Beyond turbos, what car technology works to boost mpg?

BY GERRY MILES

Do you want to know, in detail, what works to boost or harm fuel economy? Can a turbo really boost power and economy? Does that certain brand name air filter really increase your car’s mpgs?

Sorting it all out is Consumer Reports auto writer Eric Evarts, who provides a look at everything from the reported or purported successes of hybrid cars to boost mileage, whether CVT transmissions are working, and more. Read on and learn!

http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2013/03/beyond-turbos-what-car-technology-works-to-boost-mpg.html

The past few years have shown dramatic fuel economy improvements in all types of cars in our testing. Rather than exotic technology, such as hybrids and vehicle electrification, most of the improvements have come the old-fashioned way: through conventional technologies applied to gasoline engines.

Following our reports on turbocharged engines and hybrids that don’t live up to their fuel economy claims, we decided to take a look at the technologies employed by cars that did show significant fuel-economy improvements in our testing. Among them: direct injection, continuously variable transmissions, conventional automatic transmissions with multiple ratios, and electric power steering. Some models have added more than one of these technologies simultaneously, most typically during redesigns.

We have collected examples with fuel economy data from our tests to illustrate the potential benefits from various technologies, understanding that in some cases, there may be other subtle changes at play. Here’s what we found:

Continuously variable transmissions
CVTs have proliferated in recent years. They boost efficiency by keeping the engine working at its optimum rpm for power and fuel economy at all times. While some CVTs accentuate engine noise obnoxiously, we’ve found that not all of them do. And based on our testing, they can deliver significant improvements in fuel economy and improve acceleration, as well.

The Subaru LegacyOutback, and Impreza, as well as the Nissan Sentra and Versa, and Honda Accordswitched to CVTs with their latest redesigns. Gas mileage improved 3-5 mpg over their predecessors. Acceleration was also quicker in all but the Versa. With the Impreza, the CVT allowed Subaru to use a smaller engine and gain 3 mpg.

More gears
More automakers have recently been introducing conventional automatic transmissions with six, seven, and eight speeds. Two automakers are even reportedly set to introduce models with nine-speed automatics this year.

Looking at the Audi A4, which switched from a six-speed automatic to an eight-speed in 2011, showed a that that change alone boosted fuel economy by almost 14 percent, from 22 mpg to 25 mpg and slightly improved acceleration.

Direct injection
As the name implies, direct injection squirts fuel precisely where it’s needed in each cylinder’s combustion chamber in gasoline and diesel engines, rather than into the cylinder head outside the cylinder. This allows the engine to deliver the same power on less fuel. It’s becoming common in all kinds of cars.

When Toyota added direct injection to the Lexus RX SUV in 2007, gas mileage increased by one mpg, even with a larger engine displacement. Plus, the powertrain upgrade produced significantly quicker acceleration. The same engine swap in the 2011 Toyota Highlander Hybrid helped boost fuel economy from an impressive 23 mpg for this large, 7-passenger SUV, to an almost sedan-like 27 mpg. The slightly larger, direct-injected engine was the only change in both SUVs.

Combining improvements
Several automakers have boosted fuel economy significantly by combining more than one of these technologies. The new four-cylinder Honda Accord gets an impressive 30 mpg by combining a smooth-and-unobtrusive CVT with direct injection and electric power steering. That figure marks a 20-percent improvement over the old Accord’s respectable 25 mpg.

Several other automakers have combined direct injection with additional gears in their conventional automatic transmissions, including Hyundai, Kia, and Mazda. Mazda even has a name for this combination: It markets cars that use direct injection and the company’s new six-speed automatic (up from five) as SkyActiv models. When Mazda added the SkyActiv powertrain to the Mazda3 for 2012, the combination boosted mileage by 14 percent and improved acceleration.

Kia did the same with the Soul for 2012, gaining 1 mpg and significantly improving acceleration.

Other technologies
Electrically assisted power steering has virtually become the norm in the industry with significant fuel economy improvements. Most often electric power steering systems are introduced with complete redesigns of a vehicle. Thus, they’re typically coupled with other technology improvements.

Looking at new models as technology is introduced can be a little misleading, because other factors can change during a redesign. For example, the new Honda Accord is slightly smaller than the old one, while the current Subaru Outback is significantly taller than the previous model. But we’ve tried to keep examples here as close to equivalent as possible. The Audi A4, Kia Soul, Lexus RX, Mazda3, and Toyota Highlander had no other changes.

The fuel economy improvements are real. According to a University of Michigan study, the average EPA fuel economy of all new vehicles has risen from barely 20 mpg at the end of 2007 to 24.6 mpg in January 2013. But not all technology implementations make the promised gains, underscoring the importance of checking our test findings before buying—especially if hitting a high fuel-economy benchmark is a key motivator.

—Eric Evarts

2014 Scion tC Sports Coupe Makes World Debut at NYork Auto Show

Without even the usual teaser photo, Scion has announced that the 2014 tC Sports Coupe will make its world debut on Thursday, March 28 at the NY Auto Show.

It will also be carried live over their internet feed if you’re so inclined.

 

Luxury Cars Debut at 2013 New York Auto Show

Cadillac, Audi to highlight luxury debuts at New York Auto Show

From Edmunds.Com

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — The new Cadillac CTS and the Audi A3 sedan will headline a parade of luxury cars scheduled to make world and U.S. debuts this week at the 2013 New York International Auto Show (NYIAS), reports Edmunds.com, the premier resource for car shopping and automotive information.

Edmunds.com says there’s particular anticipation for the 2014 Cadillac CTS. The vehicle’s market performance has been lukewarm recently, with sales down 14.6 percent in 2012 vs. 2011. Cadillac is expected to reveal a major redesign at the show to better compete with the Audi A6, BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. Leaked photos of the vehicle show a family resemblance to the smaller Cadillac ATS, with a sculpted hood, dramatic front end and an elegant cabin with wood and leather touches.

The 2014 Audi A3 sedan will make a more informal debut at a private event scheduled ahead of the auto show. Invited attendees will get a first look at the sedan, which will go on sale in the U.S. in the second quarter of 2014. The vehicle will take aim at the much-anticipated Mercedes-Benz CLA-Class sedan.

Other luxury cars expected to make debuts at NYIAS include:

  • 2014 Acura MDX – Edmunds.com expects the 2014 Acura MDX to have a softer, rounder look — but an aggressive slate of high-tech features.
  • 2014 Jaguar XJR – Jaguar is beefing up its R performance lineup with the 2014 XJR. A single image of the car appears to show some trim and badging changes.
  • 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport – Land Rover says the 2014 Range Rover Sport will be its “fastest, most responsive and agile vehicle to date.”

Edmunds.com provides news, photos and analysis of all the cars debuting at the 2013 New York International Auto Show at http://www.edmunds.com/auto-shows/new-york/2013/.

Young Car Buyers Shift from Japanese to U.S. and Korean Brands says Edmunds.com

FROM EDMUNDS.COM

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — March 20, 2013 — American auto brands are gaining strength with younger buyers in the U.S., while their Japanese rivals have taken a big step back, reports Edmunds.com, the premier resource for car shopping and automotive information. According to an analysis of new car retail registrations from R. L. Polk & Co., American brands accounted for 36.8 percent of cars bought by Americans age 25 to 34 in 2012, up from a share of 35.4 percent in 2008. Meanwhile the share of Japanese brands for the same age group plummeted from 50.6 percent to 42.9 percent during that period

But even with the incremental success of American brands, Edmunds.com found that the exodus from Japanese cars by young buyers is turning mostly toward South Korean brands. About 10 percent of new cars purchased by 25-to-34 year olds in 2012 carried South Korean nameplates, more than doubling the rate for this age group since 2008.

“U.S. automakers have burst onto the scene in recent years with small, fuel-efficient and affordable cars that really appeal to a young set of buyers,” says Edmunds.com Sr. Analyst Jessica Caldwell. “But while Detroit might be chiseling away at the Japanese grip on Gen X and Gen Y, South Korean brands are taking big hacks. Not only are the Koreans making better cars for young people, but they’ve also worked to make credit available to young buyers who still don’t have solid credit history.”

Retail Registrations by Age, 2012 vs. 2008

 

European Brands

Japanese Brands

South Korean Brands

U.S. Brands

Age

2012

2008

Change

2012

2008

Change

2012

2008

Change

2012

2008

Change

18-24 YEARS OLD

7.1%

6.0%

1.1%

42.6%

52.3%

-9.8%

12.6%

5.8%

6.8%

37.6%

35.7%

1.9%

25-34 YEARS OLD

9.8%

8.8%

1.0%

42.9%

50.6%

-7.7%

10.1%

4.9%

5.1%

36.8%

35.4%

1.5%

35-44 YEARS OLD

10.9%

9.3%

1.5%

42.1%

47.5%

-5.4%

9.3%

4.7%

4.5%

37.2%

38.0%

-0.8%

45-54 YEARS OLD

10.4%

8.9%

1.5%

40.1%

45.7%

-5.6%

10.1%

5.2%

4.9%

38.9%

39.8%

-0.9%

55-64 YEARS OLD

9.5%

8.1%

1.3%

41.3%

44.5%

-3.2%

9.9%

5.5%

4.4%

39.0%

41.6%

-2.6%

65-74 YEARS OLD

8.3%

6.6%

1.6%

40.2%

41.7%

-1.4%

9.8%

5.8%

4.0%

41.4%

45.6%

-4.2%

75+ YEARS OLD

6.5%

4.8%

1.8%

39.0%

38.2%

0.8%

9.7%

6.1%

3.7%

44.5%

50.7%

-6.2%

OVERALL

9.9%

8.5%

1.4%

40.4%

44.6%

-4.2%

9.5%

5.0%

4.5%

39.7%

41.6%

-1.8%

Source: R.L. Polk & Co.

The South Koreans’ progress with young buyers reflects their overall growth in the U.S. market. Korean brands represented 9.5 percent of all new retail registrations in the U.S. in 2012, almost twice as much as their share of 5.0 percent in 2008. 

European car labels are flexing their own muscles in the U.S. market as well, accounting for 9.9 percent of new car registrations in the U.S. last year, up from 8.5 percent in 2008. Like the South Koreans, European carmakers have delivered consistent growth among all age groups since 2008, with the biggest successes among older car buyers, thanks to Baby Boomers choosing European luxury cars post-retirement.

Edmunds.com offers a wealth of insights into car shopping behavior and habits through its Industry Center at http://www.edmunds.com/industry-center/.

Edmunds.com Helps Car Buyers Avoid Unnecessary Credit Checks

FROM EDMUNDS.COM

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — March 18, 2013 — Extraneous credit checks could put an unnecessary dent in a credit score. That’s why Edmunds.com, the premier resource for car shopping and automotive information, advises car buyers to know when they should and should not grant car dealers permission to run a credit check.

“Dealerships usually offer access to the best finance rates for qualified buyers, and to get those rates, a credit report is required,” says Edmunds.com Sr. Consumer Advice Editor Philip Reed. “But if you are using outside financing from your bank or credit union, the dealer is not required to run your credit report.”

Car buyers can understand their rights and protect their credit scores by following a few helpful guidelines:

  1. Shop around for a loan from an independent source such as a bank, credit union or online lender before going to the dealership so that you know the rate you qualify for before learning what a dealer can offer you.
  2. At the car dealership, tell the salesperson you are a “cash buyer” (because you have pre-approved financing). But in the finance and insurance office, consider any offers that may beat the interest rate on the loan you already have.
  3. Only give the car salesperson permission to run your credit if you decide to finance at that dealership.

Edmunds.com also reports that there is some confusion among dealers themselves about whether the Patriot Act requires them to run credit reports in connection with car sales.  It does not. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) does require dealers to screen buyers who are making purchases of $10,000 or more in cash to make sure they are not on a government terrorism watch list. To comply, buyers must provide dealers with their name, address, date of birth, Social Security or other tax ID number, a valid driver’s license and occupation. But no credit-reporting agencies are involved.

Edmunds.com has more details on credit check do’s and don’ts at http://www.edmunds.com/car-buying/car-dealership-credit-report-scams-and-the-patriot-act.html.

Another advantage to securing outside financing is that buyers are less likely to fall prey to spot delivery and “yo-yo financing” scams. Edmunds.com helps buyers identify and protect themselves against these situations athttp://www.edmunds.com/car-loan/dont-fall-prey-to-spot-delivery-scams-and-yo-yo-financing.html.

About Edmunds.com, Inc. 

Edmunds.com is a car-shopping Web site committed to helping people find the car that meets their every need. Almost 18 million visitors use our research, shopping and buying tools every month to make an easy and informed decision on their next new or used car. Whether you’re at the dealership or on the go, we’re always by your side with our five-star Edmunds.com  iPhone and iPad apps and our Edmunds.com Android App. Our comprehensive car reviews, shopping tips, photos, videos and feature stories offer a friendly and authentic approach to the automotive world. We’re based in Santa Monica, Calif., but you can connect with us from anywhere by following @Edmunds on Twitter or by becoming a fan of Edmunds.com on Facebook.

2014 Acura MDX to Restake Luxury Benchmark at New York Auto Show

Third-Gen MDX looks to redefine 7-passenger LuxoSUV segment
BY GERRY MILES

The 2014 Third Generation Acura MDX SUV will take Manhattan March 27 just after noon (12:10 pm) at the New York Auto Show showing off three-row SUV luxury refinement and the ability to accommodate seven passengers in style on a totally new platform.

Power will be derived from a 3.5-liter i-VTEC V-6 engine with Variable Cylinder Management (VCM) offered in both SH-AWD and 2-wheel-drive drivetrains. The 2WD setting being a first for the model.

The 2014 MDX features a longer wheelbase that raises ride quality, increases second-row legroom, and improves third-row seat access. In addition, the 2014 Acura MDX harnesses a collection of Acura signature technologies, including the next-generation of the AcuraLink® Connectivity System and Jewel Eye™ LED headlamps.

The 2014 MDX will offer some innovative driver assistive and visibility technologies such as the Multi-Angle Rearview Camera and the available Lane Keeping Assist System (LKAS), Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) with Low-Speed Follow, and Blind Spot Information (BSI). The third-generation MDX is also equipped with a broad array of advanced safety technologies, including the next generation Advanced Compatibility Engineering™ II (ACE™ II) body structure and the available Forward Collision Warning (FCW) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) systems. Further, the 2014 MDX is expected to achieve top-level safety ratings, including a 5-star Overall Vehicle Score from the NHTSA and a TOP SAFETY PICK+ rating from the IIHS.

Shortly after, the recorded press conference will be available for view on  www.youtube.com/acura.

2014 Honda Odyssey to Debut at New York Auto Show

2013 Honda Fit EV and 2013 Accord Plug-In Hybrid to be revealed in Big Apple

BY GERRY MILES

When Honda first debuted its revamped Odyssey minivan, it used the grand scale of the New York Auto Show – with a press kit that featured King Kong climbing a sky scraper. In reality, outside, Honda’s Odysseys were smaller, compact and used for taxis with great success before they upscaled the Odyssey and the rest has been history.

Honda promises new, innovative features, of course. It also trumpets that its 2013 Odyssey is already an IIHS Top Safety Pick, an AutoPacific Ideal Vehicle Award winner, an ALG Residual Value award winner, and one of the Best Family Cars of 2012 according to the editors of Parents Magazine/Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book’s kbb.com.

Also on display will be the 2014 Accord Plug-In Hybrid and 2013 Fit EV, will be on display at the Honda booth during NYIAS press and public days. Both the 2014 Accord Plug-In and the fully-electric Honda Fit EV were recently launched at select Honda dealerships in New York.

With an EPA fuel economy rating of 115 MPGe in electric-only mode, the Accord Plug-In is the most efficient sedan in America, and also the first production car to meet the U.S. EPA’s more stringent LEV3/SULEV20 vehicle emissions standard. The five-passenger all-electric 2013 Honda Fit EV delivers 189 lb-ft of torque from its electric motor and features a fully independent, multi-link rear suspension that serves as the foundation for Honda’s fun-to-drive EV with an EPA estimated driving range of 82 miles