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  • William Maley

    2013 Chevrolet Avalanche LTZ Black Diamond: Day 3

    By William Maley

    Welcome to day three of the 2013 Chevrolet Avalanche Black Diamond Interactive Review. When I had last updated, I gave some brief information on the Avalanche and the price. Since then, I've been putting on the mileage on the truck and can offer some brief impressions. I'm really impressed with the Avalanche's ride. It doesn't feel like a pickup where it seems to transmit most road imperfections and very bouncy. Instead the Avalanche rides like a luxury vehicle, driving over the bumps with you not really noticing it all. Disappointments are coming from the interior as the cheap wood trim and the old headunit. They are really aging the Avalanche really quick. Fuel economy has been hovering around 15.5 MPG so far in mostly suburban driving. I did take the Avalanche on a freeway trip and saw fuel economy rise to about 19.3 MPG. I will have another update or two on Avalanche during the week, including how it fared during a donation run to the Salivation Army. In the mean time, leave your questions in the comments.
    • 3 comments
    • 1,911 views
  • William Maley

    2013 Chevrolet Avalanche LTZ Black Diamond & Toyota Highlander V6 4WD

    By William Maley

    So this week in the Cheers & Gears Detroit garage, I have ended up with two vehicles. The first is the 2013 Chevrolet Avalanche LTZ Black Diamond edition. Yes, the Avalanche is still in production till the end of 2013. To mark the end of an era, Chevrolet has introduced the Black Diamond edition to all Avalanches which adds a badge signifying the lifetime of the Avalanche, rear vision camera system, body-color exterior components, Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist, remote vehicle starter system, power-adjustable pedals and foglamps. Our Avalanche Black Diamond is the LTZ model and come with leather, navigation, a trailer package, heated and cooled seats, and much more. Power comes from a 5.3L V8 producing 320 horsepower and 335 pound-feet that goes through a six-speed automatic. Pricetag on this 2013 Avalanche is $51,295. Next is the 2013 Toyota Highlander. This is the base model (somewhat of a rarity in the press fleet) and comes with seating for seven, a touchscreen radio, cloth seats, trip computer, and a few other bits. Power is a 3.5L V6 (270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet) that goes down to a five-speed automatic. I had the chance to drive the Highlander a bit more since it was dropped yesterday and finding it to be a very competent crossover. The V6 is quite punchy and the five-speed is smooth. I'm seeing fuel economy hovering around the 19 MPG mark which is the EPA rating for the city. Pricetag on the 2013 Highlander is around $33,757. I'll be talking more about these two vehicles over the next week. If you have any questions on either one, leave a comment. I'll do my best to answer them.
    • 6 comments
    • 2,210 views

Drive Diary: 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 SLT 4WD Crew Cab

William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com November 21, 2013 It was eleven months ago that I had the chance to see the new Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra in person. At the time I wrote that the new trucks were a major improvement, but I had concerns that General Motors didn't do enough when compared to what Ram and Ford had announced at the time. Well, I get to find out if my worries are justified or not because I have a 2014 GMC Sierra Crew Cab for a week. On the day it was dropped off, my house had no power thanks to high winds that roared through the night before. It turns out the Sierra was a blessing in disguise as it had seven USB ports, a 120 Volt outlet, and number of power outlets. Because of this, I was able to charge my computer, phone, iPod, and external battery till the power came back on. Thank you GMC. Aside from the charging station, the new Sierra has a lot going for it. I'm really liking the looks of it, especially in Stealth Grey paint color on my tester. It really brings out certain parts of the Sierra's design such as the flared fenders and large grille. The interior is also impressing me, with much nicer materials and being very comfortable. My only concern at the moment is GMC's IntelliLink which showed signs of sluggishness. As for what's under the hood, it happens to be the 5.3L EcoTec V8, what most Sierras and Silverados will come with. It produces 355 horsepower and 388 pound-feet of torque. Paired with a six-speed automatic and four-wheel drive, the 5.3 is more than adequate. Driving around briefly, the 5.3 was able to get the Sierra moving with no sweat. As for the ride, it does feel smoother than the 2012 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 I drove last year. I'll have my complete thoughts on the Sierra 1500 here in a few weeks. If you guys have any questions, leave a comment and I'll do my best to answer them. William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.

William Maley

William Maley

General Motors Demonstrates Another Kind of Industry Leadership

General Motors made news yesterday when it announced that it would recognize a legal, same-sex marriage for U.S. employees for benefits purposes no matter which state that employee resides in, making the benefit package identical to those of married opposite-sex couples. When I first saw the headlines of this coming across Twitter, I was confused. General Motors has offered healthcare benefits to same-sex domestic partners since August of 2000 and further expanded the benefit offering in January of 2003. General Motors participates in various Pride celebrations and even has produced LGBT focused advertising. In fact, General Motors received the Human Right Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index perfect score of 100 points each year since 2006. With GM’s already stellar leadership in supporting diversity both inside and outside of the corporation, why would such a change make headlines? Part of the reason rests with a change announced by the Internal Revenue Service regarding same-sex marriage recognition on August 29th of this year. After the Supreme Court ruled in June that parts of the Defense of Marriage Act were unconstitutional, the IRS announced that all same-sex couples legally married in one of the 14 states (soon to be 15 or 16) that allow same-sex marriage would be required to file their federal taxes as “married filing jointly” or “married filing separately” regardless of their state of residence. This means that my partner and I could travel to 4 of the 6 surrounding states (New York, New Jersey, Maryland, or Delaware) to get married and the Federal Government would recognize that marriage even though my home state of Pennsylvania does not. So why this is a big deal and why General Motors deserves praise is with regards to the speed they reacted to this rule change announced just 70 days ago. They are one of the earliest of all Fortune 500 companies to announce such a change and to the best of my knowledge the first of all of the vehicle manufacturers. What is the change for GM employees that are already registered for Domestic Partnership benefits but who are or will be legally married? I emailed Lynda Messina, Manager of Employee Engagement & Retiree Communications for the details. · Pension Plans – now able to elect surviving spouse benefits at retirement for a same-sex spouse. · Savings Plans – now able to name same-sex spouse as spousal beneficiary · Health Care Plans – now able to add same-sex spouse as a dependent with no imputed income for federal tax purposes She told me that the changes apply to all hourly and salary employees including those under collective bargaining agreements. Additionally, couples married in other countries, as long as it was lawful in the jurisdiction of celebration, will be eligible. A recent advertisement from General Motors supporting LGBT Pride celebrations. Click picture to enlarge. I asked Lynda if domestic partnership benefits would still be available and were there any plans to discontinue domestic partnership benefits for non-married employees in thefuture. She replied “Marriage is an important decision and, as such, is up to each employee. Employees can continue to cover eligible same-sex domestic partners under applicable benefit plan terms and administrative procedures. However, this will not provide for the same benefits as a same-sex spouse.” Regarding the possibility of partnership benefits cancellation in the future, she said, “not to my knowledge”. It is speculation on my part, but I cannot see General Motors or indeed any other company that makes this change sticking with a dual plan setup for long as there are tax and benefit implications for both the employee and company. In a statement released today, GM’s Chief Diversity Officer Ken Barrett said, “This decision is in line with GM’s efforts to find, keep and grow the world’s best talent and to offer our employees policies and benefits that are competitive with many of the largest and best-managed industrial companies in the U.S.” In any industry, leadership is not just about building the best product. Leadership is also demonstrated in how the company treats the people who build that class-leading product. By moving so quickly to improve the benefit policies regarding same-sex spouses following the recent IRS rule change, General Motors is not just competitive, but has set a new bar for the industry to meet.

Drew Dowdell

Drew Dowdell

 

The $75,995 Cadillac ELR Question

William Maley Staff Writer - CheersandGears.com October 11, 2013 Earlier this afternoon, General Motors announced the pricing for 2014 Cadillac ELR which will start at $75,995. My first thought as I saw the ELR stories pop into my twitter was, it's a misprint. GM isn't that crazy to price the ELR about $5,000* more than the base the Tesla Model S (not including the $7,500 tax credit). Are they? Then I read through the press release and came across this line: It wasn't a misprint. They're completely serious. I honestly thought that the ELR would have a pricetag around $60,000, maybe $65,000. But $75,995? Is General Motors trying not to sell this? Consider this. The ELR is a two-door electric luxury coupe that has 207 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque from its electric powertrain. Range is expected to be about 35 Miles on electric power and total range is in excess "of 300 miles." The base Tesla Model S is a four-door luxury hatchback with 302 horsepower and a range of 265 Miles. You can make the argument that the ELR has the better range and won't leave you stranded on the side of the road. But I would counter with the Tesla has become the darling of many folks and has the better image than Cadillac. I'm sure if you asked 100 people about which brand they like more, most would go with Tesla. Also money wise, the Tesla seems a better value on paper, especially when you factor in the $7,500 tax credit (ELR: $68,495, Model S 60: $63,570). But in this arena, most people tend to lease vehicles, not buy them. Now I know that I'm comparing an apple to an orange. The ELR and Tesla Model S are two completely different vehicles with different goals. That's why this tweet from Jamie Lincoln Kitman introduced a different possibility. Maybe GM is trying to make the ELR the halo car for Cadillac for the time being. It has a lot technology aside from its range-extender powertrain like CUE, the Regen-on-Demand system, and the safety alert seat to name a few items. With trying to make the ELR the halo car, GM gave it a price tag to reflect this. Maybe I am onto something or I'm reading into this too much. So am I putting it to you: Do you think the ELR is too expensive or just right? William Maley is a staff writer for Cheers & Gears. He can be reached at william.maley@cheersandgears.com or you can follow him on twitter at @realmudmonster.

William Maley

William Maley

Is the Honda Accord Hybrid Set to Fail Again?

This morning, William Maley posted his First Drive Review of the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid. To the surprise of almost no one, Honda seems to have put together a compelling combination of their class leading Accord mid-size and hybrid technology. In spite of the fact that Honda introduced hybrid vehicles to the North American market, beating the Prius here by a few months, Honda has since then taken a back seat to nearly all of the other manufacturers that build hybrids except perhaps General Motors. The problem for Honda, a problem they share with GM, is that their old Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) is only a mild hybrid system. The new 2014 Accord Hybrid uses a new system which I'll explain later, but I am pointing this out to underscore why and how Honda is playing catch-up in the hybrid market and why I think this newest of their entries is already doomed to be a Wikipedia footnote. General Motors got a lot of flack for the minimal returns their initial hybrid system provided. Much of that criticism was justified, however a substantial portion of the blame lays at the feet of GM's marketing department for trying to pass off what was essentially an Engine Auto-Stop system with mild engine assist as a full hybrid system at the same time Toyota was marketing their new star, the Toyota Prius. Once GM marketing changed their tune and re-branded the slightly more powerful yet also more efficient hybrid as E-Assist instead of as a hybrid, much of that criticism stopped. Why is the GM Mild-Hybrid relevant to a post about Honda's Hybrid? Because the main technological distinction between the GM E-Assist system and the Honda IMA system is solely the location of where the electric motor is mounted. On the GM System, the electric motor connects to the crank shaft at the front of the engine via a belt; on the Honda IMA, the electric motor connects to the crankshaft at the rear of the engine by being built into the engine's flywheel. All the rest, from gasoline engine efficiency, to transmissions used, to battery capacity was just fluff. Honda managed to pull of slightly better results in the Civic than GM did with the initial Saturn Aura and Chevrolet Malibu Hybrid, and thus were able to avoid most of the criticism, but the basic layout of both systems is remarkably similar. (View our article on How GM's E-Assist Works) Honda's first try at an Accord Hybrid took the performance route, trying to offer V8 performance with V6 efficiency. This was a problem for two reasons; First, no one was looking for V8 performance from a Honda Accord. Second, the standard 2004 V6 Accord Coupe was already pretty fast with a 0-60 time of 6.1 seconds. For comparison, a 2003 Ford Mustang V8 automatic was only half a second faster. The typical Honda Accord driver simply didn't need or want more performance than that. This generation of Accord Hybrid suffered another setback when its fuel efficiency ratings were down-rated. Initially starting at 29mpg city and 37mpg highway, the Accord Hybrid was down-rated in 2004 to 25 mpg city and 34 mpg highway with the addition of a sunroof and standard spare tire that bumped the vehicle into a higher EPA weight class. Shoppers stayed away and the Accord Hybrid was dropped after the 2007 Model year. After skipping a generation, Honda is back with a new take on the Accord Hybrid. This time Honda is fully focused on the fuel efficiency aspect, sporting an EPA rating of 50 mpg highway, 45 mpg city, 47 mpg combined from the new 2 liter 4-cylinder hybrid. Honda has ditched their mild hybrid IMA system in favor of an entirely new Dual Motor system called "Sport Hybrid intelligent Multi-Mode Drive". In addition to the regular hybrid, Honda is offering a Plug-In model to compete with the Ford Fusion Energi. Click Picture to Enlarge In William's review, the Accord Hybrid appears to be the competent and capable car people expect the Accord to be and that makes it one of the top selling mid-size sedans in the U.S. He even managed to meet the advertised EPA ratings during his drive. Everything you might love about a standard Honda Accord is there. So what's my problem? Why this long-winded post and inflammatory headline? Why do I think the 2014 Accord Hybrid is doomed to fail all over again in spite of being a perfectly competent vehicle from a company with established credibility for fuel economy? One word: PRICE. The 2014 Accord Hybrid Pricing, which includes a $790 destination charge, is as follows: Accord Hybrid - $29,945 Accord Hybrid EX-L - $32,695 Accord Hybrid Touring - $35,695 Read that again. Did your eyes pop out? For $29,945, you get base Accord Hybrid. Granted, it is fairly well appointed, but select any option more than the Smoker's Package and you're instantly over the $30,000 price point. The Camry Hybrid starts at $26,950, the Fusion Hybrid is $26,995, Optima Hybrid is $26,700 and the VW Passat TDI is $27,115 - $33,815 all after destination. The Passat TDI can also can get over 50 mpg highway real world though the official EPA numbers are in the 40s. On the plug-in side, Chevy recently shaved $5,000 off the price of the 2014 Volt ... meaning that if you qualify for the $7,500 tax credit, you can get a base Chevrolet Volt for $27,495 and then not use any gas during your normal commutes and today, Toyota announced a $2,000 price cut on the 2014 Prius Plug-In resulting in similar price points there. The news isn't great if you prefer your cars fully loaded either - Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium is $32,296 after destination charge, a full $3,200 less than the Accord Hybrid Touring. Source: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid $29k for a base Accord Hybrid!?! Good lord! With prices like that, this hybrid system may have been more appropriate for Honda's Acura luxury brand. It would certainly mesh with Acura's high tech image. Honda may have priced themselves out of the hybrid market by a few thousand dollars. Ten years ago Honda may have gotten away with it when the only other real competitor was Toyota, but today, most mainstream brands have a hybrid or high fuel economy diesel option. Is Honda setting themselves up to fail on the Accord Hybrid again? Photography by William Maley

Drew Dowdell

Drew Dowdell

Drive Diary: 2013 Chrysler 300S

Since the second-generation Chrysler 300 was introduced in 2011, I've been wanting to get my hands on one. I had many chances to take one out for a spin and every time, I missed it. When Chrysler did the launch of the SRT Tour back in 2011, they had a 300 SRT8 available for drives. I unfortunately missed out on driving it. Then at the 2012 MAMA Spring Rally, the new 300 Luxury Series was there and missed that too. Fast forward to this week and a 2013 Chrysler 300S arrived at my house. I knew couldn't squander this chance as I had done time and time again. The 300S is the step up from the standard 300 and starts at $33,145. My test car is equipped with the 3.6L Pentastar V6, eight-speed automatic, and three option packages (SafetyTec, Light Group, and UConnect) bringing the as-tested price to $37,925* (includes a $995 destination charge). The Chrysler 300 is one of those vehicles that have presence and the S model only amplifies that. A dark silver color and the twenty-inch aluminum wheels takes the 300S to another level. Also taking the 300Z to another level is the 3.6L V6. While most 300s equipped with the 3.6 come with 292 horsepower and 260 pound-feet, S models get eight extra horses and four more pound-feet to torque. This is due to a sports tuned exhaust and cold-air induction system. During my first 15 minutes, I was shocked by how much power the 3.6 had available on tap and how smooth the eight-speed automatic is. The ride was surprisingly comfortable during my short drive, although I'll see how it fares on the freeway in the coming week. Also impressing me is Chrysler's UConnect system. A large 8.4-inch touchscreen houses the system and its a breeze to use. The touch points to move around are large and the system is very snappy. The Beats audio system seems to producing very good system, but I will need to spend some more time with it before make any conclusions. Complaints? I have a couple. The 300 has possibly the worst rear visibility in a vehicle I have tested. I'm very thankful my tester has blind-spot monitoring and a backup camera. The other lies with interior as its too black. Black leather, black dashboard, and a black headliner. Needs some contrasting colors on the double. For now, I'm going to revel in the fact that I have driven a 300. Stay tuned for the review.

William Maley

William Maley

Drive Diary: 2014 Hyundai Equus Signature

There are times when I think I have seen it all as an automotive writer, and then something happens that makes me realize that I haven't. Case in point, I had two Equuss (or is it Equui?) pull up to my residence. One was white and the other happened to be black (the model seen here). It was just odd coincidence to have two of the same models at the same time. Sadly I wasn't able to get a picture of it. But lets move on to the Equus I have in for review this week. The Equus as seen here is the Signature which is the starter model in the lineup and comes with a pricetag of $61,000. Add in destination and you're looking at the as-tested price of $61,920. For that price, you are getting a lot of luxury car. The exterior is well, kind of boring. I like it, but for some people they maybe want some excitement in the design. There is a little S-Class in the rear and the nineteen-inch turbine wheels add a nice touch of class. Inside, the Equus is as comfortable and mostly well laid out as I remembered in my first drive. I say mostly since I had look for a few moments for the brightness adjustment and realize there are a lot of buttons scattered around. It took a moment or so to find it. Taking the Equus out for a brief spin, I remember how much I loved the soft ride in my first drive and that still continues. I loved the 5.0L Tau V8 and eight-speed automatic were smooth as butter. What I wasn't too keen in my brief drive was the steering as it felt rubbery to me. Now I know a big luxury sedan is supposed to be relaxing, but I was hoping for somewhat smoother steering. Once I got back from my brief drive, I realize that the next seven days are going to be quite interesting. Stay tuned for the review.

William Maley

William Maley

 

An Odd, But Very Good Reason To Stick With A Brand

Recently, I was having a conversation with one of my Grandmas about a new vehicle. She currently owns a last-generation Chevrolet Impala and is pretty happy with it so far, but has decided she would like to get a Chevrolet Equinox. She wants the taller ride height to see the road a bit better and a little more ground clearance to get through the snow. I was asked for my opinion on the matter and I told her that if she sticks with a four-cylinder, then a Equinox would be a very good vehicle. Right after I said this, I asked her why a Chevrolet Equinox? She gave a reason that I thought at first was odd but making perfect sense a moment after. She explained that the local dealer she bought her three previous Chevrolets have been good her. Like when she brings in her Impala to dealer for an oil change, she'll get 10 percent off the service since she bought the vehicle there and they vacuum out the vehicle. Why does this make sense? For many people, their only interaction with an automaker takes place at dealer. If dealer treats that person very well, more than likely, that person will come back and buy another car from that brand. Treat them badly and you not only lost a person to a sale, you lost them from ever checking out that brand ever again.

William Maley

William Maley

 

What Would I Buy? XTS vs. Equus

In my recent review of the 2013 Cadillac XTS Platinum, a comment was left by someone that stated, "At $64k I'd take a Hyundai Equus over this. Which makes me think, has any magazine or website done a comparison test with a Hyundai Equus in it?" This is somewhat funny since a week before I published the XTS review, I wrote up a first drive of the 2014 Hyundai Equus: A vehicle that starts around the same price range as my fully loaded XTS Platinum tester. So that brings up this question: Which vehicle would I buy? Let's look at the good and bad points of each vehicle. 2013 Cadillac XTS Platinum The Good Its Got Style: The XTS as I said in my review 'might be my favorite Cadillac design to date.' The sharp lines and angles give the XTS presence. Little touches such as a satin-chrome grille, twenty-inch wheels, and taillights with a little fin action give the XTS the Cadillac identity. No one will mistake you for driving anything else but a Cadillac.
Technologies Galore: The XTS was one of the first GM vehicles to loaded with a lot tech. You have a reconfigurable gauge cluster that you can customize to your liking. A new head-up display that is in color and provides key information such as speed, navigation, and other items. There is CUE (Cadillac User Experience) which has been getting better to use.
Smooth Rider: I found the XTS to be one most comfortable rides I've ever experienced. Credit an rear air suspension system and GM's Magnetic Ride Control.
The Bad CUE: Now I did praise CUE a moment ago for getting much better to use. That doesn't mean GM has all of the problems licked. For one, CUE has a very steep learning curve. Trying to use CUE without reading the manual and spending some quality time with it will result in a world of hurt. There's also the distraction problem. With CUE using capacitive touch buttons, you have to take your eyes off the road and look at the buttons to make sure you're hitting the right one. Fine when you're parked or at a stop light. Not so when you're on the move.
3.6L DI V6: From my review; "When you think back to the big Cadillacs of yesteryear, all of them used a big V8 engine with the torque arriving on the low end of the RPM spectrum. The XTS' 3.6L is the complete opposite. With torque arriving at 5,200 RPM, you really have to work the engine if you want to get moving. Add on a curb weight of 4,215 pounds for the XTS Platinum with AWD, and you're in for a world of hurt."
2014 Hyundai Equus The Good Value, Value, and Value: Looking at the Hyundai Equus window sticker and seeing how much stuff is standard may cause a shock. There is a 5.0L Tau V8, eight-speed automatic transmission, 9.2-inch for the infotainment system, a 7.1 surround sound system, three-zone climate control, power and reclining rear seats, power rear sunshade, nine airbags, smart cruise control, and much more.
No-Cost Maintenance with Valet Pickup/Drop-Off: When Hyundai first introduced the Equus, they sent shockwaves through the automotive world by doing something different with their maintenance program. You can schedule a service appointment from your home and a dealer rep will come by, pick up your Equus, and leave you a loaner vehicle. From there, the Equus is taken to the dealer where the service is done and then brought back to you.
Backseat Space and Luxuries: The backseat is huge. You'll find plenty of head and legroom. Plus, you can recline the seat to provide a bit more comfort. Fold the center armrest down and you'll find controls for the climate control and radio.
The Bad Badge: While Hyundai has improved their image over the past few years, telling someone that you drive a $60,000 Hyundai will net you some strange looks.
Exterior Design: Compared to competitors in the flagship luxury class, the Equus looks kind of boring.
Verdict For around the same price, you can get two different classes of vehicle. The XTS is around the same size as a BMW 5-Series, Audi A6, and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, while the Equus plays in the Audi A8, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and BMW 7-Series sandbox. Both vehicles for the price are very good for what they are. You go with the XTS if you want a big, American luxury sedan with some clever tech and very unique styling. You go with the Equus if you want a big luxury car for not that much money. What would I choose? Well at the moment, I would go with the Equus. The value for money argument is second to none and the maintenance pickup and drop-off is an amazing selling point. However with a new 410 horsepower TT V6 on the way for the Cadillac XTS, that could make this decision much harder. So which one would you choose? Let me know in the comments.

William Maley

William Maley

 

Dullest 5 Cars of the Past 40 Years

Our friends over at Consumer Guide Automotive's - The Daily Drive Blog like to put out "Top Whatever of the last X Years" lists. That's cool, they're fun, and they spur debate. Sometimes I agree with their list, often times I don't. However, yesterday they re-ran an old list of the Top 5 Dullest Cars of the Last 40 Years and I took issue with not just a few of the nominations, but even their reason for being nominated. For a list so short, 40 years is a very broad range to pick from. For the readers at home, I've met Tom Appel a few times, he's a good guy, and this is just in fun. Here are my line-item vetos of Tom's "Top 5 Dullest Cars" list: 1990-2000 Chevrolet Lumina - Tom nominates the Lumina noting the Lumina's "edgy" predecessor, the Chevrolet Celebrity. If Tom finds the Celebrity to be edgy, he can come over and watch me tie my shoes, that should really get his heart rate up. The nomination of the Lumina jumped out at me only because of how often it is included in lists like this. People often forget that you could buy the Lumina with a 24-valve DOHC V6 producing 215 horsepower and 215 lb-ft of torque from 1991 - 1995 at a time when most other family cars were lucky to crest the 170hp mark with their V6 and even more were making due with a 90 horsepower deficit in their 4-cylinders. Even the Ford Mustang V8 was only running 215 horsepower till 1994. Coupe models of the Lumina received transverse fiberglass leaf spring technology borrowed from the Corvette and cool vertical mount door handles. Sure, those door handles would break within 5-years, but they weren't boring. 1997 - 2001 Cadillac Catera - The Cadillac Catera is the David Hasselhoff of the automotive world; the subject of mocking and derision in the U.S. while enjoying cult like status in Germany. No car that enjoys cult status in Germany deserves to be on a "Most Boring" list. In spite of its problems, the Catera did what Cadillac needed it to do; get the world used to the idea that a Cadillac could handle with the best from Germany. The complaints lists for the Catera were long, reviewers could complain about power or the stark interior, but on handling, the Catera was generally praised. In fact, even Consumer Guide rated the Catera's handling a 6 out of 10 right along with its contemporary Audi A6 and Mercedes-Benz C-class. The Catera deserves to be on plenty of other lists, but "Most Boring" isn't one of them. 1992 - 1996 Toyota Camry - Here is a case of Tom not going far enough. Tom calls the Camry "the best overall vehicle on this list, the 1992-1996 Camry excited the senses like soggy unsalted pretzels served half frozen"; which is funny to me because the most remarkable thing about this generation of Camry is that it was Toyota's first semi-successful attempt at building a car that didn't dissolve into a pile of iron-oxide at the first sign of salt in a northern U.S. winter. But has any generation of Camry ever been exciting... ever? The Camry has only been around for 31 years and you had 40 to work with Tom, use it all. Tom's other two nominations, the '78 - '83 Fairmont (I would expand this to include the restyled and renamed LTD that ran till '86) and the '81 - '89 Plymouth Reliant deserve to be on a "Most Boring" list. But that leaves me two vehicles short. So here are my some nominations to fill the gap. Toyota Corolla (All) - Doesn't matter the year, any Corolla of the past 40 years will do. This is the nameplate that finally pushed the decidedly non-boring Volkswagen Beetle out as the most produced nameplate ever. They come in any color you like as along as it's beige and they ran with 4-speed automatics up until just a few years ago while the domestics were getting raked over the coals for the same thing. The Corolla is, and has been, the car for people who hate cars, hate driving, but must have some form of transportation besides the bus. 2000 - 2009 Kia Optima - This car was so bland that a very mildly disguised version of it was used by Subaru for an ad campaign titled "Mediocrity". Subaru likely picked the Optima due to the fact that so few people would actually be able to recognize the shapeless beige lump. Kia must have really taken that teasing to heart because when we reviewed the 2012 Kia Optima, we found it anything but boring. 1982 - 2005 Buick Century - It's been a long while since the Buick Century was thought of as the Banker's Hotrod. This car originally got its name for being the first regular production car to be able to reach and maintain 100 miles per hour. In the 1950's the Century was Buick's performance line, using the largest V8 in the smallest body. Long gone are those days, and since 1982 the Century has been just about as dull a 3-box sedan as you could buy. Tom might not like this pick though because the 1982 - 1996 models were just a Chevrolet Celebrity without all the *cough* .. edginess. Ford Tempo (All) - The Ford Tempo took over after the Fairmont/LTD was done blanding up the place. They arrived with 83 horsepower 4-cylinders mated to 3-speed automatics and while the '87 Taurus gets all the credit for the styling renaissance that swept through Ford in the mid to late 80s, it was actually the lowly, unloved Tempo that actually debuted the "jellybean" style 4 years prior. Back in high school, a friend's dad had an AWD, Diesel, 5-speed gray-market Tempo which was interesting only that it existed in the first place. What say you dear reader? More nominations for "Most Boring Cars" list? Disagree with my Vetos?

Drew Dowdell

Drew Dowdell

 

By The Numbers: Cadillac's TT V6 vs. V8s

Cadillac announced today their engine lineup for the next-generation CTS that will be shown at the New York show next week. The lineup includes the 2.0T four-cylinder, 3.6L V6, and a new 3.6L V6 with twin turbos. This engine produces an immense 420 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. So how does it compare to the competition? For curiosity sake, I have created a comparison chart with the new TT V6 and the competition. My thoughts are underneath the table. For starters, TT 3.6L seems directly aimed at competitors equipped with V8 engine. Horsepower is matched by the Audi and Infiniti M56, while torque is just behind the 550i and E550. The CTS TT 3.6 is pipped by the S6 in the run to 60 MPH, mostly due to the quattro AWD system and seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. But being only 0.1 second off the S6, I wondering if the CTS' eight-speed has better gearing or is lighter than the S6, which tips the scales at 4,398 lbs. Fuel economy wise, the new TT 3.6 sits in the middle in the City, while its second to last on the highway cycle. I do wonder where it land when the EPA rates the combined number; my guess is somewhere in the middle. Other items for your consideration: Out of this group, the Infiniti M56 is the only naturally-aspirated V8.
How does the S6 get 27 MPG on the highway? Thank cylinder-deactivation.
BMW 550i is the only model to have the choice of a manual and automatic. Also, if you want the top speed raised on your 550i, be prepared to shell out $2,900 for the M Sport Package.
Rumor has it that Mercedes-Benz will drop the twin-turbo V8 for a twin-turbo V6 within the next few years.
As I reported this morning, the TT 3.6L V6 will be in the 2014 XTS. We didn't know the performance figures at the time, but Todd Lassa at Automobile Magazine says 410 horsepower and 370 pound-feet of torque. It will stick with a six-speed automatic though.
Where do you stand on this? Does the new TT 3.6L have a chance?

William Maley

William Maley

 

2013 Chevrolet Avalanche LTZ Black Diamond: Day 3

Welcome to day three of the 2013 Chevrolet Avalanche Black Diamond Interactive Review. When I had last updated, I gave some brief information on the Avalanche and the price. Since then, I've been putting on the mileage on the truck and can offer some brief impressions. I'm really impressed with the Avalanche's ride. It doesn't feel like a pickup where it seems to transmit most road imperfections and very bouncy. Instead the Avalanche rides like a luxury vehicle, driving over the bumps with you not really noticing it all. Disappointments are coming from the interior as the cheap wood trim and the old headunit. They are really aging the Avalanche really quick. Fuel economy has been hovering around 15.5 MPG so far in mostly suburban driving. I did take the Avalanche on a freeway trip and saw fuel economy rise to about 19.3 MPG. I will have another update or two on Avalanche during the week, including how it fared during a donation run to the Salivation Army. In the mean time, leave your questions in the comments.

William Maley

William Maley

 

2013 Chevrolet Avalanche LTZ Black Diamond & Toyota Highlander V6 4WD

So this week in the Cheers & Gears Detroit garage, I have ended up with two vehicles. The first is the 2013 Chevrolet Avalanche LTZ Black Diamond edition. Yes, the Avalanche is still in production till the end of 2013. To mark the end of an era, Chevrolet has introduced the Black Diamond edition to all Avalanches which adds a badge signifying the lifetime of the Avalanche, rear vision camera system, body-color exterior components, Ultrasonic Rear Parking Assist, remote vehicle starter system, power-adjustable pedals and foglamps. Our Avalanche Black Diamond is the LTZ model and come with leather, navigation, a trailer package, heated and cooled seats, and much more. Power comes from a 5.3L V8 producing 320 horsepower and 335 pound-feet that goes through a six-speed automatic. Pricetag on this 2013 Avalanche is $51,295. Next is the 2013 Toyota Highlander. This is the base model (somewhat of a rarity in the press fleet) and comes with seating for seven, a touchscreen radio, cloth seats, trip computer, and a few other bits. Power is a 3.5L V6 (270 horsepower and 248 pound-feet) that goes down to a five-speed automatic. I had the chance to drive the Highlander a bit more since it was dropped yesterday and finding it to be a very competent crossover. The V6 is quite punchy and the five-speed is smooth. I'm seeing fuel economy hovering around the 19 MPG mark which is the EPA rating for the city. Pricetag on the 2013 Highlander is around $33,757. I'll be talking more about these two vehicles over the next week. If you have any questions on either one, leave a comment. I'll do my best to answer them.

William Maley

William Maley

 

The Assembly Line - March 10, 2013

Hello and welcome back to Random Links, now with a new name; the assembly line. For those who are new to this, The Assembly Line appears every Sunday and will feature a variety of links to articles or a number of other things that I find during the week and want to share with everyone. If you have a link or something that you think should be on the next edition, hit me up in the comments, message me on twitter (@realmudmonster is my handle), or email me at william.maley@cheersandgears.com. Car: How VW's XL1 will make your next Golf lighter, faster and more frugal - The Volkswagen XL1 is a unique type of supercar; a vehicle that gets 261 MPG on the European cycle thanks to many engineering feats done on the vehicle. Chief XL1 engineer Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg talks with Car about how elements of the XL1 could appear in future Volkswagen models. Hooniverse: R.A-S.H: The Ford Puma and Racing Puma - Chris Haining goes through the magnificent brochure of the Ford Puma. Autoweek: Amelia Island by Benz: A spin in the 1910 Benz 21/80 Prinz Heinrich car - What is like to ride in a Benz before it became a part of Mercedes-Benz? Graham Kozak goes for a ride in the 1910 Benz 21/80 Prinz Heinrich. The Truth About Cars: Urban SUVs: Giving The People What The People Want - Marcelo de Vasconcellos explains why people go gaga over small crossovers. Hemmings Blog: Roy Brown, designer of the Edsel, dies - Daniel Strohl looks back at the life of designer Roy Brown and talks about how he recovered from the mess that was the Edsel.

William Maley

William Maley

 

Drive Diary: 2013 Cadillac SRX AWD Performance Collection - Day 2

Dear Cadillac, I would like to lodge a complaint with you concerning one part of the 2013 Cadillac SRX AWD Performance Collection model I'm driving this week. The part or should I say parts I'm referring to is the seats as they are uncomfortable, feeling like concrete blocks wrapped in leather. Seats in a luxury crossover should not feel like this at all. What they should feel like is something soft, like a pillow. Just the right amount of give in the seat to give comfort and support for a passenger. I do hope you take the time and address the problem with SRX. Thanks, William Maley Staff Writer - Cheers & Gears

William Maley

William Maley

Drive Diary: 2013 Cadillac SRX AWD Performance Collection - Day 1

Has it really been close to two years since we last had a Cadillac SRX in for review? Yes it has. This was around the time when the SRX came with two different engines and a somewhat decent interior. Flash forward to 2013 and the SRX has undergone many changes. There is a new front end, revised interior, and only one engine. That brings me to the vehicle that took the place of the Malibu Turbo yesterday, a 2013 Cadillac SRX AWD Performance Collection. This is the midlevel model in the SRX lineup and came nicely loaded for its as tested price of $49,085. The only option was Black Ice Metallic paint for $495.00. Everything else from the panoramic sunroof, CUE, eight-way adjustable seats for driver and passenger, and number of other features are all standard. Much like the Malibu Turbo, I will update every day (or close to it) with some thoughts, opinions, and behind the scenes look at the review. Stay tuned.

William Maley

William Maley

Drive Diary: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ Turbo - Day 3 and 4

Author's Note: Sorry for not updating this within the past couple of days. Have been busy with Geneva Motor Show coverage (which you can check out here.) I'm combining days three and four here. Five and six will be the same. - WM They say its the little things that can make or break a car. In the case of the Malibu Turbo that is very true. There are items in the Malibu that I'm impressed with and some that I'm not. I thought I would highlight two of them. I'll start with the good thing and it begins with the Malibu Turbo's exterior. As I said in my Malibu Eco review, I really liked the shape of the new Malibu. The new Turbo takes the shape adds some minor touches such as new grille inserts, chrome trim, and optional nineteen-inch wheels really make it stand out even more. Now for the disappointment and that is the six-speed automatic. While most of the time the automatic is very smooth and knows what gear to go into, there are times when the transmission isn't sure what gear to go into and goes hunting. This is very evident when slowing down or needing to make a pass and is very annoying.

William Maley

William Maley

 

Random Links - March 3rd, 2013

Hello and welcome to the first edition of random links. Random Links will (hopefully) appear every Sunday and feature a variety of links to articles or a number of other things that I find during the week and want to share with everyone. If you have a link or something that you think should be on the next edition, hit me up in the comments, message me on twitter (@realmudmonster is my handle), or email me at william.maley@cheersandgears.com Motor Trend: Should Automakers Be Selling “Beta” Cars? - Steve Abrams says that automakers have been doing beta tests in varying degrees and wonders if they should go further with it. Hooniverse: W124 Love – The Europe’s Panther - In the states, the Panther platform (Ford Crown Victoria, Lincoln Town Car, and Mercury Grand Marquis) represent cheap, bulletproof motoring. In Europe, Vojta Dobes says the Mercedes-Benz W124 family is the equivalent. Autoweek: Futuristic, self-balancing Gyro-X to be restored - Blake Z. Rong gives the story on the Gyro-X, a unique vehicle that used gyroscopes to keep the vehicle balance. Plus, find out why its being restored. New York Times City Room: Why the School Bus Never Comes in Red or Green - Ever wondered why School Buses are yellow? You can thank Professor Frank W. Cyr. The New York Times explains why. Car Magazine SA: Set science-based speed limits - Ivo Vegter of Car Magazine SA argues that speed limits should be based on studies, not gut reactions. Car Magazine SA: From The Archives: Chevrolet Lumina SS - No, not the W-Body Lumina. The Lumina that came from a little place known as Australia. (Author's Note: The next two pieces are shameless plugs for pieces I have written.) Victory & Reseda: Commentary: The New Diesel Pickup World Order - Ram announces a new diesel V6, is it going to be the engine to shake up the truck market? Victory & Reseda: Commentary: Technology Overload - Is there such a thing as too much tech in cars?

William Maley

William Maley

Drive Diary: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ Turbo - Day 2

Welcome to day two of the Test Diaries on the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ Turbo. If you're wondering what is the test diaries and/or want to learn more about the Chevrolet Malibu LTZ Turbo, check out Day 1 here. Lets dig into the Malibu Turbo's engine. Chevrolet's decision to go with a turbo-four instead of V6 isn't that surprising. Most automakers (except for Honda, Nissan, and Toyota) have gone with the turbo-four since it provides the punch of a six without the fuel economy penalties. Whether that comes to fruition or not is something I'll be keeping a close eye during my time. The engine is a turbocharged 2.0L Ecotec four-cylinder producing 259 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. The engine is shared with the Cadillac ATS and not the Buick Regal/Verano Turbo or Regal GS. Those Buicks stick with an older Opel turbo engine. I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I first got into the Malibu Turbo. I was thinking the engine would be somewhat noisy and there would be some, but not a lot of turbo lag. Thankfully, the 2.0L turbo isn't very noisy at all. I think it could be one of the quietest engines I have driven. There is some turbo lag, but its very minimal. Once out of the lag, the 2.0L packs quite the punch and could fool some people into thinking you're driving a bigger engine due to how smooth the powerband is. Well done GM. That's it for this entry, stay tuned for day three.

William Maley

William Maley

Drive Diary: 2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ Turbo - Day 1

I'm trying something new here with the blog portion on Cheers & Gears with the vehicles I get the chance to review. I going to keep up a diary of sorts for every vehicle that I get in. This will not be taking the place of the interactive review, nor the full/quick reviews. Instead, this will be addendum of sorts; some of my thoughts, behind the scenes look at what goes on, or a number of other things. With that out of the way, it's time to introduce the first vehicle that will take part in this; the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ Turbo. Anyone who remembers the last time I had 2013 Malibu knows I wasn't really impressed. Most of it comes from the Malibu being the Eco model, the launch model for the new Malibu. I found the powertrain to be lacking in fuel economy and the stop/start system only started. There was also the problem of rear seat space in the Eco, something GM will be fixing in the 2014 model. Now I'm in the other extreme of the Malibu lineup, the new Turbo model. The Turbo engine in question is the 2.0L EcoTech four-cylinder producing 259 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. All of that power goes through six-speed automatic down to the front wheels. Much like the Malibu Eco, the LTZ Turbo has almost the same positive and negative points as the Eco. Plus: Good Looking Exterior Handsome Interior Minus: Back Seat Space Rear Viability There's another minus that I discovered when the Malibu LTZ Turbo was dropped off on Friday morning: the pricetag. The base LTZ Turbo starts at $29,700. The test car I have is loaded with such things as navigation, nine-speaker Pioneer sound system, push-button start, nineteen-inch alloy wheels, lane departure warning, and a few other features stickers at $34,595* (includes $810.00 destination charge). My eyes popped out my head when seeing that. I'll be writing more about the Malibu Turbo as my time goes on, so stay tuned.

William Maley

William Maley

 

Should I buy a Scion xD?

I get emails for car purchase advice all the time, so rather than just reply in an e-mail, I've decided to share these Q and As with the rest of you. If you have your own question to submit, you can email it to drew.dowdell@cheersandgears.com Starting off, a co-worker who drives a massive amount of miles each year and is interested in new vehicle e-mailed me: The Scion xD is one of those cars that I can’t get excited about but can’t say much against either, it’s just a car. It will start and run every day and delivers rather unremarkable performance. It doesn’t have much power but it doesn’t get great fuel economy to make up for it. I assume you’d buy an automatic which leaves you with just a 4-speed auto when the rest of the industry is using 6-speed units for better acceleration and fuel economy. Toyota also makes the Yaris on this platform with a less powerful engine, cheaper interior, and lower price. Sales of the Yaris and xD have been fairly slow, so the dealer will probably buy you a lap dance just for looking. If you’re not married to driving a hatchback, I’ll have more suggestions. Here are some competitors in this segment to consider: I’ve recently had the Chevy Sonic as a test car and really enjoyed it. It is roughly in the same price range as the xD… it also sports one of the best crash test ratings in its class having both stability control and more airbags than Congress. The turbo version has better real-world gas mileage than the non-turbo. There is very little power advantage getting the turbo, it is there entirely for improving fuel economy. With as many miles as you put on cars each year, the turbo might be worth springing the extra money for. If I were shopping in this segment, this one would be my choice because it feels like a much more substantial car on the road. Ford Focus - Ford is rolling out lots of deals on the Focus 5-door. I’m personally not a fan of the styling but that is a subjective thing. The hardware under the skin is sound. If it matters to you, the Focus was designed by Ford of Germany. Subaru Impreza 5-door may be another car to look at if having AWD interests you and you can swing another $1500. When equipped with the CVT transmission ( which drives like an automatic) it is only rated for 33mpg highway but most owners report getting much higher than the EPA rating on the highway. Subaru has long been thought of as the Japanese Volvo in terms of safety ratings. Others: Hyundai Elantra GT - I haven’t driven it so I don't have too firm an opinion, but its price may be a bit high with a starting MSRP over $18k. Kia Soul – You already have one and you didn’t mention getting another. It is also due to be replaced with a new model very soon so you might be able to pick one up cheap as a leftover. Volkswagen Golf – The car itself is fine, but you can’t get a decent engine until you spend well over $20k. The base 5-cylinder engine is the worst of both worlds, having the power of a 4-cylinder with the fuel economy of a V6, and the refinement of a John Deere. No exaggeration, I’ve gotten better fuel economy out of a V6 Camaro and V6 Chrysler 300 than VW cars with the 2.5 liter. Ford Fiesta/Mazda 2 – Same car under the skin. I’m not a fan. They feel cramped and flimsy. Spending just a little bit more money gets you a far more solid car in the Chevrolet Sonic or Ford Focus. Nissan Versa – It’s the cheapest new car on the market today… but just No. Don’t do it. You get what you pay for. Honda Fit – Catches a lot of hell for the interior, but none of the cars in this segment will be sporting mahogany inlay. This is another car that, like the Scion xD, will start and run each day, but is unremarkable in the performance it returns being one of the least powerful in the segment yet producing mediocre fuel economy numbers. Price will probably scare you away here because Honda dealers are unmotivated to negotiate price much since there are so many Honda Kool-Aid drinkers out there. What do you readers think? Anything I forgot that should have been included?

Drew Dowdell

Drew Dowdell

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