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Found 242 results

  1. It has been about five years since a Cadillac V series model has graced either one the Cheers & Gears’ garages (if you’re wondering, that would be the 2011 CTS-V Coupe that our Managing Editor drove). It isn’t for our lack of trying. I can give you a stack of emails to the person who handles General Motors’ fleet in Detroit that list the ATS-V and CTS-V as a possible test vehicle. But if you keep bugging someone over time, something is bound to change. That is what happened this summer as a Cadillac ATS-V coupe rolled into the Cheers and Gears’ Detroit garage. Was it worth the wait? The standard Cadillac ATS coupe is already a model that stands out in crowd thanks to an aggressive look. The V turns that aggressiveness up to eleven. The front features a dual mesh grille setup (a small one on top and a larger one below), a narrow slot between the grille and hood; and a new bulging hood with an air extractor. A set of optional eighteen-inch alloy wheels fill in the wheel wells nicely and show off the massive Brembo brakes. The back comes with a rear wing and diffuser with quad exhaust tips. Our ATS-V tester featured the optional Carbon Fiber package that adds an exposed carbon fiber weave for the front splitter, hood extractor, and rear diffuser. It also comes with a larger rear wing and extensions for the rocker panels. I’ll admit I found the carbon fiber package to be a bit much with our tester’s red paint at first. It’s like going into an important meeting wearing a zoot suit and alligator shoes. You’ll make an impression, but is it the one you want to put out into the world? I did grow to like this combination as the week went on. That said, I would skip the carbon fiber package. For one, you have to very careful not cause any damage to lower parts when driving over speed bumps and other road imperfections. For example, the low ride height makes it easy for the front splitter to be cracked. Second, this optional package is $5,000. There are better ways you can use that $5,000 such as getting a new set of tires or a plane ticket to get you over to Cadillac’s V driving school. Inside, the ATS-V is a bit of a disappointment. For the nearly $80,000 price tag of our tester, you would think that it would look and feel the part. In certain areas, the ATS-V does. Cadillac has appointed parts of the interior with carbon fiber and suede to give it a sporty feel. Our tester featured the optional Recaro seats which are the first set I actually liked sitting in. A lot of this is due to how you could adjust seat bolstering to make yourself actually fit into the seat, not sitting on top of it. But this where the good points end with the ATS-V’s interior. Despite all of the premium touches Cadillac has added, it doesn’t feel like it is worth the price. Take for example the center stack with CUE. It is just a sheet of piano black trim and makes the interior feel somewhat cheap. You’ll find more piano black trim throughout the interior which reinforces this. The instrument cluster is the same that you’ll find in the standard ATS only with a different font. It would have been nice if Cadillac could have pulled the 12.3-inch screen setup they use on the CTS-V as it looks nicer and would provide the key details needed for a driver. CUE still hasn’t gotten any better in terms of performance and overall usability. Yes, Cadillac has added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration to CUE. But we had issues with CarPlay with the system not recognizing our phone and apps crashing. The back seat? Just use it for storage. Trying to fit someone back there could cause you to be accused of cruel and unusual punishment. Power for the ATS-V comes from a twin-turbo 3.6L V6 with 464 horsepower and 445 pound-feet of torque. This can be paired with either a six-speed manual or our tester’s eight-speed automatic. Start up the engine and it delivers a meaty, if somewhat muted growl. Don’t let that fool you, this engine will throw you in the back of your seat with no issue. Yes, the turbos do mean you’ll have a moment or two for that rush of power to arrive. But once the turbos spool, hold on. Power comes on at a linear rate and never lets up. The eight-speed automatic delivers crisp upshifts, but it does take a second or so for it to downshift. If you’re wondering about fuel economy, the EPA rates the ATS-V automatic at 16 City/24 Highway/19 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 18 mpg. Where the ATS-V truly shines is in the handling. The first time I took the ATS-V down a curvy road, I was gobsmacked at how well it hustled around the corners with no issues. Enter into a corner and ATS-V hunkers down thanks to sticky Michelin Pilot Sport. There is little body roll and the steering provides quick and precise turn-in. The ATS was already a pretty decent handling car, but Cadillac knew that it could be better. The stiffness of the chassis has been increased by 25 percent and there is the newest version of GM’s Magnetic Ride Control system that is faster when it comes adjusting the damping characteristics of the shocks. Three modes (Touring, Sport, and Track) can vary the stiffness of the shocks along with the behavior of the engine and steering. When you decided that you had enough fun and it is time to go back to the daily grind, the ATS-V turns into a comfortable cruiser. With the vehicle in Touring mode, the ride is compliant with some bumps making their way inside. Road and wind noise is kept to very acceptable levels. One item that we were disappointed not to have on our test ATS-V was blind spot monitoring. This is part of a $1,500 Safety and Security package that also adds lane keep assist, forward collision alert, rear-cross traffic alert, and more. For a vehicle that begins that begins just a hair over $62,000, you think blind spot monitor would be standard. It should. Cadillac has been making great strides since the first-generation CTS-V and the ATS-V is the beneficiary of it. The powertrains will nail you to your seats and the handling can match or surpass the class leaders. But Cadillac is still stumbling over some simple things such as the interior materials and the infotainment system. It is an amazing driving vehicle, but it is let down by the interior. At the end of the week, I couldn’t deny this is an impressive vehicle even with the interior issues. It was very much worth the long wait. Cheers: Jaw-Dropping performance, Sharp handling, Looks that make it stand out from the crowd Jeers: Carbon Fiber package isn't worth the money or worry, Interior doesn't feel like it is worth the price, CUE Disclaimer: Cadillac Provided the ATS-V, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Cadillac Model: ATS-V Coupe Trim: N/A Engine: 3.6L SIDI DOHC Twin-Turbo V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 464 @ 5,850 Torque @ RPM: 445 @ 3,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/24/19 Curb Weight: 3,803 lbs Location of Manufacture: Lansing, MI Base Price: $62,665 As Tested Price: $79,205 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Carbon Fiber Package - $5,000.00 Recaro Performance Seats - $2,300.00 Luxury Package - $2,100.00 8-Speed Automatic Transmission - $2,000.00 Performance Data Recorder - $1,300.00 Power Sunroof - $1,050.00 18-inch Polished Wheels - $900.00 Dark Gold Brembo Calipers - $595.00 Sueded Microfiber Steering Wheels and Shifter - $300.00 View full article
  2. Review: 2016 Cadillac ATS-V Coupe

    It has been about five years since a Cadillac V series model has graced either one the Cheers & Gears’ garages (if you’re wondering, that would be the 2011 CTS-V Coupe that our Managing Editor drove). It isn’t for our lack of trying. I can give you a stack of emails to the person who handles General Motors’ fleet in Detroit that list the ATS-V and CTS-V as a possible test vehicle. But if you keep bugging someone over time, something is bound to change. That is what happened this summer as a Cadillac ATS-V coupe rolled into the Cheers and Gears’ Detroit garage. Was it worth the wait? The standard Cadillac ATS coupe is already a model that stands out in crowd thanks to an aggressive look. The V turns that aggressiveness up to eleven. The front features a dual mesh grille setup (a small one on top and a larger one below), a narrow slot between the grille and hood; and a new bulging hood with an air extractor. A set of optional eighteen-inch alloy wheels fill in the wheel wells nicely and show off the massive Brembo brakes. The back comes with a rear wing and diffuser with quad exhaust tips. Our ATS-V tester featured the optional Carbon Fiber package that adds an exposed carbon fiber weave for the front splitter, hood extractor, and rear diffuser. It also comes with a larger rear wing and extensions for the rocker panels. I’ll admit I found the carbon fiber package to be a bit much with our tester’s red paint at first. It’s like going into an important meeting wearing a zoot suit and alligator shoes. You’ll make an impression, but is it the one you want to put out into the world? I did grow to like this combination as the week went on. That said, I would skip the carbon fiber package. For one, you have to very careful not cause any damage to lower parts when driving over speed bumps and other road imperfections. For example, the low ride height makes it easy for the front splitter to be cracked. Second, this optional package is $5,000. There are better ways you can use that $5,000 such as getting a new set of tires or a plane ticket to get you over to Cadillac’s V driving school. Inside, the ATS-V is a bit of a disappointment. For the nearly $80,000 price tag of our tester, you would think that it would look and feel the part. In certain areas, the ATS-V does. Cadillac has appointed parts of the interior with carbon fiber and suede to give it a sporty feel. Our tester featured the optional Recaro seats which are the first set I actually liked sitting in. A lot of this is due to how you could adjust seat bolstering to make yourself actually fit into the seat, not sitting on top of it. But this where the good points end with the ATS-V’s interior. Despite all of the premium touches Cadillac has added, it doesn’t feel like it is worth the price. Take for example the center stack with CUE. It is just a sheet of piano black trim and makes the interior feel somewhat cheap. You’ll find more piano black trim throughout the interior which reinforces this. The instrument cluster is the same that you’ll find in the standard ATS only with a different font. It would have been nice if Cadillac could have pulled the 12.3-inch screen setup they use on the CTS-V as it looks nicer and would provide the key details needed for a driver. CUE still hasn’t gotten any better in terms of performance and overall usability. Yes, Cadillac has added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration to CUE. But we had issues with CarPlay with the system not recognizing our phone and apps crashing. The back seat? Just use it for storage. Trying to fit someone back there could cause you to be accused of cruel and unusual punishment. Power for the ATS-V comes from a twin-turbo 3.6L V6 with 464 horsepower and 445 pound-feet of torque. This can be paired with either a six-speed manual or our tester’s eight-speed automatic. Start up the engine and it delivers a meaty, if somewhat muted growl. Don’t let that fool you, this engine will throw you in the back of your seat with no issue. Yes, the turbos do mean you’ll have a moment or two for that rush of power to arrive. But once the turbos spool, hold on. Power comes on at a linear rate and never lets up. The eight-speed automatic delivers crisp upshifts, but it does take a second or so for it to downshift. If you’re wondering about fuel economy, the EPA rates the ATS-V automatic at 16 City/24 Highway/19 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 18 mpg. Where the ATS-V truly shines is in the handling. The first time I took the ATS-V down a curvy road, I was gobsmacked at how well it hustled around the corners with no issues. Enter into a corner and ATS-V hunkers down thanks to sticky Michelin Pilot Sport. There is little body roll and the steering provides quick and precise turn-in. The ATS was already a pretty decent handling car, but Cadillac knew that it could be better. The stiffness of the chassis has been increased by 25 percent and there is the newest version of GM’s Magnetic Ride Control system that is faster when it comes adjusting the damping characteristics of the shocks. Three modes (Touring, Sport, and Track) can vary the stiffness of the shocks along with the behavior of the engine and steering. When you decided that you had enough fun and it is time to go back to the daily grind, the ATS-V turns into a comfortable cruiser. With the vehicle in Touring mode, the ride is compliant with some bumps making their way inside. Road and wind noise is kept to very acceptable levels. One item that we were disappointed not to have on our test ATS-V was blind spot monitoring. This is part of a $1,500 Safety and Security package that also adds lane keep assist, forward collision alert, rear-cross traffic alert, and more. For a vehicle that begins that begins just a hair over $62,000, you think blind spot monitor would be standard. It should. Cadillac has been making great strides since the first-generation CTS-V and the ATS-V is the beneficiary of it. The powertrains will nail you to your seats and the handling can match or surpass the class leaders. But Cadillac is still stumbling over some simple things such as the interior materials and the infotainment system. It is an amazing driving vehicle, but it is let down by the interior. At the end of the week, I couldn’t deny this is an impressive vehicle even with the interior issues. It was very much worth the long wait. Cheers: Jaw-Dropping performance, Sharp handling, Looks that make it stand out from the crowd Jeers: Carbon Fiber package isn't worth the money or worry, Interior doesn't feel like it is worth the price, CUE Disclaimer: Cadillac Provided the ATS-V, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Cadillac Model: ATS-V Coupe Trim: N/A Engine: 3.6L SIDI DOHC Twin-Turbo V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 464 @ 5,850 Torque @ RPM: 445 @ 3,500 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/24/19 Curb Weight: 3,803 lbs Location of Manufacture: Lansing, MI Base Price: $62,665 As Tested Price: $79,205 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Carbon Fiber Package - $5,000.00 Recaro Performance Seats - $2,300.00 Luxury Package - $2,100.00 8-Speed Automatic Transmission - $2,000.00 Performance Data Recorder - $1,300.00 Power Sunroof - $1,050.00 18-inch Polished Wheels - $900.00 Dark Gold Brembo Calipers - $595.00 Sueded Microfiber Steering Wheels and Shifter - $300.00
  3. For a time, the V6 was looked down upon in the likes of the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Ford Mustang because they were seen as lackluster. The engines didn’t match aggression that was being expressed by the exterior of the coupes. But rising gas prices and increasing regulations on fuel economy and emissions has the likes of GM, Ford, and FCA revisiting the idea of a V6 muscle car. We recently spent some time in a 2016 Dodge Challenger V6 to see if it is worth it. I will argue that the Challenger is still the meanest looking out of the three muscle cars on sale. Dodge’s designers were able to bring the design of the original Challenger into the modern era without making it look like a complete mess. The little details such as the narrow grille, quad headlights, fuel filler cap, and rectangular taillights are here and help it stand out. Our tester featured the optional Blacktop package that adds a blacked-out grille, black stripes, and a set of 20-inch wheels. The downside to bringing the original Challenger design into the modern era is poor visibility. Large rear pillars and a small glass area make it somewhat difficult to backup or making a pass. The good news is that a number of Challenger models like our SXT Plus come with a backup camera as standard and blind spot monitoring is available as an option. The Challenger’s interior hasn’t changed much since we last reviewed it back in 2014 with the SRT 392. It is still a comfortable place to sit in and controls are in easy reach for the driver thanks to the center stack being slightly angled. Still, the limited glass area does mean you will feel somewhat confined. Power for the SXT is Chrysler’s 3.6L Pentastar V6 with 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic only. If you want a manual, you need to step to one of the V8 engines. The V6 is quite surprising with how much performance is on offer. Step on the accelerator and the V6 moves the Challenger with surprising authority. Power comes on a smooth rate no matter what gear you find yourself in. The eight-speed automatic is one of best in the business with smart shifts. Only disappointment is the V6 doesn’t sound like it belongs in the Challenger. There isn’t that muscular roar when step on the accelerator. A new exhaust and some tweaking in the engine could fix this issue. As for fuel economy, we got an average of 23.4 mpg. Not bad for a coupe that is rated at 19 City/30 Highway/23 Combined. One item that the Challenger is known for is its ride comfort and this hasn’t changed. Even with the optional Super Track Pak fitted to our tester, the Challenger was able to provide a cushy ride over some of Michigan’s terrible roads. Road and wind noise are kept at very low levels. Speaking of the Super Track Pak, this should be mandatory equipment on the V6 model. With firmer suspension bits, it makes the Challenger feel slightly smaller and reduces body roll around corners. However, it cannot mask the Challenger’s weight. Pushing it around a corner, the Challenger feels quite big and not as nimble the as the Chevrolet Camaro I drove afterward. The Challenger SXT Plus starts at $29,995. Add on a few options such as the Blacktop package and you’ll came to an as-tested price of $34,965, pretty good value for a muscle car. Going with the V6 option in the Challenger isn’t bad a choice. You get the looks of a muscle car and some decent performance. But as I drove the Challenger during the week, I couldn’t help but think about what if I had the V8. Six is good, but eight is even better. Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Challenger, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Dodge Model: Challenger Trim: SXT Plus Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6 Driveline: Rear-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 305 @ 6,350 Torque @ RPM: 268 @ 4,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/30/23 Curb Weight: 3,885.2 lbs Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario Base Price: $26,995 As Tested Price: $34,965 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: SXT Plus 3.6L V6 Package 21V - $3,000.00 Driver Convenience Group - $1,095.00 Sound Group II - $795.00 Blacktop Package - $695.00 Super Track Pak - $695.00 UConnect 8.4 NAV - $695.00 View full article
  4. For a time, the V6 was looked down upon in the likes of the Chevrolet Camaro, Dodge Challenger, and Ford Mustang because they were seen as lackluster. The engines didn’t match aggression that was being expressed by the exterior of the coupes. But rising gas prices and increasing regulations on fuel economy and emissions has the likes of GM, Ford, and FCA revisiting the idea of a V6 muscle car. We recently spent some time in a 2016 Dodge Challenger V6 to see if it is worth it. I will argue that the Challenger is still the meanest looking out of the three muscle cars on sale. Dodge’s designers were able to bring the design of the original Challenger into the modern era without making it look like a complete mess. The little details such as the narrow grille, quad headlights, fuel filler cap, and rectangular taillights are here and help it stand out. Our tester featured the optional Blacktop package that adds a blacked-out grille, black stripes, and a set of 20-inch wheels. The downside to bringing the original Challenger design into the modern era is poor visibility. Large rear pillars and a small glass area make it somewhat difficult to backup or making a pass. The good news is that a number of Challenger models like our SXT Plus come with a backup camera as standard and blind spot monitoring is available as an option. The Challenger’s interior hasn’t changed much since we last reviewed it back in 2014 with the SRT 392. It is still a comfortable place to sit in and controls are in easy reach for the driver thanks to the center stack being slightly angled. Still, the limited glass area does mean you will feel somewhat confined. Power for the SXT is Chrysler’s 3.6L Pentastar V6 with 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with an eight-speed automatic only. If you want a manual, you need to step to one of the V8 engines. The V6 is quite surprising with how much performance is on offer. Step on the accelerator and the V6 moves the Challenger with surprising authority. Power comes on a smooth rate no matter what gear you find yourself in. The eight-speed automatic is one of best in the business with smart shifts. Only disappointment is the V6 doesn’t sound like it belongs in the Challenger. There isn’t that muscular roar when step on the accelerator. A new exhaust and some tweaking in the engine could fix this issue. As for fuel economy, we got an average of 23.4 mpg. Not bad for a coupe that is rated at 19 City/30 Highway/23 Combined. One item that the Challenger is known for is its ride comfort and this hasn’t changed. Even with the optional Super Track Pak fitted to our tester, the Challenger was able to provide a cushy ride over some of Michigan’s terrible roads. Road and wind noise are kept at very low levels. Speaking of the Super Track Pak, this should be mandatory equipment on the V6 model. With firmer suspension bits, it makes the Challenger feel slightly smaller and reduces body roll around corners. However, it cannot mask the Challenger’s weight. Pushing it around a corner, the Challenger feels quite big and not as nimble the as the Chevrolet Camaro I drove afterward. The Challenger SXT Plus starts at $29,995. Add on a few options such as the Blacktop package and you’ll came to an as-tested price of $34,965, pretty good value for a muscle car. Going with the V6 option in the Challenger isn’t bad a choice. You get the looks of a muscle car and some decent performance. But as I drove the Challenger during the week, I couldn’t help but think about what if I had the V8. Six is good, but eight is even better. Disclaimer: Dodge Provided the Challenger, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Dodge Model: Challenger Trim: SXT Plus Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6 Driveline: Rear-Wheel Drive, Eight-Speed Automatic Horsepower @ RPM: 305 @ 6,350 Torque @ RPM: 268 @ 4,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/30/23 Curb Weight: 3,885.2 lbs Location of Manufacture: Brampton, Ontario Base Price: $26,995 As Tested Price: $34,965 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: SXT Plus 3.6L V6 Package 21V - $3,000.00 Driver Convenience Group - $1,095.00 Sound Group II - $795.00 Blacktop Package - $695.00 Super Track Pak - $695.00 UConnect 8.4 NAV - $695.00
  5. 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 View full article
  6. 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
  7. 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
  8. Quick Drive: 2016 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL

    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
  9. 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
  10. Review: 2016 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen SE

    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
  11. Review: 2016 Nissan Sentra SR

    While this year at Nissan is all about the pickup truck, last year it was the ‘Year of the Sedan’. We saw the introduction of the redesigned Maxima, along with refreshes of the Altima and Sentra. There was one slight problem. Compared to the Maxima which stood out with a sharp design, the Altima and Sentra just existed with no real item of note. But maybe there is something to either model that is hidden away. I decided to find out as a 2016 Nissan Sentra SR came in for a week-long evaluation. Nissan isn’t going to take home any awards for the design of the 2016 Sentra. Designers took the 2013 model and made some small changes such as adding a new front clip to help bring the Sentra in line with the current design language, and a more distinctive character line. One change that is worth mentioning about the Sentra’s design is the new SR trim. This trim adds some sporty touches such as a mesh grille insert, sill extensions for the lower body, seventeen-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with a dark finish, rear spoiler, and a chrome exhaust tip. These touches help the Sentra stand out in a crowded field. Like the Sentra’s exterior, the interior hasn’t seen any major changes. The design is very conservative with some flowing lines and contrasting trim pieces (silver and piano black). There is a mix of hard and soft touch materials used throughout the interior. Our Sentra tester featured a set optional leather seats that we found to provide decent support for short trips. We did wish the front seats did offer more thigh support on longer trips. The Sentra does have an ace up its sleeve when it comes to the back seat. In most compact cars, the back seat is something you would use sparingly due to the small amount of head and legroom. In the Sentra, the amount of head and legroom can give some midsize sedans a run for their money. I happen to be 5’8” and I had more than enough space to feel very comfortable. The trunk is also large for the class with 15.1 cubic feet of space. Most Sentra models will come equipped a five-inch touchscreen with NissanConnect. This system isn’t one of our favorites for a number of reasons. The interface looks dated when compared to other systems. Not helping matters are some odd omissions from it. For example, if you want to pause an iPod or whatever you have plugged into the USB input, you’ll need to turn down the volume all the way to zero. Why not a pause button?! We also had issues with the system crashing our iPod. The only upsides are the interface being easy to use and providing snappy performance. Power comes from a 1.8L four-cylinder with 130 horsepower and 128 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with either a six-speed manual (only available on the S and FE+ S) or Nissan’s Xtronic CVT (standard on SV and above, optional on S and FE+ S). Performance is lethargic as the Sentra’s engine takes its sweet time to get up to speed. You can put your foot to the floor and there isn’t any difference in how fast the vehicle climbs up in speed. On the positive side, the engine is fairly muted when accelerating around town. Nissan’s Xtronic CVT is one of the better offerings on sale as it doesn’t have the ‘rubber-band’ effect (engine rpm climbs up before dropping back down). The upside to the low power numbers is fuel economy. The Sentra SR is rated by the EPA at 29 City/38 Highway/32 Combined. Our average for the week was 32.4 mpg. If you’re looking for a compact that feels like a bigger vehicle in terms of ride, the Sentra is the ticket. No matter the type of road you find yourself driving on, the Sentra’s suspension provides a smooth and relaxed ride. We do wish Nissan had added some more sound deadening around the vehicle as you can hear road and tire noise on the highway. Around corners, the Sentra shows little roll and seems to change direction quickly. The steering feels very light which is ok around town, not so much when driving on a curvy road. The 2016 Nissan Sentra doesn’t really stand out in a highly competitive compact car marketplace. Compared with competitors in a number of key areas, the Sentra either finishes in the middle or bottom. The only real plus points are a large back seat and trunk, along with a price tag that won’t break the bank. The Sentra begins at $16,780 for the base S and climbs to $22,170 for the SL. Our SR came equipped with a couple of option packages that added adaptive cruise control, a forward collision mitigation system, leather seats, Bose sound system, and a few other features brings the as-tested price to $25,245. Considering a number of these features are only available on higher trim models of competitors, the Sentra becomes quite the value. Is there anything special to the 2016 Nissan Sentra SR? After spending a week in it, I have to say no. This is a model that is aimed at those who just need a vehicle that can get them from point a to b without any fuss. If you’re looking for something more, there are a lot of options in the compact segment that are worthy of a closer look. Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Sentra, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Nissan Model: Sentra Trim: SR Engine: 1.8L DOHC Four-Cylinder Driveline: CVT, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 130 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 128 @ 3,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 29/38/32 Curb Weight: 2,920 lbs Location of Manufacture: Aguascalientes, Mexico Base Price: $20,410 As Tested Price: $25,245 (Includes $835.00 Destination Charge) Options: Premium Package - $2,590 Technology Package - $1,230 Carpeted Floor Mats and Trunk Mat - $180.00
  12. Subcompact crossovers are the hot thing at the moment and automakers are trying to make their models stand out. Whether it is using sleek styling, sporty driving dynamics, or value for money, every automaker is trying their best to get their vehicle noticed. For Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, they’re going for a two-prong attack in the class with models from Fiat and Jeep. The Jeep Renegade is aimed at those who want a subcompact that can tackle a trail, and the Fiat 500X provides some chicness for the class. We spent some time in both models to see if they can make some end roads in this growing class. While the 500X and Renegade may share a fair amount of mechanicals, the design of the two is worlds apart. The Renegade is classic Jeep with a square body, seven-slot grille, and a set of large headlights. The Renegade also features a fair number of Easter eggs throughout the exterior. The head and taillights feature little Jeep grille-and-headlights logos, and a small Willys MB on the bottom of the windshield. This is basically the vehicle equivalent of a hidden object puzzle you might have done back in school. Remember the first commercial for the Fiat 500X where a blue pill falls into the fuel filler of a standard 500. The owner turns around and somehow his vehicle has engorged into something bigger. That’s how you can summarize the design of the 500X. Compared to your standard 500, the 500X is 28.6 inches longer and 15.6 inches wider. A lot of the design traits from the 500 such as the round headlights, long chrome bar holding the emblem, and rectangular taillights are present on this crossover. Moving inside, the Renegade takes some inspiration from the Wrangler with a rugged dash design and a grab bar for the passenger. Higher trims such as our Limited tester feature a decent amount of soft-touch materials. Like the exterior, the Renegade’s interior has Easter eggs strewn about. The tachometer with has a splash of mud to illustrate the redline, a seven-slot grille design for the speaker grilles, and the frame around the radio having ‘Since 1941’ stamped. The only complaint we have with the Renegade’s dash is the placement of the climate controls. They are mounted a bit too low to reach easily. The 500X’s interior is Fiat’s best effort to date. The overall look has some traits of the standard 500 such as a retro design for the dash. But where the 500X stands out is in the material choices. Fiat went all out with adding soft-touch materials on the dash and door panels to help make the model feel very premium. Our Trekking Plus tester came upholstered in brown leather that added a touch of class that’s nonexistent in other competitors. Both models offer plenty of head and legroom for passengers sitting up front. In the back, headroom is decent for most passengers even with the optional sunroof fitted. Legroom ranges from decent for most folks to almost nonexistent depending on how tall the person sitting up front is. The seats themselves are lacking sufficient support for long trips. If cargo capacity is a priority, then consider the Renegade as it offers 18.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up. The 500X is towards the bottom of the class with only 12.2 cubic feet mostly due to the design of the vehicle. For your infotainment needs, Fiat and Jeep offer a lineup of Uconnect systems from three to 6.5 inches. Our test vehicles featured the optional 6.5-inch system. Uconnect is still one of the easiest systems to use thanks to a simple interface and very fast performance. We hope FCA considers adding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility in the future. In terms of engines, both the 500X and Renegade come standard with a turbocharged 1.4L with 160 horsepower. The downside to this engine is that it is only available with a six-speed manual. If you want an automatic, then you’ll need to get the engine found under the hood of our test models; a 2.4L four-cylinder with 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. We’re not fans of the 2.4L in the any of the FCA vehicles we have driven and this trend continues with the 500X and Renegade. Leaving a stop, there is plenty of oomph to get up to speed in urban environments. Out on the rural roads and highways, the 2.4L struggles to get up to speed at a decent clip. Not helping matters is the engine sounding unrefined. The engine noise during hard acceleration could actually drown out the radio. The one bright spot for the powertrain is the nine-speed automatic. This transmission has been a sore point in a number of FCA vehicles for sluggish shifting and not feeling refined. With the 500X and Renegade, it seems FCA has been able to fix many of the wrongs of the nine-speed. Gear changes are much faster and smoother than in previous models. Both models can be equipped with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Both models came equipped with all-wheel drive. This system primarily works in front-wheel drive to help improve fuel economy. But if the system detects slip, it will hook up the rear axle and start sending power for better traction. The Renegade has the more advanced all-wheel drive system known as Jeep Active Drive. This system gives the driver the choice of various drive modes (Auto, Snow, Sand, and Mud) that adjusts the all-wheel drive, steering, and transmission to provide the best settings for the conditions at hand. There’s also a 4WD lock that splits power 50:50 to provide added traction. Thanks to a freak snow storm in April, I was able to put the system to the test. Driving on some snowy roads, the system was able to keep the Renegade moving without the tires spinning. The Renegade Trailhawk takes the system a step further with Active Drive Low. As the name suggests, this system features low range via a two-speed transfer case. This allows the Trailhawk to tackle more difficult obstacles such as rocks. Fuel economy is terrible for the class. The Fiat 500X is rated at 21 City/30 Highway/24 Combined. The Renegade matches the 500X in city and combined fuel figures but is only rated at 29 for the highway. Our average for the week was a very disappointing 22.1 MPG in both vehicles. This is a figure you would expect in a larger crossover, not a subcompact. The ride in both vehicles is on the firm and harsh side. You’ll be able to tell how bad the roads around you are as bumps and road imperfections are transmitted to the seats. Interestingly, both the 500X and Renegade are quite fun around corners. The vehicles feel agile and the steering has some decent weight. But as the Mazda CX-3 has shown, you can have excellent handling characteristics and a decent ride in a crossover. On the highway, the Renegade is the noisier of the two with a large amount of wind noise coming inside. As for pricing, the 500X and Renegade get off to a good start. The Renegade starts at $17,995 and the 500X comes in at $20,000. Where it falls apart comes in the higher trims. Our two testers had price tags of just under $32,000 - $31,695 for the Renegade Limited and $31,800 for the 500X Trekking Plus. For that same amount of money, you can get into a well-equipped or even a loaded compact crossover. Neither one of these models is worth their high price tags. The subcompact crossover class has become a hotly contested class in only a couple of years and you have to show up with your a-game if you want to make an impact. In the case the 500X and Renegade, FCA dropped the ball. The larger four-cylinder engine should be shown the door for its issues in terms of refinement and fuel economy. The ride characteristics need a rethink and the value for money argument is tough when dealing with the higher trim models. This is very disappointing as the two models have some characteristics that should put them a bit higher in the class. The Fiat 500X’s interior looks and feels like something you would find in a luxury model. The Jeep Renegade can go into places that other subcompact crossovers not even dare try thanks to a clever all-wheel drive system and Jeep’s off-road know-how. But these positive points cannot overcome the numerous issues both of the vehicles have. It would be best to avoid them. Cheers: Off-Road Ability (Renegade), Interior Styling and Features (500X), Nine-Speed Automatic Is Much Better Jeers: 2.4L Is Terrible, Rough Ride, Pricing for Higher Trims Disclaimer: FCA Provided the 500X and Renegade; Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Fiat Model: 500X Trim: Trekking Plus AWD Engine: 2.4L Multi-Air Four-Cylinder Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 175 @ 3,900 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/30/24 Curb Weight: 3,278 lbs Location of Manufacture: Melfi, Italy Base Price: $29,000 As Tested Price: $31,800 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge) Options: Trekking Plus Collection 1 - $1,900 Year: 2016 Make: Jeep Model: Renegade Trim: Limited 4X4 Engine: 2.4L Multi-Air Four-Cylinder Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 175 @ 3,900 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/29/24 Curb Weight: 3,348 lbs Location of Manufacture: Melfi, Italy Base Price: $26,995 As Tested Price: $31,695 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: 6.5-inch Navigation Group with Uconnect - $1,245 Advanced Technology Group - $995 Beats Premium Audio System - $695 Safety and Security Group - $645 Passive Entry Keyless Enter n' Go Package - $125
  13. Subcompact crossovers are the hot thing at the moment and automakers are trying to make their models stand out. Whether it is using sleek styling, sporty driving dynamics, or value for money, every automaker is trying their best to get their vehicle noticed. For Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, they’re going for a two-prong attack in the class with models from Fiat and Jeep. The Jeep Renegade is aimed at those who want a subcompact that can tackle a trail, and the Fiat 500X provides some chicness for the class. We spent some time in both models to see if they can make some end roads in this growing class. While the 500X and Renegade may share a fair amount of mechanicals, the design of the two is worlds apart. The Renegade is classic Jeep with a square body, seven-slot grille, and a set of large headlights. The Renegade also features a fair number of Easter eggs throughout the exterior. The head and taillights feature little Jeep grille-and-headlights logos, and a small Willys MB on the bottom of the windshield. This is basically the vehicle equivalent of a hidden object puzzle you might have done back in school. Remember the first commercial for the Fiat 500X where a blue pill falls into the fuel filler of a standard 500. The owner turns around and somehow his vehicle has engorged into something bigger. That’s how you can summarize the design of the 500X. Compared to your standard 500, the 500X is 28.6 inches longer and 15.6 inches wider. A lot of the design traits from the 500 such as the round headlights, long chrome bar holding the emblem, and rectangular taillights are present on this crossover. Moving inside, the Renegade takes some inspiration from the Wrangler with a rugged dash design and a grab bar for the passenger. Higher trims such as our Limited tester feature a decent amount of soft-touch materials. Like the exterior, the Renegade’s interior has Easter eggs strewn about. The tachometer with has a splash of mud to illustrate the redline, a seven-slot grille design for the speaker grilles, and the frame around the radio having ‘Since 1941’ stamped. The only complaint we have with the Renegade’s dash is the placement of the climate controls. They are mounted a bit too low to reach easily. The 500X’s interior is Fiat’s best effort to date. The overall look has some traits of the standard 500 such as a retro design for the dash. But where the 500X stands out is in the material choices. Fiat went all out with adding soft-touch materials on the dash and door panels to help make the model feel very premium. Our Trekking Plus tester came upholstered in brown leather that added a touch of class that’s nonexistent in other competitors. Both models offer plenty of head and legroom for passengers sitting up front. In the back, headroom is decent for most passengers even with the optional sunroof fitted. Legroom ranges from decent for most folks to almost nonexistent depending on how tall the person sitting up front is. The seats themselves are lacking sufficient support for long trips. If cargo capacity is a priority, then consider the Renegade as it offers 18.5 cubic feet with the rear seats up. The 500X is towards the bottom of the class with only 12.2 cubic feet mostly due to the design of the vehicle. For your infotainment needs, Fiat and Jeep offer a lineup of Uconnect systems from three to 6.5 inches. Our test vehicles featured the optional 6.5-inch system. Uconnect is still one of the easiest systems to use thanks to a simple interface and very fast performance. We hope FCA considers adding Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility in the future. In terms of engines, both the 500X and Renegade come standard with a turbocharged 1.4L with 160 horsepower. The downside to this engine is that it is only available with a six-speed manual. If you want an automatic, then you’ll need to get the engine found under the hood of our test models; a 2.4L four-cylinder with 180 horsepower and 175 pound-feet of torque. We’re not fans of the 2.4L in the any of the FCA vehicles we have driven and this trend continues with the 500X and Renegade. Leaving a stop, there is plenty of oomph to get up to speed in urban environments. Out on the rural roads and highways, the 2.4L struggles to get up to speed at a decent clip. Not helping matters is the engine sounding unrefined. The engine noise during hard acceleration could actually drown out the radio. The one bright spot for the powertrain is the nine-speed automatic. This transmission has been a sore point in a number of FCA vehicles for sluggish shifting and not feeling refined. With the 500X and Renegade, it seems FCA has been able to fix many of the wrongs of the nine-speed. Gear changes are much faster and smoother than in previous models. Both models can be equipped with either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Both models came equipped with all-wheel drive. This system primarily works in front-wheel drive to help improve fuel economy. But if the system detects slip, it will hook up the rear axle and start sending power for better traction. The Renegade has the more advanced all-wheel drive system known as Jeep Active Drive. This system gives the driver the choice of various drive modes (Auto, Snow, Sand, and Mud) that adjusts the all-wheel drive, steering, and transmission to provide the best settings for the conditions at hand. There’s also a 4WD lock that splits power 50:50 to provide added traction. Thanks to a freak snow storm in April, I was able to put the system to the test. Driving on some snowy roads, the system was able to keep the Renegade moving without the tires spinning. The Renegade Trailhawk takes the system a step further with Active Drive Low. As the name suggests, this system features low range via a two-speed transfer case. This allows the Trailhawk to tackle more difficult obstacles such as rocks. Fuel economy is terrible for the class. The Fiat 500X is rated at 21 City/30 Highway/24 Combined. The Renegade matches the 500X in city and combined fuel figures but is only rated at 29 for the highway. Our average for the week was a very disappointing 22.1 MPG in both vehicles. This is a figure you would expect in a larger crossover, not a subcompact. The ride in both vehicles is on the firm and harsh side. You’ll be able to tell how bad the roads around you are as bumps and road imperfections are transmitted to the seats. Interestingly, both the 500X and Renegade are quite fun around corners. The vehicles feel agile and the steering has some decent weight. But as the Mazda CX-3 has shown, you can have excellent handling characteristics and a decent ride in a crossover. On the highway, the Renegade is the noisier of the two with a large amount of wind noise coming inside. As for pricing, the 500X and Renegade get off to a good start. The Renegade starts at $17,995 and the 500X comes in at $20,000. Where it falls apart comes in the higher trims. Our two testers had price tags of just under $32,000 - $31,695 for the Renegade Limited and $31,800 for the 500X Trekking Plus. For that same amount of money, you can get into a well-equipped or even a loaded compact crossover. Neither one of these models is worth their high price tags. The subcompact crossover class has become a hotly contested class in only a couple of years and you have to show up with your a-game if you want to make an impact. In the case the 500X and Renegade, FCA dropped the ball. The larger four-cylinder engine should be shown the door for its issues in terms of refinement and fuel economy. The ride characteristics need a rethink and the value for money argument is tough when dealing with the higher trim models. This is very disappointing as the two models have some characteristics that should put them a bit higher in the class. The Fiat 500X’s interior looks and feels like something you would find in a luxury model. The Jeep Renegade can go into places that other subcompact crossovers not even dare try thanks to a clever all-wheel drive system and Jeep’s off-road know-how. But these positive points cannot overcome the numerous issues both of the vehicles have. It would be best to avoid them. Cheers: Off-Road Ability (Renegade), Interior Styling and Features (500X), Nine-Speed Automatic Is Much Better Jeers: 2.4L Is Terrible, Rough Ride, Pricing for Higher Trims Album: Review: 2016 Fiat 500X Trekking Plus AWD 10 images 0 comments Album: Review: 2016 Jeep Renegade Limited 4X4 10 images 0 comments Disclaimer: FCA Provided the 500X and Renegade; Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Fiat Model: 500X Trim: Trekking Plus AWD Engine: 2.4L Multi-Air Four-Cylinder Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 175 @ 3,900 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/30/24 Curb Weight: 3,278 lbs Location of Manufacture: Melfi, Italy Base Price: $29,000 As Tested Price: $31,800 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge) Options: Trekking Plus Collection 1 - $1,900 Year: 2016 Make: Jeep Model: Renegade Trim: Limited 4X4 Engine: 2.4L Multi-Air Four-Cylinder Driveline: Nine-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 6,400 Torque @ RPM: 175 @ 3,900 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/29/24 Curb Weight: 3,348 lbs Location of Manufacture: Melfi, Italy Base Price: $26,995 As Tested Price: $31,695 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: 6.5-inch Navigation Group with Uconnect - $1,245 Advanced Technology Group - $995 Beats Premium Audio System - $695 Safety and Security Group - $645 Passive Entry Keyless Enter n' Go Package - $125 Click here to view the article
  14. Review: 2016 Chevrolet Malibu 2LT

    We’ll admit we were not big fans of the last-generation Chevrolet Malibu. When we drove the Malibu Eco, it failed to deliver the fuel economy numbers that Chevrolet touted. Plus, it was the only Malibu you could get for a time. The decision was made to get the Eco out first while work was being finished up on the two four-cylinder models. Unfortunately, this move would prove to be a mistake. Then we spent some time in the Malibu 2.0T. While we like the performance on offer, it had a difficult time justifying the high price tag. Both models also suffered from having one of the smallest back seats in the class. The various issues caused sales of the Malibu to drop precipitously and made General Motors fast track a new Malibu. This brings us to the new Chevrolet Malibu which made its debut last year at the New York Auto Show. It seemed GM had learned from its mistakes from the previous model and put that experience into this new model. Let’s find if this makes the Malibu a better vehicle. The last-generation Malibu wasn’t a bad looking vehicle. But compared to the model it replaced, the Malibu’s design just fell flat. The 2016 model is a completely different story. Designers went back to the 2008 to 2012 Malibu and started improving on that design. The end result is one of the sharpest looking midsize sedans in the class. Up front is where you can see the influence from the 2008 to 2012 Malibu with a similar grille layout and headlight location. The grilles are slightly narrower and wider. The side profile reveals an A7-inspired rear roof pillar that blends in beautifully with the fender. The back features a rounded trunk lid and chrome exhaust tips. The same cannot be said for the interior. It isn’t to say Chevrolet hasn’t made some strides here. The design is just as sharp as the exterior with flowing curves and a touchscreen that looks like a tablet that has been docked. In the back, there an increase in overall space. Sitting back here, I had plenty of head and legroom. Getting yourself comfortable in the driver’s seat is easy thanks to an eight-way power seat and a tilt-telescoping steering wheel. But Chevrolet made a huge mistake in the material choices. The 2LT is just below the Premier and you would expect a fair amount of soft-touch materials on the dash and door panels, possibly some leather on the seats. Unfortunately, you don’t get any of that. There is an abundance of hard plastics throughout the interior. Depending on the location, the quality can range from ok to terrible. Not helping matters is the use of cloth fabric on the dashboard much like the last-generation Cruze. If this was the base L or LS, this would be ok considering the price of those models. But this being the 2LT, which starts at $28,620, it is a huge disappointment. Especially when you consider many of the Malibu’s competitors for around the same price feature better materials. Depending on which Malibu trim you pick, it will either come with no touchscreen (L), a seven-inch touchscreen (LS and 1LT), or an eight-inch touchscreen (2LT and Premier). Our tester featured the eight-inch and the latest version of Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system. MyLink still stumbles in some areas such as overall performance and recognizing devices plugged into the USB inputs, but overall the system is much better than when it was first launched. For 2016, Chevrolet has added Apple CarPlay (and Android Auto) integration to MyLink. You just need to plug a compatible iPhone into the USB and hit the CarPlay button on the touchscreen. You’ll be greeted with a screen that is very similar to the home screen on your iPhone. Applications such as Siri, Apple Maps, Spotify, and Pandora can be used through the system. Like the Volt I drove recently, I ran into some problems with CarPlay. From applications not responding to the vehicle not recognizing that my phone was plugged in. As is stands, CarPlay is a huge improvement over most infotainment systems used in vehicles. But some bugs need to be worked out still. Power for the Malibu comes from two turbo engines - a 1.5L or 2.0L. Our 2LT came with the 2.0L turbo producing 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The best words I can use to describe the Malibu’s 2.0L is punchy and effortless. The turbo spools up quickly and provides a strong pull of power when leaving a stop. More impressive is how fast the engine is able to climb in speed when merging onto an expressway or making a pass. The eight-speed is one of GM’s best transmissions with smooth and smart shifts through the gears. In terms of fuel economy, the turbo 2.0L is rated at 22 City/33 Highway/26 Combined. We got an average of 27 MPG during our week of testing. Chevrolet struck a nice balance with the Malibu’s ride and handling. Like the previous-generation model, the 2016 Malibu features one of the smoothest rides in the class. Bumps and other imperfections are ironed out before getting inside the cabin. Wind noise is kept to a minimum, but we found there was a bit more road noise than the last Malibu we drove. We’re wondering if Chevrolet removed a fair amount of sound deadening to help make the new Malibu lighter. Around corners, the Malibu’s suspension keeps body motions in check. Steering has a direct feel, but a little bit more weight wouldn’t be a bad thing. No, it will not challenge a Mazda6 for the best driving midsize sedan. But having a nice balance between the two isn’t too bad. Pricing for the Chevrolet Malibu starts at $22,500 for the base L and climbs to $31,795 for the Premier. The 2LT starts at $28,620 and our tester came with an as-tested price of $29,495. But I’m not sure if the 2LT is a good value. Part of it comes from the interior appointments that are used in the 2LT trim. But the other part comes from the lack of options. Yes, the 2LT comes well equipped with 18-inch wheels, power seat for the driver, eight-inch touchscreen, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and front collision warning with automatic braking. But you cannot option such features as dual-zone climate control, leather, navigation, or a premium audio system. To get those, you need to drop down to the 1LT with the turbo 1.5L or go up to Premier if you want to keep the turbo 2.0L. However, the Premier doesn’t get most of the safety features as the 2LT. You’ll need to opt for a safety package to get these features. I can’t help but wonder if Chevrolet would be better off dropping the 2LT and figuring out a way to fill in the gap between the 1LT and Premier. Chevrolet has done a lot to make the new Malibu a real threat in the midsize class. With sharp exterior styling, a punchy 2.0L turbo engine, the right balance of comfort and sport, and a larger interior space, Chevrolet seems to have righted most of the wrongs of the previous model. But it is the little things that trip up the Malibu. From the questionable interior materials to the overall value proposition, General Motors made some crucial missteps. I have a theory about General Motors that sadly seems to get proven time and time again. They can build one of the best vehicles in the class, but there is one thing that spoils it. It could be the quality of the materials, interior space, powertrain, or something else. The 2016 Malibu 2LT is the latest one to prove it, which is a huge shame. Disclaimer: Chevrolet Provided the Malibu, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Chevrolet Model: Malibu Trim: 2LT Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged DOHC Four-Cylinder Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 250 @ 5,300 Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 1,700 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/33/26 Curb Weight: 3,126 lbs Location of Manufacture: Kansas City, Kansas Base Price: $28,620 As Tested Price: $29,495 (Includes $875.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A
  15. We’ll admit we were not big fans of the last-generation Chevrolet Malibu. When we drove the Malibu Eco, it failed to deliver the fuel economy numbers that Chevrolet touted. Plus, it was the only Malibu you could get for a time. The decision was made to get the Eco out first while work was being finished up on the two four-cylinder models. Unfortunately, this move would prove to be a mistake. Then we spent some time in the Malibu 2.0T. While we like the performance on offer, it had a difficult time justifying the high price tag. Both models also suffered from having one of the smallest back seats in the class. The various issues caused sales of the Malibu to drop precipitously and made General Motors fast track a new Malibu. This brings us to the new Chevrolet Malibu which made its debut last year at the New York Auto Show. It seemed GM had learned from its mistakes from the previous model and put that experience into this new model. Let’s find if this makes the Malibu a better vehicle. The last-generation Malibu wasn’t a bad looking vehicle. But compared to the model it replaced, the Malibu’s design just fell flat. The 2016 model is a completely different story. Designers went back to the 2008 to 2012 Malibu and started improving on that design. The end result is one of the sharpest looking midsize sedans in the class. Up front is where you can see the influence from the 2008 to 2012 Malibu with a similar grille layout and headlight location. The grilles are slightly narrower and wider. The side profile reveals an A7-inspired rear roof pillar that blends in beautifully with the fender. The back features a rounded trunk lid and chrome exhaust tips. The same cannot be said for the interior. It isn’t to say Chevrolet hasn’t made some strides here. The design is just as sharp as the exterior with flowing curves and a touchscreen that looks like a tablet that has been docked. In the back, there an increase in overall space. Sitting back here, I had plenty of head and legroom. Getting yourself comfortable in the driver’s seat is easy thanks to an eight-way power seat and a tilt-telescoping steering wheel. But Chevrolet made a huge mistake in the material choices. The 2LT is just below the Premier and you would expect a fair amount of soft-touch materials on the dash and door panels, possibly some leather on the seats. Unfortunately, you don’t get any of that. There is an abundance of hard plastics throughout the interior. Depending on the location, the quality can range from ok to terrible. Not helping matters is the use of cloth fabric on the dashboard much like the last-generation Cruze. If this was the base L or LS, this would be ok considering the price of those models. But this being the 2LT, which starts at $28,620, it is a huge disappointment. Especially when you consider many of the Malibu’s competitors for around the same price feature better materials. Depending on which Malibu trim you pick, it will either come with no touchscreen (L), a seven-inch touchscreen (LS and 1LT), or an eight-inch touchscreen (2LT and Premier). Our tester featured the eight-inch and the latest version of Chevrolet’s MyLink infotainment system. MyLink still stumbles in some areas such as overall performance and recognizing devices plugged into the USB inputs, but overall the system is much better than when it was first launched. For 2016, Chevrolet has added Apple CarPlay (and Android Auto) integration to MyLink. You just need to plug a compatible iPhone into the USB and hit the CarPlay button on the touchscreen. You’ll be greeted with a screen that is very similar to the home screen on your iPhone. Applications such as Siri, Apple Maps, Spotify, and Pandora can be used through the system. Like the Volt I drove recently, I ran into some problems with CarPlay. From applications not responding to the vehicle not recognizing that my phone was plugged in. As is stands, CarPlay is a huge improvement over most infotainment systems used in vehicles. But some bugs need to be worked out still. Power for the Malibu comes from two turbo engines - a 1.5L or 2.0L. Our 2LT came with the 2.0L turbo producing 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a new eight-speed automatic transmission. The best words I can use to describe the Malibu’s 2.0L is punchy and effortless. The turbo spools up quickly and provides a strong pull of power when leaving a stop. More impressive is how fast the engine is able to climb in speed when merging onto an expressway or making a pass. The eight-speed is one of GM’s best transmissions with smooth and smart shifts through the gears. In terms of fuel economy, the turbo 2.0L is rated at 22 City/33 Highway/26 Combined. We got an average of 27 MPG during our week of testing. Chevrolet struck a nice balance with the Malibu’s ride and handling. Like the previous-generation model, the 2016 Malibu features one of the smoothest rides in the class. Bumps and other imperfections are ironed out before getting inside the cabin. Wind noise is kept to a minimum, but we found there was a bit more road noise than the last Malibu we drove. We’re wondering if Chevrolet removed a fair amount of sound deadening to help make the new Malibu lighter. Around corners, the Malibu’s suspension keeps body motions in check. Steering has a direct feel, but a little bit more weight wouldn’t be a bad thing. No, it will not challenge a Mazda6 for the best driving midsize sedan. But having a nice balance between the two isn’t too bad. Pricing for the Chevrolet Malibu starts at $22,500 for the base L and climbs to $31,795 for the Premier. The 2LT starts at $28,620 and our tester came with an as-tested price of $29,495. But I’m not sure if the 2LT is a good value. Part of it comes from the interior appointments that are used in the 2LT trim. But the other part comes from the lack of options. Yes, the 2LT comes well equipped with 18-inch wheels, power seat for the driver, eight-inch touchscreen, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and front collision warning with automatic braking. But you cannot option such features as dual-zone climate control, leather, navigation, or a premium audio system. To get those, you need to drop down to the 1LT with the turbo 1.5L or go up to Premier if you want to keep the turbo 2.0L. However, the Premier doesn’t get most of the safety features as the 2LT. You’ll need to opt for a safety package to get these features. I can’t help but wonder if Chevrolet would be better off dropping the 2LT and figuring out a way to fill in the gap between the 1LT and Premier. Chevrolet has done a lot to make the new Malibu a real threat in the midsize class. With sharp exterior styling, a punchy 2.0L turbo engine, the right balance of comfort and sport, and a larger interior space, Chevrolet seems to have righted most of the wrongs of the previous model. But it is the little things that trip up the Malibu. From the questionable interior materials to the overall value proposition, General Motors made some crucial missteps. I have a theory about General Motors that sadly seems to get proven time and time again. They can build one of the best vehicles in the class, but there is one thing that spoils it. It could be the quality of the materials, interior space, powertrain, or something else. The 2016 Malibu 2LT is the latest one to prove it, which is a huge shame. Album: Review: 2016 Chevrolet Malibu 2LT 10 images 0 comments Disclaimer: Chevrolet Provided the Malibu, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Chevrolet Model: Malibu Trim: 2LT Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged DOHC Four-Cylinder Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 250 @ 5,300 Torque @ RPM: 258 @ 1,700 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/33/26 Curb Weight: 3,126 lbs Location of Manufacture: Kansas City, Kansas Base Price: $28,620 As Tested Price: $29,495 (Includes $875.00 Destination Charge) Options: N/A Click here to view the article
  16. It seemed for a time that the midsize truck was a dead vehicle driving. If you wanted one a few years back, you only had the choice of the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma. All of the other midsize trucks had disappeared due to pricing and fuel economy figures being very close to full-size trucks, causing many buyers to go with the larger option. But the midsize truck has been enjoying a resurgence thanks to General Motors introducing the latest versions of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon into the U.S. This, in turn, has caused automakers to reconsider this class with Toyota introducing a ‘redesigned’ Tacoma last year and news coming out that Ford readying a new Ranger towards the end of this decade. GM hasn’t been resting on their laurels either. Last year saw them introduce a diesel engine that gives the Colorado and Canyon best-in-class towing numbers. A check-up in the midsize truck class was needed. Over the past few months, we spent some time in the 2016 Toyota Tacoma and GMC Canyon with the diesel option. Here is what we found out. Exterior: First up is the Toyota Tacoma which doesn’t look that much different from the previous model we drove back in 2013. The design brief for the 2016 model must have something to the effect of ‘if it ain’t broke, why fix it’ in terms of the overall shape. But that isn’t to say Toyota hasn’t made some changes to the design. The front end gets a larger grille, new headlights, and a more aggressive front bumper. Around the back, the tailgate has the ‘Tacoma’ name embossed. The GMC Canyon takes some ideas from the full-size Sierra in design. The front features a large chrome grille and rectangular headlights with LED daytime running lights. Our truck came fitted with a set of 18-inch wheels finished in what GM calls ‘ultra-bright chrome’. The rest of the truck is similar to Colorado in terms of the cab and bed design. I have to admit I prefer the Colorado over the Canyon in terms of design. The Colorado just stands out slightly more due to its more distinctive front end. In terms of beds, both trucks came with their short bed option - measuring about 5 feet. Those needing a bigger bed can option a 6-foot on both trucks. But it should be noted that the Tacoma Limited only comes with the 5-foot bed option. If you want the longer bed, you’ll need to drop down to one of the lower trims. As for bed features, both trucks feature a dampened tailgate and adjustable tie-downs on the bed rails. But the Tacoma begins to pull ahead as it features tie-downs integrated into the floor, storage compartments, and the option of a 120V/400W outlet. Interior: Like their full-size brethren, midsize trucks have been seeing a noticeable increase in terms of interior design and materials. Sitting in either truck, you’ll be impressed with the amount of soft-touch materials and the small design touches throughout the interior. Between the two trucks, we would say the Tacoma is the sharper looking with dash inserts that match the color of the seats and silver trim running around various parts. As for the dash layout, both trucks feature a simple layout with controls within easy reach. In terms of seating, the Canyon and Tacoma offer seating up to five. But the Canyon is the most comfortable of the two trucks. The front seats provide the right balance of comfort and support. For 2016, GM has added a height adjustment for the power seats. This little addition makes finding a comfortable position that much easier. As for the back, there is a decent amount of headroom. Legroom varies on how tall the passenger sitting up front is. It ranges from decent to nonexistent. The Tacoma, on the other hand, is a comedy of errors. First off, the front seats are mounted quite low and cause you to think that you’re sitting in a bunker. This wouldn’t be an issue if you could adjust the height, but the Tacoma doesn’t offer that. Making matters worse is the tilt and telescoping steering doesn’t offer enough range in terms of its adjustments. As I wrote my notes about the Tacoma, “instead of the truck fitting around you, you have to fit around it.” The back seat is best reserved for either small kids or cargo. An average size adult like your’s truly will find barely any head and legroom. Infotainment: The base Canyon SL and Canyon get a 4.2-inch color screen radio, while SLE and SLT trims get an 8-inch IntelliLink system. Our Canyon SLT tester featured the optional 8-inch IntelliLink system with navigation. General Motors has been improving IntelliLink/MyLink over the past few years in terms of overall stability. The system still stumbles in terms of performance and recognizing various devices plugged into the USB inputs. For 2016, GM has added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. We tried out CarPlay in the Canyon and found it to be slightly better than IntelliLink in terms of the iPhone-like interface and snappy performance. But like in previous GM models with CarPlay, we found various applications would crash and the system wouldn’t always see my iPhone. Since driving the Canyon, we have tried out CarPlay in vehicles other manufacturers and didn’t have any issues. All Tacomas feature Toyota’s Entune infotainment system. Depending on the trim, the screen will measure either 6.1 or 7-inches. Our Tacoma Limited tester came with the 7-inch screen. Entune might not be newest-looking infotainment systems on the block, but its simple interface and fast response times make it one of the better systems on sale. We also like how you can customize the home screen to provide various information such as audio and navigation. At the moment, Toyota hasn’t added Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to Entune. Powertrain: The GMC Canyon is the most well-rounded when it comes to powertrains. There is a 2.5L inline-four, a 3.6L V6, and the engine found in our tester, a 2.8L Duramax Turbodiesel four-cylinder. The diesel produces 181 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic and either two-wheel or four-wheel drive. When leaving a stop, you’ll find yourself wondering where that turbodiesel thrust is. Turbo lag is very apparent with this engine. Once the turbo does spool up, the engine delivers power at a smooth and immediate rate. The six-speed automatic provides quick gear changes. In terms of towing, GMC says the Canyon diesel with four-wheel drive can tow up to 7,600 pounds. For the Toyota Tacoma, you can choose from a 2.7L four-cylinder or a 3.5L V6. We had the V6 in our tester which boasted 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. The V6 can be paired with a six-speed manual or automatic, and either two or four-wheel drive. Our truck came with the automatic and four-wheel drive. On paper, the Tacoma trails the Canyon’s V6 (305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque). Out in the world, the Tacoma surpasses GM’s V6 partly due to it feeling more grunty at low rpms. You don’t feel that you need to give the Tacoma’s V6 more gas to get moving at a decent clip. The six-speed automatic delivers smooth gear changes, but we wished it would go through the gears quicker. Towing is rated at 6,400 lbs, about 600 pounds less than the Canyon with the V6. Fuel Economy: The EPA rates the 2016 GMC Canyon four-wheel drive with the diesel at 20 City/29 Highway/23 Combined and the 2016 Toyota Tacoma V6 with four-wheel drive at 18 City/23 Highway/20 Combined. Our average for the week in both trucks were 25 MPG for the Canyon and 19.2 MPG for the Tacoma. Ride & Handling: No other midsize truck can come close to the GMC Canyon in terms of ride. Like the Chevrolet Colorado I drove last year, the Canyon’s suspension smooths over bumps and other road imperfections. You think that you’re riding in a sedan and not a truck. GM has done a lot of work in terms of sound-deadening for models equipped with the Duramax diesel. Thicker windows and more soundproofing means you’ll the clatter of the diesel engine when accelerating. The extra soundproofing also means the Canyon doesn’t have much wind and road noise coming inside. Contrast this with the Tacoma which feels more like a bucking bronco. You’ll able to tell how smooth or rough various roads are as the suspension will transmit a good amount of the surface into the seats due to the Tacoma retaining a solid-rear axle. Put a heavy load into the bed and the ride does smooth out. This is ok if you’re coming from an old pickup truck. Not so much if you’re coming from a sedan or crossover. Road and wind noise are very apparent at speeds above 45 mph. But the Tacoma does redeem itself when it comes to off-roading. Thanks to 9.4 inches of ground clearance, flexible suspension, and loads of off-road tech (hill start and descent control to name a couple), the Tacoma can tackle a trail with no issue. Thanks to winter storm during our week in the Tacoma, we were able to put the four-wheel drive system to the test. Fitted with a set of Michelin off-road tires, the Tacoma went through deep snow with no issues. It should be noted that if you’re serious about taking a Tacoma off-road, then you should look at the TRD Off-Road which adds new shocks, meatier off-road tires, the Multi-Terrain Select system that varies the traction control system for different conditions, and crawl control that modulates the brakes and engine when dealing with some treacherous obstacles such as a steep hill. The Canyon isn’t as capable off-road. For one, it is about an inch shorter in terms of overall ground clearance. Second, the front air dam which is used to improve overall aerodynamics hampers off-road performance. A key example of this comes in approach angle. The Canyon only has an 18-degree approach angle while the Tacoma has either a 29 or 32-degree approach angle. Value: Both of these test trucks make a strong case for going with one of the lower trims. The 2016 Toyota Tacoma Limited Double Cab starts at $37,820 for the four-wheel drive model. With options, the as-tested price came to $41,024. Yes, you do get a lot of standard equipment such as blind-spot monitoring, dual-zone climate control, navigation, heated seats, push-button start, and a JBL audio system. But you can get a fair amount of those features as options on the SR5 and the two TRD models. One other thing to consider. The Toyota Tacoma is one of the best vehicles to retain its resale value. Kelly Blue Book says the Tacoma will retain 73 percent of its resale value after three years. The Canyon SLT has a slightly lower base price of $37,450. But it is the more expensive of the two with an as-tested price of $44,365. A fair chunk of the price comes from Duramax diesel which will set you back $3,730. For the as-tested price, you can get into a decently equipped full-size truck. Again, the lower trim SLE gets most of the equipment from the SLT as options for a slightly lower price. Final Thoughts: If you’re expecting me to say the GMC Canyon is better than the Toyota Tacoma or vice-versa, then you’ll be surprised at what I’m going to say. Both of these trucks are good choices in the midsize truck class. The choice comes down to what are your desires and needs. For example, if you’re coming from passenger sedan into your first truck or planning to do some towing, the GMC Canyon and sister Chevrolet Colorado are what you should go for. On the opposite end, the Tacoma is perfect for those who want something to tackle the trail or need a V6 with a bit of punch. 2016 GMC Canyon SLT Crew Cab Cheers: Fuel economy of the diesel, barely any wind and road noise, smooth ride Jeers: Price, GMC Intellilink still has some bugs, fair amount of turbo lag 2016 Toyota Tacoma Limited Double Cab Cheers: Very capable off-road, V6 feels quite punchy, clever features in the bed Jeers: Rides like an old school truck, difficult to find a comfortable seating position, fair amount of road and wind noise Disclaimer: GMC and Toyota Provided the trucks, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: GMC Model: Canyon Trim: SLT 4WD Crew Cab Short Box Engine: 2.8L Turbodiesel Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel drive Horsepower @ RPM: 181 @ 3,400 Torque @ RPM: 369 @ 2,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/29/23 Curb Weight: 4,698 lbs Location of Manufacture: Wentzville, MO Base Price: $37,450 As Tested Price: $44,365 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge) Options: 2.8L Duramax Turbodiesel Four - $3,730 Bose Audio System - $500.00 8" Color Touchscreen with GMC Intellilink and Navigation - $495.00 Spray-On Bed Liner - $475.00 Copper Red Metallic Pain - $395.00 Driver Alert Package - $395.00 Year: 2016 Make: Toyota Model: Tacoma Trim: Limited 4X4 Double Cab Engine: 3.5L Atkinson Cycle V6 with Dual VVT-i Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 278 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 265 @ 4,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/23/20 Curb Weight: 4,480 lbs Location of Manufacture: San Antonio, TX Base Price: $37,820 As Tested Price: $41,024 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge) Options: Tonneau Cover - $650.00 V6 Tow Package - $650.00 5" Chrome Oval Tube Step - $535.00 Carpet Floor Mats w/Door Sill - $209.00 Mudgaurds - $140.00 Bed Mat - $120.00
  17. It seemed for a time that the midsize truck was a dead vehicle driving. If you wanted one a few years back, you only had the choice of the Nissan Frontier and Toyota Tacoma. All of the other midsize trucks had disappeared due to pricing and fuel economy figures being very close to full-size trucks, causing many buyers to go with the larger option. But the midsize truck has been enjoying a resurgence thanks to General Motors introducing the latest versions of the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon into the U.S. This, in turn, has caused automakers to reconsider this class with Toyota introducing a ‘redesigned’ Tacoma last year and news coming out that Ford readying a new Ranger towards the end of this decade. GM hasn’t been resting on their laurels either. Last year saw them introduce a diesel engine that gives the Colorado and Canyon best-in-class towing numbers. A check-up in the midsize truck class was needed. Over the past few months, we spent some time in the 2016 Toyota Tacoma and GMC Canyon with the diesel option. Here is what we found out. Exterior: First up is the Toyota Tacoma which doesn’t look that much different from the previous model we drove back in 2013. The design brief for the 2016 model must have something to the effect of ‘if it ain’t broke, why fix it’ in terms of the overall shape. But that isn’t to say Toyota hasn’t made some changes to the design. The front end gets a larger grille, new headlights, and a more aggressive front bumper. Around the back, the tailgate has the ‘Tacoma’ name embossed. The GMC Canyon takes some ideas from the full-size Sierra in design. The front features a large chrome grille and rectangular headlights with LED daytime running lights. Our truck came fitted with a set of 18-inch wheels finished in what GM calls ‘ultra-bright chrome’. The rest of the truck is similar to Colorado in terms of the cab and bed design. I have to admit I prefer the Colorado over the Canyon in terms of design. The Colorado just stands out slightly more due to its more distinctive front end. In terms of beds, both trucks came with their short bed option - measuring about 5 feet. Those needing a bigger bed can option a 6-foot on both trucks. But it should be noted that the Tacoma Limited only comes with the 5-foot bed option. If you want the longer bed, you’ll need to drop down to one of the lower trims. As for bed features, both trucks feature a dampened tailgate and adjustable tie-downs on the bed rails. But the Tacoma begins to pull ahead as it features tie-downs integrated into the floor, storage compartments, and the option of a 120V/400W outlet. Interior: Like their full-size brethren, midsize trucks have been seeing a noticeable increase in terms of interior design and materials. Sitting in either truck, you’ll be impressed with the amount of soft-touch materials and the small design touches throughout the interior. Between the two trucks, we would say the Tacoma is the sharper looking with dash inserts that match the color of the seats and silver trim running around various parts. As for the dash layout, both trucks feature a simple layout with controls within easy reach. In terms of seating, the Canyon and Tacoma offer seating up to five. But the Canyon is the most comfortable of the two trucks. The front seats provide the right balance of comfort and support. For 2016, GM has added a height adjustment for the power seats. This little addition makes finding a comfortable position that much easier. As for the back, there is a decent amount of headroom. Legroom varies on how tall the passenger sitting up front is. It ranges from decent to nonexistent. The Tacoma, on the other hand, is a comedy of errors. First off, the front seats are mounted quite low and cause you to think that you’re sitting in a bunker. This wouldn’t be an issue if you could adjust the height, but the Tacoma doesn’t offer that. Making matters worse is the tilt and telescoping steering doesn’t offer enough range in terms of its adjustments. As I wrote my notes about the Tacoma, “instead of the truck fitting around you, you have to fit around it.” The back seat is best reserved for either small kids or cargo. An average size adult like your’s truly will find barely any head and legroom. Infotainment: The base Canyon SL and Canyon get a 4.2-inch color screen radio, while SLE and SLT trims get an 8-inch IntelliLink system. Our Canyon SLT tester featured the optional 8-inch IntelliLink system with navigation. General Motors has been improving IntelliLink/MyLink over the past few years in terms of overall stability. The system still stumbles in terms of performance and recognizing various devices plugged into the USB inputs. For 2016, GM has added Apple CarPlay and Android Auto capability. We tried out CarPlay in the Canyon and found it to be slightly better than IntelliLink in terms of the iPhone-like interface and snappy performance. But like in previous GM models with CarPlay, we found various applications would crash and the system wouldn’t always see my iPhone. Since driving the Canyon, we have tried out CarPlay in vehicles other manufacturers and didn’t have any issues. All Tacomas feature Toyota’s Entune infotainment system. Depending on the trim, the screen will measure either 6.1 or 7-inches. Our Tacoma Limited tester came with the 7-inch screen. Entune might not be newest-looking infotainment systems on the block, but its simple interface and fast response times make it one of the better systems on sale. We also like how you can customize the home screen to provide various information such as audio and navigation. At the moment, Toyota hasn’t added Apple CarPlay or Android Auto to Entune. Powertrain: The GMC Canyon is the most well-rounded when it comes to powertrains. There is a 2.5L inline-four, a 3.6L V6, and the engine found in our tester, a 2.8L Duramax Turbodiesel four-cylinder. The diesel produces 181 horsepower and 369 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic and either two-wheel or four-wheel drive. When leaving a stop, you’ll find yourself wondering where that turbodiesel thrust is. Turbo lag is very apparent with this engine. Once the turbo does spool up, the engine delivers power at a smooth and immediate rate. The six-speed automatic provides quick gear changes. In terms of towing, GMC says the Canyon diesel with four-wheel drive can tow up to 7,600 pounds. For the Toyota Tacoma, you can choose from a 2.7L four-cylinder or a 3.5L V6. We had the V6 in our tester which boasted 278 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. The V6 can be paired with a six-speed manual or automatic, and either two or four-wheel drive. Our truck came with the automatic and four-wheel drive. On paper, the Tacoma trails the Canyon’s V6 (305 horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque). Out in the world, the Tacoma surpasses GM’s V6 partly due to it feeling more grunty at low rpms. You don’t feel that you need to give the Tacoma’s V6 more gas to get moving at a decent clip. The six-speed automatic delivers smooth gear changes, but we wished it would go through the gears quicker. Towing is rated at 6,400 lbs, about 600 pounds less than the Canyon with the V6. Fuel Economy: The EPA rates the 2016 GMC Canyon four-wheel drive with the diesel at 20 City/29 Highway/23 Combined and the 2016 Toyota Tacoma V6 with four-wheel drive at 18 City/23 Highway/20 Combined. Our average for the week in both trucks were 25 MPG for the Canyon and 19.2 MPG for the Tacoma. Ride & Handling: No other midsize truck can come close to the GMC Canyon in terms of ride. Like the Chevrolet Colorado I drove last year, the Canyon’s suspension smooths over bumps and other road imperfections. You think that you’re riding in a sedan and not a truck. GM has done a lot of work in terms of sound-deadening for models equipped with the Duramax diesel. Thicker windows and more soundproofing means you’ll the clatter of the diesel engine when accelerating. The extra soundproofing also means the Canyon doesn’t have much wind and road noise coming inside. Contrast this with the Tacoma which feels more like a bucking bronco. You’ll able to tell how smooth or rough various roads are as the suspension will transmit a good amount of the surface into the seats due to the Tacoma retaining a solid-rear axle. Put a heavy load into the bed and the ride does smooth out. This is ok if you’re coming from an old pickup truck. Not so much if you’re coming from a sedan or crossover. Road and wind noise are very apparent at speeds above 45 mph. But the Tacoma does redeem itself when it comes to off-roading. Thanks to 9.4 inches of ground clearance, flexible suspension, and loads of off-road tech (hill start and descent control to name a couple), the Tacoma can tackle a trail with no issue. Thanks to winter storm during our week in the Tacoma, we were able to put the four-wheel drive system to the test. Fitted with a set of Michelin off-road tires, the Tacoma went through deep snow with no issues. It should be noted that if you’re serious about taking a Tacoma off-road, then you should look at the TRD Off-Road which adds new shocks, meatier off-road tires, the Multi-Terrain Select system that varies the traction control system for different conditions, and crawl control that modulates the brakes and engine when dealing with some treacherous obstacles such as a steep hill. The Canyon isn’t as capable off-road. For one, it is about an inch shorter in terms of overall ground clearance. Second, the front air dam which is used to improve overall aerodynamics hampers off-road performance. A key example of this comes in approach angle. The Canyon only has an 18-degree approach angle while the Tacoma has either a 29 or 32-degree approach angle. Value: Both of these test trucks make a strong case for going with one of the lower trims. The 2016 Toyota Tacoma Limited Double Cab starts at $37,820 for the four-wheel drive model. With options, the as-tested price came to $41,024. Yes, you do get a lot of standard equipment such as blind-spot monitoring, dual-zone climate control, navigation, heated seats, push-button start, and a JBL audio system. But you can get a fair amount of those features as options on the SR5 and the two TRD models. One other thing to consider. The Toyota Tacoma is one of the best vehicles to retain its resale value. Kelly Blue Book says the Tacoma will retain 73 percent of its resale value after three years. The Canyon SLT has a slightly lower base price of $37,450. But it is the more expensive of the two with an as-tested price of $44,365. A fair chunk of the price comes from Duramax diesel which will set you back $3,730. For the as-tested price, you can get into a decently equipped full-size truck. Again, the lower trim SLE gets most of the equipment from the SLT as options for a slightly lower price. Final Thoughts: If you’re expecting me to say the GMC Canyon is better than the Toyota Tacoma or vice-versa, then you’ll be surprised at what I’m going to say. Both of these trucks are good choices in the midsize truck class. The choice comes down to what are your desires and needs. For example, if you’re coming from passenger sedan into your first truck or planning to do some towing, the GMC Canyon and sister Chevrolet Colorado are what you should go for. On the opposite end, the Tacoma is perfect for those who want something to tackle the trail or need a V6 with a bit of punch. 2016 GMC Canyon SLT Crew Cab Cheers: Fuel economy of the diesel, barely any wind and road noise, smooth ride Jeers: Price, GMC Intellilink still has some bugs, fair amount of turbo lag Album: Review: 2016 GMC Canyon SLT Crew Cab Diesel 11 images 0 comments 2016 Toyota Tacoma Limited Double Cab Cheers: Very capable off-road, V6 feels quite punchy, clever features in the bed Jeers: Rides like an old school truck, difficult to find a comfortable seating position, fair amount of road and wind noise Album: Review: 2016 Toyota Tacoma Limited Double Cab 10 images 0 comments Disclaimer: GMC and Toyota Provided the trucks, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: GMC Model: Canyon Trim: SLT 4WD Crew Cab Short Box Engine: 2.8L Turbodiesel Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel drive Horsepower @ RPM: 181 @ 3,400 Torque @ RPM: 369 @ 2,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 20/29/23 Curb Weight: 4,698 lbs Location of Manufacture: Wentzville, MO Base Price: $37,450 As Tested Price: $44,365 (Includes $925.00 Destination Charge) Options: 2.8L Duramax Turbodiesel Four - $3,730 Bose Audio System - $500.00 8" Color Touchscreen with GMC Intellilink and Navigation - $495.00 Spray-On Bed Liner - $475.00 Copper Red Metallic Pain - $395.00 Driver Alert Package - $395.00 Year: 2016 Make: Toyota Model: Tacoma Trim: Limited 4X4 Double Cab Engine: 3.5L Atkinson Cycle V6 with Dual VVT-i Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 278 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 265 @ 4,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/23/20 Curb Weight: 4,480 lbs Location of Manufacture: San Antonio, TX Base Price: $37,820 As Tested Price: $41,024 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge) Options: Tonneau Cover - $650.00 V6 Tow Package - $650.00 5" Chrome Oval Tube Step - $535.00 Carpet Floor Mats w/Door Sill - $209.00 Mudgaurds - $140.00 Bed Mat - $120.00 Click here to view the article
  18. Review: 2016 Chevrolet Volt Premier

    General Motors took a huge gamble when they introduced the first-generation Chevrolet Volt for the 2011 model year. It was positioned as an alternative to a standard electric car by having a gas generator providing electric power once the battery was depleted. This different take on an electric vehicle solved the issue of range anxiety. But GM was too ambitious in terms of sales numbers. This lead to dealers being stockpiled with models because not many people were buying them. Within a year, GM made some key changes such as reducing the production amount and offering incentives that the Volt was finally able to make some headway in the market. Now we come to the second-generation Volt introduced last year. Chevrolet felt that the Volt needed to lose a bit of the concept car look to make it somewhat more appealing to buyers. But they also improved key components to make the Volt more efficient. Let’s see if these changes help or hurt it. The design of the first-generation Volt looked like someone’s prediction of what the vehicle of the future would look like. It stood out, but not in a good way. Thankfully, Chevrolet’s designers addressed this with the second-generation model. Yes, the 2016 Volt does have a similar profile to the outgoing model. But designers have smoothed out the shape and added some new lines. Take the front end for example. There are new grille inserts that are not only smaller, but have a pattern that mimics sheet metal. The back end features a reshaped tailgate with an integrated spoiler that not only improves the overall aerodynamics, but makes it look sleeker. Finishing off the design are a set of seventeen-inch alloy wheels and what Chevrolet calls Kinetic Blue that sets off the Volt’s design. The sore point of the first-generation Volt had to be the interior. It began with the material choices. For a vehicle that started near $40k, the cheap and shiny plastics were a big no-no. Then there was center stack full of capacitive-touch controls. The implementation wasn’t great as it would take you a few moments to find the one control to change the temperature or fan speed. The controls also didn’t respond when pressed, meaning you needed to hit them a couple of times before something happened. The back seat was only useable for small kids due to the small amount of head and legroom. Thankfully, most of these issues have been addressed. The interior has grown up with a handsome design for the dashboard and better quality materials used throughout. There is a fair amount of soft-touch plastics and faux metal trim used up front. Disappointingly, Chevrolet didn’t give the back any soft-touch materials. The rear door panels are plastered with hard plastics. For the price tag of just a hair over $40,000, this isn’t acceptable. The new dash also brings forth a simpler center stack layout with an eight-inch touchscreen and new controls for the automatic climate control. Our Volt tester featured heated leather seats for both the front and rear. Getting yourself comfortable up front is quite easy with manual adjustments for the seat and a tilt-telescoping steering wheel. The back seat is slightly larger with more head and legroom, but it is best reserved for those under 5’7”. I happen to be 5’8” and found my head touching the roof. Chevrolet has improved the Volt’s various bits of tech. The driver faces an eight-inch color screen that provides basic details such as battery charge, fuel gauge, and trip computer. You can customize the layout with various themes and efficiency gauges to coach you into being a more efficient driver. Another eight-inch screen resides in the center stack with the latest version of Chevrolet MyLink. The system seems to be getting better in terms of performance and reliability. The big news for 2016 is the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to MyLink. We tried out CarPlay and it was simple to setup: Plug in a compatible iPhone into the USB input and hit the CarPlay button, and you’ll be greeted with a screen that is similar to your iPhone’s home screen. You’ll have access to various things such as Siri, Apple Maps, your music, and other applications such as Audible and Spotify. Using CarPlay is very easy since it is like using an iPhone but with a larger screen. There are still some issues that need to be ironed out with CarPlay such as various applications freezing or not responding to various commands. We also found that the MyLink wouldn’t recognize our phone when plugged in. After restarting the Volt, the system would recognize it. The Volt’s powertrain has seen some major changes for the second-generation model. A set of electric motors produces 111 kW (about 149 horsepower) and 294 pound-feet for torque. A larger 18.4 kWh Lithium-Ion battery pack helps boost overall electric range. Finishing off the powertrain is a new 1.5L DOHC four-cylinder generator producing 101 horsepower. The improvements in the powertrain boost overall electric range from 35 to 53 miles and overall range stands at 420 miles. Pulling away from a stop, the Volt feels spritely as it gets up to speed at a surprising rate. This is due to the torque being available at zero rpm. Around town, the Volt zips around with only the gentle hum of the electric motor entering the cabin. Once the battery is depleted, the gas generator will kick on. The transition is seamless and the generator stays quiet for the most part. However, if you push the accelerator into the floor, the generator will make a lot of noise. Like the previous Volt, the 2016 model offers a set of different driving modes that changes how the powertrain behaves. Normal: Powertrain runs on electric power until the battery is depleted, then the gas generator kicks on. Sport: Improves throttle response. Mountain: Turns on the generator to provide battery charging when driving through mountainous or steep terrain. Hold: This mode preserves the battery charge by having the gas generator provide power for the electric motor. For when you are driving on the freeway and know you'll want to save your battery power for city driving later One other trick the 2016 Volt has up its sleeve is the Regen on Demand system. First used on the Cadillac ELR, the system uses a paddle behind the steering wheel allows a driver to control how much energy is being regenerated when driving via the electric motors. Think of Regen on Demand as putting the vehicle into a lower gear; the electric motors act as an engine brake to slow the vehicle down and recapture energy to charge the battery. In terms of range, we were able to go between 47 to 51 miles on a full charge. EPA fuel economy estimates say the 2016 Chevrolet Volt will return 106 MPGe when running on electric power only, and 42 MPG when gas generator kicks on. Our averages for the week landed around 112 MPGe and 43 MPG. Chevrolet says it will take about 4.5 hours to recharge a depleted battery when plugged into a 240V charger. When plugged into a 120V outlet, time increases about 13 hours. We found the 13 hours estimate to be right on the money as that is how long it took for our test Volt to fully recharge. When half of the battery charge was depleted, we found the charging time to be around 6 to 7 hours. In terms of ride, the 2016 Volt retains the smooth ride of the first-generation model. Bumps and other imperfections are ironed out to provide a comfortable ride. More impressive is how little outside noise comes into the cabin. When running on just electric power, very little wind and road noise comes inside. For handling, the Volt doesn’t embarrass itself. There isn’t any sign of body lean and the vehicle is able to change direction quickly. Steering feels responsive and heavy. No, the Volt would be replacing a sports car anytime soon. But compared to other plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, the Volt has to be one of the better driving models. Pricing for the Volt starts at $33,995 for the base LT and $37,820 for the up-level Premier. Our Premier tester featured a pricetag of $40,225 with two safety packages, navigation, and the Kinetic blue paint. For our money, the Premier is the way to go as it is the only trim that you can get blind-spot warning and lane change alert, both necessary features due to the Volt’s poor rear visibility. I wish these features were standard on the Premier and optional on the LT. In 2016, electric vehicles are still seen as a bit of novelty. Despite the number of improvements made in terms of batteries and infrastructure, there is still the issue of range. This is where the Volt stands on its own as it provides a fallback option. Use up all of the battery? No problem as the generator will kick and get you to your destination where you can plug in. Plus the changes made by Chevrolet not only make the Volt somewhat more useable and efficient, but it also looks quite handsome. There are some niggling issues that we hope get addressed in the near future. If you’re intrigued but don’t want to fully jump into the electric vehicle landscape, then the 2016 Chevrolet Volt is an excellent place to start at. Cheers: Improved electric only range, design that stands out in a good way, clever bits of powertrain tech. Jeers: Cheap materials are still here, MyLink still has some issues to work out, blind spot monitoring and lane change alert is optional on the Premier and not available on the LT (how does this make sense?!) Disclaimer: Chevrolet Provided the Volt, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Chevrolet Model: Volt Trim: Premier Engine: Voltec Electric Drive Unit, 1.5L Four-Cylinder (Range Extender) Driveline: Electric Transaxle, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 149 Torque @ RPM: 294 @ 0 Fuel Economy: EV/Gas Only - 106 MPGe/42 Curb Weight: 3,543 lbs Location of Manufacture: Detroit, MI Base Price: $37,520 As Tested Price: $40,225 (Includes $825.00 Destination Charge) Options: Chevrolet MyLink Radio w/ Navigation - $495.00 Driver Confidence 1 Package - $495.00 Driver Confidence 2 Package - $495.00 Kinetic Blue Metallic - $395.00
  19. General Motors took a huge gamble when they introduced the first-generation Chevrolet Volt for the 2011 model year. It was positioned as an alternative to a standard electric car by having a gas generator providing electric power once the battery was depleted. This different take on an electric vehicle solved the issue of range anxiety. But GM was too ambitious in terms of sales numbers. This lead to dealers being stockpiled with models because not many people were buying them. Within a year, GM made some key changes such as reducing the production amount and offering incentives that the Volt was finally able to make some headway in the market. Now we come to the second-generation Volt introduced last year. Chevrolet felt that the Volt needed to lose a bit of the concept car look to make it somewhat more appealing to buyers. But they also improved key components to make the Volt more efficient. Let’s see if these changes help or hurt it. The design of the first-generation Volt looked like someone’s prediction of what the vehicle of the future would look like. It stood out, but not in a good way. Thankfully, Chevrolet’s designers addressed this with the second-generation model. Yes, the 2016 Volt does have a similar profile to the outgoing model. But designers have smoothed out the shape and added some new lines. Take the front end for example. There are new grille inserts that are not only smaller, but have a pattern that mimics sheet metal. The back end features a reshaped tailgate with an integrated spoiler that not only improves the overall aerodynamics, but makes it look sleeker. Finishing off the design are a set of seventeen-inch alloy wheels and what Chevrolet calls Kinetic Blue that sets off the Volt’s design. The sore point of the first-generation Volt had to be the interior. It began with the material choices. For a vehicle that started near $40k, the cheap and shiny plastics were a big no-no. Then there was center stack full of capacitive-touch controls. The implementation wasn’t great as it would take you a few moments to find the one control to change the temperature or fan speed. The controls also didn’t respond when pressed, meaning you needed to hit them a couple of times before something happened. The back seat was only useable for small kids due to the small amount of head and legroom. Thankfully, most of these issues have been addressed. The interior has grown up with a handsome design for the dashboard and better quality materials used throughout. There is a fair amount of soft-touch plastics and faux metal trim used up front. Disappointingly, Chevrolet didn’t give the back any soft-touch materials. The rear door panels are plastered with hard plastics. For the price tag of just a hair over $40,000, this isn’t acceptable. The new dash also brings forth a simpler center stack layout with an eight-inch touchscreen and new controls for the automatic climate control. Our Volt tester featured heated leather seats for both the front and rear. Getting yourself comfortable up front is quite easy with manual adjustments for the seat and a tilt-telescoping steering wheel. The back seat is slightly larger with more head and legroom, but it is best reserved for those under 5’7”. I happen to be 5’8” and found my head touching the roof. Chevrolet has improved the Volt’s various bits of tech. The driver faces an eight-inch color screen that provides basic details such as battery charge, fuel gauge, and trip computer. You can customize the layout with various themes and efficiency gauges to coach you into being a more efficient driver. Another eight-inch screen resides in the center stack with the latest version of Chevrolet MyLink. The system seems to be getting better in terms of performance and reliability. The big news for 2016 is the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto to MyLink. We tried out CarPlay and it was simple to setup: Plug in a compatible iPhone into the USB input and hit the CarPlay button, and you’ll be greeted with a screen that is similar to your iPhone’s home screen. You’ll have access to various things such as Siri, Apple Maps, your music, and other applications such as Audible and Spotify. Using CarPlay is very easy since it is like using an iPhone but with a larger screen. There are still some issues that need to be ironed out with CarPlay such as various applications freezing or not responding to various commands. We also found that the MyLink wouldn’t recognize our phone when plugged in. After restarting the Volt, the system would recognize it. The Volt’s powertrain has seen some major changes for the second-generation model. A set of electric motors produces 111 kW (about 149 horsepower) and 294 pound-feet for torque. A larger 18.4 kWh Lithium-Ion battery pack helps boost overall electric range. Finishing off the powertrain is a new 1.5L DOHC four-cylinder generator producing 101 horsepower. The improvements in the powertrain boost overall electric range from 35 to 53 miles and overall range stands at 420 miles. Pulling away from a stop, the Volt feels spritely as it gets up to speed at a surprising rate. This is due to the torque being available at zero rpm. Around town, the Volt zips around with only the gentle hum of the electric motor entering the cabin. Once the battery is depleted, the gas generator will kick on. The transition is seamless and the generator stays quiet for the most part. However, if you push the accelerator into the floor, the generator will make a lot of noise. Like the previous Volt, the 2016 model offers a set of different driving modes that changes how the powertrain behaves. Normal: Powertrain runs on electric power until the battery is depleted, then the gas generator kicks on. Sport: Improves throttle response. Mountain: Turns on the generator to provide battery charging when driving through mountainous or steep terrain. Hold: This mode preserves the battery charge by having the gas generator provide power for the electric motor. For when you are driving on the freeway and know you'll want to save your battery power for city driving later One other trick the 2016 Volt has up its sleeve is the Regen on Demand system. First used on the Cadillac ELR, the system uses a paddle behind the steering wheel allows a driver to control how much energy is being regenerated when driving via the electric motors. Think of Regen on Demand as putting the vehicle into a lower gear; the electric motors act as an engine brake to slow the vehicle down and recapture energy to charge the battery. In terms of range, we were able to go between 47 to 51 miles on a full charge. EPA fuel economy estimates say the 2016 Chevrolet Volt will return 106 MPGe when running on electric power only, and 42 MPG when gas generator kicks on. Our averages for the week landed around 112 MPGe and 43 MPG. Chevrolet says it will take about 4.5 hours to recharge a depleted battery when plugged into a 240V charger. When plugged into a 120V outlet, time increases about 13 hours. We found the 13 hours estimate to be right on the money as that is how long it took for our test Volt to fully recharge. When half of the battery charge was depleted, we found the charging time to be around 6 to 7 hours. In terms of ride, the 2016 Volt retains the smooth ride of the first-generation model. Bumps and other imperfections are ironed out to provide a comfortable ride. More impressive is how little outside noise comes into the cabin. When running on just electric power, very little wind and road noise comes inside. For handling, the Volt doesn’t embarrass itself. There isn’t any sign of body lean and the vehicle is able to change direction quickly. Steering feels responsive and heavy. No, the Volt would be replacing a sports car anytime soon. But compared to other plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, the Volt has to be one of the better driving models. Pricing for the Volt starts at $33,995 for the base LT and $37,820 for the up-level Premier. Our Premier tester featured a pricetag of $40,225 with two safety packages, navigation, and the Kinetic blue paint. For our money, the Premier is the way to go as it is the only trim that you can get blind-spot warning and lane change alert, both necessary features due to the Volt’s poor rear visibility. I wish these features were standard on the Premier and optional on the LT. In 2016, electric vehicles are still seen as a bit of novelty. Despite the number of improvements made in terms of batteries and infrastructure, there is still the issue of range. This is where the Volt stands on its own as it provides a fallback option. Use up all of the battery? No problem as the generator will kick and get you to your destination where you can plug in. Plus the changes made by Chevrolet not only make the Volt somewhat more useable and efficient, but it also looks quite handsome. There are some niggling issues that we hope get addressed in the near future. If you’re intrigued but don’t want to fully jump into the electric vehicle landscape, then the 2016 Chevrolet Volt is an excellent place to start at. Cheers: Improved electric only range, design that stands out in a good way, clever bits of powertrain tech. Jeers: Cheap materials are still here, MyLink still has some issues to work out, blind spot monitoring and lane change alert is optional on the Premier and not available on the LT (how does this make sense?!) Disclaimer: Chevrolet Provided the Volt, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Album: Review: 2016 Chevrolet Volt Premier 14 images 0 comments Year: 2016 Make: Chevrolet Model: Volt Trim: Premier Engine: Voltec Electric Drive Unit, 1.5L Four-Cylinder (Range Extender) Driveline: Electric Transaxle, Front-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 149 Torque @ RPM: 294 @ 0 Fuel Economy: EV/Gas Only - 106 MPGe/42 Curb Weight: 3,543 lbs Location of Manufacture: Detroit, MI Base Price: $37,520 As Tested Price: $40,225 (Includes $825.00 Destination Charge) Options: Chevrolet MyLink Radio w/ Navigation - $495.00 Driver Confidence 1 Package - $495.00 Driver Confidence 2 Package - $495.00 Kinetic Blue Metallic - $395.00 Click here to view the article
  20. Very few things can cause utter surprise for me when it comes to reviewing vehicles. But there are those moments where it does happen. Recently, I spent some time in a Jeep Wrangler Unlimited 75th Anniversary. I had driven a Wrangler last year and knew what I getting myself into. It was when I looked at my paperwork that my jaw dropped to the floor. The Wrangler Unlimited I was driving carried a price tag of $48,530. I had to do a double-take to make sure I wasn’t misreading it. Once the shock passed me, I found myself whether I would be willing be pay this much for Wrangler or if it would be better to put the money towards a vehicle I drove the week before, a Grand Cherokee Summit. Both of these Jeeps stand at opposite ends of the exterior design spectrum. The Grand Cherokee has an understated look with a shape that can trace its roots back to the original model from 1993. There is a fair amount of chrome used on the grille slots, rear bumpers, and side window trim. The Wrangler is the bolder of the two with a squared-off body, flared wheel arches, and spare tire carrier on the back. The 75th Anniversary edition brings 17-inch bronze wheels, new bumpers, dark green paint, and 75th Anniversary badging. While these two models have differing approaches, the end result is the same; both are quite handsome. In terms of the interiors, it is clear these vehicles are aimed at different audiences. The Grand Cherokee Summit stands as the Grand Cherokee’s flagship (aside from the SRT) and it shows with high-quality materials such as real wood, soft touch plastics, and brown leather. This helps bring a sense of luxury that hasn’t appeared in a Grand Cherokee till this generation. Seats provide excellent support, and there is enough space for passengers sitting in the back. The only downside to Grand Cherokee’s interior is the center stack. Compared to the rest of the interior, it seems completely out of place. At least UConnect is still one of the easiest infotainment systems to use. The Wrangler’s interior, on the other hand, isn’t as luxurious with loads of hard plastics and a more utilitarian look. There is a benefit to this as you’ll know the interior will stand up to the harshness of mother nature. Plus, you can use a hose to wash out the interior - drain plugs are underneath the floor mats. The Unlimited does bring forth a longer wheelbase which allows for more leg and cargo room, plus two rear doors. The added space is appreciated for anyone sitting in the back. Getting into the back is another story with a narrow opening will cause some folks to contort their body to get in. Both models feature the same 3.6L Pentastar V6, albeit with different outputs. The Grand Cherokee features 295 horsepower and the Wrangler gets 285. Not much difference on paper, but the road tells a different story. The Grand Cherokee’s V6 feels slightly more flexible with power coming at a linear rate. The Wrangler’s V6 feels somewhat anemic and one where you have to work it to get up to speed at a decent clip. The difference most likely comes down to the transmission. The Grand Cherokee gets an eight-speed automatic, while the Wrangler makes due with a five-speed. This also explains the difference in the average fuel economy for both vehicles: 19 MPG for the Grand Cherokee and 16.4 MPG for the Wrangler. When it comes to the ride, the Wrangler Unlimited almost matches the Grand Cherokee. The longer wheelbase on the Unlimited helps provide a smoother ride than the standard model. However, bigger bumps will make their way inside. Contrast this with the Grand Cherokee where most bumps are nonexistent to those sitting inside. It should be noted that compared to the previous Grand Cherokees I drove back in 2014, this one had a lot more tire noise coming into the cabin. Blame the low-rolling resistance tires fitted onto our tester. But the Wrangler Unlimited begins to gain some ground back when it comes to off-road driving. With meaty off-road tires, flexible suspension, and a simple to engage four-wheel drive system, the Wrangler Unlimited can go anywhere with no issues. Going through a dirt trail with mud pits, I was amazed as to how the Wrangler shrugged it off like it was nothing. That isn’t to say the Grand Cherokee isn’t a slouch off-road. It features the Quadra-Trac II full-time four-wheel drive system with Terrain Select - a system that can alter various settings for the various terrains you find yourself on. The Grand Cherokee Summit also features an air suspension that can be raised to improve overall ground clearance when tackling an off-road trail. Sadly, I didn’t get the chance to drive the Grand Cherokee off-road during my week with it. If you were to ask me which of the two Jeeps I would buy, I would have to say it would be the Grand Cherokee. That isn’t to say the Wrangler Unlimited 75th Anniversary is bad. I just feel for the price that is being asked is too much for what you get. You would be better off getting a hold of either a Sport, Willys Wheeler, or Rubicon as the value argument works for them. The Grand Cherokee Summit, on the other hand, can more than justify its price tag as most of the equipment such as navigation, panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, heated and ventilated front seats, and more are standard. The only option on our tester was the brown leather. Both of these vehicles are aimed at different audiences and do a very good job of satisfying them. But when it comes down to prices being asked for either vehicle, the Wrangler Unlimited comes up short. Disclaimer: Jeep Provided the vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Jeep Model: Grand Cherokee Trim: Summit Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6 Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Full-Time 4WD Horsepower @ RPM: Torque @ RPM: Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 18/25/21 Curb Weight: lbs Location of Manufacture: Detroit, MI Base Price: $52,595 As Tested Price: $54,085 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: DarkSienna Brown/Black Interior - $495.00 Year: 2016 Make: Jeep Model: Wrangler Unlimited Trim: 75th Anniversary Engine: 3.6L 24-Valve VVT V6 Driveline: Five-Speed Automatic, Part-Time 4WD Horsepower @ RPM: Torque @ RPM: Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 16/20/18 Curb Weight: lbs Location of Manufacture: Toledo, OH Base Price: $33,695 As Tested Price: $48,530 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge) Options: Jeep 75th Anniversary Package 24H - $4,680.00 Dual Top Group - $1,785.00 Tru-Lok Differential - $1,500.00 Five-Speed Automatic - $1,350.00 Freedom Top Body Color Three-Piece Hardtop - $1,100.00 Alpine Premium Nine-Speaker Audio System w/All-Weather Subwoofer - $945.00 Radio 430N - $600.00 Hard Top Headliner - $495.00 Supplemental Front-Seat Mounted Side Airbags - $495.00 Remote Start System - $495.00
  21. Ever since Mitsubishi admitted to falsifying fuel economy figures on a number of vehicles in Japan, the automaker has been clear that this didn't extend to other markets. Nissan is double checking this claim. Automotive News reports that Mitsubishi's possible largest shareholder is looking into Mitsubishi's claimed fuel economy numbers in other markets to see if this scandal extended outside Japan. This is part of Nissan's due diligence review before finalizing plans to buy a 34 percent stake in the company. Nissan CFO Joe Peter tells Automotive News that the review hasn't found any skeletons yet, but they aren't finished with the review yet. “That would be an issue that could cause considerable concern,” said Peter when asked about false fuel economy figures outside of Japan. Source: Automotive News (Subscription Required)
  22. Review: 2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring

    “But you’ll look sweet Upon the seat Of a Mazda CX-3 built for two” Okay, I might have slightly altered a song that you may sung during preschool and/or kindergarten. But that song perfectly describes the latest entrant in the subcompact crossover class, the 2016 Mazda CX-3. Let me explain. Mazda has been designing some of the sharpest looking vehicles for a few years and the CX-3 is no exception. The front end looks the same as the larger CX-5 and upcoming CX-9 with a large grill and chrome trim running along the outer edge into the headlights. Moving to the side shows off a flowing line that resembles an ocean wave. Finishing the look is a set of eighteen-inch wheels that come standard on the Grand Touring. The overall shape makes the CX-3 look bigger than it actually is. This thought goes away once you get inside the CX-3. Interior space can be best described as intimate. The front seats provide good support and come with extra side bolstering to hold you in whenever you decide its time to horse around. The back seat is quite small with little head and legroom. I’m 5’8” and found that I barely fit. There needs to be a sticker attached to the rear windows saying “the rear seat to be used only in case of emergencies". Cargo space is also small with the CX-3 only offering 12.4 cubic feet with the rear seats up and 44.5 cubic feet with them down. Our CX-3 tester had an even smaller cargo area due to the subwoofer (comes with the optional Bose audio system) taking up valuable space. Measurements are 10.1 and 42.3 cubic feet respectively. This trails the Honda HR-V which offers 24.3 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 58.8 cubic feet when folded. At least Mazda did an impressive job when it comes to the design of the CX-3’s interior. A sleek looking dash features a small chrome bar running between a set of air vents. Various trim pieces are finished in contrasting colors to set off the interior. All CX-3s feature a seven-inch color touchscreen with the MazdaConnect infotainment system. The Grand Touring is the only trim that comes with navigation. Much like our experience in the MX-5 Miata, trying to use the touchscreen is more an exercise in frustration since you don’t know which controls are touch enabled. It is easier to use the control knob to move around the system. Power for the CX-3 comes from a 2.0L Skyactiv-G four-cylinder with 146 horsepower and 146 pound-feet of torque (@ 2,800 rpm). This comes paired with a six-speed automatic and the choice of either front-wheel or all-wheel drive. Our tester came with all-wheel drive. Around town the CX-3's 2.0 liter provides decent off the line power, but under heavier acceleration and at highway speeds, the engine struggles and sounds rough. Those who have timed the CX-3 to 60 mph say it takes about 8.5 seconds. The six-speed automatic delivers smooth and crisp upshifts, but is somewhat slow to respond when downshifting. Fuel economy for the CX-3 AWD is rated at 27 City/32 Highway/29 Combined. Our average landed around 26 MPG. Not bad considering the winter conditions the CX-3 was facing, along with the vehicle only having just a hair over 1,000 miles. One key item Mazda points out on the CX-3 is the i-Active all-wheel drive system. Mazda says this system is able to predict road conditions through various sensors around the vehicle to provide information to the computer. From there, the computer is able to make various changes to all-wheel drive system to keep the vehicle moving through whatever mother nature decides to throw out. For example, if you turn on the windshield wipers, the system can tell that its raining and makes the necessary changes. Seems like a marketing gimmick, but it actually does make a difference. When the CX-3 was dropped off, the metro Detroit area was experiencing a big snow storm with snow amounts ranging from six to twelve inches. The all-wheel drive system was able to keep the CX-3 moving through deep snow drifts on the road. Even when stopped, you could tell the wheels spun briefly before the system made some quick adjustments to get the vehicle moving. Handling is where the Mazda CX-3 truly shines. Around corners, the vehicle feels nimble and body motions are kept in check. Steering is towards the top of the class with excellent weight and feel of the road. The daily drive reveals the CX-3 having a compliant ride with some bumps making their way inside. One area Mazda still hasn’t been able to fully solve yet is noise isolation. There is a fair amount of road and tire noise coming into the cabin. We’re wondering if going for the sixteen-inch wheels on the Touring trim would fix this issue. Wind noise is kept to acceptable levels. In terms of pricing, the Mazda CX-3 is right in line with competitors. Prices range from $19,960 for the base Sport front-wheel drive to $26,240 for the Grand Touring all-wheel drive. Our Grand Touring tester came to an as-tested price of $29,260 with most options added. This is a lot of cash to drop on a subcompact crossover. The only thing we can see why you might go to the Grand Touring is for the optional safety package that adds radar cruise control and automatic braking. Otherwise you can get a good amount of equipment from the CX-3 Grand Touring as options on the Touring. Making this price tag harder to swallow is the Mazda CX-5 Touring all-wheel drive that is only a few hundred dollars more than our tester ($29,820), and offers more space and can be optioned with automatic braking. Let’s go back to the beginning of this review with the song and saying how it perfectly describes the 2016 Mazda CX-3. This a crossover that will work for either a single person or couple as there is enough space for their needs. A small family will feel cramped and wonder why there isn’t any more cargo space. In my notes for the CX-3, I made the connection between it and the Mazda MX-5 I drove a few weeks before. Both models are focused on providing driving excitement and sharp looks, but at the cost of practicality. This isn’t to say the Mazda CX-3 is a bad crossover. I happen to really like it. But it only works for a certain group of people. Cheers: Fun to drive, Clever all-wheel drive system, Looks that stand out Jeers: You can get a CX-5 for the same amount of money as our tester, Rear seat best used in emergencies, Engine struggles when getting up to speed on a freeway Disclaimer: Mazda Provided the CX-3, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Mazda Model: CX-3 Trim: Grand Touring AWD Engine: Skyactiv-G 2.0L Four-Cylinder Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 146 @ 6,000 Torque @ RPM: 146 @ 2,800 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/32/29 Curb Weight: 2,952 lbs Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan Base Price: $26,240 As Tested Price: $29,260 (Includes $900 Destination Charge) Options: GT i-Activesense Package - $1,920.00 Door Sill Trim Plates - $100.00 Rear Bumper Guard - $100.00
  23. G. David Felt Staff Writer Alternative Energy - www.CheersandGears.com My CT6 & XT5 Personal Experience So this is my experience after spending 1hr, 30 min with both a brand new XT5 and CT6 from Doug's Cadillac in North Seattle. This is my home dealership and they have always taken care of me. We finally have gotten the new CT6 and XT5 into the Greater Seattle area. Brad my sales rep called me up thursday afternoon to inform me they had 3 of the CT6 and 3 of the XT5 that got delivered that day and would be ready for driving friday. I called my parents and wife to see if they wanted to go check them out and of course they did. So at 2pm friday afternoon, my work day done, I headed out to be picked up by the wife and my parents and drive to the dealership. I can honestly say we were all excited to see these auto's in person. The CT6 was available in the following colors, black, white and granite. The XT5 was in black, white and red. While my parents and wife went over to compare and check out the XT5 which was backed up against an identical SRX. I started with the CT6. First off and this is directed at SMK and others that have questioned Cadillac and the CT6, before you go and continue to make comments and embarass yourself, you need to go to cadillac and check this auto out for yourself. I can honestly say that Cadillac beat MB E-Class on the interior quality. The over all design both inside and outside is personal and you have the right to like the design language of MB over cadillac. Yet before you say the car cannot compete or is poor quality, moving the goal post or anything else, check the auto out as I now wish I had taken photo's of the 1 year old MB E-Class they had in the used section as it paled in comparison to this car. The CT6 was super quiet on the road, and in fact I was looking at the gauges to see what the response was of the auto due to how quiet it was. The one thing that popped into my mind was my grandfather and his love of Cadillac and how he always owned a Brougham till his death. I loved the extensive back seat room in his cars and the CT6 did not let me down. With the front seat set for me, I could get in the back and still had about 12 inches of room from my knees to the back of the seat. For a 6'6" tall guy, this was impressive to me and my family as everyone was really surprised with the interior room. Handling was tight, solid and the auto never gave any sign that it was under load and could go with a more powerful engine. Yes this had the V6, but still it moved. I loved the soft squishy leather dash with the real wood and carbon fiber accents. It was classy and yet still said modern. Tactile feel of the buttons what few there was, was very impressive and solid to the feel. I fell in love with the touch pad in controlling the interface. This needs to be standard on all auto's, it was very intuitive and I had very positive feedback of getting right into the various options. Having been in the BMW and MB auto's, I felt it was a tie between them for what I could naturally figure out on my own and the frustration with the buried levels of interfaces to find stuff. Cadillac was very intuitive from the start and I was able to find everything fast and easy. With that said and comparing it to the used MB and BMW on the lot, going from one to another you will still need some help from the sales person on either MB and BMW and yet I think while the customer service is nice to have a quick training on the new CUE system, my gut tells me that most people can figure it out without ever having their hand held. My Mom and Dad are perfect example of baby boomers who tech scares them and yet both found this easy to use. I really loved the customizable interface of the dash. With my quick spin around the block done and due to others showing up to test drive the CT6, I moved onto the XT5. As you can see from the pictures, my dad was outside and my mom was inside with Brad going over the interface and the auto. I chose to do a comparison of the outsides and realized that the 2nd gen SRX was very much geared more for the ladies. Even my wife said it was a more feminine looking auto compared to the more masculine XT5. While I was comparing the outsides, the regional Cadillac district manager stopped and asked me how I liked the new XT5. I told him I loved it and was excited for it, but had a question for him. Why not change the SRX to XT3 and continue to sell it for now. He said many dealers had asked that but what they saw at the dealer meeting blew them away and he said a clean cut with a short period of time before the new XT3 is shown and goes into production is the right move as customers like us will be very happy with what they are working on. This left me very excited for the near future of where Cadillac is going. I really hope that Cadillac does deliver on 110% on the new XT3 that is coming. Back to the XT5, Many of us have already seen under the hood of the SRX and know that Cadillac like everyone else has always had the V6 engine and even the 4 bangers in the ATS and CTS well covers and clean looking. I have to say I was a bit surprised and disappointed in the engine bay of the XT5. I actually feel that some type of cover is missing from this engine bay and that I should not be seeing this mess. This was my first and last disappointment with the XT5. In the lower left hand corner is the Horn next to the oil fill tube for the DEXOS 5W-30 oil. The rest I think is pretty clear for everyone to figure out what is what. The horn was surprising as it is small but is still very loud and bassy, not a high pitch tin can beep. I will say that Cadillac has fixed their injector noise issue as even with the hood up, I could not hear them. The engine was super quiet and on the road showed just how silky soft yet powerful it was. Very impressed with this V6 over the existing V6 in my 2008 SRX. Since as you all can see it is longitudinal, it does confirm that this is FWD based and yet with that came the other surprise a button on the center console that allowed you to turn off the AWD system so you can run it in FWD only and get much better MPG. This is a change from the 2016 SRX4 that is full time AWD. This option is a nice to have as many can buy and still get better MPG driving in FWD most of the time and then use the AWD when winter comes or if you do a road trip to colder climates and need better traction. Moving onto the inside as my parents took the black XT5 out for a spin, I was pleasantly pleased with the dash. Over all it is customizable just like the CT6 but had a clear different layout. I actually liked the speedo in the center compared to the right side in the CT6. Also being much bigger and taller I liked having the air vents on top rather than on the bottom. The CUE system and dash controls were the same and worked just fine for me. What was interesting was the different shifters. You had a much more tradition one in the CT6 with just forward or back on the auto shifter to go into gear for drive, reverse and yet on the XT5 you had more of a joystick style of shifter. Once Brad pointed out I had to not only step on the brake but also press the button on the left side of the shifter you just moved the shifter back into D for drive, a second time goes into manual mode. For reverse while pressing the brake pedal down and pressing the button on the left side of the shifter you move it forward and to the left. Be in reverse or drive, one thing I loved was the top button on the shifter or joystick that you pushed that had a P on it and it auto puts into park the transmission. I can honestly say I really liked the new shifter in the XT5. Comfort of the seats, WOW, my wife, parents and I have always enjoyed taking my 2006 ESV Platinum Escalade on road trips and the comfort of the seats for long drives. The XT5 just showed me why I need to wait for the update to the escalade, these newer much slimmer seats are really comfortable. No one would have a problem going on a long road trip in this CUV. Interior noise on the road, this again was a pleasant surprise as I expected the CT6 to be dead quiet, I was not expecting the XT5 to also be dead quiet. Not sure if Cadillac is using the Buick quiet steel technology or not, but they nailed it for a very quiet lovely ride with no wind noise, road noise or other auto noise intruding into the inside. Fit and Finish is first rate on both auto's, the interior room is just splendid. Room in the back as well as the front is so much more than in the SRX. SRX drivers side even with the seat all the way back, my long legged mom could still reach the pedals. In the XT5 and CT6, with the seats all the way back, she could not reach the pedals. This just continued to confirm that big people in the back seats of either auto will have plenty of room. Not sure what kind of fans Cadillac is using now in their auto's but the one thing that surprised me was how quiet they were even on high with AC. You had a pleasant stream of cool air with no fan noise. Radio once turned on showed the quality BOSE stereo system that both auto's have and how great they are. Over all I have to say that Cadillac hit the ball out of the ball park on both the CT6 and XT5 and BMW and MB needs to pay attention as these two auto's clearly are a big big step up from their equal in both product lines. Got question, just ask.
  24. Review: 2016 Scion iM

    A few days before I got the 2016 Scion iM to do a week-long evaluation, news came out that Toyota would be closing the brand this fall. Most of the lineup, including the iM, would move over to Toyota. It feels somewhat weird to do a review on a brand that is essentially a dead man walking. But with the iM moving to the Corolla family, it would give us an idea of whether or not we recommend it. The Scion iM is a rebadged Toyota Auris that is sold in Europe and Japan. There isn’t a lot of differences between two models aside from new mesh inserts for the front and 17-inch alloy wheels. The overall design is polarizing. The front is long and low, with a narrow grille and bumper that looks like it has fangs. Around back is an interesting shape for the tailgate. Moving inside, the roots of Corolla show up. For example, the iM’s dashboard and certain equipment such as the steering wheel come from the Corolla. Many of the materials are hard plastics, while the door panels have some fabric covering certain parts. Considering the price tag of the iM, this isn’t a big deal. Scion should be given some credit for making the iM’s interior have some style such as a strip of faux leather running along the glove box and contrast stitching on the seats. In terms of comfort, the iM is mixed. On short trips, the front seats provide decent support. Longer trips reveals the lack of thigh support. The back seat is small with limited head and legroom. Cargo space is towards the small side with only 20.8 cubic feet, trailing the Volkswagen Golf (22.8 cubic feet) and Ford Focus hatchback (23.3 cubic feet). Standard on the iM is a seven-inch touchscreen radio. It is your standard Toyota touchscreen system with a simple, if somewhat dated interface. The system is quick to respond when going between the various functions. Navigation is available as an option. Power for the iM comes from the Corolla LE Eco, a 1.8L four-cylinder producing 137 horsepower and 126 pound-feet of torque. This can either be paired with either a six-speed manual or a CVT like our tester. Power delivery is not impressive as the engine can’t keep up with traffic and produces more sound than speed. Your foot will be near the floor if you want to try and get up to speed at a somewhat decent rate. The CVT seems to mesh with the engine better than the six-speed manual we drove last year. It is smart to know when it needs to increase or decrease engine rpm for various driving situations. In terms of fuel economy, the iM equipped with a CVT is rated at 28 City/37 Highway/32 Combined. We didn’t get close to any of those numbers as we only recorded 25.3 MPG for the week. A lot of this can be attributed to the iM coming during one of the coldest weeks in Detroit where temperatures were between -10’ to 20’ Fahrenheit. Before I would go anywhere, I would start up the vehicle to let it warm up for a few moments. If it was a bit warmer, I wouldn’t be surprised I could get the EPA numbers. One item I couldn’t fully report on during the iM first drive was how it rode. The particular vehicle I drove was fitted with some TRD suspension parts, giving me some different impressions from other folks that drove the standard model Now I can report on the iM’s ride and say it is pretty good. The iM provides a very forgiving ride on rough surfaces. This is partly due to the iM using an independent rear suspension and not the solid-axle setup found in the Corolla. We do wish Scion had put some sound deadening material in the iM as road noise comes in clear. Around corners, the iM doesn’t embarrass itself. There is little body roll and it feels composed. Steering is the weak point as it has rubbery feeling. The one place where Scion iM comes out on top is price. The 2016 iM starts at $19,255 for the manual and $19,995 for the CVT. Our tester with a few accessories came to an as-tested price of $20,334. That includes the touchscreen radio, dual-zone climate control, alloy wheels, LED taillights, keyless entry, and a backup camera. No other car in the class comes close. At the moment, we wouldn’t recommend the Scion iM. The engine is the big weakness as it can’t keep up with traffic and produces more sound than actual power. We also wished there was a little bit more cargo room. The low price does make it tempting, but a slightly used compact would be a better choice. As Scion drives off into the sunset and the iM heads over to Toyota, the automaker has its work cut out. There is a good car in the iM, but it needs a fair amount of changes. Whether Toyota does them or not remains to be seen. Cheers: Price, Ride Quality, Out There Styling Jeers: Lethargic Engine, Steering, Interior Space Disclaimer: Scion Provided the iM, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas Year: 2016 Make: Scion Model: iM Trim: N/A Engine: 1.8L DOHC 16-Valve, Valvematic Four-Cylinder Driveline: Front-Wheel Drive, CVT Horsepower @ RPM: 137 @ 6,100 Torque @ RPM: 126 @ 4,000 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/37/32 Curb Weight: 3,031 lbs Location of Manufacture: Base Price: $19,200 As Tested Price: $20,334 (Includes $795.00 Destination Charge) Options: Carpeted Floormats and Cargo Mat - $185.00 Rear Bumper Protector - $89.00 Wheel Locks - $65.00
  25. Review: 2016 Nissan Titan XD Pro-4X

    Nissan never fully understood the rules with competing in the full-size truck marketplace. They had most of the basics with the choice of two different cab styles, range of trims, and a powerful V8 engine. But Nissan forgot one key rule about trucks; constant improvements will keep you in the spotlight. If you don’t believe this, just look at the Detroit three and their pickups. Every year, it seems one of them introduces new feature or improvement that will catapult them into the spotlight. It could be a new engine option, larger towing numbers, or an improved interior. Nissan never did that. Throughout the lifecycle of the first-generation Titan, the Japanese automaker only made minor changes. The biggest one of note was a revised interior toward the end of the 2000s. But with Nissan not making constant improvement or changes, the Titan fell to the back of the pack in a number of key areas such as towing and fuel economy. In 2014, Nissan only moved 12,527 Titan trucks. That largely trailed the Detroit three and even the Toyota Tundra. Ford F-Series: 753,851* Chevrolet Silverado*: 529,755* Ram Pickup: 439,789* GMC Sierra: 211,833* Toyota Tundra: 118,493 *Includes light and heavy duty trucks. The company isn’t giving up on the full-size truck market. Late last year, Nissan introduced the Titan XD. This model is said to provide the towing numbers and stability of a heavy duty truck, while having the maneuverability of a light-duty truck. The truck also features the brand’s first diesel engine. Later this year, Nissan will introduce a fully-redesigned Titan that will fix a number of the issues from the previous-generation model. That includes the choice of both a V6 and V8 engine, and a range of bed and cab configurations. It should be noted that the Titan and Titan XD don’t share much in terms of mechanical bits. We spent a week with a Titan XD to see if Nissan has a real chance of making any inroads in the full-size truck marketplace. Disclaimer: The Titan XD tested for this review is a pre-production model. The Titan XD doesn’t get off to a good start when it comes to the exterior. My first thought seeing the truck was, “is that an old Ford F-150?” A lot of this impression comes from the Titan XD’s front end as it looks very similar to the last-generation F-150 in terms of how it angles forward and the grille design. At least the rest of the Titan XD’s design does stand out. Our tester was the Pro-4X which adds 18-inch aluminum wheels, a gray finish for the lower part of the body, and skid plates. The bad news for some buyers is that you can’t get the Titan XD in an extended cab or with a longer bed. On one hand, Nissan might be on to something as many heavy duty trucks come in a crew cab configuration with a short bed. But limiting the configuration to just one style limits the appeal. Nissan has put a lot of work into the Titan XD’s bed to make it one of the most capable in the class. It begins with a dampened tailgate that makes it easier to open and close it. The bed itself comes with integrated tie-downs to help secure cargo and integrated LED lighting to make it easier to load or unload whenever it is dark. In the middle of the bed is an integrated gooseneck tow hitch that allows the Titan XD to tow even more types of trailers such fifth-wheel RVs. Getting into the Titan XD’s interior is slightly difficult due to the tall ride height. Entry rails are an option and one we would highly recommend getting. Otherwise, it is the perfect way to train for the Olympic high jump. Once you get inside, you’ll find an interior that isn’t special in terms of design. At least Nissan got the basics right with a large amount of soft-touch materials and contrasting trim pieces. Controls are large and within easy reach for both driver and passenger. The interior featured no squeaks or rattles, impressive for a pre-production model. Depending on trim, the Titan XD will seat either five or six people. Our Pro-4X tester came with seating for five. Getting yourself comfortable up front is very easy thanks to optional power adjustments for the seats and steering wheel. The back seat is very spacious with plenty of head and legroom for up to three passengers. Storage is impressive with an expansive center console and lockable storage bins under the rear seats. Nissan also made the lids of the storage bins fold out to provide a flat surface for carrying items in the back. Our tester came fitted with the optional seven-inch touchscreen with the NissanConnect infotainment system. Despite being one of the newer systems in the marketplace, the interface looks like it came from the Windows 95 era. At least moving around the system isn’t a big issue with large touch points and buttons on either side taking you to various functions. The screen Nissan uses for the infotainment system isn’t the best as it easily washes out in sunlight. The big news with the Titan XD is what lies under the hood: A 5.0L Cummins turbodiesel V8 with 310 horsepower and 555 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic. There is also a new 5.6L Endurance V8 with 390 horsepower and 401 pound-feet of torque. This engine comes solely with a seven-speed automatic. No matter which engine you choose, most trims will have the choice of either rear-wheel or four-wheel drive. The Pro-4X is the only trim that comes with four-wheel drive standard. Despite what numbers say for the diesel V8, it doesn’t feel fast. Acceleration can be described as leisurely as most of the engine’s power is used to overcome the Titan XD’s heft - 7,257 pounds in the case of our tester. Much like the Ram 2500 Power Wagon I drove a few months back, the diesel engine sounds like you’re going fast, but you’re not. One other disappointment with the diesel V8 is how noisy it is. Compared to other diesel trucks, the 5.0L V8 sounds like a Peterbilt truck at idle. Despite Nissan’s efforts with using double-pane glass and sound-deadening material, a fair amount of engine noise comes in. The six-speed automatic is the bright spot in the Titan XD as it delivers smooth shifts. In terms of fuel economy, we recorded an average of 17.6 with most driving taking place in urban environments. Don’t expect any EPA fuel economy numbers as the Titan XD is exempt thanks to its gross vehicle weight sitting above 8,500 pounds. Nissan is promoting towing as one of the key strengths of the Titan XD and on paper, it seems there is a good case for it. When properly equipped, the Titan XD can tow up to 12,314 pounds when using a tow hitch and 12,160 pounds with a gooseneck hitch. But when you compare it to light-duty trucks, the Titan XD holds a slim advantage. Here is a table outlining the tow ratings of Ford, GM, and Ram trucks when equipped with their optional engines. As the table shows, both the F-150 and Silverado/Sierra 1500 (when equipped with Max Tow Package) can trounce the Titan XD when equipped with 5.6L Endurance V8. But when equipped with the 5.0L Turbodiesel V8, only the F-150 comes close by about 400 pounds. The Silverado and Sierra 1500 can cut that gap to around 300 pounds, but you'll need an optional tow package. The Titan XD can also tow with a gooseneck hitch from the factory, something that none of the light-duty trucks can say. Plus, the Titan XD is said to provide a more secure feeling when towing a heavy trailer. We can’t really say if that one is true or not since we didn’t get the chance to tow with the truck. The Titan XD’s ride is up there with the Ram 1500 in terms of ride quality. No matter the road surface, the Titan XD was able to provide a smooth ride. Around corners, the Titan XD feels planted in terms of the suspension. The steering is another matter. When the steering wheel was dead center, we found we could turn the wheel a few degrees and the truck would still go straight. We also found the steering to be very light and not having much feel. This didn’t give us the confidence that we were in control or able to maneuver the truck easily in tight spaces. It was a good thing our tester featured Nissan’s around-view camera system which made maneuvering a bit easier. In terms of the Titan XD’s pricing, Nissan undercuts most heavy-duty trucks except the Ford F-250 when it comes to models equipped with the gas engine. When it comes to diesel option, the Titan XD’s undercuts them all. Some of the issues we can chalk up to this Titan XD being a pre-production model. But when we talked with a couple of folks who have driven production models, they said the steering still felt somewhat light. We hope Nissan can work some of these issues out. I really don’t feel comfortable giving a full verdict on the 2016 Nissan Titan XD at the moment, mostly due to this being a pre-production model and the issues I had with the steering. I am considering doing a re-test of the Titan XD at a later date to see if these issues were only with the pre-production model or not. That said, I do have some impressions on the truck. Nissan is trying something different with the XD by trying to fit in between the light and heavy-duty trucks and I have to applaud them for this. Trying to do something different in a highly competitive marketplace could lure in some buyers. But it also could backfire. For one, truck buyers are the most brand loyal of any vehicle type. Trying to draw someone away from a brand they have been with is a difficult task. Making it even tougher is where Nissan has placed the Titan XD. How do you convince someone who is looking at either a light-duty or heavy-duty that the truck they want is in between? You could use towing, but as we showed, the advantage is with the diesel V8 and it is slim one compared to certain models. You could say it is more stable when towing. But in that case, why not get a heavy-duty that provides that along with higher tow ratings? The only case we could make it for it would be in terms of pricing. Nissan may have put themselves between a rock and hard place with the XD. Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Titan XD, Insurance, and One Tank of Diesel Year: 2016 Make: Nissan Model: Titan XD Trim: Pro-4X Engine: Cummins 5.0L Turbodiesel V8 Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Four-Wheel Drive Horsepower @ RPM: 310 @ 3,200 Torque @ RPM: 555 @ 1,600 Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - N/A Curb Weight: 7,257 lbs Location of Manufacture: Canton, Mississippi Base Price: $50,970 As Tested Price: $58,285 (Includes $1,195.00 Destination Charge) Options: Pro-4X Convenience Package - $3,310 Pro-4X Luxury Package - $1,510 Pro-4X Utility & Audio Package - $1,100