The Truth About Cars » bland The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 12:01:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » bland 2012: Year Of The Mediocre Redesign Thu, 24 Jan 2013 14:49:08 +0000

I recently rented a midsize sedan from Hertz.  Hoping for a go in the latest Fusion, I was instead placed into a new Camry, though it may have been a 2007 Camry.  Differences between the two are only discernible to Toyota engineers, though a new campaign gives dealers the ability to tell them apart using a VIN decoder and a magnifying glass.

As I was driving the new/old Camry, I realized something: the phenomenon of cars that look like older versions of themselves isn’t unique to the Camry.  In fact, I submit that 2012 was the year of the mediocre redesign.  Naturally, I have several highly anecdotal examples to back up my grandiose assertion.

Forget about the Camry.  Let’s start with the Camry’s arch-rival, the Honda Accord, which was redesigned for 2013.  Allegedly.  As far as I can tell, the only real revisions are a lane change camera that probably cost $9 from China, and new rear tail lights that cost nothing because they were designed three years ago by Hyundai.

In all the whining about the 2012 Civic, the automotive press largely failed to mention perhaps its biggest flaw: it looks exactly the same as the 2011 Civic from virtually every angle.  This is especially troubling because the previous model was such an enormous leap forward in the compact car world; something of a new refrigerator with ice in the door to a 1920s icebox.  By comparison, the 2012 Civic is a stainless steel fridge that seems new and cool until you find out it can no longer display your magnets.

While you might think it’s hard to find a car more innocuously redesigned than the Accord and Camry, that car is the new Volkswagen Beetle.  Pitched as more masculine than the old model, it’s actually exactly the same, although now it has uglier wheels.  And maybe this time the brake lights will work.

The new Silverado’s tepid redesign has already been covered all over the automotive press, so there’s no need to mention it here.  Of course, that won’t stop me from doing it anyway.  The most important point is that I was wrong in an earlier article when I said the Silverado has no new engines.  In fact, Chevrolet is replacing last year’s 4.3-liter V6, 5.3-liter V8 and 6.2-liter V8 with a new 4.3-liter V6, 5.3-liter V8 and 6.2-liter V8.  In other words, the engines are getting the same “redesign” as the truck.

Meanwhile, Land Rover followed up its highly successful third-generation Range Rover with a beautifully-redesigned fourth-generation model: the 2012 Ford Explorer.

While the latest BMW 3- and 5-Series models are very different from their predecessors, they’re now identical to each other.  Based on my real-world driving experiences, turn signals remain a very unpopular option on both cars.

After seven years, Porsche customers finally laid their eyes on the new 911, only to discover it looks just like the old 911 except with entire paragraphs spelled out on the back.  Of course, the evolutionary 911 never changes much; instead it simply grows larger, wider, and more powerful with each passing year.  Kind of like Warren Buffett.  And like a share of Berkshire A, it also keeps getting more expensive.

It wasn’t just lookalike styling that made 2012 redesigns mediocre.  The Nissan Pathfinder traded its trademark towing capacity for bland lines.  The Acura RLX traded bland lines for even blander ones.  And the Cadillac XTS traded lethargic engines and front-wheel drive architecture for … lethargic engines and front-wheel drive architecture.  But without bland lines.

From the above, you might get the impression that I think all 2012 redesigns were bad.  That’s not the case.  From Escape to Fusion, Ford stands out as the carmaker that’s done a tremendous job this year with clean-sheet redesigns.  You’ll agree the next time you go to Hertz.  Unless they give you a Camry.


 Doug DeMuro operates He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, roadtripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute laptime on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta.  One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer.  His parents are very disappointed.


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Hammer Time: Feeling Blandy Wed, 15 Aug 2012 13:00:16 +0000

Sometimes there is no point in buying new.

Case in point? Well consider the folks who are the anti-enthusiasts. The ones who look at cars as rolling spreadsheets where the owner simply needs to divine the biggest bang for the buck.

These days I’m getting a lot of action with the blandific cars of not too long ago. Luminas, Regals, Centurys, Tauruses… and pretty much anything that is at least 10 years old and at one time used by the automakers as a rental car special.

Today I sold this creature. A 2001 Buick Century with 93k miles. 3.1 Liter V6. Pretty based as a whole. But at least it seats six, was garage kept, and comes with an advanced set of cupholders.

I bought it for $2000 and sold it for $3000 to a nice old lady who is looking at parking her equally milquetoast 1996 Buick LeSabre with a corroded vinyl top.

In turn, I had this vehicle come in.

A 2001 Ford Taurus in ubiquitous silver that almost always comes with the hammer/sickle Vulcan V6 and the haltingly durable AX4N transmission. I have $985 in it, 95,000 miles, and a pristine leather interior to boot. By the way, the picture above is pretty much an exact match for the one that’s on the transporter at the moment.

Did I mention that used cars get cheaper from August through early November? No tax holidays. No major spending seasons here in the South. Everyone’s on vacation, and the end of year bonus is several months away. These days most folks get little more than a turkey anyhow.

The one lick on it right now is that it won’t start. That’s not uncommon at some of the dealer auctions that attract older metal. On the positive side, the compression is good, the leather is free of rips, and most of my older customers like having that extra touch of luxury for their humdrum commutes.

Judging by the history, it looks like another one of those cars that ends up sitting for a couple of years because it failed emissions and the driver already bought something else. In otherwords the ‘extra car’ that nobody wants and nobody cares about.

Except my customers…

I’m gonna spend $50 to have it towed to my mechanic. If he fails to figure it out, I’m going to bite the bullet and send it to the Ford dealer down the road. It’s a gamble. But in this business, everything you invest in is little more than a crap shoot of prior knowledge and future probability.

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No More Vanilla! Toyota Promises Pistachio Thu, 29 Sep 2011 19:40:03 +0000

 Toyota has a new global styling chief that makes heads turn in Aichi and Bunkyo, even before he has shown a rough design: “Eeeh? Look at that shirt! And did you see the gold chain???” Or as Frau Schmitto-san, TTAC’s advisor in multicultural matters exclaimed: “Global styling? He needs to style his hair!” It takes a lot to shake up Toyota’s culture, and Akihiro “Dezi” Nagaya has what it takes.

Charged with putting an end to the long tradition of conservative design, Dezi Nagaya definitely looks the part. According to Automotive News [sub], he “dresses like he’s on his way to a trendy Shibuya nightclub rather than off to work at Toyota.”

Cornered at the Frankfurt Auto Show (even there he stood out), Toyota’s new head of styling promised:

“We are going to be more dynamic, more masculine, sportier, with a more obvious design theme and a face to represent the company and the brand. We have eliminated emotion. We need to pump that up.”

Of course, all too radical design changes can be deadly. The challenge in the business is to look new and exciting while evoking associations with a familiar past. Nagaya promises to go easy on cars like the Camry and the Prius, which cater more to the left side of the brain than to the right.

Nagaya is against a rigid look like that of BMW, which he compares to “small, medium and large sausages.” He wants Toyota to be more like “a department store,” where many different products can live under one elegantly designed roof. Instead of scoops of vanilla, Nagaya offers the refined tastes of a high-end gelateria.

Like nearly everybody at Toyota, the 50 year old has been there forever. As general manager of the Lexus planning department in Tokyo, he was one of the creators of the “L-Finesse” design language for Lexus. Later, he became chief designer of the second-generation Toyota Prius, which became a sub-brand of its own. Said Nagaya to AN:

“Some people don’t know what a Toyota is, but with the Prius, people knew it was a hybrid, even if they didn’t know it was a Toyota.”

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