By on February 23, 2017

Accord-Camry-Passat-Altima V6 sedans - Images: Nissan/Honda/Toyota/VW

Horsepower doesn’t necessarily cure all that ails you. Potent powertrains aren’t invariably linked to progress. The greater pony count is not unfailingly found under the hood of the greater car.

All too often, auto enthusiasts fall into the trap of believing that a deeply flawed car can be made better if they’d only put a proper engine under the hood. In reality, huge power increases often do more to highlight, rather than mask, a car’s flaws.

The overwhelming majority of 2017’s crop of midsize sedans are not deeply flawed cars, of course. But it’s generally accepted, at least by people like you and me, that they can all be made better by upgrading the basic four-cylinder powerplant with an optional V6. By spending a fair chunk of extra change. By tolerating a sharp increase in fuel consumption. By challenging two front wheels to sometimes fulfill two starkly different missions. Read More >

By on February 22, 2017

Generic Sedan

It happens every day on the road. Vehicle-shaped appliances pass by in the other lanes, or perhaps cross an intersection in front of you. You don’t take notice, because they’re the same ovoid or trapezoidal shape as the rest of the Frost Beige blobs on your thrilling commute to the cubicle farm.

But focus your eyes and clear the fog for a moment, because I want to ask you something.

Read More >

By on February 21, 2017

1969 Chrysler New Yorker (Alden Jewell/Flickr)

Those who know me well — the lucky souls who’ve plumbed the deepest depths of my dark psyche and returned alive — know my strange and beautiful lust for 1970s land yachts. It needn’t be seen as a weird kink. I mean, who doesn’t like vast swaths of interior room, pillowed velour, and a narcolepsy-inducing ride? Weirdos, most likely.

If two sad, motherless puppies ever crawled their way to my doorstep, shivering and scared, I’d immediately rename them Brougham and Landau, and I don’t care who knows it.

As full-size cars shrink in popularity, the cues of those past Interstate barges — padded roofs, opera windows, flip-up headlights — are nowhere to be seen in today’s automotive landscape. Another common feature of those overstuffed rides, one that rose to prominence in the heady 1950s and met its death before the end of the 1970s, currently occupies an endangered micro niche.

I’m talking about the missing B-pillar. Yes, the alluring and illustrious pillarless hardtop. Read More >

By on February 17, 2017

Mitsubishi Eclipse

Five and a half years ago, I took a rented Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder on an impromptu tour of Los Angeles with one of the coolest girls I ever dated. But not even my extreme sentimentality regarding the lady in question and the nights we spent together could make me overlook the nontrivial flaws that utterly spoiled the final-generation descendant of the original Disposable Speed Machine.

It was not a good car, to put it mildly.

Yet if I’d known that the Eclipse name would one day be attached to YAFC (Yet Another Fucking Crossover) I imagine that I would have cherished that poky little droptop just a bit more than I did. This is particularly true considering the fact that the original Eclipse was a genuinely thrilling and important automobile. It was a turbocharged all-wheel-drive sports coupe with big power, wicked handling, a sleek shape, and a sensible price tag — and it hit the dealerships back when most family sedans had 130 horses and beam rear axles. I’d like to respect that, for just a moment. I’d like to remind everybody that the Eclipse was once something special.

Which leads us to today’s question(s):

Read More >

By on February 16, 2017

5 Honda CR-V generations - Images: HondaHonda Canada delivered a 2017 Honda CR-V Touring to my driveway less than 100 hours ago.

It is, in so many ways, an exemplary means of transporting one’s family: surprisingly efficient, sufficiently powerful, wonderfully spacious, and undeniably refined.

But it’s not pretty. Read More >

By on February 15, 2017

Trabant (Wikimedia Commons)

Last Labor Day weekend, when snow was a hazy memory and the warm days seemed as if they’d last forever, I spent some time in a small cottage about three hours northwest of Montreal.

The nearest village, accessible by twisty backroads with an asphalt surface strangely superior to most Montreal highways, contained exactly what you’d expect for a tiny hamlet in a remote, low-rent section of the Laurentian Mountains. General store. Liquor store. Bank. Post office. Poutine store. Okay, that last one’s not true, as this place ascribed to the BYOC rule (Bring Your Own Curds).

Walking back to my car after picking up supplies, which in this case consisted of beer, more beer, and an extra-large bottle white wine for the fairer sex, I saw it. “What the hell are you doing here?” I muttered under my breath. Read More >

By on February 14, 2017

Holden Commodore Calais V Sportwagon

The Internet Car Enthusiast, or ICE (see what I did there?), is always telling us how they would purchase Vehicle X if it were only offered in a wagon variant. But because it invariably isn’t offered in a wagon variant, they purchase a Toyota Highlander or equivalent instead. Woe is the ICE and their lack of enthusiast vehicle choice!

Well, here’s your chance for a flight of fancy. I want you to tell me which wagon you’d choose if the Gods of Motoring smiled upon ye and provided you the wagon of your dreams.

Read More >

By on February 13, 2017

A touching moment of solidarity crowned the inaugural series event. During the second race’s podium, the winner and Nissan GT Academy driver decided to offer his two Nissan Canada cheques of 1,500 worth of parts to new driver Mario Berthiaume, who was unable to start the race after seriously damaging his car in a practice session accident. Image: Nissan Canada

There’s an old saying, coined by NASCAR legend Junior Johnson, that suggests the quickest way to make a small fortune in racing is to start with a big one. While my yard is notably devoid of multi-million dollar race haulers, I can certainly understand the seeds of truth in this cautionary tale: when the powers-that-be decide to change the rules in a particular series, it causes all hands to reach for their checkbooks.

There have been plenty of rule changes in motorsport over the years. Formula 1 changes its downforce packages more often than my wife’s teenage sister changes her Snapchat filters, for example. F1 is also known for decreeing the use of new engines, ranging over the years from turbo V6s to honkin’ V10s to small-displacement V12s, not to mention the bizarre powertrain configurations that appeared in the ’60s and ’70s. The amount of adaptation beggars belief.

Stock car racing isn’t immune to this trend, either.

Read More >

By on February 10, 2017

2018 toyota rav4 adventure

You’d never know it from the Internet, where the Code Of Hammurabi rules with an iron hand and people on the forums are comfortable recommending the death penalty for everything from “stancing” your car to the unjustified application of an AMG badge purchased on eBay — hold on, I kind of agree with that last one — but it is probably not a crime not to use every last iota of your vehicle’s rated capabilities. You’re allowed to own a sportbike without racing it in WERA or doing a 140-mph stand-up wheelie past a police station. It’s morally acceptable for you to purchase a Porsche 911 Targa and never run it in any sort of Targa event whatsoever. And, as difficult as you may find this to believe, not everybody who acquired a Chevy Monte Carlo was a native citizen of, or even a past visitor to, the Principality of Monaco.

Still, it’s difficult not to feel a minor bit of disdain for the various pretensions that currently animate the automotive market. Not that you’ll pick that up from reading the new-car coverage at Chicago. Most of us don’t feel comfortable doing much more than what’s encapsulated by Pope’s delightful turn of eighteenth-century phrase: Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer, / And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer.

Let’s take a break from that not-quite-good-natured approach for a moment.

Read More >

By on February 9, 2017

Suburban/Yukon and 2018 Expedition - Images: GM & Ford

On Tuesday, Ford Motor Company unveiled the all-new, fourth-generation 2018 Ford Expedition outside the Dallas Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.

But does the Expedition matter?

With the Chevrolet Suburban and Tahoe plus GMC’s Yukon and Yukon XL — setting aside the degree to which the Cadillac Escalade crushes the Lincoln Navigator — General Motors owns 75 percent of America’s full-size, body-on-frame, truck-based SUV market.

Seventy-five per cent. Read More >

By on February 8, 2017

Saab 9000

Maybe it’s not reliable, or sucks down fuel like it’s going out of style. Maybe it’s prone to tipping over, catching fire, or having spiders live in it. Or perhaps parts availability is such that the mere thought of owning and driving the thing causes undue stress.

But you just can’t help yourself.

Today I ask: What lousy vehicle do you covet despite the ways it would inevitably ruin your life?

Read More >

By on February 7, 2017

Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser (Alden Jewel/Flickr (CC BY 2.0))

At some point in the late 1980s or early 1990s, the minivan officially took the lead in the race for family-hauling supremacy. Various models, most notably the Ford Taurus, soldiered on into the 2000s, joined by a fading Volvo lineup and a few other models. But the jig was up.

With minivans already fielded by almost every mainstream automaker, the burgeoning SUV craze sealed the wagon’s fate, sending the once-hot bodystyle into the category of rare, boutique niche vehicle — usually bought by affluent Euro-centric snobs.

In their heyday, however, boxy wagons signaled to the world that the driver’s free-wheeling single life was now collecting dust in attic-bound photo albums. Sorry, no time for that anymore — too busy building a nuclear family here, pal. And hey, it’s so convenient for hauling Crisco and Velveeta and marshmallow fluff and various other Baby Boom food staples! Read More >

By on February 6, 2017

1972 Dodge D200 Pickup in Colorado Junkyard, CUSTOM emblem - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

What type of extra-curricular activity do you enjoy taking on with your car or truck? No, not that type of extra-curricular activity, gutter brain. I’m talking about what we can do with our vehicles other than the mundane commute to work five days a week. Towing. Drag racing. Off-roading. Y’know, more than the basics. The fun stuff.

Read More >

By on February 3, 2017

2000 Pontiac Grand Am GT Down On the Junkyard, Image: © 2014 Murilee Martin

Willyam asked: What are some vehicles that were right for only ONE generation, before they went back to being awful? Just one brief, shining, moment… when everything came together and the product was genuinely good, you know? It makes me think of Richard Burton signing:

In short, there’s simply not
A more congenial spot
For happily-ever-aftering than here… in… Camelot!

I won’t spoil the fun by listing all the usual suspects here. Instead, I’ll give you my own eccentric opinion about a moment when a really crappy car became surprisingly desirable.

Read More >

By on February 2, 2017

Like it or not, advertising is a legitimate art form, studied and dissected just like its sculpture and literature forebears. As the high holy day of the medium approaches this weekend, I thought it appropriate that we discuss some of history’s greatest automotive advertisements.

And don’t worry, we will have a roundup of The Big Game’s best car-specific spots coming soon.

Read More >

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