Monday, April 30, 2012

Analysis: Edmunds lists last month's 20 quickest-selling cars...what stands out?

Yesterday, Edmund's Inside Line listed the 20 quickest-selling cars of March.  Many of the vehicles on the list make sense; cars such as the Prius C, Hyundai Elantra, and Subaru Impreza are high-volume, well-priced machines with high consumer appeal, high practicality, and/or great gas mileage.  Others are updated versions of previous high-demand vehicles, and one is an all-new, trendy-as-Apple-crossover, the Land Rover Evoque.  Despite this, there are two examples that either don't fall into these categories or just don't make sense.  So what made the list, but probably shouldn't have?

Audi Q7 - Source

With an average of 11 days between the time the dealer takes delivery and the day the car is sold, the Audi Q7 was second on the list.  Released to generally positive reviews, the Q7 is a full-size crossover with a solid engine, a well-appointed interior and a reasonable entry price of $46,000.  The fact that the Q7 made the list isn't surprising; the fact that the smaller, more efficient, and less costly Audi Q5 was lower on the list is.  Ringing in at 4th, the Q5 had an average "time to turn" of 13 days.
Audi Q5 - Soure
This is a clear example of how people with money want to spend it, gas mileage, prices and size be damned.  Although the gas mileage difference isn't huge (Q5's 22 combined vs Q7's 18 combined), gas is still expensive and people still have to pay to fill up the tank.  So much for logic on this one; the days of the fullsize crossover are still upon us.

Even more surprising: the BMW X6 made the list at 5th, with an average lot time of only 14 days.  How this happened is beyond my comprehension; I simply can't wrap my head around the idea of the X6 being in such high demand.  So much emphasis is placed on practicality that a buyer must be absolutely dead-set on making a fashion statement when they pick the X6 over the X5 parked next to it at the local BMW dealer.  Not only does the X5 have the same engines, more practicality (35.8 cubic feet of interior cargo volume for the X5 vs. 25.6 cubic feet for the X6) and a whole lot less of the ugly gene, the X5 boasts a $12,000 lower entry price.  The premium demanded for the X6 goes entirely toward styling and making a statement that you care more about design than the usefulness of your brand-new BMW.  Whether or not you like the X6's appearance is personal preference; it definitely doesn't fall under the "everybody loves it" styling that the new Jeep Grand Cherokee does (I challenge you to find somebody who dislikes the Jeep's sheetmetal).  That being said, I don't think I will ever fully understand the X6 making this list.

BMW X6 - Source
All in all, there weren't many in the way of surprises on Edmund's list.  These two stood out as being surprising nearly to the level of shocking, though.  Next month will likely be more of the same, and I'm placing my bets on the Prius C taking the #1 spot next month.  Only time will tell.

- Ross B

Friday, April 27, 2012

Absurdity: 2013 Shelby GT500 officially rated at 662 hp / 631 lb-ft

Take that, Chevy.

(Source: Consumer Reports)

We already knew that the 2013 Ford Shelby GT500 was going to make big power, but we didn't know it would be this much.  Ford released official power figures for the upcoming beast, and it seems as if they had "destroy all" in mind when creating the engine.

How does 662 horsepower and 631 pound-feet of torque sound?  Those are absolutely monstrous figures.  World-crushing, in fact.  Ford claims the GT500's V8 is the most powerful in the world.  It sounds like Al Oppenheiser might be eating his words, or rather the GT500's dust (in a straight line at least).

Let's put things in perspective: in 2005, Ford released the all new Mustang, with retro styling and the 4.6L V8.  Just seven years ago the most powerful Mustang in Ford's lineup made 300 horsepower and 320 pound-feet of torque.  Put two of these engines together and you'd only best the 2013 GT500's torque by 9 pound-feet....and you would still be down 62 horsepower.  Just think about that.  Two engines.  9.6 liters.  16 cylinders.  And still less horsepower than the new GT500.  That.  Is.  Insane.

Two of these can't even match the GT500.
 (Source: Serious Wheels)

 Not only do these numbers beat the Camaro ZL1 by 82 horses and 75 lb-feet of torque, they trump those of the mighty Corvette ZR1 by 24 horses and 27 torques.  The ZR1 has to hustle about 500 pounds less around the track (the ZR1 is 3353 pounds, compared to the GT500's 3820 lbs), but Ford has been hard at work re-engineering the GT500's suspension and chassis to make it as capable as a car with a live rear axle can be.  They've been re-working, re-tuning, and re-invigorating this car every few years, and they might just be at the point at which they can't take the Mustang any further.

More reasonable comparison: Boss 302 and Camaro ZL1.  Nice try, Chevy.
 (Source: Motor Trend)

People claim the ZR1 is scary to drive fast, but the C7 Corvette is due out next year, and the replacement for the ZR1 should be come just a couple years after that.  It will be lighter, better balanced, and undoubtedly faster (along with a vastly improved interior).  Ford is due to replace the Mustang within the next few years as well, but if they are really trying to get the Mustang to compete with the 'Vette, it's going to need to lose a few pounds and gain a more track-oriented mindset.  But with the ultra-high-performance territory comes price, and here Ford seems to be limiting the GT500 to under $60,000, a very reasonable price for a car with more power than the $375,000+ Lexus LF-A.  Remember, the less powerful ZR1 hurts the back account a good bit more at over $100,000, but it is capable of taking down supercars around a track.  Another $60,000 performance bargain?  The Cadillac CTS-V, which "only" has 556 horsepower and 551 lb-ft of torque, but utilizes the same magnetic suspension found in the ZR1 (and the car weighs very close to the GT500 at around 3,800 pounds).  There's a track battle brewing: GT500, CTS-V, Z06, ZR1.  American muscle, high performance, absurd power.  Oh, and the Dodge SRT Viper.
Looks right at home on a track to me.
(Source: Edmunds)
It's a strange day when the iconic American supercar, the Dodge SRT Viper (it's going to take a while to get used to that) can be compared to a factory-built Mustang in the same sentence.  But the GT500 even bests the Viper's V10, albeit with a supercharger in the place of two extra cylinders.  At 640 horsepower and 600 pound-feet of torque, the GT500 bests it by 22 horsepower and 31 pound-feet of torque.  The Viper weighs in at 3354 pounds for the "base" model, and 3297 with the optional Track Package.  Such a big weight advantage should make the Viper fast enough to spank the GT500, but wild things can happen when engineers run free.

The all-new SRT Viper has less power than a Mustang?  Who woulda thunk it.

(Source: Top Speed)

Yes, power is nothing without traction, control and balance.  But big numbers can do magical things when given the right tuning setup.  Just look at the BMW X6M.  A 5,300 pound SUV should not be able to do what it does, but its 555 horsepower make it ridiculously quick even for a two-and-a-half-ton behomoth.  Only time will tell if the GT500 is capable of making its earth-moving power work the same wonders on a track that it can do on a dyno.

This shouldn't be fast.  Some people question whether it should even exist.
 (Source: Autoblog)

Hopefully the near future will bring a track test with the Shelby GT500, Corvette ZR1, CTS-V, and SRT Viper battling it out for the title of America's best supercar.  And hell, throw in cars like the 458 Italia, R8, 911 Turbo and GT-R for the fun of it.  We already know how some of those cars do around a track, but what about the new Viper and the GT500?  Only lap times can decide this one...but my money's on the Viper being the quickest out of the domestic power giants.

The horsepower wars are in full effect.  In a time when Ford can offer an all-electric Focus alongside a 662-horsepower GT500, the automotive industry is at its peak.  Just think of the heavy-duty truck industry:  Ford claims one power figure, Chevy milks power out of their trucks just to beat Ford, Ford retaliates with enough power to reverse the earth's rotation.  Things are about to get even more interesting for high-performance cars.  The C7 Corvette and next-generation Mustang are right around the corner.  The Viper is about to prove itself in the real-world.  Who knows what will happen next?  Don't blink, you might just miss something game-changing.

- Ross B

(Source: Top Speed)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

An open letter to Jeep

Dear Jeep,

For the love of god and all things holy, you have been playing our emotions like a grand piano long enough.  How have you managed to frustrate me so much?  Well, if you must ask...

To put it bluntly: stop teasing us with these "concepts" that you will never build more than one of.  For eight years now you've been showing concepts that make us Jeep fans drool all over our keyboards, but we still don't have a production pickup to buy.  I know, I know, you sell the JK-8 Independence.  It's a pretty awesome kit if you ask me.  BUT there's a big difference between a truck that comes off the production line with a bed and one that starts life as a Wrangler and only becomes a pickup after you spend $5500+ on a conversion kit.

 JK-8 Independence
(Source: Motor Trend)

 JK-8 Independence on the left, Comanche on the right, the last of the Jeep pickups.
(Source: Truck Trend)

Last year you brought the Nukizer concept to the Easter Jeep Safari.  We knew from the start it wasn't destined for production, but it was still a badass pickup concept.  Actually, the most badass pickup concept.  Ever.

The badass Nukizer concept.  This thing screams attitude.

A year later, the JC-12 shows up.  The press is all over this truck, and while some think it's overshadowed by the Mighty FC Concept (which has even less of a chance of being produced than the Nukizer, thank you crash tests), this is a truck that looks production-ready and should be rolling off the line 2013.  Seriously, Jeep, build the JC-12.  I'm begging you.

The awesome JC-12 Concept.  Words cannot describe how in love with this truck I am.

Or hell, bring back the Gladiator concept from 2004 and build that.  There's so many reasons to build a small-to-midsize pickup.  In fact, it almost makes less sense not to build it than it does to build it.  But clearly you don't understand that.  Need some convincing?  Here's why you should grow some and build a truck:

The Gladiator Concept.  Yes, the spare tire is ridiculous

1) The small-to-midsize pickup market is dwindling, and as such there is the potential to grab a huge market share.  Here's an idea, let's assess what small and midsize pickups are out there right now.  The Chevy Colorado and GMC Canyon are soon to be replaced by a new, less-rugged, more city-oriented generation built in Thailand.  The current version of the twins is nothing impressive; bad materials on the inside, bad engines under the hood (except for the V8, thank you GM for putting a great engine in a not-so-great vehicle, once again), a poor chassis and lack of equipment results in a bad truck overall.  Nissan's Frontier is solid but is becoming quickly out-dated and it gets poor gas mileage at best.  The Toyota Tacoma is decent all-around, but some people just want an all-American truck built by an all-American company.  And if you consider the Honda Ridgeline a "truck," then quite simply you need to learn some things about trucks.  They don't have wrong-wheel-drive (FWD), they aren't unibody, and they have beds bigger than a suitcase.  Sorry, Honda, the Ridgeline isn't a truck, it's a Pilot with a "bed."  Ford Ranger?  A dinosaur.  Production just ended, Ford has no plans to bring the new model to the US.  Oh, and how about within Jeep's own parent corporation?  Dodge killed off the Dakota.  Chrysler/Jeep/Dodge/SRT/Ram/whatever doesn't sell a small/midsize pickup any more.  Fill that gap, Jeep.  Sure, somebody in management said a Jeep pickup would steal from Ram sales.  Why does it matter?  Ultimately the profits go to the same company overall.  Sales = money.  Enough said.

2) Not everybody wants or needs a fullsize pickup.  Sure, the gap between small/midsize and fullsize is dwindling, and the gas mileage difference between the two groups isn't enough to justify buying a smaller truck, but there's other reasons.  Some people need a bed but don't want to drive around a behomoth, 6,500+ pound beast.  Some people don't need the ability to tow a 10,000 pound trailer.  These people are the consumers who would be interested in a midsize pickup with the name JEEP stamped on the tailgate.

2) Production wouldn't require much more than addition of new parts and minor re-tooling.  The body panels for the Wrangler are already there...use the hood, roof...hell, use the entire front end from the Wrangler and you're nearly there.  Change the body mounts for a bed, buy a few machines to make tailgates.  Easier said than done, yes, but it's not that much of a stretch considering Chevy has to re-tool entirely when coming out with a new Colorado.  Relatively low costs to get into the market are a good thing.

3) Off-roaders simply want a Jeep pickup.  Sure, the market for Jeeps is quickly becoming more and more street-oriented (people dig the power windows and locks available on the JK Wrangler), but there is still a huge core audience and market segment that wants a highly trail-capable 4x4 with a bed.  Think of all the Wrangler owners who want or need a pickup!  There's been a gap in the product line since the Comanche was killed off in 1992.  Case in point: people pay damn good money for the American Expedition Vehicles (AEV) Brute.

AEV Brute bad-assery

4) The military-spec J8 already exists.  And why it isn't being sold here to consumers is just beyond me.  Raise the sides of the bed a few inches, seal off the cab from the elements, and put in the dealerships for god's sake.  It's painful to know this exists and we can't buy it.

Military-spec Jeep J8
(Source: Autoblog)

Every year you torture us with these freakin' amazing "concepts," a code word you use for "trucks that will make you drool and we will hang in front of your face but we have zero intention of building."  Whoever is in charge of product line management at Jeep needs to understand how much Jeep owners and other small-pickup owners crave a small to midsize pickup that has real off-roadability.  Build this JC-12, call it the Gladiator, or Christ's sake, call it the goddamn tampon if you want, just build it.  Stick a diesel in it, offer it in X, Sport and Rubicon trims and voila, huge freakin' sales!

It doesn't have to be retro or look like an apocalypse-prepped zombie-killing machine (I'm looking at you, Nukizer).  The JT Concept was perfectly simple and would be easy to make (as I mentioned before, re-tool the Wrangler front-end and voila, done).  Okay, maybe extend the bed a little.  Then sell the crap out of it.

The JT Concept
(Sources:, TruckinWeb,

Die-hard Jeep lovers' emotions can't handle it any more.  Please, we're begging you, build a pickup.  Or at least build one on the next-gen Wrangler platform when it arrives in 2017 (or whenever production is slated for).  It would seriously, seriously be in your best interest to build a real Jeep pickup.  One with real four-wheel-drive.  And a transfer case.  And a diesel with a six-speed manual.  And a no-frills, no power windows or locks, manual-transmission-only X trim.  And a Rubicon trim, with the Dana 44 axles and electronic disconnect sway bars and electronic locking differentials.  It would be the best of the Wrangler world and the best of the pickup world.  An American pickup that's a practical, real-world truck, highly capable off-road, and gets good gas mileage with the diesel?  Sounds like a winner to me.  Build it already.

- Ross B

(Source: Motor Trend)