The Honda Pilot, good as it might be, has been a blight on the road. Its eyeball searing gawky looks were only short of the not-lamented Pontiac Aztec. These are harsh comments, but a vehicle that makes you scream when you first see at an auto show is certainly a show stopper and not in a good way. Honda defends the previous Pilot as having traditional sport utility vehicle styling. That may be so, but it was very third world and inappropriate for the American market. Lasting for an extremely long cycle for Honda – seven years – the Pilot was a very good vehicle under the skin and its interior was commodious to say the least. But, now it’s thankfully dead and to be replaced by the third generation 2016 Honda Pilot on June 18, 2015.
The 2016 Ford Explorer marks the 25th anniversary of the vehicle line. When it launched as a 1991 model, the Explorer redefined what a sport utility vehicle should be – it was a high volume SUV with 4-doors (Ford wrongly estimated 4-door sales would be 30% of the mix – later, it became 100%). 7,000,000 sales later, Ford is launching a nicely updated mid-cycle product change. When the 2016 Ford Explorer launches, most people won’t be able to tell the difference from the present Explorer. While the vehicle’s sheetmetal ahead of the A-Pillar is all new and the liftgate and taillamps are all new, the differences are subtle to the casual observer. So while the change for 2016 is major, its appearance change is minor.
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:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. 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?
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. 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.
With 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.
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.
2015 Ford F-150: The Ford half-ton pickup, the F-150, is the top selling vehicle in the USA – car or truck. For the 2015 model year, Ford launches an all new F-150. And it is literally ALL NEW. In most model changes, there are numerous parts carried over from previous generations. The 2015 Ford F-150 is so completely re-done that there are probably no common part numbers with the 2014 model. The body is all aluminum with the exception of a “quiet steel” dash panel (between the engine compartment and the passenger compartment). You can lift the military grade front fender with one finger. The aluminum panels are not welded as in steel bodied vehicles they are riveted and glued. The result is a stiffer vehicle that feels even more robust than its predecessor. Ford says the use of aluminum has yielded a reduction in weight by up to 700 pounds.
The interior width in the cab is two inches wider than before. The aluminum structure allows the pillars to be smaller while meeting or exceeding all relevant safety standards. With thinner pillars, driver’s visibility is improved. The belt line has been dropped by an inch increasing downward visibility as well.
The 2015 Ford F-150 is available with a Regular Cab (2-door), SuperCab (extended cab with rear access doors) and SuperCrew (4-doors) cab style. There are three box lengths: 5 1/2, 6 1/2 and 8 feet.
Feature Laden: All those gee whiz things we have been seeing on luxury cars recently, you know, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, blind spot information system, active park assist, rear view camera, reverse sensing system, 360-degree cameras, LED accent lights, LED everything lights, information screen in the instrument cluster and MyFord Touch in the center display, are available on the 2015 Ford F-150. The lighting strategy for the truck is probably the best in the industry. When all the boxes are checked, there are LED accents for the headlamps and taillamps that communicate the F-150’s DNA. There are LED headlamps available. There are LED lamps in the bed to improve nighttime visibility. Of course, there are puddle lamps below the outside rear view mirrors, but there are also LED spot lamps on the top corners of the mirrors to allow the area beside the vehicle to be illuminated (now, if these could be used to blast the car beside you, the good ol’ boys in Texas driving with their open bottles could have a hoot).
The Interior: In the lower models of the 2015 Ford F-150 you get what you expect from a base truck. Lots of plastic, cloth seats (comfortable), minimal equipment. There are five basic trim levels: XL, XLT, Lariat, King Ranch, and Platinum. By the time you get up to King Ranch or Platinum you could be riding in a Lincoln.
Wide Powertrain Lineup: While the 2015 Ford F-150 does not offer a diesel, it does have four gasoline engines. The base engine is a 3.5L naturally aspirated V6 with 283-horsepower and 255 lb. ft. of torque. The first step up and expected to be the highest volume powerplant is a 325HP 2.7L EcoBoost V6 with 375 lb. ft. of torque. This is about the power of a small displacement V8 in half the size. There are two top-of-the line engines based on what you want to do with the truck. The 365HP 3.5L EcoBoost V6 has 420 lb. ft of torque. The sole V8 in the line-up is the 385HP 5.0L V8 with 387 lb. ft of torque. The 3.5L EcoBoost has the highest trailer towing rating of 12,200 lbs.
The 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid is the highest scoring Hybrid/EV Car in AutoPacific’s 2014 Ideal Vehicle Award research. Ford’s product development team knew exactly what their target buyers want and designed the Fusion to meet those needs. The Fusion Hybrid is at the top of the list against a remarkable group of Hybrid/EV cars such as the Lincoln MKZ HEV, Honda Accord HEV-PHEV, Infiniti Q50 HEV, Volkswagen Jetta HEV, and the Lexus ES 300h.
Ford Fusion hybrid owners are satisfied with their vehicle and do not want it to be changed. Of the fifteen categories in the Ideal Vehicle question battery, the 2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid led or tied in four categories and was within three percentage points of another two.
The top five highest ratings by Fusion HEV-PHEV owners are: same exterior styling, same tires, same riding/handling, same wheels, and the same seat fit as now.
Every vehicle has it flaws. Sixty percent of Ford Fusion HEV-PHEV owners would like more cargo space than they currently have. This is due to the hybrid battery pack taking precious trunk room. There is also a split in the information and entertainment technology – MyFordTouch, 16 percent want more advanced technology while 19 percent want simpler technology.
In the last year of this generation, the 2014 Ford Mustang is the highest scoring Sporty Car in AutoPacific’s 2014 Ideal Vehicle Award research. For a car getting long in the tooth, the fact that its owners rate the car so strongly is a testament that the product development team at Ford listened to their consumers and have satisfied their needs for the past five years. The Mustang is at the top against some very iconic muscle cars such as the Dodge Challenger, Chevrolet Camaro, and the import brand sporty cars Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Scion tC, and the Hyundai Veloster. For the past five years the sporty car IVA has changed hands between the Dodge Challenger and Chevrolet Camaro. It is very interesting that, in the last year of its generation, the Mustang wins for 2014. George Peterson, President of AutoPacific notes, “That Mustang is able to pull off an Ideal Vehicle Award win in the last year of this generation is impressive. The breadth of the Mustang lineup and the design execution has led its owners to vote it the most Ideal Sporty Car.”
2014 Ford Mustang owners are satisfied with their vehicle and do not want a great deal of change. Of the fifteen categories in the Ideal Vehicle questionnaire, the 2014 Mustang led in one satisfaction category and was within three percentage points of four more. This shows how close the scores were.
The top five highest ratings by Mustang owners are: same exterior size, same exterior styling, same tires, same safety features, and same cargo space as now.
No vehicle is perfect and Mustang owners did want several things changed. Mustang owners want a more advanced information and entertainment system, want it easier to get in and out of, and want more power and acceleration.
The 2014 Ford F-Series Super Duty is the highest scoring Heavy-Duty Pickup in AutoPacific’s 2014 Ideal Vehicle Award research. Ford’s Super Duty product development team demonstrates again that they really know what heavy duty pickup drivers want. The Super Duty beat out a very competitive group of heavy-duty pickups such as the GMC Sierra HD, Chevrolet Silverado HD and the Ram HD. The Ford Super Duty has won AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award for its class in three of the last five years. It also has won AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award in three of the last five years. George Peterson, President of AutoPacific, says, “I just drove the 2015 model year of the Ford Super Duty and it is an impressive piece. This does not take away from the win of the 2014 Ford F-Series Super Duty in AutoPacific’s research. Super Duty owners rated it most Ideal Heavy Duty Pickup. But the 2015 model is even better with a substantially upgraded Power Stroke Diesel powertrain.”
Of the fifteen categories in the Ideal Vehicle question battery, the 2014 Ford F-Series SD led or tied in nine categories and was within three percentage points of another two.
The top five highest ratings by Super Duty owners are: same exterior size, same cargo space, same exterior styling, same visibility, and the same seat fit as now.
No vehicle is perfect. Super Duty owners are split on the information and entertainment system, fourteen percent wanting more advanced and 19 percent wanting simpler technology. SD owners also would like more power and acceleration, more interior storage, and more distinctive wheels than now.
For 2015, the Super Duty gets a stronger diesel engine with more power and torque. This will probably satisfy those who want more power and acceleration. An empty F-250 with this new engine feels like a very, very large sports car.
The 2014 Ford Expedition/EL is the highest scoring Luxury/Large SUV in AutoPacific’s 2014 Ideal Vehicle Award research. The big truck team at Ford knew exactly what their customers wanted and gave it to them. The Expedition EL led its category against some impressive competitors such as the GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Tahoe, Toyota Sequoia, Chevrolet Suburban, Nissan Armada, and the Toyota Land Cruiser. Ford’s big SUVs swept the Luxury/Large SUV category with Expedition EL, Expedition and Navigator one, two, three.
Expedition/EL owners truly did not want their vehicle changed. Of the fifteen categories in the Ideal Vehicle question battery, the 2014 Ford Expedition/EL led or tied in six satisfaction categories and was within three percentage points of another three.
The top five highest ratings by Expedition/EL owners are: same exterior size, same wheels, same safety features, same interior lighting, and same visibility as now.
Although the Expedition/EL is at the top there are several things owners would change. Owners would like a more relaxed drivers seat, more advanced technology, and would like it to be easier to get in and out of the vehicle. With the upcoming 2015 model year, these vehicles finally get up-to-date with MyFordTouch and an EcoBoost V6 powertrain.
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.