Henry Payne Blog
Posted by hpayne on April 18, 2014
Posted by hpayne on April 18, 2014
Posted by hpayne on April 18, 2014
Posted by hpayne on April 17, 2014
Posted by hpayne on April 17, 2014
Would it be inappropriate to cruise through genteel Grosse Pointe with the base cranked and Kanye West’s “Wouldn’t You Like To” blaring?
Would you like to ride shotgun in the Escalade
So why don’t you and your friends get with me and my friends ...
Not if you’re blaring it through the Bose sound system of the luxurious 2015 Cadillac Escalade. Is there any luxury vehicle today with a broader buyer demographic than Caddy’s flagship SUV? From West Coast celebrities like Kanye, Jennifer Lopez and Kobe Bryant to well-to-do East Coast families, the Escalade has become synonymous with cool lux.
When you rolled up in the Escalade
Saw that dub you gave to the valet
- Jennifer Lopez, “Love Don’t Cost a Thing”
“And the kids like that Dad drives the same car as the celebrities they watch,” says Schiavone with a smile. After all, how many vehicles come with their own soundtracks?
Escalade buyers have been both the richest and the youngest — average age 52 — among Cadillac customers, defying Caddy’s image as the Geritol brand. Since the Escalade was introduced in 1999, Caddy has poured billions into updating a once stodgy lineup.
The Cadillac CTS sedan now runs stride-for-stride with the best German luxury thoroughbreds and won the 2013 Detroit News Vehicle of the Year. And the 2014 Caddy ATS is the crucial, entry-level sedan that the brand needs to pull in first-time buyers.
But the Escalade is still the bling king. Part sculpture, part truck, part upscale condo, the roomy Escalade is Detroit’s most over-the-top status vehicle. It is the standard bearer of Cadillac’s Art & Science design philosophy that combines edgy styling with advanced chassis engineering. And the brand new fourth-generation Escalade lives up to the legend.
The big yacht gets its superstructure from GM’s body-on-frame pickup and shares many of the same features — auto lay-flat third-row seats, magnetic shock ride control, adaptive cruise control — with the premium Chevy Tahoe LTZ that I reviewed last week. But the $72,700 Escalade is much more than a Tahoe in a tux. It puts OMG in SUV.
“The Escalade is for extroverts,” deadpans one GM engineer. Shall we begin with the lights?
A stack of five LED bulbs illuminate the Escalade’s path — each separated by heat-dispersing heat fins. The vertical light show continues round back where giant LEDs anchor the corners like the red neon signs on Radio City Music Hall. Tail-finned dream cruisers meet the new kid on Woodward’s block. These vertical masterpieces set the tone for the Escalade’s bold, severe, handsome architecture. This is a masculine vehicle.
Cruisin’ in my Cadillac Escalade trickin’
Sometimes like it easy, sometimes
Like it rugged
But like Pink, who penned those lyrics, the Escalade is surprisingly popular with the ladies.
Forty percent of base Escalade buyers are female — a number that jumps to 50 percent with the stretched Escalade XL, which can fit soccer mom’s whole soccer team. Intimidated by the Escalade’s huge five-point chrome grille (which bears a family resemblance to James Bond’s nemesis Jaws), my wife softens to the big hunk when she passes her foot under the rear bumper. The hands-free liftgate rises like a garage door revealing an interior space so large you expect a Caddy ELR to come driving out of it.
Step inside and the macho lines melt into a plush interior. Sure, there are artistic echoes like the five-point design of the CUE infotainment system — imitating the grille outside. But the dash is swathed in hand-crafted, cut-and-sewn leather.
Wood accents abound. And the interior bristles with family-friendly USB ports essential for digital Gen Y. The interior reveals why the Escalade is in a class of its own.
The Mercedes GL gets the trophy as best-selling truck in the large SUV class, but the car-based GL can’t compete with the Escalade’s interior room and truck toughness. Huge storage spaces abound — a center storage bin can swallow a laptop for charging. Really. This isn’t a car; it’s a home away from home, where hectic families can catch up on their way to their next appointment. The Escalade is a 21st century family kitchen table.
At the center of this rolling domicile is the front seat. Calling them seats doesn’t do them justice. Call them thrones.The most complicated assemblies in the Escalade outside the powertrain, these thrones deserve their own showroom. Heated and cooled, these plush recliners are 12-way adjustable with 4-way lumbar support (what, no pop-up foot rest?). And ... parents, I’ll wait while you take the kids out of the room ... because side impacts often result in deadly temple-to-temple front passenger head collisions, the front driver’s seat comes with its own side airbag that instantly fills the space between the front seats. Genius.
OK, you can come back, kids, because you’ll want to play with the cool, haptic-touch buttons on the console’s CUE infotainment system, now standard in Cadillac products.
Also standard is the 6.2-liter pushrod V-8 that must motivate the Caddy’s three tons of steel, chrome and bling. Segregated from the cabin by yards of sound-deadening material, inlaid doors and laminated window panes, the big pushrod motor quietly goes about its business without a bead of sweat.But if you need a reminder of its awesome 460 pound-feet of yacht-pulling torque, just stomp on the adjustable accelerator pedal and the beast will roar off the line on its way to 60 mph in under six seconds.Celebrities are a trendy lot, and as the 2015 Escalade rolls into showrooms this spring, an unscientific Jalopnik review of today’s music charts finds that Bugatti and Versace have replaced Escalade as pop icons. Whatever. The Escalade’s place in cool culture is cemented. And perhaps we’ll be spared from some of the less-memorable Escalade lyrics like this ditty from Paris Hilton:
Incentivize nuclear nonproliferation and ratify Kyoto today
You can ride in the motorcade in my hybrid pink Escalade
Paris for President!
Ugh. No wonder GM discontinued the Escalade hybrid for 2015.
2015 Cadillac Escalade
Vehicle type: Front-engine, four-wheel-drive, seven-passenger sport utility vehicle Price: $72,700 base ($83,790 as tested) Power plant: 6.2-liter, direct-injection V-8 engine Power: 420 horsepower, 460 pound-feet of torque Transmission: Six-speed automatic Performance: 0-60 mph, 5.96 seconds (manufacturer); towing capacity, 7,900 lbs. Weight: 5,840 pounds Fuel economy: EPA 14 mpg city/21 mpg highway/17 mpg combined Report card Highs: Sculpted design; penthouse-comfortable interior Lows: Theft magnet; where can I park it in the city? Overall:★★★★
Posted by hpayne on April 16, 2014
Posted by hpayne on April 16, 2014
Posted by hpayne on April 15, 2014
Posted by hpayne on April 14, 2014
Posted by hpayne on April 12, 2014
Elizabeth Baron is a Ford Motor Co. specialist in virtual reality technology. (Ford)
But Silicon Valley has nothing over the Rust Belt.Meet Elizabeth Baron, Ford’s virtual reality and advanced visualization technical specialist, whose team used their Immersion Lab to help develop the heart-stopping 2015 Ford Mustang, introduced at January’s Detroit Auto Show. Deep in the bowels of Ford’s Dearborn tech center, Ford engineers wearing Oculus helmets immerse themselves in real time with colleagues in other labs across the globe. Sitting in virtual cars, they critique and alter everything from windshield wipers to dashboards. Watch a video here.
I strapped on goggles myself for an eye-opening look at the future of car design and American leisure. I crawled over, under, and through a ’15 pony car that existed only virtually. Where gamers might use VR to escape into characters and worlds imagined (a date with Kate Upton? You got it), Ford’s engineers use the virtual world to shape the real one.I spoke with guru Baron about immersion, Oculus, and the future of VR.
HP: Virtual reality is cutting edge in video gaming and auto design. How are they similar?
Baron: When you are immersed in virtual reality, things respond the way you would expect in the real world. In gaming it’s a level of abstraction because you control what you do, but navigate with a game controller. In our environment you are immersed the same — in an Oculus, for example — but the way you are navigating that environment is exactly like the physical world. You are the game controller. If you take three steps in our virtual world, you are taking three steps in the real world.
HP: Do you see Ford’s technology applied to gaming?
Baron: I would humbly say that there are some things gaming could do to improve simulator sickness. But the limiting factor is cost. The cost of our immersion lab is definitely higher than an Xbox 360 with an Oculus. Oculus is doing a really good thing by putting a rotational tracker in their device and (others are) making you use your body so you are the controller — which is very similar to what we have laid out.
HP: Who makes your system?
Baron: We buy the hardware and integrate it into our systems around the world. We have a lab in Dearborn — soon to be two in Dearborn — and another in Australia and we have satellite centers in Germany, Mexico, Brazil, China, and India.
HP: How do you use the Immersion Lab?
Baron: We create a virtual space so we are tracking you in a volume. The way we track you is with motion capture cameras that are set up around the room. And we track your eyes through the headset and then we present you with a stereoscopic view of the virtual world in real time at 30 frames a second.
HP: The Mustang was the first car developed with this tool?
Baron: We’ve been doing this since 2007, but the Mustang was the first with our new software.
HP: Why is a virtual Mustang better than building an actual Mustang prototype?
Baron: We don’t have enough money to build all the prototypes we need to cover all the variation in our vehicles. Because we can bring the manufacturing process back into the design we can change the look of the vehicle, we can change paint colors, we can change lighting ... and do it all in an hour’s time. It’s incredibly efficient over building a prototype. An engineer can say: “I want a new mirror.” On a physical prototype you’d have to go and order a new mirror and by the time you get the mirror other things have changed. Now you can make those changes instantly.
HP: Multi-player gaming is global with players interacting across oceans. How does Ford VR work between Australia and Dearborn?
Baron: We do a lot of cross-continent design and engineering. So people might be working on an interior for the Chinese market and the same car for the American market. There’s a right-hand drive Mustang there and left-hand here. We do reviews in the virtual space, all the regions are dialed in. If somebody in Australia is immersed with (me here), I can literally look at their head-mounted display floating in space so I know where they are on the car and they know where I am.
HP: In the gaming world, developers have made gloves that allow you to pick up virtual objects. Do you have similar tools where you feel haptic feedback opening a car door?
Baron: We use passive haptic right now with virtual physical alignment. We also have gloves that track your hand and the articulation of your fingers. So you can put your hand around a steering wheel, for example, or touch all the components in an interior study.
HP: How did you get here?
Baron: I’ve been with Ford for 26 years. My background is computer science — I’ve always been an odd duck in a car company. I asked to be the virtual reality technical specialist. I had to earn my stripes ... like a startup company inside a major manufacturer.
Posted by hpayne on April 10, 2014
2015 Chevrolet Tahoe (John Roe)
When we were grade-school gearheads, my friend Tommy Miller and I spent summer afternoons drawing the most versatile, most outrageous vehicles ever.
I would pen a V-12-powered F1 car equipped with dish radar, monster-truck wheels, twin-heat seeking missiles and ocean-skimming water skis (mounted on the side). Tommy would counter with a 427-cubic-inch stock car bristling with a hot tub, tri-wing, tank treads and a rear-mounted, magnaflux laser gun turret to deter aliens.
Neither of us, however, could have imagined the 2015 Chevy Tahoe LTZ.This pickup-based, 5,700-pound family-sized assault vehicle has it all: Four-wheel-drive. A 355-horsepower, 5.3-liter V-8 engine. Magnetorheological shocks. Six USBs. Rain-sensing wipers. Auto fold-flat seats. Adaptive cruise control. Blind-spot monitoring system. Eight-inch nav screen. Front spoiler. Towing capability of 8,400 pounds. An automatic rear liftgate.
In 2013, the Tahoe and its bigger brother Suburban captured more than 50 percent of the large SUV market (the Tahoe alone more than doubled the sales of the Ford Expedition). The Chevy twins are part of a GM stable that dominates the large truck market. Built on GM’s proven, body-on-frame pickup architecture, they are only getting better.
As night follows day, new ute land yachts are launching this spring just a year after champagne bottles broke over the bow of the redesigned Chevy and GMC pickups.
The LTZ is the Tahoe nameplate’s flagship. The whole enchilada. The showcase for everything Chevy is capable of putting in a truck. Its power and size make it wildly versatile.
Has GM thought about selling it as commercial living space? The LTZ’s interior is bigger than most Manhattan apartments. Its leather seats and climate control amenities are more comfortable than most living rooms.
Approach the front door — er, driver door — and the LTZ unlocks, sensing the key in your pocket. Open the latch and an automatic step swings out to ease entry. Step out of the vehicle at night and the door-mounted mirrors instantly fill the ground below with perimeter lighting to aid your step.
Can your house do that?
Plush is the new language of truck interiors and the LTZ is no exception.
Once inside, acres of gorgeous upholstery accented with wood and chrome stretch to the horizon. Front and second row heated bucket seats beckon. The transmission selector is located — pickup-like — on the steering column, opening the center console to a variety of useful spaces from cup holders to an arm rest compartment that could hide a file cabinet. It’s a mystery to me why automakers neglect USB ports for youth-targeted compact vehicles. There is no such neglect of the families that fill big utes, the 21st century family wagon. USBs are plentiful in the LTZ’s fore and aft decks.
My wee wife was intimidated by the Tahoe’s size — she looked like Tinkerbell at the helm of Captain Hook’s ship — but she was right at home in the rest of the frigate’s cabin. While most third-row seats are smaller than airline coach class, the Tahoe’s third row is as welcoming as its second.
How big is the interior of the seven-passenger Tahoe? Its 94.7 cubic feet of cargo space behind the front seats is 50 percent bigger than a Subaru Outback. It’s more than the entire interior space of a Chevy Cruze. My wife was hanging house plants in the rear windows.
Need to furnish your house? The rear rows will automatically flatten at the touch of a button. And Chevy’s obsession with interior design carries over to the exterior.
Where the Silverado’s front grille has all the appeal of a bulldozer, the Tahoe has integrated its signature twin grille into a wrap-around mask that would look stylish on a Marvel superhero. The inspiration comes from the comely Chevy Impala sedan which has put the ole! back into Chevrolet. The wardrobe upgrade continues with a sweeping, sculpted line running the length of the big fella’s flanks. Like pant creases in Shaq’s tuxedo, it brings elegance to heft.
Price tops out at $71K
Much of the LTZ’s exterior detail, however, is the result of obsessive aerodynamics testing to meet Washington’s 55 mpg-by-2025 fuel economy requirements. This Tahoe spent more time in the wind tunnel than George Hamilton has spent in the tanning booth. The Tahoe sports a .36 drag coefficient which — together with the direct-injection EcoTec3 engine’s active fuel management system (which makes the V-8 a V-4 at cruising speed) — gains the big ute 10 percent better fuel economy.
That savings comes at a substantial cost, however. The hi-tech 2015 LTZ tops out at $71,375, well above the outgoing model’s 59 grand sticker. Is the LTZ worth the price of a convertible C7 Vette? Well, the Vette seats only two ...
Like the rear edges of a Boeing 747, the Tahoe’s hindquarters are a study in how to reduce turbulence and increase fuel efficiency. And what the heck’s a Vette-like air dam doing on the front of a four-wheel-drive truck? Another nod to fuel-efficiency, natch.
But given the Tahoe’s surprisingly nimble handling, I like to think the spoiler provides a little down force as well.
As big as this truck looks, it feels much smaller on the road thanks to some impressive engineering under the skin. The Tahoe’s athleticism defies the ocean liner stereotype.
Where pickups ride like bucking broncos on rear leaf springs, the Tahoe gets a multi-link suspension with coil springs and shocks. And not just any shocks — but the same magnetic system that undergirds the ferocious Stingray. Controlled by a CPU, twin electromagnetic coils at the end of each shock piston can change the viscosity of the magnetorheological fluid within. When the LTZ leans hard, the system instantly stiffens the suspension.
This ain’t your grandpappy’s truck.
Like a kid with a new toy, I found myself rotating the three-way track select to 4WD, scanning the horizon for Michigan’s finest, then throwing the Tahoe into corners — spurring its 355 horses on exit. The big ute loved it. Try that with an ocean liner.
So load in the high school football team, plug ’em into their favorite pregame soundtrack, then stomp the 5.3 liter V-8. What could beat this Swiss Army knife of a vehicle? Stay tuned for the outrageous 6.2-liter 2015 Caddy Escalade that I will review next week.
2015 Chevy Tahoe
Vehicle type: Front-engine, four-wheel-drive, seven-passenger sport utility vehicle Price: $45,890 base (LTZ trim: $71,375 as tested) Power plant: 5.3-liter, direct-injection V-8 engine Power: 355 horsepower, 383 pound-feet of torque Transmission: Six-speed automatic Performance: 0-60 mph: 6.9-7.1 seconds (Car & Driver est.); towing capacity: 8,400 lbs. Weight: 5,683 pounds Fuel economy: EPA 16 mpg city/22 mpg highway/18 mpg combined Report card Highs: Comfortably seats your entire offensive line; sure-footed handling Lows: Beware distracted drivers wheeling three tons of rolling metal; 70 grand for a Chevy truck? Overall:★★★
Posted by hpayne on April 10, 2014
Posted by hpayne on April 9, 2014
Posted by hpayne on April 9, 2014
Posted by hpayne on April 7, 2014
Posted by hpayne on April 5, 2014
Last decade I bought a used Dodge Neon that spent as much time in the shop as in my garage. “Big Three sedans keep me in business,” said my repair shop guru, John, who I got to know on a first-name basis. “I never see a Honda or Toyota.”
No wonder the Asian makers have dominated used car sales just as Detroit makers rule used truck sales. No wonder the Honda Accord was the best-selling used car (again) in America in 2013 just as the Ford F150 was the best-selling used truck (again).
We used car shoppers are proud, practical, and penny-wise. We demand reliable, utilitarian, good-handling transport. The Accord, a perennial Consumer Reports pick (the bible of used car buyers), delivers in all three areas. The average buyer prefers Honda. The average used car sells for $15,000. The average 2011 Accord sells for $15,017.
So I moseyed on down to my local used car – er, pre-owned vehicle – dealer and asked for average, please.At $14,900 with 67,000 miles on the odometer, my 2011 Honda Accord test mule was average only in price. Indeed, the used Accord one-ups its newer sibling. Where the new Accord trails the best-selling Camry by 40,000 in new cars sales, the used Accord leap frogs its Asian competitor. One reason is surely the Accord’s lead in new retail sales — the Camry relies more on fleet sales, notes HIS Automotive analyst Tom Libby — and the used car market is (mostly) retail.
But there’s also the brand factor.
Auto salesmen tell me that Honda’s racing history matters. That when it’s time to buy a used car, buyers want a sense of thrill even as they are buying practical. Kinda like putting fudge swirl in your vanilla shake. So when you’re sitting in your Honda Accord, you feel a connection to those screaming motorbikes. Or Honda engines winning Indy nine of the last 10 years. Ya gotta dream.
The Camry? It’s just vanilla.
I like the theory. It matters to someone — especially young someones — buying their first car. Could it be that mom and dad buy new Camry? But then budget-conscious junior buys used Accord?
Whatever it is, the Accord doesn’t disappoint even with 67k miles on its legs.
The used 2.4 liter engine purred like a kitten on Detroit’s roads. In performance brand tradition, the car doesn’t sacrifice performance for efficiency. The 4-banger pulls the car’s lightweight chassis with purpose, even as the Honda returns impressive 27 mpg. Handling is sure, never numb.
The Accord’s pleasant lines won’t turn any heads, but the lack of coupe-like roof line pays dividends inside where your long-legged author can easily fold into the backseat with knee-room to spare. In the captain’s chair, the Accord is ergonomically friendly as the EX (thankfully) only has one console screen. Add nav and Accords become a riot of two screens and confusing controls. The EX package is an example of addition by subtraction.
Buying second-hand doesn’t mean second-class service.
Certified pre-owned cars come with a dealer premium, but the piece of mind that they have been reviewed stem to stern. Many dealers have upgraded the experience by building additional showrooms just for used cars.
But that’s not the best part of buying used.
As a certified motor head, I feel comfortable buying used cars from individual owners of sport models (BMW M3s, Ford STs, Honda SIs, and so on) treat their cars like their first-born child. Are you less confident about the owners of popular cars (who treat them like a common frig) but dread a visit to a dealer like you want another root canal? You can buy from individuals with the help of CARFAX records and a list of online price sites like Cars.com as long as your arm.
But that’s still not the best part. Pre-owned ponies like the Accord also come with Honda’s extended powertrain warranty of 7 years/100,000 miles (whichever comes first) on top of the 5-year.60,000 when new. Sure Hondas are bullet proof. Sure 200,000 miles is the new 100,000. But that warranty does wonders for a hand-me-down.
But here’s the best part – the used Accord costs $9,000 less than a new Accord. A 2014 EX goes for $23,700 and for what? Reliability, resale value, and a warranty already built into your not-so-old filly. Three years on a car? Heck, Kentucky Derby thoroughbreds are in their prime at the age of three.
So go forth my fellow second-hand shoppers. The Accord will make you proud, practical, and penny-wise.
2011 Honda Accord
Vehicle type: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive, five-passenger sedan Price: $14,900 used Power plant: 2.4-liter, 16-valve, in-line four-cylinder engine Power: 177 horsepower, 161 pound-feet of torque Transmission: Five-speed automatic Performance: 0-60 mph: 9.1 (Car & Driver); Top speed: 127 mph Weight: 3,350 pounds Fuel economy: EPA 23 mpg city/34 mpg highway/27 mpg combined Highs: Ol’ reliable; nimble handling Lows: Stale styling could learn lessons from sleeker Civic; More USBs, please Overall:★★★
Posted by hpayne on April 3, 2014
Posted by hpayne on April 3, 2014
Posted by hpayne on April 3, 2014
So what does a trip to the automotive dollar store buy you these days?
Quite a bit and not enough. The Spark and Mirage represent the future and past of the subcompact market. Ubiquitous in Europe where gasoline costs an arm and a leg, subcompacts are less popular in a U.S. market where a gallon of gas is just an arm.
Still, the perky Spark is a new puppy of a car that brings attitude to the practical, fuel-sipping small car segment. The three-cylinder Mirage, on the other hand, is a cylinder short and a generation behind.
These five-door shoeboxes are surprisingly roomy inside even for 6-foot-5 auto reviewers with loafers the size of clown shoes. Both are bubble-wrapped in safety features with multiple air bags, traction stability control and anti-lock brakes. Both measure their 0-60 mph times with an hourglass. The Lions will win the Super Bowl before you get to 80 mph. Mail trucks will honk at you. Bicyclists will draft you.
But whereas the Mirage is content to give you fuel-efficient, basic transportation, Chevy goes the extra mile. Details matter. Even in Auto 101, Chevy has learned style. If the Mitsubishi is a Wal-Mart coffee table, then the Chevy is IKEA. Cheap, yes. But without looking like it.
Five-door body styles are common in the subcompact class. They bring utility as these flexible, mini-wagons exploit every inch of their short wheelbases to offer 30-plus cubic feet of interior room for seating five or lugging your some-assembly-required IKEA boxes (though I estimate the Spark could still fit inside the glove box of its mega-wagon stablemate, the Chevy Tahoe). Also standard are color palettes right out of a video arcade. Dude, said my Chevy dealer, the Grape Ice Spark soooo clashes with your gray hair and gray slacks. Obviously, I’m not the target demographic. But how can you resist the Spark’s Lime Green, Lemonade and Denim? Or the Mirage’s Plasma Purple, Sapphire Blue and Infrared?
With its anthropomorphic baby face, the Mitsubishi is cuteness on wheels. This is an infant dressed for a Sunday stroll. Behold its big eyes and little mouth. Its grille should come with a binky.
The Spark is cute too — like a baby shark. Adorable, but with a sense of menace. Its giant, almond-shaped headlights consume the front fenders. The little Chevy’s grille dominates the front end like a leering jack-o’-lantern carved by your 6-year-old. It’s one of the most effective uses of Chevy’s signature fascia in its lineup.
Do a lap around these tykes and Spark’s style really stands out. Where the Mirage is content with a nondescript, boxy rear end, the Spark’s got back. Its integrated rear roof spoiler (the Mirage spoiler looks like it was nailed on as an afterthought) tapers south to a flared bumper, giving the Spark a wide, boxer’s stance. Chevy completes the sculpture with big, cherry-round taillights.
But my favorite Spark detail is its ingenious rear-door “locker” handles. Located high in the black rear window trim, the handles are not only recessed but — by removing the handles from the car’s skin — they give it a more coupe-like appearance.
Spark's superior interior
Chevy’s attention to detail carries over into the interior.
Both of these trikes come equipped with intuitive radio and climate controls, but the Spark adds character with a motorcycle-inspired instrument panel. Where the Mirage gets a plastic dash and cup holders, the Spark’s silver-trimmed interior recognizes that Americans live in their cars. This home-away-from-home bristles with added storage space for phones, food and coins in every nook and cranny — a tray along the dash here, a portal under the side arm-rest there. In the backseat (where I have more headroom than in a Ford Fusion or Chrysler 200) the Spark comes with a nifty center console featuring cup holder and storage tray. The Mirage? A bench seat.
Mysteriously, both cars fail to offer much in the USB port department. Big vehicles these days nod to families of electronics-carrying kids with USBs sprouting both fore and aft. But what of the 20-somethings that pile into subcompacts? More USB ports, please.
Maneuvering with a stick
Two words: Stick shift.
These are base models and their manual transmissions will mystify America’s legions of auto-tranny buyers. Too bad. Once mastered, the automobile’s equivalent of a joystick puts the fun into a small car, and these little windup toys love to be hustled. Your racing-addled car critic found himself double-clutching into corners to keep the revs up, then stomping the gas pedal.
In the case of the Mirage, this has annoying consequences. Neither car will set a land speed record, but the Mitsubishi’s shouty, vibrating 1.2 liter gas engine will be a deal-breaker for many. Turning the key feels like you’ve pulled the cord on a chainsaw. The chassis trembles, your ears buzz. This is the same company that makes the renowned Evo performance sedan?
The Spark’s 1.2-liter four is much more civilized and the cabin noticeably quieter (remember that part about Americans living in their cars?). That helps explain why the Spark is 300 pounds heavier than the 1,973-pound Mirage — though with 10 more horsepower, the Spark equals the Mirage in 0-60 mph acceleration in a snail-like 11 seconds. Both snails deliver the expected, stellar fuel efficiency — 34 mpg for Spark, 37 for Mirage. (Federal rules require that all cars average 55 mpg in just 10 years? And pigs will fly.)
Entry level cars are not just affordable transportation, they are also windows into auto brands. Win over a first-time buyer, and you can keep them for life. Unfortunately for its Japanese parent, the Mirage will turn people away from showrooms that include studs like the Evo and Outlander SUV.
The Spark, on the other hand, advertises a new, more product-focused GM. It’s a bargain. At $12,995 (more detail: they tease it under $13 grand), it shows that affordability and style can live in the same garage.
2014 Chevrolet Spark
Vehicle type: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive, five-passenger sedan Price: $12,995 base ($12,995 as tested) Power plant: 1.2-liter, dual-overhead cam, four-cylinder engine Power: 84 horsepower, 83 pound-feet of torque Transmission: Five-speed manual Performance: 0-60 mpg, 11.0 seconds (Car & Driver); 90 mph top speed Weight: 2,269 pounds Fuel economy: EPA 31 mpg city/39 mpg highway/34 mpg combined Highs: Creative design; Functional interior Lows: Molasses could out-accelerate it; USB ports, please Overall:★★★★ Grading scale Excellent ★★★★ Good ★★★ Fair ★★ Poor ★
2014 Mitsubishi MirageVehicle type: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive, five-passenger sedan Price: $13,790 base ($13,790 as tested) Power plant: 1.2-liter, dual-overhead cam, three-cylinder engine Power: 74 horsepower, 74 pound-feet of torque Transmission: Five-speed manual Performance: 0-60 mpg, 10.9 seconds (Car & Driver); 102 mph top speed Weight: 1,973 pounds Fuel economy: EPA 34 mpg city/42 mpg highway/37 mpg combined Highs: Fuel-sipper; Roomy interior Lows: Uninspired packaging; Lawn-blower engine Overall:★★
Posted by hpayne on April 2, 2014