Crosstour carves a niche


By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

It would be a lot easier to love this car, the Crosstour, if Honda didn’t do such a good job with the Accord and CR-V.
As it is, though, the Crosstour seems like a bit of a misfit that is outshined in some ways by those other cars on your Honda dealer’s lot.
The basic idea makes sense. The Crosstour is a beefed-up, all-wheel-drive cousin of the Accord that takes advantage of America’s insatiable appetite for crossover vehicles. A car that rides a few inches higher than the Accord and is marketed to the ever-popular “active lifestyle” buyer must have seemed like a surefire way for a Honda exec to climb the corporate ladder.

The Honda Crosstour has an unusual shape, combining an upright seating position with a swept-back rear roofline.

The Honda Crosstour has an unusual shape, combining an upright seating position with a swept-back rear roofline.

And to the right buyer — someone who loves its swept-back roofline, high seating position and perfectly firm suspension — the Crosstour could be a great fit.
To most people, though, I think either the Accord or CR-V would be more logical.
If you want a Crosstour that gets better gas mileage, has sportier handling, looks prettier, goes faster and costs less money, you can get that. It’s called the Accord Sedan.
And if you want one that offers 3 percent more passenger volume and a whopping 37 percent more cargo volume to make it more useful, all while starting $4,000 less and getting better fuel economy, you can get that, too. It’s called the CR-V.
The Crosstour does have some advantages, though, chiefly for people who want an upscale feeling and like the way it looks.
With a starting price of $27,530 and topping out around $44,000 when you check every box on the option sheet, the Crosstour is marketed as a premium product. My test car certainly felt that way, with a tightly built cabin and squeak-free ride that reminds me why so many people love their Hondas.
While the base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that makes 192 horsepower, I don’t recommend it. A much better choice is the 3.5-liter V6 because it makes a lot more power — 278 horses, which feels great in a car this size — without sacrificing much fuel economy. The V6 is rated for 30 mpg on the highway, compared to 31 for the smaller engine.
You can also get it with all-wheel drive, which helps keep the Crosstour stable in wet or icy conditions, along with my favorite new Honda gadget: the LaneWatch camera that shows your blind spot every time you use the right turn signal.

While the Crosstour doesn’t offer as much cargo volume as the CR-V, it does occupy a more upscale place in Honda’s lineup.

While the Crosstour doesn’t offer as much cargo volume as the CR-V, it does occupy a more upscale place in Honda’s lineup.

Overall, I see the Crosstour as a niche vehicle. It doesn’t offer as much practicality as many crossovers do, but it does offer a unique twist on the Accord’s tried and true formula that makes it a good fit for people who like its sense of style.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Honda Crosstour 4WD EX-L with Navigation ($37,390). Options: None. Price as tested (including $880 destination charge): $38,270
Wheelbase: 110.1 in.
Length: 196.6 in.
Width: 74.7 in.
Height: 61.5 in.
Engine: 3.5-liter V6 (278 horsepower, 252 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Estimated Mileage: 20 city, 30 highway

RATINGS
Style: 4
Performance: 6
Price: 7
Handling: 6
Ride: 8
Comfort: 9
Quality: 9
Overall: 6

Video Review:
2015 Honda Crosstour
bit.ly/2015crosstour

Why buy it?
It offers a unique sense of style and all-wheel drive, along with an upscale driving presence.

Posted in Honda, Uncategorized

Navigator gets new engine

By Derek Price
Automotive Writer
A gigantic Lincoln Navigator with a V6 engine? I couldn’t have imagined it a few years ago, but I find myself sitting in one today.
While the Navigator has always come with a big, unabashedly thirsty V8 before now, Lincoln decided to drop the eight-cylinder engine in favor of one that’s more in tune with the times: a twin-turbocharged, 3.5-liter V6 for 2015.
The EcoBoost does a great job mimicking a V8 in the Navigator, offering the same low-end grunt and throaty, seductive exhaust note that large-displacement American engines are famous for.
A newly designed hood conceals the biggest change in the Lincoln Navigator’s history: a twin-turbocharged V6 that replaces the longstanding V8 engine.

A newly designed hood conceals the biggest change in the Lincoln Navigator’s history: a twin-turbocharged V6 that replaces the longstanding V8 engine.

Even better, it outperforms the old V8 by a noticeable margin. Horsepower is up to 380 and torque is increased to 460 pound-feet, all while gas mileage is improved to 22 mpg on the highway and 16 in the city — if you can believe the ratings. These EcoBoost engines are getting a reputation for burning more fuel than the window sticker would indicate.

Still, who would buy a vehicle like this for the gas mileage?
The new Navigator continues to offer over-the-top levels of performance and luxury. Even my long-wheelbase tester, which carried extra heft because of its extended length, accelerated like a smaller SUV and effortlessly zoomed to 75 mph before the end of freeway on-ramps. It’s fun to stomp the gas pedal and hear the engine do its best angry-lion impersonation.
Of course, you can’t mention the Navigator without bringing up its arch nemesis, the Cadillac Escalade.
The Caddy gets an all-new design for 2015 that makes the Navigator show its age a bit, especially on the outside body panels and to a lesser extent with the interior quality.
After driving the new Escalade a few months ago, though, one thing that surprises me is that I still like prefer Navigator’s ride. The Lincoln feels softer and smoother than the Cadillac to me, and I appreciated its silky, squishy suspension setup on some long stretches of interstate highway.
Third-row passengers will appreciate the Navigator’s spaciousness, too. Due to a difference in rear suspension designs, the Cadillac has a higher floor than the Navigator in back, making the Lincoln more suitable for adults in a pinch.
The Navigator’s cabin comes with plenty of leather and wood, giving it the upscale look that people expect from a luxury SUV.

The Navigator’s cabin comes with plenty of leather and wood, giving it the upscale look that people expect from a luxury SUV.

Overall, it’s a nice improvement on a tried and true design. The Navigator’s new EcoBoost engine makes it drive like a more modern SUV without compromising on power.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Lincoln Navigator L 4X4 ($67,860). Options: Reserve equipment group ($7,150), white platinum paint ($695). Price as tested (including $995 destination charge): $76,700
Wheelbase: 131 in.
Length: 222.3 in.
Width: 91.8 in.
Height: 78 in.
Engine: 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 (380 horsepower, 460 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Six-speed SelectShift automatic
Estimated Mileage: 16 city, 22 highway

RATINGS
Style: 7
Performance: 8
Price: 9
Handling: 4
Ride: 10
Comfort: 10
Quality: 7
Overall: 7

Video Review:
2015 Lincoln Navigator
bit.ly/15navigator

Why buy it?
The new engine offers spectacular acceleration, and it’s a comfortable, luxurious highway cruiser for families. Its pricing makes it look like a good value compared to some of its competitors.

Posted in Lincoln

Acura advances with TLX

By Derek Price
Automotive Writer

You could be forgiven for not knowing where the TLX fits in Acura’s lineup.
It’s slotted between the smaller ILX and bigger RLX, making it a replacement for two cars that just went to the automotive afterlife: the TL and TSX that were discontinued after 2014.

Acura’s new mid-size car, the TLX, makes its reputation with advanced technology, including four-wheel steering, a brilliantly designed transmission and driving aids that make it feel nearly autonomous at times.

Acura’s new mid-size car, the TLX, makes its reputation with advanced technology, including four-wheel steering, a brilliantly designed transmission and driving aids that make it feel nearly autonomous at times.

All that alphabet soup is enough to make me wish Acura would just name their cars Small, Medium and Large.
This brand-new Medium — sorry, TLX — is a very worthy contender, though, offering the kind of technology and refinement that Acura desperately needs to set itself apart in the tightly competitive luxury segment.
And unlike its comparatively uninspiring ancestors, it doesn’t tempt you to buy its cousin on the Honda lot to save some money. It’s such a big step up that you don’t sense a corporate connection there, making it seem more like a luxury car that’s a bargain rather than a bargain car that’s made to be luxurious.
Most of the difference comes from technology, which is where the TLX shines brightest. It feels like one of the most advanced cars you can buy today, and it is, with goodies like four-wheel steering, torque vectoring all-wheel drive and the ability to automatically steer and brake by itself, almost like a robot. Its digital-heavy dash gives it a Jetsons vibe.
And because of all those interesting tech and engineering bits layered on top of the TLX, it’s almost easy to overlook what it is at its core: a spectacular driver’s car.
The eight-speed, dual-clutch transmission in my 2.4-liter test car was one of the most pleasant surprises I’ve had in a sedan recently, offering the kind of super-fast shifts and instant response that I’d only experienced in more expensive sedans from Germany before now. The TLX even one-ups them by brilliantly making use of a torque converter to deliver off-the-line smoothness that the herky-jerky German systems haven’t perfected quite yet.
The TLX is available with a powerful 3.5-liter V6 and nine-speed automatic transmission, too, along with an all-wheel drive version that uses torque vectoring to improve handling.

Two different digital displays in the center stack, one of which is touch sensitive, give the new TLX a high-tech atmosphere.

Two different digital displays in the center stack, one of which is touch sensitive, give the new TLX a high-tech atmosphere.

It’s also astoundingly quiet over the road. It makes great use of passive sound insulation, such as spraying expanding foam into gaps in panels to seal out the noise. Active systems also use microphones and the car’s stereo system to electronically cancel out unwanted sounds, sort of like those noise-canceling headphones people wear on airplanes.
I wish the body styling were bolder to match the TLX’s advanced, high-tech personality, though. It’s pleasant enough to look at — and certainly an improvement over the TL and TSX it’s replacing — but it needs more swagger to stand out on the road.

At a Glance

What was tested?
2015 Acura TLX 2.4L Tech ($35,025). Options: None. Price as tested (including $895 destination charge): $35,920
Wheelbase: 109.3 in.
Length: 190.3 in.
Width: 73 in.
Height: 57 in.
Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder (206 horsepower, 182 lbs.-ft.)
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch transmission with torque converter
Estimated Mileage: 24 city, 35 highway

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

Video Review:
2015 Acura TLX
bit.ly/2015tlx

Why buy it? 
It’s a high-tech, brilliantly engineered car that sets a new standard for the Acura brand. Its eight-speed dual-clutch transmission has an ingenious design, and four-wheel steering gives it impressive handling.

Posted in Acura

Reviews