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Seat Time – DOUBLE VISION: 2016 Honda Civic EX & Apple CarPlay

August 16th, 2016 at 2:11pm

2016 Honda Civic Sedan

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:
Chip Drake
Vehicle: 2016 Honda Civic EX
Price: $22,875

Final Impression:

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A tried and true storytelling vehicle for many a television or movie script has been the doppelganger. Now if you don’t recognize the technique by its Germanic name, chances are you will by this American description: that’s when there is a double of one of the lead characters inserted into the storyline usually for nefarious purposes.

Well recently, I encountered a doppelganger of my own and it all started on a trip to Carmel, California, better known as Clint Eastwood’s backyard.

This hamlet is a good 90-minutes or so from the larger Bay Area airports on some nice driving roads. So to take advantage of them, our friends at Honda loaned me a 2016 Honda Civic EX to drive to the event.

What could be more fun, right? A Civic equipped with Honda’s 2-Liter 4-cylinder 158 horsepower engine and a CVT tackling those great roads I mentioned before. Add to that the car had Honda’s Sensing Package with 6 safety features like Lane Keeping Assist, which gave me even more confidence that it was going to be a pressure-free drive.

But that’s when I experienced the doppelganger.

As I checked out the Civic prior to leaving the airport, I noticed that it didn’t have its own navigation. Since I needed help getting to my destination, I thought that the car might be equipped with Apple CarPlay. Though the monroney didn’t list it, knowing that Civic sales are heavy on millennials, it made sense it would it would be part of the package. I opened the center armrest storage unit, found the USB outlet and plugged in my phone. But much to my surprise nothing happened.

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This was a true head scratcher because when I clicked “Settings” on the 7-inch Touchscreen Display, I got a dialogue box telling me that I needed an iPhone to engage CarPlay, which is what was already plugged into the system.

Well, I had to get to my event, so I did the next best thing which was to use my iPhone by itself. The challenge was the directional voice was not coming through the Civic’s audio system, so for the entire journey I was dividing my attention between driving and reviewing the phone’s map.

After finally arriving, I reviewed a video that a Honda Communications representative had sent me in response to my query about the setup of the Civic. It was a simple “How to use Apple CarPlay.” As I watched it a light bulb went off; it wasn’t a problem with my phone, the problem was the Civic’s doppelganger.

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Yes, it turns out that the outlet I was plugged into – in the Center Storage bin — was the wrong USB. I should have hooked up in the USB port underneath the Center Stack. Once I plugged my phone in there, Apple CarPlay lit up like Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

And thank goodness it worked because I needed it. Having to leave at 4am on my return trip to the airport, CarPlay took me right there. With turn-by- turn directions on the Touchscreen and Siri doing the audio backup, it was heaven compared to the drive down. In fact you might even call it fun.

So the moral of my story is beware of doppelgangers. Whether you experience them through famous episodes of the original Star Trek (“Mirror, Mirror”) or comedies like Seinfeld (“The Bizzaro Jerry”), remember that it’s not just a TV Series that can create confusing doubles; Sometimes they’re disguised as harmless USB ports as well.

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Seat Time – 2016 BMW 650i Coupe – A Jet On Wheels

August 12th, 2016 at 2:55pm

BMW 650i Coupe

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: Seamus McElroy
Vehicle: 2016 BMW 650i Coupe
Price: $91,500 (as tested)

Final Impression:

Once upon a time BMW used to make airplane engines. But even though the company doesn’t make those anymore, when you’re behind the wheel of the 650i Coupe it feels like you’re in a jet plane.

That’s because there’s a monster 4.4L turbo V8 under the hood that’s mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission. And as you can imagine it makes this rear-wheel drive car extremely powerful. The set-up cranks out 445 horsepower and you’re instantly thrown into the back of the seat when you stomp on the accelerator. That’s because this thing can do 0 to 60 MPH in just 4.5 seconds. But even though the car is made for speed, the ride is very smooth and refined thanks to the transmission and suspension.

Fuel economy isn’t great but it’s not terrible either. It’s rated at 17 MPG in the city and 25 on the highway, so you’ll average around 20 MPG depending on how you drive it. But if you’re buying this car, fuel economy is likely the least of your concerns. And speaking of fuel economy, unlike other BMW’s, especially past models, the start/stop system is very smooth and isn’t jarring when the engine kicks back on.

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But the powertrain isn’t the only thing that makes you feel like you’re in a cockpit of a plane. Inside, the gauges and center stack are oriented toward the driver and the driver and passenger being separated by a large center console. But it’s still a luxurious interior, thanks to all the leather and other soft touch points.

Overall, I really liked the 650i Coupe. It’s got a great sleek design and it’s an absolute blast to drive, especially when you have the road to yourself. But at the end of the day, this is just a toy for someone wealthy enough to afford its $91,500 price tag.

BMW 650i Coupe

AAH #342 – Is Local Motors The End Of The Auto Industry?

August 11th, 2016 at 3:00pm

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Local Motors is bringing a radically different business model to the automotive industry. No design studios. No engineering staff. No massive factories. No dealerships. In other words, no massive capital investments. If they can make it work it could completely turn the industry upside down. Justin Fishkin, the Chief Strategy Officer of Local Motors, joins John and Gary for a most interesting conversation on the brave new world of crowd-sourced car design.

SPECIAL GUEST: Justin Fishkin, Chief Strategy Officer, Local Motors

All that and more with hosts John McElroy from Autoline.tv and Gary Vasilash, Automotive Design & Production.

Thanks to our sponsors who make Autoline After Hours possible: Bridgestone and Lear Corporation.

Subscribe to the free podcast version of Autoline After Hours:

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Seat Time – 2017 Audi A4 – How I Came To Hate Lane Keeping

August 11th, 2016 at 1:30pm

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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 Audi A4
Price: From $37,300

Final Impression:

“What the hell is wrong with this car?” I asked myself. I was driving down the freeway at 70 miles an hour in a steady rain. And the car was wandering from one side of my lane to the other. It felt as if the steering gear had ground off half its teeth. The on-center feel was so vague that it felt like the steering wheel was loose.

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So I quickly went through a mental checklist. Could I be hydroplaning? No way, I thought. It wasn’t raining hard enough and I wasn’t driving fast enough. Besides, this was an Audi with Quattro—all wheel drive—and Audi’s are exceptionally good all-weather cars.

Could it be bad EPAS calibration? After all, as cars have migrated to electric power assisted steering, there’s been a long learning curve as engineers try to get them to behave like good old mechanical steering. And it’s obvious that some automakers are much better than others at calibrating EPAS. But I quickly crossed that thought off the list, too. We’re talking about Audi, I told myself, and there’s no way they got the calibration this bad.

And then it occurred to me. It had to be some sort of lane-keeping system, you know, those systems designed to automatically keep the car in between the lane markers. But while I’ve driven lots of cars with lane-keeping, I had never come across anything this aggressive. It kept adjusting the steering even when the car was tracking in a straight line.

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I quickly scanned the instrument panel to find a switch to turn it off. I couldn’t find a thing. Then I scanned the center console for a switch. Nothing. That’s when I gave up. I had to keep my eyes on the road instead of searching for a switch.

Later, back in the safety of my garage at home, I searched more thoroughly. I checked the bottom half of the instrument panel, especially to the left of the steering wheel, where most automakers put these kinds of switches. Nothing. I went through all the menus on the screen on the center console. Nothing. I looked in the glove box for an owners manual, always my move of last resort, but this car didn’t have a manual. Frustrated, I gave up.

The next day, a quick call to the helpful people at Audi’s public relations department quickly solved the problem. They confirmed that I was probably feeling the lane-keeping system and told me that I could turn it off with a button at the tip of the turn signal.

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Now, before you think I’m a complete idiot, I hasten to point out that the steering wheel blocks your view of the end of the turn signal stalk. I never saw it. But sure enough, once I knew where it was, it was easy to turn off.

And that cured everything. Suddenly I went from driving a car with a propensity to wander within its lane to a proper Audi that steered exactly the way I wanted it to. What a difference! From total frustration to driving bliss. All with the flick of a switch.

After that all I can report about this car is that it’s everything you’d expect from an Audi A4. Well-crafted, visually appealing, responsive, nimble, um, what else can I say? It’s the kind of car that will appeal to almost every upscale car buyer…except when it’s in lane-keeping mode.

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Seat Time: 2016 Lexus ES 350 – My Kind of Boring

August 10th, 2016 at 3:25pm

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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 Lexus ES 350
Price: ~$39,000 (as tested)

Final Impression:

Ever since the beginning, all the way back to 1989, the Lexus ES has been based off the Toyota Camry platform. But the car has started to pull away from its roots. In 2013 the ES was switched over to a modified platform with a nearly 2-inch longer wheelbase than the Camry. The move has pushed the ES more in line with the full-size Avalon.

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And to keep it more in line with its newest offerings, Lexus slapped a bigger and bolder version of its spindle grille on for the 2016 model year. It also received some minor tweaks to the rear fascia and interior as well. But the big change was the grille. And while I generally hear how bad the spindle grille looks, sales of the ES have not changed all that much since the switch. They’re down only slightly through the first seven months of the year and were actually up over 8.5% in July compared to the month before.

And I think I know why people are still flocking to the car. Because the Lexus ES is boring. Now, before you go thinking I’m messing with you, let me explain.

Aside from the grille, there is absolutely nothing on this car that will make you go, WOW! It’s not all that fast. The suspension is too soft to push the car hard into corners. The dash layout looks old and outdated. And there’s no sweet new technology that you can’t get from the competition.

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But what this car will do for you is, get you from Point A to Point B reliably every time. It will do it with adequate power and have enough on tap if you need to get up and go. It will do it with a smooth ride and comfortable seats the entire way. And the buttons and knobs for controlling functions, like the vents and infotainment screen are mostly intuitive and easy to use.

So, while the Lexus ES maybe a boring car, it’s the kind of boring some people can really get behind.

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Seat Time: 2016 Cadillac Escalade Platinum – Pros & Cons

August 8th, 2016 at 11:51am

2017 Cadillac Escalade Platinum

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 Cadillac Escalade Platinum
Price: ~$93,600 (as tested)

Final Impression:

My biggest take away from time spent in the Cadillac Escalade is that, with Magnetic Ride Control suspension, it’s the best-riding, modern-day body-on-frame (BoF) vehicle I’ve ever been in. It’s just very smooth over nearly any kind of road surface. If you’re coming from a BoF vehicle and didn’t care for the experience, I say give the Escalade with magnetic ride a shot. Heck, even if you’re coming from the previous model year, I say try it out. There’s all kinds of new tweaks, including fancy new body mounts, that contribute to an overall good driving experience. I must note, however, the suspension system performed poorly on washboard dirt roads. The shocks seemed to get too stiff and the vehicle just kind of danced across the road, all while shaking the heck out of me and my passengers. I’ve driven the same set of roads in vehicles without magnetic shocks that didn’t have the same reaction.

While this was my biggest take away, here are my other thoughts on the newest ‘Slade. And while the version I drove was a Platinum model with nearly every option, the remainder of my observations could be applied to any trim level. For example, while John noted the new CT6 with 4-wheel steer has a 2-foot narrower turning radius than the Escalade, the big SUV actually beats out a lot of its competitors with a 39-foot radius. It grabbed my attention how nimble it was turning in and out of parking spaces.

Another note is that the Escalade has a high load height with the rear seats folded flat. I noticed while piling mine up with a bunch of sand for a sand box. It was taxing to have to sling all those bags up onto the floor.

2017 Cadillac Escalade

The brake pedal also wasn’t as responsive as I would have liked. I had to hit the pedal harder at times than I was expecting I would have to. It’s possible that’s just how the system is calibrated and everything is fine. But I would not be surprised if brakes wear out quicker than other vehicles on these new Escalades.

And speaking of things not living up to my expectations, I found the engine to be a little unrefined. There was a minor flutter at idle. While not terrible, it was there. And after I noticed it, it was hard to get out of my head. Now, I will say I have no way of knowing what kind of gas was in my test vehicle. I figure this to be a possible reason for the flutter and one of the only unknown factors at play. It’s possible the truck could have had poor low-grade fuel in it at the time. But let’s for a moment say it did, I still think it’s important to note how it might perform with low-grade gas. Many people fill up with whatever is cheapest and it’s possible it could cause an engine flutter. I’d love to get another and fill it up with gas myself to see how it reacts.

While it may seem like I’m bashing the Escalade a bit, I actually liked my time in it and I’d recommend testing one out to someone who’s in the market for a nice luxury SUV. But if strongly considering one, I’d also recommend a good background check with current owners to see how they’re holding up.

2016 Cadillac Escalade

Seat Time – 2016 Dodge Journey Crossroad

August 5th, 2016 at 10:45am

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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: Katie Gritzinger
Vehicle: 2016 Dodge Journey Crossroad plus AWD
Price: $34,660 as tested

Final Impression:

Driving north to CAR’s Management Briefing Seminars in Traverse City, I had a lot of time to learn what the 2016 Dodge Journey Crossroad can (and can’t) do. I initially was not much of a Dodge brand fan, in my opinion, their vehicles have boring interior and exterior, and the shapes of the Charger, Challenger, Avenger are too muscular. However, I’ve been at least partially sold on my journey in this Journey.

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For starters, this car is comfortable! I had no issue sitting in the drivers seat for four hours straight. Coffee really saved me on my early morning drive, because the seat basically felt like a recliner. I had plenty of room in the front and back seats for my suitcase and equipment. Even with the third row seats up, this car has a trunk that was suitable for me, though it would be way too small for a family of six on vacation. I felt really safe driving the Journey. Sitting at a bit of a higher elevation helped me feel like I had power on the road, and I couldn’t help but think, “maybe this is why people want those giant trucks…”

A bit of a peeve for me, and something that I noticed immediately in this vehicle was the audio system. Having just driven a VW Passat with easy to use Apple CarPlay, it saddens me a little to say that the Journey just wasn’t on par. Not only did it take about five minutes to connect Bluetooth audio, but the USB audio wasn’t on it’s game either. As a Spotify user, I like when I can connect via USB to charge my phone and listen simultaneously, especially on those long road trips.

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The Journey was doing this weird thing where it would allow me to play my iTunes music via USB, but refused to allow Spotify to run smoothly. The car’s system somehow caused my app to skip from song to song to song after only a few seconds. Weird. Once connected to Bluetooth audio, my issues with music were gone, but because the Journey wouldn’t let me connect to USB while using Bluetooth, I sacrificed my charging capability to listen to music and stay awake (by singing Bruce Springsteen at the top of my lungs).

As far as a midsize crossover goes, the Journey places somewhere in the middle for me. MPG for the vehicle is supposed to be up to 16 city and 24 highway, better than some, but being a green loving millennial, I feel pretty awful driving anything that doesn’t hit at least 30 highway. The base MSRP for the Journey SE is $20,995, but the Crossroad I tested was a bit pricier, starting around $29,795. With some extra features, mine was bumped up to $34,660. My suggestion: if you don’t have children and don’t need a big vehicle like the Journey, go with something that has a more updated audio system and some cooler bells and whistles (and hopefully better mpg). When my car finally quits on me, I’m considering a move to a 2017 Cruze or a Civic Coupe. Less cost, cooler gadgets. But that’s just me.

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AAH #341 – On The Wright Track For Electrification

August 4th, 2016 at 3:00pm

Audio-only version:

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Automakers are under enormous pressure to improve fuel economy. But the regulations were written when gasoline prices were soaring and now they’re the cheapest in decades. How can automakers improve fuel efficiency and still get consumers to buy the right mix of vehicles. Join us as we discuss the choices the industry faces.

SPECIAL GUEST: MaryAnn Wright, Group VP, Johnson Controls

All that and more with hosts John McElroy from Autoline.tv and Gary Vasilash, Automotive Design & Production, with guest analyst Michelle Krebs of Autotrader.com.

Thanks to our sponsors who make Autoline After Hours possible: Bridgestone and Lear Corporation.

Subscribe to the free podcast version of Autoline After Hours:

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#InternYazaki: Keys to Supplier Success & More at CAR MBS 2016

August 4th, 2016 at 12:39pm


Autoline is partnering with Yazaki to offer a unique perspective of the 2016 CAR Management Briefing Seminars. During the week of CAR MBS, Yazaki interns will be posting their insights to Instagram and Twitter using #InternYazaki as well as Snapchat. We’ll be sharing some of the most interesting of those posts right here on Autoline.tv, so check back often. The opinions and reports from the intern correspondents are their own and do not reflect the editorial position of Autoline.


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#InternYazaki: VW’s Electric Future & More at CAR MBS 2016

August 3rd, 2016 at 4:35pm


Autoline is partnering with Yazaki to offer a unique perspective of the 2016 CAR Management Briefing Seminars. During the week of CAR MBS, Yazaki interns will be posting their insights to Instagram and Twitter using #InternYazaki as well as Snapchat. We’ll be sharing some of the most interesting of those posts right here on Autoline.tv, so check back often. The opinions and reports from the intern correspondents are their own and do not reflect the editorial position of Autoline.


continue reading »