If you thought high gas prices and a questionable economy meant the era of big SUVs was over, you’d be wrong; 2011 saw large SUV sales in the US grow 3.7% with a 7.4% growth in the luxury SUV segment. If you are one of those people with six-figure salaries and snow-filled school runs, the Cadillac Escalade is probably on your short list. But what about the person who isn’t ready to look “gangsta” while dropping Jimmy Jr. off at softball practice? Infiniti might just have the answer: the all-new, all-enormous QX56. Michael Karesh snagged a QX56 from a dealer back in March 2011, and in December Infiniti tossed me the keys to a 7-seat QX to see what the behemoth is like to live with for a week.
Since its introduction, the Bentley Continental GT has been a fascinating lesson in how “luxury” operates. Fundamentally identical to the VW Phaeton, the Conti sold for twice as much — and did volumes between ten and thirty times what the uber-VW ever managed in the United States.
This platform is about to celebrate its tenth year in production. How do you revitalize it when there are plenty of $70,000 used Contis out there? Simple: you turn down the power.
I live in the country, well outside city limits in the septic tank/well/propane tank kind of area. Like many that live out where the blacktop ends, we have some farm animals, over a mile of fencing and a pasture in need of TLC. Since I’m a DINK and have a day job that has nothing to do with my animal husbandry, I’m apparently the perfect demographic for a luxury pickup. True to form, the last 5 times I shopped, I wanted a pickup truck. Badly. Every time it came time to put money down however, I ended up with a sedan, station wagon or SUV. Still, I’m not ashamed to admit my loins burn for a “cowboy Cadillac”, and now that my GMC Envoy has 140,000 miles on the clock it’s time for a 6,000lb tow-capable replacement. Since the HD pickup trucks are honestly overkill for the majority of us, I hit Ford up for an F-150 Platinum to see if I should take the plunge.
The Japanese are always worried about what the North Koreans have up their sleeve, but if the writing on the wall were legible, they would be more concerned about what’s going on in the south. If the 2009 Hyundai Genesis was a shot across the bow of Lexus and Infiniti, then the Genesis 5.0 R-spec may be a torpedo hit below the water, and speaking of which, even the Germans should take notice. Of course, we heard this before with the likes of the VW Phaeton, however that model tanked, so is the top-line Genesis biting off more than it can chew? Lets find out.
Sometimes I have troubles viewing Lexus with an objective eye. The first car that ever excited me was the 1993 Lexus LS400 my best friend’s dad bought. It wasn’t the driving experience that delivered the “wow” factor; it was the fact that everything inside seemed deliberately perfect from the leather seams, to the wood that wasn’t bubbling and peeling like a 2 year old Jag. In truth, the LS400, like most Lexus models, was a bit boring, but as this LS example has survived almost 20 years and 300,000 miles with an owner that doesn’t believe in regular maintenance, excitement is not the biggest selling point, but perhaps it should factor in there somewhere. We’ve heard it from Lexus before: wait! We have an exciting car this time! This year’s example: the 2013 GS. You’ve heard my comrade Jack’s take in part one, lets dive into part two. (Read More…)
If you ask a certain segment of the automotive press, it seems that BMW is rapidly losing the plot. While I agree that BMW’s latest wares are bigger, heavier and more leather-clad than ever before, I can’t say thing is a bad thing in my mind. I upset a few people when I reviewed the then-new 335is by saying “BMW is the new Mercedes”. I’m not sure why noses were “rankled”, but there seems to be a large segment of TTAC’s readership that believe BMW has abandoned “sport” for “luxury”. Maybe they are right; the M3 and M5 have been gaining weight an alarming pace and now we have the X5M and X6M, a pair of 5,400lb SUVs wearing full-on M badges. The burning question at TTAC is: should the guy responsible for designing it be committed? Or should the vehicle be put in a straight-jacket for being a totally insane machine?
Last Monday, we regaled you out with stories of Toyota coming to grips with the “new peak oil,” and other topics related to the growing gap (or lack thereof?) between global production and consumption oil. This week I’m feeling a little less apocalyptic, and little bit more indulgent. And really, why not celebrate those precious hydrocarbons while they’re still cheap and plentiful? This Mercedes SLS AMG Black Series may burn ‘em by the bushel, but it sure sounds good doing it. And though cars like the forthcoming 650 HP Shelby Mustang GT500 prove that performance is still alive in the 21st Century, high-revving, large-displacement, naturally-aspirated V8s like the AMG Black’s are going to be facing special challenges under future emissions standards. Which makes its gargling, chortling music all the sweeter to my ears…
Full-size high-end luxury convertibles that don’t have budget origins are not as common as you might think (or like). E-Class Cabrio? Too cheap. A5 Cabrio? Same problem. So if you’ve $90,000+ burning a hole in your pocket for a topless two-door what should you get? Obviously Astons and Bentleys are out of your price range in this down economy (we all must economize after all), and you have trouble justifying the stretch to the Maserati GranTurismo Convertible’s $132,000 base price, that leaves BMW and Jaguar to battle in this broom-closet sized market. Whatever is the almost-wealthy shopper to do? Let’s find out
Strongly feel that Porsche should stick to sports cars? Personally, I’m willing to cut Zuffenhausen a little slack. Sports car sales, with their boom-and-bust cycles, don’t provide a sound foundation for corporate financial health. A more reasonable test: does Porsche’s entry look and drive unlike any other, in a manner consistent with the marque? Though not pretty, the Panamera passed this test. And the Cayenne SUV?
My brother wasn’t the most adventurous member of the family. When we were kids he was always whining: “mommy I don’t wanna go in the hot air balloon”, “mommy, I don’t wanna ride the pony”. These memories came flooding back when I stepped out of a cute, light little Fiat 500 and into the high-beltline V6 Mustang. As the Mustang pulled up, my first thought was: mommy, I don’t wanna ride the pony. My problem with the Mustang V6 wasn’t the car itself, it was the driver: me. Maybe it’s because when I was a kid my Mustang was killed by the Mustang II. Maybe it was because the last 5.0 was really just a weak-sauce 4.9. Before I even got behind the wheel, I was asking myself: what is the point of the pony car? Is it just to look cool? Deliver easy burnouts? Why not buy something else? The new V6 ‘stang is headlined as the holy grail of RWD car shopping; 300+ HP, 30+ MPG or as I like to say: all the hoon, half the gas. Because of the hype I had to see for myself if the V6 pony car is the perfect RWD companion, or should if $22,000-32,000 would be better spent on something else. Let’s find out.
Last fall, the first tests of the new Chevy Caprice PPV, Dodge Charger Pursuit and Ford Taurus Interceptor generated quite a bit of interest here at TTAC and beyond, as three all-new contestants battled to replace the outgoing Crown Victoria as America’s cop car. At the time, the Caprice seemed like the clear performance favorite, but as Sajeev Mehta has pointed out, there’s more to the cop-car equation than pure speed. Although good luck trying to tell the Detroit Three that, as all three are cherry-picking performance stats in the wake of the latest round of Michigan State Police testing.
The Mercedes CL550 is one of the most exclusive Mercedes models sold on our side of the pond. With the highest base MSRP of any non-AMG product, and rarer on American roads than all but the boxy G-class and the incredibly rare SLS AMG, the CL plays in quite a different league than the S-class on which it is based. I am told that Ford sells more F150s in a day the CL’s yearly sales figure and judging by the number I see on the road, I am inclined to agree. The CL was separated from the S-Class line in 1998 to help aid in the exclusive reputation of the model. For those that wonder, CL supposedly stands for Comfort Leicht (or Comfort Light in my native tongue). The comfort is obvious (and mandatory at this price point), but “light” must truly be a relative term as the CL tips the scales at a biscuits-and-gravy fed 4,700lbs. Does this matter? Let’s find out.
Let’s face it, hybrids are boring. They are slow, complicated, come with hard tires and soft suspensions, sloppy handling, and they look weird. We’ve heard the story before: this hybrid is different. First Lexus gave us the GS and RX hybrids claiming V8 performance with V6 fuel economy, but the result was more like V6 performance with V6 economy, not really a great sales pitch. Still, hybrids sell well and with Infiniti marching towards mainstream luxury success they “need” a hybrid. Of course, with Infiniti aiming to be the “Japanese BMW”, performance is obviously a prime concern, so the claim from Infiniti that the M35h will deliver “V8 performance and four-cylinder economy” was expected. But is it another case of leather clad disappointment? Let’s find out.
You find some interesting historical documents in junked cars, and sometimes they’re glued to an engine’s valve cover. (Read More…)
In a recent meeting with engineers, for example, Akerson pressed them to explain the logic behind putting a big 6.2-liter engine in an unspecified car whose competitor has a 4.4-liter turbocharged engine. The engineers replied: “Well, we want to be able to beat the other guy.”
Akerson responded: “I don’t think the average buyer is going to buy an eight-cylinder, 530-horsepower (car).” His point: Decisions must be supported by a solid business case, and not just for bragging rights or as a marketing tool.
The Cadillac ATS-V seems like the most likely candidate, but then there’s also this to consider:
Akerson, who became CEO Sept. 1 and board chairman Jan. 1, already is weighing in on new vehicles. He recently greenlighted the next generation of the compact Chevrolet Cruze, but vetoed a new engine for a sports car set for production in 18 months.
The ATS is a sedan, not a sports car… so is this a different cancelation, or what? Over to you, B&B…