Jeep has an image, and it’s time to exploit it. The company had an amazing seventeen-year run with the Cherokee because people wanted a vehicle that could do the work of a wagon, but didn’t look like one. Sure it was a capable go-anywhere off-roader, but many of them never left the pavement. This is what helped start the SUV craze.
No matter how much Jeep builds a car to take the tough stuff, there will always be customers who only use its ability to park on lawns. That’s why the Compass exists. It has all the image of a normal rough-and-ready Jeep, but in a package that on-road customers want. Jeep isn’t selling out its heritage (anyone remember the original Jeepster?) There are plenty of other companies making crossover vehicles out there. Jeep is just giving its loyalists a vehicle they can drive when their commute is reduced to paved roads.
Value is the current buzzword in car buying. As belts are tightening, we are going to take a long look at our economy cars like our Chevrolet Aveo5.
Purchasing an economy car has three distinct benefits. First good gas mileage means that not only are they inexpensive to buy but also inexpensive to run. The second advantage is the warranty that comes with a new car. Another advantage is being the first owner of a vehicle – there may be larger, slightly used vehicles at the same price point, but the owners are unknown.
Economy cars have a social standing that sometimes have people convinced that those who buy one made their decision on price only. They can sometimes be viewed as basic transportation, which gives them little social stature. So the idea with an ideal economy car is not only to spend as little as possible, but also have the appearance that it cost a lot more. That’s how value is measured in an economy car, and that’s how we equipped our Chevrolet Aveo5.
The RAV4 has been in the Toyota family for about thirteen years, and it has staying power for a reason: adaptability. The first generation was built on the idea of giving people the small size of about a Jeep Wrangler, but with more creature comforts and better on-road handling. This was a fun machine that had dual sunroofs in the two-door model and then eventually a convertible model.
While the RAV4 was selling well, Toyota was discovering that the people who wanted a small SUV with on-road manners also wanted room to carry all their weekend warrior gear. The original RAV4 was about the size of the current Scion xB, and Toyota knew it had to grow to stay competitive. So the second generation appeared with larger engines (including an optional V6) as well as a full back seat. Now that the RAV4 is in its third generation, it gained an optional third row of seating and has closed the size gap with the Highlander. This extra size has made the RAV4 more versatile without losing the small/nimble feeling of the original.
The RAV4 has now become a good option for young professionals and small families. These people are usually looking for plenty of car at a low price, so we equipped our $24,740 test car accordingly. To stay on budget we minimized the options, and maximized value for little money.
The diesel engine’s frugal nature and the fuel’s lower price (in some markets) make it popular choice in Europe. With the rest of the world pinching our pennies, we’re going to start seeing a lot more diesel engines in the U.S.
Unfortunately for the companies bringing these new diesel cars, it may take a little education to get the U.S. to understand the new definition of a diesel engine. Gone are the days of black smoke and high-polluting; in its place is the best fuel economy going. Also gone is the loud rumbling engine; leaving almost no noise in its place. What remains from the old diesel image is the toughness. Diesel engines have fewer moving parts, operate at lower RPMs, and are historically the most reliable kind of engine out there.
One of the great places to have these torque-happy engines are trucks and SUVs. That’s why we’re taking a look at a Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited 4x4 with a 3.0-liter diesel engine.
It may be a little puzzling why we would do a review on a car that we know is already on the way out, but we really wanted one last look at the 2009 Ford Mustang. We already know the specs on the 2010 Mustang, so we’re making sure we have the outgoing model fresh on our minds when the new one arrives on our doorstep.
To give this generation of the Mustang a proper sendoff, we made sure we got the specs right. We have a GT model with options including the 4.6-liter 300 hp V8 engine, 45th Anniversary package and glass roof.
Lookie what we got here. The Dodge boys decided to drop off their ultimate pavement pounder on our doorstep. They must have really liked our review of the Challenger SRT8 for us to deserve this reward.
When the Dodge Viper first showed up in 1992, it was the meanest thing around. It looked mean and sounded mean, so it was trivial why many people were surprised when the Viper had a mean attitude.
The original car was meant to be out in the elements. The car had side curtains and a fabric roof that was only meant for temporary duty, just like the open top versions Lamborghini Murcielago and Bugatti Veryon.
The Viper wasn’t ashamed of what it was, the American roadster. The Viper was designed to be the spiritual successor to the Shelby Cobra, but the public decided that modern cars needed modern conveniences. So over the 17 years Dodge has kept its snake in production there has been a little softening. But don’t think this is a compromised car. This is a pure sports car, which means we have no complaints.
Land Rover sells cars more on its image that ability. These SUVs are great off-roaders, but rarely do you catch their owners forging a stream or survey open land. Instead, owners demand luxury and handsome looks.
Land Rover first tried to give the U.S. a small SUV by adapting the Europe-only Freelander for North America. By the time the car first appeared here in 2002 it was already six years old and showing its age. Sales were slow, and Land Rover learned ts lesson.
Starting in 2007, Land Rover had a new Freelander they renamed LR2 for North America. This had much better materials, more features, and looked a lot more like the up-market Range Rover.
We have high expectations when we get behind the wheel of a car that costs $100,000. If a sedan costs as much as a house, or at least a good down payment, then it has to be a cut above. In fact, if a sedan costs four or five times more than a regular sedan shouldn’t we expect it to be at least four or five times greater in every way?
At this price point we expect no compromises. We want to be pampered in luxury while not losing any feel of the road. We want to look smart arriving at social occasions, but not be so flashy that we get nervous parking on the street. Mercedes has specialized in this type of car for over fifty years. Our expectations are high.
The 2009 Dodge Challenger left a lasting impression on us. It’s been a few weeks since we gave it back, but it still was one of our early favorites when deciding our top ten cars for 2008.
This is a continuation of the first part of our time with the Challenger. Before that featured the interior and exterior in depth. Now we get the part we like the best, the test drive.
Retro cars are held to a higher standard at TopSpeed. When a designer doesn’t have to spend as much time working on how a car looks, we expect more time spent on performance. This was the standard applied to the 2009 Dodge Challenger SRT8 when it showed up on our doorstep. Then again, it wasn’t going to be too hard for us to love a car with a 425 horsepower, 6.1-liter Hemi V8.
We got a little excited about this car. We got a lot of double-takes from people we passed on the street, and the exhaust note is an enthusiast’s dream. As a result, we had a little more footage of the Challenger than we usually do. So here is our review and opinion of the retro exterior and interior. The test drive will be posted in a few days.
I learned to drive on the interstate at age 14 in a first generation Mercury Sable. It belonged to my grandparents, and it was the three of us on a trip from Louisiana to Florida. Within a few hours my grandfather decided it would something special for both of us to share my first highway driving experience. He was right, I’ll never forget the car not because it was an exceptional automobile, but because of what I got to do with it.
That’s the kind of legacy that the Mercury Sable leaves. It’s not meant to be a driver’s car, but instead an affordable and usable car where the memories are made from what families are able to do with the car.
Hybrids are not just for the little cars. The technology is finding it’s way into other vehicles, large ones. Hybrids are now helping to squeeze out a few more MPGs from vehicles that need it the most like the large SUVs.
Our Dodge Durango Hybrid Limited 4x4 offers one of the more interesting combinations. It has a 5.7-liter Hemi V8 mated to a two-mode hybrid system. So depending who you talk to after buying the car you can say, “I got SUV with a big Hemi engine so I can tow my boat, ” or you can also say, “I bought a luxury hybrid that fits the whole family.” Sneaky.
Trucks are fun. Although we’re usually car people, the “in your face” and “get out of my way” attitude that is attached to piloting a tall truck that’s over two and a half tons is sometimes irresistible.
Our Tundra 4x4 Crewmax SR5 represents a final leap for Toyota. When Toyota first entered the large truck market with the T100 in 1992, they though people didn’t need the full size of a full-sized truck. Unfortunately the North American public disagreed. Toyota built the same tough-as-nails trucks as it always did, but people were weary because in the truck game, bigger is better. Now the second generation Tundra rectifies all problems. Introduced in 2007, the Tundra is as big (and sometimes bigger) than the competition, without trading in the Toyota reputation.
Wagons have a bad stigma that they don’t deserve. They are a symbol of giving up in life. Our parents never fondly looked back on the wagons that our siblings and we forced them to drive. The vehicles our parents loved were the cool little cars they had in their pre-wagon days. This has scarred our image of wagons to the point we will only drive SUVs or crossovers. So, when Toyota wanted to add more utility to the Corolla, they didn’t call it the Corolla Wagon, they called it the Matrix.
The Corolla feeling is not an accident and is not a problem. The 2009 Corolla we had in our test fleet was frugal friend, and our Matrix XRS has a larger engine and a sport-tuned suspension. So, it was no surprise that the Matrix won over some staff members as a desirable everyday car.
There is a design revolution going on at Lincoln. They are showing that American luxury does not have to come in an old-person style package. It started with the MKZ’s waterfall grill and angular shapes, and now the new MKS is going for the long-nose, short trunk lid look that is characteristic of sport sedans. This is a language that BMW and Infinity speak well, but the softer ride of the Lincoln shows that it is really putting Lexus in its crosshairs.
Lincoln has a hard line to follow. It needs to make sure that is can still satisfy its current customer base of usually older people while attracting younger buyers to the brand. This means walking a fine line of making a sleek design that’s not too radical, and an interior that’s innovative but not too complicated. With the MKS, it seems to have found the right mix.
The Volvo XC70 is another installment in Volvo’s history of offering alternative cars. In the 60s, the PV 444 was the alternative to the straight lined cars from Detroit; the 700 series of the 80s and 90s was the alternative to the yuppie BMWs; and now the XC70 is the alternative to a SUV.
Although 2008 is only the second model year for the XC70, the concept has been around for almost a decade more as the Volvo Cross Country. The original Cross Country took Volvo’s reputation for safety and built an off-road image (thanks to Swedish winters) that is now enjoyed by our XC70 as well as its big brother, the XC90 SUV.
Is Jaguar trying to bribe us? Why else would they drop off the keys to their fastest droptop for some end-of-summer fun? Are they trying to sway us with supercharged V8 muscle? They must think our opinion is for sale (it is.)
But Jaguar never needed to pay us off. We’ve always liked Jaguar for the stylish alternatives they offer. Oh wait, I get it…This XKR convertible is not a bribe; it’s a reward…
All car companies want to keep their customers. That’s why Subaru created the Tribeca three years ago. The kids who bought WRXs and Outbacks were finding themselves with families and needed something that could hold seven people.
Our 2008 Tribeca Limited was pure Subaru: boxer engine, all-wheel drive, safety-conscious, and built with the spirit of a rally car. The Tribeca is faithful to the Subaru’s ideals, which means the loyalists will love and leave others scratching their heads.
Ford has given up on the minivan, and that’s why we have the Flex. The Freestar/Winstar was not well loved by the public, so Ford is re-approaching the family market with the Flex crossover.
Ford is going heavy for the crossover market. Of the Flex/Edge/Taurus X siblings of crossovers, the Flex is clearly the big brother. It is the largest, most expensive, and possibly the only one you will catch soccer dads driving.
The first generation Santa Fe was tying to be everything to everyone. The car wanted to be cute enough for the soccer moms while being aggressive enough to appease the off-road crowd. The resulting car may have looked a little odd, but it was a best seller for Hyundai over its five-year run.
When the second generation hit the market last year, it showed that Hyundai figured out that the best way to make everyone happy was with a sleek design. This car is a step up in every way from the previous generation. It grew to accommodate more seats, more amenities, and even a small increase in price.
Back in 1985, Chrysler CEO Lee Iacocca asked his engineers to build him a convertible out of a K-Car. Production convertibles in the early 80s had been absent from the North American market due to safety concerns, and Iacocca wanted a car he could enjoy for the summertime. Iacocca claims that wherever he went people were interested in the car. This left enough of an impression on him that the next year the Le Barron convertible was born, and ended a nearly fourteen-year drought of convertibles for Chrysler.
Our Chrysler Sebring Limited is a descendent of that original rebirth of the American convertible, and this car shows it. Just like how American cars are best known, the Sebring is big and roomy convertible with a plush ride.
When it’s not quite a wagon and not quite an SUV, then it’s a crossover. Dodge takes its first attempt at the segment with the Journey.
The Journey is based on the same D-segment platform as the Avenger; it is a new crossover utility vehicle that fits in between the compact Caliber and Grand Caravan. The Journey provides the passenger space of a minivan, the effectiveness of an SUV and has a large amount of storage bins and spaces.
The Journey was first introduced at the 2007 Frankfurt Auto show. Sales begin with this 2009 model, which was first released to the public last March. The Journey R/T is a crossover that has an almost identical wheelbase to the short-wheelbase Chrysler minivans that it replaces. This 3,800 lb crossover is powered by a 3.5 liter High Output V6 engine. This engine produces 232 horsepower, and is matted to a 6-speed automatic transmission. This is the largest engine available on the Journey models. The base Journey trim, which is known as the Journey SE, is powered by a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine.
If you have been following our video reviews, you know we have already featured the Toyota Highlander. But this is the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and it’s full of enough technology to make it worth its own review. This is Toyota’s second generation of both the Highlander model and the available hybrid engine. Along with the Prius and the Camry Hybrid, this makes up Toyota’s gas-electric group. The new Highlander Hybrid is powered by a 3.3-liter double overhead hybrid engine, which produces 209 horsepower. This advanced Hybrid Synergy Drive System has the fuel economy of up to 27 MPG city, and 25 MPG highway. It comes standard with four-wheel drive, equipped with intelligence drive. Just like the gasoline powered Highlander, the hybrid is available with the choice of a Base or Limited trim. The price for the 2008 Highlander Hybrid starts at $33,700.
The 2008 Jeep Wrangler 4X4 Rubicon is a 2-door, 4-passenger sport-utility vehicle. Although the Wrangler is in its third generation, this is part of a much larger evolution that dates back over sixty years to the first civilian Jeeps built after World War II. The Rubicon version was first introduced in 2003 in conjunction with promotion for the movie “Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.” In 2007, Jeep debuted the latest Wrangler. This version is incorporates a slightly larger redesigned body, and introduced a four-door Unlimited model to join the traditional two-door. The Rubicon is the most rugged of the four available trims, and with the starting price around $28,000, it is also the most expensive.
When you hear the name Scion, you probably think about the “stylish” Scion xB. The xB was such a success, with over 60,000 xBs sold in 2007; it outsold its smaller sibling the xA. Apparently, the xA just wasn’t cool enough. That is probably the reason why Scion decided to stop production of the xA back in 2007. However, the xA was quickly replaced with a newer and nicer model- the xD. The 2008 Scion xD was first introduced to the public on February 2007 at the Chicago Auto Show, and production started that same summer. The new xD wants to be fuller, sportier and more playful than the defunct xA, let’s see if that is the case.
The 2008 Hyundai Veracruz was first introduced to the public in October of 2006, and started production in 2007. It is Hyundai’s largest and most luxurious vehicle to date. The seven passenger SUV’s price tag starts at a reasonable $27,000. The price is attractive but very similar to the competition; the acclaimed Mazda CX9 ($29k+) or the newly redesigned Toyota Highlander ($28k+). All Veracruz trims are equipped with the same 260 horsepower V6 engine, matted to a six-speed automatic transmission. Our Veracruz Limited version is loaded with all wheel-drive, leather seats and a navigation system. At an MSRP of $38,000, it is not any cheaper than a loaded Toyota Highlander Limited.
The Lexus RX was first introduced in 1998 as one of the first crossovers’, a mix between the sedan comfort and the SUV style. The RX brings together the luxurious Lexus style with the legendary reliability of Toyota SUVs. Originally built off the Toyota Camry/Lexus ES platform, the RX is a long time best seller for Lexus, and a benchmark to all other crossovers.
The RX350 is the second generation of the famous Lexus RX series.
Eleven years after its introduction, the RX recipe remains mostly unchanged. Over the course of its career, Lexus updated the RX with a more powerful engine (including a Hybrid version (400h)) and has added the latest high tech options (such as GPS and voice commands).
To keep its lead in the very competitive crossover market, Lexus just offered the RX a mild facelift, with a more powerful 3.5L engine and a name change (from RX330 to RX350).
History of Lamborghini
The first Lamborghini to ever be made is the 350 GTV, which was later sold as a production model known as the 350 GT.
It all started when Ferrucio Lamborghini decided to bring his Ferrari for a simple repair. At the time Ferrucio was manufacturing tractors out of demilitarized equipment and had no intention in building supercars. However that day he approached Enzo Ferrari with a complaint about the clutch of his latest Ferrari. Enzo’s response to the complaint was, “What does a tractor maker know about super cars? Go back to your farm and leave the supercars to me”. In rage and insulted, Ferruccio took his Ferrari home and fixed the problem himself using a tractor clutch. This little repair would be his first step in a long journey in the automotive world.
The Land Rover LR2 is a descendant of the 2001 Freelander. Unfortunately, sales of the Freelander were crippled by quality problems and the Freelander went out of production in 2005. Like any good car manufacturer, Land Rover did not stop there and decided to start from scratch with a new entry-level vehicle. The all new LR2 is trying to make its way to the top with a stylish exterior and luxurious interior while keeping the price tag under $35k.
It is fast and furious all over again, but this time domestic carmakers are taking the Japanese at their own game. While Chevy is putting a turbo under the hood of their Cobalt, Dodge is also turbo charging the Caliber by adding an SRT4 badge. The SRT4 starts at $23,000 for its 285 horses. It is definitely a deal that you don’t want to pass, at least if you can hang on to the torque happy steering wheel.
Toyota unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show the production version of the IQ Concept unveiled last year at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The IQ will go on sale late 2008, with production expected to be around 100,000 units during its first year.
The iQ delivers dynamism and stability despite its small size. It challenges conventional thinking through a design that is forward-looking, intelligent and energetic, while retaining clarity of purpose and function.
iQ is 2,985mm long and 1,500mm high. Its compact ingenuity lies in its comparatively long, 2,000mm wheelbase.
iQ will be offered with a choice of two petrol engines and one diesel. These, together with the compact design, low weight and aerodynamic shape of iQ, will contribute to outstanding fuel economy and exceptionally low CO2 emissions, which are anticipated to start at around 100g/km.
Press release after the jump.