Tag archives for Cadillac
It’s Car of the Year time again! Over the past two weeks we’ve been teasing new 2013 Car of the Year contenders every day. With the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year announcement coming Monday, November 12 at 6:30 p.m. EST, we thought it’d be fun to ask which contender you think will take home the golden calipers.
But since we get this question at each Of The Year event, we’d like to provide a friendly reminder that Car of the Year is only open to new or significantly updated vehicles that cost $120,000 or less. That means that the 2013 Ford Fusion is eligible for Car of the Year because it’s a full update, while the 2013 Ford Focus ST isn’t, since only one trim level is new, not the whole car. With that cleared up, let’s take a look at the contenders.
Acura ILX – We Like: Available swift-shifting manual and Honda Civic Si drivetrain. We Don’t Like: Questionable value in certain trims.
BMW 3 Series – We Like: The developed and mature feel of the car; “amazing” handling. We Don’t Like: A bit softer than previous 3 Series cars
Cadillac ATS – We Like: Excellent steering, firm chassis and impressive dynamics. We Don’t Like: Balky manual transmission.
Cadillac XTS – We Like: Exceptionally smooth ride; rock solid at triple-digit speeds. We Don’t Like: 3.6-liter V-6 could use a bit more refinement.
Chevrolet Malibu – We Like: We generally liked the Malibu’s interior design. We Don’t Like: We found the backseat too cramped for adults.
Chevrolet Spark – We Like: Surprisingly fun to toss around; well-appointed interior. We Don’t Like: Low handling limits.
Coda EV Sedan – We Like: It’s a cheap and cheerful electric car, with a long range. We Don’t Like: Subpar interior, bland design.
Dodge Dart – We Like: Pleasant styling, excellent value. We Don’t Like: “Dead” steering feel.
Ford C-Max—We Like: Ease of electric-only driving, the fact that it’s a fun-to-drive hybrid. We Don’t Like: Tires lack the grip to live up to the chassis.
Ford Fusion – We Like: Excellent steering feedback on 1.6 EcoBoost model; vast array of engine, transmission, and drivetrain options. We Don’t Like: Not as fun to drive as the outgoing Fusion.
Honda Accord – We Like: Crisp handling, and buttoned-down interior. We Don’t Like: Surge-y, on-off throttle response at low speed with the CVT.
Hyundai Azera – We Like: Comfortable, roomy cabin with huge trunk. We Don’t Like: Polarizing styling.
Lexus ES – We Like: High-quality interior and roomy backseat. We Don’t Like: Hybrid suffered from a sloppy transition between regenerative and mechanical braking.
Lexus GS – We Like: Whole lineup was fun to drive – even the Hybrid; high-caliber interior design and materials. We Don’t Like: The haptic, mouse-like controller that operates the infotainment system.
Lexus LS – We Like: Comfortable and quiet ride; V-8 grunt. We Don’t Like: Not as much of a game-changer as the original LS.
Mercedes-Benz SL-Class – We Like: An excellent Grand Tourer; felt unflappable at high speeds. We Don’t Like: More horsepower than handling prowess.
Nissan Altima – We Like: Beautiful interior and comfortable seats. We Don’t Like: Could benefit from retuned steering.
Nissan Sentra – We Like: Baby Altima styling, and genuinely roomy interior. We Don’t Like: CVT and engine moan.
Porsche 911 – We Like: An incredibly usable supercar. We Don’t Like: Too obvious that Porsche spent more time developing the PDK than the manual.
Porsche Boxster – We Like: Exceptional build quality, beautiful balance. We Don’t Like: Poor value.
Scion FR-S – We Like: Incredibly fun to drive and an excellent value. We Don’t Like: Cheap-feeling interior.
Subaru BRZ – We Like: Terrific chassis; superb balance, and steering. We Don’t Like: We want more power.
Tesla Model S – We Like: Long range combined with excellent performance. We Don’t Like: Styling a bit safe.
Toyota Avalon – We Like: Great ride and handling; nicely appointed interior. We Don’t Like: A face only a mother could love.
Toyota Prius C – We Like: Cheap and cheerful appeal. We Don’t Like: This car is no fun.
Which contender do you think will take home the Golden Calipers as our 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year? Sound off in the poll and in the comments below.
To compete for the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year title, contenders must be all new or significantly revised 2013-model-year cars or 2012-model-year cars that went on sale too late for 2012 COTY consideration. All eligible vehicles are invited to compete. Check back to MotorTrend.com on November 12 at 3:30 p.m. PST / 6:30 p.m. EST to discover what will become the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year!
The New Year promises to bring lots of automotive cheer and new sheet metal to Motor Trend’s garage. Below is a list of more than a dozen new vehicles slated to hit the market in 2012, which should be more than enough to keep us busy with drives, tests, and reviews. The Motor Trend staff was tasked with the difficult job of picking their top three cars from the list below that they can’t wait to drive in 2012, and from there we tallied up the Top 5 vote getters. Do you agree with the winners? Sound off below.
2012 BMW M5
2013 Cadillac ATS
2013 Chevy Sonic RS
2013 Dodge Dart
2013 Ford Focus ST
2013 Ford Shelby GT500
2013 Mini Countryman JCW
2013 Porsche 911 Turbo
2013 SRT Viper
2013 Subaru BRZ/ Scion FR-S
2013 Subaru WRX/STI
2013 Tesla Model S
2013 Volkswagen Golf R
1. 2013 Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S
This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Toyota and Subaru have been hard at work jointly developing an affordable and fun-to-drive, rear-wheel drive sports car for the masses. And if you’ve been visiting www.motortrend.com, you’ve probably noticed both companies teasing us with sketches, specs, show cars, camouflaged cars, and on and on and on for years now. Well, 2012 is the year to find out if all the hard work and teasing has been worth the wait. And from our initial drives thus far, the BRZ and FR-S look very promising.
First Drive: 2013 Scion FR-S
First Drive: 2013 Subaru BRZ
2. 2013 SRT Viper
After a years-long hiatus, the Viper is coming back with its snake eyes set on the Corvette and Porsche 911. Expect many changes to the iconic American sports car, especially with Fiat now at the helm of Chrysler. We’ve heard the Italians, who know a little bit about sports cars, have been involved in the new Viper’s development. In addition, the 2013 Viper will be sold under the newly formed SRT brand, s0 it’s more critical than ever that the new Viper will be a world-class performer both on and off the track. As MT’s digital director Mike Floyd states, the 2013 SRT Viper is the “halo car SRT/Chrysler desperately needs if it’s going to be taken seriously as a true global performance brand.” And just to reiterate, “the pressure on this one is massive,” says editor-in-chief Ed Loh. “Looking forward to the return of the beast.”
3. Tied: 2012 BMW M5 and 2013 Cadillac ATS
2012 BMW M5
How will a turbocharged, eight-cylinder M5 perform on the road and on the track? That’s exactly what MT staffers are eager to find out. Road test editor Scott Mortara was among the first bunch of lucky journalists to drive the new M5 and he seemed to like it. “Without a doubt, the new 2012 BMW M5 is better than its predecessor in every way,” Mortara wrote in his first drive review of the 2012 M5. “Some say they’ll miss the high-rpm V-10 screaming under the hood. Not me. I’ll take this subtle torque monster any day. Much like a purveyor of fine spirits, when an automaker starts with quality components, and adds time, insight, and desire, it’s possible to create something amazing — a vintage that can truly be savored. With the new M5, BMW has done just that.”
2013 Cadillac ATS
“Every few years some car maker declares they’ve cracked the 3 Series code,” said senior features editor Jonny Lieberman. “None succeed. However, Caddy actually went to Germany, Bimmer’s home turf. So, maybe.”
Just maybe. So what is Lieberman talking about exactly? Well, as former editor-in-chief Angus MacKenzie adds, “the engineering team picked the delightful E46 3 Series as its dynamic benchmark for the new baby Caddy.” And as we’ve seen from the countless videos Cadillac has produced, the development team has spent countless hours and laps around the famed Nurburgring for testing. Given what we’ve seen so far, it’s hard to imagine what else General Motors could’ve done to develop its new 3 Series fighter. MacKenzie continues, “I can’t wait to find out if Detroit can really out-BMW BMW.” Neither can we.
4. Three-Way Tie: Ford Focus ST, Volkswagen Golf R, and Tesla Model S
2013 Ford Focus ST
With past generations of the Focus, we Americans have always lamented that the sportiest Focus models over the years were sadly out of our reach, available only in Europe and elsewhere. That all changes with the 2013 Focus ST. The 2012 Ford Focus has proven itself as having good bones; with the additional performance of the ST model, Ford may again have a real hot hatch competitor in the U.S. — if it’s not priced out of the market. So what are we looking forward to exactly? Basically, it’s the 2.0-liter, 250-hp, turbocharged, Ecoboost four banger wrapped around sleek sheetmetal. “After years of watered-down, rental-fleet Foci, Ford finally brings us a real contender in the ST,” said news director Ed Sanchez. “The VW GTI and Mazdaspeed 3 will have to make room in the sandbox for the new kid from Dearborn.”
2012 Volkswagen Golf R
We liked the first-gen Volkswagen R32, which was armed with the burbling 250-hp,VR6 engine and a manual transmission, and all-wheel-drive. The VR6 carried over in the second-gen R32, but it was only offered with the DSG transmission, which wasn’t a bad thing — unless you, like most of us in the office, are diehard fans of the third pedal. The 2013 Golf R is coming to America in manual transmission-form only and will be powered by a new 2.0-liter, turbocharged four-cylinder making 260-hp, and fitted with VW’s 4Motion all-wheel-drive system. Will we miss the VR6? Stay tuned to find out.
2012 Tesla Model S
Following the incredibly fast Tesla Roadster comes the Model S, the electric car for every (well off) man. Tesla recently confirmed a base price of $49,900, which includes a 40kWh battery and a range of 160 miles, which should be good enough for most Americans. “Sexy styling, cutting-edge tech. What’s not to like,” asks Sanchez. “Granted, Tesla has its share of skeptics and haters, but this could be the breakthrough car for the still-struggling electric upstart.”
5. Tied: 2013 Dodge Dart and 2013 Porsche 911 Turbo
2013 Dodge Dart
It’s been awhile since Dodge has produced a remotely memorable compact car (Dodge Neon anyone?). The 2013 Dodge Dart should change that. “As the Caliber retires, we might soon see an Elantra-like transformation here for Dodge in the compact car segment,” opined copy editor Zach Gale. “I can’t wait to discover whether that nine-speed automatic transmission performs smoothly or constantly hunts for gears.”
2013 Porsche 911 Turbo
Executive editor Ron Kiino recently had some wheel time behind the new 991 Porsche 911 and expects it to continue on as a sports car benchmark. “When we want to say just how quick a car is, or how well it handles, or how amazing its steering is, well, there’s one reference we turn to, Kiino wrote in his first drive of the 2012 Porsche 911. ‘”The new Evo corners as well as a 911!’ ‘This ‘Vette is even quicker than a 911!’ ‘The GT-R is so fast it can hang with a 911 Turbo!’ You get the point.” And like always, Porsche will keep things interesting with a number of variants such as the turbo. “The old 911 Turbo was Veyron-lite; delivering staggering acceleration and a swaggering sense of invincibility on the road,” said MacKenzie. “My wheeltime in the new Carrera S suggests this latest 911 is the best ever. If the new 911 Turbo delivers the same step-change, it’s going to be a helluva car.”
Happy Automobile of the Year week! With just days to go before we release the identity of the 2013 Automobile of the Year, we thought it would be best to catch you up on the proceedings and let you know a little bit more about what went down earlier this month.
We took 28 of the best and brightest cars that were new for the 2012/2013 model years to our favorite western Michigan hideaway, Gingerman Raceway in South Haven. Over the course of three days (two driving just on public roads, one driving just on Gingerman’s 2.1-mile road course), editors had the chance to drive each and every one of them and name a winner.
To make our jobs (slightly) easier, we also decided to name a “shortlist,” 10 finalists that went from merely being nominated for 2013 Automobile of the Year to being on the final ballot when we chose a winner. We’ve revealed the final ten in the following pages, and provided a little bit of real-time insight as our editors climbed out of each car, snapped photos on Instagram, and tapped out quick responses on Twitter.
By Ben Timmins
And just like that, we’re closing the book on 2012 and preparing to start 2013. Motor Trend staffers were lucky enough to drive a wide assortment of fantastic cars, with everything from the 74-hp Volkswagen Up! to the 691-hp Lamborghini Aventador passing through our garage. Of the hundreds of cars we’ve driven this year, these are the cars that stood out most to our editors in 2012, for better and for worse.
Erick Ayapana, Associate Online Editor:
Best: 2013 Porsche Boxster S
I only needed a few minutes in the 2013 Porsche Boxster S before feeling completely comfortable driving the car at its limits. No other car I’ve driven this year has felt as perfect or as fun to drive as the Boxster. And how about that back side? The Boxster’s spoiler (and how it blends into the taillight units) is hands down the sexiest automotive design feature I’ve seen all year.
Worst: 2012 Volkswagen Routan
The VW logo on the steering wheels said I was driving a Volkswagen, but it sure didn’t feel like it. Again, this is nothing more than a rebadged Chrysler Town & Country and nothing about the minivan feels remotely German. Case in point: we all know that German carmakers treat cup holders like the plague, yet the Routan’s Getränkehalter (cup holder) count totals 15.
Mike Febbo, Associate Editor:
Best: Porsche 911 Carrera S
I proclaimed the beginning of the end when the 996 replaced the air-cooled 993, but became a believer again after first driving the 997. As for the 991, the car has restored my faith in Porsche as the best sports car builder on the planet. From driving position, to steering, to the new PDK gearbox, everything about the 991 is exceptional.
Worst: BMW e39 M5 at the Nurburgring
While the e39 M5 is one of the best sedans ever built, this particular car was on its factory tires — the tires fitted when it was built. After a few years of hard use and then being put into storage, these near slick chunks of carbon offered just slightly more grip than the wheels they were mounted on. On a rain-soaked track in just over freezing temperatures, this was one of the most terrifying experiences I’ve had as a journalist.
Mike Floyd, Senior Digital Content Director:
Best: Cadillac ATS
Other than our esteemed 2013 Car of the Year — the out-of-this-world Tesla Model S — the car I was most impressed with in 2012 was the Cadillac ATS. Anyone who thinks General Motors can’t build world-class cars needs to beat feet down to a Cadillac dealer and get behind the wheel of the ATS. Both the turbo-four and V-6 powertrains are impressive, and while we had some issues with the manual (they assure us it’s being adjusted), the fact that they offer one at all was a huge bonus point in any enthusiast’s book — and mine as well. It looks good, handles great, moves out with authority and while a little fussy at times, its CUE telematics system is among the most impressive of its type out there. Bravo Cadillac, a sport sedan that truly has what it takes to compete with all comers.
Worst: Chevrolet Malibu
Conversely, the Chevrolet Malibu also shows how far GM has to go in some segments. At this year’s Car of the Year event, we had some of the heaviest hitters in the midsize sedan category out for evaluation, and the Malibu was literally crushed by the weight of new Accord, Fusion, and Altima. Its engine/transmission was underpowered and lazy, its steering was vague and suspension unsettled and its interior (at least the car we had at the event) was no match for its competitors. To put it bluntly, it simply cannot compete with the best the segment has to offer. We hear now that Chevrolet is rushing changes to the Malibu much as Honda did with the Civic. Let’s hope it helps, because the present Malibu is going to need all the massaging it can get to stay off the rental car lots.
Zach Gale, Online News Director:
Best: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG coupe
The Aston Martin DBS is more attractive than the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG, but at least the German car doesn’t have a small, folding Garmin navigation screen at the top of its otherwise pleasing cabin. What excites me about the SLS AMG is its engine note. No modern supercar can be fully exploited safely on open-to-the-public winding roads, so I especially appreciate the SLS AMG’s engine sound and the wild appeal provided by the long hood and gullwing doors. My honorable mention might go to the Lexus GS 350, with its surprisingly good interior and decent driving dynamics.
Worst: Coda EV sedan
It must be a tough time to be a small electric-automaker, competing with well-funded entries from companies like Nissan and Chevrolet, but that doesn’t mean we can overlook the Coda EV sedan’s shortcomings. Though I love an underdog, this electric sedan has too many impossible-to-ignore shortcomings. Despite the bold five-spoke wheels, there’s the dated exterior styling and the interior’s center stack that’s simply not up to the class standard, with an ultra-low-mounted central screen and a general feeling that’s more “economy car” than “special electric sedan.” We want to like the Coda but, at least for me, I found it difficult to get past the packaging that helps keep costs down.
Jonny Lieberman, Senior Features Editor:
Best: Porsche 911 Carrera S
Yeah, the car that won the 2012 Best Drivers Car also won my heart. Other cars are faster, flashier, more practical, etc., but no car is as fun to throw around on your favorite mountain road. A huge improvement over what I thought was already nearly perfect (the old 997), the new 991 is a revelation. I can’t even imagine what the follow-up versions (Turbo, GT3, 50th Anniversary edition, etc.) will be like, but I can imagine how much I’ll like them. Runners up this year include the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series Coupe, Mercedes-Benz CL65, Tesla Model S, Cadillac ATS 3.6, Toyota Avalon, and Morgan 3-Wheeler.
Worst: Chevrolet Malibu
Really GM? You knock one out of the park with the Caddy ATS and then revert back to your bad old ways with this… well, you can’t call it a car so much as a collection of bad things people associate with rental cars. Slow, bad brakes, clueless transmission, an engine that sounds like a vacuum cleaner sucking up a T-shirt, poor suspension, tight back seat, poor NVH, etc. I refer to the new Malibu around the office as “Dumpster Fire.” It’s that bad. Don’t believe me? GM is rushing the refresh. Runners up: Dodge Dart, Toyota Prius C, Lexus ES 350.
Ed Loh, Editor-in-Chief:
Best: Tesla Model S
Obviously our COTY! Everyone who has driven it comes away impressed; I have yet to find anyone who has not been “converted.” It also ranks as the most surprising for me. I remember flying to Las Vegas for the third long-distance test we did and feeling the weight of expectation as I approached it in the parking garage of the Aria casino. I remember feeling somewhat confused and lost when the valet handed me the key, because I had been so busy up until that moment of truth, I hadn’t paid much attention to the testing we had done, the feedback from colleagues Kim, Frank, Jessi, and Benson — in fact, I had no idea about how to open the car door or start it up, save the verbal instructions I had received the day before. And to my surprise – everything worked as promised. The door handle popped out when I pushed on it, the car magically came to life when I got it inside, and a minute later, as I pulled out of the darkness of the garage and into the bright daylight of Las Vegas, I forgot I was in an electric car. It was that seamless and smooth. Shocking really.
Worst/Most Disappointing: BMW M5
I was probably most disappointed by the BMW M5. Fast yes, but so much of the purity, of what made that car special, seems to have disappeared. It’s still fast, but its feels artificially enhanced and unnatural. On an industry level, I’m really sad to see Suzuki exit the U.S. market; they have a great sedan here (Kizashi) but that clearly wasn’t enough. Would have loved to see Swift and Jimny here, but those are fringe products; Suzuki went after mainstream volume and failed. Hyundai’s 40 MPG debacle is also incredibly disappointing, but only stands to highlight how important fuel economy is right now and will continue to be in the future.
Frank Markus, Technical Director:
Most Memorable: Lamborghini Aventador
To be clear, the best car I drove this year was Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Model S, which conveyed myself and Jessi Lang from L.A. to Vegas with no extension cord. But my most memorable drive of 2012 was a 2107-kilometer (1310 mile) trek from Sant’Agata Bolonese, Italy to Zaragoza Spain in Lamborghini’s new Aventador for a visit to the very bullring where its namesake, an 1118-pound toro bravo fought so bravely in 1993. Scaling the spectacularly scenic Col de la Bonnette in the Maritime Alps, and the Col d’Aspin in the Pyrenees was almost as memorable as threading the seemingly 9-foot wide spaceship through tourist-choked medieval cart-paths of Monte Carlo, Nice, and Arles. Watching the descendants of the Gallardo line of fighting bulls charge this orange missile and then using the Aventador to charge matador Tomas Luna on the very same Albero sand where the brave bull perished are permanently etched in my automotive memory banks.
Worst: Coda EV sedan
This is really a case of inopportune time-shifting. The Coda is a 1990s car trying to compete in 2012, and as such it doesn’t stand a chance. The Chinese, bless their hearts, cannot design a new car to save their lives. (Yet.) So they engage in their own brand of R & D (receive and duplicate) or, as in the case of Hafei, start with ancient hand-me-down Mitsubishi architecture and pass the design-cost savings along. Getting the car itself for super-cheap was understandably important to Coda, which planned to stuff it full of 20 or 30 grand’s worth of batteries. The result is a stiff riding, tinny sounding, poorly appointed, noisy, mean conveyance that does—on the upside—offer plenty of get-up-n-go and reasonable range. Just try super hard to avoid the sort of wrecks that NHTSA and others subject cars to, as the Coda performs like an ancient Mitsubishi in such tests.
Alex Nishimoto, Associate Online Editor:
Best: McLaren 12C
During our 2012 Best Driver’s Car competition, I had the good fortune to take home the McLaren for a night. Needless to say, it was a good night. The racy exterior design, low-H-point seating position, and 592-hp twin-turbo V-8 all contributed to a VIP-like driving experience. Though it sometimes took multiple finger swipes of the touch sensors to open the handle-less scissor doors, there are few things I can think of that impart swagger better than getting in or out of a $200,000-plus supercar.
Most Disappointing: Mitsubishi Lancer GT
Going into my test of the Lancer GT, I was actually excited to see what the sporty-looking compact had to offer. On paper, the GT trim level looks like a decent sport compact for budget-minded enthusiasts. But a poorly appointed cabin (especially for our $25,000 as-tested price), nasal-sounding engine note, and un-engaging paddle-shifted CVT held the car back from being anything other than basic transportation.
Kirill Ougarov, Production Manager:
Best: Mercedes-Benz G550
We had one hell of a year when it comes to Benzes, what with getting every AMG extant and every S-Class, but my favorite was easy the red G550 for the simple reason it was a G-Wagen, and thus awesome. There’s also that whole thing about us Russians loving G-Wagens. Honorary mention to the matte-white E63 AMG. Now to combine the two and get my hands on a G63…
Worst: Ford Taurus
There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the car itself, but I’m putting it down here because MyFord Touch froze up on me while I was trying to switch audio sources and wouldn’t reset until the car power-cycled once I parked it at my destination, which happened to be some 45 miles away. Merely turning it off then back on, on the side of the freeway didn’t do the trick. As a result, I had limited controls over the audio, no ability to control the climate control, and no navigation during the whole drive.
Kim Reynolds, Testing Director:
Best: Tesla Model S
This pick sounds a bit obvious now, but before anyone had a chance to drive the Tesla there were lots of reasons to be apprehensive. It was their first from-the-ground-up design. They had zero experience in building a complete car. And after the Volt battery-fire incident, also good reason to worry about its enormous lithium-ion battery. So the Model S’ subsequent competence is just short of miraculous. By comparison, we still see cars from very established, highly experienced car companies that contain absolutely remarkable mistakes. Such as my Worst pick of the year.
Worst: Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
Understand, this isn’t my worst car of the year, but rather the one that most surprised me (in a negative way) compared to my expectations. The SLS AMG’s limit handling is very difficult for me to comprehend from a company with this experience. Defeat its stability nannies and its rear can slip away like a squeezed pumpkin seed and is about as easy to wrangle back behind you as a frightened rabbit. Driven with abandon, the SLS AMG can quickly make you look like a complete idiot.
Christian Seabaugh, Associate Online Editor:
Best: Subaru BRZ
I drove a lot of fantastic (and expensive) cars and trucks this year including the Tesla Model S and the Porsche Boxster S, but the car I keep coming back to is the Subaru BRZ. I can’t get enough of this car. Every time I get out of it I want nothing more than to go back out and have another go. It’s just such a rewarding car to drive, with so much personality; the engine is rev-happy, the gearbox is a delight, the pedals are perfectly spaced, and the handling is some of the best I’ve experienced this side of a Ferrari 458 Italia. I simply adore this thing. Honorable mentions: Chevrolet Spark, Ford Raptor, Mazda Miata Super 20, Porsche 911 Carrera, Tesla Model S.
Worst: Chevrolet Malibu
I never thought I’d more miserable driving than I was earlier this year trying to get 40 mpg out of our old long-term Hyundai Elantra. Then I drove the Chevrolet Malibu. The Malibu is just such a disappointing car to drive, especially compared to the new Honda Accord and Ford Fusion. From the transmission constantly hunting for gears, to the underpowered, drone-y engine, to the complete disconnect between the wheels and the road – the Malibu just disappointed on all fronts. I can honestly say that I’ve never been so eager to stop driving than I was in the Malibu. Here’s hoping GM can step its game up with the next one. Dishonorable mentions: BMW 528i, Cadillac Escalade, Dodge Dart, Nissan Sentra, Toyota Camry, Toyota Prius C
Melissa Spiering, Online Editor, Truck Trend:
Best: XPLORE Adventure Series’ 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon
I got to take XPLORE‘s custom built Adventure Series’ 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon off-roading in Johnson Valley, California, to watch the Sixth Annual Griffin King of the Hammers off-road race. It had the right modifications mechanically and visually to stand out in the crowd without looking over done. The all-new 3.6-liter V-6 Pentastar was a blast to drive on the trails and hillsides to get to the best viewpoints for the race.
Worst: 2013 Jeep Compass Latitude 4X4
Is it dead yet? Two weeks in the 2013 Jeep Compass Latitude and I couldn’t get one staffer to trade me vehicles. The noisy CVT was nerve wrecking and the 2.4-liter engine was gutless. The most heartbreaking thing about the Compass is that it poses itself to be a real Jeep but sadly lacks the true heart and soul of what the Jeep brand is. My dog enjoyed the ride though – she was able to hold her balance in the back seat due to the lack of torque.
Jason Udy, Associate Online Editor:
Best: Nissan GT-R Black Edition
After putting more than 1700 miles on our long-term Nissan GT-R Black Edition in four days, including onramp blasts for the enjoyment of 30 friends and family members, I came away impressed by Godzilla’s ride quality, fuel mileage, and sheer acceleration. In fact, my 60-year-old aunt who traveled with me commented that it was the most enjoyable road trip she had ever made. Points for the Recaro seats and suspension’s comfort mode. Overall the GT-R returned 19.1 mpg (19.9 mpg not including the tank of fuel used for onramp runs) at an average of 10 mph above posted speeds. Let’s not forget the as-tested 2.8-second 0-60 mph time.
Worst: Coda EV sedan
While the Coda may not be the most disappointing car I drove in 2012 (my expectations were too low for disappointment), it was by far the worst car I drove all year. The interior is cheap and handling is downright scary. Part of what makes the Coda feel cheap are its Chinese economy car roots – basically a modified and rebadged Hafei Saibao that has been on the market for years.
What were the best and worst cars you’ve driven in 2012?
What cocktails go best with all this car chatter? Automobilemag.com is here to help with weekly recipes. Remember, this is for talking about cars, not driving — always designate a driver. This week’s cocktail comes by way of Automobile Magazine contributor Bob Merlis, who served The Christie at his Palm Springs pool party this past week. The Christie is made my mixing vodka and fresh grapefruit juice (Merlis recommends plucking a grapefruit from a tree and giving it a squeeze, since they grow all over Palm Springs); the proportions between juice and liquor and use of ice are up to the drinker’s discretion. Top with sparkling water, a splash of pomegranate juice, and a squeeze of lime. Read more about Merlis’ party below.
Ready for Bed: It actually has lights! Who wouldn’t want to tuck their kids in this Corvette bed? Now if only they made it an adult-size.
Tom Hang, Graphic Designer
BaT Hits the Big Time: We’ve long been fans of Bring A Trailer, the daily email with picks of the most interesting vintage cars for sale. We’ve even interviewed its founder, Randy Nonnenberg. Recently, BaT received the endorsement of bona fide celebrity car guy Jerry Seinfeld, in his recent appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman.
Seinfeld suggests that BaT might be the place to find a vintage ride for Dave, for Seinfeld’s web series, “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” The question is, what would be the right car for Letterman?
Joe Lorio, Senior Editor
Review Sparks Outrage: John Broder’s review in The New York Times of the Tesla Model S, our Automobile of the Year, drew nasty tweets from the automaker’s chief, Elon Musk. Public reaction seems to favor Musk and his electric car, though I have no doubt that Broder followed Tesla’s instructions in his test of the company’s East Coast Supercharger network, resulting in a dead car. The Model S is a high-tech wonder, with an impressive electric-car range. It’s not for the uninformed, uninvolved customer, even the rich ones, who plans to drive it every day, in all conditions. Musk may be a visionary, but he’s a thin-skinned one, used to sycophantic press clips from an adoring Silicon Valley press corps. Buck up, Elon; new car reviews, like the car business, aren’t easy.
Todd Lassa, Executive Editor
German NASCAR: We got fired up for the sports car racing season last week at Daytona Int’l Speedway as BMW introduced its new car for the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), the BMW Z4 GTE. It looks like the snakiest Z4 in captivity with its unique, wide-body aero bodywork for the U.S., plus it has a 480-hp version of the latest 4.4-liter BMW V-8. Compared to the former M3 GT’s V-8 with its 180-degree crankshaft, this new BMW V-8, with its even-fire crankshaft, sounds like a NASCAR engine. In fact, NASCAR exec Mike Helton made a brief appearance in pit lane to see the program, and as the BMW Z4 GTE roared past on the banking, he said, “Now that sounds like a proper racing car.”
Mid-Century Magnificence: This weekend Palm Springs wraps up Modernism Week, which is the annual celebration of Mid-Century Modern design in the resort town in the California desert. Last Monday the Modernism Week car show took place in front of the convention center, a modest event of about 60 cars. Contributor Bob Merlis was predictably one of the ringleaders, as he knows everyone in Palm Springs who owns a cool car from the 1950s and 1960s. Merlis and his wife even hosted a pool party where Modernism Week performer Lou Christie – famous for his three-octave singing in the early 1960s — was the honored guest. Now that it’s cool to own a car that you might see in Mad Men, our Connecticut-bred Merlis wears a 1950s porkpie hat like he was born to it.
All in the Family: Contributor Ronald Ahrens was at Daytona Int’l Speedway last weekend as the 2014 Chevrolet SS was presented to the public. It made sense, since the rear-wheel-drive SS is the template for Chevrolet’s new-generation NASCAR racer that will appear in the Daytona 500 on Sunday. GM North America president Mark Reuss was the key spokesman, which seems only fair, since he was the general manager of Holden in Australia when the platform beneath the SS was first developed for the Pontiac G8. Some noticed that many wore a T-shirt emblazoned, “L. Reuss Garage: Excellent Used Cars, Darmstadt, Ill.” This is the car lot owned by Reuss’s grandfather, and Reuss’s father grew up there to become first an important GM engineer and then president of the whole corporation. This might seem like vanity move by Mark Reuss, but today Detroit feels like a family enterprise more than ever, because every person on every street depends on the car business for a livelihood and lives and dies with its successes and failures more than ever. Grandsons on the assembly line and daughters in the engineering office – everyone. It’s no longer fashionable at Chrysler, Ford and GM to be a Wall Street bagman and pretend it’s all just about business. In Detroit, it’s not just business. It’s personal.
Michael Jordan, Senior Editor
The End of Road Rage?: After I stumbled upon some illustrations of hovering cars the other week, I’m just now reading about Google’s new driverless car and the impacts it could have on roads, legislation and, really, how we live our everyday lives. The advent of these cars raises an important question: what happens when a driverless car is in an accident that might normally provoke road rage? It’s easy enough to get angry with the driver of a fellow car, but when it’s actually the car and not the driver that’s responsible for the accident, do you instead unleash your furry on an inanimate object?
John Kalmar, Graphic Designer
AWD AMG: Realizing that its E-Class needed major work, Mercedes-Benz implemented some serious changes for the mid-cycle face-lift of its high-volume mid-size car. The change that strikes me most is the move to standard all-wheel drive (sorry, 4Matic) for the AMG performance edition. Mercedes-AMG will soon go from offering zero all-wheel-drive cars to four (E63, CLS63, A45, and CLA45), in addition to the quartet of all-wheel drive SUVs already for sale. Is this a good thing? That depends on whether you’d rather get superb lap times on track days or perform sensational powerslides for magazine covers. BMW says that its M cars will remain rear-wheel drive, but German car companies often behave like lemmings, so I wouldn’t be surprised if BMW follows Mercedes, which followed Audi anyway.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
Million Dollar Rides: It turns out that Will.i.am from The Black Eyed Peas is the owner of that crazy $900,000 Dick Tracy from the future car. Yeesh.
Kelly Murphy, Creative Director
Marketing Madness: Driving a Chrysler 300 Glacier Edition, I couldn’t help but to wonder why someone would buy one of these over the 300 S. The Glacier is based on the S, but eschews things like full leather seats and 19-inch wheels, while adding little more than one unique paint color, special floormats, and not-even-trying-to-look real carbon fiber interior trim. Unless you’re jones-ing for a 300 painted in Glacier Blue Pearl with 17-inch wheels, there’s little reason to opt for the special-edition car over the 300 S. We get it Chrysler – you’re trying to remind us that you have an all-wheel drive sedan in your dealerships, but I think your marketing money might be better spent just reminding people that the 300 is quite a good car, no special edition needed.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
Navigation Niggles: I spent Monday and Tuesday driving a Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible from Las Vegas to San Francisco. It was a spectacular car that handled Death Valley as well as it did a blizzard (thanks to the snow tires). But the navigation system is severely lacking. The Hyundai Azera I’m driving around Los Angeles has a faster, more logical navigation system. Then again, I suppose anyone driving a Bentley has already arrived.
Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor
CDs? What are Those? I’m generally a fan of services like Rdio and Pandora to stream music, but I was recently reminded how good CDs—derided as relics of a bygone era—still are. I purchased Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire” with my Sunday morning Starbucks and popped it into the Buick Regal GS’ optional Harmon/Kardon stereo; the combination of high-quality audio, surround sound algorithms, and about 500 watts of power turned “When It’s All Over” (one of the album’s most adventurous, and most satisfying, tracks) into an aural masterpiece. I’m sure that I could have replicated the experience in some cars with Bluetooth, or HD Radio, but CDs remain the most consistently awesome medium for listening to high-quality tunes.
Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor
World’s Worst Drivers? There was no shortage of video footage of the asteroid that hit Russia last week thanks to the fact that so many drivers in that country have dash-mounted video cameras in their cars. Curious as to why this is so, The Washington Post looked into it and reports that the dash cams are there as a reaction to Russia’s high incidence of hit-and-run crashes and false accident-liability claims. One result of all those dash cams is that the internet is chockfull of compilations of Russian traffic accidents. Go to YouTube or Google and type in “Russian car crash” and you’ll find scores of video compilations of Russian traffic accidents. You’ll be alternately entertained by the crazy driving maneuvers and the fender benders that result and dismayed by the widespread disregard for public safety. But once you start watching, you might not be able to stop. It is, literally, like watching a train wreck – er, make that a car crash.
Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor
Bling Bling: If that spiffy new 2013 GL in your driveway lacks a certain something, Mercedes-Benz has something that might literally light up your life. The automaker’s accessories wing is now selling kits that illuminate the gigantic three-pointed star grille emblem with LEDs at night. Pricing remains unknown, as does the illuma-star’s compliance with federal safety standards. Part of me kind of hopes Mercedes-Benz develops this for its European Actros semi truck, as that emblem is about the size of an extra-large pizza.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
Mulling Over Mercedes: Mercedes-Benz USA product planners and PR reps visited this week and gave me a few things to think about:
They talked more about the upcoming CLA250, the so-called baby CLS four-door coupe that will have a price point just below $30K (before destination charge) when it goes on sale later this year, thus undercutting the current least expensive Mercedes-Benz, the C-class sedan, by some five or six thousand dollars. The CLA appears to be a beautiful car (I’ve seen it only in photos), and I don’t think the target buyers in the United States will give a fig that it’s built on a front-wheel-drive platform rather than rear-wheel drive. (All-wheel drive will arrive early in 2014.) But it got me thinking about this difficult business of premium brands reaching down the price scale. I thought about the BMW 318 hatchback of the mid-90s, which started in the low to mid $20,000s. I thought about the early-2000s C-Class, which was heavily advertised as being a Mercedes for less than $30,000. Neither one of those cars really did much for their brands. I think the jury is still out on whether a premium brand like Mercedes can dip this low in the American market without losing its cachet.
Mercedes-Benz USA’s head of product planning, when asked about the recent announcements of a Chevrolet Cruze diesel and a Mazda 6 diesel, was ecstatic, telling us that nothing can be better for acceptance of diesel automobiles in America than affordable, mass-market diesel sedans. Mercedes, which has been selling BlueTec versions of its E-Class and S-Class sedans and its M-Class and GL-Class SUVs, has done everything it can to educate Americans that modern diesel engines are smooth, powerful, reliable, and efficient, but they’ve had a very difficult time spreading the message beyond a core group of true believers. So it was interesting to me to see a representative of a premium brand so excited about what’s going on at two mass-market brands.
Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor
XL1ent: The news that Volkswagen will put its XL1 into limited production is great for the auto industry. Sure, the teensy, slow, and likely very expensive car is nowhere near as thrilling as the latest supercar from Europe — but it involves just as much clever engineering. The challenges needed to build a car that can drive 261 miles on a single gallon of diesel fuel are just as (or perhaps more) interesting than those needed to build a 900-horsepower supercar. Just like a supercar, the Volkswagen XL1 will be somewhat expensive and thus will have limited appeal, but also like a supercar, lessons learned from the XL1 will eventually trickle down to other models. This car is the future — and I would love to drive it.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
88 MPH: Universal Studios recently announced that a crack team of geeks restored a DeLorean from the Back to the Future franchise. This “Time Machine Restoration Team” reminds me of when a Midwestern DeLorean club visited my high school.
I woke up early on a Saturday morning and drove to our garage to clean and paint suspension components for a 1965 Ford Mustang. About an hour after I arrived, the first one pulled up. Then the next one. Then the next. The stainless-steel locusts filled the lot adjacent to the garage. I studied the cars only until I saw their owners. “88 MPH” t-shirts tucked into the elastic waistbands of 99-cent sweatpants. One guy silently walked around with a clipboard. One guy put his car up on a two-post lift, looked at its underside for a few minutes, then decided to cut a line that subsequently spilled transmission fluid all over the floor. One guy enthusiastically gloated that he’d installed a clear, neon-lit steering wheel in his car.
I’ve seen my hell, and it’s full of aspiring “Time Machine Restoration Team” members.
Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor
Extreme Makeover: Lots of new cars have claustrophobic interiors. In some cases, like that of the Chevrolet Camaro, this is driven by conscious (if not quite wise) design. But even family cars like the Chevy Malibu and Ford Fusion—vehicles put on earth to haul people and things—seem to have oppressively big dashboards, door panels, and roof pillars. The real culprit is all the stuff that’s found its way into our cars in the last few decades—airbags, touchscreens, multi-zone climate control, super-strong roof pillars. No wonder people think they need big crossovers.
Enter the Visteon e-Bee concept. The supplier essentially gutted a Nissan Leaf and rebuilt it with some new components and new thinking. The climate control hardware is smaller and has been relocated from under the dashboard to the nose of the car. The front airbags move into the ceiling.
All this obviates the need for a big dashboard, which as one Visteon designer reminded me, exists solely to hide ugly parts like the A/C blower motor. This opens up space for the front passenger. That passenger, in turn, sits on a fixed seat, saving the weight and cost of rails. Capacitive screens replace just about every physical control, something we’re already seeing on production cars with mixed results. Here, two small screens are placed on either side of the steering wheel, almost like shift paddles. This placement theoretically reduces the hands-off-wheel time and replaces the bulky center stack. Visteon is also working on software that “learns” a driver’s climate and media preferences, so one wouldn’t constantly need to dig through menus to flip on seat heaters and tune to a favorite radio station.
Some of Visteon’s ideas are a bit radical. I don’t think, for instance, most American buyers would give up floor carpeting (saves weight) or a rear window (ditto). But the general direction is brilliant. Car interiors cannot continue to look exactly like they did twenty years ago, only with more stuff, because the stuff is crowding out the passengers.
David Zenlea, Associate Editor
There was a time when most automakers actually bothered to give their vehicles real names. Cars had elegant names like Continental and Fleetwood, while trucks had tough-sounding names like Bronco and Ram. More often than not nowadays cars get named random alphanumeric characters like FX50 and Z4 sDrive35is.
Last week we asked readers in a Thread of the Day which new cars should be renamed. Today, we’re sharing with you 10 of our favorites from your suggestions. Here are your picks:
One car that showed up a few times in the comments was the Acura RLX. Readers pointed out that Acura’s nomenclature had no easily understandable logic to it, and that the luxury brand once had good names like Legend and Integra.
The 2014 BMW 4 Series was another car mentioned more than once. Though the reasoning behind changing the name of the two-door 3 Series to the 4 Series may be sound, some feel there’s too much heritage behind the 3 Series name to make the change. “Renaming the 3 Series Coupe the 4 Series was a stupid idea,” said –i4Collin-.
The Cadillac XTS and ATS also made the list. “Cadillac has a rich history of names to choose from, but they ignore it and go with alphanumeric names,” said Kavman, who also pointed out that the CTS name has become somewhat iconic within the brand.
The 2014 Chevrolet SS generated some comments, too. Many thought GM was cheapening the “SS” brand (traditionally a high-performance trim level) by naming a car after it. “Chevy SS is a cop-out,” wrote BlackDynamiteOnline, “There are like 30 Chevys with the SS moniker somewhere on them, past and present. The car is as generic as the name.” Suggested alternative names to the 2014 SS included the Impala SS (as a follow up to the mid-’90s version), Caprice, Biscayne, and Bel Air.
Similarly, commenters had a problem with names like Lincoln MKZ. Just like Cadillac, some felt that Lincoln had too rich of a history to rely on meaningless alphabet soup for names. “Lincoln needs real names for its cars,” said Dan Murphy, “The alphabet soup is lame – so much redundancy.” Many want Lincoln to bring back the Continental, Town Car, and Mark names.
One commenter said the McLaren 12C needed to be renamed…again, perhaps to something that isn’t reminiscent of a fax machine.
Though the Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG name comes from Mercedes tradition, the general consensus was that the numbers in the automaker’s names should reflect the displacement of the engine, as they once did. Thus, the 5.5-liter twin-turbo V-8-powered E63 would become the E55 AMG, and the 6.2-liter V-8-powered C63 would become the C62.
The Scion FR-S appeared in the comments section as well. The most common suggestions from commenters were to rebadge it as a Toyota and name it the GT86 or the Celica.
The Tesla Model S is one of two cars on this list that doesn’t actually have an alphanumeric naming scheme. The main complaint, from MistyJ, was that the name “doesn’t have much personality.”
Like the Tesla, the Volkswagen Tiguan doesn’t have random letters for a name, but readers still don’t like it. “Tiguan” is a made-up word (a combination of “Tiger” and “Iguana”).
What new cars need a name change? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
We’ve all seen televised classic car auctions where a one-owner piece of vintage iron fetches six-digit sums, and we’ve all wondered the same thing, “How did that guy know his car was going to be a classic one day?” Not long after, you probably looked at what’s in your driveway, and wondered, “Will my car ever become a classic?” Being car guys (and girls), we often wonder the same thing – what modern cars might become future classics? We’ve compiled a list of the top 10 new cars that we think might one day be collectible.
So what in our minds makes a car a future classic? Three things: Significance to either the automaker or industry, rarity (which very well may leave a few significant cars off this list), and styling with staying power – because who wants to own an ugly classic car? Also (with one exception) the vehicles in question have to currently be on sale. With that in mind, here are our Top 10 New Car Future Classics:
BMW M3: We believe the E90-series M3 might become a future collectible for a few reasons. For starters, this generation of M3 represents the end of an era for the storied M Car. BMW’s M cars have always been known for their high-revving naturally aspirated engines. Unfortunately, the future of the M car lies with the turbocharger, which means the M3′s rev-happy 414-hp, 295-lb-ft 4.0-liter V-8 could be the last naturally aspirated M motor to ever be built. Because of that, the M3 will likely become a prize for future BMW collectors.
Cadillac CTS-V Wagon: This is the car that many thought GM didn’t have the cojones to build: a Nürburgring-slaying station wagon packing a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 producing 556 hp and 551 lb-ft of torque, driving the rear wheels through a proper six-speed manual transmission. The CTS-V Wagon has a couple things going for it on the collectible front: it’s a niche product so not many exist (relatively speaking), it’s expensive, which keeps it out of the hands of its mostly young fans, and it’s truly stunning to look at. The CTS-V Wagon very well may be a blockbuster at Barrett-Jackson auctions in the distant future.
Chevrolet Corvette ZR1: Like the C4 Corvette ZR-1 before it, the C6 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 is bound to become a collectible This Corvette represents the best of the C6 ‘Vettes, and is easily among the best Corvettes ever made. The ZR1 is guaranteed collectible status thanks to the stories behind it: this is the first Corvette to crack 200 mph and the first to cost over $100,000. It’s also a world beater, having gone up against the best Europe and Asia has to offer, like the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano and Nissan GT-R. So why will the Corvette ZR1 be a future classic? Because America.
Fisker Karma: Likely to be a controversial choice, the Fisker Karma nonetheless easily meets the criteria to be a future collectible. The Karma is significant to Fisker and the automotive industry because the Karma is not only the first vehicle Fisker has ever built, but it’s also the first luxury extended-range electric vehicle. The Karma’s got rarity too, especially considering all of the production delays that were necessary for Fisker to recall all of its vehicles. Lastly, the Karma is a striking automobile to look at, and it’ll likely look just as good as it does today 20 or 30 years from now.
Ford Shelby GT500: What could be more significant than being both the most powerful factory Mustang ever and the first Mustang with a 200-mph top speed? Simple: Carroll Shelby. The 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 is the last factory Shelby Mustang that the dearly departed Shelby ever worked on. Because of that connection, the car’s big 5.8-liter 662-hp supercharged V-8, and the ridiculous top speed, the Shelby GT500 is most certainly on its way to becoming a collectible.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X: Like the BMW M3, the current-generation Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X will likely be remembered as the end of an era. While its Subaru rival will continue on into its next generation, the Evo X marks the end of the Evo as we know it. Mitsubishi reportedly wants to go in another direction with the Evo XI – a direction that ditches the all-wheel-drive rally rocket’s turbocharged 2.0-liter I-4 in favor of a plug-in hybrid setup. Will it be able to live up to the Evo name? Only time will tell, but if Mitsubishi does go that route, the current Evo X may very well become a prized collectible.
Nissan GT-R: What can we say about Godzilla that hasn’t already been said? Not only is the Nissan GT-R highly desirable, but it’s an incredibly important car for Nissan. The R35 GT-R is significant because it’s the first GT-R to ever be legally sold in the U.S., and it’s taken the segment by storm, frequently finishing on the podium in our Best Driver’s Car competitions. Despite its relatively low price, Godzilla remains a rarity on the streets, and though it has love-it-or-hate-it styling, the GT-R will without a doubt remain desirable in the future.
Saab 9-5: As mentioned above, the Saab 9-5 is the sole exception to the on-sale now rule, because while you can’t buy one new now, you could still buy a brand new 9-5 up until the Swedish automaker declared bankruptcy in January of this year. The 9-5 earns its spot on the future collectible list because it was the last new Saab car introduced. It may have had quite a few components from the GM parts bin, but the 9-5 was still the last true Saab. It was great to look at, full of quirky Swedish charm, and actually fun to drive. The 9-5 was the last Saab, and perhaps one of the best, which makes it a future collectible in our book.
SRT Viper GTS Launch Edition: The 2013 SRT Viper GTS Launch Edition marks the return of the other American sports car icon. To celebrate the Viper’s rebirth, SRT created the limited-edition Viper GTS Launch Edition (Rarity? Check). Powered by a reworked 8.4-liter V-10 cranking out 640 hp, the Launch Edition comes wearing the stunning blue and white stripe paint job that helped make the original Viper GTS famous (Styling? Check). Finally, checking off the significance box is the fact that the new Viper is the first SRT-branded vehicle ever, giving it that special something that collectors will most certainly love decades from now.
Tesla Model S Signature Performance: The Tesla Model S is not only significant to Tesla as its first mass-market vehicle, but it’s significant to the industry as a whole as the first all-electric car that actually works for most Americans’ needs. The Model S Signature Performance is being built in a limited run of just 1000 examples. Making the Model S Signature Performance even more enticing is its world-beating performance, which allows the EV to smoke its gas-powered European rivals on the drag strip. The stunningly handsome Model S is a technological marvel that’s sure to be just as impressive sitting pretty on the auction block in the coming decades.
Do you agree with our list? Which cars would you have added and/or left off? Sound off in the comments below.
Just because you’ve grown up, settled down, and had a kid or two doesn’t mean you can’t have fun anymore. While you may have to take a pass on that late-night partying you once did, you can stay in touch with your younger self with a car that’s fun to drive and can double as a family vehicle. However, finding a vehicle that appeals to you both as an enthusiast and a head of household isn’t always easy, because compromises will have to be made both in packaging and in handling.
To help the gearhead parents out there, Automobile Magazine has put together a list of the 10 Best Sports-Oriented Family Cars. These are cars that you might consider when you’re looking for something that will fit your spouse and children but you don’t want to join the herd and settle for a boring crossover or minivan. You want something that reminds you of that two-seater you traded in for the car seat. It’s doable, as evidenced by these exciting four-doors.
As 2011 comes to a close, we take a break from our New Year’s celebrations to pour a little Colt .45 (or Champagne, your call) out for our dead homies. As good of a year as 2011 was with vehicles like the Land Rover Range Rover Evoque, Chrysler 300 SRT8, and Ferrari FF making their debut, a lot of great cars like the Ford Crown Victoria and Ranger (and a few others we could probably live without) ended their production runs for good this year. Let’s take a moment of silence and remember our lost comrades, both loved, and unloved.
Buick Lucerne/Cadillac DTS – Like the Panther platform Fords, the Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS were two dinosaurs of days past. The Lucerne and DTS were both relics of the days when GM was ditching its rear-drive flagships for big front-drive sedans. While these cars will never be as iconic as other cars from the era that lasted just as long, we’d be remiss forgetting about these two luxo-barges.
Cadillac STS – Unlike the Cadillac DTS, the STS started off on a good foot when it debuted in 2005, being a true rear-wheel drive luxury sedan. Sadly for the STS, it was neglected and by the time it went out of production this year, it had received no real significant updates, leading it to its ultimate replacement by the new, front-drive XTS.
Chevrolet Aveo – There are very few cars that we wish didn’t exist and sadly, the Aveo is one of them. The definition of a penalty box on wheels, the Aveo was full of hard plastics, marginal workmanship, and a lethargic engine; the Aveo just plainly wasn’t good. While its replacement, the Sonic, is called the Aveo overseas, in the U.S. we’re much better off with the car, and the nameplate six feet under.
Chevrolet HHR – With the Chevy Cruze replacing the Cobalt last year, it was only a matter of time before the Cobalt-based HHR went out of production as well. Not as derided as the Cobalt, the HHR was essentially the hatchback version of the Cobalt. With a retro design inspired by early Suburbans and an available panel wagon and hot-hatch SS version, the HHR was actually a neat little car. Will it be greatly missed? Probably not; the Cruze is twice the car the HHR ever was. Now if only Chevy would bring the Cruze hatch to our shores…
Dodge Caliber – The Dodge Caliber is another car that couldn’t leave us soon enough. On paper, the Caliber seemed like a great idea: it was packed with unique features like its “Cool Zone” storage and its tailgate-mounted swing-down speakers, and it looked like a mini-SUV, which was great for pre-recession America. Unfortunately for Dodge, that’s not the America we live in anymore. Even more unfortunate is that the Caliber just wasn’t a good car. It was woefully slow, wildly inefficient (the 2012 Dodge Charger gets better highway mpg than the CVT-equipped Caliber, 31 mpg versus 27 mpg), and filled to the brim with cheap, hard plastics. Dodge is a different company than it was in 2007 when the Caliber arrived, and the Caliber is no longer representative of what the company can do. Goodbye Caliber, your replacement, the 2013 Dart, can’t come soon enough.
Dodge Nitro – The Dodge Nitro left us with very little fanfare. The rebadged and less-capable Dodge version of the Jeep Liberty is probably most famously known as the vehicle Fiat head Sergio Marchionne described as “the most significant hole in our product portfolio.” With it gone, Chrysler was able to increase production of the hot-selling Wrangler. We’d say that’s a fair trade.
Ferrari 612 Scaglietti – Sometimes good things must come to an end, so better things can be. The Ferrari 612 Scaglietti was one such car. While a fantastic sports car and an even better grand tourer, its replacement, the all-wheel drive Ferrari FF is a much better car in just about every way. While we’ll fondly remember the 612 Scaglietti, the FF will more than make up for the 612’s loss.
Ford Crown Victoria/Lincoln Town Car/Mercury Grand Marquis – The last Panther-platform Ford rolled off the line this year, leaving behind cops and cabbies who no-longer have a go-to choice for a workhorse sedan. The Ford Crown Victoria, Lincoln Town Car and Mercury Grand Marquis became American icons, and we hold a special place in our hearts for these antiquated beasts of burden.
Ford Ranger – A recent addition to this list, the very last Ford Ranger rolled off the production line just this month – a white Ranger Sport destined for bug killing duties at Orkin. The Ford Ranger was the last true compact pickup for sale in the United States, and while the nameplate may live on overseas, here the Ranger will be greatly missed.
Honda Element – The Element was Honda’s take on rival Toyota’s Scion xB. By all accounts, the Element was a much more versatile beast, and proved popular with the outdoorsy crowd. Honda did its best to increase its appeal to all, introducing a sporty version and even a dog-friendly version, but ultimately the Element’s sales compared to Honda’s other SUVs didn’t justify its continued production.
Lotus Elise/Exige – The Lotus Elise and Exige left our market not because they were bad cars, but because their federal smart airbag exemption sadly ran up this year, banishing two of the most visceral and back-to-basics driver’s cars from our shores. All’s not lost however, as the next-generation Elise and Exige will meet federal regulations, and if you can’t wait that long, there’s always the track-only Exige S to hold you over for the next couple years.
Maybach 57/62 – Mercedes-Benz brought the Maybach brand back in 2002 and hoped the name would rise from the ashes and regain its pre-war prestige. While 57 and stretched 62 were essentially no more than tarted-up S-Classes, the car proved popular with the hip-hop crowd, and was arguably featured in just as many songs and music videos as the Cadillac Escalade. Sadly, poor sales didn’t justify Mercedes’ continued support of the brand, and so it quietly discontinued the luxury marquee early this month.
Mazda RX-8 – With the death of the Mazda RX-8 comes the death of the Wankel rotary engine in Mazda’s lineup. While much loved by enthusiasts, many found the rotary-powered RX-8’s appetite for fuel and oil hard to stomach, and consequently, the four-door coupe’s sales didn’t meet Mazda’s expectations. Gone in the U.S., the RX-8 will soldier on in Japan for another year or two before being discontinued. Here’s hoping for the rotary’s return in the future.
Mazda Tribute/Mercury Mariner – The Mazda Tribute and Mercury Mariner were two badge-engineered versions of the Escape that were often forgotten. The Mariner died with Mercury back in January, while the Tribute gets replaced by the (very good) Mazda-engineered CX-5.
Mercury – Mercury was the first of three brands to disappear this year, way back in January. Ford could no longer justify the brand which at that point had only three models: the Mariner (rebadged Ford Escape), the Milan (rebadged Fusion) and the Grand Marquis (a rebadged Crown Victoria). With Mercury out of the way, Ford only has to worry about reviving Lincoln from the dead. Fittingly, the last Mercury to roll off the line was the iconic Grand Marquis back in January.
Mitsubishi Eclipse – The Eclipse that went away this year is but a shadow of its former self. The Eclipse was the equivalent of a star high school athlete who comes back for his twenty year reunion fat, balding and ugly. Early Eclipses were turbocharged all-wheel drive scamps that were true performance machines. The current Eclipse is no more than a secretary special. While there are rumors that the Eclipse may make a return in the future, unless it regains the performance pedigree of its past, we can probably live without it.
Mitsubishi Endeavor – File this one under, “They still made this?” The Endeavor was all-new for 2003 and mostly unchanged since then. Rumor has it Mitsubishi will have a replacement for it in a few years, but by all accounts the death knell for the Endeavor sounded long ago.
Ram Dakota – Sadly, with the death of the Ram Dakota another small pickup leaves our marketplace, leaving just the Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon to fly the American flag in the midsize pickup arena. The Ram Dakota started life as a Dodge in the late 1980s and was fairly successful up until the middle of the last decade. Since then, it languished mostly unchanged, save for it leaving the Dodge brand for Ram. Not all is loss though; Ram is reportedly readying a Fiat-based Dakota replacement in the coming years.
Saab – If any brand on this list had a long, painful death it was Saab. The events leading up to Saab’s long and drawn out demise have been covered extensively on these pages, so we won’t bore you with the details. We will however, miss the plucky Swedes and the 9-3, 9-4X, and 9-5 which were great examples of Saab making do with the poor cards it was dealt.
Tesla Roadster – The Tesla Roadster took the world by storm when the electric car from the California-based startup first hit the scene in 2008. Here was one of the first modern electric cars that you could buy, and it happened to be a Lotus Elise-based sports car. Sadly Tesla’s federal smart airbag exemption expired at the close of 2011, leaving Tesla without a car to sell until the Model S hits in the summer of 2012.
Volvo S40/V50 – The Volvo S40 and V50 were unceremoniously dropped from Volvo’s U.S. lineup this year due to lagging sales. The real shame is the loss of the V50, which was the last true station wagon that Volvo sold on our shores. For a brand that cut its teeth in the U.S. selling “turbo brick” wagons, the death of the V50 and its S40 sibling mark the end of an era.