The Truth About Cars » Sedan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Wed, 29 Jul 2015 21:00:37 +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 » Sedan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com How Many Versions of the RS4 Will Audi Make? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/many-versions-rs4-will-audi-make/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/many-versions-rs4-will-audi-make/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2015 17:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1123073 Audi will release a sedan version of its uber-A4 sometime next year, Autocar is reporting. Audi has already confirmed that the RS4 would be released as a wagon because “that is what people expect from the RS4,” head of Audi’s Quattro Heinz Hollerweger told Car and Driver this month. That’s on top of speculation that the RS4 […]

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Audi RS4 Avant. Photo courtesy wikipedia.org

Audi will release a sedan version of its uber-A4 sometime next year, Autocar is reporting.

Audi has already confirmed that the RS4 would be released as a wagon because “that is what people expect from the RS4,” head of Audi’s Quattro Heinz Hollerweger told Car and Driver this month.

That’s on top of speculation that the RS4 could come to the States and China as a Sportback, similar to the RS7 already on sale. And, of course, we could always get the RS5 like we did last time.

Regardless of which body goes where, it appears that the RS4 will be powered by a turbocharged V-6 that will pack more than 420 horsepower. The force-fed six appears to be Audi’s performance engine of the future, after bosses said that mill would make an appearance in an upcoming R8.

Audi executives said the RS4 should come earlier in the A4’s lifecycle, perhaps around the same time as the S4, which is expected next year.

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Audi Confirms 2017 A4 Diesel for US http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/audi-confirms-2017-a4-diesel-us/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/audi-confirms-2017-a4-diesel-us/#comments Thu, 09 Jul 2015 15:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1112009 The ninth-generation 2017 Audi A4 will sport a diesel engine for the first time in the U.S., Motor Authority is reporting. When the sedan launches next March, the 2.0-liter turbocharged oil burner will make 190 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of twist. That’s on top of the 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine that’ll make 252 hp and […]

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2017 Audi A4 Sedan

The ninth-generation 2017 Audi A4 will sport a diesel engine for the first time in the U.S., Motor Authority is reporting.

When the sedan launches next March, the 2.0-liter turbocharged oil burner will make 190 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of twist. That’s on top of the 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine that’ll make 252 hp and 273 lb-ft.

But that may not be the best part.

According to Motor Authority, the diesel sedan may make it stateside with a manual transmission, which are definitely not dead, or a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission if you’re not into fun things. An S4 will certainly follow, an RS4 may be in the works and an A4 Avant will definitely not be stateside — that’s what we have the Allroad for, apparently.

Initially, the A4 will be married to Audi’s Quattro all-wheel drive system with front-wheel drive variants arriving later in the year.

There’s been no word on fuel economy figures, but Audi engineers say they expect the car will improve by more than 20 percent even with the horsepower bump. Pricing for the A4 hasn’t been announced.

Like the A3, the new A4 will be seriously tech heavy and options-laden. Along with Audi’s compartmentalized MMI system with Google Maps, the A4 can sport Apple’s Car Play, a 7- or 8.3-inch infotainment screen, handwriting recognition system and a 12.3-inch instrument display screen.

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2016 Scion iA Review With Video – Mono-Priced Zoom-Zoom http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2016-scion-ia-review-video-mono-priced-zoom-zoom/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2016-scion-ia-review-video-mono-priced-zoom-zoom/#comments Mon, 06 Jul 2015 13:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1105937 When is a Scion not a Scion? Since Scion is division of Toyota, this is both a trick question and a serious one. Scions can be anything from tweaked Toyotas and foreign market Toyotas to cars built by other manufacturers for Scion. The first such product was the collaboratively developed Scion FR-S / Subaru BRZ / Toyota 86. […]

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2016 Scion iA Exterior-004

When is a Scion not a Scion? Since Scion is division of Toyota, this is both a trick question and a serious one.

Scions can be anything from tweaked Toyotas and foreign market Toyotas to cars built by other manufacturers for Scion. The first such product was the collaboratively developed Scion FR-S / Subaru BRZ / Toyota 86. The second is this Mazda-designed and Mazda-built Scion iA.

Exterior
Mazda and Toyota entered into a partnership of sorts a while back, and the iA is the first fruit. If you didn’t know by now, the tasty looking 2016 Mazda2 hatch is not coming to the USA, despite Mazda’s plan to sell it in Canada and Puerto Rico. To satisfy shopper’s love for sub-compact Zoom-Zoom, Scion had Mazda turn the 2 into the Scion iA sedan for the U.S. and Toyota Yaris sedan for Canada. As happens with the Ford Fiesta, the hatch-to-sedan conversion adds around a foot of length overall. To help differentiate the iA from any future Mazda2 sales in the USA, the front end gets an enormous trapezoidal front grille and some “Angry Birds” headlamps. Out back, the Scion’s rear is less disguised with a strong Mazda influence in the tail lamps blended with a hint of Camry.

I know I’m going to take heat for this, but I actually like the looks of the iA in person. I think the side profile and rear are better balanced than the Ford Fiesta sedan, although the Fiesta’s grille is better looking. The overall design comes across as more intentional and — dare I say — emotional than the Nissan Versa or Chevy Sonic.

2016 Scion iA Interior-006

Interior
Hop inside the iA and it’s pure Mazda, which is a good thing. In terms of style and parts quality, Mazda basically made Scion a 90% scale Mazda3 interior with a few tweaks. We get the same chunky steering wheel loaded with buttons, same single-dial instrument cluster and 7-inch infotainment screen. Also cribbed from the Mazda parts bin is the standard keyless-go system, a single-zone manual climate control and standard cruise control.

For a car as small as the iA, the front seats proved surprisingly roomy. Scion claims 41.9 inches of legroom up front, which is more than you get in the Corolla or Focus, and a still respectable 34.4 inches in the back. Although taller drivers will probably bash their elbows on the B-pillar, they will fit. Cargo room comes in at a generous 13.5 cubic feet beating the bigger Corolla by a hair.

2016 Scion iA Interior

Infotainment
Mazda calls the infotainment software MazdaConnect. Scion hasn’t named it specifically but the system is exactly the same. What sets the iA apart isn’t so much the class-leading infotainment software and interface but that the system is standard. Looking like someone grafted an iPad to the dashboard [I think it looks more like a cheap Walmart Android tablet than an iPad, but to each their own. -Mark], the 7-inch color touchscreen LCD is the heart of the system. In the center console we have an iDrive/MMI-like controller knob and button array. Similar to Infiniti’s systems, you can navigate with either the controller, or the touchscreen, or both depending on what is easier at the moment. As long as you’re parked. Above 5 MPH the touchscreen functionality is locked out allowing only voice and control knob inputs.

Smartphone app integration for streaming media is standard and shoppers can add navigation software to the display for an undisclosed price after you buy the car. The high-resolution graphics, an intuitive interface and complete voice commands of your media library create a system that rivals uConnect and iDrive for best in the industry. The only danger with making this system standard in the iA is that it makes other Scions look decidedly behind the times.

2016 Scion iA Engine Mazda SkyActiv-001

Drivetrain
Logically, there’s a Mazda 1.5L four-cylinder engine beating under the iA’s hood. Good for 106 horsepower and 103 lb-ft of torque, the engine uses all Mazda’s fuel sipping tech, including direct injection, a high 12:1 compression ratio and a Mazda 6-speed automatic with a tall final gear and aggressive torque converter lockup program. For the purists in the crowd, you can get your iA with a short-throw manual transmission, but you’ll get 2 MPG better (37 MPG combined, 42 on the highway) with the 6-speed automatic.

2016 Scion iA Exterior-003

Drive
In an unexpected twist, all iA models will come with a standard low-speed collision warning and mitigation system. The system is similar in design to Volvo’s first-generation City Safety system and uses a laser scanner mounted in front of the rear view mirror to monitor traffic. At speeds between approximately 5 and 18 MPH, the system will first warn the driver of an impending collision, pre-charge the brakes, then as a last resort reduce engine power and apply the brakes autonomously to either avoid or mitigate the collision. The Scion reps said the system is not programmed to detect pedestrians or cyclists like Volvo’s latest system, but it “may respond” to that type of obstacle depending on the situation.

Since my time was limited with the iA, I wasn’t able to put it through my usual battery of tests. You should expect acceleration times to be leisurely, likely in the 10 second slot occupied by the Prius C. The best acceleration times will be with the 6-speed automatic but the 6-speed manual will make those seconds tick by faster because it’s simply more fun. I spent most of my day in a 6-speed manual version and, although I did long for more power, the short throws and excellent clutch pedal distracted me for the most part.

2016 Scion iA Exterior-006

For a Scion, the steering is sheer perfection. For a Mazda, I’m still sad the iA has electric power steering. Turn in is crisp as can be expected from a car riding on 185/60R16 tires and the steering ratio is just about perfect. The Scion folks had Mazda tune the iA towards the softer side of the segment which causes more body roll than I had expected, but aside from that it didn’t reduce the fun too much on the winding mountain roads of our test drive. Overall grip is lower than I had expected with plenty of commotion coming from the tires if you enter a corner a little too hot. I blame both the tire size and the rubber compound for this but the tires can be easily swapped. Even though we have a torsion beam suspension in the rear, the iA was remarkably well-behaved in corners with broken pavement.

The most compelling thing about the iA is the combination of Mazda engineering and Scion pricing. For 2015, the MSRP starts at $15,700 with the 6-speed manual and ends at $16,800 for the iA with the 6-speed automatic. Because of the way Scion’s pricing scheme works, the manual transmission model has a high level of content that frequently precludes a manual transmission in the competition like the 7-inch LCD infotainment system, the pre-collision braking system, keyless-go and the backup camera. Scion also tosses in a 2-year/25,000 mile scheduled maintenance plan. When comparing the iA to the rest of the segment, the high level of standard equipment manages to make the iA the best sub-compact deal around. When pitted against Nissan Versa, the value leader in the segment, the Scion manages to be $1,500 less when comparably equipped.

2016 Scion iA Exterior Front Grille

The iA isn’t the Scion I was expecting, and it isn’t the Mazda I was hoping for either. The iA seems like Mazda’s interpretation of what a Scion should be, and marriage has created a surprisingly good little car. Shoppers will find a well-controlled ride, excellent road manners and impeccable fuel economy all wrapped inside Scion’s warranty and scheduled maintenance, and sold at a Toyota dealer. The combination makes for the most appealing sedan in this segment by a hair. (If Ford mates an automatic transmission to their 3-cylinder turbo Fiesta, it’s game on.) The combination should also be a lesson for Mazda, because Scion’s mono-spec philosophy and pricing give pragmatists a reason to buy the best driving sedan in this segment.

Scion provided the vehicle, insurance, gas and a snazzy lunch for this review.

2016 Scion iA Engine Mazda SkyActiv 2016 Scion iA Engine Mazda SkyActiv-001 2016 Scion iA Exterior Front Grille 2016 Scion iA Exterior-001 2016 Scion iA Exterior-002 Wheel 2016 Scion iA Exterior-003 2016 Scion iA Exterior-004 2016 Scion iA Exterior-005 2016 Scion iA Exterior-006 2016 Scion iA Exterior-007 2016 Scion iA Exterior-008 2016 Scion iA Interior 2016 Scion iA Interior-001 2016 Scion iA Interior-002 2016 Scion iA Interior-003 2016 Scion iA Interior-004 2016 Scion iA Interior-005 2016 Scion iA Interior-006 2016 Scion iA Interior-007 2016 Scion iA Interior-008 2016 Scion iA Trunk

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Hello, Giulia! Alfa Romeo’s New Sedan Busts Out A Day Early http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/hello-giulia-alfa-romeos-new-sedan-busts-out-a-day-early/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/hello-giulia-alfa-romeos-new-sedan-busts-out-a-day-early/#comments Tue, 23 Jun 2015 17:26:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1098017 One of this year’s most anticipated reveals, the new Alfa Romeo Giulia, has been leaked on the interwebs a day ahead of schedule. Here’s another angle of Alfa’s new midsize sedan said to be powered by a Maserati-derived V6. We will have full details on the car tomorrow. [Source: CarScoops]

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Alfa-1

One of this year’s most anticipated reveals, the new Alfa Romeo Giulia, has been leaked on the interwebs a day ahead of schedule.

Alfa-Romeo-Giulia-2

Here’s another angle of Alfa’s new midsize sedan said to be powered by a Maserati-derived V6.

We will have full details on the car tomorrow.

[Source: CarScoops]

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2016 Nissan Maxima Review – Four Doors Yes, Sports Car No http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2016-nissan-maxima-review-four-doors-yes-sports-car-no/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2016-nissan-maxima-review-four-doors-yes-sports-car-no/#comments Wed, 03 Jun 2015 04:00:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1083017 Today, every other outlet publishing driving impressions of the all-new 2016 Nissan Maxima is going to leverage nostalgia – just like Nissan wants them to – as they reference the return of the ‘4-Door Sports Car’, or 4DSC for short. While the four character alphanumeric has never really disappeared since its inception, Nissan is putting a […]

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2016 Nissan Maxima (11 of 23)

Today, every other outlet publishing driving impressions of the all-new 2016 Nissan Maxima is going to leverage nostalgia – just like Nissan wants them to – as they reference the return of the ‘4-Door Sports Car’, or 4DSC for short. While the four character alphanumeric has never really disappeared since its inception, Nissan is putting a renewed marketing focus on the term with the express purpose of conjuring up mental images of California canyon carving while Timmy Jr. rides booster seat in the back.

I’m not going to do that.

At 30 years old (or young, depending on your relative position along the lifecycle timeline), I hold no nostalgia toward the return of Nissan’s marketing term from yesteryear. I grew up with the Foo Fighters (and the very tail end of Nirvana), $5 Colt 45s and – when I could finally afford a car – a 2000 Honda Civic purchased used when I reached the grand age of 20. By the time cars entered my radar, most of the original 4DSCs (the third-generation Maxima built from model years 1989 to 1994) had succumbed to rust or one of the many ails claiming many a car along the salty east coast I call home.

I’ve not a single memory of the first 4DSC, and that’s a problem.

Nissan flew me to Nashville, Tennessee – the home of Nissan in America – to test the new Maxima. They put me up for an extra night because United doesn’t know how to operate planes, apparently, and offered me a wide selection of red meats to satiate my hunger, which I accepted. My girlfriend put me on a salad-based detox upon my arrival home.

Before we get into the marketing of Nissan’s newest mid-full-size* car, a talk about its nuts and bolts are in order.

* Nissan markets the Maxima as a full-size competitor, but due to interior volume it’s classified as a mid-size sedan by the EPA.

2016 Nissan Maxima (3 of 23)

Just like the current year Maxima, the 2016 model is powered by a 3.5L VQ35DE V6, now with a revised output of 300 hp versus 290 as before while pushing out an identical 261 pound-feet of torque. The valves are sodium-filled just like the GT-R, because GT-R. Also, Nissan made sure all journos in attendance were aware of the Maxima’s stiffer oil pan, because that sounds sporty. (In reality, a stiffer oil pan is to reduce NVH and has absolutely nothing to do with performance.)

And, just like the current year Maxima, the new car also sends power solely to the front wheels by way of a continuously variable transmission. It, too, has been revised with a wider effective gear ratio along with a taller final drive. For those who enjoy the sensation and aural cues of a conventional automatic, the CVT features D-Step logic (fancy talk), or fake shifts (common sense talk). Even with those ‘shifts’ nibbling away a small percentage of fuel economy and output efficiency, Nissan claims the CVT is still more efficient while delivering the same effective gear ratio range as a conventional eight- or nine-speed automatic.

Turning the front wheels to-and-fro is a hydro-electric power steering system while coil springs with independent struts keep the rubber firmly planted where it should. At the rear, a multi-link independent setup is used. All four corners see new ZF Sachs twin-tube shocks as standard while sportier SR models gets a sport-tuned setup, Yamaha performance chassis damper and Integrated Dynamics-control Module (IDM), which includes Active Ride Control (ARC), Active Trace Control (ATC) and Active Engine Brake (AEB).

2016 Nissan Maxima (13 of 23)

Yet, any way you cut it, front-wheel drive and a CVT does not a sports car make. For the rest of the review, let’s call the Maxima what it is – a sporting family sedan – and make the proper comparisons instead of pretending to care how quickly it can shuffle around Buttonwillow.

In the real world, where 100 percent of Maximas sold spend 100 percent of their lives on roads that 100 percent aren’t race tracks, Nissan’s all-new family sedan can shuffle around back roads with ease. In SR trim, those capabilities are kicked up a slight notch thanks to the aforementioned suspension tuning and computer wizardry. However, the Maxima is not a car that instills confidence in the driver.

Even with the decidedly non-sporty combo of naturally-aspirated V6 and rubber-band transmission, the Maxima still pulls hard, though it lacks the immediacy of a true geared automatic or manual. Upon dropping the hammer, revs tend to climb for short periods of time without any change in forward acceleration rate. However, once the CVT finds the ratio it seeks, acceleration is smooth and brisk.

2016 Nissan Maxima (20 of 23)

Steering is far from communicative. Even in SR spec, and I assume this is because of the variable-speed steering, a dead-zone exists within a degree and a half or two of center. On a flat surface during a simulated evasive maneuver, the car also exhibited some quirky reaction differences between the initial evasive steering motion and the return motion to bring the car straight again. Never did I feel I was having a direct conversation with the front wheels, but I also never felt like the conversation through the variable-speed steering intermediary was being misinterpreted. If anything, my choppy directions were being listened to, translated from a Southern drawl to proper Queen’s English, and communicated to the wheels as a more svelte and sophisticated series of commands.

Ride quality is quite exceptional considering the Maxima’s sporting intentions. At no point during the drive day did I come upon a road imperfection, bump or gaping entrance to hell the car couldn’t handle. Nor did I attack a corner without being able to come out the other end – even with my poor, little brain misjudging entry speeds. Nissan has seemingly nailed the suspension tuning equation, solving for X where X equals the perfect blend of sport and luxury.

2016 Nissan Maxima (19 of 23)

Using jet cockpits as inspiration, or so Nissan says, the interior isn’t your typical full-size family sedan environment. Like many true sports cars, the center console sits rather high in the Maxima, cradling you between it and the also rather high window sills. The clear and concise instrument panel is framed by a thoroughly chunky, fully-adjustable steering wheel (trimmed in Alcantara in SR models, just like the seat inserts) while the rest of the interior materials are either top-notch or close as makes no difference to it. Seats are well, but not overly, bolstered and provide a level of comfort slightly exceeding the segment.

The only drawback to the new Maxima’s interior experience is the new NissanConnect infotainment system. While all models come standard with navigation and an 8.0-inch screen, I found the new system a bit clunky and more confusing from a usability standpoint than the outgoing software. Also, Nissan’s Around View Monitor is only available on top trim Platinum models, which is surprising as it’s also available on the lowly Nissan Versa Note and has been for a couple of years now.

2016 Nissan Maxima (15 of 23)

As always, styling is a subjective matter. Considering the outgoing Maxima, which has aged quite gracefully and doesn’t look played out or tired, the new design is a radical departure. It’s floating roof and edgy front end are growing on me, little bit by little bit, and I’ve come to appreciate it. In contrast to the front, the rear looks under styled for the car, almost to the point of being a yawn fest. Other than a chrome trim piece that stretches the width between the two taillights, there’s nothing particularly interesting about the Maxima’s rump, especially from a short distance. Also, there’s nothing about the overall design that shouts, “I’m a sports car!” If anything, it looks rather plump.

2016 Nissan Maxima (5 of 23)

And that brings us full circle: the Maxima is not a sports car, no matter how many 4DSC insignias you find festooned throughout the exterior and interior. And, if you’re under a certain age as I am, the 4DSC branding means absolutely nothing to you.

[Correction: The ‘4-Door Sports Car’ and 4DSC names were first used on the third-generation Maxima between MY1989 and MY1994. Sorry, folks. I dun fucked up. This math at the end is useless, but my statement of having no personal nostalgia toward the 4DSC branding still applies. I’m leaving the following paragraph unchanged.]

If you were 16 when the first 4DSC emblazoned Maxima was introduced in 1985, some simple maths puts you at the prime age of 46 this year. Using Nissan’s own figures, a disproportionately younger demographic flocks to the Maxima in comparison to its competitors; 67 percent of Maxima buyers are under the age of 55 versus only 38 percent of the segment average. From that we can guesstimate there’s a decent percentage of typical Maxima buyers where 4DSC means nothing to them from a historical perspective, just like myself. No nostalgia. No identifiable connection. No interesting historical story to share to impress my friends.

But, it doesn’t matter. Nissan will still sell loads of Maximas. And I hope they do, if for no other reason than to prove the viability of a sportier offering, no matter what shape it takes.

The 2016 Nissan Maxima is available now in five different grades – S, SV, SL, SR and Platinum – priced between $32,410 and $39,860 with no available options.

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Fiat Aegea Is the Dodge Dart for Elsewhere http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/fiat-aegea-is-the-dodge-dart-for-elsewhere/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/fiat-aegea-is-the-dodge-dart-for-elsewhere/#comments Thu, 21 May 2015 14:18:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072098 Fiat, in conjunction with Tofaş R&D, revealed its new compact three-box Aegea sedan project at the Istanbul Motor Show. The new sedan, which will get a different name when it goes to production, is the first of three new models to be introduced for the EMEA region, replacing the Linea sedan and Bravo hatchback. Designed in Italy and engineered […]

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Fiat Aegea

Fiat, in conjunction with Tofaş R&D, revealed its new compact three-box Aegea sedan project at the Istanbul Motor Show. The new sedan, which will get a different name when it goes to production, is the first of three new models to be introduced for the EMEA region, replacing the Linea sedan and Bravo hatchback.

Designed in Italy and engineered in Turkey, the Aegea project sits atop the same ‘small wide’ platform as the Fiat 500L/500X, Jeep Renegade and (to a lesser degree) Dodge Dart. With a wheelbase of 2,640 mm (103.9 inches), the Aegea is only 2.5 inches shorter than the Dart at the wheels. The new sedan sits at 4,500 mm (177.2 inches) long, 1,780 mm (70.1 inches) wide and 1,480 mm (58.3 inches) tall. Fiat also states the sedan is “large enough to seat 5 well built passengers comfortably with a load capacity of over 510 litres.”

Four engines will be available in the Aegea family. Two Multijet II turbodiesels and two gasoline engines, mated to manual and automatic transmissions, will produce between 95 and 120 hp.

The Ægea name pays tribute to the Aegean Sea that is “the symbolic bridge between East and West.”

The new sedan will go on sale in Turkey in November and later in other EMEA markets.

NOTE: The car will be built at the same plant where there’s currently a labor dispute. That November on-sale date could slide a bit if the situation isn’t resolved soon.

Fiat Aegea Fiat Aegea Fiat Aegea Fiat Aegea Fiat Aegea

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While You Were Sleeping: Audi RS3 Sedan, Toyota HiLux Reveal and Cameras Are Everywhere http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/sleeping-audi-rs3-sedan-toyota-hilux-reveal-cameras-everywhere/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/sleeping-audi-rs3-sedan-toyota-hilux-reveal-cameras-everywhere/#comments Tue, 12 May 2015 10:55:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1066090 Looking south of the A4 in Audi’s current range of motors, the hottest vehicle in its North American lineup is the current S3. Those of us west of the Atlantic don’t get to enjoy the turbocharged five-pot RS3 Sportback. Thankfully, Theophilus Chin is on the scene to digitally imagine our Ingolstadt desires with this compromise – the RS3 […]

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Audi RS3 Render / Theophilus Chin

Looking south of the A4 in Audi’s current range of motors, the hottest vehicle in its North American lineup is the current S3. Those of us west of the Atlantic don’t get to enjoy the turbocharged five-pot RS3 Sportback. Thankfully, Theophilus Chin is on the scene to digitally imagine our Ingolstadt desires with this compromise – the RS3 sedan.

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Fiat Compact Sedan to Debut at Istanbul Autoshow http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/fiat-compact-sedan-debut-istanbul-autoshow/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/fiat-compact-sedan-debut-istanbul-autoshow/#comments Tue, 05 May 2015 15:26:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1062298   In related news: Istanbul has an auto show. The new built-in-Turkey sedan is described as a “compact three-box,” hinting the model will be a fairly basic affair. We expect it to be a replacement for the Fiat Linea (pictured), a compact sedan sitting atop the GM Fiat Small LWB platform that currently underpins the Opel Meriva and […]

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Fiat Linea

In related news: Istanbul has an auto show.

The new built-in-Turkey sedan is described as a “compact three-box,” hinting the model will be a fairly basic affair. We expect it to be a replacement for the Fiat Linea (pictured), a compact sedan sitting atop the GM Fiat Small LWB platform that currently underpins the Opel Meriva and Ram ProMaster City.

Fiat states the car will be sold in 40 countries in the Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region and will have “excellent interior comfort and load capacity.”

Again, Istanbul has an auto show.

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2015 Lexus IS 350 F Sport Review (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-lexus-350-f-sport-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/2015-lexus-350-f-sport-review-video/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 12:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1056498 BMW moved over 140,000 3-Series’ last year in America. They didn’t do this by being the most luxurious option or by being the best handling option. (The truth is hard to hear, I’m sorry.) Instead, BMW did this by doing exactly what shoppers asked for; luxury car buyers want a comfy ride with a luxury logo […]

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2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Exterior -002

BMW moved over 140,000 3-Series’ last year in America. They didn’t do this by being the most luxurious option or by being the best handling option. (The truth is hard to hear, I’m sorry.) Instead, BMW did this by doing exactly what shoppers asked for; luxury car buyers want a comfy ride with a luxury logo on the front, good fuel economy and to read reviews that extol the track-day virtues of their car of choice. The average buyer will never be on a track, but it’s critical to know your car belongs there.

What BMW dealers don’t want you to know: there are two sedans in this segment that are arguably better on the track than a 328i or 335i and we’re talking about one of them today, the IS 350 F Sport.

Exterior

Lexus’ exterior styling used to strike me as graceful, sophisticated and reserved. Apparently, however, the front end got no respect on the Autobahn, so the F Sport nose was created. While I can’t say if it commands more respect in Germany, the ginormous grille on our IS 350 F Sport looked ready to devour small children and subcompact cars alike. While some folks have said they dislike the gaping maw, I actually like it. What I’m not a fan of are the separate headlamp and “Nike-swoosh” daytime running lamp modules; I find the look a little discordant. Whether you like it or not, you have to admit this front end is more dramatic than anything on offer from BMW, Mercedes, Audi or Infiniti.

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Out back, less has changed, with the rear being more reserved than the front. But it’s the side profile where things really divert. The IS is 3.5 inches longer than the last generation model and most of the increase goes to the rear seat area – although, some of it also goes to the trunk, making the IS look more balanced than before. Thanks to pedestrian impact regulations in Europe, the front end has become blunter (just as we have seen from the Europeans lately), which actually helps the front 3/4 view. I think the Cadillac ATS is the most attractive sedan in this segment, but the IS in F Sport trim leaps up the scale to number 3, just behind the ATS and 3-Series.

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Interior

While BMW and Audi have opted for an open and expansive interior theme, the IS feels tight and close to the driver by design with a high beltline and tall center console. F Sport models get a configurable LCD disco dash instead of the white-on-black gauges we normally expect from the brand. Similar to Volvo’s new LCD instrument cluster, the display can seem a little lost in the binnacle as the binnacle normally houses a wider traditional dial cluster. Since Cadillac has yet to move their large LCD instrument cluster down-market to the ATS, there really isn’t any competition for this display at the moment.

As you’d expect from Lexus, one can still get acres of stained wood and soft leather, but neither are standard. Like most entries in this segment, leather is reserved for specific packages and wood is an optional upgrade. Front seat comfort proved excellent during my week. The sport seats easily bested the Audi A4, Cadillac ATS and the base seats in the BMW 328i or Mercedes C300. Wider folks should know that the bolstering is pronounced and the F Sport trim doesn’t have an option to delete the sport seats.

Thanks to the wheelbase stretch, combined legroom is up by 2.6 inches inside which places the IS towards the top of the group in total legrooom. Nobody expected the BMW 3-Series to grow as much as it did in its latest incarnation, which becomes quite obvious when you run the numbers. The 3-Series boasts the second best legroom figures behind the much larger Infiniti Q50. The Lexus offers a slightly larger trunk, but I found the overall trunk dimensions to be more advantageous in the BMW.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Interior -003

Infotainment

The 2014 redesign of the IS brought a raft of new features from traffic maps on non-navigation equipped models to predictive traffic, improved voice recognition and smartphone integration. Alas, the lord giveth and he taketh away. Along with the new software comes Lexus’ Remote Touch input device, or as I prefer to call it: the Lexus joystick. I find little joy in the mouse-like controller, but it is better than the trackpad you find in the NX. The controller is the textbook example of the difference between an intuitive input method and one that is optimized for use in a car. The joystick is intuitive, it’s just not well suited to a vehicle as it requires much more eye-off-the-road time. I grabbed a few friends and had them perform a few identical functions in the Lexus and a BMW with iDrive while I watched their eyes. It simply takes longer for you to find what you need in the Lexus system. Oddly enough, the same Lexus software without a touchscreen is one of the least distracting available, but you can only get that in the GX and LX. If you don’t buy navigation, you still get the 7-inch screen but trade the joystick for a rotary knob.

Lexus doesn’t offer any sort of heads-up display a la BMW, but you can gadgets like radar cruise control, Mark Levinson branded audio system, blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Engine-004

Engine

Standing somewhat alone in this segment is a 100-percent naturally-aspirated engine lineup. While everyone but Infiniti has moved to a turbo four to fill the bottom end, Lexus has stuck with their tiny V6. (I’m not counting the 2.5-liter four-banger in the base ATS. Why? Who would?) Displacing 2.5 liters and sporting direct injection, the IS 250 is good for 204 ponies and 185 lb-ft of torque. [It’s the least powerful V6 currently on sale. -Ed] While many in the industry would once have complained about a base luxury model without an inline-6 engine, this V6 now competes with four-cylinder engines. Although a V6 isn’t as balanced as an I6, it’s miles ahead of an I4. The model we tested is the 3.5-liter V6 IS 350. Adding a liter bumps power to 306 and torque to 277. For reasons known only to Lexus’ product planning team, the 220 horsepower IS 300h remains forbidden fruit on our shores.

Lexus tends to be a cautious company when it comes to adopting new technology and, as a result, the 2.5-liter V6 and AWD models of the 3.5-liter have to make do with ye olde 6-speed automatic from Aisin. If you get the RWD version of the IS 350 that we tested, you get Aisin’s new 8-speed auto, a variant of the transmission used in the Corvette and select Cadillacs.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Instrument Cluster_

Drive

The naturally aspirated engine lineup is the first thing you will notice about the IS out on the road. Much like the 3.6-liter V6 in the ATS and the 3.7-liter V6 in the Q50, power builds in a linear fashion. This is quite different from the C400, 335i and other turbo entries which typically have torque and horsepower “plateaus” with sharp drops on either end. 0-60 acceleration in our F Sport tester came in at 5.6 seconds – not a bad time by any stretch. However, Volvo’s front-wheel-drive S60 T6 Drive-e will do the same sprint in 5.4. The purist in me prefers the feel and unadulterated sound a naturally-aspirated engine delivers, but the pragmatist in me realizes the C400, 335i, S4 and S60 T6 will all beat the IS to the freeway ramp. Opting for Lexus’ AWD system improves grip, but the loss of two gears causes the 0-60 time to stretch to 5.7 seconds, getting close to the less powerful BMW 328xi. AWD shoppers also have to live with an odd hump in the front foot-well caused by the transfer case and driveshaft to the front axle.

The responsiveness of the IS in tight corners demonstrates how much time Lexus spent engineering the suspension. The old IS came across as isolated, perhaps even sloppy, while this chassis is sharp and crisp. Every system feels like a team player, from the suspension to the transmission shift logic and the revised double-wishbones up front. The IS quite simply delivers the best feel in the corners and out on the track with every system tuned to near perfection. (Bear in mind we still have electric power steering, so it’s all relative.) The IS actually manages to feel a hair more precise, although not as engaging, than the E90 3-Series (previous generation). The F30 (current generation) has traded handling prowess for a softer ride and a ginormous back seat. And therein lies the rub: the change has improved BMW’s sales rather than stopping the gravy train. Meanwhile, the Audi and Volvo plow like a John Deere when they encounter a corner and the Mercedes feels just as you would expect – heavy and soft. The purist in me prefers the crisp handling and impeccable feel of the IS on a track. The pragmatist in me is keenly aware that feel doesn’t actually get you around a track. That’s where power comes in. Because of the power deficit, the 335i, S60 T6 AWD, C400 and S4 are all faster around your average track. If you’re talking autocross, the IS has a chance, but even the Volvo will beat it around Laguna Seca.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Headlamps

Competition

Comparing the IS 350 with the 335i seems like the natural thing to do – after all, they both have “3” in the model number – but a more apt comparison is the 328i. The IS 350 slots between the 328i and the 335i in both price and performance, but price is critical. Meanwhile IS 250 performs more like the 320i than the 328i.

The IS 350 F Sport manages to be a hair less than a comparably equipped 328i M-Sport, which is an excellent start. Despite costing a fraction less, the Lexus delivers considerably more refinement under the hood, better acceleration and more driving feel in the twisties. Our F Sport was notably less expensive than a Mercedes C300, and even when you add AWD to the Lexus, it’s still the more willing partner on your favorite mountain highway.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Exterior -006

Audi’s A4 ends up being around the same price as the IS 350 while Volvo’s S60 is the discount option. Both the Audi and the Volvo start as FWD vehicles but add AWD to compensate for their front heavy designs. Unless you step up to the considerably more expensive S4, the Audi comes across as underpowered and all versions of the A4 feel nose heavy in comparison. The Volvo has a similar weight issue up front but the Swedes will happily drop a powerful turbo engine under the hood, mate it to AWD and sell it for less than the Lexus. The resulting S60 R-Design will out-pace the IS 350 F Sport but the experience will be much different. The Volvo will be understeering like mad in the corners; the IS will feel balanced and poised. Unfortunately, the Lexus’ driver will have to enjoy the feel while looking at the S60’s tail lamps.

The Infiniti Q50 is the often forgotten competitor. Nissan’s luxury arm has never quite reached the same status as Lexus as far as brand perception – perhaps that’s why. Never the less, the Infiniti has good looks and a low price tag on its side. Even the $37,150 base model starts with a 328 horsepower 3.7-liter V6. It’s still slower than BMW’s 335i, but at 5.2 seconds to 60, it is among the faster options. If you want more power and better economy, Infiniti will sell you their hybrid version that scoots to highway speed in 4.9. Comparably equipped, the Q50 is about $2,000 less than the F Sport we tested, making it the best RWD deal in this segment.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Exterior -011

After a week with the IS 350, I’ll admit I was torn. The way the IS drives and feels on my mountain road commute is incredible. The way the IS feels on a track is alluring. And the value proposition is undeniable. Lexus’ well deserved reliability reputation and generally lower operating costs means the IS will cost less to own. All these things should mean my purist and pragmatic boxes will be well and truly checked. The Lexus has the luxury and track-day-diary cred to compete with the competition, but the infotainment system in the IS and slower 0-60 time keep the Lexus from being my choice in this segment. If my money were on the line, I’d live with Infiniti’s questionable steer-by-wire system and get the Q50S hybrid instead. You get more room inside, a 0-60 time matching the 335i and 31 MPG. While the IS 350 F Sport represents a good value against BMW’s volume 3-Series model, they still have nothing to compete properly with the 335i. Yes, the IS 350 F Sport feels better and road holds better than a comparably equipped 335i. But, as BMW has recently shown, perhaps going around a corner perfectly isn’t all that important after all.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.2 Seconds

0-60: 5.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.8 Seconds at 100 MPH

Average Observed Economy: 20 MPG over 674 miles

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Piston Slap: Fanning the Dakota’s Fail Flames for Cherokee LSX-FTW? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-fanning-dakotas-fail-flames-cherokee-lsx-ftw/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/12/piston-slap-fanning-dakotas-fail-flames-cherokee-lsx-ftw/#comments Wed, 03 Dec 2014 13:19:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=953801   TTAC Commentator anti121hero writes: Hello Sajeev! Very long time reader, but first time I’ve ever reached out. To start, I happen to be a huge RWD ford fan, (I’m actually helping my best friend put together his 94 mark viii). Now with your interest gained… I have a 1993 jeep cherokee, 2 door, 4.0 […]

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The Obvious Choice. (photo courtesy: forums.vwvortex.com)

TTAC Commentator anti121hero writes:

Hello Sajeev! Very long time reader, but first time I’ve ever reached out. To start, I happen to be a huge RWD ford fan, (I’m actually helping my best friend put together his 94 mark viii). Now with your interest gained…

I have a 1993 jeep cherokee, 2 door, 4.0 high output, AW4 trans. It has been a pleasure to own, as I’m a jeep guy at heart, and i have lots of money into well done suspension and offroad modifications, far too much to list. To be frank, I’m in love with the thing. But about two months ago, it started rattling at idle. I chalked it up to something in the engine bay or possibly flywheel bolts. It always ran and drove perfect.

All of a sudden, one day after leaving work it was slipping hard into gear, and a mile down the road I lost all gears. (Automatic “bulletproof” AW4). I checked all linkages, changed the fluid and filter, tried it in 4 wheel high and low, but nothing. It can run all day and the transmission wont get hot so I think the pump went out. So I bought a 1987 dodge dakota, carbureted 3.9 v6, AT 2wd for 700 bucks to drive while I hopefully swap a transmission in my jeep.

My problem now is, with a full tune up, all new filters, this Dakota idles extremely rough, it shakes and wants to die. It wants to stall going up hills. Other than that, the truck runs great and is a good beater. I don’t know what to do to fix this dodge to be more reliable, and if I should do the swap in my jeep or if I’m possibly looking at another problem with that. My goal would be to have my jeep as toy, and the truck as backup vehicle. I don’t know if maybe I’m thinking this out wrong and I should sell both and get something more reliable/ better shape, or focus on fixing one and selling the other. The truck is a beater and will only last a few more years, and will be a nightmare in winter being 2wd and carbureted. I guess I’m looking for some good professional advice here. Thank you for any input!

Sajeev answers:

You are in the same place I was before buying a new truck…except you’re working on a Mark VIII that you do not own.

I reckon you need a newer, more reliable, less shitty vehicle and have the Jeep as a weekend project/toy.  Because no man can live on project cars (or trucks) alone!  Unless you are chronically single and dependent free, work from home, have a time value of money equal to zero, etc.

But I find that hard to believe: everyone has commitments requiring a reliable vehicle.  So get a cheap-ish, fuel-efficient car that gives you plenty of monthly income (i.e. easy on insurance/gas) left over for your project. Get a FWD, compact-ish (depending on your physical size), mainstream Japanese, American or South Korean sedan for maximum cheapness. You might be a hard-core Mopar guy, so get a Neon.  They are fun. And you can probably fix most problems in a single weekend, for cheap.

Why so thrifty?  I think it’s time for a professionally rebuilt and/or upgraded trans for the Jeep.  Or better, swap to a GM transmission.  Or even better…wait for it…LSX-FTW SON!!!

The Neon, with the right tires will also be decent in the snow and most people hate them to the point that depreciation is right up your alley.  Tidy up and sell the Dakota.  Get a boring sedan so you can continue as a normal human on the weekdays, and a bad-ass Jeeper on the weekend.

That’s how you win at life.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Scion’s Next Small Car Won’t Be A Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/scions-next-small-car-wont-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/11/scions-next-small-car-wont-wagon/#comments Mon, 03 Nov 2014 12:30:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=939401 With the unveiling of the Scion iM just weeks away, a bit of news out of Thailand has revealed some information about the other new Scion that will be released alongside the iM. Set to debut at the end of November at the Thai Motor Show, Mazda’s sedan version of the Mazda2 may or may not […]

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With the unveiling of the Scion iM just weeks away, a bit of news out of Thailand has revealed some information about the other new Scion that will be released alongside the iM.

Set to debut at the end of November at the Thai Motor Show, Mazda’s sedan version of the Mazda2 may or may not be sold in North America – but it will appear as a Scion.

Information from Toyota sources tells us that the Mexican made vehicle will form the basis for another Scion product. Such a vehicle would benefit from Mazda’s lightweight Skyactiv engines, transmissions and chassis technology, but without the oddly-named moniker attached to it.

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Volkswagen Shows Off CLA Competitor In Chengdu http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/volkswagen-shows-cla-competitor-chengdu/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/volkswagen-shows-cla-competitor-chengdu/#comments Fri, 29 Aug 2014 16:50:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=903378 Volkswagen’s latest MQB-based vehicle is another challenge to Mercedes-Benz – the last time they threw down the gauntlet against Daimler, we ended up with the Phaeton. This should fare a bit better. Dubbed the “Lamando”, the vehicle in question is based on the MK7 Golf and its MQB chassis, and uses both the 1.4L and 2.0L […]

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Volkswagen’s latest MQB-based vehicle is another challenge to Mercedes-Benz – the last time they threw down the gauntlet against Daimler, we ended up with the Phaeton. This should fare a bit better.

Dubbed the “Lamando”, the vehicle in question is based on the MK7 Golf and its MQB chassis, and uses both the 1.4L and 2.0L TSI 4-cylinder engines, along with a 7-speed DSG gearbox. The Lamando will be built in China, for the Chinese market only, with a starting price of about $29,000. This puts it in direct competition with the Mercedes-Benz CLA.

Live shots of the car can be seen here.  Sales of the Americanized Jetta have slumped recently, despite a strong (but price-driven) introduction. A car like this would do a lot to add some pizzazz to Volkswagen’s compact sedan, and given its MQB bones, it could likely be built in Mexico easily. How about it, VW?

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Hyundai Azera May Be Full-Size Segment’s Next Victim http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/hyundai-azera-may-be-full-size-segments-next-victim/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/hyundai-azera-may-be-full-size-segments-next-victim/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 18:06:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=867738 It’s hard out here for a full-size car. Sales are declining on a consistent basis, as crossovers and falling demand for V6 and V8 non-premium sedans eats into the once-proud full-size segment. Talk of Ford killing off the Taurus seems to float around, while at least half of all sales in the broader segment seem to go […]

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It’s hard out here for a full-size car. Sales are declining on a consistent basis, as crossovers and falling demand for V6 and V8 non-premium sedans eats into the once-proud full-size segment. Talk of Ford killing off the Taurus seems to float around, while at least half of all sales in the broader segment seem to go to fleets. Market forces might claim their next victim in the form of the Hyundai Azera.

Autoblog reports that even Hyundai execs are open-ended about the car’s future prospects in America. While the Azera is a hit in its home market of South Korea, sales are declining in the United States, and lagging behind key rivals.

While Hyundai claims that there is a place for the Azera between the Sonata and Genesis, industry analysts we spoke to (on condition of anonymity, due to the proprietary data being shared) shows that among sedan buyers, take rates for V6 engines across the mid-size segment is continuously falling. The near-term trend is said to be the eventual phasing out of the V6, similar to what Hyundai already did with the Sonata. Right now, one of the key selling points for the Azera over the Sonata seems to be the V6 engine, but if that’s no longer a factor, then that further weakens the business case for importing them from South Korea.

If that weren’t enough, the Sonata is dimensionally identical to the Azera, while boasting better fuel economy. And buyers can also be pushed towards the V6 powered Santa Fe, which can meet their space and power needs while also boasting all-wheel drive and the possibility of more cargo and passenger capacity.

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Chart Of The Day: Crossovers Are King http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/chart-of-the-day-crossovers-are-king/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/chart-of-the-day-crossovers-are-king/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 16:33:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=867074   This chart, courtesy of IHS Automotive, shows that for the first time in America, crossovers have edged out sedans as the most popular body style. While the data only shows new vehicle registrations through May, 2014, don’t expect this trend to reverse any time soon. The crossover’s rise to market dominance is an inexorable […]

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This chart, courtesy of IHS Automotive, shows that for the first time in America, crossovers have edged out sedans as the most popular body style.

While the data only shows new vehicle registrations through May, 2014, don’t expect this trend to reverse any time soon. The crossover’s rise to market dominance is an inexorable fact of our automotive landscape, both in America and around the world.

Now you see why Nissan isn’t so crazy to forgo the new IDx in favor of the Juke. Sure, nobody will ever cross-shop the two cars, but one plays in a space that is constantly growing, while the other competes in a market that has a future that’s slightly worse than the U.S. Postal Service. If you were an auto executive with a few billion to spend on a new car that must turn a profit (so, no fantasy brown wagon projects), the choice would be easy.

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Volkswagen Reveals MQB-Based Passat http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/volkswagen-reveals-mqb-based-passat/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/volkswagen-reveals-mqb-based-passat/#comments Thu, 03 Jul 2014 20:54:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=858281   Volkswagen unveiled their all-new Passat, riding on the same MQB architecture as the all-new Golf. The new Passat is 2mm shorter, but 14mm lower and 12 mm wider, while cargo and passenger space is increased. Nearly 200 lbs is lost from the car’s curb weight, helping to boost fuel economy by as much as […]

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Volkswagen unveiled their all-new Passat, riding on the same MQB architecture as the all-new Golf.

The new Passat is 2mm shorter, but 14mm lower and 12 mm wider, while cargo and passenger space is increased. Nearly 200 lbs is lost from the car’s curb weight, helping to boost fuel economy by as much as 20 percent.

A new diesel making 237 horsepower and 368 lb-ft mated to a DSG gearbox is expected to be a highlight of the engine range. No word on whether we’ll get this Passat, or continue on with our American-ized version.

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Hyundai Introducing Sonata Eco With Dual Clutch, Turbo Engine http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/hyundai-introducing-sonata-eco-with-dual-clutch-turbo-engine/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/hyundai-introducing-sonata-eco-with-dual-clutch-turbo-engine/#comments Fri, 20 Jun 2014 04:01:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=847825 Hyundai will add a Sonata Eco model, featuring a 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a dual clutch transmission, when the new generation sedan debuts for the 2015 model year. Automotive News reports that the 1.6L mill will put down 177 horsepower and 195 lb-ft, through a 7-speed DCT. Fuel economy will rise to 28/38/32 mpg, […]

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Hyundai will add a Sonata Eco model, featuring a 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a dual clutch transmission, when the new generation sedan debuts for the 2015 model year.

Automotive News reports that the 1.6L mill will put down 177 horsepower and 195 lb-ft, through a 7-speed DCT. Fuel economy will rise to 28/38/32 mpg, versus 29 mpg combined for the Sonata with the standard 2.4L engine.

The Eco will start at $24,085, $2,215 more than a 2.4L Sonata SE but adds a back-up camera, a five-inch touchscreen, Hyundai’s BlueLink telematics system and slightly different interior trim.

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Piston Slap: The Luxury Sedan Fanboi Fallacy http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/piston-slap-the-luxury-sedan-fanboi-fallacy/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/piston-slap-the-luxury-sedan-fanboi-fallacy/#comments Mon, 02 Jun 2014 11:58:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=835145 Earl writes: Hi Sajeev, My wife wants me to sell our pristine, time-capsule 90 Cressida for a 4Runner (or similar) because we live in winter-world. I am looking at used 4Runners and the prices are crazy. Typically a rusted 1996-98 with 350-390,000KM will be asking $5,000 – $6,000CDN. I have seen Lexus LS with half […]

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Earl writes:

Hi Sajeev,

My wife wants me to sell our pristine, time-capsule 90 Cressida for a 4Runner (or similar) because we live in winter-world. I am looking at used 4Runners and the prices are crazy. Typically a rusted 1996-98 with 350-390,000KM will be asking $5,000 – $6,000CDN. I have seen Lexus LS with half the mileage, far better condition and all services done for that price.

What gives? Are 4Runners that good?

Sajeev answers:

Of course used 4Runners aren’t that good! Well, except they are that good for many folks.

Here’s the deal: you, much like me, have a soft spot for classic luxury (or near luxury) sedans. They are so nice, so affordable and give you so much more than any other road going machine.  And the Cressida isn’t a K-car derived New Yorker, it kinda gives the same thoroughly satisfying experience as a newer near luxury sedan. But for pennies on the dollar. An excellent value proposition that everyone should embrace!

The fallacy?  Nobody’s gonna embrace a cheap alternative to an Avalon under warranty. But everyone outside of Manhattan wants a beater truck (or truck based SUV) to carry shit, safely travel through snow, flash floods, non-KOA campgrounds, etc.  As much as my Lincoln-Mercury fanboi self enjoys the occasional compliment on my cars, I get cash offers on my 5-speed Ranger. On a regular basis: the market has spoken, son!

Is the 4Runner worth the money?  Sure, as they earned a reputation for great quality, excellent performance and even superior fit and finish. And the market reflects those opinions.  But that’s another fallacy: the quality gap at the fully depreciated level really depends more on service records. I’ll take a cherry Explorer/Blazer/Durango with a binder full of receipts over a rust bucket 4Runner with zero service history. Odds are both can be had for the same price.

If you are so frickin’ bad-ass enough to roll a choice Cressida, I don’t peg you as a lemming. The tone of your letter also proved the point. But if the sedan has to go to keep your household in balance, buy something other than a 4Runner.   Because, unless your Fanboi blood runs deep, Toyota SUVs and Trucks (especially Tacomas) can be a poor value for their premium asking price.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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Crossovers Outsell Sedans For The First Time Ever http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/crossovers-outsell-sedans-for-the-first-time-ever/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/crossovers-outsell-sedans-for-the-first-time-ever/#comments Thu, 01 May 2014 04:01:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=813289 For the past decade, midsize sedans have been the most popular segment in America. But data from Polk and IHS Automotive suggests that might be changing. According to Polk, the first two months of 2014 saw compact crossovers take the top spot in terms of market share. As Polk’s Tom Libby notes We may now […]

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For the past decade, midsize sedans have been the most popular segment in America. But data from Polk and IHS Automotive suggests that might be changing.

According to Polk, the first two months of 2014 saw compact crossovers take the top spot in terms of market share. As Polk’s Tom Libby notes

We may now be at an inflection point in the U.S. automotive industry – IHS Automotive data based on Polk new vehicle registrations indicate that in the first two months of 2014 U.S. drivers purchased more small crossovers than any other type of vehicle, car or light truck. Non-luxury compact crossovers’ share of the industry has jumped almost six share points in the past five years, including more than three points in the last year alone.

We’ll know more as more sales data emerges today and in subsequent months. While many observers tend to focus on individual nameplate sales races (Camry vs. Accord, Ram vs. Silverado) and brands (BMW vs. Mercedes-Benz), the moment when CUVs eclipse regular passenger cars would be a true game changer for the American auto market.

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Why We May Not See The Next Ford Taurus, But China Will http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/why-we-may-not-see-the-next-for-taurus-but-china-will/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/why-we-may-not-see-the-next-for-taurus-but-china-will/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 19:22:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=776209 According to some outlets, the 2016 Ford Taurus will be both quicker and lighter than the outgoing car. That’s news to us here at TTAC – last we heard, the Taurus wasn’t even slated for North America. Reeports by Edmunds and other outlets are claiming that the next Taurus will ditch the heavy, antiquated Volvo-based […]

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According to some outlets, the 2016 Ford Taurus will be both quicker and lighter than the outgoing car. That’s news to us here at TTAC – last we heard, the Taurus wasn’t even slated for North America.

Reeports by Edmunds and other outlets are claiming that the next Taurus will ditch the heavy, antiquated Volvo-based platform in favor of Ford’s more modern CD architecture that underpins the Fusion, the upcoming Ford Edge and other models. This is technically true.

Back in the spring of 2013, our sources told us that a CD-based Taurus was under development, but promptly sent to the garbage dump after its design bombed its consumer clinics. Marketing brass at Ford decided to kill the Taurus, due to dissatisfaction with the way it looked, and the sales volumes the Taurus generated. Given the accuracy of our sources regarding the F-150 and its aluminum construction, as well as the 2015 Mustang, we are inclined to believe them.

Ironically, Taurus sales have grown by nearly 20 percent over the past two years, despite a shrinking full-size car market. But the long-term trend suggests that larger sedans (what’s considered mid-size, as well as full-size) will undergo a contraction in sales, as CUVs take a bigger bite out of the segment.

The full-size sedan market is heavily weighted towards fleet sales, and with the Fusion outselling the Taurus by a roughly 4:1 ratio, it’s understandable that Ford would not want to renew the Taurus for another model cycle. Other considerations, like the Taurus being a drag on Ford’s CAFE ratings (remember, large cars get punished under CAFE, whereas trucks don’t) and the stronger sales of the Explorer Police Interceptor may give the Taurus-killers some more ammo.

One place where the Taurus could survive is in China. Ford is already planning a large Lincoln flagship, codenamed GOBI. Based on the CD architecture and targeted at Chinese business consumers by emphasizing rear seat comfort and amenities, GOBI will replace what we know as the Lincoln MKS in both China and the United States. Our source thinks that a new Taurus, twinned with GOBI, could be a possibility for China – but its future in America is in doubt.

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Review: 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-buick-regal-gs-awd-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-buick-regal-gs-awd-with-video/#comments Thu, 23 Jan 2014 14:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=698417 In my mind, Volkswagens used to be the “Euro Buick.” Positioned one note above the mass market rabble,  VW’s Passat shared parts with Audi’s A4, while the Touareg and Phaeton were luxury cars with a mass market logo on the hood. Then Volkswagen decided this was the wrong strategy for them, so they repositioned VW […]

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2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior

In my mind, Volkswagens used to be the “Euro Buick.” Positioned one note above the mass market rabble,  VW’s Passat shared parts with Audi’s A4, while the Touareg and Phaeton were luxury cars with a mass market logo on the hood. Then Volkswagen decided this was the wrong strategy for them, so they repositioned VW as the German alternative to Toyota and Chevrolet. This left a gaping hole in the market for shoppers looking to step into a European near-luxury vehicle that flew under the radar. And then Buick stepped in.Buick’s Opel-based product offensive has transformed the brand from Barcalounger wheels for the octogenarian, to a window into the soul of GM’s German brand. This transformation isn’t an easy one as Buick’s problem wasn’t just blue-haired buyers and slinky-soft springs. Buick is the penultimate middle child. Jammed between Chevrolet and Cadillac, brand B’s mission is to give Chevy buyers something to aspire to and Cadillac buyers something to graduate from.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

When you say “Regal GS” my mind immediately leaps to the fourth-generation Regal (2nd generation W-body) with the supercharged 3.8L V6. When I was car shopping in 2000 I dearly wanted a Regal GS but there were two problems: Buick’s grandmotherly image and the price tag. As a result I bought an entirely different old person car: a Chrysler LHS. But I digress. This GS is an entirely different beast. Buick’s latest middle child is none other than Opel’s largest sedan, the Insignia. Refreshed for the 2014 model year, the differences between the Insignia and the Regal are most pronounced on the exterior where a Buick waterfall grille and logo have been inserted into the same opening as the Opel and ventiports have been added to the hood. And… that’s about it.

Two things are obvious when looking at the Buick Regal: it was designed in Europe and it was designed to to be both a Buick and an Opel from the start. Rather than looking out of place (like the Chrysler 300 to Lancia Thema transition) the Regal looks “meant to be.” Although the Regal is related to the Chevy Malibu, there’s essentially no exterior resemblance. The Regal GS I spent a week in gets the tweaked front and rear bumpers from Opel’s Insigia OPC model which ditches the foglamps for extra ventilation and integrates the exhaust tips into the rear bumper cover. Circling back around to those ventiports: I still think they look silly, but thankfully the Regal has the right number (four) and they are smaller and less conspicuously placed than on other Buick models I could mention.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-003

Interior

2014 brings a new interior to the Regal based around a standard 8-inch touchscreen and new center console. Although you will still find a few hard plastics in the cabin, overall materials quality has improved and is firmly competitive with the Volkswagen CC, Audi A4 and Acura TL. Most cabin touch points feel more premium than the more expensive Lexus ES but the Volvo S60/S80 still lead the segment. Non-GS shoppers can opt for a handsome two-tone interior that combines a brown steering wheel and upper dash with a light grey/tan seats and carpet which would be my preference. GS models however are stuck with a very Germanic black-on-black theme. Part of the GS package is an 8-inch LCD instrument cluster and a chunkier steering wheel with sport grips, soft leather and a flat bottom. The disco dash is not as configurable as Chrysler’s 7-inch unit but the graphics are more modern and the system allows you full access to your media device, something uConnect still lacks.

For reasons unknown Buick chose not to borrow the Recaro seats found in the Insignia OPC, opting instead for more aggressively bolstered versions of the standard seat design. This may be because Buick owners are less likely to need the 5-point harness design, but it is most likely because we Americans are fatter so fewer of us would fit in the narrow seats. My 6-foot and slightly overweight frame fit snugly and comfortably in the front seats but the ceiling in the rear of the Regal proved too low for me to sit without cocking my head to the side. The lack of rear seat headroom was disappointing because the Regal offers several inches more rear leg room than the RWD Cadillac ATS and CTS and three inches more than the Volvo S60 and S80.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Buick Link

Infotainment

Like the LaCrosse, the Regal and the Opel Insignia now uses a modified version of Cadillac’s CUE. For reasons I don’t understand however, Buick doesn’t get Opel’s interesting touchpad with “finger writing” recognition that Opel has been advertising across the pond. I’m guessing this is so that Buick doesn’t step on Cadillac’s toes. Compared to CUE there are a few other changes for Buick-duty. The expensive glass capacitive touchscreen (looks like a modern smartphone) is swapped for a resistive unit that isn’t as crisp or as glare reducing and we have physical buttons for some system features, a marked improvement over Cadillac’s touchscreen only interface. Aside from these charges, the majority of CUE remains.

Like Ford’s MyFord Touch system, IntelliLink is sluggish in general and sometimes totally unresponsive. The software also suffers from unintuitive menu layouts and old-school mapping software that doesn’t jive with the system’s high-resolution screen. Like CUE, some multi-touch gestures are supported, but the different touchscreen is less able to decipher your intent leading to some frustrating moments. On the bright side, CUE’s selling points remain. The system’s voice command system features natural language commands and instead of treating the USB ports as separate inputs, the system aggregates them into one large music library allowing you to voice command songs without specifying the device.

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Drivetrain

Nestled sideways under the hood is the same 2.0L direct-injection turbocharged four-cylinder engine that the Cadillac ATS and CTS use. Good for 259 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of twist, this is the same engine that you find in the “regular Regal.” That’s right, no longer does “GS” stand for “more power.” This means the GS looses 11 ponies vs 2013 but the turbo Regal gains 39 vs 2013. To differentiate things, GM does alter the torque curve to deliver all 295 twists at 2,500 RPM instead of 3,000 in the non-GS model. GM hasn’t completely ruled out the 325 horse 2.8L twin-turbo V6 the Insignia OPC uses for the American market, but I’d call it a long shot.

GS shoppers can choose either a 6-speed manual transaxle or a 6 speed automatic, but if you want the optional Haldex AWD system you’re forced to select the auto.  Although the GS uses the same AWD system as the regular Regal AWD, the engineers tossed in an electronically controlled limited slip rear differential. GS trims also bump the suspension up a notch by combining GM’s HiPer Strut technology with active dampers on all four corners. The suspension offers three modes: normal, sport and GS. The feel ranges from European family sedan to firm.

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Drive

GM’s HiPer Strut suspension is designed to bring the steering axis more in line with the tire centerline, something you typically find in rear-wheel drive cars. Aligning the axis more closely results in better tracking, less torque steer and a front tire with a more consistent camber across the suspension’s travel. Versus the outgoing model, the front tires contact patch is improved in corners when the front suspension is loaded resulting in higher grip. Coupled with an AWD system that sends 50% of the power to the rear under hard acceleration, we get the first Buick in a long time with virtually zero torque steer.

The downside to the trendy new steering knuckle design is feel. Steering is very precise but suffers from the same Novocaine-laced feedback as everything else out there with electric power steering. Despite a 58/42 F/R weight distribution, the Regal GS has impeccable manners up to 9/10ths, where it starts to lose composure. Trouble is, without steering feedback it’s hard to tell where 9/10ths is located. In contrast, the Volvo S60 T6 AWD and S80 T6 AWD offer less grip but more feel.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-007

Driving a FWD Regal back to back with our AWD tester, I kept thinking “there’s just something I dislike about the FWD model”. As it turns out, there is a reason the FWD Regal felt unsettled in the rear over broken pavement, the AWD model gets an entirely different “H-Link” independent rear suspension. Coupled with the active dampers, the Regal felt well composed on a variety of road surfaces despite being tuned firmer than the rest of the American and Swedish competition. Rather than being the softest entry in the segment, the GS is among the firmer.

Put your foot to the floor and the GS will run to 60 in 6.7 seconds, exactly the same as the W-Body Regal GS I remember with fond memories. The difference is, the W-Body’s torque steer made the car feel like it was part car, part carnival ride. The 2014 model tracks straight and true with zero drama all the way to a 15.2 second 1/4 mile. Stacking this up with the competition, the Regal is notably slower than the Cadillac CTS/ATS 2.0T and Volvo’s S60 T5 AWD; and a hair slower than the 3.7L Lincoln MKZ, Lexus ES 350 and Acura TL. Despite similar power figures, the Volvo ran to 60 nearly 7/10ths faster which caused me to question my numbers. However, a loaner provided by a local dealer confirmed my findings. The reason seems rooted both in the GS’ gear ratios and the more advantageous torque curve from Volvo’s funky 5-cylinder.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-010

At $37,830 starting, $40,195 with AWD and $44,975 full-loaded, the Regal undercuts the Volvo S60 T5 AWD and Acura TL by a couple thousand across the board (comparably equipped) and is more than $5,000 cheaper than the Lexus ES depending on your configuration. The Acura TL is in its final year of production and is, as you would assume, outclassed by the Regal in most ways. The recently refreshed Volvo delivers better road feel and a slightly more premium interior at the expense of more cash and less grip. The Lexus ES suffers from soft springs, an uncompetitive interior and steep price tag.

Over 611 miles I managed a reasonable 22.1 MPG in the GS which bests the real-world numbers from the V6 competition but comes short of the turbo Caddy and Swede. Why do I keep coming back to Cadillac? Because as hard as GM has tried to keep Chevrolet, Buick and Cadillac from stepping on each other’s toes, the Regal GS is about the same price as the 2014 Cadillac ATS. It’s hard enough to go up against what is probably the second best vehicle GM has ever produced, but it is made doubly hard when there are so many combined Buick/Cadillac dealers. This means you’ll frequently find the Regal GS next to a sharp handling Caddy is on the same lot. Trickier still is the base Cadillac CTS which is slightly cheaper than a loaded GS, and, you guessed it: is often parked right next to the Buick.  Buick seems to have finally gotten the hang of being the middle child and in the process they have given not only Chevy owners but Volkswagen owners something to aspire to. That said, I’d be hard pressed to choose the Regal over an ATS 2.0T.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.67 Seconds

0-60: 6.7 Seconds

1/4 Mile:15.2 Seconds @ 93 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 22.1 MPG over 611 miles

Interior sound level at 50 MPH: 68.5 dB @ 50 MPH

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Buick Link 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Engine 2.0L Turbo 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Engine 2.0L Turbo-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-002 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-003 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-004 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-005 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-006 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-007 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-008 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-009 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-010 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-011 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-012 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-013 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Gauges 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Gauges-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-002 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-003 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-004 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-005 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Trunk 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Trunk-001

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Review: 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-ford-fiesta-hatchback-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-ford-fiesta-hatchback-with-video/#comments Fri, 03 Jan 2014 14:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=683986 For many Americans, the words “Ford Fiesta” dredges up memories of a claustrophobic rattle-trap competing with “Geo Metro” for the title of Worst American Small Car. Personally, the only time I ever wanted a fiesta was during a drunken weekend in Cabo, and it had more to do with tequila than cars. But that was […]

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2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior

For many Americans, the words “Ford Fiesta” dredges up memories of a claustrophobic rattle-trap competing with “Geo Metro” for the title of Worst American Small Car. Personally, the only time I ever wanted a fiesta was during a drunken weekend in Cabo, and it had more to do with tequila than cars. But that was four years ago and 214,000 Fiestas ago. Since then the Fiesta has proved that an American car company is capable of creating a desirable compact car. Is the party over, or is the car’s first refresh a sign that the party has just begun? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

After being on the market for just four years I hadn’t expected much for 2014 which makes me all the more impressed with the Fiesta’s transformation. Ford’s new “Astonesque” grille which debuted on the new Fusion turned the plain-Jane family hauler into one of the sexiest cars Ford has ever made, and Ford indicated the look was going to trickle down the lineup. I was worried. You see, when a new nose is penned for a new cars, and the existing line-up is modified to accept the new schnozz, you end up with something like the questionable looking Lexus GX 460. Fear not , Ford didn’t just paint on a their trapezoidal grille, they poked and prodded the hood and lamps as well until things looked right, and right they do. The launch photos looked impressive but the final product was even better in person.

It’s hard to avoid Aston Martin Cygnet references so I’ll just say it now: add some hood louvres and a leather dash and Ford’s compact would be more Aston than the iQ based Cygnet. Paired with the new nose, is a tweaked rear end featuring new tail lamps. The only downside in my mind is that the minor nip/tuck to the rear fails to bring the Fiesta’s rump up to the same level as the front. Park the Fiesta nose first in your driveway, and nobody will notice. But back it in, and passers-by are likely to be impressed. As before there is a considerable difference in dimensions between the sedan and the hatchback with the sedan being a whopping 13-inches longer. Thanks to that length, the sedan looks less like a caricature than it would otherwise.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-006

Interior

Four years ago I praised the Fiesta’s interior as class leading in terms of materials choices and fit/finish. That largely remains true despite the Fiesta undercutting the Kia Rio in price. That’s not to say the Fiesta is a revolution, but compared to the hard plastics in the competition, the Fiesta looks and feels more premium. The injection molded dashboard, refreshed steering wheel and seats would not be out of place in the slightly larger compact car category. I found our tester’s black-on-black interior somewhat cold while the lighter interiors available on my local Ford lot were warmer, more attractive and showed off the optional ambient lighting better. (The upper half of dashboard is black on all models.) Helping the Fiesta’s new “premium compact” theme is ability to add real leather seats as opposed to the “leatherette” you find in all but the Kia Rio. Dominating the dashboard in our tester was Ford’s downsized MyFord Touch infotainment system, lower trim levels get a revised SYNC display nestled in a similar binnacle. As you’d expect with any car starting at $14,100, base “S” trim cars suffer severe de-contenting with manual windows, no dome lights, no ambient lighting, only one 12V outlet and no cruise control. This is an important distinction as the majority of the competition feel like upper trim levels are base models with do-dads added.

The front seats don’t offer much thigh or back support unless you opt for the sporty Fiesta ST with its Recaro thrones. Even the Titanium model lacks the range of motion, or support, you’ll find in most mid-sized sedans and power seats are not an option at any price. Even so, the Fiesta’s seats are among the more comfortable in the class. Finding an ideal driving position is easy thanks to a tilt/telescopic steering wheel. Rear seat passengers encounter the same firm padding in the sedan or hatchback, and essentially the same amount of headroom with the sedan form factor taking only a 1/10th of an inch toll and ranking near top of the class. Sadly however, the Euro origins are clear when it comes to rear legroom. The Fiesta trails here, and not by a small amount. The Sonic and Rio offer three 3-inches more while the Versa Note is a whopping 7.1-inches more spacious. Likewise, cargo hauling ability of 12.8 cubes in the sedan and 15.4 in the hatchback are on the smaller end of the spectrum.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-004

Infotainment

My major gripe about the 2011 Fiesta was a lack of infotainment love. The SYNC-only 2011-2013 models used a small red display in the center of the dashboard while Kia and Nissan were offering touchscreen navigation units. To address, Ford shrunk their 8-inch MyFord Touch system down to 6.5 inches and dropped the system in a new binnacle on the dash for SE and Titanium Fiestas. Because Ford reduced the system’s dimensions, not the resolution, the system’s graphics have a crisper and high-quality look to them when compared to the 8-inch system in the Focus. There are a few ergonomic downsides however. The screen’s high position on the dash means it’s quite far from the driver requiring a decent reach for most functions and it makes the screen look smaller than it actually is. Also, because the “buttons” have shrunk, it’s easier to stab the wrong one. Thankfully most system operations can be controlled via voice commands negating the need to touch the screen for the most part. Ford’s latest software update (3.6.2 in August 2013) seems to have finally fixed the crashing and random re-boots that plagued earlier versions of the software.

Some buyers won’t care about the 6.5-inch woes as the snazzy system is standard on the Titanium, a $995 option on the SE and not available on the base model. Those shoppers will be happy to know that the Fiesta delivers one of the better audio system values. S and SE models come with six standard speakers, two more than you usually find in a stripper sub-compact, while Titanium models swap in an 8-speaker Sony branded audio system. The base speaker package is notably more crisp and accurate than the four-speaker fare in the competition while the Sony audio system sounded almost too bright at times. Both the S and SE models share the same AM/FM/CD/USB/iDevice head unit with SYNC voice commands and smartphone streaming integration.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Engine-002

Drivetrain

The big news under the hood for 2014 is the arrival of a 3-cylinder turbo option. Sadly one was not available for testing, so keep your eyes peeled for that review later in 2014. All trims get a standard 1.6L four-cylinder engine producing the same 120 HP and 112 lb-ft as last year, meaning that three-banger is optional, yes optional, for 2014. Aside from the novelty of paying $995 to have one cylinder removed, the 1.0L Ecoboost engine promises 32 MPG in the city, 45 on the highway and 37 combined which is a 7 MPG bump on the highway and 5 in the combined cycle. If the fuel economy wasn’t enough to pique your interest, the 1.0L engine cranks out 123 HP and 125 lb-ft across a flat torque curve, with a 15 second overboost good for 145 lb-ft. Ford mates the boosted engine exclusively to a 5-speed manual while the 1.6 can be mated to an optional 6-speed dual-clutch box.

Ford’s 6-speed PowerShift gearbox has received plenty of criticism from owners and Consumer Report. After talking with a number of Fiesta owners I have come to the conclusion the problem is mainly a lack of understanding. You see, PowerShift is Ford-speak for DSG. While Volkswagen’s robotic dual-clutch manual is smoother under certain circumstances (thanks to their use of wet clutches) VW seems to do a better job marketing and explaining their fuel-sipping tranny. Inside the Fiesta’s gearbox lies essentially two robotically shifted manual transmissions, one handling the even gears and the other taking the odd ones. The lack of a torque converter increases efficiency, and the twin-clutch system allows shifts to happen faster than in an automatic. By their very nature, dual-clutch transmissions feel more like a hybrid between a manual and an automatic. When you start from a stop, you can feel the clutch slip and engage. If you’re on a hill, the car will roll backwards when the hill-hold system times out. Occasionally you can hear a bit more gear noise and shifting noise than in a traditional slushbox and reverse has that distinctive sound. Because the Ford system uses dry clutches, starts are more pronounced than in VW’s DSG units with wet clutches (not all DSGs are wet clutch anymore).  2014 brings a major software update that noticeably improves shift quality but there is still a difference in feel. My opinion is: I’ll take PowerShift over a standard automatic any day as I prefer fuel economy and rapid shifts to “smoothness.” What say you?

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-002

Drive

Little was done to the Euro suspension for American duty, making the Fiesta the firmest ride in the segment, tying with the Mazda 2. The Honda Fit is a close second, but the Japanese compact is starting to show its age, feeling less refined and composed over rough pavement. The Versa Note feels composed but delivers more body roll, while the Rio’s suspension feels softer than I prefer while at the same time transmitting more road imperfections to the driver’s spine. Regardless of trim, the Fiesta handles incredibly well. This is due as much to the suspension as the light curb weight. Ranging from 2537lbs to 2628lbs, the Fiesta is a featherweight in America and it shows when you toss the Ford into corners, being far more willing to change direction than a Focus.

When it comes to straight line performance, the 6-speed PowerShift scooted our tester to 60 MPH in 9.08 seconds, a full second faster than the last manual-equipped Fiesta hatchback we tested. The reason for the variation is down to the gear ratios in the 5-speed manual. Ford combined low first and second gears with a tall fifth gear (taller than the Euro Fiesta) for better hill starts and improved EPA numbers but the decisions take a toll on performance and driveability. By dropping first and second, the delta between second and third grows to an odd gap that hampers acceleration after 50 MPH while the tall top gear means frequent downshifts on moderate inclines. Although I normally prefer a manual to any automatic, the Fiesta is one of my exceptions. The PowerShift box seemed to always have the right gear for the situation and made hill climbing a much less frustrating experience.

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-008

The Fiesta has always been small, but the Fiestas and Festivas of my youth were mainly known for being cheap. The new Fiesta however is all about value. Ford’s new pricing strategy is a mix of an aggressive $14,100 starting price for the sedan, a $500 premium for the hatchback and an options list that pushes most Fiestas on the lot to between $17,000 and $18,000. Fully loaded, (excluding the ST) the most expensive Fiesta you can get is $21,705. My realistic starting point for the Fiesta is the SE at $15,580 which includes all the essentials the S lacks.

When you compare that to the competition, the Fiesta starts only $110 more than a Versa Note and at the top end is just $855 more than a Rio. Nissan’s Note stacks up best at the bottom of the food chain, delivering more room, better fuel economy and a similar level of equipment for less. Putting things nicely, the Mazda 2 is outclassed by the Fiesta in every way at every level, while the Kia matches the Ford closely in terms of price for content. Although the Rio is the more spacious alternative and it offers a more powerful engine and 6-speed manual, the Fiesta is more attractive and more fun to drive. Chevy’s Sonic suffers from a bargain basement interior and a price tag that doesn’t offer much of a discount vs the Ford, even when you take into account some of the features Chevy offers that aren’t available on the Fiesta.

What the Fiesta does best of all however is wear that $21,705 price tag. No matter how you slice it, the Rio, Sonic and Fit feel like an economy car at the top end of their price range. The Fiesta Titanium however feels like a decent deal for the cash. Those shopping lower in the food chain benefit from a cabin that feels like a cheap version of a more expensive cabin, unlike the Versa Note SL which feels like an expensive version of a cheap car. Plenty of you will baulk at a Fiesta that lists over 21-grand when a base Fusion is just 2000 bucks more, but those looking for mid-size sedan comforts and luxuries in a compact carrying case will do well to drive a Fiesta.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.4 Seconds

0-60:9.08 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.9 Seconds @ 81.6 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 31.5 MPG over 561 Miles

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 72.5 db

2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Engine 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Engine-001 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Engine-002 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-001 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-002 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-003 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-004 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-005 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-006 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-007 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-008 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-009 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Exterior-010 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-001 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-002 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-003 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-004 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-005 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-006 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-007 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-008 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-009 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-010 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-011 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-012 2014 Ford Fiesta Hatchback Interior-013

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Review: 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-cadillac-cts-2-0t-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-cadillac-cts-2-0t-with-video/#comments Fri, 27 Dec 2013 14:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=686066 It’s been decades since Cadillac produced the “Cadillac” of anything. However, when car buffs dismiss the only American luxury brand left, they fail to see Cadillac’s march forward. 2002 brought the first RWD Cadillac since the Fleetwoood. A year later the XLR roadster hit, followed in 2004 by Cadillac’s first 5-Series fighter, the STS. Not […]

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2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-001

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

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

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

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

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

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Interior-006

Interior

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

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

2013 Cadillac ATS Instrument Cluster

2013 Cadillac ATS Instrument Cluster

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

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

2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-001

Infotainment

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

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

2014 Cadillac CUE - CTS 2.0T-006

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

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

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

Drivetrain

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

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

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-014

Drive

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

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

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-013

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

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

2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Exterior-007

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

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

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.3 Seconds

0-60: 5.9 Seconds

1/mile: 14.36 Seconds @ 97.5 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 24.8 MPG over 852 Miles

Sound level at 50 MPH: 67 dB

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Capsule Review: Lexus LS460 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/capsule-review-lexus-ls460/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/capsule-review-lexus-ls460/#comments Tue, 22 Oct 2013 13:00:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=631442 This is the Lexus LS460, the luxury boomer that built the brand. It was the Lexus LS that launched the Automotive Battle of Hastings back in 1990, attacking the European establishment with devastating competence. The 2013 Lexus LS460 is still that great, and yes, the ride is still more Chris Craft than hardtail. Lexus has […]

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2013-Lexus-LS-460-2
This is the Lexus LS460, the luxury boomer that built the brand. It was the Lexus LS that launched the Automotive Battle of Hastings back in 1990, attacking the European establishment with devastating competence. The 2013 Lexus LS460 is still that great, and yes, the ride is still more Chris Craft than hardtail.

Lexus has seemed distracted. The HS250h and CT200 are not surprise success stories, but predictable failures. At leas the best-selling ES350s and RX crossovers aren’t tone-deaf attempts like the other two. You might even be worried about Lexus. The LS 460 will restore your faith that Lexus is not becoming Toyota’s Mercury.

Here’s the hard-boiled car review stuff on the LS460. The 386 hp V8 is 4.6 liters of unrealized potential. Wind it up and you get the power, plus an overly-muted V8 roar, but the rest of the car doesn’t want to play along. Even selecting SPORT mode with the Drive Mode Select knob doesn’t seem to do a whole lot, though Lexus says it “alters the powertrain for faster gear changes and more dynamic throttle mapping.” In this case, “alters” is more aptly defined as what happens to Fluffy the Domestic Short Hair during a visit to the vet.

Drive Mode Select also includes an ECO mode, which turns out to be handy in stop and go traffic thanks to its heavy filtering of driver inputs. Manually shifting the automatic is only somewhat encouraged by the manual gate. Let’s face it, an LS 460 bouncing off its rev limiter might seem untoward, so instead it upshifts for you. Why bother with the half-hearted measures?

For a car that’s credited with creating such a splash, the LS 460 certainly blends in. It won’t command the attention of the Nimitz-class Mercedes or BMWs, the LS is more like a Littoral Combat Ship that navigates under the radar. The exterior styling is attractively innocuous and the interior is both comfortable and blandly luxurious. Lexus would probably dispute that, but just look at how much Camry there is in the LS. Or is it LS in the Camry? Does it matter, either way?

Well, that’s about the long and short of it on the car end. The Lexus LS 460 is as the LS has always been, now with some added technology to serve as press release talking points. The bigger thing going on with Lexus is that it’s become a part of the establishment it was conceived to slap around.

In 1990, the Mercedes-Benz S Class was the top dog, a resolute car that was also never short on innovation. The LS 460 is every bit the obsessively-fettled accessible high-ender it’s always been. This car is a known quantity, and the impressions of the original LS 400 are pretty much the same thing you can say about the LS 460.

When did the Lexus LS go from gob-smacking revolution to same-as-it-ever-was? Maybe around the time Autoblog said something like “Lexus-quiet,” but probably before that.

The LS 460 is passionless and competent. It’s got all the acronyms, there’s more tech than you’ll want to bother with, let alone learn to master. The haptic controller is both loved and loathed, but the heart of the matter is that the Lexus way of navigating around its app suite and infotainment system can be a more positive experience than stabbing at a screen with your finger. Those that hate it probably want to hate it.

There’s a lot of words in press releases, but the LS 460 doesn’t create a lot of conversation about itself. It’s quiet, comfortable, it ticks all the boxes, but it’s still not likely to get your ticker going.

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First Drive Review: 2014 Mazda3 (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/first-drive-review-2014-mazda3-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/first-drive-review-2014-mazda3-with-video/#comments Sat, 19 Oct 2013 16:17:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=582817 The mainstream compact car segment is the perfect example of the infamous “driving appliance.” The Corolla and Civic sell in enormous volume because they are the middle-of-the-road “white bread” option, not in-spite of the vanilla. Unlike many in the automotive press, I don’t find anything wrong with that. In fact, I love me some Wonder […]

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2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The mainstream compact car segment is the perfect example of the infamous “driving appliance.” The Corolla and Civic sell in enormous volume because they are the middle-of-the-road “white bread” option, not in-spite of the vanilla. Unlike many in the automotive press, I don’t find anything wrong with that. In fact, I love me some Wonder Bread. But sometimes you feel like a pumpernickel, and that’s where the 2014 Mazda3 comes in. Mazda was so excited about their new loaf that they invited me to spend the day with them in San Diego. Want to know if you should spend 5+ years with one? Click through the jump.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior
Accounting for 30% of Mazda’s worldwide volume, calling the Mazda3 their most important product would be putting things lightly. As a result 2014 brings a complete overhaul to every aspect of the 3 and the compact sedan now rides on a platform derived from the larger 6. The “Kodo” design language of the larger sedan has also been brought down to its smaller stablemate to astonishing effect. While the old Mazda3 was all smiles and bubbles, the new 3 is all grown up and aggressive with Mazda’s incredibly attractive grille. Before the 3’s release I was quite torn about who was the fairest of them all but now there is no contest.

2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior headlamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The 2014 dimensions play a huge role in the way the 3 looks on the road. Mazda moved the A-pillar 3.5 inches to the rear making the hood longer, lengthened the wheelbase by 2.5 inches, dropped the height by 6/10ths and made the whole car 1.6 inches wider. So far so good, but somehow Mazda managed to slash the front overhang and increase the wheel-to-front-door distance to an almost RWD like proportion. That would probably have been enough in a segment dominated by slab sides, but Mazda puts two distinctive character lines to separate the 3 from the pack. Out back we have tail lamps that mimic the front styling and your choice of a hatch or a trunk. Opting for the hatch gives the Mazda3 a side profile reminiscent of BMW’s X1, not a bad thing to be reminded of.

Interior
The problem with pumpernickel is that people’s tastes are different. The same thing can be said of the new interior. Rather than scaling down the Mazda6’s dashboard, the engineers went for something slimmer without a “double bump” for the infotainment screen. Taking a page out of BMW’s playbook, Mazda sets the 7-inch touchscreen inside a thin housing perched on the dashboard. Think of an iPad mounted to the dash. The look turned off some but I find the style appealing because it maintains a high screen position while reducing dashboard bulk. Mazda’s new “fighter jet inspired” heads up display is similarly perched on the dash, however, instead of being fixed, it folds itself flat when you turn the feature off. The display is as functional as any other heads-up display I’ve seen but the pop-up trick stuck me as being more gimmick than feature. Mazda tells us the reason for not projecting on the windshield which makes sense if you check out how much HUD compatible windshields go for.

2014 Mazda3 5D interior, Picture Courtesy of Mazda

Mazda says they benchmarked the BMW 3-Series interior which, given that BMW’s 3 went downmarket in some ways makes the comparison valid in  a way that it would have been laughable in 2006. Except for a segment average headliner, the plastics and materials choices in the cabin are all top of the class. (A logical finding since it is the newest as well.) Seat comfort proved excellent with well positioned controls and more side bolstering than you would find in the competition’s non-performance models. Rear seat room was a problem for the last generation Mazda3 and, despite the stretch, this continues to be an area where it lags the competition. For the biggest back seats and the largest trunk, look to the Corolla. Toyota’s 2014 offering has more leg room than the mid-sized Mazda6.

Despite a long list of optional features and gadgets, real leather seating surfaces happen only in the sGrand Touring model with mid-range models sporting faux-cow and lower end 3s wearing fabric.  Some comment has been made in the press about the 3’s 1990s era headliner, but it failed to offend me and here’s why: This segment is all about value and value is about cutting corners. Want snazzy dash plastics and metal trim bits-and-bobs? That headliner is the toll you have to pay and it’s one I’m OK with.

MY2014 Mazda 3
Infotainment and gadgets
If you recall my review of the Mazda 6 a few months ago, you’ll know I reserved my harshest criticism for the infotainment and navigation system. Forget everything I said because Mazda has taken customer feedback to heart. The Mazda3 is the first vehicle to receive MazdaConnect. The system combines a bright 7-inch touchscreen with an iDrive/MMI-like controller knob and button array in the center console. Similar to Infiniti’s systems, you can navigate with either the controller, or the touchscreen, or both depending on what is easier at the moment.

The system is as intuitive and snappy as the Mazda6’s is slow and painful. High resolution graphics, a completely redesigned interface and vastly improved voice commands join to create a system that rivals uConnect, iDrive and MyFord Touch for best in the industry. In that comparison the only things MazdaConnect lacks is smartphone app integration and some form of crash-notifying telematics system. If you want to dive into the details, check out the video.

MY2014 Mazda 3

The minimum point of entry for Mazda Connect is $23,340 because you cab only get it in the iTouring model with a $1,600 option package. Ouch. All models that directly compete with the white-loaf get something that looks like a clock radio molded into the dashboard (see the picture above). The logic was to keep the controls high and in the line of sight for the driver to reduce distraction and it does work as intended even though it looks a little odd. If you’re a high roller Mazda offers a high level of tech for this segment with everything from blind spot monitoring and backup cams available to surround sound, radar cruise control, collision prevention systems that will stop the car below 19 MPH (just like Volvo’s City Safety system), parking sensors and automatic high beams.

2014 also brings Mazda’s new “it’s-so-mild-that’s-not-called-a-mild-hybrid” system to the 3. i-Eloop’s is a mild energy recovery system that uses a large capacitor, variable voltage alternator and a DC-DC converter to recover energy when decelerating. The goal of the system is to limit the parasitic loss of the alternator by charging the capacity when you’re braking so that the car can disengage the alternator and use that power while accelerating or cruising. The system can’t help drive the car, which is why Mazda doesn’t call it a hybrid system, but the claim is that it can give you around one extra MPG in certain city driving cycles. Why so little? Because the alternator consumes less engine power than your air conditioning. The system is only available as part of a technology package and only on the top-end sGrand Touring model.

2014 Mazda3 Drivetrain

Drivetrain
Late in life, the old Mazda3 received a partial SkyActiv drivetrain. The reason it didn’t get fully implemented is obvious when you look at the Medusa below. That bundle of snakes is the Mazda “4-2-1″ exhaust manifold which is designed to prevent the start of cylinder 3’s exhaust stroke from interfering with the end of cylinder 1’s exhaust stroke. The convoluted pipes are there so that the catalytic converter, which is no longer “closely coupled” as is all the rage, heats quickly and less heat is lost on the way to the cat. This enormous contraption simply wouldn’t fit in the old 3 because of the shape of the engine bay and the firewall. To make the 4-2-1 manifold fit in the 2014 Mazda3, it was necessary to form an enormous bulge into the car’s firewall and chassis design, something only possible in a complete redesign process.

2014 Mazda3 exhaust manifold

With the final piece of the SkyActiv puzzle in place, Mazda cranked up the compression ratio on their new 2.0 and 2.5L engines to 13:1. Why not the 14:1 that Mazda advertises in Europe? Because in the USA all engines must operate “safely” on regular 87 octane gasoline by law. The boffins tell us that this results in a 5% loss of efficiency vs the higher compression EU engines that will grenade themselves on lower octane fuel.

The base engine for 2014 is a 2.0L 155 horse four-cylinder that’s good for 150 lb-ft of twist and 30/41/34 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) with the 6-speed automatic. If you have the cash you can upgrade to the 2.5L engine (shared with the CX-5 and Mazda6) which bumps these numbers up to 184 horses and 185 lb-ft while dropping fuel economy to 28/39/32.

The 2.0L engine comes standard with a slick shifting 6-speed transmission that is one of the best manuals in the ever shrinking compact segment. Engagement is precise, throws are moderate and the clutch engagement is linear and well-balanced in relation to the motion of the other two pedals. Sadly this transmission can’t be had with the more powerful 2.5L engine. Don’t shoot the messenger. Most Mazda3s rolling off the lot will use Mazda’s 6-speed automatic transaxle which chases efficiency and a direct feel by engaging the torque converter lockup clutch in every gear, as soon as possible, and as long as possible. While Mazda tells us this is unique to the compact segment, ZF’s 8-speed RWD transmission plays the same trick in the name of efficiency. Manual lovers and speed freaks should know that Mazda is cagey about a MazdaSpeed3 only saying that there would not be one “at launch.” Read between the lines if you like.

2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-004

Drive

Being the mechanical geek that I am, one more thing caught my interest: the caster angle. That’s the angle that the steering mechanism acts upon the front wheel. Think of this like a clock with vertical being right at 12:00. Most cars out there have a slight caster angle of maybe 12:03 while the 2014 Mazda3 winds it up to 12:06. Why does it matter? Because we have electric power steering (EPAS). EPAS is the modern equalizer and has made all steering dull and lifeless. By dialing up the caster, you dial up the forces that come back up the steering column from the tires. This means that by the time EPAS dulls everything down there’s the hint of something left. I’d like to say it turns the Mazda3 into a Mazda Miata but I’d be lying. Instead what you get is a hint of feedback in corners and a tiny touch of road feel at other times. Because we’ve been living in a feedback-desert, the taste has overly excited some. No it isn’t your 2007 Mazdaspeed3, but it is livelier than the Focus or Civic.

Zoom-Zoom is more about handling than 0-60 times, made obvious by our 7.6 second run to 60 in a hatchback with the 2.5L engine. If you want more speed in the “non-hot hatch segment”, wait for Kia’s turbo Forte  I didn’t get a chance to test the 2.0L model during the event but my “butt-dyno” tells me it should be about 2 seconds slower and right in line with the competition. It’s when the road starts to curve that the difference is obvious. This 3 can dance. The Mazda is quite simply the best handling and best feeling compact car in stock form. Yes, the Civic Si is a hair more fun but it’s not a main stream car, doesn’t have an automatic and still doesn’t feel as connected as the Mazda. With road manners like these, I’m looking forward to a Mazdaspeed3 vs Focus ST shootout, I suspect the 3 might dethrone Ford’s hot hatch.

2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-009

What about daily driving? It’s all well and good to be the best handling compact, but in order to be a sales success you have to be able to sway some white bread buyers. Sound levels at 50MPH rang in a 73db, below the Corolla but above the Civic. No worries there. The sedan’s ride is on the stiffer side of the segment but quite similar to the Focus, that might be a problem for the average Corolla shopper. The big selling point for most cross-shoppers will be the fuel economy. The sedan with the 2.0L engine and automatic is the volume model and snags 30/41/34 MPG (City/Highway/Combined). That’s one MPG better than Sentra, two better than Civic or Corolla and three better than Focus.  While that doesn’t translate into much cash saved on an annual basis, it is one of the largest purchase factors shoppers site in this segment. I should mention however that the last time we had the Sentra it scored better than it’s EPA rating while the Mazda3 was fairly close to the EPA score. My big take away from this is that Mazda managed to beat the CVT equipped competition’s fuel economy with a more traditional feeling automatic. White bread buyers won’t care about the feel, but the numbers might cause them to take a second look.

With pricing that ranges from $16,945 (sedan) to a hair under $30,000 (loaded hatch) if you check all the option boxes on a Mazda3 hatch, it’s obvious the Mazda spans the price spectrum from white bread in a bag to a paper-wrapped organic artisan cheesy sourdough. Like the Ford Focus, this large price span means the $19,495 iSport and $20,645 iTouring compete with the bulk of Corolla/Civic shoppers while the upper level trims compete with the Ford Focus, Acura ILX, Lexus CT200h, Buick Verano, and the few that shopped Volvo’s defunct C30.

Compared to the Civic and Corolla, the Mazda3 delivers superior dynamics and more premium dash materials in exchange for less tech and no touchscreen infotainment. This is a dangerous trade in a segment known for placing features before fun. On the flip side, the Mazda3 has everything it needs to compete with the Focus, ILX, Verano and CT200h. Mazda’s chassis tuning makes the Mazda the most fun to drive (even considering the ILX 2.4’s Civic Si roots), the infotainment system is entry-level luxury worthy and 2014 brings all full-speed range radar cruise control and ever gadget the Buick and Lexus shopper could want. So is the Mazda3 the perfect pumpernickel for Wonder Bread prices? As good as. Civirolla shoppers who can be convinced to cross-shop will be pleased with Mazda’s sexy exterior, comfortable seats and road manners, but those after large seats and large trunks will return to the white bread alternative. I suspect the near luxury shoppers are the ones that will miss out the most however thinking that nothing this tasty could come in a package with a Mazda logo on it. Their loss.

Mazda flew me to San Diego, put me up in a hotel and fed me stuffed mushrooms.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 4 Seconds

0-60: 7.6 Seconds

Interior sound level at 50 MPH: 73 db

 

2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-007 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior headlamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-009 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-010 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-001 MY2014 Mazda 3 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-002 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-003 2014 Mazda3 5D interior, Picture Courtesy of Mazda MY2014 Mazda 3 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-004 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes MY2014 Mazda 3 2014 Mazda3 Sedan Exterior-006

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First Drive Review: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/first-drive-review-2014-honda-accord-hybrid-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/first-drive-review-2014-honda-accord-hybrid-with-video/#comments Wed, 09 Oct 2013 10:00:55 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=612689 As of October, the most fuel-efficient mid-sized sedan in America is the Honda Accord. Or so Honda says. After all, Ford has been trumpeting a matching 47 MPG combined from their Fusion. Who is right? And more importantly, can the Accord get Honda back into the hybrid game after having lost the initial hybrid battles […]

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2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-007

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

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

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

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

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

Interior

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

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

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

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

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

2014_Accord_Hybrid_Touring_043, Picture Courtesy of Honda

Infotainment, Gadgets and Pricing

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

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

2014_Accord_Hybrid_EX-L_ Picture Courtesy of Honda

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

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

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

Drivetrain

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

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

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

Front Wheel Drive Biased

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

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

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

Drive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.2 Seconds

0-60: 7.9 Seconds

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 69 db

Average Observed Fuel Economy: 45.9 MPG over 129 miles.

 

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Engine 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-001 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-003 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-005 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-006 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Exterior-007 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-002 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Interior-003 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid Trunk

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