2009 Lemon Aid Large Cars

LARGE CARS

 


GM Buick Lucerne

 

Ford Taurus/ Taurus X

Chrysler 300

 

Toyota Avalon

Dodge Charger

 

Toyota Venza

 

 

 


 

LARGE CARS offer abundant cabin space and big trunks, but can be cumbersome to drive in the city. Big engines deliver relaxed performance and good fuel economy on the open road, but fuel mileage can plummet in town. The size and weight of cars in this segment offer enhanced occupant protection.

There are few changes this year other than a mid-cycle changes for the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Challenger. The current Ford Taurus is in its last year, with a 2010 model shown due in showrooms by the fall of 2009. Production of the Taurus X ceased in the winter of 2009.


 

 

 

 

Buick Lucerne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AVERAGE
GENERAL MOTORS
BUICK Lucerne (FWD)
Body Style: 4SD
Engines: 3.9L-V6* 227 HP, 4.6L V8 292 HP
Transmission: 4A
City Fuel Economy: 12L/100 km
ESC available: Yes
Emissions rating: n/a

What’s new
E85 capable 227 HP 3.9L V6 is the base engine for 2009. A power passenger seat, Bluetooth phone link and heated outside mirrors are standard on all models this year. New colours. 

Comments
The Lucerne’s body and cabin look modern, but the structure that lies underneath debuted on the Aurora and Riviera in 1995. Good exterior panel fit and paintwork. The cabin design is conservative, tasteful, and carefully assembled using attractive components. Comfortable seating. The 2936 mm (115.6 inch) wheelbase allows for generous legroom front and rear. Big trunk. Engine choices include a new 227 horsepower 3.9L V6 and a 4.6L Northstar V8 that produces 292 horsepower. Power reaches the front wheels via a four-speed automatic transmission regardless of engine choice. Reports in the automotive press note that the Lucerne is a large, pampering, quiet touring car that provides a smooth ride and confident handling. With just under 3000 units sold, Lucerne sales held steady in 2008. Made in the United States.  

Reliability
Not rated, insufficient data. Unproven 3.9L V6. The Lucerne’s complex electronic systems make the purchase of a GM extended warranty advisable should you plan to keep your car past the four year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty. Expensive factory replacement parts. A GM dealer recommended by the APA will provide a discount on the warranty if bought in conjunction with the new car. Four year/80,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/160,000 km on the powertrain.  

Pricing
The CXL is the best value of the Lucerne lineup, especially if you want leather seating. Option packages are very expensive for the additional content they bring. The Super is poor value. The CXL looks like good value when compared to the Toyota Avalon, but it won’t have the Toyota’s resale value. Take a look at the Hyundai Azera, which is quicker and is priced very competitively. Savage depreciation. Keep this car long enough that depreciation is no longer a factor, or, lease it if GM returns to aggressive leasing.

Safety
Seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags are standard. Rated Good in the IIHS frontal impact test and Acceptable in the IIHS side impact test. The rear impact test has not been conducted. Ranked 5th of the 9 cars in its class. Standard ABS. Standard ESC on the Super, optional on the CX and CXL.   


 

 

 

 

Chrysler 300

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AVERAGE
CHRYSLER 300 (RWD*, AWD)
Body Style: 4SD
Engines: 3.5L-V6 250 HP*, 5.7L-V8 359 HP, 6.1L-V8 425 HP (SRT8)
Transmission: 5A
City Fuel Economy: 12.2L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: n/a 

What’s new
A new active transfer case on all-wheel drive cars defaults to rear-wheel drive unless slip is detected or the driver selects all-wheel drive. Variable valve timing on the 5.7L V8 boosts horsepower from 340 to 359. All models receive the cabin chrome package previously reserved for the 300C.

Performance
Predictable handling combines with a firmly compliant ride and little body roll. Strong acceleration and relaxed cruising from the 3.5L V6. Smooth shifting and obedient automatic transmission. Seamless all-wheel drive system. Nicely weighted and geared steering. This car looks a bit like a tank and feels as solid as one when you drive it. Good driving position despite the small glazed area. Clear instrumentation and logical, straightforward controls. Improved materials give the cabin a higher quality look this year. The front seats are smaller than expected and are very firmly padded. Long seat travel can accommodate even the very tall. Good cabin space. Good trunk access, but cargo space is limited for such a big car. Slow heating. Muddy sound quality from the base audio system in the 300 Touring.

Reliability
Average. Some complaints have been received regarding steering and front suspension wear. Purchase of an extended warranty from Chrysler is expensive, but is strongly recommended if you plan to keep the car past the bumper to bumper warranty. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.  

Comments
Traction control, an electronic stability program and ABS are all standard. Powertrain choices include a 3.5L V6 engine that is standard on the Touring and Limited models, and a 5.7L V8 that is sole engine choice on the 300C. Transmission selections include a four-speed automatic on rear-wheel drive 3.5L cars, and a five-speed automatic on all-wheel drive and V8-engined cars. All-wheel drive is optional on all models.  The V8 Hemi boasts a “Multi-displacement System” that deactivates up to four cylinders when the car is cruising. To prove nothing exceeds like excess, an SRT8 version, powered by a 6.1L, 425 horsepower version of the Hemi V8, is available. Although sales decreased 30 percent last year, to about 7500 units, the 300 is still the biggest selling car in this segment. Made in Canada.  

Pricing
Option packages and moving up a trim level are both very good value on V6 models. The V8-powered 300C is really overpriced. All-wheel drive ($3034 to $3700) is available with either the 3.5L V6 or the 5.7L V8.  

Safety
Seat-mounted side and side-curtain airbags are optional on all models. A glaring omission. Tested without side airbags, the 300 was rated Good in the IIHS frontal impact test, Poor in the IIHS side impact test and Marginal in the IIHS rear impact test. Ranked last of the 9 cars in its class. Standard ABS and ESC.


 

 

 

Dodge Charger

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AVERAGE
CHRYSLER
DODGE Charger (RWD, AWD*)
Body Style: 4SD 
Engines: 2.7L-V6 178 HP, 3.5L-V6* 250 HP, 5.7L-V8 368 HP, 6.1L-V8 425 HP (SRT8)
Transmission: 4A, 5A*
City Fuel Economy: 13.9L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: n/a 

What’s new
A new active transfer case on all-wheel drive cars defaults to rear-wheel drive unless slip is detected or the driver selects all-wheel drive. Variable valve timing on the 5.7L V8 boosts horsepower from 340 to 368.

Comments
The Charger’s coke-bottle shape, bluff front end and tight front overhang really evoke ‘60s design cues. Cabin space is the same as in the 300 for those riding in front. Rear seat riders will notice that legroom isn’t quite as generous as it is in the 300, and the shape of the car makes the rear quarters feel claustrophobic. Powertrain choices include a 2.7L V6 on the SE, which has an optional 3.5L V6 engine that is standard on the SXT, and a 5.7L V8 that is sole engine choice for the R/T. Transmissions selections include a four-speed automatic with the 2.7L V6 and 3.5L cars with rear-wheel drive, and a five-speed automatic on all-wheel drive and V8-engined cars. All-wheel drive is optional on the SXT and R/T trim levels. The crazy-powerful 6.1L V8 is part of the SRT8 package. While Charger sales dropped about 15 percent last year, to about 7000 units, the Charger is still one of the most successful nameplates in this segment. Made in Canada.  

Reliability
Average. Some complaints have been received regarding steering and front suspension wear.  Purchase of an extended warranty from Chrysler is expensive but is strongly recommended. Weak 2.7L V6. If you pick this engine use the “severe service” maintenance schedule and keep all oil-change receipts so Chrysler cannot claim lack of maintenance as a reason for engine failure. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.

Pricing
Option packages and moving up a trim level are both very good value on V6 models. The V8-powered R/T is really overpriced. All-wheel drive ($1900 to $2250) is available with either the 3.5L V6 or the 5.7L V8.   

Safety
Optional seat-mounted side and side-curtain airbags on all models, a glaring omission. Tested without side airbags, the Charger was rated Good in the IIHS frontal impact test, Poor in the IIHS side impact test and Marginal in the IIHS rear impact test. Ranked last of the 9 cars in its class. Standard ABS and ESC.


 

 

 

 

Ford Taurus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AVERAGE
FORD Taurus*, Taurus X (FWD, AWD)
Body Styles: 4SD* (Taurus), 4SW (Taurus X)
Engine: 3.5L-V6 DOHC 263 HP
Transmission: 6A
City Fuel Economy: 11.6L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: Tier 2 Bin 5 

What’s new
Both: Post Crash Alert System. Taurus: All-wheel drive is standard on the Taurus Limited model. ESC is standard for 2009. Last year in this form. Taurus X: Production ceased mid-year.  

Performance

Taurus

The 3.5L V6/six-speed automatic transmission powertrain is quick and smooth, but the transmission is too eager to downshift when only a slight increase in velocity is desired. Seamless all-wheel drive system. Well-judged ride and handling compromise for a large touring sedan. The car has an absorbent ride without a trace of wallow. While there is some body lean during cornering, it is nicely controlled. The large seats are very supportive but do little to retain occupants in corners. Spacious cabin with masses of legroom and headroom. Attractive cabin fittings. The small, graphically-impaired instruments lack visual gravitas, and while the climate controls look good, they aren’t the easiest to use. Easy ingress and egress. Good audio system. Huge trunk. The sunroof is noisy when open. Good fit and finish inside and out. Taurus sales increased 20 percent last year, to over 2000 units. Made in the United States.

 

Taurus X

With the same underpinnings and powertrain, the Taurus X performs about the same on the road as the Taurus. The X’s high driving position, big glazed area and straight body sides make the Taurus X easy to place on the road. Good space in the first and second rows, with decent space in, and easy access to, the third-row seats. Good cargo capacity even when the third-row seat are occupied.

 

Reliability
Not rated, insufficient data. A Ford extended warranty is recommended if you plan to keep the car past the warranty period. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.  

Comments
Introduced as the Ford Five Hundred and the Freestyle, these cars were updated and renamed the Taurus and the Taurus X for the 2008 model year. The 2010 Taurus will be on sale by the fall of 2009, but the Taurus X won’t return as the Flex has taken its place. Built in the United States.

Pricing
Taurus: all-wheel drive, standard on the Limited, is a $2500 option on the SEL. The Limited package is very expensive for the content it brings. Picking a loaded SEL includes most of the Limited's worthwhile features for about $2500 less. Comparably equipped, a Taurus SEL is priced nearly $4500 less than a base Toyota Avalon. Expect savage depreciation. Taurus X: all-wheel drive is a $2000 option on both the SEL and Limited trim levels. The Taurus X is priced from $2300 to $3000 higher than the Taurus sedan.

Safety
Standard seat-mounted side airbags and side-curtain airbags on all versions of the Taurus and Taurus X. The Taurus was a Top Safety Pick, rated Good in the IIHS frontal, side and rear impact tests. Ranked first of the 9 cars in its class. The Taurus X was a Top Safety Pick, rated Good in the IIHS frontal, side and rear impact tests. Ranked 7th of the 25 vehicles in its class. Standard ABS and ESC on both cars.     


 

 

 

 

Toyota Avalon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABOVE AVERAGE
TOYOTA Avalon (FWD)
Body Style: 4SD
Engines: 3.5L-V6 DOHC 268 HP
Transmission: 6A
City Fuel Economy: 10.7L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: Tier 2 Bin 5  

What’s new
Active headrests are standard this year.

Comments
The Avalon occupies a micro-niche in Toyota’s lineup between the top Camry and the Camry-based Lexus ES350. The micro-niche is so small that Avalon sales tumbled 60 percent last year, to fewer than 400 units in Canada. The Avalon’s cabin is enormous, with total comfort for four, and reasonable accommodations for five. Like in contemporary BMWs, the brow covering the instrument cluster extends over the dash centre stack to allow a navigation screen to be incorporated. With the flap covering the audio system closed, the dashboard looks very sleek. The gauges and big and clear, and the controls are logical and easy to use. The Avalon has a massive trunk. Power stems from a 268 horsepower 3.5L V6 that sends power to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. Reports in the automotive press note that the Avalon is very fast, smooth, quiet and very comfortable. Made in the United States.

Reliability    
Above average. Three year/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.  

Pricing
The base Avalon is priced about $3000 more than a fully-equipped Camry V6, and roughly $2000 less than a base Lexus ES 350. The Premium package is a bit expensive considering its content. The Navigation package is overpriced. The Hyundai Azera, the closest rival of the Avalon Premium XLS, is roughly $4500 cheaper than the Toyota.

Safety
Seat-mounted airbags and side-curtain airbags. The Avalon was a Top Safety Pick, rated Good in the IIHS frontal, side and rear impact tests. Ranked 2nd of the 9 cars in its class. Standard ABS and ESC.


 

 

 

 

Toyota Venza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NEW
TOYOTA Venza (FWD, AWD*)
Body Style: 4HB
Engines: 2.7L-4 182 HP, 3.5L-V6* 268 HP
Transmission: 6A
City Fuel Economy: 11.6L/100 km
ESC: Standard
Emissions rating: Tier 2 Bin 5  

Comments
The Venza, Toyota's new Camry-based hatchback, has the same wheelbase and overall length as the Camry, but is 85 mm (3.34 inches) wider and 160 mm (6.29 inches) taller than its sedan showroom companion. The Venza is a five-seater so as to not conflict with the Highlander built on the same set of components. While the gigantic tin grille is tacky, the rest of the car is attractive enough. The cabin, with clear gauges, zen-tastically simple controls, visually calm design and abundant space, is where the Venza shines. The cabin is roomy and very comfortable. There are lots of places around the cabin, including the commodious centre console bin, to stash things. The interior is attractive and well assembled, but some bits on the lower dash look cheap. Power is produced by either a 187 horsepower 2.7L four or a 3.5L V6 with 268 horsepower. The sole transmission is a six-speed automatic. An "on-demand" all-wheel drive system is optional with either engine. Driven briefly by the APA, the Venza V6/all-wheel drive powertrain was quick through the gears and relaxed at cruising speeds. The Venza is quite tossable and generates very little body roll despite its height. The steering is nicely geared, but is a bit light. The massive wheels don’t do the ride, which is quite choppy on rougher pavement, any favours. The cargo area morphs from big to very big when you fold the rear seat down. Though less cool than the Venza, the Toyota Highlander V6 is a better developed package, with a more agreeable ride-handling compromise than the Venza. Toyota expect sales to be split 55/45 percent in favour of the 2.7L engine. Massive wheels (19 inch/2.7L and 20inch/3.5L) will make for expensive replacement and winter tires. Made in the United States.

Reliability
New car, no reliability data available. Some recent new Toyotas have had problems during their first year of production. Three years/60,000 km bumper to bumper warranty, 5 years/100,000 km on the powertrain.  

Pricing
Toyota charges only $1450 for all-wheel drive on the Venza. The Premium and Touring packages are very good value. The JBL package balances price and content exactly.  

Safety
Seat-mounted side and side-curtain airbags are standard. Not crash tested. ABS and ESC are standard.