Saturday, April 6, 2013

2015 Alfa Romeo Spider: Probably Better than a Chrysler TC by Maserati

The first U.S.-bound Alfa Romeo al fresco in decades looks to be the best shot yet at improving the reliability rep of Italian cars in the states, if only because the Japanese are building it.  Thanks to a partnership between parent company Fiat and Mazda, Alfa's long-anticipated new Spider enters the world with a frugal but sprightly 1.4 liter turbocharged engine motivating a mere 2,400 pounds of graceful Italian coachwork QCed by overachieving OCDs in Hiroshima instead of lounging Luigis in Lainate.

This is good news if you've always admired the driving dynamics of a Mazda Miata but not its bland soap bar body, for this is the athletic Miata turned on, wrung out, and corrupted by an Italian Stallion.

Artist renditions fall into two camps to-date: a concept-faithful stunner with beautiful and flowing bodywork punctuated by LED-lit gun-slit eyes and a (more likely) 4C-ish riff ruined by the corporate chrome Alfa goatee (see above).

We should know whether Alfa's 2015 revisition of 1967 will be beauty or beast in a few long months.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Mercedes-Benz CLA: Bypassing The Highway to Hell

Mercedes' new A-class-based CLA sedan will be hitting U.S. shores in a few months, bringing with it shrunken CLS 4-door coupe styling and a price tag that appears to be threatening Lucifer's next recruiting class.
Playing in the 30k 2.0T market now populated by practical Volkswagens and pug-nosed BMWs, this first U.S.-bound Mercedes front-wheel-driver could prove the three-pointed star's new gateway drug if the delivered product can comfortably accommodate back-seaters and come in under 33k with the only necessary option: AMG five-spokers.
The jury is still out on the styling, for depending on the photographer this car either looks like a million bucks or a CLS with a Hank Hill butt tuck.  Filling the wheel wells will be a key to keeping the profile out of Humpty Dumpty Land, and sadly, for AMG styling fans, so will forgoing the AMG body kit: that treatment’s gaping maw accentuates the prodigious proboscis on this model in a most unflattering way. There's no doubt the shape works for motive purposes, for the CLA rocks a production car record-setting .23 drag coefficient, or .22 with Blue Efficiency ministrations.
The usual moaning about front-wheel-drive and the end of the world has already started with this model, but only internet forum experts should be concerned, as countless FWDers at this power level have proven themselves brilliant in every road-going way.  Remember: The CLA with FWD is essentially the same power/weight/layout as any number of hot hatches out there (read: GTI, Focus ST, ETC).  The scoot and poise on-tap in this class of car is everything you could want for on a public road, and the upside is better MPGs and much more secure snow-going.
If there is one packaging downside to this car it is the afterthought of a multi-media screen which awkwardly “floats” above the center stack.  It can’t help but look tacked-on like some rented GPS.  Most of us are quite happy using our iThings for GPS and web access, Mercedes.  We already own them, they’re always up-to-date, and they know their place in our lives, which is not uglying-up the interior of an otherwise beautiful automobile.
You can be sure that there will be more information forthcoming on  Merc’s bright new silver star from more than mere web wankers.  In the meantime, here’s the brilliant CLA coming-out party you’ll see this Super Bowl Sunday: