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Autoblog New Car Reviews
Autoblog New Car Reviews
Updated: 22 hours 57 min ago
As far as unexpected encounters with wild animals go, squirrels don't normally rate. The furry little nut-smugglers are omnipresent fixtures in my neck of the woods - literally - so a chance meeting doesn't warrant caution the way a bear or even an ornery raccoon might. But one's list of priorities can't help but change a bit at 175 miles per hour. That was exactly the case when I drove this Aston Martin's predecessor, the DBS, a few years ago.
I was hammering around a closed course - Ford's Romeo proving grounds - on the company's high-banked 5-mile long track, 25 mph shy of the double ton, when a little red dot appeared on the surface of the track, far up the straight. It was a squirrel, which, lacking the good sense not to be on the track at that particular moment, was at least smart enough to flatten itself into a pancake (perhaps it heard the Aston's mighty V12 closing in). I prayed it wouldn't dart from its adjacent lane into mine, because at my closing speed, I figured I wouldn't have time to retaliate. Naturally, the kamikaze rodent skittered on its stomach directly into my trajectory at the last minute, leaving me no choice but to issue a critical hair's breadth correction at the wheel. Roadkill manufacturing is normally a momentary wince-inducing affair - a grimace, a quick appeal for the universe's forgiveness - and then on with one's day. Yet in a car as low as an Aston Martin, at the velocity I was traveling, a bit of fur flying and battered karma would've been the least of my concerns.
The squirrel, the DBS and I all survived to fight another day, and that 175-mph run still stands as my own personal v-max. The Aston's high-speed stability and steering saved my bacon that morning, but in truth, I wasn't that impressed with the car overall. So it was with some consternation that I took possession of this 2014 Aston Martin Vanquish, its replacement killer.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Minicars have yet to really catch on in the US, and while the reason for that is probably at least partially because of our addiction to big crossovers and SUVs, we have a feeling that some of the indifference toward these tiny cars is the lack of functional practicality and efficiency that such small vehicles offer - especially relative to vehicles the next size and price rung up. Looking at the current class of sub-subcompact cars, which includes the Chevrolet Spark, Fiat 500, Smart Fortwo and Scion iQ, only the Spark and 500 provide realistic interior space, and the baby Bowtie is the sole offering in its class large enough to offer a rear set of doors.
The Spark - in one name or another - has been on sale in other markets since 2009 and has sold relatively well, but in the name of globalization and diversifying its lineup, Chevrolet brought it to our shores for 2013. General Motors hasn't marketed a car this small in the US since the Geo/Chevy Metro, and just like the Metro was the product of a collaboration with Suzuki, the Spark is a product of GM's South Korean operations. With its addition to the lineup, Chevy's menu of passenger cars is now bursting with options, but can this pint-sized hatchback ignite any interest with buyers here in the US? We spent a week with one to find out if it could hold our attention - and our stuff.Permalink | Email this | Comments
There was a time not so long ago when opting for a base Ford Mustang meant getting little more than some sheetmetal, an anemic four-cylinder engine and what may very well have been the world's most disappointing automatic transmission. During the Fox Body years, Ford seemed hell-bent on living up to Carroll Shelby's derogatory description of the coupe as little more than a runabout for demure office assistants, and the result was a base model with fewer sporting intentions than a Dilbert day calendar.
Some 20 years later, hopping behind the wheel of an entry-level pony is an entirely different experience. With all of the menacing aesthetics of the brawnier GT, a well-equipped interior and a drivetrain that toes the line between efficiency and power better than few before it, the 2013 Ford Mustang V6 is an attractive option for buyers in the big coupe market. But is it attractive enough to forgo the beastly GT?
Note: The Mustang shown in these photographs differs from the model we reviewed. The review model was a 2013 V6 Coupe Premium, while the pictured model is a 2013 V6 Coupe with the optional Performance Package. We regret the discrepancy, but circumstances left us with only this model to shoot.Permalink | Email this | Comments
I'm probably ill-suited to accurately and fairly take the full measure of a vehicle like the 2013 GMC Acadia Denali. This is a machine conjured around the express notion of corralling and then herding a brood of rafter-swinging hatchlings to and fro in relative comfort, and with no such passel of wee Bowmans to call my own, it's difficult to give this rig a fair shake. While I can certainly weigh cargo capacity, legroom and fuel economy stats with the best of them, I'd be lying to your face if I said the word "crossover" didn't urge some uncontrollable Pavlovian recoil from the murky recesses of my frame. To put it simply, I just can't stand the damn things.
As a rule, the segment is built on a bed of compromise. Manufacturers love nothing more than to spin up a tired yarn about the virtues of this particular neck of the market. We're told the crossbreeds deliver all the ride quality, driving dynamics and fuel economy of a car married with the seating position, capability and interior volume of the SUV set. That all sounds as swell as a sunset, but as the 2013 Acadia Denali so artfully illustrates, the advertising on the box is rarely congruous with the prize inside. Even with an imaginary squad of younglings at my heels, the refreshed luxury crossover doesn't quite manage to scratch the promised itches.Permalink | Email this | Comments
If ever there were an award for the most bastardized label in the automotive world, the Gran Turismo/Grand Touring/GT moniker would be an easy frontrunner. Once reserved solely for sporty coupes, the GT letters have taken a big hit over the years, but things got downright embarrassing with the BMW 5 Series Gran Turismo. For 2013, Hyundai is helping to muddy the waters even further by slapping a GT badge onto the hatchback version of its top-selling model, the Elantra.
In the case of the 2013 Hyundai Elantra GT, though, this name is just recycling the Elantra GT name from the early 2000s, albeit on a more stylish, modern and all-around better five-door. Hyundai has created quite a competitive lineup since its Fluidic Sculpture design language hit the market, but one area that it has paled in comparison to rival automakers is in the hatchback department. With a plethora of budget-minded compact cars currently on sale, Hyundai now finds itself in the unique position of being the only automaker to offer a compact sedan, coupe and hatchback with the 2013 Elantra. Still, with the compact segment more crowded than a public school classroom, we spent a week with the new Elantra GT to see how it stacks up against the hatchback competition.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Every once in a while, I find myself, despite my solitary leanings and inherent modesty, working out in some kind of class setting. The tone and tenor of these classes ranges wildly - from the quiet, follow-the-leader variety, to those with a kind of Cult of Personality man or woman calling the shots, usually with idiom-laden shouting and theatrical hair. Despite their personal variation and range of professional effectiveness, there's one common concept that most instructors bring up at some point: working with intention.
The idea, as it relates to physical fitness, is that focusing your brain on the movement at hand - the rate of your own breathing, or the muscle groups being worked for instance - helps to perform the act efficiently and correctly. Having spent a happy majority of the last decade in an exercise-free near-debauch, I was a bit surprised to find out that this kind of mental game really works pretty well.
All of this is relevant to my current task at hand, telling all of you what it's like to drive the 2013 BMW 135is Coupe, because this is very clearly a car that rewards being driven with intention. Here, of course, I don't mean simply keeping both hands on the wheels, eyes on the road, and such, but actively judging your own inputs and the car's reactions to them. Good drivers (at least) are attentive most of the time, but it's rare that we have the patience for applying such purpose to this everyday act, unless, as is the case with the 135is, the car rewards us for it so fully.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Try as I might, I just can't bring myself to stick to a routine of drinking diet soda. Nevermind the fact that I'm trying to cut soda out of my life altogether - every now and then, I just want the high-octane stuff, and diet simply won't do. If I'm already going to subject myself to the sweeteners and caffeine, I'm going to take the calories that go along with it.
Some people feel the same way about cars (go big or go home!), but I'm not one of them - I often see the merit in less-potent machines that automakers offer. For example, while I simply adored the Mini John Cooper Works GP that I recently tested, I still said I'd rather have a Cooper S Hardtop every day. And while the Ford Focus ST may have been crowned the winner in my hot hatch comparison test from last year, my experience in the Fiesta ST a couple of months ago reminded me yet again that less can indeed be more.
So when Fiat introduced this 500 Turbo - a sort of Diet Abarth - I was prepared for the possibility of similar conclusions. But with the range-topping Abarth proving to be an incredibly delicious concoction, would this tall glass of diet quench my thirst just the same?Permalink | Email this | Comments
Mention the name "Allroad" to most automotive enthusiasts, and it's likely to conjure up images of the Audi A6 Allroad Quattro, first introduced in 1999. That car-like alternative to a sport utility vehicle was based on the German automaker's A6 Avant wagon. But unlike its luxurious road-going sibling, the Allroad was an on- and off-road variant fitted with an advanced height-adjustable air suspension for additional ground clearance, rugged tires on oversized wheels to improve off-pavement grip and unpainted flared fenders and bumpers to protect it from rugged use. That original A6 Allroad arrived with Audi's powerful twin-turbo 2.7-liter V6, more to offset its increased weight than to boost performance, and was eventually offered with a 4.2-liter V8 before it was discontinued in 2005.
Fast forward eight years, and Audi has introduced its replacement - now based on the smaller A4 Avant wagon.
A quick overview reveals that the new Allroad is smaller, less technically advanced, and it lacks its predecessor's focus and capability. Those traits aren't necessarily negative, as they appeal to a very different audience. But do they make this model less desirable?Permalink | Email this | Comments
When Subaru first offered a turbocharged Forester XT model to US customers for the 2004 model year, the shoe-shaped second-gen model fell into a ready-made competitive set of small, V6-powered crossovers and SUVs. The XT might have been more of a raucous shopping-trip companion than, say, a Ford Escape V6, but the basics of the cars offered a clear differentiation from the naturally aspirated, four-cylinder models found just a bit downmarket. Here in 2013, the V6 breed of crossover in this size class is all but extinct, and turbocharged four-cylinders with the power to compete with the XT are not thick on the ground.
In many ways, the comparative analysis gets most interesting when you start looking around for CUVs to match up with the all-boxes-ticked Forester XT Touring that we had as a tester for a recent week. The top of the line Touring trim means that the Forester comes with features like 10-way power seats, leather, navigation, a Harmon Kardon sound system with HD radio, Bluetooth and more. In fact, our Forester also had the only option package available on the XT Touring; one that included keyless access, HID headlights and Subaru's EyeSight system (adaptive cruise, lane departure warning and pre-collision braking).
And, of course, because of the XT trim, we knew that we were getting one of the most powerful crossovers in this segment, too. Subaru's turbocharged, direct-injection 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder lay under the hood, ready to pump out some 250 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque at the flex of an ankle. Combined with a light-for-the class curb weight of around 3,600 pounds and Subaru's grippy all-wheel-drive system, the XT feels pretty quick in town and on the freeway.
Add all of that up, and you've got a strong-performing, content-laden crossover, all for the sum of just $36,220 as tested...Permalink | Email this | Comments
As much as we enthusiasts like to rail on the lowly Toyota Prius as the harbinger of death for all we hold dear, there's no denying the machine's absolute and interminable grip on the hybrid market in the United States. Toyota has so thoroughly sunk its teeth into the segment that you can clearly hear the automaker's incisors clacking against one another with the conclusion of each financial quarter. And there's little wonder why. Buyers can plop down less than $25,000 and have a runabout that can return up to an estimated 51 miles per gallon in the city, leaving every other entry on the market with precious little gristle to gnaw on.
Enter the 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid. With its claimed 47 mpg combined, the funky little hatch from Europe already falls behind the 48 mpg city offered by the Prius, but that marginal sacrifice in fuel economy could be a small price to pay for buyers who want a credible alternative to the stalwart Toyota. Unfortunately, like the Fusion Hybrid, the C-Max Hybrid had trouble even approaching its Environmental Protection Agency estimates during our time with the car.Permalink | Email this | Comments
I imagine spending time with a sexy sports coupe is similar to a first date with a supermodel. Before she arrives, there's a buildup of excitement mixed with nervous anticipation. Even though the background work is done, there are many concerns and unanswered questions about how the two of you will get along. What about compatibility, engagement and dynamics?
The big day arrives, and you answer the door to find her waiting in the driveway wearing a form-fitting Misano Red Pearl dress and sleek Anthracite stilettos. As you shake your head in disbelief, you swear she just winked her... ah... xenon headlight at you.
Relax big boy, you've been fantasizing about the 2013 Audi RS5.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Back in February, Mini invited me to come try out its brand-new Paceman coupe-crossover-hatchback thing in Puerto Rico, and not long after, I spit out a Quick Spin detailing my impressions of the little-big two-door. But here's what I didn't tell you: Mini also let me loose on those fine, curvaceous, tropical roads in its hottest hatch, the John Cooper Works GP. And while that behind-the-wheel gigglefest would have no doubt made for a story laden with positive notes and warm regards, the truth is, I only drove it for 15 minutes, so I couldn't in good conscience offer much of a story to you. (European Editor Matt Davis also got a short stint behind the wheel of the GP late last year.)
So for the sake of due diligence, I buckled down and spent a full eight days with the JCW GP back home in Detroit, just as springtime was starting to stick here in southeast Michigan. But after my time with the Mini, I was wishing that I could have just been left with my GP memories from Puerto Rico, where I was pushing the little hotbox hard around smooth corners and flexing every one of its muscles to eke out the full JCW GP experience in only a short timeframe.
This was indeed a bittersweet homecoming.Permalink | Email this | Comments
The current Honda Fit has been around the block a few times. The subcompact hatch has soldiered on without significant revision since its first update for US customers in 2009, and while Honda is on the verge of launching a third generation, we thought we'd take the time to see how the runabout stacks up against the new wave of small, efficient and plucky five-doors now on the American market. Those include old standbys like the Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris, as well as relative newcomers like the Chevrolet Sonic and Ford Fiesta.
Those machines may have all covered ground on the Fit, but Honda's wee machine holds a pleasant surprise for those buyers still willing to give the car the time of day. While the rest of the Japanese automaker's lineup has succumbed to dreaded model bloat, the Fit has remained true to the spirit of Honda that we remember from our vagabond youths. This may very well still be the closest genetic ancestor to the Civic models of old.
Outside, the Fit Sport continues to wear its "I'm the meanest June Bug" looks with pride. The oversized, wedge-shaped headlamps and aggressive lower fascia help lend the design plenty of attitude up front, and our tester's 16-inch alloy wheels keep this Honda from looking like it was the cheapest thing on the lot. Still, with a massive windscreen, tall greenhouse and short wheelbase, the Fit Sport can't help but look over-inflated, but that's a criticism we could levy at nearly every other product in this segment as well.Permalink | Email this | Comments
Against the backdrop of fervent hand-wringing from brand purists, BMW is on the cusp of finally offering front-wheel-drive vehicles. While that's a shock to the constitution, many are pointing to the company's fine-handling Mini offerings as an article of faith that it can get this drivetrain paradigm shift right. That may be true, but there's an even more important lesson that Mini has taught the decision-makers in Munich: how to make real money on small cars.
Before Mini came along, BMW - along with seemingly every other premium European automaker - never really figured out how to coax big dollars out of American wallets without developing cars that had large footprints, at least those other than sports cars. While the automaker really got rolling in America on the strength of little bantamweights like the 2002, it veered away from small cars sometime in the '80s. BMW subsequently crashed and burned with the cut-and-shut 318ti built off its E36 3 Series and, good as it is, the 1 Series hasn't given the company meaty volume or profits, either. Among other brands, the Audi A3 has never rung up big numbers, and the less said about the painful sales figures of the Volvo C30, the better. But Mini has beat the odds, blazing a more affordable and evidently compelling trail. As of late, the company's Countryman softroader has been a massive hit worldwide. No surprise then that BMW has reconsidered bringing over its smallest softroader, the X1, to the US.
The X1 originally went on sale in Europe in 2010, and after a solid launch on its home continent, the little crossover was introduced in small-car-friendly Canada for 2012, only going on sale here in the US fresh off a minor facelift for 2013. To be clear, the X1 shares no design DNA with the even-smaller Countryman. Their engineers don't even use the same washroom - whereas the Mini is based on a front-drive chassis, the X1's architecture is a variant of the aforementioned rear-wheel-drive 1 Series, itself derived from the old E90 3 Series. Exactly none of this is bad news.Permalink | Email this | Comments