You’ve got to give it to Fiat – it takes chutzpah to take on the entry-level sports car segment, one fraught with dwindling historical sales and fickle buyers that tend to chase the latest shiny new metal. Perhaps it was this bleak category outlook that prompted them to reach out to Mazda with a partnership idea. The 124 Spider that you see before you is the product that resulted, and it’s quite special.
Author - John Kucek
The Wrangler, in a world chock-a-block with homogenized product offerings, still stands out as one of those love-it-or-hate-it affairs. The hokey slogan “It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand”, so commonly emblazoned across the windshields of these trucks, actually rings true when you’re behind the wheel. The driving experience that at first seems so appallingly outdated really does grow on you as the miles go by; it becomes quaint, even endearing. My first full week with a Wrangler left me with pangs of despair when the keys were taken away. But that was a hardcore Rubicon – would the tamer Sahara elicit the same feelings?
Though the current-generation Durango has made multiple appearances at the Speed/Sport/Life Florida offices (aka my driveway), it’s still a welcome visitor. Why’s that? Well, to start, name another rear-wheel drive, V8-equipped, three-row crossover attainable by most middle-class families. Go ahead – I’ll give you a sec.
As a nation perennially obsessed with weight loss, it’s refreshing to see those who make our precious consumer goods adopt the same mentality. If there was one criticism to be levied at the previous Lambda-platform GMC Acadia (there was more than one), it was its sheer bulk. Sure, it did a great job at hauling seven humans and their gear, though preferably, at least two of those humans would be less than full-sized. But when it came time to park and maneuver the thing, the Acadia’s size would start to get in the way. Fully loaded, the 3.6-liter V6 was taxed with almost 5,000 pounds of crossover to haul around. Enter this fresh, clean-sheet, newly mid-sized Acadia, some ten model years in the making.
Possibly more than any other mainstream automotive segment, image is important for pickup buyers. Especially full-size pickup buyers. Brand loyalties run deep, and while domestic manufacturers win the lion’s share of sales (understandably so, given the segment’s U-S-of-A origins), the market is so vast that even table scraps represent real dollars to new entrants. Witness the Toyota Tundra and Nissan Titan – pretenders to the throne, perhaps, but well-made trucks in their own right. The Tundra’s done alright for itself, despite a lengthy time on the market without a redesign, but Titan sales have languished in recent years – for the last two sales years, it has accounted for just 0.5% of full-size truck sales. A full redesign was in the cards, then, and the XD model seen here is the first result of those efforts.
Would-be pretenders to the BMW 3-series’ sales throne rise and fall about as often as the sun. As a car lover, this is a good thing. Witness the long list of near-luxury sedans whose manufacturers designed them to do many things – sometimes all things – more successfully than that stalwart compact sedan from Bavaria. Want great handling? Look no further than the Cadillac ATS. A beautiful, luxurious interior? Mercedes C-class, right this way. Reliability, value, and a dash of banzai Japanese styling thrown in for good measure? The current Lexus IS is one of my personal favorites. And yet while many try, most carmakers fail to lovingly recreate everything that the 3-series ideal represents, including but not limited to dynamic handling, zesty powerplants, a driver-oriented interior and styling that stands the test of time. With their latest A4, however, Audi appears to have finally picked up on the plot that BMW seems to have lost in recent years.