Category: Editorials

By on March 23, 2017

Toyota Mirai Clean Billboard, [Image: Toyota North America]

Toyota is teaming up with Clear Channel Outdoor Americas to help clean California’s air with a billboard advertising its hydrogen-powered Mirai fuel cell sedan.

From April 3 to May 28, a total of 37 billboards in Los Angeles and San Francisco will filter smoggy air, thanks to the titanium dioxide-coated vinyl used in the sign.

While Toyota missed an opportunity to explicitly rub salt in a certain rival’s wounds, this is nonetheless a pleasant change of scenery in the automotive world, especially considering all of the Volkswagen emissions scandals of the past couple of years. Read More >

By on March 23, 2017

08C114_029

In a developing story, the Stuttgart prosecutors’ office has launched an investigation into employees of Daimler, parent company and manufacturer of Mercedes-Benz BlueTEC engines. At issue is the (lately) very common Germanic malady of diesel infidelity.

Read More >

By on March 23, 2017

1988 GMC S15 Jimmy

There was a time when just about every day of the week you’d see one (or several) S10/S15 Jimmy/Blazer examples driving around, doing middle-class America things because the Explorer didn’t exist yet. But on account of salt, rust, neglect, and the general “use it up” that happens to trucks in this country, that time is no more.

But is our pristine Rare Ride of today worth anywhere near the sucker-punch $15,000 its owner is asking?

Read More >

By on March 23, 2017

Mark Stevenson's Former 1995 Ford Bronco, Image: © 2011 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

It was 2011. I’d just lost my job working in the lower 48 while on a TN visa. Uncle Sam has some strict rules when it comes to trying to find another job when you’ve lost your sponsored “NAFTA” ride, so I needed to get out of Texas in a hurry and back to my homeland with all my possessions.

There was just one big problem: I had too many vehicles, and needed to decide which part of my motorized fleet to cull before the journey.

Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

Subaru STI bobsled

Most automotive advertising has little to nothing to do with the actual car. It’s usually about presenting an image or hawking brand identity and then loosely associating it with a vehicle — Mercedes’ current “Grow Up” campaign is a perfect, cringeworthy example. However, enthusiasts know that the best car ads feature incredible shenanigans and loads of life-or-death action.

Dave Chapelle mocked Mitsubishi for its pop-and-lock Eclipse spot, while Top Gear honored Land Rover for winching a Defender up the side of a dam. Keenly aware of this is Subaru, which, after sending Mark Higgins and a WRX STI around the Isle of Man TT course in 2014, brought both man and vehicle to the world’s oldest bobsled run in St. Moritz, Switzerland to record another automotive spectacle.

Unfortunately, Subaru is more than 50 years too late for this particular publicity stunt. Ford filmed an identical feature in the Italian Alps with the Cortina GT way back in 1964. It even named the car after the Cortina d’Ampezzo ski resort, where it later held the event. Subaru may be calling it “boxersledding” today, but it’s really just a rehash of Ford’s classic “auto-bobbing.”  Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

WorkbootsLet’s get one thing straight right from the start: like last week, this comparison isn’t going to change anyone’s mind. Truck buyers are a notoriously loyal lot, so the online bleatings of a shrimp-filled journalist are unlikely to curry favor with folks whose work boots are firmly entrenched in one of these three camps.

Thing is, though, I do know a thing or two about trucks. Plus, I had a deadline to meet and needed a topic for today. Having recently completed the trifecta by finally getting the chance to drive all three diesel behemoths listed here, I started to ask myself how these workhorses would compare in single cab, four-wheel drive, base trim. Fleet managers, please click on through: we’re about to step into the world of bare-bones diesel trucks.

Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

2016 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible, Image: Chris Feola

I am the unfrozen cave man of car buyers. Every decade or so, a machine shaman whispers the magic words in my ear — You’re gonna need a new engine — and I leave my cave, shaking my fist at the great ball of fire in the sky, and go looking for one, always packaged in a new steed.

This habit has several interesting side effects. There are crazed leaps in technology when you only go car shopping once a decade or so. In 2001, I turned down a $1,500 option to add a hard wired Motorola Razr to my BMW X5; in 2016, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay were standard on my base 2016 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible.

Another is that I’ve just purchased my fourth car, despite being well into my fifth decade driving.

Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

Cadillac XT5 and XTS Badges, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

Don’t listen to anybody who tries to tell you that all new cars are about the same nowadays, even if they’re referring to the inhabitants of a particular market segment. While I was at my local auto show last week, I took a few minutes to pretend that I was still my 2005-or-thereabouts self and that I was in the market for a new car. I was a different man back then: childless, fancy-free, still pushin’ those Schedule Twos, and personally addicted to flossin’ in the finest full-sized sedans that did not attract a Flying Spur’s worth of attention from the authorities.

Back then, I divided my street car, four-door wheel time between a Volkswagen PhaetonAudi A8, and Mercedes-Benz CL55 AMG. I thought I’d look at a few bland big-ballers and pick a favorite using the same criteria that drove my decisions lo these many years ago. Started with the Genesis G90. Now this is a nice car. Lots of room, acceptable interior quality, and the blank-faced menacing mien that used to come standard with fuselage New Yorkers. And such a bargain, too. Make mine the V8 AWD. Hell, I thought about buying one right now but I can no longer justify spending more than $50,000 on a new car unless it has a snake badge on the nose.

Next up: Lincoln Continental. The G90 makes it feel tight inside but this is the one to have for interior ambiance. Bright, airy, and chock-full of unashamed, authentic design for design’s sake. I never thought the day would come when an American car would be able to compete heads-up with Audi in the cockpit, but the Continental absolutely makes the case.

Last on the list, the Cadillac CT6. Well, what can we say about that?

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By on March 21, 2017

tesla model x

Despite garnering below-average reliability ratings, Tesla is probably the one car brand with the most fervent disciples. While not all Tesla fans are blindly loyal, most are willing to cut the company much more slack than you would Ford the next time your Focus’ bum transmission acts up. Granted, Tesla’s automobiles do possess elements that most Fords do not — namely prestige and a highly unique driving experience.

An elegantly fashionable car will, of course, be more easily forgiven for its missteps than some plain-Jane model. However, the Model S and X have suffered more than just the occasional mechanical error. The Model X is infamous for its malfunctioning electronic doors and wonky electronic interface, while the Model S has suffered from quality control issues since day one. Still, every time an owner voices a concern about reliability or the company’s lackluster ability to service its vehicles, their complaint usually comes with an addendum specifying that they still adore their purchase.  Read More >

By on March 21, 2017

1995 Mitsubishi 300GT VR-4 Spyder

Over time, certain terms begin to evoke very specific images in the minds of human beings. For instance, when someone utters the word “truck,” a medium-blue color circa-2010 F-150 comes to mind. “Luxury sedan” triggers competing images of a circa 1998 Lexus LS400 (in gold) and a W126 Mercedes-Benz S-Class of two-tone variety, probably black over light grey.

And “sports car”… well, that’s a red basket-handle Toyota Supra, or our Rare Ride of today: a Mitsubishi 3000GT.

Read More >

By on March 21, 2017

2014 Lincoln MKT, Image: Ford Motor Company

Before we get down to the meat of this week’s question, a brief bit of housekeeping. If you have a question for “Ask Jack”, send it to askjack@jackbaruth.com. I will accept and privately answer questions on any topic, regardless of my qualifications to do so. Perhaps you would like to know how to catch the eye of that bored, fidgety, but remarkably attractive housewife down the street. Maybe you need to reshuffle Excel spreadsheets using Perl from a command line, or make a tattoo gun using only the items available in a Midwestern prison. I can help you with any of these queries and a million more. However, in keeping with the fundamental dignity of this website, only questions of an automotive nature will be answered here. No matter what the precise nature of your business might be, please title the email “Ask Jack”.

Now where we were? Oh yes: a fellow with the world’s best car is interested in trading it for the world’s ugliest crossover.

Read More >

By on March 21, 2017

jagur-badge-emblem-logo

Jaguar Land Rover unleashed a volley of trademarks over past month, offering a glimpse of some of the names it might use on upcoming models. However, JLR took something of shock-and-awe approach while filing, so it would be unlikely to see all of these affixed to the side of a new model.

One of the more standout monikers is XJS, Jaguar’s former luxury grand tourer. Absent for two decades, Jag could commit sacrilege and bring it back as something other than a large two-door without much blowback from the general public. Those who remember the original would no doubt be appalled. The company also trademarked Westminster, which likely denotes a particular blue paint Jaguar was fond of during nineties and not a specific model. JLR also slipped in a filing for Freestyle —sharing a title with a crossover utility vehicle that sold incredibly well before Ford changed its name. Read More >

By on March 21, 2017

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio - Image: FCA

Jalopnik published its review of the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio (man, Quadrifoglio takes forever to type) and the world discovered that Jalopnik’s Giulia did not require a tow truck.

That sounds terribly sarcastic, but we wouldn’t be compelled to point out the relative reliability of Jalopnik’s Giulia Quadrifoglio (my goodness, Quadrifoglio takes forever to type) if Giulias hadn’t failed so miserably at other prominent publications in the recent past.

Jalopnik’s 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio didn’t struggle with remote starts, spend time getting fixed at a dealer, stall while parking, or die in traffic. Bless its thumping Italian heart. But Jalopnik’s Giulia Quadrifoglio was far from perfect. Editor-in-chief Patrick George says he doesn’t care: “I am willing to do what the Alfisti have done for decades and chalk up most of its flaws to that thing that is so elusive in modern cars: character.”

But George told me yesterday, “It’s not weirdo enthusiasts like me that Alfa Romeo has to convince. It’s normal folks who might otherwise buy a BMW or a Lexus.”

“And they’re not going to put up with these issues.” Read More >

By on March 21, 2017

Picoscope NVH diagnosis tool, Image: Twitter

Doug writes:

I have a 2007 Mercedes-Benz S550. I accidentally bought it in 2014 off eBay (long story) for about trade-in ($13,000), with 150,000 miles on the odomater. In a twist of good luck, it turned out to be a one owner car and using CarFax I was able to see and verify that it had been maintained by the selling dealer right up to a few weeks before its eBay appearance. A call to the dealer confirmed the complete service history. Even the brake pads and rotors were new, and it had a newish and very expensive set of Michelins. Almost three years later, it has been very reliable for my teen daughter and has 180,000 miles. It had a few quirks I have fixed myself (clogged charcoal canister, minor trunk leak caused by a missing rubber plug, sticking power driver seat) and only one real repair (dead stereo amp rebuilt by Becker).

Now that my daughter is off at college and content with a ZipCar, I am driving it and intend to keep doing so. I have noticed a vibration in the center console area of all places, while driving around town. You feel it through your arm resting on the console lid. It’s a deep vibration, if that makes sense — coming from under the car.

You don’t feel it in the seat, nor do you feel it in the steering wheel. You do not feel it at a standstill, just at 20-30 mph. It goes away at higher speeds, and the car is rock solid and smooth as glass at 75 mph. I am stumped as to the cause, and with the age of the car, I don’t want to set a dealership or even an indy shop loose on it without more of an idea of the cause. I was thinking maybe a motor mount, but it seems like I would feel that all the time, and especially at idle, which I don’t. I was wondering about maybe some kind of driveshaft or transmission mount or connection point, but it seems like a fault that would get worse with increasing speed instead of going away. Do you have any ideas?

Read More >

By on March 20, 2017

Macan Porsche

While still exclusive, Porsche is gradually becoming a more populous and profitable brand. It delivered 238,000 vehicles last year and posted an operating profit of $4.1 billion — a 14-percent increase over 2015’s accounting.

A little back-of-the-envelope math places the per-car profit at roughly $17,250. As a premium automaker, you’d expect it to rake it in on every vehicle sold. However, Porsche doesn’t limit production to the same extent that Ferrari does in order to maintain artificially high prices. And it absolutely decimates other premium brands that offer exclusivity at a higher volume. BMW and Mercedes-Benz both hover at around $5,000 in profit per car.

Porsche seems to have struck an ideal balance. While its per-car profit was actually higher a few years ago — $23,000 in 2013 — it wasn’t making quite as much money overall. At the time, Bentley pulled in roughly 21 grand per unit and sold fewer vehicles overall. Since then, Porsche has shifted some of its focus downmarket, introduced the Macan, expanded its volume, increased income, and still managed to maintain a sweet profit margin on every vehicle sold.

How did it manage that? Basically, the same way Ford wrangles its F-150.

Read More >

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