AAH #355 – Buckle Up: President Trump Is About To Take The Auto Industry On A Wild Ride

November 11th, 2016 at 11:29am

Audio-only version:

NEWS TOPICS:
01:26Election 2016: CAFE, trade deals, consumer confidence?
31:22 – Thoughts on Ford EcoSport, Bronco
37:46Phone call: Chinese trade restrictions to change?
49:30Phone call: Trump’s effect on Supreme Court
50:42Auto show relevancy

PANEL: John McElroy, Autoline.tv; Mike Wayland, The Detroit News; Todd Lassa, Automobile; and Chris Paukert, Roadshow by CNET

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SEAT TIME: 2017 Jaguar XE 35t AWD R-Sport – A Superb Sedan With A Quirky HMI

November 9th, 2016 at 9:55am

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Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.


Reviewer:
John McElroy
Vehicle: 2017 Jaguar XE 35t AWD R-Sport
Price: $64,585 (as tested)

Final Impression:

The best thing that ever happened to Jaguar was Ford getting rid of it. The same thing goes for Volvo. Both companies are now blossoming, like phoenix’s rising from the ashes.

Make no mistake, Ford actually rescued both companies. They’d probably be out of business right now if the Blue Oval brand had not taken them under its wing. But while Ford rescued and nurtured them, it failed to let either brand reach its true potential. Happily today, under new ownership, Jaguar and Volvo are flourishing like never before.

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The XE is the perfect example of how that’s happening at Jaguar. Free from mandates to use the corporate parts bin, Jaguar was able to optimize the design of its newest cars and SUVs. It came up with its own new powertrains and the all-aluminum architecture that form the basis of the XE and the F-Pace, and probably most models coming out in the next five years.

As a result, the XE has good bones, a sturdy yet lightweight structure. That allows Jaguar to rely on 4-cylinder turbo-engines as standard equipment on the XE and F-Pace, something that would have been unheard of in the luxury segment just a few years ago. But knowing its customers’ penchant for performance, Jag knew it better have something a little extra up its sleeve.

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And that brings us to the XE 35t AWD R-Sport. Powered by a supercharged 3-liter V6 that cranks out 340 horsepower, it is a big step up from the base XE in performance, appointments and price. It’s the quintessential European touring sedan: powerful, comfortable and premium. Very premium. The fully-loaded version I drove is about twice the price of the base car.

I got the chance to take the car on a long road trip that showed up its strengths and weaknesses. First, the strengths.

This is a great car for extended drives, everything that you would expect from a European touring sedan: powerful and comfortable with plenty of room for front seat passengers (The rear seat knee room is not what you’d call roomy).

It’s especially well suited for winding two-lane roads when you need to open it up and get around lumbering trucks. In fact, you start to look forward to coming up on slow moving vehicles just to have another excuse to punch it and pass.

This is such a delightful car to drive that I found myself forced to engage the cruise control lest the local gendarmes clock me at speeds well over the limit. If you covered up the speedometer and settled in at a speed that felt safe and prudent you would still be breaking the law. At legal speeds this car feels like it’s crawling.

But even though the XE 35t has plenty of punch, I found that in certain situations there can be an annoying amount of lag time before it gets up and goes. At very low speeds, especially when you back off the accelerator then step into it again, it seems to take a moment or two before it opens up. I didn’t expect that from a supercharged engine.

There are several driving modes you can select and what Jaguar calls Dynamic Mode alleviates this condition. But I don’t like having to look down, push a button and select a different driving mode if I suddenly need to select a different mode.

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I also found the touch screen on the instrument panel to be quirky. Most the time it worked fine and I never gave it a second thought. But at other times I’d touch it to select a radio station and the screen would jump up or down. Then I’d touch it again and it would jump again. Then I would try to steady my hand and very carefully and slowly touch and hold my finger in place. That didn’t always work either. Besides, that’s not easy to do when you’re driving down the road because there’s no place to rest your hand. I never quite figured out why it would work fine at some times, but not at others.

Another peeve. When you select “Favorites” to choose the radio station you want, it always defaults to the top of the list. So you have to scroll through several pages to get your station , unless it happens to be on the first page. You can also type in the station number you want, but all this is time consuming and keeps your eyes off the road.

All automakers, including Jaguar, are struggling with their Human Machine Interface issues. Today’s infotainment systems are complicated, have too many features and can be quite distracting. That’s too bad because in this case it really takes away from what is otherwise a superb sedan.

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Seat Time: 2016 BMW M2 – One Trick Pony

November 7th, 2016 at 3:27pm

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Seat Time is a chance for us to share our impressions of vehicles being tested in the Autoline Garage and at media previews from around the globe.

Reviewer: Sean McElroy
Vehicle: 2016 BMW M2
Price: $56,500

Final Impression:

It seems to go without fail when we get a convertible or sports car at the office that some sort of weather phenomenon hits, rendering the best attributes of these vehicles useless. Thankfully the clouds parted ways just long enough for me to romp on the BMW M2 for a little while. And what a blast. It may start out life as a 2 Series, but little is carried over into the M2.

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The turbocharged 3.0L inline 6-cylinder engine makes an awesome sound when wound out. It cranks out 365-horsepower and 343 lb-ft of torque and can be mated to either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed DCT. My tester had the manual, Yay!, which launches the M2 to 60 MPH in 4.4 seconds. But that’s just in a straight line. The car is equally as happy going fast in the corners. The suspension setup is very good and with big ol’ sticky Michelin tires it gives a lot of confidence to go barrelling into turns. My advise to anyone that gets behind the wheel: grip it and rip it. But just in case, there’s large brake calipers and rotors to bring the car to a quick stop.

However, for the true driving purists out there, the M2 likely is not for you. Too many electrical nannies as they say. You can shut them off, but it still takes something away from the car. Who wants to push a bunch of buttons and switch driving modes all the time? Plus, some are good to have for everyday driving, like traction control. The most noticeable is what BMW calls engagement speed control function. In other words, the system blips the throttle on downshifts and lowers the engine’s revs on upshifts. This is for those that haven’t mastered the art of heal-toe driving. Not that it’s a bad thing, but this and electric power steering don’t really reflect ‘Ultimate Driving Machine’ to me. Just sayin’.

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I do like the interior. You get all the nice M touches, which includes a lot of carbon and the seats are comfortable and supportive, even for a tall person. The M2 comes with the latest-generation of iDrive, which has come a long way since the early days and a large center-mounted touchscreen. There’s also access to the BMW ConnectedDrive Services. By downloading smartphone apps, drivers get feedback, like engine speed, steering angle, fuel economy and lap times.

But I found the BMW M2 to be a one trick pony. As good as it is and fun to drive fast, it’s equally as terrible in everyday driving. It’s like Jekyll and Hyde. The ride is very rough and it took work to drive in a civil manner. If you don’t race on a track or drive on twisty roads, the BMW M2 is likely not for you.

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AAH #354 – LOL: Lutz Out Loud

November 4th, 2016 at 11:25am

Audio-only version:

SPECIAL GUEST: Bob Lutz, Chairman, VLF Automotive; CEO, Lutz Communications

PANEL: John McElroy, Autoline.tv; Gary Vasilash, AD&P; Frank Markus, Motor Trend

NEWS TOPICS:
01:30VLF Destino
37:37Doctor Data
39:55 – Lutz’s autonomous predictions
48:20Phone call: Lutz for President 2016!
52:15 – What does Uber do to car ownership?
54:31 – Lutz on Tesla & AutoPilot
57:12 – Opinions on the Chevy Bolt and EVs
1:03:21Viewer questions answered

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