The Virtual Driver

Say goodbye to the BMW 5 Series GT and hello to the 6 Series GT

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(June 24, 2017) The oddly proportioned, segment-straddling 5 Series Gran Turismo sport hatchback is no more. Which is not to say that BMW has seen the light and killed this strange creation. Rather, it has aligned the vehicle with its revised naming convention that places coupes and specialty models in the even-numbered column, and smoothed the bulky styling of the original into a more pleasing exterior shape.

A sense of déjà vu with a 2017 VW Golf SportWagen S w/4Motion

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(June 18, 2017) I was certain someone had made a mistake. Just under two years ago a very similar Volkswagen SportWagen was dropped off at the office. It had the same Silk Blue Metallic paint and beige cloth interior. The only difference was that this car had an automatic transmission and a slightly different wheel design.

It was disappointing experience, but a worthy refresh of Mazda3 5-door

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(June 4, 2017) This one was a very disappointing experience. Not the 2017 Mazda3 5-Door Grand Touring, the experience. Apparently, the car had seen abuse at the hands of previous members of the press. (Cue Major Renault from the movie Casablanca as he says, “I’m shocked, shocked to find gambling is going on in here!,” while being handed his winnings by a croupier.)

2017 smart fortwo passes (up) gas for electric drive

By Christoper A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(May 30, 2017) The polar opposite of the Dodge Challenger SRT Demon, the U.S. version of the 2017 smart fortwo ditches its gasoline powerplant for electric drive. Available in coupe and cabrio form, the electric smart hits U.S. smart dealers this summer, and costs $1,200 less than the previous generation electric smart.

Ford, Fields and the inside story of new CEO Jim Hackett

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(May 28, 2017) When I awoke last Monday morning to the news that Ford Motor Company wou
ld announce the “retirement” of company CEO Mark Fields later that day, my mind snapped back to the Ford press conference at this year’s Detroit auto show. It was, in a word, a disaster.

Is it lights out for Lotus in Ann Arbor?

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(May 21, 2017) The word on the street is that Lotus Engineering, Inc. will be shutting most of its Ann Arbor, Mich., operations immediately, leaving only the vehicle lab operational for the foreseeable future. Sources confirmed the dyno lab was closed at the end of business on May 12, and customers with whom LEI has contracted to supply its services have been informed LEI will not be able to honor those commitments.

A quick look at three Toyotas — Highlander, Corolla and Camry

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(May 14, 2017) Earlier this year, I was loaned both an all-wheel drive 2016 Toyota Highlander XLE and 2017 Toyota Corolla XLE to test. The Highlander, whose only option was the seven-seat layout with a pair of captain’s chairs in the second row, had absolutely no options, and listed for $39,450 with delivery. It was as I remembered it from my 2014 review of a similar Highlander, though that one was slightly more expensive.

Transforming a Chrysler Pacifica from a passenger van to a cargo hauler

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(May 7, 2017) I should have taken pictures. I should have, but didn’t. I was hoping to return a piece of equipment to one of my brothers, and make room in the garage. And I wanted to do it while I had the Pacifica. I knew it could swallow the cargo, carry the weight, and do so easily. But I forgot to grab a camera — even the one on my iPod — to record the loading and unloading.

Evaluating engine health from the inside

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(April 30, 2017) It was one of the most unusual demonstrations of a new technology I’d ever seen. Doug Strock, president of Predictive Fleet Technologies (PFT), suggested we meet somewhere halfway between his office and mine. That put us in the largest parking lot near the freeway exit that merges into the Flint, Mich., business district. It just happened to belong to the local Hooters.

Surprise — 2018 Buick Regal no longer a sedan

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(April 22, 2017) Buick’s new Regal lineup for 2018 is a bit of a surprise. Instead of selling just an Audi A4-sized sedan this time, Buick decided to drop the sedan altogether, and replace it with a hatchback with coupe overtones. And, if that wasn’t enough, it took the plunge and added a high-riding station wagon in the mold of Audi’s A4 Allroad to the mix.