The Truth About Cars » gt The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:00:55 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » gt New or Used: First World Problems! Fri, 12 Oct 2012 17:32:36 +0000

Travis writes:

This might seem a little frivolous, but this is a genuine dilemma that I’m currently facing right now. I’ve been looking to replace a 2006 Pontiac GTO that I’ve had for 4 years. It’s been fun, comfortable, and mildly expensive to maintain in the last year with random small but non-typical GM parts-bin stuff falling apart. I got into an accident a few days ago which pushed around the engine enough to declare the car a total loss. Lucky me me for being safe, also lucky me for not having to sell my car while also getting partial refunds on the $2700 that’s been dropped into it in the past 3 months.

I was planning on replacing it with a low mileage 2011 Mustang GT with the Brembo package. A smallish loan would cover the distance between the two cars pricewise, and I’d have a fun newer car that fulfilled everything the old one did while still being under bumper to bumper warranty.

Insurance is giving me more than I had expected and I have the option to buy back the GTO and sell it to a salvage yard if the price difference is worth the hassle. With the extra cash, the reimbursement of repairs, and possible profit on the vehicle itself, with that same loan I’d be taking out, I could afford a new 2013 GT with the Brembos and have at least a grand or two left over. Being able to comfortably afford a nice new vehicle is not something I’ve ever really had the option of in my life. My family is big on hand-me-downs, and when I got the GTO I took it over the option of getting something reasonable like a new Honda Fit. In 3 or 4 years, I’ll be inheriting a 2011 Corvette Grand Sport from the father. I know these are first world problems, and I can just imagine the jokes already but I’m seriously at a bit of a loss. The practical side of me is saying get a 2011 and don’t take out a real loan, find cash elsewhere to make up the small difference. The fun side of me is saying spoil yourself with something new that you can afford and don’t worry about anything falling off and eating your wallet for years to come. The super-sensible side of me is saying get a slightly used Malibu LTZ with a 2.4, pocket a load of cash, don’t take out a loan, and don’t enjoy driving for 3 or 4 years until you get a free corvette. What say you two?

Also, the Corvette is an automatic.

Steve answers:

Two recommendations for you.

The first is to do a little research. In the salvage auction business, there are two companies that are the 800 pound gorillas. Copart and Insurance Auto Auctions.

I would go to their web sites, call up the local branches, and see if you can get a good general idea of the vehicle’s worth. Then I would arrange the vehicle sold at one of their auctions. That way you have a large group of salvage yards, rebuilders and exporters bidding on the vehicle instead of just one.

The second is to wait for the Corvette. I would find a vehicle that satisfies your fun-o-meter while giving you a bit more practicality for whatever future needs, unexpected or otherwise, may arise. A three old sport/luxury vehicle with low miles that still comes with a healthy CPO warranty would be a pretty strong consideration.

The brands and models are endless. Audi, Acura, BMW, Cadillac, Jaguar, Lexus, Mercedes, Volvo. You may even like a Lincoln or a Saab. I would shop around a bit and find yourself a ride worth keeping for at least the next three to five years.

Sajeev answers:

I’d buy what you want now, and immediately sell Dad’s slushbox Corvette when you get it…especially if it doesn’t have Magnaride.

Or buy some beater for 3-4 years, get Dad’s Vette and sell ‘em both for a Z06/ZR1 with Magnaride. But that’s just me.

Sure, these are total #firstworldproblems. No biggie: we do this all the time.  When it comes to money and non-appliance issues, you really need to decide what you want to drive.  Mustangs are great all-around machine on the street, but a Corvette is better elsewhere.  It’s time to buckle down and decide what sporting machine you’d actually want to part with your money for.  That’s a decision for you.

That said, off to you Best and Brightest!



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Junkyard Find: 1969 Opel GT Sun, 16 Sep 2012 13:00:22 +0000 Strangely, the Opel GT is one of the more common 1960s German Junkyard Finds. I find many more Type 1 Beetles, of course, and the Mercedes-Benz W110 shows up fairly regularly, but I’ll see several Crusher-bound GTs every year. Here’s a two-tone Brown GT I spotted in California a couple of weeks back.
The 1.9 liter SOHC four put out a pretty decent 102 horsepower in the 1969 GT.
It appears that some sort of Opel-eating monster took a big bite out of the trunk lid.
This car has been used up, though drivetrain and chassis parts may still have some life left in them. I’ve let Team Tinyvette know about this car, and they’ll be paying it a visit in order to harvest its very fragile transmission.

The GT was marketed as sort of a miniature Corvette, while the Manta was more of a German Camaro. Here we see a rotund Stalingrad vet trying and failing to squeeze into a GT.

15 - 1969 Opel GT Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 01 - 1969 Opel GT Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1969 Opel GT Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1969 Opel GT Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1969 Opel GT Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1969 Opel GT Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1969 Opel GT Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1969 Opel GT Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1969 Opel GT Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 09 - 1969 Opel GT Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 10 - 1969 Opel GT Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 11 - 1969 Opel GT Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 12 - 1969 Opel GT Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 13 - 1969 Opel GT Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 14 - 1969 Opel GT Down On The Junkyard - picture courtesy of Murilee Martin Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 55
Question: What’s the Most Ridiculous Use of “GT” Badging? Wed, 11 Jul 2012 14:30:51 +0000 A Grand Touring car is— or used to be— a big, fast, luxurious machine made for long drives to high-roller destinations. Once automobile manufacturers figured out that they could stamp out GT badges just as cheaply as Brougham emblems, we started seeing some truly silly GTs on the street. Say, the Hyundai Excel GT. Or the Plymouth Scamp GT, which wasn’t even a car. Even with those examples to choose from, my vote for the most absurd GT has to go to the Pontiac Vibe GT. Do you think a decadent, Quaaludes-and-Chartreuse-addled Italian countess would have driven a grubby little badge-engineered Toyota econobox to Monaco at an average clip of 115 MPH?
Though, on second thought, the Scamp GT may have the Vibe GT beat for Least Appropriate Use of GT Badging. What do you think?

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Review: 2011 Ford Mustang V6 Take Two Thu, 20 Oct 2011 18:23:38 +0000

My brother wasn’t the most adventurous member of the family. When we were kids he was always whining: “mommy I don’t wanna go in the hot air balloon”, “mommy, I don’t wanna ride the pony”. These memories came flooding back when I stepped out of a cute, light little Fiat 500 and into the high-beltline V6 Mustang. As the Mustang pulled up, my first thought was: mommy, I don’t wanna ride the pony. My problem with the Mustang V6 wasn’t the car itself, it was the driver: me. Maybe it’s because when I was a kid my Mustang was killed by the Mustang II. Maybe it was because the last 5.0 was really just a weak-sauce 4.9. Before I even got behind the wheel, I was asking myself: what is the point of the pony car? Is it just to look cool? Deliver easy burnouts? Why not buy something else? The new V6 ‘stang is headlined as the holy grail of RWD car shopping; 300+ HP, 30+ MPG or as I like to say: all the hoon, half the gas. Because of the hype I had to see for myself if the V6 pony car is the perfect RWD companion, or should if $22,000-32,000 would be better spent on something else. Let’s find out.

From the outside, the Mustang checks all the right boxes for me: it’s big, it’s bold, it’s brash. The same could be said of the Camaro, except that somehow the Chevy’s form ends up being a tad cartoonish for my tastes. The Camaro reminds me of that kid in high school that tried too hard to be cool and ended just up being weird instead. The Challenger is as true to the old muscle car form as any, and is perhaps my favorite style-wise in this segment. The 370Z’s simple lines are in many ways the most conservative in the segment, and the Hyundai Genesis being fairly unique among coupes. Of course style is very much a matter of personal taste, and the Mustang’s look may not be to your liking. Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Let’s talk engines. While the Mustang’s design has historically evolved slowly over time with evolution not revolution describing the chassis and drivetrain changes, 2011 is different. While last year’s Mustang received the same 210HP 4.0L V6 and 4.6L “modular” V8 (that trace their history back to 1968 and 1991 respectively), the 2011 model year brings not one, but two new engines to the plate. While the power-hungry in the crowd will gravitate towards the new 5.0L “Coyote” engine with its 412 or 444 horses (GT vs Boss 302), the 305HP 3.7L V6 is what we’re here to talk about.

Ford’s 3.7L engine is a member of Ford’s new V6 family introduced in 2006. This family includes the 3.5L engine in the Ford Edge and the 3.5L twin-turbo direct-injected V6 in the Taurus SHO. For Mustang duty, Ford opted to fit the 3.7L variant with dual variable valve timing, skipping over turbos and direct injection no doubt to keep costs low, the V6 ‘stang starts at $22,310 after all. This means Ford’s new V6, like those from Japan, needs to rev to produce the advertised numbers. For someone that’s driven Ford’s previous generation pony cars, this high-revving nature takes some adjusting to get used to.

The exhaust note of the new Mustang doesn’t sound like other high-revving V6s like the 3.7L from Nissan which is like a siren call enticing you to rev the nuts off the engine. Instead, the Mustang reminds me of a mid-90s Pontiac with an exhaust tuned to highlight a low burble. Noise aside, there’s no arguing with the numbers, the new V6 produces 305HP at a lofty 6,500RPM (up a whopping 46%, or 95HP from the old 4.0L V6). Because the V6 isn’t force-fed, the torque gain is a more modest 15% increase to 280lb-ft at 4,250RPM.

While many reviews bemoan the high-revving needs of the V6 compared to the V8-packing GT, the numbers match up against the competition favorably with the Genesis 3.8 sporting 306HP @ 6300RPM and 266lb-ft at 4,700RPM, the 370Z packing 332 at 7,000RPM and 270lb-ft at a very lofty 5,200RPM and of course the Camaro V6 at 312HP at 6,500RPM and 278b-ft at 5,100RPM. Combine this with recent reports that Ford is underrating the V6’s power output and the blue oval’s latest baby-pony is certainly running with the “string”.

If the numbers make you leery, I can assure you that V6-burnouts are extremely easy and quite satisfying. Easy and satisfying are the two words that frequently came to mind when engaged in shenanigans I would normally never admit to engaging in. Suffice it to say the new V6 is far livelier than ever before, and while you do need to keep the revs up to keep the fun going, doing so is a cinch. Instead of spending money on a new independent rear suspension, Ford chose to fit the Mustang with a set of features that are just about worth the trade-off. First among them is the slick new 6-speed manual transmission, the same as GT buyers get. Shifts are incredibly short and the feel is almost up to BMW standards. Base V6 buyers also get true dual exhaust, a limited slip rear diff, side-impact airbags for when your sideways shenanigans end up in a tree and the usual assortment of power windows and locks. Ford didn’t just fiddle with options, they also stiffened the chassis and tweaked almost every aspect of the suspension.

When the going gets twisty, he base V6 Mustang can end up feeling like it’s writing checks its brakes and suspension just can’t cash (something that could never be said of the old V6). Fortunately Ford offers a solution to this problem in the form of the $1,995 “V6 Performance Package” which buys you GT brakes, GT suspension, sway bar, strut tower brace, performance rear axle, and 19-inch summer rubber. If you are buying the V6 mustang for any reason other than price, this option is an absolute must-have and the only reason a gear-head should buy the base V6 would be if you plan on modding your pony extensively.

Out on the road, the live rear axle works flawlessly on smooth roads but broken pavement unsettles things in a way you don’t experience in more expensive chassis setups like the 370Z or Infiniti G coupé. Still, the Camaro with its crashy ride is far worse, and the Dodge is just too soft and heavy for performance aspirations. The unsettled feel on mountain roads I frequent, combined with the numb electric power steering meant it took a few days to really start pushing the limits of the car, which are actually fairly high despite the less-than-polished road manners. Without access to a slalom or skid-pad I can’t speak absolute numbers, but the horizontal grip is quite possibly the best among the V6 competition. It’s the feel that sells the Mustang short, and makes it feel like your car is secretly plotting to kill you in some spectacularly diabolical fashion. Mind you, the Dodge Challenger V6 has absolutely nothing up its sleeve, neither does the Hyundai Genesis, and that makes them rather boring in comparison. The Camaro on the other hand just feels like it’s going to kill you in some sloppy un-planned affair that will end up in the tabloids.

Inside, the mustang shows off Ford’s recent attention to interior quality with suitably squishy dash bits, optional real aluminum trim, and all the modernity you expect in a car from the 21st century wrapped in a suitably retro wrapper. While I find the lack of a telescoping steering column a fairly large omission (especially due to the reclined seating position) taller drivers are likely to be fine, short drivers, not so much. At 6-feet tall, the Mustang’s high belt-line and far-away steering wheel position made me feel like I was driving my dad’s Oldsmobile when I was a kid, not the feeling I look for in a car. Fortunately for the gadget lover, a retro wrapper doesn’t mean old-school electronics. Well, OK, so the Mustang is “stuck” with the old SYNC navigation system for the moment. Personally however, I call that a good thing as it is far, far more responsive than the MyTouch system that has been receiving fairly bad press lately for sluggishness and frequent system crashes.

The only downside to the older SYNC system is the lack of a second USB port, no internet connectivity and a few differences in the voice command system, all of which I wager 99% of buyers will never miss. As always with SYNC, voice commanding your iPod or USB device, the navigation system or radio is just a button press away, the best thing since sliced bread and without real competition from anyone. Once Hyundai brings the new UVO system to the Genesis, the Korean coupé will give the Mustang a run for its money, but that’s later. Also on offer is an up-level Shaker audio system on which “Ice Ice Baby” sounds particularly bitchin, dual zone climate control, and an interesting gimmick in the form of “My Color”. MyColor allows the driver to select from a pre-defined selection of colors for the gauge cluster, or you can create your own “custom” colors by entering R G B values in the on-screen menu. Check out the video below for more.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Of course, comparisons are essential when you see a V6 Camaro or Challenger in the Starbucks parking lot. In this three-way-shootout the Mustang shines. The Dodge can be almost dismissed early due to the 600lb heavier curb weight and much larger proportions. (Due to the added heft, the V6 Mustang is more comparable to the V8 Challenger R/T.) The Camaro is a close contender and you could be forgiven for buying a Camaro because you like the look, you would however be buying the slower vehicle as the V6 Mustang is quicker (with the right manual driver of course). If however you see an Infiniti G Coupe or Nissan Z in the parking lot, just stare at your latte and get in your ‘Stang without making eye contact; they will beat you at the stop-light-races every time.

Perhaps the most appropriate comparison of all however is to the “other” Mustang, the GT. It goes without saying that Ford’s new 5.0L V8 sounds better, delivers more torque, more horsepower, faster 0-60 times and some totally rad 5.0L badges. (I know, I’m a child of the 70s, so sue me.) Pricing and fuel economy are the real reasons you would shop the V6 over the GT. The V6 starts at $22,310 which is about what you’d pay for something like a Chrysler 200 and $7,000 less than a base Mustang GT. Adjusting for feature content (aside from the fire breathing V8), the V6 still enjoys a $5,000 lower starting point. For me, the $695 reverse sensing system is an absolute must because of the poor rearward visibility. The $1995 performance package is a no-brainer since it basically gives you GT brakes, suspension, rear diff, etc.  This brings my personal realistic base price to a still reasonable $25,000. Stepping up to the “Premium” V6 (as our tester was equipped) gets you the snazzier instrument cluster with MyColor lighting, better looking 17-inch wheels (which are replaced by the performance package), the up-level Shaker audio system, SYNC, Satellite radio and an auto dimming rear-view mirror for a fairly hefty $4,000 over the base V6. If, however you would like things like heated power seats, dual-zone climate control and navigation, you have to start with the Premium trim. Our tester was an essentially fully loaded V6 premium (manual transmission) that rang in a $32,320, or the same price as a GT with only a few options.

I think we all agree we live in the muscle car renaissance. This new generation of muscle car delivers the brash style we Americans seem to crave and six-cylinder engines that would easily dust the majority of “muscle cars” from the last 20 years. However, this is 2011 and not 1991, and the rest of the automotive landscape has changed as well. In this light the V6 is not a high-performance muscle car; that would be the GT. It is however a blast to drive, a fairly good value, and more than enough pony for most shoppers, including perhaps that brother of mine.


Ford Provided the vehicle for our review, insurance and one tank of gas

Statistics as tested

0-30: 2.0 Seconds

0-60: 5.1 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 13.8 Seconds @ 102.0 MPH

Fuel Economy: 25.2 MPG over 689 miles

IMG_3692 IMG_3693 IMG_3694 IMG_3695 IMG_3696 IMG_3697 IMG_3698 IMG_3699 IMG_3700 IMG_3701 IMG_3702 IMG_3703 IMG_3704 IMG_3705 IMG_3706 IMG_3707 IMG_3708 IMG_3709 IMG_3710 IMG_3713 IMG_3714 IMG_3715 IMG_3716 IMG_3717 IMG_3718 IMG_3719 IMG_3720 IMG_3721 IMG_3722 IMG_3723 IMG_3724 IMG_3725 IMG_3726 IMG_3727 IMG_3728 IMG_3729 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 94
Vladimir Antonov: Screw Spyker, I’m Building A Jensen Tue, 20 Sep 2011 14:39:52 +0000

As the Saab/Spyker/Swedish Automobile mess falls deeper into chaos and hopelessness, Saab’s erstwhile knight-in-shining-armour, Vladimir Antonov has been slowly backing away from the ugly scene. Indeed, his firm CPP Holdings was supposed to buy Swedish Automobile’s Spyker Supercar division, but that deal has been on hold while Swedish Automobile concentrates on keeping Saab alive. And though the Birmingham Post reports that CPP still plans on buying Spyker eventually, it’s clear that having washed his hands of the Saab situation, Antonov is looking elsewhere in order to secure a Victor Muller-free future. But could Britain really offer a loaded young Russian an appealing sportscar brand to sink his hard-earned (or not, whatever) cash into? Anyone know what TVR is up to? Actually, it seems Antonov has gone one better than TVR, and has secured the right to make an “all-new” Jensen Interceptor from the ex-Jaguar plant at Browns Lane, Coventry. Does it get any more wealthy-Russian-trying-to-make-his-mark-on-the-British-sportscar-scene than that? According to Autocar, the new Interceptor will feature aluminum chassis and bodywork, with an attendant “ultra-exclusive” pricetag, and will be shown sometime next year ahead of a 2014 rollout. Because, oligarch.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail What the FF? jenseninterceptor2 jenseninterceptor ]]> 13
Review: 2010 Subaru Legacy GT Fri, 30 Jul 2010 16:32:24 +0000

When Subaru introduced the 2005 Legacy GT wagon with a turbocharged flat four, all-wheel-drive, and a manual transmission, it went straight to the short list of cars I’d buy…if I was buying a car. But I wasn’t buying a car. Apparently there were too many like me, for Subaru discontinued the manual transmission the following year, then dropped the Legacy wagon altogether with the 2008s. With the 2010 redesign of the Legacy, Subaru appears to be giving the GT incarnation one last shot. While other Legacies and Outbacks are powered by naturally aspirated fours and sixes, the GT retains the turbo four—and is available only with a six-speed manual transmission. Clearly it was developed for enthusiasts. But will enough enthusiasts return the favor? Should they?

Historically, Subarus have been aesthetically challenged. Handsomely proportioned, clean-to-a-fault designs like that of the 2005-2009 Legacy have been the rare exception rather than the rule. With a hunchback profile dictated by packaging considerations and fussy fender flares that fail to disguise the slabsidedness of the bodysides, the 2010 is no such exception. Some of that old Subaru quirkiness might have redeemed this exterior. But, perhaps still fearing Farago’s pen, it’s just homely.

The interior is a little easier on the eyes, though it might set a record for square inches of silver plastic. Faux timber doesn’t exactly scream “GT,” but together with the leather upholstery it does lend the car a more upscale ambiance than you’ll find in lesser Legacies. Like the light-colored interior of the tested car? Well, only off-black is offered in the 2011.

The Subaru’s interior scores higher marks in functional areas. Ergonomics and visibility from the high-mounted driver seat are both first-rate. Perhaps this is what happens when engineers retain the upper hand. Both strengths are increasingly less common among competitors lately. The moderately firm driver’s seat is shaped for long-distance comfort. The rear seat offers far more legroom than the class-trailing previous Legacy. Cargo space is less generous. Though deep in two dimensions, the trunk is relatively narrow.

The 2010 Subaru Legacy GT’s 2.5-liter turbocharged flat four has been tuned to produce 265 horsepower, up 22 from the old car. Despite the much roomier interior, curb weight is only up about 50 pounds (comparing similarly equipped cars), so the power bump should more than compensate. Except it doesn’t. The Legacy GT might be quick, but it doesn’t feel quick. A triumph of refinement over excitement, boost comes on almost imperceptibly, with none of the punch traditionally dished out by powerful turbocharged engines. Peak power is the same as with the related engine in the WRX, but this is not the same engine. Output peaks 400 rpm lower, at 5,600. More telling, there’s more torque—258 vs. 244 pound-feet—and the torque peak, 4,000 rpm in the WRX, extends all the way from 2,000 to 5,200 in the Legacy GT. Admirable numbers, certainly, but the joy is gone. At low speeds the boxer’s distinctive song can still be heard, and at lower rpm the gradual accumulation of boost dulls throttle responses, but otherwise this engine could be mistaken for a stifled naturally aspirated six.

The shifter doesn’t help matters. It moves easily enough, and its throws aren’t overly long, but it has the cheap plastic-on-plastic feel of a bargain basement joystick. One unusual feature: your current gear is displayed between the speedometer and tach. You know, in case you can’t remember where you last moved the lever.

The new Legacy GT’s handling can most favorably be described as secure and competent. The crossover-high seating position doesn’t help here. Body control is very good, and the amount of lean in turns is acceptable, but communicative steering and quick reflexes aren’t part of the mix. Instead, the Legacy GT impresses with an unexpectedly smooth, surprisingly quiet ride. If a larger rear seat was the company’s first priority with the new Legacy, refinement must have been the second. There’s no hint that this car is related to the STI.

In recent years the Legacy GT has been available only in Limited trim, meaning standard leather, sunroof, and 440-watt harmon/kardon audio. For 2011 the price is up a little, and now starts at $32,120. Not cheap, but the next closest alternative, the Acura TL SH-AWD, lists for over $11,000 more (about $3,700 of which can be explained by its additional features, based on a price comparison run at Not that these cars are likely to be cross-shopped. Aside from its premium branding, the Acura is far more fun to drive at the expense of a brutal ride. Other Subarus might be going mainstream, but the Legacy GT is in a class of its own. It currently has no direct competitors in the U.S.

Between this car and BMW’s similar appropriation, it seems that “GT” now connotes roominess and refinement rather than driving excitement. Neither “grand” nor “touring” suggests agile handling, so perhaps this is a more literal interpretation of the appellation. But then what’s the stick doing in the Legacy GT? The number of self-shifters seeking the new car’s bundle of attributes cannot be large. So the prognosis for the Legacy GT is not good. Subaru might rethink the car, like they did with the 2008 WRX after enthusiasts rejected it. But they’re more likely to send it the way of the Legacy wagon. Don’t want the Legacy GT to go away? Then you’d better put your money where your mouth is and buy one soon.

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data

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The Ultimate Niche Machine: BMW Considering X4 Fri, 30 Apr 2010 16:53:00 +0000

You can already buy a BMW 3-Series in sedan, coupe, station wagon and X3 “cute-ute” bodystyles, and for some automakers that might be enough. For niche-crazed BMW though, it’s just the beginning. A 3-Series GT is planned in the mold of the 5-Series GT, as a midway-point between the coupe, sedan and station wagon versions. You know, in case you can’t decide which you want. “This has never existed!” screamed Autobild… back in 2008. Of course, now it does exist in the form of the 5-series GT, which could actually end up replacing the 5-series wagon in the US market. And as the march of the niche vehicles rolls onward, there’s one more segment that the 3-series architecture still hasn’t capitalized on: the jacked-up midway point between coupe and SUV. That’s right babies, the X4.

But don’t blame BMW for considering a baby X6, which will likely resemble a jacked-up, slightly coupe-ier version of the 3er GT. After all, the Bavarians have sold over 80k X6s since launch, or twice the projected volume.That, BMW sources tell Autocar, makes an X4 far more likely to happen:

We haven’t made any firm decision. However, the X6′s success shows there is a continued demand for sporty off-roaders.

Of course, the relatively small difference between the current 1-series and the 3-series makes the niche spacing even more of a tricky task. Seriously, what are the differences between buyers of an X1, a 3er GT, an X4, and a 3er Wagon? Do we need to start making up Venn diagrams of these buyers’ priorities? Or is BMW trying to prove a kind of automotive Zeno’s paradox, in which niches can be infinitely subdivided? Where is the focus?

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Review: 2011 Ford Mustang GT Wed, 31 Mar 2010 14:53:41 +0000

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.

Down Topanga Canyon Road, I can see the road is clear several switchbacks below. I loaf along, watching and timing, waiting for the moment when I have seen everything before me. Then I drop to third gear and let this new 2011 Mustang sing to seven thousand revs. The acceleration is shocking, as is the maddened “whoop” which fills the cabin. In no time my co-driver and I have swallowed seas of traffic, fast-forwarding the windshield view to a blur, an F-15 in a sky of Cessnas. I could go on, but this is TTAC and therefore convention requires that I discuss price and value.

The price is pretty good. Under thirty grand puts you into a 5.0. Equip the car with the bare necessities — Brembo front brakes, 3.73 axle, and a deleted rear spoiler — and the cash register rings to the tune of $32,980. This is the equivalent of Frank Bullit’s old 390GT, but make no mistake: with a conservatively-rated 412 horsepower, this car would rip the lungs from the Highland Green hubcap-eater. E92 M3 owners should worry. C5 Z06 pilots will need to find a twisty road lest they be run nose-to-tail down long freeway sprints.

Not that this revamped Mustang is helpless or hopeless on those twisty roads. As with the Mercedes SL, the faster variants are increasingly numb at the helm due to greater engine weight. Consider this the SL63 of the range; strong enough for virtually any fast-road duty but without the extra weight and ponderousness of the forced-induction version. Turn-in is light but feedback through the EPAS is surprisingly good, no doubt aided by the 19-inch P-Zero Neros. Nineteens are standard on Brembo-package cars and the California Specials. I’d prefer to combine the lighter eighteen-inch wheels with the Brembos, even at the sacrifice of 235-width tires against the 245-width big-wheels, but Ford does not offer that particular combination.

Once in the turn, the five-liter is torquey enough to adjust the cornering attitude at will. I suspect that the stability control intervenes when brakes are applied, even when it’s supposedly turned all the way off. With that said, I’m not a newspaper journo and it’s not really in my bag of tricks to stomp the brake in mid-corner. Left-foot braking into the corner is dicey enough; the Brembos are nice but they are still two sizes too small for a car of this performance potential.

It is nearly impossible to overstate the sheer charisma of this engine. Dyed-in-the-wool import snobs will simply adore the way it builds power along the rev range. It feels like the big-money four-or-five-liter engines from Audi, BMW, and Jaguar, but there’s an American helping of torque thanks to the Ti-VCT clever cams.

While the original Fox GT 5.0 was in many ways simply a flexible platform for a sterling engine, however, this Mustang continues Ford’s march of refinement. NVH is down. Interior quality is up, measurably so in these pre-production cars compared to the GT 4.6 I drove last year. SYNC is available and recommended to all but the most feverish of Luddites. The “MyKey” electronic nanny is available as well, but no amount of technology will keep teenagers from dying in this car if the conditions are wrong. It’s simply too quick to be entrusted to the inexperienced.

The rest of the car is a Mustang, and more or less as we know it: shiny metal interior, vaguely retro styling laid atop decidedly retro packaging, low seating position, decent visibility, and stronger-than-Corolla inputs required at all controls. As with the V-6, there’s a bit of a fuel-economy story here: twenty-six miles per gallon for a stick-shift with the standard rear axle.

There are few things about this car that will not be apparent during a casual test drive, and it is worth passing them along to TTAC readers. These Mustangs don’t feel natural to those of us used to perching over transverse motors in a cab-forward arrangement, but after a few dozen miles one adjusts very well and begins to enjoy being in the longitudinal center of the car. This is a fast, competent, well-sorted performance car that delivers M3-level performance at half the price. That will seal the deal for many drivers, even initially skeptical ones, but I cannot lie: they had me at “Powered”.

[Jack Baruth attended the launch for the Mustang, which was paid for by Ford]

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The Pontiac G8 Lives (In Australia) Wed, 13 Jan 2010 20:17:43 +0000 Play it again, Holden. (

Oh, the sad saga of the Pontaic G8. GM finally built a vehicle worthy of Pontiac’s sporty pretensions, only to can the whole brand months later, leaving the G8 orphaned. Which was crummy for enthusiasts, but ultimately a good thing for GM’s business as G8s were assembled in Australia and shipped over to the US, bleeding profit margin all the way. Then came news that a G8-alike would be built in North America, but would only be marketed to police fleet buyers as a Caprice. “Insult to injury!” shrieked the slighted fans of V8 RWD sedans. What they didn’t realize was that GM was still in injury mode. For the real insult, we turn now to the [via Jalopnik], which reports that consumers can still buy new Pontiac G8s. In Australia. Sort of.

According to CP:

Holden introduced a special edition of its high performance SS-V sedan, which came with the twin-vent bonnet and sportier front bumper and grille used on the now defunct Pontiac G8 export program…

Holden introduced the special models in November 2009 when it gave the SS-V sedan, wagon and ute the Pontiac styling treatment, in a bid to clear some parts from the axed Pontiac export program.

But the limited run of Commodores has proved so popular that Holden has decided to continue building them indefinitely, according to a recent briefing to dealers.

The Carsales Network understands that customers will have the choice of the regular SS-V look, or the Pontiac look — but the Pontiac look will still attract a $1000 price premium…. Even though the limited edition SS-V models did not wear Pontiac badges, some dealers have begun ordering the Pontiac and G8 ‘jewelry’ for customers.

Sigh. Are there that many Pontiac grilles and bumpers sitting around at the Holden plants, or did a parts-clearing operation morph into yet another way for Holden to package the Zeta platform?

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Curbside Classic Dead Brands Week Christmas Edition: 1962 Studebaker Gran Turismo Hawk Thu, 24 Dec 2009 20:18:05 +0000 classic GT

Desperate times call for desperate measures; and sometimes the result is nothing short of spectacular. The Studebaker Gran Turismo coupe is gorgeous, despite having been cobbled together on a shoestring in six months. It’s also compromised and imperfect, a car that The Big Three would never have built. It did little to change the inevitable outcome of the Studebaker Death Watch, but then it probably would never have been created under other circumstances. There’s nothing like staring death in the face to focus the last remaining creative forces and take exceptional risks. Along with the Avanti, the GT Hawk is Studebaker’s gran farewell gesture. Gone indeed, but hardly forgotten.

CC 73 029 800In 1961, Studebaker was in a very desperate time indeed, having never really recovered from the 1953 fiasco. The daring “Loewy” Starlight coupe was originally intended to be a show car only. But Loewy convinced Studebaker to put it in production, despite it sitting on a substantially longer wheelbase than the sedans, and demanding a massive investment that the independent car maker could ill afford. Undoubtedly the most remarkable piece of styling to come from America in the fifties, it was a deeply influential and seminal piece.

Unfortunately, and perhaps predictably, it also overwhelmed Studebaker with assembly challenges and delays, and finally hit the market just as Ford and GM launched a massive market-share war by overproducing and heavily discounting. Rather than buying share from each other, it had the effect of severely damaging the remaining independents. The poor build quality of the ’53 Studebakers only added to its woes.

The Loewy coupe morphed into a low-volume sporty coupe, the Hawk, having sprouted an upright grill and the ubiquitous fins. It was a formidable performance car in the fifties, especially in 1956 with the 275 hp Packard 352 V8, and the later supercharged 275 hp Studebaker 289 V8. It foreshadowed the compact sporty muscle and pony cars of the sixties, but sold only in small numbers.

CC 73 034 800By 1961, the compact Lark’s brief day in the sun was over, having been eclipsed by the assault of the Big Three’s compacts. Noted industrial designer Brooks Stevens was hired in 1961 to do a six-month crash redesign of the Hawk and Lark models, with a minimal budget. By grafting a Thunderbird-like square roof unto the old hardtop Loewy coupe, a cleaned up rear end, and a dramatic wrap-around instrument panel, Stevens injected a remarkable amount of new life into the aging coupe. And the GT Hawk has become a modern classic.

Now here’s the remarkable thing about this particular car: it was bought by its owner Luke (TTAC reader “the duke”) when he was in high school. And it was his daily driver for six years. He brought it back to life after sitting in a barn for ten years, and it now has over 213k miles clocked on its original engine, the 225 hp four-barrel 289. It now awaits his return from a PhD in Mechanical Engineering in Michigan before its ongoing improvements resume. But it’s still very much a runner.

Luke gave me an exciting ride in this still sprightly GT. Weighing some 3200 lbs, the old 289 backed by a four speed stick had no problem living up to its name. With its narrow but long body, it reminds me somehow of a mid-western take on the theme that Bristol has been playing out for decades in England, still to this day. Perhaps the Avanti was the wrong car to revive after Studebaker’s death? And call me crazy, but from the rear especially, the GT reminds me also of the Citroen DS. Visually, that is, since the Studebaker’s ride is about as far away from the floating “goddess” as possible.

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The long, willowy frame of the Loewy coupes was a problem from day one, even though it was reinforced early on. These cars, especially the hardtops, are structurally challenged. The doors need a little help finding their way home, and speed bumps are not its friend. But once inside, a unique perspective opens up. The GT not only doesn’t look like a typical Big Three car of the times, it feels even much less so one sitting in it. It’s remarkably narrow, the cowl is high and close, and your feet disappear in front of you in shallow, long tunnels. It feels extremely European.

CC 73 041 800The dash is a brilliantly clean, functional affair with those classic round gauges scattered on its three planes. GM did a fine job copying it for its 1970 Camaro, among others. Everything about the GT has a very low-production, almost hand-made feel to it. Or does hand-made evoke the wrong image; cobbled-up perhaps? It’s not exactly Bristol when it comes to fit and finish. But then, they’ve been doing the same car for decades. The sheer number of stainless steel trim pieces on the exterior alone helps explains why Studebaker couldn’t really make any money on this car.

The 1962 Gran Turismo came with a $3095 sticker($21k adjusted). That was low enough to attract some 8k buyers, which along with the restyled Lark, gave Studebaker its last little sales uptick before the final death spiral. There was no way to keep its giant South Bend factory running with sub-100k annual production output. The GT died along with the Avanti when the plant was shut down in 1964, and Lark production shifted to a smaller Canadian plant for the last few pathetic years. Barely 15k GTs were made in total, but it was a very lovely swansong indeed that Studebaker sang for us.

(thanks Luke, for the invite and ride)

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