Autos Garage Week of Dec. 8th
  • Image Credit: BMW

Autos Garage Week of Dec. 8th

As you probably know, lots of cars and trucks pass through the hands of the team of editors at Autoblog and AOL Autos. We do our very best to share impressions with every car we drive, with the aim of helping consumers and new-car shoppers like you decide what new models best suit your individual needs.

This week, our virtual garage runs the gamut from inexpensive hatchbacks to pickup trucks, sport utility vehicles, luxury convertibles and high-performance sports coupes.

Follow along as we share important facts and driving impressions about five of the 2015 model-year cars and trucks we've been driving this week.
2015 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0T Quattro S Tronic
  • Image Credit: Audi

2015 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0T Quattro S Tronic

Seyth Miersma:

2015 Audi A3 Cabriolet 2.0T Quattro S Tronic
 
Base Price: $35,600
As Tested Price: $45,475
Fuel Economy: 23 mpg City, 32 mpg Highway
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0-liter I4
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Performance: 220 hp, 258 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds
Seating: 2+2
Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles
Competitors:  BMW 228i Convertible,  Lexus IS C 250
 
Pros:

  • The A3 Cabriolet looks very sharp with its silver front window frame and clean bodylines. Some might say that taking the top of the A3 makes it more fetching than its sedan counterpart.
  • This is an easy car to drive quickly, feeling sporty while accelerating and on your favorite driving road.
  • We drove the A3 droptop during some cold but sunny winter days in Michigan, and can report that it’s a fair tool for cold-weather convertibling, if that’s your thing. With the top down, seat warmers on and heat blasting, we stayed pretty cozy even with temps around freezing.

Cons:

  • This is technically a four-seat convertible – and increasingly rare beast these days – but the back seats are sized for children only, really.
  • Even with the top up, the trunk space is severely limited. Don’t expect to pack up two people for a weeklong trip without putting a bag in the back seat (or packing lightly).
  • You’ll either appreciate the minimalist styling of this austere cabin, or you’ll find it dull. It’s certainly not rich in texture or ornamentation.
 
Closing Thoughts:
The A3 really comes together nicely as a convertible. Sure, it’s more expensive than the sedan version (would you expect any less?) but it’s also right in line with pricing of the only real competitor, the BMW 228i convertible. (Forget the ancient Lexus IS C, unless you’re getting a smoking deal on the thing). The Audi is fast and nimble enough to be a joy on weekends, and probably just flexible enough to be a daily driver for a single person… assuming they don’t have to carpool.
2015 BMW M4 Coupe
  • Image Credit: BMW

2015 BMW M4 Coupe

Jeremy Korzeniewski:

2015 BMW M4 Coupe
 
Base Price: $54,200
As Tested Price: $83,325
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg City, 26 mpg Highway
Engine: Turbocharged 3.0-liter I6
Transmission: 6-Speed Automatic
Performance: 425 hp, 406 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 mph in 4.1 seconds
Seating: 2+2
Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles
Competitors: Audi S5 and RS5, Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Coupe, Lexus RC-F
 
Pros:

  • We're not so sure we'd order it in this searing shade of Austin Green, but there's no doubt that the BMW M4 looks aggressive and mean.
  • Performance is pretty spectacular, and while it may not be as brute-force powerful as some of its competitors, the engine spins through the mid-range and up to its 7,300 power peak with authority.
  • Considering its excellent performance capabilities, the BMW M4 is very easy to live with every day, with good ergonomics, comfortable front seats and an unexpectedly large trunk.
 
Cons:
  • At idle, the 3.0-liter turbocharged inline-six sounds like it's broken, with an unfortunate rattle when it's cold and a sneazy, wheazy sound the rest of the time. Once it gets past idle, though, the engine note is much more pleasing.
  • Steering feel isn't great, and when each of the variable performance buttons are kept in their sportiest programming, the M4 is too twitchy and unforgiving for fun driving on the street.
  • Front-seat spaciousness and trunk space are good, but the rear confines are plenty claustrophobic.
  • The GoPro integration that BMW offers on its 2015 M4 sounds pretty cool in theory, but not a single person on staff was able to actually get it to work right.
 
Closing Thoughts:
The 2015 BMW M4 is a fun car. Its performance capabilities are excellent, and it's not too focused for the track that it's overkill for the street. Still, the latest incarnation of BMW's bread-and-butter M model isn't the sweet overall package that it once was; where previous 3 Series M models felt like a scalpel when dealt by a deft hand, the current M4 is more like a machete in the hands of some dead guy named Jason. It still gets the job done, no doubt, but we miss some of the precision feel of its predecessors.
2015 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium
  • Image Credit: Cadillac

2015 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium

Chris Paukert:

2015 Cadillac Escalade 4WD Premium

Base Price: $84,070
As Tested Price: $89,360
Fuel Economy: 15 City / 21 Highway / 17 Combined
Engine: 6.2L V8
Transmission: 8-Speed Automatic
Performance: 420  hp, 460 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 mph in 5.9 seconds (est)
Seating: 2+2+3
Warranty: 4 years/50,000 miles
Competitors: Mercedes GL-Class, Land Rover Range Rover, Infiniti QX80.
 
 
PROS:

  • Cadillac’s large-living Escalade shifts into the 2015 model year with a new eight-speed automatic transmission, and the result is a pleasingly well-rounded and luxurious package that gets slightly better fuel economy.
  • Standout features include a very luxurious interior with soft touchpoints in all the right places, matte-finish woods and a long list of creature comforts.  It’s a quiet environ thanks to thick glass, plenty of sound insulation and Bose active noise cancelling technology.
  • We also very much appreciate Cadillac’s emphasis on smart exterior lighting, including lighthouse-grade headlamps and pleasing welcome lamps in the door handles – the Escalade’s lighting ensures it looks premium even in the pitch dark.
  • The 6.2-liter small-block V8 provides plenty of oomph and delivers a pleasingly muted tone unless deliberately provoked, and the magnetic ride control suspension delivers a composed ride without feeling boat-like.
 
Cons:
  • It’s likely not the fault of the new eight-speed gearbox, but we frequently noted some annoying engine rpm flutter at partial, steady throttle inputs. This was particularly noticeable at freeway speeds, where an unexpectedly summoned extra 75-100 rpm or so would cause an annoying small jolt that was felt by driver and passenger alike, similar to a shift point that didn’t actually occur.
  • Additionally, CUE, the Wreath & Crest’s proprietary touchscreen infotainment system continues to annoy with its occasionally delayed operations, haptic feedback switchgear in place of more conventional and intuitive controls, and fingerprint-prone screens. Cadillac needs to press fast-forward on CUE, and soon.
  • Finally, with all three rows in use, there isn’t adequate cargo space for much more than a couple of rollaboard suitcases or some grocery bags. If you want to schlep a larger family and all your gear, best splurge for the longer-wheelbase ESV model.
 
Closing Thoughts:
Cadillac has done a very nice job with its latest Escalade. This is a sybaritic palace on wheels, one with quite a bit of design and feature daylight between it and GM’s other full-size SUVs, a compliment that couldn’t always be handed out. It’s not as capable off-road as some of its rivals, but it’s an impressively turned out package all the same.
2015 GMC Canyon 4WD SLE Crew Long Box
  • Image Credit: GMC

2015 GMC Canyon 4WD SLE Crew Long Box

Greg Migliore:

2015 GMC Canyon 4WD SLE Crew Long Box
 
Base Price: $34,310
As Tested Price (With Options): $39,240
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg, City, 24 mpg Highway
Engine: 3.6-liter V6
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Performance: 305 hp, 269 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 mph 7.5 seconds (estimate)
Seating: 2+3
Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles
Competitors: Chevrolet Colorado, Toyota Tacoma, Nissan Frontier, Ford Escape
 
Pros:

  • You get all of the benefits of a fullsize truck in a slightly smaller package. You can tow, haul, go off-road or just commute to work.
  • The exterior styling is attractive and distinctive, with a big, upright grille, blocky fenders and flashy LED lights. The cabin has equally pleasing aesthetics, with leather, red stitching and aluminum trim.
  • The powertrain feels strong. You move away from stoplights with authority. The V6 has a bit of a growl.
  • The Canyon offers a commanding driving position. There’s an excellent view of the road in front and beside you. This truck has confidence. Steering and maneuverability is easy. It’s not a hard vehicle to turn or park.
 
Cons:
  • The second row is a little tight for an average-size adult male.
  • The Canyon is still pretty big. While that’s a positive in many respects, if you’re truly looking for a compact pickup, like the Ford Rangers or yore, this isn’t it.
  • The GMC styling gives it a trendier, buffer look than the Chevy Colorado, but they’re still essentially the same truck. It’s an argument you can make across the Chevy and GMC lines, but overlapping identities and purposes don’t help new products.   
  • GM is pitching the Canyon and Colorado as crossover alternatives, which makes sense, but during a move I was reluctant to throw open-topped boxes and light-weight shelves in the bed. I feared they might fly out, which wouldn’t have been a problem in a closed-roof crossover from GMC or another automaker. That being said, I enjoyed driving the Canyon much more than any crossover, and there are a lot of things you could fit in the Canyon’s long bed that wouldn’t fit comfortably in a utility vehicle. As with all vehicles, consider your lifestyle if you’re pondering the leap from a crossover to the Canyon.
 
Closing Thoughts:
I really enjoyed my time in the Canyon. I think it hits the market at just the right time, as fuel prices drop and consumers ponder their options. It’s an attractive vehicle that offers versatility for a range of purposes. The Canyon feels like the modern truck for the modern man or woman.
2015 Honda Fit EX-L
  • Image Credit: Honda

2015 Honda Fit EX-L

Adam Morath:

2015 Honda Fit EX-L
 
Base Price: $15,525
As Tested Price: $20,800
Fuel Economy: 32 mpg City, 38 mpg Highway
Engine:  1.5L I4
Transmission: CVT
Performance: 130 hp, 114 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 mph in 8.4 seconds
Seating: 2+3
Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles
Competitors: Ford Fiesta, Mazda2, Toyota Yaris
 
 
Pros:

  • Great fuel economy
  • Spacious interior, given small size
  • Better rear legroom than competitors
  • More horsepower than competitors       
  • Flexible seating configurations, enabling impressive cargo capacity and flat loading area
 
Cons:
  • More expensive than competitors
  • Redesigned exterior has become more MPV/minivan-like in appearance
 
Closing Thoughts:
For a non-luxury vehicle to command a significant price premium over its direct competitors, it had better be at the head of the class. And while the competition heats up in the subcompact hatchback segment, the Honda Fit remains out in front.
 
Most car shoppers in this segment are likely to be price sensitive, yet the Fit is able to charge thousands more than the competition. That’s because, what it does well, it does better than any other small hatchback on the market. The Fit offers more cargo room than the Toyota Yaris or Ford Focus, and manages to produce the rare combination of more power and better fuel economy than either rival offering.
 
The Fit has also been completely redesigned for 2015. I find that a newly introduced character line that runs along the side of the car gives the Fit a more minivan-like appearance than the previous generation. That might not be entirely inappropriate, considering the the Fit’s fold-flat seats offer minivan levels of configuration, making it the most utility-oriented hatchback in its segment.
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