With a new decade on the horizon, the pickup truck segment is really beginning to heat up as this just might be the most competitive era for pickup trucks in many years. Ford’s redesigned F150, and soon to be released Ranger will be formidable competition, and with Dodge’s new RAM 1500 the US automakers have positioned themselves to compete for top spot. Chevrolet has a few potential significant players in the game as well, with the Colorado and Silverado. Both models have sportier trims to take on the F150 Raptor while also appealing to a market that desires capable off-road trucks that also have a rugged appearance. With all that being said, where does the completely redesigned Chevy Silverado fit in?
Some people have voiced their opinion about the new front end and that seems to get most of the attention, while the minor details go unnoticed. Before getting into why I believe Chevy didn’t abandon their heritage, there is one aspect of the Silverado’s appearance that does raise eyebrows. When looking at the pickup truck from the side profile, it no longer sports the traditional square wheel arches, and instead Chevy decided to go with a look that’s right in line with competitors in the Silverado’s class.
From an appearance standpoint as a whole, my opinion is that Chevy is basically saying. “2020 is almost here, but we’re not changing who we are to appeal to the same consumers who would rather purchase a Ford F150 or Dodge Ram 1500. Our loyal customers come first, and the slight improvements we’ve made further suits their lifestyle and daily activities”.
The reason why I say this is not only because the Silverado is the first pickup truck to have a power tailgate that goes both up and down, but they added seven additional inches in the bed of the truck while also adding three inches of space in the rear of the cab. If that wasn’t enough, in the bed of the Silverado there’s 12 anchor points with an option to add nine additional anchors to tie down whatever is being carried. This truck was built for contractors, farmers, or anyone who works outdoors for a living. It’s a pickup for the hardworking American, which is something Chevrolet has always prided themselves on and they didn’t fully buy into the trend of producing a Raptor-like pickup that looks great on the road but will never be used for it’s intended purposes.
The Silverado I spent a few hours with was a base model LT with very few features. The base LT does get a new touchscreen that’s very responsive, along with dual zone climate control and heated seats. There’s other trims as well including the Trail Boss and High Country that’s going to add more of an off-road look for the former, and luxury appeal for the latter. The configurator for the 2019 model year isn’t up yet, so pricing and optional packages still haven’t been determined which I find odd considering that the new Silverado is already arriving at dealerships.
Here’s our full review of the 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 LT. We’ll go more in-depth on this pickup truck, while also taking it out for a quick test drive.
The year 2020 is on the horizon and for many, the compact car is an afterthought due to the high demand in crossover SUV’s. Ford has decided to no longer make sedans or hatchbacks and instead focus solely on crossovers and pickup trucks, which some believe is the growing sentiment in the automotive industry and the type of future that consumers will soon have to face. However, there’s brands like Chevrolet, Toyota, and Honda who are still committed to cars and have no intention of ending successful models for the sake of following a growing trend in the market. Then you have Kia who releases the all new Stinger which became an immediate hit, and now they hope the completely redesigned Forte shares the same success.
Remember the days when compact cars were purchased for being economical, whether that be for fuel efficiency or affordability? Now cars like the Kia Forte EX bring much more than just an appealing sticker price and good fuel economy; they also offer some comfort features that even 5-10 years ago would be considered a dream to have in a car aimed at young and first time buyers. Features like heated and ventilated front seats, Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility, a touchscreen with a navigation system, and rear backup camera with trajectory can be found on the EX trim of the Forte.
What some in the automotive industry are speculating is that with less competition in the compact car and sedan segments, manufacturers can spend much more time on the smaller details. Cars like the Kia Forte and Ford Focus were at one time cheap cars that got good gas mileage with no expectations of having any sense of entry level luxury. The 2019 Forte is certainly nowhere near a luxury car, but for around $27k to get that many tech features, including wireless phone charging, compact cars have come a long way since 2000.
This begins to raise the question whether the sedan and compact cars really are dead or on the way out. Over the last 30 years there have been major swings in consumer behavior, sometimes being due to the economical climate in the United States. We’ve seen big cars get phased out for a while, we’ve seen the rise and fall of the large SUV which is slowly making a return, the almost near death of mini-vans, and the re-introduction of a station wagon in Buick’s lineup for the first time since the mid 90’s. The pendulum swing is inevitable as people in general want to be different than their neighbors, so at this point it’s just a waiting game to see when momentum shifts in a new direction.
In the meantime, compact cars are silently being improved, offering affordability and tech features along with the pre-existing practicality that should appeal to younger buyers. Working in the 2019 Forte’s favor is the bold and aggressive appearance that sports similar design cues to the Kia Stinger. While the Forte’s small 2 liter four cylinder engine only gets 147 hp and the lack of AWD may not give you the Stinger feel, you’re going to have a car that is sleeker than most in its class. The weak spot the Forte has is the CVT. Kia has said it’s not a traditional CVT and they’ve worked on making it mimic shifts you’d experience in an automatic, but the engine drone isn’t appealing to hear when accelerating. However, the Forte does come with three different driving modes, and when put into sport mode, the transmission does shift faster which certainly limits the drone you’ll experience.
There has been speculation of an SX trim that should bring more horsepower and hopefully a different transmission, but so far there hasn’t been any news, which is to be expected as the 2019 model year is beginning to hit showrooms now.
Inside, the heated and ventilated seats unfortunately aren’t real leather, but that shouldn’t be expected in a car in this particular segment. To have ventilation is an eye opener because that isn’t a feature that’s common in most compact cars heading into 2019. Some of the interior design does resemble Mazda, especially with the touchscreen no longer being integrated into the center console, and is now higher up towards the dashboard. For the instrument panel you’ll get both analog gauges and a digital information display that’s becoming widespread across all vehicles in every segment.
As technology continues to trickle down to more affordable vehicles like the Kia Forte, these cars then become more appealing. The only negatives that compact cars are facing is the lack of versatility and AWD. The Forte only gets about 18 cubic ft of cargo room while crossovers will provide more room and AWD, which consumers then perceive the smaller cars are providing much less value. As mentioned before, the current US economy supports the decision for car buyers to go bigger with crossovers, and no matter what direction the stock market goes in by the beginning on next decade, consumer behavior will inevitably change. To some degree, their purchasing decisions might be affected by what their friends and neighbors are doing and clearly that’s what happened with crossovers.
Is there still a future for compact cars and sedans? Some car brands believe so, and without competition from rival manufacturers, they can continue to improve these vehicles making them enticing to consumers of all ages. Now the only question is, how long must we wait before cars have everything we want, from performance to practicality. That day may not come at all, but brands like Kia aren’t throwing in the towel just yet.
It appears the cool thing to do in 2018, or really ever since the Maserati Ghibli and Levante hit showrooms, is to find a way to critique or bash the vehicles for interior and overall design quality. While I have reviewed a 2014 Ghibli in the past and was disappointed after years of building an expectation that never met reality, I can honestly say that is not the case for the Maserati Levante. In fact, I’m going to argue that it’s the complete opposite, especially for the 2018 model year. I can already see the eye rolls, but the Levante is one vehicle that you have to test drive and experience for yourself, rather than just parroting what a car reviewer is spewing on YouTube.
When the Levante hit the market back in 2016, there were a few flaws that would later be corrected. One being for the base model that front and rear parking sensors did not come standard, which was one major complaint especially when you’re paying more than $70k for a luxury crossover. Next would be that if you wanted to shift into reverse, the Levante would refuse to do so, and instead would shift into drive or park. This is something I didn’t encounter during my time with the 2018 model, and speaking of the current model year, front and rear parking sensors do come standard for all trims of the Levante.
Having read and watched many reviews prior to spending time with the sports crossover, there was a level of low expectations, and in the back of my mind I’m thinking this might turn out to be the Ghibli all over again. The minute I stepped inside and put the Levante in sport mode, that’s when everything changed. To drive a crossover that not only sounded like a sports car, but handled and drove like a luxury crossover immediately put a smile on my face. Where critics do give the Levante favorable ratings is the driving experience, and for good reason as your time behind the wheel isn’t boring and mundane like other vehicles in this segment.
The Levante I was testing was a fully specced $106k S GranLusso that came with Zegna silk and leather seats. They were some of the most comfortable bucket seats I’ve ever sat in, which certainly helped make the drive memorable. For a larger crossover, the Levante handled impressively well, and in tighter corners felt glued to the roads with very little, if any body roll. The gear shifts were almost instantaneous when using the paddle shifters, and for the first time, a test drive in a crossover was actually fun.
Obviously being an FCA product, the same infotainment system that can be found in a Chrysler was in the Levante. What I’ve never really understood was why this was that big of a problem, as Apple Car Play and Android Auto are offered, you get navigation, and you’ll also receive Sirius XM Radio and Travel Link. The one valid critique is that to access the heated and ventilated front seats there’s no button in the center console and instead to turn that feature on and off you have to use the touchscreen.
The smaller touches that can be seen in Dodge products is another problem most people have with the vehicle, but it’s something you begin to overlook when getting behind the wheel. That’s where Maserati may have the edge on competitors. The driving experience is nothing like other luxury crossovers from German automakers because you feel more engaged, and when the valves open in sport mode it will be irresistible to just drop a gear and leave the car that’s in the rearview mirror far behind you. The V6 engine that comes with 424 hp is going to surprise a few of your fellow commuters, and whether you want to have fun or go for a leisurely cruise on backroads, the different driving modes are suitable for either style of driving.
Pricing is one of the larger issues consumers have with the Levante, which is certainly a valid point. As a certified pre-owned crossover after the initial hit of the depreciation, the Levante then becomes a potential sought after vehicle that could be the better option for buyers in this segment.
Overall, Maserati’s first crossover isn’t a bad vehicle. Does it have flaws? Absolutely, but it’s nowhere near disappointing and if you can deal with the FCA infotainment system, you’re going to have one of the best sounding crossovers on the road today.
Here’s the full review for the 2018 Maserati Levante S GranLusso. Is it worth the price and a vehicle that should garner more respect in the automotive community? That’s up to the consumer and the individual.
It’s 1996 and you’re sitting in your living room watching the Olympics. During a commercial break, BMW’s award winning commercial for their redesigned BMW 5 Series shows the streets of New York City flooded with water, but most notably boats floating up and down city streets with the E39 540i navigating its way trough maritime traffic. It’s possible that at this point in time, the viewers who saw this commercial that summer had no idea of the ramifications the 5 Series would have on the automotive industry, while also ushering in an era of European luxury cars dominating the market.
Before dissecting this commercial and then fast forwarding to the present day, 1996 was a year of transition for the American auto market. Japanese manufacturers like Toyota and Honda are continuing to grab market share away from Ford, GM, and Chrysler due to their cheaper and practical cars, which is creating a seismic shift in consumer behavior as even in the mid 90’s, Americans were still loyal to auto manufacturers based in Detroit. As history tells us 20 years later, this transition will continue at a rapid pace leading to Toyota and Honda becoming prominent brands in the US Market.
It’s in this same year that BMW, Mercedes Benz, and Porsche unleash two seater convertibles: the Z3, SLK Class, and the Boxster. The Z3, already receiving notoriety after being featured in the James Bond movie “GoldenEye”, arrives at BMW showrooms shortly after the release of the movie. The Porsche Boxster will soon play a significant role in the German brand’s emergence in the US, and is just one of the few surprises Porsche is going to release within the next 10 years. The Mercedes Benz SLK is often the forgotten one out of the three, mostly due to the Z3 getting the spotlight, but also by the new millennium the redesigned SL is going to take center stage, overshadowing the SLK’s existence.
However, there’s still one segment Ford and GM own with a tight grip, and that’s the luxury sedan market. Lincoln, Mercury, Cadillac, Oldsmobile, and Chrysler (to an extent) are the old giants that stand in the way, and BMW is ready to accept the challenge with their E39 5 Series.
Back to analyzing the commercial, the boats signify the American luxury cars of the day. We can joke about the modern day Challenger being a boat, but the Lincoln Town Car and Continental, Mercury Grand Marquis, Cadillac Deville and Fleetwood were all bigger cars with boxy exteriors. Seeing the BMW weave through traffic with ease was meant to show it’s maneuverability, and not be a huge car that couldn’t get out of its own way. The last statement made in that commercial was, “Why float through life, when you can drive?”. This would resonate with younger consumers who really had a limited selection of luxury cars to choose from, especially if they didn’t want to drive cars their grandparents and aging parents owned.
The E39 540i/M5 wasn’t just a four door performance car that even today we marvel at, but the E39 in general was a luxury sedan that would reshape the automotive industry forever. In 1996, Mercedes Benz and Audi hadn’t found their way yet, but they too would be emboldened to compete with BMW by the end of the decade. This would then lead us to almost 18 years of competition between the German brands, which eventually dragged Jaguar, Maserati, and Volvo into the mix by 2014. But I’m getting way ahead of myself.
The 540i that was shown in that commercial was priced at $50k, but the 5 Series in 1996 had a base price of around $38k which was right in line with American luxury sedans. While the US economy was very different 22 years ago, the slow progression to European luxury cars dominating the market can easily be attributed to the E39 5 Series, and it was the beginning of bigger and better vehicles from Germany that would continue to put nails in the coffin of American automotive giants that ruled for over 60 years.
Too often we look at the E39 from a performance aspect, and some believe that the Chevrolet SS is the only car since 1996 that most resembles the E39 5 Series. However, when it comes to defining a luxury sedan, that’s where BMW reshaped an entire segment. Luxury cars in the 90’s were boats, much like their predecessors before them. While cars were slowly downsizing, the E39 accelerated the change by not only being smaller than a Lincoln or Cadillac, but also being sporty. If we walk into dealership showrooms today, luxury cars come with optional sports appearance packages and engines putting out impressive horsepower numbers. It wouldn’t be a stretch to go back 20 years and attribute that to the 540i.
Indirectly, the success of the 5 Series kickstarted the beginning of an arms race between the German auto manufacturers which then got the rest of Europe involved by the late 2000’s to early 2010’s. Mercedes Benz and Audi started producing sleek cars to compete against BMW, Jaguar then replaces the S-Type with the XF and later the XE enters showrooms, Maserati releases the Ghibli, Alfa Romeo reemerges in the US with the Giulia, and now under the ownership of Geely, Volvo is ready to be a legitimate threat to German manufacturers with a very impressive redesigned S60.
Jaguar, Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and Volvo were really niche brands, and even today they still are to an extent. I’m not going to downplay the effect crossovers have had on these brands, which is a story for another day as BMW and Mercedes Benz could be the patriarchs of a luxury SUV craze that swept through an entire industry with the X5 and ML Class hitting the market in 1998-1999. However, the E39 has certainly played a role, whether directly or indirectly, in the decision to produce four door sports cars that also have luxury car qualities, and the Audi B9 S4 is the perfect example of that.
At the end of the day, no matter which car you want to pinpoint as the culprit for the modern day four door luxury sedan, the E39 5 Series challenged the status quo, making luxury cool for younger consumers and not just a vehicle for aging Americans 65 and older. The performance side of the 540i/M5 certainly helped grab attention from drivers who wanted an exhilarating and engaging driving experience. This car’s massive impact on the automotive industry shouldn’t be overlooked, and as car enthusiasts who now have a variety of luxury sports sedans to choose from, we owe that to the E39 5 Series.
Since 2011 the Volkswagen Passat’s design hasn’t changed much, and while some might consider the appearance, both inside and out, a bit outdated, at least VW continues to offer a V6 engine. In a time when turbocharged four cylinder engines dominate the mid-size sedan market, there’s very few that come with a traditional V6. The closest competitor that comes to mind is the Toyota Camry XSE; a car that boasts a 301 hp V6 engine. Despite slightly less horsepower, the Passat GT undercuts the Camry in price by $6k – $9k, giving consumers an affordable option if the four cylinder Passat and Jetta just isn’t enough.
For performance, the 2018 Passat GT comes with a 3.6L VR6 engine that gets 280 hp and 258 lb ft of torque, and is paired with a 6 speed dual clutch automatic transmission. A 0-60 time of 5.8 seconds is right in line with the Toyota Camry XSE, Honda Accord Sport 2.0, and Chevy Malibu Premier 2.0. Some of the slight differences compared to the other Passat trims is that the GT is lowered by 0.6 inches and gets 19 inch Tornado design wheels. It also comes with the more aggressive R-Line front and rear bumpers, black roof, black mirror caps, and two-tone leatherette seats with contrast stitching. A GTI-inspired front grille will set the GT apart from other Passats, and when combining that full appearance package with LED front headlights and tail lights, the Passat looks more refined and sporty.
Volkswagen has marketed the V6 GT as an “American-born Sports Sedan”, which has led automotive journalists to test out cornering, straight-line performance, and braking in their reviews of the car. While VW has stiffened the suspension on the GT, it’s not a sports sedan, which is perfectly ok. I think many have misinterpreted or completely missed the point of the V6 GT, and instead of looking at it as a competitor to a Dodge Charger or any other sports sedans on the market today, it’s a step up from the four cylinder Passat, and may even be perceived as a more grownup VW GTI.
From the appearance alone, the GT trim has some design cues from the GTI and I can’t help but feel that Volkswagen is indirectly trying to appeal to the GTI owners who are ready to move on from the hatchback. The GTI is often associated with younger car enthusiasts who most likely don’t have a family of their own yet, but for those who do, it might be time to size up and that’s where the Passat GT comes into play. Let’s be honest, on a Saturday afternoon you most likely aren’t taking a Passat to the track, which is why this car fills the role of being a mid-size sedan you can have some fun in, while also being a good daily driver. On the other hand, Volkswagen has gone all in on the R-Line, which is why it could also be possible that introducing the Passat to a more sporty appearance is part of the plan to provide a whole new look to all models in the VW lineup.
Stepping inside you’re greeted by 8 way power adjustable heated two-toned leatherette seats. You’ll find faux carbon fiber trim on the dashboard, which I personally think is a nice touch. My only complaint, and a lot of this has to do with my time in the redesigned 2019 Volkswagen Jetta SEL Premium, is that there’s no digital information display. But again the GT is only an additional $2k more, so the upgrade in size and horsepower evenly balances out the downgrade in technology available and that’s something I could live with. You’ll get a 6.3 inch touchscreen with Apple Car Play and Android Auto compatibility, and it’s a very straight forward system to use.
In the back, passengers will get a lot of legroom as the Passat is one of the leaders in its segment in this category. For rear cargo space you’ll get 16 cubic ft of cargo room.
Some of the safety features that come standard on the Passat GT is a rear backup camera, blindspot monitoring, Forward Collision Warning and Autonomous Emergency Braking.
Overall the Volkswagen Passat V6 GT is a product of it’s time. With Toyota going more sporty with the Camry XSE and Honda having the Accord 2.0 Sport, VW had to respond to the growing trend in sport oriented mid-size sedans. We could debate for a while on whether the GT is the grownup GTI and whether that was even Volkswagen’s intention, but when a brand adds a sports appearance package that’s reminiscent of a popular model in the lineup and combines that with a V6 engine that could certainly grab the attention of maturing car enthusiasts, it’s definitely something worth noting.
Also with an aging design, Volkswagen had to bring something new to the table. Keep in mind, the all new Arteon will be hitting showrooms sometime in the fall, and seeing that VW is pushing the R-Line appearance package on the Passat and Jetta, the GT could be a sign of things to come for all models in the lineup from the German automaker.
Ask most car enthusiasts what their dream cars are, and a majority of them will answer with Lamborghini, Ferrari, or McLaren. These exotics are the driving force for many people to pursue endeavors and to push themselves to greater heights. On the path to success, sometimes the Ferrari has to wait, but that doesn’t mean you have to settle or feel discouraged. The Chevrolet Corvette C7 Z51 is the exotic that has a similar price tag to a new Audi A4 and will give you the same enjoyment and smiles as any $100k+ Italian exotic.
Priced around $50k for a used Z51 and a price tag of just over $60k for a 2019 model, you’ll get a 6.2L V8 engine that gets 460 hp and 465 lb ft of torque that is paired with your choice of a manual or automatic transmission. A 0-60 time of 3.8 seconds will certainly keep up with other high performance cars on the road, and if you’re on a cruise with a great group of friends you won’t be getting left behind.
What is it about the Chevrolet Corvette that sets it apart from the Dodge Challenger Hellcat, Chevy Camaro, and Ford Mustang? It could be argued that in this day and age, 460 hp is nothing special, especially when the Hellcat comes with 707 hp. The C7 generation has brought exotic styling that right now is unmatched by other American auto manufactures, as the Dodge Viper is no longer in production and the Ford GT is far too expensive for the average consumer. While the Z06 has almost 200 more horsepower than the Z51, it’s the price that may be a stretch for most car enthusiasts, but the Z51 is that perfect balance that allows anyone to get behind the wheel of a car that can perform at supercar levels.
Chevrolet has always preserved it’s heritage with the Corvette, no matter how many changes they’ve made over the years. The Corvette is still the symbol of an American muscle car that any hard working American can step inside and have fun the minute they take to the streets. I’ve always felt that out of the muscle cars, the Corvette was the classy choice for a middle aged adult, but the C7 design has brought much more to the table that now appeals to a generation that is obsessed with exotics.
Adding to that appeal, the Z51 can be customized with Z06 appearance packages, and unless the people you drive by are knowledgeable about cars, from far away it could easily be mistaken for a Z06. Out of the box, the stock exhaust that comes with the Z51 sounds absolutely incredible. A few years ago SaabKyle filmed a Pure Sound video for the 2016 Chevrolet Corvette Z51, and if those 10 minutes don’t sell you, nothing will.
In an era of high horsepower numbers and exotic cars with striking looks that turn heads, the Corvette brings both and won’t clean out your entire bank account. In my eyes, the C7 is the last remaining american muscle car that in terms of looks, fits right in when cruising with Ferrari’s, Lamborghini’s and McLaren’s. Even better, it’s significantly cheaper, making the Z51 the perfect car to introduce you to high performance exotics.
The lifecycle of the C7 Corvette is coming to a close, but in a few decades, we will look back on this car as being a classic from our generation. Chevrolet got it right, and whether you own one today or 20 years from now, this car will always look great!
For many car enthusiasts like myself, finding the perfect car can be extremely challenging. You want something cool and fast that will turn heads, but for some, you also have to be practical and live within your means. This is a problem many of us face, as you may have to compromise and try finding a perfect balance where you can have fun but also have a car that can be daily driven year round. Of course, this means cars that were once on your radar have been eliminated, and now it comes down to finding the best option available.
The Volkswagen GTI, whether you’re in the market for a new or used vehicle, is one of the best examples of a car that satisfies the needs of enthusiasts, but is also functional for everyday use. Here’s 5 reasons why the Volkswagen GTI is the perfect car for enthusiasts looking to join a car scene while also having a daily driver.
If you’re living on a budget, you’re most likely not going to be that guy who has more than one vehicle in his garage, so focusing on sports cars that are great for car season but not the winter certainly isn’t an option. You’ll also probably be looking for something with a decent amount of cargo room and maybe even a car that’s fuel efficient. The Volkswagen GTI checks off all the boxes for practicality, as 25 mpg in the city and 33 mpg on the highway is going to keep you away from the pump when traveling to car events or cruising on the weekends with a group of friends.
For rear cargo space, you’ll initially get 17 cubic ft of cargo room, but your max volume capacity is 54 cubic ft, which is one of advantages of going with a hatchback. When speaking of a daily driver, the GTI functions as a normal compact car and in the winter, a good set of winter tires will get you through even the worst New England snowstorms.
The GTI is one of those cars that’s affordable both new or used. For a base model 2018 GTI S you’re looking at a price tag of around $26k-$28k. If you’re like me, you’re probably leaning more towards certified used unless you have every intention of modifying your car that could void your warranty depending on what you have in mind. The sweet spot for used seems to be in the $15k-$19k range.
Gets You Into Car Events
Obviously, one of the points in buying a sports or performance car is to become part of the community. A concern some new members may have is whether their car is unique enough to get in. What’s interesting about the Volkswagen GTI is that even when fully stock, it’s welcomed with open arms, and that’s because of the admiration many enthusiasts have for the hatchback, which is something we’ll get into in a minute. So if you don’t have any initial plans to modify the GTI as soon as you get your hands on one, you’re not going to be rejected when showing up to a local event.
Enthusiastic Group of Owners
When looking for the vehicle that will introduce you to the car scene, one aspect that often gets overlooked is the sub community that is created by a very enthusiastic group of owners for a particular model or brand. Some cars more than others have a great community that helps each other out, offers advice on modifications both esthetically and performance, and also hosts their own events that’s based on the cars they own.
The Volkswagen GTI has some of the most passionate owners I’ve ever met, and what’s great about this hatchback is that there’s a variety of mods that can be done to make your car perform and look better. Having a great group of fellow owners around you or even in a Facebook group page is going to give you ideas on how to make your GTI unique.
For the 2015 model year, Volkswagen began offering 210 hp and 220 hp turbocharged four cylinder engines that come with an eye opening 258 lb ft of torque which is a significant increase from the MK6 generation. The MK7 also has a lot of potential through modifications, which could make the GTI a sleeper to an unsuspecting driver you pass by on the highway. Even at completely stock, you won’t be get left behind by other cars in your class, unless they have performance upgrades.
For almost the past 20 years, Toyota has been looked upon as being the reliable, safe, and least fun brand in the automotive industry. Appealing to the average consumer rather than giving at least some attention to car enthusiasts can either be seen as smart from a business perspective, or a mistake by not creating an excitement that would extend to all car buyers. From an enthusiast’s perspective, utter the word “Toyota”, and there’s two cars that come to mind. The Supra and the Prius. Vehicles from two different extremes and eras, marked as either a car most recognized from Fast and Furious, or the hybrid that’s the bane of car lovers existences.
Toyota has made attempts through commercials the past three years to seem more exciting, as they released an ad for the Camry where two brothers are racing on the streets of Monaco. At the time, it didn’t make any sense why a brand that’s not recognized as being race oriented in the United States outside of Nascar, would try to change the direction of a brand despite the vehicles being no different than their predecessors. That all changed late last year with the introduction of the 2018 Toyota Camry XSE, and since then the brand that brought us the Supra and MR2 seems to be heading into 2020 with the potential of being a very fun and exciting automotive manufacturer once again.
Starting with the Camry XSE, Toyota surprisingly stuck with a V6 engine that gets 301 hp instead of following rival brands who are moving in the direction of turbocharged 4 cylinder engines. The XSE trim also comes with an optional two-toned exterior and red sports seats, which just feels really out of character for a Toyota vehicle. The only drawback is that fully loaded, the Camry’s price is around $40k, which many consumers have voiced their discontent as they believe it’s too high of a cost.
Around the same time the new Camry was hitting showrooms, Toyota added the GT86 to the brand, which was formally known as the Scion FR-S. A small coupe that has a cult following, it’s actually a fun and attainable car for young enthusiasts, and adding to the appeal is the list of aftermarket parts and modifications that can be done to the GT86 to enhance performance and appearance. Honestly, this little coupe is a throwback to what JDM culture was all about in the 90’s. I would never go as far to say that it’s this decade’s Honda Civic, but the GT86 does give you that sense of being a pure Japanese compact sports coupe.
Back in late March at the New York Auto Show, Toyota unveiled the all new Corolla hatchback which will come with an optional manual transmission. At this point, their vision for the next few years is becoming more clear as boring may no longer be an adjective associated with the brand. A few minutes later, the re-designed RAV4 was also unveiled and that’s when the energy in the room was lifted to a whole new level.
The new RAV4 is much more rugged than last generation, taking on the appearance of the Highlander, which was a very smart move by Toyota. For 2018 and beyond, crossovers are no longer just a family vehicle as the automotive industry is moving towards bringing either sporty or off-road elements to a segment that is actually quite bland. Toyota decided to go with more of the off-road look, which is a jab at Jeep. They’re also setting themselves apart from Ford, GM, and Honda who really haven’t drastically changed the styling of their crossovers. While it could be perceived as a major risk, Toyota could certainly be a legitimate player in stealing market share from rival brands in the crossover segment.
Lastly we have the long awaited arrival of the Toyota Supra which details have been leaked pertaining to performance and pricing. The new Supra is rumored to get a turbocharged inline 6 that gets 335 hp and 369 lb ft of torque, with a 0-60 time of around 4.5 seconds. Unfortunately as we all feared, it’s not going to be cheap. From the leaks, a starting price of $63,500 is to be expected. We won’t find out for sure until the 2019 Detroit Auto Show, but to know that the Supra is making a return is definitely something to look forward to.
The last 10-12 months for Toyota has certainly been exciting. Unfolding in front of our eyes the emergence of an auto brand that was once looked at as being dull or not cool to now being rather interesting and also a bit of a mystery. What is Toyota’s long term vision and plan? Is sports cars something we can expect from the brand moving forward, or is this a five year window of hope and change but then will fizzle out by the time we get closer to 2025? There’s so many questions that haven’t yet been answered, but for the time being, let’s take in the complete shift in culture at Toyota and enjoy every minute of it.
With the recent announcement that Ford will cut the Taurus, Fusion, and Fiesta from their lineup starting in 2020 to focus more on crossovers and SUV’s, the direction of the automotive industry is becoming clearer. In the last 2 to 3 years, car brands have continued to grow their crossover lineups while transitioning to emerging segments such as the gran coupe and sportback. Despite the negative feedback that Honda has received with the redesigned Accord, it’s apparent that even in failure, automakers are experimenting with new designs that maximizes overall practicality when it comes to four door sedans.
Honda’s risk taking may have been too much for their consumers, but Kia is reaping the benefits of the all new Stinger. In the few short months since its arrival to car dealerships, The Stinger outsold the Audi A5/S5 Sportback and BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. This segment has continued to grow which is slowly beginning to influence car brands to start adding sportbacks to their lineups. If the all new Mercedes Benz AMG GT63S isn’t enough proof that gran coupes and sportbacks are the future of four door cars, maybe the Porsche Panamera or Audi RS5 Sportback is.
When did this all begin? It’s a question that many have begun to ask themselves, and it’s difficult to pinpoint an exact timeframe when sedans were slowly getting phased out. This goes far beyond the emergence of crossovers, as 2018 is seeing a resurgence in station wagons. The Buick Regal TourX was one vehicle that certainly raised eyebrows, as it’s the first station wagon in a GM lineup in two decades. Volvo’s V90 and V60 along with Jaguar’s XF S Sportbrake and Mercedes Benz E-Class Wagon are bringing luxury and performance to the segment, and at the same time are offering an alternative to crossovers.
Then there’s the hatchbacks. Toyota’s all new Corolla hatchback impressed many at the New York Auto Show when it was unveiled in late March. Chevrolet added a hatchback variant for the Cruze which is already in dealership’s showrooms. The Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf and GTI are hot sellers, which also offer performance trims to appeal to a younger market. These vehicles add practicality and styling, making compact sedans almost obsolete.
Lastly we have the newest trend and segment, which is the compact crossover. This includes the all new Hyundai Kona and Volvo XC40. They’re bigger than compact sedans, have more cargo room, and are more practical. When it comes to sedans they’re getting hit from all angles, not just from crossovers, so fingers can’t be pointed in one direction.
When taking a step back, it does appear that we’re seeing the slow demise of the traditional four door sedan. However, there are many car brands that haven’t made any plans to go in the same direction as Ford, at least for the time being.
Before getting too somber or overreacting to the changes we’re seeing in the automotive world, there’s been highs and lows throughout the last 30-40 years. Large American cars were replaced by small imports and German luxury vehicles in the 90’s and when the recession hit in 2008, SUV’s were dealt a difficult blow. Now with a stable economy, consumers are gravitating towards crossovers that provide practicality, but are not necessarily the most economical. Everything happens in waves and trends. Station wagons were once cool in the United States and then disappeared for a while. Sedans may be going through the same situation.
If there’s any silver lining at the end of the day, car brands are offering performance crossovers. Twenty years ago consumers would trade in their sports cars for minivans and SUVs when they started having families, which ended the days of having fun behind the wheel. With the Porsche Macan, Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrofolio and Maserati Levante, you can still be cool even at the drop off line at your children’s school.
I’m never one to get caught up in the slight upgrades, face lifts, and body designs when it comes to comparing consumer vehicles, but for the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe I’ve been hooked since it’s arrival to showrooms. In an automotive segment that has seen an increase in competition, the gran coupe/sportback is without a doubt the most interesting market for 2018. BMW made the first move with the 4 Series Gran Coupe, shortly after Audi followed suit with the A5 Sportback, and then Kia comes out of nowhere with the Stinger which has taken the segment by storm, outselling their competition in a few short months.
Despite Audi’s recent unveiling of the all new RS5 Sportback at the New York Auto Show and the Kia Stinger GT which offers a twin turbo V6 engine that gets 365 hp, the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe continues to grab my attention. While it may be outperformed on the track or in a straight line by the quicker S5 Sportback and Stinger GT, the Gran Coupe provides style, luxury, and class that I can’t ignore.
When parking it next to a BMW 3 Series, the minor changes in the front facia are enough to make a big difference. It has the front end of a 4 Series coupe, and when walking around the side of the vehicle, the sloping sportback design cues makes the car look so much better. Recently, a friend received a 430i Gran Coupe loaner vehicle, and no matter what angle we were standing at, the car still looked good.
Personally, it’s not about the performance or even the style that I find appealing. It’s the fact that the 4 Series is a viable option if the 3 Series isn’t enough car for your tastes. For instance, the 330i sedan and 430i Gran Coupe overlap in price point, and if you’re willing to sacrifice a few optional features then the Gran Coupe comes into play for your next vehicle. For the same price tag, choosing the Gran Coupe will increase cargo volume and overall interior space which gives it a more than entry level luxury feel, and that’s what I believe BMW is trying to achieve here.
There’s no difference in fuel economy or engine size so you’re not sacrificing anything in terms of practicality. Optional features and packages however are a different story. The 430i Gran Coupe offers the Track Handling Package which provides Variable Sports Steering, M Sport Brakes, and Adaptive Sports Suspension, along with the ability to upgrade to 19″ wheels with all-season or performance run-flat tires. Additional safety features includes the optional side and top view cameras to aid in parking. It’s these small things that really make the Gran Coupe more appealing, especially since it’s in the same price range as the 330i. To receive any of these features on the 3 Series, you’ll have to upgrade to the 340i, and with that being said, we would then have to start looking at the 440i Gran Coupe as well.
For car enthusiasts, the 340i would probably be the better option because of the optional 6 speed manual transmission. However, the Gran Coupe would get additional points for luxury and class, and obviously consumers looking for comfort and additional size would gravitate more towards the 4 Series.
When it comes to performance, you’ll get 248 hp with the 430i and 320 hp on the 440i. Again, the Gran Coupe won’t be taking on the S5 Sportback or Stinger GT in a race, but if horsepower isn’t a priority you’ll still have fun behind the wheel of the 4 Series. One thing to remember is that for the time being, the Gran Coupe doesn’t have an M variant, whereas the 4 Series coupe and 3 Series do. BMW isn’t trying to take on Audi or Kia in this particular segment, and instead is focusing more on the comfort and driving experience for consumers.
Overall, what competitors are putting on dealerships’ lots doesn’t effect my thoughts, good or bad pertaining to the 4 Series Gran Coupe. As a daily driver, it offers everything consumers are looking for. Having driven the Audi A5 Sportback recently, I wasn’t overly impressed despite being a fan of the updated interior from a few years ago that was first present on the Q7 and A4.
From a car enthusiast’s perspective, of course there’s better options out there, and in the $50k price range the Kia Stinger GT would certainly be my pick because of what you’re getting for the price. On paper, you’re making sacrifices on both sides, but at this point it comes down to personal preference. No matter what the decision is, there will always be that one person who will say, “But for this price, you could have bought (insert competitor model)”.
At the end of the day it’s not what your gaining or losing, it’s what fits your daily lifestyle. For me, the BMW 430i Gran Coupe provides more than the 330i with additional safety and technology features, it looks great, and has unannounced and subtle performance that will allow me to enjoy my driving experience behind the wheel.