The Truth About Cars » Midsized http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 15 Jul 2014 15:25:59 +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 » Midsized http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com First Drive Review: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/first-drive-review-2014-honda-accord-hybrid-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/first-drive-review-2014-honda-accord-hybrid-with-video/#comments Wed, 09 Oct 2013 10:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=612689 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-007

As of October, the most fuel-efficient mid-sized sedan in America is the Honda Accord. Or so Honda says. After all, Ford has been trumpeting a matching 47 MPG combined from their Fusion. Who is right? And more importantly, can the Accord get Honda back into the hybrid game after having lost the initial hybrid battles with their maligned Integrated Motor Assist system? Honda invited us to sample the 2014 Accord Hybrid as well as a smorgasbord of competitive products to find out.

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

I have always been a fan of “elegant and restrained” styling which explains my love for the first generation Lexus LS. That describes the 2014 Accord to a tee. Like the regular Accord, the hybrid is devoid of sharp creases, dramatic swooshes, edgy grilles or anything controversial. This is a slightly different take than the Accord Plug-in which swaps the standard Accord bumper for a bumper with a slightly awkward gaping maw. In fact, the only thing to show that something green this way comes are some  blue grille inserts and  LED headlamps on the top-level Touring model.

This means the Accord and the Mercedes E-Class are about the only sedans left that sport a low beltline and large greenhouse. Opinions on this style decision range from boring to practical and I fall on the latter. I think the Ford Fusion is more attractive but the Hyundai Sonata’s dramatic style hasn’t aged as well as its Kia cousin’s more angular duds. The Camry failed to move my soul when it was new and it hasn’t changed much over the years. This places the Accord tying with the Optima for second place.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

Despite sporting an all-new interior in 2013, you’d be hard pressed to identify what changed over the last generation Accord unless you owned one. Instead of radical design buyers will find incremental improvements and high quality plastics. The dash is still dominated by a double-bump style dashboard with the second binnacle housing a standard 8-inch infotainment display. With manufacturers moving toward slimmer dash designs the Accord’s remains tall and large. For hybrid duty Honda swiped the Plug-in’s tweaked instrument cluster with a large analogue speedometer, no tachometer, LED gauges for battery, fuel and a power meter. Everything else is displayed via a full-color circular LCD set inside the speedometer.

Front seat comfort is excellent in the accord with thickly padded ergonomically designed front seats. There isn’t much bolstering (as you would expect from a family hauler) so larger drivers and passengers shouldn’t have a problem finding a comfortable seating position. The product planners wisely fitted adjustable lumbar support and a 10-way power seats to all trims.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Speaking of trim levels, in most ways (with the exception of that driver’s seat), the Accord EX serves as the “feature content” base for the hybrid. This means you’ll find dual-zone climate control, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, standard Bluetooth, a backup camera, keyless entry/go and active noise cancellation.

Thanks to a wheelbase stretch in 2013, the Accord hybrid sports 1.3 inches more legroom than the last Accord and is finally class competitive with essentially the same amount of room as the Fusion and Camry and a few inches more than the Koreans. The Accord’s upright profile means getting in and out of those rear seats is easier than the low-roofline competition and it also allows the seating position to be more upright. Honda’s sales pitch about the low beltline is that it improves visibility for kids riding in the back, I’m inclined to believe them. As with most hybrids, there’s a trunk penalty to be paid but thanks to energy dense Lithium-ion cells the Accord only drops 3 cubic feet to 12.7 and I had no problem jamming six 24-inch roller bags in the trunk.  Honda nixed the folding rear seats, a feature that the competition has managed to preserve.

2014_Accord_Hybrid_Touring_043, Picture Courtesy of Honda

Infotainment, Gadgets and Pricing

Base Accords use physical buttons to control the standard 8-inch infotainment system and sport 6 speakers with 160 watts behind them.  Honda wouldn’t comment on the expected model split of the Accord, but I suspect that most shoppers will opt for the mid-level EX-L which adds a subwoofer, 360 watt amp, and adds a touchscreen for audio system controls. The dual-screen design struck me as half-baked when I first sampled it in the regular 2013 Accord and although I have warmed up to it a bit, I think it could still use a few minutes in the oven if you opt for the navigation equipped Touring model.

Honda’s concept was to move all the audio functions to the touchscreen thereby freeing the upper screen for some other use like the trip computer or navigation screen. The trouble is the lower screen simply selects sources and provides track forward/backward buttons meaning you still have to use the upper screen to change playlists or search for tracks. That minor complaint aside, the system is very intuitive and responsive. Honda’s improved iDevice and USB integration is standard fare on all models and easily ties with the best in this segment.

2014_Accord_Hybrid_EX-L_ Picture Courtesy of Honda

Starting at $29,155, the base Accord Hybrid is the most expensive mid-sized hybrid sedan by a decent margin especially when you look at the $25,650 starting price on the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid. However, the Accord Hybrid delivers a high level of standard equipment including standard Pandora smartphone app integration and Honda’s Lane Watch system. Lane watch still strikes me as a little gimmicky since the Accord has such small blind spots and the best outward visibility in the segment already. Instead of stand alone options Honda offers just three trim levels. The next step is the $31,905 EX-L model which adds leather seats, a leather steering wheel, upgraded audio system with two LCD screens, memory driver’s seat, power passenger seat, moonroof, a camera based collision warning system and lane departure warning. While the base model is a little more expensive than cross-shops, the EX-L becomes a decent value compared to comparably equipped competitive hybrids.

Working your way up to the top-of-the-line $34,905 Touring model the Accord is no longer the most expensive in the class, that award goes to the $37,200 loaded fusion. At this price the Accord is less of a bargain compared to the competition, although you do get full LED headlamps and an adaptive cruise control system. In comparison the Camry spans from $26,140 to $32,015, the Sonata from $25,650 to $32,395, Optima from  $25,900 to $31,950 and the Fusion from $27,200 to $37,200. How about the Prius? Glad you asked. The Prius that is most comparable to the base Accord Hybrid is $26,970 and comparably equipped to the Accord Touring is $35,135.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Being the drivetrain geek that I am, what’s under the hood of the Accord hybrid is more exciting than the Corvette Stingray. Seriously. Why? Because this car doesn’t have a transmission in the traditional sense. Say what? Let’s start at the beginning. The last time Honda tried selling an Accord hybrid, they jammed a 16 HP motor between a V6 and a 5-speed automatic. The result was 25MPG combined. The 2014 hybrid system shares absolutely nothing with the old system. No parts. No design themes. Nothing.

Things start out with the same 2.0L four-cylinder engine used in the Accord plug-in. The small engine is 10% more efficient than Honda’s “normal” 2.0L engine thanks to a modified Atkinson cycle, an electric water pump, cooled exhaust gas return system, and electric valve timing with a variable cam profile. The engine produces 141 horsepower on its own at 6,200 RPM and, thanks to the fancy valvetrain, 122 lb-ft from 3,500-6,000 RPM.

The engine is connected directly to a motor/generator that is capable of generating approximately 141 horsepower. (Honda won’t release details on certain drivetrain internals so that’s an educated guess.) Next we have a 166 horsepower, 226 lb-ft motor that is connected to the front wheels via a fixed gear ratio. Under 44 miles per hour, this is all you need to know about the system. The 166 horsepower motor powers the car alone, drawing power from either a 1.3 kWh lithium-ion battery pack, or the first motor/generator. Over 44 miles per hour, the system chooses one of two modes depending on what is most efficient at the time. The system can engage a clutch pack to directly connect the two motor/generator units together allowing engine power to flow directly to the wheels via that fixed gear ratio. (Check out the diagram below.)

Front Wheel Drive Biased

Pay careful attention to that. I said fixed gear ratio. When the Accord Hybrid engages the clutch to allow the engine to power the wheels directly (mechanically), power is flowing via a single fixed ratio gear set. The fixed gear improves efficiency at highway speeds, reduces weight vs a multi-speed unit and is the reason the system must use in serial hybrid mode below 44 mph. There is another side effect at play here as well: below 44 MPH, the system’s maximum power output is 166 horsepower. The 196 combined ponies don’t start prancing until that clutch engages.

So why does Honda call it an eCVT? Because that fits on a sales sheet bullet point and the full explanation doesn’t. Also, a serial hybrid can be thought of as a CVT because there is an infinite and non-linear relationship between the engine input and the motor output in the transaxle.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drive

Let’s start off with the most important number first: fuel economy. With a 50/45/47 EPA score (City/Highway/Combined), the Accord essentially ties with the Fusion on paper and, although Honda deliberately avoided this comparison, is only 3MPG away from the Prius-shaped elephant in the room. In the real world however the Accord was more Prius than Fusion, averaging 45-46 mpg in our highway-heavy (and lead-footed) 120 mile route and easily scoring 60-65 mpg in city driving if you drive if like there’s an egg between your foot and the pedal of choice. Those numbers are shockingly close to the standard Prius in our tests (47-48 MPG average) and well ahead of the 40.5 MPG we averaged in the Fusion, 35.6 in the Hyundai/Kia cousins and 40.5 in the Camry. Why isn’t Honda dropping the Prius gauntlet? Your guess is as good as mine.

Due to the design of the hybrid system, I had expected there to be a noticeable engagement of the clutch pack, especially under hard acceleration when the system needs to couple the engine to the drive wheels to deliver all 196 combined ponies. Thankfully, system transitions are easily the smoothest in this segment besting Ford’s buttery smooth Fusion and night and day better than the Camry or Prius. Acceleration does take a slight toll because of the system design with 60 MPH arriving in 7.9 seconds, about a half second slower than the Fusion or Camry but half a second faster than the Optima or Sonata and several hours ahead of the Prius.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

At 69 measured decibels at 50 MPH, the Accord hybrid is one of the quietest mid-sized sedans I have tested scoring just below the Fusion’s hushed cabin. This is something of a revelation for the Accord which had traditionally scored among the loudest at speed. When driving in EV mode (possible at a wide variety of highway speeds) things dropped to 68 db at 50 MPH.

When the road starts winding, the Accord Hybrid handles surprisingly well. Why surprisingly? Well, the hybrid system bumps the curb weight by almost 300 lbs to 3,550 (vs the Accord EX) and swaps in low-rolling resistance tires for better fuel economy. However, unlike the Camry and Korean competition, the Accord uses wide 225 width tires. Considering the regular Accord models use 215s, this makes the Accord’s fuel economy numbers all the more impressive. The Fusion is 150 lbs heavier and rides on either 225 or 235 (Titanium only) width tires which also explains why the hybrid Fusion Titanium gets worse mileage than the base Hybrid SE model. I wouldn’t call the Accord Hybrid the equal of the gas-only Accord EX on the road, but the difference is smaller than you might think.

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Helping the Accord out on the road are “amplitude reactive dampers” or “two mode shocks” as some people call them. These fancy struts have worked their way down from the Acura line and use two different valves inside the damper to improve low and high-speed damping performance. The difference is noticeable with the Hybrid having a more compliant ride, and thanks to thicker anti-roll bars the hybrid is more stable in corners. Still, for me, the Accord gives up a hair of performance feel to the Fusion hybrid out on the road. It’s just a hair less precise, not as fast to 60 and lacks the sharp turn-in and bite you get in the Fusion Titanium with its wider and lower profile tires. However, keep in mind that Fusion Titanium takes a 1-2MPG toll on average economy in our tests dropping the Fusion from 40.5 to 38-39 MPG.

The Accord may not be the best looking hybrid on sale, (for me that’s still the Ford Fusion) but the Accord’s simple lines and unexpectedly high fuel economy make the Honda a solid option. Being the gadget hound I am, I think I would still buy the Fusion, but only in the more expensive Titanium trim. If you’re not looking that high up the food chain, the Accord Hybrid is quite simply the best fuel sipping mid-size anything. Prius included.

 

Honda provided the vehicle, insurance and gas at a launch event.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.2 Seconds

0-60: 7.9 Seconds

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 69 db

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 45.9 MPG over 129 miles.

 

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Engine 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-001 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-003 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-005 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-006 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-007 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-002 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-003 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Trunk ]]>
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Review: 2013 Nissan Altima SL 3.5 (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-nissan-altima-sl-3-5-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-nissan-altima-sl-3-5-video/#comments Sun, 30 Dec 2012 14:32:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=471393

The “family sedan” may not be very exciting, but without midsized sales auto makers would be in a pickle. Ponder this: the five best-selling midsized sedans in America accounted for 1.3 million of the 12.8 million vehicles sold in 2011. With numbers like that, it’s important to get your mass-market people mover right. This means competitive fuel economy, a low base price and swipe as much tech from your luxury brand as possible. Either that or just wear a Nissan badge on the front. Say what? The last generation Altima was the second best-selling car despite being long in the tooth and filled with Chrysler quality plastics. That made me ask an important question: Is the fifth-generation Altima any good, or is it selling well (now in third place thanks to the new Accord and Nissan’s model change over) just because it has a Nissan logo on the front?

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

A design that doesn’t alienate the customer you expect to return and buy their second or third car is critical. Just ask Ford how that bubble-Taurus redesign went in 1996. Still, midsize sedan shoppers demand some style so Nissan’s design team jammed a bit of Maxima, a pinch of Infiniti M and a “whole-lotta” Versa into a sausage press and cut the Altima off at 191.5 inches. This makes the new Altima longer than a Camry, a hair longer than a Maxima and essentially the same size as the Accord and Fusion. Nobody will confuse the Altima with an Aston Martin, nor will they think their neighbor is driving a budget Bentley. Instead the slab-sided Altima delivers clean lines and elegant good looks. Think of it as the Midwestern farm girl to the Fusion’s Los Angeles call girl.

Interior

Before we hop in, let’s have a moment of midsized honesty. The last gen Altima, much like the former Sentra, was a plastic penalty box on the inside that belonged in a Hertz garage, not mine. It appears Nissan took the criticism to heart and made such a drastic improvement to the Altima’s interior I suspect Infiniti’s interior decorators lent a hand. Yes, the interior design is somewhat bland, but nobody’s $20,000-$30,000 is very exciting and that’s just how midsized shoppers like it. In sharp contrast to the Fusion’s Germanic black-on-black-on-black interior, our Altima was covered in acres of light beige leather, pleather and soft-touch plastics. The lighter materials make the cabin look  larger and warmer than the numbers indicate with headroom and legroom falling in line with the competition. Some reviews I have seen complain about the cabin’s materials but I’m honestly not clear why. The Altima’s plastics and pleather are better than those in the Camry and Passat and equal to or better than the new Fusion and Accord. Fear not TTAC faithful, there is a low point in the interior: only the SV and SL models eschew the rubbery-plastic tiller for leather wrapping.

Since our tester was the top-of-the-line SL, the cockpit featured a heated tilt/telescopic steering wheel, an 8-way power driver’s seat and manually adjustable lumbar support. Shoppers that chose the 3.5L V6 will be treated to a pair of the best looking and best feeling magnesium paddle shifters this side of a BMW M6. Seriously. There’s just one problem: paddle shifters on a car with a CVT make as much sense as a parking brake on a french poodle. (Yet for some reason I found myself caressing their magnesium goodness non-stop when I was behind the wheel.) Like the most entries in this segment, the front passenger seat remains manually adjustable regardless of trim level and upholstery. Thanks to Nissan’s “Zero Gravity” seat design, the front seats proved comfortable and didn’t’ aggravate my temperamental knee during a 2 hour road trip. Since manufacturers “march to their own drummer” when measuring legroom, take your family to the dealer and jam them all in the car before making a purchase.

Drivetrain

While others are downsizing from V6s to turbo fours in search of improved MPG numbers, Nissan stuck to their I4/V6 lineup. The base Altima is four-cylinder only while the S, SV and SL models are available with either engine. In addition to the extra cylinders, V6 shoppers get wider tires and  shift paddles.

The 2.5L four cylinder mill is good for 182HP at 6,000RPM and 180lb-ft of twist at 4,000RPM while the 3.5L V6 (VQ35DE) turns up the dial to 270HP at 6,000RPM and 258lb0-ft at 4,400RPM. Both engines send the power to the front wheels via a revised Nissan Xtronic CVT with tweaks to reduce friction, improve acceleration, and reduce the “rubber-band” feeling that journalists whine about.

Our tester was a V6 SL which does battle with the Camry and Accord V6 and the 2.0L direct-injection turbos from Ford, Hyundai and Kia. Although V6 sales have dwindled to around 10% of Altima sales, 10% of the second best-selling sedan is a big number. Compared to the competition’s 2.0L turbos, Nissan’s V6 has a torque disadvantage. To combat this, the Altima was put on a diet now tipping the scales at a svelte 3,178/3,335lbs (I4/V6).

Infotainment, Gadgets & Pricing

To improve inventory turnover, Nissan followed VW’s lead and cut back on options. The 2.5L engine starts with the rental-car-chic base model for $21,760 (sans destination). Want options? Sorry, other than color choices there are no options on base and S models. Stepping up to the $22,860 S gets you auto headlamps, keyless entry/go, 6-way power driver’s seat, pollen filter, cruise control and two more speakers (six total). The $24,460 SV is the first model to get some USB/iDevice love, 5″ LCD radio, leather tiller, satellite radio, Pandora integration, backup camera and the ability to check options boxes. The $27,660 SL model adds leather, fog-lights, 8-way driver’s seat, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, and nine Bose speakers. Thankfully 2013 brings standard Bluetooth phone integration with Bluetooth audio streaming and an AUX input jack to even the rental-car destined base model.

The 3.5 S is $2,900 more than the 2.5S and in addition to the V6 adds the shift paddles and wider tires. Adding the 3.5 to the SV will set you back $3,800 due to the bundling of a moonroof and a few other items that are optional in the 2.5. The 3.4 premium on the SL model is $2,900 and in addition to the wider rubber Nissan tosses in Xenon headlamps. If HIDs are your thing, this is the only way to get them.

For $595 on the SV you can add Nissan’s new 7-inch touchscreen nav system dubbed “Nissan Connect.” The system looks like an improved version of their former “Low Cost Navigation” system in the Versa. In addition to a larger display, Nissan polished the UI, added Pandora, Google-send-to-car, faster processing, voice commands and XM NavTraffic/NavWeather. The system won’t voice command your iDevice or climate control like SYNC, but that’s a small price to pay for a responsive system that doesn’t crash, is easy to use and incredibly well priced. While I still have a love for MyFord Touch that dare not speak its name, Nissan Connect is now one of my favorite infotainment systems. Note to Nissan: put this in the S model as well. SL shoppers beware, Nissan Connect will cost you $1090 because it is bundled with blind spot warning, lane departure warning and moving object detection.

There is one more reason to get Nissan Connect: the plastic surrounding the base and 5″ display audio systems scratches easily. Our nav-free tester looked like someone had run a Brillo Pad across the front and just running my finger across the plastic (not my fingernail) caused fine scratches. This is a pity, but not a problem exclusive to the Altima, the new Accord and Camry suffer from this as well.

Drive

The crash diet and CVT pay dividends at the pump.  The Altima 2.5 manages 27/38/31 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) and does so without direct injection, start/stop, batteries or aero packages. What about that V6? Nissan’s focus on weight has made the Altima 3.5 lighter than the Accord V6 and Fusion 2.0 Ecoboost by over 200lbs. In our 3.5 SL I averaged an impressive 27.6MPG over a week of mixed driving. This is notably above the 25MPG combined EPA score despite my commute and the 2,200ft mountain pass I cross twice a day. You can thank the light curb weight and CVT for that. The Accord V6 matches the Altima’s combined EPA number and the Fusion trumps it by one MPG on paper. In the real world, the Altima beat both by 4MPG. My average was so surprising I dropped by a dealer to try another one. The result was the same. I took to the pumps to “pump-drive-pump-calculate-pump-drive-pump-calculate.” The results came within 1MPG of the car computer.

Nissan’s new CVT has dulled the “rubber band” feeling earlier CVTs inflicted upon drivers. This version also “downshifts” faster, although it still takes longer to get from the highest ratio to a “passing” ratio than a conventional 6-speed automatic when accelerating from 50-70 MPH. Aside from economy, the other benefit of a CVT is that it can keep the engine at an optimum RPM for maximum acceleration and drama-free hill climbing. Despite being down on torque compared to the turbo competition and having a less advantageous torque curve, CVT helped the Altima to scoot to 60MPH in an impressive 5.5 seconds (traction control disabled).

As much as I like CVTs, they are not the dynamic choice for “gear holding”. Sure Nissan has those sexy paddles on the Altima, and they have programmed the CVT to imitate a 7-speed automatic. Unfortunately the transmission’s “shifts” are slow and mushy, feeling  more like a worn out Hydramatic than a modern 7-speed. When you’re on your favorite back-country road, take my advice: caress those sexy paddles, but whatever you do, don’t pull them.

When the road curves, a light chassis will only get you so far, thankfully Nissan tuned the Altima’s suspension to be compliant but surprisingly agile. Adding to the fun-factor, all V6 models are shod with 235/45R18 rubber, notably wider than the V6 Camry’s standard 215 or optional 225 tires. The suspension, curb weight and tires combine to give the Altima a slightly higher road holding score than the Fusion 2.0 Ecoboost we got our hands on, but numbers aren’t everything. The Fusion’s steering may be numb, but it manages more feeling than the Altima and even I have to admit the CVT sucks the fun out of aggressive driving. If that matters to you, drive past the Nissan dealer and pick up a Fusion 2.0T with or without AWD.

Brand reputation is one of the largest factors when it comes time for a shopper to drop 25-30 grand on their family sedan. It’s the reason the old Altima sold as well as it did, and as far as I can see, it’s the only reason the Camry sells in record numbers. Rather than selling on reputation alone however, Nissan has proved they can build a sedan worthy of its lofty sales goals.

Some may call this a cop-out, but in my book the Accord, Fusion and Altima tie for first place in my mind. Here’s why: each of this trio plays to a different audience. The Fusion is gorgeous, more dynamic than the Altima but has stumbled with the 1.6L Ecoboost quality issues. The Accord is a traditional choice with a solid reputation and greater visibility thanks to an enormous greenhouse. Meanwhile the new Altima is a stylish elegant sedan with a powerful and seriously efficient V6. If I were dropping my own money on a sedan in this category I would have a hard time choosing between the Altima 3.5 SL and a Fusion 2.0 Ecoboost.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.6 Seconds ( 3.2 with traction control)

0-60: 5.5 Seconds ( 6.2 with traction control)

1/4 Mile: 13.9 Seconds @ 104 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 27.6 MPG over 670 Miles

2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima SL, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Cargo Area, trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, paddle shifters, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, paddle shifters, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, paddle shifters, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, center console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, front cabin, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, glove boxc, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL Monroney 2013 Nissan Altima Sedan, Infotainment, Nissan Connect System, Picture Courtesy of Nissan Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

 

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NAIAS Preview: Ford Serves Up Some Global Fusion http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/naias-preview-new-ford-fusion-global/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/naias-preview-new-ford-fusion-global/#comments Sun, 08 Jan 2012 18:50:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=424773

Ever since the ill-fated Contour experiment, Ford has maintained a strict separation in its global midsized offerings: Fusion for the Americas and Mondeo for Europe (let’s ignore, for the moment, Australia’s Falcon as the doomed atavism it is). But under the global “One Ford” strategy, a fusion (ahem) of The Blue Oval’s midsized offerings was inevitable, and Ford has signaled for some time that the Fusion and Mondeo are on the verge of becoming one. And here, courtesy of the autoforum.cz, is the first leaked image of Ford’s unified, world-wide midsized contender: though the Fusion and Mondeo names will continue to be used in their respective markets, this car will carry both badges. But are we looking at a revolution in the oft-troubled “world car” game, or a repeat of the Contour’s compromises? Only time will tell…

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail newmondeo1 Hungry for some global fusion? (courtesy:autoforum.cz) Ford serves up some global Fusion... (courtesy: Autocar.co.uk) ]]>
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Chart Of The Day: Midsized Sedans In September And Year-To-Date http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/chart-of-the-day-midsized-sedans-in-september-and-year-to-date/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/10/chart-of-the-day-midsized-sedans-in-september-and-year-to-date/#comments Thu, 06 Oct 2011 22:06:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=413891 We had midsized madness last month, as the Altima came within 500 units of unseating the mighty Camry and Sonata came within 500 units of sending the Accord tumbling further down the chart. Of the top ten best-sellers in the D-segment, only half beat their year-ago numbers, including Altima, Fusion, Impala, 200 and Optima. And though the YTD chart, which you can find in the gallery below, reflects the monthly sales order quite faithfully, it’s getting tighter… especially among the major players. Between the Malibu (171,266) and the Camry (229,521) there are six models in a 58,255-unit pack, and in September the Sonata pulled ahead of Malibu to snag fifth place. As we enter the fourth quarter, the competition is heating up… Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Midsized Mix-up... graph (44)

 

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Chart Of The Day: Midsized Sedans In August And YTD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/chart-of-the-day-midsized-sedans-in-august-and-ytd/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/09/chart-of-the-day-midsized-sedans-in-august-and-ytd/#comments Wed, 07 Sep 2011 22:47:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=410588 NB: Chrysler 200 sold 3787 in August 2010, and Kia Optima sold 1714.

Well, it’s that time again TTAC fans: the Midsized wars roll on with Camry retaking the top spot to extend its advantage in YTD sales. Altima continued its consistent year with a second place showing, and improving over its August 2010 number better than any nameplate besides… the Chrysler 200? Yes, Chrysler’s updated Sebring stopgap outsold the freshly-chic Optima on the month, and passed it in YTD sales. Meanwhile, the Hyundai Sonata may still have been 10k off the Camry’s pace, but its August volume was a mere 37 units from tying Mazda6′s YTD volume (through August). All in all though, this wasn’t an incredible month for midsizers, as half of the best-selling nameplates failed to improve on their year-over-year numbers. But what this segment lacks in volume growth it makes up for in drama, as a falling Accord runs the very real risk of being passed by Malibu and Sonata. Camry may be back in control, but the fight for the rest of the podium is as tight as ever.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Midsized sedans (and friends) graph (38)

 

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Review: 2012 Toyota Camry SE http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/review-2012-toyota-camry-se/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/review-2012-toyota-camry-se/#comments Fri, 26 Aug 2011 20:53:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=408946

Most driving enthusiasts have written off the entire Camry line as the poster child for dull driving appliances. But those who overcame their prejudices and took the 2007-2011 Camry SE for a spin discovered surprisingly firm suspension tuning and, with the V6, a smooth, powerful engine. The most courageous even tried to spread the word. Encountering an anti-Camry diatribe, they’d respond, “But what about the SE?” For 2012 there’s a new Camry. An earlier review covered the overall changes and specifically the non-sport, non-hybrid variants. And the SE?


The Camry SE once again receives a bespoke exterior. For 2012 the side skirts are less aggressive, but the front fascia is more so. Especially welcome: the regular Camry’s chrome grille is given the heave ho. The four-cylinder’s five-spoke alloys appear a little undersized. The V6’s racier 18s more completely fill the wheel openings and look better in person than in photos. Overall the tweaks make the SE a more attractive Camry (such things being relative—little lust is likely to be incited), but I continue prefer the more complex (if also more commonly criticized) curves of the 2011.


With most Camry interiors, there’s a choice between beige and gray. In contrast, the SE’s interior continues to be offered only in the coolest or hottest of hues (depending on whether we’re speaking figuratively or literally): black. (Waiting for red, or even brown? Keep waiting.) With the 2007-2011 Camry, the dark shade helped obscure the poverty of the interior plastics. While this is less necessary with the 2012, the effect remains welcome. But the #1 reason to opt for the SE trim: the front seats. For 2012 the regular Camry’s buckets have been stripped of anything resembling lateral support. The SE’s seats have much larger, more closely-spaced side bolsters that comfortably and effectively cup one’s lower torso. A power-lumbar adjustment is standard, avoiding the lack of lower back support in the LE. Missed: rear air vents are available only in the XLE. Happily not missed: unlike last year, the rear seat folds to expand the trunk in the SE. Apparently they felt that the revised body was stiff enough without adding additional bracing.

The 178-horsepower four-cylinder engine does a decent job of motivating the Camry. But the sounds it makes don’t encourage frequent exercise, so it’s a poor fit for the intended character of the SE. I was only able to spend a few minutes with the sweet 268-horsepower V6, and intend to more completely review it once I can get one for a week, but for enthusiasts it’s clearly the way to go. Though unchanged since 2007, the V6 continues to match competitors with its effortless power and surpass them (and especially the Hyundai turbocharged four) in terms of sound and feel. Compared to the 2011, the SE V6’s curb weight is down 63 pounds (to 3,420) but the final drive ratio is a little taller, so acceleration remains about the same.

Fuel economy is up, especially with the four, which now leads the segment with EPA ratings of 25 MPG city, 35 highway. The V6’s 21/30 can’t quite match the Sonata 2.0T’s 22/34.

A funny thing has happened with the suspension tuning. For 2012, the regular Camrys receive slightly firmer suspension tuning and improved suspension geometry, so they handle with considerably more precision and control than before. At the same time, the SE’s suspension has been softened relative to the 2007 SE’s (the last year I drove one). As a result, the sport model’s ride is no longer borderline harsh, but its handling, while marginally more taut than the regular Camry’s and similarly more precise than the previous generation SE’s, is a less dramatic step up. With both ride and handling, most of the difference comes from the tires. Compared to the regular Camry’s Michelin Energy rubber, the SE’s Michelin Primacy tires (17s with the four, 18s with the V6) clomp more loudly and firmly over tar strips while sticking much better and with less fuss in hard turns. Even with the performance treads the Camry and I didn’t quite meld.

Engine choice makes a big difference. The V6 adds 180 pounds, all of them in the nose, and you feel every one of them in the heavier (but at least equally mute) steering. This difference is a mixed blessing. The SE V6 feels more solid and jiggles less, but it also feels heavier and less agile. As with all 2012 Camrys, the silky low-speed feel that has distinguished the line for the last two decades is much less in evidence, apparently a victim of the pursuit of higher EPA numbers, better handling, or lower costs.

Overall, the 2012 Toyota Camry SE is a better car than the 2011. The interior is much improved, body motions are better controlled, and fuel economy (Toyota’s primary focus with the redesign) has improved. But, as with the regular Camry, some chassis refinement has been given up. The biggest problem, though, concerns the cars’ character. The four-cylinder SE goes about its work with admirable precision and control, but feels soulless. Add in the buzzy four, and the car just isn’t involving. The V6 adds a healthy dollop of thrills, but in my brief drive its additional mass seemed to dull the car’s handling. Though handling is generally my top priority, if I had to have a Camry (and no other car) the SE V6 would be an easy choice. I’d recommend the same choice to non-enthusiasts not interested in the hybrid for the SE’s more cosseting seats alone.

But no one has to have a Camry. Even with its more dramatic suspension tuning, the 2007-2011 SE failed to break through most enthusiasts’ prima facie rejection of the Camry. With its less overtly sporting character, the 2012 is unlikely to do better. Toyota should not be surprised by this rejection. We were told about their active participation in NASCAR, which this year includes the Daytona pace car (which was brought to the Camry launch event). But, as Volvo has also discovered, if you build a brand around practical concerns (in its case safety) it’s very difficult to then market performance-oriented variants. Toyota primarily pitches the Camry as a safe, dependable, economical, “worry-free” appliance. To then turn around and sponsor fuel-guzzling, maintenance-intensive, potentially deadly race cars will, at best, have little impact. At worst, car buyers could become confused and wonder what Toyota and its best-selling model are really about.

Toyota provided fueled and insured cars along with a light lunch at a press event.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online provide of car reliability and fuel economy information. Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail It's all in the Camry... Camry SE V6 wheel Camry SE V6 interior Camry SE V6 front quarter Camry SE V6 front Camry SE V6 engine Camry SE 4 trunk Camry SE 4 rear seat Camry SE 4 rear quarter Camry SE 4 interior Camry SE 4 instrument panel Camry SE 4 front quarter Camry SE 4 front Camry SE 4 engine

 

 

]]> http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/review-2012-toyota-camry-se/feed/ 52 Review: 2012 Toyota Camry http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/review-2012-toyota-camry/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/review-2012-toyota-camry/#comments Wed, 24 Aug 2011 16:39:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=408555

The year: 1992. The rental car: the then-new third-generation Toyota Camry. My father was surprised how much the car drove like his Lexus LS 400, it was so smooth and quiet. While enthusiasts might deride the Camry as an appliance, it had this, and for the last two decades has served as the midsize sedan segment’s benchmark for refinement. Despite dull handling and an interior that grew cheaper with each redesign, sales increased, to the point that the Camry has been the best-selling car in the U.S. for 13 of the last 14 years.

But with competitors more stylish, more powerful, better-finished, and even poised to pass the Camry in refinement, the Camry increasingly trades on past accolades, incentives, and a reputation for reliability. Consequently, younger drivers go elsewhere, and the average buyer has hit the big 6-0. Many have bought their last car. To maintain its leadership, the Camry must improve. With the 2012 redesign, does it? (This review covers the regular Camry. The SE and Hybrid will be evaluated separately.)


Time was, Toyota entirely revised its cars every other generation. But the 2012 Camry is the third generation on a platform that dates back to the 2002 model year. Exterior dimensions are unchanged, and interior dimensions increase by only fractions of an inch. Consequently, the Camry remains considerably smaller than the Honda Accord, the Mazda6, and even the new Volkswagen Passat. But many buyers have rejected the Honda and Mazda as too large; for them the Camry was already the right size.

Toyota notes that every exterior panel is new. At first glance the midsection looks much the same, though a closer study discovers simpler surfacing. The ends of the car have changed more dramatically, giving up their Banglesque curves for boxier shapes. Neither striking nor laden with controversial flourishes, the new exterior recalls the Camrys of the 1980s and 1990s in its utterly forgettable inoffensiveness.

Criticisms of the 2007-2011 interior clearly hit home, for Toyota has upgraded the Camry’s cabin for 2012. The instrument panel top has stitching in a contrasting color molded into it (a technique also employed by Buick and Lincoln), some other surfaces are somewhat soft to the touch, the instruments have a more sophisticated appearance, and the doors feel more solid when opened and closed. Though plenty of hard plastic lingers, the thin velour seat fabrics verge on chintzy even in the XLE, and the “stitching” molded into the trim pieces flanking the lower center stack (why?) could not be less convincing, the overall effect is a substantial step in the right direction. Not class-leading, but solidly average. The hard plastics feel solid and none of the switches screams cheap. The controls are easy to reach and generally intuitive.

The seating position and perceived roominess of the Camry have changed much more than the minimally changed interior dimensions suggest. The base of the side windows and especially that of the windshield seem higher and more distant. Part of this is real, but the interior panels have also been reshaped to provide the appearance of a roomier interior, with more horizontal lines, sharper corners where the doors and instrument panel meet, and fewer intrusive curves. The seats also seem to have been repositioned. The downside: forward visibility takes a modest hit in the front row and a more sizable one in the second row.

About those front seats: they’re larger and less contoured. Better for regular patrons of Old Country Buffet, less supportive for the rest of us. In the LE, the non-adjustable lumbar support is lacking, with a small bulge high up the seatback. The power lumbar in the XLE helps, but also hits a little high. The rear seat, perhaps the segment’s roomiest a decade ago, can’t match those in the Honda and VW for limo-like legroom and sits a little low. Rear air vents are only fitted with the XLE. Trunk room is much more competitive.

With an intense focus on what car buyers are willing and unwilling to pay for, and perhaps on minimizing first-year glitches as well, Toyota has carried over last year’s 178-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder and 268-horspower 3.5-liter V6 engines. Meaning no direct injection, but the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima are the outliers here. Everyone else is in the same ballpark with their fours. Others’ uplevel engines kick out just a few more horses—is there an industry-wide gentleman’s agreement to limit midsize sedan buyers to 280 horsepower? (Not that it would make sense to channel much more through the front wheels alone.) Paired as before with a six-speed automatic, even the four is easily quick enough for most drivers. The manual transmission has been dropped, but the automatic is manually-shiftable in all non-Hybrid Camrys. The four’s shakiness at idle and buzziness when revved are larger issues. Winding the four out gets the job done, but is more irritating than exciting. Those seeking a smoother, much better-sounding engine should, as before, opt for the six.

Car buyers have put a higher priority on fuel economy than horsepower in recent years, and Toyota focused its efforts accordingly. Toyota cut curb weights (by 117 pounds for the four, 63 for the V6), smoothed the underbody, thinned the oil, raised the final drive ratios, fitted electric-assist power steering, and so forth to pick up a few tenths here, a few tenths there. The end result: EPA ratings of 25 city / 35 highway for the four, up from 22/32 last year, and 21/ 30 for the V6, up from 20/29. The four’s numbers are best-in-class (for now), tying the Hyundai Sonata on the highway and beating it by one in the city. Toyota claims best-in-class honors for the V6 as well, but this somehow ignores the Sonata 2.0T’s 22/34. A BMW-style instantaneous fuel economy gauge and attending row of green LEDs attempt to encourage more fuel-efficient driving, but they often swing wildly following a lag, so I found them of little help.

So far, incremental rather than game-changing improvements, but improvements nonetheless. The chassis changes are iffier. Revised suspension geometry reduces body roll and improves body control, while low-effort steering helps the car feel lighter than it is, almost agile. But the old car has a more fluid, natural feel. Steering is part of the difference. Though the old system was hardly chatty, the new, electric-assist system is light on-center and, though it weights up as the wheel is turned, provides hardly any feedback.

Then there’s ride quality. Especially for those first few feet and at low speeds, the last few generations have felt like they were gliding down the road. Well, this silky, cushy feel that has been a Camry highlight since 1992 is all but gone. Though large bumps are absorbed with more control than before, the small stuff is no longer almost entirely filtered out and the ride is more jiggly over patchy pavement. Toyota seems to have benchmarked the Ford Fusion or Honda Accord instead of the other way around. Toyota claims the new car is quieter, but my ears beg to differ. Sometimes objective measures are one thing, and the subjective experience another. The new Camry has the character of a “numbers car.”

Apparently aware that the incrementally improved, conservatively styled new car isn’t going to take the world by storm, Toyota has cut prices for every trim level save the loss-leader L, in one case by $2,000. Standard content reductions will likely offset much of the reductions; details to come. Toyota also touts the Camry’s storied reliability, pitching it as the “worry-free” choice. This remains to be seen, but with so many parts carried over, including the engines and transmission, bugs should be few and minor.

In the end, while the new interior is a definite improvement, efforts to improve fuel economy and handling, and perhaps to also cut costs, have robbed the Camry of a key distinguishing strength. If my Lexus-loving father rented the 2012 Camry, he’d notice…nothing. The new car isn’t coarse, but it’s no longer the segment benchmark for refinement. With their own redesigned midsize sedans on the way, and the Toyota and VW of years past in their crosshairs, Chevrolet and Ford will now vie for this title.

Toyota provided fueled and insured cars along with a light lunch at a press event.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online provide of car reliability and fuel economy information.

2011 Camry front view forward 2011 Camry rear view forward 2012 Camry front view forward 2012 Camry rear view forward Camry fake stitching Camry IP close-up 2 Camry IP close-up Camry XLE 4 engine Here we go... Camry XLE front Camry XLE instrument panel 2 Camry XLE instrument panel Camry XLE instruments Camry XLE interior Camry XLE rear quarter Camry XLE rear seat Camry XLE side Camry XLE trunk Camry-XLE-thumb ]]>
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Midsized Wars: The “Big Six” Sedans, 1995-2010 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/midsized-wars-the-big-six-sedans-1995-2010/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/midsized-wars-the-big-six-sedans-1995-2010/#comments Fri, 12 Aug 2011 00:26:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=406770 With signs of change appearing in the midsized segment, I thought we would look at our archived sales results for the “Big Six” sedan nameplates in hopes of some historic context. And here it is: competitive convergence is turning what used to be Toyota and Honda’s wading pool into a bloody knife fight.

Sonata has relentless momentum on its side, and Altima has enjoyed remarkably consistent, if less dramatic, growth. Fusion looks like it’s taking off like a rocket ship, but I purposefully left out sales results for its predecessor, the Taurus, which actually overlapped Fusion by several years (sorry Ford fans, but I wanted to keep this to a single nameplate per manufacturer). Malibu’s been up-and-down since the late 90s (I also did not include fleet-special “Malibu Classic” sales), and with a facelift coming, 2011 will be key to determining the most recent model’s ultimate success. And while Camry peaked in 2007, Accord’s peak was much earlier, in 2001… and both are currently on an unmistakeable slide. With the two kings tumbling, and everyone else gunning for them in a tight cluster, it’s clear that we’re in the midst of a possible long-term shift in the US car market.

 

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Chart Of The Day: The “Big Six” Midsized Sedans In 2011 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/chart-of-the-day-the-big-six-midsized-sedans-in-2011/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/07/chart-of-the-day-the-big-six-midsized-sedans-in-2011/#comments Thu, 14 Jul 2011 19:52:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=402736

A year ago I put together a chart comparing the first-half performance of America’s “big six” most popular midsized sedans. Then, the graph seemed to show promising growth and a tightening segment. Now we seem to be looking at an up-and-down but ultimately more stagnant market… and a segment that is still battling it out in some of the closest competition in recent memory. But this chart alone doesn’t tell the whole story… hit the jump for the same chart, only with sales plotted cumulatively by month.

Plotted in terms of cumulative YTD sales, the Camry is a clear winner… and this less than a year away from its relaunch. Toyota’s demise has clearly been overreported in some circles, but this all-important midsized segment is still tighter than a laser weld tolerance. Even the slightest slip-up could cause fortunes to vary dramatically, and with only 30k units separating King Camry from the upstart Sonata, these six sedans could take this competition right down too the wire…

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Follow-Up: Legroom In Midsize Sedans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/follow-up-legroom-in-midsize-sedans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/follow-up-legroom-in-midsize-sedans/#comments Sat, 23 Apr 2011 20:33:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=392826

Last week we discussed a rumor that suggested the new 2013 Malibu’s rear legroom might be compromised as a result of its redesign, and in the original post I included the official manufacturer numbers for rear legroom in the “big six” midsize sedans. This led to an interesting discussion in our comments section, and the comparison apparently caught the attention of at least one boss of a global automaker’s US operations. This exec (who has admitted to being a daily TTAC reader), wrote in to point out that there are two different SAE standards for measuring rear legroom, the L33 “Effective legroom” test, in which the front seat is placed at the appropriate distance for a driver in the 95 percentile of height, and the L34 “Maximum driver legroom” test, in which the front seat is placed all the way before measuring. As a result of our conversation, I thought I’d share a comparison of the six best-selling D-segment sedans using a different (and hopefully less-confusing) metric: combined legroom. You can move the seat, but you can’t run away from this metric…

Combined legroom (the sum of official front and rear legroom numbers) for the “big six” midsize sedans are as follows:

Hyundai Sonata: 80.1 inches

Toyota Camry: 80 inches

Nissan Altima: 79.9 inches

Chevrolet Malibu: 79.8 inches

Honda Accord: 79.7 inches

Ford Fusion: 79.4 inches

The crazy part: sure enough, the new Malibu lost .8 inches of combined legroom (almost all in the back seat), with 42.1/36.9/79.0 (front/rear/combined), putting it at the bottom of its class in this metric (albeit by .4 inches). But as we noted at the time, rear legroom isn’t the outgoing Malibu’s main problem, hip and shoulder room are. There, crucially, GM did what it had to: the new ‘bu’s rear hiproom has expanded from 52.1 to 54.4, while rear shoulder room is up from 53.9 to 57.1.

We can look at more interior space measurement comparisons if there’s interest, but one of the most important lessons from all this is that subjective reviews of perceived interior space matter. Though “combined legroom” helps keep comparisons on a relatively apples-to-apples comparison, the feel of a car’s interior and and its ability to create a sense of space remains primary to the user experience… and that can’t be broken down into numbers.

Or can it? Obviously the position of the front seat at any given time has the major effect on a given rear-seat experience, but despite this problematic issue, marketing firms still ask consumers about their perceptions of front and rear-seat spaciousness. And based on the results of one such survey, shared with us by our mystery executive, the reactions are as confusing as you’d expect, given that they say as much or more about the consumers than their vehicles. Here are the satisfaction ratings for each of the “big six” (front/back)

Hyundai Sonata: 96%/94%

Honda Accord: 96%/89%

Ford Fusion: 95%/90%

Nissan Altima: 97%/87%

Toyota Camry: 94%/90%

Chevrolet Malibu: 93%/90%

Given the Hyundai’s small advantage in combined legroom, it’s not surprising to see it on top here… but the rest of the results seem to have no connection with the raw legroom numbers. It will comes as no surprise to anyone who has worked inside the industry that consumers don’t precisely reflect the reality, but these numbers simply reinforce the importance of capturing a feel with a car’s interior, rather than just redlining the metrics. And it’s a good reminder that high-quality car reviews focus more on capturing a car’s feel than regurgitating a stream of numbers.

 

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2012 Malibu Plays Peek-A-’bu http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/2012-malibu-plays-peek-a-bu/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/03/2012-malibu-plays-peek-a-bu/#comments Thu, 31 Mar 2011 14:57:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=389283

When March sales come out tomorrow, the Chevrolet Malibu will likely find itself in a tough position again. Last month the car that was once hailed as Chevy’s Lutzian turning point had fallen to fifth place in the midsized segment, having sold only slightly better than the Impala which has never been hailed as anything other than a large, inexpensive and unsexy sedan. But Chevy has learned from Ford that the right amount of mid-cycle styling freshening can go a long way: the Fusion never quite lived up to its hype until an update that was more than just a facelift improved its aesthetics, sending it soaring to the number two sales spot in the segment. Chevy is clearly hoping that a fresh look, featuring Camaro-style taillights (a move that echoes the new Charger’s retro-taillamp graft from the Challenger) will juice up the ‘bu… and with no Impala replacement coming for at least a few years, most of Chevy’s midsized-segment chickens are in this retro-look basket.

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Out With The Sebring, In With The… Nassau? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/out-with-the-sebring-in-with-the-nassau/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/04/out-with-the-sebring-in-with-the-nassau/#comments Thu, 29 Apr 2010 14:14:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=354677

Chrysler won’t officially confirm it, but the Detroit Free Press cites Chrysler dealers who say that the tarnished-to-death Sebring nameplate will be replaced with the name “Nassau,” when Chrysler brings out a Fiat-facelifted version of the midsized sedan later this year. The Nassau name first entered Mopar history with the 1955 Windsor Nassau, a a two-door coupe advertised as having “the 100 million dollar look.” After a mere two model years as the Windsor Coupe nameplate, the Nassau name lay dormant for decades before returning as a 2000 styling buck for the Chrysler 300, and again as a midsized sedan/wagon concept in 2007.

Jim Hall of 2953 Analytics tells the Freep that although the updated Sebring won’t look like the Nassau concept,

Chrysler bought the Nassau name when they came out with the concept, so it makes sense they would use it

But what’s in a name? Although the Freep says the Nassau’s interiors are “completely new,” it only says exterior styling will be “substantially different.” And since the Nassau is merely an update to one of the worst cars in America, will the nameplate die when an all-new, Fiat-developed midsized sedan arrives in 2013? If Chrysler’s history is anything to go on, the name certainly appears to be little more than a placeholder. 2007 Chrysler Nassau Concept 2007 Chrysler Nassau Concept 55chryslerwindsorcoupe chryslernassaufront nassau2000concept Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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Cadillac XTS: The Phantom Flagship http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/cadillac-xts-the-phantom-flagship/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/cadillac-xts-the-phantom-flagship/#comments Tue, 12 Jan 2010 15:46:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=341529 2010 Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept

The Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept, which debuts today at the NAIAS, is a look at the new Cadillac flagship which goes into production in early 2012. The XTS’s brief is to replace the moribund DTS and STS sedans, a task that Cadillac desperately needs done properly if it wants to be taken seriously as a luxury competitor. So why is the XTS concept little more than a glorified Buick LaCrosse?

2010 Cadillac XTS Platinum ConceptThe XTS has the exact same 111.7 inch wheelbase as its LaCrosse cousin, bringing it in several inches shorter than the “entry” Cadillac, the CTS. This is no surprise, considering the XTS will be built on an AWD version of the same Epsilon II platform that underpins the LaCrosse, Regal and Saab 9-5. We had heard that a stretched “Super Epsilon” platform was being developed by Holden, but based the dimensions of the XTS, it seems clear that this is a plain-Jane midsized GM sedan under the skin.

To make up for the pedestrian underpinnings, Cadillac designers stretched the XTS out to 203.5 inches. The fact that much of the extra length is in the rear overhang might be Caddy’s attempt at fixing the EpsiII’s legendary trunk shortcomings. One thing is for certain: a LaCrosse with more weight and longer overhangs isn’t going to exactly embody the dynamic-forward, BMW-competing brand values Cadillac is supposed to be cultivating. And at 74.8 inches, it offers only 1.7 inches of width advantage over the LaCrosse, so it’s not exactly a stately cruiser either.

According to Cadillac’s release:

The XTS Platinum Concept design artfully conveys its focus on functionality through technology. It is the antithesis of the conventional three-box sedan, suggesting the active evolution of Cadillac’s design language.

Which means that it looks like a larger version of the Cadillac Converj, no bad thing in and of itself. But if you cover up the fascias, it’s harder than ever to shake the feeling that this is just another midsized car. But, says Cadillac, the XTS was an “inside-out” design. With an interior inspired by the natural beauty of an orchid, Caddy is banking on the XTS’s in-car comfort and “Platinum”-level luxury, including touch-screen navigation, laser-etched suede seats, other “hand cut-and-sewn” materials and organic light emitting diode displays. 2010 Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept

The concept has a theoretical plug-in hybridization of Cadillac’s famous 3.6 liter engine, making 350 hp and 295 lb-ft of torque. What, you were expecting a V8 in Cadillac’s flagship? Magnetic Ride Control is another technological add-on that might make the XTS somewhat distinctive from its Buck brother.

Still, the contrast between the XTS concept and the production version of the Lexus LS or even the Hyundai Equus is stark. GM is clearly spending its Cadillac development money on the ATS BMW 3 Series competitor, rather than trying to keep up with the high end of the luxury flagship market which already has strong contenders on the value (Equus), technology (LS) and snobbery (Merc S-Class) fronts. But then, the 3 Series segment isn’t exactly short on competition either. And without a flagship that screams Cadillac brand values, it’s hard to see where the brand has to go. 2010 Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept 2010 Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept 2010 Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept 2010 Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept 2010 Cadillac XTS Platinum Concept Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

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