Saturday Road Test

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2013 Audi Q5

Refined Fun!

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD – It all went by so quickly – the more than 440 miles that I put on the Q5. Fun vehicles will do that!

It was sized just right for zipping around Maryland’s old town narrow streets and country roads, and then smoothly merging into fast moving interstate traffic, even with the smallest power plant offered in the Q5 lineup. Thanks to a fine audio system and good New Orleans jazz, even being stuck behind a series of school buses one afternoon was no big deal.

The Q5 is the little brother in the Audi lineup of crossovers or sport utilities as it has variously been called. It measured 182.6 inches long, 74.7 inches wide and 65.2 inches tall. That puts in the same category as the Volvo S60 and BMW X3, its chief rivals.

An energetic 211 horsepower, 2.0-liter turbo four with 258 lb-ft of torque was tied to a smooth performer – an eight speed Tiptronic transmission. A 3.0-liter 272 horsepower six is the next step up, or consumers can opt for Audi’s first production hybrid that churns out a max of 245 horsepower. A diesel will join the lineup this fall, an engine that has been widely praised in European testing.

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Yet even the base engine is good enough to launch the Q5 to 60 in seven seconds with a top end of 130 mph. Being a turbo, it demands premium unleaded with an EPA rating of 20-28 mpg. I got an overall 20 mpg.

With 8-way adjustable power seats and 4-way power lumbar it was a snap for the driver to get comfortable. At times, the tilt/telescoping wheel could be balky to adjust and made the case for a powered unit.

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A smaller than expected steering wheel added a sporty touch to the interior. Instruments were easy to read in all lighting conditions and audio and ventilation controls were both right at hand.

The second row 40/20/40 seats came with fore and aft adjustments and reclined to keep adult passengers happy. Audi claims overall seating for five and no third row seating is offered.

Fold down those second row seats and there is 57.3 cubic feet of cargo room – generous but a tad below its rivals.

Out on the road, occupants will notice a lack of road and wind noise, as well as the rock solid build of the Q5.

Drivers will enjoy the Q5’s sporty handling with little body lean in fast corners teamed with quick response steering. This is where its A4 platform roots show up.

In short, Audi engineers have achieved a perfect combination of comfortable ride and near sport sedan handling. Visibility was good to all corners helped by large, and heated, outside mirrors.

With the $475 Ice Silver metallic paint, a large $1,500 sunroof, $1,750 Convenience and Lighting packages, and heated front seats the test Q5 carried an MSRP of $40,970 including delivery.

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Clearly the options on our test Q had not been cleared by Q of James Bond fame.

There was no navi system. That would come as part of a $3,550 MMI Navigation Plus Package that also includes voice control, color screen, HD radio, a parking system and rear view camera.

Paddle shifts come as part of a Sport Interior Package for $500 and a power rear lift gate is only an option on the upscale models. Those of short stature would find it quite a stretch to lower it manually.

The Q comes with a four year, 50,000 mile new vehicle limited warranty, and one year, 5,000 mile free scheduled maintenance.

If the passenger count and cargo capacity of Audi’s car lineup falls short of your needs, you would do well to take a Q5 out for a run. There are many good reasons why it is one of Audi’s best sellers.

 

 

Auto News for March 29

A poll sponsored by AT&T shows that 49 percent of respondents said they text message while driving. Virtually all of them knew it was not a safe thing to do, while 43 percent said text driving was a “habit.”

While out testing a vehicle yesterday I spied one driver who was holding a cell phone in one hand, a cigarette and the steering wheel in the other as drivers behind sounded their horns trying to get the distracted driver to acknowledge a green light. To be fair, I have seen many drivers pull over to the side of the road to make a cell call since Maryland outlawed yakking on the phone while under way.

Wow, look at this! Winnebago reported a 7 percent increase in second quarter net income over one year ago. Revenues were up 34 percent and the company said the RV market is continuing to grow toward pre-recession levels.

Some finals thoughts on the New York Show:

Proving that there is no business like show business, 007 Daniel Craig drove the new Range Rover Sport through closed off downtown streets as the company shot a movie. It was probably easier than chasing bad guys on a motorcycle over rooftops.  Lots of celebs turned out at a lavish post drive party. I don’t believe Matt Lauer was one of them.

Kia displayed a Wonder Woman-inspired Sportage Lasso as part of a 10-month, eight vehicle relationship with DC comics. An eighth and final version will be an amalgamation of all seven DC seven super heroes in one.

Wonder Woman Kia Sportage

Imagine the possibilities if this were to catch on:

Warner Brothers could sign up say Lincoln to produce a car aimed at physicians called the “What’s Up Doc?”

Jeep could bang out a well optioned off-road model called Superman that could leap over tall rocks in a single bound.

A stripped down basic compact car could be the Fred Flintstone. A turbo version of the same car, the Tasmanian Devil. The little IQ should have been the Mickey Mouse. With a twin turbo, one could upgrade to the Mighty Mouse.

If Russia ever imports a car here, who could resist the Boris and Natasha models?

Think this is silly? Well remember the old high performance Plymouth Road Runner?

With all the nonsense going on in the world, I hope this at least made you smile. That along with the fact that it’s Friday!

Final New York Auto Show Update

Following the announcement that the VW Golf was World Car of the Year, there were three more awards handed out. The World Performance Award went to the Porsche Boxster/Cayman while the seductive Jaguar F-Type was named Design of the Year. The Tesla Model S captured the Green Car of the Year award.

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Subaru showed off the WRX concept that it said hints at the design language of the next generation of the car. Suby said the concept has a carbon-fiber roof, a new turbocharged engine and intercooler, plus a new grill design. Juicy technical details were not released but will likely come out later.

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Sharing the spotlight was Subaru’s first ever production AWD hybrid, in the form of the Crosstrek. It will go on sale in the fourth quarter with a 2.0-liter Boxer engine matched to a 13.4 horsepower electric motor and a continuously variable transmission. A 13.5kw nickel-metal hydride battery will be located under the rear floor area with a loss of only 1.7 cubic feet of storage space. The system will use the electric motor for initial vehicle acceleration and then start the gasoline engine once underway. Fuel economy is predicted to be 28-34 mpg compared to 25-33 mpg on the existing Crosstrek. Pricing will be announced closer to introduction.

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The Dodge Boys bragged about the 2014 Durango that features an eight speed automatic that the maker claims increases fuel economy by up to 9 percent. Production will begin in the third quarter with five trim levels building to the top of the line Citadel. Upper class models get an 8.4 inch touchscreen for navi and other uses, and a 7-inch customizable full color instrument cluster. Both will rock the boat, as it were, with the V6 able to tow up to 6,200 pounds and the Hemi V8 up to 7,400 pounds that Dodge claims that is 65 percent more than the competition. The six is good for 290 horsepower and the 5.7-liter HEMI 360 horses. The six is said to have a driving range of more than 600 miles.

Dodge Durango

Scion started the final press day by unveiling the 2014 version of its best seller, the tC. The major changes are inside with upgraded materials and a 6.1-inch touchscreen audio system with Bluetooth compatibility. Also steering wheel mounted audio controls, access to the Aha system and full navigation. Those hoping for a turbo will be disappointed. The 2.5-liter 180 horsepower four is carried over to the new model that will arrive in showrooms in June. To celebrate Scion’s 10th anniversary it will introduce specially trimmed limited production versions of each of its vehicles.

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World Car of the Year Announced

New York Auto Show Update 1

The VW Golf was named the 2013 World Car of the Year award winner, the second win in as many years for Volkswagen. The UP! Model, not sold in the U.S., was last year’s winner. Judges said the Golf “is as close to the perfect hatchback design as any car company has come yet.” The votes come from a panel of 66 auto journalists from 23 countries.

 

Auto News for March 28

Fans of the Chevy Camaro have to be happy with the news that the high performance Z/28 is coming back. It will return in the form of a bare bones high performance car packing 500 V8 horsepower. “If you want a street-legal track car this is the car for you,” said GM North American President Mark Reuss. Bucking recent performance car trends, the Z/28 will not be available with an automatic transmission – a six speed manual only. Lots of things were excessed to lower weight and increase performance including standard air conditioning, trunk carpeting, insulation, and even speakers – there can be only one. GM officials did not talk price. The first Z/28 was introduced in 1967 and the new one will appear in showrooms later this year.

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The Chevy move to just a manual transmission is interesting in that Porsche’s head of R&D, Wolfgang Hatz, told Car magazine that the next 911 Turbo will not have a manual.

Kia announced that the hamsters will return in an ad for the freshened up 2014 Soul.

It will be interesting to see what comes of this announcement. Red Bull racing driver and triple Formula One World Champ Sebastian Vettel has been brought on board as Infiniti’s Director of Performance. Infiniti also announced that the 2014 Q50 Sports Sedan will carry a starting price of $36,450 when it goes on sale this summer.

The World Car Award winners will be announced today at the New York Show. Scion, Volvo, and Subaru will be showing off new models. Scion could attract more than a little attention with its new tC sports coupe. Dodge will formally unveil a reinvigorated Durango and I will have more on the second press day at the NY show a bit later.

New York Auto Show – Second Update

New York Auto Show Second Update

Porsche rolled out a high performance 911 called the GT3 with a new engine, transmission, body and chassis. Performance you say? How about 0-60 in 3.3 seconds and a top speed of 195 mph, on top of a sub 7 minute 30 second lap time on the Nurburgring Nordschleife. It carries a 3.8-liter boxer engine yielding 475 horsepower and a screaming 9,000 rpm redline. Not to mention the return of the huge rear wing for improved aerodynamics and it is the first Porsche to employ active rear wheel steering. The 2014 model will go on sale here later this year with a base price of $130,400 minus transportation. I want one.

Porsche 911 GT3

For the very well heeled, the Bentley Flying Spur made its U.S. debut. It sports a V12 engine with a top speed of only 200 miles per hour and a 0-60 run of 4.3 seconds. Every seam in the A-Grade leather is individually sewn and every layer of veneer is lacquered and polished by hand. The company states that the Flying Spur “is born of the belief that nothing is impossible; that the twin objectives of power and luxury can, if relentlessly pursued, be achieved.” The starting price is said to be right around $200,000 which if nothing else promises a degree of exclusivity.

Bewntley Flying Spur

Arriving in dealer showrooms in the third quarter is the 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Jeep says it will be the first mid-size SUV to feature rear-axle disconnect for improved fuel economy. Three new four-wheel-drive systems will be offered with either an inline four cylinder engine or a 3.2-liter V6 with 271 horsepower, 239 lb-ft of torque capable of towing 4,500 pounds. The interior is quite attractive and it undoubtedly maintains the Jeep tradition of off road excellence.

Jeep Cherokee

Nissan talked up a Pathfinder Hybrid featuring a supercharged 2.5-liter gas engine, 15kW electric motor and priced around $3,000 above the standard V6 model. It is scheduled to go on sale in late summer.

The major changes in Hyundai’s top of the line Equus are inside with a redesigned instrument panel, center stack and shift lever. There is a larger 9.2-inch upper center stack LCD display and dual 9.2 inch rear seat entertainment monitors. The air suspension was recalibrated with the Sport mode getting more controlled damping, and a Snow mode has been added. Engine-wise, the 5.0-liter, 429 horsepower V8 is carried over.

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New York Auto Show Update #1

First up this morning was Toyota with a third-generation Highlander for 2014. It features three rows of seating for what the maker says is up to eight passengers with a four or V6 power plant coupled to a new six-speed transmission. A V6 hybrid will also be in the mix. The new model is three inches longer and one-half inch wider and Toyota claims additional cargo capacity.

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Making its U.S. debut was the seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf. It will go on sale here as a lighter 2015 model that allows VW to claim up to 15 percent better fuel economy. Three models will be offered including a diesel and the enthusiast’s favorite, the GTI with an expected 210 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque.

2015 VW Golf

In case you ever wondered, the Kia Soul hamster mobile is an “urban utility vehicle.” The 2014 model was displayed this morning with a new chassis that is said to be stiffer, longer, and wider. Three trim levels will be offered and pricing will be announced closer to the Soul’s launch date. While dimensions increase by fractions of an inch, the rear tailgate is wider by 2.4 inches. Said one designer, “If you think about droplets falling into a still pond, you begin to visualize the inspiration” for the interior.

KIa Soul

Kia also revealed a 201 horsepower Turbocharged four cylinder Forte Koup, (their spelling.) It will go on sale in the fourth quarter. The turbo cranks out 201 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque with a sport tuned suspension. Also on the stand was refreshed Optima.

Mercedes was juiced showing off its B-Class all electric hatchback. It says a full charge will take the car 115 miles powered by a 20-kwh lithium-ion battery and 134 horsepower motor. Top speed is said to be 100 mph. Merc will not offer a gas powered B class here in the states. Look for it early next year.

Merceds B class electric

The three pointed star also showed off a group of AMG performance models. Among them was the CLA 45 AMG with a 332 horsepower four and a zero to 60 romp in 4.5 seconds. It will hit showrooms in September as a 2014 model with a $47,450 price tag.

A third generation Acura MDX was the final unveiling of the morning session. Built on a new platform, the crossover will seat seven and will be offered for the first time with less expensive two wheel drive. A new VTEC 3.5-liter V6 with 290 horsepower is the power of choice with a six speed transmission. Acura said the front drive version is good for up to 28 mpg highway. A new touchscreen will reduce the number of buttons on the center stack from 41 to 9.

Acura MDX

 

Auto News for March 27

It will be a day full of new car introductions at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York as the big auto show opens to the press. You can find updates throughout the day right here!

While most of the new vehicles will be 2014 models, Audi has gone them one better, unveiling its 2015 (!) A3 sedan. It will be in showrooms in the first quarter of next year. It will feature a 170 horsepower four, a 2.0-liter diesel, along with a low and high output 2.0 turbo four. Drive select will allow operators to adjust throttle response, shift points, and the steering effort by dialing in Auto, Dynamic, Comfort and Individual settings. The A3 grows a bit with overall length up to 175.5 inches, a gain of 6 inches, and roughly the same size as the A4 from 1994.

2015 Audi A3

Honda is showing off an upgraded Odyssey van called the Touring Elite. Along with safety upgrades, the upscale model can be ordered with the first ever in-vehicle vacuum system. Developed in conjunction with Shop-Vac it is housed behind a panel in the left rear storage area of the van. It can operate continuously when the engine is running and can cover the entire interior of the vehicle.

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The 2014 Cadillac CTS gains a new Vsport model with a Twin-Turbo V6 and the brand’s first eight-speed automatic with paddle shifts. Production begins this fall in Lansing, Michigan. It adds five inches in length over the current model with a 1.2 inch longer wheelbase. But it sheds 200 pounds. The first twin-turbo in Cadillac history should be a fun ride with 420-horsepower and 430 lb-ft of torque. GM claims 90 percent of peak torque will be available from 2,500 rpm to 5,500 rpm. A Bose audio system is standard along with 20-way adjustable front seats. GM is hoping it will keep makers of the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5-series awake nights.

Cadillac CTS

Buick says the 2014 Regal will be available with a 2.0 liter turbo that delivers an 18 percent horsepower boost to 259 over the current model. Torque comes to 295 lb-ft with peak torque from 3,000 to 4,000 rpm. For the first time, the Regal will offer all-wheel drive as an option.

If you were out and about in New York last night you may have caught sight of the new Range Rover Sport model. And who was behind the wheel but 007! Daniel Craig drove it through closed off streets as the company made a short movie. The new model is about 800 pounds lighter than the old one and can be ordered with a 510 horsepower V8.

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New York is really getting into this auto thing. Hyundai of America President and CEO John Krafcik rang the closing bell at the NASDAQ yesterday. The event was designed to call attention to the car maker’s 15 year association with the fight against pediatric cancer.

Still to come are Subaru’s first hybrid and a new Toyota Highlander among other things.

Toyota now thinks U.S. auto industry sales will hit 15.3 million this year, up from an early prediction of 14.7 million. It cited improved consumer confidence according to the Detroit News.

The late Carroll Shelby has been inducted into the Sports Car Club of America’s Hall of Fame. Association President Jeff Dahnert said Shelby “impacted the SCCA as a competitor, as an automotive designer and builder, and his influence within the motorsports world elevated the SCCA.”

 

 

 

 

Auto News for March 26

 

A survey of on line auto buffs by SocialVibe showed that nearly three-quarters of them are satisfied with their current wheels. The brands with a high satisfaction score were Nissan, Chevy, and Hyundai. Honda had the most loyal customers and respondents said reliability and dependability are the most important qualities when considering a new vehicle.

Shelby America will have some bragging rights at the New York Auto Show, with what the company called the world’s most powerful street production muscle car. It is a modified Shelby GT500 with 1,200 horsepower that puts it up there with the Bugatti Veyron. The Shelby 1000 S/C will sell for $154,995 on top of the costs of the base GT500. Lots of dough but one would end up with a Mustang like no other.

Shelby GT500

TrueCar.com predicts auto sales will increase 4.5 percent this month. It also says automakers will spend less dough on incentives. The rally in the stock market and available credit were cited as reasons for the sales increase. We will find out if they were right in early March.

Kelley Blue Book is predicting a 3.2 percent sales increase from one year ago and also cited tax refunds as a reason for the sales gain. KBB predicts a 6.5 percent gain for GM, 4.5 percent at Ford and 3.4 percent at Chrysler.

The Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius or Prius V, and VW Jetta SportWagen TDI are among the top cars for those stuck in a daily commute, according to Triple A. While the recommendations were for the Chicago market, they would apply to anyone who on a daily basis is stuck in traffic. Among sedan choices, AAA recommends the Audi A4 and the Buick LaCrosse with the Ford Flex and Toyota Highlander the top choices in the crossover field.

 

 

Auto News for March 25

A major oops! During the Malaysian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton stopped at wrong garage during a pit stop – McLaren instead of Mercedes. Understandable, in that Hamilton drove for years for McLaren until he switched to Mercedes last season. Hamilton later said the folks at McLaren just looked familiar.

Buick today took the wraps off a refreshed LaCrosse. A new interior is the main news with what the maker said is “Light Neutral Soleil Keisel leather seating and Cocoa accents interior with Kyoto Maple wood-style décor.” Next generation IntelliLink, an eight inch color display, along with camera and radar based safety features are offered. The car will be displayed at the New York Auto show this week.

2014 Buick LaCrosse interior

The latest Lundberg Survey has good news for motorists. Nationwide average gas prices have now declined for four straight weeks and are now 22 cents a gallon cheaper than a year ago. At $4.10 Chicago has the most expensive petrol.

Chrysler claims it is the fastest growing manufacturer in California with sales up 50 percent in 2012. It said seven models recorded their best ever annual sales.

Honda is a big winner in Kelly Blue Book’s survey of automakers that have most successfully captured positive consumer attention. Honda took three of 13 categories including Best Overall Brand, Most Trusted Brand and Best Value Brand. Toyota captured the Best Overall Truck Brand and BMW was named the Best Overall Luxury Brand.