Yearly Archives: 2014

Stars of 2014, from Fit to Jag

The 2015 Acura TLX AWD sedan in Vail. (Bud Wells photos)
The 2015 Acura TLX AWD sedan in Vail. (Bud Wells photos)

“Happy New Year,” I shout from the driver’s seat of the 2015 Dodge Charger AWD to readers of my automotive columns.

I opened year 2014 aboard the Nissan Rogue all-wheel-drive compact crossover and ended it this week in the full-sized Charger sedan. In between, I drove 67 other new cars and trucks.

The decision for my favorite car of the year, the 2015 Acura TLX AWD sedan, came to light during a drive to Vail and back. Fashioned so elegantly with a much sleeker design than the two old bodies it replaced, those of the TL and TSX, and with a 9-speed automatic transmission and push-button shifts, the TLX made a hit with me. A 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 with Sport mode and paddle shifters kept pace, often on the inside fast lane, with no problems on the I-70 climb up the mountains.

3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 adds strong torque to 2014 Ram 1500 Crew Cab.
3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 adds strong torque to 2014 Ram 1500 Crew Cab.

Truck of the year? It is the 2014 Ram 1500 Crew Cab 4X4 with 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 and 8-speed automatic transmission, carrying an EPA highway rating as high as 28 miles per gallon. This one boasts a torque rating of 420 lb.-ft., a standout in the half-ton field. An optional electronically controlled air suspension will, with the push of a button, adjust the height of the pickup.

Other highlights among my automotive drives for 2014:

Weighting game – Ford, on a cold, windy November morning, showed off its new aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup at a parking lot in Broomfield. It is 700 pounds lighter than last year’s steel bodies, and time will tell the durability of the new skin. For me, a big impression was the ease with which Ford’s little 2.7-liter V-6 engine moved the full-size truck.

2015 Honda Fit was least-expensive car driven in past year.
2015 Honda Fit was least-expensive car driven in past year.

Cheapest – The little 2015 Honda Fit 5-door EX, which carried Jan and me to Shanahan’s in southeast Denver on Labor Day weekend to join our kids and their mates for an excellent dinner, at $18,225 (the car, not the dinner). The Fit offers lots of quality for reasonable price. Another cheapie was the Nissan Versa Note at $21,015 with heated seats and rearview camera.

’15 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe boasted 550 horsepower.
’15 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe boasted 550 horsepower.

Most expensive – The 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe, with 550-hp supercharged 5.0-liter V-8 and 8-speed automatic transmission, at $102,825, nosed out the 2014 Audi A8L TDI, $99,445 with massaging front seatbacks and Bang & Olufsen advanced sound system.

MPG – 40.1 by 2014 Volkswagen Jetta TDI diesel, 35.6 by the 2014 Nissan Versa Note and 35.1 by the Honda Fit.

Hybrids – 46.4 by the 2014 Ford Fusion Energi plug-in, 38.9 by ’14 Honda Accord Hybrid and 38.5 by ’15 Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Guzzling – In cold and snow of February, with brief warm-ups on a couple mornings, the 2014 Nissan Titan and its 5.6-liter V-8/5-speed automatic transmission averaged 13.4 mpg.

Most horsepower – 550 from the 5-liter supercharged V-8 in Jaguar’s 2015 F-Type R Coupe, which will run 0 to 60 in 4 seconds.

Surprise transaction – Christmas Eve a year ago, it was 100-year-old O’Meara Ford buying a Volkswagen store from Doug Moreland. This time, a week before Christmas, it is John Elway swapping his Chevy store on South Colorado Boulevard for the Don Massey Cadillac dealership in Lone Tree. This gives Elway a luxury marque to go along with his other Chevy store on south Broadway and his Chrysler/Dodge/Jeep/Ram business in Greeley, and Massey, owned by Sonic Automotive Group, lands the Chevy property on South Colorado Blvd., adjacent to Mercedes-Benz and BMW locations, formerly owned by Mark Murray, bought by Sonic in 2013.

Falls flat – An August test of the 2014 Ford C-Max Energi plug-in would have been perfect – a drive to Coors Field in Denver for the Colorado Rockies’ retirement of Todd Helton’s No. 17 jersey. A flat tire, though, threw a wrench into that. The C-Max has no spare tire, as the car’s large battery pack fills the rear area where a spare would normally be stored. In place of a spare, it has a sealant compound in a canister and an air compressor to inflate the tire. The kit can be used only to seal punctures within the tire tread, not in the sidewall. So, Jan’s C280 4Matic sedan got us to Denver for the big show.

Extremes – Delivered to me back-to-back last January were the 5,850-pound Infiniti QX80 and the 2,500-pound Nissan Versa Note. Sit them side by side and the little Nissan falls short of the luxury make by 3 ½ feet.

Cold ride – In a 2014 Dodge Durango R/T in February, it was 11 below when we left home, still 11 below with 11 inches of snow when we arrived in Sterling for the funeral of Delbert Davis, an uncle of Jan’s.

Warm touch – Heaters beneath the head restraints in the 2014 BMW 435i retractable hardtop convertible blow warm air on the necks of front-seat occupants in cold weather. This feature was introduced several years ago by Mercedes-Benz.

Great catch – Halibut shared with General Motors executives at the Oceanaire Seafood Room two blocks from the Colorado Convention Center on opening night of the Denver Auto Show in April.

Velocity yellow was suitable for ’14 Chevy Corvette.
Velocity yellow was suitable for ’14 Chevy Corvette.

Best color – Velocity yellow tintcoat on the 2014 Corvette C-7 coupe in August.

Best book – “The 100-Year Deal,” the 100th anniversary volume published by the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association. It includes a reprint of The Colorado Car Book, which I produced in 1996.

Jan’s favorite – The Chrysler 200C AWD.

Best greeting – Happy New Year!


Back then . . .’80 Ford T-Bird

The redesigned 1980 Ford Thunderbird, left, beside an original ’55 model. (Bud Wells photo)
The redesigned 1980 Ford Thunderbird, left, beside an original ’55 model. (Bud Wells photo)

Thirty-five years ago this week, I reviewed in The Denver Post the 25th anniversary 1980 Ford Thunderbird and the original ’55 model. Excerpts:

The stylish new 1980 Ford Thunderbird marks 25 years since introduction of one of the most prestigious model names in automotive history.

The year 1955 was a glamorous one for cars. When the ‘55s hit the showroom floors they were the most colorful and powerful, and displayed the most significant styling changes, of any one-year changeover before or since (to that time).

Every carmaker joined the move, but the big scene-stealer was the first Thunderbird, a little two-seater convertible with a removable hardtop. The 52-inch-high ’55 T-Bird was a sports car for those wanting something different. Built on a 102-inch wheelbase with an overall length of 175 inches, it was powered by a Y-block 292-cubic-inch-displacement V-8 engine with 193 horsepower. Base price was $2,695.

To provide better rear visibility, the famed porthole was designed into the hardtop of the ’56 T-Bird and tailfins were added in 1957.

To appeal to a broader segment of the public, a rear seat was added in 1958, sales tripled, and it was named “Car of the Year” by Motor Trend. The Birds continued to grow in size and by 1976 the car was 225 inches long with a curb weight of 5,100 pounds.

A sharp increase in fuel mileage and the best design since the early T-Birds highlight the smaller 1980 Thunderbird.

The comfort level in the high-seated ’80 model is unmatched in previous T-Birds. It is on a wheelbase of 108 inches and weighs 3,270 pounds. Handling is good with the McPherson struts, coil springs and variable-ratio rack-and-pinion steering.

The big boost in gas mileages comes with an automatic overdrive transmission, available with the Thunderbird’s optional 302-cubic-inch V-8 engine (standard is a 255 V-8). An electronically controlled keyless entry system locks and unlocks the doors and unlocks the decklid by depressing calculator-type pushbuttons in a programmed five-digit sequence.


Sporty XSE retains Camry qualities

The XSE is a sportier version of the 2015 Toyota Camry. (Bud Wells photo)
The XSE is a sportier version of the 2015 Toyota Camry. (Bud Wells photo)

“The sportiest Camry yet,” Toyota says of its new 2015 XSE sedan.

It does have a stiffened sport suspension and 18-inch wheels; in reality, though, it’s simply another model that reinforces Camry’s rank as one of the finest of family four-doors.

I remember years ago driving a Toyota Supra Turbo – that one was sporty. I wrote of it, “This 320-horsepower, 6-cylinder dynamo will get you from Franktown to Castle Rock in about five blinks. I’m talking wide-awake blinks, of course; sleepytime driving isn’t permitted in a car of this type.”

The front-drive Camry today is the best-selling sedan in the U.S.

Adding appeal to the XSE’s ruby flare pearl finish are a wide black-mesh grille and redesigned headlights and taillights. The Camry’s overall length of 190.9 inches is within a half-inch of matching those of the Ford Fusion and Mazda6.

Mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters, Toyota’s 268-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine turns out decent, smooth performance. Standard offering for the Camry is the 178-hp, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, which earns an EPA mpg estimate of 35 on the highway.

I averaged 26.8 mpg with the V-6, which is rated at 21 in town and 31 on the highway. The V-6 operates adequately and quietly in low-range demands. The XSE rides on Michelin P225/45R18 tires.

Positions of the brake and accelerator pedals near the same level gave me opportunity twice on the highway to experience Toyota’s Smart Stop technology. As my foot touched both pedals at cruising speed, the vehicle’s speed quickly dropped 15 miles per hour from an immediate cut in engine power along with the light touch of the brake. It is noticeably effective, designed to help bring the vehicle to a stop. The feature is standard on the Camry for 2015. Smart Stop engages in the event of simultaneous brake and gas pedal applications, with immediate reduction of engine power to idle.

Inside, the Camry dashboard is stylish with the look of a leather overlay, stitched in red, and the seat inserts are of microsuede with good comfort. Touchscreen usage for a 7-inch display set is fairly simple and reaction is quick; audio channel listings are larger than many of those in competitive makes. The system includes navigation with traffic and weather, a USB port and Bluetooth.

The rear seating area is very roomy and the trunk is of 15.4 cubic feet, enough to hold family luggage.

The Entune premium audio, rearview camera, blind-spot monitor, lane-departure warning and automatic high beams pushed price of the Camry XSE to $35,668 from a base of $31,370.

Here are the specifications for the ’15 Toyota Camry XSE V-6:


  • Capacity 5-passenger
  • Wheelbase 109.3 inches
  • Length 190.9 inches
  • Width 71.7 inches
  • Height 57.9 inches
  • Curb Weight 3,480 pounds
  • Track 62.4 inches front, 62 rear
  • Ground Clearance 6.1 inches
  • Turn Circle 36.7 feet
  • Drivetrain Front-wheel-drive
  • Engine 3.5-liter V-6
  • Horsepower/Torque 268/248
  • Transmission 6-speed automatic
  • Steering electric power
  • Suspension sport-tuned front strut, multilink rear
  • Fuel mileage estimate 21/31
  • Fuel mileage average 26.8
  • Fuel Tank 17 gallons, regular unleaded
  • Wheels 18-inch
  • Tires Michelin P225/45/R18
  • Cargo Volume 15.4 cubic feet
  • Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles basic, 5/60,000 powertrain

Competitors Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Hyundai Sonata, Chrysler 200, Chevrolet Malibu

Assembly Plant Georgetown, Ky.

Parts Content N.A.

Base Price of Lowest Model $23,795; Base Price of Review Model $31,370; Destination Charge $825; Sticker Price $35,668.



Chrysler 200C AWD is ’15 on 12-13-14

The 2015 Chrysler 200C AWD at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. (Bud Wells photos)
The 2015 Chrysler 200C AWD at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. (Bud Wells photos)

Today, I review a ’15 on 12-13-14.

It’s the Chrysler 200C all-wheel-drive midsize sedan, which posted the hottest sales gain in the auto industry last month.

Whether the numerically based lead of the column is liked, or disliked, it is the last one this century. Three years ago, in the fall of 2011, an opportunity arose when I wrote, “Two-doors continue to roll my direction, and I have a ’12 for you on the morning of 9-10-11.” It was the 2012 Honda Civic Coupe. The year 2015 will be a step beyond linking up consecutively with months (which, of course, end with 12) and date numericals. Something else will come to mind, I’m sure.

To put Chrysler’s AWD system to some use, we drove it to 9,500-feet-high Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park where 17 inches of snow was on the ground. That’s 17 more than was in the lower lands of northern Colorado.

The all-wheel-drive option makes the 200C a nice entry in Colorado country. Few midsize sedans offer grip at all four wheels – Toyota Camry doesn’t, nor does Honda Accord. It is available on the Ford Fusion and Subaru Legacy, and the Volkswagen Passat has recently added 4Motion. It is more common on luxury models.

The 200C handled easily the little bit of ice we encountered near the parking lot of Bear Lake. The new AWD system, when called upon, instantly splits torque between the front and rear wheels for optimal traction. When front-wheel-drive performance is sufficient, the system disengages power to the rear axle, gaining increased fuel efficiency.

A powertrain highlight is Chrysler’s 9-speed automatic transmission, tied to its 295-horsepoower, 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 engine. A rotary dial on the center console, something like that used by Jaguar, has replaced the traditional shifter for the 200. It simplifies the shift process and is enhanced by paddle shifters at the steering wheel. Using the paddles in manual mode, the driver controls limitless gearing possibilities among the nine speeds. A Sport mode increases throttle response, quickens shifts and lessens the normal traction control.

The 200’s rotary dial shifter
The 200’s rotary dial shifter

The Pentastar, smoothed by the 9-speed, seems to work very hard and noisily under stressful acceleration demands. A bit more oomph is needed on occasion. And that may soon be at hand. One afternoon while the 200 was in my possession, a daily Internet newscast from Detroit (Tom Worobec, Automotive News) informed me that Chrysler plans to turbocharge the Pentastar V-6 later in 2015.

This, if added to the 200C, will make it a leader among the midsize sedans.

Overall driving, including the climb to Bear Lake, averaged 26.9 miles per gallon.

With improved soft-touch, high-end materials, the 200’s cabin has gained a spot on Ward’s 10 Best Interiors List for the year. The upgraded 200C has power controls for both front seats; a complaint with lower-end models is that the front-passenger seat is positioned very low and there is no height adjustment. A large storage bin has been carved out in the center console, and another wide opening has opened beneath the center portion of the dash, designed somewhat like those in Volvos for a number of years.

A heated steering wheel is among interior niceties; the heat into the steering wheel can be set to turn on automatically when a temperature drops to a certain cold level.

A peek through the Chrysler 200C steering wheel.
A peek through the Chrysler 200C steering wheel.

An impressive Uconnect 8.4 infotainment system, navigation, adaptive cruise, automatic high beams, park assist, premium leather heated and cooled seats and lane-departure system helped push sticker price of the Chrysler from a base of $30,425 to sticker of $35,900.

Base engine for the Chrysler 200 is a 184-hp, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder.

Sales of the 200 sedan last month totaled 14,317, a 156 percent increase over the previous month. It has been years since a Chrysler midsize model has sold that many units in a month. It outsold the Chevy Malibu, Subaru Outback, Kia Optima and Volkswagen Passat for the month.


Here are the specifications for the ’15 Chrysler 200C AWD:

  • Capacity 5-passenger
  • Wheelbase 108 inches
  • Length 192.3 inches
  • Width 73.6 inches
  • Height 58.7 inches
  • Curb Weight 3,473 pounds
  • Track 62.1 inches front, 62 rear
  • Ground Clearance 5.8 inches
  • Turn Circle 39.8 feet
  • Drivetrain All-wheel-drive
  • Engine 3.6-liter V-6
  • Horsepower/Torque 295/262
  • Transmission 9-speed automatic
  • Steering variable-assist power
  • Suspension strut front, multilink rear
  • Fuel mileage estimate 18/29
  • Fuel mileage average 26.9
  • Fuel Tank 15.8 gallons, regular unleaded
  • Wheels 18-inch
  • Cargo Volume 16 cubic feet
  • Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles basic, 5/100,000 powertrain

Competitors: Ford Fusion, Acura ILX, Volkswagen Passat, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry

Assembly Plant: Sterling Heights, Mich.

Parts Content: U.S./Canadian 67%, Mexico 16%

Base Price of Lowest Model: $21,700; Base Price of Review Model: $30,425; Destination Charge: $995; Sticker Price: $35,900.


BMW’s new X4 shaped like small X6

The ’15 X4 is coupelike with four doors. (Bud Wells photos)
The ’15 X4 is coupelike with four doors. (Bud Wells photos)

It’s a beautiful finish, in melbourne red metallic, which adds $550 to its cost.

Impressive, too, is its interior, white nevada leather with red contrast stitching, and that’s an extra $1,450.

It is BMW’s new 2015 X4 crossover hatchback, which looks like a coupe, even with its four doors. It is styled like the bigger X6, which was introduced seven years.

Of the X6 when I reviewed it in The Denver Post of July 4, 2008, I said, “Its new look is hot as a firecracker.”

The BMW X6 was first reviewed back in ’08.
The BMW X6 was first reviewed back in ’08.

The same holds true now for the new X4, still a hot coupelike look, even in December.

Interestingly, the X6’s review model back in ’08 was $63,700, just $100 higher than sticker price on the ’15 X4, which is a size smaller. Price bumps along the way have pushed the total on a well-equipped X6 into the $80s.

From the driver’s seat of the X4, the results for pushing the Sport driving button are under-hood performances fitting of a BMW – tightened steering, stiffened suspension, more responsive shifts, capped by paddle-shift capability. Three other modes are Eco (mild), Comfort (normal) and Sport-plus (blast-off).

Driver controls for the BMW X4 crossover.
Driver controls for the BMW X4 crossover.

A twin-power turbocharged, direct-injection 3.0-liter, inline-6-cylinder engine mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission provides the multilevel power modes. It generates 300 horsepower and 300 lb.-ft. of torque.

BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive system uses dynamic stability control to send torque to the outside rear wheel when cornering to improve traction, turn-in and directional stability.

The inline-6 with the 8-speed carries an EPA estimate of 19/27 miles per gallon. My overall fuel mileage average was only 21.5; I didn’t often call on the Eco mode. An optional power source for the X4 is from a 2.0-liter, turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, also tied to the 8-speed.

The X4 is built on the chassis of BMW’s X3 SUV and is much the same size. The X4 is a half-inch longer than the X3 and its roofline is 1.5 inches lower than that of the X3. Its roofline slopes back to the trailing edge of the tailgate; that and its low-slung structure create shallow vision out the rear window.

Among interior highlights are M leather steering wheel and M door sill finishers. The rear seat is split 40/20/40, and cargo space behind is 17.7 cubic feet. Rear-seat footroom is somewhat tight.

A few of the many options are heated front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, blind-spot detection, automatic high beams and stop/start system.

Here are the specifications for the ’15 BMW X4:

  • Capacity 5-passenger
  • Wheelbase 110.6 inches
  • Length 184.3 inches
  • Width 74.1 inches
  • Height 63.9 inches
  • Curb Weight 4,260 pounds
  • Track 62.8 inches front, 63.4 rear
  • Ground Clearance 8 inches
  • Turn Circle 39 feet
  • Drivetrain All-wheel-drive
  • Engine 3.0-liter twin-scroll turbo inline-6-cylinder
  • Horsepower/Torque 300/300
  • Transmission 8-speed automatic
  • Steering rack-pinion
  • Suspension strut front, multilink rear
  • Fuel mileage estimate 19/27
  • Fuel mileage average 21.5
  • Fuel Tank 17.7 gallons, premium unleaded
  • Wheels 19-inch
  • Tires Goodyear Eagle 245/45R19
  • Cargo Volume 17.7 cubic feet
  • Warranty 4 years/50,000 miles basic, 4/50,000 powertrain

Competitors Porsche Macan, Lincoln MKC, Range Rover Evoque, Acura RDX, Meercedes-Benz GLA

Assembly Plant Spartanburg, S.C.

Parts Content N.A.

Base Price of Lowest Model $44,700; Base Price of Review Model $48,000; Destination Charge $950; Sticker Price $63,600.


Sweeney lands “Deal” at RMAP party

Bob and Gerri Sweeney with “The 100-Year Deal” at the Denver Press Club. (Jan Wells photo)
Bob and Gerri Sweeney with “The 100-Year Deal” at the Denver Press Club. (Jan Wells photo)

“What a deal,” said an exuberant Bob Sweeney when his name was drawn as recipient of a copy of the just-published Colorado Automobile Dealers Association’s 100th anniversary history book.

The 336-page, coffee-table-type book, “The 100-Year Deal,” was handed to Sweeney and his wife, Gerri, during the annual holiday party of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Press at the Denver Press Club. Sweeneys are publishers of The Villager newspaper in Greenwood Village.

Included in the group of 40 persons at the party were writers, bloggers and photographers of automotive interest, along with several automobile manufacturer representatives.

Andre Smirnov, president of the automotive press association, directed the dinner party. Tim Jackson, who for 10 years has headed the state’s dealer association, drew Sweeney’s name from a collection of names of all those in attendance.

In addition to celebrating the 100 years of the Colorado car dealers association, the volume includes a reprint of The Colorado Car Book (1996) by Bud Wells.

For more information regarding the book, or to order it, visit The book is priced at $59.95.


CADA opens book; tiger recalls ‘60s

Among those greeting Glenwood Springs car dealer Michael Payne in his “tiger-striped” jacket was Charlene Bowlin of Security Service Federal Credit Union. At right is Casey Tynan. (Jan Wells photo)
Among those greeting Glenwood Springs car dealer Michael Payne in his “tiger-striped” jacket was Charlene Bowlin of Security Service Federal Credit Union. At right is Casey Tynan. (Jan Wells photo)

A “tiger-striped” jacket from a Pontiac promotion of years ago attracted “sideshow” attention at the annual meeting recently of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association.

It was CADA’s 100th Anniversary Gala at the Renaissance Denver Downtown City Center Hotel in the beautiful, old Colorado National Bank building on 17th Street.

Thom Buckley of Colorado Springs was introduced by 9News Meteorologist Marty Coniglio, master of ceremonies, as new chairman for CADA, succeeding Bill Hellman of Delta.

Unveiling of the book, The 100-Year Deal, and auctioning of the first three copies highlighted the business meeting. The new 336-page, coffee-table-type book features car dealers of the state and includes a reprint of The Colorado Car Book by Bud Wells,

The No. 1 copy of the book drew a high bid of $1,500 from Dean and Tracy Dowson of Golden, No. 2 went to Jeff Carlson of Glenwood Springs for $1,200 and No. 3 to John Medved of Golden for $800.

Heading the book project was Tim Jackson, president of the CADA, assisted by Tim Coy, Caroline Schomp and Bud Wells.

Speakers discussing cars, dealers and consumers of the future were Glen Mercer of Cleveland, president of GM Automotive, an auto industry consulting firm; Paul Eisenstein, reporter, publisher and chief of The Detroit Bureau, and Charlie Vogelheim, host of Motor Trend Audio, Los Angeles.

The “tiger-striped” jacket was worn to the gathering by Michael Payne, owner of Mountain Chevrolet in Glenwood Springs. Jackets like that were worn by Pontiac salesmen in the mid-1960s as part of an aggressive tiger advertising theme, a promotion of John DeLorean, chief engineer at Pontiac. Payne’s father, Leo Payne, was a Pontiac dealer in the ‘60s, operating Clark-Payne Pontiac on West Colfax.

The jacket drew all sorts of responses at the party; Michael Payne said a couple of persons who didn’t know him thought “that I must be a member of the band.”



Engine, cargo boost ‘15 Honda CR-V

The ’15 Honda CR-V stands out in farm country south of Longmont. (Bud Wells photos)
The ’15 Honda CR-V stands out in farm country south of Longmont. (Bud Wells photos)

Happy Thanksgiving!

How many turkeys can be hauled in the cargo area of the 2015 Honda CR-V?

Talking frozen, dressed birds of 15 to 18 pounds, the number might be 40 to 50, depending on how they’re squeezed in and stacked.

If you’re talking live turkeys, it depends, first and foremost, on how many you can catch.

The CR-V’s cargo space at 35.3 cubic feet is one of the largest in its class. The cargo floor sits low, with the spare tire resting beneath it, and it is easily accessed.

All this room behind the second-row seats is among reasons cited for the popularity of Honda’s compact crossover.

There are better-looking crossovers, and those with more power and better shift control, but this one excels in all-around pleasant performance.

And it shows in the sales charts. The Accord and Civic sedans for years have been Honda’s best sellers. Not so in October, when the CR-V outsold both of them.

The top 10 sellers of SUV/crossover vehicles for October, behind the Honda’s 29,257, are Ford Escape 24,919, Toyota RAV4 21,524, Chevrolet Equinox 17,603, Ford Explorer 16,496, Jeep Cherokee 15,715, Jeep Grand Cherokee 14,993, Nissan Rogue 14,685, Jeep Wrangler 13,685, Subaru Forester 12,971 and Toyota Highlander 12,106.

The five-passenger ’15 CR-V is a bit longer with slightly wider track than the one I last drove, a 2012 model. Though the CR-V is of shorter wheelbase than the Ford Escape and Toyota RAV4, it is within an inch in overall length, longer than the Escape, shorter than the RAV4.

Torque and economy have increased with a new 2.4-liter (Earth Dreams Technology) 4-cylinder engine tied to a continuously variable transmission (VT). Peak efficiency is called upon with the push of a green “econ” button, which delivers feedback to best-type engine demands for high fuel mileage. The CVT’s modest speed recovery takes some getting used to; the 18 additional pounds-feet of torque help some.

Honda CR-V’s new Earth Dreams 4-cylinder.
Honda CR-V’s new Earth Dreams 4-cylinder.

My time with the CR-V was the recent extremely cold and snowy week, which dragged the vehicle’s overall fuel mileage down to 25.9 miles per gallon. Its EPA estimate is 26/33.

The crossover did a nice job of switching from its front-wheel-drive system to front/rear control for added traction on icy streets.

In addition to the normal rearview camera, the CR-V featured LaneWatch, activated with the right-turn signal, giving an on-screen view of the car’s blind-side area. It lends assurance on turns, as well as for lane changes on a busy I-25.

Eighteen-inch alloy sport wheels are shod with Dunlop Grandtrek 225/60R18 tires.

Sporty 18-inch wheels compliment the CR-V’s prominent nose.
Sporty 18-inch wheels compliment the CR-V’s prominent nose.

The CR-V review model is the high-end Touring version, with a sticker price of $33,650, including such other features as voice-recognition navigation and audio (AM/FM/CD, Bluetooth, Pandora, USB, satellite), leather-trimmed seats (heated in front), dual-zone climate control, push-button start, adaptive cruise control, power moonroof and tailgate and variable intermittent wipers.

The shifter dominates the CR-V’s center stack.
The shifter dominates the CR-V’s center stack.

Here are the specifications for the ’15 Honda CR-V AWD:

  • Capacity 5-passenger
  • Wheelbase 103.1 inches
  • Length 179.4 inches
  • Width 71.6 inches
  • Height 65.1 inches
  • Curb Weight 3,624 pounds
  • Track 62.2 inches front, rear
  • Ground Clearance 6.8 inches
  • Turn Circle 36.9 feet
  • Drivetrain All-wheel-drive
  • Engine 2.4-liter 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower/Torque 185/181
  • Transmission Continuously variable
  • Steering rack-pinion
  • Suspension strut front, multilink rear
  • Fuel mileage estimate 26/33
  • Fuel mileage average 25.9
  • Fuel Tank 15.3 gallons, unleaded regular
  • Wheels 18-inch
  • Cargo Volume 35.3 cubic feet
  • Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles basic, 5/60,000 powertrain

Competitors Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, Jeep Cherokee, Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester

Assembly Plant East Liberty, Ohio

Parts Content U.S./Canadian 70%, Japan 15%

Base Price of Lowest Model $24,570; Base Price of Review Model $32,770; Destination Charge $880; Sticker Price $33,650.

Bud drives aluminum-bodied F-150

Ford brought its 2015 F-150, with aluminum body, to Colorado this week. (Bud Wells photo)
Ford brought its 2015 F-150, with aluminum body, to Colorado this week. (Bud Wells photo)

To adhere a “light on its feet” label to a tough-looking vehicle is a major step toward success these days in the automotive truck world.

Ford, on a cold, windy morning this week, showed off its new aluminum-bodied F-150 pickup at a parking lot in Broomfield.

Not only is it 700 pounds lighter, it is stronger than the traditional steel bodies for trucks, says Ford Motor Co.

Some detractors, though, say the durability of aluminum body panels for pickups isn’t yet proven, and it’s a risky move for the country’s leading builder of those vehicles.

Production of the new pickups began last week in Dearborn, Mich., and the models will reach Ford showrooms in this area in December. We’ll then begin to assess how they stack up in the real world.

For me, the level of excitement for testing the 2015 F-150 at Broomfield was heightened by the opportunity to also drive one with power from a relatively small, innovative V-6 engine.

It is the high-output, twin-turbocharged 2.7-liter EcoBoost producing 325 horsepower and 375 lb.-ft. of torque, with towing capability of 8,500 pounds. Only because of the aluminum-lightened body is the 2.7 strong enough for truck duty. It’s the smallest engine to ever power an F-series pickup.

Ford’s new turbocharged 2.7-liter V-6 for its F-150. (Ford)
Ford’s new turbocharged 2.7-liter V-6 for its F-150. (Ford)

The little V-6, with direct fuel injection, moved the Crew Cab 4-by-4 around in relatively easy fashion. Maneuverability was excellent. Mated to Ford’s electronic 6-speed automatic transmission, the 2.7 is very smooth and its acceleration is strong.

Adding to its economic attributes is Ford’s first stop/start system for a pickup, in which the engine shuts down at stoplights, restarting when brake pressure is eased. It is a fuel-saving feature.

The smaller 2.7 rates better power numbers than Ford’s base 3.5-liter V-6 (283 hp, 255 torque), with higher tow capacity and payload.

The key to use of the small V-6 is, of course, higher miles per gallon. Ford has said the 2015 model will get up to 26 mpg on the highway. One Ford representative told me that the 2.7 in an F-150 Crew Cab averaged 23 overall in a variety of driving duties.

The Crew Cab interior, a bit roomier for 2015, was a quiet cabin during the test-drive operation. Its seats were of wear-resistant vinyl.

The new aluminum body panels will be tied with structural adhesives and rivets, instead of the spot welds which held the former steel panels.

The large new five-bar grille in the 2015 Ford F-150. (Bud Wells photo)
The large new five-bar grille in the 2015 Ford F-150. (Bud Wells photo)

In addition to its turbocharged 2.7 and the base 3.5 engines, also available will be a turboed 3.5 EcoBoost V-6 and a 5.0-liter V-8; the 6.2-liter V-8 has been dropped.



Lean ’15 BMW M4 returns to inline-6

A yellow/gold finish adds flair to 2015 BMW M4 Coupe. (Bud Wells photos)
A yellow/gold finish adds flair to 2015 BMW M4 Coupe. (Bud Wells photos)

Compliments seemed to follow this special new car all over the place.

It’s the 2015 BMW M4 Coupe, which previously was designated the M3. BMW, though, has separated its 3 series four-door sedans from the coupes, which now are known as the 4 series.

Thus, the ’15 version of the super-handling, performance two-door is the M4.

To further distinguish the new one, BMW has returned its traditional 3.0-liter inline-6-cylinder engine, this one a 425-horsepower twin-power turbo, beneath the hood. It replaces a 414-hp, 4.0-liter V-8. The new inline-6, mated to a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, boasts 406 lb.-ft. of torque, and exceeds low-end acceleration of the former V-8.

Though the 2015 M4 is 2 inches longer in wheelbase and overall length than the previous M, heavy use of carbon fiber and aluminum have lightened curb weight of the coupe by 170 pounds. The prevalence of carbon fiber usage is most visible at the molded roof panel and, with the hood open, the strange-looking, half-loop strut brace.

An eyecatcher beneath the hood is the half-loop carbon fiber strut brace.
An eyecatcher beneath the hood is the half-loop carbon fiber strut brace.

“Great-looking car,” “nice wheels,” “beautiful Bimmer,” were typical of comments heard wherever I parked it last week in Denver and northern Colorado.

Even the color, labeled Austin yellow metallic but seemingly tinting a bit to the gold or green shade, drew generally favorable reaction.

The M4’s sound, enhanced with electrically actuated flaps in the exhaust pipes, doesn’t compare with the awesome roar emitted by the 560-horsepower V-8 in the ’13 M6 Coupe I tested two years ago.

Other than its priceiness, there are not a lot of negatives associated with it. Its performance is a blast, and it is one of the better-handling coupes in the country.

Dual-scroll turbos generate tremendous torque for the inline-6, and the 7-speed automatic offers quick shifts, paddle controls and a launch-control program for track time. Throttle response and suspension stiffness are controlled by comfort, sport and sport-plus settings. EPA fuel-mileage estimate has taken a big jump to 17/24 from the old V-8’s rating of 14/20. My overall average with the M4 was 21.2.

The lengthened wheelbase and upgraded suspension, brakes and other underparts mean the M4 has a very wide turn circle of 40 feet, 3 feet longer than a standard BMW 3 or 4 series model.

Wheels sport gold brake calipers and large rotors.
Wheels sport gold brake calipers and large rotors.

The sleek coupe shows off a hood bulge up front and quad tailpipes at the rear, with gold-painted calipers standing out against each of the large brake rotors at the wheels.

Inside, bolstered white perforated leather seats are mounted low into the cabin. A thick, stitched leather-covered steering wheel and short shifter knob await guidance from the pilot. Rear seats are comfortable, with some tightness of legroom.

Here’s how the M4 goes from its base price of $64,200 to a sticker total of $86,200:

$8,150 for M carbon ceramic brakes, in which fixed-caliper brakes are fitted to the front and rear axles with four pistons at the front and two at the rear, instead of single-piston sliding calipers; $4,000 for heated steering wheel, rearview camera, retractable headlight washers, park-distance control, head-up display, satellite radio; $2,900 for the 7-speed double-clutch transmission (a 6-speed manual is standard); $1,900 for adaptive full LED lights, with automatic high beams; $1,200 for 19-inch black wheels; $1,000 for adaptive M suspension; $875 for Harman Kardon sound system; $550 for the yellow metallic exterior finish; $500 for enhanced Bluetooth and Smartphone, and $925 for destination charge.

Here are the specifications for the ’15 BMW M4 Coupe:

  • Capacity 4-passenger
  • Wheelbase 110.7 inches
  • Length 183.9 inches
  • Width 73.6 inches
  • Height 56.4 inches
  • Curb Weight 3,585 pounds
  • Track 62.2 inches front, 63.1 rear
  • Ground Clearance 4.8 inches
  • Turn Circle 40 feet
  • Drivetrain Rear-wheel-drive
  • Engine 3.0-liter twinpower turbo inline-6-cylinder
  • Horsepower/Torque 425/406
  • Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch automatic
  • Steering electromechanical
  • Fuel mileage estimate 17/24
  • Fuel mileage average 21.2
  • Fuel Tank 15.8 gallons, unleaded premium
  • Wheels 19-inch
  • Cargo Volume 11 cubic feet
  • Warranty 4 years/50,000 miles basic, powertrain

Competitors Audi RS5, Cadillac CTS-V Coupe, Mercedes-Benz C63AMG, Lexus RC F, Porsche Boxster S

Assembly Plant Munich, Germany

Parts Content Germany 65%, U.S./Canadian 5%

Base Price of Lowest Model $64,200; Base Price of Review Model $64,200; Destination Charge $925; Sticker Price $86,200.