Eventually, everything comes back into fashion. Danish furniture, chukka boots and typewriters are all experiencing a confounding resurgence of late – someone specializing in the sale of all three would earn a tidy living for himself. Not even the car industry is immune from such trending. Look at Cadillac – for decades leading up to the 1970s, a Cadillac was the car –the only car – to own in America. If you were somebody in Middle America, you owned a Cadillac, and if you didn’t – then you weren’t. I’ll gloss over the brand’s fall from grace in the late 1970s, as it’s been covered ad nauseum by journalists and economists alike. Suffice it to say, American buyers lost interest in Cadillac nearly as fast as GM’s upper management did.
Nissan’s Rogue entered the small crossover fray in 2007, a year fraught with potential danger for the company’s new baby. The heads of the class, the Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V, were still sporting fresh redesigns, the Toyota having received a much-lauded makeover in 2006 and the CR-V an aggressive restyling for the 2007 model year. And while Nissan had successfully dipped its toe in the compact SUV pond elsewhere in the world with the Qashqai/Dualis and X-Trail, the US represented uncharted waters. Indeed, Ford, Honda and Toyota had already done a pretty good job of exploiting Nissan’s absence, so the Rogue had its work cut out for it before it even landed in showrooms. It had to be a bit of a Rogue, but also a gentleman, in order to woo buyers. Luckily, it has pretty much succeeded on both counts. This Rogue has received good marks both in the press and with buyers for its melding of value and comfort, but also (for the segment) sorted driving dynamics. How does the Rogue, now in its sixth model year for this iteration, stand up to scrutiny in a tough segment?
Lexus more or less invented the luxury crossover segment when it introduced the RX300 to the U.S. back in 1998, and has dominated the segment ever since. Pretty much every other luxury or near-luxury brand has rushed in to try to lift the sales crown off the RX’s head, with limited success. One could argue that the reason for Lexus’ success in the segment has been its measured, even restrained approach to comprehensively updating the RX. Only now in its third generation in as many different decades, the 2013 RX nonetheless manages to feel as fresh and competitive as ever. We spent a week with the F-Sport variant of the RX line, introduced last year, to see how well the luxury end of the crossover segment is represented in Lexus’ perennial sales champ.
Volkswagen has released this teaser of their new MQB platform, Passat based 7-passenger SUV that will make it’s world debut at the 2013 North American International Auto Show. This new SUV will be positioned below the popular Touareg SUV, and will be built at VW’s Tennessee plant alongside the Passat.
What’s the point of launching a new vehicle into a crowded segment if it doesn’t boast clear superlatives out of the gate? Manufacturers on the comfortable side of the perception gap can afford to launch anonyboxes. That doesn’t describe General Motors. GM must deliver premium vehicles at every price point to solidify their image, and the GMC Terrain is outfitted for the task. Ambient lighting in the center stack, high-contrast upholstery accents, a standard rearview camera and an optional height-adjustable power liftgate might’ve been enough to differentiate this crossover from its competition, but the Terrain pushes farther in two especially meaningful ways. As society begins to value the aesthetics of information, the advantages of a well-designed user interface become clear. GM’s corporate navitainment display splits radio and navigation data to give drivers the information they need at a glance, and hardware radio presets mean drivers can rely on haptic defaults instead of paging through screens. On the road, the Terrain’s high-efficiency gasoline direct injection engine and noticeably meticulous transmission calibration work together to deliver enviable highway fuel efficiency that trumps cross-continental rivals. These future-forward technologies enable the Terrain to compete on its true merits, rather than the cachet of its nameplate.
Close your eyes and stick out your hand. I am going to put a set of keys in your palm and give you some quick stats about which car they belong to. A seven-speed automatic transmission with manual mode and downshift rev matching. This is linked to a 5.0L DOHC V8 engine pushing out 390 horses and 369 lb-ft of torque to an Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system. Dual stainless steel exhaust pipes bellow out a raucous symphony and large brakes to bring the large wheels and tires to a stop. What kind of car is this? Trick question, it’s not a car; it is the 2009 Infiniti FX50 – a luxury crossover SUV.
Even after ‘inventing’ the first contemporarily packaged, attainable mainstream minivan in the 1980s, Chrysler continued to dream aloud through moonshot concept multi-purpose vehicles. The Dodge Epic, Plymouth Pronto, and Chrysler Citadel concepts employed emerging “Cab-Forward” architecture to maximize interior volume. Somewhere along the road to retail, cost-cutting and stagnance took their toll on ChryCo’s bottom line. Bankruptcy ensued. Here we are today.
In execution, the Dodge Journey feels like a Hyundai-built Ford Edge — like the first-generation Chevrolet Equinox, engineered before GM gained “product religion.” Ergonomics oddities abound, and its lagging powertrain fails to deliver power or fuel efficiency superlatives. However, hope hides in each cleverly concealed crevice. The Journey’s suite of storage crannies proves that Chrysler is still staffed with real moms and dads who understand what it means to take a family roadtrip. If these creative engineers are given the tools and support to radically redefine automotive interior packaging, Chrysler could one day be a multi-purpose vehicle leader. Otherwise, the company will wither.
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Welcome to the first installment of “Speed Read”. In this feature, various S:S:L editors will be offering quick opinions on the vehicles which come through our press fleet. As always, we’re interested in your opinions… do you want these features to be longer? Shorter? More car-jumping? Let us know!
Major equipment: 230-horsepower 3.0 Duratec V6, six-speed automatic, Sync 2.0 with navigation, “VOGA” trim package
In the fleet: 11/19/2008 – 11/26/2008
Approximate mileage: 560
The hard news arm of the automotive press has been cursed with the grim task of reporting on the disaster that is new car sales figures over the past two months. I don’t envy them their task. The words “Black Tuesday” have been used to describe the July 1st release of June, 2008 sales figures, and for good reason. Truck sales are flatter than the Olsen twins, Chrysler is in what could only be described as a free-fall, and Ford and GM are hanging on by their fingernails. Whispers of a new recession and a return to the gas crunch of the 70s have prompted journalists, automotiveÂ and mainstream alike, to draw parallels between today’s industry and that of the late 60s.
At 23 years old, I haven’t been alive long enough that I can wax nostalgic about Detroit’s “heyday” and the troublesome years that followed. For that, I’ll refer you to Old Man Jack and his wayback machine. No, my knowledge of (and concern for) the survival of the Big Three is founded entirely in the present day. What does that do for my perspective? It would take a wiser man than myself to say for sure, I suppose. To a casual observer though, it’s uncanny how many similarities exist between these four-decades-removed time frames.Â But there areÂ thousands of e-conomists on the Internet who can tell you how right or wrong you are about domestic product planning, soÂ I’ll side-step the argument overÂ Detroit’s short-sightedness for the time being. What’s done is done, and there is much more yet to do. Nobody knows for sure where the market is going (If you’re an exception to that rule, however, you’d do well to start applyingÂ for jobs in Detroit), but one thing seems painfully obvious: The automotive landscape of 2015 willÂ lookÂ very different from that of 2005. The times, they are a-changin’.
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Story and Photographs by Jack Baruth
Three months ago, we reported that the Cayenne GTS manual was in danger of cancellation, but as you can see, we were dead wrong. The first manual-transmission Cayenne GTS in the state has hit the ground and it’s in our hot little hands for a long-term test.
Normally, when a magazine talks about a “long-term test”, they mean they’ve finagled a free press car from a manufacturer for somewhat longer than the normal one-week period, but this time we mean long-term. As in, we’ve managed to drop almost ninety-four “stacks”, which is to say, $93,800, on a 2008 GTS of our very own. Props go out to our good friend, “The Big Dog”, who made this possible by opening his wallet just a little farther than was prudent. With the keys in hand, we immediately set out to do what Porsche designed the Cayenne specifically to do: namely, haul some parts for our Neon ACR race car.