Wednesday, December 31, 2014

NEW CAMRY HYBRID RECEIVED OVERHAUL FOR 2015

The Toyota Camry Hybrid receives a thorough overhaul for 2015, a mere three years after a complete redesign. Highlights include all-new exterior styling, improved handling and a revised interior with more equipment and better materials.

Toyota typically redesigns its cars every five or six years. Within that time period, it usually makes a few minor updates but otherwise leaves them alone until the next major overhaul. So it's a little surprising that Toyota has given the 2015 Camry Hybrid a fairly significant update just three years after the car's last redesign. Whatever the reasons for this more comprehensive batch of changes, Toyota has essentially corrected the few weak areas on last year's Camry Hybrid.

The changes start with the exterior styling. The new grille is larger and more aggressive-looking and provides a closer familial tie-in with those used on the Camry's pricier Avalon and even Lexus relatives. More sculpted body sides replace the former slab-sided design, and the taillights now look cohesive, as opposed to the former disjointed units that looked as if they had been sourced from two different cars. It's a similar story inside, as improved materials quality, notably in the center console and door panel areas, boosts the refinement factor. Even the climate control buttons and knobs are larger and imbue a sense of higher quality. The overall effect is that of a more upscale sedan.

Toyota didn't fiddle with the sedan's gasoline-electric hybrid powertrain, which means you've got a 2.5-liter engine and electric motor combo good for 200 horsepower and an EPA-estimated 41 mpg in combined driving. But Toyota did tweak the Camry's body structure and suspension tuning this year to provide a more buttoned-down demeanor when you're driving around turns. Choose the sport-tuned SE version and you'll have an even more responsive and engaging feel. It may still not be quite as involving as the Fusion Hybrid, mind you, but most people should find the SE pretty satisfying.

As with past versions, the 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid also boasts comfortable seating front and rear, good outward visibility and a smooth and quiet ride. Downsides are minor on the hybrid Camry. The steering provides little in the way of feedback, while fuel economy, though generally impressive, still falls short of the class leaders, which earn combined ratings in the mid to high 40s.

Those class leaders are the 2015 Ford Fusion Hybrid and the 2015 Honda Accord Hybrid. Both have slightly better fuel economy numbers and are a little sportier to drive. But compared with a rival like the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, the Toyota offers a smoother-operating hybrid system and better fuel economy. It also provides a lot more room inside than the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid. Newly invigorated, the 2015 Camry Hybrid merits strong consideration from shoppers looking for a comfortable, gas-sipping family car.

The LE Hybrid features 16-inch steel wheels, automatic headlights, heated exterior mirrors, keyless ignition and entry, a rearview camera, dual-zone automatic climate control, full power accessories, an eight-way power driver seat (with power lumbar), cruise control, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, a trip computer, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, a 6.1-inch display and the base Entune Audio system, which includes a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, an auxiliary input and a USB/iPod interface.

The SE Hybrid adds a unique grille, black headlight surrounds, 17-inch alloy wheels, a sport-tuned suspension, a rear spoiler, sport fabric seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and silver interior accents.

The XLE Hybrid includes the LE features along with 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, LED running lights, a chrome exhaust tip, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, leather upholstery, heated front seats, a four-way power passenger seat and Entune Audio Plus, which adds satellite radio and HD radio.

Entune Audio Plus is optional on the LE and SE. The SE can also be had with a sunroof, a Qi wireless cell phone charger and the Entune Premium Audio with Navigation and App suite, which includes Entune Audio Plus features along with a 7-inch touchscreen, a navigation system and various integrated smartphone apps.

The XLE offers those SE options as well. Also optional on the XLE is a 10-speaker JBL audio system (bundled with the upgraded Entune navigation package), an Advance Technology package (automatic high beam headlight control, adaptive cruise control, a forward collision warning system and lane departure warning), a Safety Connect package (detailed below in the Safety section) and a blind spot and rear cross-traffic warning system.

The 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid pairs a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with an electric motor and battery pack. Working together, the two power sources crank out a combined output of 200 hp. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) delivers power to the front wheels. We haven't yet tested a 2015 model, but the last Camry Hybrid XLE we evaluated accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 7.6 seconds, a quick time for a hybrid midsize sedan.

EPA-estimated fuel economy for the Camry Hybrid LE is 41 mpg combined (43 city/39 highway). Interestingly, the XLE achieves 40 mpg combined (40 city/38 highway), likely due to the increased rolling resistance of its larger wheels and tires.

The 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid comes with antilock brakes, stability and traction control, a rearview camera, front and rear seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and knee airbags for both driver and passenger. On the XLE you can also get a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alerts, lane departure warning, frontal collision warning and a frontal collision mitigation system that includes automatic braking. The XLE's optional Safety Connect telematics system includes emergency assistance, stolen-vehicle notification and automatic collision notification.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gave the Camry its best possible rating of "Good" in its moderate-overlap and small-overlap frontal-offset impact tests. The Camry also earned a "Good" score in the side-impact, roof strength and head restraint (whiplash protection) tests.The 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid is blessed with one of the most comfortable and spacious cabins in the midsize family sedan segment. Even tall adults will find plenty of space above their heads and in front of their knees, while a rear-facing car seat will fit in back with ease. The fixed rear headrests make it difficult to properly secure a front-facing child seat, though.

Up front, the center stack's buttons are big, easy to read at a glance and glove-friendly without being comically large or ugly. This is especially true of the sensibly designed climate controls. Every Camry Hybrid gets a standard 6.1-inch Entune touchscreen interface, which controls the audio system, available smartphone-integrated apps and the optional navigation system. Not many of these modern interfaces are truly user-friendly, but Entune is one of the better and simpler ones available.

With 13.1 cubic feet, the trunk offers respectable capacity for a hybrid sedan (hybrids typically sacrifice some space to their under-floor battery packs). The rear seat is split 60/40, and the passenger side (the larger "60" portion) folds down for added cargo capacity.

The 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid is, for the most part, dynamically well-rounded. Thanks to careful suspension tuning, it grips the road well, and the ride is mostly undisturbed by bumps and ruts. Most drivers will find the steering precise, but if you're more demanding, you might notice its lack of road feel. In that case we'd steer you toward the Fusion Hybrid, which has crisper, more direct steering.

That said, Toyota's hybrid drivetrain remains one of the most sophisticated and refined systems of its kind. The transition from all-electric mode to the gasoline engine is less noticeable in the Camry Hybrid than in the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, for example. All the while, acceleration is strong for a midsize, non-premium-brand hybrid sedan.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

CHEVROLET SS IN JET BLACK

During my travels around the United States in the role as Chief Justice of the 24 Hours of LeMons Supreme Court, I often take advantage of the real-world transportation needs of a race organizer (plus the coolness-judging skills a captive audience of car-crazed racers) to evaluate new cars.

In the Race Organizer Review series, we've seen the '13 Mini Cooper S Paceman at Sears Point, the 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer GT at MSR Houston, and the 2014 Mitsubishi Evo GSR at Road America. A race organizer lives on the road in much the same manner as a rock star, only without the glamor, luxury, quality food, and groupies of a rock star -- come to think of it, perhaps we're more like carnies -- and so the strengths and weaknesses of a vehicle become clear during the Thursday-through-Monday grind of a LeMons race trip.

Today we'll see how a 2014 Chevrolet SS in jet black went over at Eagles Canyon Raceway near Dallas.

When you're a LeMons race organizer, the first thing you do after you get off the plane and into your car is make a stop at the supermarket to pick up supplies. Many cases of water, snacks, spray paint for the LeMons Supreme Court's BRIBED stencils, plus the luggage of one or more coworkers must fit into this vehicle.

The SS, being an Americanized Holden VF Commodore, is a proper big sedan right out of Australo-GM tradition stretching back to the postwar era, and so the car passed this test with top marks. Likewise, the back seat is plenty roomy for adult-sized humans. No complaints in the roominess department.

It's a mean-looking car from some angles, right out of V8 Supercar racing, although few drivers seemed to notice it on Dallas-area freeways; I was expecting a lot of double-takes and approving gestures from musclecar-loving Texans, but it turned out that only the most knowledgeable of car geeks can pick out this car from a sea of black sedans. Of course, that cloak of sedan invisibility was torn away as soon as the SS rolled into the Eagles Canyon paddock. In fact, the only new race-organizer car that has ever attracted more attention from LeMons racers was the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG that Judge Jonny Lieberman and I brought to the 2011 Skankaway Anti-Toe-Fungal 500 race. Those Lone Star State racers hovered around the SS all weekend, admiring the sheer excess of its Texan-style proportions and horsepower numbers.The 6.2-liter LS3 V8 in the SS makes 415 hp and is the culmination of six decades of GM's steady improvement of the pushrod V8. The SS scales in at just about 2 tons, so this masterpiece of an engine doesn't make the car terrifyingly quick; the SS runs quarter-mile times in the respectable low 13s. It does, however, make it much quicker than just about any nostalgia-infused GM product so beloved by its probable North American target market, including such totems as the Buick GNX and 1964 GTO, and (unlike those cars) the SS is fully civilized as a daily driver. However, just a great engine and lots of interior space don't necessarily make for an ideal race organizer's car. I ran into some troubling issues with the SS over the course of the weekend (no, not the standard complaint about the lack of a manual transmission that you've been hearing about; a manual would be fun, but the 6-speed automatic does a fine job of choosing the correct gear at the correct time). First of all, you can't turn off the computerized traction- and stability-control overseers enough to get the car sideways for a dramatic photograph; while the SS is happy to kick its rear end out a bit under heavy throttle input, I finally had to convince the 24 Hours of LeMons' tame racing driver and race controller, Jeff Glenn, to don a cardboard cowboy hat and find a way to get the SS to pose for this not-incredibly-dramatic shot.

I didn't take the car around the racetrack, but I could tell from its behavior on some access roads that it wouldn't be as much fun on a track as the power numbers, big Brembos, and taut suspension might suggest. Then there's the problem of the incessant beeping. Put the SS into reverse and it will find some reason to beep at you, regardless of what obstacles may or may not be nearby; start moving forward and the maddening danger beeps will continue. The GPS system thinks there's a speed camera ahead? Beeeeeep! I think I'd find a way to hire 1337 hax0rz to reprogram the ECM to turn off this "feature" within weeks of owning this car. On top of that, the car's audio system couldn't see more than a dozen or so files on the current-model iPod Nano I plugged into the USB jack; for the entire three days it was plugged in, the car gave me an "indexing files" message when I tried to find any tracks outside of the original dozen.
Then there's the interior. In a $30,000 American car, I'd be OK with the ersatz racy bling inside the SS, but at $45,770 (as tested) I think this car's passenger compartment ought to have better materials and/or more understatement. The seats are what GM describes as "leather-appointed," and they're quite comfortable… but then you've got these fake race-harness "slots" in what I fear may be chromed plastic. The pebbled hard plastic bits are right out of the Brougham d'Elegance playbook, the crypto-suede on the dash looks like something swiped from an antibacterial doormat, the manually-actuated steering-tilt mechanism looks and feels Blazer-ish, and so on.

Perhaps what this car needs is a full-on, unapologetically skulls-and-flames interior, all done in orange-and-red Naugahyde to the specifications of a crack team of third-gen-Camaro-driving tattoo artists in Bakersfield. Or perhaps shaving five grand off the sticker price and giving it the type of no-frills gray-cloth-and-black-plastic interior that GM's fleet pickups get might work better.


Monday, December 29, 2014

ALL NEW 2015 JEEP PATRIOT SUV

Jeep enthusiasts can be happy because the 2015 Patriot offers a variety of powertrain configurations. The base engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder producing 158 horsepower and 141 pound-feet of torque; it's only featured in Sport and Latitude trims with front-wheel drive. If you don't already know the 2015 Jeep Patriot is a five-passenger compact crossover SUV. It is available in Sport, Latitude and Limited trim levels. There are two notable sub-trims -- Altitude Edition and High Altitude Edition -- that add features to the Sport and Latitude, respectively, but come only with front-wheel drive, the base 2.0-liter engine and the CVT.

The Patriot has been surprisingly resilient in the twilight of its career, finding plenty of new customers over the past few years despite its age and stage. So it's back this year for what could be its final hurrah, floating a familiar promise of Jeep attitude and style in a tidy crossover wrapper.

Compared to its many formidable rivals (not to mention its fresh-faced siblings), no, it does not. Although the Patriot trades on Jeep's "Trail Rated" toughness, it's only a legitimate off-roader with the Freedom Drive II Off-Road Group, which yields dismal fuel economy and requires the speed-sapping continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) besides. Otherwise, you choose between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive, as with any other crossover. Stripped of its prowess off the beaten path, the Patriot trails the pack in virtually every way, lacking the performance, refinement, versatility and even safety scores to impress in this ultra-competitive segment.

The Sport has an equipment roster that matches its modest price, comprising 16-inch steel wheels, roof rails, foglights, manual exterior mirrors, crank windows, manual locks, cruise control, cloth upholstery, a tilt-only steering wheel, a 60/40-split-folding rear seat and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack.

The Altitude Edition adds 17-inch black alloy wheels, a body-color rear bumper and gloss black exterior accents.

The optional Power Value Group adds power heated mirrors, keyless entry and power windows and locks. Note that this package requires air-conditioning, which is a separate option on both Sport and Altitude.

The Latitude gets the above features as standard (minus the Altitude Edition's extras), plus 17-inch silver alloy wheels, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a height-adjustable driver seat, heated front seats, a fold-flat front passenger seat, reclining rear seatbacks and steering-wheel audio controls.

The High Altitude Edition tacks on gray 17-inch alloys, a sunroof, a six-way power driver seat (plus manual lumbar adjustment) and leather upholstery.

The Limited starts with the Latitude's equipment and adds a larger engine, four-wheel disc brakes (the other front-wheel-drive Patriots have rear drum brakes), upgraded exterior trim, automatic climate control, a trip computer, a six-CD changer and satellite radio, plus the power driver seat and leather upholstery.

The Latitude and Limited are eligible for a couple desirable packages. The Sun and Sound Group adds a sunroof and a nine-speaker Boston Acoustics sound system with a subwoofer, two drop-down liftgate speakers and satellite radio. The Security and Cargo Convenience Group adds adjustable roof-rail crossbars, remote ignition, a tire pressure monitor display, a cargo cover, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a universal garage door opener, Bluetooth and a USB port. Offered separately on the Latitude and Limited is a 6.5-inch touchscreen that includes digital music storage. A navigation system by Garmin can be added to the touchscreen for a fee.

All Patriots can be equipped with Bluetooth as a stand-alone option, while Wi-Fi hotspot capability (subscription required) is a dealer-installed extra.

Also available across the board are the Freedom Drive I all-wheel-drive system and the Freedom Drive II Off-Road Group. The latter requires the CVT and adds low-range gearing, hill-start assist, hill-descent control, tow hooks, all-terrain tires, a full-size spare tire, skid plates and, on the Sport, 17-inch alloy wheels and a height-adjustable driver seat.

According to the EPA, the 2.0-liter Patriot returns 24 mpg combined (21 city/28 highway) with the six-speed automatic, a disappointing result given the engine's modest output. The CVT also gets 24 mpg combined (22/27). If you don't mind shifting your own gears, the manual version does slightly better at 26 mpg combined (23/30).

The uplevel engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder rated at 172 hp and 165 lb-ft of torque. It's optional on front-drive Sport and Latitude trims and standard on front-drive Limited. Also, all Patriots with all-wheel drive (Freedom Drive I) or more serious four-wheel drive (Freedom Drive II) come with the 2.4-liter engine. With Freedom Drive II, the CVT is the only transmission in town, whereas the other 2.4-liter Patriots offer either the five-speed manual or the six-speed automatic.

With front-wheel drive, the 2.4-liter Patriot yields an EPA-estimated 23 mpg combined (21 city/28 highway) when paired with the six-speed automatic. The five-speed manual improves to 25 mpg combined (23/28). Adding Freedom Drive I results in 23 mpg combined (21/27) with the six-speed automatic and 24 mpg combined (22/27) with the manual. As for Freedom Drive II, it gives you a quite poor 21 mpg combined (20/23), a Patriot with Freedom Drive I and the six-speed automatic went from zero to 60 mph in 9.4 seconds, which is comparable to a Honda CR-V (9.5 seconds) and Toyota RAV4 (9.2 seconds) tested separately. However, a Patriot with Freedom Drive II chugged to 60 mph in 10.3 seconds, a leisurely time for a small crossover SUV. Properly equipped, the Patriot can tow up to 2,000 pounds.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

ASTON MARTIN 2016 LAGONDA TARAF

The Lagonda name, previously used by Aston Martin for a hand-built, ultra-expensive sedan built between 1976 - 1990, returned under the spotlight about five years ago when the Brits introduced the Lagonda Concept .

Oddly enough, that concept had nothing to do with the four-door grand tourer, but rather a sporty SUV proclaimed to be a more luxurious alternative to the popular Porsche Cayenne . Rumors about a production version went back and forth with no relevant outcome, although the consensus was the vehicle might arrive in 2016.

But now we have to put the Lagonda SUV behind us, because it appears Aston Martin is actually planning to revive the iconic nameplate for a brand new sedan. Such a vehicle was spotted testing in the United Kingdom covered in camouflage. Our friends over at Autoblog think the Brits will slap a Lagonda badge on its trunk.

Details are scarce right now, but it’s safe to assume the four-door will be based on the Rapide S and ride on a stretched version of its wheelbase. Power is likely to come from the same 6.0-liter V-12 engine that delivers 558 horsepower and 457 pound-feet of torque,Though we have images of the new Lagonda Taraf, the exact details on the exterior are still unknown. From the images that Aston released, you can see that the Lagonda Taraf carries distinct Aston Martin design elements, including its signature grille and the ridges on the hood. The headlights seem to stray from the traditional Aston style and the lower lip on the bumper adds a touch of sportiness to the luxo-sedan.

On the front fenders the Aston Martin signatures continue with heat extractors that feature the staple Aston strikethrough. Down the sides, the Lagonda Taraf’s doors have flush door handles and plenty of shimmering chrome surrounding the side windows.

Around back Aston’s newest sedan gains a slick spoiler that looks quite similar to those on the automaker’s sports cars. The Aston signatures continue with the chrome appliqué that strikes through the taillights. The exhaust outlets and insert on the lower part of the rear bumper also are reminiscent of Aston’s sports cars.

Altogether, Aston Martin did a rather spectacular job at creating a luxurious sedan that also carries plenty of the automaker’s signature cues, while creating its own identity.On the inside, the Lagonda Taraf is simply incredible. It features light-brown, high-end leather all over the place. The seats feature a diamond-quilted design on the outer edges of the seats and headrests, while the seat inserts appear to have perforated leather.

The 2+2 setup of this saloon shows off the sporting DNA of this model, while the acres of leather and metal surround you in pure luxury.

Unfortunately, Aston Martin only tossed us these images and left any details out, so all we can do is look and speculate.According to a report from CAR, the new Lagonda Taraf sedan will carry a 5,935-cc, V-12 engine that produces around 600 horsepower. If that engine sounds familiar, it should; it is the same engine found in the Rapide S. In fact, the Lagonda Taraf sedan will ride atop the same VH platform as the Rapide that is properly stretched to fit the longer body.

Friday, December 26, 2014

THE MIRAI HYDROGEN CELL 2016 TOYOTA SEDAN PRETTY OR NOT

There is no single angle from which it looks anything but pretty or it new cell car you choose. But there’s also no single angle from which the 2016 Toyota Mirai looks like anything elseto be pretty or not it way of hydrogen cell are now go back remodel it.

That is literally by design, as outlined in our earlier in-depth coverage of the car. It can be argued that hybrids are a thing because Toyota made them a thing—not a trim level or engine variant of an existing vehicle, but their very own phenomenon in the form of the Prius. To advertise the fact that the Prius was not like anything else, Toyota made it look unlike anything else. Time will tell if Toyota can do the same trick with the ghastly Mirai, but the automaker is banking big on the car and even bigger on hydrogen technology and infrastructure.

At this point, few car shoppers know how hydrogen fuel cells work, and getting one’s head around the process by which they eventually propel a car (it largely happens at the atomic level) is somewhat of a “trust us” kind of thing. In a nutshell, it goes something like this:


A fuel cell generates electricity from an electrochemical reaction between hydrogen and air. Hydrogen atoms compressed and stored in high-pressure tanks—the Mirai has two that together hold about 11 pounds of hydrogen at 10,000 psi—are sent through a platinum-coated membrane that separates their electrons and protons. Those electrons produce an electrical current to power a drive motor, in this case a synchronous AC unit capable of 151 horsepower and 247 lb-ft of torque. The freed protons combine with oxygen on the other side of the membrane before exiting the tailpipe as water. How much water? About 100 cc per mile, according to Toyota, or a little less than half a cup.

In the Mirai, a four-phase boost converter brings voltage to 650 volts, making it compatible with Toyota’s existing Hybrid Synergy Drive system. Here, the setup still includes a rather unfuturistic nickel-metal-hydride battery to store the energy; as with the Prius, this is used primarily to capture regenerative braking energy and assist during acceleration.

For all of its newfangled technology, the Mirai drives no differently than a normal battery-electric vehicle, which is to say it feels heavy, synthetic, and utterly free of drama. On our brief drive opportunity in Newport Beach, California, we noted acceleration that starts out spry but drops off drastically as one approaches highway speeds. Toyota’s claim that the Mirai can hit 60 mph in nine seconds flat is entirely believable based on our short bursts of acceleration and our brief freeway hop, although we’ll have to take Toyota’s word that it can touch 111 mph, as we never saw more than 75. All the while, the powertrain is utterly silent save for some muted gear whine, which in turn makes other sources of sound, such as the tires on the pavement and even the HVAC system, seem louder.

Like the exterior, the Mirai’s interior design is highly expressive and unusual, centralizing the gauges up by the windshield, à la Prius, and arranging secondary controls on intersecting planes that swoosh across the cabin. As is becoming the trend these days, many of the controls are of the capacitive-touch variety. Hopefully, Toyota will at least throw in a microfiber wipe cloth to deal with the copious fingerprints, as does Cadillac with its CUE-equipped products.

Like BEVs, fuel-cell vehicles are heavy, and the Mirai is said to weigh in at a hefty 4079 pounds—nearly 600 more than a dimensionally similar Camry hybrid—despite the use of carbon fiber for the storage tanks. At least the heaviest bits are mounted low and are spread out within the vehicle structure. While we didn’t push the car too hard, we didn’t notice obvious signs of extreme body roll. But we also didn’t feel much of anything happening where the rubber meets the road, so numbly tuned are the chassis and steering. On the plus side, the ride couldn’t be creamier if the shocks were filled with Cool Whip. We’ll need more time with the Mirai to conclusively determine its dynamic limits, but they’re probably pretty low. Notably, unlike those in some FCVs and BEVs, the Mirai’s regenerative brakes are not aggressive enough to facilitate one-pedal driving—where the driver merely needs to lift off the accelerator to slow the car in normal traffic—even in battery-priority mode.


Although there are no MPGe numbers available yet, the Mirai promises to be relatively fuel efficient, offering more range than the recently released Hyundai Tucson fuel cell (up to 300 miles versus 265 for the Tucson) despite having lower tank capacity (11 pounds of hydrogen versus 12.4 for the Tucson). Furthermore, while filling the Tucson’s tanks takes about ten minutes, Toyota claims that process will take only five minutes with the Mirai, a time comparable to how long it takes to fill up a gas-fueled car’s tank.

The time required to hunt down a hydrogen filling station is a different story, even in alt-fuel-friendly California, the only state where the Mirai will initially be offered. At this point, one can count the number of hydrogen filling stations in California on two hands, and sales will be limited to customers who live near those stations. But new state funding is expected to bring 17 more hydrogen stations on line by the end of 2015 and another 28 by the end of 2016. Toyota has even pledged to help maintain 19 of them and is inviting other OEMs to follow its lead. Toyota claims that the number of stations is less important than their locations; citing a study by the University of California, Irvine, Toyota says that most customers will want to be within a six-minute drive of a refueling station, and it would take only 68 refueling stations strategically located in the Bay area and the Los Angeles/San Diego corridor to adequately serve a population of 10,000 fuel-cell vehicles. Another dozen stations, partially supported by Toyota along with energy supplier Air Liquide, are on the way in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island to support Mirai sales there starting in 2016.

It’s true that the Mirai is far from handsome, and, for what it’s worth, no one at Toyota is claiming it’s beautiful. But the company has a deep-rooted confidence that the Mirai will help usher in the hydrogen age. Nobody has claimed that such a sea change need be pretty—but that couldn’t hurt, could it

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER 2015 SE S

Mitsubishi has done a great job with the 2014 Outlander; it's the same wheelbase, length and track, but has more interior room. If you need a 7-passenger crossover, and you want the best fuel mileage you can find, Outlander is the call. It gets five miles per gallon more than the Sorento, 27 mpg Combined city and highway versus 22 mpg Combined with 2WD, according to EPA estimates. The Sorento has sexier styling, but the Outlander is super smooth even with the base four-cylinder. 

The 2014 Outlander has a new engine, new rear suspension, new floor plan, new interior, new glass, and new sheet metal. The skin is totally different, from the previous Outlander. Gone is the striking shark mouth, which was so 2011. Grilles aren't so much in-your-face any more. Mitsubishi isn't the only manufacturer to redefine bold, lately. Nowadays, bold seems to be another mile per gallon. Not that we're knocking the focus. Sometimes you just can't win with critics. 

We can't say anything snarky about the Outlander's new styling. We can't find any dynamic words. The lines aren't cluttered or gratuitous. They deliver a good 0.33 coefficient of drag (thanks largely to the loss of the shark mouth). No more standard roof rails, and that helps aero. The headlights are tidy, and the front fascia isn't big and bland. Overall, it looks substantial for families. 

Let's say we're not along for the ride, in the Outlander's press kit, when the second word describes the styling as breathtaking. Oops, we just said something snarky. But nobody on the sidewalk is going have their breath stolen by the new Outlander. It's not likely they'll even notice. 

The new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is single overhead-cam, formerly double-overhead cam. For decades, DOHC has meant high performance, but now that efficient performance matters more, SOHC might be the wave of back to the future. 

The improved 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, now with smart electronic variable valve timing, might make you forget the need for a V6, depending on the level of your need. It wasn't that long ago when we were saying the same thing about V6s versus V8s. It's all good. On that subjective subject of need, we can say that the 166-horsepower I4 gives you all the power you need for everyday driving, including on the freeway at 80 mph. We ran it there on a short road trip, and it was smooth and effortless. Its CVT kicked down for the long gradual uphills, invisibly, while maintaining the pace without much effort. There were no passengers with us for that run, and performance diminishes with each person you pile in. 

The 224-horsepower V6 will get you there faster, for a price, and it will tow another ton (3500 pounds vs. 1500 pounds), if you have a boat to go with your four or five kids. Like the four-cylinder, the efficiency of the V6 has been increased with engine redesigns for 2014. With either engine, the Outlander is classified as a low emissions vehicle, thanks to increased efficiency and cleaner exhaust systems. 

The 3.0-liter V6 comes with the all-wheel-drive GT model (but you can get all-wheel drive with the SE four-cylinder, too). The V6 is mated to a sweet 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. 

The four-cylinder uses a CVT, continuously variable transaxle. Mitsubishi has raised the bar, thanks to engineering that can finally make a CVT feel like an automatic transmission, and not weird like there's a giant rubber band connecting your engine to your wheels. Mitsubishi says they've been developing it for seven years, and we say bravo. 

While Outlander ES comes standard with front-wheel drive, the available all-wheel-drive system is one of the best, as Mitsubishi has decades of 4WD experience, with many world rally victories to prove it. They call it Super All-Wheel Control, or S-AWC, with Super meaning torque vectoring (shifting the power between the front wheels as needed for grip) to further improve control during cornering. This is the first time S-AWC has been available down to the four-cylinder SE model. 

The S-AWC system has been improved for 2014, and made lighter. It has four driving modes: ECO for fuel mileage (2WD), Normal, Snow and Lock, although Lock is a misnomer because it doesn't lock anything. It just provides the maximum percentage of drive to the rear wheels. 

The interior is also all new, with greatly improved materials including a soft-touch instrument panel, glossy black center console, and wood trim in the GT model. But mostly, the new Outlander is exceptionally quiet. Big, big improvement. No tricks, just more sound insulation material throughout the vehicle. Mitsubishi says they spent thousands of hours on reducing wind noise. 

The seats have been re-shaped, and the operation of the fold-flat 60/40 second row and 50/50 third row has been simplified. It works fast. 

Other refinements and standard additions include micron air filtering, tilt/telescopic steering wheel with cruise control and audio controls, remote keyless entry, security system with engine immobilizer, new 6-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 audio system, intermittent rear wiper with washer, and halogen headlights. 

The body is more than 200 pounds lighter, thanks to the use of more high-tensile steel, and the handling feels lighter as a result, although still not exactly nimble; after all, it is a seven-passenger vehicle. The switch to electric power steering adds to the light feel. Meanwhile, design changes to the suspension tighten the cornering. These include added subframes and stiffened strut mounts in front. 

The multi-link rear suspension uses lighter links to improve the ride, improved bushings to lessen NVH (noise, vibration and harshness), and low-friction seals in the axles to reduce rolling resistance, and improve fuel mileage (a new alternator with less drag is another). Lighter alloy wheels contribute to responsive handling. 

The improved four-cylinder engine features an aluminum block and the latest variable valve timing, which Mitsubishi calls MIVEC (the i is for innovative, not intelligent like the others). It makes 166 horsepower and 162 foot-pounds of torque at 4200 rpm. The numbers aren't big, but the power is good. 

Mitsubishi calls its shell Reinforced Impact Safety Evolution (RISE). There are energy absorbing sections in key areas of the body and chassis, including under the floor of the passenger compartment. Mitsubishi says the Outlander will receive a Top Pick safety award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Mitsubishi says the new styling of the 2014 Outlander is an urbane design that has more mainstream appeal than before. What they mean by that is the shark nose is gone, as in-your-face styling seems is a thing of the recent past. People have pulled back a bit lately, except maybe for television pundits. Besides, losing the nose was an aerodynamic necessity to get a 7 percent improvement that brings fuel mileage. Gone with the shark grille are the roof rails, in that pursuit of better aero and mileage. 

The new grille is a thin, wide, horizontal black slot, that's not really a slot, just mostly black plastic with some chrome plastic. It's a clean shape and design, but far from eye-catching. It's nice that there's not a bunch of funky stuff below the front bumper. 

The rockers are flat black, with a concave bit running along the bottom of the doors. There's one nice crease above the door handles that carries all the way to the top of the silvery taillights. 

There's a horizontal chrome strip under the rear window, like 90 percent of new vehicles on the planet. When Mitsubishi says the Outlander styling is all about less is more, you want to rip off the chrome to support them. 


It's really, really quiet inside the 2014 Outlander. It's so quiet that the tires sound loud; on some pavement they sound like they're groaning. We don't think they're any louder than before, just that the background noise is gone. Mitsubishi says they might look at quieter tires next time. We wonder why, when they go to all that trouble to make it quiet, wouldn't they do tire testing. 

But since the standard sound system has been upgraded, you can listen to nice music instead of the singing of the tires. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

ELECTRIC VEHICLES COME OUT AHEAD OF GAS CARS

Several states have adopted or proposed special taxes and fees for electric-car drivers. which are supposed to make up for lost revenue from taxes on the fuel their drivers don't buy.

Electric-car advocates typically view these policies as discriminatory, and claim they work against efforts to get more people into plug-ins.However, proponents claim electric-car taxes will help provide sorely-needed infrastructure funding. And it's hardly a secret that most state's highways could use the funds.

That's the argument made in a recent article in Roll Call, whose author claims that these taxes suggest an alternative path to highway funding beyond the gas tax--which advances in fuel efficiency are rendering less lucrative.                                                                                                                 Five states--Colorado, Nebraska, North Carolina, Virginia, and Washington--have already instituted electric-car taxes, and they may soon be joined by Wisconsin.

Last month, that state's Department of Transportation proposes a $50 annual registration fee for electric cars--on top of the standard fees paid by all motorists--which opponents say would penalize drivers for buying cleaner vehicles.


The state portion of the Wisconsin gas tax is 32.9 cents per gallon, so even drivers of a high gas-mileage car like the Toyota Prius hybrid--rated at 50 mpg combined--will pay just under $100 in fuel taxes each year, assuming the U.S. average of 15,000 miles driven.


The electric-car driver, meanwhile, simply pays the $50 fee. Drive that plug-in vehicle more than 15,000 miles, and the tax rate per mile decreases even further.

It's the same story in Washington state, which has a $100 electric-car registration fee, and a gas tax of 37.5 cents per gallon.

The difference is smaller, but the hypothetical Prius driver still pays more per year, at $112.50.

Washington also has a high percentage of electric cars on its roads. It's one of only three states with three or more electric cars per 1,000 vehicles registered.                                                       Electric cars also come out ahead in Colorado, Nebraska, and North Carolina--the flat fee for electric cars adds up to less than the taxes on a year's worth of gasoline.

The only state where electric cars are taxed more than gasoline cars is Virginia, thanks to the combination of a low state gas tax--11.7 cents per gallon--and two extra fees for plug-in vehicles.

The state has a $64.00 annual alternative-fuel vehicle registration tax, and electric-car owners pay $50.00 fee on top of that. Electric-car drivers in Virginia pay $114.00 per year in fees, but would fork over just $35.10 in gas taxes for a 50-mpg car.

So while annual fees may not be an ideal replacement for the gas tax, most electric-car drivers have thus far avoided paying higher taxes than their gasoline-driving counterparts.Still, electric-car taxes present several problems.
For example, they don't account for out-of-state drivers--and it's eminently possible for states to boost plug-in taxes to exceed those paid by gasoline cars if legislators want to.

The situation becomes murkier when dealing with the most-efficient internal-combustion cars.
The proposed Wisconsin tax also applies to hybrids--which Virginia taxed until recently.
That penalizes drivers of fuel-sipping cars, who would have to pay an extra fee on top of the gas tax on the fuel they use.

Monday, December 22, 2014

AUTO MANUFACTURES TO PROVIDE CARS WEBSITES CONTENT DIVERSE GROUP OF CONSUMERS

Consumers researching new vehicles on manufacturer websites demonstrate different content usage behaviors depending on what type of vehicle they are researching, their income level, and their age. This is the key finding of the summer edition of the J.D. Power 2014 Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study,SM which has been redesigned in order to provide auto manufacturers with greater insight into how consumers use the content and tools on their websites.Consider third-party websites as well as OEM websites to get the full story on a vehicle's performance, comfort, user-friendliness, and other characteristics.
Have an idea, before viewing an OEM website, whether you'll be buying or leasing a vehicle, and whether you'll be financing the purchase. Look for special deals such as cash-back and interest-free financing.
Use video, if it's available, to see how a vehicle looks in action. This will also give some idea of the vehicle's performance.

Providing the right content for shoppers is critical," said Arianne Walker, senior director, automotive media and marketing solutions at J.D. Power. "In order to stay competitive, manufacturers must offer content that matches their shoppers' unique needs and preferences across multiple areas. Doing so increases consumer satisfaction with the website experience."

Examples of the research findings illustrate how important it is for
Pickup truck shoppers are more likely to view dealer inventory through an auto manufacturer website than are consumers shopping for a different type of vehicle. Pickup truck shoppers consult inventory 25% to 35% of the time, while shoppers of other vehicle types consult inventory 15% to 20% of the time.
Consumers earning higher incomes are more likely to use comparison tools on an auto manufacturer website than those earning average incomes. Shoppers with a reported household income of $175,000 and above are more likely to use a comparison tool than shoppers with a reported income of less than $60,000  65% vs. 42%, respectively.
Younger consumers use video as a research resource more often than do older people. More than one-half of Gen Y shoppers (55%) use video vs. 35% of Boomers.

Furthermore, 65%  to 85% of in-market shoppers use the build-and-price tool on a manufacturer website, yet survey respondents report that shopping for price-related information is the least satisfying task performed on such websites.

"Pricing information is the least satisfying because it is much more complex than simply providing a dollar figure," said Walker. "Although price may seem simple and straightforward, shoppers are looking for something much more. They want to understand payment options and amounts, available discounts, financing terms, along with content that isn't explicitly price related, such as vehicle features, to help them understand the value of the vehicle they are considering. When the OEM site meets these needs it is much more likely that an in-market shopper will take the next step and head into a dealership."

Among automakers, Acura ranks highest in the study, closely followed by Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar. J.D. Power has conducted the Manufacturer Website Evaluation Study for 15 years, and the latest study is based on the responses of more than 10,000 or so in-market shoppers who are planning to buy a new vehicle within the next few years and beyond.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

TESLA'S FINALLY UNVEIL THE D CAR

At a glitzy event at the airport in Hawthorne, California Thursday, Tesla rolled out the long-awaited “D.”

The “D” is the insignia on a new line of cars that have dual motors (the “D” stands for “dual”) and feature all-wheel-drive. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the dual motors will improve the efficiency of the cars and add as much as 10 miles of range on one (electrical) charge.

One of the D's most prominent features is semi-autonomous driving capability. A network of sensors keep the Model S in its lane and adjust the vehicle's speed by scanning signs for the posted speed limit. The D's cameras let the Model S park itself, change lanes while the vehicle's in traffic, and detect pedestrians. The D upgrade also provides automatic braking -- not just in case of emergencies, but under normal driving conditions, too.


The other thing to note about the D is its unique transmission, which adds a motor to the sedan's front axle and allows the Model S to shift from rear-wheel-drive to all-wheel-drive in mere milliseconds. Not only does that boost the car's 0-to-60 mph time to a staggering 3.2 seconds, This also turned out to be roughly accurate. it also makes the car more efficient. The range of the lowest-priced 60 kWh Model S jumps from 208 miles to 225 miles, while the 85 kWh and P85D models tick up from 260 miles to 270 miles.

Of course, all that power and efficiency come at a cost. The 60 kWh model that's normally $71,075 goes for $75,060 with the D package. The top-of-the-line P85 excite an electric charge super car.  from $105,560 to $120,180.

Don't feel like shelling out the extra dough? No worries. Even non-D versions of the Model S will come equipped with the autonomous features mentioned above. In fact, vehicles manufactured over the past few weeks already have them installed.

Tesla's D package for the Model S is expected to go on sale this December. For a look at the technology in action and the unveiling,

Saturday, December 20, 2014

THE POWER OF THE 2015 ALL WHEEL DRIVE VOLVO XC70

Volvo has given the XC70 some new motivation by fitting a far more fuel-efficient Drive-E four-cylinder engine and eight-speed automatic transmissionto the large wagon. Regrettably, though, due to packaging constraints in a vehicle launched almost 10 years ago, you'll only be able to get the higher gas mileage if you forgo all-wheel drive. The new Drive-E powertrain is only offered in the front-wheel-drive XC70 models. If you want all-wheel-drive, you'll have to stick with older and far less efficient running gear.

Smaller than the big XC90--about to be replaced by an all-new 2016 model--the XC70 is larger than the high-volume and considerably more stylish XC60 crossover. Under the skin, the 2015 XC70 uses beefed-up versions of much of the large S80 sedan's architecture. It was launched as the old V70 wagon, acquired a higher ride height and all-wheel drive in its alternative persona as the XC70 crossover--and eventually the XC70 bumped the wagon out of the picture altogether.

With the debuting powertrain, now offered in all 2015 Volvos except the C90, comes a new base trim designation, the T5 Drive-E which, alas, comes only in front-wheel-drive (FWD) configuration. The midlevel 3.2 AWD trim, however, returns with the traditional non-turbocharged I6, while the turbocharged T6 AWD remains the flagship trim. Each of the latter trims, obviously, packs standard full-time all-wheel drive (AWD) for a little added confidence during those snow-shrouded commutes. 

The new-for-2015 turbocharged 2.0-liter inline 4-cylinder (I4) Drive-E engine mates with an 8-speed shiftable automatic transmission, allowing the T5 Drive-E to put down 240 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. Gas mileage is improved to a healthy 24 mpg city/31 highway, while Swedish-bred/Chinese-owned Volvo claims this competent wagon will tow up to 3,500 pounds when properly equipped. 

The 2015 XC70 has a nice blend of strong and sporty lines from a distance, with prominent body armor and skid plates that make this wagon look like it's ready for dirt roads. The higher ground clearance it gained when it became a crossover will be useful on rutted roads or rocky tracks, but this isn't an off-road car like a Jeep. It's an all-wheel-drive wagon, plain and simple.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

THE ECONOMICAL MITSUBISHI MIRAGE

The Mirage has a complicated marketing history, with a varied and much convoluted naming convention that differed substantially depending on the market. Mitsubishi used the Mirage name for all five generations in Japan, with all but the first series badged as such in the United States. 

However, other markets often utilized the name Mitsubishi Colt and sedan variants of the Mirage have been widely sold as the Mitsubishi Lancer—including in Japan where the two retailed alongside one another. In Japan, the Mirage was sold at a specific retail chain called Car Plaza.

The Mirage is maneuverable, its one-ton weight is easy to throw around and its controls/inputs are effortless. It gets decent performance from a 74-hp 1.2-liter three-cylinder and the five-speed manual, but the fuel-saving CVT is better for traffic.

The Mirage offers the best EPA gas-mileage rating of any car sold in the U.S. that isn't a hybrid or a plug-in electric car. That fuel efficiency, however, comes at a cost: The Mirage is not nearly as rewarding to drive as most of the other small cars on the market. The Mirage is not only one of the two smallest five-door hatchbacks sold in the U.S.–it's smaller than a subcompact–but it's also one of the least expensive.

Even when idling, the little 1.2-liter sends quivers through the entire car. And should you opt for the CVT, the trio of cylinders will grumble in protest every time you try to accelerate. And by acceleration, we’re talking about a zero-to-60 time of 10.9 seconds and a quarter-mile time of 18.3 seconds at 75 mph. 

As small as this engine is, it is very economical in the sense that it can be very inexpensive to maintain as compared to larger vehicles that have larger engines. It is also a convenient way to save on gas, if you drive on a budget this car may be perfect for you but the trade off is with comfort. Although this car seats 5 the three backseat passengers will have to be very thin in order to fit!

With that said it can be a wise decision to own such a small car. (if you want to trade comfort and safety!) 



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

A LOOK AT THE 2015 MID-SIZE CROSSOVER MITSUBISHI OUTLANDER

The Mitsubishi Outlander is a mid-size crossover manufactured by Japanese automaker Mitsubishi Motors. It was originally known as the Mitsubishi Airtrek when it was introduced in Japan in 2001, and was based on the Mitsubishi ASX concept vehicle exhibited at the 2001 North American International Auto Show. It was sold at Mitsubishi Japan dealership chain called Car Plaza. The ASX (Active Sports Crossover) represented Mitsubishi's approach to the industry wide SUV trend for retaining the all-season and off-road abilities offered by a high ground clearance and four-wheel drive, while still offering car-like levels of emissions, economy and size.

With a tough upper front grille in a new lightweight, aerodynamic frame, the 2015 Outlander suv outpaces the rest with style that endures. Arrive comfortably, no matter where you're headed – and command attention every step of the way. 

The 2015 Outlander features standard fold-flat third row seats, so there's always room for family and friends to join in your adventures. And with premium touches like a soft-touch instrument panel, automatic climate control, and an available power sunroof, you and your passengers get to where you're going in comfort and style.

The Outlander has the requisite stance—and more rugged-looking lower-body look—to match its name, even if off-roading isn't its forte. The Outlander offers a choice of either a four- or six-cylinder engine. Base models use a 2.4-liter four that makes 166 hp and is paired with a continuously variable transmission, which is a surprisingly lively combination. The more expensive GT model gets a V-6 that's good for 224 hp; the added power is nice, although it requires premium-grade fuel and isn't terribly efficient. Torque is also pretty low and uninspiring. It does come with a conventional six-speed auto, which is more to the liking of those interested in performance.

Safety firsts for Mitsubishi in the Outlander include Adaptive Cruise Control (with three distance settings), Lane Departure Warning, and a Forward Collision Mitigation that will, at lower speeds, first signal that an obstacle or other vehicle is ahead and then brake the vehicle fully to a stop. Super All-Wheel Control is an integration of several advanced technologies that together take full advantage of the engine's power. The Active Front Differential (AFD) distributes engine power between left and right on the front axle. 

Active Stability Control (ASC) helps keep the vehicle on its intended path when cornering and the Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) along with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD) improves control and stability under hard braking. And with four driver-selectable modes, including NORMAL, SNOW, LOCK, and the new AWC ECO Mode, the Outlander is ready to adapt safely to tricky conditions. S-AWC is available on Outlander SE, in addition to the top-flight GT trim.

Today's Outlander offers one of the strongest sets of standard equipment for the money, among compact-to-mid-size crossovers. And if it’s three-row models you’re considering, the new modelis the features-for-money champ.

Base ES models don’t include Bluetooth or alloy wheels, but if you can look past that they include automatic climate control, keyless entry, and a six-speaker, 140-watt audio system, among other things. Leather, a sunroof, and a power tailgate are available on the top models.

A plug-in hybrid version of the Outlander will be introduced for the 2015 model year, offering all-wheel drive and a complex drive system that's capable of both series and parallel hybrid operation.




Tuesday, December 16, 2014

PETITION TO BRING CIVIC TYPE R HONDA TO AMERICAN

Honda isn’t ready to show us the production version of its latest Civic Type R just yet, so at the 2014 Paris Auto Show, it's time for a new concept. This time, however, the concept’s impending arrival coincides with the release of the first specs for the car, which is scheduled for launch on the European market in 2015.Honda for some time for going a little soft with its U.S. products, and the fact that Honda doesn’t let us have the awesome Civic Type R—the newest iteration of which was just previewed at the Geneva auto show—is one of our biggest beefs.Concept: 

Honda isn’t ready to show us the production version of its latest Civic Type R just yet, so at the 2014 Paris Auto Show, it's time for a new concept. This time, however, the concept’s impending arrival coincides with the release of the first specs for the car, which is scheduled for launch on the European market in 2015.

One hair-on-fire Civic enthusiast, Nikos Stoufis, has gone grassroots to try and change that. Brought to our attention by Autoweek, Stoufis started an online petition on Change.org intended to call for an end to “the discrimination against our market” and betrayal of Honda’s core principle set out by Soichiro Honda, stating that, “Without racing, there is no Honda.” For the record, the Type R is not a race car, but rather a road car, but we get the point.

“There is no excuse anymore,” the petition proffers. Actually, there is an excuse: bringing the Type R isn’t just as simple as adding a fat turbocharger and a spoiler, but would involve Honda investing in the very costly process of federalizing an entire body style (a five-door) of the Civic, which isn’t sold here even in non–Type R form.That said, Honda spokesman Chris Martin told us, “We are tracking consumer and media interest in the Civic Type R concept recently shown in Europe, and it’s nice to see such enthusiasm for one of our products. 

Though we don’t have any plans to bring the Type R to the U.S. at this point, anything is possible in the long run if it makes good business sense. I realize that most enthusiasts don’t care about the business case, but this sort of product decision is more complicated than any single factor.”Mr. Stoufis deserves credit for spearheading an effort to get the Civic Type R over here, and many of us on staff have signed his petition in hopes that it helps make the all-important business case. At the time of this writing, it was already up over 8000 names.

Monday, December 15, 2014

BUICK ENCLAVE 2015 PREMIUM



Since it’s (currently) the most expensive in the Buick lineup, one could say that the Enclave crossover is the flagship of the Tri Shield brand. And for 2015, the three-row full-sizer is getting a bevy of changes and updates following the refresh that took place for the 2014 model year.

The 288-hp six-cylinder is smooth and power is adequate. Handling is about as one expects -- it understeers. Again does it matter? It’s not pretending to be even the least bit sporty. You should know exactly what you’re getting: a relaxing people hauler.


And there is indeed plenty of room to haul people and stuff, and the interior materials are nice. One could argue a minivan is even more efficient and even better at family hauling, but this is dang close, a lot quieter and more refined. It’s also better looking. If you want an ultra quiet and smooth crossover, try an Enclave As Wes mentions, the most significant feature the Enclave offers is silence; compared to the last Buick Enclave I drove -- maybe two years ago -- this one is notably more luxurious feeling, at least partly due to the additional sound-deadening features. It’s pretty impressive, too -- potholes and road imperfections create a dull thud somewhere in the distance rather than a jarring crash at a definable corner of the car.


One wonders how many pounds of insulation it took (note that this is a 2.5-ton beast) to quiet down what’s fundamentally an 8-year-old chassis and body structure, but it worked. Less successful is the integration of safety and infotainment features that hadn't even been invented when the Enclave began production. The Buick has everything, the 2015 Enclave gets the very-useful heated steering wheel, illuminated door sill plates (as an LPO option), and a new interior color combination called Ebony (perforated leather-appointed seating) with Dark Plum (interior accents). In addition, the USB port has been moved down to the center console from the upper instrument panel — a change that should appease those who use their USB port on a regular basis. Notably, OnStar 4G LTE with Wi-Fi hotspot capability is absent form the new features list.

There are several changes to individual RPOs as outlined in the “Changes” section below, but two changes are most prominent: the 6.5-inch IntelliLink system is now standard on the 1SN Premium equipment groups, while the Bose Sound System with Bose performance-enhanced premium 10-speaker system is no longer available on 1SD Convenience equipment group.






Sunday, December 14, 2014

SHOULD YOU BUY OR LEASE YOUR NEXT NEW CAR

The holidays are a great time to buy a car. Since the year is coming to a close, automakers are offering some enticing car deals to move cars off their lots and hit their sales goals for the month and year. As you wade through the financing, cash back and lease deals available this December, you might still be on the fence as to whether you should lease or finance your next new car.If having a low monthly payment is important to you and your budget, consider leasing. When you lease, you only make payments on a portion of the car’s price, not the full amount. The down payment on a lease can also be low, ranging from $0 to several thousand dollars. However, the more you put down the lower your monthly payments will be. Keep in mind that leases have mileage restrictions and you’ll have to pay a fee if you go over the mileage limit, so if you do a lot of driving, you shouldn’t lease. Most shoppers aren’t able to pay cash for a new car, so you’ll need to decide how you’re going to finance it. While many people take out a car loan, leasing a new car is simply another form of new-car financing. Let’s look to see if leasing or buying makes the most sense for you.                                                                                                                                                                             

Leasing a car is similar to financing the purchase of the car in many ways, but there are some key differences. You might be able to get more car for less money by leasing. That’s because a car loan is based on the full price of a new car, while a lease is based on only a percentage of the car’s price. For example, on a $30,000 car, you’d finance the entire $30,000 purchase price with a car loan. With a car lease, you only pay the difference between the car’s price and what it’s expected to be worth at the end of the lease, which is a car’s residual value. So if the car’s residual value is 55 percent after three years, for example, that means the $30,000 car would be worth $16,500 at the end of the lease. You’d make lease payments on the remaining $13,500 and not the full $30,000.

If you only have a small down payment saved up, leasing may also be better for you. Many car leases require anywhere from $0 to several thousand dollars up front, though the down payment is negotiable. Many advertised lease offers will promote low payments, but require a sizeable down payment. If you want to put as little down as possible, remember that your monthly lease payments will be higher.

Many leases last about three years, which is typically the length of many new-car bumper-to-bumper warranties. That means the car is usually covered under warranty for repairs for the duration of the lease. You still need to maintain the car, though, which includes oil changes, tire rotations and recommended maintenance from the manufacturer. Failure to properly maintain the car during the lease can result in fees when you turn the car in at the end of the lease.

If you enjoy having the newest high-tech features, leasing could be the better choice for you. Since you’d be leasing every few years, each new car you lease will have the latest and greatest technology and safety features. With a leased car, you don’t have to worry about selling the car or getting a good price for your trade-in. When the lease is up, you can simply turn in the car and walk away.

Lease contracts limit the number of miles you can drive. These mileage restrictions typically are 9,000, 12,000 and 15,000 miles a year. You need to estimate how many miles you drive per year so you can determine how many miles to purchase. If you go over that amount, you’ll pay a fee per mile at the end of the lease when you turn the car in. These overage charges can be very expensive.

With leasing, you can sometimes make minor alterations to the vehicle that can be reversed before you turn the car back in, but you generally can’t make any major alterations. Make sure you read the lease contract carefully before signing.

Another drawback is that when you lease, you’re really just renting the car for a few years and paying interest to finance that car over a specified period of time. Since you’re basically renting the car when you lease, you’re not building any equity. That means that when the lease ends, you either have to get a new car, with new payments, or take out a loan to buy the car you were leasing.

Another potential downside to leasing is that usually only shoppers with good credit scores will qualify for a car lease. If your credit score is less than perfect, you may want to consider waiting to lease until you can increase your credit score.


If you like to keep your vehicle as long as possible, buying is probably better for you. When you buy, you own the car when the loan is paid off. Until the car loan is paid off, the lender owns the vehicle. As you continue to make loan payments, you’re gaining equity in the vehicle. Once you’re done paying off the loan, the car is yours – you own it and don’t have to include a monthly car payment in your budget. That’s a significant benefit because it means that over several years of not having a payment, you could save money compared to someone who has to keep leasing a new car every three years.

One of the biggest benefits that buying has over leasing is that there are no mileage restrictions. If you do a lot of driving, buying is probably better for you.


When you buy a new car, you roll the dice a bit with its resale value. It’s hard to determine what the vehicle will be worth when you’re ready to trade it in or sell it. With leasing, that future value is predicted up front and put in writing on the contract. If the car is worth less than that amount at the end, it’s not your problem. However, if you have a loan on a car and the car is worth less than what the loan is for, you have negative equity (that’s also called being upside down on the loan). This is only a drawback if you plan on selling it or trading it in because you’ll have to come up with the difference between what the car sells for and the amount of money still left on the loan.

Another potential drawback of buying is a sizeable down payment. Many lenders require about 10 to 20 percent down when taking out a car loan. On a $30,000 vehicle, that’s $3,000 to $6,000. It can be tough for people to save up that much money.

One other downside of buying is that to get the monthly payments to fit your budget, you may have to stretch out the length of the loan. Auto loans can last five, six or even seven years. That longer loan term gives more time for interest to add up, so you end up paying more for the car than if you had a shorter loan term. A larger down payment will also help lower your monthly payments when you finance, but again, coming up with that much cash can be difficult.

When it comes to buying and leasing, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Consider your budget, driving needs, lifestyle and credit history before you decide whether to buy or lease. There are auto lenders who can provide you with financing that works best for you, no matter whether you decide to buy or lease your next vehicle.