Tag: Driven

By on June 19, 2010

Wuchtig. I’m sitting, panting, trying to catch my breath on the side of a tiny two-lane road running through the vineyards of California’s Napa Valley. I’m in an American car. I haven’t spoken German regularly since I was 18. Adrenalin has chased everything resembling a coherent thought from my mind. And yet, strangely, the only thing left banging around my speed-addled skull is a single German adjective for which the English language has no translation: wuchtig.
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By on May 7, 2010


Not so long ago Volvo attempted to poach some customers from BMW by offering high-performance R variants of the S60 sedan and V70 wagon. Then it decided these weren’t selling well enough to justify the expense of developing them. So now we’re offered “R-Design” variants instead. These involve larger wheels, a mildly stiffened suspension, and a slew of styling tweaks. Not part of the recipe: additional horsepower. Halfway through the 2010 model year the XC60 gained such a variant. All sizzle, or is there some steak here as well?

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By on April 23, 2010

John Steel, 42. Resident Nurburgring hotlapper, amateur race driver and menace of all slow moving objects. On weekends, he likes thrashing his Porsche 997 Mark II GT3-RS around the local track. Karen Levy, 25. Professional mall stormer, party queen and dedicated student. Enjoys a fine café-latte by the Mediterranean Sea and the gentle spring breeze while driving her Fiat 500C.

Two people, two separate sides of the automotive equilibrium. This time, driving around the peaceful and slow moving streets of southern Tel Aviv, amongst buzzing restaurants and overcrowded coffee shops, I get to explore the latter. Meet the Fiat 500C: the open-air sibling of the 500 retro car, and an inevitable win of form over function.
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By on April 21, 2010

Driving enthusiasts love to hate the Toyota Camry. Yet, despite the company’s current troubles, it remains the best-selling car in the United States. Hyundai would love to steal the crown, or at least tens of thousands of customers. So it recently launched a totally redesigned 2011 Sonata and will be advertising it heavily. Should Toyota be concerned?

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By on April 19, 2010

Driving the Renault Mégane R26.R on the snow-covered L-10–a public road-cum-rally track near the famous Nürburgring–is an unforgettable affair. And not simply because summer tires and slush don’t mix. This particular Mégane is a stunning piece of machinery in any condition: no Stateside machine comes even remotely close. And unlike most European unobtainium, it’s no sculpted, Teutonic monument to cash-flow either. It’s French. Cheap gas, Japanese quality and the Detroit-centric Eisenhower Interstate System have given Americans no reasons to contemplate, let alone lust after, French cars in the modern era, but not having this Ferrari-killing hatchback on crack is a bummer. The Mégane R26.R is so wrong it’s gotta be right.

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By on April 9, 2010

Et tu 4Runner?  So many historically famous cars are back with “good old days” styling but added overweight dimensions to the party. It’s sort of like Fat Elvis, on four wheels.  That said, “Moody Blue” is a pretty catchy song. And there’s nothing especially wrong with the 2010 Toyota 4Runner.  Elvis rocked the rhinestones with passion and the 4Runner combines it’s rugged past with urban sheetmetal and a host of electronic cocktails for pleasure and enjoyment. Which gives the impression that happy days are here again, even if polypharmacy did lead to the death of the King of Rock ‘N Roll.

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By on April 7, 2010

The logic behind the Lincoln MKZ is clear enough: if Toyota can get away with making a Lexus out of a Camry, why can’t Ford do the same with a Fusion? The ES 350 is arguably convincing as a Lexus (I’d argue pro, if not with much vigor, while there’s no shortage of people who’d take the other side). But does the MKZ make for a convincing Lincoln?

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By on April 5, 2010

Diesel clatter in a BMW is like watching Bullit to the tunes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. In other words, distasteful and illegal in 48 states. And yet, driving BMW’s new X1 is a surprisingly John Deere-like experience. Is this a BMW or the ultimate agricultural machine? Maybe this sort of confusion is the X1’s worst problem.

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By on March 31, 2010

Powered By Ford. There’s something special about those words, something iconic, something that evokes a grand American scope, from the first cross-country trips in a Model T to a majestic GT40 hammering down the rain-soaked Mulsanne straight. Powered by Ford. It’s the logo stamped into the cam covers of the five-liter Mustang, but you won’t need to raise the hood to understand what it means. The first time this majestic engine swallows through its thirty-two adjustably timed valves and bellows a crescendo through its twin exhaust, it will be more than crystal clear.

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By on March 29, 2010

“Hey there!”

“Excuse me?”

“Ain’t that one of them Ay-cord koops?”

“Why, yes it is. Aren’t you sporting the hairstyle commonly referred to as a ‘mullet’?”

“I sure am! Good enough for Brian Bosworth, it’s good enough for me. Is that Ay-cord fast?”

“It has 271 horsepower.”

“Well, shucks! Mah Mustang here done got Three. Oh. Five. Guess it’s faster, cause I don’t think it weighs more than a touch ahead of what you got.”

“Well, the Accord is also rated for twenty-eight miles per gallon on the highway. Much better than that Mustang. It’s important to conserve the planet’s resources.”

“Aw, hell. Guess you’re right. I mean, I’m only GITTIN’ THIRTY-ONE! YEE HAA!” And we close with the sound of a Flat Rock-fashioned burnout. End scene.

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By on March 22, 2010

I’m too young to remember the 1970s, but I have recollections of a Cadillac-based abomination known as the “Castilian Fleetwood Estate Wagon.” Perhaps the recent success of Cadillac-based trucks made someone at the RenCen give the Cadillac Wagon a second look. Yet the CTS Sport Wagon isn’t a cobbled-up engineering afterthought, though it reeks of branding desperation: the American icon formerly known as the pinnacle of everything now goes for entry-level luxury success in a station wagon. And that’s why this mirage hailing from the days of Motorized Malaise has some ‘splaining to do.
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By on March 19, 2010

If Lincoln were a person, it would have been committed to a psych ward years ago. Battered by corporate politics, economic cycles, and a desire to both retain traditional customers and conquest new ones, the brand has lacked a coherent identity for over a quarter-century. There have been times when each of its models was the product of a different strategy and expressed (or failed to express) a different design language. In the early 2000s Lincoln seemed to finally be getting its shit together, with a brilliant Continental Concept and a common design language applied to all of its 2003 models. Then the wheels came off the wagon—again—and a bankruptcy-skirting Ford had no choice but to cancel the ambitious cars in the PAG pipeline and redo Lincoln on the cheap. Did they spend their pennies well? What is a Lincoln in 2010? There’s no better place to find out than the driver’s seat of the current flagship, the MKS EcoBoost.
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By on March 15, 2010

I know someone who’s been in the fashion biz most of her life. Her affinity with handsome male models is not surprising, yet her insistence–a “shush” sound accompanied by a finger on their lips–that the Eye Candy refrain from voicing their opinions definitely got me thinking. Perhaps beauty and critical thinking are two circles that rarely intersect in the Venn Diagram of life?

True dat, since I can’t remember a day when Aston Martin’s historically gorgeous automobiles weren’t trampled by the performance of neighboring Jaguars or the German and Italian marques. And with the Rapide sedan, we have another stunning Aston Martin to admire. Shush!!!

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By on February 8, 2010

Until recently, if you wanted a semi-practical sport coupe for less than $30,000, and pony cars weren’t your thing, you had to get one based on a front-drive sedan. Chevrolet offered the Monte Carlo, Honda offered the Accord Coupe, Toyota offered the Solara, and two years ago Nissan introduced an Altima Coupe. The Nissan was the sportiest of the bunch owing to a dramatically shorter wheelbase and the company’s usual emphasis of handling over ride quality. Then, for the 2010 model year, Hyundai changed the rules of the game by tossing the rear-drive Genesis Coupe into the mix. Given this new addition, the question has to be asked: why would anyone still opt for the Nissan, when the Genesis is the same price?

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By on January 18, 2010

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The dominant Japanese car companies remain uncomfortable with their nationality, doing their best to seem somehow American lest they provoke a political backlash. Even as unabashedly Japanese products have become prevalent in the intertwined worlds of TV, gaming, and toys, I cannot recall a car with so much as a Japanese name prior to Suzuki’s new Kizashi. Why Suzuki? Well, they’re too small in the U.S. to fear a backlash. And tagging a motorcycle Hayabusa didn’t exactly harm its popularity. Why “Kizashi?” The name means “something great is coming.” Well, is it?

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