The Truth About Cars » doug demuro http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Sat, 29 Aug 2015 15:27:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.4 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 editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » doug demuro http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com QOTD: How Is The Toyota 4Runner So Damn Popular? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-how-is-the-toyota-4runner-so-damn-popular/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-how-is-the-toyota-4runner-so-damn-popular/#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 11:00:28 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1149489 A few days ago, we all woke up to the sad news that the Nissan Xterra is going to be cancelled. This is especially depressing for people who post Instagram photos of themselves lifting weights. Personally, I could take or leave the Xterra. It’s outdated, it’s trucky, it’s too tall, it’s a bit expensive, and […]

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2014 Toyota 4Runner dirt path

A few days ago, we all woke up to the sad news that the Nissan Xterra is going to be cancelled. This is especially depressing for people who post Instagram photos of themselves lifting weights.

Personally, I could take or leave the Xterra. It’s outdated, it’s trucky, it’s too tall, it’s a bit expensive, and it lacks a wide variety of modern technology. By this I am not referring to forward collision warning, or lane keep assist, or blind spot detection. I mean the base model doesn’t have a height-adjustable driver’s seat.

So the Xterra’s fifteen-year run is coming to an end, and we must all marvel at the fact that yet another off-roady vehicle won’t be available to us anymore. In the land of reasonably priced off-road vehicles, they all seem to vanish: the Toyota FJ Cruiser. The Suzuki Vitara, and Sidekick, and Samurai. The Ford Bronco. The K5 Blazer. All gone, replaced by something more mainstream, or not replaced at all, leaving the Jeep Wrangler to soldier on as today’s sole off-road vehicle choice.

Well, not quite today’s sole off-road vehicle choice. There’s also the Toyota 4Runner.

That’s right ladies and gentlemen: the 4Runner is still on sale, flying in the face of the trend that has seen virtually every automaker either cancel their body-on-frame SUV, change it into a crossover (Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder), or move it upscale, like the Toyota Land Cruiser and the Range Rover. Indeed, the 4Runner still soldiers on, using the same old and trucky design it always has.

Who the hell is buying it?

You might think my question is unfounded, so allow me to explain myself. For one thing, the 4Runner starts at $34,500 with shipping. This isn’t tremendously expensive until you discover two things. Number one: the 4Runner comes standard with only basic items, like cloth seats, manual dimming mirrors, two-wheel drive, and a manual passenger seat. And number two: the Toyota Highlander starts at $30,500 with shipping, or roughly four grand less than the 4Runner.

Although I don’t consider the Highlander to be a true competitor to the 4Runner, I bring it into this discussion for an obvious reason: If you’re a family and you’re looking for a new family car, do you pick the smooth, car-based, easy-to-drive, well-equipped Highlander? Or do you spend four grand more and get the loud, truck-based, off-roader, overstyled 4Runner? You or I may choose option number two, but the vast majority of buyers would rather save the four grand and go for the more family-friendly vehicle.

So it must be off-roaders buying the 4Runner, then. And yet, the 4Runner seems like an expensive proposition if you’re taking it on the trails. A 4-door Jeep Wrangler starts at just $27,700 — around seven grand less than a base-level 4Runner. The average asking price for a new 4Runner on Autotrader is $39,905. And there are some models that cost more than fifty grand.

So the 4Runner isn’t comfortable enough to be a family crossover, and it’s too expensive to be an off-roader. So maybe the 4Runner competes with other trying-to-be-bold midsize SUVs, like the Nissan Murano and the Jeep Grand Cherokee?

The problem here is the 4Runner’s lack of technology. While those cars offer forward collision warning this and blind spot that and automatic this and touchscreen that, the 4Runner’s greatest safety advancement is a backup camera. And its best high-tech gadget is a push-button starter. A push-button starter that you can only get on the 4Runner Limited, which starts at $44,900 with shipping.

Now, is there a coalition of car buyers out there interested in an expensive, off-road-ready but sized-like-a-midsize-SUV, low-tech vehicle? Apparently the answer is yes, there is. I’m just curious exactly who it is.

I say this because Toyota’s SUV lineup now includes an almost amazing five vehicles — the RAV4, the Highlander, the 4Runner, the Sequoia, and the Land Cruiser. And this is without a subcompact Honda HR-V-sized vehicle, which we can only assume Toyota is poised to make in the next few years. So with all those models and all those choices, how are they still finding buyers for the 4Runner?

To me, it’s impressive: despite the segment crashing down around it; despite newer technology everywhere else; despite cheaper rivals better suited for daily duties; despite its high pricing, the 4Runner has braved it all. How does it do it? Has its 4Runner name achieved cult status, like the Jeep Wrangler? Who’s still buying the Toyota 4Runner?

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QOTD: Why Hasn’t Anyone Out-Gas Mileaged The Prius? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-why-hasnt-anyone-out-gas-mileaged-the-prius/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-why-hasnt-anyone-out-gas-mileaged-the-prius/#comments Fri, 14 Aug 2015 12:28:29 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1141713 Fifty-one miles per gallon city. Forty-eight miles per gallon highway. Still the best numbers in the industry for nearly a decade now. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m referring to the Toyota Prius, which is a 5-door hatchback that looks a bit like an egg mated with a shopping cart. It’s been a decade since the […]

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2014 Toyota Prius

Fifty-one miles per gallon city. Forty-eight miles per gallon highway. Still the best numbers in the industry for nearly a decade now.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I’m referring to the Toyota Prius, which is a 5-door hatchback that looks a bit like an egg mated with a shopping cart. It’s been a decade since the Prius came out in hatchback form, and a decade since it achieved those impressive fuel economy figures: 51 miles per gallon city. 48 miles per gallon highway. And still, no one has unseated the Prius.

It hasn’t been without trying. After the original Honda Insight failed, Honda came out with a Prius-looking second-generation Insight trying to dethrone the king. But it didn’t even come close, with fuel economy figures reaching just 41 miles per gallon city and 44 mpg on the highway. Even the Civic Hybrid, in its current form, can manage only 44 mpg city and 47 mpg highway.

And then there are the other challengers. The Ford C-MAX, also a hybrid-only 5-door hatchback, originally seemed like it might be close to the Prius’s EPA ratings — until people started complaining that they couldn’t come anywhere near Ford’s published figures. Down the C-MAX’s numbers went to their current resting place of 42 mpg city and 37 mpg on the highway.

The Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid gets close at 42 mpg city and 48 mpg highway. So does the Honda Accord Hybrid, at 50 mpg city and 45 mpg highway. And the Ford Fusion Hybrid, at 44 mpg city and 44 mpg highway. But none of them can unseat the reigning king and champion, the Toyota Prius.

Interestingly, even Toyota doesn’t seem to be able to top the Prius. Proof of that came a few years back, when they debuted the even smaller Prius c, a subcompact hatchback version of the Prius designed to provide a low-cost alternative to the iconic car. Despite a smaller engine, a smaller size, and less weight, its fuel economy ratings are 53 mpg city and 46 mpg highway — no better combined than the Prius’s 51 mpg city and 48 mpg highway.

So how does the Prius do it? It isn’t by cheating. The people on Fuelly all seem to report somewhere between 47 and 49 miles per gallon, which is right there on par with the EPA’s estimate. By comparison, second-generation Honda Insight people all seem to be somewhere between 43 and 45 miles per gallon.

We must assume that the Prius gets its amazing miles per gallon by honest-to-goodness engineering: a streamlined body, a tremendously efficient engine, and a wide range of other modifications that gives this car a leg up on all of its wannabe-Prius competitors. Which brings me to ask: why hasn’t anyone topped the Prius?

If it’s just engineering, someone can certainly do it. After all, this isn’t rocket science. Tear down the Prius. See what they did. Replicate it. This is how Volkswagen created its current-generation Passat, although unfortunately the car they used as the benchmark was a 1995 Camry CE.

So maybe people don’t want to replicate the Prius. What I’m thinking is, other automakers have decided the Prius is old news, and they want to focus instead on plug-in hybrids and electric cars which are all the rage these days. But here’s the problem with that: last year, Toyota sold 207,000 units of the Prius family, compared to roughly 19,000 Chevy Volts, and 30,000 Nissan Leafs. In other words: although electric cars might be all the rage, the “highly efficient hybrid” segment is still exponentially larger than the plug-in EV class.

And so I ask: in today’s world of people trying to conserve energy, save the planet, and lower their carbon footprint, how is it still possible that nobody has managed to equal the Toyota Prius in terms of fuel economy? How is it possible that nobody has beaten it? How has nobody entered this wildly profitable, popular segment and given the Prius a (slow, quiet) run for its money? Because the way it stands now, it doesn’t seem like General Motors should’ve devoted all that energy to making the Chevy Volt. Instead, they should’ve made a Chevy Prius.

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Saab Was Way Ahead Of Its Time http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/saab-was-way-ahead-of-its-time/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/saab-was-way-ahead-of-its-time/#comments Thu, 13 Aug 2015 15:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1140938 So I’m driving along the other day and I notice a badge on the tailgate of the latest Lincoln Navigator that says “EcoBoost.” That’s right, folks: the giant, bold, shout-out-loud Lincoln Navigator is now using an EcoBoost engine. The V-8 is gone. The big, brawny, “look at me” V-8 rumble has disappeared. Lincoln has now […]

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saab-900 the real thing

So I’m driving along the other day and I notice a badge on the tailgate of the latest Lincoln Navigator that says “EcoBoost.”

That’s right, folks: the giant, bold, shout-out-loud Lincoln Navigator is now using an EcoBoost engine. The V-8 is gone. The big, brawny, “look at me” V-8 rumble has disappeared. Lincoln has now dropped that stuff in favor of turbocharging.

It would be one thing if it were the MKZ, which is a midsize sedan that looks sort of like a woman’s shoe turned upside down. That thing is turbocharged, and nobody really seems to care. It’s just another car, in a sea of cars, looking to eek out the best possible fuel economy.

But the Navigator! The giant, truck-like Navigator. Lincoln’s answer to the Cadillac Escalade, even though it debuted before there was a Cadillac Escalade. The huge flagship model of the Lincoln lineup; something Lincoln drivers across the world aspire to own, from airport limousine drivers to Lincoln dealership owner spouses. It’s now turbocharged.

And, of course, the Navigator isn’t the only recent luxury car to include a turbocharger. Other turbocharged luxury cars that have debuted in modern years include, well, basically all of them. Lexus, once the champion of smooth engines with low power and big displacement, now has a turbocharged NX and IS. Mercedes has all sorts of turbos. And Audi’s entire lineup might be turbocharged, for all I know. I cannot be sure of this fact because it’s impossible to spend more than 10 minutes on the Audi website without falling asleep.

It wasn’t always this way. Years ago, Mercedes brought us two types of engines: naturally aspirated engines and bigger naturally aspirated engines. Lincoln and Cadillac gave us V-8s. And Lexus offered Toyota engines that inexplicably ran on premium fuel, even when the Toyota version had no problem with regular. It was a great time.

Actually, it’s a great time now, too, because turbocharged engines are kind of fun. I especially like turbocharged engines from the mid-2000s because of how they operated. First, you put your foot down. Then, you did your taxes. Then, you were launched into a hedge somewhere in the next area code.

And this brings me to the point of today’s column, which is that Saab was way ahead of its time.

Many of you think of Saab as a fledgling Swedish automaker who had just one or two distinguishable products and could only afford to redesign its vehicles every decade or so. Of course, many of you think of Volvo in the same way. But Saab was like that, too.

But Saab’s biggest unique trait — more than its three-spoke wheels, more than its hatchback designs, more than the fact that the Saab logo faded off its emblems after three weeks of driving around in regular sunlight — was turbocharged engines.

Do you remember this? Back in the 1990s and 2000s, Mercedes-Benz and BMW and Lincoln and Cadillac and Lexus and Acura were all using big ol’ naturally-aspirated engines; the kind of engine where you’d walk up to your neighbor at a party and proudly announce your displacement like you’d share your newborn daughter’s weight at birth. My Acura has a three point five, you’d say, knowing full well your neighbor’s Lexus was only a pathetic three point oh. Or: My Cadillac has a four point nine. Or: My Mercedes has a five point six.

All of these things were acceptable to say back in the day when displacement ruled the earth.

And then there was Saab, off in the corner, somehow extracting even more power than its rivals but with far less fuel engine size. Whaddya got there, a neighbor would say, proudly stroking his new 4.0-liter, V-8-powered Lexus LS400. A two point three? And then he’d run away laughing as if his great dane had just put your entire Pomeranian in its mouth and gnawed on it a bit like a corn cob.

What he didn’t know, of course, is that your puny little two-point-three had 250 horsepower, or maybe 280, a function of Saab’s basic idea at the time that by God, there are a lot of horses running around Trollhattan, and they need to be captured and stuffed inside front-wheel drive sedans. Back then, that was considered unorthodox. Weird. Strange. Odd. “A turbocharger?” people would say. “What the hell is that?”

But now…

Well, now Saab is dead. Unfortunately, its ideas live on in virtually all modern cars: turbochargers are good. Smaller engines are great. Fuel economy is nice. Aerodynamics are fun. And as I look at today’s crop of luxurious front-wheel drive two point threes and two point ohs, and turbocharged this and EcoBoost that, I can’t help but think one thing: the only thing separating these cars from a Saab is the faded emblem.

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QOTD: Are All These Turbocharged Cars Going to Last? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-are-all-these-turbocharged-cars-going-to-last/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/08/qotd-are-all-these-turbocharged-cars-going-to-last/#comments Fri, 07 Aug 2015 11:00:23 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1135746 If there is one recent trend in the automotive industry today, it’s turbocharging. Of course, there are a lot of other trends, too. That whole SUV coupe thing is bizarrely catching on. And I think we can all agree that it’s only a matter of time before someone sees the Subaru Outback’s 20 years of […]

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2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8L Turbo Engine-001

If there is one recent trend in the automotive industry today, it’s turbocharging.

Of course, there are a lot of other trends, too. That whole SUV coupe thing is bizarrely catching on. And I think we can all agree that it’s only a matter of time before someone sees the Subaru Outback’s 20 years of unrivaled success and finally decides to re-enter the wagon game.

But in the last few years, it’s turbocharging that has really managed to beat out everything else for today’s most popular automotive trend.

These days, everything is turbocharged. And I mean everything. Years ago, it was just Volvos and Saabs and maybe the occasional Audi or so. It was an unusual thing, turbocharging, and we weren’t exactly sure what to make of it. “That car is TURBOCHARGED,” people would say. “Oooooh.”

It was so much of a unique thing back in the day that companies would advertise products that were turbocharged when it couldn’t possibly be so. There were turbocharged shavers. Turbocharged medicines. Turbocharged toys. All used roughly the same level of forced induction as a grapefruit.

It’s not so unique anymore.

In modern times, everything is turbocharged. Family cars. Subcompacts. Luxury sedans. Ford has not one but two different turbocharged F-150s: a 2.7-liter and a 3.5-liter. They’re widely agreed to be better than the naturally aspirated engines they’re sold alongside. BMW turbocharges. Mercedes turbocharges. General Motors turbocharges. Everything from the Chevy Sonic to the BMW M5 now uses turbochargers to force air into the engine and bring us MORE POWAH. This concept is no longer unique to weird European cars that your dentist friend drives.

The reason for all this turbocharging is obvious: we’re all trying to improve our fuel economy. This is in order to meet CAFE standards, which say that every vehicle must return 87 miles per gallon by next week. Automakers have deemed this a hard goal to meet, so they have turned to turbocharging to accomplish it. And thus, it was born. The turbocharged Ford Fusion. The turbocharged Lexus NX. The turbocharged Buick Encore.

Naturally, I don’t blame automakers for this. There were really only two ways to achieve the goal of better fuel economy: dropping horsepower, or going turbocharged. As much as people say they want to “go green,” they don’t actually want to lose their horsepower, their acceleration, their beloved passing power. So instead we put up with a 1.4-liter engine in a midsize sedan that can deliver a lot of power when we need it, or a little when we don’t.

But there’s one obvious problem with all this turbocharging: How long will these engines really last?

I say this as the former owner of a 1990s turbocharged Volvo, and then the owner of a non-turbocharged 1990s Audi. When it comes to turbocharging, here’s what I learned: Turbos add complication. They often bring more stress to the engine. They leak. They fail. They suffer from serious longevity problems. And this was a turbocharged Volvo, a forced-induction car from an automaker who had known about this technology for years. How do you think it’ll last in a brand-new pickup?

When it came time to replace my Volvo back in 2006, I didn’t want to find out. Knowing that the Audi A4 1.8T had a problem where the turbochargers would leak oil, I went with a 2.8-liter model. I’ve made it a point to generally staying away from turbocharged cars after that.

So what about this new crop of turbocharged cars? Will they last? I worry about that a lot. Many people out there buy cars to last five, ten, or fifteen years, and they’ll be severely disappointed that “turbocharger” now joins the list of expensive “one day” replacements, along with timing belt, transmission, fuel or water pumps, and — if you have a Subaru — head gaskets.

Admittedly, I might be totally wrong. These automakers may have turbocharging down; they may be totally capable of engineering a turbocharger that can last the life of the car, and then some. But if you were looking for a car that you hoped would last you a long time, would you end up with the high-pressure turbo? Or the tried-and-true naturally aspirated 4-cylinder?

I guess it depends how badly you want that additional fuel economy.

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QOTD: What’s the Stupidest Automotive Feature? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-whats-the-stupidest-automotive-feature/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-whats-the-stupidest-automotive-feature/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 10:43:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1129913 I think it’s time to discuss something that we should’ve brought up a long time ago: the stupidest automotive feature. Oh, sure, we’ve discussed the worst automotive feature, and the best automotive feature, and the automotive feature you wish you had, like spiked tires that could cut through ice and offending road users. But what […]

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2004 Chrysler Crossfire Rear Retractable Spoiler

I think it’s time to discuss something that we should’ve brought up a long time ago: the stupidest automotive feature.

Oh, sure, we’ve discussed the worst automotive feature, and the best automotive feature, and the automotive feature you wish you had, like spiked tires that could cut through ice and offending road users.

But what about the stupidest feature?

I ask this because I think there are a lot of unnecessary automotive features out there in today’s world; items that have no basis or bearing for real life use, or customer desire, brought to us by automakers who are hellbent on coming out with a vehicle that offers the highest possible level of gadgets and equipment so they can use the phrase “BEST IN CLASS” over and over in their ads.

Interestingly, however, I don’t believe the stupidest feature is one of these newfangled ideas that seems to exist for the sheer sake of existing. I believe the stupidest feature is actually an oldie. And it is: a retractable spoiler.

For those of you who don’t know what a retractable spoiler is, allow me to explain. You’re cruising along in your Porsche, or your Bugatti Veyron, or your Volkswagen Corrado, and you hit a certain speed, which is usually something inexplicable like 47 miles per hour or 87 kilometers per hour. And then the spoiler shoots out for no apparent reason other than to alert drivers on the road that you’re in a sporty car.

I’ve never really understood the purpose of this retractable spoiler. Ninety-nine percent of the time, when you see it sticking out on a Porsche 911, the driver is just cruising down the interstate. That’s because the spoiler is designed to deploy based on speed, not driving style, apparently in some bizarre effort to keep your car on the road should you begin to experience the effects of a massive windstorm.

The funny thing is these spoilers are never adequately sized to actually do anything. They’re just there to be spoilers, so you can tell your friends you have a cool spoiler that extends out at speed as if you’re in a race car, when in reality the spoiler is the size of a license plate and it wouldn’t have any effect on any vehicle larger than a Hot Wheels.

So why does this spoiler exist? I really do think it’s for bragging rights. But that’s not the worst part.

2010 Porsche Panamera Turbo Adaptive Motion Rear Spoiler

Oh, no. The worst part is that the retractable spoiler in most modern Porsche models actually can be extended at the push of a button. I want you to consider this. If you decide you need a spoiler on the back of your car, Porsche actually lets you push a button in order to extend it and get you ready for all that serious track use.

Except, of course, this isn’t how anyone uses the spoiler. The only people who actually push that spoiler extender button are the same type of people who drive around wealthy shopping areas looking around to ensure people are looking at them. These are the worst people in the world. The spoiler button is not a spoiler button. It is an asshole button.

So what people do, when they push the asshole button, is they cruise around — not on the race track, or even a drag strip — but just around town, driving like normal, making sure everyone sees how cool their car is because they have a spoiler. Nothing makes a Panamera V6 look cooler, they think, than if you extend the rear spoiler.

But surely, the retractable spoiler is not the single stupidest feature in the world. There are a wide range of stupid features, and I’m sure I can count on you to inform everyone of your personal favorites. However, I must warn you: it’s going to be hard to top the asshole button.

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QOTD: How Do People Make Decisions On a Test Drive? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-how-do-people-make-decisions-on-a-test-drive/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-how-do-people-make-decisions-on-a-test-drive/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 11:16:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1124529 I recently had the opportunity to test drive an automobile, and I remembered why I hate it so much: because test drives are insanely short. They’re not just a little short. They’re wildly, absurdly, ridiculously short. Some test drives last for eight minutes, even though you will likely own the vehicle you’re driving for several […]

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Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 8.13.35 AM

I recently had the opportunity to test drive an automobile, and I remembered why I hate it so much: because test drives are insanely short.

They’re not just a little short. They’re wildly, absurdly, ridiculously short. Some test drives last for eight minutes, even though you will likely own the vehicle you’re driving for several years, you will pay tens of thousands of dollars for it, and you will spend several hours in it every day of your life.

Obviously, we know why this is: dealers don’t want to waste time with test drives. They want these things to go by quickly, so the cars don’t accumulate very many miles, and then they want you to get back into the showroom and start arguing over the price. This is how they get ya. The more time you spend arguing over the price, the more you want the car. “I don’t really want this car,” you think to yourself. “But I’ve already devoted six hours to arguing about the price. So I’d better get it.” This is how Chevrolet sold so many Cobalts.

But is the car buying public really content with these test drives?

The last test drive I took when I was buying a car for myself was in the summer of 2013. I was at a Cadillac dealer, and I was buying a CTS-V station wagon, and the guy allowed me to take the car about seven miles. “Just go up to the light and turn around,” the salesperson said. “That’ll show you how it handles.”

Yes, a U-Turn on a busy street shows me everything I need to know about handling.

Now, I bought that car anyway, because the truth is I didn’t really care how it drove. I had read all the magazine reviews, and watched all the videos, and I knew that I would probably love the car based on the fact that I heard it was excellent from a wide range of trusted journalistic sources, and also Road & Track.

But how does a normal person make a decision based on something as short as a test drive?

Here’s what I mean: you go to the Honda dealer and you’re interested in a Pilot. This is a family car you’ll have for the next five to eight years, until the moldy Doritos smell between the seats gets so bad that you trade it in on an MDX.

Now, when you’re buying a Pilot, you have a LOT of needs. For instance: it has to carry car seats. You have to be able to communicate with your kids in the third row. You have to be able to get grandma in and out of the back seat. You have to be able to store all your children’s accessories back there, like your diaper bag, and your clothes change bag, and your childproofing bag, and your large selection of wet wipes. You have to be able to fit it in your driveway, to pair it with your phone, to go over the bump near your house without too much drama. How the hell are you supposed to figure out all this stuff… from a ten minute test drive?

The funny thing is, I’ve never really seen anyone ask about a longer test drive. I sold cars for a while, and nobody really pushed me very hard to let them take the car out for an extended test. Once, a guy came in and said he would buy a used Pontiac Vibe if we let him take it home so we could see if his tuba fit in the back. So we let him take it home, his tuba fit in the back, and he bought the car. For me, that was the extent of the extended test drive market.

So here’s my question: is today’s society actually OK with the state of modern test drives? Do we find it acceptable that you buy a brand new car without taking it for more of a spin than a quick jaunt around the block? And more importantly: if you’ve ever taken an extended test drive, exactly how did you negotiate it? And what was the dealer’s response when you asked?

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The Small Luxury Convertible Is Probably Dead http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/the-small-luxury-convertible-is-probably-dead/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/the-small-luxury-convertible-is-probably-dead/#comments Thu, 23 Jul 2015 12:00:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1123801 I think the time has come to wave goodbye to one of the auto industry’s most fickle segments: the small luxury convertible. Once formerly strong and full of life, the segment now consists of a bunch of cars that leave people asking: Do they still make that? Allow me to explain what I mean. Back […]

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I think the time has come to wave goodbye to one of the auto industry’s most fickle segments: the small luxury convertible. Once formerly strong and full of life, the segment now consists of a bunch of cars that leave people asking: Do they still make that?

Allow me to explain what I mean. Back in 1989, Mazda came out with the Miata and taught everyone that maybe the two-seater convertible wasn’t quite dead yet. So all the luxury automakers decided they wanted a piece of that sweet droptop action, and they all scrambled to the drawing board to make expensive Miatas with steering wheel volume control buttons.

They all came out right in a row. First there was the BMW Z3, which went on sale for the 1996 model year and starred in a James Bond movie soon after. I remember how cool this thing was, because I remember how much of a departure it was for BMW to build it in the first place. Here’s an automaker who has only offered sedans and one slow-selling large coupe for the last few decades, and now they’re coming out with a fun looking, two-seat convertible that’s kind of affordable? THIS IS SO COOL! Eight-year-old me had a model Z3 sitting on a shelf in my room.

Then there was the Porsche Boxster. Oh, the Boxster, an enormous sales success when it first came out; the car that made Porsche realize that maybe, just maybe, they can continue in the business of selling cars without going into the business of declaring bankruptcy. The first Boxster models came out in 1997, and the first few years were their best-selling of all-time.

Then there was Mercedes. The first-generation Mercedes SLK came out for the 1998 model year with a totally new idea: a retractable hardtop. A retractable hardtop on a small Mercedes convertible, while the brand’s flagship SL-Class still had to make do with a normal old folding cloth top and a removable hardtop that was about as easy to move as a Great Dane who’s asleep on the remote control.

Like the Z3, the SLK was also so damn cool when it came out. The retractable roof was in all the ads. It was the first time anyone had ever seen such a thing outside the Mitsubishi 3000GT, which sold approximately 11 total units. And most importantly, it was a strong competitor to the brand-new rivals from BMW and Porsche. Back then, this segment was heating up like the compact crossover segment is today.

And then, yet another challenger emerged: the Audi TT. Originally on sale for the 2000 model year, the front- or all-wheel drive TT caused quite a stir when it debuted by being the first Audi ever not to completely suck. And then the stage was set: Audi had the TT. Mercedes had the SLK. BMW had the Z3. Porsche had the Boxster. And then the redesigns came.

First the Z3 was redesigned in 2004 to become the far more aggressive, bolder, sharper looking Z4. Next, the SLK and Boxster were updated in 2005, both with more modern appearances. Clearly, the automakers thought this segment still had some legs. And finally, the Audi TT got a full redesign for the 2008 model year, bringing everyone back into close competition once again. And then…

Half-heartedly, most of these models have since been redesigned once again. The Z4 lost its flame surfacing and gained sort of a “me, too” appearance designed to offend precisely nobody, and inspire the same number. The SLK received another redesign, though nobody knows this outside of spouses of Mercedes dealers. The Boxster, admittedly, earned an excellent redesign — though its price point has taken it well beyond the level of the original 2-seat roadster. And Audi’s hemming and hawing about a potential TT redesign has been one of the most reluctant things I’ve seen from the auto industry in decades.

The reason for all this is that this segment has completely died out, and nobody wants these cars anymore. Back in the ‘90s, convertibles were all the rage, and people loved the idea of hopping in a BMW roadster and going for a spin. Now, sedans are back. We want functional. We want practical. And we don’t want to pay fifty grand for an SLK250 with something called the “Airscarf.”

For proof, some numbers. Back in 2005, with its last redesign, the SLK hit nearly 12,000 units in America. With its most recent redesign in 2012, it didn’t even manage to reach 5,000 sales. The Z4 did almost 20,000 U.S. units in 2003. Last year, just barely 2,000. And the poor Audi TT has dropped from more than 10,000 sales in its first year to just over 1,000 last year. Even the Boxster is down from well over 10,000 U.S. sales in the late 1990s to just over 4,500 after its most recent redesign.

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I’m currently predicting the death of the luxury roadster segment. When it happens officially, remember that you heard it here first. Even James Bond can’t save it now.

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QOTD: Does Anyone Care About Recalls? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-does-anyone-care-about-recalls/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/07/qotd-does-anyone-care-about-recalls/#comments Fri, 10 Jul 2015 11:00:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1112641 Another day, another recall. Or, at least, this seems to be the growing trend lately in the automotive industry. Years ago, I remember recalls being a rarity. My mom owns a Ford Escape that she bought new in 2003, and I distinctly remember her thinking about getting something else because she was worried about all […]

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Escape to which mountain?

Another day, another recall. Or, at least, this seems to be the growing trend lately in the automotive industry.

Years ago, I remember recalls being a rarity. My mom owns a Ford Escape that she bought new in 2003, and I distinctly remember her thinking about getting something else because she was worried about all the recalls. It had, at the most, three. This is what used to pass for a high-recall vehicle.

No longer.

In today’s climate, cars are getting recalled all the time. Left and right. Cats and dogs. Every single day there’s a new automotive recall. I just got a recall for my 10-year-old SUV of which I’m the third owner. Nobody is safe.

The funny thing is, the sheer number of recent recalls has sort of desensitized everyone to the recall problem. It used to be when you got a recall notice, you were seriously concerned about safety and worried about your vehicle’s ability to drive down the street without something happening like the vehicle launching you into space because the supplier had unintentionally built 2,400 units with an ejector seat.

But in today’s world, we’ve seen it all. Toyota recalling millions of cars for floor mats and pedal issues. Chevrolet recalling tens of millions of cars for ignition switch problems. Honda recalling every car it has ever manufactured for faulty airbags, including a wide range of cars that didn’t have airbags, because Takata was putting explosive charges in the speedometer.

I think the result is that people just don’t care about recalls anymore.

I noticed this because I’ve started running a lot of Carfax reports over the last few months. I’ve paid for a subscription and I’ve started running reports on a wide range of cars, including vehicles on sale, vehicles I see on the street, vehicles I see on Craigslist. Anything, really. And what I’ve learned: an enormous number of them have open recalls.

What I think happens is people are starting to disregard recall notices more and more because they’re just coming so often. If you have any modern, popular vehicle, you might have four or five recalls currently outstanding, all of which will have parts reach dealers at a different time. That door lock recall? Oh, we’ll have parts in August. The brake spindle bladder? Parts won’t come in until October. But by then, we’ll be out of parts for the door lock recall. Better come in twice.

The interesting thing about this is, the latest climate of recalls has made it so oft-recalled cars are almost entirely unnoticeable. It used to be that if you were thinking about buying a car, and you learned it had been recalled a few times, you wondered if maybe you should consider something else. Somewhere else. Some other brand that isn’t making the kind of death trap that gets recalled a few times.

But now, you see a car that’s been recalled a few times, and you sort of expect it. What hasn’t been recalled, you think. And then you buy it, and you forget all about the recall, because God knows you’re going to get ten more notices in the mail until it’s time to dump it on the next poor sap.

And so I ask: does anyone care about recalls? Do you?

Me, I worry a bit about recalls. When I got my recall notice, I grew a little concerned, because I know this is a safety thing. No, it might not be affecting me right now, but if we’ve moved to the point where they’re doing a recall, it might affect me soon. So I’m a little cautious with these things.

But should I even be worried? Are cars actually made worse than they once were, and that’s why there are so many recalls? Or are automakers just scared of liability issues, so they’re being more cautious?

The public certainly seems to think it’s the second option, based on just how many recalls they aren’t going in for. Me, I’m not so sure. I made sure to ask about my recall the last time my car was at the dealer.

Their response? “Oh, those parts haven’t come in yet.”

Ahh, recalls. Maybe I’ll just forget about it.

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QOTD: Why Do Automakers Care So Much About Sales? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-do-automakers-care-so-much-about-sales/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-do-automakers-care-so-much-about-sales/#comments Fri, 26 Jun 2015 11:00:07 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1100425 I always get a little dismayed whenever I hear a car company talking about sales volume targets. Yes, sure, reasonable sales targets are OK. Acceptable sales targets. If Toyota wants to say they’re going to sell one billion Camry units this year because they sold 997 million last year, that’s fine with me. If Honda […]

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Screen Shot 2015-06-26 at 7.27.54 AM

I always get a little dismayed whenever I hear a car company talking about sales volume targets.

Yes, sure, reasonable sales targets are OK. Acceptable sales targets. If Toyota wants to say they’re going to sell one billion Camry units this year because they sold 997 million last year, that’s fine with me. If Honda wants to say they’re going to sell 950 million Accords this year because they’re contractually obligated by a higher power to slightly undersell the Camry, that’s fine too. And if Dodge wants to say they’ll sell 100,000 Grand Caravans this year, of which 99,000 are going to Enterprise, and the remaining 1,000 are going to people who don’t know any better, I guess I can accept that.

But I’ve never really understood why automakers set insane volume targets that keep them desperately reaching for sales for the next few decades.

Probably the best example of this is Volkswagen, who announced several years ago that it would sell 800,000 vehicles in the United States by 2018 from its Volkswagen brand alone. This seemed like a totally reasonable goal at the time, because they had just introduced the new Passat, and they would soon be coming out with an SUV, and they were finally starting to understand the US market, and sales were really taking off. Well, last year, they managed 367,000 units, down from 407,000 last year and 438,000 the year before. In other words: 800,000 ain’t gonna happen.

So now Volkswagen is backing off its sales goals, and it looks like an animal retreating from a fight with its tail between its legs. But why did they have to make the goal in the first place? This, I’ll never understand.

I noticed this a lot when I worked in the car world. Automakers were so hell-belt on sales targets and volume goals that they were doing everything they possibly could just to meet these numbers. Fifty fleet sales? A hundred fleet sales? A thousand fleet sales? Turning over employee lease cars more often? Discounted leases? Zero-percent financing? Punching cars as sold the moment they came off the boat? Fortunately, my company never even considered doing most of those – but some automakers weren’t above even that final strategy during the very last weeks of the year.

Here’s what I’ve never understood: it isn’t sales numbers that prove your business is successful. It’s profit. So why the hell are so many automakers targeting sales, and not profit?

The truth is, anyone can sell anything. Pull a random person off the street, put them in a car dealer, and they can sell the entire lot empty in two days if you let them offer their vehicles with a complete disregard for profit. But then the business’s lights won’t stay on, the stock will plummet, the employees will get laid off, etc. etc. etc. It goes on.

From what I understand, Honda seems to be doing it right. My entire life in the business, I’ve been told that the Honda Accord could easily outsell the Toyota Camry, except that Honda refuses to give in to the pressure of profitless, or low-profit, high-volume fleet sales. And this seems to be true: consider every airport rent-a-car station you’ve ever been to, every Enterprise lot, every Budget kiosk. There’s never Honda there. You’re never given a Honda, you never see a Honda in the lot next to you, or the space down the row, or pulling out of the rental car gate. But you do see Toyotas. Honda seems to know these fleet sales are only a way to burnish sales figures, not actually make money. And they’d rather sell those cars to actual consumers at actual dealers who will bring them actual profits.

So I’ve always been curious about this, and now I’m asking you: why the hell does the auto industry focus so severely on sales numbers? Most other industries talk profit: year over year growth, net profits, gross profits, operating income. But in the car industry, we talk sales: overall sales, monthly sales, total sales, with no apparent care in the world whether those sales are making $10,000 per car or $20 per vehicle on a 30-car transaction with Enterprise. Me, I’d rather hear about profits. No, Volkswagen isn’t going to hit its 800,000-car figure. But are its profits increasing? Is it a stable, healthy company? Are they making money? Only then will I be impressed.

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QOTD: Why Do People Shame You For Having More Car Than You “Need”? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-do-people-shame-you-for-having-more-car-than-you-need/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-do-people-shame-you-for-having-more-car-than-you-need/#comments Fri, 19 Jun 2015 11:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1095665 As many of you know, I drive a Range Rover, which is a giant, gas-slurping SUV that simultaneously kills babies and harms small animals. This is a horrible vehicle, according to the majority of people I meet, and because of it, I’m always being judged for having more car than I “need.” It is, after […]

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Range Rover in Albania. Picture courtesy of autowp.ru

As many of you know, I drive a Range Rover, which is a giant, gas-slurping SUV that simultaneously kills babies and harms small animals. This is a horrible vehicle, according to the majority of people I meet, and because of it, I’m always being judged for having more car than I “need.” It is, after all, overkill.

Right?

Well, I don’t really think so. When people assail me for having “too big” of a vehicle, they’re often referring to its length. So I ran the numbers, and I discovered that my Range Rover – at 194.9 inches in length – stands merely 3.5 inches longer than the current Honda Accord, which is 191.4 inches long. Think about that for a second: the big ol’, heavy, baby-killing, jungle-tackling Range Rover is actually only a USB stick longer than a Honda Accord. In other words, these people have been fooled by marketing that has them convinced the Range Rover is this gargantuan off-road beast, when actually it’s a normal ol’ suburban family hauler.

So then the discussion turns to power – but my Range Rover has only 300 horses, which is just 30 more than a Honda Accord V6. And then I get the inevitable question: well why do you NEED an SUV?

I used to get this question when I had a sports car, too. Certain people – and I’m not going to name names here, but it was my pretentious friends in college and graduate school – would see me in a sports car and ask me why I needed such an impractical, inefficient vehicle. “You could’ve spent way less money and gotten something more efficient,” they would tell me.

The worst example came when I had a Porsche 911 as a company car. Anyone who knows anything about cars knows the 911 is pretty efficient, as sports cars go. It has a small six-cylinder, and not a huge V8. It’s fairly light in weight. And it doesn’t have all that much power. At the time I had mine, the Porsche 911 fuel economy rating was 19 miles per gallon in the city and 27 mpg on the highway.

So I posted a photo of this car somewhere on Facebook, and one of my friends replied with a comment along the lines of: Ewww, why would you get such a gas guzzler?

Now, we know the 911 isn’t a gas guzzler, so the very idea of the comment made me laugh. But what was even more disturbing was the fact that the person who posted it drove a Jeep Liberty. Not a Liberty Diesel. Not one of those fuel-efficient Jeep Compasses with a 4-cylinder and a Dodge Caliber chassis and the loudest CVT known to man. No, no. Dude drove a V6-powered Jeep Liberty that probably got 11 miles per gallon in the city on the rare days when it wasn’t having transmission problems.

And yet he was attacking me for having an inefficient gas guzzler.

I suspect the reason people do this is because they’re jealous. You can’t overtly walk up to someone and say to them: I hate you because you drive a Range Rover. So what they do is, they come up with some other reason to hate you, like your vehicle’s size, or its fuel economy, or its horsepower, or whatever. “Oh,” these people say. “I didn’t know you wanted to kill endangered species.” And then they stare at you and wait for your response, so they can see just how much their comment hurt your ego.

The funny thing is, these people have nothing to be jealous about. My Range Rover cost as much as a well-equipped Honda Civic, and it breaks down all the time. This is not an especially special vehicle. But they see the badge, and they become all offended, and then they break into the “Why do you need so much car?” routine.

So today I’m curious if you’ve ever experienced this phenomenon – and if so, what you think the person’s motivations were. I’m also curious how you handle it. Do you defend the car? Apologize for it? Correct the person? Punch them in the face? I need ideas, because nobody seems to believe the whole “only three inches longer than an Accord” thing. Maybe what I need is a tape measure.

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The Last Cheap Four-Seat Convertible Left Is a Jeep http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/the-last-cheap-four-seat-convertible-left-is-a-jeep/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/the-last-cheap-four-seat-convertible-left-is-a-jeep/#comments Wed, 17 Jun 2015 14:00:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1094609 Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to mourn the loss of the four-seat convertible. We have known for a while that its time was coming. First, they came for the Pontiac G6. Then, they came for the Toyota Solara. Then, they came for the Mitsubishi Eclipse. And when it was time to come for the […]

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2015-jeep-wrangler

Ladies and gentlemen, it is time to mourn the loss of the four-seat convertible. We have known for a while that its time was coming. First, they came for the Pontiac G6. Then, they came for the Toyota Solara. Then, they came for the Mitsubishi Eclipse. And when it was time to come for the Chrysler 200, nobody cared, because nobody buys these cars anymore.

But surely some people still buy them. I mean, there are still millions of people out there having midlife crises, looking for the last modicum of driving excitement before they start ranting about how mobile apps are tearing at the fabric of our society. But sadly, the fun is over: there are no reasonably priced four-seat convertibles left.

Yes, I admit, you can still buy the Volkswagen Beetle, if you’re into that kind of thing. But one of the principal selling points of the Solara and the G6 and the 200 was that you didn’t have to get some odd-looking retromobile in order to get a convertible. You were just buying a normal ol’ car, but it happened to have a removable roof. Or, in the case of the enormous Solara, an infield tarp.

You can also still buy the Camaro and the Mustang. But reasonably priced, they are not: the Mustang Convertible starts above thirty grand, and for that money you’re still manually moving your seats. (“It’s a lever right in front,” the Hertz guy will tell you.) The Camaro is even more expensive, and it doesn’t have any more stuff. It also has blind spots the size of New Hampshire.

So what do you do, if you want a four-seater convertible without spending thirty grand? The answer is, you do nothing. You’re screwed. All the normal stuff is cancelled, so you have to either buy a Beetle, pony up for a Camaro or Mustang, or start measuring your garage to see if it can fit a used Solara. The four-seat convertible is dead.

Or is it?

Enter the Jeep Wrangler, which isn’t on any automotive website’s list of modern convertibles even though it is, in fact, a convertible. The Wrangler has everything you need. Un-weird styling. A powerful V6. Reasonable dimensions. And a starting price you can afford: just $24,000 with shipping. This thing is the Chrysler LeBaron of the modern era.

But it’s so much better than a LeBaron, because you can do so much more with it. For example: in a LeBaron, you would only remove the doors when you wanted to get all the water out of the cabin that had leaked in through the convertible top. In the Wrangler, you can pop off the doors whenever you want! Cruising on the beach? Take off the doors! Off-roading? Take off the doors! Driving to your local post office to mail a bag of human waste to your ex? Take off the doors!

And then there’s the off-road capability. Most human beings do not take their four-seat convertibles off-road, because the trail is no place for a four-seat convertible. The Red Robin parking lot is. But with the Wrangler, you don’t HAVE to choose! You can go to Red Robin AND you can hit the trails. You can go to the nail salon AND the mountains. The Wrangler is at home just about anywhere, from the Kappa Sigma parking lot at the University of Alabama to the Kappa Sigma front lawn at the University of Alabama.

So to those of you mourning the loss of the four-seat convertible, may I just say: it ain’t over yet. And the Jeep Wrangler is proof.

Of course, there is one small problem with the Jeep Wrangler. Namely, it isn’t very easy to remove the roof. In a normal car, you just unlatch the roof and you push it down, or you just press a button and it folds right into your trunk, or, in the case of the Solara, you hit a switch, and the FAA gives you airspace clearance, and then you go inside to watch an episode of Friends, and eventually the top is stowed.

But in the Wrangler, it’s a two-person job. One person to loosen the fasteners and the other person to complain about how annoying it is that the roof in a Jeep Wrangler weighs as much as a canoe.

But the simple truth is with all the other decent four-seat convertibles gone, the Wrangler is all we have left. And if you really don’t like the cumbersome top, my suggestion is you buy two Wranglers. One to park in the garage with the roof off. And one to park outside with the roof on. You will still probably end up spending less than one single Volkswagen Eos.

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QOTD: What’s the Most Cynical Rebadge of All Time? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-whats-the-most-cynical-rebadge-of-all-time/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-whats-the-most-cynical-rebadge-of-all-time/#comments Fri, 12 Jun 2015 11:00:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1091393 Today, we are going to talk about an automobile called the Chevrolet Voltz. Never heard of it? Few have. That’s because it was one of the most bizarre and unusual rebadges of our entire automotive lives. Here’s what happened: Toyota made both Matrix and Vibe at this factory located somewhere in Northern California. At some […]

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2001 Toyota Voltz - Tokyo Motor Show 2011

Today, we are going to talk about an automobile called the Chevrolet Voltz. Never heard of it? Few have. That’s because it was one of the most bizarre and unusual rebadges of our entire automotive lives.

Here’s what happened: Toyota made both Matrix and Vibe at this factory located somewhere in Northern California. At some point, Toyota decided it liked the Vibe better (as we all did), so it snatched up some Vibes, converted them to right-hand drive, and sold them in Japan as the Toyota Voltz.

That’s right. The Vibe and Matrix were twins, but Toyota took the Pontiac version and sold it in Japan with a Toyota badge. They didn’t even change the Pontiac front grille – or the Pontiac emblem template, which remained on all the Toyotas when they sold them in Japan.

This is a pretty cynical rebadge. But I don’t think it’s anywhere near as cynical as some of the awful, inappropriate, horrible rebadges that have been forced on us over the years. So today I’m asking you: what’s the very worst rebadge you can think of?

16 - 2000 Pontiac Grand Am GT Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

There are some obvious answers here – like practically everything that came out of America in the ’70s and ’80s. So many different cars were literally just the exact same vehicle with different badges and – sometimes, but not always – different wheels, sold together under a different brand name just to try and convince as many possible people they were different vehicles. Don’t like the Oldsmobile Achieva? Here, try the Pontiac Grand Am!

If you go back through the long history of rebadging, you’ll find it very hard to name one that’s the absolute worst example – but a few attempts come to mind. There was, for example, the Chrysler “LH” cars, which included not just the Dodge Intrepid and Eagle Vision, but three different Chrysler versions – the New Yorker, the LHS, and the Concorde – all based on the same platform.

chrysler-lhs-06 (photo courtsey: motorstown.com)

That was a bad time in Chrysler’s history, and they paid dearly for it later when the bankruptcy regulators came in and Chrysler told them, “Sorry, the reason we went bankrupt is because we have two platforms, one engine, and the Jeep Grand Cherokee.”

2009 Suzuki Equator

Although rebadges don’t happen as much anymore, there have still been some real whoppers in the last few years. Does anyone remember the Suzuki Equator, which was literally just a Nissan Frontier with a Suzuki badge inexplicably placed in front? How about the Volkswagen Routan, which was a mediocre minivan rebadged by an even more mediocre automaker and sold through its mediocre dealers? And then there’s the Nissan NV200, rebadged as the Chevy City Express, and sold to contractors whose cousin is the sales manager at Todd Johnson Chevy-GMC in suburban Fresno.

Passport Rodeo courtesy popularmechanics.com

We also can’t forget some of the weakest 1990s rebadges. Remember the Honda Passport, which they tried to pawn off as a “Honda SUV” in the same vein as the Toyota 4Runner and Nissan Pathfinder? Remember the luxurious Acura SLX, which was a rebadged Isuzu Trooper? And then, do you remember what Isuzu got in return for these rebadges? The Oasis minivan, which was based on the original Honda Odyssey, with four opening doors, four cylinders, and zero interested buyers.

2013 Subaru BRZ. Photo courtesy Subaru.

I personally think the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S are pretty stupid rebadges, too. The automotive community has spent the last two years debating which of these two cars is better, and I’m still trying to figure out how to tell them apart. C’mon, Subaru and Toyota. The least you could do is change the freakin’ wheels.

So I’ve clearly devoted several long minutes to thinking about this issue, and now it’s your turn. What do you think are the most cynical rebadges of all time? What can you not believe they actually thought the consumer would put up with?

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QOTD: Why Don’t We Like Hatchbacks? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-dont-we-like-hatchbacks/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/qotd-why-dont-we-like-hatchbacks/#comments Fri, 05 Jun 2015 11:00:52 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1085193 So I was sitting around the house the other day and my mind started drifting to the Toyota Matrix. Do you remember the Matrix? This was a happy little Japanese 5-door hatchback that never really harmed anybody, except people with eyes who looked directly at the front bumper of XRS models. No, I’m kidding. It […]

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So I was sitting around the house the other day and my mind started drifting to the Toyota Matrix. Do you remember the Matrix? This was a happy little Japanese 5-door hatchback that never really harmed anybody, except people with eyes who looked directly at the front bumper of XRS models.

No, I’m kidding. It wasn’t that ugly. Also not very ugly was its twin, the Pontiac Vibe, which was essentially the Geo Prizm of the modern era. What I mean by this is, it’s got Toyota running gear, and Toyota gas mileage, and Toyota reliability, but it’s two grand cheaper on Craigslist because everyone thinks it’s a Pontiac.

Now, these were, by all accounts, excellent cars. I mean, sure, they were dull. And they drove like economy cars. And they didn’t really have many features beyond power windows and a CD player. But in the early 2000s, this was about all you could want from a new automobile that cost like fifteen grand.

And yet people didn’t want it. The Matrix and Vibe went through one redesign together where they sort of lost the character of their shapes. And then, that was it: the cars were gone, Pontiac was gone, and Toyota sort of gave up on the hatchback game except the Yaris, which is a car that makes it seem kind of like Toyota gave up on the automobile game.

So what the hell happened?

Well, what happened is, they were hatchbacks. I say this because Toyota also sold a sedan version of the Matrix at the time, and it did very well. You may have heard of it, because it’s called the Corolla.

And, of course, people bought the Corolla in droves. Tens of zillions of people wake up every day with nothing better to do than buy a Corolla. They’re like zombie people, all heading to the Toyota dealer to get their Corolla fix. “MUST BUY COROLLA,” they say, walking in with blank personal checks in hand. “MUST NOT BUY MATRIX.”

So this is a major phenomenon, but I’m kind of curious why.

By all reasonable measures, the Matrix is probably a slightly better car. The thing is basically a Corolla in every conceivable way, except it’s got a lot more cargo room. So who the hell wouldn’t want more cargo room? And thus: who the hell wouldn’t want a hatchback?

Well, a lot of people, it seems, because in case you haven’t checked recently, hatchbacks don’t really sell all that well. I mean, yeah, sure, there are a few that seem to do pretty well, like the Honda Fit, and the Mazda3, and the Aston Martin DB9. But what I’ve noticed, generally, is that for every hatchback an automaker sells, they sell like fifty zillion sedans.

Interestingly, this isn’t the case in many places overseas. What happens overseas is, people buy hatchbacks in ridiculous numbers. “I’m running to the store,” an overseas woman might say to her husband. “Do you need me to get anything?” And he will reply: “Yes, a hatchback!” And then she will buy something like an Open Corsa 0.9 diesel, for which she will pay $8,399, plus tax of $112,470. Of course, all of this would take place in a foreign language, because that’s what they speak overseas.

But in North America, we’ve never really endeared to the hatchback. [Speak for yourself, U.S.A. -Canada/Mexico]

I think part of the reason may be because we are really concerned about privacy. This whole Edward Snowden thing went down, and Americans have suddenly gone into hyper privacy mode, to the point where people next to me in on a plane even try to hide their iPhone screens when I glance over to read their text messages.

And sedans are masters of privacy. This is because they have an enclosed box in the back where you can put your things, whereas hatchbacks have all these windows that kind of say: Here are my things! And this is where I have put them!

But is that the reason why we’ve eschewed the hatchback for the sedan? Simply due to privacy? We’ve given up on those sweet hatchback lines, and all that sweet hatchback interior room, and the sweet hatchback carrying capabilities, due to something that can be solved with a cargo cover?

I’m not sure, but I’d love to hear from you. Why do you think hatchbacks aren’t popular in North America? [Again? This is an American problem! -Canada/Mexico] Have you ever been rebuffed when you suggested a hatchback to someone? And if so, what the hell was the person’s reasoning? Aside, of course, from being a member of the Corolla-buying zombie club.

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You Can’t Argue The Price After You’ve Bought the Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/you-cant-argue-the-price-after-youve-bought-the-car/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/you-cant-argue-the-price-after-youve-bought-the-car/#comments Wed, 03 Jun 2015 20:00:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1083793 Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to a new column I’d like to call: You’re an asshole if you do this. This can cover a wide range of automotive topics, including using a stack of keywords at the bottom of your Craigslist ad that’s longer than the actual ad itself. But today, the topic is people who […]

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E'rybody tryin' ta get my money

Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to a new column I’d like to call: You’re an asshole if you do this. This can cover a wide range of automotive topics, including using a stack of keywords at the bottom of your Craigslist ad that’s longer than the actual ad itself.

But today, the topic is people who argue about the price after they’ve already bought the car. This has never happened to me, but I’ve heard stories about it happening to some people. After several minutes of serious thought, I’ve decided that I think it’s one of the most ridiculous things that we humans can do to one another, aside from parking in that little cross hatch space between the disabled parking spots.

Here’s what I mean. Let’s say you buy a car from somebody. We’ll call it a Honda Prelude, because this is the kind of thing that people buying used Preludes would do.

Now, you’re told your entire life used car sales without a written warranty are as-is transactions. This means you buy the car, you pay the money, and you have no recourse against the seller when it turns out there’s an entire family of capuchin monkeys living in the taillight assembly.

This is why car enthusiasts generally tell people who aren’t very knowledgeable about cars to get a mechanical inspection before the buy a vehicle. Because what happens is, normal people show up at a car dealer, and they listen to the salesman talk about how the air conditioning simply needs a recharge, and they think it’s fine, and they go home, and they discover their Freon is actually a couple of melted Skittles.

Craigslist Honda Prelude

So anyway, here’s what happens. You’re buying a Honda Prelude and you show up at the house of the guy who’s selling it. He tells you about how he loves his Prelude, and he thinks it’s so cool, and his kids don’t want him to sell it, but he needs the money for his ex-wife, and also he’s starting a turnip farm, and a rock band, and BLAH BLAH BLAH BLAH. So you take it out for a test drive, and you spend some time behind the wheel, and you think this is a pretty damn good car. So you give the guy whatever a used Prelude costs, maybe a few grand, and you go home to your house with your used Prelude title and, presumably, four mismatched tires.

Then the problems start. A few days later, the car overheats. The engine starts making funny noises. The radio doesn’t work. The rear seats turn out to be just crumpled up bundles of the guy’s dirty underwear. So what do you do?

The answer is: absolutely nothing. You bought a used car with used car problems, and you agreed to a used car sale with no used car warranty. Now you’re stuck with this Prelude, and if you want it to be half-decent, you’d better start spending money on skilled mechanics, and automotive electronics experts, and maybe a dry cleaner.

But here’s the problem. Not everyone does this. What some people do is they start calling the seller and insisting that YOU SOLD ME AN AWFUL CAR and demanding their money back, forgetting that they purchased a used car in as-is condition, and their legal recourse starts and ends with the phrase: Did the seller make you any guarantees?

This is, ultimately, an issue with personal responsibility. Yes, the seller may have sold you a bad car. But here’s the thing: he isn’t selling it because he wants to keep driving it. He’s probably selling it because he just used it to mow down a family two counties over.

No, I’m kidding. He’s probably selling it because he knows it has issues, and he wants the damn thing gone. Even if he tells you some sob story about how he wants to keep it, but he needs the money for a procedure for his daughter, and you ask what procedure, and he says a lobotomy, he’s probably selling it because it’s crap. And it’s your responsibility, as the buyer, to figure out exactly what’s wrong with the vehicle before you plunk down your money to own it.

Now, some of you will say a shady seller deserves some sort of punishment, and maybe this is true. When I’m selling something, I try to be as up-front and honest about it as humanly possible, disclosing every single fault or flaw, along with all the benefits and selling points. But here’s the thing: not everyone is like this. You certainly can’t assume a guy selling a used Prelude on Craigslist is like this. And so if you decide to take the gamble and roll the dice, you have to live with the numbers that come up.

Next time you’ll remember to get a mechanical inspection.

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QOTD: Should We All Be Driving Around With Dash Cams? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-should-we-all-be-driving-around-with-dash-cams/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-should-we-all-be-driving-around-with-dash-cams/#comments Fri, 29 May 2015 10:49:27 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1077874 So I’m screwing around on the Internet the other day, minding my own business, and I come across this video of an accident with a red light runner. For those of you who can’t or don’t want to watch this video, allow me to explain what happens. In one second, some guy is driving along […]

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So I’m screwing around on the Internet the other day, minding my own business, and I come across this video of an accident with a red light runner.

For those of you who can’t or don’t want to watch this video, allow me to explain what happens. In one second, some guy is driving along in Anytown, USA, next to a mall, and a couple of shops, and some charming angled parking spots, and some nicely maintained grass. And in the next second, he goes through a green light and hits a person in a Mitsubishi Eclipse who has run the red light coming the other direction.

Now, any idiot can see what happened here. In one lane, you have the driver with the dash cam, who’s cruising along at a normal rate of speed like a normal person, abiding the law and doing everything by the book. And in the other lane, you have someone who chose to spend their hard-earned money on a Mitsubishi Eclipse.

So there’s a big crash, and the dash cam guy hits the Eclipse, and so does the car next to the dash cam guy, and then the Eclipse takes out a large number of power lines and other road peripherals before finally coming to a complete stop.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting: in the video description, the guy who uploaded it claims the Eclipse driver tried to say her light was green. Yes, that’s right: the woman enters an intersection at full tilt, takes out two cars coming perpendicular to her, and then she tries to say that she had the green light.

Obviously, her argument is idiotic – but one major reason why it’s easy to disprove her is because the guy with the dash cam had, well, a dash cam. So presumably when she was sitting there, staring over her damaged Eclipse, angry at the world for hurting such a precious ball of 4-cylinder joy, pissed off at the other drivers for running their red light, he says to her: “Bad news.” And then he plays back the tape of her blowing the red light as if she was Al Cowlings in the O.J. chase.

And this leads me to today’s question, which is: should we all just be driving with dash cams?

I say this because a) our society is rather litigious, and b) it can be tremendously hard to assign fault at the scene of an accident if you weren’t there to witness it. Say you’re a cop and you show up at an accident where one car has a damaged front end and another car has a damaged rear end. Rear end damage guy says he got hit from behind, while front end damage guy says the other person backed into him. Who do you believe?

It’s the same deal with traffic lights. Two cars enter an intersection, and they collide. Which one is at fault? Who ran the light? How do you assign fault? The answer is: it’s really hard. So you do the best you can, and maybe you make a mistake, and the driver who was ACTUALLY at fault gets off scot-free and sues the driver who WASN’T at fault for a sum of money roughly equal to the annual operating budget of Delaware.

If we were driving with dash cams, these problems would be a thing of the past. And indeed, that’s what they do in Russia. People are so worried about fraud, everyone has a dash cam. Now it’s installed in everything by default, so the fraud is over, and now there’s a record of virtually every accident in Russia, including the ones involving farm animals.

So I’ve started to wonder more and more if this sort of thing should maybe be applied to us here in good ol’ North America. No, we don’t have the same level of fraud as they do in Russia. But by God, we probably have about the same level of accidents. And wouldn’t it be nice, in an accident, to be able to look at the law enforcement officer on the scene and say, “Sorry, officer, I have it on tape”? Keep in mind that your other option is to be entirely at his mercy after he interviews everyone at the scene as if they were equals, even if they’re driving a Mitsubishi Eclipse.

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QOTD: Would We Still Love Wagons If They Were Popular? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-would-we-still-love-wagons-if-they-were-popular/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-would-we-still-love-wagons-if-they-were-popular/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 11:19:06 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1072610 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 […]

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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.

2015 Toyota Auris Touring Sports

As car enthusiasts, we love station wagons. What I mean here is, us car enthusiasts believe that station wagons are the finest way to transport a family, because sedans don’t have enough room, minivans are boring, and SUVs are like road-going versions of Satan.

So we love station wagons, and we think station wagons are really cool, and we always implore people to buy station wagons, and instead they always buy a RAV4.

But I’ve recently started to wonder something: would we still love wagons if they were popular?

A lot of people will immediately say yes. OF COURSE we would still love them if they were popular, some enthusiasts will say. My love for wagons is not based on their POPULARITY!!!! It is because they offer SUV packaging in a cool, car-like package! It has nothing to do with the fact that every suburb-dweller has a RAV4 or a CR-V, whereas only the coolest people among us have wagons!

But I’m not quite so sure.

2015 Subaru Outback

Let’s take, for example, the Subaru Outback. This is a car that’s generally loved by enthusiasts because it has kind of reinvigorated the whole wagon segment. People who weren’t even considering wagons before are suddenly buying the Outback, even though it’s – and I’m putting this mildly here – a little dull.

Indeed, it’s actually a lot dull. If you look at the Outback objectively, here’s what you see: front-based all-wheel drive. A 175-horsepower engine. Nearly 3,900 pounds of curb weight. And a continuously-variable automatic transmission. These are not usually the makings of a car enthusiast car. But we give the Outback a pass, because it’s a wagon, and we love wagons, and blah blah blah.

So then here’s the question: what if everyone had a car that matched these specs?

Yes, consider it: what if the Toyota Venza was a 3,900-pound wagon with 175 horses and a CVT, rather than a faux-minivan with SUV marketing? And what if the Honda Crosstour was a 3,900-pound wagon with 175 horses and CVT, rather than a strange-looking bug-shaped hatchback. And what if Mitsubishi had any automobile that could possibly manifest itself as a station wagon? Or even a midsize sedan?

In other words: if wagons were everywhere, what would we think? Would we still love them?

I’m kind of thinking no, we wouldn’t. Imagine a world where mom’s driving around in a 4-cylinder Ford wagon with a CVT, and dad’s driving around in a front-wheel drive Chevy wagon, and grandma has a Cadillac wagon, except it isn’t a CTS-V, it’s an Eldorado with a long roof and a 4-speed automatic tuned for a) comfort and b) complete failure at 75,000 miles.

It’s hard to imagine this kind of world would be something we car enthusiasts would appreciate. Therefore, I think the popularity of wagons among car enthusiasts is, in some form, rooted in their lack of popularity among the general public. In other words: if wagons were as popular as SUVs, and everyone drove them, and mom had one, and dad had one, and the guy down the street had one, and our neighbor had a beat-up used one, would we really still wax poetic about the joys of wagonhood?

My money is on no, we wouldn’t. What do you think?

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It’s Time To End The Non-Sporty Coupe http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/its-time-to-end-the-non-sporty-coupe/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/its-time-to-end-the-non-sporty-coupe/#comments Wed, 20 May 2015 12:12:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1071410 Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to bring an end to an automotive segment that simply needs to die: the non-sporty coupe. For those of you who aren’t sure what I mean when I say “non sporty coupe,” allow me to describe the two types of coupes that currently exist today. One is the sporty coupe. […]

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2015 Honda Civic

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to bring an end to an automotive segment that simply needs to die: the non-sporty coupe.

For those of you who aren’t sure what I mean when I say “non sporty coupe,” allow me to describe the two types of coupes that currently exist today. One is the sporty coupe. This is a car with sleek styling, and a cool interior, and a lot of power, and some modicum of performance suspension, or performance brakes, or something performancey, like a faux carbon fiber door panel.

Examples of the sporty coupe include the Porsche 911, the Ford Mustang, the Subaru BRZ, and – if you ask the Germans – the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, though the rest of us just consider that to be an overpriced sedan.

And then you have the other type of coupe. The non-sporty coupe. This is a car that was a sedan, until some auto industry geniuses got ahold of it and decided they could create an entirely new segment by just throwing on a new, two-door body and marketing it as “sporty.” Examples include the Honda Civic, the Honda Accord, and, well, that’s about it.

2015 Honda Accord EX-L V-6 Coupe

There’s a reason those are the only options: because everyone else has gotten out of this segment. For years, we had the Toyota Camry coupe, later called the Camry Solara. It’s gone. The Chevy Monte Carlo. It’s gone. The Chevy Cobalt coupe, the Chevy Cavalier Coupe, the Ford Tempo coupe, the Ford Focus coupe (look it up!), the Dodge Avenger, the Chrysler Sebring coupe. Gone, gone, gone, gone, gone. All gone. The Nissan Altima Coupe. Gone. All because this segment is a massive dud; the automotive equivalent of Kevin Costner’s Waterworld.

So why is Honda still in it?

My theory is Honda has abandoned every other sporty car they’ve ever had – from the NSX and the S2000 on down to the CR-Z – so they feel like they have to offer some piece of “performance” somewhere in their lineup. So they offer the Civic in sedan and coupe varieties, even though virtually everyone else has realized the actual place to be, when it comes to compact cars, is sedans and hatchbacks.

Interestingly, it seems like Honda still doesn’t have the hatchback memo. At this year’s New York Auto Show, Honda displayed a bright green Civic intended to preview what’s to come for the compact car’s next generation. So what body style did it use? The highly popular sedan model, which accounts for more than 80 percent of all sales? A hatchback to let us know they’re finally going to take on the Ford Focus, the Mazda3, the Kia Soul, and the Volkswagen Golf?

No: they showed off a Civic Coupe, suggesting they plan to continue the non-sporty coupe even after everyone else has jumped ship.

It’s the same situation with the Accord. Every time there’s an Accord redesign, I expect Honda to finally announce that they’re doing away with the Accord Coupe. And every time there’s an Accord redesign, Honda instead surprises me and brings it back for another round.

The question I have for people who buy these cars is: WHY?????

If you really examine the Civic Coupe and the Accord Coupe, what you’ll find is that both models are really just less practical versions of the sedans. Neither one is a sports car. Neither one offers especially sleek styling. In fact, if you ask me, the Civic Coupe is actually a bit ungainly in its current form, in the sense that it appears, at any moment, that it may be blown over by a strong gust of wind.

So basically, the “non sporty coupe” is just a sedan with less practicality. Same Accord styling. Same Accord engines. Same Accord equipment, and platform, and suspension, and brakes. The only difference: in the regular Accord, you can get out of the back seat without making the front passenger get up and exit the vehicle first.

I’ve talked to a few people who own these vehicles, and I’ve come to learn they actually believe these are sports cars. “Well,” they say. “I couldn’t afford a 370Z. So I decided to get an Accord Coupe.” As if the two are equals. This would be like saying that you couldn’t afford a place overlooking Central Park, so you instead decided to get a studio apartment in downtown Newark.

So I guess the simple truth here is that Honda is going to continue to make these things as long as people keep buying them. But as the market shrinks, and as people realize they’d really rather have a sedan, and as the tens of buyers disaffected by the cancellation of the Chevy Cobalt coupe move on to something else, I hope Honda wises up and gives us hatchbacks instead. Because the days of the non-sporty coupe are coming to an end.

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QOTD: Why Do People Display Bumper Stickers? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-why-do-people-display-bumper-stickers/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-why-do-people-display-bumper-stickers/#comments Fri, 15 May 2015 11:22:34 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1068882 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. […]

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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.

Likewise, I’ve never seen anyone walking around wearing a T-Shirt that bragged about the quality of the shirt wearer’s honor student. You also don’t really see T-Shirts that say things like “Well behaved women rarely make history,” or “Wag More, Bark Less,” or “COEXIST.” What you see, when it comes to T-Shirts, is a lot of stains that have been there for what looks like several presidential administrations.

So why the hell do we put these things on our cars? Just because we know other people will be behind us in traffic, we feel like it’s necessary to reveal our interests? Are we trying to start some sort of conversation?

The funny thing is, bumper stickers never start a conversation, because nobody notices them. I’ve driven around for several years with a subtle bumper sticker for my alma mater on the back of my car, and nobody has ever said anything to me about it. Not a word. Not a thumbs up. Not a smile. I suppose someone could be back there talking about it with a friend. Is that the goal of my sticker? To inspire random people to discuss it, completely unbeknownst to me?

The reason people don’t notice bumper stickers is because everyone has them. You pull up at every stoplight and you just sort of assume the guy in front of you will have a bumper sticker, so you couldn’t care less what it says. We really only notice bumper stickers if they’re bizarre and unusual, and they say something like “I HATE MEXICANS.” Then we take a picture and post it on Instagram.

The funny thing is that the bumper sticker is a phenomenon entirely limited to North America. You see them in the States, and you see them in Canada, but you can spend an entire week in Europe and not see a bumper sticker aside from the common international oval country code. In Europe, nobody cares where you went to college or who you’re voting for. They only care that you move your tiny, silver diesel hatchback out of the way so they can drive past you in their tiny, silver diesel hatchback.

So I’m a bit mystified, and I’m reaching out to you, the reader, to get your take on bumper stickers. Do you use bumper stickers? Do you understand why other people use them? Do you ever approach people in parking lots because of their bumper stickers?

Of course, I’m not as dense as I seem here. I understand why people use bumper stickers in the first place: they want other people to know that they support the Bears. Or the Cowboys. Or Millard Fillmore Elementary School, home of the Fighting Powdered Wigs. Or maybe they support OK Go. Or the Outer Banks. Or Hillary Clinton. Or Ron Paul. Or Rand Paul. Or Paul Ryan. Or Ryan Seacrest.

But why the hell do you want unknown random humans behind you in traffic to know you feel this way? Do you expect there will be some giant revolt while you’re sitting at a light, and it’ll spread across the country, uniting everyone in their appreciation of the Father John Q. Zilshepper Catholic School Choir? Is that the reason for the bumper sticker?!

And so, I ask you, the reader: What’s the deal with bumper stickers?

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Once Someone Buys a Car, You Have to Be Nice About It http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/once-someone-buys-a-car-you-have-to-be-nice-about-it/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/once-someone-buys-a-car-you-have-to-be-nice-about-it/#comments Thu, 14 May 2015 11:06:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1068010 Allow me to set the stage. A friend of mine is looking for compact crossovers, so I recommend to her all the good ones. Mazda CX-5. Ford Escape. New Nissan Rogue. Even the CR-V and the RAV4, if she really can’t find anything she likes. So she goes, and she searches, and she looks, and […]

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2015 Mitsubishi Outlander GT front

Allow me to set the stage. A friend of mine is looking for compact crossovers, so I recommend to her all the good ones. Mazda CX-5. Ford Escape. New Nissan Rogue. Even the CR-V and the RAV4, if she really can’t find anything she likes. So she goes, and she searches, and she looks, and she comes back days later with a new car. Do you know what she bought?

A Mitsubishi Outlander.

A Mitsubishi. Freakin’. Outlander.

Part of me wanted to scream at her. The other part of me wanted to get in the car, drive it back to the local Mitsubishi dealer, and offer them five grand cash to take it back, knowing that’s probably half of the depreciation it had already endured, simply as a result of the three diamonds on the grille.

But I didn’t do either of those things.

You know what I did? I told her she made an excellent choice, and the Outlander is a wonderful car, and I’m sure she will be very happy with it.

And this brings me to the point of today’s column, which is: once someone has already purchased a car, you can’t really do anything besides be nice about it.

To help explain what I mean, let’s take a step back from my situation and analyze it a little further. At first, this person came to me, a self-described automotive expert in the sense that I have jumper cables in my trunk, asking for an automotive recommendation. “What car should I buy?” she said. And I recommended several options; a few good choices that I think we all could agree are the stars of the compact crossover segment.

Then she went out searching for a new car, armed with my suggestions. And she test drove, and shopped, and looked, and drove, and shopped more, and haggled, and looked more, and drove more. And then she decided to ignore my suggestions and get the Outlander.

This can only mean one thing: she must REALLY like the Outlander.

The fact that she’s driving the Outlander also means that the money’s already spent. She’s already made her choice, she’s signed the papers, the car has been delivered, and there’s no give-backsies. This game of “what car should I get?” is over, and once again the shoppers listened to the salesman over the enthusiast.

And since that the money is spent, and the deal is done, and she’s driving the car, you might as well be nice. Because otherwise you’re just going to piss off your friend. Now that the purchase has happened, you just have to be nice, be courteous, and step back and watch the ownership experience of someone with a brand-new Mitsubishi. You should also limit yourself to one monthly I told you so.

It’s not the same situation if the car shopper is a car enthusiast, of course. In that case, you should make fun of his or her choice, mercilessly, regardless of what he purchased, for the rest of time. He could come home with a Miura, and you’d still want to say something like: What? Couldn’t afford a Lusso?

But for the average person, we as car enthusiasts have a duty to make sure our friends and loved ones purchase the right vehicle. And if they don’t, we as car enthusiasts have a duty to understand when someone’s mind is made up, and to bow out and be polite. Because there’s nothing worse than someone spoiling the purchase of your brand-new Mitsubishi Outlander by bringing up pesky things like J.D. Power scores. And NADA surveys. And reliability rankings. And resale value charts. And customer satisfaction scores. And Consumer Reports reviews.

No, no. You want your friends to feel satisfied, and happy, and enjoy every moment with their new car, until they step into a different new car and say: “Wait, you have a touchscreen infotainment system? Why do I only have pixels?”

Maybe next time they’ll listen to the car expert.

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QOTD: Should Backup Cameras Really Be Mandated? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-backup-cameras-really-mandated/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-backup-cameras-really-mandated/#comments Fri, 08 May 2015 10:30:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1064081 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 […]

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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.

Personally, I love it. I think it’s great. I say this because I drive a rather large vehicle, and I am constantly parallel parking it, and what I’ve noticed is that backup cameras ensure that I always a) see the car behind me, and b) have absolutely no idea how close I am to it.

Yes, my backup camera is kind of crappy. What I mean by this is, during the day, you can see approximately 80 percent of what’s behind you, except there are no lines to judge anything by, so you have no idea if you’re parked on the hood of the vehicle behind you, or if you’re four feet away from it. And then at night, it’s even worse: the backup camera is so poorly lit that it looks like the entire thing is filming the center of a trash bag.

So essentially, what I have learned, after two years of owning this vehicle, is that the backup camera is approximately as trustworthy as a James Bond villain who has a scary private island and a gigantic weapon that can destroy Connecticut with the push of a big red button.

But not all backup cameras are this bad. On the contrary, I’ve driven many modern vehicles with state-of-the-art backup cameras, and what I’ve noticed is that they are getting better and better and better with every passing model year. They have lines that tell you what direction you’re going. They have little green, yellow, and red symbols to show you how far away from everything you are. And the backup camera that hooks to Chrysler’s Uconnect system is so large that it looks like your entire reversing process is being broadcast on the jumbotron at a Lakers game.

So the whole backup camera thing has developed very well, which is why I’m kind of excited about it.

But there are some flaws to the backup camera. Cost is one. When the federal government mandates these things go on vehicles, it does not mandate that the vehicle prices stay the same. So the automakers take full advantage of this by installing a “standard” backup camera, and then jacking up the price of each vehicle by $1,100, even though it costs them the same amount of money to make a backup camera as it does for you and I to buy a Sharpie six-pack at Office Depot.

The same thing happened when airbags were mandated. Do you remember that? It was 1995, and you could buy a new Ford Aspire for like $2,100, including shipping, not including body panels. Well, here we are, 20 years and a lot of government-mandated safety features later, and now the cheapest Ford is like $12,000. I personally blame the government for this, because I think if it weren’t for annoying unnecessary “extras” like stability control, and ABS, and traction control, and seat belts, we could probably have a Fiesta for like eight grand. And we wouldn’t even need a Fiesta ST, because the new seat belt-less Fiesta would be so damn lightweight.

The other issue with the backup camera is complexity. Namely, the camera so eagerly mandated by the government; the one that works so well right now; the one that lets you see the world, will fail in approximately seven years, leaving you to question whether you should fix it or just look over your shoulder like your ancestors in years past. If you don’t fix it, this will come up at trial when you back over someone’s beloved pet zebra.

“He had a backup camera in his car,” people will say. “But it broke and he DIDN’T FIX IT!” And then the newspapers will call you zebrakiller, and you’ll have to resign in disgrace and walk out of the courtroom with your jacket over your head.

So we can see there are benefits and drawbacks to backup cameras, but I personally am all for it, because I have no other choice. What about you?

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QOTD: Why Do You Hate Automatic Climate Control? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-hate-automatic-climate-control/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/05/qotd-hate-automatic-climate-control/#comments Mon, 04 May 2015 10:30:17 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1060610 I recently posted a column about automatic locking, wherein I reached the following conclusion: automatic locking is the worst thing in the world. Worse than being buried alive. Worse than cutting off your own toes, one by one, for sport. Worse than a college student who won’t shut up about her MacBook Air. As I […]

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This Giulietta had the optional automatic climate control, which did an admirable job.

I recently posted a column about automatic locking, wherein I reached the following conclusion: automatic locking is the worst thing in the world. Worse than being buried alive. Worse than cutting off your own toes, one by one, for sport. Worse than a college student who won’t shut up about her MacBook Air.

As I was reading through the comments section of this column, I was delighted to find that most of you agreed with me: automatic locking, bad. Regular locking, good. But I also noticed something else: most of you don’t like automatic climate control. Poor little ol’ automatic climate control, just doing its best to make your automotive experience a little more temperate. Most of you hate it. Why is that?

Personally, I love automatic climate control, and I’ve recently realized maybe half of the people who hate it simply have no idea how it works. So allow me to educate you. Here’s what happens: you set it to 72. You push “AUTO”. It then blows out whatever air is necessary to reach 72. On a hot day, it’ll blow cold air. On a cold day, it’ll blow hot air. And once it’s at 72, it stops blowing until it gets down to, say, 71, at which point it’ll blow more hot air. Just to maintain that perfect air temperature equilibrium in your life.

My girlfriend doesn’t seem to understand this. The way she thinks it works is this: you get in the car, you turn it to 85 degrees, and THEN you push “AUTO”. After several minutes, she’ll look down and wonder why the hell the car is so hot. Well, here’s why: the automatic climate control is going to blow warm air until it reaches 85 damn degrees! So then she turns it down, and she adjusts the air speed, thereby defeating the entire purpose of automatic climate control.

The thing is, automatic climate control actually works quite well when you use it properly. In my daily driver, I set it to 72 – or, if I’m feeling like I want a slightly cooler experience, 71 –and I push “AUTO”. Then the thing just blows air out for a while until I’m nice and relaxed, cruising along at precisely the temperature I wanted. Admittedly, sometimes it blows the wrong air temperature for several minutes, but I’ve always chalked this up to the fact that I drive a Land Rover, and I’m lucky the damn thing starts in the first place.

Now, where I admit automatic climate control goes a little wrong is when it becomes dual-zone automatic climate control. Here’s what I mean: the driver sets his side to 57 degrees. The passenger sets his side to 84 degrees. You know what happens? The temperature ends up being somewhere in the lukewarm 70-ish degree range throughout the entire cabin. This is because dual-zone automatic climate control is a myth: there is only one zone, and it’s called “inside the car.” As long as there’s no partition between the seats, air from the passenger side will reach the driver, and vice versa.

And then you have an even bigger lie with this new fad called “quad zone climate control.” Have you heard of this? A wide range of new luxury cars have climate control for four zones: the driver, the passenger, and both rear passengers individually. Apparently they do not realize that air blowing on the driver will likely find its way into the back and will also blow on the rear passengers, and the third-row passengers, and basically every person involved with the vehicle who has a beating heart, unless you’ve placed a family pet on the roof, Mitt Romney style.

So my point here is this: when done right – with one single zone – automatic climate control is a very good thing, and I’m very curious to find out why you don’t like it. When done wrong – with two zones, or three, or four – it can be a bit of a gimmick. In that situation, and only in that situation, I feel like it’s bad. Really bad. Not bad as central locking, of course. But worse than, say, finding your street blocked by volcanic lava. So why don’t you agree?

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QOTD: Do You Have To Be Showy To Sell Cars? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-showy-sell-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/qotd-showy-sell-cars/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 10:30:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1053033 I recently realized that Porsche – once noted for producing subtle, performance-focused alternatives to crazy, emotional Italian vehicles – has officially become the German equivalent of Lamborghini. Consider the 911 GT3. When the GT3 first came out back in the early 2000s, it was one of the most subtle performance cars on the road. It […]

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Porsche-911-GT3-RS-07

I recently realized that Porsche – once noted for producing subtle, performance-focused alternatives to crazy, emotional Italian vehicles – has officially become the German equivalent of Lamborghini.

Consider the 911 GT3. When the GT3 first came out back in the early 2000s, it was one of the most subtle performance cars on the road. It had slightly different wheels, slightly updated bodywork, and a slightly enlarged wing. That was it. There was no other way you could possibly know you were dealing with a car that could run rings around any Ferrari on the race track.

Well, that isn’t the case anymore. The latest GT3 has huge wheels. Huge inlets and scoops and air intakes and cooling ducts. Major changes to the bodywork that say “Look at me! I’m a GT3!” And a giant rear wing that could – truly and honestly – double as a desk, or a park bench, or the kind of table you use to mount a circular saw and cut wood, plus the occasional finger.

The GT3 RS is even worse. Back when the 997.2 GT3 RS came out, it was already becoming clear that Porsche had diverted from its status as a formerly great purveyor of subtle sports cars. But in case you weren’t sure, they painted the wheels red, stuck an even larger wing on the back, and stuck red “checkered flag” decals down the sides. I can’t even imagine being seen in this car.

It’s not just the 911 that seems to be more ostentatious than ever before. The rest of the Porsche lineup has also embraced the changes: there are now giant wheels where there used to be average-sized ones. There are huge LED running lights on the front. The Panamera is about as subtle as a brick through a window.

Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG. Photo courtesy Autoblog

But it isn’t just Porsche who’s making these changes. When I was growing up, base-model Mercedes products were really restrained. You had dull, simple wheels, and dull, simple designs, and some of them even had black plastic cladding on the bottom to remind everyone that no, this person didn’t opt for a high-performance version or the most expensive S-Class.

Well, that seems to have changed. In 2015, there is no possible way to distinguish AMG cars from non-AMG cars unless you get a look under the hood. I have especially noticed this on the CLA: I once drove the CLA45 AMG, and I thought it was amazing, so I always get very excited when I see a CLA45 on the roads. Except it’s almost never an actual CLA45. It’s usually just a CLA250, with a bigger bumper, and bigger wheels, and even factory AMG badging as part of some annoying “AMG Sport Package.”

Audi, too, is playing this game. Remember the B5 S4, the early-2000s model that offered only subtle updates — painted rocker panels and different wheels — over the standard model? Today’s Audi “S” and “RS” cars are far different. They’re subtle, but showy. They have huge grilles, and big wheels, and obvious body kits. They’re like the kid who raises his hand in class and casually mentions that his dad is a CEO.

This annoys me, because I’ve always enjoyed the automotive “sleeper.” I once had a Mercedes E63 AMG station wagon painted metallic gold that looked – to the vast majority of observers – like the kind of car your grandfather would buy once he got too old to climb up into SUVs. But to people who knew, it was a monster: 500 horsepower, giant V8, Ferrari-style acceleration. It was one of the most exciting cars I’ve ever driven, largely because no one had any idea what it was capable of.

But in today’s world, we’ve gone the other way. More and more modern cars are offering the look of a fast car without the actual goods to back it up. How did this happen? Why did this happen? And in today’s automotive world, is it really necessary to be showy in order to sell cars?

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Lincoln Is Already Coming Back http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/lincoln-already-coming-back/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/lincoln-already-coming-back/#comments Tue, 21 Apr 2015 13:00:44 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1049449 I remember back when I first wrote on The Truth About Cars that Lincoln, noted creator of cars for airport limo drivers, would make a comeback. The comments broke down like this: a few of you agreed with me. The rest of you accused me of being either a paid shill for Lincoln or an […]

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MKCExterior3_rdax_646x396

I remember back when I first wrote on The Truth About Cars that Lincoln, noted creator of cars for airport limo drivers, would make a comeback. The comments broke down like this: a few of you agreed with me. The rest of you accused me of being either a paid shill for Lincoln or an idiot, which, in your minds, appeared to be approximately the same thing.

Well, here we are two years later, and Lincoln is already clawing its way back.

I say this because I recently spent time in the MKC, which is a small luxury crossover designed to rival everyone else’s small luxury crossover: the Mercedes GLK, the Lexus NX, the Acura RDX, the Infiniti QX50, and a wide range of other models with indecipherable acronym names that make heavy use of the letter “X.”

And you know what? The Lincoln MKC is pretty damn good.

Let’s go over the details. It’s starts at $34,000, which makes it cheaper than virtually all its rivals. It gets better mileage than most of them, too. Options include rear cross-traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, an automated parallel parking system, and one of the best infotainment systems in the entire industry. Yes, I know MyFord Touch sucked when it came out, but that was five years ago – and if you haven’t driven a car equipped with it since then, you’re missing out.

You can choose between two engines: a 240-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder and a 285-hp turbocharged 4-cylinder that offers more power than most rival V6s. There’s a standard backup camera. Standard voice control. Standard dual-zone automatic climate control. Standard keyless access with push-button start. Standard power front seats, which is something that Audi has been trying to figure out for the last two decades. In other words: on paper, this car is a worthy adversary for every single modern compact luxury crossover. It’s not some flag-waving also-ran.

And in practice?

In practice, it’s just as damn good. A few car journalists have knocked Lincoln interiors for offering a little too much cheap plastic, but I think these people need to spend time in other luxury SUVs. The Mercedes GLK interior looks like a factory for plastic. The RDX interior makes it seem like Acura is the largest consumer of plastic buttons outside the Target women’s department. Any objective person would say the MKC fits right in with these rivals.

And then there’s the driving experience. It’s quick. It’s comfortable. It’s plush. No, it’s no sports car, but let’s be honest: the MKC was never going to take down the BMW X3. Lincoln is going after the enormous “I want a luxurious luxury car” segment currently being abandoned by “Let’s Make It Look Crazy” Lexus, and they’re doing a damn good job.

All-New 2013 Lincoln MKZ Hybrid

So then we move to Lincoln’s “other” new product: the MKZ. I’ve driven the MKZ. I like the MKZ. I find the MKZ to be one of the most attractive new cars on sale, giant taillight and all. If I were interested in a smooth, comfortable luxury car, I’d find my way over to the Lincoln dealer long before I ever set foot in Lexus of My Hometown. Largely because the Lexus dealer scares me, since it looks like all the SUVs are going to eat my extremities.

Now, I know I’m in the minority when it comes to the MKZ, primarily due to its polarizing exterior styling. But you have to agree that this car, too, looks pretty damn good on paper. Turbo 4-cylinder. Optional V6. Available hybrid model that costs nothing extra and does 40 mpg in combined driving. Cheaper than Lexus, and more equipment. For those of us who don’t think it looks like a beached whale, this is a pretty damn good car.

And I suspect Lincoln will continue coming out with these damn good cars over the next few years. This is, after all, the same company that brought Ford from a football-shaped Taurus with a pushrod engine to a handsome, desirable Fusion in just a decade. They can do it with Lincoln, too.

Now, I’m the first to admit that Lincoln’s turnaround will be a long and bumpy one – especially if they believe their flagship vehicle, the Navigator, can continue in its current form as a warmed-over Expedition with a ten-year-old chassis and a fraction of the features its rivals have.

And then there’s the brand’s name. Cadillac has been turning around for a decade now, and you’d still get a nasty look from any non-car enthusiast if you told them you were buying a Cadillac. “A Cadillac?” they would say. “For you? Or your grandfather?” And then they would laugh and laugh, as they walk out to their cool new BMW or Audi, which aren’t associated with old people, but rather sorority girls from the North Shore of Long Island.

So it’s a long road ahead, but I think Lincoln is going about it the right way: by delivering high-quality products packed with features, loaded with equipment, and equipped with some of the best engines on the market. This process won’t be done in two years, or even five years, but it’s headed in the right direction. Just like I said.

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Automatic Door Locks Simply Shouldn’t Exist http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/automatic-door-locks-simply-shouldnt-exist/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/automatic-door-locks-simply-shouldnt-exist/#comments Sat, 18 Apr 2015 14:19:15 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1046778 I would like to raise a complaint here with an automotive feature that we’ve all had to live with now for some time: automatic door locks. Usually, when it comes to cars, the word “automatic” is a good thing. Not the transmission, of course. But automatic climate control, for example, is dramatically better than those […]

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door_lock

I would like to raise a complaint here with an automotive feature that we’ve all had to live with now for some time: automatic door locks.

Usually, when it comes to cars, the word “automatic” is a good thing. Not the transmission, of course. But automatic climate control, for example, is dramatically better than those manual levers that you’re always twisting and turning and arguing with your passenger about. (“NO HONEY, WE NEED MORE RED!”)

And I think most of us would agree that automatic windows are way better than crank windows. Same with automatic mirrors, and automatic locks, and automatic lights, and an automatic tailgate, and a wide variety of automatic stuff that has replaced our need to really do anything except drive, change the stereo, and speak to our passengers. And if we could get an automatic passenger interaction system, I would probably be pretty excited about that.

But what I absolutely can’t stand is automatic door locks.

Allow me to explain how automatic door locks work. You’re cruising along in your automobile, and you reach a certain speed, and then your doors lock, usually without you noticing it. This is all fine and acceptable, until you go to pick up someone, and they try the handle, and you realize that they’re locked out. Then you have to press the damn button and let them in, when you never really wanted them locked out in the first place.

Here’s an even worse application of automatic locks: my uncle once had a fairly modern vehicle that touted, as a “feature,” an automatic locking system that would lock the doors after the car was turned on for approximately two minutes, regardless of speed. So one time he parked at the dry cleaner, and left the car running in the service drive outside, and went in to drop off his dry cleaning.

Well, after a few minutes, he’s talking to the dry cleaner, he’s standing in line, he’s giving instructions, whatever, and he comes out to his automobile to discover that the doors are locked and the engine is running. The man had locked himself out of a running automobile.

Now, if this sounds like something that absolutely shouldn’t happen, you’re right. And that’s why automatic locks should be abolished in their entirety.

Here’s the thing: if I want my doors to be locked, I personally will lock them myself. I will get in my car, reach over, and press the “lock” button on the door panel. This is a simple action, and I am more than capable, as a human being and a consumer of automobiles, of carrying it out in its entirety.

What I don’t want to happen is the doors start locking and unlocking at random intervals without my knowledge. I don’t want to end up locked out of the car. I don’t want my passengers to end up locked out of the car. I would almost rather have the windows go down at random levels, causing me to quickly react and send them back up like an automotive whack-a-mole game, than have to deal with this crap from the door locks.

This is especially annoying when you’re driving press cars. Allow me to illustrate the situation: you find a nice open spot to take a lovely picture of the latest press car you’ve been given. You pull over. You get out to grab a great image; a lovely shot that will make all the readers excited to learn about your press vehicle du jour. And then you stop. You think. Does this thing have auto locks?

So what you do is, you either leave it running with a window down, or you turn it of off and bring the keys with you. And not once: Every. Single. Time. Because you’re that worried about the potential of the doors automatically locking and blocking you out from returning from your vehicle. You’re that worried about having to call the local PR guy for whatever automaker you’re dealing with, and announcing: “I’ve locked myself out of your press car, and also I’m parked in front of a decaying urban structure that I thought would make a good photo background.”

So I have a piece of advice here for automakers: We like the other automatic features. We like the automatic seats, and the automatic trunk, and the automatic brake lights that pulse really fast when you’re slamming on the brakes. But automatic locking has no business in any of today’s automobiles. Please. Spare us.

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Question Of The Day: What Car Offends You The Most? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/question-day-car-offends/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/question-day-car-offends/#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 15:27:14 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1046985 So I recently purchased this Hummer, which is a tremendously offensive automobile in the sense that it looks like the military has invaded our cities and is currently driving around getting the same fuel economy as a tugboat. I figured, with my Hummer, that people would really hate me. What I thought would happen was, […]

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Hummer- drive - Picture courtesy AM General

So I recently purchased this Hummer, which is a tremendously offensive automobile in the sense that it looks like the military has invaded our cities and is currently driving around getting the same fuel economy as a tugboat.

I figured, with my Hummer, that people would really hate me. What I thought would happen was, people would roll down their Prius window in traffic, and motion for me to roll down mine, and then berate me for several minutes about how I am a seal-killing gas guzzler, and a baby-destroying Republican, and an environment-ruining asshole, none of which I could hear because my engine is too loud. Then we would start up and drive away and they would win any drag race, because my Hummer is slower than a grandfather who’s learning how to downhill ski.

But that isn’t what happens. What happens is, people give me thumbs-ups. They wave. They smile. They tell me “Cool truck!” The other day some guy in a Chevy Avalanche offered to buy it, though I suspect he would’ve balked at the fact that this giant old piece of crap costs more than thirty grand.

In other words: people actually seem to like this thing.

I think part of it is the fact that I live in Philadelphia. Ultimately, this is something of a working-class city, and people kind of like cool trucks, and cool SUVs, and cool pickups, and they can tell this thing is a little older and a little different. A older, different truck that gets the same fuel economy as a tugboat.

I suspect it would be different if I were driving an H2. It’s very obvious to me that people can quickly spot the size and design differences between the original Hummer and the H2, because people are always saying things like: Look man! There’s an original Hummer! Or: Nice Hummer man, that’s the real deal! Whereas people look at an H2 and they assume it’s some guy who’s behind on his alimony payments.

As I result, I think people would probably be a lot more offended if I were driving around in an H2. I don’t think they’d necessarily say anything, of course, because this isn’t Northern California where people in plug-in vehicles feel that it’s their right to verbally harass people in gas guzzlers. But I would notice them glaring at me, disapprovingly, as I took up two lanes at traffic lights.

So today I’m asking you: what vehicle offends you the most? Is it the Hummer H2? Or is there some even more offensive vehicle that you just can’t help but slow down as you drive past in order to see what kind of idiot would buy it?

For me, the answer is twofold. Number one, any previous-generation Chrysler 200 or Dodge Avenger with a dealer plate frame or a bumper sticker. When there’s no plate frame and no bumper stickers, you can sort of assume it’s a rental car, and so you can’t really be too offended at the idea that someone might turn down the Camry, the Accord, a used Hyundai, an old Taurus, a bus pass, etc., in order to buy one of these things. But when there’s evidence that someone actually purchased this vehicle, you have to sit there and, as a car guy, take a little offense that someone would stoop to such a poor automotive decision.

Here’s another thing that pisses me off: every time I see a heavy-duty pickup in a big city.

A couple of months ago I was driving around Manhattan and I got up behind a guy in a fairly recent Chevrolet Silverado Dually; the kind of truck that’s so wide they have to put those little orange lights above the windshield to remind everyone that it may actually be a city bus.

Driving this thing in Manhattan must’ve been an absolutely nightmare, but here this guy was: cruising down Park Avenue dodging taxis and bicyclists as if he was just another old guy in a Saab 900.

So I used the Carfax app to run the guy’s plate number, and sure enough: this behemoth of an automobile was registered in New York, New York. In other words: this wasn’t some weekender down from the Catskills, taking a break from his usual job of hauling stuff and looking manly. This guy actually possessed this vehicle in New York City. Admittedly, he could’ve lived in Staten Island, but I think that would’ve only been a little less offensive.

So, what say you? Is there any car that makes your jaw drop with disgust when you see it on the street? Is there any car where you really want to walk over, tap on the window, and say: what the hell were you thinking?

The post Question Of The Day: What Car Offends You The Most? appeared first on The Truth About Cars.

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