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    Quick Drive: Midsize Sedan Three-Pack


    • Three Midsize Sedans Go Under the Review Microscope


    The past few months at the Cheers & Gears Detroit Bureau has seen some midsize sedans make a second appearance. One has gone the eco-friendly route, another came with some added zip in its sporty model, and the last has undergone some significant changes. The three sedans in question are the Hyundai Sonata Eco, Toyota Camry XSE V6, and 2016 Mazda6.

     

    Now if you want to know what we thought of these vehicles originally, you check out our reviews here.

     

    2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport
    2014 Mazda6 Grand Touring
    2015 Toyota Camry SE Hybrid

     

    Next: 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco


     

    The current Hyundai Sonata is a bit head scratcher. When the new model was shown last year at the New York Auto Show, it looked like Hyundai dropped the ball. While the automaker had made a number of improvements in terms of the interior and the engine, the big item of the exterior design was somewhat forgotten. The sleek shape had been changed for something a bit more conservative. This has caused sales to slump and Hyundai to order a refresh a year sooner than expected.

     

    But even with these problems, is there a Sonata model that can stand above the rest? As we found out earlier this year, it isn’t the Sonata Sport 2.0T as it has a number of problems with being sporty. Let’s see if the Hyundai Sonata Eco can do it.

     


    2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco 5


    What makes the Eco different from other Sonata models is under the hood. Hyundai employs a turbocharged 1.6L four-cylinder with 177 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. Aside from this and an Eco badge on the trunk, it looks like the standard Sonata. But the Eco doesn’t drive like the standard model. With the torque arriving at 1,500 and continuing towards 4,500 rpm, this means the Eco’s has power readily available when you’re leaving a stop and continues onwards. Power comes on smoothly and linearly. The only downside to this powertrain is the dual-clutch transmission stumbles a bit due to slow shifts and occasional juddering. It should be noted that Hyundai has made some improvements to the DCT since we’ve driven the Sonata Eco, and the improvements are noticeable when we drove Tucson with this transmission.

     

    The other difference between the Sonata Eco and other trims comes in the form of fuel economy. The EPA rates the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco at 28 City/38 Highway/32 Combined. This is slightly better than the standard Sonata with 25 City/37 Highway/29 Combined. My week of driving saw an average of 33.4 MPG, slightly above the combined figure.

     

    In the ride and handling department, the Sonata Eco is quite a comfortable car as the suspension keeps most bumps from reaching the interior. Road and wind noise are kept to acceptable levels. Those who want a bit of sport should look towards the Mazda6 as it offers the driver a bit more information and enjoyment on the curves.

     

    The 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco starts at $23,275, about $2,125 more than the base SE model. Considering what comes standard - a power drivers seat, backup camera, five-inch touchscreen radio, and a chrome front grille - the Eco is quite a good value. Our test Eco came with the optional tech package which adds $4,100 to the base price. But the package transforms the Eco into a handsomely loaded model with such features as blind-spot monitoring, dual-zone climate control, eight-inch touchscreen with navigation, leather seats, heated front seats, and push-button start.

     

    The Eco may be the best all-around trim in the Hyundai Sonata lineup. Not only does it offer impressive fuel economy for a midsize sedan, it comes well equipped and boasts a price tag that will not make you wonder if you spent too much. For many, it might be the right sedan.

     

     

    Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Sonata Eco, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

     

    Year: 2015
    Make: Hyundai
    Model: Sonata
    Trim: Eco
    Engine: 1.6L Turbocharged, Direct-Injected Four-Cylinder
    Driveline: Seven-Speed Dual Clutch, Front-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 178 @ 5,500
    Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500 - 4,500
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/38/32
    Curb Weight: 3,250 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, AL
    Base Price: $23,275
    As Tested Price: $28,310 (Includes $810.00 Destination Charge)

     

    Options:
    Tech Package - $4,100
    Carpet Floor Mats - $125.00

     

    Next: 2016 Mazda6 Grand Touring


     

    Small changes can make a big difference to a vehicle. No one is a bigger believer to this mantra than Mazda. A classic example is the CX-5. When it launched in 2013, the crossover drew me in with its sharp looks and impressive handling dynamics. But the 2.0L four-cylinder was a bit of a let down as it was a bit underpowered for the vehicle’s weight. Mazda went back and installed a larger 2.5L four-cylinder for the CX-5 and it made a world of difference in overall performance. So imagine taking this idea of making small changes and doing it to another vehicle. Mazda has done that with the 2016 Mazda sedan. Let see what the changes are and if they make the 6 an even better sedan.

     


    2016 Mazda6 Grand Touring 5


    The outside get some minor changes such as the grille slats draped in chrome and a longer chrome bar that runs underneath the grille. The big changes for the 2016 model are for the interior as Mazda has taken the interior from 3 and placed it into 6. The new dash brings forth improved materials to make it look and feel more premium, along with Mazda’s new infotainment system. This system is a massive improvement over the older one in terms of performance and overall usability. However, Mazda’s system has an odd problem with the navigation system as it shows you traveling on a different road a few hundred feet away than the one you are currently on. Now the system does correct itself, but it takes up to half a minute.

     

    One other change for the 2016 Mazda6 is the optional i-Eloop system. This is a regenerative braking system that recycles the kinetic energy that is moving the vehicle into electricity that is stored in a capacitor. The capacitor then feeds that power to various electronic components to help reduce the load on the alternator and improve fuel economy. Now Mazda says the system delivers up five percent better fuel economy. This shows in the 2016 Mazda6’s fuel economy numbers of 28 City/40 Highway/32 Combined, slightly better than the 26 City/38 Highway/30 Combined on the 2014 model. So does it make a difference? Most likely as my average for the week in the 2016 model was 31 MPG, three MPGs higher than the 2014 model.

     

    Aside from all of these changes, the Mazda6 is still one of the best driving midsize sedans on sale. The 2.5L Skyactiv-G engine gets up to speed at a quick rate, while the six-speed automatic is one the fastest and smoothest shifting transmissions on sale. Mazda also hasn’t changed the fun-to-drive characteristics we loved in our original road test of the 6. One item we wished Mazda would work on is noise isolation. Road and wind noise were very apparent when driving the 6 on the expressway.

     

    The 2016 Mazda6 shows the little changes can take a sedan that is considered by many to be one of best and make and make it that much more.

     

     

    Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the 6, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

     

    Year: 2016
    Make: Mazda
    Model: 6
    Trim: Grand Touring
    Engine: Skyactiv-G 2.5L DOHC Four-Cylinder
    Driveline: Skyactiv-Drive Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 184 @ 5,700
    Torque @ RPM: 185 @ 3,250
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/40/32
    Curb Weight: 3,250 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Hofu, Japan
    Base Price: $30,195
    As Tested Price: $33,395 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge)

     

    Options:
    GT Technology Package - $2,180
    Door Sill Trim Plates - $125.00
    Cargo Mat - $75.00

     

    Next: 2015 Toyota Camry XSE V6


     

    Can a Toyota Camry be sporty? Before you start writing comments saying no and telling me that I’m crazy, it is a legitimate question. Consider Toyota’s pledge a couple years ago where it pledged to make their vehicles more engaging. So far, Toyota’s vehicles have looked more exciting. In terms of making them more engaging with driving, it has been mixed. The Avalon Hybrid we thought was a good driving vehicle, while the Corolla S wasn’t. So with that in mind, let us see how the sportiest Camry, the new XSE fares.

     

    The 2015 Camry went through a substantial refresh with most of body being changed - aside from the roof. It’s quite dramatic when compared to the previous model. The Camry XSE gets some unique tweaks to make it stand out further such as new mesh grille insert, 18-inch wheels, and dual-exhaust ports. The changes do make the Camry XSE stand out, but it also makes the XSE look like it's trying a bit too hard. Inside the XSE features a number of changes that we delved into our Camry Hybrid SE review including the revised dash with stitching. The only differences for the XSE is a set of faux-suede seats and red stitching. It would be nice if Toyota could do something more to differentiate the Camry XSE from other Camry models in the interior like some new trim pieces specific to the XSE.

     


    2015 Toyota Camry XSE V6 5


    Power for the XSE comes in the form of a 2.5L four-cylinder as the base, with a 3.5L V6 as an option. Our XSE tester came with the optional V6 which packs 268 horsepower and 248 pound-feet. No matter which engine you pick, a six-speed automatic comes standard. The V6 is quite the surprise as it pulls very strong through the rev range and will cause the front wheels to break loose if you aren’t careful with the accelerator. Toyota should also be given some credit for building one of the smoothest and quietest V6 engines on sale. The six-speed automatic shares the smooth characteristics of the engine. Fuel economy for the Camry V6 is rated at 21 City/31 Highway/25 Combined. I saw an average 24 MPG for the week.

     

    Now Toyota has made a number of improvements to the XSE to make it sporty such as firmer shocks and springs, new bushings, and a revised ­electric power steering system. So does it make a noticeable improvement to the Camry’s handling? Somewhat. The changes to the suspension do help in terms of body control. But the steering feels a little-bit rubbery and doesn’t provide any increased weight from the standard Camry. At least the Camry XSE provides a somewhat smooth ride.

     

    The big problem for the Camry XSE is the value proposition. The base price of the Camry XSE V6 starts at $31,370 and includes LED headlights, a seven-inch touchscreen with Toyota’s Entune infotainment system and navigation; power seats, and dual-zone climate control. However, our test vehicle was fitted with a number of options such as blind-spot monitoring, a JBL audio system, radar cruise control, and lane-departure warning which caused our as-tested price to be $35,768. Considering what you get and how the model doesn’t live up to its sport pretensions, it makes us question whether or not the XSE is worth it.

     

    While the XSE is a step in the right direction for in terms of making the Camry a bit more sporty, we think Toyota could have gone a little bit farther in this regard. Also, the value for money equation doesn’t quite work for the Camry XSE. It is a good effort, but Toyota needs to do a bit more work.

     

     

    Disclaimer: Toyota Provided the Camry XSE, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

     

    Year: 2015
    Make: Toyota
    Model: Camry
    Trim: XSE V6
    Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve w/Dual-VVTi V6
    Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 268 @ 6,200
    Torque @ RPM: 248 @ 4,700
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/31/25
    Curb Weight: 3,480 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Georgetown, KY
    Base Price: $31,370
    As Tested Price: $35,768 (Includes $525.00 Destination Charge)

     

    Options:
    Entune Premium JBL Audio with Navigation - $805.00
    Technology Package - $750.00
    Blind Spot Monitor with Rear-Cross Traffic Alert - $500.00
    Remote Start - $499.00
    Special Color (Ruby Flare Pearl) - $395.00
    Four Seasons Floor Mat Package - $325.00
    Illuminated Door Sills - $299.00

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    Nice update on these 3 sedans, I still find all 3 to be boring in the design department, interiors are just ok. Not sure what it is about these 3 sedans but they just lack passion and do nothing for making me want to test drive one. It would be interesting to see the long term on a Mazda 6 as coworkers who have the new 2016 model has had it back in for multiple things breaking including the electric system on the drivers seat.

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    Nice update on these 3 sedans, I still find all 3 to be boring in the design department, interiors are just ok. Not sure what it is about these 3 sedans but they just lack passion and do nothing for making me want to test drive one. It would be interesting to see the long term on a Mazda 6 as coworkers who have the new 2016 model has had it back in for multiple things breaking including the electric system on the drivers seat.

     

    Can I be honest for a moment? Is there any midsize sedan that has passion? I would argue that the Mazda6 is the most passionate of the bunch since it has a distinctive look and is one of the best driving models in the class. (I can't say anything about reliability though since I only get vehicles for a week - Mazda, could you hand over a 6 for a few months? ;-)

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    Nice update on these 3 sedans, I still find all 3 to be boring in the design department, interiors are just ok. Not sure what it is about these 3 sedans but they just lack passion and do nothing for making me want to test drive one. It would be interesting to see the long term on a Mazda 6 as coworkers who have the new 2016 model has had it back in for multiple things breaking including the electric system on the drivers seat.

     

    Can I be honest for a moment? Is there any midsize sedan that has passion? I would argue that the Mazda6 is the most passionate of the bunch since it has a distinctive look and is one of the best driving models in the class. (I can't say anything about reliability though since I only get vehicles for a week - Mazda, could you hand over a 6 for a few months? ;-)

     

    Point well made, :P Your right what mid size sedan that the masses can own really has any passion. It would be great to get one for a few months. I would submit the request to Mazda and see what they say. :D

    So in your opinion how does these three stack up against what Ford, GM and Chrysler / Dodge has?

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    Every time they redesign the Camry, it essentially catches up to the outgoing generation of midsizers. I've seen several 2015 Camries up close and the build quality and body complexity is where the class was in 2012-2013. That doesn't sound like a big stretch, but consider that the 2012 Camry was already a redesign, one that barely caught up to the 08-10 vehicles like the Malibu, Fusion, and Sonata both in interior and exterior design.

     

    Having driven a 2014 SE V6 extensively, I know how much the underpinnings of the "new generation" Camry are lacking dynamically. The car sells on a Toyota reputation for quality and innovation that no longer exists. The V6 remains the best part of the car, but dates back to 2007. Surely if Toyota cared about its product, they could have designed two new engines since then.

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    I Had a rental 2014.5 Camry SE 2.5 and was shocked at the abysmal interior quality and the fact it died right in my driveway with a low battery that couldn't start the car the following morning. Apparently this very rental car was to Toyota before for this exact issue and they couldn't find the problem. Luckily I had a battery charger on hand to get the car going and back to the rental agency. Inside the passenger side A-pilar molding plastic piece was coming apart due to a broken plastic clip, the center dash vents popped out onto my drink going over a set of hearty railroad tracks, the cloth seat material was some of the cheapest sand paper like crap i have ever sat in and actually caused a skin rash on the back of my legs on a long trip! That black and painted on fake silver was more appropriate for a 18k Corolla, not a 26K Camry! Haven't driven a new 2015 yet but several interior touch points still feel really cheap starting with the wafer thin headliner, the carryover garbage seat material and the flimsy cup holder divider which always pops out if you have an oversized drink in there.

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    We had a 2014 Mazda 6, the first year of the 'current' gen model. 

     

    When we got it there was a rattle in it.....took it to the dealership and they took care of it right away as a Technical Service Bulletin was out on in.  Other than that, 50,000+ miles later and not a single problem.

     

    That was a huge relief coming off our our 2008 Saturn Vue before it, which had a remarkable list of things that broke or just weren't right that required well over 10 trips to the dealership (seriously, it was like 12 or 13 times we were back while still under warranty)

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      Is the Honda Ridgeline a truck or not? Depends on to whom you ask this question. A truck person would say no since the Ridgeline isn’t a body-on-frame vehicle. Instead, it uses a unibody platform from the Honda Pilot. A consumer would say yes because it looks like a truck and has all the attributes you would find on one such as a bed. I spent some time in a Ridgeline over the holidays to see if I could figure out the answer.
      The previous Ridgeline looked like an auto show concept squared-off shape and missing the design cues you would expect on a truck such as a gap between the cab and bed. This put a lot of people off from looking at the Ridgeline. The new model looks more in line with the current crop of midsize trucks as Honda adopted the standard cab and bed design. This includes the gap between the bed and cab, although this is more of a design touch. Stick your hand in the gap and you’ll realize that both parts are connected (thanks unibody construction).
      The front end is where you’ll make your decision as to whether you like the Ridgeline or not. There is an imposing grille with a long chrome bar on top. A set of large headlights sits on either side of the grille. Other design items to take note of are the sculpted hood and front bumper. Personally, I found the front end to a bit over the top. Honda was trying to make the Ridgeline look tough and imposing, but the end result is a look that is trying too hard. 
      At least Honda got the Ridgeline’s bed right. Compared to the last model, Honda added four inches to the overall length of the bed (64 vs. 60 inches). This gives the Ridgeline the longest standard bed in the class. Unlike competitors, you cannot option a longer bed for the Ridgeline. Honda has also fitted some clever ideas for the Ridgeline’s bed. First is the in-bed trunk that offers 7.3 cubic feet of space where you can stow tools or luggage, giving the Ridgeline a significant edge in practicality than its competitors. Second is the dual-action tailgate which allows the tailgate to be opened downward or to the side.
      The recent crop of trucks have been stepping up their game when it comes to interiors and the Ridgeline is no different. The interior is borrowed from the Pilot crossover and brings forth an easy-to-understand control layout and high-quality materials. One item that wasn’t carried over from the Pilot was the push-button transmission selector. Instead, the Ridgeline sticks with a good-ole lever. Thank you, Honda.
      The Ridgeline proved to be a very comfortable pickup truck thanks to supportive leather seats, and power-adjustments for the driver. I took this truck to Northern Michigan and back during the holidays, and I never felt tired or had any soreness afterward. The back seat provides more than enough head and legroom for passengers. The bottom cushion of the back seat can also be folded up to provide a decent amount space for carrying larger items.
      Honda’s infotainment system in the Ridgeline has to be one of the most frustrating systems we have ever come across. The eight-inch system gets off on the wrong foot by using touch-sensitive controls for the volume and other functions that don’t always respond whenever pressed. At least you can use the steering wheel controls for a number of these functions. HondaLink needs a serious revamp in terms of its interface as trying to do simple things is very convoluted. For example, if I want to pick a podcast episode from my iPod, I have to jump through a number of menus to just to get to the listing of the specific show I want to listen to. You can avoid using HondaLink by plugging in your iPhone or Android phone and using CarPlay or Android Auto. 
      All Honda Ridgeline’s come with a 3.5L V6 producing 280 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. This is paired up with a six-speed automatic. The base RT to the RTL-T has the choice of front or all-wheel drive. The RTL-E and Black Edition only come with all-wheel drive. No other V6 truck in the class can match the performance of the Ridgeline’s V6. Acceleration is strong whether you’re leaving a stoplight or making a pass. The run to 60 mph is said to take around 7 seconds, making this one quick midsize truck. The six-speed automatic delivers fast and smooth shifts.
      All-wheel drive Ridgelines like our tester come with Honda’s Intelligent Variable Torque Management system. This system quickly redistributes the amount of torque going to each wheel to improve handling and traction. AWD models also get the Intelligent Traction Management system which adjusts the settings of the powertrain to help you get through whatever terrain you find yourself in. We put these systems to the test by driving through an unplowed road with deep snow. The Ridgeline was able to make it through without breaking a sweat. That doesn’t make the Ridgeline a truck you want to take on an off-road trail as it only offers 7.9-inches of ground clearance and no low-range.
      The Ridgeline’s payload is towards the top the of class when compared with other midsize crew cab trucks. Front-wheel drive models can haul between 1,447 to 1,565 pounds in the bed. All-wheel drive models have a payload capacity of 1,499 to 1,584 pounds. For towing, the Ridgeline falls a bit short. Front-wheel drive models have a max tow rating of 3,500 lbs, while AWD models are slightly higher at 5,000 lbs. For most people, the Ridgeline will be enough to handle various towing needs. If you need a bit more, then the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon are ready to help.
      The EPA rates the Ridgeline AWD at 18 City/25 Highway/21 Combined. My average for the week landed at 23.6 mpg in a 60/40 mix of highway and city driving.
      Previously, we’ve considered GM’s midsize trucks as having the best ride in the class. The Honda Ridgeline now holds that honor. The unibody platform and four-wheel independent suspension setup give the Ridgeline a ride that is almost equal to a passenger sedan. Bumps and other imperfections are smoothed out. The Ridgeline is a decent handling truck as well. There isn’t much body roll and it feels stable when going into a corner. We do wish Honda would make the steering slightly heavier for the Ridgeline.
      The Honda Ridgeline may not meet the true definition of a pickup truck, but it is one in spirit. Yes, the unibody architecture does limit the capabilities of the Ridgeline as it cannot haul or tow heavy items. Nor can it go deep into the wilderness due to decisions made by Honda on the Ridgeline’s off-road capability. But it is in other areas that the Ridgeline begins to stand out such as the clever ideas in the bed, comfortable interior, and a ride that is more in tune with a regular car. They might not be the advantages you would expect in a truck, but they are something that Honda believes will bring in those interested in a pickup minus a lot of the issues that other models have. 
      To put it another way, the Honda Ridgeline is like Festivus from Seinfeld; they’re both for the rest of us.
      Disclaimer: Honda Provided the Ridgeline, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Honda
      Model: Ridgeline
      Trim: RTL-E
      Engine: 3.5L SOHC 24-valve i-VTEC V6
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 280 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 262 @ 4700
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/25/21
      Curb Weight: 4,515 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Lincoln, Alabama
      Base Price: $41,370
      As Tested Price: $42,270 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge)
      Options: N/A
    • By William Maley
      Toyota appears to be building out their sports car lineup with the 86 and the rumored Supra coupe. There is now talk of third sports that would mark the return of the 'Three Brothers'; MR2, Celica, and Supra.
      Evo reports that Tetsuya Tada, chief engineer of the Toyota 86 and head of Gazoo Racing revealed that a spiritual successor to the MR2 is in the works. The successor would act as the starting point for the 'three brothers,' with the 86 serving as the successor to the Celica and the Supra as the top dog. Tada said the company hopes to have the trio in production together, "as soon as possible."
      Details are slim, but Evo expects the model to be smaller and lighter than the 86 coupe. There is the possibility of a hybrid powertrain, using tech from Toyota's Le Mans prototype race car.
      Source: Evo

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