Tag archives for Jeep

Cocktail Chatter: April 12, 2013 – Rumor Central

Cocktail Chatter: April 12, 2013

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. With the arrival of warmer weather in most of the country, we’re celebrating the spring-like weather with associate web editor Donny Nordlicht’s favorite drink: the sky-blue-colored Aviation. Combine two ounces of gin with half an ounce each of lemon juice and maraschino liqueur and a quarter ounce of crème de violette in a shaker filled with ice. Shake well, strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with a cherry.

Not Gonna Happen: You might scoff if I told you I expected to earn eight times my current salary by 2015. Even if I told you I was starting two extra jobs, you would probably think it overly optimistic to expect to increase my salary by such a large amount in just two years. Imagine my skepticism, then, when Maserati says it will sell 50,000 cars worldwide by 2015. For reference, the Italian brand delivered just 6307 new cars in all of 2012, an eighth of what it plans to shift by mid-decade.

Maserati believes it can octuple its annual sales volume by adding the Ghibli (aka a baby Quattroporte) and the Levante SUV to the just-released Quattroporte. But given that the Ghibli doesn’t go on sale until later this year, and the Levante might not reach showrooms until next year or later, it’s hard to believe Maserati can pick up 43,693 extra sales so quickly. Even once the Ghibli and Levante launch, is there really such a large market for Italian luxury cars? Only if hordes of buyers ditch their Audis, BMWs, Jaguars, and Mercedes-Benzes for the new Maseratis — and that isn’t likely to happen on such a short timetable.

Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor

Racing Roadtrip: Between last weekend’s final rounds of NCAA basketball, what could have been better than putting 750 miles on a 2014 Mazda CX-5? As long as I had one to sample, I decided to dash from Southern California to St. George, Utah, and pick up a rug stored for me there. I left before Sunday’s dawn. In the next 370 Ahrens CC CX 5 300x200 imagemiles I found the CX-5 to be the friendliest and most agreeable creature since Snowy the terrier in The Adventures of Tintin. Mine was the Touring model equipped with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder that growled playfully when started and proved to have plenty of midrange while barreling up mountainsides. Meanwhile, the vehicle’s solidity and composure yielded delights in every mile.

Supplemental entertainment came from listening to The Art of Racing in the Rain. This touching novel by Garth Stein made the hours vanish. I found myself quibbling with canine narrator Enzo’s ranking of Steve McQueen among his very favorite actors but cheering on when, with gastric revenge in mind, he accepted a bottled pepper from the story’s villain and defiled an area of rich Berber carpeting. The narration ended too soon–just as I’d cleared Sin City on the return leg. I-15 was clogged with traffic from the casinos and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, which had hosted the NHRA. If John Force was in our midst, he was often going 3 mph rather than 300 mph. But the CX-5 was still a delight.

Ronald Ahrens, Contributor

Small World: I’d never driven a 65-series AMG model before, so when handed the keys to a matte grey Mercedes-Benz CL65 AMG on Tuesday, I made sure to chronicle the occasion in photos. The next day, I stumbled on the Twitter and Instagram accounts for one Michael Kubler. (@F1Mike28). Kubler works at AMG in Affalterbach, Germany, where he hand-builds engines — V-12 engines, to be exact. I turned to the photos, and sure enough — Kubler had built the twin-turbocharged, 6.0-liter twelve-cylinder I fell in love with the night prior.

Go figure. Thank you, Michael, for building one of the most amazing engines I’ve ever had the opportunity to sample in a road-going automobile.

Forget-Me-Nots

A night with the CL65 was amazing, but it wasn’t the high point of the week. That might go to finally having the chance to drive a friend’s 1991 Isuzu Impulse RS, one of roughly 1402 imported to North America before Isuzu stopped building cars outright. Pity all Isuzu’s car products didn’t boast the RS’ turbocharged 16-valve four-banger or its rear-biased AWD system.

As a lover of quirky cars, I’m glad this Impulse still exists — but I’m happier yet that there are still people who care for and about cars like this. I can’t help but feel that many self-professed “car guys” can’t appreciate cars outside of a few select “exotic” or “premiere” brands. Pity, because there are so many other interesting — and, gasp, enjoyable cars — in the automotive spectrum. Ignore, dismiss, or crush them, and you’re destroying history. Need proof? Of those 1402 Impuse RS models shipped to North America, no more than 150 are still on the road today.

Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor

Cherokee and Highlander kinks 300x187 imageGetting Kinky: I recently noticed a trend in recent automotive design: the front window kink. This is a little dip in the daylight opening just aft of the A-pillar, often near to the side-view mirror. I first noticed it on the 2014 Cherokee, and began noticing it on the current Toyota Camry and 2014 Highlander, and on the outgoing Kia Forte, among others. Although I generally find the detail to look out of place in every application, if it means the end of slab-sided designs and gun-slit windows, I’ll take it.

Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor

Patrolling in Style: The 5-0 in Dubai just got an upgrade to its fleet — a major upgrade. The Dubai Police recently added a $450,000 Lamborghini Aventador to cruise the streets for crooks. Sure, it’s fast (0 to 60 mph in three seconds), but the article raises the question of practicality: how does one fit a suspect into the backseat?

John Kalmar, Graphic Designer

Give Me Affectation: The Automobile Magazine staff is still arguing over the Camaro Z/28‘s bare-bones interior. To some of us, the lack of a radio and optional air-conditioning delete says, “serious sports car.” Others in this office have, not wrongly, pointed out that such savings cannot possibly make much of a difference in a 3800-pound, 500-hp car and thus amount to little more than pointless posturing.

This got me thinking: how much of what we love about sports cars is mere affectation? It’s easy to make fun of huge spoilers and fake carbon fiber, but how about the manual transmission? It’s almost always slower than a modern dual-clutch automatic, a fact Porsche drove home by kicking the stick-shift out of its hardcore 911 GT3. But while we’re talking about Porsche, what’s the point anymore of the left-hand ignition? Drivers don’t run to their cars at the starting line anymore, and most expensive passenger cars have keyless fobs anyway.

Angry yet? You should be. Race cars are meant to go as fast as possible, and thus must mercilessly dispense with outmoded technology and conventions. But sports cars are not race cars. Sports cars are meant to evoke emotion. So, give me a stick-shift. Give me thousands of gauges that I don’t really need (so long as the important ones are in my direct line of sight). Don’t give me A/C. I’ll sweat it out with a grin on my face.

David Zenlea, Associate Editor

DeMatio CC F Type 300x225 imageRough Day: I’m having a rough day, as you can see by this picture. I’m in northeastern Spain driving the new Jaguar F-Type roadster, which goes on sale this spring starting at $69,000. The model pictured here is the F-Type S, which has a 375-hp version of Jaguar’s supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 that’s good for a 4.8-second 0-to-60-mph time and a top speed of 171 mph. It starts at $81,000, while the F-Type V8 S, with 488 hp, will cost $92,000. Jaguar points out that each model of the F-Type is about 25% cheaper than comparable Porsche 911 models. The automaker has high hopes for the F-Type and expects about half of worldwide sales to come from the United States. I’m not allowed to share my driving impressions of the F-Type just yet; check back at Automobilemag.com on Tuesday evening, April 17, when the embargo lifts, for my story.

Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

Right Road, Wrong Car: I sampled the 2014 Kia Cadenza this week. The drive route was fantastic leaving the Presidio in San Francisco, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, and continuing up the lovely Pacific Coast Highway. Although the big sedan handled the tight road better than I had expected, I kept wishing I were on this exact route in my 1992 Miata. Even the Cadenza’s 293 hp was far too much for the slow-moving dump trucks and sedans on the road. My little Miata would have been perfect. Sadly it was 2000 miles away in my garage. Oh well, it looks like Spring might finally be coming to Michigan and I’ll soon be able to enjoy my little roadster on a more regular basis.

Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor

****tail Chatter: Somebody painted one whale of a willy on the Nürburgring this past weekend. No one has taken responsibility for the novelty-sized phallus, but I’d like to virtually high-five the mystery vandal here and now. Well done, bud(s).

Chris Nelson, Road Test Editor

Charlie Horse: I like the Fiat 500 Abarth but because it’s probably the craziest car you can buy for $25,000. It has a relatively small engine, it makes a lot of noise, and it’s a handful on the track without being outwardly deadly.

While I’m not sure adding an automatic transmission to the Abarth is a good idea–the softer Turbo model is a much better model for a two-pedal setup–I’m sure it should earn a few sales with people who like crazy cars but never learned how to use a clutch. But to say that these tweaks will help the Abarth appeal to more women is suspect. I’m not saying that Fiat North America president Tim Kuniskis is misogynist, but maybe a little shortsighted: the Abarth might not appeal to women as much because it’s marketed either by a topless/blatantly flirtatious Catrinel Menghia or by Charlie Sheen and his questionable ethics. Perhaps it’s time to consider making your Abarth ads a tad more feminist, before retooling your factories?

Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor

The Politics of Green Cars: Fisker has laid off 75 percent of its workforce with the remaining employees apparently sticking around just to sell off assets and take the company through bankruptcy. Tesla’s Elon Musk appeared before the Texas state legislature this week to argue against the need for franchising his dealerships. Musk, whose Tesla Model S is our 2013 Automobile of the Year, also won a ruling in New York Supreme Court case that allows him to continue selling cars in company owned dealerships (kind of like Apple stores). Judge Raymond J. Elliott III ruled that dealers can’t use the Franchised Dealer Act to sue competitors, and their attempt to do so proves Tesla has value in the open market. Tesla also is paying off its Department of Energy loans ahead of schedule. Fisker, obviously, is not, and we’ll end up about $192 million short thanks to Henrik Fisker’s ill-conceived business plan and poorly built cars. One might say the DOE under President Obama isn’t picking winners and losers; it’s picking both. That hasn’t prevented the Fox News juggernaut from confusing Tesla and Fisker. In a “report” that mentioned Fisker, Bill O’Reilly says “Tesla had $523 million in losses…” not true. And Musk said this week he’s “hurt” that former vice presidential candidate and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin lumped Tesla in with Fisker. Don’t you wonder how easily O’Reilly and Palin get this confused?

Todd Lassa, Executive Editor

By Automobile Staff

The Seven Best Post-Turkey Cars This Thanksgiving

2013 Lexus LS460 CAPTIONS ON | OFF

Whether you plan on passing out in the passenger seat, or just want a comfortable ride after loading up on stuffing, these are the new cars you’ll want for the long ride home this Thanksgiving.

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Lexus LS460

Some automakers offer cars with a quiet, smooth ride. And then some hollow out their wheels with “air holes” to decrease road noise. When we drove the 2013 Lexus LS460 this Fall, it became clear we were riding in something ahead of its pillow-soft time. It’s no surprise that a Lexus makes this list, but with more noise prevention than ever before, the LS460 is an easy choice here.

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Buick LaCrosse

With the optional four-cylinder engine and eAssist hybrid, the 2013 Buick LaCrosse is one of the most quiet and smooth large sedans on the market today. Its triple door seals, acoustical laminated glass and giant 111.7-inch wheelbase combine to make the 2013 LaCrosse a floating sleep vessel – especially once the tryptophan takes hold.

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Tesla Model S

What you know: The electric motors in the 2013 Tesla Model S create almost zero interior noise. What you don’t know: The top-quality fit and finish in the 2013 Model S is the best ever for an EV. Combine a silent powertrain with air-spring suspension and you’ve got the perfect car for a nap on the way home.

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Ford Edge

Ford engineers designed a veritable obstacle course for noise to reach the passengers inside the 2013 Edge. Re-shaped mirrors and a new rear spoiler help the Edge cut through the air, while new sound-deadening foam in the fenders and roof pillars keep you drifting off to La-La Land without being interrupted by engine noise. Go the extra mile by opting for the 2.0L four-cylinder EcoBoost engine.

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Jeep Grand Cherokee

Thanksgiving is about family, and there’s nothing more familial than the Pentastar engine across the Chrysler lineup. In the 2013 Jeep Grand Cherokee, the 3.6L V6 Pentastar turns an off-road performance specialist into a docile luxury sedan shaped like an SUV. Smooth delivery across the powerband will have you thinking about next Thanksgiving, not your newfound girth.

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Kia Sorento

Unlike you, the 2013 Kia Sorento is lighter today than it was yesterday. A new, lightweight unibody structure keeps the Sorento moving firmly and smoothly across the road from Nana’s house. Newly designed suspension is comfortable under cruising and the four-cylinder engine is quiet enough to let you fall under the spell of the iPod jack in peace.

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Lamborghini Aventador

Didn’t see this one coming, did you? In the Ultra-Hypercar Smooth Ride category, the Aventador stands alone as the one track star that can get you home without rattling your stuffed insides. The reason is cylinder deactivation, which shuts down six of the twelve cylinders when running under 84 mph. The new system saves fuel, which is all well and great, but it’ll also reduce the engine roar from Mufasa to Simba levels. Worst comes to worst, dial up all 700 horsepower and your long ride should pass in no time at all.

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By Ryan ZumMallen

Nine Road Trip-Ready Vehicles – Rumor Central

Nine Road Trip-Ready Vehicles

Memorial Day weekend means many things to many people, but it universally signals the start of one summer tradition: road trips. Regardless of if you’re heading to see family, escape into the great outdoors, or simply crisscross the country, we’ve rounded up some ideal road trip vehicles for those seeking to hit the road this summer.

Volkswagen Passat TDI front three quarters view 2 300x199 imageI want to…go there and back on a single tank.

Volkswagen Passat TDI

Base Price: $26,225
EPA mileage: 30 mpg city/ 40 highway

There are a number of thrifty, diesel-burning vehicles offered in North America – and plenty from the Volkswagen Group, at that – but few strike us as ideal for long-distance road tripping when compared to the Passat TDI. Volkswagen’s diesel-sipping midsize sedan is powered by a 2.0-liter turbo-diesel, which cranks out 140 hp. What it lacks in sheer power, however, it delivers in impressive fuel economy. Fitted with the optional six-speed automatic transmission, a 2013 Passat is rated at 30 mpg city, 40 mpg highway.

These numbers are incredible when you consider the size of the Passat. Yes, it’s deemed a midsize sedan, but at 191.6 inches long, it’s on the larger end of that spectrum. That extra size results in plus-sized interior, with enough space for large adults to sit in both the front and rear seats. Think you sacrifice on cargo space? Wrong again – there’s 15.9 cubic feet with the rear seats up, allowing the trunk to resemble Mammoth Cave – albeit with a bit more plastic trim and carpeting.

Mercedes Benz Sprinter passenger van front three quarters view 300x199 imageI want to…bring the entire family. And I do mean the ENTIRE family.

Mercedes-Benz Sprinter

Base price: $41,315

EPA mileage: not tested by EPA

If the tired stereotype of precocious in-laws and annoying extended family members applies to you, skip this section. If not – and you’d actually like to travel with your large family using as few vehicles as possible – there’s really only one option shy of picking up a used transit bus at public auction: the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter. In its passenger form, the Sprinter seats up to twelve fairly comfortably, and even more comfortably if equipped with the cathedral-spec, 107.5-inch tall “high roof” option. The 140-inch wheelbase provides plenty of space (23.7 cubic feet) aft of that rear bench, but the elongated 170-inch model provides up to 31.2 cubic feet. We’ve seen (and lived) in urban apartment dwellings with less usable space than a Sprinter.

Yes, the sliding door rattles a bit over bumps; no, interior materials aren’t the fanciest; and yes, the price tag – especially if you go crazy with stand-alone options – isn’t inexpensive – but that’s beside the point. For such a gargantuan people mover, the Sprinter is surprisingly easy to drive – and it’s also incredibly efficient. Its weight class allows it to sidestep EPA testing, but we’ve frequently seen combined averages around the 19-20-mpg mark. For a vehicle that has the aerodynamic profile of a two-story house, that’s impressive.

Tesla Model S front view on road 300x199 imageI want to…use no gasoline, diesel, or combustible fuel at all.

Tesla Model S

Base price: $71,070

EPA rating: 88 mpge city/ 90 highway
Yeah, we get it – electric cars aren’t necessarily road-trip vehicles, or if they are, they’re only so when paired with a range-extending internal combustion engine. Still, if you insist on using a battery-powered vehicle for a road trip, it’s hard to best the Tesla Model S. Why? Space, for starters. There’s room for five passengers within the Model S, although that number grows to seven if you opt for the small, rear-facing jump seat. We’d skip that, as it frees up the rear cargo area for your luggage and other belongings. Between that area and the “frunk” beneath the hood, there’s nearly 31.6 cubic feet of storage available.

Range? That’s still a hot-button topic, but the top-tier Model S Performance comes with a 85-kWh battery that theoretically provides as much as 265 miles on a single charge. Of course, your distance will vary based on temperature, terrain, and your own temperament – but compared to the EPA-rated range of, say, a Ford Focus Electric, it’s fairly sizable. Depending on your journey, we’d still recommend ensuring your planned drive regularly passes charging stations, and that you do budget time for a recharge or two along the way.

Mercedes Benz S350 Bluetec front three quarters view 300x199 imageI want to…travel as far as possible in the lap of luxury.

Mercedes-Benz S350 Bluetec 4Matic

Base price: $93.905

EPA rating: 21/31 mpg

Diesel-powered Mercedes-Benz sedans have long been sold in North America, but until the launch of the S350 Bluetec in 2012, Mercedes always shied away from selling a diesel-powered flagship here. We’re just glad the S350 finally made the trek from Germany, as it blends first-world luxuries with first-rate fuel economy.  Despite tipping the scales at 4784 pounds and being paired with an all-wheel-drive system, its 3.0-liter, turbo-diesel V-6 and seven-speed automatic help the S350 attain an EPA rating of 21 mpg in the city and 31 on the highway. With a full 23.8- gallon tank of diesel, the S350 can cruise over 730 miles without refueling.

That cruise will be quite comfortable, given the S Class is arguably one of the most refined, comfortable, and luxurious sedans this side of a Rolls-Royce. Benz’s premium leather interior boasts attractive hand-stitched accents on virtually every surface, including the dash and door panels. Rear seat occupants are already gifted with 42.3 inches of legroom, but an optional package allows those in the outboard seats to heat, cool, and recline their seats. Add power sunshades, a DVD entertainment system, and a Bang & Olufsen audio system, and you’ll be cruising in unimpeached comfort.

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT front three quarters view1 300x199 imageI want to…haul the family, cargo, and ass.

Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT

Base price: $63,990

EPA rating: 13 mpg city/ 19 highway

We wanted to throw a muscle car on this list, but last we tried, packing a family of four and their cargo into a Camaro or Mustang is essentially impossible. Or if it is possible, it doesn’t make for a very comfortable (or tolerable) four-hour drive. But what if there were a way to blend the power of a muscle car with the packaging of a family vehicle? Enter Jeep’s SRT-tuned Grand Cherokee. Seating for five? 35.1 cubic feet of cargo space with the rear seats up? 470 hp on tap? 0-60 mph in about five seconds? Check, check, check, and check.

Unlike the first generation model, today’s Grand Cherokee SRT is a comfortable chimera that walks the line between performance and civility with few qualms. Adaptive Bilstein dampers at all four corners provide a surprisingly compliant ride quality for long hauls, but stiffen up to snuff out body roll on twisty back roads. The 6.1-liter V-8 slams passengers into seatbacks like a Mercury Redstone rocket, but idles four cylinders under light loads to reduce fuel consumption. Better yet, this latest iteration of SRT Grand Cherokee can tow up to 7200 pounds – perfect for dragging a speedboat behind your speed wagon.

Audi S5 Cabriolet front three quarters view static 300x199 imageI want to…soak up the sun.

Audi S5 Cabriolet

Base Price $60,195

EPA Rating 17 mpg city/ 26 highway


Nothing says summer like soaking up UV rays while behind the wheel of a convertible. Several drop-top models are on sale in the United States, but the Audi S5 is one of the most well-rounded choices available. There’s room for four, with rear seats that are larger than the glorified parcel shelves found in many convertibles. There’s adequate trunk space – 12.2 cubic feet, with the top up, or 10.2 with the top down. There’s the sophisticated interior (note the rear-seat reading lamps integrated into the convertible top) and handsome exterior styling. And, for those who might want to plan a road trip to a ski resort come winter, the S5 is one of the few convertibles offered with all-wheel-drive.

Better yet, the S5 is a blast to drive. Audi’s supercharged 3.0-liter V-6 serves up 333 hp and 325 lb-ft of torque, and emits a delectable growl at wide open throttle. Although S5 coupes are offered with a six-speed manual transmission, S5 cabriolets feature Audi’s seven-speed dual-clutch automatic as standard equipment.  No matter – it’s still happy to snap off lightning-quick gearchanges in either sport or manual mode. Do make sure to opt for the so-called “sports differential,” which replaces the standard rear diff with a torque-vectoring unit that helps the car rotate into corners.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited front view in woods 300x199 imageI want to…stray from the beaten path.

Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

Base Price: $26,790

EPA rating: 16 mpg city/ 20-21 mpg highway

Road trips are great, but what if your destination isn’t exactly on a road? For those who want to journey far outside the beaten path, we can’t think of a better choice than Jeep’s eternal Wrangler. By modern SUV and crossover standards, the Wrangler may seem like a bit of a crude anachronism, but in truth, it’s better than ever. A new instrument panel design is more attractive than ever, but the 3.6-liter Pentastar V-6 tucked underhood finally delivers adequate power – something the JK Wrangler previously lacked.

Although it is possible to squeeze four into a two-door Wrangler, don’t count on bringing all their belongings along for the ride. For that reason – and to give rear-seat passengers legroom for long hauls – we’d go with the four-door Wrangler Unlimited, which still offers the same off-road prowess and open-air sensations but with additional versatility. That said, you’d better act quickly if you’re in the market for one – demand for four-door Wranglers is nearly double that of the two-door model, and dealer inventory is presently at 68 days supply.

Nissan NV Roadtrek NAV 6 front three quarters view 300x199 imageI want to…stay overnight, but not in a hotel.

Nissan NV Roadtrek N6 Active

Base price: $65,260

EPA rating: not rated by EPA

Remember the days when minivans could easily double as mobile camp sites? Decades ago, such vehicles ran rampant across this country, but ever since the Volkswagen Eurovan died in 2003 the good old pop-top camper was virtually extinct. Thanks to Roadtrek, an Ontario-based motorhome manufacturer, that’s no longer the case. The new N6 Active – which is also sold as the NAV-6 – converts a Nissan NV passenger van into a multipurpose camper.

In its van configuration, the N6 Active/ NAV-6 seats six. That’s roughly half that of a standard NV passenger wagon, but understandable when you see Roadtrek packs in everything including the kitchen sink. Cabinetry installed next to the two-passenger third-row bench houses a refrigerator, sink, microwave, and cupboards. Second-row captains chairs swivel to face the rear seat and a pop-up table. The optional pop-top roof increases headroom and provides an extra two berths for sleeping, yet still allows the NV to fit in most garages.

 

Mazda MX 5 Miata side view on road 300x199 imageI want to…take a road trip only using back roads.

Mazda MX-5 Miata

Base Price: $24,515

EPA Rating: 21-22 mpg city/ 28 mpg highway

Another convertible on this list? Yep. The Miata’s top – either made of fabric or metal — does fold and stow for top-down fun, but that’s not why we chose it for this group of cars. We revel in road trips that trade the hustle, bustle, and malaise of the interstate system in favor of winding, scenic, two-lane, back county roads. And for that, there’s virtually no way to best the MX-5. We should know – we adopted a MX-5 for a summer two years ago, and frequently sought the curvaceous road less taken instead of the quickest route between points A and B.

Yes, we know the Miata’s cabin is a bit tight, and that packing for a long trip may require you to invest in those vacuum space-saving bags seen on late-night infomercials. Still, if you’re looking to plan a long trip full of entertaining roads – i.e. PCH, Tail of the Dragon, OH-555, etc. – there’s not a better choice. As road test editor Chris Nelson wrote back in 2011, “you can find a lot of little things to complain about, but if you do, you’re missing the point. The Miata is, has been, and always will be a purpose-built automobile. That purpose is to be one of the purest, most enjoyable sports cars on the market. Give it a smooth road, good company, and great scenery, and the Miata takes care of the rest.”












By Evan McCausland

Staff Picks: The Best and Worst Cars We Drove in 2012

Staff Picks: The Best and Worst Cars We Drove in 2012

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:

2013 Porsche Boxster S PDK front end in motion 3 300x187 imageBest: 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.

2012 Volkswagen Routan front three quarter 300x187 imageWorst: 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:

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S side turn in motion1 300x187 imageBest: 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.

BMW M5 E39 front 300x219 imageWorst: 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:

2013 Cadillac ATS Turbo front three quarter in motion 300x187 imageBest: 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.

2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ front three quarters in motion 300x187 imageWorst: 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:

2013 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT front three quarters static 300x187 imageBest: 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.

2012 Coda front three quarters 300x187 imageWorst: 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:

2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S side in motion1 300x187 imageBest: 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.

2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ front end in motion 300x187 imageWorst: 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:

Ed Loh in Tesla Model S 300x187 imageBest: 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.

2013 BMW M5 front left view 2 300x187 imageWorst/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:

Lamborghini Aventador LP700 4 front three quarter in motion 300x187 imageMost 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.

2012 Coda front three quarter in motion turn 300x187 imageWorst: 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:

McLaren MP4 12C front three quarter in motion 300x187 imageBest: 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.

2013 Mitsubishi Lancer GT rear three quarters 300x187 imageMost 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:

2012 Mercedes Benz G550 front three quarters 300x187 imageBest: 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…

2013 Ford Taurus Limited AWD front three quarters 300x187 imageWorst: 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:

2012 Tesla Model S front motion on PCH 300x187 imageBest: 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.

2013 Mercedes Benz SLS AMG GT front three quarter turn 300x187 imageWorst: 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:

2013 Subaru BRZ side in motion 300x187 imageBest: 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.

2013 Chevrolet Malibu LTZ rear three quarters 300x187 imageWorst: 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:

XPLORE 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Rubicon front three quarters 300x187 imageBest: 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.

2013 Jeep Compass Latitude 4X4 front view15 300x187 imageWorst: 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:

2013 Nissan GT R Black Edition front end1 300x187 imageBest: 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.

2012 Coda front three quarter in motion 300x187 imageWorst: 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?

By Motor Trend Staff

The Apoca-List: 10 Cars You Must Drive Before the End of the World

The Apoca-List: 10 Cars You Must Drive Before the End of the World

It’s nearly December 21, which means we’ll soon know whether the end of days is truly at hand. Before the world does go up in flames from an enormous solar flare or gets sucked into a black hole – as some believe will happen – we feel it’s important for you to experience some of the best automotive creations humanity has to offer. As such, we’ve assembled our top 10 vehicles you must drive before the end of the world.

Below, in no particular order, you’ll find a list of cars, trucks, and SUVs that will provide one last thrill before the Earth’s demise. Click through to read about all 10 picks!

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By Alex Nishimoto