Hello TTAC! For those who wondered where I went, I’m back from my global tour with the USAF. I am back in my native West Texas, attending Texas Tech University in pursuit of a Mechanical Engineering degree. As a break from finals, I test drove the best selling car in the US, with a decidedly continental Captain Solo slant. Thus far, I have consumed two overpriced lattes and wandered around Lubbock for 45 minutes in an attempt to organize my thoughts and come towards an unbiased conclusion about the baffling Toyota Camry.
Today, we’re trying something new. Alex is doing his review in video-only format. Let us know how you like it.
Tercel. Echo. Yaris.
When the history of great cars is written, these models will likely not be anywhere near the short list.
After a mere six decades of testing the waters, Volkswagen decided to get serious about the American car market. For the second time. To avoid a repeat of the Westmoreland debacle, this time they’ve designed a pair of sedans specifically for American tastes. They’re also building the larger of the two, intended to lure Americans away from their Camcords, in an entirely new, non-unionized American plant. And so, with the new 2012 Volkwagen Passat, tested here in V6 SE form (earlier, briefer drives sampled the other two engines), we learn what Americans really want—as seen through a German company’s eyes.
Most driving enthusiasts have written off the entire Camry line as the poster child for dull driving appliances. But those who overcame their prejudices and took the 2007-2011 Camry SE for a spin discovered surprisingly firm suspension tuning and, with the V6, a smooth, powerful engine. The most courageous even tried to spread the word. Encountering an anti-Camry diatribe, they’d respond, “But what about the SE?” For 2012 there’s a new Camry. An earlier review covered the overall changes and specifically the non-sport, non-hybrid variants. And the SE?
Volkswagen intends to become the world’s largest auto maker. Selling far more cars in the United States would accomplish this goal. Euro-spec cars haven’t been doing the trick, as too few Americans have been willing to pay the resulting semi-premium prices. So VW engineered a new Jetta compact sedan and a new Passat midsize sedan specifically for American tastes and budgets. Confident of the latter’s success, they’ve even constructed an all-new factory in Chattanooga, TN, to assemble it. Should the UAW’s latest targets expect to be working overtime? Today’s review evaluates the 2.5-liter five-cylinder gas Passat in SE trim, while Wednesday’s will compare the 2.0-liter turbodiesel in SEL Premium trim.
As recounted in an earlier review, the new Focus in Titanium trim is good enough to justify a price tag over $27,000 for a compact Ford. But what if you don’t want to spend that much, or want a manual transmission, which is not available with the SEL or Titanium trim levels? How much do you give up with the SE? I requested a $21,380 Focus SE hatchback with the Sport Package to find out.
One of the strangest phenomena of the revived retro muscle car wars is the renewed emphasis on V6 performance. Once derided as “Secretary Specials,” the V6 versions of the Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro now make upwards of 300 horsepower, while earning EPA highway ratings that surpass the 30 MPG mark. But if these latter-day pony cars herald a new era of performance and practicality, the V6-powered Dodge Challenger is as retro as its 1970-again styling.
Don’t believe the hype. The 1986 Taurus was not “the car that saved Ford.” Trucks saved Ford in the late Eighties and early Nineties, as consumer tastes moved away from the one-sedan-fits-nearly-all market in favor of the newly popular SUV. Nor can the 2010 Taurus save a Ford beset by problems on all sides. There are no longer enough potential mid-sized car buyers to make a huge impact on the company’s bottom line, and most of those buyers are really better candidates for the smaller, more affordable Fusion.