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Owners Rate Most Fun to Drive Cars

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Fun to drive can be defined an infinite number of ways.  The sports car driver will say power and acceleration, braking and handling are the main contributors to fun to drive.  There is also the element of sexy head-turning styling ringing the sports car driver’s bell.  The sport utility driver will add functionality to that equation.  A smart fortwo driver may think its quirky styling, minuscule size (even with its funky transmission) add to the fun to drive experience.

The most fun to drive vehicles in AutoPacific’s New Vehicle Satisfaction Research – those with 85 % or more of their drivers totally satisfied with its fun to drive characteristics include:

2014 Chevrolet SS1.  Chevrolet SS:  We can certainly understand this one.  Fully loaded 4-door sedan with a Corvette V8, the SS is a great value and adds sedan functionality to a high performance platform.  Not a big seller, the SS buyer certainly understands the special car they are driving.  One hundred percent of the respondents were totally satisfied with its fun to drive characteristics.

2015 Chevrolet Corvette2.  Chevrolet Corvette:  Corvette is the quintessential American sports car.  Big with dramatic styling and powered by a large displacement push-rod V8, the Corvette not only has the dynamics for a fun to drive winner, but also the looks.

 

2014 Porsche Cayman3. Porsche Cayman:  Curvaceous styling with Porsche DNA, German precision and sprightly dynamics have 94% of Cayman drivers totally satisfied with the fun to drive of their car.

 

 

2014 Porsche Panamera4.  Porsche Panamera:  The most expensive of the fun to drive vehicles is the Porsche Panamera 4-door sedan with 93% of its owners totally satisfied.  Sometimes criticized for its ungainly looks, it checks the boxes for fun to drive.  Panamera is in the top ten in power and acceleration.  Panamera is top ranked for braking. Panamera is in the top five for handling.  Not bad for such a large car.

2014 smart fortwo5.  smart fortwo:  There are fifteen cars that score 85% or higher in fun to drive.  Surprising is one of them is the smart fortwo with 92% of its drivers totally satisfied with its fun to drive.  Acceleration and powertrain performance clearly are not strong suits for the fortwo.  Only 28% of fortwo owners are totally satisfied with power and acceleration, so there are other things contributing to its fun to drive.  Maybe it is handling? – 72% are totally satisfied with its handling.  Maybe getting good fuel economy is a contributor? – 76% are totally satisfied with fuel economy.  Maybe just fortwo’s quirky styling just puts a smile on their face?

2014 Porsche Boxster6.  Porsche Boxster:  The first of the “baby” Porsche entries has sometimes been called a chick’s car, and maybe it is if you watched the episode of Two and a Half Men where Alan buys one, but its owners 91% of its owners are totally satisfied with how fun to drive it is.  Owners rate the Boxster in the top ten of totally satisfied with power and acceleration, braking, and handling – all strong contributors to fun to drive.

2015 Nissan 370Z Coupe7.  Nissan 370Z:  A “classic” sports car, 90% of Z-Car owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive attributes.  It is in the top ten in power and acceleration, but comes up shy in handling ranking 12th and poorly in braking where it ranks 53rd.

2014 Jaguar F-Type8.  Jaguar F-Type:  Jag’s new sports car entry has 90% of its owners totally satisfied with its fun to drive.  F-Type is in the top ten in power and acceleration, 11th in braking and 25th in handling.  Clearly, F-Types powertrain strongly contributes to its fun to drive and combined with its classic styling owners score the car very strongly.

2014 Subaru BRZ9.  Subaru BRZ:  The BRZ may be a new category of sporty coupe.  It is built to be extremely maneuverable and fun for a young person.  Small, rear wheel drive, and with the ability to drift around corners, 89% of its owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive.  In the case of the BRZ, its power and acceleration does not deliver on its looks or fun to drive image.  Only 30% of BRZ owners are totally satisfied with its power and acceleration ranking it 225th.  About 56% BRZ owners are totally satisfied with its braking.  Where BRZ shines is in handling with 84% of its owners totally satisfying.  It appears that Subaru could improve the standing of the BRZ if engine power was increased substantially.

2014 Chevrolet Camaro10.  Chevrolet Camaro:  A classic American muscle car, 89% of its owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive attributes.  Camaro ranks 17th in power and acceleration with 73% totally satisfied.  It ranks 18th in braking with 77% of its owners totally satisfied.  Camaro ranks 10th in handling.  These are solid results for a sporty coupe showing Camaro succeeds not only on the basis of its iconic image and styling, but also on dynamics.

2014 Ford Mustang11.  Ford Mustang: The outgoing Mustang still has a lot going it with 88% of its owners totally satisfied with its fun to drive.  Mustang owners rank its power and acceleration 28th with 68% totally satisfied.  Mustang falls to 95th in braking with 65% totally satisfied.  It is 55th in handling with 71% totally satisfied.  Clearly, style, image and reputation have gone a long way in contributing to Mustang’s position among fun to drive cars.

2014 MINI Paceman12.  MINI Paceman:  The wierdly styled MINI Paceman is totally fun to drive for about 88% of its owners.  46% of its owners are totally satisfied with its power and acceleration ranking 156th, other MINI entries rank substantially higher.  About 67% of its owners are totally satisfied with its braking ranking 52nd.  About 75% of owners are totally satisfied with its handling – 27th.  Head-turning styling and image strongly contribute to the fun to drive aura of the MINI Paceman.

2014 Mazda Miata13.  Mazda Miata:  Miatas, or MX-5s, are famous for how fun to drive they are.  About 86% of its owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive attributes.  Miata is not supposed to be blindingly fast it is supposed to be fun and most owners recognize that.  Still, ranking 109th, 53% of its owners are totally satisfied with its power and acceleration.  About 68% are totally satisfied with its braking – 48th.  About 64% are totally satisfied with its handling – 29th.

2014 Mitsubishi Lancer EVO14.  Mitsubishi Lancer EVO:  The last Lancer EVO ranks 14th in fun to drive with 85% of its owners totally satisfied.  Generally, a car sold for its performance never lives up to the expectations of its owners in power and acceleration, but the EVO seems to be an exception.  About 71% of its owners are totally satisfied with its power and acceleration – ranking 22nd.  About 78% are totally satisfied with braking – 13th.  About 78% are totally satisfied with handling – 15th.  This is a pretty good all-around performance for dynamic attributes.  Sayonara EVO, you will be missed.

2014 Scion FR-S15.  Scion FR-S: The FR-S is the Scion version of the Subaru BRZ.  About 85% of its owners are totally satisfied with its fun to drive.  Like the BRZ, FR-S owners want more power and acceleration – only 33% are totally satisfied – ranked 222nd.  About 52% are totally satisfied with its braking – ranking 178th.  About 73% of FR-S owners are totally satisfied with its handling – that is what the car is designed for after all – ranking 37th.

Top Ten Fun to Drive Brands:  The ranking of brands includes the fun to drive results for all their entries.  The top ten brands are:  1) Porsche, 2) MINI, 3) BMW, 4) Audi, 5) Jaguar, 6) Fiat, 7) Scion, 8) Cadillac, 9) Lincoln, 10) Mercedes-Benz.


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2016 Jeep Renegade – Class Leading B-XSUV?

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B-XSUV  How can a vehicle lead a class when you don’t know that that class is?  What is a B-XSUV?  The B-Class size in Euro-speak is the second from the lowest size class.   Second, what is an XSUV?  In AutoPacific-speak this means crossover sport utility vehicle.  We refuse to call these things CUVs because it is important folks know they are supposed to be SPORT UTILITIES.  This is a very new class with entries just beginning to land – Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-3, the Fiat 500x, etc.

Jeep Renegade  So now lets talk about the 2016 Jeep Renegade.

The 2016 Jeep Renegade shares its platform with the 2016 Fiat 500X.  The Renegade has rough and tough Jeep cues and mechanical bits that give it great chops off-road – American.  The 500X is more of a urban cruiser – Italian.

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It’s easy to like the all new 2016 Jeep Renegade on sale March 1, 2015.  It is funky looking in a Jeep sort of way, small but wide, easy to maneuver, easy to get into and out of, easy to see out of.  And it its base price is about $5,000 less than its new bigger brother the Jeep Cherokee.  This puts its base price in the same area as the old, old, old Jeep Compass and Jeep Patriot that we were frankly surprised to realize are still in production.

The built-in-Italy Renegade has Jeep-DNA styling cues including the seven vertical slot grill and trapezoidal wheel openings.

Smaller Than a Honda Civic  While the Renegade is short – only 167-inches long – about 15-inches shorter than the Jeep Cherokee (182-inches in length), it makes up for that by being pretty wide.  Renegade has a 101-inch wheelbase compared with the Cherokee’s 106-inch wheelbase.  It is 74 inches wide, a bit wider than the Cherokee.  The 2016 Jeep Renegade has 56-inches of front shoulder room compared with the 58-inches for the Cherokee, but 56-inches seems spacious and generous in the Renegade.  Unlike the Cherokee, the Renegade has a lot of glass and good visibility.  So from a packaging standpoint, the Renegade comes across like a larger vehicle.  Thinking about a car to compare it to that everybody knows… Renegade has a shorter wheelbase and overall width than the 2015 Honda Civic, but is substantially wider.  The Renegade is larger than the Honda Fit, but smaller than Civic.  Wider than both.2015 Jeep® Renegade Trailhawk 2015 Jeep Renegade Limited

The base 2016 Jeep Renegade comes with a six-speed manual transmission and a 1.4L Multi-air turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 160 horsepower.  Optional sporting a 9-speed automatic transmission, is a 2.4L Multi-Air2 naturally aspirated Tigershark 4-cylinder with 180HP.  If this sounds familiar the 2.4L/9-speed auto is also found in the Jeep Cherokee, Dodge Dart, Chrysler 200, and Ram Promaster City.2016 Jeep Renegade Hill Descent

Capable On- and Off-Road  Where the Renegade shines is in the dynamics.  It is very maneuverable and easy to drive.  Designed to be a true off-roader, the Renegade has good suspension travel and an excellent turning radius.  The Jeep folks claim that the “Trail-Rated” Trailhawk version can traverse the Rubicon Trail, but we did not have the chance to prove it since we were in Hollister, California. We did, however, get to ease the Trailhawk down a grade that must have been about 45-degrees.  With hill descent control engaged the Renegade slowly, but surely, worked its way down the grade.

Pricing  The base price of the 2016 Jeep Renegade is $17,995 with a additional $995 for destination charges.  Sneakily, that price does not include air conditioning (even the most basic vehicles sold in the USA have AC standard in most cases).  That gets you a front wheel drive Renegade Sport with the 1.4L Multi-Air turbocharged 4-cylinder and a 6-speed manual transmission.  The top model Trailhawk begins at $25,995, but when you check all the boxes the price can top $32,000.  Not unreasonable for a new small SUV with loads of personality and capability.

What Would We Change  The 2.4L 4-cylinder has 180HP which is sufficient for most circumstances.  On the freeway, however, it would be nice to have a bit more power – maybe 200 or 205HP.  The center stack navigation screen is 5.0-inches diagonally with standard UConnect and when you upgrade to the system with navigation the screen grows to 6.5-inches.  In a world where bigger screens are better, we would have opted for a larger 8.4-inch screen.  According to the Renegade’s product planner, this decision was made on the basis of styling, not cost or utility.  Huh?  Go with the bigger screen.  On the plus side of screens, there is an available 7-inch reconfigurable display in the instrument cluster the driver can customize to display a myriad of information.  Good going.


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2015 Dodge Charger Pursuit – Coming to a PD Near You

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2015 Dodge Charger PursuitWith the demise of the Ford Crown Vic, Dodge has been winning the police patrol car fleet battle.  Sure Ford has its Interceptors and Chevrolet is pushing its Caprice from Australia, but apparently Dodge makes a financially attractive pitch for its Charger Pursuit.  We’ve been seeing more and more of them rolling around Southern California as Crown Vics are retired, uh, sent to taxi fleets.

With the update of the 2015 Dodge Charger, the Pursuit has been updated as well.  You can tell the 2015 Charger is different because the front end styling is clearly different.  Other changes to the exterior styling are more subtle and it is a surprise when Dodge execs contend that every exterior panel is new with the exception of the roof and rear doors.  Dodge continues with its distinctive LED racetrack taillamp graphic and adds LED daytime running lights to the front.2015 Dodge Charger Pursuit

The interior has been upgraded with soft-touch materials including a 1-piece instrument panel pad with aggressive graining.  Like the civilian Charger, the Pursuit instrument cluster has an added 7-inch driver information display.  In the center stack there is a 5-inch screen for Chrysler’s UConnect infotainment system.  Unique to the Pursuit is a column mounted shifter, “police-duty” front seats designed to accommodate the belt gear police normally wear and a modified center console.

Police Advisory Board Input  Dodge has a 22-member Police Advisory Board and their input was valuable in determining what upgrades the 2015 Dodge Charger Pursuit has over the civilian Charger.  With “modern” interfaces, Dodge has enabled re-mapping of the steering wheel buttons to handle aftermarket police equipment.  The instrument cluster can be customized 100 ways to optimize its display for police use.  The heavy duty anti-lock vented disc brakes have been upgraded and brake cooling ducts added to the lower front fascia.  The performance tuned suspension has been upgraded with more durable bushings up front.

Factory upfit plans are offered for law enforcement to customize packages for their organizations.  Chrysler’s Mopar accessories group has developed and tested equipment that meets and exceeds the durability cycle and test requirements of the 2015 Dodge Charger Pursuit.  There is a Base Police Prep Package and a Wiring Police Prep Package.  Both are designed to handle the broad power requirements of communications gear, lighting, sirens, cameras and computers.  There is a slide-out trunk tray available and also a trunk fan to keep all the electrical and electronics gear in the trunk cool.

V6 Pentastar A Safe Alternative for Most Pursuit Work  There are two engines available:  370HP 5.7L HEMI V8 and 292HP 3.6L Pentastar V6.  The Pursuit is standard with rear wheel drive and optional with all wheel drive.  While patrol officers probably want the HEMI, the Pentastar V6 is probably sufficient for 90% of police applications.  Word on the street is that younger officers don’t know how to handle the more powerful V8 and the V6 provides plenty of power for most applications.  Safety first with the V6.  Macho cop pursuits with the HEMI.


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2014 Chevrolet Impala Wins AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award

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mm_gal_item_c2_1.img_resize.img_stage._2General Motors is turning out some darn good cars these days and the 2014 Chevrolet Impala is a good example.  The 2014 Chevrolet Impala is the highest scoring Large Car in AutoPacific’s 2014 Ideal Vehicle Award research. The Impala designers, planners and engineers understood who the target buyer is and developed a vehicle that meets their requirements. The 2014 Impala beat out some very impressive competitors in the Large Car category, such as the Hyundai Azera, Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus, Buick LaCrosse, and the Toyota Avalon.  George Peterson, President of AutoPacific, says, “When we first saw the new Impala we were impressed with the car’s presence and top-notch execution.  Clearly, Impala owners agree and give it AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award for 2014.”

Of the fifteen categories in the Ideal Vehicle questionnaire, the Chevrolet Impala led in five satisfaction categories and was within three percentage points of another three.

The top five highest ratings by 2014 Impala owners are: same exterior styling, same cargo space, same interior lighting, same passenger room, and the same wheels as now.

No vehicle is perfect. Impala owners would like to see better driver seat visibility, more power and acceleration, and simpler technology that is easier to use.

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2014 Chevrolet Corvette Wins AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award

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2014-Chevrolet-Corvette-109-mediumThere is no doubt the all new C7 Corvette has recast America’s sports car in ways that ring the buyers’ bells.  The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is the highest scoring Sports Car in AutoPacific’s 2014 Ideal Vehicle Award research. The designers, planners and engineers at Chevrolet did an outstanding job listening to what their customers wanted. The Corvette was at the top of its category against some impressive competitors such as the Porsche Cayman, Porsche Boxster, MINI Coupe, Mazda MX-5, Nissan 370Z, and the Mercedes-Benz SLK.  The C6 Corvette previously won the Ideal Vehicle Award for the 2012 model year.  The Corvette has won AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award for the last three years in a row.  George Peterson, President of AutoPacific, says, “Chevrolet has improved the Corvette in all ways.  They have achieved a rare one-two win of AutoPacific’s annual owner-based awards.  Not only is the Corvette satisfying its buyers, but it is also an ideal interpretation of the iconic American sports car.”

The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette owners are satisfied with their vehicle and do not want much change. Of the fifteen categories in the Idea Vehicle survey battery, the 2014 Corvette leads or ties in four satisfaction categories and was within three percentage points or another five.

The top five highest ratings by Corvette are: same exterior styling, same exterior size, same ride/handling, same interior lighting, and same seat fit as now.

Although the Corvette led in its category there are several things owners would change. Owners would like it to be easier to get in and out of the vehicle (they don’t want to crawl out of the driver’s seat with their hands on the ground?), want simpler information and entertainment system, better driver visibility (it’s a sports car, already!), and more power and acceleration (owners of high-powered sports cars always want MORE).

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2014 Chevrolet Corvette Wins AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

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The all-new C7 2014 Chevrolet Corvette is the highest scoring Sports Car in AutoPacific’s 2014 Vehicle Satisfaction Award research. Just behind the Corvette is the Porsche Boxster, Mercedes-Benz SLK, Porsche Cayman, MINI Coupe, Nissan 370z and the Mazda MX5.  The Corvette has won the Sports Car VSA for three years in a row.

The 2014 Chevrolet Corvette led in wins or ties in twenty-eight out of fifty. The Corvette was also within one tenth of a rating point for nine other attributes. This put the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette hitting the top of the mark in over seventy percent of the satisfaction categories.

The top ten highest ratings by Corvette owners are: handling and braking, exterior and interior styling, power and acceleration, vehicles reputation and image, exterior color and size, and it is fun to drive.

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2014 Chevrolet Camaro Wins AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

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The 2014 Chevrolet Camaro is the highest scoring Sporty Car in AutoPacific’s 2014 Vehicle Satisfaction Award research. Coming in just behind the Camaro are the Hyundai Veloster, Scion tC, Dodge Challenger, Ford Mustang, and the Hyundai Genesis Coupe.

The 2014 Chevrolet Camaro led its category with twenty-nine of fifty wins or ties in satisfaction. The Camaro also was within one tenth of a point with six more attributes. This puts the Camaro leading in seventy percent of the satisfaction categories.

The top ten highest ratings by Chevrolet Camaro owners are: exterior color and styling, brand and vehicle reputation, handling and braking, image, perception of reliability and durability, perception of feeling safe when driving, and it is fun to drive.

Competition for the Camaro gets stiffer for the 2015 model year with the all new 2015 Ford Mustang being introduced and the facelifted 2015 Dodge Challenger entering the fray.  The Hyundai Genesis coupe also is due for a update and reportedly gets a V8 engine for the first time.  Camaro also is getting a facelift about now, so the playing field will be mostly all new for 2015.  It will be interesting to see how the Sporty Car dynamics play out.

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2014 Ford F-Series Super Duty Wins AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

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The 2014 Ford F-Series Super Duty is the highest scoring Heavy-duty Pickup Truck in AutoPacific’s 2014 Vehicle Satisfaction Award. Coming in behind the F-Series SD is the GMC Sierra Heavy Duty. Followed by the Ram Heavy Duty and the Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty.

The 2014 Ford F-Series Super Duty demonstrated their excellence in Heavy-duty Pickup trucks by winning or tying in thirty-nine of fifty satisfaction attributes. The F-Series Super Duty was within one tenth of a satisfaction point in five other attributes, putting it at the top for Heavy-duty pickups.

The top ten highest ratings by F-Series SD owners are: exterior color and size, brand and vehicle reputation, handling and braking, power and acceleration, exterior styling, the perception or reliability and dependability, and feeling safe while driving.

Ford is not to be left falling behind its competition.  With its convincing win in 2014, the Super Duty is updated for the 2015 model year with a more powerful PowerStroke diesel engine and enhanced up-market trim packages – the King Ranch and Platinum models.  These are very profitable units for the Ford and the Super Duty models represent about one third of Ford’s F-Series production.

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2014 Chevrolet Sonic Wins AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

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The 2014 Chevrolet Sonic is the highest scoring Economy Car in AutoPacific’s 2014 Vehicle Satisfaction Award research. The Sonic edged out some impressive competitors such as the Nissan Versa, Ford Fiesta, Fiat 500, Hyundai Accent, and the Kia Rio.

The 2014 Chevrolet Sonic ties in one out of fifty categories and was within one tenth of a rating point with eight other attributes. The Sonic is a leader in eighteen percent of the satisfaction categories.  While Sonic does not win by an overwhelming margin, it is close in so many categories that it edged into the lead to win its class.

The top ten highest ratings by Sonic owners are: the perception of reliability and dependability, exterior color and styling, the safety rating and perception of feeling safe while driving, exterior size, safety features, overall quality, fun to drive, and the brand reputation.

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2014 Chevrolet Impala Wins AutoPacific Vehicle Satisfaction Award

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The 2014 Chevrolet Impala is the leader in scoring for the Large Car category in AutoPacific’s 2014 Vehicle Satisfaction Award research. Coming in behind the Impala are some impressive competitors: the Hyundai Azera, Chrysler 300, Toyota Avalon, Buick LaCrosse, Dodge Charger, and the Ford Taurus.

In achieving this level of satisfaction, the 2014 Chevrolet Impala wins in twelve categories and ties in fourteen. This puts the Impala as a leader in twenty-six out of fifty satisfaction categories. At over fifty percent for satisfaction measurements the Impala is at the top.

The top ten highest ratings by Impala owners are: the perception of reliability and durability, the exterior size, color and styling, braking and handling, feeling safe while driving and the safety rating, the overall quality, and the interior styling.  Clearly the all new Impala with its new, more expressive styling sets the standard in today’s Large Car segment.

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