The Truth About Cars » sports cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Tue, 28 Jul 2015 22:00:58 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars editors@ttac.com editors@ttac.com (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars » sports cars http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/wp-content/themes/ttac-theme/images/logo.gif http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com Chart Of The Day: Like Horsepower, Corvette Interest Grows Over Time http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/chart-day/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/chart-day/#comments Mon, 29 Jun 2015 12:00:02 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1095801 After averaging fewer than 1,200 monthly spring sales in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, the launch of the C7 presented Chevrolet with more than 3,000 sales in March and in April and in May 2014. Surely that’s all because of pent-up demand, right? After the C6 battled quite respectably through a recession, the craziness of […]

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Corvette sales chart

After averaging fewer than 1,200 monthly spring sales in 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013, the launch of the C7 presented Chevrolet with more than 3,000 sales in March and in April and in May 2014.

Surely that’s all because of pent-up demand, right? After the C6 battled quite respectably through a recession, the craziness of the C7 was bound to generate a great deal of initial demand.

And yet one year later, long since its launch, the Corvette is selling just as well. Better, in fact.

March sales rose 9% to 3,785 units, the second-highest monthly U.S. sales total since the C7 arrived in the latter portion of 2013. April volume was down 1%, a scant 45 units, but remained well above 3,000 units. May sales jumped 6%, significantly faster than the rate of growth in the industry as a whole. Year-to-date, Corvette volume is up 3% to 15,500 sales through five months.

That’s more than 5,000 units better than any individual Cadillac passenger car.

Credit goes to the fact there are more versions of the Corvette now available, including a Z06 Convertible and Z06s with automatic transmissions.

It’s also an all-American sports car in America – combined sales of the Porsche Boxster, Cayman, and 911 aren’t half as strong.

But these factors don’t alter the fact that, for a premium-priced two-seater, the Corvette is ridiculously successful. At the current pace, 2015 is set to be the best year since 2006’s 36,518-unit total. GM has already sold more Corvettes in America in 2015 than in all of 2009, 2010, 2011, or 2012.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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2016 Nissan 370Z Review http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2016-nissan-370z-review/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/06/2016-nissan-370z-review/#comments Wed, 03 Jun 2015 13:00:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1081361 Constant readers may recall I recently traded a 2008 Honda S2000 for a new Volkswagen GTI 6-speed. Both can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in the mid to high 5s, but with the turbo lag on the VW and the pre-VTEC lack of punch on the Honda, the power delivery on both cars is nonlinear, which grows tiresome […]

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IMG_0204

Constant readers may recall I recently traded a 2008 Honda S2000 for a new Volkswagen GTI 6-speed. Both can sprint from 0 to 60 mph in the mid to high 5s, but with the turbo lag on the VW and the pre-VTEC lack of punch on the Honda, the power delivery on both cars is nonlinear, which grows tiresome at times.

I need a break from millennial motors and motorcycle-inspired engines. I want torque and I want it now, damn it.

Enter the 2016 Nissan 370Z.

Now in its eighth model year with few significant changes, 370Z sales in the U.S. have dropped from a high of 13,188 units in 2009 down to an annual average of 7,073 units from 2013 through May of 2015. Lack of updates and an overall drop in sales in the two-seater segment have hurt the Z, which is too bad because we place it at the top of our “Nearly Forgotten Great Sports Car” category.

Curiously, Nissan is using this red base model coupe with a 6-speed manual as its press car rather than the more popular Sport or Touring models. I was a bit disappointed as I wanted to play with their downshift rev matching system which is only available on upper trims. Nissan’s strategy to publicize the base model may be because of its MSRP of only $29,990 plus $810 freight, an amazing value. Adding the 7-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters will cost you another $1,300. The only popular features missing in the base Z are a navigation system, a backup camera and a decent sound system.

The next step up is the Sport model which is priced at $33,570 and adds bigger brakes, 19-inch RAYS wheels [which have been around forever -Mark], the rev-matching system, grippier Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires, a Viscous Limited-Slip Differential, a rear view monitor and a subtle rear spoiler. The Sport Tech model costs an additional $3,500 and includes a Bose stereo, navigation and Sirius satellite radio. Step up to the Touring model at $37,970 to get most of the above plus power leather seats.

The 370Z’s design has aged well, highlighted by its cool “boomerang” head and tail lights. I am not a fan of red cars and even less of a fan of black wheels, so make mine the new-for-2016 Deep Pearl Blue patina in the Sport model:

New Deep Blue Pearl color with Sport Package featuring 19" Rays wheelsThe cloth seats were very supportive and comfortable for my 6-foot 2-inch frame. Other reviewers have carped about the lack of rear vision due to the low seating position and gently sloping hatch, but I had no problem, perhaps because I am tall or maybe because of the comically large side mirrors. The uncluttered dashboard and controls are very well laid out. Bluetooth connectivity to my phone and iPod was a breeze. And, hey kids, those three instrument pods on the dash are not copied from a Fast and Furious movie. They are a tribute to the ones on the original 1970 240Z.

The Z is all about its 332 hp DOHC 3.7-liter V6 engine powering the car to 60 mph in 5 seconds flat. The slightly heavy clutch and shifter are in contrast to the light but very communicative steering. Tearing up and down Tucson’s Mt. Lemmon was tons of fun, though the base model’s noisy Yokohama ADVAN Sport tires could not quite keep up with the well-balanced chassis. The 6-speed Z is rated at 18 mpg city and 26 mpg highway and we observed 21.8 mpg in a week of spirited driving.

steering-wheel 370z courtesy nissan.com

All 2016 Zs except the base car have a new Active Sound Enhancement system that sends fake engine noise to the cockpit. The Z may actually need it as our tester was a bit too quiet in the exhaust department. (I have concluded that the sole reason more and more automakers are adding this feature is to make the car sound more appealing during test drives in order to sell more units. That is why they rarely mention the feature in their marketing efforts.)

Supply of the 370Z is in line with its tepid demand. The eight Nissan dealers within 150 miles of me have a total of 30 new Zs in stock, so finding the exact model and color you want may be challenging. As far as real-world pricing, TrueCar says the average discount on a 370Z is $1,318. One local dealer recently had the twin of this car in a 2015 model on their lot, with an MSRP of $30,118, advertised for only $27,000. That is a great price, but knowing Arizona dealers it is more likely a case of, “Well, folks, we added Tru-Coat, window tinting, window etching, an alarm system, lost key protection, the Desert Protection Package, wheel locks, and the $499 documentation fee for a total of $31,432.99.”

Nissan dealers ranked slightly below average in the 2014 J.P. Power Sales Satisfaction index.

IMG_0203

The 370Z is a fun car and a great value – but what does the future hold? The current incarnation dates back to 2008, so a major overhaul is likely imminent, though Nissan’s not talking. As the only Japanese V6 two-seater, we hope Nissan will soldier on with this model and its legendary nameplate. The Altima owners dominating the 370Z message boards are certain the next generation Z will be powered by either a 4-cylinder turbo mill or a detuned GT-R motor. On that note, we will end this test with a Quasi-QOTD: what do you think Nissan will do or should do with the next 370Z?

Picks

  • Tremendous value
  • Near-perfect driver ergonomics
  • Still looks great after eight years

Nit Pics

  • Lack of sporty exhaust note
  • Tire noise
  • Weak sound system in the base model

Wife Sez: “Love the color, drives great but there’s no “Jesus!” handle to grab when I’m riding shotgun.”

Perfect 370Z Song: “Don’t You (Forget About Me),” Simple Minds, 1987

Nissan North America provided use of vehicle for one week, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

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Oh, So This Is Why BMW Thinks The Sports Car Market Isn’t Going To Recover http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/oh-bmw-thinks-sports-car-market-isnt-going-recover/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/04/oh-bmw-thinks-sports-car-market-isnt-going-recover/#comments Mon, 27 Apr 2015 14:08:32 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1055089 It’s been five months since BMW’s sales boss, Ian Robertson, made news by questioning the long-term viability of the sports car. “The sports car market is roughly half of what it used to be. Post-2008, it just collapsed. I’m not so sure it’ll ever fully recover,” Robertson said. BMW, of course, is the maker of […]

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BMW Z4

It’s been five months since BMW’s sales boss, Ian Robertson, made news by questioning the long-term viability of the sports car. “The sports car market is roughly half of what it used to be. Post-2008, it just collapsed. I’m not so sure it’ll ever fully recover,” Robertson said.

BMW, of course, is the maker of the Z4, a car which generates only one-tenth the volume now that it did when launched as a successor to the Z3. In other words, it’s not much wonder BMW wonders whether outright sports cars have a future. 

Just how bad has the Z4’s situation become? Only 802 were sold in the first-quarter of 2015, down 6% compared with the same period one year ago. The Z4 accounted for just 1% of BMW brand volume over the last three months; just 1.5% of BMW passenger car sales. Naturally, roadsters aren’t typically major contributors to an automaker’s volume, but the Z4 was at one time. During a five-year span from 2003 onward, the Z4 was responsible for 5% of the brand’s U.S. sales.

USA Sports Car sales chart BMW Z4

It’s not as though BMW hasn’t significantly altered the Z4 to make it more appealing to a broader cross-section of the buying public. Previously a softtop convertible or a hardtop model, the Z4 has used a retractable hardtop since the 2009 relaunch.

Sales hardly perked up, however, and have only declined since. Only 2010’s marginal 7% increase and 2006’s 22% jump interrupted a streak that saw Z4 sales decline in nine of the last eleven years.

All of this brings us to the month of March 2015, the first time in a year that Z4 volume climbed beyond 300 units. Yet on a year-over-year basis, even March’s 422 sales revealed a 29% decline. Z4 volume has decreased in nine of the last 14 months; Z4 volume has increased only eight times in the last two years.

Yet while reports of sports car death seem to make a special amount of sense when BMW’s delivering the reports, it’s not as though Z4 rivals are contradicting Robertson’s theme.

The Audi TT’s U.S. volume has declined in nine of the last twelve years.

Mercedes-Benz SLK sales in America decreased in six of the last nine years.

Porsche Boxster sales in 2014 fell 15% in 2014 after rising to an eight-year high in 2013, but 2014 volume for the Boxster and Cayman, combined, was down 26% compared to the Boxster’s total from 2002.

The Nissan Z’s 2014 U.S. sales tally was less than one-fifth the total achieved in 2003.

One key exception: although the Chevrolet Corvette’s average U.S. annual volume dwindled to 14,230 units between 2009 and 2013, GM sold more than 34,000 Corvettes in 2014, the best year since 2006.

Since the quote from Ian Robertson was given in November, U.S. Z4 volume has fallen 5%.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Capsule Review: 2015 Audi TTS Coupe Competition http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/capsule-review-2015-audi-tts-coupe-competition/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/capsule-review-2015-audi-tts-coupe-competition/#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 13:54:18 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1005770 Perhaps it’s age or jaded eyes. Maybe it’s a desire to move the conversation forward. It might even be experience. One way or another, I’ve become increasingly less likely to allow exterior styling to garner more than a passing mention in my reviews of cars, trucks, SUVs, crossovers, and minivans. • USD Price As-Tested: $54,595 […]

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2015 Audi TTS Coupe CompetitionPerhaps it’s age or jaded eyes. Maybe it’s a desire to move the conversation forward. It might even be experience. One way or another, I’ve become increasingly less likely to allow exterior styling to garner more than a passing mention in my reviews of cars, trucks, SUVs, crossovers, and minivans.


• USD Price As-Tested: $54,595

• Horsepower: 265 @ 6500 rpm

• Torque: 258 lb-ft @ 2500 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 16.9 mpg


But after feasting my eyes upon a second-generation Audi TT sitting in my driveway – even in 90s yellow; nearly nine years after we first saw the second-generation TT and some 16 years since the first TT went on sale; with the third-generation TT already revealed and about to go on sale – how can my lips be silent?

This 2015 TTS Coupe Competition convinces me that the second TT is the most attractive of Audi’s three TT iterations. I grew to dearly love the first, but it could be faulted for looking the same coming and going. The forthcoming Mk3 TT seems somehow more formal, more serious, and less visually distinct from the (handsome) Volkswagen Scirocco.

2015 Audi TTS Coupe Competition yellowThis, however, is a visual stunner in both overall form and in detail. From the bulging fenders to the artfully arched roof and the properly proportioned grille, it’s deserving of credit for its general aesthetic alone. But the aluminum-finished mirrors and rear wing struts are eye-catching details, the 19-inch wheels are conversation starters, the strakes that lead into the foglights bring further cohesion to the front end. Moreover, the design as a whole testifies to the fact that new cars don’t all look the same. And though it originally went on sale around the time Peyton last won a Super Bowl, the Mk2 Audi TT appears wonderfully current.

At least on the outside.

You’ll use a key to start the car. There’s no backup camera or much of the on-alert safety gear (there are backup sensors but no blind spot monitoring, for instance) you now expect in $35,000+ mainstream sedans, let alone premium brand cars costing around $55,000. The navigation screen, which works with a less than impressive version of Audi’s MMI, is a bite-sized 6.5 inches. The cabin certainly doesn’t rank among the quietest I’ve encountered in the last number of months, either.

2015 Audi TTS Coupe Competition rearNone of this is unexpected for a car which traces its design back to the era of the sixth-generation Chevrolet Malibu. (Yeah, it’s that old.) But no matter how good the TTS looks outside, and no matter how high the material quality is inside, these specific elements recall a bygone era, and not in a nostalgic way.

What the outgoing TT lacks in modernity it ultimately makes up for by consistently providing a memorable experience. Granted, the TT, even in this special edition one-of-500 TTS Competition guise, is not among the purest driving sports cars. Yellow baseball stitching and a freaky rear wing can’t make it so. The steering lacks feedback. The brakes may be slightly overservoed in grand Audi tradition. The ride is ultra-stiff when sport mode is engaged and just plain busy when left in normal.

2015 Audi TTS Coupe Competition rear wingYet with less than 3300 pounds to cart around, a quick-shifting dual-clutch 6-speed transmission, and all-wheel-drive traction, 265 horsepower is a far larger number than it initially sounds. The TTS Coupe accelerates to 60 mph in five seconds, shifting more intelligently and promptly the harder it’s driven. It’s a delightfully compact package, and with torque to spare, it darts through traffic like an 80s French hot hatch on nitrous.

While not quite as practical as an 80s hot hatch (or a current Volkswagen GTI, for that matter), the TT does feature a (barely accessible) rear seat, a useable 13.1-cubic-foot cargo area, and the ability to send power to all four wheels. The BMW Z4, Mercedes-Benz SLK, and Porsche Cayman can not make the all the same claims.

Our test car, supplied by Audi Canada, rang in at CAD $65,295. In the U.S., the departing TTS starts at $49,595, an $8350 jump from the base TT. The Competition package adds $2500. Audi’s navigation package adds another $1950. The total climbs to $54,595, or $1400 less than a base Corvette.

But the Corvette chases a different market, right? Sure, in the sense that the Corvette is intended for a buyer who still exists.

2015 Audi TTS Competition interiorSee, the TT’s market may have moved on, not just from the TT but from its compatriots. Oh, the arrival of a new TT will produce a short-lived spike in demand. But is it any wonder BMW’s own sales boss, Ian Robertson, questioned whether the sports car market will ever fully recover from post-recession lows?

Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Porsche combined for more than 40,000 TT, Z4, SLK, and Boxster U.S. sales in 2003 but only 15,000 TT, Z4, SLK, Boxster, and Caymans last year. While the Corvette was roundly outsold by the aforementioned quartet in 2003, Chevrolet sold 34,839 Corvettes in 2014.

Corvette vs. TT? Hey, if I’m the self-appointed final arbiter on the subject of Audi TT styling, shouldn’t I also be the one to decide which car to buy when all 500 global copies of the Coupe Competition are snatched up?

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Junkyard Find: 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/junkyard-find-1980-fiat-124-sport-spider-3/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/junkyard-find-1980-fiat-124-sport-spider-3/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 14:00:54 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=1002290 Will the steady procession of Fiat 124 Spiders into America’s self-service wrecking yards never cease? So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’71, this ’73, this ’75, this ’76, this ’78, this ’80, this ’80, and now yet another sporty little Fiat from the Malaisiest year of them all. Here’s a beat-up but not […]

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04 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinWill the steady procession of Fiat 124 Spiders into America’s self-service wrecking yards never cease? So far in this series, we’ve seen this ’71, this ’73, this ’75, this ’76, this ’78, this ’80, this ’80, and now yet another sporty little Fiat from the Malaisiest year of them all. Here’s a beat-up but not hopeless example I spotted in Northern California.
01 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinUnlike its MGB competitor (then on its last year of production), you could get the 1980 124 Sport Spider with factory fuel injection. 80 horsepower, which today’s American car buyers would consider unacceptable in a lawn tractor.
05 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe interior yielded some good stuff to a lucky Fiat owner, looks like.
08 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThese cars rusted even in California, but this one looks solid.

01 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 02 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 03 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 04 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 05 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 06 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 07 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin 08 - 1980 Fiat 124 Sport Spider - Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee Martin

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Sports Cars Aren’t Just For Men With a Midlife Crisis http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/sports-cars-arent-just-men-midlife-crisis/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/02/sports-cars-arent-just-men-midlife-crisis/#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2015 21:27:10 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=995258 As some of you know, I recently owned a sports car. It was bright red, and flashy, and lots of fun, and it provided many enjoyable days of ownership, such as a) the day I sold it, and b) the day I mailed the title to the new owner. But there was always one key […]

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ku-xlarge

As some of you know, I recently owned a sports car. It was bright red, and flashy, and lots of fun, and it provided many enjoyable days of ownership, such as a) the day I sold it, and b) the day I mailed the title to the new owner.

But there was always one key aspect of sports car ownership that bothered me, and that was: the way that other people reacted to it. Allow me to explain what I mean, using this “compare and contrast” between an automotive enthusiast’s reaction and a normal human’s reaction.

Automotive Enthusiast Reaction: OH MAN! This is so cool! This looks like it’s so much fun! How fast does it go? How much power does it have? WHOA IT HAS A GATED SHIFTER! Oh my God I have to take a picture!!

Normal Human Reaction: You’re compensating for something.

The problem, as I see it, is that car enthusiasts love cars, and they love the experience of cars, and they love to drive cars, and they completely understand why someone might spend a huge portion of their disposable income on a depreciating asset that can be rendered completely useless by a screw the size of a nickel.

Whereas normal people – here I am referring to automotive civilians; the kind of people who see a Kia Soul and say: “That is such a cool car!” – don’t get this. They think that anyone who owns a sports car is trying to show off, or trying to compensate, or – and this I my least favorite assumption – going through a midlife crisis.

“See that guy over there in his Porsche,” say automotive civilians.
“Yeah,” comes the reply. “Such a midlife crisis car,” paying no mind to the fact that maybe – just maybe – the Porsche is being driven by someone who appreciates the quality of the handling, or the precision of the shifter, or the leather of the air vents.

And that’s why I’ve decided to devote today’s column to this crucial topic: most automotive enthusiasts don’t buy sports cars because they’re showy, or they’re flashy, or they’re the best things for a midlife crisis. We buy them because they’re fun.

I think the biggest problem here is that normal people simply don’t understand the pleasure one can get from having a fun car. What I mean by this is: for normal people, “the car” is associated with driving to the pet supply place to pick up dog food that looks like rocks. Normal people hate sitting in traffic, and they hate avoiding collisions, and really they’d rather just sit there, in their homes, and watch TV while simultaneously looking for celebrity news on their phones.

So when normal people see a sports car, what they think is: Here’s someone who bought a cool car just so he could sit in traffic and look cooler than everyone else. They never consider the idea that an automotive enthusiast might seek out enjoyable roads; he or she might drive for recreational purposes; he or she might even appreciate the driving characteristics of the car, rather than the styling. They just think it’s someone else who’s also indifferent about driving, but he or she has a cooler car to do it in.

Unfortunately, this sort of attitude is misguided, and we automotive enthusiasts – here I am referring to the kind of people who get excited when we see a Saab 900 Turbo on its original three-spoke wheels – must change peoples’ minds.

So this is my proposal: the next time you hear someone make a midlife crisis remark, or a “compensating for something” joke, or a “you’re just showing off” assumption, you must take them for a ride in your sports car. And I’m not referring to a quick ride around the block just to show them that it exists, and that it makes noise. You must take them for a spirited, enjoyable ride down the closest excellent roads to demonstrate every single characteristic of the vehicle. And if they’re still not convinced that you purchased your vehicle for pure, driving-focused purposes, then you must insist that they try out a few extra capabilities of your vehicle, namely the seat passenger seat belt latch and the door handle.

Of course, this only applies to sports cars, and not those guys who buy a Super Duty pickup and then decide it isn’t big enough, and it requires a lift kit so large that you could set up a large dental practice underneath the chassis. Those guys are just compensating.

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Scion’s FR-S Took A Hit In 2014 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/scions-fr-s-took-hit-2014/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2015/01/scions-fr-s-took-hit-2014/#comments Sun, 18 Jan 2015 14:14:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=984753 The U.S. market, long in need of an affordable, compact, rear-wheel-drive sports car, allowed the hype to initially take hold. The Scion FR-S’s best ever month was its first full month of availability – June 2012 – when 2684 copies were sold. But in the second-half of the FR-S’s first full year in the U.S., […]

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2014 Scion FR-S redThe U.S. market, long in need of an affordable, compact, rear-wheel-drive sports car, allowed the hype to initially take hold. The Scion FR-S’s best ever month was its first full month of availability – June 2012 – when 2684 copies were sold.

But in the second-half of the FR-S’s first full year in the U.S., FR-S volume slid 4%.


• FR-S accounts for 24% of U.S. Scion sales

• Scion accounts for 2.4% of Toyota Motor Sales, USA, Inc. volume

• Subaru sold 25,492 WRX/STi Imprezas in 2014


The numbers weren’t terribly low. 18,327 FR-Ss were sold in the U.S. in 2013. But they weren’t terribly high, either. Nissan, for a reference point, sold 36,728 350Zs in 2003.

Regardless, only 18 months into the car’s tenure, monthly declines became notable because of their severity and consistency.

In December 2013, FR-S volume slid 31%. This year, from beginning to end, FR-S sales slid 36% in January, 30% in February, and 20% in March before falling 11%, 14%, 38%, 27%, 25%, 25%, 10%, 28%, and then plunging 19% to the car’s lowest full-month total of just 834 units in December 2014.

In the 2014 calendar year, FR-S volume slid 23% to 14,062 units, a year-over-year loss equal to 4265 fewer sales. The lower-volume Subaru BRZ fell 13% to 7504.

The demand for the newest, flashiest, fastest thing has historically limited the long-term appeal of coupes. But coupes and more genuine sports cars are not forced to sell less and less often as time goes on. The big Dodge Challenger muscle car posted its sixth consecutive year of growth in the U.S. in 2014. U.S. sales of the Chevrolet Camaro climbed to 86,297 units in 2014, the latest Camaro’s second-best year since returning in 2009. True, those cars compete in a different market, they represent true Americana, and their product ranges are broader and thus more appealing to a wider cross-section of the car-buying public. But shouldn’t that be to their credit, rather than used as an excuse for the FR-S and a wide variety of other sports cars which simply can’t appeal to a large number of consumers for more than a few months?

affordable sport compact sales chart 2014 usaEven if you’re not a Toyobaru fan – and we all know certain individuals aren’t – we enthusiasts need cars like this to succeed for a longer period of time if we’re to see potential competitors in the future. Would General Motors seriously consider building the Code 130R after seeing the rate at which FR-S volume dries up? Will Nissan bosses follow through on building the IDx in the long-term after taking a look at the FR-S’s consistent decline? Can Kia commit to an affordable GT4 Stinger with FR-S volume falling to new lows?

The answer to all those questions could be, “Yes!”, if product planners determine that the FR-S’s steady decline relates to factors beyond the car’s core format. Might the FR-S’s downturn relate as much to its Scion branding as it does to the mostly useless rear seat? Could the FR-S be turning into a truly niche player because Toyota isn’t building a convertible? Are potential FR-S buyers turned off by the low-torque four-cylinder engine?

After all, new vehicle buyers in 2014 displayed their willingness to acquire new sporting cars without Scion badges, with useable rear seats, with torque, and with different bodystyles: Subaru’s own Impreza-based WRX/STi outsold the FR-S and BRZ combined.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures.

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Paris 2014: 2016 Audi TT Roadster Bows http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/paris-2014-2016-audi-tt-roadster-bows/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/10/paris-2014-2016-audi-tt-roadster-bows/#comments Thu, 02 Oct 2014 20:30:57 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=924785 You’ve seen the Audi TT Sportback. Now, it’s time for the 2016 Audi TT Roadster to shine at the 2014 Paris Auto Show. The 2016 model rides on the MQB platform with a wheelbase that has gained 1.5 inches over the current TT, while the overall length is just an inch shorter. Weight comes in […]

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You’ve seen the Audi TT Sportback. Now, it’s time for the 2016 Audi TT Roadster to shine at the 2014 Paris Auto Show.

The 2016 model rides on the MQB platform with a wheelbase that has gained 1.5 inches over the current TT, while the overall length is just an inch shorter. Weight comes in at 2,910.1 lbs. with manual transmission and front-wheel drive, and the chassis is stiffer thanks to solid steel tubes inside the A-pillars, steel ribbing in the sills, and various V braces throughout the underside.

The soft-top is 6.6 lbs. lighter than the top now in play, can be operated up to 31.1 mph, takes up little of the TT’s 9.9 cubic-feet of trunk space, and can open or close within 10 seconds.

Up front, the U.S. market will receive a 2-liter turbocharged engine delivering 230 horses, 310 in the TTS model. A spoiler deploys at speeds above 75 mph.

Finally, a revised Quattro system puts more power to the back, allowing for safer, more controlled drifts on low-friction surfaces.

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Amid All That Bad News, Lotus Sales Are Actually Up 46%, Sedan & Crossover ‘On The Table’ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/amid-bad-news-lotus-sales-actually-46-sedan-crossover-table/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/amid-bad-news-lotus-sales-actually-46-sedan-crossover-table/#comments Fri, 26 Sep 2014 12:43:59 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=919602 With news that Lotus won’t be selling any 2015 model year cars in the United States, minuscule sales in their home market of the UK, and announcement of the impending layoff of about a quarter of the firm’s global workforce, many observers think that the company Colin Chapman founded 62 years ago is circling the […]

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Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales

Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales

With news that Lotus won’t be selling any 2015 model year cars in the United States, minuscule sales in their home market of the UK, and announcement of the impending layoff of about a quarter of the firm’s global workforce, many observers think that the company Colin Chapman founded 62 years ago is circling the drain. While there are certainly dark clouds in Lotus’ financial picture, having booked about $447 million in loses over the previous two fiscal years, there is some silver lining some of those clouds. Worldwide Lotus car sales are up dramatically.

Of course when you’re starting with a baseline of selling just 1,232 cars in a year as Lotus did last year, selling just a few more cars can result in dramatic percentage increases, but the fact remains that from the start of the current fiscal year in April through the month of August, Lotus’ global sales are up 46% to 914 cars during that period. As U.S. dealers will have to make do with existing stock of new unsold 2014 (and some 2013) cars until a FMVSS complaint car is offered in 2016, European Lotus dealers have had a pretty good year so far with sales up 21% through August for a total of 450 cars.

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Lotus Engineering’s aluminum intensive 2006 APX crossover concept.

The fact that American consumers will have to make do with old stock is really nothing new in Lotus history. The company has almost always had spotty distribution and a weak dealer network in the States. Following Chapman’s death the company went through a number of U.S. distributors, though I believe currently American distribution is handled by a wholly owned subsidiary.

The number of dealers in the U.S. and worldwide will be one issue that new Lotus CEO Jean-Marc Gales will be addressing, according to an interview he gave with  Automotive News Europe. Talking about the Hethel based specialist and engineering firm’s dealer situation, Gales’ comments bear light on Tim Cain’s TTAC post about Lotus’ weak sales in the UK.

“Even in the UK we don’t have enough dealers. If you look in London there is not a single one. There is no dealer in Paris, no dealer in Madrid, none in the north of Italy, none in Hamburg, none in Berlin,” he said. “Our sales network basically did not provide enough coverage for our sales ambition.”

The plan is to follow the addition of nine new Lotus stores around the world in the last six months, including in Iran and the Philippines, with up to 20 new dealerships this fiscal year.

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Gales also said that the current lineup of the Elise, Exige and Evora will continue. “The current range has still got a lot of life left,” Gales said, though he stressed that he company will be focusing on making those cars lighter and faster. New models based on Lotus’ scaleable platform made of bonded aluminum extrusions will be introduced “in the next two years”.

Though the Lotus CEO never mentioned the word Porsche, he also indicated that the company may be following the German sports car maker in offering profitable vehicles that aren’t sports cars, saying that Lotus brand values that use lightweight practices to produce fun, engaging driving dynamics along with good fuel economy don’t just need to be restricted to sports cars. “These values can be attached to any segment you can imagine,” Gales said. He was more specific with Autocar, telling them that a Lotus crossover or sedan is very much on the table.

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While the notion of a Lotus sedan or worse, a crossover, seems to depart from what the brand means, it should be pointed out that at the time of founder Colin Chapman’s death, Lotus was working on an executive four door sedan. Also, in 2006, Lotus Engineering showed the APX, the Aluminium Performance Crossover as a showcase for Lotus’ Versatile Vehicle Architecture.

Ronnie Schreiber edits Cars In Depth, a realistic perspective on cars & car culture and the original 3D car site. If you found this post worthwhile, you can get a parallax view at Cars In Depth. If the 3D thing freaks you out, don’t worry, all the photo and video players in use at the site have mono options. Thanks for reading – RJS

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Editorial: The Best Laid Plans Of Lotus And Men http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/editorial-best-laid-plans-lotus-men/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/09/editorial-best-laid-plans-lotus-men/#comments Wed, 24 Sep 2014 16:35:58 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=917850 Reports of the demise of Lotus in America have been greatly exaggerated. Lotus will revive the Evora for a 2016 model year run, complete with up-to-spec airbags, while dealers will be held over by whatever remaining inventory is left from the 2014 model year (or earlier). The big question for Lotus USA is whether that […]

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Reports of the demise of Lotus in America have been greatly exaggerated. Lotus will revive the Evora for a 2016 model year run, complete with up-to-spec airbags, while dealers will be held over by whatever remaining inventory is left from the 2014 model year (or earlier).

The big question for Lotus USA is whether that will be enough to sustain Lotus dealers in the USA. Without a retail network, Lotus can’t sell cars – but the dealers need something to sustain them, even if volumes are low (according to Automotive News estimates, Lotus sold about 112 cars in America, year-to-date). Service and parts sales aren’t likely to be sufficient, though it’s conceivable that the vast majority of Lotus franchises are not stand alone entities.

Even so, this presents the question: will selling a few track day specials and left over Evoras be able to sustain the Lotus retail network in the United States. At best, whatever other brands the dealer is selling will be subsidizing the Lotus operations. At worst, it will present dealers with cash flow problems due to having to move a lineup of year old or non-street legal cars.

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A Love Letter To The American Performance Car http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/a-love-letter-to-the-american-performance-cars/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/a-love-letter-to-the-american-performance-cars/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 17:57:19 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=896986 If you ask Jack Baruth, the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is probably the finest sports car on sale today. And with the addition of a new 8-speed automatic (a feature that will be more popular than many enthusiasts will care to admit), the C7 will add gains in performance and fuel economy. The 0-60 mph and 1/4 mile […]

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If you ask Jack Baruth, the Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is probably the finest sports car on sale today. And with the addition of a new 8-speed automatic (a feature that will be more popular than many enthusiasts will care to admit), the C7 will add gains in performance and fuel economy. The 0-60 mph and 1/4 mile sprints shed a tenth of a second each: 60 mph comes up in 3.7 seconds, while the 1/4 mile is covered in 11.9 seconds. Highway fuel economy is up 1 mpg to 29 mpg. Yes, these are incremental improvements, but it’s also amazing that you can buy something with supercar performance and highway fuel economy within spitting distance of a mid-size V6 sedan.

Beyond the ‘Vette, the array of American performance cars on sale right now is staggering. If you like muscle cars, you can have your pick of a Mustang, Camaro or Challenger, where even the weakest variants offer 300+ horsepower V6 engines that are quick enough to run with the V8 Mustangs of ten years ago. At the upper end, you have big block pony cars that come with more power than most Italian exotics, available at prices well south of the six figure mark.

If you want something a bit more European, Ford will sell you not one, but two turbocharged hatchbacks that are widely regarded as the top of their class. There are a myriad of sedans in all kinds of flavors, from the pseudo-Euro Cadillac CTS and ATS to the unmistakably American Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger and the under-appreciated Buick Regal GS. And let’s not forget the formidable Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT, which makes the AMG and M SUVs obsolete by virtue of its existence.

I was born an import guy, and have long worshiped at the altar of VTEC. JDM parts, drifting and Sport Compact Car were my holy sacraments. But the last year has been a sort of Damascene conversion for me. The most exciting cars have, in my opinion, been coming out of Detroit, and they’re no longer the one-trick ponies..err, pony cars that I remember from my youth, good for straight line performance, big torque and little else.

For someone of my means, it’s hard to think of something more compelling than the Fiesta ST, which can hit 60 mph in less than 7 seconds while returning as high as 40 mpg on the highway. If I were a wealthier man, than the C7 would be what I’d want – but I’d take the 7-speed manual. I’m not quite ready for two pedals yet.

Perhaps I lack the context and years on this planet to make this judgement call, but I can’t think of an era where the American performance car has been so well-rounded, dynamically capable and competitive against the global offerings of the performance car world. Let me know what you think.

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US-Spec Jaguar F-Type Project 7 Unveiled At Pebble Beach http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/us-spec-jaguar-f-type-project-7-unveiled-pebble-beach/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/08/us-spec-jaguar-f-type-project-7-unveiled-pebble-beach/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 12:00:30 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=894002 Unveiled at this weekend’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the U.S.-spec Jaguar F-Type Project 7 will make its home in a few garages beginning next spring. Autoblog reports the limited edition roadster — developed by Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations — will leave showrooms in 2015 for a base price of $165,000. A tribute to […]

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Unveiled at this weekend’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, the U.S.-spec Jaguar F-Type Project 7 will make its home in a few garages beginning next spring.

Autoblog reports the limited edition roadster — developed by Jaguar Land Rover Special Vehicle Operations — will leave showrooms in 2015 for a base price of $165,000. A tribute to the D-Type, the Project 7 will have a 5-liter supercharged V8 delivering 575 horsepower to the back, pushing the cat to a limited peak of 186 mph with a nil-to-60 charge out of the gate in 3.8 seconds.

As for what color to paint your roadster, the Project 7 can be had in either Glacier White or Ultra Blue, with British Racing Green, Ultimate Black and Caldera Red as optional colors.

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New or Used? : Why Are Old Corvettes So Cheap? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/new-or-used-why-are-old-corvettes-so-cheap/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/06/new-or-used-why-are-old-corvettes-so-cheap/#comments Thu, 19 Jun 2014 04:32:47 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=846233 O.K. Steve Why are old Corvettes so cheap ? . Just Monday I saw yet another 1984 ‘Vette for sale in a used car lot for $2,500, are some years simply so bad they’re worthless? I have never owned one and only driven a few . Mostly my buddy’s ’68 350 W/ 4 speed back in the […]

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O.K. Steve
Why are old Corvettes so cheap ? .
Just Monday I saw yet another 1984 ‘Vette for sale in a used car lot for $2,500, are some years simply so bad they’re worthless?
I have never owned one and only driven a few . Mostly my buddy’s ’68 350 W/ 4 speed back in the very early 1970’s when it was a neat car.
He built it from various junked and wrecked ‘Vettes at a specialized Corvette junkyard . We rode it very hard and it was a good , fun car that took quite a beating right until he drank himself to death .
I see the 1990’s (I think) four valve versions undamaged in Pick-A-Part Junkyards all over California. They are low mileage (under 150,000), zero damage, nice paint etc. ~ how is this possible ? .
I’d think they want to sell them whole and not part them out. But no one wants them?
Steve Says:
If only it were so.
I would be more than happy to drive a late model Corvette through the winding roads of North Georgia. Unfortunately, I have found them to be among the worst types of vehicles for my travels.
They are flashy, easy to drive too fast, and cops seem to enjoy hanging around them on highway jaunts.
That 84′ Corvette you were looking at may very well be the worst Corvette of the last 30 years. The quality was downright abysmal for what was, way back then, the first year of the C4 launch. The 1984 model was built in the thick of the Roger Smith era. There were very few good GM vehicles made during that time, with the most expensive models often getting shot and neutered quality wise well before they left the factory floor.
I’m willing to bet that Corvette at the used car lot was worth more dead than alive. By the time you see these vehicles at the auctions and the car lots,  they have suffered years of neglect.
It’s sad because, at least to me, that generation of the Corvette may truly be one of the most beautiful vehicles of that time period. They were gorgeous. But I never would want to keep one, or recommend it to someone who wants a sports car worth keeping.
The flip side of the coin is that the newer C6 Corvettes tend to be pretty reliable. I mentioned this in a recent Yahoo! Autos article, and if I were in the market for a used sports car, a C6 Corvette would definitely be a  top pick.
Old sports cars that had quality issues are now, just old crappy cars. A lot of 10 year old family cars will go faster than that 1984 Corvette without the quality control issues issues that come with a Reagan era ride.  Speed is often times a given in this day and age, and with America’s aging population, sporty two door cars are just not as in demand as they were back when the C4 was first released.
There is one big plus to the used Corvette marketplace that is shared with other niche vehicles such as the Mazda MX-5 and the Jeep Wrangler. 
They are usually not daily drivers. Most of these vehicles spend their time inside a garage and are used during weekends or whenever the owner gets that longing to enjoy their ride.  Corvettes tend to be lower mileage garage queens, and the powertrains are rarely stressed.
In the used car market, there is almost always a lot of them out there. Not because they aren’t worthy of ownership. It’s just that the demographics and long-term reliability of Corvettes have changed dramatically since the days of that 1984 Corvette. Today’s Corvettes are the sports car version of a cockroach. They can outlast their owners, along with most modern day bugs of the German variety.
Oh, and as for the C4 you saw, do yourself a big favor and don’t look back. I have yet to see one from the 80’s that didn’t drive like a bucket of bolts.

 

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MG Motor Considering Roadster, US Market In Long-Term Plans http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/mg-motor-considering-roadster-us-market-in-long-term-plans/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2014/05/mg-motor-considering-roadster-us-market-in-long-term-plans/#comments Tue, 27 May 2014 13:00:51 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=832922 The last time MG sold roadsters in the United States, Jimmy Carter was President, ABSCAM (minus the efforts of Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper) entered its final phase, and CNN had newsreaders instead of “news VJs.” Should the Sino-British brand be able to assemble a roadster worthy of those 1960s and 1970s classics, […]

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The last time MG sold roadsters in the United States, Jimmy Carter was President, ABSCAM (minus the efforts of Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper) entered its final phase, and CNN had newsreaders instead of “news VJs.” Should the Sino-British brand be able to assemble a roadster worthy of those 1960s and 1970s classics, however, a new MGB might board a container ship bound for the U.S. in the future.

Edmunds reports exploratory design work for a sports car under the MG name has been placed on the 2014 schedule book in SAIC’s Shanghai design studio, with one of the possibly proposals being a roadster such as those in the brand’s history, as well as the spiritual successor found in the Mazda MX-5 Miata. The starting point for whatever is drawn up is the 2012 MG Icon concept.

In the meantime, MG Motor is looking to design and produce a wider mainstream collection, with design and engineering split between Shanghai and Birmingham, England. Eventually, this could lead to a return to the U.S. market, which is considered a long-term goal for the brand and its owner.

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BMW and Toyota Will Jointly Develop Sports Car Platform. New Supra to Result? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/bmw-and-toyota-will-jointly-develop-sports-car-platform-new-supra-to-result/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/12/bmw-and-toyota-will-jointly-develop-sports-car-platform-new-supra-to-result/#comments Tue, 31 Dec 2013 11:30:00 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=690274 We already knew that Fiat and Mazda are jointly developing s sports car platform, Now, BMW’s development chief Herbert Diess told a German newspaper that the German automaker and Toyota will jointly develop and share a new platform for sports cars. “We have agreed on a joint architecture for a sports car. What is important […]

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We already knew that Fiat and Mazda are jointly developing s sports car platform, Now, BMW’s development chief Herbert Diess told a German newspaper that the German automaker and Toyota will jointly develop and share a new platform for sports cars. “We have agreed on a joint architecture for a sports car. What is important is that there will be two different vehicles that are authentic to the two brands,” the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung quoted Diess as saying.

In June of 2012, BMW and Toyota signed a technology agreement covering cooperation on lithium-air batteries and lightweight technology. At the time the two companies said that they were looking into the possibility of creating a joint platform for an all new midsize sports car. That feasibility study was expected to be completed by the end of 2013. We’re at the end of 2013 and based on Diess’ comments, the study likely said that it’s feasible.

The newspaper said that Diess declined to provide details on specific models that would come to fruition from the agreement.

That hasn’t stopped speculation. Based on comments made in August by Toyota’s chief engineer of the GT86/FR-S sports car shared with Subaru, Tatsuya Tada, many think that Toyota’s share of the tie up with BMW will be a successor to the Supra. There are rumors that Toyota will reveal the next Supra at the big North American International Auto Show in Detroit next month.

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Derek And Doug’s Fantastic Crap Wagons: Mitsubishi 3000GT/Dodge Stealth http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/derek-and-dougs-fantastic-crap-wagons-mitsubishi-3000gtdodge-stealth/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/derek-and-dougs-fantastic-crap-wagons-mitsubishi-3000gtdodge-stealth/#comments Fri, 31 May 2013 14:55:31 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=490100 Doug writes: Ah, the 3000GT: possibly the car that’s most commonly believed not to be front-wheel drive, even though it is.  That’s an accolade it shares with the 1997-2003 Audi A8, by the way.  And while both cars offered all-wheel drive versions, you’d never know the 3000GT did by looking at Atlanta Craigslist. Indeed, nearly […]

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Doug writes:

Ah, the 3000GT: possibly the car that’s most commonly believed not to be front-wheel drive, even though it is.  That’s an accolade it shares with the 1997-2003 Audi A8, by the way.  And while both cars offered all-wheel drive versions, you’d never know the 3000GT did by looking at Atlanta Craigslist.

Indeed, nearly every 3000GT on Atlanta Craigslist is either a base model (161 horsepower – honestly) or an SL.  The SL had 222 horses, but it was still no trackday monster since it weighed about as much as Skylab.  (Not to mention the aforementioned front-wheel drive issue.)

All the 3000GTs on Atlanta Craigslist are also in tough shape – and by “tough shape” I either mean “needs work” or “automatic.”  This 1994 model is both, offering both the four-speed auto and a wide variety of inexplicable graphics down the side.  It’s only $1,000, but the ad says it “does not run.”  Mileage is unlisted.

That one’s the low end of the spectrum.  The high end is this ’97 model with the five-speed stick and only 87,500 miles, priced at $8,500.  The catch: it’s still the SL, it still heavy and front-wheel drive, and – most importantly – it isn’t red.  And red, ladies and gentlemen, is crucial to the 3000GT ownership experience.

It’s the same story in the world of Dodge Stealth, the 3000GT’s heavily aged mechanical twin.  Don’t be fooled if an ad says it’s the “R/T” model: that designation doesn’t mean all-wheel drive or twin turbos.  To get that, you have to upgrade to the R/T Turbo, of which there’s only one on Atlanta craigslist: this car.

I’m not much for modifying, but this thing looks pretty good.  Only 60,000 miles, brand new clutch, well maintained, and clearly owned by an enthusiast, and only $8,500.  But wait!  What’s that I see in the background?  Are those… palm trees?  Ah, yes: the car is wearing Puerto Rico plates.  So it’s $8,500 plus shipping, and the owner’s manual will be in Spanish.

The 3000GT/Stealth crop isn’t very desirable, sadly – and that’s true even if you go on pay sites like AutoTrader.com.  The nice cars that are out there command big asking prices.  And if there’s such a thing as a 3000GT/Stealth enthusiast, they probably get them.  Assuming, of course, they have all-wheel drive and two turbos.

Derek writes:

Skyline. Supra. The Z-Car. RX-7. NSX. These are the Japanese sports cars that will forever live on in the hearts and minds of enthusiasts, no matter how many times they’re killed off and resurrected. The Mitsubishi 3000GT and Dodge Stealth never made it that far.

I have a vivid memory of the mid-1990s magazine ads showing the 3000GT VR- Spyder with its folding hardtop in motion. I had never seen  anything like that before, and I wouldn’t until Mercedes-Benz debuted the SLK. Turns out nobody really wanted to pay $57,449 for a Mitsubishi, no matter how much the roof looked like a ’59 Galaxie.

Mitsubishi didn’t sell cars in Canada until the late 1990’s, but there seems to be a decent supply of 3000GTs in the Toronto area. There are no Spyders for sale locally, but there are VR-4 models with all-wheel drive, twin-turbo powertrains and 4000 lb curb weights. This 1992 model has less than 100,000 miles for just $6,800 and it’s an honest-to-goodness VR-4.

If an American car is too common, how about a real Japanese domestic market car, with right-hand drive, some careful engine modifications and a horrendous bodykit? These cars were sold as the “Mitsubishi GTO” in Japan, and obviously, a name change was required for North American sales.

Still hankering after a droptop? Well there is one alternative. It’s a Dodge Stealth, and there’s no folding hard top. I know you’re probably thinking “there was no Dodge Stealth convertible, who the hell is this know-nothing kid and what did they do with Niedermeyer?” but someone apparently went to the trouble of having a coach-built convertible conversion done to a Stealth. The lone flaw I can see is that it’s an automatic. The yellow-painted valve covers and the cornball chrome wheels are, in my opinion, the perfect amount of 1990’s kitsch that can let you get away with driving this car ironically. Or, look at it this way: it’s the same price as a base Elantra and only marginally faster.

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The Best Dash Cam Footage: Sebring 1965 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/the-best-dash-cam-footage-sebring-1965/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/04/the-best-dash-cam-footage-sebring-1965/#comments Sat, 20 Apr 2013 17:04:16 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=485649 Since the Mosport footage was so well received  here’s another one from the archives. Sebring, 1965, with some very crude dash cam-style action.

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Click here to view the embedded video.

Since the Mosport footage was so well received  here’s another one from the archives. Sebring, 1965, with some very crude dash cam-style action.

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Remember When Japanese Cars Were REALLY Cool? http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/remember-when-japanese-cars-were-really-cool/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/03/remember-when-japanese-cars-were-really-cool/#comments Wed, 20 Mar 2013 15:10:20 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=481756 Times are tough if you’re into Japanese cars. The sportiest Honda is a hybrid with 15-inch wheels. The coolest Toyota is a Subaru with 150 pound-feet of torque, while the fastest Toyota is a horse race between a three-row SUV and the Camry. And, despite the efforts of the American car-buying public, Mitsubishi still exists. […]

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Times are tough if you’re into Japanese cars. The sportiest Honda is a hybrid with 15-inch wheels. The coolest Toyota is a Subaru with 150 pound-feet of torque, while the fastest Toyota is a horse race between a three-row SUV and the Camry. And, despite the efforts of the American car-buying public, Mitsubishi still exists.

Sure, there are some bright spots. The Impreza WRX, for example, is still cool, despite Subaru’s attempts to make it look like a hood-scooped version of every other compact car. And the Nissan GT-R is awesome, even though experts like automotive journalists and Porsche employees will tell you it lacks “soul.” But there was a time not so long ago when there were more than just a handful of cool Japanese cars.

To the Past!

To get there, we have to go back to the mid-1990s, an era which included societal bright spots like AOL chat rooms and Tickle-Me Elmo. (Who, despite all the jokes, leads an enviable life considering how happy he gets by simply being tickled.)

Back then, the state of the automotive industry was depressing. AMG primarily existed in the form of a powerful C-Class with a slow-witted automatic transmission. The BMW M3 was hilariously underpowered and dramatically overpriced, which earned it rave reviews from Road & Track. And the Ford Mustang had panel gaps larger than the human birth canal.

In other words, it was just like today.

There was, however, one major difference: every single Japanese automaker built a sports car that was beautiful, powerful and desirable.

The Cars

When I say “every Japanese automaker,” I’m not exaggerating. The only Japanese brand to sit out the mid-‘90s sports car fun was Suzuki. Instead, Suzuki focused its efforts on the two-door X-90 SUV, which was launched in purple and had T-tops. Really, it’s a wonder they’re not still around.

The most memorable ‘90s sports car was, of course, the Acura NSX. Mid-engined and gorgeous, the NSX was Honda’s only entrant into the ‘90s Japanese sports car game. The Honda brand instead took its usual “wait and see” approach, which led to the late arrival of the S2000. A similar strategy brought the 2003 Pilot to market about twelve years after the Ford Explorer went on sale.

The most beautiful ‘90s Japanese sports car was the Mazda RX-7, which may actually be the pinnacle of automotive design. If you don’t hear this car talked about today, it’s because you don’t know the lingo: the ’93-’95 RX-7 is now referred to solely as the “FD” by kids with flat-brimmed baseball caps whose only driving experience comes in their mom’s Ford Windstar.

Nissan’s ‘90s Japanese sports car was the 300ZX, which they wisely decided not to call an Infiniti despite its near-$40,000 MSRP. While there was a 320-horsepower twin turbo model, available T-tops, and even a 2+2 variant, I think we can all agree the high point was that commercial where GI Joe picks up Barbie in a scale model to the tune of Van Halen’s “You Really Got Me.”

Even Toyota entered the ‘90s sports car world, debuting the beautiful “Mark Four” Supra for the 1993 model year. Base models used a 220-horsepower six-cylinder, but the Supra Turbo was the one to have thanks to 320 horsepower and 315 pound-feet of torque. Although Supra production ended in 1998, Toyota has mentioned the possibility of a successor at every single auto show since.

Of course, no discussion of mid-‘90s Japanese sports cars would be complete without mentioning the Mitsubishi 3000GT, which shared its platform with the Dodge Stealth and its curb weight with a Gulf Coast oil rig. Base versions of the 3000GT were front-wheel drive, while the turbocharged VR4 powered all four wheels. Bizarrely, a hardtop convertible was also manufactured and sold new for – I swear this is true – nearly $70,000. Somehow, this is the same company that made the Endeavor.

Subaru brought up the rear of this segment with a wedge-shaped sports car called the SVX. With a naturally-aspirated flat-six, the SVX was low on power – a problem Subaru attempted to remedy with an excess of windows. Interestingly, this didn’t help, and neither did the ensuing transmission problems that dogged virtually every car.

What Happened?

For one, each car had a weak spot. The NSX, for instance, used a DOHC version of the Acura Legend’s V6. This didn’t sway Ferrari buyers who were accustomed to high-revving V8s. The last-generation Supra was way too expensive, and – in addition to its curb weight – the 3000GT suffered from the pitfalls of a cash-strapped Mitsubishi. As for the RX-7, we all know about its apex seals, which sounds kind of like a racing team started by a sea lion.

Of course, those are relatively minor quibbles. The real reason Japan’s sports cars died is because we, the consumer, didn’t want them. After years of buying Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs, America turned its back on the Japanese challengers, issuing a loud and clear message to Japan: We don’t want your fun cars. We want your dull, three-box sedans.

And we’ve been stuck with them ever since.

Doug DeMuro operates PlaysWithCars.com. He’s owned an E63 AMG wagon, road-tripped across the US in a Lotus without air conditioning, and posted a six-minute lap time on the Circuit de Monaco in a rented Ford Fiesta. One year after becoming Porsche Cars North America’s youngest manager, he quit to become a writer. His parents are very disappointed.

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Automobile Magazine’s Must-Read Essay On The Future Of Lotus http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/automobile-magazine-essay-on-lotus/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/11/automobile-magazine-essay-on-lotus/#comments Thu, 01 Nov 2012 17:30:09 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=465611 Ben Oliver’s essay in Automobile Magazine might be the best one I’ve read on Lotus and their existential predicament. While my own pieces are full of vitriol and cursing, Ben’s eloquent prose outlines the brand’s biggest problem; lacking the necessary volumes, they need to take advantage of economies of scale and high margins to survive […]

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Ben Oliver’s essay in Automobile Magazine might be the best one I’ve read on Lotus and their existential predicament. While my own pieces are full of vitriol and cursing, Ben’s eloquent prose outlines the brand’s biggest problem; lacking the necessary volumes, they need to take advantage of economies of scale and high margins to survive as an auto maker. Sports cars that compete in the Porsche Cayman’s price range and performance envelope aren’t popular with buyers nor do they generate the volumes or profits necessary to keep an independent sports car maker afloat. The proposed option, a series of high-end sports cars built off a modular platform (similar to the Lotus-derived Aston Martin VH architecture) was met with little fanfare. The economic principles were sound, but the proposal alienated the faithful. Over to you, Best & Brightest.

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The Hurricane Diaries: Storm Ruins The Rotary http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/the-hurricane-diaries-irene-ruins-the-rotary/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/the-hurricane-diaries-irene-ruins-the-rotary/#comments Wed, 31 Oct 2012 13:00:50 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=465387 When Hurricane Irene hit New York last August, it caught the entire Northeast off its game. Natural disasters are anathema to the bustling lifestyle of a city, and an abeyance to the flowing blood and tears on which it runs. Public transportation grinds to a halt. Supermarkets are depleted of supplies just as quickly as […]

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When Hurricane Irene hit New York last August, it caught the entire Northeast off its game. Natural disasters are anathema to the bustling lifestyle of a city, and an abeyance to the flowing blood and tears on which it runs. Public transportation grinds to a halt. Supermarkets are depleted of supplies just as quickly as they are flooded by frantic consumers. Cabin fever hits apartment-dwellers staggeringly hard, creating microcosms of Stockholm syndrome in between the floorboards.

And we were all pretty prepared for Irene’s potentially devastating effects. With the memory of Hurricane Katrina looming large in the background, New York’s five boroughs shut down in advance of the foreboding deluge. With no subways running and airplanes grounded indefinitely, the impending storm offered a moment of precarious contemplation. Cue the end-of-the-world music, and wait for the rain to begin to drip from your balcony-cum-fire escape. Most people obeyed, and spent the following 24 hours indoors, dry and away from the mess.

But what about the automotive journalists, whose collective livelihood depends on gratuitous burnouts in the parking lot of the grocery store? We are a stubborn and contumacious bunch. Nothing is allowed to get in the way of our mandate to drive, report, and decide — hurricanes included. Few people are aware of the asterisked clause in Murphy’s law that applies directly to professional drivers: On the week that you are scheduled for a high-performance machine, disaster will surely cut short your fun.

I tried to trick the forces of nature by booking a two-day trip to Los Angeles right before the storm began. I was scheduled that week to drive one of the last Mazda RX-8s in the Northeast press fleet, for a column I used to write about cars not sold in the Middle East. I planned to drive the RX-8 for the first five days and simply garage it for the storm.

Then came the email that my flight was canceled, and L.A. was on hold. The sweet, rip-roaring, Wankel-engined powerhouse was sitting patiently outside while I retooled. Irene’s approach was definite, though dubious in timing. Hours after the New York Daily News and others predicted the worst, a drop of rain had yet to fall. If rain was slated to come down in Noahide proportions, time still remained. I flirted with the idea of using the RX-8 to execute a heroic story of rescue: “Rotary to the Rescue,” in which the mighty Mazda would outrun the 110-mph storm winds on a quick jaunt to Washington D.C. I had all but reserved a night at a red-roofed, lit-up motel, when it began to rain. The Mazda and I retreated to the safe, high ground of family outside the city for the night.

It rained, and it rained hard. New York sat silently, and no one dared leave the security of their own dwellings. Even the deliverymen, who represent an unstoppable force of nature known only to the First World, parked their electric bicycles. Like all storms, Irene left a path of devastation in her wake as the city slept, cutting power and blowing down shelter. Luck was on my side, and my home lost no power and was only barely affected.

Curiously, I set out the next morning toward familiar haunts, which were all closed. No bagels. No coffee. There were newspapers, but they told a story I wasn’t believing. Was New York City really knocked out and powerless? Against much caution, protest, and warning, I fired up the RX-8 and drove back in.

It was as close to starring in an end-of-the-world movie if I’ve ever tried. The outermost lanes on the parkways smelled dank from the stagnant floodwater. I decided to take the western approach, along the Henry Hudson Parkway, to observe the view along the Palisades and confirm that the superstructure of the George Washington Bridge was still standing.

The road was eerily quiet. For the first time in my life that I could remember, I saw not a single other car on the road. The toll takers at the Henry Hudson Bridge saw my sinuous, red RX-8 pull up and nodded quietly as I handed over the fare. As I changed for first gear, I noticed the road ahead littered with leaves, but little debris or moisture. I awkwardly adhered to the 50 mph speed limit, anticipating a blocked entrance to the city that would forestall my effort to survey the city.

The approach to Manhattan, through the Bronx, was transformational and empty. I lowered the windows and let the RX-8 howl and scream its way to the 9000-rpm redline. On any other day, an empty stretch of highway would entice reckless hoonage. I felt cosseted by the Mazda’s telepathic steering and unflappable chassis, and refused to try anything funny — though, like a superhero babysitter, I knew the RX-8 would ultimately save me, should I err. Unlike a Miata, which prides itself on unflappability on the track but feels light enough to be swept away by a hurricane-scale wind, the RX-8 remained solidly planted.

The Upper West Side was still when I began to make my way southeast through a maze of streets. I picked up a friend — who often joined me on press car adventures — who dared to bravely prowl the city streets with me in the RX-8. Our discussions, which usually centered around the car itself, turned to the motionless city. Suddenly, I had no taxis to pass, or pedestrians to gently warn with my horn. Humankind was hibernating.

We made it from 96th Street to Lincoln Center in a matter of minutes, and hit Union Square just shortly after. The city became my playground, and offered multiple, consecutive excuses to spool up the engine at the stoplights to hear the engine roar. I threw concerns of single-digit fuel economy, and the toils of owning an RX-8, to the omnipresent wind. It was the day before the day after tomorrow, and I was riding out the storm in the most noble way possible.

I turned on the radio to learn that the brunt of the devastation had hit the lowest-lying areas of Brooklyn. I dropped my passenger off at her apartment and considered proceeding out there just to see if anything had really happened. I looked in the rear-view mirror and saw a mother and two children leaving their apartment for the first time in what appeared to be days.

My mission, though ill-defined and questionably executed, was complete. When all else grinds to a halt, I firmly believe in the saving power of the automobile. What I had planned as a review of the last of Mazda’s rotary-engined halo car had taken on new meaning, before the RX-8 itself rode off into the distance, with no plans to return. It would be a suitably excellent car with which to spend the final hours of the ending of the world.

Mazda provided the RX-8, insurance, and a tank of fuel with no prior knowledge that a hurricane would curtail plans for a full review
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Capsule Review: 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/capsule-review-2013-ford-shelby-gt500/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/10/capsule-review-2013-ford-shelby-gt500/#comments Tue, 30 Oct 2012 12:00:39 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=454584 Jackie is the first girl to fawn over the Shelby GT500 once it’s in my hands. Hadn’t expected that; make no mistake, it is a dude magnet without exception and the double-X-chromosome crowd usually goes for something cuter. Jackie appears to be the exception, so far. She’ll tell you she’s a bit of a tomboy. […]

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Jackie is the first girl to fawn over the Shelby GT500 once it’s in my hands. Hadn’t expected that; make no mistake, it is a dude magnet without exception and the double-X-chromosome crowd usually goes for something cuter. Jackie appears to be the exception, so far. She’ll tell you she’s a bit of a tomboy. She likes cars, long boarding, and gangsta rap. Tonight, she’s traded her usual, Ralph Lauren-catalog attire (not-so-snug pants, a button up men’s dress shirt) for a dress that can only be described as one yard of Tensor Bandage that somehow made its way out of the factory with a muted floral print.

I’m hardly complaining, though it’s clear that she’s not used to wearing this kind of garment. I tell myself that it’s all because of my strong jawline, cleft chin and thick, flowing locks, but that’s a yarn of self-deception long enough to knit Jackie a twin to the sweater I’m glad she left at home.

It’s the car.

Jackie is comfortable looking at brake calipers and superchargers, but the dress is fighting her attempts to check out the machinery tonight. “Turn around,” she tells me, “I don’t want you to see me adjusting my underwear”.

“That dress is ridiculous.” I’m trying really hard to do the gentlemanly thing and focus on the car.

A pause. I’m facing away from her, but I can imagine her eyes running along the length of the racing stripes that trace the Shelby’s sillhouette. The car isn’t running, but I can hear the crackling and pinging of the cooling drivetrain against the humid, lifeless air of the August night.

“Not as ridiculous as the car,” she replies. “How fast did you say it is?”

Five point eight liters. Six hundred and sixty-two horsepower. There’s not much out there that’s more powerful than the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500. The Lamborghini Aventador. The Ferrari FF. Maybe one or two megabuck hypercars that will be gobbled up by our BRIC-nation overlords.

Jackie and I will not go much faster tonight than we just did. A quick blast into “lose your license” territory occurs in 3rd gear at around 3000 RPM – there is still so much power left on the table, I feel…impotent. “That did not feel like [exact speed redacted],” Jackie says, with the sort of contempt usually reserved for a prom night that’s come to a premature conclusion.

In 2012, where “green” is our secular religion, “carbon emissions” are a mortal sin and we worship at the altar of sustainability while flagellating ourselves about everything from our consumption habits to our role in the world, it truly is a miracle, in the most theistic sense of the word, that this car exists. A supercharged V8, a 6-speed gearbox, a 200 mph top speed, 10 mpg in town and an aesthetic so jingoistic it would make even the most ardent soaring-eagles-America-firster wonder if it needs toning down. If President Obama is forever identified with the Chevrolet Volt, then this car is Pat Buchanan’s likely chariot, a swift exit from the Nixon Administration into the severe right wing with all cylinders firing seven thousand times a minute. And yet, somehow, somewhere at Ford World Headquarters, someone approved this for production.

And still, it is thoroughly modern. A trip to Mosport, 60 miles away on the freeway, in 6th gear at 80 mph with the A/C blasting, returned 25 mpg. I played my music through my iPod via the dreadful touch-screen SYNC system (which I am unapologetic in declaring it to be the bastard spawn of Satan. It is awful, always has been, always will be, and it never, ever works for me). The 2013 model is an enormous improvement over the last one I drove, a 2011 that made “only” 550 horsepower. Despite being down over 100 horsepower over the 2013 GT500, that car was an absolute bastard to drive. As I wrote back in 2010

The new car leaves it in the dust. The 2013 Shelby doesn’t pop its booty sideways like the old car did. The new tires and improved traction control see to that. It just gallops forward while the exhaust bellows like a scalded silverback gorilla. There’s not even any audible supercharger noise. But what the hell am I supposed to do with it? Giving me the keys to this car is like Ford asking me to come shoot tin cans in their back yard, with the stipulation that I can only use a Stinger missle to knock them down. It is so powerful in any gear that anyone that needs to be passed is just vaporized by the omnipotent V8.

And this is ultimately what makes the Shelby GT500 so compelling, especially to “the generation that doesn’t care about cars”. The performance is astounding but irrelevant. The styling can be had on a $22,000 Mustang V6. A better drive can arguably be had with a Boss 302. But nowhere else can you give such a middle finger to the zeitgiest. It doesn’t want to check in via Foursquare at the Mexican-Korean fusion place. It doesn’t care about Car Free Sundays, or dubstep music or the newest celebrity chef. Exploding away from a stop light, hanging out the window, with a cigarette between our lips, without fear of the cops, or fear of another day of indentured servitude unpaid internships, or having to compose a response to the latest text message from our significant other. Morals are relative, the middle class is shrinking, God is dead, our lives are lived in public, and a small part of us yearns for an era we never knew, where marriage, 2.5 kids, and a mortgage was not only attainable, but attained early.  We’ve never had more freedom or opportunities, but we still find ourselves yearning for a past era, where things weren’t as fluid or permissive; it’s why we throw “Mad Men” themed dress-up parties where the guys get a free pass to make misogynistic remarks, pinch the girls’ rears and watch them giggle with guilty glee as they hand out baked treats and push feminism into the attics of their psyche.

The orgiastic past may recede before us, but this car – our one link to that bygone epoch – keeps getting better and better.

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Suspension Truth #1: Planes, Trains and Automobiles – The Psychology of Suspension Tuning http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/suspension-truth-1-planes-trains-and-automobiles-the-psychology-of-suspension-tuning/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/08/suspension-truth-1-planes-trains-and-automobiles-the-psychology-of-suspension-tuning/#comments Fri, 24 Aug 2012 16:11:53 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=457801 Our newest segment, “Suspension Truth”, comes to us courtesy of Shaikh J Ahmad.  An engineer by training, Shaikh is the owner of Fat Cat Motorsports, and a self-styled “Suspension Wizard”. Shaikh creates custom suspension components for a variety of cars, including the Mazda Miata and RX-8, the Nissan 350Z, Mini Cooper and Honda S2000. Back […]

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Our newest segment, “Suspension Truth”, comes to us courtesy of Shaikh J Ahmad.  An engineer by training, Shaikh is the owner of Fat Cat Motorsports, and a self-styled “Suspension Wizard”. Shaikh creates custom suspension components for a variety of cars, including the Mazda Miata and RX-8, the Nissan 350Z, Mini Cooper and Honda S2000. Back when I had my 1997 Miata, I ordered a set of coilovers from Shaikh, based on his reputation for creating suspension setups with a previously unheard of balance between ride and handling. The Fat Cat coilovers are one of the few products I’ve ever bought that were able to live up to the hype. Over the next few weeks, Shaikh will delve into the science of suspensions, and provide his own analysis of a number of production cars.

What’s your least memorable train ride? Simple question, right? If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume all of them. Unless a screenwriter threw you into an adventure film without your consent, it’s what we’d expect. This brings to mind a popular driving metaphor – ‘handles like it’s on rails.’ That’s our ideal in suspension tuning, to be glued to the ground and also as comfortable as possible. Easy when you’ve controlled every degree of freedom as with a train track and groomed earth beneath.

But what about your least memorable plane flight? Again, I’d hope most of them. How about the most memorable one – turbulence anyone?  Whether chop, CAT, or simply bumpy air, turbulence can be annoying, as in delayed beverage service, or utterly terrifying. The unpredictable, jerky movements of an airplane caught in Mother Nature’s fury sharply draws your attention to the immediate environment. You aren’t relaxed anymore, thinking about the miles of air between you and the ground. You have to trust in your pilot, crew and the plane itself to handle the situation, working in harmony to return you safely back to Earth.

In between these extremes is the spectrum of what an automobile suspension can offer.  As a driving enthusiast and amateur racer in my 20s, I only wanted suspensions that made my car handle better and go faster. Comfort was secondary and in fact I believed (as many do) that to be fast you must be uncomfortable. Ah, brainwashing by race companies and the follies of youth! Having trusted marketing hype from both automakers and aftermarket companies, I’ve come to see patterns in the past 15 years of my pursuit of Suspension Perfection. Ultimate speed and ultimate comfort. How are they linked, if at all? Can I make my trip to the race car unmemorably smooth and also have razor-sharp handling for a backroad jaunt, autocross run, track session or hill climb? What about safety, responsiveness and predictability?

Any automaker has to fulfill the task of keeping a vehicle on the road. They can do it in a bare-bones fashion, like a budget economy car that doesn’t inspire much confidence but gets you from point A to B. At the very high end, we have the Holy Grail: a buttery-smooth ride with incredible handling. Normally you pay superlative prices (Aston Martin, Ferrari, etc) for this achievement, but I’ve found that cost has very little to do with making an exceptional suspension. You need to understand the designer’s mandate, see if that matches your needs, then choose components (or a vehicle itself) that deliver. But we don’t get handled a personality test results for a Honda Civic, Toyota Camry or Porsche 911 Carrera. We have some bias based on past experience, what we’ve read, felt or been led to believe. But what really goes on in that murky black magic area of suspension design? By starting with an examination of the psychology behind a vehicle, why it exists, we can understand certain design choices then make targeted improvements to a production-based road car to the point it feels truly amazing.

Please note, this kind of suspension harmony matters whether one get groceries or chases championships. It’s been a fascinating process of discovering the truth of how grip produces both great ride and handling both. For a street-driven passenger car, how the suspension deals with the road, mile after mile, creates a somatic experience that can promote either ease or dis-ease. I’d rather see a driver smiling and relaxed after a trip than stressed and hurting. A relaxed (not numb), in-control driver is a safer driver and a happier human being. There’s also a very important somatic experience to the race car driver, who needs to have hyper-confidence in their machine’s responsiveness to dance it on the edge of adhesion.

One video in particular was very illuminating to me. It was of a journalist who had a chance to drive a few laps in a Formula 1 car. Once the lengthy process of preparing him for the experience was complete (simplified as it was in his not-very-physically-fit case), he took his laps, whooping the whole way through. Once he stopped the other reporters asked a seemingly rhetorical question ‘you just drove a Formula car! Wasn’t it really harsh?’ to which our lucky journalist gives a surprising answer: “No, in fact it was quite smooth once you were up to speed!”

Is it that really all that surprising to hear this truth? To give a driver confidence and ultimate speed, the proper suspension has to keep the tires in contact with the road. What’s good for the rather-soft tires (imagine driving around on a partially cooked egg) is good for the very soft driver.  Going stiffer than is necessary robs grip and induces more discomfort. The just-stiff-enough setup will reward the aggressive, competitive or racing driver in many ways.

We’ll continue our explorations next time with a topic that is even more subtle – what does it mean to have a “Sport Suspension” and do you really want one?

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Lotus Pulls Out Of Paris Auto Show http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/lotus-pulls-out-of-paris-auto-show/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/lotus-pulls-out-of-paris-auto-show/#comments Sun, 15 Jul 2012 18:21:21 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=452802 Two years after Lotus presented a grandiose, multi-car lineup at the 2010 Paris Auto Show, the company will not be participating in this years festivities at the Porte De Versailles. The absence of Lotus at the Paris show isn’t necessarily a sign of their downfall in the post-Bahar era. Lotus put on a large exhibit […]

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Two years after Lotus presented a grandiose, multi-car lineup at the 2010 Paris Auto Show, the company will not be participating in this years festivities at the Porte De Versailles.

The absence of Lotus at the Paris show isn’t necessarily a sign of their downfall in the post-Bahar era. Lotus put on a large exhibit at the Goodwood Festival of Speed – Britain’s de facto national motor show, now that the London show is gone – with vehicles from their past, present and future.

Lotus is going to be evaluating their direction in the coming months, now that Dany Bahar is gone. The six car lineup may not survive intact, but there are elements worth saving. A resurgence at, say, the Shanghai Auto Show wouldn’t be out of the question.

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Scion FR-S Sells Well, But It’s Early http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/scion-fr-s-sells-well-but-its-early/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/scion-fr-s-sells-well-but-its-early/#comments Fri, 06 Jul 2012 16:55:22 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=451602 So often we hear analysts and fans excuse a car’s poor initial sales performance with a phrase like, “But it’s early.” Oddly, the very same phrase is legitimately used when discussing a new car’s surprisingly successful first month. In just its second month on sale, in just its first full month on sale, the Scion […]

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So often we hear analysts and fans excuse a car’s poor initial sales performance with a phrase like, “But it’s early.” Oddly, the very same phrase is legitimately used when discussing a new car’s surprisingly successful first month. In just its second month on sale, in just its first full month on sale, the Scion FR-S did not sell poorly.

Rarely has a car generated such an avid fan base before any independent testing had been completed. In a market that’s been starved by the disappearance of the Toyota Celica, Acura Integra, Honda Prelude, and Mazda RX-8; insulted by the long hiatus of Ford’s performance-oriented Focus; and offended by the weight gain of Mitsubishi’s Eclipse, a lightweight rear-wheel-drive sports car is a gift at $25,000.

Not that they’re direct rivals, but so-called sports sedans like the Volvo S60, Lexus IS, Acura TSX did not sell as frequently as the Scion last month. Mini’s best-selling variant, the Cooper and Cooper S hardtop, sold 2601 times in June. Volkswagen sold 1508 GTI hatchbacks plus 447 copies of the Golf R. Subaru Impreza WRX sales jumped 72% to 1138. Scion tC sales climbed 4% to 2128. The rear-wheel drive BMW 1-Series found 701 buyers. Sales of the Mazda MX-5 Miata improved 30% to 659. Honda CR-Z sales slid 58% to 409 units. Besides the American muscle car trio, the Hyundai Genesis Coupe (numbers for which are folded into the Genesis’s 3374-unit total), and the curious Hyundai Veloster, 3232 of which were sold in June, the FR-S fared better than other sporting cars.

As the best-selling Scion in June, FR-S sales reached 2684 units. That’s 32% of Scion’s U.S. total. Incidentally, in its first Canadian sales month, the FR-S delivered 51% of Scion’s volume.

Would a potential FR-S buyer consider acquiring a Mustang instead? Regardless, sales of the Ford pony car surged to 10,263 in June. Chevrolet Camaro sales rose to 9123. Dodge sold 4009 Challengers, marking that car’s best ever June.

One car we know to be a direct rival of the FR-S is the virtually identical Subaru BRZ. 271 BRZs left dealers in May, another 818 in June. Subaru never intended the BRZ to be the comparatively high-volume car that Scion’s FR-S now clearly is.

But it’s early. And to quote another painful analyst phrase, “Only time will tell.”

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Mazda MX-5 Getting Refreshed Yet Again http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/mazda-mx-5-getting-refreshed-yet-again/ http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/07/mazda-mx-5-getting-refreshed-yet-again/#comments Mon, 02 Jul 2012 18:14:25 +0000 http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/?p=451011 Mazda will be refreshing the MX-5 for 2013, as they attempt to hold us over for the long-awaited “ND” Miata, due in a couple years, that will share a platform with the Alfa Romeo Spider. Although *some* uninformed enthusiasts claim that the current car is a heavier, uglier abomination not fit to carry on the […]

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Mazda will be refreshing the MX-5 for 2013, as they attempt to hold us over for the long-awaited “ND” Miata, due in a couple years, that will share a platform with the Alfa Romeo Spider.

Although *some* uninformed enthusiasts claim that the current car is a heavier, uglier abomination not fit to carry on the legacy of the MX-5, I couldn’t disagree more. The NC MX-5 is brilliant. Full stop. The only thing that puts me off is the goofy front fascia. Otherwise, it’s just about perfect, especially with the “dreaded” Power Retractable Hardtop. I would go so far as to say that it’s better in every single way than my beloved NA Miata, with no additional drawbacks.

The refresh is subtle, and helps diminish some of the “smiley face” character of the awful Nagare styling language, but as far as I’m concerned, it’s impossible enough to do away with that blight. The headlights, grill opening and air intakes are only slightly changed, but it does help. Even though the front is still ugly, I’d buy one over an FR-S. I suspect I’m not alone.

Thanks to The Car Lounge for the photos

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