By Kevin Miller
People who drive appliance-type cars solely to get from point A to point B may not get this, but some of us have a lot of emotion and passion wrapped up in our choice of vehicles. Since I have been old enough to buy nice cars, I’ve been a Saab driver. A combination of my Swedish heritage, and the cars’ highly-engineered systems have always attracted me to them.
That being said, in 2004 I was looking for a car to replace my nine year old 900 hatch. Having gotten married and started planning for a family, a four-door car made sense. With my family planning to relocate to Eastern Washington, which would necessitate regular drives through snowy mountain passes, I wanted a vehicle with all-wheel drive, which Saab didn’t offer at the time. Appreciating sporty performance and handling, the ever-popular SUV wasn’t on my shopping list, but I still wanted utility. When I read in late 2003 of the 2004 Volvo V70R, I thought it sounded perfect. With 300 HP from a turbocharged 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine, a six-speed manual transmission delivering power to all four wheels, and a lower, electronically controlled suspension system, I felt the V70R offered the perfect blend of sport and utility, while staying true to my Swedish car-loving roots. Besides that, I thought it looked hot; very sporty and capable, but at the same time restrained in the same way as so many other Scandinavian products are.
By Chris Haak
When first shown to the public in photos, the Honda Accord Crosstour seemed to fall flat on its face. Critics (and people on Facebook) just savaged the Crosstour as ugly, bloated, the answer to the question that nobody asked, another example of Honda’s bungled styling direction, and more. But under the controversial skin, the Crosstour is at the core just an all wheel drive Honda Accord V6 hatchback with a slightly taller body. We at Techshake were eager to find out if the Accord’s fundamental goodness could still shine through a heavier, taller crossover body. And, lest we forget, the current-generation Accord is nowhere near a design benchmark in its own right.
Upon telling a colleague that I was taking my family on a roadtrip in the Crosstour, he warned that I’d be getting a lot of “looks” if I do. He was right – and we also had people strike up conversation with us at the grocery store about the car, which is unusual. Of all the cars I’ve reviewed – many of which have gone to the grocery store – I have only been asked about the car I’m driving once or twice. The last time I remember it happening, I was driving an orange Dodge Challenger SRT8. On the turnpike in the middle of the aforementioned road trip, I noticed a number of other cars slowing down so their occupants could take in my ride. Whether that’s a good thing, bad thing, or just due to their unfamiliarity with the Crosstour, I’m not certain, but it’s absolutely something that I observed. The Crosstour is something of a rare animal at this point so soon after its launch; I’ve seen one or two featured at the local Honda dealer (mistaking the first one I saw for a Ford Taurus initially), and many members of the public may not be aware that there is a Honda Accord other than the regular coupe and sedan.
New crossover is a big hit right from the start
By Brendan Moore
Hyundai introduced the all-new Tucson crossover in December of last year, showing off a sleeker design and improved powertrain in an effort to bring in new buyers and that effort seems to be paying off.
Sales in the US have jumped, and the Korean automaker now is cranking up production volume in the Ulsan, South Korea factory that produces the Tucson.
Hyundai dealers nationwide have been reporting shortages of the new Tucson since deliveries first started and Hyundai now believes they have a solid hit on their hands.
John Krafcik, CEO of Hyundai North America, when talking about the Tucson, predicted a huge jump in unit sales for the model. He commented that that the Ulsan factory would start pushing up production in March, and said, “We’ll ramp it up as long as necessary to satisfy market demand.”
By Chris Haak
After having just spent a week in a Taurus SHO, and finding that car to be expensive, somewhat cramped, but fast as heck, I was looking forward to investigating its luxury-car cousin, the Lincoln MKS EcoBoost. Would the Lincoln flagship sedan – which shares a platform, powertrain, and many other parts with the SHO – be a more-luxurious SHO? More importantly, would it be a credible luxury offering, and would its substantial price premium over the SHO be justified? I was champing at the bit to find out.
The MKS is an attractive-enough car. It doesn’t have proper luxury car proportions thanks to the limitations of its front wheel drive-based architecture (all wheel drive is optional on the MKS, and standard on the MKS EcoBoost model that I tested). The car’s front overhang is unfashionably long, but at least the car’s grille and headlights are (to my eyes) the most tasteful and successful implementation of the new Lincoln family face first seen on the lovely MKR concept of a few years ago. The MKT crossover, in contrast, has a similar front-end design but doesn’t pull it off as gracefully as the MKS does.
But, is this the answer to a question that no one is asking anymore?
By Brendan Moore
For most of you, the excitement over ethanol is probably sort of a hazy memory; you remember when all the fuss was being made over ethanol fuel, but you also remember that it was rather quickly shown that making ethanol from corn was not a good deal from an environmental and energy standpoint.
So, it just sort of went away, right? Didn’t we move on to hybrids and electric vehicles?
The public moved on, but not the federal government. In those heady days (2007) of optimism about ethanol, the brave talk about the American Midwest being the new energy capitol of the world, and our sturdy corn farmers saving America from the clutches of Middle Eastern oil despots, Congress passed energy legislation that actually set mandatory targets for fuel blending each year.
That’s right. Is this all coming back to you now?
Korean automaker has seven new model launches in 2010, plans aggressive marketing campaigns this year, and, although this wasn’t in the plan, is also benefiting from Toyota’s troubles
By Brendan Moore
Hyundai sales went up in a decidedly down US market in 2009, and the company sees blue skies in an improving market in 2010. Their sunny prediction is that Hyundai will go from 4.2% percent market share last year to 4.5% this year. To do so, the Korean manufacturer will need to hit 500,000 unit sales.
Hyundai sales in the US jumped 8% last year, going to 435,064 units in a market that crashed downward 21% overall. The company jumped an amazing 1.2% in market share, going from 3% to 4.2% in a single year.
Company officials are quick to say that they don’t think they can match that sort of market share growth this year, but that they feel that there is a “really good chance” that they will hit 500,000 sales this year for the first time ever, according to Dave Zuchowski, US sales chief of Hyundai.
Zuchowski went on to say that, “The 500,000 number is a magical number for us.”
By Brendan Moore
Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne has told reporters in Toronto that he sees the Alfa Romeo brand returning to the United States in 2012. He made the remarks last Friday, but there was some confusion about just what was said over the weekend until a Chrysler Media Relations spokesman confirmed Marchionne’s statement earlier today.
According to those present, the Fiat CEO said, when asked about Alfa showing up in North America again, “I’m a lot more confident now that Alfa Romeo will reconstitute a product offering that is acceptable globally, and more in particular in the United States and Canada. There is a strong likelihood that the brand will be back here within the next 24 months.”
Alfa had an ignominious departure from the United States in 1995, after struggling to convince American consumers that a warmed-over Spyder and the expensive 164 sedan were worth passing up those German performance offerings when it came time to put something new in the garage.
By George Straton
Feb. 10, 2010 was a day of many firsts. My first day at any auto show as a member of the media on a media day. My first visit to the Chicago Auto Show, the granddaddy of them all in North America, in 20 years. (The last time I had been there, the exhibition was in the old McCormick Place East on Lake Michigan). And it seemed a continuation of a new trend towards downsizing in terms of exhibit presence, size, content, and staffing.
Gone are the days when concept cars truly appeared of a design and substance 20 years before its time. That role has been left to the biennial Global Shows at Geneva and Tokyo.
According to media veterans the manufacturer addresses and displays simply lacked the “to the brim” media attendance of yore.