By on September 18, 2015

Dodge Grand Caravan American Value Package

Today, I’m going to talk about a dramatically unloved segment of the automotive population: base models. You probably know base models from their lack of window tint and tremendously ugly steel wheels.

Base models aren’t discussed very often, because they’re often not very cheerful. In some cases, nobody even really buys them. For instance: I was walking along the other day, glanced inside a new Forester that was parked on the street, and it had a stick shift. I also noticed it had no sunroof, steel wheels, and cloth seats. This thing is probably rarer than a Lamborghini.

But automakers like the fact that nobody buys their base models. In fact, the entire point of the base model is basically to ensure people want to spend more money for a nicer version of the car. Dealers tell you the car “starts at” twenty-four grand, but then you show up on the lot, and there it is: twenty-four grand of no air conditioning or radio. To get a decent car, you’ve got to spend a few thousand more.

(Read More…)

By on September 4, 2015

2014 Ford Transit Connect Wagon

I recently attended the press launch for the new Lexus RX, which is a competitively priced, midsize luxury crossover that was styled by an angry man with a sword.

At this press launch, several topics came up. For instance: why did they give the styling job to this angry sword-man? Why was he so angry? What sort of sword did he have? And when are they going to put out a new plate of shrimp for us to eat?

There was also one other topic I discussed with a few people: the fact that the Lexus RX still doesn’t have three-row seating.

(Read More…)

By on September 3, 2015

Google Autonomous Vehicle Prototype Circa December 2014

I’ll admit it. I, the millennial managing editor of an automotive blog, would absolutely rely on an autonomous car for my day-to-day errands or long-distance commutes. Why wouldn’t I? I can kick back, relax, talk with people, get some writing done, or anything else I could possibly do on an airplane. As long as all the other vehicles on a roadway are autonomous, it’ll be safer, too!

Why do I think this way? The majority of the driving we do is boring. I can just imagine hailing an autonomous car on my phone, waiting for it to arrive to my home, and setting it to drive me wherever I want in relative comfort. Why should I need to stay alert at a four-way stop if technology can make that a thing of the past?

Except it probably won’t work quite like that.

(Read More…)

By on August 31, 2015

Subaru BRZ and Mazda MX-5

Sergio Marchionne is determined to merge with somebody. He’s kind of like that guy who doesn’t have a date at Senior Prom, and just goes anyway, hoping to score a dance with the Prom Queen. It’s as if the modern marketplace is his very own version of Sixteen Candles, and he’s James Spader rocking a 944. Or something. I gotta be honest, I never watched the movie.

Well, I’m not sure if Mary Barra is the Prom Queen or not, but Sergio seems to think she is. Yet, I’m not sure the idea of a GM/FCA merger has auto enthusiasts feeling all hot and bothered; is there a merger out there that would?

(Read More…)

By on August 28, 2015

2015 Subaru Outback

When you talk to car enthusiasts, it’s clear that they spend a lot of energy trying to figure out the best car for every possible situation.

It’s only in a group of car enthusiasts, for instance, that you’ll hear the term “daily driver.” For normal people, they just have a “car,” and maybe a “second car” for their “wife.” But car enthusiasts separate their daily driver from their other car, or maybe their other cars, because each vehicle in a car enthusiast’s garage has a different purpose.

(Read More…)

By on August 27, 2015

2015.5 Volvo Sensus Connect Infotainment Navigation

I’m the type of guy that reads the instruction manual. Admittedly, I’m in the lower quartile of the 1 percent of humans who actually read the book, and there are even fewer still who admit to reading it — most people don’t, and if they do, it’s only when they need to.

But why? Don’t people know that they’re full of good stuff?

Did you know the newest generation Mini Cooper has launch control? I wouldn’t have known that if I didn’t spot it in the manual. Also, I wouldn’t have known how to sync via Bluetooth to a circa-2013 Volkswagen car (the PIN is buried in the manual, it’s 1212 or something like that, if I recall correctly).

According to a recent report, most new car buyers don’t know what their cars do, and quite frankly, they don’t care. They should. (Read More…)

By on August 25, 2015

09 - 1998 Toyota Corolla Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

After two years at a grocery store making $4.25, I got my first raise as a member of the U.S. workforce: I could eat all the nearly expired yogurt in the dairy I could ever want.

Unfortunately, yogurt doesn’t buy a car. And after two years of checking, stocking, bagging and mopping, I had a pair of turntables and records to show for my hard work.

Fortunately, I was in high school and could “work” off my car loan with grades. But for 3.3 million Americans who make the minimum wage — or less — there may not be such a deal.

And at $7.25 an hour, or $15,080 a year, your car-buying options are fairly limited.

(Read More…)

By on August 24, 2015

Ed Carpenter apexes Turn 3 during the 2015 ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway

On Sunday, I watched a fantastic car race. Unfortunately, based on the shots of the crowd, I might have been among very few who did.

The INDYCAR (are we still capitalizing it?) Pocono 500 had everything a race fan could want: upwards of thirty lead changes, some spectacularly competitive and aggressive racing (including one restart where the drivers went seven wide), and a tight points race where the season championship would be greatly affected by the outcome. Unfortunately, there was also a spectacular crash that has one racer battling for his life.

Meanwhile, the race had far fewer fans in attendance than the 30,000 that Indy officials said that they would need in order for Pocono to be on the race schedule in 2016.

(Read More…)

By on August 21, 2015

2014 Toyota 4Runner dirt path

A few days ago, we all woke up to the sad news that the Nissan Xterra is going to be cancelled. This is especially depressing for people who post Instagram photos of themselves lifting weights.

Personally, I could take or leave the Xterra. It’s outdated, it’s trucky, it’s too tall, it’s a bit expensive, and it lacks a wide variety of modern technology. By this I am not referring to forward collision warning, or lane keep assist, or blind spot detection. I mean the base model doesn’t have a height-adjustable driver’s seat.

So the Xterra’s fifteen-year run is coming to an end, and we must all marvel at the fact that yet another off-roady vehicle won’t be available to us anymore. In the land of reasonably priced off-road vehicles, they all seem to vanish: the Toyota FJ Cruiser. The Suzuki Vitara, and Sidekick, and Samurai. The Ford Bronco. The K5 Blazer. All gone, replaced by something more mainstream, or not replaced at all, leaving the Jeep Wrangler to soldier on as today’s sole off-road vehicle choice.

Well, not quite today’s sole off-road vehicle choice. There’s also the Toyota 4Runner.

(Read More…)

By on August 17, 2015

GNaaaaaaa, aaaaaa, aaaaa. (courtesy 48facets.files.wordpress.com)

I don’t get invited to many press events, but when I do, I often find myself surrounded by people wearing Hawaiian shirts, khakis, and black shoes. And that’s not even the weird part.

The last event I attended I was representing a blog that rhymes with “La Hop Stick.” This made me a virtual magnet for every forever-alone-Dockers-wearer in attendance, all of whom were nearly twenty years older than I, and all of whom wanted to tell me all about their blogs, which were ususally named something like “MOTORSANDROTORS.TV” and had audiences of approximately fourteen uniques a month. Despite the fact that neither you nor I, nor anybody not sharing a blood relation with these people had ever heard of any of these guys, they all get invited to all of the press events.

“Oh, yeah, I haven’t even been home in weeks,” I heard one humble-complaining, despite the fact that he was dressed like a flood victim and was eating in a four-star restaurant. “Just one event after another.” I assumed that he represented Motor Trend, or perhaps Automobile, since his presence at these events was so desperately desired by the OEMs. Not so much. I would link his blog here except that I fear I would crash his site if one out of every hundred readers here were to click on it.

Why does this happen? For a reason that serves both the OEM and the blogger well, but hoses anybody in search of the Truth.

(Read More…)

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