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Lexus Design: Better in the Past?

April 16th, 2014
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lexus_nx_front

Radical styling in a mass-market car doesn’t usually make sense, which is why it rarely happens.

Think of the Hondas and Toyotas of the world and you’ll conjure up visions of bland four-door sedans and efficiently shaped crossovers. They are fine looking automobiles, of course, but nothing that’ll cause whiplash in a passerby.

Hyundai and Kia started to change things with designs that demanded attention and helped justify increasing prices. Just compare a 2014 Optima with a 2008 Optima and you’ll see my point.

Over the years, Lexus fell into a design category perhaps best labeled as “stodgy,” with designs that imply subtle sophistication instead of head-turning aggression.

That began to change with the LFA supercar, and now some extreme design is trickling all the way down to the compact crossover segment.

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Who’s Ready for the 4-Cylinder Porsche?

April 15th, 2014

Porsche Boxster 4 cylinder

Can a performance car use a 4-cylinder engine and still be a performance car?

More specifically, can a Porsche use a 4-cylinder and still be taken seriously as a Porsche?

If I’m not mistaken, the last 4-cylinder Porsche was the 1995 968. It’s been said that no other car in history has inspired more conversations with the Lord, especially at highway speeds in the rain. A bit underpowered yet a challenge to control and with a ride that could graciously be described as “harsh,” the 968 soon gave way to the now-legendary Boxster. That’s the car that established the flat-six as the engine of choice for Porsche enthusiasts.

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Audi: Road-Trip Chariot of the Giants

April 14th, 2014

2008 Audi Q7

Four giant 18-year-old boys. One coach. About four dozen assorted pieces of luggage. All surrounding yours truly in one car for a 9-hour ride to a state tournament.

At this point I’ll stop and ask: Which vehicle would you choose for such a task?

No, a school bus wasn’t available, nor was a Suburban or other appropriately large vehicle that could comfortably transport a bunch of 6-foot-4 rowdy high schoolers.

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Invisible Hoods Could Help on Blind Curves

April 10th, 2014

Land Rover's transparent hood

There’s a blind curve on my way home that both thrills and frightens me. On adventurous days, I push my right foot down on the accelerator and take the uphill hard-right turn fast and tight while hoping there’s not a stalled car or deer or some other obstacle looming as I let my mind transport me to Laguna Seca.

On other days I approach the curve with caution, even slowing to a near crawl as intuition alone tells me to be wary.

I haven’t encountered a problem on this turn, but I know it’s quite possible that someday I will, because there are a few moments when all I can see are my hood and the sky.

Is this a curve that technology can outsmart, or will I forever be doomed to navigate those few seconds blindly?

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Remember the Mister Two?

April 9th, 2014

1996 Honda Civic De Sol

Wouldn’t car names be a lot more fun if they had some personality in them?

Instead of seemingly random letters assembled together to sound nice, what if cars had friendly, respectable names that were easy to remember? It’s so hard to keep track of car names like SRX, MKZ, RSX, BRZ and XKR, much less distinguish them from one another based on their names alone.

Sometimes those names take on nicknames among enthusiasts, and sometimes they are simply misinterpreted and passed down into family lore.

One of those cars is the infamous Mister Two.

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The Non-American American Car

April 8th, 2014
Could the new Alfa Romeo Guilia and Dodge Charger  share a platform?

Could the Dodge Charger share an Alfa Romeo platform?

Some things are inherently American.

Think of things like Mt. Rushmore, Kentucky and the Heart Attack Grill. These are representations of Americana that showcase our country as it exists today. We love our history, our freedom and our food. And, of course, we love our cars.

There’s a new list of the most “American” cars of 2014 that includes Hondas, Toyotas and Chryslers among the Fords and Chevys of the world. I find it interesting when foreign-owned brands get named on lists like this, as it blurs the line between the domestics and the imports.

This is a phenomenon that will continue, as the Chrysler 300 and Dodge’s Charger and Challenger could become the next American cars to lose their heritage.

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Burning Oil in a Brand New Car

April 7th, 2014

oil_level_low_warning

Burning oil in a 1973 Cadillac seems legit.

Drive an old boat like that around for long and you’ll stop at every gas station and put in a quart of oil. Worn engines simply burn and leak oil, often causing heavy smoke and the putrid odor of crusty black tar.

Drivers of those old cars don’t get too angry at the oil consumption because they know it just comes with the territory of having the pleasure of driving a Nixon-era automobile.

A 2013 car should never burn a quart of oil between oil changes.

Right?

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Which U.S. Car Brand Should China Buy?

April 4th, 2014
Lincoln: Could it be sold to China?

Lincoln: Could it be sold to China?

When you and I go shopping for a new or used car, we start by thinking about the features we want, the brands we’re attracted to and the price we want to pay.

It’s a similar process when corporations look for a brand they want to acquire. The problem for corporations is that buying used is the only option and there’s a lot less inventory available. However, acquiring a brand is much easier than starting a new one.

Automakers in China have wanted a piece of the U.S. auto market for at least a decade, but have lacked the ability to break into the country.

Now, things are about to get serious.

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Should the Nissan Titan Still Exist?

April 3rd, 2014

2013_nissan_titan

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.

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Objects in Mirror Could Soon Disappear

April 2nd, 2014
Tesla-Model-X-Concept

Hey look, no mirrors

How many cameras do we need in our cars?

Back in 2010 we posted an article that said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would require backup cameras in all new vehicles by September 2014.

Obviously that mandate didn’t come to fruition, and the good ol’ fashioned rear view mirror has continued to function perfectly fine.

During the time of that 2010 article, I remember thinking backup cameras were an unnecessary and expensive piece of technology. In the last four years, though, I’ve come into possession of a 2013 Subaru equipped with a backup camera and I never want to go back.

Now there’s a new mandate from the NHTSA, along with new technology coming from the most innovative automaker on the planet that could eventually eliminate the simplest piece of automotive safety gear: the mirror.

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