Posts By: Timothy Cain

By on June 22, 2017

2017 Chrysler 300C - Image: FCAThe American new vehicle market is evolving. Indeed, the rate of evolution suggests it may be evolving fast enough to be deemed a revolution.

Passenger car market share is down to 37 percent through the first five months of 2017. We’re not even a decade removed from a time when passenger cars accounted for more than half of all U.S. auto sales. Cars have lost 4 percentage points of U.S. market share in just the last year. While pickup trucks, SUVs, and crossovers added 225,000 sales, year-over-year, in the first five months of 2017, passenger car volume tumbled by more than 145,000 units.

As a result, automakers are giving up on cars. Not wholeheartedly, not across the board, not routinely. But in specific areas. And this couldn’t be more obvious at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, where the company no longer has entries in the two largest passenger car sectors. Heading into 2018, FCA’s car branch will market two Dodges, one Chrysler, and a handful of Fiats, Maseratis, and Alfa Romeos.

Is that enough? Or does Fiat Chrysler Automobiles need more cars? (Read More…)

By on June 21, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid - Image: Toyota The 2018 Toyota Camry will be priced from $24,380, including delivery, when it goes on sale this summer — a $425 increase compared with the base 2017 Camry.

Riding on an evolution of the Prius and C-HR’s Toyota New Global Architecture, the 2018 Camry is an all-new design for the first time since the 2012 model year. Market positioning is key, even for a Camry that’s been America’s best-selling car for 15 consecutive years, as demand for midsize sedans is quickly falling and even Toyota is seeing greater interest in the RAV4 than the historically dominant Camry. With new competitors approaching from Honda and Nissan, Toyota isn’t fooling around with this hugely important launch.

All eighth-generation Camrys are equipped with an eight-speed automatic. There’s essentially no tangible weight increase. The Camry offers the most standard horsepower in the midsize segment, the optional 3.5-liter V6 now produces 301 horsepower, and all Camrys now include Toyota Safety Sense P with pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, and auto high beams.

Perhaps most notably, highway fuel economy jumps all the way to 41 miles per gallon; above 50 mpg for Camry Hybrids. (Read More…)

By on June 20, 2017

As an automobile journalist, I’m supposed to qualify certain statements. This car is gorgeous, I might say, but only with an asterisk that denotes beauty being in the eye of the beholder. This car is gorgeous, I might say, but not as gorgeous as its predecessors, and then I’d draw your attention to the fine […]

By on June 19, 2017

Two turbochargers. 362 horsepower. 384 lb-ft of torque. AMG’s 31:69 front/rear torque bias. 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds. AMG-tuned air suspension. 14.2-inch front rotors. 285/40R20 rear tires. 640 watts and 14 speakers of Burmester surround sound. Forget all that. This is a story all about cargo volume. 10-14 percent more cargo volume. Sweet, sultry, scintillating […]

By on June 16, 2017

2017 Mazda CX-5 white - Image: MazdaSitting just $500 below the top-spec 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring is a new Grand Select trim.

Mazda spokesperson Jacob Brown tells CarsDirect, which spotted the addition, that the 2017 CX-5 Grand Select is an attempt by Mazda USA to examine consumer tastes.

Grand Select, Brown says, “will be offered for a limited time and will test the waters for customer options preferences in the marketplace.”

Like the CX-5 Grand Touring, the $29,835 Grand Select is a very well-equipped, premium-aping compact crossover. Unlike the CX-5 Grand Touring, the Grand Select lacks forward collision warning, adaptive cruise, auto high beams, lane departure warning, and lane keeping assist. A few years down the increasingly autonomous road, those are the kinds of features that might be a real boon to resale.

Sure you wanna save $500? (Read More…)

By on June 16, 2017

2016 Chevrolet Malibu Fairfax, Kansas - Image: General MotorsIn September 2017, General Motors will be forced to lay off a large number of workers at its Kansas City, Kansas assembly plant where the Chevrolet Malibu is built.

Only two days ago we learned General Motors would stretch the Fairfax assembly plant’s summer shutdown by an additional three weeks — from two to five in 2017 — because of excessive Malibu inventory. But as GM seeks to maintain a more reasonable grip on incentives than in the past, the only remaining way of reducing an inventory glut is to stop building so many cars.

Unfortunately for some of GM’s Kansas employees, the announcement of a temporary shutdown — the third this year according to the Kansas City Business Journal — will be an insufficient means of reducing stock. The Kansas City Star reports the number of shifts at the plant will be reduced to two in late September.

After Chevrolet’s U.S. midsize sales rapidly elevated to a 36-year high in calendar year 2016 during the ninth-generation Malibu’s launch, volume has declined hard and fast in early 2017. (Read More…)

By on June 16, 2017

2017 Nissan Titan King Cab - Image: NissanNissan USA has priced the 2017 Nissan Titan King Cab from $33,745; or $36,775 with four-wheel drive.

In King Cab format — aka extended cab — only the three entry-level trims make it out of the Titan’s Canton, Mississippi assembly plant: S, SV, Pro-4X. The SL and Platinum Reserve are, ahem, reserved for Crew Cabs.

While General Motors’ full-size truck twins, the Ram 1500, and the Toyota Tundra have all switched to conventional front-hinged door configurations for their mid-level cab format, Nissan is sticking with the bodystyle utilized by the best-selling truck in America: Ford’s F-150.

But the configuration may not matter. With savings of just $2,180-$2,680 compared with the bigger Nissan four-door, it won’t be easy to convince buyers to give up their crew cab desires. (Read More…)

By on June 16, 2017

2017 Honda Keep The Peace Odyssey Commercial screenshot - Image: Honda YouTubeThey’re monsters, fighting over a squeezable toy bus before the journey has even begun. They’re inattentive rascals, wearing headphones and tuning out their parents before Mom is even in the van. They’re instigators and agitators, wholly dependent upon parents to keep the peace.

Or are they? Are children really so bad that Honda’s very first marketing campaign for the fifth-generation 2018 Odyssey has to present a negative slant on the life of a parent?

Maybe not. But in an age in which conflict is fostered during live news coverage all day long, in which children are perpetually entertained so they don’t need to entertain themselves, in which there’s not enough time before Zoey’s pottery class and Aiden’s play date to source a conventional resolution, Honda’s Magic Slide seats produce a brilliantly eye-catching commercial, with a little help from animation.

Of course, my kids would never tussle like this. (Read More…)

By on June 16, 2017

Since purchasing my 2004 Mazda MX-5 Miata out of a driveway in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia little more than one month ago, I have not driven the car nearly as much as I’d hoped to. Surprised? Of course not. I’m a relatively young father of two little ones. I have taken on increased responsibilities at […]

By on June 16, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI - Image: VolkswagenGot your heart set on a 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, one with upsized wheels, stickier tires, bigger brakes, some red piping around the grille, and tartan seats?

I feel you. But Volkswagen’s illustrious GTI range is not about to co-sign any legislation on the other side of the aisle. Atlas? Tiguan? Tiguan Limited? Touareg? T-Roc? Amarok? Westfalia? Eurovan?

No.

“I think with the three [GTI models] we have now, we are set,” Volkswagen board chairman Herbert Diess told Autocar.

Unfortunately for the United States hot hatch market, however, only one-third of Volkswagen’s GTI lineup actually makes it to America.

Maybe a Tiguan GTI wouldn’t be so bad? (Read More…)

By on June 16, 2017

2017 Toyota 86 sunset - Image: ToyotaFive years have passed since the Scion FR-S — known elsewhere as the Toyota GT86 and known now in America as the Toyota 86 (and at Subaru as the BRZ) — arrived in America. Buyers, never particularly numerous to begin with, are few and far between. Toyota now sells 62 percent fewer Toyota 86s in America than the Scion FR-S managed during its first year.

You expect to see sports cars peak early and then gradually fade. The degree to which the Toyota 86 née Scion FR-S has faded, however, has been more than a little striking. FR-S/86 sales have fallen so far, so fast, that U.S. car buyers are now ten times more likely to acquire a new Chevrolet Camaro, three times more likely to acquire a new Volkswagen Golf GTI, and twice as likely to acquire a new Mazda MX-5.

But is the Toyota 86 deserving of such rejection? Not according to a just-completed CAR Magazine comparison test in which the five-year-old Toyota claimed victory — ahead of the Mazda MX-5 RF and BMW 2 Series. (Read More…)

By on June 15, 2017

2017 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro - Image: ToyotaAll across America, Hummer H2s are rolling over in their graves.

What even is a Toyota C-HR? Is the Hyundai Kona an indirect Kia Borrego replacement? The Jeep Renegade shares its platform with… an Italian cute-ute?

But have no fear, dead Hummer. The body-on-frame SUV is here to stay. The surge in crossovers — both the number sold and the number of nameplates available — has not caused the American consumer to leave traditional SUVs behind entirely.

U.S. sales of traditional body-on-frame SUVs are up 7 percent through the first five months of 2017, right on par with the growth rate achieved by the SUV/crossover sector as a whole. (Read More…)

By on June 15, 2017

2016 Volkswagen Tiguan - Image: VolkswagenVolkswagen of America is launching an all-new, second-generation, 2018 Tiguan in the summer of 2017. That’s the new new Tiguan.

But there’s also an old new Tiguan. Volkswagen is calling it the Tiguan Limited. Despite the major advances underpinning the new new Tiguan — it’s an MQB platform crossover with way more length, a third row of seats, and a dramatically different interior — the old new Tiguan will benefit from a significant update for 2018, as well.

The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Limited will send power to its front or all four wheels via a new eight-speed automatic, just like the new new Tiguan.

And with a new eight-speed automatic comes new fuel economy figures, something the old old Tiguan could have used years ago. (Read More…)

By on June 15, 2017

2017 Mazda CX-9 2.5 Turbo - Image: MazdaFull autonomy by 2020? An all-electric automotive portfolio by 2025? Not at Mazda, where deputy general manager for product, Kenichiro Saruwatari, says the internal combustion engine will be a part of Mazda’s lineup for at least another three decades.

“We need to have the internal combustion engine,” Saruwatri told Motoring. “Even beyond 2050 we will still utilise the combustion engine.”

But just because Mazda’s plans for the future aren’t limited to hybrids, EVs, and fuel cell vehicles doesn’t mean the engines under the hood of your 2050 Mazda CX-5 will resemble the engines of today. (Read More…)

By on June 15, 2017

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic Coupe - Image: © Timothy CainVehicle classifications are important. They enable governments to better regulate. They allow uninformed buyers to get a grip on the market. They foster competition. They clarify conversation.

The passenger car sector is subdivided in countless ways, and not just by size. In the car realm, there are hatchbacks and liftbacks, convertibles and roadsters, station wagons and shooting brakes, sedans and coupes.

Yet when it comes to utility vehicles, besides differentiating (or attempting to differentiate, if there’s even any point) between SUVs and crossovers, much of the classification conversation revolves purely around size, from the subcompact Honda HR-V to the full-size Chevrolet Suburban.

So what’s this? I’m driving a Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic Coupe this week. But we all know it’s not a coupe, which is traditionally known as a car with two doors and a fixed roof. Sometimes the coupe’s definition is even narrower. Yet never has the traditional coupe definition allowed for vehicles such as the GLC, BMW X4, BMW X6, or Mercedes-Benz’s GLE Coupe to be called coupes.

Still, we need to call them something. (Read More…)

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