Archive for the ‘Auto Sales’ Category
Cars are about to get more expensive. And it’s going to save you money. Yes, it sounds loony, but I believe it, because Consumer Reports says so.
This is not a group of people prone to hyperbole, and frankly, that gives them credibility. Take their product ratings. I can’t remember the last time I saw a product score more than about 78-percent after undergoing Consumer Reports’ battery of tests. These folks don’t exaggerate.
New Fuel Efficiency Standards
And yet this is what Consumer Reports has to say about the government’s new “CAFE” (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for cars and trucks: ”Imagine a federal regulation that will save you thousands of dollars, while also cutting back on pollution, strengthening American industry, creating jobs and reducing our oil consumption. Actually, you don’t have to imagine it. … The updated CAFE standards … will do just that.”
Whoa. These new standards can do all that and most of us have never heard of them? Let’s review. “CAFE Standards” sounds like something to do with how much coffee you’re allowed to consume. But actually, they’re about how much fuel your car can consume. The goal of the new standards is for the cars of 2025 to emit half the carbon of the cars of 2010.
To do that, each manufacturers’ fleet must average 54.5 miles per gallon. The individual vehicle you buy may not sip gas that slowly, but the average for vehicles overall will be dramatically improved. The new standards will start to phase in for model year 2017, but you’ll likely see the difference sooner as manufacturers strive for this goal.
At a forum on the new CAFE Standards, David Strickland of the National Highway Transportation Administration called them “one of the greatest accomplishments in transportation in three decades.”
If that doesn’t do anything for you, consider this statement from Judith Enck of the Environmental Protection Agency: “Environmental policies benefit consumers and nowhere is that more obvious than in the area of transportation.”
Savings for Car Owners
How so? Consumer Reports estimated that in the future you will save $4,600 over the life of your vehicle. The car itself will cost more up front — about $2,000 they think — but you’ll save about $700 a year on fuel. So after three years, the higher purchase price will have paid for itself and the real savings will begin.
Oh, and by the way, this math is calculated based on the government’s future fuel cost projection of $3.87 a gallon in the year 2025! Ha! I paid more than that 25 minutes ago when I filled up. Translation: the savings could be even greater.
“Some people now spend more on gasoline, than they do on car payments,” said Consumer Reports president and CEO Jim Guest.
Ponder that for a second and you begin to see the potential.
Types of Fuel Efficient Cars
So how are auto makers going to achieve these dramatic improvements in fuel efficiency? Who knows what they’ll introduce in a dozen years. (One panelist rhapsodized about the potential of diesel engines that burn modified gasoline.) For now, they’re banking on hybrids you can get for less, electrics that can take you farther and diesels that people actually want to drive.
How’s a consumer to choose? For stop-and-start urban drives, hybrids are the most fuel efficient and their prices have come down, so most now pay for themselves in about a year and a half. But — news flash — if you drive a lot of freeway miles, modern diesels consistently outperform hybrids. Who knew? As for electrics, right now most still have a limited range of 70-some miles, so they’re best for people who commute less than 35 miles each way. Figure out which kind of commuter you are and you’ll know what kind of car to buy.
There are many models to choose from, but we focused on those available for under $15,000 which includes recommended vehicles for teens from the 2008-2010 model years. Some have the latest safety equipment and are still affordable but key safety features such as curtain air bags and electronic stability control may not have been standard in others until later years. As always we encourage purchasing as many safety features–and electronic stability control in particular–if your budget allows. We list the average price for suitably equipped models available in that year when buying from the dealer.
The cars listed below average between 15- and 51-percent less than the retail price when the vehicle was new. Plus, all have at least average reliability according to our latest subscriber survey. Figure that vehicles from 2008 will generally have 66,000 miles, 2009 models around 51,000 miles, and 2010 about 40,000 miles.
Scanning the list, you’ll see that these are all traditional cars and small SUVs; large pickups and midsized and large SUVs are not recommended for young, inexperienced drivers because they are more prone to roll over and may be more difficult to handle than many other vehicles. Sports cars increase the risk of speeding and have a higher rate of accidents, and consequently, they carry tuition-sapping insurance premiums.
|Make & model||Average buying from dealer price||Average drop in retail value vs. MSRP|
|2009 Chevrolet Malibu||$12,925||45%|
|2010 Chevrolet Malibu||$14,483||39%|
|2009 Ford Focus||$10,388||38%|
|2008 Hyundai Elantra||$9,450||47%|
|2009 Hyundai Sonata||$11,167||50%|
|2010 Kia Forte||$12,117||27%|
|2010 Kia Optima||$13,320||38%|
|2010 Kia Soul||$13,938||15%|
|2009 Mitsubishi Outlander||$12,833||46%|
|2010 Nissan Altima||$14,930||35%|
|2008 Nissan Rogue||$13,125||36%|
|2010 Nissan Sentra||$13,458||26%|
|2008 Scion xB||$11,100||33%|
|2009 Subaru Impreza||$14,317||27%|
|2008 Subaru Legacy||$12,175||43%|
|2010 Toyota Corolla||$13,350||24%|
|2010 Toyota Matrix||$14,394||28%|
|2008 Toyota RAV4||$14,875||41%|
|2009 Volkswagen Jetta||$13,831||39%|
Buying a used car has many benefits. Most important is that the original owner takes the initial depreciation hit, as new cars lose much more value in the first and second years than those that follow. When shopping, look for cars that scored well in Consumer Reports’ tests when new, have proven reliability, and perform well in government and insurance industry crash tests. Before handing over the cash, have the vehicle inspected by a trained and trusted mechanic to make sure there are no hidden problems.
See the complete list of used-car deals across a variety of vehicle categories. Also, see our list of best new and used cars for teens, as well as our special section on teen driving safety. For detailed used car pricing based on the mileage and condition of the vehicle, try Consumer Reports Used Car Price Reports.
Apparently consumers know a good deal with they see one. Driven largely by high residual values, rock-bottom interest rates, loosening credit and aggressive marketing, new-car leasing is at record high rates, according to Experian Automotive in Schaumburg, Ill. Leasing now accounts for 27.5 percent of all new-vehicle transactions, which represents a sturdy 12.5 percent increase over 2012 levels.
“Consumers tend to shop for vehicles based within the limits of their budget, and leasing is often seen as a viable path to a lower monthly payment,” says Melinda Zabritski, senior director of Automotive Credit. “Lenders have seen overall stability come back to the market since the recession, and leasing has gradually returned as a larger part of many lender strategies.”
Not surprisingly, Experian says average lease payments are likewise dropping, from $462 a year ago down to $459 in the first quarter of 2013. If that number still seems high, consider that a large majority of costly luxury cars are leased, rather than purchased outright. Still, automakers in all market segments are now pushing cut-rate leases aggressively on a wider range of models to attract bargain hunters – including those on some of the smallest and least expensive cars on the lot. They love leasing as it brings new customers back to dealerships with clocklike regularity and helps dealers maintain an inventory of recent-model used cars.
We scoured the Internet and found some incredible deals on 12 of the most desirable makes and models, including iconic cars like the BMW 3 Series and the Mini Cooper – all leasing for less than $300 a month. We even came across one car that’s leasing for as little as $99 a month, which is less than the cost of a daily grande latte at Starbucks.
Be aware that we’re identifying the lowest promoted monthly payments available for each make and model; lease terms can vary widely according to a number of factors and the numbers can be juggled according to a lessee’s preference to reflect a lower monthly payment or down payment, longer or shorter lease period and/or more or fewer miles allowed.
While the cost of a new-car lease is based largely on the available interest rate and a given model’s residual value, automakers and leasing companies can manipulate other provisions of the agreement to help sweeten the deal on a given model. Called “subventing” a lease, this often involves subsidizing a below-market interest rate, artificially inflating a vehicle’s residual value or offering bonus cash to lower a car’s transaction price.
Another way automakers can lower a lease’s monthly payment is to reduce the number of annual miles allowed. This is typically 12,000 miles per year, though some leases might include as few as 7,500 annual miles. Be sure not to enter a lease that unduly limits your mileage – particularly if you have a distant daily commute or like to take long road trips – as it may cost you dearly down the road. Depending on the lease terms you could be assessed as much as an extra 15 to 30 cents a mile for exceeding the limit, which means you’d have to come up with $150 to $300 per 1,000 extra miles on the odometer at the end of the lease. However, those who worry they might exceed the stated annual mileage can often purchase additional miles up front at a discounted rate.
Be aware that if you tend to be hard on your car or truck, think twice before leasing one. Leased vehicles must be returned in excellent condition, without dents, deep scratches, window cracks or torn upholstery and with all accessories in good working order; otherwise you’ll be assessed costly “excessive wear and tear” fees.
Finally, keep in mind that the lowest advertised lease rates are typically available only to so-called “well qualified lessees” with top credit scores who represent the lowest risk. Those with less than stellar credit will typically pay a higher financing charge that will, in turn, result in a costlier monthly payment.
The fine print: Monthly payments quoted for vehicles in our list of top lease deals are 2013 models and trim levels specified and do not include additional options, taxes or registration fees. All offers are good through July 1, 2013. Keep in mind that you may be able to garner an even better deal by negotiating a lower transaction price with the dealership. Typically the down payment and first month’s lease payment are due at signing. None of the deals listed here require a security deposit. Dealer participation may vary and the rates and provisions quoted may vary according to region. Check the automakers’ websites and local dealerships for additional deals and details.
Monthly payment: $299; Term: 36 months; Due at signing: $3,774; Annual mileage: 10,000. This is without doubt one of the best deals we’ve ever seen on what is without quarrel one of the most desirable sport sedans in the industry. This deal includes the base 320i model with the Premium Package and is subject to $1,125 dealer contribution and a $750 lease cash incentive.
Monthly payment: $239; Term: 24 months; Due at signing: $2,009; Annual mileage: 10,000. Pound-for-pound this deal on the midsize LaCrosse delivers the “most” car for the money, with a quiet and comfortable five-passenger interior residing under a sleek and stylish exterior. This deal is for the base “eAssist” mild hybrid four-cylinder model and includes two complimentary years of OnStar Directions & Connections, SiriusXM Radio and two years or 24,000 miles (whichever comes first) of free vehicle maintenance; it’s subject to a $2,000 lease cash incentive.
Monthly payment: $149; Term: 36 months; Due at signing: $2,469; Annual mileage: 12,000. This price gets you a Cruze LS with automatic transmission, and represents a terrific deal on this nicely styled, accommodating and solid-performing compact sedan.
Monthly payment: $199; Term: 39 months; Due at signing: $3,069; Annual mileage: 12,000. This rugged-looking smallish midsize five-passenger crossover SUV is family friendly and a real bargain at this price; it’s for a SLE-1 model with front-wheel drive. A similar deal is offered on its near twin, the suburban-chic Chevrolet Equinox.
Monthly payment: $169; Term: 36 months; Due at signing: $2,299; Annual mileage: 10,000. One of the industry’s best-selling compact sedans received assorted improvements for 2013, with a low lease rate being the icing on the proverbial cake. This deal is for a Civic LX Sedan (including PZEV models) with automatic transmission.
Monthly payment: $219; Term: 36 months; Due at signing: $3,399; Annual mileage: 10,000. Arguably one of the most amenable compact crossovers currently in production, it’s difficult to find fault with the peppy and perky CR-V, especially at this low monthly payment. It’s for a base EX model with front-wheel drive and is subject to a $500 lease cash incentive.
Monthly payment: $199; Term: 36 months; Due at signing: $2,215; Annual mileage: 10,000. It may be too small for some, but the venerable Mini Cooper is among the most enjoyable little cars on the road with pleasing go-kart-like handling and an eccentric nature. This deal is for the base Cooper hatchback with automatic transmission and is subject to a $500 dealer contribution.
Monthly payment: $299; Term: 39 months; Due at signing: $2,999; Annual mileage: 12,000. With 332 horses under the hood the 370Z costs less to lease than a buck per month per horsepower. Talk about fast money. This deal is for the base coupe with manual transmission equipped with floor mats and splash guards, and is subject to dealer contribution.
Monthly payment: $199; Term: 36 months; Due at signing: $1,999; Annual mileage: 12,000. Think you can’t afford to drive an electric car? Think again. Assuming your daily drive is within the Leaf’s range (about 75 miles give or take on a charge), this can be a terrific deal, especially with the EPA rating the Leaf at the electric equivalent of 129/102-mpg city/highway. This deal is for the Leaf S and is subject to a $7,500 lease cash incentive and dealer contribution.
Monthly payment: $299; Term: 36 months; Due at signing: $1,999; Annual mileage: 12,000. Arguably one of the hottest new models for 2013, the FR-S is a stylish and thoroughly entertaining rear-drive sports car that’s being offered at an attractive price. This deal is for a base model with automatic transmission.
Monthly payment: $99; Term: 36 months; Due at signing: $1,393; Annual mileage: 10,000. Granted, this is a small car that’s small even by small car terms, but it’s basic transportation for two passengers and can be had for just over three bucks a day. Deal is for the base Pure Coupe model and is subject to dealer contribution.
Monthly payment: $249; Term: 39 months; due at signing $0; Annual mileage: 10,000. Not only is the incredibly spacious midsize Passat sedan being offered for a low monthly lease rate, you can drive one off the lot for zero down, which makes this an even better bargain. Deal is for a Passat S with Appearance Package and automatic transmission and is subject to dealer contribution.
Facing stiff competition in the more crowded electric car market, General Motors is offering huge incentives to move its Chevy Volt off of dealer lots.
Volt buyers can get rebates of $5,000 on 2012 Volts or $4,000 on 2013 models. Alternatively, General Motors (GM, Fortune 500) is offering a special lease deal of $269 a month for 36 months with an initial payment of $2,399 for qualified buyers, the company said Monday.
While automakers don’t make big profits (and often lose money) on electric cars, they are nevertheless an important part of the business. For example, California, the largest auto market in the United States, requires car makers to sell a certain number of plug-in cars if they wish to do business there.
The Volt is a plug-in car that can go about 40 miles on a charge, but also has a a gasoline engine to provide power for longer drives.
Besides those types of regulations, electric cars are important image makers for car companies. “A lot of these companies want to be known as the company people think of when they think of a plug-in car,” said Jessica Caldwell, an analyst with the auto Web site Edmunds.com.
Pricing and incentives on electric cars have been getting more aggressive recently as automakers try to improve sales of the cars.
Honda recently announced a new low lease rate for its Honda Fit EV, an electric car that’s available in California. The Fit EV is being offered for $259 a month with no money down. That price includes insurance, maintenance and unlimited mileage. Plus, Honda (HMC)will provide a free home charging station.
Chevrolet dealers sold about 1,600 Volts last month, which is 4.3% fewer than were sold in May of 2012. Nissan (NSANF), meanwhile, saw a big increase in sales of the Leaf plug-in. Nissan sold 2,138 Leafs last month compared to just 510 the year before. Nissan is offering very low lease prices on the Leaf. The Leaf is available for $199 a month with only $999 down. Nissan also lowered the sticker price on the car as they moved production of the car from Japan to the United States.
The Toyota Corolla has long been the antithesis of the enthusiast car. It’s the automotive equivalent of smooth jazz — ubiquitous and innocuous but seldom loved. And like a forgettably syrupy Kenny G ballad album, it’s also enjoyed enviable success over the years; in 1997 it beat out the Volkswagen Beetle to become the best-selling car of all time, and is always near the top of the charts for its segment, selling 290,947 units in 2012 in spite of being near the end of its model cycle.
But reputation and bulletproof reliability alone hasn’t been enough to stave off competition in recent years, and it’s been sparring with the Ford Focus for bragging rights as the best-seller. Since a half-hearted makeover would likely lead to losing more market share, Toyota has unveiled a new, eleventh generation Corolla that’s sleeker and dare I say, interesting.
Surprisingly similar to the carbon fiber-trimmed Corolla Furia concept from this year’s Detroit Auto Show, the production version sheds the frumpy profile from the existing car by stretching the wheelbase and overall length by almost four inches. With chiseled lines and sculpted creases on the outside and a sportily svelte cabin within, it’s the best-looking Corolla yet. Nonetheless, the smallish tires tucked into cavernous wheel wells show it’s still an economy car at its core.
And while the fundamentals of the car won’t change much — there’s still a 1.8-liter, 132-hp engine, a four-speed automatic (in addition to a six-speed manual and CVT) and a torsion beam rear suspension — Toyota promises a more engaging drive. Steering has been slightly quickened to 3.19 turns lock-to-lock similar to the pre-refresh 2012 Honda Civic, and the electronic power steering unit touts better road feedback and accuracy. The S trim traditionally has little frills and no thrills, and for 2014 it’ll see a stiffened suspension setup as well as a 140-hp engine.
So the “sporty” grade won’t take on a Volkswagen GLI at a stoplight, but efficiency, not speed, has always been one of the key selling points of the Corolla, and Toyota is targeting 42 highway mpg for the LE Eco trim. The compact will also see more standard features across the line-up, including Bluetooth connectivity, LED-adorned headlights and eight airbags.
None of those are groundbreaking specs, but what’s game changing is Toyota’s shift towards the sporty, even with what has long been a hopelessly forgettable appliance. If the Corolla gets a competitive pricepoint and driving dynamics that don’t induce sea sickness, it may not only be a value-minded purchase for buyers, but an enjoyable one.
Self-driving cars are quickly becoming a reality.
Companies like Audi and Lexus are beginning to integrate autonomous operation into their own cars using advanced computer systems, cameras, radars, and sensors that take control of vehicles at highway speeds.
Take for example Audi’s new A7 four-door sedan. It’s equipped with a range of sensors that allow the car to pilot itself. But this isn’t the same type of autonomous driving that Google’s cars can achieve.
New York Times reporter, John Markoff wrote about his experience piloting the Audi A7 last month in Jerusalem. He spoke with Mobileye Vision Technologies, the company that designs the camera-only autonomous system for Audi.
The Mobileye car does not offer the autonomy achieved by Google’s engineers. The Google car, which has been tested for more than 300,000 miles in California traffic, will merge onto freeways, drive safely through intersections, make left and right turns, and pass slower vehicles.
The Mobileye can only drive in a single lane at freeway speeds and is able to stop, slow, and then go back to highway speeds.
Instead of being compared to Google’s self-driving technology, Mobileye wants to prove that autonomous driving can be commercialized. But this feat isn’t easy to achieve.
Markoff discovered that Google’s technology is actually the future of driving. Once it’s perfected the car will be able to drive itself in any situation, including merging in and out of traffic.
Mobileye’s technology is complementing expensive cars as a way to justify at $70,000 price tag. Mobileye is more commercial and less intense than Google’s self-driving car.
Google usually gets all the attention for its self-driving car initiative, and for good reason. The search giant’s autonomous cars are at the forefront of the self-driving car craze. Google has more advanced technology, more sensors, and more cameras that give the driver a full view of what’s going on around each section of the car.
“An increase in new car sales post-recession has brought more used-car inventory into the market,” says Ricky Beggs, a senior VP at research firm Black Book. As a result, the average one-to five-year-old auto today sells for 13% less than last year. “While prices have indeed started to come down, they are still noticeably higher than where they were prior to the recession,” Beggs notes.
The best deals: luxury SUVs and full-size cars, which had bigger than average drops, probably due to gas-price worries.
Best used SUV deal
Five-year-old Land Rover Range Rover Sport
Cost now: $38,800
Cost last year: $46,700
Best used full-size deal
Five-year-old Toyota Avalon
Cost now: $15,550
Cost last year: $18,250
While buyers are, on average, paying 3% more for new vehicles this year than last, a few categories are going for less. Those are the ones at the extremes, according to Truecar.com. Thank the oil industry for deals on three-row SUVs: With fuel prices remaining high, consumers are looking for cars that get more miles to the gallon. At the same time, fuel prices aren’t outrageous enough to motivate buyers to squeeze themselves into subcompact cars for a slight savings at the pump.
Best deal on a big luxe SUV
Average paid 2013: $57,883; Change from 2012: -3.9%
Best deal on a big family SUV
Mazda CX-9 (FWD Grand Touring)
Average paid 2013: $33,699; Change from 2012: -2.3%
Best deal on a small car
Ford Fiesta (SE Model)
Average paid 2013: $15,782; Change from 2012: -3.4%
When you lease, what you’re really paying for is the value the car loses between the time you drive it off the lot and the time you return it, plus the cost of the leasing company’s financing. So today’s still-high used-car prices, combined with low interest rates, are creating some amazing lease deals, says Jesse Toprak, an analyst with auto-pricing site TrueCar.com.
Best luxury lease
2013 Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Current offer: $349 a month for 27 months with $4,043 down
Best family lease
2013 Honda CR-V
Current offer: $300 a month for 36 months with $0 down
Note: Average price paid is for base model minus option costs, from Truecar.com.
The current interest rate environment may do bupkis for your savings, but you’ll be happy if you’re planning to finance a car this year. The average 48-month new car loan is going for 4% now vs. 4.4% in 2012, and the average 60-month is at 4.1% vs. 4.5%, according to Bankrate.com. On certain models, you’ll do a lot better. Dealers are offering 0% financing on the 2013 Ford Taurus for loans of up to 60 months to woo buyers away from newly redesigned cars in the segment.
As always, to find the best deal, get prequalified at a local bank or credit union before you shop; then see whether the dealer can give you a better rate.
Small SUVs are one of the hottest vehicle categories. Their good fuel economy, easy access, all-weather traction, and plenty of passenger and cargo space make them an appealing choice for many car buyers. In this crowded segment, it can be challenging for consumers to determine which one is best to buy. That’s where we come in.
Most automakers offer a small SUV in their lineup, but the list below focuses on popular models priced between $20,000 and $30,000. All score high enough to earn a Consumer Reports Recommendation, although not all have proven their reliability to be worthy of the accolade.
The list is organized in rank order of overall test score. While we cover the highlights here, it is well worth visiting their respective model pages to read the detailed road test and review the complete ratings.
Subaru Forester: The straight-A student
The 2014 redesign brings many changes that helps the Forester go to the top of the class, leaving its competition far behind. Improvements include class-leading fuel economy at 26 mpg overall and 35 mpg highway, a standard backup camera, excellent visibility, a roomy interior, and very easy access. In addition, the Forester is the only small SUV to receive a Good score in all five Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crash tests. It isn’t perfect, however. The ride is a bit jittery, and the infotainment system feels antiquated.
Honda CR-V: Easy-going and sensible
Buyers prizing reliability and space will appreciate the CR-V. A flexible and roomy cabin provides plenty of storage and cargo space. The engine is smooth, but fuel economy is falling a bit behind the curve, thanks to Mazda and Subaru. Handling is responsive but emergency handling is less competent. Road noise is excessive. A standard backup camera is welcome, especially as rearward visibility is challenged.
Mazda CX-5: Aimed at fuel-frugal fun-seekers
Combining quick acceleration, impressive fuel economy, and agile handling seems like a tall order, but the CX-5 manages this feat. The new 184-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine feels more muscular and provides much quicker acceleration than the previous-generation powerplant, now relegated to the base Sport trim. Plus, the CX-5 got the same impressive fuel economy—25 mpg overall—with the bigger engine. However, cabin noise is loud and the price is relatively high. A blind-spot monitoring system comes on most trim lines. A sleeper in this class, the CX-5 is good enough that consumers should wake up to its virtues.
Toyota RAV4: A good all-around package
The RAV4 is a safe overall choice, even if it doesn’t stand out in any one attribute. Its 2013 redesign made notable improvements, such as removing the awkward side-hinged rear gate and moving the spare tire to under the cargo floor. Handling is now more agile, too. Power and fuel economy are good from the capable four-cylinder engine and slick six-speed automatic. Interior trim gained attractive touches in some places but skimped elsewhere. Still, rear-seat room is generous, access is super easy, controls are mostly intuitive, and a backup camera is standard.
Ford Escape: Sophisticated and athletic, at a price
Many small SUVs tend to be loud and stiff riding. But the redesigned Escape is solid, sophisticated, and athletic. Highlights agile handling and an impressively supple and composed ride, plus its cabin is one of the quietest in the class. However, there are a few shortcomings, including controls that are needlessly complicated, such as the optional MyFord Touch infotainment system. You need to pay a lot to get a model with the optional rear camera. Plus, we don’t have reliability information yet. Consider the Escape to be the model reaching for the luxury class, both in refinement and price.
Nissan Rogue: Starting to feel old
Compared to the other models on this list, the Rogue is one of the oldest small SUVs available; a redesign is imminent. Handling is responsive and the ride is supple. The 170-hp engine is raspy at high revs, and fuel economy isn’t keeping up with newer competitors. The cargo area is small and rear visibility is poor. We expect a redesign to bring similar improvements as seen on other freshened models, such as a standard backup camera and improved fuel economy to make it more competitive.
Kia Sportage: Sporty and reliable, but less practical
With appealing styling and nimble handling, the Sportage adds some sport to the small SUV segment. But the styling makes for difficult rear visibility. You also sacrifice refinement for sportiness, with a stiff ride and pronounced road noise. Performance is leisurely, unless you get the optional turbocharged engine, and fuel economy is falling behind newer competition. On the plus side, the Sportage has been very reliable.
Hyundai Tucson: Styling stands out, but little else
Unlike many of its boxy rivals, the Tucson’s more coupe-like styling catches the eye. But the sloping roof robs cargo space and inhibits the view to the rear. Overall, facing freshened competition, the Tucson proves forgettable. Buyers seem to agree, as owner satisfaction is below average. Handling is secure but uninspiring, and the ride is stiff. Road noise is pronounced, making the Tucson feel insubstantial.
On paper, many of the small SUVs look the same, with similar size, features, and power. Through the road tests, we’re able to discern meaningful differences. Continue your research in our SUV buying guide and model pages, then test drive the standouts yourself and see if their personality is a good fit with yours.
Pickup trucks are America’s workhorses. Each year Ford, GM, and Dodge move more than a million of them, most of which are destined for a lifetime of heavy duty. But a small percentage of these trucks are special editions, models designed with standout style, performance, or both.
1991 GMC Syclone
The Syclone, a one-year-only monster mini pickup, arrived just as the sport truck scene was gathering steam. GM had some recent experience turbocharging V-6 engines, and this one channeled the soul of the mightiest turbocharged Buick Grand Nationals of the 1980s. The result was a GMC S-15 pickup that trounced a Ferrari in a famous Car and Driver test that pitted the just-under-$30,000 Syclone against a $122,000 Ferrari 348.
The turbocharged 4.3-liter V-6 that sent the Syclone to 60 mph in just 5.3 seconds put out 280 hp and 360 lb-ft of torque, channeled to all four wheels through a four-speed automatic borrowed from the Corvette. The Syclone only came in black and was followed in 1992–1993 by the Typhoon, a GMC Jimmy SUV with the same powertrain.
1989–1991 Dodge Dakota Sport Convertible
Who says you can’t have utility and fun in the same package? Before hitting the showrooms, the American Sunroof Company removed the metal roof and installed a folding fabric top and roll bar. The result was the only convertible pickup truck until the Chevrolet SSR came out in 2003. But unlike the Chevy’s retro styling and limited utility, the Dakota convertible was pretty much exactly like the hard-top Dakota. That didn’t seem to make a difference, however, as both droptop trucks sold poorly and have kept automakers from trying this wacky experiment one more time. The closest thing we have to the Dakota today is the Nissan Murano CrossCabriolet convertible SUV.
GMC produced some strange special edition pickup trucks in the ’70s. In 1975 the company made a black and gold truck called the Gentleman Jim, though the difference wasn’t much more than a paint job. That same year the Beau James model debuted, packing some more serious equipment. It was a blue and silver heavy-duty 3/4-ton truck with softer springs and a smoother ride.
In 1977 GMC was the official truck of the Indy 500. To commemorate the occasion, the company built special edition GMC pickups in both 2WD and 4WD, with deep front spoilers, a sweet black and white paint scheme, and big wide raised white letter tires (and red pinstriping). These were some of the coolest and rarest of the 1970s GMC pickups. The success of these trucks made room for 1980′s GMC Indy Hauler, when the company joined Pontiac (Turbo Trans Am) to pace the race that year. Indy Haulers were even emblazoned with the Trans Am’s screaming chicken hood sticker, making them one of the most outrageous pickups of the era.
2004–2006 Dodge Ram SRT-10
GMC wasn’t the only brand making wild, hot-rodded trucks in the ’70s; Dodge’s 1978 L’il Red Express Truck, with wood bed accents, giant 18-wheeler-like exhaust pipes, and a Police Interceptor 360-cid V-8 under the hood, was one of the craziest.
In 2004 Dodge reprised that idea with even more radical results. Chrysler’s in-house tuning arm, SRT, took the 500 hp, 8.3-liter V-10 and six-speed manual transmission from the Dodge Viper and slithered it into the chassis of the Ram pickup. The incredible package, combined with hardcore suspension enhancements, produced a pickup that would hit 60 mph in the 5-second range. In 2005 a Quad Cab model with an automatic transmission and the ability to tow made the SRT-10 slightly more practical, but practicality wasn’t why anybody bought this $45,000 monster. This remains one of the most potent pickups in history, and we wouldn’t be surprised if they become highly collectible in years to come.
1976–1983 Jeep Honcho
In the 1970s the more aggressive the vehicle name and the wilder the paint, the better. Jeep had plenty of wild models at the time: Remember the 1975 Golden Eagle, a gold accented package available on the CJ? The Golden Eagle was emblazoned with (of course) a giant eagle sticker on its hood. It was like the Trans Am of Jeeps.
But one of the coolest packages Jeep offered was based on Jeep’s half-ton full-size pickup, the J-10. Jeep’s J-series full-size pickup trucks were launched in 1964 as “Gladiators” but no model was more brazenly over-the-top than the Honcho. Ads proclaimed “Honcho means boss… and Honcho is macho. And that means brawny, powerful and tough.”
The Honcho package used the “wide-track” Dana 44 axles from the Cherokee and included big 31-inch tires and white wagon-type wheels. The stoutest Honchos packed AMC’s 401-cid V-8. Many wore the optional front brush guard as well as a roll bar in the bed. And some even came with a dealer-installed hidden recovery winch. Jeep produced less than 1500 Honcho Sportsides so these rarities are coveted machines.
1990–1993 Chevy 454 SS
Special edition trucks in the 1990s didn’t quite have the visual pop of their ’70s and 80s predecessors. Still, the “454 SS” graphics on this truck’s bedsides left little to the imagination as to what was under the hood.
The 454 SS was a performance model of the Chevy 1500 launched in 1990. Instead of the ubiquitous 350-cubic-inch small-block V-8 that came in most 1500-series models, Chevy dropped in the 230-hp 454-cid V-8 from its heavy-duty trucks, which pumped 385 lb-ft of torque. It was paired to a three-speed automatic and at first came only in black. The 454 SS sat lower in the rear and wore stiffer front springs to handle the weight of that enormous engine.
A small truck with a huge engine should be a dragstrip terror. But even in 1993, when this motor was massaged to 255 hp and 405 lb-ft, it was good only for mid-15-second quarter-mile times. At the time that wasn’t exactly slow, but it couldn’t match the Camaro Z/28 or Ford Mustang GT. Chevy introduced a Sport model of the 1500 that sold alongside the 454 SS and looked identical to its more powerful sibling, except for the “454 SS” stickers. Perhaps that’s why this cool model lasted only four years.
Baja race trucks in the 1980s and early 1990s enjoyed a staunch fan base and inspired the look of street trucks. In 1987, to capitalize on the prerunner craze, legendary racer Rod Hall developed a custom truck backed by Dodge. The 1987 trucks emulated his race prerunners by having a taller and firmer suspension. The trouble was, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) didn’t care much for this suspension. Dodge made only 14 Rod Hall Signature Editions and NHTSA recalled every one. Few ever returned to owners’ hands, and even fewer still are around today.
However, in 1990 Hall teamed up with Carroll Shelby, who had a relationship with Chrysler at the time, to build a new batch of Signature Series trucks. They made a total of 33, and each one wears cool prerunner bumpers front and rear, a bed-mounted light bar, and Rod Hall driving lights.
All of these trucks came with Dodge’s least powerful eight-cylinder engine, the 318-cid V-8 with a measly 170 hp. So they weren’t nearly as quick as they looked. Nonetheless, the Rod Hall Signature models were some of the most interesting, rare, and unique trucks Dodge ever offered.
1993–1995 Ford F-150 SVT Lightning
After the early ’90s sport-truck performance onslaught by General Motors with the GMC Syclone and 454 SS, it was time for Ford to provide a little competition. But instead of stuffing its biggest V-8 into the Lightning, Ford decided to modify the lighter 5.8-liter V-8 with GT-40 aluminum cylinder heads, plus a unique camshaft, intake manifold, and throttle-body fuel-injection system. The resulting 240 hp and 340 lb-ft of torque was enough to match the 454 SS in a straight line. Ford’s in-house performance tuners, SVT, then reworked the Lightning’s suspension to provide much more grip and speed in the corners than the heavy Chevy.
The Lightning was a true performance vehicle with upgrades to every aspect of its character. Its capability and speed are that much more impressive when you realize the basic truck platform was already 13 years old when the Lightning debuted. It was so successful that Ford built a second-generation supercharged Lightning from 1999 to 2004. These trucks paved the way for the incredible Raptor of today.
1977-1981 Dodge Macho Power Wagon
The Power Wagon nameplate is one of the longest-running in Dodge history, stretching from the original military Power Wagons of the 1940s to today’s Power Wagon, a heavy-duty off-road version of the Ram. In the 1970s Dodge launched a Macho version of the Power Wagon that delivered some visual heat for the 1970s 4X4 fan.
Dodge had some of the craziest pickups on the market, from the gold-trimmed Warlock and Warlock II (’76–’79) to the L’il Red Express Truck (’78–’79), which used tall vertical exhaust stacks combined with the wood-lined bed of the Warlock. The Macho was in production longer than any of them, and came in either short- or long-bed models with a roll bar mounted to the bed, and special flat black and yellow paint accents that included “Power Wagon” in giant letters on the bedside and color matched wagon-type wheels. Although these machines were available with any of Dodge’s small block V-8s, the most desirable Machos packed the top dog 440-cid big block V-8 housed in the sportiest short-bed body style.
Machos saw their popularity soar thanks to a long-bed model that played a starring role on the small screen on the 1981 to 1995 hit TV series “Simon and Simon.”
2002 Lincoln Blackwood
Put an F-150 into a Lincoln Navigator‘s bodywork and you had the Blackwood, a one-year-only pickup from Ford’s luxury brand. The idea was a truck as luxurious as it sounds, and the Blackwood’s engineers went to great lengths to make this vehicle essentially unusable as a pickup. Its bed was designed more for looking pretty than anything else, with plush carpeting, stainless-steel bedsides, LED lighting, Dutch-style doors replacing a traditional tailgate, and even a power cover.
Unsurprisingly, you paid for that luxury. The Blackwood was only available in 2WD and sold for more than $50,000. The truck failed to attract buyers in any number in its day, but today it’s a quirky and rare collector’s item.
REPOSTED BY MIDWEST GLASS TINTERS FROM: http://autos.yahoo.com/news/10-rare-and-rowdy-special-edition-trucks-203052993.html
You know the Tesla Model S, the $70,000 (and-up) electric car that “nobody can afford”? Well, evidently, more than a few people can afford it.
In fact, in the first quarter of this year, more people bought a Tesla Model S than bought any of the similarly priced gasoline-powered cars from the top three German luxury brands, according to data from LMC Automotive. About 4,750 buyers bought a Model S while just over 3,000 people bought Mercedes’ top-level sedan.
This is not a perfect comparison, of course. Actual selling prices for the Mercedes S-class sedan start toward the upper end of the Tesla Model S price range, according the the auto pricing Web site TrueCar.com, while prices for the other cars are at the lower end. And nobody gets a $7,500 federal tax credit for a buying an S-class or an A8. Also, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Audi each sell a full range of cars and SUVs while Tesla buyers have only one model to choose from. The blog GreenCarReports.com first noted the comparison.
Still, let’s face it, Tesla (TSLA)’s one model is doing pretty well, especially for a start-up automaker with a limited dealer network. Last week was a particularly stellar one. On Wednesday, Tesla announced a profit that exceeded Wall Street estimates. It also raised its Model S sales estimates for this year from 20,000 to 21,000.
Then on Thursday Consumer Reports came out and called the Model S the best car that it had ever tested. (Its overall performance was “off the charts,” according to the magazine’s head of auto testing, but it only earned 99 out of a possible 100 points because it can’t be driven extremely long distances without recharging.) Despite some early stumbles — such as a squabble with the New York Times over its new“super charger” network and push back from traditional car dealers over its sales strategy – Tesla seems to humming along, at least for now.