In 52 consecutive weeks of paying reasonably regular attention, you’d expect to identify a collection of automotive hits and misses, as well as (perhaps) missing a few hits in the process. At txGarage we don’t pretend to be all-seeing and all-knowing, but we do begin each day with our eyes wide open and – hopefully – our mouths wide shut. With that, I’ve asked publisher Adam Moore, along with a select group of contributors, to let us know what they regard as this year’s best and brightest (the ‘hits’) along with this year’s dimmest and dumbest (the ‘misses’). None of the selections are picked scientifically, and some may be eminently debatable. Our hope, however, is to ignite your thinking – as well as that thinking of those OEMs referenced. So, let’s hit it…
Hit: Our surrender to Alfa Romeo’s Giulia Quadrifoglio was almost immediate, with its you-might-as-well-call-it-sensual overlay clothing a completely visceral mechanical package. We haven’t driven the standard Giulia, but suspect we’ll like it well enough; it’s not, however, even in the same zip code as the V6-powered Quadrifoglio, especially when the Quad six is so closely related to Ferrari’s V8. In fact, while Maranello ponders a crossover, Alfa’s Giulia Quadrifoglio could very easily be Ferrari’s ain’t-gonna-happen smallish 4-door. And with a price point in the $70s, it’s accessible to the top 2%…and that’s before, of course, the revised tax bill.
Miss: There are a few we could consider, but we’ll grab (by the throat!) the Volkswagen Atlas. If someone hankers after a Ford Explorer, a respectable 3-row offered by Ford’s 3,000+ dealers, we’ll understand. But given the ubiquity of the Explorer, why would VW find it necessary to intrude on what is Ford’s well cultivated turf? We wrote at the Atlas intro, and continue to think a year later, that VW should stay with product just this side of mainstream, as the Atlas proves what we’ve always suspected: mainstream works better for Motown than for Wolfsburg – or Chattanooga.
More from David ».
Hit: In stark contrast to David’s miss, my big hit of the year is the VW Atlas. When first seeing it at the Dallas Auto Show, again at the State Fair, and while driving it at our Truck Rodeo event I was constantly left unimpressed. I was then able to take it for a full week during Thanksgiving. Throw in a big family and get behind the wheel for a good road trip and the Atlas takes on a whole new character. My video review on this will be coming soon, but it moved from meh to my top three (in its class) during this week.
Miss: My miss would be the all-new GMC Acadia. For me, this loses for the exact opposite reasons that the Atlas won. The Acadia looks good and has a really nice interior, but with the new platform the 3-row SUV shrunk in size and bailed on family practicality. I really enjoyed the older versions of this vehicle for its extra size and utility, but most of that has been lost in the 2017 model.
More from Adam ».
Hit: You’d have better luck locating a five-leaf clover than finding someone who didn’t enjoy driving the 2017 Ford Raptor. It’s big and tall, and cranks out about 450 horsepower, with 10 speeds sending that power thru the wheels over any terrain. I spent a week with the Raptor and experienced it on dirt, sand, gravel, and highway. And that week included a 12-hour road trip, in which I arrived home with no back pain or fatigue. The Raptor offers six different drive modes, and each one is designed to make you feel like running the Baja 1000. The only drawback: the 3.5 liter EcoBoost engine, while fantastic, doesn’t sound like the Raptor looks. To channel Theodore Roosevelt, speak softly and carry a big stick. The 2017 Ford Raptor may speak (too) softly, but packs one very powerful swing.
Miss: I was fortunate to drive a lot of cars this year, but the 2017 Lexus IS 200t was the only one I did not enjoy. I thought it was overpriced, had a boring interior, clumsy infotainment, and lacked horsepower for its price, which was $41k for the model I tested. I did enjoy Lexus’ very responsive 8-speed transmission, the handling was spot-on and the Ultrasonic blue color was an attention getter, but it’ll cost you extra. As stated in the review, the IS 200t does not – in my view – live up to the Lexus nameplate. If you want the real deal you need to go higher on the trim levels.
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HIT: The new Lexus LC500h coupe, which supplies stunning world-class styling matched to a superb hybrid power train.
MISS: Collectively, automakers’ failure to identify empty nesters (ages 60-75) as a target market for the wave of new and advanced small and compact CUV product coming to market.
More from Jim ».
Hit: Range anxiety is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Tesla had pretty much wiped out worries of getting stranded for hours in your electric car, waiting to recharge before you could be on your way. Their Supercharger uses a 480-volt current and can recharge a Tesla Model S in around 20 minutes. Fast, eh? Well, progress happens. In October of this year, Toshiba unveiled a new car battery that lasts for 200 miles and charges in just 6 minutes! Six minutes! If you’re on a trip where you’ve driven 200 miles, someone in your car is going to need to use the restroom. Plug the battery in, walk to the restroom, check that Kevin Spacey (or, if a gal, Harvey or Charlie or Matt) isn’t lurking, do your business and walk back to the car. You’re now empty…and it’s now full. The future has arrived.
Miss: Many auto manufacturers are going down the pathway of disposable design. By ‘disposable’, I mean that they are creating exterior designs – particularly the front ends – that are unloved and have no staying power. Take a look at the 2018 Honda Fit, 2018 Lexus RX350 (with its hideous spindle grill), 2018 Toyota Camry SE, and 2018 BMW M3, just for a few examples. They have so many fins, scoops, slats, winglets and bulges, placed in seemingly random ways, that you cannot relate to them; there is no beauty there at all. No one will love these designs even a few years from now, as they’re disposable. Contrast that with the excellent, skillful design of a 1961 E-Type, a 1965 Mercedes-Benz 250SE Coupe or BMW’s 633 CSi; those are beautiful designs that were loved when they were released, are still loved today, and will be loved 100 years from now.
More from George ».
Hit: Wandering around the San Antonio Auto Show earlier this month, I was struck by the fact that there were a number of cars that appealed to me at the higher end. But the one that really got me was the 2018 Maserati Ghibli, which Maserati colorfully says, has “a masterful combination of style, power, sport handling and comfort.” With pricing starting around $73,000 it’s hardly for everyone. But with leasing (and more vehicles than ever are now leased), people can find themselves driving something like this. Pickup trucks, once the dominion of farmers and laborers, easily come close to this price, and in many cases, exceed it. Sure, it’s a sedan, but what a sedan, and what an exhaust note! With a 0-62 mph acceleration time of 5.5 seconds, it’s not the fastest car you could own. But the 60-degree V6 engine will get you easily up to 166 mph, nearly twice as fast as the 85 mph speed limit on nearby TX130, the fastest posted speed limit in the state at 85mph.
Miss(ing): Green Car Journal named the Ford Police Responder Hybrid its 2018 Commercial Green Car of the Year. But the first pursuit-rated hybrid police car was nowhere to be seen! It wasn’t on display, or behind the stage, or past the curtains, or anywhere. It just simply wasn’t there. Maybe Ford thought it wouldn’t win so didn’t bother to bring one. Who knows? In any event, the 38mpg (combined) hot rod pursuit vehicle, which, among other things, allows the engine to shut off for brief stretches while still allowing the electronics to run, was AWOL from its big moment on the green stage. And that’s too bad, as I really wanted to see it. If it really can deliver that kind of fuel economy and still corral the bad guys, it is indeed a winner. To be sure, it’s a surprise winner…but those are often the best kind. (Note to Ford: Winner need not be present to win, but it’s always more exciting when the winner is there!)
Honorable Mention: San Antonio Auto and Truck Show, November, 2017.
For hosting the Texas Auto Writers Association Truck awards, as well as the Green Car Awards, we’ll nominate the 2017 San Antonio Auto and Truck Show. It’s tough to have an auto show near the end of the calendar year, but the folks in San Antonio pull it off.
More from Alan ».