The Truth About Cars » V8 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 27 Jul 2014 14:03:49 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 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 » V8 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Confirmed http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/dodge-charger-srt-hellcat-confirmed/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/07/dodge-charger-srt-hellcat-confirmed/#comments Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:16:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=873290 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT with the HEMI® Hellcat

Road & Track has found evidence, courtesy of an SAE paper, that the 6.2L supercharged V8 from the Challenger SRT Hellcat, will make its way into the Charger.

The SAE has apparently certified the engine’s output for both the Challenger and Charger, but R&T is left wondering whether the 6-speed manual will be an option in the Charger, when it has traditionally been automatic only.

Even so, the new ZF 8-speed auto, with launch control and thoroughly modern guts, is nothing like the automatics of yesteryear. A stick shift would be nice to have, but the Hellcat seems to get its best drag strip performance when equipped with the automatic. After experiencing the 8-speed in the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, my own desire for a manual Hellcat is actually somewhat diminished.

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Chrysler Hellcat V8 Could Unseat Viper V10 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/chrysler-hellcat-v8-could-unseat-viper-v10/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/chrysler-hellcat-v8-could-unseat-viper-v10/#comments Tue, 25 Mar 2014 13:09:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=780489 2013 Dodge Challenger SRT8, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

For over a year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has been working on a Hemi V8 dubbed the Hellcat, which set to debut in a revised Dodge Challenger. However, the Hellcat could prove a challenge to the SRT Viper’s V10, possibly unseating the venerable monster from the throne.

Automotive News reports the rumored V8 has caused an internal debate within FCA, in particular what it would mean for the Viper when the Challenger receives the engine. SRT brand boss Ralph Giles told Hot Rod magazine:

We have a situation where, you know — we may have a situation — where the flagship car is not the most powerful car in our arsenal … how do we explain that to ourselves? So we have an internal horsepower race as well as an external one.

While the Viper’s naturally aspirated V10 pushes 660 horsepower, the SRT variant of the Challenger — pitted against the Ford Mustang GT500 and Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 — is rumored to put out as much as 700 horses .

The 2015 Challenger is rumored to debut in New York next month.

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Hammer Time: Rediscovering My Inner Jersey http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/hammer-time-rediscovering-my-inner-jersey/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/hammer-time-rediscovering-my-inner-jersey/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 11:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=764689 sev1

114 car dealers. Every single last one of them looking for an impossibly good deal among the 150 vehicles at the auction on a near-Arctic Monday morning.

Even if it’s a seemingly bad deal. It doesn’t matter during this time of year.

This is officially tax season… which means that cars that couldn’t even get a $500 down payment during the post-Christmas drought will soon be picked up in earnest by the sub-prime, debt happy public. A $1200 down payment as their first financial tombstone of 2014 will be followed by a long line of bogus fees, and a note that will hopefully be flipped into funny money (now known as sub-prime asset backed securities) before the drowning debtor becomes financial roadkill.

Everything is high. But surprisingly not as high as in years past. Orphaned brands are mostly cheap. Minivans are cheap, and everything from older luxury coupes to younger hatchbacks can be had for decent money if they’re not sporty or popular.

Speaking of popular. Let me show you a little somethin’.

sev2

This 1980 Cadillac Seville is the King of Swing and the purveyor of all things cool.

sev3

I’m not even sure if I can give this vehicle justice by these pics. Like a lot of older cars that are unfashionable but well cared for, this Seville has “it”.

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The paint is a perfect compliment to the design. Unlike the wretched vinyl tops, two tone medicine blues, and malaise era engines that made this car into a rolling joke, this Seville seems to be one of the few exceptions to the rule that was GM mediocrity.

sev12

For starters, it’s an 80′ model with no smoke. Which means it ended up with a decent engine. The 6.0 Liter Cadillac V8 which produces… well… let’s just say it’s the best of the worst.

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The black interior and low seating position is designed for the future low riders of these models. You know. The ones who were busy listening to UTFO and the Breakin’ soundtrack instead of Snoopy and that Two-pack dude.

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That’s all original. I’m still not sure if it’s real wood or fake wood. Let’s just call it Cadillac wood and move on.

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Everything still works on this vehicle. The auto temp control. The radio. The instant mpg calculator which rarely goes above 25 mpg. It’s all there. Actually I was hitting around 28 mpg on that thing. But I’m not sure if that was due to the equipment getting some Imperial calculations between 1980 and today.

sev9

93,000 miles. Original. Well, it is a repaint and I have  to work on a few wires (cough! cough!). When I saw it, I knew I would never see anything quite like it ever again. Time marches on and the unpopular rides of yesteryear get dumped into the hardcore and borderline psychopathic of car owners. I know enough of my fellow compatriots to realize that come hell or high bidding, I was going to have to buy this thing.

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So I did my usual trick. I hid in the back with my leather jacket and jeans against the cold cement wall. I saw my friend, the auctioneer, who knew me back when I was an auctioneer. He started at 3k. I made eye contact. Shucked two fingers onto my U2 leahter jacket. And quickly put them back in my pocket as my friend wailed, “Habadagive two grand! 21! I got money! 21! Habadagive 21!”

Except no one believed him. I had put in the bid within three seconds of his downward cadence from three grand, to two grand, to what was usually a grand opening bid. Most starting bids go down about $2000 to $3000 at the auctions before they head back up to where the sellable range is.

sev13

This particular time, there would be no uptick.  After about five seconds of low ball signs of one finger (for $1000) and the words $1500 mouthed out to the auctioneer… the hammer fell. I had bought one of the last of the pseudo-luxurious mohicans for $2000 plus a $155 auction fee.

Was it a steal? Hell no! I bought it because I want to enjoy the experience of owning it, and then later, sell it to someone who will love it a bit more than yours truly. One of the first rules of the car business is, “Never fall in love.” So I’m going to play around with it for a few weeks, and then let it go to an enthusiast who will make this baby Caddy endure.

sev11

Oh, one other thing. Cadillac may have screwed up their brand big-time throughout the 1980′s. From this Seville to the Allante, Cadillac was completely castrated during this time and I have no fondness for the bean counters and the Howdy Dowdy CEO who guided them during the Reagan Era.

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However this Fisher Body Seville, with an engine solely (and soul-ly) given to the Cadillac division represents a high mark within the low mark.

This downsized Seville rides just like one of those older, floaty Cadillacs from the 1970′s. It’s an amazing ride. Easy to steer, and a beauty to behold in the flesh.

I plan on selling it for $2500.

sev5

 

 

 

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Review: 2014 Dodge Durango Limited V8 (with Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-dodge-durango-limited-v8-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/review-2014-dodge-durango-limited-v8-with-video/#comments Thu, 16 Jan 2014 15:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=695921 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-002

Car shopping used to be so simple: you could buy a truck or a car. Then came the wagon, minivan, sport utility and the latest craze: the crossover. There’s just one problem with the crossover for me however: it’s not a crossover. With a name like that you’d assume that a modern crossover blended the lines between a truck/SUV with a car/minivan. The reality of course is that the modern three-row crossover is just a front-driving minivan that doesn’t handle as well or haul as much stuff. In this sea of transverse minivans in SUV clothing lies just one mass-market vehicle that I can honestly call a three-row crossover: the Dodge Durango. Instead of a car that’s been turned into an AWD minivan with a longer hood, the Dodge uses drivetrains out of the RAM 1500 combined with a car-like unibody. While rumors swirled that the Durango would be canceled in favor of a 7-seat Jeep, Dodge was working a substantial makeover for 2014.

Click here to view the embedded video.

So what is the Durango? Is it an SUV? Is it a crossover? In my mind, both. If a Grand Cherokee can be a unibody SUV and not a crossover, the Durango must be an SUV. But if a crossover is a hybrid between a car and a truck, then the Durango is one as well. While the first and second generation Durangos were body-on-frame SUVs based on the Dakota pickup, this Durango is a three-row Grand Cherokee, which is a two-row Jeep version of the three-row Mercedes ML which is quasi related to the Mercedes E-Class, which is quasi related to the Chrysler 300. Lost yet?

Exterior

2014 brings few changes to the outside of the Durango. The design first released in 2011 still looks fresh to my eye but that could be because I don’t see many on the road. Up front we get a tweaked corporate grille and new lamps while out back we get “race track” inspired light pipes circling the rump. Aside from a lowered right height on certain models and new wheels, little has changed for the Durango’s slab-sided profile, which I think is one of the Dodge’s best features. No, I’m not talking about the plain-Jane acres of sheet metal, I’m talking about RWD proportions. Bucking the trend, this three-row sports a long (and tall) hood, blunt nose, short front overhang and high belt-line.

To create the Durango from the Grand Cherokee, Chrysler stretched the Jeep’s wheelbase by 5-inches to 119.8 inches and added three inches to the body. The result is four-inches longer than an Explorer but two inches shorter than the Traverse, Acadia and Enclave triplets. Thanks to the Durango’s short front overhand, the Dodge has the longest wheelbase by a long way, beating even the full-size Chevy Tahoe. Speaking of the body-on-frame competition, the Durango may have been a size too small in the past, but this generation is just 8/10ths of an inch shorter than that Tahoe.

DG014_043DU

Interior

Body-on-frame SUVs have a practicality problem when it comes to space efficiency. Because the frame sits between the body and the road, they tend to be taller than unibody crossovers despite having less interior volume. Like the rest of the crossover crowd, this allows the Durango to have a spacious interior with a comparatively low entry height. 2014 brings a raft of much-needed interior updates to the cabin including a new soft touch dashboard, Chrysler’s latest corporate steering wheel with shift paddles, revised climate controls, Chrysler’s latest uConnect 2 infotainment system and a standard 7-inch LCD instrument cluster. Like the other Chrysler products with this LCD, the screen is flanked by a traditional tachometer, fuel and temperature gauge. Oddly enough, the standard infotainment screen is a smallish (in comparison) 5-inches.

Front seat comfort proves excellent in the Durango which was something of a relief, as the last few Chrysler products I have driven had form and oddly shaped seat bottom cushions that make me feel as if I was “sitting on and not in the seat.” As with all three-row vehicles, the accommodations get less comfortable as you move toward the back. By default all Durango trims are 7-passenger vehicles with a three-across second row. For $895 Dodge will delete the middle seat and insert a pair of more comfortable captain’s chairs and a center console with cup holders and a storage compartment. The third row is a strictly two-person affair and, like most crossovers, is best left to children and your mother in law. Those who do find themselves in “the way back” will be comforted by above average headroom and soft touch plastic arm rests. With large exterior proportions you’d expect a big cargo hold like in the cavernous Traverse, alas the RWD layout that makes the Durango so unique renders the interior less practical. With more of the body used up for “hood,” we get just 17 cubes of space behind the third row. That’s three less than an Explorer, seven less than GM’s Lambda triplets and about the same as a Honda Pilot. On the bright side this is more than you will find in a Highlander or Sorento and shockingly enough, more than in the Tahoe as well.

DG014_030DU

Infotainment

uConnect 2 is the first major update to Chrysler’s 8.4-inch touchscreen system that launched in 2011 and the first version of this system the Durango has ever had. Based on a QNX UNIX operating system, the system features well polished graphics, snappy screen changes and a large, bright display. For the second edition of uConnect, Chrysler smoothed out the few rough edges in the first generation of this system and added a boat-load of trendy tech features you may or may not care about. In addition to improved voice commands for USB/iDevice control, uConnect 2 offers smartphone integration allowing you to stream audio from Pandora, iHeart Radio or Slacker Radio. You can have text messages read to you and dictate replies (if your phone supports it) and search for restaurants and businesses via Yelp. In addition to all the smartphone-tied features, uConnect 2 integrates a CDMA modem on the Sprint network into the unit for over-the-air software updates and access to the new “App Store” where you will be able to buy apps for your car. Since there’s a cell modem onboard, uConnect can be configured to act as a WiFi hot spot for your tablets and game devices as well. Keep in mind speeds are 3G, not Sprint’s WiMAX or LTE network.

Completing the information assault is SiriusXM’s assortment of satellite data services which include traffic, movie times, sports scores, fuel prices and weather reports. As with uConnect data services, there’s a fee associated after the first few months so keep that in mind. 2014 also brings uConnect Access which is Chrysler’s answer to GM’s OnStar providing 911 assistance, crash notification and vehicle health reports. Garmin’s navigation software is still available as a $500 add-on (standard on Summit) and it still looks like someone cut a hole in the screen and stuck a hand-held Garmin unit in the dash. The interface is easy to use but notably less snazzy than the rest of the system’s graphics. If the bevy of USB ports has you confused, you can rock your Cat Stevens CD by paying $190 for a single-slot disc player jammed into the center armrest.

2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-001Drivetrain

Dodge shoppers will find two of the Grand Cherokee’s four engines under the hood. First up we have a 290HP/260lb-ft 3.6L V6 (295HP in certain trims) standard in all trims except the R/T. R/T models get a standard 360HP/390lb-ft 5.7L HEMI V8 which can be added to the other trims for $2,795. 2014 brings a beefed up cooling system and a number of minor tweaks in the name of fuel economy. Sadly Chrysler has decided to keep the V6 EcoDiesel engine and 6.4L SRT V8 Grand Cherokee only options, so if you hoped to sip diesel or burn rubber in your three row crossover, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Both engines are mated to a ZF-designed 8-speed automatic. V6 models use the low torque variety made by Chrysler while V8 models use a heavy-duty 8HP70 made in a ZF factory. If you’re up to date on Euro inbreeding, you know this is the same transmission used by BMW, Audi, Jaguar, Land Rover and Rolls Royce. To say this is a step up from the vilified Mercedes 5-speed or the Chrysler 6 speed (the 65RFE featured some of the strangest ratio spacing ever) is putting it mildly. Fuel economy jumps 9% in the V6, 10% in the V8. No small feat in a 4,835lb SUV (as tested). All Durangos start out as rear wheel drive vehicles but you can add a two-speed four-wheel-drive system for $2,400. Although Dodge bills this as AWD, it is the same transfer case that Jeep calls 4×4 in Selec-Trac II equipped Grand Cherokees. Thanks to the heavy-duty drivetrain towing rings in at 6,200lbs for the V6 and 7,400lbs for the V8. Like the Jeeps the Durango has moved to more car-like 5-lug wheels which should widen after-market selection.

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior

Drive

The engineers took the refresh opportunity to tweak the Durango toward the sportier side of the segment with stiffer springs and beefier sway bars. While far from a night-and-day transformation, the difference is noticeable and appreciated out on the roads. While never harsh, it is obvious the Durango is tuned towards the firm side of this segment. Thanks to the long wheelbase the Durango feels well composed on the highway or on broken pavement.

With a nearly 50/50 weight balance, wide 265-width tires, and a lower center of gravity than a “traditional SUV”, the Durango is easily the handling and road feeling champion. That’s not to say the Durango is some sort of sports car in disguise, but when you compare a well balanced 360 horsepower rear wheel drive elephant to a slightly lighter but much less balanced front driving elephant on skinny rubber, it’s easy to see which is more exciting. Thanks to the Mercedes roots there’s even a whiff of feedback in the steering, more than you can say for the average crossover. Despite the long wheelbase and wide tires, the Durango still cuts a fairly respectable 37-foot turning circle.

Those statement may have you scratching your head if you recall what I said about Jeep on which the Durango is based, I must admit I scratched my head as well. Although the Dodge and the Jeep share suspension design elements and a limited number of components, the tuning is quite different. The Grand Cherokee Summit rides 3.1-inchs higher and was equipped with the off-road oriented air suspension.

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-005

When it comes to performance, the new 8-speed automatic makes a night and day difference shaving a whopping 1.4 seconds off the 0-60 time versus the last V8 Durango we tested. The reason is all in the gear ratios. While the 545RFE and 65RFE transmissions suffered from some truly odd ratios, the ZF unit’s ratios are more evenly spread and dig deeper in the low gears. The result is a 6.0 second sprint to highway speeds which finally nips on the tails of the Explorer Sport which we’re told will do the same in 5.9-6.0 (TTAC hasn’t tested one yet). This proves what extra gears can do for you because the Explorer is 200lbs lighter and has a far more advantageous torque curve thanks to the twin turbos.

You can also thank the ZF transmission for the Durango’s robust towing numbers. V6 models are now rated for 6,200lbs while the V8 can haul up to 7,400lbs when properly equipped. That’s nearly 50% more than you can tow in any of the crossover competition and just 1,000 lbs shy of the average full-size body-on-frame hauler.

The transmission is also responsible for a whopping 20% increase in fuel economy. The last V8 Durango I tested eked out a combined 14.8 MPG over a week while the 2014 managed 18.0 MPG. While 18 MPG isn’t impressive in wider terms, it is 1/2 an MPG better than GM’s Lambda crossovers or the Ford Explorer on my commute cycle. The V6 yields improved fuel economy at the expense of thrust, but you should know that although the acceleration provided by the V6 is competitive with the V6 three-row competition, the 20 MPG average falls short of the new Highlander, Pathfinder and the rest of the FWD eco-minded competition.

After a week with the Durango I was no closer to answering the biggest question car buffs have: is this Dodge a crossover or an SUV? One thing is sure however, the Durango is likely the most fun you can have with 6 of your friends for under $50,000.

 

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

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.4

0-60: 6.0

1/4 Mile: 14.6 Seconds @ 96 MPH

Cabin noise at 50 MPH: 69dB @ 50 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 18 MPG over 811 miles

 

2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-014 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-013 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-009 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-004 2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-002 2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine-001 2014 Dodge Durango 5.7L HEMI V8 Engine 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-003 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-002 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-001 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-005 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-006 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-007 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-008 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-012 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-011 2014 Dodge Durango Exterior-010 DG014_058DU DG014_057DU DG014_051DU DG014_043DU DG014_030DU ]]>
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Piston Slap: Fanning the Dakota’s Flames? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-fanning-the-dakotas-flames/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/piston-slap-fanning-the-dakotas-flames/#comments Mon, 23 Dec 2013 13:00:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=686522

TTAC commentator Ian Anderson writes:

Hi Sajeev, I have something here for you and my fellow B&B to ponder over,

Back in May I bought a rust-free 1999 Dodge Dakota Sport (Extended cab, 3.9L Magnum V6, 5speed AX-15 manual, 2WD, 3.21 8.25″ open axle) for $2000 from a guy in South Philly. I bought it so I could take my rusty 1992 Dakota off of the road so my dad and I could fix all of the rust on it. Well now the ’92 is on the road (and growing more rust) and the ’99 is sitting on the street with a supposed ticking time bomb in the trans tunnel. When I bought the truck I was told by the previous owner’s mechanic that the throwout bearing was going out and would need replaced soon. Lo and behold, the next day while beating around in it I had to call AAA when I could no longer shift it (and when the clutch suddenly didn’t do anything, made stopping interesting). $600 later I had a whole new clutch kit and was on my way.

Now fast forward four months, myself and the Miss (not Mrs.) are coming back from dinner in the middle of August when it suddenly stalls while shifting gears to make a turn- shifting into third from fourth specifically. I chalk it up as my error and keep going until it does it three more times five miles down the road, then being accompanied by a soft BANG and me wrestling it to the side of the road. We made it home by driving in second gear with the flashers on. Now it will behave itself most of the time, but every so often going uphill it will become hard to shift, stall or get stuck in third, which makes it interesting trying to get the little 3.9 to motivate 4000 pounds with a line of traffic behind you. My mechanic ripped it back apart to check the clutch out, everything was fine. He’s stumped and telling me to drive it local until it blows, my dad says the transmission is shot, and the forums are all over the place with it saying it’s the trans, the clutch or that I can’t drive stick (the 30K I put on my ’92, including learning manual, beg to differ).

Now the question- What do I do with the truck? I love driving it since it handles great, has good brakes and will leave most “Ricer/tuner” cars in the dust even with the aforementioned 175HP 3.9 hauling 4000 pounds. But on that subject, I do have a stronger, newer, 500mile NV-3500 transmission in the shed from the same era Dakota that I snatched up for a bargain, and I’ve been thinking the truck could use a few more ponies under the hood. Do I:

  • Get a junkyard (with a warranty) trans or a rebuilt unit and just have it throw in
  • Use the later, heavier-duty trans I have with either the stock V6…OR…
  • With a V8 swap. Low mileage 5.2L Magnum V8s are plentiful in my area. Thankfully Chrysler made it a bolt-in job since it was a factory option.
  • Slap myself for the last two options
  • Throw it on Craigslist to get what I can for it and move on

I’m sure you and some of the B&B have been in the “Okay it’s broke, do I fix it to stock or upgrade” boat before and have some insight into this, especially you with half of your stable being occupied by older Detroit iron.

Thanks again Sajeev and the B&B!

Sajeev answers:

If you are considering slapping yourself for options 2 and 3, maybe you don’t like this truck as much as you should.  Or could, as significant power train upgrades on a depreciated truck like this won’t net you much $$$ value.  You’re a fool with plenty of spare time and excess cash to even consider a V8/Tranny swap.

But obviously, the power train swap is the correct answer. Like, obviously!

You have a spare truck (’92 Dakota) to use.  You have the “good” transmission for a truck where it will supposedly drop right in. And yes, Magnum V8s are dirt cheap, unlike those fantastic LSX-FTW beasties that would be nice, but far more complicated.  This is a no brainer, son!  Get a used motor (as much as possible, like accessory brackets, emissions stuff, etc), get a heater for your garage, clean/re-gasket it and start swappin’!

It’s either that, or dump it on Craigslist with the upgraded transmission in the bed to sweeten the deal. But then you’ll be bored out of your mind, doing the swap is totally worth it. And nobody wants that!

 

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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Review: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-jeep-grand-cherokee-srt-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/review-2014-jeep-grand-cherokee-srt-with-video/#comments Thu, 05 Dec 2013 13:00:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=666978 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-004

If you want a high performance SUV today, you’re left with relatively little choice. GM hasn’t dabbled in the market since their Trailblazer SS / Saab 9-7 Aero and Ford never even gave it a try with the old Explorer. That means your only options for ridiculously fast boxes on wheels come from BMW, Porsche, Mercedes… and Jeep. Is it possible that the “bat-shit-crazy” Chrysler that I remember and love is back?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

This isn’t the first Grand Cherokee with sporting pretensions, as 1998 Grand Cherokee 5.9 Limited was arguably the first fast Grand Cherokee. Despite the RWD layout making a performance version “easy to do” (in a relative sense), we wouldn’t see another until the third generation “WK” SRT8 in 2006. With a 425 horsepower 6.1L engine, it was the most powerful Jeep ever built. Sadly, a Cerberus-era interior kept it off my wanted list. After a hiatus, another SRT landed in 2012, this time with 470 horses under the hood. Although improved, the interior still underwhelmed and the Mercedes sourced 5-speed transmission was hardly a team player.

While the basic vehicle remains unchanged, 2014 brings more changes than your typical refresh. Up front we have a new nose featuring LED daytime running lamps, headlamp washers and standard HID headlamps.  Out back we get a refreshed rump with twin exhaust tips, which are far more practical than the central tips on first Jeep SRT,e because it allows a standard hitch receiver to be mounted behind a trim panel in the bumper. It’s worth noting that Chrysler rates the Grand Cherokee SRT for 7,200lbs of towing.

Now it’s time to talk about competition. When it comes to high horsepower SUVs, you don’t have many options. Sure, we have that new Porsche Macan, but it’s smaller than the Jeep and less powerful. When you do the numbers, the only 470+ horsepower beasts on the market are the closely related Mercedes ML63 AMG, the new supercharged Range Rovers, the Porsche Cayenne Turbo/Turbo S. And… That’s it. BMW has taken a break from X5M for 2014, likely to return as a 2015 model. Audi Q7? Too wimpy. Acura MDX? Weaksauce. That means that while the Grand Cherokee plays with the Explorer, GMC Terrain, Toyota 4Runner, VW Touareg and others, the Grand Cherokee SRT appeals to two different sorts of buyers. The performance enthusiast that wants an AWD Chrysler 300 SRT, and the luxury SUV shopper on a value hunt.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-002

Interior

As with the exterior, 2014 brings more interior changes than your typical refresh. The Jeep gets Chrysler’s chunky new SRT steering wheel complete with metal shift paddles, a heated soft leather rim, a flat bottom, and more buttons than Apollo mission control. The refresh also brings an entirely new stitched leather dashboard, leather coated doors, carbon fiber trim, and improved plastics all around. Below the carbon fiber, little has changed. This means we still have hard plastics which belie the SRT’s luxury credentials.

Dominating the dash is the latest 8.4-inch uConnect infotainment system joined by a 7-inch LCD disco dash.  The LCD gauges put the Jeep well ahead of BMW and Mercedes and, interestingly, only a notch below the full 11-inch LCD used in Range Rovers. Finishing the transformation is an Audi-like shifter in the center console. Sadly the SRT doesn’t get the Alcantara headliner that the Grand Cherokee Summit gets. Combined with the easily scratched plastic shifter surround, the SRT is obviously not running with the luxury pack but it is a notch above the crossover rabble and feels  worth the $63,995 base price. More on that later.

The  front seats are modified versions of regular Jeep thrones with more bolstering and are available in your choice of “baseball glove” brown or black with Alcantara inserts. (The full-leather seats will run you $1,995 more.) Although the seats are less comfortable than those found in the Merc, Rover or Bimmer, I had no problem finding a comfortable position on multi-hour drives. Unlike less expensive versions of the Grand Cherokee, the SRT’s seats seem to be designed for you to sit “in” the seat rather than “on” the seat, something that I was pleased to note.  Rear seat passengers will have little to complain about with reclining rear seat backs, air vents and the same soft-touch leather door treatment as the front. New for 2014 are two high-current USB power ports in the center console so your kids can charge their iWidget without cigarette adapters.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-005Infotainment

In addition to improved voice commands for USB/iDevice control, uConnect 2 offers smartphone integration allowing you to stream audio from Pandora, iHeart Radio or Slacker Radio. You can have text messages read to you and dictate replies (if your phone supports it) and search for restaurants and businesses via Yelp. In addition to all the smartphone-tied features, uConnect 2 integrates a CDMA modem on the Sprint network into the unit for over-the-air software updates and access to the new Chrysler “App Store” where you will be able to buy apps for your car. Since there’s a cell modem onboard, uConnect can be configured to act as a WiFi hot spot for your tablets and game devices as well. Keep in mind speeds are 3G, not Sprint’s WiMAX or LTE network.

Completing the information assault is SiriusXM’s assortment of satellite data services which include traffic, movie times, sports scores, fuel prices and weather reports. As with uConnect data services, there’s a fee associated after the first few months so keep that in mind. 2014 also brings uConnect Access which is Chrysler’s answer to GM’s OnStar providing 911 assistance, crash notification and vehicle health reports. The navigation interface is easy to use, but notably less snazzy than the rest of the system’s graphics. The SRT trim gets Chrysler’s home brew 9-speaker sound system with a 506-watt amplifier. The sound is acceptable for the price tag but I’d buy the 19-speaker, $1,995 Harmon Kardon Logic7 system if I were you. Quite similar in timbre to the Logic7 systems BMW uses, the system holds its own compared to the up-level audio packages in the luxury set. Because BMW’s X5M is on hiatus, the infotainment win in this segment has to go to the SRT. COMAND is well past its prime and Porsche and Land Rover’s infotainment systems are unintuitive and lag in terms of feature functionality.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 6.4L HEMI V8 Engine-001

Drivetrain

The first Jeep to wear the SRT badge used a 6.1L V8 that was accused of having a narrow power band, a “peaky” torque curve and poor fuel economy. To address this, Chrysler released a new 6.4L V8 in 2012. Instead of revising the 6.1, the engineers went back to the drawing board and created a new engine based off the second-generation 5.7L Hemi. This means that unlike the luxury competition, you won’t find overhead cams, direct injection or 32 valves. Don’t let Top Gear or the iron block fool you, this engine is a modern design with some tricks up its sleeve. Despite the push rods, Chrysler managed to fit variable valve timing, a variable length intake manifold, cylinder deactivation, alloy pistons and 16 spark plugs. The combination is good for 470HP and 465 lb-ft of torque.

Thanks to the “Mercedes years”, Chrysler was still using a Mercedes 5-speed transmission behind the 3.6L V6 and the 6.4L V8 in 2012 and 2013. While not a bad transmission, the 5-speed’s ratios were not well mated to the 6.4L V8. In order to get SRT levels of performance, a different final drive was fitted making the engine spin over 2,400RPM at 70 MPH. The new ZF 8-speed automatic allows a lower effective first gear, a more balanced ratio spread and a taller final gear so the engine can at 1,900 RPM at 70. Directing power to all four wheels is an MP 3010 electronic proportioning transfer case. The driver can select from five drive modes that control the torque split, shift pattern and the dynamic suspension system. Auto gives the softest suspension, slowest shifts and sends 40% of the engine power to the front for balanced handling. Sport stiffens and makes the shifts crisper, while sending only 35% of the power to the front for more rear bias. Track provides the stiffest dampening and sends 70% of the power to the rear for even more of a RWD feel (2012 and 2013 models topped out at a 35/65 split). Should you like things 50/50, Sport and Tow modes provide balanced power front and rear. One thing you still won’t find however is a torque vectoring rear axle, Jeep retains the electronic limited slip unit found in other Grand Cherokee models.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-016Drive

The Grand Cherokee SRT has all the right numbers for bat-shit-crazy status, but can it deliver? In a word: Yes. Backing that answer up is a blistering 4.1 second run to 60 and an eye-popping 1.37 second 0-30 time. But can it truly compete with the Germans? Despite the new interior and 8-speed automatic (basically the same transmission Porsche, BMW and Range Rover use) the SRT isn’t as refined, inside or on the road. Driven back to back with the competition, the SRT feels more like the Range Rover or the Mercedes than the tighter BMW or Porsche. The Merc comparisons are especially interesting since the ML and the Grand Cherokee share plenty of design DNA.

Although Mercedes has fitted a more powerful twin-turbo V8 (515 HP / 516 lb0-ft or 550 HP / 560 lb-ft), the Merc feels less connected to the road than the Jeep. Part of this is due top the air ride suspension Mercedes uses and part of it is due to the narrow 265 width standard tires. While you can get 295s all the way around, it’ll cost you dearly as the ML63 is easy to option over $100,000. Factor in the dated COMAND system and the 7-speed auto that is 1 gear shy of everyone else and the ML comes in last.

Land Rover’s Ranger Rover Sport continues to march to a different drummer. Although the 5.0L V8 produces 510 HP and 461 lb-ft of twist, the Rover’s mission is more luxury than sport. The English mountain climber retains all the off road hardware of the lesser models, all season tires and a high ground clearance. Thanks to the supercharged engine’s lack of torque compared to the rest, the Range Rover is also the slowest to highway speeds. While the Range Rover would be my choice if I had the cash, the fact that it isn’t really the same kind of animal puts it in fourth place.

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-008

Porsche’s Cayenne is, without question, a beast. With sharp handling, an excellent weight balance and a well-trimmed interior you’d logically expect the Touareg’s rich cousin to take top billing. However, there’s a big value problem. In order to get 4-second 0-60 performance like the rest, you have to throw down at least $146,000 for the Turbo S model and getting crazy with the option sheet can bump your out the door by more than $25,000 without trying very hard.

BMW’s X5M would take top billing if it was still made, but, for the moment at least, there is no X5M for shoppers to contemplate. The outgoing X5M model’s torque vectoring axle, insanely wide tires, low stance and underrated twin-turbo V8 are a lethal combination. The fact that the outgoing X5M was also cheaper than the ML63 and the Cayenne certainly helps the value proposition as well. That is, if you can call a six figure vehicle a “value.”

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-015

That means that the $70,135 Jeep (as tested) is my pick for 2014. And now let’s talk about why. The fact that you could literally get two for the price of a Cayenne is huge, and that’s because I’m all about value. Value isn’t being the cheapest (although the Jeep wins that award by over $30,000 in this mash-up) it’s about delivering the same or similar experience for less, and that’s something the SRT has down. But there’s also something rough and rugged about the Jeep that elicits more charm. The Jeep’s interior is more utilitarian, the throttle blips on down shift lack the fanfare and overrun “pops” you get with the competition and there’s still that Jeep logo on the hood. More skill is required to pilot the SRT around a canyon road making it more engaging than the Teutonic competition. (It isn’t just the product that’s a little crazy, Chrysler allowed folks to drive the Jeep on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, other manufacturers kept their toys out of harm’s way.)

The lack of a torque vectoring rear axle means you have to be in control of the Jeep, while more refined nannies and vectoring systems in the Porsche and BMW can make anyone feel like a pro. The Cayenne and X5M are also better balanced than the Jeep which wears 54% of its weight up front thanks to that cast iron engine, but when pressed hard the Jeep gives up little to the Germans. Even in a straight line the Jeep’s numbers stack up well. Thanks to the 8-speed auto in the Jeep, and the old 6-speed ZF unit in the 2013 X5M we tested, the Jeep’s power deficit resulted in a scant 1/100th 0-30 penalty, 1/10th 0-60 penalty and by the 1/4 mile the Jeep was still neck and neck at 1/10th and 6 MPH slower.

After a week with the Grand Cherokee SRT I was sad to see it go, even after I noted my 15.5 MPG fuel economy average. Perhaps it is because I recently bought a Saab 9-7 Aer0 with GM’s 390 horse LS2, so I seem to be the target market for a value performance SUV. Perhaps it is because I’ll nver be able to afford the SRT’s German competition but the Jeep is within reach if I sell a kidney. Or, perhaps the real reason is that a 5,150lb Jeep with a 6.4L push-rod V8 engine making 470 horsepower that ticks off a 0-30 time faster than a BMW M6 rain or shine is bat-shit-crazy. Anyone know the going rate for a kidney?

Chrysler provides the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review. Chrysler provided an SRT Grand Cherokee at a Mazda Raceway event for local press.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 1.37 Seconds

0-60: 4.1 Seconds

0-100: 11.33 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 12.7 Seconds @ 107 MPH

Average observed fuel economy: 15.5 over 989 miles

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 6.4L HEMI V8 Engine 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 6.4L HEMI V8 Engine-001 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 6.4L HEMI V8 Engine-002 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee 6.4L HEMI V8 Engine-003 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-001 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-002 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-003 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-004 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-005 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-006 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-007 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-008 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-009 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-010 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-011 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-012 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-013 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-014 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-015 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-016 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Exterior-017 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-001 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-002 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-003 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-004 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-005 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-006 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-007 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-008 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-009 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-010 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-011 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-012 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Interior-013 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee LCD Instrument Cluster ]]>
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Piston Slap: Fiero and Joy or Cash Money? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/piston-slap-fiero-and-joy-or-cash-money/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/piston-slap-fiero-and-joy-or-cash-money/#comments Fri, 08 Nov 2013 12:27:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=641241

Issac writes:

Sajeev,

My father and I are Pontiac Fiero people, as we have owned nine Fieros in the past ten years (my first car was a 1986 Fiero GT). We are quite mechanically familiar with them as we have done little to major work on all of them. My dad currently has a 1988 Fiero Formula that we did a complete restoration on about five years ago. That car is an absolute blast to drive as the stock engine was modified to make considerably more power. After spending last summer driving that car almost every day I knew that someday I wanted a Fiero like his.

Last fall I was in the market for a cheap college vehicle. After looking for a couple of months and not finding anything that I wanted I stumbled across a Craigslist gem. It was a 1988 (the last year they were made and the most desirable) coupe with 95,000 miles, two owner vehicle, very little rust on it and could be had for $500. The only catch was it had a blown 2.5L iron duke motor. What made this situation ideal was that my dad had a brand new 2.5L iron duke motor sitting at home in the corner of his shop that he was looking to get rid of. After forking over $500 and a long three-day weekend, we had the car back on the road and I was glad to be back in a Fiero.

Since then I have put 8,000 trouble free miles on the car and have really enjoyed. Thinking post college I would like to do a restoration on the car where I put a much larger and more powerful engine in it. However, recently I was approached by a coworker of my dad who is looking at buying a Fiero similar to mine. He offered me a very nice amount of money for my car and it has me thinking of selling it. My question to you is, do I keep the car and hope to someday do the modifications that I want, or do I sell it?

My dad said he will set me up with a vehicle if I do sell my car, but I do not know if it worth it to walk away from a hard to find car. Such a hard decision…

Sajeev answers:

This is a hard decision for a family of Fiero restorers?  Are you kidding me? 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Turn this up, son!  I’m sorry, I can’t hear the begging and pleading of your Dad’s friend over the glorious sound of LS4-FTW.

You are graduating from college, getting a good job and “investing” your hobby time with an F40 6 speed manual and an LS4 swap!  Unlike last week’s LS4-powered dreamboat Buick Skylark,  I’m not grasping at straws to get a kid thinking about hot-rodding an obscure classic GM product. You are in the perfect position for GM perfection!

  1. The 1988 Fiero is a stunning design.
  2. You and your Dad actually know and appreciate them at their best, and tolerate ‘em at their worst.
  3. LS4-FTW isn’t a bizarre joke like in a FWD platform, this is performance GOLD in a rear engine sports car!

Okay, perhaps you might want a 3.8L V6, a supercharged 3.8L, or a Northstar V8 instead, they might be far cheaper and easier to procure locally.  Or the Twin Dual Cam swap if you truly enjoy pain. Best of luck, we wish you well!

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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Piston Slap: Escalading on Thin Ice? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/piston-slap-escalading-on-thin-ice/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/piston-slap-escalading-on-thin-ice/#comments Wed, 06 Nov 2013 13:58:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=641137
William (no longer TTAC’s tiburon_guy) writes:
Hey Buddy, I am no longer tiburon_guy since we sold it (sad face – SM) but I do have a question that a friend asked me about. He has a 2002 Escalade EXT he bought new (demo actually, 300 miles on it) now it’s at 60k and overall no major issues. He’s attached to the truck and rightfully so, as in my opinion it’s the best model Escalade created by GM.

His question is with it getting up in age (11 years) he’s worried about what to expect trouble wise down the road and if he should part with it soon or keep hold of it due to the low mileage (and garage kept since day one) so it looks pristine. The resell on this truck is pitiful but he also doesn’t want to be stranded. Have you heard any bad things about the 2002 model year of Escalade EXT? I’ve done a little digging but haven’t come up with much.

Additionally, my 2010 Ranger XLT is still kicking ass and taking names, but I wanted to know if you had heard any more of the 5.0L engine swap for our Ranger?

Sajeev answers:

Aside from the well documented piston slap problem on LS-based Vortec truck engines, there’s really nothing to worry about.  Yes, it’s an older vehicle and things will always go wrong, but the old Chevy Tahoe underneath the Escalade EXT isn’t exactly striking fear into my heart. Even piston slap isn’t a deal breaker, it’s more of an annoyance that a local engine builder can fix whenever your friend wants a fresh engine…which will be a long, loooong time from now.

So what’s left?  A lot of eyeballing and preventative maintenance: fluid changes, rubber product changes (vac lines, belts, hoses, etc) and other wear items that people tend to forget.  If that hyperlink scares him off, he either needs a replacement vehicle or a second vehicle to ease the burden.  Both can be fun and affordable if done correctly.

Now about the fantabulousness that is the Ford Ranger: the 5.0 Windsor swap’s been done many times before and this link is helpful.  I especially like the job done by this guy, the attention to detail is quite excellent. Check out the interior swap from a Ford Explorer Limited, complete with all the buttons on the steering wheel, automatic HVAC and the fancy trip computer!

WOW, what a luxury truck!!!

Now were you talking about the 5.0 Coyote swap?  Looks like that famously swapped Coyote Ranger has been dead in the water since the initial media buzz.  Which is sad, but maybe they worked out the wiring, induction, chassis upgrades, transmission change, driveline change, drivability, accessories, HVAC plumbing, etc…or perhaps not.

And maybe you have $20,000-30,000 lying around.  But if you did, you’d keep the Ranger, get an 5.0 windsor Explorer Limited for that swap, and use the remaining cash for a new 5.0 Coyote Mustang down payment.  Because no matter what, you’ll need a better daily driver than a project truck.

 

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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The Jeep Grand Cherokamino aka The Jeep Grand Comanche http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/the-jeep-grand-cherokamino-aka-the-jeep-grand-comanche/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/the-jeep-grand-cherokamino-aka-the-jeep-grand-comanche/#comments Fri, 01 Nov 2013 22:09:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=637329 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited

TTAC has a new project car and it’s a beauty. Thanks to my dad who volunteered to drive from Austin to San Jose, I’m now the proud second owner of a 2000 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited with 151,500 miles on the clock. If you’ve been following us on Facebook, then you might have guessed this project would involve a Jeep, but up till now I have kept the depth of the planned Jeep perversion secret. What I’ll be attempting over the next few months might be the dumbest thing I’ve ever done: converting a perfectly good unibody SUV into a “pickup.” Say what?

2000 Jeep Grand Comanche "30 Second Photoshop"

2000 Jeep Grand Comanche “30 Second Photoshop”

This isn’t the first time I have floated this kind of idea before. My last inspired vision was the Comanche reborn out of a Jeep Patriot. Sadly Patriots are holding their resale value too well and after months of searching I was unable to find something worth cutting up. Undeterred by my setbacks I saw an ad for a high mile 2007 Patriot while I was visiting my folks near Austin, TX. Although the lead turned out to be a bust, my crazy parents decided to buy themselves a snazzy new 2014 Grand Cherokee because “we’re already at the dealer.” Gotta love the logic. After hours of bickering, the dealer offered $1800 for their immaculate daily driver and my brain shifted gears. I offered the same price and my dad, in a moment of uncharacteristic generosity, said “why don’t I just give it to you son.” My new plan was put into action.

It is now time for some disclosures and important statements. This project is obviously for entertainment value only. My entertainment value primarily, but if you find it interesting to watch then we’re on to something. This means that comments like “why don’t you sell it and buy a X instead?” are pointless. Also obvious is the fact that I’ve never done anything like this before so it is incredibly likely that I’ll be doing stupid things, getting things wrong and generally making an ass of myself. That’s just par for this course. While I may mention specific products, I’m not endorsing anything and no person or company has given this project any free stuff. (This makes me very sad.) Lastly, if you have any suggestions, know of any sources for parts, or are in the area and want to check the disaster out, let us know.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Why on earth are you trying this?

Aside from the obvious perverse pleasure gained from sawing the roof off a perfectly good car, I need a vehicle that I can use around the house for moving manure, feed, hay/straw and possibly the odd animal or two. I have 9 acres of heavily wooded mountain property, so 4WD and knobby off-road rubber are a must. Logically something like a John Deere Gator would have been a good idea, but they are expensive, boring, and use a crappy rubber-belt CVT and a carburetor that has to be adjusted every hour to work properly.

John Deere Gator

Why a 2000 Grand Cherokee?

Well, it was free. It’s also easy to find parts for, fairly inexpensive to replace and there are a host of aftermarket off-road accessories that should make my conversion easier. Also, the unibody design on the Grand Cherokee is fairly stout for its age and it has “beefier” “frame rails” than most unibody SUV/CUV designs of the time. This additional floor strength should allow me to cut the roof off without too much issue.

It’ll fold like a taco!

Maybe. And if it does it should be incredibly funny. Hopefully it will also get caught on video.

What’s the condition of the donor car?

Near perfect for a 2000 with 151,000 miles on it. Since the Jeep was driven by a little old lady from Texas (my mom is 72 and 5’2″), everything is original, it has always been dealer serviced, has a recorded service history three miles long and everything except the CD changer works. The engine had some valve troubled at 140,000 miles and had a partial rebuild to address the problem, it has never towed and never been taken seriously off-road.

As soon as it arrived, the first thing I did was swap in a 3-inch lift kit with new springs, dampers, tie rods and a new track bar up front. Once the lift was complete I slapped on the 16-inch black steel rims shod with 265/75R16 rubber and that’s what you see before your eyes. What’s next? The removal of the interior.

 

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Confirmed: 5.0L Diesel V8 For Next-Gen Nissan Titan http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/confirmed-5-0l-diesel-v8-for-next-gen-nissan-titan/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/confirmed-5-0l-diesel-v8-for-next-gen-nissan-titan/#comments Tue, 20 Aug 2013 18:30:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=500126 2008_Nissan_Titan_long_bed

Nissan’s next-generation Titan has now been confirmed for a 5.0L twin-turbocharged diesel V8. Exact power figures have yet to be released but the Indiana-built powertrain should put out over 300 horsepower and over 500 lb-ft of torque. While the Ram 1500 is the first half-ton pickup to offer a diesel engine, it comes in the form of a 3.0L V6.

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The 350 Cubic Inch Debate: Is The Chevy Small Block The Only Answer? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/the-350-cubic-inch-debate-is-the-chevy-small-block-the-only-answer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/the-350-cubic-inch-debate-is-the-chevy-small-block-the-only-answer/#comments Sun, 21 Jul 2013 16:52:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=496516 1970ChevroletCamaroZ28-engine

The default power choice for many resto-mods is the popular 350 from the General. They are plentiful, affordable and can be built into a beast of a motor. But for many non-General car guys, the idea of a Chevy engine under the hood of their non-General Motors ride is simply a great reason to run it directly over a cliff.

These car guys view a Chevy small block under the hood of one of the other Detroit manufacturer choices as an act of automotive blasphemy that is completely unacceptable to them. It is a little like a New York Yankee playing in a Boston Red Sox uniform for the purists.

The concept has picked up some steam in collector car circles because a Ford-in-Ford or Mopar-in-Mopar resto-mod done to the same level as a Chevy-in-either will typically get more money in a collector vehicle auction.

We have been to hundreds of car shows and events that celebrate the car culture, so we have been around a lot of people’s reactions to resto-mods.

The general reaction to the engine choice depends upon the car guy’s brand loyalty. The General Motors guys are pretty happy to see a 350 under the hood of anything and there are a lot of Bowtie fans in car guy world.

The fact that GM was the king of the car world in terms of sales in North America for many decades meant that many car guys liked their vehicles-and so did their kids, thus the appeal of a 350 Chevy in a Ford, Mopar, Rambler, Studebaker or any other domestic car built over the years since Henry Ford introduced mass production.

But hardcore Ford and Mopar fail to see the magic in the 350 engine from a rival, especially a hated rival. They have a different idea about resto-mods and their engines do not wear bowties. For many old school non-Chevy car guys, a 383 is a name that can only be associated with something from the vintage Chrysler lineup like a 1968 Roadrunner engine choice and not a Chevy-come-lately 350 stroker.

The idea of performance engine options has not been lost on Ford or Mopar, so now a resto-mod motor choice can now be purchased from either one of them. In fact, Chrysler has some very interesting Hemi choices for their brand loyalists, while Ford after-market engines can get you there in a hurry. The cheaper cost factor of Chevy after-market engines does provide an argument for car guys who work on a tight car project budget.

In the final analysis, some very solid choices are now out there for fans of all three brands because the name of the game is all-out performance from all of the Big Three in the aftermarket world. You can be true to your school in a big way in 2013, plus Ford-in-Ford and Mopar-in-Mopar is a better resale investment than Chevy-in either of their Detroit rivals.

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Piston Slap: Fix my Bro-Ham, Sanjeev! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/piston-slap-fix-my-bro-ham-sanjeev/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/piston-slap-fix-my-bro-ham-sanjeev/#comments Tue, 30 Apr 2013 13:48:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=486710

Mark writes:

Hello Sanjeev,

I have a problem and hope you can help me. My Cadillac Brougham with the 307 V8 smells like gas under the hood. This is intermittent and the last time it was in the shop the mechanic found no leaks under the car or around the carb.

I did some internet searching and have heard all kinds of things including I probably used the wrong kind of gas. Apparently cars like mine can’t burn premium fuel completely and there might be residual gas left in the engine. My other cars use premium so I could have pumped 91 octane by mistake. Could that be it?

If it was a leak why wouldn’t it smell all the time?

I’m frustrated to the point where chancing it is an option so let me ask you this if you can’t fix it… if it is a small leak what’s the worst that can happen? I mean doesn’t modern reformulated gasoline have such a high flash point that I needn’t worry, except for the smell? Gas smell doesn’t really bother me.

If I took a fire extinguisher around with me could I “catch” a small fire under the hood in time to avoid damaging my paint? Are there warning signs, like smoke, before flames start to actually melt things? Does fire extinguisher residue clean up pretty easily?

Many thanks,
Mark

SANJEEV answers:

Mark: I’m searching for a clever–yet benign–way to spell your name wrong, but I got nothing.  Plus, you got a machine that’s right up my Super Classy Alley, so I’ll proudly bestow my Sajeev Magic** on that sweet, sweet ‘Lac.

Old cars do stupid things because they are…wait for it…old. And you are freaking out with eleventy billion superfluous questions because of it: Fire extinguisher residue concerns?  Really???

Stay calm: it’s all good, son! Leaks happen anywhere with old rubber and gaskets, especially with today’s ethanol-blend fuel added to the mix. (Literally.) If your carb’s never been rebuilt from the ground up, now’s the time.  I betcha an internal seal is leaking, pouring fuel down the motor’s throat when it isn’t required.  Perhaps it’s when the motor is cooling down (adding space between the seal’s gaps) and when the bowl is at a certain fill level.  Or not.  But whatever the internal fail, it’s only gonna get worse from here.

I had the same problem on an older EFI car, the fuel injectors were leaking internally and the smell was horrid. You can’t see an internal leak, but you sure-as-shit can smell it. So let’s address everything. Are there any rubber fuel lines under the hood?  Replace them now, they are cheap too.  Did ya install a fancy external glass fuel filter with a removable cartridge? Throw it away and get a conventional sealed filter. Don’t know a good carburetor tech in your area?  Look harder, because now is the time.

About your Premium fuel problem, yes you are wrong for using it, but only your checking account is pissed at you. Premium fuel won’t damage an engine or leave unburned deposits above and significantly beyond a normal used motor. If you’re really concerned, you can run Seafoam in the intake and fuel system followed by an Italian Tune Up to really clean things out. After you have someone blow apart the carb and rebuild it.

 

**Patent pending. Or not.

 

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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Review: 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8 (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-chrysler-300-srt8-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/review-2013-chrysler-300-srt8-video/#comments Mon, 29 Apr 2013 13:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=485421

There’s a “problem” with the modern performance variant: they are too easy to review. You see, dropping a high-horsepower V8 into anything makes it good. Take the last generation Chrysler 300 SRT8. It’s interior was made from plastics rejected by Lego and Rubbermaid and you’d be hard pressed to tell it apart from the $9.99 rent-a-car special. The big difference with the SRT versions was that Chrysler stuffed a 425HP 6.1L V8 under the hood and a set of pipes that made the 300 sound like sex. The uncomfortable seats, crappy dash plastics and 1990s stereo were distant memories. If Chrysler had managed to fit the same V8 into the Sebring, it would have been the best convertible ever. This time is different. Before the 2013 300 SRT8 arrived, I decided I would not be seduced by Chrysler’s larger, meaner, sexier, more powerful 6.4L engine and review it like any other car. Can that be done?

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Our refrigerator white tester is impossible to confuse with anything else on the road. While there are still some Bentleyesque features, the 300 is solidly Chrysler metal from the long hood to the slim greenhouse. The 300′s tall and blunt nose is entirely functional and the bold sheetmetal is truly function over form. You see, the 6.4L pushrod V8 is very tall and very long, jamming it under a modern sloping hood to a aerodynamic nose simply wouldn’t have worked. That height dictates the beginning of the greenhouse around the front doors and that line continues rearward.

Out back, things have been brought up market with new tail lamps that don’t have the same bargain basement theme as the first generation 300. Despite the improvements there’s something unfinished about the 300′s looks to my eye. Perhaps the original 300 was so bold my expectations for a redesign were unachievable.

For SRT8 duty Chrysler swaps the stock wheels for wide 20-inch aluminum shod with 245/45R20 all-season rubber and the front grille turns black. Nestled inside the larger wheels are larger rotors with four-piston Brembo brakes (14.2-inch up front and 13.8 in the rear.) The rest of the SRT8 changes are subtle enough that they may go unnoticed unless parked next to a lesser 300. The same finlets that sprouted in 2011 are present on the SRT8 and there’s no ridiculous wing or funky chin spoiler to destroy the 300′s luxury lines.

Those luxury lines are important in another way, they help justify the SRT8 Core’s  $44,250 base price. The Core model is a new twist in Chrysler’s SRT8 plot offering a bit more than just a “decontented” ride. In order to get the $4,000 lower starting price the Core ditches the leather seats, HID headlamps and adaptive suspension. Core models can be distinguished by the 6.4L badge on the front fenders, more aggressive wheels and the blacked out halogen headlamps from the 300S.

Interior

Nevermore has an automotive interior gone from plastastic to fantastic so rapidly as the 300 and it’s all down to stitched cow. The SRT8 Core model and base SRT8 models make do with a slightly rubbery injection molded dashboard, a $2,500 option on the non-Core SRT8 takes you to a place hitherto the exclusive domain of six-figure luxury cars: the full-leather dashboard.  Trust me, the cash is worth it. Without the upgrade, the Camcord quality interior plastics stick out like a sore thumb, with it your passengers will be fawning over your french seams. While the 300 interior feels less expensive than an M5 or E63, it’s a better place to spend your time than a CTS-V.

SRT8 shoppers need to be prepared for a sea of black or some fairly striking red as they are the only two interior colors offered in the 300 SRT8 and carbon fibre is the only trim available. I’m not usually a fan of black-on-black interiors, but Chrysler thankfully breaks things up a bit with Alcantara faux-suede sections in the seats. SRT8 Core shoppers have less choice being offered only in a black-cloth configuration.

All models get reworked front seats that offer more lateral bolstering but still suffer from Chrysler’s latest seat-oddity: seat cushions you sit on rather than in. While not as pronounced as the seats in the Chrysler 200 Convertible we had, I had the constant feeling I was sitting on a large gumdrop. Despite this, the seats proved reasonably comfortable on my long commute despite the lack of thigh support this design causes. Just keep in mind that Alcantara can be a maintenance bear, so avoid spills and trousers made of rough fabric. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Just Google “Alcantara pilling” to educate yourself.

Thanks to the super-sized proportions, the 300 offers the same amount of rear legroom as the Cadillac XTS. To put that in perspective, that’s several inches more than a BMW M5, Jaguar XFR, Cadillac CTS-V or Mercedes E63, all of which could be considered valid SRT8 competition. The 300 is more closely aligned in terms of size to the next-tier up in vehicles, the short wheelbase 7-Series, Cadillac XTS, short wheelbase XJ, etc.

Infotainment

Chrysler’s 8.4-inch uConnect infotainment system is standard although the Core model cuts the nav software to keep the price of entry low. uConnect is proof that being late to the party has advantages. Chrysler had more time to work out bugs, or maybe they just had better engineers working on the system, whatever the reason uConnect runs circles around MyFord Touch and Cadillac’s CUE in terms of response time and reliability. To date I have not had a Ford, Lincoln or Cadillac test car that didn’t have a total melt-down that required me to pull a fuse to reboot.

The system combines radio, multimedia, climate control, navigation, Bluetooth and other functions into a single screen. While some functions have duplicated hardware buttons, others can only be controlled via the touchscreen. This is both good and bad. It eliminates the button array plaguing Buick and Acura models, but some functions take longer and require more “eyes off the road” time than a hardware button. Stabbing the right button with gloves on is also a challenge.

The latest software adds full voice control of your USB/iDevice and worked very well without the library size limitations Toyota products suffer from. MyFord Touch offers a wider variety of “commandable” items and more natural command syntax, but  uConnect has a more natural voice and faster processing. Sadly the Garmin navigation isn’t well integrated into the system looking as if you’d just cut a hole in the screen and put a portable Garmin behind it. The look isn’t surprising since that’s exactly what Chrysler did, except they did it in software, not with a razor blade. While it makes uConnect’s navigation option inexpensive and easy to update, the graphics and menu structure don’t jive with the rest of the system and nav voice commands are very different from other cars on the market. Chevy’s new MyLink’s interface is just as snappy as uConnect but offers more polished navigation commands and a more seamless interface.

SRT8 models get additional apps tailored to the vehicle (shown above). The SRT apps include a race timer, G-Force displays as well as several screens of additional gauges like oil temperature, incoming air temperature, battery voltage, etc. There is also a custom screen that shows exactly how much power and torque the ginormous engine is cranking out at any moment. If you want the latest in uConnect with 911 asist and 3rd party smartphone apps, you’ll need to wait until Chrysler refreshes the 300 with the same system the new Grand Cherokee and RAMs use. If you want to know more about uConnect, check out the video at the beginning of the review.

Drivetrain

OK, this is the section you’ve been waiting for. Chrysler didn’t just tweak the old 6.1L SRT engine from the first generation SRT8 vehicles, and they didn’t just grab the Challenger Drag Pack/Mopar Crate engine either. You heard that right, this is not the “392 Hemi” in the Mopar catalog. Instead, Chrysler went back to the drawing board, cast a new block and built the new 6.4/392 around the design framework of the revised 2009 5.7L Hemi. This means you get variable cam timing to improve power and emissions, and Chrysler’s Multi Displacement System to improve efficiency. The redesigned engine still uses two valves and two spark plugs per cylinder and a heavily modified semi-hemispherical design. With as much engineering time as they undoubtedly spent, I’m somewhat surprised Chrysler didn’t cook up a dual-overhead cam SRT engine. No matter, there’s something primal about owning a car with an enormous push-rod V8.

Chrysler didn’t stop at enlarging the displacement, power is way up as well. The new monster is good for 470 horsepower and a stump-pulling 470 lb-ft of torque. While that may not sound like a huge improvement over the old 425HP 6.1L engine, the new 6.4 produces 90 lb-ft (or one whole Prius) more torque at 2,900 RPM. But that’s not all. Thanks to the trick cam timing, the new engine out powers the old by at least 60lb-ft from idle all the way to 5,600 RPM. The old SRT8 was a stout machine, but back-to-back, it feels like it runs out of breath easily. The improved thrust takes the 300 from 0-60 in a quick 4.5 seconds and finished the quarter mile in 12.87 seconds at a blistering 113 MPH. Those numbers aren’t that far removed from the BMW M5, E63 AMG, or Jaguar XFR-S.

If you were hoping 2013 would bring the new ZF/Chrysler 8-speed transmission to the SRT8, so was I. Sadly, the only cog-swapper offered on the 300 SRT8 is the old Mercedes 5-Speed that the 300 has been using since 2004. I wouldn’t say the Merc tranny is bad, but it’s not exactly a team player either. The shifts are somewhat sluggish, particularly when downshifting, and the ratios are far enough apart that highway passing can be dramatic or anticlimactic depending on how far down the transmission is willing to shift. Driven in a vacuum the WA580 is an acceptable play mate, but drive that Grand Cherokee SRT8 parked next to the 300 on the lot and your eyes will be opened.

If you believe that there is no replacement for displacement, the 300 SRT8 will be your poster boy. Sure, the latest German twin-turbo V8s put down more power, but the American bruiser has something they can’t deliver: a raucous V8 sound track. Proving the point I had the opportunity at a regional media event to drive several Mercedes, BMW and Chrysler models back-to-back on Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The M6 blew down the main straight at a blistering pace with a tame, almost muted exhaust note. You can thank the turbos in the exhaust for that. Meanwhile hearing the 300 SRT8, Challenger SRT8 and Grand Cherokee SRT8 blast down the straight at the same time nearly made me pee my pants.

So it sounds good and clears 60 in 4.5. What’s not to love? The tire selection. All 300 SRT8s come standard with 245 width all-season rubber all the way around. Chrysler does offer a summer tire package, but it’s not what you want either. According to the 300 forum fan boys, you can stuff some seriously wide 295 or 305 width rubber in the rear without rubbing and there are a few companies out there making wider replica wheels so you can retain the stock look. Going this route will do a few things for you. The most obvious if the improved grip in the corners which is already good, but a lightly modified 300 proved it has the ability to be excellent and second you’ll get better 0-60 numbers. In our testing the 300 spent so much time spinning the “narrow” all-season rubber, I suspect a 4.3 second sprint to 60 is possible. Of course, that rumored 8-speed auto may provide a similar performance bump, the new cog swapper dropped the Grand Cherokee SRT8′s 0-60 time by a full second.

When the going gets twisty Chrysler’s adaptive suspension (not available in the core model) and regular old hydraulic assist power steering conspire to create a modern Dr Jekyll and Mr Hide. In standard mode the suspension is moderately firm and compliant, soaking up roadway irregularities like a taut German cruiser. In Sport mode the system stiffens the dampers and attempts to counteract tip/dive and sideways motions. In Track Sport the dampers are set to their stiffest mode and the 5-speed auto gets downshift happy. On regular road surfaces the suspension never felt punishing, even on broken pavement, which translates to a slightly soft ride on the track, a worthy trade-off in my book, since few new cars are headed for the track anyway.  The decision to leave electric power steering off the table for the moment makes the enormous and moderately numb Chrysler have perhaps the best steering feel in this coat-closet-sized segment.

As before, the 300 SRT8 represents an incredible value compared to the other high-performance RWD sedans on the market. The difference is, this time around I don’t have any caveats attached to that. Our well-equipped tester rang in at $56,235 with every option except the black roof, up-level paint and tinted chrome bits. That’s about $12,000 less than a comparable CTS-V, and a whopping $40,000 less than a comparable M5 or E63. Of course the SRT8 isn’t going to have the exclusivity or snob value of the Germans and it’s less powerful for sure, but the fact that we can even have this discussion is saying something. While the 6.4L engine is undeniably intoxicating, the 300 SRT8 finally gets better under the harsh light of reality. Chrysler’s new-found ability to craft a desirable interior and competitive infotainment system mean you won’t have to “live with” much other than the 5-speed automatic. Give Chrysler a year or two and even that caveat may be lifted.

Hit it

  • Sexy optional leather dash is a must.
  • Endless torque.
  • Bragging rights: My engine is bigger than yours.

Quit it

  • Ye olde 5-speed should have been swapped for the sweet 8-speed this year. For shame.
  • Rubbery dashboard in the Core model.
  • AWD would make the SRT8 sell easier in the north.

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

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 2.08 Seconds

0-40: 2.8 Seconds

0-50: 3.66 Seconds

0-60: 4.5 Seconds

0-70: 5.73 Seconds

0-80: 7.0 Seconds

0-90: 8.83 Seconds

0-100: 10.54 Seconds

0-110: 12.5 Secodns

1/4 Mile:  12.87 Seconds @ 113 MPH

Average fuel economy: 17.8 over 566 miles

2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Stitched Dashboard, Premium Leather Group, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Stitched Dashboard, Premium Leather Group, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Stitched Dashboard, Premium Leather Group, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Stitched Dashboard, Premium Leather Group, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Shift Paddles, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Shift Paddles, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Exterior, Side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, 20-inch Wheels, Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Tail Lamps, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Rear Profile, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Dashboard, uConnect 8.4 and HVAC Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, SRT Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Instrument Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Tachometer, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, HVAC knobs, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Center Console Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Steering Wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Door Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Back Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Instrument Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Instrument Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Instrument Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Front Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Back Seats Folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Back Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Engine, 470HP 6.4L 392 HEMI, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Engine, 6.4L HEMI, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8, Infotainment, uConnect 8.4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Chrysler 300 SRT8 Monroney Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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New Or Used? : What Isn’t Better Than A Panther Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/new-or-used-what-isnt-better-than-a-panther-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/new-or-used-what-isnt-better-than-a-panther-edition/#comments Fri, 12 Apr 2013 12:00:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=484419
TJ writes:

Hey Sajeev and Steve,

Need your assistance for a fellow panther lover (my aunt) who is going to be looking for a new ride this fall.

She currently has a Mercury Grand Marquis (her second or third) and loves the car and would replace it with another in a heartbeat if they were still for sale.  If you’re asking why she’s getting rid of it, there isn’t any particular reason.

My aunt always replaces her cars ever 3-5 years (so B&B please no exhortations to keep the car, that was my original advice and it isn’t happening) and this one is coming up on it’s expiration date.  A word about my mother’s family so you realize how committed they are to this sort of car: My mom is one of 4 sisters, and between them, they’ve owned (at least) 2 Cadillac Devilles, 2 Eldorados, the aforementioned MGMs, a Buick Lesabre or Park Ave, and a Lincoln Town Car.  You get the idea.  They like them big, floaty, with a cavernous trunk, and preferably with a leather couch or recliner in the front.

I’m gonna try to take her to the Miami auto show this fall so she can see sample all her options at once, but wanted to see if you had any guidance.  Of the new cars that will be on offer, what is the next best thing to her beloved Panther?  My aunt realizes most people have migrated to SUVs/CUVs, but she says they won’t work because she finds them too difficult to climb in and out of (she’s 65 and barely over 5′ tall).

My first two suggestions were shot down, which were a Chrysler 300 (does’t like the styling) and a Chrysler Town and Country (doesn’t want a minivan).  I still hope that maybe sitting in the 300, or seeing the versatility of the T&C may change her mind (she has two still growing grandkids).  The next best option I could think of was the Ford Flex, with the Taurus being a distant 4th.  Any other suggestions?

I’ll have her look at the LaCrosse, Genesis, Azera, Avalon, and ES350, but I’m concerned they will be too small and/or not cushy enough, and the Cadillac XTS may be too pricey and not torquey enough.  While she is a 65 year old Grandmother, after 20 years of Ford 4.6 and GM 3800 ownership, she’s also used to lazy, effortless low end grunt helping her force her way through South Florida’s insane traffic, and I know the XTS has been hit hard in reviews for its combination of a peaky engine, high curb weight, and tall gearing.  Have I missed any other worthwhile options?  Thanks for your help.

Steve Says:

Every model you mentioned from the Lacrosse to the ES350 offers more overall interior space than the ol’ Grand. Though they all fall short of the Panther when it comes to the, “Why the hell would anyone buy a new one?” factor.

As for the ride, the Hyundai models ride a bit more taut than the others. So scratch those two.

The LaCrosse would be a good blue plate special car for her given her apparent apathy for quality interior components. But I would check to see if the interior design agrees with her first.

The ES350 is wonderful, but steep. If your Aunt has a liking for large Marge levels of interior space and a floaty ride, I would strike a deal for the outgoing prior gen Avalon. It also has a cost contained interior that is thankfully two clicks above the last Grand Marquis redesign, and you may be able to cut her a good deal.

Then again, the Shoney’s capital of the world may not offer much in the ways of discounts for a Camry-esque product.

I understand your kvetching about this expenditure. My own mom has that same Floridian ailment that is replacing a perfectly good car for no other reason than the changing of the tides. Every ten years I buy her a new Camry. Why? Beats me. However the depreciation works out to only about $150 a month. For what works out to $5 a day, I can deal with it.

I would focus on helping her with the selling of her car and the negotiation process, if she desires your help, and start with having her rent a Buick LaCrosse for the day. You may be able to find an Avalon for rent as well. This is Florida after all. Give her a couple days to make the decision, and remember to be a mensch when she picks that aqua blue model with the glossy white vinyl roof.

Sajeev Says:

I’m glad to hear she doesn’t like the 300: not because it’s a horrible vehicle, but because it doesn’t personify the values present in Panther Love.  Those proper American Sedans doing their job since the 1950s. That’s history, and that’s okay.  Now she needs to learn to compromise…somewhere.

Aside from a CPO Mercedes with some sort of thumpin’ V8 under the hood, there’s nothing in play that’s torquey enough to be a contender in the motor and styling department.  Make sure she test drives all the cars mentioned above, but there are two machines for me in this situation: the Toyota Avalon and the Camry LE. Yup, the LE.

Granted, I haven’t driven a new Camry yet, and I didn’t like the previous model (because we still had Panthers back then) but this is probably the best machine for a numb, floaty, and isolating cabin.  The Avalon? Perhaps better, but maybe not enough to justify the price.

I once grudgingly admitted that my last trip through NY, NJ and PA was far more pleasant because the (last gen) Camry LE (with those tall sidewalls) did a good job obliterating every bump on the road. While it wasn’t that unique blend of isolating-while-inspiring-confidence like RWD Panther Love, it worked. Aside from the lack of torque, the Camry might be the best bet here.  And I can’t believe I just wrote that.

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

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Piston Slap: A Power Ram Split Decision? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/piston-slap-a-power-ram-split-decision/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/piston-slap-a-power-ram-split-decision/#comments Mon, 04 Mar 2013 12:19:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=479840 Douglas writes:

Sajeev,

Here’s some fodder for Piston Slap. Situation: I have a 1993 Dodge Power Ram 250, 103k miles, base model, so about the only thing it has in the way of amenities is AC.

It’s got a 5.2l Magnum (318), mated to a NV4500 with a NP241 transfer case. It came from Arizona where it saw light duty on a ranch of some sort. Overall, it is a excellent shape. All mechanicals work, body is in great shape, no rust, a small ding or two on the tailgate and by the bumper. I’ve replaced the shocks, new radiator, new AC condenser, installed new AC compressor, converted to R134, new tie rod ends in one year ownership. Still need to tear out the old headliner backing, and fix the 4WD light (bad switch on the transfer case top). Maybe a coat of paint, too.

It took me a long time to find this truck – manual, stripper, 4×4 in great shape. I use to make dump runs, tinker around, and help out friends.

Here’s the dilemma. It will need new tires soon, and since I want to replace the spare, I’m looking at around $700 for new tires. At some point, I’ll need new brakes, and I’ve been thinking about getting a donor engine to rebuild and replace the one I’ve got in there now. (Small rear main seal leak, plus twenty years of use on the existing motor.) I like to tinker and wrench, and this truck provides me that opportunity. But I wonder if I’m a fool for thinking about new rubber and a rebuilt engine in a twenty year old truck. On the other hand, I think I’m a fool for wanting to move onto to something newer when I’ve got such a great setup in my driveway now.

Thoughts?

Thanks
From a Fellow Texan,
Douglas

Sajeev answers:

Now you could be considered foolish on either side of the split decision presented here. But combine the relevant and necessary parts you’ve already replaced (nice job on the shocks, that gets neglected far too often) with the need for new rubber on any vehicle, and keeping the truck is far from foolish.  It’s the right move.

Do you need a spare motor to rebuild? Probably not.  But that shouldn’t stop you from tinkering and having fun in your spare time, while preparing for a future mechanical failure.  If you want to rebuild a spare motor in your “spare” time (sorry), go right ahead and do it.

Old trucks never die, they just get better. Even Dodge trucks, which are rarely loved like their GM and Ford counterparts. Keep it and get new tires, for sure.

 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

 

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Ecoboost May Put The Squeeze On Ford’s Canadian Engine Plants http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/ecoboost-may-put-the-squeeze-on-fords-canadian-engine-plants/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/02/ecoboost-may-put-the-squeeze-on-fords-canadian-engine-plants/#comments Thu, 28 Feb 2013 18:16:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=479458

Ford’s plan to ramp up production of their Ecoboost engines may negatively impact the Blue Oval’s Essex engine plant in Windsor, Ontario.

The Essex plant, which currently employes 800 workers and operates with three shifts, is in danger of moving to two shifts as Ford’s V8 engines are increasingly replaced by the forced-induction 4-cylinder engines. Essex produces the 5.0L V8 engine used in the F-150 and the Mustang.

According to the Windsor Star, the Canadian Auto Workers union says that the total volume of engines isn’t expected to decrease for 2013, but the next-generation Mustang’s likely move to an Ecoboost powertrain could bring lower demand for the V8. The addition of an Ecoboost Mustang is expected to increase its profile across the Ford lineup, with 95 percent of Ford’s cars offering it as an option (up from 90 percent currently).

On the bright side, the V8 doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Despite the Ecoboost’s popularity, a majority of F-Series buyers opt for the V8, – heavy-duty vehicles still rely on the naturally aspirated V8 for their motivation, while the Ecoboost makes up 40 percent of F-150 sales (V6s account for 53 percent overall). Meanwhile, Ford’s Oakville plant, which assembles the Edge and Flex crossovers, is slated to get an all-new global platform and add hundreds of jobs (largely composed of previously laid-off workers).

But nothing is a given with respect to Ontario’s auto manufacturing sector, and even though strong F-150 sales are keeping the Essex plant busy, nobody ever expected Oshawa to lose their truck plant either.

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Review: 2013 Nissan NV3500 HD SL 12 Passenger Van (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/review-2013-nissan-nv3500-hd-sl-12-passenger-van-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/01/review-2013-nissan-nv3500-hd-sl-12-passenger-van-video/#comments Sun, 13 Jan 2013 14:00:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=469726  

Every now and then a journalist sticks his foot in his mouth, and so it was with me and a Nissan PR person. PR person: we go the extra mile to make sure the press has access to everything we make, we don’t hide anything. Me: (after a long pause) oh yea? What about the NV Passenger van? How about that!? Eh? Why haven’t I seen one before? Hiding something? My Nissan minder whipped out his phone, made a call and a ginormous shiny black box appeared a week later. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I did not, I repeat, did not grovel and beg to Nissan’s top brass to get my hands on a full-size van.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Public opinion on the NV’s styling ranged from “I love the bold grille” to “dear God, put my eyes out.” Let us know what you think in the comment section. The dominant feature on the NV is certainly the front end which features an honest-to-goodness hood. This might sound totally banal at first glance, but anyone who has worked on a GM van knows the engine isn’t under the hood; it’s mostly under the dash with a bit inside the cabin. (This is why minor repairs on a GM van tend to start with “first, drop the engine”). The NV looks more like someone grafted a bread van box to a Nissan Titan, which in many ways is exactly what Nissan did.

Personally I like the shape of the NV. It looks different from the current crop of domestic people movers, I like chrome bling and I have a soft spot for a long hood. Am I crazy? Perhaps, I like the way the Ford Flex looks too. Looks aside, there’s a practical benefit to having a hood: the engine isn’t in the foot-well. In the GM and Ford vans the engine position means your legs are cocked to one side and your right foot is cooked after a 2 hour road trip. The hood allowed Nissan to lower the floor up front improving head room and making the vehicle feel more like a typical SUV than a big-rig.

The NV’s dashboard is formed from hard plastic, just like GM and Ford’s passenger vans. Hard plastics in general put up to hard abuse better than trendy minivan squishy bits. The NV’s interior showed no early wear despite our tester’s gig as a Nissan shuttle for drunk journalists for most of its 6,500 mile life. Although Nissan felt the need to dress parts of the dash in matte black ala GM/Ford, the color choices seem more modern than the competition.

Shoppers have three trim levels to choose from: S, SV and SL. The $31,990 S model is the starting point for the NV vans. Creature comforts like power locks, power windows and cruise control can be added for $650 or come standard along with map lights, a center storage console, 120V inverter, two extra cup holders, backup parking sensors, power driver’s seat, two more speakers (6 total), and a CD player on the $34,190 SV model. The top-of-the-line $37,690 SL model adds dual-zone electronic climate control, front and rear parking sensors, leather surfaces on all 12 seats, heated front seats and Nissan’s “low-cost navigation” system with backup cam. All models come standard with a rear HVAC unit with vents in the ceiling and the floor for rear passengers. Nissan priced the NV carefully, slotting it between the GM 2500 and 3500 series vans (and considerably less than a “comparable”  2WD Suburban if you’re wondering.)


Our SL had Nissan’s standard 5-inch touch-screen nav unit (available on the SV for $950). The nav system also includes XM radio, XM traffic, USB/iDevice integration, Bluetooth speaker phone functionality and a much-needed backup cam. If you’re familiar with aftermarket nav systems, you’ll feel right at home with the Nissan system’s snappy and straightforward interface. The music player interface is fully featured, but the only voice commands built into the system are for the phone interface. While the system will let you browse your iPod or dial a phone number while you drive off the road, you must be completely stopped to enter a navigation destination.

The front seats and most of the switchgear are borrowed from the Titan, complete with adjustable head rests and driver’s lumbar support. Instead of a full-vinyl seat on the S and SV (like Ford and GM) Nissan uses a tough, car-like fabric for the seat and vinyl side bolsters for improved durability. Front seat comfort proved exceptional during my week with the NV, something that is even more impressive when you consider the Savanna and E-Series front seats were not designed with the human back in mind. The rear seats are far more comfortable than the competition but not overly comfortable in general thanks to moderately firm padding and an upright seating position.

Instead of 3-4 person bench seats, the NV takes a page from the minivan playbook and splits the rear thrones into 4 two-seat and 2 singe-seat modules. While the seat modules can’t be described as light, they are easier to remove and replace than those in the competition. Nissan claims the 6 seat modules allow for 324 different seating configurations. All you need to know is: you can carry 12 people and limited cargo, 10 people and 10 suitcases or 8 people with camping gear. Try that in an SUV.

Innovation has been absent from the van market for so long things like headrests in the rear seem like a novelty. The reality is they’re an essential safety feature providing greatly improved neck protection in rear-end accidents. This shouldn’t just matter to customers with large families but to businesses worried about liability lawsuits as well. In addition to the headrests, Nissan tosses in curtain airbags for all four rows (the competition covers the front row only) and seat belts  integrated into the seat modules. Integrated seat belts improve safety system geometry in a crash, they also keep you from having to climb through a seat belt jungle to get to the back row and when the seat is removed so are the belts.

As nice as these improvements are there are still a few things that would bug me if I needed a large family vehicle. The rear seats don’t fold which would make cargo hauling without removing the benches easier (they don’t recline either.) There is also a distinct cupholder shortage in the NV with 10 cup receptacles for 12 passengers (and 4 are up front leaving the 10 people in the back to fight over the remainder.) If you’re a baby-on-board type, the NV has three LATCH equipped seats and two more seats with extra top-tether-anchors.

Under the NV’s long hood you’ll find two engines. The S and SV models come standard with a 4.0L V6 lifted from Nissan’s Frontier pickup truck. The VVT equipped V6 is good for 261HP at 5,600RPM and 281lb-ft of twist at 4,000RPM. Nissan’s 5.6L V8 engine (a close relative to the Infiniti M56′s engine) bumps power to 317HP at 5,200RPM but more importantly cranks out 104lb0ft more twist than the V6 (385 total.) Nissan makes the V8 standard on the leather-clad SL, and a reasonable $900 option on the SV and $990 on the S. Both engines are mated to Nissan’s heavy-duty 5-speed automatic which sends power to the rear wheels only. If you need AWD, visit your Chevy or GMC dealer. The 5-speed auto is a welcome improvement over E-350′s 4-speed, but one cog shy of GM’s new 6-speed in most Express/Savanna models. (GM’s 1500 series vans still get ye olde 4-speed in both RWD and AWD configurations.)

Before you buy the V6 in hopes of better fuel economy, let’s go over some numbers. Our V8 SL tipped the scales at an eye-popping 6,862lbs, the V6 is only 200lbs lighter. Next, consider the payload. An “obese of Americans,” that’s my new collective noun, can reach or exceed the NV’s payload range of 2,408 (V8) to 2,700lbs (V6). Put in perspective the V8 is at its limit after 200lbs of cargo and twelve 180lb occupants. If your clientèle (or family) is on the waiting list for America’s Biggest Loser, look at GM’s 3500 series van. It can haul 3,515lbs of American beef. Trailer owners will be pleased to know the NV still boasts a stout 8,700lb V8 tow rating.

If you’ve been paying attention you will have added these numbers up and discovered a fully-loaded NV weighs a cheeseburger shy of 9,300lbs. Even with the V8′s 33% improvement in torque and a downshift-happy 5-speed, freeway entrance ramps require a heavy right foot, careful preparation and fervent prayer. Add an 8,700lb trailer and 12 campers and you have 18,000lbs to get up to speed. With numbers like these the slight power differences between the Nissan 5.6L and GM6.0L V8 and the extra cog in GM’s transmission just don’t make much difference in acceleration. Should you need more consistent shove, consider GM’s 6.6L diesel, just be prepared to shell out some serious cash since the 525ft-lb Duramax is a $14,000 option.

With a gross vehicle weight (GVWR) starting at 9,430lbs the NV isn’t required to wear an EPA fuel economy sticker, but considering the lighter Titan scores 13/18MPG with the same engine, keep your expectations low. Over a 550-mile week we averaged 13.8MPG in mixed driving and observed a high of 15 on the highway and a low of 10 around town. Most of that time the NV was nearly empty. That may sound bad, but you should keep in mind it’s no worse than the GM and Ford competition. It’s also likely more fuel efficient to carry 12 in one vehicle than driving two 6-passenger SUVs.

By putting the engine under a hood rather than under the dashboard (like GM and Ford), the NV had to be longer than the competition to carry the same number of people. This means the 12-passenger NV is about the same length as the 15-passegner Savana (18-inches longer then a Suburban) making it difficult to find parking spaces. Thankfully Nissan managed to give the behemoth a 45-foot turning radius which is several feet smaller than the GM and Ford vans and just two feet larger than a Suburban. Thankfully our SL model had standard front and rear parking sensors and a backup cam which proved essential in parking lot maneuvers.

With 245/70R17 rubber on all four corners, an SUV-like 8.1 inches of ground clearance, recirculating ball steering and a rear suspension that uses leaf springs and a solid rear axle, the NV behaves like a full-size pickup truck or 1990s full-size SUV out on the road. Nissan’s choice of steering mechanisms may sound odd, but it results in the NV having a more predictable on-center feel on the highway and requires less effort in the parking lot. Honestly, it still has more road feel than a BMW with EPAS.

As you would expect from a vehicle with a high payload capacity, the NV tends to get “bouncy” on broken pavement if the rear seats are unoccupied but overall the ride is closer to a Suburban than a cargo van thanks to the extra weight in the rear. Visibility is the major complain in the NV with the sea of whiplash-reducing headrests making rearward visibility nearly impossible even without passengers in the van. In addition the NV sports an incredibly large B-pillar on the driver’s side which creates a large blind spot on your left. The optional backup cam solves part of the rearward visibility question, and Nissan does include blind spot mirrors on both sides of the NV but I still found the thick pillar bothersome because I’m used to looking over my shoulder when required.

When I tested Nissan’s cargo NV last year I found it to be the most civilized and comfortable van on the market, well priced and ideal for the owner/operator man-in-the-van. The passenger version of the NV sets a new benchmark in a phone-booth sized (and often overlooked) market segment. If you’re looking for a comfortable and upscale vehicle for your airport shuttle business or the most comfortable way to transport your family of twelve, you don’t have many options. Ford’s new T-Series van shows plenty of promise but won’t be on sale for nearly a year. Until the T-Series is out and we can get our hands on one, the Nissan NV should be the first and only van on your list.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.510 Seconds

0-60: 9.52 Seconds

¼ mile: 16.55 Seconds @ 85.9MPH

Average fuel economy: 13.8MPG over 550 miles

2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Exterior, 3/4 view, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Exterior, badging, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Exterior, Front 1/4 View, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Exterior, Front Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Exterior, Front Grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Exterior, Rear with cargo doors open, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, Rear Seat Cupholders, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Engine, 5.6L V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Engine, 5.6L V8, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, Front Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, Driver's side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, ceiling, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, center console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, ceiling HVAC vents, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, front seat controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, Navigation Radio, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, Navigation Radio, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, Navigation Radio, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, Navigation Radio, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, Gauge Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan NV 3500 Passenger Van, Interior, Gauge Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Is This The Best Muscle Car Deal That Nobody Knows About? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/is-this-the-best-muscle-car-deal-that-nobody-knows-about/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/is-this-the-best-muscle-car-deal-that-nobody-knows-about/#comments Mon, 17 Dec 2012 18:59:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=470498

Two doors. 390 horsepower. 8 cylinders. Two seats. Just a hair under $25k. Sound too good to be true? It might be one of the best muscle car deals going, as long as you’re willing to drive a pickup.

While perusing the Ram website for someone looking to buy a pickup, I came across the Ram Express; with a regular 6’4″ bed and rear-drive, it can be had with a 5.7L Hemi engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission for just $24,825. Next year, the 8-speed automatic will be the sole option. For those of us in the snowbelt, four-wheel drive will bump the cost up closer to $28,000, which makes it less of a value proposition. Note that in Canada, the Express starts at a mere $22,395 for a 4×2 single cab – the sole option is four-wheel drive, and a bigger cab is not available.

The V6 Mustang is rightly touted as the muscle car bargain of the century, but the Ram Express offers its own proposition. No, it won’t handle like a V6 ‘Stang, nor will it return the same fuel economy. But it can haul more, carry people in greater comfort (if you opt for the Quad or Crew Cab versions) and can be had with four-wheel drive. Like the Mustang V6, the base price merely serves to get buyers in the door – the real desirable versions need more options and dollars thrown at them – but the intent remains the same. And while a truck may not put up the same on paper acceleration numbers as a conventional car, they can still haul ass just fine. The Express is also extremely basic. If nothing else, it’s an intriguing, all-American alternative to the traditional muscle car – one that can tow 9200 lbs, should the need ever arise.

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Review: 2013 Infiniti FX37 (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-infiniti-fx37-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/12/review-2013-infiniti-fx37-video/#comments Wed, 12 Dec 2012 15:31:42 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=467778

When car companies need to stretch out a model’s useful lifespan, there are a number of tricks they use. After the first year, new colors are added. The next few year options and trim parts are tweaked. Around year four, a limited edition surfaces followed by a drivetrain revamp in year 5. And so it is with Infiniti’s sporty FX crossover, now entering its fifth model year as the “new” 2013 Infiniti FX37.  You guessed it, the only thing new about the FX37 is the engine. Today’s burning question is: does a new engine give a luxury vehicle a lease on life? Or is this thinly disguised crossover life support? Click through the jump to find out.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

Infiniti’s latest styling cues have been polarizing to say the least. Our own Michael Karesh was less than smitten by the FX’s bulging proportions and large grille. Much like Infiniti’s M however, my opinion has shifted from believing Infiniti’s signature gaping-maw grill and fender bulges were unattractive to a feeling that the Infiniti products present a unique style to a fairly repetitive segment. With the new “Gillette” grill and functional side vents, the FX is athletic, modern and heavily styles. It is the cross-trainer of the luxury CUV/SUV world compared to the “wingtippy” BMW X5 and Mercedes ML with their “safer” styling.

Interior

Compared to the exterior, the interior is elegant and perhaps a hair sedate. Owing to the age of the FX’s trappings, you won’t find a stitched pleather dash, color changing ambient lighting or Alcantara headliners. Instead you will find acres of impeccably finished maple, squishy plastic dash bits and Lexus-like fit and finish. Despite turning five this year the interior of the FX is very competitive with the Germans, a testament to how luxurious it was in 2008.

While my 6-foot frame found the driver’s seat extremely comfortable, shoppers should know the thrones don’t offer the same range of motion as the competition and the front passenger seat lacks adjustable lumbar support. The rear seats are upholstered with the same care as the front buckets but due to the vehicle’s proportions, rear passenger room is limited. From a functional standpoint, the tall dash and high belt-line hamper visibility especially for shorter drivers. The curvaceous side profile and small rear windows impact rearward visibility as well as cargo capacity. While the 24.9 cubic feet of cargo volume sounds competitive with the X5, the severely sloping rear profile made it difficult to squeeze bulky box-store purchases in the FX’s shapely booty.

 

Infotainment & Gadgets

The FX37 comes with a standard 7-inch infotainment screen that does everything but navigate you. iDevice/USB integration, Bluetooth and an 11-speaker Bose audio system with a single disc CD player and XM radio are standard on all models. Opting for the $4300 “premium package” gets you Infiniti’s easy to use navigation system with a high-resolution 8-inch touchscreen, voice control, Infiniti’s slick all-around camera system (updated to detect moving objects), memory driver’s seat, roof rails and a powered tilt/telescope steering wheel. Regardless of which system you get, Infiniti’s are among the most intuitive systems available. They also allow navigation of the system via a steering wheel toggle so your eyes can stay on the road. The 8-inch system adds touchscreen functionality to the mix giving you three ways to navigate the system: the steering wheel toggle, the rotary joystick in the dash, or just stabbing the screen with your finger. Unfortunately neither system allow for voice commanding your tunes ala the SYNC system in Ford/Lincoln products and neither provides enough power to charge iPads or other high-draw USB devices..

Should you desire the latest in nannies driving safety, (and have $2,950 to spend on the “technology package”) Infiniti will oblige with headlamps that steer, radar cruise control, collision warning, collision prevention, lane departure warning and lane departure prevention. The system also offers “Distance Control Assist” which (when enabled) pushes the accelerator pedal back at you if it thinks you’re closing on the car in-front of you too quickly. If the car decides that releasing the throttle isn’t enough, it will apply the brakes and can take the vehicle to a complete stop. This shouldn’t be confused with “adaptive cruise control” as DCA can operate at all times and at essentially any speed.

Drivetrain

Ah, the section we have all been waiting for. The reason we’re looking at the FX again is that engine upgrade. Instead of giving the FX a one-two punch by dropping their 3.7L V6 and 5.6L V8 under the hood, Infiniti upgraded the V6 and left the 5.0L V8 unchanged (maybe next year?) The new six-cylinder engine improves power by 22HP to 325 at a lofty 7,000RPM while torque rises an imperceptible 5lb-ft to 267 at 5,200RPM. Power is still routed to the  wheels via a 7-speed JATCO transmission and shoppers can still opt for the $1,450 AWD system. If this sounds familiar, Infiniti has used this engine in the European FX for a while now. Paradoxically with the engine enlargement come improved fuel economy, figures rising 1MPG in both city and highway tests to 17/24. Strangely, the combined number remains the same at 19MPG.

Drive

Infiniti based the FX on their G sedan and retained as much of the handling characteristics as they could. The result is a tall crossover with a decidedly RWD bias, sharp steering and a chassis that loves to be thrown into the corners. Think of the FX as the G37′s overweight brother. Out on the winding back-country roads of Northern California you will soon forget about the relative lack of “utility” created by the FX’s athletic proportions and start complaining about a lack of column mounted shift paddles. Infiniti’s gorgeous magnesium paddles are available only as part of a $6,250 option package on the $60,650 FX50 AWD which is a shame because the FX50 doesn’t need them as much as the FX37 does. The reason is in the torque and HP curves of the Nissan VQ engine which Infiniti calls “Acceleration swell” but the rest of us know as “no low-end torque”. Nissan does allow you to “row your own” using the console shifter, but the response from the 7-speed slushbox seems far more sluggish than what is essentially the same drivetrain in the G37 with the paddle shifters.

Infiniti’s has long been known for high revving V6 engines that need to be wound out to the redline to deliver the promised driving excitement. The old 3.5L V6 sounded throaty at 4,000RPM but by the time it reached its HP peak at 6,800 it sounded harsh and long before it reached its 7,500RPM redline you were ready for the song to be over. The 3.7L engine on the other hand is considerably more refined as it calls like a Siren urging you to spend more time at its insane 7,600RPM redline. For the first time in the FX, intoxicating V6 sounds mesh with canyon carving.

If you’re looking for a sure-footed ride and don’t care about being able to hang your SUV’s tail out, or if you want to tow 2,000lbs, the FX37 AWD is the model for you. Infiniti’s strangely named ATTESA E-TS (Advanced Total Traction Engineering System for All Electronic Torque Split) AWD system combines a traditional center differential with a multi-plate clutch that allows for 0-50% of engine power to be sent to the front wheel when the electrically controlled system feels like it (or when a wheel slips). Infiniti has programmed the system to maintain more of a rear-wheel bias than the German competition, making the FX AWD feel more nimble than the X5 or ML. Floor the FX AWD and toss it into a corner and the system will deliver an entertaining AWD power-slide if you can keep from wetting yourself as you slide toward the curb.

For 2013 the FX37 starts at $44,300 with the FX37 AWD checking in at $45,750 without destination or options. The Infiniti undercuts the BMW X5 xDrive35i by nearly $10,000 and even when taking into account the feature content of the two vehicles, the FX represents a nearly $5,000 better value than the Bimmer. While BMW’s drivetrain is more refined and the interior more luxurious, the relatively low-cost of admission, smooth V6 and strong RWD dynamics of the FX37 keep the 5-year-old Infiniti a solid contender for shoppers  interested in the “sport” part of the Sport Utility Vehicle equation. Infiniti’s engine upgrade is unlikely to do much for the FX’s recently sagging sales as buyers gravitate towards newer and more fuel-efficient entries (or even Infiniti’s new JX35), but none the less the FX37 succeeds at breathing new life into Infiniti’s CUV warhorse. Will year 6 bring a 412HP fire-breathing 5.6L V8 and RWD? We can only hope.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.24 Seconds

0-60: 5.59 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 14 Seconds @ 99.6 MPH

 

2013 Infiniti FX37, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Exterior,  front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Exterior,  rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Exterior,  front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Exterior,  front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Exterior,  side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Exterior,  front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Exterior,  grille, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Exterior,  FX37 badge, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Interior, cargo area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Interior, front seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Interior, Driver's Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Interior, dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Interior, center console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Interior, center console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Interior, center console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Engine, 3.7L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37, Engine, 3.7L V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Infiniti FX37 Monroney Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

 

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Piston Slap: Exhausted after a little Crack? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/piston-slap-exhausted-after-a-little-crack/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/piston-slap-exhausted-after-a-little-crack/#comments Mon, 19 Nov 2012 11:57:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=467337 TTAC Commentator jco writes:

Sajeev:

In response to your call for more reader-submitted queries, I realized I’ve had one right in front of me and have never thought to ask my fellow TTAC commenters. I have a 2006 Toyota 4runner with the amazing 4.7L 2UZFE V8 engine, currently with 90,000 miles. I purchased the truck with 55,000 miles. However, this motor seems to have a fairly common weakness.

The thin-wall exhaust manifolds are prone to cracking at the flange where it bolts up to the head. This engine was used in a variety of Toyota
trucks, but in the 4runner, being the smallest truck of that group, this presents a particular problem. There is absolutely zero clearance between the frame and the manifold. On the bigger trucks, there are aftermarket headers available, and most will replace with those parts when/if they experience this issue.

Some owners have had success in having the dealer replace the manifolds under a TSB related to an issue with smelly exhaust, with the catalytic converters being the source of the smell. On some years of this motor, the first set of cats is the same piece as the exhaust manifold itself and gets replaced as a whole part. And there is a factory emissions warranty running 7 years/100,000 miles. So that’s usually enough to get the work done by the dealer without much complaint, as long as the symptoms can be replicated.

The noise on my truck has been there since I rolled off the lot with it. I’m not sure how much attention I paid to it at first, but it was there. The noise is far more prevalent when the engine and ambient temps are warm, and when the engine is under load. so fast/slow acceleration from start in the lower gears tends to consistently produce it. Which, truthfully, makes somewhat less sense as any crack would close as the metal expands with heat. But as with most car owners with an internet connection, I informed myself about my vehicle. And yes, I have wondered if I’m just reading about something on the internet and then self-diagnosing. But I’ve been racking up the miles, and i did purchase an extended Toyotacare warranty, so I feel like I should do my best to keep the truck properly maintained while the work is covered.

So, after living with the truck for a year and recognizing that it wasn’t just my internet-colored imagination, I took the truck in. They did actually recognize the exhaust smell, but only replaced ONE of the 4 catalytic converters. and it was not one of the ‘pre-cats’ directly off the manifolds. As for my noise complaint, they determined that they were hearing something, and that it was caused by the exhaust system, which had been installed at some point by a previous owner. it consisted of some cheap piping and a Flowmaster muffler (which, let me tell you, sounded AWESOME with the V8, heh), and looked to have been done on the cheap by a muffler shop. They found some leaking at the seams, and would not attempt to further diagnose the noise issue without a full OEM replacement. a $1,000 assembly of parts not covered because it is considered a ‘wear item’. they sort of relented and agreed to install an aftermarket bolt-in part at a quarter of the cost. after all that was done, they determined the noise was ‘normal’ and sent me on my way. and it still sounds exactly the same. that was at about 80,000 miles, about 6 months ago (haha I drive a lot).

With my driving habits, and edging closer to the warranty expiration, I took it back in yesterday. Though it was a cold day, they were able to hear the noise, again. and again they stated that it was ‘normal for this engine’. The reason I am leaning towards the manifold and not a ‘tappet’, or ‘valvetrain’ noise as the service manager claimed, is just the nature of the sound. were it a top-end noise, the amplitude would be higher. same with a downstream exhaust leak. what i hear is a ‘tick’ with what sounds like every pulse from ONE cylinder. meaning at around 1500rpm under load, it will repeat itself approximately once per half-second (i’m guessing, but that seems close). and i would describe valvetrain noise as more of a constant clatter anyways, prevalent under any operating condition.

So what should I do? Take it to another dealer? Take it to an independent guy for at least a casual diagnosis? Is there another cause for this issue? I’d love to say this is just a normal noise, but I know it isn’t. Having done my research, the only way to actually SEE a crack in the common location is removal of the manifold. not a job I am equipped to handle. I truthfully don’t mind the noise so much, but I love this truck and because it’s a Toyota
truck, I plan to put at the very least another 100,000 miles on it. and so I don’t want the problem to further degrade and fail over time, given the expense and difficulty of replacing this particular part.

Sajeev Answers:

I love how you “love this truck and because its a Toyota I plan to put at the very least another 100,000 miles on it.”  Not because I’m a hater, because I plan on doing the same thing with my orphan Lincoln-Mercury vehicles.  We all have our quirks, some of us are just crazier than others: and both of us should just give up and find something else to drive.

Or not. Because odds are the replacement manifold is an improved design, if this is any indication.

Having personally dealt with bad exhaust manifold gaskets, leaky headers and the like, it does sound like your diagnosis is on the money. But who cares?

Replace it when it gets worse.  I’d recommend cutting off the replacement mufflers you put on after the dealership demanded it, replacing with some mild flowbastards (get it?) or Magnaflows, or whatever floats your boat.  I like the mufflers from the 2005-present Mustang GT: you can get them for free at some exhaust shops when your average stangbanger demands a more obnoxious sound…but they are actually the best balance of rumble and sophistication on the market!

Those of us who like to wrench around on older vehicles simply gotta love free shit. Especially when it masks the impending failure of your cracked manifold. Let the problem get worse, obviously worse, then let an independent mechanic fix it.

Bonus!  A Piston Slap Nugget of Wisdom:

As you modify a vehicle after the warranty expires, avoid the dealership’s service department.  It’s in both parties’ best interest to keep it like that: less BS for the owner and less risk of giving bad service (at a lower profit compared to other tasks) with the repercussions that come with.

Take it from the guy farting around with a restomod Mercury Cougar for the past 13 years. Time to cut the cord.

EDIT: I forgot that there was still an extended warranty on the vehicle, that changes everything.  Going to another dealership and asking them to scope it out (literally) for a crack is a good idea. 

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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Capsule Review: 2012 Cadillac CTS-V Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/capsule-review-2012-cadillac-cts-v-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/capsule-review-2012-cadillac-cts-v-coupe/#comments Thu, 25 Oct 2012 10:01:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=464860
Upon graduation from Belfast Teacher’s Training College in the late ’60s, my father found himself summoned into the headmaster’s office. A heavy oaken drawer was opened and an object placed upon the green baize of the blotting pad: “Ye’ll be needin’ this.”

“This” was the strap, thick leather symbol of martial law in the classroom. Dad left it lying where it was, left behind the tobacco-scented claustrophobia of that small office, left behind the small-minded bigotry of that blood-soaked island, and built himself a new home in the wilds of British Columbia.

From my birth, this has been my template for the masculine ideal: resolve, courage, intelligence, compassion. In the latter stages of his career, my father – long an administrator – could walk in and quell any classroom by his mere physical presence. And so, I’ve endeavoured to emulate him. To refrain from roarin’ an’ shoutin’. To be calm, yet firm of purpose. To be a man.

Of course, five minutes behind the wheel of this thing and it’s, COME AT ME BRO!


Don’t get me wrong, I’m awfully fond of the CTS-V, particularly in wagon form. It’s just not particularly subtle.

While I won’t go into an involved discussion of the design (read Sajeev Mehta’s thorough critique here instead), it’s sort of a visual caps-lock. You get the sense that they’d have built the entire thing out of grille if they’d have been able to get away with it.

When I remarked that going from a black/black FR-S to the ‘V felt like Robin-to-Batman, Jack B dubbed it the “Batbro,” and I can’t do better than that. If your utility belt is filled with hair-gel capsules and cocaine, then this is the sled for you.

Moving into the interior with some difficulty, due to the fiddly ‘Vette-style door latches, one finds a surprisingly high seating arrangement and a colour-combination clearly put together by a Boston Bruins fan. The details are fairly nice though.

Not as nice as the interior of a high-trim ATS however – the upcoming CTS update should fix things up a little, but this design has been around a while. Also, and I’m kicking myself for not snapping a quick shot of it, there’s a three-inch piece of fake carbon-fibre trim to the right of the steering wheel, and it’s stuck on at about fifteen degrees off the correct angle. Shoddy.


This centre-stack will doubtless soon be supplanted by the CUE system and all its haptic-touch trickery. I sort of prefer the buttons, myself, but the retractable navigation screen wobbles quite a bit when you go over bumps.

Two really great things to note: first, the Alcantara-wrapped steering wheel is excellent, and great at wicking away moisture from sweaty palms. Second, they’ve put the traction-control toggle right on the steering wheel.

Which brings us around to the question of performance.


Yes, the CTS-V is a bit of an automotive tribal tattoo – Conan the Vulgarian. On the other hand, great googly-moogly does it back up those looks with volcanic power levels.


The supercharged 6.2L LSA is nearly imbecilic in its ferocity, howling and bellowing out those twin centre-mounted exhausts. Flick off the overworked traction control so that it can go off and have a therapy session, and the blown V8 scorches the tires and rams repeatedly into the rev-limiter with a noise like a T-Rex choking on Jeff Goldblum.

I know, I know. Mr. Hyperbole’s come to tea again.

I assure you, this car both looks like Brock Lesnar and punches things in the face like Brock Lesnar. It’s not an alternative to an M3, it’s an alternative to PCP.

While a six-speed manual is also on offer, the higher take rate will surely be this, the paddle-shifted six-speed automatic. It works quite well, although there’s so much power, you could probably hook the LSA up to a two-speed Powerglide and it’d still be fine.

Cadillac/GM’s magnetic-ride suspension is here too, and the widened track and lowered height of the coupe certainly makes this ‘V much nimbler than the last one I drove (a wagon). I don’t think you’d call it a sportscar though.

Leave the traction-control sensibly on, and the CTS-V is quite a nice street car, apart from the mail-slot visibility. The Brembos scrub speed just fine for street-applications, and the zero-delay power-delivery is endlessly entertaining. And expensive.

Here’s the thing though. This car might be perfectly capable of smacking around some of the normally-aspirated German stuff, but like Mr. Lesnar, it’s gotten a bit old for the ring. It’s not in MMA competitions any more, it’s more like a member of the WWE.

Herein lieth some redemption: even with the clock-cleaning Shelby out there and ridiculous twin-turbo Teutons on the rise, the ‘V is still a character-filled car. It’s entertaining and burly and something of a self-parody.

But look out – that guy’s got a folding metal chair!

Cadillac supplied the car and insurance. I supplied the fuel, more fool me.

Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Picture Courtesy Brendan McAleer Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Corvette C7 To Bow In January, Production Begins June 30th – Or September. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/corvette-c7-to-bow-in-january-production-begins-june-30th-or-september/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/corvette-c7-to-bow-in-january-production-begins-june-30th-or-september/#comments Thu, 18 Oct 2012 15:45:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=464171

The first Chevrolet Corvette C7 will roll off the company’s Bowling Green, Kentucky assembly line on June 30th, 2013 – 60 years to the day after the first Corvette was built. Or at least that’s what Reuters is reporting, based on supplier information.

While Reuters quotes “…two suppliers familiar with the automaker’s plans but are not authorized to speak on behalf of GM,” the official line from General Motors, according to Automotive News, is that production will begin in August or September of 2013. But a six-month retooling process is scheduled to begin in February, and the timing coincides perfectly with the June 30th anniversary.

Orders for the C6 car will cease in December, with the C7 debuting right before the 2013 North American International Auto Show press days. The new car is said to be smaller and lighter, with a more upscale interior. Only two parts have been carried over from the C6 Corvette, as GM is attempting to appeal to younger buyers who would normally gravitate towards foreign sports cars.

GM will announce details on their new generation of small-block V8 engines on October 24th, but they did release the newly re-designed Corvette logo, shown above.

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Junkyard Find: 1996 Ford Taurus SHO http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/junkyard-find-1996-ford-taurus-sho/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/junkyard-find-1996-ford-taurus-sho/#comments Wed, 10 Oct 2012 13:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=463266 The Ford Taurus has been among the most numerous of junkyard inmates for nearly 20 years now, and a sprinkling of Yamaha-engined SHO versions show up among the bread-and-butter commuter Taurii. However, the third-gen Taurus SHO, with its 235-horse V8, is much rarer than the earlier V6 SHOs; in fact, this weirdly purple car I found in Denver is the first V8 SHO I’ve seen in the junkyard for at least a few years.
The 1989-95 Taurus SHO was very quick, if fragile; we’ve even seen several SHOs win 24 Hours of LeMons races over the years. The V8 SHO was also quick, but engine problems fed most of these cars to The Crusher a long time ago. On top of that, you couldn’t get this car with a manual transmission, presumably because Ford didn’t have a non-slushbox transaxle that could survive behind the Cosworth/Yamaha V8.
Sure, it blew up early and often, but just look at that engine!
Ford took a big gamble with the oval-centric restyling of the 1996 Taurus, and it didn’t really pay off; it wasn’t long before the Taurus got the rectangular back window of the Sable and went through a general appearance de-radicalization program.
Should we miss the odd vehicle colors of the early-to-middle 1990s?

17 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1996 Ford Taurus SHO Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Review: 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/review-2013-jeep-grand-cherokee-overland-summit/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/review-2013-jeep-grand-cherokee-overland-summit/#comments Sat, 29 Sep 2012 13:00:38 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=460597

So, you really want a Range Rover but your trust fund hasn’t recovered from the “bankocalypse?” What’s a guy to do? Well, you could take advantage of the British brand’s cliff-face depreciation curve and buy an off-lease Rover, but do you really want to test your reliability-fate with used wares from Old Blighty? The answer comes from the only other brand that has “off-road” coded into its near-luxury DNA: Jeep. Gasp! A Chrysler product you say? While Chrysler would not say the phrase “American Range Rover,” they did throw us the keys to the top-of-the-line Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit 4×4 so see what a refresh and stitched leather goodness could do for our soul.

Click here to view the embedded video.

The Grand Cherokee started life in 1993 as a mid-sized SUV attempting to slot between the full-size Grand Wagoneer and the smaller Cherokee. Since that time, like many cars in America, the Jeep has been getting bigger. Unlike many cars, the Grand Cherokee has been something of a social climber receiving newer trim levels with luxury features hitherto unseen in a Chrysler product. Now in its fourth generation the Grand Cherokee has grown by a foot in length, six inches in width and gained nearly a ton in curb weight. Despise the “Americansizing,” the Grand Cherokee’s exterior is well proportioned and elegant thanks to a redesign in 2011 that replaced the cartoonish front with a more attractive and elegant design. Further upping the luxury ante, Jeep bedazzled the Overland edition with chrome, even slathering the tow hooks in bling.

Interior

I have come to the decision that adding stitched leather to anything is a recipe for success. If you don’t believe me, hop in a Laredo trim Grand Cherokee then step inside an Overland. Even though Jeep improved the plastics in the 2011 refresh, the plebeian models receive a rubbery dashboard that collects dust and is difficult to clean. Meanwhile the Overland gets one of the best stitched dashboards I have had the pleasure to fondle see. Seriously, the quality of the stitch-work is second to none in the luxury industry and the contrasting piping on the seats screams Range Rover. This is a good thing. The Range Rover parallel continues with an interior color palate that runs from black-on-black to a series of contrasting leather combinations culminating in the striking “new saddle”  leather interior our model wore. Jeep has tossed plenty of real wood in for good measure and topped everything off with tasteful matte and shiny chrome trim. As you would expect from the “budget” Range Rover, all the creature comforts you could ask for are available including: radar cruise control with pre-collision warning to a heated steering wheel, cooled seats, automatic high beams and keyless go.

A common complaint with the first two generations of the Grand Cherokee was rear seat legroom. While the Grand Cherokee will never be mistaken for a limousine, rear leg room has improved and is no longer a problem point for most passengers. This increase in leg room came with a general increase in the Grand Cherokee’s dimensions. While this increase makes the SUV a bit less capable off-road in some ways, it pays dividends in passenger  comfort, cargo room, and, my personal favorite: lumber capacity. If you own a WJ series Grand Cherokee you’ve probably noticed that it’s hard to get 8-foot long items in the vehicle, this is not a problem with the WK’s increased dimensions. While the Jeep still can’t swallow a 4×8 sheet of plywood, four-foot wide items will fit in the cargo area easily. As before, the rear tailgate features a glass section that opens independently allowing longer items to hang out the rear, this is a feature that is notably absent in the competition.

Infotainment

The positive impression of the Overland’s interior is tarnished once you get settled and reach for the infotainment system. Because Chrysler’s finances were in the toilet when the Grand Cherokee was refreshed in 2011, the infotainment systems from the previous generation remain with essentially no change. All but the base model of the Grand Cherokee get the same 6.5-inch touch-screen interface with the more expensive trims getting more software options in the system. At the top of the food chain, Overland models get “everything” which includes: Bluetooth, iDevice/USB integration, Sirius Satellite Radio and a backup cam. While the feature set is competitive, the system’s graphics are old school, the software operation is far from intuitive, voice commands are few and far between, call quality is mediocre and the system is sluggish. Expect this to change for 2014 as we’re told Jeep is jamming the snazzy new 8.4-inch uConnect system into the dash. If you’re a gadget hound, wait for the upgrade. On the bright side, the Jeep’s English competition has an infotainment system that is just as lackluster, just as ancient and just as infuriating.

Drivetrain

As a nod to those interested in fuel economy, premium interior trappings no longer come bundled with a larger engine. As with all Grand Cherokee models, the Overland starts with the 3.6L V6 which produces 290HP at 6,400RPM and a respectable 260lb-ft of torque at 4,800RPM. Jumping up to the 5.7L V8 gets you 360HP at 5,150RPM and 390lb-ft at 4,250RPM. Attending the V8 party takes a toll on your fuel economy, dropping from 16/23 to 13/20 (City/Highway.) Compared to the Range Rover Sport’s 5.0L naturally aspirated engine, the Jeep delivers 15lb-ft more torque at the expense of 15HP and 2MPGs on the highway (13/18 MPG.)

The rumor mill tells us to expect both engines to get Chrysler’s  ZF-designed Chrysler-built 8-speed automatic for the 2014 model year. Until then, the V6 is paired with a Mercedes 5-speed while the V8 gets Chrysler’s in-house designed 65RFE 6-speed transmission. Our Overland also had the optional Quadra-Trac II AWD system which uses a 2-speed transfer case to split power 50:50 during normal driving situations and provides a 2.72:1 low range for off road use. Four-wheel-drive Overlands also get Jeep’s variable height air-suspension dubbed “Quadra-Lift.” Jeep claims the system is one of the fastest acting in the industry and compared to the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport I’m inclined to agree. Going from the low ride height of 6.6 inches to the 10.7 inch “rock climbing” height takes around 30 seconds while lowering the Jeep takes a similar amount of time.

Drive

Out on the road the Jeep’s hard-core roots are obvious. In a sea of sharp-handling FWD crossovers, the Grand Cherokee sticks out as a marshmallowy soft traditional SUV with standard RWD, a longitudinal mount engine, and a stout 7,200lb towing capacity. This means that despite wide 265-width rubber, the Grand Cherokee will only carve corners in the off-road-incapable SRT8 variety. Still, that’s not this Jeep’s mission. Much like a Range Rover, the Overland’s raison d’être is to drive like a Barcalounger regardless of the road surface. Mission accomplished.

With 360HP and nearly 400lb-ft of twist on hand, you would think the Overland 4X4 V8 would be fast. You would be wrong, our Overland took 7.3 seconds to hit 60 putting it firmly in the “average” category. The first impediment to forward progress is the mass of the Overland which rings in at 5,264lbs (V8 4X4) without a driver. The second is the Chrysler 65RFE transmission under the hood. Compared to GM, Ford and ZF’s 6-speed units, the shifts are slow and soft, first gear isn’t as low as the Mercedes 5-speed the V6 uses and the ratios are somewhat oddly spaced for normal driving. While I expect the new 8-speed unit to deliver better acceleration for the V8 with its low 4.69:1 first gear, don’t expect 2014 to improve HEMI fiel economy by much as the 65RFE’s 6th gear is already a tall .67:1, the same as the Chrysler/ZF 8-speed’s final gear. While we were unable to 0-60 test a V6 Overland, the V6 doesn’t feel that much slower than the V8 and it saves 351lbs of curb weight. The transmission’s ratios and shifting are likely the reason the Range Rover Sport (which manages to be even heavier) is 4/10ths faster to 60 despite the similar power numbers from the engines.

The high curb weight of the Overland causes a few problems off-road for the big-boy Jeep limiting the amount of fun you can have at the off road park. If you see that Grand Cherokee Laredo in front of you barely making it through the mud, just turn around, he’s 632lbs lighter than you. If you see a Patriot playing in the soft-stuff, it’s 2,000lbs lighter. Still, this isn’t likely to be a huge problem for you as I have yet to see a new Grand Cherokee let alone an Overland at my local SVRA. That being said, like the Range Rover, the Grand Cherokee provides all the off-road hardware you’d need to tackle the Rubicon. On our short course at Hollister Hills the Jeep proved that it still has a serious off-road setup that never flinched regardless of which wheel we had up in the air. There is a great deal of debate about whether Jeep’s move to a four-wheel independent suspension in the Grand Cherokee was the right move or not and I must throw my $0.02 in the ring. It doesn’t matter but Jeep made the right business decision. I appreciate both sides of the argument but since most Grand Cherokee buyers think of their gravel driveway as “off-road,” Jeep’s focus on asphalt manners is the way to go.

Branding is important to many shoppers, but just how important is that Range Rover brand to you? If the answer isn’t $16,195, then the $51,500 (as tested) Overland Summit is your “frugal” alternative. Not only does the Overland deliver an honest-to-goodness similar experience for considerably less, it is a viable option for those that simply prefer buying an American brand, or those living in Middle America where you can’t find a Range Rover dealer. Like the Range Rover, the Grand Cherokee Overland is all kinds of crazy, it’s big, brash and heavy but coddles the driver in a leather cocoon. Like the Range Rover, nobody “needs” an Overland, yet I secretly want one.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.9 Seconds

60: 7.22 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 15.64 Seconds at 87 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 15.2 MPG over 819 miles

 

2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-001 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-002 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-003 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-004 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-005 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-006 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-007 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-008 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-009 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-010 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-011 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-012 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-013 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-014 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-015 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-016 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-017 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-018 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit-019 IMG_0555 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit, Interior, stitched leather dash, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit, Interior, stitched leather dash, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit, Interior, instrument cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland Summit, Interior, instrument cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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Monday Mileage Champion: 2001 Ford Expedition XLT http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/monday-mileage-champion-2001-ford-expedition-xlt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/09/monday-mileage-champion-2001-ford-expedition-xlt/#comments Mon, 24 Sep 2012 19:17:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=461395

True Miles Unknown. For some folks these three words conjure up the fear of a car with more miles on it than the Grateful Dead. Others simply head on off to Carfax and try to approximate the mileage figure.

This one had 1 owner and 280,923 miles on it as of January 2012.

17 service records at the dealership. A pretty healthy record of attendance given that it’s an 01 model.

This Expedition had a surprisingly decent interior on it. You see those frayed edges on the driver seat? They’re as common as kudzu on these Fords. Trying to find an old Expedition with good leather seats is like trying to find an old Volvo 850 with a good left side bolster on the driver’s seat.  Weight, age and lack of leather conditioning always wear them out.

This Expedition also happens to be the ‘Quiver’ 8 seater. I always thought that these vehicles would end up in the holler or perhaps with 24 speakers, 6 TV’s and a young man with a deep appreciation for polka.

Actually this one was driven 30k+ for a while, then sat. It went through the sit/drive cycle a second time before finding the long and winding road to automotive wholesale heaven.

I wonder if that rear tailgate is sagging in sympathy of the frayed front seat. It sold ‘True Miles Unknown’ for $1100 + a $115 auction fee. The new owner is a buy-here pay-here dealer who has a solid Latino clientele at multiple locations. I’m sure he’ll have no trouble selling it.

The question for today is the same as last time. Which engine? Some of the features that I just highlighted should give you a good clue as to what’s lurking under the hood. Gotta love those Expeditions!

 

 

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