The Truth About Cars » Sedans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 11 Apr 2014 11:30:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Sedans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Production-Ready Subaru Legacy To Make 2014 Chicago Auto Show Debut http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/production-ready-subaru-legacy-to-make-2014-chicago-auto-show-debut/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/production-ready-subaru-legacy-to-make-2014-chicago-auto-show-debut/#comments Sat, 01 Feb 2014 08:34:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=729042 2015 Subaru Legacy Tease

After its worldwide debut as a concept at the 2013 Los Angeles Auto Show last November, the Subaru Legacy is ready to show-off its production-ready ensemble at next week’s 2014 Chicago Auto Show.

Though the teaser doesn’t offer much — as teasers are wont to do — it does offer glimpses of the sedan’s thin A-pillar, raked windscreen, and the matching LED lights up front and down back, all part of Subaru’s new design language. Judging by the lightly flared fenders, however, no 21-inch wheels — like those on the concept in LA — will be offered when the Legacy arrives in showrooms this year.

The production Legacy will debut February 6 at the Chicago Auto Show.

Subaru Legacy Concept 01 Subaru Legacy Concept 04 Subaru Legacy Concept 05 Subaru Legacy Concept 02 Subaru Legacy Concept 03 ]]>
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Skyline Sedan to Wear Infiniti Badge, Not Much Else http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/skyline-sedan-to-wear-infiniti-badge-not-much-else/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/skyline-sedan-to-wear-infiniti-badge-not-much-else/#comments Wed, 13 Nov 2013 14:22:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=650114 Infiniti Q50 - Skyline

While Nissan plans to resurrect Datsun to battle Toyota’s scions in North America, the automaker is bringing Infiniti back home to Japan by delicately mounting its badge just so upon the grill of what will be the Skyline sedan. Just the badge, though.

Not only will the new Skyline — based off the Q50 — not be dubbed an Infiniti, it also won’t be dubbed a Nissan, instead going by the full name of Skyline, by Nissan Motor Co. The new identity is an attempt to tie the new Skyline back into the Japanese imperial family, whose Emperor Akihito lent his then-title to Prince Motor Co. in 1952; the first Skyline debuted three years later.

With this strategy, Nissan is entering into a (very) soft launch of the Infiniti brand in its native Japan by doing more to separate the two lines; as a further example, Infiniti’s headquarters were recently relocated to Hong Kong, with their C-suite focused solely upon the luxury brand.

Expectations for the Skyline include 200 sedans sold to local customers per month, increasing to 500 sales/month a year after its launch. Nissan will also price the Skyline accordingly to match their German competitors in BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

Should the experiment prove fruitful, Infiniti could make its debut in Japan sooner than later to aid in the capture of 10 percent of the global premium car market by 2020 as part of CEO Carlos Ghosn’s Power 88 plan.

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Review: 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/review-2013-ford-fusion-hybrid-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/review-2013-ford-fusion-hybrid-video/#comments Mon, 11 Mar 2013 07:08:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=480224

Want a fuel-sipping, tree-hugging sedan with stunning good looks? Ford thinks they have the answer in the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid. Can jamming a gasoline/electric drivetrain behind Ford’s sexy grille continue the love affair the press has had with Ford’s world-car? More importantly, can this Ford hybrid live up to its EPA numbers? Let’s find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

The new Fusion is as striking as the old one was bland. Up front we have an Aston-Martin inspired grille, angry headlamps and a tastefully reserved quantity of chrome. Out back we have a less daring rear end that some of my friends thought looked “unfinished”  as if Ford just cut the sausage to the desired length. The stubby tail makes parallel parking a bit easier since it’s easy to know where your Fusion ends but I suspect rear-end repairs will be more costly than sedans with a more traditional bumper protrusion. The aggressive looks from the Optima and Fusion are refreshing in a segment full of humdrum slab sides and unrestrained chrome bling. I find the new Accord elegant in a 1990s Lexus sort of way, but the large green house screams family sedan. Toyota seems to have mated an edgy nose with refrigerator flat door panels to create a Camry that’s far from ugly but also far from sexy. Meanwhile VW’s Passat TDI strikes a very conservative pose with a large horizontal grille and segment-standard slab sides.

Interior

The new Fusion’s cabin has a level of refinement normally associated with European brands, and that makes sense since our Fusion is their Mondeo. The fit and finish in our tester was excellent with perfect seams and substantial feeling controls. While the new tiller doesn’t get soft split-grain leather like the new Accord, Ford’s new button arrangements are easier to use, easier to reach and feel better built than the wheel in the C-MAX and Escape. Like other Fusion models, most Hybrids sitting on the lot will look as if they were carved out of a single piece of black plastic. Selecting the tan cloth or the [seemingly] rare tan leather interior helps the interior feel warmer but there’s no way to avoid the large expanse of black that is the dashboard, carpet and large portion of the doors. If you love tan, keep in mind the Titanium comes only in black.

Front seat comfort is excellent although a step behind the Honda Accord which has the most comfortable seats in the segment. The Camry’s thrones are more “American-sized” but they aren’t as bolstered as those in the Fusion. Since seat preferences are as unique as people, spend some time behind the wheel before you buy. Unlike some of the competition, Ford’s tilt/telescoping steering wheel provides a large range of motion making it easy to accommodate drivers of different heights. Hybrid Fusions get standard10-way powered seats with an optional three-position memory system (standard on Titanium). As you would expect, the passenger doesn’t get the same kind of seat-love with your choice of manual or 4-way power adjusting.

Rear seats are as low to the ground as any in this segment, and far less bolstered than those in the front. Thanks to the sexy side-profile getting in and out of the rear seat required ducking more than in the competition and it cuts down on head room. If you find yourself needing to carry passengers in the rear that are over 6’1”, get the Camry, Passat or wait for the Accord. As always, I recommend you take your whole family with you shopping, stuff them all in the car and see how comfortable everyone is. Want to know more about the seating and cargo room? Check out the video review.

In an effort to increase useable cargo capacity (and improve mileage) Ford shifted from nickel based batteries to trendy and energy dense lithium-ion cells. The battery now sits on the floor of the trunk behind the rear seats and thanks to its reduced size, the rear seats are able to fold, something not possible with last year’s model. The folding rear seats are a novelty in this phone-booth sized segment with the Optima and Sonata ditching theirs entirely and the Camry offering a letter-box sized ski pass-through behind the passenger seat preventing long items from being inserted. When it comes to final capacity the Fusion lands in the middle with 12-cubes of cargo room compared to the Camry’s 13.1 and the Korean’s 9.9. If you click on the gallery at the bottom of this review you’ll see that the Fusion’s trunk is shaped so that it is possible to put roller bags on top of the battery making the trunk a bit more useful than the slightly larger Camry’s cargo hold.

Infotainment & Gadgets

All SE models start with a basic radio featuring six speakers, USB/iDevice control, XM Satellite Radio, Bluetooth phone integration and SYNC voice commands. If you don’t want your Fusion to be possessed by Ford’s touchscreen daemons, this is your only choice but at least it is an easy one to live with. Even the base SE model comes with power windows and door locks, a perimeter alarm, power driver’s seat, auto headlamps, body-colored mirrors and the keyless entry keypad that’s been a Ford hallmark for ages.

Most shoppers will need to get used to Ford’s temperamental touchscreen.  If you want to check pretty much any option box on the Fusion, MFT either needs to be selected first or it is included in the bundle. Want dual-zone climate control, a backup cam, blind spot monitoring, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a 120V outlet, cross traffic alert, etc? Better like MFT as well.

The $895 MFT option (standard on Titanium) consists of an 8-inch LCD in the dash, twin 4.2-inch LCDs in the gauge cluster, improved voice commands which now include climate control and touch-sensitive buttons for your HVAC system. Also bundled with the system is a backup camera and a 110V outlet in the center console. Thankfully, the latest version of Ford’s software seems to have resolved the frequent software crashes that plagues the system when it launched but the responsiveness issues persist. Perhaps worse for Ford than the slow graphics is that the competition has caught up and now offers similar levels of voice control and media device integration. MFT may still be one of the best looking systems on the market and it does bring a partial LCD dash to the party, but with viable options from the competition it has lost some of its shine.

While I’m not the biggest fan of Ford’s touch controls, they did prove more dependable than Cadillac’s new touch button setup and we noticed none of the fine scratched I have noticed on the Accord and Camry’s infotainment controls. If you want the best in factory entertainment, you should know the 12-speaker Sony branded audio system is only available in the more expensive Titanium.

The SE and Titanium trims can both be had with an impressive list of options from an automated-parking system to adaptive cruise control and an innovative lane departure prevention system. Unlike most of the LDP systems up to this point, the Ford system doesn’t apply the brakes to one side of the car to get you back on track – it simply turns the steering wheel. The system is both slightly creepy and very effective. With the ability to apply more force to keep you in the lane than competing systems, the steering input feels more like a hand on the wheel than a gentle suggestion. If safety is your shtick, it’s worth noting that the Fusion and Accord scored well in the new IIHS small-overlap test while the top-selling Camry tied with the Prius V for the worst of the group according to the IIHS.

Drivetrain

Under the hood you’ll find Ford’s completely redesigned hybrid system with a downsized 2.0L Atkinson cycle four-cylinder engine good for 141HP and 129lb-ft of twist. This is down slightly from the old 155HP 2.5L engine but Ford makes up for that with the hefty 118HP motor/generator inside their all-new HF34 hybrid transaxle. The combined system is good for 188HP and a TTAC estimated 200-220lb-ft of torque.

Rather than offering different hybrid systems for different vehicles like Toyota does, Ford uses the same system across their line up from the C-MAX to the Lincoln MKZ. While the heart of the system may be the new engine, the soul is the new 1.4kWh battery which is not only smaller and more energy dense than the old nickel pack, it can charge and discharge more rapidly as well. This improved battery “bandwidth” coupled to the stronger motors in their in-house hybrid transaxle allow the new Fusion Hybrid to motor down the highway on electrons alone up to 62MPH. It’s also the reason Ford claims the Fusion gets 47MPG City, 47MPG Highway and 47MPG on the combined cycle.

Oh that fuel economy

Fuel economy is a tricky business because your driving style, topography and curb weight are huge factors. I would caution readers to never compare our numbers with other publications because the driving conditions and styles are different. Still, nobody seems to be getting the vaulted 47MPGs in the latest Ford hybrid vehicles, TTAC included. Over a week and 568 miles our Fusion averaged 41MPG in mixed driving and my mountain commute, about 5/10ths lower than the C-MAX Hybrid I had two months earlier. Despite the fact that both the C-MAX and the Fusion Hybrid weight about the same (3,600lbs), the C-MAX was never able to get more than 45MPG no matter what I did.

The Fusion on the other hand managed 49MPG on a 36 mile level drive in moderate traffic and 46MPG on a level highway at 68MPH. While I wouldn’t say the Fusion meets expectations when it comes to fuel economy, it is better than the Kia’s 35.6MPG on the same course and a hair better than the Camry’s 40.5MPG. While I’m disappointed Ford’s new hybrid system hasn’t lived up to its advertising, the Fusion Hybrid is still the most efficient mid-sized sedan and it beats Ford’s 1.6L Ecoboost model by 12.5MPG in my tests.

I’ve included the Passat TDI here because I know a large segment of our readers would complain if it was missing. Still, I have trouble believing that many gasoline/electric hybrid shoppers would seriously cross shop the TDI. Should they? That depends. When we last had the Passat TDI we averaged 37MPG in mixed driving, 44 on the highway and around 29 in the city. If you commute in traffic, most of the hybrid options would deliver better mileage. Another thing to keep in mind is the cost of diesel in America, out here on the left-coast the cheapest diesel around according to GasBuddy.com was $4.09, a $0.25 premium over regular unleaded. This translated into $400 more in fuel costs per year over the MPGs we averaged in the Fusion Hybrid.

Drive

Despite having a decidedly American-sized 112.2-inch wheelbase, it’s obvious Ford’s European division took the lead when it came to the chassis. The result is a ride that is incredibly composed, tight in the corners and as communicative as anything with electric power steering. The surprises continue when you shift your right foot over to find linear brake feel, absolutely no Taurus-like brake fade and short stopping distances. Of course this is the hybrid model so there is still a transition point where the car adds friction braking in addition to the regenerative braking as you stop so things aren’t as smooth as with the “regular” Fusion. However, Ford’s new HF35 hybrid transaxle is quite simply the smoothest hybrid system this side of the Lexus LS 600hL easily besting the Camry and Lexus ES 300h in terms of hybrid system polish.

The Fusion provides, hands down, the best driving experience in this segment. Our tester ran to 60 in 7.31 seconds, only a hair behind the Camry, 1 second faster than the Optima and 2 seconds ahead of the Passat TDI, but it’s not straight line performance that I’m talking about. Thanks to wide 225-width rubber the Fusion is the first hybrid sedan I can describe as “fun” on mountain roads. I wouldn’t call it a corner carver, but it doesn’t immediately head for the bushes like an out of control land-yacht either. Sadly my theory for why the Fusion fails to live up to its 47MPG highway ratings is inexorably linked to its fun quotient. The larger your contact patch with the road, the more resistance you get and the lower your fuel economy will be. Still, looks sell (just ask Victoria’s  Secret) and the Fusion’s combination of dashing good looks, excellent (but well below claimed) fuel economy and the best hybrid driving dynamics the Fusion is quite simply the best fuel-sipping mid-sized sedan for 2013.

Hit it

  • Best pre-collision system in the segment, if you can afford it.
  • Sportiest hybrid sedan on the market.
  • Aston Martin’s mini-me.

Quit it

  • Rear seats are cramped for adult passengers.
  • Fuel economy doesn’t live up to the lofty claims unless you’re driving 55 on a flat highway.
  • MyFord Touch now has some serious competition.

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

0-30: 3.15 Seconds

0-60: 7.31 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.86 Seconds @ 90.4 MPH

Average Fuel Economy:41MPG over 568 Miles

2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Hybrid Logo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Exterior, Tail lamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Gauge Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Infotainment, MyFord Touch 2013, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Infotainment, MyFord Touch 2013, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Infotainment, MyFord Touch 2013, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Infotainment, MyFord Touch 2013, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Infotainment, MyFord Touch 2013, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Infotainment, MyFord Touch 2013, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Memory Buttons, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard and Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Front Cabin, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Rear Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Engine, 2.0L Atkinson Cycle Ford Hybrid HF35, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Engine, 2.0L Atkinson Cycle Ford Hybrid HF35, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Rear Seats Folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid Fuel Economy Display, 49MPG, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Hit it or Quit It? Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Review: 2013 Nissan Altima SL 3.5 (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-nissan-altima-sl-3-5-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-nissan-altima-sl-3-5-video/#comments Sun, 30 Dec 2012 14:32:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=471393

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

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

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

Interior

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

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

Drivetrain

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

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

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

Infotainment, Gadgets & Pricing

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

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

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

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

Drive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specifications as tested

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

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

1/4 Mile: 13.9 Seconds @ 104 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 27.6 MPG over 670 Miles

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

 

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Polestar’s Project Volvo Also Has A Manual. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/polestars-project-volvo-also-has-a-manual/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/06/polestars-project-volvo-also-has-a-manual/#comments Mon, 18 Jun 2012 13:41:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=449387

Even though Project Volvo is geared towards the budget end of the scale, Sweden’s Polestar has been working on a factory backed S60 concept that puts out 508 horsepower and 424 lb-ft. The most surprising element, aside from the absurd power, is a 6-speed manual gearbox, something not readily available on North American Volvos. Polestar has apparently built one for an unspecified customer. We won’t get to drive it, but we hear there’s a brown XC70 kicking around the press fleet with a Polestar ECU flash.

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Kia K9 Spotted In California: Does That Mean U.S. Sales? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/kia-k9-spotted-in-california-does-that-mean-u-s-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/kia-k9-spotted-in-california-does-that-mean-u-s-sales/#comments Fri, 18 May 2012 12:55:04 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=445036

Automotive News posted a picture of a Kia K9 luxury sedan wearing manufacturer plates on the road near Orange County, California. Does that mean we’re due to get the K9 any time soon?

Once upon a time, my father worked for Kia Canada, and the company’s head office had a frequent rotation of Korean market cars sent over for evaluation. Some, like the Carens, made it over under a different name, while others, like the Enterprise, were merely showpieces for what Kia could do with a re-skinned, decade old Mazda platform. Nevertheless, I wanted an Enterprise, complete with back massagers and headrest mounted TV screens.

The K9 could very well make it here, depending on Kia’s push to bring themselves upmarket. It would need a new name, lest it evoke visions of Iams pet food and invasive, racially motivated vehicle searches. Unfortunately, a piece of forbidden fruit wearing Manufacturer plates is not always a reliable indicator of future product plans.

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Review: 2012 Acura RL http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/review-2012-acura-rl/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/05/review-2012-acura-rl/#comments Sun, 13 May 2012 13:00:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=441436

Despite debuting over seven years ago, extensively refreshed in 2009 and nip/tucked again in 2011, the Acura RL remains a mystery. Flagship products usually sell in small numbers, but the RL is one of the rarest sedans in America. This isn’t exactly been a badge of honor for Acura. Overlooked by shoppers who flock to the cheaper Acura TL and largely forgotten by the automotive press (after all these years, TTAC has never fully reviewed the RL) With a full replacement due next year in the form of the RLX concept, I hit Acura up for an RL for a week to see how a flagship product from a major brand could manage to sell just 56 vehicles in Canada and 1,096 in the USA in 2011. For those who like statistics, the TL outsold the RL by 2,850%. Ouch.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Like Audi, Acura believes in the “same sausage, different lengths” school of design. The RL’s form combines an angular nose with slab sides, a rounded rear and thankfully, (new for 2011) the most demure Acura beak available. While beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, I find the RL more attractive than the TL (even with the TL’s beak-reduction.) There is a problem however: the RL is only 1.7 inches longer than the TL and rides on a wheelbase that is only .9 inches longer. These identical proportions are only the beginning of the sibling rivalry. Nearly identical proportions aside, the RL has aged well and still strikes an elegant pose that is decidedly more exciting than the sedate Volvo S80.

Interior

Once you sit inside the RL, you begin to understand why the TL gets all the attention. It’s not that there is anything wrong with the RL, it’s just not as flashy. While the TL borrows from the European play book with an interior that could have been carved out of a single piece of black plastic, the RL goes for a more elegant two-tone approach. The only real feature differentiation between the RL and TL can be found in the optional real-wood trim and radar cruise control neither of which are available in the “smaller”  Acura.

Not all is peachy-keen inside however. Automotive interiors age faster than a powder-blue tux and the RL is no exception. Aside from the lack of stitched-dash-love, the fact that faux-tree is standard when even Lincoln gets their trim from the forest is a problem. Acura’s well-known love affair with buttons results in no less than 65 buttons (not including toggle or the joystick controller) within easy reach of the driver. Is that good or bad? I’m torn. Tell us what you think the comment section.

Infotainment

As a statement of how “ahead of the curve” Acura was in 2005, the RL’s 8-inch infotainment system provides all the features a luxury shopper could ask for, from voice control to full USB, Bluetooth and iPod integration. The problem isn’t the functionality, it’s the aesthetics. It’s like un-boxing a new PC only to discover it has Windows XP. It might be  just as fast as a model with Windows 7, and it will do everything you need - it just won’t look as snazzy while it’s doing it.

On the audio front, the Bose system is absolutely top-notch with a very natural balance, crisp highs and a wide dynamic range. Acura continues to push the rare DVD-Audio format in all Acura models. DVD Audio’s discrete 5.1 channel recordings do sound fantastic on the RL, but unlike some of the other luxury systems you can’t play video DVDs on the system at all. Good luck finding DVD-A discs as well. The RL uses Bose Active Noise Cancellation technology to cut cabin noise, while it wasn’t really possible to disable the system, the RL’s cabin is very quiet.

Drivetrain

Beating “sideways” under the hood of the RL is Acura’s ubiquitous 3.7L V6, good for 300HP and 271lb-ft of twist at a lofty 5,000RPM. 300HP may have been a selling point back in 2005, but in today’s luxury market, 300 is where things start, not end. The 3.7′s 271lb-ft is practically meager when pitted against the 350lb-ft cranked out by Lincoln’s Ecoboost V6, not to mention BMW’s twin turbo V8. Rubbing some salt on the wound, the TL’s optional 3.7L engine cranks out 5 more ponies. Ouch. Still, the MKS Ecoboost and S80 T6 are on the high-end of the competition’s scale which, more realistically, includes the GS350 AWD and the Cadillac XTS.

For 2011 Acura updated the RL with a new 6-speed transmission. The extra cog cut the RL’s dash to 60 by almost a full half second vs the 2010 model (5.9 as tested.) Mercedes may advertise a 7-speed automatic and BMW and Audi tout their ZF 8-speed, but let’s be honest here – the E350, 535xi or A6 3.0T don’t compete head-on with the RL. When you scale back the competition to the more natural competitors of the S80, MKS,  GS350 and XTS, the right number of gears for this crowd is six. The 2012 RL is now rated for 17/24MPG (City/Highway) which is 1MPG better than before. Over our 745 miles with the RL we averaged a middling 19MPG. In comparison, Cadillac’s XTS promises to be the most efficient AWD sedan in this size class at 17/28MPG.

Drive

It’s not the acceleration that makes the RL an interesting companion on the road, it’s the handling. Oddly enough, the nearly 4,100lb RL is a willing companion on the twisties thanks to Acura’s “Super Handling All Wheel Drive” system. The AWD system used by Lexus, BMW and Mercedes-Benz employs a traditional RWD transmission with a transfer case sending power to the front. In the GS350 AWD, the end result is massive understeer, excessive for even a large rear-drive luxury car. The XTS, MKS and S80 use a Haldex system, with an open differential in the front and rear and none in the center. Instead of a center diff, there is a clutch pack that can vary the mechanical connection to the rear. When fully engaged, the input shaft of the front and rear differentials are mechanically tied together. Acura’s SH-AWD system on the other hand is far more complicated. By making the rear wheels spin up to 5.8% faster than the front wheels, SH-AWD can essentially shift 70% of the power to the rear, and direct 100% of that rear-bound power to one wheel. If you want to know more about that, check out our video link.

The system’s ability to “overdrive”  the outside rear wheel in a corner makes the RL feel strangely neutral even when pressed hard. While SH-AWD is as close to a miracle worker as Acura can get, sales indicate that the snazzier AWD system isn’t a good reason to spend $6,000 more over the cost of a comparably equipped TL. What a pity.

The RL is perhaps one of the most forgotten and misunderstood vehicles of our time. Looking at the sales numbers, you’d think there was something horribly wrong with the RL. In 2011 only 1,096 RLs found a home meaning even the unloved Volvo S80 outsold it nearly 5:1 and the MKS bested it by 12:1. However, the problem with the RL isn’t that the Volvo, Lexus and Lincoln competition is more modern. The problem is the new TL with SH-AWD. With a thoroughly modern interior and electronics, the TL might have a less capable AWD system, but with a lower price tag it is no wonder it outsells the RL 31:1. Still, if you’re shopping for a $50,000 luxury sedan, the RL isn’t a bad choice, but the new RL couldn’t come any sooner.

Acura provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gasoline for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.31 Seconds

0-60: 5.9 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14.4 Seconds @ 97 MPH

2012 Acura RL, Trunk, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Trunk, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, SH-AWD badge, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Acura badge, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Acura logo, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, 3.7L 300HP V6, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, 3.7L 300HP V6, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, beak, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, steering wheel controls, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, steering wheel controls, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, front, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, rear, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, headlamps, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, gauges, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, infotainment screen, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, infotainment, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, driver's side, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, rear door, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, rear seats, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, center console, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, door, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Interior, dashboard, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, rear 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, front 3/4, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, front grille, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, wheels, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2012 Acura RL, Exterior, wheels, Photography Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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New York 2012: Nissan Altima, Now With More CVT, 38 MPG http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/new-york-2012-nissan-altima-now-with-more-cvt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/new-york-2012-nissan-altima-now-with-more-cvt/#comments Tue, 03 Apr 2012 16:25:24 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=437846

Finally, we can dispense with the dumb teasers and show you the face of the 2013 Nissan Altima. Bad news – a CVT is standard across the board.

A 2.5L 4-cylinder makes 182 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. A 270 horsepower 3.5L V6 is also available – but if it’s anything like the engine in the Infiniti JX, the CVT and VQ35 combo should prove adequate. The 4-banger is supposedly good for 38 mpg on the highway. We’ll have live shots shortly. Thanks to VWVortex for blowing the embargo!

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail 2013altima1 2013altima2 2013 Nissan Altima. Photo courtesy Nissan. ]]>
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Kia KH Heralds The Start Of The “Monkfish Age” In Automotive Design http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/kia-kh-heralds-the-start-of-the-monkfish-age-in-automotive-design/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/kia-kh-heralds-the-start-of-the-monkfish-age-in-automotive-design/#comments Tue, 28 Feb 2012 16:36:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=433169

When the Chrysler Concorde and Chevrolet Camaro underwent redesigns in the late-1990s, automotive critics lamented the start of the “catfish” era in car design. The Kia KH is moving forward with the aquatic-creature theme, sporting a snout that resembles a monkfish, an even uglier sea-being.

Kia will debut their new luxury sedan at the Geneva Auto Show in March, but apparently won’t sell the car in Europe. It’s unclear whether the car will be sized closer to the Hyundai Genesis or Equus. The KH will not be the name of the car either – Kia is apparently crowdsourcing the name of the car via Facebook. Troll away.

kiakh3 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Kia KH Concept. Photo courtesy Kia kiakh kiakh2 ]]>
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Kia K9 Rear Drive Sedan Spied In South Korea http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/kia-k9-rear-drive-sedan-spied-in-south-korea/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/kia-k9-rear-drive-sedan-spied-in-south-korea/#comments Mon, 27 Feb 2012 18:49:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=433034

This is the Kia K9, Kia’s first rear-drive flagship for North America. Kia has previously sold a rebadged Mazda 929 in Korea but those days are mercifully over.

Someone in South Korea took a couple videos of the K9 driving along a highway. You can peruse them for yourself below. The K9 will probably shed its alphanumeric moniker when it arrives in 2013.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Click here to view the embedded video.

 

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Happy 30th Birthday, Volvo 760! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/happy-30th-birthday-volvo-760/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/02/happy-30th-birthday-volvo-760/#comments Fri, 03 Feb 2012 20:28:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=429337

Today, the Volvo 760 celebrates 30 years on this planet. Concieved in an uncertain time in the auto industry and launched in 1982, the 760′s various incarnations lasted until the S90 and V90 were laid to rest in 1998.

Like so many great cars, the 760 was built with whatever happened to be laying around at the time.  Cost-effective was the operative word, and the 240′s basic architecture was lengthened slightly, while losing 220 lbs in the process. A 2.8L V6 (the famous PRV motor) was available, as well as a diesel, but the 760 Turbo would live on in the hearts and minds of enthusiasts.

My friend Chris, who took the above photograph, grudgingly gave up his own pristine 700-Series Turbo this summer, for a Lexus IS250. I only got the chance to drive it once, but reveled in the massive turbo lag and equally entertaining turbo boost and the utilitarian nature of the cabin. The 760 Turbo was arguably the last idiosyncratic Volvo (though the 740 and 900 Series carried on its lineage despite re-skins and name changes), with a host off oddities like the self-leveling Nivomat suspension, a turbo boost gauge without any calibration, and the “4-Speed plus Overdrive” manual gearbox.

The introduction of the 850 range in the early 1990s marked the end of an era, as front-wheel drive and transverse engines asserted their dominance in the Volvo lineup. While I’m a fan of the current cars (the S60, XC90 and XC90 are solid vehicles), the old, boxy rear-drivers are iconic vehicles and arguably the heart and soul of the marque.

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Dodge Avenger Headed For Death Row? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/dodge-avenger-headed-for-death-row/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/dodge-avenger-headed-for-death-row/#comments Thu, 12 Jan 2012 21:51:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=425890

Chrysler is facing a dilemma straight out of “Sophie’s Choice” – whether or not it should kill the wretched Dodge Avenger to help the marginally better Chrysler 200 thrive. But words straight from the mouth of Dodge boss Reid Bigland made it seem like it’s all but a done deal.

Stating that ”…Chrysler Group will likely consolidate around one midsize car in the future,” Bigland essentially signed the Avenger’s death warrant while speaking to the media at the Detroit Auto Show. The introduction of the Dodge Dart, more appealing in practically every way than the Avenger, should expedite the process. Dodge sold 64,000 Avengers in 2011 while the 200 managed to shift roughly 89,000. Both models lagged far behind the #1 selling Toyota Camry, which sold 308,510 examples in 2011.

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NAIAS: Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/naias-volkswagen-jetta-hybrid/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/naias-volkswagen-jetta-hybrid/#comments Mon, 09 Jan 2012 17:29:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=424952  

The Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid combines two entities hated most by car fans – the new Volkswagen Jetta, and hybrids – on to which auto enthusiasts can project their deep-seated anger issues.

Volkswagen says that fuel economy should be at 45 mpg combined while 0-60 will come up in 9 seconds. This may not be “…fun out on the highway…” as another blogger termed it, but we were intrigued to see that Volkswagen is using a 1.4L turbocharged engine making 150 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque as the gasoline side of the equation. A 7-speed DSG gearbox is used to put the power to the ground. Why can’t we just get this motor in place of the 2.0L 4-cylinder and 2.5L 5-cylinder engines?

The hybrid system it self seems underwhelming with a tiny 1.1kWh battery allowing the car to move gas free for a mere 1.2 miles at speeds of up to 44 mph. Minor styling changes, weird looking alloy wheels and hybrid badging round out the visual changes. VW made no pricing announcements for the Jetta Hybrid

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NAIAS Preview: 2013 Ford Fusion Official Shots And Specs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/naias-preview-2013-ford-fusion-official-shots-and-specs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/01/naias-preview-2013-ford-fusion-official-shots-and-specs/#comments Mon, 09 Jan 2012 04:39:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=424825

Some of the commenters took me to task for what seemed to be undue praise for the 2013 Ford Fusion. So, without prejudice, here is the 2013 Ford Fusion and Ford Fusion Energi.

The 2013 Fusion will be based on the same platform that underpins the Ford Mondeo. Three powertrains will be offered; a 2.5L four-cylinder utilized on other Ford products, making 170 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque mated to a 6-speed automatic, and two Ecoboost options. A 1.6L Ecoboost will make 179 horsepower and 172 lb-ft and will be the sole configuration available with a 6-speed manual transmission. Fuel economy for the 1.6L is said to be 26/37 mpg city/highway. A 2.0L Ecoboost will put out 237 horsepower and 250 lb-ft of torque, but will have an all-wheel drive option. A 6-speed automatic is the sole transmission.

The Fusion Hybrid returns with 47/44 mpg city/highway figures being reported. The Atkinson cycle engine is downsized from 2.5L to 2.0L, making 185 horsepower and 130 lb-ft of torque but transmission details weren’t available at this time. A lane departure warning system, SYNC, active park assist, blind spot monitoring system and MyFord Touch will be available.

A plug-in Fusion, dubbed the Fusion Energi, will be available. Ford didn’t disclose battery pack size, charge times or official range figures (although it is estimated to be 500 miles) but the car is said to get 100MPGe.

Plug it in. Photo courtesy of Ford. Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail 2013 Ford Fusion 2013 Ford Fusion 2013 Ford Fusion Energi 2013 Ford Fusion Energi 2013 Ford Fusion 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid 2013 Ford Fusion 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid 2013 Ford Fusion Energi 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid 2013 Ford Fusion 2013 Ford Fusion 2013 Ford Fusion 2013 Ford Fusion 2013 Ford Fusion ]]>
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Were You Aware?: Half Of All Large Car Sales Go To Fleets http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/were-you-aware-half-of-all-large-car-sales-go-to-fleets/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/11/were-you-aware-half-of-all-large-car-sales-go-to-fleets/#comments Tue, 15 Nov 2011 20:19:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=418317

Since ruling Americas roads in the heyday of the US auto industry, sales of large sedans (as a percentage of the overall market) have been in a decades-long slump. More recently, as SUVs have merged with large cars to form the modern crossover, the decline in large car sales has picked up speed. And there’s reason to expect that trend to continue, as a closer look at the data shows that market support for large sedans has eroded farther than even these numbers might suggest. One of TTAC’s well-placed sources reveals that the “large car” segment (admittedly, a notoriously difficult segment to accurately capture) is running at 50% fleet sales, year-to-date through October. That’s right, every second large sedan sold in this country end up as a fleet vehicle, many of them daily rentals.

How bad is that? For comparison, the midsized segment is running at 22%, the hot compact segment is only 16% fleet and most crossovers sell around 14% fleet. In short, as the market either downsizes to one of the ever-larger midsized or compact cars or upsizes to a CUV, large cars are becoming something of a consumer no-go zone. Welcome to the world captured brilliantly in Jack Baruth’s fictional work “The CAFE Continuum.”

And I know what you’re thinking: some of the older, more obviously fleet-oriented offerings are wrecking the curve for the entire segment. Well, yes and no. For example the Chevy Impala, which Bob Lutz brags was voted “best fleet car”  in his new book, was sold at a 73% fleet mix this year. That means that, of the 150k Impalas sold so far this year, only only about 40,500 went to retail customers who were won over by its charms. But it’s not a universal problem for the whole segment. In contrast, Toyota’s Avalon (which sold a much lower 23,507 units this year) had a mere 3% fleet mix. And unsurprisingly, Detroit leads the way: Taurus about met the segment average at 49% fleet, Dodge’s new Charger was 54% and Chrysler’s 300 sold at 25% fleet mix.

These numbers, which TTAC trusts but was unable to independently verify, tell a troubling story. I asked our source if these numbers had to do with the products, or an appeal towards fleet sales inherent to the large-sedan segment. The answer:

You can bet that Ford didn’t plan for its Taurus to be running at 50% fleet at this point.

I assume the same can be said for Dodge’s even-newer Charger. Chrysler has so little new product that it had better have planned to convince more than 25k buyers that the new Charger is worth a buy (by my calculation, only about 24,900 Chargers have been sold retail this year). But again, is the problem something fundamental with these models, or has the market simply turned its back on the big sedan? Our source wouldn’t delve any further into this conundrum with us, but it’s clear that the segment is in trouble. Without some kind of step-up in competition, America’s favorite segment could be doomed to fleet fodder status.

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

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

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

 

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Midsized Wars: The “Big Six” Sedans, 1995-2010 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/midsized-wars-the-big-six-sedans-1995-2010/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/midsized-wars-the-big-six-sedans-1995-2010/#comments Fri, 12 Aug 2011 00:26:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=406770 With signs of change appearing in the midsized segment, I thought we would look at our archived sales results for the “Big Six” sedan nameplates in hopes of some historic context. And here it is: competitive convergence is turning what used to be Toyota and Honda’s wading pool into a bloody knife fight.

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

 

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

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

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

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