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    Review: 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring


    • Who in their right mind would drive a convertible in the middle of winter?!

    “You win for bringing the most inappropriate vehicle,” said Drew as I was coming into our rental house for the Detroit Auto Show.

     

    I couldn’t say he was wrong. The vehicle in question, a 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring, isn’t what I would call the perfect vehicle for winter or be in traveling to an auto show. But here I was with a Miata parked on the street. I should explain how I ended up with a Miata over the winter. It goes a few months back to a conversation thread I was somehow looking at. In that thread, a Mazda PR person mentioned that they put winter tires on their vehicles for the season. Seeing this, the gears starting working in my head and I wondered if the MX-5 Miata would have that as well. Before too long, I had put in a request for a Miata and I got it scheduled. It was only when I was looking at the schedule did I realize it would coincide with the Detroit Auto Show. Oops.

     

    There is some method to this madness. Sometimes to fully test a vehicle, you need to put it in a situation where it isn’t entirely comfortable. So in the case of the Miata, what better time to test it than in the middle of winter and with an auto show to boot?

     


    2016 Mazda MX 5 Miata Grand Touring 9


     

    Mazda has done a knockout job with designing the fourth-generation MX-5 Miata. The front is very low with a massive grille to provide air for the engine and narrow headlights. The hood features some slight sculpting to help the front fenders stand out. Along the side, you can see a resemblance to previous Miatas, especially when you drop the top. A set of seventeen-inch alloy wheels come standard on the top Grand Touring trim. Around back is a uniquely shaped rear end.

     

    At the moment, the Miata comes only with a manual soft top. Those wanting a hardtop will need to wait for the Miata RF (Retractable Fastback) due sometime this year. Putting the top down is very easy. Just pull a latch and push the top down until you hear a click. Putting the top back is slightly difficult due to where the latch is - behind the folded top and under the trunk lid. Getting your hand back here is tough due to a small and narrow gap. But once you find it and release the top, it is just as fast to put it back up.

     

    Getting in and out of the MX-5 Miata can be best described as a comedy of errors. You have to contort yourself in a way to get the top half of your body into the car, followed by the legs. It is easier to get in when the top is down. Once inside, you’ll be impressed with how much work Mazda has put in. The interior design follows what you will see in other Mazda products with a modern and minimalistic look. Interior materials have seen a noticeable improvement with more soft-touch plastics and new trim pieces. Controls are within easy reach for both driver and passenger.

     


    2016 Mazda MX 5 Miata Grand Touring 11


     

    The seats are comfortable for short trips, but I found myself wishing for a bit more seat padding and thigh support on longer trips. Driving from my house to Detroit and vice versa, my back started aching part way through the drive. Also, anyone over six-feet will have some difficulty finding a comfortable position due to how snug the cabin is. The trunk is small even for a roadster; only 4.6 cubic feet is on offer. I was able to get my suitcase into the trunk and that’s it. The backpack with my laptop, camera, other items needed for show coverage rode in the passenger seat.

     

    The Grand Touring trim comes with the Mazda Connect infotainment system that comes with a seven-inch touchscreen and control knob on the center console. Trying to use the touchscreen is frustrating since it is explained what is enabled for touch control. For example, I can hit play and skip a track when I’m playing my iPod. But if I want to scroll through the artists on my iPod, I cannot do that. You’re better off using the control knob, although it can get in the way when you are shifting gears.

     

    One area Mazda deserves some big credit is the Miata’s HVAC system. With the top up, the HVAC quickly warmed up the MX-5 in temperatures ranging from 20° to -4° Fahrenheit. Even with the top down, the HVAC system was able to keep me nice and toasty.

     


    2016 Mazda MX 5 Miata Grand Touring 10


     

    Powering the MX-5 Miata is a 2.0L Skyactiv-G four-cylinder with 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual comes standard (which is what our tester came with) and a six-speed automatic with steering wheel paddles is optional. Compared to the last Miata we drove (a 2014 Grand Touring PHRT), the 2016 model feels slightly faster. A lot of this comes down to the overall weight of two vehicles - 2,619 for the 2014 PHRT vs. 2,332 for the 2016 Miata. Around town, the Miata just zips up to speed at a very surprising rate. The six-speed manual is a delight to work. With a short throw and a subtle ‘click’ into gear, you find going through the gears a fun experience. I found myself letting the engine climb up to 5,000 rpm before shifting to the next gear just to hear the roar of the engine and give the illusion that I was driving fast, even though I was only going 30 to 45 MPH. It is that little thing that makes driving an MX-5 Miata special.

     

    When it comes to fuel economy, the EPA rates the 2016 MX-5 Miata at 27 City/34 Highway/30 Combined. These numbers are easily achievable, even if you drive like a maniac. For the week, I was able to achieve 30.6 MPG.

     

    Mazda hasn’t messed with the MX-5 Miata’s handling characteristics. You’ll notice the Miata lean in corners, but this is something that has been in all Miatas. It also helps keep you engaged with driving and not thinking about anything else. If this bugs you, Mazda offers the Club that features a sport suspension with Bilstein shocks. Personally, I found the suspension fitted to the Grand Touring to be just right in the corners. The steering has seen a big change with Mazda swapping the hydraulic system for an electric power steering system. Before anyone starts panicking, this system has to be one of the best I have driven. You do lose some feel, but it builds up weight as you turn. Steering also feels direct.

     

    As for the daily drive, the MX-5 Miata’s suspension is a bit too stiff. Bumps and other imperfections on the road are transmitted to the interior. I found myself wishing that Mazda offered the softer suspension setting used on the 1.5L four-cylinder Miata sold elsewhere in the world. If you plan on taking the Miata on a long highway trip, you might want to bring some ear plugs. Road and wind noise are here in droves and it will get very annoying. One item I wished the MX-5 Miata had was a backup camera. Due to how low you’re sitting in the vehicle, you don’t have a good view of the back. There were times I opened the door when I was backing up just to make sure I wasn’t going to crash into anything.

     


    2016 Mazda MX 5 Miata Grand Touring 5


     

    One question you probably want to me to answer is, how is the Miata on winter tires? Pretty good. Driving through some snowy roads, the Miata seemed to go through it without the stability or traction control intervening. At a stop, the Miata would spin its rear wheels for a moment. Then the tires would find some grip and get the vehicle moving. Winter tires don't guarantee that you will not slide around, but at least the Miata is one of the vehicles you can easily get back in line if you start skidding.

     

    It might not have been one of my brightest ideas to ask for a Miata in the middle of winter and getting it during the week of the Detroit auto show. But the Miata proved its worth in an uncomfortable situation. I wouldn’t want to take the MX-5 Miata on a long trip due to the rough ride and abundance of noises. Even then, I somehow ended up with a smile on my face. Maybe it's due to the Miata still being one of the vehicles that make you feels that you part of the vehicle, controlling the various aspects of it.

     

    Despite the snow and the Detroit Auto Show, the Miata proved its worth. Not many convertibles or any other vehicle can claim that.

     

    Cheers: Grin-inducing handling around corners, top is easy to put down, handsome exterior and interior
    Jeers: Suspension will jostle you around on rough roads, wind and road noise in stereo sound, needs backup camera

     

     

    Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the Miata MX-5, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

     

    Year: 2016
    Make: Mazda
    Model: MX-5 Miata
    Trim: Grand Touring
    Engine: 2.0L Skyactiv-G DOHC Four-Cylinder
    Driveline: Rear-Wheel Drive
    Horsepower @ RPM: 155 @ 6,000
    Torque @ RPM: 148 @ 4,600
    Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/34/30
    Curb Weight: 2,332 lbs
    Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
    Base Price: $30,065
    As Tested Price: $31,015 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge)

     

    Options:
    Advanced Keyless Entry System - $130.00

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    User Feedback


    10k miles on mine as of today. Not a single regret. I have the Club, which comes with extra bracing, a LSD, and Bilstein shocks. Note: the springs are the same on every USDM Miata. The cloth seats are perfect to me, I never had an ache when I was driving around all day or went on road trips. Factory summer tires wear very rapidly, with the grip only being so-so. I put on a new muffler for a more balanced sound between the intake and exhaust, as well as tuned the engine for quite a bit more power. Next thing on the list are firmer sway bars. I liked the body sway when I bought it, as it was just one more way the car was telling me what it was doing, but it got old. On highway trips I average around 37 MPG while staying around 80 w/o cruise control. Everywhere else I get around 32 average. I only use 93 octane. Wind noise kind of sucks, but it's a soft top, so it's forgivable (I play my music on the loud side anyways). The touch screen is disabled any time the car is moving, but that is easily changed via a hacked USB stick (super easy to do, did it the first week I had it). I was actually impressed with the HVAC system, as previous Mazdas HVAC systems were notoriously lacking in cooling and fan output. The traction control gives you a very fair bit of play, letting you get the tail out a little and play a bit before softly intervening. Hard launches do require it to be turned off, though. 

     

    It's probably the closest car to automotive nirvana one can buy. It's absolutely the most fun car I've ever driven, bar none. And that's why I bought it. 

    Edited by Thed
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      Power for the Pacifica comes from the 3.6L Pentastar V6 with 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission that routes power to the front-wheels only. It might not be the fastest van on the road (that honor falls to the Toyota Sienna), but Pacifica comes very close. Power comes on a smooth and steady rate. You’ll find yourself not wanting more power when merging onto a freeway or trying to make a pass. FCA has seemed to get its act together with the nine-speed automatic transmission. Issues with clunky shifts and gear hunting have been mostly ironed out. The transmission now features smooth and quick upshifts. The only item we would want FCA to work on is the transmission’s hesitation to downshift in certain situations such as making a pass.
      EPA fuel economy for the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is rated at 18 City/28 Highway/22 Combined. Our week mostly spent in the city returned 23.2 mpg.
      The primary concern when it comes to a van’s ride and handling characteristics is providing maximum comfort and the Pacifica delivers. The suspension delivers a smooth ride even on some of the rough roads on offer from Metro Detroit area. An added bonus is how well the Pacifica isolates road and wind noise from coming inside. At highway speeds, only a whisper of wind noise makes it inside. But the Pacifica becomes a bit of a surprise when it comes to handling. Despite its large size, FCA’s engineers made the Pacifica feel quite nimble. The steering might not give that impression as it feels somewhat light when turning. But go around a corner and the van feels more like a midsize sedan than a van. 
      It has been a long time coming for a new minivan from FCA and the good news is that they haven’t dropped the ball. The Pacifica may not have ripped up the rulebook when it comes to minivans, but it sure has expanded or rewritten bits of it. From a surprising balance of ride and handling characteristics to the best interior in the class, it is clear that FCA wants to reclaim the crown of the best minivan. But there one thing that we need to address and that is FCA’s poor reliability history. No matter which survey or study look at, more often than not, FCA’s core brands are towards the bottom. What does this mean for the Pacifica? We can’t say for right now, but this could be the one thing that makes or breaks Chrysler’s new van.
      For right now, the Pacifica is at the top of the class.
      Disclaimer: Chrysler Provided the Pacifica, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Chrysler
      Model: Pacifica
      Trim: Touring L
      Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6
      Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 287 @ 6,400
      Torque @ RPM: 262 @ 4,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/28/22
      Curb Weight: 4,330 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Windsor, Ontario
      Base Price: $34,495
      As Tested Price: $36,880 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Premium Audio Group - $895.00
      8 Passenger Seating - $495.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      There is one vehicle that Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has to get right the first time - the minivan. The company is credited for creating this vehicle segment back in the eighties with the introduction of the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager. Each subsequent version brought forth some new improvement or feature that put it ahead of the pack. But due to the bankruptcy in 2009 and subsequent merger with Fiat, plans for the next-generation Chrysler Town and Country and Dodge Caravan were pushed back. This left the old model struggling against some fresh competition in the form of the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna. 
      But last year, Chrysler surprised everyone with a new minivan. Wearing the Pacifica nameplate, the van was unlike anything that had come before. It featured a sleek design, handsome interior, and the option of a plug-in hybrid powertrain. The bigger surprise was that Chrysler would be the only brand getting the new van. The Dodge Caravan would continue in its current incarnation for a few years to provide a low-cost option for those shoppers. Has Chrysler pulled a rabbit out its hat or has the unthinkable happened and the Pacifica trails the competition?
      The first thing to take in about the new Pacifica is how good-looking it is. The design comes courtesy of the 700C that debuted quietly a few years back at the Detroit Auto Show. The rounded front end is reminiscent of the recently departed 200 with a narrow grille and headlights, chrome trim along the edges of the grilles, and a sculpted hood. The side profile shows off two character lines; one running from the front fender to the chrome trim for the windows and another running through the door handles and curving into the rear fender. We would only make one slight change to the Pacifica. Our Touring L tester featured 17-inch wheels that looked a bit small for a vehicle this size. We would go for the larger 18-inch wheels that fill in the wheel wells much better.
      Anyone who has been in the last-generation Chrysler Town and Country or Dodge Caravan knows the interior was well past its sell-by date. When pitted against competitors, the two vans came up very short in terms of design, materials, space for cargo and passengers; and infotainment. Step inside the Pacifica and it is clear that Chrysler has done its homework. The design is much more modern with flowing lines and contrasting colors. It also feels more spacious than the outgoing vans thanks to some smart decisions such as the removal of the center console to allow for an open floor between driver and passenger, and the use of a knob for the transmission. Material quality has also seen a noticeable improvement with many surfaces now boasting soft-touch plastics. It wouldn’t be crazy to say the Chrysler Pacifica is ahead of everyone when it comes to the interior.
      Depending on the trim, you can order the Pacifica with seating for seven or eight people. Our Touring L featured the eight-seat layout with a removable middle seat for the third row. It will take you a few moments to figure out how to remove the seat, but once you do, it is quite easy to remove and install the seat. The rest of the seats feature Chrysler’s Stow ’n Go folding system where the seats can fold into compartments in the floor to provide a flat load area. Cargo area is in line with the current crop of minivans with 32.3 cubic feet behind the third row, 87.5 cubic feet behind the second row, and 140.5 cubic feet with both rows folded. As for passengers, both rows of rear seats provide an excellent amount of head and legroom. Getting into the third row is much easier thanks to second-row seats offering a tilt function.
      FCA has equipped the Pacifica with the newest version of their UConnect system. The interface may look similar to the older UConnect system, but there are a number of changes that help catapult this new version towards the top of the infotainment system list. First, the new system is much sharper thanks to the new fonts and an updated screen that provides improved brightness levels. FCA has also improved the overall performance of the system, meaning no slow downs when going between various functions. One item we cannot comment on is navigation as our test Pacifica didn’t come with it.
      Power for the Pacifica comes from the 3.6L Pentastar V6 with 287 horsepower and 262 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission that routes power to the front-wheels only. It might not be the fastest van on the road (that honor falls to the Toyota Sienna), but Pacifica comes very close. Power comes on a smooth and steady rate. You’ll find yourself not wanting more power when merging onto a freeway or trying to make a pass. FCA has seemed to get its act together with the nine-speed automatic transmission. Issues with clunky shifts and gear hunting have been mostly ironed out. The transmission now features smooth and quick upshifts. The only item we would want FCA to work on is the transmission’s hesitation to downshift in certain situations such as making a pass.
      EPA fuel economy for the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica is rated at 18 City/28 Highway/22 Combined. Our week mostly spent in the city returned 23.2 mpg.
      The primary concern when it comes to a van’s ride and handling characteristics is providing maximum comfort and the Pacifica delivers. The suspension delivers a smooth ride even on some of the rough roads on offer from Metro Detroit area. An added bonus is how well the Pacifica isolates road and wind noise from coming inside. At highway speeds, only a whisper of wind noise makes it inside. But the Pacifica becomes a bit of a surprise when it comes to handling. Despite its large size, FCA’s engineers made the Pacifica feel quite nimble. The steering might not give that impression as it feels somewhat light when turning. But go around a corner and the van feels more like a midsize sedan than a van. 
      It has been a long time coming for a new minivan from FCA and the good news is that they haven’t dropped the ball. The Pacifica may not have ripped up the rulebook when it comes to minivans, but it sure has expanded or rewritten bits of it. From a surprising balance of ride and handling characteristics to the best interior in the class, it is clear that FCA wants to reclaim the crown of the best minivan. But there one thing that we need to address and that is FCA’s poor reliability history. No matter which survey or study look at, more often than not, FCA’s core brands are towards the bottom. What does this mean for the Pacifica? We can’t say for right now, but this could be the one thing that makes or breaks Chrysler’s new van.
      For right now, the Pacifica is at the top of the class.
      Disclaimer: Chrysler Provided the Pacifica, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Chrysler
      Model: Pacifica
      Trim: Touring L
      Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6
      Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 287 @ 6,400
      Torque @ RPM: 262 @ 4,000
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/28/22
      Curb Weight: 4,330 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Windsor, Ontario
      Base Price: $34,495
      As Tested Price: $36,880 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Premium Audio Group - $895.00
      8 Passenger Seating - $495.00
    • By William Maley
      They say timing is everything. As I mentioned in our quick drive piece of 2016 Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium, the automaker announced a refreshed version for 2017. Changes included a revised exterior, improved interior materials, and a revised EyeSight active safety system. Once we heard about the refresh, we knew we need to get one in for review. That’s what happened this past fall as a 2017 Subaru Forester 2.0XT Touring arrived at the Cheers & Gears Detroit garage. The XT is the important bit as it means we have the turbo engine.
      Let us begin with the engine as this is one of the best points of the Forester. The XT gets a turbocharged 2.0L boxer-four producing 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. This comes paired with Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT and all-wheel drive. The turbo engine solves some of the issues we had in the previous Forester. The 2.5i wasn’t as responsive as we would have liked and it takes its sweet time to get up to higher speeds. With the turbo engine, the Forester leaps into action. Yes, it does a take a moment for the turbo to spool up. But once it does, the engine delivers power at a steady and smooth rate.  Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT is one of the better CVTs on the market. Part of this comes from the simulated gear changes Subaru has programmed for the CVT. This will fool most people into thinking that the transmission is a standard automatic. Also, the CVT doesn’t have much of a groan when you decide to floor the accelerator. The downside to the turbo engine is fuel economy. EPA fuel economy figures for the 2.0XT stand at 23 City/27 Highway/25 Combined. Our average for the week was 24.7 MPG. If you’re expecting Subaru to make some changes to the suspension and/or steering for the Forester 2.0XT, then you’ll be very disappointed. The 2.0XT is the same as the 2.5i we drove earlier. That means a smooth ride over some of the worst roads Michigan has on offer, but a fair amount of body roll when going around a corner.  Changes for the 2017 Forester’s exterior include a new grille design, LED accent lights for the head and taillights; and a new set of wheels. The XT also gets a more aggressive front bumper. While the Forester is still a box, at least the changes have made it a bit more stylish. The interior remains mostly unchanged when compared to the 2016 model. The only change we noted is the option of brown leather for the XT Touring that is used for the seats and various parts of the dash and doors. It is a nice touch, but it would have been nice if Subaru had gone a bit further with the luxury touches - especially considering the price of our tester. Subaru has upgraded their EyeSight system for 2017 by installing a new set of color stereo cameras. Subaru says the new cameras allow better detection of various objects and a wider range of monitoring. We believe it as the updated system was able to detect vehicles slightly faster than the previous system when using the adaptive cruise control system. There is one big issue for the 2017 Forester 2.0XT Touring, price. The base price is $34,295. Equipped with an option package that brings a larger screen for the Starlink infotainment system, EyeSight, and reverse automatic braking, the as-tested price comes to $36,765. Taking into consideration for what you get for the price, the Forester 2.0XT Touring isn’t worth it considering you can get into some luxury crossovers for around the same price. You can get the Forester 2.0XT in the Premium trim which kicks off at $29,295, but you cannot get EyeSight as an option. If you really want a Forester with a turbo engine, wait for 2.0XT Touring to hit the used car lot as it will become a slightly better value. Otherwise, skip the 2.0XT and go with the Forester 2.5i or another crossover. Disclaimer: Subaru Provided the Forester 2.0XT Touring, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Subaru
      Model: Forester
      Trim: 2.0XT Touring
      Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L DOHC GDI Boxer-Four
      Driveline: CVT, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 250 @ 5,600
      Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 2,000 - 4,800
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 23/27/25
      Curb Weight: 3,686 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: OTA, Gunma, Japan
      Base Price: $34,295
      As Tested Price: $36,765 (Includes $875.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Option Package 34 - $1,595.00

      View full article
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