By Roger Boylan
One of the main raps against Japanese cars over the years has been their blandness. This is less true now. Granted, many still have all the personality of a bowl of ramen noodles, but a strain of quirkiness has crept into the line-up; after all, Japan is the country that gave us Kabuki and Noh theatre, not to mention Pokemon. Those influences are apparent in some contemporary Japanese vehicles, such as the Nissan Cube and Honda Fit, as well as the Scion xB– the original xB, the oh-so-hip one that looked like an angry refrigerator. As far as its present-day descendant is concerned, however, the image that comes to my mind is that of Hector, the Looney Tunes cartoon bulldog. Actually, a squared-off version of Hector. Put it this way: if Hector mated with a shoebox, you’d have a 2011 Scion xB.
On the odd chance anyone missed it, Toyota has now unveiled the 2012 Camry, which is obviously a rather big deal for the automaker—and the U.S. market, of course. Toyota’s mid-size sedan has been the best-selling car in the U.S. for nine straight years, and 13 of the last 14; what’s even more amazing is that it also was back at the top of the heap in July, despite the production challenges poised by this spring’s disasters in Japan and any lingering effects of the Great Toyota Recallathon.
By Chris Haak
I could hardly wait for the 2010 Chevrolet Camaro to finally reach production. Growing up as a fan of the bowtie brand, it was fun to watch all of the excitement that took us from the Camaro concept in 2007 to the final production car in mid-2009. Then, when I finally had a chance to get behind the wheel of a new Camaro, I was left slightly underwhelmed. Sure, it was fast, but it had a pretty cheap interior, it was heavy, it was hard to see out of, and it was almost too large to call a “pony car” with a straight face, thanks to its full-size sedan-derived underpinnings.
By Roger Boylan
The world is divided into two kinds of drivers: real drivers—let’s call them “real drivers”–and the rest. Usually, I’m the first kind, a “real driver,” who, even on the way to the supermarket, or on a boring commute, is aware of what he’s driving, how it looks, and what it’s capable of. Occasionally, however, when I’m fed up, hungover or ill, I’m one of the rest. I care as little as possible about the shell around me and the mechanics underfoot and just want the sight of home and bed. Most drivers fall into the latter category all the time; they’re the ones driving the old Buicks with masking tape on their windows and the oxidized Honda Civics with Obamanos bumper stickers: the “just get me from A to B” types.
By James Wong
I swear that when I was asleep last night, I could hear the 1 Series M Coupe’s metallic rasp echoing around my ears.
I could even pick out the burbles of the exhaust on overrun, the growl on part throttle which had an uncanny resemblance to the V8 in the E92 M3, and the top-end bark that almost sounded like a flat-six. That the exhaust could produce such variation in pitch and tone was probably the reason why it lingered in my semi-conscious mind in my slumber. Although that is about all I could remember from my sleep, the memories forged behind the wheel of the 1M still stayed fresh in my mind.
By Kevin Gordon
If you have ever watched the BBC’s Top Gear you have probably heard the presenters discuss how much they respect Ford’s cars. In fact, the Ford Mondeo is one of the very rare cars that all three presenters agree is a great car. I have always found this to be a bit odd considering the general ribbing that those pecky and hilarious Brits continuously give the stereotypical American. How can Ford’s products can garner such respect with the most stringent of automotive critics? If you listen closely their love of Fords cars come from the way that they drive, much the way the American auto magazines endlessly gush about BMWs. Here again was a point of confusion for me. I have driven a lot of Fords, including living in a family that owned a number of 1990s era Tauruses (SP?). Few of these cars ever caught my attention as being great to drive. Even their much-loved Mondeo was a commercial flop in the states when it came here as the Contour/Mystique. Sure the SVT version was a nice car, but what did they sell… 31 of them?
Back to the point. When the 2012 Ford Focus ended up in the Techshake parking lot for a week, I was expecting to spend my time focusing on economy, practicality, and other things that auto journalists have to do in order to have the chance to spend time in exotics and supercars. As it turns out I wasn’t in for such a boring week.