The Truth About Cars » mid-size sedan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 20:36:01 +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 » mid-size sedan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Toyota To Keep Camry Prices Steady In Face Of Ford’s Increased Fusion Production http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/toyota-to-keep-camry-prices-steady-in-face-of-fords-increased-fusion-production/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/toyota-to-keep-camry-prices-steady-in-face-of-fords-increased-fusion-production/#comments Tue, 27 Aug 2013 13:34:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=501207 toyota-incentives

Toyota, which faces increased competition for its midsize Camry in the heart of the U.S. car market, says that it will try to hold the line on prices and incentives while still trying to keep bragging rights as the best selling car in America. At the same time, Ford is ramping up production of the Fusion, which is in short supply, and will be trying to keep transaction prices high as it increases supply.

The Camry was outsold by the Honda Accord and the Nissan Altima in March. Both of them are newer models than the Camry.Camry sales only rebounded when Toyota started offering incentives that were four time those offered by Honda on the Accord. Toyota insists that those incentives are not inordinate. “For incentives, we don’t think that our current level is necessarily high, but traditionally, we try not to be too dependent on them,” Nobuyori Kodaira, Toyota executive VP, told Bloomberg. “I can’t really comment on our future plans, but our plan for now is to stick to that as much as possible.” Besides incentives, to boost short term results Toyota can add content, like new technology features. Long term, Toyota has the option of speeding up the development cycle for the next generation Camry

In addition to competition from other Japanese brands, Toyota has watched all three U.S. based car companies gain market share in those companies’ home market. As other manufacturers offer truly competitive products and have significantly narrowed quality differences, Toyota can no longer rely on reflexive customer loyalty.

“It is true that rival carmakers have come out with very competitive models in the segment, and that competition in the U.S. midsize sedan segment is becoming fiercer,” said Kodaira. “What we need to do is to come out with even more competitive models.” In June, Camry inventories exceeded their usual levels by about half a month.

Kodaira declined to say whether Toyota will come out with a redesigned Camry to compete with refreshed products from Honda, Nissan and Ford.

Toyota expects to sell at least 400,000 Camrys in the U.S. this year. In July, incentives on the Camry averaged $2,581 per car compared to $627 for the Accord. Bill Fay, Toyota group VP for U.S. sales, echoed Kodaira’s remarks about incentives not being too high.

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Meanwhile, Ford is adding a shift of 1,400 workers at their Flat Rock Michigan plant so that facility can join Hermosillo, Mexico in building the Fusion. Flat Rock currently builds the Ford Mustang. That shift at Flat Rock will add about 100,000 Fusions to Ford’s annual capacity for their well-received midsizer. Ford now has the capacity to build about 450,000 Fusions a year, about equal to Honda’s capacity for building Accords in the U.S. and about 25,000 units shy of to Toyota’s U.S. capacity for the Camry. Without the additional capacity, there was no way Ford could hope to challenge Toyota or Honda for the best selling sedan in the States but Ford seems more focused on selling more of the profitable Fusion than winning bragging rights.

Another challenge Ford faces is trying to keep its transaction prices high as it increases supply, something that normally creates downward pressure on prices. Currently Fusions are selling for about $2,400 more than Camrys.

Analysts say that popularity of the Fusion means that Ford will not have to lower prices by much. “Ford has managed to be a volume player competitive with the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord while still maintaining a far more competitive price point,” Kelley Blue Book’s Alec Gutierrez told Bloomberg. “You might see prices come down a few hundred dollars, but I don’t think they face any significant risk of serious price degradation. They’re going to hold their premium spot in the segment.”

Fusion sales are up 13% this year and the midsize Ford has taken about 25% out of Camry’s sales lead.

The average price that the Fusion has sold for this year through July went up 5.8 percent to $26,343, led only by Volkswagen’s Passat in the mid-size car segment, according to Kelley Blue Book. Fusions are selling at $1,176 more than the segment average and $2,378 more than Camrys.

Analysts attribute the Fusion’s success to a variety of factors including distinctive styling, fuel economy and a wide selection of conventional, hybrid and plug in hybrid drivetrains. Ford is even seeing sales growth in California, a market that hasn’t been very receptive to domestic brands for years, with strong sales of the C-Max and Fusion hybrid. Ford car and light truck sales in the Golden State are up 18% for the first half of the year, compared to 2012, putting Ford in a virtual tie with Honda for market share there.

While Ford has a 40 day supply of Fusions nationally (a 60 day supply is considered normal), in the Los Angeles and San Francisco markets the supply is down to 30 days.

It isn’t just the law of supply and demand that will mean lower prices on Fusions as production grows. When Ford launched the Fusion, many of the early production models were highly optioned, with corresponding sticker prices. Now that lower content cars are a greater percentage of the mix, transaction prices should drop a bit.

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Review: 2013 Honda Accord EX (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/review-2013-honda-accord-ex-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/review-2013-honda-accord-ex-video/#comments Fri, 10 May 2013 17:10:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=487583  

2013 Honda Accord EX, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesOur last look at the Accord was back in September when we ran a two-parter (part 1, part 2) after being invited to the launch event. Yes, shockingly our invite wasn’t lost in the mail. As TTAC has said in the past, there are problems with launch events. Usually you’re running around in a pre-production car that may not be “quite right” yet, you have to split your driving time with some dude from another publication (shout out to Hooniverse on that trip).  Drive time is limited, and exclusively done on roads selected by the manufacturer. Sometimes you don’t get the trim level you want either. What I wanted was one step up from the base model, the mainstream EX and I wanted it on the same roads I’ve driven the other Camcord competitors. Here’s that review.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Honda has long been known as a serious kind of car company. Press events are orderly, the Honda folks wear suits and their products are similarly starched. While we have a new corporate nose up front with a chrome “smiley” face and aggressive headlamps, the rest of the profile is buttoned up and professional. The large (and low) greenhouse says “I have kids,” an image that Honda has been embracing with their latest commercials, essentially admitting they are leaving descriptives like “sexy” and “dramatic” to Hyundai and Ford. I have to admit I am quite torn, I love the Fusion’s sexy sheetmetal making it my first pick in terms of looks, but oddly enough the “plain Jane” Accord is number two for me because it’s simple clean. The new Kia Optima is a very, very close third thanks its nose job for 2014. I’m not convinced that the Camry’s nose or the Sonata’s dramatic character lines will age well, let me know what you think in the comment section. Something important to keep in mind is the Accord has bucked the growth trend and has shrunk on the outside compared to the previous generation making it among the smallest in this segment. Good if you live in the city, bad if you were hoping for a Honda land yacht.

Typical for Honda, the Accord has no factory installed options to choose from, you simply pick your trim: LX, EX, Sport EX-L, or Touring. LX, EX and Sport models can be had with a manual or a CVT while EX-L and Touring models are CVT only with the four cylinder and auto only with the V6. Aside from the lack of fog lights in the LX and a tiny bit of black trim on the LX and EX models, the only visual clues to which Accord you’re driving are the wheels and exhaust tips. When it comes to sleepers, there’s nothing that fits that description like an Accord.

2013 Honda Accord EX, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Honda’s interiors have long been known for their simple functionality rather than opulence or elegance and Honda is still singing the same tune. Despite being an all-new model for 2013, Honda hasn’t radically changed the interior design, opting instead for incremental improvements and more standard features. All Accords now get standard dual-zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth phone integration, a backup cam and active noise cancellation. Honda seems to have listened to the complaints from reviewers and customers and took a methodical and dedicated approach to making the Accord quieter on the road. In addition to the fancy noise cancelling software, there’s more foam, more carpet and a one-piece dash designed to prevent squeaks later in life.

Honda’s seat engineers seem to be designing seats specifically for my back lately. The Accord and the refreshed Civic both sport supportive seats that coddled by back and backside on long journeys. There is a caution I must toss in however, the lumbar support in Sport, EX and LX models is fixed and pronounced. If you need some adjustability in your back support, you’ll need to step up to a leather model to get it. 2013 has brought a raft of materials improvements to the Accord cabin from improved seat fabrics to more squishy dash bits and the ever-so-popular stitched pleather. Thankfully Honda spares potential owners the shame of faux wood trim, instead opting for a modern brown pattern that I found attractive. The trim and the style are not as stylized or futuristic as the competition, but controls are easy to locate, and consistent in their high quality feel.

2013 Honda Accord EX, Interior, Dashboard Trim, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Thanks to the Accord’s upright profile, getting in and out of the back seats is an easy task, something I can’t say of the Fusion. Once inside the height pays further dividends with more headroom than the coupé-like competitors. Despite being smaller on the outside and having a smaller wheelbase than the outgoing model, legroom is up by a welcome 1.3 inches in the rear and the trunk has grown to a [finally] competitive 13.7 cubic feet. On the down side, Honda forgot that sometimes people need to carry large items and three people, not possible in the Accord if you fold down the rear seat since it folds as a single unit.

Even base model Accords are well equipped with dual-zone climate control, auto headlamps, cruise control, backup camera, and a one-touch up/down window for the driver. Because of the comfortable seats and high level of standard gadgets, the Accord is the poster child of “easy to live with” like that comfortable sweatshirt.

2013 Honda Accord EX, Radio Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

Honda’s relentless drive to streamline options means a high level of standard tech on the Accord. All Accords get an 8-inch high-res screen in the middle of the dash, Bluetooth integration for speakerphone and audio, iDevice/USB interface, Pandora internet radio app integration and SMS messaging features if your smartphone supports it. (At the time of our drive, Pandora radio is restricted to Apple iDevices and SMS messaging to Android devices, Honda giveth and taketh away.)

Browsing the lots of my nearest Honda dealers, it seems the EX and EX-L models account for the bulk of purchases and lot space, not surprising since they straddle the middle in terms of price from $24,605 for a manual EX to $32,070 foe an EX-L V6. All EX models get keyless entry/go, Honda’s up-level audio system and their Lane Watch blind-spot viewing system. (Trust me, LW is more exciting than it sounds). Stepping up to the EX-L model or above gets you a higher resolution 8-inch screen and a 5-inch touchscreen LCD in the center of the dash that acts as the primary audio control interface. The addition of the second display allows you to see some audio information at the same time as the 8-inch display either shows you the navigation screen (if you’ve opted for it) or some other information source. Want to know more? Check out that video above.

2013 Honda Accord EX, Engine 2.4L EarthDreams Direct-Injection I4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

I know we’re here to dream of EarthDreams (which is quite possibly the worst thing anyone has ever named an engine family), but we should start out with that optional V6.  As before the V6 has cylinder deactivation tech, but Honda decided that the old system which would cut out 2 or 3 cylinders depending on the load was more trouble than it was worth, so for 2013 the V6 will only drop to 3 cylinders but the range of operation has been expanded. Thanks to the tweaks and a new 6-speed automatic, the V6 is good for 278HP and 252 lb-ft of torque while delivering 21/34MPG. The V6 has a well-tuned exhaust note and scoots to 60 in the same 6.2 seconds that the Altima 3.5 managed, but the Accord lags the Altima in real-world fuel economy by 3 MPG. This isn’t the engine you want.

What piqued my interest at the launch event was Honda’s new 2.4L direct-injection four cylinder engine. The engine and new CVT turned my impression of the Accord on its head. The engine’s 185HP still arrive at a very-Honda high RPM of 6,500, but thanks to the direct-injection sauce torque jumps to a [nearly] HP matching 181 lb-ft with a strong pull from idle and a peak at a decidedly un-Honda 3,900RPM. If you choose the 6-speed manual, you no longer have to rev the nuts off the engine to get the Accord in motion. Most shoppers however will findP a Continuously Variable Transmission under their Accord’s hood, although they may not even notice. Why? This is quite possibly the world’s best CVT.

2013 Honda Accord EX, Fuel Economy, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Yes, I know I have a rep for the love-that-dare-not-speak-its-name, but I have my reasons for liking a CVT: fuel economy, mountain climbing, and maximizing acceleration in underpowered cars like the 107HP Versa. This CVT is actually pleasant to drive. I’m not sure how the boffins managed it, but Honda’s new CVT switches ratios quickly and crisply with a feel that is so close to a standard automatic the average person might not be able to tell the difference. If you have driven a Nissan with a CVT, you get what some call a “rubber band” feeling that pressing the throttle gets instant response but builds, levels, then after you release the throttle it takes a while for the engine to “return” to a dull roar.

The Accord on the other hand has the feeling of a downshift where the engine shifts to a high RPM almost immediately, then like a normal CVT, stays there while you accelerate and when you lift it drops rapidly like a normal transmission upshifting. Passengers in the car were confused, some thought they detected shifts and thought it was an auto, while a few realized it was just a good CVT. This is as it should be. If you need another reason to give the CVT a shot, the 27 city, 36 highway and 30 combined MPG rating should make a believer out of you. In my mixed driving I averaged a stout 32.5 MPG. If you absolutely must have the manual, you’ll be limited to four-cylinder LX, EX and Sport models (the V6/MT combo is Accord coupé specific). The manual will save you $1,200 at the register but cost you more at the pump with fuel economy dropping to 24/34 and in my testing the combined number was some 5MPG lower than the CVT.

2013 Honda Accord EX, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The Accord has long been known for its double wishbone front suspension, a design that some prefer because of increasing negative camber gain as the suspension reaches the end of travel. On the downside it’s heavier, more expensive and according to Honda contributed to the NVH that owners and reviewers whined about. What does that have to do with anything? The wishbone is gone, replaced by a MacPherson strut arrangement like just about every other FWD car in the USA. Does it matter? Not really, most people would be hard pressed to tell the difference since the Accord is hardly a track day car. Or is it?

The mid-size sedan is the ultimate comprise car, just watch a sedan add some time. They are supposed to schlep the kids to daycare and then carve that canyon on your way to your impressive day job where everyone congratulates you on making the smart decision to buy the family car instead of the Mercedes roadster. Truth be told, any mid-size sedan carves corners with shocking aplomb, holds at least two car seats with ease, looks good enough to valet park and manages to keep from breaking the bank. You know, except for that Dodge Avenger I’m trying to forget. But I digress.

2013 Honda Accord EX, Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Honda made a big deal out of the weight reduction at the launch event, but in truth the 3,336lb curb weight merely represents a tend in the right direction and lands the Accord in the middle of the fray. What is different is how Honda chose to tune the Accord. Out on the road the steering is moderately heavy with a hint of feedback (more than can be said for most sedans these days) and the suspension is firm for a family car. The combination create a feel that I would almost describe as “Germanic,” something that paradoxically cannot be said of the latest Passat. When the feel and suspension are mated with 215/55R17 rubber on the EX and EX-L models, the Accord can dance with the best of the competition. The Sport model’s 235 width tires might sound attractive but beware, the rubber is bundled with new steering stops that increase the turning circle from good to enormous. My suggestion would be to buy a regular model, jump to 225s and deal with the occasional rubbing.

Thanks to a combination of excellent road manners, a surprisingly quick 6.8 second jump to 60 and the best mid-sized non-hybrid/non-diesel fuel economy we have tested so far and the Accord EX becomes my favorite four-cylinder mid-size sedan. It’s not as sexy as the Fusion, but it’s cheaper by a nose, more exciting than a Camry, more mainstream than a Kia or Hyundai (yes, I did use that as a factor because you know shoppers will) and statistically more reliable than some of the other options on the road. There’s always a “but” and here it is: the Altima 3.5 starts at $25,760, weighs the same as the four-cylinder Accord, clears 60 in 5.5 seconds and averaged a shocking (and totally worth it) 27.6 MPG during our week.

 

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • The best CVT ever created.
  • Our average fuel economy was only 1MPG lower than a Civic.
  • Excellent chassis dynamics.

Quit it

  • Lane Watch is as gimmicky as it sounds.
  • You have to upgrade to the EX-L to avoid the urethane steering wheel.
  • I still don’t understand the split screen radio/nav situation. Someone explain that to me over a beer.

 

 Honda provided the vehicle, insurance and gas for this review

Specifications as tested

 0-30: 2.8 Seconds

0-60: 6.83 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.25 Seconds @ 93 MPH

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 32.5MPG over 659 miles

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Mid-Size Sedan Sales Race: Camry, Accord, Altima And Fusion Dominate The Segment http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/mid-size-sedan-sales-race-camry-accord-altima-and-fusion-dominate-the-segment/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/mid-size-sedan-sales-race-camry-accord-altima-and-fusion-dominate-the-segment/#comments Mon, 08 Apr 2013 12:55:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=483951

The mid-size sedan sales race has become a close one over the first quarter of this year – while the Toyota Camry has established a healthy lead, the race for second through fourth place comes down to an 8,000 unit spread between the Honda Accord, Nissan Altima and the (game-changing) Ford Fusion.

Despite leading the segment with 100,830 units sold in 2013, sales of the Camry were down 4 percent compared to 2012. Automotive News quotes Toyota’s Jim Lentz as saying that “not sure we can do much more than 400 [thousand] Camrys”, suggesting that the car may lose some market share – and possibly the title of America’s best-selling car.

While Toyota has been willing to put cash on the hood of the Camry to move units, it is facing some stiff competition. The Camry was outsold slightly by the Nissan Altima in March, while the second place Accord, with 88,427 units sold, is apparently the best selling mid-size sedan on a retail basis – if you believe Honda’s claims.

The third place Altima is down by about 10 percent versus Q1 2012 sales, with 86,952 units. Last year saw Nissan dealers aggressively pushing stock of the soon-to-be-replaced 2012 model out the door to make way for the new car. Meanwhile, the Ford Fusion has cracked the 80,000 unit mark itself, reporting a 26 percent gain over the same period.

To illustrate the gulf in sales between those four and the rest of the segment, one need only look at the numbers; the Chevrolet Malibu, with 49,179 units sold so far, is outsold by the Camry on a 2:1 basis, despite the Camry being one of the oldest cars in the segment and the Malibu being all-new. Ditto the Sonata, which is also one of the segment’s older vehicles and, according to Hyundai, limited by capacity constraints.

 

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Review: 2013 Ford Fusion SE 1.6L Ecoboost (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-ford-fusion-se-1-6l-ecoboost-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-ford-fusion-se-1-6l-ecoboost-video/#comments Sat, 22 Dec 2012 14:00:08 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=470078

The 2013 Fusion is a critical car for Ford. Despite the rise of the Koreans, an Americanized Passat, refreshed GM and Chrysler products and a dip in Fusion sales between the 2012 and the all-new 2013 model, the Ford is still the fourth-best-selling mid-size sedan in America. Michael was invited to a regional Ford event in September where he revealed his opinions, but what most readers seem to recall is Derek’s proclamation that the 2013 Fusion is a “gamechanger.” To answer the question once and for all, Ford tosses us the keys to the volume-selling SE model with Ford’s recall-beleaguered 1.6L Ecoboost engine for a week.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

No, this isn’t Aston Martin’s new mid-size four-door entry, although you could be forgiven for making the mistake. The new design is as shocking and striking as the old Fusion was bland and boring. Making your mass-market car over-styled is risky, but despite the Fusion’s rump being less daring than its schnoz, it manages to avoid looking cartoonish like the Sonata. The Aston mini-me styling is refreshing in a segment where “restrained” and “slab sided” are the mantra of the day. The new Accord is elegant for sure, but the large green house screams family sedan. The current Camry attempts to meld an edgy nose with refrigerator flat door panels. Even the stylish (in comparison) Altima looks far less exciting. Styling is subjective and I usually avoid commenting on design directly, but the 2013 Fusion is an exception. This Ford is quite simply the best looking sedan in America under $50,000.

Interior

What do the 2013 Fusion and the unloved 1995 Contour have in common? They are both Ford Mondeo world cars. (Thankfully that’s all they have in common.) After years of designing one sedan for America and one for the rest of the world, the company’s “One Ford” strategy put the Mondeo and Fusion back into the same breeding program. I’m not sure what Europe gets out of the cross-breed, but Americans will benefit from a level of refinement, parts quality and European design hitherto unknown to the Blue Oval on our shores. On the flip side this also means the Fusion’s interior is a study in black with most of the interior looking like it was carved out of a single piece of black plastic. Opting for the tan cloth or leather interior won’t avoid the black dashboard, but it does make the interior look warmer. Sadly this color option is limited to the Fusion S and SE only as the Titanium trim comes only in black.

Our Fusion tester impressed with buttons and parts-bin parts that felt more premium than the competition thanks especially to an all-new steering wheel. While the new tiller doesn’t get soft split-grain leather like the new Accord, Ford’s new button arrangements are easier to use, easier to reach and feel better built than the wheel in the C-MAX and Escape. Speaking of buttons and controls, our Fusion tester showed no signs of fine scratching on the control surfaces, a problem that the Altima, Accord and Camry all suffer from, despite having far more miles on the odometer than the Japanese trio we tested.

Front seat comfort is excellent although a step behind the 2013 Honda Accord which has the most comfortable seats in the segment. Unlike some of the competition, Ford’s tilt/telescoping steering wheel provides a large range of motion making it easy to accommodate drivers of different heights. The Fusion’s driver’s seat is 10-way powered in the SE and Titanium models and sports an optional three-position memory system (standard on Titanium) to speed driver swaps (or keep your better half from complaining). As you would expect, the passenger doesn’t get the same kind of seat-love with your choice of manual or 4-way power adjusting.

Rear seats are as low to the ground as any in this segment and far less bolstered than the front thrones. In a family sedan this is more a feature than a problem since it makes the middle seat a more pleasant place to spend your time. Despite the sloping profile I was able to fit my six-foot frame into the middle seat without issue, although the 2013 Accord offers noticeably more room in the rear. Because of the differing ways that manufacturers measure rear seat leg room, I recommend you take your whole family with you shopping, stuff them all in the car and see how comfortable everyone is at the same time. Want to know more about the seating and cargo room? Check out the video review.

Infotainment & Gadgets

All models come with the basic SYNC system which offers USB/iDevice and Bluetooth phone integration. As you would expect, power windows and door locks and a perimeter alarm are standard, but few will be buying the base S model since there are zero options. This makes the $23,700 SE model your real starting point with standard XM satellite ratio, six speakers, a power driver’s seat, auto headlamps, body-colored mirrors and the keyless entry keypad that’s been a Ford hallmark for ages.

We also need to talk about My Ford Touch, because if you want to check pretty much any other option box on the Fusion, MyFord Touch needs to be selected first. Want dual-zone climate control, a backup cam, blind spot monitoring, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a 120V outlet, cross traffic alert, etc? The $1,000 MFT option (standard on Titanium) includes the 8-inch control screen in the dash, two 4.2-inch LCDs in the gauge cluster, dual-zone climate control and the backup camera. When MFT landed in 2010, the software had more bugs than a bag of 5-year-old flour. Thankfully, this latest version of MFT is more responsive and less problem prone. The competition has caught up however, with the Altima, Toyota and Honda systems delivering excellent USB/iDevice integration and basic voice commands without the lag and occasional software hiccups. Despite the system’s still-present flaws, MFT is still the sexiest system in this segment and the only one that brings the partial LCD disco-dash to the table. If you want the best in factory entertainment, you should know the 12-speaker Sony branded audio system is only available in the more expensive Titanium.

Automotive gadget dissemination follows a predictable path. The snazziest gadgets, safety features and entertainment concepts are first released by the big players in the luxury segment like BMW, Audi and Mercedes in their most expensive models. The next stop on the technology train is inevitable the mass-market sedan. It therefore shouldn’t surprise you that the Fusion can be had with an impressive list of options from an automated-parking system to adaptive cruise control and an innovative lane departure prevention system. Unlike most of the LDP systems up to this point, the Ford system doesn’t apply the brakes to one side of the car to get you back on track – it simply turns the steering wheel. The system is both slightly creepy and very effective. With the ability to apply more force to keep you in the lane than competing systems, the steering input feels more like a hand on the wheel than a gentle suggestion. If safety is your shtick, it’s worth noting that the Fusion and Accord scored well in the new IIHS small-overlap test while the top-selling Camry and Prius V “are the worst performers of the midsize group.” according to the IIHS.

As options lists go, the Fusion has more gadgets on offer than any of the competition – but it comes at a cost. The Fusion tops out at a fully-loaded AWD price of $38,170, $4,760 more than the most expensive Camry, $3,693 more than the Accord, and $5,730 more than a top-level Altima. As you would expect in such a cut-throat segment, comparing apples-to-apple,s the Fusion is priced very close to its top three competitors.

Drivetrain

Compared to the competition, the Fusion has an oddly extensive powertrain lineup. There are four different engines, three transmissions, two hybrid variants and FWD or AWD to choose from. The base 2.5L four-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic are largely carried over from the previous Fusion and good for 175 horses and 175lb-ft of twist. This is the sole engine in the Fusion S and base engine in the Fusion SE. We’re told by Ford that most 2.5L Fusions will be headed to fleets.

Next up is the new to America (and thrice recalled) 1.6L turbo direct-injection Ecoboost engine available with or without start-stop technology and with your choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmissions. Proving yet again that turbos are the replacement for displacement, the 1.6L mill produces more power (178HP) and more torque (184lb-ft) at lower RPMs than the 2.5L while delivering 2 more MPGs in the city and 3 more on the highway.

The sporty option is the 2.0L direct injection turbo which takes the place of a V6 in the Fusion SE and Titanium. With 240HP and 270lb-ft of plateau-like forced-induction torque, you’ll never miss those two cylinders. Should AWD be on your must-have list, be ready to shell out $32,200 because it’s available only on the Titanium. Before you complain about the cost of admission, keep in mind your only other mass-market mid-sized AWD option would be a Subaru. Last up is Ford’s redesigned 188HP hybrid system sporting a 2.0L Atkinson-cycle engine, a Ford-designed hybrid CVT transaxle and your choice of regular hybrid or plug-in battery packs. With this much variety appealing to different shoppers, check back with us when we get our hands on the 2.0L Ecoboost and hybrid models.

Drive

The Fusion impressed during the photo shoot and looked unstoppable on the printed spec sheet but none of that would matter if it felt like a wet noodle out on the road. Despite having a decidedly American-sized 112.2-inch wheelbase, it’s obvious Ford’s European division took the lead when it came to the chassis. The result is a ride that is incredibly composed, tight in the corners and as communicative as anything with electric power steering. The surprises continue when you shift your right foot over to find linear brake feel, absolutely no Taurus-like brake fade and short stopping distances.

In an interesting twist, the 6-speed manual is available in the 1.6L Ecoboost equipped SE for the same price as the automatic. As you would expect, this is the same 6-speed transmission found in the Fusion’s Euro twin and has a distinctively German engagement and overall feel. Clutch feel is top-notch as well comparing with the liked of the VW Passat and Jetta. In addition, rowing your own doesn’t have a feature penalty allowing you to still check the self-parking and lane departure prevention option boxes. Don’t get too excited, you can’t get the stick with the 2.0L turbo and AWD and if you opt for MyFord Touch you get a tiny digital tach that’s practically useless. For shame.

The 1.6L Ecoboost engine is fairly smooth and quiet on the outside and, thanks to a dedication to sound proofing, almost unnoticeable on the inside. What you will notice however is the broad torque curve of the diminutive four-banger when passing or hill climbing. During a short drive with the 2.5L engine I was constantly annoyed by the transmission’s up-shift happy nature, but despite the 1.6L’s tranny being programmed the same way it didn’t bug me as much. Why? Because all 184lb-ft are available at 2,500RPM and, thanks to the hair-dryer, 90% of that twist is available from 1,500-5,700RPM. This broad torque curve makes the 1.6L Ecoboost Fusion feel faster than it is with our run to 60 completing in 7.9 seconds, about 9/10ths off my gut estimate. This is considerably faster than the Passat and Malibu but not as fast as the Accord and Altima with their efficient CVTs.

Our tester came with the optional ($295) start/stop system which Ford claims is good for a 10% improvement in city driving and results in a 1MPG improvement in the Fusion’s EPA scores bringing the 1.6L SE up to 24/37/28 MPG (City/Highway/Combined). Ford touts the system as smoother than BMW’s 328 start/stop system and they are right. Of course the reason has as much to do with the smaller displacement as the positioning of the engine (transverse vs longitudinal). The way a transverse engine and the vehicle’s suspension interact when cranking is just different. If you live in a particularly hot climate, don’t expect start/stop to save you much as the engine has to stay running to power the A/C. Unlike our stint in the C-MAX, our Fusion beat the EPA combined score by half an MPG over nearly a thousand miles of mixed driving. With excellent fuel economy, dashing good looks, a quiet cabin, good driving dynamics and the longest option list this side of luxury sedan, the Fusion is not just a viable alternative to the competition, it truly is a game changer. The only problem is the pesky (and seemingly frequent) 1.6L engine recalls. Is that enough for me to take the Fusion off my list? Probably not, but I’d buy the hybrid or the 2.0L Ecoboost model anyway.

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

0-30: 2.6 Seconds

0-60: 7.9 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16 Seconds @ 88.5 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 28.5MPG over 960 miles

 

2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Engine, 1.6L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Engine, 1.6L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Engine, 1.6L, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Engine, 1.6L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Infotainment, MyFord Touch Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Review: 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/review-2013-volvo-s60-t5-awd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/review-2013-volvo-s60-t5-awd/#comments Sat, 06 Oct 2012 13:00:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=462338

When Volvo introduced the S60 in 2011, the Swedes advertised their mid-sized sedan as the naughtiest Volvo ever thanks to a 300HP turbocharged engine. While I’m sure former “R owners” would disagree, the S60 has met with sales success with over 18,000 units sold so far this year, a 14% increase over last year. In 2012 Volvo added a less powerful FWD model to the mix to cut the price of entry. For 2013 Volvo has further expanded the S60 line by adding a torque vectoring AWD system to the lightest S60. Volvo also tells us they have completely refreshed their T5 engine for 2013 and tweaked the transmission for the naughty Volvo’s first retouch ahead of the rumored 2014 refresh. Huh? Yep, Volvo’s gettin’ down with the yearly refresh. Does that make the T5 AWD the naughtiest Volvo ever? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

From the outside, the S60’s sheet metal is a departure from Volvo’s traditional past, but still retains Volvo’s strong shoulders and something of the iconic Volvo two-box style. If it were not for the over-sized proboscis, the design might rival the original S80’s form for the most elegant Volvo ever penned, but as it is, passengers and observers were mostly undecided whether they liked the schnoz or the short trunk lid. Light pipes in the tail lamp modules, subtle swoops over the wheel arches, and a coupé-like C-pillar conspire to add a touch of modernity to the new S60. Polarizing style has never been a Volvo hallmark however and taken as a whole the new S60 is conservative luxurious rather than daring. As before, Volvo remains the Birkenstock to BMW’s Prada.


Interior

Birkenstocks are comfy. Prada? Hit and miss I’m told. And so it is with Volvo and BMW interiors. The S60 is only 3 years old, so aside from massaging color and trim options, the only substantive change is the new transparent shifter. I’m not quite clear what Volvo was trying to accomplish with the new lighted plastic knob. Whatever it was I’m not sure it worked. Still, the rest of the cabin is pure Scandinavian Chic from the soft dashboard to the floating center console and supremely comfortable seats. Despite lacking the range of motion that the competition affords (seriously, have you see the number of buttons on a BMW sport seat?), Volvo’s thrones continue to be the segment’s ergonomic benchmark. Helping keep the interior trendy interior is a new black/baseball glove color scheme. Volvo has also improved sound deadening materials to reduce both road and wind noise in the cabin.

Once upon a time Volvo’s sedans occupied a half-step between the C and D segment cars from the German competition. Fast forward to today and the 3-Series has caught up with the Swedes and the S60 and 328 are essentially the same size. The BMW’s dimension stretch pays dividends with two more inches of rear seat room, an important number because four six-foot-two adults fill the Swede to capacity.

Like many luxury cars in the industry, Volvo has taken to a coupé-like rear profile that reduces the trunk opening to more of a cargo slot. This problem isn’t unique to Volvo, but the opening is a hair smaller than the new 328i’s recently enlarged cargo hold. As with the S60 models we reviewed earlier, the T5 AWD continues to use trunk hinges that cut into the available trunk space as well as the opening.

Infotainment, Gadgets & Safety

Volvo’s Sensus system has been around for three years and continues to deliver a competitive experience in the segment. The 7-inch LCD is essentially the same size as other entries in this segment aside from BMW’s 3-series which brings an 8.8 inch display to the fight. While Volvo has fixed many of the glitches the original system suffered from, the system still does not allow for voice commanding your USB/iDevices like the latest Acura and Lexus systems. Still, the Germans haven’t figured this out yet either. Overall the system is more intuitive than COMAND and MMI, but not as snazzy as iDrive. While I’m complaining, Sensus lacks internet connectivity and App integration that MMI and iDrive sport. Does that matter? Probably not, but I’m sure someone cares.

On the gadget front, Volvo is touting their new full-range cruise control which will now take the S60 to a complete stop in heavy traffic and keep you stopped until traffic moves again. (You just press the resume button.) The system works extremely well and easily ties with Mercedes’ Distronic Plus as the most natural feeling radar system. Bundled with the optional ($2100) radar system is a collision warning system with tailgating alert, lane departure warning, road sign information and automatic high beams.

Volvo’s City Safety system is standard on all S60 models and uses a camera and laser scanner to watch traffic and pedestrians ahead of you. For 2013, the system is active up to 31MPH (up from 19MPH) to keep you from running down Jimmy on his way to school. While the system isn’t perfect, Volvo claims the Volvo models with the system is responsible for the S60 and XC60 being involved in some 25% fewer at-fault accidents than the competition.

Drivetrain

Volvo may have committed to an all four-banger future, but that hasn’t prevented them from face-lifting the trusty 2.5L 5 cylinder for 2013. Yes, you read that right, this is not the same 2.5L 5-cylinder engine under last year’s hood. To improve efficiency, Volvo increased the compression to 9.5:1, dropped in new pistons, a new crank, and revised the software. The result of the overhaul is a 1MPG bump in fuel economy, but more importantly, a new over-boost feature is along for the ride. While the performance figures (250HP at 5,500RPM and 266lb-ft of twist from 1,800-4,800RPM) are the same as before, overboost cranks the twist up to 295lb-ft for 10 seconds when you bury the throttle. In addition to the extra twist, Volvo tweaked the Aisin transmission’s software for faster and crisper shifts and now offers a $2,000 optional AWD system. The new engine and tweaks drop the FWD T5′s sprint to 60 by 2/10ths and allows the T5 AWD to hit the mark in 5.93, only 0.26 behind the T6 AWD.

Compared to the competition, the 5 cylinder’s 250HP class leading with Audi still using ye olde 211HP 2.0L TFSI and Mercedes’ new 1.8L turbo spooling up 201HP. It even compares well with BMW’s 240HP 2.0L turbo. (However, the 328i’s lighter weight and 8-speed transmission allow it to hit 60 0.17 seconds faster.) Volvo’s 5-cylinder produces a distinctly “dustbusterish” kind of sound that is less entry-level than a four-cylinder engine but not as refined as BMW’s sixes. BMW’s 2.0L may be the pinnacle of four-cylinder refinement but even it is not as smooth as Volvo’s 5-pot. Audi? The 2.0L engine sounds rough around the edges and the A4 transmits far more engine noise into the cabin than the BMW or Volvo.

Drive

We should get one thing straight right up front: no matter how many wheels get the power, little is going to make up for having 3/5ths of your weight on the front axle. While many reviews complain about the fact that the Audi A4′s engine is completely in-front of the front axle, it still has a better (54/46) weight balance than the S60 with the engine completely above the front axle. That being said, the S60′s chassis is well composed on all road surfaces and is perhaps one of the best FWD platforms currently on offer in America. Checking that AWD option box however turns the S60 into a different animal on the road delivering [literally] 96% of the performance of the S60 T6 for $6,700 less. In addition, putting the S60 on an engine diet means the T5 AWD weighs 200lbs less than the T6 AWD.

When the road bends, the S60 T5 surprises with more handling prowess than its front heavy numbers would indicate. The primary reasons are the 235-width tires and Volvo’s ABS system based torque vectoring software. Rather than using a limited slip differential, the Volvo system uses the ABS system to brake the inside wheels in corners to send power to the outside wheel. While the system is not as effective as the more expensive mechanical active diffs, it allows more rear end rotation than you would expect. The result is a car with extremely confident road manners in all driving situations. While the A4 can be more fun as it has a RWD bias, the A4 was less predictable and less composed on the back-country roads I frequent.

With a starting price of $33,750, the S60 T5 AWD is the bargain choice in this segment undercutting the A4 Quattro by $850 and the 328xi by $4,750. Adjusting for feature content, the S60 comes out further ahead at around $1,300 less than the Audi and between $4,200 and $5,800 less than the BMW (depending on content). Despite being the segment’s value choice, I’d call the S60 T5 AWD my second choice in this segment behind the 328i and ahead of the A4 Quattro. The BMW’s larger dimensions, sportier aspirations and impressive list of “techogadgetry” justify the 14% price jump in my mind. Audi’s rough and underpowered engine combined with their complicated MMI infotainment system help push the king of AWD one notch down below the confidant smooth S60. If value factors into your decision-making, then the S60 is about two paddle shifters and a 5% better weight balance away from perfection. Until then the 328i reins supreme in this segment, but the T5 AWD is an excellent option if you’re cheap like me.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 5.93 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.5 Seconds @ 95 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 26.5MPG over 895 miles

2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, rear spoiler, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, gear shift, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, infotainment/HVAC controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, Sensus Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, Sensus Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, Sensus Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Engine, 2.5L 250HP I5, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Engine, 2.5L 250HP I5, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, T5 badge, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, tail light, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, front seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, cargo area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Interior, trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Volvo S60 T5 AWD, Exterior, 3/4 view, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Pre-Production Review: 2013 Honda Accord – Part 2 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/pre-production-review-2013-honda-accord-part-2/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/pre-production-review-2013-honda-accord-part-2/#comments Mon, 10 Sep 2012 13:55:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=459369  

Five days ago we released the first part of the 2013 Accord review. It’s not how we normally do things, but in order to get our hands on the second best-selling mid-size sedan in America we had to agree to keep you all in suspense. If you want to know about the new Accord’s drivetrain, interior and infotainment systems, click on over to part one and then head back here when you’re done. I promise we’ll wait for you.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Drive

The 2013 Accord is the first real foray into the CVT world for Honda. Yes, I know the Civic Hybrid and some GX models use a CVT, but they are low volume niche vehicles. Let me get one thing straight right off the bat. I love CVTs. The reason for my love-that-dare-not-speak-its-name, and the reason we find one under the hood of the new Accord is efficiency. For optimum efficiency, you want an engine to operate as close to its most efficient RPM as possible over a wide variety of speeds. For performance, you want to get the engine to its power band and keep it there as you accelerate. The problem of course has been that CVTs take a while to transition from one ratio to another which is a strange feeling if you are used to a transmission downshifting in milliseconds. Honda didn’t explain how, but somehow, the new Accord makes CVT ratio changes almost as fast as a traditional automatic. The difference behind the wheel is dramatic. If you are cruising at 60MPH and you “floor” a Nissan or Audi CVT, you get nothing for a moment, then the car starts to accelerate slowly while the tach rises. Once the tach reaches a certain point, you get maximum acceleration. Lifting the pedal produces a moment where you’re still accelerating as the CVT readjusts, then you’re back to normal. Performing the same maneuver in the Accord is more like an automatic in that the transmission shifts to a lower ratio very rapidly and returns to the higher ratio without the “rubber band” effect when you’re done passing. Compared to Honda’s 5 or 6 speed autos, I’d take the CVT any day.

From a stand still, the 185HP, 2.4L engine motivatess the Accord respectably thanks to its low-end torque (181lb-ft at 3,900RPM) and the new CVT. If you live in a mountainous area like I do, the CVT has another benefit; when hill climbing the CVT constantly varies the ratios, allowing you to keep a more consistent speed than with a traditional automatic. As much as I love a CVT, the manual transmission would be my personal preference. Available on the base, LX, Sport and EX trims, the 6-speed manual is a typical Honda close ratio manual that is skewed to the shorter end of the ratio scale for performance. The relatively low-end torque of the 2.4L engine seemed very “un-Honda” but is a welcome change. In true Honda fashion, the small four cylinder sounded perfectly happy to rev high and keep the fun going.

The 278HP, 3.5L V6 from last year is back with some tweaks to improve fuel economy. The exhaust is tuned toward a decidedly sporty note that was pleasant without being overbearing. Honda’s new 6-speed automatic sends power to the front wheels only meaning the V6 torque-steers with the best of them. The revised cylinder management system proved to be seamless and effective easily allowing the V6 sedan to average 35MPG on a 20 mile highway trip. On the flip side, the V6 lacks the low-end torque that the latest 2.0L turbos provide and Honda’s 6-speed auto isn’t the most responsive automatic. What could Honda do with a 2.0L direct injection turbo and their new CVT? Let’s hope we find out some day.

If road holding is your game, then the Sport model is for you, primarily because of the rubber choices. Most of our day was spent behind the wheel of the base LX model whose firm suspension seemed at odds with its road holding ability. When it came time to swap into an Accord Sport, the reason for the deficiency was obvious. Base Accords get 16-inch, 205-width 65-series rubber. EX and Touring Accords are fitted with 215/55E17s while sport models share the 235/45R18s with the V6 Accord Coupe. Despite the loss of the Accord’s double-wishbone suspension, the new Accord had no problems corner-carving like a solid alternative to the Mazda 6. Road noise has dropped compared to the outgoing Accord, but it is still above some of the competition. Despite the new active noise cancelling system, the Accord is still louder on the road than the Camry and the latest eerily quiet Buicks.

Drive – 2014 Accord Hybrid

Not due out until mid 2013, Honda allowed me a long drive in a prototype 2014 Honda Accord Plug-In Hybrid. This new hybrid is a complete departure from everything that Honda has done in the past. Prior attempts at “hybridizing” the Accord were focused on adding some electric mojo to their V6 model for even more performance. This time around, Honda is aiming the Accord Hybrid and Plug-In Hybrid squarely at the Chevy Volt, Fusion Hybrid and Camry Hybrid and even the Toyota Prius.

The first thing to cover is the system’s operation. The Civic is often derided by Prius drivers because the engine can never be disconnected, so even in “EV mode”, the engine is spinning. The Accord takes this to the opposite extreme. Under 40 MPH, the engine is incapable of driving the car directly. At speeds below about 40MPH, motor two is driving the wheels drawing power from the lithium-ion battery pack or from the engine via motor one acting as a generator. At around 40MPH, the car may engage a clutch pack that directly connects motor one and motor two together allowing power to flow from the engine to the wheels. (Whether the car clutches the engine in or not depends on the battery’s state of charge). Once this clutch pack is connected the system is capable of delivering a combined power output of 196HP, and in EV mode it is limited to about 166HP.

If you’ve driven a Civic Hybrid, you know that the system is less than smooth from a wide variety of angles. Regenerative braking is grabby and strange, transitions between EV and hybrid modes are met with unrefined jerks and vibrations. Perhaps Honda’s biggest battle with the Accord will be in convincing shoppers to give the hybrid a chance. Honda’s larger traction motor and the ability to completely remove the engine from the drivetrain makes regenerative braking as smooth as any EV on the market. More surprising is the clutch engagement when the car enters hybrid mode. Despite my best attempts, the engagement was always perfectly seamless, making the Toyota Synergy Drive system seem rough in comparison. That’s something that cannot be said of the Infiniti M35h or the Hyundai/Kia hybrid system.

Out on the road the hybrid Accord drove more like the base LX model thanks to the low rolling resistance rubber and increased weight from the hybrid system. The suspension seemed to be tuned towards a softer ride than the other models -something I appreciated, if I can be candid for a moment. It wasn’t possible to get hard acceleration numbers for the Hybrid, but the “butt dyno” and the power figures indicate it should perform above the 2.4L and below the V6. I averaged a solid 42MPG in my 45-mile, hour long test drive of the Plug-In after the battery was exhausted.

 

Drive – Coupe

With the Solara gone from the market, the mid-sized volume coupé is a strange market to try to corner, but Honda is giving it the old college try. The Accord Coupé’s selling point is an enormous back seat. The back seat dimensions may make the coupé’s side profile a little unusual, but the increase in utility is impressive. Since the Coupé is only slightly shorter than the sedan with only a slight reduction in the wheelbase and just a few pounds shed, it drives pretty much like the sedan. The exception of course is the V6 model which can be equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission. Honda was cagey on what is different about the V6′s cog swapper, but the ratios seem to be different vs the four cylinder and the clutch action is firmer and more precise. If you’re going to opt for the coupé, keep in mind that aerodynamic differences reduce fuel economy numbers vs the sedan by 1-2MPG. In addition, the 6-speed manual equipped V6 looses the variable displacement system dropping highway economy by 6MPG to 28MPG. Oddly enough, I found the Accord sedan with the “Sport” package and the four cylinder engine to be a more enjoyable drive.

 

 

Honda has announced that the base LX model accord with the standard backup cam, 8-inch infotainment screen, 16-inch alloy wheels and dual-zone climate control will start at $21,640, or a modest $200 increase over 2012. Meanwhile, the top-of-the-line Touring model, which tosses in radar cruise control, LED headlamps, leather seats, dual exhaust, the V6, and all of Honda’s new active safety tech will set you back $33,430. Overall pricing is right in line with the competition, with the Hyundai/Kia ringing in lower and the Camry a bit more expensive if you account for the feature differences. Honda has yet to release pricing on the Accord Hybrid, but expect it to start around the same$27,500 neighborhood as the Camry and Fusion hybrids. Expect the plug in to command at least a $10,000 premium over the hybrid. It’s obvious that this 9th generation Accord has some serious competition ahead with the new Ford Fusion, but Honda hasn’t taken this lying down. The Accord has doubled down on interior comfort and value by jamming more electronic goodies in every model. Their new infotainment system is finally up to par being less attractive than MyTouch but far more responsive. Camry shoppers who are looking for something a bit more fun to drive would also do well to drop by the Honda dealer.

 

Honda paid for airfare and two nights at a swanky resort, travel expenses to the resort came out of my own pocket since I drove.

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Pre-Production Review: 2013 Honda Accord, Part 1 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/pre-production-review-2013-honda-accord-part-1/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/pre-production-review-2013-honda-accord-part-1/#comments Wed, 05 Sep 2012 16:13:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=458708

Redesigning the second best-selling midsize sedan in America is no easy task. It’s also one that doesn’t happen very often for fear of getting it wrong. Still, even with all the bad press the new Civic received, sales have been booming. By all appearances this has not made Honda sit on their hands however when it came to the new Accord. Honda invited us to Santa Barbara to sample the all-new, smaller, 9th generation Honda Accord. This is a bold launch event with not just a new engine and transmission under the hood, but an all new hybrid technology on offer as well. If you want to know how it drives, or how much it costs, our Honda overlords have decreed our lips must be sealed until the 10th at 6AM Eastern. Set yourself a reminder then click-through the jump for part one.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The previous generation Accord suffered from some slightly cartoonish styling flairs, like “bulging” headlamps and a “Jaguaresque” sloping trunk. For 2013 Honda went back to a more traditional, some might even say sedate, exterior. In contrast to the swoopy styling from Hyundai and the “wannabe Camaro” tail on the Malibu, the Accord is simple and undeniably elegant. Compared to thew new Fusion, the Accord seems decidedly less sexy. In contrast to the other entries in this segment (apart from the Camry perhaps), the Accord is playing to the family demographic with low belt-lines for better visibility for kids and high roof lines for better headroom in the rear. There are of course the requisite minor front-end tweaks to the different Accord trim-lines for differentiation. Meanwhile, the all-new Hybrid accord wears a completely different, and strangely more aggressive front end with LED headlamps. While the sedate styling isn’t really news for Honda, the Accord’s dimensions are. Despite gaining both cargo and passenger room, the 9th generation Accord is nearly four inches shorter than last year and rides on a one-inch shorter wheelbase. Despite the right-sizing, suspension changes for 2013 result in a minor increase in turning circle to 38.1, notably larger than the Camry, Sonata, and even the Fusion.

As before the Accord will also be available as a large two-door coupé. Our time with the coupé was limited, but it impressed with an expansive trunk and rear seat. The options matrix is largely the same for the two-door Accord with the exception of the V6 and 6-speed manual combination which is exclusive to the coupé.

Interior

The interior of the Accord is likely to be its biggest selling point. Honda knows their audience well and it shows with a well featured, but simply laid out interior. For 2013 Honda hasn’t radically changed the interior design, opting instead for incremental improvements on the previous model. The new dashboard is soft touch and made out of one piece of plastic to reduce squeaks and rattles. The steering wheels have been redesigned for improved comfort and in most models are not trimmed in split grain leather worthy of Lexus. Joining these improvements is a much quieter cabin than before, a common complaint about the 2012 model. Honda achieved the quieter ride by not just adding more foam, but installing an active noise cancellation system in all Accord models. The system works much like the noise cancelling headphones you wear on an airplane.

As you would expect, seat comfort was excellent for my 6-foot, 190lb frame and thanks to a standard power driver’s seat and tilt/telescope steering wheel it was easy to find a comfortable seating position for a 2 hour drive. Also improved are the touch points on the dash, doors and center console to reduce fatigue on long journeys. Despite being smaller on the outside and having a smaller wheelbase than the outgoing model, legroom is up by a welcome 1.3 inches in the rear and the trunk has grown by 1.8 cubes to 13.7 total finally putting the Accord in line with the competition. Even base model Accords are well equipped with dual-zone climate control, auto headlamps, cruise control, backup camera, and a one-touch up/down window for the driver. Largely because of the comfortable seats and standard gadgets, “easy to live with” is a phrase that kept coming to mind.

 

Infotainment & Gadgets

The mid-sized sedan market is an interesting segment because shoppers want reliability and the latest gadgets, at bargain basement prices. Honda hasn’t announced pricing yet, but expect a hike of at least a few Benjamins on the base LX model. Countering the inevitable increase is a bevy of new standard equipment including an 8-inch infotainment screen with HondaLink. The new infotainment software is similar in function to Toyota’s Entune and Ford’s MyFordTouch systems allowing smartphone app integration and voice commands. Honda has also tossed in SMS text messaging integration for good measure. In an interesting twist the Pandora radio and a few other functions are restricted to Apple iDevices and SMS messaging to Android devices for the moment.

Stepping up to the EX model gets you Honda’s new “LaneWatch” system which puts a CCD camera in the side view mirror and displays your blind spot on the 8-inch infotainment screen. You also get keyless entry/go and a few more speakers.

Stepping up to the EX-L model or above gets you a higher resolution 8-inch screen and a 5-inch touchscreen LCD in the center of the dash that acts as the primary audio control interface. The addition of the second display allows you to see some audio information at the same time as the 8-inch display either shows you the navigation screen (if you’ve opted for it) or some other information source.

Honda’s new infotainment software is very responsive providing a sharp contrast to Ford’s sluggish touch screen interface. Compared to Toyota’s Entune system the Honda system is a little better thought out, more responsive and has a much larger library of voice commands. All three systems perform similarly when it comes to voice commanding tunes from your iDevices, USB thumb drive or (optional) hard drive music library. Of course the big news on the Honda front is that unlike Entune and MyTouch, HondaLink is standard.

Should your pockets know no depths, Honda will be happy to sell you the latest in driving aids like radar cruise control, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, LED headlamps and more.

Drivetrain

No all-new sedan would be complete without an all-new engine, and no all-new engine would be complete without an eco-friendly name and a new transmission. Enter the Honda Earth Dreams 2.4L four cylinder engine and Honda’s all-new CVT. While I’m still not clear what Earth Dreams is supposed to mean, the new mill’s numbers are what are important. As you would expect from a Honda engine, 185HP arrives at a lofty 6,500RPM. What you wouldn’t expect is 181-lbft of torque arriving at a low 3,900 RPM. Should you need some V6 love, the EX-L V6 and the new Touring model come with a lightly re-worked 3.5L V6, good for 278HP and 252lb-ft of twist. Like last year, the V6 continues to feature Honda’s “variable cylinder management” system which will turn off the rear bank of cylinders when cruising at highway speeds. Honda has tweaked the system for 2013 removing the four-cylinder mode and expanding the range that the three-cylinder mode operates in. While the new 2.4L engine can be mated to either the 6-speed manual or the new CVT, the V6 is only available with a new 6-speed automatic in the sedan while the 6-speed manual is available in the coupé. If fuel economy is what you need, the CVT is the best choice delivering 27 city, 36 highway. The 6-speed manual drops economy to 24/34 and the V6 is the thirstiest in the bunch at 21/34 with the 6-speed automatic.

All-new hybrid system

The previous Accord Hybrid was an odd duck. Instead of improving fuel economy, Honda used their IMA (Integrated Motor Assist) system to improve performance. The system’s lack of electric only operation and 40% lower fuel economy than the Camry Hybrid made shoppers scratch their heads and buy something else before Honda euthanized the model in 2007. For 2013 Honda went back to the drawing board and created an entirely new hybrid system from the ground up. The system starts with a new 2.0L, 137HP four-cylinder engine that uses Honda’s VTEC system to switch between an Otto and an Atkinson profile making this the first engine I have ever  heard of capable of switching between these two cycles. The engine is directly connected to a motor/generator that is used to start the engine and generate power (motor one). Meanwhile, the wheels are connected via a reduction gearset to a 166HP electric motor (motor two).

If this setup sounds similar to the Volt, let me throw a wrench in here. The Volt is more like a Prius since they both use a planetary gearset as a power splitting device. The Accord does not have a planetary gearset at all. At speeds below about 40MPH, motor two is driving the wheels solo drawing power from either the lithium-ion battery pack or from the engine via motor one acting as a generator. As you accelerate, at around 40MPH, the car will engage a clutch pack that directly connects motor one and motor two together allowing power to flow directly from the engine to the wheels. Once this clutch pack is connected the system is capable of delivering a combined power output of 196HP.

Want to know how the Accord drives? Want to know how much it costs? Check back with TTAC on the 10th at 6AM Eastern time when the embargo lifts. (Oh, and we’ll have a video with more details then you’ll ever need about the Accord Hybrid)

 

Honda paid for airfare and two nights at a swanky resort, travel expenses to the resort came out of my own pocket since I drove.

 

2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Interior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Interior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Interior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, wheel, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, four cylinder engine, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, four cylinder engine, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Internal, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Internal, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, V6 engine, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, V6 Engine, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord, V6 engine, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, wheels, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, trunk, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord Coupe, Exterior, Picture Courtesty of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 Sedan, Picture Courtesy of Honda America 2013 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 Sedan, Picture Courtesy of Honda America 2013 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 Sedan, Picture Courtesy of Honda America 2013 Honda Accord PHEV 203 2013 Honda Accord PHEV drivetrain, Picture Courtesy of Honda America Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Toyota Camry Hybrid vs. Volkswagen Passat TDI: Which Would You Buy? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/toyota-camry-hybrid-vs-volkswagen-passat-tdi-which-would-you-buy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/toyota-camry-hybrid-vs-volkswagen-passat-tdi-which-would-you-buy/#comments Mon, 02 Jul 2012 13:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=450864

Hybrid or diesel? For peak fuel economy in a $30,000 midsize sedan you need one or the other. The Toyota Camry is the most efficient of the five available hybrids (until the 2013 Ford Fusion arrives). If you live in Europe, the diesel world is your oyster. In North America, you have one option for an oil-burning mid-size sedan, the Volkswagen Passat. Which would you pick?

Neither sedan’s design would have blazed any trails even a decade ago. But the Passat’s styling, both inside and out, is cleaner and more harmonious. Toyota’s designers can’t seem to step back far enough from the trees to envision a forest. The Camry Hybrid XLE’s interior, with some materials a little better and others a little worse than those in the Passat TDI SEL Premium, has too much going on stylistically. The upper doors halfheartedly attempt to flow into the instrument panel, while lacking the latter’s stitching. The “stitching” molded into the center stack trim is similarly counterproductive, as it actually cheapens the interior. Of course, many people (including the one I’m married to) don’t notice such things. Though both cars have seats trimmed in faux suede, and the Passat additionally includes faux timber, they’ll likely find the ambiance warmer inside the Camry.

Both interiors have been designed to maximize perceived room with fairly flat door panels that meet the instrument panel at a right angle. The previous-generation Camry’s interior, with curvier panels, feels much tighter. Both cars have broad, supportive front seats that provide little in the way of lateral support, though the Passat’s cushions are firmer and the Camry’s headrests jut forward to an uncomfortable degree. There’s plenty of room for adults in the back of the Camry. The Passat, with another inch of combined legroom that somehow seems like three inches, invites limo comparisons…until you notice that, unlike in the Toyota, there are no rear air vents.

Then there’s cargo hauling. Both cars are offered only as sedans. By working in shifts to compact the Camry’s hybrid bits, Toyota engineers bumped trunk volume 2.5 cubic feet, to 13.1. A worthwhile increase, but still not close to the Passat’s 15.9. Both trunks can be expanded by folding the rear seat, but you only have a mail slot on the right side in the Camry.

Though the new Camry Hybrid is more firmly suspended than the previous one, and the Americanized Passat is softer than the typical German sedan, the two cars haven’t met in the middle. The Camry remains a considerably softer, cushier, quieter car, with some float and bobble through rough curves, while the Passat provides more nuanced feedback (through the seat of the pants much more than the electrically assisted steering) and has more tightly controlled body motions. Your ears will only report that the VW is a diesel at idle, and then only if you’re paying attention. The additional noise inside its cabin mostly comes from the wind and the road.

Unlike some smaller fuel sippers, both cars have more than enough power for scooting about the ‘burbs or popping onto the freeway. Both feel torquey at low-to-moderate engine speeds, the Camry because of the assist provided by its electric motor, the Passat because it’s a diesel. With far more peak horsepower, 200 vs. 140, the Camry Hybrid’s powertrain can get you to sixty sooner. But it’s not a joy to wind out, so this advantage isn’t large in the real world. If you have a lead foot, neither car is your best bet.

The EPA MPG numbers—43 city, 39 highway for the Camry and 30 city, 40 highway for the Passat—rightly suggest that the two cars excel in different types of driving. But the EPA shortchanges both cars. Judging from its trip computer (which I initially doubted, but owners report similar numbers), the Passat TDI can manage high 30s in suburban driving and low 50s on the highway without too much effort. In straight highway driving, the Camry cannot match it, checking in around 45. A hybrid’s additional fuel efficiency is derived from its ability to recoup energy while decelerating. If there’s no deceleration, the hybrid powertrain not only provides no benefit but, through its additional mass, actually becomes a disadvantage. Off the highway the tables are turned. The more stops per mile, the better the Camry becomes, especially if you factor in the higher cost per gallon of diesel.

It also helps if one does not drive the Camry “normally.” My wife managed 38 miles-per-gallon in the Camry Hybrid, about the same as I observed in the Passat TDI when driving with the flow of traffic. But when I was behind the wheel, the trip computer regularly reported averages in the low 50s and as high as 63 on my standard suburban route. The hybrid’s operation makes a very casual driving style feel “right,” and I personally enjoy the experience. But many people simply don’t want to drive with a light enough foot to achieve these numbers. For them, the TDI is the better way to go, as its efficiency varies much less with driving style.

Load both cars up, and the Camry stickers for a couple grand more, $35,330 vs. $33,090. But, based on the car price comparison tool, the Toyota includes about $900 in additional features, cutting the difference to $1,300. Also note that Toyota dealers enjoy wider margins. Compare invoices, and the VW has only a $554 advantage before adjusting for feature differences, and a $300 disadvantage afterwards. Since invoice prices often better reflect what people actually pay, price isn’t likely to be the deciding factor between these two cars.

Consumers are likely to decide between the two based on styling, ride, handling, amenities, driving conditions, driving style, and the reputation of each brand. After a rough start, the 2012 Passat has improved so that it’s not far from the average in TrueDelta’s car reliability survey, but it’s very early. If you had to choose between the two, which would you buy?

Camry Hybrid provided with fuel and insurance by Toyota.

Passat TDI provided by Dan Kelley, Suburban VW in Farmington Hills, MI, 248-741-7903

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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