By on August 2, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry production line - Image: ToyotaWe learned early in July that many of the early 2018 Toyota Camrys available in Toyota’s U.S. showrooms wouldn’t be built in Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky, assembly plant.

Through June, not a single one of the 2016 and 2017 Camrys sold in America were imported. But all of the 2018 Toyota Camrys sold in July came across the Pacific from Japan.

Granted, most of the Camrys leaving Toyota showrooms are still old new Camrys, not new new Camrys. (Read More…)

By on August 2, 2017

2014 Dodge Avenger R/T - Image: FCAEvery midsize car on sale in the United States reported declining year-over-year volume in July 2017. Every car except the Dodge Avenger, which came back from the dead with 10 reported sales after a nine-month hiatus. 2014 was the Avenger’s last model year.

But forget that sales stat quirk — Pentastar Avenger Blacktop Edition, be still my soul. Every other midsize nameplate generated fewer sales in July 2017 than July 2016, with losses piling up fastest at Ford and Hyundai, with the Fusion and Sonata, respectively.

Between major Fusion and Sonata losses and decreased volume everywhere else, U.S. midsize car volume fell by a fifth in July 2017 — a 36,000-unit decline. (Read More…)

By on August 1, 2017

2011-2015-2018 Hyundai Sonatas - Images: HyundaiAfter the forgotten third-generation car, the odd and bulbous fourth-generation car, and the dull fifth-generation car, the sixth Hyundai Sonata was unveiled at the 2009 Los Angeles Auto Show. It was surprising, even shocking, that Hyundai so dramatically transformed its staid midsize car into a radical “fluidic sculpture” sedan.

In the United States, after averaging 132,000 sales over the previous half-decade, the Hyundai Sonata exploded. By 2012, Hyundai sold more than 230,000 copies, and the Sonata averaged 215,000 U.S. sales between 2010 and 2014, a 63-percent increase compared with the previous half-decade average.

The momentum was not sustained. The seventh-generation Hyundai Sonata debuted in the United States at 2014’s New York International Auto Show. Where did the fun go? Where was the drama, the cat-like headlamps, the desire to stand out from the pack?

“We went from a very striking design, to a very beautiful car, but it just didn’t turn heads like the car before it did,” Hyundai Motor America’s vice president of product planning, Mike O’Brien, tells Automotive News. (Read More…)

By on July 27, 2017

2018 Honda Accord Touring - Image: HondaThe 2018 Honda Accord will be assembled in Marysville, Ohio. The overwhelming majority of its sales will occur in the United States of America. Its dimensions, inside and out, suit the U.S. market. In 2016, the Accord ranked second on Cars.com’s American-Made Index.

Open its trunk and a family of bald eagles fly out, having successfully incubated apple pies, having binge-watched every season of Keeping Up With The Kardashians. There’s a subtle Statue of Liberty easter egg on the windshield, Hollywood signs engraved in its cupholders, and a 3D hologram of Mount Rushmore featuring a fifth character — Soichiro Honda — that emerges from the glovebox if you shift the manual transmission into sixth, say VTEC three times, and spit over your left shoulder.

The Accord, according to lead exterior designer Tetsuji Morikawa, “is an American car.”

To make sure of that, however, Morikawa said the design team, “wanted to feel like Americans.” And they wanted to finish their design of the 10th-generation Accord in the United States, not Japan. (Read More…)

By on July 24, 2017

2018 Honda Accord Interior - Image: HondaThe 2018 Honda Accord is not a refresh. It’s not a refurbished, reconditioned revamp.

The 2018 Honda Accord is very much a new car, a 10th-generation follow-up to the five-year, 2013-2017 run of the outgoing Accord. That’s obvious when you look at the design of the new Accord — another midsize car attempting to banish boredom in an attempt to maintain healthy U.S. car sale volumes when more and more people want crossovers. You see it in the 2018 Toyota Camry, the 2018 Hyundai Sonata’s new grille, and the 2018 Accord’s squarer nose and faster roofline.

But Accord buyers will spend far more time inside the car than they do looking at its exterior. For owners, Honda wanted to make the 10th-generation Accord roomier, more capacious, better suited for ferrying five passengers.

So Honda moved the two front passengers closer together. (Read More…)

By on July 20, 2017

2017 Ford Fusion Energi Cousins Shore, PEI - Image: © Timothy CainThe planning session was brief. At TTAC’s virtual HQ, also known as TTAC Slack, Steph Willems, Corey Lewis, and Adam Tonge were busy formulating an idea.

Fascinated by the Cain family’s recent move to rural Prince Edward Island, the guys wondered if, on electric power alone, Ford’s plug-in hybrid 2017 Fusion Energi SE could cross Prince Edward Island from the north side’s Gulf of St. Lawrence to the south side’s Northumberland Strait, which separates Prince Edward Island from mainland Canada.

Sure it can, I said, but that’s too easy. There are many narrow parts of Prince Edward Island. Crossing Rte. 308’s nine miles from Naufrage to Rollo Bay wouldn’t be much of a challenge.

Building on that idea, however, we developed a plan that would grant yours truly a midday office reprieve, or so I thought. From the Cain homestead in Margate, just outside the bustling metropolis of Kensington, I would depart with a fully charged 2017 Ford Fusion Energi and attempt to reach five spectacular beaches along the Gulf of St. Lawrence on PEI’s so-called Green Gables Shore.

Google Maps said I would need to travel 22 miles. The 2017 Ford Fusion Energi has 23 miles of pure EV range. This’ll be a breeze, I thought to myself, and I fled my office and TTAC’s virtual HQ minutes later, thoroughly unprepared for what came next. (Read More…)

By on July 18, 2017

2018 Hyundai Sonata - Image: HyundaiLaunched for the 2015 model year, the seventh Hyundai Sonata was not the avant-garde successor to the 2011-2014 Sonata for which many hoped. The new Sonata, while objectively better in virtually every way, was missing a key ingredient.

For 2018, Hyundai has thoroughly refreshed the seventh-generation Sonata, hoping that a far more aggressive front fascia will draw more eyes. Hyundai went much further than the superficial, however, by stiffening the Sonata’s structure, upgrading to an eight-speed automatic, and including more safety equipment as standard fit.

Yet while Toyota and Honda believe their new Camry and new Accord can ignite the midsize sedan segment in a bid to wage war against a crossover onslaught, Hyundai’s goals for the refreshed 2018 Sonata are far more modest. Much more modest. Más modesto. (Read More…)

By on July 17, 2017

2018 Honda Accord Sport - Image: HondaLaunched in mid-June 2017, the 2017 Honda Civic Type R is the first Honda-brand Type R product ever sold in the United States. And after generations of Honda enthusiasts tolerated relatively unimpressive horsepower totals from high-revving four-cylinder engines, Honda didn’t mess around with the latest, turbocharged Civic Type R.

306 horsepower at 6,500 rpm.  295 lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm.

Yet before the Civic Type R was even on sale in the United States, we learned that the 10th-generation 2018 Honda Accord would kill the V6 and replace it with, you guessed it, the Civic Type R’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. Incidentally, only a few days after that, we learned that the optional V6 in the Accord’s long-time rival, the new-for-2018 Toyota Camry, would generate 301 horsepower.

Win for Honda? Not so much, as Honda last week revealed a 2018 Accord 2.0T with 252 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque.

Huh? What? Why? (Read More…)

By on July 13, 2017

2018 Buick Regal Sportback - Image: BuickTwo things leak more than the bathroom faucet at your Great Aunt Martha’s cottage in Saugatuck.

The White House.

And Buick.

It seemed fairly clear three months ago that something was afoot when GM Canada’s Buick.ca website momentarily revealed the 2018 Buick Regal GS’s powertrain: a 3.6-liter V6 and all-wheel drive. But Buick declined to comment, removing from the Canadian website the section that mentioned a V6 offering.

Once again, however, Buick appears to have let the horses out of the barn. Buick’s in-house magazine, B, revealed details ahead of schedule, GM Authority has learned. Rather than the 259-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder of current GSs that too often feels underwhelmed, B magazine says the 2018 Regal GS, “employs a high-feature V6 engine that furnishes an estimated 310 horsepower.”

The V6 liveth. (Read More…)

By on July 12, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry Georgetown Kentucky assembly line - Image: ToyotaAs Toyota watches its RAV4 quickly climb sales charts, the Japanese behemoth estimates it will sell fewer copies of its new-for-2018 eighth-generation Camry than it has in six years.

According to Reuters, Toyota is targeting 30,000 monthly Camry sales in the U.S. once the 2018 model fully takes over. That’s 360,000 Camry sales per year, well below the 412,000-unit average Toyota has managed over the last half-decade; 7-percent below last year’s output.

Toyota considers the thought of overall midsize sedan demise “inconceivable” but is by no means blind to the segment’s evolution. Recent deaths, such as the Chrysler 200 and Dodge Avenger, followed the disappearance of the Mitsubishi Galant, Suzuki Kizashi, and domestic nameplate removals, as well. Remember the Mercury Milan, Pontiac G6, and Saturn Aura?

But as the midsize segment struggles, Toyota looks down from its lofty perch and sees the odds increasingly turning in the Camry’s favor. “If other automakers left the sedan market to focus more on SUVs,” Camry chief engineer Masato Katsumata says, “that would be an opportunity to expand our market share of the segment.” (Read More…)

By on July 12, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Cruze and Malibu - Image: GMThrough the first-half of 2017, midsize car sales plunged 18 percent as nearly every nameplate in the category suffered from declining sales.

Year-over-year, sales of the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Subaru Legacy, Mazda 6, and Chrysler 200 collectively fell by nearly 200,000 units.

We know where the buyers are going. Compact crossovers such as the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Nissan Rogue — each of which now sell more often than even the top-selling midsize cars — are 2017’s soup du jour: more space for Buster the Bernese, better sightlines for the driver, all-wheel drive for those weekly Rubicon excursions, and a superior image to boot.

But if the trend we’ve seen through the first-half of 2017 holds, midsize cars won’t merely lose the U.S. sales race to compact crossovers. 2017 appears primed to be the first year in history in which compact cars also outsell midsize cars.  (Read More…)

By on July 10, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry production line - Image: ToyotaAs all-new 2018 Toyota Camrys begin to trickle into Toyota’s U.S. dealers over the coming weeks, take a close look at the VIN.

It’s viewable through the windshield on the driver’s side. See that first number? It’s likely a 4, which means this Camry was built in Georgetown, Kentucky.

But there’s a chance that the VIN on the new 2018 Camry sitting on your local Toyota dealer’s lot doesn’t begin with a number at all.

You’re looking at the once-coveted J-VIN. Ooh la la. (Read More…)

By on July 6, 2017

10 Generations of Honda Accord - Images: HondaAgainst its normal methodology, Honda is already leaking details regarding the all-new 2018 Accord, the tenth-generation of Honda’s venerable midsize car.

With continued manual transmission availability, a hi-po turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder in place of a V6 upgrade that was part of the lineup for more than two decades, and another generation of coupes, the tenth-generation Honda Accord has the potential to be a terrific car.

But will it be the best Honda Accord?

American-built for 35 years, on the market for four decades, and the most popular car among TTAC’s devoted readership, the Honda Accord is a known entity. But not all Accords were created equal. Judge using whatever methodology you prefer: style, reliability, ride and handling, efficiency, interior quality. Then tell everyone which Honda Accord is the best Honda Accord. (Read More…)

By on July 5, 2017

2017 Honda Accord Sedan Touring - Image: HondaMidsize car sales volume decreased by nearly 200,000 units in the United States during the first-half of 2017.

Year-over-year, that 18-percent decline was caused by virtually every member of America’s midsize sedan fleet. Escaping unscathed, on its own, was the Volkswagen Passat, though Passat sales are significantly lower than they were in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015.

Aside from the Passat, midsize cars are selling much less often this year than last at every competing automaker; from the top-selling Toyota Camry to the slow-selling Mazda 6, from the all-wheel-drive-optional Ford Fusion to the all-wheel-drive-standard Subaru Legacy; from the new-last-year Chevrolet Malibu to the never-again-new Chrysler 200.

Most automakers, however, are blessed to possess similarly priced compact crossovers that are making up all, much, or some of the slack. (Read More…)

By on June 21, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid - Image: Toyota The 2018 Toyota Camry will be priced from $24,380, including delivery, when it goes on sale this summer — a $425 increase compared with the base 2017 Camry.

Riding on an evolution of the Prius and C-HR’s Toyota New Global Architecture, the 2018 Camry is an all-new design for the first time since the 2012 model year. Market positioning is key, even for a Camry that’s been America’s best-selling car for 15 consecutive years, as demand for midsize sedans is quickly falling and even Toyota is seeing greater interest in the RAV4 than the historically dominant Camry. With new competitors approaching from Honda and Nissan, Toyota isn’t fooling around with this hugely important launch.

All eighth-generation Camrys are equipped with an eight-speed automatic. There’s essentially no tangible weight increase. The Camry offers the most standard horsepower in the midsize segment, the optional 3.5-liter V6 now produces 301 horsepower, and all Camrys now include Toyota Safety Sense P with pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, and auto high beams.

Perhaps most notably, highway fuel economy jumps all the way to 41 miles per gallon; above 50 mpg for Camry Hybrids. (Read More…)

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