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Today, Ford announced details of the 2011 Mustang V6, which will receive substantial upgrades in the powertrain.  Gone is the SOHC 4.0L Cologne V6, which has powered the V6 Mustang since the present generation (S197) was introduced in 2005 (and which traces its lineage back to 1968).  In its place will be the newest version of the Cyclone engine family, a 3.7L V6 with Twin Independent Variable Camshaft Timing (Ti-VCT), which can adjust the valvetrain “in microseconds”. With Ti-VCT operating its four valves per cylinder, the new Mustang V6 powerplant sends significantly more horsepower and torque (305 hp and 280 ft.-lb.) to the rear wheels than its predecessor (210 and 240, respectively) – despite its smaller displacement.

While the extra horsepower and refined engine operation are great, the 2011 Mustang 3.7-liter V6 also achieves projected class-leading fuel economy:

  • 19 mpg city/30 highway with six-speed automatic transmission, up from 16 mpg city/24 highway on the 2010 model with automatic – a 25 percent improvement
  • 18 mpg city/29 highway with six-speed manual transmission, up from 18 mpg city/26 highway on the 2010 model with manual

Refinements throughout Mustang’s body, powertrain and chassis design also contribute to the improved fuel economy numbers, including the new Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) system which eliminates the drag of an engine-operated hydraulic power steering pump (it also reduces noise), six-speed transmissions that allow lower cruising revs without sacrificing off-the-line performance and aerodynamic improvements such as a new front fascia, tire spats on the rear wheels, modified underbody shields, a taller air dam and an added rear decklid seal.

Enthusiasts who want a premium performance-oriented Mustang V6 can opt for the new Performance Package, which will be available August 2010. Designed for driving enthusiasts, the Mustang V6 Performance Package comprises:

  • A 3.31 rear axle ratio for quicker off-the-line acceleration
  • Firmer Mustang GT suspension
  • 19-inch wheels (1st time available on a V6 Mustang)
  • Summer performance tires
  • A strut tower brace for increased chassis rigidity
  • Unique electronic stability control calibration with sport mode for performance driving

For 2011, Mustang also includes new technology and convenience features, including a standard driver’s message center in the instrument cluster, integrated blind-spot mirrors in the side-view mirror housings, Ford’s MyKey™ system, designed to encourage safer teen driving and safety belt use, also is newly available on Mustang.

So where does this leave the V8 Mustang?  While today’s announcements did not discuss the V8 Mustang, Ford will obviously have to do something. The new V6, as noted above makes 305 hp and 280 ft.-lb. of torque, while the present 4.6L V8 makes 315 and 325, respectively. The torque difference is enough to notice, but the horsepower is way too close. While Ford has not yet announced the details, word has leaked that the 2011 V8 Mustang will be powered by a new 5.0L V8 that will make at least 400 hp and 400 ft.-lb. – stay tuned for more details.

So who’s on top in the latest chapter of the Pony Wars? It’s a complex comparison, but the Mustang, which already beats the Camaro and Challenger in several areas besides power, will now be very competitive in power as well. As you can see, all 3 vehicles are about the same size, with the Mustang smallest in most dimensions and the Challenger the largest in every dimension. If the 2011 Mustang GT matches the Camaro SS in power, it will indeed be a very compelling package – especially if they hold the line in pricing.  Sadly for Dodge, it will now be underpowered in a bigger, heavier package.

2011 Mustang

2010 Camaro

2010 Challenger

V6 HP/Torque

305/280

304/273

250/250

V6 Fuel Economy

19/30

17/29

17/25

V8 HP Torque

400+/400+ (est.)

426/420

372/400 (5.7L)

425/400 (6.1L)

V8 Fuel Economy

TBD

16/24

16/25 (5.7L)

14/22 (6.1L)

Base MSRP

$21,845 (2010)

$23,530

$23,460

Length

188.1″

190.4″

197.7″

Wheelbase

107.1″

112.3″

116.0″

Height

56.1″

54.2″

57.0″

Width

73.9″

75.5″

75.7″

That’s what I think – how about you?  Please leave your comments below.

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Acura Announces Pricing on ZDX

26th November 2009

2010 Acura ZDX

2010 Acura ZDX

The all-new 2010 ZDX “four-door sports coupe” is set to go on sale on December 15 with a base sticker price starting of $46,305, Acura announced this week.  The ZDX will be available in three trim packages: the ZDX, ZDX with Technology Package ($50,805), and the ZDX with Advance Package ($56,855).

Standard features on the ZDX include a panoramic glass roof, concealed rear door handles, and a hand-stitched leather dash, center console and door panels. Powering comes from a 3.7-liter V6 that generates 300 horsepower and 270 lb-ft of torque while achieving a “class-leading” fuel economy of 16/23 mpg. Standard on every ZDX is Acura’s exclusive Super Handling All-Wheel Drive system.

For $4500, the technology package adds a Navigation System with Voice Recognition, real-time traffic with traffic rerouting, real-time weather and a rear camera. Additionally, the Technology Package includes an upgraded Acura/ELS Surround® 415-watt Premium Audio System with a 15-gigabyte hard disk drive media storage system (that allows the ZDX owner to download and store up to 3,500 songs), a GPS-linked, solar-sensing, dual-zone automatic climate control system and Keyless Access System (with Smart Entry and push button ignition).

In addition to the features found in the Technology Package, the Advance Package adds a new blind spot information system (BSI), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), Collision Mitigating Braking System™ (CMBS™), an Integrated Dynamic System (IDS) active damper system, heated and ventilated front seats with Perforated Milano Premium Leather seating surfaces, premium brushed tricot headliner material and a sport steering wheel. All for the low, low price of $6050.

The ZDX is based on the successful MDX SUV, but will be priced well above the MDX, which starts at about $41,000.  How does Acura justify the higher price?  They have the same engine, transmission and all-wheel drive system.  The MDX also has 3 rows standard; the ZDX has 2.  Maybe they can charge more because it’s a new design that’s so good looking….not.  Maybe it’s just me, but I needed to write this before my Thanksgiving turkey just to make sure I could keep it down.  Fugly.  Acura says, “…the ZDX has already generated a tremendous amount of excitement since its world debut at the New York Auto Show in April, thanks to its stunning coupe-like styling…”  Please.  The only excitement is from The Bulimics of America Society. And calling it “coupe-like” is nothing short of drug-induced.  I give the designers and management credit for trying something new, but this design just doesn’t work, especially at such a premium against the much-loved and successful MDX.  Acura’s sales target is about 6000/year, which is a modest number, but might be overly optimistic.

That’s what I think – how about you?  Please leave your comments below.  Happy Thanksgiving!

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Buick to Bring Back Regal

13th November 2009

2011 Buick Regal

2011 Buick Regal

Buick announced details of its upcoming Regal sedan, which will go on sale in the second quarter of next year. Regal, a name that carries a performance heritage of the Grand National from the 1980s, has not been used since 2004. This latest iteration is based on the new Opel Insignia, which has won many awards, including European Car of the Year. Before Saturn was cancelled, rumors were that the Insignia would be the new Saturn Aura in North America. Now Buick gets it.  And what it gets looks pretty good.  The Regal is not just “based on” the Insignia, it is the Insignia, with minor styling changes to make it a Buick.

The Regal will have a 182 horsepower 2.4L I4 engine as its base powerplant.  This engine is also the base engine in the Chevy Equinox and GMC Terrain.  It is expected to get 20 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.  Arriving later in the year will be the 2.0L turbo making 220 hp and getting 18/29 mpg.  No V6 or V8?  This is Buick, right?  Home of the land barges that come with their own ZIP code?  This ain’t your father’s Buick, kids (apologies to Oldsmobile).  In the land of the 35 MPG CAFE standards, the turbo 4 will have to do.  The standard, and only, tranny will be a 6-speed auto.

Buick’s intended targets are the Acura TSX, Volvo S60, Mazda6 and Volkswagen Passat and says that it has a longer wheelbase and greater trunk volume than those vehicles, along with standard features – including the six-speed automatic transmission, 18-inch wheels and OnStar – that aren’t offered standard on either competitor.  If Buick really intends to compete with these great vehicles (and you can probably add the Audi A4), it should realize that a true sports sedan at least offers a manual transmission (the 6-speed auto isn’t standard on these vehicles because a manual is standard).  True, the take rate of a manual will be low, likely less than 10%, but a car that hopes to have street cred among the intended buyers in this segment needs to offer the stick.  That’s why Caddy offers it in the CTS.  And because the Regal is an Insignia, the engineering to offer a manual is already done (at least paired with the 2.0L turbo).  So except for stocking service parts and other indirect costs, offering the manual is FREE.

The Regal will only be offered in top-of-the-line CXL trim at first, with a CX model to follow.  Buick gave the following list of some of the equipment to be offered:

  • All-new Interactive Drive Control System (IDCS) available with the 2.0L turbo, offering driver-selectable suspension settings and automatic driver suspension setting adaptability
  • Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel anti-lock braking system, brake assist and electronic parking brake
  • Standard StabiliTrak stability control system and full-function traction control
  • Standard dual-stage frontal air bags, side-curtain air bags and pedal-release system; rear-seat thorax air bags available
  • Available navigation system, Harmon Kardon sound system, internal flash drive (1GB), hard drive with 10GB for music and USB port
  • Standard 18-inch wheels (19-inch wheels standard with IDCS)
  • Standard 12-way power, leather and heated driver seat; leather and heated passenger front seat; Bluetooth capability; XM Satellite Radio and OnStar.

In an effort to get the Regal to market quickly, it will be made in Russelsheim, Germany alongside the Insignia for the first 15 months.  After that, production will shift to a yet to be named North American plant.  A good bet would be the Fairfax, Kansas plant that makes the Chevy Malibu, as both products are based on the global Epsilon platform.

At the end of the day, the Regal will be a success if customers don’t mind that it is a Buick.  It is an attractive, well-equipped European sedan that will likely be priced very competitively.  The only thing getting in the way is the Buick’s image.  Personally, I don’t care about a brand’s so-called “baggage”.  A good-looking vehicle, with the right equipment at the right price is what I want.  I’ll leave the interpretation of what that means to my image to others.

That’s what I think – how about you?  Please leave your comments below.

Thanksgiving Eve Update:
Autoweek magazine has reported that the 2.0L Turbo will also include a 6-speed manual transmission when it is introduced, making the Regal a legitimate competitor to the vehicles listed above.  Buick’s announcement 2 weeks ago said nothing about a manual.  Maybe they read The Slandy Report?  Also, GM announced this week that the Regal will be built in their Oshawa, Ontario plant in the first quarter of 2011.  Why Oshawa, which presently makes the Chevy Camaro and Impala, and not Fairfax, which already makes the Malibu and LaCrosse (made on the same Epsilon platform as the Regal)?  No idea – Oshawa will then have 3 vehicles all made on distinct platforms, pushing the envelope on complexity of the Oshawa plant.

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