The thought of hybrid loanership for a week usually fills me with the sort of dread reserved for visiting a dentist’s office with a dull ache in your jaw – the only way through the period of time ahead is to envision how much better you’ll feel when it’s behind you. It’s not that hybrids are bad cars, mind you – they certainly serve a purpose for a portion of the buying public – but very rarely are they geared toward car lovers, and instead tend to focus so single-mindedly on efficiency that the duty of actually driving becomes drudgery in their presence. Such was the case when I approached the Sonata Hybrid pictured – “here we go again”.
Though it may seem like an also-ran in a segment packed with sales heavy hitters like the Ford F-Series and Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra, Toyota still moves plenty of metal with the Tundra – about 10,000 units a month, in fact. Mazda sold about as many smiley-face 3s this year, and I see plenty of those rolling around. With a fresh redesign under their belts, Toyota corporate is probably hoping those numbers improve towards the second generation’s peak in 2007 of almost 200,000 (Toyota would like to call this revised 2014 model a new generation, but I’m sticking to my guns in calling it a 2nd-gen, given it’s mostly a fascia-and-interior reskinning).
I always relish the opportunity to test different iterations and trim levels of the same model, perhaps because it helps me determine whether the inherent goodness (or badness) of a given car is innate, or limited to a specific loaded-up example. In the case of the Dodge Challenger, my experience with the model line had thus far been limited to the full-fat SRT8 392 model with 470 horsepower and 470 lb-ft of torque. I thoroughly enjoyed that car, loaded as it was to a near $50k price tag, but would its core values be retained in the 95-horsepower-tamer R/T Coupe? Only one way to find out.
As a young car enthusiast, I bought into the notion that there were certain vehicles that I was obligated to hate, lest my “car guy card” be stripped forcefully from my still-timid grasp. The list changed depending on what branch of car culture I found myself exploring at the time, but there was always an established pecking order. And since most of my early exposure was to fans of European and Asian import brands, I believed from the very start that there was no self-inflicted punishment more severe than the purchase and possession of a domestic vehicle.
The original Scion TC came to prominence in 2005 right around the time my youthful interest in front-wheel-drive sport compacts had started to wane, so I never really gave the little hatchback much attention. I had friends that purchased and loved them for many years, but I always brushed it off as an also-ran in a sea of competent small coupes. That sea has gradually turned into a puddle, with more and more two door compacts falling by the wayside in favor of boxy hatchback shapes or proper four doors. The Chevy Cobalt, Acura RSX and Mitsubishi Eclipse have all since been put out to pasture, leaving a compact coupe buyer just a handful of options – the two-door versions of the Civic, Hyundai Elantra and Kia Forte. And, of course, the refreshed 2014 TC you see here.
Nissan’s been making waves within the automotive press lately with two announcements – first, that it’s developing a sports car to go head-to-head with the likes of the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S, and second, that it’s slashing the sticker prices of 2014 370Z Coupes by up to $3 grand versus last year. The two statements seem to go hand in hand, considering the current 370Z’s been around since 2008 more or less unchanged. Dropping the price on the hardtop, which has seen some key new competitors come into the marketplace since then, will incentivize those buyers on the fence to make the move now. What remains to be seen is what, if any, effect that new sports car will have on the next Z car, or if perhaps a change in mission in fact means the next Z is that new BRZ/FR-S competitor.
We’re in West Virginia today to sample the all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee. Chrysler rep Lisa has promised a group of east coast journalists that a group of Cherokee Trailhawks won’t be getting stuck today on a course of mud bogs and steep slopes they have devised for us to drive on. Being a more civilized Virginia resident myself, where we prefer our roads paved, I am quite sure I’m going to get this diminutive crossover stuck. Right over there on that 20 foot muddy cliff that they’re going to make me drive up.
I’ve had the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel in my possession for just 24 hours now and I’ve already fallen in love with it. I’ve already said the current Jeep Grand Cherokee is the best 5-passenger SUV you can buy right now, but the EcoDiesel makes the JGC even more desirable. The standard Grand Cherokee gasoline engine lineup consists of the 3.6L Pentastar V6 or the 5.7L HEMI V8, with the insane 6.4L V8 being reserved for Grand Cherokee SRT duty. Grand Cherokee buyers can now also opt for the new 3.0L EcoDiesel V6 which produces 240 horsepower and a massive 420 lb-ft of torque. The new EcoDiesel is mated to a very smooth eight-speed automatic transmission and is 50-state-legal.
We’ll have a more in-depth story about the Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel once we finish our week with it but I wanted to take a moment and talk fuel economy. The EPA rates the Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel at 21 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway for 4WD models such as our Limited tester. I’ve now put about 85 miles on the vehicle during mixed highway/city commuting duty and have bested the EPA’s ratings consistently with 30+ mpg averages. Unlike most hybrid vehicles, you don’t have to drive the Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel any differently than you would a regular vehicle to squeeze optimum fuel economy out of it. Just get in, drive, and enjoy all that torque.
More on the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel coming soon…stay tuned.
“Engineered in Germany – Manufactured in Asia” might be a good tagline for the advertisements of Buick’s new compact baby, the Encore. It was conceived as the funky Opel Mokka, and is sold under that nameplate in Europe. With GM interest in the Chinese market strong, a manufacturing base there and in nearby South Korea seems a well-thought-out plan, so that’s what GM executed. As Opel’s unofficial stateside dealer network, Buick picked up the ball and ran with it – marketing the Encore toward urban young professional female types who want strong feature content in a small and upright package. The Encore I drove delivered on those counts, being both quite compact and imbued with feature content that wouldn’t be out of place in a vehicle a few size classes up.
For American shoppers unfamiliar with the Fiat brand other than since the company’s recent re-entrance into this market, the newly released 500L crossover might seem like a bit of a departure from the norm. But, if you cast your eye toward the Continent, you’ll notice a history peppered with such vehicles – even before the term “crossover” was applied to cars. The 500L officially replaces the Idea, a mini MPV with sliding rear seats and a tidy, if generic, profile. Spiritually, though, the 500L sticks closer in character to the Multipla compact MPV and the 600 Multipla variant of the 1960s to which the newer model can ascribe its name.