The Truth About Cars » wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 11 Apr 2014 15:47:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.8.1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Volkswagen Builds The Enthusiast’s Dream Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/volkswagen-builds-the-enthusiasts-dream-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/volkswagen-builds-the-enthusiasts-dream-wagon/#comments Wed, 26 Mar 2014 04:01:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=781161 volkswagen-golf-r-wagon-spy-photo-01

 

The wagon you’re looking at is actually not an enthusiast’s dream. It’s not a diesel, nor rear-drive. It may not have a manual, either. But it’s still a tasty bit of forbidden fruit.

Spotted by AutoGuide and their team of crack photographers, the Golf R Wagon is a bit like a baby Audi RS6. Using the Golf R’s 296 horsepower 2.0T engine and all-wheel drive, Volkswagen has created the ultimate version of what will be the next generation Jetta Sportwagen.

As far as we know, this is just a prototype, and we probably wouldn’t see this car in America. But we can at least gaze from afar.

 

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New Or Used : Go Fetch! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/new-or-used-go-fetch/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/new-or-used-go-fetch/#comments Tue, 18 Mar 2014 12:38:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=773737 Yummy Food + Fire Hydrant Red = A Dog's New Best Friend

Yummy Food + Fire Hydrant Red = A Dog’s New Best Friend

We own a pet supply delivery business and use two vehicles. A 1995 Toyota Tacoma with 360,000 miles, and a 2004 Chrysler Pacifica with less than 20,000 miles.

Guess which one has given us more problems?

In fairness, the Pacifica wasn’t intended to be used for our business. However my dad no longer finds the Tacoma to be comfortable for the 150+ mile daily journeys, and the Pacifica has us a bit scared thanks to multiple high cost repairs.

We are wanting to save money on fuel, and have the ability to trade in a vehicle (or both) to save money on insurance, fuel, and downtime. With my dad’s age, he wants something much more comfortable than the truck.

We’ve looked at various models of Prius, Scion xB (1st Gen), Transit Connects, and lately have thrown in an Insight (2nd gen) and Escape Hybrid. He doesn’t like German (due to threat of high repair costs), though I’ve tried to convince him a diesel could be an option. Other than that, he has no brand loyalty.

Total cost should be under $10,000 – and we are able to do driveway fixes. The fewer miles the better. It does not need to be comfortable for passengers. We do haul about 300 to 400 pounds of product in our travels. So we want something that can handle that load without any issues.

Steve Says:

I would start with the seat. No, I am certainly not joking about that.

With all that driving, you will eventually prioritize that throne over all other considerations. Even those you already mentioned. What is different now versus nearly 20 years ago is that the Toyota/Honda quality dominance is no longer an absolute when it comes to cars. Every manufacturer can offer a durable product these days. However seat comfort seems to run the gamut. Some cars are wonderful. Others I can barely stand.

There are also so many vehicles that offer sold fuel economy, that it will be hard for me to say that one vehicle will equal out to more dollars and cents than another over the course of time. All that traveling for a mature person requires a supremely comfortable seat, a well constructed interior (a.k.a. avoiding Tonka level plastics)  and an overall environment that will allow for low stress.

My top pick for a $10,000′ish wagon like vehicle with good fuel economy? A Hyundai Elantra Touring wagon.  Like this one.

These models have plenty of room inside. A nice smooth suspension, plenty of good lumbar support… well, I’m not the review guy. So visit here, here and read the comments left by several owners and renters.

I’m sure there are other folks here who will recommend everything from a Dodge Magnum to a (gulp!) Ford Ranger. But if I were looking for a roomy economical transport vehicle for about $10,000, a late model Elantra Touring would represent the bullseye within a bullseye.

 

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Junkyard Find: 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1986-toyota-cressida-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/junkyard-find-1986-toyota-cressida-wagon/#comments Wed, 12 Mar 2014 13:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=770506 20 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Toyota Cressida is now at its moment of peak junkyard availability, with most examples finally getting to the point at which repairs just aren’t justified by the car’s value. The Cressida was an extremely well-built car by 1980s standards, and a pretty good car even through our jaded 21st-century eyes (which view vehicles that get scrapped before 200,000 miles as suspiciously crappy and/or abused). We’ve seen this ’80, this ’82 this ’84, this ’87, this ’89, and this ’92 in the Junkyard Find Series so far, but today’s Cressida is the first wagon.
07 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one had 234,392 miles on the clock when it finally took that last tow-truck ride.
17 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI shot this in Northern California in January, and this temporary registration expired in August. That means the car was probably still legal when it got towed away for parking tickets and its fines not paid (most likely) or sold for scrap.
08 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNo rust. None at all. Fans of old Japanese cars in rusty areas, you’d better come west and rescue some stuff like this.
12 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe same DOHC 5M-GE engine that Supras got. In fact, the whole car is full of Supra drivetrain and suspension hardware.
01 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWorth restoring or converting into a drift car? Not in California!

01 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1986 Toyota Cressida Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Review: 2014 Opel Astra Manual Diesel Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/review-2014-opel-astra-manual-diesel-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/03/review-2014-opel-astra-manual-diesel-wagon/#comments Mon, 10 Mar 2014 12:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=761313

Astra_11-450x300

Recently, Mark Reuss told media that he would like GM to have an American wagon. If this happens, the prime candidate is the Chevy Cruze Wagon, which already exists – and is also offered with diesel engine and manual transmission. But what if GM wanted something more upscale? What if Reuss’ dream wagon is meant to be a Buick?

Several cars in the Buick line are siblings to European Opels (or Vauxhalls, in Great Britain). Two of them are also available as wagons – the Insignia Sports Tourer is basically Buick Regal Estate Wagon, and the Opel Astra Sports Tourer would make, with some re-badging, a nice Buick Verano Estate Wagon. The Astra/Verano is probably the better candidate for the American wagon, since it’s almost as roomy inside as Regal/Insignia (with seats folded flat, it actually has more cargo space), and is significantly cheaper.

Why not go all the way, and make it a sporty diesel, manual wagon. Last year, the Astra’s engine line-up was enhanced by addition of the 190hp 2.0 CDTI Biturbo version. Actually, it’s more than just an engine option – Biturbo comes as  a separate equipment level, somewhere half-way between ordinary Astras and the full-on sporty OPC version. It doesn’t have the same clever Hi-Per strut front suspension the OPC and GTC (that’s the three door hatch coupe version), but it’s been lowered, fitted with stylish 18” wheels and dual exhaust tips, special seats and a trick front spoiler.

The core of the Biturbo package is the engine. Two-liter diesel plant with common-rail direct injection offers some 190 horsepower and 235 lb-ft (320 Nm) sent to the front wheels through the six-speed manual gearbox. That puts the Astra Biturbo right on the border of the diesel hot hatch/hot wagon territory – but the Biturbo is not nearly so ostentatious. In fact, seeing that it’s not called the “OPC diesel”, it seems that Opel really wanted it to be more of a fast GT than a realy sports wagon.

The Biturbo’s exterior is quite restrained – no wings or flares or vivid paint to tell everyone you bought “the fast one”. Thanks to the slightly different front bumper, large (and really pretty) wheels and lowered ride height, the Biturbo looks more handsome than “ordinary” Astras, but unless parked beside one, most people will never notice why it even looks different. They’ll just like it a bit more than they usually like Astras. It makes for a wonderful sleeper.

Once you open the door, things change. The seats with red highlights and a silly “tire tread” motif seem incongruous with the discreet exterior. And I suspect that older people will have slight problem getting out of the front ones, since they’re really heavily sculpted.

But as the driver, you will probably love them. They offer lots of support, and even the base version is widely adjustable (you can add more adjustment as an option). I would really like to have an adjustable headrest, as it was too much forward, but overall, the seats are nice. And it gets even better once you reach for the wheel. The fact that it’s adjustable both in rake and reach is pretty much normal these days, but most cars are lacking in the range of adjustment. If you like to sit in the “proper” position, with the steering wheel high and close to your chest, and the backrest as vertical as you can bear, you run into all sorts of problems – usually with not enough range. In the Astra, it took me just a few moments to find a nearly perfect driving position. And the steering wheel’s thickness and diameter was spot-on as well, although the shape was not. I have never understood what was wrong about steering wheels being round… this ain’t no racecar, dudes!

Astra_03

Remember everything you heard about the modern diesels being so refined you hardly even know that you’re not running on gas? This is not the case, even though the Astra uses a very sophisticated common-rail system. The Biturbo two-liter may sound more refined than the old N/A plants from W123 or W124 Benzes, but it isn’t that much quieter.

Shifting into first brings much more positive thoughts. The shifter action is light and quite precise. Maybe not the best in the business, but certainly pleasant to use. Leaving the parking lot, you notice the first difference between the Biturbo and ordinary Astra, in the form of loud scratching sound when the front splitter hits the ground for the first of many times. In the beginning, you drive slow and carefully to prevent this from happening. Then, you realize it’s pointless exercise and just wonder when you’ll rip it off (as I found out later, Opel employees bolted the splitter to the bumper to prevent journos from losing it somewhere).

From a European perspective, the Astra feels massive inside. Compared competitors like the Ford Focus or Renault Mégane, it seems to be just so much bigger – which gives you a feeling of safety, but also makes parking quite tricky. If you’re buying one, don’t forget to add both front and rear parking sensors, or, better yet, a back-up camera.

Astra_04

I may have criticized the Tesla Model S for having no tactile controls, but the Astra is at the other end of the spectrum. There’s incomprehensible sea of buttons, captioned with confusing acronyms. If you’re new to the car, you will be hopelessly lost. I did find myself acclimating to this layout as I drove it, but I’d be worried if that didn’t happen.

Quibbles aside, the Astra is a nice car to drive. Even with the Biturbo’s stiffer suspension and on large 18” wheels, it’s reasonably supple. Hit the sport button and you’re treated to less steering assistance, quicker accelerator response and the red glow of the instruments – of, and the adjustable dampers firm up, making the ride a bit more brittle. Luckily, you can disable any of these. I really hated the red instruments.

While most of the diesel hot hatches seem stuck on getting the best Nurburgring lap time – and suffering for it in the real world- the Astra feels more grown-up, more comfortable . On our drive into the twisties, with sport mode on and the radio turned down, the Astra delivered a competent, but not exactly exhilirating performance. Handling was fairly neutral, even with the heavy diesel engine up front. Like most modern racks, the steering has a bit of a dead-zone on-center, but it’s well weighted. The clutch and gear change are all nicely done.

But American wagon enthusiasts need to temper their expectations. This is not a fiesty hot hatch like the Focus ST. It feels much more like a GT, at home on highways rather than back roads, and all its heft – perceived or real (it weighs about 3700 lbs) makes it feel like it was meant to be a Buick from the beginning.

The only trouble is that once you get to cruising speed and the engine noise fades into background, it’s replaced by even more unpleasant road and aerodynamic noise. At typical A-road speed of 50-70mph, it’s a bit annoying, but not terrible. At highway speeds of 80 or 90mph, it starts to bother you. And if you’re in the hurry and try to keep the Astra at 110-120mph, it’s hard to even listen to the radio.

Fuel economy is one area that doesn’t disappoint. At a typical relaxed pace (55-60mph on major roads), the Astra can get over 40 mpg. And only when driven really hard in the twisties, with the pedal to the metal on each and every straight and the speedo needle sometimes nudging 100mph, it barely gets under 20mpg. High-speed, cruising with speeds in the triple digits brought similar numbers.

Astra_05

 But, would the diesel Verano (GSD, maybe?) be a good car for America? I’m not sure. First of all, the economics for a diesel passenger car rare make sense with fuel prices so low (yes, I know, resale and all that matters too). And as much as North Americans may fetishize the idea of a diesel performance wagon, I’m not sold on the tradeoffs in refinement that the Biturbo Astra requires. In Europe, this car costs as much as a Ford Focus ST wagon, which is much faster, much more fun and not much worse on fuel when cruising on the highway.

But if you’re really hell bent on getting a diesel, manual wagon, this would be a nice choice.

@VojtaDobes is motoring journalist from Czech Republic, who previously worked for local editions of Autocar and TopGear magazines. Today, he runs his own website, www.Autickar.cz and serves as editor-in-chief at www.USmotors.cz. After a failed adventure with importing classic American cars to Europe, he is utterly broke, so he drives a borrowed Lincoln Town Car. His previous cars included a 1988 Caprice in NYC Taxi livery, a hot-rodded Opel Diplomat, two Dodge Coronets, a Simca, a Fiat 600 and Austin Maestro. He has never owned a diesel, manual wagon.

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I Don’t Care About The Mercedes-Benz E63 Wagon Anymore http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/i-dont-care-about-the-mercedes-benz-e63-wagon-anymore/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/i-dont-care-about-the-mercedes-benz-e63-wagon-anymore/#comments Fri, 28 Feb 2014 22:15:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=757857 2014-jaguar-xfr-s-sportbrake-15

 

I’m known for dumping on wagons constantly, but I think it’s important to understand the difference between what I report on, and my own tastes. Take, for example, this car, the Jaguar XFR-S Sportbrake.

This car is basically irrelevant. We’re not going to get it in North America. It will be sold in limited quantities in Europe, and nobody would actually buy it in any meaningful numbers here. From a business standpoint for North America, it’s a non-starter.

And I love it. Now that the E63 AMG is all-wheel drive, where else can you get a blown V8 putting down 550 horsepower in a station wagon body?

 

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Junkyard Find: 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1981-dodge-aries-station-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1981-dodge-aries-station-wagon/#comments Fri, 07 Feb 2014 14:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=735681 22 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Chrysler K platform spun off many K-based descendents, but genuine, pure Ks have been fairly rare in this series. We’ve seen this ’83 Dodge Aries sedan, this ’85 Dodge 600 Turbo, and this ’88 Dodge Aries wagon so far, though I’ve passed over many dozens more. Still, when I see a first-year Aries wagon in this weird chalky gray-green color and it has a “Hemi 2.6″ engine, I break out the camera!
13 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese cars depreciated just as fast as all the other Detroit front-drivers of the 1980s, which means that only relatively trouble-free ones managed to survive 33 years on the street. One expensive problem after about 1989, good-bye!
12 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Hemi 2.6 was really the good old Mitsubishi Astron 4G54 engine, which made 114 not-so-bad-for-1981 horses. Sadly, Chrysler never used any Simca-derived engines in the K family.
07 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis wagon has plenty of options, including air conditioning and futuristic digital chronometer.
05 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinAs the street price of a battered Aries-K approached scrap-value levels, the socioeconomic status of the average K-car owner also dropped.
03 - 1981 Dodge Aries Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinStill, you can see hints of former luxury in the much-used faded-mint-green vinyl interior.

As you can see here, the ’81 K-cars were sold on price, period.

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Junkyard Find: 1962 Chevrolet Corvair 700 Station Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1962-chevrolet-corvair-700-station-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/02/junkyard-find-1962-chevrolet-corvair-700-station-wagon/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 14:00:45 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=734457 07 - 1962 Corvair 700 Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOther than the many Corvairs in the Brain Melting Colorado Junkyard, we haven’t seen any examples of GM’s rear-engined compact so far in this series. As recently as ten years ago, Corvairs were not uncommon sights in self-serve wrecking yards, and trashed ones are worth little more than scrap value today, but it took until a couple of weeks ago and a trip to California for me to find one.
14 - 1962 Corvair 700 Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis ’62 was parked in the import section of a huge Los Angeles yard, and my first glance at the engine-cooling vents gave me the impression that I was looking at a Volkswagen Type 3 Squareback. Nope!
04 - 1962 Corvair 700 Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one has been picked over pretty well, so we can assume that some Corvairs that remain among the living have benefited from its organ donation.
05 - 1962 Corvair 700 Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinIt doesn’t have rust in the usual places that Maine or Michigan residents might expect— the rear quarters are solid, for example— but the floors have suffered from decades of leaky weatherstripping. You’ll get weeks of constant rain during Southern California winters, the carpets stay wet, and this happens.
03 - 1962 Corvair 700 Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNice minimalist instrument cluster, which reminds me a lot of the ones in French cars of the same era.
10 - 1962 Corvair 700 Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car still has a few bits to offer up, including the wagon-only glass. Let’s hope that stuff gets rescued before The Crusher goes squish.

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First Drive Review: 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon (With Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/first-drive-review-2015-volvo-v60-t5-sport-wagon-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/first-drive-review-2015-volvo-v60-t5-sport-wagon-with-video/#comments Thu, 30 Jan 2014 14:00:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=725274 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior

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

 

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

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

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

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Interior-003

Interior

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

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

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

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

Drivetrain

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

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

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

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-012

Drive

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

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

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

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-006

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

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

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

 

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

2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-001 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-002 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-003 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-004 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-005 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-006 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-007 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-008 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-009 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-010 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-011 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Exterior-012 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Interior 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Interior-001 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Interior-002 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Interior-003 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Interior-004 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Interior-005 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Interior-006 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Interior-007 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Interior-008 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Interior-009 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Interior-010 2015 Volvo V60 T5 Sport Wagon Interior-011 IMG_7343 ]]>
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Piston Slap: Norwegian Longroof Reformism? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/piston-slap-norwegian-longroof-reformism/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/01/piston-slap-norwegian-longroof-reformism/#comments Wed, 15 Jan 2014 13:01:03 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=697009 volvo1978

TTAC Commentator Sjalabais writes:

Dear Sajeev,

I am and have always been a car guy. Since I am an academic with two left hands and sausage fingers, my flavour have been indestructible 70s Volvos, of which I have owned a couple.

Now I am a father and a bit cash-strapped, with the need for an occasional 7 seater. A Volvo V70 with rear facing extra seats has been voted down in the household assembly, I am thus looking for a blob-shaped car. My location is Norway, but my issue is recognisable for any car guy in this situation, I fear.

My problem is that I can only afford roughly ten-year old quality vehicles, or newer cars with awful reputations. The latter include 2004-2006 VW Touran and Opel Zafira, the former 2002 Honda and Toyota models. In between I find the rusting time bombs by Mazda and the remarkably substandard build quality Mitsubishi Space Wagon. A Previa or Grandis would be acceptable, though they are a bit on the large end of the scale and usually very expensive to buy and maintain.

The Toyota Avensis Verso comes attached with a halo and is priced accordingly. The same is true, to a lesser degree, with the Honda Stream. Both have tiny engines that suck the fun out of blob-shaped 7 seaters that comes so naturally with them. That’s why I have tended to focus my interest on strong, but ugly Mitsubishi Space Wagons. But their paint, chassis, engines, clutches and transmissions are dead at 10 years and/or 150000km driven.

So would it be advisable to go for a low quality car like the Mitsubishi that’s been refurbished by owners desperate to sell before the next big investment? Or should I pay more for an older, but more reliable and well-build Honda or Toyota?

Sajeev answers:

What a difficult question for someone who lives in America!

Actually no, because there’s one universal truth for any used car buyer: buy the used car with the most service history, the newest wear items (tires, brakes, etc.) and the most original body/interior you can find in your buying area.

Of course, nobody will blame you for avoiding a vehicle known for colossal engine/transmission failures, or anything else that might “rub” your family the wrong way.  So perhaps you must buy the cheapest of the cheap: perhaps a Honda/Toyota with high miles but an extensive service record is your best bet. Or maybe a low mile Mitsubishi/Ford/Renault/etc…who knows!

Time to punt: what say you, Best and Brightest?

 

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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Junkyard Find: 1977 Datsun 810 Station Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/junkyard-find-1977-datsun-810-station-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/junkyard-find-1977-datsun-810-station-wagon/#comments Wed, 18 Dec 2013 14:00:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=682914 18 - 1977 Datsun 810 Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Datsun 810 wagon was a fairly common sight on the streets of Northern California during the Middle and Late Malaise Eras, sort of the semi-sporty wagon choice for families who wanted a family hauler with a bit of 280Z in its genes. The Datsun 810 became the Datsun Maxima by the early 1980s and the Nissan Maxima by 1984, and all of the rear-drive members of this family have become rare finds these days. We’ve seen this ’82 Maxima and this ’78 810 wagon so far in this series; those two cars and today’s 810 were all shot during trips to California wrecking yards. I don’t know if they even existed outside of a 50-mile radius from San Francisco.
06 - 1977 Datsun 810 Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhile the 810 sedans got the independent rear suspension of the Datsun Z, the wagons had a good old suitable-for-heavy-loads solid axle out back.
12 - 1977 Datsun 810 Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe 280Z in 1977 had a 2.8 liter L6 engine, while the 810 kept the 2.4 liter displacement of the earlier 240Z.
09 - 1977 Datsun 810 Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one probably did some surfboard-hauling duty in its later years.
02 - 1977 Datsun 810 Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior is worn out, but you can see that it must have been a nice place in 1977.
05 - 1977 Datsun 810 Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinI thought about pulling this mechanical-digital clock for car-clock collection, but 95% of these things are broken and I didn’t have 12V source to test this one.
08 - 1977 Datsun 810 Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinFaux woodgrain on the tailgate, just like a Country Squire!

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Junkyard Find: 1978 Subaru Leone 4WD Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1978-subaru-leone-4wd-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1978-subaru-leone-4wd-wagon/#comments Fri, 22 Nov 2013 14:00:13 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=661010 01 - 1978 Subaru Wagon Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOne thing that makes Colorado wrecking yards different from those in the rest of the country is the large numbers of Subarus in every yard. We’re talking the history of Subaru North America in every yard here. In fact, you’ll see more 1980s and 1990s Leones aka GLs, DLs, and Loyales in a typical Denver-area self-serve yard than you’ll see Corollas or Civics. You’ll also find lots of more recent Legacies and Imprezas, not to mention XTs, BRATs, SVXs, and even the occasional Justy 4WD. 1970s Subarus, however, are getting pretty rare here; in this series, we’ve seen just this ’79 Leone wagon and this ’79 GL sedan so far. Today, we add this very-much-of-its-time ’78 wagon.
22 - 1978 Subaru Wagon Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinBack in 1978, your choices in four-wheel-drive vehicles were very limited; you could get a truck, you could get an AMC Eagle that drove like a truck… or you could get a Subaru.
12 - 1978 Subaru Wagon Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese things were ludicrously underpowered, rusted quickly, and didn’t come close to the reliability standards set by Honda and Toyota, but they got decent fuel economy and were competent in mud and snow.

Subarus were quite rare in the United States back in the Malaise Era, but the marque made it into popular culture with songs like this one.

Or this one.
07 - 1978 Subaru Wagon Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinJudging by the quantity of pine cones and animal nests in this car, it hasn’t run for many, many years.
13 - 1978 Subaru Wagon Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNot many places in Colorado damp enough for moss to grow on cars.
29 - 1978 Subaru Wagon Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSold in Colorado, will be crushed in Colorado.

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Junkyard Find: 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Hell Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1989-oldsmobile-cutlass-cruiser-hell-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/11/junkyard-find-1989-oldsmobile-cutlass-cruiser-hell-edition/#comments Wed, 13 Nov 2013 14:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=649778 02 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinPlenty of front-wheel-drive Cutlasses go to The Crusher without being photographed for this series, but here’s one with an interesting customization job that attracted my attention. Why didn’t GM ever make a wagon with a red-glass option?
11 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWhen a car is on its last owner and that owner knows it, the space-saver spares seem to appear right away.
03 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis car’s final owner must have scored a deal on some of that “fix-a-taillight” red tape. Inspiration!
04 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinA little packaging tape over the top, you know, to provide strength.
15 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinRiding in the back of this wagon must have felt like riding on the Hell Highway System.
13 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOldsmobile’s little line of flags, allegedly from nations with GM employees, lasted for a good chunk of the 1980s and 1990s.
08 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin3800 power, of course! Note: Sajeev Mehta, having joined the Cutlass Jihad, points out that this is actually a 3300 engine.

The wagon version of the Cutlass Ciera became the Cutlass Cruiser. The Judds preferred the sedan.

01 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1989 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser Down On The Junkyard -  Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Manual Wagons Total 0.0956% Of All New Cars On Sale: Cadillac Offers One, BMW Doesn’t http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/manual-wagons-total-0-0956-of-all-new-cars-on-sale-cadillac-offers-one-bmw-doesnt/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/manual-wagons-total-0-0956-of-all-new-cars-on-sale-cadillac-offers-one-bmw-doesnt/#comments Tue, 29 Oct 2013 18:31:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=637185 Wagons

Juan Barnett of DCAutoGeek has compiled the definitive infographic on our favorite niche segment: manual wagons.  Using inventory from Cars.com, Barnett found that of 2.4 million new cars current available for sale in America, just 2,336 or 0.09 percent are manual wagons. Subaru, followed by Volkswagen, are the big players in this very small market. BMW is sadly absent from this list, now that the 328i wagon can no longer be had with a stick, but Kia (the Soul is technically a wagon), Scion (ditto their two-box offerings) and Mini still make the cut, according to the government’s definition of a wagon. Who would have thought that Cadillac would replace BMW in these rankings?

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Capsule Review: 2013 Volvo XC70 T6 Polestar – Brown Wagon Edition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/capsule-review-2013-volvo-xc70-t6-polestar-brown-wagon-edition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/10/capsule-review-2013-volvo-xc70-t6-polestar-brown-wagon-edition/#comments Wed, 02 Oct 2013 13:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=501161 photo (3)

If you had to pick a Q-Car, the vehicle you see above would be nobody’s first choice. Something like a Camry V6, a Pentastar Avenger, or perhaps even a Verano Turbo with a Trifecta tune would be a more suitably anonymous roller skate with enough power to pummel most “civilian” cars on the street. Or perhaps a Regal GS. In grey or some other nodescript color. I am thinking about this as I wander aimlessly within my lane on Lakeshore Boulevard, the Polestar-tuned I6 humming along at a sedate 1800 rpm in 6th gear. CBC Radio is broadcasting yet another nebulous documentary extolling Canada’s secular state religion of diversity, as my Costco grocery list scrolls through my head. How banal and bourgeois.

And then I hear the staccato vocalization of a small block Chevy V8 breathing through a set of big pipes. A glance in the mirror reveals a 4th generation Camaro convertible coming up fast behind me in my mirrors. In a flash, he’s past me by a few car lengths, and I can just make out the “SS” badge on the decklid. If I were in another T6-powered Volvo, say, my parents XC60 T6, I’d step on the gas, wait a brief second for the turbo to spool up, and hope that I’d be in the powerband long enough to catch him. With a standard T6, peak power (295 hp) comes in at 5600 rpm while peak torque (325 lb-ft) arrives at 2100-4200 rpm In this car though; 354 lb-ft comes in from 3000-3600 rpm, while all 325 horsepower are available from 5400 all the way to redline. From a roll, this car is a monster.

It doesn’t take long after nailing the throttle for the gap to close between us, and while the Camaro is droning out its V8 song, there’s just a muted hum from the Volvo’s blocky hood, while barely audible diverter valve noises can be heard through the open windows. A red light conspires to bring us next to one another, and I can see him regarding me with the faux-menacing glare typical to most underemployed 20-somethings brimming with insecurities. He’s much more handsome than I am, and his girlfriend is in the passenger seat.  I smile and give him the thumbs up.

“You think you can beat me?” No change in demeanor from him.

“Actually, I do.” I respond.

There’s no revving, no theatrics, no Fast and Furious Limp Bizkit sound track despite the corny but spontaneous exchange. But when the light goes green, he disappears behind me. And I didn’t even get a good look at his girlfriend.

This is really a silly car. The XC70 sells in inconsequential numbers, even for a Volvo. Last year,  the smaller XC60 outsold the XC70 by a ratio of 4:1, as Volvo customers, my parents included, opted for the higher driving position, easier ingress/egress and crossover-look of the XC60. Wagon fans insist that if only Volvo would bring back a real wagon, then all would be well, the brand would have its mojo back, and American consumers would finally learn that their enlightened European brothers had it right along.

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Notgonnahappen.com, whether we’re discussing social safety nets, rail transportation networks or diesel engines. But there is good news. The XC70 and the XC60 are basically the same car. I know this because I had the chance to test them back to back. It’s true that the XC60 has a bit more ground clearance and a higher ride height, and the XC70 is perhaps a bit higher than a regular V70, but to tar either them with the “crossover” brush, is incorrect. These are as much crossovers as the last generation Outback was, and the extra cladding and slightly taller springs are red herrings. Of course, driving a wagon signifies that one has sophisticated, Continental tastes, which is more important to many than how these vehicles actually perform on the road.

What’s most interesting is the changes in spec between the XC70 and the XC60 owned by my folks. Their XC60 has three adjustable steering programs as well as the Volvo 4C system, which employs active shock absorbers made by both Ohlins and Monroe. Three modes are available, labeled Comfort, Sport and Advanced. Comfort is fairly soft, with Sport cranking it up by just a bit. Advanced, however, is truly stiff, sacrificing ride quality for flatter cornering. The XC70, by contrast, has one steering setting (equivalent to the heaviest setting on the XC60) and no 4C system. My own handling loop was illustrative of the differences: the XC70 felt as if it possessed more bodyroll, whereas the XC60  felt a bit more surefooted with the 4C shocks set to “Advanced”. But Advanced mode also makes the shocks rather unpleasant in everyday driving, and when set to “Sport” or “Comfort”, it’s a wash between the two cars.

All this talk of performance for a station wagon may seem out of place, but when the car’s main marketing proposition is the Polestar engine tuning, it’s hard to ignore it. The XC70 is also a very practical vehicle. Despite my bearishness on wagons as a commercial proposition in the marketplace, I quite like them. I tried in vain to convince my parents to buy the XC70, hoping that the giant stuffed German Sheppard in the back of the showroom demo model would sway them (it looked identical to an old stuffed dog from my childhood). Instead they hemmed and hawed and made vague remarks about the “height” of the XC60′s cargo area (for the one time of the year when they’d bring home tall garden plants) and the extra length (8 inches longer, which does count when parking in urban areas) as reasons to get the XC60. This time, I was determined to induct them in the “cult of the wagon”.

Tossing the keys to my parents for a “blind taste test”, they were more impressed with the revised interior than the driving dynamics or the lower seating position (which they also enjoyed, in a reversal of their previous stance on the car). While my folks car invokes the usual “Swedish furniture” cliche, with black baseball stitched leather and aluminum trim (no surprise if you know them: they wear more black than an amateur theatre troupe and my mother obsesses over modern furniture like we do over rear-drive BOF Fords), the XC70 is much more organic, with generous helpings of wood and natural tone leather. Volvo’s IP and telematics interface remains unchaged, and is thankfully devoid of touch screens or haptic controls.

It takes a few minutes to learn the ins and outs of the buttons-and-knobs, but once you do, it becomes second nature, and one can navigate their iPod music selections without taking their eyes off the road. The navigation system was far less cooperative – while the controls were easy enough, it failed to recognize even well known streets, forcing me to use my iPhone as a navigation aid. The XC70 also came with Volvo’s “Premium Sound System”, something my father chose to forgo when he declined the navigation system in the XC60. It’s worth the money, something he readily acknowledged after one playthrough of Gil-Scott Heron’s Bridges. Cargo proved to be one area where the extra length didn’t lend the XC70 too much of an advantage. The XC60 has 67.4 cubic feet of space, with 30.8 cubic feet with the seats up, while the XC70 has 72.1 in total, with 33.3 if the rear seats remain intact. In practical terms, it’s possible to easily fit a full-size mens bicycle with the seats down in the XC70, while the XC60 takes a bit of finagling. For most every day items, it was inconsequential, with grocery bags and suitcases fitting fine in both cars. The XC60′s reduced length does make it easier to park, something I can appreciate given that my parents live in an area with abundant street parking that seems to be sized for C-segment cars at best.

In that light, it’s understandable why they chose the XC60, but after driving the wagon, I am not ready to take their side. Nonwithstanding my mocking of the commercial viability of the station wagon, I like this one a lot. It’s difficult to find a car that does it all so well. Where else can you find something that can turn on a dime from being an invisible luxury commuter appliance, to a bike hauler to a stoplight dragster that can be used in every weather condition, 365 days of the year? It just makes so much sense. Which is its biggest problem. We as humans rarely want what makes sense for us, whether it’s choosing an incompatible lover, a consumer item we can’t really afford or voting for a politician that sways us with charming rhetoric rather than policy that may be beneficial to our station in life.

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At $50,310, it’s not exactly within the reach of the common American family either. This car, even without the Polestar, is an incredibly niche proposition. But that’s a big part of its charm. It will never be loved like the Brick Volvos of yore, nor the upcoming V60 (which will be lauded as a return to form for Volvo), but it has earned its place, along with the Subaru Legacy 2.5GT and Audi S4, in the lore of “great wagons we got in America that nobody appreciated”.

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Volvo Revives The Wagon With Three Different Powertrains http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/volvo-revives-the-wagon-with-three-different-powertrains/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/09/volvo-revives-the-wagon-with-three-different-powertrains/#comments Fri, 13 Sep 2013 14:03:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=517353 2011_volvo_s60_r_design_and_v60_r_design_03-4c993d9c6427d

Starting in January of 2014, consumers will be able to buy a real wagon again from Volvo. The brand will re-introduce the V60 “sports wagon”, with a lineup of 4, 5 and 6-cylinder turbocharged engines, with the 4-cylinder motors eventually filtering down to the rest of the lineup.

At launch, Volvo’s current family of turbocharged inline-5 and inline-6 engines will be offered, but the V60 will be the first to get the new family of 4-cylinder engines as well. The standard 2.0L version will make 240 horsepower, while reaching 60 mph in 6.1 seconds and achieving 29 mpg on the highway. A hotter version, which will use a turbocharger and a supercharger, will pack 302 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Both 4-cylinder engines will be paired with an 8-speed automatic, while the carryover engines will use the current 6-speed ‘box. No manual will be offered.

Interestingly, Volvo claims that any growth in sales from the V60 will be “incremental”. This suggests that the V60′s return is as much a brand building exercise as much as a way to grow volume. After all, what is Volvo without a wagon?

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Honda Civic Tourer Debuts For Europe Only http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/honda-civic-tourer-debuts-for-europe-only/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/08/honda-civic-tourer-debuts-for-europe-only/#comments Tue, 13 Aug 2013 19:32:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=499244 honda-civic-tourer-1

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Ahead of the Frankfurt show, Honda revealed their Europe-only Civic Tourer, a wagon version of Honda’s bread and butter compact. Notable features include a Fit-style “Magic Seat” (that can be folded in multiple ways for maximum cargo carrying) and a tailgate that swings up extremely high – something that will likely be an issue in low underground garages. The Civic’s rivals include established players like the Skoda Octavia, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf. But Honda is hoping that class-leading cargo capacity and distinctive styling will be enough to entice new customers.

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Junkyard Find: 1985 Buick Skyhawk Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/junkyard-find-1985-buick-skyhawk-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/junkyard-find-1985-buick-skyhawk-wagon/#comments Fri, 12 Jul 2013 12:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494869 22 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Buick Skyhawk started out as a badge-engineered upscale version of the wretched Chevy Monza, took 1981 off, then returned as a front-wheel-drive J-body in 1982. This car is largely forgotten today, and the station wagon version manages to be even more forgotten. Still, a few remain, and this ’85 hung on for nearly 30 years before washing up in The Crusher’s waiting room.


Put a little Skyhawk in your life!
12 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThis one is about as used up as it gets.
08 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinNo, this isn’t an Iron Duke, nor is it the Opel pushrod four used in the Chevette. This is the overhead-cam 1.8 liter version of the GM 122 engine, which produced a not-so-zippy 84 horsepower in 1985.
04 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinHowever, the 5-speed vampired fewer horses than the slushbox.
06 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinGM used five-digit odometers well into the 1990s, so we can’t tell whether this car did 35,000 miles, 135,000 miles, or 735,000 miles. My money is on the second guess.
10 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinOverhead cams and fuel injection were still semi-futuristic in 1985, at least for Detroit. Bragging rights for Skyhawk drivers!

01 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 15 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 16 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 17 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 18 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 19 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 20 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 21 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 22 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 23 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 24 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 25 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 26 - 1985 Buick Skyhawk Station Wagon Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin ]]>
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Volvo Station Wagon Delights Derek’s Parents, Gives CAFE The Middle Finger http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/volvo-station-wagon-gives-cafe-the-middle-finger/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/07/volvo-station-wagon-gives-cafe-the-middle-finger/#comments Mon, 08 Jul 2013 12:20:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=494518 BOmYi3RCYAAaFBg

 

What you’re looking at here is

  1. A big “F U” to CAFE regulations
  2. Very likely the next vehicle my parents buy

When Volvo killed off the V70 wagon in 2010, it marked a turning point for the brand; how could Volvo continue on without its signature product, the station wagon? It seemed as absurd as the idea of a Caterham crossover.

Crossovers, even those like the XC70 which had a slightly higher ride height and some cladding, were much more advantageous to get around CAFE loopholes (and could be sold at a higher profit). In most cases, car makers are better off selling pseudo-crossovers to their customers for these reasons, as wagons tend to linger on showroom floors and then command a premium on the used market (for more on that see the 2005 Subaru Legacy GT).

Not so with Volvo. The much-rumored scuttlebutt was that many longtime Volvo customers were unhappy that the faux-crossover XC lineup was all that was available to replace their wagons. Enter the V60. It’s a compact station wagon with a couple of I6 powerplants (likely for North America) that are likely not terribly efficient. Volvo will pay dearly for this in terms of CAFE, but we should applaud their guile. We may get a diesel or a plug-in hybrid powertrain option, but I’m holding out for a Polestar-tuned T6 and AWD.

One can only imagine that dealers were screaming for this car, and now Volvo has sent out this tweet confirming its stateside launch. Although Volvo sales have been on the up-and-up, they’ve never really recovered from the best years when Volvo had some strong wagon offerings. My cynicism towards the commercial viability of this bodystyle may be well documented, but if any auto maker needs to offer one, it’s Volvo. Wagons are the heart and soul of the Volvo brand.

I suspect this product will have a wide open niche, now that Audi no longer offers an A4 Avant. There are enough buyers out there who will want to buy any premium wagon that is not a BMW 3-Series. My parents are a prime example, though they ended up buying a 2011 Volvo XC60 T6. They’ve had their eye on the European market V40 for some time, but the V60 T6 would be just the ticket to replace the XC.

 

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Skoda Octavia vRS, A GTI In Sensible Shoes http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/skoda-octavia-vrs-a-gti-in-sensible-shoes/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/skoda-octavia-vrs-a-gti-in-sensible-shoes/#comments Wed, 05 Jun 2013 20:45:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490951 Skoda Octavia vRS. Photo courtesy Autocar India.

The Skoda Octavia vRS is almost like the VW Jetta GLI we should have gotten. Using the MK7 GTI’s MQB platform and 217-horsepower four-cylinder powertrain, the Octavia vRS is also available with a 2.0 TDI engine making 180 horsepower – and both powertrains can be had with the wagon bodystyle you see above.

With a price point below that of VW while offering identical performance, the previous Octavia vRS models were something of a cult performance car in Europe – and a favorite of the local constabulary in many parts of the UK. Especially the wagon. Too bad we won’t see this stateside in any form – now that the Jetta has become its own North American-spec car, the Octavia’s closest relative isn’t even available to us anymore.

vrs4 vrs2 vrs1 0_0_860_http-__i.haymarket.net.au_Galleries_20130605044203_octavia-vrs-1 0_0_860_http-__i.haymarket.net.au_Galleries_20130605044201_octavia-vrs-10 Skoda Octavia vRS. Photo courtesy Autocar India. 0_0_860_http-__i.haymarket.net.au_Galleries_20130605044200_octavia-vrs-2

 

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Derek’s Grey Market Fantasy Garage http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/dereks-grey-market-fantasy-garage/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/06/dereks-grey-market-fantasy-garage/#comments Mon, 03 Jun 2013 20:55:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490695 2012-Mercedes-C63-AMG-01

In my rant about the Holden Ute, I qualified my cynicism with a caveat; my tastes are not representative of the broader market, or what makes good business sense for an auto maker. Some of you suggested that I should start injecting more of my own opinions/enthusiasm into these sorts of articles. I am reluctant to mix business with my own automotive fantasyland (after all, everyone with access to a keyboard does just that that), but this post isn’t supposed to be informative or insightful, just pure fun. I am limiting myself to new cars on sale outside the United States and Canada, as there are far too many used cars out there that I’d love to own.

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Daily Driver – Holden Calais V:

Why the lesser known Calais V over the more popular, sporting Commodore SS or HSV models, both of which are available with a 6-speed manual? Simple. I don’t want to drive a car that looks like it’s been painted with Freezies and black magic markers. Since this is my fantasy garage, I have plenty of other opportunities for belligerently loud sports cars with bowel-jarring ride quality and performance envelopes far beyond my capabilities.

The Calais still has a 6.0L small block V8, but it’s not embarrassing to pull up to a valet stand in one (unlike a new HSV Commodore. Glossy black wheels are for drug dealers and pimps). I imagine it’s totally isolating from the road but still has reasonable handling dynamics – what a Panther should be – and the 6.0L V8, even in neutered automatic trim, can probably lay waste to whatever crappy 500-treadwear all-season tires it comes on. GM, please, this should be the new Buick Park Avenue. Unlike the Ute, it will sell.

renault-megane-rs265-3W

Euro Hot Hatch – Renaultsport Megane 265:

Ok, I lied. The Holden would be my daily driver for any trip that involved the highway, or taking an impromptu blast to Montreal to go get a smoked meat sandwich for lunch. But this is what I’d drive around town to do my errands. I was always captivated by photos in Evo magazine of the diminutive Clio 182 cup lifting its inside wheel somewhere in Wales, coming dangerously close to the rear bumper of whatever supercar they decided was worthy of their hilariously hyperbolic prose. Most of what you read in British magazines is complete fantasy, whether it’s declaring the Jaguar X-Type a “genuine 3-Series rival” or talking about their driving heroics. But I’ve been assured by none other than Jack Baruth that this latest Megane 265 is one of the best cars - in the wuuurrrlld.  Make mine GT3 RS green (yes, I know that’s a Clio).

GXL-Troop-Carrier

Authentic Off-Roader – Toyota Land Cruiser 70:

The Land Rover Defender might get the lion’s share of attention when it comes to grey market SUVs, but I am much more intrigued by the idea of buying a brand new version of a decades old Land Cruiser. Toyota Australia will still sell you one of these, in three-door, five-door and pickup truck configurations. I really have no use for a body-on-frame work truck like this, but neither does anybody who buys a Ford SVT Raptor. The Troop Carrier GXL is my pick, since it looks like it’s just one Ma Deuce away from being put into service by bloodthristy janjaweed.

mercedes-c63-amg

Wagon of Choice – Mercedes C63 AMG:

This was a tough choice. The Audi RS4 and RS6 have all-wheel drive, which means four-season shenanigans for this Canadian. But the C63 won out in the end. I prefer the purity of the naturally aspirated V8, even if it is a little slower on paper. Since I have a thing for Q-Cars, mine would be painted in the most banal shade of tan and fully debadged. Of course, I’d fit the Performance Pack and a Tubi exhaust, just to scare the hell out of the yappy little bichon frises tied up outside my local espresso bar when I stopped in for my morning cup.

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Death Warrant – Caterham Seven CSR260: 

Jack had a bad experience with his Caterham, but I’m undeterred. If the 260 horsepower Duratec doesn’t kill me, then I’m bound to be maimed by a distracted parent in a Sequoia trying to silence their insolent children while reaching for their third Ativan. Better go draft my will…

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Cadillac CTS-V Wagons Made Up 0.5 Percent Of CTS Sales http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/cadillac-cts-v-wagons-made-up-0-005-percent-of-cts-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/cadillac-cts-v-wagons-made-up-0-005-percent-of-cts-sales/#comments Tue, 28 May 2013 16:47:05 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=489817 Cadillac CTS-V Wagon. Photo courtesy Brendan McAleer.

Juan Barnett of DC Auto Geek tweeted some interesting information last weekend regarding the last generation of CTS-V; just 1,200 examples of the CTS-V wagon were sold during the car’s lifecycle; by comparison, Cadillac sold a total of 254,000 examples of the CTS.

Of those, 215,000 were sedans (with 8,000 being V-Series), 32,000 were coupes (6,000 were V-Series) and a mere 7,000 were wagons. Given Cadillac’s assertion that 5 V wagons needed to be sold to break even on the project, it seems that Cadillac managed to make their money back many times over on a variant that accounted for barely 0.5 percent of CTS sales. If nothing else, it was a profitable PR exercise for Cadillac. Even male fashion bloggers and the guy from American Pie ended up driving them.

(N.B: Many of you have expressed disbelief at the “5 wagons = profit” figure, so I’ll explain the rationale behind it. The tooling was already there, the drivetrain was certified, the car was crash tested and all the associated FMVSS regulatory crap was homologated. For Cadillac, it was simply a matter of bolting it all together. The above points are the exact reason why European manufacturers are reluctant to bring their high-power wagons over here. The costs of doing all of these seemingly minor things add up very quickly. We are talking low to mid 8-figures.)

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Krugerrands For Clunkers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/krugerrands-for-clunkers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/krugerrands-for-clunkers/#comments Wed, 10 Apr 2013 15:31:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=484204

This essay on Delicious Tacos, about the life and death of an $800 Mercedes-Benz diesel sedan, drove home one of the unfortunate realities of living in a snowy climate: it’s nearly impossible to find anything for $800 that hasn’t been completely consumed by oxidization.

For those who don’t have to deal with road salt, there are lots of vehicle choices available. Former EIC Niedermeyer told me that his first car was purchased for a few hundred dollars in cash. My friend Jake, who lives in Florida, was able to buy a very nice 1996 F-250 Powerstroke for about $3,000 – the same truck would cost at least 50 percent more up where I live, and would have some kind of rust that needed repairing.

An $800 budget is a tough budget to adhere to, but $1,600, or the price of one gold Krugerrand bought at a precious metals dealer, gives you a bit more breathing room. By comparison, the $5,000 budget set forth by Thomas seems opulent. In my area, Kijiji, not craigslist, is the go-to for buying or selling a car, and a quick search yielded a couple interesting prospects.

The first is an Infiniti G20. I’ve always had a soft spot for these cars, even though plenty of people disliked them. I don’t know where my affinity stems from, but I’ll blame it on too much exposure to early 1990′s Car and Driver, Motorweek and the fact that my neighbor had one with swapped-in Nissan Primera badges, before the “JDM” craze ever even hit. The white example has about 157,000 miles on it and is apparently mechanically sound, but has some cosmetic issues. For $900, I have enough left over to get a cheapo re-spray of the hood.

For those that are feeling brave, we have a true Steve Lang Mileage Champion – a 1995 BMW 525i wagon. With a stick shift. And 267,000 miles on the odometer. Apparently it runs well but needs “exhaust, brakes and body work [sic]” to pass our wonderful emissions and safety inspections. Now that I have access to a shop, the exhaust and brakes could be knocked off in reasonable time, depending on their severity. I’m not sure what kind of bodywork is needed, but I’m not optimistic. Nevertheless, something pathological has compelled me to email the guy and ask about it.

Granted, none of those cars are even worth as much as one krugerrand, which would seem to take away the whole novelty of paying in gold bullion. Luckily, the Royal Canadian Mint has a solution, with their half ounce gold coins. Or I could always pay with 4 Bitcoins.

If you live in a nice climate where the cars are free of salt, let’s see what you can come up with for less than the cost of a gold coin. If you live in a crappy climate and find something cool, post it up anyways.

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Super Piston Slap: The Life and Death of a Proper LeMons Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/super-piston-slap-the-life-and-death-of-a-proper-lemons-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/super-piston-slap-the-life-and-death-of-a-proper-lemons-car/#comments Mon, 25 Mar 2013 10:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=482191 Sajeev writes:

One of the more (in)famous vehicles in junk car racing recently visited the big boneyard in the sky. It’s particularly sad for me, as this vehicle helped me back into the driver’s seat when I needed all the help I could get. The tenacious handling, phenomenal power complete with a BULLITT-worthy soundtrack in a brown station wagon; it was all positively insane. A sad tale indeed, but worth sharing from start to finish. So here’s Mr. Brian Pollock, owner of this brutally competitive Ford Fairmont Wagon, to tell the tale.

Brian writes:

It started by accident: I was killing time browsing a local Mustang forum and saw a post titled “The 24 hours of LeMons is coming to Texas”. I confirmed the information and called my friend Dave, who bluntly told me, “I won’t let you not do this.” Next call was to another friend, Marty, because he’d been autocrossing before and we needed a guy who had some idea how to make a car turn. We applied for the race and started talking about potential cars. We settled on the world’s rattiest fox Mustang. The car was terrible in every way, but it finished the race in a remarkable 35th place and we were hooked.

By the end of the second race we had figured out how to make the car stop and turn and were talking about building a second car instead of a V8 swap in the Mustang. The hunt was on for a cheap, unusual Fox body. I really had my heart set on either a fox LTD, a Fairmont sedan, or the holy grail of oddball foxes, the 1980-82 fox-box Thunderbird. I ignored the guy who contacted me with the wagon while I waited for something else, but time, the lack of a better (worse?) option and the wagon’s steadily lowering price convinced me otherwise. One trip to Waco and $150 made it mine.

Click here to view the embedded video.

(Start the video at 2:15 for maximum effect.)

Now we needed parts, lots of them. How do you build a fast LeMons car on anything resembling a $500 budget? You do research, lots of it. You figure out what parts from what depreciated wrecks will make your depreciated wreck better. You figure out who the nearest car crusher is and you follow the fluctuating price of scrap steel. You live on Craigslist. You buy cars from sketchy tweekers so you can get the right master cylinder. Then you list that car on Craigslist so his buddies can buy a fender, or window, or something, so when it makes its final trip across the scales you get back in the black. You do that a lot. I stopped counting, but my running guess is we’ve been through somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 parts cars to build three LeMons cars.

Sometimes you’ll be forced to buy used car parts instead of used parts cars. Try to avoid this. If you can’t, buy in bulk. I needed a set of pistons and found what I was looking for in a damaged short block. I bought the whole short block, two aluminum intakes, a pair of wheels, a nitrous system, and a Mustang. After selling what I didn’t need, I got what I wanted for free and turned a profit.

Now you have to figure out how to assemble these bits into a car. Learn to weld. You’ll need piles of metallic detritus. Our seat brackets are made from frame sections from a wrecked trailer. Rear spring locators are old header collectors. The sheet metal covering the fuel cell is a ’69 Camaro hood. The access door has been a tool box, a fruitcake pan, and a metal box from a nut and bolt assortment. Another team covers their cell with the top of an old dryer. License plates are invaluable, we use them for everything, including the switch panel.

Your labor is free. Use it: we put around four-hundred man hours a year maintaining the car when we’re not racing.

We debuted the Fairmont wagon in October of 2009. We blew up the motor in practice Friday. We worked all night assembling another and getting it in the car. It blew up mid-day. By Sunday morning we had a borrowed car repaired and through tech, but I was too tired to drive. We won the LeMons “I Got Screwed” award.

For what seemed like forever, the Fairmont spent more time with the engine out than it did on track. It took until November of the following year to finish a race. When it did, our 22nd place finish came with the top prize in LeMons, “The Index of Effluency” and a check for $1501.

2011 Racing Season: it started with a series of unpredictable oil pressure issues. In three races we had one oil pump seize, one break, and we mysteriously lost oil pressure on the track but got it back while putting the car on the trailer. By June we had the Fairmont in pretty good shape but our “Arrive and Drive” drivers were lacking. By the end of the year we had our act somewhat together. We finished the year with a class “B” win and 11th overall.

2012 Racing Season: the year we almost made it. At Texas World Speedway (TWS) in February we led for the first four hours and had two laps on the field when a rear shock broke. One driver spun, and a control arm bolt broke. We finished 4th and won class B again this time with a $500 check. In March, we were in 2nd place in Chumpcar on the first day (Saturday) when we burned through the brakes: we finished 7th overall. We were leading day two’s (Sunday) race when another weird oil pressure issue popped up. We parked the Fairmont and found a cracked pick up screen swinging in the pan.

May brought LeMons to Eagle’s Canyon Raceway (ECR). We did an emergency re-ring job instead of practice, and had driver issues. I never looked at the final results. September in Houston had rain. I should mention that a heavy, stiffly sprung station wagon is undriveable in the rain. In the wet we were fighting to stay in the low 20s, when it dried up we dragged up to 8th place. Chumpcar came back to TWS in December. We just weren’t competitive there with that series: Saturday 12th place, Sunday DNF with a broken T-5 transmission.

Which brings us to the end of the line: Lap 2 of the 24 Hours of LeMons season ender at ECR. After a minor in-and-out penalty for going 2 wheels off, we were in 3rd place and about to lap the leader. We came up on him fast and spooked the driver into missing his turn in point.

Click here to view the embedded video.

He went wide and looked like he was giving up the inside line. He lost control and came across the track in to the Fairmont’s left rear tire. The crash did extensive damage to the rear end and rear suspension mounts. We limped the car around the track until mid-day Sunday when it finally became undriveable.

In the end it wasn’t the crash that took out the wagon. The 1978 Fairmont was Ford’s clean sheet design during a fuel crisis, and the nationwide 55 mph speed limit. I doubt the fox chassis was intended to peg its 85 mph speedometer, certainly not to come down the steep banking at Texas World Speedway at a stomping 135 miles per hour.

Three years of racing just wore out the car. Everything from the cage forward bent, shifted, and sagged. The car droops when it goes on the lift and collapses when it comes down. It’s just not safe to drive anymore. Marty summed it up best while disassembling it:

“I’ve had more fun with this car than anything else in my life.”

We built the car, not as a joke, per se, but to be preposterous. We knew we could make it fast, and we knew we didn’t want another Mustang. There were 11 Mustangs in our Mustang’s last race. From the beginning we set out to have a winning car, but mechanical issues held us back for a long time. We prided ourselves on being able to out run the sports cars.

Loaded with junk, the last remnants of the Fairmont wagon went over the scales for $200, $50 more than I paid for it.

One of my favorite moments was coming up on a pack of three 944s and two Miatas just before a multi-turn complex at ECR. It took me two corners to pass 4 of the cars and one more to get the 5th. I don’t consider myself to be anything more than a competent driver, so I loved being able to get off line and pass cars that have some business being on a race track.

People generally loved the car…but some hated it.

We were even accused of cheating! Ratted out for our roller rockers when the motor was disassembled on the trailer, in a race where we didn’t complete more than 25 laps, of all things! We had the fox body’s historical successor, the Taurus SHO teams vote us for “The People’s Curse,” which Jay Lamm quickly, logically ignored.

I guess people couldn’t understand how a station wagon could out handle a Porsche.

They didn’t figure the hundreds of hours we put into the car in a year and our creative ways of solving problems, they assumed we were throwing money at it.

We did get a lot of positive comments on the car. At every race we would meet new people who wanted to introduce themselves and talk about the car.  (including myself – SM) I heard a number of people laugh as it rolled out on the track, only to be amazed once they saw it run. We got word from strangers all over the country who loved the car and wanted to drive it someday.

The comments from friends who heard of its demise meant a lot to me.

Todd Nelson: This is a sad day indeed…for you. For the rest of us, we will no longer have to live with the image of being overtaken – often rapidly – by an old, brown, beat-up relic from yesteryear…with tremendous horsepower. I’ll pour one out with ya at the next race.

Douglas Narby: I remember the first time I saw the wagon (from our 240SX) I said on the radio “I am going to pass this wagon”. A more experienced teammate came back with something along the lines of “good luck with that”. He was right. Great job while it lasted, y’all!

Mark Da Silva: The wagon was amazing! You guys know the huge amount of time that damn boat made our BMW E30 work overtime just to keep up! I had the privilege to drive it at ECR too, so it’s a shame to put the car into retirement!

 

 Good bye, Fairmont Wagon.  We’ll miss you. – SM

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Doug’s Review: 2007 Mercedes E63 AMG Wagon http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/dougs-review-2007-mercedes-e63-amg-wagon/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/dougs-review-2007-mercedes-e63-amg-wagon/#comments Fri, 22 Mar 2013 16:22:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=482011

Last spring, I sold my Porsche to buy a station wagon. Car guys understand this, because it’s outlined in our unspoken creed: eventually we all trade in our beloved sports cars for a practical family vehicle that can haul our kids and whatever expensive musical instruments they’ve decided to learn this week. But for me, the swap came early: at 23 years old, single and without children, I swapped my 911 Turbo for a mommy-mobile.

Most car guys understand this, too, when they hear about my mommy-mobile of choice: a 2007 Mercedes E63 AMG station wagon. At 507 horsepower and 465 pound-feet, it had more of each than the Ferrari F430 or Lamborghini Gallardo of its day. This compares rather favorably to the car my own mom had when I was growing up, which was a 1993 Isuzu Rodeo with a stick shift and no airbags.

The Rodeo had more power than nothing, except maybe one of those little scooters you rent in the Caribbean from a place that just finished washing off the blood stains from the last guy who rented it (“No helmet … sorry … is okay?”). But the Rodeo was capable of hauling children, provided you didn’t mind springing for expensive dental work should their heads hit the rather vertical dashboard.

In addition to no airbags, Mom’s Rodeo also didn’t have a third-row seat, which I’m proud to say the Mercedes did possess. In true Mercedes wagon style, it was located in the cargo area and faced backwards. Yes, this was automotive heaven: a 500-horsepower car with a rear-facing third row. I pictured pulling away from an Audi R8 while a tuba-playing eight-year-old boy waved goodbye from my third row. Not that I ever street race. Or carry around eight-year-old boys.

Still, there were some enthusiasts who didn’t get it. A few weeks before buying the wagon, I was at a party and met a self-described car guy who owned a Monaro-based Pontiac GTO. When I told him I was planning to swap my Porsche for a three-row station wagon, he gave me a disgusted look and walked away. This actually happened.

I didn’t mind. I had always been into strange cars, and the E63 AMG wagon is among the very strangest. In the wagon’s three years on the W211 chassis, the US got only 153 units – the same number of Camrys that Toyota sells in three hours. In other words, it was about as common as the Ferrari Enzo, which couldn’t haul anywhere near as many eight-year-old boys, or their tubas.

Finding one, then, was a challenge best described in another story. After months of searching, I eventually located mine in Indiana and drove it home to Atlanta. I owned it for eight months and around 9,000 miles, nearly all of which were spent with an ear-to-ear grin across my face.

Exterior

Generally speaking, I find the W211 E-Class wagon to be a handsome car in the same way that William H. Macy is a handsome man: not really at all, but you can sort of see it. The AMG version boosted its appeal with those enormous wheels, the rear diffuser and those little inlets on the front bumper that are the kind of thing I absolutely love, but my girlfriend would never notice unless she damaged them. Which is quite possible.

However, being a typical car enthusiast, I couldn’t help but notice a few flaws with mine. One was, quite obviously, the color. My wagon was painted a shade Mercedes called pewter, which I believe came from a focus group of 97-year-old men, 87-year-old women, and people who actually do find William H. Macy handsome. The color never should’ve been allowed on any AMG car, but unfortunately it was on mine. This may help explain how I was able to afford it.

The other flaw with my wagon was an issue I had with all 2007-2009 E-Class models. A facelift inexplicably gave the cars a pointy beak, which oddly resembled the 1997-1999 Acura CL. Mercedes never provided an explanation for this, though I suspect the car could double as an Arctic ice-breaking ship. It certainly has enough torque.

Interior

The interior of the E63 AMG’s main competitor, the E60 BMW M5, had attractive carbon fiber and aluminum on nearly every surface. The E63 AMG, meanwhile, had what I call “Mercedes wood,” which starts its life as real wood but then, after weeks of hard work at the Mercedes factory, ends up looking like plastic.

This was one low point. The other was the interior’s color, for which Mercedes probably devised some high-class-sounding name to take your mind off the fact that it was actually a somber shade of dull gray. Presumably, this one came from a focus group of lifelong Seattle residents.

However, the E63 wagon’s cabin had some benefits. One was, of course, the third-row seat, which every single one of my friends tried to sit in. They were unsuccessful, largely because they have legs. But while third-row room is tight, the overall interior volume is immense. I ended up using the E63 to move my entire apartment, which included my queen-size bed (broken down, of course). I also used it to transport my electric keyboard, proudly joining the ranks of those musical instrument-schlepping parents.

On The Road

Up until now, I’ve been a little negative about my E63 wagon. That’s because it’s not about exterior styling or interior design. The E63 AMG wagon is all about the monstrous engine you’re reminded of whenever you put down your foot or visit the gas pump, which happen equally often.

Acceleration is the car’s strong suit. There is no other car on earth that lets you go so fast and look in your mirror to see seven headrests and a rear wiper.

Acceleration is so massive that I just had to take the wagon to the drag strip. This occurred on a Friday night in rural north Georgia, where going to the drag strip is something people do, presumably instead of reading. There’s even an announcer, who initially made fun of the wagon (“Mom’s here, roof racks and all!”) until it ran a 13.1. I believe a twelve was in it somewhere, but I was embarrassingly unqualified since my previous drag strip experience came as a high-schooler in an automatic Volvo.

Handling, however, wasn’t the E63’s strong point. I once took it on a mountain drive that included Lamborghinis, Ferraris and even a Carrera GT. It kept up with the pack, mostly because of its monster engine and immense grip, which comes from tires as wide as a regulation speed limit sign. But it had some noticeable body roll – even in the “Sport” chassis setting. Still, for a family car, it was damn good. Far better than Mom’s Rodeo, which – on similar roads – probably would’ve gone the way of the Consumer Reports Isuzu Trooper.

One of the best parts about my E63 wagon driving experience came from other drivers. I once had a Lotus, which earned me commentary at every stop light from people whose brother’s cousin’s milkman had one. (Side note: how does one respond to this? I never figured it out. Eventually, I just sold the car.) Not so with the E63 wagon. The only people who ever approached me were true car people, which made virtually every conversation tremendously enjoyable.

Once, when I was in my wagon, I spotted an E55 wagon, which was made in only slightly larger numbers. This is the automotive equivalent of two black people passing each other on the street in Vermont. The response was similarly enthusiastic, with lots of waving and smiles all around. If this happened in my Lotus, the other driver would’ve been mad that someone dared to try and steal the attention from him.

Verdict

In the end, I loved my E63 wagon, but my mechanic loved it more. That’s because I spent several thousand dollars keeping it in perfect condition during my tenure as its owner, from suspension work to a new differential. (Yes, a new differential. Your guess is as good as mine.) When I discovered that brake rotors cost something like two grand in parts alone, I had reached the final straw.

I sold my AMG wagon – with newly-installed brake rotors – four months ago. Still, in spite of the huge running costs, I miss it dearly and I occasionally check used car listings to see if any are available. By chance, mine went to a TTAC reader, long before I ever started contributing to this site. When he sees this post, he will undoubtedly e-mail me and say: “You took my car to the DRAG STRIP?!”

Hopefully, this will prompt him to sell it back to me for exactly what he paid.

Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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Review: 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek (Video) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/review-2013-subaru-xv-crosstrek-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/review-2013-subaru-xv-crosstrek-video/#comments Mon, 18 Mar 2013 19:03:01 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=480465

Apparently I’m a stereotypical Subaru shopper. I’m in my 30s and live on 9-acres of redwood forest in Northern California where I run a small organic egg farm. My nearest neighbor is a mile away and the closest concrete or asphalt driving surface is a 3 mile trek through the woods. During the winter I value AWD and high ground clearance, not because I need it (my 2005 Jaguar XJ has never been stuck) but like most Americans, I feel safe and secure by having a larger margin for error. I also have a special place in my heart for station wagons. It was therefore no surprise to my neighbors when I drove home one day in the Outback’s little brother, the XV Crosstrek.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Exterior

If the XV looks familiar, you’re not imagining things, you have seen this body before. This is an Impreza 5-door with off-road body cladding, black wheels and a lift kit. If that sounds like the old Outback Sport, you’re half right because this time Subaru went the extra mile when “offroadifying” (like my new word there?) the Impreza. Instead of confusing shoppers with an Outback and an Outback Sport that have little to do with one another, they renamed the Impreza crossover utility wagon (CUW) for 2013 to end the confusion. In addition to the name change it gets real dirt-road cred an SUV-like 8.5 inches of ground clearance. (The Outback Sport made do with a trifling 0.2-inch height increase vs 3 in the XV.) Subaru’s corporate design elements are all at play on the XV and while it may seem plain to some, it’s unlikely to offend, except for the shocking orange paint our tester wore. (You can get your XV in shades other than orange but regardless of the hue, the wheels are always black.) Instead of the sashless windows Subaru has long been known for, the XV gets standard doors with window frames making them feel more substantial than Subaru models of the past.

Think of the XV as the Impreza’s outdoorsy brother. You know, the one that moved to the country, wears flannel on the weekend but still commutes to a day job in the city. Early crossovers had a similar mission, but demand for a car-like ride has caused the current crop of CUVs to return to car-like ride heights while warehouse shopping excursions demand minivan-like cargo holds. That’s not to say CUWs are “true off roaders,” that much is obvious by the size of the front overhang, long wheelbase and on-road tires. Instead, the mission is to provide an efficient, civilized ride for that outdoorsy brother on the way to downtown and the ability to ford that low-water-crossing on the way to his organic farm.

Interior

The XV shares interiors with the $17,895 Impreza from the seats to the soft-touch dashboard. While plastics aren’t as nice as the Outback, they do represent a significant step up from the last generation Impreza and Outback Sport and aren’t out-of-place here. The XV is $1,700 more than a similar Impreza 5-door but when you factor in the standard 17-inch wheels, body cladding and lift kit the cost difference is minimal. Starting at a reasonable $21,995 and ending at $27,290, the XV is one of the best AWD values going. Oddly however, the 2014 Subaru Forester starts at exactly the same price.

The base XV is the “Premium” trim which sports durable fabric seats in black or ivory. Ivory lovers beware, interior color is dictated by exterior color and ivory is only available with black, red, blue and white paint. Limited models spruce up the cabin with leather seating surfaces, single-zone automatic climate control and heated seats.

I found the driver’s seat extremely comfortable on my long commute, but shoppers should spend time in the car before buying as the seat’s don’t offer adjustable lumbar support and the front passenger seat doesn’t offer the same range of motion as the driver’s. I heard a number of forum complaints about the leather seats feeling “mushy” in reference to the padding but my short stint in a dealer provided vehicle left the same impression as the cloth models in my mind. Perhaps there were some early production quality issues? All models feature a manual tilt/telescoping steering wheel with a good range of motion and CVT equipped XVs get attractive shift paddles attached to the wheel, not the column.

Rear seats in the XV are firm and the seat bottom cushions are low to the floor which should be fine for children but can be tiresome for adults on long trips. Because of the XV’s mission as a mud-rut crawler and stream-forder, the door sills are high to prevent water intrusion meaning you have to lift your feet higher than you’d expect to gain entry. That combined with the sloping rear profile made me feel like I had to contort myself more to get in the XV than I had expected, and certainly more than vehicles like the RAV4 or CR-V.  Once inside, headroom proved excellent for my 6-foot frame and legroom was adequate even with a taller driver up front. If you have kids or regularly schlep folks in the rear, pony up for the Limited model, in addition to leather being easier to wipe-up than cloth, it’s the only way to get cup holders in the rear. If you don’t opt for the cow, you’ll be left with only the rear door “bottle holders” which should never be used for drive-thru style sodas.

The XV is only a few inches shorter than the Escape, CR-V or even its cousin the Forester, but the cargo area is considerably smaller thanks to the wagon profile. Our tester’s 22 cubic foot cargo area easily held a foursome’s weekend luggage as long as camping wasn’t on the agenda. While that’s a significant step up from most sedans that XV shoppers may be looking to trade out of, it’s two-thirds the cargo area provided by the Forseter or Escape. Why am I comparing these non-wagons to the XV? Because they are all a similar height and length. How is that possible you ask? Because the XV trades cargo space for ground clearance. Pick your poison.

Infotainment

Infotainment has long been an area where Subaru lags behind the competition and the XV is no different. Because the XV is positioned above the Impreza, things start with the optional audio system from the small Subie. The 6-speaker system features a single CD player, USB/iPod integration, Bluetooth phone integration with audio streaming and a 3.5mm AUX input jack. Limited trim XVs get Subaru’s display audio system with a 4.3-inch LCD touchscreen. The display upgrade also brings a backup camera, improved iPod/USB control, HD Radio and a greater suite of voice commands. For some reason this middle-ground head unit is not available at all on the base trim of the XV.

For $1,200 as a stand alone option on the XV Premium, and $2,000 as a bundle with the moonroof on the XV Limited model, Subaru offers an optional 6.1-inch touchscreen navigation unit. (The moonroof is a stand alone option on the Premium but only comes with the nav on the Limited.) Unless you’re buying the Premium model and want the sunroof, just save the $1,200 and spend it on an aftermarket system. While the unit isn’t as outdated as some systems on the market, the interface is strangely unintuitive, the on-screen buttons are small and the low-contrast color scheme makes it difficult to find what you’re after. On the bright side, perhaps because of Toyota’s minority investment in Subaru, the system uses the same voice command interface as Toyota and Lexus’ current product line including voice commands to control your media device.

Drivetrain

Subaru’s fascination with boxer engines and AWD is nothing new, but the 2.0L DOHC engine under the hood is. The smaller mill replaces the old 2.5L SOHC four-cylinder found in the last generation Impreza and Outback Sport.Power drops with the displacement reduction from 170 HP to 148 at 6,200 RPM while torque takes a similar tumble from 170 lb-ft to 145 at 4,200 RPM. The smaller mill isn’t any quieter or more refined than the older engine, but it is 28% more fuel-efficient when equipped with the same manual transmission and a whopping 36% more efficient when you compare the new 2.0L/CVT combo with the old 2.5L/four-speed automatic. EPA numbers for the XV come out to 23/30/26 (City/Highway/Combined) for the 5-speed manual and 25/33/28 for the CVT. On my mixed commute I averaged 29.4MPG over 475 miles of mixed driving, 0-60 testing and soft-road shenanigans.

The three-pedal XV makes the power reduction seem more obvious while the CVT’s infinite ratios help mask the loss in power more than you might think. While AWD is standard, the AWD system is different on manual and automatic models. The 5-speed is mated to a mechanical viscus center coupling that can neither be fully coupled or uncoupled allowing a torque split range from 80/20 to 20/80 (front/rear) and normally apportions power 50/50. The CVT uses an electronically controlled multi-plate clutch pack to apportion power 60/40 under normal circumstances with the ability to completely lock when wheels slip, or when the car’s computer feels like it.

Drive

Jack anything up three inches and handling will suffer, even an Impreza. Fortunately, the XV is unusually light at 3,164lbs. In a sea of overweight crossovers, this helps the XV feel more nimble than the usual suspects but it does taker a toll on ride quality with the XV feeling less “polished” than the Outback or the heavier small-CUV competition. On the downside, a light vehicle can sometimes feel cheap, and the XV’s noisy cabin doesn’t help. Being pragmatic, I would rather spend the money on a robust AWD system than sound insulation, but on long trips the noise can be tiresome. Despite the robust AWD system and boxer engine, the XV cuts a very tight rug with 34.8 foot turning radius, something important when you’re trekking off the beaten path.

In general journalists despise CVTs but this is a hatred I have never fully understood. On my daily commute I climb a 2,200ft mountain pass, a perfect demonstration of how CVTs make less powerful cars more drivable. Cars with a typical automatic suffer from the slow down, downshift, speed up, upshift, slow down, rinse, repeat problem on steep mountain passes while CVTs maintain a constant speed and vary the engine RPM as required. Yes, the 2.0L boxer engine is vibration free but unpleasant sounding and the CVT has an uncanny ability to keep the engine at the most annoying harmonic. Even so, if given the choice I would take the CVT over a 6-speed automatic on an engine this small. Bolt a turbo to the 2.0 and I’d want the 6-speed slushbox. Speaking of speeds, all CVT equipped models come with sexy shift paddles that attempt to mimic an automatic transmission but the shifts from one ratio to another feel mushy and slow.

Designed to carve unpaved corners on weekends and paved corners on weekdays you’ll find an inherent compromise in every corner. On true dirt roads, the street rubber (Yokohama Geolander H/T G95A) lacks lateral grip allowing the rear of the XV to feel a little light (in a fun sort of way) and on pavement the tall springs allow the body to roll more than a traditional wagon shopper might expect. Despite the lean, the XV never lost its composure even when pressed to 9/10ths, a place few owners will take their granola-hauler. The always-on nature of Subaru’s AWD system makes the XV feel more confidant off-road than the sip-and-grip systems found on the competition, but there is less of a difference on road. Back on the asphalt, most of the competitor’s systems allow partial lock-up from a standstill thanks to improved electronic systems and honestly the difference in snow performance for most driving conditions is going to be fairly small.

For some reason we expect SUVs and CUVs to deliver a less exciting driving dynamic but we expect wagons to handle like sedans with a tailgate. If that describes you, the XV will disappoint. If however you’re looking for the utility of a crossover with better road manners and a low center of gravity, the XV delivers in spades. There’s just one problem: Subaru’s new Forester is the same price and staring at you from across the Subaru dealer’s lot.

Hit it

  • Subaru AWD reputation.
  • Well priced and well equipped base model.
  • I’ve always been a fan of CVTs for hill climbing.

Quit it

  • Black wheels.
  • The lack of gadgets, gizmos and options is a bummer for my inner nerd.
  • The cabin is noisier than most small crossovers.
  • Not everyone loves CVTs as much as I do.

 

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

Specifications as tested

0-30: 3.3 Seconds

0-60: 8.7 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16.8 Seconds @ 81.5 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 29.4 MPG over 475 miles

2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Front, Picture Couretsy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, XV Badging, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Drivetrain, 2.0L Boxer Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Drivetrain, 2.0L Boxer Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Drivetrain, 2.0L Boxer Engine, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Infotainment, Navigation System, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Infotainment Nav System, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, HVAC Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Dashboard Trip Computer, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Dashboard and Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Front Seat Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, rear door sills, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Cargo Area, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Interior, Rear Seats Folded, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Subaru XV Crosstrek, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]>
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