Back in the early 1980s, Nissan and Toyota began producing American-sized cars, vehicles that were meant to compete with contemporary domestic vehicles in terms of size and interior content. To that end, vehicles like the Toyota Cressida and Datsun/Nissan Maxima reached our shores, with spacious interiors and plush, somewhat more modern dashboard layout, and cushy upholstery meant to elevate those manufacturers’ offerings beyond the “econobox” mold of former products, and onto the shopping lists of Americans looking for a competent, comfortable family sedan. The optimistic imitation of American tastes found in the large Japanese sedans from that era has a distinct feel, that of an ersatz, 7/8 scale near-luxury sedan that pre-dates the current “perforated-leather-and-driving-dynamics” definition of that term. It seems to me that the English language is missing a word to describe cars like that, with that feel and ambience of the early ‘80s Cressida and Maxima – which is really a shame, because that word would be the one I would use in my description of the 2013 Nissan Sentra SV. Continue Reading →
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the mean commute time (to travel to work, not roundtrip) among U.S. workers was 25.1 minutes in 2011 which is about 15 miles. I drive more than twice that far – 36 miles each way, to be precise. My 2008 Cadillac CTS can get about 25 MPG if driven delicately, but I don’t drive a 304-horsepower car so that I can drive it delicately. Just over 20 miles per gallon is typical for me, and the damn thing is eating me out of house and home. I have to refuel twice a week at that pace; I’m spending more on gas than I used to on car payments for the thing. So what might a solution be?
At the 2012 New York Auto Show, Subaru introduced its EyeSight driver assistance system, which integrates adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, and vehicle lane departure warning. The system uses a pair of CCD (charge-coupled device) cameras mounted at the top of the windshield inside the car, adjacent to the rearview mirror. According to Subaru press information, the EyeSight system processes stereo images to identify the vehicles traveling in front, as well as obstacles, traffic lanes and other items. The video information is relayed to the EyeSight computer, which is also networked with the car’s braking system and electronic throttle control. Below speeds of approximately 19mph, EyeSight is capable of detecting pedestrians in the vehicle’s path and can activate in order to mitigate or even avoid the collision. Under certain circumstances, Eyesight is able to bring the car to a complete stop, thus avoiding a collision. Continue Reading →
In the past, before pickup trucks meant big business and billions of dollars in profits for their makers, pickups changed generations at a glacially slow pace. GM’s full-size pickups waited eight model years for their first mid-cycle update (1973-1981) and remained on the market for a ridiculously-steady 15 model years. But the world is different today, and the pace of change is much faster in the full-size truck market. Continue Reading →
When the 2014 Subaru Forester was introduced last year at the LA Auto Show, it looked to be a solid improvement over the already-successful outgoing Forester model, with increased interior room, improved ergonomics and materials, better fuel economy, and a long list of available safety and comfort features. Living in the Northwest, where the Forester and its Subaru stablemates are extremely popular, I was eager to see how the new Forester stacked up.
With the departure of Volvo’s C30 hatchback and the related S40 sedan, the S60 has to fill the marque’s role as the entry-level Volvo. Sized to compete with the likes of BMW 3-series, Audi A4, and Mercedes C-class, the S60 has a lot of ground to cover. Starting at $31,900, the entry-level model is the S60 T5.
The S60 T5 AWD is the third variant of S60 sedan I’ve reviewed since the “Naughty Volvo” launched in 2011. Both previously-tested models had turbocharged versions of Volvo’s inline-six cylinder engine- the 2011 S60 T6 AWD was the powertrain available at launch with 300 HP, and the 2012 S60 T6 AWD R-Design featured enhanced styling to complement the increased 325 HP output. Given my mild obsession with high-performance Volvos, I spent way too much time comparing those cars to the hallowed R cars of 2004-2007 when testing those six-cylinder S60 models. Continue Reading →
When Autosavant first laid eyes on the 2014 Mercedes Benz E-Class, it was at its official debut during the 2013 North American Auto Show in Detroit Michigan, where the newest iteration of the E-Class (in sedan and wagon form) left a good first impression on us with its reworked exterior styling as well as its new interior layout. But with the car now arriving onto dealer lots, does it still have what it takes to compete against the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6 while filling the lofty shoes of its popular predecessor at the same time? To find out, I visited my local Mercedes-Benz dealership in Bloomfield Hills Michigan, where their “Open Haus” event allowed me to spend some quality time with the 2014 E-Class lineup and witness first hand whether the company’s efforts to improve the E have paid off.
Remember the Hyundai Veracruz? It was Hyundai’s Lexus RX-ish three-row crossover (though the RX that it looked like never had more than two rows of seats) that was a slow seller. Well, Hyundai figured out a way to increase sales of the Veracruz: name it the Santa Fe. You see, Hyundai discontinued the Veracruz model at the end of its life cycle and instead split the Santa Fe into two models – the Santa Fe Sport (5 passenger, four cylinder only) and Santa Fe (6 or 7 passenger, V6 only). Though the two models share (most of) a name and all sheetmetal from the B-pillars forward, they really do feel quite different from behind the wheel. The non-Sport Santa Fe is just launching, so Hyundai invited us to New York a few days ago to put it through its paces outside the city.
What makes a vehicle a “crossover”? I thought I knew, and that it was some sort of small car-based SUV/tall wagon type vehicle, like a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4. That being said, the CR-V, RAV4, and CX-5’s of this world fall more into the “cute-ute” camp rather than crossover, at least in my book. To take my misguided understanding a bit further, I consider cars like the XV Crosstrek, Volvo XC70, and Audi Allroad to be just jacked-up wagons. Suffice it to say, I don’t have a clear understanding of the definition of “crossover” in my own mind.
Last fall, Autosavant’s Kevin Gordon and I were both fortunate enough to drive the Scion FR-S. His was equipped with the sweet-shifting six-speed manual, which offers the driver complete control in extracting the goodness out of what is arguably Toyota’s sportiest offering in some time. My fate? Spending a week with the automatic-equipped FR-S. Was it as good? Continue Reading →
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