By on June 12, 2009

I am turning to the B & B for some new (used) car advice. My current bad weather bomber is a 2004 Jeep Liberty (I ride a bike on any and all good weather days). While it’s served me well, the commute is becoming Novocain for my soul. That and summer trends for higher prices at the pumps is a pain. I’ve narrowed my search down to two finalists: 2002 BMW 325Ci or a 2002 Subaru WRX wagon. The bimmer appeals to my inner snob, while the subie to my inner hoon. Both have around 200k (km’s not miles) but both pack a 2-year warranty. With the Subaru I get the AWD for Toronto’s increasingly snowy winters and the convenience of a wagon for schlepping just about anything I want. The 3 Series was/is the ultimate driving machine. Both run on premium juice, but beat the Jeep hands down for fuel (and fun) efficiency. The WRX has a $2K price advantage, too, but lacks the leather lap o’ luxury the Bavarian boasts. Feature for feature, it’s BMW all the way, but the toys all come at a high price (of maintenance). So what say TTAC’s panel of experts? Test drives start tonight!

By on November 21, 2008

In 1976, Volkswagen introduced the world to the Rabbit GTi. The German pocket rocket defined a whole new class for entry-level lead foots. The DNA was simple; a lightweight, nimble chassis coupled with a high-revving fuel efficient motor, a couple of doors and a lift-gate at the back. The hot-hatch was born. Since then, grace has been replaced by grunt. Two hundred horsepower is the starting line. The Mazdaspeed 3, new GTi, and MINI Cooper S lead the way from across the ponds. Stateside, the Dodge Caliber SRT-4 and Chevrolet HHR SS bring more mass and muscle to the party. They may be a two-door stretch to the original definition, but hot and hatched they are. So are either of the latter two worth your money?

By on October 6, 2008

Many film buffs consider Richard Sarafian’s Vanishing Point an existentialist masterpiece. Kowalski had no real reason for going balls-out to San Francisco– other than the drive itself. Pistonheads argue that Kowalski’s ride, an arctic white 1970 Dodge Challenger, was reason enough. Yes, well, Mopar’s E-body entry to the late sixties ponycar parade was short-lived. Dodge only moved 165k units before ‘The End” flashed-up on the factory floor. With today’s Pentastar losing market share faster than a celebutante shedding clothes at a pool party, the recreated Challenger is carrying a lot more weight these days. So, is there any there there?

By on April 10, 2008

imgsplashbranding.jpgWhile Standard & Poor's are planning for a seven percent slide in auto sales for the U.S. of A, things north of the border are looking up. The CBC reports that the Canadian automotive  market will nip at the heels of last year's totals (their second best year ever). The forecast comes courtesy of DesRosiers Automotive Consultants head honcho, Dennis DesRosiers. After seeing double-digit jumps throughout the first quarter, Dennis deduced an improved forecast was due. DesRosiers reckons the strong Loonie, decreased taxes (one percent G.S.T drop), and healthier Canuck economy will entice more Canadians to throw down for price-reduced whips this year. Don't figure on this news making up for the U.S. slide though. The improved forecast accounts for a mere 8k unit improvement (1.645m total).

By on March 26, 2008

hargroveb400.jpgStop me when this sounds familiar. Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) boss Buzz Hargrove says his brotherhood is "committed to get at the costs" that Canada one of the the world's most expensive places to build cars. Yes, well weakening Canada's currency is quite an ambitious undertaking. And "getting at" costs is one thing; reducing them another. The Globe and Mail reaffirms that Hargrove's legendary intransigence tough stance continues. Buzz' boyz won't agree to the North American template, that sees significant wage and benefits reductions for car assembling newbies. Buzz figures "It's my last set of negotiations and my legacy is not going to be that the sons and daughters of current workers that were hired over 20 years ago are going to come in at the same rate in 2008 as their parents did in '86 or '87." To that end AOL Money Canada reports Buzz' boyz are strike-ready if the two-tiered wage thang becomes a sticking point. Did I say "if?"

By on March 5, 2008

x08ch_im02122.jpgThe Toronto Star reports that GM Canada is boosting Impala production by some 46 units per day, to about 1100. The General says it made the decision to put the pedal to the medal (i.e. adding overtime shifts) at the award-winning Oshawa plant to meet growing demand for the wrong-wheel-drive beast south of the 49th. Despite the decision to kibosh a rear wheel-drive version of the car, or maybe because of it, the Impala's American sales are up 7.3 percent from last year. Some Chevy dealers report that the "old," bigger Impala is stealing sales from the new, narrower Malibu. Either that or fleet clients have boosted their orders knowing that the Impala is slated for execution. (Automotive News [sub]: "General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC accounted for fewer than three out of four new vehicles sold to the U.S. rental industry last year — down from more than four-fifths in 2006.) Or maybe it's got something to do with the possibility of a Canadian Auto Workers strike. Your thoughts?

By on March 4, 2008

0303081723.jpgAs if it already isn't hard enough to negotiate rush hour traffic in downtown Toronto… Whilst in the midst of lane-changing, I noticed a big blue box trying to buzz past. The boys from the big Blue Oval were out in their next save-the-company Hail Mary: the Ford Flex. The LE version of the FoMoCo people mover snuck-up behind me in south-of-the-border guise– no daytime running lights– on its way to somewhere (but still not a showroom). I managed to snap a couple of camera-phone shots. Let's just hope it lives up to the three years of hype once this big ass xB finally goes on sale.0303081714a.jpg

By on January 24, 2008

766304628_49d9e444b5.jpgAlan Mulally began last year as a passenger on a nose-diving Ford Motor Company. Clocking the company’s $12.6b fiscal flummox, FoMoCo’s CEO left no punches unpulled. "We fully recognize our business reality,” Big Al pronounced. “And we’re dealing with it.” Twelve months later, Mulally’s machine’s cut a new deal with the United Auto Workers (UAW), scaled back production and launched some new whips. During today’s announcement, Big Al proudly pronounced the new new turnaround a success. “Each of our automotive operations is improving, and we are encouraged by the progress.” That makes one of us.

By on December 20, 2007

1996-ford-bronco-picture-on-snow.jpgIt’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas; at least in Dearborn. Ford has reinstated merit raises for their white collar workers. Bonuses for its blue collared brigade are under consideration. Ford’s global manufacturing guru Joe Heinrichs figures “it’s important to reward people for doing the right thing.” Which is… three straight quarters of besting Wall Street’s paltry projections and slowing the Way Fordward’s cash burn. With the long anticipated sale of Jaguar and Land Rover only days away, it would seem that Mulally’s machine is running smoothly. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

By on August 24, 2007

4860_2_1.jpgThe last time a Volvo was sexy, so was (Sir) Roger Moore. Just as The Saint titillated the fairer sex, Simon Templar’s Volvo P1800 had heel-and-toe types salivating. Shortly thereafter Moore was persuaded to abandon his Swedish whip for an Aston. By the time the English actor got into Bond-age, Volvo had turned deeply dull. Sexy was scrapped, safety celebrated. Stylistically, Gothenburg’s designs adhered to a Ty Webbian template: “Be the box. Be the box.” While Volvos slowly evolved away from the rectangular gestalt, they never quite shucked middle-aged mindfulness. The new C30 aims to change all that. 

By on August 7, 2007

hank.jpgLast week, Ford exceeded Wall Street’s expectations by reporting a profit. A profit! As in, the American automaker took in more money than they spent! Pundits unfamiliar with the fact that Ford carries around so much debt it makes Atlas' planetary burden seem like a small backpack, oblivious to the missing ten foot pole marks on Ford dealers' inventory, hailed the news as a sign that the only Way Fordward is up. You know you need to worry when the CEO himself feels obliged to warn stockholders and camp followers that billion dollar losses lie directly ahead. And indeed they do. 

By on August 1, 2007

front2.jpgSince 1859, Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution has challenged religious fundamentalism. Forget Adam and Eve. Humans started as random spices in a primordial soup. Natural selection took us from soup to trees, trees to cars. And then Ferdinand Porsche created a mutant Volkswagen. Since its inception, the 911 has been evolution’s four-wheeled poster child, moving quickly from an oversteer monster to a supersonic pussycat. And then, on the seventh day, Stuttgart created the latest Turbo, a car so capable that driving it is a biblical revelation.

By on May 13, 2007

fordstockholdermeeting.jpgAt Thursday's annual Glass House Gang get-together, eight of ten shareholder proposals got the axe. The kyboshed suggestions include a mandate to disclose the identities of all execs collecting upwards of $500k, another giving 10 percent stakeholders the ability to call stockholder meetings, and a directive asking for a strategic plan for Ford’s future health care liabilities. The Ford family also fell under attack via a motion to remove their Class B stock “super- vetoing voting” powers.  It isn’t the first time that the Ford family’s control has come under shareholder scrutiny, but that plebiscite perished too, albeit by a smaller margin than ever before.

By on April 26, 2007

07edgeccrossover.jpgIn 1997, Kiwi film director Lee Tamahori brought playwright David Mamet’s words to the silver screen in an Alec Baldwin/Anthony Hopkins vehicle called The Edge. Ten years later and David Mamet lensed an ad campaign for a crossover utility vehicle by the same name. Mamet’s trademark dialogue takes center stage, pitting the Blue Oval’s most important cute-ute against the upscale competition from Germany (BMW X5) for speed and Japan (Lexus RX350) for quietness. Does Mamet’s champion edge out its pricier rivals? Duh.

By on April 5, 2007

alan-mulally-has-flex-appeal.jpgIn the first three months of his employment, Ford CEO Alan Mulally earned himself a cool $28.2m. So how’s the high flying ex-Boeing exec doing in his campaign to save the embattled automaker? According to Big Al, “it’s going pretty well." He’s “reduced complexity” (i.e. paid bureaucrats to leave), sent Aston packing, unloaded the first of thirteen surplus-to-requirements Visteon plants and started to make good on cost savings targets. On the income side of the ledger? Not so hot.

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