Archive for October, 2012


Mercury Milan

Not to speak ill of the dead, but it seems that General Motors is doing just fine without Pontiac and Saturn, and it doesn’t look like Ford misses Mercury very much. In our hearts, we knew that the clock was ticking for all three of those marques, but it took the fallout of an economic catastrophe to really nail the coffins shut.

But from death comes life, and if life to you is a good deal on a used car, then look no further than the five we’ve got listed here. It seems that picking over the carcasses of the fallen can lead to ghoulishly good bargains—that is, of course, if you don’t mind the term “dead brand.”

2011 Mercury Milan Premier V6
Carmax Price Range: $15,599-$17,500
Even in life, Milan was a ghost. While everyone talked about (and purchased) the likable Ford Fusion, the mechanically identical Milan went unnoticed. And that’s a shame, because Milan was arguably better looking on the outside and subtly classier on the inside.

And the dead-brand impact on pricing? It seems that used Milans trade for slightly less than comparable same-year Fusions, despite Milan’s nominally enhanced standard equipment list and slightly more upscale trim. It’s a ghostly good deal.

Smart ForTwo

A Smart ForTwo pursues a Dodge Viper.

Smart ForTwo
It may look as cute as a trick-or-treater, but this car will give you the willies when you actually have to drive it. ForTwo needs 14.6 seconds to go from 0-60, which gives you just enough time to make out your will while merging onto the turnpike. (JK!) Actually, this car is solidly built (it has performed well in crash tests), but at 1,800-pounds it has the potential to be knocked around the highway like a pinball if whacked by an SUV. ForTwo is hard to keep composed at high speeds, and city drivers are cursed with a transmission that, according to Consumer Guide’s John Biel, “bogs down at every upshift as if it were a manual being driven by a beginner.”


2013 Chevrolet Camaro Hot Wheels Edition

Last year, Chevrolet and Mattel teamed up for a wild-green Camaro Hot Wheels  concept car. The idea was to take a full-size Camaro and make it look like one of Mattel’s Hot Wheels toy cars. You know, the little cars you can buy on a blister card at the local MegaLoMart.


Today’s automatic transmissions don’t provide the instantaneous burst of power that is sometimes needed—at yellow lights, for instance.

It used to be referred to as “tip-in acceleration”—those instances when you press the gas pedal either partway down or to the floor while already rolling in order to gain speed. Whether it’s to beat the light that just turned yellow or slip into an opening in fast-moving traffic, it’s something you want now rather than later.


2013 Ford Police Interceptor Sedan

So, we’ve checked out the Dodge Charger and Chevrolet Caprice PPV cop cars. . . . Now we round out our series of Johnny Law walk-arounds with a look at Ford’s police car. Actually, police car and police SUV. Ford offers both a Police Interceptor Sedan (based on the Ford Taurus) and a Police Interceptor Utility (based on the Ford Explorer, which was redesigned for 2011 on a platform shared with the Taurus).

LED new Chrome

Audi Q7 with LED marker lights

The other day I saw an Audi Q7 waiting for a left turn, and its flashing LEDs reminded me of a house decorated with Christmas lights. LEDs (light-emitting diodes) use less current than conventional light bulbs and last a long time. LEDs are well suited to automotive use, but like many good ideas, they can be taken too far.

1936 Cord 810 . . . if designed by General Motors

One of the most beautiful automobile designs of the 20th century, the 1936-37 Cord 810/812 was penned by Gordon Buehrig, the design chief for Auburn Cord Duesenberg. This was a clean-sheet-of-paper design, meaning that Gordon didn’t have to base his design on an existing frame or body shell.


2013 Nissan Altima

Note: This report supplements Consumer Guide Automotive’s full report on the 2013 Nissan Altima, a midsize sedan that starts at $21,500.

Test car came equipped with: carpeted floor and trunk mats as the sole factory option. Total MSRP with $780 destination charge = $28,745.

Powertrain: 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6, continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), front-wheel drive.

Acceleration: My colleagues give 4-cylinder Altima sedans a “6” for peppiness. I’d rate this V6 version at “7” or “8.” Our friends at Car and Driver clocked a 3.5 SV at 6.1 seconds 0-60 mph, which seems right to me.

I haven’t yet driven a 4-cylinder 2013 Altima, but I was really surprised by this V6/CVT version. I’ve never much liked belt-and-pulley transmissions, so I wasn’t expecting much from this one, yet it works as well as most conventional automatics. The torquey V6 plays a big role in that. Still, there was none of the noisy “speed lag” that occurs with most CVTs, which race the engine to high rpm and hold it there until momentum catches up or the driver backs off the throttle. Moreover, throttle response is satisfyingly quick, so you almost never want for passing thrust. I also like the manual mode with seven preset “gears,” selected from steering-wheel paddles. It’s hardly a new idea, but it is an unexpectedly sporty touch for a midsize family sedan. Better still, it works with mercury-switch speed and silkiness—better than some dual-clutch automated-manuals, in fact. Who knew?


2014 Jaguar F-Type

For Jaguar enthusiasts, the wait is over. At this fall’s Paris Motor Show, the British automaker unveiled a new 2-seat roadster. Finally.

Jaguar’s glory years were spearheaded by 2-seat sports cars. The marque’s postwar ascendancy was launched by the XK120 at the 1948 Earls Court Motor Show. The low-slung roadster was only meant to ramp up production of Jaguar’s revolutionary new dual-overhead camshaft engine before volume installation in sedans. Instead, the XK120 caused a sensation and spurred American export sales for Jaguar.

Jaguar didn’t expect the E-Type (or XKE in U.S. advertising) to be a volume model either, but its introduction at the 1961 Geneva Motor Show created an even bigger sensation than the XK120. The E-Type identified Jaguar in the Sixties—especially in America where they probably outsold sedans. Many years after it went out of production, the sporting glamour of the E-Type was still helping sell Jaguar sedans.

Jaguar has been slow to commit to an E-Type replacement—almost 40 years, in fact. Sports car prototypes were occasionally spotted and 2-seat concept cars made appearances at auto shows, but Jaguar built only sedans and 4-seat grand touring cars. The company claimed it had to concentrate on volume cars. Yet some would ask how could a marque whose reputation was built on sports cars afford not to build a sports car?

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