I hope all of you had a grand New Year’s celebration and many thanks to those who dropped a note or two about the MX-5 and the Tucson, my vehicles of the year. I love hearing from readers!
To kick off the Auto News column for 2016 I wanted to mention some vehicles that didn’t make the cut this year, but still were outstanding rides.
Chief among them was the all-electric BMW i3. The compact four-passenger was fun to drive and had an interior that takes design, not to the next step, but one beyond that. I recently have read some well researched expert reports that predicted all-electric vehicles will one day replace gas powered ones in our everyday life. I think that may very well happen, and if they are like the i-3, then bring ‘em on.
A perfect afternoon with a blue Corvette convertible was also memorable, as any drive in that car would be. Performance and handling were what you would expect in this legendary sports car complimented by a design that still turns heads. Beats the hell out of sitting in the road test office!
The weather gods looked wanted me to stay safe and not let a tree redesign my ride. Don’t do anything too foolish, they proclaimed, when it came time to slide into the driver’s seat of the 707 horsepower Hellcat. So it rained and the roads were slippery, causing the rear end to do a sideways dance if the right foot ignored the greasy West Virginia surfaces. Even so, awesome is the only way to describe that car.
Years ago I helped my brother restore a ’47 Jeep pickup, about as basic as a vehicle could get. Yet it was quite jazzy in its fresh red paint job with a black snow plow frame up front with yellow warning strips across the bumper. I thought about that lovely old truck when I drove a fully, and I do mean fully loaded, Ram pickup. Inside there was a treasure trove of luxury items that would do a Lexus proud, surrounded by a truck that was ready to haul anything, anywhere, and with its 4×4 specs, ready to laugh at Old Man Winter. It took a rep a half hour to even skim the long list of goodies inside. Don’t scoff. This is the kind of $60K to even higher truck Americans are buying.
I will wrap all this up by saying that if I hit the $400 million or so Powerball jackpot this week, a very well optioned Jeep Wrangler will be sitting in the driveway. In many ways still a basic vehicle with legendary off road capability, it is gangs of fun to drive. Reliability has been an issue with Jeeps but within a half mile, it had hit all the right points in my auto guy soul and I knew I wanted one.
On with 2016:
Tesla delivered 17,400 vehicles in the fourth quarter, thus meeting its forecasts. It said production of the new model “X” met early estimates.
The Detroit News reports Hyundai and Kia are forecasting their weakest sales growth in a decade. They blamed the strong Korean currency and a slackening of demand in China. The Korean car makers put yearly deliveries at 8.13 million up from 8 million in 2015.
Meanwhile, the Chevy Malibu was named Car of the Year by the Detroit Free Press, while the Volvo XC90 was SUV of the year.