In 2017, do vehicle segment labels even have any meaning anymore? Back in the dark ages of the 1970s we knew what a sport utility vehicle was. It was essentially a shortened body-on-frame pickup truck with an enclosed, but often removable rear body. But then in 1984, Jeep introduced the XJ Cherokee and it all began to change. Now a utility vehicle can be whatever an automaker’s marketing department deems it to be including a high-performance compact, hot hatch like the Mercedes-AMG GLA45.
With the Volkswagen diesel buyback now in full-force here in the United States, up to half a million drivers will be looking for new cars in the coming months. A significant chunk of that group has declared that they want to keep their cars despite the emissions cheating while others including at least one friend of mine are lining up to buy the leftover unsold 2015 models now that a fix has been approved by the EPA. There is clearly still some demand for affordable diesel cars in America and Chevrolet wants a piece of it with the new 2017 Cruze diesel.
It’s been just over four decades since the modern hot hatch was born with debut of the original Volkswagen Golf GTI. In the intervening years, most other automakers have produced higher performance versions of their compact cars but since the turn of the century a new class of even quicker machines has evolved. Until recently, with the exception of the Volkswagen Golf R, these machines have been forbidden fruit on American shores. Fortunately for enthusiasts, Ford finally homologated its legendary Focus RS and American Honda dealers will soon start delivering the latest edition of the Civic Type-R.
Given the current market trends and consumer favor for SUVs, Volvo probably made the right call in coming out of the gate with the big XC90 for the first complete reboot of its product lineup after separating from Ford. Fortunately, for those of us less enamored with driving utilities on a daily basis, they’ve quickly followed that up with the S90 sedan and soon the V90 wagon. I recently spent a week with the S90 and found that unsurprisingly it shares most of the same strengths and foibles as its higher riding sibling but in a much sleeker package. (more…)
The launch of the second-generation XC90 marked the beginning of a new era for Volvo a couple of years ago. The XC90 is the first model to ride on the company’s all-new scalable product architecture (SPA), the first all-new platform to come from Gothenburg since Ford sold the Swedish brand to China’s Geely in 2010. After initially being available only with boosted four-cylinder engines, the XC90 is now the first regular production plug-in model Volvo is offering in America and I recently spent a week driving one.
While the SUV in its various flavors is quickly expanding its hold on the American driver, the car isn’t quite dead yet. In fact, at Hyundai, its two best-selling models remain the Elantra and Sonata. With nearly 173,000 sold in the first ten months of 2016, The Elantra certainly appeals to a significant portion of the market and Hyundai wants to expand on that with a new variant for 2017, the Elantra Eco. Despite continuing cheap gas across the U.S. the Eco is definitely a car that consumers should consider.
Recently, Fiat Chrysler’s Windsor, Ontario assembly plant celebrated the 33th anniversary of the production launch of the original T-Wagon. If there was any one single vehicle that really defined Chrysler in the 1980s and early 1990s, this was was it, the minivan. The minivan no longer holds the position of importance in the American marketplace that it once did, but as a people-mover, no SUV or crossover can hold a candle to this form factor and FCA knows it. This year, FCA has rebooted its icon once again with a new design and the revival of a previously failed nameplate. Can the 2017 Pacifica still haul in the cash for Chrysler?
We exist in a world of pervasive screens and connectivity and touch interfaces. In that world, almost everything we do is intermediated, filtered and converted through layers of ones and zeros. In fact, in the not too distant future, it’s likely that many if not most of us will never actively drive a car again. Fortunately, we’re not quite at that final place yet and there remain a handful of virtually unfiltered driving experiences like the 2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider.
It’s been a quarter century since I drove a BMW for the first time. After years of reading Car and Driver’s praise of the 3 and 5 Series, my entre into the brand came via the big coupe which in those days was the 850i. The 8 series had supplanted the 6 series while moving significantly upmarket. The 8 was only produced for a single generation before giving way to an eventual revival of the 6 which I finally had a chance to drive recently in 650i form.
Despite the best efforts of Volkswagen to kill the appeal of compression ignition engines in America once and for all, Dr. Diesel’s combustion cycle still holds some significant appeal as a means of improving fuel efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The latest automaker to jump in with diesel engines is Jaguar Land Rover with the 2016 Range Rover Td6. While relatively few Americans will ever have the opportunity to drive this high-dollar luxury SUV, it’s actually surprisingly relevant as a probable preview of the 2018 Ford F-150.