Back in the early 90′s, most non-enthusiasts with who admired certain small cars as long-term transportation modules would wind up at a Toyota or Honda dealer. Civic, Corolla, Camry, Accord. The majority of these blase buyers would price out their Toyonda car with nary a fleeting glance toward the Nissan side of the world.
Those early-90′s Sentras may have eventually yielded a bulletproof powertrain for the developing world and a wonderful SE-R model as well. But nobody cared back then. The Stanza? Still stuck in the 80′s school of design with a 90′s price tag.
Nissan was the least loved child of the Japanese Big 3 among those who least loved cars in general. But then the market slowly changed.
Although it might not be evident from my review of the T5, I really, really want to like the Volvo S60. Why? Because unlike the Audi and BMW with which it’s intended to compete, it’s not the obvious choice. We cognoscenti live to unearth hidden gems, great cars of which the general public is unaware. Volvo used to be on the general public’s car map, but fell off during Ford’s ownership. For driving enthusiasts, the 325-horsepower 2012 S60 T6 R-Design is the most promising Volvo in quite some time, perhaps forever. Its specs suggest it can go toe-to-toe with the Audi S4. And? (Read More…)
Judging from the emails I receive, some of you badly want to love the new 2012 Regal GS. In my review of the Buick Regal 2.0T, I noted that its strengths are “subtle,” and therefore unlikely to inspire love at first sight. The GS adds more aggressive styling, 50 horsepower, Brembo front brakes, an upgraded suspension, and better-bolstered seats. Should you prepare to be smitten? (Read More…)
In Once Upon a Car, Bill Vlasic artfully employs quotes gained through over 100 interviews to make readers feel like they’re “in the room.” Assuming that Vlasic has accurately reproduced the original dialogues, we learn how senior executives really talk… (Warning: Graphic language after the jump.) (Read More…)
I’m not a big fan of changing a car model’s name in an attempt to evade a bad reputation. If the new car isn’t very good, then you’ll just have to change the name again with the next redesign. And if the car is excellent, it will seem even more so thanks to low expectations. In the case of the new B-segment Chevrolet, reviewers might proclaim, “We can’t believe this is an Aveo!” Instead we have, “What’s a Sonic?”
First, a disclaimer: The dealer-sourced Sonic you see here isn’t the one you’ll be reading about elsewhere. It’s not a top-shelf LTZ with a turbocharged 1.4-liter engine, six-speed manual transmission, and 17-inch low-profile tires. Instead, it’s a mid-level LT with the boost-free 1.8-liter base engine, a six-speed automatic, and 195/65R15 rubber optimized for something other than grip. It’s the one you’ll see most often on the road (especially if you’re near an airport). It’s probably not the Sonic you’d personally want. (Read More…)
How many people would rather have a Volkswagen than a Mercedes? The first-generation Volkswagen Touareg, introduced as a 2004 model, was the product of two unusual events. First, CEO Ferdinand Piech took the brand upmarket (and then some) to challenge Mercedes-Benz—so what if that was Audi’s job. Second, Mercedes, which previously had all but ignored the specific needs of the American market, jumped on the SUV gravy train. So, like BMW, Volkswagen (and Porsche, but that’s next) had to have one, too. Add in some newbie cluelessness concerning how the vehicle would typically be used, and the original Touareg became a luxuriously-outfitted, hyper-complex, 5,000-plus-pound, air-suspended, off-road-capable chunk of a truck with a price tag to match. In subsequent years, VW abandoned its assault on Stuttgart and perhaps learned a thing or two about the SUV market. But would you know it from the redesigned 2011 Touareg? (Read More…)
Has any car company ever improved its products at the rate Hyundai has over the past decade? Ten years ago their idea of a flagship was the fusty, faux-wood-and-chrome-encrusted XG350 fitted with a then-new 3.5-liter V6 good for 194 horsepower and EPA ratings of 16 city / 24 highway. The 2006 Azera was a much more credible competitor…for the Toyota Avalon. Even with a new 263-horsepower V6, Hyundai still didn’t pretend to have a luxury sedan fit for driving enthusiasts. For 2012, they do, with the new Genesis 5.0 R-Spec. But, as far as they’ve come, are they there yet? (Read More…)
Though Hyundai owns a controlling stake in and shares platforms with Kia, the two Korean car companies continue to operate more independently than GM’s divisions did back in their heydays. So the decision between related products often comes down to something beyond price. Take, for example, the Kia Sportage. Why buy it instead of the related Hyundai Tucson? (Read More…)
Back in 2002, on a whim, my father bought the recently re-introduced Nissan 350Z for the simple reason that he loved the way the car looked. He then proceeded to rarely drive it because it was loud, rough, and generally lacking in refinement, and sold it after only a year and a half. I haven’t driven a Z since. Nissan has reportedly worked to smooth over the car’s rough edges, most notably with a redesign for the 2009 model year. So another look seemed in order. (Read More…)
When I first heard that Chrysler had revised nearly every one of its models for the 2011 model year, I cynically assumed the changes couldn’t possibility make much of a difference. After all, how much could they have done with little money and even less time—and with Detroit’s tendency to make minor changes and expect them to have a major impact? Then I drove the new Dodge Grand Caravan, and was amazed at how much its ride and handling had improved. For those seeking something smaller, or who simply refuse to buy a minivan, Dodge offers the Journey crossover. Underwhelming before, does it now similarly surprise? (Read More…)
MINI (all caps required): the name itself inherently limits the brand. A large MINI would be oxymoronic. It would not be seen as a MINI. But most car buyers need something larger and more functional than the Cooper. And, while MINI might be less intent on world domination than VW, it would still like to grow. What to do, what to do? When word leaked that MINI was working on a crossover, the brand’s fans feared for the worst. (Read More…)
A large luxury SUV can’t be expected to make rational sense. As readers pointed out when commenting on Wednesday’s Lincoln Navigator review, anyone who needs the combination of interior space and towing capability the Navigator and its arch-rival, the Cadillac Escalade, have on offer, could obtain the same functionality in a Ford Expedition or Chevrolet Tahoe / Suburban for a lot less money. For the Lincoln and Cadillac to be worth their loftier prices, they’d better deliver something above and beyond mere functionality. The Lincoln fell short in this regard, coming across as little more than a bechromed Ford. Might the Cadillac Escalade fare better? (Read More…)
Predicted by site founder Robert Farago when few people thought it could actually happen, GM’s bankruptcy is now history. So, time for the histories.
Paul Ingrassia certainly seems qualified to provide one. The Wall Street Journal’s man in Detroit for years, he won a Pulitzer (with Joseph White) for his coverage of the auto industry’s early 1990’s brush with disaster and subsequent recovery. That coverage provided the basis for 1994’s Comeback: the Fall and Rise of the American Automobile Industry, a definitive account of that period.
Does Crash Course: the American Automobile Industry’s Road from Glory to Disaster similarly deserve a place on your bookshelf?
J.D. Power has released the results of its 2010 Initial Quality Survey (IQS). As in previous years, the release stresses that Detroit has improved, but now to the point that the average for GM, Ford, and Chrysler is for the first time higher than that for the imports. J.D. Power’s sound bite: “This year may mark a key turning point for U.S. brands as they continue to fight the battle against lingering negative perceptions of their quality.”
Interesting choice of words. The battle to change perceptions is often fought with ads. What information might ads include to assist in this fight? (Read More…)
A year ago, with gas prices high and the survival of the domestic auto companies never more in doubt, the media settled on the Ford Fusion Hybrid as the best evidence that Detroit deserved to survive. Roomy, reliable, economical, and fairly affordable, the FFH seemed to tick off all of the boxes. But what about love? (Read More…)