Buick’s doing much better now than it was at the same time half a decade ago. They brought us the Regal, which is a rebadged Opel Insignia, and the Verano, a rebadged and re-engineered Chevrolet Cruze. Normally, this would make me want to tear my own hear out of my scalp, as GM’s track record with rebadged cars is just plain awful. The last time a European sedan was adapted for the USA market was in 1997 when Cadillac dumped the Catera on our shores, a reheated Opel Omega–with predictably lukewarm results. Buick’s last American compact, the Skylark, was an embarrassment to its name and was insulting to someone who wanted a premium small car. Luckily, I got the chance to sample Buick’s two best turbocharged options last month in the form of the Regal GS and Verano Turbo. Originally, I was going to keep the two separate, but after a long thought and two eye-opening drives, I’ve changed my mind, because these two cars should be looked at together. One of them is clearly better than the other–and one of the two doesn’t quite live up to its badge’s reputation.
I have yet to meet an owner of a Mazdaspeed3 (MS3) who didn’t legitimately love their car. Something about the car seems to inspire people, they always have that “I know something you don’t” smirk on their face. Mazdas have always had a good sporting dynamic to them, but the enthusiasm that owners seem to have about this car goes beyond that. I have always known about the MS3, but somehow, while I’ve been out driving all sorts of fun cars over the years, it has eluded me. So recently, I decided it was time I take one out for a spin to see what these owners are so smug about. Read the rest of this entry »
By now most of us car folks know that BMW has been working on a line of front wheel drive cars, but today it has basically become official. I saw on Jalopnik that BMW will launch their first front drive car at the Paris Motor Show later this year. For me this marks the end of an era for BMW because they have finally made the commitment to stray from the ideals that made their great name. This is on top the fact that their entire line of cars has been getting bigger, heavier, and softer in recent years. In my opinion there are also no “true” M cars right now either, as all of the current ones put luxury as the priority over proper driving dynamics, when traditionally it was the other way around (see the fake engine noises in the M5). BMW has been going soft for some time now, whilst catering to the yuppy, poser crowd that just wants a status symbol in their driveway; the same people who buy X6s, X3s and whatnot. I see this as the end of an era for BMW because by making a front drive car they are showing their priority commitment to this plastic sort of customer at the expense of the brand’s own established identity and their previous customer base. BMW has always been about driving pleasure, now they are more about being a fashion accessory; going a similar route Toyota did back in the early 00s with the “green” stuff. They will likely be financially successful, but the BMW brand will have lost its significant reputation, in favor of becoming a cliché trademark of superficial and insincere culture. Cherish the memories folks, as there were some really great times over the years.
PS: Buy late model M cars soon because they will likely all be appreciating within a few years. I could’ve had an E30 M3 for 7k when I first got my license, now I’m kicking myself.
The HHR is a car that is definitely overlooked by most people. It was a reaction to the Chrysler PT Cruiser, but it took GM 5 whole years before it was in showrooms. The HHR was often referred to as a small SUV, but honestly its proportions are only slightly larger than those of a Mazda3, and it lacks the ground clearance of a true crossover. It is a bit of an oddball car, and it looks like an old milk truck to boot. That however does make it more interesting than the average car, especially the SS, where Chevy decided to throw in the same turbocharged 2.0L motor from the Cobalt SS. In fact I got the idea to do this review off of a whim when a bright red HHR SS pulled up next to me at a light. The car looked cool, and it peaked my interest enough that I went out and found one to test drive. Read the rest of this entry »
The Lexus RX has been a solid seller in the luxury crossover segment since its debut in 1998. The current model seems to be the best RX yet in many ways. My grandparents, out in Arizona, got an RX 350 in 2010, and they loved it so much that they went and bought an additional one in 2011. During a recent visit they were kind enough to let me take their 2011 out for a spin to see why they loved the car so much. Read the rest of this entry »
“And best of all…it’s a Cadillac!” Those words certainly meant something back in the days of 8-tracks, pimpmobiles, and Gerald Ford. But, now is the time of iPods, hybrids, and Barack Obama. So, I wanted to know if this 10 year old Cadillac Eldorado was in any way still a great cruiser. I grabbed the golden keys and started her up. Cadillac has not produced the Eldorado since 2002, and only recently started producing two-door coupes again with the CTS Coupe.
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 »
Chrysler’s Superbowl ad with Clint Eastwood was a nice way to incite faith that the American auto industry will recover. Chrysler has shown much improvement in the last few years, and as soon as I saw the new Dodge Dart I knew they were on the right track. It is based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta, meaning its European roots should make it much more attractive than the Civic or the Corolla, which are both shamelessly boring at this point. There is however another market segment that exists with cars in that segment, one where engines are turbocharged, suspensions are stiffened, and priority is given to high MPH over high MPG. Dodge has competed here before with their SRT-4 Neon and Caliber, and everyone is eagerly awaiting the Dart SRT-4 in the next few years. Prior SRT-4s were relics of first half America though, the one that had to be bailed out, so the question is now, what should the SRT-4 of the second half be like?
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In the world of small, economical cars it is hard to find something that is remarkable. Most cars offer basically the same package as all of their competitors, making any differentiating factors superficial at best. Hyundai has changed this game with the Veloster dramatically. Everything from its design, to its features, to the driving experience, the Veloster has charged into the market with a new and unique package, and it is selling like hotcakes. Read the rest of this entry »
The Beetle’s shape is probably one of the best-known (and in some circles, most reviled) shapes on the road. However, the previous “New Beetle” was getting old by 2011, and Volkswagen took the time to completely redesign it for 2012. Because of its cultural impact over the years (and the fact that I know some people who read this site are interested), I took one for a drive recently. Read the rest of this entry »
Acura seems to have a very different approach to the luxury car market than its Japanese luxury car kin, and it’s paid dividends for them over the years. While Lexus and Infiniti chase the big boys in Germany, Acura goes after the lower priced market and does a good job of offering a slick alternative to the norm. The TSX, while in every other part of the world a Honda Accord, is Acura’s entry-level model, but this is no bad thing. Since I wanted to try the wagon out for the sake of a family member who may need one in the near future, I got a set of keys and took a black TSX Tech Sport Wagon for a drive. Read the rest of this entry »
In BBC Top Gear Jeremy Clarkson was amazed at what the Fiat 500 Abarth felt like with 160hp. Well Italian tuner Romeo Ferraris thought that that was still a bit weak, so they upped the ante to 300hp… in that same car the size of a shoe. All of that turbocharged power sent to the front wheel will surely make this thing quite a handful to drive, and it is outfitted as such. The interior looks to be quite racy but somehow they decided a touch of luxury alcantara would be necessary as well. Romeo Ferraris (yes, a name bordering on infringing the rights of two Italian automakers) seems to be a force to be reckoned with. If they are crazy enough to make a Fiat 500 like this, then I can only imagine what they would do with other cars. Be sure to keep an eye on them. More pics below. Read the rest of this entry »