Category Archives: News

Requiem for a brand

Scion's first model, the xB, was axed last year. Now, the brand follows (Image: Toyota Canada)

Scion’s first model, the xB, was axed last year. Now, the brand follows. (Image: Toyota Canada)

The Grim Reaper came for Scion today.

Without being offered a cigarette or a blindfold, the youth-oriented brand was tossed into the dustbin of automotive history by parent company Toyota, ending its 13-year existence in the U.S. and six-year run in Canada.

Scion’s struggles were well known. After blasting into the marketplace on a wave of funkiness, the brand’s aging, increasingly confused models led to a sales freefall over the past several years.

Saviour no more: the 2016 Scion iM. (Image: Toyota Canada)

Saviour no more: the 2016 Scion iM. (Image: Toyota Canada)

The new 2016 models, regarded as the cars that would reverse the brand’s fortunes, caused a lot of head-scratching. The iM 5-door hatchback seemed more like a Corolla 5-door that escaped off the drawing board, while the iA sedan was simply a badge-engineered Mazda 2.

“What’s the point of these, and how are they related to the original Scions?” lamented several friends, a couple of whom are Scion xB owners.

“Why not just make them Toyotas, if there’s no vision left for the brand?”

Well, that’s exactly what Toyota did. Next year’s (remaining) models will wear a Toyota badge, except for the tC coupe, which is being killed off before that can happen.

Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, Toyota is implying the entire foray into a new brand was just a marketing exercise for the parent company – a way of getting youngsters interested in the brand associated with your uncle’s Corolla, your dad’s Camry, and your grandmother’s Avalon.

“This is the next step to advancing the Toyota brand in Canada,” said Larry Hutchinson, President and CEO of Toyota Canada Inc, in the company’s official news release.

The Scion tC won't return as a Toyota model. (Image: Toyota Canada)

The Scion tC won’t return as a Toyota model. (Image: Toyota Canada)

“As a part of the team that established Scion in Canada, our goal was to make Toyota and our dealers stronger by learning how to better attract and engage young customers. This is exactly what we have accomplished and we look forward to expanding our product lineup with exciting product.”

After reading this, you could say that the Scion brand was a success after all!*

*I can see a glass half full, if forced to.

Back in the summer I wrote a post about the strange direction Scion seemed to be going in, and offered up some ideas on how to regain some interest, youthfulness, and, yes, funk to the brand.

Obviously, Toyota brass were not hanging on my every word.

And so, Scion prepares to take its place in the Hall of Former Marques, alongside Plymouth, Oldsmobile, Saturn, Saab, Hummer, Mercury, Pontiac, Eagle, etc, etc. Now, let’s raise a glass in its honour.

However sad or ignominious the end, the people behind the brand deserve credit for taking a chance and heading in a new direction… albeit briefly.



Exiting the Chrysler Expressway

It's the long goodbye for the Dodge Dart as the model heads into the sunset.

It’s the long goodbye for the Dodge Dart as the model heads off into the sunset. (Image: FCA US LLC)

Just as General Motors is looking for a midsize sedan turnaround with its new Chevy Malibu, Fiat-Chrysler is looking to take its sole midsizer behind the barn.

FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne created waves last week when he announced the slow-selling Dodge Dart compact and Chrysler 200 midsize would have their futures cut short, as the company pursues a new truck-intensive sales strategy.

Apparently, the RAM and Jeep divisions are working overtime to get SUVs and trucks to a hungry public, while the Chrysler and Dodge divisions aren’t seeing anywhere near that demand. Pulling the plug on these two models will open up assembly line capacity that can be dedicated to more popular vehicles.

The curtains will close on the Chrysler 200 as parent FCA focuses on the Jeep and RAM brands.

The curtains will close on the Chrysler 200 as parent FCA focuses on the Jeep and RAM brands. (Image: FCA US LLC)

It seems the pragmatic thing for a company to do. I mean, buyers are increasingly choosing crossovers and SUVs over sedans, and you gotta go where the money is, but I can’t help but think…. huh?

The great, expansive (former) Chrysler Corporation – the creator of the (original) Dart, Valiant, Reliant, Aries and Neon – won’t have a compact car anywhere in its lineup? Or even a midsize?

The bottom end of Chrysler’s lineup has thinned in the past, but not to this degree.

After the death of the Dodge/Chrysler Neon (Dodge SX 2.0 in Canada) in 2005, the company’s compact shelf was left bare until the Fiat-based Dart appeared in 2013. The small and forgettable 5-door Dodge Caliber wagon/crossover entered the scene in 2007, so this gap could theoretically be narrowed to a single model year.

Following the end of the Dodge Stratus in 2006, the brand went the next two years without a midsize car before the Avenger name was resurrected in 2008. During that time, however, the midsize Chrysler Sebring was also being sold, along with the compact PT Cruiser retro wagon.

Weren’t the mid-to-late 2000s great?!

When the Dart and 200 stop rolling off the line, the only true passenger cars made by Chrysler will be the venerable 300, Charger and Challenger.

The compact and midsize slots might be filled again - if someone else builds 'em, (Image: FCA US LLC)

The compact and midsize slots might be filled again – if someone else builds ’em. (Image: FCA US LLC)

It’s hard to compete in the compact and midsize sedan categories, but GM and Ford manage reasonably well with models like the Cruze and Fushion. Sure, the Dart and 200 set few hearts on fire, but is the answer to pull out of the market altogether? Does anyone really expect gas prices to stay low forever?

According to the Detroit Free Press, the vanishing act might not be permanent – assuming FCA can line up a deal to have another automaker provide the vehicles. Yup, we could eventually see rebadged models filling in those gaps, not unlike the Mitsubishi-based Dodge Colt of the 1970s and 80s, or more recently, the Mazda 2-based Scion iM/Toyota Yaris.

The current Dart doesn’t hide its Fiat architecture very well, so it already feels like a rebadged import, albeit one that’s all in the family. If it returns with a different parent, things could get interesting. I never expected Mazda and Toyota to pair up for a swap job, so who knows what partner FCA might bring to the dance.

The big positive I’ve failed to mention is that we get a Jeep Wrangler pickup out of FCA’s new plan. I’ve been drooling over the possibility ever since the concept was shown a few years back, and now it’s a go.

Not only will the Wrangler get a pickup, but along with it will come a host of new drivetrains – diesel and hybrid included. A range-topping Grand Wagoneer is also part of the short-term plan.

Clearly it’s a great time to be Jeep. Not so much Chrysler or Dodge.



Room(iness) at the top: 2017 Lincoln Continental

The pride is back? The new Continental landed with a splash at the NAIAS.

The pride is back? The new Continental landed with a splash at the NAIAS.

With its flagship back, Lincoln gets a cherry on its sundae

It’s no secret this writer has expressed more than a passing interest in the Lincoln Continental since news broke in 2014 that the marque’s flagship was returning.

Well, as the overused phrase goes, “It’s 2016!” and the production-ready Continental is here.

Unveiled at the North American International Auto Show, the Continental is the first all-new model since the Ford Motor Company decided to resurrect the moribund Lincoln brand with a multi-billion-dollar injection of cash.

Remember that 1980s Chrysler slogan ‘The Pride is Back’? That seemed to be Lincoln’s mantra at NAIAS.

In case you were wondering what this was...

In case you were wondering what this was…

Massive lettering on a towering digital backdrop screamed announced the presence of the new range-topping sedan, which itself was parked atop a massive, gleaming white stage, flanked by two more Continentals. Incidently, they were painted red, white and blue.

Loosely translated, this means “We’re here, we’re American, and we’re heading to China!”

Yes, for some time Ford has jealously eyed GM’s success in the Chinese market – a murky opportunity factory where the nouveau riche snap up any American car with a storied (and status) nameplate. Cadillac and Buick shouldn’t have all the fun, Ford no doubt thought, and what better car to do that than a new Continental?

The soon-to-be-late Lincoln MKS – the brand’s former flagship – sold like coldcakes and was as exciting as a bowl of plain rice at an orgy. Left to wither on the vine, the model’s planned second generation was scrapped by Ford CEO Mark Fields in 2014 in favour of a model with presence and name recognition – something that would bring more distinction (and hopefully sales) to the brand.

With vehicle sales rising for the past two model years, Lincoln is slowly but surely pulling out of its lengthy sales slump. With its crossover offerings already well fleshed out (and generally well regarded) getting back into the full-size sedan market was a needed and obvious next step in the brand’s turnaround.

The Continental's rear just might be its most flawless rear estate.

The Continental’s rear just might be its most flawless real estate.


 Last year’s Continental concept was a good indication of the shape of things to come.

Bentley-esque in profile, the concept and production model eschewed the gaudiness of the 70s and 80s, nor did it submit to a retro ‘60s design that would age quickly and make for awkward redesigns.

Many people, myself included, secretly wished for a pound-for-pound remake of the ’63 Continental, but it was not to be. Maybe Ford learned a lesson with its slow-selling retro styled Thunderbird of the previous decade.

Lincoln x Infinity makes for a gleaming mouth.

Lincoln x Infinity makes for a gleaming mouth.

The new Continental clearly aims to be a contemporary representative of the Lincoln brand, a rolling expression of the ‘quiet luxury’ that Lincoln literature speaks of.

The styling cues of the concept remain in a toned-down form. A high beltline with a delicate rear fender hump, wide rectangular(ish) grille gleaming with recessed chrome mesh, and chrome door handles integrated into the beltline trim stand out on the production model.

Rarely does something as pedestrian as door handles get top billing when it comes to a new model’s features, but the Continental’s ‘E-latch’ handles are something to see. Looking like they’re milled from solid chromed steel, the handles are truly unique, opening with a touch of a pad on the inside of the protruding handhold.

The doors fully latch by themselves even if only partially closed. A capacitor in each door controls the system, but as Paul Linden (Supervisor of Advanced Technologies at Ford) describes, they can be defeated manually a number of ways.

Reach out and touch me...

Reach out and touch me…

“Triple redundancies” protect an owner from being locked out, said Linden, by way of switches located on the inside of the door or via a small square panel located in the Continental badging on the door’s exterior. The system also unlocks doors automatically in the event of a serious crash.

Subtle branding exercises abound in the Continental’s front end brightwork. Surrounding the Lincoln logo in the center of the grille are hundreds of logo-shaped links, while the five projectors in each headlamp follow suit.

Out back, the branding exercise continues with truly large ‘Lincoln’ lettering stretching across the trunk lid, the width of which is enhanced by the full-width tail lamps we’ve come to expect from the company.

Filling out the fender holes are turbine-style 20-inch wheels that provide an appropriately large platform for the flagships’ rubber.

Admirers of the concept’s sleek, recessed rocker panels and metal accent trim wrapping around the lower body edge will have to live with normal rockers and far less shiny bits down low.

An uncluttered console with healthy doses of aluminum greet Continental drivers.

An uncluttered console with healthy doses of aluminum greet Continental drivers.

Looking in

The Continental’s interior reflects a mix of new and retro cues.

A healthy dose of bright aluminum mesh adorns the upper door panels, dash, steering wheel and console (both front and rear), surrounded by the leather one would expect from any luxury sedan.

Thin chrome strips ring the center infotainment screen and gauge cluster.

While there might be a little too much aluminum kicking around, the metal applied to the elegantly sparse front and rear consoles looks fantastic, and is probably the car’s biggest nod to the Kennedy era – that storybook time when the Continental was a design leader.

Take control (of the audio) in the Continental's comfy backseat.

Take control (of the audio) in the Continental’s comfy backseat.

Good news for the finicky – the vehicle’s leather-and-fabric seats are adjustable 30 different ways. Let’s hope they have a memory function. Front and rear, the seats are heated and cooled.

While no Continental owner is safe online, at least their car’s built-in rear seat window curtains will afford their passengers some privacy while in public.

And because every day is sunny when you’re in a Lincoln, a full-length sunroof is there for access to the sun, the moon and the stars.

A 19-speaker Revel audio system, complete with rear-seat controls, rounds out the list of the biggest creature comforts.

Five logos, all in a row. A small thing, but props on being different.

Five logos, all in a row. A small thing, but props on being different.


A new, brand-exclusive 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 will power the top-of-the-line Continental, with the existing 3.7-litre and 2.7-litre Ecoboost engines serving as lower-rung fare. The 3.0-litre will make 400 horsepower and 400 foot-pounds of torque.

Front-wheel-drive is nothing new for the Continental nameplate, and those wheels will once again be putting the power down. Torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive will be an option.

Ford’s trusty 6-speed automatic is the only transmission offering.

Blue trumps white when it comes to showing off the Continental's subtle lines.

Blue trumps white when it comes to showing off the Continental’s subtle lines.

The verdict

Clearly the result of a careful design process, the Continental nonetheless runs the risk of being seen as bland, or worse, a badge engineering job.

Purists have taken exception to the car’s front-wheel-drive architecture, especially given that it’s a modified version of the platform that underpins the very ordinary Ford Fusion. While its Cadillac competitor, the CT6, is rear-drive, remember that previous Caddies like the DTS and STS were front-drive.

A conversation with a friend turned up the criticism that the new Continental is “okay, but weak,” and is likely the result of the people at Lincoln “playing it safe.” The grille, he added, was underwhelming.

Fair enough – I worry the headlamps and lower fascia stray close to Ford territory, but overall I say it’s a good styling effort. Maybe a little restrained, but isn’t that what Lincoln is going for?

I’d also add that the new Continental’s subtle lines are somewhat dependent on lighting. Well-lit white Continentals seem to become nearly shapeless, while the dark blue models show off their curves much better.

Overall, Lincoln deserves kudos for its bold return to the ultra-lux sedan market and for returning a storied nameplate to dealerships. The automotive landscape is richer for it.

21st century yacht

Mating size with technology, the flagship 2016 Cadillac CT6 goes on sale in the spring. (Image: General Motors)

Mating size with technology, the flagship 2016 Cadillac CT6 goes on sale in the spring. (Image: General Motors)

Having not sat in it, driven it, or lived with it, I can only say … I like it.

Cadillac’s 2016 CT6 – the automaker’s new flagship due out next spring – pushes the right buttons for me.

Long, wide, slab-sided and luxurious, it seems to be the classy, mildly understated range-topper that Cadillac has been missing for years.

Also appealing are its numbers.

The CT6 undercuts much of its competition by $20,000. (Image: General Motors)

The CT6 undercuts much of its competition by $20,000. (Image: General Motors)

Price-wise, at $53.495 (U.S., excluding delivery) for a rear-wheel-drive base model, it undercuts most of its competition by around 20 grand.

GM’s stalwart 2.0-litre turbo, making 265 hp, powers the entry level CT6. Another $2,000 will get you a 335 hp V-6, plus all-wheel-drive. This option seems to be the real bargain of the lineup.

At the top of the heap is a 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 making 400 hp and 400 lb-ft of torque. That’s right – there will be no V8 lurking under the hood of the top-end Cadillac.

All engine choices will be paired with GM’s 8-speed automatic.

Room to stretch out. (mage: General Motors)

Room to stretch out. (mage: General Motors)

If these powertrains sound like they’re offered with efficiency in mind, that’s a safe bet. Mileage figures haven’t been announced yet, but it’s reasonable to expect them to be very competitive (and attractive to the EPA).

Underneath the CT6’s big body is GM’s new Omega platform, meant for full-size, RWD vehicles. Made with plenty of high-strength aluminum, the light chassis will be able to take credit for some of the vehicle’s fuel economy.

GM says the girthy CT6 will weight in under 3,700 pounds, which is less than the curb weight of the AWD version of the smaller CTS. Most luxury compact crossovers weight more.

Fuel-saving technology like this wasn’t a consideration back in the days when the only concern for Cadillac engineers was style and luxury. But, times change, and the penalties for not keeping up – especially for an automaker – are numerous, and severe.

From a distance, the CT6 seems like the bridging of two eras. Size, style and luxury hopping in bed with technology and economy to create a car that will satisfy a traditional Florida retiree, a budget-minded first time luxury shopper, and the EPA.

No doubt Cadillac is hoping for this response.

New York boardooms and Fort Lauderdale early bird dinners await! (Image: Geeral Motors)

New York boardooms and Fort Lauderdale early bird dinners await! (Image: Geeral Motors)

Longer, lower… lighter

Significant changes are coming in the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze (Image: General Motors)

Significant changes are in store for the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze (Image: General Motors)

2016 Chevy Cruze gains power, too


After selling eleventy billion Cruze models in North America since the fall of 2010, it was time for something new from Chevrolet.

Last week’s unveiling of the second-generation of the brand’s big-selling compact sedan showed that a commitment to space and economy is still top of mind amongst GM brass.

And how could it not be, with the Cruze being such a big name in the ever-competitive compact sedan market?

Interior of the 2016 Cruze (Image: General Motors)

Interior of the 2016 Cruze (Image: General Motors)

The 2016 Cruze gains all-new looks and dimensions, coming in an inch lower, 2.7 inches longer, and a whopping 250 pounds lighter than outgoing models.

The ‘more space, less weight’ approach was recently tried on the 2016 Malibu, and like that model, the stretch should aid rear seat legroom.

The weight loss, coupled with a slippery new body, will allow the car to achieve 40 MPG (U.S.) on the highway, according to GM estimates. Before, only the specialized (but popular) Eco model broke the 40 MPG barrier.

Under the hood, the base 1.8-litre four has been mothballed, replaced by a standard 1.4-litre direct-injection turbo four.

The new engine, which comes with start/stop technology sees horsepower bumped to 153, compared to 138 on older models. Torque sees a big boost – 177 lb-ft, versus the 148 cranked out by the previous 1.4-litre.

(As the owner of a current 1.4-litre Cruze, I can only imagine how well this power increase would improve the vehicle’s performance, especially in hilly terrain)

Specs provided by GM show a slight displacement increase over the previous 1.4-litre – 1399 cubic centimetres versus 1364.

The 2016 Cruze is seeking a competitive edge over its rivals (Image: General Motors)

The 2016 Cruze is seeking a competitive edge over its rivals (Image: General Motors)

A 6-speed automatic and 6-speed manual will be available, while it looks like the triple-overdrive setup offered on the 1st Generation Eco models will be retired.

On the niceties front, the top-level LTZ will be replaced by a ‘Premiere’ trim line, while the addition of an ‘L’ version below the familiar LS and LT hints that Chevy might be pursuing a low entry level price.

A new diesel model will bow for 2017, the company claims.

The 2nd Generation Cruze is expected in dealerships in early 2016.

Power in the front, party in the back

The Continental will officially replace the MKS in 2016 (Image: Ford Motor Company)

The Continental will officially replace the MKS in 2016 (Image: Ford Motor Company)

Continental goes front-drive, MKS taken behind barn


There’s going to be a death in the Lincoln family.

The long-running, slow-selling MKS flagship (‘Sex Panther’, as the young folks call it) will go the way of Betamax in 2016, with that year being its final production run.

As difficult as this news is, the trip to the glue factory for the antiquated and invisible MKS has a silver lining, as it will herald the arrival of a new King – er, flagship.

RIP MKS, LOL (Cropped image: Ford Motor Company)

RIP MKS, LOL (Cropped image: Ford Motor Company)

The Lincoln Continental, teased last winter as the saviour of the Lincoln brand (and the first nail in the coffin of the company’s confusing alpha-numeric model names) will take residence at the top of the model lineup.

Big, bold and packed with luxury and yesteryear cues (if the prototype is anything to go by), the Continental would position Lincoln to better do battle with its luxury rivals.

While the vehicle’s power plant was always stated as being a brand-exclusive turbocharged 3.0-litre V6, the drive wheels remained a mystery until recently. Lincoln has confirmed that the new Continental will be (wait for it) front-wheel drive.

Yes, the flagship positioned to take on the Cadillac CT6, Mercedes-Benz S-Class, BWM 7-Series, Lexus LS and Jaguar XJ (all rear-drive vehicles) will be front-wheel drive, with an AWD option.

This revelation could take some of the wind out of the sales of hardcore Lincoln aficionados who remember – probably not all that fondly – the previous front-drive Continental (1988-2002).

1991 Lincoln Continental (Image via)

1991 Lincoln Continental (Image via)

Does front-drive mean the Continental will be a dud? Don’t bank on it – after all, the stately design and interior drooled over by auto journos last winter doesn’t disappear just because the car’s torque is being funneled to the front wheels.

(It remains to be seen, however, whether the concept was nearly production-ready, or whether we’ll see a watering down of the design and furnishings in a production model)

All-wheel drive is also nothing to scoff at, especially if the torque is biased towards the rear, or even distributed evenly. This means your dream of hooning a new Continental in the snow could soon become a reality.

Still, the greatest Continentals of yesteryear were rear-drive, as are the big players in the modern luxury market.

On the domestic front, Cadillac’s recent reveal of a range-topping rear-drive CT8 sedan could make the Continental look wanting in comparison, especially given the angular, Elmiraj concept car-inspired design seen in renderings.

Like finding out whether that noise outside the window is a raccoon, the wind, or something much more sinister, only time will tell.

If the interior of a front-drive Continental looks like this, maybe people will be forgiving (Image: Ford Motor Company)

If the interior of a front-drive Continental looks like this, maybe people will be forgiving (Image: Ford Motor Company)


Camaro, volume 6

2016 Chevrolet Camaro (Image: General Motors)

2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS (Image: General Motors)

Last week’s launch of the 6th Generation Chevrolet Camaro was the biggest thing to hit Detroit since Chapter 9 bankruptcy.

For everyone who traditionally passes over the fabled (and sometimes maligned) muscle car, the newest version is something to take notice of.

To better do battle with its closest competitor – the Ford Mustang – and to ditch its lingering reputation as a gas-guzzling lead sled, the 2016 Camaro has shed weight, length and undergone a careful restyle.

Underpinned by the taught Cadillac ATS platform, the Camaro will offer its first 4-cylinder engine in over three decades.

Unlike the rough and tepid ‘Iron Duke’ 2.5-litre that graced Camaros between 1982 and 1984, the 2016 Camaro’s smallest motor is a turbocharged 2.0-litremaking a very respectable 275 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque.

To put that into perspective, the new four makes 185 more horsepower than the dismal Iron Duke. Ain’t technology grand?

When Chevy first introduced a 4-cylinder Camaro in 1982, it 'boasted' 90 horsepower.

When Chevy first introduced a 4-cylinder Camaro in 1982, it ‘boasted’ 90 horsepower.

Filling out the range of engines are a direct-injection 3.6-litre V6 making 335 hp and a 6.2-litre V8 making 455 hp. All three engines can be paired with GM’s new 8-speed automatic, though a 6-speed manual remains available.

Chevy put Camaro #6 on a diet before taking off the wraps, shaving off over 200 pounds to make the vehicle sportier and more fuel efficient. A 1.5-inch shorter wheelbase and 2-inch shorter body helps those attributes even more.

GM estimates that the 2.0-litre version will make over 30 miles per gallon (U.S.) on the highway.

From a distance, the profile of the new Camaro seems pretty much like the old one, but up close the differences are legion. Every element of the design looks better than what came before.

According to GM, “only two parts carry over from the fifth-generation Camaro to the new Gen Six: the rear bowtie emblem and the SS badge.”

Refinement seemed to be the name of the game when it came time to sculpt this Camaro. There was clearly a need to make people who would never stop to look at (or consider buying) a Camaro suddenly stop and take notice of it.

2016 Chevrolet Camaro RS (Image: General Motors)

2016 Chevrolet Camaro RS (Image: General Motors)

A close friend of the author, whose heart belongs solely to the Dodge Challenger, responded with a “wow” upon seeing images of the 2016 Camaro.

In its coverage, Forbes magazine declared that the muscle car had become “a different animal” in the wake of the launch, what the new model’s nod to both tradition and modern advancements in efficiency.

After it goes on sale later this year, it would be shocking to not see sales figures rise for the Camaro. No doubt Ford is casting a wary glance in its direction, and Dodge too, for that matter.


The dark knight

The full-size Chevrolet Impala will gain some attitude this summer with the addition of a Midnight Edition package (Image: General Motors)

The full-size Chevrolet Impala will gain some attitude this summer with the addition of a Midnight Edition package (Image: General Motors)

If everyday Impalas aren’t enough to lure you into a Chevy dealership, GM’s planning on adding extra bait to the line.

This summer, a Midnight Edition of the full-size sedan will appear on dealers lots (under the cover of darkness, no doubt), offering shimmering Jet Black paint and blacked out 19-inch wheels, grille, and Chevy bow ties both front and back.

The sinister sedan also receives sport pedals and a low-profile deck lid spoiler.

If big and black is your style, the Midnight Edition package can be added to all Impalas, minus the base LS trim level. That means the sensibly spacious four-cylinder Impala of your dreams doesn’t have to be so… unintimidating.

Available in all trim levels except the base LS, the new package is clearly designed to lure in new buyers. Will it succeed?

The Midnight Edition package targets all trim levels except the base LS. Will it boost slagging sales? (Image: General Motors)

Midnight Edition Impalas will retail as 2016 models, though GM says a small number of 2015 four-banger versions will find their way off the line.

Reading between the lines, Chevrolet is obviously brainstorming ways to get more buyers into a new Impala, which has been falling steadily in sales since the model’s  lofty peak in the mid-2000s.

Fleet sales accounted for a large number of those earlier sales, but even with a consumer-oriented redesign for 2014 (a quite attractive one, in my opinion), sales are a fraction of what they were a decade ago.

In the U.S., 140,280 Impalas were sold in 2014, down from over 311,000 in 2007. In Canada, just 3,406 Impalas rolled off dealers lots in 2014, compared to over 21,000 in 2006.

Chevy is clearly hoping new buyers will follow this tricked-out Impala into the dark, before the model fades to black.



Reclaiming the mojo

The 2016Malibu appears ready to make up lost ground (Image: General Motors)

The 2016 Malibu appears ready to make up lost ground (Image: General Motors)

Having seen 37 years of American history pass through its rear-view mirror, you’d think Chevrolet’s experienced Malibu would find luring new buyers to be a breeze.

But the most recent generation of the bread-and-butter sedan failed to dominate the midsize market, and struggled to arrest declining sales amid strong competition from the likes of Fusion, Sonata, Camry, and Accord.

Well, Chevy clearly doesn’t like the idea of the Malibu becoming an overlooked wallflower at the school dance. Their response to the problem is the 2016 Malibu, which will arrive – dressed to impress – in the fourth quarter of this year.

Bigger, roomier, and more efficient, the 2016 Malibu promises to remedy the criticisms levelled against its predecessor – mainly, that legroom was lacking, the styling too lacklustre, and the mild hybrid too mild.

The best view of the 2016 Malibu, IMHO. Can you tell it's longer? (Image: General Motors)

The best view of the 2016 Malibu, IMHO. Can you tell it’s longer? (Image: General Motors)

As the photos here show, the new Malibu has borrowed some duds from the Impala’s closet. Elements of the design language of its bigger stable mate can be seen in its creased, flowing flanks – especially towards the rear.

With a wheelbase nearly four inches longer, the 2016 ‘Bu will allow occupants to stretch their legs a little.

A new 1.5-litre turbo four-cylinder will make 160 horsepower and 184 foot-pounds of torque, and is supposedly good for about 37 mpg (U.S.) highway, or 6.4 litres/100 km. Optional is GM’s well-known turbo 2.0-litre four, making 250 hp.

Helping the newly lengthened Malibu roll along efficiently are grille shutters, a nearly 300 pound weight loss, and (in 2.0-litre guise) a new 8-speed automatic transmission.

To wring maximum efficiency out of the Malibu, buyers can opt for a ‘heavy hybrid’ version that uses a modified version of the new Chevy Volt’s drivetrain and can travel up to 88 km/h in EV mode.

A 1.8-litre direct injection engine and two electric motors return an estimated 48 mpg (U.S.) in the city and 45 mpg on the highway, for a combined rating of 47 mpg (5.0 litres/100km).

Some angles have the front end appearing awkward; head-on, it's not so pronounced (Image: General Motors)

Some angles have the front end appearing awkward; head-on, it’s not so pronounced (Image: General Motors)

Numbers like these, coupled with a new skin, should help the Malibu do battle with its competitors.

On a personal note, I can’t give the design an A+, though it is a definite improvement.

The 2016 Malibu does a good job in keeping visual interest (and I do find its design muse, the Impala, to be attractive), but the front end seems awkward to me – too many diverging angles, and a catfish mouth.

Viewed side-on or from the rear, well, different story.


Torch bearer

This is it: the Lincoln Continental. And yes, it will be built (Image: Ford Motor Company)

This is it: the Lincoln Continental. And yes, it will be built (Image: Ford Motor Company)

As predicted (and anticipated), Lincoln took the wraps off a resurrected Continental at the New York International Auto Show this week, a few days after an eager Ford Motor Company introduced the model online.

Described as a concept, the new Lincoln flagship is apparently very close to what buyers can expect when it goes into production next year.

Big, stalely and modern, the new Continental made a big impression, garnering accolades from journos and the public alike, though Bentley insists the sedan is a rip-off of its own Flying Spur (an accusation made on Facebook, no less. How catty.)

Attractive lower-body chrome trim accentuates the Continental's lines, length, and perceived luxury (Image: Ford Motor Company)

Attractive lower-body chrome trim accentuates the Continental’s lines, length, and perceived luxury (Image: Ford Motor Company)

Mechanical details are fairly scarce, as Ford choose to talk about luxury, history and the design process during and after the introduction. We do know that the Continental will be powered by a Lincoln-exclusive 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6, but what wheels will do the driving is still a mystery. Many have speculated that it will be an all-wheel-drive vehicle.

Ford president and CEO Mark Fields said work on the new model began in 2013, while design teams were working on a replacement for the MKS. The proposed designs were lacklustre, so they decided to start fresh by introducing the Continental name into the process.

Cocoon yourself in luxury, says Lincoln. I wouldn't be calling shotgun with this ride (Image: Ford Motor Company)

Cocoon yourself in luxury, says Lincoln. I wouldn’t be calling shotgun with this ride (Image: Ford Motor Company)

Unlike ‘MKS’, the word ‘Continental’ does stir something inside people, and it helped nudge the designers in the direction of ‘classic, full-figured American luxury’.

Overall, the concept is very good.

Clean lines, the right proportions, nothing too busy, gaudy or chintzy.

Maybe this humble blogger is asking for too much, but I can’t help but wish for more when it comes to the front. There’s nothing wrong with the front facia and grille – they’re as clean and understated as the rest of the vehicle – but I was hoping for something that cried ‘Lincoln!’ a little louder.

Not necessarily a knock-off of classic Lincoln grilles from the 60s and 70s, but a stronger design statement. I’m not even sure what that would look like.

As it is right now, I see more Ford in that front than Lincoln. Minus the rest of the vehicle, I can see the front end belonging to a modern-day Ford Galaxie or LTD.

But, this is hardly important given the overall impressiveness of the effort, and the earth-shaking realization that Lincoln Is Bringing Back The Continental!

Plenty of glass above the driver; plenty of steel below (Image: Ford Motor Company)

Plenty of glass above the driver; plenty of steel below (Image: Ford Motor Company)