The news broke this week that the Scion brand will fade gently into its parent company, Toyota.
Continue reading “Bland Car Enthusiast: Scion Becomes a Ghost”
The news broke this week that the Scion brand will fade gently into its parent company, Toyota.
Continue reading “Bland Car Enthusiast: Scion Becomes a Ghost”
Scion has made a sedan and I am so, so, SO happy. I currently have a Scion xD, and I love it, but I’ve always felt that Scion is not a complete brand without a sedan. So there we go. Problem solved. Continue reading “Bland Car Enthusiast: The All-New Scion iA Sedan, Baby!”
Redesigns get revealed earlier and earlier, it seems, especially with Chrysler’s brands, and the 2016 Chrysler 300 is no exception. The 2016 model was revealed in 2014, which left two years’ models in between looking somewhat unstreamlined by comparison. I’ve always been confused as to how revealing the new redesign could possibly boost sales for the older models — unless, of course, the redesign is much uglier than the outgoing model, in which case, yes, you’d want to buy the better looking one before it goes away.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored blog; while the views expressed here are my own, I have received compensation from Standard Motor Products, Inc., to review information.
Making my own fixes to my car is not something I do very often, but when I do, I feel super-manly. I like feeling manly. I also like feeling smart. So – when a mobile app comes around that helps me do both, well, naturally I’m inclined to love it. Continue reading “Bland Car Enthusiast: The SMP Corp Parts App #sponsored”
If you haven’t heard about the Buick Avenir concept vehicle, that’s not really surprising. Concept vehicles are for the truly enthused. Everyday citizens generally have little to no idea what concept vehicles come and go, but those who pay attention are regularly rewarded with something they like.
Me, I like sedans. Especially big ones. Especially Buicks. Continue reading “Bland Car Enthusiast: The Buick Avenir Concept”
Redesigned for this year – well, next year, but it’s on sale now – it’s not a model many people are excited about, primarily because it hasn’t historically been a model to get excited about. But the new generation is awesome. Seriously, check that thing out.
I’ve written about the Chrysler 200 before, after it was first revealed. Now I’m seeing it out and about on the road, and I love it even more. It looks so good on our highways. SO GOOD.
Exterior styling is retro-cool, and I’m not talking about looking back at the 80’s or even 70’s with retro reach. I’m talking about Art Deco. The 1920’s, baby. The profile of this car has the right lines to have come straight out of classic Hollywood. (That’s an exaggeration, but you get the idea.)
The face, not so much – that’s very modern and just slightly forward-thinking enough to be at the forefront of what I believe is the direction of teens mid-to-late-teens overall sedan styling trend. The taillights fit right in with today’s hottest luxury cars. But that profile…yes. I can’t get enough of it.
It’s also got a nine-speed auto transmission, which is absurd and awesome and definitely a plus over any other sedans out there for smoothness and mileage. And its V6 option gets nearly 300 horsepower, which, for a family sedan, is absolutely unnecessary in the best possible way.
And for as much as I’ll talk about any car’s exterior styling – especially this car’s exterior styling – what actually intrigues me most about the new 200 is its cabin. It has a place below the cup holders & gear shift to place your iPad so it doesn’t slide all around, which, for some reason is a huge draw. It’s probably not that big a deal, but in my mind it’s fantastically innovative.
Also, it’s got a dial shifter instead of the normal stick. When I first heard of such an outlandish notion (as seen in the new Lincoln MKZ, with its console buttons), I scoffed, thinking with nowhere to place my hand, how could I possibly enjoy driving? But the more I think about it, the more and more appealing this notion is. Yes, if it’s not needed, by all means get that stick out of the way and feng shui the cabin for better flow. It will make me feel less claustrophobic, give me greater freedom of movement, and help keep me calm and serene. Ultimately, a great decision, and I secretly hope all car companies follow in that direction.
So – super-Zen, brain-pleasing driving with a nearly-300-horsepower engine that shifts smoother than butter, and exterior styling that no one else can touch? All for a price tag under $30K?
Recently I discovered a new game. It’s called “Two Things” and it seems ideal for car trips. It’s simple: you just answer the question, “What are the two things you need to know about ___________?” Obviously, you fill in the blank and THEN answer it. This was more of an exercise in something professional when I discovered it, but I think it can easily become a car trip game.
I tried it on myself with the next-generation Ford Focus. What are the two things you need to know about the redesigned 2015 Ford Focus?
Some time ago I wrote a blog post on how it’s okay to drive a Toyota Camry, the main concept being that despite other enthusiast publications’ insistence that it’s dull and boring and lame, it can be a super-awesome coolmobile because your car is what you make it. Everyone’s got different criteria for what makes a car a good car, and Toyota designed a vehicle with the goal of pleasing as many buyers as possible based on scientific market studies. So while it may not be perfect for anyone, it’s plenty good for a lot of people.
I’ll say it time and time again: vanilla is not a bad thing. Vanilla is, in fact, delicious on its own, and hey, you know what else? Vanilla is customizable. You can add sprinkles. You can add syrup. You can add a slice of pizza if that’s your thing. You add what you want, because that’s your taste. And if you drive a Toyota Camry, others might call you vanilla because you don’t like an engine that roars so loudly you can’t hear the radio, or a sleek, aerodynamic cocoon with no rear visibility, or whatever. Let them say what they want, because you know what? The car doesn’t make you cool. You make the car cool.
Of course, having written that with a chip on my shoulder in the fall of 2013, we are now past the 2014 New York Auto Show and the reveal of the “mid-cycle refresh” for the Toyota Camry turns out to be basically a complete exterior redesign. So now Toyota is helping you out with that cool factor a little bit.
The new styling is exciting and aggressive, not unlike its little sister, the new Corolla. With daring, determined headlights and an open maw for a grille, this car now carries the nay-sayer-challenging attitude that I wrote with last fall. And my eyebrows are raised.
I’ll admit I didn’t care for the exterior styling when it debuted with the 2012 model, but it was perfectly respectable. The 2015 is much more than just respectable. Well done, Camry team. That’s one hot car.
I’ve been a fan of the Hyundai Sonata since before it got its dramatic redesign back in 2011. I thought the 2010 model was handsome – stately, even, in an understated way. But I wasn’t sad to leave it behind for the next generation, because wow, what a game changer it was for midsize sedans.
Every other major auto manufacturer tried to pretend that it meant nothing. Good looking, sure, they said, but it’s still just a flimsy little Korean car. Too exotic-looking for the segment, they said. They didn’t realize that the interior was also better-built and better-looking than their segment-leaders. They kept their heads in the sands.
But sales numbers are sales numbers, and it didn’t take the rest of the manufacturers long to realize that they needed a dramatic redesign for their midsize sedans as well. So the once-innocuous Sonata came off the diving board with a cannonball into the still waters of midsize family sedans.
And now it’s time for a new Sonata. The design cycle is up, and the 2015 Hyunda Sonata will once again depart from the previous generation. I doubt this time around it will shake things up in the segment – the segment is now a Galapagos Islands-level mixture of exotic, colorful designs, with everyone trying to outdo everyone else on styling and engine performance – but the new Sonata’s design is revealed and public and yet again, I’m excited.
For one thing, apparently the back seat is so spacious, and there is so much room in the interior cabin, that the 2015 Hyundai Sonata technically qualifies as a full-size sedan, not a midsize. I’m all about size when it comes to sedans, so it’s nice to see the Sonata once again making a splash in its segment, this time for interior space.
The new exterior styling, though, is really just the loveliest part. It’s like it’s halfway between the current generation and the previous one – like the 2011 Sonata and the 2010 Sonata had a baby. A very big baby. It’s stately and understated, but still dramatic and sleek. And it’s beautiful.
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk announced yesterday that Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who wants to use Tesla’s patents.
Let me repeat that.
Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk announced yesterday that Tesla WILL NOT INITIATE PATENT LAWSUITS AGAINST ANYONE WHO WANTS TO USE TESLA’S PATENTS.
In other words: any carmaker that wants to use Tesla’s patented technology to make righteously awesome electric cars can do exactly that.
They are still retaining the patents, though, so anyone who abuses this generosity for evil purposes can still be stopped through legal action. But basically, they’re giving them away for all other car manufacturers.
Why? To save the world, of course.
In the early days of Tesla, it was easy to assume they’d fail, just like so many other electric car startups. The problem was that these other companies were aiming for the market of “people who want a sweet-ass electric car” – Tesla’s target market has always been “people who want the best car on the road.”
And to that end, they have endeavored to build the best car on the road, and they have been creating amazing technology to do that. They have been more successful with the technology than others, but this attitude of competing directly with combustion-engine luxury cars is really what has helped Tesla succeed to the degree that it has today.
But Tesla was not started to take BMW down a peg. Tesla was started to help save the world.
The patents were acquired to ensure business security, but since the only real threat, Fisker, has gone down in flames (pun intended), Tesla remains the only real electric car manufacturer. Other major carmakers like Nissan and GM and so on have made half-baked attempts to produce all-electric cars, but sales have been abysmal due largely to lack of interest.
These cars were designed from the get-go as “electric cars” instead of “super-awesome cars that happen to run on electricity.” They were then marketed the same way. They were low-rent economy cars with slow acceleration and dopey looks, and they cost as much as a Cadillac – who would buy that?
Hybrid models have been quite successful, especially the Prius, but they still use combustion engines. The first phase of Tesla’s life has been to prove that a company that makes only all-electric cars can succeed, and they have done that. The next phase is to lead the way for combustion engines to disappear from our streets entirely.
Hence the new open patent philosophy. Since no one else is developing attractive electric cars, and since electric research & development is so stagnated at every manufacturer besides Tesla, they figured they’d give everyone else a leg up. This is a smart business decision, because healthy competition is historically good for successful companies like Tesla, and because it will help Tesla appear less like a novelty, and therefore they’ll be able to nudge their way into new markets.
Tesla makes the best car on the road. Period. If everyone else catches up, they’ll have to keep improving or fall behind someone else – either way, there will be even better cars than what we see now in the Tesla Model S, and they will comprise a greater and greater percentage of our street traffic.
Can you just imagine?
Can you imagine if the Tesla Model S was the bland car? What a wonderful world indeed.
So get on it, Buick. Get on it, Hyundai. Get on it, Toyota, Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Lincoln, GMC, RAM, Nissan, Infiniti, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, Chevrolet, Cadillac, Honda, Kia, Mazda, Mercedes, EVERYBODY. Take Tesla’s patents and make a better car than Tesla, I dare you. I double dare you.
Read Elon Musk’s full announcement and explanation here:
All Our Patent Are Belong To You
I’m excited, and I hope you are, too. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
When the 2011 Volkswagen Jetta was introduced, I thought it was so offensively bad that it actually made me angry. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked the silhouette and I liked the rear end. But the front end – with that too-slim grill and those beady headlights – was just awful. It may have been that because I liked the majority of the car’s looks, the part that I didn’t like was so painful and disappointing that I wanted to throw rocks at it.
But by 2014 the design had really grown on me. Some very, very minor changes were made to the headlights (straighter and slightly larger), and that solved the entire problem I had with it. It may also have been that I saw so many Jettas on the road that I got over the bad part and just appreciated the good parts (the silhouette and those bitchin’ rear taillights). But also, truly, I really came to enjoy the face of the Jetta.
So when it was announced that the 2015 Jetta would be redesigned, where ordinarily I would hold my breath, for this model I thought, “whatever may come, let it come. If I hate it now, I might not later.” And lo and behold, the 2015 Jetta is a continuation of the right trends. Well done, Jetta team. Well done.
There’s been enough of a facelift that my brain is pleased and calm when I look upon it. The taillights are better-looking than ever – they’re halfway between the old Jetta’s taillights and an Audi’s taillights. The silhouette looks good, and the back seat is still one of the largest back seats in the compact sedan class. And the Turbocharged 2.0-liter TSI four-cylinder gas engine yields 210 horsepower. That’ll get me up the Camarillo Grade in the morning, all right.
When a car that I like as much as the Dodge Charger is due for a redesign, I tend to hold my breath for a year or so until the actual official reveal, and I try to ignore all the concepts and artists’ renderings and guesses and assumptions that get thrown out into the Internet.
The 2015 Dodge Charger was actually officially revealed last month, and I can breathe deeply once again. The redesign is, to my eyes, a complete success. I knew the car would get a facelift, but I had no idea what kind, since the Dodge brand is in the middle of a complete design language shift, led by the Dart.
The new face bears some of the same influences that created the Dart, but it’s not like the car looks like a large version of the compact. It’s still completely distinctive. There are trolls out there saying it looks like a Camry or Accord, but they are wrong. When I see that front end coming up in my rear view mirror, I’ll still know it’s a Charger. There will be no mistaking this.
The sweet grooves in the side remain on the new version, as well as the full-width racetrack taillights, and these are two things I am happy to see carried over. Supremely happy. I really like this car, and those are two of the things I like most about it.
Shots of the interior of a car are almost never useful as far as showing what the inside experience is all about, but from what I’ve seen on Dodge’s website, I’m inclined to think I will love it. This car is beautiful inside and out.
And, as in every generation, the 2015 Charger is a full-sized performance beast. The base V6 engine gets 292 horsepower, a sportier trim level hits the 300 hp mark, and the HEMI V8 will tear your face off like a rocket to the moon. And here’s my favorite part: the base engine now carries the 8-speed automatic transmission, an upgrade from the base models’ antiquated 5-speed of the previous generation.
With the interior looking the way it does, the size of the car dwarfing what I currently drive, and a 292-hp V6 with an 8-speed transmission thrusting me along, I can safely say that the full-size Dodge Charger is now an economically superior choice to many of the mid-size sedans I’d be considering. Because let’s face it – I’m not likely to consider anything with less than 200 hp, which usually means upper trim levels, which means higher cost. Not anymore, jerks!
The Chrysler 200 is quite possibly the most under-appreciated sedan on the market, but frankly, now that we all know what the redesigned next generation Chrysler 200 looks like, the current model is a waste of space because HOLY SHITSNACKS the 2015 looks good.
I say “under-appreciated” because it’s so much better than the Sebring, the model it replaced, which was far and away the worst car in the world. The 200 was basically a nicer version of it, with many design flaws corrected and some vastly improved looks, although the overall looks were, shall we say, subtle and easy to under-appreciate.
The 2015 version of the 200 is completely different, inside and out, coming now with the most aerodynamic exterior of any sedan out there (including some bitchin’ taillights), an space-increasing futuristic center console with a space-decreasing gear dial instead of a gearshift, a nine-speed automatic transmission mated to some big horsepower numbers, and a very serious sense of personal confidence. Furthermore, Chrysler offers this beauty in some kind of weird dark teal color, which I’m strangely drawn to.
Knowing what the 2015 Chrysler 200 looks like means owning a 2014 Chrysler 200 would be an embarrassment. So, old people and mid-grade new-money businessfolk: I implore you, wait a few more months for the new model to come out. You’ll be glad you did.
One last thought on this car: there’s been some griping from comment trolls on internet rags about the name “200” for a car. The general sense is that under the Chrysler umbrella, you’ve got the Chrysler 300, which is taken from the classic of the same name that had a 300-hp engine, which was logical; you’ve also got the Fiat 500, which refers to the vehicle’s historical 500 cc back in its earliest form; and now you’ve got the Chrysler 200, which refers to nothing other than the fact that there is another car in the same brand lineup, and that that car is larger.
You know what I say to that critique? Go screw, that’s what I say. Chrysler has two cars and a minivan. One car is called the 300, the other car is called the 200. That’s just bad ass, that’s what that is. So there.
By all accounts from those who’ve driven it, the 2014 model is the same as the 2013 model, meaning it’s a low-horsepower, high-mileage suburban runabout. Here’s the thing about that, though: this low-horsepower, high-mileage suburban runabout is the world’s top-selling car. As a for-profit corporation, Toyota would be foolish to change that formula. If you can produce the same car but wrap it in a newer, more interesting exterior, then by all means, do so.
I’m just grateful that the new Corolla looks so good. I mean, it looks really, really good. Toyota’s recent design language has been, shall we say, missing the mark in my opinion. The redesign of the Corolla brings the count of Toyota vehicles that I think actually look good up to two. (No, the other one is not the Camry. It’s the Avalon. More on that later.)
And the world’s top-selling car, being essentially the same economical and reliable car on the inside, is very likely to continue near the top of global sales, a large chunk of that being in the US.
I live in the US. That means no matter what, I’m going to see a lot of Corollas all around me. And now that the Corolla is a good-looking model, that means my view will improve. So, although I have no plans to buy a Corolla myself, I will absolutely endorse one for anyone else looking to buy a compact sedan.
So thanks for the redesign, Toyota! Well done.
This is a declaration that never gets made, so I’m making it now.
It is also okay to drive a Honda Accord, or a Chevy Malibu, or a Volkswagen Passat, or any other family-friendly midsize sedan.
Critics and auto bloggers everywhere love to get in their jabs at the Camry for being so “vanilla,” maligning it for being slower than a Ferrari, for having a smaller engine than a Boeing 747, and for having more doors than a Porsche. But nobody thinks about these cars the right way. If you think they’re boring, I will tell you straight up you’re wrong.
These cars are designed for efficiency, for safety, and for practicality. Think that’s boring? Shut the fuck up. Efficiency means less gas consumption, which means less smog and more going places, which means more of our population checking out places like Yosemite and Griffith Observatory and the Mojave Desert, and seeing those magnificent places with fewer particulates in the air obstructing the view. Efficiency in cars means opportunity. Safety means less chance of dying on your way to a ziplining tour; it means cheaper insurance so you can buy even more gas and go even more places; it means the difference between being alive and being remembered. Safety in cars means more risks can be taken. And practicality? That’s a no-brainer. Going somewhere? Cool. Taking people? Even better. Taking people and a bunch of stuff like sports equipment, camping equipment, maybe a dog? Super-awesome. Long car trip ahead? Sure would be nice to listen to your favorite music without a roaring engine pounding your ears the whole way, huh? Practicality in cars means more excitement in life.
Here’s what really gets me: when “sensible” is used as some kind of insult. So, really, are we supposed to pay thousands and thousands of dollars for something that’s NOT sensible? Sensibility is good. Reason is good. Logic is good. Without these essential ingredients to our national makeup, we end up with government shutdowns, economic bubble collapses, and open letters to Miley Cyrus.
Does “sensible” equate to “boring?” No. Sensibility is sexy. Sensibility is what fuels industry. Sensibility gives us E=mc2. Sensibility solves problems and takes us to newer, wilder heights. It provides a launch pad for things that are silly and fun, and catches us gently when, like children up past midnight, we fall down asleep. Sensibility doesn’t hold us back, sensibility saves the day. Sensibility should be our fucking hero.
So yeah, it’s okay to drive a Toyota Camry. In fact, it’s better than okay. It’s fucking rad. So go live life. Ride a roller coaster if you want cheap thrills. Drive places in your Camry for everything else. Leave the excessive, obnoxious sports coupes to those with less imagination.
And another thing: I like vanilla. It’s delicious. So there.
I hear a lot of smack talk about the new 2013 Dodge Dart, and not from automotive critics. Automotive critics are actually pretty into the Dart. The beef comes from average folks. And the average folks are the ones who we should all listen to, not the auto critics, right?
Actually, we should be listening to them all. The critics have the knowledge and experience of years of looking at cars and test driving them and reading other critics’ reviews and so on. The average folks, on the other hand, are not only the ones who matter in terms of auto sales, they are the ones who determine how a car fits into our culture. Everybody’s opinion has value.
And because of that fact, there is what many might call an overabundance of opinion. Well, here’s an opinion that comes as a result of this overabundance. So pay attention.
See, I’m worried that the killjoy nay-saying out there might destroy the buzz you have if you just bought a Dart. I feel like if you’re shelling out the money for a new car, you deserve that buzz. So ignore the detractors, Dart owners of America, and rejoice in your decision. The Dodge Dart is awesome.
I don’t mean to try and shut up everyone out there who genuinely doesn’t appreciate the Dart. I heard good people whose opinions I generally trust, or at least don’t dismiss, say a lot of bad things. And the opinions of average folk, as I said, are important to our national car-driving culture.
But someone said it’s terrible because it has four doors. Are you kidding me? Four-door sedans are rad. You ever try to put a kid or a dog or ANYTHING AT ALL in the back seat of a coupe? It’s a pain in the ass. Four doors are for smooth-riding smart folks. They make the car seem longer, bigger, more mature, more in charge, more in control. There’s confidence in four doors. If you buy a car with a backseat and only two doors, I wish you luck, ‘cause you’ll need it. Coupes are sporty-looking and cool, yeah, but I wouldn’t take a two-door that went around pretending it could still have a back seat. If there’s a back seat, give me four doors.
My friend John the Librarian said the rear end is too cute for the front end. The grille & headlights are sexy-awesome but the tail end, he says, is “so puffed up and the front so low and sleek… It looks to me like it’s perpetually in danger of tripping over its own nose and taking a header into the tarmac! Like a puppy stepping on its own ears.” I think what we have here is a straight-up aesthetic disagreement. I don’t think the rear end is cute or puffed up at all. I think it’s pretty sharp, and I freakin’ LOVE the tail lights. Anyway, to John and anyone else who thinks that “cute and puffed up” are negative aspects of a rear end, may I kindly refer you to the poetry of Sir Mix-A-Lot.
Finally, there’s been some harping on the poor acceleration performance of the Dart. Well, hey, let me stop you all right there. Firstly, you’re talking about the base engine. The base engine always has poor acceleration. That’s not why you buy the base engine. You buy the base engine because it has better mileage than the larger engine, and you buy it because you don’t value the bigger engine at the price they ask. If you did, you’d have bought the bigger engine. If you found a car on the lot with the base engine and bought it, kudos to you for your frugality. If you’re in a hurry, don’t worry, you’ll get there, and you’ll get there with a little more cash in your pocket than you would otherwise.
Now, in the case of the Dodge Dart, moving up a level to the next engine means a smaller engine, but it’s turbocharged, so it actually accelerates noticeably more quickly. And because it’s smaller, it gets even better mileage, which is among tops for a non-hybrid in its segment (or in any segment, for that matter). And you know what else? The higher-level engines on the Dodge Dart are named “Tiger Shark.” I know it’s just a name, but that’s still pretty bad ass.
The Dodge Dart is almost too big to be considered a compact car, and I think that’s awesome. I love big cars. I like to think that the next car I get will not be a compact, but the Dodge Dart is certainly up for consideration, especially since I can get it in super-fun six-speed manual transmission with a sweet turbocharged engine for like twenty grand (or less, if I play my cards right!).
Anyone can say what they want about the Dodge Dart, but for all you Dart owners and admirers out there, I will say this: the Dodge Dart is awesome.
I hope you’ll say it, too.
Sedan design is a sort of a passion of mine, and like gasoline burning inside a combustion engine, this passion drives me to blog.
I hadn’t blogged about it at all here on BilGaines.com because when I started my WordPress account two years ago, I was working for Cars.com, and when I left that company to move back to California, the job that was waiting for me was with Edmunds.com. Both Cars and Edmunds are automotive websites (which you probably know if you clicked on either link), and though my job at each had more to do with dealers’ listings, I was always hesitant to contradict the editors, lest I appear to them as some sort of unknowing, unthinking, inexperienced, account-managing NON-automotive journalist. This fear was pretty much entirely unfounded, but I just never wanted to stir up trouble, so I simply spoke my opinion out loud at the office instead of blogging.
Nobody really cared what I said, anyway, nor would have cared what I blogged, since – as I mentioned – four-door sedans are to me what Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porches are to other guys. I love them. I care about their design – the styling, the functionality, the driver experience, the head-turning qualities that draw comparisons to unreasonably attractive humans.
So anyway – around this time last year I made a declaration of commitment to Sharkblog, but that commitment fell down the shitter pretty quickly when I landed the SEO job that I was hoping Sharkblog would help me land. This year, I’m smarter than that. I will make no such declaration of commitment. I will, however, introduce a new vertical to my site: Bland Car Enthusiast. The automotive vertical, if you will. It’s basically a blog category where I talk about cars, mainly four-door sedans and occasionally hatchbacks or convertibles.
Full disclosure: my wife & I actually own two cars, neither of which is a sedan. The sedan is the dream.