Americans with well worn passports often amaze their less-traveled friends with miraculous tales of a land full of tiny, fuel-efficient vehicles, expensive gasoline and miniature cans of Coke. (Really, those Coke cans are awesome.) The story inevitably ends with, “I wish I could buy X here”. Ford has so far been the most receptive to these cries, with the tasty Euro Focus, Fiesta (and soon the Fusion/Mondeo) to our shores. But what about some fuel-efficient love for the man-in-the-van? That’s where the Transit Connect fits in according to Ford. TTAC is no stranger to the Transit Connect with our own Sajeev Meta taking a spin in 2009. However in this review, we’ll attempt to compare the Connect to the other commercial options on the market while channeling our inner Joe-six-pack.
The Connect is off to a good start, with sales climbing from 8,834 in 2009 to 31,914 in 2011 proving there is a market for a mini-bread-van. The small hauler even accounted for 21.4% of Ford’s US van sales in 2011. Meanwhile, sales of the ancient and thirsty E-Series increased from 85,735 units to 116,874 from 2010 to 2011. By comparison, GM shifted just 89,211 vans in 2011. The reason behind the sales jump is obvious: high gas prices and no efficient cargo haulers to compete with it. But does that mean you should own one?
Last May, the Nissan Leaf was the hottest thing on the green radar. Limited production and a long waiting list for the press meant that Nissan was lending out Leafs (Nissan tells us that is the correct way to pluralize a Leaf) 62-hours at a time. With my long commute and lengthy 120V charging times, this meant a review with only 217 miles under our belt (read our three-part review here: 123). Now that a few thousand Leafs have found homes in Northern California and I had practiced my “range anxiety” breathing techniques, I was eager to see if the ultimate green ride was also a decent car beyond the batteries.
Which European automaker is working on this compact, front-drive MPV? It might look like a VW or Opel, but in fact it’s coming from the Roundel itself. BMW will release this five-seat, start-stop-equipped van sometime in 2014, giving its Euro-market customers an alternative to Mercedes’s B-Class van. But because this is still a BMW, a two liter turbo engine option will be offered, giving this otherwise humble little MPV a 245 HP kick. Still, this will be the most prosaic offering from a firm built around rear drive and six-cylinder engines. And though Mercedes is bringing at least one front-drive model to the US market, expect BMW to maintain its premium positioning here by keeping this MPV in the European market, where such efficient vehicles are not seen as being incompatible with a luxury brand.
I own an 06′ Hyundai Elantra GLS hatchback and tire wear on the front left tire has been much worse than the other three, despite rotating the tires. The outside of the front left tire is worn down so that it is smooth and now I can see a secondary layer of rubber being exposed. At first I thought maybe there was something wrong with the alignment but I took it to three places, one wanted to charge me a $90 “diagnostic” fee so I walked and the other two couldn’t find anything wrong. One place mentioned that since I had directional tires I couldn’t really get a proper rotation and thats probably what’s causing the wear.
Here’s an open secret: the Mazda3 is the auto-journo’s cop-out. “Hey,” inquires the prospective punter, “I’m actually kinda/sorta in the market. What do you recommend?” Nine times out of ten, the sporty little ’3 is gonna get a plug. Tenth guy wants a truck.
Now around here, obviously that’s not the case. Ask the TTAC boys what you should buy and Jack Baruth is going to punch you in the face and sleep with your wife, Sajeev Mehta will get a far-away look in his eyes thinking of all the non-running personal-luxury-coupe crap-cans he could add to his stable for the price of a new car, Bertel Schmitt’s going to give you a fascinating but interminable lecture on the nuances of some improbable menage a trois between Nissan, Geely and Fisher-Price, and me? Well, I’m new around here. Again.
Which is why I’m going to extoll me a little Zoom-Zoom.
The US won’t be receiving the hatchback version of the forthcoming, front-drive Mercedes A-series, but we will be getting this “CLC” four-door coupe based on the same platform. But, if American owners can’t tell the difference between front- and rear-drive, will this CLC cannibalize the C-Class? According to AutoBild, it will be only 2cm shorter than the C-Class sedan, and its wheelbase is only 6cm shorter. In Europe, they say the CLC will be bought by 45-50 year-olds with two kids and enough money to spend €5k more than the average A-Class buyer. But in the US, where this will form the Mercedes entry level, and where shoppers tend to be more value-oriented, couldn’t you see a cheaper, front-drive/AWD CLS lookalike stealing sales from the rather subdued C-Class?
So… does this look like a BMW to you? Blame the camo if you must, but this forthcoming BMW-branded “0-Series” looks like it’s shaping up to appear as mundane as anything BMW has ever slapped a roundel on. Which makes sense, I suppose, given that it’s going to be the most mundane BMW-branded car yet built, constructed as it is on the next-gen MINI’s transverse, front-drive platform. Even BMW’s forthcoming i3 sports a freakier, funkier high-roof baby hatch look… and despite our initial fears, it’s apparently rear-drive as well. On the other hand, we’ve been here before with Mercedes… and they pulled a surprisingly sexy design out of a humble, front-drive mule. Here’s hoping BMW can pull off some equally adept styling magic, otherwise we’re looking at the BMW Cimmaron right here…
From Ferrari’s manual-free pledge to BMW’s move to front-wheel-drive, the auto industry is breaking down formerly untouchable barriers left and right. The latest: longtime four-wheel-drive specialist Land Rover will build a front-drive version of its forthcoming compact “SUV Coupe” known as the LRX. The new model, which debuts at this fall’s Paris Auto Show, will generally be available with all-wheel-drive, but after launch a front-drive base version will become available. Though Landie had previously foresworn FWD models as being incompatible with the brand’s values, there’s been a change of heart and according to Autocar, the Tata Motors-owned marque
cannot ignore the growth of the two-wheel-drive SUV segment
There’s been no word thus far about the LRX’s availability in the US, but if it does arrive stateside don’t expect FWD versions to be imported. And don’t expect the LRX codename to grace its rear deck either: five names are said to be under consideration for the model, one of which is “Land Rover Compact” and none of which is “LRX.”
While the autoblogosphere frets bout whether BMW drivers can tell which wheels drive their cars, the real news in the BMW-goes-FWD storyline is the impact that the sea change in brand strategy is expected to have on volume. Automotive News [sub] reports that BMW is developing a new family of modular gas and diesel engines, which are intended “primarily for BMW’s new front-wheel-drive architecture, but the powerplants also will be used in the automaker’s rear-wheel-drive cars,” according to CEO Norbert Reithofer. And the volume at which this new family of three, four and six-cylinder engines will be produced is one of the early indications of where BMW is going with its FWD expansion. Today, BMW sells just under 1.3m vehicles worldwide. That’s fewer cars than will be powered by this new family of engines alone, which Reithofer says will motivate 1.5m vehicles worldwide. Considering BMW’s goal is to sell 2m vehicles of all its brands by 2020, it’s clear that much of that growth will be made possible by new FWD-inclusive drivetrain technology. (Read More…)
Debates over the relative values of front-, rear- and all-wheel-drive have raged for as long as automotive enthusiasm has existed, and after decades of argument, the only thing that anyone seems to agree on is that the the drive wheels matter. But do they? According to Automotive News Europe [sub]‘s Luca Ciferri,
More proof that customers don’t care about the difference between rwd and fwd came last week when BMW revealed that 80 percent of its 1-series owners believe the car is fwd
Ciferri wrote this in the “blog” section of the Automotive News [sub] website, and didn’t link to any sources to back his claim up. Meanwhile, a search of German news sources has failed to pull up stories that link to a source other than Ciferri’s blog post. Though Ciferri is a respected auto journalist, and we hesitate to accuse him of making this stuff up, there’s a definite chance that this study isn’t all that it seems. After all, Ciferri cites BMW’s research at a time when the Bavarians are developing the first ever FWD car to carry the famed BMW roundel. Though we don’t doubt that many BMW 1-series buyers might not know which wheels drive their cars, the 80 percent number seems suspiciously high. Furthermore, Ciferri doesn’t indicate whether that statistic reflects global customers, European buyers, or the American market. Combined with BMW’s obvious incentives to de-stigmatize front wheel drive, these problems leave us little choice but to take Ciferri’s statistics with a hefty grain of salt.