The Virtual Driver

Ghosn is gone — What will happen to the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance?

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(November 23, 2018) The shocking announcement that Carlos Ghosn was arrested and "perp walked" off the corporate plane at Narita Airport outside Tokyo took the industry by surprise, and has led to non-stop speculation concerning the validity and depth of the charges, the identity of the whistleblower, and what will happen to the Nissan-Renault-Mitsubishi Alliance.

The best compact hatchback you’re probably ignoring

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(Septermber 18, 2018) Volkswagen reported sales for August, and — as expected — SUVs are selling well while the car side of the ledger doesn’t look so hot. Unless we’re talking about the Beetle Coupe and Convertible, where sales are up for the month and down (Beetle Convertible) for the year-to-date. Golf R sales also are up — strongly — showing that, despite expectations, folks recognize a relative performance car bargain when they see it.

2019 Range Rover Sport adds plug-in hybrid to lineup

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(September 10, 2018) Land Rover recently announced 2019 Model Year updates to the Range Rover Sport model line-up. These include a new Wade Sensing feature, new Advanced Driver Assistance System functionality and the introduction of an all-new Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) powertrain option.

Ford’s problems need leadership, not a huddle

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(August 22, 2018) If you work at the Ford Motor Company, you get a copy of the weekly “CEO Note” in your e-mail inbox. Titled "The Huddle" it’s a memo outlining the latest thoughts from Jim Hackett. Numerous copies ended up in my inbox recently, sent by various and sundry folks in the Ford universe. To put it bluntly, the subject matter is a new generation of “bullshit bingo” that applies seemingly new buzzwords to old ideas.

Atlas V6 4Motion — Amazing space, surprising economy

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(August 19, 2018) It was time to load up the vehicle and head to Virginia to see the better half’s sister, a trip we've made before. Unlike that first trip, there would be no metaphoric transformation of coal into diamonds. I had learned my lesson the first time. We would not sacrifice ultimate comfort for usable cargo room, though we came close.

Enhanced performance through brake-by-wire

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(August 13, 2018) “Brake-by-wire.” Let those words sink in for a moment as you think of the last time your smartphone, tablet or personal computer threw a wobbly and left you scratching your head. Better yet, remember the punch line to the joke about the car filled with engineers that suddenly stops at the side of the road. After the mechanical, chemical, and electrical engineers each give a diagnosis and plan of action, all eyes turn to the computer engineer who says plaintively: “I was thinking that we could turn it off, get out of the car, get back in, and restart it.” Fills you with confidence, doesn’t it?

2019 Mercedes A-Class — Not some cut-rate sedan

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(August 11, 2018) The 2019 A-Class sedan goes on sale in the U.S. later this year as a new addition to a line that includes the CLA and GLA, as well as (though not in the U.S.) the A-Class hatchback. It’s a far cry from the 1997 sandwich-floor hatchback that tripped over a moose in testing, having become a sporty entrée into the Mercedes-Benz lifestyle, rather than an entry-level competitor for VW’s Golf.

Look for a larger Audi Q3 for 2019 with redesigned instrument panel

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(August 3, 2018) The second-generation Audi Q3 small SUV goes on sale in Europe late this year, with U.S. sales expected to follow by the first of the year. Buyers will find a larger vehicle with more technology, and more options.The 2019 Q3 is larger in all dimensions other than height.

Sometimes there is a replacement for displacement

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(July 28, 2018) Audi’s Q7 is the brand’s largest SUV, and nearly the same size as the Volkswagen Atlas. The two are so close in size that you wonder why they sit on different platforms. Consider: The Atlas is 198.3 inches long, 78.3 inches wide (not including the exterior mirrors), 70 inches high, and sits on a 117.3-inch wheelbase. The Q7 is 199.6 inches long, 77.5 inches wide, 68.5 inches tall, and sits on a 117.9-inch wheelbase. The two are nearly identical, yet the Audi feels smaller thanks to its more chiseled styling and seemingly cozier interior.

Sporty, solid and sexy — Audi’s S5 Sportback

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(July 21, 2018) “Great looking with an amazing body.” It’s a simple declarative sentence that could put you in front of a #metoo firing squad — if you weren’t referring to Audi’s S5 Sportback, that is.


From its introduction in 2007, the A5 has been a stunner. Designed under the watchful eye of Walter de Silva who, during his stint at Alfa Romeo (1986-1999), drew the delectable Alfa 156, a car that put Alfa back on the map stylistically, and brought lust back to the affordable sedan sector.