Archive for February, 2013
A revised methodology in devising its annual Car Brand Report Cards has seen Consumer Reports award Lexus its top overall ranking for 2013. For the first time ever, the institute broke out individual brands from their larger corporate umbrellas, meaning car makers like Lexus and Scion were judged independently from parent company Toyota. That strategy worked out well for Lexus, as the luxury brand earned a top report card score of 79 for the 2013 model year.
The institute has recommended every one of the Lexus models it has tested to date, and said that the company’s products won out thanks to “a foundation of plush and very reliable vehicles.”
Meanwhile, Mazda and Subaru tied for the second-highest scoring report cars, with scores of 76. Subaru earned praised for sporting models like the BRZ, which CR testers apparently had a lot of fun driving (naturally), while the Mazda products were lauded for their blend of practicality, sportiness and efficiency. Both of the Japanese brands offered good handling, fuel economy and versatility, said Consumer Reports.
The institute has recommended every one of the Lexus models it has tested to date.
Acura and Toyota rounded out the top five with twin scores of 74 points. A full eight out of the top ten best brands were Japanese companies, with Audi (eighth place) and Mercedes-Benz (tenth place) the only European companies with high-ranking scores. CR noted that those Euro brands were inconsistent this year, with Volkswagen losing ground and Mini doing the worst overall of the European brands, at 20 out of 26 overall.
Domestic automakers didn’t do particularly well, either. Cadillac was at the tops of the General Motors portfolio, but was still held back by just average reliability and no love at CR for “complicated CUE controls,” a complaint we’ve heard before. Ford and Lincoln were also dinged for their infotainment systems and reliability, as well as for EcoBoost engines that didn’t deliver on promised fuel economy ratings. Chrysler brands were the worst off, however, with just the Dodge Durango, Jeep Grand Cherokee V6 and Chrysler 300 V6 being recommended by the publication. Scroll down for the full list of Brand Report Card scores, as well as the Consumer Reports press release, or head over to CR’s website to read the full feature and find out the granular info behind each of the brands.
Lexus, Mazda and Subaru top Consumer Reports Brand Report Cards originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 26 Feb 2013 14:15:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
This was sort of a quirky surprise drive opportunity. I’ve been over here in Italy for a while now, and Mazda Italia contacted me seemingly out of the blue to drive test some version of the Mazda6 with a diesel engine. Supremo. The Mazda6 is a sexy everyday beast and I have been digging their SkyActiv-D engines for a while now. Very spirited units.
My contact phones me the day of, and says he can come by with the car, and then we’ll head off to some sort of special spot for dynamics testing and technical conversation. Nice deal, say I.
My guy Ernesto pulls up outside of the house and – lo and behold – it’s a dang Mazda6 station wagon with the very most recent 2.2-liter SkyActiv-D motor good for 148 horsepower and healthy 280 pound-feet of torque. The wee four-banger with 14.0:1 compression ratio hauls this 3,260-pound wagon around with the best of them. A decent 0-to-60-mph time of 8.7 seconds, too.
Best touch? This one had the standard six-speed manual gearbox. We at Autoblog know how we bend a few noses the wrong way with our open cravings for exactly this sort of un-American car setup. But, oh my, did we have a good day together.
- First off, the Mazda6 sedan we just tested is a fine-looking conveyance. But if you like wagons like I do, this 2013 Mazda6 wagon is even finer. To my eyes, it doesn’t overdo it like some Infiniti models or the Nissan Juke, and any references to the swoopy Fisker Karma soon fade away. Mazda’s “Kodo” (“Soul of Motion”) design approach just works.
- I was so geeked that this was a wagon. And the six-speed manual mated with the SkyActiv-D engine just took it over the top. Before hopping in, I noticed the optional set of really nice 19-inch wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Turanza T001 treads, the latest vintage of this fine rubber.
- Ernesto tells me that I am the very first in all of Italy to drive this engine trim outside of the company testers. “What about the Italian journos?,” I ask. He smiles and shrugs, meaning, “Too bad for them, I guess.”
- This revvy and strong 2.2-liter turbodiesel is not the 173-hp tune that arrives in the U.S. later this year in the sedan, but it would do just fine on American roads. If the hp bump seems modest on the trim we’ll get, well, the torque bump is also a mild 30 lb-ft. Acceleration to 60 mph will be only a half-second quicker and fuel use will increase, though it will still be good at about 30 miles per gallon city and 40 mpg highway.
- We pulled up outside of a go-kart track I know out in the middle of the northern Italian flatlands. Ernesto tells me this is the place. Seriously? Yes, seriously. Ever whipped a front-wheel-drive family wagon with manual shifter and small diesel engine around a karting circuit? Me either.
- The terrific Turanza tires were smoking freely under the cranking enthusiasm of the 2.2-liter four. All of the torque was there at 1,800 revs and the action of the manual shifter proved smooth and precise. It was easy to heel-and-toe at all times – this, on an extremely tight kart track, not an open road with time to think built-in.
- The wagon handled my induced-oversteer moves well, with superb steering and exceptional weight transfers exceptional. (It’s like this on almost any hopped-up wagon I’ve driven even a little like this. For instance, I prefer the Mini Cooper S JCW Clubman on a hot circuit versus the hardtop for this very reason).
- All traction nannies were off and Ernesto and I were having a little more fun than I think his bosses had in mind. I started in with the Scandinavian handbraking, a technique that invariably enters the equation on such tracks, and we were giggling like school girls in short order.
- The Mazda6’s rear suspension setup’s lateral arms do not, as many do, err forward and higher than the wheel hub. Instead they attach low, below the wheel center. This results in an extremely sporting attitude over twisty roads as the arms push at the rear wheel down lower and closer to the center line. This was most noticeable on track.
For the moment, no wagons are promised for the US, sadly. That’s a serious bummer for all of us; this Mazda6 wagon is a brilliantly executed design. Pretty damn good on a kart track, too.
We report on a lot of awards, some of which are given out based on more solid criteria than others. This one, the Kelley Blue Book 5-Year Cost to Own awards, seems like one that new car shoppers should pay attention to.
The cost of a car goes far beyond what you pay for the actual metal, leather and rubber at the point of purchase. Fuel, insurance, maintenance and repair costs, and the cost of fees from the state and financing will all weigh on your wallet while you own the car. That’s not even taking into account the biggest cost: depreciation, or the amount of money you lose based on what your car is worth years from now versus the day you bought it.
KBB tracks these sorts of things, and they’ve compiled a list of winners for 2013 models. On the brand level, Mazda and Lexus earn the 5-Year Cost to Own award for having the lowest overall projected five-year totals (though, curiously, we note that Mazda and Lexus each had only one segment winner). There are lots of winners for all the various segments, so we’ll just pick out a few surprising ones to share and you can view the rest here.
Many vehicles that aren’t generally considered competitive in their segments still do well from a cost-to-own perspective. The Jeep Patriot, for instance, won the Compact SUV/Crossover segment, while the Mitsubishi Outlander scores for the midsize SUV/Crossover group. For hybrids, the Honda Insight costs the least over five years, while the admittedly small segment of pure electric vehicles is lead by the Chevrolet Volt. What’s the least expensive 2013 model year sports car to own? The Ford Mustang, while the Mustang GT also nabs honors in the High Performance Car segment. Like we said, you can check out the full list here, and even look any car that you’re interested in owning to see how much you can expect to pay after the sale.
Mazda and Lexus crowned with KBB 5-Year Cost To Own awards originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 12 Feb 2013 08:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.
Back in October, we compared the relative merits of two new and very good small crossovers: the 2013 Ford Escape and 2013 Mazda CX-5. The CX-5 we tested then had Mazda’s 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G engine under its hood, and it managed to just edge out the EcoBoosted Ford despite being down by some 23 horsepower and 34 pound-feet of torque. Had it been available, the 2.5-liter Skyactiv engine that we recently had the opportunity to try out in the 2014 Mazda CX-5, it may have made that comparison even easier to call in the Japanese CUV’s favor.
Clearly, if you’re in the market for a reasonably sized crossover, the CX-5 should, at the very least, be on your test-drive list. The new engine offering will let buyers opt for a stronger powerplant, with 184 hp and 185 lb-ft on tap. On our second day in Austin’s Hill Country – the first was spent quick-spinning the 2014 Mazda6 i Sport, you’ll recall – we covered a couple of hundred miles and put the new CX-5 through its paces; here’s what we turned up.
- The extra half-liter of Skyactiv displacement, resulting in 29 more horsepower and 35 more pound-feet of torque than in the 2.0-liter model, is satisfying in this new CX-5. With the larger engine, the CX-5’s 0-60 time falls to about 7.2 seconds (Mazda’s estimate) from just under 9 seconds in the 2.0-liter version. Those numbers are borne out in real-world feel, too, where the new CX-5 absolutely feels quicker away from a stoplight and less strained when passing slower folks at highway speeds. The 2.5 engine sounds a bit better, too – offering a mildly enthusiastic growl up around 5,000 rpm and onward.
- Every other piece of the dynamic driving experience is more or less exactly the same with the 2.5-liter engine as it was with the smaller powerplant. Mazda only had CX-5s with the new engine on hand at our drive event in Austin, and it’s possible that driving both versions, back-to-back, could reveal some mild handling differences. But with only a few months separating our last seat time in the 2.0-liter car from this drive, we feel safe saying that the more-potent CX-5 is every bit the nimble handler as its slightly lighter sibling.
- With the added thrust and equal handling taken as read then, what exactly is the give/get situation relative to the smaller-engine CX-5? The larger-engined vehicle gains about 100 pounds, trim-for-trim. The 2.0-liter is the only 2014 CX-5 that can be had with Mazda’s very good six-speed manual transmission, meanwhile, though product planners hinted that we may be seeing a 2.5L/6MT combo later in the model year. (We know from the Mazda6 that the engine and manual transmission work nicely together.) Impressively, the 2.5L CX-5 only loses one mile per gallon in the city versus the smaller displacement engine (25 versus 26 mpg), and the highway ratings stay exactly the same (32 mpg). Towing capacity stays steady at a modest 2,000-pound maximum for all CX-5 models.
- With such stellar comparative specifications versus its 2.0-liter brother, the determining factor for opting-in to a 2.5-liter CX-5 is essentially only cost. For 2014, Mazda is only offering the 2.0-liter engine in Sport (read: base) models – both all-wheel-drive and front-wheel-drive flavors – while the 2.5-liter engine starts at the plusher Touring trim in both driveline configurations. That means while a true apples-to-apples comparison isn’t possible, you will have to pony up about $2,000 to get into the larger mill. A front-wheel-drive CX-5 Sport 2.0 6AT starts at $22,595, while the FWD CX-5 Touring 2.5 6AT asks $24,615 (all models have identical $795 destination charges). For AWD models, the difference between the Sport and Touring is an identical $2,020 gap – MSRPs of $23,845 and $25,865, respectively.
- Here’s a little model-year 2014 trivia for future members of the CX-5 enthusiast clubs: This year sees three new colors (Soul Red, Jet Black, Meteor Gray) replacing three old colors (Zeal Red, Black Mica, Metropolitan Gray). The new red is a $300 option. Last year’s blue plastic engine cover has been replaced with a black plastic engine cover. Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support, which automatically brakes the vehicle in low-speed, crash-imminent maneuvers, is now standard with the Touring and Grand Touring tech pack, while the burglar alarm has been deleted from those packages. Got all of that? We’ll have a quiz next week.
With the Chicago and Geneva auto shows not even out of the way yet, the automotive world’s sights are set on the New York Auto Show for the naming of the 2013 World Car Awards, and the top 10 finalists for World Car of the Year and World Performance Car were recently announced and will be voted on by 66 journalists from around the world (including our own European Editor, Matt Davis).
Vying for the top award are the Audi A3, 2013 Range Rover, 2014 Mazda6, Mazda CX-5, Mercedes-Benz A-Class, Peugeot 208, Porsche Boxster/Cayman, the trio of Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ/Toyota GT86, Volkswagen Golf and the Volvo V40. Since its inception, past winners of this award include Volkswagen Up! (2012), Nissan LEAF (2011), Volkswagen Polo (2010), Volkswagen Golf (2009), Mazda2/Mazda Demio (2008), Lexus LS 460 (2007), BMW 3 Series (2006) and the Audi A6 in the award’s inaugural year.
The competition is no less fierce for the performance car of the year with the Aston Martin Vanquish, Audi RS5, BMW M6, BMW M 135i, Ferrari F12Berlinetta, Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG and SLS AMG, Porsche Boxster/Cayman, Renault Clio Sport and the Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ/Toyota GT86. This award was first handed out in 2006 with previous recipients including Porsche 911 (2012), Ferrari 458 Italia (2011), Audi R8 V10 (2010), Nissan GT-R (2009), Audi R8 (2008), Audi RS4 (2007) and the Porsche Cayman S (2006).
The top three finalists for each award will be announced at the Geneva Motor Show on March 5, and the winners will be revealed on March 28.
In an automotive landscape dominated by platform sharing, technology exchange and any number of other cross-fertilization/cost-saving/amortization exercises, it’s actually pretty rare that we get to drive a new car that is as “all-new” as this, the 2014 Mazda6. With brand-spanking new Skyactiv architecture throughout – engine, transmission, body and chassis all included – this 6 represents a new era of flexible production and cutting edge running gear for the happily lithe car company.
Our own Jonathon Ramsey did a cracking job of running the Mazda6 through its First Drive paces a few months ago, and sufficiently impressed upon us just how good looking a car this is for the midsize sedan segment. Suffice it to say, now, then, that this is easily the most interesting (and quite possibly the most beautiful) midsize sedan in the segment today. However, as Mr. Ramsey reviewed a fully contented example of the 6 – one equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission – we took advantage of Mazda’s North American launch event of the car to suss out the base Mazda6 i Sport, complete with its six-speed Skyactiv manual gearbox. This may not shock you, but the stripper’s pretty good, too.
- We’ll get right down to the meat of it: The manual transmission is far better than the average do-it-yourself gearbox in this segment. Throws of the gearlever are light, short, and easy to put home with confidence. The clutch pedal, similarly, is very low-effort, but with a broad catch point that’s simple to operate in every driving situation we encountered. This isn’t a hewn-from-billet shifting experience, naturally, but it is a manual transmission that can be used with satisfaction in spirited driving, or mindlessly on the shopping run. The transmission is just perfectly suited to the power delivery of the smooth 2.5-liter motor, too.
- The Sport trim car we tested had zero options – quite a rarity in the media fleet. Still, we found the cabin to be pretty accommodating and comfortable. The most noticeable interior bits on this base-level are the all-cloth seats and the old school head unit where the touchscreen display usually lives. The seats were fine – soft to the touch and seemingly resilient, with just a bit of gloss and texture to make them feel upscale without the cowhide. The head unit, meanwhile, while perfectly functional (and sure to be embraced by the Luddite set in our comments section), was both drab and old-fashioned looking. Naturally, the instrument panel was designed to accommodate a touchscreen – this is the 21st Century, after all – so its lack of one hampers the design. For one thing, the lack of color and brightness afforded by the display makes the dash look sort of dark and dreary by comparison.
- So, just how inexpensive is the base model Mazda6 i Sport? The literal answer is $21,675 after the $795 destination fee has been added on. That’s pretty good, we thought. The relative answer is, of course, slightly more complicated. In a tooth-and-nail segment like this one, you’d expect pricing among the heavyweight players to be very close, and it is. Still, the new 6 is almost the class-leader. Comparing optionless, base-model MSRPs, plus destination charges, we find this: Toyota Camry is $23,030, Nissan Altima is $22,550, Honda Accord is $22,470 and Ford Fusion is $22,245. Volkswagen’s most basic Passat is just $21,640 though – about a night at the movies with your wife (not the kids) cheaper than the Mazda.
- Mazda is in zero danger of loosing its ballyhooed Zoom-Zoom appeal with this 6 – the handling experience is impressive. While we were perhaps a bit less bullish about the car’s nimbleness on our test drive through some very hilly, winding Texas Hill Country roads than when cruising through the French countryside (again, see our First Drive), we still found the thing to be pretty tossable. Reactions to steering inputs, especially, were impressively fast for a car this big and long. The steering experience itself was a bit weightless, with not enough of a transition from on-lock to off-lock feeling of heft, but still very accurate and easy to modulate in a quick corner. Suspension response was admirable, too, on fast switchbacks. For all of that, the cruising ride didn’t suffer, though road and tire noise on the freeway was higher than we’d like.
- Mazda will doubtlessly sell a lot of examples of this new Mazda6 based on its stunning sheetmetal and high levels of content in the middle/upper trims. Good to know that the base car is still pretty sweet then; and still a pleasantly differentiated product in a segment filled with one-upmanship.