The Virtual Driver

Ford Ranger lives again after being left for dead in 2011

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(January 23, 2018) The original Ford Ranger was sent out to pasture in 2011 after years of being mildly updated but basically neglected. Every last ounce of profit was pulled from the small pickup, and the decision finally was made to drop out of the segment and redirect buyers to less pricey versions of the F-150. The segment, claimed Ford, was dead.

Behind the scenes at the North American International Auto Show

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(January 20, 2018) Conventional wisdom says the car market is dying, and crossovers and SUVs will replace the traditional sedan sometime in the next decade. Last year, FCA announced that it would end production of both the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200 and replace them with crossovers.

Kia Cadenza: When near luxury exceeds expectations

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(January 8, 2018) I was listening to a friend describe the troubles he’s had with his Lincoln Continental, from a number of annoying electrical glitches to a driver’s seat bolster that came loose, and much more. He loves the way the car looks and feels, the fact that it tries to recapture some of the sophistication of previous generations that carried the name, and the way the dealer has treated him.

Toyota quietly makes no changes to its flagship Avalon for 2018

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(January 6, 2018) I was somewhat surprised when looking at the window sticker for the Toyota Avalon Limited Hybrid to note that it was a 2018 model, not a 2017. The change in model years for the Avalon had slipped past unnoticed, with a new Avalon — based on the modular TNGA structure shared with the latest Prius and Camry — set to debut at the Detroit show in a week.

F1: Threat versus reality

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(December 31, 2017) It gets a little tiring reading the European press prattle on about the Americans ruining Formula One. True to form, the establishment looks down on Liberty Media simply because it is an American company, and is predicting all sorts of mayhem should the new owners of the series make substantial changes. Changes like those rumored to the fee and payment structure that, for quite some time now, has generously benefitted Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

Toyota's angry face

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(December 30, 2017) What is it about the RAV4’s angry “face”? The front fascia scowls like a raccoon-inspired comic book character, expressing a surprisingly high level of anger for such a mild-mannered vehicle. It’s almost as though the vehicle itself is in a perpetual state of road rage. What does it have to be angry about? That’s it’s a Toyota? That it’s a hybrid? That it gets 34 mpg city and 30 highway? I don’t get it. What is this small crossover so mad about?

Jumping the gun

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(December 26, 2017) Car makers are driving auto shows toward irrelevance with early showings of the cars and trucks it will introduce. Some automakers release photos and technical information. Others, like Honda and Jeep, save the details for press days, hoping they can break out of the clutter, entice media attendance with a promise of more information at the show, and thus get two bites at the proverbial apple.

Ford kills clean-sheet Mustang — again; may sack 10,000 engineers

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(December 25, 2017) According to sources who have spoken on the promise of anonymity to The Virtual Driver, Ford executives, under the direction of new CEO Jim Hackett, have canceled the S650 Mustang program, and will cull up to 10,000 development personnel from the company’s engineering ranks by late next year. This happens at a time when GM is moving forward on multiple fronts, and the U.S. economy is growing at levels not seen in decades.

The return of the Renault Alpine

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(December 16, 2017) When Renault’s Alpine A110 goes on sale in 11 European markets, Japan and Australia with further markets to be added later — though probably not the U.S. — it will be led out by the Premier Edition, a run of 1,955 special cars that were allocated via a mobile app. These sold out in five days, and the app will soon open for ordering the regular production model.

Goodbye Juke, hello Kicks

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(December 12, 2017) Nissan has dropped the youthful but design-challenged Juke crossover for a more mainstream design sourced from Mexico, the Kicks. Though a subcompact — like the slightly larger Rogue Sport introduced earlier this year — the Kicks is significantly larger than the Juke, with a 3.5-inch longer wheelbase, 6.7-inch greater length and 0.6-inch greater height.