By on December 26, 2013

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Over the past year, we’ve collectively driven hundreds of cars between us. We thought that we’d bring you an unofficial list of some of our favorites for the year.

Jack Baruth:

Best car: Regrettably, it’s the Mercedes SLS AMG Black Series. It combines all the drama and thrill of the Viper with a buttoned-down suspension that makes it usable on fast back roads. Did I mention the gullwing doors? You can drive the car with them up. This car causes more dropped panties than a Victoria’s Secret changing room. It’s so far above the other $296,000 cars on the market it isn’t funny.
Honorable Mention: If you don’t have $296,000, then this year I’m recommending the Camry SE in four-cylinder trim. Supple, capable, trackable. Probably will last forever. And for 2014 they upgraded the interior just a bit.
Least favorite car of the year? Probably the BMW 435i, which isn’t a bad car measured objectively against the Audi and Mercedes competition but which utterly fails to evoke any of the delight you used to get from the E46 or even the outgoing E90 coupe.
Derek Kreindler:
Best car: The Ford Fiesta ST lives up to the hype, and is even better than the “warm hatch” Focus ST.  On a 250 mile highway round trip, while returning 34 mpg. The 1.6L Ecoboost chugged along, delivering tugboat-like thrust, and I sat comfortably in the fat-bolstered Recaro bucket seats, enjoying a relatively civilized ride. It may not beat Jack’s beloved Camry V6 in a stoplight drag race, but when the road deviates from straight, it delivers the “driving a slow car fast” thrills of a Miata without being all that slow. If you can get past the build quality issues (which were present on my tester), it’s the most enjoyable junior performance car on sale today, bar none.
Honorable mention: The Jaguar F-Type is not as competent on track as its rivals, but nothing I’ve driven this year makes you feel so alive. On the truck side, the Ram 1500 Diesel delivers outstanding fuel economy in a capable, half-ton package.
Worst car: The Lincoln MKZ. My review may have been a bit harsh, but it offers no real compelling reason to buy one over any competitor. The Jeep Cherokee I drove was competent off-road but immensely disappointing on-road considering how much promise it had – and how good the Grand Cherokee is – but I’ll be getting another production example in March to re-evaluate it.

Ronnie Schreiber:

Both cars are Chrysler products. The car that impressed me the most was the Chrysler 300S AWD and the car that disappointed me the most was the Dodge Dart Limited.

Favorite car I drove all-year: Last year I reviewed a Chrysler 300 Luxury Series that was fully loaded save for the fact that it came with a Pentastar V6 and an 8 speed automatic transmission, not the Hemi and a six speed. I happened to have driven it back to back with a Jaguar XF Supercharged and since the cars were both 5 passenger RWD sedans with tons of features, I couldn’t help but ask if the Jaguar was worth $25,000 more than the Chrysler. I decided that the refinement and the extra 200 horsepower of the XF explained the difference. This year I got to drive a Hemi powered AWD Chrysler 300S and while it didn’t have quite as many luxury features as the 300 I drove last year, if that Luxury Series 300 had been equipped with the Hemi, that $25,000 question would have been much harder to answer. The 300 is a fine automobile, evidence that American car companies are capable of building a great sedan.

Biggest let-down: the Dodge Dart to see if the folks in Auburn Hills had made a class competitive compact car for the American market from the bones of an Alfa Romeo platform. There were things about it that I liked, it’s spacious and comfortable and can almost handle but the 2.0L/automatic drivetrain was such a dog that it impacted my overall impression of the car. I rarely used paddle shifters or autostick it in cars so equipped but it was necessary to keep up with traffic safely in the 2.0/auto Dart. Also, driving it back to back with the Chrysler 300 drove home the fact that there are substantial differences in component and build quality between a car with a base MSRP of ~$17,000 and one that starts closer to $30K. While photographing the car I noticed a paint flaw, where the paint had left a “run” about an inch and a half long. I used to work in an automotive paint R&am
p;D lab and I haven’t seen a flaw on a production car’s paint like that in about 20 years.

Special Honorable Mention: the Toyota Crown Royal I got to drive at a Toyota hybrid event, because I’m old and I sometimes like a little insulation from the world. In many ways it’s the antithesis of the Chrysler 300S or the Jaguar XF. There is nothing sporty about the Crown Royal, it has no S setting, but it was just so smooth and serene that it was worthy of note. There were a lot of unusual and interesting vehicles to drive at that event, but just about everyone wanted to try out the Crown Royal and all that did exited the car with smiles on their faces.

Bark M:
Favorite Car of the Year: 2014 Shelby GT500 Mustang. Yes, yes, it’s predictable that the Mustang owner would pick a Mustang as his favorite car of the year, but it’s also just the truth. We may never see its kind again—a whomping 662 horses in a no-excuses package. They removed the grill, for chrissakes. It’s hard to see Ford greenlighting another monster like this one. Grab one if you still can. It’s just insanity on four wheels.
Worst car of the year: 2013 Chevrolet Captiva Sport/2013 Volkwagen Passat. The Captiva is just a discredit to everybody involved—GM, the rental car companies, the dealers who buy it at auction. It’s based on a platform that’s a nearly a decade old, with none of the modern conveniences one would come to expect with a vehicle labled as a “2013.” If they kept it rental-only, fine. It’s when it shows up as a late-model on a Chevy lot that it becomes truly embarrassing.
The Volkswagen Passat (The American version, that is) has done nothing but get worse and worse every year, to where it’s barely recognizable as a Volkswagen. Even VW has apparently realized the damage they’re doing to their nameplate with this car and is restoring a few features to it for 2014. Thank God.

Alex Dykes:

Best:
RAM 1500 Diesel – The car company lampooned last decade for doing everything wrong seems to have found their mojo. 2014 combines a sweet 3.0L V6 turbo diesel engine with a ZF 8-speed automatic, healthy tow ratings and one of the best infotainment systems on the market. Chrysler will gladly stuff the torque-happy towing champ in their base Tradesman pickup or their cowboy Cadillac with stitched leather dash bits and real wood trim. Yeehaw!

Honda Accord Hybrid – Honda has tried dethroning the Prius for ages with hybrid Civics and even dedicated hybrid models to no avail. Until now. The 2014 Accord is combines decent handling, traditional sedan looks and impressive fuel economy numbers. There have been others that have claimed 47 MPG, but the Accord is the first to deliver in the real world putting the better handling, more attractive and more comfortable Accord just 3 MPG shy of Toyota’s fuel sipper. By not attacking the Prius head, on Honda has accidentally created the best Prius alternative to date.

Worst:

MitsubishiOutlander – Let’s face it, unless Mitsubishi pulls a rabbit out of their hat, they are the latest dead brand walking. The new Outback is unremarkable inside and out.  Old engines combine with slow transmissions and 1990s interior styling to create a completely forgettable crossover. The Outlander is $4,000 less than a 7-seat Kia Sorento, unfortunately for Mitsubishi, the Sorento is totally worth the $4,000 bump.

Smart FourTwo – At $13,270 the Smart sounds like a great idea. Until you look at the price and discover a Nissan Versa sedan is 10% cheaper, seats 150% more people, carries more stuff, gets better fuel economy and has a transmission that doesn’t shift like a drunk 14 year old learning to drive a stick. If you really must own a 3-cylinder conveyance in America, get a 3-cylinder Fiesta or a Mitsubishi Mirage.

Murilee Martin:

Best car: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution with manual transmission. This car is so spirally-eyed ridiculous and its powertrain such an engineering masterpiece that you won’t mind the tooth-loosening ride, tinny Lancer bodywork, and dismaying thirst for fuel. Of all the press cars I’ve driven in recent years, this is the one I’m most tempted to go out and buy. You must get the manual transmission to appreciate this car, even though it’s an early-90s-style 5-speed that keeps the engine screaming at nearly four grand on the highway.

Best light truck: Piaggio Ape. So small it barely exists, yet does most of what a truck should do: haul stuff, keep the rain off you, repair easily. Needs a stereo, though.

Worst: Rental-car-grade Nissan Altima. The civilian Altima might be just fine, but the several rentals I had over the last year managed to be even more unpleasant to drive than the previous LeMons Staffer Worst Rental Car of All Time (the Dodge Nitro). Steering feels disconnected from driver input (a pro racer says it feels like there’s a built-in 1/10th-second delay in steering input), resulting in exhausting and constant overcorrections on the highway. CVT howls, hunts for ratios, can’t find them. If you have a choice between the Altima and a Little Tikes Cozy Coupe at the rental-car counter, take the Cozy Coupe.

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168 Comments on “TTAC Editors Pick Their Best And Worst Of 2013...”


  • avatar

    The Dodge Dart isn’t a let down, but the company fouled up the release. They put out manuals first and took their sweet time getting automatics to the floor. They also continue to release underpowered small cars with no option for enthusiasts. An SRT Dart should have been available by now.

    Other than that, the Dart is a pretty good small car. The brilliant thing FIATSLER has done is made Uconnect touch available throughout the model list. The Cherokee for example feels just like my Grand Cherokee SRT with the Dart’s seats in it.

    LINCOLN MKZ- I agree. Total letdown and ridiculously overpriced.

    Like the 2014 CTS, people old enough to still desire a Lincoln expect a V8 to be available. What they don’t expect is to be paying in excess of $51,000 for a V6.

    Why is the CTS more expensive than the XTS with the 3.6-L V6 when similarly equipped with CUE and panoramic roof???

    What am I paying extra for? A motorized cup holder that I couldn’t give a damn about?

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I would be fine with the MKZ if it had an Ecoboost V6 among other changes. I don’t think it needs a V8. A 3.0TT V6 with 325+ HP would be going in the right direction.

      I would say even a smaller V6, but it has been written in these pages that any V6 engine under 3.0L is the work of Satan. I cannot disagree.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        2.7-liter engines are particularly cursed. Just ask Chrysler/Mitsubishi and Hyundai. There’s also talk of the next F-150 getting a 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6…

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          I dunno. The Honda C27 was fine, even though it ended up being a footnote for the first-gen Legend.

          • 0 avatar
            Drewlssix

            I have a fondness for the mazda K series. From the rotary esque 1.8 to the JDM only ZE and even the odd 2.3miller. I have never driven one but the Mitsubishi 2.0 v6 and the FTO would be on my import list. Oh! The Alfa 2.5 is supposed to be sweet and the Maserati TT

    • 0 avatar
      goldtownpe

      Dodge Dart is definitely a let down. Especially since Chrysler has been releasing some great products lately. The attention to details on this car is atrocious. Check out these spikes in the trunk.

      http://www.edmunds.com/dodge/dart/2013/long-term-road-test/2013-dodge-dart-beware-of-trunk-spikes.html

      Why anyone thought it was a good idea to use these in the truck area is beyond me. I’ve never seen this in any car ever in my life. Makes you wonder about the other small details you can’t see.

      • 0 avatar
        brettc

        How could they sell a car today with trunk daggers like that? That is insane. My 85 Jetta had sharp edges, but that was only after I took a jig saw to the rear deck to install larger speakers. The Dart is definitely a failure for Chrysler, what with its ~7000 units sold per month while the competition is selling many more (even VW is selling more Jettas at the moment). It’s a nice car in theory, but the engines are pretty crappy and I don’t know what they were thinking with the 100000 combinations for the options on the car. We looked at it but it was low-rent and the number of options/configurations made my head hurt.

      • 0 avatar
        AlternateReality

        This one’s an even better example of Fiasler quality control and engineering prowess…

        http://www.edmunds.com/dodge/dart/2013/long-term-road-test/2013-dodge-dart-sxt-rallye-throttle-malfunction.html

        Sure does make you want to rush right out and buy one, huh? I think a case could be made for the Dart being the worst new vehicle available for sale right now in the U.S.

    • 0 avatar
      Flybrian

      I know a semi-rural C-J-D-R store that went an entire month (I think October?) without retailing a single Dart. That qualifies it as a ‘letdown.’

    • 0 avatar
      alexndr333

      Bigtruck,
      Your rhetorical question about the cost of the CTS versus the XTS is just that: Rhetorical. As you know (or should know) the cars are entirely different driving experiences, and a prospective CTS buyer is not looking for an XTS (and vice versa). A snarky remark about powered cupholders does you no credit.

    • 0 avatar
      Brett Woods

      The Dodge Dart was just a wee bit of a let down design wise, I feel. It has all of the qualities to attract the ladies; a lot of good qualities I don’t need to list. But you can’t see the front of the car from the driver’s seat! This can be a deal breaker for so many of those who like a seat that goes up so you can reach the steering wheel easily, and who want to see out well. These are the same people who may say a car is, “too big.” Some people like to see where the bumper is, and the Dart’s hood just dives away to invisibility. There isn’t even a hood emblem to help gauge distances. It’s a common fault of many current models that otherwise might attract working women in droves.

  • avatar

    Most overhyped letdown of the year: ACURA RLX

    Buy this instead: HYUNDAI EQUUS!

  • avatar

    Most overhyped letdown of the year: SUBARU BRZ/ SCION FRS.

    BUY THIS INSTEAD: Hyundai Genesis Coupe

    • 0 avatar

      I disagree, and Jack’s review of the three does as well; buy a Miata. But I do not consider the BRZ or FRS a let down by any means.

    • 0 avatar
      jaje

      Could not disagree more on a BRZ/FRS as worst car of the year. Drive one on some tight twisty roads, put the traction control in sport mode to let the tail wag a little – then try not to have a big ole grin from ear to ear. This platform actually does live up to much of the hype and is a pure sports car.

    • 0 avatar
      krayzie

      Typical comment from overweight rednecks that can only fit in lard ass big trucks and don’t have the slightest clue on how to drive properly while sitting in a gangsta lean position.

    • 0 avatar
      DevilsRotary86

      I agree with BlueBrat’s and jeje’s disagreement, though krayzie could dstand to tone it down a little. The Hyundai Genesis Coupe is nice, but it’s a little on the porky side for my tastes. The Scion FR-S is perfect for me: I miss my Miata but I need a back seat on account of having a daughter now.

      Of course, when it came time to put down real cash I wound up with a used Acura instead. However, I am still quite confident that I would be driving an FR-S now if I hadn’t found that just-perfect low mileage Acura sitting on the used lot looking like it had just rolled off the line at Suzuka (save the yellow left headlight of course).

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        I am not fond of the Toybaru Twins because I think they have interiors that are of cheap/spartan construction and materials, too harsh a ride for daily driver duty (especially given that they don’t provide anything above middling acceleration, IMO), but even with that said – the back seat is so tight that it is borderline unusable for even small children.

        It’s so small, with such marginal legroom, in fact, that the rear seats should be considered more as a second trunk for carrying ‘stuff’ rather than people.

        • 0 avatar
          jaje

          I got one of the first BRZs sold in my area. Yes it is harsher (but not punishing) over bumps than the more GT type competition (bigger cars with bigger engines and more weight). The BRZ is not that fast in a straight line either but the designers didn’t want to make another Mustang competitor and instead made the car unlike anything sold anywhere near this price range. Great handling, braking in a very low package. This negatively affects the interior room being very low to the ground, difficult ingress / egress, the backseat is unusable unless you are agile and small, and the stock prius compound tires have very little grip (however it’s really easy to drive slowly but have fun). But my biggest gripe so far is the Nav / Audio interface as it is hard to use, the map program is counter intuitive and almost impossible to use at times. Though this car is priced near your entry level sporty cars (this includes the Mustang or Genesis Coupe) it is the cheapest true sports car you can buy today and a modern version of the Porsche 944 or if Mazda made a coupe version of its Miata.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            I think your response to my comment was very objective, complete & honest.

            I still maintain that by today’s standards, though, the Toybarus have somewhat cheap looking & cheaply finished interiors.

            As for ride quality and chassis refinement, I won’t say that the cars don’t at least suffice given their target buyers – people who are willing to trade refinement for a relatively affordable, rwd “sporty” car.

            I never have and never will understand the whole Prius tire thing…

  • avatar

    Best new car destined to sell like hotcakes:

    MERCEDES CLA

    Can’t afford one? Buy this instead:

    Hyundai Sonata 2.0t

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      In your satire, you actually hit on an important point. The CLA is the first product of its kind, and has set an entire blueprint for what an entry-level luxury car should be. BMW, Lexus and Audi are all very jealous…

      • 0 avatar
        Lie2me

        “The CLA is the first product of its kind”

        Is this satire on satire?

        • 0 avatar
          Drewlssix

          The CLA is the pro-wing of the benz line up. Husbands and parents who know nothing will buy these for daughters and wives thinking they got the three pointed star badge for a great price and some new owners might even enjoy that new car glow for a day or so until they run into someone who knows better and gets called out. Better to rock some nice Adidas then settle for the lamest Nikes.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “…and has set an entire blueprint for what an entry-level luxury car should be.”

      Why is the CLA considered luxury? Is is because its made by Mercedes-Benz, because quite frankly I don’t see it. It’s definitely a premium car, along with others in the MB stable, but I have a hard time defining it (and others) as luxury.

      I will say this. MB et al. has cajoled a significant part of the population into thinking that everything they make is “luxury” and charge accordingly. But hey, who am I to argue, especially when it seems to be very successful.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        I’ve not yet driven a CLA, but it’s a major dilution of MBs heritage, at least here in the U.S., and moreover, with the major caveat that I’ve yet to drive one, I’d be shocked if I DID NOT prefer the way a Ford Fusion 2.0T drove in terms of steering feel, solidity of the chassis and overall road manners.

        I certainly know which one looks nicer in terms of exterior design – the CLA looks like it hit every branch while falling out of the fugly tree, and could easily be mistaken for the next generation Hyundai Sonata IF Nigeria’s design team really botched things.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Worst car of the year for me is the ES350 Lexus. Got one as a loaner when my wifes car was being detailed and preventive maintenance. Although my wife likes it she said there was no compelling reason to upgrade to it. I took her to the local Yada Dealership and she drove an Avalon and she pretty much stated “this is about as good as the new ES for alot less money”. 47K VS 39K. She also stated that she didnt care if Toyota did make Lexus she did not want to own a Toyota of any form. I for one thought that other than being newer and better overall interior room the old ES was better.

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    I definitely agree with the Altima as a bad car. I drove a rental Altima for the F1 race in Texas and my god what a bad car.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      I do not know if there really is a difference between rental grade Altimas and retail grade ones, but the two times I rented Altimas in the past 3 years were two of the most miserable sedan rental car experiences I have had in a long time.

      Both cars had ridiculously cheap interior material/trim, agrarian level motors (4 cylinders), numb steering, and let in a tone of road noise.

      I don’t get the appeal of Nissan at all, whether it’s the Altima, Maxima, Rogue or 370Z.

  • avatar
    dantes_inferno

    >The Volkswagen Passat (The American version, that is) has done nothing but get worse and worse every year, to where it’s barely recognizable as a Volkswagen. Even VW has apparently realized the damage they’re doing to their nameplate with this car and is restoring a few features to it for 2014. Thank God.

    And “Drama Queen of the Year” goes to Bark M:

    > has done nothing but get worse and worse every year, to where it’s barely recognizable as a Volkswagen.

    Until you consider the fact that this Chattanooga-based iteration has only been on the market for two years. This quote gives the impression that this version has been on the market for 3 or more years.

    > Even VW has apparently realized the damage they’re doing to their nameplate with this car and is restoring a few features to it for 2014. Thank God.

    I believe Bark was referring to the upcoming 1.8T engine replacing the not exciting, but bulletproof 2.5L five. That was done for CAFE-related reasons (read: a business decision), not because there was some massive outcry of pain from the automotive journalistic masses (as some would like for us to believe).

    I for one would go with the five, as the 1.8T is a new engine, and my modus operandi is to purchase a vehicle with an engine at or near the end of its lifecycle where the majority of bugs have been worked out. The 1.8T looks good on paper, but it’s too new for me. I prefer to let others volunteer to become beta testers for the automotive industry.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      I like the 2.5L in the MKV Jetta/Golf with the 5-speed. Other than that, no thank you. Dropping the 2.5 was done for business reasons, but not just because of CAFE. Consumers had plenty of better choices for fuel economy or HP than the five pot in the Passat.

    • 0 avatar
      Pch101

      The 2.5-liter was an oddball in the lineup, developed largely for North America and used only in North America and the Middle East.

      VW doesn’t sell enough cars in those markets to justify the ongoing use of such a motor.

      The 1.8-liter turbo that replaces it is part of a family of world motors that are used in a variety of VWs, Audi, Skodas and SEATs. That should reduce R&D and production costs, which makes a lot more sense for the bottom line and fits in well with VAG’s plans for modular development.

    • 0 avatar
      Manic

      That 1,8 L TSI has been in use in Europe 6-7 years now, stuffed to more than 10 car models under VAG’s 4 brands. Tens of thousands of cars have it. Haven’t heard about bigger problems.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Volkswagen_Group_petrol_engines#Four_cylinder_EA888_petrols

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    As a Lincoln fan, it pains me to agree with Derek. While I don’t think the MKZ is a “bad car”, its a worse car than the Fusion. I am very disappointed in so many aspects of that vehicle. A FWD or AWD sedan can still be a great car, but Lincoln didn’t do anything to make the MKZ one. Adding a panoramic moonroof, push button transmission, waterfall dashboard, and “technology” to a Fusion actually made it worse. Lincoln, if you are bent on not using the Mustang platform, then buy a damn A6/A7 and figure out while you can’t seem to build that.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I don’t see the Passat being all that awful, just taking a different tack than the old generation. I think it holds it’s own against the Malibu and Camry, but not to the Accord or Fusion level. A little upgrade on the interior is welcome, but I also like it’s conservative design.

    The Accord hybrid looks like a winner….

  • avatar
    npaladin2000

    Sad that no where in this article are the words “2014 Mazda3″ or “2014 Toyota Corolla” or even “2014 Kia Forte.” Except for a nod to the souped-up Fiesta, we have apparently forgotten compact cars exist?

    • 0 avatar
      Flybrian

      Name one remarkable thing about the ’14 Corolla except that Toyota gets the Emperor’s Clothes treatment when shilling that ancient turd.

      • 0 avatar
        Quentin

        A CVT that actually isn’t terrible (actually quite good from the reviews), rear legroom that rivals midsizers, standard LED headlights that are apparently fantastic. The previous gen wasn’t anything to write home about, but it sounds like they’ve done a great job with the redesigned 14 model for your A to B buyers (aka 80% of those who buy B segment cars).

        • 0 avatar
          84Cressida

          + 1 Quentin. To add:

          Top notch interior quality and build quality, best in class fuel economy for the LE Eco Model.

          • 0 avatar
            npaladin2000

            I would NOT add top notch interior, though it’s competitive. On the other hand, the back seat is very large for the class, and if you’re looking for a small car to move 4-5 people around in relative comfort, the Corolla is an excellent choice, probably the best in the segment for rear seat comfort. They could probably make some money selling to cab companies looking for efficient alternatives (particularly ones that don’t trust hybrids).

            Too bad about the engine, I’d really like to see what Toyota can do with modern technologies like DI. One of these days they’re going to notice they’re falling behind there.

          • 0 avatar
            bnolt

            Please. The Eco model? Eco ‘model’ = why bother. Does that come with 165 R 13s?

        • 0 avatar
          luvmyv8

          I’ll admit, the ’14 Corolla was my ‘plan C’ car…. albeit a very specific example, the 6 speed manual ‘S’ in that blue color. Not at all a bad looking car.

          ‘Plan A’ was the Jeep Wrangler, which is what I did get, a ’12 Sport S 2 door hardtop. I wanted something small, but not underpowered, actually had 4WD and has a removable roof. My hobby is photography and Wrangler can easily get me places to get better shots with no fuss. 285 hp and 20 MPG isn’t bad at all. Love the Pentastar. If I couldn’t find one I liked or if I couldn’t afford that one that suited me (luckily not an issue)

          ‘Plan B’ was the new Fusion. I dig it, borrowed an ’06 SEL V6 for extended amount of time and liked it’s handling. Liked the fact that it has audio and climate controls in the steering wheel. The 3.0 kinda sucks though and the 6 speed auto didn’t help… but I think the one I borrowed was slightly tired though. Mostly liked the car and why I was looking at the new one. The new one just looks good, it’s even good enough to be the European Ford Mondeo.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    I might really have to give the Fiesta another try, but in ST trim this time. I drove one of the regular ones a few years back, and it was terrible. The cramped interior, the stupid radio I couldn’t figure out….. then there was the slow, sluggish engine with a automatic that just didn’t seem to do quite right.

    For right around $20k, it’s not a god awful price for a little car with some sport to it. I just don’t know if the other stuff I hated is still really going to be a problem or not, but I really want to go by the dealer and find out.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The refresh for 2013 really made the Fiesta better. Much of the stuff you hated will be gone. The interior isn’t spacious but, the MFT radio is available (on the Fiesta, its a good upgrade), the ST only comes in manual, and the you won’t have to worry about the base engine.

  • avatar
    Cubista

    “Best car: Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution with manual transmission.”

    Despite being essentially unchanged since 2008.

    Yes, it really is that good.

    • 0 avatar
      Ion

      I respectfully disagree for two reasons. One the higher trim levels cannot be had with the manual and two its only a 5-speed.

      Normally I’d suggest the Accord as a replacement but since the Accord now violates rule one I’m gonna go with the Audi A/S5.

    • 0 avatar
      krayzie

      I think Mitsubishi needs to work on the driving position for this car, I find it horrible.

  • avatar
    mitchw

    MKZ’ters

    Consider, a few days ago I stopped a gal getting out of her white MKZ to ask how she liked her car. SHE “loves it.” Didn’t even have to think about it.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      Its not a bad car. In 2.0T trim, a Fusion Titanium is just a better car for $10,000 less.

      Its not like the Flex or MKT that are better than the Explorer, but the Explorer still destroys them. For $35K, a loaded Fusion is way better than a base MKZ. Once you compare apples to apples equipment wise, the Fusion is ten G’s cheaper. Even this Lincoln guy thinks the Fusion is better while comparatively equipped.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        “Its not a bad car. In 2.0T trim, a Fusion Titanium is just a better car for $10,000 less.”

        most people who actually buy cars don’t think about it in those terms.

        I’m surprised this is so difficult for people to understand.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          That doesn’t make the fact that the MKZ is worse than the Fusion in many ways any less true.

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            oh, your opinions are fact now.

            got it.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            The push button gear selector that you have to wait for is better?

            The panoramic moonroof that blocks rear visibility is better?

            The sport mode in a soft FWD highway crusier is better?

            The interior of the MKZ is nicer than a Fusion, but what makes the MKZ better than a Fusion? Besides some of the interior bits and a V6 option, I can’t find much.

            Ford has shown they could just class up the Fusion like the Mondeo Vignale.

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            “The push button gear selector that you have to wait for is better?”

            It’s no worse than the rotary thing in Ram trucks.

            “The panoramic moonroof that blocks rear visibility is better?”

            it’s a stand-alone option. Don’t get it if you don’t like it.

            “The sport mode in a soft FWD highway crusier is better?”

            all of these are things YOU DON’T LIKE. They are not “factual evidence” that the MKz is worse than the Fusion.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Fine, I feel like many options and choices Ford made with the Lincoln MKZ made it an automobile that is worse than Ford Fusion in my personal opinion. When I drive an MKZ, I feel like I am driving a Fusion that is made to appear premium without having the attention to detail that would actually make it premium.

            I’ve driven four different MKZs in the last few months, and I’ve been underwhelmed every single time. Its a Fusion with gimmicks. I had high expectations for the MKZ. It was supposed to be a rebirth and new direction for Lincoln. I hope it becomes that, but I’m not optimistic.

          • 0 avatar
            sgeffe

            How much of a delay is there when hitting “D” when the MKZ is in “R,” for example?

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          “I’m surprised this is so difficult for people to understand.”

          Whether people consciously realize it or not, they don’t regard Lincoln as being a proper luxury brand. Lincoln probably has less appeal than Buick or Volvo, to be honest. And when you’re dealing with a brand that doesn’t have that all-important cachet—a brand that doesn’t sell Bimmers and Benzes—all of a sudden, that cloudy judgment seems to fade away. All of a sudden, it’s easier for consumers to look and say, “Gee, here’s a vehicle that costs $10K less than the MKZ—probably in the same showroom—and it looks better, too!”

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            way to miss the point. This sideline discussion started about someone who loves her MKz. Then nitpicking snobs had to start in about “Fusion is x amount cheaper” and “MKz has stuff I don’t like therefore it sucks” and all I’m trying to say is that the vast majority of people who *BUY* cars don’t give a rat’s ass about any of that. They buy a vehicle which appeals to them and go about their lives.

            Then we bicker and argue about what “Those people” really want and how stupid they are because they don’t know a brown diesel wagon with a manual transmission is the holy grail.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            Fair point. I took it out of context. And I am in no way a proponent of the brown diesel manual wagon movement. I wouldn’t pay extra for a wagon, am too lazy to operate a manual, and won’t drive out of the way for diesel fuel. I’ll take the “brown” part, though :)

        • 0 avatar
          Drewlssix

          But the people who won’t buy the Lincoln do think like that. How bout we watch the thing fail for the next year then revisit this debate. Lincoln is not BMW or Mercedes or even Lexus these days to sell on badge alone.

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            They weren’t going to buy it anyway, so no loss.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            But Lincoln needs more people to buy the MKZ, or any of their cars for that matter. I am not in the brown diesel manual sect, I just want a better MKZ. My wife even drives the more unloved MKT on a daily basis, and she adores it. I would prefer to buy another Lincoln, but the product isn’t there. I have hope for the MKC and the next MKS.

            I never said the MKZ sucked, its a good car. However, after driving multiple MKZs for over 2000 miles total, I am comfortable saying that it needs to be better in order for me to purchase one.

        • 0 avatar
          05lgt

          Jz, they weren’t going to buy one anyway isn’t a problem? Lincoln is a dead brand walking. Ford isn’t committed to putting value, cache, or style behind the logo for long enough to make the brand relevant.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    Surprised the Dodge Avenger didn’t make the worst car list.

    Good thing too, I didn’t want to have to go through all of the trouble to avenge it.

    • 0 avatar
      AlternateReality

      Just goes to show how truly awful the Dart is… even the Avenger is better, if only more reliable.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        The Dart is rated as having much better than average reliability, better than the Avenger. It’s also second best in the segment for owner satisfaction according to Consumer Reports, so an above average amount of owners don’t think they’re awful enough to refrain from buying another. I’m not sure how big your data pool is in comparison to CR’s, but your opinions are conflicting.

  • avatar
    Wraith

    “The new Outback is unremarkable inside and out.”

    So unremarkable that you may not even remember it’s an Outlander.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      What’s so disturbing with the new Outlander is that EVERYONE has been upgrading their interiors for the last 5 years (even rushing ‘do-overs’ to the market like the Malibu and Civic), and Mitsubishi outfits their IPs and interiors like it’s 2003 Seriously – twist the temperature knobs and turn signal stalk.

      It’s like they’re on a death wish…

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Turn signals aren’t on stalks no more?

        Shoot, I haven’t looked at new cars in a while it would seem, granted I prefer sliding temp changers physically connected to the HVAC door, so what do I know.

        Note: this isn’t a defense of Mitsubishi.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Well that was certainly more entertaining than the average 10 best list… ;)

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      I agree. What I found to be even more entertaining and surprising was the world’s best sellers list.

      autos.yahoo.com/photos/world-s-best-selling-cars-2013-1387832253-slideshow/

  • avatar
    Atum

    *My dad had a four-cylinder Camry SE rental back in October. It was a good car, and it only had 300 miles on it too. Agreed with Jack.

    *The MKZ has no backseat, and the EcoBoost engine and MyLincoln Touch basically mean it’s a reliability nightmare. Agreed with Derek.

    *I think the Crown Royal is basically a cheaper LS Hybrid, which is a beautiful machine. Agreed with Ronnie.

    *Alex’s favorites don’t surprise me. Not being stereotypical, but he lives in Northern California and liked a Bill Maher video that said we don’t need guns on the TTACVideo YT channel. Those type people dream of a fuel-efficient world. However, the Outlander is no longer recommended by CR, so it is going downhill instead of getting better. My mom almost bought an 2012 SE last year.

    • 0 avatar
      bball40dtw

      The 2.0T has been a much more reliable engine for Ford than the 1.6T. I haven’t had a MFT/MLT issue in any Ford/Lincoln product I drove in 2013 (I am aware that Derek did in his capsule review MKZ). The last two updates have been excellent.

  • avatar
    carguy

    +1 on the 435. The car does everything right except for provoke any kind of emotion or deliver driving pleasure. Was looking to replace my 335 and instead went for the Cadillac ATS (another car Jack hates) which delivers all the fun of my previous BMWs.

    • 0 avatar
      ccd1

      Wait for the 2 Series. Best hope that BMW recaptures its storied past. The M235i offers sub 5 second 0-60 times in a car that starts at $44,000. Only a manual transmission is a missing option. The M2, if offerred, could be mental.

      • 0 avatar
        carguy

        Maybe the 2 will be good but only time will tell. BMW seems to have lost its edge in providing the sort of ride/sport balance that the E36 and E46 used to be known for. In case the 2 series doesn’t suit then I would highly recommend the ATS – its very lively around town, has excellent ride quality and a better interior quality than any 1 or 3 series.

        • 0 avatar
          hubcap

          “BMW seems to have lost its edge in providing the sort of ride/sport balance that the E36 and E46 used to be known for.”

          I wouldn’t say lost, more like made a conscious business decision to soften their cars based on customer desire. As we know, the enthusiast market is but a wee piece of the pie. Just look at the current 5 series for confirmation.

          • 0 avatar
            carguy

            No disagreement that it was a business decision but giving up the sporting edge didn’t result in more refined cars. I still find the 3 series has too much road noise and easily thrown off balance via bumps in road. The ATS somehow seems to me to be more sporty, quieter as well as provide a better ride.

          • 0 avatar
            WhiskerDaVinci

            Exactly, I was never really in the BMW market because their cars were too hard, and the seats were too firm. Now that they’ve changed that, and the cars are quite a bit more comfortable, I might consider one in the near future.

            Besides, most BMW drivers will never drive the car in the manner that uses all of that hard, sporty tuning anyway. They’ll just be sitting in traffic, where comfortable seats pay off.

          • 0 avatar
            DeadWeight

            Which is why rational people who don’t have a roundel obsession should buy any one of a half dozen or so vehicles that are 1/2 the price of a BMW 3 Series, have larger rear seats, come with more standard equipment, have even more comfortable ride quality, and are likely to be more reliable and cheaper to fix/maintain out of warranty.

            BMW is clearly trending towards reinventing itself as a non-enthusiast’s choice of premium automobile, for which different competitors will be cross-shopped against it, with the exception of the Ms.

  • avatar
    ccd1

    Baruth, the SLS might be a great car, but at $300,000, who cares?!??!?!?!? Soooo tired of journalists drooling over high priced car porn. Expect TTAC to nominate more realistic cars. And a “trackable” Camry??? If I was going to track my car, do you really think a Camry would be on my list of potential car purchases?!?!?!?!? And the 435 as the worst car??? Come on! Maybe disappointing, maybe un-involving, but there are FAR worse cars on the market.

  • avatar
    Dr. Kenneth Noisewater

    Honda’s new hybrid tech is the most impressive thing they’ve done in years if you ask me. They just need to put it in an Odyssey, add about 15-20kWh of battery and put a CCS socket on it. They traded some of Voltec’s flexibility for simplicity and reduced weight/parts/friction, and used an engine which isn’t an embarrassment.

  • avatar
    Acd

    As a National Rental Car Emerald Executive Elite member with 40+ rentals this year here are my best and worst rental cars for 2013:

    Best: Cadillac ATS 2.0 Turbo. Like or dislike the styling (I happen t like it very much) it is hard not to like the way this car drives. The solid structure and balance between ride and handling reminded me of a old-school BMW. This is easily the best American sedan I’ve ever driven and it caused me to stop by a Cadillac dealer to see how easy it would be to put one in my driveway.

    Honorable Mentions: Chevrolet Impala–new body style (the ATS along with this car makes me feel better about GM’s future), Chrysler 300 (comfortable, eats up endless miles of highway and 30+ mpg with the V6–what’s not to like; would make a better Lincoln than the current rebadged Fusion and Taurus).

    Worst: Chevrolet Malibu. A disappointment in almost every way. Not much space inside, cheap interior materials, bland styling and even worse road manners. Everything GM engineers learned about building mid-sized sedans when the previous Malibu came out was completely left out of this version except for the cost cuts.

    Dishonorable Mentions: Nissan Altima S (CVT transmissions really are that bad), Chevrolet Malibu (does nothing well, one of those cars where the previous version is better than the new one), Dodge Dart (much more 20 year old Neon than current Alfa Romeo).

    • 0 avatar

      Thank you Acd. If you’d like to contribute long-form impressions of your rentals, please let me know, derek at ttac dot com

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      “would make a better Lincoln than the current rebadged Fusion”

      :rolleyes:

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      +1 on the ATS 2.0T. It delivers a magic balance of ride, handling and performance like nothing else in this segment. The 3.6 is great too but it makes the car a little nose heavy and thus feels a little less lively.

    • 0 avatar
      84Cressida

      I’m no fan of the new Malibu, but it is several times better than the old one, especially inside. I don’t know why there’s all this nostalgia for the old car, it was very unimpressive.

      • 0 avatar
        Atum

        It actually had a usable backseat and was one of GM’s first good cars. The previous generation Malibu, I’m talking about. Not to mention the newer model years (2011 and 2012) had good reliability. In March 2012, when I was only 5’9″, I was stuck in the backseat of the 2013 Malibu ECO at the auto show, and my 6’4″ dad couldn’t fit up front. I’m 6’3″ now, and I thankfully haven’t sat in a Malibu again.

        • 0 avatar
          84Cressida

          Yes, the new car is terrible space wise. The reviews that say it’s cramped are very true and the old car is better in this respect.

          But the ride, handling, and interior build quality is far better in the new car. I don’t know how many of the old Malibus I saw with broken storage cubby lids in the center console or sharp edges protruding on areas that had faux wood or faux metal trim.

          • 0 avatar
            shaker

            “But the ride, handling, and interior build quality is far better in the new car.”

            As an owner of a 2013 Malibu (purchased in May), I agree – I like the more compact wheelbase and the “stance” that it has vs. the previous version, which to me, looked too long for its width.

            Plenty of front seat travel (I’m 6’4″), “interesting” interior colors in the lighter color combo (I’ve grown tired of shades of black and gray), good ride, smooth 4 (if you’re not beating it). I think it’s a good-looking car in 2LT trim, with 18″ alloys.

            That said, “at limit” handling reveals less than stellar suspension geometry, and the Ecotec, though more refined than ever, has trouble motivating the 3300lb car unless you really put your foot into it.

            This car is really good on the highway – quiet, stable, reasonably responsive at speed; though the tranny does frequent 6-5 downshifts in hilly terrain; I’d be willing to bet that the 2.0T turbo fixes that.

            Let’s just say that I know people that have the 2003 model, and the 2013 model is light-years ahead in every way; that said, I think Chevy needs to do more to address the shortcomings (sic) of this car to make it more accommodating to families who need a roomier back seat.

      • 0 avatar
        NoGoYo

        It can’t possibly be as aggressively mediocre as the 1997-03 (until 05 as the Classic) Malibu…I have experience with my mother’s 2005 Classic and it doesn’t do anything particularly good. The interior is plasticky and the seats aren’t particularly comfortable, the handling is almost as bad as my 1995 Skylark despite the four wheel independent suspension, the Ecotec 4 cylinder moves the car okay but isn’t very refined, visibility is better than more modern high-beltline cars but not especially great, the sound system is merely average, and the car just looks incredibly DULL.

        Why did people buy a million of these things again?

        • 0 avatar
          84Cressida

          Funny thing is that the 1997 Malibu was MT COTY and then they later on rescinded it years later.

          • 0 avatar
            NoGoYo

            And I quote: “it was the perfect car to buy when you’re buying 600″.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            I don’t put any stock in those awards since they are destined for the highest bidder.

            When the Tundra got top billing in 2007 it did not affect my decision to buy one.

            My decision was driven by having owned a new Silverado, a new F150 and a used RAM, and never wanting to repeat that ownership experience ever again.

            I would have bought a Titan if I thought it a better truck than the 2011 Tundra.

    • 0 avatar
      npaladin2000

      Wow, if only GM wasn’t so damn allergic to hatchbacks I’d consider the ATS as well. Seriously, at least an AWD model. Sat in one at the NYIAS this past year and was very very impressed with the overall feel and ergonomics. Love to drive one, but trunks are deal-breakers for me. Though I confess to curiosity about how they drive.

      Might not have been all that much more than my Mazda either…

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        There is an AWD ATS. I’m fine with the sedan for now, even if an ATS wagon or hatch would be cool. Its the first small Caddy in awhile, lets just be happy that its a good product. I would suggest you take one for a test drive. If you really want a luxury hatchback, you can try the BMW 3-series GranTurismo.

        • 0 avatar
          npaladin2000

          No way, these days the only people who buy BMWs are posers that want people to think they’re real drivers. :) Rather have the Caddy. Once they put a hatch on anyway. Looks better anyway.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      I’m at the same level with Hertz (President’s Club), also 40+ rentals this year, and 100K miles on US Airways, all short haul domestic (ugh)… Two more flights to go for the year, off to PHL tomorrow, back on Saturday.

      Here’s my best and worst:

      Best: Buick Regal 2.0T. I would buy one of these, and that says it all. Fiat 500 – I DID buy one!

      Honorable Mention: VW Passat Yep, it isn’t as nice as the old ones, but it is cheaper, I like the way they look inside and out, and they are nice to drive. I will also admit that Hertz only seems to have loaded SELs with buttheat and sunroofs. The 5′ver sounds interesting, even if it isn’t fast. Ford C-Max – I liked it but made Mom buy a Prius-V – just seems like a better bet. The ATS was nice but WAY too small inside, and too many crappy bits – preferred the Regal. CTS has the space but again loses the plot in the details. I even got one ancient STS – which was not too bad, actually, just not my style. Mercedes E350 is extremely competent, but extremely boring.

      Worst: Not too many turds this year, Hertz was good to me. The new Altima is nasty. The ancient Maxima is STILL nasty. The Volvo S60 is dire. The Chevy Craptiva is in an execrable class by itself. I had a Buick Regal eAssist crap out its transmission in Dallas. That was FUN. Though otherwise I actually like that drivetrain. Ford Taurus – how about windows you can see out of, and how can such a huge car seem so small inside?? The new Camry – what is new about it, exactly? Same old boring crap. Reliable dependable crap is just crap when nearly EVERYTHING is reliable and dependable (except eAssist Regals, evidently). Infiniti G37x – there are very obvious reasons it is $10K cheaper than a 3-series – cheap and nasty – I actually prefer the S60, and I HATE S60s. Ford Crown Victoria – yup, Hertz still has some. No one should have to drive these things who is not wearing a uniform and getting paid to do so. Last time they gave me one I turned it in for a 40K mile Focus at the Gold Choice lot.

      Overall though, compared to the delights of renting in the mid-90s, today is like heaven on Earth. 4 cyl Olsmobile Achieva, anyone? Shudder. An Altima IS a BMW by comparison.

      Ultimately the best car I drove all year was my own 2011 6spd stick RWD BMW 3-series wagon. Which despite being neither diesel nor brown (and definitely NOT AWD), is about the most perfect car ever made by the hand of man. It simply never puts a foot wrong. Of course, it is probably the only 328! that BMW ever made. :-)

      I too await the arrival of the 2-series, could be my next “fun” car. Or a new Mustang. Either in 4cyl turbo form would be just dandy. $10K cheaper, or getting to do Euro Delivery again? Hmmm.

      • 0 avatar
        DeadWeight

        You and I share an infinity for the Buick Regal. In terms of chassis, steering, NVH and interior fit & finish, I’d to so far as to say that it is preferable to many “premium” rwd sedans that cost many thousands more, despite being fwd (which is conceding a lot).

        I’ve never warmed up to the Fiat 500, though, as I know you have in a big way.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      I have not rented as far up as an ATS. While I enjoyed the large car feel in the 300, my take on the Impala was that it was unsettled in any transition, and even once set into a constant turn was overly upset by road variation. The Malibu I drove was an Eco version, maybe that was why the steering and especially throttle felt like they were time delayed and I could not get it to dance with me. The Altima CVT was the most hateful thing I’ve driven in years. I’m amazed every time I see one privately owned. Since I find myself in agreement with you on everything but the Impala I’m hoping you will take DK up on the offer. You have a voice I will trust.

  • avatar
    DAC17

    How did anybody not pick the 2014 Corvette as a “best car”??

  • avatar
    RobertRyan

    @Alex I wonder if the RAM 1500 Diesel will be a game changer that all the online reviews are predicting, I think it will be.

  • avatar
    Featherston

    “I rarely used paddle shifters or autostick it in cars so equipped but it was necessary to keep up with traffic safely in the 2.0/auto Dart.”

    A suggestion: TTAC editors make it a New Year’s resolution to retire the hackneyed and false cliche that a given car is so slow as to be unsafe. The 2.0/6A Dart does 0-60 in the high 9′s or low 10′s. Yes, that’s sluggish by 2013 standards, but it’s plenty fast to keep up with traffic in any US or Canadian city.

    • 0 avatar

      I drove that very configuration and my comments, which criticized the lethargic responses of the 6AT gearbox and 2.0 engine, were mocked with derision that seemed borderline malicious. More than once I was stymied when attempting to go for a gap in traffic because the powertrain would not respond in an appropriate manner.

      • 0 avatar

        I hear this same complaint with a sad regularity and learned to become sceptical. Sorry, Derek, I do not want to sound malicious, but no sale. I merged into traffic safely while driving a 10-ton truck with diesel with a 2500 rpm redline. How hard can it be to step on the gas a little earlier?

        That said, so called “throttle lag” is a common complaint for some vehicles (RAV4 used to suffer from it), and it’s generally unpleasant. There’s just no safety issue with it.

        • 0 avatar
          Lie2me

          When a car doesn’t respond from a whomp on the throttle call it what you want, I call it unsafe.“Throttle lag” is a deal breaker, not because it’s slow, that I can adjust for, but because it’s unpredictable. When you don’t know when or how much your car is going to lunge forward that is totally unsafe

        • 0 avatar

          I never said it was unsafe, just detrimental for going for gaps in traffic.

        • 0 avatar
          DC Bruce

          Having driven an 8-wheel dump truck in my distant past (about 46 years ago), the driving technique with such vehicles when you need to merge into traffic is much different than in a small, underpowered car.

          Namely, people who drive them — and I bet that includes you, Pete — figure out pretty quickly that the way to deal with the merging into traffic problem is just to put in the turn signal and start moving — slowly — into the desired lane. People somehow find a way to let you in . . . although I can’t imagine why they do that. ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      billfrombuckhead

      TTAC needs to catch up with real world, in 2014 almost all Darts are 2.4L’s.

      However much TTAC tried to pee on the Cherokee, THE CHEROKEE HAS A 10 DAY SUPPLY AND IS ONE OF THE HOTTEST SELLING VEHICLES IN AMERICA!

      I can’t wait to see how much marketshare MOPAR gains on the JapanInc appliance makers in December.

      • 0 avatar

        Of the roughly 21,126 new Dodge Darts for sale in the US, just 1,891 are 2.4L cars – less than 10 percent of all Darts.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        cars.com is currently listing just over 21,000 new Darts in dealer inventory. More than half of them are 2.0 turds, the 2.4 is in less than one third.

      • 0 avatar

        bill, we can only write about what we get to test. When Chrysler makes a 2.4 Dart available to me, I’ll write about it.

        As for the Cherokee, Derek said there were driveability issues on road with the car he tested. He was not the only reviewer to say so. Chrysler subsequently revised the drivetrain software and took the unusual step of road testing every Cherokee before shipment, steps that I believe validate Derek and other reviewers’ critique of the car.

        Personally, I’d like nothing better than for Chrysler, GM, Ford, Toyota, Hyundai/Kia and all the other car companies with facilities in and around southeastern Michigan to sell lots of cars and trucks. I have friends who work at Chrysler and have no interest in slagging off the company. If you note, I said that the Chrysler 300 is a world class sedan.

        They bungled the launch. We reported on it. I see my job as trying to describe the cars as accurately as I can. If I don’t say what’s wrong when it’s wrong, you won’t believe me when I say it’s great.

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        I saw my first Cherokee in the flesh last week. Much easier to handle in person, but the headlights are still a little too funky for me. I don’t think it will age well style wise, certainly not as well as the old Cherokee.

        Nicely trimmed I might add.

    • 0 avatar

      I had to give more thought to accelerating and making sure I was in the right gear in the 2.0 auto Dart than I do when driving my mom’s ’02 Saturn with a 3 speed auto. The problem isn’t the car’s 0-60 speed, the problem is that you have to drive it like you are doing 0-60 runs to keep up with traffic (slight exaggeration for effect). You dive into corners and then try to power out FWD style and there’s no oomph there. The Fiat 500 with the 1.4 felt sprightly compared to the Dart.

      Is it unsafe in traffic the way my split window ’67 bus with 36 hp is/was? No, but I felt unsure enough about the car’s accelerative abilities to mention it. If the car is sluggish by 2013 standards, than it’s sluggish in 2013 traffic.

      I liked a lot of things about the Dart and think that with the bigger motor it will please a lot of people. If they can fit a Pentastar V6, it’d be a ball to drive.

      • 0 avatar
        SCE to AUX

        Agreed on the Dart.

        The 1.4T must be thrashed to realize its power, but just as it comes on line, you’re on the brakes to avoid rear-ending the traffic at the next red light. It’s just awful in city driving; under most circumstances it feels like a normally-aspirated 1.4 liter pulling 3400 lbs of car. The turbo boost feels like it’s from a 1980′s car.

        The 2.0 has a better low end and cooperates better with the transmission (automatic), but it’s rough and weak.

        The manual has a heavy clutch and very awkward throws and the shift knob is poorly positioned. Also, reviews of the DDCT have been harsh.

        The only hope for the Dart is the 2.4, but that pushes it out of contention as a fuel-sipper. Even then, the only tranny I’d get would be the Hyundai-sourced automatic, or maybe the pending 9-speed Mopar unit.

        • 0 avatar
          luvmyv8

          I get what Derek and Ronnie mean about acceleration and such, it’s not that cars today are slow, believe me I’ve owned a really slow vehicle, a ’97 Ranger with the 2.3 and an automatic…. that was really scary slow, getting on the freeway was terror inducing. Thankfully much has improved since then.

          Back on topic, I hate having a car where you have to second guess whether you can merge over because your not sure if your car will have the power to do so. I mentioned in another post above about an ’06 Fusion I borrowed for an extended time. Liked the car, but it’s drivetrain was annoying. I’d have to thrash the somewhat hapless 3.0 to get it to move and it’s 6 speed auto box was really dumb and really hated hills, it was never in the right gear. Very irritating. My ’12 Wrangler, night and day difference. As long as it’s safe and reasonable, I can merge and not worry about the power, I don’t need to push the Pentastar, just a light amount of gas and off I go. If I do push it, I get to meet a man in a tan uniform whose company car is a black and white Crown Victoria with pretty blue and red lights.

        • 0 avatar
          Wheeljack

          I drive a Dart 1.4T manual. I actually quite like it and don’t find it slow at all. Yes you must rev it to get it going, but the car has strong midrange, so I leave it in a gear that puts me right in the range where it makes power. In spite of this, I am still getting 29-30mpg in my stop and go commute, which I am happy with.

          As far as the clutch and shifter go, it must be a taste thing. I like the clutch – it provides good feel and I can tell when the disc is grabbing. I also like the fact that it doesn’t release 1mm off the floor like a lot of modern hydraulic clutches do. The shifter is perfectly positioned for me, and I prefer the longish throws – I can look at the shifter and instantly tell what gear I’m in – something which is impossible to do on a lot of new stuff with the x-box joystick shifters that only move a few mm overall.

          • 0 avatar
            bill h.

            I’ve been playing around over the holidays with my son’s new Dart GT which he got through Chrysler’s employee leasing program (he’s a newly hired systems engineer there). It’s the 2.4 liter with 6 speed manual. Too new/early to really thrash it out, but it has adequate go and it’s got a fairly smooth, non-peaky power curve since it’s NA. I agree that the shifter is OK–even with the long throws it’s easy to know what gear I’m in and to compensate for any situation. What’s interesting for me is that I find the clutch on this particular car to be rather too light and vagueish as to friction point–our Saabs serve as reference cars to this comparison. The very sensitive throttle response also means that I’m still trying to learn how not to to rev it above 2000 rpms before letting the clutch out every time I start up from stationary. Otherwise it keeps up with traffic more than adequately in our experiences to date, though a road trip back to Michigan will give me the chance to really see how it does on the highway. I’ll give it a closer look as to other aspects of the car (the trunk daggers–yikes!), but overall the manual shift drivetrain is not a source of irritation.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        I don’t think a bigger engine can fix the driveline issues. Poor gear selection from an AT will always leave you with a relative gasp from the engine followed by a surge of power when you no longer need it. Huge torque can cover for it, but unless the shifting is spot on you’re stuck with trying to drive with traffic. Driving through traffic requires quicker and more appropriate throttle response.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I once owned a 98 hp Iron Duke Grand Am with a 3 speed automatic. It had plenty of power, because the instant you floored the gas pedal it downshifted to the right gear and gave you everything it had. I’ll take that over a more powerful car that has to think for a second or two whenever you send its computer a request for some power. The strangest are the ones that seem to downshift and then rev hard but somehow don’t accelerate until the next upshift. I don’t even understand what’s going on in that situation.

  • avatar
    Whatnext

    I don’t get Bark’s cheap shot at the Passat. He makes it sounds as though the current generation was decontented since it’s intro, which is not the case. Maybe he’s confused with previous model, now the CC, which is a swell car no North Americans bought. Kudos to VW for offering a cavernous sedan with the choice of three distinct powerplants and a dash that doesn’t look like a cast off from a Klingon battlecruiser.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not confused. The Passat is a joke compared to previous excellent vehicles that bore the name. I had one for a week this year—it was a flat out penalty box. The suspension is a disgrace. The base model comes with almost nothing. It makes the rental Altima look like a prize.

  • avatar
    billfrombuckhead

    With a ten day supply, I bet Chrysler wouldn’t mind a few more botched launches like the Cherokee.

    The 2014 Dart comes standard with the torquier 2.4L except the the stripper SE and the fuel miser Aero.
    The 2.4 still gets 35 hwy and 27 mpg combined.

    Mopar uber alles

    • 0 avatar
      billfrombuckhead

      Read it and weep Cherokee haters.

      http://finance.yahoo.com/news/edmunds-com-names-fastest-selling-140000947.html

      I predict a Dart surge in the coming year.

      I also predict the new 200 will punch the Accord in the face and that the AWD 200 will punch TRDbaru in the face.

      Camry will become the new Dodge Avenger.

      • 0 avatar

        That’s days to turn, not how many days worth of inventory exists

      • 0 avatar
        AlternateReality

        Whoo-hoo! All of those new Fiasler owners… soon to be almost permanent residents of the waiting rooms of Fiasler service departments, thanks to persistent QC issues and a transmission that still isn’t ready for primetime.

        I wonder how many repeat sales there’ll be from that crowd for billyboy and Sergio to count on?

      • 0 avatar
        Kenmore

        “I also predict the new 200 will punch the Accord in the face and that the AWD 200 will punch TRDbaru in the face.”

        I completely agree that the 200s will be hugely popular among people whose goal is to punch others in the face.

        But does that constitute a change?

        • 0 avatar
          Atum

          Why need an AWD 200, let alone any type of AWD? At the Mitsubishi dealer back in July 2012 (I mentioned in another comment on this post that my mom almost bought an Outlander), the salesman told my dad and I not to buy the Outlander SE 4WD in the showroom, saying it’d corrode the suspension.

          Besides, AWD doesn’t do much. My sister has a basic RWD 2007 Ranger with no options except an automatic transmission. Still does well in rain and (somewhat) ice.

          Oh, and better fuel economy, lower price, and less maintenance. FWD is the way to go.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            “Why need an AWD 200, let alone any type of AWD? Besides, AWD doesn’t do much”

            That depends entirely on where you intend to use it.

            Where I live, most people own at least one AWD/4WD car or truck. If they own just one car it is most often a 4WD or AWD.

      • 0 avatar
        Pch101

        “I predict a Dart surge in the coming year.”

        “I also predict the new 200 will punch the Accord in the face”

        I predict that you won’t remember having made these predictions of yours after they fail to materialize.

        The Dodge brand is not ideal for selling compacts, and the Dart’s marketing and production positioning have been fairly awful. It may be too late to recover until there is a refresh.

        One would hope that the 200 would fare better than its predecessor, but the Accord/Camry duo set the benchmarks, while the Altima and Fusion do well in the second tier position. A very crowded space that is also just beginning to decline as crossovers continue their invasion of the conventional car market.

        • 0 avatar
          billfrombuckhead

          No I’ll be back laughing at the you Mopar haters the way i’m laughing at all the armchair CEO’s who predicted the Cherokee being a huge failure instead of a huge success. I only wish some of these so called experts and Toyotabots had to put their money where their mouth is.

          BTW, TTAC, just go down to the local Dodge store and drive a 2.4L Dart before you blast a car that’s already been improved but you haven’t got around to driving for whatever reason.

          • 0 avatar
            billfrombuckhead

            TTAC seems to like to cast shade at Chrysler since they famously predicted that Chrysler (and GM) couldn’t make it. Many times it seems that TTAC is trying to regain credibility by being harder on domestic vehicles than Japanese cars. The huge success of the KL Cherokee once again is a hit on TTAC’s credibility.

            If there’s any doubt about TTAC’s anti-American bias just look at the header where they say don’t buy domestic because of gas mileage when American trucks crush Japanese makes in mpg, Durango and Grand Cherokees now get similar mileage to Pilots, all the domestics have well equipped safe sturdy compacts that break 40 mpg on the highway, Ford has very competitive hybrids while Chrysler and GM now offer diesels

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Bill-

            This isn’t the same editorial staff that predicted GM and Chrysler wouldn’t make it. There have also been some very postive Chrysler reviews on this site. Even in this article, two Chrysler products are named best of 2013. You are starting to chase windmills.

          • 0 avatar
            AlternateReality

            …Because one month of not completely embarrassing sales is a surefire indicator of “huge success.”

            Really billyboy, what are you smoking? Sure, the vehicle may proven to be a moderate success, because there are morons out there willing to sign up for 72-month financing on an unproven mongrel from a second-tier automaker.

            More likely, however, that just one transmission-related recall will be enough to bury the Cherokee in complete ignominy. A vehicle based on one of the worst automotive platforms in existence from the utterly horrid Dart, and saddled with a transmission that just three months ago was too defective for even Fiasler to foist upon the buying public, is not a recipe for long-term success or respect.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            “I’ll be back laughing at the you Mopar haters the way i’m laughing at all the armchair CEO’s who predicted the Cherokee being a huge failure instead of a huge success.”

            Sorry, but your namecalling isn’t going to convert me into a fanboy cheerleader. Brand loyalty should not cloud ones ability to analyze the auto industry for the business that it is.

            What’s I’ve stated to you is absolutely true — the launch of the Dart was botched, and the 200 has very tough competition in a segment that has probably peaked and is beginning to decline. If you don’t have an intelligent rebuttal to those points, then perhaps you’d look less foolish if you’d simply say nothing at all.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “Mopar uber alles”

      I will say that the prevailing attitude of the MOPAR fans on TTAC has not exactly endeared me to that company over the past year.

      • 0 avatar
        billfrombuckhead

        Moparmania will only grow after the big December numbers coming out of Chrysler dealerships. In November, fantastic Cherokee sales blasted the Jeep brand alone past Subaru, VW, Mazda and it even edged KIA. Can Jeep pass Hyundai this month?

        I predict Cherokee will be Jeep’s number one selling model line. I predict the new 200 AWD will become a snowbelt favorite. I predict over 10,000 Dart sales in December.

        Mopar uber alles, indeed.

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          It was pretty close to being Jeep’s best selling product in November. Since its a compact CUV, it should be Jeep’s bestselling product.

          • 0 avatar
            billfrombuckhead

            Cherokee sales in December are rumored to be far stronger than in November and in fact will be Jeep’s best seller the 2nd month out of the gate. The great thing is that Grand Cherokees are still selling strong even with increased same showroom competition from Cherokee and a resurgent Durango.

            Now the question is whether can Jeep pass Hyundai?

            Mopar über alles, indeed!

  • avatar
    shoganai

    Safe to say I’ve not read an article on TTAC more in need of an editor.

  • avatar
    billfrombuckhead

    “Want To Save Gas? Don’t Buy American – Announcing The True Heroes And True Villains At The Pump” by Bertel Schmidt

    A link to this political and anti American car industry spin is right in TTAC’s header toolbar.

    I would say GM and Chrysler have improved far more than TTAC has.

    BTW, all you Cherokee haters are going to have to look at over 120,000 of them driving around North America in the coming year. You won’t even be safe from seeing the Cherokee’s beautiful countenance in Europe and eventually around the world.

  • avatar
    billfrombuckhead

    BS still has a bogus anti-Detroit hitpiece in TTAC’s headerbar, almost like a negative political advertisement.
    “Want To Save Gas? Don’t Buy American – Announcing The True Heroes And True Villains At The Pump” by Bertel Schmidt

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      dude, let it go.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      Billy, did you read bertel’s post, or just the headline? It’s a fair assessment of rated economy vs. delivered economy. On the old guard being wrong in predicting Mopar’s failure alongside GM’s, shareholders might not have felt a sale for zero dollars to be a smashing hit. That’s failure, as predicted. I’ve been a Mopar fan since the seventies and still have a 340 4 gear Challenger in the garage. That doesn’t make either the Dart or even the 200 into good cars compared to the competition.

  • avatar

    Alex: You forgot another of the “Smart” cars’ shortcomings, they require PREMIUM gas!

  • avatar
    Eyeflyistheeye

    Best: Mazda CX-5 – I got a phone call from a friend who was about to sign for a 2014 Rogue even though he originally wanted the CX-5. The fact that Nissan put a rich-feeling interior for its class in the Rogue along with tasteful, understated styling – two qualities Carlos Ghosn’s Nissan isn’t known for, made it a very appealing package. However, I urged him to drive the CX-5 again before he bought it and he ended up with the CX-5. If I had $25k burning a hole in my pocket, I’d buy a CX-5. It goes about its motions sternly with tight handling and a firm ride, with good automatic programming and a willing engine. And unlike the products brought out by the current bastardizations of BMW or Honda, it felt like a product executed by people who loved cars and wanted others to love them as well. Long live Mazda.

    Honorable mention: Chevrolet Sonic Turbo – The Sonic isn’t the prettiest car in the segment and its pedigree includes the Chevette and LeMans. However, the 1.4t in the Sonic is a very smooth powerplant that makes its power in the midrange and doesn’t leave one wanting for more on the highway. It also has room for my 6′, 210 lb. frame unlike other subcompacts, and the automatic headlights along with the MyLink make it feel one notch above a penalty box. It’s an admirable companion in traffic and is a willing partner in the twisties, feeling like a cross between a Fit and a Golf in the canyons on Santa Monica. I don’t have $25k in my pocket, but I had enough to take the Sonic home and I’m a happy man, even moreso when another one of my friends who totaled his Lexus RX (and ended up buying a CPO RX to replace it) seriously considered buying a Sonic after he drove mine.

    Honorable mention: Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk – This is the vehicle that has bridged the gap between true 4x4s like the XTerra and crossovers like the RAV4. You’re not going to take a CX-5 in the twisties with this thing nor will you beat out the Rogue on practicality. But it’s stupid fun to drive, wicked fast for its segment and has loads of character.

    Worst: Ford Fiesta – I’m not just saying it because I drive a Sonic. I can’t enjoy a car if I can’t fit in it, and I’m pushed into clown-car position with the Fiesta with the seat all the way back and all the way down. Then I was lumped up loveseat style with my friend who was about the same build as me, which wasn’t particularly amusing. I didn’t even have this problem with its platform mate, the Mazda2. While it drove fairly competently aside from the nervous Powershift, this wasn’t a good experience and it was handily outclassed by the 2, the Sonic and the Fit.

    FIAT 500 – I’ll get it out of the way here. It drives well, and although slow, it has a Jack Russell Terrier of an engine that’s nippy and eager. However, I feel the external door handle is the “handshake” of a car, and it didn’t inspire confidence that each of the 500s at the dealer had a shaky door handle. Not to mention that the interior of the one I drove had an interior scratch. I know it’s a cheap car but that scares the crap out of me for long term ownership and as charming as the 500 is, I don’t regret choosing the Sonic over it. Too bad Fiatsler didn’t split the difference between the 500 and the Dart, putting the Dodge Hornet into production or bringing over the Panda.

  • avatar

    Well from my rental experience this year I would have voted the Malibu most disappointing. The car just did nothing for me other than having a reasonable infotainment system (better than myford touch at least) After having back to back rentals in a Cruze and a Malibu I wold go for the cruze every time. The malibu hardly feels any bigger yet is somehow much more skittish on the highway, just not a good car.

    I drove a dart over 1500 miles this summer when my outback tossed a driveshaft. It was a 6mt 1.4turbo. I think the trans is fine but it’s geared a little weird for city driving (read really annoying) but awesome on the open road. I think it has the best interior in it’s class (never noticed the meta in the trunk but I didn’t use it much)The front seats are very roomy and comfortable even took my family of four out on some day trips and it was comfortable cruising around that way. Over all I think if the could sort out the drivetrains they would be doing pretty well. I think for me I the top choices in this class would be the cruze or the dart, having driven the focus and corolla I just couldn’t see paying money for them.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I actually rented an Altima, almost, just last week. Hertz tried to put me in one, but it wouldn’t start. They gave me another one, and IT didn’t start. I ended up with a year old Taurus. I’d love to try a B car or even compact that I reserve, but when you rent at the end of the day, all they have left is a “free upgrade” to a mid size or full size car. I’m afraid to reserve an A car – if I reserve a Smart4Two, I’ll probably get it, so I envy the TTAC rental testers.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Holy typos this article needs editing. Pretty sure it’s the Mitsubishi Outlander, not Outback. The text seems unsure.


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