Archive for February, 2013
The 2013 Ram 1500 won a slew of major honors, including a Consumer Guide Automotive Best Buy Award as the premier vehicle in the large pickup truck class. Yet Chrysler officials are refusing to rest on their laurels. Today, they announced that the 2014 Ram 1500 will become the first light-duty pickup truck in a generation with a diesel engine: the new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel, which will be mated with the 8-speed TorqueFlite automatic transmission.
At the 2013 Chicago Auto Show, I was fortunate to talk with Andy Goss, president of Jaguar Land Rover North America. Jaguar has a stronger lineup this year, as all-wheel drive and fuel-efficient V6 engines are newly available on its sedans. The addition of the 2014 F-Type roadster later this year will strengthen Jaguar’s line even further. The F-Type is Jaguar’s first true 2-seater sports car since the legendary E-Type of the 1960s and ’70s. (The XJ220 supercar was too expensive and rare to count as a regular production car.) The E-Type spearheaded Jaguar’s U.S. sales in the ’60s, and Jaguar officials hope that the F-Type will repeat that role.
Here is what Andy Goss had to say:
On the F-Type’s importance to the Jaguar line today and to the E-Type heritage: “The F-Type will be the emotional fulcrum of the Jaguar brand. Not in numbers, but in passion and emotion. The E-type will be featured in F-Type promotion, but Jaguar will not overplay the E-Type heritage. The F-Type is more modern and can stand on its own merits. Jaguar was rejuvenated when Ian Callum became design director. Callum acknowledges Jaguar’s bloodlines, but does not mimic past models.”
The price cap here is absolutely necessary. Virtually every new car from Aston Martin and Ferrari is a stunner, and the Audi R8 leaves me weak-kneed. But once we descend into the world of the sub-exotic, things are much less clear.
At the 2013 Chicago Auto Show, Chrysler Group displayed its fourth Mopar Edition. This year, Mopar goes after the tuner crowd with a lowered, customized version of the compact Dodge Dart.
Ford Motor Company is showing off its commitment to high-performance compact and subcompact cars by displaying a new Fiesta ST RallyCross race car and the Focus TrackSTer, a one-off custom Focus ST, during the press days of the 2013 Chicago Auto Show.
Kia unveiled a concept vehicle at the 2013 Chicago Auto show called the Cross GT. Similar in stature to the Kia Sorento midsize SUV, the Cross GT concept is a larger-size crossover that may indicate Kia’s intentions to offer a bigger and more premium-scale SUV. Based on Kia’s GT concept that debuted in 2011, the Cross GT has a longer wheelbase and more aggressive styling.
At the 2013 Chicago Auto Show today, Kia unveiled the 2014 Forte hatchback. Expected to go on sale in late 2013, the Forte offers two trim levels and two engine choices. The base EX is fitted with a 173-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine that’s paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission. The sportier SX comes with a 201-horsepower 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that mates with a 6-speed manual transmission, although a 6-speed automatic is available with steering-wheel mounted paddle shifters.
The new Forte will boast more standard safety and technology features. Standard on the base EX is a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, satellite radio, a tilt and telescopic steering column, power windows, and LED headlights.
The sport-themed SX kicks the exterior styling up a notch with dual chrome exhaust tips, LED tail lights, a larger grille opening with black gloss inserts, and faux carbon-fiber on the lower front fascia and rear valance. Alloy pedals are added to the SX along with upholstery that sports a carbon-fiber look. On the performance front, Kia is adding a sport suspension to improve handling. Pricing won’t be announced until the third quarter of this year.
When Volkswagen took the seemingly regressive step of renaming the “New Beetle” just plain “Beetle” upon its redesign for 2012, the company did so with the stated attempt to attract more male buyers. To that end, the car’s cutesy contours were toned down and the famous dash-mounted bud vase was jettisoned.
Volkswagen continues that trend with a new trim package due later this year. Called the GSR, it’s mostly a paint-and-stripe package that mimics the yellow-and-black color scheme of a special-edition 1973 Beetle of the same name that was only sold overseas.
CG Says: If indeed VW is trying to attract a more masculine clientele, this may not be the optimal way to do it. Better would be one of the other cars in the display . . .
The Super Beetle
At first the exclusive domain of custom cars and high-end exotics, matte finishes have since trickled down to the masses. In fact, the Chicago show was littered with matte-finished display vehicles, and the VW stand was no exception. What was an exception is that the Beetle so dressed sported some go-fast bits to augment its tastefully applied graphics.
At the 2013 Chicago Auto Show, Chevrolet introduced the newest variant of its compact sedan, the 2014 Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel. This car, which will be available in the United States and Canada, uses a 148-horsepower 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and a 6-speed automatic transmission. The company is projecting 42 mpg on the highway and claims that the car will offer best-in-class driving range.
After a five-year hiatus, Chrysler returns to the large-van market with the 2014 Ram ProMaster. The ProMaster is based heavily on the European-market Fiat Ducato. It is similar in size and powertrain offerings to the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter, which was itself available as a Dodge for the 2004-2009 model years.