My $2.2 Million Fleet In 2015 - The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Timothy Cain
by Timothy Cain

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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

Timothy Cain
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  • TrailerTrash TrailerTrash on Dec 17, 2015

    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.

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    • Johnny_5.0 Johnny_5.0 on Dec 18, 2015

      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.

  • SC5door SC5door on Dec 21, 2015

    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/

  • Tane94 Workhorse probably will be added to the heap of failed EV companies.
  • Freddie Instead of taking the day off, how about an article on the connection between Black Americans and the auto industry and car culture? Having done zero research, two topics pop into my head: Chrysler designer/executive Ralph Gilles, and the famous (infamous?) "Green Book".
  • Tane94 Either Elio Motors or Aptera Motors.
  • Billccm I think we will see history repeat itself. The French acquired AMC in the 1980s, discovered they couldn't make easy money, sold AMC off to Chrysler. Jeep is all that remained. This time the French acquired FCA, and they are discovering no easy profits. Assume an Asian manufacturer will acquire what remains of Chrysler, but this time Jeep and RAM are the only survivors.
  • William I feel very sorry for those who attempt to use an attack on a product as a way to deprecate an individual whose politics they disagree with. They delude themselves and mislead others.
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