Tag Archives: Honda

Review – 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander GT: Lost In The Sea Of CUVs

Mitsubishi’s marketing is all about being different for a reason. With that in mind, it would make sense that its Outlander CUV would be different than the rest of the competition, now wouldn’t it? I spent a week to find out if the Outlander is truly different, and if so, is there a reason.

Let’s be frank, the exterior of the Outlander GT is a mess, but a hot mess in my eyes. The front clip looks like that of an enlarged Evo, or Lancer if you will. Though, it is slightly less aggressive. When standing directly next to the Outlander GT you’ll be surprised by two things: the huge front overhang residing in front of the wheels, and also the long hood.

Out back, two things stand out to me. The first is the taillights, these also have the downward slanted appearance that the Evo has, though that is where the similarities end. The second is how Japanese, and dare I say, Mitsubishi the rear end looks. Seriously, this rear end screams Mitsubishi to me, but in a very good way. The LED taillights and overall design work. I also love the two-piece tailgate similar in style to the first generation BMW X5. Very handy for loading large cargo into the rear end.

The sides are somewhat slab sided, but it works. The chrome trim that runs along window sills follows the glass up the C-pillar ending at the top. It is a nice touch, and helps finish the look.

When I said the exterior is a mess I meant it. The front is Evo with its big gaping mouth. The front clip ends up kind of looking tacked on. In reality the look works for me, but for many it won’t.


The interior was upgraded in 2010 with much nicer materials. The dash, along with the top of the door panels is covered in leather-like material. The Outlander features dual glove boxes. This allows you store all your stuff in an organized manner. The rear seats slide fore and aft, which is nice for adjusting leg room.

If you need to carry seven people the Outlander can handle the task. Though you’d have to truly hate the two people in the third row. That, or they need to be kids that pretty much have no legs. The third row folds out of the floor and is pretty sad. The headrests are either plastic or cardboard that is wrapped in cloth. Without question it is the sorriest third row I have ever seen.

The front seats are comfortable, but offer little in the way of bolstering. They are somewhat flatter than I expected. They feature a nice design in the center sections. Suede and leather trim the sides. I found it very odd that at $30k the seats were not power operated, but rather manually adjustable.

One thing that really made it hard to get comfortable was the lack of a telescoping steering wheel. In reality, at $30k in this class, a steering wheel that does not telescope is borderline unacceptable.

The powertrain in the Outlander GT is a 3.0-liter V6 that puts 230-horsepower and 215 lb-ft to all four wheels. The power is routed through a six-speed Sportronic transmission. You do have manual shift control both through the shifter as well as the metal paddle shifters that are mounted to the steering column. These are the same paddle shifters that are featured in the Evo.

The Outlander GT is no rocket, and in fact the V-6 produces somewhat disappointing numbers on paper. Driving the Outlander, you feel as if it has more power than it actually does. The engine and transmission definitely work together to make the most of the power. Above 3,500 RPM the engine almost sounds downright snarly. While you wont be racing to the soccer game, you’ll get there without having to worry about passing power.

A four cylinder model is available as well, though I’m not sure you would want it. The four cylinder all-wheel drive model is rated at 22/27 mpg while the V6 all-wheel drive model is rated at 19/25. You lose 3 mpg in the city and 2 on the highway for power that would be sorely missed. I saw an average of 19.5 mpg in mixed urban and suburban highway driving.

The GT features Mitsubishi’s Super All-Wheel Control (S-AWC) system. This is the same system that is used in the Evo. It features an active front differential and three drive mode selections: tarmac, snow, and lock. Obviously the tarmac is for dry roads, snow is for snowy roads and lock is for locking the all-wheel drive system.

Due to the snowy roads here in Minnesota, I left the S-AWC in snow mode. It distributed power quickly when going around slick corners, and front to back launching from a stop light. Just like the Evo, the Outlander has the same S-AWC graph in the information display that shows you where the power is being distributed in relation to the wheels. It is highly impressive in the Evo and no less so in the Outlander GT.

Overall the Outlander GT was a nice CUV to drive. It wasn’t the ride or handling that really stood out to me for this CUV. It was the S-AWC system. It was so controlled over the slick roads that I almost forgot that this was a crossover with all-wheel drive.

At $30,275 after destination, the Outlander GT is not a bargain. The pricing has it right in the heart of the CUV market. While it may not be as conventional and mass market as the competition, it is definitely competitive. The Outlander is definitely different, but I’m ok with different. It will not be for everyone styling wise, but you can’t argue that some of the features are well thought out. Add to that what might be a contender for one of the best-in class all-wheel drive systems, and the Outlander is probably a vehicle that is overlooked too often in the big sea of CUVs.

Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by Mitsubishi

2011 Detroit Auto Show: The Good, The Great, The Sad

While Detroit has been down in the dumps for a while, this years auto show definitely shows things might be back on track in the D. Of course it had to snow while everyone was in town, but it gave those from the warmer climates a chance to see what us snow belt state peeps live through on a daily basis.

Some of you will remember that last year I wanted to differentiate myself. I started tweeting pictures of cars with the models and tagged them as #EyeCandy. This quickly became a hot topic. A few of my followers mentioned this year that I was not really tweeting any #EyeCandy and asked why not. The simple answer, there wasn’t any. Few booths had the babes that were in attendance last year. Though Chrysler group and Ferrari still pulled through.

But lets get down the to the product. The new Chrysler 300 looks terrific. In reality, many wondered when they saw the pictures if it can recapture the market that the 300 once had in 2005. Upon seeing the car in real life, I am happy to report that it looks much better in person. The interior really does deliver on the promise that the 300 made back in 2005. American luxury. From the great new Pentastar V6, to the growling Hemi V8 in the 300C, this is American luxury in a rear-wheel drive car.

Another car I was anxious to see in real life was the new Chevrolet Sonic. The Sonic is Chevrolet’s new B-Segment car which will take on the likes of the new Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Toyota Yaris and many others. I have to say, while I think the new Sonic is a home run from a styling perspective, I can see how many will not. It will be either a love it or hate it vehicle. From the exposed barrel headlights to the ridiculously short rear overhang and really long front overhang, the styling is nothing short of eye catching. The interior gauge cluster is also interesting, as they actually put into the production model the Aveo RS concept’s gauge cluster. With a racing like analogue tachometer and a digital speedometer, the gauge cluster is more reminiscent of a race car or motorcycle than that of a sub-compact car. Going on sale later this year I can’t wait to get behind the wheel and see how the driving dynamics compare to the competition.

The new A6 has already won a design award without even leaving the show floor. In my opinion the new A6 takes everything that is right with the new A8 and A4 while dropping everything that is wrong with them. Smashing all the good together to make a great looking Audi. The design language has really come together for this car. The interior is terrific and the exterior is eye catching. The optional LED headlights are very intricately designed when inspecting them up close. You will see the new A6 on the road later this year.

I’m not going to really cover the CTS-V Coupe race car but I wanted to make mention of it. Two words come to mind when you walked past it on the turntable, menacing and awesome. Ok, moving on.

Toyota has finally unveiled a larger Prius. The model is called the Prius V. This is especially confusing to some since the regular Prius has trim level packages that are in roman numerals. Right now if you go buy a Prius in the top trim level you are buying a Prius V. Wait, that can’t make sense. So when you buy a top trim level Prius V will you be buying a Prius V V? This is clearly not well thought out. I wonder if Toyota realizes this yet. Maybe someone should send them a note. Regardless, I heard many people comment on how the Prius V rear end has a lot of Honda Fit in it. I can see that. The front, well it looks like a third generation Prius with a few slight tweaks. You’ll still know it’s a Prius. You will see the people mover Prius at a dealership near you in the Summer.

Ah the Honda Civic Concept. Honda waltzed Pete Wentz from Fall Out Boy on stage to talk about the new Civic Concept. Here’s the problem, either Wentz was drunk or he really could care less about being there. He enthusiasm was worse than the new Civic’s styling. He barely stumbled through his words off the teleprompter. Note to Honda: make sure your spokesperson is somewhat excited about your luke warm product.

But getting back to that product, the new Civic Concept looks as if a new Odyssey and the current generation Civic got it on in the back room. That, or a designer of the current Civic got wasted one night, and just took the current Civics lines and tweaked them a little. For a mid-cycle refresh, I am not sure how this will be competitive until 2016 with new competition from Hyundai, Ford and Chevrolet. We will have to wait and see when the new Civic comes out, but I am not holding my breath.

Mercedes had its SLS E-Cell electric car on display. In a word it is blinding. The paint job on this car can literally sear your retinas. Beyond the paint job, it looks fairly identical on the outside to the current SLS. The interior changes a little as most of the gauges and center stack are now LCD screens. This car will go into production, but if you have to ask range or price, you can’t afford it.

I don’t really want to spend much time on the Passat as I’m not sure it deserves it. I’ll reserve final judgement until I drive one. Until then, I’ll say this, Volkswagen is going downmarket to sell more cars. Is that really a good idea? Why alienate all your current customers. People that buy current Passats pay more because they expect to get better quality materials. Cheapening the car for a lower base price is going to hurt your brand image. This is no longer just German engineering, it is German engineering to a price point.

While I skipped Porsches press conference to eat breakfast at my hotel (it was at 6:30 AM), I will say looking at the car in person, it is stunning. Seeing that huge flywheel in the passenger seat, yea. This is how you build a hybrid. It is good to see Porsche looking at new technology for racing. If this car does go into the racing circuit it could change the game. With less fuel stops needed and more power on tap for instant bursts, it could be a whole new era of racing.

At the end of the day I was exhausted. Most journalists were up at 5 AM and didn’t leave the show floor till nearly 8 PM. I ran to nearly every press conference and went through approximately 6,600 milliamps of battery power for my iPhone4. It was a good show with some great product. Not everything was great, but it was a good to see where each automaker is going in 2011.


Full Disclosure- My NAIAS travel and accommodations are being provided by General Motors

Review – 2011 Kia Sportage EX AWD: The CUV Sporting the Most Flair

Kia isn’t known for its style or design. Kia’s biggest claim to fame is its 10 year/100,000 mile warranty. Well, that was until recently. When Kia hired ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer, suddenly they had style and dare I say, flair.

This new third generation Sportage is so vastly different in almost every way from its predecessors, that it’s amazing that they sport the same name.

The exterior of the new Sportage looks like it fell out of the awesome tree and hit every branch on its way down. Beginning in the front, Sportage sports Kia’s new signature grill, flanked by swept back headlights. The headlights on upper trim models (like this EX) each have a strip of LED eye liner. Chrome trim above the fog lights finishes off the front end.

The sides have sculpting near the bottom of the doors while a character line runs beneath the window sills into the rear tail lights. Door handles and window sills are trimmed in chrome and the roof rails are covered in a with a satin metal-like finish. The side mirrors also feature LED repeaters, which is a nice touch in this class.

Around back the rear is very stylized, with what can only be described as a bubble butt. The rear view almost looks like an alien scowling at you, especially at night. The rear tail lights feature LED lighting.

With the rear window being somewhat small and the large C-pillars being kind of large, it makes for limited rearward visibility. It is clear that style played a larger role than function when it came to the exterior design – the exterior is probably the best looking exterior of any compact CUV on the market currently.

The interior is also stylized, though not to the extent the exterior is. The dash features two different finishes, one smooth and one textured, both are hard and have a low sheen to them.

The center console has a upward slant to it and it rises to meet the dashboard. The climate controls have a shiny piano black finish to them, but it is not distracting. I could imagine this plastic getting scratched easily over time though.

Both front seats were all day comfortable, with terrific seat heaters. Though only the front drivers seat features a cooling function. The front passenger will have to settle for only heat.

As I mentioned on the exterior, visibility is somewhat limited by the rear design. The C-pillars are quite large and the back glass is quite small. Further enhancing the problem are the somewhat large A-pillars in the front. While not as large as some of the competition, they are still large enough to cause some visibility issues. As with the current trend, the belt line on the Sportage is high, so resting your elbow on the window sill while driving is somewhat uncomfortable. The design also cuts into rear seat headroom. Taller passengers will need to sit up front.

Like the exterior, I found the interior to be a huge win. Button placement was all within arms reach and everything was clearly labeled. My only major gripe would be the style over function of some of the design characteristics.

Currently the new Sportage features one engine  2.4-liter inline four-cylinder that pumps out 176 horsepower and 168 pound-feet to either the front or all four wheels. The power is routed through a six speed automatic transmission that has manual shift capabilities. The Sportage EX I was in came equipped with all-wheel drive and an electronic locking differential. The current powertrain combined with all-wheel drive is rated at 21/28 mpg, and I saw an average of 19 mpg in mixed suburban driving.

As with the new Sorento, I found the ride in the Sportage to be surprisingly stiff. While I can appreciate a stiff ride, over bumpy roads the suspension can feel jittery at times. Also, the steering is light when at parking lots speeds but firms up a little too much once underway.

While I had the Sportage, Minneapolis was whacked with the largest blizzard we have had in over ten years. I drove the Sportage out into the blizzard and must say I was highly impressed. I did not get stuck once. With over 20 inches of snow in less than 24 hours, I drove this Sportage through worse road conditions than almost any owner will ever drive through. The 18″ wheels with Hankook tires where very impressive and the stability control kept everything in line. I did lock the all-wheel drive a few times, though ground clearance did help as well. I am sure the cold and blizzard driving affected my gas mileage.

The EX AWD is currently the top trim model of the Sportage model. This Sportage featured both the Navigation/Premium Audio package as well as the Premium Package with Leather. Combined with these options and destination, the total price on this Sportage was $29,990.

The Sportage lands in a crowded market. The new Chevrolet Equinox is very competitive, and the Honda CR-V along with the Toyota RAV4 are both segment leaders. So is the new little Sportage finally ready to sell on more than price? The answer is absolutely. With more style, or flair if you will, than nearly all the competition, this Kia is ready to finally sell on design and features rather than a warranty and low price.

Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by Kia

Honda CRX – The Fast And The Furious Fail Edition

I really hope you were sitting down when you first viewed the above picture. The horror…. The Honda CRX is a highly coveted piece of Honda history. The enthusiasts around this model are loyal to the end of the earth. Many CRX’s have been either heavily modified or are rusting apart. When you find a really nice one it brings tears to the enthusiasts eyes. This fine piece of fail was spotted by myself in Dinky Town in Minneapolis. I almost cried. From the horrific paint job (by a kid with a paintbrush?!) to the wicked awesome wing! Oh don’t forget those super cool exhaust cans…. *sigh* I’m going to go cry in the corner now. Call me for dinner.

CUV’s – Perception vs. Reality

Recently, I had a conversation with a baby boomer about her vehicle.  She drives a Honda CR-V and tells me she likes it.  It came up during the conversation that she thought her CR-V was a truck.  I started asking questions and digging into why she might think this.  Apparently, it has to do with the raised ride height, all-wheel drive, and overall vehicle appearance.  I then, as gently as I could, informed her that her “truck” was not really a truck, rather it was what many refer to as a CUV.  CUV stands for crossover utility vehicle and these are not “trucks” in the traditional sense.

When SUV’s first came onto the market, they were little more then short trucks with four doors.  They have since evolved, but many people in the general public see current CUV’S and traditional SUV’s as the same.  A CUV isn’t like a normal SUV in many ways – starting with the fact that they aren’t body on frame vehicles.  They are unibody and essentially based off car platforms.  They aren’t designed for the same capabilities as a traditional SUV.  The aforementioned baby boomer from earlier was shocked to learn that her CR-V is based off a car.

CUV’s still have all-wheel drive, but most do not have off-road capabilities or even a low range like a traditional four-wheel drive. However, there are some that have locking differentials for deeper snow and sticky situations.  Interestingly enough, many CUV’s are more capable then most consumers will ever need.  With all that said, towing capacities are much lower then that of a typical SUV.  The current Ford Explorer is a typical SUV, being body on frame.  That will all be changing though with the new version that is set to go on sale at the end of this year/beginning of next year.  The next generation Explorer went more mainstream, being unibody.  This trend is continuing to expand among other SUV’s, including the next-generation Jeep Grand Cherokee (though the Grand Cherokee has always been unibody).  The 2011 Grand Cherokee will also be unibody, though it will still retain hard core off -road capabilities in certain trim levels.

What this all boils down to is perception.  People seem to want an “SUV”, but they do not want the many things associated with them.  That list includes, but isn’t limited to, poor gas mileage, rough ride, sloppy handling and many other things.  There are things people still want though – like increased ride height and the idea of off road capabilities.  So what does this mean?  It means that people want some characteristics of the SUV and not others – and that poses a challenge to marketers.

First Drive – 2011 Chevrolet Cruze: Bringing Good Vibrations?

Chevrolet Cavalier and Cobalt, both cars that well……you know that song Good Vibrations?  What is the opposite of that song?  That is what comes to mind.  There isn’t exactly a stellar legacy left by those nameplates.  Saying Chevrolet has not been competitive in the compact car segment in a while would be telling it to you straight.

Chevrolet recognizes this and is looking to not only be competitive in the segment, but they say class-leading with the new 2011 Cruze.  Have they over-promised again, or do we finally have good vibrations?

The Cruze has been trotted out at plenty of auto shows last season, so we know the basics.  The base car (LS) will come with a 1.8-liter four-cylinder, while the rest of the line up (LT1, Eco, LT2, LTZ) will come with a 1.4-liter turbo four-cylinder.  This will be the volume engine.

The 1.4-liter turbo puts out an estimated 138 horsepower and 148 pound feet of torque.  The base engine and Eco models will come with a six-speed manual standard.  A six-speed automatic is optional on the LS and Eco, and standard (being only option currently available) on the other models.  I’ve heard that a six-speed manual will be available with the 1.4 liter turbo later on.

They are expecting the Eco model to earn an EPA rating of 40 mpg on the highway.  I am not sure if you have been paying attention, but that is a really really good number, and a class leading figure.  The real question is whether the car will really get 40 mpg in real world driving.

In the Cruze it was easy to find a comfortable driving position with the tilt/telescoping steering wheel. The dash design is unique.

Flowing across the dash is a swath of the same cloth material found on the seats. On LTZ cars with leather seating, leatherette replaces the swath of cloth on the dash. The design is fresh and somewhat consistent with newer Chevrolet’s.

I found there to be plenty of room inside, with an airy feel inside the cabin.  One thing I found annoying was the center armrest between the front seats.  The arm rest slides fore and aft, but when in the forward position it does not lock.  It should have more tension.  When two people rest their arms on the arm rest, the slider can slide back, which becomes quite annoying.

What we did not know before was how the Cruze drove.  I was going into this with an open mind, but I have driven both a Cavalier and a Cobalt.  Neither impressed me for the segment.  In the Cruze, you turn the key and slam the gas – the 1.4 liter turbo hits max torque at a mere 1,850 rpm.

From a stop the Cruze is decent off the line, but by about 10 mph the turbo has spooled up and you are off.  The power is more than adequate for driving around town, and there is no worries about making a pass on the highway.  However, this is not a sports car, and isn’t meant to be.  The electric steering is very light at parking lot speeds (almost too light?) but it firms up a little once under way.

We were let loose in the “back country” where there was quite a few hills. In those circumstances, I found that the six-speed automatic was not always hunting and seeking top gear immediately like other six-speeds.  Much of this can be attributed to the torque from the 1.4-liter turbo engine.  Since torque is so readily available, constant shifting is not necessary.  Without question, the powertrain makes a strong statement.

The Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla were on hand to do back-to-back comparison drives with the Cruze.  The first thing you notice is that the Cruze is more spacious then the Civic. In the Civic, I felt so close to the driver’s door and cramped side-to-side compared to the Cruze.  The reason for this is because the Cruze is both wider and longer then its competitors.

The materials in the Civic interior were very mixed. Some pieces were nice and soft touch, while others were cheap and unattractive looking.  The Civic’s transmission also seemed to hunt more when driving on the hills, and the engine was noticeably less powerful (less torque).

The Corolla’s interior is – well, almost a joke- and it drives like an appliance with a missing Kenmore sticker.  The Cruze is much more enjoyable to drive then the Corolla.  The suspension feels more controlled and almost European (especially with the 18-inch wheels).

Chevrolet sees the Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra as key competitors.  They recognize that both the Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra are about to be redesigned or refreshed.  For that reason, they did not have those two vehicles on hand for comparison.

Worth noting is the pricing.  The Cruze starts at $16,995. That is over $1,000 more then the Mazda3 and current Honda Civic.

Honda has a new Civic coming towards the end of next year, along with the Volkswagen Jetta, with a base price that is also about $1,000 less then the Cruze.  The Cruze is one of the most expensive vehicles in this segment.

The Cruze’s on hand were all pre-production vehicles.  Thus, the fit and finish was not 100%, however the exteriors were nearly flawless.  On the interior, I did find the cowl covering the gauge cluster was not flush with the piece of plastic it connected to.

Also, the center console had a little cubby in front of the shifter that seemed to have a large gap in between the panel it sat with.  Again these were pre-production vehicles, so we’ll see if these two small gripes are corrected in production vehicles. Of note is that Chevrolet only had Cruze’s on hand with the 1.4 liter turbo, not the base 1.8 liter. They were also LTZ  or LT models – no Eco or LS models were available.

So back to the original question, does this car deliver on the promise of a good compact sedan? Chevrolet makes the claim that the Cruze brings midsize sedan amenities and quietness to the compact car segment.  I truly believe that claim is justified.

The car is definitely competitive with the current competition. With the new Focus and Elantra on the way though, is it enough?  For once, the main problem is not the car – it will be getting people in the car.  The current perception in the segment is not good for Chevrolet, so they will need to get butts in seats. Good marketing will be essential for the Cruze to succeed.  For now though, the new Cruze brings good vibrations to the compact car segment.

Full Disclosure – My travel and accommodations were provided by General Motors

Massive Pile of Honda Civic Fail

You read that title correctly, what you are looking at is indeed a Honda Civic.  In fact it is a 6th generation Civic hatchback, err I should say was a 6th generation Civic hatchback.  Now it is a confused little hatchback.  With Mustang rear tail lights and an awkward rear spoiler, do not even get me started on the fender flares, this thing reads like a massive pile of fail.  Thanks to our keen reader Joe Pine for spotting this atrocity and snapping a few pics.

AutoBird Podcast – Esp 30: “Bon Voyage Episode”

Episode 30 starts with introducing this weeks guest Drew Dowdell owner of CheersandGears.  Moving into the garage we talk about the 2011 Ford Fiesta I was in for the past week along with the Chevrolet Malibu Drew was in. We then move along to the major news of the week segment.  This week included-

  • 2011 Honda Odyssey (Link)
  • 2011 VW Jetta (Link)
  • 2011 Dodge Challenger details (Link)
  • Hyundai Equus, Genesis to get 5.0 L Tau V8 (Link)

We then proceed to the clip of the week segment.  This week we featured an ad by Daimler proclaiming the best or nothing. (Link)

This week we introduce a new segment called car spotting.

Next came our main topic which was discussing Tesla and their upcoming IPO and everything that comes along with that.

Last we plug our respective blogs, Cheers and Gears,  AutoBird Blog and Accelerate Mpls.

Police Charger In Eco Friendly Disguise

So this lonely police Dodge Charger is having an identity crisis.  This is obviously equipped with the Hemi V8 based on the dual exhaust.  Though the Honda V6 badge and the Ford flex fuel badges are a bit misleading.  That and the Hybrid badge makes no sense seeing as there is no such thing as a hybrid Dodge Charger.  The best part?  This vehicle lives in the great state of California, also known as the home of the Toyota Prius.

Source- Blue Line Forums

Massive Pile Of Chevrolet Camaro Fail

So I am driving in Uptown yesterday afternoon and stumble upon this massive pile of fail. This isn’t just a fail but a massive pile of fail. This is a Chevrolet Camaro with a bad body kit. Even if the body kit was painted instead of just covered in primer it’s still bad. The icing on the cake? The Honda Accord headlights in the front.