It has been a couple of weeks since I last posted an episode of the World’s Fastest Car Review, so I figure I had better get going on some production!
Chevy has announced that a diesel-powered Cruze will be available in North America-but not until sometime in 2013. No details were given on how much power, torque, or fuel economy we can expect from an oil-burning Cruze. A diesel powered Cruze is currently available in Europe. Seeing as the gas powered Cruze Eco, available here now, gets a stellar 42mpg on the EPA Highway cycle, Chevy must have very high hopes on what a diesel Cruze can attain. Otherwise, why bother?
What, you mean no hybrid, you ask? I see three reasons why we’re not going to see a Cruze hybrid in the near future:
1. From the start, Chevy has marketed the Cruze Eco as a conventionally powered car that delivers near-hybrid like fuel economy without the added cost, weight, and concern over battery life. Rolling out a hybrid would be a rolling contradiction.
2. Cost. A diesel engine that bolts right into a Cruze already exists. Which do you think costs less, legalizing that engine to meet US emissions, or developing a hybrid drivetrain?
3. Toyota. Or, Honda. Both, actually. Face it-Toyota OWNS the hybrid market. Sure, there’s a Civic Hybrid out there, but it is a slow seller, and one of the reasons is that it looks just like any other Civic. As of June 30, 2011, Honda sold 2,433 Civic Hybrids so far this year in the US, which is less than .02% of total Civic sales. Compare that to the 66,520 Toyota Prius’ soldÃ‚Â in the same span of time (and nearly six times the number of Honda Insights sold!), and the choice for going diesel for better mileage is an obvious choice.
So, a Cruze diesel makes pretty good sense. For years, diesel-powered VW Jettas have been the only game in town for a compact, four door diesel, so I am anxious to see how a new player to a market owned by the Jetta will do. I personally find the Cruze more interesting to look at, inside and out than the current Jetta. The Jetta’s TDI engine is a gem, though, so whatever Chevy offers had better be good. If they can match the Jetta TDI for power, refinement, and economy, at a good price, the Cruze diesel has the potential to do well here. And Chevy, if you’re listening-if you’re going to woo the VW diesel faithful, you MUST offer a manual transmission! Just sayin’.
In 2008, VW established the TDI Cup. Sanctioned by the SCCA, the TDI Cup is a single make race series run in North America, running VW Jetta TDIs that are mostly stock, and are prepared by the factory. Coming in January 2010, VW will offer the Jetta TDI Cup ‘Street’ Edition. The body kit features the front bumper, side skirts and rear valance straight off the race car. The ‘Street’ Edition is also visually unique with its 18″ Charleston wheels, and red brake calipers.
The changes aren’t just cosmetic. The ‘Street’ Edition features bigger brakes, sway bars, and a GLI-tuned suspension that promise a sportier ride than the standard TDI. The drivetrain remains the same-meaning the quiet, smooth and torquey 2.0L, 140hp TDI four, mated to either a six-speed manual or six-speed DSG with shift paddles. Inside, the ‘Street’ Edition includes sport seats and a leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel.
VW expects the TDI Cup ‘Street’ Edition to sticker around $25,000USD, but that price is offset by a $1,300 US Federal Government tax credit.
The sixth generation Golf is here, and before we even begin, I want to thank VW for having the common sense to call it a Golf for us North Americans again. If I’m confusing you, the last generation Golf was sold here as the Rabbit, which is what VW called the Golf when it was sold in North America from 1974-1984. When we finally received the belated fifth generation Golf in 2006, VW inexplicably decided to dredge up the Rabbit name, which held absolutely no value or recognition to the young, educated buyers VW seeks.
For 2010, VW continues to offer the Golf as a two or four door hatchback. The 2.5L inline five is carryover, rated at 170hp. A 5-speed manual is available on the two-door only; a six-speed Tiptronic automatic is an option, and is standard on the four door. VW claims 0-60mph in 7.8 seconds for the manual, 8.1 for the automatic, and 22/30 city mpg city/highway for the manual, 23/30mpg for the automatic.
Perhaps like many politically incorrect car enthusiasts, I am growing weary of all this misguided hybrid worship. Equally tiring is the blathering on about the evils of SUVs. This condemnation of practical vehicles isn’t just limited to greenies mind you. Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson leads the charge against large vehicles by journos across the pond, but they exist here too. At least the folks in Europe and the UK have a point that their roads aren’t big enough for anything bigger than a Fiat 500.
Here in North America though, we have proper roads that were designed to accommodate land yachts. Back in the Fifties to Seventies, we had sedans and wagons that had cavernous cargo areas and massive seating possibilities. In the Eighties we saw the invention of the minivan and large SUVs made the transition from work truck to passenger vehicle. Through the 90’s to the present, the roads have had their fair share of SUVs and mini vans, which also offer a wide variety of seating and cargo options. The common thread here is that North Americans tend to have larger families and carry more stuff than the masses in other parts of the world. While I’m not doing the research to make this a scientific statement, I would guess that far fewer families over there tow boats, snowmobiles, RV’s, jet skis and the like.
Let’s face reality and realize that vehicles the size of a troop carrier aren’t going away any time soon, at least not in the US of A.
Our Ã¢â‚¬Å“DrivenÃ¢â‚¬Â series highlights the several cars I was able to sample at IMPAÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Spring Brake 2009 event. These short takes are summaries of my driving impressions of the cars on the roads surrounding Bear Mountain State Park in Rockland County, New York.
Given the automotive preferences of most North Americans, it’s a wonder the car pictured above is sold here at all. Station wagons? Bah! Nope, give me the latest crossover/SUV. And a diesel? Are you kidding me? Who is the target market here, quirky English teachers at private New England prep schools?
Hardly. We’re the odd ones-Europeans strongly prefer the practicality a station wagon affords you over the taller, still thirstier and heavier CUV’s that have at least replaced the SUV’s of yore. But the larger hurdle is the diesel engine, or rather, the stigma we still attach to it. Loud. Slow. Rough. Smokey. Diesels arrived here following the gas crises of the 1970’s, but the trade-0ffs were a little more than buyers at the time could handle. And then they sort of ‘went away’ save for the random VW or Mercedes. And that is the impression still stuck in our collective heads today.
Here at The Garage we typically don’t get into much detail about the monthly sales reports we receive from various manufacturers, but when I received an e-mail from Volkswagen of America about their June 2009 sales, I took notice.
Taken in whole, VW sales last month compared to June of 2008 are down 18%, but the real story here is that Jetta sales are up, thanks in large part to its TDI diesel engine. In fact, one out of four VW’s that left the dealer’s lot was powered by a diesel. An overwhelming 81% of all Jetta SportWagens, 40% of Jetta sedans, and 29% of Touregs sold wore the TDI badge.
Intriguing numbers, to be sure. So, what gives? I see a couple of things-first, VW already has a loyal following of diesel buyers who had to go without for awhile. These strong numbers could suggest they have returned to the showroom now that VW has a product to offer them. Second, the press has been positive about the VW TDI engines, and American’s opinion of the diesel may finally be turning the corner. It’s possible the VW diesel faithful and early adapters together account for these numbers, but time will tell if Americans are embracing the idea of owning a diesel powered car.
*Please look for our driving impressions of the VW Jetta SportWagen TDI in an upcoming post.
My first introduction to the BMW 3 series came way back in the first half of the Eighties when a buddy’s private school girlfriend arrived at our public high school to pick him up in her new 320i. The car was small and sporty yet actually held 4 people. Even better, it was priced low enough that us poor high school students could actually envision the possibility of affording one. Unfortunately, this is the image I had in my head when I picked up our 2009 BMW 335D tester.
Normally, when I review a car I don’t look at the press kit prior to driving the car. In this case, I had laid it on the seat and something jumped off the page at me. Price as tested: $62,200.
We’re not in the Eighties any more Toto!
It took me a couple of days to get over the shell shock of having my perception shattered. Lest the dear reader think that tainted my view of the car, I’ll be clear that the 335D is one of the most stunning sedans I’ve driven on many levels. It just took me a few days to get there.
What could be better on a Sunday morning than a hot cup of coffee & following up the CoW with Exhaust Notes, Jeff’s Bressler’s weekly podcast here in The Garage? I suppose heading to the track might be better. Or getting a bit of…well, scratch that. This is a family place! Still, we’ve got some pretty good stuff here this morning, so get ready to take a ride!
This week, Jeff tells the tale of the Japanese automaker that pushed the blue oval out of the #2 spot in North America. Who woulda thought that 20 years ago? As we approach the NAIAS it’s beginning to look like there is going to be a lot of green in Detroit this winter with news from several automakers. Jeff even has the goods on how Chrysler plans to take over the world. Narf.
Mitsubishi has released further details about the upcoming Concept-cX, their next generation SUV concept. The exterior of the Concept-cX shares strong corporate design cues at the front, where the hood and grill lines mimic the 2008 Lancer. The roofline is reminiscent of the current model Outlander. Elsewhere in the vehicle, Mitsubishi is showing their dedication towards building greener vehicles. The planned powerplant is a high efficiency 1.8 liter, high output, turbocharged diesel which is mated to Mitsubishi’s new twin clutch sport shift transmission. Perhaps the most eco friendly element is the interior plastic, which is quite literally, green. Made with plant based resins, Mitsubishi’s revolutionary plastic is intended to reduce impact on petroleum supplies.
Full press release after the break