The Truth About Cars » Reviews http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 02 Aug 2015 16:00:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 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 » Reviews http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com 2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8T Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-beetle-1-8t-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-beetle-1-8t-review-video/#comments Mon, 13 Jul 2015 13:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1103201 Once upon a time, Volkswagen’s iconic Beetle sold primarily on its low sticker price, durability reputation and ease of maintenance. VW’s new Bug, however, sells on retro style and a healthy dollop of nostalgia. The Bug before us today is the second generation “New Beetle” first resurrected in Europe as a 1998 model based on VW’s […]

The post 2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8T Review (With Video) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-003

Once upon a time, Volkswagen’s iconic Beetle sold primarily on its low sticker price, durability reputation and ease of maintenance. VW’s new Bug, however, sells on retro style and a healthy dollop of nostalgia.

The Bug before us today is the second generation “New Beetle” first resurrected in Europe as a 1998 model based on VW’s Golf and A3 platform. It was then redesigned for 2012, sharing its bones with the MK5 Golf and Jetta.

Redesigning retro is always tricky. This explains why the original Bug barely changed over the years and why the other retro-flashbacks like the PT Cruiser and Chevy HHR turned into one-hit wonders. If you don’t change enough, shoppers won’t see a reason to trade Herbie in for a new time capsule. Change it too much and you’re left with a caricature. Either way you slice it, retro comes at a cost.

Exterior
The original “New Beetle” rocked cutesy-bubbly good looks, headlamps that screamed for aftermarket eye-lashes, tail lamps that begged to be flower-powered and a bud vase built into the dash. VW’s second take on the retro-bug is deliberately more masculine, or so I’m told. The classic fender bulges and retro-inspired wheels are still here, but this bug is longer, wider, and lower than ever before. Making this profile semi-circular like the last gen model would have been tricky since it’s nearly half a foot longer, so they didn’t even try. Instead the engineers penned a kink where the windshield meets the roof for a more traditional roofline up front. The changes make Herbie look like a bug that’s been stepped on slightly or stretched in the middle — take your pick.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-006

The 2015 model is still instantly recognizable as a Bug, but I think I actually miss the “cutsey” new bug’s overall style. The new front bumper seems especially out-of-place as it exaggerates the front overhang and the crisp creases don’t jibe with the oval lamps and bubbly fenders. The design struck me as a paradox: It is as conservative as we expect from Volkswagen, but slightly discordant with the rest of their product line. For a manufacturer known for elegant, restrained and monolithic styling, the Beetle strikes me as almost cartoonish. Almost. VW offers a fix, however: the Beetle drop-top. By removing the lid, the Beetle loses the “squashed” look and somehow gains rear headroom as well.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior-007

Interior
The interior borrows parts from the corporate bin and wraps them in retro styling. We get plenty of painted plastic trim and two glove boxes as a nod to the past. If you’ve recently taken VW’s new Golf out for a spin, you should know that this Beetle is related to the 2015 Jetta, not the 2015 Golf and Audi A3. This means you find plenty of hard plastics inside, and the cabin doesn’t have the “discount Audi” feel you find in VW’s hot hatch. Is that a problem? Not necessarily. The Golf has an unusually nice interior for its base price tag and the Beetle is merely class average. Of course, the Beetle is also an odd product to classify as its only real retro competition comes from the Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper.

Even on our loaded 1.8T tester ($27,805), VW decided not to borrow the Jetta’s power seats or automatic climate control. Although I found the front seats comfortable for my body shape, the range of motion is limited compared to other compacts. The Bug’s rear seats have become a tad more spacious in this generation, but should still be considered “emergency” seats due to limited leg room. Headroom is tight in the rear, but suitable for folks under 6-feet tall. Compared to the internal competition, you’ll find about 4-inches more rear legroom in the 3-door Golf and nearly 8 inches more in the Jetta sedan. If that surprises you, then you may also be surprised to hear that the Fiat 500 actually gives you more rear legroom than the VW, although cargo room is unquestionably more limited.

Once upon a time, you couldn’t get leather in your Beetle and we’ve come full circle to your choice of cloth or V-Tex leatherette — VW-speak for pleather. Of course, the Beetle is all about retro styling and that’s most apparent in the Classic trim, which is well equipped, bargain priced, and comes upholstered in checkered cloth and brown pleather.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Infotainment

Infotainment
No, our tester didn’t come with a CB radio, but there is something retro about VW’s long-serving infotainment systems. Base models get an AM/FM radio, single CD player, Bluetooth and VW’s MDI interface for iDevice/USB integration. In an odd twist, the new Beetle Classic trim and the top-end trim get VW’s touchscreen navigation head unit while the middle two models do not.

The 5-inch touchscreen is shared with the Jetta and, at this point, is far from a spring chicken. Compared to the latest offerings from the competition, VW’s nav system is slow, less polished, less intuitive and the screen is small. Although the 2015 Golf uses a newer system, the one you really need to wait for is the 2016 “MIB II” system with its larger screen and thoroughly modern software package — but it is expected to feature on other VW models before the Beetle. On the bright side, the optional 9-speaker Fender audio system is totally groovy.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8L Turbo Engine-001

Drivetrain
I never really minded the odd-ball 2.5L five-cylinder VW used to put under the Beetle’s hood, but there is no denying the new 1.8L turbo is a huge improvement. Also found under the hood of the Golf, Jetta and Passat, the 1.8L engine cranks out a respectable 170 horsepower and 184 lb-ft. Making the 1.8T even more attractive, all 184 lb-ft happen at just 1,500 RPM. Classic models come only with an Aisin-sourced six-speed automatic transaxle while other trims start with a five-speed manual. Opting for the slushbox will give you the best gasoline fuel economy at an EPA rated 25 MPG city and 33 highway.

Also shared with the Jetta is the Beetle’s refreshed 2.0L turbo diesel, good for 160 horsepower and 238 lb-ft of torque. Although it’s a little slower than the 1.8L gasoline turbo, acceleration is aided by a standard six-speed manual and an optional six-speed dual-clutch automated manual (DSG) transmission.

If neither of those drivetrains float your boat, you can still get the Beetle R-Line with the last generation GTI’s 2.0L turbo engine with 210 horsepower and 207 lb-ft of twist. All those ponies are routed to the front wheels via the same six-speed DSG as the TDI model or a slightly tweaked six-speed manual.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Backup Camera

Drive
Out on the road, the differences between the Jetta, Golf and Beetle are readily apparent. The Beetle is noisier, more softly sprung and slightly slower than the all-new Golf hatchback. Comparisons to the more closely related Jetta are again a little more appropriate than with the Golf. When driven hard, the Beetle exhibits predictable dynamics with plenty of body roll and protest from the tires. At just under 3,000 pounds, the Beetle isn’t a heavy car for the 21st century, but neither is it overly light. A similarly equipped Jetta is a hair lighter despite being longer and the new VW Golf weighs about 100 lbs less. To put that in perspective, the Fiat 500, which could be seen as the only real competitor in this price bracket, is nearly 500 pounds lighter. (The Fiat is, of course, much smaller.) Handling improves on the top-end 1.8T model thanks to wider 235/45R18 tires all the way around, but you’ll need to step up to the R-Line before suspension changes address the soft springs our tester wore.

Acceleration in the 1.8T model is excellent for any car in the $20-26K range with 60 happening in 7.5 seconds, notably faster than the old 2.5L five-cylinder model. Although I wish VW had paired this engine to their six-speed manual, the base five speed is well matched to the engine. Shifter feel is excellent, shifter travel is moderate and the clutch pedal had a linear engagement we’ve come to expect from the Germans. The turbo engine’s low-end torque makes hill climbing a breeze and if you get the manual there’s less gear shifting than a comparable naturally-aspirated engine. Steering feel is average for the compact segment with moderate steering effort.

2015 Volkswagen Beetle Instrument Cluster

The 2.0L R-Line model I sampled briefly from a local dealer seemed underpowered compared to the modern crop of direct-injection 2.0L turbos on the market, but it is notably faster than the Fiat 500 Abarth. Additionally, the six-speed DSG is a dynamic partner on your favorite winding road. The downside to the R-Line is that it isn’t the same engine you get in the current GTI. The new GTI 2.0L turbo has considerably more torque, a bit more horsepower and it all comes to the boil a little sooner than the old engine. That means the R-Line is not the Beetle-GTI hybrid you may be hoping for. It’s also a little rough around the edges thanks to less sound deadening material in the Beetle.

After a week with the Beetle, which happened to be shortly after my spin in a 2015 GTI and 2015 e-Golf, there’s just no way to sugar coat it: The Jetta and Golf are better options unless you value style over practicality, efficiency and performance. The Beetle is unquestionably more car for your dollar then you’ll find at the Fiat dealer, with more luggage room and a snazzier stereo. The problem is the new Golf is sitting right next to the Beetle on the lot. The Golf is more efficient, roomier, has a bigger trunk, handles better, it’s slightly faster and has a much more premium interior. For about the same price.

Now there is a twist here, and that is the VW Beetle Convertible. At $25,595, the Beetle convertible is better looking than the hard top beetle and it’s one of the best drop-top deals in the USA. VW also offers a 2.0L R-Line convertible and a diesel convertible with a six-speed manual. If you’re contemplating a Beetle and want style, there’s nothing wrong with the hardtop — go right ahead. If you’re on the fence, take my advice and either get the Golf or drop a few more bills and get the Beetle convertible.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.6 Seconds

0-60: 7.5 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.6 Seconds @ 92 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 28.2 MPG

2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8L Turbo Engine 2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8L Turbo Engine-001 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Backup Camera 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Cargo Area 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-001 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-002 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-003 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-004 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-005 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-006 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-007 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Exterior-008 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Infotainment 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Infotainment-001 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Instrument Cluster 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior-001 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior-002 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior-003 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior-004 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior-005 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior-006 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior-007 2015 Volkswagen Beetle Interior-008

The post 2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8T Review (With Video) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-beetle-1-8t-review-video/feed/ 43
Thank You, YouTube Viewers – TTAC Hits 1,000 Subscribers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/thank-youtube-viewers-ttac-hits-1000-subscribers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/thank-youtube-viewers-ttac-hits-1000-subscribers/#comments Wed, 08 Jul 2015 19:59:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1111225 TTAC hit 1,000 subscribers on YouTube today and it’s all thanks to our man Alex L. Dykes, who single-handedly puts together some great videos, and to those of you who’ve chosen to show your support with clickvotes. If you haven’t subscribed, why haven’t you subscribed yet? Don’t you want us to make videos? Come on, […]

The post Thank You, YouTube Viewers – TTAC Hits 1,000 Subscribers appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
TTAC YouTube Videos

TTAC hit 1,000 subscribers on YouTube today and it’s all thanks to our man Alex L. Dykes, who single-handedly puts together some great videos, and to those of you who’ve chosen to show your support with clickvotes.

If you haven’t subscribed, why haven’t you subscribed yet? Don’t you want us to make videos? Come on, people. Do it for Alex. Do it for TTAC. Do it so we can justify doing more than one video a week.

The post Thank You, YouTube Viewers – TTAC Hits 1,000 Subscribers appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/thank-youtube-viewers-ttac-hits-1000-subscribers/feed/ 13
CPO To Go: 2014 Lexus IS F http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/cpo-go-2014-lexus-f/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/cpo-go-2014-lexus-f/#comments Tue, 23 Jun 2015 13:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1093425 I usually have more fun with $5,000 cars than with $55,000 cars. It’s not because I’m cheap. Well, let me rephrase that. I love investing in a quality vehicle, but in the world that is wholesale auctions, I rarely get to see them. You can find nearly anything at the auctions that has been traded-in, repossessed […]

The post CPO To Go: 2014 Lexus IS F appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
is7

I usually have more fun with $5,000 cars than with $55,000 cars.

It’s not because I’m cheap. Well, let me rephrase that. I love investing in a quality vehicle, but in the world that is wholesale auctions, I rarely get to see them. You can find nearly anything at the auctions that has been traded-in, repossessed or not picked up at the end of it’s lease. What you can’t find are the keepers.

Toyota imported only a bit over 5,000 of these IS F sports sedans from 2008 thru 2014. The number brought to auction so far in 2015? 35. Annualized, that’s less than a 1.5% turnover rate in a business where anywhere from 20% to 60% of late model vehicles will revisit ‘wholesale heaven’ before getting shucked back into a retail dealership.

After a week and change behind the wheel of this 2014 Lexus IS F, I finally figured out why you see so few of these vehicles at the auctions. It’s the one missing ingredient that nearly every enthusiast publication glosses over when they review any high-end sports car.

The real world ownership experience.

is3Not the arduous race tracks specifically designed to distinguish the better from the best in mere tenths of a second. Not those drop-dead gorgeous long and winding roads that make you contemplate the existence of God and the beauty of all creation.

I was able to find joy with the IS F in the everyday banality of middle-aged life. Impromptu burger runs, long stop lights, even in the worst of rush hours. There was always either a burbling exhaust note or a 13-speaker stereo system that made the IS F experience rare, valuable, and difficult to imitate.

Then again, this attitude towards the IS F really has an awful lot to do with where I live. I spend most of my driving time in the outskirts of a major metropolitan area. The ex-urbs. The test tracks that highlight the 0 to 60 4.2 second time for this 416 horsepower screamer regularly slammed straight into the brutal brick walls of reality that are artificially low speed limits, frequent stops, and excessive police enforcement.

is5In my real world of traveling from auction to auction, I need an exterior that blends in so that I can get what amounts to a short-term thrill between stop lights, stop signs and traffic that just seems to stop without any rhyme or reason.

Except for the wheels, which has a bit of a dulled out boy-racer vibe to them, the exterior of the Lexus IS F is a rolling representation of Clark Kent. It is the Captain Anonymous of four-wheeled superheroes in a sports car universe where the loud and proud high rollers have become all too easily recognized.

Other than the wheels, which I would replace with a more Q-ship styled quartet, there is nothing else that stands out aesthetically with this super-fast sports sedan compared with other less powerful, and less expensive alternatives.

Enthusiasts may be able to pick out the small chorus of ‘F’ badges along with a few unique exterior touches from the wider fenders to the imperceptibly larger rear spoiler. Yet, in the end, the IS F chooses a conservative route that makes it less popular for the flashy and attention seeking owner, and far more useful for stealth seekers like me who are trying to avoid the revenuing schemes and speed traps of local police departments.

YouTube chronicles this unfortunate neverending battle between an enthusiast’s love, and the desire of the legalized theft cartels to revenue out the nicest rides whenever possible.

Corvettes? Dead! In the world of speed enforcement, these cars should come with a “Kick me!” sign.

Black M3? Halt! (Credit to the nice cop.)

Mercedes C63? Damn those 1%’ers! Speed trap cities and towns consider a Mercedes to be their proverbial ten pound fish in the easy money barrel.

is8

A little compact Lexus? In ultra-white? (yes, that is the color description!)

Just feel free to hide your 5.0-liter 416 horsepower V8 and blend in with the sea of traffic until the sharks swim away for better prey. In the real world of driving, the IS F – less those wheels – can be driven as the ultimate Q-Ship.

is11The inside of this Lexus tells a very different story.

The contrast between the suit and tie exterior and this loud and proud interior is probably the biggest dichotomy in high end sports sedans. For those not wanting to relive the trombone case red hues of yesteryear, Lexus also offers a dark suit gray and a bright white leather seating package that is closer to mainstream tastes.

See all those controls on the steering wheel? I wish every competitor would just copy this layout and call it a day. The current IS, with nearly twice as many buttons and fidgits falls far below the real-world ease that is this simple five-by-five design.

As a circa 2008 car with minimal updates the IS F, suffers from two incurable era specific maladies from that time period. The excessive use of interior design cues that originated 10 years ago, and this scratch happy material called aluminized composite accents. Enthusiasts know it as fake carbon fiber while middle-aged men like me who are still stuck in the 1990s scratch their heads and say, “What’s wrong with using some nice thick wood instead?”

is13Ahhh, that’s much better. No gimmicky crap. No little icons or infotainment driven cartoon style graphics. Just a simple layout. Everything neat and quick to read. Truth be told, that prominent tachometer combined with the digital speedo is a great combination. Still, the IS F instrument cluster offers as much useful information about the powertrain’s activities as a 25-year-old Toyota Celica All-Trac. If you are looking for a video game style display with trivial feedback about every little nuance of the driving experience, look elsewhere.

The Lexus IS F dashboard carries over Toyota’s love for the big simple buttons and knobs over rotating dialers and plasticized joysticks of the competition. It took less than a day to get used to the flow of the layout.

There are also several other unique take-it-or-leave-it touches to this interior such as…

is15

This shift gate along with the single cupholder. A definitive post-Y2K design element.

is16

What is this strange contraption? I thought this would house the USB connection and maybe an adapter or two. Ash trays are gradually becoming the CD players of the modern day and the cassette players of ten years years ago. By the way, Lexus was also the last brand to get rid of the old cassette players.

is17

Interesting… on a slow news day I’m sure we can debate the right place for these plug-in connections.

is18

The rear seat room is about on par with a Civic. Small, but amazingly comfortable if you’re 5’8″ or less.

is19

The kids never complained, even after two several hour jaunts. As for seat comfort? These seats depend highly on your height and your girth. This 5-foot-8, 170 pound guy was perfectly happy; as were my smaller wife and kids. Bigger people should take extra care to feel out the seats in any car of this ilk.

is20

As for the driving experience, it’s pretty much bipolar. When you are light on the throttle it’s as easy to drive as any Camry except for the fact that your handling is precise to a surprisingly minute degree. When you hammer it, even a little bit, the IS F is so incomprehensibly fast and fun that you feel like you’re driving a car that can easily handle the racetrack and the twisted road – but not necessarily the beaten one. You better make sure that the open road in your neck of the woods is sports car friendly because the suspension can get brutal if you live in pothole central. It was a pleasure to drive in the one-lane rural smooth roads of Deliverance country, but an unforgiving misery to navigate through the steel plates and bottomless road pits in the city of Atlanta.

TTAC ended up reviewing the car multiple times way back when it was new and fresh. Michael Karesh, Robert Farago, and Jack Baruth all reviewed the IS F back in its new car heyday, and, other than the Scion FR-S, I’m having a hard time finding any other vehicle that was so broadly reviewed and admired as this one. This is one of the few sports sedans left that doesn’t take the driver and completely destroy their line of vision under an ergonomic catastrophe of thick A-pillars, small windows, and side mirrors the size of a football.

You see nearly everything, and the driving experience is in the thick of the fun quotient. All for a real world cost of around $55,000.

is21

Did I say $55,000? Yep! The average wholesale price for a 2014 Lexus IS F at the auctions with about 7,000 miles on it is in the $52,000 range. Throw in the seller fee, transport, and maybe a minimal bit of reconditioning and you’re looking at around a $53,000 wholesale price, and a meeting of the minds at around $55,000. If you want to get a certified pre-owned version, plan on paying around $700 more for it.

That nice little condo in West Palm Beach that you planned on using for your retirement can now be all yours in the form of four wheels and a driver seat that may be easier to sleep in than most hotel beds. About halfway through the week, I thought about driving off to some remote part of north Georgia and sleeping in the thing. Then again, I’m also the type of guy who buys a $100 SUV sight unseen. Your financial risk tolerance and desire for daily weirdness may be far different than mine.

Speaking of cost, do you want to engage in basic DIY maintenance on the IS F? Don’t. Or at least if you do, and rarely do any work yourself, just relegate yourself to raising the hood between oil changes and looking at all the pointless plastic that keeps you away from all the dirty icky engine parts.

is24Every maintenance item seemed to have either a seal or a plastic cover tormenting your inner grease monkey.

At least the battery is on top and easy to get to. On the flip side, Lexus calls their automatic transmission fluid a lifetime fluid. The word “lifetime” for any fluid, from any automaker, should always be replaced with the phrase “warranty period”. Lifetime fluids don’t exist if you happen to be one of those types who keeps their new cars past 120,000 miles. My advice for the long-term keepers among you is to keep abreast of the Lexus enthusiast forums that you can find here, here and here.

A late model IS F will cost you about as much as a well-equipped 2014 Avalon and a prior-gen 2014 Miata… combined. Is this 2014 model worth that much?

Let me put it to you this way: in the real world of car buying and long-term car ownership, the Lexus IS F offers all of the pleasures of a high performance sports sedan with very few of the vices.

That’s the good news. Now having said that, this car is only a good fit for a very small group of enthusiasts.

Do you prefer conservative styling? Do you need room for a small family? Do you live in an area where potholes don’t exist and police enforcement hasn’t quite yet fallen off the cuckoo’s nest? If the answer to these questions is yes, and if your desire for an ultra-fast sports sedan burns into the very core of your being, then the IS F may very well be worth your time.

Just take one piece of advice should you ever decide to trade all that money in for those keys. Do invest in a radar detector. The IS F is made with speed in mind. And get a good lawyer who knows how to get out of speeding tickets. If you buy a car with this much performance, you will probably need to put that lawyer on a retainer.

The post CPO To Go: 2014 Lexus IS F appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/cpo-go-2014-lexus-f/feed/ 88
2015 Infiniti Q50S Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-infiniti-q50s-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-infiniti-q50s-review-video/#comments Mon, 08 Jun 2015 14:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1078809 When Infiniti launched their original G sedan, the brand started gaining a reputation as “the Japanese BMW” due to its sharp handling and V6 engine that loved to rev. Today, the Lexus IS and Cadillac ATS have taken the 3-Series’ place as the compact luxury sedans with the sharpest handing and best feel. What of […]

The post 2015 Infiniti Q50S Review (With Video) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior

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

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

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-005

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

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior

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

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Infotainment-003

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-001

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Engine-001

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

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-0011

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

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Interior-002

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

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-010

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

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior.CR2-002

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

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

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

2015 Infiniti Q50S Exterior-003

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

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.1 Seconds

0-60: 5.05 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.45 Seconds @ 104.2 MPH

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

The post 2015 Infiniti Q50S Review (With Video) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2015-infiniti-q50s-review-video/feed/ 80
2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Review – What, No Entourage? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/2015-hyundai-santa-fe-review-no-entourage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/2015-hyundai-santa-fe-review-no-entourage/#comments Tue, 28 Apr 2015 15:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055473 Americans have spoken with their wallets and we can, for the most part, forget minivans. Consumers accept the loss of much of a minivan’s practicality and flexibility so long as their new vehicle still provides three rows of seats and gains a measure of all-weather usefulness. • U.S. Market Price As Tested: $41,545 • Horsepower: […]

The post 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Review – What, No Entourage? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
2015 hyundai santa fe xl

Americans have spoken with their wallets and we can, for the most part, forget minivans. Consumers accept the loss of much of a minivan’s practicality and flexibility so long as their new vehicle still provides three rows of seats and gains a measure of all-weather usefulness.


• U.S. Market Price As Tested: $41,545

• Horsepower: 290 @ 6400 rpm

• Torque: 252 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 18.8 mpg


Exhibit A: the Hyundai Santa Fe, which is ostensibly a second-generation Hyundai Veracruz, a vehicle which joined many a three-row crossover in killing off vans like Hyundai’s own poorly named Entourage, which didn’t actually have an entourage of any kind. No following to speak of whatsoever.

Oh, there are still minivans. In 2015, Toyota will likely sell more than 150,000 Siennas in America for the first time since 2006. But total minivan volume is down 12% through the first-quarter of 2015 and minivans only accounted for 3.4% of all U.S. new vehicle sales in calendar year 2014, down from 6.5% a decade ago. 

Perhaps you’ve decided that a minivan isn’t necessary, yet you’re not yet ready to lose all the practicality. You’re asking yourself, “How much seating flexibility do I need?” For those who answer, “Not all that much, actually,” Hyundai has a solution. Take the bigger seven-seat Santa Fe, not the Santa Fe Sport, and allow passengers to luxuriate in the space created by the removal of one middle-row seat.

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe XL rear

Inside the Santa Fe, we’re now distancing ourselves rather far from eight-seat minivans and their near-40 cubic feet of space behind the third row – the Santa Fe has but 13.5 cubic feet of cargo capacity behind the third row – but we’re also dealing with a much smaller vehicle overall. The Santa Fe is seven inches shorter, bumper to bumper, than a 2015 Toyota Sienna, four inches narrower, and two inches shorter at the roof. Compared with a top-trim AWD Sienna, the Santa Fe is 650 pounds lighter, as well.

As a result, we’ve also distanced ourselves from the era where enthusiasts decried the ess-you-vee because, in part, “Minivans are so much more carlike.” True, the Santa Fe is a big crossover with a comfort-minded suspension setup, but it’s no bus. Even compared with the much improved 2015 Sienna, America’s best-selling minivan so far this year, the Santa Fe’s on-road behaviour is markedly superior. You don’t buy either vehicle to film an audition for Furious 8, but if you’re in sudden need of a rural road hustle, this prototypical successor to the SUV of yore is undeniably the one I’d take.

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe interior dark

And not only because the Santa Fe simply doesn’t handle poorly. Frankly, the 3.3L, 290-horsepower V6 feels genuinely mighty in the Santa Fe.

Throttle tip-in is measured, acceleration is brisk, torque is always at the ready, and the 6-speed automatic thankfully does its job as an automatic transmission ought to: by not drawing any attention to itself.

Observed fuel economy of 19 mpg in a mix of city and highway driving was on par with the official EPA combined figure but would have been better had I not sought satisfaction in the act of hurling the Santa Fe down highway on-ramps.

Not remotely unpleasant to drive then, but is time spent inside the Santa Fe enjoyable? Loaned to us for a week in April by Hyundai Canada, this is, in Canadian-speak, a $45K Santa Fe XL Limited, equivalent in the U.S. to a $41,545 Santa Fe Limited with the $4650 Ultimate package. (Santa Fes start at $31,045 in the U.S. All-wheel-drive adds $1,750.)

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe XL collage

Proximity access, panoramic sunroofs, heated steering wheels, heated rear seats, ventilated front seats, two-position memory seats, and power liftgates tend to alter verdicts in the auto reviewer world. Indeed, the predictable Hyundai feature load doesn’t hurt. But I enjoyed the Santa Fe’s interior more because of the appropriate six-seat space utilization than the 19-inch alloys, leather seating, or hands-free tailgate (which never works for me anyway.) The third row is by no means voluminous, but there’s room for adult feet under the second row seats, there are separate climate controls, and access to the third row is more straightforward thanks to the gap in the middle row. Both second-row seats can be moved forward a couple of inches without sacrificing the ability to stretch out and get comfortable. For little people, the beltline will be too high for scenic enjoyment, but then again, if you’ve forked out enough coin, your children can scan the skies through the glass roof.

A minivan buyer who’s considering a Santa Fe, or vice versa, may not be so interested in the six-seat version of the Hyundai. But for consumers who don’t require seven-seat capacity, the removal of that seat makes a big difference in the way people live and move and stretch out aft of the parents.

2015 Hyundai Santa Fe XL collage 2

Yet if the Santa Fe isn’t a minivan alternative, what about more direct rivals? I’d take the Toyota Highlander’s interior layout (and its useful shelf up front), the 2016 Honda Pilot’s space behind the third row, the Mazda CX-9 on a twisty road, the Nissan Pathfinder’s smooth second-row operation, and the exterior styling of the Dodge Durango or Ford Flex. In certain areas, there are three-row crossovers that outperform the Hyundai. But the 2015 Santa Fe is a difficult vehicle to fault, particularly because of its powerplant and the value we’ve come to expect from Hyundai, especially in lower trim levels.

Just don’t assume it’s quite as family-friendly as a minivan. None of those crossovers can pull off that trick.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

The post 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe Review – What, No Entourage? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/2015-hyundai-santa-fe-review-no-entourage/feed/ 52
2015 Chevrolet Colorado: Reviewed! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2015-chevrolet-colorado-reviewed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2015-chevrolet-colorado-reviewed/#comments Tue, 31 Mar 2015 20:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1033177 The Chevrolet Colorado is a good little truck, certainly sturdy enough, leading me to believe that it is a capable enabler of various human endeavors that involve catapulting, hurtling, or generally straining one’s body across hill, dale, snow-capped extremity and Ace Hardware parking lot alike. But its obvious novelty—one that so enraptured a certain publication’s staff […]

The post 2015 Chevrolet Colorado: Reviewed! appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
2015 Chevrolet Colorado front side 1

The Chevrolet Colorado is a good little truck, certainly sturdy enough, leading me to believe that it is a capable enabler of various human endeavors that involve catapulting, hurtling, or generally straining one’s body across hill, dale, snow-capped extremity and Ace Hardware parking lot alike.

But its obvious novelty—one that so enraptured a certain publication’s staff to bestow it a pair of calipers that will hardly strain the Colorado’s 1500lb-plus payload—lies in its rejection of the idea that every pickup truck must be the approximate size of a Normandy landing craft.

That’s right—our cars are creeping ever so bigger, ever so clumsier, and if all cars must expand then trucks must do so exponentially, until comes the day when a Silverado rear-ends a Ram, causing Santa Monica to fall into the ocean. But we can do good to admit, even against American exceptionalism, that not every man, woman, and child needs a full-sized truck. (Are those black helicopters I’m hearing?) Until the day that we stop believing in the weirdness of the front-drive mini-truck, a Southern Hemisphere vestige as bizarre as cuy chactao and the Plymouth Scamp, this conveyance in Red Rock Metallic is exactly what some of us deserve: a vehicle that can’t haul as much, can’t tow as much, can’t be ordered with High Country leather the color and texture of your grandfather’s elbows—but something so refreshing that it snaps us awake from thinking that every new pickup needs to be bigger, squarer, more chrome-laden, more ready for ramming than the last hulking beast it replaces.

And yet, the Colorado still manages to dwarf a jellybean F-150 from the Clinton administration—that tenth-generation F-150, has a 10-inch shorter wheelbase and length in its smallest configuration than even the shortest Colorado. Think about that.

Long truck is long.

Long truck is long.

Meanwhile the Colorado seems to defy spatial logic. It looks enormously long but feels small; it feels narrow but it’s hamstring stretching tall; it’s long and narrow and tall but it drives with surprising nimbleness. Yes, even this four-doored long-box. (Remember when such trucks only belonged to railroad companies?) Those coming out of a full-sized Silverado will find little culture shock within its cabin, which is scaled down, sure, narrower now, but never snug and never cramped.

I didn’t get a chance to take the Colorado off-road, or to Colorado, or even to the nearest Canyon. Instead, I drove it around Los Angeles, committing occasional errands, then a sprint up the 101 Highway to a stupendously lavish hotel where the valets asked excitedly not about what I would be driving but about what I was.

The 3.6-liter V6 is a stout little engine, usually relaxed—but ask it firmly and it’ll muster up 305 horsepower with enthusiasm and a nice noise. The six-speed automatic transmission takes some time and a lot of throttle to react, but when on the move it’s plenty smooth. Brakes are very controllable and very powerful, and the accurate and evenly weighted steering isn’t just pretty good, for a truck—it’s pretty good, period. Body motions are nicely reduced to the occasional rumble and jostling, reinforcing the feeling that it’s Like A Bob Seger Song.

Plenty of USB ports! Switchgear feels reassuringly imbued with quality.

Plenty of USB ports! Switchgear feels reassuringly imbued with quality.

Inside, it’s a quiet place to be. Nice and roomy. MyLink dominates the center console, same as in your Impala, y’know—all square buttons and sharp gradients, homely but effective. The flat, two-color gauges are easy to read but also gravely stark. Seats are firm like a doctor’s waiting room, while the rear bottom cushions flip up to stash various unmentionables, just like the Silverado’s. The leather-wrapped steering wheel is terrific to behold.

The rear benches flip up, but clearly not in this photo.

The rear benches flip up, but clearly not in this photo.

Praise to Corvette for its trick temperature gauges, an idea so neat it’s trickled down to every Chevy product, with a retrofit for the 1987 Celebrity Eurosport VR available sometime next Monday—evidently the same people who design showerheads figured out the Colorado’s automatic climate control, because the temperature swings wildly from the ass-freezing cold to Florida-esque mugginess within a single knob click.

The Colorado starts at a hair over $20,000. Which is good. Because the one I tested was nearly twice that—and for $38,870 you get sweet darkened five-spoke wheels ($1,000), leather seats ($950), MyLink ($495), lane departure and frontal collision warnings ($395, and remember, the life you save could be mine), and another thousand-dollar luxury package, which means the aforementioned touchy automatic controls and chrome bits. Humans love shiny things, and pick-em-up truckers even more so.

Sure is shiny!

Sure is shiny. And handsome. But also shiny.

Macho posturing aside, the Colorado is far more accessible than any full-sized truck out there—small enough for a city, even one with four-lane boulevards, yet big enough to trick you into seeming invincible. Chevrolet’s marketing department imagines armies of scruffy young men in artfully cuffed denim and Target Merona plaid shirts staining their pits as they heave entire REI storefronts into the back, giving hardly a worry to the optional factory spray-in bedliner, before cranking the Black Keys through the seven-speaker Bose audio system (a $495 option!) and setting off to reclaim their manliness in lofty and Walden-esque ways, or at least tubing at Mt. Baldy. I don’t disagree with any of that. I know I’ve certainly helped load plenty of tents into tiny pickups during my time with Boy Scout Troop 227 of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, before heading off to summer camp and bounding down dirt roads at McRae-aping speeds while passing branches play drum solos off the A-pillars. Big trucks lumber, small trucks bound.

That would make a pretty good bumper sticker. Get me Chevrolet’s marketing department.

2015 Chevrolet Colorado front side 2

“The new Colorado: guaranteed to fit into 65% of Los Angeles parking garages!”

We imagine such possibilities of vehicles like the Chevrolet Colorado, the Nissan Frontier, the Toyota Tacoma—both of which are getting upgraded, soon enough—and, of course, it may be the nostalgia portion of my mind that remembers the 2001 Nissan Xterra of my childhood that enabled so many trips, so many adventures, so many ideas of taking the next off-ramp from the 101 and winding up thoroughly and wonderfully lost, so far away from water. Is it a truck, or a call to arms? The easy-access Colorado carries forth a go-get-’em lifestyle that that sneakily guilts us into getting off our asses, to take up mountain biking or drywall installation.

Which makes sense—because pickup truck.

The post 2015 Chevrolet Colorado: Reviewed! appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/2015-chevrolet-colorado-reviewed/feed/ 206
Capsule Review: 2015 Ford Mustang V6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-ford-mustang-v6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-ford-mustang-v6/#comments Mon, 02 Mar 2015 13:30:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1009458 This is easy. We can skip the introduction. You know what this is, right? Just in case, let’s be clear. This is a V6-engined, sixth-generation Ford Mustang. Newly released for the 2015 model year, all Mustangs have fled their truck-like ways in favour of an independent rear suspension. That’s just one of a number of […]

The post Capsule Review: 2015 Ford Mustang V6 appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
2015 Ford Mustang V6 white snowThis is easy. We can skip the introduction. You know what this is, right?

Just in case, let’s be clear. This is a V6-engined, sixth-generation Ford Mustang. Newly released for the 2015 model year, all Mustangs have fled their truck-like ways in favour of an independent rear suspension. That’s just one of a number of factors that cause the new Mustang to feel more like a sports car than a traditional American muscle car, even in this basic form.


• USD Price As-Tested: $27,505

• Horsepower: 300 @ 6500 rpm

• Torque: 280 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 19 mpg


Much of the discussion surrounding the arrival of a new Mustang related to the availability of a mid-level four-cylinder EcoBoost engine, a turbocharged 2.3L with 310 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque which, when attached to a 6-speed automatic and drinking premium fuel, travels 21 miles per gallon in the city; 32 on the highway. This is not that car.

This 3.7L V6-powered car makes 10 fewer horsepower and generates 40 fewer lb-ft of torque. On regular fuel, it travels 19 miles per gallon in the city and 28 on the highway. In the U.S., upgrading from this engine to the EcoBoost costs $1500. The automatic transmission is an $1195 option.

2015 Ford Mustang V6 side viewBesides the 6-speed auto shifter, this car, loaned to us for a week by Ford Canada, was fitted with a couple grand in options: 18-inch wheels, a power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, a block heater, a security package, and backup sensors. At USD $27,505  as tested, it’s $5620 less than the least costly V8-engined Mustang GT.

In other words, a big monetary leap is required to earn the coveted 5.0 badge, enough of an increase in the initial outlay alone to think that the two ends of the Mustang spectrum – at least until special editions and Shelby models arrive – are scarcely geared toward the same buyer.

2015 Ford Mustang front viewTherefore, resign yourself, as I did, to the fact that the car which showed up to replace a $50,000 minivan and $65,000 Audi in my driveway wasn’t a $40,000 Mustang but rather a $30,000 Mustang.

Was I better off as a result? I won’t go nearly that far, but the basic Mustang has a certain charm, a real-world affability, that rarely left me wanting more. Aside from, you know, a 5.0 badge, the accompanying 135 extra horsepower, and a 6-speed manual transmission.

But only on occasion. When did 300 horsepower become inadequate? A decade ago, one of my first reviews for my local paper’s Wheels section concerned a 4.6L, V8-powered Mustang with, you guessed it, 300 horsepower. Both this V6 and the decade-old V8 accelerate to 60 mph in slightly more than 5 seconds. The new V6 Mustang is less than 50 pounds heavier than that early fifth-gen car, puts its power down more effectively, and makes a fairly decent noise of its own.

2015 Ford Mustang V6 rear viewEverything else about the latest Mustang? Also better. And there’s a part of me that wonders whether much of what makes the new Mustang so outstanding to drive is enhanced in this V6 car. It weighs nearly 200 pounds less than the V8, with much of that weight loss occurring at the front end. Would steering this delicious be so sweet when saddled with extra heft up front? I doubt it.

Keep in mind, the Mustang permits three different steering modes. The lightest Comfort setting is not in keeping with the car’s twisty road capability and the weightiest Sport setting seemed slightly unnatural to me.

Normal mode, on the other hand, is anything but normal: most other modern cars simply don’t offer up this level of connectivity, and while often precise and quick, they rarely allow your hands to comprehend just how precise and how quick their racks really are.

2015 Ford Mustang V6 interiorSo the V6 is likely sufficient and the steering sets the Mustang apart, but does the car live up to its sporty billing? Undeniably. The Mustang V6 may even be aided by its dearth of performance add-ons – the performance packages available for the EcoBoost and GT aren’t even on the options sheet here. The potential degradation of ride quality caused by track-oriented equipment never crops up. Oh, it’s firm, but it’s not busy or crashy or beholden to its unsprung weight. Moreover, the soft 235/50R18 Michelin X-Ice tires are of an aspect ratio too pillowy to cause any harm to the Mustang V6’s ride.

Tied to a stiff structure, this is a suspension that copes with all that a road throws its way while also being tuned to accept inconsistent and even ham-fisted inputs from the driver. This basic Mustang isn’t a track bruiser, but driven in a semi-aggressive style on a great road, it’s engaging and capable enough to encourage further advancement toward its limits.

Dynamically, it’s a positively European-feeling car; not unlike Ford’s Fusion, Focus, and Fiesta in that respect. But there are undertones of American muscle that link this car to its predecessors and its most direct rival from Chevrolet. I give it credit on both accounts.

The 2015 Mustang isn’t perfect. Although the rear seat is decent for a car of this type (we threw in a front-facing Diono Radian RXT child seat with little difficulty) and the driver’s seat sits pleasantly low and is well-bolstered, front seat passengers couldn’t get comfortable because of the bolstering (their arms aren’t extended to a steering wheel but rather squeezed in the wrong places) and the small footwell. This basic Mustang’s SYNC system, while relatively straightforward, doesn’t use a touchscreen and isn’t a paragon of modernity. The screen for the backup camera is tiny. The overall interior design that earned so much initial applause is less whelming in this lesser guise.

2015 Ford Mustang V6 shift paddleWorst of all, the downshift paddle was literally coming apart at the seams. I was the first auto writer this Mustang visited on its press tour and I hardly used the paddles. After all, they only serve to control a 6-speed automatic transmission that doesn’t shift with the swiftness a sporty car deserves. Nevertheless, there it is, splitting in two. The upshift paddle remained in one piece but isn’t made of high quality plastic. I can’t imagine it will last.

Yet by a measure of many miles, I’d prefer to spend time in this Mustang than in a better-built Chevrolet Camaro, if in fact Camaros are more solidly constructed. The Mustang doesn’t have visibility issues; visibility is the Camaro’s achilles heel. The Mustang feels like it totes around 500 fewer pounds; it’s closer to a 200-pound differential. The Camaro handles with grip and sheer force as though handling is work, like a 9-to-5 job. The Mustang handles with the kind of effervescence we typically encounter in lightweight cars with two-thirds the power, as though handling is Friday night fun.

With added refinement and improved dynamics, it’s hard to imagine many ways in which the Mustang’s appeal could be broadened. I suppose they could add all-wheel-drive availability – gasp – but after spending much of my time with the 2015 Mustang V6 on snow-covered roads, I sincerely hope that the Mustang owner base takes advantage of every opportunity for on-demand tail-out action. Eschew traction. Embrace oversteer.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

The post Capsule Review: 2015 Ford Mustang V6 appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/03/capsule-review-2015-ford-mustang-v6/feed/ 79
Teknikens Värld: Ford Mondeo Estate ‘Dangerously Overweight’ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/teknikens-varld-ford-mondeo-estate-dangerously-overweight/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/teknikens-varld-ford-mondeo-estate-dangerously-overweight/#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 11:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=962754 The Ford Mondeo Estate is in trouble with one Swedish automotive publication, thanks to how much it weighs. Teknikens Värld reports the Mondeo Titanium Estate equipped with the 150-horsepower 2-liter TDCi and six-speed manual is supposed to weigh 3,530 pounds. However, when the publication’s test subject was placed on a roadside scale, the weight came […]

The post Teknikens Värld: Ford Mondeo Estate ‘Dangerously Overweight’ appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
Ford Mondeo Estate overweight

The Ford Mondeo Estate is in trouble with one Swedish automotive publication, thanks to how much it weighs.

Teknikens Värld reports the Mondeo Titanium Estate equipped with the 150-horsepower 2-liter TDCi and six-speed manual is supposed to weigh 3,530 pounds. However, when the publication’s test subject was placed on a roadside scale, the weight came out to 4,145 pounds, 615 more than what Ford said it weighed.

This is a problem in Sweden, as loading a vehicle above its total gross weight is illegal, something that would occur if a family loads the Mondeo to what they believe is the gross weight, only to find they’ve exceeded it.

The extra weight also proved to be dangerous, as the Mondeo failed the publication’s moose test, faring better at said test when the load dropped to 220 pounds above the maximum load limit.

The post Teknikens Värld: Ford Mondeo Estate ‘Dangerously Overweight’ appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/teknikens-varld-ford-mondeo-estate-dangerously-overweight/feed/ 122
US House Committee Reviewing Takata Airbag Recall http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/us-house-committee-reviewing-takata-airbag-recall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/us-house-committee-reviewing-takata-airbag-recall/#comments Thu, 23 Oct 2014 14:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=935402 With around 7.8 million vehicles from various automakers under recall thanks to defects in airbags supplied by Takata, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee is reviewing the proceedings. The Detroit News reports the committee requested a briefing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “on the status of the Takata recalls and the agency’s […]

The post US House Committee Reviewing Takata Airbag Recall appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
Takata Sign

With around 7.8 million vehicles from various automakers under recall thanks to defects in airbags supplied by Takata, the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee is reviewing the proceedings.

The Detroit News reports the committee requested a briefing with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration “on the status of the Takata recalls and the agency’s investigation,” and plans to meet with automakers “to discuss supplier issues,” as well.

The recall, originally affecting 4.7 million units from six automakers, expanded Tuesday to cover 7.8 million units from 10 manufacturers. Further, the NHTSA included General Motors vehicles made in 2002 and 2003 that weren’t supposed to be on the list — they didn’t have Takata airbags — and the website meant to help consumers determine if their vehicles are affected is having issues, though the agency believes high traffic isn’t the problem.

The recall affects a handful of areas with high humidity, where the defective airbags could explode in a manner conducive to producing metal shrapnel, lacerating and/or killing all inside the cabin of the vehicle. Consumers are urged to bring in their vehicles for repair, and if parts aren’t available, will be asked to keep passengers from sitting up front until the deactivated airbag is replaced.

The post US House Committee Reviewing Takata Airbag Recall appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/us-house-committee-reviewing-takata-airbag-recall/feed/ 23
GM, NHTSA Deliberated Saturn Vue Issue Thrice Prior To Recall http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/gm-nhtsa-deliberated-saturn-vue-issue-thrice-prior-recall/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/gm-nhtsa-deliberated-saturn-vue-issue-thrice-prior-recall/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 10:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=908633 The General Motors recall train has boarded quite a few passengers since leaving the station in late February of this year. For one passenger, the 2002-2004 Saturn Vue (V-U-E, if you’re Keith Sweat), it took some deliberation by the conductors and fare inspectors before allowing the compact crossover aboard. Autoblog reports General Motors and the […]

The post GM, NHTSA Deliberated Saturn Vue Issue Thrice Prior To Recall appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
2003 Saturn Vue

The General Motors recall train has boarded quite a few passengers since leaving the station in late February of this year. For one passenger, the 2002-2004 Saturn Vue (V-U-E, if you’re Keith Sweat), it took some deliberation by the conductors and fare inspectors before allowing the compact crossover aboard.

Autoblog reports General Motors and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration held three meetings with each other from mid-June through late July regarding 152 reports of the Vue’s ignition key being easily removable despite the switch not being turned to the “off” position. The reports were first discovered in April by the automaker.

In addition to the meetings, GM’s own Open Issue Review panel looked over the data near the end of July, with the go-ahead for recall given by the Safety Field Action Decision Authority July 31, as noted in a memo sent to the NHTSA the day prior to the issuance of the recall.

On August 8, 215,243 2002-2004 Vues around the globe — 202,155 in the United States — were brought aboard the recall train as part of six recalls issued that day, affecting a total of 312,280 units worldwide.

The post GM, NHTSA Deliberated Saturn Vue Issue Thrice Prior To Recall appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/gm-nhtsa-deliberated-saturn-vue-issue-thrice-prior-recall/feed/ 16
GM Financial Subpoenaed By DOJ In Subprime Lending Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/gm-financial-subpoenaed-doj-subprime-lending-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/gm-financial-subpoenaed-doj-subprime-lending-review/#comments Tue, 05 Aug 2014 10:00:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=882002 While the parent company goes through the federal ringer over product safety, GM Financial is under the gun after receiving a subpoena from the U.S. Department of Justice regarding potential deceptive practices in subprime lending. The Detroit News reports the subpoena is part of a review “to determine if banks were misled into buying some […]

The post GM Financial Subpoenaed By DOJ In Subprime Lending Review appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
GM Financial AmeriCredit

While the parent company goes through the federal ringer over product safety, GM Financial is under the gun after receiving a subpoena from the U.S. Department of Justice regarding potential deceptive practices in subprime lending.

The Detroit News reports the subpoena is part of a review “to determine if banks were misled into buying some auto loans,” according to General Motors. The subpoena was served July 28, requesting documents linked to the lending arm’s and affiliates’ subprime originations and securitizations going back to 2007.

The review in question is the DOJ’s investigation into potential violations of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989, particularly around the underwriting criteria of said originations and “the representations and warranties relating to those underwriting criteria that were made in connection with the securitization of the automobile loan contracts.” The findings of the review could open the door to civil suits.

For GM Financial’s part, executive vice president and treasurer Susan Sheffield claimed the subpoena only focused on subprime lending issues in general, and not on the lender specifically. GM Financial represents 30 percent of all subprime lending to the parent company’s dealership network, and holds the title of second-largest subprime lender with $2 billion issued to-date in 2014.

Representatives for Chrysler Capital and Ford Credit both said their employers have not received a subpoena thus far.

The post GM Financial Subpoenaed By DOJ In Subprime Lending Review appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/gm-financial-subpoenaed-doj-subprime-lending-review/feed/ 12
Car Review: A Tale of Two Darts, Part the First – 2013 Dodge Dart Limited 2.0 L http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/car-review-a-tale-of-two-darts-part-the-first-2013-dodge-dart-limited-2-0-l/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/car-review-a-tale-of-two-darts-part-the-first-2013-dodge-dart-limited-2-0-l/#comments Tue, 10 Jun 2014 20:02:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=839465 A while back Chrysler loaned me a Dodge Dart Limited with the 2.0 liter Tigershark engine and six-speed automatic transmission for the purpose of writing a review. That’s how it works, they loan you the car, you write the review. A social contract, if you will. In this case, however, though I drove the car for […]

The post Car Review: A Tale of Two Darts, Part the First – 2013 Dodge Dart Limited 2.0 L appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
IMG_0092

Full gallery here.

A while back Chrysler loaned me a Dodge Dart Limited with the 2.0 liter Tigershark engine and six-speed automatic transmission for the purpose of writing a review. That’s how it works, they loan you the car, you write the review. A social contract, if you will. In this case, however, though I drove the car for a week and took scores of photos and copious notes, I decided not to write the review at the time. That sort of behavior comes with some risk, particularly if the next time you ask for a press car and they ask for a link to your last review. I had my reasons for putting off the review, and now that I’ve driven a Dart with the larger 2.4 liter motor, I’m glad that I waited, and I think Chrysler should be glad that I waited as well.

I’ll explain all that gladness in Part Two, my review of the 2014 Dodge Dart GT 2.4 L, but everything has a backstory.

Why didn’t I write the review? To begin with, I don’t particularly like to say what everyone else is saying, even if I may agree. I don’t need to add my voice to an echo chorus. If I don’t have something original to say, why bother with “me too”?

What everyone else was saying was that the combination of the 2 liter engine with the automatic resulted in rather canine behavior and we’re not talkin’ greyhounds here. The fact that the Dart with the two liter engine and slushbox is a dog has been attested to by most reviewers and it’s hardly any secret with Chrysler folks too. Detroit is a place where you might run into a decision maker in the auto industry at the grocery when out to buy bread and milk for your mom and where the Dart you park next to might very well have been bought by an engineer on an employee discount. Whenever I mention to Chrysler folks about that drivetrain being a slug, they sort of shrug their shoulders and smile sheepishly.

After my week with the Dart Limited 2.0L/6AT, I wanted to check out the Dart with the larger 2.4L engine. Unfortunatley, there weren’t very many of those made in the Dart’s early production mix. That’s another reason why I’ve waited to write this review. I wasn’t sure just how representative the car I tested was of the Darts you’d be able to buy going forward. I knew that months before I got the test car Fiat Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne admitted that the 2.0L/6AT and the Fiat 1.4 Multiair Turbo powertrains “were not the ideal solution,” and a company spokesperson said that the production mix would be rebalanced as 2.4 L engine production ramped up at the company’s Dundee, Michigan engine plant. The production mix has indeed changed and the 2.4 liter is now installed in the majority of Darts. The 2.0 liter is now only available in the base SE car and the 1.4 turbo shared with the Fiat 500 is only offered on the Dart Aero. In that sense I was correct, the car that I’m describing to you is not representative of what you can buy. In fact, you can’t even buy a 2014 Dart Limited with the 2.0.

So why write the review now? Well, to begin with the drivetrain is still available on the Dart, if not with the same high trim level. Also, as it turns out, I think the basic car is pretty decent, even better than that, and some buyers, out of a sense of frugality or budget realities, might decide to buy the Dart SE, thinking that they’ll get a nice car, and save money both on the purchase and on gasoline. As you’ll see, though, the 2.0 liter may be a false economy. Finally, reviewing this car puts the upcoming Dart GT review in context and much of this review will also still be relevant to those considering a Dart Limited.

The problem as I see it isn’t how much power that engine has, or doesn’t have. With 160 hp, it’s not going to be a speed demon but under normal circumstances with that much power in a slightly chubby compact car you should be fine in traffic and on the highway. However, every combination of engine and transmission these days seems to be calibrated to yield maximum Ms per G on the EPA test cycle, not maximum driveability. The 2.0L/6AT combination is EPA rated at 25/36 and it seems calibrated to get into the highest gear ratio as quickly as possible, meaning you’re in a higher gear before you ever get to the meaty part of the power curve.

I tend to treat “it was so slow as to be unsafe in traffic” reviews with some skepticism because 20 year old Hondas and Camrys can keep up with traffic just fine, even today when 300+ horsepower cars are commonplace. However, the way the 2.0/6AT combo drove, I genuinely felt nervous when trying to zip into a spot in traffic or when merging onto the freeway. I love a good stick shift, but I’ve never warmed to using paddle shifters or manually shifting with automatic transmissions. I figure that ZF et al know more about shifting than I do. Still, with this Dart I discovered that I had to autostick it to force the car to hold a gear long enough to be able to get on top of it and accelerate safely in traffic.

I also discovered why the transmission and engine are mapped the way they are. Leaving the car to its own devices in mixed suburban driving I was getting an indicated gas mileage in the high twenty-nines, but when I started shifting myself that dropped to about 26.5 mpg.

I really wanted to like the car. Based on the Compact U.S. Wide platform that Chrysler’s engineers in Auburn Hills derived from Fiat’s C-Evo platform first seen under the current Alfa Romeo Giulietta, the Dart feels spacious, at least for front seat passengers. Wide is no misnomer, there’s an airy feel to the cabin from behind the wheel. The belt line sweeps up towards the rear of the car but at the driver’s window it’s almost low enough for resting your elbow. Because of that rising belt line, though, rear passengers might feel a bit more closed in.

Visibility for the driver is pretty good, except for the fact that the hood slopes down sharply and you can’t see the front corners. Sajeev Mehta will rejoice at the Day Light Opening (DLO) win, as small triangular windows behind the rear door glass provide a clear look at your blind spots over your shoulders. They also help keep rear passengers from getting claustrophobic from the high belt line in back. Speaking of DLO, there is some DLO fail around the mirror and A pillar, with a black plastic insert.

Speaking of black plastic, there’s a variety of black colored and textured polymers at play in the interior. Most of the surfaces that you’d come into contact with, though, are of the soft touch kind.

Everything up front was properly ergonomic, with Chrysler’s industry leading 8.4″ UConnect touchscreen well integrated visually with the configurable display that sits directly in front of the driver. I thought the default red color scheme of the liquid crystal displays was a bit garish, compared to the cooler blue scheme on the Chrysler 300S I’d had the week before, but that’s just a matter of personal taste. YMMV. The instrument panel is surrounded by a band of red trim that lights up subtly when the headlights are on. It’s a nice touch in this class of car, providing you like red.

Chrysler is big on their sliding console storage bin in the company’s minivans. I think that’s where they got the idea for a two position armrest on top of the console storage bin. Whichever position you slide it to, when you open it, you’ll find a USB port, a 1/8″ AUX port, and, what is getting to be a rarity these days, a CD drive.

The 60/40 fold-down back seat features a console that flips down from the seat back and contains cupholders and a storage bin. When that console is flipped down, it reveals the hatch for passing though long items that are being stored in the trunk, like skis.

I thought the rear seat was roomy enough but then I’m a 5’6 tall guy with a 28″ inseam. I was left with about 3″ of headroom and about 5″ of knee room. Will it Zayde? Yes, I had no problems getting my grandson’s rear facing car seat in the Dart. There are child seat latch anchors on the back deck for all three rear seat positions.

In Limited trim, the Dart had most of the features most drivers will want, in fact, most of the options offered on the car – it was pretty loaded. With the Technology Group, Premium Group, automatic transmission, UConnect and a few odds and ends, it stickered out to $25,190, including a $795 destination charge.

The seats were full leather and quite comfortable. They feature the now ubiquitous contrasting detail stitching. The passenger seat has a hidden storage compartment under the hinged seat squab for stowing small valuables.

Visually, to my tastes it’s an attractive car, sort of a muscular and squat wedge. Car companies are putting more style into their mass market compact sedans. There’s a lot of sheet metal contouring happening on the hood and around the front end that you probably wouldn’t have seen a few years ago in a class of cars that American’s have considered to be economy cars. On the outside, the Dart looks more expensive than it is.

I like the way the headlamp lenses stand proud of the fender and the rear end goes together in harmony, with an integrated. duck tail spoiler. The rear end also features a version of the Dodge Charger’s brand identifying full-width LED tail-lights. I think that the smarter designers today are using the flexibility of LED and other modern lighting technology to make a brand statement in the dark of night as well as in the light of the day.

Other than acceleration, what’s it like to drive? The Dart wants to handle. Those Alfa genes are strong. The problem is that under normal driving, letting the car shift for itself, the drivetrain’s lack of acceleration compromises the handling. You can dive bomb into a corner and it holds the line just fine, but when you want to power through the exit letting front wheel drive understeer help straighten the car out, there’s just no there there.

At first I was struck at some obvious price-pointing, but I realized that impression was biased by the fact that when they dropped off the Dart, they picked up that Chrysler 300S AWD with a Hemi, a car whose base price is almost double that of a stripper $16K Dart. While there’s indeed $14,000 worth of visible and tactile difference between the Dart and the 300, the Dart feels solid and has a fairly comfortable ride for a compact. The test car was equipped with 17″ X 7.5″ aluminum wheels mounted with 225/45 R17 Continental ContiproContact tires.

There was one visible quality control issue, a surprising one. While doing the photo shoot I noticed something I haven’t seen in a long time, a paint “run”, a drip at least an inch long near one of the rocker panels. I worked at a DuPont automotive paint lab from 1982 into the 21st century and I haven’t seen a visible paint defect that bad since the early 1990s. To be fair, the rest of the paint, and the rest of the Dart seemed to be defect free.

I noticed something else that, no pun intended, touches on quality control, or at least attention to detail, while doing the photo shoot. If you have to open the hood and the engine is hot, make sure that you’re wearing an oven mitt or using something else to protect your hand before you grab the prop rod that holds up the open hood. When stowed, the prop rod sits right above the radiator and it gets very hot.

I had high hopes for the Dart but as equipped with the 2.0L/6AT powertrain it left me disappointed. I thought the revival of the nameplate was brilliant, with many Americans holding fond memories of a reliable, inexpensive compact American car, powered by the almost indestructible Slant Six. I also knew that when they have tried, eg. Neon, the boffins in Auburn Hills know how to make a compact car, even if the company as a whole didn’t quite get the continuous improvement thing. I think that they still know how to make a decent small car, but my first encounter with the Dart suffered from expectations not met. So much so that it was my choice as my least favorite test car of 2013. Yep, not only did I not review a loaned car, I slagged it off at the end of the year. I suppose that also risked some displeasure of the folks in Auburn Hills, but they can’t complain that much since in that same end-of-year wrap up I also said that the Chrysler 300S AWD Hemi was my favorite car of 2013.

Maybe all that stuff about ticking off car companies with negative reviews is a bit exaggerated, because despite doing somethings that wouldn’t necessarily curry favor with them, the folks at Chrysler approved it when I asked the fleet company if they had a 2.4 liter Dart for me to try. We’ll look at that car, a GT model, in Part Two.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

The post Car Review: A Tale of Two Darts, Part the First – 2013 Dodge Dart Limited 2.0 L appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/car-review-a-tale-of-two-darts-part-the-first-2013-dodge-dart-limited-2-0-l/feed/ 77
The Wobble Comes To An End As Consumer Reports Echoes TTACs Criticisms Of The Jeep Cherokee http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/the-wobble-comes-to-an-end-as-consumer-reports-echoes-ttacs-criticisms-of-the-jeep-cherokee/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/the-wobble-comes-to-an-end-as-consumer-reports-echoes-ttacs-criticisms-of-the-jeep-cherokee/#comments Tue, 11 Feb 2014 21:22:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=739769 In late 2013, TTAC was invited to review the Jeep Cherokee. As the journalist assigned to cover the launch, I gave what I felt was a nuanced but critical assessment of the vehicle: that it delivered with respect to its off-road prowess, but left a lot to be desired in other areas, namely the on-road […]

The post The Wobble Comes To An End As Consumer Reports Echoes TTACs Criticisms Of The Jeep Cherokee appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
450x337xIMG_4625-450x337.jpg.pagespeed.ic.CmfCHZbR1g

In late 2013, TTAC was invited to review the Jeep Cherokee. As the journalist assigned to cover the launch, I gave what I felt was a nuanced but critical assessment of the vehicle: that it delivered with respect to its off-road prowess, but left a lot to be desired in other areas, namely the on-road driving experience and overall packaging.

TTAC was alone in its criticisms, with other outlets heaping praise on the Cherokee for attributes that I felt were lacking. A backlash from readers, Mopar fans and other entities ensued, and we were left looking like a fringe element of anti-Cherokee cranks, despite what we as an organization felt was a fair and nuanced, if – ahem – slightly colorful review of the car. It turns out that in the end, we weren’t alone.

Consumer Reports recently delivered their verdict on the Cherokee, and their examples (ostensibly one that they purchased) were criticized for many of the same issues that TTAC did, namely, poor dynamics, a choppy ride and an unrefined 9-speed automatic transmission. Only TTAC and CR have called out the Cherokee for these issues, with other media outlets either downplaying, ignoring or outright praising these elements. Since then, the media has been happy to give the car more positive press, spinning its respectable but mid-pack sales figures into some kind of Cinderella story.

When you are the lone outlet taking a controversial stance on a new car, it can be tough to weather the accusations of bias or even outright malice. Everyone wonders why your impressions are so different from the rest of the pack. In addition, you are left even more vulnerable to punitive actions from the auto maker for having strayed off message. But CR’s impressions of the car, even months later, feels like vindication on some level.

Chrysler has graciously offered to let TTAC have another go at the Cherokee, and I’m slated to have my own re-test in April. It’s been my hope that these issues have been ironed out, especially after the costly delays that Chrysler implemented with the objective of improving the Cherokee’s transmission. They deserve immense credit for having the courage to do so. Whatever the outcome, you can be sure that we will refrain from The Wobble. We will continue to bring you The Truth About Cars.

The post The Wobble Comes To An End As Consumer Reports Echoes TTACs Criticisms Of The Jeep Cherokee appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/the-wobble-comes-to-an-end-as-consumer-reports-echoes-ttacs-criticisms-of-the-jeep-cherokee/feed/ 199
Capsule Review: Lexus IS250 AWD http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-lexus-is250/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-lexus-is250/#comments Tue, 31 Dec 2013 16:28:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=690634 It’s happened, all in a neat confluence of threes. By my decree, the third generation of the Lexus IS has surpassed the BMW 3 Series. While BMW has been busying itself creating niches for increasingly grotesque vehicle-type-things, Lexus has turned out a pair of legitimately great sports sedans, first in the GS and now in […]

The post Capsule Review: Lexus IS250 AWD appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
DSC_4625
It’s happened, all in a neat confluence of threes. By my decree, the third generation of the Lexus IS has surpassed the BMW 3 Series. While BMW has been busying itself creating niches for increasingly grotesque vehicle-type-things, Lexus has turned out a pair of legitimately great sports sedans, first in the GS and now in the new 2014 IS. This from a company who’s top sellers are Camry cousins.

After spending a week with the 2014 Lexus IS250 AWD it took me another couple weeks to shut up about it. That rarely happens, and when it does, it means that the car is simply fantastic. You’re probably all incredulous now, especially since this isn’t even the F Sport version with its stiffened suspension tune. This IS should be the least exciting of all, except it’s not.

There’s something about the way this car is pieced together and highly burnished that transcends the tiny 2.5 liter V6 and its equally-tiny 204 hp, not to mention the even-tinier 184 lb-ft of torque. A base-model Chevrolet Malibu has 10 more lb-ft and nearly as much horsepower from a four cylinder. A six-speed automatic, even with paddle shifters, pales in comparison to the eight- and nine-speed proliferation, and the IS has always been known for its cozy dimensions. And yet, it all comes together to just feel right.

Let’s get real for a minute. A 204 hp V6 in this era is only noteworthy for what it lacks, but look past the cylinder count and you’ll find that the output numbers square with the displacement. That Malibu I cited earlier has a 2.5 liter four cylinder, which, when you think about it, explains why the torque is better and the horsepower is about the same. The Lexus uses Toyota’s 4GR-FSE V6, which has 77 mm of stroke, while the Ecotec in the Malibu has a 100 mm stroke. There’s your torque difference, right there, though the Chevy’s 88 mm bore is also larger than the 83 mm cylinder diameter of the Lexus V6, which means bigger pistons travelling a longer distance and fewer firing pulses to go around. So, while it rocks a small V6, the power level is right on the money for a 2.5 liter engine, and because it’s a 60-degree V6, it doesn’t rock like a four.

The BMW 3 Series, the clear benchmark for anyone making this kind of car, now uses a four cylinder as its standard engine, and back when it was still an “E” instead of an “F,” it was about the same size as the 2014 Lexus IS. The 3 Series has put on inches and pounds while the IS 250 has stayed tight. The new Lexus styling language, Spindle Grille and all, is at its most handsome here, with characterful taillights that blend seamlessly into the creased shoulder line that runs across the tops of the doors and the pointed outer edges of the lenses align cleverly with a feature line rising from the rocker panels. The new IS is a handsome car.

Because of its standard V6, the IS 250 has fewer bad vibrations to manage, and maybe that’s why so many good vibes are able to make their way to the palms of your hands and the seat of your pants. The IS used to feel tiny and old. It was tighter than a Corolla, kinda growly and didn’t reward the driver for putting up with any of its shortcomings. The 2014 Lexus IS is still about Corolla-sized. In fact, there’s significantly more rear legroom in the lowly Toyota, and other dimensions, like wheelbase, overall length and trunk size are within spitting distance of each other. Just looking at the numbers might give you the impression what the IS is just a Lexus Corolla, but that’s just not so.

Have you stopped dreaming about what a Lexed-up Corolla would be like? It’s not likely that you’ll confuse the workaday Toyota with the sufficiently premium 2014 IS. Getting into the IS 250 is a reminder of a time when cars didn’t trade visibility for crash test stars. The base of the windshield is nice and low, and from the driver’s seat it’s an easy lean to adjust the furthest passenger side HVAC vent. The IS is a cozy environment, with the A pillar topping out just above your forehead. And of course, there’s that back seat with a scant 32.2 inches of legroom. With just 101 cubic feet of passenger volume, claustrophobes need not apply.

The benefit of this dimensional tidiness is that it makes the tired, two-bit car writer phrases work. Controls really *do* “fall close at hand,” for example. The materials are high quality, from the supportive, comfortable, widely-adjustable seats to the plastics on the dash and door panels, right down to the knobs. The 2014 IS 250 feels good in your hands, even the secondary controls. The acorn-colored, handsomely-stitched seats with heat and ventilation were very agreeable, though the extra bolstering of the available sport seats would have been plenty welcome.

Control stalks feel precise, the steering wheel has nubbins to promote a proper grip for getting the most out of the chassis, and even the touch-sensitive cabin temperature adjustment is responsive and not infuriating like the button-free options in Cadillac or Lincoln models. It may be somewhat devoid of whimsy, but the interior of the 2014 Lexus IS is a den of quality. The Lexus mouse is right there, too, giving you control over the infotainment system that can link up with your phone and an online account and apps. The system can read text messages to you and there are also canned responses that you can send back through your paired phone while driving. You can add to the presets, as well, and that’s pretty slick, if not a whole lot less distracting than fumbling with a handset.

The IS is now highway bomber happy to strafe along in the fast lane at highly extra-legal speeds without being the least bit perturbed by it. It may be powered by a small engine, and the AWD version I drove has extra underbits to sponge up acceleration, but that tiny V6 is a heart of gold. In fact, while the IS 350 has 100 more horsepower that’s surely entertaining in its own right, the IS 250 doesn’t lack for grins. There’s fewer places where you can exercise the bigger stable, anyway, but you can enjoy the polished ride and handling balance that is a just-right blend of control and supple absorption. Someone at Lexus knows how to tune a suspension, and again, this isn’t even an F-Sport. Every corner becomes an opportunity to find the line, you get useful feedback through the steering wheel and it even loads up through corners just like it’s supposed to.

If you’re looking to be astounded in 2014, take a 2014 Lexus IS for a spin. Start with the 250. I promise it’s all I’ve cracked it up to be. To use another tired-ass hack autowriter phrase, the 2014 IS 250 AWD is truly a Goldilocks car. It’s always entertaining, it has AWD for crappy weather (probably only actually useful when paired with winter tires), it’s a high-quality car that’s very comfortable and highly composed, and even with the small V6, it’s confident and assertive on the road, if not outright speedy.

Here’s the highest praise I can give a car: I would buy this. That’s right. If I had $45K to spend on a car, the 2014 Lexus IS 250 AWD would be a purchase I’d happily make. Now you know the secret of what the car pundit would drive if this industry paid as handsomely as we wish it did.

DSC_4614 DSC_4616 DSC_4617 DSC_4618 DSC_4619 DSC_4620 DSC_4621 DSC_4622 DSC_4623 DSC_4624 DSC_4625 DSC_4626 DSC_4629 DSC_4630 DSC_4633 DSC_4634 DSC_4635 DSC_4636 DSC_4638 DSC_4639 DSC_4640 DSC_4641 DSC_4642 DSC_4643 DSC_4644 DSC_4645 DSC_4647 DSC_4649 DSC_4650 DSC_4651 DSC_4653 DSC_4654 DSC_4655 DSC_4656 DSC_4659

The post Capsule Review: Lexus IS250 AWD appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-lexus-is250/feed/ 174
An Open Letter To The Mopar Community Regarding Our Cherokee Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/an-open-letter-to-the-mopar-community-regarding-our-cherokee-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/an-open-letter-to-the-mopar-community-regarding-our-cherokee-review/#comments Fri, 13 Sep 2013 18:51:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=517809 Dear fellow Chrysler/Plymouth/Imperial/Dodge/DeSoto fans, It appears that some of you are not happy with our man Derek’s review of the new Jeep Cherokee. I can understand that; like many of you, I wanted the Cherokee to be a solid if not superior product. Today, however, I saw that Allpar.com’s administrator has called for Chrysler to […]

The post An Open Letter To The Mopar Community Regarding Our Cherokee Review appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
neontow

Dear fellow Chrysler/Plymouth/Imperial/Dodge/DeSoto fans,

It appears that some of you are not happy with our man Derek’s review of the new Jeep Cherokee. I can understand that; like many of you, I wanted the Cherokee to be a solid if not superior product. Today, however, I saw that Allpar.com’s administrator has called for Chrysler to blacklist TTAC from future press vehicles. I thought I’d take a moment to discuss with you why an attitude like this is bad news for everyone, including the Mopar Nation or whatever the long-suffering group of Chrysler loyalists is being called at the moment.


If you’ll indulge me for a moment before we get to the meat of the discussion, however, I want to respond personally to allegations made on Allpar and elsewhere that we are “out to get” Chrysler, and the occasional allegation that I personally am “out to get” Chrysler. I bought a 1995 Neon new from the showroom floor. I factory-ordered a 2004 SRT-4. I bought and campaigned an original Neon Challenge ACR in NASA until I was put in the wall — and then my team and I built another Neon from a bare shell to logbook racer in twenty days. I’ve competed in Dodge and Plymouth automobiles from California, where we won ChumpCar in a Neon Coupe, to Ohio where my ACR was the only car to finish in the top five of both wet and dry NASA National Championship qualifying races. This f**king morning I bought a 2.4 DOHC engine to use for the 2014 NASA race season. I’ve seen more flags behind the windshield of a Mopar product than all but the most committed racers. I’ve voted for Chrysler with my own money again and again and will continue to do so.

Okay. End of rant. The objections brought up on forums regarding Derek’s review mostly fell into two categories, which I’ll cover separately below.

“These were pre-production automobiles. Why did Derek complain about the fit and finish on them?” On the surface, this sounds completely reasonable. If Derek was informed that the Cherokees he was being given to drive weren’t ready for prime time, so to speak, why not ignore the little stuff and focus on the important aspects of the vehicle? I’d suggest that he did focus on the important aspects of the vehicle. He and I discussed the problems he was seeing with the Cherokees multiple times. It wasn’t just fit and finish; it was a failure to ride, handle, and address NVH as well as the best competitors in the CUV field. Where the Jeep had “wins” — against the RAV4, for instance — he said as much. It wasn’t just a matter of mis-stitched steering wheels.

But what if it had been just a matter of mis-stitched steering wheels? Do you, the Allpar or Edmunds or whatever forum reader, want us to hide that from you? Do you want us to keep secrets from you about the fit and finish of vehicles we drive just because the pretty girl sitting next to us at dinner pats our arm and says “Oh, I know the steering wheels are all terrible, but I promise we’ll have them right in production”? Are you more comfortable if we just take the manufacturer’s word for this stuff? Or do you want us to report on what we saw truthfully and leave the determination about what the manufacturer might or might not do on the production line up to you?

Imagine, for example, that every Cherokee on the drive had a stalling problem. If we kept our mouths shut about that at Chrysler’s request, and then you bought a Cherokee and it had a stalling problem, wouldn’t you have suffered from our willingness to adjust our ethics to please the site administrator at Allpar.com? Is that guy going to come to your house and fix the stalling problem for you? “Oh, but,” some of you will say, “a mis-stitched steering wheel isn’t as important as a stalling problem.” Fair enough — but do you want to pay $37,000 and get something that isn’t up to par? I ordered my SRT-4 sight unseen, trusting that what I had read about the car was honest. Shouldn’t we extend the same courtesy to you? Should our loyalty be to you, or to the manufacturer?

“All the other early reviews of the Cherokee have been positive.” Undoubtedly. All the early reviews of anything nowadays are positive. There’s a certain amount of Freakonomics at work here. Derek will never meet 99.9% of Allpar readers, but he’ll be at dinner with the same Chrysler people at every press event. There’s a strong temptation to say nice things about the car, particularly if you can wind them back later in a comparison test. Many of the people who are currently lauding the Cherokee will call it a complete piece of junk as soon as the next Cherokee is ready. Some of the writers who are currently slamming the Patriot and Compass in their Cherokee reviews tripped all over themselves to say nice things about those same vehicles at the early launch events.

Let me look into the future for you. The new Mercedes-Benz E250 Bluetec just had its press event last week. It will receive positive reviews all the way around even though I’m already hearing grumblings about the car being underpowered garbage. Want to know why? Click here. Mr. Day had his resignation from MBUSA accepted with extreme prejudice recently, but in the words of the poet, one monkey don’t stop no show.

Two years from now, the E250 might get tossed to the back of a comparison test. Four years from now, it will be revealed to have been a bad car. If you want to know what the auto media really thinks of a car, you can read what they say when the next model comes out. Of course, new-car buyers do not find this to be helpful.

When the administrator of a major Mopar fan site calls for Derek’s voice to be silenced because he doesn’t like the review, what he is in effect saying is this: “I value the sales success of a Chrysler product over the individual experience of Chrysler owners.” He’s siding with the corporation, not the driver. I suppose that’s fine for some people. It doesn’t wash here. The English car magazines used to whitewash the failings of cars like the Rover Metro and Jaguar XJ6. Today the companies that made those products are in non-British hands. Because you cannot lie and whitewash your way to success in the automotive business. In the long run, the customer will find out. Every cheat, every slip, every cut corner, will eventually show. You cannot wallpaper a bad product forever. Eventually, the truth will come out and the manufacturers will fail. If you love Chrysler, then you’d better hope that they make a good car. That’s all that can save them.

TTAC will continue to give positive reviews of Chrysler products — when the product is good. When that is not the case, we will continue to alert our readers to problems. We do not apologize for that, we will not walk that back, we will not change. If that means that we are no longer invited to evaluate Chrysler products, we will rent Chrysler products. If that means that we don’t get to party with the cool kids, we can live with that. Our allegiance is to the reader. It was thus when TTAC was founded. It is thus now. Forever may it be.

Sincerely,

Jack Baruth
#187 Plymouth Neon, NASA Performance Touring “E”

The post An Open Letter To The Mopar Community Regarding Our Cherokee Review appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/an-open-letter-to-the-mopar-community-regarding-our-cherokee-review/feed/ 226
Review: 2013 Land Rover LR4 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2013-land-rover-lr4/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2013-land-rover-lr4/#comments Fri, 30 Aug 2013 15:41:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=498050 My friends and neighbors have gotten used to the sight of a variety of brand new and nicely equipped cars that periodically show up on my driveway. They know that many (most? all?) of them are beyond my own means to own or lease so a frequent question I’m asked is, “who would buy that […]

The post Review: 2013 Land Rover LR4 appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
IMG_0141

My friends and neighbors have gotten used to the sight of a variety of brand new and nicely equipped cars that periodically show up on my driveway. They know that many (most? all?) of them are beyond my own means to own or lease so a frequent question I’m asked is, “who would buy that car?” Who would buy a 2013 Land Rover LR4? A snarky answer would be nobody, since it’s a safe bet that most of the 600 or so new LR4s that get delivered every month in North America are leased, but my guess is that the typical buyers are affluent suburban families with children and maybe a vacation home on an unpaved road. Who else would drive a 7 passenger luxury SUV?

IMG_0223

With permanent seating for five adults and two flip up seats in the back, which could be used to transport grown ups if needed but are really more suited to car pooling kids to school, the LR4 will likely be used mostly as a mommymobile. Once mom does flip up those far back seats, she’s probably going to want to leave them up unless she needs the cargo space because they’re a bit of a PITA to put up or down. Speaking of things that are awkward, the clamshell rear end, with both a short lift gate and an actual tail gate may be a bit of a Land Rover styling signature, but the tail gate, with its asymmetrical cutout that lets you get closer to the cargo hold, still makes for a long reach when getting things in and out of the back.

IMG_0156

How most LR4s will be used most of the time will be nowhere near their capabilities. The LR4 has got the equipment and features to be a very competent off-road vehicle, but the simple fact is that most LR4s will likely never leave pavement. If they do it will be down a gravel driveway or two-track to a summer home.

IMG_0136

The LR4 comes with what Land Rover calls “permanent four wheel drive with traction control”, a two-speed transfer case, a locking center differential, LR’s five position “Terrain Response System” that lets you select an appropriate mode for a variety of unpaved surfaces, hill descent control, and fully independent suspension with electronically controlled air springs that automatically levels the car in response to load conditions and has an off-road setting that increases ground clearance by about 2.5 inches from the normal 7.3″ ride height. Should you take it off-road, the undercarriage is protected by skid plates. My suspicion, though, is that if a typical LR4 driver uses any of those features, it will be about 1% of the time. In addition to the off-road and normal ride heights, there is also an “access level” setting, that drops the truck’s body a couple of inches, to make ingress and egress easier. It can also be locked in that position (low speeds only, if you go too fast with the body raised or lowered, the LR4 will automatically return to normal ride height) for dealing with parking structures that have low clearance. It seems to me that in regular use, the three position switch will rarely, if ever, go into the raised position. It also seems to me that the typical driver will appreciate the fact that the driver’s seat automatically lowers itself and the power adjusted steering wheel is lifted out of the way as you prepare to exit the vehicle.

Click here to view the embedded video.

That capable air suspension may not end up getting a workout in the boonies but it is wonderful for driving around the frost heaved and financially distressed Detroit area roads where I live. I even started looking for low curbs and potholes to run over, to marvel at how the Land Rover just soaks up road irregularities. There’s a road not far from my home where the asphalt has been beaten into an oscillating mess. The road surface discombobulates most cars at any speed. The LR4 handled the bumps with aplomb.

IMG_0155

Mom and kids will have a comfortable ride on the way to school. It also handles pretty well on pavement for a truck, and it is a truck. Land Rover calls the architecture “integrated body frame”. What that means is essentially a unibody structure welded to a traditional ladder frame. The LR4 is sturdy, but even with some aluminum body panels, it weighs more than 2 1/2 tons, 5,623 lbs to be exact. That’s about 400 pounds more than a Duesenberg Model J. Even when carpooling with little kids, a fully loaded LR4 will tip the scales at over 3 tons.

IMG_0178

Steering is precise and quick, if a bit lacking in feel. The LR4 has a remarkably tight turning radius for a vehicle of its size, 18.8 feet. By comparison, a Chrysler 300 sedan has a 19.4′ turning radius. At the steering wheel it’s just a bit over three turns lock to lock. Also, the LR4 is not as large as it seems. The LR4 is tall, wide and heavy, but it’s not that long, 191 inches, only about 2″ longer than a Toyota Camry, and since it’s designed to be able to climb over things like a Camry there’s not much overhang, particularly at the front of the truck. Add in the four wheel drive and various sophisticated drivetrain components and stability controls and the result is a fairly maneuverable SUV. It’s also not slow.  Zero to sixty times are stated as 7.5 seconds, which would have been considered quick in any other time than our horsepower addled age. The six speed automatic made by ZF worked flawlessly. You can shift it yourself if you want to, but it’s one of those bassakwards automanual gear selectors that have you push forward to go up a gear.

IMG_0217

I like the brakes. They are probably the best modulated brakes of cars I’ve driven recently. Considering the mass involved their performance was impressive, though I’d prefer a bit more initial bite. The one time I had to make an unexpected stop there was no drama.

IMG_0198

Again, this is a truck, not a crossover. You sit up high, with a commanding seating position. I could look F-150 and Silverado drivers pretty much in the eye. With a very square front end and the front wheels at the corners, you can easily see the front corners. It was very easy to place the LR4 on the road. Though the rear side windows that extend into the roof, a Land Rover styling cue, are a bit of an illusion since the view from the inside is masked, visibility to the rear is very good.

IMG_0209

I alluded to the affluence of the target audience of the LR4. The one I had, in Fuji white with a Black Design Package that replaces all chrome brightwork with very sharp looking glossy black trim, stickered out at $64,145, with about $15K worth of options. The 7 Seat LUX package is $9,225 and gets you nice power leather seats, power steering column, special black 19″ wheels, a fridge in the console, and a 17 speaker, 825 watt harman/kardon Logic 7 branded sound system. That package include both the HSE and Classic Comfort packages, which gives you multiple zone automatic climate control. The black on white color scheme looks fabulous, and people remarked about what a nice looking vehicle it is, but that glossy black trim will also set you back $3,500. If you want a rugged looking white vehicle with black trim but you don’t want to spend an additional $3,500, I believe that look is standard on the Ford E-150.

ce2bd27849e94934b563ec5873101282!20130116140838000

Not only isn’t the LR4 cheap to buy, it’s not going to be cheap to drive. I had originally hoped to take the LR4 to The Mounds, a county owned off-road driving park north of Flint, Michigan. Press cars only come with one tank of gas, the 375 HP, 375 ft lbs, Jaguar V8 under the hood runs on premium gasoline.

IMG_0241

The LR4 comes with two glove boxes and a little storage cubby.

Still, it’s only about a 120 mile round trip and I did talk to the park director thinking that it’d be nice to try out the Land Rover in it’s intended habitat and maybe even do a story about The Mounds, which is unique enough that they get off-road enthusiasts from as far away as Texas. However, after the first quarter tank of gas returned 9.5 MPG, a figure I haven’t personally seen since I could buy gas for two-bits a gallon, I changed my plans. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever driven another car that got less than 10 over that kind of distance. My late father’s 1966 Olds 88 with a 425 big block and a 4 barrel carb got 11 MPG.

IMG_0234

Suspension pieces are the definition of beefy.

So I scotched that trip and instead used the LR4 the way it is likely to be used, driving around the suburbs, with an occasional highway trip or excursion into the city. I barely got over 200 miles range on the full tank, with an overall average of 12.9 MPG – compared to a combined EPA rating of 14. I’ll have to check my Jaguar reviews, but offhand I think the mileage that I got was even a bit worse than with the two XF Supercharged models I tested, and those have 470 HP.

IMG_0237

Skid plates standard

The LR4 is slated for a mid-cycle refreshment and spy pics have already been spotted of the car with revised headlamps. The current car is perfectly comfortable, even somewhat luxurious, certainly in its features, but while the utilitarian, mostly black plastic interior trim fits with the LR4’s off-road capabilities and credentials, and while the fit and finish is appropriate for a vehicle that expensive, it seems a bit spartan for $64,000 and, according to reports, the interior on the next Discovery/LR5 will also be upgraded as well. It’s not surprising that also being replaced is the thirsty Jaguar V8 . Instead the base engine will be the supercharged V6 introduced in the new Jaguar F Type. No word from Jaguar on whether or not a diesel will be available in North America.

Will it Zayde?

IMG_0068

Unlike the new fathers in the autoblogosphere, like our own Brendan Macaleer, or Jalopnik’s Jason Torchinsky, this is my second time around with small children. Once a week I babysit my 14 month old grandson, Aryeh Leib. When Jason does car reviews, he includes a “Will it baby?” assessment of how well that vehicle suits the needs of parents of small children, so with his gracious permission I’d like to introduce “Will it Zayde?” The access level setting on the air suspension (must remember to activate it before shutting everything down) does make it easier to get a baby laden car seat in and out of the back seat. I wouldn’t even try putting one in the way back. Putting a car seat in the car does have one hangup. The seat belt latches for the regular rear seats are mounted on hinged arms that retract into a recess to allow the seats to lie fully flat when folded. That makes buckling a child car seat into those seats a two hand task, one for lifting up the latch and the other to insert the buckle. Since you have to reach over the car seat to do that, it’s rather awkward.

In summary, other than the poor fuel economy, I liked the LR4. It’s comfortable, handles well for a truck and it is likely to get you there no matter the road conditions. It won’t be cheap to buy or own, but then that’s not likely to be a concern for someone willing to spend $64K on a station wagon to get the kids to school and mom to her yoga classes.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

IMG_0263 IMG_0067 IMG_0068 IMG_0069 IMG_0133 IMG_0134 IMG_0135 IMG_0136 IMG_0138 IMG_0139 IMG_0140 IMG_0141 IMG_0142 IMG_0143 IMG_0144 IMG_0145 IMG_0148 IMG_0149 IMG_0150 IMG_0151 IMG_0152 IMG_0153 IMG_0154 IMG_0155 IMG_0156 IMG_0157 IMG_0158 IMG_0159 IMG_0160 IMG_0161 IMG_0162 IMG_0163 IMG_0164 IMG_0165 IMG_0166 IMG_0167 IMG_0167a IMG_0173 IMG_0174 IMG_0175 IMG_0176 IMG_0177 IMG_0178 IMG_0179 IMG_0180 IMG_0181 IMG_0183 IMG_0184 IMG_0185 IMG_0186 IMG_0187 IMG_0188 IMG_0189 IMG_0190 IMG_0191 IMG_0193 IMG_0194 IMG_0195 IMG_0196 IMG_0197 IMG_0197a IMG_0198 IMG_0199 IMG_0201 IMG_0202 IMG_0203 IMG_0205 IMG_0206 IMG_0207 IMG_0208 IMG_0209 IMG_0209a IMG_0211 IMG_0212 IMG_0213 IMG_0214 IMG_0215 IMG_0217 IMG_0218 IMG_0219 IMG_0222 IMG_0223 IMG_0224 IMG_0225 IMG_0226 IMG_0226a IMG_0229 IMG_0230 IMG_0231 IMG_0232 IMG_0233 IMG_0234 IMG_0236 IMG_0237 IMG_0238 IMG_0239 IMG_0239a IMG_0240 IMG_0241 IMG_0243 IMG_0247 IMG_0248 IMG_0250 IMG_0252 IMG_0256 IMG_0258 IMG_0259 IMG_0260

The post Review: 2013 Land Rover LR4 appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/review-2013-land-rover-lr4/feed/ 88
A Pretty Good New Movie About A Great Motorsports Rivalry, No, Not That One http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/a-pretty-good-new-movie-about-a-great-motorsports-rivalry-no-not-that-one/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/a-pretty-good-new-movie-about-a-great-motorsports-rivalry-no-not-that-one/#comments Thu, 15 Aug 2013 12:43:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=499490 You may have heard that there’s a movie about car racing coming out. For dramatic tension it’s based on the real life story of two drivers, competing when the sport was very dangerous, whose relationship went from rivalry to respect to a deep friendship. Actually, there are two movies like that coming out. You’re probably […]

The post A Pretty Good New Movie About A Great Motorsports Rivalry, No, Not That One appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

Click here to view the embedded video.

You may have heard that there’s a movie about car racing coming out. For dramatic tension it’s based on the real life story of two drivers, competing when the sport was very dangerous, whose relationship went from rivalry to respect to a deep friendship. Actually, there are two movies like that coming out. You’re probably more familiar with director Ron Howard’s $100 million F1 epic, Rush, which opens on Sept. 20th and centers on the competition between Niki Lauda and the late James Hunt. Made for about one tenth of that, and opening Sept. 9th is Snake and Mongoo$e, about drag racers Don Prudhomme and Tom McEwen. Snake and Mongoo$e had its worldwide premiere last weekend in conjunction with Reno’s Hot August Nights cruise festivities that included a Barrett-Jackson car auction. With a million and a half car lovers congregating this weekend on Woodward for the Dream Cruise, the producers decided to have a Detroit premiere as well, and the film will be screened at the Palladium in Birmingham all weekend long.

I knew about the film and had seen the trailer. Yesterday, I saw in one of the Detroit dailies that there was going to be a local premiere and that one of the film’s producers was the wife of the CEO of Event Services International. One of the things that ESI does is press fleet management, they’re the nice folks who drop off press cars, freshly washed, detailed and with a full tank of fuel on my driveway. The people I’ve dealt with at ESI have been great so I called up the local office and they put me in touch with the woman doing publicity for the film, Shari McCullough Arfons, who has a connection to drag racing herself since she’s married to the son of Art Arfons, of Green Monster jet car fame. Shari graciously arranged for me to get passes to the premiere so that you could read this review and if you’re in Detroit for the Dream Cruise maybe stop over at the Palladium and check it out.

McEwen and Prudhomme were competitors in the California drag racing scene going back to the late 1950s. Prudhomme worked in the family body and paint shop while McEwen came from a wealthier background. Prudhomme had been using the nickname “Snake” for a while and after McEwen beat him in an important race, Tom started using the nickname “Mongoose”, apparently at the suggestion of his chief mechanic who read the Jungle Book when he was a child. By the time they reached the top level of NHRA racing, though, both of them were struggling to make racing pay for itself. Sponsorship was minimal and often on the local level for a few hundred dollars. Race winnings barely paid the bills.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The men have very different personalities. Prudhomme is quiet while McEwen is outgoing. Prudhomme preferred to focus on racing, while McEwen had a better sense of public relations. For example, while Prudhomme team wore t-shirts with his snake logo, McEwen sold t-shirts with his rodent on them. It took him a while but eventually McEwen convinced Prudhomme that by working together as business partners they could make a lot more money than they did as competitors in NHRA. They started a barnstorming tour of match races, with guaranteed money up front. By then, the late 1960s, Prudhomme had won NHRA titles and McEwen was a top competitor so they were a big draw and could command the fees they demanded.

Both men were married and McEwen and his wife had three sons. Once, after returning from an out of town race, he noticed his sons playing with some new toy cars called Hot Wheels, billed by Mattel as the fastest cars in the world. I don’t know if the proverbial light bulb went on but McEwen had what has to be one of the great marketing ideas of the last half century, though it’s really a variation on “win on Sunday, sell on Monday”. In this case, the buyers were young boys and their parents and the cars being bought would be Hot Wheels versions of funny cars that McEwen and Prudhomme actually raced. It was a brilliant stroke of cross-promotion, with the racers and race cars selling die-cast models and the die-cast models making new fans to come out to the race track and watch the real cars race.

Considering this all took place over 40 years ago, it was a fairly sophisticated marketing brew with other companies than Mattel, like Chrysler, involved. Prudhomme’s car carried a yellow Plymouth Baracuda body and McEwen’s a red Plymouth Duster. A Hot Wheels designer, a racing fan himself, helped design the cars’ and their transporters’ graphics.

It was a great idea. The two drivers made money from the sponsorship, which also allowed them to build cars that were competitive in NHRA funny car and top fuel categories. They made appearance money from their match races, and trackside merchandise, and of course Mattel made lots of money, selling millions of cars and racing sets.

All good things come to an end and after three years, Mattel ended it’s sponsorship and the two ended their business partnership but the die had been cast both in the business of motorsports and in their intertwined personal lives. The promotional materials for the movie stress how groundbreaking their deal with Mattel was. It wasn’t just that the money was good, it was the fact that it was part of a large marketing scheme, that a major corporation was making racing part of their business. The picayune historian in me says that’s a bit of an exaggeration, since by then Jim Hall had made plenty of deals to license his Chaparral to model companies like Cox and Colin Chapman also had arranged some big money sponsorship from a tobacco company for Lotus, but to be fair to the producers of the movie, none of those deals were as comprehensive or as mutually beneficial as the Snake, Mongoo$e and Mattel.

The names Snake and Mongoo$e and Prudhomme and McEwen are well known to a generation of drag racing fans and a younger generation of Hot Wheels fans. Their competition, which lasted over two decades, is considered by many to be drag racing’s greatest rivalry, the Gatti-Ward of the quarter mile.

Cross-promotion is a fact of life in Hollywood today. I don’t know how much product placement was actually involved in the making of the movie but included in the movie’s press kit is a press release from Cam2. Cam2 oil was one of Prudhomme’s sponsors and their logo would normally appear in the film so that deal does make sense. Thinking about some of the logos in the movies, it occurs to me that the two racers were pioneers in another regard. After the Mattel deal was over and they dissolved their team, Wildlife Racing, they started looking for other big sponsors. McEwen first got the United States Navy to sign up. Prudhomme responded by getting the Army logo on his cars. The U.S. Army still sponsors a NHRA team. It’s possible those sponsorship deals with McEwen and Prudhomme were the first time American armed forces services sponsored motorsports teams.

The movie starts and ends in 1978, at the NHRA nationals in Indianapolis, with the two going head to head for a title. Ron Howard is spending a lot of money with some very pricey vintage racers along with special effects to make Rush realistic. The producers and director of Snake and Mongoo$e went in a different direction, using mostly archival footage when showing on track action. That footage is rather seamlessly integrated into the film, though watching on a modern digital 4K cinema screen, it’s sometimes a little visually jarring to go from the grainy film or raster-lined tv footage to the high definition material. Access to the archival film was no doubt made easy by the fact that the movie is being presented and distributed by Rhino Films in connection with the NHRA. With digital processing, the old racing footage looks better than it ever has, even if it isn’t in high def.

Dramatically, Snake and Mongoo$e actually turned out to be better than I expected. Yes, it’s a bit formulaic, but then all sports movies are. The acting was fine. Nobody’s going to win any Oscars but the characters were believable. Jesse Williams, of Gray’s Anatomy, plays Prudhomme and he has a remarkable resemblance to Prudhomme himself. He seems to catch Prudhommes taciturn manner well. Richard Blake plays McEwen and shows a little range, since the real life McEwen had to deal with the death of his son Jaime. The real life McEwen and Prudhomme do have cameos in the film, as do other racing figures like Wally Parks. Prudhomme and McEwen also participated in the production, and were on set frequently. Blake spent weeks before filming with McEwen, going to locations and explaining what really went down. Linda Vaughn’s and Pam Hardy’s busts also make cameos in some of the archival footage. ER’s Noah Wyle plays the Mattel executive, Art Spear, who saw the wisdom of McEwen’s plan. Spear later would reduce and then end the sponsorship because they thought sales of the Hot Wheels versions of the Snake and Mongoo$e’s cars had peaked. Ashley Hinshaw plays Lynn Prudhomme and Kim Shaw plays Judy McEwen. Tim Blake Nelson plays, mostly to comedic effect, a composite track/tv announcer with a period perfect mustache and sideburns. Fred Dryer has a character role as McEwen’s gruff longtime racing engineer. The film was written by automotive writer Alan Paradise, inspired by a documentary he had worked on for Mattel celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Snake and Mongoo$e Hot Wheels cars. It was directed by Wayne Holloway.

To be honest, I expected something along the lines of a made for tv or straight to dvd movie, but it was much better than I expected. Not great art, but the characters were engaging, the motorsports side was authentic, the business and marketing history portrayed in the film continues to impact the way racing is promoted and sponsored today and the story arc kept my interest. If the film falls down it’s where it fleshes out the characters and their family lives. The way the strain on McEwen’s marriage brought on by his constant travelling (and philandering) was portrayed seemed a bit by the numbers. Juxtaposing the birth of the Prudhommes’ first child with McEwen and his estranged wife’s grief as also a bit heavy handed. Those were true life events. Sometimes life itself is melodramatic. Also, not only were their families part of the story, there have to be characters and events that resonate with women. My guess is that the casting of Williams, Blake and Wyle has something to do with that as well.

In any case, I enjoyed Snake and Mongoo$e and would certainly recommend it to any car enthusiast. If I came across it on cable tv I’d watch it all the way through. Everything looked authentic and at the heart, like screenwriter Paradise says, it’s a great story about two men. It’d make a great double feature with Ron Howard’s Rush, well, if they still did things like double features.

There is one big difference between the two movies. Unless you’re exceedingly sensitive about bad words or smoking, if you have kids you can take the whole family to see Snake and Mongoo$e. It’s rated PG-13 for “smoking throughout and some language”, according to filmratings.com. Prudhomme was a heavy smoker. McEwen liked pretty girls, and there are quite a few in the film, but there are no sex scenes or skin. The raciest it gets is when Judy McEwen gives Tom a warm kiss when he gets home from one of the racers’ tours. Howard’s Rush, on the other hand, is rated R. James Hunt drank, did drugs, and had a lot of sex with a lot of women. If you have kids, you might want to leave them with the sitter for the second feature.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

The post A Pretty Good New Movie About A Great Motorsports Rivalry, No, Not That One appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/a-pretty-good-new-movie-about-a-great-motorsports-rivalry-no-not-that-one/feed/ 4
Review: 2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/review-2013-porsche-cayenne-diesel/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/review-2013-porsche-cayenne-diesel/#comments Tue, 25 Jun 2013 14:18:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=493202 Heresy can be fun. Certainly it is so for an Irishman, what with Behan’s, “wonderful lack of respect for everything and everyone.” And so, it has to be said, I’ve developed a certain fondness for Porsche’s big fat trucks and sedans precisely because they get up the nose of the purists – folks who think […]

The post Review: 2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
IMG_0079
Heresy can be fun. Certainly it is so for an Irishman, what with Behan’s, “wonderful lack of respect for everything and everyone.”

And so, it has to be said, I’ve developed a certain fondness for Porsche’s big fat trucks and sedans precisely because they get up the nose of the purists – folks who think that Stuttgart’s time would be better spent trying to figure out how to build a durable, engaging sports-car experience rather than some donk-wheeled gin-palace with an expiry date like a lit fuse. I mean, they’re not wrong, it’s just a wee bit amusing to see how mad they get. Look – that one’s just bitten a policeman.

This two-tonne blasphemy is even better than usual, it’s a diesel. A truck-engined Porsche! Well, we’ve been here before: 924 fans eat your heart out.
IMG_0058
Of course, you don’t buy a spendy Teutonic crossover just to annoy air-cooled aficionados, so the Cayenne must be judged on its own merits, should it have any. This one does, but almost all of them were optional extras. Nominally speaking, the base diesel-powered version has an MSRP of $56,600, for which you apparently get the equipment level of a front-wheel-drive Nissan Rogue.

Glancing over the hilarious add-ons for my tester vehicle (Canadian MSRP $64,500), highlights such as an adjustable air-suspension ($4550), Bi-Xenon headlights ($2130), satellite radio ($1280) and full leather interior ($4170) are all satisfyingly costly and faintly ridiculous.

However, when it comes to P-car options, I tend to take the view that baseline MSRP is almost irrelevant – almost no other company will let you add as many minor tweaks until you get exactly the machine you want, which they expect you to do. While this nugget of purest umber stickered at a laughable CDN$97,385, expect most mid-level US cars to price out around $65K, and be decently equipped at that level.
IMG_0106
The styling – um. Yes. I mean, it’s brown, right? That’s supposed to be in. (Actually, I have to say the new-style Cayenne has a much better schnozz than the old one – overall still a bit bulbous from some angles.)
IMG_0043
If the exterior’s a bit iffy, at least the same can’t be said for the gorgeous, leather-lined guts of Porsche’s heretical heffalump. Like the Panamera, this buttony cockpit has the air of a private jet and depending what seats you option, the comfort of same. I particularly enjoyed the ambient lighting and it hardly bothered me at all that the trunk seems not quite big enough for such a large vehicle.
IMG_0069
Prodding the Audi-sourced (again, shades of 924) diesel six-cylinder to life, the immediate impression is of how far ye olde oil-burner has come. Were it not for the gauche “diesel” script adorning either flank of the Cayenne, you wouldn’t really know this thing ran on tractor juice. Under throttle, however, there’s a bit of a castanet effect – apparently it’s possible to option added sound-deadening material to assist with the problem. Or, and I know this is a bit of a stretch, turn on the stereo.

There is a bit of understeer. Seems ridiculous to bring it up really – understeer is one of those automotive journalism tropes that’s as well-worn as a Civil War era outhouse seat (i.e. every ass has used it). However, I think I can safely say, with all asterisks clearly marked as to my very average driving skills, that plunking a cast-iron boat anchor in the nose of a sport-crossover-activity-thingumy is going to induce a little front-end push.
IMG_0097
Easily cured by a dab of oppo. No wait, don’t do that – you’ll crash. Instead, the slight bit of nose-heaviness is my single dynamic critique of the Cayenne. In all other respects it’s much better than it has any right to be.

Torque! With my home province’s draconian excessive-speed laws – 40km/h (25mph) over and they impound your car – one always has to keep a careful eye on the speedometer in anything with a pulse. Luckily, where the Cayenne is concerned, there’s 406lb/ft of instant-gratification surge that turns into a slightly-weedy 240hp so you’re not tempted into any v-max-related flat-decking. The brown bomber simply blasts out of the corners, heeling over a bit on its air-ride suspension, but thrusting forward with the unstoppable force of a steam-ram.
IMG_0075
And yes, you can get the same power out of a Touareg. The Cayenne is much costlier but slightly better. Steering and the suspension provide, as in the Panamera, a sense of fun. Add in the burly nature of the diesel and it’s not just a nerdy way to save fuel but a bit of a freight-train GTi.
photo(16)
There are those who will point out that the fuel-savings over a V6 would take a lifetime to make up, coupled with the annoyance of trying to find a fuel station that actually sells diesel and the added cost of filling the urea tank. It should also be noted that one feels a bit of a dude ranch city slicker in a line behind four jacked-up Ford SuperDuties waiting for the pump to come free. Kid-glove types aren’t going to love how perpetually grubby diesel fillers seem to be – you probably can’t tell from the poor-quality iPhone photo, but this one was coated in a sheen of oil.

But taking the strong resale of diesel luxury SUVs into account, and listing the on-road behaviour of the Cayenne Diesel very much in the Pro column, it’s probably the most compelling offering in the Cayenne range. And, for the record, the fuel economy is excellent – equal or better to its mid-20s EPA rating.
IMG_0124
Of course, you do run the risk of looking like a cheapskate: status-seekers will probably run their fingers down the selector and pick something that says “Turbo” or possibly “Hybrid”. Never mind that – spec the diesel and chisel the badges off. The Porsche crest? That’ll depend where you stand on screams of outrage.

Porsche Canada provided the vehicle tested and insurance.

The post Review: 2013 Porsche Cayenne Diesel appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/review-2013-porsche-cayenne-diesel/feed/ 27
Review: 2013 Audi S6 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/review-2013-audi-s6/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/review-2013-audi-s6/#comments Thu, 20 Jun 2013 13:00:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=492579 Audi first tossed us the keys to its S6 with the SuperBowl mega-ad “Prom”. Premise: dateless kid gets handed Dad’s super-sedan for the evening, kisses the prom queen, gets punched by the prom king, snorts around town with a big grin on his face. The message was clear: buy this car, put a little excitement […]

The post Review: 2013 Audi S6 appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
IMG_0195
Audi first tossed us the keys to its S6 with the SuperBowl mega-ad “Prom”. Premise: dateless kid gets handed Dad’s super-sedan for the evening, kisses the prom queen, gets punched by the prom king, snorts around town with a big grin on his face.

The message was clear: buy this car, put a little excitement in your life. What a load of cobblers.
IMG_0193
It’s a beautiful car though. To my mind, Audi does the whole kickboxer-in-a-suit best of ze German manufacturers. You could nearly call it subtle; all classed up in charcoal wool but with cauliflower ears of aluminum.

Of course, the grille looks just plain ridiculous with that mandatory front plate floating out there like the pricetag on a Marshall amp. Somebody in Ingolstadt is a big fan of the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15. Or basking sharks. Or venetian blinds. Or all three.

There’s something molluscan about those all-LED headlights as well. I like the lit-up eyeliner effect, but what with light-emitting-diodes glued on everything down to a Nissan Sentra (where they look like permanent Christmas lights in a trailer-park) it’s hardly a talking point anymore.
IMG_0196
Anyway, it’s a neat-looking car from the back, which is the view you’ll have of it if you’re driving anything short of a Shelby Mustang (or if Baruth’s giving you a lift in a rental Camry – wink). Mein Gott, this thing hauls keister!

Outfitted with the optional Bang and Olufsen stereo-system, twin NCC-1701 Enterprises deploy from the dashboard on startup, the better with which to bathe your ears in crappy high-compression MP3-quality audio. Choose a CD instead and the octave-spanning mitts of Sergei Rachmaninov might be dancing along the dash, or you could crank up the sat-radio and try to figure out what Nicki Minaj has against gardening implements.
2012-Audi-S6-Avant-Interior-800x600
Quilted seats, brushed aluminum trim – why do people buy Bentleys again? Seriously. What a lovely place to slosh your internal organs around in. Sorry about the PR photo.

Previously, Audi’s all-weather M5-equivalent had two more cylinders and two fewer turbos. The V10 will be missed by some, but not by those who remember the less than stellar way it combined Lambo fuel consumption with limp-noodle torque. Think of it as a sort of LM002-equivalent: neither that Frankenstein’s -12 nor the Gallardo-sourced -10 were meant to be harnessed to such a heavy ox-cart.
IMG_0204
As luck would have it, I stepped right out of a 2004 RS6 into this modern twin-turbo Teuton and it’s basically the same car: a ridiculously complicated leather-and-steel straight-jacket with which to bind Newton’s laws and bend them to the driver’s will. It’s a Fifty Shades of Grey physics textbook.

With the new machine, you get a more-efficient 4.0L V8 fitted with forced induction – something Audi’s always done well – and despite only moderate peak torque gains over the old S6, the increase in forward shove is huge. 406lb/ft of shove slots in around 1400 rpm, and while your co-VP is still deciding between Sport and Sport+ in their M-car, you’ve simply wound up the snails to their full four hunnerd n’ twenny horses and walked outta there.
IMG_0199
The Audi is not without its own pre-flight checks, but simply flicking the selector into Dynamic should do the trick. The steering is artificially sweetened. The air-suspension prepares for attack. The somewhat-laggy dual-clutch transmission steps up the snap-downs. All this stuff will be broken four minutes after the warranty expires, so enjoy it while you can.

Ripping up a curving mountain road reveals a complete indifference for driver-based idiocy. You know the whole steering-wheel and accelerator pedal on a string Speed Secrets thing? The Audi takes the scissors to any thread of careful throttle management or unwinding at the apex – kill ’em all and let God sort it out seems to be the order of the day. It’s a GT-R with two extra doors and a heritage of coil-pack failures.
IMG_0208
For me, that’s a problem. The heads-up-display ticks through the numbers with alarming rapidity, but there’s little to do besides steer left and right, or jam on the brakes when needed – these could stop whatever hyperbolic metaphor you prefer: a freight train, the Earth’s rotation, volcanic eruption, the tides, tectonic drift, space, time.

Here, crawling up into an altitude where wet snow still clings to the mountain like the “before” shot of a Head n’ Shoulders commercial, the big Audi’s poise is that of a show-shoed Siberian Tiger. A muted whuffling issues from quad exhausts like the warning cough of a big cat about to spring, and away it sleds again to hurtle back down the hill like an avalanche with heated seats.
IMG_0203
Fast? Oh yeah. But its only the king of the prom, and somewhere out there a guy in a BRZ just planted one on your girl. You can black his eye if you want – this thing can haul off and land a haymaker on pretty much anyone.

Poise, power, comfort, luxury, and the nagging sensation that someone out there is having more fun than you are. For a lot less.

Audi Canada provided the vehicle tested and insurance.

The post Review: 2013 Audi S6 appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/review-2013-audi-s6/feed/ 60
Review: 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-lexus-ls-460-f-sport-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-lexus-ls-460-f-sport-video/#comments Mon, 08 Apr 2013 15:30:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=480822 While BMW has been turning the 7-Series into a luxuriously silent highway cruiser, Lexus has been busy injecting sport into their isolated lineup. In 2006 we got the 417HP IS-F, in 2011 came the insane LF-A super car, and in 2012 we were introduced to Lexus’ styling and suspension tweak brand F-Sport with the GS350 […]

The post Review: 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport (Video) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
While BMW has been turning the 7-Series into a luxuriously silent highway cruiser, Lexus has been busy injecting sport into their isolated lineup. In 2006 we got the 417HP IS-F, in 2011 came the insane LF-A super car, and in 2012 we were introduced to Lexus’ styling and suspension tweak brand F-Sport with the GS350 F-Sport. It was only a matter of time until the spindle grille and the looks-fast F package appeared on Lexus’s flagship LS. Can a “looks-fast” and “handles-better” package help the LS regain the sales crown? Or does Lexus need to go back to the drawing board for some go-fast love?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Lexus’s new styling direction has been somewhat controversial, which is probably a first for Lexus having subscribed to the “simple is elegant” mantra since 1989. While I wasn’t sure about the new “spindle” grille on the 2011 GS and I need to see the 2014 IS to figure out if I like it, the spindle on the LS suits me just fine. The problem in my mind is the proportions. The LS’ blunt nose, wide stance and long hood just work while the shorter snout and more pronounced spindle on the IS seem a bit too “try hard” to me at the moment. In addition to the blacked out grill you see above, F-Sport models get a lowered stance, Brembo brakes, revised suspension tuning and unique wheels. The cost for the added kit? $12,080 over the base LS 460’s starting price of $71,990. Out the door at $84,965 the LS 460 F-Sport undercuts a similarly equipped BMW 740i M-Sport by nearly $2,000. Mercedes? The 295HP V6 S400 starts at $92,350. If you thought the LS sells on reliability and value, you’re right.

Interior

Most manufacturers spend the cash on the outside of the “sport” model leaving less of the budget for interior tweaks and so it is with the F-Sport. We get some tweaked seats, aluminum pedals, a black Alcantara headliner and Lexus’ hallmark wood trim has been swapped for aluminum. The rest of the standard LS’ split-level dash remains, dominated by a large 12.3-inch LCD. Befitting a vehicle this expensive, the interior in our tester screamed “attention to detail” with perfect seams, high quality materials and perfect color matching.

That price tag is important to keep in mind. While the LS F-Sport ranges from $84,965 to $88,115, even the “lowly” 740i can be optioned up to $111,295 if you’re not careful. As a result you won’t find some of the expensive options on the BMW like a full-leather dashboard, heads-up display, night vision, or fancy ceramic knobs. Of course, few 7-Series shoppers check those option boxes and the more you add the more there is to go wrong. Lexus’ mantra has long been to keep things as simple as possible by offering high levels of standard equipment, bundling options in packages and steering clear of any gadget or gizmo that could go wrong within a warranty period. Few BMW shoppers load their 7-series to the gills anyway, so 90% of shoppers will find all they seek in the F-Sport’s black-only interior.

 

The F-Sport’s 16-way power driver’s seat and 12-way passenger’s seat have beefed-up bolstering and embossed logos on the headrests.  While I found the seats to be very comfortable for my 6-foot frame, the GS’ 18-way seats offer a wider range of motion and customization. Thanks to the thicker bolstering on the seat back and bottom the F-Sport will hold you in your seat should you decide to drift on your way to the financial district. All F-Sport models come with an F-Sport specific steering wheel based heavily on the standard LS tiller. An electric tilt/telescoping steering column with memory is standard.

Lexus’s flagship sedan is as much about the rear occupants as the front. To that end the F-Sport still has a three-position rear throne with outboard “buckets” and a high-mounted center seat. Thanks to the typical RWD “hump” and the bucket-like design of the outboard seats, the center spot should be left to homunculi. Ditching that 5th person will make the rear more comfortable anyway and four full-sized American adults will have no headroom or legroom issues in even the short wheelbase LS. Befitting the “adult” tastes the LS is designed to appeal to, the rear seat cushions aren’t sitting on the floor providing more thigh support than your average sedan. As you would expect with any vehicle this size, the LS sports a large 18 cubic foot trunk.

Infotainment & Gadgets

Widescreen infotainment systems are all the rage and 2013 the LS up to date with a large 12-inch LCD in the dash. Positioned in its own “pod”, the screen is higher and closer to the normal sight lines of a driver than before. The system ditches the intuitive touchscreen interface Lexus has used for the better part of a decade for the Lexus joystick (it’s officially called Lexus Remote Touch.) I won’t beat around the bush, I hate it. I am however open to suggestion, so please post your thoughts and experiences with Remote Touch in the comment section below.

My issues with LRT are: it occupies a great deal of room on the center console,and it takes far more hand-eye-brain coordination than a touchscreen. Every time I am in a Lexus I find myself glancing at the screen and fiddling with the little control pad far more than when I’m in a competitor’s luxury sedan. This increased distraction hasn’t gone unnoticed by my better half who constantly nags me about keeping my eyes on the road. Want to enter an address using the on-screen QWERTY keyboard? It’s obvious why Lexus won’t let you do that in motion.

To soften the blow Lexus throws in the same media device voice command interface as the other Lexus and premium Toyota products receive. The system is snappy, managed to figure out every command I threw at and has a more natural sounding voice than MyLincoln Touch. Helping counter the nagging Lexus Remote Touch caused (see how that’s not my fault now), the available Mark Levinson sound system can drown out even the most shrill mother-in-laws.

Perhaps reinforcing that Lexus focuses on the “meat” of the luxury segment and not the one-percent, you won’t find the same level of gee-wizardry in the F-Sport as some of the Euro competitors. You won’t find night vision, a full-leather dashboard, expensive ceramic knobs, massaging front seats, heads-up displays or full-LCD instrument clusters in the Lexus showroom. Instead, Lexus doubles down on perfect seams, quiet cabins, a high level of standard equipment and quantities of wood that would make Jaguar blush. New for 2013 is an optional collision prevention system that augments the collision warning system from last year’s model with the ability to fully stop the car while traveling at low speeds to prevent an accident. Much like the system Volvo has been stuffing in their cars since 2009, the system is active from about 5-24 MPH. Lexus has also tweaked their radar-based dynamic cruise control to now take the LS to a complete stop and take off again in stop-and-go traffic.

Drivetrain

The naturally aspirated luxury car V8 is an endangered species now that BMW, Audi and Mercedes are embracing turbo love. Lexus is the lone holdout using the same 4.6L naturally aspirated V8 engine the LS 460 debuted with in 2006.The direct-injection mill produces 386 ponies at 6,400 RPM (dropping to 360 in the AWD model) and 367lb-ft of twist at 4,100. Power delivery is typical of a medium-displacement DOHC V8; there is enough grunt at the low end to chirp the wheels, torque builds in a linear fashion and most of the “go” happens near red-line. The observant will note the F-Sport is down on power when pitted against the latest in German twin-turbo V8s putting the F-sport at a serious disadvantage when stoplight racing. In terms of power, the LS 460 compares most directly to the 740i with BMW’s turbocharged six-cylinder engine. On the bright side, the F-Sport’s engine is incredibly smooth and has one of the best engine sounds on this segment (you can thank the turbos for messing up the German symphony.) Why didn’t Lexus drop the 5.0L V8 from the IS-F into the F-Sport? The world may never now.

For F-Sport duty the LS gets a few software tweaks and performance-themed upgrades. The 8-speed automatic has been reprogrammed to rev-match downshifts, there are some snazzy shift paddles on the steering wheel, and there’s a Torsen limited slip differential out back. F-Sport tuning adds variable gear ratio steering to the electro-mechanical power steering unit and an additional “Sport+”  driving mode for the engine, transmission, steering and suspension systems

Drive

The naturally aspirated V8 defines the way the F-Sport at the dragstrip. Because the engine needs to rev to 4,100 RPM for torque to peak, it lacks the immediacy and urgency you feel from the twin-turbo Merc and Bimmer. The 8-speed automatic uses closely spaced low gears to help improve off-the-line performance allowing the F-Sport to hit 60 in 5.47 seconds. That’s a hair slower than the BMW 740i and half a second slower than the 750 or S550. However, if a great soundtrack is more important to you than shove, consider that turbos interfere with classic V8 sounds due to their location in the intake and exhaust plumbing. Further boosting the high-revving V8 howl, Lexus dropped a sound tube into the intake to pipe more “V8″ into the cabin.

The mission of sport packages is primarily to improve looks, and secondarily improve handling. That makes Lexus’ decision to put an air-suspension in the F-Sport a bit unusual. You see, there are three basic types of adaptive suspension systems. The first uses a strut filled with a ferromagnetic fluid whose viscosity changed when electricity is applied (GM and Audi like that one). The second is a more typical gas-filled strut with an electronically controlled valve to alter damping characteristics (Volvo, Ford and Chrysler use this one). Last is the air-suspension. Unlike the other two, air systems don’t just alter the damping, they are also involved in maintaining (or altering) the ride height. This means they both damp and keep your car off the ground. By altering the pressure in the internal air bags, ride firmness and height can be adjusted. While air suspensions have a pedigree (everyone from Rolls Royce to Jaguar uses one) having a vehicle ride on four small “Aero Beds” leads to an unusual feel when the road starts to curve. I’m no stranger to this technology, my own Jaguar Super V8 uses a similar system, and it delivers a similar feel. There’s a reason  Jaguar ditched the system for their new breed of corner-clawing kitties.

Despite the F-Sport having a lowered ride height over the regular LS and the air suspension being tweaked for a firmer ride, the system is firm but floaty. Sort of like over-inflating that air mattress you pull out for overnight guests. (My Jaguar feels exactly the same and so does the Mercedes S-Class.) That doesn’t mean the F-Sport is a land barge, it just means the feeling is unusual. Feelings aside, the F-Sport handles extremely well thanks to grippy low-profile rubber and Lexus’ variable gear ratio steering system.

VGRS (as Lexus calls it) has a more natural and direct feel than BMW’s active steering system, especially on close-quarter mountain switchbacks where you’re sea-sawing the wheel as you alternate mashing the stop and go pedals. The system fools you into thinking the F-Sport is lighter and more balanced than the BMW when in reality they very similar. At 53:47 (front:rear), the F-Sport is a bit heavier in the nose than the near-prefect 50:50 BMW 740i (but not far off the heavier 750i), but the Lexus hides it well, only giving up the secret when you’ve hit the limit and the nose begins to plow. Compared to the heavier 750i or S550, the LS feels lighter on its feet. Surprised? You shouldn’t be, after all, BMW is the new Meercedes. While I would take the more neutral vehicle, I know a majority of real-world owners prefer a car that leans toward understeer. (Fear not, if your foot is mashing the go pedal, the F-Sport will get all kinds of tail-happy  on you.)

Out on the highway or driving through pot-holed downtown streets, the air suspension makes more sense because it soaks up pavement imperfections like a Cadillac Fleetwood, which is after all the raison d’être of the Lexus brand. While I think I would have demanded the engineers swap the airbags for some steel coils, I don’t think that would make the F-Sport sell any better. Without more shove, the F-Sport will never be direct competition for the new breed of German luxury sedan. Instead the F-Sport is quite simply the best looking Lexus to date and the most dynamic large sedan the Japanese have ever built.  Is that enough to regain the sales crown? Only time will tell, but the bold grille, F-Sport model and low sticker price sure can’t hurt.

 

Hit it

  • Well priced luxury car without a discount brand cachet.
  • Impeccable reliability reputation.
  • The F-Sport isn’t as demure as a modern 7-series but not as flashy as a Maserati, etc.

Quit it

  • The Lexus joystick device is my least favorite infotainment input device.
  • Fewer gadgets and gizmos are available compared to the BMW 7-Series and Audi A8.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.215 Seconds

0-60: 5.47 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.09 Seconds @ 100.4 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: xx MPG over 585 Miles

2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Steering wheel in motion, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Joystick Controller, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, F-Sport Logo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, F-Sport Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, LED Headlamp Module, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Seat Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Engine, 4.6L V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Lexus Enform 12.3-inch LCD, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Lexus Enform 12.3-inch LCD, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Infotainment, Lexus Enform Screen, Picture Courtesy of Lexus 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Lexus Enform, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Infotainment, Lexus Enform Screen, Picture Courtesy of Lexus 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Lexus 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Lexus 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Lexus 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Front Grille Profile, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, F-Sport Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Exterior, Headlamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Memory Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Dashboard Clock, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Button Bank, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Drive Mode Selector, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Heated and Cooled Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Lexus Remote Touch, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, F=Sport Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, 4.6L V8, 386HP, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, 4.6L V8, 386HP, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport, 4.6L V8, 386HP, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

The post Review: 2013 Lexus LS 460 F-Sport (Video) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-lexus-ls-460-f-sport-video/feed/ 46
Review: 2013 Buick Encore (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-buick-encore-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-buick-encore-video/#comments Mon, 01 Apr 2013 15:00:37 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=480264 Buick’s been on a roll this year, their sales are up and their owner demographics are younger than they have been in recent memory. The cynic in my says that’s because half their clientele died of old age, but it has more to do with their product portfolio. Say what? Yep, it’s true, the brand […]

The post Review: 2013 Buick Encore (Video) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

Buick’s been on a roll this year, their sales are up and their owner demographics are younger than they have been in recent memory. The cynic in my says that’s because half their clientele died of old age, but it has more to do with their product portfolio. Say what? Yep, it’s true, the brand I wrote off for dead last decade is targeting younger buyers with designs imported from Europe and finding sales success. The Verano turbo shattered my preconceptions, but can Buick do it again? A brown Encore arrived one rainy morning to see if it was possible.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The Encore isn’t new, but neither is it an American rehash of a tired Euro model. Instead, it is “badge engineering” 21st century style. When I was a kid you knew a new Buick was coming when Chevy or Oldsmobile announced a new product. You also knew what to expect: the same sheetmetal with a Buick logo on the grille and some padded velour thrones. 30 years later Buick is up to the same old game with an important twist: Buick takes Opel models from Europe. Consequently you won’t find a brother-from-another-mother running around with a Chevy logo.

Like its sister-ship, the Opel Mokka, the Encore is a small crossover/hatchback closely related to GM’s other small car offerings. Euro origins are obvious when you park the Encore in an American parking spot, this Buick is tiny. The Encore’s tall profile further accentuates the Encore’s 168-inch overall length, which is surprisingly 6-inches longer than a MINI Countryman. My usual panel of passengers were mixed in their opinion of the styling, I found it slightly cartoonish, in a bubbly and cute sort of way. I kept resisting the impulse to smile every time I walked out to the car, but then again I’ve been told my style sense is not to be trusted. (Seriously Sajeev, what’s wrong with a sports coat over a Hawaiian shirt?) My only complaint on the outside, and this is a big one for me, are the trademark “Ventiports” which seem to be growing like a disease. In addition to getting larger, they have migrated from the fenders (where you only had to see them on the outside) to the hood where they are now visible behind the wheel as well.

Interior

Buick’s reinvention has focused on value pricing and interior quality. The latter is something new for Buick, and something that has impressed me the most about Buick’s latest vehicles. The Encore isn’t a terribly expensive crossover starting at $24,950 and ending at $31,110 for a full-loaded AWD model. Despite the low starting price, the cabin makes extensive use of soft touch plastics lending a more premium feel to the cabin than vehicles like the MINI Countryman, Acura TSX or Lexus CT. Speaking of MINI, the Countryman, (like the rest of the MINI lineup) is a mixture of trickle-down BMW technology, great switchgear, high-style, cheesy plastics and chintzy headliners. Of course MINI’s biggest asset is brand perception while Buick’s brand is more of a liability in some demographics. That’s really a shame because the Encore has not only a quality feel but a very uniform feel as well. While MINI’s cabins are full of highs and lows, everything in the Encore is consistently a notch above the rabble. Equipping the Contryman and Encore as closely as possible reveals the Encore is about $1,500 cheaper once you add to the MINI the features standard on the Encore. Comparing the top-trim of the Encore to the MINI the difference grows to $3,800 in the Encore’s favor. Want AWD? The difference grows by about three-grand.

It seems journalists have a genetic condition that causes us to love brown interiors. The trouble with most manufacturer’s attempts at “thinking outside the black” however is they go half-way. They give you brown seats and some brown trim on the dash, but they leave out the carpets, button banks, etc. Not so with the Encore. GM took the extra step to color-match the Encore’s interior which makes the transformation look well-executed instead of half-assed. I should point out that our Facebook readers didn’t feel the same sort of brown-love as I did, but they are of course wrong. (Sorry guys.)

The Encore may be small, but the interior is spacious thanks to the tall profile, stubby nose and upright seats. Taller folks will have no problems getting into or out of the front or rear seats thanks to large door openings and a low step-in height. I grabbed a few willing tall people for lunch and successfully (and comfortably) took two 6’5″ passengers, one 6’2 gentleman and myself (6′) on a 50 minute trek to the prefect burger joint without a single complaint.

Because the Encore shares seat frames with GM sedans, there are a few compromises. The lack of a power recline mechanism seems odd, especially considering the 2-positon memory seat found in our tester. Using the sale seat frames and rails as a sedan or coupé meant creating some unusual “platforms” in the floor stamping so the seats could be mounted high to get an SUV-like seating position. Consequently the rear footwells might be a problem for big-footed passengers on long trips. A manual front passenger seat is standard, but most models on dealer lots have the optional power seat

Four adults can travel in comfort in the Encore, along with four large carry-on roller bags in the back thanks to a cargo cubby that holds 18.8 cubes with the seats in place. Just don’t push your luck with a 5th passenger unless the trio in the rear are skinny folk, the Encore is a narrow vehicle. If you’re a skier or love box furniture from IKEA, the Encore’s front passenger seat folds flat allowing you to put long, wide items all the way from the dashboard to the rear hatch.

Infotainment and Gadgets

The Encore uses the same standard 7-inch “IntelliLink” infotainment system I praised in the Buick Verano. There’s just one problem, it isn’t exactly the same. Instead of positioning the LCD within arm’s reach, Buick located it in a “pod” on the dash. While the location keeps your eyes closer to the road, it makes the screen look smaller and it means it’s too far away to touch. Logically because of this Buick removed the touchscreen feature and that’s what I find vexing. The same software I found so intuitive and easy to use with a touchscreen made me tear my hair out when entering an address via an on-screen keyboard and the control knob in the dash.

Thankfully I didn’t need to use the keyboard often and the rest of the system is still one of the best infotainment units on the market at any price. The graphics are pleasing to the eye, its responsive and the menus are logical and intuitive. The system also sports one of the best iPhone/USB/Media voice command interfaces available. Compared to the Ford/Lincoln systems, the voice is natural sounding. Compared to the Toyota/Lexus systems, IntelliLink handles large media libraries with ease rather than turning off certain voice commands if you exceed a certain library size. I’d like to compare it to Cadillac’s CUE but I’m trying to forget that experience.

As if Buick’s hushed cabin wasn’t enough, even the base $24,950 Encore models use active noise cancelling technology by Bose. All Encores also get XM satellite radio, Bluetooth audio streaming/speakerphone and a backup camera. Stepping up to the $25,760 “convenience package” adds dual-zone climate control, remote start and an auto-dimming rearview mirror. Leather will set you back $27,460 and brings with it heated seats, a power passenger seat, heated steering wheel and 2 memory positions for the driver’s throne. The $28,940 Encore “Premium” brings rain sense wipers, park assist, collision warning and lane departure warning. The $800 sunroof, $795 navigation system and $595 Bose premium audio system are standalone options on all trims. The collision and lane departure systems are worth skipping in my book since they are warning-only systems and not combination warning and prevention as found in other vehicles. Unless you want the rain sensing wipers and parking assist, spend the money on AWD, navigation or the excellent Bose speakers.

Drivetrain
The Encore uses the same 1.4L four-cylinder engine as the Chevy Sonic and Cruze. Producing 138 HP at 4,900 RPM this mill isn’t targeted at speed addicts. On the bright side, thanks to a turbocharger and some direct-injection magic, the engine manages 148 lb-ft of twist from 1,850-4,900RPM.

GM wisely mated the 1.4L engine to their “small” car 6-speed transaxle which features a low 16.17:1 effective first gear (including the 3.53:1 final drive) which helps make the Encore feel more sprightly in the stop-light races. A tall 2.65:1 effective top gear ratio is what allows the Encore to deliver fuel economy numbers of 25/33/28 (City/Highway/Combined) and 23/30/26 when equipped with the $1,500 optional AWD system. During our week with the Encore we averaged an impressive 32.1 MPG over 862 miles of mixed driving, 0-60 tests, photo shoot idling and my mountain commute.

The day the Encore arrived I needed to take a road trip to Sacramento (100 miles away) so I piled a few day’s worth of supplies in the Encore and hit the road. The Encore devoured highway miles, but not in the way I had expected. The small crossover’s cabin is eerily quiet, the driver’s seat is comfortable and upright but the suspension isn’t marshmallowy soft like my father’s Buick. This meant I changed course and decided to take the long way (you can’t get very excited about Sacramento anyway) through some of my favorite California coastal roads.

My opinion of the diminutive engine changed constantly during my week with the Encore. In the city the low-end torque provided by the turbo and the low first gear make easy work of 0-40 MPH traffic and the Encore effortlessly zipped into narrow gaps on busy expressways. Thanks to the way the throttle is mapped the engine doesn’t feel out of breath cruising on the highway, until you need to pass someone as getting from 60 to 80 MPH takes a Prius-like 8 seconds. Load the Encore up with two people and some luggage and forward progress is noticeably stunted in all situations. However, every time I wished for more power I glanced down at my fuel economy and was reminded that more power consumes more gasoline.

On the coastal switchbacks in California’s mountainous redwood forests, the Encore is back in its element thanks to a low 1st gear, moderately low 2nd gear and a well-tuned suspension. Let’s go over that statement again. A Buick that is “in its element on tight mountain roads.” Never thought you’d hear that did you? Neither did I. The Encore’s relatively low center of gravity, 215/55R18 rubber and tight turning radius make [relative] mince meat of tight curves. Let me be clear, the Encore is still down on power, but I have always said I prefer the slower, better handling vehicle to the vehicle that’s only fast in a straight line. The Encore’s suspension handled broken pavement with such composure I was surprised to find it still uses ye olde torsion-beam suspension in the rear. Could the Encore have what it takes to become Buick’s first hot hatch? I hope GM decides to put the Verano’s 2.0L turbo under the hood so we can find out.

It’s right about now that I realized I had the love that dare not speak its name. Could I have fallen for the charms of a Buick? Had I suddenly aged 30 years without knowing it? That is the only real problem I found with the Encore: brand perception. In many minds, people need a new car and their first thought is “I’ll pop over to the Buick dealer” are the same people in the market for a new mobility scooter. If Buick keeps producing products like the Encore however that may change.

Back in the Encore’s native habitat (the Taco Bell drive-thru or the parking garage at the mall), engine power complaints once again disappear. With a ground clearance of 6.2 inches, the Encore is about average for the modern crop of crossovers meaning you won’t catch your bumper cover on parking lot “headstones” and only tall curbs will cause you worry. The well-appointed interior will make you feel special and the value pricing will keep your accountant happy.

 

Hit it

  • High quality interior for a vehicle in this price range.
  • Buick continues to “think outside the black.”
  • The second Buick in 2 months I would actually buy. Seriously.

Quit it

  • Top level Encore trims still have a manual front seat recline mechanism.
  • Collision warning this late in the game without auto braking seems silly.
  • Buick’s reputation for elderly clientele.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.27 Seconds

0-60: 9.6 Seconds (9.1 with overboost)

1/4 Mile: 17 Seconds at 80 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 32.1MPG over 862 miles.

2013 Buick Encore 2013 Buick Encore, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Encore, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Encore, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Encore-004 2013 Buick Encore-005 2013 Buick Encore-006 2013 Buick Encore-007 2013 Buick Encore-008 2013 Buick Encore, Infotainmane, Buick Intellilink, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Encore-010 2013 Buick Encore-011 2013 Buick Encore-012 2013 Buick Encore-013 2013 Buick Encore-014 2013 Buick Encore-015 2013 Buick Encore-016 2013 Buick Encore-017 2013 Buick Encore-018 2013 Buick Encore, Engine, 1.4L Direct-Injection Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Encore-020 2013 Buick Encore, Instrument Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Encore, Interior, Instrument Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Encore-023 2013 Buick Encore-024 2013 Buick Encore-025 2013 Buick Encore, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Encore-027 2013 Buick Encore-028 2013 Buick Encore-029 2013 Buick Encore, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Buick Encore-031 2013 Buick Encore-032 2013 Buick Encore-033 2013 Buick Encore-034 2013 Buick Encore-035 2013 Buick Encore-036 2013 Buick Encore-037 2013 Buick Encore-038 2013 Buick Encore-039 2013 Buick Encore Rear Seats Folded, Front Passenger Seat Folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

The post Review: 2013 Buick Encore (Video) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-buick-encore-video/feed/ 93
Review: 2013 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/review-2013-lexus-es-300h-hybrid-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/review-2013-lexus-es-300h-hybrid-video/#comments Mon, 25 Mar 2013 11:00:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=481436 The ES has been Lexus’ best-selling sedan for 15 years yet the front-driver started life as something of a side-show. In 1989 the ES was a thinly veiled Camry, supposedly rushed to market because Lexus dealers couldn’t envision launching a brand with one vehicle (the LS 400) and were unwilling to wait for the SC […]

The post Review: 2013 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid (Video) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

The ES has been Lexus’ best-selling sedan for 15 years yet the front-driver started life as something of a side-show. In 1989 the ES was a thinly veiled Camry, supposedly rushed to market because Lexus dealers couldn’t envision launching a brand with one vehicle (the LS 400) and were unwilling to wait for the SC and GS. This explanation makes sense to me and explains why the ES was the only FWD car in a brand created to compete with the Germans. Of course, this odd fit within a full-range RWD luxury brand is exactly why the ES sells. Wonder why Acura’s wares never had the sales success of the ES? It’s all about the brand baby.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The first ES was a Camry with an LS 400 aping nose job. Since then the ES and the Camry were developed together on a common platform, but with every passing redesign the marriage has become more rocky with the two sharing less and less with one another. Like any couple “trying a separation,” divorce was inevitable. For 2014 the papers are served and the ES is now shacking up with the Camry’s big sister, the 2014 Toyota Avalon. Oh, the tongues will wag.

The platform swap means the ES has grown an inch in length, an inch in height and the wheelbase has stretched nearly two inches over the 2012 ES, making it two inches longer than the new GS. LS owners shouldn’t fear, as the flagship is still the biggest Japanese luxury vehicle on the market. For 2013 Lexus has ditched the former ES’s suppository side profile for a blunter nose, taller greenhouse, longer hood and shorter trunk. The new proportions make the ES look like one of the family, not an accident that happened later. It also makes the new Lexus spindle grill look particularly good in my mind, not something I was able to say about the GS or some of the other mugs wearing the new grin.

Interior

Snazzy gizmos aren’t worth anything if they aren’t delivered in style, just ask Apple. The redesign brings the ES’s interior game up a few notches in some ways and down in others. The dashboard now features the latest in automotive interiors crazes: the faux-stitch. Like Buick’s LaCrosse, the ES uses a standard injection-molded dashboard that is then run through a sewing machine (by hand, because this is still a Lexus) to put real stitching on fake seams. While I appreciate the extra effort, I must point out that the ES’ sister-ship Avalon uses real pieces of pleather mechanically quilted together on a sewing machine and fewer hard plastics within easy reach of the driver. As a result I found the Alvaon to have a more premium look and feel with the exception of the fake-wood in the Toyota. Yea, I scratched my head too.

The interior’s design mimics the two-level style introduced in the 2011 GS. Basically we have an inset infotainment/navigation LCD in the dash separated from the system controls by satin nickel and wood trim. I’m still unsure if this is a design theme I’m happy with, let us know your thoughts in the comment section below. While fit and finish in our ES tester was excellent, we found more hard plastic in this cabin than in the old model and while it didn’t bug me on the preview junket a year ago, it did raise my eyebrows after having the new Avalon for a week. On the flip side, all ES hybrid models get new light bamboo wood which has to be one of the most appealing wood veneers I have seen in a vehicle cabin.

The ES’ front seats contort in 10-ways with an optional extending thigh cushion on the driver’s side. Thanks to supple padding and improved NuLuxe (pleather) upholstery on the base hybrid and regular or semi-aniline leather on up-level trims, your backside won’t notice you racking up highway miles. The Lincoln MKZ Hybrid may have a slightly snazzier interior, but the ES’ front seats are more comfortable. The steering wheel is borrowed from the GS sedan, complete with soft leather. Should you want a more premium tiller, the same bamboo can be applied to two-thirds of the wheel and heating is optional as well.

Rear passengers are treated to the most rear legroom of any Lexus sedan – including the six-digit LS 600hL. If you look at the picture above, the driver’s seat is positioned for a 6-foot tall driver in a somewhat reclined position. The result is more combined (front/rear) legroom than a Lincoln MKS or a short wheelbase 7-Series. Since the ES has a more mature audience in mind, the rear seat bottom cushions are higher off the floor making them more comfortable for adults than a Camry. Sadly, the cushy rear seat have something of a flaw: they don’t fold. I had hoped the old Avalon’s reclining rear seats would have made it to the ES, but they were lost on the cutting room floor for both vehicles. ES 350 shoppers get a ski pass-through to help ease the pain, but hybrid lovers must not be winter-sports folks; that opening is plugged by the battery. Speaking of batteries, the nickel-hydride battery pack exacts a trunk-toll of 3.1 cubic feet, reducing your cargo hold to 12.1 cubes, a heftier price than hybrid GS buyers pay.

Infotainment & Gadgets

For $39,250, base ES 300h models get an 8-speaker audio system with Bluetooth and iPod integration and XM radio. Opting for the $740 “display audio” option, buys a 7-inch LCD coupled with a Lexus-branded surround-sound system and backup cam. You will be hard pressed to find either of these on dealer lots as an inventory search by my local dealer turned up zero ES 300h base models in California and exactly two of nearly 300 ES hybrids on dealer lots. That’s fine by me since I demand more toys on my ride.

Most ES options are sold bundled in packages ranging from the $5,250 “premium” to the $10,650 “ultra luxury.” All packages bump you up to the 8-inch LCD navigation/infotainment system, include an electric power tilt/telescoping tiller, in-dash DVD player, and a steering wheel with wood inlays. In addition to iPod/USB media voice control, smartphone text messaging and app integration, the system has ditched the intuitive touchscreen interface for my least favorite input method: Lexus Remote Touch, aka the Lexus joystick. The joystick is intuitive to use because it’s just like a mouse on your computer. You wiggle the controller and the cursor on the screen wiggles. Simple enough, right? I have two problems with it. First, it occupies a great deal of room on the center console, an area the Avalon uses for more conveniently located latté-holders. Secondly, the basic software driving the system hasn’t changed since the touchscreen days. See the problem? With the old system you could glance at the screen, look back up at the road and let your right hand stab the option, even my 91-year-old grandmother has the hand-eye co-ordination to do that. With Remote Touch you have to spend far more time watching the screen to see if the cursor is on the option you want, a potentially dangerous situation if you like playing with your gadgets while you drive. Want to enter an address using the on-screen QWERTY keyboard? It’s obvious why Lexus won’t let you do that in motion. The Avalon uses a version of the same software but retains the touchscreen interface and oddly enough the ES’ base audio system (one notch above the LCD-free ES) uses a knob-style controller like Audi, BMW and Mercedes.

The ES wouldn’t be a Lexus without a few gadgets and expensive options. Top on my list are the $3,745 (yes, you read that right) Mark Levinson sound system which sounds fantastic (as it should for the price), $500 parking sensors, $400 power opening/closing trunk, and the $1,500 radar-based active cruise control with pre-collision warning. Of course all these gizmos are included with the ultra-luxury package bringing the top-end ES 300h to a cool $50,795.

Drivetrain

The Avalon Hybrid, Camry Hybrid and ES 300h share the same hybrid drivetrain. Driving the system is a new-for-2012 2.5L 2AR-FXE four-cylinder engine. Running on the Atkinson cycle, the four-pot puts out 156 HP and 153 lb-ft of twist. That engine is coupled to a revised Lexus Hybrid Drive transaxle (labelled as Toyota Synergy Drive in Toyota products), in essence a beefier Prius hybrid system. The planetary gearset and two motor/generator combination allow the system to drive electric only for short distances at limited speeds, motivate the vehicle solely on engine power or combine the 156HP with extra juice from the battery pack in the trunk to deliver 200 ponies until the battery has been depleted. Lexus doesn’t specify a combined torque rating for the ES Hybrid, but based on the 7.24 scoot to 60 we clocked, I estimate the combined number is around 200-220 lb-ft. That run to 60 is a hair faster than the MKZ and about 1/2 a second better than the LaCrosse eAssist.

Performance is better than these numbers might indicate thanks to 199 lb-ft from 0-1500RPM courtesy of the hybrid motor. Lexus is sticking to nickel based batteries and not the trendier Lithium batteries found in the Lincoln. Despite this, the ES averaged an impressive 42 MPG over 780 miles of mixed driving. While that may sound worse than the MKZ’s 47/47/47MPG trifecta, nobody seems to be getting more than 39 in the Detroit hybrid. Meanwhile the ES bested it’s 2008 EPA numbers of 40/39/40 (City/Highway/Combined.)

Drive

There is no other front-wheel-drive hybrid with a luxury logo on the grille to compare to the ES 300h. Sure we have the eAssist Buick LaCrosse and the Lincoln MKZ, but aside from the MKZ being a size-class down and the LaCrosse not being a “true” hybrid (its not even sold as such), neither brand has the same cachet as Lexus. Remember what I said at the beginning? The ES’s strongest selling point is its brand. If BMW made a large, soft front driver, you can be sure its sales would exceed the ES. What does that have to do with the way the ES hybrid drives? Everything. You see, the way the ES handles, brakes and accelerates isn’t as important to the stereotypical driver as the way the car looks, the logo on the grille, how quiet it is, how reliable it is and hoe well the dealers treat you. When it comes to these qualities the ES 300h is the prefect driving appliance.

The ES’s cabin is still peaceful at highway speeds but Buick’s dedication to sound deadening is extreme and the LaCrosse is quieter under most circumstances especially in terms of engine noise. Since the three FWD luxury hybrids all use four-cylinder engines, sound deadening is important. Despite growing in this generation, the ES’ ride isn’t as thoroughly damped as the outgoing model, that’s thanks to Lexus’ efforts to make the ES handle less like a marshmallow. The suspension engineer’s efforts paid off with the ES feeling neither too floaty nor too harsh. The 215/55R17s our tester wore had more grip than I had expected and the ES hybrid didn’t head for the bushes when driven hard. When the road started winding the ES never felt sloppy or out-of-place maintaining its Lexus trademark poise over broken pavement and uneven turns. When it comes to absolute horizontal grip the ES comes in behind the competition, mostly due to the wide 245/40R17s worn by the LaCrosse and the 225/50R17s on the MKZ Hybrid.

Still, the overall experience is what the ES is about, it’s about dealership satisfaction, a polished purchasing experience and a long warranty. The competition has caught up here as well with the MKZ Hybrid and LaCrosse aAssist delivering the same bumper-to-bumper and powertrain warranty terms and Lincoln is now tossing in 4 years and 50,000 miles of scheduled maintenance. The ES 300h’s trump cards remain the same as before: Lexus’s brand image and their reliability reputation. There’s just one further problem: the 2013 Avalon Hybrid. The Avalon Hybrid Limited starts higher than the ES 300h at $41,295 but ends far lower at $44,145 despite having an incredibly similar feature set. Our friends over at TrueDetla.com tell us the price difference ends up at $4,476 for comparably equipped models. Is the Lexus brand, a longer warranty and a snazzy dealership worth the difference?

Hit it

  • Excellent fuel economy.
  • “Short” four-year payback vs the non-hybrid ES.
  • Lexus warranty, reliability reputation and that all-important brand image.

Quit it

  • Lexus Remote Touch is harder to use than the old touchscreen system.
  • Plenty of hard plastics within easy reach.
  • The Avalon hybrid is a better value.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.95 Seconds

0-60: 7.24 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.67 Seconds @ 91.1 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 41.2 MPG over 785 Miles

2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Dashboard Trim, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Steering Wheel Wood Trim, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Infotainment Lexus Enform, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Infotainment Lexus Enform, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Infotainment Lexus Enform, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Infotainment, Lexus Enforn, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Infotainment Lexus Enform, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Remote Touch Controller, Infotainment, Lexus Enform controller, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Bamboo Trim, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Cargo Room, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Drivetrain, 3.0L Hybrid System, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Drivetrain, 3.0L Hybrid System, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, HID Headlamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h hybrid, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Front Overhang, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ 2013 Lexus ES 300h, Interior, Infotainment, Remote Touch, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. DykesQ Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

The post Review: 2013 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid (Video) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/review-2013-lexus-es-300h-hybrid-video/feed/ 43
Review: 2012 Jaguar XF Supercharged http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/review-2012-jaguar-xf-supercharged/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/review-2012-jaguar-xf-supercharged/#comments Mon, 14 Jan 2013 13:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=459748 I’d say that writing car reviews can be difficult at times but then it’s not really seemly to complain when nice folks drop off free cars to drive. Still, the gig does have its challenges. The last time that I reviewed the Jaguar XF Supercharged, a day after the fleet management company picked it up, […]

The post Review: 2012 Jaguar XF Supercharged appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

I’d say that writing car reviews can be difficult at times but then it’s not really seemly to complain when nice folks drop off free cars to drive. Still, the gig does have its challenges. The last time that I reviewed the Jaguar XF Supercharged, a day after the fleet management company picked it up, their competitor, which works for Kia, dropped off a nicely equipped Sportage. At the time I joked with Ed Niedermeyer about reviewing both cars simultaneously. After all, with the democratization of luxury the cars were similarly equipped, sort of. Ed and I decided that silly or not a comparo wouldn’t be fair to either manufacturer. Still, it’s hard not to ruminate about comparisons when you’re working on a review.

The Sportage comparo was a joke but not long before I was loaned a 2012 Jaguar XF Supercharged, I reviewed the 2012 Chrysler 300 Luxury Series and in this case it was very hard not to compare the XF to the 300. Both cars are fairly large rear wheel drive four door sedans with just about every convenience and luxury option checked off down to the power sunscreen for the back window. As a matter of fact, the Chrysler had a couple of toys that aren’t available on the XF. Of course the Jaguar is significantly more expensive. As equipped with the 470 HP supercharged version of Jaguar’s corporate V8, the XF is $69,845, just about $25,000 more than the Chrysler. I gave the Chrysler a positive review and I was very impressed with it, so I couldn’t help but keep asking myself if the Jaguar was worth $25,000 more than the Chrysler. I recently reviewed a Jaguar XJ, which stickered out at about $80K so I was also mentally comparing the XF Supercharged to the larger, but less powerful, Jaguar.

My conclusion after a week with the XF Supercharged was that I really couldn’t say if the Chrysler was a better bargain or if the XJ was worth spending an extra ten (without the supercharger) or twenty thousand dollars (with the blown motor). I can say that if you’re looking for a fast, comfortable and luxurious 5 passenger car, you could do worse than the XF Supercharged. The ultimate difference that I perceived between the XF Supercharged on one hand and both the Chrysler 300 Luxury Series and the Jaguar XJ Portfolio on the other is summed up in that word “Supercharged”. The Chrysler had the 292 HP Pentastar V6 and the XJ Portfolio had the normally aspirated 385 HP version of the Jaguar V8, and it’s that 470 HP compressed charge engine that’s the XF Supercharged’s raison d’etre.

The Chrysler wasn’t slow. I said that it had adequate power for all situations you’d find on a public road. The XJ Portfolio was also quick. Though less powerful than the blown version in the XF Supercharged, the NA V8 in the XJ was hauling around a bit less weight than the XF since the larger Jaguar is made of aluminum and actually is a bit lighter than the steel XF. Pardon the pun but as quick as the Chrysler and bigger Jag are, the supercharged XF blows them away. With almost 100 more HP than the XJ and almost 200 HP more than the Chrysler, the XF Supercharged effortlessly surpasses “adequate”. Simply put, if you need power to do something in traffic, you’ll have it with this car. Anything requiring more power would probably be something imprudent and unsafe to do with other drivers on the road. You decide to do it, you put the right pedal down, and the car goes.

Getting back to the hypothetical comparison reviews, I had praised how quiet the Chrysler was and how smooth the ride was. In fact the Jaguar was noisier. Some of that noise was deliberate – any time you step on the gas you can hear the exhaust burbling in the way that only a V8 can do. As with the XJ, some underhood engine noise is also ported to the cabin. Though not as hardcore as the 510 HP XF-R, the XF Supercharged has most of the XF-R’s chassis upgrades, and it was undoubtedly tuned for a “sportier” ride than the Chrysler. That doesn’t explain, however, the amount of wind noise around the XF’s front side windows. A couple of times there was so much wind noise I had to check to make sure that the windows and moonroof were fully closed. With the windows down it also seemed to me that there was an unusual amount of wind buffeting the interior. The ride was sports sedan firm, stiffer than the Chrysler but also a bit more controlled, and a bit less harsh over irregular pavement.

That wind noise was a bit out of place considering how luxurious the XF’s interior is. Though a good chunk of the 25K difference in price between the Chrysler and the Jaguar is that exquisitely smooth and powerful supercharged engine, and though the Chrysler indeed is well featured and nicely appointed, if I had to pick a word to describe the difference besides the engines, I’d say refinement. That extra money definitely buys you refinement. The refinement extends to things like the trick articulated trunk hinges and struts that take up no cargo space at all, compared to the Chrysler’s goose necks that lose a lot of trunk space. Yes the Chrysler’s interior is slathered with leather, but the leather in the Jaguar is softer, even that appliqued to the dashboard and other panels. I regularly work with leather in my day job, machine embroidery, and all split grain leather is not created equal. Jaguar uses superior skins. Concerning embroidery, as is au courant with automotive interiors these days, there is contrasting detail stitching on the dashboard leather, which is made up of about a half dozen separate pieces. I’d like to believe it’s old world craftsmanship but it’s more likely a computer controlled sewing machine, but however they do it, the number of stitches and their locations are so precise and uniform that wherever two pieces of leather are seamed together the detail stitching precisely bridges the seam with a single stitch.

Speaking of “split grain” leather – in a recent review, Alex Dykes alluded to Honda’s hyping of their use of split grain leather in a steering wheel cover. That’s a case of hyping something that isn’t particularly special. Any real grained leather you see in a car is split grain. Full grain leather is the entire skin (minus the fur and epidermis), it’s thick and stiff and used for things like boots and saddles. One or more layers of suede are shaved off the back of the full grain skin to make it thinner and soft enough to use for upholstery and apparel, leaving what is called split grain leather. If it has suede on one side and real grain on the other (some “leather” is really suede splits with artificial grain glued on), it’s “split grain leather”. The next time a car salesman or PR flack tells you that their product comes with split grain leather, ask them, “as opposed to what other kind of leather?”

So the Jag’s leather was softer. It also had a much stronger smell. Maybe it was just psychological but I thought that the dark brown leather even had a few flavor notes from cigar tobacco. The nannies won’t let us have cigarette lighters and ashtrays in our cars anymore, but a small humidor would not seem out of place in the XF.  It’s a modern luxury car, but it’s still a proper British sedan with plenty of real wood to go with the cowhide.

To make the comparison unavoidable the Jaguar’s interior, like the Chrysler’s, was a mix of dark brown and beige. Though the dashboard, upper door surfaces and carpeting were a chocolate brown, the upholstery and Alcantera headliner and pillars were in a light beige, giving the cabin an airy feel. I thought that the light upholstery with dark accent inserts looked great. If you can’t adjust the gazillion-way power front seats with memory, you’re in the 99th percentile. With heated, cooled and ventilated seats your bum will be comfortable year round. My friend Al, who is close to 6 feet tall and weighs a bit more than the 280 lbs it says on his drivers license offered the unsolicited opinion that the back seat was even more comfortable than the front seats, but then there aren’t side bolsters in back.

I’m happy to report that for the first time I don’t have to complain about Jaguar’s clunky infotainment touchscreen. The screen was responsive and easy to use. Voice controls worked but I found them a bit infuriating in how the menus were nested and how slow it was. I also am not fond of navigation systems that don’t let you enter an intersection. I do like how Jaguar has the auxiliary controls configured on the leather wrapped steering wheel. For some functions they use thumbwheels, which strike me as easier to use than up/down buttons. The 600W sound system sounded fine regardless of the source. I did notice a glitch with the car’s Bluetooth. While most of the time the car would automatically recognize and pair with my Android based phone, there were times when they wouldn’t hookup, even if I tried to connect from both devices. In those cases, power cycling my phone would effect a pairing. Once paired, the audio system easily accessed music on my phone. Interestingly, connecting the phone to the car’s USB port, as the owner’s manual suggests for iPods and other portable music players, didn’t work with my phone. When scrolling through music sources from the steering wheel you’re still going to have to use the touch screen to select between user supplied media under the My Music control, which is a bit inconvenient if you have both your phone/iPod and a CD connected.

Geez, I’m reviewing a 470 horsepower sports sedan and talking about music and leather??? You want to know how it drives. In short, the way you’d hope a Jaguar would drive. Yes, the steering could have a bit more feel at lower speeds and the turn in could be sharper around town (though out on the highway it was razor sharp), but the way the car goes from the apex to the exit of a turn induces joy. Set up the car and power through the turn. The XF Supercharged has a trick rear end that uses an electric motor to control torque distribution and even with stability control on and Dynamic mode off, it will let you break the rear wheels loose just a tad before stepping in and keeping you from hitting a tree ass end first. I did notice that the rear end sometimes made a small noise when the car was in gear with the brake on while sitting on a slope but for the most part it does its job without any fuss. If I compared it to a discreet English butler, would that be cliched in a Jaguar review? Sticking with the Brit domestic servant theme, the safety nannies are about as unobtrusive as I’ve experienced.

Once you get an idea of how the car handles, its purpose becomes obvious. This is not a boy-racer car, it’s a car for grownups who want to get someplace in a hurry. It’s meant to move four or five adults in comfort and speed. It’s also not an economy car. Over about 350 miles of what I’d characterize as spirited urban and suburban driving (cf. 470 HP) my avg fuel economy ranged between 14 and 16 mpg, though that lower figure involved some idling. Of course you aren’t reading this review because you’re interested in how miserly the XF Supercharged uses petrol.

I noticed that Jaguar did something clever with the brakes in terms of aesthetics. Front and back rotors appear to be close to the same outside diameter, so the 20″ rims look to be about equally filled. Significantly smaller rotors in the back sometimes look a little bit funny with all that empty space. The front wheel hubs on this car, though, have a narrower diameter, allowing a greater swept area for the front’s six piston calipers to the rear’s four pot grippers. The result is superb braking, easily modulated at all speeds, perhaps the best brakes I’ve experienced. That comes at the cost of budgeting for a weekly car wash – as with other Jaguars that I’ve tested the brakes shed copious amounts of pad dust.

The XF’s styling was updated for 2012, in part to harmonize it with the newer XJ. The Supercharged edition shares most body panels with the normally aspirated XF, though there are non-functional hood vents that read Supercharged. I said that this is a car for adults. If you want more boy-racer styling, you’ll have to upgrade to the XFR, or the almost cartoonish XFR-S, on sale later this year, that fastest production Jaguar ever made. In general I’m a fan of Jaguar stylist Ian Collum but I don’t particularly like what his team has done with the highest performance Jaguars. The R and R-S models seem fussy compared to their cleaner forebears.

I do have a styling complain about the engine compartment. While shooting the photos to accompany this review, I noticed that the molded plastic engine cover could be removed rather easily to expose the housing of the supercharger, which like in the GM LS9, is nestled in the V between the cylinder banks. Though the aluminum supercharger housing bears the marks of some rough grinding, it’s basic shape is rather pleasing to the eye. It’s possible that there were some cost savings involved, but the supercharged engine is so much a part of the XF Supercharged’s character that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to show it off. I suppose that cosmetic finish machining can be expensive, but then the cost of machining a multiple cavity injection mold for a piece as large as the polymer engine cover is not insignificant either. I’m not saying they should go to a hood with a window, like on the Corvette ZR1, but I think most Jaguar owners would like to see what their money was buying instead of a piece of plastic.

In general, though, I think the XF looks great. People admire it, and while the previous XF looked a bit generic, the new one is readily recognized (and approvingly so) as a Jaguar.

So, ultimately do I think that the XF Supercharged is worth $25,000 more than the Chrysler I recently reviewed? For the cost of a nicely equipped compact car or even an average D segment midsizer, you get a bit more refinement, a better handling car (though the 300 was perfectly competent in that regard, it was tuned for comfort, not maximum grip), and that wonderful, mailed fist in a velvet glove of an engine. I was impressed with the Chrysler’s 292 HP Pentastar, but the XF Supercharged’s 470 HP really separates the two cars. It should be noted that the XF Supercharged is the cheapest XF with a V8. With new CAFE standards on the horizon, Jaguar has been introducing downsized engines. The engine in the $46,975 base XF is a 240 HP I4 though I don’t see them selling very many, because for just $3K more, you can get the 340 HP V6 which still gets 28 mpg on the highway, compared to four cylinder’s 30. One thing is for sure, you have an abundance of powerplant options and if almost twice as much power as the base model isn’t enough, you can upgrade to 510 HP in the XFR and even 550 with the XFR-S.

Four cylinder Jaguars. God it sounds wrong to even hear that said. Speaking of comparos, it would indeed be interesting to drive the XF Supercharged back to back with the four cylinder model since the blown model is just 10 HP shy of having twice the power.

So I think that yes, the XF Supercharged is worth the difference in price over the Chrysler (though I’d be perfectly happy with the big Mopar as a daily driver). Going in the other direction, comparing the XF-Supercharged to the more expensive normally aspirated XJ I recently reviewed, though I liked the XJ and think that in general it’s a bit better balanced (the XJ is all aluminum, the XF is ferrous so the larger car is actually lighter), the XJ Portfolio that I tested was about $13,000 more than the XF Supercharged, and while you get a larger and nicer car for that 13K, you also have to give up that marvelous supercharger. Then the question becomes, is the $89,600 XJ Supercharged worth 20K more than the XF Supercharged?

That’s not a real world question that I will ever likely have to answer since I can’t afford either one. However, Jaguar is returning to the Detroit auto show this year, after an absence, so there’s a good chance that at the NAIAS media preview I’ll run into the nice lady who manages Jaguar’s press fleet. If there’s a XJ Supercharged available for review, I’ll let you know.

Disclaimer: Jaguar of North America provided the car for a week, insurance and a tank of 91 octane. Thanks to the Inn at St. John’s for the photography location.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can dig deeper at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks – RJS

IMG_0098 IMG_0002 IMG_0003 IMG_0004 IMG_0005 IMG_0006 IMG_0008 IMG_0009 IMG_0011 IMG_0012 IMG_0013 IMG_0014 IMG_0015 IMG_0016 IMG_0017 IMG_0019 IMG_0020 IMG_0020a IMG_0021 IMG_0022 IMG_0023 IMG_0024 IMG_0025 IMG_0026 IMG_0027 IMG_0028 IMG_0029 IMG_0030 IMG_0031 IMG_0032 IMG_0033 IMG_0034 IMG_0035 IMG_0036 IMG_0037 IMG_0038 IMG_0040 IMG_0041 IMG_0042 IMG_0043 IMG_0044 IMG_0045 IMG_0046 IMG_0047 IMG_0048 IMG_0049 IMG_0050 IMG_0052 IMG_0053 IMG_0054 IMG_0054a IMG_0056 IMG_0058 IMG_0060 IMG_0062 IMG_0062a IMG_0063 IMG_0064 IMG_0065 IMG_0065a IMG_0065ab IMG_0067 IMG_0067a IMG_0068 IMG_0069 IMG_0071 IMG_0082 IMG_0083 IMG_0084 IMG_0085 IMG_0086 IMG_0087 IMG_0088 IMG_0089 IMG_0090 IMG_0091 IMG_0092 IMG_0094 IMG_0095a IMG_0096 IMG_0097 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

 

 

The post Review: 2012 Jaguar XF Supercharged appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/review-2012-jaguar-xf-supercharged/feed/ 18
Review: 2013 Ford Escape Titanium Take Two (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/review-2013-ford-escape-titanium-ecoboost-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/review-2013-ford-escape-titanium-ecoboost-video/#comments Mon, 07 Jan 2013 14:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=471808 Like their products or not, Ford has been on a roll. It all started when the blue oval financed their metamorphosis by mortgaging everything that wasn’t nailed down a year before the bankocalypse. Next came a wave of new products like the Astonesque Fusion, Prius fighting C-MAX and the Euro-derived Fiesta and Focus. Ford’s recovery […]

The post Review: 2013 Ford Escape Titanium Take Two (Video) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

Like their products or not, Ford has been on a roll. It all started when the blue oval financed their metamorphosis by mortgaging everything that wasn’t nailed down a year before the bankocalypse. Next came a wave of new products like the Astonesque Fusion, Prius fighting C-MAX and the Euro-derived Fiesta and Focus. Ford’s recovery plan hinges on unifying their worldwide lineup rather than making unique vehicles for every market. Ford calls this plan “One Ford,” while I call it “Ford’s Euro love affair.” The latest warrior in the Euro invasion is none other than the Ford Kuga, you’ll know it as the new Escape. It would appear Ford’s timing couldn’t be better since they just lost the small-SUV sales crown to Honda. Can the European soft-roader take back the crown? Or has Ford gone too far by ditching the boxy Escape for world-wide homogeny?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The old Escape attracted as many buyers because of its practical functionality and efficiency as it’s mini-truck appearance. Several Escape owners I know felt they could step down from an Explorer to an Escape without being emasculated by a “cute-ute.” If this describes you, consider a boxy Jeep Patriot while they last. When Michael Karesh took one for a spin last year he found the design pleasing to the eye, but in a modern crossover kind of way. The new exterior is full of crossover curves and overall looks like a jacked up Focus hatch with AWD. This description isn’t that far off base since the Escape rides on a heavily modified Focus platform. Although it looked smaller to my eye, the new Escape is nearly four inches longer, one inch wider and rides on a longer wheelbase than the last generation. Ford’s baby crossover has also been lowered from a Jeepesque 8.4-inches of ground clearance to a decidedly CUV-like 7.9-inches to improve on-road manners. In a segment dominated by fuel economy claims (and with Ford trumpeting the “lightweight” new Explorer) it is surprising that the Escape has gained 350lbs over the last generation now topping the scales at 3,840lbs as tested. Ouch. (The 2013 RAV4 looses 470lbs for 2013.)

Interior

The new Escape doesn’t just share the majority of its interior with the Euro market Kuga. Most of the dashboard is used in the new C-MAX Hybrid, and all three share heavily with Ford’s new world Focus. What does this mean to you? It means the Escape shares no styling cues from Ford’s truck line, a sharp departure from the last model. On the plus side, the parts bin Ford raided to create the Escape is full of high quality switch gear and squishy dash bits. While the earlier Escape’s cabin sold on mini-truck charm, the new Escape ties with the 2013 RAV-4 for the nicest interior in this segment.

Despite growing on the outside, passenger room is largely unchanged with a slight reduction in headroom (1/2 inch in front and 2/10ths in back). The drop in headroom isn’t really a problem since the old Escape has such a high roof-line to start with. Taller drivers will notice that Ford decided to reapportion legroom in the Escape by taking 1.2 inches from the front seats and moving it to the rear. Front seat comfort proved excellent on longer trips thanks to an upright seating position and comfortable padding but shoppers should keep in mind that only the SEL and Titanium models get a power driver’s seat. While there is no power passenger seat at any price, the Escape offers something never seen in this segment: optional full leather upholstery for $895.

Escape S, SE and SEL models come with an old-tech manual liftgate standard. Should you need some assistance, SE buyers can opt for an optional $495 power liftgate. Included as part of an $1,895 package with an up-level audio system and keyless ignition, the SEL model can be had with Ford’s new “hands-free” tail opener. The system (standard on Titanium) uses a sensor under the rear bumper that detects your foot. As long as the car’s key is with you, a gentle upwards kicking motion under the rear bumper will cause the liftgate to open or close. While the feature sounded gimmicky, I found it fairly handy when you have your hands full. Once inside, you’ll find three more cubes of space than the old Escape, but the cargo hold isn’t as square as the old CUV, making bulky item schlepping a bit less convenient.

Infotainment

The Escape S targets fleet shoppers and allows Ford to advertise a low $22,470 starting price. To make sure sales of the base models are limited outside of fleet sales, there is only one option: $295 for the SYNC system with Bluetooth phone integration. As you would expect, SYNC is standard on the $24,070 SE model along with XM Satellite radio and Ford’s “keyless” entry keypad on the door sill. If you dislike MyFord Touch, stop here since the system is standard on SEL and Titanium trims.

If you’re a tech lover like me, the optional (on SE, standard on SEL) $775 MyFord Touch system is a must have. The system uses a high-resolution 8-inch screen in the dash divided into four sections for entertainment, climate, phone and navigation. (If you don’t spent $795 for navigation, the system displays a compass in the upper right.) Rather than the dual 4.2-inch LCDs flanking a speedometer found in other Ford products, the Escape uses a single LCD like the Ford Focus. When MFT landed in 2010, the software had more bugs than a 5-year-old bag of flour. Thankfully, the latest version is more responsive and less problem prone, but MFT is still less reliable than the display audio systems from Nissan, Toyota and Honda. Despite the still-present flaws, this is still the sexiest system in this segment. Unlike the Fusion, Ford has decided to offer their excellent 12-speaker Sony branded audio system in the SEL model, although it only comes bundled with keyless ignition, the power tailgate and backup sensors thanks to the trend of packing features into option packages.

Drivetrain

Instead of the typical four-cylinder and V6 engine lineup, the new Escape’s engine bay is home to a four-cylinder only lineup. The base 2.5L engine and 6-speed automatic are largely carried over from the previous Escape and good for 168 horses and 170lb-ft of twist. As you would expect, this engine is only found in the FWD Escape S, a model that Ford expects to be sold almost exclusively to fleets.

Next up is the same 1.6L direct-injection turbocharged “Ecoboost” engine used in the Fusion. 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 1 more MPG in the city and 2 more on the highway (23/33 FWD, 22/30 AWD). (Ford has opted not to offer the Fusion’s MPG-boosting start/stop system with the 1.6L for some reason.)

Optional on SE and SEL models ($1,195) and standard on Titanium is Ford’s ubiquitous 2.0L Ecoboost engine. The 240HP boosted four-pot replaces the old 240HP 3.0L V6. While the old V6 cranked out 223lb-ft at 4,300RPM, the 2.0 spools up a whopping 270lb-ft of torque from 1,750-4,500 RPM. In addition to the twist bump, fuel economy rises from 19/25 (FWD) and 18/23 (AWD) to 22/30 and 21/28. Trust me, you’ll never miss those two cylinders. What you will hiss however is the hybrid system. Ford has decided that the closely related C-MAX now replaces the Escape Hybrid in the lineup. It’s important to note that if you decide to feed your Ecoboost engine regular unleaded, you’ll experience about a 10HP power drop vs Premium.

If you need to bring that Ski-Doo or pop-up camping trailer with you, the 2.0L Escape has an optional towing package allowing up to 3,500lbs of trailer pulling. Ford’s AWDsystem is a $1,750 option on all models of the Escape (except for the base S model) and uses a JTEKT multi-plate clutch pack between the front and rear differentials. The system is capable of connecting or disconnecting the clutch pack any time it chooses to direct up to 100% of the power to the rear, assuming the front wheels have zero traction. If all wheels have traction the system can only vary power to the rear rubber from 0-50%.

Drive

The old Escape didn’t just look like a little truck, it drove like one too with plenty of body roll, brakes that didn’t inspire confidence and plenty of wind and road noise. Despite the weight gain, the new Escape feels far more nimble than the outgoing model thanks as much to the lowered ride height as the new suspension setup. Drivers will also enjoy a much quieter ride as the Explorer has benefited from the same extensive sound deadening treatments applied to the Fusion and C-MAX. Thanks to the longer wheelbase, and perhaps that extra curb weight, the new Escape never lost its composure on broken pavement.

Thanks to the turbo engine’s torque plateau, straight line performance is improved notably in spite of the 350 extra pounds. We hit 60 in 6.42 seconds, which is 1.5 seconds faster than a 2012 Escape V6 4×4 we got our hands on and about the same speed as the 2012 RAV4 V6. Of course all comparisons to a V6 CUV from Toyota are now moot since Toyota dropped the V6 for 2013. Ford’s 1.6L Ecoboost engine will be the base engine for most Escape buyers and this is the engine that should be compared with the competitions four-cylinder offerings. Regardless of engine choices, Ford’s 6-speed automatic is up-shift-happy and reluctant to downshift unless you bury the throttle. This shifting behavior is nothing new as most manufacturers resort to this kind of programming to improve fuel economy. On the bright side, the broad power band provided by both engines masks the transmission’s shift programming by allowing you to hill climb in high gear.

Our Titanium tester came equipped with all the features you need to traverse the urban jungle, from blind spot monitoring with cross traffic detection to a self-parking system. Ford’s “Active Park Assist” system is easily the most intuitive and easy-to-use system on the market. If you want to see it in action, check out our video on our YouTube page.

Ford claimed our 2.0L AWD Titanium model was rated for 21MPG in the city, 28 on the highway and a combined rating of 24MPG which is an improvement of 4MPG over the outgoing V6. During our 710-mile week with the Escape, we did see an improvement over the V6 tester, but it was only about 2MPG. The reason for this is obvious, in real-world mixed driving where you’re climbing hills and sitting in stop-and-go traffic, curb weight has a big impact since there’s more car to motivate. This the same reason the C-MAX performed below expectations in our tests as well. No matter what your Ford sales person might tell you, no, the 1.6L Ecoboost engine won’t give you the same economy as your old Escape Hybrid. Sorry.

Aside from no longer looking like a butch trucklet, the Escape is better in every way than the outgoing model, and isn’t that what progress should be? Of course, progress rarely comes free. The base Escape is $1,000 dearer than year’s model and our fully-loaded Titanium tester busts the budget at $35,630. With a three-engine lineup, more gadgets than many luxury cars and optional full-leather upholstery, the Escape is both a Kia Sportage competitor and gives the Acura RDX a run for its money. Until we can get our hands on the refreshed RAV4, the Escape is at the top of my shopping list and it should be on yours as well. Let’s just hope Ford doesn’t recall that 1.6L Ecooost engine again.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.36 Seconds

0-60: 6.42 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.95 Seconds @ 91.2 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 22 MPG over 710 miles

2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Ecoboost Badge, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Engine, 2.0L Ecoboost, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Engine, 2.0L Ecoboost, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Engine, 2.0L Ecoboost, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Engine, 2.0L Ecoboost, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, HVAC Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, HVAC Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, memory controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, center console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Front Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Escape Titanium, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

The post Review: 2013 Ford Escape Titanium Take Two (Video) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/review-2013-ford-escape-titanium-ecoboost-video/feed/ 58
Review: 2013 Infiniti JX35 (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/review-2013-infiniti-jx35-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/review-2013-infiniti-jx35-video/#comments Fri, 23 Nov 2012 19:11:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=465635 So you think you need to carry seven people in comfort with decent economy but you don’t want to buy a minivan? Enter the three-row crossover. Thanks to stronger fuel economy regulations there are plenty of three-row CUVs to choose from, but you want something with a better brand name under 55-large, what does that […]

The post Review: 2013 Infiniti JX35 (Video) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>

So you think you need to carry seven people in comfort with decent economy but you don’t want to buy a minivan? Enter the three-row crossover. Thanks to stronger fuel economy regulations there are plenty of three-row CUVs to choose from, but you want something with a better brand name under 55-large, what does that do to the playing field? You’re left with the Lincoln MKT, Acura MDX, Volvo XC90, Buick Enclave and the newcomer in this phone booth sized segment: the 2013 Infiniti JX35. The new soft-roader Infiniti is already off to a good start coming in third in sales to the Enclave and MDX despite sales starting in April of this year. What’s it like to live with for a week and how does it stack up? Click through the jump to find out.

Before we dive into the JX, let’s look at the competition. The Volvo XC90 arguably started this segment in 2003 by jacking an S80 up a few inches and adding a third row. In 2006 Acura followed their lead by adding a third row to the Accord-based MDX. Buick got in on the party with their minivan-like Enclave in 2008 and Lincoln with their seemingly hearse-themed MKT in 2010. What do these CUVs have in common? They all have six cylinder engines under the hood and they are all front wheel drive vehicles with optional all wheel locomotion. Before Audi fans start flaming me, I left the Q7 out due to its SUV-like design, RWD biased Quattro system,  larger price tag, and  decidedly SUV-like 5,600lb curb weight.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Infiniti’s bulbous styling may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is a distinctive island in a sea of me-too crossovers. This new take on Infiniti’s “box fish” style isn’t as striking (or polarizing) as when the M debuted in 2010. On the bright side,  now that the design has aged, general opinion in my informal lunch group was overwhelmingly positive. Something I couldn’t say about the 2010 M. Despite heavy parts sharing with the new Pathfinder, the JX is better distinguished than the former generation QX/Armada was and indeed better differentiated than the Chevy Traverse and Buick Enclave. The MKT looks just looks downright peculiar front the front with the new Lincoln grille grafted on and the side profile just reminds me of an old station wagon based hearse from the 1970s. The MDX is quite possibly the best looking Acura available at the moment despite the rather prominent Acura beak on the grille. Meanwhile the XC90 is the only vehicle in this bunch that’s not based on a mass market vehicle or platform. While that does mean there isn’t anything on the road that looks related, the design is only modern when parked by itself. I still have a soft spot for the XC90’s upright grille and sexy Swedish hips, but this is one warhorse that should have been sent to the glue factory 5 years ago.

Interior

The JX35’s cabin is covered in soft-touch plastics, leather and acres of highly polished wood trim, just as you expect from Infiniti. In this segment, if you want an interior that doesn’t share parts with a mass-market brand, you’re again limited to the XC90 as every other design team had access to a corporate parts bin. Keeping this in mind, Nissan/Infiniti’s parts bin is a nicer place to spend time than GM’s button-bank. The new Enclave has a very competitive interior, but some of the parts choices fail to blend while the JX is a sea of harmony. Indeed one might say the Pathfinder borrows Infiniti parts and not the other way around. This top-down parts sharing is good for Pathfinder shoppers, but only time will tell if there is enough differentiation to make Infiniti shoppers happy. The XC90’s interior is still competitive thanks to continual tweaks over the past ten years, but that can’t forgive the lack of even a modest refresh from the Swedes.

As with the Pathfinder, JX seat comfort declines the further right and rearward you go. The front passenger seat lacks the power lumbar adjustment of the driver’s seat. The second row seats are comfortable, but not as padded as the front seats with cushions designed for children or shorter passengers. If third row comfort is critical, go back to looking at that QX56 or Escalade, as with most three-row crossovers the JX’s last row should be reserved for coworkers you hate or your mother-in-law. If you regularly carry passengers and progeny in child seats, the JX shares the sliding middle seat design with the Pathfinder allowing a child seat to stay strapped in while passengers climb into the third row.

Infotainment & Gadgets

The standard 7-inch infotainment screen does everything but navigation. iDevice/USB integration is of course standard as is Bluetooth and a 6-speaker audio system with a single disc CD player and XM radio. Opting for the $4,950 “premium package” gets you Infiniti’s easy to use navigation system with a high-resolution 8-inch touchscreen, a 13-speaker Bose sound system, voice control, and Infiniti’s slick all-around camera system. The system uses four cameras and some trick processing to stitch images together to form an “aerial view” making easy work of tight parking situations.

Should you desire the latest in nannies, Infiniti is happy to oblige with radar cruise control, collision warning and prevention, lane departure warning and prevention and an accelerator pedal that fights back. The accelerator pedal is perhaps the nanny that people find the most fault with, despite crossovers not being “driver’s cars.” The feature can be disabled, but left on it will fight your right foot, forcing the pedal back at you if you’re driving uneconomically, if it thinks you are getting too close to a car, or if it feels like it needs to stop the car NOW. While I dislike the thought of a car that drives for me, honestly at least half the drivers on the road need this pedal stat. Not that I condone distracted driving, but if you feel the need to text and drive, the JX helps you accomplish the feat more safely.

Lincoln’s MKT slots in just behind the Infiniti on the gadget tally thanks to Ford’s bevy of collision avoidance options, inflating seatbelts, and the slow but feature-rich MyLincon Touch system. Meanwhile the Enclave’s new Intellilink touchscreen system is sharp, responsive and has more natural voice commands than SYNC. Better yet, Buick’s system is standard on all Enclave models. The MDX puts on a good fight, but Acura’s tech suffers from old school graphics and a confusing control joystick despite being the only other entry to offer voice commands for your USB/iDevice music player. The XC90 has finally been updated to offer the basic infotainment features you would expect from a luxury vehicle including Bluetooth, USB/iDevice integration and blind spot notification, but that’s where the goodies stop. The XC90 still uses Volvo’s “olde” pop-up navigation system from 1999 and cannot be had with radar cruise control, pedestrian and obstacle detection, and a myriad of other features found in the smaller XC60.

Drivetrain

The JX shares its 3.5L VQ-series V6 with the Pathfinder and everything from the Altima to the Quest. In the JX, the engine puts out 265HP at 6,400RPM and 248lb-ft at 4,400RPM, a mild bump over the Pathfinder but notably lower than the Maxima’s 290HP/261lb-ft tune. Like the Pathfinder, the JX sends power either the front wheels or to all four via a Haldex-style AWD system, but this is where the similarities end. While the Pathfinder uses an all-new heavy-duty continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a chain, the JX35 still uses the second-generation Xtronic CVT shared with the Muran0.

When it comes to towing, transmissions choices are important, but so are chassis and suspension design. In the case of the JX, we can logically infer the lack of the Pathfinder’s heavy-duty CVT is the reason for the reduced 3,500lb towing capacity. Meanwhile the Enclave and MKT will haul 4,500lbs while the XC90 and MDX tie at 5,000lbs. Of course, I seem to be the only one who ever tows with a mid-size SUV so this is probably the least important part of this review. That being said, the XC90 despite being down on power would be my towing partner of choice because it has an available load leveling rear suspension.

Drive

Out on the road the JX35 is as nimble as a tall 4,500lb vehicle can be. While the handling crown in this segment still goes to the MDX, thanks to Acura’s SH-AWD system, the JX can handle winding roads faster than your third row passengers will tolerate. The JX’s steering is moderately quick, fairly firm and as numb as any of the other luxury crossovers. Should you be on your own after the school run, the JX’s well sorted suspension will soak up the ruts should you decide that gravel road shortcut you like.

Front wheel drive JX models suffer from mild torque steer from a stand still but once underway the pulling stops and the JX settles down. Opting for the AWD system quells the torque steer daemon and is a further differentiator from the Pathfinder cousin. The Pathfinder’s AWD system allows the driver to lock the system in FWD mode for better economy, lock the center coupling for better grip, or allow the system to decide when to send power to the rear. Instead the AWD system in the JX always operates in Auto mode, which is just as well since I suspect no luxury SUV or CUV shopper will ever notice the difference.

The biggest difference between the other luxury CUVs and the JX35 is the transmission. The effective ratio spread on the JX35’s transmission isn’t as broad as the 6-speed units used in the competition and seemed to be skewed to the higher end of the ratio spectrum for fuel economy. This is most obvious when you look at the JX35’s relatively slow 3.7-second 0-30 time, but thanks to the infinite ratios the JX catches up to the rest of the pack crossing 60MPH in 7 seconds even. Despite the 0-30 sloth, my  real-world fuel economy tests seem to be kind to CVT equipped vehicles with the JX besting its 20MPG combined EPA score by 7/10ths of an MPG over a week. Meanwhile the other CUVs averaged 1-2MPG below their combined figures for me. So many publications spout their MPG figures as gospel, but as with 0-60 times, observed fuel economy is only as good as the driver, driving style and commute.

The JX represents an interesting move for the brand I like to think of as “the Japanese BMW.” But putting practicality and economy before performance they have created a most un-Infiniti crossover. The combination of a nearly perfect interior, smooth CVT and 32% better fuel economy than Infiniti’s QX SUV make a compelling argument for the JX35. While the Enclave plays to a slightly different demographic, MDX shoppers would do well to put the JX on their short list as it is quite possibly the best three-row luxury crossover in America.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.7 Seconds

0-60: 7 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.4 @ 90 MPH

 Average Fuel Economy: 20.7 MPG over 765 miles

2013 Infiniti JX35, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Infiniti 2013 Infiniti JX35, Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Infiniti 2013 Infiniti JX35, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Infiniti 2013 Infiniti JX35, Exterior, side, Picture Courtesy of Infiniti 2013 Infiniti JX35, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Infiniti 2013 Infiniti JX35, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Infiniti 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, center console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, rear controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, third row seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, gauge cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Navigation and Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, Cargo Area,  Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Interior, Cargo Area,  Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Engine, 3.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti JX35, Engine, 3.5L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

 

The post Review: 2013 Infiniti JX35 (Video) appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

]]>
http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/review-2013-infiniti-jx35-video/feed/ 38