2016 Nissan Titan XD is a Square Peg in a Round Hole That Fits



2004 was the year Usher had some of his biggest hits in the music world. It was also the year 3 Doors Down had their hit “Here Without You”. If that doesn’t ring a bell for you, 2004 was also the year that the Nissan Titan came out. You probably forgot about that one though. 2004 was also the year where Ford had the 6.0L Powerstroke V8 diesel with 325 HP and 560 LB-FT of torque.

Fast forward to 2015 and the Biebs and Adele are rockin’ the charts and Nissan FINALLY has something Titan related to talk about. Unlike Bieber, Nissan wants you to remember this truck: The 2016 Titan XD. With 310 HP and 555 LB-FT of torque from a V8 Cummins, the 2016 Titan XD picks up where Detroit left off. The Titan XD should be pegged as the spiritual successor to the heavy duty pickups of 2004.

The arms race power between Ram and Ford has amounted to pickup trucks that can tow over 30,000 pounds. Besides the need for a CDL to tow that much, that is a lot more truck than most people need. What if Nissan took the best of 2004 and the best of 2015 to bring a pickup that isn’t overkill in the power department at a more reasonable price than that of a diesel Super Duty F-250 or Ram 2500? The Titan XD is the pickup equivalent of a square peg in a round hole. It just doesn’t match up with anything else out there. Not a bad problem to have in a hyper competitive market.

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Mazda – Zoom Zoom is Alive and Well


07_deign_LSumming up a valuable trip to Japan with Mazda for the Tokyo Motor Show takes only a few words or phrases – fun to drive, Zoom Zoom, SkyActiv, Innovation, KODO, Monotsukuri, rotary

Fun to Drive a Key Strategy  Interviews with top Mazda executives at the Tokyo Motor Show reinforced their commitment to producing vehicles that are fun to drive from the get-go.  This is a key difference for the small Japanese automaker.  Mazda wants to “refresh the heart and soul with the joy of driving”.  Mazda North American Operations’ “Driving Matters” tag line is serious.

SkyActiv Yields Substantial Profit Improvement  Mazda has targeted its product development resources at its SkyActiv flexible production system that has yielded significant weight reductions, body rigidity improvements and engine performance improvements.  SkyActiv is the result of a complete re-thinking of how automotive product development should work and was funded by a $2 billion stock offering in 2012 combined with another $0.6 billion in subordinated loans.  Using common architecture, the same designs, parts and processes in its variety of vehicles, Mazda has substantially improved its per unit profitability.  New product development costs are a fraction of what they were previously.

SkyActiv engines – SkyActiv-G (Gasoline) – SkyActiv-D (Diesel) are recent developments that both have compression ratios of 14.0:1.  High for a gas engine and low for a diesel.  While the star of the Tokyo Motor Show was the RX-Vision featuring a SkyActiv-R (Rotary) engine, the rotary is only a dream at this point with a small team of 50 engineers working to solve fuel economy, emissions and reliability challenges.  Present engines are Stage 1 of Mazda’s powertrain development progress.  Meeting future emissions and fuel economy challenges will come in two further stages with Stage 3 complete sometime in the 2020-2025 time frame.

Mazda is committed to the internal combustion engine and by 2020 90% of its powertrains will still be internal combustion engines but will be modified with hybrid, plug-in hybrid and idle-stop technology to meet regional requirements.  There will be little reliance on EVs except where required by regulations.  When these advanced technologies are required, Mazda likely will draw on its comprehensive technology sharing agreement with Toyota.  Even when using Toyota technology, Mazda will maintain its uniqueness with in-house systems engineering.

KODO Design Brings Human Touch Where Computers Have Taken Over  Mazda’s KODO design language has now found its way onto all Mazda’s in production, Mazda is striving for uniqueness.  In fact, Mazda is proud that its solutions will be uncommon in an auto industry that has become commoditized.

Mazda’s Design Chief, Ikuo Maeda, says that the company begins its designs using traditional design methods like renderings by hand and hand-sculpted clay models.  He contends that mainstream carmakers using computer-aided designs yield styles that are too often reminiscent of each other.  At a distance, it is difficult to tell one mid-size car from another for instance.  Mazda’s KODO designs try for a unique play of shadow that changes with lighting and perspective.

Autonomous Driving and Mazda  Mazda’s CEO, Masamichi Kogai, does not dismiss driver assistance technologies or autonomous driving cars out of hand, but clearly is a strong believer in Mazda’s fun to drive attitude.  He says driving keeps a person young, alert and agile.  This attitude was a central part of the presentations by and conversations with every Mazda manager we came in contact with.  The consistency was refreshing.  Passion for cars and enthusiasm for driving is Mazda’s litany.  So, where does autonomous driving come into the picture for Mazda in the future?  Autonomous technology should take over if the driver has an issue that would impede the safe operation of the vehicle.  Autonomous technology would steer the vehicle safely to the side of the road where help could be summoned.

That said, Mazda is competitive in the driver assistance technology it offers today:  smart brake support, active LED headlamps, pre-collision throttle control both forward and in reverse, driver attention alert, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, radar cruise control, lane keeping assist and lane departure warning.

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Mazda’s Rotary Dreams – RX-Vision


Heart of Mazda  The rotary engine is the “Heart of Mazda”, but unfortunately the company does not have a rotary engine in production now and may not in the future.  The last rotary engine was in the Mazda RX-8 which was dropped in 2012.  The rotary in that car could not meet the tougher emissions standards being adopted around the world, so the car and engine are history for the time being.  Today, a group of 50 Mazda engineers continue to try to break the code of rotary engine emissions, fuel economy and reliability – all very tough challenges.  With such a small group, likely with a limited budget, it seems like the hope for a rotary engine anytime in the future is dim.

Mazda executives mean it when they say the rotary is the “Heart of Mazda”.  Back in the late ’50s and early ’60s, the Japanese government was thinking of consolidating its automotive industry and Mazda was in the cross hairs.  Mazda likely would have been folded into Toyota or Nissan.  To demonstrate that Mazda deserved to remain independent the company bought the license for the rotary engine from NSU in West Germany in 1960.  Dozens of other companies licensed the technology as well, but Mazda was the only company to successfully bring the engine into production.11_RX-VISION_L15_RX-VISION_L

RX-Vision  That did not, however, prevent Mazda from displaying the RX-Vision concept car at the 2015 Tokyo Motor Show.  Widely considered to be the star of the show, the dramatically styled coupe  uses a rotary engine to achieve a very low hood height.  Using the latest evolution of Mazda’s KODO design language, the RX-Vision has an extremely long hood with the cabin positioned way to the rear. The proportions and scale are surprising from a company like Mazda.  In fact, the size and proportions hearken back to the days of the Japanese supercar race with the Toyota Supra, Nissan 350ZX, Mitsubishi 3000GT and the last Mazda RX-7.  That was an era when each Japanese company was trying to out-do the other with higher and higher spec sports cars.

The RX-Vision is a sculpture in “soul red” a paint developed to accentuate the flowing lines of the car.  Made to take advantage of shadow depth the color is vivid and head-turning.  The color also makes the car almost impossible to photograph and even the professional shots used here don’t do the RX-Vision justice.  It is a strikingly beautiful concept that likely will never see the light of day – at least in its present form.

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2016 Honda Civic EPIC!


2016 Honda Civic F34 VehicleVoice2016 Honda Civic R34 VehicleVoiceCheap and cheerful is gone.  The 2016 Honda Civic sedan has raised the bar for a compact car to new levels.  After realizing that the 9th generation 2012 Civic was a dud, and quickly adding band-aids for 2013, Honda has gotten very, very serious with the all new 10th generation Civic.  In fact, for awhile there the automotive analyst and journalist community was sensing Honda was losing its mojo.  After updates to the Accord, the new Pilot, the HR-V and now the New 2016 Honda Civic, it is clear Honda is back.  Honda’s development name for the new Civic is “EPIC” Civic and it fits.  To achieve this “epicness” Honda benchmarked not only the usual suspects, but also the C-Class entries from Audi, BMW and Mercedes.

For reference, the 2016 Honda Civic has 5 basic trim levels:  LX, EX, EX-T(urbo), EX/Leather, Touring.

More Expressive Styling:  While still quickly identified as a Honda, the new Civic is much more expressive than any Civic before it.  The car is larger with a 3.0-inch increase in overall length and a 1.2-inch increase in wheelbase.  The car is 0.8-inches lower and going back to an old Honda trick, its cowl is 1.6-inches lower giving better forward visibility.  The car is lower and wider to give it the look of a more premium car.  The Civic adopts its own version of Honda’s evolving face using an upscale looking grille.   Innovative front lighting gives  the car a unique look.  LED daytime running lights are standard.   The top-of-the-line Touring model has LED headlamps as well.  The bodyside is creased as is today’s fashion with a slight bulge over the front wheels leading to a upper body character line ending in a muscular bulge over the rear wheels.  The C-Pillar has a sharp crease separating the roof from the rear fender.  The standard LED taillamps are huge V-shaped affairs.

2016 Honda Civic Cockpit VehicleVoiceInterior Much, Much More Upscale:  The front edge of the instrument panel sweeps below the windshield in a smooth unbroken arc from A-Pillar to A-Pillar and continue down the door trim panel.  This adds a sense of width to the car.  The instrument panel pad feels very high quality and nowhere near the hard plastic some cars in this class had in the past.  The seats are very comfortable – at least in the EX-L trim level with leather interior – and trimmed in high quality leather.  The instrument cluster includes a digital speedometer surrounded by an analog tachometer.  Nicely done.  Honda has paid a lot of attention to the transformer-like center console.  The conventional shifter is where you would expect, but ahead of the shift lever is an area for your cell phone or iPad mini.  Next to the driver’s knee is the switch for the electronic parking brake.  There is a sliding lid that reveals cupholders and space to hold an iPad.  Since all Civics have keyless start, there is storage for the key in the console.

2016 Honda Civic Instrument Cluster2016 Honda Civic SpeedoTwo Engines – Both Upgrades to Predecessor – Honda’s First Turbo in USA:  The base engine for the 2016 Honda Civic is a 2.0L double overhead cam 4-cylinder with 158-horsepower (the old Civic had a single overhead cam 1.8L 4-cylinder with 143HP).  The upscale engine is Honda’s first turbo in the USA, a 1.5L double overhead cam 4-cylinder turbo with 174-horsepower.  The base engine is available with a 6-speed manual transmission or CVT.  The Turbo is available only with the CVT.   The 2.0L I4 has more power than Corolla, Elantra or Mazda3.  The base Ford Focus with a 2.0L 4-cylinder has 160-horsepower edging out the base Civic by a couple of ponies.  The Turbo is bested by entries like Ford’s 252HP EcoBoost 4-cylinder Turbo in the Focus ST (manual transmission only) and 350-horsepower in the Focus RS, but those are rarefied enthusiast entries, not mainstream like the Civic Turbo will be.

Joins Democratization of Technology Club:  As with many car lines down the price spectrum, Civic now comes with a long list of available technology features capping out with its Honda Sensing system that includes adaptive cruise control with low speed follow, lane keeping assist, road departure mitigation, forward collision warning, lane departure warning.  Honda Sensing is standard on the top of the line Touring model and optional for $1,000 on the lower spec models.  Even the base LX is pretty well equipped with automatic headlights, auto up/down power windows, ambient interior lighting. LCD color audio system, electronic parking brake and automatic climate control.  You get Lane Watch and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto when you move to the EX model.  When you go the EX-T you get the 174HP Turbo engine, heated seats XM and HD radio and dual zone automatic temperature control.  When you pop for leather, you get an 8-way power driver’s seat.  Touring gets the full package: Honda Sensing, rain sensing wipers, LED headlamps, power passenger seat, navigation.

Driving the Civic Turbo:  Honda is, after all, an engine company and the new 1.5L Turbo shows that.  It has good power to move the car easily.  It is smooth and nicely damped from the interior.  The engine is quiet even when outside the car.  The CVT, a usually reviled transmission type, has been developed to a point where you cannot really tell it’s a CVT. While you expect Honda to provide an outstanding powertrain, it is the solidity, ride, handling and braking that set this Civic apart from its predecessors and many other small cars out there today.  It appears that they implemented many of the lessons learned when benchmarking European luxury car competitors.  It is that good.  No complaints on the dynamics of the car at all.

Pricing:  The base price of the 2016 Honda Civic LX is $18,640 with $835 destination and delivery on top of that.  The top of the line Touring Edition comes in at $26,500 with $835 D&D.  Comparatively, a 2016 Ford Focus S starts at $17,225 with $875 D&D. The Focus S does not have the feature load of the Civic LX.  It lacks a 6-speed manual transmission, automatic climate control and one-touch windows all around.   The Focus Titanium with (almost) all the boxes checked comes in at $26,125 plus $875 D&D.  So from a MSRP standpoint, the two cars are pretty close and Ford dealers are more likely to go for the deal vs. a hot out of the box Civic.

Now for the Nitpicks:  There are, of course, no perfect cars even though Consumer Reports contends the Tesla Model S is better than perfect.  Here are my nits for the Civic.  1)  The steering column adjustment lever is a long reach under the instrument panel.  Even though you might not use it often, it is tough to get to.  2)  Radio volume control is a slide on the touch screen for the audio system.  Might not be too much of a problem once you figure it out, but it would fail the rental car test.  3)  Blind spot monitoring system with cross traffic alert is not available.  Honda contends this is not now appropriate for the Civic class of car even though several competitors offer it.  It appears that Honda is depending on Lane Watch to handle this important safety chore, but Lane Watch will not help you pull out from between two Suburbans in a parking lot and warn you of approaching traffic.  Honda used a similar rationale on the Accord where Blind Spot Monitoring is only available on the top of the line. 4)  Honda has lowered the front seats by about 1.5 inches.  This reduces the hip to floor distance, creates a more laid-back driving position and hampers ingress/egress.  The higher seat height in the previous car was better.

Overall:  Great Job on the EPIC Civic. 


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Toyota and General Motors Lead in 2015 Motorist Choice Awards



Toyota and General Motors Lead in 2015 Motorist Choice Awards

Irvine, Calif. (October 13, 2015) – Notable automotive industry research companies IntelliChoice and AutoPacific today announced the winners of the 2015 Motorist Choice Awards. Now in its tenth 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 were designed by IntelliChoice and AutoPacific ten years ago and have since become a reliable guide for new car shoppers. The awards 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.

Toyota and General Motors Lead in Motorist Choice Awards Wins

Winning vehicles came from 13 different brands and 10 different manufacturers. Toyota has the most wins with an even mix of winning cars and trucks from the Toyota and Lexus brands. “It’s an accomplishment in itself to bring to market a vehicle that satisfies a consumer emotionally, physically and financially,” says Dan Hall, vice president of AutoPacific. “Toyota is in the envious position of having achieved this combination across two brands, as well as the car and truck segments. Where many automakers do well with either their cars or their trucks, Toyota has done both.” Notably, 3 out of the 6 winning Toyota and Lexus vehicles have hybrid powertrains.

In contrast to Toyota’s diversity of winning vehicles, General Motors has dominated in the truck segments and follows with 5 winning vehicles from 3 brands, all in truck segments. General Motors’ truck brand GMC took 3 top spots, while Cadillac and Chevrolet each had one winning vehicle. “One of the great things about General Motors’ wins this year is that they have cornered the large SUV and truck market,” says Hall. “Whether consumers are looking for luxury, premium, or middle-of-the-road, GM has a winning vehicle there.”

The remaining wins go to Honda with 3 wins, Hyundai and BMW with 2 wins each, and Volvo, Subaru, Volkswagen, Mazda and Ford, each with 1 win.

Redesigned Vehicles Raise the Bar

This year’s list of winners also contains seven all-new vehicles: Cadillac Escalade, Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Canyon, Ford-F-150, Honda Fit, Subaru Legacy and Volkswagen Golf. “Each year the competition rises as automakers address consumer feedback and put out vehicles designed to fix previous issues, address needs, and ultimately, satisfy consumers,” explains Hall. “Winning in the first year of a new model truly means that automakers have been listening.”

The 2015 Motorist Choice Award Winners:


Category Winner
Luxury Car BMW 5-Series
Aspirational Luxury Car Volvo XC70
Large Car Toyota Avalon HEV
Luxury Mid-Size Car Lexus ES 300h
Mid-Size Car Subaru Legacy
Premium Compact Car Lexus CT 200h
Compact Car Volkswagen Golf
Economy Car Honda Fit
Sports Car Mazda MX-5
Sporty Car Hyundai Veloster


Category Winner
Premium Luxury Crossover SUV BMW X5
Luxury Crossover SUV Lexus RX
Large Crossover SUV GMC Acadia
Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV Toyota Highlander
Mid-Size Crossover SUV Honda CR-V
Compact Crossover SUV Hyundai Tucson
Luxury SUV Cadillac Escalade
Large SUV Chevrolet Tahoe
Mid-Size SUV Toyota 4Runner
Heavy-duty Pickup GMC Sierra HD
Light-duty Pickup Ford F-150
Compact Pickup GMC Canyon
Minivan Honda Odyssey

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 2015 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, and its interim Best Deals Awards, which show case top values on a monthly basis, considering changing economic factors such as fuel costs, price changes and rebates.

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.

“Combining the AutoPacific consumer survey data with the IntelliChoice cost of ownership data is a great benefit to consumers,” said Eric Anderson, Ownership Cost Database Supervisor for IntelliChoice. “Whether you are looking for a luxury crossover, a compact car or a minivan, the Motorist Choice Awards help shoppers choose a vehicle that fits their lifestyle and financial bottom line. Based on our research, we’re proud to recommend these vehicles to consumers.”

For more details on these categories and the winning vehicles, please visit http://www.IntelliChoice.com and http://www.AutoPacific.com.

About AutoPacific:
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.

About IntelliChoice:

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 IntelliChoice.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 (formerly, Source Interlink Media), a recognized provider of targeted media and marketing services and one of the largest publishers of magazines and digital content for enthusiast audiences.

About TEN: The Enthusiast Network:

TEN: The Enthusiast Network is the world’s premier network of enthusiast brands, such as MOTOR TREND, AUTOMOBILE, HOT ROD, SURFER, TRANSWORLD SKATEBOARDING, and GRINDTV. With more than 50 publications, 60 websites, 50 events, 1,000 branded products, the world’s largest automotive VOD channel, and the world’s largest action/adventure sports media platform, TEN inspires enthusiasts to pursue their passions. For more information, visit enthusiastnetwork.com.

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Expressive 2016 Lexus RX350 on the Way


Lexus RX350 SnoutsLexus 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.

2016_Lexus_RX_350_SVNew 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.

2016 Lexus RX350 IPIts 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.

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Porsche Leads in AutoPacific’s 2015 Ideal Vehicle Awards; Subaru Matches Ford and Chevrolet in Wins


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


Passenger Cars
Luxury Car Mercedes-Benz S-Class
Aspirational Luxury Car Lexus RC
Large Car Kia Cadenza (tie)

Chevrolet Impala (tie)

Luxury Mid-Size Car Lincoln MKZ
Premium Mid-Size Car Subaru Legacy
Premium Compact Car MINI Hardtop/Convertible
Compact Car Volkswagen Golf
Economy Car Honda Fit
Sports Car Porsche 911
Sporty Car Ford Mustang
Light Trucks
Light Duty Pickup Ford F-150
Heavy Duty Pickup GMC Sierra HD
Compact Pickup Chevrolet Colorado
Luxury SUV Lincoln Navigator
Large SUV Chevrolet Suburban
Mid-Size SUV Jeep Grand Cherokee
Premium Luxury Crossover SUV Porsche Cayenne
Luxury Crossover SUV Porsche Macan
Large Crossover SUV Ford Flex
Premium Mid-Size Crossover SUV Subaru Outback
Mid-Size Crossover SUV Subaru Forester
Compact Crossover SUV MINI Countryman
Minivan Honda Odyssey

About AutoPacific

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, dan.hall@autopacific.com, 714.838.4234


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2016 Honda Accord Mid-Cycle Updates


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.2016 Honda Accord Touring F342016 Honda Accord Sedan R34

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.2016 Honda Accord Cockpit

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.

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Cadillac CTS-V – Brilliant Brute


2016 Cadillac CTS-V SVThe 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.

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2016 Hyundai Tucson – Compact XSUV Benchmark?


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

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

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.

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