GMC took the wraps off of its next-generation full-size pickup trucks this month, introducing all-new 2021 Yukon and Yukon XL models. These flagship SUVs represent standard and stretched wheelbase versions of its largest utility vehicles and feature many changes, including an upgraded Denali line. The new models will be built in Texas and go on sale this summer.
Here are the highlights of GMC’s dynamic SUV duo:
1. Bigger than before. GMC’s big SUVs get even bigger for 2021. Both models enjoy at least a four-inch extension in their respective wheelbases and are up to half-foot longer than before. Cargo space in the Yukon is up at least 10 percent along with big gains in third-row legroom.
2. Three engine choices. GMC’s familiar gas engines return, although both are updated. This year, the two engines once again feature Dynamic Fuel Management, enabling the big SUVs to operate on as few as two cylinders. The third engine is a 3.0-liter turbocharged diesel V6, which is currently utilized in other GMC models. All three engines work with a 10-speed automatic transmission with push-button control.
3. Air suspension and a limited-slip differential. The 2021 Yukons will offer a new air suspension system as well as four-wheel drive with an electronic limited-slip differential. The differential continuously monitors road conditions and reacts by improving traction, handling, and control.
4. New AT4 line. Just as Denali has taken hold as a GMC sub-brand, the AT4 line is doing likewise. For 2021, the Yukon gets the AT4, one that includes several significant features. These include a two-speed transfer case, 20-inch all-terrain tires, hill descent control, a traction select system with off-road mode, skid plates, special AT4 leather-trimmed seats, a unique black interior, a heated steering wheel, heated and ventilated front seats, and heated outboard second-row seats.
5. Upgraded Denali trim. The Denali sub-brand brings a premium look and features to the Yukon line. In service since 1999, Denali is available across the GMC model line, but remains a favorite with the Yukon. Indeed, GMC says some 60 percent of Yukon models are Denalis. This year, the Denali has gained a bolder exterior and an all-new and exquisite interior. The cabin features a new instrument panel, unique seats, and four interior color choices. A larger chrome grille, upgraded exterior lighting, and a special lighting design amplify the outside. Other standout features include the latest magnetic control system, a 15-inch head-up display, rear pedestrian alert, and a high-definition surround-view camera.
6. Robust technologies. We already mentioned the available head-up display. Other improvements include a standard 10-inch diagonal center stack or an available 12.6-inch display. GMC also says that the Yukons’ processing power is five times as robust as before, allowing for future upgrades, including Super Cruise. Super Cruise is a semi-autonomous driving feature currently offered on Cadillac models and may eventually come to GMC.
7. Expanded technologies. Staying with the technology theme, the new Yukons will also benefit from a “broader availability of active safety features.” For instance, automatic emergency braking becomes standard across the Yukon line. The previously mentioned safety features including the HD surround vision camera, rear pedestrian alert, and a rear camera mirror are also noteworthy.
8. Improved trailering features. New trailering features designed to help improve hitching and imbue driving confidence when towing a trailer roll out. These include trailer profiles, trailer tire, pressure/temperature monitoring. and trailer side blind zone alert.
The one unknown about the 2021 Yukon has to do with price. Currently, a base Yukon model costs about $50,000, while the XL starts around $53,000. The top-trim models cost about $20,000 more, but with various package selections and individual upgrades, the cost can easily top $80,000. We think the high-end will now approach $90,000, but that’s still far less than the Cadillac Escalade, which can easily top six figures.
In all, the GMC duo will do what is expected, enabling GM to continue to dominate the segment. Indeed, about two-thirds of all large SUV sales are under a GM brand, with Chevrolet, GMC, and Cadillac easily outselling Ford and Lincoln, its closest competitors.
Introducing the fourth-generation Chevy Silverado.
Fresh on the heels of celebrating 100 years of truck building, Chevrolet has a new Silverado pickup truck to launch its second century. The fourth-generation Silverado is new from the ground up, although its changes seem more evolutionary than revolutionary.
This means Chevrolet did not break new ground by choosing an aluminum-intensive body as currently offered in the Ford F-150. Instead, steel usage continues to dominate and that’s a good thing too as aluminum prices have fluctuated wildly this year.
The 2019 Chevrolet Silverado offers a familiar silhouette, though the front fascia features the most comprehensive rework to the exterior. The interior doesn’t break new ground, but the updated technologies include the latest-generation Chevrolet infotainment systems and connectivity.
In short, the 2019 Silverado offers a familiar connection to the previous model, while staking out fresh terrain in several important areas that matter most to truck buyers.
2019 Chevrolet Silverado Overview
The 2019 Chevrolet Silverado is offered in Regular, Double and Crew cab body styles with standard two (rear)- and available four-wheel drive. Yes, Regular Cab sales are measured in the single digits, so it is laudable that Chevrolet continues to offer this style even as one competitor (Toyota Tundra) no longer does. This means you can still get a two-door Silverado with an eight-foot bed — a model prized by some commercial or fleet operators.
For 2019, Chevrolet offers the Silverado in Work Truck (WT), Custom, Custom Trail Boss, LT, RST, LT Trail Boss, LTZ and High Country trims. The Regular cab models have the 8-foot box, the Double Cab comes with a 6-foot, 6-inch box, while the Crew cab offers either a 5-foot, 8-inch or a 6-foot, 6-inch box.
You can get a 2019 Silverado for as little as $29,795. But that price gets you a regular cab work truck with a V6 engine and rear-wheel drive. Our auto trends analysis of the market reveals that most buyers opt for a four-door model with a higher trim point and a selection of packages. Thus, it is easy to understand when manufacturers claim transaction averages are well above $40,000.
For our (and your) amusement, we played with the Silverado configurator to figure out just how expensive a new Silverado might cost. The top-end High Country was our choice with its Iridescent Pearl Tricoat ($995) finish, High Country Premium Package ($4,685), Performance Upgrade Package ($2,150), Technology Package ($1,625), and a nifty trifold hard tonneau cover as found on our test model ($1,100).
The net price was $71,145, but that came in before the usual discounting. Regardless, it is possible to take home a Silverado with an out-the-door-price exceeding $65,000.
Highlights of the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado
Typically, Auto Trends reviews a model by focusing on the exterior, interior, safety and technology, and performance attributes before concluding with a model overview.
But the Silverado is such an important vehicle to Chevrolet (it outsells every other model by at least two-fold) that we’re taking a different approach here. Specifically, a look at seven of the highlights that define Chevy’s full-size pickup truck.
1. Slightly larger, but lighter.
We’ve seen full-size pickup trucks grow through the years. The fourth-generation Silverado is no exception.
Not only did some models gain nearly four inches between the wheels and all are now slightly larger, but the new Silverado also lost as much as 450 pounds. Credit must be given to advanced manufacturing techniques and the greater use of mixed materials. The body remains steel-intensive (as is the fully boxed frame), but torsional rigidity is up by 10 percent too, which aids in control.
2. The engine choices expand by two.
Chevrolet could have left well enough alone with its engine line up, but then it would have trailed its top competition, namely Ford and Ram. So this year Chevy added two new engines while refreshing its existing choices.
The 4.3-liter V6 returns as do the 5.3- and 6.2-liter V8s. This trio has served Chevrolet well for many years and are now third-generation versions. Among the three, the 5.3-liter engine is now available in two variants — including with active fuel management (AFM), whereby four cylinders are shut down under certain circumstances.
You’ll also find a version of this engine equipped with direct fuel management (DFM) and automatic on/off. This particular version utilizes 17 cylinder activation combinations for performance and efficiency optimization. The same technology is now standard on the big 6.2-liter engine.
But the biggest news may have everything to do with the Silverado’s expanded engine choices, which now include a four-cylinder gas and an inline-six diesel engine.
Before you get your knickers in a wad, neither new engine is ordinary. Indeed, both utilize forced induction, specifically turbochargers. The four-cylinder gas engine is a big surprise as it is the first time a full-size truck has utilized just four cylinders. It isn’t the standard engine either — you need to opt for it. In any case, it makes 310 horsepower and 348 pound-feet of torque. That’s more than what some V8s made a generation ago and easily matches most of today’s naturally aspirated V6 engines.
The other new engine choice is something we long expected — a 3.0-liter inline-six turbo diesel, which matches the displacement of similar Ram and Ford truck engines. We don’t know a whole lot about this engine yet — it is a late arrival, but it will be available in the 2019 model year. We think it will match the 240 horsepower and 420 pound-feet of torque reached in other Chevrolet models, including the midsize Colorado truck.
3. You’ll find multiple transmission offerings.
Why have just one transmission offering when you can have three? Well, the three choices with the 2019 Silverado correspond roughly with your preferred engine of choice.
The standard V6 engine comes with a six-speed automatic. The 5.3-liter V8 has a standard six- or available eight-speed automatic, depending on which engine choice you make: AFM or DFM. The eight-speed also works with the turbo four.
Choose either the big 6.2-liter V8 gas engine or the power-intensive 3.0-liter turbo-diesel inline-six and your engine works with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
My test model was the 2019 Crew Cab LTZ with the big V8 and accompanying transmission. I’ve tested Silverados before as equipped and the current iteration remains faithful to the performance capabilities you expect. In other words, you’ll find full-on power at the ready and the towing capabilities to go with it. These are two important criteria for any burly pickup truck. The Silverado most definitely excels in these areas…but that’s really no surprise.
4. Several new design elements are apparent.
I’ve already mentioned the changes to the Silverado are more evolutionary than they are revolutionary. But the most apparent change is right up front with the fascia. It is as bold as ever with its squared edges, lots of chrome, and full LED lighting (headlights, fog lights, and tail lamps) from the RST trim on up. It has a look that is at once brawny as it is elegant.
The rest of the body has a blocky look along with upright pillars and edges. You’ll find other trim differences between models. For example, the work truck has blacked-out touches along with a “Chevrolet” graphic across the grille and on the tailgate. The “Chevrolet” debossing on my test model’s tailgate was a nice touch.
Inside, the cabin ranges from basic fare to upscale. The work truck has vinyl seats, while cloth seats are found in most trims. Move up the trim range and you’ll find leather-trimmed seats available. Otherwise, the cabin is more functional than it is lavish, but that’s still a good thing. Most of the controls are familiarly placed, easy to decipher and not a chore to use. The squared off look dominating the exterior translates well to the interior.
Some of my favorite features included the clean center stack with the big open area at the base. It is large enough to hold a cell phone and a small purse. I also like that a cutout is located on top of the armrest/storage compartment and is large enough to hold your cell phone. The dual glove box design is a welcome feature too.
5. Tech features we like.
I’ve long liked the direction Chevrolet has taken with its technology, especially with the infotainment system. The first three trims have a 7-inch screen; the remaining five trims have an 8-inch screen. All models have both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone compatibility and that’s not something every competitor can claim.
The Silverado’s app-like interface is easy to use. When you connect your phone, either the Android or Apple “app” brightens, making it a standout among other apps. All models provide 4G LTE hotspot connectivity with one month free. This is especially useful for anyone who uses their truck as a mobile office.
Importantly, Chevrolet expanded its safety features this year. A Safety Package is available on the LT trim on up (standard with the High Country) and includes front and rear park assist, lane change alert, side blind zone alert and rear cross traffic alert.
A Safety Package II is reserved for the LTZ and High Country trims. It builds on the standard package by adding automatic headlamps, forward collision alert, lane keep assist with lane departure warning, low-speed automatic braking, front pedestrian braking, following distance indicator and a safety alert driver’s seat.
6. It has the big numbers we want.
I’m a frequent visitor to local outdoors destinations, including the boat ramps of Jordan Lake. The area is serene and beautiful and serves as the ideal photo shoot backdrop.
Through the years, I’ve paid close attention to the vehicles dropping boats into the water. A recently spotted Toyota Sienna van was an unusual visitor, but it managed its skiff with ease.
Most of the vehicles are neither minivan nor SUV. You’ll find a large number of pickup trucks on hand and chiefly of the full-size variety — light- and heavy-duty versions both. Typically, they’re pulling far larger boats weighing several tons.
“Numbers” matter when it comes to trucks. And not just horsepower, torque, displacement, transmission gears or axle ratios. What’s critically important for people who haul and haul BIG are such numbers as payload capacity and trailering capabilities.
When it comes to the payload (a number that includes vehicle fluids, passenger poundage and bed weight), the Silverado ranges from 1,745 to 2,543 pounds. When it comes to towing, the Silverado reaches a maximum 12,200 pounds. These numbers enable vehicle shoppers to do a lot without upgrading to a heavy-duty (and more expensive) model.
7. The Silverado can be a boss when it wants to.
So what’s the buzz about the Silverado’s two Trail Boss models? They’re the models off-road purists will likely gravitate to.
The Custom Trail Boss includes off-road equipment installed at the factory. You’ll find a locking rear differential, skid plates, Rancho shocks and 18-inch wheels set within Goodyear Duratec off-road tires. Moreover, this trim has a 2-inch suspension lift installed as well as the Z71 Off-Road Package (electronic hill descent control, a two-speed transfer case, and a heavy-duty air cleaner).
If that’s not enough for you, then the LT Trail Boss may be the preferred option. It combines all the off-road benefits of the Custom Trail Boss and adds LT features, including chrome accents, LED lighting, an 8-inch touchscreen, and available leather seats.
Parting Thoughts: 2019 Chevrolet Silverado
Chevrolet launched its “Like a Rock” truck ad campaign in 1991 and stayed with it until 2004. In those ads, Bob Seger’s voice crooned in the background as a voiceover explained the ruggedness and longevity of Chevy trucks.
The campaign is long gone, but the sentiment remains. GM’s trucks (Chevrolet and GMC combined) remain the best sellers with light- and heavy-duty full-size models joined by midsize offerings, including the Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon. Ford may have the best-selling model name, but when it comes to overall units, the General is on top.
Pickup trucks were once mostly work vehicles, but we’ve seen them become so much more. In many households, they are the family vehicle of choice and are much desired for all that they do. The 2019 Chevrolet Silverado continues that tradition with a fresh look, an expanded powertrain lineup, and updated technologies just in time for a new century of Chevy trucks.
A robust mid-product-cycle update for Ford’s big pickup truck.
For 40 consecutive years, the Ford F-150 has been the best-selling pickup truck in America. Indeed, it has also been the best-selling passenger vehicle for most of that time too, a streak that goes back 35 years.
Last overhauled in 2015, the 2018 Ford F-150 reflects the next important update for this full-size pickup truck as Ford introduces new or updated gasoline and diesel engines to the model line. The 2018 F-150 officially debuts this week at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
2018 Ford F-150
Three years after the current model made the transition to a high-strength, aluminum-alloy body, the 2018 edition receives several technological and safety updates, including available pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection. Also, a 3.3-liter naturally aspirated V6 gasoline engine will replace the current standard 3.5-liter and a 3.0-liter, turbo-diesel V6 will join the engine family.
As for the new gas engine, the 3.3-liter V6 is projected to offer the same 282 horsepower and 253 lb.-ft. of torque as the previous model’s standard 3.5-liter V6. Further, Ford is rolling out the second generation of its 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6, featuring dual port and direct injection technology. And just as the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 is currently mated with a 10-speed automatic transmission, beginning in 2018 the smaller EcoBoost will be likewise paired.
First F-150 Turbo Diesel
Rumors of a turbo-diesel engine for the F-150 have been circulating for years. Early on, some analysts speculated the 3.2-liter, five-cylinder turbo diesel found in the Ford Transit commercial van would get the nod.
Instead, Ford has developed an in-house 3.0-liter Power Stroke diesel and will pair it with the 10-speed automatic transmission. Apparently, the engine is similar to the one used in some Jaguar and Peugeot-Citroen vehicles, but the design and development is exclusive to Ford.
As for the lone available naturally aspirated 5.0-liter V8 engine, Ford promises increased power and torque. It, too, will be united with a 10-speed automatic transmission.
Trim-Level Grille Differences
Other changes for the 2018 F-150 underscore this model’s major mid product cycle update.
For instance, all trims will sport new grilles with distinctive styles offered from grade to grade. New headlamps and bumpers will also roll out in an effort to provide a firmer stance and wider look to the big truck. F-150 fans will see notable style differences such as on Lariat models equipped with the sport package. Here, you’ll find signature twin bars matching the trucks’ exterior color.
Six new wheel designs will roll out, ranging from 17 to 22 inches. From the rear, a sculpted tailgate with F-150 embossing is evident on lower trim models, while King Ranch, Platinum, and Limited versions dispense with that look for tailgate appliqué. All F-150 models benefit from a new tail lamp design.
Tech and Safety Changes
On the tech front, several available equipment options are planned, including adaptive cruise control with stop-and-go functionality, pre-collision assist with pedestrian detection, an embedded 4G LTE modem for a Wi-Fi hotspot, and a Bang & Olufsen audio system called B&O play.
Also available is SYNC and SYNC 3 with FordPass, Android Auto and Apple Car Play compatibility, a 360-degree camera, lane keep assist, and a blind spot information system.
Rounding out the changes for 2018 are seven new exterior colors and two new interior colors. Moreover, carbon fiber appearance appliques will appear in the XLT Sport and Lariat Sport models, while the F-150 King Ranch will gain new Kingsville Appointed seats.
Pricing for the entire 2018 F-150 line will be announced at a later date. The refreshed truck will go on sale this fall.
Payload, towing, and engine performance levels take a hike.
The Ford Super Duty is the heavy duty version of the Ford F-Series, the best-selling pickup truck line in America. Along with the F-150, the Super Duty has enabled Ford to maintain its leadership in the segment for nearly four decades.
The F-150 was overhauled in 2015 and two years later the Super Duty gets its turn. The all-new model goes on sale this fall and Ford says that it will leave its competitors behind. Those competitors are comprised of the Ram 2500/3500, Chevrolet Silverado HD, and the GMC Sierra HD. Toyota and Nissan have full-size trucks too, but they’re absent from the heavy-duty market.
2017 Ford Super Duty
Like the current-generation F-150, the 2017 Ford Super Duty is outfitted with high-strength, military-grade, aluminum alloy as well as high-strength steel. The transition to the current metals means Ford was able to reduce vehicle weight by up to 350 pounds, an effort that allows the truck maker to enjoy benefits elsewhere.
Ford says the truck’s neoteric fully boxed frame is composed of more than 95 percent high-strength steel and is up to 24 times stiffer than the previous model. As a result, the 2017 Super Duty will see marked improvements in towing and hauling capacities.
Topping the Towing Charts
For Super Duty trucks powered by the 6.7-liter, Power Stroke V-8 Turbo Diesel engine, gooseneck towing rises to 32,500 pounds up from 31,200 pounds for the 2016 model.
Fifth-wheel towing capacity is now 27,500 pounds, up from 26,500 pounds. Conventional towing climbs to 21,000 pounds, up from 19,000 pounds. The maximum payload capacity is now rated at up 7,630 pounds, providing a significant boost over the previous 7,050-pound limit.
Other changes can be found in engine performance. The turbo diesel makes 440 horsepower and 925 foot-pounds of torque (previously 860 lb.-ft.). The 6.2-liter, gasoline V-8 also gets a performance upgrade and will make 385 horsepower and 440 foot-pounds of torque (previously 405 lb.-ft.). Each of these numbers applies to the F-450.
With the all-new model, Ford claims leadership in a number of categories. Without naming its competitors, Ford says the 2017 Super Duty now claims a gooseneck towing edge of 1,290 pounds over the next closest model. Further, the Ford has a 2,500-pound lead in fifth-wheel towing and a 1,000-pound edge in conventional towing.
As for F-250 and F-350 Super Duty models, the maximum conventional towing with the F-250 equipped with an all-new trailer tow package and the F-350 with a single-rear-wheel tops out at a class-leading 18,000 pounds.
New Safety Technologies
On the technology front, the 2017 Super Duty becomes the first truck to offer adaptive cruise control and collision warning with brake support for heavy trailers, a technology the company says enables truckers to negotiate steep mountain grades while sustaining speeds even when trailering 32,500 pounds.
The Super Duty also offers a center high-mounted stop lamp camera, what provides visibility into the cargo box. This feature is particularly beneficial when connecting both gooseneck and fifth-wheel trailers. The “Ultimate Trailer Tow Camera System” is composed of four digital, high-definition cameras to provide the driver with a 360-degree bird’s-eye view surrounding their Super Duty.
Also, “Trailer Reverse Guidance” supplies visual cues and tips to help ease backing up a trailer. Moreover, a first-ever factory-available trailer camera can also be custom-placed on a trailer to improve visibility while backing up.
Light or Heavy Duty Truck
Ford is on pace to sell 800,000 F-Series this year as sales are up by more than 10 percent in a segment where sales are up just over 7 percent. An all-new Super Duty should help matters, enabling Ford to put more distance between the F-150 and Chevy’s Silverado, and extend its sales streak to 40 years.
The 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show served as the ideal backdrop for Jaguar to unveil its fifth model line and its first sport utility vehicle ever. Indeed, by taking this unique British brand to Germany to face its chief rivals on their home turf — i.e., BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Audi — Jaguar has served notice that its five-passenger, midsize F-PACE SUV intends to commandeer its share of the market.
The 2017 Jaguar F-PACE follows on the heels of the XE — Jaguar’s all-new compact executive sedan — set to arrive itself stateside early in 2016, just ahead of the SUV. Along with the XF, XJ and F-TYPE, these five model lines should help Jaguar compete more effectively with Europe’s exceptional brands.
Fundamentally, it is these same competitors that have influenced Jaguar to expand toward territory once held only by Land Rover, its brand kindred. Notably, the new F-PACE is nothing like a Land Rover, at least by its looks, as its designers applied the front fascia of the brand’s sedans and fastened the strapping rear haunch of the F-TYPE to its back quarter in a bid to forge this model. The result is an SUV that is at once elegant as it is athletic.
Priced With Attainability in Mind
Despite its high-end visage and exquisite interior, the F-PACE is surprisingly attainable. Indeed, with a base price of $40,990, it comes in far lower than what might have been charged. Essentially, with this aggressive pricing Jaguar has articulated that it intends to expand volume by wooing customers away from its larger and far more entrenched competitors.
When the 2017 Jaguar F-PACE launches in the US, it will offer 340- and 380-horsepower variants of its renowned 3.0-liter, supercharged V-6 engine. The latter engine will be exclusive to the F-PACE S ($56,700), enabling it to go from 0-to-60 mph in 5.1 seconds. Every F-TYPE engine will come paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission supplied by ZF.
Later on in the year, a 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine making 180 horsepower at 4,000 RPM with an output of 317 foot-pounds of torque at 1,750 to 2,500 RPM will be offered. Jaguar says that its compact oil burner will go from 0-to-60 mph in 8.2 seconds and reach a top speed of 129 mph. Importantly, the new diesel meets all current and upcoming European and American emissions standards.
All-Wheel Drive Comes Standard
The Jaguar F-PACE is an all-wheel drive model based on a traditional rear-wheel drive platform. Although Jaguar is silent about a possible rear-wheel drive version, such an option seems likely. Surely with BMW offering sDrive or rear-wheel drive derivatives of its X3, X5, and X6 utility vehicles, there is room for Jaguar to do likewise.
Jaguar says that the cabin is spacious with premium materials and advanced craftsmanship employed throughout. Seating five, the F-PACE comes with cloth seats standard with leather seats available. Up front are a pair of bolstered bucket seats. To the rear is a 40-20-40 split folding bench seat. As the photo demonstrates, the 33.5 cubic foot storage compartment might house your pet. Look for a line of animal friendly accessories to follow.
Standard equipment includes power accessories, a tilt and telescopic steering column, a Jaguar InControl Touch infotainment system featuring an 8-inch capacitive touchscreen, zoned climate control, and audio packages. The front center console includes a 12-volt outlet and two USB ports. The rear console offers two 12-volt outlets and two USB ports.
Advanced Safety Features Available
Numerous safety systems are included or available. For example, Jaguar employs stereo camera technologies to provide a 3D view of the road ahead, an arrangement it says works ideally with autonomous emergency braking systems. Not only does this system “see” cars, but it also detects pedestrians and brakes accordingly.
Other safety features include a laser head-up display, adaptive cruise control with queue assist, a blind spot monitor and reverse traffic detection, and park assist. By the way, the laser HUD system provides contrasting colors and saturation in an effort to quell the impact of strong sunlight that typically degrades HUD read outs.
Additional Models Planned
Now that Jaguar has its first SUV, a second one will follow. Dubbed the J-PACE, the larger model is still a few years out and will likely parallel the Jaguar XJ. Further, if customers are attracted to Jaguar SUVs without diluting sales from Land Rover, a third utility vehicle could follow, this one slotting beneath the F-PACE.
Clearly, Jaguar is taking a risk by adding SUVs to its product line, but it isn’t without precedence. Just as Porsche has successfully expanded its offerings by adding a sedan and two SUVs, Jaguar may very well enjoy a similar bounce. And this comes from a brand that a decade ago was struggling not only to find its footing, but to survive in a highly competitive luxury market.
With gasoline prices trending somewhere below $2.50 per gallon, the rush to fuel-efficient vehicles has certainly come to a grinding halt. On the other hand, demand for pickup trucks, large utility vehicles and other less-efficient models has soared.
Even though pump prices have eased, some drivers continue to search for new cars that offer excellent fuel economy, perhaps because they know that long-term fuel prices will only rise. Indeed, if you have long term ownership in mind, you need to consider prospective fuel and auto trends when exploring your purchase options.
The following list represents today’s top fuel economy cars, trucks, utility vehicles, and wagons by category. For this Auto Trends has included standard hybrid models, but removed plug-in hybrids and other electrified vehicles that skew the numbers.
1. Large Cars — The Ford C-MAX is categorized as a large car even though its chassis is based on the compact Ford Focus. In the federal government’s odd vehicle measuring criteria, it is interior room that dictates space. This five-passenger, front-wheel drive wagon-like model is EPA-rated at 42 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway for a combined 40 mpg. For a bona fide large car, you can choose a Toyota Avalon Hybrid and enjoy the same combined 40 mpg as the small Ford.
2. Midsize Cars — The Toyota Prius has a large interior, room for five and is front-wheel drive. It is the best known of all hybrid vehicles and the most efficient of them all. To that end, Toyota takes a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder gasoline and pairs it with a hybrid drivetrain. This Toyota is EPA-rated at 51 mpg in the city and 48 mpg on the highway for a combined 50 mpg. (Pictured: the PHEV version).
3. Compact Cars — The Toyota Prius C is a compact version of the larger Prius and is powered by a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine paired with a hybrid drivetrain. This hatchback seats up to five and is EPA-rated at 53 mpg in the city and 46 mpg on the highway for a combined 50 mpg.
4. Subcompact Cars — A gasoline-only vehicle leads this segment, a Ford Fiesta SFE model powered by a 1.0-liter turbocharged, three-cylinder engine paired with a 5-speed manual transmission. This five-passenger Fiesta is EPA-rated at 31 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway for a combined 36 mpg. Incidentally, you can also opt for an Audi A3 outfitted with a turbo-diesel engine to equal the Fiesta’s fuel economy.
5. Minicompact Cars — Cars in this segment are the smallest on the road and include the three-passenger, Scion iQ. The front-wheel drive iQ is powered by a 1.3-liter, four-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable transmission.This model is EPA-rated at 36 mpg in the city and 37 mpg on the highway for a combined 37 mpg.
6. Two-Seater Cars — The EPA has a category for two-seat cars that includes vehicles of varying sizes. The most fuel efficient car here is the Honda CR-Z, a hybrid model powered by a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine and paired with a continuously variable transmission. This Honda is EPA-rated at 36 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway for a combined 37 mpg.
7. Midsize Station Wagons — There are very few wagons on the market. The Toyota Prius V is one such model, the largest of all Prius models. It is a hybrid vehicle with 1.8-liter, four-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable transmission. This roomy five-passenger model is EPA-rated at 44 mpg in the city and 40 mpg on the highway for a combined 42 mpg.
8. Small Station Wagons — Can the Honda Fit possibly be categorized as a small station wagon? Well, that’s exactly what the EPA has done with this five-door hatchback. The Honda Fit is powered by a 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine paired with a continuously variable transmission. It is EPA-rated at 33 mpg in the city and 41 mpg on the highway for a combined 36 mpg.
9. Minivans — What category seems to defy its name? That probably would be minivans, comprised mostly of medium-sized models. One exception is the six-passenger Mazda 5, powered by a 2.5-liter, four cylinder engine and paired with a five-speed automatic transmission. This model is EPA-rated at 21 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway for a combined 24 mpg.
10. Medium Sport Utility Vehicle — Sport utility vehicles typically do not get good gas mileage, but the exception is found in smaller models or with hybrids. In the medium SUV category. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid is powered by a 3.5-liter, V-6 engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission and is EPA-rated at 27 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway for a combined 28 mpg.
11. Small Sport Utility Vehicle — The most fuel-efficient small SUV is a luxury model, a Lexus NX 300h front-wheel drive hybrid. This model is powered by a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission. Seating five, the NX 300h is EPA-rated at 35 mpg in the city and 31 mpg on the highway for a combined 33 mpg.
12. Standard Pickup Trucks — Ford may have a lightweight, aluminum-bodied truck in the F-150, but it is a Ram 1500 HFE 2WD model that is the most efficient in this segment. That truck is powered by a 3.0-liter, turbo-diesel engine paired with an 8-speed automatic transmission. It is EPA-rated at 21 mpg in the city and 29 mpg on the highway for a combined 24 mpg.
2015 Chevrolet Colorado.
13. Small Pickup Trucks — Small trucks are not as fuel-efficient as some would like, despite offering standard four-cylinder engines. Several models, including the Toyota Tacoma, GMC Canyon and Chevrolet Colorado are tied in this segment, making a combined 22 mpg. The good news is that an upcoming turbodiesel for GMC and Chevrolet should boost fuel economy by about 20 percent when that engine comes out in 2016.
Fuel Efficient Tips
Official fuel economy numbers aside, you can maximize your efficiency in several ways, including avoiding jackrabbit starts and hard breaking, and by keeping your tires properly inflated. Use cruise control on the highway when road conditions are dry and you can increase your efficiency further.
Volkswagen has done some model line shuffling, moving its Jetta SportWagen to its Golf line. A similar size and a lighter weight define the new model that goes on sale in US showrooms this spring.
Mention the word “SportWagen” to any Volkswagen acolyte and “Jetta” may come to mind. That’s a fair assumption as the two names have been conjoined since the Jetta SportWagen came to the market in 2011.
Model Line Migration
However, beginning in 2015, the two names have officially been dissevered as the Jetta SportWagen was terminated to make way for the Golf SportWagen. And lest you think that the new model is a smaller version of the Jetta variant, consider this: the 2015 Volkswagen Jetta SportWagen is slightly larger and capacious than the outgoing Jetta version in keeping with upsizing for the subcompact Golf model line. Further, bigger does not mean weightier either as Volkswagen found a way to prune 137 pounds from the original SportWagen.
Please indulge me and I mention one side reference: where vehicle lines were downsized from the late 1970s and through much of the 1980s — in a bid to save weight and improve fuel economy — today’s vehicles are trending larger as weight savings are realized elsewhere, typically through smaller engines and in the greater use of lightweight materials, including carbon fiber, aluminum and high-strength steel.
2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen
Arriving in dealer showrooms in April, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen is priced from $21,395 for the base 1.8T model powered by a turbocharged, 1.8-liter gasoline four-cylinder engine. It comes paired with a 5-speed manual transmission; opt for the 6-speed automatic and you will add $1,100 to the price. Volkswagen estimates that the gas model will achieve 36 mpg on the highway.
Also available is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, turbo-diesel engine. It comes paired with a 6-speed manual or a dual-clutch automatic transmission. The base TSI S starts at $24,595 and achieves an estimated 43 mpg on the highway.
Although the SportWagen is definitely a wagon, it has the utility of a small crossover and might be compared with the likes of the Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V, Nissan Juke, Mazda CX-3, Jeep Renegade and the Fiat 500X. However, the front-wheel drive SportWagen has no all-wheel drive variant, unlike the assemblage of subcompact crossovers.
Shortcoming or not, Volkswagen says that the SportWagen has the equivalent fun-to-drive characteristics as the standard Golf, including the versatility that this best-selling VW bestows. With this in mind, Auto Trends has not received a model to test yet, so we will reserve our own comments for a later date.
Corresponding Trim Levels
Volkswagen will market the new SportWagen in six trim levels, with three each corresponding to the chosen engine. The gasoline engine yields TSI S ($21,395), TSI SE ($26,995) and TSI SEL ($29,345) editions; the diesel engine yields TDI S ($24,595), TDI SE ($27,995) and TDI SEL ($30,345) editions. Notably, the diesel option in “S” lines is a $3,200 premium, but drops to just $1,000 with the SE and SEL editions. By the same token, the diesel equivalents are outfitted with the manual transmission — to upgrade to the automatic, you would pay an additional $1,100.
Every SportWagen offers aluminum-alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, a touch screen, SiriusXM satellite radio and iPod integration. Power accessories and air conditioning are standard as are manually-operated leatherette seats.
The amenities list expands as you move up, as larger wheels, front fog lights, keyless entry with push button start, a panoramic sunroof and a rear view camera are included with the SE editions. Select the SEL and you gain automatic climate control, sport seats, and a 12-way power adjustment for the driver. Lighting and assistance options are available with the SE and SEL trim levels.
Advancing the Volkswagen Brand
For Volkswagen, a model such as the SportWagen is imperative, regardless whether it is called a Golf or a Jetta. This German automotive manufacturer has had a tough time in the ultra-competitive US market and needs additional new products to flesh out its model line. And those new models can not come quick enough.
SportWagen photo courtesy of Volkswagen of America, Inc.
Medium range crossover combines performance with efficiency.
The recent arrival of an Audi Q5 TDI Quattro in my drive marked the third of three crossover utility vehicles I’ve received from this German luxury manufacturer within the past year.
The exquisite seven-passenger Q7 arrived first, what serves the full-size end of the segment. Later in the year, an all-new five-passenger Q3 arrived, an elegant vehicle designed for compact luxury CUV shoppers. But it was the five-passenger Q5 that provided me with the best week of driving thrills, by virtue of the 3.0-liter turbocharged V-6 diesel engine powering its medium frame.
Quattro Meets Turbodiesel
The 2015 Audi Q5 comes with standard all-wheel drive Quattro; only the smaller Q3 offers with either front- or all-wheel drive. As I have adroitly enumerated in my previous write ups, all-wheel drive is the superior choice — not just for on-road traction, but for optimum steering and handling. Think “quattro” and you have a permanent all-wheel drive system — one that is always at work. In some other vehicles, all-wheel drive only kicks in as you need it. Yes, there is a difference, one best articulated in every twist, turn, rise and fall of the pavement.
The advantage of the Audi Q5 depends principally on how you examine it.
First, it seats five people just like the smaller Q3, but more comfortably so. I like to think that Q3 buyers acquire one to serve two people or perhaps two parents with their young children in car seats. Beyond that, rear legroom will have you feeling pinched, especially as the children grow.
Second, it offers the same larger engines as the Q7 as well as the four-cylinder 2.0-liter turbocharged gasoline engine found in the Q3. Audi, in its infinite wisdom, only offers the larger V-6 diesel in the Q5. And that’s where the fun begins!
But first, let’s look at what you receive in the 2015 Audi Q5. This model is available in three trim levels: Premium ($39,300), Premium Plus ($42,200) and Prestige ($52,900). Select the Premium edition and the four-cylinder, turbocharged gasoline engine is your solitary choice. All three engine choices, including the “four” and a pair of turbocharged diesel and gasoline V-6 engines, are available with the Premium Plus. The Prestige offers only the larger engines.
My weekly driver was powered by the turbodiesel V-6 and outfitted with all-wheel drive; it had a base sticker price of $47,000. Its total price came in at $55,625, due chiefly to a $4,000 technology package and a $2,300 luxury package. A savory Bang & Olufsen sound system added $850 — that’s one upgrade I strongly recommend.
Uniform Style Language
Across the Q3-Q5-Q7 triumvirate, the styling is constant, although there are some differences. The overall design composition is uniform, with the waterfall grilles on the Q3 and Q5 making for the closest match. Audi’s latest LED daytime running lights arrangement has those lights completely encompassing the lighting assemblies front and back.
The Audi Q5 has a graceful persona with a flowing look that extends from the grille, up the hood line, across the windshield and roof line, and down the liftgate. Not especially muscular, yet athletic, the Q5 moves lithely like a ballerina until a sudden kick tells you that it means business.
And that business is symptomatic to the turbodiesel, what produces 240 horsepower and a whopping 420 foot-pounds of torque. Its twist kicks in early and low in the rpm curve, providing an extra boost before you expect it. Be prepared here: you may find yourself tooling down the interstate entrance ramp at a cop-car-pull-me-over speed.
Audi pairs the Q5’s engines with an eight-speed tiptronic transmission. You will operate it in automatic mode much of the time, but if clutchless shifting is your fixation, then have at it. Personally, I want the real deal — give me a true manual gearbox and the attendant clutch pedal — maybe not in a utility vehicle, but definitely in a sport sedan or coupe.
With a utility vehicle, you will also have at least some pitching and rolling as you navigate the twists and turns. The Audi Q5 makes short work of it all as it hugs the corners and navigates its turns with authority. No, you are not driving a low-slung sport coupe, but you are accessing one crossover that has fun factored in. Just be certain that the kiddies are tightly buckled in back there!
Inside, you enjoy the anticipated Audi craftsmanship that this brand exemplifies. And with an uncluttered dashboard at that.
The instrument panel features two large analog displays —odometer and speedometer — and two much smaller analog displays for oil pressure and fuel. Strategically centered is the digital driver’s information center, what you control with a steering-wheel mounted switch.
The center console has the requisite display and, notably, Audi seems to be moving away from the unit that either was fixed to the top of the instrument panel or quickly emerged once the ignition was activated. No matter, the look is a clean one, with orange and white lettering on the blackest of backgrounds. You govern the panel with a knob situated between the seats.
Underneath the display are vents, a multimedia system and switches for the climate control system, including heating and cooling switches for the front seats.
Connectivity Issues and an App
Audi still does not make it easy to connect some smartphones for recharging purposes. Specifically, you must have the correct cable connection, but that just does not work out for me. However that may change as Audi, new for 2015, released an “Audi MMI connect App” to sync directly with the available MMI navigation system. For example, the app ties in with the owner’s myAudi account to stream music, to help you find where your car is parked and provide destination support. Given that I do not have an account, I did not test it.
I have yet to meet an Audi that failed on the fit and finish front — each model is a mark of impeccable craftsmanship, with a tasteful fusion of authentic dark brown wood inlays, chic aluminum trim, Milano leather seating and choice soft touch materials. Drive this model at night and the interior is peppered with red highlights —easy on the eyes, but enchanting nonetheless.
Audi provides a crossover that comes well equipped. Every model is outfitted with three-zone climate control, power accessories, a tilt and telescopic steering column, a rear cargo cover, four 12-volt outlets, ambient lighting, leather touches and four cup holders and four bottle holders.
Move up to the Premium Plus and procure keyless entry and push button start and stop, heated front seats and a panoramic sunroof. The Prestige edition extends the luxury quotient to its zenith by bringing in adaptive xenon plus headlights, LED daytime running lights and tail lamps, MMI navigation, manual rear sunshades, parking assist and a rear view camera.
Additional Crossover Considerations
Beyond the Q triad, Audi does offer other crossovers for your consideration, including a hybrid variant of this very same Q5. Yet another variant, the SQ5, brings optimum performance to the line with the specialized styling befitting a sport edition. Consequently, you may find yourself wrestling with your choices as nearly every utility vehicle niche has been filled by Audi.
2015 Audi Q5 TDI Quattro
Sticker price from $47,000
Price as tested: from $55,625
Seats 5 occupants
3.0-liter 24-valve V-6 turbodiesel engine
240 horsepower @ 3,750 to 4,000 rpm
428 foot-pounds of torque @ 1,750 to 2,250 rpm
3.27 inches bore by 3.60 inches stroke
Engine compression ratio: 16:8-to-1
8-speed automatic transmission
Wheelbase: 110.5 inches
Length: 182.6 inches
Width: 74.7 inches
Height: 65.2 inches
Passenger volume: 101.5 cubic feet
Storage volume: 29.1/57.3 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 4,400 pounds
EPA: 24 mpg city, 31 mpg highway
Fuel tank: 19.8 gallons
Curb weight: From 4,475 pounds
IIHS safety rating: Good
Limited vehicle warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles
Powertrain warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles
Corrosion warranty: 12 years/Unlimited miles
Vehicle assembly: Ingolstadt, Germany
2015 Audi Q5 photos copyright Auto Trends Magazine.
The Ford Transit is available as a commercial van or a passenger wagon.
Until a Ford Transit arrived in my driveway earlier this month, 1980 was the last time I had driven a full-size van of some kind.
At that time I was a fairly new driver, but my neighbor had enough confidence in me to ask if I would take him and his family to the airport in their Ford Econoline. I agreed, rode with the family to the airport, was paid for my time, and then I climbed behind the wheel of their 15-passenger van to start my 25-mile journey home.
That drive showed me then and there that a van of gargantuan proportions was not in my future. Not so much because of its size, but for its mushy steering, creaky ride and embarrassing disposition. Minivans hadn’t hit the market yet and the Econoline was far removed from the 60s-era hippie-loving vans that were more to my liking.
Though I never drove an Econoline again, the model name lived on until 2010 when it was renamed the E-Series. Naming convention change notwithstanding, the refreshed van was essentially the same as the updated one that rolled out around 1990.
Twenty-five years later and that E-Series and the erstwhile Econoline are now history. The Ford Transit, based on a European model of the same name, has replaced the aged stalwarts. Ford took its European-designed van, reconfigured it for the North American market, and now assembles it in Missouri. The Transit is a far cry from the earlier Econolines and a substantial step up from the now defunct E-Series.
The Ford Transit is sold in van and wagon versions. The former is a panel van design that targets commercial buyers; the latter is for fleet owners or for families that can use the extra seating space and the side windows that accompany these models.
The expanded space provides standard seating for eight with available seating configurations for 10, 12 and even 15 passengers. Church vans, transit buses or any other public conveyance can be replaced with this wholly modern interpretation of a traditional people mover.
Of course, Ford has much more in mind for the Transit, a vehicle that is available in single- and dual-rear wheel models, three roof lengths and three body styles. Moreover, Ford designed the Transit for any number of cargo volume and payload permutations. It has wagon and van payload limits that get the job done no matter how it is configured.
Need to tow? No problem: some models can pull up to 7,000 pounds. If you want versatility, the Ford Transit delivers.
The V-8 and V-10 gasoline engines that once powered the big Ford vans are not needed in the Transit. The standard engine is a 3.7-liter naturally-aspirated V-6 gasoline engine. If V-8 equivalent power is preferred, a 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 gasoline engine making 310 horsepower can do the job. In addition, a 3.2-liter five-cylinder turbo diesel engine making 185 horsepower and 350 foot-pounds of twist is also available for optimum fuel efficiency.
Certainly, the Ford Transit in all of its many sizes, uses and power plant offerings goes well beyond what the previous model offered. That was done with a purpose as Ford intends to keep its decades long hold on the big van market as it has done in the large pickup truck market in the F-150. Yes, Ford’s big van sales leadership is almost as long and strong as it is with large pickup trucks, although Ford sells nearly six times as many trucks as it does vans.
Now that the background information has been said, the model I drove for the week was the Ford Transit 150 LR Wagon XLT. Yes, that’s a mouthful!
What the model terminology means is that I was provided with the standard (or medium) wheelbase model with room for eight. I had to dig through my paperwork a bit to confirm that the model information matched the vehicle provided. I also learned how Ford Transit pricing is established.
The Ford Transit van — the standard commercial or work van — is priced from $29,735. The Transit XL Wagon — the standard passenger carrying model — is priced from $32,270. The Transit XLT Wagon, with several interior and exterior upgrades, is priced from $33,770.
You should know that the base price reflects models that are lightly equipped — there are many package upgrades and options that buyers will most definitely want to consider.
No worries, you get an automatic transmission, air conditioning and a basic audio package with every model. Upfitters know that they will pay for their customizations, but that’s part of the adventure of owning a big van — you can upfit to meet your own peculiarities and specifications.
My weekly driver arrived and immediately took over the driveway. Well, not really. But its proportions were larger than anything that I had to date, including the handful of full-size SUVs and crew cab pickup trucks that have composed my fleet.
Can’t find the fuel door? Open the driver’s door and you gain access to the fuel spout.
Cutting to the chase the following represent my observations about the Ford Transit:
First, the styling is something entirely different. Whereas the E-Series was based on the platform underpinning the F-Series, this platform is its own beast. You still have a rear-wheel drive architecture, but you also have a vehicle that from the front is more aerodynamically pleasing than its predecessor. Its lines won’t win style points, but its boxiness is more relaxed. Still in place is a tall roofline and a squared off rear fascia, but that comes with the territory.
Second, interior room is nothing short of amazing. The test model offered seating for eight with a pair of bucket seats in the front followed by two three-placement bench seats. After the third row is a colossal amount of storage space — so much so that a fourth row could fit and ample room for storage would remain.
Third, the Ford Transit does high profile right. Slip behind the driver’s seat and you may have the distinct impression that you are ready to drive a bus. If you think that 4x4s have a high profile, you haven’t been in the Transit. The driver sits high and has full command of the road in front. Indeed, the sight lines in this vehicle have been optimized to where you can peer down to the street and see clearly on both sides of the vehicle. Oversized mirrors, available in short- or long-arm design, with a convex mirror are worth ordering — blind spots may not be eliminated entirely, but you shouldn’t be surprised by any vehicle inching up on you.
Fourth, the Transit’s dashboard is expansive and thoughtfully arranged. On either side of the dashboard and nearest to the fixed, A-pillar windows are cup holders. Beneath both are additional open compartments that might also fit drinks. Moreover, you will find a trio of cup holders near the base of the center console. The instrument panel features traditional analog tachometer and speedometer displays and a pair of smaller fuel and oil temperature gauges. A digital driver’s information center is also present. The steering wheel column tilts and telescopes and the transmission shifter is located on the dash to the right of the wheel. The display screen is small and not particularly easy to read — I would have liked to see it canted toward the driver’s position. Additional storage spaces are found in the oversized glove box, in the front doors and at the base of the center console. A smart phone holder, 12-volt outlets, USB ports and a 110-volt outlet are also present. One additional cup holder is found in the wall for each of the second and third row seating positions. Overhead rear heating controls, illuminated mirrors and seating lights are included. Two more cup holders are behind the third row seat, ready to serve fourth row passengers when the extra seat has been installed. The spare tire can be found underneath the rear of the Ford Transit.
Fifth, steering and handling are excellent. If you are easily intimidated by any vehicle larger than a Toyota Camry or a Chevy Equinox, the Ford Transit may surprise you. This vehicle won’t win any awards on the track, but steering is confident and handling is responsive. With the Transit you can take those slow, tight turns you might otherwise avoid. Braking is adequate or what you would expect with this type of vehicle.
Sixth, your power options gives you a real choice. My test model came equipped with the most powerful engine offered: the 3.5-liter EcoBoost V-6 engine. Not once did more than one person ride with me, but if I had a wagon full of people, then this motor would be my power plant of choice. At 310 horsepower, this one is “retuned” from the 365 horsepower offered in some models, such as in the Ford Taurus, but its torque rating comes in at 400 or 50 more than in the Taurus. Torque is the power you want most once you get going. And the EcoBoost delivers energy in spades.
Seven, configure this model the way you want. Buyers want choice when it comes to their vehicles. In the Ford Transit, that choice extends to the length of its platform, single or dual wheels to the rear, multiple height choices and a variety of engines. Whether used as a work van or a passenger wagon, the Transit accurately advances versatility. The wide pivoting passenger and rear doors magnify that trait.
While the Ford Transit most definitely serves a niche, its possibility as a family hauler is a factor. Undoubtedly, not many people will abandon their big crossovers or large pickup trucks to buy one, but then what we have here is a vehicle that is far superior to the vans that it has replaced. For Ford, that means that they have a winner on their hands, especially for commercial accounts and fleet buyers.
With gas prices falling below $2 per gallon in most states it can be difficult to argue for the benefit of purchasing any fuel-efficient car, including diesels. Besides, diesel prices remain about 75 cents higher than gasoline and may still keep some people from even considering these models.
Myopia is not just a condition of the eye. It is also a malady that we consumers must contest when making purchase decisions. When it comes to fuel prices, short sightedness can lull us into thinking that temporary gains will lead to a permanent advantage. Consequently, such purchase decisions are often deeply regretted once the stage has been rearranged. In this case when elevated fuel prices return, they will do so with a budget-busting vengeance.
Select This: Gasoline or Diesel
In the Audi A3 Sedan you have a choice of turbo gasoline or diesel engines. Auto Trends reviewed the gasoline-powered A3 2.0T in September 2014, finding that the “second generation A3 meets an important price point.” With a starting price of $32,600 ($43,295 well equipped), the turbodiesel edition brings an attainable and highly-efficient entry-level model to the luxury segment.
Certainly, 31 mpg in the city and 43 mpg on the highway for a combined 36 mpg are numbers most of us can only dream about. In the Audi A3 TDI, a numeric nirvana has been attained.
The Audi ethos is not much different from other luxury manufacturers. Indeed, the A3 as well as the A4 provide an ideal gateway to the brand. Once you have been sufficiently wooed, Audi has entire lines of sedans, coupes and utility vehicles to maintain your allegiance. Granted, there are styling differences between entry and high-end models such as the A8, but the overarching theme endures.
Power to the Front Wheels
My test model was a front-wheel drive A3, the very first FWD Audi I have driven. Every vehicle sent to me hitherto was all-wheel drive. And Quattro all-wheel drive at that. For most buyers it does not matter if power is sent to the front wheels, to the rear wheels or to all four wheels — there are other considerations that matter more to them, such as, style, fuel efficiency and price.
Although BMW and Mercedes-Benz have fleets that are rear-wheel drive biased with available all-wheel drive, Audi’s design approach is standard front-wheel drive with available all-wheel drive pushed as the preference. But in the A3 TDI you have no such choice: front-wheel drive is the singular offering. And if you are looking for the previously offered hatchback model you will be disappointed to discover that only the sedan is available with this model year. Reportedly, a hatchback will be added in 2016.
There is no need for me to rehash the exterior styling and the cabin amenities for the A3 covered in my earlier review. Without doubt the most important issues here are the engine, transmission and front-wheel drive, what combine to make the forenamed model the fuel efficient beast that it is.
Surely, the A3 TDI lives up to its fuel efficiency billing. After one week of driving, I estimated my mileage came in just under 40 mpg. That high number was reached through extensive, almost exclusive highway and back road driving where posted speed limits ranged from 45 to 70 mph. To that end activating cruise control for long stretches helped matters too.
Clean and Efficient Diesel
Kudos to the Volkswagen Group for making a turbo diesel that is not only clean and efficient, but relatively quiet. Its clatter has been hushed through a variety of engineering upgrades, including shortening the injection lines with fuel delivered in pulses, what no longer relies on solenoid or mechanical actuation. Under hood sound baffles and improved cabin insulation help muzzle noise, but it just may be the delicious Bang & Olufsen sound system that does the best job of noise cancellation, especially if you are prone as I am to turn it up to savor every wondrous note.
To that end you will get the premium sound system by choosing the Prestige edition, an $8,450 upgrade that also brings in 18-inch spoke-design wheels shod within all-season tires, heated seats, a navigation system and a parking system with a rear view monitor and other enhancements. Other upgrades included an $800 sport package featuring S Line trim with sport front seats, drive select controls, sport suspension and a three-spoke sport steering wheel.
The Audi A3 TDI’s engine is activated by pushing the start/stop button. It isn’t an immediate start either, especially on cold mornings. Simply press the brake, push the button, wait two or three seconds, and the engine will come to life. When the ambient temperature is lower, the heating up process is slightly longer. It is at idle when engine clatter is more discernible; you might also take in a whiff of diesel that generally is not noticeable while driving.
Turbo power makes all the difference for diesel engines, what have notoriously make them laggards from the start, but offer desirable boost once you are moving. A slight turbo lag is felt, but it quickly dissipates. The A3’s proportionate weight is most definitely a factor, what helps power this sedan with confidence.
There were times when I forget I was behind the wheel of a front-wheel drive car. No, not entirely. Torque steer surfaces on occasion, but it is largely of little consequence. Credit Audi’s engineers with fusing the right combination of electronic-assisted steering, suspension dampening and Continental tires with keeping this sedan planted, even while cornering. Specifically, steering is precise and handling is responsive — there is no ambiguity present as you navigate the bends. And as for brake fade, that’s not an issue either.
The Audi engineering stratagem pairs turbocharged engines with dual-clutch automatic transmissions. Operate the gearbox in manual mode and you will achieve a measure of control, but it isn’t the same as with a manual. Whispers of a manual gearbox with the upcoming hatchback have been regularly repeated. if those rumors prove true, then your dream powertrain combination may come to pass. Granted, it may be offered with the 2.0T only, if at all.
Competition From Mercedes-Benz
This sedan has much to offer, provided that your priorities are based on Audi’s styling, quality and fuel efficiency attributes. That Mercedes-Benz now has the entry-level GLA-Class provides additional evidence that the segment is a growing one. If you can do without Quattro all-wheel drive, then the TDI may be a logical step in that direction.