Testing a car on a race track is a patently different experience than testing on back roads. It’s true—there are some details you simply can’t derive from a track test. It’s difficult to gauge how the car’s suspension will handle rough pavement (poorly paved race tracks are, thankfully, few and far between) or how the car’s mirrors will mitigate blind spots (if you’re checking your mirrors on a track, you’re doing something wrong). But for each closed circuit’s shortcomings, it offers one major benefit: With today’s powertrains, the only place you can legally find the limit of a car’s power, its grip, or its brakes is on a track.
With this past year being a rare exception, winters in New England are a serious business. So, when the New England Motor Press Association gets together to award the best winter vehicles of the year, the industry takes notice.
Although the typical winter’s day this year was more hospitable than during the past few years, the official winter testing day for NEMPA’s auto experts was still a bitterly cold, windy affair – complete with weather service advisories instructing people to stay inside (just check out our Infiniti QX50 impression for proof). Undeterred, we gathered at Bugsy Lawlor’s Automotion garage to test the best winter rigs of the year.
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a staple in what’s now one of the fastest-growing segments in the auto business, the 2015 Toyota Tacoma suddenly looked outdated.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?