Posts By: stephwillems

By on August 22, 2019

1993 Volvo 240 Wagon in Colorado junkyard, LH rear view - ©2018 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

We know, we know — you aren’t. Almost no one is, which handily explains why new wagons are now rarer in North America than sobriety on the first night of Woodstock. Or virginity on the last. It wasn’t always the case, though, as once upon a time a great herd of long-roofed family haulers roamed freely across the vast expanses of pre-Millenium America.

We’re left with premium niche models, and that’s that. Deal with it. This Question of the Day isn’t designed to make you pick favorites from among the skimpy crowd of remaining estate cars, but to think back to those halcyon (or perhaps traumatizing) days before you earned your driver’s license. (Read More…)

By on August 21, 2019

honda

Not surprisingly, one change bound for the 2020 Honda Civic Si is its price, but fans of Honda’s sensible middle ground between Civic Sport and Civic Type R won’t be driving away empty handed.

For the coming model year, the bearer of Honda’s hotter 1.5-liter gains a mild change in appearance, additional content, and a nod towards improved performance. (Read More…)

By on August 21, 2019

2019 Toyota Prius AWD-e blue - Image: Toyota

Confusion still reigns in the minds of auto consumers, especially when it comes to the murky world of electrification. Past studies have shown that years of misleading terminology and boasting about the capabilities of hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles resulted in a public that knew little about the changing auto landscape, or what a hybrid car even does.

“What will happen when my hybrid’s battery depletes?” is a question too many people still ask themselves.

The same murkiness is at play in a recent study by Cox Automotive, in which we learn that Toyota has earned a reputation it doesn’t deserve. (Read More…)

By on August 21, 2019

Walmart

No, Walmart was not using fleets of pricey electric vehicles to get 56-cents-a-pound bananas to budget-conscious shoppers; rather, the chain had outfitted a slew of its stores with rooftop solar panels assembled and managed by Tesla subsidiary SolarCity.

Now Walmart’s feeling burned. Literally.

Following rooftop blazes at at least seven stores and a recent investigation, the shopping giant filed a lawsuit against Tesla on Tuesday, alleging the company “engaged in widespread, systemic negligence and had failed to abide by prudent industry practices in installing, operating, and maintaining its solar systems.” (Read More…)

By on August 21, 2019

Image: Audi

Months of teasing gave way to an admission of intent late Tuesday. After dangling Avants wagons of yesteryear in front of social media watchers since the spring, Audi finally came out and admitted the beastly RS6 Avant wagon will make its way stateside.

Sporting all-wheel drive, a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8, and endlessly customizable drive settings, the next-generation RS 6 Avant lands in America in 2020, but don’t expect to see many polluting showroom floors. (Read More…)

By on August 20, 2019

General Motors Renaissance Center

There are so many accused and convicted players in the United Auto Workers corruption scandal, it would make for confusing viewing were it made into a film. Already, federal prosecutors have fingered or convicted numerous high-ranking UAW officials tied to the Fiat Chrysler file. Now, investigators are moving on to General Motors.

Apparently, not many stones needed turning before investigators uncovered rot underneath. (Read More…)

By on August 20, 2019

2017 GMC Canyon SLT Diesel - Image: GMC

Adventurous types looking for off-road fun from their local GM dealer already have the option of choosing the brawny Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 and its butchier Bison variant, which leaves GM’s truck-only GMC brand as something as a spectator. GMC hasn’t gone whole-hog into the off-road midsizer niche, though it does offer its Canyon pickup in All Terrain trim. Cutaway front fenders are most definitely not included.

The same dynamic may exist after 2020, but the All Terrain will be gone, replaced with an AT4 trim that hopefully goes the extra mile in terms of off-the-beaten-track capability. (Read More…)

By on August 20, 2019

If everything goes as planned, electric utility vehicle startup Rivian will start production on its RT1 pickup and RS1 SUV next year, utilizing plenty of Michigan and SoCal brainpower and a former Mitsubishi plant in Normal, Illinois.

Of all EV startups, Rivian is widely believed to have the best chance for success — and big-bucks investments from Amazon and Ford back up that assertion. While it’s well known that the automaker plans to offer its vehicles in three battery flavors, little in the way of new details have emerged this year. So here’s a tidbit: as far as the SUV is concerned, owners will be be able to choose just how much wind they want in their hair. (Read More…)

By on August 20, 2019

2017 Jeep® Wrangler Unlimited Sahara - Image: Jeep

For no reason in particular, your author found himself researching the various attributes and eccentricities of Greenland these past couple of days. Again, no reason. And while Greenland itself is pretty sparse and remote, you can’t actually drive very far from what passes for civilization in that big island sort-of country. Something to do with fjords and glaciers and such.

If you’re looking to really get away from it all behind the wheel of a vehicle, there’s better choices closer to home. And, obviously, further. But maybe you already know that… (Read More…)

By on August 19, 2019

ford logo

While Ford has a “Mustang-inspired” electric crossover on the way for 2020 and a ICE-free F-150 coming down the pipe, the automaker’s future green product offensive remained murky — until now, apparently. The company’s Flat Rock, Michigan assembly plant will give birth to two electric vehicles in three years’ time, a new report claims.

Both vehicles are — quelle surprise — crossovers, bearing both the Ford and Lincoln logos. To make it happen, however, a famous nameplate will almost certainly have to die. (Read More…)

By on August 19, 2019

2018 Subaru Crosstrek: Image: Subaru

Spend a few minutes talking to a normal, regular person, and they’ll probably reveal very little knowledge of a vehicle’s mechanics or specs while boasting plenty of knowledge of a brand’s (or vehicle’s) marketing efforts and media coverage.

The general consensus, at least according to your author’s mother, is that dogs help sell cars. Full stop. At the very least, they sprinkle a helping of feel-good fairy dust over a brand, leaving a positive impression of the company in the minds of viewers. Audience manipulation is the sole purpose of advertising.

As Subaru walks away from its most recent sales month with yet another healthy volume increase, however, one model seems to have run out of momentum. It remains to be seen if a heaping helping of dogs can turn it around. (Read More…)

By on August 19, 2019

2018 Fiat 500 Abarth cover

Fiat, the ancient automotive brand found at the top of very few American shopping lists, finds itself in the midst of a transformation. On its European home turf, emissions rules have grown ever more strict; meanwhile, many buyers are gravitating towards the type of vehicles offered by corporate sibling Jeep, and Fiat Chrysler would prefer they purchase the seven-slot brand. That leaves Fiat with a mandate to think small.

As details emerge from the latest meeting of Fiat brass, it looks like the brand’s future holds efficiency but precious little flash. (Read More…)

By on August 17, 2019

Despite wagons facing a growing unpopularity that rivals that of free speech, Audi continues winking and nudging at North America, sneakily hinting that the king of all long-roofs might make its way to this side of the Atlantic.

There, it could see dozens, perhaps even hundreds of orders. Cynical? Perhaps, but a niche pocket of enthusiasm does greet any mention of the A6 Avant midsize wagon and its upcoming, beastly RS 6 Avant performance variant. Believed to pack a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8 and a boatload of horsepower, the next-generation RS 6 launches for the 2020 model year, but it remains to be seen whether any of these wagons arrive on these shores.

Certainly, Audi wants fans to think they will. (Read More…)

By on August 16, 2019

Image: BMW Group

Longtime luxury rivals BMW and Mercedes-Benz may have signed onto an autonomous vehicle/ride-hailing partnership earlier this year, but that doesn’t mean the two companies go around holding hands. The competitive spirit is still there; AV development just carries a price tag neither company wants to pay in full.

For BMW as well as M-B, the lucrative core business of selling luxury vehicles to a well-heeled clientele remains top of mind, and Bimmer’s new boss isn’t happy that his Stuttgart rivals are running away with the sales crown. (Read More…)

By on August 16, 2019

Regular readers of these digital pages are well aware of the pressures facing Nissan’s Infiniti brand. While the premium marque’s status is better than in years past, it is not where the brand would like it to be. U.S. volume has declined since 2017, and the marque recently gave up on Europe.

Perhaps a slinky new crossover will draw eyes — and buyers — in an overly crowded segment? (Read More…)

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