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    CES 2016: Volkswagen BUDD-e Concept Previews An Electric Future


    • It Might Not Be A Microbus, But It Does Show Volkswagen's New Modular Electric Platform


    This isn't the Microbus you are looking. Despite many hoping Volkswagen would introduce a modern version of the iconic 60's van, what we got with the BUDD-e that debut at the Consumer Electronics Show last night is a cross between a Scion xB and a Volkswagen Eurovan.

     

    But let us move on because the BUDD-e has something that will be appearing in Volkswagen models in the near future. The BUDD-e is the first vehicle that is built on the Modular Electric Toolkit (or MEB). This new modular platform according to the automaker will have the range, utility, and cost needed to become the primary vehicle for many people. For the BUDD-e, the platform allows a 101-kWh lithium-ion battery pack under the floor to provide the power. Electric motors power the front and rear axles.

     

    Volkswagen says the BUDD-e has an overall range of 373 Miles in the New European Driving Cycle, a top speed of 93 MPH, and can be recharged to 80 percent in 15 minutes. Interestingly, Autoweek reports during the presentation, chairman Dr. Herbert Diess said the BUDD-e is rated at 233 Miles by the EPA. No explanation was given to the large disparity between the two ratings.

     

    The interior is a showcase of future technologies. The driver faces 12.3-inch Active Info Display screen that displays navigation, trip information, charging information, and entertainment. The steering wheel boasts a touch interface with haptic feedback, allowing the driver to interact with the menus on the Active Info Display. There is a larger 13.3-inch screen in the dash that provides more information for passengers. The pièce de résistance of the BUDD-e concept? A number of the BUDD-e's functions can be operated by gesture control, even the rear sliding doors.

     

    Source: Autoweek, Volkswagen

     

     

    Press Release is on Page 2


     

    CES 2016: ELECTRIC VOLKSWAGEN BUDD-e CONCEPT BRINGS THE MICROBUS INTO THE 21ST CENTURY

     

    Jan 5, 2016

    • New Concept showcases new MEB electric platform and offers a glimpse of next-generation connectivity and infotainment concepts
    • First VW based on the new Modular Electric Toolkit (MEB)Features 101 kWh battery that enables up to 373** miles of pure electric range
    • New interfaces signal next-generation display and ergonomic conceptsBUDD-e becomes integral part in the Internet of Things and links Smart Home and Smart Car technology
    • Gesture control 2.0 enables intuitive operation of interior and exterior featuresBold design captures brand’s heritage while providing a hint at future design direction


    Las Vegas, January 2016 —Building on the momentum from the brand’s first appearance in 2015, Volkswagen is opening a new gateway to the future at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The time machine in this case is a zero-emissions, avant-garde van dubbed BUDD-e. This is the first vehicle based on the all-new Modular Electric Platform (MEB) that is designed specifically for plug-in vehicles. With a range of up to 373 miles coupled with a charismatic, iconic design, this vehicle successfully incorporates Volkswagen’s heritage while providing a glimpse into the brand’s future.

     


    Completely and thoroughly networked, BUDD-e is a mobile interface which connects the vehicle with the world around it. With the BUDD-e Volkswagen has developed a vehicle that is more thoroughly connected with its surroundings than any car before it. An integral automotive component in the Internet of Things (IoT), BUDD-e is capable of seamlessly communicating with your Smart Home or office. Featuring next-generation infotainment technologies and offering an advanced new method of operation and information processing, BUDD-e turns travel into a fully interactive, intuitive experience. Utilizing the latest in user interface innovation, touch and gesture control merge seamlessly and result in the removal of switches and buttons inside the cabin, individual displays that blend into large infotainment panels, and digital screens instead of analog mirrors. The convergence of these new, interactive infotainment and operating systems provides a view of potential applications in Volkswagen products in the next decade.

     

    MEB: The new architecture for Volkswagen’s electric vehicles
    With BUDD-e, Volkswagen demonstrates what electric mobility could be like by the year 2019. Volkswagen’s new MEB platform will enable a series production car to have pure electric range that is on par with today’s gasoline-powered cars by the end of the decade. The time required to charge the batteries to 80 percent of capacity is anticipated to be reduced to about 15 minutes by then, marking an operational breakthrough for EVs.

     

    BUDD-e is the first concept car developed by the Volkswagen Group that is underpinned by the new Modular Electric Toolkit (MEB). This architecture heralds a fundamental change in electric cars and ushers in a revolution in automotive technology, leaving today’s fossil-fuel powered internal combustion engines and drivetrains in the past. This significant innovation will lead to huge changes in the development of electric-powered Volkswagens in the years to come, from body and interior design, to packaging and drive characteristics.

     

    The new platform is designed to have the space for electric drive components and large batteries while maintaining interior space and driving dynamics. MEB will allow for spacious interiors with the smallest possible footprint to enable easy and nimble transportation. In addition to their space, MEB vehicles will offer high levels of functionality and networking thanks to the new vehicle architecture, instrumentation, and operating systems. New and enhanced assistance systems will provide passengers with safer transport.

     

    Dynamic performance is, and will remain, a key part of Volkswagen’s DNA, and MEB vehicles will be no exception. With a focus on optimal balance, future VW vehicles based off the platform will offer the kind of agility, strong acceleration and handling that VW customers have come to expect. New battery and electric drive componentry will enable inexpensive access to e-mobility: a much longer purely electric range will allow these vehicles to become the primary transportation in many consumers’ households.

     

    The new MEB delivers a drivetrain architecture that is specifically tailored for the integration of compact electric motors and high-performance, highly-efficient batteries. The 101 kWh battery is flat, to save space, and integrated into almost the entire vehicle floor. It powers two electric motors, one to drive each axle.

     

    The front and rear motors power all four wheels and enable a top speed of 93 mph. The total range of up to 373 miles is achieved on a full charge, putting the BUDD-e on a level playing field with today’s gasoline-powered cars. Like today’s electric vehicles, the BUDDE-e offers several levels of plugged-in charging with the added benefit of cordless inductive charging.

     

    Another benefit of the new MEB is entirely new packaging opportunities, highlighted throughout the BUDD-e concept. One significant enhancement is illustrated by the arrangement of the heating and air conditioning unit. For instance, the innovative new heating and air conditioning unit has been completely integrated in the front end of the car which allows for significantly more available space, improves air quality (thanks to larger and more robust filters), and results in a reduction of fan noise inside the cabin for excellent acoustics.

     

    The concept van is 181 inches long, 76.3 inches wide and 72.2 inches high, placing it between two very successful Volkswagen models sold in Europe, the Touran and the Multivan T6. Due to its generous width, relatively long wheelbase (124.1 inches), and very short overhangs (27 inches at the front and 28.9 inches and the rear), the BUDD-e’s proportions are very appealing.

     

    Exterior design
    Inspired by the iconic charm of classic Volkswagen vans, the BUDD-e’s design focuses on the aesthetics of functionality. Practical, clean, innovative, powerful and appealing, the concept has a two-tone color scheme, with its body painted in “Nevada White” below the window edge, and the roof in “Phoenix Copper.”

     

    The front end design of the BUDD-e is unmistakably Volkswagen. The area around the VW logo can be backlit by integrated LED modules in a number of different ways, creating an external ambient light that tapers towards the sides, and a narrow stripe that continues all the way around the van. The main headlights, which also use LED technology, are placed high up, while transparent surfaces to the left and right of the headlights house integrated LED indicators that carry into the vehicle’s silhouette. Viewed from the front, the V-shaped design of these styling cues resemble elements from the original Volkswagen Microbus and Beetle, with a futuristic flare that provides an entirely new interpretation of the brand’s design DNA.

     

    The van’s silhouette is characterized by a flat and elongated roof line, long windows with glazed A-pillars, 21-inch aluminium-alloy wheels, and light modules that start at the front and reach around the vehicle’s flanks. A narrow LED stripe, which runs all the way round the car, acts as a character line and delivers exterior ambient lighting. The silhouette comes across as especially clean, thanks to an absence of door handles and wing mirrors, as these components have been completely redesigned and replaced by electronic solutions. Flared D-pillars, which also contain the LED strip for the rear lights, accentuate the design further.

     

    At the rear, the BUDD-e’s aerodynamic design promotes airflow through the gloss black D-pillars, reducing aerodynamic drag and simultaneously optimizing rear downforce. Its clean and iconic design continues all the way to the rear, with a large tailgate, reminiscent of the original Volkswagen bus. LED taillight strips reach up into the D-pillars, and the circumferential ambient light give BUDD-e a unique design unlike anything on the road. Last but not least, a C-shaped LED signature surrounds the extractable Drop Box.

     

    Next generation human-machine interface
    The interior style of the BUDD-e is characterized by a completely new and innovative human-machine interface—the instrumentation and operating concept of the future. The design is extremely clean and intuitive to use. The technical architecture of the infotainment and control systems, as well as their design, make a quantum leap akin to the jump from flip phones to smartphones or from analog timepieces to smart watches.

     

    With BUDD-e’s interface design, Volkswagen eliminates the traditional distinction between the electronic instrument cluster in front of the driver and the center console infotainment system. In a move towards comprehensive digitalization and the individualization of the driver’s workplace, these two areas have been merged to form a single information hub.

     

    The idea behind the navigation panel is rooted in the car’s original function: driving. Behind the panel resides a sliding 3D navigation map with graphics, which becomes the matrix of an interactive human-machine interface (HMI). This is accomplished via two physically separate displays that blend into one, both optically and functionally.

     

    The first component, Active Info Display, is a freely programmable instrument cluster located in front of the driver; the second is a head unit which was once a separate screen for the infotainment system. Active Info Display captures the conceptual focus on drive information, while the head unit caters to the infotainment needs of all passengers on board. Both of these areas form a united visual and textual environment, as the navigation graphics and the arrangement of media content such as the display of Points of Interest (POI), playlists, apps (App-Connect) and online services (Car-Net) are freely configurable. In addition, the main points and content can also be swapped between the Active Info Display and the head unit.

     

    All of BUDD-e’s systems are operated intuitively by gesture control, touchscreen (displays and touch slider) or voice control. The driver can choose between various intuitive control modes (multi-modal interaction). For example, a simple “Hello BUDD-e” activates the vehicle’s voice control. The system also offers completely natural speech interaction. For example, if the driver asks “turn the heat up a bit, please”, the car will respond immediately and appropriately. The system is also able to locate the passenger giving the commands, and react accordingly. If, for instance, someone sitting in the left rear seat says “It’s too hot here”, BUDD-e can immediately lower the temperature in that passenger’s zone.

     

    The BUDD-e’s freely programmable instrument cluster is an evolution of the Active Info Display first introduced by Volkswagen in 2015. A 12.3-inch curved display with a surface consisting of three individually configurable sections is centrally positioned, right in front of the driver.

     

    Drive, control, consume. In Section I, “Drive”, the center of the Active Info Display, the current travel route is highlighted through a 3D map including buildings and points of interest (POI) as well as navigation instructions. The edges of the navigation image are simultaneously the background of the entire display. In Section II, “Control”, vehicle status and assistance system information is displayed, as well as the current trip data from the on-board computer, left of the Active Info Display.

     

    In Section III, “Consume”, infotainment content such as “Audio”, “Messages”, “Calendar” and “Weather” are displayed on the right. This layout, designed to concentrate on the route and primarily for driver use, is “Driving mode”. Alternatively, as previously outlined, there is a “Travel mode”, in which the details of the route are displayed on the head unit instead, allowing route guidance and planning by the passengers. The fuel consumption data (left), speed indicator (middle) and information on the energy reserves and range (right) are always displayed in a constant position at the bottom section of the display.

     

    The head unit, the part of the new HMI easily seen and used by front-and rear-seat passengers, is located in the middle of the dashboard. Its 13.3-inch display is linked to the Active Info Display, both graphically and via software. The head unit displays the extended 3D navigation map (including buildings) as a default setting. The top level of its surface consists of freely assignable tiles that are available in two different sizes. Up to eight tiles in total can be arranged next to each other. Through this, passengers can display “Trip data“, “Audio” (playlist/song/cover) or “Messages” in “Driving mode.” “Travel mode” puts the emphasis on graphical representations of travel content. A Home button in the middle of the head unit takes the user straight out of each menu, back to the top level menu.

     

    Similar to smartphones, a menu tab is integrated at the top of the screen. Opening this menu permits quick and easy access to key functions and menu items. These include vehicle functions such as opening and closing the hatch or sliding door, and menu items like “Music”, “Places”, “Images”, “Phone”, “Connected Home”, and “Videos.” Information on basic functions such as climate control and seat heating is also shown at the bottom of the display, where the all-important button for switching between different modes also resides. An “inbox“ sited to the right of the display can be used to send passenger content to the head unit. The head unit is fitted with proximity sensors that detect an approaching hand and smoothly switch its screen from display to operating mode, allowing users to scroll through audio playlists and other functionality.

     

    Drivers can also toggle from “Driving mode” to “Travel mode” at any given moment. The Active Info Display will continue to focus on specific navigation information, while the representation of the current route is moved to the right onto the head unit, allowing it to correspond to points of interest, which are now shown in greater detail. This functionality makes it easier and more straightforward for anyone on board to locate POIs. Meanwhile, the default displays on the Active Info Display continue to provide the driver with the most important information for the journey. Switching between modes can be done by gesture control, using the Home button, or through the redesigned multifunction steering wheel.

     

    e-Mirror. This feature integrates the displays of the digital wing mirrors (e-Mirror). Images come from two external cameras, which feed into multifunction displays. When stationary, the driver and front-seat passenger can also use these panels to open and close the electric doors. The display on the driver’s side is 7.9 inches in size and the front-seat passenger has a 5.9-inch screen.

     

    Multifunction steering wheel 3.0. Volkswagen’s new multifunction steering wheel is completely switchless, operating via haptic feedback on its smooth surfaces. Individual functions are activated by pressure, or through a swipe gesture. Touching the surface gives the driver palpable haptic “pre-sensing” feedback, allowing them to localize the function. Upon activation of a function, there is another, stronger haptic reaction, making operation more intuitive than present day solutions.

     

    Operation is also no longer limited to the shift paddle, but extends over the entire surface of the operating stack. Raised patterns on the buttons make it easy to find one’s way around the wheel. The driver is also given visual feedback on the selected functions by the Active Info Display. For example, the cover of the song that is currently being played is displayed in the appropriate window. At the same time, icons appear at the edges of the square window—in all four corners. These four icons (scroll up or down, sound and menu) directly match the corresponding directions of the switches on the steering wheel’s operating area, making even the most complex operating sequences simple and intuitive.

     

    Functions such as volume control or zooming into the navigation display can alternatively be controlled through a new touch slider. This is a further enhancement of the system presented at CES in 2015 in the Golf R Touch concept. This new stage of development is characterized by higher sensor resolution, clearly noticeable for driver and front-seat passenger alike, due to the system’s optimized precision and performance. This enables the touch slider to recognize not only the number of fingers on the slider, but their motion as well.

     

    Gesture control 2.0. Volkswagen has significantly enhanced the gesture control system presented in the Golf R Touch at CES in 2015. In the BUDD-e, experts from the Body Electronics division have incorporated sensor technology already capable of recognizing people as they are approaching the vehicle. For the exterior, this is accomplished through the use of infra-red sensors. An intuitive hand gesture opens the BUDD-e’s sliding door. A simple foot movement of the “Virtual Pedal 3.0” opens the electrically operated tailgate, marking a further development of the “Easy Open” function. The gesture control system inside the BUDD-e’s interior is more intuitive than ever before, with the maximum operating distance having been significantly increased. Cameras are used to register if a passenger in the rear compartment wants to open the sliding door, for instance. Interactive displays and projections also assist the driver and passengers during operation. Gestures are recognized without the gesture control system needing to be explicitly activated—as was the case in the Golf R Touch—making it an integral part of operating procedures. Volkswagen has significantly enhanced the gesture control system presented in the Golf R Touch at CES in 2015. In the BUDD-e, experts from the Body Electronics division have incorporated sensor technology already capable of recognizing people as they are approaching the vehicle. For the exterior, this is accomplished through the use of infra-red sensors. An intuitive hand gesture opens the BUDD-e’s sliding door. A simple foot movement of the “Virtual Pedal 3.0” opens the electrically operated tailgate, marking a further development of the “Easy Open” function. The gesture control system inside the BUDD-e’s interior is more intuitive than ever before, with the maximum operating distance having been significantly increased. Cameras are used to register if a passenger in the rear compartment wants to open the sliding door, for instance. Interactive displays and projections also assist the driver and passengers during operation. Gestures are recognized without the gesture control system needing to be explicitly activated—as was the case in the Golf R Touch—making it an integral part of operating procedures.

     

    Personalized light. Volkswagen has demonstrated how the dominant color of the display illumination and matching ambient lighting can be individually adapted using the touch slider in the Golf R Touch concept. Now, this functionality also includes opening/start-up and parking/closing of the new BUDD-e. When the car is opened, cockpit and ambient lighting bring the interior to life: when parked, standby mode is initiated. The ambient lighting system implemented in the BUDD-e is a further development of this system. While the previous application was primarily influenced by the driver and the front-seat passenger, controls now extend to the entire interior of the car. It is the first car in which ambient lighting interacts with the gesture control system, and can also be adjusted to suit the surrounding environment.

     

    A car for the Internet of Things
    Not only does the BUDD-e’s completely new infotainment concept make travelling more interactive and media more tangible, it also creates a link between the car and the outside world. With BUDD-e, passengers will be able to access their homes and workplaces to perform tasks such as controlling the air conditioning, turning lights on or off, or simply looking to see if their kids are home yet.

     

    BUDD-e will not only provide a connection to an interconnected world, but create an interactive interface to its surroundings. It is conceivable that in the near future, consumables—such as windshield wiper blades—or other kinds of personal items could not only be ordered from the car, but also delivered to it using a “Drop Box” that is accessible from the outside. The vehicle “reads” an access code to open the Drop Box for authorized parcel delivery services, using a digital key, essentially making the vehicle a mobile mailbox.

     

    At home on the road. Most modern day smart home functions are controlled using smartphone apps, produced by various manufacturers. Volkswagen has found a solution that allows users to access smart home functions while remaining focused on the road ahead. With App-Connect—Volkswagen’s advanced smartphone integration platform—the BUDD-e makes it possible to control certain “Connected Home” functions from the car, while driving. In cooperation with Korean electronics firm LG, Volkswagen will show how it is possible to obtain information about a smart fridge from the BUDD-e. It’s also possible to put the whole house into an energy-saving sleep mode while still in the vehicle. In the future, the BUDD-e will also automatically turn on lights in and around the house as soon as it approaches through home net automation.

     

    At CES, Volkswagen will demonstrate, together with the German manufacturer Doorbird, how MirrorLink™ can be used in connection with the newly developed Home-Net Viewer. The interface can display images from cameras mounted in and around the house on one of the car’s multiple screens (a function equally conceivable with future Apple CarPlay® and Android Auto™ applications). If a visitor rings the doorbell at home, a picture of them, taken by the home camera, is sent to the screen of the infotainment system. The functionality even makes it possible to speak to the visitor using the car’s hands-free kit and, if desired, open the door for them.

     

    Don’t forget anything. BUDD-e can remind its occupants if they have forgotten anything in the car, via their smart watch and/or smartphone. You can also find things in the car using “Home-Net don’t forget”. Through an inventory list, the driver or passengers can see everything that has been put in the car, and if they are still there. The intelligent “Reminder” also informs when particular items should be remembered. For example, if rain is forecast, BUDD-e will notify the driver if there is an umbrella in the car. Relevant items are fitted with a transmitter (a small sticker) in advance, making it possible for the car to locate them. The “Home-Net don’t forget” app uses an encrypted wireless interface, meaning that it is impossible for the items to be located from outside the car, or by unauthorized users.

     

    Smart Gesture. Volkswagen plans to become one of the first manufacturers to integrate gesture control into affordable, mass production cars. BUDD-e demonstrates a broad range of what is possible in the future. Functionality will include in-car control functions which operate certain things at home. A good example of this is the familiar “Easy Open” function, where the BUDD-e can use a laser to project a virtual footprint in front of its hatch. If an authorized user kicks this position, the hatch opens automatically. Opening the door at home will work in the same manner: BUDD-e will project a footprint in front of the door and if the person who lives there puts their foot on it, the door opens—which is very handy if you have your arms full with groceries or children.

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    I have to say that my initial reaction is I like this.

     

    373 miles versus 233 miles, as long as you have over 200 miles an EV auto like this will appeal to many buyers as an awesome commuter car with errand running range. In other words, range anxiety will be a thing of the past.

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    I like the underlying tech.

     

    But, big detractors.

     

    Near-future? 3-5 years seems likely as to when it'll arrive in a product we can see.

     

    But where will they actually realize the 15 minute charge times?

     

    They have ZERO infrastructure in North America to do so right now, and I guess automakers will collaborate eventually to have it. And what there is isn't usually free or placed in strategic places of the large traffic corridors of North America.

     

    And vehicles plugged in at home, there really isn't an issue of charging if you charge every night with even a Level 2 capable charger installed at home. Then there is no functional difference in results with a charge time of even 6 hours or less.

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    Perfect.

     

    But this industry is just too damn dynamic, and it seems like it isn't just VW gunning for glory.

     

    They are presenting nifty regimes of hope with BUDD-e of how they'll reclaim themselves, but I want real product out there now for someone to say the preeminent leader here, Tesla, is defeated.

     

    And that just isn't happening at the rate I want it to. The conventional makes are still too slow. 

     

    Faraway Future (I like this nickname I give them) will have an electric car with 200+ miles of range before VW will. That's the big problem.

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    I like the underlying tech.

     

    But, big detractors.

     

    Near-future? 3-5 years seems likely as to when it'll arrive in a product we can see.

     

    But where will they actually realize the 15 minute charge times?

     

    They have ZERO infrastructure in North America to do so right now, and I guess automakers will collaborate eventually to have it. And what there is isn't usually free or placed in strategic places of the large traffic corridors of North America.

     

    And vehicles plugged in at home, there really isn't an issue of charging if you charge every night with even a Level 2 capable charger installed at home. Then there is no functional difference in results with a charge time of even 6 hours or less.

     

    From what I have been reading from those at CES, this is what Volkswagen believes EV technology will stand at come 2019/2020. Here's a quote from Autoblog,

     

     

    While the company claims that the Budd-e represents a vehicle that has 373 miles of range and can charge to 80 percent of battery capacity in about 15 minutes, this doesn't represent any technology currently available to VW. These numbers are projections about where VW thinks battery technology will be by the end of the decade.

    As for the 80 Percent recharge in 15 Minutes, that's really dependent if Porsche can get the Mission E all set since it uses an 800V recharge system. 

     

    I'm bit a dubious on a number of things with this concept.

     

    Faraway Future (I like this nickname I give them) will have an electric car with 200+ miles of range before VW will. That's the big problem.

    Heh. I can't be the only one who thinks Faraday Future sounds like an evil company in a dystopian universe. 

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      The front bucket seats are quite comfortable and will hold you in if you decide to tackle that special road aggressively. A set of power adjustments makes it easy for anyone to find a comfortable position. The back seat is best reserved for small kids or extra storage as legroom is nonexistent. You would think that the Camaro Convertible wouldn’t feel as claustrophobic as the coupe since you can put the top down, but it isn’t. Sitting in the Camaro convertible with the top down, I felt like I was being contained in a small box. Blame the high belt line for this.
      Powertrain:
      Power for the Buick Cascada comes from a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic. The figures are impressive for this engine. But drop it into the Cascada and it is quite disappointing. Performance is very lethargic as the engine has to overcome the nearly two tons of Cascada. It feels like an eternity getting up to speed and you’ll find yourself putting the pedal to the floor to get the vehicle moving at a sufficient rate. EPA figures for the Cascada stand at 20 City/27 Highway/23 Combined. My average for the week landed at 21 mpg. 
      The Camaro’s engine lineup includes a 3.6L V6, turbocharged 2.0L four, and our SS tester’s 6.2L V8. The V8 pumps out 455 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. We had the optional eight-speed automatic, but you can get a six-speed manual. The V8 makes the Camaro Convertible stupidly fun. I found myself wanting to roll down the window at a stop light to tell the vehicle next to me “let me play you the song of my people” before stomping on the accelerator and having the V8 roar into life as the light turns green. The engine will pin you in your seat if you floor it and there is a never-ending stream of power throughout the rev range. A nice touch is the optional dual-mode exhaust system that only amplifies the noises of the V8. The eight-speed automatic is ofine around town and on the highway but stumbles somewhat in enthusiastic driving where it takes a moment to downshift when slowing down. Fuel economy for the Camaro SS Convertible stands at 17 City/28 Highway/20 Combined. I got about 19 mpg during my week-long test.
      Ride & Handling:
      Describing the ride and handling characteristics of the Cascada can be summed up in one word; smooth. Buick’s engineers tuned the Cascada’s suspension to deliver an almost magic carpet ride. Even with a set of twenty-inch wheels as standard equipment, the Cascada is able to deal with rough roads with no issues. Around corners, the Cascada feels planted and body roll is kept in check. But don’t plan on doing anything enthusiastic with it. The steering is a little bit too light for it. Drive it like a relaxed cruiser and you’ll enjoy it. Wind buffeting is minimal with either the windows rolled up or down.
      The Camaro Convertible is shocking as to how well it handles. Part of this comes down to optional Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) system which limits body roll. Chevrolet engineers also worked on improving the structural rigidity of the Camaro. The combination makes the convertible just as good as the coupe in corners. Direction change is fast and there is plenty of grip coming from the meaty tires. Where the Camaro Convertible falters is the ride quality. The SS comes with a set of twenty-inch wheels. While they do look sharp, it makes for a somewhat unbearable ride. Bumps of any size are clearly transmitted to those sitting inside. MRC does its best to provide a comfortable ride, but it might be worth considering going down to a smaller wheel to improve the ride. Wind buffeting is kept in check with the windows up or down.
      Price:
      The 2016 Buick Cascada starts at $33,065 for the base model. Our up-level Premium starts at $36,065 and comes to an as-tested price of $37,385 thanks to the vehicle being finished in an optional blue color. You really don’t get much in terms of additional features when compared to the base Cascada aside from some additional safety features - front and rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, and forward collision alert - and automatic wipers. Also for that amount of cash, you could with the Audi A3 cabriolet which offers a slightly more premium interior. But you would lose out on the larger back seat of the Cascada. You would be better off with the base Cascada.
      If you have your heart set on a Camaro Convertible, be ready to shell out the cash. The 2016 Camaro 2SS Convertible carries a base sticker of $48,300 - $6,005 more expensive than the coupe. Add on the list of options fitted to our tester such as the eight-speed automatic, magnetic ride control, and dual-mode exhaust system and you’ll end up with an as-tested price of $54,075. I’ll give you a moment to pick yourself up from the floor due to the price shock. The Camaro is nice car all-around, but is it really worth dropping $54,000?! We’re not so sure. 
      Verdict:
      Both of vehicles have issues that don’t make them as appealing. The Cascada’s engine either needs to be kicked to the curb or head off to the gym to get a bit more power. It would nice if Buick could also figure how to put in the dash from the updated Encore into the Cascada, although that might prove to be an engineering nightmare and something that would be better suited for the next-generation model. The Camaro Convertible’s price tag will make a number of people and their bank accounts cry. Also for being a convertible, the Camaro still feels as claustrophobic as the coupe.
      But when you drop the tops in both models, you forget all about the issues. Instead, you begin to take in the sky and rush of the wind. This makes you remember why you bought a convertible, to enjoy the feeling of openness. It is only when you put the top back up that makes you wonder if you can live with the issues. In the case of the Cascada, the answer is no. The Camaro is a maybe.
       
       
      Disclaimer: General Motors Provided the Cascada and Camaro; Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2016
      Make: Buick
      Model: Cascada
      Trim: Premium
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L SIDI DOHC with VVT
      Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic
      Horsepower @ RPM: 200 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 207 @ 1,800 - 4,500, 221 @ 2,200 - 4,000 (with overboost)
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/27/23
      Curb Weight: 3,979 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Gliwice, Poland
      Base Price: $36,065
      As Tested Price: $37,385 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Deep Sky Metallic - $395.00
      Year: 2016
      Make: Chevrolet
      Model: Camaro Convertible
      Trim: SS
      Engine: 6.2L VVT DI V8
      Driveline: Rear-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic
      Horsepower @ RPM: 455 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 455 @ 4,400
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/28/20
      Curb Weight: 3,966 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Lansing, MI
      Base Price: $48,300
      As Tested Price: $54,075 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Magnetic Ride Control - $1,695.00
      Eight-Speed Automatic - $1,495.00
      Dual-Mode Exhaust - $895.00
      Chevrolet MyLink with Navigation - $495.00
      20" 5-Split Spoke Aluminum Wheels - $200.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      Summertime means something different for everyone. For some, it’s time to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather. For others, it is the time to take that trip you have been thinking about for awhile. If you’re an automotive writer like myself, summertime means convertible season. The feeling of having the roof down and enjoying the expanded view of the sky is something quite special. This summer saw two of GM’s latest convertibles roll into the Cheers & Gears’ Detroit garage, the new Buick Cascada and recently redesigned Chevrolet Camaro SS convertible. How did these two droptops fare in the summer heat?
      Exterior:
      There is no denying the Opel/Vauxhall roots of the Buick Cascada as it is just basically the Cascada sold in Europe with Buick basing. But that isn’t a bad thing since the Cascada is handsome for the most part. The front features a new grille design and headlights with LED accents. The side profile reveals short overhangs for the front and rear. These overhangs make the side look somewhat oddly proportioned. A set 20-inch wheels come standard. Around back, a long chrome bar runs along the trunk lid into the taillights. 
      On the opposite end is the Chevrolet Camaro. If you’re looking for something quiet and doesn’t bring attention, then maybe you should pass on it. Redesigned last year, Chevrolet retained the Camaro’s basic profile with its sharp lines and rounded corners. But major work was done on the front and rear ends. The front features a narrow top grille and slim headlights. A massive grille sits underneath between a set of deep cuts into the front bumper. The back has been cleaned up with a new trunk lid design, rectangular headlights, and quad-exhaust tips. 
      One item both the Cascada and Camaro share is a fabric top. Putting the top down or up takes under 20 seconds for both vehicles. With the tops down, both vehicles look quite good. But put the tops up and the Cascada is the better looking of the two. I can’t put my finger as to why, but I think it deals with how the Cascada has a little bit more glass than the Camaro. 
      Interior:
      Unfortunately, both the Cascada and Camaro fall on their face when it comes to the interior for different reasons.
      In the case of the Cascada, it features the dash from the outgoing Verano and Encore. This reveals that the Cascada is older despite what Buick may have you think. For example, the center stack is laden with buttons and it will take you a few moments to find the specific one you’re looking for. Not helping is the Cascada using GM’s last-generation infotainment system. While the system is easy to use, the interface is looking very dated. It would have been nice if Buick could have slipped in the dash from the updated Encore into the Cascade, but that would have likely introduced more problems than solutions.
      On the upside, the Cascada’s interior is well-built and features decent quality materials. A fair amount of dash and door panels feature some soft touch material. The front seats are comfortable for short and long distance trips. Power adjustments for the driver’s seat make it easy to find a position that works. One touch Buick deserves applause for is the seat belt presenter. The front seat belts are nestled away when the Cascada is turned off to make it easier to get in and out of the back seat. But when you start it up, the presenter extends for both the driver and passenger to buckle in. The back seat provides enough space for kids or small adults. Taller folks like myself will find minimal legroom. With the top up, anyone sitting back here will feel very confined. With the top down, this feeling goes away. 
      Step into the 2016 Camaro Convertible’s interior and you’ll find the same retro ideas from the previous model such as the shape of the dash and circular vents. But Chevrolet improved the overall usability of the Camaro’s interior. For example, the retro-inspired engine information gauges that were placed ahead of the shifter in the previous generation are gone. In its place are a set of air vents that also control the temperature of the climate control system. 
      Our tester featured the optional Chevrolet MyLink system with navigation. We know we’re beating a dead horse with our complaints with MyLink such as a slow response when going from various screens and recognizing devices plugged into the USB ports. But you would think that GM would maybe issue an update or something by now to fix some of these issues? Like other Chevrolet models we have driven this year, the Camaro’s MyLink system comes with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. We tried CarPlay and found it to be easier to use than most automaker’s infotainment systems. But, we had issues with apps crashing and the system not always recognizing our phone.
      The front bucket seats are quite comfortable and will hold you in if you decide to tackle that special road aggressively. A set of power adjustments makes it easy for anyone to find a comfortable position. The back seat is best reserved for small kids or extra storage as legroom is nonexistent. You would think that the Camaro Convertible wouldn’t feel as claustrophobic as the coupe since you can put the top down, but it isn’t. Sitting in the Camaro convertible with the top down, I felt like I was being contained in a small box. Blame the high belt line for this.
      Powertrain:
      Power for the Buick Cascada comes from a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 200 horsepower and 207 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic. The figures are impressive for this engine. But drop it into the Cascada and it is quite disappointing. Performance is very lethargic as the engine has to overcome the nearly two tons of Cascada. It feels like an eternity getting up to speed and you’ll find yourself putting the pedal to the floor to get the vehicle moving at a sufficient rate. EPA figures for the Cascada stand at 20 City/27 Highway/23 Combined. My average for the week landed at 21 mpg. 
      The Camaro’s engine lineup includes a 3.6L V6, turbocharged 2.0L four, and our SS tester’s 6.2L V8. The V8 pumps out 455 horsepower and 455 pound-feet of torque. We had the optional eight-speed automatic, but you can get a six-speed manual. The V8 makes the Camaro Convertible stupidly fun. I found myself wanting to roll down the window at a stop light to tell the vehicle next to me “let me play you the song of my people” before stomping on the accelerator and having the V8 roar into life as the light turns green. The engine will pin you in your seat if you floor it and there is a never-ending stream of power throughout the rev range. A nice touch is the optional dual-mode exhaust system that only amplifies the noises of the V8. The eight-speed automatic is ofine around town and on the highway but stumbles somewhat in enthusiastic driving where it takes a moment to downshift when slowing down. Fuel economy for the Camaro SS Convertible stands at 17 City/28 Highway/20 Combined. I got about 19 mpg during my week-long test.
      Ride & Handling:
      Describing the ride and handling characteristics of the Cascada can be summed up in one word; smooth. Buick’s engineers tuned the Cascada’s suspension to deliver an almost magic carpet ride. Even with a set of twenty-inch wheels as standard equipment, the Cascada is able to deal with rough roads with no issues. Around corners, the Cascada feels planted and body roll is kept in check. But don’t plan on doing anything enthusiastic with it. The steering is a little bit too light for it. Drive it like a relaxed cruiser and you’ll enjoy it. Wind buffeting is minimal with either the windows rolled up or down.
      The Camaro Convertible is shocking as to how well it handles. Part of this comes down to optional Magnetic Ride Control (MRC) system which limits body roll. Chevrolet engineers also worked on improving the structural rigidity of the Camaro. The combination makes the convertible just as good as the coupe in corners. Direction change is fast and there is plenty of grip coming from the meaty tires. Where the Camaro Convertible falters is the ride quality. The SS comes with a set of twenty-inch wheels. While they do look sharp, it makes for a somewhat unbearable ride. Bumps of any size are clearly transmitted to those sitting inside. MRC does its best to provide a comfortable ride, but it might be worth considering going down to a smaller wheel to improve the ride. Wind buffeting is kept in check with the windows up or down.
      Price:
      The 2016 Buick Cascada starts at $33,065 for the base model. Our up-level Premium starts at $36,065 and comes to an as-tested price of $37,385 thanks to the vehicle being finished in an optional blue color. You really don’t get much in terms of additional features when compared to the base Cascada aside from some additional safety features - front and rear parking sensors, lane departure warning, and forward collision alert - and automatic wipers. Also for that amount of cash, you could with the Audi A3 cabriolet which offers a slightly more premium interior. But you would lose out on the larger back seat of the Cascada. You would be better off with the base Cascada.
      If you have your heart set on a Camaro Convertible, be ready to shell out the cash. The 2016 Camaro 2SS Convertible carries a base sticker of $48,300 - $6,005 more expensive than the coupe. Add on the list of options fitted to our tester such as the eight-speed automatic, magnetic ride control, and dual-mode exhaust system and you’ll end up with an as-tested price of $54,075. I’ll give you a moment to pick yourself up from the floor due to the price shock. The Camaro is nice car all-around, but is it really worth dropping $54,000?! We’re not so sure. 
      Verdict:
      Both of vehicles have issues that don’t make them as appealing. The Cascada’s engine either needs to be kicked to the curb or head off to the gym to get a bit more power. It would nice if Buick could also figure how to put in the dash from the updated Encore into the Cascada, although that might prove to be an engineering nightmare and something that would be better suited for the next-generation model. The Camaro Convertible’s price tag will make a number of people and their bank accounts cry. Also for being a convertible, the Camaro still feels as claustrophobic as the coupe.
      But when you drop the tops in both models, you forget all about the issues. Instead, you begin to take in the sky and rush of the wind. This makes you remember why you bought a convertible, to enjoy the feeling of openness. It is only when you put the top back up that makes you wonder if you can live with the issues. In the case of the Cascada, the answer is no. The Camaro is a maybe.
       
       
      Disclaimer: General Motors Provided the Cascada and Camaro; Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2016
      Make: Buick
      Model: Cascada
      Trim: Premium
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L SIDI DOHC with VVT
      Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Six-Speed Automatic
      Horsepower @ RPM: 200 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 207 @ 1,800 - 4,500, 221 @ 2,200 - 4,000 (with overboost)
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/27/23
      Curb Weight: 3,979 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Gliwice, Poland
      Base Price: $36,065
      As Tested Price: $37,385 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Deep Sky Metallic - $395.00
      Year: 2016
      Make: Chevrolet
      Model: Camaro Convertible
      Trim: SS
      Engine: 6.2L VVT DI V8
      Driveline: Rear-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic
      Horsepower @ RPM: 455 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 455 @ 4,400
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 17/28/20
      Curb Weight: 3,966 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Lansing, MI
      Base Price: $48,300
      As Tested Price: $54,075 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Magnetic Ride Control - $1,695.00
      Eight-Speed Automatic - $1,495.00
      Dual-Mode Exhaust - $895.00
      Chevrolet MyLink with Navigation - $495.00
      20" 5-Split Spoke Aluminum Wheels - $200.00
    • By William Maley
      Three years might not seem like a long time. But in the automotive industry, it is an eternity. In that short amount time, a vehicle may be surpassed by competitors and sales may take a dive. Take for example the Nissan Altima. When the redesigned model was launched back in 2013, it was considered to be above-average and some key advantages over rivals. But time has passed and the Altima has been surpassed in a number of key areas by refreshed/redesigned competitors. Nissan knew they needed to do something to get the Altima back in contention. Last year, they introduced a refreshed Altima that would hopefully give them a fighting chance in the class. Let's see if it does.
      If you were expecting some big changes to the Altima’s exterior in this mid-cycle refresh, then you’ll be disappointed. The front end features a new V-shaped grille and revised headlights to bring the model in line with the current Nissan design language. Updated taillights and new wheel choices finish off the changes. The interior is mostly left alone in this refresh aside from some new choices of trim pieces. That isn’t a bad thing as the Altima’s interior is a nice place to be in with ample space for passengers, a fair amount of soft-touch materials used throughout, and a simple dash layout. 
      One item we do wish Nissan would have addressed in this refresh is the NissanConnect infotainment system. All Altimas come with a five-inch touchscreen as standard, while our SL tester featured the optional seven-inch screen. This system has a number of issues ranging from an interface that makes it look older than it really is to the system crashing our iPod on a regular basis. More worrying was the system crashing and rebooting twice during our week-long test. It would be nice for Nissan to take the system out of the Maxima and Murano and put it into the rest of their lineup as it doesn’t have the issues listed here.
      Under the hood of the Altima are the same engines that have powered it since 2013. Our Altima SL tester came with the standard 2.5L four-cylinder with 183 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. Optional is a 3.5L V6 with 270 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque. No matter which engine you pick, a Xtronic CVT routes the power to the front wheels. The 2.5 does quite well around town as the engine gets up to speed at a decent rate. Getting onto the highway is another story as you’ll need to almost floor the gas pedal to get up to speed at a somewhat decent rate. This also brings forth an abundance of engine noise, something we complained about in our 2014 Nissan Altima SL review. At least the Xtronic CVT is responsive when you step on the accelerator and the illusion of the stepped gears can make most buyers believe they’re driving an automatic.
      The EPA rates the Altima’s fuel economy at 27 City/39 Highway/31 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 31.7 MPG.
      The Altima’s ride and handling characteristics are in the middle. The suspension does a decent job of soaking up most bumps, but some larger ones will make their way inside. The recently redesigned Chevrolet Malibu and Volkswagen Passat do a better job in this regard. In the bends, the Altima feels composed and shows little body roll. But the steering is way too light and doesn’t offer enough feel to feel sporty. If you want that, a Mazda6 or Ford Fusion should be on the list.
      How do you sum up the 2016 Nissan Altima? It is a competent midsize sedan. But competent isn’t a strong selling point to a midsize sedan as you can apply to any model in the class. What you need is something that makes your model stand out whether in terms of design or features. The Altima doesn’t have anything like that.
      Picking the Altima may be the safe choice, but it be might a choice you regret.
      Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Altima, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2016
      Make: Nissan
      Model: Altima
      Trim: 2.5 SL
      Engine: 2.5L DOHC Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Xtronic CVT
      Horsepower @ RPM: 182 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 180 @ 4,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/39/31
      Curb Weight: 3,254 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Smyrna, TN
      Base Price: $28,570
      As Tested Price: $32,115 (Includes $835.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Technology Package - $1,700
      Moonroof Package - $800.00
      Carpeted Floormats and Trunk Mat - $210.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      Three years might not seem like a long time. But in the automotive industry, it is an eternity. In that short amount time, a vehicle may be surpassed by competitors and sales may take a dive. Take for example the Nissan Altima. When the redesigned model was launched back in 2013, it was considered to be above-average and some key advantages over rivals. But time has passed and the Altima has been surpassed in a number of key areas by refreshed/redesigned competitors. Nissan knew they needed to do something to get the Altima back in contention. Last year, they introduced a refreshed Altima that would hopefully give them a fighting chance in the class. Let's see if it does.
      If you were expecting some big changes to the Altima’s exterior in this mid-cycle refresh, then you’ll be disappointed. The front end features a new V-shaped grille and revised headlights to bring the model in line with the current Nissan design language. Updated taillights and new wheel choices finish off the changes. The interior is mostly left alone in this refresh aside from some new choices of trim pieces. That isn’t a bad thing as the Altima’s interior is a nice place to be in with ample space for passengers, a fair amount of soft-touch materials used throughout, and a simple dash layout. 
      One item we do wish Nissan would have addressed in this refresh is the NissanConnect infotainment system. All Altimas come with a five-inch touchscreen as standard, while our SL tester featured the optional seven-inch screen. This system has a number of issues ranging from an interface that makes it look older than it really is to the system crashing our iPod on a regular basis. More worrying was the system crashing and rebooting twice during our week-long test. It would be nice for Nissan to take the system out of the Maxima and Murano and put it into the rest of their lineup as it doesn’t have the issues listed here.
      Under the hood of the Altima are the same engines that have powered it since 2013. Our Altima SL tester came with the standard 2.5L four-cylinder with 183 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. Optional is a 3.5L V6 with 270 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque. No matter which engine you pick, a Xtronic CVT routes the power to the front wheels. The 2.5 does quite well around town as the engine gets up to speed at a decent rate. Getting onto the highway is another story as you’ll need to almost floor the gas pedal to get up to speed at a somewhat decent rate. This also brings forth an abundance of engine noise, something we complained about in our 2014 Nissan Altima SL review. At least the Xtronic CVT is responsive when you step on the accelerator and the illusion of the stepped gears can make most buyers believe they’re driving an automatic.
      The EPA rates the Altima’s fuel economy at 27 City/39 Highway/31 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 31.7 MPG.
      The Altima’s ride and handling characteristics are in the middle. The suspension does a decent job of soaking up most bumps, but some larger ones will make their way inside. The recently redesigned Chevrolet Malibu and Volkswagen Passat do a better job in this regard. In the bends, the Altima feels composed and shows little body roll. But the steering is way too light and doesn’t offer enough feel to feel sporty. If you want that, a Mazda6 or Ford Fusion should be on the list.
      How do you sum up the 2016 Nissan Altima? It is a competent midsize sedan. But competent isn’t a strong selling point to a midsize sedan as you can apply to any model in the class. What you need is something that makes your model stand out whether in terms of design or features. The Altima doesn’t have anything like that.
      Picking the Altima may be the safe choice, but it be might a choice you regret.
      Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Altima, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2016
      Make: Nissan
      Model: Altima
      Trim: 2.5 SL
      Engine: 2.5L DOHC Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, Xtronic CVT
      Horsepower @ RPM: 182 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 180 @ 4,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/39/31
      Curb Weight: 3,254 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Smyrna, TN
      Base Price: $28,570
      As Tested Price: $32,115 (Includes $835.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Technology Package - $1,700
      Moonroof Package - $800.00
      Carpeted Floormats and Trunk Mat - $210.00
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