Tag archives for Volkswagen
On this episode of Wide Open Throttle, Angus MacKenzie and other Motor Trend hosts discuss the Tesla Model S controversy stemming from a review in The New York Times after discussing the unexpected popularity of the Ford F-150 SVT Raptor. Additionally, Ed Loh, Carlos Lago, Arthur St. Antoine and Mike Floyd ponder the possibility of diesel-powered sports cars in the U.S.
The hosts begin by discussing the relevance of the F-150 SVT Raptor with its high base price and increasing fuel prices. St. Antoine points out how sales of the “do-anything truck” are above Ford’s projections. While Lago is surprised that Ford built the truck, he says the Raptor makes him “feel like a kid in a sand box.” Still, some owners have had issues after taking jumps too fast or too high. While the panel believes most Raptor buyers pay for its off-road capability, some buyers go for the image and the compliant on-road ride as well.
Next, the discussion switches gears to the controversy surrounding the Tesla Model S regarding its range after a reporter from The New York Times said that during an East Coast trip his tester ran out of range before reaching the next EV Supercharger, to which Tesla CEO Elon Musk fired back saying the test was flawed. Floyd notes Loh’s Model S range test from the Las Vegas strip back to Los Angeles, during which he exceeded the EPA-rated range estimate. Previous to that trip, Motor Trend took the Model S from L.A. to San Diego and back on a single charge and Frank Markus and Jessi Lang drive the car to Las Vegas.
Finally, the hosts discuss the possible future of diesel-powered sporty cars in the U.S., such as the Volkswagen Golf GTD and BMW 335d, and whether the low redline is fit for a sporty car. Watch the full discussion below.
By Jason Udy
Greg Emmerson of European Car joins the roundtable discussion on this episode of Wide Open Throttle to discuss his recent Head 2 Head comparison of the BMW E30 M3, Scion FR-S, and Volkswagen GTI. Jessi Lang, Jonny Lieberman, Angus MacKenzie, and Ron Kiino also discuss the crowded entry-luxury segment as well as the future of new and existing electric vehicle manufacturers.
Despite the classic BMW’s high cost of entry when it was new and similar performance to the more affordable FR-S, Emmerson defends the E30 M3 and GTI against the rear-drive Scion sports car. Next, the conversation moves to the entry-luxury market with Scion and Mazda wanting to move up and Mercedes-Benz and Audi strengthening their entry-level presence with the CLA and A3 four-doors. After talking about Scion’s original purpose of bringing younger buyers into the Toyota fold and then move them into Toyota and Lexus products, Lieberman questions how the youth brand can move upmarket. The panel then debates what constitutes luxury.
Just a day after Fisker executives were questioned by a government committee about the company’s $529 million loan, the latest Wide Open Throttle video crew discuss the fate of struggling Fisker, profitable Tesla, and newcomer Detroit Electric. Emmerson notes that BMW will soon introduce the i3 and i8 electric vehicles, and wonders how it will affect other mainstream brands as well as the newer EV makers.
Check out the video below to hear the full discussion.
By Jason Udy
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
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.”
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.
I 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.
I want to…bring the entire family. And I do mean the ENTIRE family.
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.
I 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.
I 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.
I 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.
I 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.
I 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.
I 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.
I 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.”
Attention all college grads with an engineering degree (and a slight interest in cars): add the Renault-Nissan Alliance to your job hunting list of automotive companies that have been actively seeking and hiring talent to fill engineering and technology jobs. The group announced that in a few weeks it will open its doors to a new research office in Silicon Valley, which is home to a number of high-tech giants.
According to a prepared statement yesterday, the new Northern California office will play an important role in ensuring the group stays “ahead of trends that are reshaping the way people interact with their cars.” The office will research and develop upcoming in-car tech including advanced display interfaces and Internet connectivity. And as one the most prominent manufacturers of electric vehicles, Nissan will use the office to advance its influence in green technology.
Speaking yesterday at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), Carlos Ghosn, CEO of the Renault-Nissan Alliance, said, “The Alliance is at the vanguard of the auto industry’s shift to sustainable transportation. Having a greater footprint in one of the world’s headquarters for clean tech research will extend our lead further.” Ghosn also stated that green-tech research is having a positive impact on the economy as well as the job market in the auto industry.
Last year, more than 32,000 jobs were created in the industry including thousands of engineering positions. At the 2011 Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress held last month, more than 10,000 attendees had the opportunity to check out and seek possible employment from 35 companies in the engineering field, including Chyrsler, Ford and General Motors. Back in March, we reported that the Detroit three were recruiting newly minted engineering grads for new tech jobs. Attracting graduates to apply has been a challenge, however, mainly due to the low starting wages in Detroit, especially when compared to similar positions Silicon Valley.
In addition to Renault-Nissan’s new office, a number of automakers also have a presence in the high-tech hotspot. BMW’s Technology Office in Palo Alto, California, for example, opened over a decade ago and played a big role in the inception and subsequent revisions to the automaker’s iDrive interface system. Mercedes-Benz has a Silicon Valley-based Group and Advanced Engineering office, which recently developed the smart drive app for the iPhone and has been involved in the testing of fuel-cell vehicles. The Volkswagen Group recently opened an Electronics Research Laboratory (ERL) in Belmont, California, which will develop future infotainment platforms and driver assistance systems. Lastly, Tesla Motors, makers of the all-electric roadster and the upcoming Tesla S sedan, is headquartered in Northern California, and took over the GM/Toyota NUMMI joint-venture assembly plant in Fremont.
Is the future of the U.S. car industry moving away from Detroit to high-tech areas like Silicon Valley?
Source: Nissan, BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Tesla
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?
With the rise of electric vehicles comes the risk of confusing methods to charge the batteries. Thankfully, seven automakers have collaborated and reached an agreement to standardize EV fast charging methods in the United States and Europe.
The automakers include Audi, BMW, Daimler, Ford, General Motors, Porsche, and Volkswagen. All seven have agreed on one vehicle inlet/charging connector as well as the method in which the car communicates with the charging station. They also considered the future of smart grid application and have decided to use HomePlug GreenPHY for the communication protocol.
The agreement is compatible with the J1772 connector standard in the U.S., now used at Level 2 (220V in the U.S.) charging stations.
“At Ford, we know how important it is to provide technologically innovative solutions that are convenient for our customers – it’s part of our ‘One Ford’ vision and a key factor in our company’s overall success,” said Steve Biegun, Ford’s vice president of international government affairs. “We applied the same philosophy in working with other global automakers and governments to offer one common approach on charging electric vehicles – helping speed infrastructure development, strengthen economic growth and most importantly, make charging even more convenient for our customers.”
However, it’s a different story for Japanese cars such as the Nissan Leaf and the Mitsubishi i, which currently support the CHAdeMO standard for level 3 DC fast charging (anywhere between 300-500 volts). That means owners of Japanese EVs will likely have to use adapters for any quick charging station that isn’t CHAdeMO compatible. Tesla, which created its charging units prior to standardization, also requires an adaptor for any station outside of the automaker’s proprietary connectors for all charge levels (1,2, and 3) for both the Roadster and upcoming Tesla S sedan.
Hagerty has released its annual “Hagerty Hot List” of the top 10 cars the insurance company believes will become collectible in 20 years. Hagerty’s list is comprised completely of 2013 model-year vehicles that the company thinks will still be desired by enthusiasts in 20 years.
Unlike our own list of future collectibles, Hagerty’s rules are a bit less stringent. To qualify as a future collectible on the Hagerty list, the vehicle must be mass-produced, and available for sale as a 2013 model, with a base price of less than $100,000.
Here’s Hagerty’s List:
SRT Viper: The new SRT Viper is one of just three cars that made both our list and Hagerty’s. Hagerty chose the Viper for its list because it’s “one of the last living examples of the once-celebrated mantra of ‘there is no replacement for displacement.’”
Chevrolet Corvette 427 Convertible: The Corvette 427 is a no-brainer for this list. As Hagerty points out, the Corvette celebrates its 60th anniversary this year and the 427 is not only a limited-production model commemorating that fact, but also the last model year for the C6 ‘Vette, ensuring the 427′s status as a future collector’s car.
Audi RS5: Hagerty named the RS5 on its list because the collector car insurance company “think[s] the basic Audi A5 is one of the handsomest coupes on the market.”
Porsche Cayman S: According to the press release, the Cayman S made its way on to this list because it’s “Porsche’s atonement for the sin of the diesel [Cayenne].” We didn’t realize a diesel-powered SUV was such a bad thing.
Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Convertible: We might prefer the hardtop Camaro ZL1 (which made it on last year’s Hagerty list) to its portly soft-top sister, but Hagerty nevertheless expects the ZL1 drop-top to command a premium among buyers in 20 years’ time.
Tesla Model S: This list wouldn’t be complete without the revolutionary new Tesla Model S. The Model S earned its spot as a future collectible because it’s one of the first electric cars built with enthusiasts in mind.
Mini John Cooper Works GP: Hailed as “the fastest Mini ever built,” the John Cooper Works GP’s future as a collectible is ensured by the fact that it’s limited to just 500 units in the United States – well that, and the fact that its $39,950 base price is likely a little too dear for all but the biggest Mini fans.
Subaru BRZ: Hagerty reasons that the Subaru BRZ will be a future collectible because the rear-drive sports car injects a bit of “tire-smoking” adrenaline into the Subaru brand.
Volkswagen GTI: The latest version of the original hot hatch gets a spot on this list because of theGTI’s “cult-like following,” and because “the 2013 version may be the best yet.”
Ford Focus ST: The final spot on Hagerty’s list goes to the Focus ST, because it’s one of the first European Ford products we’ve gotten in the U.S. in a long time, thanks to Ford’s One Ford global initiative.
Do you agree with Hagerty’s picks? Who had the better future collectibles list, Hagerty or us? Sound off below.
Is the Volkswagen BlueSport on-again or off-again? Last we checked the diesel-powered mid-engined roadster had been canned, but Volkswagen’s design chief recently hinted that VW is still interested in building a small sports car. With the Volkswagen in mind, we thought it would be fun to create a list of five automakers that should make a Mazda Miata rival.
The recent BlueSport news comes from a recent interview between Auto Motor und Sport and VW design head Walter de Silva. In the interview, de Silva suggested that a small Volkswagen roadster wouldn’t be the worst addition to the automaker’s global lineup. Though the BlueSport concept came with a 2.0-liter turbodiesel I-4, in a perfect world, here’s what we think Miata rivals from Volkswagen and four other automakers should look like.
Volkswagen: The BlueSport is an attractive concept, even four years after its Detroit auto show debut. We wouldn’t change much in the production BlueSport; it should keep its mid-mounted engine, and turbodiesel I-4, although since it’s a sports car Volkswagen should also offer the 2.0-liter 210-hp turbo I-4 from the updated Beetle Turbo and Jetta GLI. The only other change we’d make is to its name; surely Volkswagen can combine more animal names (may we suggest Velociphant or Sharphin?) for its new roadster.
SRT: We bet SRT Ralph Gilles would love to make a Miata-competitor, and by all accounts it could already be in the works. Our dream SRT Miata-fighter would be a two-seat roadster powered by a souped-up version of the Dodge Dart’s 2.4-liter turbo-4 – we’re thinking around 250 hp in a lightweight roadster should do the trick. That would leave just enough room in the lineup for SRT to offer a 470-hp Hemi V-8 powered TA version. Hey, when you’re dreaming, why not dream big?
Honda: Honda once built fun sports cars, but the S2000 died a few years back. We’d like to see Honda bring back the S2000 just as it was. Seriously, don’t change a thing: the circa 1999 design still looks fresh to this day, and by all accounts its 239-hp high-revving I-4 left little to be desired.
Chevrolet: Just build the damn Code 130R already, Chevy. The Alpha platform three-box coupe would not only give Chevy a convincing Mazda competitor, but it’d also give Chevy an entry-level sports car that could lead to Camaro sales, and then ultimately the Corvette. With that kind of sporting tradition it only makes sense for the bowtie to build a Miata fighter.
Tesla: An entry-level followup to the Tesla Roadster would be pretty awesome. The Miata-fighting Roadster Mk II could use the chassis of the upcoming entry-level Tesla, with the Model S Performance’s motor and 85 kWh battery. That’d give it blistering performance, and the ability to enjoy the EV all day long.
What company do you think should build a Miata fighter? What would it look like? Sound off below.
Source: Auto Motor und Sport