The Truth About Cars » Editorials http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sun, 02 Aug 2015 00:58:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » Editorials http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/category/editorials/ 2015 Buick Regal GS AWD – Get A Grip, Man http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-buick-regal-gs-get-grip-man/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-buick-regal-gs-get-grip-man/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 14:07:35 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1129617 It’s not often you get to see the future when you look at a car. Admittedly, the 2015 Buick Regal GS AWD looks nothing like a crystal ball — it’s a deep shade of white that I never knew existed and its 20-inch wheels wrapped with summer rubber are … challenging. But I can see […]

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It’s not often you get to see the future when you look at a car.

Admittedly, the 2015 Buick Regal GS AWD looks nothing like a crystal ball — it’s a deep shade of white that I never knew existed and its 20-inch wheels wrapped with summer rubber are … challenging.

But I can see the future of Buick in this car.


The Tester

2015 Buick Regal GS AWD

Engine: 2-liter, turbocharged I-4 (259 horsepower @ 5,300 rpm; 295 lbs-ft @ 2,500-4,000 rpm)
Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Fuel Economy (Rating, mpg): 19 city/27 highway/22 combined
Fuel Economy (Observed, mpg): 24 mpg combined; 60/40 highway/city

Options: Driver Confidence Package #2 (Adaptive cruise control, Automatic collision preparation) $1,195; Driver Confidence Package #1 (Following distance sensor indicator, Forward collision alert, Rear cross traffic alert, Lane departure warning, Driver and passenger seat memory settings, Side blind zone alert) $1,040; Power moonroof $1,000 (!); White diamond tricoat $995; 20-inch aluminum wheels w/ summer tires $700; Cargo area tray $140; Floor mats $140; Cargo mat $80.

As tested: $46,025


Allow me to practice my Google-certified armchair psychology for just a moment.

Are you a middle child? Do you find yourself grasping for an identity, sandwiched between two personalities so large that Siegfried and Roy would blush?

Buick would like to talk to you. Their latest effort, the 2015 Regal GS, screams middle child worse than black fingernails or repeated trips to the principal’s office. If you’re a parent (I’m not), or ever been to the principal’s office more than once in a day (I have), then you’ll understand.

The normal Regal — built on the same Epsilon II platform as the Chevrolet Malibu — is a geezer’s paradise of creamy leather, creamy ride and plenty of storage space for Werther’s Original candies. To say that the Regal has no character is wholly inaccurate. The Regal has spirit like “Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts” used to: tightly packed in an easily digestible delivery so smooth you could eat dinner and never miss a beat. For that reason, the Buick Regal may be the Salisbury steak TV dinner of the automotive world.

But the Regal GS is a little different.

Back to middle child syndrome, our tester was priced at more than $46,000 all told, and that’s a lot for not-quite-a-Cadillac. If you look far enough into the future, you can see Chevrolet and Cadillac growing far enough apart that Buick — a brand on the ropes not too long ago — will have a future in the United States. The Regal’s stately presence is a perfect middle between Chevrolet’s no-frills Malibu and Cadillac’s upcoming CT6.

But the Regal GS sticks out like black nail polish on a middle schooler. It’s fine for a while, but you just hope it’s something they’ll eventually grow out of.

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Exterior
The Regal GS sports a little more ‘tude than the Regal and I’m all for that. The neatly packaged exterior is handsome (but not aggressive) and curvy (but not bulbous). The GS separates itself from the Regal with a unique front fascia and rear bumper that integrates the dual exhaust tips. Our tester, clad in white, showed its curves very well despite being white, the color that encompasses — though somehow lacks — all colors.

The Regal GS’s heritage as an Opel is evident. The Insignia-based looks are clean and sharp, and belie the idea that at its heart, the Regal is just a retooled Malibu. Admittedly, I loosely remembered that the Regal was related to the Malibu, but had to double-check my facts when the car first arrived. That’s a good thing.

The Regal GS’s waterfall grille and logo looked a little big to me and felt like overcompensation for a car that wants to very badly be American sports sedan a la ATS-V. It’s not. It has too much Opel. And its all the better for it.

There are some curiosities on the outside. The faux hood vents are a little low-rent, and the underline body crease that extends from the rear wheel forward like a hockey stick is entirely too dramatic.

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Interior
Any conversation about the Regal GS should begin and end with its seats. The deep buckets are soft and comfortable, with pockets for my rump that held me in place when I threw the car around. There are accented trims and stitching to break up the pallid gray world of most mid-sized sedans, and I love that.

But on the rest of the interior, the GS reads like the back of a bottle of mouthwash. Aside from two buttons near the top of the infotainment screen, which read plainly “GS” and “Sport”, you’d be hard pressed to realize you’re in the performance variant of anything. Even the digital instrument readout in front of the driver doesn’t have much special going on. Its customizable performance pages are limited to lateral grip, transmission temperature and oil pressure. That’s not performance so much as it is perfunctory.

In back, the Regal sports rear legroom that’s better than the competition and a copious amount of trunk space for a sports sedan. The Regal GS’s 107.8-inch wheelbase is fully one inch shorter than the BMW 3-Series, but by my measure, Buick takes advantage of its space better, which I can appreciate.

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Infotainment
Fitted with Buick’s IntelliLink system, which is a variant of Chevrolet’s MyLink and Cadillac’s HotLink (I may have made that up), the car’s entertainment and information screens are easily laid out and logisticalistical (I may have made that up too). Among its competitors, the system General Motors uses is among the best and least fussy. The standard measure for how I know such things: I’m confident my father could have figured this thing out in 5 minutes cold. That’s a good sign.

Our tester’s stereo, a Bose-branded, 9-speaker affair, was fantastically clear and rich. I know there’s a habit of dumping on premium sound systems — especially those named Bose — but I wouldn’t imagine anything other than this setup in a Regal GS. Good thing it comes standard.

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Drivetrain
The Regal GS is powered by a turbocharged, 259-horsepower, 2-liter four cylinder and it’s a little bit of question mark. For starters, you should consider that it adds a whopping $14,000 to the bottom line, bumping the price up to $40,075 for the GS model.

I get that the GS is a throwback to Buick’s semi-lucid performance days. Their Grand National coupe was a 1980s legend. That black body could command attention and pink slips at any dragstrip — especially if someone were dumb enough to call it “granddad” while sitting in their Corvette. Recent examples of the Grand National have sold at auction for more than $165,000. Yeah, they’re that awesome.

I’m not as confident that the Regal GS will command the same price at auction in 20 years, but its mechanicals are interesting. The aforementioned 2-liter, turbo four is married monogamously to a six-speed automatic transmission if you opt for all-wheel drive, or a six-speed manual if you choose front-wheel drive. The GS also adds four-wheel independent suspension; MacPhersons up front and four-link in the back with adaptive damping all the way around. Shod with 19-inch shoes — or 20-inch wheels in the case of our tester — the Regal GS will sprint up to 60 mph in 6.5 seconds, according to the manufacturer.

Are you not impressed? You should be. Taken alone, the Regal GS reads on paper like an Audi. For serious. No really, it does.

Fire the Regal GS up and let’s chat.

First, you’ll notice that despite having more power under the hood, the Regal GS is just as quiet as its wafty brother.

Second, the turbo four didn’t sound to my ears like it was enhanced at all. I respect that. Its engine doesn’t sound particularly awesome, but hats off to Buick for playing the cards they were dealt.

Third, despite being a sports sedan for Buick and having an automatic transmission, the Regal GS doesn’t have steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. I know, I know, paddle shifters scream “sport” like compression leggings on a 50-year-old — but they’re just par for the course these days. Go fig.

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Drive
Once you get past that, the GS is a hoot to drive. Its 259 horsepower doesn’t do much for its 3,500-pound mass, but the 295 lb.-ft. of twist races up to highway speed with grins along the way. Of all the features the GS does well (interior comfort, exterior looks, and Werther’s Original cubbies) it handles better than your father’s handshake. Our GS AWD shifted its mass and wriggled its way around corners like a competent European sedan. That could have come down to its summer tires wrapped around 20-inch polished wheels — which I’m not sure how many people would actually order in an AWD car — but goodness can the GS grip.

But in my tester, I noticed that by tapping on the Sport or GS buttons very little of the car’s inputs change. According to Buick, GS is a more aggressive setting than Sport, which is a more aggressive setting than normal driving conditions. Aside from its steering firming up a little, I was hard pressed to tell the difference between any of the GS’s three drive modes.

In all, the GS is the best kind of Regal that money can buy, but its $46,000 price tag is a lot of money for this kind of Buick.

And it’s hard to imagine that this kind of Buick has much of a future with Cadillac around.

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Money Isn’t Everything: What an $8,500 Porsche 996 Really Costs http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/money-isnt-everything-what-an-8500-porsche-996-really-costs/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/money-isnt-everything-what-an-8500-porsche-996-really-costs/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 15:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1129177 About two months ago, I purchased my fourth new-to-me car in as many years — and I still had two of the previous three. Of those three, one was purchased for adventure (a 1977 Porsche 911S that I drove cross-country and back nine days after purchasing it), one because of nostalgia (a Honda S2000, I […]

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Porsche996d

About two months ago, I purchased my fourth new-to-me car in as many years — and I still had two of the previous three. Of those three, one was purchased for adventure (a 1977 Porsche 911S that I drove cross-country and back nine days after purchasing it), one because of nostalgia (a Honda S2000, I bought one new and missed it), and the third due to reputation (an Acura NSX, I had never even driven one before buying this one online). Those reasons must be the foundation for some sort of automotive cardinal sins list.

However, I bought the fourth one because it represented such a good value. It was a 1999 Porsche 911 Carrera with about 146,000 miles. It hadn’t had the IMS bearing replaced, but I figured that with such high mileage it probably wouldn’t have an issue. Is this foreshadowing? The seller was a friend who had owned it for about two years but had purchased a mid-eighties 911 Targa recently and didn’t want the ’99 as a daily driver any longer.

Painted a pretty medium blue, the 996 was equipped with a beige interior and GT3 wheels. It drove well and — except for mediocre clearcoat and worn leather, a ‘check engine’ light that appeared intermittently, and a blown speaker — it was a solid performer. I certainly didn’t need the Porsche (nor did I have the space), but at $8,500, how could I go wrong?

Also, I’ve always been of the opinion that anyone who buys a new [insert shitbox automotive appliance here] is an idiot. I read “You Gotta Be Rich to Own a Cheap Car” and agreed with the article.

“Baruth,” I thought to myself, “you nailed it.” But he missed something important, too. I’ll come back to that in a bit.

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My friend and I went for a test drive and then we met up on a Sunday morning for coffee at Deus Ex Machina, in Venice, CA. He signed the title and I signed a check. $8,500 for a Porsche 911. Boom. What’s a Toyota Corolla? I just bought Zuffenhausen’s finest.

On Monday, I called my insurance agent to add the Porsche. “Hmmm. It comes up in my system as a Porsche Boxster.” I frowned. “No, it’s a 911,” I replied.

“Maybe the DMV just has it wrong. But it is a convertible, right?” she asked.

“No, it’s a coupe.”

“Could you go outside and compare the windshield VIN with your title, please?”

Now I was nervous. This was cutting into my valuable automotive journalist cereal-eating time. I walked outside under a bright, blue Los Angeles sky and almost dropped my cereal. The VIN on the title and on the car didn’t match. On closer inspection the title also had the wrong license plate number.

“Let me call you back…”

I called my friend immediately and told him what was going on. He told me that he used to have a 1999 Porsche Boxster that was totaled and that he had probably given the shop that bought it the wrong title.

“Let me call you back…”

After a quick phone call to them, he confirmed this was the case. We met again a few days later to switch titles. The Porsche was now insured, but still not registered.

That was a whole other headache because when my friend gave the shop that bought the wrecked Boxster their half of the title, he mailed his half in that stated that this shop now owned it. Except they didn’t. They owned the 911 because he had mixed them up. Now he’d have to write a letter to the DMV explaining the mix-up. He wrote it promptly and sent it over. In the meantime, I drove the Porsche around enjoying its torquey flat-six, thinking, “Yeah, it’s been a bit aggravating, but it’ll work out. And after all, I got an eighty-five hundred dollar 911!”

Porsche996i

A couple of days later, I went out to run some mundane errand. I jumped in the car, fired it up and lowered the windows. Except the driver-side window didn’t drop smoothly. Then, when attempting to roll it back up, it jammed and stopped — crooked, half-way up. I opened the door and tried guiding it.

“I’ll just use the air conditioning.”

(Don’t forget: This is Los Angeles. We don’t have real seasons.)

Air-con is on, let’s go! Oh. What’s this? A warning light. The check engine light came on again. I was used to that one by now, but now the airbag light was on too.

“At least the car was cheap,” I nervously muttered as I released the clutch.

Following all the registration issues, my threshold for nonsense was much decreased. I had now owned the car over three weeks, but had only driven it about a hundred miles. I called my friend again. It’s at this point that I began to suspect that he had realized that he’d sold me the car for far less than he could get from some joker in Cleveland. He offered to buy the car back for what I had paid.

I told him that I’d like to have it checked out, see what the airbag issue was, and that I’d let him know how I wanted to proceed. He graciously offered to pay for the repairs as he didn’t want me to be pissed. I took it to the shop and they called back the following morning.

“There’s an issue with the airbag wiring harness and also, ummm, the car needs a new window regulator.”

“OK… how much will that cost?”

“Well, we also put it on the rack and there are a few other issues… the clutch will need to be replaced within the next 5000 miles and the water pump is leaking pretty badly. Also, the tie-rods are damaged and there are a few cosmetic issues inside the cabin. Oh and…”

“Let me call you back…”

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My friend and I met up the following Sunday. I handed him the title and he signed a check. In total, I “owned” the 911 for twenty-six days. The IMS bearing didn’t fail during my ownership stint. There were no hard feelings on either side. He’s happy that he can make more money off of it and I’m happy to be rid of the registration issues and mechanical faults.

Which brings me to what Baruth missed. Being rich or privileged isn’t enough to own a cheap car. All those trust-fund enthusiasts — who can’t believe the masses drive around in $10-15K Camrys, Civics, and Altimas — would do well to realize how fortunate they themselves are. Not simply because they can purchase “cheap” performance cars and feel superior to the poor Versa-driving shmucks (“Man, you don’t know what you’re missing! Just get a cheap sports car…”); but because more than the pure financial cost is the amount of time you have to be able to waste attending to issues that invariably pop up.

How much time did I squander between trying to register the Porsche, buying and selling it back, and taking it to the shop? Please don’t tell me. I’m fine spending some money on cars because you can always earn more, sell something, etc… But my time? That is a limited, decreasing asset and, as a car guy, I’d rather spend mine driving.

POSTSCRIPT: You may have noticed that the accompanying photos are not of a medium blue Porsche 996. No, they’re of a GT Silver 40th anniversary 996. That’s because my friend worried that this article might affect his ability to sell the car and hence didn’t allow me to photograph his car (and I didn’t shoot it while I still owned it). But I didn’t want the story to run with one crappy instagram shot so I turned to the forums where a good Samaritan stepped in.

You’ve got to have eye candy, right?

Yoav Gilad is the Principal and Co-Founder of Screen Cartel, a content and production agency. He also has a personal automotive site dedicated to bringing the thrill and romance of cars and travel to the enthusiast, KeepItWideOpen, which has at least two fans: his mom and his wife. His dad doesn’t care for it. He is a car designer by training and was Petrolicious’s managing editor before branching out on his own.

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2015 Subaru Legacy Rental Car Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-subaru-legacy-rental-car-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-subaru-legacy-rental-car-review/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 14:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1129105 In my youth I was a vital, virile, male Manly Man. So manly that when I got a new ’86 GTI as my first “nice” car, I left off not only the automatic transmission but also the power steering. Mind you, it drove great — when it drove at all. One night my parents tossed me […]

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In my youth I was a vital, virile, male Manly Man. So manly that when I got a new ’86 GTI as my first “nice” car, I left off not only the automatic transmission but also the power steering. Mind you, it drove great — when it drove at all.

One night my parents tossed me the keys to drive them home from the restaurant. Mom’s whip was a mid-trim, 4-pot ’88 Camry. Yes, its limits were low, it was gutless, and it was tailored to bourgeois tastes with pastel upholstery here and fake stitching there. However, it was up front about its limitations, pridefully built, civilized in all its moves, and driving it was just so…easy. I one-fingered steered all the way home and made an earnest mental note.

Fifty VW defects later, I went Japanese and never looked back.

2015_Subaru_Legacy_ext_25This is the set of preconceptions I carried to the Avis counter the other day just before I walked away with the keys to a ’15 Subaru Legacy. My first impression of the car was, boy, boxy car in dull blue. My second was, hey, nice 18” alloys; this must be a high trim. And my third impression confirmed it. Upon opening the door, I encountered perforated — if rather anodyne — black leather, muted — if obviously fake — wood, and soft-touch surfaces everywhere I dash-stroked.

There were no badges inside or out, but I’ve subsequently deduced this example was the top-trim 2.0 Limited, albeit without the graduate-level nannies and navigation. It had the usual stuff to infuriate my Luddite self – the profusion of steering wheel buttons, the ersatz iPad above the console – but the buttons were at least logically arranged, and the HVAC was mercifully set free entirely from the gizmo prison. I heaved a sigh of relief and hit the road.

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The Legacy’s interior doesn’t say “premium,” but it exudes an integrity of build notably missing in, for one example, the embarrassing current-generation Camry. It’s not perfect; there are some odd angles and planes you’d only find in Nipponese iron, and the multi-adjustable driver’s seat only just sort of fits, with a head restraint that deserves its own restraining order. The stereo definitely has a subwoofer, though the treble was either dialed down or left out. The speedo is ringed in glowing blue as a fashion statement. There’s nothing all that fashionable about it anymore, but it’s also not executed via unevenly applied glops of cheapo blue paint like the previous-generation Fusion I once drove. This car was probably built in Indiana, but there’s nothing about it that needs to bow in inferiority to native Japanese workmanship. It reconfirms that American executives, not American workers, are the problem with American cars.

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The Legacy feels smaller and niftier in tight spaces than its size implies. Once underway, the chassis feels tight, body motions are firm but controlled, and the steering is firm and accurate — although electric-numb. Once I went into a decreasing-radius entrance ramp a little hot. The car stuck admirably while giving the driver no clue how it was doing so, which was the desired result but rather unsettling in concept. Whenever I buried the loud pedal, it wasn’t all that loud or coarse, just CVT-annoying like a distant motorboat. It wasn’t all that fast, either.

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Over the road, I distinctly recall the 4-pot Legacy I took out a decade ago for an (almost literal) spin around the block. That car engaged me on pea gravel at 10 mph. This new one didn’t, at any speed. It just did whatever I asked. It tracked true on a wet and windy highway, went easy on its driver, effortlessly swallowed far more people and cargo than I could throw at it, and felt, at least by today’s pound-shaving standards, sturdy and untaxed by all of it.

After I turned in the Legacy, I looked up its road test in that tree-pulp car magazine. They said Subaru had resolved this generation to return the Legacy to its roots. Did they? I think not. Instead, they did something just as noble: Far better than their parent company has bothered to do in recent years, they returned to Toyota’s.

If “love makes a Subaru a Subaru,” it’s not the hot and dirty kind I used to experience with my tempestuous GTI bitch. It’s the kind you feel for the sheepdog who fetches your slippers for you every day of its life. Would I own one? If I got a fantastic deal, and if it had the Six, and I were short of funds for something more fun, mayhaps. But would I recommend one? To the right non-car-person friend, heartily. And I’ll bet they’d thank me for it the next 15 years.

Photography provided by the manufacturer.

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In Pictures: Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/in-pictures-pittsburgh-vintage-grand-prix/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/in-pictures-pittsburgh-vintage-grand-prix/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 13:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1128953 I bet you didn’t know the longest continually running vintage car race and show in the nation is held in Yinzerville. That’s right. Every summer since 1983, Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park becomes the scene of the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. The course consists of a 2.33 mile stretch of road inside the park that challenges drivers with its twenty […]

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I bet you didn’t know the longest continually running vintage car race and show in the nation is held in Yinzerville. That’s right. Every summer since 1983, Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park becomes the scene of the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix. The course consists of a 2.33 mile stretch of road inside the park that challenges drivers with its twenty three turns, walls, telephone poles and other common features of an ordinary road.

This event routinely draws drivers, spectators and car buffs from all over North America and Europe, with this year’s attendance being 200,000 over the week of events. The Vintage Grand Prix raises money for the Autism Society of Pittsburgh and the Allegheny Valley School and, since its inception, has raised $3.9 million dollars for these charities. Your humble correspondent just happened to be in the area a few Sundays ago and made an unplanned stop at the event.

The race itself draws better photographers than I, although I was able to snap some half decent shots of the first race with my cell phone (I wish I had brought my SLR believe me).

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But the show itself is what many spectators come to see, here you will find some very unique automobiles such as this pre-war Bentley.

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Ford Thunderbird

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Packard

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Lincoln Continental

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Porsche 550 Spyder

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Mercedes 300

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Pontiac Firebird

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Cadillac Coupe de Ville

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Chevrolet Corvette C2

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And also some newer models such as the Porsche 918 Spyder…

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…this Alfa Romeo with Ontario plates…

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…a Mercury Marauder fit for the Mehta household (the cardboard note says: “Free beer to any Corvette owner with a better slip time.”)…

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…and a Ferrari driving home.

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For more information about the event, visit their website at www.pvgp.com.

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TTAC Project Car: Sacrifice to The Sierra Gods! http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ttac-project-car-sacrifice-sierra-gods/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ttac-project-car-sacrifice-sierra-gods/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 12:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1128273   No surprise, the auto journo that insists on everything LS-swapped is actually a big ol’ fraud. Do as he says, not as he does with TTAC’s Project Car — a 1983 Ford Sierra Ghia previously reviewed with the promise of more to come. Promises: kept. After scouring the interwebs, reading about the Sierra’s factory […]

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Merkur? ZOMG SANJEEV Y U NO LS1-FTW?

Merkur? ZOMG SANJEEV Y U NO LS1-FTW?

No surprise, the auto journo that insists on everything LS-swapped is actually a big ol’ fraud. Do as he says, not as he does with TTAC’s Project Car — a 1983 Ford Sierra Ghia previously reviewed with the promise of more to come.

Promises: kept.

After scouring the interwebs, reading about the Sierra’s factory shortcomings and applying a modicum of common sense, the ultimate in Chevrolet LS-performance was beyond my financial scope and my intentions for a Mk1 Sierra. Stuffing 10 pounds of shit into a 5-pound bag, no matter the ability to make the baddest, brown, 5-door hatch on the planet, wasn’t in the cards.

1988 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe

Then a 1988 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe arrived via phone call. Bought by my friend (and infamous LeMons racer) Brian Pollock as a rust-free restomod worthy of a good home, he parted it out to feed his racing addiction. True to form, he made a quick buck off me with its valuable Fox Body parts, but our conversation soon regressed to the Sierra-worthy goodies: the turbocharged 2.3-liter mill, EEC-IV fuel injection, T-5 gearbox (a la Sierra Cosworth), the largest injectors/camshaft/manifold/VAM of its breed, rear disc brakes and even a serpentine accessory belt drive. It was all mine for $700, with Brian’s commitment to be the craftsman behind this madness.

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Then another LeMons racer offered the running, restorable 1988 Merkur XR4ti (American Sierra to you noobs) seen in this article’s introduction. Sure, the motor’s hurt, but it rounds out the Sierra’s Ford-ification: a drop-in EFI wiring harness/fuel system/clutch, bigger (front) brakes, firmer springs, fatter anti-sway bars, stronger 7.5-inch differential and countless interior bits including a boost gauge.

$600? Sold! There’s even my favorite 2.3-liter aluminum cam cover with complimentary mud dauber nest:

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Shockingly, the Merkur’s hurt motor fired up on first attempt after a 2+ year slumber. Once the amazement subsided (terrible quality YouTube video remains), the notion of driving a parts car certainly beats pushing the damn thing.

For the price of an LS1 take-out motor, my path to being a complete fraud — a two-faced bastard of massive proportions — was complete. Plus, I enjoy slamming performance Ford parts in Ford products where they do not belong. It’s been my shtick with non-Mustang Fox Bodies since 1999.

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Necessary Aside: Behold the amazing parts interchangeability of (disturbingly comfortable) Turbo Coupe seats in Brian’s Ford truck. It’s also a 5-speed Fummins conversion, garnering attention from the tow-savvy among the B&B in our last article, effortlessly yanking the Merkur, T-bird and the Sierra around Texas. Aside from the color clash, this embodies everything I wanted to share in this update.

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That’s a very handy book to find in the back seat of your Merkur parts car. I bet I can get $50 for it when I’m done with the swap. So what’s next for TTAC’s Ford Sierra?

The Turbo Coupe is stripped; of no further use to anyone but China. It’ll be scrap metal by the time you read this.

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The Merkur isn’t long for this world, but the sacrificial lamb’s pain is pure pleasure to The Sierra Gods. I suspect we’re swapping subframes (for that stiffer suspension and big differential), grabbing fuel, drivetrain and EFI wiring bits in the coming months. And since its rust free, maybe I’ll sawzall off the rocker panels as the Sierra is a tad rusty-crusty after those hard UK winters.

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Most of this is on Brian’s plate, but me? I’m ensuring the Merkur’s computer accepts a tune like the (better) unit salvaged from the Turbo Coupe, with input from my SCT tuner friend. Perhaps intake, exhaust and camshaft upgrades are in the mix. You never know!

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I’m also geeking out over the Merkur’s factory boost gauge via installation into the Sierra’s cluster. Not a direct drop in, as the right-hand-drive Sierra puts the speedometer (and cable) on the wrong side of the assembly.

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Nothing I can’t handle.

What other roadblocks shall TTAC’s project encounter? Until next time!

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Got Them Old NCRS Packard Blues http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/got-old-ncrs-packard-blues/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/got-old-ncrs-packard-blues/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 13:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1125585 There are a lot of things that I like about the car hobby and, at the same time, there are annoyances. As someone who writes about automotive history, I can well appreciate the need for authenticity when it comes to restorations. I also understand that humans are competitive and that car shows are often actual […]

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boyer

There are a lot of things that I like about the car hobby and, at the same time, there are annoyances. As someone who writes about automotive history, I can well appreciate the need for authenticity when it comes to restorations. I also understand that humans are competitive and that car shows are often actual competitions. Otherwise, there wouldn’t be such a thing as Best of Show. Consequently, there’s a place in this world for quibbling whether or not the wingnut on a 1958 Chevy is true to the VIN, but as I said, it can be annoying.

Once, at an auction preview, I was looking a 1954 Corvette that could either be described as an interesting survivor or a good candidate for restoration. I’ll admit to being drawn to survivor cars. It’s only original once and most of today’s restorations go well beyond the kind of quality control that existed in the car factories of previous generations.

While I was standing there, an older gentleman and his wife came up to the car. A Corvette enthusiast, he started pointed out to her all of the things that needed to be done. I thought he was kind of picky, but then I’m not an expert. His conclusion? Anyone who bought it and restored it would be upside down on its value after the restoration. My conclusion? If I could afford it, I’d keep it as is.

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That’s when the phrase “going all NCRS on it” popped into my head. That acronym stands for the National Corvette Restoration Society, perhaps the world’s most anal retentive group of car guys. NCRS certifies restored Vettes as being right — or wrong — as the case may be. When I say “going NCRS on it” to people who collect cars, they smile knowingly.

It’s one thing if a judge at a show mentions a flaw or inaccuracy. It’s another for someone just attending a show to rag on an exhibitor who’s spent time and a non-trivial amount of money to share his or her car with the public.

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The Concours of America at St. John’s was held this past weekend near Detroit. A member of the troika of world class American car shows that also include Amelia Island and Pebble Beach, the CoAaSJ started out as the Meadow Brook concours and has been operating for 37 years (tip of the hat to Don Sommer who started it all).

Probably because of the Detroit connection, this concours has always featured a lot of classic era Packards, though the marque is well represented at those other two top-shelf shows as well. I started talking to a young man, Jonathan Boyer, 20 years old and very knowledgeable about Packards, who was showing his grandfather’s dark blue 1938 Packard Super Eight 1605 convertible sedan by Dietrich Inc. By then, Ray Dietrich had left the coachbuilding firm that he’d sold to Murray, which supplied Packard with both production and coachbuilt bodies.

In 1938, at $3,970, the convertible sedan was the most expensive eight cylinder Packard with the exception of the catalog customs by Brunn and Rollston. That works out to about $67,000 in 2015 dollars. Last year, a similar car sold at auction for $137,500, so if you bought one new and kept it in good shape, you’d probably be way ahead of inflation. For sure, you can buy a decent used car for what it would cost to replace the Lalique glass eagle’s head hood ornament (it lights up in the dark) that is popular with the senior Packard set.

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The “senior” Packards of the late 1930s were almost in a class by themselves. By then Packard was making two lines: the traditional, more or less hand built, high-end luxury cars and the more affordable, mid-priced One-Twenty models. The Great Depression had taken its toll on luxury car companies. By the end of 1938, Pierce Arrow had stopped making cars, and E.L. Cord’s three brands — Auburn, Cord, and Duesenberg — were all out of production. Lincoln sold just 47 Model Ks that year.

The Boyer’s Super Eight is quite an impressive car, painted in a very rich dark blue, which Jonathan told me was “Packard Blue” just as another Packard enthusiast was walking by. “That’s not Packard blue, it’s too purple,” said the passerby. It almost got heated.

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Also known as Minota Blue, Packard Blue was a signature color for that automaker in the late 1930s. Apparently, matching it has become a question, since no original Packard Blue finishes have survived. There are two modern OEM colors from the 1980s that are said to be close, but primer colors, tinting and application method are still a factor in reproducing the original topcoat’s hue.

That’s not how this Packard’s blue was formulated, though. The young man’s grandfather is Ralph Boyer. The name may not be familiar to you but you’ve seen his work. He was a designer at Ford Motor Company for 47 years, his career spanning from working on the very first Thunderbird that came out in 1955 to the last, which was introduced in 2002.

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Of the domestic automakers, Ford probably has the most expertise with paint. Unlike Chrysler and GM, Ford made at least some of their own paint until they sold their paint operations to DuPont in 1986. I worked for DuPont’s main automotive paint R&D lab myself for many years and frequently visited their Mt. Clemens, Michigan paint factory that they bought from Ford, which had acquired it from Ditzler.

When Boyer restored the multiple award winning car in the 1990s (for an older restoration, the car still shows very well, winning a ribbon at St. John’s last weekend), he took a methodical approach to getting the color correctly. Styling executives at car companies have a lot of resources available to them.

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I don’t know when the paint industry first started using actual paint chips to demonstrate their finishes, but it goes back a long way. Boyer obtained two different vintage paint chips for Packard Blue — one from Ditzler and one from Sherwin Williams — and took them to Ford’s paint lab. After delicately cleaning off any possible oxidation from the surfaces, the chips were analyzed with the tools of a modern paint lab like colorimeters and gloss meters. The two chips differed slightly so values were averaged to determine the formula. LaVine Restorations, which has worked on many show winners, was responsible for applying the paint.

It seems to me that’s more likely to produce a closer reproduction of the actual original color than starting with a modern OEM shade that’s close. Perhaps, if a fresh Packard Blue barn find emerges with an intact finish some day, we may find that Boyer’s Packard is the wrong blue, but as his son John, also a career Ford employee, later told me, “That color is as close to Packard Blue as Ford Motor Company can make it.”

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With that much effort by his grandfather put into getting the color correctly, you might understand why the young man was piqued by the passerby’s comments. After the man walked away, I said to Boyer’s grandson, “Boy, he went all NCRS on you, didn’t he?” He laughed.

Postscript: After writing the first draft of this post, I checked my photos and I found out that while I spent a fair amount of time talking to Ralph’s grandson, Jonathan, about their Packard, I’d neglected to shoot any pictures of it. When I contacted Ralph to see if I could arrange a brief photo shoot, he told me that the car was still in its trailer from the show but that they were unloading it that afternoon. Fortuitously, I already had to be on that side of town and the Boyer’s graciously let me take photos and even get some video of a rather magnificent blue automobile being driven.

Photos by the author.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Junkyard Find: 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Custom, with Bonus 1993 Newspapers http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/junkyard-find-1973-oldsmobile-delta-88-custom-bonus-1993-newspapers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/junkyard-find-1973-oldsmobile-delta-88-custom-bonus-1993-newspapers/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 12:00:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1126729 The full-sized Olds 88 was around for decade after decade, and we’ve seen a few of them in this series so far. There was this ’67 Delta, this ’70 Delta, and this ’84 Delta Royale Brougham, and of course many of us remain fans of music devoted to the now-defunct marque. Here’s a ’73 Delta […]

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30 - 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Photo by Murilee Martin

The full-sized Olds 88 was around for decade after decade, and we’ve seen a few of them in this series so far. There was this ’67 Delta, this ’70 Delta, and this ’84 Delta Royale Brougham, and of course many of us remain fans of music devoted to the now-defunct marque. Here’s a ’73 Delta 88 Custom (whoops, it appears to be a ’70) that I photographed in a Denver self-service yard last winter.
44 - 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Photo by Murilee Martin

When you find old newspapers in a junkyard car, you can assume that they date from the period just before the car was parked and forgotten. In this case, I found a March 16, 1993 edition of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News (a paper just as defunct as Oldsmobile now, though the Rocky outlived Oldsmobile by five years). Look, trouble in North Korea!

39 - 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Photo by Murilee Martin

Just as we saw with the 1982 papers I found in the trunk of a ’65 Chevy and the 1970 papers I found in a ’60 Plymouth, the classified ads from 22 years ago show some pretty good deals on now-insanely-priced cars. How about a ’65 Porsche 356 in good condition for $9,500? That’s about $15,600 in inflation-adjusted 2015 dollars, plus the costs for 22 years of storage and maintenance add up quickly, but it would have been a good bet. The ’83 Renault Fuego Turbo for $1,000? Still worth about $1,000 now!

09 - 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Photo by Murilee Martin

All those hot summers and snowy winters haven’t been kind to the paint and metal on this car.

10 - 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 Down On the Junkyard - Photo by Murilee Martin

Some good interior and trim bits were available here and there, though. This car has been eaten by the crusher by now, so it’s too late to mourn.

Delta 88, Delta 88 nightmare!

If you’re ripping apart a ’73 Delta 88 in search for microfilm (like Popeye Doyle looking for Marseilles heroin in a Lincoln), you’ll find that it’s a well-built car.

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QOTD: What Manual Transmission is Worth Saving? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-manual-transmission-worth-saving/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-manual-transmission-worth-saving/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 11:00:56 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1127601 BMW may be coy about it, but there’s no denying that manual transmissions are dying a fairly ignominious death in most cars. It’s a shame. Manuals are more often found as slushboxes in econo-drones with cloth everything paired to a remedial engine. Cheap manual transmissions aren’t worth saving. In 20 years, when everything except your […]

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x5manual

BMW may be coy about it, but there’s no denying that manual transmissions are dying a fairly ignominious death in most cars. It’s a shame. Manuals are more often found as slushboxes in econo-drones with cloth everything paired to a remedial engine.

Cheap manual transmissions aren’t worth saving. In 20 years, when everything except your mountain bike comes with an automatic transmission, will you look fondly on the Chevy Cobalt’s 5-speed guessing game? Probably not.

A good manual transmission feels as sharp and precise as a bolt-action rifle. Slotting in a gear in a Corvette feels wholly different than grabbing a cog in the Subaru XV Crosstrek that I just drove 500 miles across Wyoming. I’ll miss Porsche’s manual. I won’t miss Nissan’s.

As the debate swirls around “Will the manual transmission fade away?” the question is better posed as “Why keep it around anyway?” Less than one in 5 new BMW M4 buyers opts to row their own for good reason — the dual-clutch transmission in that car is very good. Owners recognize that BMW’s M-DCT isn’t merely an automatic, it’s an automated manual and it’s incredibly precise at confidently swapping cogs. Ditto for Porsche’s PDK. Ferrari is even on board. The list goes on.

So B&B, what manual in particular is worth saving?

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For(u)m Follows Function – TTAC Gets A New Discussion Area http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/forum-follows-function-ttac-gets-a-new-discussion-area/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/forum-follows-function-ttac-gets-a-new-discussion-area/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 10:00:11 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1127649 For a while, TTAC has had a forum hidden in the depths of its technical innards that’s gone almost wholly unused. Most of this had to do with the forum itself, while being a part of TTAC, requiring a different user login that was entirely separate from your WordPress commenter login. Well, we fixed that, […]

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Forum Screenshot

For a while, TTAC has had a forum hidden in the depths of its technical innards that’s gone almost wholly unused. Most of this had to do with the forum itself, while being a part of TTAC, requiring a different user login that was entirely separate from your WordPress commenter login.

Well, we fixed that, and some other stuff. This is TTAC Forum 2.0.

If you click the link above — or the Forum link in the main menu — you will notice you’re taken directly into the forum and you’ll already be logged in. There’s no need for an additional user login anymore.Also, you will hopefully notice the new solution looks a hell of a lot better than the old one. We are relying on a more common software package for the forum this time around, so those of you who are members on forums elsewhere will likely find the UI very familiar.

There’s likely still a few kinks we need to work out. For instance, you will need to upload your avatar manually for now if you want it to match your WordPress login. However, we hope to make it a pretty seamless experience between commenting on an article and moving to a forum thread.

Please give our new toy a whirl. If you find any bugs, feel free to post them in this article’s comment thread for now. I will work on adding another section in the forum to report issues for the forum itself.

Enjoy!

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Junkyard Find: 2002 Pontiac Grand Am GT with Ram Air and No Fear http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/junkyard-find-2002-pontiac-grand-gt-ram-air-no-fear/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/junkyard-find-2002-pontiac-grand-gt-ram-air-no-fear/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 15:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1124009 When I’m walking the rows of a big self-service wrecking yard with lots of fresh inventory, it’s the weird and/or old stuff that tends to catch my eye. The endless supply of Chrysler Sebrings, Ford Tauruses, and Hyundai Accents camouflages the interesting newer stuff that’s worthy of inclusion in this series, so I’ll try to […]

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10 - 2002 Pontiac Grand Am GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin

When I’m walking the rows of a big self-service wrecking yard with lots of fresh inventory, it’s the weird and/or old stuff that tends to catch my eye. The endless supply of Chrysler Sebrings, Ford Tauruses, and Hyundai Accents camouflages the interesting newer stuff that’s worthy of inclusion in this series, so I’ll try to pay more attention to discarded 21st-century vehicles with stories to tell. Cars like this California Pontiac, from the final generation of the Grand Am.
04 - 2002 Pontiac Grand Am GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin

The last owner to glory in the 3.4-liter, 175-horse 60° V6 in this car was Rashawn W, who worked security in San Jose.

02 - 2002 Pontiac Grand Am GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin

Rashawn had No Fear. There was a time when you never saw No Fear stuff in junkyard cars without corresponding Bad Boy Club products, but these days you’re more likely to see both replaced by stickers from vape-juice manufacturers.

09 - 2002 Pontiac Grand Am GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin

When I bought a hooptie 1967 Pontiac GTO for $113 in 1983 (this would be like getting a hooptie E36 M3 for $600 today), I felt a lot of envy for the GTO owners who didn’t have mushrooms growing on the carpeting and did have Ram Air engines. The Ram Air V6 wasn’t quite as impressive as its V8 predecessors.

Not only could you get an ’02 Grand Am with no money down, you could try to murder your ex with it!

The macho voiceover artists on South Korean Daewoo ads would scoff at the whiny narrator on this faux-tough Grand Am ad.

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2015 Ford Edge Ecoboost Review with Video http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-ford-edge-ecoboost-review-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-ford-edge-ecoboost-review-video/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 14:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1116857 The large two-row crossover is a rare breed. With compact crossovers getting less compact and folks defecting to supersized three rows, Toyota and Honda chose to kill the Venza and Accord Crosstour while Ford pressed on with a redesign of the Edge. You can think of the Edge as a “tweener” crossover slotting between the Escape and […]

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2015 Ford Edge Exterior Front-002

The large two-row crossover is a rare breed. With compact crossovers getting less compact and folks defecting to supersized three rows, Toyota and Honda chose to kill the Venza and Accord Crosstour while Ford pressed on with a redesign of the Edge. You can think of the Edge as a “tweener” crossover slotting between the Escape and the Explorer while at the same time being the spiritual successor (in modern form) to the Bronco and two-row Explorers of yesteryear. Although Ford says the Edge is a complete redesign, you could be forgiven for thinking this is more of a refresh, and that’s not a bad thing since the Edge was already one the most appealing options in this phone-booth-sized segment.

Exterior
Although the 2015 Edge looks more like a lightly massaged 2014 than an all-new model, it actually rides on a different platform with two all-new engines under the hood and shares surprisingly little with its predecessor in terms of parts. The last-generation Edge was designed around Ford’s “CD3″ parts bin which was co-designed with Mazda and from those building blocks came the last-generation Fusion, Mazda6, MKZ and even the CX-9. For 2015 Ford pulls from the new CD4 parts bin which serves as the basis for the current Fusion and will underpin the new Taurus and Flex among others. Although weight reduction is all the rage these days, the platform swap sheds less than 100 pounds from the Edge’s curb weight.

This change under the sheetmetal explains the Edge’s growth which is up four inches overall with a one-inch wheelbase stretch. The increase gives the Edge a sleeker and less boxy profile than before while offering more interior room. Meanwhile, Ford tacked on a new grille that strikes me as the merger of Hyundai and Ford’s styling cues. Since the Venza and Crosstour are leaving us this year (production has supposedly already stopped) this means the Edge’s direct competition comes in the form of the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Nissan Murano and certain versions of the Kia Sorento which comes as either a two- or three-row crossover for 2016. If you want to expand the pool, the Grand Cherokee and Lexus RX are also plausible cross-shops, although the Jeep is far more off-road focused and the RX truly competes with the Edge’s ritzy brother: the Lincoln MKX.

2015 Ford Edge Interior Dashboard

Interior
Having not sat inside an Edge in about a year, I had to hunt one down to figure out what changed. The short answer is: everything. The long answer is: the design is similar enough to the outgoing model that current Edge shoppers will feel right at home, but different enough to give them a reason to lease another. Ford merged the squarish style of the 2014 interior with design cues from the latest Focus and Fusion. Instead of continuing Ford’s button minimalism strategy, 2015 adds buttons to make the infotainment system and climate control easier to use.

Front-seat comfort is excellent, although you’ll find that the new Murano’s seats are a hair softer and the 2016 Sorento (in top end trims) offers a wider range of seat adjustments. Rear-seat comfort is excellent and I found the rear cabin more comfortable than the competition, especially the Jeep which has strangely stiff seat cushions. Seat comfort is, in general, a reason to upgrade from a compact crossover to this midsized category. Much of the increased comfort comes from increased legroom and headroom. For 2015, the Edge gains three inches of combined room vs the outgoing model. The way legroom is measured seems to be a matter of constant debate, highlighted by the similar legroom numbers you get in the Honda CR-V. However, in the real world, the Edge not only feels larger, but it’s larger in practical terms as well. In the Edge I was able to properly install a rear-facing child seat behind a 6’2″ passenger, something I could not do in the CR-V. In the way-back you’ll find 25 to 40 percent more cargo room than most compact crossovers, but less than the average 3-row crossover with the 3rd row folded.

2015 Ford Edge MyFord Touch

Infotainment
Ford’s touchscreen infotainment system is not long for this world. Starting in the 2016 calendar year, we will see the highly-anticipated SYNC3 system start to roll into Ford models. Until the software refresh hits however, the Edge will soldier on with the base 4.2-inch SYNC system or the optional 8-inch MyFord Touch (optional in SEL and standard in Titanium and Sport). Since LCD love is all the rage, SEL models can be equipped with Ford’s ubiquitous partial LCD instrument cluster (standard in Titanium and Sport) where twin 4.2-inch displays flank a large central speedometer. Base models get a 6-speaker unbranded audio system and shoppers can option up a 9-speaker premium option or a 12-speaker Sony audio system as our tester was equipped. The twin-LCD system is starting to look dated compared to the LCD clusters that are optional in high end trims of the Grand Cherokee and Sorento but on par with what’s in the Murano.

MyFord Touch is one of the most maligned infotainment systems on the market, but it is also one of the most fully featured. Even in 2015 there are still mainline brands that don’t offer voice command of your USB-connected music library. At this point Ford has addressed most of the major issues that plagues the MFT system launch, except for the speed. Interacting with the touchscreen requires patience as screen changes are considerably slower than the Kia, Chrysler, GM and Toyota alternatives.

Integrated telematics systems that email you vehicle health reports, allow you to call a concierge, request emergency assistance and know when your airbags have gone off are seeing a renaissance. This generation of Ford’s infotainment system includes SYNC Services which offers OnStar-like telematics without the integrated modem. On the downside, if you’ve forgotten your phone and you get in an accident, the car can’t dial for help.

2015 Ford Edge 2.0L Ecoboost Turbo Engine-001

Drivetrain
Last time we looked at the Edge, Ford made the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder a $995 option over the 3.5-liter V6. In an interesting reversal, the V6 is now a $425 optional engine and the 2.0-liter is standard. Despite the identical displacement, the 2.0-liter is almost a new engine. Ford increased the compression, fiddled with the fuel and oiling systems and tacked on a new twin-scroll turbocharger for improved efficiency and a broader torque curve. Power is up 5 horsepower and 5 lb-ft over last year to 245 and 275 respectively with a beefier power band. That’s 35 fewer ponies than the optional V6, but 25 lb-ft more. Also different from last year, you can finally get the small Ecoboost engine with all-wheel drive.

Making the Edge Sport sportier than before is another new engine: the 2.7-liter twin-turbo V6 from Ford’s F-150. Inserted sideways under the Edge’s hood, the turbo-six loses a little power but still trumps the outgoing 3.7-liter V6 by 10 ponies and 70 lb-ft (315 hp 350 lb-ft). More impressively, that torque comes to a boil 1,250 RPM sooner. In perhaps the most interesting twist, the Edge Sport doesn’t come with AWD standard. That’s right, all 350 lb-ft of twist are routed to the front wheels only by default. Torque steer? You betcha.

2015 Ford Edge Exterior-001
Drive
Torque steer isn’t just what classifies the 2.7-liter turbo. The 2.0-liter turbo has plenty of that particular demon under the hood as well. (Although I find the act of controlling torque steer amusing, I also willingly bought a new Chrysler LHS at age 18, so take that into consideration.) Put the pedal to the metal and the small turbo engine whirs to life with a hair of lag that’s very similar to BMW’s 2.0-liter turbo. After 7.5 seconds the Edge will hit 60 mph, followed by the 1/4 mile in 15.8 seconds. That’s almost half a second slower than the Murano and V6 Grand Cherokee but only a hair behind the Santa Fe Sport and Sorento with the 2.0-liter turbo. Shoppers should know that a dealer provided 3.5-liter V6 model was just 2/10ths faster to 60 and posted essentially identical 1/4 mile numbers while drinking more fuel. Why is it a $425 option? Because some folks just want six cylinders. (In case you were wondering, a brief test in an AWD Edge Sport (dealer provided) ran to 60 in a scant 5.8 seconds.)

Curb weight ranges from 3,912 pounds in the FWD 2.0-liter Ecoboost base model to a maximum of 4,236 pounds in the FWD Sport model. If you want AWD, it adds around 165 pounds, bringing the AWD Sport to a fairly hefty 4,400 pounds when fully equipped. Despite the weight, the Edge handles surprisingly well. You can thank a few things for that: the wide 64.8 inch track, standard 245-width rubber and a suspension design that’s related to Ford’s global portfolio including the current European Mondeo. Somewhat surprisingly, jumping from the base SE to the Titanium or Sport trims doesn’t buy you wider rubber but the aspect ratio falls from 245/60R18s in the SE to 245/55R19s in the Titanium and 245/50R20s in the Sport. While the aspect ratio and spring rates obviously play a role in lateral grip, the SE and Sport are closer together than you think. (As a late 2015 option Ford will offer an optional 265/40R21 wheel and tire package with summer rubber which we were not able to test.)

2015 Ford Edge Interior Dashboard-004

The hefty curb weight, moderately soft springs and 55-series tires combine to give the Edge a compliant highway ride that wafted over potholed and rough pavement without batting an eye. While not as soft as the new Murano, the Edge has a more pleasing balance because the Nissan often feels too soft on your favorite winding mountain road. Hyundai’s Santa Fe Sport actually deserves its name because it feels the most nimble and athletic in the corners. The Hyundai weighs around 500 pounds less which certainly doesn’t hurt, but the suspension is also tuned on the firmer side of this segment. On the other side is the Grand Cherokee which, thanks to its off-road mission, weighs more, is higher off the ground and feels more ponderous. Meanwhile the Sorento straddles the middle of the segment thanks to a light curb weight and moderately firm springs. Steering feel is numb but accurate and I had no problems understanding what the front wheels were up to.

Priced between $28,100 for a FWD SE model and $48,100 for the AWD Sport trim, the Edge starts more expensive and scales higher than the Korean options. However, shoppers need to look beyond the low starting price with the Kia and Hyundai because base Santa Fe and Sorento models come with a naturally aspirated 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that is considerably less powerful than the Edge’s base engine and the Koreans have fewer features standard as well. Equip the Hyundai and Kia with a 2.0-liter turbo engine so they compare more directly with the Edge and they ring in at $31,250 and $31,100 respectively, giving Ford the upper hand in MSRP. The value pricing continues against Nissan and Jeep with the Edge undercutting the Murano by around $1,000 across the line and the Jeep by $1,500-2,000 depending on the options.

Nissan’s Murano wins the award for being the best highway cruiser in the bunch. The Jeep is the off-road alternative and the Edge is the value leader. The Kia, however, is my top choice. The Sorento has a fresher look, it’s slightly bigger with a nicer interior and a 0-60 time that’s a bit faster as well. The Sorento handles surprisingly well in its latest generation and top-end trims are better equipped than the Edge. While the Sorento EX is more expensive than a base Edge, you do get more feature content in the Kia and by the time you compare top-end trims the Sorento is less expensive. The only trouble with the Sorento is that Kia attempts to compete with the Edge, Escape and Explorer with one vehicle. Get the base Sorento and it’s Escape priced with 2 rows and a weak 2.4-liter engine. The 2.0-liter turbo Sorento is a 2-row luxury-leaning crossover with optional Nappa leather and HID headlamps. Check the box for the V6 and you get a small third row for your mother-in-law as a smaller alternative to the Explorer. This means that V6 Edge competition gets whittled down to just the Nissan and the Jeep.

After a week with the 2.0-liter Ecoboost Edge I have come to a few conclusions. First up, skip the V6 as it really makes no sense. The fuel economy in the 2.0-liter turbo is better and the performance is nearly identical. Second, get AWD even if you live below the snow belt, unless you really love torque steer. Third, the front-wheel peel in a FWD 2.7-liter twin-turbo Edge Sport made me giggle. If you’re shopping for the best 2.0-liter turbo crossover in this segment, stop by your Kia dealer. However, if you want something this size that will put a smile on your face without braking the bank, the Edge Sport is the CUV you’re looking for. The Edge Sport AWD bridges the gap between the fire-breathing Grand Cherokee SRT and a mainstream crossover like the Sorento and Santa Fe Sport. Think of the Edge Sport as the gravel-road version of the Taurus SHO. I’ll take a red one.

Ford provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.65

0-60: 7.5

1/4 Mile: 15.80 Seconds @ 86 MPH

Average Economy: 24.6 MPG

2015 Ford Edge 2.0L Ecoboost Turbo Engine 2015 Ford Edge 2.0L Ecoboost Turbo Engine-001 2015 Ford Edge Cargo Area 2015 Ford Edge Cargo Area-001 2015 Ford Edge Exterior Front Grille 2015 Ford Edge Exterior Front Grille-001 2015 Ford Edge Exterior Front 2015 Ford Edge Exterior Front-001 2015 Ford Edge Exterior Front-002 2015 Ford Edge Exterior Front-003 2015 Ford Edge Exterior Rear 2015 Ford Edge Exterior Rear -001 2015 Ford Edge Exterior Rear -002 2015 Ford Edge Exterior Rear -003 2015 Ford Edge Exterior Rear -004 2015 Ford Edge Exterior 2015 Ford Edge Exterior-001 2015 Ford Edge Exterior-008 2015 Ford Edge Exterior-009 2015 Ford Edge Inflatable Seat Belt 2015 Ford Edge Inflatable Seat Belt-001 2015 Ford Edge Interior Dashboard 2015 Ford Edge Interior Dashboard-001 2015 Ford Edge Interior Dashboard-002 2015 Ford Edge Interior Dashboard-003 2015 Ford Edge Interior Dashboard-004 2015 Ford Edge Interior Dashboard-005 2015 Ford Edge Interior Dashboard-006 2015 Ford Edge Interior Dashboard-007 2015 Ford Edge Interior Dashboard-008 2015 Ford Edge Interior Dashboard-009 2015 Ford Edge Interior Dashboard-010 2015 Ford Edge Interior Dashboard-011 2015 Ford Edge Interior 2015 Ford Edge Interior-001 2015 Ford Edge Interior-002 2015 Ford Edge Interior-003 2015 Ford Edge Interior-004 2015 Ford Edge MyFord Touch 2015 Ford Edge MyFord Touch-001

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QOTD: Why Are Today’s Race Cars So Ugly? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-todays-race-cars-ugly/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-todays-race-cars-ugly/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 12:30:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1125457 When was the last time you saw a pretty race car? Maybe I’m turning into Walt Kowalski, but it seems to me that the racing machines of my youth looked nicer. Is there a purer shape than Jim Clark’s Indy 500 winning Lotus 38? Is not the Lola T70 sensuous? Some of Jim Hall’s Chaparrals, […]

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nissan gtr lm

When was the last time you saw a pretty race car? Maybe I’m turning into Walt Kowalski, but it seems to me that the racing machines of my youth looked nicer. Is there a purer shape than Jim Clark’s Indy 500 winning Lotus 38? Is not the Lola T70 sensuous? Some of Jim Hall’s Chaparrals, like the 2H “vacuum” car and the 2J streamliner with its center mounted high wing look a little odd, but even the 2J has an aesthetically pleasing shape, something you can’t say about a modern Formula One racer, with it’s dizzying array of airfoils, winglets and canards.

red bull f1

I suppose we can blame those aerodynamic aids. You could say that those F1 cars are flying on the ground, balancing between increased downforce for cornering and decreased drag for straight line speed. Ironically, though, the machines that popularized the management of aerodynamics and downforce were actually attractive. Jim Hall and Colin Chapman were aero innovators, but their cars still looked good. Most of the Chaparrals looked great, and I don’t think anyone ever said that a Lotus 72 or Lotus 78 was anything other than beautiful. One reason why the Porsche 917 has become such an iconic race car is that it looks good in addition to being brutally fast.

ferrari f1

“Form follows function” often does result in nice styling and design. Modern race cars, however, might be too functional to be concerned with aesthetics.

Can you name a modern race car that looks good? Alternatively, what do you think is the best looking racing car of all time?

Photos by the author.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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BMW M Customers Surrender ‘Save The Manuals’ War http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/save-manuals-give-bmw-m-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/save-manuals-give-bmw-m-cars/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 22:00:48 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1124809 If the fight to save manuals is going to continue for much longer, it had better make gains in one of its historically important battlegrounds. Only around 1 in 4 new BMW M3 models have a manual transmission, according to the manufacturer. That’s a steep drop from the reported 53 percent of buyers who opted to row […]

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The new BMW M5. (09/2011)

If the fight to save manuals is going to continue for much longer, it had better make gains in one of its historically important battlegrounds.

Only around 1 in 4 new BMW M3 models have a manual transmission, according to the manufacturer. That’s a steep drop from the reported 53 percent of buyers who opted to row their own in the last-generation M3 sedan — and the news for the manual M4 doesn’t get much better.

Buyers are opting for a manual transmission in the hardtop M4 only about 17 percent of the time, according to BMW. That’s down from 40 percent of the previous generation’s M3 Coupe buyers, according to reports.

BMW won’t comment specifically on the production numbers and the transmission splits, which have circulated on forums in two different forms. Last year, Road and Track reported that 45 percent of every last-generation M3 was a manual.

Thomas Plucinsky, who is manager of BMW’s corporate communications in the United States, said the production totals “sounded right,” but wouldn’t specify if the transmission splits were correct and added that the automaker wouldn’t correct reports — even if they were wrong.

A BMW spokesman added further that the overall mix for the U.S. for the last-generation M3 was closer to 25 or 30 percent.

The final production mix according to the outside reports is closer to 44 percent before production of the convertible M3 ended.

The purported numbers by other outlets, which come from two different sources, represent a substantial decline for one of the few remaining bastions of manual transmissions: European sportscars.

Earlier this month, head of BMW’s M division Frank van Meel said that the future for manual M cars from BMW “doesn’t look bright.

“The DCT and auto ’boxes are faster and they have better fuel consumption,” he told Autocar.

In the United States, only roughly 1 in 10 M4 Convertibles are fitted with the six-speed manual gearboxes. Toward the end of its lifecycle, nearly half of the last generation of M3 Convertibles were fitted with manual transmissions.

“We have a very enthusiastic following for our brand, the reality of it is we make manual transmissions for this market. We see that our customers want manuals, we’re willing to fight for manuals for this market — as long as there’s a good business case we’ll make them,” Plucinsky said.

When asked if the number of manual transmissions sold today represented a good business case, Plucinsky added: “Today, yes it is.”

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Mitsubishi Doomsday Clock – When Do We Start Counting? UPDATE: Right Now. http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/mitsubishi-doomsday-clock-when-do-we-start-counting/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/mitsubishi-doomsday-clock-when-do-we-start-counting/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 17:00:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1124761 UPDATE: Mitsubishi has officially announced they will close the Normal, Ill. plant and are looking for a “strategic buyer.” This article was originally written a couple of hours before the announcement. Our Mitsubishi Doomsday Countdown starts right now, putting Mitsubishi’s Best-Before Date at Tuesday, January 16, 2018. When Suzuki decided to stop building their last self-produced […]

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2013 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport now Made in America

UPDATE: Mitsubishi has officially announced they will close the Normal, Ill. plant and are looking for a “strategic buyer.” This article was originally written a couple of hours before the announcement. Our Mitsubishi Doomsday Countdown starts right now, putting Mitsubishi’s Best-Before Date at Tuesday, January 16, 2018.

When Suzuki decided to stop building their last self-produced model in North America, the seven-seater XL7, in the midst of the U.S. economic crisis, it was just another nail in the coffin for that looked to be inevitable — the end of Suzuki sales in North America.

The CAMI plant in Ingersoll, Ontario, Canada — a plant that still cranks out GM products to this day — was an integral part of Suzuki’s success and ultimate demise. Much like the Normal, Illinois Mitsubishi facility, the CAMI plant started as a joint venture between General Motors and its new Japanese BFF.

General Motors, like Chrysler, wanted to leverage product from Japanese automakers. Chrysler went after sports cars while GM affixed the badges of many brands — Chevrolet, GMC, Pontiac, Geo, Passport and Asuna — to the grilles of Sidekicks and Swifts to sell on the lots of its own dealers.

The CAMI plant gave Suzuki a local presence. People bought the Sidekick and its GM-badged brethren in droves — right up until the point they didn’t.

Suzuki, too little and too late, cut its ties with CAMI on May 12, 2009. However, the Normal story is a fair bit different, as it wasn’t Mitsubishi to pull out of the joint venture. In 1991, Chrysler divested part of its share in the joint venture and plant, giving Mitsubishi overall management control. Two years later, Chrysler would sell the remainder of Diamond-Star Motors to Mitsubishi, effectively ending the formal joint-venture partnership. DSM ceased to exist in 1995 when the joint-venture company was renamed Mitsubishi Motor Manufacturing of America.

For Suzuki, it took 907 days after the end of manufacturing before the company packed it in for good in the U.S.

During the economic crisis, I was one of the many who also predicted the end of Mitsubishi in America.

Today, I’m not so sure.

Mitsubishi is making gains in sales, even if those gains are mostly on low-margin products. Also, there is a fair amount of new product on the horizon if the rumor mill is to be believed, and it could prop up the small Japanese automaker long enough to sort out its issues before the next inevitable recession.

Maybe.

Will Mitsubishi meet the same fate as Suzuki? Are we in for a 907-day wait before its ultimate end? We will see. If/when Mitsubishi makes a formal announcement on the future of Normal, we will start the clock.

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China 2015: The 10 Most Impressive Carmakers at Auto Shanghai (Part 3) http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/china-2015-10-impressive-carmakers-auto-shanghai-part-3/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/china-2015-10-impressive-carmakers-auto-shanghai-part-3/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 15:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1113057 This is it: the most impressive carmaker at Auto Shanghai, Haval. Like in Beijing last year, I was most impressed by Haval at Auto Shanghai, and for a variety of reasons. Haval is Great Wall’s SUV marque, a standalone brand since July 2013. Above all, having topped my ranking last year already, I had high expectations […]

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Haval Concept R. Picture courtesy Matt Gasnier

This is it: the most impressive carmaker at Auto Shanghai, Haval.

Like in Beijing last year, I was most impressed by Haval at Auto Shanghai, and for a variety of reasons. Haval is Great Wall’s SUV marque, a standalone brand since July 2013. Above all, having topped my ranking last year already, I had high expectations for the brand and they didn’t disappoint, which was a very significant achievement on its own.

Haval stand 2

Haval standThe multi-layered Haval stand at Auto Shanghai 2015

Haval was the only manufacturer in the entire Shanghai Auto Show (not just the Chinese carmakers) to build a multi-layered stand, displaying no less than 28 vehicles. It reminded me of Mercedes going all out at the Frankfurt Auto Show in 2013. Haval was the only Chinese manufacturer in an exhibition hall almost exclusively dedicated to SUV brands, sitting next to Jaguar Land Rover and Jeep. A lack of inferiority complex and a willingness to play with the big boys earned my respect once again and put Haval in a sphere of its own among Chinese carmakers.

Haval H6 CoupeHaval H6 Coupe

Once on the stand, I braced myself for a couple of new, unheard-of-before models. Two concepts looked very aggressive and very sexy. The Concept B and R (for Blue and Red) royally waved at the crowd from their elevated stage, hinting at a future range-topping model slotted above the H9 (H10?) that could be unveiled in Beijing next year.

Haval relaunched its best seller, the H6, before my eyes, and added a very appealing H6 Coupe variant to the mix. To clarify, the H6 was already facelifted a little more than a year ago when the H6 Sport launched and quickly accounted for the large majority of the H6 nameplate sales. Now the nameplate is completely renewed, looking much better. I was impressed with Hyundai’s fast turnaround, but Haval blows the Korean marque out of the water with only 18 months between renewals. Keeping in mind two years ago Haval wasn’t even a standalone brand, this pace is very impressive indeed, even if this is just skin deep and the mechanics remain mostly unchanged.

Haval H7Haval H7

But that wasn’t all. A completely new Haval nameplate made its first appearance at Auto Shanghai. The H7 was introduced in two variants: H7 and H7L extended wheelbase, each featuring different front designs and effectively looking like two different vehicles altogether.

Everything I appreciated at the Haval stand in Beijing last year remained true this year, only at a much larger scale. Host(esse)s opened the door for you to slide into each car and close it behind you. They’re also very helpful and answer all your questions in perfect English. All nameplates were present including the H1 that looked very cool inside with coloured dashboards matched with the exterior paint, the now trusted best-seller H2, the patched-up H5 and H6 Classic, and the H8 and H9 flagships.

So is it all good and well in the world for Haval? Not quite.

Haval Concept BHaval Concept B

Firstly, Haval unveiled a new Red/Blue logo strategy at the Show. It’s a mystery to me that some Chinese manufacturers seem to often mess with something very clear and single-minded — this time brand positioning — by confusing the heck out of it. The creation, success and growth of the SUV-exclusive Haval brand in China in the past two years is potentially the most impressive strategic achievement of any Chinese carmaker, ever. Now to confuse it with two different philosophies and logos — labelled as “an impressive fission of Haval that will bring the brand to a new level” (cough) — this new strategy means Haval’s products will now be divided into two lines represented by a red or a blue logo. “Luxurious and classic Red Logo Haval targets mainstream families, and cool and trendy Blue Logo Haval targets young consumers” (Haval words). In the future, Haval’s sales network will be divided into the red network and the blue network, too. Say what?

Haval H6 Coupe 3This H6 Coupe has a red logo and looks a lot like the H7…

The Concept R (for Red) and B (for Blue) were used to launch this new logo strategy, but the Concept R was looking much more aggressive and sexy with its Audi-inspired grille whereas the Concept B, although classy with its thin headlights and hexagonal grille, was a lot blander. So mainstream families prefer aggressive styling whereas the youth wants conservative? I think you got it all wrong there Haval.

Armed with the new Red/Blue positioning info, I had to go through all models displayed on the Haval stand once more to see if I could guess whether their logo should be red or blue. And then I discovered the H6 Coupe was shown in two different-looking variants: one with a red logo, one with a blue. So the H6 now comes as H6 Classic, H6 Sport, New H6, H6 Coupe Blue and H6 Coupe Red — that’s five different vehicles. If this doesn’t cement the #2 ranking it snapped in April in the overall Chinese models ranking, I don’t know what will. The H1 had a blue logo (makes sense), the H5 and H6 Classic also (because they’re older and cheap?), the H7 had a red one (logical) but the H7L a blue one (what?)… I give up.

Haval H1Blue logo’ed Haval H1

Having its range expand from essentially one nameplate (the H5) three years ago to 12 vehicles today and potentially 15 within a few months when the Concept R and B come to life, Haval has displayed the fastest lineup expansion I have witnessed in the course of the almost 30 years I have spent studying the global automotive industry. Enormous kudos should go to Great Wall for having the guts to separate the Haval brand from the rest of the Great Wall lineup in the first place, making it a credible standalone SUV specialist brand at home and growing it so smartly and so fast.

Haval H5Haval H5 Classic celebrating 10 (youthful?) years of existence with a blue logo.

However, there is one last thing I must mention before I’m done with Haval and Auto Shanghai 2015. The same way Volkswagen has lost themselves in their Chinese success and started spitting clones a couple of years ago, Haval snouts are starting to look dangerously similar: The H6 Coupe looks like the Concept R while the new H6 now looks like a H7 that is a smaller clone of the H8 which in turn takes cues from the H6 Sport and the H2. Caution Haval, don’t ruin a perfectly oiled machine even before you take your brand overseas: Haval is scheduled to launch in its first foreign market, Australia, imminently.

Next we start exploring the car landscape in various cities around China, so stay tuned!

Matt Gasnier is based in Sydney, Australia and runs a website dedicated to car sales, trends and analysis called BestSellingCarsBlog.

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The Chrysler Turbine Car Started Out as a Ford http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/chrysler-turbine-car-started-ford/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/chrysler-turbine-car-started-ford/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 14:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1124337 We’ll probably never again see something like the combination real world test and publicity campaign that put 50 Chrysler Turbine cars in the hands of American families to test drive for a few months in the mid 1960s. That we’re talking about it more than 50 years later shows just how effective the PR for […]

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We’ll probably never again see something like the combination real world test and publicity campaign that put 50 Chrysler Turbine cars in the hands of American families to test drive for a few months in the mid 1960s. That we’re talking about it more than 50 years later shows just how effective the PR for the Turbine was. Consequently, the Chrysler Turbine is undoubtedly one of the best known concept cars ever. Less well known is the fact that the Chrysler Turbine as we know it started out as a Ford.

First off, I’m in no way implying that Ford had a role in developing the turbine engine that was the heart of the Turbine cars. Chrysler’s turbine program was entirely the brainchild of senior Chrysler engineer George Huebner, though Ford Motor Company and General Motors both have had significant turbine research programs. However, when you say “Chrysler Turbine car”, people don’t visualize whirring fan blades and regenerators in their minds’ eyes. If they’ve ever heard a Turbine car run, their ears might think of the whooshing sound they make, often compared to a very powerful vacuum cleaner, but the predominating mental image most folks would have would be the very sleek, copper toned bodies that Ghia built to be powered by the jet engines.

One of two Turbine cars still owned by Chrysler.

One of two Turbine cars still owned by Chrysler.

While the Turbine car’s powertrain was the result of years of research at Chrysler, its exterior design began as a concept for the Ford Thunderbird. In 1960, Chrysler chairman “Tex” Colbert brought in Lynn Townsend to run the company. Townsend wasn’t a fan of Chrysler’s chief designer, Virgil Exner Jr., and he liked even less Exner’s penchant for introducing new styling themes on lower end models. Meanwhile, across town in Dearborn, Elwood Engel had been passed over for the top executive styling position at Ford. Seeing an opportunity to change the company’s styling direction and ease Exner out of power, Townsend made Engel vice president for styling at Chrysler, making Exner a “consultant”.

When the decision was made to build a short run of semi-production Turbine cars, Engel initially assigned designer Maury Baldwin to the task. Baldwin came up with a small, two-seat, midengine sports car that on paper sounds a lot like Ford’s 1962 Mustang I concept. That proved to be at odds with management’s decision to make the Turbine a four seat family car. Engel then turned to Chuck Mashigan, another Ford expat.

The Henry Ford Museum's Chrysler Turbine Car

The Henry Ford Museum’s Chrysler Turbine Car

We recently ran a story about Larry Miller, a clay modeler at Ford who got his job after meeting Henry Ford as a teenager. Chuck Mashigan’s story is in the same vein. Already married, his wife suggested to him in 1954 that he look into a career designing cars. When he said that he had no training or experience, she pointed out the skill with which he both sketched automobiles and then carved models out of bars of soap. “You show them your work, and they’ll hire you,” she told him.

This wasn’t as unrealistic as it sounds today. Remember, this was before most of today’s professional design schools were established. The Pratt institute in New York was about the only place where you could study industrial design. General Motors set up the Fisher Body Craftman’s Guild scholarship program primarily as a means of identifying design talent.

The Chrysler Turbine car on display at the Gilmore Car Museum is actually on loan from the Detroit Historical Museum, which owns it, a gift from the Chrysler corporation.

The Chrysler Turbine car on display at the Gilmore Car Museum is actually on loan from the Detroit Historical Museum, which owns it, a gift from the Chrysler corporation.

With his wife’s encouragement Mashigan made up some drawings and applied for a position at General Motors, who indeed turned him down because of his lack of experience, as did Chrysler. When he showed his shopping bag full of drawings at Ford, however, they took him on as a 90 day probationary hire, reporting to Alex Tremulis, who headed the advanced design studio at FoMoCo. After a little more than a month of doing sketches and some clay modeling, Mashigan was called into Tremulis’ office and told that both the Ford and Lincoln-Mercury studios had requested that he be assigned to their work groups. His first position as a permanent hire was supervising the studio doing the work on the first Thunderbird.

At Elwood Engel’s request, Mashigan moved to Chrysler around the time the 50 turbine car project was just getting underway. By then Baldwin’s two seat sports car had been set aside. Mashigan recalled being summoned to his boss’ office. Engel opened up a book to show Mashigan a photo of a concept car and said, “You know that one all right, don’t you?”

Ford La Galaxie show car

Ford La Galaxie show car

Mashigan replied, “I sure do; that’s a fiberglass T-Bird model I did while I was in the Ford studio.” Mashigan had been in charge of that project, through the design process, the full size clay model, and the finished fiberglass show car.

IMG_0974

Engel then told the designer, “Here’s why I called you up here: I want you to design that vehicle to be a full size running car, and we’re going to put a turbine engine in it. You’ll be in complete charge of getting that vehicle designed.

Ford La Galaxie, front view

Ford La Galaxie, front view

While none of the accounts specifically identify the Thunderbird concept, it’s assumed that Engel and Mashigan were talking about the 1958 La Galaxie show car. The back end of the Turbine car is pretty much a copy of the La Galaxie, the headlights and grille are similar and, interestingly, period color photographs show the La Galaxie was also painted with copper colored paint. The La Galaxie also ended up influencing the design of the 1961 “Rocket Bird” Thunderbird, which may be why some Chrysler insiders referred to the Turbine car as the “Engelbird”.

Chrysler Typhoon Turbine Concept

Chrysler Typhoon Turbine Concept

Mashigan’s first iteration of what would become the Chrysler Turbine was a two-seater with an extended rear deck called the Typhoon that featured most of the Turbine’s signature styling elements, including its turbine inspired headlights and hubcaps. The second model Mashigan sculpted shortened the deck and lengthened the passenger compartment to add a back seat, resulting in the now familiar lines of the Turbine car.

Chrysler Typhoon, rear view

Chrysler Typhoon, rear view

The Chrysler Turbine cars pictured here are the ones on display at the Gilmore, Henry Ford and Walter P. Chrysler museums. Of the eight Turbine cars that were not destroyed, two still belong to Chrysler. For this year’s Eyes On Design car show, a charitable event put on by Detroit’s car design community, Chrysler brought one of their Turbines. Eyes On Design is held every Father’s Day on the main lawn of the Edsel and Eleanor Ford estate. To get to the reviewing stand, which is located right in front of the main house, cars exit the show field at the carriage house end and then use the quarter mile long driveway up to the mansion. That’s how I was able to shoot the video at the top of this post.

With so few Chrysler Turbine cars that exist and even fewer that are on display to the public, it’s a rare opportunity to see one. To see and hear one whoosh by as it is driven is an even rarer opportunity. Considering that what we know as the Chrysler Turbine stylistically started out as a Ford concept car, watching it drive on the grounds of the home of Edsel Ford, who started Ford’s styling department, seems completely appropriate.

Museum photos by the author.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Mazda Replaces First Crashed MX-5 Miata for Unlucky Buyer http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/mazda-replaces-first-crashed-miata-unlucky-buyer/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/mazda-replaces-first-crashed-miata-unlucky-buyer/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 22:00:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1124281 Feel bad for the guy whose brand-new car gets smashed less than a mile away from the dealership? We do. Apparently, so does Mazda. Jalopnik has a great story about a new 2016 Mazda Miata owner whose car met an all-too-soon end less than a mile away from the dealership. The ends were smashed, the driver and passenger were bruised […]

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miata-10

Feel bad for the guy whose brand-new car gets smashed less than a mile away from the dealership? We do. Apparently, so does Mazda.

Jalopnik has a great story about a new 2016 Mazda Miata owner whose car met an all-too-soon end less than a mile away from the dealership. The ends were smashed, the driver and passenger were bruised (but luckily not seriously) and one of the first new Miatas fell victim to an F-150.

You’ll never guess what Mazda did next.

(They replaced the car, I hate it when people do that.)

According to the owner, who posted his tale on a forum, Mazda North America sent a new car on Monday to the unlucky owner. The man says he’ll receive his new car August 15.

According to the owner, his new car was so new (apparently minutes) that legal documentation hadn’t yet been submitted making the process of separating from his car relatively quick. Even still, it’s no easy feat for the dealer, insurance, at-fault driver and Mazda to replace a car.

Jason over at Jalopnik accurately pointed out that as the first Miata crashed in the wild, there’s a lot of useful information Mazda North America can glean from it.

But good on Mazda and the dealer for helping an enthusiast who is obviously excited about his new purchase enough to wait on a list and pick up his car the day it’s made available. In no way are they compelled to do that.

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Wait a Second Before You Invest Any More Energy in J.D. Power http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/wait-second-invest-energy-j-d-power/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/wait-second-invest-energy-j-d-power/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 16:00:26 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1123345 There’s a considerable need for independent research and analysis, especially when it comes to cars. But I have something to tell you about J.D. Power and Associate’s annual Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout study: it’s remarkably flawed. The annual survey — alongside most other annual surveys — serves as a stump from which automakers proudly […]

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2014 Porsche Cayman S at 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show

There’s a considerable need for independent research and analysis, especially when it comes to cars.

But I have something to tell you about J.D. Power and Associate’s annual Automotive Performance, Execution and Layout study: it’s remarkably flawed.

The annual survey — alongside most other annual surveys — serves as a stump from which automakers proudly proclaim, “We’re the best, see? These guys just said so.”

But the APEAL survey, alongside J.D. Power and Associate’s Initial Quality Survey, give a distorted glimpse at the reality of buying a car.

They have no perception of cost. And that’s a big, big problem.

If you could afford a new Porsche, how satisfied with that purchase will you be in 90 days, when seemingly nothing expensive has gone wrong? What about 4 years later when warranties start to wane, and regular maintenance includes parts like a notoriously fussy internal oil separator that runs $2,000 to fix? Rear calipers that run $3,000? Or a $523.50 oil change? That Porsche you purchased may not be all that appealing anymore, I’m guessing, regardless of the awards J.D. Power can heap upon the company.

(Even further, I’m guessing the buyer who can drop $100,000 on a sports car is the type of buyer that can ditch that car for another sports car in three years and report that they’re pleased as punch again with the purchase.)

Meanwhile, if your bought-on-a-budget Toyota Corolla lugged your soul-crushing commute to work at 7 a.m., how stoked are you on that purchase 90 days — or even 90 minutes — after walking off the lot? I bought a new toaster last week and I wasn’t jazzed about it before I checked out at the register.

There needs to be a dose of reality when viewing these surveys. Mercedes-Benz, Audi, Jaguar and Land Rover all topped the list of initial appeal, but also topped Forbes’ list of most expensive cars to fix.

It makes sense. Really expensive cars are really nice. Really nice, expensive cars are also really complicated. I know, because I drive them all the time. An S-Class is more appealing than a Toyota Yaris because Mercedes-Benz makes really nice cars that cost a lot of money.

To say that Porsches have more appeal than Subarus is a no brainer; I don’t need 77 attributes with a verified score out of 1,000 to say that a big house with a rollercoaster looks better than a small house with a leaking basement. But I can only afford one of those.

But I do need a study that reliably and logically presents their ownership, maintenance, resale proportional to budget. Average MSRP and cost of ownership don’t factor into the J.D. Power survey.

That’s not to say Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Jaguar or Audi make bad cars. J.D. Power just makes a narrow study that’s contorted way beyond its intent or measure.

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DIY Recall: Fix Your Fire-prone Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon with Toyota Parts http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/diy-recall-fix-fire-prone-chevy-colorado-gmc-canyon-toyota-parts/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/diy-recall-fix-fire-prone-chevy-colorado-gmc-canyon-toyota-parts/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 15:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1122313   The fire-risk blower motor resistor harness has been recalled in the Hummer H3 and owners will start receiving repairs once parts become available. Owners of the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky should be able to use the updated parts as well but will have to pay out of pocket as General Motors has not […]

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Left: Updated Tacoma Resistor, Right: Colorado Resistor

Left: Updated Tacoma Resistor, Right: Colorado Resistor

The fire-risk blower motor resistor harness has been recalled in the Hummer H3 and owners will start receiving repairs once parts become available. Owners of the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky should be able to use the updated parts as well but will have to pay out of pocket as General Motors has not recalled them at this time. The Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon also use a similar design and pose a similar fire risk but are slightly different than the recalled part due to having one less blower speed.

Hummer owners will most likely wait a few months minimum for the updated parts to get to their dealers to perform their free recall repairs. Colorado and Canyon owners may be waiting much longer — if they are recalled at all. The only silver lining for the Colorado and Canyon is that they use a similar resistor to the Toyota Tacoma and share a connector. The Tacoma also suffered from blower motor resistor issues and received updated parts along with a Technical Service Bulletin in 2011.

Left: Colorado Resistor, Right: Old Design Tacoma Resistor

Left: Colorado Resistor, Right: Old Design Tacoma Resistor

The original resistors for the Colorado and Tacoma were produced by KRAH-RWI in Slovenia while the new Tacoma part is made by Denso in Japan. The updated part from Toyota features a better resistor style that runs cooler, but the important part is in the connector pins.

The pins on the new part are thicker and prevent the connector from losing contact, reducing the chance for arcing that’s been the cause of the fires. The mounting holes and sealing surface are exactly the same between the Colorado and the Tacoma parts and the resistance values are similar enough to work properly and allow all speeds to be operational.

Left: Old Tacoma Design, Right: New Thicker Pin Tacoma Design

Left: Old Tacoma Design, Right: New Thicker Pin Tacoma Design

The updated resistor is available as part number 87138-04052 from Toyota and other vendors for around $27, while the harness pigtail is part number 82141-04M40 and runs about $23 with shipping. The Toyota resistor can also use the original GM connector if it’s not damaged. Colorado owners started using the Toyota resistor around 2012 and have reported that it is successful in resolving their issues.

The best scenario is for GM to issue a recall and cover the repairs — but in the absence of that, the Toyota parts are well worth the $50 to give yourself some insurance against a fiery end for your truck. It is worth noting that if you’re unable to do the repair yourself you can expect to be charged for two hours of labor from a qualified shop to complete the repair, raising your total repair cost to around $250.

[Image Source: Bluebanditz71/355nation.net and Gregman/tacomaworld.com]

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2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagen TDI Review – Hold Right There http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen-tdi-review-hold-right-there/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/2015-volkswagen-golf-sportwagen-tdi-review-hold-right-there/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 13:00:12 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1122873 Great. Another diesel Volkswagen. This time it’s the Golf SportWagen — a car every enthusiast said, “I’d buy that with real, non-Internet money.” We all know exactly how this is going to go: The Golf is better than the Jetta. The Golf SportWagen is better than the 5-door Golf if you have two kids and […]

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2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (1 of 14)

Great. Another diesel Volkswagen. This time it’s the Golf SportWagen — a car every enthusiast said, “I’d buy that with real, non-Internet money.”

We all know exactly how this is going to go:

  • The Golf is better than the Jetta.
  • The Golf SportWagen is better than the 5-door Golf if you have two kids and a dog.
  • The 1.8 TSI is more fun than the 2.0 TDI.
  • The 2.0 TDI is more efficient than the 1.8 TSI, but not enough to justify the increased MSRP when fuel prices are low.
  • You should get the manual if you can.
  • Stop buying Tiguans and get the Golf SportWagen instead. (Never mind. Nobody’s buying Tiguans.)
  • You should also buy this if you care about manuals and wagons and diesels, especially as a package. (Brown is for Luddites.)

It’s with these points in mind I plunged into a week-long test of the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen — just a mere two weeks after driving the Jetta TDI.

And as much as I like it — really, really like it — the long-roof Golf is hard to justify for exactly two reasons.


The Tester

2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI SEL [USA]/Sportwagon Highline [Canada]

Engine: 2-liter DOHC I-4, turbodiesel with intercooler, direct injection (150 horsepower @ 3,500-4,000 rpm, 236 lbs-ft @ 1,750-3,000 rpm)

Transmission: 6-speed automatic, DSG with Tiptronic

Fuel Economy (Rating, MPG): 31 city/42 highway/35 combined
Fuel Economy (Observed, MPG): 39.9 mpg, approx. 70-percent city driving with a light foot

Options (U.S.): Lighting Package, Driver Assistance Package.
Options (Canada): Multimedia Package (includes bi-xenon headlights with AFS, 5.8-inch touchscreen audio with navigation, 8-speaker Fender premium audio, forward collision warning system, LED daytime running lights).

As Tested (U.S.): $33,995 (sheet)
As Tested (Canada): $38,120 (sheet)


But, before we get to that, let’s talk about the car in a vacuum.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (8 of 14)

Exterior
The Golf SportWagen (U.S., in Canada it’s called Golf Sportwagon … like the actual word … in English) replaces the Jetta wagon in Volkswagen’s American lineup. The wagonified compact earns its new name by being more closely related to the Golf than the Jetta this time around. Underneath its sheet metal is Volkswagen’s modular MQB platform shared with the current 3- and 5-door Mk7 Golf and Audi A3.

Thanks to a more modern platform, the Golf SportWagen is roughly 134 pounds lighter than the outgoing Jetta Wagon — and that’s with a longer, wider body. The long-roof Golf is 1.1 inches longer and 0.7 inches wider than the Jetta it replaces, though Volkswagen does make a point to mention the new wagon’s roof is 1.1 inches lower than its predecessor, possibly reducing the car’s frontal area.

The execution of the Golf SportWagon is at odds to the Charger I drove the week before. The Dodge looks completely different from its predecessor despite using the same platform, while the Volkswagen somehow looks more similar to its predecessor even while riding on a whole new platform.

Up front, the SportWagen is all Golf. Put the two side by side and there isn’t much difference. The headlights in our tester were fitted with LED daytime running lights that show up much better in person than they do in pictures on a rainy day. Below the bumper skin is a tiny square, hidden away, that houses the radar gear needed for the adaptive cruise control and other semi-autonomous and safety features. I must say that Volkswagen does a hell of a lot better job at hiding their new-fangled techno gear than most others (FCA and Hyundai, I’m looking at you two).

Around back, the SportWagen receives its own sheet metal and taillights that are tenfold more appealing than the old Jetta wagon. The taillamps festooned to the rear of the Jetta were quite rounded off and lacked even a modicum of personality. The new SportWagen says, “Yes, I’m practical, but I’m oh-so sharp at the same time.”

From the side, the SportWagen does the long-roof body style justice by keeping the D-pillar fairly upright and the lines as simple and cohesive as possible. This is no Cadillac CTS-V Sport Wagon and it shouldn’t pretend to be. The bright, deep shade of Silk Blue Metallic paint is enough to call attention to this long-wheelbase Golf. Other than the color, the Golf makes no sporting boasts, though the wheels are a tad much.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (11 of 14)

Interior
Inside is the same as any other Golf — good materials, well-planned design, simple dials, decent controls, all wrapped around a cheap infotainment display with crummy navigation and limited media input options — but more on that later.

When you run through a new car every week and have to wash each one, you notice some cars are much, much easier to keep tidy than others. The SportWagen only asked for a simple microfiber cloth to bring luster to the shiny plastic bits and dusting the remaining dash was a breeze.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (12 of 14)The instrument panel is clear and easy to read — thank you, Volkswagen, for getting rid of the stupid, retina-searing blue lighting accents that left ghosts in our vision — and the driving position was perfect for my 6-foot-1-inch frame. The seats are comfortable but nothing to write home about.

But, if there’s one gold star to be given to the SportWagen — and this applies to the Jetta and Golf as well — it’s for visibility. Volkswagen has figured out how to keep passengers safe without lifting belt lines to a driver’s pupils, and that’s doubly important when driving a low vehicle with a large interior volume and a rear window that’s seemingly eleventy billion feet away from your rear-view mirror. This enhanced visibility also contributes to a very open, airy feeling in the cabin.

Infotainment
Remember when I said there are two reasons that make justifying a Golf SportWagen difficult? This is one of them.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (14 of 14)I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you have a modern phone that doesn’t use the old-style iPod/iPhone connector and you don’t need a Volkswagen right freakin’ now, wait until next year. There is supposed to be a better infotainment system and actual, honest-to-goodness USB ports.

Let me be clear: If you buy a Jetta, Golf, or any Volkswagen with this red-headed stepchild combination of haphazard technology and later complain about how much it sucks in the comments, I will link to this review each and every time screaming, “I told you so!” before throwing you to the rest of the B&B. The combination of no USB ports and a sub-par infotainment system in a modern car, especially one in the $30,000 range, is inexcusable in 2015.

Another niggle is the process you’re forced to go through to pair a phone or media device via Bluetooth. You, the driver, must use the steering wheel controls and instrument panel display to pair phone and audio devices instead of the center touchscreen used by every other automaker. Before you say, “Mark, I only ever paired my phone to the car once … when I first bought it,” this design introduces a problem for those of us who have passengers who want to connect their own devices as the driver is then forced to perform pairing process. Expect to see this functionality move to MIB II’s center touchscreen for MY2016 — though, by then, you won’t need it because Volkswagen will finally provide USB ports along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Drivetrain
Just like the diesel Jetta from weeks ago, diesel hesitation from a standing start is evident in the Golf SportWagen as well. Thanks to almost no initial torque from Volkswagen’s turbocharged compression-ignition four cylinder, the Golf is slow off the line until the snail starts to spin. It’s unnerving in the beginning, but you can compensate for it after a couple of days.

The six-speed DSG automatic is the same as the Jetta TDI, too. Crisp shifts are the norm and there’s no driveability issues outside of those detailed above.

The fuel economy surprised me. Even with all the additional weight of the wagon metal, the Golf still nearly crested 40 mpg with minimal effort.

However — and this is a big however — I’d still have the turbocharged, gas-fed 1.8 TSI instead. Unless you are clocking massive mileage or have an unrestrained desire to burn fryer fat on Oregon, the 1.8 TSI is more fun, delivers improved driveability and costs less initially. Also, I’d have the manual, just because.

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (7 of 14)

Drive
You know what? As much as journalists admonish the Jetta and heap praise upon the Golf, Volkswagen has taken strides in making the refreshed Jetta a much more compelling proposition. So much so that — and I expect to get a bit of flack for this — the Golf isn’t really that much better than the Jetta, or at least not enough to justify the higher price.

If you were led to each car, the Golf SportWagen TDI and Jetta TDI, blindfolded, and asked to rate which one is better, 95 percent of the buying public would simply shrug and say, “They’re both good to me.”

The Golf SportWagen TDI suffers from the same off-the-line latency as its diesel sedan counterpart. They both have competent suspensions, but both feel a bit heavy, probably due to the big diesel lump at the front. Both testers had brakes you needed to lean on before they’d really grab those discs.

And this is a great segue into the second reason to not get a SportWagen.

Unless you really, really want a wagon, get a Jetta. Now, you probably noticed I didn’t say Golf, and there’s a reason for that, too.

The Golf SportWagen is, like DR Period says, “money”. One cannot simply ignore the massive bargain for which a Jetta can be had. If you are looking to get a car today, go out and lease a cheap Jetta for next to nothing, wait out the term, and go back to the Volkswagen dealer to see what improvements have been made in three years. This is a good solution for the aforementioned infotainment/USB problem above, as well. It gives you the car you need now — even though it might not necessarily be the one you want — and you bridge the gap to newer, better product at a cost that amounts to lint-covered pocket change.

So, there you have it: the best Golf SportWagen TDI is a diesel Jetta. You’re welcome.

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The Small Luxury Convertible Is Probably Dead http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/the-small-luxury-convertible-is-probably-dead/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/the-small-luxury-convertible-is-probably-dead/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 12:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1123801 I think the time has come to wave goodbye to one of the auto industry’s most fickle segments: the small luxury convertible. Once formerly strong and full of life, the segment now consists of a bunch of cars that leave people asking: Do they still make that? Allow me to explain what I mean. Back […]

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I think the time has come to wave goodbye to one of the auto industry’s most fickle segments: the small luxury convertible. Once formerly strong and full of life, the segment now consists of a bunch of cars that leave people asking: Do they still make that?

Allow me to explain what I mean. Back in 1989, Mazda came out with the Miata and taught everyone that maybe the two-seater convertible wasn’t quite dead yet. So all the luxury automakers decided they wanted a piece of that sweet droptop action, and they all scrambled to the drawing board to make expensive Miatas with steering wheel volume control buttons.

They all came out right in a row. First there was the BMW Z3, which went on sale for the 1996 model year and starred in a James Bond movie soon after. I remember how cool this thing was, because I remember how much of a departure it was for BMW to build it in the first place. Here’s an automaker who has only offered sedans and one slow-selling large coupe for the last few decades, and now they’re coming out with a fun looking, two-seat convertible that’s kind of affordable? THIS IS SO COOL! Eight-year-old me had a model Z3 sitting on a shelf in my room.

Then there was the Porsche Boxster. Oh, the Boxster, an enormous sales success when it first came out; the car that made Porsche realize that maybe, just maybe, they can continue in the business of selling cars without going into the business of declaring bankruptcy. The first Boxster models came out in 1997, and the first few years were their best-selling of all-time.

Then there was Mercedes. The first-generation Mercedes SLK came out for the 1998 model year with a totally new idea: a retractable hardtop. A retractable hardtop on a small Mercedes convertible, while the brand’s flagship SL-Class still had to make do with a normal old folding cloth top and a removable hardtop that was about as easy to move as a Great Dane who’s asleep on the remote control.

Like the Z3, the SLK was also so damn cool when it came out. The retractable roof was in all the ads. It was the first time anyone had ever seen such a thing outside the Mitsubishi 3000GT, which sold approximately 11 total units. And most importantly, it was a strong competitor to the brand-new rivals from BMW and Porsche. Back then, this segment was heating up like the compact crossover segment is today.

And then, yet another challenger emerged: the Audi TT. Originally on sale for the 2000 model year, the front- or all-wheel drive TT caused quite a stir when it debuted by being the first Audi ever not to completely suck. And then the stage was set: Audi had the TT. Mercedes had the SLK. BMW had the Z3. Porsche had the Boxster. And then the redesigns came.

First the Z3 was redesigned in 2004 to become the far more aggressive, bolder, sharper looking Z4. Next, the SLK and Boxster were updated in 2005, both with more modern appearances. Clearly, the automakers thought this segment still had some legs. And finally, the Audi TT got a full redesign for the 2008 model year, bringing everyone back into close competition once again. And then…

Half-heartedly, most of these models have since been redesigned once again. The Z4 lost its flame surfacing and gained sort of a “me, too” appearance designed to offend precisely nobody, and inspire the same number. The SLK received another redesign, though nobody knows this outside of spouses of Mercedes dealers. The Boxster, admittedly, earned an excellent redesign — though its price point has taken it well beyond the level of the original 2-seat roadster. And Audi’s hemming and hawing about a potential TT redesign has been one of the most reluctant things I’ve seen from the auto industry in decades.

The reason for all this is that this segment has completely died out, and nobody wants these cars anymore. Back in the ‘90s, convertibles were all the rage, and people loved the idea of hopping in a BMW roadster and going for a spin. Now, sedans are back. We want functional. We want practical. And we don’t want to pay fifty grand for an SLK250 with something called the “Airscarf.”

For proof, some numbers. Back in 2005, with its last redesign, the SLK hit nearly 12,000 units in America. With its most recent redesign in 2012, it didn’t even manage to reach 5,000 sales. The Z4 did almost 20,000 U.S. units in 2003. Last year, just barely 2,000. And the poor Audi TT has dropped from more than 10,000 sales in its first year to just over 1,000 last year. Even the Boxster is down from well over 10,000 U.S. sales in the late 1990s to just over 4,500 after its most recent redesign.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I’m currently predicting the death of the luxury roadster segment. When it happens officially, remember that you heard it here first. Even James Bond can’t save it now.

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Junkyard Bonanza: A Tale of All-You-Can-Haul Hooliganism http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/junkyard-bonanza-tale-needless-necessary/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/junkyard-bonanza-tale-needless-necessary/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2015 15:00:49 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1122881 As fellow automotive scribe Murilee Martin outlined the rules to me, I could only picture it one way: “That sounds like Black Friday meets a roller derby.” All-you-can-haul days at the junkyard were outlawed in California for good reasons, he said. People kept hurting themselves hauling engines or whatever, and sued the junkyards. People use […]

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All You Can Pull

As fellow automotive scribe Murilee Martin outlined the rules to me, I could only picture it one way: “That sounds like Black Friday meets a roller derby.”

All-you-can-haul days at the junkyard were outlawed in California for good reasons, he said. People kept hurting themselves hauling engines or whatever, and sued the junkyards.

People use hoods as makeshift wheelbarrows and haul hundreds of pounds of radios, he added.

“I have to see this,” I said.

All You Can Pull

The first all-you-can-haul day at U-Pull and Pay started with a surprise: the line was out of the front door. People had been here all morning picking old 1994 Ford Escorts clean and paying $59.99 per person for the privilege to do it.

Martin had baited me by saying there may be an old Alfa 164 at the lot I could wrench on, which turned out to be a fib of the first order. (I want an old Alfa more than I want my next meal, but that’s another story.)

Nonetheless, I arrived on the lot at 10 a.m. with my Husky “My First” wrench set in tow — complete with foam insert so the sockets don’t get scratched — and cargo short pockets stuffed with a hammer, screwdriver and crescent wrench. I had pulled a gas tank for a 1984 Ford Bronco once when I was in high school, but beyond that junkyards are more foreign to me than women. I brought some tools, but hell if I knew whether they’d help or not.

IMG_1422I knew I was a fish out of water. I even chuckled as I pulled up in an electric car that I had on loan that week because I’m an ironic millennial who thinks he’s cute in his Cheerios T-shirt.

I arrived, clicked through the front kiosk to see if anything Alfa was at the yard, and prepared myself to walk the yard with Martin and hear everything he knows about old cars (which there isn’t enough natural time for in the known universe).

I met Martin at the door. Niceties were exchanged. Hellos were heard. I quickly realized that Martin was on a mission — seats and relays — and humoring me wasn’t on his menu. I could tell quickly that I was on my own for entertainment.

No problem. I’ll find an oily, old Fiat valve cover that’ll look good on my wall (there were two Fiat 124s there) or a vintage Hillman badge that I could sell on Etsy for $1,200 or whatever.

“My back sucks, so I’ll make you a deal. You get a couple light things and carry my stuff and I’ll pay for your haul,” Martin said to me.

“Sure thing. Done deal,” I said. Flattering my Flab Power® goes a long way these days, after all.

Asunder from Martin, I roamed. The Fiats were in sorry shape; someone had taken an electric saw to the poor thing’s right butt cheek and forcefully removed its tail lamp. There were no interesting Italians, just weathered Saabs and unloved Subarus — this is Colorado, after all.

All You Can Pull

And then a forest-green 1997 Range Rover showed its hide. A majestic luxury ute in its day, it had been beaten to within an inch of its life and not survived an attempt at a recovery. (In reality, it had been lightly crashed and an all-to-eager insurance company and likely underwater owner gleefully parted ways with it.)

At its bow was a relatively untouched 4-liter V-8, compete with iron intake assembly and valve cover.

“I’ll have it,” I said.

I don’t own a Range Rover. I don’t plan on owning a Range Rover. I’ve never owned a Range Rover.

But if there’s one thing I’m more ashamed to admit than my relative inexperience with the fussy SUV, it’s this: My tools are clean enough to eat off of.

IMG_1440I wanted to wrench the hell out of that intake, curse at the throttle sensors and rip the engine’s pelt from its lightly sealed gasket and hang it on my wall. I don’t hunt, so this Rover was my five-point buck.

For 30 minutes, I fussed over hex screws longer than my hand, over-engineered hoses and intake sensors that were likely broken well before the car was junked. After all that, I joyfully jammed a pry bar up its nose and yanked the bastard free.

It was mine.

Now what am I going to do with it, again?

It whet my appetite, that’s what. I went crazy for crap I’ll never use. That old Volvo has a valve cover? It’s mine. Want to watch me pull a Mercedes grille? I have a tool for that so it’s a done deal.

Then I gazed upon my junkyard Rosebud: The spider legs and tangled mess of a Yamaha-built, Ford SHO engine’s intake. You know the one, when engines looked like engines and Ford screws were hand-tight.

With help, I removed 20 bolts and nothing moved. There were nuts and washers that held together more nuts and washers.

IMG_1439“It’d take a competent mechanic hours to pull that thing off,” Martin told me later.

I’m not a competent mechanic. But I wanted it.

In six pieces, the SHO manifold held fast to its block. The Ford section of the junkyard was by far the biggest section — a bursting testament to automaking malaise — and the SHO engine’s cover was like the polished Galaga machine in the corner. More competent men had gone before me and failed. I was not special.

Defeated, exhausted and wildly dehydrated I made my way back to Martin. His haul consisted of two red-and-black, launch-edition seats from a 1985 Toyota MR2. I did not see this coming. Our comrade, Rich, poached four headlights, a wiring harness of some sort, two calipers and a handful of switches, gauges, relays and senders to stuff in between the seats.

“You can carry all this, right?” Marin asked.

“Right,” I said.

If one person can haul it, one person has to pay. Sacrificing pain for monetary gain was something I mostly gave up in my 20s, but I wasn’t going let our side down. Plus, I wore a Superman shirt.

“Load ‘em up,” I said.

All You Can Pull

Tied together like a backpack, I walked the 20-foot “all-you-can-haul” walk to save $60 at the expense of a fully usable back in my later years. At least I got a free T-shirt.

In reality, I couldn’t hold a candle to the guy who, clad with nine wheels and tires, hobbled down the walk. There were the guys with seatbelts attached to hoods and wrapped around their shoulders like cigarette trays carrying salvage ECUs. Then there was the guy hauling a transmission.

All You Can Pull

Earlier in the day, I watched two guys start in on a military-spec K5 Blazer’s front and rear axles. To get the deep discount pricing, they’d have to walk the blast-proof units down the aisle.

“I gotta see this.”

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Junkyard Find: 1981 AMC Concord http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/junkyard-find-1981-amc-concord/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/junkyard-find-1981-amc-concord/#comments Wed, 22 Jul 2015 12:00:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1122097 We see a lot of AMC Eagles in this series, as well as the occasional Spirit or Encore or even an Oleg Cassini Edition Matador, but today’s Junkyard Find is our first-ever AMC Concord. Here’s an amazingly brown ’81 sedan for some Malaise goodness. Under the hood, we’ve got an Iron Duke four-cylinder, which made […]

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21 - 1981 AMC Concord Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin

We see a lot of AMC Eagles in this series, as well as the occasional Spirit or Encore or even an Oleg Cassini Edition Matador, but today’s Junkyard Find is our first-ever AMC Concord. Here’s an amazingly brown ’81 sedan for some Malaise goodness.
17 - 1981 AMC Concord Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin

Under the hood, we’ve got an Iron Duke four-cylinder, which made 86 mighty horsepower. That’s just 12 more than the 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage (which weighs 864 pounds less than this Concord), a car much maligned by automotive journalists for its allegedly intolerable slowness. This Concord’s poor abused Duke had to drag 32.78 pounds with each of its gasping horsepower, while the new Mirage — which I say isn’t bad at all, for the price — has a much sprightlier 27.41 pounds-per-horse ratio. Think about that next time you hear some angry geezer complaining about cars being better in the old days.

07 - 1981 AMC Concord Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin

This car came with AM and FM on the radio dial, all the better for listening to some of the year’s better music on KALX (if you had AM only, you were stuck with far schmaltzier stuff, though you might have lucked out into one of the better 1981 AM hits now and then).

18 - 1981 AMC Concord Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin

Think about this: the AM/FM radio option in this car was $192 ($556 in 2015 dollars), while opting for the 258-cubic-inch six-cylinder engine was just $136 over the cost of the standard Iron Duke. Priorities!

10 - 1981 AMC Concord Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin

American cars of this era tended to have headliner-hanging-down issues. I see this staple trick frequently in junkyards.

14 - 1981 AMC Concord Down On the Junkyard - Picture by Murilee Martin

Luxury.

I didn’t spend a penny extra for all this luxury!

The Tough Americans, now with 10% rollback.

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TTAC Reader Pits Simulated MX-5 Against the Real Deal [with Video] http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ttac-reader-pits-simulated-mx-5-against-the-real-deal-with-video/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/ttac-reader-pits-simulated-mx-5-against-the-real-deal-with-video/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 13:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1120377 My company, Force Dynamics, builds full-motion driving simulators. They work by tilting you as the simulated vehicle corners or accelerates, so your brain is tricked into feeling lateral or longitudinal accelerations. Sometimes people who watch our machines in action say, “This is moving way too much!” So when we started racing a Mazda Miata in the […]

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Force Dynamics Driving Simulator

My company, Force Dynamics, builds full-motion driving simulators. They work by tilting you as the simulated vehicle corners or accelerates, so your brain is tricked into feeling lateral or longitudinal accelerations.

Sometimes people who watch our machines in action say, “This is moving way too much!” So when we started racing a Mazda Miata in the ChumpCar World Series, I decided to conduct an experiment.

We wrote an accelerometer application for Android (the existing ones weren’t useful due to their lack of adjustable damping) and mounted it in the car during my stint. Later, I put the same device on our motion platform, and recorded the same section of Watkins Glen in iRacing.

The result: a comparison of the forces you feel while driving a race car with the forces you feel while driving our motion systems. The phone, like your inner ear, can’t tell the difference between being accelerated or tilted. What you see on the phone in each half of the video is what I was feeling in the real car and in the simulator.

How do the two experiences compare? Practicality limits the simulator’s sustained force to about .6 g. Luckily, your perception is enhanced a bit: in the simulator, the force keeping you in the seat gets lower as you tilt, whereas in real life that force is always 1 g, so you feel more “oomph” for a given load in the simulator than you do in real life. There’s also a psychological component. You’re seeing yourself cornering, and you’re getting other secondary cues, too: in the 401cr, your rate of rotation; vibration; sound and fury.

How do the two differ? Well, the real car is easier: your positional awareness is better, and the onset cues are sharper, so it’s easier to read the car on turn-in. Those differences aside, however, I was almost immediately comfortable making the transition to real driving. Shifting, braking, cornering, and handling the car on the limit all made nearly direct transitions to the track; for example, I was immediately comfortable holding the car at small slip angles through long, fast corners, because it behaved exactly like I expected it to.

What this means is while the simulator can’t fully match the sustained accelerations of a real car, the overall feel can be very good, and a high-quality motion platform can help immensely in the transition from simulator to track.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments.

Submitted by David Wiernicki. You may know him as B&B member PeriSoft in the comments.

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QOTD: Is Death Of The Sedan Nigh? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-is-death-of-the-sedan-nigh/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-is-death-of-the-sedan-nigh/#comments Tue, 21 Jul 2015 11:00:41 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1120345 Automakers are busy re-jigging their product mix to better meet the crossover hunger of an ever-shifting buying public. Chevrolet is adding a new crossover to their lineup — according to “sources” — that shrinks the Equinox and puts a new, three-row model between it and the Traverse. Mazda has a new cute ute in the forum of […]

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2016 Chevrolet Cruze Front 3/4

Automakers are busy re-jigging their product mix to better meet the crossover hunger of an ever-shifting buying public.

Chevrolet is adding a new crossover to their lineup — according to “sources” — that shrinks the Equinox and puts a new, three-row model between it and the Traverse. Mazda has a new cute ute in the forum of a jacked-up Mazda2. Same with Honda’s HR-V which, by all accounts, is a massive hit out of the gate. Toyota has their new subcompact utility on the way. And Buick — oh, Buick — has finally rectified the Encore’s asthma with a decent puffer.

However, there was news about a new Cadillac ATS Midnight Edition yesterday and we didn’t run it. That’s because nobody, or at least nearly nobody, cares about sedans.

Timothy “Sales, Sales, Sales” Cain says it month after month using his fancy charts. Mid-size sedans are taking a beating. There are winners in the category — the Chrysler 200 and Subaru Legacy come to mind — but their successes are very situational. For the 200, for instance, it probably has more to do with the lack of a mid-size Avenger in the same dealer lot.

While analysts and journalists talk about the “crossover craze” as if it’s a passing fad — like two-tone beige/gold on forest green ’90s-esque paint schemes — I think this crossover migration is now the new normal. Chevrolet currently has five sedans if you count the soon-to-be-gone Chevrolet SS, a car that nobody buys because GM doesn’t even bother to market it beyond sticking the two letters to the front of a swarm of oval-racing silhouette cars. Take that away, Chevrolet has the Sonic sedan, Cruze, Malibu, and Impala — and guess which of those are selling like hotcakes right now? (Hint: I’ll let you use zero fingers to point to the winner.)

Just like our parents, or maybe even their parents, who transitioned away from the traditional family hauler that was the American station wagon; just like we, or maybe even our parents, adopted massive SUVs in the ’90s that drank gasoline like a local varsity cheerleading team attacking well shots after a great home game — then unceremoniously ditched them for hybrids; just like we took up the hybrid torch, ditched the engine altogether, and accepted electric vehicles into our lives … the lowly sedan, a staple of American road-going salesman and fresh-faced professionals looking to put on a good show in office park parking lots across North America, is being phased out in favor of America’s new favorite family car — the crossover.

Should we be sad? Maybe. Probably not. As long as we still have Chargers, I’m happy.

What do you think, Best and Brightest? Are the sedan’s days numbered?

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