If I say “hybrid,” most people think: slow, efficient, awful-to-drive, Prius, tree-hugger, Democrat and California. Pretty much in that order. The people’s car company however is on a mission to change your word association. In 2011 VW crafted the ridiculously fast supercharged Touareg Hybrid. For 2013, the Germans have some new words for you to associate with “hybrid”: direct-injection, turbocharged, 7-speed, DSG and Jetta. Is this enough to sway Prius shoppers looking for a more engaging ride? More importantly: should you get the Jetta Hybrid or the Jetta TDI? VW tossed us the keys to a dark blue fuel-sipper to find out.
Every now and then a journalist sticks his foot in his mouth, and so it was with me and a Nissan PR person. PR person: we go the extra mile to make sure the press has access to everything we make, we don’t hide anything. Me: (after a long pause) oh yea? What about the NV Passenger van? How about that!? Eh? Why haven’t I seen one before? Hiding something? My Nissan minder whipped out his phone, made a call and a ginormous shiny black box appeared a week later. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I did not, I repeat, did not grovel and beg to Nissan’s top brass to get my hands on a full-size van.
Like their products or not, Ford has been on a roll. It all started when the blue oval financed their metamorphosis by mortgaging everything that wasn’t nailed down a year before the bankocalypse. Next came a wave of new products like the Astonesque Fusion, Prius fighting C-MAX and the Euro-derived Fiesta and Focus. Ford’s recovery plan hinges on unifying their worldwide lineup rather than making unique vehicles for every market. Ford calls this plan “One Ford,” while I call it “Ford’s Euro love affair.” The latest warrior in the Euro invasion is none other than the Ford Kuga, you’ll know it as the new Escape. It would appear Ford’s timing couldn’t be better since they just lost the small-SUV sales crown to Honda. Can the European soft-roader take back the crown? Or has Ford gone too far by ditching the boxy Escape for world-wide homogeny?
The “family sedan” may not be very exciting, but without midsized sales auto makers would be in a pickle. Ponder this: the five best-selling midsized sedans in America accounted for 1.3 million of the 12.8 million vehicles sold in 2011. With numbers like that, it’s important to get your mass-market people mover right. This means competitive fuel economy, a low base price and swipe as much tech from your luxury brand as possible. Either that or just wear a Nissan badge on the front. Say what? The last generation Altima was the second best-selling car despite being long in the tooth and filled with Chrysler quality plastics. That made me ask an important question: Is the fifth-generation Altima any good, or is it selling well (now in third place thanks to the new Accord and Nissan’s model change over) just because it has a Nissan logo on the front?
The 2013 Fusion is a critical car for Ford. Despite the rise of the Koreans, an Americanized Passat, refreshed GM and Chrysler products and a dip in Fusion sales between the 2012 and the all-new 2013 model, the Ford is still the fourth-best-selling mid-size sedan in America. Michael was invited to a regional Ford event in September where he revealed his opinions, but what most readers seem to recall is Derek’s proclamation that the 2013 Fusion is a “ gamechanger.” To answer the question once and for all, Ford tosses us the keys to the volume-selling SE model with Ford’s recall-beleaguered 1.6L Ecoboost engine for a week.
Up till now there hasn’t been a “real” Prius alternative on the market. Sure Honda has the Civic and Insight, but their real-world MPGs can’t hold a candle to the green-car poster child and Honda’s IMA hybrid system is far from smooth and refined. The Volt is more of a novelty with its lofty price tag and the last time we tested one we revealed a lowly 32MPG average when running gasoline only. This brings us to the blue oval. Despite Ford using essentially the same technology as Toyota for their hybrid systems, Ford resisted creating a dedicated hybrid model. Until now. Meet the 47MPG 2013 Ford C-MAX Hybrid. Of course we’ve all heard the news that the C-MAX doesn’t hit 47MPG, so click-through the jump to find out what we averaged and whether or not that should matter to you.
When car companies need to stretch out a model’s useful lifespan, there are a number of tricks they use. After the first year, new colors are added. The next few year options and trim parts are tweaked. Around year four, a limited edition surfaces followed by a drivetrain revamp in year 5. And so it is with Infiniti’s sporty FX crossover, now entering its fifth model year as the “new” 2013 Infiniti FX37. You guessed it, the only thing new about the FX37 is the engine. Today’s burning question is: does a new engine give a luxury vehicle a lease on life? Or is this thinly disguised crossover life support? Click through the jump to find out.
So you think you need to carry seven people in comfort with decent economy but you don’t want to buy a minivan? Enter the three-row crossover. Thanks to stronger fuel economy regulations there are plenty of three-row CUVs to choose from, but you want something with a better brand name under 55-large, what does that do to the playing field? You’re left with the Lincoln MKT, Acura MDX, Volvo XC90, Buick Enclave and the newcomer in this phone booth sized segment: the 2013 Infiniti JX35. The new soft-roader Infiniti is already off to a good start coming in third in sales to the Enclave and MDX despite sales starting in April of this year. What’s it like to live with for a week and how does it stack up? Click through the jump to find out.
Land Rover and Jeep are the original go-anywhere brands and the brands most resistant to losing sight of their hard-core mission. Unfortunately this focus can’t shelter them from the need to meet evermore stringent emissions and fuel economy standards. What’s an iconic sub-brand like Range Rover to do? Dress up a small cross over in high-fashion bling for the urban set. This presents today’s question: does the Evoque dilute the off-road brand or is it an extension into uncharted waters?
What do you get when you add two doors to a 6-Series coupé? Last year the answer was: a 7-Series. Of course that was last year, now BMW has an all-new answer: the Gran Coupe. Of course, calling your latest sexy sedan a “coupé” is nothing new ( Mercedes has done it since 2004), what is new is the process by which this “coupé” arrived. Normally manufacturers introduce a new sedan, then within a year they delete two doors, lop off some trunk, give it a sporty grille and launch it as a coupé and convertible. The 6-Series Gran Coupe (GC) on the other hand is what happens when you take a an expensive coupé and add doors. In BMW speak, this process created a four-door coupé. Confused yet? Allow me to explain: apparently all you have to do to create a coupé is remove the sashes from the windows. (This means that Subaru buyers have driven coupés all these years and didn’t know it.) Can the sexy 6-Series beat Mercedes at their own CLS game? Let’s find out.
Once upon a time, being the “Cadillac of insert a noun here>” meant something magical. The problem is: it’s been 60 years since Cadillac was “The Cadillac of cars.” While the phrase lingers inexplicably on, GM is continues to play off-again/on-again with a flagship vehicle for the brand. The latest example is the all-new XTS. Instead of being “the Cadillac of flagships,” the XTS is a place holder until a full-lux Caddy hits. Whenever that may be. In the mean time, Detroit needed to replace the aging STS and the ancient DTS with something, and so it was that the XTS was born of the Buick LaCrosse and Chevy Malibu.
It’s not easy being Nissan’s middle child. Big brothers Maxima and Altima steal the limelight and even the Versa has upstaged the Sentra since 2011. With the seventh generation, Nissan has decided to completely redesign the Sentra giving it some much needed love. This refocus on the C-segment isn’t surprising with so much competition swirling from the stalwart Corolla and Civic to the upstart Dart and Sonic. In order to compete in this cut-throat market Nissan has whipped up a compact car so big on the inside it’s EPA classified as a mid-size sedan. Did Goldilocks get it right? Is the middle the best place to be?
If you’re like most Americans, you either drive an SUV or want one. Don’t believe me? One in three vehicles sold on our shores in the past 12 months was an SUV or crossover, despite skyrocketing fuel prices. Of course, those fuel prices mean the demographic of the SUV smorgasbord has shifted from gas-guzzling truck-based off-roaders to unibody “crossovers.” Although Nissan is a little late to the soft-road party, they are countering their tardiness by doubling down on standard towing and fuel economy. What’s the reality and what’s it like to drive? Click through the jump and find out as we go off-roading and tow an Airstream.
If you haven’t been paying attention to my life story (discretely woven into my reviews), I’ll spell it out clearly: I live in what is considered to be a temperate rainforest on the California coast, the nearest asphalt or concrete surface is over a mile away, and I have a deep (some say questionable) love for station wagons. If you combine this with liberal political leanings, my DINK (Dual Income, No Kids) status and a passion for Costco runs, I am the target market for an off-road wagon. Enter the 2013 Audi allroad. (No, for some reason “allroad” doesn’t get a capital letter.) Audi invited Michael Karesh to a launch event, event a few months ago, but what’s the XC70’s only competition like to live with for a week? Let’s find out.
When Volvo introduced the S60 in 2011, the Swedes advertised their mid-sized sedan as the naughtiest Volvo ever thanks to a 300HP turbocharged engine. While I’m sure former “R owners” would disagree, the S60 has met with sales success with over 18,000 units sold so far this year, a 14% increase over last year. In 2012 Volvo added a less powerful FWD model to the mix to cut the price of entry. For 2013 Volvo has further expanded the S60 line by adding a torque vectoring AWD system to the lightest S60. Volvo also tells us they have completely refreshed their T5 engine for 2013 and tweaked the transmission for the naughty Volvo’s first retouch ahead of the rumored 2014 refresh. Huh? Yep, Volvo’s gettin’ down with the yearly refresh. Does that make the T5 AWD the naughtiest Volvo ever? Let’s find out.