By on August 20, 2015


News on Tuesday that Jeep could be building a Renegade Trackhawk was equal parts infuriating and fantastic. I never turn down horsepower, and more often than not, bigger engines solve all of life’s problems.

But I’m growing older, and turning into an asshole.

After writing about cars for years, I know enough to know that business cases come first; enthusiasm comes second. Which is why when automakers announce “hot” versions of their cars, it’s usually because a bloated market can usually be struck once or twice more before John Q. Carbuyer says, “OK, that’s enough. I won’t buy that.” Those “hot” cars rarely move the needle on anything, and become interesting automotive historical footnotes for Murilee Martin to write about later.

I don’t mean to take aim on the current Mercedes-AMG GLA45 — but I will.

Mercedes-AMG’s soft-roader may not make the automotive hall-of-fame tomorrow, but it makes sense (and dollars) today. The lasting legacy for that car may be that its small four cylinder was boosted to epic proportions — and did or didn’t survive — but the same mill powers the more conventional CLA45 and that car doesn’t look like a juiced-up bee. (P.S. All is forgiven if Mercedes turns it into a WRC car.)

I find myself wondering “Should they?” aloud more and more rather than “Could they?”

Jeep could build the Renegade Trackhawk tomorrow, I’m guessing. There are enough parts laying around FCA factories to piece together a sub-compact off-roader with more than 300 horsepower and sell to the public for $35,000, which would probably eagerly buy it. There’s probably a relatively sane business case for it as well. The Grand Cherokee SRT8 is the best-selling SRT vehicle, and increased production for their uber-powered Hellcats means buyers have money to burn — literally and figuratively.

But part of me wants special edition cars to feel special again. The Juke R comes to mind, an insane car for a small subset of buyers crazy enough to tempt fate and burn through ridiculous amounts of money. The Porsche 959 was a homologation special that’ll live forever on my bedroom wall. And even less extreme: The new Subaru WRX STI Launch Edition was a car they could have made all year, but limited its run just to piss me off. I kind of like that.

I guess that’s why value and cost sometimes isn’t the same thing. But I could be wrong.

What do you think B&B? Are hi-po special editions over saturated? Or am I just missing the point?

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45 Comments on “QOTD: Parts-bin Hero or Excessive Future Crapwagon?...”

  • avatar

    “There’s probably a relatively sane business case for it as well. The Grand Cherokee SRT8 is the best-selling SRT vehicle, and increased production for their uber-powered Hellcats means buyers have money to burn — literally and figuratively.”

    #1 I never would have bought my JGCSRT14′ if I could have gotten an SRT “car” with AWD. AWD would have solved ALL of my concerns with weather here in NYC/ We have mild winters and the snow/ice is never “extreme” but AWD ensures I never actually have to “dig out”.

    It really doesn’t make any sense to me having $300-a-piece tires on an AWD SUV.

    I should be able to have a regular car with this engine and AWD and regular Goodyear All-seasons.

    Of course – the ground clearance is also nice – but nobody…NOBODY takes this truck off road.

    #2 As Ford and Lincoln have stepped back V8 production along with the imports, it’s allowed SRT to stand out. The SRT badge is steadily becoming more desirable than the M and AMG badge since both are completely unaffordable nowadays, and the HP numbers are steadily on the decline thanks to Europe’s displacement taxes and liberal environmentalists.

    Eventually the German cars will mostly be plug-in hybrids with performance variants that the average in-debt-up-to-their-eyeballs 30 year old won’t be able to even afford.

    Their lovely new German cars will be damn near silent.

    and I’ll be sitting in a HELLCAT JEEP or 300 (God Willing).

    I’ve already started saving for the inevitable $100,000 Jeep Hellcat.

    As for all the people with German cars who will scoff at me and say “at least my car can turn”…

    …my reply is “what’s a turn”???

    I’ve never seen one, but I’m sure if I ever do, I’ll just slow down from my 90 MPH cruising speed and take it carefully at 30 MPH.

    • 0 avatar

      “The SRT badge is steadily becoming more desirable than the M and AMG badge since both are completely unaffordable nowadays” — this is pure opinion, but thanks for making my day. You realize there is a difference between desire and application. SRT is no where near M or AMG in desireability.

      “and the HP numbers are steadily on the decline thanks to Europe’s displacement taxes and liberal environmentalists” — where exactly are you getting this from? HP is going down on economy cars, EVERYONE else is increasing to incldue M and AMG.

      • 0 avatar

        Because most of these P.O.S front-wheel econoboxes would create arm-breaking torque steer, the vast majority of them can’t exceed 300 HP/ TQ without adding AWD. Problem is, AWD adds mass, higher cost than these credit-unworthy S.O.B’s are able to afford and splits the power up between front and rear so that same 300 HP/TQ no longer feels like 300 HP/TQ. Faster off the line, but still gutless.

        NO – the soul-less import econoboxes CAN’T brag about anything under 450HP.

        The mere fact that the $200,000 Mercedes AMG S-class has LESS power than the Dodge Charger and isn’t capable of 200MPH out of the dealership without warranty breaking modifications should tell you something.


        things have gotten so bad that these pathetic MEDIOCRE cars wear “v6” badges with pride.

      • 0 avatar

        I agree. M and AMG are tiers above SRT on the desireability scale. I personally find SRT bloated and thirsty. I’d much rather own (and desire) all around performance and capability. The only SRT model that I can think of that would be anywhere near that requirement would be the Viper SRT and even then I’d still rather have a Carrera GT3.

        But back the original question. They can make it, just don’t think it will sell with any energy. I’m just thinking there are far better choices.

        • 0 avatar

          The beauty of the free market is that REGARDLESS WHAT YOU THINK – sales figures show that SRT can move their cars and HELLCATS move almost instantaneously with markups that would make AMG and M cars angry and jealous.

          Bloated and thirsty?

          That’s the price we pay for having a car big enough to move 4 – 5 people around and still make 0-60 pulls in less than 5 seconds.

          when I see BMW’s and Mercedes sitting on the side of the road with electrical problems, I DO A BURNOUT. shoulda bought MURICA.

          When this credit crisis, loan crisis and currency crisis hits full swing, my generation and the generation below me won’t even be able to afford to get a new performance car. It’ll just be USED German crapwagons waiting to break down. $10,000 repair bills.

          Even the drug dealers around here can’t get those cars easily anymore. They’re driving Hyundais LOL.

          • 0 avatar

            OK, but you said “desirable”. You didn’t say sales, and I’m not convinced SRT is selling any more than M GmbH or AMG. If you just want to talk sales, the 3 series alone for BMW in 2013 was well over 400,000 units globally. Also, BMW sold on average about 11,000 e92/90 M3s per year over the model run. Hellcat from what I read has sold 4,500 through August. Not sure why BMW would be jealous…

            You also mentioned $10k repair bills. I’m on my 4th BMW and currently drive a Porsche. The two I own are outside factory warranty and all the previous BMWs I’ve owned were outside of warranty when I sold them. Understand this is anecdotal, but care to guess what my repair bills have been over the years? Beyond normal wear and tear, I’m guessing maybe a couple thousand over 5 cars.

            Yes, bloated. That hellcat you are so fond of is a heavy beast.

          • 0 avatar

            And which BMW do you have. Cause from the sound of it YOU DON’T have a new one or a performance one.

            and even if you did – you don’t speak for the market of car buyers wary of these money-pits.

            Bloated? OK
            Gas Guzzling? YUP

            But the mere fact people are ready and willing to spend $70,000 – $110,000 on a new SRT over an easier-to-get M or AMG says plenty.

            I don’t care who owns the company.

            I don’t care about curves.

            These German me-too cars can’t even do burnouts anymore AND YOUR ENGINE NOISE IS NOW A PRERECORDED TRACK HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

          • 0 avatar

            BTSR sees a couple thousand Hellcat sales, markups bloated by a completely artificial limit on production, and thinks he’s looking at the great bulk of America.

            Here’s a hint: what are the five best-selling vehicles in the Hellcat’s price class of roughly $70,000? All trucks. What’s the best-selling car? The E-class. With a V6. They all sell more than ten times the volume of all Hellcats combined. That is what the people want, with just a few exceptions.

    • 0 avatar

      so you never would have bought your SRT cherokee if an SRT car were available with AWD? why not something like an S4, a 540ix? hell, even an S6 is in the same cost ballpark. Instead you got a redneck rocket when you said you wanted a car? you talk a lot but make sense a little

      • 0 avatar

        the last thing I wanted was another “me-too” German car. I loved having a W221 when it was brand new, but as I saw more and more people getting them – including taxi/limousine, I fell out of love with it.

        German cars are ONLY reliable till the warranty period ends. After that, they are financial traps. That’s why virtually no wealthy person finances them. They “lease” them and then toss em on the market for some poor schlub in the ghetto to ride around the hood in.

        Ever been to a used luxury car dealer in NYC?

        the interiors STINK like funk and body sweat magnified.

        It’s disgusting.

        • 0 avatar

          so your avoidance of the ‘me too’ set is to buy one of the most popular mommymobiles on the continent? hmm.

          In the family, we have a 2000 A6 – ran great with 180k on it up until last year when a pothole in Brooklyn ate the front suspension. Just not worth fixing. we have a 2006 A3 with 120k miles on it. runs great, but does smell a lot like kix cereal – thank my daughter for that. We also have a 2015 S4. Paid cash for all of them, plan on keeping them a long time.

          do you want to talk about old Jeep reliability? we can do that, too, but quite frankly, you’re probably better off not getting into it.

          • 0 avatar

            And what do you even know about old jeep reliability Mr Audi? My 93 Cherokee will far outlive any of those over engineered boring German cars and probably already has twice over. 258000 miles? Still going fine. I’ve put about 400$ into it in the past five years. My 97 is a baby with 165000 miles and everything is like factory on it. My 98 grand? 280000 miles, traded it to a friend and he still drives it. My grand before that? 395000 miles before the rear end died. Give me a call when your Audi gets to that mileage :)

        • 0 avatar

          BSTR –“And which BMW do you have. Cause from the sound of it YOU DON’T have a new one or a performance one.”

          My 911 is obviously high performance. Two of the four BMWs were high performance and of those, one was an M. All three I just mentioned are outside warranty or were outside warranty when I sold them. All were mechanically sound and some of the most reliable cars I’ve ever owned. Not a single issue and certainly nothing that ever stranded me. Again, anecdotal, but no different than your statement they are on the side of the road.

          Seems an odd argument coming from someone with a jeep.

          • 0 avatar

            So buying an E60 M5 is a good idea?

          • 0 avatar

            My E46 (2001 330i sedan) was masterfully designed, masterfully engineered, and evidently built on a Friday at 4:00 PM right before the first day of Oktoberfest. It was, in a word, shoddy.

            I bought it used with under 50k miles on it. In the subsequent 48k miles/42 months of ownership (traded it in with 98k miles to a Nissan dealer), it had:

            Rear drivers side window fell out of its track. Window was stuck open until repaired.
            Sunroof leaked. Crud would build up in the channels that drain it through the fenders and then after a strong rainstorm, leak all over the front seats and floor.
            Headliner was coming down on both C pillars. Not minor either. Total separation. I had a 4 year old BMW that looked like a 30 year old Volvo.
            Front turn signal lens just fell off. It literally just flew off at highway speed.
            Now the expensive (mechanical) issues:
            Head gasket leaked. Oil would leak from the rear of the engine against the firewall. It smelled. Needed to put a quart of oil in per week.
            A bolt that connected the power steering pump sheared in half. Mechanic showed me the half-bolt piece he fished out after repair. The car lost power steering in a parking lot at very low speed while I was making a turn.
            The catalytic converter failed and was exhibiting “overactive bowels” as grimy black bits seeped out of the tailpipe. Even my mechanic had no response for that one.
            Great transmission though! Drove and handled magnificently when it worked. Build quality was malaise-era GM level, kudos to the BMW engineers and designers for doing a great job on paper. Needless to say, I’ll never again purchase a BMW, but it really was a beautiful looking car.

          • 0 avatar

            911 High Performance?

            0- THE SHOP in 2.3 seconds?

        • 0 avatar

          I think that may have more to do with NYC than used luxury cars.

          I just bought a seven-year-old Lexus. It still smells a bit like a new car, mostly of leather and wool carpet. But it’s spent its entire life on the West Coast (Newport Beach, Sacramento, now Seattle).

        • 0 avatar

          I didn’t know they installed the body odor at the factory. They really think of everything.

  • avatar

    Nothing wrong with parts-bin car building, as long as the externals look sufficiently different from where the internals came from. Ditto for the interiors. Much cheaper that way.

    I’m thinking a long time ago of the similarity of Chevy Celebrity to their corporate siblings and all the K-variations Chrysler came up with. OEMs can do a better job than that.

    Hey, if the cars sell, that’s all that matters to the builders, and “enthusiasts” – using the term very loosely – can wring their hands and wait for the used ones to come on the market and then snatch them up!

    Everyone’s happy in the end!

  • avatar

    Parts bin cars have been known to be gems at times. The original BMW Z3 (and especially the M versions) were great cars and the M versions are rising in value. The BMW 1M within a year was selling for more on the used market than it stickerred for. Some would argue the original e30 M3 was a parts bin car.

    Should they? I would have no interest in this car. If I wanted a track car I would (and did) buy a purpose built spors car. If I wanted a sporty SUV, I can think of at least 2-3 others I would buy before this one.

  • avatar
    heavy handle

    Low-volume “parts bin” specials are often the very best version of a particular car. For instance, there’s nothing very remarkable about a mid-80s 323, but the turbo AWD GT-X was an absolute blast to drive.

    Same thing is true with the Abarth relative to the normal Fiat 500.

    Is the market over-saturated? Hardly. There’s only a small handful of truly mad drivers’ cars based on family-friendly platforms. Abarth, Hellcat, some AMG, some BMW M, STI. That’s about it. Nothing all that interesting from Ford/Chevy, Korea, or Japan other than Subaru.

    The market is over-saturated with sticker-kit performance cars (and pickups), but I’m sure that’s not what you’re on about.

    • 0 avatar

      Are you forgetting about the Focus RS?

      • 0 avatar
        heavy handle

        I guess I did, but I haven’t driven the RS. I’m not sure if it’s a mad special, or just the version they should have released in the first place. All those other ones have qualities that non-enthusiasts could really dislike.

    • 0 avatar

      Depends on the quality of engineering tying those parts together.

      The original Taurus SHO was totally a parts-bin special. Engine developed for a canceled Ford sports car, recycled Mazda transmission, FWD Lincoln brakes and lighting, seats with some Mustang bits grafted on. And it was fun when it worked, but at least on my car something was pretty much always broken, usually because the SHO application stressed it. Engine accessories didn’t like the 7100-rpm redline, clutches were designed for a 110 lb-ft. four, brakes were designed for old-man driving, and so on.

      • 0 avatar

        That Yamaha loved to eat them clutches. Mmmmmm mmmmm good.

        I think manufacturers are better about throwing parts together now. With the current SHO, Ford didn’t expect the 6F35 to handle 365 HP, so they fitted stronger pieces into it. Even after the uprated everything, they still needed to fit bigger brakes, better suspension components, and an engine/transmission cooler in 2013. Some of those add ons is parts bin stuff though. The engine oil and transmission cooler were on the Flex/MkT in 2009/2010.

        The F150 Tremor is another parts bin Ford vehicle. Just took parts laying around and made a kind of sport truck.

  • avatar

    Hellcat Grand Caravan, that would be a “man van.”

    • 0 avatar

      The regular minivan is already a man van.

      I can’t think of an act more manly than making and supporting a progeny.

      The minivan is also the epitome of family-oriented practicality, and practicality is a manly virtue.

      • 0 avatar

        “I can’t think of an act more manly than making and supporting a progeny.”

        I can think of several!

        • 0 avatar

          Building a business or a house with your bare hands, or being enterprising!

          • 0 avatar

            Hacking down a huge tree with a simple axe!

          • 0 avatar

            To chop it up, and make paper towels!

            (Hopefully Viva towels because those are superior to Brawny.)

          • 0 avatar

            Wow…Could that have been more American without bald eagles flying out of your rump?

            The fact that it went to a quasi-capitalist tone to infer masculinity when fathering progeny is practically more manly in every way (though not necessarily masculine…) is both disturbing and hilarious. Carry on about your awesome business, sir. I’m sure it will truly give a damn when you’re old and grey….

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    Good grief, that’s a Mercedes-Benz? At first glance, I thought it was a Mazda2 with some sort of body kit.

  • avatar

    I just don’t understand the need for it at all. The body style doesn’t seem to lend itself to a sporting version. I would point to the Neon SRT4 vs the Caliber SRT4. No one is out there drooling for a Caliber SRT4, but the Neons seem popular with the tuner crowd.

    I’m more interested in a Dart SRT4 than a Renegade Trailhawk.

  • avatar

    It gives an otherwise boring, ubiquitous, anonymous car a “bespoke” quality for minimum investment on the manufacturer’s part. Plus, it gives us car nerds some more trivia to learn! (My personal favorite head-scratcher is the Camry “Collectors Edition”)

    Hell, they do it even MORE on the expensive cars. A few more bits of carbon fiber here and there, an unusual color, a 50-100% increase in price… boom, new car for someone with more money than they know what to do with!

    • 0 avatar

      Undefinition – agree. It is a relatively cheap and straightforward way for car companies to increase the appeal of a brand overall as well as wring some more cash out of the buying public.

      • 0 avatar

        Even the littlest bits — the disaster that is the nose of the MMCed 2016 Accord can be made somewhat palatable for $400 in the form of a Honda Accessory “Sport Grille,” which made things look a little overwrought on the 2013-2015s, but tones down the redesigned grille now by removing all the chrome bars below the big “H” and reducing the size of the “beak” itself.

  • avatar

    Since the days of being able to special order a hotter motor than a car’s supposed to have are ancient history, I can’t say I mind these hi-po “parts bin specials”.

    The alternative is just a continuing parade of milquetoast midsize sedans and compacts with mediocre engines, right?

  • avatar

    Imperial Frank Sinatra
    Riviera Silver Arrow
    Jimmy Diamond Edition
    Town Car Cypress
    Town Car Diamond Anniversary
    Town Car Jack Nicklaus
    Town Car Spinnaker
    Grand Marquis Black Tie Edition
    RX7 GTU
    280ZX Anniversary Edition
    Range Rover Holland & Holland
    Range Rover TWR
    Range Rover Vitesse
    Saab Viggen
    Saab 9000 Anniversary CSE
    Saab 9000 Griffin

    …They just aren’t that special. It’s just a trim footnote for later in time, and makes car nerds like me excited to see one on the roads, or find one for sale. But overall their appeal is extremely limited.

  • avatar

    Well the first mistake is referring to this as a cuv or softroader. This is a hot hatchback with a very mild spring lift. As such it’s hobbled for legendary car status bc the hot hatch market revolves entirely around on road performance bragging rights.This is going to go down as a cynical badging exercise with an interesting drivetrain, I expect it’s low residual value to prompt some interesting project cars in the future.

  • avatar

    I had an STI hatch, the GLA AMG is the closest thing you can get to a luxury STI hatch. It is in no way worth $60k to me but I have a feeling these are going to depreciate like mad.

    The question is who is really going to buy one? Your traditional AMG buyer won’t and your slightly older STI buyer might but probably doesn’t have the cash. A 2 year old, fully loaded, CPO GLA AMG for $40k-$45k might be very tempting.

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