The return to availability of GM’s Chevrolet Colorado and the GMC Canyon last year gave the midsize pickup market a shot in the arm. Long a staple in what’s now one of the fastest-growing segments in the auto business, the 2015 Toyota Tacoma suddenly looked outdated. For 2016, it had to be more efficient, more comfortable, and more refined.
Since 1941, Jeep has been the name brand for getting off the beaten path. The Ford Explorer may have taken the automotive glory in Spielberg’s first “Jurassic Park,” but if you pay close attention, you’ll notice that all the gas-powered vehicles on the island were good, old-fashioned Jeep Wranglers. If that’s not proof enough of a rig’s ruggedness, I don’t know what is.
The problem with the Wrangler, however, is that while it’s fantastic off road, it has never really excelled on road. Outside of the grande-size Grand Cherokee and Grand Wagoneers, Jeep has never really made a vehicle that was capable both in the mud and on the asphalt. Fast forward to 2015 and cue the all-new Jeep Renegade.
Two great open-air, 2-seat roadsters have hit the marketplace recently: the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider and the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata. Both are spirited, lightweight, and fun to drive. The question is, which do you choose?
The Alfa Romeo 4C Spider (see our Alfa Romeo 4C Overview) is equipped with a 1.8-liter turbocharged inline 4-cylinder that produces 237 hp at 6,000 rpm and 258 lb-ft of torque at 4,250 rpm. The Mazda Miata MX-5 (read our Overview) comes equipped with a 2.0-liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine with 155 hp at 6,000 rpm and 148 lb-ft of torque at 4,600 rpm.
Sometimes the beginning of major change happens with one simple “a-ha” moment.
I had one over the weekend, which I’ll describe a little later. But first, here’s what led to my moment of clarity.
While in San Francisco I had the opportunity to drive a Commuter Cars Tango T600 through heavy traffic into the city and back to the suburbs. The entire trip was about 50 miles.
The T600 is about as wide as a Honda Goldwing motorcycle, weighs as much as a Subaru Outback, has the rollover threshold of a Porsche 911, has four times as many side impact protection bars in its doors as a Volvo, and has quicker acceleration to 60-mph than most stock Ferraris.
There’s not a bad sedan on the market today. Any sedan, from any automaker that sells cars in the United States, should provide safe and reliable transportation for many years.
The differences in cars are in their levels of quality, performance, comfort, technology, and safety. Buying a top-level Lexus sedan will provide a much different experience than an entry-level Kia 4-door, but both will probably be on the road for about the same amount of time.
So how do car shoppers know which sedan is the best? Or better yet, how can they discover which is the best for them?
When a Q7 feels small, you know you’re next to a big vehicle.
I forget sometimes just how big some trucks are, especially in areas outside of big cities. Every once in a while I venture into North Idaho and am surprised, each time, by how many pickups fill the parking lots of places like Costco and Walmart. Not just regular trucks like the average F-150, but jacked up rigs that reach a thousand feet into the sky and have tires big enough to flatten a Prius in one revolution.
The purpose of these trucks, I assume, is similar to why peacocks have massive feather displays: an effort to prove masculinity and win chicks. I’m not so sure that works in the human world as well as it does in the animal kingdom, but that doesn’t stop guys from trying.
Not just any truck, though, can qualify to be a massive hogger of rural American parking lots.
I ran that car ragged.
In virtually all the western states, I experienced plenty of big-city traffic, wide-open freeways, epic snowstorms and countless trips to Costco and Home Depot. Through it all, I can’t remember a single problem.
Purchased new in 2002, my Subaru Forester delivered perfect reliability for over a hundred thousand miles. I sold it only because I have a compulsive need to drive something new, or new to me, every few years. The Forester performed so well, in fact, that I’ve kept the model on my short list of cars to look for when it’s time to acquire a different vehicle.
In those quick searches it’s not uncommon to find the same model with over 200,000 miles on the clock. So why would a used Forester make a do-not-buy list?
The Porsche sat seductively, tempting me to open the door, slide in, turn the key with my left hand and ignite the potential energy sitting just behind and under the seats.
But I didn’t want to yet. I wanted to take in the surroundings first and fully appreciate what was to come. A hot, dry day. Sticky rubber wrapped around 19-inch alloy wheels. A white 2013 Boxster S with the top down and plenty of places to introduce my right foot to the Porsche’s floor.
There was just one problem: The last Porsche I drove was the new 911 Carrera S. This was just a Boxster S. There’s no way the experience could be as good, right?
When someone invites you to drive a 2012 Porsche 911 Carrera S, you do it. That’s just a simple rule of life.
Whatever might be on the schedule for the day should be cleared and an appropriate amount of time reserved for one of the most iconic cars ever built.
So, after a call to the dentist (cavities can wait a week), I headed toward Northern Idaho on a clear and sunny 80-degree day to fulfill my obligation to the 911. But there was just one problem.
Look away, it’s hideous!
In one of the most disappointing debuts in the history of automobiles, the 2010 Mazdaspeed3 is almost laughably ugly. Uglier than an Edsel. Uglier than an Aztec. This car, based on the front end alone, is destined to land on every future top 10 list of ugly cars from now until eternity.
The grinning front end looks like a combination of Ronald McDonald, that guy in the Smilin’ Bob commercials, and the inside of fish gills.
I’m shocked that the good people over at Mazda ever thought this was actually a good design strategy. Maybe all the effort went into the car’s performance, which I admit is impressive, and styling was just an afterthought left to an overly happy intern.
The thing is, I don’t care that the new Mazdaspeed3 is rated at 262 hp or puts down 280 lb-feet of torque at 3,000 rpm. Heck, I wouldn’t care if it had the engine from Aston Martin’s screamin’ new One-77, I’m not getting within 20 feet of a car that looks like a rolling Enzyte commercial.
The hood scoop looks out of place, and the bluntly rounded front end looks like a dead, bloated dolphin.
Reviewers really dig the Mazda’s exhilarating track performance, but that doesn’t change the fact that its ridiculously silly face looks like a pukey cutesy Pokemon character. Does Mazda seriously think a young hip adult will go for this happy-faced new 3 over a WRX or Mitsubishi Evo?
Studies have shown that buyers prefer cars with angry faces. That’s especially true with young, brooding 20-somethings, who won’t spend $25K on a car that looks like it belongs in a Candy Land game.
I sure hope disgusting front-end treatments don’t start getting popular. Acura did it and now Mazda. As much as I despise Acura’s cringe-worthy new beak, I think I’d rather have that than this new Mazda.
What do you think of Mazda’s new face on the 2010 Mazdaspeed3?