By on August 29, 2016

1996 Nissan Maxima GXE in California junkyard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

The Maxima has been with us since the 1981 Datsun 810 Maxima, which became the Datsun Maxima, then the Datsun Maxima by Nissan, and finally the Nissan Maxima.

Starting out as a Z-car-based sporty sedan, it grew into an electronic-gadget-packed luxury sedan, then became bigger, more powerful, and less crazy with each successive generation until we arrived at the current competent-but-not-particularly-exciting Maxima.

The fifth-generation Maxima, made for the 1994 through 1999 model years, seems to be the last for which the manual-transmission option was selected by a significant minority of buyers; you could get one after 1999, but I never see anything but automatics in my junkyard travels.

Here’s a mean-looking ’96 that I spotted in a San Francisco Bay Area wrecking yard. (Read More…)

By on July 26, 2016

Autocross Ranger, Image: TheRangerStation.com

Matt writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I’m anticipating that my 1997 Subaru Legacy wagon, with 210,000 miles on the clock, will need replacing soon. I’m lucky in that my wagon is a five-speed manual with the 2.2 EJ motor, so it has been fairly bullet proof. I’ve been looking around at affordable commuter five-door hatchbacks (Mazda3, Impreza, Focus, etc) to replace the Legacy as the replacement needs to be able to fit multiple kids and sports gear, as well as be my daily driver (~45 miles roundtrip work commute).

Here is my question: I would like something a little sporty as more than half of my commute is on fun, twisty, back roads.

(Read More…)

By on May 16, 2016

1982 Dodge Aries Wagon in Colorado Wrecking Yard, LH front view - ©2016 Murilee Martin

Much as members of the Mopar Jihad don’t want to admit it, Chrysler took a bailout — in the form of government-backed loans — from Uncle Sam in 1979. This worked out pretty well for everyone involved, because the then-futuristic K-Cars that Chrysler developed out of desperation turned out to be both smash sales hits and the basis for most cars put out by Chrysler for the following decade.

The K Family Tree had many branches, but only the Dodge Aries, Plymouth Reliant, Chrysler LeBaron, and Dodge 400 were true K-Cars. You won’t see many of the original Ks these days, but the patient junkyard crawler will find a rare survivor now and then.

Here’s an early Aries wagon that I spotted in a Denver self-serve yard a couple of weeks ago. (Read More…)

By on April 19, 2016

2016 Honda Accord Sport at Sunset Front 3/4 Image: © 2016 Jeff Jablansky/The Truth About Cars

Quality of life is about making the best of your surroundings. There isn’t a car on the market today that reflects that ethos more than the Honda Accord.

After years of growing to make room for smaller models in the lineup, the Accord — which has gathered accolades as the most reliable choice in the family car segment for decades — has skipped having a midlife crisis, and is still playing like a kid. It would be easy to say the Accord has always been a favorite for us, but as the competition improves, we wanted to come back and give the Accord another go.

Here’s what we learned after several days of puttering around southern California in the Accord Sport, the value-priced model that hits the sweet spot of what you have and what you want.

(Read More…)

By on April 6, 2016

2015 BMW M235i Shifter, Image: © 2015 Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars

It’s had a few good days recently, but there’s no doubt the manual transmission is a patient that’s rapidly slipping away.

BMW just did its part to hasten the demise by getting rid of the stick shift option in next year’s M5 and M6, according to comments made to Car and Driver by BMW M boss Frank van Meel.

Soon, only two pedals will sprout from the firewall of the famed performance midsizers. But don’t blame the automaker. They’re just responding to consumer demand, or lack thereof.

(Read More…)

By on March 22, 2016

2015 Honda Fit EX 6MT Front 3/4, Image: Ronnie Schreiber/The Truth About Cars

My first thought was that a constant velocity joint on the left axle exploded again. However, Mike the mechanic (not to be confused with Mike and the Mechanics) told me there was “a hole in the transmission” in the ’02 Saturn that’s been my daily driver the past few years. I spent a few days asking myself whether it made any sense putting $1,000 into a 15 year old car that’s gone on pretty much unchanged since it was first designed in the early ’90s. My second thought: What’s the next thing that’s going to break?

I started looking around for a small, inexpensive, new car, with a focus on subcompacts. I also asked my colleagues who review a lot more cars than I do for their recommendations and settled on two finalists, the Ford Fiesta and Honda Fit. (Read More…)

By on February 2, 2016

01 - 1989 Pontiac Grand Prix in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

While it was possible to buy a new W-body late-1980s/early-1990s Lumina, Cutlass Supreme, or Grand Prix with a five-speed manual transmission, almost nobody did so. These cars have become pretty rare by now, so the chances of finding a five-speed Grand Prix in the junkyard are about the same as finding a five-speed BMW 7-Series; it’s possible, but not likely.

Here’s an ’89 coupe I found in a Denver yard last week. (Read More…)

By on January 26, 2016

Flint_River_in_Flint_MIchigan

Flint, Michigan’s water system is in dire straits thanks to a bad decision made by emergency managers. Now lead that’s seeping into drinking water is poisoning thousands of children in the city.

That, Dubuc Motors really wants you to think they are related to Tesla, Jeep might be going commando, Porsche will continue to beat others over the head with a stick, and reviews for the Cadillac CT6 have hit the interwebs … after the break!

(Read More…)

By on December 3, 2015

Volkswagen has recently confessed admitted to a steep decline in sales this past November thanks to a 25-percent decline for the Volkswagen brand and a mind bending, 60-percent cliff dive for the soon-to-be replaced Volkswagen Passat.

Apparently, there are still plenty of 2015 Passats and Jettas available to loyal would-be owners along with a variety of other weird birds, such as the 2015 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line Convertible and whatever dark backlot corner is still molderizing the aptly named Final Edition Volkswagen Eos.

All this corporate bloodletting brings on an interesting distinction for the Passat. You can now buy the very last, brand-new mid-sized sedan in America that is less than $15,000: a 2015 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T S with a 5-speed manual.

Should you?

(Read More…)

By on November 16, 2015

JAGUAR_XE_S_01

When Jaguar’s latest-and-greatest sedan arrives on American shores next spring, it will do so with an extra option on the order sheet — a manual transmission.

According to Car & Driver, the Jaguar XE will get a third pedal and a stick in the middle of the center console that does things. Apparently, there are still enough people out there that know what to do with that thing in the center console that Jaguar believes it will make up between 10 and 20 percent of overall sales.

“It is enough to be worth the investment, and we are happy with our decision,” North American CEO Joe Eberhardt told C&D.

(Read More…)

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