Exquisitely Emotive: 2015 Jaguar F-TYPE

Scottish designer Ian Callum is the name behind the Jaguar F-TYPE, the first true sports car from this iconic British manufacturer in more than 40 years. Supercharged engines and an 8-speed ZF-supplied automatic transmission move this marvelous, stout cat.

2015 Jaguar F-TYPE

If you haven’t looked at Jaguar in some time, then you are missing out on the quiet renaissance that is transforming this quintessential British emblem from a staid, patrician brand to a dynamic, voguish marque. And that transformation is most evident in the rear-wheel drive Jaguar F-TYPE, a handsome coupe or convertible called by some the spiritual successor to the iconic Jaguar E-TYPE.

Four decades have passed since E-TYPE production ended after a 15-model-year run. Since then, Jaguar has gone through multiple permutations, passing from British Leyland ownership to the Ford Motor Company before finding its way to Tata Motors in 2008.

Today, the brand is officially part of Jaguar Land Rover Automotive PLC, with its headquarters domiciled in Whitley, Coventry, United Kingdom. Wisely, the Indians are taking a mostly hands-off approach to the co-brands, while investing billions of dollars to modernize the company.

Without Tata’s backing, it is doubtful that Jaguar and Land Rover would still be around or at least neither one would be enjoying anything close to its current success. Indeed, the company continues to enjoy record sales and expects to cross the 500,000-unit sales threshold in 2015, with each brand acquiring one new product this year as well.

2015 Jaguar F-TYPE

2015 Jaguar F-TYPE S Coupe

Enough with the background information — the 2015 Jaguar F-TYPE is the focal point here, a tempting two-door sport coupe that I had the pleasure of driving for one all-too-quick week recently.

Besides coupe and convertible variants, you get your choice of supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 or 5.0-liter V-8 engines. This sports car is built on a rigid bonded and riveted all-aluminum platform and employs am electronic active differential and an all-new torque vectoring system, Both engines are paired with a ZF-supplied eight-speed “quick shift” automatic transmission with manual sequential control attained through the shift lever or via the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.

The Jaguar F-TYPE is based on the C-X16 concept car designed by Ian Callum, one of the most acclaimed automotive designers of our time. Callum’s handiwork is displayed on certain Aston Martin models as well as on the current Ford Fusion. Definitely, the F-TYPE has its own imprint, one that won’t easily be confused with any other vehicle on the market.

2015 Jaguar F-TYPE

2015 Jaguar F-TYPE

View manufacturer details and pricing

2015 Jaguar F-TYPE

Shark Bitten or Feline Scratched

That luscious design starts with its imposing grille and advances to the dynamic duo “shark gill” openings found on either side of the grille. It continues on to the sport headlamp assemblies, accentuated by boomerang or J-shaped LED daytime running lights. Muscular creases run along the center of hood with active hood vents, front air vents and side vents signaling that this coupe means business.

Arcing lines flow out from the LED lamps and pass on both sides of the hood, along the profile and terminates at the rear deck, itself a massive posterior that is marked by a lift gate and a hidden rear spoiler that emerges when your speed hits 70 mph. Slender, wraparound LED tail lamps and a pair of immense, centered-mounted exhaust pipes, round out this model’s exterior design features. Oh, yes, not to be overlooked are the 10-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels set within Pirelli P Zero tires.

2015 Jaguar F-TYPE

Snug, Sporty Cabin

Inside, you have a cabin that is focused entirely on the driver. Not that the passenger gets short shrift, rather all controls and interfaces are strategically placed and easy to decipher. Both performance seats are bolstered, and in the available R-TYPE they come with inflatable side bolsters, the better to keep you in place as you romp around the track.

The instrument panel features a two-analog display with the speedometer on the left and the tachometer on the right. In the middle is a driver’s information center, controlled by steering wheel-mounted switches or a stalk located behind the steering wheel on the left. That steering wheel is a three-spoke design and comes with paddle shifters. Notably, a flat bottom design accompanies the top-of-the-line F-TYPE R edition.

2015 Jaguar F-TYPE

The center stack includes an 8-inch touch screen to control infotainment and climate systems. Beneath that are knobs and switches to manage heating and cooling functions, In addition, this Jaguar also has active center air vents, fully deployable when maximum airflow is requested or by overriding a control on the touch screen to activate same. The air vents, along with the door handles and rear spoiler, stay hidden until needed.

Rounding out the center console is the driver mode switch with standard, sport and snow modes for your selection. Beneath the shift lever you can deactivate traction control, operate in economy mode or raise or lower the rear spoiler. In the middle, that is an assist grip running along the base of the center stack — so tell your passenger to shut up and hold on!

Two cup holders and the smallest of all storage compartments with two USB ports and an auxiliary input port are found inside. In the background, an open storage area sits between the seats at shoulder level. Further, the tiniest of in-door storage compartments are included and are just large enough to hold a sandwich or an energy bar.

2015 Jaguar F-TYPE

Allow me to share with you my one major beef about the F-TYPE. And that would be its tiny sun visors, each barely large enough to block out the sun. But that isn’t the problem with them: they’re fixed in place and cannot be swung around to the side windows. With a winter sun angled low for a good part of my driving, I found myself adjusting my driving direction to avoid the sun. I also discovered that raising the seat to a certain height helped, but that took away from my driving experience. Please, Jaguar, amend this deficiency at once.

Born Free, Go Wild

As beautiful as this big cat looks lounging around the driveway or in the courtyard, its sheer beastliness becomes evident the moment you engage the ignition. Press the start button and the F-TYPE growls. Indeed, that growl — even in the tested F-TYPE S Coupe — is altogether pleasing and will elicit the desired head turns. Shift into gear, step on the accelerator and you will move down the road with alacrity.

The S Coupe gains 40 more horsepower than the standard 340 horses for the base V-6, benefiting from a software upgrade. That’s just one part of a $12,000 upgrade that also brings in the limited-slip differential and sport suspension with active dynamics, raising the base price to $77,000.

With your foot pressed firmly to the accelerator and the spoiler activated you will fly down any straight away without hesitation. But this model is best enjoyed on curvilinear roads where its handling prowess is evident.

A taut suspension, the rigid body and a low to the ground stance conspire to deliver a fantastically capable handling sports car that punches fluidicly through every bend, arc and curvation. It reminded me of the handling I’ve enjoyed with two other weekly drivers — the BMW M6 and Porsche Cayman S — there is zero fighting with the steering wheel or pleading with the back end to cooperate with the front end. Even with traction control disabled, the big cat kept its claws in place.

Whether you choose to operate the F-TYPE in automatic or manual mode, take note of the transmission and how it smoothly and quickly shifts between gears. I am not much of a “manumatic” TYPE of driver, with that manual action often proving disappointing. But not so with the F-TYPE as shifts come smoothly and quickly, and probably faster than what you could achieve with clutch action.

Although the 0-to-60 mph gallop is delicious, the fun begins at higher speeds when you’re ready to play with the RPM band. Let me just say that this is one feline that does not flag in zeal and rewards you with growls and purrs to coincide with your foot action or the easing of the same.

2015 Jaguar F-TYPE

Waiting for 2016

As with any model, critics have pounced on a few shortcomings inherent to this sports car. Both of those major drawbacks have now been addressed and beginning in 2016, all-wheel drive and a six-speed manual transmission will be made available. Personally, I would stick with rear-wheel drive and, yes, I am intrigued by the manual option. Suffice to say, the quick shifting slush box was a delight that shouldn’t be easily dismissed.

Another positive not previously mentioned is the shallow, but wide storage area discovered when raising the lift gate. Jaguar says that it is large enough to hold two golf bags. It also seems the ideal place to stuff your luggage for a long weekend getaway with the one you love.

As has been noted, there are convertible and V-8 variants available, with final pricing pushing well past the three-digit mark and offering more power than what the average driver likely needs or wants. Therefore, don’t easily dismiss the V-6 as it provides superior performance and a commendable 27 mpg on the highway — the place where you will likely spend the bulk of your driving time.

2015 Jaguar F-TYPE

2015 Jaguar F-TYPE S Coupe

  • Sticker price from $77,000
  • Price as tested: from $86,963
  • Seats 2 occupants
  • 3.0-liter 24-valve supercharged V-6 gasoline engine
  • 380 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm
  • 339 foot-pounds of torque @ 3,500 to 5,000 rpm
  • 3.33 inches bore by 3.50 inches stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 10.5-to-1
  • 8-speed shiftable automatic transmission
  • Wheelbase: 103.2 inches
  • Length: 176 inches
  • Width: 75.7 inches
  • Height: 51.5 inches
  • Passenger volume: N/A
  • Storage volume: 11 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: None
  • EPA: 19 mpg city, 27 mpg highway
  • Premium grade gasoline required
  • Fuel tank: 18.5 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 3,477 pounds
  • IIHS safety rating: Not rated
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles
  • Vehicle assembly: Castle Bromwich, UK

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2015 Jaguar F-TYPE photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.

2015 Jaguar F-TYPE
2015 Jaguar F-TYPE
2015 Jaguar F-TYPE

Getting Real: Infiniti QX30 Concept

Infiniti continues apace with its makeover, unveiling a long anticipated compact crossover model at the Geneva Motor Show. Nissan’s premium brand intends to expand its reach and the Infiniti QX30 will do so with much panache.

Infiniti QX30

Some car manufacturers are coy when it comes to concept vehicles, showing us models that are never built. Certainly, the majority of concepts manage to point to a future styling direction, leaving everyone wondering what parts of the vehicle will show up later and when.

Infiniti QX30

From Concept to Reality

The Infiniti QX30 is one concept that likely is as close to the real thing as its going to get. At the Geneva Motor Show this week, Infiniti revealed the QX30 concept, just months ahead of going into production for the 2016 model year.

Infiniti has shown us glimpses of the model over the past few weeks, using social media platforms to tease followers and media folk alike. Indeed, it is a game that manufacturers have been playing in recent years, one that typically stokes interest in a new product.

The Infiniti QX30 is a compact crossover utility vehicle, one that gives this brand a stake in the burgeoning entry level SUV segment. Likewise, the QX30 will come up against the Lexus NX, Lincoln MKC, Audi Q3, BMW X3 and other models. Therefore, its actual debut should help Infiniti capture a larger slice of the luxury market.

Infiniti QX30

Infiniti QX30: Sinewy Design Articulation

To be sure, the QX30 is a radical design, but not unlike previous designs that have punctuated this brand. For instance, the present QX70 (formerly the FX) was also a radical design upon its introduction in 2011. Its curvaceous body, deep embrasures and its humongous lights set this vehicle apart from the horde. One thing about Infiniti is that you are not likely to confuse its visage with another luxury brand — its style is that unique.

“With the QX30 Concept, we’re showcasing a distinctively contemporary alternative in the premium compact segment for those who want something more than the status quo,” said Roland Krueger, Infiniti President and CEO.

Added Alfonso Albaisa is executive design director, Infiniti Motor Company, Ltd., “We’ve used expected materials in an unexpected way and given functional elements an artistic twist. It is the unconventional execution of a conventional element that makes the QX30 Concept a design leader.”

Infiniti QX30

Dynamic and Exuberant Sophistication

Notably, the QX30 features 21-inch wheels set within large tires, sculpted skid plates, lowered bumpers and idiosyncratic roof rails. It is a fluidic design, one that suggests oscillation or dynamism. Certainly, its vigorous style is not without controversy, but these days a polarizing look does manage to attract a substantial following.

Not much else about the Infiniti QX30 is known yet, although it most likely will be sold as an all-wheel drive model when it goes on sale toward the end of the year. A similar sized sedan, the Infiniti Q30, will debut too, however it will offer standard front-wheel drive and available all-wheel drive.

One or perhaps two four-cylinder gasoline engines may be offered in the US, with Europe also seeing a diesel variant. No telling what gearboxes will be used, although a continuously variable transmission may make the cut.

Infiniti QX30

Make That Two Geneva Concepts

The QX30 was not the only concept revealed by Infiniti at the Geneva Motor Show. The automaker also unwrapped the Q60 Concept, what the company says hints at Infiniti’s next sports coupe. To be sure, the vehicle represents a spectacular two-door coupe with a unique combination of fetching delineations, enthralling dynamics and top-echelon finishes, providing well-heeled shoppers with a modernistic and energetic design representation for their contemplation.

Infiniti QX30

Photos courtesy of Infiniti USA Communications.

See AlsoStealth Sports Coupe: 2015 Infiniti Q60S

Fabulously Unfrozen: February 2015 US Auto Sales

The eastern half of the nation has had quite a winter, with record cold, significant snows and paralyzing ice storms extending deep into the south. Despite the difficult conditions, consumers visited US showrooms in strong numbers, helping to propel February 2015 auto sales in a positive direction.

Truck sales paced GM in February.

Neither treacherous winter conditions, nor rising fuel prices kept consumers from US auto dealer showrooms in February. However, earlier rosy sales projections did not pan out quite the way analysts had hoped as manufacturer sales were tempered almost across the board. Notwithstanding the projections, Toyota Motor Sales notched a 13.3 percent increase in the month on the strength of robust light truck and Lexus sales.

The Detroit Three

Meanwhile, the Ford Motor Company posted a 2 percent decline for the month, even as demand for the F-150 pickup truck, the new Transit van and the Ford Mustang remained strong. Sales for its car lines and utilities were spotty, contributing to the brand’s decline. Lincoln sales tumbled by 7.5 percent, nearly erasing January’s gains.

General Motors enjoyed brisk truck sales with deliveries increasing by 36 percent year over year. GM sales rose by 4.2 percent based on strong demand for GMC products and positive action for Chevrolet. Buick and Cadillac, however, experienced losses with the latter falling by 12.6 percent for the month.

It is now 59 consecutive months whereby Fiat Chrysler (FCA) has been experiencing year-over-year sales gains. February’s rise narrowed to 6 percent with the Jeep brand up by 21 percent and the Chrysler brand up by 13 percent. The Ram brand climbed by 12 percent, but both the Fiat and Dodge brands saw sales pull back.

“In spite of snow and bitter cold that slowed auto sales in many regions of the country, FCA US still turned in a 6 percent sales increase and extended our year-over-year sales streak to 59-consecutive months,” said Reid Bigland, Head of U.S. Sales. “Even with tougher year-over-year sales comparisons in 2015, our vehicle lineup continues to produce record sales results.”

Lexus NX

The all-new NX continues to gain in acceptance with buyers.

The Japan Top Three

Toyota Motor Sales enjoyed a double-digit increase as Camry, Corolla and RAV4 continued to pace the Toyota brand. Scion sub-brand sales, however fell by 14.7 percent as total Toyota brand sales increased by 7.9 percent for the month. The Lexus marque enjoyed robust demand for its RX crossover, GS sedan and for its all-new compact NX crossover model.

American Honda said that its sales rose by 5 percent in February on the strength of a 4.1 percent increase for the Honda brand and a 12.5 percent increase for the Acura emblem. Strong demand for the subcompact Fit, the usual strong interest in the compact CR-V crossover and robust truck sales paced the Honda brand. Acura benefited from a strong interest in its RDX and MDX utility vehicles.

The Nissan Group reported a 2.7 percent sales expansion for February on the strength of hearty interest in its Infiniti marque. Indeed, Infiniti car sales were especially vigorous, rising by 25.1 percent, including a 77.2 percent increase for the Q40. Nissan brand sales rose by 1.1 percent, due largely to a 24.4 percent increase in Nissan Sentra sales for the month.

Hyundai and Kia Report

Hyundai Motor America has had its share of struggles lately, trailing the gains enjoyed by the market leaders and losing market share. However, last month the Korean automaker had its best month ever etas sales rose by 7 percent. The Sonata sedan, Santa Fe crossover and Genesis luxury sedan were key contributors for the month.

“Even the treacherous weather across the country couldn’t keep shoppers away from dealerships in February,” said Bob Pradzinski, vice president, national sales for Hyundai. “With consumer spending and confidence continuing to grow at the fastest pace in years, customers bought Hyundais in record numbers, giving us the best February in our history.”

Kia reported sales of 44,030 units last month, up 6.8 percent over last Feb. The Kia Optima (midsize sedan), Soul (utility vehicle) and Sorento (crossover) continue to pace the market. Sales for its Sedona minivan gained fivefold for the month.

Hyundai Genesis

Sales for the Hyundai Genesis sedan rose sharply in February.

Volkswagen and Subaru Report

Volkswagen brand sales fell for the month, continuing a trend that has dogged this German manufacturer for the past few years. Feb. sales fell by nearly 5.2 percent. However, the subcompact Golf line continues to show much promise as sales surged by 141 percent for the month. The new Golf R was a big contributor as well as the Golf EV.

Subaru continued with its stampede, enjoying brisk sales on 41,358 vehicles sold or up 18.5 percent. All models except the BRZ saw an increase for the month. The Legacy midsize sedan realized an increase of 68 percent for the month and Outback sales were up by nearly 30 percent.

The Luxury Market Remains Strong

Continued strong interest in the luxury brands helped fuel sales for Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche. Audi sales rose for the 50th consecutive month, increasing by 5.3 percent based largely on sales of its new A3 sedan. The BMW marque’s sales rose by 14.5 percent as interest in its X5 crossover and 2 and 4 Series lines propelled sales. Mercedes-Benz reported its best Feb. ever as sales rose by 4.5 percent. Potent interest in its CLA- and C-Class models helped Mercedes. Porsche sales edged lower by 0.9 percent for the month.

Elsewhere, Mazda sales rose by 5.4 percent, Volvo sales increased by 0.5 percent, and Jaguar Land Rover sales increased by 13.8 percent. Mitsubishi sales rose by 26 percent for the highest gain by any manufacturer for the month.

Mazda sales February 2015

Mazda sales kept pace with the market in February 2015.

February 2015 Sales: Up 5.3 Percent

To sum up, US sales roses by 5.3 percent in a month beset by bad weather. Motor Intelligence (Autodata Corp.) reported 1,257,619 models sold; year-to-date sales are up 9.2 percent.

See Also2014 US Auto Sales Magnify Industry’s Strength

Now Hiring: Volkswagen Adding 2,000 New Jobs in Tennessee

Volkswagen is on pace to become the world’s most productive car manufacturer, a goal it should attain this year. Its US sales have performed poorly, due in large part to a dearth of alluring models. A new, 7-passenger crossover utility vehicle may help reverse its North American fortunes, with production commencing in Tennessee by late 2016. Furthermore, that Chattanooga assembly plant is currently under expansion and new workers are being hired to supplement the current staff of 2,400 Volkswagen employees.

New Hires for Chattanooga, Tennessee

The Volkswagen Group of America plans to hire 2,000 new workers at its manufacturing plant near Chattanooga, Tennessee, as it expands that manufactory to accommodate a new, 7-passenger crossover utility vehicle. The plant, Volkswagen’s only manufacturing facility in the United States, currently builds the midsize Passat sedan. Because of the expansion, the automaker will hire 2,000 new workers as confirmed late last month.

The plant expansion, underway since January, will add square footage to the existing body and paint shops as well as to the assembly line. At present, the facility occupies nearly 2 million square feet and has a maximum build capacity of 150,000 vehicles. For this reason, an additional 512,886 square feet will be added to welcome the new SUV.

The Chattanooga expansion is part of a $900 million Volkswagen Group of America investment, what includes $600 million for its Tennessee operations alone. Besides adding a second paint line with robots, tanks, and pumps, and increasing the square footage of its others key shops, the company is building a new visitors center to be located in downtown Chattanooga. That center is expected to open in summer 2016.

***See AlsoDiesel Hybrid: Volkswagen CrossBlue SUV Concept***

Engineer Hiring Underway

Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept

The Volkswagen CrossBlue Concept is a production reality.

Hiring for as many as 200 engineers is currently underway in Chattanooga. The company’s National Engineering and Planning Center have already established a temporary base adjacent to the factory, headed by Dr. Matthias Erb. Consequently, the center “will serve as a high-level research and development hub and will house product-related functions such as technical scouting, innovation management, and product management,” explained Volkswagen in a related press release.

Since opening in 2011, the Chattanooga plant has assembled a US-spec Volkswagen Passat midsize sedan. That five-passenger, front-wheel drive model has had to battle formidable competition, including the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, Ford Fusion, as well as the Hyundai Sonata and other sedans. Thus, its sales have fallen short of projections, with just 96,649 units sold in 2014, down 11.9 percent from 2013.

Passat Update; CrossBlue Anticipation

Despite the Passat’s lagging fortunes, Volkswagen has a mid-product-cycle upgrade planned to commence this summer and in time for the 2016 model year. That upgrade should deliver an emotive design, one better suited to take on the likes of the Ford Fusion and Honda’s Accord. In this case, we are likely to see a model that is refreshed inside and out, with its gasoline and diesel powertrain options continuing intact.

The new model, based on the CrossBlue concept, will be manufactured on the company’s mid-sized MQB or modular platform, offer three rows of seating, and carry seven people. Moreover, the CrossBlue will be powered by a turbocharged diesel 3.0-liter inline-six engine, as part of a plug-in hybrid system with a pair of electric motors and a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission. Notably, this model is expected to produce more than 500 horsepower and have a total range of about 660 miles. Likewise, a 14-mile electric-only range has been projected.

Inside, the Volkswagen CrossBlue will feature a 10.2-inch touchscreen color display, controlling all infotainment functions as well as the hybrid system’s status. The concept vehicle, presented at the 2013 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, integrated iPad mini devices in the back of the front-row head restraints. In addition, Volkswagen plans to include a Fender Premium audio system and offer localized climate control for both second- and third-row passengers.

Grand Debut in 2016

Likely, full details about the Volkswagen CrossBlue won’t be released until it is formally presented at a major US auto show in early 2016. Detroit seems like a logical venue for that presentation.

Photo courtesy of the Volkswagen Group of America, Inc.

Lexus Reiteration: 2015 Vehicle Dependability Study Leader

J.D. Power Dependability Study

J.D. Power & Associates has once again placed the Lexus brand atop its Vehicle Dependability Study. For 2015 and for the fourth consecutive year, Toyota’s luxury brand won out, besting 30 other brands. General Motors and Toyota Motors each received seven segment awards.

Customer satisfaction is critical in the auto industry, thus J.D. Power & Associates annually gauges brand progress based on owner feedback. The 2015 Vehicle Dependability Study has been released and for the fourth consecutive year Lexus is America’s top brand, easily outdistancing second-place Buick and third-place Toyota.

Number of Problems Per 100 Vehicles

As in recent years, manufacturers have been slammed by Bluetooth connectivity and voice recognition problems, technologies that pull down scores. The J.D. Power 2015 Vehicle Dependability Study, now in its 26th year, focuses on vehicles after three years of ownership. Thus, this year’s study examined problems experienced over the past 12 months by original owners of 2012 model-year vehicles.

From the collected data, J.D. Power assigns a score based on the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100). In particular, a lower score means a higher finish and at PP89 Lexus finished well ahead of the PP141 industry average.

J.D. Power Dependability Study

Niggling and Sometimes Pervasive Problems

J.D. Power’s study is not some cursory investigation of problems owners face. Instead, the study quantifies 177 specific problem symptoms within eight major vehicle categories. Consequently, scores are assigned to all 31 tracked brands.

“As we’ve seen in our Initial Quality Study, owners view in-vehicle technology issues as significant problems, and they typically don’t go away after the ownership honeymoon period is over,” said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive at J.D. Power. “Furthermore, early indications from our upcoming 2015 U.S. Tech Choice Study show that vehicle owner expectations of advanced technology capabilities is growing. The owners clearly want the latest technology in their vehicles, and they don’t hesitate to express their disapproval when it doesn’t work. Their definition of dependability is increasingly influenced by usability.”

Tech Functionality and Usability

And that usability will often determine whether a customer returns to the brand or goes elsewhere the next time. Indeed, 56 percent of car owners who reported no problems with their vehicle say they “definitely will” purchase the same brand the next go around. However, 43 percent of those who experienced three or more problems with a vehicle are likely to flee to a competitor.

Moreover, the study found that 15 percent of new-vehicle buyers avoided cars they considered technologically problematic compared to just 4 percent a decade earlier. Obviously, technology can be a deal maker or a breaker for a significant number of new car shoppers.

As one who reviews new cars I can attest to the frustrations many car owners enumerate. That 55 percent of individuals surveyed said that they experienced Bluetooth pairing and connectivity problems is a phenomenal number that should not be easily dismissed. Furthermore, another 31 percent said that their phones would not connect when entering a vehicle.

Another key point of the study reveals problems with gearboxes. Specifically, 30 percent identified powertrain problems due to rough shifting and hesitation associated with automatic transmission. Notably, six of the top 10 problems had nothing to do with malfunctions or product defects — those problems were entirely attributed to the vehicle’s design.

Buick Ascension and the Industry Laggards

Buick at PP110 came in second place, just ahead of the Toyota brand at PP111. Certainly, Buick has been enjoying a renaissance in recent years and its latest ascension has moved it up by three spots. Cadillac, Honda, Porsche, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Scion, Chevrolet and GMC rounded out the top 10.

On the other end of the spectrum, Fiat finished at PP273, followed by Land Rover at PP258. No other brands had scores above 200. The Chrysler Group finished below the industry’s average across the board, except for the Ram truck brand.

As far as the top models in each segment, J.D. Power looked at 8 car categories and 11 truck categories. Trucks, by the way, is a broad and generic term composed of pickup trucks, vans, sport utility vehicles and multipurpose vehicles.

The winners were:

  • Small Car: Scion xD
  • Compact Car: Toyota Corolla
  • Compact Premium Car: Lexus ES
  • Compact Sporty Car: Scion tC
  • Midsize Car: Chevrolet Malibu
  • Midsize Sporty Car: Chevrolet Camaro
  • Midsize Premium Car: Mercedes-Benz E-Class
  • Large Car: Buick LaCrosse
  • Small SUV: Kia Sportage
  • Compact SUV: GMC Terrain
  • Compact Premium SUV: Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class
  • Compact MPV: Scion xB
  • Midsize SUV: Nissan Murano
  • Midsize Premium SUV: Lexus GX
  • Midsize Pickup: Honda Ridgeline
  • Minivan: Toyota Sienna
  • Large SUV: GMC Yukon
  • Large Light Duty Pickup: GMC Sierra LD
  • Large Heavy Duty Pickup: Chevrolet Silverado HD

Study Parameters

J.D. Power fielded its study in November and December of 2014, surveying 34,000 original owners of 2012 model-year vehicles following three years of ownership.

Efficient Turbo: 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco

Hyundai continues to expand its Sonata line. For 2015, six editions are available, including an all-new Eco model. The Sonata Eco fuses power with efficiency, delivering the best amalgamation of the two across the model line.

2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco

Some manufacturers aren’t satisfied with us media folk driving just one edition of a particular make and model. Hyundai, for example, has shared multiple variations on its Sonata theme with yours truly, including Limited, Sport 2.0T and most recently an Eco edition.

Hyundai’s popular midsize sedan is now sold in six trim levels ranging from the $21,150 Sonata SE to the $33,525 Limited 2.0T. That’s quite a price span, but a well equipped model can be had for about $28,000 or about $2,000 under the price of what comparably equipped cars from its competitors are offering.

The latest edition in this front-wheel drive sedan’s arsenal was dropped off on a blustery February afternoon and stayed with me for an extra week as our local area turned into a skating rink. No problem, I managed to drive the 2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco on the days that were ice free to adequately assess this vehicle.

2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco

2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco

I won’t rehash all the design particulars and the many amenities of this model. Instead, I invite my readers to peruse my review of the Limited edition, published on this site last August. Please see: 2015 Hyundai Sonata Raises the Bar Again. What I will concentrate on here is the Eco’s powertrain system, unique to this model.

That powertrain is composed of two main ingredients: a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine and a 7-speed dual clutch transmission. Truly, it is an amalgamation that provides optimum fuel economy for the Sonata, coming in at 28 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway for a combined 32 mpg.

2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco

My fuel numbers averaged slightly below average, coming in at 29.6 mpg. Notably, I attributed that more ordinary figure to two issues that were at hand: 1), unusually cold weather in my region and 2), mostly local driving. In any case, achieving 30 mpg for a car of the Sonata’s size is an impressive feat.

Comparatively, the standard Sonata outfitted with a 2.4-liter normally aspirated four-cylinder engine makes 185 horsepower and achieves 25 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway. On the other hand, the Sport 2.0T produces 245 horsepower with is twin-scroll turbocharged four-cylinder engine and achieves 21 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway. The latter numbers are equivalent to what today’s small block normally aspirated V-6 engines deliver.

2015 Hyundai Sonata

View manufacturer details and pricing

Updated Turbocharged Engine

The salient point for the Sonata Eco is that Hyundai took a small four-cylinder gasoline direct injection engine and added a turbocharger to enhance power and fuel economy. But that engine does not do it alone — Hyundai’s electronically actuated gear changing dual clutch transmission does a commendable job too, quickly shifting between gear points. For optimum shifts between gear points you can operate the stick manually. Sorry, no paddle shifters are present.

Like nearly every turbo out there, this one shines best once you get going. From a stop, you will experience some hesitation as power lags acceleration, but only very briefly. Once boost is attained you will enjoy the full benefit. Moreover, you will have an engine that operates quietly and smoothly.

2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco

For some drivers, a turbocharger isn’t enough. Indeed, they want to control the driving mode, something Hyundai makes possible via Sport mode. Here, the transmission shift points come in at a higher RPM, but your fuel economy would suffer. Then again, that may be a worthwhile exchange for optimal performance.

Not a Performance Pacesetter

But do not think that in the Sonata Eco you are getting the equivalent of a road beast with this model. You are not. The Sonata Eco has the same suspension system as the standard model and it lacks the rack-mounted, electric power steering assist found in the Sport 2.0T. Even so, not one Sonata model delivers jaw-dropping driving excitement, so you are not missing out — you can blame front-wheel drive and the family-friendly midsize segment for those omissions. If you want unabashed sporting fun, the Genesis Coupe may be more to your liking.

Now back to the model at hand. Specifically, the engine. Some readers may note that this engine first found its way under the hood of the Veloster turbo. Indeed, it had. However, it has since been modified with new intake runners to reduce weight, an electric wastegate installed for improved boost, a higher compression ratio present and a low-friction roller used to meliorate fuel economy.

2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco

As for the Sonata Eco edition itself, it is priced from $23,275 or toward the lower end of the model’s pricing spectrum. The test model had a $28,310 sticker price, owing mostly to a $4,100 tech package. That package brought in an assortment of amenities, including blind spot detection, a hands-free smart trunk opener, leather-appointed seats, heated front seats, a navigation system, SiriusXM satellite radio and an upgraded audio system.

An Effective Pricing Strategy

Opting for the Eco may be the best choice for the individual who desires a bit more power on the road and the enhanced fuel economy that goes with it. Its low price point makes it an inviting option as it is priced only $100 more than the Sonata Sport. Thus, you get a different powertrain minus the standard heated seats found in the Sport edition, providing a compelling reason for anyone to consider the Sonata Eco.

2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco
2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco
2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco

2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco

  • Sticker price from $23,275
  • Price as tested: from $28,310
  • Seats 5 occupants
  • 1.6-liter 16-valve turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine
  • 178 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
  • 195 foot-pounds of torque @ 1,500 to 4,500 rpm
  • 3.03 inches bore by 3.35 inches stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 10.0-to-1
  • 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission
  • Wheelbase: 110.4 inches
  • Length: 191.1 inches
  • Width: 73.4 inches
  • Height: 58.1 inches
  • Passenger volume: 106.1 cubic feet
  • Storage volume: 16.3 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: Not Recommended
  • EPA: 28 mpg city, 38 mpg highway
  • Regular grade gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 18.5 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 3,250 pounds
  • IIHS safety rating: Good; Small Overlap Front (Acceptable)
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 10 years/100,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 7 years/Unlimited miles
  • Vehicle assembly: Montgomery, Alabama

More Car Reviews

Turbo CUV: 2015 Audi Q5 TDI Quattro

Turbo Crossover: 2015 Hyundai Santa Fe 2.0T Ultimate

Achievable Indulgence: 2015 Lexus ES 350

Contractor Special: 2015 Ram ProMaster City

2015 Hyundai Sonata Eco photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.

Volkswagen Eos Finale Set

Volkswagen Eos

After a nine-year model run, Volkswagen has set an end date for its Eos hard-top convertible. Yet another convertible model is to be discontinued as consumers embrace other vehicle choices.

Volkswagen Eos

We don’t cover the Volkswagen brand as much as we would prefer to on Auto Trends. A current lack of access to fleet vehicles and a paucity of hot cars restricts our news. There is only so much one can say about the Golf and Jetta!

Sadly, one of the better products to come from VW is also being discontinued this year —the hard-top Eos convertible. Eos — goddess of the dawn in Greek mythology — is an attractive 2+2 cabriolet, a generously contented model that deserves citation among pricier models, including the Lexus IS C.

June Swan Song for the EOS

We already knew that 2015 would be the final year for the Eos, but its official wind down window wasn’t known. Well, that changed earlier this week when several sources, including Automotive News Europe, confirmed that production will end by May or June. That retirement will conclude a nine-year model run with approximately 230,000 models built at a Volkswagen plant in Portugal.

The EOS’ appeal can be traced to a number of factors, including its good looks, a reasonable price and its excellent hard top. That top is a five-piece steel and glass roof that folds section by section with each part folding on top of the next part. In just 25 seconds the roof lowers itself into the trunk, while keeping 10.6 cubic feet clear for storage.

The VW Eos also has a feature that not one of its competitors can claim: a built-in, power sunroof. So, if you want a partial solar experience instead of the traditional wind-in-your face convertible adventure, you have a choice.

Volkswagen Eos

The Mid-Level Final Edition

The 2015 Volkswagen Eos 2.0T is powered by a 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 200 horsepower at 5,100 rpm and 207 foot-pounds of torque at 1,750 rpm. It comes paired with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission to deliver 22 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway. The Eos takes premium grade gasoline.

Pricing for 2015 starts at $35,795 for the base Komfort model and reaches $42,335 for the Executive edition. For its final year, a “Final Edition” trim level ($39,165) replaces the previous mid-grade trim, bringing in Bi-Xenon headlamps, headlight washers, LED daytime running lights, 18-inch Vincenza alloy wheels set within all-season tires, upgraded leather seating surfaces with contrast stitching, sport suspension with body lowering, a multifunction steering wheel and keyless access with push button start.

The Final Edition includes all Komfort features such as: the power tilt and slide glass sunroof with wind deflector, footwell lights, cornering lamps, front fog lamps, navigation system, Bluetooth connectivity, and a 12-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar. The Executive edition brings in a 10-speaker audio system; a rear view camera; decorative indoor trim, including wood inlays; a power front passenger seat with lumbar; and park distance control.

The Independent Suspension Advantage

Another delicious feature of the front-wheel drive Eos is its fully independent suspension system. Up front, a strut arrangement with lower control arms, coil springs and an anti-roll bar is at work. To the rear a compact four-link arrangement is mounted on a subframe, one acoustically decoupled from the main body in an effort to mitigate road noise and vibration. Electronic power steering, four-wheel disc brakes and an assortment of safety features, including anti-slip regulation, is also included.

With the VW Eos’ days numbered, there just aren’t that many convertibles left, especially in this segment. The Mini Cooper Convertible is one such model as are a handful of pricier vehicles from Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Lexus.

Photos courtesy of the Volkswagen Group.

2015 Consumer Reports Annual Car Brand Report Cards

For three years running, Consumer Reports has issued its Annual Car Brand Report Cards. This publication reviewed 28 car brands with a US market presence and assigned scores to each one. Lexus, as usual, topped the list, but there were some surprise moves up and down the ratings that should be noted.

Buick Regal

Consumer Reports says that the Buick Regal is the top sports sedan.

The Buick marque has certainly come a long way in a short time. Six years ago, GM saved Buick and killed Pontiac, a move that resulted in much angst as well as invited a firestorm of criticism. Many had felt that GM was trading a promising, youth-oriented brand for an aged and largely forgotten make with no real purpose.

Well, this week Consumers Report essentially vindicated GM’s decision by recognizing Buick with a Top 10 spot in its latest Consumer Reports Annual Car Brand Report Cards.

Buick’s ascendancy moved it into the seventh spot and that score also represents the second consecutive year that it outperformed the other domestic brands. Buick has enjoyed a strong makeover, one that has yielded several new products, including the Verano and Regal sedans. Furthermore, a 2+2 cabriolet will arrive next year and the Avenir concept has received much praise.

Lexus NX

Lexus is the top brand with this NX its newest model.

Twin Tenets of Grading

Consumer Reports bases its brand report card on two factors: road-test score and predicted reliability. It is only the third year that CR has combined these twin tenets, representing a composite score for models across an entire brand’s line.

Once again, Lexus led all comers with very good scores for road-test performance and exemplary reliability. Mazda took second place, impressing CR’s editors, especially given that half of its models were redesigned in the past three years. Redesigns often are plagued with quality issues initially, what adversely affects scores. But not so with Mazda.

Third, fourth and fifth place were taken by Toyota, Audi, and Subaru respectively. On the other hand, some brands have stumbled in recent years, including Acura and Infiniti. Mercedes-Benz took the biggest tumble, falling from 10th to 21st place. For M-B, CR cited problems with several models, including calling the CLA four-door “coupe” unreliable.

FCA Brands Continue to Lag

FCA brands continue to perform poorly, with Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Fiat each performing near or at the bottom.

Despite the low scores, FCA brands such as Ram and Jeep continue to do well in sales. Indeed, Ram and Jeep have consistently been grabbing a larger slice of the market share pie in the past five years. Will quality concerns catch up with FCA?

Ram ProMaster City

Despite low scores, Ram and other FCA brands continue to thrive.

The Top 10 by Car Category

Besides rating the brands, CR also shared top picks from 10 popular car categories. The winners were tested in three areas: road test, reliability and safety with the publication relying on problems its subscribers reported on 1.1 million vehicles. Crash testing data from the federal government and the IIHS were also considered.

Winning the best overall score was the Tesla Model S. This electric vehicle has been a CR favorite since it arrived for the 2012 model year. The Model S is prized for its sleek exterior, upscale cabin and, of course, for its EV attributes.

Subaru won the most awards, three, by taking the best compact car (Impreza), best midsize car (Legacy) and best SUV (Forester) categories. The Chevrolet Impala finished tops amongst large cars. The Toyota Prius was the foremost green car and another Toyota product, the Highlander, was the best midsize SUV. The Audi A6 won best luxury car honors and the Buick Regal was the top sports sedan. Lastly, the Honda Odyssey was recognized as the best minivan.

NHTSA Recall Action Targets Rental Car Companies and Used Car Dealers

Renting or buying a used car should mean that only safe and reliable vehicles are transacted. As the law currently stands, only new cars under a recall must be fixed before they are sold. The NHTSA has asked Congress to pass legislation to close that loophole.

Renting a car or buying a used vehicle means that your ride is safety compliant, right? After all, if a car has been recalled, then it should have been serviced before it can be rented or marketed for sale, with all safety defect issues resolved.

The sensible, rational is that America’s fleet of rental and used vehicles are not only being maintained according to manufacturer guidelines, but have also kept up with every recall handed down. The truth, however, is that safety defects are often ignored or overlooked and potentially dangerous vehicles are being driven by unsuspecting motorists.


Last Friday, the NHTSA called on Congress to authorize a statute proscribing rental car companies and used car marketers from renting or selling vehicles under a recall without completing the required fix first.

NHTSA recallSpecifically, the NHTSA asked Congress to legislate the GROW AMERICA Act, containing provisions requiring rental car companies to rectify any safety defects subject to recall prior to renting a vehicle. Moreover, the law would compel used car dealers to do likewise before transacting a vehicle.

As the law currently stands, all new vehicles under a recall must be fixed prior to sale. However, rental car companies, and used car dealers are not subject to that provision. To that end, in Richmond, Virginia, the NHTSA joined with representatives from the major rental car companies, and a leading consumer group to petition Congress to pass legislation to close the safety loophole.

“Every vehicle under an open safety recall should be repaired as soon as possible,” said Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Requiring rental car agencies and used car dealers to fix defective vehicles before renting is a commonsense solution that would make our roads safer. Safety advocates and the rental car industry have taken a stand for safety, and we need Congress to do so as well.”

Record Year for Recalls

In 2014, more than 60 million vehicles were recalled, including the millions that were covered under a few highly publicized notifications such as the Takata airbag dilemma and the GM ignition switch debacle. Both recalls followed reports of numerous injuries and deaths involving the affected vehicles. Indeed, at least 52 people were killed as a result of faulty GM ignition switches.

Consumers, however, have been slow in responding to recall notifications with GM offering $25 gift cards to coax owners to service their vehicles. That offer has since been rescinded. What is not known is how many of these same models are not being fixed before they are rented or sold.

The 60 million recalls in 2014 broke a record, doubling the previous mark set in 2004. That record is likely to fall this year, according to NHTSA’s new administrator, Mark R. Rosekind. Indeed, at a press meeting in January Rosekind stated, “we’ll probably see an increase in recalls. This was the year of the recall, right? Put your seatbelt on, folks.”

Verify Your Own Vehicle

Consumers should know that they do not pay for repairs for cars subject to a recall. Furthermore, manufacturers are required to notify vehicle owners when a recall has authorized, but sometimes those notices are sent to previous owners.

If you want to verify your own car’s status you can look up your car by its vehicle identification number on the NHTSA’s website. If a recall is outstanding, then contact your dealer to schedule the repair.

AutoPacific Forecasts Positive Auto Trends


US auto sales continue to grow and have started the year off strong. Across the board, analysts have been predicting sustainable growth for the year, but few have dared to look much further out in the future. Now, AutoPacific has released its forecast for sales through 2020, what may surprise some people.


Ever since the US auto industry plunged in 2009 to depths not observed in decades, experts in recent months have been noting that the current recovery — now in its sixth year — is an unusually lengthy one. Yet, few people are looking beyond 2015, with most simply content to state that sales will continue to rise this year.

AutoPacific Inc., an automotive marketing research and product-consulting firm, has bravely looked beyond this year in a bid to forecast annual sales for the intervening five years. AutoPacific expects sales to approximate 17 million units this year and continue to ascend for two more years, peaking at 17.24 million units in 2017.

Best Market in a Decade

For 2015, AutoPacific expects sales to escalate by 524,000 units over 2014, coming in just under 17 million units. If the company is precise in its assessment, then the market would reach a threshold last attained in 2006.

“U.S. sales recovery has been steady since hitting the bottom of the decline in 2009, though recent years have seen things taper off from 11% growth in 2010 to 6% in 2014, and a forecasted 3% growth this year,” says Ed Kim, Vice President of Industry Analysis at AutoPacific. Furthermore, AutoPacific’s forecast for the year sees a 55 percent truck to 45 percent car allocation as consumers continue to embrace crossover utility vehicles, especially compact models. That apportionment would represent the largest truck share of the market ever seen.

AutoPacific Forecast Through 2020

With 2017 forecast as the peak sales year for the decade, AutoPacific has not envisioned that a major market correction is in the offing. Instead, the company has forecast a slight contraction beginning in 2018 and continuing through 2020.

The logic given for that downswing is based on two factors:

1) a probable rise in interest rates in the next few years and,
2) young buyers, also known as Millennials, waiting longer to purchase their first new car.

An overarching reason might also be weighted and that would involve loan terms. Notably, we are currently seeing loans for 72 months to as long as 96 months offered by some financial institutions, including the Navy Federal Credit Union. Indeed, the interest rate on 8-year auto loans underwritten by the NFCU presently stands at just 4.49 percent, although they are offered only to people with superior credit.

The Effect of Rising Interest Rates on Loan Terms

Once interest rates begin to ascend, then monthly payments will also begin to rise. Likewise, lenders may pull back and offer shorter term loans only, effectively shutting some consumers out of the new car market.

Speaking of loans, AutoPacific says that the average loan length today is 66 months (5.5 years) compared to 48 months (4 years) just a few years ago. Declared Kim about today’s loans, “Vehicle buyers will be in a negative equity position on their loans a lot longer than in the past, and that will have a profound impact on replacement demand in the future.”

Forecast Accuracy, Consumer Data and Purchase Intentions

AutoPacific’s forecast accuracy over the past 10 years has been 95.5 percent, with 2008 and 2009 coming in below 90 percent as most analysts underestimated the breadth and depth of the last recession. The company relies on consumer supplied data and economic forecasts to aid it with its own forecasting. Moreover, the company indicated that intelligence also helps analysts “…better understand vehicle buyer purchase intentions, including brand consideration and future segment intention.”

See AlsoJournalist Survey: Social Media Participation

Chart supplied by AutoPacific.