Tag Archives: CVT

2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited

Subaru upgrades Legacy to take on Camry, Accord, Fusion legacy

Subaru strengthens its position in the mid-size market with an even more appealing Legacy sedan, but it retains a major advantage, all-wheel drive.

While past Legacy models (see the reveal at the Chicago Auto Show) may have felt a little bargain basement in their interiors, the new Legacy eradicates any hint of that and takes full dead-on aim at the segment leaders, Toyota’s Camry, Honda’s Accord and Ford’s Fusion.

What Legacy lacks in styling it makes up in quality feel, good interior design and performance. My Venetian Red Pearl (metallic red) test car was the top-end 3.6R Limited. Outside of an option or two, Legacy doesn’t get any better than this.

First, that number means it comes with Subaru’s strong 3.6-liter boxer 6-cylinder engine that generates 256 horsepower and 247 lb.-ft. of torque. The boxer, which is a flat engine that can be placed lower in the chassis for better balance, delivers heady power for getting on the freeway. Not sure about a boxer? Well, Porsche engines are of similar design!

Now linked with Subaru’s excellent Lineartronic (Subaru’s name) CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission), the power is delivered smoothly, but with good low-end torque to get this luxurious sedan moving from a standing stop. Many CVTs lack low-end oomph, but that’s not a problem with Subaru’s LCVT. Continue reading 2015 Subaru Legacy 3.6R Limited

2015 Honda Fit EX-L w/Nav

Honda Fit not a hit, just a basic entry-level car

Honda’s new 2015 Fit is larger inside than the previous model, but remains a basic entry-level car that delivers excellent gas mileage.Honda side

But it has its limitations, as all entry-level cars do.

Power is modest, the ride is rough and wind noise is fairly intrusive. This is not the tightly built, quiet muted engine of many previous Honda’s I’ve driven. I was a bit disappointed.

The 130-horse 1.5-liter direct-injection I4 with variable valve timing is a winner as far as gas consumption, but its acceleration is mild to lackluster. Press the ever-present green Eco button on the dash’s left side and torque drops further for less getaway power from a stop.

There is a bit of a solution. On the bright red tested EX-L model with a navigation system there also is a Sport setting for the floor-mounted Continuously Variable Transmission. That helped boost the oomph, but only mildly and turned the already groan prone engine into a big time groaner. The harder you accelerate, the noisier it gets.

With a 6-speed manual transmission it’s possible that the 130-horse I4 would be fairly peppy. But with this CVT it struggles to get out of following vehicles’ way. To be honest, this felt much like a hybrid in the acceleration department.

The upside, and it’s a big one, is gas mileage. Rated at 32 mpg city and 38 mpg highway I managed an impressive 41.6 mpg in about 60% highway driving, about half in the Eco mode and little in Sport.

Honda1Naturally many Fit buyers will be looking for economy, the base LX model starts at $16,315, so meets that need, and also has a 6-speed manual tranny. Move up to the automatic and you’re looking at $17,115, still quite a bargain in today’s market. The test car is near the top of the segment with navigation and heated front seats part of the EX-L package. Base price here is $20,800 and this added only delivery of $790 to hit $21,590. Continue reading 2015 Honda Fit EX-L w/Nav

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES

Pokey Mitsubishi Mirage offers bare bones performance

Last year when I drove the 109-horsepower Nissan Versa Note I thought I’d driven the slowest accelerating car made in the past 10 years, but that was before I’d driven the new Mitsubishi Mirage. This makes the pokey Versa Note feel frisky.mitsu

Mirage is a pleasant looking little hatchback designed top to bottom for the entry-level buyer who needs new wheels, but can’t afford much. It’s a small market segment, but let’s face it, there is a need for inexpensive entry-level economy cars. We’re not all rich, or even middle class, these days.

I’m happy that such low cost economy models exist. But I really expect a new car to have enough power to get out of its own way, or at least that of the aging winter beater car that’s tailgating me.

For the record Mirage has a 1.2-liter 3-cylinder engine that creates … wait for it … 74 horsepower. In short it’s slow to pull away from stoplights and requires quite a long run down an entry ramp to make it up to highway speeds. Under heavy acceleration the drivetrain groans considerably. Mentally, I was groaning too. Continue reading 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage ES

2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

Outlander Sport SE AWC = smooth looks, ride

mitsu1Maybe I’m becoming more tolerant as I age, but I liked the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport better than I had the first time I drove it three years ago.

What I liked was its looks, a smooth sophisticated body, and its smooth well controlled ride, something one comes to appreciate in Spring-thaw Wisconsin when the frost heaves rise like moguls, and the washed out potholes resemble fox holes.

The Outlander Sport’s MacPherson struts up front and fine multi-link rear suspension give it a comfortable ride, never jolting, as I maneuvered around the road enragers that pretended to be pavement.

Sport is a compact sport-ute or crossover, a full 14.6 inches shorter than the Outlander, while riding on the same chassis and sharing Outlander’s 105.1-inch wheelbase. Sport’s shortcoming though remains its weak 2.0-liter 148-horse 4-cylinder engine that’s linked up with a lackluster CVT (continuously variable transmission). Acceleration remains less than exhilarating, actually slow and pokey. Torque is disappointing when you get on the gas pedal say, getting onto the freeway. There is no low-end oomph and the vehicle’s acceleration fades and fumbles between 25 and 35 mph.

Sadly, when you do demand some power, the CVT and engine moan and groan louder than a teenager being asked to clean his bedroom. I’d prefer the larger Outlander’s 168-horse 2.4-liter I4 engine.

Continue reading 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport

2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

Accord Hybrid quietly delivers improved gas mileage

Honda’s Accord has grown to be a larger sedan, but remains a smooth, quiet comfortable family car that will haul five adults while remaining a good family value. NOW, it adds a hybrid power system.honda1

The tested silver Accord features a 2.0-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder gas engine that creates 141 horses along with a hybrid electric system that combines with the gas engine to create 196 horsepower. So the power is there, but so is the gas mileage, and isn’t that why you go with a hybrid power system?

The hybrid Accord is rated 50 mpg city and 45 mpg highway. Ironically I seemed to get better gas mileage on the highway than in the city. The trip computer mileage rating dropped every time I tooled along city streets with their lengthy stoplights, especially along Blue Mound Road. Overall the car put me at 37.1 mpg and I recorded 35.2 mpg for the week, with roughly 350 miles on 10 gallons of gas, including a highway drive to Chicago where the computer put me at 40 mpg overall. I might have been disappointed by the gas mileage, but nearly every day I had the car the air temperature was below zero to start the day.

But is there sufficient power to get away from a stoplight or change lanes in a hurry if you so desire?

Yes, but on any incline, no matter how slight, and when you need real power to slip in and out of lanes on the highway or when pulling away from a stop, the car’s engine growls and sounds labored. The electronic-CVT (continuously variable transmission) seems to hesitate before building any torque. In fact, the hybrid system’s torque rating is a paltry 122. In gas-powered cars the torque rating is usually near, or better than its horsepower ranking. But acceleration through it all is adequate. Continue reading 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

2014 Toyota Corolla S Premium

Simplicity, reliability, economy = Corolla

toyo1Our family owned a Toyota Corolla in the 1980s and it’s on that generation of Corolla’s reputation that Toyota has built its automotive empire.

Simplicity, reliability and economy were the building blocks and the revamped 2014 Corolla appears to continue that corporate line of thinking. There are no surprises here, except maybe that the compact sedan’s interior has been improved in look and feel, and its exterior rounded a bit more and given a sportier nose.

Beyond that, if you own the last generation Corolla you’ll feel the new one is much the same in ride and performance. It is a tad surprising that the ride did not improve more as the 2014 model’s wheelbase grows nearly 4 inches to 106.3 inches. That’s where most cars and crossovers begin to exhibit a more refined ride. This still feels like a small car.

Ironically too, this is about the size that Toyota Camrys, Honda Accords and Mazda 6 sedans were, just a few years back. All the compacts are growing in every dimension attempting to keep up with the expanding size of U.S. drivers. s plan in Mississippi, but some models also will be shipped over the border from Canada. Reportedly no Corollas will be imported from Japan.

My test car was the sportier S model, in fact the S Premium with a starting price of $20,400. It was an attractive metallic blue, something Toyota calls Blue Crush Metallic, with black leather interior, which is standard on the S model.
A base Corolla L still starts at a more modest $17,610, including destination charges and comes with a four-speed automatic, pretty old school.toyo2

The S came with Toyota’s new CVT, a continuously variable transmission with paddle shifters behind the wheel that allow you to shift through simulated gears, giving the car more oomph. It needed it, but only in standard ECO mode, which the car defaults to every time it’s started.

In ECO mode the 1.8-liter I4 with intelligent variable valve timing feels puny. It makes 132 horsepower, about the same as my 13-year-old Camry that is similar in size. Yet the torque feels much less aggressive as the CVT is programmed to slowly ramp the sedan up to speed, reducing gas consumption. Continue reading 2014 Toyota Corolla S Premium

2014 Nissan Versa Note SV

Versa is inexpensive, versatile, but extremely underpowered
Rarely have I driven a car as underpowered as the Versa Note, Nissan’s new four-door hatchback version of the Versa, which debuted last year as a sedan.versa

Naturally this is an economy model, but still, with a 1.6-liter, I4 that cranks only 109 horsepower the acceleration is lackluster, and that’s being kind. Adding to the car’s giddyap woes is its Xtronic CVT, or continuously variable transmission.

Nissan has some of the best CVTs around, designed to increase fuel economy and give smooth quiet seamless shifts. This one does just that, but, oh my. I found myself disengaging the tranny’s overdrive system via a button on the shifter just to get out of the way of traffic as I “accelerated” away from stoplights.

I had done this with the sedan version too, so I shouldn’t have been surprised. Still, it’s a tad embarrassing when other small cars pull out and around you as the car lumbers up to speed. Those were NOT friendly stares or looks of admiration for the hatchback. Oh, and there’s small engine moan as you creep up to speed.

I feel compelled to start with this sour note because anyone driving this car will immediately notice its lack of power. Yet I know full well that Note buyers will be looking for economy and the utility of a hatchback, vs. the sedan version.
There really are plenty of both. Continue reading 2014 Nissan Versa Note SV