options, if commuting takes precedence over performance, namely the Bentley Flying Spur and the Porsche Panamera Turbo.

And that’s the overall message driven home by the Rapide S: no amount of thrust was sublimated for the sake of driver and passenger comfort. It strikes a unique balance of sportiness and luxury in a segment ramping up, once again, thanks to signs of an improving economy. On and off the track, the sound and the fury of the V-12 will make happy buyers fall in love with the Rapide S on a regular basis. Bolstered by the full complement of luxury, and wrapped in a shapely cocktail dress, the Rapide S exemplifies the rare case of being all things to all people — if those people are a select few.

Disclaimer: Aston Martin provided flights, meals and accommodations to and from the Atlanta track day.

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Junkyard Find: 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/junkyard-find-1996-cadillac-fleetwood-brougham/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/junkyard-find-1996-cadillac-fleetwood-brougham/#comments Tue, 25 Jun 2013 13:00:46 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493173 07 - 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin1996 was the last year of the Cadillac Fleetwood and possibly the last year for any General Motors Brougham edition. Can it be that The General has been Brougham-less for 17 long years now? Here’s a reminder of what Cadillacs were like when the postwar Cadillac-buyer demographic (i.e., those old enough to remember Prohibition) remained just barely young enough to buy new cars.
10 - 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese cars were proper rear-wheel-drive, floaty luxury machines, powered by the same LT1 engine that went into the mid-90s Roadmasters and Impalas.
03 - 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNone of that fancy European-looking switch hardware on this car— what was good enough for the ’79 Sedan de Ville was good enough for the ’96 Fleetwood!
02 - 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one is pretty well used up, but it doesn’t take much imagination to picture it cruising placidly on US 50 at 95 per.
11 - 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWill expanses of chrome like this ever make a comeback?

02 - 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1996 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham Down On The Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Capsule Review: Jaguar XJ 3.0 AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/capsule-review-jaguar-xj-3-0-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/capsule-review-jaguar-xj-3-0-awd/#comments Fri, 24 May 2013 13:22:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489321 xjlawd

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out which of the Jaguar Land Rover partnership is the breadwinner. People cannot get enough Evoques, LR4s and Range Rovers, even though the competition can do pretty much everything else in a more competent fashion, for less money. But at least Land Rover stands for something.

Never mind the snide remarks about the Kardashians and McMasions in my prior piece. Land Rovers have fought in wars, kept the peace, carted around countless dignitaries and monarchs and been to the kind of places that require vaccinations before you depart. And people remember that.

What about Jaguar? How many people still remember them for the E-Type versus their history of questionable reliability? I’d place my money on the latter being the brand’s defining characteristic that doesn’t have to do with their country of origin. Watching the XJ make an appearance in the latest James Bond movie, I was struck by how appropriate it was for M to be chauffeured in a dark colored XJ (note to Jaguar: get Bond in an F-Type next time around), but I doubt many people shared my sentiments. That’s a shame because there is a fair amount of history linked with the XJ and the various institutions of the United Kingdom as there is with Land Rover. Think of Margaret Thatcher leaving number 10 Downing Street after being ousted by her own party or Tony Blair arriving at Princess Diana’s funeral if you need examples.

The current shape XJ (now employed by David Cameron) was an enormously polarizing design when it debuted in 2009, and a good part of that sentiment had to do with the fact that the XJs had undergone mild, 911-style evolution in the preceding decades, during which they were the ride of choice for all manner of British VIPs. The 2005 redesign that introduced an all-new aluminum construction was barely distinguishable from the generation before that. Meanwhile, BMW had introduced the Bangle-look 7-Series and Audi’s A8 was starting to get some traction among luxury buyers. Sales were unsurprisingly dismal, and the radical change in design was deemed necessary.

Personally, I love the look, even if its more French than British. To me, it recalls the profile of the Citroen C6, with the quirky French styling cues replaced by a masculine, squared-off stance. Unlike the supercharged V8 versions, this one doesn’t have absurdly sized shiny rims, but the design doesn’t suffer for it the way that some cars, like Bangle BMWs and current Audis, look a bit wonky when devoid of big dubs.

The big news for the XJ this year is the addition of all-wheel drive and a new supercharged 3.0 V6 engine. The two drivetrain options come bundled together, as a response to the twin desires of more modest fuel consumption and improved winter-weather traction. Since it was 25 degrees and sunny for most of the week, I didn’t get a chance to try out the all-wheel drive system.

Alex Dykes last clocked a blown V8 Supersport at 4.3 seconds to 60 mph, and based on my own impressions of that car, I’d concur. It is a seriously fast set of wheels. Not having the capability to do instrumented testing, I will have to take Jaguar’s estimate of 6.1 seconds for the V6 car at face value – but I’d never complain that the V6 felt slow. The reluctance of the 8-speed automatic to downshift upon applying the throttle was noticeable, but once the transmission complied, there was no shortage of power available. Fuel economy in mixed driving was roughly 23 miles per gallon – not much better than the 21.5 mpg Alex managed with his Supersport, but I suppose some of the blame – and the appeal of the 3.0 – could be pinned on the AWD system.

Thanks to its aluminum construction, the XJ feels light on its feet. The chassis is a credit to JLR’s engineers, which managed to strike a balance between providing engaging handling while isolating the car’s occupants from the road surfaces, especially poor ones. The lack of big rims and low profile tires also play a part in delivering such good ride quality.

The one blight on this car is the Start-Stop feature, which was far from unobtrusive. I don’t have any philosophical opposition to these systems, but myself and several other passengers noted that the system was rather abrupt in cutting power and re-starting the engine; certainly, it operated in a manner that was inconsistent with the overall supple, isolating nature of the car’s ride and NVH characteristics. Some of TTAC’s Europe-based commenters have been skeptical of the efficacy of these systems with respect to fuel economy, but North Americans have had little exposure to them. I expect many will elect to disable this system.

Although the somewhat clumsy infotainment system is shared with the Range Rover, the rest of the interior is all Jaguar. Gone is the black plastic and the aluminum looking trim, replaced by acres of wood and dead bovine hyde. Your eyes will forget about the rather lackluster digital gauge cluster and instead gravitate to the long, arcing section of wood that spans from A-pillar to A-pillar just above the dashboard. When these cars end up as one of Murilee’s Junkyard Finds, I will be going into the carcass of an XJ and extracting this piece to hang in my future garage.

While I criticized the Range Rover for not offering much above and beyond its rival aside from a great badge, there are plenty of compelling reasons to pick an XJ over its rivals. There is an argument to be made for the Audi A8 being a more precise drive, but I prefer the increased isolation and the wood-and-leather cabin of the XJ compared to the more austere Audi – or any of its rivals. Since I’m not overly concerned with tech features, the Jag’s superior road manners give it the edge over the 7-Series, S-Class or LS460 in my books. At an as-tested price of $86,000, it’s neither the cheapest or the priciest car in its class.

Jaguar hasn’t been associated with the “Grace, Pace and Space” mantra in some time, this car would be the perfect manifestation should they ever decide to use that as the brand’s messaging. There is no shortage of power, comfort or elegance, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s the most beautiful 4-door car on sale today. But judging by recent sales figures, more people are choosing the A8 –  at least the addition of all-wheel drive gives them one less excuse for ruling out the XJ.

 

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Mercedes-Benz Leaks First S-Class Picture http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/mercedes-benz-leaks-first-s-class-picture/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/mercedes-benz-leaks-first-s-class-picture/#comments Wed, 01 May 2013 12:54:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=486932

Apparently somebody “accidentally” uploaded this photo to Mercedes-Benz’s Austrian website. In this day and age of the internet, “leaks” are always suspect, but the next S-Class was slated to be introduced in two weeks time anyways. Here it is in all its glory. Explosive refrigerant not shown, of course.

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Maserati Quattroporte Shrinks In The Dryer To Create Ghibli http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/maserati-quattroporte-shrinks-in-the-dryer-to-create-ghibli/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/maserati-quattroporte-shrinks-in-the-dryer-to-create-ghibli/#comments Tue, 09 Apr 2013 13:43:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=484114

Maserati was supposed to debut their smaller Ghibli sedan at the Shanghai Auto Show, but the pictures have managed to surface prior to that. Not that it’s such a big shocker; it looks just like a slightly smaller Quattroporte. Powertrains will be limited to turbocharged six cylinder engines using either gas or diesel engines, mated to an 8-speed automatic engine. Ten points for anyone with enough of a sense of humor to affix “Biturbo” badges to the car. All-wheel drive will also be available.

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Audi A3 And S3 Revealed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/audi-a3-and-s3-revealed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/audi-a3-and-s3-revealed/#comments Tue, 26 Mar 2013 23:59:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=482413

You won’t see them at the 2013 New York Auto Show, but Audi took the wraps off the MQB-based A3 and S3 for North America at a private event today.

The standard A3 was revealed with its world engine lineup; a 1.4T making 140 horsepower and 184 lb-ft, a 1.8T making 180 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque and a 2.0 TDI engine making 150 horsepower and 236 lb-ft of torque. Audi hasn’t announced on which engines will come to America. The S3 will get a 296 horsepower 2.0T engine mated to a DSG gearbox and all-wheel drive. There will be no manual for the American market across the board, unfortunately.

Audi has also announced that we will get the A3 Sportback, though the S3 Sportback hasn’t been confirmed. The Hungarian-built A3 will go on sale in 2014.

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Review: 2013 BMW 750Li – Video http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/review-2013-bmw-750li-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/review-2013-bmw-750li-video/#comments Wed, 06 Mar 2013 13:30:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=479030

The full-sized luxury market used to be a small pond before the Lexus LS appeared. Up to then all Mercedes had to worry about was the German brand known for their delightfully crude 2002. Jaguar? 1980s Jags spent so little time running they were more garage ornament than transportation. Fast forward to today and BMW is the new Mercedes and the full-sized luxury segment is getting crowded with entries from Audi, Porsche and an XJ that spends enough time running to count. Where does that leave the S-Class’ old foe? BMW tossed us the keys to their most popular 7 to find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Luxury cars are status symbols. Status can be two things however, buying something unique or showing that you can afford the same sedan as that guy from the country club. With that in mind, sales are important. In 2012 BMW nearly beat Mercedes in America shifting 11,098 7-Series vs 11,794 S-Classes making the 7 a popular and safe bet. If you’re looking for something less common, Audi shifted 6,002 A8s, the XJ  hit 4,852 while that Japanese entry that rocked the boat in ’89 had a slow year at 8,345. Porsche moved 7,614 Panameras proving that you don’t need 5-seats to move your six-digit roller.

Because full-size luxury cars are low volume but important for brand image, frequent makeovers are more common than redesigns. Like many of its owners, the 7-Series went under the knife for a face lift, resulting in a blunter nose and larger grille openings along with redesigned front and rear lamps.

Interior

Mercedes ditched the short-wheelbase S-Class in America but can still get your Beemer in different lengths. BMW tells us the long-wheelbase 750Li (as tested) is the most popular flavor so that’s what we requested. Our tester started at $90,500 and mildly optioned it landed in our driveway at $113,000. Despite being a refresh year, little changed on the inside in terms of style and parts. Still, the dashboard and doors were slathered in hand-stitched leather goodness and nary a seam was out of place. Compared to the Mercedes, the 7 feels like it is assembled from a more expensive parts bin but if you need better bits, BMW is happy to up-sell you things like a ceramic iDrive knob for $650. Jaguar and Porsche earn higher scores in this area thanks to better material, but you’ll pay dearly for them. Meanwhile Lexus delivers 95% of the interior elegance for 80% of the price.

Unless you’re slummin’ in the “discount” $73,600 740i, all 7s come with 20-way power front seats with four-way lumbar, extending thigh support, “butterfly” airline-style headrests and seat backs with adjustable curvature. They may not be as cushy as the Barcaloungers in the S-Class, but they win the award for contorting in the most directions possible. If you can’t find a comfortable position, you’re not human. Mercedes and Jaguar tout massaging thrones, but BMW’s active contour seats are more my style. Like the anti-fatigue seats in the Ford Taurus, the system uses air bladders in the seat to improve blood flow and reduce that “numb butt” feeling on long trips. (It also feels like someone is slowly groping your bottom, you know, if you’re into that.)

Interior parts quality usually declines as you move rearwards, but not for the high-rollers. The rear doors, center console and controls are all just as nicely finished as those up front and all 2013 models have standard 4-zone climate control. For an extra $3,700 (standard on the 760) the optional “luxury rear seating package” gives the rear passengers 18-way power/memory seats that heat, cool and massage your royal personage. Reclining rear seats aren’t new, but BMW takes the range of motion to an all-new level. As you’d expect, legroom is good in the 750i and excellent in the 750Li matching the XJL for most rear legroom and beating everyone else. If getting a decent massage in the rear seat is on your must-have list, buy your driver the Lexus, as it’s shiatsu massage system uses rollers instead of air bladders and gives a much deeper rub.

Infotainment and Gadgets

Luxury sedans are prime gadget breeding ground thanks to owners with disposable cash. This year brings BMW’s latest version of iDrive (4.2), hands-free trunk operation and an “attention assistant” to tell you when you’re sleepy. Of course if you were in Europe you’d also have access to “dazzle-free high beams” which shade the vehicles in-front of you from your high beam allowing it to stay on for the rest of your field of view. Sadly the DOT has decided the fancy lights aren’t allowed in America.

The newest iDrive replaces the CD button with a  “Media” button, adds voice recognition commands for searching your USB/iDevice, mildly tweaked menus and mapping software with improved 3D graphics. I find BMW’s latest iDrive iterations to be one of the more intuitive and feature-rich systems available at any price. Sadly the latest heads-up display in the 3-Series that shows infotainment details hasn’t made it to the 7 yet. Now that BMW has patched the glaring hole that was the lack of iDevice/USB voice commands, I have nothing to complain about other than the $3,700 price tag on the Bang & Olufsen sound system.

Debuting in the 7-Series is a new take on rear seat entertainment. Up till now, RSE systems have been kept  mostly separate from the infotainment system up front. Even the latest Jaguar/Land Rover vehicles which use similar graphics on the headrest screens don’t interact with the system in the same way users up front do. BMW’s new system uses 9.2-inch LCDs attached to the front seats that “float” as BMW calls it, but that’s not the interesting part: the system uses an iDrive controller and accesses the car’s central iDrive system. The twin displays aren’t the same aspect ratio or resolution as the front, but rear users have essentially the same level of iDrive access as the front allowing you to enter a navigation destination, change the media source, access BMW Connected apps and control media devices. The only thing I found odd is the rear seat user can’t control a USB/iDevice plugged in up front and vice versa. The price tag on this rear seat love? $2,800.

Like Audi and Mercedes, BMW offers an expensive night vision system. The $2,600 system uses a FLIR camera and image processing software to detect pedestrians and highlight them in yellow on the iDrive screen. It will also place a yellow pedestrian icon in the gauge cluster. Because we’re in America and our lighting laws are stupid, the system won’t shine a spotlight on the pedestrian’s legs like it would in Europe. (No, I’m not kidding about that one.) Of course, I find that the best way to detect pedestrians is to simply look out the window. My advice to Americans: save your cash or spend it on the less expensive but much more useful full-range active cruise control.

Drivetrain

There is no doubt the Germans lead the pack when it comes to engine options, the 7-Series offering a single turbo inline-6, two twin-turbo V8s, a ridiculous twin-turbo V12 and tree-hugging hybrid.

Not originally planned for the American market, the base 740i and 740Li are the result of dealers wanting a less front-heavy 7-series lower 7-series price point. The twin-turbo 3.0L N54 I6 is out in favor of the newer twin-scroll turbo N55 engine. Power is up slightly compared to the N54 and the update adds “Valvetronic” which is BMW’s variable valve timing and lift system that also acts as the engine’s throttle body.

The 750i and 750Li, get an updated 4.4L twin-turbo V8. The new N63B44TU engine (the TU part is what’s new) gets Valvetronic and tweaked software programming to boost power from an already strong 400HP to 443. Torque takes a similar jump from 450lb-ft to 479lb-ft from 2,000-4500RPM. The power increase shaves nearly two-tenths of the 750′s sprint to 60 vs the 2012 model.

Instead of a twin-turbo V8 hybrid, BMW has downsized to a 3.0L turbo inline-6. The system uses a pancake motor between the engine and transmission to boost the same N55 engine as the 740i to 350HP and 360lb-ft. Fuel economy increases from 19/28MPG to 22/30 vs the 740i. You can expect a return on your investment sometime around the 12th of never when you consider the $10,700 premium.

If you need more cylinders, there is a twin-turbo V12 which adds more weight to the nose in exchange for 535 ponies and 550lb-ft of stump-pulling from 1,500-5,000RPM. Despite the numbers, the V12 isn’t the performance choice because of the added nose weight and long wheelbase, that’s where the Alpina B7 comes in. The B7 is a 750 that’s been tweaked by BMW’s a boosted version of the 750′s 4.4L twin-turbo V8 putting out 540HP and 538lb-ft of twist.

All engines are now mated to ZF’s 8-speed automatic sending power to the rear wheels or to all four if you check the xDrive option box. For 2013 BMW has decided to program 740, 750 and B7 models to essentially decouple the engine and transmission when you lift off the accelerator pedal. The effect is like shifting to neutral and can be disabled by keeping the car in Sport or Sport +. BMW has also fitted the I6 and V8 engines with their mild start/stop system which uses a heavy-duty starter and a glass mat battery.

The 7-Series used to have the reputation of “the driver’s luxury car” but BMW’s mission has changed. That’s not to say that BMW is emulating Lexus, but our 750Li with dynamic dampers and rear air suspension felt far more isolated than the XJ Supercharged or a Panamera S. Even the badly broken pavement and pot-holed off-camber turns in the Sierra Nevada foothills were unable to upset the supple ride. Of course, a luxurious ride is at odds with crisp handling, but that is a “problem” every luxury sedan must contend with. Where does the BMW land vs the competition? Firmly in the middle. The BMW 750 uses 245-width rubber front and rear, notably smaller than the S550′s 255-width tires and the XJ’s staggered 245/275 setup. This coupled with the 4,745lb curb weight meas the 750 can’t pull as many Gs on the oval as the lighter XJ or Panamera. It also means the 750 has a harder time applying its power when compared to the competition with staggered rubber.

Don’t mistake me, the 750 is no slouch on the road. Mash the go pedal from a stop and our 750Li blasted to 60 in 4.95 eerily quiet seconds, only a few tenths off a Mustang GT (with a professional shifter at the stick.) 8.35 seconds later, the Bavarian heavyweight crossed the quarter-mile at 107MPH. Shoppers should take two things from this: First, the 750Li is a few ticks behind the lighter XJ Supercharged and second, there isn’t much of an exhaust note. You see, the turbos that give BMW’s 4.4L engine its epic shove are in the exhaust stream and that means BMW had two choices, make it quiet or live with the turbo-song. (That’s why the M5 plays canned V8 noises through its stereo.) If you want your luxury car to look and sound mean, the Panamera screams like a banshee at WOT and the XJ Supercharged and Supersport growl like a monster in a horror flick.

Although the optional active four-wheel steering ($1,750) and active roll-stabilization ($2,500) make the 750 more dynamic on the road, nothing will change the fact that the 750 is a large, softy sprung sedan with numb electric power steering. The Audi A8, despite being redesigned to put the engine farther forward in the body still has a 55/45 weight balance and front-heavy (albeit predictable) driving dynamics. While we’re talking about the Audi, it’s important to remember that there is no RWD version of the A8. Of course it goes without saying that the S550 is still Buick soft and the air-ride suspension makes it somewhat ponderous over bumpy roads. The Lexus LS 460 may be the slowest of this bunch as it’s the only one left with a naturally aspirated engine, but thanks to a relatively light curb weight and balanced chassis it has some of the most direct road feel and manners of the group.

After a week and 836 miles with the 750Li I have to admit I was smitten, but despite BMW advertising the 7-series as “the driver’s luxury car,” it had little to do with the way the 750 drove and everything to do with the back seat. Sure, the 750 is fast, sure it’s impressively nimble for a vehicle that’s one cheeseburger away from 5,000lbs, but honestly if driving feel and handling ability were your top concerns, buy the Jaguar or Porsche. If you’re after the best back seat experience, but the 750Li, it’s a better place to spend your time than a number of ultra luxury sedans I could mention. Where does that place the 750Li vs its nemesis the S550? On top for a variety of reasons. The 750Li is more engaging to drive than the S550 yet also offers a higher level of gadgetry and creature comforts. Mercedes promises the all-new 2014 S-Class will shake up the luxury market when it lands next year, but until then the Jaguar XJL should be at the top of your list followed closely by the 2013 BMW 750Li.

 

Hit it

  • Best Rear Seat Entertainment system available. Period.
  • BMW’s full-color heads up display

Quit it

  • Night vision. It’s kind of “gimmicky” and your cash is better spent on BMW’s excellent full-speed adaptive cruise control.
  • V12 – nose heavy and seriously, the twin-turbo V8 is incredible.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 4.95 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.3 Seconds @ 107 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 21MPG over 836 miles

BMW Provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtsy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtsy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Rear Seat Entertainment, iDrive, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Rear HVAC controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Rear seat controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Rear iDrive Controller, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Gauge cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Gauge cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, infotainment, iDrive, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, infotainment, iDrive, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Radio and HVAC Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Shifter and iDrive, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Front Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Passenger Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Door switches, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Trunk, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Engine, N63B44TU, N63 4.4L Twin-Turbo V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Engine, N63B44TU, N63 4.4L Twin-Turbo V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 BMW 750Li, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Hit it or Quit it? Hit it or Quit it? Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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The Empire Comes Full Circle As Jaguar Land Rover Investigates Pukka Indian Assembly http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/the-empire-comes-full-circle-as-jaguar-land-rover-investigates-pukka-indian-assembly/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/the-empire-comes-full-circle-as-jaguar-land-rover-investigates-pukka-indian-assembly/#comments Mon, 04 Mar 2013 09:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=479875

Although Jaguar Land Rover has made tentative forays into building cars in India (such as building the Jaguar XF from CKD kits), the British luxury group, now owned by Tata, is apparently on the cusp of establishing full production in India.

Reuters, which broke the story, reports that the Jaguar XF and Land Rover LR2 (JLR’s most popular products in India) are the most likely candidates for pukka production on the subcontinent (as in, from scratch, not from CKD kits). The Range Rover Evoque is also rumored for Indian production, though no details were provided as to whether it would be from a kit or not.

The timing of the Reuters story is particularly interesting given that India’s already high duties on imported luxury cars are set to increase from 75 to 100 percent. JLR’s factories are currently stretched to capacity making products like the Evoque, and emerging markets like China and India accounted for over 22 percent of sales in Q4 2012 alone. JLR is also exploring production facilities in China and Saudi Arabia, due to JLR’s significant following in the Middle East, particularly for Range Rover SUVs.

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Hyundai Steps Into The Pseudo-Shooting Brake Luxury Arena http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/hyundai-steps-into-the-pseudo-shooting-brake-luxury-arena/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/hyundai-steps-into-the-pseudo-shooting-brake-luxury-arena/#comments Mon, 07 Jan 2013 16:48:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=472602

In a week’s time, we’ll have an uncovered look at Hyundai’s newest concept, the HCD-14, but the silhouette should tell you all you need to know.

With a new Genesis on the horizon, the timing of the HCD-14 is interesting given that it’s a fairly radical departure from the rather conservative-looking Genesis. But as the current car aped a mid-2000′s German luxury sedan, then the new HCD-14/Genesis does a good job at copying the current German luxury aesthetic, embodied by cars like the Audi A7 and Mercedes-Benz CLS. At least it’s better looking than the BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe.

One unique feature of the HCD is a new system that allows the driver to control vehicle functions via hand gestures. For those of us who live in locales where poor drivers necessitate the frequent use of hand gestures, this could have many unintentional consequences.

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Infiniti Revives The “Q” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/infiniti-revives-the-q/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/infiniti-revives-the-q/#comments Tue, 18 Dec 2012 15:49:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=470583

Infiniti has decided to abandon its current alphanumeric strategy for…an all-new alphanumeric strategy whereby passenger cars are given the “Q” designation, and crossovers and SUVs are dubbed the “QX”.

The G37, which has built up substantial equity over the last few years, will be renamed the “Q50″ for the sedan and “Q60″ for the coupe. The M will be re-named the “Q70″. On the light truck side, the EX will now be known as the “QX50″ all the way up to the Nissan Patrol-based QX, which is now the “QX80″, with the current JX and FX filling out the remaining slots.

The ascending numeric designations do help with creating a hierarchy based on vehicle size, and also takes engine size out of the equation – important if Infiniti ends up downsizing to smaller engines, a la the German marques.

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QOTD: What Does American Luxury Even Mean? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/qotd-what-does-american-luxury-even-mean/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/qotd-what-does-american-luxury-even-mean/#comments Tue, 04 Dec 2012 14:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=469047 Click here to view the embedded video.

Nearly everyone was unanimous in their assessment that Lincoln’s re-branding campaign is an unmitigated disaster unfolding in slow motion; from the name change to Lincoln Motor Company to the bizarre tie-up with Jimmy Fallon and the marketing-buzzword laden BS the whole thing reeks of inaction disguised in the form of sophisticated marketing efforts.

The most interesting angle in this mess is the fact that American luxury cars are in such a shambles that Lincoln’s biggest threat doesn’t really come from Cadillac, but from Ford itself.

Cadillac and Lincoln are on two entirely different planets. Lincoln is stuck under the shadow of its sibling, the Blue Oval. Ford’s offering are mechanically identical, packed with nearly all of the same content and retail for thousands less – with the possibility of carrying a more attractive emblem on the hood. None of Lincoln’s product offer any kind of unique proposition. The best Lincoln on sale today is actually Korean, as the Hyundai Equus does a damn good job of approximating the driver and passenger experience of a Town Car. Make of that what you will.

At least Cadillac has some kind of vision. The Standard of the World really wants to be better than Europe’s finest, and the ATS is a fine effort, except for one small detail; the only reason it’s been able to grab the brass ring from the BMW 3-Series is because the current car is one of the weaker efforts put forth by the Roundel. Put an E90 328i next to any ATS and you understand that the ATS comes pretty close to being a great car, but misses the mark.

The rest of Cadillac’s lineup is doesn’t exactly hold to it though. The CTS is long in the tooth, the V Series are irrelevant to all but the most diehard car geeks and the XTS is still languishing in premium sedan obscurity. About the only car in the lineup with any kind of social capital is the Escalade, which endures as the vulgarian chariot of choice for those with more money than discretion.

The only real concrete vision of what an American luxury car should be comes from Chrysler, of all places. The 300 makes a bold visual statement, comes with a range of sophisticated powertrain options and finally has an interior that is worthy of being praised. And what value, too. A base 300, with the 292 horsepower V6 and 8-speed automatic transmission, starts at a hair under $30,000. I don’t even think I’d get the V8, heretical as it may be. It won’t have the driving dynamics of an import car, but when was an American car ever supposed to be able to clock off a sub 8-minute ‘Ring time? Best of all, it occupies that long-dormant niche that used to be the domain of Oldsmobile and even Pontiac. It was a luxury car that told everyone you’d arrived, but wasn’t sufficiently extravagant that your clients felt that they were being fleeced. No wonder both my Grandfathers were Mopar men.

But that’s just me. I’m not even American (though the 300 is built not too far from my home). Let’s consider this a thought exercise. Run wild with your ideas about American luxury, what it was, what it is and what it should be.

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Ur-Turn: I Drove An Amati http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/ur-turn-i-drove-an-amati/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/ur-turn-i-drove-an-amati/#comments Tue, 27 Nov 2012 14:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=468065 Click here to view the embedded video.

Yesterday’s piece on Mazda’s “upmarket” move (really, a pledge to improve the quality of their cars) dredged up the name “Amati”, as these discussions are wont to do. The legend of Amati has persisted for years, partly due to the fact that so little is known about the project.

Later on in the day, I recieved a note from reader “Blue Maus”, who was an exec at one of the larger foreign OEMs, but left the industry some years ago. Since Blue Maus is known to us personally, and has a whole library of stories akin to “The Autobiography of BS”, we have no reason to doubt the veracity of his claim

When I was at [redacted] they had a catalog (note: a catalog car is a somewhere between a hand-built prototype and a true pre-production car – DK) Amati that Mazda had lent them. I went out in it with a bunch of marketing guys. It was a beautiful car to look at but it inexplicably had a tiny trunk that made no sense in a car of that class. There was a rumor going around that Mazda had copied the design from Jaguar. Don’t know if there was any substance to that. It was Grey. I remember it had a quite nicely put together leather interior – I think it was a two-tone grey dashboard with black or grey leather seats and I think it had some walnut trim around the shifter. Driving experience was OK nothing memorable. The trunk sticks in my mind.

Believe it or not, this kind of horse trading is common amongst the OEMs. But catalog cars, lacking any sort of VIN number, are inevitably sent to the crusher, unless someone decides to send them off to a warehouse.

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Why BMW Needs To Do Front-Drive Cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/why-bmw-needs-to-do-front-drive-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/why-bmw-needs-to-do-front-drive-cars/#comments Thu, 22 Nov 2012 14:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=467658

For many of the brand’s faithful, a front-driver BMW is a revolting prospect. It’s the four-wheeled equivalent of tofu-based bacon or a cigarette without nicotine. But BMW is banking on small cars in a big way – their new front drive architecture, dubbed UKL, will underpin as many as 12 front-drive products from BMW and Mini. And frankly, not doing a front-drive range would be a display of poor judgement on the part of management.

Lest anyone accuse me of apostasy, let’s look at the facts. Mercedes-Benz did a front-drive platform and survived. Audi is making some of the most significant advancements in modern automobile production with the new A3 which uses – you guessed it – the front-drive MQB platform. Both of these auto makers have BMW squarely in the sights. They want to overtake BMW as the number one premium auto maker, and they can easily do it – unless BMW builds a front-drive car of their own.

Notice how the front-drivers from Mercedes and Audi are all compact hatchbacks while the serious stuff, the models we all know and love, use longitudinal layouts and rear or all-wheel drive? That’s not going to change any time soon at those two companies or BMW. All three of them are smart enough to know that their core vehicles need to retain this layout for a number of reasons.

But the post-recession era has seen a whole new segment of luxury vehicles pop up; the premium small car. Many are tempted to write off cars like the Mini, the Fiat 500 and the Opel Adam as limp-wristed compacts for self-concious urbanites who wouldn’t dare condescend to a mainstream economy car. In many parts of the world, it’s not just strivers who buy these cars, but financially secure (and even the truly wealthy) consumers who don’t want or need a larger car. Parking, vehicle taxes, fuel consumption, emissions and other factors can all be taken into account as well, but sales of these cars are on the rise and BMW wants a piece of the action. And it doesn’t look like it will be so terrible. European media have already driven powertrain mules of the new 3-cylinder engine set to be used in the UKL cars. How does a 221-horsepower turbocharged three-banger sound?

The only way to build any kind of car these days is maximize the economies of scale. The development of a new car costs billions, and the best way to amortize this is to do what Volkswagen did – build everything from the Polo to the next-generation Passat on one modular architecture. Ironically, Volkswagen took their cues from BMW, who had a “1.0″ version of the modular platform in effect with the 3-Series and 5-Series.

For BMW to make the investment in an all-new architecture worthwhile, they’re going to have to spread UKL around as much as possible – that means a new 1-Series with sedan, coupe, convertible, hatchback and crossover variants (1-Series GT anyone?), as well as a new MINI and all the variants that entails. This is the kind of thing that makes “enthusiasts” (of the sort with very narrow definitions of what a car should be) roll their eyes, but for better or worse, this is the way things are done in the automotive world these days. And if BMW’s projections are correct, you better get used to it real fast – an interview with Automotive News has one BMW exec stating that UKL vehicles are expected to account for 40 percent of BMW Group’s global sales within a decade.

 

 

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Capsule Review: 2013 Porsche Panamera GTS http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/465054/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/465054/#comments Fri, 26 Oct 2012 14:52:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=465054

Twenty years ago, the first Porsche limousine rolled off the assembly line at Stuttgart; four doors, 8 cylinders, wide fenders, big brakes and a period correct Alpine stereo system. It was built in small quantities, by hand. To those who knew, it was distinguishable at a distance, but to the man on the street, it was invisible. Truly a car for the one percent – in terms of both means and taste.

You won’t find it in any of the Porsche catalogs of the era. It was called the Mercedes-Benz 500E. And it wasn’t an AMG anything. Back then, AMG was an independently-owned speed shop, a Roush Performance with a stern accent.

Today, AMG has ceased to be a speed shop. It’s not even really the zenith of Mercedes-Benz performance cars; it is now another trim level of SUV for affluent mothers. You’ll find more C63s parked outside beauty salons than at Mosport. They are bought not for their performance characteristics, but simply because it is the most expensive trim level of a given model line, and the AMG badge lets everyone know that. The badge matters now.

A car like the original W124 500E would be dead on arrival today. In an era of conspicious consumption, a $160,000 Porsche-engineered sedan that’s barely distinguishable from an E550 has a slightly worse chance of success than an anti-global warming film does at the Oscars. Enter the Panamera. It is a Porsche, not a Mercedes. If we’re being diplomatic, it is distinct looking, and is designed expressly to inform everyone that you have arrived. One look at the old 500E and the new Panamera is strong evidence that vehicular vulgarity has risen in proportion to income inequality.

Once you’re inside the Panamera, the ungainly looks become less of a concern. The interior is a cavalcade of buttons that overwhelms at first, but their functionality and ease of use beats the knob-and-touchscreen systems that Mercedes et al now employ. Nobody would ever accuse to Panamera’s interior of being simple, but like that of the W124, it is elegant. The view out of the hood is decidedly old school as well; you can actually see over the hood, so that the corners of the fenders are visible. Most modern cars seem to have a hood that disappears off the metaphorical cliff. This little touch makes the 16 foot long Panamera markedly easier to maneuver in urban traffic, a small benefit that isn’t readily apparent but goes a long way with its intended client base of upper class working stiffs who need to weave their way in and out of construction zones and clogged lanes.

The blogger brigade that breathlessly reported on this car’s debut last year was perhaps over-eager to use Porsche’s own PR copy describing this car as some sort of track ready Panamera. Let’s get serious. It’s got 30 horsepower more than the standard Panamera 4S, as well as suspension and brake bits from the Turbo, but the only time that one of these will see track time is at a Porsche-sponsored lapping day for owners. The lawyers, accountants and finance executives mentioned above don’t usually have the time or inclination for an HPDE day. That doesn’t mean they can’t get their kicks elsewhere.

Porsche probably knows this, and I’d bet that’s why the  GTS excels at the Stop Light Grand Prix.  Between the all-wheel drive system and the 7-Speed PDK gearbox, there is no way you will lose any sort of unsanctioned speed contest to anything short of a Nissan GT-R. The GTS posts an identical 0-30 time (1.4 seconds) to the Panamera Turbo S, despite a 120 horsepower deficit. As the speeds increase, a gap develops, but when will you find an open quarter-mile in the financial district? Rest assured that the view below is what every other driver will be seeing of you.

I’m not philosophically opposed to this car like certain brand purists are, but one has to wonder: what’s the point of the Panamera? The argument is this: Car companies exist to make a profit, and Porsche needs to diversify beyond impractical sports cars to ensure its survival in the future. A sedan is a natural extension of the brand after the Cayenne, and a good way to use up capacity at the Leipzig plant.

But I don’t want my Porsches to be practical, nor do I want my luxury sedans to feel like a Porsche. A hard ride and a noisy exhaust in a 911 are undeniable facts of life. In this car, they are a simulacrum, a consolation prize given to you by Porsche because your wife wouldn’t let you by a 911.

And that’s ultimately what’s wrong with this car; it is neither fish nor fowl. It is dynamically brilliant but forever a mutt, stuck somewhere between supercar and sedan, with the worst attributes of both. If you want to make a statement, you can buy the Jaguar XJ, which can be had with a stupendously powerful V8 engine, in your choice of two wheelbases and multiple equipment configurations. It makes the same kind of statement as the Panamera, but it’s infinitely more elegant. If you want something more German, than the Audi A8 is peerless and has yet to suffer from the same kind of terminal prole drift as the S-Class or the 7-Series.

But if you really must have the Porsche — if you really must have a Porsche sedan — you can buy a 500E and have enough left over for something air-cooled. Both of those choices have more claim to Stuttgart than the Panamera, and they won’t make you look like a hen-pecked corporate servant either.

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Question: Which Stodgy Luxury Car Gets Most Transformed At Extremely Low Altitude? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/question-which-stodgy-luxury-car-gets-most-transformed-at-extremely-low-altitude/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/question-which-stodgy-luxury-car-gets-most-transformed-at-extremely-low-altitude/#comments Wed, 24 Oct 2012 18:32:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=464847 After my tirade about big fat luxury cars in the 24 Hours of LeMons, I got to thinking about all the once-boring luxury machines I’ve seen with brutal slam jobs. In so many cases— yes, even with a vintage Audi 100— dropping the Chairman of the Board’s luxury ride about a foot works wonders for its appearance.
For my money, Japanese luxury cars such as the Mitsubishi Debonair, Toyota Century, and Nissan President respond best to this treatment, as demonstrated by many wild-eyed Japanese customizers (though Detroit limos look great, too). How about you?

Toyota Century image from Minkara, via Speedhunters.

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