Posts Tagged ‘Mazda’
Quality is something we all want when it comes to cars, especially older used ones. But how do we get it?
I have been studying this question in one form or another for nearly 14 years now. I began my automotive career as a car dealer, buying and selling hundreds of vehicles a year. As time went on, I became an auto auctioneer, a remarketing manager and a part-owner of a wholesale auto auction.
I saw thousands of cars come and go through the auction block during the course of each year, and as my worked changed, so did my understanding of quality. The overwhelming majority of the time, cars and trucks considered reliable in their early days would draw the strongest bids. But it wasn’t always true; I observed some models experience costly transmission failure just as the odometer rolled past the 100,000-mile mark, while others would exhibit everything from blown head gaskets, to chronic rust issues to inoperative battery packs for hybrid vehicles.
Well-respected publications such as Consumer Reports and J.D. Power & Associates do an outstanding job finding defect trends among new and slightly used vehicles. However, once that specific vehicle is sold by the survey participant, there’s no access to the history of the vehicle. As the average car owner over the last decade has typically kept their vehicle for approximately five to six years, a lot of data has disappeared.
Because there is no tracking service covering the problems in these vehicles, the 10-year-old vehicle that everyone assumed had great reliability will at times have terrible issues. Who knew? No one really. Consumer Reports’ database goes back 10 years, but the average car and truck is now 11.4 years old.
So I decided to test my guesses about used vehicles by using data from auto auctions and the problems dealers themselves disclose. As a frequent buyer and seller, I started my study with what I consider the key quality question for most car owners: “At what point does my car become so undesirable that I am willing to accept a wholesale used price for my vehicle?”
Trade-ins are a great measurement of that emotional question. Most consumers who trade their vehicle will get a price hundreds to thousands of dollars less than retail. Car dealers not only know the wholesale market, they know the retail market as well, and are often able to get cars repaired for a lot less than most car owners.
This isn’t always the case. Clean cars can sometimes be traded-in at a retail price, and then financed to a sub-prime car buyer for even more money. Dealers who specialize in a given car brand are usually more effective in marketing and selling that specific name, and they also get a greater share of trade-ins from the brand — along with a better selection of clean vehicles.
To remove this bias, I decided to gather data on trade-ins sent to wholesale auctions by large used-car retailers such as Carmax, J.D. Byrider, Drivetime, and other regional used-car retailers that don’t cater to a single automaker. This way there wouldn’t be an over-representation of a given brand. I also employed the help of Nick Lariviere, a statistician capable of creating visuals that would make all this real-world used car data easy to understand.
One year and nearly 300,000 vehicles later, we have developed a new quality index that you can find here. For now, we are focusing on brands and models. As the study continues to pool more vehicles, we’ll gradually introduce specific model year data, and even powertrain combinations, so that used car buyers can figure out where to find that older used vehicle that has truly earned its quality reputation.
So what out there is truly low quality? As far as those cars with the highest defect level at trade-in time, here are the 10 worst:
10. Volkswagen New Beetle(automatic transmission issues and cheap interior components; diesel models with 5-speed manuals are by far the best powertrain option.)
9. Mazda 626 (automatic transmission issues, all models.)
8. Lincoln Aviator (a gussied-up, unpopular Ford Explorer that had unique sensor and software issues which negatively impacted the overall powertrain and electronics.)
7. Jaguar S-Type(Extensive transmission and engine issues on all V-6 and V-8 models. Along with Limited edition models with ungodly replacement costs.)
6. Lincoln LS (Same basic powertrain as the Jaguar S-Type with nearly identical results.)
5. Mazda Millenia (Engine issues, transmission issues and cheap interiors that just don’t wear well.)
4. Land Rover Discovery (Expensive parts. Expensive powertrains. Electronics that are apparently the spawn of Beelzebub.)
3. Mini Cooper(Bad transmissions that are unusually expensive to replace. Cheap interior parts. Cheap hydraulics.)
2. Land Rover Freelander(A cost-cutting exercise that went way past the bone.)
And a true shocker, the single worst used vehicle at the wholesale auctions when it comes to overall defect rate at trade-in time is….
No list can be perfect, and it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t offer at least a couple of important caveats here. There are cars out there that are worth so little money now that they go straight to the junkyards instead of the wholesale auctions: Older Chryslers with defective 2.7-liter engines, older Suzukis and Kias, and the aquatic late ’90′s Ford Tauruses sometimes fall straight into the crusher once a major problem takes hold.
Also, if the vehicle appeared to have reliability issues, but didn’t have enough of a sample size at this point (for example: Mercury Mystique, Isuzu Axiom, Suzuki Forenza), I have kept it off the list for right now.
Finally some models, like the VW New Beetle, may have a pearl of quality in a specific engine/transmission combination within the overall swamp of trouble. This is one of the reasons why we are going to delve deeper as this study continues to take shape. In the meantime, if you want to know the top ten models in terms of long-term quality, click here.
The sign may say no, but how could you resist? If I owned a rock-crawling Jeep like this one photographed by Jason Bo, I’d drive it over everything. Got a shot to share? Add it to the Motoramic …
The Accord is a mid-sized family sedan that is available in hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions as well as fully gasoline-powered versions with four- and six-cylinder engines.
“Mainstream buyers have long found the Accord a popular choice because of its efficiency, functionality safety and value,” Green Car Journal editor Ron Cogan said in a statement. “With the addition of exceptional hybrid and plug-in hybrid versions to the already fuel-efficient Accord line, Honda (HMC)’s Accord becomes an even more compelling choice.”
The Accord Hybrid gets EPA-estimated 50 miles per gallon in city driving and 47 on the highway. (Hybrid cars often get better fuel economy in low-speed city driving than in highway cruising.)
The Accord Plug-in gets slightly lower city and highway mileage than the non-plug-in hybrid but it can go 12 miles on a charge before using any gasoline, according to EPA estimates.
Even gasoline-powered Accords are very fuel-efficient for their class. The V6 gets 34 mpg on the highway while the four-cylinder gets 36.
The other finalists for the award this year were two diesel-powered cars, the BMW 328d and Audi A6 TDI. Diesel cars are more fuel efficient that gasoline-powered cars. Two compact cars, the Toyota (TM) Corolla and Mazda3, were also finalists for the award.
To be eligible for the award, a car must be all-new or have significant changes for the new model year.
The new CTS is larger than the previous version, but retains the rear-wheel-drive design and performance that made it popular with critics.
“Our judges were particularly impressed by the CTS’s responsive powertrains and masterful balance of smooth ride and sporty handling”, said Motor Trend editor-in-chief Ed Loh.
To capture the top prize, the Cadillac beat out 21 other completely new or substantially redesigned models considered by the magazine.
After testing the cars at the Hyundai proving grounds in the southwest California desert, the magazine’s staffers narrowed the list to just seven finalists. In addition to the CTS, the BMW 4-series, Chevrolet Corvette, Jaguar F-type, Kia Forte, Mazda3, Mazda6 andMercedes-Benz S-class all advanced to the final round.
Those cars were then tested on roads and highways around the town of Tehachapi, Calif. After further debate, the writers and editors selected the winner by secret ballot.
The cars were judged on six criteria: Design advancement, engineering, efficiency, safety, value and performance.
“The CTS’s intended function was to take the fight to BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi — and win. And it has,” the magazine said in its review of the Cadillac.
The CTS is available with a 272-horsepower turbocharged 4-cylinder power plant, a 321-horsepower V6 and a 420-horsepower turbocharged V6. The CTS is also the first Cadillac to offer an eight-speed transmission.
Motor Trend called the four-cylinder engine “the most surprising,” saying that if offers “class-leading power with competitive fuel economy.”
This is the second time a Cadillac CTS has won the award. It also took top honors in 2008.
Motor Trend named the Subaru Forester its SUV of the Year in October and Truck of the Year will be announced next month.
Last year’s Motor Trend Car of the Year winner was the Tesla Model S.
The Mazda3 has always been somewhat of an enigma among compact cars. Unlike its peers that lean towards the efficient and practical side of the econobox equation, the Mazda3 has always been a spunky alternative that nicely balanced efficiency and performance. Consequently, it’s the most fun-to-drive vehicle in the C Segment and a serious value, relatively speaking. It surely isn’t boring like some of the other boxes.
For months now, unsubstantiated rumors about the redesigned Mazda3 have been swirling around the web, along with several fuzzy spy images and ambiguous artist renderings. In addition, there has been lots of speculation, particularly with how the zoom-zoom automaker was going to incorporate its new Kodo design language — which is intended to “embody the tension of power and speed caught in motion” and made its first appearance on the automaker’s Shinari concept back in 2010 — as well as how the company’s lineup of Skyactiv technologies would affect the vehicle’s fun-to-fling character.
All of that conjecture — well, most of it — was put to rest today, as Mazda unveiled its all-new 2014 Mazda3 in New York City this morning.
Lower and leaner than its predecessor, the new Mazda3 shares almost nothing with the previous generation. As expected, it’s based on the same platform that underpins the CX-5, and takes it styling cues from the new Mazda6, complete with muscular fenders, a distinctive greenhouse and a sloping roofline, which also gives the car a strong family resemblance to the new Mazda2. The longer wheelbase helps to give it a more commanding stance and shorter overhangs front and back.
While Mazda claims the infamous “smiley face” that has adorned the car’s front-end for years is a thing of the past, I disagree. Check out the photos: It has been softened somewhat, but it’s there. In fact, it looks bit buck-toothed like Tow Mater from Pixar’s animated feature Cars. After saying that, it doesn’t look bad or cartoonish. The aggressive headlamps and upright grille translate nicely and, thus, are quite appealing.
Inside, the Mazda3 has gone upscale – pure and simple. It’s still small, but there are plenty of nice appointments and soft-touch surfaces. One of the most notable features is the new human-machine interface (i.e., the in-dash LCD based Navi/Infotainment system) that motors out of the dash as it does in the Mazda6.
Under the hood, there are two options: an updated version of the current 2.0-liter Skyactiv four-banger that pushes out 155 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque, as well as the new Skyactiv 2.5-liter gasoline engine, the same one fitted to the CX-5 and 2014 Mazda6. As compared to the outgoing 2.5-liter, the torque output of the new engine at low- to mid-range speeds is increased by 10 to 15 percent, and its weight is reduced by 10 percent. The Skyactiv-G 2.5-liter produces a peak of 184 horsepower at 5,700 rpm and 185 lb-ft of torque at 3,250 rpm, both an improvement of more than 10 percent over the previous engine. Models with the 2.5 will also feature an active grille shutter mounted in front of the radiator, which automatically opens and closes to improve the cars aerodynamics. Both engines will be offered with a Skyactiv-MT six-speed manual and a Skyactiv-Drive six-speed automatic.
Finally, the 2014 Mazda3 introduces several all-new safety systems under the i-Activsense banner that help the driver recognize hazards, avoid collisions and minimize damage should an accident occur. They include high beam control (automatically switches headlamps between low and high beams when necessary), blind spot monitoring, and lane departure warning.
Sadly, that’s pretty much it for the specifics. Mazda’s Head of Product Planning Tim Barnes was very vague when it came to details, especially regarding trim levels, pricing and fuel economy figures, saying that all will be revealed “at a later date.”
Barnes did give us a few hints on pricing, saying it will be “somewhere in the heart of the segment.” Meaning that it will be more expensive than some its peers, thus hurting its value factor.
And as far as fuel economy goes, we are guessing that the nearly 200-pound lighter 2014 Mazda3 will return improved fuel economy and performance since there’s not only less heft to cart around, but also because of the slippery coefficient of drag (0.255 for the sedan, 0.275 for the hatchback). Currently, the 2.0-liter Mazda3 returns up to 40 miles per gallon on the highway. It won’t be any lower.
Although the specs on paper may not bedazzle, the Achilles’ heel of the Mazda3 has long been its lackluster sheetmetal that betrays the car’s zippy dynamics. Hence, the much-needed aesthetic overhaul could be enough to steal marketshare away from the duller mainstream offerings like the the Honda Civic.
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.
“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.
At least an 8.0 rating on The Car Connection‘s full reviews from three years ago–in this case, the 2011 model year At least four circles on J.D. Power‘s predicted-dependability rankings, or at least average reliability on Consumer ReportsAt least four stars overall from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) or a Top Safety Pick award from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
In this list, we’ve examined the field of sport-utility vehicles–including crossovers–and come up with 18 of the best used SUVs on the road today, with the bottom line from our 2011 review:
With a few notable flaws in styling and features, the 2011 Acura MDX still impresses us with its friendly handling and gutsy power.
The 2011 Audi Q5 is one of the best upscale picks in a compact crossover, thanks to its sleek lines, practical interior, responsive feel, and city-savvy size.
The 2011 Cadillac Escalade delivers solid, luxurious, and spacious accommodations with an advanced feature set. If you can live with the thirst of non-Hybrid models, it’s unbeatable.
The 2011 SRX has the comfort and refinement luxury crossovers expect—plus a little Cadillac attitude.
If you don’t need a third row, the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox is just right for small families; it’s refined, secure, and versatile, and gets very impressive fuel economy in four-cylinder form.
2011 Chevrolet TraverseThe 2011 Chevrolet Traverse isn’t fun to drive, but it’s one of the best large crossover wagons for transporting the family comfortably and safely.
The 2011 Dodge Durango is the anti-crossover, especially with the HEMI and R/T trim, and if the world still sanctioned big SUVs for small families, the Durango would be elbowing its way to driveways everywhere.
Provided you don’t need a third-row seat, the 2011 Ford Edge is at last, at the leading edge of mid-size crossovers, with one of the best driver interfaces in the business.
The 2011 GMC Terrain looks bold and edgy on the outside, but it’s a softy inside, with a comfortable, refined cabin and excellent fuel economy.
Much better than its predecessor, the 2011 Hyundai Tucson needs a touch more power and steering feel to top carlike utes like the Nissan Rogue.
Kia hits game reset, and gives the 2011 Sportage an appealing new look and feel.
The swinging style sets an audacious mood—and the 2011 Lincoln MKT backs it up with turbo V-6 thrust.
You won’t need any excuses to say you’ve chosen the 2011 Lincoln MKX; it delivers on the promise of the brand: top-notch American luxury, with some of the best luxury and tech features wrapped in.
The 2011 Mazda CX-9 can carry seven in comfort, but it loves curves more than almost any other roomy crossover.
The 2011 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class has the rugged look U.S. shoppers want, in a sensibly sized package. We only wish it were a little more fuel-efficient.
The roomy, versatile 2011 Subaru Forester handles better than just about any other small crossover, though the need for a more modern transmission and a little more cabin refinement keep it from greatness.
If off-road capability is a top requirement, the brawny 2011 Toyota 4Runner is a good choice—with surprisingly good road manners to boot.
The 2011 Volvo XC60 offers top in-car tech and luxury features, in a secure package that’s big enough for small families.
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Back in February, we talked about the new McLaren P1. Only 375 of these spectacular cars were slated to be produced, and now we find out who one of the lucky owners may be.
One might say Los Angeles Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson has it all. After a long stint playing for the Texas Rangers ending with his first All-Star game, Wilson signed a five-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels during the offseason worth a reported $77.5 million. Over the past several years, as his success in the major leagues has enriched him, Wilson has indulged in his passion outside of baseball: buying race cars, racing them himself and starting his own race team. He also purchased some of the most exclusive vehicles on the market, and he stands as one of a few 31-year-olds in the world who can afford the upcoming $1.15 million, 903-hp McLaren P1 hypercar. But first, he had to make a pitch to prove he was worthy.
The McLaren P1 will never become a common sight around the world: the British sports car maker says it will build only 375 P1s, which it touts as the fastest road car in the world, capable of hitting 62 mph in under three seconds. As the eligible customers worldwide far outnumber the available machines, and McLaren wants to keep the cars out of speculators’ hands, it’s impossible to just wander into a McLaren dealer and sign on the dotted line. To qualify, one needs a list of previously owned cars worthy of Jerry Seinfeld, a wallet deeper than Jay Leno’s chin, and a dedication to the brand akin to Lewis Hamilton (before he jumped ship to Mercedes, of course). None of which guarantees a spot.
Wilson tells me cars have always been his passion. Over his years in the major leagues, he’s owned enough Porsches to start a dealership – including numerous 911 GT3 RSs and a Carrera GT. After his collection outgrew his garage, Wilson had an epiphany: “I only have one butt and two hands — how am I supposed to drive all these cars,” he joked. “What am I doing with all these things? This is so stupid.” Wilson decided it was time to sell up and purchase an actual race car. “If I crash it, it’s a race car, who cares? You fix it and keep going.”
After selling many of his prized gems, Wilson bought a Mazda MX-5 Cup car – a racing version of the machine auto enthusiasts know to be the greatest affordable roadster on the planet. He then began to race the MX-5 and even started his own race team, gifting young racers the opportunity to prove their skills and use the race team as a promotional tool for his charity work. Despite his rapidly emptying garage, Wilson kept his prized Carrera GT. He also decided to save space for a Ferrari, but acquiring one became his first introduction to the velvet ropes of the super car club.
“I did eventually own a used Ferrari 599, but I got dissatisfied by the Ferrari ownership thing almost immediately,” Wilson recalled. “It was like, ‘you have to buy a used Maserati, then you can buy a new Ferrari.’ It was an exhausting process with so many hoops to jump through. I originally wanted a new Ferrari 360 but they wouldn’t sell it me, despite having the cash to drop there and then. After the 599, I vowed never to own a Ferrari again. Although Wilson’s love for the Italian brand was tainted, he had a similar affection for the British Formula One team and car builder founded by Bruce McLaren.
“I’ve always been a McLaren fan boy, ever since the (Ayrton) Senna days,” states Wilson. “The road car I looked up to as a kid was the McLaren F1. It was completely mind-blowing. I thought that was the best thing ever. It became my focus as a child to one day own that car. The problem is, they cost about $4 million today, and they only made 100 of them. You can’t buy one. You just can’t.”
Wilson decided to purchase the next best thing — the McLaren MP4-12C supercar. While not a hypercar variant like the F1, the 12C ranks as a capable Ferrari 458 fighter that boasts 593 hp and surpasses 200 mph, which Wilson, in true car guy form, drives the wheels off of. “I use that car almost everyday,” Wilson tells me. “I’ve amassed over 7,000 miles already, which is a lot for a supercar in such a short time.”
Wilson was astutely aware that a successor to his adored F1 was imminent — so much so that he began lobbying earlier than most for a slot on the list. “When the rumblings began, I called up my guy at McLaren and said, ‘I don’t care what it costs, I want that car,’” said Wilson. “This was about two years ago, and at that point, they hadn’t even come up with a name yet. ‘I want the new F1,’ I said. I practically begged the guy. I was the first person in the country that asked to be on the list.” “McLaren directed me to produce a catalog of cars I’ve owned. I listed the Porsches, Ferrari, and McLaren 12C but was concerned, after my Ferrari experience, that at 31 years old, I might not maintain the diversity of cool cars needed to be eligible. But they replied saying it was plenty and I was officially on the list.”
A while later, Wilson was invited to a preview event in Beverly Hills to mingle with a group of wealthy and famous individuals who were also on the sought-after list. “I wondered why I was there,” he confessed. “I was by far the youngest in the room.” By this point, Wilson had already dropped a sizable 10 percent deposit on a car he hadn’t even seen and knew nothing about. But that night in Beverly Hills, the sheets came off and Wilson saw the car he had already committed to buy. It did not disappoint.
“It looked like a spaceship,” Wilson explained. “I really liked the flow and the smoothness and I think it’ll age really well. I was so excited to put my foot into 903 hp. I have no idea what that will be like.”
He’ll find out early next year. The P1 should be available in late 2013, but all owners must fly to England for a custom driver’s seat; with cornering forces sustained at over 2g, McLaren treats the final delivery process like fitting one of their Formula One drivers. Due to Wilson’s baseball commitments, he probably won’t be capable of flying to McLaren’s factory until November, making a deliver date of his P1 likely to be in the spring of 2014.
How much will he drive it? “I’ll take it out to southern California on a weekend and rip off like 400 miles,” he says. “It won’t be my daily driver, of course, but I’ll definitely put some miles on it. I grew up with humble roots and I just can’t imagine it sitting in the garage. This will be the gnarliest car ever.”The purchase of a McLaren P1 hypercar is the fulfillment of Wilson’s childhood dreams. It might not be the F1 from his bedroom wall, but the P1 appears to be every bit its 21st-century successor. Come next spring, Wilson will truly have it all. “I’ve been waiting my whole life,” Wilson says, “to own a car like this.”
As consumers clamor for cars with higher mpg numbers and with rigorous new federal fuel-economy standards on the horizon, carmakers are exploring all their options. This has largely meant improving the gasoline internal combustion engine’s efficiency and offering a few hybrid and electric vehicles. Conspicuously absent from many lineups in the U.S., however, have been vehicles with diesel powerplants. And understandably so: The American public has been reluctant to embrace diesels ever since General Motors and other automakers sold noisy, dirty, and unreliable versions back in the ’80s. But modern diesel systems are clean, powerful, and fuel-efficient.
Recent diesel options in the U.S. have largely been limited to luxury European brands, but Volkswagen‘s years of steady diesel sales show that there is a demand for them in mass-market segments. Now other automakers want in on the action. Three cases in point: the new Grand Cherokee, Chevrolet Cruze, and Mazda6—mainstream debuts this year from automakers not typically known for diesels. In addition, Porsche has introduced a diesel version of the Cayenne, and Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz are all slated to expand their diesel selections. Even the Ford Transit and Ram ProMaster vans are joining the fray. All told there will be more diesel-powered passenger vehicles for sale in 2013 than ever before in the U.S.
This is good news. Because diesel engines operate at a high compression ratio and the fuel has a higher energy density (about 15 percent more than gasoline), fuel economy is high and torque is abundant. With excellent thrust off the line and long cruising ranges, diesels fit the driving style of most Americans. Of course, there’s a catch: Diesel vehicles come at a premium, and in the past two years diesel fuel has cost 10 to 70 cents more per gallon than gasoline. Making up the purchase- price difference in fuel economy takes tens of thousands of miles. Even so, consumers already pay extra for hybrid efficiency. For those seeking an alternative, or for people who just hate stopping to fill up, a diesel vehicle might be the perfect solution.
Reprinted from Popular Mechanics 2/19/2013