Category: Editorials

By on May 18, 2017

2018 Subaru WRX STI, Image: Subaru

Earlier this week, I fielded a question regarding German hot hatches. A few commenters suggested that I had made a mistake by not recommending the Subaru WRX or STi as an alternative to the Golf R and Focus RS. After all, I’d been perfectly content to recommend a Subaru as an alternative to a Volkswagen just a week before. So why not suggest an STI in place of an RS? Was it the long-dormant Euro-snob in me surfacing unexpectedly, like a Kraken slouching up from dark water to terrify the innocents on shore with its repugnant and vicious countenance? Or had I simply forgotten about the mere existence of the twin turbo compacts?

With regards to the first of these two scenarios, I can only assure the readership I’ve repented of my youthful Euro-snobbery to a degree that would make a post-Room-101 Winston Smith weep over his Victory Gin. With regards to the second scenario, I will only say this: somebody has forgotten about the WRX and STi, and that somebody is the corporate person known as Subaru of America.

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By on May 18, 2017

2018 Acura TLX, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

Stop multi-tasking and listen to me for a minute, because I’m going to tell you the most important thing you’ll read this week.

Many years ago, when I was still in the pharmaceuticals game, I had a business mentor of sorts. He was a thick-set, bald, African-American fellow in his early 60s who dressed exclusively in velour tracksuits and, at the time of this story, had an custom-ordered pink S500, an SL500, and an aftermarket-droptop Lexus SC400 in his garage.

We were sitting at dinner one night and I was griping about a fellow we knew who had been given every chance possible by both of us to become remarkably wealthy. Yet every time one of us gave him a chance, he pissed it away through random acts of fiscal impropriety or domestic violence. I couldn’t understand why this dude could not get his act together and handle his business in an appropriate manner.

“Listen up, young blood,” my mentor said, stabbing me in the chest with a finger about the size of a Mag-Lite flashlight, “you cannot want something for someone they do not want for themselves.” I think I dropped my fork. He was right, of course. In the years since then, I’ve had occasion to remember those words again and again. You cannot want something for someone they do not want for themselves.

I need you to keep that in mind as you read this review. If you are like most automotive enthusiasts, you want Acura to return immediately to the glory days of the beautiful first-generation Legend and the sublime twin-cam Integra. But you cannot want something for Acura that it does not want for itself. Acura is perfectly content with being primarily known as the manufacturer of the RDX and MDX sport-utility vehicles. Those two products are market leaders and they’re more than enough to guarantee Acura’s continued existence. If you continue to hope that Acura will build razor’s-edge sporting compacts and M3 rivals, you will continue to be disappointed. Period, point blank. Got it?

Let’s continue.

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By on May 17, 2017

Image: Ford Expedition Funkmaster Flex Edition

You’d definitely remember if you’ve seen one of these before, as today’s Rare Ride vehicle is anything but subdued. We’ve already featured a different special edition F-150-based vehicle here before, when the Neiman Marcus Edition Lincoln Blackwood strolled across these pages. Many of you found the black color scheme, trunk carpeting, and wood trim a bit plain though, even if you didn’t admit it.

So today we turn up the volume bass to an uncomfortable level, with the Ford Expedition Funkmaster Flex Edition.

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By on May 17, 2017

Chevrolet Corvette C7 convertible roof gif - Image: giphy

Intending to ask your advice before I actually made a purchase, I was left alone with no family to entertain me last Friday night and, well, something happened. To go along with our long-term 2015 Honda Odyssey EX, I exchanged a large sum of cash for a new vehicle.

Tell people what you’re going to name your baby, and they will tell you what they really think. Tell people what you named your baby, and they’re more likely to say, “Oh, how nice,” even if you named him Dwayne.

Similarly, tell people what car you’re planning to buy, and they’ll be forthright with their opinions. Tell them what you’ve already bought, and they’ll be more likely to say, “Oh, how nice,” even if you bought a Outlander.

So we’re going back in time to last Thursday. The automotive universe is littered with options. My choices are limitless. Major life changes have presented our family with new opportunities, but also new challenges. Regardless, it’s time to double the size of our fleet. Read More >

By on May 17, 2017

1936 Rolls-Royce 25/30, Image: © 2017 Forest Casey

Well, this is something I told myself I would never do: Report on a car without being completely certain of its lineage.

It’s a Rolls-Royce, of course. The triple lights at the front and twin side intake flaps indicate it’s a 25/30, one of the brand’s most iconic (and popular) models. The open roof over the driver’s seat indicates the Sedanca de Ville style, named for a Spanish count and Rolls-Royce distributor, Carlos de Salamanca. But the identity of the coachbuilder took me a while.

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By on May 17, 2017

2017 Ford Fiesta ST

After being taken to task for selecting an Ace of Base with all the financial restraint of MC Hammer during his peak earning years, I went on a bit of a hatchback kick. Nothin’ wrong with hatchbacks, even if they are often shunned like lepers by the American buying public. I learned to drive in a hatchback, then endured enjoyed a parade of five-doors during my, erm, formative years.

With that in mind, let’s see what the Blue Oval has in store for us at its most basic of five-door price points: a base Fiesta S Hatch.

… ah … um … oh dear.

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By on May 17, 2017

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF, Image: Mazda

Yesterday, Steph Willems asked in his Question of the Day what BMW should do with Mini and its lineup of identical-but-different vehicles almost nobody is buying. Since it seems like you’re quite eager to give brand strategy advice, let’s do it again today.

I want you to tell me what you’d do with Mazda, because its current PR line isn’t sitting well with me.

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By on May 16, 2017

#HondaFamilyOdyssey

Ripples on a pond. Waves on the ocean. On the surface, they’re innocuous. But make enough waves and you know’ll you’re either doing the right or wrong thing, taking the right or wrong action, getting the right or wrong result.

In this particular case, the waves were building in the form of private messages and an email from a public relations representative from an OEM. It read:

From: <OEM PR flack>
To: <Mark Stevenson>
Subject: Seriously?

Honda…

That was it.

Even with only two words, the email was a no-brainer. The flack was talking about the Honda Odyssey launch.

Just weeks before that email, some members of TTAC had an at-length discussion on our participation in the event as TTAC’s invite to the program sat unanswered in my inbox.

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By on May 16, 2017

1999 Nissan Z Concept, Image: Nissan

I fell in love for the first time as a 10-year-old boy in tiny Pella, Iowa. She passed me and I couldn’t take my eyes off of her until she turned the corner and ran away.

That babe was the 1970 Datsun 240Z, and it was driven by one of the coolest cats in town.

Little did I know then that I’d have a hand in bringing the Z back from the dead some 28 years later.

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By on May 16, 2017

Shift By Wire shifters - Images: BMW, Toyota, Lincoln, Chrysler, GMC

Center-mounted in a vertical fashion, the shifter in the fifth-generation 2018 Honda Odyssey profiled yesterday by Chris Tonn requires drivers to push a rectangular button for park, pull back an indented button for reverse, push another rectangular button for neutral, or depress a square button for drive.

In the new, second-generation 2017 GMC Terrain, a low-slung horizon of shift buttons mandates pushes of a rectangle for park and a small square for neutral plus a slight pull for reverse or, farther to the right, drive.

Perhaps you’re familiar with the lengthy push-button shift mechanism in newer Lincolns, where buttons for ignition, park, reverse, neutral, drive, and sport are laid out vertically on the driver’s side of the centre stack.

Some automakers are trying out rotary knobs, or shifters with separate park buttons, or monostable shifters that have earned a bad name.

They’re here to stay. Blame technology. Hope for reliability. Don’t expect standardization. Read More >

By on May 16, 2017

Volkswagen Golf R vs Ford Focus RS

You know what I miss? Besides the second season of Miami Vice, the Atari 800, and a country where grown men didn’t agree to appear in simpering photography sessions commemorating their emasculating engagements to former late-night legends of the Sig Ep house at Ohio State? I miss the days when automakers didn’t field an entry into every single possible automotive segment. I miss that halcyon period where Mercedes-Benz made sedans and Porsche made sports cars and never the twain needed to meet except in the destination garages of their superbly tasteful owners. Back when everybody stuck to their individual knitting, the products were better (for their time, of course) and the brand identities made more sense. I’m reminded of something that my musical idol and harshest critic, Victor Wooten, once said: “Instead of learning other instruments … I take the time that I would spend learning those instruments … and I put that time into learning my instrument, you dig?”

As my future third-wife Este once sang, however, those days are gone. In $THE_CURRENT_YEAR, nearly every manufacturer competes in nearly every segment. Which brings me to this week’s question, submitted by an extremely verbose fellow who needs to choose a German hatchback.

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By on May 15, 2017

2018 Honda Odyssey Silver Front Quarter

“Remember, you are in a minivan,” my better half commanded as I tapped the left-hand gearshift paddle, grabbing a lower gear to power out of the improbably banked corner on a mountain two-lane. The 19-inch Bridgestones squealed in protest as I pushed it a bit wide, just as the kid squealed from the third row over a funny movie.

What was I to do? It’s not like the roads Honda chose for this drive are the typical minivan haunts — namely suburban surface streets or long interstate slabs. There are no real suburbs on the big island of Hawai’i, and interstate drives would get quite wet after a couple of hours in any direction. So I pressed on, trailbraking as if I were hustling a much smaller car around an autocross course.

It’s indeed a minivan, but the new 2018 Honda Odyssey is surprisingly rewarding to drive. While the majority of miles racked up by any minivan undoubtedly result from a commute, either on city streets or the interstate, taking the long way home in this Odyssey won’t feel like punishment.

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By on May 15, 2017

2016 Mazda CX-9 - Image: Mazda“I am not comfortable with 2 percent. I’m comfortable with a good 2 percent.”
– Masahiro Moro, President and CEO, Mazda North American Operations

Mazda’s U.S. market share fell to a 10-year low in 2016 and hasn’t noticeably recovered in the first four months of 2017. A small lineup with no presence in key segments limits Mazda’s chances of becoming a major automaker.

But Mazda doesn’t want to be a major automaker. Mazda wants to be a small but profitable automaker with profitable dealers and loyal buyers.

Mazda also wants to carry greater sway in the U.S. market than it does at the moment. Only slightly. Fractionally more. Marginally, almost imperceptibly more. Only 1.7 percent of the new vehicles sold in the United States are Mazdas. Mazda wants 2 percent, surely a reasonable and easily attainable goal.

But Mazda’s North American boss, Masahiro Moro, has no intention of jumping up to that 2-percent marker rashly or hastily. Read More >

By on May 15, 2017

2017 Car Wash Show, Image: © 2017 Sajeev Mehta/The Truth About Cars

Some trade shows embrace the purist of missions, refraining from creating pointless content in hopes of mindless media coverage. The Car Wash Show caters to professionals in the car-care business with nary a sensationalist notion and not an autoblogger in sight on the show floor. This show isn’t about clicks, reach or engagement.

Which was precisely why I attended, embedded with my Mumbai-based cousin in the trade to learn more.

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By on May 15, 2017

2017 Chevy Colorado ZR2

In the first installment of the Jurassic Park franchise, we’re introduced to the vicious raptors — a breed of dinosaurs who tear, smash, and maul their way through the storyline (and more than a few characters). By the time we see them in the most recent installment of the series, Chris Pratt has managed to tame them to a certain degree, creating creatures that obey a few commands but will still rip his face off if given the opportunity.

Chevrolet had a 2017 F-150 Raptor on hand at its launch of the Colorado ZR2. Hammering its loud pedal, the beast ripped across the hot Colorado asphalt, its psychotic twin-turbo exhaust note sounding like Marilyn Manson screaming obscenities into a vacuum cleaner hose. Backing off to 7/10ths, it struck me that the Raptor and ZR2 bear more than a passing resemblance to those fictional silver-screen scoundrels.

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