Deep Purple 1919 Pierce-Arrow Wins Best in Show at Pinehurst Concours

It’s a wrap for the 2015 edition of the Pinehurst Concours d’Elegance. This year’s show was the largest one yet with 280 vehicles judged across 13 categories.

Porsche Row at the 2015 Pinehurst Concours d'Elegance.

Porsche Row at the 2015 Pinehurst Concours d’Elegance.

The third annual Pinehurst Concours d’Elegance has concluded and with it came yet another successful event for this emerging vintage auto show. The Pinehurst Resort is North Carolina’s golf mecca and the Concours tournament has become its crowning non-golf achievement.

Indeed, in just three years the Concours d’Elegance has grown into a jam-packed, two-day affair, featuring an Iron Mike Rally and the Concours display itself. Unfortunately, heavy rain canceled this year’s Iron Mike, named for the 15-foot tall statute at Fort Bragg that honors America’s paratroopers. The resort’s proximity to the military base lends to that tie-in, with a soldier’s choice award just one of numerous honors associated with the Pinehurst Concours.

Pinehurst Concours Grand Marshall, Dennis Haysbert.

Grand Marshal and Hollywood celebrity Dennis Haysbert
greets the throngs at Pinehurst Concours.

Pinehurst Concours Winner

Saturday, however, dawned cool and bright with little hint of the punishing storms on Friday remaining. More than 280 vehicles were on display, covering 13 judging categories. The overall winner this year was a 1919 Pierce-Arrow Model 64 A-4 Tourer, a stunning 7,000-pound exemplification of automobile design with its deep purple finish and naturally white tires. That vehicle was originally owned by Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, one of the highest paid Hollywood actors of the 1920s.

Now owned by Bob Jepson, Jr., a Georgia businessman and philanthropist, Jepson purchased the automobile the previous September, and came to the resort expecting only to show the car and enjoy the venue. Instead, Jepson found himself standing beside Grand Marshal Dennis Haysbert and others as he was presented with the top award.

1919 Pierce-Arrow Model 64 A-4 Tourer

First in Show was this 1919 Pierce-Arrow Model 64 A-4 Tourer.

Other winners this year included a 1929 Franklin Model 137 and a 1948 Tucker 48 Sedan, winner of the Ross Awards. The Tufts Awards went to a 1937 Duesenberg JN Rollston SWB Convertible and to a 1913 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost – L&E Tourer Chassis.

A 1950 Mercury 72c won a restoration award and the Chairman’s Award went to a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro Yenko. As for the men and women in uniform, they chose a 2015 McLaren P1 for the Soldier’s Choice award, a $1.35 million British super car and a 903-horsepower gas-electric hybrid at that.

Motorcycles, Orphans and Micro Cars — Oh My!

This year’s show welcomed motorcycles for the first time, what composed the thirteenth and final judging category. A 1975 BMW R90S placed first and a 1957 MV Agusta 125 Bialbero Corsa was also recognized.

Other judging categories covered pre- and post-World War II American and European models, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari, Corvette, and Porsche. Categories for orphan cars, micro cars and American performance were also judged. Not one category featured vehicles built after 1975, thus the models on display ranged in age from 40 to 105.

Black Daggers Parachute Demonstration Team

One of four members of the Black Daggers Parachute Demonstration Team
from Fort Bragg who dropped in on Saturday.

A New Display and a USO Connection

The 2015 Concours d’Elegance layout was changed as the organizers combined the concours with the fairway club to administer a seamless “Cars & Coffee” type display. This year, the organizers also teamed up with the USO and strengthened its relationship with Fort Bragg. As a result, the Black Daggers Parachute Demonstration Team performed a drop, landing four specialists on the target in front of the club house.

At a news conference on Saturday morning, Pinehurst Concours chairman, Bob Ingram, and president, Jay Howard, shared how much the show has grown over the past year. Indeed, Ingram noted that 4,000 more tickets had already been sold than in 2014, although he declined to provide the precise sales numbers.

For the first time the Pinehurst Concours also featured a tie-in with a marquee band as the vintage rockers “Three Dog Night” entertained at 5 p.m.

Ingram noted that the “Pinehurst experience is different from many other places” as the proximity of the paddock and general admission parking provide ease of entrance for guests. Ingram pointed out that some of the more established Concours events have logistical challenges with attendees required to park far away and then bussed to the grounds. As for the Pinehurst Concours, the show’s organizers wanted their guests to arrive on the premises without operational hassles impacting their experience.

2015 Pinehurst Concours d'Elegance

An aerial shot of this year’s Pinehurst Concours.

Future Growth Potential

As improved as this year’s Pinehurst Concours was over the previous years, Ingrams believes that there is much more potential to be realized in the coming years. He emphasized that it would take “years to where it can possibly be” and by building it slowly it offers sustainable growth.

That there is no direct seasonal automotive competition to the Pinehurst Concours should help maturate the event. That it also has the potential to someday rival Pebble Beach or Amelia Island is something only the organizers may have in mind.

All photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.

GM to Invest Billions in its US Infrastructure

In advance of its summer negotiations with the UAW, GM has announced a major investment in its US plants. Only the first portion of that pledge has been identified with additional details forthcoming. Existing plants will be updated and new equipment purchased to modernize these facilities.

The General Motors Company announced on Thursday its plans to invest $5.4 billion over the next three years in support of its US plants. Those funds have been earmarked to improve existing plants, including nearly $800 million for three Michigan manufactories.

The move follows a much more ambitious facility upgrade that followed the company’s 2009 bankruptcy, was announced in 2011and covers five years. That earlier investment of nearly $17 billion is three quarters of the way to being accomplished.

Three Michigan Factories

The three Michigan locations are: Pontiac, Lansing and Warren. The Pontiac Metal Center will include stamping equipment modernization in a bid to increase production. That investment totals $124 million.

GM falling moneyIn Lansing, GM will invest $520 million for tooling and equipment to cover future new vehicle programs. Through that effort GM says it will retain 1,900 jobs. Another $139.5 million is earmarked for a stamping facility upgrade and a new body shop in Warren.

“The common thread among our investments is the focus on product improvements that benefit customers,” said Cathy Clegg, vice president of GM North America Manufacturing. “Together with our UAW partners, we’re working hard to exceed consumers’ ever-increasing quality expectations.”

GM: Future Investment Announcements Forthcoming

The remaining $4.6 billion investment will be announced over the next several months. However, it is expected that approximately $1.3 billion of that figure will be attributed to the company’s truck plant in Arlington, Texas.

Arlington is due for an expansion and new equipment to support increased demand for large Chevrolet, GMC and Cadillac sport utility vehicles. Notably, the large and traditional SUV market has seen a surge in business over the past year as gas prices have fallen. Thus, GM would gain the capacity to meet demand for some of its most profitable vehicles.

Upcoming UAW Negotiations

The announcement may also establish a paradigm for GM as it prepares to negotiate with the UAW this summer. The union is always concerned about potential plant closings that could lead to a loss in jobs. In particular, GM has set the table for negotiations that will show no loss of jobs. In fact, several hundred positions may be added if the Arlington plant expansion is greenlighted.

As for the UAW, the union has a four-year contract with GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler that will cease on Sept. 14. Some of the other concerns the UAW has had with all three includes the automakers’ two-tier salary structure, corporate profits, executive pay, and profit-sharing.

Certainly, all financial moves made by automakers are subject to scrutiny and may be used as points of contention in negotiations. However, we shouldn’t expect a cantankerous labor battle as the investment announcements should assuage the rank and file.

2016 Chevrolet Camaro

Certainly not related to GM’s plant announcements are the teaser shots and tidbits shared about the next generation Chevrolet Camaro. The sport coupe will make its debut on May 16 at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park. GM says that the sixth generation Camaro will have a “leaner, more athletic design” featuring “complex shapes” that are “form-fitted around the mechanical components.”

The changes mean that the 2016 edition will come in weighing at least 200 fewer pounds than its predecessor for a svelte design that benefits from greater use of aluminum and composite material. One very conspicuous result of the Camaro’s light weighting is a 21 percent reduction in suspension weight. Other savings may come in powertrain offerings and through reduced body mass.

See Also — Drive It! 2014 Chevy Camaro SS Convertible

Specs Announced for US-Bound Jaguar XE

2017 Jaguar XE
2017 Jaguar XE

Sample colors for the 2017 Jaguar XE.

Jaguar Land Rover may not command the market presence of a Mercedes-Benz, a BMW or an Audi in the US, but the British automaker is doing something about that. Fresh on the heels of very public reveals of its medium-sized Jaguar XF in England and in New York, the company has released additional details about the Jaguar XE, a model that will take on the BMW 3 Series and other compact luxury sedans.

The 2017 Jaguar XE is still about a year away from its US arrival, but that isn’t stopping Jaguar from releasing details pertinent to the model. We already knew one important matter about this sedan — that it has an aluminum monocoque chassis, representing a weight saving measure that no other four-door in this segment offers.

Beyond that, the details of the Jaguar XE have been scant. Until now.

Jaguar XE Duo

This week, Jaguar announced the two XE model names — 20d and 35t. Both models will be offered in Premium, Prestige and R-Sport trim levels and will be available in rear- and all-wheel drive.

The XE 35t name seems a bit confusing as the nomenclature does not correspond to the engine’s size — 3.0 liters — nor to the type of forced induction — supercharged. Perhaps calling it the XE 30s would have suggested something else in the minds of Jaguar administrators, but the naming convention is a curious one.

The second model name is spot on — XE 20d. This model receives Jaguar’s new 2.0-liter Ingenium diesel engine, making 180 horsepower. That’s far less power than the 340-horsepower V-6, but it underscores Jaguar’s decision to match what its German competitors provide and to give customer’s a worthy fuel-efficient variant.

Ingenium Turbodiesel Engine

Jaguar claims that the Ingenium is its most efficient diesel ever, providing a peerless combination of performance, fuel efficiency and fine tuning. It is a clean sheet metal design, one with stiff cylinder blocks and twin balancer shafts, designed to provide low levels of vibration.

The aluminum-intensive engine was fully designed in-house and will be assembled at the company’s engine manufacturing center in the UK’s West Midlands. Importantly, this diesel line will have a high torque output and also meet stringent Euro 6 requirements. Indeed, that threshold corresponds with the EPA’s own draconian criterion

ZF-Supplied Transmissions

The Jaguar XE 35t should appeal to motoring enthusiasts who prize top performance. Besides its 340-hp rating, this model has an output of 332 foot-pounds of torque. Further, a ZF-supplied 8-speed automatic transmission is standard and operated by Jaguar’s rotary dial or with the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. Notably, Jaguar estimates a 0-to-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds.

The XE 20s will also benefit from a ZF-supplied 8-speed automatic transmission. Besides the 180-hp rating, the diesel will produce a robust 318 foot-pounds of torque.

Long Wheelbase and a Capacious Cabin

The XE’s spacious cabin will seat up to five. This model is based on a 111.6-inch wheelbase and is 183.9 inches long, 72.8 inches wide and 55.7 inches tall. However, its curb weight has not yet been released.

Jaguar calls the XE’s all-new “All Surface Process Control” or ASPC structure a “low-speed cruise control” system. Specifically, this system is active at speeds between 2 mph and 19 mph — ASPC is designed to control braking and the powertrain to ensure superlative traction in treacherous road conditions.

Safety Technology Features

XE shoppers will have the option of ordering a laser heads-up display (HUD), what provides the driver with intelligence, including speed and navigation details. The automaker is also employing stereo camera technology in a bid to gauge speed and the distance of objects ahead.

In doing so, the Jaguar XE will employ full braking in a bid to avoid a collision. In addition, the stereo camera will procure traffic sign data and work in tandem with the lane departure system.

Other safety technologies available include adaptive cruise control, closing vehicle sensing, blind spot monitoring, semi-automated parallel and perpendicular parking, and reverse traffic detection.

Meridian Audio Systems

The XE will also reflect Jaguar’s latest generation infotainment system. The new InControl Touch system has an eight-inch capacitive touchscreen featuring a clear, intuitive interface and fast response times. It will also support USB connectivity and Bluetooth audio streaming.

As for audio systems, a pair of Meridian audio systems will be offered. Jaguar rightly claims that Meridian offers exquisite sound reproduction, something this writer has verified in previous tests of Jaguar marque vehicles.

The standard 11-speaker audio system is a 380-watt powerhouse. Alternatively, some a 825-watt, 14-speaker upgrade equipped with stereo and surround sound processors may cinch the deal for audiophile-loving drivers.

As for pricing and other product details, we will have to wait for that information to be revealed, details that will be made known closer to the XE’s US launch early next year.

Jaguar XE photo courtesy of Jaguar Land Rover North America, LLC.

See Also — Jaguar XE: 2016 US Arrival for Sports Sedan

Steal This Car — With the Keys in the Ignition!

keys in ignition
keys in ignition

Do you leave your car keys in the ignition? If so, why?

How easy is it to steal a car? Very easy — that is, if you leave the keys in the ignition.

Common sense tells us that leaving keys where thieves can find them is an invitation to the criminal element to make off with that vehicle. Stunningly, 126,603 vehicles were filched from 2012 to 2014 because their owners or someone else who had access to them left the keys in the ignition. That’s one of the findings from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) in their latest report published this week.

Stolen Vehicle Crime Statistics

Keys in the ignition thefts are on the rise even as overall vehicle thefts are on the decline. The NICB reports that 39,345 cars were stolen in 2012 because they had the keys in them. That number rose to 42,430 in 2013 and to 44,828 in 2014.

Such thefts also compose a greater slice of the overall thefts, rising from 5.4 percent in 2012 to 6.7 percent last year.

Overall thefts stood at 659,717 in 2014, down 5.7 percent from 2013. Remove the 44,828 keys in the ignition thefts figure and that inclusive number would have come in at 614,889 or at a level last seen in 1996.

Thank today’s anti-theft technologies with mitigating vehicle theft. And as additional newer cars replace older vehicles, that total should continue to abate. But helping people steal your car is simply counterintuitive.

The Purloined Conveyance

NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle reiterated the difficulty thieves have with stealing today’s technologically advanced cars. He also said that he wasn’t surprised by the theft trend and believes the numbers may actually be higher given that some people simply will not admit their mistakes, perhaps fearing that the information will become a matter of police report record or affect their insurance claim.

But there may also be another reason for keys left in the ignition — to commit insurance fraud.

Explained Wehrle, “We also see some cases where the owner gives up the car by leaving the keys in it to allow it to be stolen so that an insurance claim payment can help them get out from under a financial bind. Anyone who does that is committing fraud.”

Theft on the Go

Some thefts occur when people stop their car in front of a store, run inside to buy a cup of coffee or a meal to go, then return to where their car was idling, only to find it non extant. Certainly, those incidences serve as effortless invitations to thieves to abscond with your vehicle.

The NICB also provided the demographic statistics that scrutinized state date. In particular, where keys in the ignition purloining is most egregious.

Surprisingly not, California, the most populous state in the union by far, registered 19,597 incidences. Then we have Texas (8,796) followed closely in succession by Florida, Michigan and Ohio.

Five metropolitan or statistical areas also stood out with Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise reporting the most of these types of thefts with 6,185 vehicles appropriated. The metropolitan areas representing Detroit, Atlanta, Philadelphia and NewYork City were also conspicuous in this particular enumeration.

The Best Days to Peculate

And for those of you who are statistical wonks, there are certain days of the week, where such thievery is more likely to occur.

Specifically, Saturday saw the most thefts with keys (19,147) followed by Friday (18,719) and Monday (18,647). To be sure, the thieves must be in church on Sunday seeking forgiveness for their sins, accounting for why that day is not in the top three.

But that’s highly unlikely as certain as Monday follows Sunday.

See Also — In Just 22 Years, Car Theft Rates Have Plunged by 58 Percent

Hydrogen Toyota Mirai Hits the Track

2016 Toyota Mirai

Fuel cell vehicles may change the way we drive, offering zero emissions leading to cleaner air. Toyota’s entry will become available in California late this year and may help lead us into a new era of hydrogen infrastructure development and utilization.

2016 Toyota Mirai

The Toyota Mirai takes to the track in Richmond.

Hydrogen-powered vehicles are the next big thing, at least in the eyes of those who favor these vehicles. The technology is not new, but it has been receiving a lot of attention lately as various manufacturers, including Honda, Hyundai and Toyota, bring new models to the market. Hydrogen cars are as clean as they come — emitting nothing but water vapor as they travel relatively quietly down the road.

Toyota’s entry into the hydrogen fray has yet to hit the market. When it does, Toyota hopes to do to the market what it did with the Prius. Indeed, with its entire and comprehensive hybrid vehicle lineup.

Hydrogen at the Richmond International Raceway

That model is the Toyota Mirai, a vehicle the manufacturer wants us to become familiar with in the worst way. Toyota just enjoyed one of its best opportunities to do that when the Mirai was the pace car at the Toyota Owners 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Richmond International Raceway this past weekend.

Toyota sought and won approval to have the Mirai out front just days before the race was held. The brand isn’t known for performance vehicles, but its trucks are often spotted at work on the grounds of various racing arenas, including the Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, NC.

Ahead of the race Ed Laukes, vice president of marketing, performance and guest experience, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., said “Having a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle pace the Toyota Owners 400 is a historic moment for both Toyota and NASCAR and we’re proud it’s the Toyota Mirai. Bringing the Mirai to Richmond to pace this important race is another way for Toyota to showcase our innovation and environmental leadership.”

From Japan to California and Beyond

Following its introduction in Japan, the Toyota Mirai heads to California consumers later this year. Eventually, the model will become available elsewhere, but the Golden State is the only place in the country where a budding hydrogen infrastructure is beginning to take hold. That infrastructure is a public-private partnership between the state, energy companies and manufacturers, including Toyota.

When the 2016 Toyota Mirai arrives stateside, it will receive the usual scrutiny from everyone. In any case, the vehicle has been on display at major auto shows since the beginning of the year and millions of people have had the opportunity to see it.

Four Doors and a Polymer Electrolyte Fuel Cell

The Mirai — Japanese for future — is a four-door, midsize sedan. It has a front-wheel drive layout and it will seat four. The fuel cell stack is comprised of a solid polymer electrolyte fuel cell making 153 horsepower. Thus, its 0-to-60 mpg time will come in around 9 seconds or a lot slower than the typical pure electric vehicle.

The Toyota Mirai makes use of an AC synchronous electric generator and will come with a pair of carbon fiber high-pressure tanks. Refueling time is about five minutes and vehicle range is 300 miles. It will take compressed hydrogen gas and utilize a nickel-metal hydride battery.

This unibody model will feature a push-button start system, an independent MacPherson strut front suspension with a stabilizer bar and hydraulic front shock absorbers, a double wishbone rear suspension with coil springs, trailing arms along with a stabilizer bar and hydraulic shock absorbers. Power-assisted ventilated front disc brakes and solid rear disc brakes are also included. An electric-powered-assisted rack-and-pinion system will be present.

Sitting on a 109.4-inch wheelbase, the Mirai is 192.5 inches long or about 1.5 inches longer than America’s best-selling car, the Toyota Camry.

Toyota Mirai: From Race Car to Dealer Showroom

No doubt, the Toyota Mirai will get a number of additional looks between now and when it goes on sale later this year. Like the Prius, the Mirai will not win any fashion awards — the design is nearly as polarizing as it can be. Then again, when you see one you won’t forget it, nor will you fail to understand what it can do. That dubious design may be part of Toyota’s strategy to tell the world that hydrogen is here.

Photo courtesy of Toyota Racing.

See Also — Toyota Mirai: Fuel Cell Future Realized

Recalibrated SUV: 2015 Ford Expedition

For 2015, the Ford Expedition continues with its traditional body-on-frame construction. Several updates, including a turbocharged V-6 engine, give this vehicle a lease on life. A more comprehensive revision is needed, one that may still be two or three years away. Sales, however, have not suffered for this big SUV.

2015 Ford Expedition

The refreshed 2015 Ford Expedition.

Full-size, traditional body-on-frame sport utility vehicles were supposed to have been on the way out and for a few salient reasons: they typically are less fuel efficient than unibody crossover utility vehicles, and offer smaller cabin space than CUVs. Furthermore, they also consume more gasoline than commensurable models.

However, body-on-frame SUVs provide superior towing capabilities. Therefore, such vehicles have received a reprieve in the past year, especially as gas prices have fallen to almost half the rate drivers were paying just a few years ago. As one result, Ford Expedition sales rose by 16.4 percent to 44,632 units in 2014 and are up 10 percent through March 2015. Moreover, sales should approach 50,000 units for a model that once looked as if it were on the way out just a few years ago.

2015 Ford Expedition

The Ford Expedition, along with its upscale Lincoln Navigator sibling, were refreshed for the 2015 model year. Both full-size SUVs are based on the same platform released in 2007, what makes for a long model run for these vehicles.

Ford could have brought forth a fourth generation Expedition, but the automaker has poured its resources into producing an all-new, aluminum-bodied Ford F-150. That verdict effectively allows Ford to buy itself some time, perhaps another three years before extending the current F-150’s platform to the Expedition.

Given that Ford rolled out an update, the changes for the Ford Expedition are not comprehensive, but are still noteworthy.

2015 Ford Expedition

Exterior and Interior Updates

The most significant changes begin with the exterior, with an updated and more pronounced front fascia. However, from pillar to pillar the look is unchanged and the Expedition’s visage has aged. Indeed, place the Ford Expedition next to its chief rival, the Chevrolet Suburban, and the Chevy is easily the more modern looking of the two.

Inside, the cabin is refreshed and provides space for eight. An extended wheelbase version, the EL, adds no room to the cabin space, but extends the storage compartment by a foot. Yet, the cabin is already roomy with seating for two up front and seating for three each in the second and third rows. Ford also allows you to swop the middle row seat for a pair of captain’s chairs.

The 2015 Ford Expedition is priced from $44,585 and is sold in XLT, Limited ($54,180), King Ranch ($58,410) and Platinum ($59,370) editions. Add about $3,000 to the price to obtain a 4×4 model and another $2,650 for the extended wheelbase edition. Available packages and upgrades include a dual-headrest DVD system by Invision ($1,995), the second-row Captain’s chairs ($795), a rear load-leveling suspension ($280) and 22-inch polished aluminum wheels ($2,610). Consequently, your final price could approach $70,000 or just a few thousand dollars below the comparable Lincoln Navigator.

2015 Ford Expedition

New Technologies and a Quiet Interior

Interior updates include the latest SYNC infotainment system with a MyFord Touch update, what brings in an 8-inch color display for that system. The system also includes a pair of full-color 4.2-inch screens in the instrument gauge.

Available technologies include passive entry with push button start, a Sony audio system, a rear view camera, front and rear parking sensors, ambient LED lighting and Ford apps, the latter useful for trailer towing and off-road driving.

A new leather option package — Brunello leather-appointed seating in red wine with exclusive accents and French-stitching or Ebony seats with gray accents — is also available.

Ford claims that the interior is quieter than ever as the Expedition benefits from sound-deadening materials added to two areas: the headliner and to the door trim panels. Furthermore, new carpeting also absorbs noise. Acoustic glass for the driver and front passenger windows also mitigates sound in all versions above the standard XLT edition.

2015 Ford Expedition

2015 Ford Expedition

View manufacturer details and pricing

2015 Ford Expedition

EcoBoost Engine Technology

Another important change is found under the hood. The big Ford has long represented V-8 power, but for 2015 the aged 5.4-liter V-8 engine making 310 horsepower has been replaced by a turbocharged V-6 engine. That engine, displacing at 3.5 liters, makes 365 horsepower. Two turbochargers, direct fuel injection and variable valve technology combine to optimize horsepower, what Ford calls “EcoBoost” technology. Ford pairs this engine with a six-speed automatic transmission.

The improved power from a smaller footprint results in a boost to fuel economy too. Indeed, where the previous model was rated 14 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway, the 2015 Ford Expedition is rated 16 mpg in the city and 22 mpg in the highway. A more modern transmission would have extended that range too, but that’s perhaps a year or two away. Thus, achieving 25 mpg on the highway may someday be attainable, an unthinkable goal for a gasoline engine powering a ponderous SUV.

Ford’s EcoBoost technology has been around for six years. And in every application it has brought more power and better fuel economy to the respective vehicle line. Indeed, with the Expedition, you have strong off-the-mark acceleration with the added boost kicking in at 2,250 RPM. In fact, the 420 foot-pounds of torque offers approximately 20 percent more highway power than the previous model.

The result is a more powerful powertrain combination, one that is more modern and better suited than the previous arrangement. Will you miss the V-8? No, not at all.

2015 Ford Expedition

Available Continuously Damping System

Another area where the 2015 Expedition has received a much-needed change to the suspension system comes by providing a continuously controlled damping system with three drive modes — comfort, normal and sport. Specifically, this exceptional system automatically adjusts damping by analyzing the vehicle’s weight, the steering feedback and road fluctuations to disburse body and wheel roll to provide a superior ride.

The electric power-assisted steering system is also new, what provides improved maneuverability when driving at low speeds to bolstered up feel at higher speeds. Equally, this translates into ease of steering effort and a more engaging drive.

2015 Ford Expedition

The Ford Expedition Trailering Advantage

And as for towing, this SUV offers 6,000 pounds of standard towing capacity, extendable to 9,200 pounds when the optional heavy-duty trailer towing package is selected. On the other hand, Ford’s largest crossover, the Explorer, pulls up to 5,000 pounds. Thus, for the best combination of heavy-duty towing and maximum passenger space and payload, the Ford Expedition wins hands down.

2015 Ford Expedition 4×4


  • Sticker price from $63,640
  • Price as tested: from $67,810
  • Seats 7 occupants
  • 3.5-liter 24-valve twin turbocharged V-6 gasoline engine
  • 365 horsepower @ 5,000 RPM
  • 420 foot-pounds of torque @ 2,250 RPM
  • 3.64 inches bore by 3.41 inches stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 10.0-to-1
  • 6-speed automatic transmission
  • Wheelbase: 119 inches
  • Length: 206.0 inches
  • Width: 78.8 inches
  • Height: 77.2 inches
  • Passenger volume: 160.3 cubic feet
  • Storage volume: 18.6/55.0/108.3 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: Up to 9,200 pounds
  • EPA: 15 mpg city, 20 mpg highway
  • Regular grade gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 28 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 5,846 pounds
  • IIHS safety rating: Not Rated
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 5 years/Unlimited miles
  • Vehicle assembly: Louisville, Kentucky

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New Car Affordability: Nissan Versa Note

Masterpiece Theater: 2015 Range Rover HSE

2015 Ford Expedition photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.

Make it Five: Volvo V60 T5 AWD Cross Country

Wagons have not sold well in the United States, but that isn’t stopping Swedish automaker Volvo from introducing a variant to its V60 sport wagon. This lifted wagon comes with skid plates to provide better off-road duty when needed.

Take a Volvo V60 wagon and put it on steroids and you have a new model. Well, at least something that is marginally different. That’s exactly what Volvo did when it rolled out the Volvo V60 T5 AWD Cross Country for 2015.

Volvo V60 Cross Country

V 60 Cross Country: Riding High With Skid Plates

The V60 Cross Country is the same model as the standard wagon, but with two important distinctions: a higher ground clearance (7.4 inches) and skid plates, the better for assuming off-road duty. Well, maybe not rugged 4×4 work, but at least the light-duty travel on gravel and moderate sloughs you may occasionally traverse. Oh, yes, this model might also serve as a true road beast when the big snows arrive.

There is no need to rehash each of the many nuances of the earlier model, what I drove at the beginning of this year. (SeeSportwagon: 2015 Volvo V60 T6 R-Design). The differences in this model are few, but enough to mention here.

Unlike the earlier model with its line of four-, five- and six-cylinder engines, the V60 Cross Country comes with only one engine choice — the five cylinder. Even that will change over the coming years as Volvo switches to a complete four-cylinder engine family, with a 2.0-liter supercharged and turbocharged engine powering nearly everything. Yes, the other engines are on the way out as Volvo attempts to maximize efficiencies while severely restricting your choices.

Volvo V60 Cross Country

Five-Cylinder Goodness

The model at hand had the 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, an oddball of a motor for sure, and a cylinder arrangement used by Volkswagen and previously found in various Audi and GM applications. It is an inline-five and has been serving Volvo and many of its vehicles for the past two decades.

The engine is turbocharged and makes 250 horsepower — earlier versions provided performance similar to the six cylinder and fuel efficiency closer to the four cylinder, a winning combination that has served Volvo well. However, with the base engine now rated at 240 horsepower — thanks to a turbocharger and a supercharger as well as an eight-speed engine — the “five” will soon be no more.

Yet, the V60 Cross Country’s engine gets the job done. Slip behind the wheel of this model, turn on the ignition, engage the transmission and you are off. It has surprisingly decent off-the-mark acceleration with a long power curve. The turbo boost kicks in low at 1,800 rpm and stays at it as you approach highway speeds. Quite frankly, I found the engine capable and quiet — it may be on the way out, but it still has its usefulness.

The difficulty in justifying the five cylinder is due to its lackluster fuel economy. This model is EPA-rated at 20 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway or 23 mpg combined. The wagon is considered a compact among premium makes, but it also corresponds in size to more common midsize models such as the Subaru Legacy. The AWD Legacy gets a combined 30 mpg with its 2.5-liter “four,” a number that Volvo is aiming to reach.

Volvo V60 Cross Country

2015 Volvo V60 Cross Country

View manufacturer details and pricing

Interior Room and Storage

Certainly, I must admit that I do like the V60 in all of its variations. Indeed, wagon-type vehicles have fallen out of favor in the states, but this one is useful, delivering 43.8 cubic feet of storage capacity. The front seats are very comfortable, the rear seat is too, but your passengers may find the legroom tight. Thus, this model may best be suited for a family with youngsters.

There are a few features with the V60 Cross Country that should be noted: WiFi and a voice control navigation system are available. Both features are what premium shoppers want and Volvo has them. WiFi is part of the brand’s Sensus Connect system, what provides connectivity via Bluetooth.

Furthermore, you need the optional Volvo on Call service feature, what allows you to connect your smartphone, a laptop or your tablet to the Internet. Even without Volvo on Call you can still use your smartphone to enjoy Sensus Connect via Bluetooth or WiFi. The navigation system does take some getting used to. Without the required passcode (as I experienced) access is thwarted. No worries — vehicle owners are password enabled once they purchase a new Volvo.

Volvo V60 Cross Country

Safety Is Impeccable

Of course, Volvo’s best attribute bar none is its stellar safety record. If Volvo could prevent accidents, they would. And they are trying to do just that with an ambitious goal in that by 2020 no driver, occupant or pedestrian will be killed by a new Volvo vehicle. To that end, there is a suite of safety devices that help this model achieve a Top Safety Pick+ rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Yes, safety is paramount for many people these days and Volvo’s record remains impeccable.

To sum up, the Volvo V60 Cross Country gives you something extra over the standard V60. That standard model is also available in all-wheel drive, but if the added ride height and skid plates appeal to you, then this is your model.

2015 Volvo V60 Cross Country

  • Sticker price from $41,000
  • Price as tested: $49,350
  • Seats 5 occupants
  • 2.5-liter turbocharged five-cylinder gasoline engine
  • 250 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm
  • 266 foot-pounds of torque @ 1,800 rpm
  • 3.70 inches bore by 3.27 inches stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 9:5-to-1
  • Six-speed automatic transmission
  • Wheelbase: 109.3 inches
  • Length: 182.5 inches
  • Width: 73.4 inches
  • Height: NR
  • Passenger volume: NR
  • Storage volume: 43.8 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: NR
  • EPA: 19 mpg city, 28 mpg highway
  • Premium grade gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 18.8 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 3,622 pounds
  • IIHS safety rating: Top Safety Pick+
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 48 months/50,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 48 months/50,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 144 months
  • Vehicle assembly: Gothenburg, Sweden

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Volvo V60 T5 Cross Country photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.

Will Lincoln Toss Its Current Naming Convention?

The Continental name has served Lincoln well and returns in 2017 in time for the marque’s centennial. Widespread support for the model name could mean that Lincoln will return to its heritage names.

2017 Lincoln Continental

The 2017 Lincoln Continental.

The Lincoln Motor Company (Lincoln) may have started something when it showcased its Continental Concept at the New York International Auto Show this spring. The proposed model, expected to replace the MKS for the 2017 model year, was well received. And not just for its good looks: the Continental name is coming back, one of the most venerable model names in the near 100-year history of the marque.

Three-Letter Nomenclature

The Continental moniker may presage a shift in model naming convention for the Lincoln brand, ending a decade long consecution of mystifying names that have left people scratching their heads. Presently, all models — except for the Navigator — begin with “MK” and end with a third letter. Thus, we have the MKZ and MKS sedans and the MKC, MKX and the MKT crossover utility vehicles.

Originally, the “MK” designation was supposed to represent “Mark” as in “Mark Z” or “Mark X.” But soon customers and everyone else were pronouncing each letter, rendering the original plan dysfunctional. The problem, however, has always been trying to understand what each letter represents.

Indeed, the first of the three-letter nomenclature models was the 2007 Lincoln MKZ. It derived its name from the Lincoln Zephyr, the name it used in the previous year — its first year of production. The Lincoln-Zephyr, by the way, was a low-priced entry luxury car produced by Lincoln from 1936-1940. Years later it was followed by other entry-level sedans, such as the Versailles and LS.

Following the MKS, the MKT, MKX and MKS debuted. The MKC is the most recent addition to the model line, a compact crossover introduced in spring 2014.

Out With the New, Bring Back the Old?

Yesterday, Automotive News gave its considerable credence to what was previously a rumor. The news outlet broached the naming convention subject with Joe Hinrichs, Ford President of the Americas, who admitted that change may be forthcoming.

The atypical alphanumeric nomenclature used by premium brands has worked well for others, but not so for Lincoln. To distinguish itself from the luxury pack, Hinrichs said that the marque could leverage its heritage. And Continental is as significant as any model name in Lincoln’s repertoire.

Like other premium brands, Lincoln’s current naming convention was designed to help people focus on the brand, not separate model names. It is a practice that has served Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz well, and has also been adopted by Acura, Infiniti, Cadillac, Mazda and a few others. Cadillac and Infiniti, by the way, have or are making the transition twice.

Lincoln Heritage and the Chinese Consumer

A rich heritage of trusted names could enable Lincoln to reach customers that its currently named products are not doing. Certainly, the Navigator name has not hurt Lincoln. Through March 2015, Navigator sales are up 84.2 percent. Other than the MKC, which didn’t appear until later in the year, sales for the four other Lincoln products are way down. Lincoln sales are off by 0.6 percent for the first three months of 2015.

Another factor in name changing may have something to do with a rising Lincoln demographic — the Chinese consumer. The Lincoln brand is new to the world’s largest automotive market, but its heritage is not. Certainly, that’s an advantage that few brands can boast and what Lincoln might leverage.

Back to the Future

Hinrichs’ pronouncement should not be taken as an off the cuff remark. Judging by the online chatter, including comments to the Automotive News article, there is a groundswell of support for Lincoln to return to its roots. If it does, then Continental may some day be joined by Town Car and Mark X, model names with marketability and esteem.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Pricing and Production Set

Anticipation is growing as Mazda announces both the launch edition and prices for the MX-5 Miata’s trim levels. The first models are expected to arrive late summer with regular shipments commencing by autumn.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

A line worker drives a US-spec Miata away from a Hiroshima assembly line.

Mazda Motors may be one of the smaller car manufacturers with a presence in the US market, but it also has one of the most highly-anticipated models in the snazzy MX-5 Miata. The next generation of this delicious roadster will be arriving stateside this summer. Notably, production of the US-specification model has just begun with pricing on all trim levels also announced.

Weeks after production of the Japanese-specification Mazda MX-5 Miata or “Miata” commenced, the left-hand drive version heading to US shores is now underway. To mark this auspicious occasion, Mazda has released its strategy for the diminutive two-seater.

Mazda MX-5 Miata Launch Edition

And that strategy involves sending 1,000 “launch edition” models to the United States first, representing specially-equipped models outfitted with Grand Touring trim, keyless entry, a Soul Red exterior and a Sport Tan interior. That represents an exclusory combination for this special model. Moreover, the Launch Edition will carry special badging and sport a manufacturer’s sticker price of $30,495 plus $820 for destination charge.

Launch edition buyers will also be provided with a few gifts for making an early decision. Specifically, customers will receive a Mazda-branded BOSE® SoundLink® Mini Bluetooth® speaker delivered in a custom-made gift box, in addition to exclusive items curated from Mazda’s forthcoming “Heritage Collection” apparel line.

“The MX-5 Launch Edition will give enthusiasts the opportunity to take ownership of one of the very first, very exclusive, 2016 MX-5s to arrive in the U.S.,” said Jim O’Sullivan, president and CEO, Mazda North America Operations. “Along with the privilege of exclusivity and being among the first 1,000 to take delivery, owners will be able to enjoy one of the purest expression of open-top driving exhilaration available today as well as our latest entertainment, safety and luxury technologies – many of which are unique among sports cars.”

Three Trim Levels

As a result of the launch edition’s announcement, Mazda has also enumerated the cost for each of its prevailing trim levels. Namely, those trim levels are: Sport, Club and Grand Touring.

To begin, the Miata Sport will be priced from $24,915. This model will be outfitted with 16-inch alloy wheels and provide a cumulation of new customary features, including a six-speed SKYACTIV-MT manual transmission, cruise control, LED headlights and tail lights. Furthermore, this edition will offer Bluetooth phone pairing and audio streaming, a leather-wrapped shift knob, power door locks, a USB input as well as cruise control.

For the Miata Club edition, buyers will pay from $28,600 and receive upgrades such as 17-inch gunmetal alloy wheels, exterior embellishments — including a front air dam and rear spoiler, a 7-inch color display for the infotainment system, and a 9-speaker BOSE audio system with headrest speakers. For buyers who opt for the 6-speed manual transmission, a limited-slip rear differential, Bilstein shocks and a shock tower brace are included.

Choose the Grand Touring edition ($30,065) and your Miata comes outfitted with 17-inch bright alloy wheels, heated leather-trimmed seats, the 9-speaker Bose audio system, automatic climate control, adaptive headlamps, and various safety features. Indeed, those safety add ons bring in blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and lane departure warning.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

The Miata may be on its way to the USA, but those early orders cannot be placed until May 5, 2015. In addition, the first batch of vehicles are not expected to arrive until late summer, which means that an August 2015 premier date seems likely. In addition, people who don’t get in early will most likely not see their 2016 editions until the fourth quarter or later if demand is strong.

If you want to get in on the launch edition, Mazda has set up a special website for ordering at Expect that the Launch edition will sell out the very same day it becomes available.

See AlsoSparkling New Mazda Miata Debuts

Photo courtesy of Mazda North American Operations.

GMC Canyon: Smaller Truck, Big Amenities

2015 GMC Canyon 4WD Crew Cab

The GMC Canyon is nothing less than a brute, a robust midsize pickup truck sold in 4×2 and 4×4 configurations. The Canyon and its Chevrolet Colorado sibling were brought back to the market in 2015 after a three-year hiatus — both models compete in a sector dominated last year by the Toyota Tacoma and the Nissan Frontier.

That self-evident moiety is being turned upside down as sales for the GM doublet have pushed past Nissan for the first three months of 2015 (Chevrolet Colorado — 19,126 + GMC Canyon — 7,152 = 26,278 v. Nissan Frontier 19,102). The Toyota Tacoma at 39,666 units sold remains the segment pacesetter, but the heat is on. In response, Toyota will debut an updated Tacoma for the 2016 model year.

Notably, sales of the full-size GMC Sierra and the Chevrolet Silverado have not been adversely affected by the reintroduction of the smaller trucks. Through March 2015, Sierra sales are up 7 percent, while Silverado sales are up 17.6 percent. Furthermore, GM is the only manufacturer selling three truck lines — a small pickup truck, a full-size model and heavy-duty editions. The Ford F-150 may be the best selling model line, but GM is the pickup truck forerunner. Allow that thought to marinate for a few moments.

2015 GMC Canyon 4WD Crew Cab

GMC models typically command a slightly higher price point than Chevrolet trucks, usually for equipment and trim differences. Both trucks offer standard and extended wheelbase options, two cabin sizes, two truck bed lengths, and three trim levels (base, SLE and SLT). Sadly, this segment no longer offers regular cab models — your choices are extended and crew cab trucks.

2015 GMC Canyon

But even as cabin styles shrink, the base price for these models remains highly competitive. For 2015, the GMC Canyon Extended Cab 4×2 is priced from $21,880 —destination charge included. GMC prices the Crew Cab, Short Box from $26,130 and the Crew Cab, Long Box from $27,650.

However, if you choose a 4×4 configuration, you will need to add thousands of dollars to your base price as GMC buoys up the content level with these models accordingly. My test model, a Canyon 4WD SLE Crew Short Box, retailed for $34,935. And with an all-terrain package ($1,190), power lumbar package ($745), and several other conveniences, trailering and audio packages included, the final price for this smaller truck was substantially priced at $39,090. Now let that price point also marinate for a few moments.

What will please GMC fans is the look of this pickup truck, inside and out. As far as its visage, the Canyon complements the larger Sierra and strikingly so. Its dimensions are about three-quarters of the Sierra’s size, but its bold, upright grille, strong shoulders, solid slab sides and versatile truck bed gate are more like the Sierra than they are not. Certainly, GM had to compensate for the truck’s smaller formation, but the arched wheel wells, sturdy cabin compartment and the rear step bumper have found a home in the Canyon.
2015 GMC Canyon 4WD Crew Cab

2015 GMC Canyon

View manufacturer details and pricing

2015 GMC Canyon 4WD Crew Cab

Seating for up to Five

Inside, seating is for up to five with bucket seats up front and a folding bench seat to the rear. The extended cab would be useful for holding children, while the crew cab has more legroom for adults. Two average-sized men can fit without a problem; three would put the squeeze on the middle passenger. If you are looking for a work crew truck, then you might prefer the Sierra crew cab’s interior.

The instrument panel offers yet another intimation of the Sierra and that, too, is a fine thing. That panel has fewer analog displays, but you will find what you need. To the left is a tachometer. To the right is the speedometer. Above and between the two are gas and oil gauges.

To the left of the steering column on the lower dashboard is the control switch for 2WD/4WD driving. On the steering wheel itself — at least for upper trim level models — are cruise and audio controls. To the right and at the top of the center stack is the color display.

2015 GMC Canyon 4WD Crew Cab

I have mentioned this in the past and it demands repeating — GM’s infotainment system is one of the easier ones to manage. In this case you get GMC Intellilink and the accompanying SiriusXM satellite radio, OnStar directions and connections with turn-by-turn directions and automatic crash response. Not to mention a 4G LTE hotspot, one that provides stellar Internet access from within the cabin of the truck.

Switches and knobs for the audio system and climate control are located beneath the display. In upper trim level editions, additional switches for seat heating and cooling are below that. Between the front seats is a USB connection and a 12-volt outlet. In addition, the transmission shifter, two cup holders and an armrest/storage compartment can be found.

The front seats are sufficiently supportive with four-way power adjustment for the driver. Up front you will find head, shoulder, thigh and legroom generously apportioned; taller drivers should benefit too, although pushing the seat all the way back will consume rear seating legroom.

2015 GMC Canyon 4WD Crew Cab

Performance: Two Engine Choices

Under the hood, a standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 200 horsepower drives the base model. Also available is a 305-horsepower, 3.6-liter V-6 engine. Both engines come paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. However, if payload, towing and performance are important to you, then only the larger engine will appeal to you. Indeed, when equipped with the Z82 trailering package you can extend the standard 3,500 pounds of towing capacity to 7,000 pounds. That larger number joins with upwards of 1,620 pounds of payload. A stout conveyance? You bet!

On the road, the test model with the larger engine performs admirably, with a long power curve and
no hesitancy detected. This truck shifts smoothly between all forward gears and delivers generous and consistent amounts of power on the highway.

Rear Bumper and Bed

One of my personal favorite design attributes of late model GM pickup trucks — Chevrolet and GMC — are the corner step bumpers that make it easier for people of a certain stature or of a certain age to access the truck bed. An “EZ” lift and lower tail gate is offered with the SLE and SLT editions, yet another move to simplify access to the truck bed.

2015 GMC Canyon 4WD Crew CabThat truck bed is 5-foot-2-inches long in the Extended Cab and is also the standard length for the Crew Cab. Besides the standard bed, crew cab models can be outfitted with a 6-foot-2-inches bed, an ideal length for hauling plywood. Furthermore, both truck beds — regardless of size — come equipped with 13 tie downs throughout the bed and can be used in conjunction with movable cargo tie-down rings. Certainly, that makes for a winning combination in trucks of any size.

Top-of-the-Line Trucks

As is a common practice among media fleet vehicles, most of the inventory Auto Trends reviews is based on top-of-the-line models. Some manufacturers serve up a variety of trim grades, but in the case of the GMC Canyon, the high-end model was it.

If you were to shop for this truck, your final price, including taxes, tags and fees, would push $40,000. But there is a reason for that — every conceivable amenity is on board, including 17-inch blade wheels, projector beam headlamps with LED daytime running lights, front fog lamps, a chrome rear bumper, front recovery hooks, a locking tailgate and power side mirrors. Inside, you get a rear window defroster, an automatic dimming rear mirror, steering wheel-mounted secondary controls, and a navigation package.

Certainly, it also helps to have a spray-on liner, automatic climate control, hill decent control and a transfer case shield. Not to mention a power lumbar driver’s seat, all-terrain tires and the Z71 off-road package. This package goes beyond the visual enhancements — chrome grille and recovery hooks — to bring in a front skid plate and tubular assist plates.

The Bottom Line

Certainly, you can order a 4×2 GMC Canyon and drive away from the dealer lot paying under $25,000. However, GMC believes that you will want many of the amenities as mentioned here, including the 4×4 system and various package enhancements. The sticker price may be daunting, but you do have some bargaining room available. You also have the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier competing, models that may also offer discounts to keep you from leaving the respective smaller truck fold.

2015 GMC Canyon 4WD Crew Cab

2015 GMC Canyon 4WD SLE Crew Short Box

  • Sticker price from $34,010
  • Price as tested: $39,090
  • Seats 5 occupants
  • 3.6-liter 24-valve V-6 gasoline engine
  • 305 horsepower @ 6,800 rpm
  • 269 foot-pounds of torque @ 4,000 rpm
  • 3.70 inches bore by 3.37 inches stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 11:5-to-1
  • Six-speed automatic transmission
  • Wheelbase: 128.3 inches
  • Length: 212.4 inches
  • Width: 74.3 inches
  • Height: 70.7 inches
  • Passenger volume: 107 cubic feet
  • Storage volume: 41.3 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: 7,000
  • EPA: 17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway
  • Regular grade gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 21 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 4,420 pounds
  • IIHS safety rating: Good (moderate overlap front)
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years/100,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 6 years/100,000 miles
  • Vehicle assembly: Wentzville, Missouri

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GMC Canyon photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.