Ford has one of the broadest SUV lineups in the industry with Escape, Edge, Explorer, Flex and Expedition and the 2015 model year is time for a new Edge. Interestingly, Ford’s introduction to the Edge omitted the word “crossover”. They are merely referring to it as a “mid-size utility”. The concept execution of the new Edge was shown to the media on Tuesday, November 19 at a venue in the Los Angeles garment district. It was shown to the wider media at the Los Angeles Auto Show the next day.
The 2015 Ford Edge is designed to be sold globally and especially targeted at China and the USA. It is based on the front wheel drive platform of the hot-selling Ford Fusion. It retains the dimensions of its predecessor but adds an inch of wheelbase. The styling is sportier than before with the new Ford hexagonal grille treatment, more muscular bodyside graphics and a faster backlite. At a glance, it is still obviously an Edge.
The styling of the new Edge is an appropriate evolution from its predecessor, but technology may be where the Edge breaks the mold. Ford executives were using the term “democratization of technology” a lot at the show. This means that new technology will be available up and down the Ford lineup from the Escape and Focus to the Flex and Taurus.
The upcoming Edge has a full suite of whizbang features available: EcoBoost powertrains, active park assist, a lane-keeping system, adaptive cruise control, blind spot information system, MyFordTouch. The concept is shown with a 10-inch touch screen in the center stack. They make a big deal that their old capacitive switches are gone and replaced with “premium mechanical switchgear”.
While the LA Show vehicle is officially termed a “concept”, it is very close to the production model coming later in 2014.
Porsche is broadening its line adding a compact crossover SUV (XSUV) beneath its highly successful Cayenne SUV. The Porsche Macan is named after an Indonesian tiger. Not so unusual since the Cayenne is named for a pepper and Cayman after an alligator. While Porsche purists may cringe that the brand is adding one more vehicle line that has four doors, the Macan will add volume to Porsche around the world and add greatly to its already heady profits. Limited to only 50,000 units a year from its Leipzig, Germany factory, the volume will be split roughly one-third for the USA, one third for the EU and one third for the rest of the world. With the USA limited to “only” about 15,000-18,000 units per year dealers can hold out for nice profits especially in its early years.
Factoid: More Porsches now sold have four doors than two.
Go to the Porsche Cars North America website and check out the configurator (http://www.porsche.com/usa/modelstart/all/?modelrange=macan) for the Macan. Sure, the vehicle starts at $49,900, but I quickly got one specced out the way I would want it up to $66,000. PCNA expects the median transaction price for the Macan to be around $73,000. For those of you who check all the boxes and choose the upmarket turbo model, you can spend over $100,000 for a Macan Turbo. Given the complexity of the Porsche configurator, the bet is that most of them will be ordered rather than bought from dealer stock.
The Macan S is priced similarly to the base Cayenne. This telegraphs Porsche’s strategy of adding a less pricey base Macan later. Following Porsche’s strategy of launching with the mid-range vehicle and then adding a lower priced version, expect a less expensive Macan down the road simply called “Macan”.
Macan is to be the sportiest compact XSUV on the market. The $49,900 model is the Macan S powered by a 340HP 3.0L Turbo V6. For those wanting even more power, the Macan Turbo has 400HP and adds about $16,000 to the price tag. All Macans have all wheel drive and Porsche’s 7-speed PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplung) transmission (automatic). The Macan S is no lightweight coming in at over 4000 pounds, but it can get up to 60mph in 5.2 seconds according to Porsche’s data.
The Macan is loosely based on the Audi Q5, but 70% of the parts are new to Porsche. The exterior is clearly all Porsche. Porsche DNA is evident in the face of the vehicle, the shape of the roof, the wheel openings, even the haunch over the rear wheels. To give the Macan a lower, sports car feel, the seating positions are a bit lower than in the Q5 and the rear seat is pretty tight. But being the sportiest compact XSUV, these things are expected. The interior is a special place indeed. The instrument panel is well-laid out and the switchgear on the console is reminiscent of the Porsche Panamera. The steering wheel comes from the 918 Spyder.
Other XSUVs were introduced at the Los Angeles Auto Show and will be on the market at the same time as the Macan – the smaller 2015 Lincoln MKC and the mid-size 2015 Ford Edge. Compared with the new Edge, the Macan is about three-inches lower, and its wheelbase about 1.5 inches shorter, but the shadow of the two vehicles is nearly identical. For all intents and purposes the overall lengths and widths are the same. With the Ford getting a bit sportier for 2015 with a faster backlite, its silhouette is even similar to the compact XSUV sports car – the Macan. Checking all the boxes on the Ford can get its price up to the mid-forties. But even though the vehicles are similar specification- and style-wise, they will attract dramatically different buyers.
Which brings us to the Lincoln MKC. Based on the Escape platform, MKC has a starting price of $33,995 quite a difference from the Macan. Of course the Lincoln will not have the powertrain or performance chops of the Macan, and its price will not reach into the hundreds of thousands. Loading up the MKC might get its price over $50,000. Somehow, the well-equipped Macan at $66,000 seems like a better value.
The new 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid joins the mid-size sedan hybrid wars with a two-motor hybrid that achieves 50mpg in the city (50 city/45 highway/47 combined). As one of the top selling cars in the USA, the Accord Hybrid has the potential to unseat the present leader Toyota Camry Hybrid (followed by the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Hyundai Sonata Hybrid in sales so far in 2013). Accord’s bragging rights are for city fuel economy – highest in the mid-size class at 50mpg. Fusion gets 47mpg in the city (and highway). The best-selling is down on mpg compared with Fusion and Accord – Camry gets 43mpg in the city and 39 on the highway.
Background of AutoPacific’s IVAs: AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Awards for 2o13 are given to brands and vehicles that best meet the expectations of their buyers. The person driving the truck does not want it to be bigger or more powerful or have better info/entertainment systems. Based on the results of over 52,000 respondents, the IVAs are owner-based awards that can serve to give truck buyers an idea of how well manufacturers have designed vehicles with their customers in mind.
As you read through the brief descriptions of the winners’ results you will notice some similarities where owners of most vehicles want change. Visibility Among all trucks about 22% of owners want better driver’s seat visibility. Roominess About 19% of truck owners want more passenger roominess than now. Power vs Fuel Economy Even when talking about today’s high gas prices, truck owners want good power and acceleration. About 21% want more power and acceleration and only 9% of the respondents would sacrifice power and acceleration for better fuel economy. Ingress/Egress About 19% of all truck owners want their vehicles to be easier to get in and out of. Info/Entertainment Technology Design of the info/entertainment technology is one of the most hotly contested areas of vehicle design today. Some manufacturers have a good handle on this, but 22% of truck owners want more info/entertainment technology than they have now. These folks are offset by 14% who want their info/entertainment technology to be easier to use.
With that preamble in mind, here are the Ideal Vehicle Award winners for trucks for 2013…
Background of AutoPacific’s IVAs: AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Awards for 2o13 are given to brands and vehicles that best meet the expectations of their buyers. The person driving the car does not want it to be bigger or more powerful or have better info/entertainment systems. Based on the results of over 52,000 respondents, the IVAs are owner-based awards that can serve to give car and truck buyers an idea of how well manufacturers have designed vehicles with their customers in mind.
As you read through the brief descriptions of the winners’ results you will notice some similarities where owners of most vehicles want change. Visibility Among all cars about 29% of owners want better driver’s seat visibility. Too often visibility is sacrificed for swoopy styling. Roominess About 24% of car owners want more passenger roominess than now. Of course, some people bought a vehicle that may be smaller than they like so they want something bigger, but many are also reacting because passenger roominess has been sacrificed for style. Power vs Fuel Economy Even when talking about today’s high gas prices, owners want good power and acceleration. About 26% want more power and acceleration and only 7% of the respondents would sacrifice power and acceleration for better fuel economy. Ingress/Egress Going with the basic package challenges like roof height vs styling and rear seat room vs styling there is also ease of getting in and out. About 26% of all car owners want their vehicles to be easier to get in and out of. Info/Entertainment Technology Design of the info/entertainment technology is one of the most hotly contested areas of vehicle design today. Some manufacturers have a good handle on this, but 25% of car owners want more info/entertainment technology than they have now. These folks are offset by 13% who want their info/entertainment technology to be simpler and easier to use.
With that preamble in mind, here are the Ideal Vehicle Award winners for cars for 2013…
The setting is a brightly sunny day in Southern California with a new 2013 Ford Taurus SEL. The Taurus has a tilted center screen and bright instrument panel applique in front of the passenger seat. Additionally, there is a bright “racetrack” around the instrument cluster in front of the driver. Frankly, in high ambient light load conditions, this is a disaster of veiling glare. This is when the interior materials reflect the sunlight and either distract the driver or temporarily blind them.
Ford’s MyFordTouch system uses a touchscreen center screen. This is good, but it shows finger prints and with the way the screen is situated in the Taurus it is particularly objectionable. When reversing and trying to use the back-up camera, the sun washed out the backup image and the fingerprints further obscured the view.
In Googling “Veiling Glare”, I found an SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) paper titled “Fundamental Issues of Automotive Veiling Glare” written by Ford Engineers in conjunction with the University of Florida back in 1997. Clearly, they understand the issue, but did not use their own institutional knowledge when launching this model of the Taurus SEL.
Veiling glare is a situation mostly missed by European manufacturers developing cars in gloomy, overcast conditions. American manufacturers, even those developing their products in the Mid-West, usually don’t miss this.
Smaller EcoBoost 4-Cylinder Transforms Taurus into a Much More Nimble Product While glare is more than a nitpick issue with the SEL, the car powered by the 2.0L gasoline direct injection turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with EcoBoost giving 240HP and 270 lb-ft of torque was very nimble. Much moreso than the Taurus with the 3.5L V6 – even in 3.5L V6 EcoBoost form. The car still suffers from an interior too small for the exterior size of the car, but it is good looking and well-appointed.
What if I told you you could buy a vehicle that had the capability to haul seven people, could hit at least 30 MPG on the highway, and had all of the creature comforts you would want, such as navigation and Bluetooth; would you buy it? What if there was a catch? Would sliding doors break the deal for you? Would riding in a jazzed up cargo van send shivers down your spine?
OK, OK… the new 2013 Toyota Avalon will not be targeted at teenagers when it goes on sale in December, but the age of the more than 100,000 Avalon hand-raisers has been about 52 years down from 67 years of present Avalon owners. Toyota has a monicker for these people – “Trail Boomers”. Toyota plans to double Avalon sales to about 70,000 units per year.
No Longer a LARGE CAR – Now Avalon is a Premium Mid-Size Car The 4th generation car is slightly smaller with much more expressive styling. It goes a long way in changing the perception of the vehicle. Based on the Camry platform, the Avalon shares much under the skin with the Camry and Lexus ES350. The Avalon is the product of Toyota’s Calty Design Research in Newport Beach, CA and the huge and growing Toyota Technical Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It is, of course, assembled in Georgetown, KY.
The body and exterior are unique to the Avalon. The front of the car combines a strong T-Bar upper grille with center Toyota logo with a (2013) Fusion-esque lower grille giving the car kind of a gaping face. In the side view, Avalon is much more aerodynamic than its predecessors. The windshield is faster making ingress just a bit more difficult for the older edge of its traditional buyer base. The backlite is much faster too, resulting in a relatively short decklid. Toyota describes the feeling of the car to be “athletic, elegant, intelligent and powerful”.
The Avalon is a bit smaller than the 3rd generation car. That car was described as a Large Car. The new one is described as a Premium Mid-Size Car. Riding on a 111.0-inch wheelbase – the same as its predecessor – Avalon’s overall length is cut by 2.2-inches. It is one-inch lower and a half-inch narrower. The result is that most interior dimensions have been squeezed a bit. Front headroom is 1.3-inches less. Front shoulder room is 1.2-inches less. Front hip room is 0.7-inches less. Only front legroom is a bit longer by 0.8-inches. The formerly generous rear seat room has sacrificed the most: 1.7-inches less legroom, 1.5-inches less hip room, 1.2-inches less shoulder room. Only rear headroom is up slightly by 0.4-inches.
“I can’t underestimate how important the Fusion is to Ford,” — Mark Fields, Ford president of the Americas, to workers at Flat Rock, Michigan assembly plant.
The mid-size car segment is filled with able competitors and most are either new or recently updated. The oldest, Hyundai Sonata, is a 2011 model and each new model is being launched with a wider range of features than ever before. Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, Kia Optima, Volkswagen Passat, Chevrolet Malibu and next year’s Mazda6 represent the best collection of mid-size cars ever available in the United Sates.
What makes this competition interesting is the different approach that each manufacturer is taking. The Nissan Altima enters the race with a cost conscious four-cylinder engine with no turbo or direction injection. Despite this, the Altima has superior fuel economy and excellent power. Add in attractive styling cues from the Maxima, and you get a pretty compelling offering at a great price.
The Ford Fusion takes a different tack with six powertrains, including two hybrids. We got a chance to drive four of them in Santa Monica this week. Our impressions are positive, but we wonder a bit about the complexity of all these offerings.
2.5-liter inline four-cylinder with a 6-speed auto: This might be the best combination of price and attributes of the four we drove. While not as powerful as the EcoBoost options, it works well for a vehicle in a segment where dynamics are less important than price.
1.6-liter EcoBoost inline four-cylinder with a 6-speed manual: While Ford won’t sell a lot of manual transmission Fusions, this vehicle clearly has a European feel and would be our choice for fun. You clearly feel the small size of the 1.6, but pushing it hard and gliding through the gears with the smooth shifter makes this a fun ride.
2.0-liter EcoBoost inline four-cylinder with a 6-speed auto: More fun than the 2.5 liter four, but will buyers in this segment buy-in? Ours had the stand-alone start-stop feature, which worked better than other executions we’ve seen. It’s a good glimpse into the positive future of start-stop fuel saving technology.
2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle inline four-cylinder with an electric motor: As fun to drive as a hybrid! The hybrid version has received an EPA certified 47 miles per gallon for both city and highway driving, giving the vehicle the highest fuel-efficiency of any hybrid in its class. Toyota Motor Corp.’s Camry Hybrid LE gets 43 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway, according to Toyota.
Building a hybrid can get you to about $38,000. A Titanium All Wheel Drive can get to you to $39,000. Start saving now.
The all new 2013 Honda Accord is Honda’s most important vehicle EVER. That’s right, EVER! It comes after lackluster reviews of the latest cost-reduced mind-numbing Civic. It enters the mid-size car product segment where the oldest high volume competitor was launched as a 2011 model in early 2010 (Hyundai Sonata) and each new model is more impressive than the one that came before it… Toyota Camry, Kia Optima, Volkswagen Passat, Nissan Altima, the coming-soon Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu and next year’s Mazda6. Each new mid-size entry is better, more finessed, more technologically capable and available with a wider range of features than ever before. The question is “Did Honda bring their ‘A Game’ to the 2013 Accord, or is it another misstep like the Civic?”
Bring their “A Game”? Wow, did they! This Accord is a take-no-prisoners attempt by Honda to reclaim leadership in the premium mid-size car class. With this car, Honda appears to have its MOJO back!