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AutoPacific’s 2013 Ideal Vehicle Award Results Are In – Cars

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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…


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2013 Taurus SEL – Veiling Glare Disaster

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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.


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Analysis: 2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon

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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?


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2013 Toyota Avalon Shifts to Youngsters

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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.


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Mid-Size Powertrain Wars – Ford Fusion

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“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.


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2013 Accord – Honda Gets its MOJO Back

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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!


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2013 Ford C-Max Trounces Prius V

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2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid

During a brief drive from Hollywood to Malibu and back through the Hollywood Hills to Sunset Boulevard, the 2013 Ford C-Max showed what a small hybrid-powered people mover could be.  Ford, of course, touted the clear advantages of the C-Max over its designated competitor the Prius V.  C-Max has 50 more horsepower.  C-Max has 7-miles per gallon better fuel economy through its third generation hybrid powertrain.  And, C-Max is priced $1,300 lower than the Prius V.  While earlier Ford hybrids had used a similar hybrid system as Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive, Ford was clear to state that the C-Max lithium-ion batteries are an in-house development as is the all new CVT (continuously variable transmission).


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Ford F-150 – AutoPacific’s Most Ideal 2012 Large Light Duty Pickup

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AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award (IVA) recognizes the vehicle that best hits the target its buyers demand.  Winning an IVA shows the product planners, engineers and designers of the manufacturer understand what their target customers want and have created the vehicle to best meet their demands.

F-150 Dominates Chevrolet Silverado 1500 for IVA Win: The 2012 Ford F-150 comes closest to the ideal of any Large Light Duty Pickup.  The F-150 edges out the second place Chevrolet Silverado 1500 by 41 rating points to win in this class.   Having eighty-percent or more of owners rating a characteristic ideal is outstanding.  Achieving a score of ninety-percent is even more impressive.  Ninety-percent or more of F-150 owners rate its exterior size, passenger roominess, exterior styling, driver’s seat comfort and ride and handling ideal.  Eighty-percent or more of F-150 owners find these additional characteristics ideal:  driver’s seat visibility, cargo space, wheels and tires, ease of getting in and out, safety features.

A Few Shortfalls – But None Critical. About 19% of F-150 owners want better infotainment technology.  About 25% of F-150 owners want more interior storage compartments.

You can find an Autobytel review of this IVA award winner at  http://www.autobytel.com/auto-news/awards/ideal-suvs-pickups-rated-by-owners-in-2012-iva-awards-112117/

For a complete summary of all AutoPacific 2012 Ideal Vehicle Award results contact karin.turner@vehiclevoice.com and title your email “IVA Results”.  A copy of the results will be emailed to you within 48-hours.


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GMC Sierra HD – AutoPacific’s Most Ideal Heavy Duty Pickup

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AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award (IVA) recognizes the vehicle that best hits the target its buyers demand.  Winning an IVA shows the product planners, engineers and designers of the manufacturer understand what their target customers want and have created the vehicle to best meet their demands.

Sierra HDs Edges Ford Super Duties for IVA Win: The 2012 GMC Sierra HD comes closest to the ideal of any Heavy Duty Pickup.  The Sierra HD edges out the second place Ford F-Series Super Duties by 21 rating points to win in its class.   Having eighty-percent or more of owners rating a characteristic ideal is outstanding.  Achieving a score of ninety-percent is even more impressive.  Ninety-percent or more of Sierra HD owners rate its exterior size and driver’s seat comfort as ideal.  Eighty-percent or more of Sierra HD owners find these additional characteristics ideal:  interior lighting, driver’s seat visibility, passenger roominess, exterior styling, wheels, ride and handling, ease of getting in and out and safety features.

A Few Shortfalls – But None Critical. About 34% of Sierra HD owners want more interior storage compartments. About 24% of Sierra HD owners want more power and acceleration than now.

You can find an Autobytel review of this IVA award winner at  http://www.autobytel.com/auto-news/awards/ideal-suvs-pickups-rated-by-owners-in-2012-iva-awards-112117/

For a complete summary of all AutoPacific 2012 Ideal Vehicle Award results contact karin.turner@vehiclevoice.com and title your email “IVA Results”.  A copy of the results will be emailed to you within 48-hours.


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Ford Flex Most Ideal 2012 Large Crossover SUV

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AutoPacific’s Ideal Vehicle Award (IVA) recognizes the vehicle that best hits the target its buyers demand.  Winning an IVA shows the product planners, engineers and designers of the manufacturer understood what their target customers want and have made the vehicle to meet their demands.

The 2012 Ford Flex comes closest to the ideal of any Large Crossover SUV scoring a close win over the Chevrolet Traverse.  Eighty-percent or more of Flex owners find these characteristics ideal:  exterior size, exterior styling, passenger roominess, seat comfort, ride and handling, tires and wheels, ease of getting in and out and safety features.

EcoBoost Gives Flex a Substantial Performance Advantage, but Only 15% of Flex Owners Bought It: About 25% of Flex V6 owners want more power and acceleration, but only 6% who opted for the 355HP EcoBoost 3.5L V6 want more.  Clearly, EcoBoost provides surprising power without a fuel economy disadvantage.  About 11% of all Flex owners would give up power and acceleration for better fuel economy. So, when it comes to Flex, performance and fuel economy, twice as many owners would take more power and acceleration than would trade off power for fuel economy.

More/Better Technology Wanted: The 2012 Flex is available with SYNC and SYNC with navigation, but not Ford’s new MyFord Touch system.  About a quarter of Flex owners want more/better technology than their vehicle has now.

You can find an Autobytel review of this IVA award winner at  http://www.autobytel.com/auto-news/awards/ideal-suvs-pickups-rated-by-owners-in-2012-iva-awards-112117/

For a complete summary of all AutoPacific 2012 Ideal Vehicle Award results contact karin.turner@vehiclevoice.com and title your email “IVA Results”.  A copy of the results will be emailed to you within 48-hours.


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