This is my mom’s new car, Volkswagen’s brand new Jetta Hybrid. Her Volvo was rear-ended and totaled back in December, so naturally the car search began. For some reason this car managed to fly under my radar until just recently. There hasn’t been much media coverage, and it debuted quietly at NAIAS last year. I had been triaging, and test driving a few different options when my dad asked me what I thought of the Jetta Hybrid. That got me looking, and when I saw the details, I was pretty blown away. I went and test drove one the next day, and my recommendation was set. This was the car, and you will soon see why.
Hybrids have really caught on as a way of saving gas here in America. For most hybrids, the focus is on fuel economy alone, all in an effort to woo people with the showroom window sticker. The undisputed leader of the hybrid movement has been Toyota, with cars that are as much a political statement as they are a form of transportation. We all know the Prius, some love it, some hate it, but it has set the standard for the hybrid segment. Other carmakers, like Ford, have hybrids too, but they are basically copies of the Toyota’s design formula. Because of this, people tend to know what to expect when they see a hybrid, but Volkswagen has taken a different approach.
I have been around cars for a long time now, and it has gotten to the point where I generally know what to expect when I get behind the wheel of something new. Many cars have some surprising features, but usually these surprises are more of a nice touch, a cherry on top of the ice cream sundae; if you will. Every so often though, I find something that completely throws my expectations out the window. The Chevy Siverado you see above belongs to my photographer friend, Dan Valanzola, who has spent countless hours turning it into something entirely unexpected. Read the rest of this entry »
A Wankel, or rotary, engine is a bit of an automotive conundrum these days. It is a technology with some very distinctive pros and cons, making it very controversial amongst car people. In fact, Mazda is the only company that has dabbled with it in modern production cars, and the RX8 just recently went out of production. The rotary is the trademark feature of their RX line of sports cars, in the same way that a rear engine design is the hallmark of the Porsche 911. I got my first taste of a rotary when I reviewed the RX8, and I thought it was quite fun. So when my friend Shane told me I could borrow his ’91 RX7 convertible for the afternoon, while he was at work, I jumped at the opportunity. Sunny day, convertible sports car, rev happy Wankel motor, it sounded like a great time to me.
The Stance Movement has become quite a big thing in recent years. For those unfamiliar with the trend it is sort of like a neo-lowrider thing. People have been taking cars of all sorts and dropping them down as low as they can go, all in the name of “Stance”. Nowhere is this fad bigger than in the Volkswagen crowd, as can be seen at a host of water themed events that take place all over the country. My friend Justin spent months scouring the forums to find a slammed VW of his own, and he finally found the clean ’98 GTI you see here. He was nice enough to let me take it out recently so I could see what a slammed car is all about from the driver seat. What followed was a very interesting experience. Read the rest of this entry »
The Toyota Camry is not an enthusiast’s favorite car. It’s not a sporty car, it’s not a car that will draw throngs of fans on the streets as it drives by, and it’s certainly not a car that people buy for its driving style (whatever that means to Camry owners). But, for everything that the Camry is not, there are two things that the Camry is, to both its buyers and to auto buffs. It is reliable, practical, profit-generating, and inoffensive, as well as a reliable and safe automobile. So I may hate it for its lack of flair, but I like it for what it does well. My family owns a 2007 and a 2011 Camry Hybrid. I drove this 2007 model for about 6 months, until I gave it to one of my brothers, who drove it all over Indiana earlier this year. As of now, my other brother has driven it since June and will be shipping it out to California in a few days’ time. This review is chiefly about that 2007 model, and why I think it’s one of the best Toyotas to buy if one wants a hybrid and a real car in one package.
This is my Mom’s Volvo S80, and it seems very boring. It is beige, one of a few selectable shades of beige, and it looks just like every other Volvo on the road. Volvos are known for very solid build quality as well as their huge emphasis on safety; they are great cars but they generally aren’t synonymous with the term “exciting”. Looking at this S80 you can see the design is very conservative, and while it does have clean lines it is still basically the same exact car Volvo has been making for years. It would seem then that this S80 is just a continuation of mundane motoring from Volvo, and hardly worth a second look. However, after 9 years with this car, I can tell you that is definitely worth a second look because this beige Volvo has some extra tricks up its sleeve. Read the rest of this entry »
The Lancer Ralliart is the second born of the Mitsubishi clan, overshadowed in many ways by its older brother the Lancer Evolution. The Evo has made a huge name for itself in automotive performance over the years, and the Ralliart is clearly riding that wave in the market. It is placed to compete with Subaru’s WRX, but Mitsubishi waited 3 model generations into the US market before they finally produced a true, turbocharged competitor for the highly successful Subaru. What you see here is that car, the supposed “baby Evo”, but I will tell you right up front, that the Ralliart is far from that. It is something all its own, and it should be more widely recognized as such. This Ralliart belongs to my friend Josh, and he agreed to let me take the wheel for an afternoon to discover what it’s all about. Read the rest of this entry »
The Evo 8 was the first version of the famed Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution to hit US shores back in 2003, following the success of Subaru’s WRX Imprezas in years prior. The Evo was a different sort of animal though, offering 271hp to the WRX’s 227hp as well as a higher level of technology in its all wheel drive system. The Evo became the car to beat in 2003, so much so that Subaru decided to bring its WRX STi to the US for 2004. The Evo offers a simple but effective package; on the surface it is just a tweaked version of a Japanese economy sedan, but in its day it could also rival many serious performance cars like Porsche’s, M3s, and Corvettes. My friend Pete, has a 2005 Evo 8, and every so often he lets me get behind the wheel, so after a recent drive I finally felt like I had enough to put pen to paper on the car. Read the rest of this entry »
When you drive a lot of modern cars it is cool to also try out some of the older cars that preceded them. Doing this allows you to appreciate where everything in the newer cars has come from over time. My friend Nick C is very into older BMWs, and he has a pretty unique 1979 E21 3 Series Alpina Clone. It has been a bit of a project for him, but once he got the car running right he agreed to let me take it out for a spin. Read the rest of this entry »
As most of our readers remember, I tested out a new Saab 9-3X wagon and found it to be lacking in any features that made it stand out from its competitors. But, Saab has always marched to the beat of its own drum (which, ironically, led it right to the poorhouse), for better or for worse. My Aunt’s family lives in Albany, NY, and they have owned this red 900 hatchback since it was new, and they won’t get rid of it. It’s rusty, it’s crusty, and it has 174,000 miles on it. But, I approached it with a question: How good is a 17 year old Saab that’s spent most of its life in the Rust Belt? On a cold night in December, my uncle tossed me the keys and I found out. Read the rest of this entry »
When we went to Monterey, CA this summer for the Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance we had quite a fiasco with delays on our flight out. Because of this, when we got to the car rental desk, we found the Ford Fusion we had reserved was no longer available. They were also out of lower level economy cars too, so we decided to pay a bit more money and have a Chevy Camaro with a 300hp V6. I had a few days with the car, and got to experience it in a variety of situations. Our hotel was about an hour drive from Monterey on the open highway, and there were plenty of nice twisty roads to drive once we got there. While the Camaro was obviously less of a thrill than some of the supercars we would be driving at the event, it managed to hold its own quite well, and I came away from the trip very impressed with it. Read the rest of this entry »