Posts from ‘Chris Poole’s Test Drives’

Mar
27
1984 AMC Eagle

Do you remember how much this car cost?

 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, one 1984 U.S. dollar is worth $2.26 in 2015 money. Such is the impact of inflation on currency, and why we shouldn’t keep our money in the freezer wrapped in foil.

Mar
29
2013 Dodge Dart

2013 Dodge Dart

Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2013 Dodge Dart, a compact car that starts at $15,995.

Test car came equipped with: 6-speed PowerTech automatic transmission, Technology Group, Premium Group, UConnect infotainment system, satellite radio, 17-inch polished aluminum wheels. Total MSRP with $795 destination = $24,695.

Powertrain: 2.0-liter 160-horsepower 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, front-wheel drive.

Acceleration: The main report says the 2.0/automatic model is “very casual off the line,” and I agree, though I don’t think it gets “out of its own way just fine.” “Adequately” is more like it. Our friends at Car and Driver report 0-60 mph acceleration at 9.2 seconds, but this tester felt closer to 10 seconds. Either way, such “performance” must be near the bottom of the compact-car heap. Midrange passing response is equally mediocre. The automatic only aggravates matters with tardy downshifts—some seem to take at least a second—a result of mpg-oriented programming that also has the transmission racing for top gear even at very light throttle. Thank goodness for the manual-shift facility, which can help compensate for the torque deficit and sluggish downshift response, but family cars shouldn’t require stirring an automatic for max go-power.

Jan
02
2013 Volvo S60

2013 Volvo S60

Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2013 Volvo S60 a premium-midsize car that starts at $31,750.

Test car came equipped with: Climate Package. Total MSRP with $895 destination = $45,495.

Powertrain: 325-horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive.

Acceleration: Volvo says the T6 R-Design does 0-60 mph in 5.5 seconds, versus 5.8 for the regular T6 AWD. Both claims seem quite credible. (FYI, Volvo quotes the 5-cylinder T5 as taking 6.4 with front drive and 6.6 with the optional AWD.) The main report credits the regular T6 with having near-zero turbo lag, lively throttle response and excellent passing power, enhanced by a crisp, smooth automatic transmission. These traits naturally pass to the R-Design, whose extra power comes simply from slight alterations to spark timing and turbo-boost pressure.

No matter. This is another of those still fairly rare cars whose powertrain elements are so well harmonized for normal driving that I felt no need to use the manual-shift mode—although I did try it and it works as one expects.

Dec
31

2013 Lexus IS C

Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2012 Lexus IS C, a premium-compact car that starts at $41,190.

Test car came equipped with: F-Sport Package, HID headlamps with LED running lights, headlamp washers, front/rear obstacle detection, navigation system with premium audio, trunk mat, cargo net. Total MSRP with $895 destination = $55,399.

Powertrain: 306-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, 6-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive.

Acceleration: The tester felt quite lively on takeoff and in passing sprints. I’d guess it does 0-60 mph in the mid-5-second area versus 8.4 claimed for the 2.5 V6 IS 250C. Typical of Lexus, the 3.5 engine and 6-speed automatic partner like Fred and Ginger. Each is responsive and refined on its own; together, they’re a treat. Acceleration is linear, hiccup-free, and strong, aided by smooth, progressive throttle action. In fact, power delivery is so satisfying that I never felt inclined to use the standard steering-wheel shift paddles.

Fuel Economy: Circumstances prevented logging as many miles as I’d have liked, but for the record this IS C averaged 17.1 mpg in mostly city driving (Phoenix), a fair bit of which was gas-eating, cold-start, short-hop, errand-type work. The EPA city/highway figures are 19/27 mpg.

Dec
14
2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, a midsize SUV that starts at $24,450.

Test car came equipped with: Leather & Premium Equipment Package, carpeted floor mats, cargo net, cargo cover. Total MSRP with $825 destination = $33,025.

Powertrain: 264-horsepower 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, 6-speed automatic, all-wheel drive.

Acceleration:  This turbo-four produces impressive power and torque for its size. In fact, it packs more ponies than Ford’s similar 2.0 EcoBoost. I second the main-report comments. At least with just me aboard, the Santa Fe Sport 2.0T is pretty peppy overall—I’d guess 0-60 mph in well under 7 seconds—and driveability is excellent, what with the crisp throttle response and virtually undetectable turbo lag. But full credit to the 6-speed automatic transmission, which is no less refined than the engine and partners with it very well. So here’s another case where less—in this case, engine displacement—really can be more.

Fuel Economy: Yours Truly averaged 18.2 mpg in Phoenix-area driving that was biased about 65 percent to fast freeway driving. That’s in line with the EPA’s 19-mpg city estimate—revised from Hyundai’s earlier inflated figure—but disappointing versus the feds’ 24-mpg highway rating (ditto).

Dec
07

2013 Infiniti JX35

Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2013 Infiniti JX, a premium-midsize SUV that starts at $40,450.

Test car came equipped with: Technology Package, Theater Package, Deluxe Touring Package, Premium Package, roof rails. Total MSRP with $950 destination =$54,070.

Powertrain: 3.5-liter 265-horsepower V6, continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), front-wheel drive

Acceleration: The JX runs 0-60 mph in a little under 8 seconds with all-wheel drive, but this slightly lighter front-drive version felt more like 8.5 seconds. The main report states that less weight partly offsets a power deficit versus most rivals, but the weight-to-power ratio is still fairly leaden at 16.8 lbs/hp. The weight-to-torque ratio is worse, 17.8 pounds/lb-ft, and maximum twist isn’t online until a fairly high 4400 rpm. So unlike my colleagues, I thought the JX really is a bit underpowered, not only for on-the-level merging and passing but when going up even moderately steep grades—and that’s with just this driver aboard.

Since Infiniti admits it’s aiming the JX mainly at the 300-hp Acura MDX—0-60 in under 7 seconds with AWD—I can’t understand why the engineers didn’t provide more power by whatever means made sense. Unless, of course, the marketers said, “No, you can’t do that because it might cut into sales of our FX35.”

Nov
13

2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque

Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2012 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, a premium-compact SUV that starts at $41,145.

Test car came equipped with: Dynamic Premium Package, continuously variable shock absorbers, Climate Comfort Package, special paint, contrasting black roof, satellite/HD radio, and 20-inch chromed alloy wheels. Total MSRP including California emissions equipment and $850 destination charge = $60,095. (Note: This vehicle sees no significant changes for 2013).

Powertrain: 2.0-liter 240-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive.

Acceleration: Our friends at Car and Driver timed a top-line Prestige 4-door at 6.9 seconds 0-60 mph, which seems a shade optimistic. They also report top-gear incremental clockings of 3.7 seconds for 30-50 mph and 4.9 seconds for 50-70 mph, quite good for a two-ton SUV with 240 horses. Overall then, the Evoque has enough suds for most situations—at least with just a driver aboard. A sizeable load is sure to slow it somewhat. I agree with my colleagues that the 6-speed auto trans is responsive and, yes, occasionally “busy,” but I didn’t experience any abrupt or ragged shift action.

Nov
01

2012 Fiat 500 Abarth

Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2012 Fiat 500, a sporty/performance car that starts at $15,500. Also see our review of the 2013 Fiat 500.

Test car came equipped with: “Performance” leather-trimmed high-back front seats, Safety and Convenience Package, sunroof, red mirror caps and body stripes, TomTom plug-in navigation unit, 17-inch white-painted aluminum wheels. Total MSRP with $700 destination = $27,050. (Note: This model is virtually unchanged for 2013.)

Powertrain: 160-horsepower turbocharged 1.4-liter 4-cylinder engine, 5-speed manual transmission, front-wheel drive.

Acceleration:  I can’t find any factory performance claims, but our friends at Car and Driver clocked their Abarth at 6.9 seconds 0-60 mph. That seems a shade optimistic by my seat o’ the pants, but it doesn’t matter because this little pepperpot has ample scoot. It’s sure a lot livelier than the milquetoast 101-horsepower 500s. The Abarth suffers from some expected turbo/throttle lag, so it rewards liberal shifting and revving the engine like crazy. If you’re feeling lazy, though, it’s quite tractable at low speeds in 3rd and 4th gear, even if acceleration from there is leisurely at best. In all, the Abarth 500 is a classic Italian “tuner car,” with a rev-happy engine that gives better than you’d expect, helped by super-short final gearing (in this case a fairly frantic 3:35:1). Happily, shift/clutch effort is all-day light and easy, even for grinding stop-and-go traffic, though I was disappointed by the slightly rubbery yet “metallic” shift action. This car really needs a 6-speed manual transmission for a variety of reasons. It’s available in Europe, but apparently it wouldn’t fit within the stubby nose of the federalized 500. Oh, well . . . .

Oct
22

2013 Nissan Altima

Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2013 Nissan Altima, a midsize sedan that starts at $21,500.

Test car came equipped with: carpeted floor and trunk mats as the sole factory option. Total MSRP with $780 destination charge = $28,745.

Powertrain: 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), front-wheel drive.

Acceleration: My colleagues give 4-cylinder Altima sedans a “6” for peppiness. I’d rate this V6 version at “7” or “8.” Our friends at Car and Driver clocked a 3.5 SV at 6.1 seconds 0-60 mph, which seems right to me.

I haven’t yet driven a 4-cylinder 2013 Altima, but I was really surprised by this V6/CVT version. I’ve never much liked belt-and-pulley transmissions, so I wasn’t expecting much from this one, yet it works as well as most conventional automatics. The torquey V6 plays a big role in that. Still, there was none of the noisy “speed lag” that occurs with most CVTs, which race the engine to high rpm and hold it there until momentum catches up or the driver backs off the throttle. Moreover, throttle response is satisfyingly quick, so you almost never want for passing thrust. I also like the manual mode with seven preset “gears,” selected from steering-wheel paddles. It’s hardly a new idea, but it is an unexpectedly sporty touch for a midsize family sedan. Better still, it works with mercury-switch speed and silkiness—better than some dual-clutch automated-manuals, in fact. Who knew?

Oct
15

2013 BMW 6-Series Gran CoupeNote: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2013 BMW 6-Series Gran Coupe, a premium-midsize car that starts at $76,000.

Test car came equipped with: Driver Assistance Package, M Sport Package, Premium Sound Package, adaptive cruise control, leather dashboard trim, premium leather upholstery, 20-way multi-contour heated front seats, smartphone connection, 20-inch wheels and tires. Total MSRP with $895 destination = $101,495. (Note: Pricing approximate; vehicle was supplied with no window sticker or specific equipment list.)

Powertrain: 315-horsepower 3.0-liter turbocharged inline 6-cylinder engine, 8-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel drive.

Acceleration: The main-report comments ring true for me too, as does the 640i GC’s claimed 5.4-second 0-60 mph time. I also agree that BMW’s 3.0-liter turbo-6 is more than adequate for this car—I think it’s one of the world’s best engines—especially as the V8 model is likely thirstier and not hugely faster at a quoted 4.6 seconds 0-60. The alert 8-speed automatic contributes to the 640’s terrific mid-range passing power.

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