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    Review: 2014 Scion tC


    • Keeping the Scion brand afloat, one coupe at a time


    If you have ever taken a class in economics, then you were most likely taught the economic cycle. The cycle explains periods of growth and decline in a economy via four different parts; expansion, boom, recession, and depression. A perfect example of this cycle in action is Scion. The youth-oriented brand which came on the scene in the early 2000’s experienced massive growth for the first few years. In fact, 2006 was its best year ever with sales reaching 173,034 vehicles. But since that time, Scion has been seeing its sales drop precipitously with 2010 being the worst year with 45,678 vehicles sold.

    2013 was a mixed bag for Scion. On one hand, the brand told its dealers that they can drop their franchise with no penalties at all and that new products wouldn’t be here till 2016. On the other hand, Scion is slowly crawling back up in sales. 2013 saw sales reach 68,321 vehicles thanks to two models; the FR-S coupe and refreshed tC coupe. So what is it about these two models that are keeping Scion afloat? We’ve driven the FR-S and now its time for the tC to help us answer this question.

    For the refresh, Scion tweaked the tC’s exterior to make it look more like the FR-S coupe. This is apparent in the front as there is now a longer hood that sits slightly lower than the previous model. The fascia has been slightly altered as well with a new bumper and grille layout. While not pulling the illusion of the FR-S fully off, the refresh does make the tC more interesting to look at. Other changes for the 2014 refresh include a set of LEDs on the bumper and a set of eighteen-inch alloy wheels.

    2014 Scion TC 2

    One area that Scion left mostly alone with the tC’s refresh was the interior and that’s a good and bad thing. Let’s start with the negative on the interior. The look and quality of the materials used in the tC looks like they come out of a mid to late-nineties vehicle. I get the tC is a cheap coupe, but with competitors such as the Honda Civic Coupe and Hyundai Elantra Coupe stepping up with the materials used in their interiors, Scion really needs to step up.

    Aside from the materials, the tC’s interior does everything else very well. Front-seat passengers are treated to cloth-covered seats with moderate side bolstering. Back-seat passengers will find a surprising amount of legroom. Headroom is surprising good if you’re under six feet. Cargo space is very generous with tC getting 34.5 Cubic Feet thanks to Scion’s decision of making the model a hatchback.

    2014 Scion TC 12

    Equipment is generous on tC will all models getting a flat-bottom steering wheel, dual-screen sunroof, telescoping steering wheel, power windows, and a 8.1-inch touchscreen head unit. My tC tester was equipped with the optional BeSpoke Premium Audio package which adds aHa internet radio and navigation. While the interface looks like something from the Windows 95 era, it’s a very straightforward system and quick to respond. One downside is that to get SiriusXM satellite radio, you need to pony up an extra $449 on top of the $1,198 price tag for the BeSpoke system.

    For thoughts on the powertrain and ride, see the next page.


    Under the tC’s hood is a 2.5L four-cylinder with 179 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. To access all of that power, you’ll have be ready to put the pedal down or close to floor. Otherwise, the tC feels like it can’t get out of its own way. This is somewhat surprising since the tC only weighs 3,113 pounds. A manual transmission is standard, but my tester came equipped with the optional six-speed automatic transmission with a Dynamic Rev Management system that blips the engine when downshifting. When left to its own devices, the transmission is quick on the upshifts. Downshifting is another story as it takes a few moments for the transmission to realize it would be a good idea to do that. This is very annoying when I was trying to make a pass on the freeway or merging and I found myself throwing the automatic into the manual mode when making a pass because it would be quicker. The dynamic rev management system is one of those systems that you either think is the coolest or stupidest feature. I personally liked it because it added a sense of excitement when I pushing the tC.

    2014 Scion TC 9

    On the fuel economy front, the EPA rates the 2014 tC at 23 City/31 Highway/26 Combined. My week’s average landed at 27.2 MPG.

    Along with the changes to the exterior, Scion worked on improving the tC’s handling. This includes revised stabilizer bars, electric power steering system, new struts, and more welds in the body to make it stronger. The changes really make a difference as the tC is a really fun coupe to push around. Body roll is kept to a minimum and the grip from the low-profile tires were excellent. Steering really didn’t have much feel, but the heavy weight more than made up for it. Out of all the compact coupes, the tC has to be the best driving one.

    But there is a downside to changes made by Scion, the tC is a rough rider when it comes to day to day duties. The suspension will send up every bump and road imperfection there is known to man, making for a very uncomfortable. Also, a fair bit of road and wind noise comes into the cabin. Those who are thinking about a tC for long-distance trips might want to reconsider.

    After spending a week in the Scion tC, I can see why its a big seller for the brand. The tC packs a lot of driving fun for not that much money. Add in the loads of standard equipment you get for the price, and tC makes a very good case for itself. But I do wonder if the tC can keep up this run of success, especially considering that Honda has launched a refreshed Civic coupe, Kia making huge strides with the new Forte Koup, and the Hyundai Veloster which has a pricetag that undercuts the tC by $2,000.

    gallery_10485_788_660400.jpg

    Disclaimer: Scion Provided the tC, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

    Year: 2014

    Make: Scion

    Model: tC

    Trim: N/A

    Engine: 2.5L DOHC 16-Valve Four-Cylinder with VVT-i

    Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive

    Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 6,000

    Torque @ RPM: 173 @ 4,100

    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/31/26

    Curb Weight: N/A

    Location of Manufacture: Tsutsumi, Japan

    Base Price: $20,210.00

    As Tested Price: $23,166.00 (Includes $755.00 Destination Charge)

    Options:

    BeSpoke Premium Audio - $1,198.00

    Rear Lip Spoiler - $444.00

    Illuminated Door Sill - $375.00

    Carpeted Floor Mats and Cargo Mat - $184.00

    William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.comor you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.

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    Amazing that People would bash the heck out of a US based auto company if they produced and tried to sell this but it is OK for garbage like this to exist and no one cares because it is Asian.

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    Out of curiosity, what platform is this on? The Auris/Corolla platform or the Avensis platform?

    I think its still the Avensis' platform.

    Thanks for the reply. Interesting that the platform is flexible enough to offer something a little less boring than an Avensis which, to be kind, is a Valium pill on wheels :D

    Edited by ZL-1
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    This is one of those Toyota products that, unlike the FR-S, receives universally negative reviews. I don't think I've read a positive review outside of a Toyota loving forum. Even Consumer Reports panned it, saying a basic Elantra or Impreza were more fun to drive. Ouch. Personally, I've only been able to go as far as the interior. That was enough for me to move past the tC permanently.

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    This is one of those Toyota products that, unlike the FR-S, receives universally negative reviews. I don't think I've read a positive review outside of a Toyota loving forum. Even Consumer Reports panned it, saying a basic Elantra or Impreza were more fun to drive. Ouch. Personally, I've only been able to go as far as the interior. That was enough for me to move past the tC permanently.

    Very true, and makes sense once you've seen and driven one.

    It's not terrible...but there are so many better choices, and some questionable "why?" on this one.

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    The things I find comical about these are the way young kids drive them like they are race cars and there lackluster mileage. The look on one guys face when my 2013 Impala blasted right pass him was priceless. And the fact that it will beat this thing in MPG on the open road is icing on the cake.

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    I know someone that recently bought a 2008 tC because she needed a used car under $10k and there isn't a lot sporty looking with low miles in that price range. There is a lot of back seat leg room, more than a lot of full size sedans, and the dual moonroof is cool. Other than that the interior is cheap and basic. They drive a little like the Grand Am to me, sort of punchy off the line, stiffer ride, and a little noisy. This isn't at all my kind of car, but I can see why people in their early 20s buy them. I think the Hyundai Veloster is better at the mission of being a cheap and sporty looking coupe to appeal to young people.

    The problem with the under $20k segment is the Corolla and Cruze seem built for people in their 50s or 60s, they just have an old image to me. The Mazda 3 and Focus can't be bought in a coupe, only a hatch. So you either have to over pay for a Civic coupe or buy a Scion or Hyundai, or Kia Forte.

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      Interior:
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      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. 
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      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:
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      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)
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      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
    • By William Maley
      There is a running joke in the automotive world that the perfect vehicle for an enthusiast is a rear-drive station wagon with a diesel engine and manual transmission. The closest we ever got to this ’nirvana’ was the Volkswagen Jetta and Golf SportWagen. While not rear-wheel drive, the Jetta and Golf wagons did offer a diesel and manual transmission combination. Not only did they become one of the darlings of the automotive press, but consumers would soon jump on the diesel wagon bandwagon thanks to Volkswagen’s ‘clean diesel’ ad campaign. 
      But we would learn this ‘clean diesel’ campaign was a fallacy as Volkswagen was found to be using illegal software that allowed their diesel vehicles to cheat emission tests. One of the key selling points for the Golf SportWagen was taken off the table and Volkswagen’s reputation would take a nose dive. This brings up an interesting question, is there more to the Golf SportWagen than the availability of a diesel engine? 
      Describing the design of the Golf SportWagen is quite simple - take a standard Golf and add a foot to the overall length. Otherwise, the clean design of the Golf is still here with a narrow front grille and smooth side profile. Some will complain that the SportWagen is a bit boring to look at. We can’t disagree with this as it kind of exists with no real standout design trait.
      The interior follows the same ideals as the exterior with a plain jane look. The choice of black and sliver for the interior trim only reinforces this thought. But Volkswagen should be given some credit as the design does allow for a simple layout of controls and are within easy reach for driver and passenger. Also, a lot of the materials used throughout the interior are soft-touch and make the SportWagen feel quite premium.
      Finding a seating position in the SportWagen is simple thanks to the combination of manual and power adjustments for the front seats and a tilt-telescoping steering wheel. The seats earn top marks for comfort and support for long trips. The back seat offers plenty of head and legroom for most folks. This is impressive when you take into account our SE tester comes with a panoramic sunroof as standard. As for cargo space, the SportWagen offers 30.4 cubic feet behind the rear seats (7.6 cubic feet larger than the standard Golf) and 66.5 cubic feet when folded (13 cubic feet larger than the Golf). To give you some idea of the space on offer, I was able to fit a desk from Ikea that measured 53.5 inches long with no issues.
      On the technology front, all Golf SportWagens feature a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Volkswagen’s Car-Net infotainment system. This is one of our favorite systems thanks to an easy to understand interface, buttons around the screen to take you to the various parts, and fast performance. The only item we would like to see Volkswagen address is the screen. The matte finish on it sucks some of the color and brightness. Any 2016 Volkswagen fitted with the Car-Net infotainment system will feature Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration. Being an iPhone person, I tried out the CarPlay integration and find it to be one of the best implementations. It only takes a few seconds for the system to detect the phone before bringing up the CarPlay interface. Apps launched quickly and showed no signs of slowdown or crashing.
      At the present moment, the Golf SportWagen is only available with a turbocharged 1.8L four-cylinder producing 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque. This engine is paired with a five-speed manual (only available on the S) or a six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission. The 2.0L TDI four-cylinder is currently on probation due to the diesel emission scandal. The 1.8T is one our favorite engines as you never feel wanting for power. Torque arrives at low 1,600 rpm which allows the Golf SportWagen to leap away from a stop. More impressive is engine responding with power in an instant if you need to make a pass or merge onto the freeway. We wish we could say the same of the DSG transmission. As we noted in our quick drive of the Passat V6, the DSG doesn’t like low-speed maneuvers as it exhibits signs of hesitation and lurching. At higher speeds, the transmission is lightning fast with shifts.
      EPA fuel economy figures for the Golf SportWagen stand at 25 City/35 Highway/29 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 28 mpg.
      Ride and handling characteristics for the Golf SportWagen can be described as balanced. The suspension provides a well-damped ride over rough roads. In the corners, body motions are kept in check and the wagon feels very agile. The steering provides a decent amount of weight and feel that will please most drivers. One area where the Golf SportWagen truly shines is in noise isolation. Barely any wind and road noise makes inside the cabin, making it a perfect long-distance companion. 
      The 2016 Golf SportWagen kicks off at $21,625 for the base S. Our midlevel SE tester starts at $27,025 and comes with keyless entry, push-button start, leatherette upholstery, Fender audio system, and 17-inch alloy wheels. We had the optional driver assistance (adds adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning with autonomous braking, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, park distance control, and park assist) and lighting (bi-xenon headlights that can swivel when the steering wheel is turned and LED daytime running lights) packages that brings our as-tested price to $30,335. We think the SE with the driver assistance package is the sweet spot for Golf SportWagen as you get most everything you need.
      The dark cloud of the diesel emission scandal still lingers over Volkswagen. Whether or not the company can turn back their fortunes in the U.S. remains to be seen. But if I was Volkswagen, I would be putting the likes of the Golf SportWagen in the spotlight. Yes, it is one of the vehicles affected in the diesel emission mess. But take the diesel out of the equation for a moment and you still have a strong vehicle. From increased practicality for both passengers and cargo to the right balance of comfort and support in the ride, the Golf SportWagen is an interesting alternative to growing segment of compact crossovers. 
      Disclaimer: Volkswagen Provided the Golf SportWagen, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2016
      Make: Volkswagen
      Model: Golf SportWagen
      Trim: SE
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.8L TSI DOHC Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Six-Speed Dual-Clutch Automatic
      Horsepower @ RPM: 170 @ 4,500
      Torque @ RPM: 199 @ 1,600
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/35/29
      Curb Weight: 3,120 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Puebla, Mexico
      Base Price: $27,025
      As Tested Price: $30,335 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Driver Assistance Package - $1,495.00
      Lighting Package - $995.00

      View full article
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