Tuesday, August 30, 2016

A second jolt of the Volt!!

By John Heilig

  • MODEL: 2017 Chevrolet Volt Premier
  • ENGINE: 1.5-liter range extender plus Li-ion battery
  • TRANSMISSION: Voltec electric drive unit 
  • HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 101 hp (gas engine) at 5,600 rpm/294 lb.-ft. torque 
  • WHEELBASE: 106.1 in.  
  • LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 180.4 x 71.2 x 56.4 in.  
  • TIRES: P215/50R17 
  • CARGO CAPACITY: 10.6 cu. ft. 
  • ECONOMY: 106 mpge/42 mpg gasoline   
  • FUEL TANK: 8.9 gal. 
  • CURB WEIGHT: 3,548 lbs. 
  • COMPETITIVE CLASS: Toyota Prius Plug-In, Ford C-Max Energi, Nissan Leaf 
  • STICKER: $40,325 (includes $875 delivery, $1,880 options) 
  • BOTTOM LINE: The Chevrolet Volt is a very nice compact car, with the added advantage that it can be run as a pure electric for short stints, yet still has a “range extender” gasoline engine when the battery runs out.

            I had driven the Chevrolet Volt previously, but messed up by trying to charge the electric side of the car using an extension cord. The Volt seamlessly switched from all-electric power to the 1.5-liter “range extender” gasoline engine and I used gas.
            This time, I charged the batteries the “right” way, by driving it up on my lawn and using the provided charge cord and inserting it directly into my house’s 115-volt outlet. 
            Therefore, in normal daily driving (this was a week that included no extensive trips) I used zero gallons of gasoline.
            To me, this is the charm of the Volt, and other pure electric vehicles. For normal short trips no gasoline is used. Now, there is a charge of some sort due to the use of my house’s electricity, and to be honest, I did not calculate it. In any case, it’s cheaper than gasoline.
            Volt’s silent operation is at times disconcerting. I had to remind myself that when I crept up behind people, they couldn’t hear me, so I was a nice guy and didn’t try to scare them. There is some tire/road noise that creeps into the vehicle that could probably be eliminated with additional soundproofing.
            The Volt is a very nice compact car. It offers decent acceleration thanks to the electric motor, which is pure torque. Handling is good. We took the Volt on our favorite winding mountain road and it was fun zipping through the curves. 
            My only complaint is that, as a compact, I had to fold the rear seat backs to get my golf clubs in the trunk. Cargo capacity is 10.6 cubic feet with the rear seats up, but expends to more than double that with the rear seat backs folded.
            I like the interior design. It is reminiscent of the Impala and was probably penned by the same designer. 
            Normally, my prime annoyance with hybrids and “techy” vehicles is that the gauge packages are confusing and give too much information.  With the Volt, however, the central information panel is clear and informative.
            There is a central digital speedometer in the center. To the left is the battery usage wrapping the speedometer in green; to the right the gas, wrapping its half in blue. As you accelerate, the “battery” symbol shows yellow. It turns to green under braking, showing you are regenerating. The wrapping green works just like a gas gauge, giving a graphic idea of how much battery power remains. There’s also a digital gauge at the bottom showing how many miles are left.  We had a maximum of 53 miles range on a full charge. A similar fuel range cause is at the bottom right that shows many hundreds of miles available. Chevy says more than 400 miles total. It is very easy to read and understand quickly without taking your eyes off the road for too long.
            While the front seats are comfortable the rear seat legroom is tight, as in most compacts. There are two permanent cup holders and a center console in the rear, restricting seating to two passengers. All seats are heated.
            The infotainment screen is fairly standard GM. The HVAC did a great job in hot weather. There are two knobs for HVAC control - fan speed and temperature - while a bunch of switches control air flow. 
            At the base of the center stack is a deep cubby with 12-volt, two USB and an AUX outlet. In addition, there is a nice deep center console/arm rest. 
            On the center console itself is a drive mode switch that allows the driver to switch among Normal (electric to fuel), Sport, Mountain and Hold. We kept it in Normal. 
            Volt has the standard assortment of safety additions, including blind spot monitor, lane departure warning and forward crash warning if you wait too long to brake.
            I had fun with the Chevrolet Volt this time. I admit that some of the “less-than-fun” of my previous drive was due to my carelessness in using the power. This time I was more careful, and being an ex-engineer, I enjoyed driving in pure electric mode and the challenges I faced.

(c) 2016 The Auto Page Syndicate

Friday, August 26, 2016

Tunda 1794 Edition

The Tundra half ton truck is trying to compete at the luxury level. Bumper2Bumpertv has a look at the top of the line model named after the ranch which once operated on the land where the truck is assembled in San Antonio.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Volvo, Uber and Ford leading the transition to self driving cars

Volvo , Uber and Ford are moving ahead with plans to make autonomous automobiles a common sight on the roadways. And as Bumper2Bumpertv tells us other auto makers are not sitting by idly as the technology changes.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Mazda CX-9

By John Heilig

  • MODEL: 2016 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD
  • ENGINE: 2.5-liter Turbocharged I-4
  • TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic with sport mode 
  • HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 227 hp @ 5,000 rpm/310 lb.-ft. @ 2,000 rpm 
  • WHEELBASE: 115.3 in. 
  • LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 199.4 x 72.5 x 69.0 in. 
  • TIRES: P255/50R20 
  • CARGO: 14.4/38.2/71.2 cu. ft. (all seats up/3rd row down/2nd row down) 
  • ECONOMY: 21 mpg city/27 mpg highway/21.4 mpg test 
  • FUEL TANK: 19.5 gal.
  • CURB WEIGHT: 4,301 lbs.
  • COMPETITIVE CLASS: Chevrolet Equinox, Honda Pilot, Mercedes-Benz GLC 
  • STICKER: $46,215 (includes $900 delivery, $300 options (Machine Gray paint)
  • BOTTOM LINE: The Mazda CX-9 is smooth, quiet and comfortable. It’s a good driver on long trips and around town.

            The Mazda CX-9 is the kind of vehicle you like or dislike almost immediately. I fall into the like category.
            First, the seats are among the most comfortable I have sat in. At first blush, they hold you in nicely, without being intrusive. For example, Recaro seats really hold you in, but they are sometimes hard to get out of. Mazda put some time into setting these up. We took the CX-9 on a long trip to the beach (and on an even longer one back thanks to traffic) and suffered no discomfort. Power adjustments permit you to customize the seat as well. And they are heated, but not cooled.
            At the beach, we went out to dinner and stuffed eight people in the CX-9. Even the teenagers in the third row didn’t complain about discomfort or lack of decent leg room. Access to the third row is made available by folding the second row seat up and out of the way. Assist handles over all four doors make entry and exit easier. Most of the time we folded the third row seats for maximum cargo capacity. Folding the seat backs is easy and the result is a lot of cargo capacity. The cargo area has four tie downs plus under floor storage. 
            Second row legroom is excellent. In addition, the rear doors have sun shades. The pull down rear center arm rest has a pair of cup holders, two USB connections and a small console. There are four cupholders for third row passengers. 
            There is good power from the 2.5-liter turbocharged four. We didn’t notice any turbo lag. Most of the time the engine is quiet. The only time it complains is when you hit the gas pedal for hard acceleration. During our test we drove on Interstates and my winding hillclimb route. The CX-9 thoroughly felt right on all roads.
            The instrument panel has a tachometer, large central speedometer and an information panel/gauge. There is also a heads up display that we found to be a slight problem. One of our roads is a dark tree-lined lane that often has deer on the sides, and even an occasional fox. The HUD’s background is bright enough that it’s hard to see through it on this particular dark road. It’s not a problem on other roads, though, or in daylight. 
            There is a full suite of safety features, including advanced blind spot monitoring, Mazda Radar Cruise Control, Lane Keeping Assist that vibrates the wheel slightly when you wander, high beam control, and several others. Needless to say, the CX-9 is safe as well as smooth.
            Both my wife and I liked the interior styling. Dark wood trim accents the center console controls and the shifter as well as the window controls on the doors. Soft surfaces abound throughout the interior. 
            There’s a good audio system with the usual choices, except a CD (unless it was so well hidden I couldn’t find it). The volume control is on the passenger side of the center console where the passenger can make adjustments. The driver has switches on the steering wheel.
            The infotainment screen, while clear, seems like an add-on. Stuff can get lodged behind the screen. It would be nice if there was a way to lower it when it isn’t in use.
            On the center console is a control knob that allows you to navigate among the various choices. It is also used to program the navigation system, which is easy to do. My only concern was that when you are switching states for your destination, you always have to go through a “Country” selection. 
            Interior storage consists of a nice cubby at the base of the center stack that is ideal for keys or sunglasses. There are the standard two cup holders in the center console, plus room for water bottles in all the doors. The center console/arm rest has a clam shell affair for opening it, so you only have to open one half at a time. 
            The CX-9 has a well-designed interior and exterior. The optional $300 Machine Gray paint is nice, but $300 is a bit much. 
            Overall, the second generation Mazda CX-9 is a pleasure to drive. It is above all smooth, with great interior space for passengers and/or cargo.

(c) 2016 The Auto Page Syndicate

Friday, August 12, 2016

2016 Toyota Avalon

The largest sedan in the Toyota fleet straddles a unique space in the automotive market. Bumper2Bumpertv notes the Avalon may be the ultimate destination purchase for loyalists who want to stay in the Toyota family of vehicles.