Episode 920 – New Car Prices Drop, Volvo I-See, Ford Engine Impressions

June 27th, 2012 at 11:46am

Runtime: 10:54

Car buyers are paying an average of $500 less on new vehicles compared to a year ago. Volvo has developed a new fuel-saving system for commercial trucks called I-See that harnesses a truck’s kinetic energy to save  fuel. A test drive of Ford’s 2.0-liter EcoBoost-powered Taurus as well as the company’s 1.0-liter three cylinder engine. All that and more, plus a look at John’s trip to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

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Hello and welcome to Autoline Daily.  It’s June 27, 2012. I’m Seamus McElroy filling in for John today.  Let’s get to the news.

Good news for car buyers. Kelley Blue Book reports that consumers are paying an average of $500 less on new vehicles compared to a year ago. Japanese automakers are no longer dealing with inventory issues caused by natural disasters last year. This means supply is meeting demand and as a result transaction prices are down. On average, car prices from Japanese automakers are down $700 to $1200, compared to the Detroit automakers which are down less than $500. This has helped Japanese automakers recover market share this year.

Volvo has developed a new fuel-saving system for commercial trucks called I-See that harnesses a truck’s kinetic energy to save fuel. I-See is linked to the transmissions tilt sensor and obtains topography information digitally, no maps are needed. As a truck approaches a hill it accelerates and downshifts are avoided to save fuel. On the way down the truck drives in neutral and the engine is idled. Near the bottom the brakes are applied to avoid speeding and at the end of the hill the truck is put in neutral and uses kinetic energy to build up speed. Volvo says I-See can help save about 1,000 liters or 260 gallons of fuel a year for trucks that travel 140,000 kilometers or about 87,000 miles annually. I-See will be available next year.

Yesterday Ford hosted a massive drive event at its proving ground in Dearborn, Michigan. Hundreds of members of the media were in attendance, including, of course, Autoline Daily. A surprising amount of news came out of this little dog and pony show. Among other things, we were given an opportunity to test drive some of the company’s latest products, including the 2.0-liter EcoBoost-powered Taurus as well as Ford’s 1.0-liter three cylinder engine. First, let’s talk Taurus. We love the 2.0-liter turbo in other applications, and it’s just as good in a full-size sedan. Output is 240 horsepower, which can really move this big, heavy car! With lots of low- and mid-range torque it will even squeal the tires if you punch it from a standstill. 32 miles per gallon on the highway seals the deal and helps make the standard V-6 engine obsolete. Next up, the 1.0-liter EcoBoost three. This was the real wild card. Loaded with high-end features it churns out 123 horsepower. It was matched to a six-speed manual transmission in the Focus hatchbacks we tested it in. On the track it was SUPER SMOOTH, offered plenty of punch and stellar fuel economy. We can’t wait for this to go on sale in North America.

Coming up next, a look at John’s trip to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, we’ll be back right after this.

(John’s trip to Le Mans is only available in the video version of today’s show.)

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56 Comments to “Episode 920 – New Car Prices Drop, Volvo I-See, Ford Engine Impressions”

  1. geelong vic Says:

    Thanks for the video clip from Le Mans. Back-up battery in the future?

  2. pedro fernandez Says:

    John, for a second there, I thought you were at an adult video convention! Nice public transportation, we can’t have that here cause we have the expense of being the world’s police force.

  3. Chuck Grenci Says:

    John, it sounds as you had a fantastic time; thanks for sharing.

    On Volvo’s I-SEE; don’t think I want trucks running down hill, in neutral. Heck I even remember that that is frowned upon in automobiles. (I thought Volvo was the ‘safety car company.)

  4. Earl Says:

    John….what a great video you took at Le Mans. It looked like Nissan was a great host.

  5. Kit Gerhart Says:

    In addition to being the world’s police force, we have low fuel taxes that won’t even maintain the roads, while other countries with higher fuel taxes use fuel tax money to help build great mass transit systems.

  6. Kit Gerhart Says:

    It will be interesting to see what gas mileage the turbo 3 gets in the Focus, but it should be good. That engine should also work well in the Fiesta.

  7. pedro fernandez Says:

    All these new fancy-schmancy engines sound lovely when new and under warranty, but what happens when the 5 yr itch begins? complicated mechanical issues that most techs won’t be able to fix, there goes $$$ for dealer service.

  8. Kit Gerhart Says:

    To me, whether I’d want one of these direct injection turbos would depend on how much it buys you. In the case of the turbo V6 vs the 5 liter V8 in the pickup, the answer is “not much” as far as gas mileage, but the turbo drives nicely.

    I’d think the three cylinder in the Focus should get really good city mpg, but we’ll have to wait and see. It sounds interesting, though. If such tech really buys you a lot of efficiency, I’ll expect to see it in the next generation Prius in 2015 or so. I think it would be called “Miller cycle” when you have a force-fed Atkinson cycle engine.

  9. MJB Says:

    #7 – I don’t know, Pedro. The way they’re building them now, maybe it’ll become the ’7 or 8 yr itch’.

    Either way, I think you’re right. More money for stealership. And that’s just fine for them, beause service is the real revenue driver of a dealership, not sales.

  10. Ken Stadden Says:

    John, I will almost certainly never visit Le Mans, so your video was greatly appreciated. It was a fascinating glimpse into the automotive journalist’s world. Thanks for editing that together. In the 1990s I got a VIP pass to watch racing in the streets of De Moines. Sounds similar, doesn’t it? Sort of?…

  11. C-Tech Says:

    @ #7
    Yes these engines are more complex, and the real question is will the buying public continue to buy them or choose simple, and maybe less efficient, engines? The question I have with the 4-cyl Taurus, is how crippling will it be to lose 25% of your power with a fouled plug in a near 2 ton car?

  12. pedro fernandez Says:

    #9 Itching has more to do with age and experience than the car itself, as you age, the itch becomes easier to ignore, usually relieved by a test drive or a weekend rental. When a car starts to fail you, it is not an itch, but a necessity.

  13. MJB Says:


    The ‘buying public’ is totally ignorant of what’s underneath the hood or how any of that ‘black magic’ even works. All they know is, ‘It get’s me from home to work and gets X-miles per gallon’.

    All they need to hear from the auto industry is it’ll use less gas and deliver even better performance than the car they’re driving now, and they’re hooked.

  14. pedro fernandez Says:

    I find it interesting that Ford does not use the term turbo when describing their engines, but instead use Eco Boost, I will be willing to bet a lot of these buyers are not even aware that they’re buying a turbo, with it’s well-earned reputation for short lifespan and increased maintenance and repair costs, it is a shrew marketing ploy.

  15. C-Tech Says:

    Enjoyed the coverage of LeMons John. I did not think about how good public transit can be when properly done and funded. What happens to the temporary structures? That seems like an excellant idea for emergency shelter after a storm. Hopefully some people from the Detroit Grand Prix can take note of how the French handled their race and make improvements.

  16. MJB Says:


    Got it.

  17. C-Tech Says:

    @ #14
    Pedro you are right, and as you mention it, neither does GM. Chevy calls their engine “Ecotec”, the 1.4L turbo in the Cruze.

  18. MJB Says:


    Pedro, I think you already know the answer to that. Just saying “ECO Boost” makes one feel ECO conscious and ECO freindly. Kinda like the every so gentle male voice in that one ad spot (whose name I won’t mention – but we’ve all seen and heard) that says, “And look…they’ve used recycled rubber…blah, blah, blah”

    I’m sure Ford figures, ‘Why not capitalize on the general public’s thirst for ECO this and ECO that?’

  19. pedro fernandez Says:

    John, don’t feel bad, I’ve stayed at worst “hotels” in Atlantic City in the past and I had to pay for them! Oh, and no free food either. #17 I stand corrected, I guess “Eco” has replaced “Turbo” in the auto world.

  20. pedro fernandez Says:

    Service tech to Ford owner in a few years: “Madam, it seems like the boost part of the eco-boost system has failed and it will run you $900.00 plus tax to fix it, but you did save that much in gas over the years, did you not?”

  21. C-Tech Says:

    John, the Nissan motel looked like a very nice Motel 6 :)

  22. Brett Says:

    Everyone knows that turbocharger metallurgy, technology and reliability are exactly the same as they were back in the eighties. Same as emissions controls, fuel injection and computers.

    It stands to reason, therefore, that these engines will be unreliable money pits within a year or two of purchase, ’cause nothing ever changes. Ever.

  23. pedro fernandez Says:

    Only time, CR and JD Power will tell!

  24. 012345 Says:

    Sorry, I black out after ‘McElroy in Rave’,

    Rated R’ aside.

    So Mr. McElroy, where were you during most of the race? Did you see any of the crashes? The Toyota Vs Nissan “accident”? what happen after in the Nissan pits? More video please :)

  25. MJB Says:

    #20 – Disco!

  26. Kit Gerhart Says:

    GM has used the name “ecotech” since the late 90′s or early 2000′s for a series or 16 valve 4 cylinder engines. Most of them have been naturally aspirated. The prefix “eco” has been good for a long time, whether it means anything or not.

    I’ve had some turbos, including the ’89 Caravan I still have, and I like the way they work. Still, I’d rather not have a turbo in a car I planned to drive 300K miles, unless it provided a real fuel economy improvement, which seems not to be the case. With diesels, things are different. Turbos provide a huge increase in available power, without hurting fuel economy.

  27. pedro fernandez Says:

    CR just ripped a new one on the Scion IQ, did not give one single reason why anyone should buy it, and also praised, yes PRAISED the new Challenger, holy cow! is this the end of civilization?

  28. HtG Says:

    Nice job there, Seamus.

  29. HtG Says:

    Say John, you didn’t tell us what that little treat on your cell’s pillow was. Was it delicieux?

  30. cwolf Says:

    The metalurgy used in todays turbos can withstand higher temperatures and improvements in heat disapation should result in longer life and reliability,but time will tell.

    Kit, The C-Max is reported to get 47city/44hwy. The same as the 2013 Fusion hyb. Initial claims are said to be much better than the Prius,except for cargo space. I’m trying to figure out why buy a C-max when the Fusion prolly exceedes all of its virtues. Share your thoughts. Pretty interesting report and comments on the LeftLane site.

    Is Lincoln pulling a fast one again or are they finally getting serious? They want to make a car of their own based upon the 2013 Mustang platform. The Linc. version is said to have an independant rear end! So, I wonder if the next gen Mustang will share this change?

  31. Kit Gerhart Says:

    The iQ is one of those cars you buy, just because you want something different. It would only make sense, objectively, for someone who needs a car that will fit into a really small parking place. Not many Americans deal with that. Its only real competition in the U.S. is the smart, and the iQ is much better than that, just because of the smart’s transmission is so awful.

    I always liked the Challenger, for what it is, but it’s so big and heavy. That gives it a better ride and roomier back seat than Mustang or Camaro, but it’s not as sporty driving. I see quite a few of them in central Indiana, no doubt because of the large number of Chrysler workers.

  32. HtG Says:

    cwolf, would you think an Ecoboost engine or 3cylinder made today can make it to 200K if it is maintained properly? I may be looking for very high mileage car.

  33. cwolf Says:

    I await the 1.0litre turbo in the Focus. 50 mpg hwy with a non-turbo should capture anyones attension. I have driven several new Focus and think the ride is good enough for the way I commute. Must say the mpg’s make the ride feel better.

  34. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I’d buy a C-Max over the Fusion hybrid for one reason. It is a wagon, much better for carrying “stuff” than a sedan. If I didn’t want that capability, I’m sure I’d like the Fusion better; it would just be a “nicer” car.

    I’m thinking the Prius V should have a “bigger” power train, maybe the one used in the Camry hybrid. City mileage would be slightly worse, but highway mileage would probably be as good, and it would perform better. If the C-Max turns out as good as promised, I suspect Toyota will be considering some changes to the V.

    I’ll check out Left Lane News later; going to dinner now.

  35. C-Tech Says:

    @ #22 and #26
    I do not doubt there have been major improvements in turbocharger and engine management technologies since Chrysler and Buick tried to put them on every other engine they built in the 1980′s. What has not changed is that these engines have more moving parts, lower tolerance for failures, and are more expensive to repair than normally aspirated engines. Many people who will buy a used, or still own a Taurus, Cruze, or Ford F-150 in the year 2018 and beyond are in for higher priced repairs as those parts wear out or break. Unlike you Kit, who I suspect takes very good care of your 89 Minivan with the turbo, there are many other owners who will be lax with their maintenence, or abuse these engines. We already have Yahoo and other non-automotive publications advocating 7k to 8k between oil changes on regular oil. This will mean forgetful consumers going 10k between oil changes and more expensive repairs. Even minor repairs become more complex with a turbocharged engine. The fact is a V-6 Taurus or Impala only loses about 16% power with a fouled plug, not 25%, maybe more if the system shuts down the turbocharger.

  36. HtG Says:

    35 you’ve got my reasons precisely for holding onto the Civic. Simple, cheap, quality. I won’t be happy if someone ‘totals’ the car.

  37. Kit Gerhart Says:

    My van has been an “occasional use” vehicle for many years, and only has 70K miles.

    An impressive thing about the current bunch of turbos, is that most of them are ok with regular gas. My van is supposed to get premium, and it’s only 150hp out of 2.5 liters, turbocharged. That’s not very high specific power.

  38. cwolf Says:

    @#32 HtG: Logically,a 3 cyl in a small car should be under less/equal stress than running on 4 cyl’s in a larger car,like the Caddy,as long as speeds remain relatively constant. Phys say what is in motion stays in motion,right? Beyond the hype of todays turbos,the visitors in my plant express confidence in turbos based upon test results available to them. But my questions of failure rates and conditions of them remain a question to that could not be answered. So…Let’s think about this. How often will the turbo kick in in city driving? If you are a normal hwy driver,how often will the turbo be needed? My guess is that current new or used units will surpass a normal drivers expectations as long as follows the standard practices of car care. If one needs replced or repair,sure it will be one of the higher repair costs,yet would it not be much different than many other repair on todays cars? I bet an Audi or VW owner wouldn’t even bat an eye! I think your safe if a used unit is credibly inspected.

  39. HtG Says:

    thanks for your answer, cwolf, though I thought turbos were being set to give boost at low rpms, so that drivers felt low end grunt. I don’t think I could buy such a car without carefully reading the service schedule and costs; who knows what any given dealer will ‘come up with’ as recommended maintenance.

    I wish more auto journalists lived in the world of going to the dealership, looking left, and coughing.

  40. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Turbochargers are spinning all the time, and are spinning fast. The bearing are some kind of very hard ceramic ball bearings, or so I’ve heard. Early turbos were cooled only by the engine oil that lubricates them, and there could be a problem with the oil burning and forming hard, abrasive stuff in bearing areas after the engine was shut off. My van, and I think all the Garrett turbochargers used by Chrysler from the mid-80′s onward run engine coolant to the bearing/seal area which helped.

  41. cwolf Says:

    Kit: even at lower rpm’s, as long as added heat is not generated by an excessive and frequent pulse of the gas pedal the turbo should endure a long time.

  42. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Today, turbos in “mainstream” vehicles, like the Fords, run almost constant boost over a wide rpm range, to give almost constant torque from maybe 2000-5000 rpm. This “feels good” to a lot of people. To me, it seems hard to appreciate with an automatic transmission that doesn’t even let you know what the engine characteristics are like.

  43. cwolf Says:

    I don’t think brgs are as big as an issue as heat dissipation and when driven normally the system will perform as designed. My intended comment in #39 was to make one aware of habitual “lead footing” and turbos don’t mix.

  44. Kit Gerhart Says:

    I agree, that they should last a long time. How long, only time will tell. The same applies to the engines. A turbo 4 delivering 200 lb-ft of torque will have 50% more load per rod than a non-turbo six delivering the same torque. I suspect the car companies are doing what they need to for them to hold up, in spite of that.

  45. Earl Says:

    John…..after reading all these concerns about turbochargers perhaps it’s time to have someone on from Honeywell (Garret) to bring everyone up to date on to-days turbochargers. I know to-days turbo’s have to have more reliability and durability that what GM and Chrysler used in the 80′s.
    It’s that 70′s and 80′s experience,much like diesel engines,that gets in the road for a lot of people.
    Talking about names like EchoTech and EchoBoost that camouflage turbocharging. I frequently ask people how they like the electric power steering in their car. Most car owners still equate power steering with that power sapping hydraulic pump.

  46. pedro fernandez Says:

    Turbos continue to use bearings that will eventually give out and need to be replaced, no matter what they make them with, unless they use titanium, I suppose, as far as electric power steering, up to now, those who crave great steering feel have shunned them, however the new units found in the Toyo/baru twins knock that theory out the window, from the little bit of driving I experienced, they are spot on.

  47. cwolf Says:

    pedro,if your remark about bearings wearing out is in reference to the turbo chat,think about wheel bearings in your car. How many wheel bearings have you replaced in the life of any of your cars? I have never had to change a pair of them…ever! I recon turbo bearings are of a no less of an equal.

  48. HtG Says:

    If anyone would like to get a baseline for electric steering feedback, briefly drive a 2008 Versa. Eight shots of ice cold Vodka will have a similar effect, I think.

  49. pedro fernandez Says:

    Cwolf I think the bearings on the turbo turn a lot faster and are subjected to more heat than those in your wheels, right? I saw a show from the UK called Wheeler Dealers where the tech had to change the bearings on a Saab turbo cause they were loose and caused the turbo to malfunction

  50. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Turbochargers turn really fast, like over 100,000 rpm, and the exhaust side gets very hot. From my experience with them, two on Chryslers, and two on VW’s they are 100% reliable, but I’ve never had one over 70K miles.

  51. C-Tech Says:

    My experience with turbochargers on modern Diesel pickup trucks is that after about 150K reliability is a question of maintenence. That seems to be the failure point for average or below average maintence. The same goes for the direct fuel injectors, although a Diesel engine is a tougher environment for an injector. Since many buyers have 5yr payments and keep their cars longer, a turbocharged engine may become a financial issue down the road. If these Ford engines fail in any numbers down the road, Ford will not warranty them (like they did not warranty V-8 Taurus SHO engines that failed at 60-80K) and those buyer will turn to other brands. 2018 and beyond will be interesting for trade-ins.

  52. dcars Says:

    Thanks for the video of LeMans it looks like a lot of fun.

  53. Kit Gerhart Says:

    Is there any turbocharger maintrnance on the diesel pickups, other than changing the engine oil?

  54. C-Tech Says:

    There is no separate maint. for turbochargers for GM, and I do not think Dodge (Cummins) has a separate maint for them either. Turbo life is vey dependent on engine oil and coolant maint., more so with the variable vane turbochargers.

  55. ukendoit Says:

    I was not impressed with Seamus when he first started reviewing cars. He seemed very uncomfortable and stiff. Seamus has come a long way and has earned his spot at the helm. No one can replace John, but Seamus is now worthy of sharing the fill-in status with the rest of your great stand-ins.
    Long time viewer/first time poster,

  56. Truman Lewis Says:

    Seamus good job, fine reporting and hosting, John thanks for the LeMans mini tour.