When taking a look at automotive companies in general, it’s easy to see the many ups and downs that are experienced over the years, whether the circumstances are based on economic climate, consumer taste, product appeal or financial health. As can be seen in today’s fast-paced auto industry, mighty corporations that appeared invincible can easily be humbled by a variety of issues. The most compelling is when products start to lose appeal, as in the case of the Land Rover Group. Just a few years ago, its product portfolio was starting to look stale and fall behind the leaders in the premium segment. The company realized its shortfall, and has since reinvented the brand, offering appealing premium SUVs that now cover the compact premium crossover, mid-size and large premium SUV segment. The big news is the launch of the radical 2012 Range Rover Evoque premium crossover SUV, which replaces the aging Read more
What’s the quickest way to erase a past, especially one that brings nothing but bad memories? How about an identity change? Well, it seems that the powers that be at Chrysler felt a need to change the identity of its mid-size sedan and convertible models to ‘200,’ formally known as the Sebring. This gives the heavily made-over model a fresh start with the buying public, especially after coming out of its much-publicized financial woes.
Remember the Chrysler Sebring sedan and convertible? It launched about three years ago unsuccessfully. I had driven one from a rental fleet at the time, and it was certainly clear that some serious re-work was required!
Fast-forward to today and the Sebring gets an extreme makeover in bodystyle, interior design and powertrain, Read more
Mention the name Mitsubishi and most folks won’t take any notice as the maker’s car lineup is nondescript and essentially aims at Mr. and Mrs. Middle-of-the -Road. Mention the magical name ‘Mitsubishi EVO’ or ‘Evolution’ and suddenly ears perk up – especially from the car enthusiast crowd. This is a special car that has been designed to excel in one thing only, which is to go extremely fast from corner to corner! Here’s a car that earned its street cred competing in the World Rally Championship (WRC) and has four world titles on its belt, thanks to rally driver Tommi Mäkinen.
Now in its fourth generation, the EVO is packed with the latest go-fast hardware that allows it to compete in a rarified crowd that includes Porsche 911, BMW M3, Mercedes AMG, and other supercars. Its main rival with similar performance and pricing is the Subaru STI, which is also built off a humble Read more
Now that the worst of the recession is behind us and consumer confidence is looking up, automakers are starting to see a recovery trend in their sales. It was widely assumed that Japanese juggernauts Toyota and Honda would be in a ripe position to capture a large chunk of new car buyers when the economy did its turnaround. These two companies have earned a solid “can do no wrong” reputation that is the envy of the industry, with products that essentially sell themselves. At the same time, the American carmakers were in crisis mode, dealing with survivability before filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Read more
In today’s quest of lessening one’s carbon footprint on the automotive landscape, most manufacturers tend to shy away from the full-size SUVs and offer instead downsized and improved fuel-efficient vehicles. Infiniti on the other hand, continues to play in the premium full-size body on-frame SUV segment with its second generation QX SUV. Larger and more imposing than before, the all-new QX56 boasts loud styling, big power, lots of bright work and high-end equipment to satisfy the most discerning buyers. This niche segment is made up of players from Cadillac with its Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Lexus LX570 and the luxuriously appointed military grade-style Mercedes G-Wagon. There’s other large SUVs, like the Mercedes GL and Audi Q7, which are more car-like thanks to their unibody type construction. Read more
All it takes is a drive around the parking lot to know that the Mazda3 is not your usual compact econobox. The car in question is the 2.5-litre sedan with six-speed manual transmission. The snug driver’s seat, sporty controls and direct steering give out clues that the Mazda3’s chassis is more substantial. Well, a quick banzai run through some twisty roads reveals the true nature of the Mazda3: it’s a driver’s car and it enjoys an enthusiastic drive.
The steering has just the right amount of feel and feedback from the front tires and combined with the taut suspension, allows the chassis to be entertaining and fun in the corners. There’s very good body control, which gives lots of confidence to the driver. Even the brakes have a nice feel for easy modulation when driven hard. Equally enjoyable is the smooth-revving 2.5-L four-cylinder that makes a nice racy growl at high revs. The throttle pedal Read more
Cadillac’s latest entry in the hugely competitive crossover luxury segment is the SRX five-seater crossover SUV. The mid-size luxury SUV segment includes competitors such as the Lexus RX350, Lincoln MKT and Buick Enclave. There’s also the smaller Mercedes GLK and Audi Q5 to add to this group. Newly released in 2009, the Cadillac SRX designers thoroughly revised the entire vehicle from its seven-seater predecessor. Heavyset, the overall length has been reduced a parking-lot friendly 4.6 inches.
Continuing Cadillac’s art and science design theme among its model lineup, the polarizing SRX crossover SUV gets noticed thanks to its sharp creases and angles that boldly stand out. Hard to miss is the huge chrome grille punctuated by a large oversized Cadillac badge resting between two huge headlights, giving the front-end a look that is unmistakably Cadillac. It looks like the stylists Read more
Ford Escape hybrid
SUV practicality without fuel consumption worries.
With the fuel efficiency gains of gas electric hybrid power, it wasn’t long before SUVs started adopting this green technology. Ford was one of the early adopters, after Toyota, to equip its popular Escape compact SUV with a hybrid system. Ford launched the Escape Hybrid early in the decade and since then the model has been updated and modernized to its current form. Having driven the Escape on an extended trip, the 177-combined horsepower of the 2.5-litre four-cylinder gas and electric hybrid motor feels energetic and gives surprising acceleration. At one point, with no highway traffic and the gas pedal floored, the Escape impressed by reaching “hello, officer!” speeds effortlessly. The only downside was the aural whine of the engine as the continuously variable transmission Read more
Not too long ago a hybrid gas electric vehicle was viewed as some sort of science experiment. Fast-forward a decade and hybrid vehicles are now all the rage and moving into the premium segment. Lexus was one of the pioneers in offering a hybrid in its line-up of luxury vehicles so it was only natural for Lexus to offer a hybrid version of its popular RX350 SUV in the form of the RX450h hybrid.
Style-wise, the RX450h is almost indistinguishable from its gasoline-powered sibling, the RX350. Only a trained eye will spot the hybrid’s specific styling cues, such as the unique wheel design, subtle blue hybrid badging and light blue tinted tail lamp lenses. A cool exterior feature is the available LED headlamps that give the RX450h a high-tech appearance. Read more
Lately, there’s been quite a bit of hype about crossover utility vehicles (CUVs). Are you wondering what the difference between a CUV and an SUV is? Crossovers like the Ford Flex, Mazda CX-7, Jeep Compass and the soon-to-be-released Toyota Venza offer utility in a five-door body style, with handling dynamics that feel very much like a car. Shared machinery includes the chassis, power train and key components. Front-wheel-drive is usually standard, with all-wheel-drive available. Some CUVs, like the Toyota Venza, offer additional SUV-like ground clearance, sans the bulky look. Read more