December 16, 2012
2014 BMW X5, spotted in testing
Late in a car's production cycle, the manufacturer takes the car on the road for real-life testing.
On our way to the Falcons blowout of the Giants today, my son and I spotted five BMW X5s in swirly camouflage coming off I-85. It's not uncommon to see new BMW models in Atlanta, since the company's Greenville plant is only about 2 hours up the road. There was a period around the introduction of the X6 when I saw three small caravans of the new X6 on my way to work.
This was a little different, because the 2014 X5 hasn't been introduced yet, and is expected at next month's Detroit Auto Show. I got 10 seconds of video as we passed the line of SUVs, and my son shot 4 stills, only one of which was really usable, so I've added it at the end of a video I've uploaded to YouTube and embedded below.
For more info on the X5, here's a Car and Driver preview with some stills.
October 23, 2003
The dance begins...
The Kuro5hin.org story was by a tech layoff who decided he would sell cars until he could get a "real job" again. The Edmunds story was an undercover assignment by an Edmunds staff writer, who spent 10 weeks selling at 2 dealerships (one "high-pressure Japanese", one "no-haggle American").
When we bought the Odyssey, we took the time to play dealers off against each other, and got what I thought was a pretty good deal on an in-demand vehicle and worked the loan through a credit union. (As I remember, we were something like $600-$1000 off MSRP, but on a vehicle where some local dealers were adding "additional dealer markup".)
I'm going to try a similar strategy this time around, but I've hit a couple of roadblocks. The Honda and Acura corporate websites both claim to offer price quotes, but after you go through the trouble of specifying a model and options, I get to the screen where I should select a dealer I would like to send me a quote, and am presented an empty list, and the admonition "You must go through an Internet Certified Dealer." Thanks -- maybe you could show me a list of them?
Anyway, most of the dealers have their own web pages now, and you can go through them for quotes. I'm not sure they're entirely independent; the forms in particular are very similar, and I wouldn't be surprised if the manufacturers were trying to centralize internet sales so that it's harder to play dealers off by e-mail. That's certainly what I'm hoping to do. I've got requests out to 3 local dealers, two via their websites, and one through CarsDirect.
October 21, 2003
What would Frank drive?
So I'm closing in on replacing my 1994 Jetta GLS.
I'm a car guy at heart. I've been reading Car and Driver since I turned 16, and still fondly remember the time I got to drive a friend's Porsche Boxster.
I'm finding my car search doesn't follow what I would consider to be a normal process. When we bought the Odyssey, we knew we were going to switch from sport-ute (an Isuzu Trooper) to a minivan, so we were shopping all the minivans. This time around, we don't have quite the focus on a particular style.
It seems like I'm interested in cars that are, well, a little off. My favorite car that I've driven regularly was a 1983 Rabbit GTI, totalled by a Cadillac driver on Atlanta Highway in Athens. We replaced it with a 1987 Golf GTI 16v, a better car in every objective measure than the '83, but not nearly as much fun. The cars I'm interested in (as a rule) don't drive the beaten path, but they all take some chances and express a unique personality.
Ninety percent of the new car's driving will be commuting to work and back. The biggest thing I need to carry regularly is a bike, and being able to carry one inside is an advantage, since I sometimes ride before work, then drive in, and sometime work, then drive straight to a ride.
I've nearly finalized my short list:
- Mini Cooper S
- 2004 Toyota Prius. The new model gets a significant upgrade. Here are some profiles:
- Acura TSX
- Honda Element
Not entirely off the list: the New Beetle Convertible, the PT Cruiser GT. "Safety car": Honda Accord. If I'm unable to decide on a car, I will be forced to buy the Accord, secure in the knowledge that it will do a good job reliably.
The only thing these cars have in common is that they're all available for the average cost of a new car or less, and they'll hold my whole family if the van is in the shop.
A quick rundown of my attitudes and issues:
Honda Element. The cheapest new car I find at all appealing. Christy likes it a lot. Honda's Jeep, the Element is a chunky small sport-ute with styling reminiscent of the original Toyota Land Cruiser, no b-pillars (the rear doors are rear-hinged) and clever rear seats that fold up flat against the side walls. Pros: practical for hauling things I wouldn't want to haul in the Odyssey, inexpensive, auxiliary in for the iPod. Cons: Ugly duckling styling, lowest gas mileage on the list.
Mini Cooper S. My personal favorite. It reminds me of the GTI I liked so much, with reasonable power and great handling. It corners like the center of gravity is a foot below the road surface, like a go-kart. Pros: Styling, community, handling. Cons: Don't think it will pass the bike test, availability (don't know if they're selling from stock yet, or still running a waiting list), tough back-seat access for putting the occasional kid in the occasional car seat.
Acura TSX. Priciest entry on the list. Kind of a 4-door Prelude, the TSX is built off the Euro-spec Accord (we get a US-only bigger Accord). Pros: Acura-level amenities, sharp handling, BMW-esque styling. Cons: Most expensive on my list, second-least cargo capacity (to the Mini). I have a brother-in-law-in-law (Christy's sister's husband) who works for Acura, so might be able to get a deal on a demo.
2004 Toyota Prius. The Prius officially launched on Oct. 17th. It's Toyota's next take on hybrid gas-electric cars. A small (1.5-liter) gas engine augments an electric motor, and the engine and regenerative braking charge the car's batteries. Pros: 60 miles to the gallon IN THE CITY, gadgets out the wazoo (keyless entry and start, Bluetooth hands-free, navigation system), 5-door configuration second only to the Element for hauling bikes, etc. Cons: None of the dealers in Atlanta have one yet, and there are reports that people are being told current orders will be filled in April, corresponding "additional dealer markup."
I've driven the Mini, been in the Element, seen the TSX, and read about the Prius. I'm trying to drive the Element and the TSX, and find a Prius.
So I welcome feedback on these cars, or any others that you think I should give consideration.