LOS ANGELES–September 27, 2016 – Notable automotive industry research companies IntelliChoice and AutoPacific today announced the winners of the 2016 Motorist Choice Awards. Now in its eleventh year, this esteemed award recognizes vehicles that deliver the compelling and sought after combination of high consumer satisfaction and lower-than-expected ownership costs over time – meeting the needs and expectations of both the heart and the mind.
The Motorist Choice Awards (MCA), which take AutoPacific’s owner satisfaction data from new car and light truck owners and combine those data with IntelliChoice’s cost of ownership rating methodology, provide a reliable guide for new car shoppers. “Automakers know that car buyers are looking for a vehicle that satisfies both their needs and emotional desires, and they want it at a great value,” said Eric Anderson, Director of Data Products for IntelliChoice. “Every Motorist Choice winner does just that by providing a strong long term value and great ownership satisfaction.”
Toyota Leads with 9 Winning Vehicles
Toyota, who had 6 winning vehicles last year, has the most wins again with 9 vehicles between the Toyota and Lexus brands. All 6 of Toyota’s winning vehicles from last year get repeat wins this year, while the Toyota Prius v HEV, Tacoma and Lexus GX 460 are new additions. “Toyota is really continuing to dominate and doing so across a broad spectrum of vehicle segments,” says Dan Hall, vice president of AutoPacific. Toyota has 3 winning vehicles in the car segments and 6 winning vehicles in the truck segments, expanding their MCA success from SUVs into trucks and minivans.
Winning vehicles came from 10 different brands and 8 different manufacturers. Trailing Toyota, but continuing to dominate in the full-size truck and large SUV segments, General Motors has 4 winning vehicles, 3 of which were winners last year; Honda has 3 wins, including the all-new Honda Civic; BMW and Subaru each have 2 wins; and Volvo, FCA and Mazda have 1 winning vehicle each.
Consistent Performances from 16 Vehicles
Of the 23 winning vehicles this year, 16 are repeats from 2015, spread across 9 brands. “With many vehicle awards we find that the list of winners changes year over year as newly designed vehicles enter the marketplace,” says Hall. “Continuing to perform strong in owner satisfaction and cost of ownership while in
the middle or end of the lifecycle speaks volumes about the importance of designing a vehicle with long-term owner satisfaction in mind.” Of those 16 repeat winners, 3 were all-new in 2015, 1 is all new for 2016, and the remaining repeat winners have lifecycles that extend as far back as 2007 (GMC Acadia).
The 2016 Motorist Choice Award Winners:
|Aspirational Luxury Car
||Toyota Avalon HEV
|Luxury Mid-Size Car
||Lexus ES 350
|Premium Compact Car
||Lexus CT 200h
LIGHT DUTY TRUCKS:
|Premium Luxury Crossover SUV
|Luxury Crossover SUV
|Large Crossover SUV
|Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV
|Mid-Size Crossover SUV
|Compact Crossover SUV
||Lexus GX 460
||GMC Sierra HD
||GMC Sierra 1500
||Toyota Prius v HEV
Each year, AutoPacific performs the broadest and most widely followed vehicle satisfaction survey in the U.S. This results in consumer feedback from more than 66,000 new vehicle buyers on a recently purchased model year 2016 vehicle. Using 50 key attributes covering the entire ownership experience, AutoPacific calculates overall vehicle satisfaction for individual models and vehicle segments and announces its annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards (VSA) based on the findings.
Concurrently, IntelliChoice constantly monitors and updates the cost of ownership metrics for more than 2,000 model trim lines to give valuable insight into the financial impact of ownership over a five year period. This analysis is the foundation of the IntelliChoice Best Overall Value of the Year (BOVY) awards, announced each January.
The Motorist Choice Awards combine complementary analyses from both firms into one set of accolades representing vehicles that earn high marks on both sets of criteria. This methodology provides a superior means of evaluating “Best in Class” vehicles that align consumer shopping patterns with probability for both satisfaction and value.
For more details on these categories and the winning vehicles, please visit http://www.IntelliChoice.com and http://www.AutoPacific.com.
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 and its state-of-the-art automotive research facility are in Tustin, California, with an affiliate office in the Detroit area. Since 1986, AutoPacific has provided innovative, methodologically sound, strongly implemented research in addition to expert automotive analysis. AutoPacific is nationally known for its annual Vehicle Satisfaction Awards and Ideal Vehicle Awards. Additional information can be found on AutoPacific’s websites: http://www.autopacific.com and http://www.vehiclevoice.com.
IntelliChoice, part of the Motor Trend Automotive Group, is the market leader in automotive ownership cost and car values analysis. Founded in 1986, IntelliChoice is committed to empowering consumers to make better purchase decisions by providing independent and essential automotive information and tools. Through the motortrend.com website, consumers can research, compare and price new cars and the cost of ownership. Motor Trend Automotive Group is an operating division of TEN: The Enthusiast Network, the world’s premier transmedia network of enthusiast brands.
About TEN: The Enthusiast Network:
TEN: The Enthusiast Network is the world’s premier transmedia network of enthusiast brands, such as MOTOR TREND, AUTOMOBILE, HOT ROD, SURFER, TRANSWORLD SKATEBOARDING, and GRINDTV. With more than 60 websites, 50 publications, 50 annual events, the Motor Trend OnDemand subscription video-on-demand service, as well as the world’s largest automotive and action/adventure sports media platforms, TEN inspires enthusiasts to pursue their passions. For more information, visit enthusiastnetwork.com.
The Midterm Evaluation of Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards report issued in July 2016 by the Environmental Protection Agency(EPA), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) set the stage for comments on 2022-2025 CAFE standards. The comment period ends on September 30, 2016 and some congressional leaders have asked for a further 60 day extension to receive comment. Reading the details of the report is very enlightening and has largely been overlooked by the media.
Fuel Economy to Double from 2012 to 2025 In the rules established in 2012, fuel economy is to double by 2025 and green house gas emissions are to be cut in half. This would save 12 billion barrels of oil over the lifetime of 2012-2025 model year cars and light trucks and save consumers billions of dollars in fuel costs.
Report Under-Estimates Truck Percentage of Light Vehicle Market At the time the initial rules were set, the truck mix was assumed to be 33% of the light vehicle fleet. Given today’s low gas prices and the popularity of crossover SUVs, the light truck mix is over 60% of the market today and is projected to grow to over two thirds of the market by 2020. In the Midterm Evaluation the government agencies show the highest truck mix to be 52% with low fuel prices continuing. If fuel prices return to peak levels seen during the last decade (not projected), the light truck mix is assumed to be 38%. Given the reality of the market, both of these estimates are conservative and very low.
Automakers Ahead of Schedule in Meeting Future CAFE Requirements To date, the Midterm Evaluation concludes “auto manufacturers have over-complied with the program”. This is a surprising statement from agencies that often accuse the industry with foot dragging in fuel efficiency and safety technologies. They note that “fuel economy technologies are entering the market at rapid rates” and that the costs of adding these technologies have not been as high as estimated back in 2012.
Consumers Have Accepted Enhanced Powertrains The report also notes that consumer acceptance of advanced fuel efficiency technology has largely been positive. Ford’s EcoBoost turbocharged powertrain technologies have been well accepted (and strongly advertised). Stop/Start technology is becoming more accepted according to AutoPacific’s consumer research. Stop/Start shuts the engine off when stopped and then restarts the engine immediately when the accelerator is applied. Some Stop/Start systems are seamless. Others are rough on start-up. As the systems improve acceptance will improve.
Enhanced Gasoline Powertrains Can Meet 2025 CAFE Standards To meet 2025 CAFE requirements, the agencies identify several technologies that will play an important part. Most are enhancements to gasoline powertrains. Tops on the list are transmissions with 8-speeds or more (70%) . General Motors and Ford are working together to develop multi-speed transmissions. More engines will be turbocharged (54%). Stop/Start will become more commonplace (38%). The most interesting fact is the report assumes less than 2% of the vehicle fleet will be full electric vehicles and less than 1% will be a plug-in hybrid. Mild hybrids are estimated to be 14% and full hybrids will be 14% to meet 2025 CAFE. There is only passing mention of fuel cell vehicles.
Substantial Cost Increases to Meet Future CAFE Standards Improving fuel economy is not free. Back in 2012, cost increases of over $3,000 per vehicle were estimated to meet 2025 standards. The cost is now estimated by the agencies to be around $1,250 (over a 2021MY vehicle). Nowhere in the report does it mention how much the cost to get from 2012 to 2021 is. The report estimates that meeting the 2022 to 2025 standards will increase lifetime vehicle costs by $87 billion. This is estimated to be offset by fuel savings of $120 billion and other benefits of $55 billion. The net benefit is estimated to be $88 billion. Like many government reports, the arithmetic is vague and the conclusions are shaky.
AutoPacific’s bi-monthly Fuel Price Impact Study shows that consumers are not particularly willing to spend more for a vehicle that is more environmentally friendly. Consumers also say that their present vehicle is clean enough and the focus should be on cleaning up other sources of pollution. The Midterm Evaluation does not mention that there has been any research conducted to determine consumers’ willingness to pay substantially more for higher fuel economy vehicles.
Plug-In Electric Vehicles Not Needed to Meet Federal CAFE Perhaps the most interesting conclusion in the report is that plug-in electric vehicles are not needed to meet the Federal 2025 CAFE standards. This is not welcome news to Tesla’s Elon Musk or Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn. The primary reason electric vehicles (EVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) will impact the overall vehicle fleet are to satisfy California’s mandate for zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) in the fleet. California’s regulations also are shared with northeastern states.
Even Tougher Standards in the Future? The report is very complimentary of the auto industry’s progress in adopting enhanced technologies to meet future fuel economy requirements. While some might hope that this would lead to a reduction in future standards, it might result in even tougher fuel economy goals.
Escala Continues Series of Outstanding Cadillac Concepts Concept cars push design limits to determine if the buying public is ready. Over the past few years, Cadillac has teased the car community with three outstanding concept cars. The Ciel was a 4-door convertible with suicide doors first shown in 2011. The Elmiraj was a stunning coupe shown at Pebble Beach in 2013. The Escala was a highlight of the Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance in 2016.
The Ciel and Elmiraj were to be precursors of future Cadillacs. Then the Cadillac CT6 sedan was launched and we learned these distinctive concept cars were just vaporware after all. Concept cars often over-promise the future and production cars under-deliver. This year’s Escala may not be produced, but some of its design cues may find their way into future Cadillacs.
Escala is a Glimpse of Future Cadillacs With Johan de Nysschen leading Cadillac there may be a better than even chance that Cadillac will actually launch a flagship. If the Escala were produced as it was shown the car would be worthy of Cadillac’s old “Standard of the World” tagline. It could be the car that would return Cadillac to its heyday. Like the Ciel and Elmiraj, the Escala may be nothing more than a design exercise.
de Nysschen, however, added this note of caution to the Escala’s press release. “Depending on the development of the market segment for large luxury sedans, Escala is a potential addition to our existing product plan.” Interpret this to mean that the Escala is not a go program yet.
The front end style uses Cadillac’s distinctive vertical light pipe driving lights. Narrow OLED headlamps flank a sinister looking blacked out grille with a sporty three-dimensional texture. The headlamps and grille are highlighted by a bright surround that is mimicked in the rear styling. The bodyside is relatively unadorned with subtle rearward front fender and forward quarter panel character lines meeting around the B-Pillar. The very fast roofline hides a rear hatch with a generous rear opening ala Audi A7. The liftover, however, looks a bit daunting. The bright bordered boomerang-shaped taillamps are connected by a horizontal bright strip atop the rear fascia. There are large bright dual exhausts to complete the ornamentation of the rear end.
To give an idea of the size of the Escala, it is about 6-inches longer than today’s Cadillac CT6 sedan. Six-inches may not seem like a lot, but the Escala (probably CT8 if it is ever produced) looks much more substantial than CT6.
Driver Interface – OLED Screens The interior of the Escala is very tastefully done with upscale materials and three OLED panels for the telematics/infotainment systems. The interior is trimmed in light grey to maximize the sense of spaciousness. The OLED panels sweep across the instrument panel and maximize the display of information for the driver.
Cadillac Dealers Need More Crossovers Johan deNysschen is less-than-definite about whether Escala will be produced. In fact, there are rumblings that de Nysschen’s ambitious product plans have been scaled well back. So the existence of the Escala is very iffy. We can be somewhat confident that some of the design cues on the car – like the front and rear designs – may be seen on a future Cadillac model. Frankly, Cadillac would be well-served to add a couple of hot-selling crossover SUVs to its lineup first. The flagship would be nice, but the crossovers would move the metal.
This is the second time I have attended The Quail, a Motorsports Gathering and it did not disappoint. Held at The Quail Lodge and Golf Club in Carmel, California, the event drew 5,000 attendees. Cars and motorsports are supposed to be the highlight of the event, but food, drink and people are even more interesting. The attendees were enthusiasts, collectors, owners and motorsports personalities. Some of the vehicles on display had their owners hovering nearby. Other vehicles had their attendants close to make sure spectators did not touch them. Some of the restorers had worked on the cars for years and were bringing them out in public for the first time since the restoration was complete. Getting more popular all the time are “barn finds”. These are vehicles that have not been restored to a level never even attained from the factory. They have their fifty, sixty, seventy or eighty year patina intact.
There were over 250 vehicles to gaze at. Most were luxury and sporting marques like Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti, Rolls Royce, Bentley. One of the highlights was the new Bugatti Chiron in a deep French blue with a highly chromed character line sweeping up the A-Pillar along the door and then down and back forward towards the front fender. Very dramatic. Framing the Chiron was a “sea” of Bugatti Veyrons in a rainbow of colors.
While The Quail is an event for individuals to showcase their vehicles, corporate displays seem to be on the upswing as well. Bugatti showcased the Chiron. Bentley showed off the Bentayga and the new Mulsanne. Acura was there celebrating 30 years on the market. BMW was celebrating its 100th Anniversary. Cadillac was featuring its CTS-V. Alfa Romeo featured the 4C and upcoming Guilia sedan. Singer, the classic Porsche upfitter, had a small display and a large crowd.
My favorite display was the Bowlus travel trailer hitched to a Bentley Bentayga. This all-aluminum $219,000 travel trailer is reminiscent of an aluminum Airstream but is totally high tech. The Bowlus folks say you can live off the grid for two weeks in their travel trailer and be totally comfortable.
The Quail is a signature event for Peninsula Hotels. Six Peninsula hotels had a spectacular pavilion with gourmet food appropriate from their cities – Bangkok, Beijing, Chicago, Beverly Hills, Paris, and New York. Most people probably couldn’t get through all six pavilions. While all six of the Peninsula pavilions were outstanding, perhaps the best was Beijing with great food and music to set the ambiance for a truly luxurious experience.
The Genesis G90 is the flagship of the new Genesis lineup. It will be on the market in September, 2016. Genesis is positioning the G90 against the top-of-the line Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus sedans. The question is can it compete?
Size is Competitive with Lexus, Mercedes, BMW From a size perspective, the Genesis G90 is within inches of its competitors. It is a bit bigger than the Lexus LS460. It is about the same size as the Lexus LS460L, however. That is the extended length LS. It is a couple of inches shy in wheelbase and overall length to the BMW 7-Series. It is a couple of inches shorter than the Mercedes S-Class. Its interior volume is a bit bigger than the S-Class. Let’s call it a toss up when looking at size.
Powertrain Choices – Base V6 TT with Optional V8 The base Genesis G90 powertrain is a 3.3L Twin-Turbo GDI (gasoline direct injected) V6 with 365 horsepower and 376 lb.ft. of torque. About 80% of G90 volume will be the V6. Base-to-base, G90 loses to the competition with standard V8s. Lexus’ 4.6L V8 has 386 horsepower. The Mercedes 4.7L bi-turbo V8 has 449 horsepower. But Genesis’ V6 has more horsewpower than BMW’s base 3.0L Twin-Turbo V6 that has 320 horsepower. The optional Genesis engine is the 5.0L GDI V8 with 420 horsepower and 383 lb.ft of torque. The BMW 750i with its 4.4L Twin-Turbo V8 has 445 horsepower. So Genesis’ V8 is a bit below the German V8s.
So what? The Genesis G90 with the Twin-Turbo V6 performs very well. Teamed with an 8-speed automatic transmission, the G90 has excellent performance. Power is delivered smoothly and continuously. The powertrain is seamless and unobtrusive. There are only two options – V8 and All wheel drive. Driving the V6 with both rear and all wheel drive, we did not feel any noticeable difference. It wasn’t snowing.
Genesis planners want to have an interior that is “whisper quiet” and the NVH of the car delivers. The interior is quiet. Conversation is easy at any speed.
Rumor has it that Hyundai called in Lotus Engineering to help fine tune the G90s suspension. True or not, the suspension feels biased towards a German feel – purposeful and taut. It is not the cushy, absorbent feel provided by the Lexus LS. Handling is stable with little body lean. Nothing not to like.
On the Road to Autonomous Driving The Genesis G90 is loaded with standard driver assist and safety features. Many standard features on the G90 are in optional packages on the competition. As more and more is being written about autonomous driving, the G90 has some features that qualify. With standard adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist the G90 can cruise in heavy traffic pretty much autonomously. But, if the driver has their hands off the wheel for longer than 13-seconds, the car insists you touch the wheel again.
I found the lane keeping assist pretty accurate on twisty mountain roads in British Columbia, but there were a couple of times the car was obviously going to overshoot a lane marker and I had to take over. I would be confident in using this in heavy Los Angeles Freeway gridlock, but would stay attentive when on the twisties.
Base Pricing Guess – $65,000 – $70,000 Genesis is not ready to divulge pricing for the G90 yet. As brands usually say at a press event prior to introduction, pricing will be set closer to the release date. But the pricing of the competition can show the general area the G90 will be priced. The more-powerful V8-only S-Class has a base price of $95,650. G90 will not be that high. The less powerful in-line 6-cylinder BMW is priced at $81,500. A 750i V8 is priced at $97,600. The lowest priced facing competitor is the Lexus LS at $72,520. But lets look at the Genesis sister ship the G80. The G80 starts at $41,400 with a 311-horsepower 3.8L V6. Check all the boxes and you get the G80 up to $50,350. The V8 G80 is $54,550 fully equipped. Any guess at what the base price for a rear wheel drive G90 with the V6 would be? Our guess is the base price will be between $65,000 and $70,000. For a V8 G90 with All Wheel Drive? Maybe $75,000. I could be high.
Image Source: Genesis Motors USA
The new Genesis brand of luxury vehicles has been launched with Hyundaispeed! Bbalee! Bbalee! Quick, quick in Korean.
Finally, Hyundai Launches a Luxury Brand After years of deliberation, argument, and negotiation, Hyundai has launched the new Genesis brand. Hyundai officially announced the new Genesis brand in November 2015. Erwin Raphael was appointed head of Genesis in March 2016. The new Genesis brand goes public in September, 2016. That is quick – bbalee, bbalee!
In reality, the new Genesis brand is not a big deal. The brand will have only six vehicles by 2021. This does not approach the dozens of models offered by Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Lexus.
But wait. That is wrong, Genesis is a BIG DEAL! Genesis is the only luxury car brand launched after 1990 that has a deep pockets major manufacturer behind it. Tesla, launched in 2004, is questionably viable in the long term.
Hyundai has decided after years of consideration that a stand-alone luxury brand is a BIG DEAL. The resources of Hyundai are committed to guarantee its success. Hyundai presently has about 835 dealers in the United States. The new Genesis brand will launch with about 300. These have been selected with great care. The Genesis Institute will train dealer salespeople across the country.
Aggressive Launch Marketing The new Genesis brand launches with all guns blazing. Genesis launches as the luxury car sponsor for the National Football League. They are the sponsor for the Los Angeles Open golf tournament at the Riviera Country Club. These sponsorships are sure to make a splash. By early 2017, awide cross-section of American car buyers will know Genesis as a brand. They will know Genesis now exists as a brand rather than just a few car lines resting atop the Hyundai Motor America lineup. This will get the new Genesis brand and the two vehicles it will initially have to sell – the G90 and G80 – on the radar of people who have money to spend on their next new vehicle.
While Genesis vehicles promise to be outstanding, the brand’s commitment to its customers is a cornerstone of its existence. Genesis wants to take the customer experience to a whole new level beyond Lexus, Mercedes and BMW.
Respect for Time Respect for the Genesis Customers’ time is of paramount importance. Time is precious and cannot be replaced. So lets call this the Genesis “Respect Initiative”. Tthe features of this “respect initiative,” hovever, last only for 3-years and 36,000 miles. The 3/36 commitment results from Genesis management estimates that up to 80% of Genesis vehicles will be leased and the majority of those leases will be for 3-years and 36,000 miles. During the “respect period” Genesis owners/lessees will get full maintenance, valet service, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, navigation map updates, 24/7 roadside assistance with concierge service, and Genesis Connected Services. It would not be a surprise if Genesis has a comprehensive CPO (certified pre-owned used car) program in place by the time the first vehicles come off lease that would extend the “Respect Period” for subsequent owners.
Genesis Uses Hyundai’s In-House Advertising Agency – Innocean While Genesis is a stand-alone brand, it accelerated its launch by using Innocean as its advertising agency. Innocean is owned by Hyundai and also handles advertising for Hyundai brand vehicles. By using Innocean, Genesis gets a known quantity without lengthy reviews to select from numerous agencies vying for the job through lengthy and expensive reviews. Also, there is likely a “family discount” for using the in-house agency in there somewhere.
When asked by an advertising-savvy media member how the new Genesis brand will target its buyers after the NFL and LA Open hoopla, Genesis and their agency will “respectfully” target anyone who can afford to buy their cars. Genesis head Erwin Raphael contends they have no specific target buyer in mind – no age range, gender, or ethnicity. They are just targeting the ability to pay a certain lease fee for their G90 and G80 sedans. And after the brand is launched with heavy advertising and sponsorships, specific groups will be emphasized using Internet messaging and social media.
Product is the Foundation Leading to The Genesis Customer Experience Presently, there are six vehicles planned for the Genesis lineup. There are four cars and two SUVs. The G80 luxury sedan is on sale now. It is a 5-Series/E-Class competitor. The all new G90 (formerly Hyundai Equus) luxury sedan goes on sale in September. It is a competitor to the Lexus LS, Mercedes S-Class and BMW 7-Series. Later comes a BMW 3-Series competitor – the Genesis G70. Then a near luxury sport coupe is launched. There will be a mid-luxury sport utility vehicle and a near luxury SUV. Frankly, they cannot get these SUVs on the market quickly enough.
Based on driving the G90 and G80, Genesis products promise to give the best entries in the competitive set a solid run for their money. Initially, they will be value propositions. You will get more features and content for your money. Such a deal!
AutoPacific surveys new car and light truck buyers annually to determine how satisfied they are with their vehicle and what changes they want made. Based on this owner research, AutoPacific calculates the vehicles that owners want changed the least. The people who have purchased the vehicle are the people it was designed for. The data result in the AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award. Every year there are some results that stand out. The 2016 awards are no different. Here are some highlights:
• The top brand overall is Tesla – a one car brand at the time of the research, but that one car is on target with its buyers. The Tesla Model S is the top ranked Luxury Car.
• The top popular brand is GMC – for the third year in a row.
• The most ideal vehicle, overall, is the Volvo XC70.
• Subaru swept the crossover SUV categories in which it competes with the Outback winning the Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV category, the Forester winning the Mid-Size SUV category and the Crosstrek winning the Compact Crossover SUV category. That is a very impressive sweep.
Multiple year winners include:
• Jeep Grand Cherokee – winning the last six years in a row
• Volkswagen Golf – winning the last three years in a row and six of the last ten years
• Chevrolet Colorado – for the second year in a row
• Subaru Outback – for the second year in a row
• Subaru Forester – for the second year in a row
That Tesla has won so early in its lifetime is a testament to its planning, design and engineering teams. Maybe Tesla does not have the bureaucracy that bogs down bigger companies and allows it to effectively target the affluent buyers of its first vehicle.
Jeep has been fine-tuning the Grand Cherokee since the early 1990s. The fact that it has won the Ideal Vehicle Award for six years in a row shows that Jeep really does know what Grand Cherokee owners want.
The string of Ideal Vehicle Awards won by the Volkswagen Golf over the past ten years is impressive.
Finally, Subaru has solved the equation of successful small and mid-size crossover SUVs. Subaru sales have been steadily increasing and the Ideal Vehicle Award wins show the company understands crossover SUVs. Of course their “LOVE” advertising and dog-centric messages don’t hurt either.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter with a MasterSolutions upfit package. (Photo by Ed Kim)
As published on Forbes.com
Daimler’s Sprinter commercial van has been a pioneer in the North American market, introducing commercial customers here to the tall and slab-sided European-style van format all the way back in 2001. Today, this format’s U.S. sales surpass that of the traditional American-style van as the latest full-size commercial vans from Ford and FIAT Chrysler Automobiles have followed Sprinter’s lead.
Image by: George Peterson
Infiniti QX30 Launched One of the fastest growing product segments is the Luxury Small Crossover SUV (XSUV) category. Infiniti has been a bit late to the party as there are already 33 small XSUVs on the market. Eight of those are luxury brand XSUVs: the Acura RDX has been out since 2013 in its second incarnation, Audi Q3 out since 2014, BMW X1 out since 2014, Land Rover Discovery Sport out since 2016, Lexus NX200t out since 2015, Lincoln MKC out since 2015, Mercedes GLA since 2015, Range Rover Evoque out since 2012. Launch of the Infiniti QX30, while a bit late, pretty much has every brand in the fray.
Infiniti enters the fray with the Infiniti QX30, making it the 34th member in the small XSUV market and 9th luxury brand XSUV. Remember, QX is the Infiniti nomenclature for SUVs whether they are body-on-frame SUVs (QX80) or crossover SUVs (QX70, QX60, QX50). Infiniti cars carry names that begin with a simple “Q”.
All USA QX30s Classified as Trucks The Infiniti QX30 is a highly styled small crossover available in front wheel drive and all wheel drive powertrain configurations. In other markets the all drive model is called “Q30” indicating Infiniti is classifying it as an hatchback car. In the USA, both versions are classified as trucks.
Dramatic Infiniti Design Cues Differentiate QX30 The Infiniti QX30 is sporty and curvaceous like most Infiniti models. It has bulging front fenders sweeping back and down with a strong character line. Infiniti decribes the character lines as “dramatic and turbulent”. The windshield is very fast flowing into a steeply dropping roofline. The front end is instantly recognizable as an Infiniti with its unique “double-arch” grille. In the side view, Infiniti’s signature crescent-shaped C-pillar further differentiates the vehicle. There is a lot going on there, but it works very well in this small XSUV.
Infiniti QX30 and Mercedes GLA Share Platform To keep the investment in line the Infiniti QX30 is assembled in Sunderland, England alongside the Mercedes-Benz GLA. QX30 and GLA share platforms, but Infiniti has loaded its entry with all the latest high tech electronic gadgetry available.
Engine Power at the Low End of Competitive Range The 2.0L 4-cylinder turbocharged engine is shared with the GLA and is manufactured by Daimler in Kolleda, Germany. Power output is 208 horsepower with 258 lb-ft of torque. Compared with other luxury XSUVs this power output is anemic. Driving the QX30, the performance is adequate, even pleasant, but a power output of between 230 and 240 horsepower would be more expected from an engine with these specifications.
The engine is mated to a 7-speed dual clutch transmission.
Ford’s F-Series Super Duty pickups are all new for the 2017 model year. The Super Duty line includes the F-250, F-350, F-450 and F-550 heavy duty pickups.
All-New For Real The term all new here is an actual fact because the last time the Super Duty was all new was over a decade ago. The high volume F-150 light duty full size pickup was all new and all aluminum for 2016. The Super Duty follows a year later, but Ford says the product update cadence should be shorter for both the F-150 and the Super Duties in the future.
Image by: George Peterson
Borrows from F-150, Then Goes on Steroids For this iteration the Super Duty pickups share the aluminum cabs of the F-150 – regular cab, Super Cab and Crew Cab. Each of these cabs is longer than that on the old Super Duty. Then everything changes. The front end styling is very different, tougher and stronger looking than the pretty darn strong looking F-150. The pickup box is upgraded to handle the more severe workload of a vehicle designed for construction crews and trailer towing. The fully-boxed frame has been substantially upgraded with the center section frame rails 1.5 inches taller than previously.
Venerable Twin-I-Beam Suspension Retained and Upgraded The Twin-I-Beam front suspension has been upgraded and remains a very important Super Duty unique selling proposition. According to Doug Scott, head of Ford truck marketing, there was a lot of discussion about retaining the venerable, but very strong Twin-I-Beam front suspension. There was one contingent within Ford that wanted a more contemporary front suspension similar to Chevrolet Silverado. But buyers of the Super Duty rely on the over-designed Twin-I-Beam for durability in extreme abuse situations. Super-computer simulations of the suspension design have eliminated the quirkiness of the previous set-up that tended to wander a bit on the open road.
Unique Interior Although the Super Duty shares the F-150’s cabs, the interior in the Super Duty is unique to the line. The “Active Motion” seats are designed for heavier duty application and long seat time. They are comfortable for hours on the road. The instrument panel is unique and much more industrial looking than in the F-150. There is a wide center console that can accommodate files or a laptop computer. The console top is an armrest in normal driving or a desk when necessary.
Feature Laden The list of available advanced features is an arm long. Most would be expected in an up-market car, but in a heavy duty pickup they are extraordinary. Super Duty gets Sync 3 available with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. There is a 360-degree camera set-up that is extremely useful when parking or off-roading. Activating the camera allows you to see the obstacles near the vehicle and avoid them. The Super Duty can have as many as SEVEN cameras. Lane departure warning, blind spot information and adaptive cruise control systems are available. Adaptive steering is available that adjusts the steering ratio based on driver input.
Powerful Power Stroke Diesel is the Volume Engine Choice The available powertrains include the second generation Power Stroke diesel that will be the high volume engine. The 6.7L V8 diesel has 440-horsepower and 920 lb. ft. of torque. That’s right – 920 lb. ft. The diesel is mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The diesel pulls, and pulls, and pulls. There is a 6.2L V8 gas engine with 385-horsepower and 430 lb. ft. of torque. On chassis-cab models Ford’s 6.8L V10 is available.
Driving the Super Duty The Super Duty is a delight to drive for such a big truck. The 4×4 King Ranch F-250 Crew Cab (~$78,000) was easy to drive and easy to maneuver if you have a lot of space. The unloaded ride was good depending on road surface. Because of the stiff 4×4 suspension the ride over choppy roads was a bit uncomfortable. The power of the 6.7L Power Stroke diesel was very impressive.