Posts by Steve Siler
- Steve Siler at Motoramic3 days ago
Much of Subaru’s modern day success in America can be attributed to one car: the Outback. Born in 1994 as a response to the growing popularity of SUVs, the Outback established a winning formula of combining a high-riding suspension, butch body cladding and big round fog lights to its comfortable, no-nonsense Legacy wagon. It is the kind of unique product that only a quirky company like Subaru could build, and was one that kept Subaru from slipping into ubiquity even as traditional SUVs and crossovers have taken over the world. The debut of an all-new 2015 Outback at the New York Auto Show brings the original crossover wagon into its fifth generation, which Subaru promises to be the most spacious, capable and fuel efficient yet. Interior comfort, refinement and safety features are all up considerably, meaning there’s even less reason to buy a tippy SUV than ever. As Subaru put it, “We are reestablishing our high ground.” Naturally, the new Outback adopts much of the styling and innovations found on the new, 2015 Legacy sedan on which it’s based, which itself only made its debut in February and is set to go on sale later this year. The transition replaces last year’s almond-shape headlamps with the new Legacy’s LED-accented units. A prominent, hexagonal grille is perched above a lower air intake that now features active grille shutters to enhance high-speed aerodynamics. Its more angular body boasts increased interior space, yet it casts roughly the same shadow as last year. And of course, the Outback is still festooned with body cladding, skid plates, chunky roof rails and other addenda to try and make people forget it’s a station wagon. As usual, the Outback rides much higher than the Legacy, with SUV-like ground clearance of 8.7 inches. Given the long-ish wheelbase and overhangs, real rock-hopping might best be left to Jeeps and 4Runners, but the average family should be able tackle muddy roads on the way to their favorite campsite in an Outback without tearing off its bumpers. As before, the Outback is available with two boxer-style engines. Standard, Premium and Limited trim levels are offered with the Outback’s standard 175-hp 4-cylinder, which is up from 173 hp and boasts noise reduction measures, less mass and friction, and a broader curve along which its 174 lb-ft of torque can be accessed. It comes mated to a CVT gearbox, which Subaru credits for the excellent estimated fuel economy figures of 25 mpg city / 33 mpg highway, up from the 2014 model’s 24/30 mpg ratings. The more affluent Subaru buyer may spring for the Outback Limited model, with the option of upgrading to a 256 hp 3.6-liter 6-cylinder boxer engine that produces 247 lb.-ft. of torque. Like the 2.5i models, the 3.6i is mated to a CVT, resulting in a rise in fuel economy to 19 mpg in the city and 27 mpg on the highway, compared to the 2014 model’s 17/25 mpg ratings. Incidentally, both models CVTs offer six preset
- Steve Siler at Motoramic3 days ago
N early three decades have passed since Honda gave us the car we didn’t know we wanted: a fancified Accord called the Legend, which Honda sold under a newly created luxury brand called Acura. Acura, along with the Lexus and Infiniti brands that followed, proceeded to turn the luxury market on its nose. But since then, everyone from Hyundai to Bentley has stepped up its luxury game while Acura got a bit lost in ubiquity with a cadre of similar-looking products, all with confusing alphabet soup names like ILX, TSX, TL and RLX.
Enter the 2015 TLX. Yes, Acura has just christened yet another acronym, but the TLX actually replaces two of the aforementioned models, the TSX and the TL, with a single model that retains the long wheelbase (and passenger space) of the TL whilst shaving off some length from both ends. This affords the RLX some valuable breathing room to be more flagship-esque and allows the little ILX to evolve further into its own thing. It also lets Acura concentrate on making its middle child offering really good in and of itself, and that appears to be exactly what Acura has done.
- Steve Siler at Motoramic4 days ago
So it’s taken a while, but Hyundai is in the big leagues now. There is rife evidence of this in its sales numbers, reliability ratings and general awareness, but the most telling indicator to us, perhaps, is that Hyundai no longer feels the need to overdesign or mimic other automobile designs as if to say, “Look, we can build good cars, too!”
Hyundai can do its own thing now — and the new 2015 Sonata, making its U.S. debut at the New York auto show, is all the proof we need.
The 2015 Sonata is the second production Hyundai, following the slick new 2015 Genesis luxury sedan, to don the company’s “Fluidic Sculpture 2.0” design look. The follow-up act seems to contain a lot less fluid, and a lot more angles from nose to tail. It’s a handsomer car now, if a bit more mundane, with its hexagonal grille, front fascia garnishes, and predatory headlamps the LED DRLs lining the inner and upper edges. A panorama roof remains optional, while the new back end is taller, if rather featureless, save for its high-set LED taillamps, and on some models, sassy quad tailpipes. However less head-turning it may be, the Sonata looks more comfortable in its own skin.
- Steve Siler at Motoramic5 days ago
“Once you do stand-up, you don’t want to go back.”
No, we’re not talking about comedy, but rather an emerging trend in luxury transport that’s bringing us ever taller, more capacious, more pimpdillyicious limousines. The quote came from a Ford designer, Tim Stoehr, predicting an increase in interest in limos based on big vans like the new Transit. Of course, these are nothing new; up-fitters have taken quite kindly to the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, and apparently Ford is chomping at the bit to get in on the action, too. So Ford enlisted the help of the largest Ford dealer in the world, Galpin Auto Sports in Van Nuys, Calif., to help design and build its first super-lux Transit concept, dubbed the Skyliner.
Unlike the glitzy behemoths seen pulling drunk coeds from bar to bar on Hollywood Boulevard on any given Saturday night, there’s not much special happening on the outside of the Skyliner Concept—no windshield header, side airbrushed romance novel graphics, no billet grille insert, no LED-lit ground effects—more or less, it’s just a Transit with a few gloss black accessories, two-tone silver paint, and some sweet, custom-designed 20-inch wheels.
- Steve Siler at Motoramic11 days ago
If you think the Accord sedan is a big deal to Honda here in the U.S., you’re right. Ditto the compact, economical Civic. But at a global level, those cars may not necessarily be what Honda considers its most important car. For the future of the Honda brand, think small.
Honda has been gone on record saying that its future rests on its small cars, which explains why Honda has made the new 2015 Fit so good at its job. As ever, the 2015 Fit’s mantra is “small on the outside, big on the inside.” And so the wheelbase has grown 1.2 inches to 99.6, but length has shrunk 1.6 inches to 160 inches.
Since such stubby proportions tend to make cars look about as sexy as Danny DeVito in a chaise lounge, Honda designers tried to make the new Fit look longer and wider than it is, starting with a higher beltline and narrower windows. New horizontal headlamps replace last year’s triangular assemblies and are connected by a chunky, three-dimensional black grille underscored a thin band of chrome.
- Steve Siler at Motoramic1 mth ago
Whether or not America knows it, luxurious small cars are everything right now. TheMercedes-Benz CLA-Class, BMW 2-Series and even the oddball Buick Encore are all testament that better does not always mean bigger. And Audi is about to blow the little-lux-car market wide open with its new family of A3 models — the first of which will be a sedan model tailor-made for the U.S. market, which I've just driven.
- Motoramic1 mth ago
When Audi first launched the TT in 1998 as a 1999 model, it instantly became a design icon. Its short, squat body was an amazingly simple, almost art-deco arrangement of big circles connected by straight lines, like a napkin doodle brought to life. Only as an Audi, it was pretty much perfect.
That same kind of strict geometry returns to the TT in its third generation, which just made its world debut at the Geneva auto show, only now, its tidy dimensions contain hexagons and trapezoids on the single frame grille, air intakes and elsewhere. The arched roof profile remains unmistakable, especially in the back, but the window line now features an A5-like kink in the C-pillar. Unique front and rear fascias and dual vs. quad tailpipe treatments separate the standard TT from the more powerful TTS model.
- Motoramic1 mth ago
FYI: Porsche is a sports car company. Sure, it builds the 5,000-lb Cayenne SUV and a long-wheelbase Panamera “Executive” luxury sedan with a limo back seat and, as of 2014, the new Macan compact crossover. But after bringing us to the eastern German town of Leipzig, and the recently expanded factory where Porsche spent 500 million Euros to build all three of those front-engine Porsches alongside each other, Porsche executives felt the need to underscore the point that Porsche is a sports car company first, and a sports car company last. We can understand why. Just 12 years ago, Porsche’s model lineup consisted solely of sports cars: the carefully evolved 911 Carrera and its mid-engine little brother, the Boxster. Then, in 2002, Porsche shocked the automotive world — and infuriated Porsche purists everywhere — by introducing the Cayenne, which went on to become Porsche’s best-selling vehicle. In 2009, Porsche further diluted the bloodline with the hot-selling Panamera sedan followed by diesels, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and now the Macan crossover. Porsche still bolts together sports cars with the engine in the wrong place, but make no mistake: SUVs keep the lights on in Stuttgart.
- Steve Siler at Motoramic2 mths ago
I’m not really sure why the term “stretching its legs” was ever applied to cars — cars don’t have legs—but, for lack of a better term, I guess, that’s what my co-driver and I were doing with the Bentley’s new 521-hp Continental GT V8 S as we bombed down a lonely California highway between the mountain town of Julian and Palm Springs. The speedometer read in kilometers per hour, so we’re not sure exactly how fast we were going (that’s the story and I’m sticking to it), but suffice it to say that speeds were deep into the triple digits. The steering had come alive and the desert furnishings were passing in a blur, yet the 5,060-lb luxo-coupe was planted to the pavement as if with a vacuum seal. Finally, it felt like we were going fast. So it is with modern day Bentleys. Every last one of ‘em. In a Miata, 60 miles per hour can be thrilling, but in cars this big and fast it takes a heady clip to get your heart rate up. And so we charged down this smooth, sun-drenched (and thankfully, cop-free) stretch of asphalt, savoring the true meaning of the term “grand touring.” The $199,225 Continental GT V8 S is the fourth model in Bentley’s prolific Continental coupe and convertible range. Price-wise, the GT V8 S splits the difference between the 500-hp, “entry-level” GT V8 ($187,425) and the 576-hp, 12-cylinder GT W12 ($205,025). If you want the convertible versions of each, prepare to cough up another $19,000 or so, depending on model; the GT V8 S convertible starts at $219,925. Topping off the Continental range are the sport-tuned GT Speed coupe ($223,625) and convertible (246,425), which bring the 621-hp W-12 engine and a host of performance tweaks, including stiffer springs and bushings, lowered suspensions, retuned steering and shock absorbers, and unique throttle and transmission calibrations. We bring up the GT Speed because GT V8 S effectively adds all the Speed’s performance extras to the cheaper, lighter and more fuel-efficient V8 model. Sure, the Speed has an extra 100 or so hp, but otherwise the differences between the V8 S and the Speed are paltry: while the V8 S has 20-inch wheels and a quad tailpipe design, the Speed has 21-inch wheels and oval pipes, and so forth. So, are the W-12’s four extra cylinders worth the price of a well-optioned Mazda 3? Indeed, how different could the two cars possibly feel, especially on American roads where the V8 S coupe’s 192-mph top speed is irrelevant and a 0–60 mph time of 4.3 seconds (vs 4 seconds flat for the Speed) is more than adequate to squirt from stoplight to stoplight? Alas, the way we figured as we hurtled toward Idyllwild at ridiculous velocity whilst enjoying a lumbar massage from the air conditioned seats, few folks are gonna miss the GT Speed’s extra speed. The V8 S’s twin-turbo engine is a monster in its own right, capable of getting the big two-door up to any
- Motoramic2 mths ago
Among America’s auto shows, the Chicago Auto Show is the pre-eminent truck show. It’s also a show wherein Nissan has had a huge presence of late, so it’s fitting that Nissan made news with a truck — specifically, a diesel-powered Frontier called the Frontier Diesel Runner. Designed in San Diego, the Frontier Diesel Runner is officially a “technical study” at this point, and is bound to get a lot of miles put onto it by engineers, according to Nissan. It features a red and matte silver paint job fit for an energy drink, and wears other nifty add-ons such as a “carbon-fiber coated” roof rack, mesh grille, tonneau cover and tailgate spoiler, and PRO-EX 16-inch wheels (silver in front, red in back) mounted by white letter tires. The leather-lined interior is pretty close to stock, with a splash of red paint here and there, and some ancillary gauges. Our favorite show-car bit, however, is a carbon fiber hood with a C-shaped clear section that shows off an illuminated engine bay stuffed with a Cummins diesel engine. Cummins has been allied with Dodge and Ram for decades, but has never produced a small diesel for pickup duty here. Said diesel engine is a 2.8-liter four-cylinder producing 200 hp and 350 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a ZF eight-speed unit, sending the engine’s power to a 3.13:1 rear axle. Nissan promises a whopping 35 percent boost in fuel economy compared to the current Frontier’s V-6, which produces 261 hp but a comparatively paltry 281 lb-ft of torque. Otherwise, there’s not much about the Frontier itself that is terribly newsworthy — it’s been around in more or less the same form for the last 10 years and isn’t going to be replaced any time soon. Nissan’s other truck, the aptly named Titan full-sizer, is also on the old side, and at the same press conference, Nissan promised that we would be hearing a lot more about its replacement in the next year (our bets are on a world debut next year, same time, same place). Nissan says it is soliciting feedback from potential customers about the potential of a diesel Frontier. Besides, the upcoming Chevy Colorado will also be offered in 2015 with a 2.8-liter diesel four-cylinder engine with roughly the same level of output.