Global Test Driver | New Car Reviews & Worldwide Automotive News ONLINE AUTO MAGAZINE REVIEWING CARS OF THE WORLD Wed, 25 Jan 2012 01:30:46 +0000 en hourly 1 2013 Volkswagen Jetta Updates Wed, 25 Jan 2012 01:28:07 +0000 Pete The current generation of the Volkswagen Jetta, MKVI, went on sale in late 2010 as a 2011 model.  At that time Volkswagen received a lot of criticism for ‘decontenting’ or ‘dumbing down’ it’s most popular car to make it more appealing to American consumers.  As a result, the car has become very popular and is now one of the 10 best selling cars in the United States, something no VW has even been able to do.

Part of this decontenting required VW to come up with some cost effective ways to make it less expensive to consumers in this very price sensitive segment ruled by the cheapest cars on the road.  That meant separating it from the Golf platform for the first time in the cars 25 year history.  That meant a fixed rear suspension for all trims and even the reversion back to drum brakes on all but the highest SEL and TDI trim levels.  That also meant a for US only interior and design bits and even a ‘for-US-only’ 2.0L I4 motor and the 2.5L I5 we have only seen on our shores too.  All of these changes effectively took the slightly upscale MKV Jetta back to a level of the MKIII or MKIV Jetta not seen since 2003.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta VIDEO:

And while critics faulted VW for this move, consumers have flocked to the car and its far more attractive base price as it has seen sales double in the last 12 to 18 months.  All this is about to change for the 2013 model year of the Jetta.  In addition to the addition of a Hybrid variant we saw at the Detroit Auto Show, Volkswagen is said to be replacing the 2.5L I5 motor seen in the majority of the Jettas sales, with a much better 1.4l TSI Turbocharged I4 seen in the European Jetta.

What this means is that the outgoing 170hp and 177 lb-ft 2.5L I5 will now be replaced with a 160hp and 177 lb-ft 1.4L I4 motor, a decrease of only 5% in power from an engine 56% the size.  Smaller motor equals less weight but also yields greater fuel efficiency.  The current 2.5L I5 saw worst-in-class mileage ratings of 24mpg city and 33mpg highway for the manual and 23mpg city and 31mpg highway for the 5-speed automatic.  Both of those are worse than even the GTI and CC from Volkswagen.  Now, expect to see 30-32mpg city and 38-40mpg highway ratings for the new motor, a 20%+ improvement.

In addition to a newer and vastly better motor, the 2013 Jetta will also receive some quality upgrades.  Included in this are new interior materials and finishes and even the return of a soft touch dash that people have come to expect from the German brand.  Also part of the equation will be standard 4-wheel disc brakes on all trim levels, not just the top-spec SEL and TDI models.  Seemingly the only thing to remain that critics have criticized is the fixed-rear suspension utilizing a torsion beam setup.  The GLI and Hybrid will still have the IRS, however.

Look for the newly revised, mechanically that is, 2013 Volkswagen Jetta, to hit showrooms early this summer.

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2012 Ten Most & Least Expensive Cars, And Some In The Middle… Wed, 18 Jan 2012 23:27:44 +0000 Pete 2012 is now upon us and many of us, more than twelve million based on last years’ sales, will be buying a new car this year.

Whether you are wealthy or not or have a family or not or whatever your needs and demands, there are a plethora of good and viable choices to make that commute from A to B as cheap or as expensive as you want it to be.

10 Least Expensive Cars For Sale in 2012

  1. Nissan Versa Sedan – MSRP from $10,990
  2. Hyundai Accent Sedan – MSRP from $12,445
  3. Ford Fiesta Sedan – MSRP from $13,200
  4. Kia Rio Sedan – MSRP from $13,400
  5. Kia Rio Hatchback – MSRP from $13,600
  6. Suzuki SX4 Sedan – MSRP from $13,699
  7. Toyota Yaris Sedan – MSRP from $13,715
  8. Chevy Sonic Sedan – MSRP from $13,735
  9. Kia Soul – MSRP from $13,900
  10. Ford Fiesta Hatchback – MSRP from $14,100

Now, I know many of you might be thinking that your money doesn’t go too far at this price point in the new car market, and you would be right.  But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t find some fine means of transportation here either.

The Nissan Versa Sedan for instance has the largest rear seat legroom of any car in its class.  Even at is sub-$11k base price it still manages to have six standard air bags, ABS, a trip computer, tilt steering column, AM/FM/CD audio system with auxiliary jack.  All the other basics are there and with 109 hp and a 5-speed manual the Versa Sedan gets 30 mpg city and 38 mpg hwy.

Of those on this list, the Kia Soul offers a tremendous amount of value.  Power windows, mirrors, and door locks, AM/FM/CD audio system with satellite radio, USB, and auxiliary jack, A/C, remote keyless entry, steering-wheel mounted controls, 4-wheel disc brakes, and even Bluetooth connectivity.  Add this a 6-speed manual connected to a 138 hp 1.6L GDI motor that gets 27mpg city and 35mpg hwy and you can see how far your $15,000 goes these days.
Many of the other cars here offer their own unique style and personality and if you pick your options wisely you can end up with a basic means of transportation that will get you good gas mileage with some nice little convenience features.  Happy picking.

10 Most Expensive Cars For Sale in 2012

  1. Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Convertible – MSRP from $1,990,064
  2. Bugatti Veyron 16.4 Coupe – MSRP from $1,705,769
  3. Maybach Landaulet Convertible – MSRP from $1,380,000
  4. Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead – MSRP from $447,000
  5. Maybach 62 Sedan – MSRP from $423,500
  6. Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe – MSRP from $408,000
  7. Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 – MSRP from $387,000
  8. Rolls-Royce Phantom Sedan – MSRP from $380,000
  9. Lexus LF-A Coupe – MSRP from $375,000
  10. Maybach 57 Sedan – MSRP from $372,500

Now, on the other end of the spectrum are the 10 most expensive cars for sale in 2012.  Here you are really left with a choice of what you value in a car.  Some offer extreme performance, others offer extreme luxury, others offer extreme looks, and others offer everything available in cars today, to the extreme of course.

Cars like the Lamborghini Aventador and Lexus LFA offer the extreme performance and extreme looks one might seek when spending more than $350,000 on a single car.  Both have more than 550 hp V10 or larger motors and both can hit 60 mph from a stop in under 3.5 seconds.  At the track their performance credentials can be even more exploited with recorded Nurburgring lap times of under 7 minutes and 30 seconds for each.

Any of the cars on this list from either Maybach or Rolls-Royce offer the extreme in luxury.  With features and amenities that some might not even find in their own homes.  Every detail is crafted with such attention that it is no surprise that it takes months to craft any of these cars.  With large V12 motors only at this level and well over 600 hp, these cars represent the ultimate in luxury motoring.

Now, for the extreme in luxury, performance, style and looks, and everything else one could imagine form a single car, is the Bugatti Veyron.  Should you be fortunate to own this ultra exclusive car, you will find yourself piloting a 1,001 hp, 8.0L 16-Cylinder, Quad-Turbocharged, All-Wheel-Drive, 4,500 lb mammoth.  With that combination, the Veyron Coupe can hit 60 mph in a record setting 2.5 seconds and blast through the ¼ mile in just 10.1 seconds.  All this is done on its way up to its record holding top speed of 257 mph.

Regardless of which vehicle you choose here, you will be rewarded with your choice.  Whether you choose to cruise the strip in your super exotic Lamborghini, hit the track in your race ready Lexus LFA, travel to wine country in your Maybach or Rolls-Royce, or do it all in your Bugatti, you really can’t go wrong with a choice here.

10 Cars for the Rest of US

2012 has brought about a renewed vigor from many car companies around the globe.  New comers like Hyundai and Kia with great new products and newly established motives from the likes of Ford, GM, and Chrysler.  The Europeans continuing their trend of history and tradition with a modern take.  The average transaction price for a car sold in the US last year was about $30,000.  Here are 10 new cars this year that are worth getting excited about that can be had for around $30,000.

  • 2013 Ford Fusion – MSRP from $20,000 to $32,000
  • 2012 Volkswagen Passat – MSRP from $20,0000 to $30,000
  • 2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe – MSRP from $24,0000 to $34,000
  • 2012 Volkswagen Golf R – MSRP from $33,000 to $38,000
  • 2013 Ford Focus ST – MSRP from $24,000 to $30,000
  • 2013 Ford Escape – MSRP from $24,000 to $32,000
  • 2013 Volkswagen CC – MSRP from $28,000 to $40,000
  • 2013 Cadillac ATS – MSRP form $28,000 to $40,000
  • 2013 Ford Mustang – MSRP from $23,000 to $50,000
  • 2012 Chrysler 300 – MSRP from $28,000 to $50,000

Whether you are looking for a sport compact, a mid-size family sedan, a sport coupe, a cross-over, or a full out luxury sedan, there are plenty of options for around $30,000 these days.  Even from America, Europe, and Asia, depending on your preference.

Now is a better time than any for a new car purchase and with so many good choices on the market there is something for everyone.  Whether spending $12,000, $30,000, or $350,000, I am sure you can find something to suit your needs.

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2013 Porsche Boxster Revealed Fri, 13 Jan 2012 01:50:39 +0000 Pete Porsche has decided to launch their new 2013 Porsche Boxster strictly on the internet at this point and has done so just this morning.

Porsche has decided to use the vast depth of the internet to launch the new 2013 Porsche Boxster and this morning that is exactly what they have done.  Not to debut this car at an auto show is a bit unconventional but I understand the reason to do this, though I wish it were at Detroit this week.

For 2013, the Porsche Boxster is going to receive the most extensive updates ever seen on Boxsters of the past.  This now marks the third generation for the only true sports car offered by Porsche these days, launched in the U.S back in 1997.  Now, Porsche is taking that ‘true sports car/roadster’ quotient and cranking it up to 11 by focusing on a new lightweight body and completely revamped chassis.


The 2013 Posche Boxster (981) is a mild evolution from the current model that blends both new design cues seen from the 991 911 and Panamera and previous cues refreshed from the current generation 987 Boxster.  All body panels are new here.  Up front is all new lighting with the addition of LED DRL’s, of course.  It also looks as though the shoulders of the car are larger to accommodate the wider body.

2013 Porsche Boxster VIDEO:

Out back is a very curvaceous rear with new LED taillights pushed all the way to the corners to give it a wider appearance.  A spoiler integrated into the tail lights that should be power retractable is a nice touch.  Staying from the previous model is the center mount exhaust.  On the side you can see much larger air intakes to feed the mid-mounted motor.


Inside the changes are extensive as well.  The new 981 Boxster now has the Porsche family interior with a completely new center stack that is much more fitting for a car of this price.  To take the interior even a step further, Porsche will be offering leather trimmed interior panels and full aluminum, wood, or carbon fiber trim pieces.  I would expect a broad range of color and finish choices as well.

Content wise the new Boxster brings some technology to the equation as well.  Included in this will be an Alcantara interior, Auto stop/start system with Sports mode, remote control hood operation, and 7” color touch screen with all your connectivity options.


To complete the equation, Porsche has also given the new Boxster some more grunt as well.  The two motors that will be initially available will be a new 2.7L I6 making 265 hp.  The previous base motor was a 2.9L I6 making 255 hp.  So this means an increase of 10 hp from an engine 200 cc smaller.  The 3.4L I6 for the Boxster S does carry over but gets a bump of 5 hp to 315 hp.

Part of this increased power also brings an increase in fuel economy.  European cycle figures but the Boxster at a combined 36.7 mpg and for the Boxster S at 35.3 mpg.  With some gear changes to gearing in the choice of either a 6-speed manual or a 7-speed dual-clutch automated manual, PDK, Porsche claims the Boxster will make the spring to 60 in 5.5 seconds and the Boxster S in 4.8 seconds.  I expect those to be fairly conservative.
Get Your Own

The new 2013 Porsche Boxster models are expected to go on sale in the U.S by summer of this year.  The base price for the 255 hp Boxster will be $49,500, an increase of only $1,400 over the 2012 model.  The 315 hp Boxster S will be priced from $60,900, an increase of $2,300 over its predecessor.

Considering some stiff competition from their German rivals, Mercedes in the SLK, Audi in the TT, and BMW in the Z4, the Boxster is up against some stiff competition but with its class exclusive mid-engine configuration, it should do just fine.  Click here for more information on the 2013 Porsche Boxster

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2012 Detroit Auto Show: The Best of the Rest Thu, 12 Jan 2012 00:28:05 +0000 Pete The press coverage for the Detroit Auto Show has now been going on for 3 days and we have seen some excellent new concepts and designs and production ready cars from various manufacturers.  Below is a summary of the cars that have been spot lighted and made an impact on the crowd at Cobo Hall these past few days.

2013 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid

The MKVI Volkswagen Jetta has been on the market for about a full year now and has seen massive gains in sales.  Sales are UP nearly 60% in 2011 from the MKV sales figures for 2010.  On the heels of the launch of the performance variant, the Jetta GLI, Volkswagen has decided to launch a green variant, the Jetta Hybrid.
The hybrid Jetta utilizes a high-tech 1.4L Turbocharged and Intercooled 4-Cylinder motor seen extensive use in Volkswagen home market of Europe mated to a 20 kW zero-emissions electric motor.  Together, this combination produces 170 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque, nearly the exact same figures as the gasoline power 2.5L I5 offered in other Volkswagens in the States.  This is said to allow the Jetta Hybrid to hit 60 mph in under 9 seconds and achieve as much as 45 mpg on the highway.  Look for it in showrooms later this year.

2013 Acura ILX and NSX Concepts

Acura brought a pair of concepts out to Detroit this year in an effort to showcase both performance and efficiency.  The ILX Concept being the efficiency component as Acura’s first hybrid model in history.  The 1.5L hybrid powertrain will be the same as the hybrid powertrain seen in the Honda Civic Hybrid.  The ILX will also offer two gasoline engine options, a 2.0L I4 and a high performance 2.4L I4.  The ILX is designed to be a new entry model for the brand and as such should cost well under $30,000 when it comes out.

The NSX Concept represents the performance component of Acuras lineup.  Bring back the iconic exotic sports car from the ‘90’s, this NSX takes a very unique and modern twist on the original car.  These include not only the use of electric batteries to create a hybrid powertrain but also the application of Acuras Super Handling All-Wheel Drive (SH-AWD) system.  The electric batteries will assist a next-generation VTEC V6 with direct injection.  A choice of either a six-speed manual or dual-clutch automated manual transmission, another first for the brand.

Be sure to also check out the 2013 Acura RDX that has received a modest cosmetic update and a change to standard V6 power instead of the Turbocharged 4-Cylinder currently used in the 2012 model.

2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe and Veloster Turbo

Hyundai, packing a one-two punch this year has brought two new versions of their best performing cars , the Genesis Coupe and Veloster Turbo.  The Veloster Turbo being, of course, a turbocharged model of the recently release Veloster hatchback.  The 2.0L Turbo motor used here is a familiar one to the Hyundai brand and in this application makes a very modest 201 hp and 195 lb-ft of torque.  Being that the car only weighs approximately 2,700 lbs, this should provide a potent combination.  With this combination is a best-in-class EPA rating of 27 mpg City and 38 mpg Hwy.  Don’t keep your fingers crossed on the car actually meeting those numbers.

Next up for Hyundai is the second generation Genesis Coupe, a car that has created a good following amidst stiff competition from much more established competitors.  This time around Hyundai has seemed to ‘correct’ many of the issues with the first-gen car.  Of course that means more power, rarely a bad thing in a twenty-thousand-something, RWD sports coupe.  The 2.0T sees a boost in power to 274hp and the 3.8L V6 to 348hp.  Both thanks to the addition of direct injection.

Also new here is the choice of an 8-speed automatic transmission with manual shifting capability.  This, with the addition of direct injection also helps improve fuel economy.  Cosmetically the car shares not one body piece from the previous version.  It has a much wider and lower looking stance.  And inside, the Genesis Coupe has seen a needed improvement in terms of material and build quality and overall refinement.
Look for both the 2013 Veloster Turbo and 2013 Genesis Coupe to hit showrooms anytime this year.

2012 Lincoln MKZ Concept

Not to let its big brother Ford outdo it with the debut of the Fusion, Lincoln has launched their Fusion-based counterpart in concept form, the MKZ.  At this point it does look very conceptual but what Lincoln does assure us is that this car will better position Lincoln in the luxury brand against counterparts from both Europe and Asia.  What you can see here is less visual similarity to the Fusion as the current model and more ‘Lincoln-like’ design cues seen in the MKS and MKT.  Stay tuned for more information on this concept as it makes its transition to production this year.

2013 Buick Encore

Buick, at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show, has launched their newest Opel-based product, the Encore.  A ‘compact-luxury crossover’ that is designed to bring some luxury and style to the sub-$30,000 crossover segment, so says Buick.  Based on the Opel Mokka, the Encore, with just a 100.6” wheelbase, is said to be competition for the upcoming Audi Q3 and BMW X1.  Powered by just 140 hp from a 1.4L Ecotec Turbo from the Chevy Cruze, this writer thinks it will need a bit more gusty to keep up with the best in the world.

With an extensive list of features and equipment and a posh, for the price, interior, maybe Buick can make up for its laziness by undercutting the Audi and BMW’s price and content amounts.  Wait and see for yourself at this years’ auto show going on now or drive one for yourself early next year.

2012 Honda Accord Concept

Honda decided to unveil a barely changed and barely disguised concept version of their upcoming next-generation Honda Accord Coupe, also believed to preview the upcoming Sedan.  What we can see here is a mildly revised front end with new grills and headlight housing borrowed from Acura.  Also seen are LED daytime-running-lights.  Out back is a similar story with revised lighting and lower fascias.  Don’t expect the exhaust seen here to make it to market.

The only change to the engines is the addition of direct injection.  What this means is that the same 2.4L VTEC and 3.5L VTEC will net a slight gain in power and fuel efficiency.  A new CVT option replacing the 5-speed Automatic will help the mileage, but not performance, equation here as well.  The big news in terms of powertrains is a new plug-in hybrid option.    A 2.0L i-VTEC I4 will be mated to a pair of Atkinson cycle electric motors and use a CVT ONLY transmission.  Power and efficiency figures are unknown at this point.
Look for the next-generation Accord to hit showrooms sometime later this year, if you will even notice.

The Rest

Also making their debut at the Detroit Auto Show are

  • 2012 Toyota Prius C – A compact Prius.
  • 2013 Lexus LX 570/Toyota Land Cruiser – A mid-cycle refresh of the existing LX 570/Land Cruiser
  • Various production cars seen at other auto shows elsewhere
  • And a plethora of wacky concepts showcasing distant futures for the various makes

For this and more coverage and information regarding the Detroit Auto Show, please visit the website of the 2012 North American International Auto Show at

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2012 Detroit Auto Show: 2013 Dodge Dart Mon, 09 Jan 2012 22:50:28 +0000 Pete Dodge, just on the heels of their best year in a long time, has debuted their next new model to the market, the 2013 Dodge Dart.  Chrysler first new product after the Fiat buyout last year, the Dodge Dart is designed to finally give Chrysler a competitive car in the ever-bettering compact car segment.  Based heavily on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta from Europe, the Dart gives Dodge not only a good looking car but one with some great new technologies as well.

Among these, are two new MultiAir engines right from Fiat in Europe and a new base 4-cylinder motor as well.  The new base motor is a 2.0L 160 hp I4.  The new MultiAir motors include the choice of either a 1.4L turbocharged and intercooled 4-cylinder making 160 hp and a 2.4L turbocharged and intercooled 4-cylinder making 184 hp.  Choice between a six-speed manual, six-speed automatic, or a six-speed dual clutch automated manual.

Being that the Dart is based on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta platform, you can see where the focus is going to be, on the drive.  The Giulietta is Europes second bestselling car and has long delivered on the luxury, performance, and efficiency quotient demanded by European consumers.  The Dart will take that philosophy and bring it to the US in  a more affordable and more accessible package.

This, in addition to the MultiAir motors, means properly tuned suspensions and of course the availability of several transmission, wheel, and performance enhancing options.  Also, what this means is an up-scale (for the class) interior offering several high-end features such as;

  • Optional 8.4” Touchscreen Infotainment Center
  • Optional Heated Steering Wheel
  • Optional 506 watt Boston Acoustics Sound System
  • Optional High-Intensity Discharge Xenon Headlights
  • Dual-Zone Automatic Climate Control

And more all add to a pretty exciting package considering its estimated $16,000 to $25,000 price range.  These are features that were literally unheard of in cars even twice this price just 5-10 years ago.

Aesthetically you can see a driver-oriented focus.  Super low and raked hood leading up to the coupe like windshield and roof line back to the small tail and raked rear-end.  Inside, with your choice of up to 14 different color and trim combinations, it is all Chrysler.  In fact, the only ‘Alfa’ to this car is the chassis, some suspension bits, and the 2 revised MultiAir engines.  This, however, is not a bad thing as Chrysler has really stepped up its interior game as of late.

This car will finally give Chrysler a viable compact option in this very competitive segment.  Cars like the Ford Focus, Mazda3, VW Jetta, Hyundai Elantra, and Chevy Cruze will really need to watch their backs with this ‘Alfa-Dodge’ now running around.  Check out the 2013 Dodge Dart at the 2012 Detroit Auto Show, open to the public next week.

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2012 Detroit Auto Show: 2013 Ford Fusion Mon, 09 Jan 2012 22:42:42 +0000 Pete Today, Ford debuted the highly anticipated 2013 Ford Fusion.  Based on the Euro-Spec Ford Mondeo, which has been on the market since 2007, the 2013 Fusion blends Euro-Chic with American Utility to bring the first car available on our shores utilizing the ‘Kinetic’ design language seen elsewhere in the world of Ford products.

The 2013 Ford Fusion not only brings with an entirely redesigned interior and exterior but also some welcome drivetrain and powertrain changes as well.  Among these include a pair of new EcoBoost motors.  The base being a 1.6L unit said to produce approximately 180 hp and deliver best-in-class non-hybrid/diesel fuel efficiency of 26 mpg city and 37 mpg highway.

Also new is the 2.0L EcoBoost unit that is expect to bring 237 hp to the table and, when pair to a paddle-shifted six-speed conventional automatic, return over 30 mpg highway consumption.  This will naturally be the sporting choice of the new Fusion lineup with available 19-inch wheels and a first-for-the-class rear-biased AWD system.  That should liven things up a bit as the rest of the competition offers at least 260hp in top spec trim.

Also available is a new Hybrid motor that replaces the old 2.5L unit with a new 2.0L Atkinson-cycle four cylinder.  This combination is expected to deliver best-in-class fuel economy of 47 mpg city and 44 mpg highway while still producing 185 hp.  And rounding out the powertrain choices, at a later date, a plug-in hybrid Fusion will be available that is said to return more than 100 MPGe  That is 8 more than the Chevy Volt and 13 more than the plug-in Prius Hybrid.

Other performance/safety/efficiency enhancements include some class and industry firsts such as the ‘Lane Keeping System’ which Ford says is designed to help the driver maintain their lane position by detecting when they begin to unintentionally deviate from it.  In addition to this is going to be optional Adaptive Cruise Control, Active Park Assist, and Blind Spot Information System.

One major and much needed change is a vast update of Ford’s SYNC infotainment system.  Often being difficult to use, not very intuitive, and just downright awful to operate even the simplest tasks, this new system is ‘supposed’ to fix all of that.  No details on what that means just yet but we aren’t holding our breath Ford.

Ford is also promising a much more upscale interior feel with higher visual quality, improved materials, increased levels of craftsmanship and attention to detail.  Said to be present are softer touch materials, minimized gaps inside and out, higher quality upholstery, and other little bits that Ford hopes will add up to a big impact in this typically ‘modest’ level of quality in this segment.  Previously only Volkswagen with the Passat had this type of build and material quality.  We will see if Ford can match the Passat in this area.

The 2013 Ford Fusion promises to blend Europeaon style and driving dynamics with Americans taste for affordability in this of most competitive segments in the entire market.  With upcoming entrants from Honda, Nissan, Mazda, and Chevy, just released entrants from Volkswagen and Toyota, and the aging well Hyundai/Kia and Subaru models, this class is hotter than ever.  Check out the new 2013 Ford Fusion at this year’s Detroit Auto Show, open to the public next week.

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2012 Detroit Auto Show: 2013 Cadillac ATS Mon, 09 Jan 2012 22:34:28 +0000 Pete Earlier today Cadillac took the wraps of their newest entry to their now consolidated lineup, the ATS Sedan.  The 2013 Cadillac ATS is designed to put Cadillac directly against competitors like the BMW 3-Series, Mercedes C-Class, and Audi A4, to name a few.  They are referring to it as a ‘compact luxury sports sedan’, the most competitive luxury car segment in the world.

The car marks a huge departure from its last direct attempt at the German Big 3, the Cadillac Catera.  First, this car is RWD, the proper choice for a performance luxury car these days.  It rides on a completely new platform and architecture for Cadillac, sure to be seen elsewhere in other models.

Things you can see are very similar to what its larger brother, the CTS, have been offering for several years now.  Creased lines and bold, flat surfaces, further emphasize the ‘Art & Science’ design philosophy for the brand.  Not that the new design isn’t good looking but the focus here is going to be on the drive and its dynamics and characteristics.

With a near 50/50 weight balance (ala BMW 3-Series) and updated/tuned suspension, it should handle the part.  Even available will be the Magnetic Ride Control seen on the Cadillac CTS-V and Chevy Corvette ZR1 as of late.  Even available Brembo brakes are said to be part of this equation.

Under the hood will be some familiar engines and some new engines for the ATS.  To start things off will be a 2.5L I4 that will make 200 hp and 188 lb-ft of torque.  Only RWD and automatic transmission will be available with this engine.  Next is a 2.0L Turbochraged 4-cylinder making 270 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque.  While this engine has the exact same specifications as the mill used in the Regal GS, it is not the same motor.  This engine will be the only one of the three to be offered with a proper manual transmission and the choice of AWD here as well.  To top things off is the familiar 3.6L DI V6 seen use in various GM products from the CTS to the Camaro.  In this application it will produce a healthy 318 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque.  This will only be available with an automatic transmission but choice of RWD or AWD, like the 2.0T.

Inside the ATS is much of what we have seen before from Cadillac.  Like I said, the focus is going to be on the drive and bringing a much needed dose of performance this side of the ‘V’ badged cars for Cadillac.  A slue of safety and luxury features will be replete here with Bluetooth, Touchscreen Bose Audio, Adaptive Cruise Control, Intelligent Brake Assist, among other things.  A limited-slip differential is said to be making its way into the equation as well.

All of this should add up to a real solid performance luxury sedan in the sub-$40k market, a very competitive segment that has long been dominated by the BMW 3-Series and recently seem stiff competition from Audi, Mercedes, and Volvo.  With what I see here, so long as the price is right, the ATS will be a welcome challenge to their overseas rivals and a welcome addition to the Cadillac’s lineup for their loyal.  Go check the ATS out for yourself at this year’s Detroit Auto Show which opens to the public this Saturday.

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U.S. Auto Sales By Brand – 2011 Year End Fri, 06 Jan 2012 02:08:06 +0000 Pete After a tumultuous year for some, lagging sales for others, and record breaking year for a few, 2011 has come to a close.  Here we have the sales figures for each brand, in order of units sold in the United States.   Nothing really stands out as a surprise as we have been seeing these same trends for 12 to 18 months now.

On top, in order of the top 5, were Ford, Chevy, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan.  At the bottom, the bottom 5, were Jaguar, Saab, smart, Maserati, and Bentley.  No surprises here.  Where things did get interesting was in the middle some big gains and big losers.  Lets cover each continent at a time.

North America: Domestics

Ford finished off the year with 2,057,210 units.  First time in several years that they were able to break the 2 million mark.  This represents an increase of 17.4% from last year, this largely due to several key new models for the brand.  Among them the Ford Explorer, Ford Focus, Ford Fiesta, and revamped Mustangs.

Chevy comes in second overall with 1,775,812 units, up 13.4% from 2010.  With the Cruze being such a smash hit for both consumers and fleets, this is no surprise.  The Silveraro also being a large seller among the working class helped them as well.  GM as a whole did quite well with all of their brands seeing modest gains this year.
Chrysler was the biggest gainer this year for the Domestic makes.  Dodge/Ram were up 18.8%, Jeep up 44.0%, and Chrysler up 12.1%.  MIP for the Domestics in 2011, I think so.

Asia: Japanese

Nearly all of the Japanese makes got rocked this year.  From increasing competition to a few natural disasters they saw some of the largest declines in the industry.  Largest of them all was Toyota/Lexus with Toyota seeing a 6.2% drop in sales when compare to 2010, to 1,396,838.  Lexus was down 13.4% to 198,552.  With only one new product this year, this is no surprise.

Honda/Acura saw a similar fate with Honda down 6.6% to 1,023,986 units and Acura down 7.7% to 123,299 units.  Old products and poor new products (looking at you Civic), this is not a surprise at this point.  Honda has even publically apologized for its recent products.

While Nissan saw a nice increase of 17.3% year over year, Infiniti saw a drop in sales of 4.8% for 2011.  The rest of the Japanese brands all saw either modest gains such as; Subaru, Mazda, and Suzuki
Asia – Korean
Hyundai and Kia had one of the best, if not the best, in the company’s history.  Ranking 7 and 8, respectively, for overall units this year, Hyundai is proving that big changes can be made in short periods of time.  Hyundai jumped 20.0% to 645,691 units and Kia even more so with an increase of 36.3% to 485,492.
Seemingly new products every month and competitive pricing and packaging wrapped in a stylish package is all you need to win over customers in the mainstream market.  Hyundai has figured this out and should do well because of it.

Europe: German

Europeans saw the largest gains of any of the three car markets in 2011.  Mercedes, BMW, and Audi all saw double digit gains of 12% or more.  Mercedes has now grown to be the largest luxury brand in the United States.  A title it hasn’t had in a long time.  With 261,808 units in 2011, they grew their sales by 16.4%.  Quite a feat for a car company that operates at that level.

BMW was the second best selling luxury brand with 247,907 units representing an increase of 12.6%.  Lexus dropped to the 3rd spot from 1st just a short while ago.  Audi saw its best year ever in 2011 with sales of 117,561 units, an increase of 15.7% over last years’ also record year.

Volkswagen saw the largest gain for the Germans and was even the 3rd fastest growing brand with over 100,000 units/year.  325,402 units sold in 2011 marks the first time the brand has sold more than 300,000 units in the United States, a jump of 26.3% over last.  Largely due to increasingly competitive products like the Jetta, Passat, CC, and GTI.  Even the Touareg saw a modest increase in sales.

And Porsche even capitalized on decreasing competition in their segment.  Sales for the luxury sport brand increased 14.6% to 29,023 units.  With the new Panamera and Cayenne naturally being the volume leaders at this point.  A new 991 911 will be launched in 2012 and should allow for even more growth.

Europe: English, Italian, Swedish

Following the same trend of the Germans for Europe, all but two brands saw an increase in sales.  Volvo up 24.6% to 53,948, Mini up 26.05 to 57,511, Land Rover up 19.6% to 38,099, Maserati up 22.4% to 2,321, and Bentley up 31.3% to 1,877.  Jaguar and Saab were the only two European brands to see a decrease in sales.  Jaguar was down 8.0% to 12,276 units and Saab down 16.0% to 5,610 among uncertainty of their future.

Below is a list of all of the brands and their respective rank and sale units.  Wait and see which ones can continue or reverse their present trends going in to 2012.  I expect bit changes from a few here.

“In BOLD are the luxury brands

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New Lexus LF-LC Concept Revealed Thu, 05 Jan 2012 00:09:30 +0000 Pete Over the last few weeks Lexus has been teasing us with photos and information regarding a concept car to be shown off at the Detroit Auto Show this month.  The LF-LC Concept is that concept car and today Lexus revealed full photos of the car showing various design details we expect to see in Lexus’s to come.

The Lexus LF-LC Concpet is set to be introduced to the world at the Detroit Auto Show next week.  What we know so far is that the concept car is a 2+2 utilizing a hybrid powertrain.  Design at the companys design studio in Newport Beach, Ca, you can see various current and future Lexus trends.

Most striking is the front of the vehicle.  Seemingly taking the design of the LF-Gh Concept, that subsequently has turned into the production Lexus GS, and cranked it to 11.  A wide gapping mono-block grill similar to what Audi has done for years but adds a kink in the middle to give it more depth.  LED Headlights and ‘interestingly’ shaped LED Daytime Running Lights complete the look of the front.

Lexus LF-LC Concept VIDEO:

Out back is something a bit more conventional.  Albeit the lighting appears to be ‘interestingly’ shaped here as well but all the requisite trunk lid and rear valence with integrated exhaust tips are present.  The side profile of the car most closely resembles the LF-A supercar from Lexus.  This car is a bit larger than that but provides the same sense of urgency in its design.

Inside is where the car really looks like a concept.  The leather covered interior panels weave throughout the car in motions that seem to resemble waves (maybe an influence of a design studio in Southern Califnornia?).  You can see several different surfaces and colors and accents.  Personally, it seems a bit busy but being a concept, I expect the production model to be rather different here.

To give an idea of what the car might be capable of you can see large cross-drilled brake rotors front and rear, large air dams for cooling, and a very steeply raked windshield.  This car is said to replace the now defunct Lexus SC430 that never saw much sporting success while on the market.  The intended competition for the LF-LC Concept are sure to be the Mercedes SL-Class, BMW 6-Series, Jaguar XK, Porsche 911, Nissan GT-R, Lotus Evora, and pretty much any other $75,000+ sporting coupe.

Stay tuned for more information from the Detroit Auto Show next week and we’ll keep our fingers crossed that Lexus can bring this car to the market.  Though anything would be better than the SC430 for the brand…


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BMW Drops M3 Sedan (E90) for 2012 Model Year Tue, 03 Jan 2012 23:54:52 +0000 Pete BMW has decided not to offer its most sporting variant, the M3, in a sedan body for the 2012 model year, leaving 2011 the last year to pick up quite possible the last V8 powered M3 Sedan in the company’s history.
The M3 began life in 1986 based on the E30 3-Series platform.  Introduced with a 2.3L I4, the car made 192 hp.  It was offered in coupe, sedan, and convertible.  This car then evolved into the E36 generation M3 that made its debut in 1992.  That car was then powered by a 3.0L I6 making 240 hp and was also offered in a coupe, sedan, and convertible bodystyle.

For model year 2000 BMW offered a new model M3, the E46.  This car came with a fantastic 3.2L I6 motor making 333 hp.  This was the first M3 model to only be offered in either a coupe or convertible.  It also brought a few other first for the car such as the ill-received SMG single-clutch automated manual transmission.

After a 2 year break, BMW introduced the current generation M3, the E90.  This car was the first for the brand to have a V8 in a 3-Series, a 414hp 4.0L V8 to be exact.  This generation did see the return of the sedan offering in addition to the coupe and convertible.  Accounting for roughly 12% of M3 sales since, the sedan has been a great alternative for those seeking M3 performance with the added family friendliness of a sedan.  With a zero-to-60 mph sprint of under 4.5 seconds and 25 mpg it made a very ‘practical’ choice to those seeking it all in one car.

For the 2012 model, BMW has decided to once again retire the sedan offering of the M3 (E90).  This is likely due to the fact that a new (F10) 3-Series has just debuted and will launch here in the U.S. in the coming months.  A new M3 is surely on its way but with a rumored tri-turbo I6 configuration, 2011 could be your last year to pick up a V8 powered 3-Series sedan, even possibly ‘M’ badged sedan at all, if you are so inclined to do so.

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