About Nick Jaynes:
Born in Denver, Colorado and raised in Portland,
Oregon, Nick Jaynes has had a passion for cars his whole life, whether
he knew it or not. Nick was raised on Volvos--his mother has owned 7 of
them. As Nick grew up, he found that he considered cars to be less of a
tool for transportation but more of a living, breathing, member of the
family. To this day, he still sees them this same way. Nick is
fascinated by people's loves and hates of different car brands. Nick is
a graduate of the University of Oregon School of Journalism and
Communication where he was a star pupil and was voted the Best
Documentary Filmmaker in his senior year by the UO SOJC faculty. Nick
currently lives in NW Portland with his Treeing Walker Coonhound, Ruger.
2013 Dodge Dart Rallye
it, at first; I was skeptical of the Dart.
an aging Alfa Romeo platform with a Fiat engine and the front fascia of an
updated Dodge Neon, I figured the Dart was simply snake oil; a car composed of
leftover bits, haphazardly thrown together to get the Dodge name back into the
compact sedan segment.
I was wrong.
Dart's virtues quickly became apparent to me, I am afraid they don't present
themselves quickly enough for the average American buyer on, say, a test drive.
Let me explain.
glance, the Dart's interior is a winner. It's huge. And even at the $23,560
mark, my test car had the 8.4" Uconnect system complete with satnav, rearview
camera, and Bluetooth streaming audio. At six-foot-five, it's hard for me to
comfortably fit in smaller cars. The Dart, however, had so much legroom that
with the drivers seat all the way back, I couldn't completely depress the
clutch--that's how much room it afforded me. Adding to the versatility of the
Dart interior further, Dodge has cleverly included a storage cubby underneath
the passenger bottom seat cushion.
interior isn't just big and well designed; it has some great design touches,
too. Surrounding the instrument cluster and Uconnect screen is a red accent
light that illuminates at night. While not functional in anyway, it's gives
passengers the sense that the Dart is something special.
But for car
buyers in the Millennial Generation like myself, the interior alone doesn't
sell the car. Driving dynamics are important, too. Luckily the Dart hits the
Rallye I tested had been fitted with a Fiat designed 1.4-liter inline
four-cylinder, turbocharged Fiat engine with "MultiAir" technology producing
160 horsepower and 184 poundfeet of torque. It should be mentioned the
1.4-liter is a $1,300 upgrade from the standard engine: a 2-liter, normally
aspirated four-cylinder called "Tigershark." Interestingly, the 2-liter
produces the exact same amount of horsepower as the 1.4--and without a
first few days behind the wheel of the Dart Rallye, I was convinced the
1.4-liter MultiAir turbocharged engine was a miss.
the six-speed manual, power was hard to wring out of the little Italian hunk of
aluminum. Until the engine exceeds 3,5000 RPM, the 1.4-liter is slower than
molasses on a cold day. Over 3,500, though, the engine comes alive in a buzz of
Italian fury. After 5,500 RPM, however, power dwindles quickly up to the 6,500
I had to
learn to drive the Dart. But once I did, I became quickly enamored with it. The
Dart definitely isn't a turnkey operation. There's a learning curve before the
driver and the Dart harmonize. Once I made that connection, however, and
driving the Dart became second nature, I loved it.
both handling and steering are quick and responsive. The six-speed manual is
easy to shift and the gears are spread wide enough apart that I never found
myself hitting the wrong gear.
Dart really does resemble the discontinued Neon, I still really fancy its
looks. Designers walked the fine line between accentuating the Dodge family
resemblance but also modernizing and improving a signature look. Tops, too, is
the "Blue Streak Pearl" paint that my test car sported.
window sticker, Dodge proudly touts the Dart's combined fuel economy score of
32 MPG. With an EPA estimated 27-MPG city and 39 highway, the Dart--on paper--is
a fuel economy dream.
experience with the Dart's efficiency was drastically different than
advertised. By my approximation, I spent equal time on the city and the
highway. According to the Dart's onboard computer, I only averaged 23 MPG
during my week behind the wheel. Certainly, 23 MPG isn't bad. But it's not good
when you're expecting those numbers to be flopped.
turbo spool spoils the Dart's fuel economy, like it does for most turbocharged
can manage to keep their foot out of the accelerator and the engine below
3,500, never taking advantage by the turbo power boost, they very may well
achieve the estimated fuel economy numbers. Drivers in the real world, however,
who find 90 horsepower (my unofficial pre-turbocharger power estimate) to be
inadequate in a 3,200-pound car will most likely want to stick with the base
engines are European designed, the 2-liter is decidedly less European in its
power band. Drivers accustomed to a more American and linear power output will
find the 1.4-liter perplexing.
the Dart isn't a wash in my book because its real-world fuel economy
numbers--for me--were low.
really like it. It looks great. It handles fabulously. It goes pretty well.
It's tech-savvy. It's affordable. And it is backed by a five-year,
hundred-thousand-mile warranty. What's not to love?
If it were
my money, though, I'd wait for the R/T version. The R/T, which is slated to go
on sale in mid-2013, will have a 2.4-liter MultiAir engine also called
Tigershark...for some reason. The R/T will produce 184 horsepower and 171
poundfeet of torque and should be a real kick, that one.
automaker has its own take on the hybrid. Whether they shape it like the Prius
or not, they all want to capitalize on the popularity of hybrids. While I've
derided some (the Hyundai Sonata Hybrid) and loved others (Prius C) each
surprisingly has its own distinctive characteristics. None more distinctive,
however, than my most recent hybrid encounter: the 2013 Infiniti M Hybrid.
get to the basics: the 2013 M Hybrid carries a base price of $54,200 but my
test vehicle weighed in at $66,245. Under the hood Infiniti has placed a
3.5-liter V6 mated to an electric motor that together produce a net 360
horsepower that is sent to the rear wheels through a seven-speed automatic
transmission. The EPA has rated the M Hybrid at 27 MPG city and 32 highway with
a combined score of 29.
gotten the nitty-gritty out of the way; let's talk design.
Say what you
will about the looks of the new Infinitis. I think they appear to have been
stung by a bee and suffered unsightly swelling. Plainly put: new Infiniti body
designs take rounded, aerodynamic-inspired bodylines to an all-new level. The
grille is rounded, the fenders are entirely rounded, and the bumper is rounded.
I don't believe the exterior has one truly flat surface. Everything is curved
continues the rounded line design aesthetic onto the interior. Infiniti has
given the dash and center stack many wandering, rounded lines that don't seem
to serve any purpose other than to say "look, it's round-y in here, too!"
automakers are opting for wood trim with a flat finish, Infiniti has buffed
their Japanese Ash wood trim to a nearly faux plastic finish. While it looks
good, it's just not that modern. Then in the back, where there's normally a
spacious trunk, Infiniti has chosen to stow the lithium-ion battery pack. Mind
you, the trunk is still usable; it's just not as big as it once was without the
batteries. The batteries also impinge on the ability to fold the rear seats
down, cutting even further into potential cargo capacity.
complaints with the interior end there, however. With a staggering 16-speaker
Bose sound system; satnav; intelligent cruise control; blind spot monitoring;
Bluetooth; rain sensing wipers; and much more; Infiniti leaves little to be
desired in the way of technology and luxury.
all those things sound great. But let's be honest: most automakers' features
lists read nearly exactly the same. It's the M Hybrid's driving characteristics
that truly set it apart.
ever driven a Hybrid, you've probably noticed the driving characteristics that
haunt virtually every hybrid: lumpy, uneven power delivery. Every hybrid (save
the Prius C) suffers from it. The Infiniti is no different. But while the M
Hybrid, too, is lumpy, it makes up for it with boatloads of power on the
mistaking: the M Hybrid is fast. Shift the drive mode selector into "Sport,"
and the M Hybrid becomes the heavy-hitting, fuel thirsty car it was designed to
be before Infiniti over complicated it with an electric motor and some
The M Hybrid
pulls and pulls, no matter the speed (or RPM) because the two motors (gasoline
and electric) pick up where the other leaves off. Then at stoplights the engine
shuts off, which saves fuel. When the gas engine shuts off, the AC system doesn't
have to shut down because there's enough power to still run your accessories
thanks to the extra batteries on board.
mode, the M Hybrid is the best hybrid over $30,000 that money can buy. But when
the driver pops it over into "Eco" mode, the story changes. Drastically.
hybrids (when in Eco mode) the throttle response is simply ratcheted back by
the on-board computer. Not so, in the M Hybrid. From a stoplight, the
accelerator feels normal for the first quarter throttle. Push your foot any
harder into the throttle, however, and the M Hybrid pushes back. I kid you not,
the throttle pedal pushes back against you, resisting throttle. It is the most
bizarre sensation I've ever felt. It's hugely unnatural feeling and I never
once got used to it. It made me feel like my leg and foot were failing me. It
felt like a mental block. It never felt like the vehicle was pushing back,
resisting my desired throttle application; no, it must be my muscles are simply
incapable of performing the task at hand. It was infuriating.
decided to design a throttle that fought back against the driver rather than
just electronically withholding throttle response is beyond me. For a neurotic
fellow like me, the bully of a throttle pedal made the M Hybrid virtually undrivable
in any setting other than Sport.
really too bad. Since it left my driveway, I've spent a lot of time thinking
back fondly on our time together. I never thought I'd say this about a hybrid;
but I kind of miss it.
If you're in
the market for one of the out-and-out strangest hybrid on the market, I urge
you to rush into your local Infiniti dealer as quickly as you can. If, however,
you're simply interested in an M37 and are alternately considering the step to
the Hybrid model I advise you save your self the $18,000 and stick to the "plane
Jane" M37 version instead.
2013 GL-Class has a lot of Bang(&Olufsen)--but not for your buck.
engineering wizards at Mercedes first conceived of the full-size GL-Class SUV,
they momentarily imagined it as a G-Wagon replacement. Thankfully, that never
came to fruition. Instead, the G-Wagon would live another day--at least through
2019--and the GL was designed to be a more minivan-ish, soft-roading family
initial launch in 2007, the GL quickly became one of Mercedes-Benz best-selling
models in the US with sales numbers (around 26,000 units annually) actually
growing as the GL got on in years. For 2013, Mercedes has re-envisioned the GL
with subtly updated bodylines, and updated interior, and a few new drivetrain
With a base
price around $60,000, the Mercedes GL-Class competes with the likes of the
Cadillac Escalade and the Infiniti QX56. Though God only knows who in their
right mind would cross-shop the Escalade with the GL. That'd be like a horse
and buggy with the SpaceX Dragon.
doesn't look it, the new generation GL is longer, wider, and taller than the
previous incarnation. In spite of these enlargements, the 2013 GL only weighs
50 pounds more than the 2012, which improves fuel economy.
The 2013 GL's
looks are more masculine and striking than the previous generation but do still
retain some of the minivan-ish lines. The front fascia has been masterfully
reshaped for better aerodynamics without sacrificing its bold, iconic, and
somewhat menacing look. Around the rest of the body, other tweaks have been
made; the D-pillar, for instance, now has a slight up-kick to it and flared
wheel arches have been added to the GL550.
offers four models of the GL for 2013: a clean diesel-powered GL350 BlueTEC,
GL450, GL550, and the soon-to-be unveiled GL63 AMG. The majority of sales will
fall to the GL450 in the US with the rest split between the GL305 BlueTEC and
the GL550. Sales figures of the GL63 AMG are still to be seen.
under the hood, the GL450 and the GL550 are nearly identical. They both share
the same 4.6-liter direct-injected (amusingly called "Multi-Squirt"), biturbo
gasoline V8. In the GL450, the engine has been detuned and produces 362
horsepower and 406 poundfeet of torque. The more powerful GL550, however,
produces 429 horsepower and 516 poundfeet of torque.
boasts fuel efficiency in the newest generation GL-Class is up 20-percent over
the previous generation. But don't let those stats fool you; no GL drivetrain
will achieve fuel economy numbers much higher than around 17MPG. In fact, the
GL450 and GL550 will average around the 15MPG mark. And if you have to ask what
the GL63 AMG fuel economy numbers will be like, you should just keep on car
shopping; because if you have to ask, you can't afford it. If I had to guess
(and I do) I'd wager an average around 10MPG.
it's on the interior where the GL really hits its stride. Not surprisingly, all
interior materials are of the highest quality both in terms of visual aesthetic
and tactile stimulation. Available with an optional Designo (pronounced
dee-zeen-yo) leather interior and three rows of seating, the GL is both elegant
and versatile. Option it with the Bang & Olufsen sound system and the GL
interior is transformed into a literal symphony to the senses.
GL's hefty base price, the standard COMAND system--which includes a seven-inch
touch screen, Bluetooth, and a six-disc DVD/CD changer--does not include
satellite navigation. As buyers add optional packages to the GL, however, and
the GL will include some pretty nifty tech treats. Most impressive is the
360-degree Surround View camera. When the vehicle is in reverse, a series of
cameras mounted around the vehicle are digitally stitched together to show a
virtual bird's-eye view of the vehicle--clearly displaying everything within
several feet of the GL.
GL-Class has been loaded (or can be loaded) with tons of safety features. In
the spirit of brevity, I'll outline the most noteworthy: ACTIVE CURVE SYSTEM,
which limits body roll during cornering; ATTENTION ASSIST, which will alert the
driver to take a rest from driving at the first signs of drowsiness; Active
Lane Keeping Assist, which alerts the driver of unwanted lane departure by
vibrating the steering wheel ever so slightly; COLLISION PREVENTION ASSIST,
which will flash warnings at the driver if it senses the risk for a collision
and also prepare the parking brake for emergency braking as soon as the driver
applies the brake; and lastly PRE-SAFE, which will pre-tension seatbelts and
even move the front passenger seat to a safer position if an impending
collision is detected.
who want the off-road capability of the G-Wagon with the family-oriented
versatility of the GL, Mercedes offers an On/Off-Road package. Featuring a
two-speed, electronically controlled transfer case that provides 1:1 on-road
gearing and 2.93:1 ratio for off-road capability, the GL can quickly become a
weekend warrior workhorse at the push of a button.
as the 2013 GL is on paper, delightfully, it is even better in the road. While
the diesel-powered GL350 BlueTEC has some trouble pulling up hills at highway
speed, the GL450 and GL550 are veritable rocket ships.
Production Chief, Axel Heix, admitted to me the feature of the new GL of which
he is most proud is its car-like handling. And he's right to be proud. The GL
handles better than virtually any other full-size SUV on the market, save the
as the GL is to behold and to drive, I am still left scratching my head when
looking at the sticker price. None of the GLs we drove on the press launch was
priced under $92,000. Mercedes divulged the average GL buyer is a bit of an odd
bird. The average GL buyer is a 48-year-old man whose yearly income is around
$292,000. It is by far the youngest Mercedes customer with one of the highest
average incomes (next closest is the income of the average SL buyer).
though, you'd have to be a young, rich family man to justify the cost of the
2013 GL as it isn't really capable of doing double what, say, a Chevy Traverse,
Dodge Durango, or Ford Explorer can do for half the money.
penny-pinching ways, I can see how--for the right buyer--the GL is a fabulous
investment. For better or worse, it has no real side-by-side competition in
terms of build quality, amenities, and aesthetics. So if you're in the market
for a full-sized luxury SUV that will seat seven, look no further than the GL.
Last year I
proclaimed the 2011 Scion TC the only new car I would actually buy. I loved its
looks, its driving dynamics, but most importantly, I loved its low, low price. At
just below $24,000, I thought it a Japanese econobox in sports coupe clothes.
A lot of
things can, however, change in a year. The mere thought of the car that was
once the apple of my penny-pinching, sport-inspired eye now--instead--conjures
a cheeky grimace.
Scion TC is no different than the 2011--not one bit. In fact, the information
Scion sent to me about the TC read "2011 Scion TC." Clearly, it isn't the TC
that has changed but rather the world around it.
In the last
year, I bought a Range Rover, bought a FIAT, I took up running, and Scion
debuted the 2013 FR-S.
The FR-S is
a stripped-down rear-wheel drive sports coupe created as a joint venture
between Subaru and its parent company, Toyota. The Scion FR-S is the Toyota USA
version (known as the Toyota GT-86 in most other world markers) of the 2+2,
sold in competition with its twin, the Subaru BRZ.
around $26,000, the FR-S isn't much more expensive than the TC. Producing 200
horsepower , the FR-S's 2-liter boxer engine is more
powerful than the TC's 2.5-liter inline four. The FR-S has a
sleeker, sportier body and has a much stylish interior than the TC. And while
the TC is based upon the old Camry platform, the FR-S is a purpose-built sports
around, I found the TC just as fun to drive. As I lead-footed my way around
town, its blaring exhaust notes embarrassed me. There are loud, unrestrictive
exhausts that improve power output and there are loud exhausts that have been
tuned to showoff what's under the hood, shouting at the world, "Look at me! I
am man!" The exhaust on the TC fits neither of these categories. It was closer
to the not-so-subtle tones of paperboy's coffee-can muffler'd Civic than a
factory-installed sport exhaust.
longest time, I couldn't figure out why Scion would continue the TC alongside
the FR-S. That was, until I drove the 2012 TC with the optional six-speed
It is a fine
transmission. It is peppy in first gear but quickly finds its way up to forth
and stays there as long as it can; neutering what sporting nature the TC had
been blessed with. I greatly prefer the standard five-speed manual but the more
I thought about it, I realized the automatic is actually the TC's saving grace.
gear heads and racing junkies will eagerly line up to get their hands in the
FR-S, the less performance-obsessed motorist will likely prefer the TC.
The TC is
cheaper, it's less flashy looking, it's more useful (with its huge rear hatch
versus the FR-S's small trunk), and it will certainly carry a smaller car
insurance premium. Plus, when optioned with the automatic, it's the best of both
worlds. For 99-percent of a TC owner's driving time, it's a hassle-free,
two-pedal setup. But for that one day a year they'll actually wish to shift the
car themselves, reigniting their connection to the rolling hunk of steel
beneath them, they can pop the shifter into manual shift mode and have at it.
Scion TC, then, is perfect for someone who isn't ready to give in and buy a
Yaris but also doesn't have enough testosterone (for better or worse) coursing
through their system to step up to the FR-S. The TC is edgy without getting
anywhere near the edge, instead remaining safely buckled into the tour bus.
Don't me wrong;
the Prius is an ingenious vehicle. Combining the best parts of gas and electric
powertrains into one is brilliant--at least on paper. It is less brilliant,
however, as an actual drivable vehicle.
The Prius is
heavy and it doesn't handle very well. It's also quite hard to see out of. And
although it is fuel-efficient, it doesn't get quite live up to the fuel economy
numbers that Toyota once claimed. Not only that, it would seem nearly everyone
who bought a Prius was a knob, which further tarnished the Hybrid nameplate.
Given its track
record, I was less than jazzed when Toyota announced it was expanding the Prius
line--called the Prii. The first Prii (official pluralization of Prius) to roll
off the line was the PriusV, which was a bigger, wagonier Prius. To my surprise,
it was delightfully roomy and the added wagon space and proportions improved
the visual appearance hugely.
The next Prii
to be unveiled was the PriusC, which I had the pleasure (not ironically) of
driving this week.
The PriusC is
the smallest of the Prii and is based upon the Toyota Yaris. It's powered by a
1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine producing a pavement tearing 73
horsepower and 82 pound-feet of torque paired with an Electronically Controlled Continuously
Variable Transmission (ECVT), which have been mated to an electric motor
generator, which produces 60 horsepower and 125 pound-feet of torque. All said
and done the PriusC is rated at 99 horsepower. It will make a 0-60 jog in 11.5
seconds and onto a top speed of 105 MPH.
Although the PriusC's power numbers are
pretty pedestrian, the fuel economy numbers are not. The EPA estimates the
PriusC at 50 MPG in the city and 46 MPG on the highway with a combined score of
where it gets interesting. With most vehicles, I am typically somewhere 2-10
MPG shy of the EPA fuel economy estimates. In the PriusC, however, I was
getting 77 MPH. Mind you, this was when I was driving with a feather foot,
paying special attention to acceleration and braking. When driving as I normally
do in my Range Rover, I achieved around 38 MPG. But more often than
not--according to the PriusC's onboard computer--I was consistently breaking 60
On any given
day, I don't give two shakes about fuel economy in my truck or in a press car.
Behind the wheel of the PriusC I found myself flirting with hyper-miling.
At only 2,800
pounds, the PriusC is only 200 pounds lighter than the standard Prius but it
feels much more stable and in control of its mass. Just like its cousin the
Yaris, the PriusC is small but roomy inside with 87.4 cubic feet of passenger
Apparently I am
not the only one who's enamored with the PriusC. Toyota sold 1,201 PruisCs
within the first three days, making it one of the fastest-selling Toyotas of
all-time. To-date, Toyota has sold every single PriusC that it has built.
just under $19,000, the PriusC is fairly inexpensive considering its capability
in both interior space and fuel efficiency. The PriusC I tested was the PriusC
"Three," which added color matched door handles and a power moonroof and
carried a sticker price of $23,245. It had all the tech features (save a backup
camera) that most modern buyer could want, including a 6.1-inch touch screen,
satnav, Bluetooth, HD radio, and push-button ignition.
While I am
still not a fan of the Prius (old habits die hard), I am rather smitten with
the PriusC. It hurts me a bit to admit it but I really do like it and think it
has a lot going for it.
So the 2012
PriusC receives my stamp of approval along with its big brother the PriusV. I
am also quite pleased to see Americans adopting a smaller, more fuel-efficient
driving mentality, especially if it means fewer trips to the pump because my
Range Rover needs all the fuel that my neighborhood station can dispense.
It's official: Jerry Seinfeld has a new show--and it's about cars. As you can see, it's essentially been shot entirely on GoPros in any number of cars from Seinfeld's personal collection. While we love cars and Seinfeld, we're not sure this idea is show-worthy.
The 2012 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T is a good; just not heart-poundingly good.
This is a
review that I've been mulling over for a few weeks, trying to find the right
angle. The problem I've been facing is that the Sonata is too good. It doesn't
have any glaring defects I can viciously attack. Nor does it conjure up any
anecdotes or rambling opinions. It's a very good car. But just because
something is good doesn't make it worthy of coverage.
plenty of deserts. I am exhilarated by a great deal of wooded walks in the
Portland area. And I'm rather fond of several of my pairs of pants as well.
None is, however, worthy of an article of its own. This is the problem facing
me when I turn to the Sonata 2.0T review.
drove the normally aspirated Sonata last year, when it was new. It was fine.
Pretty good in most every respect but it didn't really stand out. I then drove
the Sonata Hybrid, which was great on the highway but absolutely nightmarish in
the city--especially when attempting to parallel park.
So when I
was thrown the keys to the Sonata 2.0T ("T" stands for turbo) I expected more
mediocrity. To my surprise, it was far better than I had anticipated.
I feel like
I should have seen it coming: the Sonata's greatness. After all, turbochargers
make everything better. My first car was a perfect example: a 1983 Volvo 245
Turbo. Having more in common with a tractor than a car, the 245 should have
been crap. But with the turbo, it came to life. I loved that damn car. With it
I enjoyed many an evening filled with turbocharged adventures.
now in its sixth generation, shares its underpinnings with the Kia Optima and
has benefitted hugely from its newfound turbo. Although Hyundai is a Korean car
firm, the Sonata is built in Alabama. The turbocharged 2.0-liter inline
four-cylinder engine placed under the hood of the Sonata 2.0T produces 274
horsepower and 269 pound-feet of torque and has been mated with a six-speed
automatic transmission. Altogether, the Sonata 2.0T has been rated by the EPA
to achieve 22 MPG in the city and 34 MPG on the highway.
The SE model
I tested had a sticker price of $28,455. For that money, the Sonata was fitted
with sport suspension; 18-inch wheels; power windows, doors, and locks; dual
climate control; Bluetooth; a backup camera; and satnav. Strangely, however, at
this price point, the Sonata 2.0T is still comes with cloth seats. Arguably
more durable, I found them out of place. On top of all of that, the whole
vehicle is protected by Hyundai's five-year/60,000-mile warranty.
engines fitted with turbochargers for extra, on-demand power sounds nice on
paper, customers are beginning to find turbochargers aren't quite what they're
cracked up to be in terms of fuel economy. In actuality, unless blessed with a
featherweight foot, drivers are finding their mileage numbers far below the EPA
estimates in turbocharged cars. I, for example, achieved 13 MPG in the city in
the Sonata 2.0T--far below the EPA rating. But one of my fellow automotive
journalists on an extended trip at speeds upward of 75 MPH achieved 36 MPG, which
was above the rating. Go figure.
In spite of
its unpredictable fuel economy, driving the Sonata 2.0T was a delight. Every
aspect of the vehicle was easy and enjoyable. I had plenty of room. The seats
were wonderfully comfortable. The cabin was quiet. The satnav and Bluetooth
were easy to use. The acceleration from the turbocharged four was the perfect
mix of pull and grace. The steering was light but precise and didn't leave me
feeling disconnected from the road. And the suspension was firm, luxurious, and
forgiving. Add to that the Sonata's stunning looks and the fabulous "Sparkling
Ruby" paint color, the strikingly large rims, and chrome-tipped exhaust and I
In spite of
all its wondrous qualities, I am not sure I'd still buy the Sonata 2.0T. That,
you must understand, is my ultimate rulebook. I can only comfortably recommend
a car if I would realistically put down my own money for it. I could sit there
in the driver's seat of the Sonata and list every reason why I should be
chomping at the bit to own one. But logic wasn't enough. It lacked that
Volkswagen Passat--one of the Sonata's competitors--has that X-factor. Like the
Sonata, it's big, powerful, fuel-efficient, and gorgeous to behold. For
whatever reason, the Passat has 'it' but the Sonata doesn't.
I would never
anyone buy a Passat, however. After the warranty is up, the Passat will be a
maintenance nightmare. The Sonata on the other hand will be cheap and reliable,
especially since the powertrain in the Sonata is covered by the 100,000-mile
Here I am
left writing a review for a wonderful car that I am just not in love with.
Perhaps it's for the best. When I am deeply in love with a car, it usually
turns out all wrong. I get my priorities all screwed up. The Sonata might be
better off with my admiration over my undying love.
I recommend the Sonata 2.0T over its competition--even if it isn't heart-flutteringly
good. It's just great. And that'll have to just be good enough.
cheapest car could also be the solution to its weight problem.
even the highest-end vehicles were fitted with manual windows, mirrors, door
locks. Thankfully by 2012, however, most every brand-new vehicle has been built
to include a plethora of electric power assist features.
power assist has become so prevalent, most car windows don't even require the
operator to hold the switch anymore; a single push of a button will raise and
lower the windows in most modern vehicles. As for power locks, not only are
they widespread, most brand-new cars are sold with remote-operated locks as
standard, rendering the interior-mounted door lock switch virtually useless.
There is one
holdover, however, from the manual-powered days of old: the 2012 Nissan Versa,
which holds the record of being America's cheapest new car.
With a base
price of $10,990, the Versa is equipped with some seats, a steering wheel, and
an AM/FM radio. Though sparingly equipped, the Versa isn't all that bad. It
might not look like it, but it's rather spacious on the interior. In fact, the
backseat of the Versa boasts more legroom than a BMW 5 Series.
hood of the Versa, Nissan has placed a 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine
producing 109 horsepower and 107 pound feet of torque, which--in its base
form--is mated to a five-speed manual transmission. While a horse and buggy is
capable of hitting 60 MPH in less time than the Versa, it boasts an EPA
estimated 30-MPG combined fuel economy rating on 87-octane gasoline.
the 2012 Versa is cheap to buy, cheap to operate, and relatively big on the
interior. What's not to love? As it turns out: actually driving one.
paper a cheap, "big" little car seems like a no-brainer, in reality it's a bit
unpleasant. Many modern car owners--myself included--have forgotten what it's
like to own a no-frills car. When faced with a manual transmission, manual
adjust side mirrors, manual window, manual seats, and manual door locks (that
all need to be operated individually), a driver quickly wonders why they bother
with a car at all.
sound like nitpicking but allow me to paint the picture for you.
I go out to the
Nissan Versa in the morning and unlock the driver's door. Having parked on a
busy road, I need to open the passenger side backdoor to let my dog into the
back seat. Urging my coonhound to stay close to the side of the car, I lean into
the Versa and unlock the passenger door.
My dog and I
walk around to the passenger side. I lean into the Versa--this time on the
passenger side--and attempt to squeeze my arm between the side of the passenger
seat and the B-pillar to reach the rear door lock. Scraping my forearm badly
against the rough plastic, I finally manage to unlock the passenger rear door.
I open the
rear door and let my dog jump into the back. Making sure I don't pinch his
tail, I close the door and head back to the driver's door. I plop down behind
the steering wheel and notice the passenger side view mirror is out of
adjustment. I must then lean across to adjust it--darting back and forth
between my normal driving position and the far side of the cabin in order to
adjust it correctly. After several minutes of struggle, I'm ready to head to
Once at the
office, a very similar procedure follows in order to re-lock the Versa. Except
after I run around, lean through, and scrape my arm against the Versa, I
realize I have forgotten my briefcase in the backseat. I am then forced to tie
my dog to a near-by tree and recreate my entry procedures just to gain access
the back seat. What is typically a 15-minute commute takes a sweaty and arm-throbbing
30. And why suffer this ordeal, to save a couple thousand at the dealership?
openly revile this manually operated nightmare of a brand-new car, it's got me
read that over one third of Americans are now obese and another third are
overweight. My thoughts on this topic are numerous but since this is a car
review, I'll spare you. After my horror over this new factoid subsided, it made
me think of the Nissan Versa. Perhaps the Versa is just what the American
public needs to get back on its feet, as it were.
we Americans are more sedentary than ever and the food with the highest calorie
content is cheapest. Studies show even walking a bit more than normal can help
tremendously to keep weight off. Enter the Versa.
your diet or walk around your neighborhood when your daily commute can become
your source of exercise? Go sell whatever you're driving now and get behind the
wheel of America's cheapest car and watch the pounds melt off!
aside, the 2012 Versa is a pretty good car--for the money. At the base $10,990
it's not a bad deal. It has a huge interior, it's fairly fuel efficient, and
not terrible to drive. Option the Versa any higher than the base model,
however, and the value immediately falls of a cliff.
The Versa I
drove for a week had an MSRP of $14,040. As best I could tell, the only upgrades
were the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), cruise control, and carpet
floor mats. For that money I'd much rather have a Kia Rio or Mazda2, which come
standard with power amenities.
The Versa is
a unique vehicle, then. It's cheap to buy, a workout to own, and somehow--at
the same time--not really worth the money. In spite of these things, I
strangely like it.
Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track was my favorite car of 2012. I loved its understated
looks. I loved its interior design and quality. I loved its intoxicating power.
I loved its remarkable handling. Simply, it blew me away.
hadn't expected much from the Genesis Coupe before I drove it. I mistakenly
assumed Hyundai had taken the Tiburon--its last attempt at a two-door sports
coupe--moved the power from the front to the rear and gave it a new name.
Delightfully, the Genesis Coupe had me eating crow.
If the 2012
Genesis Coupe weren't good enough, to my delight, Hyundai has added direct
injection and a new eight-speed automatic to the already uproarious Genesis
Coupe lineup for 2013.
direct injection system has upped the 3.8-liter V6's power from 306 horsepower
to 348 (344 on regular gasoline) and 295 pound feet of torque. The Genesis
Coupe 3.8 will make a 0-60 run in around 5.3 seconds and hit an electronically
limited top speed of 149 MPH. The EPA has estimated the 3.8-liter-powered
Genesis Coupe at 18 MPG in the city and 28 on the highway with a combined
fuel-economy score of 22 MPG.
Not only did
Hyundai up the Genesis Coupe's power for 2013, it also upped its dynamic looks;
with a new, meaner front fascia complete with Audi-style LED accent lights, the
2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe is a real head turner. I was honestly shocked how
many people turned toward, stared at, and even pointed to the 2013 Genesis
Coupe as I drove it through the streets of Portland, Oregon.
While I had
fallen in love with the 2012 Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track with the six-speed manual
transmission, the 2013 I was given to test had been fitted with the new
confused as to why I keep referring to the Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track by its
entire name, it's because there are so damned many 'Genesis' products from Hyundai.
There's the Hyundai Genesis, which is a full-sized sedan. There's the Genesis
Coupe, which is an entirely different vehicle altogether. From there, the
Genesis Coupe is available in several models: a 2.0T model and a 3.8 model.
Then there are variations from there. There is the R-Spec, Premium, Grand Touring,
and Track. Confused? So am I.
we automotive journalist get the sportiest version of any new car--to better
'wow' us. While the Genesis Coupe with the eight-speed auto is certainly the
most news worthy of the lineup, it's not the sportiest of the breed. That title
goes to the Genesis Coupe 3.8 with the six-speed manual and I'll explain why.
eight-speed auto is a glorious transmission. Shifts are smooth and precise and
with so many gears, the engine is practically idling--no matter the road
speed--which saves fuel. Even when popped over into "Sport" mode, the
transmission doesn't hold gears very long. But that's the problem. The Genesis
Coupe is a sports car with nearly 350 horsepower. Who on earth wants to go all
eco in a shout-y, rear-wheel drive sports coupe?
quick-shifting sport mode weren't disconcerting enough; when in manual shift
mode, the eight-speed auto will still
shift gears on its own.
transmissions from other automakers--when in manual shift mode--will hold the
specified gear no matter what. In Acuras, for example, the transmission will
allow the driver bounce off the redline. Obediently, an Acura automatic won't
shift until the driver taps one of the flappy paddles.
eight-speed auto in the Hyundai Genesis Coupe is another story. If the driver
gets within 300 RPM of redline, the eight-speed will shift to the next gear.
But by then, the driver has already tapped the flappy paddle, ordering a shift.
But instead of going from second gear to third as the driver had hoped; it goes
second to third and instantly to forth because it puts the driver's desired
shift after its own automatic shift. Suddenly, the Genesis Coupe has lost power
and dropped its RPMs down to 1200.
with the eight-speed auto don't end with manual upshifts. Downshifts are
cruising in third and I'd begin to enter a corner and wish to downshift to
second. I'd hit the flappy paddle and wait. Nothing. I'd hit it again. Nothing.
A third time: nothing. Then without having had any changed to engine or vehicle
speed, it'd listen and perform my downshift. By then, however, the Genesis
Coupe was well through the corner and now engine braking on a straight.
Hyundai Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track with the eight-speed auto is far less
infuriating left to its own shifting devices in normal drive or sport modes. In
those modes, however, it's not very sporty.
eight-speed auto is best suited, I figure, to the "big daddy" Genesis sedan
with the V8. Surely, few drivers of the big Genesis will ever wish to flappy
paddle their sedan around the back roads. And on the off chance they do, their
sensibilities won't be rocked by a wayward automatic shift.
reason I loved the Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track was its sticker price. A 2012 had an
asking price around $31,000. This new one, however, with the eight-speed auto
will set customers back $35,230; the only upgrade at that price point being
carpeted floor mats. Once the Genesis Coupe nears that $35,000 mark, it's hard
not to consider the Nissan 370Z (with sport package) instead. Quite the buyers'
If it were
me, I'd take the 2013 Genesis Coupe 3.8 Track. I think it handles just a bit
better than the 370Z with a bit more interior room and has a far better
warranty. But I'd make damn sure to order the Genesis Coupe 3.8 with the six-speed
When it was
debuted in 1990, the Ford Explorer effectively changed the American automotive
an affinity for big vehicles, the Explorer took the American automotive psyche
on the next logical direction: Up. The Explorer ushered in a new era of taller,
stouter, fuel-thirstier vehicles.
quickly forgot about the big, floaty sedans beloved by their fathers before
them and embraced even bigger, truck-based 4x4s. Vehicles that once attracted
only the most seasoned outdoorsman quickly became soccermom mobiles.
As the years
rolled by, the Explorer grew--as did its popularity. Eventually, though, sales
numbers diminished and it was clear that the Explorer had to be retooled. Ford
looked to its--then--subsidiary, Volvo, and borrowed the platform from its
extremely popular XC90 SUV and went back to the drawing board.
came up with was a drastically new Explorer. More car than traditional SUV, the
Explorer aimed to satisfy the new American sensibilities. The new Explorer is
softer, more car-like, and much more tech-savvy.
Ford fitted the Explorer with Sync and MyFord Touch, systems that allow owners
to utilize multimedia features and customize and their vehicle settings all
from one touch-screen input.
vehicle had the base 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 290 horsepower and 255 pound
feet of torque. Mated to the V6: a six-speed automatic transmission and the
optional four-wheel drive system. The EPA has rated the Explorer with the V6
and all-wheel drive at 17 MPG in the city and 23 on the highway.
also offer an engine upgrade: a 2-liter EcoBoost inline four-cylinder
turbocharged engine that produces 240 horsepower and 270 pound feet of torque.
While the V6 is designed to run on regular 87 octane gasoline, the EcoBoost
The big, new
body design of the Explorer is rather polarizing. Some love it and others hate
it. I'm rather in the middle. The front end, in my mind, is spot-on. The middle
and back sections are a bit too minivan-like for my taste.
interior, Ford went above and beyond the call of duty, in terms of safety.
Ensuring they met or exceeded crash ratings, Ford over engineered the Explorer
making it incredibly safe, especially in side impact collisions. Outward
visibility does suffer, however, thanks to this overwhelming attention to
safety. The C-pillars are so thick it is virtually impossible to see anything
out of the Explorer over the driver's right shoulder. If it weren't for lane
departure warning lights in the side view mirrors and the backup camera,
maneuvering the Explorer would be virtually impossible.
a life-long Explorer fan, I was immediately skeptical of this new, bulbous
creature sporting an Explorer badge. After several days behind the wheel,
however, I was sold.
space is enormous and easily accommodates seven passengers. Even tall
drivers--like myself--have cavernous headroom. The third-row of seats cleverly
fold and stow away electronically in any number of ways with the push of a
from the base V6 was smooth and controllable and cornering felt solid and
nothing like the rollover prone Explorers of the past. With the electronic
power steering, Ford even includes park assist, which will find a parking spot
and then parallel park itself with the driver in control of the brake and
I felt the 2012 Explorer a homerun. Except for one big issue: price. The
vehicle I tested had an MSRP of $46,345. For that money customers can get a
well-equipped Volvo XC90, an Audi Q7, or an Acura RDX. All of which handle
better, are more luxurious, and have more powerful engines.
American cars weren't as good as those of other countries. But they were
cheaper, so they had a viable place in the market. That business model,
however, proved unsustainable. And American car companies--like Ford--had to step
up and modernize. Ford is now faced with a new, more frustrating problem: The
Explorer is just as modern as its competitors from any continent. It's just too
best car review I have ever read was Jeremy Clarkson's review of the Chrysler
Sebring Convertible. After having filmed an episode of Top Gear out on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Jeremy, James, and
Richard all piled into their rented Sebring and headed for Salt Lake City.
ferociousness with which Jeremy tore into the Sebring was absolutely
delightful. After reading his review, I couldn't wait to get my hands on a
Sebring Convertible to experience the catastrophe for myself.
To my chagrin,
the Sebring was discontinued before I could get my hands on it; replaced by the
Chrysler 200. To my delight, however, the 200 is now available in Convertible
form as well.
My test 200
Convertible was "Deep Cherry Red Crystal Pearl" or as I like to call it
"burgundy." Beyond the extensive list of standard equipment, my 200 Convertible
had been fitted with heated seats, Bluetooth, and a black cloth convertible top.
Though, if I'm perfectly honest, I'm not sure what the standard roof would be
if not black cloth.
vehicle had been given a $1,795 upgrade from the base engine to the 3.6-liter
Pentastar V6, which produces 283 horsepower and 260 pound feet of torque. The
base powertrain offering is a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder producing 173
horsepower and 166 pound feet of torque. Bolted to either of the engine options
is a six-speed automatic.
200 is a fairly unique experience. With the Pentastar, the 200 is blessed one
of the smoothest V6 engines around bolted to an even smoother automatic
gearbox. The Pentastar is capable of producing enough power to rival lower-end
BMWs in a straight line. Try to do anything but a straight line pull in the 200
Convertible and the vehicle goes all wonky. Turn the wheel slightly and torque
steer will overpower. Hit a bump and the flex-y body will send you equally off
course. It is, without a doubt, a vehicle best kept under 50 MPH and at
to say the 200 Convertible is bad. It isn't. It's just not what one might
expect. Look to the rest of the American convertible market at vehicles like
the Mustang Convertible or the Camaro Convertible and one might assume the 200
Convertible is a worthy opponent. It's not. A comparable Mustang Convertible
starts at $31,200 and a comparable Camaro Convertible at $30,180. Both are
rear-wheel drive with similarly sized V6 engines but producer far more
the 200 Convertible can't be sold on price, power, or creature comforts. It can,
however, be sold on looks and sheer determination.
not a knockout, it doesn't look anything like a muscle car, which will
certainly be a benefit to some buyers who don't wish to look like they're
making up for something (if you know what I mean). Also, the automatically
retractable top stows away nicely into the trunk in a matter of moments so
there's no unsightly cloth hump in your rearview.
the 200 Convertible is backed by a five-year/100,000 powertrain warranty, which
is a far sight better than any of its competitors.
Jeremy Clarkson, he recently--and rightfully--observed that the wind is an
all-consuming thing. Whether you drive a $100,000 convertible or a $20,000
convertible--above a certain speed--it doesn't really matter. The wind then is
a great equalizer.
If you're in
the market for a convertible and simply won't be caught dead in a Camaro or a
Miata and dare not spend $40,000 on a Volkswagen EOS, then by all means
consider the Chrysler 200.
the base model, however, which starts at $26,575. Although I love the Pentastar
V6, I fear it is just too much for the 200 to handle. I can only hope the next
generation 200 will be Alfa Romeo-based and a bit more stout and truly worthy
of the Pentastar's power.
Believe it or not, the Viper is back. Unlike its high-performance compatriots, the Viper hasn't wussed out and remains a testament to the American belief that: "There's no replacement for displacement."
The Viper has been fitted with a ludicrously large 8.4-liter V10 producing 640 horsepower and 600 pound feet of torque. And with gas nearing $5/gallon, why even ask about fuel economy? It'll surely be in the single digits, if you're lucky.
The body is reminiscent of its relatives but has been sculpted from carbon-fiber and aluminum and has a drag co-efficient of .364, which is pretty good, let's say. The Viper's traction control system has been cleverly named "DampTronic" or "MoistTronic" in England.
While the Germans feverishly build V12, twin turbocharged supercars like the SL 65 AMG that harness both the power of a dying star and the plush luxury of an Oil Sheik's harem, Americans build supercars like the Viper. Cars that prove that dying can be fun. And loud.
it. Jeremy, as we are lead to believe, is a 6 foot 5, well spoken, quick-witted
Brit gallivanting around the planet driving cars and having adventures. When
he's at home, he's known to berate road crews for causing a delay and call for
the assassination of striking public workers. Surely, he's a ratings magnet
invented by the British media to both horrify and demonstrate British social
dominance over the rest of the world.
might argue that we've seen him for over 18 series on Top Gear and countless
candid photos on the web, therefore he must surely exist. But we've seen plenty
of tall, curly haired beasts on the TV and Interwebs that don't really exist:
Sasquatch for example.
I don't know
anyone who has ever seen him in person. I have met many--if not most--big-name
automotive journalists and none has met him. I've been to the towns that he's
written about and the locals don't recall him. They saw camera crews, Richard
Hammond, etc, but never Clarkson himself.
automotive journalist, he's hit unfathomable success. He drives the best of the
best that the world's automakers have to offer. He writes pithy, tooth-achingly
funny reviews of them. And he's the mind behind the world's foremost automotive
program Top Gear. If that weren't
enough, Clarkson's annual income is just slightly above that of Shaq and only a
hair below the Queen.
conclude then that he is simply an invention of a conglomeration of
entertainment geniuses much like Franklin W Dixon, Santa Clause, and Ronald
Step one: Become
an automotive journalist.
Step two: _________________
I now know
step two should read 'Become Jeremy Clarkson.' Ya know, if that were possible.
There are a few international vehicles that we don't see stateside that we really wish we could. At the top of the list is this: The 2012 Land Rover Defender. New for 2012 is a 2.2-liter Diesel engine. It's powerful, torque-y, and most importantly clean, furthering Land Rover's motto, "Tread Lightly."
In America, when we want to make something better, we usually make it
bigger and flashier. Take anything Donald Trump has ever done. "Sure,
that's a good looking building. But it could really use some gold. And
my name in 100-foot lettering on the side." Rarely do the golden, bejeweled skyscrapers look better or more impressive then their understated counterparts.
This is what happened with the 2011 Acura TL: it was Trumped.
Underneath, the 2011 TL was a spectacular car. But Acura stepped outside
its norm and fitted a chrome snout that put Rick Ross to shame.
Subsequently, they didn't sell many. So Acura quickly ran back to the
drawing board and toned the nose down a bit for 2012.
This should be a good thing, right? Well, generally speaking it is.
But the 2012 doesn't stand out like the 2011 did. My mechanic friend
said it looked like a nicer Toyota Camry. And he's right. It does. The
one thing you could say for the hideous fascia of the 2011 was that it
was distinctive. It didn't look like anything else on the road mostly
because no other automaker had the gall to design a grille like it.
People had to decide whether they loved it or hated it. With the 2011
TL, there was no middle ground
love cars like that. Shrug your shoulders cars are a dime a dozen. It
takes something special for people to stand up and rail against it. Sure
people were saying bad things about the 2011's looks but at least they
were talking about it.
For those who could look past the front end and climb into the cabin,
they were greatly rewarded: spot-on interior appointments, firm but
luxurious ride quality, an American-built 3.7-liter 305-horsepower V6
that was nearly better than sex, and-if you were smart-a six-speed
Unfortunately, my 2012 press car doesn't have a six-speed manual.
Instead it has the standard Acura go-to transmission, the six-speed auto
with Sequential Sport Shift. The automatic is nonetheless brilliant.
Sporty when you need, smooth when you don't.
My 2012 TL also has the Super-Handling all-wheel-drive system
(SH-AWD), which I love. In many cases, specifically extreme handling
situations, I find the SH-AWD grips better and feels more sure-footed
than the Audi Quattro system. Audi tends to under-steer in a crisis as
where the Acura remains sure-footed and confidence inspiring.
2012 starts at just above $35,000 and as tested was just shy of
$46,000. I think it's well worth the money. There is something so
effortless about the Acura line, especially the TL. It has the kind of
confidence that Cadillac wishes they could harness. They're quiet,
comfortable, sleek, unassuming but also undeniably masculine. Not to
mention Acura's stellar reliability ratings.
Though it doesn't look quite as flashy as it did last year, the 2012
is still just as exhilarating to drive. I like it so much in fact that
the 2012 Acura TL has officially joined my "Five Cars I'd Actually Buy"
list. I just can't get enough of it.
The 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited is one of the five vehicles
currently on sale that I would actually buy. This is no small feat for a
Chrysler product to hit the top of my wish list. Before the government
bailout, I would never have even considered a Chrysler product.
For 2012, the Jeep Wrangler receives several updates, most notably to
the drive train. It has been fitted with the 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and
an optional 5-speed automatic transmission.
For most any other automaker, the move from a 3.8-liter to a
3.6-liter V6 isn't very newsworthy or exciting. Out with the old and in
with the new. But for Chrysler and Jeep, it's a bit more significant.
The outgoing motor stands as a stark reminder of the old, pre-bailout
Chrysler. For years, a 4-liter inline six-cylinder engine famously
powered most Jeep products. It was powerful and reliable.
But eventually the old 4-liter just couldn't be tweaked enough to
meet increasingly stringent emissions requirements so it had to be
replaced. With nothing much better in the pipelines, Chrysler looked
through its spare parts bin and found a 3.8-liter minivan motor that
would fit, bolted it in, and sold it. Essentially ruining the Wrangler.
It was still amazing off-road but it lacked soul, which was the one
thing Wrangler had above any of its competitors.
Fortunately we're past all that now. Chrysler was bailed out and
picked up by Italian auto giant Fiat. And we finally get to see release
of all those decades of pent-up passion. We get marvelous things like
the Pentastar and the re-birth of the soulful Wrangler.
The old 3.8 V6 had 202 horsepower and 237 foot-pounds of torque. It
was slow and gas-thirsty. In stark contrast, the Pentastar has 285 hp
and 260 ftlbs. And for the first time ever, the Wrangler achieves 21
the interior has greatly improved as well. Unlike Jeeps of old, the
interior in the 2012 feels solid, well made, and it seems like someone
actually took the time to think through cabin materials and layout.
On the outside they've also made the Wrangler more appealing and
approachable. Jeep is rolling out a hand-full of fun new colors (my
favorite is "Dozer") and You can now get a body-colored hardtop to
match. The Wrangler now looks more solid and, with a body-colored roof,
not as pieced together. The Wrangler finally looks finished.
To me, the Wrangler Unlimited is the ultimate American vehicle. It
has distinctive good looks. Its off-road prowess is stronger than ever.
And not only will it virtually drive itself over any obstacle you throw
in its path, it'll also get your kids to and from school with ease and
comfort. You can drive it to the mountain or you can take it out on
date-night without appearing out of place on either outing.
What's astonishing is that it only took a few upgrades to bring the
Wrangler up to contender status. Proving any bad car isn't actually too
far from stardom--at least when it's got the kind of pedigree that the
Ultimately, I couldn't be happier or prouder of Jeep and Chrysler.
They were given a new life and have taken it by the horns, proving the
American auto industry isn't dead. And I can't wait to see what they
journalists and consumers alike have great disdain for the Crosstour.
Not only do they knock its looks, they're also not sure what to other
vehicles on the market to compare it to. While I can't change people's
minds on its outward appearance (personally, I have grown accustom to
its looks and find it rather cheeky) I can influence the way the see it
in the market. To do so, we need to travel back 31 years to 1980.
the AMC Eagle? It was the eight-year-long experiment with the heart of a
wood-paneled family wagon and the brawn of a 4×4 Jeep. It also stands
as having been the first crossover (CUV) ever built, which is now a
hugely popular breed of automobiles.
But as brilliant as the idea might have been, the Eagle was not
without its faults. The Eagle was far smaller on the interior than the
exterior would lead on. The engine was famously gas-thirsty-despite
AMC's hopes that it would prove more efficient than its Jeep cousins.
And the steering was frighteningly numb and unresponsive. It could,
however, off-road with the best of them.
For better or worse, the AMC Eagle did not live on. But its soul did,
inspiring newer, better vehicles like the Honda Crosstour. Would Honda
ever admit the AMC Eagle was inspiration? Probably not, but you can be
the judge for yourself.
Thankfully the Crosstour didn't fall into the traps left by its
long-lost predecessor the Eagle. The Crosstour is roomy on the interior.
The 3.5-liter, 271 horsepower V6 is also rather miserly with fuel. And
the Honda real-time all-wheel-drive system runs with the best of them.
So why is there such an uproar over the lack of current competition
for the Crosstour? Isn't that a good thing? The AMC Eagle was like
nothing else on the market in the '80s but it set the stage for one of
the most profitable segments in the auto industry today. Perhaps this is
the fate of the Crosstour as well.
Since the launch of the Honda Crosstour in 2009 we've seen a rash of
like-bodied vehicles from some of the most hard-hitting automakers in
the world. Here are just a few:
Fall 2009 - The Porsche Panamera
Spring 2010 - The Aston Martin Rapide
Summer 2011 - The Audi A7
Ultimately I don't think it matters that the Crosstour lacks a direct
market comparison at the moment. It doesn't need one. I imagine it
represents a forward-facing view aimed at the future of automobile
Most CUVs still handle like their more truck-like cousins, the SUV.
With the introduction-and subsequent popularity-of high-end
sedan-hatches (my designation) like the Panamera, we're beginning to see
the demand for vehicles that handle like big sedans with the utility of
a wagon. The Crosstour fits that mold perfectly.
As a fan of wagons, large sedans, and crossovers, I find a lot of
sensibility-based pleasure in the Crosstour. It's powerful, roomy, well
built, and fuel-efficient. It handles well and delightfully its
distinctive looks aren't minivan-ish in the slightest.
Crossover is the perfect car for a modern family man. You have the AWD
to handle most anything the planet throws at you. You have the handling
and power that give us men that certain fizzy feeling we so desire from
time-to-time. It's a practical family hauler, when you need. And it
doesn't look like you've been browbeaten into a mom-mobile.
So if you're the kind of person who is concerned that another
automaker doesn't offer a Crosstour clone, you're probably just not
ready for it. I think it's the future of CUVs. And I, for one, am
The DFM boys were fortunate enough to take a trip to Australia this month. They snapped some pictures of some seriously cool cars. But of them all, this one was their favorite: a clearly well loved 2005 Ford Falcon XR8 Utility. Unlike in the US, Australian Utes lived on to become sport-inspired road warriors.