For reasons I can’t understand, small luxury crossover vehicles are very popular in North America. European manufacturers have all but stopped importing wagons to our shores, instead choosing to send us crossover vehicles with higher centers of gravity, less efficient engines, and higher profit margins. Audi’s entry in this segment is the Q5.
The Lexus ES, the brand’s popular entry-level luxury sedan since its introduction nearly 23 years ago, is all-new for the 2013 model year, following the introduction of the latest Toyota Camry last year. Equally as important for the sixth-generation ES is the introduction of a hybrid option for the first time: the ES 300h. For Lexus, the brand that made the hybrid luxury vehicle a green commodity, some of its recent efforts (see: the recent fate of the HS250h) did not bear copious fruit. Is the market clamoring for an ES hybrid? Lexus recently invited Techshake to sample both models at a regional event in northern New Jersey.
GM CEO Dan Akerson was told Congress this past January that the Chevrolet Volt is a “political punching bag.” He’s right, of course. The car has not come close to meeting GM’s previously-stated sales targets (which have since been unceremoniously dropped), and part of the blame does lie at the feet of the fact that GM accepted a taxpayer-funded bailout. But could there be other reasons the Volt isn’t selling well? We borrowed a 2012 model for a week to find out.
My wife doesn’t know a lot about cars, but she does humor me from time to time when I excitedly share car industry news with her. “Hey, remember the A7 that I tested last summer? They’re going to have an S8 that has the same gorgeous body, but a twin-turbo V8 under the hood. Sweet, right?” “If that makes you happy, then I guess that’s good, dear.” Yet I often find her perspective to be valuable as a second opinion or a gut check when I am evaluating a car. She has very different priorities and a very different perspective on vehicles than I do. I love to drive; she tolerates it. I love performance; she loves fuel economy. I told her that Volkswagen is trying to pitch its 2012 Beetle as more masculine; she said “it’s cute.”
Millions of dollars in market research, engineering, design, all thrown out the window. It’s still a “chick car.”
Way back in 2009, I was fortunate to spend a week in the then-new Jaguar XF sedan. The XF broke new stylistic ground for Jaguar, pulling the company out of a rut of quad-headlamp sedan sameness that they’d been in, literally, for decades. Back then, I thought the XF looked awesome and drove even better.
How’s this for a crazy notion: Is Chrysler the new Hyundai? The answer, I think, is “no,” but there are some interesting parallels between two automakers who at face value probably could not be any more different. Specifically, I’m referring to the fact that recent Hyundais have been dramatically better than the models that they replaced. Where Hyundai previously sold cars mostly on the strength of its warranty coverage and price, its products are now improved to the point that they occupy positions among the class leaders.