Good For: Uncompromising convertible. I loved the Mustang GT I drove last year, and Ford didn't compromise anything with the convertible version. In fact, it makes everything better. There's probably a little less trunk space, but thats pretty much negligable. The top doesn't intrude on rear seat space - it actually improves head room because the roof line doesn't slope into the "fastback" style like the coupe, and of course with the top down the sky is the limit. Visibility improvement is like night versus day - while the coupe had some of the worst visibility ever, it doesn't get much better than having nothing obstructing your view. Another important attribute of the Mustang convertible is that unlike most other convertibles in this price range, it's still a sports car. It's rear-wheel-drive, available with a 6-speed manual, and has all the Mustang coupe goodies like limited slip, sport-mode on the power steering, etc.
Compromises: Unfortunately this rental was not a GT, and I missed way the V8 rumbled around effortlessly. But Ford keeps it real with a 305 hp V6 as the base engine. It doesn't have the excess of power everywhere like the V8 does, but get it wound up into the high revs and it's still way more interesting than a family sedan, especially mated to the RWD drivetrain. The 6-speed auto's ratios should have been tweaked to optimize the power band better though. It has a bunch of tall gears optimized more for fuel economy and is slow to downshift into the fun gears. Throw economics out the window when it comes to convertibles anyway - Ford charges $4-5k more for the convertible version of any trim level.
Overall reaction - 2 Thumbs up: The Mustang is really an American gem. It doesn't matter if it's a V6, V8, Shelby, coupe, or convertible, they are all really fun!
Thursday, 15th of March, 2012
Tuesday, 13th of March, 2012
Sunday, 11th of March, 2012
Friday, 9th of March, 2012
Good For: Economic SUV - Any engine whose shift indicator calls for an upshift at 2000 rpm is serious about economy, especially with only 2.2L hauling a 4300-pound SUV. Such is the world of turbodiesels: 194 hp out of that sort displacement would be an impressive number even for a gasoline motor, but with the diesel you're focused on managing up to 311 lb-ft of torque. The 6-speed manual makes that job easy and fun. Add to that a decent set of features like heated leather seats, bluetooth, climate control and backup sensors, and what we have is a very enjoyable and practical way to get around England.
Compromises: I've rented two Kias now with a USB port and both refuse to even charge my iPhone/iPod, not to mention play music. For the second generation, Kia completely converted the Sorento from a RWD-based SUV to a boring FWD setup.
Overall reaction - Thumb up: It's too bad that a 7-seater with a 6-speed manual does not exist in the United States anymore. The colleagues I was traveling with asked me to get an SUV for all the luggage they were hauling around, and it's nice to not have to sacrifice some fun in accomodating. I also appreciated the full-sized alloy spare wheel - the rear passenger side tire blew out on the M4 and I was able to get back on the road and keep going without having to limp back to Europcar on the space-saver wheel.
Thursday, 8th of March, 2012
Monday, 5th of March, 2012
Saturday, 3rd of March, 2012
Thursday, 1st of March, 2012
Good For: Sentra crossover. I grabbed the Rogue at Hertz hoping it was going to be as nice as an Altima, but it fell short. This crossover is on the same platform as the Sentra, and the hatchback design provides significantly more room and versatility. The Rogue also shares the Altima's 2.5L CVT powertrain, with everything I liked about it, especially when you press the "sport" button.
Compromises: What's missing is the Altima's fuel economy advantage - the 3446-pound curb weight probably contribues to this. Other nice features that Nissan was generous with on the Altima S are missing on the Rogue S, like the Intelligent Key. The iPod interface cable is actually included with this base trim car, though the connection was unreliable initially - probably due to pocket lint stuck in my iPhone 4. I can't blame lint for the stereo quality though - FM radio was very noticeably worse.
Overall reaction - None: The Rogue doesn't annoy me as Toyotas do, but I couldn't find anything to like about it either. At least the Rav4 still has a handbrake, while Nissan switches to the foot e-brake for the crossover. With many of the Altima's virtues missing from from the Rogue, all I can think about are some of the faults it shares with the Sentra. It's heavy for being a small 4-cylinder car, and expensive. The base AWD trim doesn't give you much for $23k, and option packaging is not flexible. If you're looking for something specific, like heated seats, you'll have to spring for an SL for $29k.