Saturday Road Test – 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander

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2014 Mitsubishi Outlander

A Complete Makeover

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – For model year 2014 Mitsubishi gave its compact crossover a complete makeover with an exterior design that makes it look bigger than it is and an interior of higher grade materials.

The Outlander rides on basically the same platform, and if you are asking “what is it” here are some answers. It is 183 inches long or three inches longer than the Toyota RAV4 or five inches longer than the Honda CR-V. With a 105 inch wheelbase, the Outlander matches the Toyota and is two inches longer than the Honda.

For a base engine, Mitsu gave it a 2.4 liter 4 with 166 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm and 162 lb-ft of torque @ 4,200 rpm. That is 10 hp below the RAV and 19 ponies below the CR-V. Tied to a lackluster CVT, the Outlander took almost 11 seconds to hit 60 from a standstill, and is slower than its arch competitors.

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But it is competitive in economy. The EPA rates the Outlander at 24/29 mpg and that compares to 22/29 in the RAV and 22/20 in the CR-V. All run on regular grade petrol.

I would recommend a step up to the GT Outlander since that brings a 3.0-liter V6 that ups the horsepower to 224 @ 6,250 and torque to 215 lb-ft 3,750 rpm. The six prefers premium but should make this a more satisfying performer since it comes with a six speed automatic.

There were comfortable front seats with lots of room in all directions but for the asking price there should also be a lumbar adjustment. In the second row, there was more than adequate space for two adults and a child and the seats slide back and forth. Access to the third row was difficult and there was very little room back there for even small children, so it’s best to keep the seats folded.

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Behind the front row seats there is 63.3 cubic feet of cargo space and that is below the space available in the Toyota and the Honda.

The test vehicle had one option package that was rather extensive and expensive. The SE Touring Package totaled $6,100.

It included among other things, a Navi system with a 7″ high definition touch panel, voice command and 3D mapping, a 710-watt Rockford-Fosgate® premium sound system with 9 speakers including a 10-inch dual-voice coil subwoofer, Adaptive Cruise Control, Forward Collision Mitigation, Lane Departure Warning, rain-sensing wipers, leather seating surfaces, power sunroof, power tailgate, 8-way adjustable driver’s seat and some interior trim refinements.

One maddening feature was the Lane Departure Warning. Drivers can turn off the hyperactive beeping via a button on the lower left of the dash, but it has to be disabled each time you start up.

On occasion, the button to turn the audio system off worked, and at times it did not. More frustrating was the power lift gate that had the same malady especially when one tried to raise it using the key fob.

Also included in the test Outlander was SAWC. In case you did not know, it is “Super All-Wheel Control” and it has four driving modes – ECO, Normal, Snow and Lock. It can vary the distribution of power and it is an item that might prove to be a gem if the nation faces another bad winter. With 8.5 inches of ground clearance some mild off roading is possible.

Out on the highway the Outlander was slow to build up speed and the CVT created lots of engine noise when one tried to extract all available power. Once up to speed the interior was fairly quiet with some road noise. The ride on pot holed highways was on the firm side and there were some vibrations that made their way through to the dash panel. Handling was okay but hardly sporty.

Our mid-range SE model with lots of equipment carried an MSRP of $32,700 from a base of $25,795.

With its long list of features, comfortable and upgraded interior and good fuel economy, the Outlander does have some bragging points.

Yet the bottom line is a lack of refinement despite all of the changes for the 2014 model year. It is something Mitsu has to work on if it is to compete with the CR-V and the RAV4 in the hot crossover market. There is also the matter of a small dealer network.

 

Auto News for May 30

Automotive News is reporting big changes at Automobile magazine, including the resignation of Jean Jennings as editor. She helped create the magazine some 30 years ago with the legendary David E. Davis. Owner Source Interlink, that also has Motor Trend in its lineup, announced a restructuring that will centralize much of its auto related content in Los Angeles under the guidance of Angus MacKenzie, the chief content officer. A total of 75 positions will be cut in Michigan and Florida and Motor Trend and Automobile will share come web content, according to Automotive News.

The recall bug surfaced again with Ford recalling 1.4 million vehicles. Most are model year 2008-11 Ford Escape and Mercury Mariner’s that could lose their power steering. Also, 196,000 Explorer models due to an electrical problem in 2011-13 model years, and a similar number of Taurus sedans from 2010-14 for a rust problem in states that use salt to clear winter time roads. More than 82,000 Fusion, Milan, Zephyr and MKZ models are in recall mode to replace improperly installed floor mats.

If you take into account every factor, traffic accidents cost the nation $277 billion in 2010, or about $897 per person according to new data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Crashes attributed to drunk drivers accounted for 18 percent of the total cost, while seat belt use prevented $69 billion in medical care and other expenses.

Subaru announced a starting price of $25,695 for its 2015 BRZ sports car. That would be an increase of about $200. It also announced a BRZ Series Blue of which only 1,000 will be sold here. It has a lot of trim upgrades and will start at $29,490 and will be offered in either Blue Pearl or Crystal White. The Series Blue is pictured.

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Auto News for May 29

Autodesk VRED Design 2014 SR1

Volkswagen is showing off a wild looking GT that was originally designed strictly for the Sony Playstation 3. But the concept will be displayed at the annual GTI festival in Austria and is said to pack a 503 horsepower twin-turbo V6 with 413 lb-ft of torque. Zero to 60 is estimated at 3.5 seconds with a track top seed of 192 mph. Because it will never show up in your dealer’s showroom, that allowed designers to let their imagination run free and “overlook production constraints like price and production feasibility,” VW said.

Volvo XC90

We won’t see what the outside looks like until August, but Volvo has released interior pictures of its redesigned XC90 that was launched way back in 2002. It is said to feature Nappa leather and dark flame birch wood and a gear lever made from Orrefors crystal. A massage function is optional for the front seats.

The Detroit News this morning raises an interesting point about driverless cars, now that Google got lots of publicity for its offering. Since the cars will follow all of the rules including speed limits, that means towns, cities, and states will take in less revenue from speed cameras and speeding tickets. The paper said nationwide drivers fork over about $6.3 billion a year to pay for speeding tickets, and that’s more than the L.A. Clippers will sell for.

Consumer Reports said the Honda Accord Hybrid delivered 40 mpg in its testing, and that is below the EPA’s 47 mpg rating. CR said EPA tests often exaggerate the economy of hybrids.

A ’63 Pontiac Catalina recently sold at auction for what appears to be an astounding $530,000. Why so much? It is one of only 14 light weight and specially modified Catalina’s that captured some drag racing victories at a time when Pontiac was facing some real challenges from Ford and Chrysler. To lower the weight, holes were actually drilled in the car’s frame leading to its nickname – “Swiss Cheese.”

A little late, but it is worth nothing that the Jeep assembly plant in Toledo, Ohio, has created a permanent Veteran’s Memorial featuring a 1942 Willys Military Jeep that assembled at the plant. It was restored by plant employees.

According to a study commissioned by Dunlop, race drivers of the future may experience “intelligent tires” that adapt to the demands of the track. They would be made of shape changing materials such as polymer gels that enable tires to change shape and size to suit the race even in the most grueling of weather conditions. There was no indication if those tires of the future might be available as whitewalls.

Auto News for May 28

Here is a video you HAVE to watch if you are a car buff – Jay Leno driving Steve McQueen’s very rare 1956 Jaguar. Who would not break out in a wide smile driving this car?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ai0uSj_OVE&feature=em-subs_digest

Lojack reports that for the fifth year in a row, the Honda Accord and the Civic are the most stolen cars. They are followed by the Toyota Camry and Corolla, with the Chevy Silverado rounding out the top five.

Ford announced this morning it will offer its patented inflatable seat belt technology to other companies and industries. It said the inflatable belts are potentially applicable to other forms of transportation including military use, airborne passengers and even those in boats. In a crash, the belt deploys over an occupant’s torso and shoulder to help distribute crash forces over as much as five times more area than a traditional belt.

The Jeep Patriot and Compass head up a Kelley Blue Book list of the most affordable Sport Utility Vehicles. They are followed by the Nissan Juke, Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, and the Nissan Rogue.

If you read any of the British motor press you know there are lots of speed cameras in the land where they drive on the other side. Now police have revealed that a motorist holds the record for the highest speed clocked by a speed camera in England and Wales, a certain to be well over the limit, 149 mph. The report did not say what action was taken against that motorist but police are calling for stiffer penalties all around.

 

 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is looking into complaints of braking problems with 200,000 Nissan Senta and Versa models from 2013-14 model years. One owner quoted in the Detroit News said at a red light his car moved forward even with the brake pedal depressed.

GM has told regulators it has identified 47 crashes related to those faulty ignition switches, up from 32 accidents. While GM did not raise its fatality toll from 13 NHTSA said “we believe it’s likely that more than 13 lives were lost” but an exact number is not clear at this time.

In the “Let’s hope this is true” category, Auto Express reports that Honda is considering a replacement for the S2000 two-seater that it stopped making five years ago. If given the go ahead, the car would be offered only in coupe form and would be a hybrid that would appear later this decade.

Jaguar has been testing a new XE Sedan at the famed and recently sold Nurburgring in Germany. Not much is known about it and spy photos show only a heavily camouflaged automobile. They may take the camo off in 2015.

California Association of Museums Snoopy Plate

Lawmakers in California have passed a measure to issue a special Snoopy license plate with proceeds going to state’s museums. State officials said they already have 3,800 pre-orders for the plate.

Congratulations to Honda and Ryan Hunter-Reay for their hard fought victory at the Indy 500 by an eye blink of 0.06 seconds over Helio Castroneves. Honda powered four of the top six finishers and won the famed brickyard race for the second time in three years.

Mini Superleggeera Vision

Like the Mini that is pictured? It is a concept with a name that is almost as big as the car – Mini Superleggera Vision and made its debut at the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’este in Italy. The open top two-seater is the work of Mini and Superleggera, the tradition steeped design and coach builder. The concept is said to be electrically powered with a simple but high lux interior.

 

 

Saturday Road Test – 2014 Honda Civic

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2014 Honda Civic

Popular long after Godzilla

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Compact car shoppers want wheels that are comfortable, tech savvy, and roll past most gas stations, where the price keeps rising these days.

Honda’s Civic has been checking all those boxes for years and has now taken all the right steps to bring its economy sedan in line with the competition after a rough start two years ago.

They must be doing something right as registration data from Polk concludes that the Civic was the top seller in California in Q1, subtracting sales to fleet buyers.

For one thing the price can be right. A base model with a 5-speed manual starts at $18,390 on up to $29,290 for a Natural Gas model, and no, not the kind created after a traditional New England Saturday night dinner (suppa) of baked beans.

This weekend’s test car was somewhere in between at $25,030 for an EX-L trim level. It came with a 7-inch capacitive touch screen display, Honda’s excellent blind spot monitor that displays what is next to you on the right side when the turn indicator is flipped on. And HondaLink that allows the user’s smartphone and the car to have fun together.

I was not a fan of the audio set now completely housed in the touchscreen. Trying to adjust the volume to the left of the main display was too distracting because the target was small. There were several other peccadillos in the system however the saving grace in all this was the steering wheel based controls.

The 2014 Honda Civic Si Coupe

Honda says the system allows “the familiar pinch, swipe and tap functionality of a smartphone to access audio, phonebook, media, vehicle information and available navigation” but I still want a volume control knob. There are a zillion other things the system can do, and younger tech savvy owners will have fun discovering them despite a poorly written manual.

Under the hood was the familiar in-line 4 offered in all four Civic models outputting 143 hp @ 6,500 rpm and 129 lb-ft of torque @ 4,300 rpm. It should meet the needs of most Civic buyers and is a silent partner on the interstates. I felt another 10 or 20 hp would be nice along with greater availability of a stick shift. The manual five-speed is only available in the base LX model. 0-60 in the test car came in a touch over 9 seconds, and that is in line with the competition.

All but one Civic model now comes with a rather lackluster CVT that Honda says contributes a whole 1 mpg to the combined fuel economy ratings that come in at 30-39 mpg according to the EPA. In a week of country roads and interstates I came in at 34.

Put me in the camp that does not like CVT’s even as they are appear in more and more cars. I will raise the white flag of surrender when Bentley adds one.

Standard on the tested EX-L was Automatic Climate Control, push button start, a handy coin tray, an 8-way adjustable driver’s seat with leather trim that was generally comfortable but a bit strong on the non-adjustable lumbar support. Out back there were 60/40 fold down rear seats that provided enough support and room for two adults.

A simply outstanding feature was the suspension that comfortably handled the yet untouched wintertime potholes, and provided some handling fun on back roads.  Additional steering wheel feedback would have been nice, but then again this is not the Si model.

With lots of tech features to lure in younger customers, Honda’s enviable reliability record, upgraded interior, excellent suspension, and fuel economy, the 2014 Civic should fit the needs of thousands of economy car shoppers, the key audience after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Auto News for May 23

We might do something other than jump in the car or crossover this holiday for a getaway – we might buy a new one. J.D. Power is predicting strong light vehicle retail sales over the long weekend will help boost monthly sales four percent. It forecasts we will spend $37 billion purchasing new wheels surpassing the old record for May set a decade ago.

The big winners, Power said, should be BMW, Honda, Nissan and Tesla, and, believe it or not with all their recall news, General Motors.

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Hyundai announced prices for its redesigned 2015 Sonata. A base model will carry an MSRP of $21,150 and that is $300 less than the model it replaces. Production of the new model is underway in Alabama and the first cars should arrive at dealers by the end of the month.

While auto loan delinquency rates are down overall, Experian Automotive said 22 states showed increases. Delaware led the list followed by Montana, Nebraska, Iowa and New Jersey. It also said repros rose 36.5 percent in the first quarter nationwide.

On the recall front, Toyota will recall about 370,000 Sienna Minivans sold in cold weather states to repair a cable that holds the spare tire in place. A total of 10,500 Lexus GS 350 models will be recalled to repair part of the brake pedal assembly in 2013’s.

In a research note, Barclays said GM may continue recall announcements into mid-summer, according to the Detroit News. About 47,000 vehicles with the much publicized ignition switch problem have been repaired and GM hopes to have most of them done by October.

Elsewhere, Fiat announced it losses $14K on every model 500 electric that it sells. CEO Sergio Marchionne was quoted in a Brookings Institution meeting as saying, “I hope you don’t buy it.” Thus far all-electric cars have not exactly been setting the sales charts on fire. Oops, sorry Tesla.

If you base it on retail registrations, as opposed to other sales data, Honda said its Accord is the most popular car in the U.S. More commonly used data puts the Toyota Camry at the top of the list.

And if you got to take one home every night, this would be a neat job. Rolls-Royce just named a new director for sales and marketing – Ditto for the new director of global sales and marketing at McLaren.

The auto news column will resume on Tuesday, May 27