AD #1519 – Fiat Reveals New Doblo, Audi Bullish On China, Flat-Plane Engine Pros & Cons

December 12th, 2014 at 11:52am

Runtime: 8:08

- Fiat Reveals New Doblo
- Luxury Brands Dominate Satisfaction Survey
- Audi Bullish On China
- Flat-Plane Engine Pros & Cons
- How to Boost Power & Efficiency

Visit our sponsors to thank them for their support of Autoline Daily: Bridgestone and Dow Automotive Systems.

»Subscribe to Podcast | iTunes | RSS | Listen on Phone Stitcher | YouTube

Thanks to our Partners for embedding Autoline Daily on their websites: Autoblog and

90 Comments to “AD #1519 – Fiat Reveals New Doblo, Audi Bullish On China, Flat-Plane Engine Pros & Cons”

  1. Mike myers Says:

    I think your gasoline story may have left the impression that you should move up to premium gas to get the benefit rather than pointing out that the top tier gas means that there are detergents in all of the brand’s grades from regular to premium – it is the brand not the octane rating thatyou are looking for as higher grade

  2. pedro fernandez Says:

    I add a bottle of Chevron cleaner every 3 mos and fill up with Chevron when I do so I get the most cleaner I can in the tank, I read that Shell’s formula is pretty good at keeping the gunk from forming in the first place.

  3. cwolf Says:

    Sean, good job! The higher revs, thus reduction in longevity would cause me to think twice. Like many others,I keep cars a long time and cringe at the idea of an engine replacement. And, like most V8 Stang owners, they don’t race; except between stop lights.

  4. Kit Gerhart Says:

    OK, Sean, what are your thoughts on so-called “top tier” gas? I guess I have never been much of a believer in using premium gas in cars that don’t recommended it, or the superiority of “top tier” gas, as sold by BP, Shell, Texaco, and some others.

    Maybe I’m missing something.

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Flat crank engines sound different from usual American V8′s, because of the cylinders firing back and forth between cylinder banks. They sound kind of neat, especially since you rarely hear them, as in a few expensive Italian sports cars.

  6. pedro fernandez Says:

    Am I wrong, but don’t short trips at slow speed in very cold weather help engines die younger, compared to higher temps, speeds and longer distances?

  7. cozy200 Says:

    Go to and read all about the better gasoline. top tier gases have twice the cleaning agents of the EPA recommended. I always use Shell regular and every now and then put Chevron Techtron in the tank. BUT now with a GDI engine, the fuel is not sprayed anywhere where the mixture can wash the intake valves. so what do we do now Sean?

  8. cwolf Says:

    We have been using regular gas in the MKZ, though it calls for premium and the car runs fine. I have noticed less pep a couple weeks ago, so the last two fill ups were with high test. Sean is right, the Lincoln’s(“Lenny”)pep has been restored!

  9. Kit Gerhart Says:

    5, Of what I know, short trips in cold weather are bad for engines in various ways. The oil is thick, and doesn’t flow well at startup. Also, the oil gets moisture in it, because it doesn’t get up to normal operating temperature on short trips.

    I suspect the short trips in cold weather are not nearly as bad on engines as they once were. The 0W20 and similar oil now used will flow much better when cold, and today’s fuel injected engines run a proper mixture from startup, rather than sloppy rich, as was often the case with carbureted engines with chokes.

  10. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Hyundai, Kia, and Nissan are all near the bottom of CR’s “would you buy it again” survey. Only Smart and Mitsu are lower. Any thoughts on why?

  11. Bradley Says:

    Great Info on Flat-Plane Engine.

    I always heard it quoted “Horsepower sells cars and Torque wins races.” That seems to contrast the Flat-Plane engine being designed for racing.

  12. MJB Says:

    I’ve been using premium fuel (and full-synthetic motor oil) ever since I picked up my first Lexus some 11 years ago and have never looked back. Hurt like heck dropping $88 on fill-ups at the height of the oil crisis, but hey… It is what it is. If you want to get the most out of your engine, then it’s worth it (off course, if premium were not recommended for my car, I’d likely just do the occasional additive.

  13. Kit Gerhart Says:

    9, Horsepower wins races, if you run the engine at its power peak rpm. Ideally, that would mean a CVT that keeps the engine exactly at the power peak rpm at speeds above where power to the ground is traction limited. More practically, for high powered cars, it means a close-ratio transmission that allows you to keep the engine near the power peak, if “racing.”

    Torquey engines win races in the hands of drivers who don’t use the gears well to keep the engine at its power peak rpm, which is pretty high on most of today’s car engines.

  14. Chuck Grenci Says:

    Buying Toptier fuel, here’s a link to what makers meet the standard: is all you need. Buying premium only gets you more octane, and if your vehicle doesn’t need it, it is just wasted. Some stations have more cleaners in their premium gasoline, but if you buy Toptier, even the low octane contains sufficient cleaners. Some vehicles say that premium is recommended but lower grades can be used (but some performance may be lowered). What is happening in these cases is that the knock sensor can detect the lower octane (as ping) and will thus retard the spark advance , which will lower performance and fuel economy (slightly).

  15. Sean McElroy Says:

    #4 Kit – I try to use top tier gas whenever possible. As cozy200 points out in #7, they have more detergents than recommended in regular up to premium. I’m only recommending to use premium as a cleaning agent, not on a regular basis, whether the automaker recommends it or not.

  16. HtG Says:

    Can confirm. The Civic really likes Shell, and now you’ve given me a good excuse, Sean.
    Kit, I’d happily have another Nissan Versa. But ours doesn’t have the CVT. Maybe some people don’t like those either.

  17. RumNCoke Says:

    Another bonus of filling up with premium – less ethanol. I think Shell V-Power might have no ethanol at all. Maybe that’s just up here in the frozen north.

  18. cwolf Says:

    Kit, my 69 MGC is still being restored and the engine is will soon be sent to the shop. The “C” used LEADED premium,which is no longer available,so what specifics should I be keen on as it is changed over to non-leaded gas? Before putting it on blocks @ 30K miles, I mixed unleaded regular and aviation fuel blend to simulate the old high test. Silly, huh?

  19. Max C. Says:

    Since only one other person has mentioned the CR “would you buy it again” survey, I’ll jump in with my two cents worth. Just because a car or any other vehicle has a great reliability rating does not necessary make it a car that someone would buy again. The place where so many of these surveys fall short is in considering the “likability” factor, which is very difficult to measure, at least data-wise. Some of the least reliable cars on the road could well be some of the best liked cars. Specifically, in regards to Ram and Dodge scoring higher than you expected – Mopar folks tend to really like their vehicles despite any so called reliability concerns. The reason I say “so called” is because I’ve owned Mopar’s all my life, and in regards to long life and reliability, I’ll put the one’s I’ve owned up against any other vehicle on the road, regardless of brand. I know many of you will disagree and some rightfully so – I’m just telling you my experience.

  20. Sean McElroy Says:

    #7 cozy200 – You can still have an intake and fuel system cleaning. The procedure we did involved a throttle body cleaning, injector cleaning and fuel tank additive. We used BG products (which I think are the best) and charged $125.00.

  21. Kit Gerhart Says:

    16, It must not be the CVT, regarding Nissan. Subaru is the highest non-luxury brand in the owner satisfaction ratings, and nearly all of them use CVT’s.

    18, It should be ok with unleaded E-10 premium, as long as the elastomers in the fuel system are ok with the 10% ethanol. I know a number of people with older collector cars of all brands, and that is what most of them use.

    17, The premium where I am, both in Florida and Indiana has “up to 10% ethanol.” At least the pumps are labeled that way. If yours doesn’t have ethanol, it must be a very localized thing.

  22. pedro fernandez Says:

    The Versa and Sentra hve the lowest satisfaction rate among its owners, yet I did drive a Sentra for an extended amount of time and I would not mind owning one, that does not mean I would prefer it over most of its competitors, Corolla, Civic, Mazda 3, Focus, but if it was given to me, I would not give it back.

  23. Kit Gerhart Says:

    22, Yep, I suspect when the Versa and Sentra owners compare their cars to the competition, most of them wish they had bought something different, even though the Nissans are not bad cars.

    I could be wrong, but I’d guess that Mitsubishi is dead last because, at some point, owners notice that their cars have depreciated much more rapidly than the competition.

  24. HtG Says:

    repeat customers

    Last spring at the NY show I spoke to a rep for Maserati about how they were finding potential customers. He said that they were looking for people who already had the Merc or BMW, but were bored or looking for something different. Maser was inviting people they identified from public records and contacting them. So even if the gross statistics indicate high satisfaction with lux brands, at least one carco is making a niche for itself. And I do see quite a few more Masers than I see Porsches, for example. (I think lots of those Porsches like to stay clean and warm in mommy and daddy’s garage.(okay, I like to bust on Porsches out of jealousy, I know))

  25. HtG Says:

    23 another factor with Versas may be that lots of people only bought it because it was cheap. We got it out of preference over Jetta, CRV, Mini, Impreza. (not my decision, btw, I liked the Impreza best)

  26. pedro fernandez Says:

    I’d say half of the German brand owners would buy again and again and the other half would not go Deutch ever if their lives depended on it, too harsh, too expensive to maintain, too unreliable etc etc, I think Versa and Sentra sell because of price and roominess, but as the owners spend some time behind the wheel, those virtues begin to seem less and less important.

  27. Enn Norak Says:

    I too much enjoyed Sean’s well researched explanation of flat-plane engines.

  28. HtG Says:

    I think if someone totaled my Civic for me,* I’d most likely not get a new one. I don’t care for what they’ve become. But I’d definitely look at the Fit, especially a recent used one.

    *almost happened today. I’m still trying to figure out what I could have done to avoid the situation in the first place, but I think it would have exceeded my driving ability. Anyway, still 100%

  29. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The most basic Versas are a bargain as cars go today, $11, 990 base sticker, about $2000 cheaper than the cheapest Kia or Hyundai. Maybe you can even get crank windows.

  30. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Here is some good info, with diagrams, of flat-plane crank engines.

  31. pedro fernandez Says:

    HtG the same almost happened to me today, almost got side swiped by this moron who wanted to pass someone by changing into the rt lane, which was occupied by my Crapola at that time, I guess no one told this idiot that 2 solid masses cannot occupy the same space and time.

  32. HtG Says:

    29 Kit, I sat in one of those base Versas. You don’t want it. I don’t know who does. It’s like being in a taxi in Sao Paolo or Bangkok. Get a used car instead.

  33. HtG Says:

    31 Hey! What.A.Coincidence! Pedro. I had to haul it down when a box truck decided it was wise to go around pedestrians in his lane by going into my lane! Around a turn! The pedestrians thought it was wise to be walking in the street with their backs to traffic! At least the kid who panic stopped behind me was twenty yards behind me when he noticed he had to slow down.

    Sorry, I lucked out again, Mr. Car Dealer! :(

  34. HtG Says:

    33 again, sad confirmation for having sold my Miata. It’s amazing around here. Stuff I’ve never seen in 35 years. And by stuff, I mean class leading stupidity around the road, 24/7.

  35. HtG Says:

    33 to clarify, the box truck and peds were coming toward me. A bit different from Pedro’s case. Though I’m going to spare everyone the recent story of a lady veering out of the left lane on the NY state thruway. Good times. Somehow I saw the BMW zooming up in the right lane at the same time.

    It’s coming, I know. I have a shopping list ready

  36. J Hundertmark Says:

    #18 – Regarding your MG moving from leaded to un-leaded. Major concern is to use hardened (stellite) valve seats. This has been the standard since the move to unleaded, & many vehicles had hardened valve seats prior to the unleaded move in the US for 1971 models.

    While lead byproducts from combustion can cause wear, the lead in the incoming fuel/air charge did lubricate the valve seat. On all other points, the removal of lead increased spark plug life, and overall engine life tremendously.

  37. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I visited my local Kia dealer for the first time today. I got a thing it the mail, saying I was a “finalist” in a contest, and that I had won a free car, TV or, reading closely, a $10 gift card for Wally World. Since the dealer is very close, I figured it would be worth spending a few minutes there for $10. I had to talk to a salesman and give my address to get the gift card, but he understood why I was there, and was easily convinced that I didn’t want to trade my Prius or Corvette on anything they had.

    They had a Soul in the showroom, with an MSRP of 18K something. At today’s car price, that is a pretty good value for what it is. They had other Souls outside with stickers of ~$24K, not such a good buy. I think the expensive ones had sunroof and leather, not worth $5K+ extra.

  38. HtG Says:

    I got an email today from Mazda offering to donate an hour of community service for every “qualified” test drive. Plus $150 charitable donation for every lease or sale. Even ends January 2, 2015.

    Obviously Mazda is not going to be as mercenary as KIA. /sarcasm ;)

  39. Kit Gerhart Says:

    36, Did cars like ’164 GTO’s and 1957 Chrysler 300′s have Stellite valve seats? I know people who drive them and older cars, like Ford flathead V8′s, with nothing special done to the valves or valve seats. They don’t drive them a lot of miles, though.

  40. Kit Gerhart Says:

    39, I meant to add, they use today’s unleaded premium, generally E-10, in them.

  41. HtG Says:

    35 One thing I’d like to see with the advent of connected cars is a ‘god’s eye view’ of the road on my info screen. It would be great to instantly see all the cars around me, maybe even with predictive graphics for where they’re going. It reminds me of the tech the Vette has in the Tudor racing series, where the driver sees an arrow for where upcoming cars are going.

  42. HtG Says:

    Nu, Autoline? Where’s our sneak peak footage of Mark Reuss’ appearance for the weekly show?

    Killing Me

    Walking it off

  43. pedro fernandez Says:

    I won’t go to a new car dealer, afraid that they’re gonna mistake the Crapola for a junked car and crush like they did to Chevy Chase’s car in the Vacation movie.

  44. pedro fernandez Says:

    Ward’s top engines for 2015 announced, not one single mention for either Toyota or Honda, I guess durability/reliability are not important to win this award.

  45. cwolf Says:

    Using hardened valve seats was one item on the list. Another, which I am not up on, is using pistons that are “dished out”. I’ll find out more soon. Thanks for sharing.

  46. XA351GT Says:

    Torque versus Horsepower. In racing it would depend on the type of track. Where you have a lot of slow corners you need that torque to pull up from the corner. On faster tracks where revs are kept high horsepower is more of a issue. So like many things it is a chicken or the egg deal.

  47. Kit Gerhart Says:

    44, All of them are pretty much “specialty” engines, at least in the U.S. The Ford and BMW triples, and VW 1.8 would be mainstream in other parts of the world. Probably the VW 1.8 will be the highest volume in the U.S.

  48. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Diesel today: $3.05.9

  49. HtG Says:

    3.39-3.89 on this side of the continent, GA

  50. pedro fernandez Says:

    #47 no mention of the hand built Merc AMG engines? I thought those were awesome, not even the BMW M motors either.

  51. Kit Gerhart Says:

    50, There is a $60K upper price limit for the cars they are used in. That might exclude the M’s and AMG’s.

  52. HtG Says:

    I recall an oil analyst talking about the price of gas being something that people are aware of every day, in contrast to other commodites. They drive down the street and see the sign at the gas station. It’s hard to believe the current decline in prices isn’t going to lift people’s moods.

  53. Kit Gerhart Says:

    52, It’s going to hurt my mood. It means I will be sharing the road with more clapped out Excursions and Suburbans driven by texting teens, which their parents buy them to “keep them safe” at the expense of the rest of us.

  54. HtG Says:

    ok, that’s funny, especially after I’ve had a couple.

  55. pedro fernandez Says:

    Too much other crap going on now to lift people’s mood no matter how low gas prices drop.

  56. HtG Says:

    55 December 21 is the vernal equinox. Pretty scary for ancient humans. Will the sun disappear and never return? It’s always sucked, so make merry, slaughter the cattle lest they not survive the winter, and get blitzed.

  57. HtG Says:

    errm, winter solstice, december 21. Got ahead of myself.

  58. C-Tech Says:

    Good job Sean. I will stick to the Chevron / Techron additive.

  59. BobD Says:

    One statement on the flat crank discussion does not make sense to me… “The crankshaft is also not as large, so the engine height is shallower thus it can be mounted lower in the car…” While there may be less counterweights, the sweep of the crank would be the same for both crank designs with the same stroke. Now if a shorter stroke is used with a flat crank, this might decrease the sweep slightly, but you are probably talking a 1/2″ or less. Did Ford redesign the oil pan and engine mounts and all the other things related to the engine location in the Mustang for 1/2″ of lower mass?

    PS – I filled up tonight in Franklin IN @ Shell for $1.99 (not including another 10 cents/gallon with my Kroger rewards)

  60. XA351GT Says:

    Kit @ 53. You are spot on. A few years ago a 16 YO girl driving her parents Excursion ran a red light while on the phone ( something she denied despite multiple witnesses to the contrary, she said she was “just holding it in her hand” ) Killed a guy in late 80s early 90s Cougar. Oh and she had her 10 YO brother in there with her. I felt this was totally irresponsible for her parents to allow a driver with so little experience to drive a vehicle that large without a adult with her at all times .

  61. XA351GT Says:

    BoB D I believe they also said it has a shorter stroke as well so the connecting rods are probably shorter as well as the pistons being shorter with lower side skirts.

  62. Kit Gerhart Says:

    59, I suspect they will use a mildly modified version of the existing engine block, so the physical size of the engine won’t be much different. If it uses shorter stroke and/or shorter con rods, they can lower the deck height a little. In any case, it will be interesting to hear the different sound, from what we are used to from V8 engines.

  63. HtG Says:

    maybe this is what the flat crank Mustang will sound like…

  64. T. Bejma Says:

    $3.19 – $3.25 for diesel in SE Michigan…

    I am holding off on my Colorado/Canyon to wait for the diesel like GA. Right now the plan is to lease the truck next spring and buy an ATS 2.0T for my daily driver…

  65. C-Tech Says:

    Did I miss something or will the new Fiat Doblo be offered in the U.S. as well as Europe?

  66. Kit Gerhart Says:

    63, Interesting. To me, it sounds kind of like a nascar engine, but nascar engines have 90 degree cranks.

  67. HtG Says:

    can’t be sure what was in there. It’s the internet

  68. C-Tech Says:

    @ #66 The exhaust on NASCAR engines are linked similarly the way a flat crank engines exhaust are linked. Both maximize the scavenging effect. That’s probably why they sound similar.

  69. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ TB: Tell your people that the ZR2 has folks just DROOLING over it,especially with the diesel.What an awesome looking truck.Toyota can eat their hearts out for some years to come with the new midsize twins.Now,all ya have to do is 86 the lfx for the 4.3 and sales will increase bigtime.Not many I talk too are interested in the high revving car engine…..just sayin’.

  70. Kit Gerhart Says:

    According to this, they used the 3.6 in the Colorado rather than the 4.3 because it gets better gas mileage.

    That doesn’t sound convincing, though. The V6 Colorado and a V6 Silverado get the same EPA city rating of 18, and the big one is only 2 mpg worse on the highway, 24 vs 26.

    Still, the “lifestyle” buyers might like the 3.6 better, because of it sounding “sportier,” and less agricultural. For those who actually carry heavy loads, or tow much, I’d think the 4.3 would be better. If nothing else, it would spend less time revving up in the lower gears when climbing or accelerating.

  71. HtG Says:

    $2.59 today. I think that’s a dime overnight. I wouldn’t want to Venezuela right now.

  72. Kit Gerhart Says:

    What would Chavez think?

  73. HtG Says:

    Yeah, that $2.59 price is at a Costco. Stations around it are very close or match their price. You need to be a Costco member to buy the gas, but not the booze!?!?!?!? But a Citgo, maybe .5-1 mile away is always a bit higher. Citgo being the US brand for Venezuelan oil.

  74. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The cheapest near me is 2.699, but declining. It’s 2.899 for midgrade which I usually use in the Corvette.

    There is no Costco near me, in either Florida or where I spend summers in Indiana. My sister is near one in Indianapolis and always gets her gas there. She says it is occasionally a penny or two cheaper other places, but overall, she comes out ahead.

    I learned a couple days ago that Costco gas is “top tier.”

  75. T. Bejma Says:


    We hear you on the ZR2 G.A. Lots of buzz around here and I am sure if we could get it out today, it would be on the dealer showroom floor.

    So far the LFX has gotten a lot of good reviews from the media and owners, and helps out with CAFE. ;-)

  76. G.A.Branigan Says:

    @ TB:The LFX only appeals to the neophytes.I know many who won’t buy it because like me,they will use the truck as a truck.By that I mean towing.That car engine was a poor choice for those that need a truck engine in their truck,and unfortunately,very few want the upcoming diesel option,they prefer a gasser.As far as reviews go,most have commented on the ‘buzzy’ high winding nature of the LFX.

    For those of us who live in a mountain state,this would be especially true,and a deal breaker.Don’t get me wrong,I think the new twins are outstanding in most areas,but not serving up a specially built dedicated truck engine as an option to many of use,leaves us scratching our heads in bewilderment.For me,the 2.8L diesel will make as happy as a clam,or maybe even two clams,lol.Hey….MERRY CHRISTMAS T.

  77. Kit Gerhart Says:

    76, Functionally, the LFX will work fine, even when towing, but yeah, it will spend more time “spinning” in the lower gears than the 4.3. They should probably offer both engines.

  78. G.A.Branigan Says:

    When towing,and you have to keep your engine in a high rpm state,it just won’t last as long.It isn’t built for that kind of work cycle.As it stands right now,if I really want the Colorado,I have no choice but to wait for the right engine,(diesel).Had the 4.3L v6 been offered,and I’ve said this before,I would already have one on order.

  79. HtG Says:

    I walked around the Colorado just now. It was a dark grey crew cab with long box and 4X4, 3.6L and 6speed auto. The dealer had written ‘new work truck’ on the windshield. It had steel wheels and cost around 31K. I liked how easy it was to hop up the step at the back, and the door handles had a muscled feel(you can tell somebody sweated this detail of the entry and start drama). Didn’t sit in it.

    Also a white Z28 on the lot for 76K. Yowza.

  80. G.A.Branigan Says:

    here is a link to a very recent test of the gmc canyon doing the Ike gauntlet.It did very well but the point is,it can’t do it every day without what I believe,serious engine damage.Take away the heavy trailer,put on a new lightweight camper trailer without the V-nose and travel around out west.I honestly believe that the LFX would crap out around 50k miles.Here’s where the much lower revving diesel will pay for itself.BTW,towards the halfway point,maybe a little farther the passenger nots the 3 point something mpg’s while doing the pull.

  81. G.A.Branigan Says:

    Should be ‘notes’……dohhhh

  82. G.A.Branigan Says:

    LOL…yeah,the Z28 is really stupid money.Not for your everyday muscle car guy at that price point.

  83. Kit Gerhart Says:

    79, I’d think the Z28 would have very limited appeal, at that price. You can get a new Corvette for about 20K less, and the ‘Vette has A/C standard.

  84. HtG Says:

    that’s exactly what I was wondering too, Kit. Yesterday, I got the biggest smile when a bright red C7 was approaching on the highway; first thought at >.5 miles was ‘wth is THAT?’ But man was that Z28 narly. It’s a track car, and there is a private track club an hour and a half from here. Monticello Motor Club.

    dealer’s no dummy

  85. Kit Gerhart Says:

    80, If someone is going to use a pickup for that type use as a regular thing, they’d be better off with a big one, with a bigger engine. If I were going to pull that trailer on that stretch of road very often, I’d probably rather have a big truck with a V8.

    I suspect all gas vehicles at the same weight, going the same speed, would get very close to the same mpg doing that climb. A diesel should get ~20% better.

  86. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Maybe some tracks allow drivers to have kids in the back seat, making the Z-28 their track car of choice over a 2 seater.

  87. Kit Gerhart Says:

    84, I’d heard of that club, but hadn’t seen their site before. Information about joining is conspicuously absent, at least on the mobile site. I guess you need “connections,” and if you have to ask the cost, you can’t afford it.

  88. Chuck Grenci Says:

    G.A., thanks for the link #80 (Canyon); I enjoyed their review. The Colorado is on my short list too.

  89. Kit Gerhart Says:

    80,88 I was impressed that they were able to make the entire run, needing to slow down for traffic only once, near the end of the run.

  90. BobD Says:

    On the Colorado/Canyon, I agree if you plan to do much towing, a full-size pickup might be a better choice. I’m going after MPG and wished I could get the I4 in a Crew Cab 4×4 configuration (only available with Ext Cab 4×4 or Crew Cab 2×4). Looks like a 2 MPG highway difference between the I4 and V6.