Tiguan shows VW still struggling in U.S.
Ever since Volkswagen lost its way in the U.S. market, about the time it phased out the old Beetle, it has been struggling to regain its footing.
Nowhere is that struggle more evident than its small sport-utility offering, the Tiguan. VW’s small ute was restyled and remade a year ago and certainly showed improvement. It feels lighter and more fun to drive. The steering is among the sportiest of all small utes. Plus it offers a 200-horse 2.0-liter, I4 with a turbo. That SHOULD make it rock.
But there were issues with the silver mid-line SE 4Motion that I tested.
Mainly its engine and 6-speed automatic DSG transmission with the clutchless manual Tiptronic system did not work smoothly. Certainly the engine has the ponies. Flatten the gas pedal and it’ll jump to highway speeds like a champ.
But most of us drive in that 30-45 mph range a lot as we trundle to and from work. In that bracket the transmission gets balky, especially from 35-40 mph. It feels as if it’s holding the engine back, the car hesitates and transmission noise increases. I found myself languishing as I pulled away from stoplights and getting frustrated as the ute bogged as I approached 40 mph on suburban 4-lane roads. Some shifts even felt a bit jerky at times.
Tiguan also requires premium fuel to boost that turbo, yet the ute gets modest gas mileage. I got just 22.1 mpg while the EPA rates this at 20 mpg city and 26 highway. Consider, for instance, its competitor, the Mazda CX-5 with its efficient SkyActiv engine that boasts 24 mpg city and 30 highway. I got 27.3 mpg in the Mazda. That’s a big difference. Continue reading 2013 Volkswagen Tiguan SE 4Motion
Land Rover’s LR2 modest in price, but boasts off-roading capability
Land Rover’s proud and adept off-roading history assures you that you’ll be getting a terrain crunching vehicle with any model, but the expectation of luxury is surely just as great.
So it is with its entry-level sport-ute, the LR2. With a modest starting price of $36,400 you know this isn’t going to be smothered in luxury, but still your expectations are elevated.
Created in Halewood, England, but now part of India’s Tata Motors automotive empire, Land Rovers have always been able off-road warriors. This one is no different, what with Hill Descent Control so that the LR2 won’t go careening down a steep incline at too great a speed, and with what Land Rover calls a 19.7-inch water wading depth. In addition the ute’s design includes a 29-degree approach angle and 32-degree departure angle at its rear.
So yes, it’ll go off road and take on any gravel, snow, sand that gets in its way. The 4-wheel-drive system is fulltime and a driver can push arrows on the console to electronically set the transmission to handle any of the aforementioned surfaces.
But let’s face it. Mostly you’ll be cruising the interstate and our nation’s crumbling roads, possibly an even greater challenge than sand or mud. Continue reading 2013 Land Rover LR2
Looks, handling, turbo give small Cadillac a boost
Those of us who have been around for a few decades may be forgiven for our skepticism when we hear Cadillac is creating an entry-level sport sedan. Visions of Cimarron dance in our brains.
Ah, but those who observe the car market closely know that Cadillac has been swinging for the fences of late while also having gotten its groove on in the styling department. The result for 2013 is a sweet compact sports sedan, the ATS.
First, it looks great with vertical lights front and rear. The front lenses fold over the front fender pointing up toward the cockpit, while the rear ones remind of many a Cadillac of years past. These look elegant, AND sporty, while the body is taunt and well chiseled with a lean athletic stance.
Folks who didn’t care for some of the overwrought designs and fluffery of the past should appreciate ATS’s understated good looks.
This is a true entry-level luxury sports sedan, the base 2.5L with rear-wheel drive lists at $33,095 and packs a 2.5-liter 202-horse four-cylinder rated at 22 mpg city and 33 highway. Continue reading 2013 Cadillac ATS AWD 2.0T
Cute and powerful, but overpriced and a rough rider
A co-worker put it perfectly after seeing my black and white Fiat 500 Abarth, it’s the Beanie Baby of cars – Cute with a capital C.
I like small cars, appreciate their efficiency, their fun factor and generally their lower cost. The Fiat 500 is cute, almost to a fault. At its base Pop trim level it’s a fun sub-compact that starts at an extremely attractive $15,500.
The Abarth (Fiat tells us that’s pronounced AH-bar) is its racy version. Think of its 1.4-liter MultiAir turbocharged engine as a Mini-Hemi, seeing as how Fiat and Chrysler are now linked up. Continue reading 2012 Fiat 500 Abarth