The Truth About Cars » Turbocharged http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 18 Apr 2014 22:58:29 +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 » Turbocharged http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com First Drive Review: 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/first-drive-review-2015-volvo-v60-t5-sport-wagon-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/first-drive-review-2015-volvo-v60-t5-sport-wagon-with-video/#comments Thu, 30 Jan 2014 14:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=725274 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior

There was a time when wagons roamed the interstates, ferrying families from one National Lampoon vacation to another. With the rise of the crossover, those looking for the original “looks practical but handles like a sedan” mode of transport have few options, and most of them live in the luxury segment. Let’s count them before we go too far. We have the soon-to-be-cancelled Acura TSX, the last-generation Cadillac CTS , the Volkswagen Jetta, Mercedes-Benz E-Class, BMW 3-Series and the Toyota Prius V. Even if you expand things to include “off-road wagons”the list only grows by three (Audi Allroad, Subaru Outback and Volvo XC70.) Despite the shrinking market, Volvo’s brand has long been associated with practical wagons. It’s almost hard to believe it has been three full years since Volvo sold one in America. That’s about to change with the 2015 V60.

 

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Exterior

Back in 2010 Volvo was selling two wagons in America. The V50 was based on the compact S40 sedan and the V70 shared its underpinings with Volvo’s 5-series competitor the S80. Although the V70 is still sold in Europe and the V40 (the replacement for the V50) splashed down in 2013, Americans will have to settle for Volvo’s middle child, the V60 wagon. Based on Volvo’s S60 sedan, the V60 competes internationally with wagon variants of the 3-Series, C-Class, Audi A4 and many others. But this is America and Volvo’s only direct competitor is the BWM 328i xDrive wagon. More on that later.

Despite ditching the boxy form years ago, Volvo’s style remains the automotive Birkenstock to BMW’s Prada. The entire Volvo lineup in America (except for the XC90) received a 2014 face lift with a more aggressive grille and more creases in the hood. Volvo has finally tucked their radar cruise control module behind a plastic panel that blends into the grille rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. Out back we get bumper cover integrated exhausts, a large black surround on the rear glass that made me wish it was separately hinged, and a continuation of those oh-so-sexy Swedish hips. Volvo’s engineers kept the V60′s roofline fairly high at the rear, but even the Swedes have given in to modern “coupé” styling cues, most notably in the greenhouse shape. The raked rear glass looks sexier, but takes a toll on cargo space.

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Interior-003

Interior

Birkenstocks are comfy. Prada? Hit and miss. (Or so I’m told.) And so it is with Volvo and BMW interiors. The S60 on which the V60 is based is now 5 years old.  Aside from massaging color and trim options, the only substantive changes to the interior since it was launched is Volvo’s LCD disco dash, a new steering wheel with shift paddles (optional) and a new gear shift knob. Despite its age, the Scandinavian chic cabin has what it takes to complete with BMW, especially now that the 3-Series has gone slightly down-market with more hard plastics in this generation. My only major gripe is the small 7-inch infotainment display that is clearly outclassed by BMW’s ginormous iDrive screen.

Despite lacking the range of motion that the competition affords, Volvo’s thrones continue to be the segment’s ergonomic benchmark. Volvo equips all V60 models headed to America with aggressively bolstered front seats and even more bolstering is available in a sport package.  If you’re a larger driver, you will find the sport seats confining and may even have issue with the standard seats as the bolstering seems to be designed for slim to average builds. Rear passengers are in for a mixed bag with less rear leg room than Acura’s TSX and quite a bit less than BMW’s 3-Series. Checking the numbers, the 2015 V60 actually slots in behind my old V70R, which wasn’t exactly spacious in the rear.

Wagons have long been about practicality and cargo capacity. The V60 scores points on the practicality front with a fold-flat front passenger seat and a standard 40/20/40 folding rear seat back. Volvo also tosses in a plethora of shopping bag holders, a built in cargo divider and additional cargo capacity below the load floor. Unfortunately the sexy profile cuts storage behind the rear seats to 43.8 cubic feet with the rear seats folded. The pursuit of fuel economy has meant the loss of a spare tire which may be a tough pill for road trippers to swallow. Volvo says buyers can option up some form of spare tire but details were sketchy.

2015 Drive-E Engine, 2.0L Engine, Picture Courtesy of Volvo

Drivetrain

The V60 lands at the same time as Volvo’s new engine family. If you want to know more about Volvo’s four cylinder future, check out our deep dive from a few days ago. Volvo’s engine lineup is getting a bit confusing as they transition to their new engine family resulting in two totally different “T5″ models. Front wheel drive T5 models use a new four-cylinder direct-injection engine good for 240 HP and 258 lb-ft while T5 AWD models get the venerable 2.5L 5-cylinder engine making 250 horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. This is the point where most companies would stop. Indeed, BMW is only offering the 3-Series with a 241 horsepower 2.0L turbo gas engine and a 180 horsepower diesel I4 in America. The TSX isn’t long for this world but is only available with the familiar 2.4L 4-cylider engine.

In an unexpected twist, Volvo confirmed that there  will be a third engine with two performance levels bound for America. The T6 AWD model will get a 3.0L twin-scroll turbo inline six cylinder engine cranking out 325 HP and 354 lb-ft. This engine takes the S60 sedan from 0-60 in 5.05 seconds and I expect the V60 to post similar numbers. If that isn’t enough, Volvo will go one step further and bring a 350 HP, 369 lb-ft Polestar tuned variant to America good for sub-5-second runs to Ikea.

The new 2.0L engine is mated exclusively to Aisin’s new 8-speed automatic transaxle, also found in the 2014 Lexus RX 350 F-Sport. The new cog swapper enables standard start/stop on the V60 along with a coasting mode (similar to ZF’s 8-speed) which essentially shifts into neutral when you let off the gas on a level road. Due to packaging constraints, 2.5 and 3.0 liter engines get an Aisin 6-speed automatic and standard Haldex AWD.

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-012

Drive

The only V60 model Volvo had for us to play with was a front-wheel-drive T5 model with the new 2.0L turbo. Lacking the supercharger for low-end response (available in the S60), the T5 model felt very similar to BMW’s 2.0L N20 engine in the 3-Series with a hint of turbo lag to start and a broad power band. The German mill cranks out less torque, but is required to motivate less curb weight, so I suspect 0-60 times will be fairly similar. Because of the limited time I had behind the wheel we don’t have verified 0-60 numbers but Volvo says the V60 will do the sprint in 6.1 seconds, which is about 1.5 seconds faster than the TSX.

Despite the healthy torque numbers, the V60 presented relatively little torque steer. Volvo didn’t say what they had done to improve on things vs the last T5 FWD model I drove but they did say no suspension designs were changed. (This is a contrast to the S60 T6 FWD which had plenty of torque steer in first gear.) Volvo’s test fleet consisted of Sport Package models only, which are tuned toward the firmer side of the segment. The tuning is certainly firmer than BMW’s standard 3-Series suspension and on par with the Sport Line wagon.

The V60 handled winding roads with composure thanks to wide 235/45R19 (part of the sport package) tires all the way around but the lighter and better balanced 328 wagon feels more nimble out on the road. Meanwhile the TSX and Audi Allroad feel less connected. Since the BMW is only available in America in AWD trim, a comparison to the T5 AWD and T6 AWD may be more appropriate, so check back when we can get our hands on one.

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-006

No Volvo would be complete without new safety tech and the V60 spearheads several improvements to existing systems. Volvo’s blind spot system has moved from a camera based system to radar. The switch improves accuracy, allows it to operate better in fog and inclement weather and increases the range. There’s also a new self parking system to parallel park the V60, but we didn’t have an opportunity to test it. City Safety, Volvo’s autonomous braking system, now operates at up to 31 MPH and can now detect cyclists in addition to cars and pedestrians (optional packages apply). Volvo tells us that they expect the system to provide autonomous braking for large animals like moose in the next 1-2 years.

The V60 has been priced aggressively for 2015 starting at $35,300,  an $800 upsell over then S60 and $6,150 less than a base 3-series wagon. Adjusting for feature content, the base V60 is still $5,000 less. If bargain wagons with premium badges are your thing, the TSX is king at $31,985, but the delta shrinks to less than two grand when you adjust for the V60′s feature set. The $36,800 might be the more appropriate competitor for the AWD-only 3-wagon, but a more interesting match up is the $44,300 V60 T6 AWD. Configuring a 3 or the CTS wagon with the same equipment you find on the Volvo will set you back at least $2,000 more. In addition to the value factor, the Volvo brings 35% more power to the fight. The extra power and AWD go a long way in compensating for the better weight balance in the BMW or the Caddy. Since GM hasn’t refreshed their wagon yet, the 3.0 and 3.6 liter V6 engined are outclassed in every metric by the Swede. Option your V60 with every conceivable option and you end up at $54,480.

As a former Volvo wagon owner, I’m probably biased, but all the reasons I opted for a Swedish cargo hauler in 2006 apply to the V60. Aside from the fact that “value” strikes a fire in my loins, the Volvo is the clear performance option in this segment. Want more shove than the $44,300 Volvo? Pony up $64,900 for the CTS-V wagon or $102,370 for an E63 AMG wagon. I’ll reserve my final judgement until I can get my hands on one for a more thorough evaluation, but in the mean time the V60 is quite simply the best performance and value option in this phone booth sized segment.

 

 Volvo provided travel, lodging, meals, the vehicle, insurance and gas for this review

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Twincharging Is Volvo’s Replacement For Displacement http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/twincharging-is-volvos-replacement-for-displacement/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/twincharging-is-volvos-replacement-for-displacement/#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 14:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=724490 Volvo Drive-E Engine, 2.0L twincharged, Picturre courtesy of Volvo

Engine downsizing is all the rage. Making the engine smaller increases fuel efficiency, reduces emissions and cuts vehicle weight. With ever tightening fuel economy legislation in the United States and CO2 emissions regulation in the European Union, mainline manufacturers are turning to turbochargers like never before. In 2009 just 5% of cars sold in America sported turbos, and that 5% consisted largely of European brands like Volvo and BMW with a long history of forced induction. By 2013 that number had more than doubled to 13%. Honeywell expects the number to rise to 25% in the next four years and the EPA tells me that by 2025 they expect 90% of cars sold in America to sport a turbo engine. With turbos becoming so ordinary, what’s a turbo pioneer like Volvo do to keep a competitive edge? Add a supercharger of course.

I recently had the opportunity to sample the new Volvo V60 (expect a first drive review shortly) but the star of the show wasn’t the car itself, it’s what’s under the hood. New engine designs are truly a rarity in the automotive world with engines being tweaked over time to keep them fresh. Volvo’s own modular engine found under the hood of most Swedish cars (and the occasional Focus RS) turned 24 years old this year, but it’s a spring chicken compared to the Rolls Royce L series 6.75L engine that dates back to 1952. Being the engine nerd I am, I spent a new hours with Volvo’s powertrain engineer discussing their new “Drive E” engine family.

Volvo’s new engine family is primarily a clean sheet design, although many design components are descendants of the old “modular” engine family. The line consists of four different variants dubbed T3, T4, T5 and T6. As before, T indicates turbocharged but now the number represents power output rather than the number of cylinders involved. Yes, this is the death knell for Volvo’s funky 5-cylinder because this is a strict four-cylinder lineup. Volvo has said the 149 horsepower T3 and the 188 horsepower T4 won’t be headed to America at the moment, so don’t expect to see a direct competitor for BMW’s downsized 320i from Sweden this year. Instead we get the 241 horsepower T5 and the 302 horsepower T6 under the hood of everything except the XC90.

Volvo Drive-E engine, 2.0L, picture courtesy of Volvo

All engines share a common block design, but what changes is the boost. T3, T4 and T5 engines use a single turbo while T6 adds a Roots-type supercharger in addition to the turbocharger. VW and others have dabbled with twincharging in the past, with VW’s 1.4L twincharged engine finding a home under the hoods of Euro models and putting down 140-180 horsepower. Volvo is taking things to the next step by calling their 2.0L engine the replacement for not just the 3.0L twin-scroll turbo but also the recently departed 4.4L V8.

While supercharging and turbocharging sounds excessive, there is a logic to the madness. While peak torque on the turbo-only T5 just 15 lb-ft lower than the T6 (when in overboost), the supercharger allows the T6 to deliver approximately 140 lb-ft more torque just off idle. The torque curves converge around 1,500-1,600 RPM when the T6 switches over to the turbocharger. From approximately 2,000 RPM to 3,500 RPM torque remains flat on both engines but the larger turbo on the T6 allows it to maintain peak torque all the way past 4,500 RPM. When torque does start to wane it does so more gradually than turbo-only engines.

Aisin AWF8F35 8-speed transaxle, picture courtesy of Aisin

Why not stick with a supercharger alone like Jaguar and other auto makers? The reason is two-fold. Turbochargers operate off of “waste energy” from the exhaust. Exhaust gases spin the turbine which in turn spins the compressor forcing more air into the engine. In truth “waste energy” is a misnomer because there is a horsepower toll for having the turbo interfering with the exhaust stream, but in general this toll is smaller than the power required to operate a supercharger. The downside to a turbo is well known: turbo lag. Turbo lag is the time it takes the turbo to start “boosting.” Although the turbo is spinning at idle, it’s creating little positive pressure. Step on the gas and it takes a while for things to start humming along and boost to be created. That’s why the T5 has a lower torque rating off idle.

Superchargers are typically driven off the accessory belt. Because of the “direct” connection to the engine, they are always creating boost. Because this boost happens in sync with engine RPMs, the response is immediate. On the down side superchargers can consume up to 20% of an engine’s total power output according to Honeywell. This is considered a good trade since they can boot power up to 50%. Because of design trade offs, factory supercharged engines tend to “run out of breath” at higher RPMs which explains why Jaguar’s 5.0L supercharged engine lags the 4.4L and 4.7L twin-turbo German engines by a wide margin in peak torque.

Volvo’s answer to both problems was to use a supercharger for immediate response at the low end. From idle air flows into the supercharger then through the turbo into the engine. This not only improves low end response but it also helps get the turbo up to speed faster. At some point determined by the car’s computer (around 3,500 RPM) the engine opens a butterfly valve to bypass the supercharger and then de-clutches the supercharger to eliminate the inherent loss. This process allows a supercharger tuned for low end response and a turbo tuned for higher RPM running to be joined to the same engine. The result is a horsepower and torque curve superior to Volvo or BMW’s 3.0L twin-scroll turbos in every way, from torque at idle, length of the torque plateau, to high-RPM torque. To further increase efficiency Volvo relies on a variable speed electric water pump for cooling, direct-injection for combustion efficiency and low friction bearings and rings. Volvo’s marketing literature hails this as the answer to the V8.

But is it really? Yes and no. The pint-sized engine allows the XC60 to deliver 29 MPG on the highway in 304 horsepower T6 trim which is a 50% increase over Volvo’s 2009 XC90 V8. Score one for Drive-E. Out on the road, the 2.0L engine delivers more low end torque than any other 2.0L four-banger sold in America giving the XC60 more punch off idle than I expected. The T6′s torque curve may be flatter than Volvo’s sort lived 4.4L V8, but it’s not quite as robust at the top end or at idle. The broad torque band and the Aisin 8-speed auto allowed the XC60 T6 to tie an XC90 V8 to 60 MPH.  Aurally, Volvo’s “burbly” V8 is the clear winner. The Drive-E engine has a distinct (but muted) supercharger whine under 3,500, a definite four-cylinder exhaust note and an eerie silence at idle. Volvo was cagey about any Polestar tunes for their new engine, but I suspect considerable work will need to be done to best Volvo’s own Polestar I6.

My inner engineer is excited by the possibilities of modern forced induction technologies and small displacement engines. I suspect that the vast majority of American shoppers would be hard pressed to notice the difference between Volvo’s twin-charged 2.0L engine and a V8 in the 4L range in terms of power delivery and drive-ability. The constant march towards fuel economy also fills me with sadness. No matter how you slice it, a naturally aspirated V8 has a sound that we’ve grown up associating with performance and luxury. This association is so strong that BMW pipes V8 sounds into the cabins of their turbo V8s because the turbos interfere with the exhaust notes. As our pocketbooks rejoice, join me as I shed a tear for the naturally aspirated inline-6 and V8.

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Review: 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-buick-regal-gs-awd-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-buick-regal-gs-awd-with-video/#comments Thu, 23 Jan 2014 14:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=698417 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior

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

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Exterior

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

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

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-003

Interior

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

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

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Buick Link

Infotainment

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

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

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Engine 2.0L Turbo-001

Drivetrain

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

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

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Gauges-001

Drive

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

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

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-007

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

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

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-010

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

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

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.67 Seconds

0-60: 6.7 Seconds

1/4 Mile:15.2 Seconds @ 93 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 22.1 MPG over 611 miles

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

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Buick Link 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Engine 2.0L Turbo 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Engine 2.0L Turbo-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-002 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-003 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-004 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-005 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-006 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-007 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-008 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-009 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-010 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-011 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-012 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Exterior-013 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Gauges 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Gauges-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-001 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-002 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-003 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-004 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Interior-005 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Trunk 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD Trunk-001 ]]>
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Piston Slap: A Turbocharged “Placenta Previa”? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/piston-slap-a-turbocharged-placenta-previa/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/piston-slap-a-turbocharged-placenta-previa/#comments Thu, 02 Jan 2014 12:21:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=689218 Click here to view the embedded video.

Daniel writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I’m a long time reader, first time writer. I have a question which no one seems to know the answer to so I figure you and the B&B can have a go at it. I have a good condition spare turbo laying around from my MR2 turbo before I upgraded. I want to install this into my toyota previa. The problem is the area where the turbo will sit it will be exposed to the elements under the car ( rain, snow, salt) the way the exhaust manifold sits I have no choice. What sort of problems do you think I have in the future with the turbo being exposed like that? I’m in Chicago and this will be driven in winter. And the van is lowered too so the turbo will be pretty close to the ground.

Sajeev answers:

Your problem has very little to do with the turbo’s location. It has to do with the fact that you have a free turbo and now want to build a turbocharged van around it.

Since the factory supercharged Previa has a different engine (2TZFZE) than the base model with a naturally aspirated (2TZ-FE) engine, there’s a lower compression ratio…for starters.  Engines designed for boosted applications often have stronger pistons, rods, cranks, unique cylinder heads and sometimes even better oiling/cooling systems.  Odds are the Previa’s two engines show a similar disconnect.

And we haven’t even touched on fuel system upgrades, ECU tuning, new exhaust, etc. So sell the turbo on eBay or craigslist.

Your van sounds pretty bad-ass. So if you really love the beast, use the proceeds of the turbo’s sale for a supercharged Previa donor van. Because it is way easier to upgrade when you have the entire conversion kit already assembled in a donor vehicle.

Which is sort of what I’m doing with my Ford Sierra…oh my, perhaps I’ve said too much…

 

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

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PRI 2013: Ford Shows Off its Ecoboost Crate Engine http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/pri-2013-ford-shows-off-its-ecoboost-crate-engine/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/pri-2013-ford-shows-off-its-ecoboost-crate-engine/#comments Wed, 18 Dec 2013 13:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=682610 Ford Ecoboost Crate Engine

Ford Racing quietly began offering its advanced, 2.0 liter Ecoboost turbocharged 4 cylinder crate engine earlier this year, without much fanfare. All that changed at the 2013 PRI Show in Indianapolis, however, with Ford’s Ecoboost powered 2015 Mustang twirling away on a giant lazy Susan directly under the giant “Ford Racing” banner mere steps away from the small crate engine, displayed proudly with its (relatively hefty) $8,000 price tag.

This was the first PRI outing (that I’m aware of) for Ford’s turbo 4, and the buzz around it was genuinely positive, with plenty of guys who cut their teeth on DSMs and 2.2 L turbo Chryslers in the- ahem!- 1990s suddenly interested in Ford’s muscular pony. Maybe for the first time, even- all of which bodes well for Ford, who needs to keep the Mustang brand relevant to the Gen-X and Millenial generations of enthusiasts if it hopes to enjoy another few decades of success.

As for specs, Ford’s littlest Ecoboost (crate engine) packs a 252 HP punch served up with 270 LB-FT of torque at just 3000 rpm- not bad for a company that couldn’t get that out of a production 5.0 liter V8 just 20 short years ago. You can check out a few more pictures of Ford’s racy 4-banger, below, and check out Ford Racing’s official 2.0 L Ecoboost page here.

 

Ford Ecoboost Crate Engine

Ford Ecoboost Crate Engine

 

Originally published on Gas 2.

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BMW: Don’t Fear The Four http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/bmw-dont-fear-the-four/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/bmw-dont-fear-the-four/#comments Tue, 30 Aug 2011 21:20:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=409325

It’s been 12 years since BMW offered a four-cylinder engine on a US-market offering, but starting this October, US dealers will begin offering new “TwinPower”four-pot versions of the Z4 roadster and 5-series sedan. And, as BMW’s US-market boss Jim O’Donnell explains to Automotive News [sub], there’s no reason to fear the four… anymore.

It wasn’t in line with our image, because it didn’t have the performance of the six cylinder. We were selling ourselves as the ultimate driving machine and really it wasn’t. Now that the engines have developed so far, it’s not an issue at all.

But now BMW is offering four-bangers because they offer an even better driving experience, right? Less weight, better turn-in, that kind of thing… right?

Uh, not so much, no. O’Donnell continues

CAFE is definitely driving this. This is huge for us. If we get this wrong, it screws up all of our plans in the U.S.

And O’Donnell is right to reference the risks involved. After all, Ford is already learning the hard way that charging high prices for downsized, fuel-efficient engines doesn’t always pan out, as its Explorer Ecoboost was mauled for lackluster performance by even the traditionally toothless Motor Trend. On the other hand, the CAFE-related problems with not offering smaller engines are even worse:

Failure to meet U. S. requirements produces fines of $55 per mile below the requirement multiplied by the total number of vehicles sold, Greg Schroeder, a research analyst at the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor, Michigan, said in a telephone interview.

Selling 200,000 vehicles with a CAFE 20 mpg below the target, for example, would lead to an annual fine of $220 million. “As the fuel economy doubles they have to change their plan,” Schroeder, the industry analyst, said. “They’re going to have to improve fuel economy, they can’t just sit and pay fines forever.”

But don’t start bemoaning a new CAFE-induced Malaise era just yet: the new four-pot base engine may be down 6 percent compared to the previous entry-level six in the Z4, but it boasts an 18 percent improvement in torque. The new Z4 is .1 seconds faster to 60 MPH than its six-equipped predecessor, while the new four-cylinder 528i should shave .4 seconds off its predecessor’s 0-60 time. But for image-conscious luxury brands, the challenge isn’t simply proving that the performance numbers show progress… after all, they’ve spent decades leading consumers to believe that the number of cylinders was a key to premium-ness.

“The challenge really is for us as a company and you as media to look at how we describe performance, which tradition would tell is the number of cylinders and how big they are, and that determines a premium car or a high-performance car versus another car,” Ian Robertson, head of BMW sales, said in Carmel, California. “That is not the relevant measure anymore.”

That sell would be a lot easier to make if the new four-bangers sounded as good as we know BMW can make them. Check out the following video (starting at around :47) to see what we’re talking about.

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Review: 2011 MazdaSpeed3 Take Two http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/review-2011-mazdaspeed3-take-two/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/review-2011-mazdaspeed3-take-two/#comments Fri, 19 Aug 2011 20:52:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=408085
The regular Mazda3 is already one of the best-handling choices in the small car market and you can get it with either a revvy little two-litre engine or a torquier 2.5L mill with 167 horses. For a front-wheel-drive compact, 167 ponies should be plenty. I mean, what kind of a lunatic would you have to be to want more power than that?

Wait a minute. I’m a lunatic!


Luckily, for those of us who’ve brained our damage, there’s the Mazdaspeed3, and my goodness but doesn’t it look like it’s just escaped from a loonie-bin for mentally imbalanced fish? I liked the old Mazdaspeed3 quite a bit simply because, apart from the bulging hood and over-sized exhaust pipe, there weren’t many clues to its riotous performance. In short: it was a bit of a sleeper.

The redesigned model is not a sleeper. It yells. It’s so far from subtle, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Lady Gaga wearing one as a hat in her next music video.

To the already controversial Nagare style treatment of the Mazda3 hatch have been added the hot-hatch garnishes of +1 wheel size and big spoiler: these are the usual cheddar and bacon which transform humdrum hamburgers into artery-clogging eats par excellence.

Unfortunately, they’ve also grafted on a – admittedly functional – hoodscoop. This sort of thing is akin to the slice of beetroot that Australians insist on putting on their burgers. It’s fine for rough-and-tumble Outback types (i.e. Subaru), but a Mazda with a hoodscoop is just plain weird.

And don’t get me started on that lower grille treatment. Is it meant to resemble gills? Am I supposed to shave with it? Either way, it’s all very shouty; this car might as well have an all-caps “TURBOOO” down the side in six-foot-high mid-90s pastel lettering.

Thing are equally juvenile in the interior, where Mr. Diesel and Mr. Walker have apparently been filming a Coke Zero commercial. Red stitching on black leather is one thing, little red-and-black bubbles and swirls on the dashboard trim, door insets and seat cushions is another. Still, once you’re sitting on the seats, you won’t have to look at them.

With regard to the interior instrumentation and layout, it’s a Mazda3 hatch: everything that works in the regular car works here, and it’s all very nicely laid-out and simple to use. One caveat, there appears to be a small commemorative stamp celebrating cartography or something stuck to the upper instrument binnacle. Oh hang on, that’s the navigation system.

Still, it’s usable and Mazda bundles the Navi together with their excellent adaptive front lighting system and a thundering BOSE stereo. All this technology does end up turning the steering wheel into a typewriter (18 buttons!), but after just a few days I could find everything I needed without taking my eyes off the road. Which was good.

Two hundred and eighty foot-pounds of torque at just 3000 rpm. That’s a whole lotta cowbell. In a recent review of the Mazda2, I likened that car’s leisurely attitude to acceleration to that of a small dog leashed to a fat person. The Mazdaspeed3 is… quite different.

Forget Jinba Ittai. Driving this car is like taking a Rottweiler the size of a Clydesdale for a walk. There’s a lot of power (263 hp) and, hey, you’re in charge of it right? Well, sort of.

At some point, you’re going to want to tickle the loud pedal, and at that point the Mazdaspeed3 is going to shout, “Squirrel!” and shoot forward in any number of directions, taking your arm with it. To combat this tendency, Mazda’s engineers have fitted a choke chain: boost is limited in the first three gears dependent on steering angle, and there’s a torque-sensing limited slip diff. Has it worked? Have they tamed the torque steer?

Nnnnnnnnnnno.

Now if you’ve read up to this point, you may be thinking that I didn’t like this car. You may be postulating, “So, you’re saying it’s ugly and a bit crude and kind of a spaz when it comes to putting the power down. Why should I buy this thing again?” Well, I’ll tell you: the Mazdaspeed3 is worth every red cent because it’s capital-F, capital-U, capital-N, double underline, two stripes of highlighter, sprinkle it with glitter: FUN.

Never mind tenths of a second at the Nerd-burgring, never mind 0-60 times and skidpad g’s and all the other quantitative nonsense we use to determine which car is best. The Mazdaspeed3 is a great car because the first time I gave it the beans it elicited from me a raucous bark of laughter. Yes, the ‘Speed3 might better suit a straight-jacket than a car-cover, but I couldn’t wait to get out and drive it.

The ‘Speed3 grips like a cat on a curtain and shakes a tail feather on throttle lift-off. It surges forward with sudden great big gobs of torque and in third gear you can pass anything up to and including tachyons.

From that point on it was a constant mission to find excuses to take the ‘Speed3 out on any number of chores. I would nip down to the grocery store to buy milk and return home with cheese instead, just so I could be sent back by a tutting wife. I called long-lost out-of-town friends to arrange visits that would let me bomb down the twisting highways. I even volunteered to go to IKEA.

At no point did my untamed steed do less than plaster a big stupid grin on my face every time. From twin exhaust pipes, it sounded its barbaric yawp across the twining network of blacktop as lesser econoboxes huddled together like clumps of frightened beige sheep.

Yes, the WRX is a more surefooted companion, and yes, the Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart is a compelling alternative to the ‘Speed3 in driving dynamics and in the looks department as well. But when we finally run out of oil, and you grow up to drive a nice sensible electric mid-size sedan, this is the one hot hatchback that your kids will be asking if you had the chance to drive.

There’s been much chat about the future of Mazda and whether or not their focus on driving pleasure will survive ever-more stringent fuel economy regulations. If we’re lucky, Mazda will still be building a car with as much character as this in the future.

Hell, of course we’re lucky: they’re building it right now.

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

Do you have the need for MazdaSpeed? IMG_1247 IMG_1248 IMG_1249 IMG_1250 IMG_1251 IMG_1252 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Review: 2011 MINI Cooper S http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/review-2011-mini-cooper-s/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/08/review-2011-mini-cooper-s/#comments Fri, 05 Aug 2011 19:49:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=405937

Ever since I test drove the original Honda CRX a quarter-century ago I’ve been a big fan of small cars. In everyday driving I’d rather have a small car with limited power than a large car with a lot of it. And yet I’ve never quite connected with the MINIs I’ve driven. Perhaps I just needed more time in the seat? To find out, I recently spent a week with a MINI Cooper S—a small car with plenty of power.

More than anything else, styling distinguishes a MINI from other small cars. The car’s iconic exterior provides people who would never buy a Fit or a Fiesta with a reason to buy a B-segment hatchback. The tested car’s $500 “spice orange metallic” exterior was further distinguished with a $250 “MINI Yours Tattoo, Funky” graphics package. A MINI’s interior is even more highly styled than its exterior, though one must wonder if the styling in this case helps or hinders sales as ergonomics and ease of use were clearly low on the list of the designers’ priorities. The idiosyncratic controls are different from those in any other car, are in few cases intuitive, and often require more steps than they ought to. The most irritating: after my aging Motorola phone (a very popular model when new) was connected via Bluetooth, I had to hit “okay” five times to accept the MINI’s requests for data transfers every time I started the car. Perhaps the Smartphone Integration is smarter when paired with a more intelligent phone? The speedometer at the top of the center stack is too large and too close to the driver to serve any purpose aside from decoration; there’s a digital speedometer in the tach so the driver can actually tell how fast the car is going. The sliding armrest is too easily and too often bumped backwards when working the shifter. Some of the materials are decent, but many are a lower grade of plastic than the car’s $27,000+ price might suggest.

A MINI’s driving position is similarly unique. You sit lower than in today’s typical small car and well behind an upright windshield. While this lends the car a different, more retro feel compared to run-of-the-mill subcompacts, it also blocks traffic signals until one learns to stop well short of the white line. Otherwise, visibility is very good all around, thanks to thinner pillars than the contemporary norm. The sport buckets provide good lateral support, but comfort is compromised by a headrest that juts too far forward. The seat recliner is located on the inside, where it is hard to reach. The rear seat in the standard MINI hatchback isn’t intended for frequent use by adults. Even my tenth-percentile eight-year-old son complained that it was tight back there. Need more rear seat room? Then step up to the three-door Clubman or four-door Countryman. Cargo room behind the seat is similarly limited to a single row of grocery bags. Nevertheless, by sliding the front passenger seat all the way forward and tipping its seatback I was able to squeeze a bicycle into the car with just the front wheel removed.

Earlier Cooper S’s had supercharged engines, but the blower was replaced by a turbocharger when the car was redesigned a few years ago. Though in years past this would have meant more lag before the boost kicks in and less low-end power, the MINI’s 1.6-liter four largely avoids these traditional disadvantages. One reason: the turboharger is small and a twin-scroll design. The torque peak of 177 foot-pounds runs all the way from 1,600 to 5,000 rpm, with the horsepower peaking at 181 at 5,500. As with other turbocharged engines, the low torque peak is a little deceiving. It’s easy to stall the engine pulling away from a dead stop with the AC on, and there’s a little lag at low rpm. But from 2,500 on up power comes on so smoothly and in such a linear fashion that it’s not even obvious that the engine is boosted. Just strong. Hit the redline in first at WOT, shift, and the engine slams the car forward upon engaging second—the boost is right there, waiting. And yet this engine doesn’t feel as explosive or as smooth as the newer, 188-horsepower direct-injected 1.6 in the Nissan JUKE.

The six-speed manual shifter, dressed in an odd narrow boot and topped with an uncomfortable knob (style uber alles again), feels a little crunchy and reverse can be difficult to locate. It’s still better than any transmission without a clutch. Fuel economy is impressive given the level of performance, with EPA ratings of 27/36 and trip computer reports of 30 to 35 in the suburbs and 40 on the highway. Expected better from such a small car? Well, the MINI Cooper S might only be 146.8 inches long and 66.3 inches wide, but it tips the scales at 2,668 pounds, seven more than the 178.3-by-69.9-inch Hyundai Elantra. Which should at least partly assuage any safety concerns—this isn’t any tin can.

The JUKE’s engine might feel more powerful, but the MINI’s chassis is far more capable of putting its power down. Get even moderately on the gas mid-turn in a front-wheel-drive JUKE, and the inside front tire breaks traction. Do the same in the MINI, and the car rockets out of the curve. A lower center of gravity and better suspension geometry no doubt contribute, but the MINI’s more sophisticated, seam-free traction control system deserves much of the credit.

The MINI’s quick steering feels firm in normal mode, but provides limited feedback and makes the car seem larger and heavier than it is. Hitting the “sport” button further firms up the steering, but the chassis then feels less agile and the steering more artificial without providing more nuanced feedback. I prefer “normal” in all but the most aggressive driving. A shame, as the chassis is otherwise a match for any other front-driver’s, and far better than the JUKE’s, with the precision, balance, composure, and strong responsive brakes that make twisty roads a delight. Unless the road happens to be bumpy, in which case the chassis maintains the selected line but ride quality borders on harsh even without the optional sport suspension. And if you like your cars quiet, this isn’t your car. But then you probably knew that already.

The tested car listed for $27,700 when fitted with the sport package, keyless access, heated cloth seats, and the too clever by half phone integrator. Knock off $250 if you can do without the funky tattoo and another $500 if you can live with a more basic Bluetooth system.

Until the half-foot-shorter, four-inch-taller FIAT 500 Abarth arrives, the significantly larger VW GTI is the Cooper S’s closest competitor. It’s not possible to equip a GTI to a similar level, as MINI lets you order options a la carte (for more of that retro flavor) while VW forces you into the $5,530 Autobahn Package if you must be able to start your car without touching the keys. Xenon headlights require either this package or the navigation system. Do without these features and the GTI checks in about $1,500 below the Cooper S. Adjusting for remaining feature differences using TrueDelta’s car price comparison tool reduces the difference to about $900. Add the Autobahn Package and the VW comes in $3,000 higher than the MINI, but adjusting for its additional features reduces the difference all the way back to about $600. So the Cooper S and GTI are close in price. A MazdaSpeed3 undercuts the MINI by about $1,000, so it’s also in the same ballpark (unless you opt for the $6,100 John Cooper Works package on the MINI to get its straight line performance closer to the Mazda’s). A Nissan JUKE SL, on the other hand, lists for $2,500 less than the MINI, and adjusting for feature differences pushes the gap beyond $4,000.

The MINI Cooper S is certainly fun to drive. But so are the GTI, JUKE, and MazdaSpeed3, all of which can be had for the same or significantly less money. The MINI’s compact dimensions and relatively light weight should lend it a more agile, more tossable character than the others, but this advantage is compromised by the car’s heavy, somewhat artificial steering. Even after a week in the car, this steering came between the MINI and me rather than tightly connecting us. In a midsize sedan this steering would be okay, even better than okay, but a small, powerful hatch deserves a livelier, chattier system. It’s the thing I most wish MINI would improve. (Mazda tends to do the best in this area.) Not that the MINI’s secondary controls don’t also need improvement, as they are among the most difficult to use in any car. A less avoidable weakness: the minimal rear seat and cargo space. If you want a small car with a sporty driving position, these are going to be part of the deal. Add it all up, and there’s only one big reason to get a MINI over the larger, more powerful, better outfitted, and/or less expensive alternatives, and that’s style. Love the look? Then there’s no substitute.

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

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

Cooper S rear seat Cooper S front Cooper S side Cooper S cargo Cooper S rear quarter Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Big sale on cereal Cooper S engine Time to earn that name... Cooper S rear quarter 2 Cooper S interior

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Review: 2012 Volvo S60 T5 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/review-2012-volvo-s60-t5/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/05/review-2012-volvo-s60-t5/#comments Mon, 23 May 2011 23:17:36 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=395915

Quite a few of you balked at the idea of a $47,610 not-quite-midsize Volvo sedan. Well, for 2012 a T5 joins the S60 range. While the T6 might venture a bit deep into Audi and BMW territory, with a $31,850 base price the T5 is within striking distance of the similarly semi-premium front-drive Acura TSX and Buick Regal. But how much of the T6’s self-proclaimed naughtiness must one do without? Is the more affordable T5 a match for the Acura and Buick, much less the Germans?

Silver is not the new S60’s best color, and the standard 17-inch wheels also don’t do the long-nosed, high-belted exterior any favors. With “ember black metallic” paint and more delicate 18-inch alloys, the previously tested T6 was considerably more attractive. As tested, the T5 appears less upscale than some decidedly non-premium compacts. Not that a 240 looked upscale, either. But Volvo loyalists won’t recognize the object of their devotion in the S60’s coupe-like sweeping roofline. Which leaves the new S60…where?

The T5 has the same oh-so-Scandinavian interior as the T6, though without the $1,900 Premium Package (on both photographed T5s) the former’s seats are upholstered in T-Tec (think soft-sided luggage). The optional leather has an attractively heavy grain, and looks especially warm in “Beechwood.” Add the $800 Climate Package and the seats will also feel warm. Heated or not, these seats are among the most comfortable and properly supportive you’ll find. The Acura’s front buckets aren’t far behind, but the Buick’s are. The Regal wins back points for materials and workmanship. An especially sore point within the Volvo: the oversized shifter feels clunky and literally rings hollow. Though none of the cars in this class are especially foursome-friendly, the Volvo’s aft cabin is especially tight.

Unlike GM, Volvo realizes that 220-or-so horsepower is no longer enough for street cred. So ye olde boosted five kicks out 250 horsepower at 5,500 rpm in its latest iteration. While this is only ten more than the naturally-aspirated inline six offered in other Volvos, the T5’s peak torque of 266 pound-feet at 1,800 rpm outgrunts the six by 30. On paper it’s the superior engine. Drop a half-liter of displacement and AWD, and the EPA ratings improve from the T6’s 18/26 to the T5’s more respectable 20/30. This is better than the TSX V6 (18/27), Regal 2.0T (18/28), or the slightly larger Volvo S80 when fitted with the naturally-aspirated six (19/27), but not quite as good as an Audi A4 2.0T (22/30).

Problem is, the boosted five doesn’t deliver its numbers with the smooth feel and lusty sounds expected from a premium sport sedan. Despite the early torque peak, at low rpm the engine feels soft and responds sluggishly. Even the turbocharged four in the Buick sounds and feels better. The responsive, sweet-sounding six in the TSX is beyond comparison.

Handling similarly takes a hit. When I drove the T6 the salesperson said that Volvo was concerned that the car’s ride was too firm. The tires were a touch thumpy, but that car felt alive in a way no Volvo sedan had in recent memory. With the standard suspension, the S60 T5’s body motions are less well controlled. There’s more lean in turns and more bobbling over bumps. The Acura does a little better here, the Buick much better. The T5’s steering, though still satisfyingly quick, feels less direct and less precise than the T6’s. Partly because the Michelin Primacy tires lack grip, the stability control cuts in far too early. There’s no convenient button to dial it back; instead, this must be done through menus (think iDrive, but with the controls high up and to the right on the center stack). The Dynamic Package, with the T6’s 18-inch wheels, selectable effort steering, and firmer suspension, would close the handling gap with the Buick. It’s a must for anyone who cares about driving. But it also swells the price by $900. Even with this package, the T5 lacks the additional handling flexibility provided by the T6’s all-wheel-drive.

Even with the base suspension, the S60 T5 doesn’t ride as smoothly or as quietly as the Acura or the Buick. Compared to those cars it seems slightly raw, and not in a good way. The ears report a lesser car.

“Naughty” posturing notwithstanding, Volvo continues to push safety. “City Safety,” which can totally prevent hitting objects in front of the car up to 9 mph and minimize damage up to 18 mph, is standard on all S60s. I again lacked the nerve to test it. A full array of more commonly found safety features is also standard, of course.

Equip an S60 T5 to match the features of a $32,000 Buick Regal 2.0T or a $36,000 Acura TSX V6, and the MSRP ends up at $37,300. So not far off the latter, and very close to a similarly equipped $37,100 Audi A4 2.0T. Discounts should be larger on the Volvo, though.

Most notably, the Volvo S60 T5 starts a considerable $7,725 lower than the T6, but how much are you really saving? Equip both with heated leather, sunroof, adaptive xenon headlights, and the Dynamic Package, and the difference shrinks to $4,625, $36,250 vs. $40,875. (Add another $2,700 to either for nav plus a 650-watt surround sound audio system.) Volvo charges $2,000 for all-wheel-drive in the XC60 crossover, so figure $2,625 for the T6’s engine. A little steep for just one additional cylinder, but in this case it’s a must. Even if the inline six’s additional performance isn’t needed, the larger engine sounds and feels so much better than the cobby five—it adds ten grand to the perceived value of the car. The Germans have certainly charged much more for less.

Dwyer and Sons Volvo in Commerce Twp, MI, provided the car for this review. They can be reached at (866) 759-0593.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

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Review: 2011 Audi Q5 2.0 TFSI http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/review-2011-audi-q5-2-0-tfsi/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2011/04/review-2011-audi-q5-2-0-tfsi/#comments Wed, 20 Apr 2011 19:26:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=392143

The crossover is the new minivan, and in an age of $4-per-gallon gasoline, the fuel-efficient crossover is all the rage. While minivan-mommies may disagree for the sake of image, ask yourself: how is your crossover different than your parent’s minivan? The minivan sprang out of the station wagon revolt and the CUV is the result of minivan denial. As usual, the formula is the same: start with a sedan, add a taller box, toss in some optional AWD to make buyers think they are getting something rugged and you get instant sales success (unless you’re a Chrysler, but that’s a different review). This CUV formula wrought on an A4 creates the Audi Q5, one of Audi’s hottest selling models in the US market. Sales of the cute-ute soared over 70% to just over 23,000 in 2010 and show no signs of cooling with January sales up 50% over 2010. To keep the momentum (and CAFE numbers) going in the right direction, Audi has mated the corporate 2.0T engine to the latest 8-speed auto from ZF creating the 2011 Q5 2.0T Quattro.

Editor’s note: apologies for the press shots, which were made necessary by a technical problem.

Outside, the Q5 plays the same farm girl card as the majority of the Audi lineup. The wholesome sheet metal is attractive, but completely devoid of the dramatic styling cues that grace the new X3, GLK, SRX and even the XC60. Some might even call the Q5 slightly boring. The sterile exterior was accentuated by the rental-car white paint our tester wore. Sales of the old X3 paled in comparison to the Q5, but by early indications, the X3 has the Q5’s sales crown in its sights this year. Will the wholesome farm girl beat the beauty queen with its newly found frugal practicality? Since it will take a while for the market to let us know, give us your take now in the comment section below.

In order to maintain brisk sales, the base Q5 has received an engine down-size for 2011. With the likes of the Ford Explorer sporting a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine option, it was only a matter of time before one of VW/Audi’s turbo engines was found under the Q5’s hood. Audi followers know that the TT, A3, A4 and A5 are now available exclusively with the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-pot in the USA and if the numbers tell the full story, buyers may not miss the 3.2L V6 when the option is finally removed at some point in the future. Forced induction lovers rejoice! The turbo charged fuel sipper is the base engine, not an expensive option (unlike the new the new Explorer).

While the 211HP Audi 2.0-liter TFSI engine is nothing new, the lighter duty version of the 8-speed ZF cog-swapper found under the hoods of certain Rolls Royce and BMW models is. According to ze Germans, the 2 extra cogs alone are worth an 11% improvement in fuel economy over the previous 6-speed. The result of the displacement right-sizing and extra gears means the Q5 in 2.0T guise delivers 20MPG city, 27 highway and 22 combined. On paper this is only a 15% increase, in practice during our 800-mile week-long test of the A5, we averaged an impressive 26.5MPG in mixed driving; a practical real-world 25% increase in mileage over a Q5 3.2 I drove a year ago. 26.5MPG would be good in a FWD CUV, but even better when you note that all US bound 2.0T models are equipped with Quattro.

By offering AWD standard on all Q5s in the USA, Audi succeeds in distancing themselves from the likes of the two-wheel-drive XC60 or GLK chionophobic base models. For MPG comparison, the new BMW X3 xDrive28i delivers 19/25 MPG, the Volvo XC60 3.2 AWD gives buyers 18/24, the Acura RDX spools up 17/22 and the Mercedes GLK rounds out the bottom gulping a lowly 16/22 MPG. No wonder Audi expects 60% of Q5 buyers to stick with the base four.

At the first stab of the accelerator it seems that there is a replacement for displacement after all: while the 3.2L V6 in the Q5 3.2 may deliver 59 more horsepower, it’s actually 15lb-ft down on its two-liter cousin. Torque comes on early, lag is minimal and the twist doesn’t quit until high in the RPM band. It is therefore no surprise that our tester scooted to 60MPH in 6.8 (Audi claims 7.1 officially), down only .2 seconds to the 3.2 equipped Q5 we have tested in the past. It’s worth pointing out that the 2.0T beats acceleration expectations while the 3.2 merely meets them. The numbers are close enough to make little difference to most shoppers.

The only impediment to sporting progress in the 2.0T seems to be the 8-speed transmission. The sheer number of gears seems to leave the transmission software confused about which gear is right for you. The result: acceleration can be a varied experience depending on your speed. Still, overall performance is quite good having a far more linear feel than the 3.2L I6 in the XC60 or even the 2.3L turbo four in the RDX. Buyers paying extra for the Q5 3.2 may be disappointed to find that the 3.2 is still mated to ye olde ZF 6-speed. Towing capacity is the same between engines at a lofty (for a small CUV) 4,400lbs when properly equipped.

Out on the road, the 2.0T’s suspension tuning is similar to the 3.2: stiff for a CUV. Wide tires, a wide track, beefy brakes, fairly svelte curb weight (the 2.0T is 209lbs lighter than the 3.2) and oddly well balanced weight distribution of 50.5/49.5 (TTAC estimate) and quick steering (3.2 to lock) combine to give the Q5 athletic prowess on the track worthy of a BMW badge. If you are used to your Audi plowing like a nose-heavy freighter, the Q5 will surprise you. A quick-shifting DSG gearbox or at the least some shift paddles (available on the 3.2) might even turn the 2.0T into a pleasing corner carver. Compared to the likes of the XC60, RDX and GLK, the Q5 is certainly the road feel champ but it can’t quite match the new X3 for road manners.

First released as a 2009 model, our 2011 tester brought few changes to its largely monochromatic interior. Audi’s limited and tasteful use of wood trim helped break up the large expanses of black in our tester but let you know the price tag is lower than the wood-laden Q7. Unlike some of the competition (and some Audi models) buyers can opt for lighter leather and dashboard shades resulting in a feel that is far more airy than the black-on-black-on-black theme of our tester.

The latest MMI system is the largest change inside the Q5. Along with a large high-resolution LCD in a dedicated dash binnacle, a revised MMI controller knob that now includes a mini-joystick and revised software. The high-resolution 3-D navigation screens are crisp and comparable to BMW’s latest iDrive. BMW’s wise-aspect ratio screen gets the nod for the wow factor, but Audi delivers a close second in both form and function. Bluetooth and iPod integration are both about average in the class with logical controls and fairly good media device browsing ability on the main screen or the small LCD between the speedo and tach via the steering wheel controls.

My only major gripe with the MMI system continues to be the lack of voice commands for media device voice control ala Ford Sync, in truth this is a complaint against everyone but Ford. A less critical niggle is that Audi has done nothing to address the ergonomic flaw in the button and knob layout. While you can change the volume on the steering wheel (and voice command is available for some functions) I found myself spending a great deal of time looking down at the array of buttons surrounding the MMI dial or hunting for the volume knob. In a CUV with a moderately high beltline, this poses a distraction issue. Some upgrades, including steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters, a backup camera, and intelligent cruise control are available only on the 3.2 Prestige (the most expensive version of the Q5) so they were not available to test on our loaner.

Great, but how much does it cost? Our Q5 came in Premium Plus trim with a base MSRP of $39,400, the $3,000 navigation and parking sensor package and the $850 Bang & Olufson sound system. Only a $350 rear side-airbag option, 19”” wheels and some sparkly paint remained un-selected on our nearly loaded $44,600 tester. While the navigation system wears a big price tag, even for the luxury market, the functionality of the MMI is worth it. To achieve the lower ticket the 2.0T is “de-contented” to 18-inch wheels, a manual lift gate, and washerless headlamps. In our book these features (or lack thereof) are worth the $7,300 discount and greater fuel economy. A quick drive by my local Audi dealers revealed that all but two examples on the floor had had the MMI, so if you want a stripper, be prepared to order.

In comparison, a similarly equipped Volvo XC60 3.2 (albeit larger and more powerful) is the value leader coming in $2000 less with more interior room. A comparably equipped Mercedes GLK? $46,400. If BMW is more your style, an X3 xDrive28i will set you back an eye bulging $47,825 comparably equipped. Admittedly the Q5’s sporty dimensions (read: small) limit cargo room compared to the GLK and XC60, both which can easily swallow a 10-foot PVC pipe or 6-foot ladder from the home improvement shop of your choice. Practicality lovers note that the XC60’s fold-down front seat actually allows the Swede to sword-swallow a 10-foot ladder if you are careful. As pictures can attest, a two-tank water softener will fit in the Q5 no problem. If a sporty ride with cargo hauling capacity is what you seek, look no further than an Audi A4 Avant. If you really must CUV like the Jones’ then the Q5 2.0T is certainly a well-balanced choice.

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

Performance statistics as tested:

0-30: 2.5 seconds

0-60: 6.9 seconds

Audi Q5 Quo Vadis? q5e_medium q5h_medium q5080005-1280 q5080007-1280 2011-audi-q5-2.0t-engine-view Audi Q5 q5080002-1280 q5g_medium q5080004-1280 q5080006-1280 q5b_medium q5c_medium q5f_medium q5d_medium Audi Q5

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Review: 2010 Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/review-2011-hyundai-genesis-coupe-2-0t/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2010/02/review-2011-hyundai-genesis-coupe-2-0t/#comments Mon, 15 Feb 2010 18:03:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=345410
The Genesis Coupe has all the right bits: sleek styling, relatively compact size, DOHC engines, rear-wheel-drive, $22,750 starting price. Yet the Hyundai’s sales are a fraction of those for the Chevrolet Camaro and Ford Mustang. Why aren’t enthusiasts more enthused?

To begin with, there’s the name. The coupe shares its name—but little else—with the Genesis sedan. The two cars don’t look alike. They don’t drive alike. They’re much different in size and price. So, “Genesis” is bound to be associated with the characteristics of one or the other, or neither, but certainly not both. In this case, the sedan arrived first and so got dibs. If people happen to hear that there is a Genesis coupe, they’re likely to assume it’s larger, more luxurious, and more expensive than it actually is. At the very least Hyundai should—and I cannot believe I’m suggesting this—append an alphanumeric. C20T and C38 would be preferable to “Coupe.”

Like the Genesis sedan, the Genesis Coupe has an attractive but derivative exterior. Where the sedan cribs from Lexus (which in turn cribbed from the Germans), the coupe cribs from Infiniti. In both cases, the Hyundai has a premium appearance and is arguably more attractive than the cars that inspired it. The problem: with one exception the coupe’s design is not itself an original. Even people who don’t know cars can identify a Camaro, Mustang, or Z on sight. The Genesis Coupe’s styling provides no such basis for a clear, unique visual identity.

The exception: an odd beltline that dips downward after the B-pillar. According to one Hyundai employee, this novel detail was added to counter criticism that the company was simply borrowing from the designs of more established competitors. Viewed from the front or rear quarter, this detail doesn’t look bad, and some people might even find it appealing. Viewed directly from the side it doesn’t work well with the character line below it. For some reason, the rear window opening doesn’t extend any further down than the front window. The dipping beltline merely results in extra blacked-out glass–there’s no functional benefit.

Inside, the Genesis Coupe is, if anything, overly conventional, with none of the bizarre details that afflict many recent car interiors. While the exterior and specs suggests an Infiniti competitor, aside from the soft-touch IP upper the materials and switches are those of a decent $25,000 car. Most notable: the silver center stack trim just doesn’t look “premium.” Hyundai is aware of this shortcoming, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a revised center stack in two or three years. More upscale detailing would also be welcome.

As sport coupe cockpits go, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe’s is airy and open. The cowl is fairly low, the windshield header is above your sightline, and the pillars aren’t too thick. You don’t feel like you’re sitting in a bunker peering through a slit, the way you can feel in some competitors.

The Genesis Coupe’s front seats are comfortable and provide such good lateral support that larger drivers might find the nonadjustable bolsters too tightly spaced. A very welcome but increasingly rare feature: the headrests have a fore-aft adjustment. All is not perfect on the seating front, though. Despite the shared name, the Genesis Coupe is aimed at a much lower price point than the Genesis Sedan, and this translates to a much shorter features list. The steering wheel only tilts–it does not telescope–and this adjustment is manual. The seat heaters are simply on-off, without multiple levels. No power recliner is available for the driver seat, even though this feature isn’t rare at this price. No power adjustments are available for the passenger seat. Only the driver gets a lumbar adjustment, and it is again manual. Finally, no surprise given the limited number of power adjustments, no memory is available to store your settings.

Back seats in 182-inch-long coupes tend to be short on space, and this one is no exception. Passengers over five-foot-six will have to scunch down to avoid hitting their heads on the hatch glass. Knee room is similarly scarce. The rear seat does fold in a single piece to expand a trunk that, at ten cubic feet, is already among the largest in the segment.

The Genesis Coupe is available with two engines, a 210-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged four and a 306-horsepower 3.8-liter V6. Since the latter has been reviewed here already, by Capt. Mike, I’ll only note that the sound it emits is all throaty exhaust and, while powerful, at no point does it quite “come alive” and rush for the redline. The sound and feel of the Nissan Altima Coupe’s V6 proved more addictive.

The best that can be said for the turbo four in stock form is that you only hear it much over 4,500 rpm, and even then it doesn’t make much noise or sound bad for a four. The not so good: though boost lag isn’t excessive, power delivery surges and lulls a bit in casual driving–a common turbo trait. Unlike with some turbo fours, this one has little punch at lower rpm, and is only adequate in the midrange. Let’s face it—210 horsepower isn’t much for a 3,300-pound car. Luckily the aftermarket loves to offer power enhancements for turbo fours. If you don’t plan to mod the engine, though, the V6 is a better choice.

The six-speed manual has moderate throws, and isn’t the most precise. A few times it took an extra moment to find the desired gear. The clutch requires a moderate amount of effort, and engages a little too abruptly just above the floor.

In terms of agility and feedback, the Genesis coupe is no sports car. But the same is true of every competitor save the Mazda RX-8. Considered as a grand tourer, the Genesis coupe handles well. The steering, neither too light nor too heavy, firms up naturally as the wheel is turned. The car doesn’t feel too large or sloppy with the base suspension, and lean is further reduced with the Track Package’s sport suspension. There’s a bit of initial understeer, and oversteer isn’t too easy to come by even with the otherwise overly assertive stability control turned off.

The 2.0T feels significantly more agile than the V6, with quicker, more communicative steering. Supposedly the only difference is that the turbo four has about 100 fewer pounds over the front wheels. If so, it’s amazing how much difference this makes.

With the best cars, the drivers forms a close connection and driving them quickly becomes almost intuitive. This connection doesn’t quite happen with the Genesis Coupe. The chassis generally does what it’s asked to do, but doesn’t communicate the way the best ones do. In general the car is short on character. While thoroughly competent, it’s not an engaging thrill to drive. The Mustang and especially the Camaro do not handle as well, but driving either is a more memorable experience.

On the flip side, the Genesis is smoother, quieter, and more refined than a true sports car. Need to drive long distances without becoming fatigued? No problem. In this respect it does feel like a car with a higher price tag.

Some reviews have criticized the ride quality with the Track Package. Even repeatedly driving a regular and a Track car back to back I didn’t notice a large difference, as might be expected since Track’s spring rates are only 7 to 11 percent firmer. On the other hand, the 2.0T with Track Package did have a significantly busier, almost nervous ride compared to the 3.8 Track. Even in this case, though, the ride isn’t harsh or irritating. Expansion joints don’t effect a rhythmic bouncing the way they do with some firmly sprung cars.

So, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe has many strengths and no glaring weaknesses. As Hyundai’s first attempt to create a rear-wheel-drive sport coupe, it’s quite an achievement. It comes close to matching an Infiniti G37 in those areas enthusiasts most care about, for considerably less money. But this is the end of it, and the sales figures suggest it’s not enough. As a new entrant, the Genesis Coupe needs to be outstanding in some way. It needs to deeply engage the driver. It needs a clear, distinctive identity. A sedan can get by without these things. But a coupe, a much more emotional purchase, cannot.

Hyundai provided the vehicle, insurance and gas for this review

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online provider of auto pricing and reliability data

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