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. Thu, 27 Aug 2015 21:21:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 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 Could the Ford Taurus be Imported From China? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/ford-taurus-imported-china/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/ford-taurus-imported-china/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 17:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1144049 The Ford Taurus, once the flagship in Ford’s range, apparently has fallen on hard times. Sales are down 28 percent through July, it hasn’t done much to outrun its perception as a perennial fleet queen and police fleet buyers are picking the Explorer-based Interceptor over the sedan. Automotive News details the fall and rise and fall again […]

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New Ford Taurus

The Ford Taurus, once the flagship in Ford’s range, apparently has fallen on hard times.

Sales are down 28 percent through July, it hasn’t done much to outrun its perception as a perennial fleet queen and police fleet buyers are picking the Explorer-based Interceptor over the sedan. Automotive News details the fall and rise and fall again of the Ford Taurus (thanks mostly to former Ford CEO Alan Mulally) and throws in a little tidbit in the middle:

If sales keep falling, analysts speculate Ford could eliminate U.S. production of it and … import the small volume it needs here from China …

Oh boy. 

It’s clear that Ford will have to make a decision about the Taurus soon. The current Taurus was last redesigned in 2009 and slightly updated in 2012. In April, Ford announced it would redesign the Taurus, but only in China.

Sales of the full-size Taurus peaked only a couple years ago, but the Taurus is on pace to sell 45,000 cars this year — including police cars — it’s lowest total ever.

In fact, the move to a full-size sedan — something Mulally pressed for early on in his tenure — may be what is killing the Taurus. By comparison, the Ford Fusion outsells the Taurus nearly four to one and is about $5,000 less for roughly the same car.

All that may be contributing to the tough time the Taurus is having in the States, and there’s always the Lincoln Continental right around the corner too.

So could the Taurus be Ford’s first import from China?

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2015 Mercedes S550 4Matic Review – The Luxury “Tweener” http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-mercedes-s550-4matic-review-luxury-tweener/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-mercedes-s550-4matic-review-luxury-tweener/#comments Mon, 10 Aug 2015 14:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1130945 Luxury shoppers have an interesting “problem.” If you want something spendier and more unique than a Lexus LS, but aren’t ready for a baby-Bentley or Roller, you have but one option: the Mercedes S-Class. Trouble is the last generation S-Class lagged behind more plebian options in both gadgets and luxury. That was a serious problem since the price […]

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Luxury shoppers have an interesting “problem.” If you want something spendier and more unique than a Lexus LS, but aren’t ready for a baby-Bentley or Roller, you have but one option: the Mercedes S-Class. Trouble is the last generation S-Class lagged behind more plebian options in both gadgets and luxury. That was a serious problem since the price tag on the S spans from just under $100,000 to nearly a quarter of a million. Like the new C-Class, the redesigned S-Class is restoring my faith in the premiere German luxury brand.


Exterior
The S-Class has been the pinnacle of the Mercedes line since 1972. There have been long ones, short ones, coupés, sedans and limos. Regardless of the shape, the S-Class has long been the standard by which full-size luxury cars are judged. That was a little bit of a problem for the previous generation Merc which had a somewhat dowdy exterior with a plain profile, small grille and headlamps that looked like Shrinky Dinks that had spent too long in the oven.

The new S-Class receives Mercedes’ latest exterior design cues from the CLS and CLA with a bolder grille and angry headlamps blended with the quaintness of a tri-star hood ornament. As you’d expect from a car destined to chauffeur diplomats, royalty and heads of state, the side profile is upright and traditional, and the greenhouse bends slightly rearward to allow your royal personage a better view of your subjects.

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At rear, Mercedes blended the corporate style-book with classic S-Class cues we’ve seen since 1991, such as tail lamps that won’t wrap onto the trunk lid. This particular style choice has a notable downside: the trunk opening is smaller than many of the other luxury sedans.

Although the new S-Class may look like a re-skinned W220 S-Class, the W222 is an entirely new animal. The biggest change is a new body that is nearly half aluminum. Rather than going all-in on Alcoa like Jaguar and Audi, Mercedes took the more cautious approach by strategically using aluminum to adjust the car’s weight balance as well as shed a few pounds. The result is an S550 that tips the scales at 4,600 pounds and has a weight balance closer to 50/50 than ever before (a hair better than 52/48 we’re told.)

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Interior
Mercedes is a conservative company when it comes to interior style, so this generation doesn’t bring any massive design departures. Although restrained, everything is undeniably premium and this interior escapes the “upscale Buick” vibe the last generation gave off. Our tester has a nearly $6,000 optional leather package which undoubtedly helps. The option consists of premium two-tone hides and contrasting piping throughout the cabin, from the dashboard to the door panels. Even the portions of the door panels that are hidden when the doors close are perfectly stitched cow-hide. Laser cut metal speaker grilles are scattered throughout the cabin, a look that is also featured in the new C-class at more affordable prices.

European shoppers will likely be confused by this statement: Legroom is excellent but not epic in the S550. While the S-Class is ginormous by European standards, it is only 3.6-inches longer than a Ford Taurus and less than one inch longer than a Lincoln MKS. As a result, the 41.4 inches of front leg room is actually slightly lower than some large American sedans. Rear legroom is generous, but not much more than the large sedans by GM, Ford and Chrysler. The back seat is unquestionably comfortable, especially in our tester which came with the reclining rear seat option. However, folks taller than 6-foot-2 won’t be able to stretch completely out on the foot rest. (Your writer’s modest 6-foot frame fit like a glove.) Disappointed? Consider that the XJ, A8 and 7-Series are all available in two lengths and their long-wheelbase models are equivalent to the base S-Class in rear accommodation. Need more room? For a cool $189,350 you can get the S600 Maybach which stretches the S-Class by 8 inches, improving both leg and headroom in the process. Sadly, however, the champagne refrigerator and comfy rear thrones also eat into the trunk space, dropping the S500’s trunk down to a slim 12.3. Tell Jeeves to pack light.

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Mercedes-Maybach
Maybach was to be the German answer to the soaring popularity of Rolls Royce and Bentley. Unfortunately, Mercedes tried competing head-on with a previous generation S-Class stretched to an insane 244 inches that wore a price tag stretched even further to nearly $400,000. It’s no wonder the Maybach 57 and 62 failed to light the sales charts on fire. As of 2013, Maybach as a brand ceased to exist and a new strategy was born. Since the old Maybach was instantly recognizable as a stretched S-Class, they applied the Maybach label to the longest S available and thus the Mercedes-Maybach S600 was born. With a stretch of a more modest 8 inches (versus the three feet that was added to make the Maybach 62) and a similarly more modest price tag, think of the Mercedes-Maybach as a limo version of the S-Class. Oddly enough, the Maybach is not the most expensive S — that’s where the S65 AMG comes in starting at a cool $220,000.

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Infotainment & Gadgets
No luxury car would be complete without a bevy of gadgets and gizmos to entertain and protect (and brag about).

The first thing you notice when you get inside are the twin 12.3-inch LCDs spanning from the center of the car to the driver’s door. The right LCD runs the latest Mercedes COMAND infotainment software while the left handles the gauges and night vision display.

Although the software interface looks familiar, it has been significantly updated for the W222 with a faster processor and more features. The speed difference and smoothness of the graphic transitions is easily noticeable when you compare the S-Class to the E-Class sitting next to it on the dealer lot. Mercedes has improved the voice recognition system in this generation and voice commanding specific tracks on your USB/iDevice is easier and more reliable. Sadly, the online functionality is not as “fully baked” as iDrive or MMI at this point. There is Google Earth driven satellite imagery, but it’s not integrated into the default navigation screen. Likewise, the streaming radio and Yelp location finder apps could be better integrated. Also on the gripe list: there is no dedicated track forward/backward button which makes changing tracks more complicated than other vehicles.

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I am often disappointed by LCD instrument clusters. They offer so much theoretical potential, yet no manufacturer has fully exploited this yet. So far, Cadillac is the only brand whose LCD cluster allows limited customization from a selection of different gauge layouts, colors and themes. The Mercedes display, like essentially everyone else, shows you two views. One with and one without the night vision camera display.

On the gadget front, Mercedes has packed in everything but the kitchen sink. We have an optional split-view screen (right side LCD only) so the passenger can watch a movie while in motion, and a rear seat entertainment system for the rear passengers that can display an airline-esque slideshow of your location, the elevation profile of your journey and the weather at your destination. The front seats massage, the rear seats recline, the shades are all powered and even the rear folks get 3-position seat memory. Sound systems start at impressive and head to “do you really need that?” with a 24-speaker system pumping out 1,940 watts (because 2,000 was too opulent).

More radar sensors than Frankfurt Airport, a bevy of ultrasonic sensors, all around cameras, a separate stereo camera system for forward 3D imaging, and an infrared night vision camera all combine to give the S-Class a bionic view of the road. The radar sensors allow adaptive cruise control functionality, tell you about cross traffic and prepare safety systems for impact when the car behind you decides not to stop. The S-Class will parallel park itself, detect pedestrians and brake to keep from hitting them, and highlight deer and select other animals in the night vision system. Magic Body Control will scan the road ahead and program the suspension to handle a road imperfection before you encounter it. Sadly the snazzy multi-beam LED headlamps don’t make it to the USA because of some silly headlamp regulations on our shores, but the system that automatically injects air freshener into the HVAC system is America bound.

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Drivetrain
Instead of making the hybrid a range-topping model like you see with the Lexus LS 600hL, Mercedes continues to view the S550 plug-in hybrid as more of a volume option. For the same price, shoppers can choose a 449-horsepower, 4.7-liter twin-turbo V8, or a 436-horsepower hybrid system built around a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6. (The turbo six makes 329 horsepower on its own.) The 449 ponies and 516 lb-ft of torque in the V8 model combined with Mercedes’ latest 7-speed automatic transmission and optional 4MATIC AWD allowed out tester to scoot to 60 in an impressive 4.6 seconds.

If you need to get to The Hamptons faster, the S600’s twin-turbo V12 spools up 523 horsepower and 612 lb-ft, but sadly can’t be had with AWD. The S63 AMG gets a 5.5-liter, twin-turbo V8 making 577 horsepower and 664 lb-ft and, thanks to standard AWD, will get the German tank to highway speed in under 4 seconds. The range topping S65 AMG makes the most oomph at 621 horsepower and 738 lb-ft of torque (88 more twists than a Dodge Hellcat) but because AWD is not offered, it’ll take slightly longer to run to 60 than the S63. Even if you can’t afford the top-end trims, all S class owners can bask in the opulence of a transmission that has two speeds in reverse. Why? Just because.

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Drive
I was a bit skeptical about the Magic Body Control system and, as it turns out, I was right to be. The system uses a stereo camera system to scan the road ahead, but aside from damping speed bumps to the point where it feels like running over a garden hose, I didn’t notice much difference in a dealer provided car. The system seemed to have little or no effect out on the rough highways or potholed streets in the Bay Area. Some of this has to do with the way the system detects the road (it is camera based), but most has to do with the standard air suspension already being very compliant.

Although the S550 has lost weight, it is still one of the heavier options in this segment. The contrast with the Jaguar XJ is sharp. At 3,854 lbs, the English entry is the lightest, beating even the aluminum A8 by 511 pounds. Jaguar ditched their four-corner air suspension in the latest XJ model (the rear has load leveling still) which, combined with the light curb weight, makes it by far the most athletic entry in this segment. However, the XJ isn’t just light for this segment, it’s also 147 pounds lighter than an E350. The S550 on the other hand offers a more traditional large luxury attitude. The air suspension creates a ride that’s like a pillow floating on a cloud.

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Funny thing about clouds: If you pay attention, you realise they’re moving pretty darn fast. Seemingly in defiance of physics, the S550 scoots to 60 mph as fast as a BMW M235i and, thanks to some serious rubber at all four corners, matches a run-of-the-mill 335i in the skidpad. Keep the pedal down too long and you’ll hit the 1/4 mile in 12.8 seconds while doing 110 mph. In silence. In a 17-foot long sedan. The cabin of the S550 is eerily quiet at all times.

The steering is isolated but surprisingly accurate, the body tips, dives and rolls with the best of the luxury set but never feels upset or uncomposed. Thanks to the all-wheel drive system and a near 50/50 weight balance, the S550 is extremely neutral and confident on practically every road surface. A statement like that wouldn’t be surprising when talking about a compact luxury coupé, but we’re talking about a nearly two and a half ton sedan.

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Pricing – Why is it a “tweener”?
I’ve touched on this already, but the most unique thing about the S-Class is the fact that it sits almost in a segment of its own. The 2015 S550 starts at $94,400, which is about $20,000 higher than a base 2015 BMW 7-Series, Lexus LS 460, Jaguar XJ or Audi A8. (For 2016, the 7-Series and A8 rise to just over $80,000 and we should expect a slight increase from Mercedes keeping the distance around 15-large.) A lightly configured S550 can easily sticker for $115,000 and our tester (which lacked a number of options) came in at a cool $137,500. Keeping in mind this is simply where the S550 starts. The sticker on our S-Class with the base engine was already higher than possible for most of the competition.

The next step up is the $141,450 S63, which is about as expensive as an A8 gets. Want a 12-cylinder engine? That’s at least $166,900, about a loaded Honda Accord more than an A8 W12. The Maybach stretch is $189,350, and if you want one of the most powerful 12-cylinder engines made, that’ll be $220,000. The only other vehicle with this kind of price range is the Porsche Panamera. The Porsche has a slightly more premium interior but it’s mission is quite different. The Panamera is more direct, more engaging, but less comfortable, less roomy and I’m told by the old guard in Atherton that it’s too flashy as well. Looking for something spendier? The S65 AMG ends around where Bentley starts.

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The new S-Class has restored my faith in the Mercedes brand. Is it the best value in the luxury car segment? No. But that’s an asset in this category. (If you don’t like that statement, then you’re not the S-Class demographic.) If you want a “value luxury sedan” this size, check out the $60,000 Kia K900.

The S550 4Matic is exactly what I want out of a big luxury sedan. I want it to be big and bold but avoid brash by a hair. I want it to be impossibly quiet, perfectly smooth, insanely powerful, able to stop on a dime (okay, so that part is a little lacking), handle like a sports coupé and get silent nods from the folks at the country club. You can get some of those things in the competition, but this big Merc succeeds at all of them in a way no other sedan does.

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

0-30: 1.99 Seconds

0-60: 4.6 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 12.8 Seconds @ 110 MPH

Fuel Economy: 18.2 MPG over 782 Miles

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Audi’s New 605-hp S8 is Mostly Aluminum, All Awesome http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/audis-new-605-hp-s8-mostly-aluminum-awesome/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/audis-new-605-hp-s8-mostly-aluminum-awesome/#comments Wed, 05 Aug 2015 22:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1134641 Audi just unveiled its newest super sedan, the S8, and said that the new all-aluminum car would get an 85 horsepower bump and would sprint from 0-60 in under four seconds. The turbocharged 4-liter V-8, which can make 553 pound-feet of twist and is only about as deep as a case of beer, just became […]

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Audi just unveiled its newest super sedan, the S8, and said that the new all-aluminum car would get an 85 horsepower bump and would sprint from 0-60 in under four seconds.

The turbocharged 4-liter V-8, which can make 553 pound-feet of twist and is only about as deep as a case of beer, just became the eighth wonder of the known universe.

The engine is married to an eight-speed automatic that shifts power to all four wheels via Audi’s all-wheel drive system, dubbed Quattro. Air suspension and adaptive damping come standard, if that’s keeping you from buying one.

According to Audi engineers, the S8’s frame is only about 500 pounds, which is lighter than that found in the Mercedes-AMG’s S63/S65. The overall weight of the car hasn’t been announced, but Audi says the car will go on sale in November for 145,000€ ($157,665).

Among the vehicle’s highlights are and optional-for-us (standard for Germany) high-performance package that boosts the S8’s top speed to 190 mph.

The S8 will manage a combined fuel economy of 25 mpg, according to Audi, probably thanks to gearing that tiptoes a finer EPA line than any of us could imagine.

Although the S8 gives up 16 horsepower to the S65, it also does it with 33 percent fewer cylinders. It’s possible that some variant of the engine could appear in an upcoming R8. 

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2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Premium Review (with Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-subaru-legacy-2-5i-premium-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/2015-subaru-legacy-2-5i-premium-video/#comments Mon, 03 Aug 2015 12:00:43 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=767697 Subaru’s Legacy is unique in the midsize sedan segment, not just because it is the only entry with standard all-wheel drive, but also because it also comes with a standard continuously variable transmission and the $21,745 price tag is just $405 higher than the least expensive entry, the Passat. The value of that standard CVT and AWD system […]

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Subaru’s Legacy is unique in the midsize sedan segment, not just because it is the only entry with standard all-wheel drive, but also because it also comes with a standard continuously variable transmission and the $21,745 price tag is just $405 higher than the least expensive entry, the Passat. The value of that standard CVT and AWD system is around $2,600-$3,000 effectively making the Subaru a much better value than the base Volkswagen that is front-wheel drive with a manual. This value proposition is the key to understanding Subaru in general and the Legacy in particular.



By making AWD a core Subaru value, and therefore standard on almost every model, certain costs are unavoidable. How then (or why?) does Subaru give you $3,000 more drivetrain for almost the same base price? Excellent question. The reason is simple: the average shopper has troubles with the concept of value. To be competitive Subaru has to keep their pricing in line with the FWD competition. It’s easier to say “my car has AWD for the same price” than “I know it’s $3,000 more, but we give you AWD and they don’t.”

To keep the MSRP competitive on billboards and pop-up ads, Subaru makes up the difference elsewhere. Building any car in the mainstream segment involves what I jokingly refer to as “cutting corners.” Cash can be saved by strategically placed hard plastics, by skipping a little trim in the trunk, making features optional or streamlining common parts. The trick in this segment is knowing what “corners to cut” and those to leave alone. This is a game that Subaru has been quickly learning. Standard AWD and pricing aside, there’s more about the Legacy that marches to a different drummer.

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Drivetrain
For the uninitiated, almost every modern engine is either an in-line design where the cylinders are lined up in a row, or a “V” engine design where two banks of cylinders interact with a crankshaft at an angle that is either 60 or 90 degrees. Except Porsche and Subaru. Mainly as a nod to nostalgia and uniqueness, these two brands have a dedication to the horizontally opposed, boxer engine. In a boxer design, cylinders are 180 degrees apart in two banks. Four-cylinder boxers are approximately half as long as an inline-four, but considerably wider. Although the boxer design is better balanced than an I-4, the prime benefit to this design has more to do with  the short overall length. The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder boxer is good for 175 horsepower and 174 lb-ft of torque while the optional 3.6-liter 6-cylinder boxer bumps that to 256 horsepower and 247 lb-ft. The 2.5-liter engine is right in line with the competition but the 3.6-liter lags behind most of the V6 and turbo-four options from the competition. For 2015, both engines are mated to a CVT, although the 2.5 and 3.6 use slightly different transmission internals.

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Subaru’s AWD system has more in common with Audi’s traditional Quattro system than the optional AWD systems you find in the Ford Fusion and Chrysler 200. That’s because the Legacy is the only car in this segment with a longitudinally mounted engine, a mounting choice normally associated with rear-wheel drive vehicles. Like Quattro, Subaru integrates the AWD system and the front differential into the same case as the transmission meaning that the engine and torque converter are entirely in front of the front axle. So, although this layout resembles a RWD layout in a BMW, the weight balance hovers around 60/40 front-to-rear. Subaru likes to advertize the Legacy’s low center of gravity when it comes to handling, but in my opinion the front-heavy weight distribution has more of an impact on the handling than anything else. On the flip side, the overall dimensions of the drivetrain allow the front wheels more room to turn enabling a tighter turning circle than most midsized sedans.

Previous Legacy generations used different AWD systems depending on the transmission and engine choice but 2015 standardizes on Subaru’s latest multi-plate clutch design. Like other systems in the segment the system can lock the clutch pack to send power 50/50 front/rear with no slip and it can direct up to 90 percent of the power to the rear if slip occurs up front. What’s different is the “beefiness” of the clutch pack, this system is designed to send 40 percent of the power to the rear most of the time, while Chrysler’s 200 disconnects the rear axle as often as possible to save fuel and the Ford system defaults to a near 100/0 power split unless slip occurs.

Oil Consumption
Subaru’s new 2.5-liter engine has been the focus of conspiracy theories about oil consumption. Over my nearly 800 miles of driving, the oil level on the dipstick didn’t budge, but I don’t doubt consumption can be higher than some engine designs. First off, the new 2.5-liter engine uses low friction rings and very low viscosity (0W-20) oil. These two design choices invariably lead to higher efficiency and — you guessed it — higher oil consumption. All things being equal, if you add thinner oil and lower friction rings to any engine design, higher oil consumption is a likely byproduct. In addition, the very nature of a horizontally opposed engine may be a causal factor as well. However you feel about the Legacy’s appetite for dinosaur juice, the resulting fuel economy is undeniably high at a combined 30 mpg in the EPA cycle and a very respectable 28.8 mpg in our actual driving sample. Despite being four-wheel-driven, the Legacy is just 1-2 mpg lower than the thriftiest entries in this segment.

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Exterior
Form ultimately must follow function. Even though the Legacy uses longitudinally mounted engines and transmissions, the exterior still sports a long front overhang (like Audis) because of the engine’s location. Thanks to the “squatter” engine design, the hood slopes gently toward the front improving forward visibility. If you notice something un-Subaru in the side profile, you’re probably noticing that this Legacy ditches the frameless window design long associated with Subaru for a more traditional design. The change has a positive impact on wind noise in the cabin.

Borrowing a page from the Fusion’s design book, Subaru decided to give this Legacy a sportier profile with a roofline that starts plunging just after the B-pillar and extends behind the rear wheel. Like the Fusion and 200, which use similar design cues, this style has a direct impact on rear seat headroom. Overall this generation Legacy is far more mainstream than my neighbor’s Legacy GT with the hood scoop and rear wing.

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The rear bumper is a perfect place to see one of the trade-offs for the standard drivetrain. Many vehicles that have single and dual exhaust options use two different bumper moldings but Subaru saves some cash by just using one and inserting a blank in the four-cylinder model. In my mind this is the kind of trade-off that’s worth making for two reasons. The blank is well done (as you can see above) and should you for some reason want to have an exhaust shop upgrade you to a dual exhaust tip look, it’s easier than a bumper swap. In addition Subaru saves a little cash by giving base models steel wheels instead of the alloys found on most base midsize sedans.

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Interior
The same kind of trade-offs can be seen inside the Legacy’s cabin. Base and Premium models lack rear seat air vents, automatic climate control and you’ll find a hair more hard plastic in the cabin than in some of the newer competitors. That said, this Legacy is a definite improvement in terms of interior refinement compared to the last model.

I found front seat comfort to be slightly below average in the base model with the 6-way manual seat, and above average in the 10-way power seat found in Premium and Limited trims. You will find more comfortable seats in the Accord and Altima, but these seats are on par with the Fusion. Another area where costs were recouped is the front passenger seat which is 4-way adjustable only and notably less comfortable than the right seat in top-end trims as a result.

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Because of the roofline’s plunge toward the trunk, headroom is just about as limited as the Ford Fusion and Chrysler 200. (In other words, if you want AWD, be prepared for a height-restricted back seat.) At 6-feet tall, I had to slouch slightly in the rear to keep my head from touching the ceiling. This profile seems to be a trend in this segment and fewer and fewer midsized sedans have the headroom for six-foot-plus folks in the rear, the Accord and Passat are notable exceptions.

At 15 cubic feet the Legacy’s trunk is a hair smaller than the Camry, Passat, Accord, 200 and Fusion. However, Subaru uses a hinge design that doesn’t consume any trunk space meaning the slightly smaller hold is actually more practical. The Altima still takes top honors in this segment for swallowing multiple 24-inch carry-on sized roller bags in the vertical position.

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Infotainment
The Legacy debuts Subaru’s all-new StarLink infotainment software running on either a 6.1-inch or 7-inch LCD depending on the trim level. The new software brings expanded voice commands, finger gestures, climate control integration, improved USB/iDevice integration and optional navigation. The entire interface is snappier and more refined than Subaru’s previous software, although it still lacks direct voice control over your connected media library a la Ford’s SYNC or Toyota’s Entune. The optional StarLink app for your Android or iOS phone enables streaming audio and unlike some of the competitive apps, it doesn’t make you register and create an account in order to work.

One of the more interesting features of StarLink is unfortunately not supported in the United States: MirrorLink. you can think of MirrorLink as the more open alternative and precursor to Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Sadly MirrorLink looks to be something consigned to the dustbin, but hopefully this means Subaru will support the other two standards at some point soon. (Note: Although Subaru does not support it in the USA, Subaru owners tell me it does work with a limited number of Android devices.)

IMG_0621

Drive
The Subaru AWD system has a distinct impact on the Legacy’s road manners. Because the system sends 40 percent of the power to the rear without wheel slip, the Legacy is easily the most surefooted and confident on slippery surfaces. [Edit: Shoppers should know that when the temperature drops below approximately 40 degrees fahrenheit winter tires are recommended for optimum traction. AWD does not improve braking or neutral handling but appropriate winter tires will. A FWD car with winter tires will our brake, out handle and likely out accelerate a comparable AWD car with all-season tires in the snow.]

The boxer engine may drop the center of gravity, but it also makes the Legacy just as front-heavy as a V-6 Accord. Like that Accord and every other V-6 front wheel drive sedan, the Legacy feels heavy and reluctant to turn in neutral handling (power-off) situations. Apply power in the corner, and the Legacy feels more neutral and predictable as the car shuttles power to the rear wheels, but the Subaru AWD system does not torque vector in the rear so it’s never going to rotate like a RWD car or an Acura with SH-AWD. The previous generation Legacy 3.6R used a mechanical center differential to give it a slight rear bias, but that has been removed for 2015 in the name of fuel economy.

IMG_0621

Speaking of fuel economy, the Leagcy’s numbers are unexpectedly high. Over the course of a week, I averaged 28.8 mpg in mixed driving with plenty of hill climbing as my commute involves a 2,200-ft mountain pass. Looking back on the recent sedans I’ve tested, the Legacy beat the four-cylinder Camry, tied with the 1.5-liter Fusion, was 1-2 mpg lower than the Passat 1.8T, Altima 2.5 and 4 mpg lower than the Accord with a CVT.

The high fuel economy comes at a slight cost. Subaru’s CVT has a ratio spread of 5.8 (that represents the spread of ratios from low to high, the higher the number the bigger the difference between high and low) which is narrower than most of the other transmissions in this segment. This means that when picking a final drive ratio Subaru had to chose between low end acceleration and fuel economy and they chose the latter. The resulting 14:1 starting ratio is notably higher than the 17.6:1 ratio we find in the four-cylinder Chrysler 200 and explains the Legacy 2.5’s leisurly 8.3 second 0-60 time. Some folks have incorrectly assumed the 2.5-liter boxer is “guttless” at low RPMs, but it really has more to do with this ratio and the torque converter design, as evidenced by the 3.5 second 0-30 time (longer than a Prius). Opting for the 3.6-liter engine certainly adds some scoot, but the big boxer is notably less powerful than the V-6 engines in the competition. Couple that with a tweaked CVT and an even higher starting ratio of 12.8:1 and 3.6R Limited is decidedly sluggish compared to the Fusion’s 2-liter turbo and especially the Chrysler 3.6-liter V-6.

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Subaru’s revised suspension in this generation of Legacy has improved the road manners. While not as soft as the Altima, the Legacy proved to be a smooth highway companion and never seemed upset over broken pavement. This year’s cabin is notably quieter than before in both wind and road noise. This softer side of Subaru translates to plenty of body roll and tip and dive when you’re out on your favorite mountain road, but the Legacy is still firmer than the Altima. The steering rack isn’t as responsive or direct as the Mazda6, Fusion or Accord Sport, opting instead for a middle-of-the-road feel. Subaru has tweaked the suspension further for 2016, but I did not get a chance to sample the change. Although the Mazda6 is not one of the faster options in this segment, it is still the most fun out on a winding road.

In terms of AWD competition, for the 2.5-liter model there simply isn’t any. Ford’s requires you to select the SE or above trims and the 2-liter turbo engine in order to add four-wheel motivation to the Fusion. As a result, the least expensive model is $27,810. Not only is that $6,000 more than a base Subie, the EPA says it’ll cost you $300 a year more to run. Chrysler only bundles AWD with their 3.6-liter V-6, which drops fuel economy to 22 mpg in combined driving and bumps the price tag to $29,562, which is $8,000 more than the base Subaru. On the filp side, the 200 AWD will hit 60 in under 6 seconds, more than a full second faster than the Legacy 3.6R.

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Thanks to high fuel economy and a well chosen feature set, the Legacy 2.5 is a solid alternative to the FWD competition with only few caveats. The 3.6R is another matter. The top end Legacy will set you back 30-large and adding push-button start and navigation bumps this up to around $34,000. For that price, the Chrysler adds real wood trim, ventilated seats, better handling, better performance, heated steering wheel, more comfortable seats, auto high-beams, autonomous parking and a partial LCD instrument cluster.

Taken out of context, the Legacy could seem less than competitive. If you’re looking for the best rear seat accommodations, the highest fuel economy, the best performance or the most luxury features, your future lies elsewhere. But it’ll cost you more and it won’t have AWD. The interesting twist is that even if AWD isn’t terribly important to you, there is little penalty at the pump and almost no price premium at purchase. That means that whether you’re above the snow-belt or not, if you’re looking for one of the best buys in the CamCord segment, drop by your Subaru dealer. If you want the “best AWD family hauler” however, that’s at the 200C AWD from Detroit.

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.5

0-60: 8.3

1/4 Mile: 16.2 Seconds @ 87 MPH

Average Economy: 28.8 MPG

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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.

2016 Nissan Maxima (2 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (1 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (3 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (4 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (5 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (6 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (7 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (8 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (9 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (10 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (11 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (12 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (13 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (14 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (15 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (16 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (17 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (18 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (19 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (20 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (21 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (22 of 23) 2016 Nissan Maxima (23 of 23)

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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.

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Interior -005

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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1288377727961_WIDESCREEN

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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