Saturday Road Test – Chrysler 200

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2015 Chrysler 200

Only the Name Carries Over

By Ron Amadon

BURKITTSVILLE, MD. – Here’s a 2015 that is all new from the wheels up. If this were an NFL team pre-season pundits would be talking about a possible payoff bid.

The 200’s sharp new exterior design turned heads wherever we went – what its maker calls the new “face of Chrysler.”

Well-dressed business professionals strolling on lunch break smiled when they saw the new 200 and that is no small thing as the car has to compete in one of the most dog eat dog segments of the auto industry… the mid-sized sedan market. But if it is turning heads on the street that should help Chrysler lure potential customers into showrooms.

So where should one go to photograph this very sleek sedan? How about Burkittsville, one of Maryland’s oldest towns? Nearly the entire community of 150 is included in the National Register of Historic Places. If you visit, check out the Reformed and Lutheran churches that served as hospitals for both sides during the Civil War.

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For 2015 Chrysler offers four trim models, the LX, Limited, S and C and two engine choices. They ride on the platform architecture of the Alfa Giulietta that is shared with the Dodge Dart. But the 200 is eight inches longer.

Chrysler believes that most customers will be happy with the test car’s standard 2.4-liter Tigershark four that is good for 184 horsepower and 173 lb-ft of torque. Moving up scale one can engage the 3.6 liter V6 with 295 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque. I would recommend moving up to the six for the extra power and the option of All-Wheel Drive.

The four matched with the 9 speed transmission worked okay around town, but sometimes the tranny seemed to be looking for the right gear on country roads and interstates. A downshift or two might be required on mountainous roads to maintain momentum and it remains unclear how much one would ever use the two top gears except on very flat ground.

Yet the car was rather quiet inside for its price range with just a bit of wind noise seeping in around the front side windows.

In a week of driving, I registered 27.7 mpg, virtually in line with the EPA combined estimate. Uncle Sam estimates 23 mpg in the city and 36 on the open road.

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Inside the test car one quickly finds improved fit and finish, higher quality materials and then there is something hidden.

The center console mounted rotary shifter opens up a fair of amount of storage space under the arm rest and cup holders. Not enough to accommodate a tablet computer, but it slid nicely into the glove box.

There is a Volvo like storage area under the center stack with a rubber insert depicting the Detroit skyline, sans the GM Headquarters of course. Cords from your smartphone and other related devices can be passed through a hole to the hidden power supply and connections located in the center console storage. It is worth noting that there has been high praise for Chrysler’s Uconnect system.

The driver’s seat even with 8 way power adjustments and 4 way lumbar adjustments was not as long term comfortable as some competitors.

To the rear, the sweeping roof that makes the car look sporty requires prospective rear seat occupants to duck upon entry. Six foot tall adults will find enough leg room but their hair will scrape the headliner.

Two option packages brought some nice equipment to the test car. A $895 “Convenience Group” included illuminated vanity mirrors in the sun visors, heated outside mirrors, satellite radio, a backup camera that projected its image on a rather small 5” center dash screen, and a leather wrapped wheel.

For another $645, the “Comfort Group’ added automatic temperature and dual zone ventilation, rear ventilation ducts, headed front seats, Humidity Sensor, remote start, and automatic dimming rear view mirror.

Four 18” x 8” satin silver aluminum wheels rounded out the optional equipment.

A total of 16 cubic feet of trunk space is more than enough to pack away luggage and related stuff for a weekend fall foliage trip.

Handling was on a par with the competition, and not probably a huge consideration for 200 shoppers. It felt solid and well made on country roads, but certain highway imperfections could send unwanted vibrations back to the cabin, notably interstate bridge expansion strips.

For a lot of reasons, including a better looking interior and improved performance, I would recommend moving up to the S or C trim levels.

They bring a much bigger 8.4 inch information screen and that alone would be enough to encourage me to step up a model.

Moving upscale also brings a number of option packages and standard equipment to the fold. Most notable is the Navigation and Sound Group that includes a 506 watt amplifier, the 8.4 inch touchscreen display, and nine speakers with subwoofer, Navi, HD radio, Sirius XM Travel Link, and on the 200S, a 7 inch TFT instrument cluster.

Frugal minded consumers may be very happy, as the maker claims, with the reasonable $26,385 bottom line of the test car. But I would miss the options outlined above.

Yet most everyone should be happy with the 5 year, 100,000 mile, powertrain warranty.

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Auto News for Aug. 29

Here’s wishing everyone a very fun filled holiday weekend. The Auto News Column will resume on Tuesday, Sept. 2.

“August is a huge month for dealers who need to clear out 2014 models to make room for 2015 inventory,” said Edmunds.com Senior Analyst Jessica Caldwell. ”TV and radio airwaves are filled with these clearance deals and they’re helping push hesitant car shoppers into the ‘buy now’ mode.” As a result, Edmunds is forecasting 1.5 million car and truck sales for August, a gain of .7 percent year over year. It said Chrysler will see a sales increase of 15 percent for the biggest surge among the Detroit three. GM will see a 2.5 percent drop from a year ago, and Ford will be off 1.3 percent, if Edmunds forecast proves to be correct.

J.D. Power said audio, communication, entertainment and navigation systems are the most problematic component category in new vehicles. And the main problem is voice recognition, or actually the lack of it. Bluetooth connectivity is the second most frequently reported problem followed by wind noise and navigation problems. Power said auto makers “continue to produce built-in voice recognition and connectivity systems that are not in sync with consumer expectations” and auto makers “need to go back to the basics.”

2015 MUSTANG_SV3_0947

If sales of the 2015 Mustang are robust, a Ford official said it would consider adding a third shift at the Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan. The plant has just started production of the much talked about sixth generation pony car.

2015 Jetta diesel

VW announced its 2015 Jetta will carrying a base price of $16,215 for the 2.0L trim level, but it will be available only as a factory order. The S model is next up the ladder starting at $18,425 with a six-speed automatic. If one opts for the new turbocharged TDI clean diesel, the price jumps to $21,640. The diesel is pictured. VW said the 2015 Jetta will appear in showrooms in the third quarter.

Auto News for Aug. 28

Mustang production

Ford’s Flat Rock assembly plant has started production of the 2015 Mustang that will hit showrooms this fall. The car will also be sold in more than 120 countries.

Mazda has announced that Duran Duran will headline the unveiling of the 2016 MX-5 Miata during an event to be held in Monterey, California on September 3. You can watch the much anticipated unveiling on Mazda’s YouTube channel starting at 6 PM Pacific Time. Mazda noted that Duran Duran and the Miata both made their world debuts in the 1980s. But, of course, only cars can be redesigned.

I strongly recommend Phil Berg’s excellent column in this morning’s Detroit News regarding beeps, buzzers, and flashing lights that have infested new cars. Here’s a handy link to a fine bit of writing.

http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140828/AUTO03/308280032/0/auto01/In-car-alerts-setting-me-off

GM and the United Auto Workers Union have announced the next-generation Cadillac SRX will be produced at the Spring Hill, Tennessee plant. The vehicle is currently manufactured in Mexico but as part of recent labor talks, GM agreed to move production of a vehicle to the states. The move is expected to create or retain roughly 1,800 jobs.

Kia is going the other way, announcing it will invest more than $1-billion to construct its first assembly plant in Mexico. It will open in 2016 and be capable to cranking out 300,000 vehicles annually.

 

Auto News for Aug. 28

 Volvo XC 90XC90 interior

 In Gothenburg this morning, Volvo unveiled its new XC90 that its maker insists paves the way for a portfolio of cars to come. There will be 1,927 individually numbered XC’s to begin with that celebrate the year Volvo was born. They will be sold only on Volvocars.com starting September third.

 Volvo said they will be powered either by a supercharged and turbocharged four good for 320 horsepower or a twin turbo diesel rated at 225 ponies. It is the first car to offer automatic braking if the driver turns in front of an oncoming car in an intersection for example.

 Volvo is touting a virtually button free interior and a gear lever made from crystal glass from Orrefors.  No word on U.S. price yet.

 The Center for Auto Safety is calling on the National Highway Safety Administration to open an investigation of certain Chrysler products that owners claim have faulty modules that distribute electrical power to the vehicle. The New York Times said owners are also not happy that dealers want at least $1,000 to replace the Total Integrated Power Module. Owners said a failure could cause the total loss of power on the highway without warning, and owners claim, headlights shut off, audio systems turn on and windows roll down without any action on their part. Chrysler said it is investigating the matter that the Times said it involves 2010-11 Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango models among others. There has been no comment from the NHTSA.

 And listen up bow wow fans. Auto Trader is out with a list of the best cars for dog owners topped by the Subaru Outback. It is followed by the Nissan Juke, VW Tiguan, and BMW X3 and Volvo V60. Adopt a Golden of Atlanta said owners should not allow their dog in the front seat in case the air bags go off. Further, it said one should not allow their pooches to ride with their head out the window because they could be easily be injured by debris flying into their eyes. You can get further information at:

  http://www.multivu.com/players/English/7287751-autotrader-must-shop-cars-for-dog-lovers/

 

Auto News for Aug. 26

American Customer Satisfaction Index Logo

Sixteen of 21 nameplates in the auto industry saw a decline in customer satisfaction in the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index. The offshoot of the University of Michigan said two domestic brands showed improvements – Chevy rose 4 percent, Buick was up 1 percent. ACS said customer satisfaction was off two percent at Mercedes but it still leads the industry followed by Subaru, Lexus, and Volkswagen. ACSI said two things stand out – the gap between domestic and imported brands has narrowed due to a weakening of the latter’s customer satisfaction. Yet six of the top seven finishers in the study are still imports. The other note of interest is that several luxury brands did poorly with Cadillac, for instance, down six percent.

Consumer Reports has crowned the Ram Eco diesel as the best pickup, saying it outscored the Ford F-150 and the Chevy Silverado in its testing. The magazine cited the Ram’s 20 mpg fuel economy as one of the main reasons for its top of the heap showing.

CR also named the Toyota Highlander as the best Sport Utility, also for its fuel economy (25 mpg) and its towing capacity.

The GM Tech center in Warren, Michigan is a big place – 61 buildings spread out over 330 acres. To help workers get around the General is implementing a bike sharing program. That will be in addition to walking, driving and shuttle buses. One engineer called it an “awesome idea.”

The states blame staffing levels and workload issues. Yet the Transportation Department says states have not spent $530 million worth of grants aimed at improving highway safety. The Detroit News reports states have three years to use the grants, but don’t always meet the deadlines for programs to discourage DWI’s, and promote seat belt usage among other items.

Ford will create 300 new jobs and invest $129 million in its Louisville assembly plant as it ramps up production of the 2015 Lincoln MKC. It is the first small utility vehicle from Lincoln, and is based on the Ford Escape.

Sebastian Vettel is the first Formula One drive to lap the newly completed Sochi Autodrom in Russia. The track, in Kradnodar Krai, will host the inaugural Russian Grand Prix in October. Vettel took to the new track in an Infiniti Q50 hybrid.

Auto News for Aug. 25

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

If you have your heart set on acquiring a 2015 Corvette Z06 here’s how much it will cost. GM said the super-fast car will start at $78,995 with the base convertible costing a bit more at $83,995. That will get you a big V8 with 650 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque in a car that should hit the market later this year. Remember – these are base prices and there are options.

GM Chief Mary Barra has taken the ice bucket challenge to raise funds for ALS research. Don’t believe me? See the video at:

http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140822/AUTO0103/308220104/0/AUTO01/GM-s-Barra-takes-ice-bucket-challenge-calls-out-Gilbert

Can you imagine this phone call to some underling? “Ahh, Fred we’ve got something a little different for you to do. We want you to pour a bucket of ice water over the head of the CEO.”

Loans for new cars now average 5.5 years and some go for as much as 8 years, according to the Detroit News. That sets up the following question. Which will last longer, the car or the loan? Some auto experts are wondering how these long loans will impact future sales and are concerned that this could be another economic bubble such as we witnessed in home mortgages.

Last Saturday morning a bit of history was made at Ford’s Dearborn Truck Plant when the last steel-bodied F-150 rolled off the assembly line. Over the next eight weeks, the plant will be retooled to churn out the aluminum bodied 2015 F-150. The Detroit Free Press says 1,500 people are working around the clock building a new body shop that will crank out the lighter weight, and more fuel efficient, trucks.

 

 

Saturday Road Test – 2015 Hyundai Genesis

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2015 Hyundai Genesis

Tough To Top for the $$$

By Ron Amadon

DAMASCUS, MD. – Hyundai gave the Genesis a complete redesign for 2015 and the lower priced end of the luxury market now has a tough new hot competitor.

The exterior design is the first to feature Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture design philosophy and for my eyes it is a most attractive total makeover.

For the dough, you get a Genesis that is 196 inches long, 74.4 wide and 58.3 tall that rides on a 118.5 inch wheelbase with the three inch longer wheelbase adding to the comfort of rear seat passengers. In overall length, the Genesis is two inches longer than an Audi A6.

Here’s one way you can impress your neighbor. Find a safe place where you can make this Genesis do some deep breathing exercises, and watch the tach needle do a quick dance toward the red line of 6,500 rpm. Shifts are refined and smooth, your body gets more acquainted with the seat back, the engine emits a satisfying snarl, and your passenger’s first word should be “Wow.”

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Then tell them that this is not the 420 horsepower 5.0-liter V8 that Hyundai offers, but the 3.8-liter, 311 horsepower V6 with 293 lb-ft of torque @ 5,000 rpm that produces a 6.6 second run from a standing start to 60. OK, the big eight will cut 1.3 seconds off that but many will be very satisfied with its little brother.

The test Genesis came with All Wheel Drive, something that just might be worth considering now that the days are getting shorter, kids are heading back to school, and it won’t be long until we’re watching the NFL from the “frozen tundra” of some northern stadium. AWD is not offered with the V8.

Drivers can select Normal, Eco, Snow and Sport driving modes. Normal is about right for city driving, but Eco robs some of the power fun.

My fav, the Sport Mode, makes some changes to the steering, suspension, and transmission for more driving enjoyment and handling that was above what one might expect in a 4,295 pound luxury sedan. Yet it would not be wise to chase a Porsche Panamera down a country road.

EPA economy figures come to 16-25 mpg and I ended the week at 18.2 mpg on mostly country road and interstate travel. Hyundai said the six will run on regular fuel with only a small reduction in peak power and no negative driving effects.

The eight speed electronic automatic with manual shift mode was an excellent match and quick to kick down a gear of two when needed. If you are the DIY type, of course there are paddle shifts.

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Long drives will be something to look forward to with a more solid feel to the entire car partially through the use of high strength steel that results in a 16 percent stiffer torsional rigidity and 40 percent stiffer bending rigidity compared to the first generation model. If your eyes just glazed over, take it from me you will notice this out on the road.

There is also a new rear multi-link suspension and Lotus, of all firms, had a hand in designing the underpinnings.

If you really want to get tech minded, under the hood is a “triangular-pattern fuel injector” and a “variable-vane 2-stage oil pump for reduced parasitic losses.” Try that one around the old water cooler.

For long interstate travel occupants get to enjoy seats that are only seven light years ahead of any airline chair, and the Lexicon 17-speaker Logic 7 with 900 watts of power will almost make Willie Nelson sound younger.

The head up display can display almost an encyclopedia’s amount of facts. In addition to speed, there is cruise control status, navigation, Blind Spot Detection, Forward Collision Warning, and Speed Limit reminder. Coming next week, a reminder of when you are supposed to be home for dinner. Oops, nope. There’s already an app for that.

The car will send to your smartphone information on its “health status” and when maintenance is needed. In short, there is a seemingly endless list of information that the car and its computers can generate.

And then there is the matter of price. With $11,000 worth of options, the test car came in at a reasonable $52,400 including delivery.

That included three option packages. The $4,000 “Signature Package”, with sunroof, ventilated front seats, HD headlights, Blind Spot Detection with rear cross traffic alert, and power sunshades.

A 7” TFT LCD instrument cluster display, a too touchy lane departure warning, Smart Cruise Control with stop/start capability are some of the features in the included $3,500 Tech Package.

And for another $3,500 you get the “Ultimate Package” with Matte Finish wood and aluminum trim, head up display, power trunk lid, premium navigation with a 9.2 inch display, and the previously mentioned audio system.

In sum, there’s a lot to like here and for once that includes the price. Consumers looking for a luxury car that offers a driving experience somewhere between a BMW and a Lexus should absolutely take a new Genesis out for the test drive. If you take one home practice a good retort to this comment from passengers: “You said this is a Hyundai”?