2016 NAIAS: 2016 Volkswagen Passat

January 16th, 2016 No comments

 

Though no diesel models were on the show floor this year, it was hard to ignore VW’s diesel scandal. The VW executives spent a good portion of their 20 minute press conference talking about what they are doing to correct the distrust created by the diesel calibration that cheated emissions regulations. Still, Volkswagen has significant product that utilizes conventional gasoline and the Passat is the most significant vehicle in its US lineup. The Passat remains a unique model built at the Chattanooga, TN assembly plant. Conservative, but handsome, styling has been updated for 2016 and tragically not only loses its diesel engine options but no manual transmission is any longer present on the option sheet. The Passat starts at $22,440 and offers the 1.8L turbo 4-cylinder that provides 170 horsepower and an impressive 38 mpg highway. Buyers can upgrade to the 3.6L V6 model and be propelled forward by 280 horses achieving a much more modest 28 mpg highway. The V6 can only be acquired when the top line SEL Premium trim is selected at a much less value-focused $36,835. Will the Passat still attract buyers while losing its most distinguishing powertrain options? Only time will tell.

2016 NAIAS: 2017 Lincoln MKZ

January 16th, 2016 No comments

 

Lincoln’s big unveiling at this year’s North American International Auto Show was clearly the all-new Continental. But Lincoln chose not to leave the smaller MKZ without updates of its own. Strategically featuring a grille mimicking the flagship Continental Lincoln will have a uniform styling language with this pair of 2017 sedans (the MKS is not expected to survive past 2016). Astonishingly, the mid-size MKZ will offer 400 horsepower with a 3.0L V6 driving all four wheels. While Lincoln executives literally scoffed at the focus of Nürbugring lap times during their press conference they clearly recognize even buyers of ‘quiet luxury’ cars don’t want to be left at the stoplight. Buyers can also opt for the available Driver’s Package that combines dynamic torque vectoring, sport-tuned suspension with continuously controlled damping, a unique grille, 19-inch wheels, and painted brake calibers. Come to think of it, that doesn’t sound like ‘quiet luxury’ to us, but more like ‘hot rod Lincoln.’ Seems to us like Lincoln is due for a proper rear wheel drive sport sedan, lap times included.

2016 NAIAS: 2018 Lexus LC 500

January 16th, 2016 No comments

 

Lexus has a long history of coupes, starting with the balloon shape SC 300 and 400 back in 1992 and followed by the bathtub shaped hardtop retractable SC 430. Let’s not forget the IS 350C convertible or the wild LFA. We recently enjoyed a bright orange RC 350 coupe so we shouldn’t be surprised that Lexus previewed an upcoming coupe with the LC 500 at this year’s North American International Auto Show. The LC bucks the trend towards forced induction and features a 467 horsepower 5.0L V8. Lexus is targeting to transfer that power through a 10 speed automatic to the rear wheels in just 4.5 seconds to achieve 60 mph. The lines are certainly exotic and continues Lexus design language of tortured sheet metal trailing behind the massive spindle grille. The interior looks to feature plush and luxurious materials draped over a very horizontally styled dash design. A 2+2 coupe, the LC 500 is claimed to be one of the brand’s flagship products. This is a far cry from the staid LS 400 and ES 250 that launched the Lexus brand back in 1989, and we like the general direction this LC points the brand.

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2016 NAIAS: 2017 Cadillac XT5

January 16th, 2016 No comments

 

Sometimes the automotive world isn’t fair. When Cadillac introduced the original SRX crossover auto journalists largely embraced the three-row largely due to its wagon-like looks, and its enthusiast oriented rear or all-wheel drive layout. The SRX was invisible in the marketplace so the second generation was transformed into a front-wheel drive based 5-passenger crossover that had no enthusiast-car leanings whatsoever. It, of course, became a best seller. So the SRX replacement, the XT5 is more of the same. Don’t let the name confuse you, the XT5 has nothing to do with the large Cadillac XTS sedan. The XT5 looks to us like a crossover that has adopted the styling themes of the Cadillac ELR plug-in hybrid coupe with its plunging fender line. XT5 offers a standard 3.6L V6 coupled with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Though the XT5 comes standard with the sometimes finicky CUE infotainment system, some of the potentially useful technology on board includes a rear camera mirror that eliminates the view of obstructions to rear vision such as the rear passengers, headrests, and bodywork. Drivers can select the ride modes to adjust the suspension which feature real time damping.

2016 NAIAS: North American Car of the Year

January 16th, 2016 No comments

 

Your humble editors put their reputations on the line and boldly predicted either the Mazda MX-5 or Chevrolet Malibu would win car of the year honors, which, of course, is how the Honda Civic actually wound up with the award. Not that there was a dud among the three finalists and we can admit the Honda Civic is back in the thick of the chase with a design in both coupe and sedan styles that will look good for the next few years. The interior finally moves past the crazy-for-crazy-sake tiered dash design of the last couple Civic generations and we’re all the better for it. Refinement continues to be the Civic’s game and it was enough to wow the judges and claim 2016 North American Car of the Year. Congrats Honda!

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2016 NAIAS: North American Truck/Utility of the Year

January 16th, 2016 No comments

 

As we predicted after poking around the Volvo XC90 last year, everyone’s favorite Swede was destined for a good year. After picking up the Motor Trend Truck of the Year calipers no one on this staff was surprised the XC also claimed North American Truck/Utility of the Year honors. It’s beautiful outside and in, plus it is packed with technology like semi-autonomous lane keeping, a supercharged and turbocharged engine with an available plug-in hybrid option and an easy-to-learn central infotainment system called Sensus.

2016 NAIAS: 2017 Buick LaCrosse

January 16th, 2016 No comments

 

For 2017 the Buick LaCrosse enters into its third generation. The new car adopts much of last year’s Avenir show car including a grille which suspends the now colorized tri-shield logo. The red, white, and blue colors have played well in China where the American origins are appreciated. Here’s a fun fact, that tri-shield logo was introduced in 1959 and each shield represented each all-new model name in Buick’s portfolio: LeSabre, Invicta, and Electra. In today’s Buick hierarchy, the LaCrosse would take the role of the Electra as the largest and most expensive sedan Buick offers with the Regal and Verano slotting in below. The new body features sweeping lines, a longish rear overhang, and a six window greenhouse. The interior is outfitted with the expected high quality materials as a well as a very BMW-like automatic shift lever in the suspended center console. The LaCrosse has the expected assortment of technology, including 4G LTe Wi-Fi, automatic parking assist, 8-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, Navigation, and QuietTuning technology that blocks and absorbs outside noise. All this technology is escorted down the interstate by means of an all-new 3.6L V6 and an optional Twin-Clutch all-wheel drive system. The LaCrosse will be available this summer.

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2016 NAIAS: 2016 Cadillac CT6

January 13th, 2016 No comments

Though Cadillac revealed the new CT6 sedan months ago in New York, we finally got a chance to get up close and personal with GM’s most luxurious sedan. Just as Cadillac executives insisted that the XTS was not the brands flagship they are claiming that this full size, rear wheel drive sedan shouldn’t bear that responsibility either. While this gives us hope for a car as stunning as the Cadillac Elmiraj concept, there is still much to appreciate about the CT6. Available with a 2.0L turbo, 3.6L V6, or 3.0L twin turbo V6, the CT6 eschews traditional V8 motivation in stark contrast to the last full size rear wheel drive Cadillac, the 1996 Fleetwood. We should insert an asterisk here and clarify that only the 2.0L turbo can be combined with RWD. The V6 models come standard with all-wheel-drive. The interior is outfitted with premium materials, rich colors, and enough rear seat room to simultaneously satisfy all but the very tallest of occupants. With a base price of $54,490 it seems that Cadillac is taking the time honored practice of dramatically undercutting the competition’s price to lure them into the showroom. The base CT6 is priced so low it makes one wonder if it will steal sales from the smaller CTS. While the CT6 has been criticized for being too similar to the CTS and ATS in appearance, we are reminded that this is the same approach used at Mercedes-Benz, Audi, and BMW so GM’s luxury brand is at worst imitating industry leaders.

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2016 NAIAS: 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback

January 13th, 2016 No comments

As enthusiasts, we love to complain about the cars that manufacturers offer in foreign markets but withhold from us in the United States.  One body style that has a tendency to be offered in Europe and Asia but seldom here is the hatchback.  Chevrolet has humored us and decided to offer its fully redesigned Cruze as a sedan and hatchback in the land of the free.  The Cruze hatchback promises the added versatility and utility that is normally restricted on a conventional sedan.  Indeed, the Cruze hatch offers 47.2 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats folded down.  Like the 2016 sedan, the hatch offers a standard 1.4L turbo 4-cylinder as well as support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.  We anticipate powertrains and options to largely mirror those of the sedan.  We expect to see the Cruze hatchback on sale next to its sedan sibling in the fall.  Now, if we could just convince Chevy to offer a Cruze wagon…

 

 

 

2016 NAIAS: 2017 Audi A4 allroad and A4 sedan

January 13th, 2016 No comments

Audi is wasting no time building out its bread-and-butter A4 lineup with the sedan and a new allroad debuting at the North American International Auto Show. Both models use a 2.0-liter turbo with 252  hp and a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. You can still get an A4 with front-wheel drive but almost no one does, which is probably the same reason the 6-speed manual is no longer available on base cars. The allroad makes Quattro all-wheel drive standard and also raises the ride height 1.3 inches. That makes light offroading somewhat easier and the cladding along the lower body seems to be a hit with customers so it carries over from previous allroad generations. The A4 features just about all the tech and luxury features you can get on the high-end Audi’s, including a 19-speaker Bang & Olufsen 3D stereo, the latest and greatest Virtual Cockpit, full color head up display and the list goes on and on. With prices starting at $38k and heading quickly up from there we should probably be glad that the A3 has entered the lineup where the A4 used to reside and helped make Audi ownership a little more attainable.

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