The Acura TLX has been kind of an automotive Jimmy Durante. All you could do is stare at its proboscis. It’s looks were hurt by its parrot beak grille. Even though TLX was a good premium brand mid-size sedan, it was hard to love. The 2018 Acura TLX gets a much needed mid-cycle facelift that transforms its presence. (Acura began replacing its parrot nose grille texture in 2016 with the launch of the freshened 2017 Acura MDX).
Designer and now Acura Vice President and General Manager, Jon Ikeda, says that you can tell when a design team is having a good time they do great work. Fun and inspiration have brought out the best in TLX looks.
Under the skin, the 2018 Acura TLX is basically carryover with tweaks made the engineers thought were necessary. Base engine is a 2.4L 4-cylinder making 208 horsepower. The upgrade engine is a 3.5L V6 with 290 horsepower. But the story is not about the mechanicals. The story is about the style.
Appearance Changes More Extensive Than for a Typical Mid-Cycle Freshening This freshening is a classic front and rear six. This means that the front and rear ends have been restyled, but roof, doors, glass are carryover. Thankfully, the parrot’s beak grille texture is replaced by a pentagon grille with a mesh grille texture. This relatively conservative approach yields a very attractive front end. In addition to the new grille, the front fascia has large air inlets at the vehicle corners providing a distinctive and aggressive face. Bright accents highlight the air inlets which also include driving lights. The hood is all new and more curvaceous than previously. LED headlamps are standard.
Depending on trim level, a tasteful chrome side sill garnish provides finesse fir the body side.
The rear appearance is upgraded with new tail lamps, bright exhaust tips and a rear diffuser. Chrome accents are added balancing the accents in the front fascia.
2018 Acura TLX Gets the Latest Driver Assistance Safety Features The interior is updated with new seat trim. The instrument panel has been tweaked and all of the latest safety features are available AcuraWatch is standard. AcuraWatch includes adaptive cruise control, forward collision warning, autonomous emergency braking, lane keeping assist and road departure mitigation. Unfortunately blind spot monitoring is not standard but included in a $3,700 Tech Package. AutoPacific research finds blind spot is a feature wanted by over 75% of drivers and greatly helps in avoiding lane changing accidents.
Also standard are Apple CarPlay and Android Auto which allow integration of many of your smartphone apps to the dual center screens of the TLX.
2018 Acura TLX A-Spec Trim Acura is particularly proud of its TLX A-Spec package that should appeal to younger, more enthusiastic drivers than will choose the more chrome-laden standard, Tech or Advanced packages. The A-Spec an appearance package with a sport tuned suspension. Believing that the target buyer wants differences defined as “sporty”, A-Spec includes a dark surround for the grille, exclusive front and rear fascias that lose the bright highlights, round bright exhaust tips, red accent piping for the seats, LED fog lights, front and rear parking sensors, wireless charging, and ventilated front seats. The A-Spec does have a color combination available that should be striking – bright blue exterior with a red leather interior. This is a bold combination that few carmakers allow these days. Kudos to Acura for making this selection available.
Attitude Change at Acura An aside on the story of Acura. 31 years ago Acura was launched as the first Japanese premium brand. At first, Acura was very successful with the Legend mid-size near luxury car and Integra sporty hatchback – names that still resonate among American car buyers. VP Ikeda says Acura is returning to its performance oriented roots – Precision Crafted Performance. He hopes to instill the fun and passion in Acura’s design and engineering that was evident 31 years ago. Maybe, they will bring names back – at least Legend and Integra.
The all new Volkswagen Atlas crossover SUV (XSUV) launches in late May in the United States. It is being dropped into the highly competitive mid-size crossover SUV market dominated by the Ford Explorer and the Honda Pilot. Those two vehicles are Atlas’ strongest competitors.
Volkswagen, like Hyundai, can be criticized for being late to the American-style XSUV market. Sure VW has had the Touareg and Tiguan crossovers in the market, but neither have the volume potential of the Atlas. Atlas is produced at VW’s 300,000 unit assembly plant in Chattanooga, TN. Atlas shares Chattanooga capacity with the Passat that sold 73,000 units in the USA in 2016. Clearly, VW has room in Chattanooga for the Atlas and perhaps one or two additional entries.
The Atlas is sized right for its competitive set. It is almost exactly the size of the very successful Ford Explorer on the outside, but has a much longer wheelbase. It makes great use of its interior space yielding much more cargo capacity than the vehicles compared above. The front seat area is spacious and the cockpit is well laid out. Ergonomics are first rate. The second row can accommodate three large child seats and is adjustable for better legroom. The third row seat is accessible, but only for small children or adults for short trips.
Source: George Peterson, AutoPacific
The Atlas is styled like you would expect a VW XSUV to be. The front end styling is definitely a VW face with standard LED lighting and accent lights – distinguishable from afar. The muscular bodysides communicate capability with a strong character line connecting the front and rear wheel openings. The taillamps are connected by a chrome strip that highlights the rear styling and gives an upscale image. The liftgate opens to the very large cargo area which is flat when all the rear seats are folded.
Driving the V6 Atlas crossover is pleasant, but not particularly exciting. That is a good thing for a XSUV targeted at family car usage. Ride quality is good, but there is a bit too much body lean on the twisty roads in Texas’ Hill Country around San Antonio. Quiteness with its 20-inch tires is poor on many road surfaces. When you find that elusive stretch of absolutely smooth asphalt, quietness is superb. On rougher road surfaces you cannot carry on a conversation.
Source: George Peterson
In search of the Atlas’ unique selling proposition you conclude that the reconfigurable VW Digital Cockpit may be it. The 12-inch wide instrument cluster can can change to provide several different information displays. Unlike some reconfigurable systems, you cannot change the overall appearance, just the information shown. The 8-inch center stack display is intuitive and turn by turn driving directions can be displayed on the instrument cluster at the swipe of a finger. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
The Atlas crossover has a complete suite of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems available.
Checking prices, the price for a FWD 4-cylinder Atlas S is $30,500. An AWD V6
Atlas SEL Premium is $48,490. So, the price is in line with competition.
Who will buy the Atlas? The Atlas crossover is selling in a growing segment but there are two giants among its seven-passenger competition – Explorer and Pilot . Both Explorer and Pilot have a loyal buyer base and they may be the superior products. Volkswagen has a buyer base that loves the brand (let’s not discuss “Dieselgate”) and will likely consider the Atlas for their family hauler. The question is can VW dealers position the Atlas as superior to its strong competitors or will they have to hope for VW loyalists coming in looking for aggressive prices?
Mazda Premium is the objective for the Mazda brand in the future. Mazda realizes it is a mainstream brand but wants to become premium. In the minds of the car buyer, Mazda competes with Toyota, Honda and Nissan. Mazda has limited resources and needs to husband them. To achieve Mazda Premium positioning, its products must be executed to meet or beat premium brand competitors. This requires targeted benchmarking against more expensive vehicles in the same product category.
CX-5 Latest Mazda Premium Vehicle At the press launch of the 2017 Mazda CX-5 mid-size crossover SUV (XSUV) in San Diego, Mazda detailed its competitive strategy. The Mazda product development team did not closely benchmark the usual suspects. The CX-5 will be sold against Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage. To go against premium brands, the CX-5 team benchmarked luxury brand XSUVs like Audi Q3, BMW X1, Lexus NX, Mercedes GLA. To show how deep they have benchmarked premium XSUVs, the Jaguar F-Pace was even included on one comparison chart.
The new Mazda CX-5 is a 5-passenger XSUV slotted below the 7-passenger CX-9 introduced last year. The CX-5 completes Mazda’s evolution to its Kudo design theme that stresses the “soul of motion”. The styling is striking and clearly differentiated from its German and Japanese competitors. Mazda states that “every element has been designed to be in a class above”.
To demonstrate the superiority of the premium-designed CX-5 over its luxury competition, Mazda provided these premium vehicles as comparisons to drive through downtown San Diego. While we cannot yet discuss the driving experience, we can reveal that the CX-5 arguably looks and drives better than premium brand XSUVs costing about $10,000 more.
In reality, it will take years for Mazda to achieve premium brand status. Executed consistently and effectively, Mazda Premium will ultimately achieve a stronger image with Mazda dealers and customers. Mazda Premium will allow Mazda to achieve higher per-unit profitability. Ultimately, Mazda Premium will allow Mazda to be positioned at a premium brand like Acura or Buick if all goes as planned. Competing against Audi, BMW, Lexus, Jaguar and Mercedes is still a ways off.
Jeep sold about 1.4 million SUVs in 2016 and has 2 million Jeeps in its sights. It is going to take until 2020 or so to sell 2 million Jeeps per year.
At an event showcasing the all new 2017 Jeep Compass, Mike Manley, Head of Jeep, detailed the evolution of Jeep production that could achieve global sales objectives of 2 million Jeeps by 2020. The Compass is a crossover SUV positioned above the B-Segment Renegade and below the D-Segment Cherokee. Actually, the Cherokee is more of a C/D Segment vehicle. Cherokee is not really big enough to be a full D-Segment vehicle. At the top of the lineup is the Grand Cherokee which is the heart of Jeep DNA for now.
Jeep’s Capacity Story
There is a dance of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles US (FCA) plants that is going to realize substantially more Jeep production. The dance goes like this…
- FCA kills Dodge Dart, Jeep Patriot and the old Jeep Compass produced at their huge 407,000 unit capacity plant in Belvidere, Illinois. Cherokee moves from Toledo, Ohio to Belvidere in 2017. Estimate a maximum production of Cherokee at 250,000 units. This means there is room for another vehicle “not yet announced” at Belvidere, says Manley.
- Toledo adds all new Wrangler off-road SUV during 2017. Wrangler is selling so well it needs more capacity, but not as much as relieved by moving Cherokee to Belvidere. Jeep adds a Wrangler-based pickup to Toledo to fill capacity. This also satisfies demand from dealers and customers for a Jeep pickup.
- The all-new 2017 Jeep Compass is launched with assembly plants in four countries: Mexico, India, Brazil and China. The Mexican plant will supply North America and left hand drive Europe. The Indian plant will satisfy demand from right hand drive countries including the U.K, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Jeep has high expectations for the new Compass as the assembly plant count confirms.
- Jeep is adding a Jeep Wagoneer to the lineup. Manley mentions that this could be a “line of Wagoneers” implying that there could be a Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer in Jeep’s future. Wagoneer will be a body-on-frame SUV. It will be based on the next-generation Ram pickup but with independent rear suspension. Manley agrees that “Ford went the right way when they added independent rear suspension to their Expedition to get a great 3rd row seat”. The speculation is that Wagoneer will be added to FCA’s Sterling Heights assembly plant. Sterling Heights is being shifted to Ram pickup production after the Chrysler 200 sedan was killed. The 200 was the only vehicle in Sterling Heights and never achieved anything like FCA’s hoped for volumes.
- That leaves the “mystery vehicle” to take up the additional capacity at Belvidere.
Given all this attention to plants and plant capacity, 2 million Jeeps looks plausible by the next decade.
Source: George Peterson, AutoPacific
2017 Jeep Compass in Brief
Based on driving and living with the all-new 2017 Jeep Compass for a short time, the Compass will attract robust sales. Compass styling is very much traditional Jeep with the seven vertical slot grille, trapezoidal wheel arches and a strong overall style. Compass has a unique floating roof character that has been adopted from everybody from the Jaguar XJ, Lexus RX SUV, Nissan Murano to the GMC Acadia SUV. The Compass is one of the only vehicles in white where this really looks cool.
The Compass interior is excellent in the mid-range Latitude model, the top-of-the-line Limited and the aggressive Trailhawk model. Front seat comfort is outstanding for a vehicle in this class. The seats are firm without being too stiff. Visibility is excellent from the driver’s seat. Everything is easy to reach and see. Ergonomically, Jeep designers and engineers have done an excellent job.
Compass is powered by the 2.4L Tigershark 4-cylinder engine with 180 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. In North America there are three transmissions. 4×2 models get a 6-speed automatic. 4×4 models get a 9-speed automatic. Both 4×2 and 4×4 models are available with manual transmissions. Manual transmission availability is getting rarer and rarer these days. Likely the wide global distribution of the Compass makes the 6-speed manual readily available.
Performance on-road is adequate. A 2.0L Turbo 4-cylinder with 230-250 horsepower would always be welcome in a vehicle like the Compass. Off-road, navigating a very technical course, the Compass is very capable. Clearly, retaining Jeep DNA for off-road fun was an important feature in the development of the Compass.
Image Source: George Peterson
When a Chevrolet manager refers to the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, they inevitably hold up two fingers to guarantee you know they are referring to the Volt. When they mention the Chevrolet Bolt EV electric vehicle, they always say “Bolt EV”. “Bolt EV did well in focus groups,” one PR manager stated. Having done thousands of focus groups over the years, I know how that can be done.
Well, enough of that. The Chevrolet Bolt EV is the real deal. It is an electric vehicle purpose-built around a five module battery pack that forms the floor of the car. These batteries give a maximum range of 238 miles. AutoPacific’s research on electric vehicles over the years has concluded that the holy grail for EV range is 225 miles to avoid range anxiety. So Bolt EV achieves that range with a little to spare.
The designed-in-South Korea Bolt EV is a crossover SUV in Chevrolet’s mind. I see it as more of a 5-door hatchback, but Chevrolet contends its higher seating position and relatively high roof deserve a crossover classification. Besides, crossovers are selling like hotcakes these days and cars are not. Bolt EV looks modern with forward sloping character lines that you could see on a crossover today. OK, it’s a crossover.
The Bolt EV is spacious enough for four people. Getting in and out is relatively easy but the front A-Pillars are so fast that you have to be careful to duck or else you will hit your head. The instrument panel in the top model includes a reconfigurable instrument cluster and a 10.2 inch screen in the center stack that provides all the information concerning its electric operation and the usual connectivity features like Bluetooth. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are how you get navigation in the car. There is no resident NAV. The Bolt EV is available with the typical General Motors driver assistance features like adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, lane keeping warning, surround view camera, blind spot warning, etc.
The real surprise comes when driving the Bolt EV. Its powerpack provides 200-horsepower and 266 lb-ft of torque. This output is like a peppy 1.6L or 1.8L turbo 4-cylinder in a hot hatch small car. Bolt EV does not have to apologize to anyone on the freeway. The car can be operated in “one-foot mode” where regenerative braking is activated. This would be my normal driving mode. When you lift off the accelerator, the brakes engage to put electricity back into the batteries. The deceleration can be controlled by a paddle behind the steering wheel. Using regen, you rarely have to actually press on the brake pedal.
No new car is perfect and the Bolt EV is not. Where it falls down is in the material selection in the interior. Lots of hard, glossy plastic. The lightweight front seats are very hard and the side bolsters are stiff.
The base price of the Bolt EV is $37,495 that results in a $29,995 price after the federal government tax credit (you have to earn about $75,000 to qualify for that tax credit). If you load the Bolt EV up with all the options, it will top out at around $44,000.
Bolt is on sale now in California and Oregon and will roll out nationally over the year.
Source: Ford Motor Company
Ford is updating its iconic sporty coupe giving us a more aggressive Mustang for 2018. In industry parlance this could be termed a “front and rear six” meaning the front and rear six inches of the car has been changed. The 2018 change is a bit more than that. The front end is the main contributor to the more aggressive Mustang look. The standard LED headlamps flank a redesigned grille which has a new sporty texture. The front fenders, front fascia, and hood are all new. In the rear end, the taillamp graphics are tweaked a bit, not so you’d notice.
Source: Ford Motor Company
The big news in the interior is that the car is now available with a 12-inch re-configurable instrument cluster display. The display has been lifted from the new Continental luxury car but conveys different information. This is the “modern” way to go and also demonstrates that the costs of these electronic features are coming down dramatically and quickly. In addition to the cluster, the seat trim sew patterns have been updated. There is an available heated steering wheel and the center console has been upgraded with padded knee bolsters. Ford also adds Driver Assistance features as options such as adaptive cruise control, lane keeping warning and lane keeping assist.
Under the hood, the 3.7L V6 is gone and the 5.0L V8 has been upgraded. Ford has not yet provided the specifics. Similarly, the 2.3L EcoBoost 4-cylinder turbo has been upgraded. There is a 10-speed automatic transmission available, but the the folks who think manual transmissions are appropriate for a sporty coupe, a 6-speed manual is still available. The chassis has been upgraded to provide more nimble handling.
Ford has been producing the Mustang continuously for over fifty years. The car has gone through tough times and was almost killed on more than one occasion. Even when Chevrolet killed the Camaro, Pontiac killed the Firebird and Dodge killed the Challenger, Mustang stayed the course. There have been a few half-hearted efforts in the history of Mustang, but the 2018 promises to improve the breed. This update is a mid-cycle change that means we should see a major update in 2020 or 2021.
Each year there are several surveys of Vehicle Satisfaction in the United States marketplace. Two of the most respected are from Consumer Reports, the widely read consumer buyer guide and automotive-specialist research company AutoPacific. Consumer Reports results were released on December 22, 2016. AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction results were released on June 1, 2016.
The results are similar in some ways. The differences between AutoPacific’s “Future Consideration” results and Consumer Reports “Would Buy Again” results can be dramatic. AutoPacific’s “Future Consideration” measures owner loyalty. That is what percentage of the brand’s present owners would consider the brand again? AutoPacific also assumes vehicle buyers may be considering more than one brand in the future. This makes the percentage of consumers considering any one brand usually higher than the more definite “will buy” results from Consumer Reports.
Tesla is tops in all three measurements from Consumer Reports and AutoPacific. Then the comparisons diverge dramatically. In AutoPacific’s consideration results, popular domestic brands Ford (4) and Chevrolet (6) are in the top ten. In CR’s “will buy again” results Chevrolet is 9th and Ford is 15th separated by one percentage point. Second ranked in CR’s results, Porsche is 8th in AutoPacific’s consideration. Cadillac is second in AutoPacific’s consideration results but 22nd in CR’s rankings.
An interesting result in AutoPacific’s two measurements is that Ford and Chevrolet are very strongly considered while scoring below the industry average in their vehicle satisfaction scores. This is testament to the strength of their brand image.
So how can consumers use these divergent messages? Compare the brands at the top and the bottom of the list and see where there are similarities. In both Consumer Reports and AutoPacific results, Fiat is at the bottom. Ram, Fiat Chrysler’s truck-only brand has OK results from CR, but is on the bottom of the AutoPacific future consideration results. Hot-selling Jeep is towards the bottom in all the measurements. Should the buyer consider buying a Jeep a risk if owners are hesitant to buy another one? Would a new Jeep get lower satisfaction scores? Infiniti gets a pretty good satisfaction score from AutoPacific, but both CR “will buy” and AutoPacific consideration scores are very low. Something is going on there.
For each brand there is a story. Data compiled by organizations like Consumer Reports and AutoPacific can go a long way in helping consumers fine tune their consideration set when they are in the market for a new car or light truck.
Source: teucy.com – 2016 Lincoln MKS
Source: Lincoln.com – 2017 Lincoln Continental
The Lincoln MKS luxury sedan has not been an overwhelming success. Year to date through November 2016, the MKS sold less than 5,000 units. Lincoln dealers must be breathing a sigh of relief as its replacement, the all-new 2017 Lincoln Continental, arrives at their dealerships. Already in 2016, the Continental has sold almost 3,500 units. The Continental is also out-selling the all-new 2017 Cadillac CT6. While the early sales results are promising, let’s see if the new Continental is an improvement over its predecessor.
Each year, AutoPacific surveys new car and light truck buyers to determine what changes they want in their vehicle. It is particularly interesting to compare the changes that owners want to their vehicle when it is just about to be replaced by the next generation. In this case we will compare the 2016 Lincoln MKS with the MKS’ competitive set (Cadillac XTS, BMW 5-Series, Acura RLX, Audi A6, etc. – $50,000 to $70,000 mid-size luxury sedans). We will also provide AutoPacific’s evaluation of how much the 2017 Lincoln Continental will move the needle.
It becomes immediately obvious, however, that the owners of the MKS are much more traditional in their desires than the likely buyers of the all-new Continental. Compared with the competitive set, MKS owners are ten years older, less likely to be college educated and earn $50,000 less. About 76% of MKS owners are retired compared with 38% of the competitive set.
AutoPacific’s research shows that over 20% of MKS owners want more safety features (40%), technology that is easier to use (36%), better driver’s seat visibility (36%), more distinctive styling (34%), better ease of getting in and out (31%), improved roominess (27%) and better driver’s seat comfort (23%). AutoPacific’s assessment of the all-new 2017 Lincoln Continental is that the new car will substantially improve the results for the car over the MKS. We predict that the owners of the 2017 Lincoln Continental will be a very satisfied bunch.
Here are the results of the major areas MKS owners want improved and our take on Continental compared with the outgoing MKS and its competitive set:
Source: AutoPacific – Changes Owners Want to 2016 Lincoln MKS
Safety Features: 40% of MKS owners want more safety features than now compared for 27% of the competitive set. The outgoing car has blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise control and lane departure assist available in an expensive technology package. The 2017 Lincoln Continental has the totally modern driver assistance suite available as well, but the features are more seamless in the new car and are available as a $3,100 Technology Package on the $54,000 Reserve model. This package includes: 360-degree camera, Active park assist, Lane-Keeping System, Lane-Keeping alert, Lane-Keeping aid, Driver Alert System, Adaptive cruise control, Pre-Collision assist with Pedestrian Detection, Collision warning, Brake support, Active braking, Auto-dimming rearview mirror, Rain-sensing wipers and Windshield wiper de-icer. Unfortunately, the totally cool LED headlamps are only available as part of a $5,000 Luxury Package that also includes the $1,130 REVEL sound system. Egads! Does this mean the LED headlamps are $3,870?
Technology: As with many vehicles these days, technology is a love it/hate it affair. Compared with the competitive set, the older Lincoln MKS buyer is much more likely to want technology that is easier to use (36% compared with 18%). The MKS uses Lincoln’s much-maligned MyLincoln Touch infotainment system that was glitchy and difficult to use. The 2017 Lincoln Continental uses the new Sync 3 system that is much easier to use and has includes Apple CarPlay and AndroidAuto. The new system is much more intuitive, faster, and seems more stable. We wish Lincoln had adopted a larger center stack screen mounted higher in the center of the vehicle. Also, the gray tones Lincoln uses in its graphics are difficult to see because the contrast is subtle. It would be much more satisfying if more vivid colors were used.
The Continental’s instrument cluster is reconfigurable and can provide an overwhelming amount of information or a very simple amount of data. AutoPacific’s complaint with the instrument cluster is that it cannot be made bright enough to see clearly on days with heavy sun loads.
Driver’s Seat Visibility: About 36% of MKS owners want better driver’s seat visibility compared with 22% for the competitive set. The 2017 Lincoln Continental has good forward visibility, but the visibility to the sides is restricted by the high passenger seat back and headrest and the rear sail panel. The backlite is relatively high and rear seat headrests restrict visibility. The Continental is likely competitive, but not better than its competitors.
Styling: About a third of MKS owners want more distinctive styling. Only about 20% of the competitive set want more distinctive styling. While some criticize the 2017 Lincoln Continental as looking too much like the Bentley Flying Spur, the Lincoln certainly has more presence than its predecessor. We believe the 2017 Continental will be judged as distinctive or more distinctive than its facing competition in next year’s research.
Ease of Getting In and Out: As a person gets older flexibility becomes a challenge. About 31% of the older MKS buyers want the car to be easier to get in and out of. This compares with 23% of the competitive set. The new 2017 Lincoln Continental has a very fast A-Pillar which could interfere with head clearance when getting into the vehicle. The A-Pillar is pushed forward enough that this should not be a problem with the new car. Continental is at least on a par with its competitive set.
Roominess: About 27% of MKS owners want more passenger roominess compared with 22% of the competitive set. The 2017 Lincoln Continental has a very spacious seating package. Its rear seat is very luxurious and accommodating especially with the $4,300 Rear Seat Package. Since Lincoln is making a concerted effort to sell the Continental in China where it likely will be driven by a chauffeur instead of the owner, the Rear Seat Package is very important. Cosseting the Chinese CEO in the rear seat is what this package is designed to do. Overall, the 2017 Lincoln Continental is more than competitive in terms of passenger roominess.
Driver’s Seat Comfort: About 23% of MKS owners want a more relaxed driver’s seat compared with 10% of the competitive set. The 2017 Lincoln Continental evaluated by AutoPacific had Lincoln’s 30-way power seats. Like many features with multiple adjustments, you can adjust it to any position but great. Several AutoPacific staffers loved the adjustability of the seats and especially the adjustable left and right leg thigh support. Starting with the default position may be result in the best overall seat feel. The new Continental’s seat firmness may be a bit too stiff for the traditional Lincoln buyer.
Engine Power: While MKS owners do not particularly want more power or better fuel economy, the 2017 Lincoln Continental is available with powertrain selections that would satisfy almost any type of driver. The base engine is a 305-horsepower 3.7L double overhead cam V6. The mid-level engine is a 335-horsepower 2.7L turbo V6. The top engine is a 400-horsepower 3.0L twin turbo V6. For a company that used to provide only one engine per vehicle, the choices offered are excellent. Driving the all-wheel drive 400-horsepower Continental can be an exhilarating experience.
Trump wins predicted by VehicleVoice survey
Trump Wins In February 2016, AutoPacific fielded a VehicleVoice survey to see how the 2016 Presidential Election would fare.
Ten months ago, VehicleVoice panel members predicted that Donald Trump would win the Presidency. To refresh your memory, here are the results:
Trump Wins Overall Among the presidential candidates of any party, Donald Trump is the top preference (24%), followed by Hillary Clinton (18%), Bernie Sanders (17%), Ted Cruz (9%), and Marco Rubio (7%). The remaining candidates are all under 5% with Chris Christie, and Carly Fiorina having pulled out of the race after the New Hampshire primary.
Brand Owners Most Likely to Select… The owners of brands most likely to select Donald Trump are GMC (31%), Mitsubishi (31%), Scion (30%), Ford (25%), Jeep (25%), Buick (25%), and Cadillac (25%). No FIAT owners would prefer Trump. The brands most likely to select Hillary Clinton are Mercedes-Benz (25%), Infiniti (25%), Tesla (25%), BMW (24%), Cadillac (24%). The brands most likely to select Bernie Sanders are FIAT (44%), MINI (41%), Tesla (35%), Volvo (32%), Mazda (28%), Volkswagen (28%), Scion (27%), Subaru (27%), Toyota (25%).
Trump Profile Vehicle owners who prefer Donald Trump are likely to own domestic mainstream brands. About 57% have a college education and about 36% have a household income over $100,000. Contrary to other surveys, Trump does well among the youngest vehicle owners capturing about 33% aged 18-29 years old. The lowest preference for Trump is among vehicle owners in their 30s at 15%. All other age groups prefer Trump in the 22%-28% range.
Clinton Profile Brands with stronger preference for Hillary Clinton tend to be luxury brands. About 76% have a college degree and about 45% have a household income over $100,000. Preference for Clinton by age group is strongest among the 60-69 age group with 22% preferring Clinton – about equal to Trump in that age group. Lowest preference for Clinton is among the youngest with just 9% of the 18-29 year old group preferring her.
It is uncanny that so far in advance this relatively unsophisticated VehicleVoice poll of vehicle owners in the United States could predict the overall winner of the 2016 Presidential contest. At the time, these results seemed like an out-lier. In the final analysis, the results were very telling.
The 2017 Honda CR-V goes on sale in December 2016. It’s predecessor, the fourth-generation 2016 Honda CR-V, is on track to sell about 380,000 crossover SUVs in 2016. It is the highest volume crossover SUV and one of the top selling vehicles in the market. In AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award Research the CR-V achieved a score of 690. This is a fourth place showing in the Mid-Size Crossover SUV segment. Nissan Rogue (712), Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester place ahead of the 2016 CR-V. In AutoPacific’s 2016 Ideal Vehicle Award Research the CR-V was tied with Rogue in third place (1134 points). The class leading Subaru Forester (1175) and Mazda CX-5 scored higher.
Each year, AutoPacific surveys new car and light truck buyers to determine what changes they want in their vehicle. It is particularly interesting to compare the changes that owners want to their vehicle when it is just about to be replaced by the next generation. Also, AutoPacific’s research can be measuring stick on how well a manufacturer’s product planners, engineers and designers understand their customers. Using AutoPacific’s research to determine what changes people wanted in their CR-V, let’s see how well Honda did with their update.
Source: AutoPacific – Radar Chart Showing Changes 2016 Honda CR-V Owners want Compared with Competition
Technology – Still a Challenge as With Most New Generation Vehicles: As with many vehicles these days, technology is a love it/hate it affair. About 25% of 2016 Honda CR-V owners want more advanced technology than now. About 30% want the technology they have to be easier to use. The 2016 CR-V has the HondaSensing suite of driver assistance technologies available. The 2017 version expands on that adding a blind spot information system to the affordable EX model. Technology is still an area that requires a great deal of work, and the 2017 Honda CR-V improves on its predecessor. About 25% of CR-V’s competitors want more advanced technology as well. Among competitors, about 34% of 2016 Ford Escape owners want easier to use technology.
Driver’s Seat Visibility – Excellent View: Visibility is a key component in the acceptance of new crossover SUVs. About 29% of 2016 Honda CR-V owners want better driver’s seat visibility compared with 27% for competition. The previous CR-V was very competitive, but AutoPacific concludes the fourth generation CR-V is better. The driver’s seating position is excellent. The hood has been redesigned with more character that gives the driver more reference points in front. Honda has always been generous with glass and it appears the windows are larger. The 2017 CR-V should see better results next year.
Power and Fuel Economy – Going Turbo: About 20% of 2016 Honda CR-V owners want more power and acceleration and about 10% would sacrifice power and acceleration for better fuel economy. About 29% of 2016 Nissan Rogue owners want more power and acceleration. The 2017 Honda CR-V adds a 190-horsepower turbocharged 1.5L 4-cylinder in all but the base LX model. The turbo 4 gets both better fuel economy and acceleration and feels sprightlier than its predecessor. 2017 results should be even better than 2016.
Ride and Handling – Improved Dynamics: About 20% of 2016 Honda CR-V owners want easier handing and a softer ride. This compares to just 14% of the owners of its primary competitors wanting easier handling and softer ride. Honda has improved the ride and handling giving the 2017 CR-V a solid ride with crisp sporty handling. It is not a pillow-soft ride by any means, but gives the confidence that the vehicle will do what the driver demands.
Passenger Roominess – More Rear Seat Room: About 20% of 2016 Honda CR-V owners want more passenger room. This compares with about 24% of competition (about 32% of Ford Escape owners want more passenger room). The 2017 Honda CR-V has 2.1-inches more rear seat legroom while increasing the overall length of the vehicle by 1.2 inches. The rear seat seems much more spacious and the 2017 Honda CR-V should fare even better in AutoPacific’s 2017 research.
Exterior Styling – More Distinctive – Upscale: Looking at the all new CR-V, the at-a-glance impression is “more of the same”. CR-V, however, adopts Honda’s more aggressive and distinctive front end design with a heavy dollop of chrome. The taillights are a blatant evolution of the 2016 CR-V. About 16% of 2016 CR-V owners want more distinctive styling. 23% of owners of the 2016 Ford Escape, for instance, want more distinctive styling. It is probably safe to say that the 2017 changes to the CR-V will move the needle towards the more distinctive area.
Cargo Area – Even Better: 2016 Honda CR-V owners are less likely to want more cargo space than the competition – 14% compared to 28%. The 2017 Honda CR-V adds almost 10-inches to the length of its cargo space. This makes the all-new CR-V even better than before and substantially better than each of its main competitors.
Overall: The 2017 Honda CR-V has incrementally improved in almost every area. The styling is more distinctive. The powertrain more responsive. The interior is larger within a vehicle that is no bigger than before. Combined with Honda’s outstanding ergonomics, the CR-V, as a product, should be able to sell at about capacity especially at the aggressive pricing Honda has adopted.
Competition does not stand still. The Ford Escape has a substantial upgrade for 2017. The Nissan Rogue is all new for 2017. The 2017 research will show which vehicle’s product development team understood its customers the best and executed the product for them.