In a car industry flush with new luxury categories, the one that seems to present the most room for growth is the one at the small end of the spectrum – the “Premium A-segment”, filled with cars like the A3 seen here, the Mercedes-Benz CLA, and the BMW 1-/2-series. Audi of America’s President, Scott Keogh, told the group of journalists gathered in northern California for the press introduction of the A3 1.8 and 2.0T sedans that he saw 400% growth potential in the segment over the next few years. That’s serious headroom, and if these first new A3 models to hit our shores are any indication, a place where torrid competition will be taking place among manufacturers.
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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.
At the conclusion of my FR-S road test, I opined that we should be thankful for its very existence, as it functionally doubled the available choices in the almost-abandoned small sports car/coupe segment. The Brits are long gone. BMW hasn’t played in this niche since the Z3 (in the States, anyway) and Porsche since the 944. Nissan bailed on the U.S.-market S Platform in 1998. The S2000 showed up a year later and soldiered on for ten years, though it could be argued that ten years was a few too many.
Photos: Zerin Dube/Speed:Sport:Life
The American Le Mans Series made its début at Austin’s stunning Circuit of the Americas during International Sports Car Weekend Presented by Continental Tire, bringing with it all the excitement that fans have come to expect from the series’ multi-class racing over the years.
Like so many things in any society that truly matter, the automobile stands astride a multitude of social divides. Progress. Freedom. Achievement. Wastefulness. Drudgery. Class division. Every car contains legions of angels and demons in turn, and which of each is dominant depends just as much on the perspective of person doing the observing as the car being observed. One’s sculpture of power and beauty in motion is another’s wasteful extravagance of wealth, overcompensation and status. An electric car can mean both the death of enjoyment and performance and the salvation of an industry and the environment – depending on your point of view. But what is important is that these contradictions are not rooted in cars, but in ourselves. A car is simply a big shiny lump of metal that can move under its own power across the ground; the meaning we see when we look at one has more to do with the reflection of ourselves staring back than any innate attribute of the mirror itself. And if one automobile can contain so many contradictory viewpoints, then a major car show, being a whole mess of them collected in one place, must be a Gerasene Rorschach funhouse maze – cars, owners, attendees and media, all of us reflections of whatever multitudes you’re predisposed to see.