Three’s a Charm: 2016 Fiat 500X

2016 Fiat 500X TrekkingThe subcompact crossover utility vehicle or SUV segment is booming, due to a slew of new products introduced within months of each other this year. The segment is not new, but it does demonstrate that consumers have an insatiable appetite for all things SUV. As a result, manufacturers are looking for ways to satisfy that demand.

We saw our first subcompact SUVs in the 1990s in both the first generation Kia Sportage and the Chevrolet Tracker. Those vehicles either grew in proportions or were replaced by larger models to reflect consumer interest in spacious SUVs.

Demand for compact models such as the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Nissan Rogue, and the Toyota RAV4 have seemed to indicate that larger is better. But interest in vehicles such as the Nissan Juke and Kia Soul has also shown manufacturers that the bottom end of the segment has significant potential. Indeed, as consumers continue to shift from cars to crossovers, the subcompact SUV segment is a logical place to revisit.

2016 Fiat 500X Trekking

A Common Platform

The Fiat 500X is one such subcompact SUV, a model built in Italy and twin to the all-new Jeep Renegade. It is a platform mate with not just the Jeep, but with the Fiat 500L, the Ram ProMaster City as well as Fiat and Alfa Romeo models not sold in the states according to Car & Driver.

As the third line of Fiat 500 models sold in North America, the 500X offers something the other two models do not: available all-wheel drive. Yes, front-wheel drive is standard and a 2016 Fiat 500X Trekking edition with power sent to the front wheels was a recent weekly driver.

The Fiat 500X arrived on the market soon after the Chevrolet Trax made its debut and about the same time as the Jeep Renegade and Honda CR-X. The Mazda CX-3 will follow and along with the Juke, Soul and a handful of other multi-purpose vehicles, affordable utility vehicles are gaining in numbers and sales momentum.

2016 Fiat 500X Trekking

2016 Fiat 500X

View manufacturer details and pricing

2016 Fiat 500X Trekking

The 2016 Fiat 500X is sold in Pop ($20,000), Easy ($22,300), Trekking ($23,100), Lounge ($24,850) and Trekking Plus ($27,100) editions. Except for the Pop, all-wheel drive can be had across the model line, adding $1,900 to the corresponding model line’s base price. Fully loaded, a top-end model pushes $30,000.

The base Pop gives shoppers a choice of a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine (180 horsepower and 175 foot-pounds of torque) paired with a nine-speed automatic transmission or a turbocharged 1.4-liter four-cylinder engine (160 horsepower and 184 foot-pounds of torque) paired with a six-speed manual transmission.

My test model came with the larger engine and the automatic transmission. It was my third go ‘round with the nine-gear slushbox, as tested Chrysler 200S and Jeep Cherokee models were similarly outfitted.

So before I go cover all the nuances of the new SUV, allow me to give you the “skinny” on the driving aspect.

2016 Fiat 500X Trekking

On the Road

The larger four is suitable for the 500X. The transmission takes some getting used to and even then there were times I could feel it hunting for another gear. This model also offers three driving modes: normal, sport and weather. When operated in sport mode, the gear shifting seems strained and spaced further apart.

Working with extra forward gears makes for tighter shift points. Whereas you might find yourself in fifth gear at 45 mph, the 500X had me there at 32 mph. You can operate the transmission in manual mode, but that means working through nine forward gears. I think I’ll stick with my preferred six gears.

The occasional awkwardness of the ZF-supplied transmission shouldn’t surprise too many people, especially as Fiat Chrysler has already issued three software updates for affected Jeep Cherokee models. That the sluggishness and delayed gear changes inherent in some of the earlier models might be felt in the 500X (as well as in the Renegade) may mean a software update is forthcoming.

2016 Fiat 500X Trekking

Acceleration is fair for this model. You won’t get there in a hurry and moving up to highway speeds from a full stop will take you there in about nine seconds. Certainly, this model is optimized for efficiency. Its 22 mpg city and 31 mpg highway rating translates to 25 mpg combined. I averaged about 26 mpg across more than 370 miles of driving.

Size matters when it comes to front-wheel drive and the SUV’s diminutive size means torque steer was not evident. Not that the 180 horses represent an outstanding number, but it is sufficient for this tiny vehicle and has no effect on involuntary wheel movement. The steering offers little feedback, even in sport mode. Navigating a tight turn is a breeze, but this isn’t an SUV that offers spirited driving. Perhaps when equipped with all-wheel drive, the handling would be better, but in the tested front-wheel drive model it was just east of numb. I must say that the ride is comfortable, especially for such a small vehicle.

A Common Family

Scan the entire Fiat product line — 500, 500L and 500X — and the similarities are certainly there. The 500X’s face is closer to the 500L, but its profile gives the appearance of a stretched, four-door 500.

The 500X’s front fascia is marked by round headlights and is 80 percent surrounded by LED trim lights. Daytime running lights sit below the headlights and fog lights offset the lower grille, itself outfitted with a kick plate. Color-coordinated side mirror caps, fashionable wheels and distinctive rocker panel trim accents the profile.

To the rear, the 500X is dominated by rectangular tail lamps punctuated by chrome centered trim. A rear kick plate with twinned exhaust tips is also apparent. The test model came with a built-in roof spoiler. Rear fog lamps were also included.

2016 Fiat 500X Trekking

500X Interior Layout

The 500X’s strong suit is its interior. It is smartly designed and offers room for up to five. Four would be ideal, but at least you can fit people in the rear. I found that it has more interior room than the Nissan Juke.

The front seats are firm, supportive and comfortable. You get the odd round head rests peculiar to Fiat and 500 watching on the seat faces. Between the front seats is the smallest of closed storage areas, but it is deep. The center stack is marked by a UConnect color display on top with buttons, vents and dials underneath. At the base of the stack are the requisite USB, 12-volt outlet and auxiliary input ports. A deep and broad open storage area will hold your smartphone. The transmission shifter, drive mode knob and electronic parking brake switch are located between the seats.

You get a flat bottomed steering wheel with the Trekking edition along with hand grips. Cruise and secondary controls are located on the steering wheel. Behind that is a three-gauge instrument panel with the outboard cowls housing the speedometer and tachometer. The center gauge holds the digital driver’s information center.

2016 Fiat 500X Trekking

To the rear is a split-folding 60-40 bench seat. However, to get it to fold, you will need to push one or both front seats forward to allow the seat to drop in place. That may not be a problem with the average driver, but perhaps a challenge for long-legged drivers who prefer to push their seat all the way back. I fit my six-foot frame in the rear seat and had enough headroom. But with either front seat pushed back, my knees were in my face.

Kudos to Fiat for designing oversized in-door storage compartments up front and generously apportioned compartments for the rear doors. The dual glove box is another helpful feature, giving this model another storage compartment. This model provides two cup holders up front and four in-door drink holders. There is no rear arm rest/cup holder compartment present. Netted seat back storage is included.

The Best Fiat Yet

As the saying goes, “three’s a charm.” With Fiat, that doesn’t mean the 500 and 500L are terrible, but it does mean the 500X is the best of the lot. The interior has the expected plastics and soft touch material, but it doesn’t look cheap or shoddy. The versatility of the 500X is superior to the similar 500L. It offers a smarter layout and seems destined to succeed. Keep an eye out for transmission issues, however.

Paying more than $25,000 for a model in this class seems steep. Tiny SUVs are certain to become profit centers for manufacturers as buyers spurn similar-sized car models for vehicles costing at least $5,000 more. In any case, the 500X is better than the 500L and should finally give the Fiat brand a sales winner.

2016 Fiat 500X Trekking

  • Sticker price from $23,100
  • Price as tested: $25,700
  • Seats 5 occupants
  • 2.4-liter 16-valve four-cylinder gasoline engine
  • 180 horsepower @ 6,400 RPM
  • 175 foot-pounds of torque @ 3,900 RPM
  • 3.46 inches bore by 3.82 inches stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 10.0-to-1
  • 9-speed automatic transmission
  • Wheelbase: 101.2 inches
  • Length:168.2 inches
  • Width: 80 inches
  • Height: 75.5 inches
  • Passenger volume: 91.7 cubic feet
  • Storage volume: 12.2 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: NR
  • EPA: 22 mpg city, 31 mpg highway
  • Regular grade gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 12.7 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 3,095 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: Melfi, Italy

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2016 Fiat 500X photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.

Renault-Nissan, Daimler Connect in Mexico

Leaders of the COMPAS consortium are overseeing the Mexican alliance.
Leaders of the COMPAS consortium in Mexico.

Leaders of the COMPAS consortium are overseeing the Mexican alliance.

You can’t buy a new Renault in the United States, but Nissan, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz and Smart brand models are available.

Nissan (Nissan and Infiniti) and Daimler (Mercedes-Benz and Smart) each have a strong presence in North America on their own. Nevertheless, the two competitors are moving forward with an alliance that will produce new models for the Infiniti and Mercedes-Benz marques by means of a manufacturing plant currently under construction in Aguascalientes, Mexico.

COMPAS: In the Right Direction

In 2010, Daimler and Renault-Nissan forged an alliance —COMPAS (Cooperation Manufacturing Plant Aguascalientes) — in an effort to build all-new, next generation compact models for the Mercedes-Benz and Infiniti brands. This week, the 50:50 joint venture was officially launched, with Daimler and Nissan each contributing $500 million to build a $1 billion manufacturing plant. That plant will be constructed alongside an existing Nissan facility in Aguascalientes.

The new manufactory is expected to come on line in 2017 and employ as many as 3,600 people directly by 2020 with room to grow as needed. The first Infiniti-based model will roll out in 2017 followed by the first Mercedes-Benz model in 2018.

New, Entry-Level Models From Mexico

Neither manufacturer has specified what models will be produced, but an Infiniti Q20 or Q30 model is reportedly in the offing. Mercedes-Benz may utilize the facility to begin producing its next generation CLA-Class model line.

COMPAS is overseen by a six-member board composed of three members from each manufacturer.

Armando Avila, Manufacturing VP, Nissan Mexico; Carlos Servin, Finance VP, Nissan North America; and Takehiro Terai, Total Customer Satisfaction VP, Nissan North America, are representing Nissan’s interests. Daimler is represented by Michael Göbel, Head of Production Compact Cars, Mercedes-Benz Cars; Axel Harries, Head of Quality Management, Mercedes-Benz Cars; and Christian Schulz, Head of Controlling, Mercedes-Benz Cars Operations.

“COMPAS is an outstanding example of the global reach of the Renault-Nissan Alliance and Daimler cooperation. Together we are combining the manufacturing expertise of Nissan and Daimler in one production plant in Mexico for the production of next-generation premium compact cars,” said COMPAS CEO Kurosawa. “Aguascalientes was selected as the location for this new plant thanks to the state’s well-established supplier base and Nissan’s track record in highly efficient manufacturing in Mexico for more than three decades,” he added.

Although the two manufacturers will build new models based on the same platform, each brand will inscribe their unique countenance on the vehicles sporting their names. The bones may be similar, but everything else about these models will be different.

Mexico is not the only facility that will build the new models. The companies will collaborate elsewhere, harnessing plants in Europe and China as well.

An Alliance of Convenience

The Renault-Nissan and Daimler partnership falls short of a full-blown alliance whereby each manufacturer takes a share in the other. Nevertheless, it demonstrates that automotive manufacturers can forge confederations to accomplish specific tasks. With both sides contributing to the alliance, development and production costs are shared, leading to greater economies of scale.

Nissan and Daimler Sales

US sales for Nissan are up 4.2 percent through June and are up by 8.3 percent for Infiniti. Mercedes-Benz sales are up 9.4 percent year to date, but Smart sales are down 22 percent. However, the 2016 Smart ForTwo is all new, arrives this fall, and should help bolster Daimler’s niche A-segment brand.

Sales for the entire US market are up 4.4 percent through June 2015 and are on pace to top 17 million units. Softening demand for cars comes as consumers snap up utility vehicles and pickup trucks in greater numbers.

See Also — Daimler, Renault Forge Small Car Partnership

Photo copyright Renault-Nissan alliance.

Range Rover SVR: Fastest SUV in the World?

Few sport utility vehicles imbue the resourcefulness to match competency with a sports car. One Range Rover model does just that and gives the Porsche Cayenne a run for the money.

2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR

Sometimes you blessed by serendipity. Indeed, three Land Rover Range Rover Sport models have arrived in my drive this year and each one was more powerful than the preceding one.

A supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 engine making 340 horsepower was followed by a supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 engine making 510 horsepower. What was left was the top-end SVR (Special Vehicle Operations) model and that one appeared in my drive earlier this month.

The SVR makes 550 horsepower and bangs out 502 foot pounds of torque. Yes, those numbers are for an SUV, making it one of the fastest SUVs in the world, nearly matching the dynamic Porsche Cayenne Turbo.

Lucky me, I had a full week to put the SVR through the paces. Unfortunately, no track time was available (or permitted), so I traversed some of my favorite back roads to put this beast through the paces.

2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR

I won’t repeat all the details about the previous models. You can read those reviews here and here.

Instead, I’ll focus on the merits of this six-figure brute, a model few of us can afford. But at least we can dream about them and from such imaginations magic sometimes happens. Stay true to your flight of fancy, my friends!

Lest you believe that the SVR has a super special engine, it doesn’t. At least that engine is no different than the 5.0-liter, supercharged V-8 engine found in some other models. What the SVR benefits from is special engine recalibration and a management system to boost effectiveness.

The SVR goes from 0 to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds and has a top speed of 162 mph. That’s crazy fast times that few performance coupes and sedans reach unless they have an “M,” “R,” or V-Series appellation succeeding the model name.

2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR

2015 Range Rover Sport SVR

View manufacturer details and pricing

Range Rover describe’s the SVR’s exterior as “athletically sculptured” and that descriptor suits this SUV well. Each model is outfitted with massive 21-inch, five-split spoke wheels along with distinctive side vent, grille and SVR badging. This model appears firmly planted, but ready to shoot like a missile. Blue Brembo brake calipers match its finish.

Another distinctive can be found in the SUV’s exhaust system. This two-stage active exhaust system is outfitted with electronically controlled valves, what deliver a guttural sound. As the engine speed increases, the system modulates to escalate the noise quotient, benefiting from the four exhaust pipes to produce its resounding symphony. Range Rover also employs a symposer to enhance engine sound.

2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR

2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR

Land Rover’s Special Vehicle Operations team optimized this model’s chassis for tighter body control, cornering momentum, as well as to enhance overall control. Specifically, improvement to g-force cornering were made for heightened sprightliness. Moreover, the SUV’s fully independent suspension is double isolated, outfitted with widely spaced double wishbones up front and a multilink arrangement at the rear.

The SVR also comes with cross-linked, four-corner air suspension and adaptive dynamics. Further, the active dynamics system provides continual monitoring of vehicle movements, making instantaneous changes to ensure optimum control. Put this SUV through the paces and you will find that it handles a challenging course greater than the average utility vehicle. Make no mistake about it: this is still a high-profile vehicle. But it is no slouch on the corners and it is positively exhilarating when you stomp on the gas and push down the straightaway.

Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR

Land Rover is not synonymous with cheap interiors and at the Range Rover level the cabin is positively exquisite. Certainly, there are attributes about the SVR that are peculiar to this model, including unique sport seats, offering improved bolstering when gripping your favorite curvilinear roads.

When observing the top confines of the Range Rover Sport line, you’re considering models such as the Autobiography and SVR editions with prices circa $100,000. At this elevated price point you receive a swath of amenities, including 21-inch contrast finish alloy wheels; painted brake calipers; and gloss black touches on the mirror caps, the grille finisher and fog lamp surrounds.

Both models also come with 16-way, power front seats; a heated steering wheel; heated seats; a front center console cooling compartment; stainless steel pedals; a surround camera system; an 825-watt, 19-speaker Meridian surround sound audio system; and special badges.

Choose the SVR and you enjoy Oxford perforated leather seats along with a Morzine headliner. Lift the hood and you will find dark engine turned metal aluminum trim. Step on the gas and the active sports exhaust system comes to life. Quad pipes at the ready, with each inflection ebbing and flowing as you move down the road.

2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR

2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR

So, is the Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR the fastest SUV in the world? Land Rover does not make that claim, although its 4.5-second, 0-to-60 mph time puts it right up there. Furthermore, the SUV maker says that the SVR lapped Germany’s renowned Nürburgring Nordschleife paddock in 8 minutes and 14 seconds, registering one of the fastest times ever recorded by a standard production SUV. Notably, its chief competition is the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S, what the German manufacture says hits 60 mph from a dead stop in a ripping 3.8 seconds. Lastly, you’ll also pay nearly $50,000 more for the consummate Porsche, an amount that can equal a compact luxury sedan.

The Range Rover Sport SVR is the preeminent SUV built by this British manufacturer, a transcendent model with just the right amount of added boost to make it intriguing. And if gaining 40 horsepower isn’t important to you, the Supercharged model starts at $80,000 and manages to deliver a whole slew of amenities important to this vehicle line.

2015 Land Rover

Range Rover Sport SVO

  • Sticker price from $110,475
  • Price as tested: N/A
  • Seats 5 occupants
  • 5.0-liter 32-valve supercharged V-8 gasoline engine
  • 550 horsepower @ 6,000 to 6,500 RPM
  • 502 foot-pounds of torque @ 2,500 to 5,500 RPM
  • 3.64 inches bore by 3.66 inches stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 9.5-to-1
  • 8-speed automatic transmission
  • Wheelbase: 143.5 inches
  • Length: 230 inches
  • Width: 80 inches
  • Height: 74.2 inches
  • Passenger volume: NR
  • Storage volume: 61 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: 7,716 pounds
  • EPA: 14 mpg city, 19 mpg highway
  • Premium grade gasoline required
  • Fuel tank: 27.7 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 5,148 pounds
  • IIHS safety rating: Not rated
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 6 years/unlimited miles
  • Vehicle assembly: Solihull, United Kingdom

More Car Reviews

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Chevrolet Silverado Z71: Top-End Pickup

Buick Regal GS AWD: Accessible Opulence

2015 Land Rover Range Rover Sport SVR photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.

Dodge Cancels SRT Hellcat Orders, Resets for 2016

2015 Dodge Charger SRT 392

Some customers waiting for 2015 SRT Hellcat variants of the Dodge Charger or Dodge Challenger will soon find themselves with their orders cancelled. That’s the word from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), as it announced on Monday that it will not fulfill a portion of the remaining orders.

Left hanging are about 900 customers who will be called by FCA beginning this week to learn their fate reports Automotive News. But this dark cloud comes with a silver lining as FCA will permit affected customers to buy a 2016 SRT Hellcat. Further, these customers will be eligible to procure their 2016 models at discounted prices, matching the price of the 2015 models. FCA hasn’t announced pricing for the 2016 Hellcats, but both coupe and sedan prices are expected to rise appreciably.

Demand for the SRT Hellcats has outstripped supply. Even so, FCA is working diligently to finish its scheduled run of 2015 models as it cancels its unscheduled orders.

SRT Hellcat Production

SRT HellcatDodge will also increase Hellcat production for 2016 and will work with dealers to allocate cars based on the dealer’s inventory. Beginning on August 10, Dodge dealers will have the opportunity to order their first allocation of 2016. Those dealers able to move their inventory will permitted to participate in a second allocation next February. Production of the 2016 SRT Hellcats will begin in September.

“We could not have asked for a more enthusiastic response to the Charger and Challenger SRT Hellcats – it was absolutely unprecedented, but then again, these 707-horsepower muscle cars are unprecedented,” said Tim Kuniskis, President and CEO, Dodge and SRT brands, FCA US. “To meet this demand, we are more than doubling our SRT Hellcat production for 2016 and simplifying the process to make it easier for our enthusiasts to get their hands on the hottest muscle cars in history. In addition, customers with verified sold orders that weren’t built in the 2015 model year will receive special discounted pricing if they re-order in 2016.”

Upgraded Standard Equipment

Both rear-wheel drive models will now be outfitted with higher-end standard equipment, including ultra-premium Laguna Leather interiors, and an 8.4-inch UConnect infotainment system with navigation, five years of SiriusXM Travel Link and Traffic reports, and HD radio.

As before, both SRT Hellcats are powered by a 6.2-liter, supercharged V-8 engine making 707 horsepower and 650 foot-pounds of torque. The Hellcat engine comes paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission with AutoStick. An adaptive competition damping suspension features independent suspension up front and five-link suspension at the rear. Each model comes equipped with 20-Inch x 9.5-Inch SRT low-gloss black forged wheels and Pirelli PZero tires at the corners.

As appealing as SRT Hellcat models have been, both vehicles come with a level of overhead that should give some buyers pause. Pricing for the new models is expected to push closer to $70,000, well within luxury brand parameters. Further, buyers should get an estimate from their insurance agent to discover what their premium pain point will be.

Combined 16 mpg fuel economy and premium grade gasoline is yet another cost factor. Finally, you’ll pay a mint to replace the tires, with a set of four Pirelli PZeros setting you back by at least $1,000, plus installation. They’re also summer-only tires, so you will need another set for colder conditions. And for those who love to spin their SRT Hellcats on the track, yet another set of tires may be required.

Muscle Car Sales

Despite the challenges inherent with owning top-end Dodge models, the brand has benefited from the added recognition. While Dodge brand sales are down 16 percent for the year through June 2015, Dodge Charger sales are up 2 percent and Dodge Challenger sales are up a whopping 41 percent. Combined, sales of these muscle cars were at 87,772 units, well ahead of both the Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro.

See Also — Dodge Hellcat Commercials Air, But You Cannot Have One

Model Updates Stoke Chevrolet Brand

Chevrolet Silverado

Chevrolet’s US sales are up 4.9 percent through June, keeping pace with the market. Several new and updated products will roll out for the 2016 model year, heralding additional changes in the coming years.

Chevrolet Silverado

The Chevrolet Silverado receives a face lift for 2016.

The Chevrolet brand has long trailed Ford in overall sales and Toyota in retail sales, positions GM would like to overcome. The Chevrolet brand continues to provide a strong presence in more than 140 markets globally and the brand still accounts for at least two of every three GM models sold in the United States.

Chevrolet is aggressively overhauling its product line by bringing several new and improved models to the market in 2016. The best-selling Chevrolet is its full-size Silverado truck. And as this model enters its third model year, the pickup gets a more gutsy visage along with the wider application of its 8-speed automatic transmission.

The Silverado update comes a year sooner than expected and should provide the impetus for continued Chevrolet truck growth. That growth should spread to the Colorado as this midsize model begins offering a 2.8-liter turbo-diesel engine this fall.

Chevrolet Camaro fans have been delighted since the sports coupe returned for the 2010 model. Now it’s time to roll out a new generation model, one that will be underpinned by the same platform driving the Cadillac ATS and CTS. New for 2016 is a base turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. However, Auto Trends sees most buyers upgrading to the larger engines with some people deciding to wait an extra year for the Z/28’s return.

2016 Chevrolet Camaro

The sixth generation Chevrolet Camaro.

Perhaps the bow tie’s weakest link is in the midsize segment, where the Chevrolet Malibu is outsold by such major players as the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Nissan Altima, and the Ford Fusion. Even the Hyundai Sonata outsells the Chevy, with the Kia Optima, Chrysler 200, and Mazda6 each offering stiff competition. The 2016 Malibu will resolve chief deficiencies, including a longer wheelbase to provide improved rear seating room. The Malibu will also get its first full-blown hybrid model, one that is expected to challenge the Honda Accord Hybrid’s 47 mpg rating.

Production of the next generation Chevrolet Cruze won’t start until February, thus the new model may be assigned with a 2017 model year designation. The Cruze is a strong player in the compact segment despite currently being limited to one body style and not having a true performance variant. However, the new model will add a hatchback body style and come in larger than its antecessor. Chevrolet will also replace the available 2.0-liter, turbo-diesel with one displacing at 1.6 liters. WardsAuto notes that the new four banger will be a quieter engine too.

Vehicle electrification remains a priority for GM despite flagging demand. The second generation Chevrolet Volt rolls out this fall and promises to provide up to 50 miles of electric-only range. The Volt will keep its gas generator, ensuring that range anxiety is never a valid concern.

2016 Chevrolet Malibu

More backseat room comes with the 2016 Chevrolet Malibu.

Just as there are significant updates in progress for several Chevrolet models, there is some uncertainty with a few others.

As Chevrolet brings the all-electric Bolt to the market in 2017, the Chevrolet Spark EV will likely go away. However, the standard gas-powered Spark should remain. What we won’t see updated anytime soon is the subcompact Sonic, a model that will remain in production “as is” even as the segment erodes. Here, consumers are opting for larger cars and small crossovers, something Chevrolet offers in the Cruze and Trax, respectively.

Chevrolet will also slot a new crossover between the Equinox and the Traverse, probably by 2017. Rumors of a mid-engined Corvette are not going away, but that car’s appearance will probably come much later, rather sooner. Lastly, get ready to kiss the Chevrolet SS goodbye as this Australian-imported, Holden-derived sedan will likely die once GM stops production down under in two years.

Chevrolet Volt

The second generation Chevy Volt debuts this fall.

So, will Chevrolet gain market share in the next year? Likewise, will its competitors be up to challenging Chevy’s stronger product line? The answers to both questions is likely “yes” with some of the weaker players falling further behind.

With Mitsubishi planning to close its lone US manufacturing plant, rumors that this small, Japanese manufacturer may pull out of the domestic market altogether are on the rise. If Mitsubishi does indeed quit, that leaves upwards of 100,000 customers looking at other mainstream brands, including Chevrolet, to satisfy their new car shopping needs.

Chevrolet product photos copyright the General Motors Company.

Flagship Nissan Maxima Revived, Ready

2016 Nissan Maxima

Of all the car segments available, large or flagship sedans have taken a punch. Most of the larger mainstream brands still offer them, but they’ve been overshadowed by midsize sedans for years. Then there are those boring crossovers that seem to be everywhere.

Chevrolet has its Impala, Ford markets the Taurus, Toyota presents the Avalon and even Hyundai has the Azera. The Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 are also in the mix, although these two standard rear-wheel drive models fly in the face of the current convention. Namely, standard front-wheel drive.

While Honda remains absent from the segment, Nissan is still active. Indeed, the Nissan Maxima is one of the longest running model names from this Japanese manufacturer and for that reason Nissan has given its flagship sedan a lease on life.

2016 Nissan Maxima

Just as easily, Nissan could have pulled the plug on the Maxima. In 2014, it sold 50,401 Maximas, down 6.5 percent. On the other hand, it sold a whopping 335,644 Altimas, up 4.7 percent. Instead of spending big bucks on a loss leader, Nissan could have severed those ties. They did not, therefore we have the next generation Nissan Maxima to consider beginning with the 2016 model year. Which is now.

One such example arrived in my driveway in early July, just over a month after it appeared in Nissan showrooms. Still, it was a prototype vehicle and that meant it might yet have a few tweaks remaining. It also meant that the usual Monroney (window sticker) was not included.

Nevertheless, I can tell you that the model tested was a Nissan Maxima SL, the middle of five trim levels. With a sticker price of $36,890 ($37,715 with destination) its price point parallels its rivals. Also available are S ($32,410), SV ($34,390), SR ($37,670) and Platinum ($39,860) editions.

As delivered, the test model was dressed in a Bordeaux Black finish, but there was little that was black about it. Instead, it was closer in tinge to a deep burgundy, offering a slightly lighter shade than the black interior.

2016 Nissan Maxima

2016 Nissan Maxima SL

View manufacturer details and pricing

2016 Nissan MaximaGeneral visage aside, there is something else that is quite interesting about the Maxima: it actually is slightly smaller than the midsize Altima. Both models share a 109.3-inch wheelbase and the Maxima has an extra inch added to its overall length and width. SeeThe Midsize Nissan Altima is Larger than the Flagship Maxima

But in the all important cabin volume department, the Altima has 101.9 cubic feet of space to the 98.6 cubic feet for the Maxima. Furthermore, the Altima’s trunk measures 15.4 cubic feet, while the Maxima offers a modest 14.3 cubic feet. Thus, the Maxima’s limited proportions has the EPA classifying it as a midsize sedan, just like the Altima.

There may be a good explanation for the Maxima’s size. What Nissan did was build two models on the same platform and possibly due to thicker seats, generous padding and more rakish lines, the Maxima’s dimensions are slightly smaller. It is doubtful that too many people will even notice.

Notably, Nissan is marketing the Maxima as a four-door sports sedan, making no mention of the sedan’s size, rather it is placing emphasis on its performance, style and appointments. So, if you’re wondering if Nissan is playing with your mind here they really aren’t. They just didn’t bother to extend the wheelbase to accommodate the flagship model.

2016 Nissan Maxima

What should grab your attention about the latest Maxima is its style. Happily, Nissan relaxed the chiseled lines on the Nissan Sport Sedan Concept when building the Maxima. That concept was auto show fodder for much of the previous year and had some analysts worrying that Nissan would actually build the car. That worrying was justified as the brand has served up other polarizing styles in the form of the Cube and Juke.

What the Maxima provides is attitude. And plenty of it. Allow your eyes to scan the entire sedan from bumper to bumper and from the top of the roof down to the rocker panels and again from left to right and you will take in a posture that is athletic, elegant and flowing.

From the gaping maw to the winged front LED lights to the scalloped recesses housing the fog lights to the chiseled hood, the Maxima’s frontage is assertive, but swank.

Its profile appears to be always on the move, with sport wheels, notched character lines, and a rear floating roof design. High end diamond-cut finished aluminum alloy wheels are also present.

2016 Nissan Maxima

From the rear alone the Maxima looks like a far more expensive car with its oversize wraparound LED tail lights, raised trunk, centered aluminum trim and dual chromed-tipped exhaust ports.

Nissan carried the daring exterior design inside to dress the cabin. Or maybe what really happened is that is assigned an Infiniti team to handle the design and layout. Yes, it is that good.

And that design team spent some time with the US Air Force’s Blue Angels to harness a layout that is as sporty as anything you will see this side of the GT-R. Luxury means sportiness here with a leather-wrapped, flat bottom steering wheel, carefully placed and canted driver controls, and generous amounts of high-end materials throughout.

Word has it that Nissan had BMW and Audi shoppers in mind when crafting the Maxima. With front-wheel drive only available, that seems like a tall order, but we’ll talk about the (surprising) drive characteristics later, what should remove those concerns.

Give this driver a seat extender and he is one happy guy. That the Maxima provides one along with the requisite lumbar support makes this more of a driver’s car, matching the #4DSC appellation Nissan has been sharing on social media and appending to various features, including the transmission stick and light lenses.

2016 Nissan Maxima

Other welcome features include a massive dual panel panoramic moon roof, a Bose premium audio system, ambient lighting, noise cancellation technology, generously bolstered front seats and a comfortable rear bench seat, the NissanConnect infotainment system with navigation, and an oversized digital display in the instrument panel.

Between the seats is the transmission stick, what provides standard automatic shifting or available “manumatic” shifting. Although I am personally not much of a fan of this arrangement, at least Nissan did not include the cursory shift paddles. I would have been pleasantly surprised, no shocked, had a six-speed manual transmission been included. Instead, you get a continuously variable transmission that can mimic up to seven forward shift points when operated in manual mode. Okay, so this is one area where the Maxima cannot pretend to aspire to German sedan greatness.

What’s under the hood is a familiar beast: a 3.5-liter, 24-valve V-6 engine. And it is normally aspirated too. I’ve had my share of forced induction vehicles (turbocharged or supercharged, sometimes both) and can tell you that I’ve gotten used to the technology. Still, when you know that there isn’t available boost to kick in, you gain an appreciation for the traditional hard working engine like the one found in the 2016 Nissan Maxima.

2016 Nissan Maxima

For the eighth generation model, horsepower was raised to an even 300 just as the car lost about 80 pounds; it is also 25 percent more rigid than the seventh generation edition last produced for the 2014 model year (there is no 2015 model). That’s a big deal because with entry-level luxury models in mind, the Maxima had to deliver. And deliver it does.

Step on the accelerator and the sedan quickly takes off, moving its nimble frame up to highway speed with authority. There are some people that absolutely hate CVTs and they’re not the ones I would even attempt to convince that the Maxima could be a game changer. My experience with the Nissan line is that the CVTs found in the Altima and Maxima are far more refined than those found in the smaller models. Yes, the rubber band sensation can be detected, but it is hardly the annoyance experienced elsewhere.

New for 2016 is a drive mode selector, located near the transmission shifter and offering both normal and sport modes. Sport mode adjusts throttle response, tunes the transmission, improves steering feel and provides active sound enhancement, the latter meaning you get pumped in sports car exhaust feedback music.

I fully expected to experience some torque understeer when pushing the Maxima to its limits. After all, with 300 horses galloping on the front wheels, that amount of power is sure to wreak havoc. Instead, the sedan remained composed as I pushed it down the road and articulated its share of curvilinear roads. The dampers, front stabilizer bar and other suspension architecture helped maintain composure and better than any other front-wheel drive model with even fewer horses at the ready.

So while Nissan delivers the dazzle in the Maxima, it makes some of its other competitors look downright dowdy. The Ford Taurus is showing its age, the Chevrolet Impala displays its weakness with the standard four-cylinder engine, and both the Toyota Avalon and the Hyundai Azera lose out on the sporty angle. Only the Dodge Charger and Chrysler 300 seem to hold their own here, giving Nissan a lot of room for conquest.

2016 Nissan Maxima SL

  • Sticker price from $36,890
  • Price as tested: from $37,715
  • Seats 5 occupants
  • 3.5-liter 24-valve V-6 gasoline engine
  • 300 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
  • 261 foot-pounds of torque @ 4,400 rpm
  • 3.76 inches bore by 3.2 inches stroke
  • Engine compression ratio: 10.6-to-1
  • Continuously variable automatic transmission
  • Wheelbase: 109.3 inches
  • Length: 192.8 inches
  • Width: 73.2 inches
  • Height: 56.5 inches
  • Passenger volume: 96.9 cubic feet
  • Storage volume: 14.3 cubic feet
  • Towing capacity: NR
  • EPA: 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway
  • Regular grade gasoline
  • Fuel tank: 18 gallons
  • Curb weight: From 3,533 pounds
  • IIHS safety rating: Not Yet Tested
  • Limited vehicle warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles
  • Powertrain warranty: 5 years/60,000 miles
  • Corrosion warranty: 5 years/unlimited miles
  • Vehicle assembly: Smyrna, Tenn.

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Buick Regal GS AWD: Accessible Opulence

Premium Value: Chrysler 300 Limited

2016 Nissan Maxima photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.

Brand APEAL: Porsche Leads for 11th Consecutive Year

Porsche is globally recognized as the top automotive brand, a fact regularly affirmed by various consumer studies and surveys. Indeed, for the 11th consecutive year, Porsche finished on top of J.D. Power’s APEAL study for 2015.

Porsche Cayman.

Porsche Cayman.

APEAL stands for U.S. Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout study what looks at 77 vehicle attributes to determine what owners like and dislike about their new cars. Those attributes are comprised of categories including the design, content, layout, execution, and performance of the respective models.

For 2015, J.D. Power surveyed more than 84,000 new car buyers from February to May, in a bid to determine how buyers and lessees felt about their vehicles after 90 days of ownership. Power uses a 1,000-point scale and assigns a number to each model as well as an overall score for the make or brand.

This year, the average score has risen by four points to 798. Safety features contributed to the increase, including blind spot monitoring and warning systems. Both premium and mainstream brands are benefiting with the latter group closing the traditional satisfaction void with its high-end counterparts. Further, models equipped with advanced safety systems score an average of 38 points higher than those not so equipped.

Mini Cooper.

Mini Cooper.

“Unlike other technologies, such as voice recognition, that can be challenging to operate, most safety features provide information in a more intuitive way, giving owners a greater sense of security,” said Renee Stephens, vice president of U.S. automotive quality at J.D. Power. “Not only are models increasingly offering systems that improve safety and visibility, but owners are also using them on a regular basis. This can go a long way toward generating positive feelings about their vehicle overall.”

Power also found that consumers will happily pay more for certain safety features such as blind-spot warning and detection systems. That’s one perquisite consumers say that they’d be willing to pay as much as $750 to receive. Clearly, car manufacturers will hone their attention on that revelation.

Porsche led all comers with a score of 874 followed by 855 for Jaguar, 854 for BMW, 853 for Mercedes-Benz, and 852 for Audi. Porsche also had three of the top models in the 26 segments featured. Indeed, the Porsche Cayman led the Compact Premium Sporty Car category, the Porsche Macan took the Compact Premium SUV segment, and the Porsche Cayenne led the Midsize Premium SUV group.

Ford F-150

Ford F-150.

Among mainstream brands Mini placed first, finishing with a score of 825. Chevrolet and Ford, like Porsche, each had three segment leaders. Audi, BMW, Dodge, Mazda and Mini placed two group leaders each.

Once again, J.D. Power reaffirmed a problem that has plagued new car buyers in recent years: how to work the advanced technologies found in today’s cars. Frustration with those technologies will often impact model and brand scores, something Power says can be overcome at the dealer level.

Specifically, the research firm offered advice for consumers, including discovering the benefits of safety features before opting for them. However, in many cases, these features are standard or are included with particular trim level or package offerings.

Consumers should also familiarize themselves with the entire safety package, not just the items they think they will use. Power also urged consumers to keep track of the technological features that are of most interest to consumers, including those still needing to be perfected. The last tip points to a problem inherent in many vehicles — wonky GPS-based infotainment systems that can be difficult to decipher.

Like some of the other studies offered in recent years, the APEAL study indicates manufacturers are listening to consumer concerns and are actively keeping up with the latest auto trends, especially safety and in-cabin technologies. Some brands, such as Jaguar and Mini, have made much progress in recent years, reflecting positive changes to company culture that are in prevalence today.

See AlsoKia, Hyundai Star in 2015 J.D. Power Survey

Photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.

Would You Pay $70,000 for a 2016 Ford F-150?

The Ford F-150 Limited edition returns for 2016. The new model raises the luxury quotient to a point never before reached in a full-size pickup truck.

Ford F-150 Limited

The 2016 Ford F-150 Limited edition arrives this fall.

The Ford F-150 Limited edition is back after a one year respite. Introduced in 2013 and sold for two years, Ford temporarily shelved the Limited and four other trim levels as it worked on bringing its current generation and aluminum-bodied pickup truck to the market.

Ford F-150 sales are down year-over-year, but that drop can be attributed to the automaker gradually bringing production up to speed. By this fall, F-150 production levels should return to normal and sales should also rebound.

For those looking for the ultimate in pickup trucks, the F-150 Limited edition may be it, a model that may cost upwards of $70,000 when it goes on sale this winter.

2016 Ford F-150 Limited

Of Truly Lincoln Proportions

That price is definitely Lincoln-esque and we’re not talking about America’s 16th president. Rather, the F-150 Limited could just as easily find a home in a Lincoln dealership for its multicontour massaging front seats, mojave leather seating surfaces, genuine fiddleback eucalyptus trim, and unique instrument cluster.

“The F-150 Limited sets a new bar for what discerning customers should expect in a high-end truck,” said Raj Nair, Ford group vice president, Global Product Development. “We’re adding segment-exclusive technology, and features that improve productivity, convenience and capability with distinctive style.”

And Ford with the Limited is taking on the F-150’s chief competition, namely the Chevrolet Silverado 1500 High Country and the Ram 1500 Limited. Both competitors come bedecked in chrome and swathed in leather, but Ford says its Limited edition offers a number of features not found elsewhere.

Those features include a gasoline direct, turbocharged engine, quad-beam LED headlamps, adaptive cruise control, a 360-degree camera system, LED side-mirror spotlight, a remote tailgate release and the multicontour massaging front seats. By the way, the Toyota Tundra Platinum edition is another model that might be cross-shopped with the Ford and its competitors.

2016 Ford F-150 Limited

EcoBoost Power and Towing Capabilities

Ford will outfit the 2016 F-150 Limited with the larger of its EcoBoost engines, this one displacing at 3.5 liters and making 365 horsepower with an output of 420 foot-pounds of torque. This model is EPA-rated at 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway. It has a towing capacity of up to 10,100 pounds.

Other features included are: a blind spot monitoring system with cross-traffic alert, chrome front tow hooks on the 4×4 version only, a panoramic sunroof, power deployed running boards, and remote start.

Inside, the F-150 Limited benefits from the third generation of the Ford SYNC communication and entertainment system, a Sony 10-speaker audio system, unique cuff plates with ice blue backlighting, and special floor mats. Also available is a technology package that brings in lane-keeping assist, the 360-degree camera system and a dynamic trailer hitch assist.

2016 Ford F-150 Limited

F-150 Limited Pricing Estimate

Ford has yet to announce pricing for the Limited, but it is expected to approach $60,000 for the 4×2 edition. For 2015, Ford sells XL ($26,030), XLT ($31,320), Lariat ($39,310), King Ranch ($49,120), and Platinum ($51,585) editions. The high end of the pricing spectrum would be reached by choosing the 4×4 edition and taking every available option. Thus, a $70,000 price tag wouldn’t be a stretch.

Like General Motors and Fiat Chrysler, full-size pickup trucks are big money makers for Ford. Manufacturers traditionally offer the largest incentives on these trucks and Ford has been offering incentives of up to $10,000 on some trucks according to Autos CheatSheet.

Auto Trends, however, believes that the incentives are regional and do not reflect rejection of the new body style. At the same time, once production levels are at peak levels by year end, we’ll be better positioned to gauge consumer interest in the entire F-150 line.

2016 Ford F-150 Limited photos courtesy of the Ford Motor Company.

See Also — Aluminum Tough: 2015 Ford F-150

Mcity Provides a Testing Ground for Autonomous Vehicles

Mcity, a 32-acre real-life testing environment for driverless cars.

Autonomous driving test facilities are few in number. The University of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Transportation have partnered to build Mcity, a facility where connected cars and autonomous driving can be put through the paces.

Mcity, a 32-acre real-life testing environment for driverless cars.

Mcity, a 32-acre real-life testing environment for driverless cars.

It is understood that driverless vehicles will eventually become commonplace on America’s roads. What is not yet clear is when this will happen. Indeed, there are obstacles that may slow down the process, including state and federal regulations, insurance industry oversight, and consumer acceptance. The technology is there, but the barriers must be removed.

On Monday, the University of Michigan launched Mcity, its 32-acre controlled environment designed to advance connected car and autonomous vehicle technologies. The city within the city of Ann Arbor will provide a unique environment for manufacturers, regulators, suppliers and insurance companies to help make autonomous driving a reality.

State and Industry Cooperation

Mcity was founded by the University of Michigan and the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT). Together, the two invested more than $10 million in the test facility and 15 companies, including automotive manufacturers, insurance companies, technology companies and industry suppliers are contributing $1 million over the first three years. An additional 33 companies are contributing $150,000 over that span.

“We believe that this transformation to connected and automated mobility will be a game changer for safety, for efficiency, for energy, and for accessibility,” said Peter Sweatman, director of the U-M Mobility Transformation Center. “Our cities will be much better to live in, our suburbs will be much better to live in. These technologies truly open the door to 21st century mobility.”


In Mcity, the buildings are only a facade.

Michigan remains the top state for producing cars as well as for research and development. The Wolverine State has also been at the forefront of connected vehicle technologies, something that Mcity is designed to advance.

“We’ve been a world leader in innovation, especially in terms of mobility,” said Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder. “We put the world on wheels. We transformed how the world moved. Michigan is uniquely positioned to continue to be a leader in mobility, and the University of Michigan’s new Mcity will play a critical role in that future.”

Real World Surroundings

Mcity was designed to mimic real world conditions. Thus, the environment includes a carefully designed network of roads along with traffic signs and signals, street lights, construction obstacles, sidewalks and, yes, building facades. The initiative was designed to provide surroundings that will allow emerging technologies to be tested in a controlled environment.

“There are many challenges ahead as automated vehicles are increasingly deployed on real roadways,” Sweatman said. “Mcity is a safe, controlled, and realistic environment where we are going to figure out how the incredible potential of connected and automated vehicles can be realized quickly, efficiently and safely.”

7/15/15               2015 UM Aerials -July                 MCity, North Campus, Munger Grad                            Residency,Campus construction.

7/15/15 2015 UM Aerials -July
MCity, North Campus, Munger Grad
Residency,Campus construction.

Mcity: Vehicle to Vehicle Communication

Mcity will permit vehicles to talk with each other, even around blind corners, as well as to the infrastructure. The locale will help vehicles determine when a person crosses the road in front of a car as well as detecting when a dog does likewise.

As important as Mcity is for building an autonomous vehicle network, it is only the first step that the University of Michigan, the UDOT and its partners will take. Real world deployment will expand to Ann Arbor proper where connected cars are already traversing the city’s streets. From there, the entire southeast region of the state will become the testing ground, simulating driving conditions throughout the country.

Thus, from a controlled environment with just scores of vehicles at work, the deployment will expand to as many as 9,000 vehicles in Ann Arbor to 20,000 vehicles in the southeast Michigan region. Further, a 2,000-vehicle mobility service of connected and automated vehicles will be deployed in Ann Arbor.

For more information, check out the U-M Mobility Transformation Center.

The Midsize Nissan Altima is Larger than the Flagship Maxima

flagship sedan comparison chart

When it comes to sedans, size matters. Especially for classification purposes. Some midsize sedans are larger than the flagship models that traditionally lead the brand.

2016 Nissan Maxima

The Nissan Maxima is all new for 2016.

See AlsoEight Key Facts About the 2016 Nissan Maxima

Nissan has a new flagship Maxima sedan, a 2016 edition that is stylish, sporty and competitively priced. Most people consider the Maxima Nissan’s largest model, but they would be wrong in that assessment, at least in one important area: total interior volume (cabin + trunk = total volume). Indeed, it is the Nissan Altima that offers superior room, even though the Maxima is recognized as the brand’s flagship sedan.

I recently had the Nissan Maxima in my press fleet rotation (that review has been published here), and immediately recognized that the cars are similar in size. Nissan markets the Altima in the midsize segment, a model that is only outsold by the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord and just ahead of the Ford Fusion in sales.

2015 Nissan Altima

The slightly larger than the Maxima Nissan Altima.

Nissan released the latest generation Altima for the 2013 model year and I have had the pleasure of driving multiple copies over the past few years. The Altima is powered by four- and six-cylinder engines, while the Maxima only offers the larger V-6 engine, displacing at 3.5 liters. Furthermore, the engine has been updated for 2016 and now produces an even as well as impressive 300 horsepower.

The supplied chart outlines the differences between the Maxima and five other flagship sedans. All five are recognized as large sedans, but when it comes to EPA classification purposes, both the Maxima and the Avalon fall short. To qualify as a large car, a vehicle must have 120 cubic feet of total volume. The Avalon falls just short at 119.6 cubic feet, while the Nissan Maxima comes in at just 112.9 cubic feet.

flagship sedan comparison chart

Thus, the Nissan Maxima and Toyota Avalon are tabulated as midsize cars, while the Chevrolet Impala, Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus, and Hyundai Azera are typecast as large cars. Two other models were not considered here — the Buick LaCrosse and the Chrysler 300 as these models correspond to the Chevrolet and Dodge models featured here, respectively.

What is noteworthy about these measurements is that the Nissan Altima comes in closer to the large car classification with its 117.3 cubic feet of total volume or 4.4 cubic feet of extra room. Incidentally, both models sit on a 109.3-inch wheelbase although the Maxima has an extra 1.3 inches to its length.

So, how is it possible for the Altima to have more room than the Maxima given its slightly smaller dimensions? Those numbers are based on SAE measurements, a voluntary way of determining trunk (storage) space as well as interior (cabin) space. It is such a convoluted process that few people will pay attention to it. Kudos to for attempting to explain it — in brief, the standards are based on SAE J1100 methodology, an archetype developed more than five decades ago.

2015 Dodge Charger

The Dodge Charger has the most room between the wheels of any flagship sedan.

As the chart indicates, the Nissan Maxima is dead last in proportions among the flagship models. To my knowledge, Nissan is not marketing the Maxima as its large car nor as its flagship sedan. Instead, they are emphasizing this model’s sporting characteristics and are marketing the Maxima as a luxury sedan. Indeed, when you take note of the 4DSC hashtag online, you are supposed to recall the Nissan Maxima and the related 4DSC embellishments on the transmission stick and lights. That hashtag stands for four-door sports car, a marketing initiative that Nissan has used with the Maxima previously.

I could have stirred the pot further by adding the midsize Hyundai Sonata to the list just above the Nissan Altima, but apart from the flagships. Had I done so, you would have seen that the EPA classifies the Sonata as a large car as it has 122.4 cubic feet of interior volume or nearly 10 cubic feet more than the flagship Maxima.

What it comes down to for car shoppers is a point I always tell them: go inside the vehicle yourself, try every seating position, explore the storage space and fold whatever seats go down. Ultimately, the numbers are rough guidelines and should be taken as such, just as the fuel mileage projections supplied by the manufacturers to the EPA may not reflect your real life experience.

2015 Hyundai Azera

The Hyundai Azera has more cabin room than other cars in its class.

Photos and chart copyright Auto Trends Magazine.