Review: 2011 BMW X3
With the 2004 X3, BMW offered a compact SUV a half-decade ahead of other German car manufacturers. So not long after Audi and Mercedes have introduced their first such vehicle BMW has an all-new second-generation X3. The first-generation X3 had its strengths, but its weaknesses tended to outweigh them, especially in the U.S. market. The larger X5 has outsold it on this side of the Atlantic many times over despite a higher price. Has BMW learned enough in the past seven years to address these weaknesses and keep ahead of the new competition?
Review: 2011 Cadillac Escalade Platinum Hybrid
A couple months back, Cadillac gave me a bright red, three-ton, rollin’-on-22s, chrome-drenched, hybrid-electric, $88,140 luxury truck to drive while in Michigan for the Campaign To Prevent Gingervitis 24 Hours of LeMons. Since that time, the effort of attempting to write a meaningful review for this ridiculous-yet-amazing machine has caused my brain to develop a severe rod knock. Who is supposed to buy this thing? I asked myself. What can you do with it?
Junkyard Find: 1979 AMC Eagle
Since I’ve only been wandering about in Denver junkyards for a year, I have no way of telling whether the current glut of junked AMC Eagles I’m encountering (e.g., this ’84, this ’84, and this ’82, plus a few more that I haven’t photographed yet) is a recent development or a trend that’s been going on for many years. Eagles are still plentiful in Denver, but a cheap used Subaru becomes more attractive once the youngest possible Eagle has turned 24 years old.
Junkyard Find: 1987 Toyota Tercel 4WD Wagon
When we think of Japanese four-wheel-drive station wagons these days, we immediately picture a Subaru product. We often forget that, in the 1980s, most of the Japanese automakers made four-wheel-drive versions of their small wagons. Honda had the 4WD Civic Wagovan, Nissan had 4WD Stanza and Sentra wagons, Mitsubishi had the Mirage and Colt 4WD wagons, and so on. Of all of the non-Subaru 4WD wagons from that era, however, the only one you see with any frequency these days is Toyota’s Tercel 4WD wagon. These things are about as common as the AMC Eagle in Colorado, i.e. you see them all the time.
Junkyard Find: 1991 Subaru Justy 4WD
Weirdly vivid car colors were all the rage in the early 1990s, along with clear products, and so this Justy’s Cherenkov Radiation Turquoise paint fit right in with the times. Sadly, the jarring hue and econo-four-wheel-drive weren’t enough to save this rust-free, 5-speed-equipped Subaru sedan from The Crusher’s cold jaws.
Review: 2011 Jeep Compass Latitude
In something of an ironic twist for an off-road brand, Jeep has had trouble figuring out which path to take lately. Jeep was late to the soft-roader party last decade, and got off to an “interesting” start when a focus group (allegedly) indicated the need for a Patriot to appeal to men and a Compass for the ladies. Most companies would have simply picked one, but the temptation to attract female shoppers to an overtly masculine brand proved too strong and Jeep decided to make both. The result is a product line that offers two similarly-priced and similarly-capable vehicles. This might have been a passable set of circumstances, had the Compass not been saddled with both a cartoonish exterior and interior plastics that even Rubbermaid would have rejected. Instead, the Compass became a symbol of how lost the go-anywhere brand had become. But after a Fiat-led makeover, an updated 2011 Compass is making a bid to rescue Jeep’s small CUV reputation… is it up to the task?
Junkyard Find: 1982 Subaru GL "Third Eye"
Remember the mid-mounted “passing light” Subaru installed in some of its Late Malaise Era cars? I had forgotten all about this oddball option until I ran across this ’82 in a Denver wrecking yard.
Review: 2011 Nissan Juke Take Two
Back in 1989 I spent some time blasting along the unpaved roads of the Southwest in a 1988 Toyota Celica All-Trac Turbo. A frequent thought: “What this thing really needs is more ground clearance.” That same year Pontiac displayed a sports car / SUV crossover as a concept. The Stinger was never produced, but it lingered within memories at GM and eventually provided some inspiration for both the Vibe and Aztek. Neither came close to the Stinger. Both lacked the chassis dynamics to fulfill the mission I had in mind.
And so it fell to Nissan to field the first compact crossover with the spirit of a sports car. Is the JUKE worth the two-decade wait?
Review: 2011 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport
No one out-zombies Mitsubishi. Quite a few manufacturers have had brushes with death, only to bounce back strongly with competitive new cars. For Mitsubishi there’s been no bounce. Yet they’re still alive. Assuming Mitsubishi’s people aren’t actually brain dead, they must be in crisis mode. And cash must be short. So if they employ their scant resources to add a new model, the Outlander Sport, there must be something terribly compelling about it, right? Well, Mitsubishi didn’t exactly swing for the fences. The basic concept behind the Outlander Sport: remove a foot from the rear overhang of the Outlander CUV, cut $3,500 from the base price ($1,000 of it by making a CVT optional), make Bluetooth and USB connectivity standard, and hope the kids bite.
Review: Porsche Panamera (4 Vs 4S)
The Porsche Panamera: should it exist? Eight years after the introduction of the Cayenne SUV, many enthusiasts remain steadfast in their conviction that Porsche should stick to sports cars with aft-mounted powerplants. While a two-ton four-door is certainly a lesser evil, has Porsche managed to offer one for which there is no available substitute? A $69,000 Cadillac CTS-V performs extremely well, in both objective and subjective terms. Why, then, spend tens of thousands more for a Panamera?
Junkyard Find: Parade of Doomed Eagles Continues
With the AMC Eagle being such a historically significant car, let’s hope at least a few of them survive the next decade. We saw this brown ’85 Eagle wagon last week, and this black ’84 wagon will join it in a Fujian steel plant soon enough.
Junkyard Find: 1984 AMC Eagle
How many Eagles did AMC sell? According to the Standard Catalog, 24,535 Eagles rolled out of AMC showrooms in 1984… and I betcha that 20,000 of them were sold in Colorado. You still see plenty of Eagles on the street here in Denver (I can think of a half-dozen within a few blocks of my house), but you also see plenty of AMC’s before-its-time all-wheel-driver in Denver junkyards.
Review: 2011 Lexus IS350 AWD Take Two
When I was car shopping back in 2006 the Lexus IS350 found its way to the top of my spreadsheet, and I do mean spreadsheet. With anal resolve I had evaluated 8 vehicles, scored them, photographed them, ranked them and the IS350 came in second. What was first? A Volvo V70R (apples and oranges, I know). At the time I thanked the helpful Lexus sales guy and told him “if there was an AWD IS350, I’d buy it tomorrow.” Well, 5 years later there finally is an IS350 AWD, but am I buying it tomorrow? Let’s find out.
European Wagons Go (Out)Back To Crossover Roots
Review: 2011 Lexus IS 350 AWD
Time was Toyota thoroughly redesigned its cars every four years. Then every five. And lately not even that often. Consequently, for its sixth model year the second-generation Lexus IS received just a few tweaks. The most notable: at long last all-wheel-drive is available with an engine torquey enough to take advantage of its additional traction, namely the IS 350’s 306-horsepower, 277-foot-pounds direct-injected 3.5-liter V6.