It is truly a great time to be a gearhead. Not in the sense of there are no bad cars, because there still are, but rather because the cars that are good are really damn good. Take for example this Camaro SS. For three days, I lapped it around the freshly repaved tarmac of Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, Michigan.
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.
In the space of 48 hours last week, I saw a first-generation Jetta plying its rusty way down the middle lane of a freeway near Columbus, Ohio and I saw some spiky-haired hipster girl driving a fourth-gen Jolf on Interstate 75 north of Lexington, KY. It was a reminder of the Jetta’s uneasy position in the Volkswagen hierarchy. On one hand, it’s the uncoolest of the watercooled VWs, the American-market special loathed by the kind of Euro-fanatics who make up the vast majority of the company’s loyalists in the United States. They view the existence of the Jetta as an open expression of German contempt for Baconator-eating Americans, and the sharp divergence between Jetta and Golf that took place in the sixth generation hasn’t exactly poured oil on the waters.
On the other hand… it’s been the best-selling VW in this country more often than it hasn’t. It’s the official VW of sorority girls, single moms, adventurous empty-nesters, and rental fleets. It’s the Volkswagen we deserve, because we sign on the dotted line for it more often than we do the Golf and the GTI and the Tiguan combined. As such, it deserves a full slate of TTAC reviews. Our Managing Editor, Mark Stevenson, had kind things to say about a loaded-up Jetta TDI, and our good friend and itinerant contributor Blake Z. Rong was less complimentary about the GLI. Which leaves just the infamous “2.slow” 115-horsepower base model and the newly-remixed 1.8 TSI mid-ranger.
I chose the latter for a cheerful little 514-mile jaunt the other night, from just south of Asheville, NC to just north of Columbus, OH. It rained for much of the drive. There was fog. I witnessed the aftermath of three massive accidents, including one semi-trailer that had skidded sideways across one of Interstate 40’s most treacherous segments then flopped over in the median. I had some nontrivial time pressure and I’d already been awake for fifteen hours when I got in the car to begin the trip. Lousy circumstances, to be certain. So how did the Jetta do?
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 smaller sedan would be about a foot shorter than a Panamera, sport an all-electric powertrain — a first for Porsche — and could be offered alongside gasoline, diesel or hybrid-powered engines.
The last Lexus coupé-only model to grace luxury Japanese dealer lots was the 1991-2000 Lexus SC 300/SC 400. Since then Lexus has tried to satisfy luxury coupé and convertible shoppers simultaneously with the hardtop SC and IS convertibles since 2001.
That is until the folks in Japan decided to change their strategy to compete more directly with BMW, Mercedes and Audi in every segment. The result is the development of the RC.
Perhaps because Lexus decided against a 2-coupé strategy, as utilized by BMW and Mercedes, the RC is mix mash between the compact IS and the mid-sized GS — with a little bit of Lexus IS C tossed in for good measure.
In theory, the new coupé was also to serve as the basis for an all-new convertible. Unfortunately, the dealer network revolted and demanded another change in course, redirecting efforts into a 3-row crossover. As a result, the all-new RC is sold alongside the aging Lexus IS C convertible, a situation that’s unlikely to change for the foreseeable future. Fortunately for enthusiasts, Lexus developed their M4-fighter at the same time as the more pedestrian RC 350, otherwise the very-blue 467-horsepower RC F you see above may have met the same fate as the moribund convertible.
I pull up next to a previous-generation Mustang — its 5-liter V8 rumbling as it sits at a stop light — and look over to the driver. There is no acknowledgement from him that I exist. Not a nod, glance, nor a typical, Mustang-owner two-finger wave.
That’s not surprising though — he probably couldn’t hear me.
The 2.3-liter EcoBoost inline four is but a whimper next to the eight cylinders of Detroit aluminum. I give the boosted four banger a slight tip of accelerator. Still nothing from the owner of the “five-point-oh.”
A short time ago, I left you with my impressions of the Porsche 911 GT3. Even now, I am still in love with that car (Tiffany…call me). However, love is blind and everyone’s a critic.
Just after the publication of that piece, I got a text from a buddy who published an outstanding review on the Lamborghini Huracán. It simply declared “No way a GT3 can keep up with a Huracán.” Well my limited resources were never going to make that track test happen, but I do have access to a pair of Huracáns…
So, why not see what the hype is about?
We just had a fight.
Scratch that. We were still having a fight. This was just the tense calm between volleys of verbal mortar fire. I won’t even tell you what we were fighting about. The subject was so stupid it would make my girlfriend and I both look like utter idiots — like those times when you shout at a character in a TV show to grow up and “just say you’re sorry already!”
Instead of doing what any rational human would do, I figured my only chance of peace was to escape the waves of relationship-drama ordnance. I grabbed the keys to this week’s Charger along with my vaporizer and fled the front line to regroup and regain my sanity.