Monthly Archives: July 2014

Review: 2014 Buick Regal GS (FWD)

When the current generation Buick Regal was first announced back in 2009, it (along with the first generation Enclave CUV) served as visual proof that Buick (once reserved for those that were in their bi-focal years) was serious about recapturing the youth market once again, with the Regal GS further cementing that point in 2012. That particular model rewarded buyers with many new things once considered foreign to Buick such as supportive seats, a spirited 270 horsepower engine, and race inspired handling tweaks. However with the 2014 Regal receiving a host of exterior and interior upgrades, does the 2014 Regal GS still have what it takes to stand out from the rest of the luxury sport sedan market? or has its updates caused it to lose some of its uniqueness? Read on to find out.

The exterior styling of the Regal was based on the Europe only Opel Insignia which allowed the Regal to bring some much needed sportiness and crisp lines to the Buick stable. For 2014 Buick designers elected to do a refresh that was more of an evolution versus an outright revolution which should please fans and loyalists that loved the original formula. The front fascia retains the brand’s trademark waterfall grille but it is slightly taller than IMG_8322before, and features headlights which are sharper and more expressive than the frosty indifferent  units that adorned the 2013 model. The GS’s exclusive front air intakes are still present and accounted for, and their saber-tooth tiger inspired appearance will still be a matter of personal taste, some will like them while others won’t (we personally like them). The rear of the 2014 Regal is thankfully not as in your face as the front fascia, and retains a dash of elegance with new LED tail lamps that now incorporate the rear mounted metal trim in their design which contributes to a slightly wider look than its 2013 predecessor. A subtle rear mounted spoiler and more prominent exhaust tips (both carried over from the old model) round out the festivities and help the GS standout from its base Regal siblings.

 

The interior of the 2014 Regal GS also gets a whole host of improvements that add more technology and upscale charm to the interior than before but also expose a few quirks that may aggravate buyers at the same time. However before we get into that, lets focus on some of the positives that the interior has to offer starting with the drastically rIMG_8302educed button count on the climate control cluster and infotainment system. The 2013 model had a huge assortment of buttons, so many buttons in fact that it felt like you were operating a spaceship or playing an overly elaborate computer game. Thankfully Buick engineers have shelved this daunting and intimidating layout in favor of a simpler setup which now features touch sensitive controls for the climate and heated seats (similar to what debuted on the current generation Enclave). The Intellilink system has also been revamped and is now sharper and quicker than before with the system doing an excellent job of responding quickly to touchscreen inputs with little lag.

The GS exclusive 8-inch instrument mounted info screen is another welcome addition and looks crisp and modern with the screen allowing the driver to access various settings including audio, navigation, as well as performance data which features a special “friction bubble” for showing lateral and longitudinal G-Force. The restyled flat bottomed steering wheel is just as meaty and comfortable to wield as it was in the 2013 model, but the loss of its odd looking metal trim accents makes it look much more attractive, while a reworked setup for its satellite buttons makes it easier to use than before. The fully adjustable front seats offer excellent side support and are also comfortable on long journeys with copious amounts of leg and arm room present. The rear seats do boast a decent amount of knee and leg room, though headroom back there is what you’d expect from a sport sedan tight and best left for people under 6ft tall. Sound quality from my testers 9 speaker Bose Audio system was crisp with a good amount of bass and mid-range sound though treble was a bit on the low side but is only noticeable when playing certain kinds of music.

As stated earlier, the interior also boasts a few flaws which help make the overall presentation a mixed bag affair. The shifter for example is still surrounded by metallic hued trim which looks somewhat out of place considering that GS models only come in black with no other color choices available. However a more annoying complaint I have is IMG_8309in regards to the touch sensitive climate controls. While they do look slick and reduce button count, the touch sensitive pads are also not that accurate registering inputs, with a firm well placed touch needed for the system to respond (this quirk may infuriate owners used to smartphones that require just a light tap to operate). While we are complaining, some of the buttons (especially ones for the hazard lights parking assist and sport mode) are a bit of a reach, but thankfully, the traction control and GS mode buttons (the two most important buttons in this car) are within easy reach of the driver.

Speaking of that GS button it also plays a role in my final complaint, where’s the unique visual presentation when the button is pushed? In the 2013 model, the GS button caused the gauges in the instrument cluster to go from blue to white lighting. While it could be seen as a bit of excessive visual gimmickry, it did let you know that you were in a mode separate from Sport, and that you were about to experience something special. However in the 2014 GS push that button and you do not get that visual distinction, instead you just get a brief ripple effect from the speedometer and that’s it with no other visual changes setting it apart from Sport Mode. A minor complaint perhaps which is partially remedied by linking the digital gauges to each drive mode, but for someone like me who likes to have a bit of differentiation in their purchase, a red hued instrument cluster for GS mode would’ve been a neat and cool way to set the two modes apart.

 

Performance for the 2014 Buick Regal comes from the same 2.0 liter 259 horsepower turbocharged four cylinder that also see’s duty in the base Regal. While it does make 11 fewer ponies than the 2013 GS and its 270 horsepower (which may disappoint power junkies), Buick claimed that the decrease was necessary to accommodate the AWD components that can be equipped to the GS (my tester was FWD). Torque is also unchanged at 295 lb-ft though Buick does say that the GS reaches its maximum torque value at 2500 RPM, which is 500 less than the old model, and should help the car be slightly faster than its predecessor. These figures work together to allow the Regal GS to make the sprint to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds which is a tick faster than the old model, though it is still behind some rivals.

The engine like many other iterations of GM’s now familiar 2.0 liter four banger is at its happiest in the lower RPM range where it offers brisk and smooth acceleration before gradually running out of steam higher in the rev band though a brief period of turbo lag is present before it fully spools up. My testers six speed automatic produced consistent shifts, though putting it into manual mode allows the driver to make beIMG_8313tter use of the engines strong low end behavior. A six speed manual is also available as a no cost option for those that prefer to have full involvement in their driving experience though AWD fans will be forced to equip their rides with the six speed automatic (due to the needs of the Haldex derived unit). While the fore-mentioned six speed auto is a solid piece of technology, many competitors such as Lexus and BMW are now embracing seven and even eight speed transmissions which do have a one or two cog advantage on the Regal (regardless of configuration), and offer slicker shifts than the six speed as well as higher fuel economy though its rating of 21 city 30 highway is still good for its segment .

However straight line acceleration runs are neither this engines strong suit, nor what the GS is truly all about. Instead, its also about handling and braking which serve as the other two key components in the GS formula and allow the car to excel on the track as well as your favorite driving road. A beefed up suspension featuring GM’s Hi-Per strut system plays a crucial part in this mission reducing body roll and offering solid handling while still maintaining the smooth ride expected from a Buick product. This is despite the fact that the GS carries the majority of its weight on the front end ( a trait that tends to adversely affect handling behavior). The steering also offers plenty of accurate feedback with solid amounts of feel (a nice change from the majority of electrically assisted units). As before drivers can alter the cars behavior by pushing either the Sport or GS mode buttons which firms up the suspension, tightens up steering response, and produces crisper shifts from the six speed automatic. The GS also features bigger Brembo brakes to help stop the festivities with the meaty units providing consistent stable stops from a wide range of vehicle speeds.

Pricing for the 2014 Regal GS begins at 36,905 with my tester rounding out to $42,550 thanks to two optional drivers confidence packages, as well as assorted fees including the IMG_8318$925 destination charge. GS models equipped with the optional AWD system add an additional $2365 to the cost of entry, though the system does finally allow the Buick to be a legitimate alternative to AWD rivals such as the Audi A4, Infiniti Q50, and the Lexus IS250. Unlike many competitors, the Regal offers a six speed manual gearbox as a no cost option (versus rivals where the stick raises the overall MSRP) but only on FWD equipped variants like my tester (AWD versions can only be equipped with the six speed automatic). While the Buick packs alot of standard equipment into the GS to make up for the high price, it also inadvertently opens up the GS to a number of compelling cross shops including the BMW 328i as well as internal competition from the Cadillac ATS 2.0T which uses a variant of the GS’s engine but can be had with more performance oriented rear wheel drive versus my testers front wheel drive.

Despite its flaws, the 2014 Buick Regal GS is still a solid entry into the luxury sport sedan segment, with pricing that undercuts many rivals as well as performance that pleases enthusiasts and loyalists. A bit more refinement as well as more horsepower to make it stand out from its base Regal sibling will go a long way to solidifying its status as Buick’s fun to drive car.

( A special thank you to the kind folks at Suburban Buick of Ferndale in Ferndale Michigan for allowing me to check out the 2014 Buick Regal GS as well as the opportunity to drive the one featured in this review.)

 

Jaguar Previews XE Features, Confirms September 6th Debut

With it’s official debut less than a month away, Jaguar has released more details regarding the 2016 Jaguar XE with this new information highlighting some of the new technology and features that will make their debut on the car when it is officially unveiled September 6th.

One of the highlight features is an improved version of the company’s traction control system that will make its first appearance on the XE. Known officially as “All Surface Progress Control (ASPC), this particular system was honed and designed specifically for rear wheel drive platforms to help allow them to better cope with slippery weather conditions such as rain or snow. Jaguar claims that the system mainly operates like a low speed variant of cruise control and allows the rear wheels to hook up and gain traction without skidding and without any pedal input from the driver. This system should prove especially useful to drivers in the snow belt where rear wheel drive vehicles tend to have a disadvantage in winter due to the ice and cold temperatures that make it hard for the tires to gain grip.

In addition to this system, buyers that want their XE to have a bit of the fun and playful steering behavior that defines the F-Type roadster, will be pleased to hear that engineers have also fine tuned the handling of the XE thanks to a specially designed Intergal Link suspension rear suspension which borrows the same front configuration that also see’s duty in the fore-mentioned F-Type. Meanwhile the XE jag_xe_infographic_150714will also debut the company’s next generation electronic steering system which will eventually trickle down to other members of the Jaguar lineup. The company claims that advanced algorithms as well as variable steering damping and a revised tuning setup allow the system to deliver feel that is sharper and more direct than hydraulic units.

We’ll wait and see if the system can indeed deliver on that particular promise especially since the lack of feel from rival BMW’s electronic steering has always been a longstanding complaint of ours (we prefer their older hydraulic setups), especially in the current generation 3 and 5 Series models, with the 3 Series being the benchmark model that the XE is targeting. As mentioned before, the XE benefits from copious amounts of aluminum in its overall construction which helps improve fuel efficiency, and reduce weight with the diet also helping to sharpen the car’s handling behavior. While Jaguar has so far not released the final engine lineup for the XE range, expect the base model to be powered by the company’s new 2.0 liter Ingenium turbocharged four cylinder engine, with higher trims borrowing the 3.0 liter supercharged V6 from the F-Type to allow it to solidly compete with the 3.6 liter V6 found in the top tier Cadillac ATS, as well as the BMW 335i’s 3.0 liter twin-turbocharged inline six cylinder.

Look for more information to be gradually released over the next few weeks, with its official debut taking place September 6th  at a Jaguar event in London.

 

Cadillac Names Former Infiniti CEO Johan de Nysschen Brand President

In a surprise announcement released late yesterday, Cadillac revealed that it had snagged Johan de Nysschen from Infiniti following his resignation from his post there earlier in the day after two years with the Asian luxury brand, in a move aimed at revamping the brand’s global sales strategy.

According to General Motors, the 54 year old de Nysschen will be responsible for all aspects of Cadillac globally which include sales and pricing development, global marketing, as well as serving as a key source of critical input and direction for the company’s product engineering and design teams. His input will prove helpful to Cadillac engineers who are in the midst of integrating the brand’s new crestless logo into its lineup while also developing several key models including the ATS-V sport sedan, as well as the upcoming (and currently unnamed) S-Class fighting flagship model.

GM president Dan Ammand highlighted the importance of de Nysschen’s appointment stating “Johan brings to our company vast experience in the development and proper execution of luxury automotive brands,” said Ammann. “With over 20 years in this exact space, especially in the development of the Audi brand, his track record proves he is the Johan-de-Nysschenperfect executive to lead Cadillac for the long term.” In a separate statement, de Nysschen revealed that he is eager to join the team at GM stating “I have for some time now been impressed by how the new General Motors has been transformed into a formidable force in the industry,” he said. “The combination of strong corporate leadership and exceptional engineering resources presents the perfect combination to restore Cadillac to its place among global premium brands”. de Nysschen also praised the brand’s high level of recognition in the marketplace and his eagerness to help it grow even further claiming “The recognition of the brand is immense, and the progress on the fundamental product front is widely acclaimed. I am delighted at the opportunity to join the GM executive team to lead the Cadillac business, and I look forward to working with my Cadillac colleagues and our global retail partners.”

Prior to his appointment at Cadillac, de Nysschen served as the CEO of Nissan’s Infiniti brand taking the helm at the Asian luxury brand in 2012 with the goal of expanding Infiniti’s sales as well as broadening its marketing footprint to new markets with the Chinese market in particular a key target. As a result of de Nysschens initiatives, Infiniti is now in a period of expansion with the brand increasing its reach to new markets in South America and Southeast Asia, while also revealing new production plans for China, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. He enjoyed similar success as president of Audi where his nearly two decade long reign helped the brand increase sales by 42 percent between 2005 and 2011 before being picked up by Infiniti later that year.

His departure comes at a crucial turning point for these ambitious plans with Infiniti focusing on the Chinese market by increasing production as well as moving its world headquarters to Hong Kong to allow it to closely monitor developments in China. In addition to having China in its cross-hairs, the brand is also embarking on a separate initiative to obtain at least 10 percent of the global luxury car market by 2020 which would allow it to more aggressively compete with not only established rivals such as Audi, BMW, Acura, and Mercedes Benz, but also resurgent newcomers including Maserati which has launched a plan of its own to expand sales as well with the effort currently spearheaded by the new Ghibli sedan a model aimed at the E-Class 5-Series and the Q50.

It is currently unknown when de Nysschen will formally assume his new role at Cadillac, but Infiniti for its part has so far not released any information on who de Nysschen’s eventual successor will ultimately be, but look for more details to be released from the Hong Kong based company on that item in the near future.

Jaguar Sheds New Light On Upcoming Ingenium Four Cylinder Engine

With the unveiling of the brand’s upcoming XE sport sedan fast approaching, Jaguar has released new information regarding the key power plant that will be making its debut in the XE the Ingenium 2.0 liter turbocharged four cylinder, which will ultimately grow to a family of engines that can fulfill a wide range of roles and capabilities when they eventually achieve full production.

While a petrol version of this engine will also be available (expect that version to be the sole choice here in the U.S. due to our country’s aversion to diesels) one of the first examples of this engine will actually be a turbo-diesel version known internally as the AJ200D. This variant hajag_xe_engine_image_040314_05s 17 percent less internal friction than the old engine, and the company claims that other tweaks allow the engine to achieve quicker warm ups while also delivering more efficient cabin heating. Regardless of which engine is chosen, Jaguar claims that all the engines in the Ingenium family will be significantly lighter than their ancestors with engineers being able to cut up to 176 lbs of unnecessary weight from the engine depending on what particular role it will play. For buyers here in the U.S. this means that the petrol version of the Ingenium four cylinder will be much lighter than the company’s current turbocharged four cylinder offering which sees duty in the entry level Jaguar XF sedan.

However wheras that engine is a bit overwhelmed by the XF’s hefty curb weight, look for the Ingenium version to make a much more positive impact in the brand’s upcoming XE sedan whose lightweight construction and smaller size should allow the new engine to achieve commendable performance figures, while also increasing fuel economy at the same time a potent combo that should allow the car to stand out against rivals from BMW and Cadillac in the popular luxury sport sedan segment.

Ron Lee the company’s power-train engineering director elaborated further stating “Being configurable and flexible are the two key strands of Ingeniums DNA because we have future proofed our new engines from the outset” while also claiming ” Ingenium will be able to accept new advances in fuel, turbocharging, emissions, performance, and electrification technologies when they are ready and accessible to be deployed”.

While all of this sounds intriguing as well as promising to us, only time will tell if the Ingenium engine will live up to all of its ambitious claims while still preserving Jaguar’s fun to drive spirit at the same time. But in the meantime, look for the Ingenium lineup to eventually branch out from the XE to the rest of the brand’s lineup in the near future which should help the company achieve its broader fuel efficiency goals.

Cadillac Unveils Revised 2015 ATS Sedan

Following on the heels of a leak late last month, as well as the prior unveiling of the ATS coupe at the 2014 North American International Auto Show in January, Cadillac has decided to formally unveil the 2015 ATS sedan which is the second model to showcase the brand’s new wreath-less logo and aims to sharpen Cadillac’s 3-Series competitor for the 2015 model year.

Like its coupe sibling, the ATS sedan embodies much of the coupes front end styling which includes a brand new two bar grille, the fore-mentioned badge, as well as a reworked lower front fascia which now boasts a one piece chrome topped elongated air intake assembly as well as slightly revised detailing accents for the lower part of the bumper. Rounding out the changes are the addition of two new paint colors Crystal White Tricoat, and Dark Adriatic Blue Metallic that should add a bit of variety to the ATS’s already impressive color pallet.

The interior and its basic design also carries over mainly unchanged from the 2014 model (including the frustrating and awkward to use CUE system),  but owners can now order their ATS with new gadgets such as the company’s Text Message Alert software, a Teen Driver mode to keep young drivers out of trouble, and Siri Eye Free compatibility which allows hands-free operation of Siri thanks to a sensor that picks up eye movements.

Performance hardware also remains largely unchanged with the underpowered and woefully outclassed 2.5 liter four cylinder and the powerful 3.6 liter V6 making a return appearance for 2015. The 2.0 liter turbocharged engine also carries over, but fans of that particular engine will be pleased to hear that Cadillac engineers found a way to increase the torque figure by 14 percent to 295 lb-ft of torque a minor increase, but one that should give the engine a bit more punch in the lower part of the rev band. All three engines come equipped with the standard six speed automatic gearbox, but owners that opt for the 2.0 liter can choose the optional six speed manual for more driver involvement in rowing through the gears. Handling has also been sharpened thanks to a new electronic power steering system (jointly developed with German firm ZF) that aims to improve high speed feedback while also retaining the car’s desirable low speed maneuverability characteristics at the same time.

Look for the 2015 ATS sedan to eventually reach showrooms towards the end of this year with pricing information expected to be unveiled closer to its formal launch date. While it has admittedly taken us awhile for the new logo to grow on us (we still miss the crest), it does make the brand more modern, and should be a welcome feature once it is incorporated into the rest of the lineup in the near future.

Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Raises The Bar, Brings 707 Horsepower To the Muscle Car Wars

When we first had our chance to feast our eyes on the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat back in May, we were intrigued when former SRT CEO Ralph Giles admitted that the car was possibly even more potent than its flagship stablemate the SRT Viper in terms of overall horsepower. This is a scenario that many automakers do not want due to the diminished exclusivity and reduced credibility as a flagship when a lesser model surpasses it. However in an announcement earlier today, Chrysler officially unveiled the performance figures for the 6.2 liter supercharged Hellcat V8 and confirmed that it indeed surpasses the Viper in a way that few could only imagine.

With rivals such as the Shelby GT500 Mustang and the Chevrolet Z/28 Camaro pushing past the 600 and 500 horsepower barrier respectively,  the SRT Hellcat Challenger had to raise the bar to surpass these models, and it has successfully done so on that front with the potent engine producing a mind-blowing 707 horsepower and an equally formidable 650 lb-ft of torque. These two figures not only trump the Stang and the Camaro, but also manage to even outgun the V-10 equipped Viper with the car producing 60 more horsepower and an extra 50 lb-ft of torque than the track oriented serpent which confirms earlier speculation and various rumors about the car dethroning the Viper as the company’s most powerful car.

In addition to achieving this internal feat, a broader look reveals that the Hellcat engine may also be the most powerful factory engine ever built. It is more powerful than established muscle car rivals such as the 650 horsepower Chevrolet Corvette Z06, 2014 Cadillac CTS-V, and the Z/28 Camaro, while also managing to even surpass the numbers produced by global rivals such as the Nissan GT-R, and the Porsche 911 Turbo. Furthermore as a cool bonus, the Hellcat also manages to overpower Aston Martins hand-built 565 horsepower 6.0 liter V12 engine which just showcases the enormous potential that the Hellcat engine has to offer, as well as the lofty company that it is in. All of this earth bending power is sent to the rear wheels through an eight speed automatic gearbox which was tweaked for Hellcat duty, and is the sole transmission choice available.

While Chrysler did not reveal official pricing for the SRT Hellcat ( the company says that’ll be revealed next month), look for this figure to possibly surpass $60,000 dollars which is consistent with the pricing seen on some of its rivals. Expect the first units to eventually arrive on dealer lots later this year, which should give prospective owners ample time to build up the funds needed for replacement tires. In the meantime, Chrysler has also released a brief video of the SRT Hellcat in action which can be seen below.