• Hyundai prices refreshed 2014 Elantra from $18,010

    December 26, 2013

    Hyundai’s Elantra sedan, coupe and GT hatchback models are receiving a raft of revisions for the 2014 model year. With freshened styling, an upgraded interior and new gadgetry, the sedan and coupe get the most extensive changes, but all Elantras benefit from the availability of a new 173-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder.

    Pricing Update

    A month after debuting the 2014 Elantra lineup at the L.A. Auto Show, Hyundai has announced pricing information for the updated compacts.

    The entry-level Elantra SE sedan will carry a staring price of $18,010 (including destination), a $250 increase over last year. Stepping up to the new Elantra Sport trim level, which features the larger 2.0-liter motor and more athletic suspension tuning, will require $22,510.

    For those interested in a hatchback, $19,560 will net an Elantra GT. That’s $220 over the 2013 model, with the extra money buying the new 2.0-liter engine.

    Pricing has not yet been announced for the Elantra Coupe.

    Read on for full details on the 2014 Elantra range.

    Elantra Sedan
    With the Elantra already one of the more distinctive compacts on the market, Hyundai elected to give the sedan a subtle mid-cycle facelift consisting of fresh headlight detailing (including LED accents), re-shaped foglights and an “open-mouth” lower grille that provides a more focused look. Chrome beltline trim adorns the flanks, new wheel designs are available, and a two-tone imitation rear diffuser completes the treatment.

    While the sedan’s entry-level 1.8-liter four-cylinder carries over, a more powerful 2.0-liter four-cylinder is now available in a new Sport trim level. It produces 173 horsepower and 154 lb-ft of torque – gains of 25 ponies and 23 lb-ft over the 1.8-liter – and returns 24 city/35 highway mpg when paired with a six-speed automatic. Opting for a six-speed manual reduces highway mileage by a single mpg.

    More than just a bigger engine, the Sport also features a buttoned-down suspension with stiffer dampers and rear springs along with a larger front stabilizer bar. A reworked electric assist steering system with a quicker ratio is also included (non-Sport models get driver-adjustable steering), as are unique two-tone 17-inch wheels, aluminum pedals and a rear spoiler.

    Inside, all 2014 Elantra Sedans get a redesigned center stack with higher-mounted air vents and tweaked buttons. Trims positioned above the entry-level SE -previously known as the GLS – gain a 4.3-inch touchscreen audio system and a rearview camera as standard equipment, while a new navigation system with a seven-inch touchscreen and Pandora radio integration is an optional extra.

    Hyundai’s useful Blue Link telematics service is another new addition to the Elantra, bringing with it a wide variety of function and services like voice text messaging, point-of-interest web search and download, automatic collision notification, and remote vehicle unlocking in addition to traffic, weather, restaurant and nearby gas station information.

    Interior noise levels are down due to a plethora of NVH-combating measures, including extra A-pillar foam, a full underbody cover and anti-vibration dash panel material.

    Elantra Coupe
    The two-door Elantra lineup is simpler and more focused for 2014, with last year’s GS and SE models consolidated into a single trim level. The new 2.0-liter motor is standard equipment, as are all of the Elantra Sedan Sport’s suspension mods.

    The sedan’s interior, technology and noise-reducing measures also apply to the coupe, which receives its own modest exterior revisions in the form of a newly standard rear spoiler and available LED accent lights.

    Elantra GT
    The least-changed member of the Elantra trio is the GT hatchback. The 2.0-liter replaces the 1.8-liter in its engine bay, and a spoiler has been affixed to the top of the tailgate.

    Live images by Mark Elias.

  • Mercedes to launch smart watch app at CES

    December 26, 2013
    Mercedes-Benz will use the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to introduce a new vehicle-integrated smart watch application.

    Called Digital DriveStyle, the new app is designed to work with Pebble Technology’s line of so-called smart watches.

    When linked to a Mercedes-Benz product, the Digital DriveStyle application can display important vehicle information, such as fuel level, door-lock status and vehicle location. Moreover, that information can be accessed on the Pebble smart watch when a driver is away from their vehicle.

    When used while the vehicle is in motion, the smart watch application can warn drivers of hazards such as accidents or road construction. The watch alerts the driver by vibrating.

    Users can also customized the smart watch’s three buttons to utilize certain features of the Digital DriveStyle app, like Siri activation or media controls.

    Mercedes-Benz has not announced when the Digital DriveStyle app will be available to the general public for Pebble’s smart watch.

  • Maserati Quattroporte recalled over faulty wiring harness

    December 26, 2013
    Maserati is recalling its all-new 2014 Quattroporte GTS sedan over an electrical wiring defect.

    Maserati has announced that it is recalling a small number of its 2014 Quattroporte GTS due to a potential problem with the sedan’s wiring harness. According to the Italian automaker, some Quattroporte GTS models may have shipped with an improper connection in the alternator-starter motor wiring harness.

    That lose crimp could cause the battery cable to short, which could lead to overheating, melting and possibly even a vehicle fire. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also warns that a short could cause the vehicle to stall, increasingly the likelihood of a crash.

    Just 63 vehicles are covered by the recall.

    Maserati will remedy the problem by replacing the alternator-starter motor wiring harness. The procedure is expected to take about 3 hours.

    No accidents or injuries have been linked to the recall.

  • Review: 2014 Cadillac CTS 2.0T Premium

    December 26, 2013

    Now in its third generation, the Cadillac CTS once again attempts to go shoulder to shoulder with some of the other great sports sedans of the world. We’ve heard it all before, but this time something seems different.

    Loaded with technology and features not necessarily found in rivals, the CTS has moved upmarket to properly compete with the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class. And, for the first time ever, it isn’t intended to be a high value alternative. Skip to the end of this article and you’ll find that, at $46,000 to start, the CTS is on par with its German competition.

    Things tend to improve with age; does the CTS have what it takes to make Cadillac the genuine “standard of the world” once again?

    What is it?

    Longer, leaner and now decidedly more upmarket, the CTS remains a four-door, five-passenger rear-wheel-drive (or all-wheel-drive) midsize sedan. Our Premium trim tester is motivated by the CTS’ first four-cylinder ever, a 2.0-liter turbocharged and direct-injected unit rated at a solid 272 horsepowre and 295 lb-ft. of torque mated to a six-speed automatic gearbox.

    The CTS is based on the architecture of baby brother Cadillac ATS, meaning it uses a MacPherson strut front suspension and a five-link kit at the rear. Like GM’s Corvette, it uses high-tech magnetic shock absorbers to firm up or soften the ride as needed. Handling ain’t for squat if there is not a proper set of brakes included. Here, too, the CTS doesn’t disappoint, featuring Brembo front brakes on all trim levels.

    Using the BMW 5-Series as a benchmark, the CTS has undergone a weight-reduction to the tune of around 310 lbs., pushing its curb weight to a downright lithe 3,600 lbs. Cadillac proudly boasts that the CTS checks in at 200 lbs. lighter than arch-rival BMW 528i. Achtung indeed!

    While our tester included the 2.0-liter turbo unit, a pair of V6s – one naturally aspirated and one twin turbocharged – are on offer. The 321-pony 3.6-liter V6 should be enough for most people, but the king of this hill is the 420-horsepower Vsport. All-wheel-drive is optional on the 2.0 and 3.6-liter models, but not the Vsport.

    A quartet of trim levels are on offer: Standard, Luxury, Performance and Premium. Our tester was the latter, which adds nearly every luxury conceivable – 20-way power seats, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, front and rear automatic braking and even the ability to parallel park itself.

    At nearly $65,000, our tester was not cheap – but it was on par (and maybe a little cheaper) than any overseas rival.

    What’s it up against?

    Competitors in this segment include models from the finest European and Asian manufacturers, with only the CTS waving the American flag. Turbocharged four-cylinders have found their way into the Jaguar XF, Audi A6 and BMW 5-Series, while naturally-aspirated V6s serve as the gateway into the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Lexus GS ranges.

    How does it look?

    Designed with input from GM design studios in California, Michigan and the United Kingdom, the CTS takes the automaker’s Art & Science design philosophy and stretches it with a longer wheelbase, a lower roof line and longer overhangs.

    Stylish LED illumination sets off the swept-back headlamps, which usher in a more aerodynamic shape made possible by what Cadillac calls a “trapped hood” that surrounds the grille opening rather than hanging over it.

    The sleek windshield lays down more in an effort to cheat the wind. Its shape blends through to the C-pillar for a swoopy appearance. Elsewhere, a feature line draws the eye of the beholder from front to rear in one glance. On the whole of it, we find the CTS a more engaging shape that will stand the test of time better than its edgier predecessors.

    And on the inside?

    If you plan to engage and defeat the enemy, you had better bring your A game with you. In this case, we think Cadillac has mostly succeeded.

    More refined than the outgoing CTS, this latest model ups the ante with even nicer materials and way more technology.

    We remain less-than-enamored with Cadillac’s CUE infotainment system, which dominates the center stack with a touchscreen. Though our tester’s screen seemed less laggy than others we’ve sampled, we were dismayed with the steering wheel-mounted controls that operate kind of like touch pads. Intuitive after an acclimation period, the buttons are prettier than they are genuinely effective. So too the capacitive switches located all over the CTS’ center stack, which offer a degree of haptic feedback. Tap your finger on a button and you’ll get a brief pulse to tell you you’re in the right spot.

    A return to some hard buttons and knobs would go a long way toward helping drivers stay focused on the road, but we did eventually adapt to the system’s nuances.

    Yet that’s where our complaints stop; the interior’s hardware is essentially impeccable. Aside from large A-pillars, the CTS offers excellent visibility and its highly-adjustable front seats proved comfortable for longer treks. Rear seat riders won’t want for space, although the backrests were noticeably upright.

    But does it go?

    Thanks to the CTS’ diet regime, this four-cylinder engine punches above its weight class. Sprightly acceleration – enough to chirp the rear tires with the pedal mashed – help it sprint to 60 mph from a stop in the mid-6 second range. Frankly, we wonder who would opt for the naturally-aspirated 3.6-liter V6, especially since the CTS is rated at a solid 20/30 mpg (23 mpg combined).

    Perhaps the 2.0T doesn’t have the great growl of its Vsport big brother, but engine sounds actually pumped through its Bose audio system proved at least the notion of a commanding presence underhood.

    So the sounds might be fake, but there’s no way to hide the fact that our CTS Premium’s ride quality was stellar. Tap through the magnetic suspension’s modes and you can tart up the sedan from gentle Touring to more aggressive Sport. We preferred the latter with its firm ride and remapped throttle, which only got better when we used the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to enhance the driving experience. A subtle pop from the system when downshifting only quickened our pulse.

    Though the CTS has joined its rivals in offering electrically-assisted power steering, no four-door in this segment offers as much road feel. Toss any soft-riding, sloppy-handling Cadillac pretenses out the door; this sedan not only handles with the best of them – it sets the pace.

    On the other hand, the old Cadillac virtue of silence has given way to a subtle tire noise on coarse surfaces. You win some, you lose some – and we’re more than willing to overlook that tiny demerit.

    Technology was not confined just to power and handling but also to things like the adaptive cruise control system that not only slowed the car or sped it up as necessary, but was also capable of bringing it to a complete stop if needed.

    With all these Jetsons-like technologies, it’s clear that Cadillac’s Art & Science mantra applies to more than just the look of the brand.

    Leftlane’s bottom line

    Cadillac is on a roll, offering a CTS sedan that manages to surpass the hype. Making no excuses for itself, this new CTS is at home on the autobahn as it is on the interstate.

    The luxury sports sedan segment’s new standard-bearer has arrived.

    2014 Cadillac CTS base price, $45,100. As tested, $64,770.

    Premium Package, $16,700; 19-inch polished wheels, $1,050; Red Obsession tintocat paint, $995; Destination, $925.

    Photos by Mark Elias.

  • Future looks dim for EV residual values

    December 26, 2013
    Electric vehicles may be cheaper to run than their gas-powered counterparts, but a new study shows that those savings might be outweighed by lower residual values.

    With a sticker price of $28,305, the Chevrolet Spark EV is one of the most modestly priced electric vehicles on the market today. However, that doesn’t necessarily make the Spark EV one of the best long-term values, with the diminutive plug-in expected to retain just 28 percent of its list price in 5 years. That compares to 40 percent to a comparable conventionally-powered vehicle.

    The value proposition is even worse for the Ford Focus Electric, with the battery-powered compact predicted to be worth just 20 percent of its $35,995 MSRP in five years. In comparison, a Ford Focus Titanium is predicted to retain about 36 percent of its purchase price.

    Nissan’s Leaf is currently the most popular electric vehicle on the market, but that hasn’t helped the plug-in’s projected residual values. According to Kelley Blue Book’s analysis, the Leaf will cling to just 15 percent of its MSRP in half a decade.

    “Pure electrics have been slow to catch on in the resale market,” Eric Ibara, director of residual consulting for Kelley Blue Book, told USA Today. Customers “have been willing to buy a new one, not a used electric vehicle.”

    Three EVs – the Leaf, Fiat 500e and Smart Fortwo electric – top KBB’s worst predicted residual value list for 2014.