Lexus Spindle Grille Gets Even Bigger You might have noticed that Lexus products are getting a bit more expressive as the brand tries to broaden its customer base. A bit more expressive may be an understatement for the new RX350. The now-trademark Lexus spindle grille goes to new lengths in the 2016 Lexus RX350. The gaping snout is so large that it impinges on the approach angle of the crossover SUV. It is gigantic! This is the fourth generation RX350. If you can remember back to 1998, the RX350 was the first premium brand crossover SUV. It started a trend that almost every premium brand has since copied – car-based, unit body, good ride, maneuverable, fuel efficient, quiet, good performance.
The predecessor to the 2016 Lexus RX350 was clearly a derivative of the Toyota Camry/Lexus ES350. In fact the instrument panel was so plain it looked like it was right out of a Camry. The styling was essentially characterless, but it remained the top selling Lexus.
New RX350 Designed to Broaden Appeal Lexus’ top engineer described the new RX as being derived from the Toyota Highlander, but contends it is dramatically different. Compared with its predecessor, the new Lexus is about 5-inches longer with a 2-inch longer wheelbase. The character of the vehicle has been moved up a notch and the 2016 Lexus RX350 looks like it will easily remain the top selling Lexus nameplate. In addition to the grille, the exterior styling approaches “wild”. It has a “floating roof” where a black glass panel crosses the D-Pillar to give the impression that the roof hovers above the rear quarters. There are character lines swooping from the front fenders, the rear quarters, the rocker panels. Busy, busy, busy.
All of this new “interest” is designed to broaden the appeal of the RX. Previously, the RX was primarily a woman’s car. It was a car that took kids to school and to soccer practice and was seen parked in front of the beauty salon. But the new RX is designed to also appeal to younger males while not turning off the traditional RX buyer. Brian Bolain, the Lexus Corporate Manager of Marketing, says that research conducted by Toyota Motor Sales confirms that they have met the objectives: 1) keep traditional buyers, 2) attract more males, 3) attract younger buyers, 4) and with the F-Sport attract buyers wanting a more sporty look that is different from the base vehicle.
Its instrument panel looks like it is out of a Lexus GS350 rather than a Camry. The ingress/egress is easy. Visibility is pretty good. The seats are comfortable. The interior trim is upgraded compared with its predecessor. All in all, the 2016 Lexus RX350 comes across as completely new crossover SUV with more distinction inside and out that should appeal to a wider range of buyers.
Power Upgraded The base vehicle is powered by a 295-horsepower 3.5L V6 engine that operates on either Otto cycle or Atkinson cycle depending on engine loads. The V6 is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The hybrid RX450h has 259-horsepower V6 that when combined with the hybrid motors yields a total 308-horsepower. The sporty F-Sport package is available on both the RX350 and RX450h. The F-Sport has upgraded interior trip, sports seats, unique grille and exterior ornamentation. The F-Sport chassis is upgraded and an optional adjustable suspension is available.
Mark Levinson Clari-Fi Premium Audio As usual, Lexus has teamed with Harman Automotive’s Mark Levinson sound system team for a very high quality premium audio system. Using Mark Levinson’s Clari-Fi technology, the system analyzes and improves the audio quality of all types of compressed, digital sources like SiriusXM radio or MP3 tracks. The idea is to fill in the up-to-90% of the original audio content lost through compression. The system works very well delivering clear, full music, but what would you expect from an 835 watt, 15 speaker/12 location, 10-channel system.
Dynamics – Seamless Driving the 2016 Lexus RX350 is seamless. The ride is smooth, handling flat. Performance is adequate. It is very quiet in the cabin except when some road surfaces excite the Michelin Ever Grip Technology tires. Ergonomics are good. Circling back around to performance. The F-Sport package is a trim and chassis option only. There is no performance upgrade with F-Sport. To really appeal to the younger, more enthusiastic male buyer it would be appropriate for the F-Sport to have power output above the 308-horsepower hybrid. A 10% power bump from 295 to 325-horsepower would be nice.
The one bitch several members of the media voiced was that a navigation system should be standard on any vehicle base priced over $30,000. Optional on the 2016 Lexus RX350.
Base price for the 2016 Lexus RX350 will be below $45,000. The vehicle is still assembled in Cambridge, Ontario. It will be in dealerships beginning in November 2015.
TUSTIN, Calif. (August 18, 2015) – Automotive research and consulting firm AutoPacific, Inc. today announced the 2015 Ideal Vehicle Awards (IVA). AutoPacific’s IVAs recognize vehicles that best meet their owner’s expectations and desires, helping consumers make informed vehicle purchase decisions with “owners talking” feedback.
The 2015 awards are based on responses from over 66,000 new vehicle owners across all major manufacturers. Surveyed after 90 days of ownership, respondents were asked what changes they would make to their car or truck in 15 key categories, including ride and handling, driver’s seat comfort, interior storage, safety features, interior lighting, power and acceleration and technology. “While no vehicle has a zero percent desire for change in all areas, IVAs recognize vehicles where owners want the least amount of change across the 15 surveyed attributes,” explains George Peterson, president of AutoPacific.
Porsche and GMC Most Ideal Brands in 2015 – Again
Porsche ranks as the top luxury brand for the third year in a row. GMC receives top popular brand honors for the second year in a row, while also carrying the top popular brand award in AutoPacific’s 2015 Vehicle Satisfaction Awards for the second year in a row.
Porsche leads with four wins, including Most Ideal Premium Brand; Chevrolet, Ford and Subaru racked up three wins apiece. Remaining awards go to Honda, Lincoln, MINI, and GMC with two wins, and Jeep, Kia, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, and Volkswagen, each with one win.
Redesigned Vehicles Gain the Advantage
“Each time a manufacturer redesigns a vehicle, they have the opportunity to fix past issues, respond to owner wants and needs, and challenge the competition with a superior product,” says Peterson. This year’s winner’s list contains seven completely redesigned vehicles: Chevrolet Colorado, Chevrolet Suburban, Ford F-150, Honda Fit, Subaru Legacy, Subaru Outback and Volkswagen Golf; one major change: Ford Mustang; two new entries: Lexus RC and Porsche Macan; and two vehicles that were redesigned in 2014 and have won two years in a row: Chevrolet Impala and Mercedes-Benz S-Class.
2015 Overall Winner: Ford F-150
2015 Most Ideal Premium Brand: Porsche
2015 Most Ideal Popular Brand: GMC
|Aspirational Luxury Car
||Kia Cadenza (tie)
Chevrolet Impala (tie)
|Luxury Mid-Size Car
|Premium Mid-Size Car
|Premium Compact Car
|Light Duty Pickup
|Heavy Duty Pickup
||GMC Sierra HD
||Jeep Grand Cherokee
|Premium Luxury Crossover SUV
|Luxury Crossover SUV
|Large Crossover SUV
|Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV
|Mid-Size Crossover SUV
|Compact Crossover SUV
AutoPacific is a future-oriented automotive marketing research and product-consulting firm. Every year AutoPacific publishes a wide variety of syndicated studies on the automotive industry. The firm, founded in 1986, also conducts extensive proprietary research, forecasting, and consulting for auto manufacturers, distributors, marketers and suppliers worldwide. Company headquarters and its state-of-the-art automotive research facility are in Tustin, California, with an affiliate office in the Detroit area. Additional information can be found on AutoPacific’s websites: http://www.autopacific.com and http://vehiclevoice.com/
Dan Hall, firstname.lastname@example.org, 714.838.4234
As Honda has done with the CR-V, the 2016 Honda Accord gets subtle, but important updates leading up to its August 19 debut for the sedan and August 26 launch of the coupe. Adding the Honda Sensing suite of electronic features brings the Accord equal or superior to competition in terms of electronic driver’s aids. Costing a mere $1,000 Honda Sensing is available on every model of the Accord. Honda Sensing includes adaptive cruise control, Lane Keeping Assist, Road Departure Mitigation, Collision Mitigation Braking – all features that can one day be part of an autonomous car.
On the outside the Accord has new styling for its front and rear six inches. The grille, front fascia and headlamps are new as are the taillamps. This improves Accord’s slightly clumsy front and rear styling for the present car. Engines are unchanged with a 3.5L V6 and 2.4L I4, but the 4-cylinder highway fuel economy has improved by 1-mpg to 37mpg. City and combined numbers are unchanged. This improvement results from aerodynamics and friction improvements. Overall, Honda has gone through the Accord finessing each system: high performance shocks, better control for the electric power steering system, aluminum hood on the sedan, larger front disc brakes on the Sport and Touring models.
The interior has been upgraded with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto available in the Display Audio system. The instrument panel has been upgraded with new gauges and accents. The interior trim has upgraded materials and fabrics. The center console has been redesigned to be more functional with today’s smartphones.
Because the 2016 Honda Accord is a high volume sedan and coupe, it can maintain pricing discipline. The base LX model price remains the same at $22,925. The top of the line Touring model is $35,400 including destination and with all boxes checked.
Just for fun, comparing the Accord Sedan to the Lexus GS350 yields a surprise. The two cars are almost identical in size with the Lexus having a longer wheelbase for its rear wheel drive set-up. Interior wise, the Accord is actually larger than the Lexus in several important dimensions. Accord’s 3.5L V6 gets 28 fewer horsepower than the Lexus’ 3.5L V6, but it still feels good. So saving about $23,000 getting a fully loaded Accord Touring versus a Lexus GS might make good sense.
The new 2016 Cadillac CTS-V is a gentle brute of a car. Loaded with every available option and priced nearer $100,000 than I would like (jealous, you see), the CTS-V can do about everything well. Lumping through the quiet village of Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, children did not cower, mothers did not scream and pull their tykes closer, dogs did not howl. Pleasant drive, even showing 22mpg on the readout.
The 6.2L supercharged V8 has all boxes checked. Cylinder de-activation. Gasoline direct injection. Electronics up the wazoo. Mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission that is one of the crispest shifting on the planed, the powertrain is smooth and potent. 640-horsepower with 630 lb ft of torque. There is an electronic limited slip differential that guarantees the power gets to the rear wheels (no all wheel drive available).
Now, I normally do not test drive cars on a track when they require wearing a helmet. Head’s too big, big helmets hard to get into car. Cannot hear wll with helmet on. Cannot see well with helmet on. Headrest interferes. But the CTS-V is the exception. And another opportunity to drive Road America’s outstanding road course cannot be denied.
Man, you can do anything with this car. Blow an apex and it does not matter. Just point it where you want it. Lead car wants you to give chase? 125mph in a snap. Braking signs coming up, theh huge Brembos (with calipers in matching colors) bring the speed down effortlessly. Wow! What a fun car to drive!
There are those among us who will say the Dodge Hellcats are more worthy. After all they have 707-horsepower. They are certainly selling above expectations with FCA cancelling outstanding 2015 orders and doubling production of 2016 models (better profits from a higher price anyone?). I submit, however, the CTS-V is more of a piece. More solid. More capable. More trustworthy. And better screwed together.
Just do not check the Recaro seat option box. Go for everything else. On dealer lots in mid-August 2015.
Raising the Bar in a Competitive Segment The Koreans keep getting better and the new 2016 Hyundai Tucson (product code TL) is an example of how Hyundai has executed a segment-beater. Competing against big sellers Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Jeep Cherokee, Chevrolet Equinox, Mazda CX-5, etc. the new Tucson checks all the boxes. It is well styled and immediately identifiable as a Hyundai (looks almost too much like the Santa Fe Sport). It has a great package – good visibility, spacious front and rear seating, good cargo room, easy ingress/egress. The fit and finish is excellent inside and out. The interior trim materials have moved upwards – almost up to the next higher price class.
MY16 Hyundai Tucson
MY16 Hyundai Tucson
Hyundai Fell Behind in Segment – 2016 Hyundai Tucson Provides Conquest Opportunity The product is good enough to begin some serious conquesting. As the compact crossover SUV market has boomed over the past several years (growing 14.9% 2015CYTD), Hyundai has been left with a less-than-competitive product capable of selling around 45,000 per year. As such, Hyundai Motor America’s share of the segment slipped from about 6% to 2.5%. Some of that is due to capacity constraints from its Korean plant. A new plant in the Czech Republic has come on line and will be supplying Europe freeing up Korean capacity. With the new Tucson on sale in August, 2015, HMA’s volume is expected to rise to 56,200 in 2015 and up to 90,000 or higher in 2016. The 2015 Hyundai Tucson is good enough to pull that off if there is strong marketing support behind the vehicle (the last generation was essentially a “launch and leave” proposition with little marketing support). At 90,000 units, the Tucson will have about 6% of the segment.
Pre-Family Market Target Who will buy the 2016 Hyundai Tucson? HMA sees this as the entry targeted at “pre-family” singles and couples. Tucson is 8.5-inches shorter than the Santa Fe Sport that is targeted at “post-family” couples who no longer need the seven-passenger three row capacity of the 8.5-inch longer (than Santa Fe Sport) Santa Fe. Santa Fe is targeted at “core families”. Tucson democratizes technology by offering most of the latest gee whiz electronic features available on higher classes of products.
Hyundai describes its styling as bold and confident and it certainly comes across that way. It has a slightly more vertical windshield that helps ingress to the front seats. Tucson adopts Hyundai’s new corporate face with the hexagonal grille. From the side view, the Tucson is lean and wedgy. Exterior styling was by Hyundai’s European studio. The interior was styled in California. Ergonomics are outstanding with controls placed where expected. There is an 8-inch information screen with navigation and Hyundai’s BlueLink interface. The only criticism is with map graphics that don’t show enough detail and seem to show only major arteries, not the interesting spur roads you pass.
MY16 Hyundai Tucson
Powertrain OK but Full Throttle is Disappointing The base engine is Hyundai’s Nu 2.0L GDI 4-cylinder that has 164-horsepower and 151 lb ft of torque. The 2.0 L mileage figures are 23/31/26mpg. The 2.0L gets a six-speed automatic transmission. The optional engine, and the engine on the majority of Tucson models, is the Gamma 1.6L 4-cylinder Turbo with 175-horsepower and 195 lb ft of torque. The 1.6L mileage figures are 26/33/29mpg). The 1.6L gets a seven-speed dual clutch transmission. You definitely want the higher torque 1.6L Turbo. The torque is the key to performance feel. In the examples of the Tucson I drove, there was a noticeable lag when full throttle acceleration was wanted or needed from a stop (with traffic approaching, for instance). Pedal to the metal was disappointing. On a part throttle take off, this was not evident. It seemed to happen only when you really wanted the oomph. This is a characteristic an owner will learn over time, but Hyundai should sort it out ASAP.
Owners rate Kia K900 top car, Ford F-150 top truck. Tesla Top Brand
TUSTIN, Calif. (July 8, 2015) – AutoPacific today announced its 19th annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSAs), identifying the most satisfying vehicles on the market. An industry benchmark for measuring how satisfied an owner is with his/her new vehicle, VSAs are based on survey responses from over 66,000 owners of new 2015 model year cars and light trucks.
“2015 represents a year of diversity,” says George Peterson, president of AutoPacific. “Competition is fierce and no one automaker dominates the results.” The 2015 winners are spread across nearly every manufacturer, with wins by 9 out of 11 automakers. General Motors receives the most wins with 5, followed by Kia and Nissan, with 4 and 3 wins, respectively. Honda, Toyota, FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobile), Volkswagen and Ford follow with 2 wins each. Volvo, Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai each take home 1 win.
“For the 2015 model year, there are 274 models and 33 brands from which to choose a new vehicle,” says Peterson. “It can be daunting for consumers to sort through all of those options and try to predict which one will work best for them in the long run. AutoPacific VSAs help to give them a strong starting point.”
The average VSA score for 2015 is 25-points higher than in 2014 confirming products and customer handling are improving markedly. The brands with the greatest year-over-year improvements are Jaguar – improving eleven positions; Volkswagen – improving ten positions; Ford – improving nine positions.
The Kia K900 – Kia’s range topping luxury car – set an all time high and wins AutoPacific’s President’s Award. This award is given only when the overall score tops the previous high score. Interestingly, the all-new aluminum bodied Ford F-150 would have won this award if the Kia was not in the running. The previous President’s Award winners were the 2014 Mercedes S-Class and the 2010 Hyundai Sonata.
Korean Manufacturers Take Over Top Spot in Satisfaction
Tesla, a domestic brand with only one vehicle, is the top scoring brand overall. General Motors’ GMC division is the top scoring mainstream brand. In aggregate, Korean brands are the top source of high scoring vehicles. With 5 winning vehicles, including the top ranking Kia K900, Korean manufacturers Kia and Hyundai come out on top in combined average score, taking over the position previously held by European manufacturers. “Kia and Hyundai are continually improving owner satisfaction in key areas like reliability and quality, yet are also hitting the mark with safety, braking, handling, styling and seat comfort, not to mention a very satisfying warranty program,” explains Peterson.
AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Awards objectively measure owner satisfaction with 50 separate attributes ranging from interior comfort and styling to fuel economy and performance.
“In many cases, an extremely satisfying vehicle is not the car or truck that has the best absolute build quality or the best safety rating,” says Peterson. “VSAs look at the big picture, which includes owners’ experiences with their vehicle’s quality and safety, but also goes deeper into the heart of the ownership experience.”
AutoPacific is a future-oriented automotive marketing and product-consulting firm. Every year AutoPacific publishes a wide variety of syndicated studies on the automotive industry. The firm also conducts extensive proprietary research and consulting for auto manufacturers, distributors, marketers and suppliers worldwide. Company headquarters are in Tustin, California, with an affiliate office in the Detroit area. Additional information about AutoPacific and the Vehicle Satisfaction Awards can be found on AutoPacific’s websites: www.autopacific.com and www.vehiclevoice.com.
Dan Hall email@example.com 714.838.4234
New Maxima Job #1 in April 2015 The 2016 Nissan Maxima is assembled at Nissan’s huge Smyrna, Tennessee plant. Smyrna has become the highest capacity single plant in the United States with a capacity of over 650,000 units per year. The 8th Gen Maxima Job #1 was in April 2015 and dealers began getting the cars in early June. Competing with the likes of the Toyota Avalon, Chevrolet Impala, Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus and Acura TLX, the new Maxima pushes the design envelope with its “energetic flow” styling. The styling is head turning and certain to be controversial.
The Honda Pilot, good as it might be, has been a blight on the road. Its eyeball searing gawky looks were only short of the not-lamented Pontiac Aztec. These are harsh comments, but a vehicle that makes you scream when you first see at an auto show is certainly a show stopper and not in a good way. Honda defends the previous Pilot as having traditional sport utility vehicle styling. That may be so, but it was very third world and inappropriate for the American market. Lasting for an extremely long cycle for Honda – seven years – the Pilot was a very good vehicle under the skin and its interior was commodious to say the least. But, now it’s thankfully dead and to be replaced by the third generation 2016 Honda Pilot on June 18, 2015.
The 2016 Ford Explorer marks the 25th anniversary of the vehicle line. When it launched as a 1991 model, the Explorer redefined what a sport utility vehicle should be – it was a high volume SUV with 4-doors (Ford wrongly estimated 4-door sales would be 30% of the mix – later, it became 100%). 7,000,000 sales later, Ford is launching a nicely updated mid-cycle product change. When the 2016 Ford Explorer launches, most people won’t be able to tell the difference from the present Explorer. While the vehicle’s sheetmetal ahead of the A-Pillar is all new and the liftgate and taillamps are all new, the differences are subtle to the casual observer. So while the change for 2016 is major, its appearance change is minor.
Honda launches its all-new 2016 HR-V sub-compact crossover sport utility vehicle in May, 2015. The 2016 Honda HR-V, based on Honda’s diminutive Fit sub-compact, is very spacious for what it is. The interior – at least the passenger compartment – feels about as big as the larger Honda CR-V. HR-V’s wheelbase is only a half inch shorter than CR-V allowing the big seating area, but its overall length is about ten inches shorter – less cargo room. The front seating area feels wider than you would expect in a vehicle this small. Ingress and egress are easy to the front seats. The rear seats are a bit tight. You have to maneuver your feet to get between the B-pillar and the seat and there is not much knee room. Cargo room is larger than it looks. The best feature Honda takes from the architecture of the Fit are the “Magic Seat” rear seats that flip and fold several ways to maximize the flexibility of the area behind the front seats.