Monday, February 24, 2014

2014 Knoxville Auto Show

                One unique tradition in the Automotive Industry is the auto show.  Most industries have trade shows that are open to the public and try to sell product in a large area.  However, auto shows happen all year long and take place in cities across the world.  This weekend I visited the Knoxville Auto Show and even though it was not a blockbuster international show like Detroit and Geneva, it was a great experience.  If you are in the market for a new car or will be in the market for a new or used car in the next couple of years you owe it to yourself to visit a local auto show soon.   There is almost no other space where a buyer can compare models from most manufacturers back to back. Keep in mind if you do attend a show that some of the cars on the floor are ridiculously optioned.  For example at the Ram booth sat a $50,000 1500 that was two wheel drive with a single cab right next to a $50,000 2500 with a Cummins Diesel crew cab.  If you are buying a single cab truck for that much I don’t know what your priorities in life are, but you need to change them.    
                I will mention the entire Volkswagen Group missed the Knoxville show as well as Jaguar, Land Rover and Volvo.  After those disappointments my other let downs were pretty surprising to me.  The first let down was everything built by the Fiat/Chrysler Group.  I can forgive a Jeep Patriot for having bad buttons and switches because it isn’t a very expensive vehicle and it is near the end of its life.  The Dodge Charger and Challenger should have better equipment on the inside.  Their class competitors have all jumped a level beyond with soft touch materials.  I was also heartbroken by the Fiat 500 Abarth.  I really wanted to love that car.  It has an amazing exhaust note and a fun package.  Unfortunately, sitting in a fully loaded $28000 sticker priced clown car I just couldn’t justify that kind of purchase.  The 500L was a nice surprise though.  For a small car it feels huge on the inside with a great backseat.  The final car on my bad list was the Hyundai Genesis R-spec sedan.  I was thrilled to see it in the flesh because it is a relatively rare car.  I wish a 400 plus horsepower engine was enough but for that asking price I cannot deal with cheap plastics that I felt were going to break off.  Not when the similarly priced Mercedes are near perfect from the driver’s seat.  On a side note both the Hyundai and Mercedes had beautifully integrated ash trays.  I guess it is ok to smoke in your car if you’re rich.  The Mercedes E Class cigarette holder is better made than probably anything I have ever owned in my own car. 
                So enough hating, let me talk about what I liked from the show.  If I was buying a vehicle this month there are only a handful of dealerships I would be walking on to.  That list consists of Ford, General Motors, Mazda, and Lexus.  Don’t get me wrong there are nice cars here and there for every company.  I honestly loved a car like the Mercedes E Class that gets 45mpg that makes Prius buyers look almost silly.  I know Lexus isn’t building the prettiest cars right now.  They are making some interesting cars finally.  Lexus came to the Knoxville show to sell cars there is no doubt.   The brought the big guns of the LFA which isn’t even on sale anymore.  What I took away from every Lexus was remarkable quality.  Getting in a Lexus and shutting the door is like sitting in first class on an air plane.  My ears felt the pressure change with a woomph sound.  When that door is shut you are not just sitting in a car you a physically removed from the world around you.  The information center from Lexus was the best looking of any brand and very easy to learn and use in my opinion.  I was in a $36,000 ES and was confused that it wasn’t a $50,000 car based on other price tags from around the show.  Well done Lexus, I used to think you were boring and now I am a fan. Or maybe I am getting old?
                I may have a soft spot for Ford since they did have the brand new 2015 Mustang on hand and the new F-150.  I can tell Ford feels confident in these vehicles because they weren’t roped off away from the public.  Both were on the floor within spitting distance of their respective competitors.  I may or may not have done some inappropriate touching to the beautiful Mustang rear end.  I was also highly impressed with the Fiesta ST.  How great is this package?  Fun to drive, great price tag, better than respectable gas mileage and it’s a usable everyday driver.  I have a fear one will be in my garage before it is all said and done.   
                Hard to argue against buying any Mazda right now.  Well priced with great gas mileage and their cars can be used to carry people and things from one place to another.   Pretty simple concept but some car makers do not understand it. I am looking at you Smart.  General Motors has trimmed the fat for the past decade and the results are delicious.  With Hummer, Pontiac, Saab, and Saturn now defunct General Motors is a real hit from top to bottom.   Everyone is talking about how Cadillac is not just trying to catch the Germans but actually surpassing them and I will have to agree I was green with envy standing next to their lineup.  SUV and crossover offering from GM were also top spots for me.  Lots of room and loaded with options and smart packaging and features will make a lot of families happy. 
                If you do not have time to visit an auto show on your own then please take my advice check these local dealerships and let me know what you think.  If you are visiting an auto show soon or have visited one then please let me know what you liked and what cars you’re looking to buy.  Either way have fun and I will see you at the show hopefully. 

It is so naughty

Lexus came to sell cars

Friday, January 3, 2014

A History in Four Cylinder Mustangs

                A new Ford Mustang is upon us.  Should you be excited?  Yes, very excited.  The key to Ford’s ongoing success is its heart and soul.  Much like Porsche needs to build a 911, Ford will always build three vehicles.  There will always be an F series pickup.  Ford will of course build a four door family car. And Ford will build a Mustang.  Ford has been building these three vehicles in some fashion for the last fifty years and no matter what trends and niches appear in the market place you better believe they will be building these three vehicles in the next fifty years.
                Usually when a car gets an update it met with either high praise or indifference.  Very few cars also cause controversy.  The Ford Mustang causes controversy no matter what Ford decided to do to it.  The biggest controversy this time around sits between the front tires.  A new engine is coming to the Mustang in the form of an Ecoboost 2.3 liter turbocharged four cylinder.   The rumored specifications sound very promising for this new Mustang.  Ford claims the new power plant will produce more horsepower and torque than the current V6 engine and gets better MPGs which will make CAFE standards happy.  Of course it doesn’t matter that this engine will produce much more power than even Cobras were pulling a little over a decade ago.  “If it doesn’t have a V8 it is not a Mustang.” That is what all the Mustang snobs are saying on the World Wide Whiners.  Why don’t we take a look at history before shooting down this new engine?
                For one, there have been several four cylinder engines in the Mustang.  The first four banger appeared in the 1974 Mustang II.  Not a memorable year for Mustang fans, because it stands alone as the only year a V8 was not an option for the Pony Car.  Similar to the original, the Mustang II was based on another Ford car.  Most the underpinnings for the Mustang II came from the Pinto instead of the Ford Falcon the original shared so much from.  Even though the Mustang II received high praise back in 1974 including taking home Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award, most fans tend to cringe at the 88 horsepower weakling.  Whether Ford fans want to accept it or not the straight four remained an option for Mustang Buyers for a long time.  With fuel prices rising and emissions being a problems for go fast fans, Ford did try to refine the four cylinder option.  In 1979 a turbo charger was added to the mix.  Yes hater the new Mustang isn’t reinventing anything. Ford had the idea back in ’79.  Power was respectable at 140 horsepower but the primary reason for this engine was fuel economy.  Still, in 1980 the most powerful engine you could put under and Mustang hood was the turbo four.  It remained that way until 1982 when the 302 made a comeback.  I cannot talk about four cylinder Mustangs without talking about the SVO.   SVO stands for Special Vehicle Operations.  The SVO was around for only three years and in limited numbers starting in 1984.  The first year of the SVO saw a power rating that equaled the V8 option.  Power did increase to 200 horsepower for the 1986 SVO.  That would bring an end to the turbo four in the Mustang; however, the naturally aspirated four cylinder would remain until 1993. 
                In fifty years of history the Mustang had a four cylinder option for almost 20 years. The Mustang means different things to different people.  Yes, to many it is a V8 powered straight line drag racer and those people can still get the car they want.  Many car buyers want a sexy coupe that is fun to drive but mostly nice to look at.  It would be nice if their sexy dream car didn’t drink their rent money in gas.  I am excited about this new four cylinder engine. I think it will be a big seller for a lot of buyers and not just those abroad that Ford claims will be most interested in a smaller displacement engine.  I think car buyers right here in the US of A will buy it up at the right price and if the miles per gallon promise actually holds some water.