Tag: Utility

By on July 21, 2017

Scion xB, Image: Toyota

If you’ve read enough of my writing, then you know that I am a fervent believer in what I call the power of the story. Human beings rarely interact directly with reality; instead, we use stories to interpret what we are seeing in a way that makes sense. It’s why we no longer fear thunder and why people will cheerfully take food prepared for them by strangers.

Few aspects of our existence are as relentlessly story-driven as our interactions with the automobile. Without the power of story, we would see automobiles as nothing but machines for accomplishing a particular task, be it a commute, a vacation, or an SCCA race — and we would judge them solely on their ability to accomplish that task. Trust me, if we all did that it would be absolutely ruinous for the automaker profit margins out there. Imagine picking a car the way you’d pick a dishwasher or, um, a power supply. You would quickly forget about intangibles and focus on fitness for purpose.

Over the past couple of decades, I’ve tried to shed my personal addiction to the automotive narrative and learn how to “understand the thing for itself,” as Marcus Aurelius wrote. This can lead to some surprising conclusions… and it looks like I’m not the only one who has acquired at least a little bit of this skill. Normally we wouldn’t do two Ask Jack columns in one week, but the fellow in this case says he’s going to make a choice this weekend, so let’s pull the trigger pronto and get right to the question.

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By on January 9, 2017

Audi Q8 Concept Front 3/4, Image: © 2017 Jeff Wilson/The Truth About Cars

As if to further the global agenda to kill off all sedans in favor of yet more SUVs, two of Audi’s three reveals at this year’s NAIAS were crossovers (the third was the new S5 Cabrio).

By 2015, the mid-size Q5 represented a quarter of Audi’s annual sales. It only stands to reason the Ingolstadt company has high hopes in its pursuit of another record year ahead. While not a volume leader, the pricier, high performance SQ5 nevertheless helps line the coffers at Audi.

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By on January 9, 2017

GMC Vice President Global Sales and Marketing Duncan Aldred introduces the 2018 Terrain and Terrain Denali Sunday, January 8, 2017, on the eve of the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Michigan. The compact SUV's shape was refined in the wind tunnel to ensure its new profile cuts through the air with optimal efficiency and quietness. The Terrain is available with three new turbocharged propulsion systems, including a new 1.6L turbo-diesel. The 2018 Terrain will go on sale this summer. (Photo by John F. Martin for GMC)

GMC rolled out a redesigned 2018 Terrain SUV at the North American Auto Show in Detroit, with the usual promises of added refinement, new electronic convenience and safety features, and greater versatility. But GMC also added one feature not commonly found in an SUV, particularly one of the non-behemoth variety: An available diesel engine.

The diesel Terrain gets a 137-horsepower 1.6-liter turbodiesel with 240 lb-ft of torque matched with a six-speed automatic transmission. Gasoline powertrains include a 170-hp 1.5-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and a 252-hp 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder, both with direct injection and paired with a nine-speed automatic.

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By on January 9, 2017

2017 Nissan Rogue Sport, Image: Nissan

You know it. Nissan knows it.

Consumers are fleeing cars in favor of high-riding crossovers. And the Rogue Sport is another one.

Despite the name, Nissan’s newest utility is less Rogue Jr. and more overseas transplant. Nissan America adapted the Qashqai, available in global markets since 2006, with a new name to meet North American tastes (though not in Canada, where it’ll still use its Turkic nomenclature). The renaming ensures we can pronounce it (and Nissan can preserve its Star Wars connection). More importantly, it hitches the new crossover to Nissan’s best selling nameplate.

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By on April 22, 2016

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE350, Image: © 2016 Steve Lynch/The Truth About Cars

Those of you who railed against Bark’s glowing review of the 2016 Ford Mustang convertible by claiming his “Ford bias” tainted his viewpoint might also think my yarn about this vehicle is spun in a similar vein. After all, I worked for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services for 17 years, and here I am reviewing my own Mercedes-Benz-subsidized retiree lease vehicle. How could I possibly be objective, you ask?

Before we find out, bear in mind that I’ve driven a total of over 60,000 miles in ten separate copies of the last generation ML350 and its variants, so I know this SUV’s predecessor inside and out.

Most changes made to the GLE are positive, but there are a couple glaring exceptions.

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By on December 30, 2015

Classic Bronco Year Unknown Two

Ford is bringing back the Bronco. This is not a fantasy. It is not a request. And although our friends in Dearborn are not ready to talk about it, we do not need their official confirmation to see why a genuine Bronco will be back in showrooms in as few as 24 months.

The return of the Bronco starts with the incredible emphasis Ford places on its leadership in trucks, which secured the company’s survival through the great recessions and have enabled Ford’s return to profitability. The Bronco may not be a truck, but its return is inextricably linked with the parallel stories of the returning Ranger and the evolution in SUV buying patterns.

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By on August 21, 2011

Few will be surprised to hear that Chrysler Group will end production of its Dakota compact pickup truck next Tuesday, as sales of all small-to-midsized pickups have cratered over the last decade. Indeed, the Detroit News reports that the end of Dakota production will result in the layoffs of only 39 employees, although that number may climb as high as 150. In any case, the end of Dakota production is just the tip of the iceberg: Ford’s Ranger goes out of production in December of this year, and GM’s Colorado/Canyon twins will be discontinued sometime next year. Though Dodge plans to bring a minivan-platform-based AWD “lifestyle pickup” to market as a 2014 model, and Chevy is planning to build a North American variant of its new Global Colorado for the 2015 model-year, we’re looking at a several-year interlude in which no American OEM will offer a small pickup in the US. And looking at this chart, you almost can’t blame them…
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