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.
It has long been said that Honda is first and foremost an engine company and everything it does is really just to sell more engines. It sells everything from motor bikes and generators to jet planes with cars in between. Honda engines can be as small as 25 cubic centimeters used in lawn and garden equipment. The engines we are interested in are Honda engines powering their cars, minivans and crossover SUVs. The new evolution of Honda’s car and truck powertrains is “Earth Dreams Technology”. Earth Dreams includes a range of engines and engine technology, CVT transmissions and hybrid powertrains and EV technology. It is a comprehensive approach to updating Honda’s automotive powertrains in response to looming United States and global emissions regulations.
Engines for Every Application Focusing on Environmental Friendliness and Fun The engine line-up goes from 660cc (in foreign markets – N-One and N-Box) to 1.5L, 1.8L, 2.0L, 2.4L and 3.5L. In the USA, we find these engines in Honda’s lineup from Honda’s Fit (1.5L 4-cylinder) to Accord and from Acura’s ILX to RLX. Earth Dreams technology improves efficiency with better fuel economy, and lower emissions while still providing fun-to-drive performance.
Three Sport Hybrid Drive Systems There are three unique extra cost hybrid systems: one-motor, two-motor and three motor systems. Honda refers to them as “Sport Hybrid” systems. The one-motor system uses Intelligent Dual-Clutch Drive (i-DCD) that combines a 1.5L DOHC i-VTEC Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder engine with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. The two motor system is found in the 2014 Accord Hybrid using a 2.0L DOHC i-VTEC Atkinson cycle 4-cylinder engine with a CVT. Honda calls this two motor hybrid Intelligent Multi-Mode Drive (i-MMD). Coming later in the Acura RLX is the Super Handling All Wheel Drive three motor hybrid system. Honda claims this “unique system achieves both fuel economy and superior driving performance at a whole new level by combining a new V6 3.5L direct-injection engine and a newly-developed 7-speed DCT system with a built-in motor, while enabling free control torque distribution to the right and left rear wheels through the use of two motors installed in the rear.” From a company only having mild hybrids before, this onslaught of Earth Dreams hybrids in such a short period of time is impressive.
Continuously Variable Transmissions Coming with the new engines and hybrid systems are new CVT transmissions. Honda engineers state that the toughest challenge when developing the 2013 Accord was getting the CVT right. It is used on all 4-cylinder Accords. The key is to make the CVT feel more like a conventional automatic transmission with noticeable (but smooth) shift points rather than the rubber band feeling that many CVTs provide. Honda says their new CVTs are 5% more efficient than other CVTs on the market today and 10% more efficient than a 5-speed automatic (who is using those anymore?).
Earth Dreams Electric Vehicle There is even an EV in the Earth Dreams portfolio found in the Fit EV.
PHEV Accord We can’t forget the 2014 Accord PHEV introduced earlier in 2013. This top of the line Accord plug-in hybrid has stretched the technology in the Honda brand lineup by adding an EV system that provides an all-electric range of 13-miles and an MPGe fuel economy rating of 115MPGe. EPA fuel economy ratings are 47/46/46 (city/highway/combined). The recently launched Accord Hybrid (not PHEV) gets 50mpg in the city.
Powertrain System Naming Becoming the Rage Earth Dreams may sound a bit hokey to customers, but Honda is not alone in naming their powertrain technologies. Ford has EcoBoost. Toyota has Hybrid Synergy Drive (for its hybrids). Mazda has Skyactiv. Nissan has Pure Drive. Chrysler has Hemi.
What better time to visit London than early September when the weather can be anything. The Owners’ Day of the Concours of Elegance (yes, Concours OF Elegance – it is England, after all) was held on a blisteringly hot day. Blazing sunshine. Temperatures near 90-degrees. The owners and their ladies or gents were hard put to keep a dry upper lip. This was a three day event and the weather was different on each day. Following the hot, hot, hot Thursday, it rained on Friday. Not downpours exactly, but enough to keep the car polishers busy keeping the 60 or so vehicles as pristine as possible. Saturday was the public day and the weather dried and was overcast. The cooler weather made the public day better without the blazing heat of the Owners’ Day.
Luckily or unluckily, AutoPacific attended the Owners’ Day reserved for Owners, guests, Owners’ Day Ticket Holders and Media. Luckily, because we could attend. Unluckily, because it was so, soooooo HOT.
Having just been to the Pebble Beach Coucours de Elegance in August, the contrast was striking. Pebble is so over the top that it overwhelms the senses. The St. James Coucours of Elegance is much less flamboyant, much less overwhelming, but still provides an opportunity to view outstanding vehicles and have a chat with their owners.
It was a day of Royalty. The owners were first feted at Buckingham Palace and then drove their cars down The Mall to Marlborough House located in St. James where the cars were displayed in the back garden. The royal patron was HRH Prince Michael of Kent. The vehicles on display varied widely from old Rolls-Royces to a modern Bentley GTZ Zagato custom coupe. Here are a few examples:
Hard to get an angle on this American 1934 Duesenberg Model J Willoughby Sedan Limousine
1930 Stutz SV16 Weyman Monte Carlo – a famed American marque
1939 Bugatti Type 57C Voll & Ruhrbeck Roadster
1925 Hispano-Suiza Boulogne
1928 Bugatti Type 35B – unrestored beauty
Bentley GTZ Zagato Custom Coupe – a late entry
Bentley GTZ Zagato – note the Roofline and Rear Styling
1937 Horch 853 Voll & Ruhrbech Sport Cabriolet, 1936 Mercedes 500K Streamline Roadster in background
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.
2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA: Mercedes-Benz has been in a slow launch mode for the new front wheel drive 2014 CLA sedan since the beginning of 2013. The car has just gone on sale and advertising is blanketing the airwaves. So, what’s the story?
Target – Millennials – Does it Have Enough Rear Seat Room? The CLA is Mercedes’ price leader in the USA. Mercedes proudly touts its $29,990 base price and admits its attempt to intercept drivers under 35 before they buy their first premium brand car from BMW or Audi. Most CLAs will be priced in the $35,000 range when you get the $2,300 premium package (garage door opener, premium sound w/iPod interface, heated front seats, dual zone climate control) and the $2,370 multimedia package (rear view camera and navigation system). For that mid-thirties price you get a fully featured front wheel drive 4-cylinder four door sedan and the Mercedes three-pointed star.
Hollywood Design Cadillac’s Hollywood-designed deep blue Elmiraj coupe was dramatically unveiled at Clint Eastwood’s Tahama Golf Resort during the 2013 Pebble Beach automotive week. Cadillac and General Motors management is coy when asked if they will build the Cadillac Elmiraj concept coupe. To a person, journalists who were at the unveiling want to believe Cadillac can find the means to build this car. If Cadillac were given the green light to build Elmiraj, Cadillac management says they could have it in production in about two years.
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…
About 20 American journalists and analysts had a chance to drive the Volkswagen XL1 at the Autostadt near Volkswagen headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany. Only 20 of the planned 250 vehicles have been completed to date and five were on hand for our drives. A Volkswagen engineer guided each drive through Wolfsburg and even included a short autobahn blast hitting the car’s top speed limited to 160kmh (about 99mph).
261 MPG! The XL1 is very special. First, it looks totally cool and highly aerodynamic. Volkswagen has been developing a car to achieve the European objective of 1 liter of fuel consumed per 100 kilometers driven for over a decade now. This equates to 238mpg using United States gallons. The XL1 actually beats this. It gets 0.9L/100km fuel efficiency (about 261mpg!). With its 10L (2.6-gallons) fuel tank this translates to a cruising range of over 600-miles on a tank of diesel.
How does it do this? A combination of small size, great aerodynamics (Cd=0.189), plug-in-hybrid 2-cylinder turbo-diesel powertrain and a carbon fiber body that weighs only 197lbs. To save weight, VW forgoes an on-board charger – at least for the first 50 in their production run. Adding an on-board charger (which would allow the car to be charged at a public charge station rather than a dedicated charger likely in someone’s garage) would add 8kg (about 18lbs) to the weight of the car. VW is considering adding a charger to the last 200 of the vehicles.
Staggered Seating The seating package uses a trick out of the smart fortwo design. The seat in the two passenger car are staggered with the passenger seated slightly to the rear of the driver so shoulders won’t touch. The XL1 certainly is not spacious, but for a hyper-miler it may be just the ticket. Seeing the XL1 out in traffic reinforces just how small the car has to get to achieve such great fuel consumption. It is tiny. It is about an inch lower than a Lamborghini – and those come up about to your waist. In traffic, it is dwarfed by other cars – even the small VW Polo and Lupo models driving around Wolfsburg. To its credit, and for better aerodynamics, the rear of the body is lengthened and yields a trunk of 4.2 cubic feet – about twice the size of the first generation Mazda Miata.
Advanced Powertrain The XL1 is a rear engine, rear wheel drive car. The diesel is hard-mounted just behind the passenger compartment. Given that location it is very obvious when the diesel kicks in. At least in the early models, NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) is sacrificed to achieve a total weight of 1723 pounds. The diesel is relatively noisy and with only two cylinders it vibrates quite a bit. The 5.5kw battery pack is mounted in front of the driver and on electric-only power the car will go 31 miles. XL1 uses a DSG (automatic) transmission from VW’s new MQB platform. If you really step on it, the XL1 will achieve a 0-60mph time of 12.7 seconds. With no power steering, the rear engined car is a bit heavy feeling but not objectionable.
Rear View Cameras – a Bit Uncomfortable Probably the most uncomfortable part of driving XL1 is rear visibility. VW has received an exemption from the EU to use rear view cameras instead of outside rear view mirrors. The viewing screens are mounted in the door trim panels just forward of the armrests. You have to look down left or right to see the traffic behind you. Takes a bit to get used to the design. You never really know where the traffic is in your blind spot.