By on May 25, 2017

2017 Subaru Impreza 5-door – Image: © Timothy Cain

A band is only cool until everybody knows it’s cool.

Subaru, long a niche automaker with unique product offerings and limited geographic appeal, has tripled its U.S. market share over the last decade. Subaru will likely sell more than 650,000 new vehicles in the U.S. this year. The Subaru Outback and Forester are among America’s 12 most popular utility vehicles. And in a shrinking car market, U.S. sales of the Subaru Impreza — a newly launched compact for 2017 — are up 41 percent so far this year.

Subaru just dropped a new, fifth-gen Impreza 5-door in my driveway for a week-long test. It’s quite clearly the best Impreza ever: quiet, refined, solid, sufficiently powerful. The driver’s door armrest is plush. The car itself is — and we’re talking about an Impreza here — quite attractive.

The 2017 Subaru Impreza is, to be frank, normal. It doesn’t sound like a thrummy flat-four is present under the hood. The seating position doesn’t put your hips and feet on the same level. The windows have frames. There are other people driving the same car.

Has Subaru become a mainstream automaker? And if so, has some of Subaru’s appeal been lost? (Read More…)

By on May 18, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Camaro vs 2017 Ford Mustang - Image: GM and Ford

It’s a question that goes back some 50 years.

Nixon or Humphrey.

No, wait. Camaro or Mustang.

Forget your Camry vs. Accord monotony, your F-150 vs. Silverado one-upmanship, and the Smart Fortwo vs. Scion iQ debate that routinely breaks the internet. This, this is the American automotive debate of the decade. And the decade before. And the decade before that.

It’s as though Ali and Frazier just kept on fighting. Annually. For decades. It’s the Yankees and Mets meeting in the World Series every year. It’s like — and I know you don’t want me to go there — Trump vs. Hillary in 2020, 2024, 2028, 2032, 2036…

If you could have just the one, which would it be? Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro? (Read More…)

By on May 11, 2017

2017 Kia Soul - Image: Kia

Recommending vehicles, and having those recommendations go unheeded, is a key component of your role as an automotive enthusiast.

Whether you’re known as a go-to source for vehicle recommendations because of your encyclopedic automotive knowledge, because you’re a keen driver who once raced a Spec Miata, because you’ve brilliantly chosen five consecutive impeccably reliable midsize sedans, or because (like many TTAC contributors) you spend a week with new vehicles as they enter the market, you are relied upon by friends, family, and co-workers.

When asked, what new vehicle ends up topping your Most Recommended list? Forget Consumer Reports’ recommendations and Car And Driver’s 10 Best. If a friend asks you what new car they should buy, what car is it most likely to be? (Read More…)

By on May 4, 2017

BMW M5 E39 - Image: M5_E39_Terabass

The BMW M5, generation E39 from 1999-2003, continues to stand as one of my top five favorite cars of all time.

Yours too.

But the BMW of today is not the BMW that designed the 394-horsepower M5 nearly two decades ago. BMW now produces nearly half of its sales from utility vehicles and sells only a handful of sports cars each month. Setting aside classic sedan styling, the BMW of today will sell you ungainly X4s and X6s, plus bulbous hatchback versions of the 5 Series and 3 Series. Moreover, BMW’s core models — the 3 Series/4 Series — are distinctly less popular in the United States than they were a decade ago, when the market was smaller and the 3 Series lineup wasn’t as broad.

BMW is incentivizing its products heavily in early 2017 just to keep sales roughly where they were a year ago, a year in which BMW’s U.S. volume fell 9 percent compared with the 2015 peak.

Something’s not quite right. So do you, lover of the 1999 M5 and the BMW 2002 tii and the BMW 507 and the BMW Z8, still want a BMW? (Read More…)

By on April 27, 2017

2017 GMC Canyon - Image: © Timothy Cain

We drove in and around the city in a 2017 GMC Canyon Duramax Diesel for 120 miles, then took a 180-mile journey to Prince Edward Island, and have since driven around that island 120 miles.

The result: 30.2 miles per gallon on the U.S. scale, a miserly 7.8 litres per 100 kilometres. It doesn’t hurt that, around these parts at the moment, diesel costs roughly $0.25 USD less per gallon versus regular.

The 2.8-liter four-cylinder under the hood of this GMC Canyon, with a paltry 181 horsepower but a stump-pulling 369 lb-ft of torque at just 2,000 rpm, is one of a handful of diesels General Motors has installed in U.S. market vehicles. The 6.6-liter Duramax V8 in heavy-duty pickup trucks is the one you hear rumble most often. But GM is also inserting the Cruze’s 240-lb-ft 1.6-liter turbodiesel into the third-gen Chevrolet Equinox and second-gen GMC Terrain.

With diesel engine offerings in two pickup truck lines, a compact car, and a pair of small SUVs, can General Motors — not Mazda, not Mercedes-Benz, not Skoda — be the North American diesel-lover’s answer now that Volkswagen committed its unclean diesel transgressions? (Read More…)

By on April 20, 2017

Pontiac Aztek - Image courtey Doug Demuro

The Pontiac Aztek was widely regarded upon its 2000 debut as one of the ugliest new vehicles to ever set wheel on pavement. Between 2000 and the last sales trickle in 2007, General Motors sold just under 120,000 Azteks in the United States.

Americans were admittedly gung-ho for SUVs in the early part of this century, but not to the extent they are now. In 2002, for instance, when Aztek sales peaked, passenger cars still accounted for nearly half of all new vehicle sales. They account for just 37 percent now.

2017, not 2002, is the time for SUVs and crossovers. And while we’re not advocating for the return of the Pontiac Aztek, we wonder whether the Aztek would be far more successful now than it was then, and not just because everybody and their dog is now choosing an SUV/crossover instead of a car.

No, we wonder whether the Aztek would succeed in 2017 because, to be frank, there are already a wide variety of decidedly unattractive SUVs selling rather well today.  (Read More…)

By on April 13, 2017

2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon - Image: FCAThe 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon produces 808 horsepower; 840 if you find some racing fuel.

I don’t care.

Don’t get me wrong. I like fast cars. I like fast SUVs. I like fast minivans. I like quick acceleration, high top speeds, rapid shifts, prodigious tire smoke, and burbly exhaust.

But outrageous horsepower numbers are almost becoming boring. They’re so common. So ordinary. So…

Easy.

Anybody can throw a few hundred extra horsepower at a decade-old muscle coupe. But what else can you do to impress me? (Read More…)

By on April 6, 2017

2017 Cadillac CT6 - Image: Cadillac

Cadillac is in a curious state.

Many would rightly argue that Cadillac’s products are more competitive now than they’ve been in decades. Cadillac is making headway in China, a market which accounted for slightly more than half of Cadillac’s global volume in the first-quarter of 2017. Cadillac’s average U.S. transaction prices are also above the norm thanks in part to a high percentage of its sales being produced by the high-dollar Escalade.

But sales in Cadillac’s home market continue to slide. U.S. volume has fallen by a fifth over the last decade and has decreased in two of the last three years, falling to a four-year low in 2016. More recently, U.S. sales at Cadillac are down 5 percent in early 2017 after decreasing on a year-over-year basis in six of the last twelve months.

Long gone are the days when Cadillac could sell new vehicles in America at the same rate as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, or Lexus. Indeed, Cadillac is well back of Audi now, as well. To put an exclamation point on Cadillac’s difficulties, little ol’ Infiniti — also historically reliant on the U.S. market and rather weak globally — outsold Cadillac by a margin of more than 40 percent in March.

What’s next? Which brands will be outselling Cadillac in ten years, or even five, or even two? (Read More…)

By on March 30, 2017

2017 Acura TLX – Image: Acura

The Acura TLX did not start poorly. When the TL/TSX replacement arrived nearly three years ago, we asked whether the TLX could restore Acura’s car business. First month results were strong.

The next month, the TLX’s early results suggested that, by Acura standards, the core Acura sedan might be a hit.

The Acura TLX then produced some very impressive results in just its third month of availability. In fact, so great were those results, when nearly 5,000 TLXs were sold in October 2014, that Acura has only exceeded that total once in the 28 months since. Instead, TLX sales have rapidly declined, sliding 5 percent in 2015’s fourth-quarter, plunging 21 percent in calendar year 2016, and falling 19 percent so far this year. TLX sales have declined in 14 of the last 16 months, year-over-year.

But 2017’s New York International Auto Show will host the reveal of a refreshed, facelifted Acura TLX next month. Acura says the TLX will feature “a design direction that has already successfully influenced the styling of the 2017 Acura MDX.”

U.S. sales of Acura’s car sales are down 27 percent this year. The Acura brand is down 13 percent. The loss of more than 1,000 TLX sales in just two months is a big factor in the brand’s decline.

Is a refreshed Acura TLX way too little, way too late? (Read More…)

By on March 23, 2017

2017 Hyundai Ioniq Limited – Image: © Timothy Cain

The Toyota Prius is struggling.

That’s not terribly surprising. Fuel prices are low. Efficient hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and electric cars are available at virtually every new car dealer. The Prius has lost its early adopter buzz.

Oh, and the 2017 Toyota Prius is a grotesque little creature, shaped for the wind; not your eyes.

Toyota sold fewer Prii in America last year than at any point since 2004. In 2017, Toyota expects to sell far fewer than in 2016.

Making matters worse is the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid I’m driving this week. The Ioniq is $2,485 cheaper than the Prius. The Ioniq is, at the very least, less unattractive. The Ioniq’s interior is both more attractive and more straightforward. And hear ye this: the Hyundai Ioniq is rated at 55 mpg city and 54 mpg highway; better than the Prius’s 54/50 ratings.

But the Toyota Prius has witnessed the arrival of a direct competitor from a major passenger car player before. Yes, the Toyota Prius saw the Honda Insight and the Toyota Prius killed that Honda dead.

Will the Toyota Prius become a serial killer and murder the Hyundai Ioniq, too? (Read More…)

By on March 16, 2017

Honda Canada Utility Commercial: Image: Honda Canada/YouTube

Underneath its skin, the Honda Ridgeline is a significantly altered Honda Pilot, a large three-row utility vehicle related to the next-generation Honda Odyssey minivan. That’s hardly the stuff of which traditional, body-on-frame pickups are made.

But the Ridgeline has a separate, exposed bed, an elevated ride height, and competitive payload ratings. Therefore, it’s a pickup truck.

Or is it? In one recent Honda Canada commercial, the Ridgeline is portrayed alongside the HR-V, CR-V, and Pilot under the Honda Utility banner.

“Go where you wanna go,” The Mamas & the Papas sing, as a tree-lined bike trail appears with the CR-V in the HR-V’s rear seat, as a mountainside Pilot scene materializes in the CR-V’s cargo area, as the Ridgeline’s soccer setting unfolds from the Pilot’s third row.

Has Honda decided the Ridgeline is a sport-utility vehicle? A CUV? (Read More…)

By on March 9, 2017

2017 Toyota Corolla LE - Image: Toyota

Which car models need to die immediately, TTAC asked two days ago.

What if they all died, all of them except one? Which one, individual, solitary new vehicle should be left behind to cater to the demands of every new car buyer in the world?

It will have to be a vehicle that perfectly balances an immensely broad range of requirements. This universal car has to be affordable, but let’s not pretend the Dacia Logan is up to the standards of Beverly Hills, let alone Dubai. It will have to be sufficiently environmentally sensitive to get past regulations in green-conscious markets, but can a Toyota Prius Prime fill the void left by a Mercedes-AMG GLS63? A two-seater surely won’t do, but a nine-seat Chevrolet Suburban is probably too large if every Amsterdammer trades in their bicycle. And if we don’t demand more than 250 horsepower, do enthusiasts get to have input?

If you could have just one car, and if your neighbor and all their neighbors and every global citizen had access to the very same vehicle, what should The Universal Car be? (Read More…)

By on February 28, 2017

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio - Image: FCAAlthough there are plans in the works, we have not yet tested the new 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia. Not in base, Ti, or Quadrifoglio guise.

But in a four-car comparison test recently conducted by Car And Driver, the Alfa Romeo Quadrifoglio finished on top, besting the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S (yes, it’s a Mercedes-AMG, apparently not a Mercedes-Benz), the Competition-packed 2017 BMW M3, and the 2017 Cadillac ATS-V.

Of course, Car And Driver doesn’t issue the final verdict. Even TTAC doesn’t issue the final verdict. TTAC’s B&B doesn’t have the last say, either. You, oh sports sedan buyer who wouldn’t look twice at a Lexus NX300h, possess the money that will determine whether the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is the best sports sedan on sale today.

Nevertheless, let’s take Car And Driver’s word for it, if only for a moment. Let’s believe that the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio is the best sports sedan in America right now.

Is being the best good enough for the Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio to earn your money? Because, as you’d expect, the Giulia that won Car And Driver’s comparison test broke down. (Read More…)

By on January 30, 2017

FCA Windsor minivan assembly Dodge Grand Caravan 2011 - Image: FCA

A good many questions that start with the phrase, “Given an unlimited budget … ” tend to focus on what a person would buy with a bottomless pit of money — and why not? It’s fun to fill our imaginary garages with machines made of moonbeams and unobtanium.

Not this time. Right now, I’m here to ask you: what car makes you froth at the mouth? What car offends you worse than a gunnysack full or rotting tuna? What car would you never buy?

(Read More…)

By on January 23, 2017

Aftermath of the demo derby Focus, Image: © 2013 Matthew Guy

Gearheads like ourselves are particularly susceptible to the siren song a car, especially if our own Id deems it to be a ZOMG good deal. This is the deep and perilous financial rabbit hole into which most of us fall.

All of this was on prominent display this weekend at the annual Barrett Jackson classic car auction this past weekend in the Arizona desert. I stood across from a guy who, wild-eyed and armed with a bidder’s number, was bound and determined to win the 1964 Austin-Healey in front of us on the block. He was successful, and I wish him well, Lucas electrics and all.

I wager most of us reading TTAC have a story of getting waaaay too wrapped up in the auctioneer’s patter or throwing caution to the wind on a particularly sketchy Craigslist ad … including our esteemed Managing Ed.

(Read More…)

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