Posts By: Megan Benoit

By on May 11, 2009

Some vehicles are doomed from the start. Take the Acura RDX: a not-inexpensive CUV with aesthetically challenging looks nestling amongst Honda’s “Huh?” brand. The RDX seems carefully designed to appeal to the few, the proud, the pistonheads. You know: enthusiasts who absolutely must have a willing engine, a chassis that’s a suitable dance partner and the elevated driving position of SUV—all at a price that’s significantly higher than more sensible (if dull) alternatives made by brands whose street cred didn’t die with the Integra. You see how that doesn’t work?

By on September 22, 2008

Over the last few years, the last generation Audi A4 was growing increasingly stale. Updated offerings from BMW, Lexus, Infiniti, everyone but Volvo have overtaken Ingolstadt’s brot und butter model. To keep the faith– or at least the faithful– Audi’s engineers initiated a massive redesign of the A4. Obviously, it’s a better car. Vorsprung and all that. But can the new A4 leapfrog the luxury brat pack? Or is it more of the same? Yes.

By on August 25, 2008

Boxy is out, SUV-ish is in.The Forester XT is living, breathing proof that Subaru has lost its way.  The Toyota-fication of the brand has now reached its pinnacle in the redesigned Forester, and it stands tall (really, really tall) as the perfect example of how to alienate the hippies and hoons that bought Subaru after Subaru.  To put it succinctly, driving the new Forester XT is like answering the door expecting Ed McMahon with a check for a million dollars and finding your mother-in-law standing there instead.  At least the MIL eventually goes home.  The Forester XT just hangs around and keeps disappointing.

By on July 30, 2008

The latest chick car?WSBTV.com seems somewhat surprised by a J.D. Power study that shows the obvious reveals a new trend: sporty crossovers appeal to younger women. Roger that. Women are generally attracted to the appearance of sportiness (witness the VW Tiguan's 61.7 percent female ownership and relatively dismal performance). J.D.'s mob says they also go for utility. Also "revealed:" women like 'tried and true' safety features (newer technological safety advancements tend to come with high price tags– something more 'rational' women tend to avoid when purchasing vehicles. No doubt crossovers appeal to women who are a bit gun-shy on a gas-guzzling SUV, but still want space, a higher riding position and the eventual child-hauling ability (yes, some women do think that far in advance). Another non-stunner: 90 percent of Corvette and Porsche 911 purchasers are men. Mid-life crises? What mid-life crisis? The real surprise: automakers still aren't marketing to women. J.D. reckons women account for about half of all auto purchases, and influence 80 to 90 percent of all auto-purchasing decisions. You'd think they'd be marketing something more than Beetles and Mercuries to the ladies by now…

By on July 18, 2008

No pictures of the \'09 yet...  but it\'s worth waiting for.We're talking about Subie-grokking enthusiasts. What brought this to mind: the automaker's announcement [reported by our slack-jawed pals at Autoblog] that the current WRX will become the Impreza GT. The new WRX will be a fanboy's wet dream. She'll be packing 265hp, an upgraded suspension and fancy-schmancy-trim,. And get this: no slushbox. Manual transmission only. Considering Subaru has been ditching stick shift trannies like bad dates, it's a win for pistonheads everywhere. The new Lancer Raillart had a hand in this. And even though Subies aren't the most fuel-efficient vehicles on planet Earth, they're still a hit with that part of the North American continent we call the snow belt. Not to mention various other inclement weather enclaves (so to speak). In a decidedly down U.S. new car market, Subie sales rose 5.3 percent in June, up 4.4 percent year-to-date. Impreza sales rose two percent in June, 12 percent year-to-date. So Subie can well afford to hone for hoons.  

By on July 9, 2008

Chicks love itThe Lexus IS250 is a chick car. Funny that. Its predecessor, the IS300, was such a guy car. In fact, every time I see a male of the species behind the wheel of a Lexus IS, I check my theory by scoping the badge. Sure enough: it's an IS350. Strange. The IS250 is a great entry-level luxury car. While it's slower than the 350, not everyone can afford to pay that much needs that sort of power. So why aren't more guys driving one?

By on May 8, 2008

gm-crash-test-saabpx300.jpgApparently there are those that would disagree with you. The Local (in Sweden) is reporting that Claes Tingvall, a car safety specialist, told the newspaper Expressen that GM used human cadavers in a multi-year research project (imagine the smell) to test the safety of their vehicles, possibly on the Saab side of the house. In the ultimate gesture of brand devotion, all ah… participants… allegedly donated their bodies to the cause (no word on if any of them met an untimely end whilst in a GM vehicle). GM and Saab are refusing to acknowledge any tests using their most loyal customers… er, dead human bodies. I've heard of "Cradle-to-Grave" strategies, but does GM build a car that even a dead person could drive? I think Lexus has one. Anyway, the whole thing sounds fishy. Dead men tell no tales, and while you can dissect and glean facts from trauma, there's a reason why crash test dummies are so expensive. They're specially designed to measure stresses and forces from the inside in a quantifiable way, which is more useful than a "He's dead, Jim," from an autopsy tech. I like cars,but I guess I'd rather donate my body to real science, not to a bunch of yokels in lab coats that are going to strap me into (God forbid) a G5 and run it repeatedly into walls to test the effects of excrement-based interior materials on human flesh. 

By on April 28, 2008

01_int_03.JPGMost people drive the Acura Integra like they stole it. Mostly, it's because they have. Or, more accurately, someone else did. Model years ‘94 to ‘01 regularly grace the zenith of the annual top ten most stolen automobiles. Moral outrage aside, the Integra's tendency to disappear is entirely understandable. It's a cheap, fast, infinitely modifiable and reliable automobile that appeals to teenage boys, college students, financially-strapped pistonheads, rice rocketeers and thrifty professionals looking for a set of hot wheels (so to speak).

By on March 21, 2008

12054_2_1.jpgThe S60 is Volvo's neglected middle child. Baby brother S40 is hipper, faster, and gets all the chicks. Older brother S80 is bigger and more luxurious. Where does that leave the S60? Not languishing on dealership lots, given that it's Volvo's best-selling sedan (if barely). But I'm hard-pressed to figure out why. Apparently, Volvo can't figure out why either– the S60 has purportedly been on the chopping block for a couple of years now, though no one seems willing to make that final cut yet. So let me take a stab at it.

By on February 6, 2008

x07pn_g50052.jpgThe Pontiac G5 Coupe reminds me of John Steinbeck’s classic novel “Of Mice and Men.” Best-laid schemes aside, no car deserves more to be taken out to a field and shot in the back of the head. This brand-engineered blight bleeds bureaucratic bumbling. No doubt someone at GM figured that Pontiac should share some of the Cobalt love with a derivative of their own (a la the Cavalier/Sunfire). Rather than taking a pass-worthy platform and making it into something worthwhile, they gave us the G5, “lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain.” 

By on January 18, 2008

08-altimacaltrans107.jpgNissan says the Altima Coupe was designed separately from the Altima sedan. It’s a different car, from the ground-up. Roger that. Not since the Chevrolet Lumina Sedan and Minivan have two more disparate vehicles shared the same name. While Chrysler’s auto show folk are talking-up the joys of a “shared genetic pool,” the Altima Coupe 3.5SE isn’t even swimming in the same ocean as the sedan. In fact, the Altima Coupe deserves a sexier name, something distinctive, with more panache. I suggest “Accord-killer,” but it’s unlikely to get approved by any legal department, anywhere.

By on December 18, 2007

london-traffic.jpgThe London Assembly's Conservatives have released their 5th Congestion Charge Report. According to thenewspaper.com, the results is… more congestion. Since charges were imposed in 2003, central London's average traffic speed has dropped from 10.6 to 9.3mph. "Excess delay" (as measured by traffic cameras) went from 0.87 minutes per mile to 1.5 minutes per mile. Roads adjacent to the Congestion Charge (CC) zone are clogged with motorists trying to avoid fees. Motorists within the CC are also loitering with intent (to get their money's worth). What's more (or less from a revenue point of view), 41 percent of vehicles entering the zone are exempt from the CC (e.g. taxis, buses, hybrids and mopeds). At the same time, removing lanes from general traffic for buses and changing the light timings is trapping them in jams. So buses are traveling fewer miles at slower speeds– discouraging ridership. The report arrives just in time for a vehicle size-related increase in the charge, which will see some SUV drivers paying $50 to enter Mayor Ken Livingstone's auto zone. Conservative transport spokesman Angie Bray wonders when the madness will stop. "I could bung it up to £50 and then nobody would come in. Would that be your perfect London? Or do you accept that there have to be vehicles at some level traveling around London? Where would you actually stop?" Punk.

By on December 17, 2007

25-front.jpgThe 2008 Subaru WRX is the U.S. pistonhead's cheap thrills with no frills poster child. Meanwhile, the Impreza. Yes, I know: a Subaru without a turbo is like a Mercedes without automatic climate control, but hey, normal people drive cars too. When you move away from turbo-nutter wastegate wonderland, the word “thrills” takes on a different meaning. Or does it? Sans blower, does the new entry level Impreza have what it takes to tickle the fancy of a wider audience?

By on December 7, 2007

08accordex-l-v6_240.jpgThe Subaru Legacy GT, Infiniti G35 and Acura TSX are paid-in-full members of the practical power automotive niche. They cater to financially responsible enthusiasts who want their reliability served with a supersized side of hoon and a la carte cog-swapping. Although Honda’s new Accord V-6 packs a 268-horsepower punch, the four-door’s a pedal short in the row-your-own department. Fortunately, the Accord EX-L coupe boasts a six-speed manual transmission. So is the EX-L a category killer or just another vanilla thrilla?

By on December 6, 2007

gps-speedtrap-detector-20050712b.jpgThe Newspaper reports that the National Highway Transportation Safety Agency (NHTSA) is using federal gas tax revenue to fund competitions to see which police departments can write the most speeding tickets. The National Law Enforcement Challenge, as it's called, rewards speeding ticket-happy police departments with federally-funded tricked-out "pursuit vehicles," like the ever popular Hemi-fied Charger. To earn maximum points, the po-po must have a zero-tolerance (i.e. no warning) anti-speeding policy in place. NHTSA argues that writing more tickets promotes safer driving, but the statistics beg to differ. Traffic fatalities in one participating state, South Carolina, are up for the year. While some departments are attempting to use positive reinforcement to reward good behavior, increased fines (and subsequent revenues) appear to be the order of the day. And the list of winners' "creative" ticketing is downright scary. 

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