Much more than safety


By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

Volvo has long been known for inventing new safety features, but now it’s trying its hand at developing a new kind of technology — the kind that fits in your pocket.
This Swedish car company has released the best smartphone app I’ve ever seen for a vehicle. While I doubt anybody would buy a car purely for the app it comes with, the Volvo On Call app, as it’s called, offers an interesting peek into the future of car electronics.

With up to 302 horsepower and an impressive suite of technology, the 2015.5 Volvo S60 has a lot more to offer than its reputation for safety.

With up to 302 horsepower and an impressive suite of technology, the 2015.5 Volvo S60 has a lot more to offer than its reputation for safety.

The app could do some way-cool things on my S60 test car, including:
— Locking and unlocking the doors remotely through a data connection, no matter how far your phone is from the car. It works through the Internet and cell phone signals, so I’m assuming you could unlock your doors from halfway around the world if you wanted, just by pressing a button on your phone.
— Letting you know about maintenance needs. It can give you all kinds of data without having to pop the hood open, including monitoring your brake fluid and washer fluid. If lightbulbs are burned out or your gas tank is getting empty, you can see that right from your phone.
— Knowing where you go. You can track trips and keep a mileage log for business expense reports or taxes, for example, or simply look on a map to see where your Volvo is located right now. That means if you let your teenage kid drive the car, you’ll never have a question about where they go in it.
While most car companies are offering various kinds of apps these days, this one from Volvo is the most full-featured I’ve ever seen. It’s working proof that a smartphone can “talk” to your car and extract information from the many sensors and computers that are already found in modern vehicles, which opens up all kinds of interesting possibilities.

The S60’s cabin has a cool, Swedish vibe with an unusual layout for the center controls.

The S60’s cabin has a cool, Swedish vibe with an unusual layout for the center controls.

The Volvo On Call app is available on all 2015.5 Volvo models, including the snazzy, 302-horsepower S60 I tested. That .5 number represents an unusual mid-year 2015 refresh for the Volvo lineup.
Other than the smartphone tech, one thing impressed me about my tester: the miraculously efficient and powerful T6 engine.
I first experienced this powerplant in the 2015 Volvo XC60 and marveled at how this small, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder engine could deliver high power and high MPGs at the same time thanks to both turbocharging and supercharging. It feels even better in the S60, where the 302 horses make it accelerate like a sports sedan while its 35-mpg highway rating is almost unbelievable for a car this quick.
Yes, it has the requisite safety gadgets that you expect from this brand, but that’s just a small part of its appeal. It’s a Volvo that you can love for so much more than the fact that it keeps you alive.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Volvo S60 T6 Drive-E ($39,000). Options: Platinum package ($3,750), 19-inch wheels ($900), Blind Spot Information System ($900), metallic paint ($550), heated front seats ($500). Price as tested (including $925 destination charge): $46,525
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Length: 182.5 in.
Width: 73.4 in.
Height: 58.4 in.
Engine: 2.0-liter turbo, supercharged (302 horsepower, 295 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: 24 city, 35 highway

RATINGS
Style: 8
Performance: 9
Price: 9
Handling: 6
Ride: 7
Comfort: 8
Quality: 9
Overall: 9

Video Review:
2015.5 Volvo S60
bit.ly/2015S60

Why buy it? 
It has one of the best engines and coolest smartphone apps on the market today, along with the safety features expected from the Volvo brand.

 

 

Posted in Volvo

Legacy bigger, more efficient


By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

Subaru has staked its reputation on all-wheel-drive cars. Every Subaru for sale these days sends traction to all four wheels.
That’s why these cars are so popular in places like Colorado, where there’s lots of snow and mountainous terrain, and the Pacific Northwest, where the roads are always wet from rainfall.
The only problem is that all-wheel drive cars burn more fuel. The last generation Legacy was rated for 32 mpg on the highway, which is drastically worst than the 40-plus mpg its most efficient competitors are achieving.

Subaru focused on making the new Legacy bigger while also keeping its weight to a minimum. Its highway fuel economy is now 36 mpg, which is impressive for an all-wheel-drive vehicle.

Subaru focused on making the new Legacy bigger while also keeping its weight to a minimum. Its highway fuel economy is now 36 mpg, which is impressive for an all-wheel-drive vehicle.

Well, there’s good news for Subaru fans. The Legacy sedan has been completely redesigned, and the engineers spent much of their time focusing on closing that fuel economy gap.
Despite the new Legacy being roomier than ever before — including the most spacious cabin of any mid-size car, according to Subraru — it’s also bumped the highway mpg rating all the way up to 36, which is remarkable.
Think about that for a second. It’s bigger than most mid-size cars. It’s sending power to all four wheels. Yet it’s getting the same fuel rating as a compact, two-wheel-drive 2015 Honda Civic with a manual transmission.
To hit those impressive numbers, Subaru took a lot of steps to reduce weight on the new Legacy, including using an aluminum hood. It also installed a continuously variable transmission (CVT). And while I’m generally no fan of CVTs and liked the heavy, solid feeling of the last generation Legacy — it reminded me of a German luxury car in many ways — this new one feels more in tune with the times.
I also like two other things about it: the premium-feeling cabin and the level of safety equipment you can get on it.

Tight-fitting switches and soft materials mean the new Legacy’s cabin still has a premium feel. Subaru says it’s the roomiest cabin of any mid-size car.

Tight-fitting switches and soft materials mean the new Legacy’s cabin still has a premium feel. Subaru says it’s the roomiest cabin of any mid-size car.

The cabin materials and construction are as good as anything in the industry right now. Switches feel tightly installed, and lots of materials are soft to the touch.
And Subaru’s upgraded EyeSight driver assist system gives it almost the same high-tech safety vibe as a new Volvo. Features like adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane departure warning, steering responsive fog lights, blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert make it feel like electronic guardian angels are always looking over the driver’s shoulder.
It’s a great sedan for people who value traction, comfort and safety.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Premium ($23,495). Options: Package with moonroof, navigation, EyeSight, blind spot detection and rear cross-traffic alert ($2,890), partial zero emissions vehicle ($300). Price as tested (including $795 destination charge): $27,480
Wheelbase: 108.3 in.
Length: 188.8 in.
Width: 72.4 in.
Height: 59 in.
Engine: 2.5-liter Boxer four-cylinder (175 horsepower, 174 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Lineartronic CVT
Estimated Mileage: 26 city, 36 highway

RATINGS
Style: 9
Performance: 7
Price: 9
Handling: 10
Ride: 9
Comfort: 9
Quality: 9
Overall: 8

Video Review:
2015 Subaru Legacy
bit.ly/2015legacy

Why buy it? 
A roomier cabin and 36-mpg highway rating are among the many improvements on the all-new Legacy. The all-wheel drive system feels amazing on wet roads.

Posted in Subaru

Escalade rises with new design

By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

While it may not sell in the same numbers it did when Lehman Brothers was still around, the Cadillac Escalade remains the go-to choice for people who like their luxury big and brash.
And now, after a complete redesign for 2015, it’s doubling down on that formula.
The new Escalade cranks the bling knob up to 11 with jewel-like headlights, lots of LEDs, a suave body that looks tailor-fit despite its large bones, and a high-end cabin that may be the best ever fitted to an SUV.
Of course, it also comes with the same drawbacks as its big, brutish ancestors. At its best, it’s rated for 15 mpg in city driving and never completely masks the fact that it’s related at some level to Chevy trucks with their solid rear axles and heavy frames.

The new Escalade’s body looks contemporary without losing its distinctive shape and road presence. Pricing starts at $67,970.

The new Escalade’s body looks contemporary without losing its distinctive shape and road presence. Pricing starts at $67,970.

That said, the Escalade epitomizes classic American luxury like no other vehicle for sale today. The same combination of jurassic size, monumental power and over-the-top luxury that drew Clark Gable to buy a Duesenberg in the 1930s continues to seduce athletes, movie stars, singers and regular ol’ affluent moms and dads to drive Escalades this year.
The aging Lincoln Navigator comes close, but it doesn’t have the same contemporary vibe or sumptuous cabin as the Caddy.
And make no mistake, sumptuous barely begins to describe the Escalade’s new interior. Even the base model, priced around $68,000, comes with gorgeous cut-and-sewn leather, heated and cooled front seats, power-folding seats in back and three-zone climate control.
For a ridiculous level of luxury, the $81,515 Platinum edition adds power-retractable steps, a multi-screen DVD system, LED headlamps, 22-inch wheels and even heated and cooled cup holders.
The best way to describe its cabin is authentic, which is a nice change of pace for General Motors. If you see wood in the cabin, it’s real wood, not plasticky fake junk. If you see aluminum, it’s real aluminum, not silver colored plastic.
My only criticism of this SUV is about the ride quality, and I suspect it has something to do with the optional 22-inch wheels fitted to my test car, perhaps combined with firmer seats in this new generation. The ride felt harder and sportier than I remember Escalades being in the past — even with the magnetic suspension on its most comfortable setting — so I was disappointed that it didn’t have the same squishy, marshmallowy feeling that I’d grown to love on older models.

The 2015 Escalade, shown here in high-end Platinum trim, is a tech lover’s dream car. From wireless phone chargers to a well-designed, built-in entertainment system, it’s a cutting-edge SUV from a technology standpoint.

The 2015 Escalade, shown here in high-end Platinum trim, is a tech lover’s dream car. From wireless phone chargers to a well-designed, built-in entertainment system, it’s a cutting-edge SUV from a technology standpoint.

On the flip side, drivers who always wished the Escalade had a sportier feel and less body roll should be jumping for joy at this new setup. The magnetic suspension does a great job giving the driver better control in turns.
It also begs a question: Will all the changes be enough to keep this massive SUV relevant in a post-Lehman world, where the hybrid Prius and electric Tesla seem more in tune with the times? I don’t know the answer, but General Motors is giving it a great shot.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium ($82,795). Options: Kona brown with jet black accents ($2,000), power retractable steps ($1,695), 22-inch wheels ($500). Price as tested (including $995 destination charge): $87,985
Wheelbase: 116 in.
Length: 203.9 in.
Width: 80.5 in.
Height: 74.4 in.
Engine: 6.2L V-8  (420 horsepower, 460 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: 15 city, 21 highway

RATINGS
Style: 9
Performance: 8
Price: 6
Handling: 6
Ride: 7
Comfort: 7
Quality: 9
Overall: 8

Video Review:
2015 Cadillac Escalade
http://bit.ly/newescalade

Why buy it? 
It’s a fresh take on Cadillac’s tried-and-true Escalade formula. The new body and interior are fabulous, and its electronics and amenities keep it on the cutting edge of automotive tech.

Posted in Chevrolet

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