At the New York Auto Show I had the opportunity to speak with Hyundai’s Product Planner Mike O’Brien about the new Veloster. Mike provided some insight into the thought behind this car. Below is the video with all the answers.
At the New York Auto Show I had the opportunity to speak with Hyundai’s Product Planner Mike O’Brien about the new Veloster. Mike provided some insight into the thought behind this car. Below is the video with all the answers.
Last week Hyundai took the wraps off its new 2012 Accent. The Accent is Hyundai’s entry into the compact car segment. Of course, like other new compact cars, the new Accent is slated to receive a 40 mpg rating from the EPA. For all the details watch the video walkaround below.
March brings many things to Minneapolis, melting snow, warmer weather, usually at least one large snow storm, and of course, the Minneapolis Auto Show. This year the automakers were in full force. Both Porsche and BMW returned to the show, sadly Infiniti was still notably absent. Without further delay, lets jump in and take a look at the winners, losers and just some general observations of the show. Read More…
If I asked you what the last generation Kia Optima looked like, you would probably have no idea. You would also probably not be able to tell me one thing about it. In fact, if you were looking at a group of de-badged cars, you probably couldn’t pick one out. That’s a problem. Though, once you see the new Kia Optima, you will have none of these issues. Read More…
Back in September I had the opportunity to attend the press drive for the new 2011 Chevrolet Cruze. At the time I was enamored with the fact that Chevrolet might have built a compact car that didn’t suck.
You see in my lifetime (that I can remember), Chevrolet hasn’t had a class leading compact sedan. Heck, not even a really competitive compact sedan. The Cruze is set to change all that. But is it really class leading, and if it is, how long can its reign last?
The exterior of the Cruze is a mix of good and bad. The front is aggressive with swept back headlights and Chevrolet’s dual-port shield grille. The hood has a nice crease that runs down the center and around the sides. This adds to the aggressive look of the swept back headlights.
Below the headlights sit two black blank pieces of plastic. This is where the fog lights would go if you optioned for the RS package. It seems downright silly that even an Cruze LTZ (the highest trim level) wouldn’t have fog lights without an optional RS package. The front is aggressive, but they could have taken it even further.
The sides have a strong character line that sweeps from the front fenders back into the rear taillights. The bottom of the doors also have some sculpting that visually make the Cruze look less slab sided.
Around back is the most disappointing part of the Cruze exterior. Visually it will not offend anyone. The flip side of that is the rear is quite boring. It is like the designers of the front ran out of energy. Maybe they got tired one night and said, just call it good and be done with it. While I’m not sure exactly what happened, at the end of the day it’s bland. The rear blends in with the sea of cars on the road.
At one point I stated that the current generation Malibu might be the tightest screwed together car GM makes. The Cruze definitely is giving the Malibu a run for its money. It also has tight panel gaps and a solid overall feel.
Chevrolet has been bragging about the interior in the new Cruze quite a bit lately, and I must say, they have every right to do so. The materials all feel high quality and look terrific. While there is quite a bit of hard plastic inside the cabin, it all looks nice with low shine and nice graining.
ThefFront seats are very comfortable, and are highly adjustable for being manual seats. It is easy to find a comfortable driving position with the tilt and telescoping steering wheel.
Chevrolet is touting midsize sedan room for the Cruze, even though it is a compact sedan. That extra room is felt in the rear seat. Foot and leg room is more than ample and it also has a decent seating position.
The center stack features black high gloss plastic in the shape of a flux capacitor. The buttons all have a high quality feel to them. I found it notable that the climate control knobs had no wiggle and that they felt solid.
Chevrolet knows that Ford has been touting its Microsoft SYNC system loud lately, so they had to do something. The new Cruze might be one of the most tech savvy cars out of GM in recent years. The Bluetooth system downloaded my phonebook, so every time someone called, the screen showed the callers name. You can also scroll through your contacts on the screen. The USB port will read almost any device that you plug-in – my iPhone 4 worked seamlessly with the sound system.
I found it unique that the dashboard featured cloth that matched the material on the seats. The Cruze I was in featured red cloth both on the seats and on the dash. All models that have leather feature a leather-like material on the dash instead of cloth. If GM had not added this unique touch, the dashboard would be a sea of hard plastic like most of the competition. It is clear that a ton of thought was put into the design and quality of the interior.
Two engines are currently available in the Cruze, but most will be sold with the 1.4-liter turbo inline four-cylinder. This engine produces 138 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. This powertrain is rated at 24/36 mpg but I averaged 25 mpg in mixed urban suburban driving and a disappointing 29.4 mpg on a holiday highway trip.
Sadly, as it stands the only transmission choice is a six speed automatic. The transmission is fine, but I would’ve liked to have seen a manual option for those that like to row their own gears. Initially, reports flowed out that the transmission was poorly programmed. Chevrolet has since performed a firmware upgrade to the transmission that helps with these issues.
Overall I found transmission to be fine, though it hesitates to downshift. Acceleration is acceptable but don’t go street racing a Cobalt SS at the stoplight. Passing is its one weakness. The power just isn’t there to fling you forward, it builds slowly. Also, that manual shift capability? Don’t bother. It takes about half a second to register before it will perform the shift.
Cruze features electric power steering to help improve gas mileage. The application is probably one of GM’s best to date. Steering is light at parking lots speeds, but firms up once on the highway.
The Cruze 1LT I tested featured: connectivity plus package, 16″ alloy wheels, crystal red metallic tintcoat, and a compact spare tire. The total sticker price on this particular Cruze 1LT was $20,240 after destination. That places the Cruze at the high end of the compact car class. The Cruze isn’t a cheap compact, but it is a substantial compact car.
Back to the beginning, I was initially impressed with my first experience with the Cruze. After spending an entire week with a 1LT model, am I still as impressed? In one word, yes. I was slightly disappointed with the gas mileage, but the engine is smooth and quiet.
As for the question about the Cruze being class leading, the short answer is yes – for now. The competition is all getting refreshed and the Cruze has been on sale across the world for over a year. The new Hyundai Elantra is rated at 40 MPG on the highway across the board, the new Focus has some impressive technology available, and we don’t even know what the new Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla will bring. At the end of the day, the new Cruze is currently one of the most competitive compact cars on the market.
Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors
Episode 33 starts with introducing this weeks guest Nick Salvatore from SpeedSportLife. Moving into the garage we talk about the 2011 Porsche Cayenne and 1967 Ford Mustang I drove since the last recording. We also heard about the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro SS and Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T R-Spec Nick was in. We then move along to the major news of the week segment. This week included-
NADA picks vehicles with best cost of ownership (Link)
- Nissan vs. Hyundai – Who is going to be the #2 Asian Automaker (Link)
This week we continue with the newer segment called car spotting. Justin spotted a Chevrolet Corvair. Nick saw a Alfa 159 Wagon when in Europe and his new Glut Orange Audi S5.
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
Yup, that’s right, you are viewing the completely undisguised 2011 Hyundai Genesis. Most changes are slight but still notable. The front end has a new front bumper (see the lower air intakes) with updated headlights (reportedly LED’s), new front/rear/side skirts and rear bumper with Lexus LS460 looking exhaust outlets integrated nicely. That new rumored eight speed transmission is obviously on board with the new BMW looking “shift knob.” That eight speed transmission is probably hooked to the rumored 5.0 liter Tau V8 which is an update to the current 4.6 liter Tau V8. Most likely the output will break the 400 hp barrier. This engine will also probably be in the upcoming Equus. Check out more spy shots at The Car Blogger.
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.
After taking time to digest everything I wanted to share some experiences from the MAMA spring rally. MAMA is the Midwest Automotive Media Association, a non-profit group that brings automotive journalists and public relations people together. A quick recap: the spring rally was a two day event spanning a Wednesday and Thursday.
Getting right into it, we were first unleashed onto the track at Road America Raceway on Wednesday morning after a quick breakfast and safety seminar. During breakfast the various manufactures in attendance gave quick speeches about what they had brought with them for the rally.
Once we were unleashed we had choices; cars were lined up and each car had a sticker on the windshield stating either “road” or “track”. If a car had a track sticker we were allowed to take it on either the public roads or the track. Cars with road stickers were not permitted on the track.
Some things to note about the day: we were asked to keep stability control on at all times in the cars. They were trying to avoid people over-reaching their abilities and wanted to minimize any damage or injury that might occur and while this most likely hindered some people’s lap times and severely hindered some autocross times, it was fine because part no major incidents occurred.
I focused much of my attention on the track in the early morning. I drove everything from the Mazda RX8, Audi S4 and Mercedes Benz C63 to the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0T R-Spec. I instantly found the Hyundai Genesis Coupe 2.0t R-Spec underwhelming. I was not in love with the manual, it felt slightly mushy and the shifts were not clean and crisp. The engine needed to stay high in the revs to keep going around the course. When I asked the Hyundai rep about this he admitted that this was too much track for the car and went on to state that the car is better in shorter track scenarios. I can easily believe that.
The new 2010 Audi S4 was just tackled the track. I set all the settings to dynamic mode and took off. I loved the six speed manual transmission in that car. Through the corners, the car felt much more neutral then the last generation with the heavy V8, though I will admit I do miss the V8 exhaust from the previous generation S4. The car pulled itself through the corners pushing power to different wheels with the sport differential in the rear.
I did not take the time to properly set up the Mercedes Benz C63 or the E63 before hitting the track and this hindered some of the fun. I did not tinker with all the settings, thus the car was not to my liking. The paddles did not seem to do what I wanted them to do, the steering was not how I predicted through the corners, and the E63 was just simply hard to place in the corners. You really need to play with the settings to get these cars to your liking and I did not take the time.
For the road portion I took out the upcoming Suzuki Kizashi Sport with the CVT transmission. The paddles responded nicely and overall, the car was very nice. The slightly more aggressive exterior body kit is welcomed and the larger wheels and tires looked great. This was no barn burner but it went well enough.
The Rolls Royce Ghost was another trip all together, hitting near illegal speeds in no time. The interior of the new Rolls Royce Ghost is just plush. Everything is made of quality materials. I determined if I can ever afford a house with carpet as nice as the floor mats in the Ghost, I have made it. The umbrellas in the doors have ventilation ducts that dry them, giving the ability to put away the umbrellas wet (coming in quite handy when Jeeves picks you up at the gallery opening). Speaking of Jeeves, this car is much smaller then the Phantom (though still quite large) and many owners may prefer drive it themselves instead of having a chauffeur. Sorry Jeeves, you’ll be taking the other car.
You know what they say, it’s not a party until a tree falls on an Aston Martin Rapide. If nothing else, many people will remember this from the 2010 MAMA spring rally. Upon getting back to our hotels (tired and stinky from being in the sun all day) it started to downpour and I mean a torrential downpour. Within minutes of the rain hitting, hail rolled through. The chunks of hail were about the size of a pea. Of course, my thoughts quickly rolled to the millions of dollars worth of cars sitting outside of the hotel and the track. Once the storm passed, I walked to dinner. As I was walking everyone was heading to the parking lot. I asked why and they only could utter something about a tree and the Aston Martin. Uh oh, that is not good. To my (and everyone else’s) horror, a pine tree had fallen on the Aston Martin Rapide. We lifted the tree off as they backed the car out from under it. Upon closer inspection, the passenger side mirror was gone, the hood was dented, the windshield broken and the worst part was that wood had gone through the windshield and into the dashboard, more then likely ruining the dashboard. Not good.
Thursday morning we had an autocross course set up next to the track. The Ford Fiesta was a ton of fun due to its handling. The new 2011 Ford Mustang V6 was much better then I anticipated. The Mercedes Benz C63 was a beast though the E63 was a boat through the course, mainly due to it’s size. Its power was what pushed it through.
The rest of the morning was spent off roading in everything from Range Rovers to the Ford F150 Raptor 6.2. The Raptor 6.2 was my first vehicle I took off road and its size made it a handful. The course was somewhat tight in some areas and I had to back up to make some corners. The truck handled everything like the beast that it is. After going through the course in the Raptor, I decided to go for something a bit smaller. The new 2010 Range Rover Sport was next up and this thing was ridiculously nice. Something crazy to note is that the Range Rover Sport was also labeled Wednesday as a track car. This vehicle was put through its paces both on the track and off road. Not many vehicles can be pushed through the track one morning and then stuck onto an off road trail the next. I was curious as to how the stock 20 inch wheels and tires would handle the off road portion seeing as they had been used on the track the morning before. To my surprise, the Range Rover Sport (I should not have been surprised) was an off road machine, shrugging off everything I threw at it. Driving the Range Rover next was a very cool experience. The all digital gauge cluster is really useful. Being able to change what is displayed based on what you are doing comes in handy when off road.
The entire experience gave me the opportunity to drive many different cars in varying situations throughout a two day period. The track portion was a blast, as was everything else. The people were friendly and inviting. Sitting and having lunch with two gentlemen from Consumer Reports lead to quite an interesting conversation. Everyone from freelancers to Cars.com writers were in attendance. Overall it was a great first experience and I look forward to whatever the next MAMA rallies should bring.