All posts by budwells

About budwells

Born at Wray, Colo., graduate of Sterling High School, attended Northeastern Junior College, began work at Sterling Journal-Advocate in 1956, began work at The Denver Post in 1968, resides at Greeley, Colo. Bud and wife Janice are parents of three sons and two daughters.

Acura TLX, with 9-speed, climbs to Vail

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

For 2015, an engineering feat by Acura has combined two models into one in a midsize makeover.

The result is the pleasantly styled ’15 TLX sedan, which delivered us smoothly to Vail and back.

The two 2014 models which met their maker to create the new one are the TL and its sportier stablemate, the TSX.

The new TLX is of much sleeker design than the two old bodies; it’s a bit longer than the TSX, though 3.8 inches shorter than the TL.

Fashioned so elegantly, and with a 9-speed automatic transmission, push-button shifts and all-wheel drive, the TLX made a hit with me.

A question for Acura, though, is whether one model can sell at the same pace or faster than the two models of the past. It’s the same query tossed at Sergio Marchionne, head of FiatChrysler, in his intention to do away with the Dodge Grand Caravan minivan in favor of its near-twin, Chrysler Town & Country. Will he sell as many minivans under the Chrysler nameplate as he has under combined Dodge/Chrysler names? I doubt it.

Regardless of level of future sales, the ’15 TLX luxury midsize four-door is a pleasure to drive.

A 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 is tied to the 9-speed automatic; it kept pace, often on the inside fast lane, with no problem on the I-70 climb up the mountains. With all the gearing available, a slight tendency at times to remain in higher gear with lessened performance, can be overcome with use of Sport mode in Acura’s Integrated Dynamics System. Using paddles at hand, shifts are quickened, throttle is more responsive and steering is stiffened. Upshifts are delayed.

There is no shifter in sight; it’s a matter of pushing buttons for P (park), D (drive) and N (neutral) and pulling a small lever for R (reverse). Push-button transmissions were popular 50 to 60 years ago, used by Chrysler, Mercury and Rambler, with some frustrating moments when a button would slip out of place. Those were mechanical; Acura’s is electronic, it won’t fail.

The TLX’s new electronic push-button shift system.
The TLX’s new electronic push-button shift system.

Only on either side of the Eisenhower Tunnel and over Vail Pass did we see any snow or feel wet roads. In more adverse conditions the Acura’s drive system, Super Handling All Wheel Drive, distributes torque between the front and rear axles, as well as between the rear wheels. Torque vectoring (distributing power to each wheel independently) has been enhanced in the new TLX.

The new Acura is a good handler, with a quiet cabin. It has a wide turn circle, almost 40 feet.

Its interior, with leather, is comfortably finished and roomy enough for five adults. Spacewise, the only lack is in headroom in the rear seating area; trunk space is 14.3 cubic feet. A deep dash juts sharply toward the front seats, putting center stack controls within easy reach of both driver and front-seat passenger, though cutting down on legroom, particularly for the passenger. The center stack features dual display screens, a lower touch-screen for audio and climate control, the upper controlled by knobs and buttons also for audio and navigation. It can lead to confusion.

Aided by the return drive from Vail, overall fuel-mileage average for the TLX was 29.4 miles per gallon; EPA estimate is 21-31.

The TLX sticker price of $45,595 was boosted by two packages:

Technical – Navigation with voice recognition and multiview rear camera, real-time traffic, ELS studio premium audio with 10 speakers, perforated leather seats, blind-spot information, forward-collision warning, lane-keeping assist, rain-sensing wipers and rear-cross traffic monitor.

Advance – Collision-mitigation braking system, adaptive cruise control, ventilated front seats, exterior puddle lamps, remote engine start, front and rear parking sensors, LED foglights and road-departure warning.

A lesser-priced version of the new TLX can be bought in the $35,000 to $38,000 range with front-wheel drive, a 206-hp, 4-cylinder engine and 8-speed automatic transmission. It is rated at 35 mpg on the highway. It is equipped with an all-wheel-steering system, not available with the V-6 engine.

Here are the specifications for the ’15 Acura TLX SH-AWD:

  • Wheelbase 109.3 inches
  • Length 190.3 inches
  • Width 73 inches
  • Height 57 inches
  • Curb Weight 3,774 pounds
  • Track 62.8 inches front, 63.1 rear
  • Ground Clearance 5.9 inches
  • Turn Circle 39.6 feet
  • Drivetrain All-wheel-drive
  • Engine 3.5-liter V-6
  • Horsepower/Torque 290/267
  • Transmission 9-speed automatic
  • Steering electronic power
  • Fuel mileage estimate 21/31
  • Fuel mileage average 29.4
  • Fuel Tank 17.2 gallons
  • Wheels 18-inch
  • Cargo Volume 14.3 cubic feet
  • Warranty 4 years/50,000 miles basic, 6/70,000 powertrain

Competitors Lincoln MKZ, Audi A4, BMW 3 series, Lexus IS

Assembly Plant Marysville, Ohio

Parts Content U.S./Canadian 65%

Base Price of Lowest Model $31,890; Base Price of Review Model $44,700; Destination Charge $895; Sticker Price $45,595.



Jag shines with 550-hp F-Type R Coupe

The 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe. (Bud Wells photos)
The 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe. (Bud Wells photos)

Eighteen months after the new Jag roadster stole the spotlight at the Denver Auto Show, the hardtop version, the 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe, came my way.

What a tough, robust two-seater sports car it is, with a 550-horsepower, 5-liter supercharged V-8 twisting out 502 lb.-ft. of torque.

A simple pull of a small switch beside the shifter activates dynamic drive mode for the Jag; the performance enhancement is felt about as quickly as the extreme roar is heard from the quad exhausts. The response is tremendous, with tightened steering. The coupe will do the 0-to-60 sprint in 4 seconds and boasts a top speed of 188 miles per hour.

Shifts are almost imperceptible with an 8-speed automatic transmission, though control can be quickened with use of orange paddle shifters at either side of the steering wheel.

The R-package’s retuned dampers boost the level of superb handling. The cornering grip mixes a sense of security with the fun of the drive.

Complementing the coupe’s large power capability are extra big brakes, with tremendous stopping strength. They’re 15-inch rotors in front and 14.8 at the rear. Red calipers draw attention to the sizable rotors in the 20-inch wheels. They run on Pirelli 255/35ZR20 tires.

The sleek Jaguar looked right at home outside Elway’s at Cherry Creek one noon last week when we joined Ted King for a birthday lunch for his wife, Shirley.

Shirley King tests Jag’s seating.
Shirley King tests Jag’s seating.

With its long, sloping hood and big nose out front, the low-slung F-Type exudes appeal to streetgoers throughout downtown Denver. It stands only 52 inches in height and is of medium overall length; at 176 inches it is almost half-a-foot shorter than a Mercedes-Benz SL550.

The ivory-colored interior is luxuriant and bright. Finished in premium leather, it features touchscreen navigation, Bluetooth connectivity and a 770-watt, 12-speaker Meridian sound system.

The F-Type interior.
The F-Type interior.

A small rear window and wide C pillars limit view out the rear, and, on the highway, when a rear panel lifts for downforce at higher speeds, there’s even less vision. And, up front, the sun visors are the smallest (shallowest) I remember, measuring less than 3 inches. They barely fall into the top of the windshield area.

When the Jaguar is locked, door handles retract flush into the body panel for a neat look at the side, especially for the fact the side mirrors also fold in. The handles, very plain in appearance, lend an awkward look when they’re unlocked, jutting out at an odd angle.

“Plain-jane” Jag door handle.
“Plain-jane” Jag door handle.

The R Coupe comes in at a staggering price of $102,825. A standard F-Type coupe, with power from a 3.0-liter V-6, can be bought in the $70,000 to $75,000 range.

With the F-Type earning accolades for the British-built Jaguar, the company intends to drop its XK grand touring coupe and convertible after the ’15 model run.


Here are the specifications for the ’15 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe:

  • Wheelbase 103.2 inches
  • Length 176 inches
  • Width 75.7 inches
  • Height 52 inches
  • Curb Weight 3,638 pounds
  • Track 62.4 inches front, 64.1 rear
  • Ground Clearance 4.8 inches
  • Turn Circle 35 feet
  • Drivetrain Rear-wheel-drive
  • Engine 5.0-liter supercharged V-8
  • Horsepower/Torque 550/502
  • Transmission 8-speed automatic
  • Steering rack-and-pinion
  • Fuel mileage estimate 16/23
  • Fuel mileage average 18.3
  • Fuel Tank 18.5 gallons
  • Wheels 20-inch
  • Cargo Volume 11 cubic feet
  • Warranty 4 years/50,000 miles basic, 4/50,000 powertrain


Competitors Porsche Cayman, Porsche 911, Mercedes-Benz SL550, Chevrolet Corvette, BMW M4, Dodge Viper

Assembly Plant Castle Bromwich, England

Parts Content Germany 53%, England 41%, U.S./Canadian 2%

Base Price of Lowest Model $65,925; Base Price of Review Model $99,000; Destination Charge $925; Sticker Price $102,825.


’15 Escalade pushes Cadillac past $90k

The 2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV partway up the drive to Guanella Pass. (Bud Wells photo)
The 2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV partway up the drive to Guanella Pass. (Bud Wells photo)

The climb to 11,670-foot Guanella Pass from Georgetown (elevation 8,530 feet) in little more than 10 miles was a nice drive on a warm, bright, late-September afternoon and an excellent test for the 2015 Cadillac Escalade ESV.

Performance was impressive from the Escalade’s new 420-horsepower, direct-injected 6.2-liter V-8 engine, and even atop its extended-length 130-inch wheelbase, it handled the rise and the hairpin curves with a nimbleness not normally enjoyed in that size SUV.

Plush accommodations and high-tech features pushed the Escalade’s price to $90,985, a far cry from the previously highest-priced Cadillac I’ve driven, the 2010 CTS-V sedan at $68,445 four years ago.

The high price was a first step toward more luxurious offerings from Cadillac. Company officials announced, during the time I was driving the Escalade, they would soon build a new prestige sedan with advanced technology to compete more directly with Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi.

Cadillac also announced it will in 2015 expand its Detroit-based organization to New York, creating a new global headquarters there.

The new premium sedan, though, will remain tied to Detroit. It is to be known as the CT6 and will be built in the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant. It will go into production in the fourth quarter of 2015 and will be a new top-of-the-line Cadillac.

Inside the Detroit-Hamtramck Cadillac assembly plant, where the new CT6 will be built. (Cadillac photo)
Inside the Detroit-Hamtramck Cadillac assembly plant, where the new CT6 will be built. (Cadillac photo)

“The objective for this upcoming model is to lift the Cadillac range by entering the elite class of top-level luxury cars,” said Cadillac President Johan de Nysschen.

The big Cadillac Escalade ESV, which is longer by 14 inches in wheelbase and 22 inches overall than the regular Escalade, easily kept pace with other motorists in the I-70 fast lane to Georgetown. The mountain climb above Georgetown took us near Mt. Bierstadt and gave me an opportunity to use the Escalade’s manual-mode shifter. It is more awkward than most, as, rather than paddle shifters, it is engaged from a button on the column shifter. It locked into 2nd and 3rd gears with no hesitation, however. Overall fuel-mileage average was 18.2 miles per gallon.

22-inch wheels and retractable running boards are 2015 ESV highlights. (Bud Wells photo)
22-inch wheels and retractable running boards are 2015 ESV highlights. (Bud Wells photo)

Walk up to the ESV, open the driver’s door, and wide, retractable running boards (a $1,700 option) slide out into place for easy access into plush interior surroundings with kona brown perforated heated and cooled front seats. Somewhat distracting is a dashboard of many parts, which angle away in various directions.

Standard on this premium ESV is the touch-sensitive Cadillac User Experience (CUE) navigation system. Tied to a 16-speaker Bose Cabin surround-sound system are MP3, Bluetooth and SiriusXM, with Blu-Ray DVD rear-entertainment screens for second- and third-row passengers. A head-up display provides driving information out front of the driver.

The ESV offers a segment-first front-seat center airbag, not to protect a center-seat passenger, for a center console prevents use there as a seat. It is engineered, Cadillac said, to provide additional protection to drivers and front passengers in far-side impact crashes, where the affected occupant is on the opposite, non-struck side of the SUV.

The added length of the vehicle creates a large cargo area, 38.7 cubic feet, behind the third row of seats. With the power liftgate open, rear-positioned controls can be used to fold-flat and raise the third-row of seats, along with flip-folding the second-row seats to allow passengers to climb into the third-row seats. A highlight at the rear are distinctive, vertical, 3-feet-long LED taillights.

Lots of cargo space behind the third row of seats in Escalade ESV. (Bud Wells photo)
Lots of cargo space behind the third row of seats in Escalade ESV. (Bud Wells photo)

Seat vibrations to alert the driver to non-signaled lane departure are among standard technology, helping to push the ESV’s price above $90,000. Others are adaptive cruise control with excellent braking control, blind-zone and cross-traffic alerts and forward-collision alert.

Cadillac’s magnetic ride control is one of the most instantaneously reacting suspension systems. The Escalade’s 22-inch wheels are shod with Bridgestone Dueler P285/45R22 tires.

Here are the specifications for the ’15 Cadillac Escalade ESV 4WD:

  • Wheelbase 130 inches
  • Length 224.3 inches
  • Width 80.5 inches
  • Height 74 inches
  • Curb Weight 6,096 pounds
  • Track 68.7 inches front and rear
  • Ground Clearance 7.9 inches
  • Turn Circle 43 feet
  • Drivetrain Four-wheel-drive
  • Engine 6.2-liter V-8
  • Horsepower/Torque 420/460
  • Transmission 6-speed automatic
  • Steering electrically variable power-assisted
  • Fuel mileage estimate 14/20
  • Fuel mileage average 18.27
  • Fuel Tank 26 gallons
  • Wheels 22-inch
  • Cargo Volume 38.7 cubic feet
  • Warranty 4 years/50,000 miles basic, 6/70,000 powertrain

Competitors Range Rover, Lincoln Navigator, Infiniti QX80, Lexus LX470

Assembly Plant Arlington, Texas

Parts Content U.S./Canadian 60%, Mexico 28%

Base Price Lowest Model $74,295; Base Price of Review Model $85,795; Destination Charge $995; Sticker Price $90,985.


Ford, YMCA gather costumes for kids


Five Denver-area Ford stores and several YMCA locations are accepting new and gently used Halloween costumes for kids in need.

Costumes for Kids, the Halloween drive, provided more than 150 costumes in the initial launch of the program last October by the Ford stores and YMCA of Metropolitan Denver.

“It was extremely meaningful to see all of the smiling faces of the children who benefited from this program last year,” said Todd Rabourn, Denver regional manager for Ford Motor Co. “Every kid deserves to get dressed up and have fun on Halloween and Denver area Ford dealerships are excited to help make that happen.”

“We are very grateful for the partnership with Ford again on the costume drive,” said Jim Hiner, president and CEO, YMCA of Metropolitan Denver. “We look forward to the opportunity to help a number of children participate in Halloween this year with a new costume. The partnership is one more way we are able to strengthen our community.”

Halloween costumes can be dropped off through Saturday, Oct. 11, at five Ford dealerships, including

  • Freeway Ford, 4471 E. Evans Ave., Denver;
  • Groove Ford, 10039 E. Arapahoe Rd., Centennial;
  • Longmont Ford, 235 Alpine St., Longmont;
  • Medved Ford, 1404 S. Wilcox St., Castle Rock, and
  • Sill-TerHar Ford, 150 Alter St., Broomfield.

Also at

  • Patton Boggs International Law Firm, 1801 California St., Denver;
  • YMCA of Metropolitan Denver, 2526 S. Colorado Blvd., Denver;
  • Downtown YMCA, 25 E. 16th Ave., Denver;
  • Duncan Family YMCA, 6350 Eldridge St., Arvada;
  • Littleton Family YMCA, 11 W. Dry Creek Ct., Littleton;
  • Schlessman Family YMCA, 3901 Yale Ave., Denver, and
  • Southwest Family YMCA, 5181 W. Kenyon Ave., Denver.


Back then . . . ‘80 Oldsmobile Omega Coupe

1980 Oldsmobile Omega Coupe with front-wheel drive. (Bud Wells photo)
1980 Oldsmobile Omega Coupe with front-wheel drive. (Bud Wells photo)

Thirty-five years ago this month, when the movement to front-wheel-drive cars was beginning to really roll in Colorado, I reviewed in Denver the 1980 Oldsmobile Omega Brougham Coupe. Here are some excerpts from that column:

Oldsmobile, builder of the longtime hot-selling Cutlass, has another hit on its hands. The model name, Omega, isn’t new, but the car is, and what a reception it has had in the showroom. Some persons are waiting several months to get their hands on these ’80 models, which were introduced in late April.

What’s so different about the new one? It’s got the good-handling front-wheel-drive setup, for one thing, and offers a choice of transverse-mounted 4-cylinder of V-6 engines which produce gas mileage figures out of reach of the older Omegas.

Driving of a V-6-powered Omega Brougham Coupe with automatic transmission on a straight highway run recorded impressive fuel mileage of 32.2 miles per gallon. However, mileage took a sizable drop to 20.3 when air conditioning was used on a half-highway, half-town test.

The automatic transmission shifted smoother with the V-6 than in similar cars (Buick Skylark, Pontiac Phoenix, Chevrolet Citation) tested earlier with 4-cylinder engines. The Olds V-6 engine, 2.8-liter (173 cubic inches) in size, produced good power. It develops 115 horsepower, with compression ratio of 8.5 to 1.

Base price of the Brougham Coupe is $5,014, which includes such standard items as an AM radio, rack-and-pinion steering, maintenance-free wheel bearings, radial tires and inside hood release. Optional equipment, in addition to the V-6 and automatic transmission, included air conditioning for $527, vinyl landau roof $167, power steering $153, power front disc brakes $71, whitewall tires $39, dual horn $8, power antenna $44, power side windows $123 and electric rear-window defroster $93. Total window-sticker price was $8,105.

The 2,560-pound auto is 750 pounds lighter than last year’s Omega and is 6 inches shorter in wheelbase. The smaller engines, lighter bumpers and new front and rear suspension systems added to the weight reduction.



Volkswagen CC detours to bike path

The 2014 Volkswagen CC R-Line near finish of Pedal the Plains in Wiggins. (Bud Wells photos)
The 2014 Volkswagen CC R-Line near finish of Pedal the Plains in Wiggins. (Bud Wells photos)

Riders on bike brands such as Trek, Specialized, Giant, Felt and others rolled into Wiggins Sunday morning, concluding the three-day Pedal the Plains in northeastern Colorado.

My ride was the 2014 Volkswagen CC R-Line, a sleek, low-slung midsize sport sedan. It carried Jan and me to downtown Wiggins in time to see some of the early finishers in the bike festivities.

Fred Citta of Gering, Neb., on his Specialized Roubaix, covered the 66-mile route from Sterling to Wiggins in just over 4 hours. The weather was breezy and cooler on Sunday; he said he preferred to ride in the hotter 85 to 90-degree weather which the bicyclists experienced on Friday and Saturday.

Citta was among 1,000 riders from 26 states who participated in the three-day, 175-mile course. It began in Wiggins on Friday with stopover that night in Fort Morgan, then to Brush Saturday morning and on to Sterling, where the annual Sugar Beet Days drew large crowds to Logan County Courthouse Square.

Fred Citta, of Gering, Neb., rides Specialized Roubaix bike.
Fred Citta, of Gering, Neb., rides Specialized Roubaix bike.

The Volkswagen we were driving carries a price tag of $33,890, not bad for a well-equipped midsize model. Under its hood is a 200-horsepower, 2.0-liter 4-cylinder turbocharged engine and a 6-speed manual transmission. It is a smooth handler, of front-wheel-drive configuration. Engine refinement has overcome most turbo lag of the 4-cylinder.

The stylish CC originated six years ago as part of the VW Passat line. It is so coupelike that VW calls it a Comfort Coupe, from which the CC designation comes. It’s not a coupe, though, for it has four doors. Its overall height of only 55.8 inches is almost 3 inches lower than that of the Passat.

The CC is considered a separate model from the Passat. Though it retains the same platform, the Passat two years ago moved to a large architecture and is 3 inches longer in overall length than the CC.

A CC delight is its two-tone interior, highlighted by a desert beige finish, much brighter than the more-often-used dark interiors of German products. The contoured seats are cushioned very comfortably in leatherette.

The VW CC interior is attractive in light-color finish.
The VW CC interior is attractive in light-color finish.

The car’s center stack screen for navigation, audio and backup camera is far too small for comprehension-at-a-glance.

A sport bumper is part of the R-Line trim package, along with large lower air intake, projector-style foglights, side skirts, door sill logos and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The CC’s little turbocharged engine and manual transmission earned an EPA estimate of 32 miles per gallon in highway driving; premium fuel is recommended. I posted an overall average of 28.7 with it, benefited by a Friday night drive to the impressive, old Grant-Humphreys Mansion in Denver for a wedding ceremony for Kyle Lock and David Ruygrok, and the trip out northeast to view the Pedal the Plains finish.

Included in addition to the aforementioned amenities for the $33,000 CC are Bluetooth connectivity, bi-xenon headlights and LED daytime running lights, dual-zone climate control, heated front seats, cruise control, trip computer, automatic headlights and intermittent wipers with rain sense.

Few changes or upgrades will be made to the 2015 version of the VW CC.

Here are the ’14 Volkswagen CC R-Line specifications:

  • Wheelbase 106.7 inches
  • Length 188.9 inches
  • Width 73 inches
  • Height 55.8 inches
  • Curb Weight 3,358 pounds
  • Track 61.1 inches front, 61.4 rear
  • Ground Clearance 5 inches
  • Turn Circle 37.4 feet
  • Drivetrain Front-wheel-drive
  • Engine 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower/Torque 200/207
  • Transmission 6-speed manual
  • Steering electromechanical power
  • Fuel mileage estimate 21/32
  • Fuel mileage average 28.7
  • Fuel Tank 18.5 gallons
  • Wheels 18-inch
  • Cargo Volume 13.2 cubic feet
  • Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles basic, 5/60,000 powertrain

Competitors Nissan Maxima, Toyota Avalon, Volvo S60, Ford Fusion, Chrysler 200

Assembly Plant Emden, Germany

Parts Content Germany 62%, U.S./Canadian 1%

Base Price of Lowest Model $31,795; Base Pice of Review Model $33,025; Destination Charge $865; Sticker Price $33,890.

Bike riders at finish of Pedal the Plains in Wiggins.
Bike riders at finish of Pedal the Plains in Wiggins.


Owen Faricy dies; onetime Nash dealer

Owen Faricy
Owen Faricy

Owen Faricy of Colorado Springs, an award-winning Nash dealer in Pueblo almost 70 years ago, died Saturday, Sept. 13. He would have been 93 next month.

Owen Faricy, born and reared at Florence, went to work for Jackson Chevrolet in Pueblo as an 18-year-old kid in 1940. He opened a used-car lot at Pueblo on Jan. 2, 1942, and obtained the Nash franchise there in 1945. Two years after opening, Faricy had earned the Nash 10 Point Award.

Faricy, whose brother Roland worked with him, later opened a Hudson dealership in another building. Owen Faricy was a member of National Dealer Councils for both Nash and Hudson, and in 1954 was one of 27 dealers to meet in California with George Romney and Roy Abernathy to plan the merger of Nash and Hudson into American Motors.

In 1955, he bought out a Packard dealership in Colorado Springs and turned the building into an American Motors store. Faricy had moved to Colorado Springs and sold the Pueblo business to his brother, Roland.

Owen Faricy stayed active in the Colorado Springs business, which became a Chrysler Jeep store, until retiring in 1990, when sons Mike and Joe assumed leadership. Second and third-generations of the Faricy family today operate the Chrysler/Jeep business at Colorado Springs and Ford/Lincoln at Canon City.

Nash’s top award presented to Owen Faricy Motor Co. in Pueblo in 1947.
Nash’s top award presented to Owen Faricy Motor Co. in Pueblo in 1947.




Honda’s 2015 subcompact is excellent Fit

The 2015 Honda Fit, in mystic yellow, shone brightly at Shanahan’s Steakhouse. (Bud Wells photos)
The 2015 Honda Fit, in mystic yellow, shone brightly at Shanahan’s Steakhouse. (Bud Wells photos)

The little Honda Fit was a standout among the Lincolns and Audis and Chryslers on Sunday evening at Shanahan’s Steakhouse in southeast Denver.

Standout for the fact it was finished in mystic yellow, brighter than the others, and, also, it appeared to be the only 2015 model in the valet parking area. It’s no misfit.

For the ’15 model year, the Fit EX five-door hatchback rolls with increased power and efficiency and its interior is more spacious (measured in fractions of inches). The rake of its windshield has been lengthened to line up with the sloped hood for a better profile.

Parking the Fit is no problem, for the subcompact is one of the shorter cars on the market.

At Shanahan’s, Jan and I joined Brent and Tina Wells, Bill and Kathy Allen, Dale and Sandy Wells, Kurt and Tammy Wells and Kim Parker for dinner.

I drove the first Fit to come to Colorado, an ’07 model in June 2006. Little has changed with what I said about it nine years ago: “Hitting the Honda showrooms a few weeks back was a funny looking little car with few apparent familial ties to the stylish Civic. The 2007 Fit, a small hatchback from Japan, has a sloped nose with two big round headlights, small triangular windows at the base of the A pillars and an abruptly chopped-off rear hatch.”

The original Honda Fit, an ’07 model introduced in 2006.
The original Honda Fit, an ’07 model introduced in 2006.

Within four years, the overall length had been increased from 157.4 inches to 161.6, and the wheelbase from 96.5 inches to 98.4.

For the 2015 model year, the Fit’s wheelbase has gained another 1.2 inches, while its overall length has rolled back to an even 160 inches. The expanded wheelbase and snugged-up engine compartment lend a bit more space to the passenger compartment in the Honda. Honda has always bragged that it accommodates comfortably three adults in the rear seat; I say keep those shoulders squeezed in.

The Fit is still powered by a 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine; today’s version, however, has been improved with increased thermal efficiency and minimal friction through advancements which Honda refers to as “Earth Dreams Technology.” Output has been increased to 130 horsepower from 109 nine years ago, and maximum fuel mileage has reached into the high 30s. The engine performs somewhat noisily.

“Earth Dreams” engine technology.
“Earth Dreams” engine technology.

The review model I drove the past week was equipped with a 6-speed manual transmission; also available at an $800 price bump is a continuously variable transmission. Neither is quick, both are very efficient. We averaged 35.1 miles per gallon, boosted some by the 120-mile round-trip to Shanahan’s and back home. Good-looking alloy wheels are shod with Bridgestone Turanza 185/55R16 tires.

The new Fit is Japanese-based Honda’s first model for the U.S. to be assembled in Mexico.

Touchscreen audio controls aren’t super friendly; there are no audio knobs at the center stack, though button controls at the steering wheel are simple enough.

A new safety feature (LaneWatch), activated with the right-turn signal, gives an on-screen view of the car’s blind-side area.

Even with that, a power moonroof and rearview camera, the Fit’s sticker price remains a reasonable $18,225. The hatchback’s ride quality is among the best of subcompacts.


Here are the ’15 Honda Fit 5-door EX specifications:

  • Wheelbase 99 inches
  • Length 160 inches
  • Width 67 inches
  • Height 60 inches
  • Curb Weight 2,573 pounds
  • Track 58.3 inches front, 58 rear
  • Ground Clearance 5.9 inches
  • Turn Circle 35.1 feet
  • Drivetrain Front-wheel-drive
  • Engine 1.5-liter 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower/Torque 130/114
  • Transmission 6-speed manual
  • Steering electric power
  • Fuel mileage estimate 29/37
  • Fuel mileage average 35.1
  • Fuel Tank 10.6 gallons
  • Wheels 16-inch
  • Cargo Volume 16.6 cubic feet
  • Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles basic, 5/60,000 powertrain

Competitors Chevrolet Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, Mazda2, Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris

Assembly Plant Celaya, Mexico

Parts Content Mexico 70%, U.S./Canadian 5%

Base Price of Lowest Model $15,525; Base Price of Review Model $18,225; Destination Charge $790; Sticker Price $18,225.

The Fit at Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, near downtown Denver, not to be confused with Shanahan’s.
The Fit at Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey, near downtown Denver, not to be confused with Shanahan’s.
The Fit’s alloy wheels are impressive.
The Fit’s alloy wheels are impressive.
Taillights add prominence to the rear of Fit.
Taillights add prominence to the rear of Fit.





Memorable moments with Dodge

Photo copied from
Photo copied from

While Dodge celebrates its 100th anniversary this year, I look over the list of hundreds of new cars and trucks I’ve reviewed since the ‘70s and find that 80 have been of the Dodge brand.

The first was the little Omni in 1978, the most recent a 2014 Dodge Durango on a frigid (-11) morning in February.

Some of the more memorable include:

1978 Dodge Omni – Back in July of 1978, many of my Denver neighbors walked over into my driveway to take a look at Dodge’s new Omni. It was interesting, for one thing, for the fact its engine and transmission sat sideways under the hood. For another, it was of front-wheel-drive configuration. These were the early days of the American auto industry’s front-drive revolution in response to the gasoline shortages and price spikes of the ‘70s decade. Another unusual design for the Chrysler Corp. product was its suspension system. The company long had been a proponent of torsion bars for the front end and leaf springs on the rear, but the Omni had coil springs at all four wheels. The little four-door, weighing 2,200 pounds on a wheelbase of only 99 inches, averaged 30.6 miles per gallon on the highway with its 2.2-liter, 4-cylinder engine and 3-speed automatic transmission. Its base price of $3,804 was boosted to $5,490 with lots of options, including air conditioning, velour seats, undercoating and white-sidewall tires.

1981 Dodge Aries K Car – Dodge’s family-size car of the future in the spring of 1981 was the Aries K Car, offering outstanding economy, roomy interior and, like the Omni, front-wheel drive. I parked it beside a 1956 Dodge Royal four-door sedan, which I owned at the time; the Aries was 3 feet shorter in overall length. With a 2.2-liter, 4-cylinder engine and 4-speed manual transmission, the Aries recorded fuel mileages as high as 38.6 miles per gallon. Power steering was among options on the Aries, which carried a sticker price of $7,963.

The 1981 Dodge Aries parked beside a 1956 Dodge Royal four-door. (Bud Wells photo)
The 1981 Dodge Aries parked beside a 1956 Dodge Royal four-door. (Bud Wells photo)

1991 Dodge Grand Caravan – The Dodge Grand Caravan provided a Christmas holiday drive from Pueblo to Denver and back. With 2 ½ million of them down the road by ‘91, there was little fault to find with the front-wheel-drive minivans built by Chrysler Corp. Handling was better than expected with the extended-length van. Providing decent power was a 3.3-liter V-6 engine with 4-speed automatic transmission, which delivered an average of 23.8 miles per gallon of fuel. Sticker price was $20,836.

1998 Dodge Viper – There was nothing stronger in this country at that time, October of 1998. Under the hood of the Viper GTS coupe was a 488-cubic-inch, V-10 engine producing 450 horsepower and 490 pound-feet of torque. With a 6-speed manual transmission, it would run from 0 to 60 in about 4 seconds, according to Dodge officials, and would attain speeds in the 180s. I averaged 11.9 miles per gallon. With the addition of a $3,000 gas-guzzler tax, its sticker price reached $70,000.

2002 Dodge Viper plant – In late January 2002, a day after attending the North American International Auto Show in Detroit’s Cobo Hall, sons Dale and Brent and I toured the Conner Avenue Assembly Plant, where highly prized employees assembled by hand Dodge Vipers (production rate was eight Vipers per day). A highlight of the Conner visit was getting a peek at a restyled 2003 Viper atop a hoist in the factory. It showed up in the showrooms eight months later with a 505-cubic-inch, 500-horsepower V-10. Viper prices in 2002 began at $72,500. Red and yellow were the most popular colors.

From left, Dale, Bud and Brent Wells in the Dodge Viper factory in Detroit in 2002. (Conner Factory photo)
From left, Dale, Bud and Brent Wells in the Dodge Viper factory in Detroit in 2002. (Conner Factory photo)

2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 – The Dodge Challenger returned, 35 years after it ended production of the original. The ’08 model was a two-door hardtop and looked much like the earlier one, with wide hood stripes and dual hood scoops, high-riding rear deck and chrome gas cap. The SRT8 was equipped with a big Hemi, the 425-horsepower, 6.1-liter V-8 (standard Hemi was 5.7-liter), which would run 0 to 60 in less than 5 seconds. With the low-end thrust and the sound of old out its dual tailpipes, it was awesome to drive. The original Challenger made its debut in the fall of 1969 as a ’70 model, and was built until April 1974. Almost 190,000 were sold, with engine choices of a 426-cubic-inch Hemi V-8, a 440 V-8, 383 V-8, 318 V-8 and Slant-6. The new Challenger, built on the platform of the Chrysler 300, was 6 inches longer than the ’70 Challenger, and weighed 450 pounds more.

The 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 at Mariana Buttes Golf Course near Loveland. (Bud Wells photo)
The 2008 Dodge Challenger SRT8 at Mariana Buttes Golf Course near Loveland. (Bud Wells photo)

2013 Dodge Dart – The Dart returns to Dodge showrooms after an absence of 37 years. The Limited edition, with sticker price of $25,065, drops right into the middle of the compact class, battling popular names such as Focus, Cruze, Civic and Corolla. Jan and I drove the Dart to Vail in the fall of ’12. The climb to Vail and, once there, the twisty roads made it an excellent test ground for new cars. The Dart is a merger product with Italy’s Fiat, which rescued Chrysler Group from its financial collapse of four years ago.

2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel – The long-awaited turbodiesel engine in a half-ton pickup showed up in late March this year, just in time for the annual Denver Auto Show. The 2014 Ram 1500 Outdoorsman Crew Cab 4X4, equipped with a 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V-6 and 8-speed automatic transmission, carried an EPA estimate of 27 miles per gallon on the highway. In 425 miles, more than 300 on the highway, it averaged 23.9 mpg. It performs with strong torque from its Italian-built diesel engine and smooth shifts from the German-developed transmission. The half-ton crew cab offers 9,250 pounds of tow capacity. An optional electronically controlled air suspension with the push of a button will adjust height of the pickup. Aero mode will drop ground clearance an inch for improved fuel economy at highway speeds, offroad preparation raises it for better clearance in rugged going, and park mode lowers the truck 2 inches for easier access and exit. Ram several years ago was made its own division separate from Dodge; many automotive followers still associate the two.

The 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Crew Cab. (Bud Wells photo)
The 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel Crew Cab. (Bud Wells photo)






Dodge celebrates 100th anniversary

Dodge brothers Horace and John take ride in first 1914 Dodge automobile. (Dodge photos)
Dodge brothers Horace and John take ride in first 1914 Dodge automobile. (Dodge photos)

Dodge this summer is observing its 100th anniversary as an American car company.

Henry Ford provided the means for two Dodge brothers to eventually form their own automobile company, 100 years ago.

To lead off an historical look at the Dodge firm with a mention of Henry Ford is fitting, for Ford’s great success in the period from 1905 to 1914 was due in large part to Dodge brothers, Horace and John.

Horace, a skilled mechanic, and John, a brilliant financier, were considered the best machinists in Detroit. In fact, Ransom Eli Olds of Oldsmobile in 1902 contracted with the brothers to make transmissions for his curved-dash Oldsmobile.

Then Henry Ford, with a big idea but small funds, gave Horace and John a 10 percent stake in Ford Motor Company to join his venture. Dodge manufactured most every part of the early Fords except for the buckboard wooden seats and rubber tires.

Through the Ford share, the Dodges became wealthy, and in 1913 announced that they would stop building Model T’s and would design, build and sell their own car.

Dodge Brothers was formed in July of 1914 and on Nov. 14 of that year, the first Dodge rolled off the assembly line. It was the first with an all-steel body. “Better than the Model T in every way,” said Horace, “and only $100 more.”

A brief timeline for Dodge;

Dodge became part of Chrysler Corp. in 1928; Power Wagon trucks were introduced a decade later; the Red Ram Hemi was introduced in late 1952, the first V-8 for Dodge; push-button transmission showed up in ’56 and large tail fins in ’57; Richard Petty gave Dodge numerous wins in NASCAR racing; muscle cars in late ‘60s and early ‘70s were named Charger and Challenger; Omni in 1978 was first transverse-mounted front-wheel-drive vehicle in America; Dodge Caravan took control of the emerging minivan market in ’84; a preproduction Viper paced the Indy 500 in ’91. Lining up in the coming year is the Challenger SRT with a Hemi Hellcat engine of more than 600 horsepower.

Push-button drive appeared in 1956 Dodge.
Push-button drive appeared in 1956 Dodge.

One hundred years after the first ride by the Dodge brothers, the nameplate is represented by large dealerships all over the state, with recognizable names such as Cherry Creek Dodge and Christopher’s Dodge World. Some years back, a big store was Hugh Tighe Skyline Dodge and way back, beginning in the late 1930s and continuing for 40 years as a Dodge dealer was Markley Motors in Fort Collins, before becoming a General Motors operator.

Today, there are 26 Dodge dealerships in Colorado:

  • AutoNation Dodge in Centennial
  • AutoNation Dodge in Littleton
  • Berthod Dodge in Glenwood Springs
  • Brandon Dodge on Broadway in Denver
  • Cherry Creek Dodge in Denver
  • Christopher’s Dodge in Golden
  • City Auto Plaza in Canon City
  • Colorado Springs Dodge
  • Flower Motor Co., Montrose
  • Fort Collins Dodge
  • Grand Junction Dodge
  • John Elway Dodge in Greeley
  • Johnson Auto Plaza in Brighton
  • Korf Continental in Yuma
  • Limon Dodge
  • Medved Dodge in Castle Rock
  • Larry H. Miller Dodge in Thornton
  • Morehart Murphy Auto Center in Durango
  • New Country Auto Center in Cortez
  • Perkins Motor Co. in Colorado Springs
  • Pueblo Dodge
  • Steamboat Motors in Steamboat Springs
  • Valley Dodge in Boulder
  • Victory Motors in Craig
  • Vista Dodge in Silverthorne
  • Wolf Auto Center in Sterling
1987 Dodge Caravan shows its extended length.
1987 Dodge Caravan shows its extended length.