Archive for April 2015

Chevrolet Cruze 2.0 TD

Chevrolet Cruze Diesel: A Brave Step from North America

GM’s introduction of a diesel engine into the Chevrolet Cruze lineup was a brave decision. Germans are pushing hard to expand the boundaries of the modern self-igniting version of the internal combustion engine at this side of the Atlantic. Except the luxury brands like Audi (also a brand of the Volkswagen Group), Mercedes and BMW want to conquer North America with more and more diesel engines. VW, as a mainstream brand is the number one manufacturer that re-introduced diesel to North America with its Jetta TDI. (Wait to read the end of the story later in this article)

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However, remembering Opel’s, GM’s German Subsidiary, strong position and experience in Europe with its diesel engines, this move is not a journey in unchartered territories. More than that, this engine is built in Opel’s Kaiserslautern factory in Germany. So you may ask yourself? How much American is this Chevy?

In Europe the share of diesel in passenger car segment is around 50 per cent. (Please also note that the share of Cruze’s with a diesel engine sold in Europe was 40 per cent when the bow-tie brand withdrew from Europe in favour of Opel). In some countries like Belgium, it goes even higher up to 60 per cent.

A compact car with elegant design and fun to drive. What a progress for GM after the disastrous Eighties.

A compact car with elegant design and fun to drive. What a progress for GM after the disastrous Eighties.

In North America we have a different picture: Despite the advancements in efficiency and emission, consumers in the USA and Canada are still not very receptive to this technology. The memories of badly smelling and smoking diesel engine from the Seventies did not disappear entirely. Not supported by the relatively cheap gas prices compared to Europe, Rudolf’s machines still struggling to reach a 5 per cent market share.

Can the Cruze Diesel compete with Volkswagen’s segment-dominating Jetta TDI? (No. 2: The CD offers more power with better highway fuel economy for less money.) But, perhaps most importantly, why would anyone buy the diesel version of the Cruze versus the distinctly lower-cost LS and the supposedly almost-as-frugal — if you believe anything Natural Resources Canada has to say about fuel economy — Cruze Eco? Indeed, considering how niche the diesel segment remains compared with mainstream gasoline-fueled products, why would anyone buy any diesel?

How Much Fun Does the Cruze EcoDiesel Provide? 

The 2.0-litre DOHC turbo diesel engine, manufactured in Germany by Opel, delivers 151 hp, and 264 lb/ft of torque with 280 lb/ft overboost)

The 2.0-litre DOHC turbo diesel engine, manufactured in Germany by Opel, delivers 151 hp, and 264 lb/ft of torque with 280 lb/ft overboost)

Comparing its torque and performance to the 1.4 liter Turbo engine I drove earlier, the CD’s 2.0L high-pressure turbodiesel engine labeled as 151 horsepower and the 264 lb.-ft. is more fun to drive. Although not meant to be, it delivers a sporty driving experience with should be regarded as a bonus. Acceleration is more linear than with a gasoline engine as you would expect from a diesel, posted as 8.6 seconds to reach 96 kilometers an hour (60 mph), good enough for passing on the highway or in the city.

The centre console with the navigation screen is more ergonomic thanks to a model update prior to a complete replacement in 2016

The centre console with the navigation screen is more ergonomic thanks to a model update prior to a complete replacement in 2016

Design elements from Malibu and Impala are easily detectable. Mature and beautiful front design is competitive.

Design elements from Malibu and Impala are easily detectable. A beautiful front look, even if not a head-turner

There’s nothing surprising, however, about the compression-ignited Cruze’s fuel economy, though. During my one week test drive with 765 kilometers with mixed use leaning towards highway, I reached and average of 6.4 liters of diesel. Well, not very impressive but a very good figure.

And Things Have Changed Thanks to Volkswagen, the Diesel Pioneer in America

Having said all this, I strongly believe that the future of diesel is not very bright in North America, at least for passenger cars, CUV’s and SUV’s:

Volkswagen’s emission scandal due to cheating software will inevitably lead to a great loss of trust for diesel engines. This historical scandal, if not a crime committed by one of the world’s leading auto manufacturers deserves a separate article. But take note of this.

Obviously, this is not GM’s fault and we should put all the blame on the passionate Germans, who want to be number one manufacturer in 2018.

Putting all of this in perspective, it’s worth noting that against its direct competition — again, Volkswagen’s diesel-dominating Jetta — the Cruze offers more performance and similar fuel economy for slightly less money (the CD starts at a smidge under $25,000, though most are priced closer to $30,000).

If the Cruze does fail on the economics front (as, indeed, many diesels do), it is because Chevrolet, like most of the industry, insists on selling diesels only in the “premium” levels of their offerings. That’s why North American diesel sales have so far, with the exception of the aforementioned Jetta TDI, been limited to luxury marques. None of this alters the fact that diesels consume less gas and, were they offered in the same bare bones trims as their conventional counterparts, would save money in the long run. Perhaps more important, considering the low opinion most North Americans have of diesels, their performance can be superior and their comportment thoroughly civilized. Certainly, that’s the case in the Cruze lineup.

It remains to be seen, if the Chevy’s diesel journey will continue with the brand new, 2016 Cruze.

However, in the long run, this is not the direction nearly 200 countries pointed towards at the end of Paris Conference on Climate Change.

 

 

 

 

 

FORD F-150 Platinum 3.5 V6 Ecoboost

Ford’s Boldest Move in Terms of Strategic Business Risk

2015 Ford F-150 3.5 V6 Ecoboost

 

In my humble opinion, the new F-150 was the biggest risk for Ford in its recent history. I tell you why: The F-150 is the best-selling vehicle in Canada and the US for decades. This is a vehicle on which tens of thousands people depend to earn their daily bread and to feed their families. Even by building only the F-150, Ford still would be among the top ten vehicle manufacturers in the world. And to reinvent such an important vehicle by using aluminum is not easy task to swallow.

The 2015 F-150, after four-and-a-half years in development, tens of thousands of engineering hours and some 10 million miles of testing under different and extremely harsh climate conditions, now faces the ultimate test of the market acceptance and competition from the rivals.

Retooling the Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan and refining the productions processes at the expense of several months of production still-stand was a bold decision and a tough transition. There were even rumors that Ford now building its truck from “Coca Cola cans”. The latter probably denotes to a communication problem that is being gradually solved as more and more vehicles reach the customers.

After only a few kilometers, you notice the difference in driving dynamics resulting from the weight reduction

After only a few kilometers, you notice the difference in driving dynamics resulting from the weight reduction

Ford F-150 Platinum with 3.5 liter V6, EcoBoost engine

I tested the new F-150 with 3.5 liter, V6 EcoBoost engine in Platinum version and with all bells and whistles reached a salty MSRP of CAD 77,249. The testing ground was the countryside of Burlington and Oakville, in Ontario. Certainly, using lightweight aluminum over steel in the F-150 — approximately shaving the weight of three adults — can be felt immediately. On the curvy roads in the triangle between Burlington, Milton and Oakville, the truck manages the corners, steers easier, dives less during braking and gets up to speed quicker. You feel like driving a vehicle one size smaller. Ford says all models will see a 20% fuel economy improvement simply from the weight loss, which now makes for a range of 1,800 to 2,300 kilos, depending on how the truck is configured.

The new F-150 is unmistakably a revolution in the history of trucks with the full deployment of aluminum used to construct the cab, box, fenders, hood and doors. This means a weight loss of more than 300 kilos, depending on the configuration. The military-grade aluminum, as Ford calls it, requires some 2,500 rivets to assemble and should be more dent-resistant than the previous model. Aluminum never rusts, but can corrode.

Our test vehicle gave the impression of a rock-solid truck from the beginning. Door-shutting test, which I like to implement usually before driving any test vehicle showed that slamming the 2015 door was the first passed-test in quality control.

Grille shutters stay open when extra engine cooling is needed. At cruising speed, they automatically close to reduce aerodynamic drag.

Grille shutters stay open when extra engine cooling is needed. At cruising speed, they automatically close to reduce aerodynamic drag.

The new model offers a better visibility and comfort inside the cabin. While wider overall by 40 mm, opening up the interior even more, the redesigned hood offers better visibility out front. Better, the driver and passenger side windows swoop down more deeply for an excellent view to the left and right, as well as around the large A-pillars. A new leather steering wheel feels excellent in the hands, and redesigned side mirrors are smaller, better designed and yet still large enough to be effective.

And while the aluminum body on a revamped, fully-boxed ladder frame, which is now comprised of 78% high-strength steel (improving rigidity by about five to 10%) raises the bar.

My test vehicle was equipped with the 3.5 liter EcoBoost engine moving the truck without the feeling of being underpowered. After 256 kilometers, mostly in the countryside, I came up with an average of 17 liters.

Equipped with standard start-stop, the engine will shut down to save fuel instead of idling it away, though the device becomes inactive when towing or in four-wheel drive. EcoBoost engines also get standard grille shutters that stay open when extra engine cooling is needed. At cruising speed, they automatically close to reduce aerodynamic drag.

For models equipped with the EcoBoost V6, the maximum tow rating is now 5400 kilos. The twin-turbo engine, breathing with 365 horsepower and 420 lb.-ft. of torque (unchanged from last year) also returns a maximum payload of 1,700 kilos.

The reinforced aluminum bed is joined by Ford’s new BoxLink system, which seems more useful than many others on the market, and optional, stowable loading ramps hook to the tailgate so they can’t fall off during use.

The reinforced aluminum bed is joined by Ford’s new BoxLink system, which seems more useful than many others on the market, and optional, stowable loading ramps hook to the tailgate so they can’t fall off during use.

The 2015 F-150 has added some very cool features, though some are only available on certain trim levels, which range from XL, XLT, Lariat, Platinum and King Ranch. Chrome packages are available on XL, XLT, Lariat and King Ranch. Monochromatic packages are available on the XL, XLT and Lariat. Pricing starts at $21,399 for the base 4×2 model and climbs to $66,999 for the top line Platinum Super Crew 4×4. The FX4 off-road package can be added to most four-wheel-drive models, improving off-road capability with an electronic locking rear axle, skid plates and off-road-tuned shocks.

Ford received a lot of input from truck users in designing and configuring the instrument cluster. This was an evolution at the end.

Ford received a lot of input from truck users in designing and configuring the instrument cluster. This was an evolution at the end.

The reinforced aluminum bed is joined by Ford’s new BoxLink system, which is probably more useful than many others on the market. Optional, stowable loading ramps hook to the tailgate so they can’t fall off during use. The tailgate can also be equipped with an improved “old man step” for easier climbing into the back.

The built quality inside is better at first look. Materials are more varied and you see and feel more soft-touch surfaces, and real aluminum on Platinum models as in our test vehicle.

New safety features include second-row inflatable safety belts, curve control (which automatically provides more aggressive four-wheel braking when the truck is going into a corner too fast), adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, cross-traffic alert and blind spot monitoring.

2015 Ford F-150 3.5 V6 Ecoboost

Conclusion:

Although my test drive was a limited impression without hauling, towing and driving on rough terrain, it gave very promising impressions.

Now on the market, the F-150 is another big step towards raising the bar in the highly competitive and relatively profitable North American full-size truck market.

The Specifications

Type of vehicle: Full-size truck
Engine: 3.5 liter, V6-cylinder DOHC, Turbocharged, HP, lb-ft
Transmission: 6-speed, automatic
Price (base/as tested): CAD 66,999 / 77.249
Destination charge: CAD 1,700
Natural Resources Canada fuel economy (L/100 km): city; 9.7 highway;7.6 as-tested; 10.6
Optional features: Equipment Group 700A

Selectshift transmission, 20″ Polished Aluminium Wheels, 3.5L V6 Ecoboost Engine: 900

Twin-panel Moonroof: 1,750

All-weather, Rubber floor Mats: 150

Adaptive Cruise Control (with Trailer tow-Package): 1,500

FX4 Off-road Package: 750

Pickup Bed Extender: 350

Box side Steps and 136 Litre Fuel Tank: 300

Active Park Assist: 550

Technology Package: 1,250

Platinum Black-leather Bucket

Spray-in Bed Liner: 550

Total Options: 8.550

Destination & Delivery: 1,700

Total Price as Tested: 77,249

Article: Varol McKars

Pictures: Varol McKars, Burak McKars

Test vehicle was provided by Ford Canada (via BHG Media Fleet)

For the most up-to-date and more detailed information, visit:

www.Ford.ca

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