Tag Archives: Turbo
Review – 2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo: Does A Turbo Fix It?

Review – 2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo: Does A Turbo Fix It?

 

 

2011 Regal CXL TurboIf you’ve read my review of the 2011 Buick Regal CXL, you’ll note that there were two things I was not terribly happy with. The first was mainly the user interface for the infotainment system. The second was the powertrain. I really harped on that point, as Buick is marketing the Regal as a sport injected vehicle.

So when I was handed the keys to a 2011 Buick Regal CXL Turbo, the main question going through my head was simple: did a turbo really fix my qualms with the powertrain? Is the Buick Regal CXL Turbo the sport injected Buick that we are being promised in the new marketing? After a week with the car, I have found my answer. Read More…

Review – 2011 GMC Sierra Denali HD: King of the Luxury Heavy Duties?

The heavy duty truck wars are heating up, and until recently the Ford Super Duties have been the only place for luxury truck buyers to go. Not anymore though – General Motors has decided there is no reason they shouldn’t fight for their share of the pie.

The Denali nameplate already exists in the GMC showroom on the half ton Sierra. Making the leap from half ton to the three quarter ton and one ton pick-ups was nothing if not logical.

The Denali HD is more of a trim package then a complete package. The exterior has the same lines as the regular Sierras. It has a blunt front end that is squared off nicely and a rear tail gate that incorporate some sculpting.

The front and rear bumpers are painted , while the upper and lower grilles are finished in signature Denali chrome. The twenty-inch wheels look terrific and really set the stance correctly on this vehicle. You can only get the Denali HD in three colors: black, silver and white. Overall, the Denali trim is a very nice looking package on an already good looking truck.

The interior of the Denali HD is similar to any other loaded up GMC Sierra. There is more “wood” splashed around the cabin and leather covering the seating surfaces, making the interior a nice place to spend your time. With plenty of storage cubbies strewn about the cabin you  definitely won’t be lacking storage space.

The optional navigation unit (which the Denali HD I was in did not have) is somewhat dated, though it gets the job done. Since I did not have the navigation screen, the rear back up camera had the screen integrated into the left hand side of the rear view mirror. I noted the lack of auto up window function on any window, and only express down on the drivers window. This seems out of place on a truck of this price. The automatic climate control is easy to operate and has decent size buttons for the most part, though a few are tiny and might be hard to operate with gloves on.

One friend commented on how well the seat warmers worked on a chilly evening and was surprised to see the availability of cooled seats. The friend also commented on the fact that they have three heat intervals, which is quite nice as the competition has just on or off. The interior is a very understated place, but still “classy” as some would call it. Sometimes the competition could be viewed as over the top. This truck would not fall into that category.

The engine really is where this beast oozes awesome. The new Duramax is a 6.6-liter V-8 turbo diesel pumping out 397 horsepower and 765 pound feet of torque. That is channeled through an Allison six-speed automatic transmission. Even with that much power I still managed to average 14.6 mpg in mixed driving. While going 60 mph on a straight stretch of highway, I was curious to see how high I could get the average fuel economy up to. Resetting the trip computer, I was able to average 23.5 mpg on a highway stretch cruising at exactly 60 mph.

The new powertrain does utilize Urea injection into the exhaust system. This is the same type of exhaust cleaning system that Ford now utilizes in the new Super Duties. With this system the days of black smoke pouring out of diesel exhaust pipes is dead. The RAM Heavy Duty is the only one of the three heavy duty trucks that does not use Urea injection in the exhaust system. GM likes to note in their new marketing campaign that the Duramax and Allison transmission combination have been put to the test. With many work trucks on the road, over twenty million miles have been logged. That is no small feat. It is also worth mentioning that Ford is now on the fourth PowerStroke engine.

The power train can tow 13,000 pounds in this configuration, which is no small number. With my family’s cabin up north closed and the boats put away, I had no boat of my own to tow. My friends had also put away their boats for the season so that was not going to work. I had tried setting something up with the local Airstream dealer, but that fell through (seeing a trend?). I did finally have something rather cool planned for my last day with the Denali , but a miscommunication caused that plan to fall through (hopefully that plan will work out next time I have a heavy duty truck sitting in my driveway). So unfortunately I did not get haul something ridiculously huge with this more-than-capable truck.

Driving the Denali HD was an enjoyable experience. With more then enough power on tap, slamming the go pedal at a stop light would immediately kick the traction control into a frenzy. The steering was light, with decent on center feel for a truck of this size. You would think a truck of this size would be a handful in the city, but you would be surprised. Handling was good and the ride was comfortable. It is truly amazing how far the ride and handling of these trucks have come in the last ten years, especially considering their capabilities.

With an as tested sticker price of $58,199, is the new Denali HD king of the luxury trucks? Until now the Ford Super Duties in King Ranch trim has held that crown with no disputes. Mainly because there has been no one in the marketplace to dispute with. I have to say, it seems to me the Denali HD and the King Ranch have very different approaches to how they execute luxury and styling.

The Denali HD is a very understated type of luxury, while the new Super Duty King Ranch is a very in your face, larger-than-life luxury. Seeing how these trucks have different approaches, one might think they will attract different types of buyers. I believe that having options in the marketplace is a great thing. Between the terrific powertrain and great looks, this new Denali HD really does turn heads. As to whether it is the king of luxury heavy duties, it will come down to what kind of luxury are you looking for.

Be sure to check out the gallery below for more terrific pictures of the Denali HD.

Full Disclosure – The review vehicle was provided by General Motors

Photography – Alex Bellus

First Drive – 2010 Saab 9-5: Holy Crap Saab’s Alive!

Do you remember a car company called Saab? Don’t worry, I won’t fault you if you don’t. Just this past year they almost shuttered their doors forever. Crazy when you think about it. Well, they didn’t close the doors. In fact, they were bought by another car company called Spyker. Some of you haven’t heard of Spyker either, but that is for another post.

When Spyker bought Saab, the new 9-5 was already done, ready to roll down the assembly line and into dealerships. The production process was shut down during negotiations and then restarted once the deal with Spyker was inked. With new 9-5’s showing up in dealerships right now, I was eager to get behind the wheel and take one for a spin. Let’s go for a quick drive.

Exterior-

It’s funny, because I swear I’ve seen this look before. Oh that’s right, the new front end is very similar to the Aero X concept from a few years ago. The headlights have a light pipe on the bottom and the entire lens has a blue tint to it. The front clip is aggressive but not overly so.

There is slight sculpting on the side, tightly integrated near the bottom of the doors, while a character line runs the length of the vehicle. The rear is just….gorgeous, With the Saaby (yes, that is now a word) C-pillars and light pipes that run the entire width of the rear, I’m in love. The tail lights feature LEDs which play a part as a significant design element. The rear deck lid is short, but not odd looking in person. Overall, the exterior is a huge win.

Interior-

Take a Saab 9-5 interior that you imagine, throw great materials in it, terrific seats and a flat bottomed steering wheel. You now have the new Saab 9-5 interior.  And yes, there is a flat bottom steering wheel! The navigation unit is a touch screen, but it has plenty of buttons to get you around.

While the ignition is now a push button, Saab has not forgotten its roots. The ignition button is on the console in between the driver and passenger, just like it used to be. The night panel button (another Saab tradition) also remains. Let’s not forget about the green lightning and egg crate vents with single rotating knobs. There is a few GM parts bin items, like the wiper and turn stalks, but they work just fine. The gauge cluster has that trick round center screen also found on the Cadillac SRX. The rear seats have plenty of legroom for people over six-feet tall.

There is a lot of black surfaces in the new 9-5. This leads to a somewhat darker cabin. That isn’t a bad thing, but it is something I noted. The heads up display was easy to see in sunlight and you can turn it off if it proves distracting. Did I mention the comfy seats? I’ve gone on and on. The interior isn’t perfect, but it is worlds better then the last 9-5.

Powertrain-

The first 9-5’s will come in the highest trim level (Aero XWD) with the 2.8-liter turbo V-6 as standard. This setup puts 300 horsepower to all four wheels. 2010 is a very short model year for the 9-5, and the 2011s are slated to show up very soon. MY 2011 will bring a lower priced model, with a standard 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder making 220 HP. It will be available in front-or all-wheel drive forms.

The 2.8 liter turbo in my tester builds speed quickly, hitting 0-60 in around 6.8 seconds. This isn’t a “OMG that’s fast” feeling. It is more of a silent thrust forward. You will never be thrown into the back of your seat. While I haven’t had the chance to drive the 2.0-liter turbo yet, I heard that might be the engine for the enthusiasts. While down on power, it is also down on weight. Also, you can get the smaller engine with a six-speed manual – the turbo V6 is available only with a six-speed automatic.

The bottom line? This is the car that is supposed to help save Saab. It was developed by General Motors and is being launched by the new owners Spyker. With the right marketing this car could work. Of course, the company can’t survive off one car, but that is another story. The new Saab 9-5 is everything I hoped for. Comfortable, sporty and darn good looking.

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

Cars & Café – June 5, 2010

Another month means another gathering for Cars & Café out at the AutoMotorPlex in Chanhassen.  As I woke up at 5:50 am to get ready and then hop into the 300ZX, I looked out the window to see rain coming down.  I instantly decided taking the 300ZX was not happening – not this month.

By no means did this mean I was not going, rather I just did not feel like taking the 300ZX out in the rain.  I went back to bed, because the reality is if you do not plan on showing a car, getting to the AutoMotorPlex ridiculously early is not a huge deal.  After getting a little more sleep, I found myself pulling into the event at 9 am.  Things were already hopping.  There was a line of cars still flowing into the complex, although a few Porsches were actually leaving.  As I was walking down the hill, a Carver County Sheriff pulled in and asked if he could show his car (jokingly of course).  Gotta love the panther cars!

The fact that the weather was not amazing did not stop car lovers and onlookers alike from flowing in and filling up the AutoMotorPlex.  In fact, certain cars ended up being turned away to park at the top of the hill due to the sections filling up.  Notably missing (at least I did not see it) was the Scion XB with the taped on LED strips to the headlights.  I also did not see the 240SX with the zip tied body kit.  That was all fine because the first thing I saw was a black BMW Z8 and I just love that car. The license plate on the Z8 read HOUSPMT, and while I did not meet the owner the car was in great condition.

Other notable cars included a terrific looking Saab 900 (I assume a Turbo but it was debadged and the hood was not open).  I was really digging the car – until I saw the rear which has what can only be described as – you know those aftermarket lights that can go on trucks, with four squircles to make it look similar to a Corvette?  Yeah, those!  Anyways, they were um …well ugly compared to the traditional taillights or even some other aftermarket options.  The rest of the car, I lust after.  A very nice R Design Volvo C30 was in attendance with the license plate BORK.  That is just classic.  I really loved the Audi GT Coupe with great blue paint.  A very nice black 300ZX Twin Turbo was there – and while it may be fast its not Uncs Z (that story is coming someday).

A 1964 Volkswagen 1800 convertible was being shown and it was just classic.  A true Michelle Naranjo vehicle if I have ever seen one – she probably dreams of it now that I sent her a picture of it.  Another cool car I had yet to see in the flesh was a Shelby GT500 Super Snake.  Blue with a black and white interior the car was just gorgeous.  Other cool appearances included the VW Bus that been at all three Cars & Café’s so far this year.  I spoke with the owner and he mentioned a new paint job would be coming towards the of the summer.  Sad, because I actually dig the current look.

Overall, the turnout was great.  Even though it rained the lot was packed.  Good times, donuts, coffee and great people – all with a common passion.  Maybe next month we will get sunshine instead of clouds and rain.  Until next month,  heres to good motoring and safe driving.

First Drive – EVOMS Porsche 997.2 Twin Turbo

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting the great folks of Evolution Motorsports.  The crew, led by fearless founder and owner Todd Zuccone, came into town to tune a monster Porsche GT2 for a customer.  They got to work quickly and set up shop at Imola Motorsports with Kevin and his crew for the week.

You know the saying all work and no play makes a something something something?  Well, to avoid that scenario Todd and the crew brought along their latest creation, which they call the “PDK Car.”  This is a 2010 Porsche 997.2 Twin Turbo equipped with the new PDK (Porsche Doppelkupplungsgetriebe, good luck saying that if you aren’t German) dual clutch transmission, which since this is a 201o model, it has the proper paddle shifters, not those dumb buttons on the steering wheel.

After spending some time talking with Todd, it became very clear why they are one of the leaders in this industry.  When I asked about his company versus the competition, he was very professional.  His responses consisted of statements like “the work speaks for itself” and “really it is about experience”.  After a nice chat, he tossed me the keys to the PDK car.  Of course I had a big stupid grin on my face – because someone just tossed me keys to a 650 hp Porsche.

Below was the set up on the 997.2 TT I drove-

Evolution MotorSports EVT.2 650 HP Performance System
EVOMSit SDI3 ECU Calibration (www.evomsit.com)
EVOMS 65mm Billet VTG Turbochargers
EVOMS ClubSport Headers
EVOMS / Fabspeed 70mm Sport Exhaust w/ GT2 Style Tips
HJS Motorsport 200 Cell Catalysts
EVOMS Billet Boost Diverter Valves

Alright, so I know the real question is what was it like?  Well two things, one I was in the middle of the city and did not have a long time with the car.  Thus I did not have track access.  Secondly, it was rush hour (note to self, plan better for these things).  Regardless the car takes off like a you are being shot out of a rocket.  Keep in mind the turbo 911’s have all wheel drive.  Thus this car was clawing at the pavement from all four corners.  This really made a huge impression with me when launching or even just hitting the gas.  Todd had warned me that the tuning in the software for the PDK downshifts was not 100%.  He was right, it is a little slow on the downshift.  If you pull the left paddle (for a downshift) it has a slight delay and then drops down a gear.  Upshifts are lightning fast and you can feel the shift under hard acceleration.  When I say feel, it feels like a hard fast thud.  Not a sound that makes you cringe however, because it does not sound like it is breaking.  The sound is more of a clean quick shift made at lightning fast speed.  The steering was terrific just like any other Porsche 997.2 TT.  The exhaust sounded great with a strong braaap braaap noise coming with each shift.

The interior was mostly stock, though the seats were not stock – rather they were thin and covered in leather with center inserts to keep you from moving.  They were very tight and you were not going to be moving during an aggressive track session.  The seats also had a harnesses for track days and a fire extinguisher was bolted to the floor directly in front of the passenger seat.  The particular car I was in had a factory navigation and sound system, along with automatic climate control.  That was all fine and dandy, but I turned off the radio and the air conditioning, rolled down the windows and listened to the sweet sound of the tuned 3.8 liter pumping out 650 hp to all four wheels.

They took the car to this past months local Cars & Café , and after that headed over to the track to run some quarter mile figures.  It ran consistent mid 10’s pushing 130 mph.  This was achieved by someone that had never even been in the car.  That in itself is a testament to the ease in which someone who has never gotten into the car can drive it consistently and pull great numbers.

Overall the “PDK car” was a beast.  It was not twitchy or hard to drive, yet it had terrific power delivery.  This is a car that could be tracked on Saturday and still drive to work on Monday.  I already know they are working on a R8 Twin Turbo among other things.  I can only expect to see greater things to come from EVOMS in the near future, and I for one look forward to that.

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by Evolution Motorsports

Review – 2010 Cadillac SRX Turbo

After my first run in with the SRX I had strong opinions, both good and bad.  The new SRX is a valid contender in this automotive segment and pushes the envelope for Cadillac both in quality and as a class competitive product.  My largest gripe was that the base powertrain is weak and affected the driving experience.  A simple question: would the optional turbo V6 engine fix the driving experience?

The main highlight of the SRX Turbo is larger engine which is funny because the engine in not actually larger because it is a 2.8 liter while the base V6 is a 3.0 liter.  The extra power in the this V6 really comes from the turbo, putting out 300 hp and 295 ft-lb to all four wheels all with max torque coming at 2000 rpm.  The all wheel drive system is the torque vectoring unit from Haldex.  This is the same unit that made its debut in the now dead Saab TurboX a few years back and can transfer up to 90% of the torque to the rear wheels at any given time.  The torque can also be distributed between the wheels side to side.  All of this gets put to the ground through a six speed automatic transmission with manual shift capabilities.  So the question still remains:  does this extra power fix the SRX driving experience?

The answer is yes and no.  Yes, the driving experience is much better.  In fact, leaps and bounds better.  In normal and spirited driving the car does not feel strained like the base 3.0 liter V6.  Even pulling away from a stoplight, you notice the difference.  In normal driving the engine does not feel like it is working hard.  The revs are easily kept under 3ooo rpm’s unless pushed.  When pushed, the engine responds quickly with no noticeable lag.  The turbo is going almost constantly whenever you have your foot on the gas.  Something to note is that you cannot put the needle into the red on the turbo gauge.  Why would you have the red there when you cannot put the needle in that zone?  The first thing people said to me was to put it in the red and I had to respond sadly, “It does not go that high.”

The downside to this engine is the gas mileage.  Rated at 15/22, this engine could definitely be described as thirsty.  I cannot decide what is worse about the mileage;  the fact that it is just terrible for this vehicle class, or that it is coming from the engine putting out the power that this vehicle really needs.  That mileage is no joke either.  I averaged 15.3 mpg during the week and it is worth noting that the gas it is guzzling requires premium.  I did not really stretch the SRX Turbo’s legs so I cannot comment on the highway mileage though I can assume that it matched the EPA rating pretty close to dead on.  Again, that city mileage is really not good and is so bad that it starts to dip into body-on-frame SUV mileage.  For example, the much larger body-on-frame Chevrolet Tahoe is rated at 15 mpg in the city with a V8.  If SRX Turbo engine had direct injection it would post better fuel mileage numbers and would be more competitive.

As mentioned in my previous review of the SRX, the interior styling is very well done. The materials all look and feel great. It uses the center stack from the CTS (minus the tiny climate control screens on each side) and the door handles are uniquely shaped.  These little details help set it apart. That said, the back seat is somewhat short on leg room with a taller driver.  The cargo area has a terrific cargo management system with sliding tie down brackets and there is a decent sized storage cubby below the rear floor that can hold items away from public view.

The styling is terrific.  I am still undecided about the front air dam being so low and whether it makes it look better or worse.  The rear taillights hark back to the “tailfins” on older Cadillac’s and play nicely with the overall design.  The rear diffuser finishes off the rear while integrating the exhaust into the overall design.  The A-pillars in this vehicle are ridiculously huge and they make sight lines a problem in a few instances and the rear window is tiny and makes visibility awkward so the back up camera is definitely useful in a parking lot.  The twenty inch wheels fill out the wheel wells nicely and look great because they are painted aluminum wheels instead of chrome plated.  Another thing that still bugs me is the GM chiclet.  I mentioned this in my original review, and again, I assume the tooling was already set before the decision to ditch this “Mark of Excellence” was made.

The SRX Turbo I had was a premium model with almost all of the bells and whistles.  The rear seat entertainment system package with dual rear screens and wireless headsets with remote adds $1,295 to this package and  I like the way this system is set up with screens in the back of the seats and separate video inputs for each.  The second option was the crystal red tintcoat which will set you back $995.  All said, including destination fees, the total sticker price of this particular SRX Turbo came to $54,475.

I want to take a second to talk about the competition.  The SRX is really going head to head with the Lexus RX. It was developed and bench marked against that vehicle and the marketing pitches it that way.  As I mentioned earlier, the price on this SRX Turbo was close to $55,000 and that is a lot of coin while there are a lot of other great vehicles for that price.  The SRX Turbo starts under $50,000, for that price you can get a nicely equipped Acura MDX or an Ecoboost Lincoln MKT and, while the Ecoboost MKT is a much larger vehicle, it just goes to show the breadth of this segment and price range.

There must be something about the SRX because each time I have had the vehicle we have gotten whacked with lots of snow here in Minneapolis.  The SRX Turbo handled it like a champ plowing through the white stuff with the all wheel drive sending power to the wheels with traction.  It felt weird but sometimes I thought the electronic stability control was slow to kick in.  The front wheel drive SRX handled the snow with its low profile, all season tires better than expected, so this all wheel drive version had absolutely no issues.

As with the other SRX I reviewed, I do like this vehicle.  When you compare it with the direct competitor, the Lexus RX, you see the SRX is a more engaging and dynamic vehicle.  The optional turbo powertrain definitely fixes the anemic feeling but at the large expense of gas mileage and in reality, the bulk of the SRX’s sold will be equipped with the base 3.0 liter V6 and that engine will be fine for those who are more concerned with the gas mileage.  For those who really want to take the SRX to its full potential, you will have to take the hit on the gas mileage and option for the turbo V6.


Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors

Review- 2010 Cadillac SRX

The first generation SRX was really never the sales success that Cadillac hoped for.  Styling on the the first generation made it look like a tall, boxy station wagon.  With both an optional third row and V8, the first generation was rear wheel drive with all wheel drive as an option.  None of this really lined up with what the mainstream rivals were offering.

For the second generation, Cadillac has taken a much more mainstream approach.  The third row option was ditched, front wheel drive and all wheel drive replaced the old drive train and there is no more V8. The largest change is the price.  This generation is starting at $33,330 where the first generation was $38,880 for the V6 and $45,880 for the V8.  The new SRX is much more competitively priced.  You can immediately tell that Cadillac is gunning straight for the RX in every sense of the word.  A base SRX is now almost $4,000 less then the starting price of a Lexus RX.  So how does it stack up?

The interior is closely related to the CTS, which is not a bad thing.  The center stack with the rising screen is directly lifted from the CTS.  The software used in the touchscreen is definitely upgraded.  I could pair my phone using only the screen in the SRX while I had to dig out the manual to figure out phone pairing with the voice command system in the CTS.  The gauge cluster has a trick screen in the center of the speedometer.  This screen essentially had all the trip computer functions while also displaying the speed limit on most major roads.  Navigation directions are also shown with this display.  The interior has non-overpowering white LED “mood” lighting at night.  The seats are supportive but not firm.  They are much softer than the seats in the CTS Sportwagon which, in my opinion, were better.  The cargo area has a track running around it that sliders can be placed in to secure cargo.  This is a very nice feature that is executed quite well.

The styling of the SRX is strong both inside and out.  From the outside, the evolution of Cadillac’s arts and science styling is in full swing.  The sharp creases and strong character lines all play together to create a rather good looking CUV.  The rear end has the classic Cadillac “tail fin” tail lights.  The angular styling leaves a D pillar in the back that creates a large blind spot.  The rear window is very small, causing visibility to be less than stellar when backing up.  The back-up camera is a much needed feature.  The front air dam is low and I actually asked people at GM about this.  They said it was both for aerodynamics and it looks better in their opinion.  I do not know about all that, but in deep snow it acts as a plow.  The little touches on the outside caught my eye.  For example, the headlight has the Cadillac symbol stamped in the reflector.  One thing that did not add up was the GM chiclet.  This “Mark of Excellence” has now been removed from new models, but I assume the tooling for the SRX was already in place before the decision was made to ditch this “Old GM” symbol.

The engine in the vehicle I had was the base 3.0 liter direct injection V6 putting out 265 hp and 223 ft-lb to the front wheels.  All wheel drive is optional with this engine.  The optional 2.8 liter turbo V6 puts out 300 hp and 295 ft-lb to standard all wheel drive with torque vectoring.  Both engines feed out to six speed automatic transmissions with manual shift capabilities.  The base 3.0 liter is some what of a dog.  The lack of torque is the main problem here.  The SRX is not light weight, as such you can feel every one of those 265 hp and 223 ft-lb trying to get underway.  The vehicle is more engaging than the class champion, Lexus RX, but feeling the engine trying to cope with the vehicle’s weight is not the best experience even though it does get up to speed just fine.  More power would be welcome via the optional 2.8 liter turbo.  The problem with this option is the mileage, which is rated at 15/21 mpg while the front wheel drive 3.0 liter is rated at 18/25 mpg.  People seem to take these numbers very seriously these days and that turbo looks thirsty on paper for this vehicle segment.

The particular SRX I had was a premium collection vehicle with a sticker price of $47,010.  This is the top level non-turbo model.  There were not many options, but rear seat entertainment was on board for $1,295 and of course GM’s crystal red tintcoat for $995.  Each rear seat has a flip up monitor attached to the back of the front seats with two wireless headphones and  a wireless remote control that comes standard with the system.  I liked the set up, and in my opinion, was done correctly.  The upgraded stereo that was in this package was a 10 speaker 5.1 digital surround sound by Bose.  I was not really that impressed with the system.  It sounded decent enough but the optional Mark Levinson system in the Lexus RX is better.  I would have liked to have seen something like the optional Harmon Kardon system from the LaCrosse in the SRX.

Equipped with 20 inch wheels, low profile tires and front wheel drive, I will admit I was a little nervous when the blizzard came through town.  In fact, I drove through three blizzards and over 1000 miles within three days while driving the SRX.  The only problem that I saw was with the front air dam.  It is so low that it plowed through the snow and getting started down an unplowed street was not easy.  It is worth mentioning that I was able to make it up a driveway that was covered in 2.5 feet of snow.  To do this I had to turn off traction control and slam the gas in order for it to crawl its way up.  Overall, I was impressed with everything it did in the snow.  I somehow managed to eek out 26.5 mpg on the highway back through one of those storms.  That is 1.5 mpg more then the EPA’s 25 mpg highway rating.

So we have gone from a rear wheel drive with an optional third row and V8 to a front wheel drive and optional turbo V6.  How did we fare?  The SRX is now officially a competitive vehicle.  The last generation was not a mainstream approach and sales reflected that.  Yes, I do think the base engine is under powered.  In reality, the general public might not even notice.  They will notice the mileage numbers that the turbo gets and will not be that impressed with them.  I am guessing most SRX’s will leave the lot with the base 3.0 engine and customers will be content.  The vehicle has distinctive styling and I like the overall packaging.  While some powertrain improvements are needed, this new SRX is a solid contender in this hotly contested segment.

Full Disclosure- The review vehicle was provided by General Motors

The Regal is Back! Will it Sell?

2011 Buick Regal

2011 Buick Regal

Last week General Motors announced they would officially be bringing back the Buick Regal.  The car is set to arrive in spring of next year as a 2011 model.  The car will launch with a base 2.4 liter four cylinder that puts out 182 hp while returning 30 mpg on the highway.  Later in the summer, a 2.0 liter turbo four cylinder that puts out 220 hp will launch.  The more powerful engine will still manage 29 mpg on the highway.  The list of specifications reads like a list of what Buick needs to get customers to both show up in the showrooms and buy their cars.  The car may look familiar to some of you, and that is because the car is a rebadged Opel Insignia.  The car that instantly won Car of the Year in Europe and is already selling well as a Buick Regal in China.  The turbo model will come with “Interactive Drive Control System.”  This will have four different driver selectable suspension settings.  GM has not gone into detail about the system yet though it sounds promising.

2011 Buick Regal Interior

2011 Buick Regal Interior

The main question is simple, will this car sell?  Buick already has the new LaCrosse and the Enclave, both of which are being viewed as successes so far and selling quite well.  GM knows they need more home runs and more foot traffic in the showroom.  The Regal should bring a lower entry price point into the Buick showrooms.  GM is hoping that, in itself, will lower the age of the customers.  While we do not know pricing yet, we can naturally assume the Regal will be priced both aggressively and will undercut the new LaCrosse somewhat significantly.  I personally think, from the specifications we know so far, this car will definitely help both Buick and General Motors.  My only hope is that the rumors of a GS (GS stands for Grand Sport) model come true.  That would not only be an epic move on GM’s part, but also drive huge foot traffic that might otherwise not come near the Buick showroom.  Bob Lutz actually recently told Car and Driver that they are considering a version for the new Buick Regal to be Regal GS.  It would essentially be a rebadged Insignia OPC.  It would push somewhere along the lines of 335 hp and all wheel drive and possibly have the trick torque vectoring rear end.  Finish all this off with a six speed manual transmission and a reasonable price point that would obviously going to undercut the Germans, and everyone else that would compete, and you have a recipe for huge success.  I truly believe that GM needs a model like the Regal with a GS trim level.  It will show how serious they really are about growing their market share and changing the image of Buick once and for all.  Hey GM, I want a Regal GS, I want it now, and a wagon variant would not hurt.

Note- Hakim Givens created a mock up of what a Regal GS wagon variant might look like.

regalwagon

Concept of what a Regal GS wagon might look like- Image by Hakim Givens

2011 Buick Regal

2011 Buick Regal

Opel Insignia OPC

Opel Insignia OPC

Opel Insignia OPC

Opel Insignia OPC

Chrysler- The Inside Scoop

The better part of yesterday journalists spent over 6 hours in a Chrysler press conference listening to their detailed plans for the coming 5-years.  Of course most of the people there, including Ray Wert from Jalopnik, were live tweeting all the information for our viewing pleasure.  We now know what will be coming out from Chrysler and can start evaluating the actions they are taking to achieve their plans.  Seems the twitterverse started doing that immediately.  So what exactly happened?  Below I will touch on the highlights.

Ram-

Ram will no longer be known just as the full size pick-up name plate.  Instead it will be known as the truck line of Chrysler vehicles.  All trucks going forth in the future will be known as Ram.  The brand is going to appeal to the commercial side of business.

  • Dakota will be dead after 2011
  • A new midsize unibody truck is under consideration to replace the Dakota in 2012
  • Light duty full size pick up (current Ram) major refresh in 2012
  • Heavy duty full size pick up (current Ram Heavy Duty) major refresh in 2012
  • Chassis cab pick up (current Ram chassis cab) major refresh in 2012
  • New large and small commercial vans from Fiat come branded as Ram’s.

Jeep-

They said Jeep is going “back to its roots”.  What that means is yet to be seen.

  • Small SUV based off a Fiat comes in 2013
  • Current Compass gets refresh (mostly interior) for 2010
  • Current Patriot gets refresh (mostly interior) for 2010
  • Compass and Patriot merge into one new small CUV in 2013
  • Wrangler to get major refresh 2010/2011
  • Liberty gets a mild refresh in 2010 and will be replaced in 2013 with a Fiat SUV
  • Commander will probably be killed off after 2010
  • Brand new Grand Cherokee in 2010
2011 Jeep Grand Cherokee- Coming in 2010

2011 Grand Cherokee coming in 2010

Fiat-

  • 500 coming in 2010 as coupe, convertible, and hot Abarth form

    fiat-500-abarth-essesse-official-img_3

    Fiat 500 Abarth

Chrysler-

Supposed to be up market and have style with class.  This will remain to be seen.

  • Town & Country will get a major overhaul in 2010
  • Brand new 300/300C in 2010
  • All new crossover coming in 2013
  • Sebring will get refresh in 2010.
  • Brand new Sebring in 2013. Unknown if it will retain the Sebring name.
  • The PT Cruiser is finally being killed after 2010. No seriously, this time they are for real.
  • Brand new compact sedan will arrive in 2012
  • Brand new small car will arrive in 2013 that will come from Fiat

Dodge-

  • Full size CUV arrives in 2010 most likely the next Durango based off of the new Jeep Grand Cherokee
  • Grand Caravan gets major refresh in 2010 with a all new model in 2014
  • Brand new Charger will arrive in 2010
  • Challenger will receive a mild refresh in 2011
  • Viper is being killed summer of 2010.  All new Viper arrives in 2012
  • Nitro gets refresh in 2011 and the future is uncertain going on from that
  • Journey gets a refresh in 2010
  • Avenger gets a refresh in 2010 with a all new model arriving in 2013
  • Brand new compact sedan arrives in 2012
  • Caliber is killed after 2012 and will receive a mild interior refresh next month
  • Brand new small car arrives in 2013 based off a Fiat

Engines/Transmissions-

  • Fiat 1.4 liter Multiair in Fiat 500 in 2010
  • Fiat 1.4 liter Multiair turbo in Fiat 500 in 2011
  • Phase out quickly all 4-speed transmissions
  • Pentastar V6 debuts in new Grand Cherokee.  Will spread across the line over time
  • Pentastar V6 turbo/twin turbo coming in late 2010/early 2011
  • Start/stop technology to debut in Jeep Wrangler diesel in late 2010
  • Dual clutch transmission debuts in late 2010
  • Diesel engines coming late 2010/early 2011

Ram will keep the current ram’s head as the logo.  Dodge’s logo will be Dodge spelled out in black and red.  Chrysler is receiving a new logo which looks very similar to the Aston Martin logo.  Fiat and Jeep will retain their current logos.  It has been confirmed a 6.4 liter Hemi is coming, and will have 450 hp.  Also confirmed is next year the Sebring, 300, PT Cruiser, and the Town & Country will all have special editions next year before the refreshed models (or in the PT Cruisers case, dies) hit the showrooms.  The PT Cruisers special edition, fittingly, will be “Final Edition”.  The 300C will have a “sport” edition while the Sebring’s special edition will be known as “Ocean Edition”.  The Town & Country’s special edition will be a “Fashion Edition”.  Also shown were two photos of the next Dodge Charger.  One photo was the new gauge cluster while the other was of the side of the car looking from the rear fender.  The photo of the outside looks very similar to the 1999 Dodge Charger RT concept car.  The major take aways from the announcement is that maybe Fiat did know what they were getting into and possibly, just maybe, Chrysler could turn out to be on the right course.  The above is a lot to accomplish in a small amount of time so time will tell how this “plan” turns out.

2011 Dodge Charger

2011 Dodge Charger

2011 Dodge Charger Gauge Cluster

2011 Dodge Charger Gauge Cluster

1999 Dodge Charger RT Concept

1999 Dodge Charger RT Concept