By on May 28, 2015

2015 Buick Regal GS red

As Tim Cain alluded to earlier this month while speaking of Encore sales, Buick is in a bit of a rut. In a market that’s growing with many brands seeing best-ever sales periods, Buick is being propped up by a single model, its cute-ute Encore. That’s not enough to stave off the downward sales trend of its other offerings as the brand as a whole is down 5 percent year-to-date.

Armchair analysts and pool chair pundits – this is your time to shine. Let’s fix Buick in 24 hours.

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By on May 27, 2015

Golf SportWagen

This, my friends, is the Golf SportWagen TDI (Sportwagon in Canada) currently taking residence in my driveway this week. It’s a brilliant little car, even if it isn’t manual, brown, or all-wheel drive.

Even though it’s wonderfully good – the DSG is sharp and smooth, the ride is firm yet svelte, and the torque, oh the torque! – I still wouldn’t buy one.

This past week, I’ve been inundated with different versions of a similar question: are there any modern vehicles I’d actually buy? This is opening up Pandora’s Box and finding a can of worms inside.

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By on May 22, 2015

2003 Chevrolet SSR

Every so often, my mind starts to wander to various random automotive related topics. Take, for instance, the Chevy SSR. Here’s a car that makes absolutely no human sense: a half-convertible, half-pickup truck with two seats and a cover over the bed to make sure you can’t transport anything larger than a toilet seat.

So GM develops the SSR, and they bring the thing to market, and it just draws universal laughter. I mean, car enthusiasts, the press, random people on the street. They see this thing and its huge fenders, and its ridiculous size, and its substandard interior, and everyone asks: what the hell was General Motors thinking?

And now, guess what? The damn SSR is still averaging more than $25,000 on AutoTrader. The thing is ten years old, and it’s still bringing half its value, whereas a 10-year-old Chevy TrailBlazer is worth approximately the same money as a yard sale copy of Monopoly with a couple of plastic hotels missing.

So I wonder about how this happened. And then also, sometimes, I wonder about station wagons.

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By on May 21, 2015

2015 Buick Encore

If someone mentions the name Buick, a certain image is conjured: comfortable, plush, American motoring just on the blue-collar side of luxury. Buicks used to be the working man’s Cadillac, an association doctors leveraged when making house calls. After all, showing up in a Cadillac would really show the patient how much you were about to screw them upon leaving the bill on the nightstand.

But, in more recent times, Buick has become more of a Chevrolet+. Taut suspensions, journo brown interiors and lukewarm engine choices. Oh, and there’s the Encore, a cute ute powered by one of the roughest, smallest engines you can buy in North America. What gives?

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By on May 15, 2015

Van with bumper stickers Courtesy commons.wikimedia.org

You can’t avoid bumper stickers when you’re driving around. They’re everywhere. Political bumper stickers. Colleges and university bumper stickers. Sports teams. Bands. Ideas. Phrases. Sayings. Vacation spots, cities, neighborhoods, towns, BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH. It’s come to the point where I’m surprised when I get up behind a car that doesn’t have a bumper sticker.

I’ve always found this a bit odd.

Here’s why: when you really stop and think about what bumper stickers are, at their very core, they are markings that identify the interests of the driver of the car. It’s like getting a tattoo, or wearing a T-shirt with some writing on it. But I’ve often found that bumper stickers go a lot further than any T-shirt that anyone would ever wear.

Case in point: I have never, in my entire life, seen anyone walking around with a Mitt Romney T-shirt. I suspect Mitt Romney himself wouldn’t walk around with a Mitt Romney T-shirt. He’s too busy wearing plaid button-ups that make him look like a man of the people, even though his haircut costs more than my cell phone.

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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 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.

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By on May 8, 2015

2012 Volvo S60 T6 AWD R-Design, Interior, backup camera, Photography Courtesy of Alex L Dykes

A few months ago, the federal government of the United States – the same federal government who recently forced us all to use energy efficient lightbulbs – announced that backup cameras will soon be mandatory on all new cars.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that’s right: the era of the backup camera has arrived. In just a few short model years, you will not be able to buy an automobile in the United States without a backup camera. Everything will have one: Sedans. SUVs. Trucks. Minivans. Even BMW will begrudgingly install standard backup cameras, though doing so may involve removing other standard equipment, such as seats.

So with today’s column, I’ve decided to ask you, the reader, exactly how you feel about the spread of backup cameras in the United States.

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By on May 6, 2015

2015-Volkswagen-Golf-Sportwagen

The latest sales numbers from April are a tale of two cars: one with a bodystyle we praise and another sporting a shape we denounce without impunity – the VW Golf SportWagen and Porsche Macan.

The long-roof Golf took nine days on average to find a buyer. The Macan is at 11 days.

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By on May 5, 2015

Max Verstappen

Max Verstappen. He’s the youngest competitor to ever pilot a Formula 1 car around a track. At the age of 17, the young Dutchman would likely have a restricted driving licence in many countries. But, here he is, racing wheel to wheel with World Champions as he waves his FIA Super Licence in the air.

Sexist comments about women being too scared to drive in competitive racing aside, Verstappen has made a phenomenal debut in the top rung of motorsports. That should be expected. He’s been driving karts since the age of four and a half. He’s also likely been driving road cars long before he could do so legally, something a lot of us car folk probably have in common.

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