Letting the dust settle a bit before jumping in on the news of the Cadillac CT4 and CT5, I wanted to rationalize and understand why GM decided to downsize in more ways than one. When Cadillac unveiled both models, I thought a few people in the car community were going have mental breakdowns after the performance numbers were released. The CTS-V came out of the box with a 6.2L V8 engine that put out 640 hp, and now its successor, the CT5-V, is equipped with a twin turbo V6 that gets 355 hp. A drop of nearly 300 hp could make any car enthusiast pass out, but there’s far more to this story than just performance.
The last 30 years of the American automotive industry has been well documented. For anyone under the age of 40, German dominance in the luxury segment is all they’ve ever known. Cadillac and Lincoln being a status symbol was no longer relevant to younger generations, as BMW singlehandedly became the brand that represented success and luxury. By the mid to late 2000’s, Mercedes Benz and Audi became more mainstream, providing upscale interior and exterior styling, while also offering performance models as well. Cadillac’s response was the ATS-V and CTS-V to match up against formidable competition like the BMW M3 and Mercedes Benz E63. While on paper Cadillac seemed more appealing and superior in terms of horsepower, sales numbers are what truly counts at the end of the day, and that’s how we’ve ended up with the CT4 and CT5.
Competing head-on against the Germans is playing a game you can’t win. BMW, Audi, and Mercedes Benz’s brand recognition and awareness has captivated generations since the mid 1990’s, and there’s not enough consumers willing to pay $70k – $90k for a Cadillac sports sedan. Crosstown rival Lincoln has already made adjustments to their lineup to be more American, rather than producing vehicles that will be marketed as X3 and Q5 competitors. They fully understand that to have any longevity in this new market, embracing their heritage with a modern twist is the best way to go moving forward. Cadillac’s mindset may be a bit different, but here’s my take on why the brand is aiming a bit lower and will take on lesser adversaries.
The ATS and CTS were always considered to be “tweeners”, where in terms of size they were smaller than their competition but larger than cars in the segment just below them. With their successors comes a new marketing approach to tackle this problem, and with less horsepower being offered for the CT4-V and CT5-V, the markets they’re now entering begin to make sense. Downgrading from the mid-size luxury sedan segment, the CT4 will now take on the Audi A3 and Mercedes Benz A Class, which it will dwarf in size and dimensions when it hits showrooms next year. In a new class will likely come a change in price tag, as experts predict the CT4 will start somewhere in the mid $30k range. The CT4-V is predicted to start in the low to mid $40k’s, which is right in line with the Audi S3.
As of right now, barring any refreshes and updates to the competition, the CT4-V will be equipped with more horsepower than the A35 AMG and S3. A 320 hp 2.7L 4 cylinder engine taken from a Chevy Colorado and an all new 10 speed automatic transmission will be under the hood. It’s already been stated that there’s a track version CT4 on the horizon, so there’s still something to look forward to if you’re a car enthusiast. So lowering the performance, but also lowering the price tag now makes sense and Cadillac is reaching new consumers which makes this decision look good from a business and sales perspective.
The CT5 is what’s drawing most of the eyre because of the dramatic decrease in power. It’s predecessor was more powerful but also took on the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes Benz E-Class. Starting next year, that all changes as the CT5 will now be pinned against the BMW 3 Series and Audi A4. When looking at the CT5-V, it lines up almost perfectly against the B9 S4. Just like the CT4, this mid-size luxury sedan will also get an enhanced track version, which we haven’t received any details on yet.
No matter how angry or disappointed we get, keep in mind that this major shift was done with increasing sales numbers as the top priority. We can sit down and argue on this topic for a while, but the ATS-V and CTS-V weren’t going to outsell their competition. The individuals who are the most outspoken and outraged at Cadillac weren’t in the market to buy either model, and a majority of people would still end up purchasing a German car because of the status symbols they’ve become. Furthermore, the Dodge Challenger Scat Pack and Hellcat are more affordable options, but thanks to the Fast & Furious franchise and other car related movies, Dodge has a more appealing brand image. Cadillac is facing an uphill battle, which is why finding more vulnerable targets to compete with is a smart business move.
What Cadillac and American automakers have done over the last 30 years isn’t working. The Japanese brands took control over a large portion of market share that once belonged to Ford and GM, and the Germans are unstoppable in the luxury vehicle segments. To change course Cadillac had to try something new, and a lower price tag for a car that is better suited against the A3/S3 and Mercedes Benz A-Class is where tide can turn for the now Detroit-based manufacturer. The CT5 is a different story, and it’s not likely enthusiasts are going to get over this car being neutered anytime soon. However, Cadillac needed a new tactic to reach a younger generation, and making them more attainable is the best way to achieve that goal.
“It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand”. This is a statement that’s become a tagline and basically a way of life for Jeep owners, as the culture that surrounds these vehicles is something not many of us truly understand. We’re well aware of the stereotypes out there that describe these unique owners and their community, but now with the 2020 Gladiator, I think our ignorance is really showing. Talk to anyone who’s never owned a Jeep and they’re perplexed at this creation, and will either state that it’s not true pickup truck or it looks way too big to compete with the Chevy Colorado, Ford Ranger, and Toyota Tacoma.
Let’s state the obvious first, the 2020 Gladiator is a Jeep Wrangler with a cargo bed. You’re not going to notice much of a difference when it comes to driving dynamics, the roof and doors can be taken off, and the layout of the dashboard and interior is essentially identical to a Wrangler. So why is the Gladiator receiving so much hype from the Jeep community if fundamentally there’s nothing that distinguishes it from a vehicle most Jeep enthusiasts already own? That’s where our ignorance blocks us from seeing things from the perspective of a Jeep owner who has been longing for a cargo bed.
Before the Gladiator, to convert the Wrangler into a pickup, you were looking at spending at least $10k. But this alone doesn’t explain why there’s a need for it. I have some good friends in the Jeep community, and it really boils down to utility and versatility as owners are more likely to go off-road or frequently embark on outdoor adventures. The cargo bed allows Jeep owners to carry more gear and equipment as more often than not, friends or family are tagging along on these journeys. The Wrangler, while being versatile, does lack practicality if you load up the vehicle with people, take the doors and roof off, and have no where to tie down items that can’t fit in the rear cargo area. The Gladiator is actually a vehicle designed for a specific group of owners, and this is one of those rare moments that a brand actually listens to their most loyal buyers.
For that reason, that’s why the Gladiator is basically a Wrangler JL and not a model built on a different platform. Jeep rewarded their customers who’ve waited for a long time, but may also draw interest from consumers who never considered purchasing a Jeep vehicle. For performance the Gladiator comes with a 3.6L V6 engine that puts out 285 hp and 260 lb ft of torque and can be paired with either a 6 speed manual transmission or 8 speed automatic. 4WD comes standard, unlike competitors who offer RWD as the standard drivetrain. The Gladiator also boasts the highest towing capacity for gas powered engines in this segment with 7,650 lbs. Payload capacity falls just short of taking the top spot with 1600 lbs.
Inside you’re greeted by an identical interior to what you’d expect in a Jeep Wrangler. However, because this is a pickup truck, the Gladiator also has the highest interior volume in it’s segment, so there’s another check mark for the list of accolades for this vehicle. You’ll get leather trimmed seats all around, and for the driver and passenger you’ll get heated seats to go along with a heated steering wheel if you option for the cold weather package. Unfortunately both front seats can only be adjusted manually as there’s no power seats available even on the Rubicon.
Since the doors can be removed, all the switches and buttons are found below the infotainment system and climate controls. This same setup is also found in the back, as passengers will have to reach to roll the rear windows up or down. Having the ability to function as a convertible, you’ll find four latches above your head up front, which quickly and conveniently removes the front portion of the roof. For the rear section, you will need tools to remove the bolts holding it in place. There’s no reason to run to a Home Depot to Lowe’s, as Jeep provides a packet of tools in the center storage compartment. If you’re like me, you get a bit anxious about losing the bolts for the roof and doors, but Jeep already had us in mind as there’s a compartment behind the rear seats specifically designed for the bolts, with the placements being marked so you know exactly which panel they belong to.
That isn’t the only cool and unique feature about this pickup. By using the infotainment system, you can access your “Trail Cam” which shows what you might be driving over if you’re off-roading. Obviously on an adventure the camera will likely get muddy or dirty, but with the press of a button on your screen, a stream of water helps clean the lens so you don’t lose the functionality of this feature. Just like with the backup camera it also has trajectory, so if you’re on the trail or even in parking in a lot, you’ll know exactly where your Gladiator is going.
Then in the back for the 5′ cargo bed that comes standard, Jeep offers a cover so all your belongings are secure. When the tailgate is locked there’s no way of accessing your belongings, which gives you a peace of mind if you’re on a hike or at the beach. It’s these small touches that honestly makes me like the Gladiator, because if you’re going to brand the pickup as being an off-roader that can also be a convertible, then a locking bed cover and trail camera are very convenient features to have.
At the end of the day, I don’t think it would be out of line to say that current Jeep owners already know what the Gladiator is capable of. However, for consumers just entering this market, how would this Jeep pickup compare to some competitors?
The Ford Ranger is almost car-like when it comes to driving dynamics, and it seems more civilianized, fitting a daily driver lifestyle. The Chevy Colorado on the other hand is more purpose built, rugged, and is likely to be better suited off-road than the Ranger is. The Gladiator enters the fray as being a jack of all trades. It functions as a pickup but has the rear legroom of a traditional crossover, provides comfortable leather seats, and is also the ultimate adventure vehicle that can tackle many obstacles that stands in its way.
As a final statement, “It’s a Jeep thing, you wouldn’t understand”, perfectly describes this pickup. Many non-Jeep owners will still scratch their heads and may never fully understand the Gladiator, but for enthusiasts this pickup is a dream come true.
If you were in the market to purchase an AWD hatchback under $30k in the past, your only option was the Subaru Impreza. A car that for years seemed adequate enough to meet the demands of consumers in colder climates, now faces new competition that offers more than just year round practicality. The 2019 Mazda3 Hatchback is here to challenge it’s Japanese rival, and with a redesigned exterior and face-lifted interior it just might change your perception towards compact cars. Stated many times by dozens of people for the past few years, popularity in cars is on the decline as Americans prefer crossovers, but for the remaining percentage of buyers bucking the current trend, the Mazda3’s improvements from last generation could certainly sway consumers in this segment.
15 years ago, vehicles in this price range and market could have easily been seen as disposable cars, but one quick walk around of the new Mazda3 gives you the impression that this hatchback is here to be more than just a daily commuter car. Mazda has strived this decade to provide an entry level luxury appeal to set themselves apart from other Japanese manufacturers. A primary example is the 2019 Mazda3 hatchback, as both inside and out it’s overall design certainly grabs attention.
With a new model year comes less body lines, making this hatchback look more futuristic and almost concept car-like, rather than being just another face in the crowd. A restyled and more aggressive front fascia that’s more enhanced with the black mesh front grill and chrome delete for the Premium Package is an aesthetic improvement from the 2018 model year. Something we don’t usually talk about with redesigns that is actually one of the more notable differences from last generation is the restyled C-Pillar. From the rear, the Mazda3 hatchback looks almost like a subcompact crossover, and it could be argued that it looks like a lowered CX-3. We don’t usually see this from brands when it comes to the road presence of hatchbacks, as they usually get a distinctive rear end. Instead, Mazda reshaping this car has blurred the lines to a certain degree, giving their hatchback styling that fits right in with the popular crossover trend.
Standard on all Mazda3 trims are 18″ alloy wheels, with the Premium Package receiving a sportier wheel design with black finish. Signature LED headlight and taillight illumination along with an Adaptive Front-lighting System will also be equipped on this trim, which is becoming common for most cars in this segment.
Under the hood of the Mazda3 is a 2.5 liter four cylinder engine that puts out 186 hp and 186 lb ft of torque and is paired with a 6 speed automatic transmission. However, what deserves the spotlight is that Mazda now offers AWD as an optional drivetrain, which now gives consumers an alternative to the Subaru Impreza. Mazda also becomes a viable option for drivers in the northern parts of the United States where AWD is a priority when shopping for a new car. FWD does come standard however, and not surprising is that fuel efficiency is better, whereas you will sacrifice economical practicality for improved driving during the winter with AWD. In the city you can expect to receive 24 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.
Mazda3 Hatchback Interior
Starting with the last generation of Mazda vehicles, the detail and design of the interiors significantly improved from what we were used to receiving. While competitors in the class and price range are joining in on the entry level luxury feel, Mazda was one of the first. For 2019 they improved the interior by going more simplistic especially with the dashboard and center console, while also paying close attention to quality.
The most notable difference from last year’s model is that the infotainment system has been placed further back. With Mazda attempting to go more premium, this resembles what you’d see in Acura or Lexus where the infotainment system doesn’t function as a touchscreen, and instead to access different features you’ll have to use a touchpad or trackpad. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility are offered on the Mazda3, and overall the slight improvements made to the infotainment system are good, but definitely not great as the monitor is rather small compared to competitors.
Unlike other vehicles in it’s class, Mazda offers different interior color options with Black, Red, and White. Heated leather seats come standard on the Premium Package, and what you’ll notice is soft touch materials are found throughout the interior giving the Mazda3 a luxury feel that provides additional comfort. One minor takeaway from last year is that your leather wrapped steering wheel won’t be heated, but the buttons would suggest that other markets will have this feature. While it’s not a major loss some competitors do offer a heated steering wheel, and with Mazda going with AWD for this model year I was hoping this small comfort features would carry over from 2018.
For rear cargo space the Mazda3 Hatchback gets 20.1 cubic ft of rear cargo room which is seven cubic ft bigger than the sedan variant. It does however fall just a bit short when compared to the Subaru Impreza hatchback, but if you can live with a minor discrepancy of seven tenths of a cubic foot then that can be overlooked.
Overall if you’re in the market for a compact car that offers AWD at a price right around $30k, then the Mazda3 is now an option if the Subaru Impreza was on your short list. It provides more comfort and horsepower, while also having a striking road presence. The compact car market may be dwindling, but in the meantime, brands are still putting out viable alternatives if you refuse to join the crossover frenzy.
It’s almost becoming a redundant statement when people say, “crossovers are taking over the automotive industry”. The truth always hurts, especially if you’re a car enthusiast. However, Toyota has continued to produce and improve the family sedans in their lineup, and with the 2020 Corolla, the compact car segment might still be showing signs of life. Despite times being dire as Ford and Chevy are leaving the small car market, Toyota surprised us all with a Corolla that just might be the best one yet.
An appealing appearance was never something you’d associate with the Corolla, as practicality and reliability were always main selling points. Starting with last generation, Toyota began marketing towards millennials and younger buyers, and now with a completely redesigned sporty exterior one might argue that it’s the best looking in its class. With a black mesh grille and aggressive front fascia overall, the brand has transitioned to being more performance oriented when it comes to design, mostly due in part to the new Toyota Supra. This sporty theme continues to the rear, as the body lines, black mesh grille, and rear diffuser are elements that were never incorporated into the road presence of the Corolla in recent previous generations.
For the SE and XSE trims, 18″ machined alloy wheels will come standard, which are certainly an upgrade over the 16″ wheels found on L, LE, and XLE trims. Also coming standard are LED daytime running lights and taillights, and for the XSE, heated side mirrors and a power moonroof are additional features that add quality to the new Corolla.
The evolution this car has gone through aesthetically not only indicates the direction the Toyota brand is going in, but it also ensures the survival of this model. The Corolla continues to have a loyal following from consumers that extend decades, but Toyota is well aware that reliability alone no longer equates to sales in an ever-growing demand for more practical crossovers. To help combat this, they gave their compact sedan a hybrid trim that not only comes in at a very affordable base price of just under $23k, but also gets a combined fuel economy 52.5 mpg.
Under the hood of the top trim XSE, the Corolla gets a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder engine that puts out 169 hp and 151 lb ft of torque and is paired with a continuously variable transmission. This is an increase of 29 horses from last generation, and this boost in performance doesn’t negatively effect fuel efficiency either as the Corolla achieves 31 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. Front wheel drive is your only option for the drivetrain which isn’t a surprise, as many competitors aren’t offering AWD in this segment. Despite the many changes to the exterior, it’s still your reliable and economically practical Corolla, but is the interior just as exciting as the new outward appearance?
Inside you’re greeted by heated front sports seats with fabric inserts for both the driver and passenger. Bolstering is rather impressive for a car in this class, especially for a Corolla. Once behind the wheel you’re going to immediately notice a completely redesigned dashboard, center console, and new for 2020, a 7 inch digital information display between two analog gauges. This instrument cluster will be found in other Toyota products, and with competitors beginning to integrate digital technology in their vehicles, this is one way for the brand to stay relevant in an ever changing digitalized world.
You’ll get Apple CarPlay compatibility along with Amazon Alexa connectivity which you can access through your 8 inch touchscreen. Optional for the XSE trim, you’ll get a navigation system and a 9 speaker JBL sound system. While technology is no stranger to Toyota, there does appear to be an accelerated shift towards reaching a younger consumers base. This approach is a way to not focus primarily on the fact the car is reliable and safe, but it can also be fun for the driver and passengers as well.
For rear cargo space you’ll get 13.1 cubic ft of cargo room, which is slightly bigger than the Honda Civic sedan. This in my opinion is the reason why Americans are moving on to crossovers, and I don’t think there’s any argument here that cargo volume is one of the Corolla’s biggest weaknesses. However, loyal owners who have purchased this model in the past aren’t in need of versatility, which is why the upgrades Toyota has made to this car, while also increasing its fuel efficiency might just be enough for customers to justify purchasing one more Corolla in their lifetimes.
Looking towards the future, no one really knows whether the compact car market will survive. But one thing is for sure, that the brands who still cater to customers in this dwindling segment are continuing to provide comfort features, economical and financial practicality, and an increase in technology. This alone could still draw buyers, and maybe over time, compact cars will continue to evolve to become more compelling to Americans, but only time will tell.
It’s no secret that BMW owners were disappointed with the F30 3 Series generation almost immediately after they arrived at dealerships. The successor to the beloved E90/E92 generation just couldn’t live up to the legacy of the cars that came before it. There was a lack of driving engagement and feedback, BMW decided for the M3 to go with a turbocharged inline 6 cylinder engine instead of the V8, and many owners weren’t fans of the interior design either. With this endless amount of discontent, BMW listened to their most loyal customers and have crafted a new 3 Series that just might be the best we’ve seen since the E90.
Back in February I got my first look at the 2019 BMW 330i M Sport, and immediately I could notice the difference from the F30. The driving dynamics were improved, the seats were shaped better to give drivers a more connected feeling to the car when on a spirited drive, the interior was updated with a digital information display, and the overall road presence was much more aggressive. I feel that BMW has once again reclaimed the throne in the segment the 3 Series competes in, as Mercedes Benz has made no changes to the C-Class as of right now, and the Audi A4 has already been in production for almost four years.
2019 BMW 330i M Sport Review - Start Up, Revs, Walk Around and Test Drive - YouTube
The remaining question was whether the all new 2020 BMW M340i could live up to the hype. The F30 340i got left out in the cold compared to the B9 S4 and Mercedes Benz C43 due to it being outdated and underpowered. This particular segment has been a constant battle with German manufacturers fighting for consumers who aren’t in the market to purchase a new M3 or C63 AMG, while also trying to fend off new emerging players like the Genesis G70 3.3t.
2020 BMW M340i
Now that the new M340i is at dealerships, we can see whether BMW is a legitimate competitor and possible leader in the class, but more importantly a car that current 340i owners will want to trade up for. After two opportunities to experience the M340i, I can truly say this car could possibly be special when we look back in a few years. The Ultimate Driving Machine is a perfect description for this sports car, and the significant increase in performance and driving experience has now put it in a heated two-way battle for the top spot verses the Mercedes Benz C43 AMG.
Under the hood the 2020 M340i gets a turbocharged inline 6 cylinder engine that puts out 382 hp and 369 lb ft of torque and paired with a ZF 8-speed automatic transmission. Compared to last generation’s 340i, this is an improvement of 62 hp, but it’s the 0-60 time of 4.1 seconds that’s getting everyone talking. To put that into perspective, that’s the same time as an E92 M3, but more importantly it falls right in line with it’s main competitor, the C43 AMG which achieves the same 0-60 time. RWD does come standard for the M340i, with AWD being a $2k option.
When it comes to driving this car, I can’t start without getting into how good the M340i sounds with a stock exhaust. Once you get the engine warmed up it will burble and crackle, so spending extra money on a burble tune isn’t necessary. Getting up to speed isn’t difficult either, but on a rolling start there is a turbo lag where the car seems like it questions whether you really want to go fast, and then it responds in a way that puts you back in your seat. The connectivity to the road and the comfort you feel on winding roads, even in sports plus mode, is going to give you an experience you haven’t felt in a BMW in almost 10 years.
The interior isn’t much different than what you’ll find in the 330i. The 12.3 inch digital information display comes standard, the infotainment system functions as both a touchscreen or you can use the touchpad and overall it’s responsive with a high quality resolution and graphics. But as a car enthusiast, I don’t necessarily want to be blown away with the interior and have that be my last impression, because it’s all about the driving dynamics and the 2020 M340i certainly offers an experience that will put a smile on your face.
The model I tested was priced at $65k with a few additional packages included. Base price starts at $56k and you can exceed a price tag of $69k. Personally, I think packages that don’t heighten driver feedback aren’t worth optioning for as the M340i truly is a driver’s car. As a BMW enthusiast, all I can say is well done to the brand that for a short time lost its way.
After handing the keys over and walking away, my lasting impression is that the M340i is a sports sedan that’s an appreciation to BMW loyalists and owners. The Ultimate Driving Machine has returned, and I, along with many others couldn’t be happier.
2020 BMW M340i Review - Start Up, Revs, Walk Around and Test Drive - YouTube
Models come and go all the time, but very rarely do high volume sellers get cut from automotive brands’ lineups, and yet that’s exactly what’s happened to the Ford Fusion. In response to increasing consumer demand for crossovers, Ford became the first manufacturer to make the bold move to primarily sell SUV’s, getting rid of the Fiesta, Focus, Fusion, and Taurus which is already having a ripple effect across an industry that appears to be transitioning away from the traditional family sedan. GM announced they’d be making a similar move, getting rid of the Chevy Impala and Cadillac CT6, but sales for those two cars pale in comparison to what the Fusion had brought to the Ford Motor Company over the last 15 years.
When the Fusion was first introduced, it was essentially going to be the replacement for the Ford Taurus, which at the time received some criticism from journalists. They felt that replacing an iconic car with something brand new would be received poorly by consumers, but as history has shown us, not only did the Fusion fill in perfectly for the Taurus, it became a strong competitor to the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry the minute it arrived at dealerships. Back in 2018, Ford dealers across the country weren’t happy with this announcement that the company would cease production of the Fusion, and while crossovers and pickup trucks will be more lucrative in the near and distant future, concern over not having a sedan in the lineup is certainly warranted.
The 2nd generation Fusion that we’ve been accustomed to seeing on the roads over the last 6 years was a part of Ford’s global car strategy called “One-Ford”. Designed by Ford’s Europe division, the Fusion, along with the Fiesta and Focus arrived at showrooms around 2013, and these models would also be sold to other global markets. Seeing immediate success, the Fusion’s European styling along with it’s award winning hybrid model made this sedan a hot seller, and in 2013 and 2014, sales exceeded 300,000 cars in the US.
In the years leading up to a sharp decline in sales in 2018, the Fusion drew in many Americans due to it’s affordability, practicality, styling, and for some, it’s understated performance. Not common on the roads, the Fusion Sport gets a 2.7L EcoBoost V6 that puts out 325 hp and 380 lb ft of torque. Surprisingly it was faster than most mid-size sedans in it’s class, but with very little coverage from the automotive press and most consumers choosing the 1.5 and 2L four cylinder engines, the Fusion’s eyebrow raising performance numbers just couldn’t muster enough attention from the general public. Instead, the Fusion’s good fuel economy and hybrid trim made this car very desirable for the average American, along with it’s price tag of under $30k.
We could sit down and write a list of factors that have attributed to the demise of a sedan that many Americans welcomed with open arms when it arrived at dealers. One issue being the very old and warn out exterior that Ford didn’t update in the 6 years of the current generation being on sale. While initially sales skyrocketed in 2013 for the fusion, Toyota and Honda continued to change the design of their cars, and despite bold styling receiving mixed reviews by consumers, the Japanese rivals still see healthy sales numbers in a segment that’s experiencing a gradual decline in interest.
The interior is another aspect of the Fusion that no doubt played a role in slowing sales, but this is a sentiment many consumers had with the entire Ford lineup, and as we inch closer to a new decade, the brand out of Dearborn Michigan is back on track with refreshes for the Escape and Explorer. But could the interior facelifts that now appear in the crossovers have saved this sedan? Absolutely not, and there’s a few reasons why.
The most obvious is consumers aren’t buying family sedans at the rate they were in 2010. Even taking the safety aspect and versatility out of the equation for a minute, competition from Toyota and Honda arguably pushed Ford out of the segment entirely. Depending on your perspective, some of you might say that was due to Ford not refreshing the Fusion and other models every three years, or you feel that competitors from Japan were manufacturing better cars.
No matter what the circumstances were for this business decision, Ford is eager to turn the page and begin a new era starting in 2022. This will include the Ford Bronco, an electric crossover inspired by the Mustang, a compact pickup truck that will slot below the Ranger, and now the brand is talking about a new affordable vehicle that will replace the Fiesta, Focus and Fusion. Ford is being very vague about this affordable alternative, giving us no hints at whether it’s a crossover or a compact car. However, the brand has recently boasted that their new global platforms give Ford flexibility when it comes to creating and manufacturing all new vehicles.
The Michigan based brand may have been bold moving in the crossover and pickup direction, but there’s enough information out there to indicate that they have backup plans to quickly reverse course if the economy or consumer demand changes drastically.
At the end of the day, the Fusion getting cut from the lineup makes sense from a business perspective, but some consumers feel that the brand is losing the aspect of affordability with the Fiesta, Focus, and family cars no longer being in production. Unlike with most automotive news, Ford’s current state of affairs is a fluid situation. For the brand to now speak about an affordable vehicle of some kind by 2022 does seem to be a slight tweak in terms of overall trajectory for the brand.
It might be the end of an era, one that started with the Ford Taurus replacing the LTD in 1986, but this is by no means the official end of cars rolling off the assembly lines.
Saying Goodbye to the Ford Fusion - Start Up, Revs, and Walk Around - YouTube
It’s very rare to stumble upon a car that captivates so many, but is often so unappreciated that to some extent it gets forgotten. When you think of the Maserati GranTurismo, it’s quite possible that their notorious depreciation to absurdly affordable prices will be your first thought. For some of you, it’s style, sophistication, class, Ferrari engine, and an exhaust note so beautiful that it could make even Michelangelo shed a tear is what draws you in to this Italian masterpiece. From critics, its relatively slow 0-60 time, it’s weight, an aging body style, and outdated infotainment system is all you’ll hear. But for many who dream of owning this grand tourer, we overlook its faults and shortcomings and focus on the strengths that makes this car special.
I often feel that to truly appreciate the GranTurismo, lap records and 0-60 times have to mean nothing to you in the grand scheme of things, because if they do you’re likely not seriously considering ever owning one. This car isn’t meant to be on a drag strip. When it’s not found carving through back roads during a spirited drive, the GranTurismo blends in perfectly uptown where drivers can make a grand entrance. It embodies class and luxury and likely reflects the characteristics of the driver behind the wheel. There’s without a doubt that people compare the GranTurismo to the Bentley Continual GT, but’s it’s the small details that makes this car unmistakably Italian and sets it apart from any other European grand tourer.
Home to some of the greatest artists in history, Italy is known to bring that same romantic masterpiece styling to the cars that leave the assembly lines. This 21st century form of artistic expression through objects of transportation leaves car enthusiasts mesmerized, much like the Sistine Chapel and many of the Roman era buildings do to tourists. Despite Maserati only making slight facelifts to the GranTurismo over the last 11 years or so, you still can’t help but stop and admire a car that somehow continues to tug at your heart strings.
From the aggressive front fascia, to the very long wheel base that makes itself evident when looking from the side profile, and then swooping around to the wide rear end that sports dual exhaust tailpipes, the GranTurismo is one of very few cars that holistically looks stunning. It’s immediately recognizable on city streets, and then when it drives by you’re graced with the sound of the Ferrari V8 engine that you’ll hear even after the car is no longer in sight.
When it comes to performance, the 4.7L V8 engine that puts out 454 hp and 384 lb ft of torque will get you to 60 in just under 5 seconds. Unlike most modern cars where you can get away with short shifting, the GranTurismo needs to scream before going into next gear. Not only are you cheating yourself out of an automotive symphony by quickly going through the gears, but you’re completely missing the point of what makes this car so much fun to drive. Ideally you want to be on quiet backroads where you can truly experience the GranTurismo, but because its a grand tourer, this car is built for longer road trips on the highway as well.
Obviously driving dynamics are important, however its the interior where you’re spending all your time. Inside you’re greeted by a driving atmosphere and environment that matches the beauty and craftsmanship on the outside. Leather trimmed seats with Alcantara inserts and the trident logo embroidered in the headrests offers just the right amount of comfort and support for the journey ahead. Massive aluminum paddle shifters mounted behind the steering wheel give you that race car feel, and the analog instrument panel brings you back to a time before technology was integrated into almost every vehicle on the road.
Critics will always tell you that the infotainment system is old and outdated, but what makes the GranTurismo so special is that it’s a driver’s car. As enthusiasts we’re supposed to be more in-tune with the road, rather than the touchscreen. We’re meant to have both hands on the steering wheel as we corner on tight back roads, and to experience the thrilling moment of exhilaration when shifting through gears and hearing the sound of that V8. As the years have passed, we’ve lost that feeling with sports cars, where the electronics and digital information displays grab our attention more than the craftsmanship, interior design, and driving experience. If anything, the GranTurismo’s aging interior is a bridge in time that brings us back to what cars were all about.
In conclusion, younger enthusiasts can keep their Nurburgring lap times and sub three second 0-60 times that seem to be broken every week. An entire generation of enthusiasts have grown up on speed rather than appreciation for what truly makes a car so special. The soul a sports car possesses that gives the driver feedback on winding roads, the roar of the engine and an almost instrument-like tuned exhaust note is a complete package the Maserati GranTurismo offers. It might be slow, heavy, and maybe outdated for some, but for me I can’t help but smile every time I see one.
If you’re a millennial who took no interest in cars, never played GranTurismo, or watched Top Gear, your initial reaction is probably, “What is a Peugeot”. For the rest of us, I think there’s quite a lot of excitement for the French brand and its return to the Unites States. Peugeot hasn’t sold a car in the US since 1991, which means when they do arrive to the New World, it will be 32 years since one of their cars graced our roads. An entire generation of Americans have probably never heard of this brand before, and if their reaction is anything like their response to Alfa Romeo, Peugeot has a long road ahead of them. But with all that being said, they have a plan to win our hearts and make a huge splash in 2023.
Briefly, lets rewind a minute and start from the beginning of this whole story. Earlier this year it was reported that Peugeot was planning to reintroduce themselves to the US market by 2026 with a new and electrified lineup. Within a few months that clearly changed, as the CEO of the French auto manufacturer publicly stated that it’s possible that a return could happen as early as 2023. With the success of the 508 GT in Europe, (Peugeot’s sportback sedan) there’s been a growing ambition to not wait until the second half of next decade and jump right in within a 4-5 year window. This news comes at the same time a Peugeot 508 was seen at a Cars & Coffee in Atlanta, and it’s already been reported that the French brand is already testing the waters with a few focus groups in the US.
Obviously very little is known about the lineup Peugeot would offer here, but the CEO clearly doesn’t want to make the same mistake Alfa Romeo did, as their sales are growing at a very slow pace. Instead of offering one or two models to expose Americans to the brand, it sounds like the French have every intention of providing a wide range of vehicles, from a hatchback to possibly a three-row crossover and of course hybrid and electric cars.
Below are photos of vehicles from Peugeot’s lineup that have the best chance of being sold in the US.
While Peugeot would likely rival Volkswagen when it comes to pricing, some journalists think the French brand will also compete against Audi. Another brand it closely resembles is Buick, but Peugeot has the benefit of not being under the GM umbrella and won’t be seen as a glorified version of a cheaper company. Peugeot’s crossovers, the 2008, 3008, and 5008 will mostly likely fair very well, especially with consumers buying SUV’s at record numbers. However, the 308 GTi and 508 GT certainly garner some intrigue as the hatchback would rival the VW GTI and the 508 adds some French flavor to a growing sportback sedan segment.
With an ambitious plan to bring a full lineup to the United States, Peugeot’s CEO also knows the importance of having an electric and hybrid lineup as well, which is why an all new 3008 plug-in hybrid for the European market is likely part of the plan when French cars make their way to America.
Despite these plans being preliminary and having about four years to wait until they arrive, there’s already a lot of excitement. Hopefully Peugeot continues to show up to car events or even Auto Shows in North America to further expose the brand to Americans, while also giving us the opportunity to check out their vehicles. It’s going to be a long road ahead for the French brand, but if they learn from the mistakes of Alfa Romeo, they’ll be more than just a niche brand by the end of next decade.
It’s almost becoming a cliche to say that crossovers are taking over the automotive world, but unfortunately it’s the reality we’re living in. For manufacturers, differentiating themselves from rival brands is crucial if they want to control a segment that shows no sign of slowing down in growth heading into next decade. Last year Toyota unveiled the completely redesigned RAV4 which is now in showrooms and already on the road. It’s debut was without a doubt impressive, but fast forward one year later and we’re once again presented with a crossover that sports a new look and built on an all new platform.
The 2020 Ford Escape made a grand entrance just before the New York Auto Show, and already excitement is building for the American manufacturer’s best selling crossover. In 2018 Ford announced they were fully committing to SUV’s, cutting the Focus, Fiesta, Fusion, and Taurus out of the lineup. Many journalists and consumers were concerned about Ford’s future and where the automotive world was heading, but with the list of upgrades that Ford has made to the Escape, next decade is looking bright for the brand out of Dearborn, Michigan.
Completely redesigned, the Escape now looks sleek, sporty, and slightly more European. It’s been lengthened, lowered, and widened which is going to be noticeable once you step inside. At first glance the Escape now looks like a crossbreed between a Porsche and Tesla, and from the front fascia to the C-Pillar, it certainly looks like a baby Macan. With journalists expressing the same opinions, this could bode well for the 2020 model year.
Looking around back, I wouldn’t go as far to say that Ford took design elements from Toyota, but the taillights definitely remind me of the new RAV4, but at the same time they also look like they came off a Jeep Cherokee. From the photos and video that have been released, the entire body of the Escape is a teaser of what we can expect from the all new Lincoln Corsair, which will be unveiled in New York on April 17th.
Overall, the overhaul for the exterior was certainly needed. The last generation Escape’s body and design were very worn out and old, with only one minor facelift that enhanced the front fascia. For 2020, the Escape loses the boxiness and slightly bland appearance, which is why styling the crossover in a way that we liken it to a Porsche or Tesla was the right decision moving forward.
The bulk of the improvements for 2020 are found inside, and it’s here that emotions range from being impressed, surprised, to disappointed. Starting off with the what’s good, Ford will offer a 12.3 inch digital information display with graphics that appear to be on par with Honda. While not trying to sound like Captain Obvious, this implementation of technology the minute you get behind the wheel was certainly needed. American manufacturers have been late to the game when it comes to transitioning from analog to digital instrument panels, but from what we’ve seen, resolution quality seems to be quite good.
Also new is a repositioned 8 inch touchscreen infotainment system that is reminiscent to what you’d expect from Kia. The screen is no longer integrated into the dashboard, and instead is its own piece. What’s disappointing however is that Ford is still using the Sync 3 system for the start of a new generation. I was hoping that instead of a re-skinned infotainment system we’d get something new that would give Honda a run for its money. Yet while feeling a bit discouraged, Toyota’s infotainment system is also outdated, but with Ford committing to a new direction, I expected them to update every aspect of the interior.
Not surprising for 2020 is that Ford got rid of the gear shift lever and is replacing it with a rotary dial. We’ve already seen this transition in the Ford Edge, and by implementing a rotary dial they were able to add a wireless phone charger. So far I haven’t seen or heard anything about that being offered on the Escape, and instead it only appears that this decision was made to increase cargo space for storage compartments up front.
Adjustable Rear Seats
A strong selling point for consumers is the rear seats that now offer six inches of adjustability. Ford claims that when the seats are pushed back, the Escape offers more legroom than a Chevy Suburban which is really impressive. This adds practicality and versatility, especially for families or individuals constantly on the go because if there’s no occupants in the back, that extra six inches of room can be used to maximize cargo room. This feature alone could draw in buyers, and for the tall people in your life, you won’t have to hear them complain about being cramped in the back during a long road trip.
New Engine Options and the Return of Hybrid Technology
Starting off with the old, the 2020 Escape will offer the 2.0L turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that puts out 250 hp and 275 lb ft of torque, which is a slight increase in power from last generation. All new is a 1.5L Ecoboost 3 cylinder engine, which is definitely surprising. Normally we’ll see smaller four cylinder options here in the United States, while other global markets receive the 3 cylinder engine. For performance you can expect 180 hp and 177 lb ft of torque. Both engine options just listed will be paired with an 8 speed automatic transmission.
When it comes to the all new hybrid engines available, both will be 2.5L 4 cylinders, with one being fully hybrid and the other being a plug in. Ford claims that the full hybrid version will have a fuel range of over 550 miles which is very impressive. Hopefully we can find out if that fuel range is accurate, as it does seem a bit high and ambitious. For the plug in variant, you’ll get 209 hp and an electric charge of about 30 miles.
Is The 2020 Escape A Game Changer?
At the end of the day, the all new Escape will put Ford back into contention against Toyota, Honda, and Nissan who all outsold the Escape in its segment. The updates that were made to the exterior bring a sporty, youthful, and fun vibe to a crossover that became quite bland near the end of its cycle. To have a Tesla and Porsche appearance makes this vehicle relevant to most consumers, and at least on paper, makes the Escape an affordable option for a buyer whose budget can’t get them a Porsche Macan.
However, it’s the interior updates that I think will be the prime selling points for most buyers in the United States. The updated digital instrument panel, a more upscale interior, and the six inches of adjustability for the rear seats will resonate best with Ford loyalists and also new consumers as well. The complete overhaul was executed perfectly by Ford, and the changes they made now put the American manufacturer in a good spot heading into a decade.
With Ford continuing to tweak their lineup, there’s a lot of excitement and anticipation for what’s coming on the horizon. The Bronco’s return is right around the corner, a four door Mustang is in the works, and even an off-road variant of the Escape can’t be ruled out. If Ford does this right, they’ll put Honda and Toyota on notice for the beginning portion of the 2020’s.
Right before the beginning of the economic recession in 2008, the age of full size SUV’s was coming to an end as gas prices were high and the speculation of some lean times coming on the horizon forced consumers to think more practical. Car brands, seeing the direction of consumer behavior in the automotive market, pushed the compact car and integrated some luxury aspects to appeal to buyers on a budget. Fast forward to almost 12 years later and Mercedes Benz is releasing a small four door A-Class that most likely would have been a hit at the end of last decade. Why now? Ford and Chevy are cutting sedans from their lineups, and yet here’s a prestigious German manufacturer adding an affordable entry level car for the US market.
To be fair, Mercedes Benz has been pushing the envelope by unveiling vehicles for almost every segment in the automotive world. What’s surprising is that they’re being ambitious in the United States, while rivals and other companies have deprived Americans of forbidden fruit that European, Asian, and South American markets have enjoyed for quite some time. Many have questioned whether the arrival of the A-Class would be the sudden demise of the CLA, yet so far Mercedes has made no indication of getting rid of it, and in fact a refresh is in the works.
To say that Mercedes Benz is providing luxury to the masses would be a stretch, because other brands have done this in the past, like the Volvo S40 which in 2006 had a starting price under $30k. However, what we’ve seen this decade from the Germans is essentially an automotive arms race. From crossovers to sportbacks and even electric powered cars, if there’s a segment that hasn’t been exploited yet, Mercedes, BMW, or Audi are usually the first ones to make a move. No matter what the intention is, there’s some excitement behind this little compact sedan, as for the first time we’re witnessing technology features trickle down to a very affordable price range.
For performance, the A 220 gets a two liter turbocharged four cylinder engine that gets 188 hp and 221 lb ft of torque with a 0-60 time of 7.1 seconds. Front wheel drive comes standard but for $2k extra at a base price of $34,500, you can upgrade to the A 200 4Matic.
It’s inside where drivers and passengers alike will experience premium features in the $40k price range, as in front of them will be a 10 inch digital instrument cluster and 10 inch touchscreen infotainment system. This same setup can be found in the redesigned CLS class, but to have it available at a fraction of the cost in the A-Class puts this small sedan miles ahead of its competition. Heated and ventilated front seats, along with a heated steering wheel and a 64 color ambient lighting display provides occupants with a luxury feel. Another feature that’s amazing to see on an entry level sedan is the augmented reality navigation that utilizes the forward-facing camera to give you live updates of what turn you need to take or direction you should go in.
By using the “Hey Mercedes” command, the car will automatically adjust temperature in the cabin, change the mood lighting, and acts as your personal assistant. Unless updates were made, this hands free system does have some bugs that need to be worked on. When the word “Mercedes” is uttered, you activate the on board personal assistant, and there’s been a few videos from journalists who had to find a keyword to discuss the A-Class without being interrupted.
When adjusting the climate control, the air vents will either glow red or blue depending on the temperature, and the overall interior styling is much more welcoming than the CLA. The real question is whether all this is enough to entice consumers to get back into the compact sedan segment that’s been mostly forgotten about over the last few years.
As mentioned earlier, the A-Class isn’t offering luxury to the masses, but it is however ushering in an era of technology features we would have seen on $100k+ cars just a half decade ago. While it still might not make sense to us as to why Mercedes Benz would introduce a model that’s essentially a twin to the CLA, there is enough for us to be excited about, especially in a market dominated by cookie cutter crossovers.