Tuesday, 24th of January, 2012
Good For: Blowing the doors off other sedans. For 2012, GM gives all the Impalas the new 303hp LFX V6, which is quite fun even in the old W platform. The powertrain is new, but the good old stuff hasn't been ruined yet. The Impala is the only 6-seater sedan left in production. The LT trim in my rental also has the flip-fold-flat rear seat to expand the already gigantic trunk. GM does a good job with electronics too, with standard Onstar, remote start, XM radio, Bluetooth, and the driver information computer in the cluster that even displays the phone number of calls over Bluetooth.
Compromises: The W-body was always a mid-sized platform. The mid-size heritage shows up in the narrower body and lack of space rear seat space, which GM cannot fix just by marketing it as a full-sized sedan. I love the beefy motor, but as expected in a front-wheel-drive car there is noticeable torque steer.
Overall reaction - 2 thumbs Up: GM seems to always build a good motor, and as a standard motor in a $25k car it is very accessible. In a 6-seater configuration, you can take the whole family without having to roll in a big van. The Impala blows away everything else in the segment, especially for the starting price, and the nicely equipped LT only pushes it up to $28k.
Saturday, 21st of January, 2012
Friday, 20th of January, 2012
Good For: Decline of the mid-sized car. I like the Mazda 3 and 5, but there is not so much to like about the 6. I grabbed the Mazda 6 at Hertz this week hoping to get a little more zoom-zoom than the typical mid-sized sedan. A few design details met my expectations, such as a real handbrake. Everyone else observe - it is not hard to get 2 cupholders next to the handbrake.
Compromises: The 16" Michelins Energys that come on the base "Sport" trim aren't very sporty. Mazda has always been good about manual transmission options, but it is now only offered in this "Sport" trim. Choosing to zoom around in a manual now means you have to give up all sorts of things - no alloy wheels, power seats, bluetooth, climate control, leather - basically anything remotely nice.
Overall reaction - None: The Mazda 6 has lost unique wagon and 5-door configurations, and appears to be phasing out the manual transmission too. It starts at barely over $20k, but even at that price point there are plenty of nicer cars that don't demand such a serious penalty for sticking with stick shifting.
Monday, 16th of January, 2012
Saturday, 7th of January, 2012