The Truth About Cars » Test http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 18 Oct 2014 16:29:41 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.0 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 » Test http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Capsule Review: 2014 Jaguar F-Type V6S Convertible http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2014-jaguar-f-type-v6s-convertible/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/capsule-review-2014-jaguar-f-type-v6s-convertible/#comments Mon, 29 Sep 2014 14:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=918066 I felt very conflicted following a quick nighttime Boston-to-New York City drive in this new Jag. It just did not meet my expectations. The car drove nice on the twisty and hilly Merritt Parkway but it was neither the sports car I desired, nor the grand tourer that the XKR was. Something was clearly wrong. […]

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2014 Jaguar F-type convertible rear left

I felt very conflicted following a quick nighttime Boston-to-New York City drive in this new Jag. It just did not meet my expectations. The car drove nice on the twisty and hilly Merritt Parkway but it was neither the sports car I desired, nor the grand tourer that the XKR was. Something was clearly wrong. Upon reaching my destination I carefully re-read Derek’s reviews and quickly realized that I am an idiot and that this F-Type has failed me in another way altogether.

2014 Jaguar F-type convertible top up top down

Like any proper modern sports car, the F-Type has a number of settings and adjustments available to its driver; suspension, transmission, steering, stability control, and even exhaust. I fiddled with the transmission and the exhaust because those settings were convenient, but I did not know that the others even existed. In my re-reading of Derek’s F-Type V6S review I came upon these words:

“Oh, and you absolutely must get the car with the “Configurable Dynamic Mode”, which adds another $3,000 to the base price, but effectively gives you two cars for the price of one.”

Son of a gun. My car had that option but I just dismissed it as a stability control setting that allows you to wag the rear-end like a pro, which I had no desire to do. Selecting it changes suspension, steering, transmission, and exhaust settings to ‘dynamic’. Like in many other sports cars, notably BMW’s M cars, this button transforms a smooth and quiet roadster that my mother would love, into a loud and quick sports car that I want. I am not exactly sure what the checkered flag button physically does, but all that a potential buyer needs to know is that it takes a vehicle that feels like an entry-level Mercedes SL and turns it into a Porsche Boxster.

2014 Jaguar F-type convertible dash

But I had another issue with this Jag, and here is where this Jag has clearly failed me. In his review, Derek was going on all about how every woman in the world loved this car and its driver. Reading deeper into his writing, women were literally throwing themselves at Derek just to be chauffeured around in the slick new roadster for a bit. The car has transformed him from being a humble but righteous autoscribe into a playboy that surpasses the likes of Lapo Elkann.

That did not happen to me. Not a single woman has expressed any interest what so ever in this car. I even made a point of dressing a little better when driving it and ensuring that my pricey mechanical timepiece was visible to all passer-bys. Not one woman even looked at me. Not even my wife. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Point. Zero. Now I’m no Jack Baruth, I got zero game, but c’mon, I did not even get a gander from the ladies.

2014 Jaguar F-type convertible exterior details 2

But the car did attract a lot attention, except that it was from every single balding middle-aged man in vicinity. They inquired about the British Racing Green paint and how it glistened in the sun. They needed to know the engine specs. One asked if it was a V12. They needed to hear it. I was tailgated by a young guy in a 3-series and challenged to a drag race by a Cayman owner. Even a homeless man yelled at me from across the sidewalk “how about five bucks for a bottle wine, stylin’ man!?” Five bucks!

I understand that attention as the F-Type is a gorgeous car. From bonnet to boot, there is not a wrong line on this car. There are however some questionable details and cost-cutting, such as the sculpted bolts on the rims of the wheels or plastic roll-bar covers which should really be aluminum. Open the huge front-hinged bonnet and you’ll see a plastic engine cover and not hand-polished aluminum velocity stacks. No complaints about the interior, other than outside visibility with the top up and the outdated infotainment system. The seats are adjustable in umpteen ways and wrapped in soft leather that has an intoxicating smell.  Only the British can do leather like this.

2014 Jaguar F-type convertible interior details

While fun in the corners and highway ramps, the ride is bouncy when the road gets bumpy. There was also surprisingly more wind noise with the top up than one would expect, and the Meridian audio system did not sound nearly as good as the one in the Range Rover. The best solution to those problems is lowering the top and pressing the active exhaust system button.

In alfresco cruising wind buffing is kept to a minimum, with only a slight breeze over the top of the driver’s head. The heater vents are positioned so that hot air blows directly over the 2/3 and 9/10 hand positions on the steering wheel, which itself is heated. The top setting for the heated seats is akin to sitting on hot lava rocks, which makes me believe this car could be fun with the top down over three seasons.

2014 Jaguar F-type convertible front left top

The 2015 Jaguar F-Type convertible starts at $69,000. The more powerful F-Type S, such as the one pictured here starts at $81,000. The test vehicle was splashed in $1500 British Racing Green paint, stanced with 20” $1500 Tornado wheels, outfitted with a $2000 Premium Pack 2, $2400 Vision Pack 2, $3400 Performance Package, heated seats and steering wheel for $600, Meridian audio for $1200, Ivory headliner (not made of real ivory) $500, HD and Sirius radio $450, and extended leather package for $1925. The total price of the test car, with delivery, came to $97,400. Those wanting more power can opt for the $92,000 F-Type V8 S. All trims are available in a coupe version for about $4000 less each. Additionally, the coupe is available in the even more powerful $99,000 550hp F-Type R trim.

Currently there are surprisingly many premium sports cars and roadsters on the market. Their abilities surpass those of supercars of only few years ago and are only limited by the driver’s skills, and even that is vastly supplemented by modern electronics. The question of which to buy is no longer answered by buff-book performance numbers, but rather by finding one that best matches your desires – there are no bad choices.

2014 Jaguar F-type convertible vaz 2303 23033 lada

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. 

Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC provided the vehicle for this review.

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Review: 2014 Lexus GX 460 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/review-2014-lexus-gx-460/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/review-2014-lexus-gx-460/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 13:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=916530 The various models of the Toyota Land Cruiser are some of the most respected off-roaders in the world. But what works elsewhere in the world does not necessarily work in North America. Dressed up in what is perceived to be luxury, how does this fancy Land Cruiser Prado, as its known everywhere else in the […]

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2014 lexus gs 460 side

The various models of the Toyota Land Cruiser are some of the most respected off-roaders in the world. But what works elsewhere in the world does not necessarily work in North America. Dressed up in what is perceived to be luxury, how does this fancy Land Cruiser Prado, as its known everywhere else in the world, perform in the United States?

2014 lexus gs 460 front

Get in and right away you realize that this is a truck and not a car disguised to look like one. It drives like a truck, it handles like a truck, and it feels like a truck. Guess what, it’s a truck. If that’s not your thing please stop reading and consider buying the excellent Toyota Highlander.

The exterior shape is a classic SUV two cube design. Being a Lexus, it has body cladding and running boards which are supposed to make it look upscale and softer in order to attract someone other than rich adventure travelers. New for 2014 is a Lexus family grill, the contours of which do not match vehicle’s utilitarian side profile, and frankly it looks like an add-on made by an Eastern European aftermarket company.

2014 lexus gs 460 dash interior

Hop into the driver’s seat and you will be greeted by a high seating position and large windows which yield a very commanding, Range Rover-like, sitting position. The whole dash has a very vertical feel to it, much different than anything else on the road. I was disappointed to see that the dash felt more like a Toyota, good quality but not pleasant to the senses, rather than any of the excellent new Lexus cars. All the commonly used controls are nicely laid out and very easy to use. Unfortunately the infotainment screen feels old due to its low resolution and inability to perform more than one task at a time. Instead of a new grill Lexus should have invested the money into the dash.

The rear bench is big, soft, and flat – exactly what it’s supposed to be in a vehicle like this. It does not slide, despite being on rails to allow third row access. The two-passenger third row seats are best used for short rides due to difficultly of access and lack of legroom. The third row folds in an interesting way; the bottom cushions slide under the rear cargo floor and then the seat-backs fold flat to form the cargo floor. With the third row folded, the cargo area is large and tall, something rarely seen in the days of sporty CUVs with sloping roofs. The floor is raised several inches, like on the Yukon, to accommodate the folded rear seats. There is no hatch but rather a large door hinged on the right which is a little heavy to operate. The rear window pops up for quick access, but I wish it rolled down into the door like on the 4Runner.

2014 lexus gs 460 third row cargo hatch details

Power comes from an aluminum 4.6-liter DOHC port-injected V8 which puts out 301hp and 329 lb.-ft. The engine feels heavy and it sounds loud, like a truck is supposed to. Several years ago this power would have been sufficient, but now it is lagging behind its competition. The only transmission choice is a six-speed automatic that is connected to a two-speed full-time 4WD transfercase. Compounded by a 5128 lb. curb weight, the GX gets 15mpg in the city and 20mpg on the highway. It’s not a fast vehicle, as it does not like abrupt full-throttle application, but it is smooth at any speed.

Start driving and you will immediately notice the soft suspension, a trait common to vehicles with real off-road abilities in order to allow axle articulation and traction. All potholes, no matter the size get absorbed, even at high speed but at the expense of handling. It’s not that the handling is bad; it’s just truck-like and not CUV-like. Steering feel and braking are also truck-like. To put it simply, the GX 460 requires a certain amount of respect – don’t drive it like a lunatic.

2014 lexus gs 460 interior details

Astute readers and buyers will be interested in how the Lexus GX 460 compares to the Toyota 4Runner. Underneath the sheet metal, those two are basically the same vehicles. Mechanically, the biggest difference is that the Lexus has a V8 engine, standard third row seats, and a hinged rear door. The 4Runner comes only with a V6 engine but offers a choice of 2WD and 4WD, optional third row seats, and has a tailgate with a roll-down rear window. The difference in power is not really noticeable because of the Lexus’ extra 400lb of luxury weight and the two vehicles drive nearly the same. GX’s advantage comes in maximum trailer towing: 6500 lbs. versus 4Runner’s 4700lbs. People who think of actually taking their vehicles off pavement may want to look into the new 4Runner TRD Pro which comes with locking diffs, fancy suspension, and proper mud tires.

2014 lexus gs 460 front side

The 2014 Lexus GX 460 starts at $49,085. As shown here, $4710 Premium Package adds leather, wood, automatic wipers, LED fog-lights, parking sensors, heated/cooled seats, and touch-screen nav. The somewhat flimsy cargo cover is $150 and the wheel locks are pretty pricey at $81. Total comes down to $54,826 before $910 delivery fee. A Luxury model starts at $60,715 and it includes nicer leather, air suspension, fancy headlights, and many other minor upgrades. If you have been noticing more new GX 460s on the road, it is likely because Lexus has had very aggressive lease rates on them, comparable to a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara, a much less expensive vehicle.

Despite what seems like a lot faults, I personally like this truck, but I do have a general bias toward proven off-roaders. It’s honest; it does not try to be all things to all people like, say, the BMW X5. It feels strong and solid, like it could take a lot of abuse and just shrug it off. Fortunately for those disagreeing with me, the market is full of cars that resemble trucks.

2014 lexus gs 460 rear side

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. 

Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. provided the vehicle for this review.

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Review: 2014 Range Rover Supercharged LWB http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/review-2014-range-rover-supercharged-lwb/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/review-2014-range-rover-supercharged-lwb/#comments Fri, 05 Sep 2014 16:19:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=906881 In the early 1990s Land Rover realized that their Range Rovers were often used to chauffeur people of wealth and taste. Designed to be capable off-road, the 100-inch wheelbase unfortunately meant limited rear seat leg room. For 1992 Range Rover Country LWB became available, with a wheelbase stretched additional eight inches, all of it going […]

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2014 land rover range rover lwb long wheel base rear 34

In the early 1990s Land Rover realized that their Range Rovers were often used to chauffeur people of wealth and taste. Designed to be capable off-road, the 100-inch wheelbase unfortunately meant limited rear seat leg room. For 1992 Range Rover Country LWB became available, with a wheelbase stretched additional eight inches, all of it going directly into the rear seat legroom. For 2014, Land Rover is bringing the LWB back.

2014 land rover range rover lwb long wheel base side

The LWB adds 7.3-inches to wheelbase of a conventional Range Rover, all of which goes directly into the rear seat leg room. The current Range Rover does not suffer from lack of leg room but this extra space transforms it into something resembling a Learjet, especially when equipped with the “Executive Seating Package”. This test model retains a conventional three passenger bench that is power reclining and folding and has heated and ventilated outboard seats. Features bundled into the LWB model include an extended center console, which oddly takes leg room away from the middle passenger, power window shades, and a panoramic sunroof.

The front seats remain the same as on the SWB model, which is to say really nice; wrapped in soft leather, supportive, with pillow-like headrests, and ergonomically perfect. These may just be the best seats on the market right now, and they were heated, ventilated, and massaging, too. The massage feature is nice, especially on longer drives, but it is not as intense as the chairs at Brookstone. The current Range Rover retains the signature high seating position and large windows all around yield airy cabin feel and outstanding visibility, all rather trivial traits that are rarely seen in modern vehicles.

2014 land rover range rover lwb long wheel base rear door seat

The gauge cluster is actually a 12.3-inch display screen that is cleanly laid out and easy to manipulate via a steering wheel stalk. The same cannot be said for the 8-inch infotainment touch-screen which is slow to respond and simply outdated. In the touch-screen’s defense, it does perform a lot of functions, and there are hard buttons for the most frequently used ones. The rest of the dash is a showcase of simple contemporary design wrapped high quality materials. The upgraded Meridian Premium Audio 825W system will make even Justin Bieber’s music sound good.

For 2014 Land Rover dropped its naturally aspirated V8 in favor of a supercharged V6. The LWB is available only with the more powerful supercharged V8 engine. 510hp and a very flat torque curve that peaks at 461lb-ft offers instantaneous power at anytime, making the 5320-pound Rover move like a sports sedan, and allowing it to accelerate from zero to 60mph in under 5.5 seconds. Having reviewed the V6-powered Range Rover Sport in the past, I think the V8 is worth every penny of its $10,000 premium on the SWB and Sport, Range Rovers. ZF eight-speed automatic transmission is the only choice. It has normal, sport and manual modes, but with this much power, I found myself just keeping the shift knob in D.

2014 land rover range rover lwb long wheel base dash

We, as the car buying and driving public, are jaded by the driving characteristics of modern cars. For instance, never before would some wanker blogger be able to take a 707hp car on a race track and not die within a minute. The same true holds for this Range Rover – the chassis dynamics and overall handling are downright amazing for a vehicle this size, and simply superior any previous Land Rover product. This was something I realized on an enjoyable drive down the Merritt Parkway, a road where more than a decade ago I came close to rolling a Discovery on.

Much of the handling can be attributed to the air suspension, and associated cleverly named subcomponents, which magically manage to filter out just about all road imperfections while keeping the big Rover composed, and dare I say sporty. While air suspension systems have a lot of critics (disclaimer: I’ve owned two vehicles with air suspension and didn’t have any issues), it may be the least compromised way of retaining comfortable ride, great handling, and big load capacity. The ability to raise and lover this vehicle by as much as five inches is an added benefit. Turning radius is now also large sedan-like, as opposed to tractor-like on older Landies.

2014 land rover range rover lwb long wheel base interior details

It is well known that most Range Rovers never leave pavement, but despite that Land Rover does offer some amazing off-road technology that enables these vehicles to be truly capable (11” ground clearance, 35” water fording), as I experienced some time ago (part 1,2,3). What many people forget is that these vehicles also offer 7716-pound towing capacity with 331-pound maximum tongue weight, and 220-pound roof rack capacity. This is in addition to the 82.8 cubic feet of cargo space and 1600-pound load capacity, all just a little less than the GMC Yukon.


2014 land rover range rover lwb long wheel base interior exterior details

All of this goodness comes at a price. First you pay at the dealer: the base Range Rover starts at $84,225. Do yourself a favor and get the “supercharged” one, which is to say V8, for $101,025. The LWB comes with the V8 and starts at $106,225. The test vehicle was equipped with Vision Assist Pack (cameras, swiveling headlights, blind spot detection) for $1760, Lane Departure Warning for $640, Adaptive Cruise Control for $1295, Meridian audio upgrade for $1825, Four Zone Climate Control Package $4150, parking sensors for $1200, rear seat entertainment is $2400, soft closing doors are $600, and towing package which includes a full-size spare and locking rear diff is $1300. This brings the total MSRP to $121, 390. Then you have to pay at the pump to feed an SUV that sips premium gas to the tune of 14/19 mpg city/highway.

While this is not a perfect vehicle, it is the best Range Rover ever. The LWB adds space that most buyers won’t opt for, not because of the cost but because the elongated body visually throws off the proportions. There are dozens of so-called premium luxury SUVs on the market, many of which cost half as much, but none of them, as we will soon find out, are as refined to the level of the Range Rover.

2014 land rover range rover lwb long wheel base front

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. His ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. 

Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC provided the vehicle for this review.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Nissan NV200 SV Cargo Van http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/capsule-review-2014-nissan-nv200-sv-cargo-van/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/capsule-review-2014-nissan-nv200-sv-cargo-van/#comments Wed, 06 Aug 2014 12:00:33 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=881666 For decades buyers made the pickup truck the bestselling vehicle in North America. Despite its utilitarian roots, the pickup truck has morphed from a working man’s appliance into a replacement for big body-on-frame American luxury sedans. Sure, that V8 Crew Cab is a nice vehicle, but what are you really going to do with a five-and-a-half-foot bed? […]

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2014 Nissan NV200 cargo front

For decades buyers made the pickup truck the bestselling vehicle in North America. Despite its utilitarian roots, the pickup truck has morphed from a working man’s appliance into a replacement for big body-on-frame American luxury sedans.

Sure, that V8 Crew Cab is a nice vehicle, but what are you really going to do with a five-and-a-half-foot bed?

2014 Nissan NV200 cargo volume rear

For those not paying attention, there is a van revolution going on in the United States. The American vans that we have known and loved are about to die. Ford is replacing their E-series with the European Transit and the smaller Transit Connect. Chrysler ditched its full-size vans a decade ago and just recently replaced them with rebadged front-wheel-drive Fiats, under the Ram ProMaster line. Soon they will be adding a smaller Ram ProMaster City.

Nissan was one of the early pioneers in the next-gen van space, with the big, if awkward looking, NV-series vans. The big NVs come with V6 and V8 engines, and can be ordered in varying wheelbase lengths, heights, and capacities. They recently followed it up with the smaller, front-wheel-drive based NV200 that you see above. The NV200 also serves as a basis for New York City’s Taxi of Tomorrow, which can been bogged down by all kinds of politics.

2014 Nissan NV200 cargo dash

When compared to a compact pickup truck (a segment that many seem to dearly miss), the advantages of any van are clearly apparent. The most obvious one is the large lockable cargo space that can protect one’s belongings from theft or the elements. Cargo space on the NV200 is 122.7 cubic feet, comparably bigger than most capped pickup beds. Furthermore, it is accessible not only from the rear, via two large barn doors, but also via a large sliding door on each side. The floor of the cargo area is lined with rubber and there a six D-rings to tie objects down.

That cargo area is 53 inches high and 54 inches wide, with 48 inches between the wheel-wells, which is the width of a standard piece of plywood. That plywood will be easy to load, too, as the loading floor is just 20 inches off the ground – no Man Step® needed here. The maximum length of that plywood is limited to 82.8 inches. Longer items, up to 116 inches, can be transported when the passenger seat back is folded down. All that cargo space can be filled with up to 1500 pounds of people and things, which is more than some full-size pickups.

2014 Nissan NV200 cargo interior details

The passenger portion of the interior is finished in a typical commercial-grade heavy durable plastic. This SV model was equipped with Nissan-typical infotainment system which consists of a slightly outdated nav system, USB port, CD player, Bluetooth, satellite radio, Pandora streaming, and a handy back-up camera. Secondary steering wheel mounted controls are a nice touch. While there are plenty of storage cubbies, none of them are particularly large or covered. Many small business owners would probably appreciate additional USB ports and a 120vAC receptacle. The seats are covered in durable cloth, but with a short bottom cushion and a hard headrest that presses on the driver’s head, they are not very comfortable overall.

The NV200 is powered by a 2.0-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine which makes 131hp and 139lb-ft of torque. It is matched up with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) which sends that power to rather small looking fifteen inch wheels that are wrapped in 185/60-15 tires. NV200’s major utilitarian shortfall, in part due to that engine, is that it is not recommend for trailer towing, something that every pickup truck will happily do. The EPA rated the little van at 24mpg in the city and 25mpg on the highway, which is superior to any pickup with the exception of the new Ram 1500 EcoDiesel.

2014 Nissan NV200 cargo exterior details

The small wheels may not inspire confidence but a Nissan product development guy assured me that they have beat the crap out of them in testing and found no faults. I traveled in the NV200 around some very industrial roads that have a lot of heavy truck traffic, and dirt roads that leads to my local junkyard, and found no issues. Many trucks and vans beat up on their passengers when driven unloaded, but the NV200 was pretty smooth. Unfortunately, the only cargo I was able to transport with the NV200 was a pair of Specialized Stumpjumers and some parts for my project car, both of which were of no significance in terms of space or weight.

In city driving, an empty NV200 has just enough power. It will get out of its own way, but drag racing even the slowest of bicycles cars should be avoided. It somehow feels a little livelier on the highway, but passing or merging maneuvers should be planned well in advance. Smart packaging makes the NV200 a rather narrow vehicle, and allows it to easily zip around cities and fit into parking garages – something that was likely inspired by the needs of van customers in Europe and Asia. Despite the large mirrors, rear windows, and a back-up camera, reversing can still be intimidating to some.

2014 Nissan NV200 cargo side sliding door open

The NV200 S starts at $20,490. The SV model starts at $21,480 and it surprisingly does not come with many extra features but it allows the buyer to select many more options, whereas the S is strictly a stripper. The pictured Red Brick SV came with a Technology Package ($950), rear glass ($190), and painted bumpers ($190). Add destination and handling and the total price comes to $23,670.

Nissan NV200 comparison

With Ford’s Transit Connect and the upcoming Ram ProMaster City, this segment of the market is about to get red hot. Nissan is strong out of the gate with the early availability, strong price point, and the best gas mileage. Being slightly envious of all these vans, General Motors will have its own mini cargo van called City Express, which forgoes imitation and in the most flattering way replaces the Nissan badge with a bowtie.

2014 Nissan NV200 cargo rear

Kamil Kaluski is the East Coast Editor for Hooniverse.com. Read his ramblings on Eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous automotive stuff can be found there. 

Nissan provided the vehicle for this review.

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Review: 2015 GMC Yukon SLT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-gmc-yukon-slt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/review-2015-gmc-yukon-slt/#comments Wed, 02 Jul 2014 22:15:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=853377 Until a decade or so, if you wanted a three-row SUV your choices were pretty much limited to body-on-frame offerings, most of which were related to a pickup truck. But now, even GM’s own GMT960s (Enclave, Acadia), provide similar amount of interior space to this Yukon. Furthermore, they are less expensive, more efficient, and easier […]

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2015 GMC Yukon SLE front 34 left

Until a decade or so, if you wanted a three-row SUV your choices were pretty much limited to body-on-frame offerings, most of which were related to a pickup truck. But now, even GM’s own GMT960s (Enclave, Acadia), provide similar amount of interior space to this Yukon. Furthermore, they are less expensive, more efficient, and easier to drive. It’s possible to argue that the biggest, if not the only, advantage of these body-on-frame V8-powered SUVs is their towing ability.

So why do GM, Ford, Nissan, and Toyota still bother with these dinosaurs?

2015 GMC Yukon SLE rear 34

The simple answer is because people are buying them. Spend time on this nation’s roads this summer and you’ll see full-size SUVs loaded up with summer essentials, often towing boats, campers, or project cars. The merits of three-row unibody “trucks” aside, a full-size V8-powered SUV still holds appeal for many consumers.

2015 GMC Yukon SLE interior dash

Climb into the driver’s seat of this Yukon SLT 4×4 and prepare to be overwhelmed. Surrounding you, the driver, are:

  • 37 dash buttons,
  • 8 dash knobs,
  • 13 steering wheel buttons,
  • 13 door buttons,
  • 6 gauges,
  • 2 screens,
  • 1 shifter with a button,
  • 1 multi-functional stalk,
  • 3 toggle switches
  • 8 roof buttons,
  • 2 12v receptacles,
  • 4 USB ports and

It’s not as bad as it sounds, since many of those buttons are for secondary controls. That said, many of those secondary buttons could be combined with others or simply eliminated. Even grouping them to one area that’s hidden from view (Lexus does that) would visually clean up the interior. In daily driving, however, where most drivers just switch between presets, drink coffee, occasionally input a destination, take a phone call, or vary the temperature setting by a few degrees, the interior layout will suit most people just fine. Perhaps the center screen could be positioned more toward the driver as opposed to being in the middle of the very wide dash.

Where the interior does fall a bit short is in the quality of materials used. Self-appointed plastics experts will rightfully complain about flimsy feeling panels and a lack of soft-touch materials. The leather, with its contrasting stitching, a mark of luxury de jour, also does not seem soft or of high quality. A GMC is supposed to feel better than a Chevy but not as good as a Caddy. In the case of this particular GMC, the interior still seems average at best.

2015 GMC Yukon SLE interior details

GM’s biggest challenge seemed to be designing the two rows of rear seats. To be safe and comfortable, the seats have to be big. Buyers also want the functionality of a flat cargo floor. Furthermore, no one wants to pull heavy seats out of vehicles anymore, therefore the seats have to fold flat. In addition to all that, the middle row had to provide easy access to the third row, making the final design both complicated and compromised.

The solution to this was to raise the floor in the rear section of the vehicle, creating a compartment in the back, and making it even with the level of the folded third row. The middle row, (captain’s chairs in this tester, but a bench is available), is even with the third row when folded. This makes for a flat loading floor but takes away from overall cargo volume. The third row folds and raises with a push of a button. The middle row folds down with a push of a button, or via a lever, but needs to be raised manually. The middle seats also fold and tumble forward for passenger access to the third row. Nissan has a much nicer solution in its Pathfinder that even allows a rear-facing baby seat to remain in place when the seat is folded forward.

The power hatch has two settings: fully open or three-quarters open, to avoid potential impact with a garage roof. The rear window also opens independently of the hatch which is handy for dropping small things into the cargo area. The problem with that window is that it is only fourteen inches high, a relatively small opening for such a big vehicle. With the third row seats folded, the cargo area is generous. 12v outlets, cubbies, covered storage bin, and cargo tie down hooks further increase the functionality, but there is no cargo cover.

2015 GMC Yukon SLE tailgate trunk cargo

Notice the raised floor from the bottom of the the tailgate opening. Ignore the crib.

This Yukon is one of the quietest SUVs I have ever driven; wind noise and engine noise are basically absent, surprising given its large surface area and upright design. Gone, too, is the V8 burble. The ride is very smooth and it takes a sizable pothole to jolt the passengers. One of Yukon’s drawbacks is visibility; both A- and D- pillars are very thick, windows are relatively short, side mirrors are small, and when the optional rear entertainment screen is opened it completely blocks the inside rear view mirror. There are blind spot sensors, parking sensors, and a backup camera, but no surround view display, which would be very beneficial.

The Yukon, when equipped with the Max Trailering Package (ref. code NHT), is rated to tow 8200lbs (8500lbs for 2WD models). The package includes a 3.42 axle ratio, trailer brake controller, a self-leveling suspension, and a 2” receiver with a 7-pin connector. The receiver is hidden behind a cover which is held by two wing nuts. Roof rails are standard on the SLT.

Despite the rugged looks and a 22” step-in-height, the ground clearance is only eight inches, but the front air dam looks even closer to the ground. The twenty inch polished wheels are wrapped around in 275/55-20 Continental all-season tires that say “EcoPlus Technology” on them. While they seemed great on the highway I would not venture too far off pavement.

2015 GMC Yukon SLE interior rear details

EcoTec3 is the new series of GM’s V6 and V8 engines. The Yukon is powered by a 5.3-liter V8 version which produces 355 horsepower and 383 lb.-ft. of torque. The OHV engine is sporting new(-ish) technologies such as direct fuel injection, cylinder deactivation, and variable valve timing, and mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. Loaded up with my family and a day’s worth of kids’ stuff, the engine pushed the 5700lb vehicle effortlessly in all situations but struggled to achieve 15mpg in heavy-footed mixed city/highway driving, short of EPA’s rating of 16 city, 22 highway mpg. Those wishing for more power can step up to the Denali and its 6.2-liter 420hp/460tq engine.

For 2015, the Yukon SLE 2WD starts at $47,330. The starting price for this SLT 4WD is $57,735. The Sun and Entertainment Package which consists of a sunroof, nav system, and rear seat DVD player (component input but no HDMI) adds $3255, less a $500 credit. 20″ wheels add $1400, second row bucket seats  are $590. The Max Trailering Package is a bargain of the bunch at $650, and an alarm is $395. Total MSRP with destination charge for the reviewed Yukon is $64,520.

For comparison, an equally loaded up Nissan Armada Platinum is $56,395 and its fancier Infiniti QX80 cousin is $80,245. A Toyota Sequoia is $65,410 and a Ford Expedition Limited is $61,113, all more or less equally loaded.

Yikes! That’s a lot of money, particularly when compared to the Pilots and Highlanders of the world. How much do you really want one of these? Enough to pay 5 Series money? Not to worry; if you’re not interested, someone else will be, and they’ll be tailgating you on the freeway shortly.

2015 GMC Yukon SLE side

Kamil Kaluski is the east coast editor for Hooniverse.com. Read his ramblings on eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous car stuff there. 

General Motors provided the vehicle for this review.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/capsule-review-2014-land-rover-range-rover-evoque/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/capsule-review-2014-land-rover-range-rover-evoque/#comments Mon, 16 Jun 2014 13:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=843970 This has never happened to me before. Four different women complimented me on this vehicle. I’m guessing they were somewhere between 25 and 45 years old – it’s really difficult to tell these days. They were all fit, attractive (-ish), wore fancy sunglasses, and carried equally fancy bags which complemented their outfits. They all loved this […]

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2014 Land Rover range rover evoque front 34

This has never happened to me before. Four different women complimented me on this vehicle. I’m guessing they were somewhere between 25 and 45 years old – it’s really difficult to tell these days. They were all fit, attractive (-ish), wore fancy sunglasses, and carried equally fancy bags which complemented their outfits. They all loved this baby Range Rover. To them, it represented an essential accessory that would complete them. That, my friends, is a marketing success.

2014 Land Rover range rover evoque rear

The Evoque does not sit well with a Land Rover enthusiast such as myself. My earliest television memories are of Camel Trophy races. In college, I spent six weeks driving around southern Africa in a Defender 110. In 2002, I attempted to enter the G4 Challenge. If I could, I would put NATO steel wheels and mud-terrain tires on every big Range Rover in existence. And yet, here I am driving this car that has R A N G E R O V E R written across this hood failing to justify its existence. Clearly, the hotties know something I don’t.

The problem with enthusiasts is that we forget that car companies’ first goal is to be profitable. Rest assured that Jaguar-Land Rover won’t quickly forget their corporate experiences of the past two decades. The good thing is that at the rate they are going they won’t have to worry about it. There are waiting lists for new Range Rovers and the Jaguar F-type is just drop dead gorgeous. With attractive lease rates, the Evoques have been appearing at newly constructed loft style condominiums everywhere.

2014 Land Rover range rover evoque dash interior

No matter what your opinion on Evoque’s styling, it has clearly become part of the Land Rover design language, as seen in the new Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. While the bigger vehicles have more masculine styling, this baby Rover looks striking and athletic, and therefore more appealing to the above mentioned ladies, who are clearly its target customers. Unlike Rovers of the past, this is form-over-function design. The slick sporty exterior lines have opposing effect on interior space, overall utility, and rear visibility, all of which have been Range Rover trademarks for due to their two-box design and large windows.

Front seats are comfortable but legroom and headroom are lacking for back seat passengers. Overall interior materials are nice, but not to the level of the big Range Rovers. The huge panoramic roof gives the cabin a very airy feel, but oddly enough it does not open. The infotainment system is the typical slow and outdated model seen on all JLR vehicles; it Bluetooths, in streams, it navs, it syncs, and it even offers some interesting options which I’d gladly trade for increased ease of use.

2014 Land Rover range rover evoque trunk

Some will find the round pop-up shifter irritating, but now that almost all automakers have switched to electronic shifters, I found it more acceptable. Below it is the AWD Terrain Response system and hill ascent control, which I have not had an opportunity to evaluate – and chances are that neither will most buyers. The rest of center console consists of are two cup-holders, two 12v receptacles, a cubby for your cell phone, and a storage bin capable of storing the fanciest of purses.

The direct-injected 2.0 liter turbo four-cylinder produces 240hp and 250lb-ft. The vehicle feels peppy above 2500rpm, but with the transmission is in D, it likes to up-shift early. This sometimes puts a delay in acceleration, as the transmission will hunt the proper gear out of the nine it has available. Turning the shifter knob to S makes things smoother, but it’s still best to avoid lower engine speeds. There are also paddle shifters but I can’t imagine anyone actually using them.

2014 Land Rover range rover evoque interior details

The 2014 Evoque is rated at 21mpg in the city and 30mpg on the highway, a slight increase from the past model years due to the new nine-speed transmission. Also new is the engine start/stop system, which is one of the most annoying things on any new car, but easily disabled with a press of dash mounted button. My real world numbers achieved on short, traffic infested city runs and enthusiastic highway runs in sport mode resulted in an average of about 22-24mpg.

The starting price for the Range Rover Evoque 5-door is $42,025. The pictured vehicle has the Pure Plus Package, Xenon/LED headlights, cameras everywhere, dub wheels, fancy leather, adaptive cruise control, contrasting black roof and a number of other gizmos. The price for this almost fully loaded Evoque is $59,140, which includes a destination charge.

2014 Land Rover range rover evoque side

The main goal of the Evoque was to attract new customers to the Land Rover dealership; those with smaller budgets, those who do not need a large SUV, and those who never considered a Land Rover before. It has achieved that goal with the lure of brand image, styling, and Posh Spice’s approval. Based on those facets alone, Land Rover will sell each one as fast as they can make them.

 

Kamil Kaluski is the east coast editor for Hooniverse.com. Read his ramblings on eastern European cars, $500 racers, and other miscellaneous car stuff there. 

Land Rover provided the vehicle for this review.

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Capsule Review: 2014 Audi A6 TDI Prestige http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/capsule-review-2014-audi-a6-tdi-prestige/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/capsule-review-2014-audi-a6-tdi-prestige/#comments Thu, 29 May 2014 13:15:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=833226 It’s likely that we all have been asked the most dreaded question at parties: “what’s your favorite car?”. I prefer to put a different spin on it: what car would I most like to take a cross-country road trip in? There is always a compromise of comfort, cabin space, trunk space, speed, cost, and/or fuel […]

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2014 audi a6 tdi side

It’s likely that we all have been asked the most dreaded question at parties: “what’s your favorite car?”. I prefer to put a different spin on it: what car would I most like to take a cross-country road trip in? There is always a compromise of comfort, cabin space, trunk space, speed, cost, and/or fuel economy. After spending a weekend with this car, I can say that my answer to that question undoubtedly is the Audi A6 TDI.

2014 audi a6 tdi front

From the side it is uniquely Audi, offering perfect proportions when compared to the shrunken down A4 and the elongated A8. The once bizarre corporate grill has faded into normalcy over time, as have the often duplicated fancy headlights, which, by the way, are amazing. The rear is reminiscent of the original A8. Overall the exterior design is clean, modern, but conservative at the same time. The S-line treatment of the pictured vehicle hints of its sporty aspirations without being obnoxious about it. Bystanders will like this car when they see it but forget about it few minutes later.

2014 audi a6 tdi dash

The interior looks great, too. Every surface is pleasing to the senses; the soft leather smells great, the wood grain is intentionally left uneven, and the minimalist layout is pleasing to the eye. What’s important on a long trip, however, is comfort. The vehicle is very quiet at all speeds and the suspension does a fantastic job of keeping the unpleasantness of the outside world, outside. With plenty of room for four passengers, very comfortable seats, those complaining about these accommodations should have just stayed home.

The infotainment screen hides into the dash to further underscore that clean layout, which is especially nice for night driving. Vital information such as Sirius XM channel or navigational directions are displayed in the gauge cluster. Audi’s MMI Navigation interface is one of the best and easiest to use in the business. The main, iDrive-like, knob is positioned right where your hand is when your arm is resting on the armrest. It is surrounded by hard and soft keys, operation of which is reflected on the screen. All basic controls are easy to access, and once your presets, iPhone and gadget-de-jour, are synced and set to your liking, there is really no need do anything there.

2014 audi a6 tdi interior details

Nobody with an ounce of oil in their blood wants to drive a boring car, which many so-called luxury cars, tend to be. The beauty of the A6 TDI is that, despite the aforementioned refined ride and isolated comforts, it is simply fun to drive. The steering is quick, if a little over-boosted, the adjustable suspension is set just right, allowing plenty of highway ramp fun. The three suspension settings do not change vehicle dynamics drastically, and with sincere respect to Audi chassis engineers, I really question the need for those settings.

The real story here isn’t the ride, or the interior, or the looks. Rather, it is the 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel engine and its 428 lb-ft of torque at 1750 rpm. Numbers themselves are never impressive; it’s translating those numbers into real world driving characteristics that make so many of us lust after compression–ignition engines. This engine turns this car into a beast. The power is instantaneous; no lag, no delay, no nothing. It. Just. Goes. Off the line, highway passing, the A6 TDI doesn’t care. It just goes, pressing you deeper into the seat. It goes smoothly, it goes evenly, it goes without any drama, and it goes while getting 38mpg on the highway.

2014 audi a6 tdi engine

But nothing is perfect, and neither is this vehicle. For instance the two front cup holders are simply too small. And there is no USB or auxiliary audio input ports (you need to use Bluetooth). Its price, which starts at $57,500 ($67,295 as pictured), does not do it any favors, either. Furthermore, any potential buyer would be a fool to ignore Audi’s reputation for long-term reliability. And yet, if anyone asked me what I would want to drive from New York City, around the Great Lakes and over Rocky Mountains, to San Francisco, this would be my answer.

In my lifetime of automotive obsession, two decades of driving, dozens of personal cars, and years of reviewing cars, I have never been more impressed. As a reviewer, this frustrates me because in my mind I sound like some kind of wobbler. 

2014 audi a6 tdi rear

Audi provided the car for the purpose of this review.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Subaru WRX Premium http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/capsule-review-2015-subaru-wrx-premium/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/capsule-review-2015-subaru-wrx-premium/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 12:30:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=828394 Please welcome Hooniverse editor Kamil Kaluski for his first review for TTAC. Like much of the Playstation Generation, I spent much of the 90’s ogling over the forbidden fruit from the Land of the Rising Sun: Type Rs, EVOs, WRXs  – fun, reasonably priced, reliable, econobox-based sports cars with great potential. Naturally, I bought a […]

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2015 subaru wrx (1)

Please welcome Hooniverse editor Kamil Kaluski for his first review for TTAC.

Like much of the Playstation Generation, I spent much of the 90’s ogling over the forbidden fruit from the Land of the Rising Sun: Type Rs, EVOs, WRXs  – fun, reasonably priced, reliable, econobox-based sports cars with great potential. Naturally, I bought a WRX as one as soon they debuted in 2002. Six months later I promptly sold it.

I didn’t hate the original bug-eyed WRX – I was just disappointed by it. The chassis, even with a set of Eibach springs, still rolled and yawed in every direction. The engine had no power below 3500rpm, and then, out of nowhere, burst to life in a boost-filled fury. The gear ratios of the five speed manual transmission made accelerating fun, at the expense of any highway comfort.  The fuel economy would have been poor for a V8 – for an economy car four-cylinder (even a boosted one) it was abysmal.

2015 subaru wrx (5)

If you were to blindfold a past owner and put them behind the wheel of the newest WRX, they’d immediately know what car they were in. Little cues, like the seating position, the shift knob and of course, the unmistakable, off-beat boxer hum, all remind you that underneath the much improved skin, beats the same rambunctious heart. Then again, the window switches seem to be carried over from the year 2002.

Outside of its Corolla-on-steroids looks, the biggest difference in the WRX is the engine. The displacement is back to two thousand cc’s, but there’s now variable valve timing and direct injection. The result is 268hp, which in the days of 300hp+ V6 Mustangs does not sound like much.The real news is the 258lb.-ft. that is available between 2,000-5,200rpm. Now that there’s some torque being made as low as 1000 rpm, daily driving is a lot more pleasant, while cruising on the highway isn’t going to drive you into madness. And it still screams all the way from 3000 rpm up to redline.

2015 subaru wrx (2)

But wait! There is more! For the first time ever, the WRX also manages to get decent gas mileage. With a 6-speed manual transmission, the 2015 WRX  is EPA rated at 21mpg in the city and 28mpg on the highway. My real-world heavy-footed trip down the New Jersey Turnpike resulted in a dash-computer calculated average of 27.7mpg, which I would say is pretty darn good. A CVT is a $1200 option, but really, why bother?

With the exception of a ride that is slightly rough over the worst of northeast’s post apocalyptic winter roads, Subaru has removed any objectionable behavior from the WRX that may be encountered during daily operation. Some may find it to be sprung too softly for serious at-the-limit driving, but Subaru really needed something more than a few horsepower and a big wing to justify the existence of the STI. Overall it’s a nice compromise for the enthusiasts and that incidental WRX buyer who just wanted an Impreza with more power.

2015 subaru wrx (4)

While remaining typical Subaru (that is to say, spartan if we’re being polite), the interior also received some updates. The biggest difference is one that you won’t see: road noise. The 2015 version is orders of magnitude quieter than the boomy, gusty examples previously sold here. More than the crappy fuel economy or the wonky gearing, this was my biggest annoyance when it came to driving long distances in my old WRX.

Head and leg room is abundant for all passengers, even on sunroof-equipped vehicles such as this one, and the manual seats are comfortable and supportive. All controls, with the exception of heated seat buttons, are logically located and easy to use. With small inoperable vent windows, door-mounted mirrors, and thinner than average A-pillars, the visibility all around is excellent.

The radio/infotainment system feels dated. The main display consists of segmented characters, and some information displayed on it may be incomplete. All controls are made via a bunch of small buttons and one knob. There are auxiliary controls on the left side of the steering wheel. There is also a secondary screen higher up on the dash which shares duties with the onboard computer, fuel economy gadget, and a boost gauge. Aux and USB inputs are located in the center console. The climate controls consist of three simple knobs – it might be the most efficient setup on the market, yet everyone else insists on more complex controls. It baffles me.

2015 subaru wrx (7)

Those unimpressed by its lack of evolution should be happy to know that Subaru has managed to refine the coarser elements of past examples, without eliminating any of its character or thrills. With a starting price of just $26,295, the WRX is one of the best performance car deals on the market. And if it looks a bit too sedate or Civic-esque for you, there’s always the hotter, sharper-edged STi.

2015 subaru wrx (9)

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

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Comparison Review: Kia Soul Versus Nissan cube: First Place: Nissan cube http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/comparison-review-kia-soul-versus-nissan-cube-first-place-nissan-cube/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/01/comparison-review-kia-soul-versus-nissan-cube-first-place-nissan-cube/#comments Fri, 08 Jan 2010 16:59:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=341164 Driving enthusiasts, given the choice between the Soul and the cube, will opt for…a Honda Fit. So this comparison between Kia’s and Nissan’s boxes-on-wheels assumes different priorities. Which provides the most relaxing refuge from the seriousness of work when commuting to and fro? Short answer: the cube. Like the Soul, the cube is a riff […]

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Cubism

Driving enthusiasts, given the choice between the Soul and the cube, will opt for…a Honda Fit. So this comparison between Kia’s and Nissan’s boxes-on-wheels assumes different priorities. Which provides the most relaxing refuge from the seriousness of work when commuting to and fro? Short answer: the cube.

The hipster haircutLike the Soul, the cube is a riff on the basic box popularized in the U.S. by the original Scion xB. Unlike the Soul, the Nissan’s major lines are either parallel or perpendicular to the pavement. In other words, it’s a box.

And yet, unlike the classic xB, it’s not simply a box. There’s some subtle surfacing in the bodysides. The window openings have rounded corners. Further outside the box: the cube is asymmetrical. There’s a small window in the right side C-pillar, and the pillars around this window are blacked out, but no corresponding window on the left side, where the pillar is body color. This asymmetry is even functional. From the driver’s seat you couldn’t see out such a window on the left side anyway. And with no window, there can be a storage bin inside the left C-pillar.

Yes, many people hate the cube’s exterior. Or find a car that looks like a Toontown escapee both silly and pointless. But this silliness is the point. Some people want a car that doesn’t take itself seriously, and that displays a clear disregard for convention. If you’re going to diverge from mainstream auto design, why stop short of challenging people? The Soul’s design isn’t challenging. The cube’s is.

The Soul’s styling is optimized for 18-inch wheels. The cube’s exterior is far less wheel-centric, so its 16s are plenty large. This one’s all about the box. The tested cube was a krom model, meaning a unique grille with Ford-like faux chrome bars, side skirts, and unique wheels. I’d pass on these bits, as they don’t add much to the appearance of the car, and the side skirts make little sense given the overall mission. 100_5610

With some notable exceptions, Nissan wasn’t as adventurous with the interior design. The most notable exception: the headliner far above your head is molded to form a series of concentric waves around the dome light. Think Japanese rock garden. A sunroof would interrupt the pattern, which might be why none is offered. The instrument panel similarly includes some very zen circles and curves, and forms a wave when viewed from above. This wave motif continues with the floormats. Very calming.

But why is the cube interior only available in light gray or (in the car I drove) off-black? The VW Beetle, Chrysler PT Cruiser, and (to a lesser extent) Kia Soul all offer vibrant color inside the car. Nissan offers colorful vent surrounds as dealer-installed accessories, but these hardly compensate for the overwhelming colorlessness of the rest of the interior.

The instruments include a weak attempt at whimsy, with blue and white graphics that are too obviously painted on. But why did Nissan’s inexplicable infatuation with orange LED displays have to infect the cube? Not only does the orange trip computer nestled between the tach and speedometer clash with the blue and white graphics, but orange simply isn’t a soothing color. Consult a zen master for better alternatives. Perhaps a cool blue?

The driver can select among 20 colors for the ambient lighting in the footwells and cupholders. This feature would be more compelling if you could change the color of all of the instrument panel readouts to something other than orange. As it is, the carpet doesn’t match the drapes unless you opt for even more orange. One electronic feature the cube could do without: the $100 alarm system that goes off if you attempt to open a locked door. Or breathe on the car. It’s not entertaining.

Ripples in the CubeThe problem with striving to be whimsical is that some jokes are bound to fall flat. Case in point: the cube’s optional (and removable) “dash topper.” What’s a dash topper, you ask? Well, it’s a small circle of shag carpet velcroed to the top center of the instrument panel. No doubt the intent was to make being inside the cube more like being inside one’s family room, to give you a little piece of home the moment you leave work. The original concept might have called for covering the entire top of instrument panel with shag carpet, 1970s custom van style. The airbag engineers would have nixed any such concept. Cut a little here, and little there, and you get the small circle in the center. Even in the context of the cube, the car toupee (as I came to call it) seems pointless.

Once past color and the car toupee, the interior gets better. When packaging the cube, Nissan made much different choices than Kia. The cube’s windshield is much more upright than the Soul’s and its instrument panel was designed to take up as little visual space as possible. The downside: unless you have long arms, you’ll have to lean forward to operate the radio. Or use the redundant controls on the steering wheel. Also, the upright windshield yields huge front side windows. Generally a good thing, but the non-extending sun visors cover only the forward half of said windows. So, expect bright sunlight in your eyes if it’s westward ho in the late afternoon.

The upside: from the driver’s seat the cube’s interior feels much more expansive than the Soul’s. No cockpit effect whatsoever. You feel like you’re navigating a small room. The broad seats, similar to those in the Quest minivan, are softer than most these days. Lateral support? What would be the point? Much more missed in their absence: heated seats. Wait for the automatic climate control to do its job, power up the Rockford Fosgate audio, then kick back and enjoy the comfort of home on the way home.

Which brings up the name. The point of such a silly car is to forget about life’s necessities, most notably work. Say “cube,” and the first thing most people will think of is the place they spend their time at work. Few want to be in a cube once they leave work. The name originated in Japan. Does “cube” lack this usage over there? Fire and ice?

The cube’s roominess extends to the sliding and reclining back seat, which is mounted high enough off the floor to provide adults with thigh support. My kids loved how well they could see out. Credit the low, unraked beltline.

There’s not much space between the rear seat and the left-hinged tailgate. Enough for groceries, but luggage for four probably isn’t happening. As in the Soul, the front passenger seat does not fold. A pitty, as this feature would be especially useful for long objects given the non-invasive IP and upright windshield. Unlike in the Soul, there’s no hidden storage compartment beneath the cargo floor. While this does provide a deep well, it also means that when the rear seat is folded the cargo floor isn’t remotely flat. Nor can the rear seat be removed or flipped far forward. No magic here.

On the spec sheets, the Soul has a power advantage. Out in the real world, the cube’s 1.8-liter four dramatically outperforms the Soul’s 2.0 even though both vehicles weigh about 2,800 pounds. The cube’s secret weapon: a CVT. This CVT isn’t without its disadvantages—one’s ears often convey the impression that the clutch is slipping. The relationship between engine noise and vehicle speed is decidedly non-linear. And said engine noise is overly buzzy—“buzz box” entered my mind, and stuck there until the phrase (almost) became endearing. But, to give credit where credit is due, the CVT enables the 1.8 to boost the cube to 40 MPH much more effortlessly than it has a right to. There’s no sluggishness off the line or lugging at higher speeds. A responsive six-speed automatic might yield similar performance with a more natural feel—but no competitor offers such a transmission. The Soul’s quick-to-upshift, slow-to-downshift four-speed automatic is decidedly inferior.

Also, recall that you’re not driving a conventional car. In the cube, it seems oddly appropriate to simply prod the pedal and then let the powertrain hoist you up to speed. Too bad you can’t just push a button, as in an elevator. MPG in typical suburban driving came to 25.8.

Zen garden?Handling…how do you want a family room on wheels to handle? Body motions are fairly well controlled, and the door handles remain well off the pavement in hard turns. Agile…not really. And yet more fluid and natural feeling than the Soul, despite vague, overboosted steering that feels directionless on center. Intent on running the Tail of the Dragon? You’re shopping in the wrong class of vehicle.

Given the cube’s mission, ride quality is more important than handling. While the cube’s ride quality is far from luxury class, and can feel a little busy at times, it is smoother and much more forgiving of road imperfections than the Soul’s. You have a much better shot at relaxing during that commute to the cube in Nissan’s cube.

At the cube’s price (still just over twenty grand when loaded up with the krom bits) you expect some shortcomings. And the cube has them. Nissan needs to change the IP lighting, kill the (engine) buzz, tighten up the on-center steering, extend the sun visors, and heat the seats. But even with these shortcomings the cube outpoints the competition in combining an offbeat exterior with an expansive interior and relaxing driving experience. Those that “get it” should get it. The rest of us…well there are plenty of more conventional cars for us.

[Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, a provider of pricing and reliability data]

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The post Comparison Review: Kia Soul Versus Nissan cube: First Place: Nissan cube appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

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