MINI is the most unlikely successful new brand in America. Why? Because the brand’s “tiny transportation” ethos is at odds with America’s “bigger is better” mantra. Of course, these contradictory philosophies explain why the modern MINI is nowhere near as mini as Minis used to be. Still with me? Hang on to your hats because the German owners of the iconic British brand have decided American domination hinges on making the biggest MINI yet. Enter the MINI Countryman. Or as I like to call it, the MINI Maxi.
If you’re shopping for a compact American crossover, Chevy’s Equinox is likely on your list. If however you’re looking to rent a small crossover, the Chevrolet Captiva Sport is probably what you’ll get for $29.95 a day from Hertz. While you’re bound to see them on the streets, you can’t buy them new unless you’re a fleet customer. That’s because the Captiva is designed to do two things: keep fleet sales of GM’s other CUVs low and continue to amortize the cost of Americanizing the Opel Antara. Yep, that’s right, under the bow tie, the Captiva Sport is none-other than the 2008-2010 Saturn VUE, aka the Opel Antata, Holden Captiva and Dawewoo Winstorm MaXX. We spent a week in a Hertz rental to find out if Chevy’s rental soft-roader should be on your used CUV shopping list.
Volvo has long been the “safe choice” in more ways than one. The brand’s reputation is steeped in safety, but for the past 30 years “luxury with a hint of performance” has been a secondary focus. Even still, arriving at the country club in a Volvo won’t bring out the green-eyed-monster. Your fellow socialites will just think you were being safe and practical. Volvo may be the Birkenstock of the automotive world, but that doesn’t prevent them from creating the occasional irrational vehicle. While Volvo isn’t ready commit to build the insane 508HP S60R, they will sell you the most powerful small crossover in America: the 2012 Volvo XC60 T6 AWD R-Design with Polestar. (If you don’t count the bat-s**t-crazy (in a good way) Nissan Juke R. Michael Karesh was able to wrangle an XC60 R-Design out of a local dealer for a quick take in December, but what’s the Polestar tweaked XC like to live with for a week? Click through the jump to find out.
Once upon a time, in a country known as America, SUVs roamed the land with large-displacement inline 6s, optional V8s, and locking axles. Nobody had heard of a “cute ute.” Of course, gasoline was also under a buck a gallon. Today the landscape is different. While the last energy crisis caused entire vehicles to downsize, the response to the latest energy “crisis” (and government pressure) has been to downsize engines while leaving the rest of the vehicle intact. Case in point? The Ford Edge EcoBoost. No, this isn’t the 3.5L fire-breathing twin-turbo you’ve heard about before, this is the all-new 2.0L engine that puts the Eco in EcoBoost.
After I reviewed a Mazda that’s no longer being made, I decided that perhaps my next Mazda review ought to involve a vehicle that’s actually available for purchase. We’ve experienced Jack Baruth’s impressions of throwing the CX-5 around Laguna Seca and Brendan McAleer’s extensive review of the optioned-up CX-5 Grand Touring, and now I’m going to share my experience of putting the base CX-5 Sport through the meat-grinder of a weekend enforcing discipline at a far-from-civilization 24 Hours of LeMons race. (Read More…)
I have been a fan of TTAC for a while now. I am motivated to write by the recent responses to towing with a 2005 Odyssey. Two years ago I bought a 2008 Toyota Sienna and a 21 foot (actual total length) travel trailer. The trailer has a GVWR of 3500 lb, which the Sienna is rated to tow with its towing package. I had an independent shop install a fluid-to-air ATF cooler, unfortunately, perhaps, choosing the smallest model as it was recommended for a 3500 lb tow. I was concerned about getting too much cooling in the winter. The van already had an ATF cooler in the radiator. I had them put in an ATF temperature gauge (before the radiator) at the same time. The towed weight of the trailer is several hundred pounds below the GVWR, but it has a front profile that is basically vertical. I have towed the trailer about 20,000 km (yes, I’m in Canada) and done what Toyota calls an ATF change three times. That’s actually a drain the pan and refill with 4 L of ATF, not really a change. Of course, I have no way of knowing how accurate the gauge is, but the highest it’s been on the highway is 220 F on a couple of grades in the BC mountains (Coquihalla highway). The temperature went down as soon as the grade did. It went up to 240 F or so for a few minutes while backing up a steep hill and around a bit of a corner into a storage yard. The van had 38,000 km on it when purchased and is now at 82,000 km.
Enough background. I am writing to ask why it is apparently okay to tow a larger trailer (5000 lb rating) with a Highlander but not a 3500 lb trailer with a Sienna. As far as I can tell, the engine, transmission and weight of the vehicles are basically the same. The internet is rife with posters who advise against towing with a minivan but seem to have no qualms about doing so with a SUV, except the very smallest.
What do you think?
Thanks very much for helping me out with this. I can find no answer to my question on the internet. (Read More…)
LAGUNA SECA – It’s called the Corkscrew, and for good reason. Perhaps the single most famous piece of racetrack topography in North America, this left-right two-punch combo can unsettle an unsorted chassis just as fast as the steep 18% gradient can unsettle a novice driver’s stomach. Jack Baruth was here in the same car. I’ll try not to embarrass, nor soil myself.
As I enter the throwaway left-hander, I’m mentally muttering under my breath, “Aim for the third tree, the third tree.” Bris-ing the apex of Turn 8, it’s blue sky time, and I’m hard on the throttle, fully committed. Perfect. Both right wheels just kiss the curb with a faint rumble, and it’s through the right-hand sweeper fast and- wait. Too fast.
Rookie move: lift.
It happens fast. Off track. Rotating left. Into the dirt. Sliding. The tire wall rushing closer. I have time for just one thought… (Read More…)
Honda will show off a concept version of their next generation Crosstour, and since we all know that “concept” is just “thinly disguised production car” in Honda vernacular, we’ll be getting a good look at the replacement for one of the most maligned cars of the last decade. Coverage of the New York Auto Show will start here at TTAC on April 4th.
Ford is launching a reality TV show dubbed *groan* Escape Routes, which will run for 6 weeks on NBC’s 8 P.M. Saturday night slot and on mun2 (a Hispanic network) at 11 P.M, starting on March 31st. Participants will ostensibly drive around in the 2013 Escape as overly dramatic music and poorly scripted lines spew forth. As if the concept weren’t nauseating enough, participants on the show will apparently interact with fans of the show online to “tap into the fabric of the local culture”.
It wasn’t our intention to inundate you with Buick stories, but sometimes the improbable occurs. Buick has been slowly revealing their new Encore crossover via their Facebook page, and we’ve now been treated to 3 out of 4 photos – enough to discern what the vehicle really looks like (pretty close to what Ed’s photo revealed).
TTAC Commentator Jimal writes:
Sajeev and Steve,
I have one of those quandaries that most adults will go through sooner or later in life and I figured I would tap into you and the B&B for suggestions. My father passed away recently after a long illness and I’m helping my mother with settling his estate; cleaning up finances, etc. Among the things my father left behind were his 2005 Buick LeSabre, which my mother hates, and her cherished 1996 4-door Chevy Blazer. (Read More…)
If there’s a word to describe VW’s future plans in the US, it’s “big.” There is still no specific plan to bring subcompact Polos to the US, and likely only an EV version of the new Up! city car. Even Audi is shying away from bringing more small products to the US, nixing the A1 and only supporting exports of the A2 in EV form. And according to Automotive News [sub] the next big thing for VW’s US portfolio could be a midsized CUV, built at its new Chattanooga plant and slotting between the Tiguan and Touareg. But this concept is not that CUV. According to VW, this CrossCoupe Concept is an exploration of alternative bodystyles for the compact CUV platform, more akin to a Range Rover Evoque than a mass market model… think “Tiguan CC” and you’ll be getting the idea. So, will it be built? VW sources tell Automotive News [sub] that
We won’t rule out the possibility of adding a sportier SUV to the Volkswagen lineup at some time. But the main message with the Cross Coupe is its styling, which stands for the future of SUV design at Volkswagen
You can see the evolution of VW’s new three-slat grille, further integrating the new cue into the headlights for a more cohesive fascia design. But does it work? We’ll let you be the judge of that…
If you ask a certain segment of the automotive press, it seems that BMW is rapidly losing the plot. While I agree that BMW’s latest wares are bigger, heavier and more leather-clad than ever before, I can’t say thing is a bad thing in my mind. I upset a few people when I reviewed the then-new 335is by saying “BMW is the new Mercedes”. I’m not sure why noses were “rankled”, but there seems to be a large segment of TTAC’s readership that believe BMW has abandoned “sport” for “luxury”. Maybe they are right; the M3 and M5 have been gaining weight an alarming pace and now we have the X5M and X6M, a pair of 5,400lb SUVs wearing full-on M badges. The burning question at TTAC is: should the guy responsible for designing it be committed? Or should the vehicle be put in a straight-jacket for being a totally insane machine?
When Infiniti said they were coming out with a new 7-passenger crossover, I, like the rest of the world, was expecting a stretched FX CUV with a V8 option, RWD and optional AWD. While the exterior was first shown off at Pebble Beach, the interior and drivetrain were merely well placed rumors. While Infiniti’s 3.5L V6 was the expected engine choice, the FWD (or optional AWD) CVT transmission was a curveball for sure. While I’ll try to hold my opinions until we can get some behind the wheel time, I am somewhat disapointed by the drivetrain choice. Inside, the JX is far from a disapointment continuing Infiniti’s recent trackrecord of world class cabins. While most of the shapes are familiar to Infiniti owners, many of the controls are new and only the steering wheel seems lifted directly off other Infiniti models. Like most vehicles in this segment, the third row of seats is best left to the small kids of that coworker you really hate.
Thought the Flex’s 2013 update would be a subtle tweak? Thought Ford might even tone down its freakiest minivan alternative? Think again, fool. Beaten down by jive turkey crossovers with less personality than a dealer finance rep, the Ford Flex has been hitting the funkmaster hard in hopes of working up a little sales mojo. But will a new, more design-appropriate front-end do the trick? Will this update put the Flex back on shopping lists? Or is the big box CUV still just too freaked-out for the familial mainstream?