By on December 17, 2015

2015 Ford Mustang V6 white front

Forty-nine cars worth more than $2.2 million dollars arrived for one-week stays in my driveway during the 2015 calendar year. Seventeen of them were traditional four-door sedans, including an XSE V6 version of America’s most popular car — the Toyota Camry. Another 15 were utility vehicles of one kind or another: the tiny Jeep Renegade and Mazda CX-3 to the full-size GMC Yukon Denali and Cadillac Escalade.

There were five pickup trucks, six hatchbacks, one wagon, and two vans. Three V8s. Many turbochargers. Five diesels. And two manual transmissions.

I began reviewing cars in 2004. After working as a category space analyst in the grocery industry for a couple of snack food companies, I merged my tolerance for spreadsheets with my passion for cars to put automotive sales stats in greater focus in 2010.

I wouldn’t have dreamed in 2010, let alone 2004, that I’d be writing for multiple outlets in 2015, crafting GoodCarBadCar.net into an ever more popular destination for the auto sales obsessed, or spending every Sunday afternoon fueling, washing, and vacuuming yet another departing press car. There are perks. I get to do what I want. I get to work at home with my family. And I’m not constrained by editors who demand that I change the angle of a story in order to avoid offending an OEM.

But it is work. Or, should I say, “work.”

After another year of this so-called “work”, I am once again looking back on dozens of new vehicles which surprised, met expectations, failed to engage, and disappointed. Here on the east coast of Canada, in a fishing/military village called Eastern Passage, we aren’t blessed with a Los Angeles-like stock of press cars from which we can pick and choose: an F-Type this week, a Miata the next, an F-150 for multiple home reno weekends, and an Escalade for a family road trip. Automakers send the vehicles they want to send to an intermediary who then metes out the vehicles for week-long stays with a number of auto writers, TTAC’s managing editor included. The vehicles aren’t chosen by me, nor is the schedule.

We acquired our very own 2015 Honda Odyssey this year for a number of reasons, one of which was its ability to fulfill all roles, the types of jobs our visiting vehicles can’t all perform. The Odyssey is a decent drive, a family hauler, a pickup truck of sorts, and reasonably efficient. The Odyssey has been nothing less than terrific.

In between those Odyssey adventures, however, I spend hundreds of kilometers with these manufacturer-supplied press cars, traversing city streets, hugging backroad corners, fetching groceries, and installing child seats. As 2015 comes to a close, my final impressions are clearer than I expected: the CAD $48,560 2016 GMC Terrain Denali does not have keyless access, the five diesels I drove all consumed precious little fuel, and heated steering wheels make all the difference in the world.

And a few other things.

Biggest Surprise: Ford Mustang V6
They, whoever they are, told me the Mustang would be good even without 5.0 badges behind the front wheels. But I didn’t expect to discover the 3.7-liter V-6 so happy to rev, the steering would be so sweet, the rear seat would be useable, and a week on ice with the rear-wheel drive, winter-tired Mustang would be so perpetually sideways. I spent a week looking out the driver’s side window, as a slide in the very affordable Mustang was just so easily modulated.

Full of minor faults — plus the major fault of missing 5.0 badges — the Mustang V-6 still shouldn’t be this reasonable in a wretched winter. But it is.

Honorable mentions: Toyota Camry XSE V6, Nissan Micra S.

2015 Kia Sedona SXL front

Biggest Disappointment: Kia Sedona SX-L
Minivans shouldn’t be able to look this good. But it doesn’t matter how good the Kia looks, because the Sedona’s cumbersome on-road behavior and the unfinished rear two-thirds of the cabin caused great expectations to crater.

“The Sedona’s comfort-first philosophy causes the van to wallow about in ways that would nauseate an Odyssey owner,” I said at the time. And then a few months later, I became the owner of an Odyssey — a true family van. About the Sedona’s interior layout: “As a family van, this arrangement is unseemly.”

Honorable mentions: Acura ILX, Ford Mustang EcoBoost.

2015 Audi S3 front side low

Best Of The Best: Audi S3
I so often felt at a loss to determine what the S3 doesn’t do well. Sure, the S3 rides stiffly, but there’s a payoff. It’s ergonomically blissful, attractive outside and in, supremely swift, and grips for days. I’d like to think I’d opt for the Volkswagen donor car — a less costly Golf R with the manual transmission — but I grew up in a series of five Audis, and the four rings may have me encircled.

Honorable mentions: Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, Ford Mustang V6, Audi A6 TDI.

2015 Buick LaCrosse AWD Premium 1 In snow

Worst Of The Worst: Buick LaCrosse
Manufacturers, whether to keep a spotlight on vehicles at the end of their lifecycle or because they need to fill the fleet with something, all too often send long-in-the-tooth vehicles. What can be expected from a LaCrosse that’s about as desirable in the Canadian market as igloos in July?

Surprisingly, it didn’t ride that well, the evidence of always working to create an illusion of smoothness all too apparent. The interior wasn’t wearing well. It doesn’t handle like a Roadmaster, but it’s far off the Regal’s pace. Worst of all, the LaCrosse is ludicrously overpriced at CAD $52,000.

Honourable mentions: Jeep Renegade Trailhawk, Chevrolet Malibu, Smart Fortwo ED.

2015 Volkswagen JEtta TDI Highline brown

Most Efficient: 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI, 44.4 mpg
Five diesel-powered vehicles were put through their paces for GCBC reviews in 2015, including EcoDiesel-equipped versions of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Ram 1500, a 3-liter Audi A6 TDI, a Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI, and this Jetta.

Sure, you can’t buy one now – they’re apparently emitting more than their stated share of emissions. But the ability of this DSG-equipped Jetta TDI to sip fuel in the dead of winter, on winter tires, with a typically enthusiastic drive, is nevertheless a wonder. Rated by the EPA at 31 mpg in the city and 45 on the highway, mostly urban driving resulted in just under 45 mpg.

Honorable mentions: Golf Sportwagen (40.6 mpg) and Nissan Micra (39.9 mpg).

yukon (3 of 7)

Least Efficient: 2015 GMC Yukon Denali, 12.7 mpg
As the new year rolled in, a lingering 6.2-liter V8-powered GMC Yukon Denali with the 6-speed automatic consumed fuel at a prodigious rate, hampered by excessive idling, city driving, bitter temperatures, and 22-inch winter tires. 12.7 mpg is a figure for a prior decade. The Cadillac Escalade, with the same engine and newer 8-speed automatic, driven during less frigid weather at the end of the year, achieved a far more tolerable 17.6 mpg.

Honorable mentions: Toyota Sienna XLE Limited AWD (14.3 mpg), Audi TTS Coupe Competition (16.9 mpg).

THE CARS
2015 GMC Yukon Denali • 2015 Toyota Camry XSE V6 • 2015 Honda CR-V Touring • 2015 Acura RLX Sport Hybrid • 2015 Ford Escape Titanium • 2015 Toyota Sienna XLE Limited AWD • 2015 Audi TTS Coupe Competition • 2015 Ford Mustang V6 • 2015 Kia Forte5 SX-L Turbo • 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI • 2015 Buick LaCrosse AWD • 2015 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ • 2015 Ford Fusion Titanium AWD • 2015 Kia Sedona SXL • 2016 Acura ILX A-Spec • 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe • 2015 Nissan Micra S • 2015 Smart Fortwo Electric Drive • 2015 Audi S3 • 2015 Toyota Avalon Limited • 2015 Mercedes-Benz GLA250 4Matic • 2015 GMC Canyon SLE Crew Cab 4×4 • 2015 Mitsubishi RVR 2.4 GT AWC • 2015 Ford Focus SE Hatch • 2015 Chevrolet Volt • 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost Convertible • 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI • 2015 Lexus NX300h • 2015 GMC Sierra 1500 SLE 4×4 Crew Cab 6.2 • 2016 Kia Sorento SX Turbo • 2015 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Sport • 2016 Mazda CX-3 GT AWD • 2015 Dodge Charger SXT Rallye AWD • 2016 Subaru WRX • 2016 Audi A6 3.0 TDI • 2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk • 2016 Hyundai Tucson AWD • 2016 Honda Pilot Touring • 2015 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel Overland 4×4 • 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited • 2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Outdoorsman 4×4 Quad Cab • 2015 Ford F-150 Platinum EcoBoost SuperCrew 4×4 • 2016 Scion iM • 2016 Chevrolet Colorado Z71 Crew Cab 4×4 • 2016 Honda Accord Touring • 2016 Cadillac Escalade • 2016 GMC Terrain Denali • 2016 Kia Optima • 2016 Volkswagen Jetta 1.4

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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30 Comments on “My $2.2 Million Fleet In 2015 – The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly...”


  • avatar
    DubVBenz

    A shame you didn’t get to test out the E250 Bluetec. Would love to hear TTAC’s perspective on it.

  • avatar
    legacygt

    A couple things:

    1) The V6 in the Mustang shouldn’t be a surprise. The same engine was offered in the previous Mustang and was very well reviewed. It gets entirely overlooked because of the V8 (for obvious reasons) and the Ecoboost 4 (which is heavily promoted primarily to help pad Ford’s CAFE numbers). The V6 is no slouch and I wouldn’t be surprised if its real world fuel economy was as good as the Ecoboost.

    2) It is not appropriate to put the Jetta TDI on the list of most fuel efficient cars. For most of the last decade we’ve heard the TDI being described just as it is here. As a “wonder.” How could they get that efficiency along with performance and meet emissions requirements? Well, it’s not a “wonder” anymore. We know they cheated on the emissions testing and we have no idea how efficiency and performance will be impacted when they “fix” the cheating software. Performance, efficiency and emissions are part of a zero-sum game and there’s little doubt that the first two will suffer when they address the emissions issue. I have no doubt you saw the fuel efficiency you report in your time with the Jetta TDI. But I’m also fairly certain the results would have been lower had the emissions control been fully operational during your drive.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      While I agree that VW did wrong, legacygt, the author made it very clear that it gave HIM the best economy well before the uproar began. He was stating personal experience, not advertising the vehicle in any way with this summary. I expect we will see some changes from VW which may see the economy go down a bit, but the described modification VW has been offering to German legislators doesn’t look like it will have that much effect as the idea is to burn the fuel more cleanly which should improve economy, not worsen it. The old ’70s vintage ‘scrub the exhaust after the burn’ has been mostly eliminated with the exception of particulates like soot for which bigger diesels especially are noted. I’m in a wait-and-see mode for that one.

      That said, I personally believe the best economy will come from full battery-electric vehicles as even now on a per-mile basis electricity is 25% the cost of regular gasoline and in itself emits no pollutants at all.

      • 0 avatar
        legacygt

        Definitely need to wait and see on VW but there is little chance that they have a fix that improves emissions AND fuel economy while maintaining performance. Also, German emissions requirements for diesels are much less strict than US requirements.

      • 0 avatar
        derekson

        “the described modification VW has been offering to German legislators doesn’t look like it will have that much effect as the idea is to burn the fuel more cleanly which should improve economy, not worsen it. ”

        Diesel doesn’t burn most effificnetly when it burns cleanest. The most efficient diesel combustion is with a lean air/fuel mixture which results in excess O2 reacting with N2 to form NOx gasses. This is why modern diesels still have NOx emission problems while modern petrol engines do not. Gasoline combustion is most efficient when it is stoichiometric so there is not excess O2 to form these byproducts.

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      When considering efficiency, do realize that diesel fuel contains 13 percent more heat energy than does gasoline, on the average, so the Micra edges the Jetta out.

      Obviously, the Jetta is much larger so on that basis you still say it’s the most efficient.

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      ” Performance, efficiency and emissions are part of a zero-sum game and there’s little doubt that the first two will suffer when they address the emissions issue.”

      You are forgetting other parts in that “zero-sum game,” the most obvious being money.

      VW knew how to meet standards, but they didn’t want higher cost and lower sales. The economics have changed, what once seemed expensive (hundreds of Euros per car!) is now a bargain.

      • 0 avatar
        legacygt

        Agreed. Money is a factor. But in this case it’s more about the price they can charge rather than the cost to comply. All these VWs have the hardware to comply. The emissions controls are there and they work. That’s how they pass the emissions test. The cheat is that the cars turn the systems off when they are not being tested in the name of better performance and efficiency. VW could keep the emissions systems operational at no additional cost but the cars won’t be as fun to drive and won’t deliver the fuel efficiency that their customers have come to expect.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    A great read for the end of the year, nice to see it written up this way, which car had the heating steering wheel? for the same money as you paid for your Honda which car would you replace it with from the fleet you had, I have no idea how many of the cars fall in the Honda price range, IIRC you leased the honda so if you want to use that as your price guide go for it, thanks.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I could wish for that job, Tim. I have the time, I have the interest and I like to think I have the writing skills to present a good review. Plus, even though I have one very specific bias, I have the ability to stand aside from that bias to give an honest review. I’d love the chance to drive 52 different cars a year (well, maybe 50, as I do take a couple of 11-day trips each year which means I’d be missing out on two of them.)

    Two potential advantages on my part: 1.) I live in a part of the US where Nor’easters are common and 2.) My driving includes an apparently unusual mix of urban, suburban AND rural roads. My average drive on any given day exceeds 30 miles, yet between my existing three vehicles I only average about 15,000 miles per year.

    Why three? Because no one vehicle meets all my needs and the vehicle I really want simply does not exist in the American market. Some come close, but are too big and thirsty for my wants and needs, even in their supposedly ‘downsized’ versions. Reviewing vehicles the way you do would give me a better chance to actually assess their usability for many different tasks without needing to focus on any one.

    (Oh, and if you haven’t noticed, I have a tendency to garner commentary, which means clicks, too.)

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      I second your nomination and would add a special commendation for your steadfast avoidance of digression into irrelevant personal asides.

      • 0 avatar
        Vulpine

        Why thank you RH. I appreciate your steadfast support. (And if you believe that, then I know this great bridge in Arizona you would like. Very famous, you know. It’s replacement was featured in a recent action movie.)

  • avatar
    Cole Grundy

    I really like the photography

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    “$48,560 2016 GMC Terrain Denali does not have keyless access”

    This is because the Terrain is absolute overpriced and outdated garbage. In my opinion, the Terrain is a worse disappointment and more overpriced than the LaCrosse.

    • 0 avatar
      APaGttH

      Ummm, the GMC Terrain Denali has a sticker price of $35,725 after delivery, and not only comes with keyless entry standard, but remote start and remote power liftgate.

      http://www.gmc.com/terrain-denali-small-luxury-suv/features-specs/trims.html

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    The LaCrosse looks to have the massive optional 20″ rubber which destroys ride and increases noise and harshness. My buddies 2014 AWD Taurus suffers the same problem. An 18″ wheel FWD LaCrosse rides and sounds much better.

  • avatar
    Von

    Putting a VW TDI as the most efficient is myopic at best. Cheating automatically disqualifies a contestant, and it’s this kind of lax attitude that enables manufacturers to keep screwing the consumers in the eternal pursuit of ever increasing profits.

    After ragging on all the all the rags about their various and numerous failings in editorial integrity and implicit collusion with the auto manufacturers, TTAC are supposed to know better.

    • 0 avatar
      Northern Pike

      Vw customers get screwed on cheap hardware,electrical components, air filter housings, etc. But this is par these days. 44 MPG is 44 MPG. Cheating is part of capitalism. If you get caught, you pay the penalty. A foreign maker will always be treated this way in North America. Instead of tariffs, we will use unattainable standards for others because we can’t compete. I may be a crank, I am not sure. (yes, though, lying is bad)

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    I was wondering how the Mustang rear seat was in real world driving.
    I asked Alex in his review of the Miata what he thought the better car was, the V6 Mustang base vs the new Miata. I really want a convertible and feel the new Miata just gets me a Mine Only short haul and never travel far car. If a V6 with a rear seat able to hold a few bags luggage as well as perhaps people for short drives, I think it at 32K is a much better deal.
    Alex says perhaps a better deal, but not a better car.
    I don’t know. I have not driven any of these…but cannot see why, given the reviews, the newest Mustang V6 is not every bit as much fun and car as the Miata…for a few thousand more.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      They’re just different cars for different tastes. You’ll have to drive them both and report back!

    • 0 avatar
      johnny_5.0

      Regarding the back seats in a Mustang, I’d say they are fine for short trips as long as the people you are stuffing back there are only average height (say 5’10” or so). In my normal seated position as the driver for a manual Mustang, I can sit behind myself reasonably comfortably. The way the back seats are angled the natural position once you are seated back there is kind of ‘knees out’. If I pull my knees together I’m brushing against the loose part of the front seat back/map pocket. On the passenger side I can scoot the seat up to what is still a comfortable level for the front passenger and gain at least another inch for the right rear spot so you’d have even more room on that side. It would probably be fine for adults of said height for short trips of 3 hours or less, but I wouldn’t want to be back there all day. Part of the issue, at least in my ’13 so maybe this has been improved now, is that there is a spot for an armrest on each side sculpted into the interior side paneling. On mine it isn’t soft touch back there, but the bigger issue is that the shape of the cutout is just bizarre. The height of the shelf is fine, but the top of the slot is angled funny and kind of pushes your elbow down. Our kindergartner is the tallest in his class but he doesn’t mind it back there in his booster. The trunk is also reasonably spacious and should work fine for luggage for short trips.

      Short version: as a mostly yours but sometimes everyone’s method of transportation you can probably get by. If you want a much more family friendly RWD coupe you’d probably have to step up to something Challenger sized or spend a lot more money on a bigger luxury coupe.

  • avatar
    SC5door

    I find it funny that you ding the Sedona on the ride, yet the handling has been praised as being much better than the Odyssey and Sienna. Factory DVD is available along with 8 passenger seating BTW on Limited models.

    http://www.motortrend.com/news/the-big-test-2014-2015-minivans/

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