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Hey, There’s a Cool Car: Second-Gen Ford Probe GT
Oct05

Hey, There’s a Cool Car: Second-Gen Ford Probe GT

By Charles Krome

Somewhere in an alternate universe, this car is thought of in nearly the same terms as the 1963-1967 C2 Corvette: In that place, both represent second-generation vehicles that transformed their predecessors from “me too” wannabes to full-on, award-winning sports cars that would be followed up by a long, ongoing run of high-performance progeny.

Here in our world, on the other hand, the second-generation Ford Probe, produced from 1993-1997, was a one-hit wonder that morphed into the “modern” Mercury Cougar before being put out of its misery in 2002, a victim of America’s addiction to low fuel prices.

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2012 Ford Focus to Get Its Rally On
Oct04

2012 Ford Focus to Get Its Rally On

By Charles Krome

After striking online gold with its comprehensive “Fiesta Movement” marketing campaign, Ford is taking things to ye olde next level for the launch of the 2012 Focus. That’s the word this morning from Dearborn, Mich., where Ford brought in the media—including yours truly—for the launch of its “Focus Rally: America” effort.

The short story here is that Ford has teamed up with the creators of The Amazing Race reality show to essentially put together an online, automotive version that will run on Hulu.com beginning early next year. The event will feature six two-person teams, with each duo in their own Focus, as they drive across the U.S. and compete to finish a variety of sure-to-be-wacky challenges on the way. (Those interested in getting some seat time in the promotion can head over to www.FocusRally.com for info on casting.)

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2011 NA Car of the Year Semifinalists Announced
Sep28

2011 NA Car of the Year Semifinalists Announced

By Charles Krome

In a sure sign that the auto show season is just around the corner, the 10 semifinalists for the annual North American Car of the Year award have been announced. It’s one of the more interesting honors in the industry, since the judges are automotive journalists from across the U.S. and Canada, not just the editorial (and advertising?) team of a single media outlet. In other words, you don’t have to worry about a car like the Suzuki Kizashi taking home high honors just because its automaker has a friendly relationship with a given magazine. That being said, it’s also worth pointing out that this doesn’t guarantee a better class of winners. Just consider that three of the last four COTY vehicles—the Ford Fusion hybrid, Hyundai Genesis and Saturn Aura—have been essentially non-starters with customers, and the fourth, the Chevrolet Malibu, is a badge-engineered Aura.

Will the 2011 honoree be any different? Well, let’s take a look at the 14 cars that COTY jurors selected as semifinalists, drawn from the 27 new or “substantially changed” models that were eligible for the 2011 prize.

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It’s “Game On” for Jeep Wrangler
Sep21

It’s “Game On” for Jeep Wrangler

By Charles Krome

About 10 years ago, I had an interesting opportunity to drive some expensive metal—an Aston-Martin V8 Vantage, Jaguar XKR, Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG, Corvette ZR-1, etc.—around some of the most challenging tracks in the world. True, the wreckage I left behind likely equalled the GDP of a number of small countries, but the whole experience only set me back about $40, as near as I can remember.

And while I haven’t popped “Gran Turismo” in the ol’ Playstation in quite some time, it was obvious even back then that there was plenty of overlap between gearheads and gamers. Thus, we’ve seen a steady stream of OEMs leveraging video games as advertising opportunities, from running actual in-game ads to licensing virtual versions of their lineups for ever more realistic gameplay. It’s a trend that has now reached its logical conclusion with the recent news that Jeep would take things in the other direction and launch a special edition Wrangler based on a video game.

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Quick Drive: 2010 Kia Forte
Sep20

Quick Drive: 2010 Kia Forte

By Charles Krome

At the beginning of summer, as I was chatting with my friend Rod about the curvaceous lines of my third-gen Ford Taurus, he asked me how many miles I had on the odometer. When I told him I was just about to hit six figures, he gave me a knowing look—Rod’s a Ford quality engineer—and mentioned I’d probably want to start searching for another ride in the not-too-distant future.

Sure enough, a few days ago, with about 103,000 miles on the clock, I heard the two words no one ever wants to hear from a mechanic: “head gasket.”

Now, the car itself was cosmetically very clean, with no rust issues, and I had long been telling everyone—with a certain amount of seriousness—that one day it would be a classic. This 1996-1999 generation was the fruit of the first comprehensive Taurus redesign, and, truth be told, the reception was positively Aztek-like. There was nary a straight line to be seen on the car’s exterior, which its designer supposedly likened to a pair of slippers, and that ovoid design theme carried through to the Taurus’ interior, with similar results.

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