Volkswagen Passat:

Mid-Size Sedan Onslaught – New Camry, Accord, Sonata

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Up until 2016, the mid-size sedan was the top selling product segment in the USA light vehicle market.  That has changed substantially as buyers are flocking to crossover SUVs that offer more utility at little expense over sedans.  That does not mean carmakers are abandoning mid-size sedans.  On the contrary, they have to keep their top selling mid-size sedan entries fresh and competitive.

Source: AutoPacific, Inc.

Three high volume 2018 model year mid-size sedans are launching in Fall 2017.  All three are from Asian brands.  The Korean brand Hyundai Sonata is assembled in Montgomery, Alabama.  The Japanese brand Toyota Camry is assembled in Georgetown, Kentucky.  The Japanese brand Honda Accord is assembled in Marysville, Ohio.  Some would say that these sedans are the most American cars on the road.

All three are excellent cars and all three are trying to vacate typical anodyne mid-size car styling.  The Accord and Camry are all new cars.  The Sonata is a major redesign to its front and rear styling.  All three are much more expressive than before.

2018 Toyota Camry

Toyota Camry  Toyota’s longtime sales champ, the Camry mid-size sedan, is all-new for the 2018 model year. As this iconic model line has consistently topped sales charts but is often derided for being dull and boring, the 2018 Camry wears much more expressive and in XSE trim, at least, genuinely sporty styling. Toyota undoubtedly hopes that the revitalized looks of the latest Camry will help it shed its stodgy image.

Toyota launches its new Toyota New Global Architecture platform with the 2018 Camry mid-size sedan.  The TNGA platform will be used for the other Toyota cars built at Georgetown: Lexus ES aspirational luxury car and the Toyota Avalon large car.  When Avalon moves to the platform in 2018 they are expected to move the RAV4 crossover into the plant.  The next generation Toyota Highlander crossover SUV and Toyota Sienna minivan will likely move to the TNGA platform and continue to be built in Princeton, Indiana.

Part of the new Camry’s more appealing looks come from its lower proportions. In recent years, sedans have typically gotten taller with higher seating positions to emulate what makes SUVs so popular: great visibility, easy ingress and egress, and a chair-like driving position. However, as market preference towards SUVs has now been well established and sedan share is rapidly dropping, Toyota saw an opportunity to make the Camry a real car again. After all, those who want to sit up high will buy one of Toyota’s many able SUVs anyway. If Camry sales are (by Toyota’s own admission) expected to drop at the hand of the almighty SUV, why not make Camry more differentiated from its high-riding SUV lineup?

So, the new Camry’s seating and roof heights are about an inch lower than before, giving it a sleeker and more aggressive profile than any Camry before it. The seating position is also more sporty too. The interior is a massive step up in appeal too, with expensive looking materials, textures, shapes, and colors that dramatically up the Camry’s desirability. Toyota hasn’t ignored technology either. While lacking Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Toyota’s latest Entune 3.0 infotainment system with its standard App Suite and standard navigation is easy to use. Notably, Toyota’s TSS-P suite of safety technologies, which includes forward collision alert with automatic braking, adaptive cruise control, and lane keeping assist is standard on every Camry.

Camry’s base engine is a 206-horsepower 2.5L 4-cylinder.  Its V6 option is a 301-horsepower 3.5L V6 mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission.

Though this generation will no longer hold Toyota’s sales crown (which is being taken over by RAV4), it certainly looks to be the most appealing and engaging Camry yet.

2018 Honda Accord Touring

2018 Honda Accord Touring

Honda Accord  The all-new 2018 Honda Accord mid-size sedan takes a page out of the latest Camry’s playbook, but that’s no bad thing. Like the 2018 Camry, the 2018 Accord rides on an all-new platform and features lower seating height and a lower roofline, abandoning prior generations’ goals of trying to imbue the mid-size sedan with SUV-like interior packaging. Like Camry, Accord’s sales crown at Honda is being transferred to an SUV model, namely the CR-V. This latest Accord is set to lose sales compared to prior generations not because of any inherent flaws, but because market preference has been rapidly shifting to SUVs.

For those who prefer sedans over SUVs, the Accord is a real winner. Its lower seating and roofline don’t result in less interior space; both cabin and trunk space have increased over the last generation’s already generous cabin and cargo hold dimensions, partially due to a longer wheelbase that also improves the car’s exterior proportions. Speaking of proportions, it’s hard not to think Audi A7 when looking at the new Accord in profile; its fastback roofline and pert tail – combined with the longer wheelbase – help give the sedan a luxurious presence.

Also contributing to that luxurious presence is the styling, which possesses a delicateness not seen in recent Honda products. The detailing is crisp and not overdone as is the case in many Hondas. The visual appeal of the new Accord is in its proportions and detailing; the heavy handedness of other recent Honda designs is absent here.  Unlike Toyota, Honda uses more bright-work to highlight the grille.  There is a bright arch sweeping from the A-Pillar down into the rear quarter (similar to the Kia Optima).  The bodyside lower is accented by a bright swoosh line flowing rear from just behind the front wheel opening, through the lower doors and peaking at the rear fascia.  There is a dainty bright highlight on the lower rear fascia above the the bright exhaust tips.

The new Accord does differ from Camry in a key way: its powertrain strategy. Unlike Camry, which sticks with traditional naturally aspirated four- and six-cylinder engines, the Accord moves to an all four-cylinder lineup with a 192-horsepower 1.5L direct injected turbo as the volume engine and a 252-horsepower 2.0L direct injected turbo replacing last generation’s V6. A new non-turbo 2.0L hybrid four is also available. Not that it matters to anyone but the buff books, but a six-speed manual is available on both turbo engines. In practice, nearly all 2018 Accords will have automatic transmissions; the 1.5 is paired to a CVT while the 2.0 is paired to a brand-new ten-speed unit. The hybrid will be paired to a two-motor e-CVT transmission.

Like Camry, a full complement of safety technologies are standard, with Honda Sensing (automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, and traffic sign recognition) installed on every 2018 Accord. Infotainment is upgraded too, and a head-up display is available for the first time.

2018 Hyundai Sonata – LaJolla, CA

2018 Hyundai Sonata

Hyundai Sonata  The Hyundai Sonata mid-size car gets a major freshening for the 2018 model year.  The present Sonata has been criticized for getting too conservative when changing from the very avant garde 2010 model.  Senior management probably were surprised at the success of the 2010, but could not muster the will to keep the pedal to the metal.  The 2018 Sonata goes a long way in correcting that strategic error.

The front and rear styling is all new.  Like Toyota and Honda, Hyundai is adopting a much more expressive grille and front face.  They describe the grill surround as being a “cascade”.  There are two different grill textures – horizontal and diamond shaped mesh.  The front fascia is highlighted by a horizontal bright strip flowing from side to side.  Hyundai describes this as a “catamaran blade”.  Hyundai continues with the bright spear flowing from the front fenders back to surround the windows.  In profile, the Sonata is similar to the Camry and Accord.  Even though this is a freshening, the car looks as up to date as the all new Camry and Accord.

The interior has been freshened with material upgrades throughout.  The center stack has been redesigned and ergonomics are excellent.  Hyundai has found a way to make its blind spot warning system affordable and has made it standard on all 2018 Sonatas.

There are changes under the skin as well.  Chassis tuning has been improved making this the best handling Sonata ever.  Steering feel has been improved and the ride feels more taut than before, but not in a bad way.  The rear suspension has also been upgraded.

Sonata’s base engine is a 185-horsepower 2.4L 4-cylinder.   The Eco model gets a 178-horsepower 1.6L Turbo 4-cylinder.  The top engine is a 245-horsepower 2.0L Turbo 4-cylinder.  The 2.0L Turbo vehicles get an 8-speed automatic transmission.

Competitive Battleground  There are ten major competitors in the mid-size sedan market in the USA.  Three are all new or freshened for 2018.  Two will get major changes in 2019.  Three will be all new or get a major change in 2020.  Even though the segment is beset by woes stemming from crossover SUV popularity, the mid-size sedan segment will remain fresh and competitive.  The new Accord looks like a real winner and promises to continue sparring with Camry for sales dominance in the mid-size sedan segment, even as the segment itself is in decline. The Sonata will hold its own.  For those who really like cars (and not SUVs),  the new Accord, Camry and Sonata provide a lot to get excited over.


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VW Passat – AutoPacific’s 2012 Ideal Vehicle Award Winner

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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.

Passat Edges Out Kia Optima for IVA Win: The all-new 2012 Volkswagen Passat comes closest to the ideal of any Premium Mid-Size Car.  The Passat edges out the Kia Optima by six points to win 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 Passat owners rate these characteristics ideal:  exterior size, passenger roominess and cargo space.  Each of these is a size- or space-related attribute showing that Volkswagen aimed the Passat directly at the sweet spot Americans love – lots of space.  Eighty-percent or more of Passat owners find these additional characteristics ideal:  interior lighting, wheels, driver’s seat comfort, ride and handling, power and acceleration and safety features.

The Volkswagen Passat also was Best In Class in AutoPacific’s 2012 Vehicle Satisfaction Award research.

A Few Shortfalls – Some Could Have Been Corrected by Selecting Available Options: About 32% want more or better infotainment and entertainment technology.  About 30% want the Passat to be easier to get into and out of.  About 30% want more interior storage compartments than now.  About 26% want more daring exterior styling than the Passat presently has.  About 26% want more power and acceleration.  While the visibility from the Passat is pretty good, 21% of its owners want better driver’s seat visibility.

You can find an Autobytel review of this IVA award winner at  http://www.autobytel.com/auto-news/awards/consumer-s-ideal-cars-revealed-in-2012-iva-awards-112116/

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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Let's Talk Cars: Test Drives – Chevy HHR, Nissan Pathfinder, and 6-speed Volkswagen Passat

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Welcome to Let’s Talk Cars

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This week on Let’s Talk Cars, more from our slew of new car reviews, walk arounds and test drives – Chevrolet HHR, Nissan Pathfinder, and a base-model Volkswagen Passat with a peppy 6-speed manual transmission.

First, VehicleVoice correspondent David Barrett climbs inside Chevy’s take on the PT Cruiser. The HHR has a lot of great things going for it, including its fun, retro looks, but a lack of horsepower and some styling issues come up in our review.

Next, host Cameron Barrett brings you this week’s Rev It Up – with 90-seconds on the Nissan Pathfinder. This medium-sized SUV isn’t afraid to get its wheels dirty or its tow ring used.

And finally, we drive a base model Volkswagen Passat, one of the best values out there for your money. But the excellent 6-speed transmission causes some heartache because of its lack of availability in higher end models. The Passat won AutoPacific’s coveted 2006 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Premium Mid-Size Cars.

Show Rundown
00:47 Chevrolet HHR: David Barrett, VehicleVoice contributor
10:05 Rev it Up: Nissan Pathfinder: Cameron Barrett, Let’s Talk Cars’ Host
11:22 Volkswagen Passat: David Barrett, VehicleVoice contributor


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Volkswagen Passat Range Expands With New Wagon

Passat Wagon Introduced at 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show
The all new Passat sedan went on sale in in the USA in Fall 2005, with the launch of the wagon in January 2006, about the time that the range also added 4Motion models just in time for Winter in the Snow Belt. The Passat wagon has been available in Europe since late 2005 with the USA launch at the 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show clearly overshadowed by the reveal of the Volkswagen GX3 concept 3-wheel motorcycle.
The wagon benefits from all of the updates the sedan received for 2006 model year, including all-new sheetmetal bearing the latest design direction of the brand and a switch from longitudinal to transverse engine placement. The Passat continues with a choice of in-line four or V6 powerplants. The previous-generation offered a W8 engine that did not sell well has been dropped with the transverse powertrain Golf-based Passat.
The Passat sedan and wagon are offered in similar trim and engine packages, including the 2.0T Value Edition, the 2.0T, the 3.6L and the 3.6L 4Motion. There are two engines available with the latest North American Passat, an in-line four-cylinder and a V6, with no diesel yet offered. A direct-injection 200HP 2.0L turbocharged DOHC 16v I4 replaced the prior generation’s 1.8L four-cylinder. The V6 engine is also a direct-injection unit that replaced the 2.8L of the prior generation. While several VAG products offer this latest VR6 in 3.2L displacement, the Passat (and Touareg) gets a 280HP 3.6L version. Volkswagen only offers its 4Motion system when the V6 is selected, whether sedan or wagon. The sedan and the wagon offer the same powertrain lineup, the same basic trim level setup, and the same optional equipment. Models taking the 200HP I4 are badged 2.0T, with the V6-equipped models badged 3.6L or 3.6L 4Motion. Only a six-speed automatic with Tiptronic is offered; no manual transmission is planned for this family-oriented entry.


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