Chevrolet’s Cruze compact sedan, introduced to replace the Cobalt in 2011, has been a big hit in the U.S. It has also been a big hit in Europe. And few cars of this size get to be a big hit in Europe without a diesel engine.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that “over there,” the Cruze is available with a diesel. It’s probably also no surprise that, given the stunning success of Volkswagen’s diesel cars, a diesel version of the Cruze would eventually be offered here.
Well, “eventually” has finally arrived. On sale now, at least in certain parts of the country, is the 2014 Chevrolet Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel. That’s the official name; oddly, the cars themselves will wear just a tiny green “2.0 TD” badge to differentiate them from their gas-powered brethren.
At a recent Chevrolet press event for the Cruze Clean Turbo Diesel, we not only got some specifics about the car but also a brief test drive. Since its primary competitor is the well-known Volkswagen Jetta TDI diesel, we thought some comparisons might be in order.
In an age in which the heroes of auto racing are often backed by big money and equally big egos, LeMons racers are backed by pocket change and a flair for the absurd.
By the way, don’t in any way confuse “LeMons” (as in lemons) with “Le Mans” (as in the famed road race in France), though that’s of course the play on words the organizers intended. Whereas teams spend millions of dollars to field a Le Mans car, teams are supposed to spend no more than $500 to field a LeMons car.
Yep; you read that right: $500. The rules state that you can deduct any parts sold off a donor car to arrive at that figure (such as interior pieces and windows you don’t need), and in time-honored racing tradition, there’s probably some cheating in this regard. But for the most part, the cars start out as bona fide beaters.
Now, that $500 doesn’t include safety equipment, which the rules regard as tires, brakes, and the mandatory roll cage and fire extinguisher. Nor does it include the encouraged “cosmetics,” which can run the gamut from sloppy paint schemes to outrageous costumes. And yes, we mean for the cars.
It’s often a Father’s Day dilemma: What to get the dad who has everything.
Sure, you could buy him a gift, wrap it up, and hope for the best (and that he doesn’t already have one), or you can get him a day he likely never will forget.
At several areas around the U.S., there’s a new kind of “country club” sprouting up that’s aimed specifically at car guys: privately owned racetracks on which the members get to drive their cars at speed. As with the traditional kind of country club, they usually have steep entrance fees and yearly dues, but making use of them requires a much bigger cash infusion than a set of clubs and a sleeve of balls. Except for ones like the Autobahn County Club, located outside Joliet, Illinois.
Tom had a great idea with his “You Might Be a Gen-X Car Guy” post, but that youngster had the misfortune of being born too late. The really interesting stuff came during the Baby Boomer years. So I created my own list based on my . . . uh . . . longer period of “experience.”
You Might Be a Baby Boomer Car Guy If . . .
- You have at least one air-cooled Volkswagen in your past, and it had a name.
- You owned a muscle car. Of the original type.
- You owned a full-size van, and you weren’t a tradesman.
- You’ve driven a three-on-the-tree.
- Somewhere, in a dusty toolbox, you have a set of feeler gauges.
- You know what “dwell” is.
- You remember when tire designations started with a letter.
- You put radial tires on a car that originally came with bias plys.
- You can tell a Quadrajet from a Carter four-barrel just by looking down the throat.
- You have disabled the smog equipment on at least one car (I won’t tell the feds).
- You drove a car that had the shoulder belt folded up and clipped over the front window—where it remained the entire time you owned it.
There are a lot of great cars on the market today. They go about the business of transporting people with surprising performance, impressive fuel economy, and historically high levels of refinement and creature comforts. But for the most part, you could wring every drop of personality out of them and there wouldn’t be enough to coat the bottom of the ashtray that the Fiat 500 doesn’t have.
Certainly any number of high-end sports and luxury cars have personality (some might say a snobbish one), but what we’re talking about here are cars could substitute for what the majority of people would otherwise buy.
Although the 500’s price of entry is now up to a little less than $17,000 including destination, that’s for a nicely outfitted car and not much more than you’d pay for a similarly equipped subcompact—that’s not nearly as endearing. The automatic transmission will add a stiff $1,250, but if you’re on the fence, the slick-shifting manual is the better choice. Also offered is a convertible version (it’s really more of a very large sunroof) that starts just over $20,000. Sure it’s small, but the 500 is great fun to drive and delivers most of the positive attributes of a typical subcompact competitor.
Here in Chicago, at least, we’re finally seeing signs of spring. And every year about this time, I start thinking about convertibles.
Since ragtops aren’t really practical as daily transportation in these parts (especially where I live in the city, where anyone with a pocketknife can cut their way into your car), I always think of a convertible as being a “weekend” ride. Trouble is, it’s really tough to justify the expense of insurance and license plates for a car you only drive occasionally—and even then, only half the year.
But get one old enough, and that’s not so much of an issue. When a car turns 25 years old, it’s considered a “classic” by some insurance companies and state licensing agencies, meaning both insurance and license-plate fees can be cut tremendously. So whenever I start thinking of convertibles, I also start thinking about any that just turned that “classic” corner.
This year, it’s the 1988 models. However, not many new ragtops appeared that year, so I’m also including a trio of one-year-olds I missed on last year’s list (partly because some were late-year additions), all of which were also offered in ’88.
There was a long period where the words sexy and sedan simply didn’t belong in the same sentence. Some might argue that the pair can describe classic-era Cords and Duesenbergs, but wouldn’t you still rather have the 2-door version?
Today, there are any number of sedans, even popularly priced ones, whose styling can be considered “sexy”—popping instantly to mind is the current Kia Optima. But that’s been a relatively recent transformation, and following are some of the cars that strike me as having paved the way.
If you weren’t car cognizant in the mid-1980s, you may not understand the revelation that was the Ford Taurus. Splashing into a sea of squared-off sedans, it introduced the “jellybean” profile quickly adopted by almost every other manufacturer. Although it was nice-looking and certainly trendsetting, “sexy” it wasn’t—at least not in base form. But that accolade could be given to the first high-performance SHO version, which, like the BMW 5-Series of a decade earlier, helped realign people’s stance on sedans.
Shortly after obtaining my driver’s license in the early 1970s, I rushed out and bought a ’64 Olds Cutlass coupe (for $50), at least in part so that I wouldn’t have to tool around in my Dad’s grandpa-green F85 sedan. Back then, driving a 4-door (or—heaven forbid—a station wagon) meant you were borrowing your parents’ car, and that was decidedly uncool. Absolutely no teenaged car guy I knew ever bought a 4-door with his own money.
Today, that’s no longer the case. Some of the hottest cars embraced by the younger generation are sedans (witness the Subaru WRX and Mitsu Evo), and there’s seemingly no stigma attached to having four convenient doors.
I’ve often wondered when that transformation took place. It was probably gradual, but I’ve come to the conclusion that it began with the BMW 530i introduced in 1975. In those dark and dismal days, this BMW made its mark by being a comparatively strong performer, and it quickly became the darling of the motoring mags. The fact that it was a sedan only added to its “Q-ship” mystique. And I begrudgingly had to admit that it was a pretty nice-looking car. At least for a (wince) 4-door.
Also check out Tom Appel’s “Senior-Year Lust: The 5 Coolest Vehicles of 1983” and Ed Piotrowski’s “Senior-Year Lust: The 5 Coolest Vehicles of 1998.”
By my senior year at Riverside-Brookfield High School outside of Chicago, the auto industry was facing some dark days. Not only was horsepower plummeting due to emissions standards, but it was the first year that federal regulations forced manufacturers to tack on huge, girder-like protruding bumpers both front and rear in order for their wares to (supposedly) withstand five-mph impacts without damage. And they looked just as attractive as they sound.
So 1974 was noteworthy as kind of a double groaner to those of us smitten by the intoxicating appeal of internal combustion. And I suffered a historically longer and substantially deeper smittening than anyone else I knew.
But there were some bright spots.
Those of us who were already car nuts by the 1970s lived through a dismal era in which our faith was badly shaken. Prior to that time, the combined effects of annual styling changes and the unbridled running of the horsepower race ensured that every fall brought another wave of automotive excitement. And then came 1971.
At first, it was sort of justified: Okay, we can’t continue to poison our young with the lead in gasoline, and if taking it out necessitates slightly lower compression ratios—with a commensurate drop in horsepower (sob)—then so be it. But then came 1972.
This time, it was exhaust emission standards that were to blame; well, that and the decision to go from “gross” to “net” horsepower ratings. (Some manufacturers tried to soften the blow by including both, but in most cases, those of us who’d memorized them all knew that even the bigger number was down.) Furthermore, many cars were unaccustomed “reruns” that looked nearly identical to those of the year before. The downward spiral had begun.