2018 Volkswagen Passat V6 GT – Is It A Sports Sedan?

Since 2011 the Volkswagen Passat’s design hasn’t changed much, and while some might consider the appearance, both inside and out, a bit outdated, at least VW continues to offer a V6 engine. In a time when turbocharged four cylinder engines dominate the mid-size sedan market, there’s very few that come with a traditional V6. The closest competitor that comes to mind is the Toyota Camry XSE; a car that boasts a 301 hp V6 engine. Despite slightly less horsepower, the Passat GT undercuts the Camry in price by $6k – $9k, giving consumers an affordable option if the four cylinder Passat and Jetta just isn’t enough.

For performance, the 2018 Passat GT comes with a 3.6L VR6 engine that gets 280 hp and 258 lb ft of torque, and is paired with a 6 speed dual clutch automatic transmission. A 0-60 time of 5.8 seconds is right in line with the Toyota Camry XSE, Honda Accord Sport 2.0, and Chevy Malibu Premier 2.0. Some of the slight differences compared to the other Passat trims is that the GT is lowered by 0.6 inches and gets 19 inch Tornado design wheels. It also comes with the more aggressive R-Line front and rear bumpers, black roof, black mirror caps, and two-tone leatherette seats with contrast stitching. A GTI-inspired front grille will set the GT apart from other Passats, and when combining that full appearance package with LED front headlights and tail lights, the Passat looks more refined and sporty.

Volkswagen has marketed the V6 GT as an “American-born Sports Sedan”, which has led automotive journalists to test out cornering, straight-line performance, and braking in their reviews of the car. While VW has stiffened the suspension on the GT, it’s not a sports sedan, which is perfectly ok. I think many have misinterpreted or completely missed the point of the V6 GT, and instead of looking at it as a competitor to a Dodge Charger or any other sports sedans on the market today, it’s a step up from the four cylinder Passat, and may even be perceived as a more grownup VW GTI.

From the appearance alone, the GT trim has some design cues from the GTI and I can’t help but feel that Volkswagen is indirectly trying to appeal to the GTI owners who are ready to move on from the hatchback. The GTI is often associated with younger car enthusiasts who most likely don’t have a family of their own yet, but for those who do, it might be time to size up and that’s where the Passat GT comes into play. Let’s be honest, on a Saturday afternoon you most likely aren’t taking a Passat to the track, which is why this car fills the role of being a mid-size sedan you can have some fun in, while also being a good daily driver. On the other hand, Volkswagen has gone all in on the R-Line, which is why it could also be possible that introducing the Passat to a more sporty appearance is part of the plan to provide a whole new look to all models in the VW lineup.

Stepping inside you’re greeted by 8 way power adjustable heated two-toned leatherette seats. You’ll find faux carbon fiber trim on the dashboard, which I personally think is a nice touch. My only complaint, and a lot of this has to do with my time in the redesigned 2019 Volkswagen Jetta SEL Premium, is that there’s no digital information display. But again the GT is only an additional $2k more, so the upgrade in size and horsepower evenly balances out the downgrade in technology available and that’s something I could live with. You’ll get a 6.3 inch touchscreen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility, and it’s a very straight forward system to use.

Volkswagen Passat V6 GT
Volkswagen Passat V6 GT interior

In the back, passengers will get a lot of legroom as the Passat is one of the leaders in its segment in this category. For rear cargo space you’ll get 16 cubic ft of cargo room.

Some of the safety features that come standard on the Passat GT is a rear backup camera, blindspot monitoring, Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking.

Overall the Volkswagen Passat V6 GT is a product of it’s time. With Toyota going more sporty with the Camry XSE and Honda having the Accord 2.0 Sport, VW had to respond to the growing trend in sport oriented mid-size sedans. We could debate for a while on whether the GT is the grownup GTI and whether that was even Volkswagen’s intention, but when a brand adds a sports appearance package that’s reminiscent of a popular model in the lineup and combines that with a V6 engine that could certainly grab the attention of maturing car enthusiasts, it’s definitely something worth noting.

Also with an aging design, Volkswagen had to bring something new to the table. Keep in mind, the all new Arteon will be hitting showrooms sometime in the fall, and seeing that VW is pushing the R-Line appearance package on the Passat and Jetta, the GT could be a sign of things to come for all models in the lineup from the German automaker.

2018 Buick Regal TourX – The Station Wagon Is Back In The US

In the automotive market, 2018 has begun much like every year this decade. Crossovers are the vehicle of choice by consumers and with each passing year, brands introduce new models to appeal to the growing demand for small SUV’s that provide road clearance, cargo space, and for some, off-road capability. Throughout this era of crossover dominance, there’s been a sentiment festering in the hearts of some Americans who want station wagons to once again have a presence in car brands’ lineups. The good news is that their wishes have been granted by GM with the all new Buick Regal TourX.

For Buick, this is the first time since 1996 that they’ve offered a station wagon. At first glance the TourX has a very European look and that’s because of the collaboration between Opel and GM. In the UK, the TourX is known as the Vauxhall Insignia Country Tourer. Many often refer to the TourX as being a twin to the Audi A4 Allroad, and while they do share similar design cues in terms of appearance, there is absolutely no relation. However, this is a blessing for Buick, as any similarity to a well known German station wagon could yield high rewards in the near future.

Buick is offering their station wagon at a base price of $29k, with the most expensive trim, the Essence, topping out at around $42k. There’s only one engine option: A turbocharged four cylinder engine that gets 250 hp and 295 lb ft of torque, and is paired with an 8 speed automatic transmission. For the drivetrain, AWD does come standard on the Regal TourX. The most important specification on this station wagon however is just how much cargo room you get. With the rear seats up, the TourX comes with 35 cubic ft of cargo room, but when the seats are folded down, that room doubles in size, outclassing all competition in it’s price range.

A lot of that has to do with Buick going with a mid-sized station wagon, rather than competing against the smaller Volkswagen Golf Alltrack. The TourX provides more cargo room than the Audi A4 Allroad, and in fact is more in line with most crossovers in terms of interior dimensions, but is significantly cheaper. Buick’s goal is to take on the crossovers in it’s price range, primarily the Subaru Outback. While the TourX isn’t an off-roader by any means, it’s a viable alternative as a daily driver for consumers who want the sensation of driving a car, but still have the cargo room that can be found in a Honda CR-V and Toyota Rav4.

Ultimately, the most appealing aspect of this station wagon is the fact that it offers European luxury for less than the German and Swedish competitors. While there are GM elements that make up the interior of the TourX, it can be said that it’s at least on par with crossovers in it’s price range, and I’d argue that the interior is better than what you’d find on a Volkswagen Golf Alltrack.

When taking a look at the TourX Essence which is the top trim, you’ll get leather seats, a heated steering wheel, dual zone climate control, and an 8″ touch screen display. You’ll get a navigation system, along with up to date traffic reports, and even a 5 day weather outlook. A panoramic moonroof is optional, which brings in a lot of natural light and just gives the TourX a more luxurious feel. Optional packages include a number of safety features such as rear park assist, rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assist, lane departure warning, and front automatic braking.

Overall the TourX is a breath of fresh air in an automotive era filled with crossovers, especially in a price range at or below $40k. Hopefully in the near and not to distant future, American auto manufacturers build off what Buick is offering: 250 hp and AWD coming standard, no CVT transmission, and styling that is very appealing, even to consumers who aren’t in the market for a station wagon. Time will decide whether the TourX is the beginning of a new trend in the automotive world, but with other station wagons like the Audi A4 Allroad, Volvo V60 and V90, and the Volkswagen Golf Alltrack on the market, it could be argued that station wagons are creeping back into the United States.

Cadillac Should Be Focusing On Dodge, Not The Germans

Cadillac’s President, Johan de Nysschen, has been very vocal the past few months after the unveiling of the new Cadillac ATS-V and CTS-V. He believes that the GM luxury brand will compete with the likes of BMW and Mercedes Benz, especially when it comes to performance. But is Nysschen getting too far ahead of himself, especially since the BMW M3/M4 and Mercedes Benz C63 are already on the market? Not only that, but is he also forgetting a domestic rival that hasn’t been part of the discussion when it comes to performance?

Nysschen has been emphasizing performance over luxury when it comes to the ATS-V and CTS-V, essentially stating that this is BMW and Mercedes Benz “fanboys'” worst nightmare. However, by pushing the performance aspect of his two new cars, is he blindly walking into the hands of Dodge? The Charger and Challenger Hellcat could certainly give Cadillac a run for it’s money, especially since they’re all in the same price range, with Dodge offering more horsepower than Cadillac.

Even Cadillac lovers acknowledge that when the debates start firing up between the M3/M4, C63, and the ATS-V/CTS-V, “German car fanboys” revert back to the luxury aspect of their favorite cars. Nysschen is creating a new perception for his company, that Cadillac is no longer the forgotten luxury brand and is now a force to be reckoned with thanks to its performance. But the ambiance that he’s trying to capture might backfire as consumers see Dodge as performance-driven cars, putting Cadillac’s new perception in line with their American counterparts.

The Dodge Charger Hellcat’s starting price is $62,295, while the ATS-V will start at $61,460. The Hellcat has 707 hp and the ATS-V will have a 3.6L twin turbo V-6 supplying 464 hp. While on paper both cars wouldn’t be seen in the same class or market, we are talking about two cars that are in the same price range, both offering performance. Dodge has been forgotten, hidden in the shadows while Nysschen only makes reference to German automakers. A luxury car that offers performance is one thing, but by solely marketing performance, Cadillac is going to find themselves in competition with another American car brand, which wasn’t Nysschen’s intent.

When it comes to cars, American consumers traditionally want performance, power, and speed. Hardcore car enthusiasts on the other hand have always looked across the Atlantic and Pacific for cars that could offer both power and luxury. Cadillac is playing a dangerous game targeting the German car enthusiasts, while they should be trying to acquire American consumers who fully want power. The Dodge Charger and Challenger Hellcat are already satisfying those needs, whereas Cadillac is trying to target two completely different sides of the spectrum.

Cadillac will continue competing against their German rivals, but if they start overlooking the luxury aspect of their new performance luxury cars, they’ll find themselves in the same discussion with Dodge. Nysschen needs to cover all the bases, or the Hellcats will strike with force, putting them into the discussion that they can outperform Cadillacs.

Again, this isn’t Cadillac’s intent, and Dodge shouldn’t even be an afterthought. But when you enter the performance debate, it would be sacrilegious to forget about two muscle cars that are in the same price range, and can offer more horsepower.

Has Italian Ownership Changed The Chrysler Group For The Better?

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT (left) and Dodge Challenger SRT Supercharged (right)
Chrysler Group / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

When Italians and Americans come together the end result is usually awesome, and Fiat-Chrysler is no exception. What has transpired over the past few years for the American manufacturer is a combination of the first three Rocky films, as Chrysler was this beat-up, almost irrelevant company, and in a matter of a few short years has become a force to be reckoned with. While Chrysler is changing the definition of American luxury, Dodge has become the automotive world’s version of Rocky Balboa; two tons of Italian-American muscle that has redefined what muscle cars are.

Starting with the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, clearly Italian influence is making its impact as the new muscle car now has a 707 hp engine, which makes it the most powerful American muscle car ever manufactured. But Dodge didn’t stop there, they’re now Hellcatting the Charger, which just like it’s brother, will be the most powerful four-door sedan sports car to come out of America. While Dodge’s SRT department retains the credit for creating the two beasts, Italian ownership clearly had some input on the power. Seeing that Fiat owns Ferrari and Alfa Romeo, they’ve incorporated Italian engineering with American muscle which has spawned two sports cars that’s making the Dodge Viper obsolete and forgotten.

By 2016, we’ll also have an SRT Dodge Dart which is certainly going to draw some attention, as smaller, powerful four-door compacts are becoming a trend. Even though the company is still Dodge, you can’t help but feel that it’s becoming an Italian car more than American, which is a good thing. The Chrysler group needed a push in the right direction, and by having a luxury manufacturer in Chrysler, and now what appears to be the performance division in Dodge, there is the right balance that’s boosted sales throughout the year.

Jeep on the other hand is becoming Fiat’s extended arm, as the new Jeep Renegade will be based off the Fiat Panda, a vehicle we don’t get here in the United States. The Jeep Cherokee has definitely been Italian-ized with that new, European look. It’s been recently reported that Jeep claimed Trackhawk as their performance name, raising speculation that we might see a Hellcat-like SUV that may change the perception consumers have on SUV’s in general.

Right now things couldn’t be better for the Chrysler group. They’re producing vehicles consumers want, spanning across multiple age groups that’s reshaped their customer base, and becoming more like a European auto manufacturer than American. Their new image of being young, fun, with a dose of luxury has certainly changed how Americans see the Chrysler group, and they’re now seeing strong sales because of it.

Chrysler Sales Rise 17% in May as Jeep and Dodge are in Demand

Chrysler reported strong earnings in May, as Jeep, Fiat, and Dodge carried most of the momentum heading into June. Jeep sales alone rose 58%, Fiat up 18%, and Dodge Ram trucks up 17%. Surprisingly the Chrysler brand itself didn’t report any gains, in fact sales were down 22%. The hope is that the redesigned Chrysler 200 can reignite sales as it will be the first model to get a whole new makeover that will be present in all Chrysler vehicles.

The Dodge Journey and Dart both had a great month, putting together a 33% gain in May. The Challenger on the other hand barely managed a 4% increase in sales, as subtle changes to the body didn’t seem to phase consumers.

With GM having their own problems, this is great news for the Chrysler group as confidence in their brand appears to be growing. The Jeep Cherokee is a favorite among buyers as it brings it’s all-new design and reputation as being a strong and durable SUV.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the 2015 Dodge Charger will sell. After the Charger’s unveiling at the New York International Auto Show, it didn’t get a warm reception. Some consumers didn’t like the fact that Dodge basically put the body of the Dart on the chassis of a Charger, making the once fierce-looking four door sedan look tame.

Despite Chrysler being owned by Fiat for a few years now, the company is still evolving and making major changes to their lineups. If sales continue to grow, there will be a bright future for them as their five year plan heading into 2018 looks very promising.

What Has Dodge Done With the Charger? From Fierce to Tame

 

Last week at the New York International Auto Show, Dodge unveiled the new 2015 Charger, that ultimately got mixed reviews. What was once known as a proud muscle car in the late 1960’s and 1970’s, to a formidable sedan used by countless police forces in the United States, has now become a bigger version of the failing model, the Dodge Dart. The question that must be asked is, “Why did they do this?” With the Challenger remaining relatively the same, there was no need for Dodge to go the full nine yards and change the Charger. What do you think? Like the new changes or no?

The only reasonable explanation for the sudden and drastic change to the Charger was the failing sales numbers the Dodge Dart has been posting as of late. Unfortunately for the American automaker, the Dart isn’t selling, as it’s having difficulty contending with the Ford Focus and the Toyota Corolla, two compact sedans that are fighting for the top spot in most sold cars around the globe.

IMG_0512

Reading the comments on social media, people find the Dart a bit bland, which is why combining it with the body and looks of a Charger probably wasn’t the wisest move, but only time will tell.

This does however raise questions whether Dodge will continue the compact sedan past 2015 as sales are low, and putting the looks of the Dart with the Charger brand might help turn around the numbers. Needless to say, it will be interesting to see if anyone buys the new look Charger, especially police forces around the country. I don’t know about you, but seeing the 2008-2014 Charger as a police car is intimidating enough, but with the 2015 model, I just don’t get that same sense of fear.