Monday, September 29, 2014

Camouflaging The 2016 Chevy Volt


GM has already let the world know that the 2016 Chevy Volt will be new and improved when it debuts at the North American International Auto Show in January. To build some extra hype they’ve released a series of camouflaged spy pics to start a discussion about the challenges of defeating spy photographers who want a shot of this next-gen plug-in hybrid (and have indeed snapped a few).
It is the engineers, rather than the stylists, who designed the camouflage in an effort to conceal the 2016 Volt’s new look, and still pull pertinent data out of the on-road tests meant to challenge the car’s weight and aerodynamic efficiency. GM engineers use several methods to conceal test cars, including;
  • Black and white patterns – The color scheme creates a shadow that hides vehicle design elements.
  • 3D – Layered camouflage throws off onlookers, but has to be applied without interrupting airflow around the car.
  • Swirls – In the old days of car camouflage, the design relied mainly on a grid pattern, but over the years engineers discovered that girds are difficult to realign if a piece is removed to make a change to the car. Swirl patterns better hide such developments.
  • Bubble wrap – Camouflage can be made from many different materials including plastics, vinyl and foam. Good, old bubble wrap is a lightweight, easily attachable three-dimensional material used to confuse prying eyes.
Unfortunately, the cropped photograph GM included with the story doesn’t give away much about the Volt’s new look, though when combined with the earlier teaser of the backend, one can start to form the very basic outlines of the 2016 Chevy Volt. From what I can gather, it’ll be less polarizing in its looks, but stronger too in a more conventional sense. More range and more room are two things Chevy Volt customers wanted most, and a new marketing campaign is in the works too.
With a look that better fits the rest of the corporate fleet, as well as a myriad of other improvements, can the Volt breakthrough into the mainstream?
The post Camouflaging The 2016 Chevy Volt appeared first on Gas 2.

Time Has Run Out For The Toyota RAV4 EV


Three years ago, Tesla Motors and Toyota struck a deal to produce 2,600 battery-powered RAV4 EVs. The last of those electric crossovers has arrived in California to fulfill the deal, reports InsideEVs and with Toyota committing to its hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, there are no plans to replace the RAV4 EV anytime soon.
That means that this could be your last chance to get a fresh and new Toyota RAV4 EV, possibly forever. Though not without their problems, the 103-mile rated driving range per charge and $50,000 MSRP (thoughincentives made it much cheaper) make it more versatile and affordable than many other EVs. As InsideEVs reports though, 2,130 of the 2,600 have already been sold or leased, and a few of the remaining models may already be earmarked by Toyota for other purposes. That leaves as little as 300 RAV4 EVs left to be had.
Will Toyota pull a GM move and crush the leased models it gets back? Perhaps, though unlike GM, Toyota did sell a few RAV4 EVs, though it does nothing to support buyers who live outside of California, the only place you could actually buy the electric crossover. Toyota and Tesla’s differing cultures also clashed over development of the RAV4 EV, which some speculate led to the split.
It’s a double shame because there doesn’t seem to be any cars on the horizon that will replace it. The Tesla Model X is an order of magnitude more expensive with an estimated starting price well into the $70,000 range, and the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV still relies on a gas engine for longer distances. Other than that though? Automakers have put almost no effort into the two segments (electric and crossovers) that are among the fastest growing in both the US and Europe.
The RAV4 EV had the potential to be so much more than Toyota let it be, and I think that’s the biggest shame of all.
The post Time Has Run Out For The Toyota RAV4 EV appeared first on Gas 2.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Improved Cadillac ELR Could Bow At LA Auto Show


Even though the Cadillac ELR has only been on the market for less than a year, Edmunds reports that a revised version of the luxury plug-in could debut at November’s LA Auto Show. What can GM do to make its Tesla competitor more…competitive?
There’s a long list of common complaints from reviewers have not been kind to the Cadillac ELR. The most common criticism centers on the $76,000 starting price, but reviewers have also taken issue with the 2+2 seating arrangement, big and heavy doors, and so-so performance. The 4,070-lb curb weight doesn’t help the “sporty” plug-in coupe feel all that sporty, while the 207 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque from the electric motor has been mostly described as adequate, but hardly thrilling. It’s not all bad though; most people agree the ELR is a handsome car inside and out, and it’s HiPer suspension system delivers incredible ride comfort, Also, as Cadillac’s first plug-in car ever, it at least shows that GM’s heart is in the right place.
The automaker isn’t saying anything beyond “engineering enhancements” will be applied to the 2016 Cadillac ELR (there will be no 2015 model), so what can the General do to increase the appeal of the ELR? One thing that has helped sales rise and inventory fall have been incentives totalling $20,000 or more. Everybody knows the ELR is based on the $35,000 Chevy Volt, and the ELR just isn’t worth the $41,000 price premium GM tacked on.
As far as actual mechanical changes go, there are one of two things GM can do with relative ease that would make the ELR stand out; increase the performance of both the motor and the battery. An ELR with a 50-mile electric range would represent about a 40% increase in range over the Volt, and would allow drivers to make about 90% of their daily driving trips without ever tapping into the gas tank.
A more powerful electric motor could also breathe some life into the tremendously heavy coupe; consider that the Tesla Model S only weighs (at its heaviest) about 500 pounds more, but offers twice as much horsepower (up to 416 ponies). This allows the Tesla to keep pace with the BMW i8 hybrid supercar, both of which sprint from 0 to 60 MPH in about 4 seconds. Meanwhile the ELR has the same acceleration as the more-pedestrian BMW i3, an EV that also benefits from rear-wheel drive compared the the ELR’s front-drive setup.
More power and more electric driving range are the two things I hope the 2016 Cadillac ELR brings to the table. Besides a lower price, what else could GM do to make the ELR a better car?

BYU Sets EV Land Speed Record

BYU speed record team

For the past 10 years, engineering students at Brigham Young University have been bringing their battery powered race car – Electric Blue – to the Bonneville Salt Flats to compete for top speed honors. In all, more than 130 students have been involved in designing and building the car, which competes in the under 500 kilogram (1,100 lbs) category for land speed racing, and the team finally broke the 200 MPH broke during their latest attempt, reports Electric AutoSport.
Three years ago, Electric Blue set a land speed record for its class of 155.8 miles per hour. But this year, after a lot of hard work and modifications, the car smashed that record by more than 50 mph, topping out at 204.9. Kelly Hales, BYU student and team captain says “When we set the record three years ago we felt like we left a lot on the table. On paper we thought we could get 200 mph but we never had the conditions just right—until now.” Other electric cars have set higher speeds at Bonneville, notably Ohio State’s Buckeye Bullet, but those cars compete in classes for heavier vehicles. Electric Blue is half as heavy as the Mazda Miata, which is just about the lightest production car you can buy these days.
BYU students have custom-built the lightweight carbon fiber body of Electric Blue over the past 6 years with assistance from computer programs that model wind tunnels. All that aerodynamic work, coupled with power from lithium-iron phosphate batteries, helped the car reach its record setting speed on the salt flats this year. Team captain Hales says that Electric Blue can now retire with a record that should stand for awhile.

Source:  Gas 2.

Next Volkswagen Phaeton To Get Plug-In Hybrid Drivetrain


It’s been a dozen years since the Volkswagen Phaeton was first introduced to the world, but sales have never been close to what the German automaker hoped. Despite that though, the Phaeton will get a second shot at life, and this time it will offer several drivetrain options that include diesel and plug-in hybrid options making 400+ horsepower, reports Automotive News.
The VW Phaeton had a short run in America, and despite the fact that it rode on the same chassis as the Bentley Continental GT, most customers couldn’t’ be bothered by a $65,000 Volkswagen in the mid-2000s. The premiere engine option was the unique 6.0 liter W12 engine making 444 horsepower…and a few other engines nobody really cared about because they barely moved the bulky Vdub.
But while VW never offered a diesel engine to American buyers, German buyers have had the option of a 5.0 liter V10 TDI engine with up to 309 horsepower 554 lb-ft of torque, and with the next Pheaton, Volkswagen could make the TDI engine more widely available. Rumor has it a 450 horsepower V8 TDI is one of the possibilities, but even more tantalizing is the possibility of a plug-in hybrid drivetrain offering around 400 horsepower. Anchored by a V6 engine, this powerful plug-in hybrid setup could also be shared with Bentley, which has already admitted to working on a plug-in hybrid model for its elite buyers. And yes, the Pheaton is tipped to return to the US for a second go around.
Pricing will be about the same, starting at around $70,000, though this time around Volkswagen is keen to not make the same mistakes that sunk sales of the first Pheaton. I can dig it, but do you?

Source: Gas 2.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV S Concept Gets Sporty Edge


After years of development, the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV has proven to be a hit in Europe, and the Japanese automaker is sporting things up with the Outlander PHEV S. Though this mild concept is all show and no go, it could be a hint towards what US customers should expect when the Outlander arrives on our shores sometime next year.
The Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV S has a number of little changes that add up to a much brawnier-looking SUV. The front fascia and grille has both been swept back a bit to provide a more aggressive feel compared to the softer lines of the current Outlander, and sharper headlights look ready to cut through the night. The lower air dam also looks much better with this update, whereas the original Outlander’s front end just looked…soft. The back end has also been updated in a similar fashion, but sorry, no pics yet.
The interior was also graced with updated materials like black wood grain trimmed with silver accents, and a center console reminiscent of traditional Japanese lacquered boxes. The interior was said to be a point of concern for Mitsubishi, and is one possible reason why the Outlander PHEV isn’t for sale in the US yet. The S Concept comes with the same 2.0 liter turbo engine and 12 kWh lithium-ion battery-backed plug-in hybrid drivetrain, which has been what most of the talk has centered around.
Tests have shown that the Outlander PHEV really does achieve the same fuel economy Mitsubishi claims it does, and a plug-in hybrid SUV seems like a surefire hit in SUV-crazed America. Alas, these delays mean the Outlander PHEV will debut in America just as Tesla Model X sales are ramping up, and I’m afraid it could end up lost in the shuffle.
My concerns aside, Mitsubishi has shown us how a few small changes can make for a much better looking car. Now now I can talk about the good looks of the Outlander PHEV, as well as its cutting edge drivetrain.

Source: Mitsubishi

2016 Toyota Prius Eco Could Reach 60 MPG


The Toyota Prius once defined the entire “green car” category, but in recent years sales have slumped as competitors from just about every brand have made headway. While the Prius remains the best selling hybrid on the market, Automotive News reports that Toyota is preparing a new marketing campaign ahead of the launch of the 2016 Prius, which could achieve as much as 60 MPG with an “Eco” variant.
U.S. sales of the Prius have fallen 12% so far this year as electric and plug-in hybrid sales continue to grow, and more efficient combustion engines close the gap with the Prius. Even with the expanded lineup including the compact Prius C and crossover-esque Prius V, Tesla seems to have usurped Toyota as the cutting edge “green” brand. To counter this, Toyota is putting together a new ad campaign starring fictional and actual Prius owners who have been with the brand for a decade or more.
“We do want to reach the people who’ve owned a Prius and remind them of the experience they’ve had with the car to convince them to buy another one,” Prius marketing manage Erica Gartsbeyn told Automotive News. “But we also want to talk to people who never considered a hybrid in the past to educate them so they understand that driving a hybrid is just like driving any other car.”
This campaign is likely to go through the launch of an all-new 2016 Toyota Prius, which is poised to debut sometime next year despite a six month delay. Initial estimates put the 2016 Prius at 55 MPG for the standard model with nickel-hydride batteries, though Toyota is reportedly working on a 60 MPG “Eco” model with lithium-ion batteries instead. Several dealers who saw early versions of the new production model called it more sporty and more streamlined, and may appeal to a wider audience who may not have considered a Prius. New features like all-wheel drive and wireless battery charging for the Prius Plug-in up the ante on the safety and tech front, but the Prius remains one of the most traded-in cars for the Tesla Model S.
Following the launch of the 2016 Prius, the C and V models will also be updated, and the lineup could add additional models to “add excitement” to the lineup. Dare I hope for a hybrid performance car from the Prius sub-brand? Maybe, though that alone won’t help Toyota overcome a wave of increasingly efficient or even gasless competitors.
The Prius isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but the pressure is on Toyota to stay on top with the next-generation of the class-leading hybrid, and they are feeling it.

2015 Audi TT Good For Up To 54.7 MPG


Next week at the Paris Auto Show, the next-generation Audi TT Coupe and Roadster will make their debut. Riding on the latest Audi Space Frame chassis and sporting a super efficient 2.0 liter TDI turbodiesel engine, the new Audi TT can deliver up to 54.7 miles per gallon.
Without a driver, the new Audi TT Roadster tips the scales at just 2,910-lbs based on high-strength, low-weight steel and aluminum, and engineers also redeveloped the quattro all-wheel drive system. This new system better splits the torque between the front and rear axles, and the new TT is the first to integrate the permanent all-wheel drive system with the dynamic handling system Audi drive select.
This system analyzes road conditions and adjusts its magnetic suspension dampers accordingly. The TT will also be the first Audi to use the new virtual cockpit, which puts all the important vehicle information right in front of the driver. This includes features like navigation and climate control, which traditionally required you to look away from the road. Now everything is right there in front of you.
The real star here though is the engine lineup though are the five engines offered between the TT and sportier TTS models, ranging from the 184 horsepower TDI to a 310 horsepower 2.0 liter turbo. With the turbodiesel engine, Audi says the TT not only meets the Euro 6 emissions standards, but also sips fuel at a rate of just 4.5 liters per 100 km, or about 54.7 MPG. While not as potent a the 310 horsepower gas engine (rated as low as 33.1 MPG) that sends the TT from 0 to 62 MPH in just 4.9 seconds, you can still have a lot of fun with the TDI engine’s 280 lb-ft of torque.
Audi has pledged to make diesel engines a cornerstone of its more efficient American lineup, and so far it’s done a pretty good job. But bringing a diesel sports coupe or roadster to American dealerships would show serious commitment…though it’s much easier said than done unfortunately.
There’s a lot of appeal to a torquey sports car with Prius-like fuel economy, and even though those numbers would fall on the American testing cycle, I still think it’d be a hit with the diesel geeks.


 Source: Gas 2.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Electric Cars Are Cheaper To Insure


CoverHound Insurance has released a newly completed study that shows electric vehicles (EVs) are cheaper to insure than gas powered vehicles. The study shows on average drivers of EVs save around $200 on insurance when they make the upgrade from gas to electric.
CoverHound is a predominantly web-based insurance company that was founded in 2010 and is based in San Francisco, California. The study came about from CoverHound after the company had sold upward of 20,000 policies and noticed a trend among those who drove EVs in place of traditional gas-powered cars. For example, the company noticed that when a driver switched from a Cadillac CTS for a Chevy Volt that driver could potentially save a whopping $600 a year, even though the two cars have a starting MSRP within $5,000 of each other. A driver going from a Nissan Maxima to a Nissan Leaf could save $300 a year, even though the cars are comparably priced before factoring in the Federal tax credit. On average, drivers switching from gas to electric vehicles save about $200 a year. Not bad.
Further savings are had when looking at the cost of gassing up a car next to the cost of charging an EV. Of course there are many variables here, distance driven and such, but on average data shows that filling up a gas powered Toyota Corolla for a year would cost on average $1,830. Charging up an electric Nissan Leaf would only cost about $330. Overall, cheaper fuel costs coupled with lower insurance cost helps offset some of the often high sticker price of many EVs.
In years past there has been confusion and concern that some insurance companies would not even insure EVs. However, as EVs have become mainstream modes of transportation, companies are adopting their policies to cover this new type of transportation technology.
But why are EVs cheaper to insure? Well much of auto insurance is still based on the driver and the type of car. So if you have a bad driving history and you’re buying a Tesla don’t expect to save all that much. What it really boils down to is that the majority of EVs on the roads are compact and less powerful vehicles than their gas powered cousins – and from an insurance standpoint this equates to a safer vehicle and thus less money to insure. In terms of actual crash test ratings, the Chevy Volt was rated higher than the Nissan LEAF, but the Tesla Model S is so structurally strong that it actually broke the IIHS testing equipment, receiving a full five-star rating (and then some).

Source: The LA Times | Image: NHTSA

Mercedes B-Class Electric Fails To Impress Consumer Reports


Consumer Reports rarely minces words when it comes to its car reviews, and it calls the Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive hatchback the least-efficient electric car on the market. Ouch.
The Mercedes-Benz B-Class Electric Drive hatchback has a sticker price of around $41,350 and while the hatchback does offer abundant cargo space and a clear view of the road, it isn’t enough to earn high marks from Consumer Reports.
The electric B-Class has an 80 mile range, but also offers what Mercedes is calling an extended Range Plus mode which will push the Merc an additional 20 miles, offering a maximum of 100 miles of driving range. The extended Range Plus mode is done by selecting the option prior to charging the vehicle, which increases the charge from the cars normal 28 kWh to the full 36 kWh. Of course overclocking the battery will have a negative impact on the batteries lifespan. Unfortunately, the B-Class Electric also doesn’t offer a DC fast charge option like its main competitor, the BMW i3, so it takes a full 3.5 hours to charge compared to the Bimmer, which can top off in about 30 minutes.
While the Range Plus mode is interesting, it did not help once Consumer Reports took the B-Class for a spin. The results were the B-Class running at 2.9 miles per kWh, or the equivalent of about 98 mpg. While 98 mpg would be great for a gasoline powered car, it is a very poor score for an electric vehicle, and it’s even worse than the 3.2 kWh of the much older Nissan LEAF, which has been on the market for four years now.
Consumer Reports found other problems too. Even with a drive system coming from Tesla, the independent magazine said the car felt dated with a noisy cabin, stiff suspension, and dull handling despite a healthy 177 horsepower engine. Additionally, one of the largest issues aside from the Range Plus mode that Consumer Reports had with the B-Class was with the regenerative brake system. The B-Class offers two regenerative brake modes, one called Drive Minus which boosts regenerative braking but is tricky to use effectively. The other mode is Drive Plus mode, which allows you to coast, but brings down the range extending benefits of regenerative brakes.
Consumer Reports is not alone in their negative view of the B-Class as Car and Driver had some choice words as well. In any event, the B-Class Electric Drive is available in California only for now, but will be more widlely available across the U.S. in 2015.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Review: 2015 Chrysler 200S AWD Gets Driven

2015 Chrysler 200 AWD

The new for 2015 Chrysler 200 debuted at January’s Detroit Auto Show as the first Chrysler-branded vehicle to debut since Fiat bought the brand a few years ago. Despite the heavy-handed, “Imported from Detroit” marketing message, however, there’s a lot of Italian heritage peeking through in this new Chrysler.
In the case of the Chrysler 200, that’s a good thing.

2015 Chrysler 200 | Look at It


The grille of the 2015 Chrysler 200 is a generic affair. That makes sense, since the car was originally designed to be sold by several different brands in different markets – Chrysler and Lancia, in this case – and it needed to carry both companies’ logos well. Despite that, the look is somehow both nondescript and pretty, with just the right amount of chrome.
Further back, the body of the new 2015 Chrysler 200 has sort of a marine-animal vibe to me. Which is to say that it’s a bit big in the middle- “well insulated”, maybe- but that the look and feel is indicative of the powerful animal residing underneath. In the case of a beluga, what you’re getting a sense of is a few thousand pounds’ worth of coiled muscle and sinew. In the Chrysler, what you’re getting a sense of is the flexible, 295 HP naturally-aspirated Multi-Air engine, 9 speed automatic transmission, and advanced, torque-biasing all-wheel drive system.
For those of you keeping track, that 295 HP rating means that the 2015 Chrysler 200 is putting out almost 100 HP more than the legendary Lancia Delta HF Integrales of the late 80s/early 90s. The benchmark of the Lancia brand, easily, and one of the most stories 4-door performance cars of the last generation – and it couldn’t touch the new Chrysler’s 36 MPG fuel economy rating. So, there’s that.

2015 Chrysler 200 | Get in + Drive It


The interior of the new 200 represents a quantum leap forward in terms of interior quality when compared the original Chrysler Sebring (which came to be called “200″ in 2010), and a good bit better than the 2014 200 that the new car replaces. The hard plastics and cheap-feeling switchgear of “pre-Fiat” Chrysler are almost completely gone, and the instrument cluster glows a friendly, soothing blue, The soft, comfortable seats were especially inviting, and remained comfortable even after two hours spent in a particularly nasty Chicago traffic snarl.
If I’m being honest, the interior of the new Chrysler 200 (especially the S model I was driving) is almost too serene. That’s because- in sport mode with the traction controls off and the driver’s right foot and manual paddle flapping acting as the primary influences on the car’s character- the 200 is a for-real sporty sedan..
In sport, the car seems to switch from a relaxed, “fuzzy logic” sort of load demand throttle to a more direct, 1:1 between the engine and the driver’s foot. The 2015 Chrysler 200 positively screams forward- maybe not super fast, from an objective/stop-watchy point of view, but definitely super-fast in a seat-of-the-pants, “this is way worth the money” sort of way that somehow eludes more expensive cars.
From the driver’s seat, a 6-second 0-60 time seems conservative- and a switch to red LED illumination in sport mode, while gimmicky and stupid, would make the new 200 feel a few tenths faster, still.
The week I had the car was, as evidenced by the pictures, particularly wet and windy (even by Windy City standards). Even so, the Chrysler felt utterly planted, secure, and always willing to switch from wanna-be race car to serene, comfortable “Slow down – the baby’s in the car!” commuter with a turn of the 200′s “Rotary E-Shift” transmission knob. Which is cool.

2015 Chrysler 200 | Final Thoughts

When Fiat first acquired Chrysler and started talking about combining the Lancia and Chrysler brands’ product lines, I went nuts. As a lifelong fan of Lancias old and new, I wanted desperately for Fiat to bring a for-real Delta to the US, and had/have put off buying a new car until said thing actually happened. In that time, the Delta platform has been worked under the Dodge Dart and, indeed, under this new 2015 Chrysler 200, as well. Still, it’s not quite the same thing, you know?
Taking all that out of the equation and judging the 200 for what it is, though, is pretty difficult for me. I know too much, and- maybe- expected too much of the new 200. Maybe I liked it before I ever touched it, and it wasn’t that good. Maybe it wasn’t the first “real” Lancia you could buy new on US soil since 1982.
“Is this like, a normal Chrysler?” asked the wife, who came outside to check it out as it was being dropped off (a rare thing, as she’s pretty jaded when it comes to cars).
“Yeah,” I answered. “It’s the new one, but- I mean, anyone can go buy one.”
“I thought Chrysler’s were like, s***ty cars,” she said, getting into the passenger seat. “This is nice,” she said, as I turned it on. “This is really nice,” she continued, as the blue lights came on and illuminated the dash. “Wow. Are all Chryslers like this?”
“I don’t think so,” I said.
“That’s not good for them. This is really nice.”
“Would you buy one?” I asked her, as we are perpetually car-shopping, apparently.
She thought about it a while, before answering. “No. I mean, I would but this car- like, this exact car- but I wouldn’t want to tell people I bought a Chrysler. It’s not a good brand.”
Fiat-Chrysler definitely has a winner on its hands with the 200S, I think, but it’s going to have to do some work to get people to give the car a fair shake. That said, maybe it really should have been the new Lancia Flavia. If it were, I might have one on semi-permanent display in my garage by now.

Source: Gas 2.

Stop-start problems could lead to rise of ultracapacitors

The proliferation of start-stop systems in today's cars and trucks is pretty simple to explain. With these systems, manufacturers have an easy, mostly unobtrusive way of boosting a vehicle's fuel economy. As with just about anything though, there are drawbacks to modern start-stop tech.

In particular, they're not great when paired with today's lead-acid batteries. These batteries limit the ability of the start-stop function to operate based on factors like charge level and temperature. If the battery is outside the parameters, the stop-start system won't function, curbing any potential fuel economy gains. Obviously, this problem will only become more noticeable as the battery ages.

Ultracapacitors could solve this problem, though, according to a new report from Ward's Auto. Becauseultracapacitors can be cycled rapidly and they can store quite a lot of energy – they don't function via chemical reactions, like standard batteries – they could handle the stop-start duties when the battery isn't up to snuff.

There are other applications for the high-powered capacitors too, including regenerative braking functions, where their ability to harness energy can really be taken advantage of. Ward's has a great breakdown of the pros and cons in a fairly extensive feature on the future of this potentially big automotive technology.
News Source: Ward's Auto
Image Credit: AndyArmstrong/Flickr - CC 2.0

Saturday, September 20, 2014

2015 Acura TLX

2015 Acura TLX

Earlier this month, Honda invited me up to northern Michigan to be among the first to drive their new-for-2015 Acura TLX. The launch is a big deal for Acura, which hasn’t enjoyed the same kind of success that its Japanese luxury rivals, Lexus and Infiniti, have had in recent years. The new TLX brings order to the Acura showroom, combining the compact, sporty feel of the outgoing 2014 TSX with the luxury and quiet refinement of the also outgoing 2014 Acura TL model (hence, TLX). Weirdly, though, instead of bringing just one new model to show off, Acura brought two.
Let me explain.
Every time there’s a new product launch from a big automaker, the talking heads at the company talk about how each trim level- like the Sonata Eco vs. the Sport or the Chrysler 200S vs. the 200C- really feels “like a totally different car”. In my experience, even when there’s a radically different engine or power train under the car, that’s all bulls***. Sure, maybe things happen faster in a supercharged V8 Mustang than they do in the naturally-aspirated V6 version, but they’re the same things happening, you know? In the case of the 2015 Acura TLX, however, the incredibly toss-able, 4 cyl., four-wheel-steered TLX feels radically different from the deadly serious, supremely capable 290 HP SH-AWD V6 version. If I were blindfolded with my hands tied at my sides in the passenger seat of each version of the car, I’m confident I could tell you which one I was in once we started moving. Maybe even with earplugs in.
It was a bizarre thing to experience, and I mentioned it to Acura’s chassis engineer, who was on-hand to answer press questions.
“That’s because it’s so stiff and quiet,” he explained, before going off on the Acura’s extensive use of high-strength steels, triple door seals, active noise control, and (industry first?) acoustic spray-in foams. Those things conspire together to seal the Acura TLX’ cabin and reduces body leakage/road noise by 50% compared to the “softer” TL this car is replacing. He may have a point, too- with the cabin so well insulated, you’re left strapped into a seat that’s bolted into a rigid unibody that is, itself, bolted to an engine and suspension system … and that engine and suspension system become the things you are most aware of inside the car.
In other words, it’s a damn near perfect sports sedan experience.

2015 Acura TLX | the Look


Few people will call the outgoing Acura TL a bad car- or even a mediocre one. Fewer still, however, would call Acura’s TL a good-looking car, and Acura was very eager to correct that problem with the new TLX. For their part, the stylists did a good job with the TLX, creating a look that’s both upscale and distinctively Asian, without looking like a Power Rangers extra.
Job done, then- and, if there’s a criticism of the new Acura to be found, it might be only that it looks too similar to the Honda Civic-based ILX. That may be good for the ILX, or bad for the TLX, or it may just speak to the fact that Acura has finally found its “signature look” for the new decade (albeit 4 or 5 years in).

2015 Acura TLX | the Drive


At this point in most of my car reviews, I usually start talking about how this interior feature works or that infotainment system (more often than not) absolutely doesn’t. In the case of the 2015 Acura TLX, I can’t really do that- because, despite having taken some 160 pictures during my five or six hours in various TLXs, I only took one picture of the car’s interior …


… and that, I’m guessing, doesn’t tell you much.
What you’re looking at in the above 2015 Acura TLX interior photo is a rubber-lined “mobile device tray” that allows drivers/passengers to place their phones in a separate little cubby which slides away (with two iPhones in it, still plugged into the car’s USB port) to reveal a nifty little storage area. It’s genius, works perfectly, and makes every car that doesn’t have it seem like it was designed by people who’ve never owned a smart phone.
As for the rest of the interior, it was invisible. My attention was, 100%, on the somewhat intangible “driving experience” itself and on how much stupid fun it was to jam the 206 HP VTEC 4 cylinder into corners or how crazy serious and (dare I say it?) Benz-like the V6 SH-AWD version of the new Acuta TLX felt. “Teutonic,” someone said, accurately.
In other words, it’s a damn near perfect sports sedan experience. Again.
That said, I’ve got to give you all something, so here are a few pics of my favorite tourist traps along Honda’s northern Michigan drive route, as well shots from the yacht club I eventually ended up having dinner at. There was some mistake and I ended up with both surf and turf on my plate, but I did not complain.
As for the TLX, itself, I must channel Chicago’s greatest hero, Ferris Bueller:

Source: Gas 2.