Category: Editorials

By on May 14, 2015

2015 Mitsubishi Outlander GT front

Allow me to set the stage. A friend of mine is looking for compact crossovers, so I recommend to her all the good ones. Mazda CX-5. Ford Escape. New Nissan Rogue. Even the CR-V and the RAV4, if she really can’t find anything she likes. So she goes, and she searches, and she looks, and she comes back days later with a new car. Do you know what she bought?

A Mitsubishi Outlander.

A Mitsubishi. Freakin’. Outlander.

Part of me wanted to scream at her. The other part of me wanted to get in the car, drive it back to the local Mitsubishi dealer, and offer them five grand cash to take it back, knowing that’s probably half of the depreciation it had already endured, simply as a result of the three diamonds on the grille.

But I didn’t do either of those things. Read More >

By on May 13, 2015

AIRPod-car.jpg.662x0_q70_crop-scale

Though I don’t watch broadcast or cable television much anymore, I like the idea of the ABC’s Shark Tank. Actually, when I still had cable, I watched the original Canadian version of the show, Dragon’s Den, since Windsor, Ontario’s CBC affiliate station is generally part of Detroit area cable bundling. As a tinkerer, inventor and small business owner, the idea of a show premised on pitching your business idea to possible angels is appealing to me. However, while all of the “sharks” undoubtedly have been more successful entrepreneurs than I have been, sometimes they make investments that just don’t make sense to me.

On last Friday’s show, one of the potential investors, Robert Herjavec, pledged $5 million in funding to a startup named Zero Pollution Motors to start building cars propelled by compressed air. ZPM says that they will start building the cars in Hawaii sometime later this year.

Read More >

By on May 13, 2015

A Ford Bronco carrying OJ Simpson

I would never own a brown diesel all-wheel drive manual wagon. Never. I don’t care if I’m chastised by the inner circle of automotive know-it-alls by denouncing the auto journo unicorn. A brown diesel all-wheel drive manual wagon is the equivalent of gearhead hipsterdom. I’m not a fan of hipsters. They put way too much thought and effort into looking like bums and enjoying things no sensible human could actually enjoy.

But, I do have one guilty pleasure: white Broncos. Yes, the Al Cowlings Special. I’ve owned one and would have another in a heartbeat. They’re slow, loud, drink gas like an art degree dropout consumes PBR, and they’re prone to break in the most magnificent of ways possible. They also epitomize the “bigger is better” attitudes of the ’90s, whether said thing was truly better or not.

Yet, there’s nothing you can do to change my mind. My want is irrational and I’m not going to defend it.

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By on May 12, 2015

TRD Camry XSE Pace Car

Over its long and illustrious sales career, the Toyota Camry has been described in many ways by so-called automotive enthusiasts. Most of them, to be honest, haven’t been particularly flattering. Words like “appliance” tend to find themselves in close proximity to the Camry whenever it’s been discussed elsewhere.

But this is The Truth About Cars, dammit!, and we have never been ones to drink the proverbial Kool-Aid on any car. Our own Jack Baruth has proven time and time again that the Camry, particularly in SE trim, is a capable and dynamic car at the track. I have personally piloted a Camry SE around Nelson Ledges. While it wasn’t quite keeping the pace of my Boss 302, it was no slouch, either.

That’s all fine and good. But what about putting it in a real race, with a real professional driver? How would it do under those circumstances?

Well, the fine folks at Toyota Production Engineering got as close to that as they possibly could by running a four-cylinder Camry SE in the One Lap of America last week. That’s right. They really ran a bone-stock, off-the-lot Camry in a time trial. The story of how they got there is just as interesting as the decision to drive the Camry itself.

Read More >

By on May 12, 2015

03 - 1986 Volkswagen Quantum Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

The original Volkswagen Passat (aka Audi 80) was sold in the United States as the Dasher, and we’ve seen a few of them in this series. Then, when the second-generation Passat came out, the US-market version was called the Quantum. These cars, which were available here for the 1982 through 1988 model years (after which VW decided, what the hell, they’d call its successor the same thing they called the European version), weren’t what you’d call hot sellers, and just about all of them are long gone. That makes today’s Junkyard Find a rarity for the 21st century. Read More >

By on May 12, 2015

325e

So here we are, celebrating forty years of the “Dreier”, or 3-Series, depending on how Euro-wannabe you wannabe. Since I don’t wannabe, I’m going to call it “39 Years Of The 3 Series”. After all, we didn’t get the 320i in the United States until the 1977 model year. When it did arrive, it was a thermal-reacted boondoggle with a tendency to rust out from under the feet of the unlucky first owners.

Although it looked like a million bucks, particularly in “S” trim, and it was one of the dream cars of my pre-teen years, I cannot allow any of you Millennial readers out there to come to the mistaken belief that the E21, as adapted for the American market, was anything other than a shitbox with the lifespan of a fruit fly. It was also easy meat for a Rabbit GTI in any venue from the stoplight drag to the road course. It was, however, expensive, costing about as much as a base Cadillac Coupe de Ville, so at least it had that going for it. The most damning thing I can tell you about the 320i is this: I worked for David Hobbs BMW for much of 1988, and although the newest 320i was just five years old at that point, I never saw one come in for service, and we never took one in on trade.

The “E30″ 318i that appeared for the 1983 model year was a major improvement over its predecessor in everything from climate control to rust resistance, but it was “powered” by the same 103-horsepower, 1.8-liter, eight-valve four-cylinder that made the badge on the back of the 1980-1983 320i a comforting lie. I put “powered” in quotes because the E30 318i struggled to break the 18-second mark through the quarter-mile in an era where the Mustang and Camaro were in the low fifteens and even a 1981 Dodge Omni 024 “Charger 2.2″ could rip the mark in 17.2 seconds. That’s right: if you were in a brand-new BMW and a three-year-old Dodge Omni pulled up next to you at the light, the only thing that could save you from an ass-kicking would be a swift activation of the turn signal.

But then, one day about halfway through the first year of the 318i’s lukewarm tenure in North America, things changed.

Read More >

By on May 11, 2015

2015 Chrysler 200 rotary dial shifter

Even in a day of standardized controls and homogeneous design, there are a few oddball controls that – for better or worse – stick out like a proverbial sore thumb. Whether it be window switches (door or center console?), seat controls (side, front, or door panel?) or even shifters (lever or knob; column or console?), today’s cars are still a complex assortment of controls that vary greatly from one make and model to the next.

TTAC commenter MrFixit1599 writes about a recent Chrysler 200 rental:

At a red light, I decide to turn the fan off for the A/C. I didn’t notice a change at the time, but then the light turned green. I attempted to accelerate. The car would not move. I assumed I had forgotten to shift back to S. Turns out, when I went to rotate the knob to turn the fan off for the A/C, I actually rotated the knob for the transmission and put the car in P. As in Park. At an intersection with a green light showing. And me not going anywhere. Just sitting there revving the engine.

Read More >

By on May 8, 2015

citroen_c6

Ok, I’ll admit it. I’m a closet Francophile. Unfortunately, the nearest Citroen dealer is, at least, a forty hour drive-and-ferry ride from my Ohio homestead.

As much as I enjoy driving a small, taut-handling roadster, I must resign myself to the fact that I have a wife and two kids that will occupy the car as well. We are frequent long-haul roadtrippers, with at least four round trips of over ten hours over the last year as a family. A quiet, rapid, smooth-riding vehicle is in order. Who does calm and comfy like the French?

Read More >

By on May 8, 2015

pcarskotaku

Project CARS is probably the most hotly-anticipated automobile-related video game to “drop” in the past few years. It’s ridden a positively Kanagawan wave of media hype and compensated “viral” marketing to its release – but at least one well-informed source is saying that this new emperor is decidedly trouserless.

Read More >

By on May 7, 2015

Fiat 500 "Topolino"

As FCA holds their first annual general shareholders meeting in Amsterdam (after 114 such meetings in Turin), Pirelli has been sold to the Chinese. Pininfarina negotiates its sale to Mahindra. The Italian automotive industry as a whole is in a sad state. The reasons for this are many, but the process of “de-Italianization” of the country’s auto industry continues. In the end, all there could be left is a memory and many homeless ghosts.

Read More >

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