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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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Manual Transmission RIP – Let ’em Die

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We keep watching the hand wringing of automotive enthusiasts (of which we are a member) about the manual transmission fading from the American vehicle fleet.  In fact, in 2010 our friends at Car and Driver created a Facebook page entitled “Save the Manuals” moaning about the “paucity” of manual transmissions offered in new vehicles.  The latest issue of Car and Driver continues to advertise the site.  At a recent new model introduction, a wizened old auto journalist railed on about how the car maker was killing the manual transmission.  They were not offering one on the higher priced models of the car.  Well, as experienced as he may be, he is out of touch.

Over the years, we have been proponents of automatics especially since they have become so efficient.  Based on AutoPacific research we have the data.  Here are the tidbits from the latest year’s survey (the data have changed only slightly year over year):Manual Transmission Shifter

81% of New Vehicle Acquirers Can Drive a Vehicle With a Manual Transmission  Frankly, we thought this number would be much smaller.  For the sake of their ego maybe these respondents claim they can drive a manual when they actually cannot or do so very poorly.  About 89% of men and 68% of women claim they can drive a vehicle with a manual transmission.  By age group, 52% of respondents in their 20s and 71% of those in their 30s say they can drive a vehicle with a manual transmission.  Over 40 years of age, over 85% say they can drive a manual.  We are surprised that so many in their 20s and 30s claim they can drive a manual.

94% Want an Automatic in Their Next Vehicle  81% of the respondents say they want an automatic transmission in their next vehicle.  About 14% say they want an automatic with paddle shifters.  Only 5% want a manual transmission.Automatic Transmission Shifter

Highest Preference for Manual Transmissions are in Sports and Compact Cars  About 20% of sporty car (Camaro/Mustang) owners want a manual in their next vehicle.  About 13% of sports car owners (Porsche 911, Corvette) want a manual transmission.  About 11% of compact car owners want a manual transmission.  The sports and sporty car owners want a manual because they perceive the manual gives them a more sporty driving experience and better control over the car.  Compact car owners perceive that a manual will give them better fuel economy and also a lower price.  We might have thought pickup truck owners would want a manual transmission but this is not the case.  Only 5% of pickup owners want a manual transmission in their next vehicle.

Manuals to Fade Away  In many press events AutoPacific attends, members of the automotive press continue to argue for more manual transmissions to be added to newly introduced vehicles.  This is contrary to what the people who actually buy cars want.  While there will be some bitching and moaning from the media, automakers should save their resources and concentrate on making outstanding automatics and dropping manuals in the future.Paddle Shifter

Sidenote on Paddle Shifters  Manufacturers have been adding paddle shifters to automatics to give a sportier ambiance.  In AutoPacific research over the years, we have found that drivers might use this feature for the first couple of weeks they have their vehicle.  Then they never use paddle shifters again.  While implementing paddle shifters is now an inexpensive proposition, it still might not be worth the trip.


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Auto Brands and Political Persuasion

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Logo SlideWith the mid-term elections coming in November, AutoPacific thought it would be interesting to see which auto brands leaned to the left or right.  An internet survey was conducted in July, 2014 to identify the political persuasion of drivers who would consider brands sold in the United States.  Each respondent identified whether they were aligned with the following political categories:  Communist, Socialist, Democrat, Green, Independent, Libertarian, Republican, Constitution, and Tea Party.  These were sorted into Liberal, Independent and Conservative.  The Liberal grouping includes Communist, Socialist, Democrat and Green.  Independent is Independent.  The Conservative grouping includes Libertarian, Republican, Constitution and Tea Party.

VV Slide Political PersuasionPre-Conceived Notions About Brands and Politics  Years ago, AutoPacific asked the political persuasion question in a survey.  The responses from many were rude, to say the least.  Now with the Internet it seems folks are more willing to share their leanings.

You might expect that there were some notions about the brands in our heads when we started this exercise.  Are Volvo and Subaru the ultimate Liberal brands?  Are Lincoln and Cadillac the most Conservative?  Which brands appeal to people who consider themselves Independent?  Are Tesla considerers Green?  Go below the fold to find out.


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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 Mercedes-Benz S-Class Wins AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award

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The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class is the highest scoring Premium Luxury Car in AutoPacific’s 2014 Ideal Vehicle Award research. The S-Class designers really hit the nail on head. Clearly, they understood who the target buyer is and developed a vehicle that met their requirements. The S-Class beats out a very impressive group of premium luxury cars such as the BMW 7-Series, Porsche Panamera, Lexus LS, and the Hyundai Equus.  Not only does the S-Class win its IVA class, it also was the highest scoring car EVER in AutoPacific’s Vehicle Satisfaction Award Research for 2014.  This gets it AutoPacific’s President’s Award that has only been awarded one time previously.  George Peterson, President of AutoPacific says “The S-Class is hitting on all cylinders.  Not only did it score the highest satisfaction rating AutoPacific has EVER recorded, the product itself has hit its target market in terms of what they want in styling, packaging and engineering.”

S-Class owners truly do not want their vehicle changed. Of the fifteen categories in the Ideal Vehicle question battery, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class led in six satisfaction categories and was within three percentage points of another three.

The top five highest ratings by S-Class owners are: Same interior lighting, same ride and handling, same safety features, same seat fit, and same ease of getting in and out.

No vehicle is perfect. S-Class owners would like to see more cargo space and a simpler information and entertainment system.

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2014 Ford Fusion Hybrid Wins AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award

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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.

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2014 Volkswagen Golf Wins AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award

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VW Golf 4-door R34

The sixth generation of the venerable Volkswagen Golf goes out with a bang.  With the seventh gen Golf coming for the 2015 model year, the 2014 Volkswagen Golf is the highest scoring Compact Car in AutoPacific’s 2014 Ideal Vehicle Award research. The Golf designers listened to what buyers wanted and gave them just that. The VW Golf beat out a very impressive group of compact cars such as the Volkswagen Jetta, Subaru Impreza, Fiat 500L, Kia Soul, and the Hyundai Elantra.

For over 85% of 2014 Golf owners the following characteristics are ideal:  exterior size, interior lighting, passenger roominess, ride and handling, tires and wheels, exterior styling, and driver’s seat comfort.

There are several things Beetles owners would like changed.  Over 21% of 2014 Volkswagen Golf owners want more advanced infotainment and entertainment systems.  This is offset by 15% who want the systems to be simpler and easier to use.  About 18% of the owners want more cargo room.  25% of Golf owners want the car to be easier to get into and out of.

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2014 BMW 3-Series GT Wins AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award

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BMW_3series_wallpaper_18_612x383The 2014 BMW 3-Series GT is the highest scoring Aspirational Luxury Car in AutoPacific’s 2014 Ideal Vehicle Award research. The planners at BMW have decided that a sub-niche strategy is good and have developed the “Gran Turismo” version of their venerable 3-Series.  The designers and engineers have developed a product that provides owners with 3-Series goodness combined with wagon utility.  The 3-Series GT is at the top against some very impressive aspirational luxury cars such as the Audi A5, Audi A4, Volvo XC70, BMW 1-Series, and the Hyundai Genesis.  The 2014 3-Series GT also won AutoPacific’s 2014 Vehicle Satisfaction Award.  Winning both awards in one confirms that the 3-Series Gran Turismo is a very special car.  George Peterson, President of AutoPacific, concludes: “BMW is sub-niching the market with different bodystyles to appeal to a narrower and narrower group of buyers.  With the 3-Series Gran Turismo they have provided a very satisfying product that hits the target buyers’ requirements precisely.”

Of the fifteen categories in the Ideal Vehicle survey, the 2014 BMW 3-Series GT leads or ties in four satisfaction categories and was within three percentage points of another three.

The top five highest ratings by 3-Series GT owners are: same exterior size, same passenger room, same tires, same wheels, and the same cargo space.  These results confirm that the Gran Turismo buyers, specifically, appreciate the spaciousness and utility the GT bodystyle gives them.

Although the 3-Series GT is at the top there are several things owners would change. Owners would like different interior lighting, have better visibility, a more snug driver seat, more or better interior storage compartments and a different information and technology center.

There is a story to be told with the information and entertainment system. BMW was one of the first to implement the Human Machine Interface (HMI) – or iDrive system. They have continually struggled with their HMI system. While iDrive has improved substantially over the years, for this year seventeen percent of 3-Series GT owners want a more advanced system while twenty-two percent want a simpler one. BMW still has a way to go with their HMI system.

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2014 Ford Mustang Wins AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award

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mst_14_pg_011_ext_fullIn 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.

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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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