Posts by Neal Pollack
- Neal Pollack at Motoramic3 days ago
Nissan says its 2015 Muranocrossover, only the second major revamp of the car since it debuted in 2003, draws its design cues from the “age of future space flight.” That’s probably taking it a little far, but the new Murano, based off the 2013 Resonance concept vehicle, is an exceptionally lovely machine, all fluid, curved metal on the outside, and flowing, soft-touch materials on the inside. Certain kinds of comfort and charms that were unheard-of outside of premium vehicles five years ago have definitely trickled down, and reached a kind of design apotheosis with this car.
That said, it’s still a big crossover that is going to get SUV-levels of fuel economy. At best, its V-6 engine will generate 240 horsepower, and will probably generate higher fuel costs than Nissan would like. Nissan put a lot of effort into this Murano, and it shows, but the manufacturer’s heart is elsewhere.
- Neal Pollack at Motoramic3 days ago
Aston Martin is going downmarket, sort of. The 2015 Vantage GT, a sport-styled variant of Aston’s legendary flagship car, draws style and performance tips from their GT4 race cars, which will be running in North America this year. It’s also priced at $99,900, which shows that the market for these kinds of consumer sports cars has boomed in recent years.
“The sub-$100,000 price point has become very busy,” said Julian Jenkins, president of Aston Martin, at a quiet corner of the New York Auto Show. “We’d like a opportunity to reclaim it, and appeal to a slightly broader audience.”
Jenkins said that the usual Aston Martin owner displays the car as a portfolio of seven or eight vehicles. This one, he says, can be a single car for an individual, albeit a rich individual who likes a Roadster that generates 430 hp, a top speed of 190 mph, and a 0 to 60 time of 4.6 seconds. It is, Jenkins says, in his best marketing speak, “a car for the week and a track car for the weekend.”
- Neal Pollack at Motoramic5 days ago
With a lot of noise and smoke and blue lighting, Land Rover announced Monday night that it would be reaunching its Discovery SUV as a family of vehicles in 2015. The current Discovery is sold in the United States as the LR4, but the new Discovery will spawn a fresh product line, though the concept that they introduced tonight on the USS Intrepid certainly looked quite a bit like the old one.
The Discovery Concept might be the SUV of the future. It boasts — in concept —wraparound headlights powered by lasers, infrared foglamps, doors operated by an electric gesture-recognition system, a gesture-controlled tailgate, infotainment operated by touchscreens on the steering wheel, a premium leather interior that falls just short of self-cleaning, rear-seat TVs, all perfect for a tragic James Bond family picnic. It’s hard to say, though, because all we got to see tonight were car doors opening and closing by themselves to a soundtrack of pure base-heavy bombast. They revealed a three-chair backseat, hiding behind the doors like an alluring gartered leg.
- Neal Pollack at Motoramic9 days ago
When Hyundai first launched its Genesismid-sized luxury sedan back in 2008, it came with a sticker price of $32,000. That placed it in direct competition with cars like the Nissan Maxima, Chrysler 300 and Toyota Avalon — hefty, soft-riding cars in desperate need of a fresh entry. Despite dated tech that looked like something out of the original Robocop, the world’s most unwieldy dashboard, and inconsistent performance, the Genesis did pretty well for a new model, selling up to 20,000 units a year. The company showed skeptics that it could make something other than competent econoboxes.
- Neal Pollack at Motoramic1 mth ago
When we last met the mid-sized Chrysler 200 sedan in 2011, the company was still staggering out of bankruptcy and near-extinction. The 200 was a repurposed Sebring, a car that no cabbie or rental-fleet manager could love, a dull, clumsy, dated affair patched together out of straw and used chewing gum. In an era of “no bad cars,” it gave us something to disdain.
- Motoramic1 mth ago
This week marked the passing of a car that could have been a contender, as Honda announced that it would halt production on the Insight Hybrid. Though the Insight debuted in the U.S. in 1999, months ahead of the Toyota Prius, Honda sold fewer than 300,000 in the intervening 14 years, nearly half of those in Japan. For most of its existence, the Insight was a speck in the rearview mirror of the Prius, which has sold to more than 3 million owners in the same time.
The Insight was the only car on the market that seriously tried to challenge the Prius on its own turf, a hybrid designed as such. All the other manufacturers have futzed out, putting a hybrid drivetrain into an existing gasoline-powered model. The results have been unwieldy and mostly unpopular; the sole exception, Ford’s C-Max Hybrid, came to market a decade too late and is inferior to the Prius in every way that counts.
- Neal Pollack at Motoramic2 mths ago
The future arrived in my driveway last week in the form of a Cadillac ELR, but the present wasn’t quite ready to accept it. With a design based on Caddy’s wild Converj concept vehicle, a drive train and underpinning directly lifted from the Chevy Volt, and a price tag that could buy an entire Detroit city block, the ELR needed to be ready to fly. In my modest surroundings, it barely crawled.
Like the Volt, the ELR has a 37-mile electric-only range before the gas engine kicks in for another 300 miles. The guys dropped it off with a full tank of gas. They popped the trunk. There sat the charging cable.
“You driven the Volt?” one of them said.
“Yes,” I said.
“It works like that. You plug it in.”
If only I’d actually been an ELR buyer. At the end of January, Cadillac announced that it would be including a complimentary 240-volt charging station, plus installation, with the purchase of every $75,000-plus ELR. "Professional installation of the fastest home-charging unit is a natural way to mark the introduction of ELR to the luxury market,” said the brand in its release.
- neal_pollack at Motoramic3 mths ago
The last time my family made the long, parched drive from Phoenix to Austin on I-10, we were in our 1998 Nissan Sentra, with its gummy floormats and cracked windshield, driver’s-side window that no longer works and its built-in casette player, a sad car for sad times. We were fleeing California and a recession that had ruined us. We went slowly--the Sentra had no other mode--feeling depressed and anxious, towards an uncertain future.
This year, we did the drive in an 2014 Audi RS7.
It wasn’t ours. None of these cars we test are. It’s all a sick illusion. Still, we had a $125,000, 560-hp sports machine to drive across the desert and back in our 2,000 mile family adventure. “Wouldn’t you have preferred a nice diesel?” a colleague asked. That would have made sense for a family road trip. So would a Honda Odyssey with a built-in vacuum. But instead they offered us a car that wouldn’t be out of place in Forza 5. My wife, my 11-year-old son, and our ancient Boston Terrier would feel the burn.
- neal_pollack at Motoramic6 mths ago
A rotund glasses-wearing man, proudly employed by the new i division of BMW, stood on a platform in front of a large photograph of some indeterminate European skyline. He looked quite self-satisfied, if a little nervous. For 15 minutes, he’d been moving around the room from one platform to another, like an actor in an awkward college staging of a Bertolt Brecht play.
“BMW i,” the man said, “heralds the dawn of a new age of electromobility.”
If history has taught us anything, it’s to be wary of Germans proclaiming “the dawn of a new age.” That said, the BMW i3, which enjoyed its international cotillion last week in Amsterdam, represents a substantial reimagining of how a car should drive, how we interact with our vehicles, and what, in general, a car should be. It’s a significant development in automotive history, and a remarkably nimble one given the size and pedigree of the company.
- neal_pollack at Motoramic6 mths ago
You’d assume by now, more than a decade into the hybrid era, that Honda would have done something significant in the space after launching the Insight in 1999, the first hybrid sold in the United States. But as the years passed, Honda has suffered diminishing returns; the hybrid Civic was once successful, but Honda's hybrid lines have been overtaken by Ford, Hyundai and even Kia. Honda did some cool stuff with fuel cells and natural-gas powered cars, but it appeared to lose interest in hybrids, the preferred alternative-energy method in the American market.
Well, finally, with the 2014 AccordHybrid, Honda has decided to come to the party, late. But they’re showing up like someone on New Year’s Eve carrying a crate of high-end champagne: They waited until they had something good.