Hybrid is good on gas mileage and easy on the eyes
Ford’s new Fusion might do well to co-opt the old Miller Lite motto and tweak it a bit – Looks Great, Less Filling!
That seems apt for Fusion’s hybrid model, which was my first full drive of the swoopy new Fusion with its fastback looks and Aston Martin-like grille. This is a looker to be sure. As one might expect with a hybrid gas/electric system under the hood, this runs quiet and delays your gas station visits a bit. Fusion’s new system combines a highly fuel efficient. Atkinson-cycle 2.0-liter I4 with lithium ion battery powered electric motor and earns an EPA rating of 47 mpg city and highway. It’s rare that city and highway numbers are equal in a hybrid.
Ford cuts the overall power from 191 horses in its former Fusion hybrid to 188 hp on this model, but also trims more than 100 lbs. from the car, 15 just from the gas motor. Yet while the car earns good EPA numbers, it has been criticized for not living up to those claims.
My mileage fell short, but at 36.7 mpg in a week’s drive, it was still head and shoulders above other family sedans I’ve driven. Compare that to 27.4 mpg I got in a recent Honda Accord test, and 28.7 mpg in my recent Mazda6 test drive.
I love some of the cars of the late 50′s and early 60′s. Some were huge and of course there were the fins. Fins were in at the time because designers were taking their cues from the jet age. The luxury cars all had them like the Chrysler Imperial. Early on these cars were all designed by one of the legends of auto design, Virgil Exner. When he joined Chrysler, he discovered that the company’s vehicles were being styled by engineers and not by designers making the cars kind of frumpy looking.
Exner took over and frumpy was gone. General Motors and Ford were caught napping as Exner’s designs featured a lowered roofline making the cars sleeker, smoother, and more aggressive. These were really wild for the time period. The front featured featuring a swooping bumper, gaping mesh grille, giant chrome eagle, and hooded quad headlights, and tall rear fins with bullet style tail lamps with a chrome ring surrounding it. The chrome ring called a “Sparrow Strainer” an element taken from jets at the time that utilized a functional treatment meant to keep the birds out. This car looked like it had an attitude with all the chrome and extended fenders giving it the look of some big cat on the attack.
He also had some really cool design elements inside the car like a space age dashboard. No incandescent bulbs were used instead electricity running through a five-layer laminate caused the phosphorescent paint to glow in the dark. Chrysler called it “Panelescent”. With its glowing green face and red needles it looked eerie and surprisingly modern. Does this design sound familiar? Most of the new cars use updated lighting technology to achieve this look. Let’s not forget about the squared off at the top and bottom steering wheel designed for better leg room and view through the windshield in the straight ahead position. Exner was always battling the board with his designs and won until sales started to slip. The public hand grown tired of the look.
Exner out, Engel in, fins out
In 1961, Chrysler scored a coup by hiring Elwood Engel away from Ford, where he had designed the 1961 Lincoln Continental. Engel’s waisted little time making his mark on future Imperials featuring the more familiar three-box design. His first car was the ’64 and some said it looked similar in design to was thought to strongly resemble the 1961 Lincoln Continental. However, Engel used subtle curves and parallelogram angles to give the Imperial a distinct and novel look.
If you’re looking to collect the real deal, you better have deep pockets. The older ones, like the 1958 are prized possessions of collectors. This is a frame off restoration that began as a rust-free project. For cars of this era, finding a car with out it are hard to come by since they have all rusted away. There are however examples, not as good as this one, that are nice and can be bought in the mid 20′s.
Even though the promotional models don’t have to deal with rust, they too can command a decent amount of cash. I found several going for $150 but these examples, a 10 on the 10 scale 64 convertible (super rare) was going for $800 while the 62 was going for $750.
So which is my favorite designer? I would have to go with Virgil Exner just because I love the fins and that might be because I am an aviation nut.
Smooth, quiet, but Volt packs power too
Chevrolet’s Volt is the leader of the hybrid pack when it comes to performance.
It’s quick and handles almost like a sports sedan. I know what you’re thinking, “No Way it’s quick!” Ah, but you’d be wrong.
The difference between the plug-in electric hybrid Volt and a gas-powered sedan is that there’s no engine grumble to give you a sense of speed. With Volt, you simply press a button on the center stack and change from Normal to Sport mode.
Next time you press the accelerator (not a gas pedal, right?) this 3,781-lb. car rips away from a stoplight, quietly, but with smooth seamless acceleration. Most cars are still slipping from second to third gear as you streak away.
Handling is borderline sporty too. No, it’s not a BMW, but steering is pretty darned precise and quick, so you can zip around corners with authority. Plus, its low-slung battery packs keep the Volt well balanced, aiding its cornering.
Ride is on the sporty side too, but still is pleasant and well controlled, the Volt’s 105.7-inch wheelbase making this ride like a mid-size sport sedan. But, since it’s a hatch, it’s more useful for carrying things than a standard sedan.
Now let’s face it, if you’re a prospective Volt buyer, the last thing you probably were even thinking about was performance. But the cool thing here is that you get performance along with all those great hybrid characteristics you’re likely aiming for.
Two Johncock racers, Swede Savage Eagle are latest releases
While some of us old-timers remember front-engine roadsters at Indy, many more of us remember the variety of 1960s, ’70s and ’80s rear-engine racers, the Eagle, March, Foyt and Lotus chassis that won the Indianapolis 500 from 1965 forward.
Swede Savage’s No. 40 STP Eagle from 1973 is stunning.
Drivers like A.J. Foyt, Gordon Johncock, Mario Andretti and Rick Mears piloted these big-winged racers that took aerodynamics to a whole new level, and speeds along with them. Well, Replicarz now brings back some of these colorful Indy Cars, including two new versions that hadn’t been done previously. All are 1:18 scale and use molds that previously served to create the fine Carousel 1 models.Being released in May or early June are the STP team cars that Johncock and Swede Savage drove in the 1973 Indy 500 and the March that Johncock piloted in 1984.
I’ve got to admit that I’m a sucker for Indy cars, and already own a Carousel 1 version of Johncock’s 1973 Indy winner. But these raise the bar from those already well detailed models.
Here’s what I noticed different on the new Replicarz version of the ’73 Eagle.
FX37, a love-hate relationship
Infiniti’s racy FX37 sport-ute is a classic case for a love-hate relationship.
If you enjoy performance, and don’t really expect such from a sport-ute, you’ve got to love how the FX37 responds. It feels like a tall Porsche, with oodles of power from its new 3.7-liter V6. In fact, Infiniti rates it a 325 horses and even that seems as if it might be a tad low.
The 3.7 replaces the former 3.5-liter V6, which wasn’t too shabby itself. And the bright metallic blue test ute was the all-wheel-drive model, so right out of the blocks it had power and road grip on its side. Toss in a healthy helping of fine handling and the FX37 delivers premium performance at a modestly premium price.
The base FX37 with rear-wheel drive starts at $44,950, while the tested AWD model lists at $45,750. And at that you get a silky 7-speed automatic with Adaptive Shift Control that allows you to shift manually.
Where the hate comes in, and hate may be a bit harsh, is subject to one’s design leanings primarily. That, and depending on whether you expect a cushy ride, or one reflecting the sporty nature of this beast, you may feel luxury dictates the former.
Avalon XLE Premium aims for younger drivers
Styling is dramatically improved on the 2013 Toyota Avalon.
An old automotive axiom goes that you can sell a young man’s car to an old man, but you can’t sell an old man’s car to a young man.Apparently Toyota didn’t know that, until now.
Toyota’s Avalon, long a senior citizen favorite, has been restyled and its suspension and steering firmed up to move it decidedly out of the old fuddy-duddy market in looks and performance. Its crisp new body with thin chrome-trimmed grille above a larger lower opening and its thinned taillights with chrome across the rear deck turn styling yawner into a sharply tailored machine.
At least now mature adults who are not yet AARP worthy may look at the Avalon.
Autoart creates flashy Lamborghini Aventador
Oh, baby this looks fast!
For many years now, Lamborghini and Ferrari have worked their Italian design magic to tug at supercar aficionados’ heart strings like another rendition of “O Sole Mio” in the mother country.Lamborghini was created to spite Enzo Ferrari, who insulted Ferruccio Lamborghini, who was, at the time, a customer. And it’s safe to say, Lamborghini proved his point, his firm designing edgy supercars that with their massive 12-cylinder engines ultimately have put many a Ferrari to shame from a performance standpoint.
Among its most recent efforts, the Aventador LP700-4, modeled here by Autoart, is a stellar example. Aventador, named for a famous bull (in Europe), as are all Lamborghinis, features a monster 700 horsepower, 12-cylinder 6.5-liter engine. That raging bull under the rear bonnet pushes the real car to 62 mph in just 2.9 seconds and boasts a top speed of 217 mph, enough to earn you a ticket any time you drive it!
New Corolla S a family sedan, with sporty look
My family owned a Toyota Corolla back in the early 1980s. That’s family as in me, my wife and two small kids. So, take note young families, you CAN survive without a minivan, crossover or sport-utility truck.
That’s even easier now as the current Corolla, the 10th generation, is nearly as large as a Camry was a decade ago. Call it dimensional creep.
The 2013 Corolla rides on a 102.4-inch wheelbase and is 179.3 inches long. But it still weighs a seemingly svelte 2,767 lbs. and is rated at 26 mpg city and 34 mpg highway. I got 28.3 mpg in a fairly even mix of city and highway driving. That’s good for a young family’s budget.
My tested magnetic gray metallic (dark metallic gray) test car was the top-level S model that offers sportier looks, but not much in the way of sporty performance. This one came with an automatic transmission and even with that it remains a solid choice for youngsters needing just a step up from basic wheels. But don’t confuse this with a sports sedan.
Hybrid Lexus LS delivers high-end luxury with a price to match
Where to begin?
Let’s just put the price tag out there to clear the air. My silver Lexus LS 600h L listed for $119,910 and settled at $135,029 after adding copious high-end options.
As way of background, the LS is THE Lexus flagship, its full-size sedan and an absolute dreamboat of a car to drive and ride in. Its ride is air-suspension smooth, its interior a mansion library’s leathery quiet, its V8 powerful yet quiet, its adaptive 8-speed automatic transmission as creamery smooth through the gears as any car I’ve ever driven.
Oh, and this handsome sedan is a big boy too. That L means it has a longer wheelbase than the standard LS. That translates into a roomy interior, but just for four adults as the back seat’s middle section houses a Starship Enterprise sized console of buttons and knobs that could confuse even Captain Kirk. Where’s Spock when you need him?
But beyond the car’s exquisite drive and ride abilities the star here is the price tag. That’s all ANYONE wants to talk about once they get their sticker shock. Or maybe we should call it sticker Envy!
Their question was always the same, or similar – What do you get for $135 grand, AND is it worth that much?
New Mazda6 boasts power, looks and efficiency
Confession, my first new car was a Mazda, a puny little GLC with barely enough power to get me up a fair sized hill. I’ve had a soft spot for Mazda ever since.
Now comes the 2014 (that’s right, 2014) Mazda6, a car that doesn’t have to apologize for its lack of horsepower, boasting 184 horses from a 2.5-liter direct-injected I4, a couple more than the generously powered Nissan Altima. The Mazda’s power also is superior to that of the top-selling Toyota Camry’s four-cylinder model.
Plus, Mazda is using what it calls Skyactiv technology, a blend of direct-injection, variable valve timing, lower weight and higher compression to gain gas mileage while delivering strong low- and mid-range power, the power we all use most in normal daily driving. Skyactiv also includes a smooth-shifting 6-speed sport automatic that improves gas mileage up to 7%.
So right out of the blocks, the brilliant metallic red ($300 extra, and worth it) Grand Touring test model had technology working to deliver sporty and upbeat performance. But Mazda also scrapped its cartoonish big-mouthed grille along with its cookie cutter exterior to deliver the freshest, most interesting mid-size sedan design in ages. The grille is still big, but is no longer a gaping maw. Plus it’s indented under the hood, like a Mustang (old and new) and some of the sportier cars from the 1970s.
The nose’s curb appeal is further enhanced by well chiseled creases atop the front wheel wells and blending into the front doors under the A pillar along with a strong shoulder line back by the C pillar and trunk. Add a slim taillight treatment with a thin touch of chrome at the top and there’s no mistaking this for any other sedan on the highway. Yes, I know the new Fusion has an Aston Martin nose, but this is fresher looking than even that fine-looking family sedan.
So here’s the deal. The Mazda6 not only delivers looks and power, but it continues to handle well. Is this a sport sedan? No, but it’s a sporty sedan with good turn-in at corners, and above average feedback via the steering wheel. There’s a nice balance here that many mid-size family cars are still searching for.
Despite low cost, Chrysler 200 droptop leaves us cold
Ah, to have a convertible during summer or fall. Sadly, I tested the 200 in snowy winter. Too bad!
First impressions can be skewed by many factors, and it probably did not help that the Chrysler 200 Limited Convertible arrived on a near zero degree day in a week where snow was forecast, and fell, over several days.No, I didn’t drop the top!
The test car was a bright metallic red with tan canvas roof. A hardtop convertible also is available and the 200 comes in three trim levels, the base Touring model, starting at $27,100, the tested Limited at $32,095 and the S model with blacked out grille at $32,595.
Mopar lovers may recall the former Sebring sedan, which also was available as a convertible. And this, like the Sebring, offers a rare under $30 grand convertible that will seat four adults. It’s only real competitors are Ford’s Mustang and Chevrolet’s Camaro. Both look much sportier and in mid-trim levels with V6 power, the Mustang is actually a tad less expensive. I’d opt for the Mustang on looks alone, but for folks who want a pleasant, less racy, comfortable convertible, the 200 is fine.
Looks, handling, turbo give small Cadillac a boost
Those of us who have been around for a few decades may be forgiven for our skepticism when we hear Cadillac is creating an entry-level sport sedan. Visions of Cimarron dance in our brains.
Ah, but those who observe the car market closely know that Cadillac has been swinging for the fences of late while also having gotten its groove on in the styling department. The result for 2013 is a sweet compact sports sedan, the ATS.
First, it looks great with vertical lights front and rear. The front lenses fold over the front fender pointing up toward the cockpit, while the rear ones remind of many a Cadillac of years past. These look elegant, AND sporty, while the body is taunt and well chiseled with a lean athletic stance.
Folks who didn’t care for some of the overwrought designs and fluffery of the past should appreciate ATS’s understated good looks.
This is a true entry-level luxury sports sedan, the base 2.5L with rear-wheel drive lists at $33,095 and packs a 2.5-liter 202-horse four-cylinder rated at 22 mpg city and 33 highway.