AOL Autos Garage: Here's What We Are Driving This Week
To help you consumers out with your future car purchase decisions, we've put together a gallery of the vehicles that we're driving, along with some impressions we've collected over the course of the week.
This week, we have an eclectic mix of cars in our "garage," including the Volkswagen Golf, Honda Civic and the Bentley Continental GTC. Head on through to check out the vehicles we're testing this week, and see what we like and dislike about them.
Adam Morath - Honda Civic Coupe EX-LSticker Price: $22,540
As Tested Price (With Options): $23,330 (estimated)
Fuel Economy: 29 mpg City, 38 mpg Highway
Engine: 1.8-liter I4
Transmission: Two-speed CVT
Performance: 143 hp, 129 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 mph in 8.8 seconds
Seating: Five people
Competitors: Kia Forte Koup, Hyundai Elantra Coupe, Scion tC
- Recently refreshed exterior and interior styling, with additional tweaks for 2014.
- Bright, colorful and well laid-out gauges.
- Sporty coupe body style.
- Reputation for reliability.
- Above average steering feel for its class.
- Great fuel economy.
- Standard technology features like Bluetooth and rear backup camera.
- Slightly underpowered relative to competition.
- CVT transmission may not appeal to all drivers.
- As with most coupes, it’s difficult to get in and out of the backseat.
Closing Thoughts: There is a reason the Honda Civic is the best-selling compact car in America. Honda has a reputation for reliability, but manages to escape the blandness that plagues its Japanese rival, Toyota. Case-in-point, Honda offers its Civic in a sporty coupe body style - something you won’t find in the current Corolla lineup. (Although, Toyota will gladly direct you toward its youth-oriented Scion brand for a 2-door Civic competitor, the tC.)
Research the Honda Civic
Honda Civic Overview
Honda Civic Photos & Video
Honda Civic Local Dealer Price Quote
Seyth Miersma: Volkswagen Golf SSticker Price: $19,595
As Tested Price (With Options): $20,415
Fuel Economy: 26 mpg City, 37 mpg Highway
Engine: Turbocharged 1.8L I4
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Performance: 170 hp, 200 lb-ft of torque
Seating: Five people
Competitors: Mazda3, Ford Focus, Kia Forte5
- The 1.8T engine is not only light years better than the 2.5-liter five-cylinder (the outgoing volume engine of the Golf range), it offers performance on par with the GTI of a few generations ago.
- I easily saw 35 mpg and higher when driving 70 to 80 mph on the highway. The EPA estimate of 36 mph highway seems like it’ll be easy to beat, in other words.
- My base, four-door, S trim car had a really nicely tricked out cabin. Little touches like connector for an iPhone 5, a sunglasses holder large enough for big shades and a basic, but robust infotainment system are all welcome surprises.
- The five-speed manual transmission is a bit rubbery in action – not bad, but not class leading. Even though the torquey engine didn’t really require a sixth gear, five forward ratios seems out of date in a 2015 model.
- Really aggressive driving will eventually call out the softly sprung suspension and resultant roll characteristics.
- I'm getting picky, but the base 15-inch wheels look really tiny on this otherwise handsome hatchback.
Closing Thoughts: Even in it’s plainest trim, this new Golf is an impressively put together car for the segment. Ride quality and refinement are top notch, and the TSI engine has enough power and torque to offer warmed-up driving thrills, too. Everything about this new VW feels appropriately "near premium."
Research the Volkswagen Golf
Volkswagen Golf Overview
Volkswagen Golf Photos & Video
Volkswagen Golf Local Dealer Price Quote
Steve Ewing - Bentley Continental GTC V8Sticker Price: $216,200
As Tested Price (With Options): $246,385
Fuel Economy: 14 mpg City, 21 mpg Highway
Engine: Twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Performance: 521 hp, 502 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 mph in 4.5 seconds
Seating: Four people
Competitors: Mercedes-Benz SL63 AMG, BMW M6 Convertible
- I often have a hard time finding convertibles as pretty as their coupe counterparts, but that isn't the case here. An already stunning Grand Tourer becomes a seriously pretty convertible. It has a great stance, with the appropriately sized 20-inch wheels and adjusted stance of the V8 S. Bentley badge aside, this thing gets a ton of attention out on the road.
- After driving several examples of Bentley's latest wares, I'm fully confident in saying that I prefer the V8 to the W12 in the Continental application. The smaller engine is lighter, and happier to rev – you can tell the V8 was truly tuned for performance, while the W12 gets by on just being enormous and powerful. Besides, any weight savings is helpful with a 5,000+ pound convertible.
- The V8 adds another bit of magic here in the S configuration: aural stimulation. There's a really low growl from the exhaust, and it's more audible than in the standard V8. To put it simply, this car sounds awesome. It's like Bentley's muscle car.
- I could go on and on about how nice the interior is, but I'll keep it short. Basically, the Bentley badge is all you need to know for a discussion about interior quality and refinement: only the best stuff here.
- One sour point for this car is the onboard tech. Sure, it all works, and works well, but it looks and feels like it's a generation or two behind the curve. You can get far better, more responsive systems in $20,000 cars these days. Step it up, Bentley.
- Super nit-picky con time: The rear seats, despite the size of the car, are practically unusable for people who actually have legs or are above the age of 10 years old. Basically, think of this car as a two-seater with exquisite parcel shelves, not a two-plus-two.
- Okay, one more. Bentley has done a good job of keeping the visual differences between its V8 and W12 cars to a minimum. The badges are red, not black, and the exhaust outlets are a different, figure-eight shape (I really like those changes, honestly). But the V8 S adds some relatively tacky-looking script to the front panel just ahead of the doors. Ditch this, please. It doesn't add anything.
Closing Thoughts: It's hard not to be head-over-heels with an ultra-plush Bentley convertible, especially on a beautiful summer day. But the added character of the V8 S makes this car somehow even more enjoyable. If you have the means, there's really nothing better than this big Conti S for a fast drive down tree-lined backroads.
Research the Bentley Continental GTC
Bentley Continental GTC Overview
Bentley Continental GTC Photos & Video
Bentley Continental GTC Local Dealer Price Quote
Chris Paukert - Mercedes-Benz E550 CabrioletSticker Price: $67,300
As Tested Price (With Options): $81,615
Fuel Economy: 17 mpg City, 26 mpg Highway
Engine: Twin-turbo 4.6-liter V8
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
Performance: 402 hp, 443 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds
Seating: Four people
Competitors: BMW 6 Series Convertible, Audi S5 Cabriolet, Jaguar XK Convertible
- Just about everything is effortless, from the surprising acceleration afforded by the burly turbocharged V8 to the automatic transmission’s nearly imperceptible shifts.
- This is one of the very best convertibles for driving even in cooler seasons, thanks to Airscarf (which blows hot air on your neck through vents in the seats) and Aircap, which diverts air over the passenger compartment using a deployable airfoil atop the windshield and a matching power wind deflector behind the rear seats.
- Thanks to a substantial facelift for 2014, all E-Class models enjoy youthful new looks, too.
- It’s hard to find things not to like about the E550 Cabriolet beyond its heady price tag and options list, but if we had to be pinned down, we’d say that the rear accommodations are only useful for short distances. The seatbacks are too upright and because of space eaten up by the top mechanism, you sit slightly inboard, meaning your knees don’t line up with the scalloped front seatback. Also, trunk space is very limited, as is the case with most convertibles.
- Other small gripes include a smallish infotainment screen and steering that isn’t the last word in feedback.
Closing Thoughts: This is a very civilized automobile, convertible or otherwise. While big four-place luxury droptops like this are often thought of as the exclusive preserve of wealthy old men, a week spent with this car could win far younger converts.
This E-Class Cabrio deserves to be marketed as The Official Car Of Easy Street.
Research the Mercedes-Benz E-Class
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Overview
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Photos & Video
Mercedes-Benz E-Class Local Dealer Price Quote
Michael Zak - Volvo S60 T6 Drive-ESticker Price: $38,150
As Tested Price (With Options): $47,925
Fuel Economy: 24 mpg City, 35 mpg Highway
Engine: Supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter I4
Transmission: Eight-speed automatic
Performance: 302 hp, 295 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds
Seating: Five people
Competitors: BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4, Lexus ES
- The interior of the S60 is fantastic. Simple, comfortable, quiet and roomy, it's a great place to spend a commute or a long road trip. The seats that Volvo is putting in its vehicles are the best in the industry right now. Well-bolstered, yet angelically soft, they're thrones fit for a king.
- The interesting supercharged and turbocharged 2.0-liter engine is really quick. The official numbers say that the S60 sprints from 0-60 mph in 5.7 seconds, but when I stomped on the gas pedal, I felt like it got up to that speed faster than that.
- You have to be impressed with a luxury car getting 35 mpg on the highway. Volvo has done a great job of making this sedan fuel-efficient without sacrificing the quality of its driving dynamics or its interior features and equipment.
- Safety is still major focus for Volvo. My S60 tester came equipped with all kinds of active and passive safety systems, such as a low-speed collision avoidance system, a whiplash protection system, blind spot monitors and more airbags than you can shake a stick at.
- I like the look of the S60, but it doesn't really stand out on the road the way a Bimmer or a Benz does. For me, that's not really a bad thing, but luxury cars are generally designed to make a statement, and this one doesn't quite do that.
- It's not the wagon. Basically everything that is good about the S60 can be had in the Volvo V60, which comes with a much more versatile rear cargo area.
Closing Thoughts: This is a great car. I've been a Volvo fan for some time now, but the S60 has taken my infatuation with the Swedish brand to a new level. With a great interior, impressive new engine, solid fuel economy and tons of onboard safety equipment, it's a wonderful alternative to offerings from BMW, Mercedes and Audi. I'd still get the wagon over the sedan, however.
Research the Volvo S60
Volvo S60 Overview
Volvo S60 Photos & Video
Volvo S60 Local Dealer Price Quote
Pete Bigelow - Chevrolet Camaro SS ConvertibleSticker Price: $39,355
As Tested Price (With Options): $42,255
Fuel Economy: 16 mpg City, 24 mpg Highway
Engine: 6.2-liter V8
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Performance: 426 hp, 420 lb-ft of torque
Seating: Four people
Competitors: Ford Mustang GT Convertible
- The Camaro delivers to all senses. Sight: Flat-out, it’s a good-looking sports car, with its menacing unibrow that stretches across the grille as a prominent, aggressive feature.
- Sound: The ragged power emanating from underneath the hood sounds fierce and there’s no denying the rumble of this engine coming to life can bring joy to an automotive soul.
- Feel: Eight cylinders unleashing their power give the Camaro all the appropriate acceleration and speed a sports-car fanatic desires. With the top down on this convertible, driving is a flat-out fun experience. The Camaro delivers on everything a sports car should.
- Everything else. Start with the fact our test car was under recall, because its ignition switch could easily be jarred from the “on” position. An inadvertent bump from a knee could easily turn off the Camaro’s engine, leading to a precarious situation. We replicated this problem with little effort, which underscored the seriousness of GM’s recent bout of safety problems.
- Overall, yes, the car looks great. Yet it cannot go unnoted that Chevrolet has allowed the new Corvette to usurp the Camaro’s striking, squared tail-lights. In return, the Camaro has been stiffed. Its been saddled with hideous, rectangular taillights that seem better suited for a 1970s-era Buick. This theft is nothing short of an automotive travesty.
- The sound of the engine and exhaust notes can be exhilarating, but after a few days, it gets old. The thrill wore off because I lamented my inability to hear the radio without turning up the volume to ridiculous levels – or carry on a phone conversation without having to shout over the engine noise.
- The fuel economy is horrible. No one would ever expect Prius-like gas mileage in an eight-cylinder sports car like the Camaro. But the EPA estimates the Camaro gets 16 miles per gallon in city driving and 24 mpg’s on the highway. I averaged 13.4 miles per gallon in combined settings.
Closing Thoughts: The Camaro is everything a sports car should be. But if any aspect of your next car purchase is grounded in practicality, this may not be for you. Those moments of sheer driving fun come at a cost of pretty much everything else.
Research the Chevrolet Camaro
Chevrolet Camaro Overview
Chevrolet Camaro Photos & Video
Chevrolet Camaro Local Dealer Price Quote