By Steven J. Ewing on October 22, 2008 12 a.m.
Most of the time, when an automaker completely overhauls one of their models, it's a good step forward for not only the car, but for the brand it represents. However, there are other times where the design teams make some questionable decisions and the new products end up looking worse than their predecessors.
Driven: 2009 Mazda RX-8 GT (1550 views)
By Winding Road Staff on October 21, 2008 12 a.m.
The Mazda RX-8 continues to have us puzzled as to why more of these aren’t on the road. No, the rotary engine isn’t four-season friendly, and neither is the car’s rear-wheel-drive, but when the weather is right, the RX-8 really shines. For 2009, a re-worked exterior sports a slightly more aggressive fascia, and while our Grand Touring model doesn’t have all of the beefy visual add-ons found on the R3 (a new model for ’09), we still had a lot of fun throwing this Mazda into bends and revving the twin-rotor engine way up past 8000 rpm.
Driven: 2008 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR (519 views)
By Winding Road Staff on October 20, 2008 12 a.m.
Over the past couple of years, we’ve noticed a trend that more and more performance cars are steering away from traditional manual transmissions in favor of high-tech dual-clutch setups. For 2008, the top-dollar Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR features a six-speed paddle-shift transmission, and while some of us would rather have a stick and a third pedal, there’s no denying that this tranny is really, really good. Still, at nearly $41,000, some of us would rather just stick with the softer Evo GSR, which has the same performance specs but at a lower cost.
Driven: 2009 Volkswagen Routan (935 views)
By Tom Martin on October 06, 2008 12 a.m.
Badge engineering. This is the common practice in the automotive industry of taking a vehicle designed for one brand, and tweaking to work for another. But is this a good thing or a bad thing? We all know examples of the Chevy that is also a Pontiac or a Ford that is also a Mercury with little but trim differences. That cynical approach to marketing has led to a tarnished reputation for badge-engineering, among the pundits at least. The term even sounds pejorative.
Driven: 2009 Hummer H3 (1316 views)
By Winding Road Staff on October 02, 2008 12 a.m.
The Hummer H3 is an interesting vehicle to drive in light of our nation’s fuel crisis. Off-road enthusiasts and Hummer loyalists appreciate the H3’s off-road capability and style, but the H3 is becoming tougher and tougher to see to new consumers and the automotive press alike. Our test car’s sticker price is just a notch below the $40,000 mark, and while that might seem like a bargain to some, we’d search elsewhere for our SUV needs.
Driven: 2009 Ford Flex Limited AWD (592 views)
By Winding Road Staff on October 01, 2008 12 a.m.
The new Ford Flex arrives into our market at a time when consumers are downsizing from their large SUVs but still need room for the spouse, kids, dogs, etc. The retro-wagon styling of the Flex may steer some customers away, but we rather liked the styling of our Limited AWD test car. Inside, plush materials and high-tech gadgets make this family-hauler a real win. Overall, the Flex proved to be a big step forward for the Ford Motor Company and we hope their future products go in this direction, as well.
Driven: 2009 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Sedan (732 views)
By Steven J. Ewing on September 24, 2008 12 a.m.
As recently as just a few years ago, Volkswagen sold a wide range of diesel vehicles in the States. In fact, the company has a long history of selling oil-burners in the U.S. that dates back to the 1970s. These models were slowly jettisoned throughout the years due to stricter emissions laws, and by 2007, the Touareg V-10 was the only diesel Volkswagen that Americans could buy. However, in light of today’s higher fuel prices, the automaker is once again getting serious about broadening its turbo-diesel offerings in the States.
Driven: 2009 Suzuki Equator RMZ-4 (418 views)
By Seyth Miersma on September 23, 2008 12 a.m.
The auto purist inside nearly every enthusiast still pines for the now far-gone days when automakers, conceived of, built, and sold each of their creations – owning both the process and the results from cradle to grave. Of course the results of such one application engineering weren’t always laudable, and the process was (and is where and when it still happens) inherently more wasteful than the modern practice of building multiple vehicles on the same or similar running gear. And yet even today, platform sharing vehicles, especially those between two distinct parent companies, are often dismissed with a “badge engineered” ...
Driven: 2009 Mercedes-Benz C300 Sport (1906 views)
By Winding Road Staff on September 22, 2008 12 a.m.
After spending some time with Mercedes’ hot-burning C63 AMG, we thought it apt to give the rest of the C-Class range a shot to see if the new Benz C can all-around top other premium sport sedans like the BMW 3-Series and Lexus IS. While we did enjoy our C300 Sport, we found the $45,000 as-tested price a little high, especially when a BMW 335i offers better performance for a more reasonable price. Still, much of the blame for the hefty price tag is down to heavy treading on the options list...
Driven: 2009 Ford Escape XLT V-6 (763 views)
By Winding Road Staff on September 19, 2008 12 a.m.
One of the more ubiquitous sights on the American Road is the Ford Ranger pickup. It is handsome, in a hard-working, rectilinear way, and you don’t see many that appear to have suffered neglect or abuse. Now the Ford Escape (and Mercury Mariner) SUVs join the Ranger pickup in its ubiquity. Not only do you see a lot of them, and not only do they look good, they are good. They may be the class-leader of the compact SUV category.