The Virtual Driver

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.

A Subaru as big as the (Australian) Outback

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(December 8, 2017) Subaru should be thankful that most people interested in its new American made crossover, the Ascent, won’t remember a similarly named, American made SUV sold by another Japanese automaker, the Isuzu Ascender. Then again, Subaru probably is more interested in potential buyers not associating its new large crossover with its old one, the slightly cramped and unfortunately styled Tribeca.

Kia Forte — Promising more than it can deliver

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(November 27, 2017) It’s been a while since we last dove the Kia Forte — the late 2013 launch program in Arizona to be exact — but we came away reasonably impressed with Kia’s small sedan. The sleek styling, capacious and well-appointed interior, low NVH levels, and decent fuel economy were enticing. However, the unresolved suspension damping, lifeless steering with similarly lifeless power assistance adjustments, and rear seat backrests that don’t fold completely flat tempered our enthusiasm.

Nip, tuck for 2019 Lincoln MKC

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(November 25, 2017) The MKC was the last new Lincoln to launch with the old waterfall grille. Though in line with the rest of the Lincoln family in 2014, it looked increasingly out of place as everything from the Continental to the Navigator adopted the brand’s new squared-off “horseshoe” design.  For the 2019 model year, all that is about to change.

The CS, a more M-otional BMW M3

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(November 15, 2017) BMW’s special edition M3 CS really ladles on the carbon fiber. The hood (25% lighter than on the stock M3), roof (13 pounds lighter), Gurney flap and front splitter (both in exposed carbon fiber), and the unique rear diffuser are all made from this material. Weight for the model is 110 pounds less than a standard M3, making these additions functional as well as stylish.

BMW X2: A sportier, spicier take on the X1

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(November 5, 2017) BMW’s X2 is the X6 to the X1’s X5, which is to say, this is the more extroverted and sporty version of BMW’s smallest SUV. Built on the same transverse front-drive UKL platform as the latest generation of Mini vehicles, the X2 will come standard with all-wheel drive (xDrive in BMW speak) and only one engine option. European buyers, on the other hand, will have the choice of three- and four-cylinder turbo motors and multiple gearboxes.

Building the autonomous door

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(October 29, 2017) Over its 160-year history, Germany’s Kiekert has produced nearly two billion vehicle latches, and taken 35 percent of the market in Europe and 25 percent in the NAFTA region., which makes it the number one locking system supplier in each market. From 66 million latches produced in 2015 to 70 million in 2017, Kiekert continues to grow.

AEV: Building specialty Jeeps and Rams like the factory would

By Christopher A. Sawyer
The Virtual Driver

(October 22, 2017) Outside the front door of American Expedition Vehicle’s Wixom, Mich., design, engineering and assembly facility stands an AEV Prospector XL Tray Bed Edition, one of only 10 the company will build. Based on a concept created by company founder and President Dave Harriton, and first shown at the 2013 SEMA show, the Tray Bed is built off the Ram 2500 Regular Cab/Long Bed platform, and brings to mind images of the famed Dodge Power Wagon.