2012 Volkswagen Passat- Das Amerikanische Auto

DSCI0264It used to be so simple in the automotive world.  Cars were cars and trucks were…..uh….trucks.  There were no crossover thingy-majigs or niche markets.  And when it came to selecting a national origin of a new car; the choices were even more clear.  Japanese cars were technologically advanced and well-made.  The Koreans aimed for the thriftiest of shoppers.  The Americans had the sumo-sized accommodations in the bag.  And the Germans graced our roads with performance oriented, but pricey, status symbols.  But things are no longer what they seem, and when a car that hails from the land of Autobahns and bratwurst starts off with a lower base price than its main Korean competitors, something is, as they say, “whack”!  Volkswagen, having nearly lost its way in the American market two decades ago, is determined to seize its share of the 16 million cars sold in the US market annually.  But to do so, they’ve fought back with larger interior dimensions and a lower price tag, addressing common complaints about the big V’s prior offerings.  In fact, the all-new 2012 Passat’s base price is $7,000 cheaper than the outgoing models ($19,995 vs. nearly $28,000 on the 2011).  This new version takes direct aim at the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, and Chevy Malibu.  Uh oh, we’ve heard this approach before with the Jetta and the results weren’t so flattering; a mediocre car that felt cheaper than some of the Germans you’d find on Oranienburger Straße.  With that dark cloud looming over, how does this transformation work on the new Passat?

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2012 Chevrolet Malibu- Finally, A Car That’s Found Its Place In The World

Manufacturers love to name boring cars after exciting places.  The Dodge Monaco, Mercury Monterey, Kia Rio, Suzuki Verona, and Chevy Corsica come to mind.  They may be fascinating destinations, but all of those cars  have the sex appeal of a rainy Wednesday in Buffalo.  The Corsica’s replacement, the Malibu, faced a similar problem when it debuted in 1997.  The town of Malibu is known for its 27 miles of sandy beaches and being home to many of Hollywood’s movie stars.  That four-door family sedan didn’t quite conjure up mental images of such an upscale area.

Now, don’t think that I have a grudge against the Malibu.  On the contrary, I personally have a soft spot for the car.  My parents had a 1999 Malibu while I was in college and the car proved to be reliable and served its intended purpose as a family hauler well.  I grew to really like the car and it became my vehicle of choice to cruise around in.  However, my folks didn’t quite warm up to it and I ended up driving it more than they did.  Why?  In the generic white color that it was graced in, the only thing missing on our Malibu was a city or public works logo on the side.  It wasn’t exciting to look at, and if my parents were to ever visit Buffalo, they would be reminded of that car.

But this Malibu is different from the dowdy one we had.  It’s the seventh generation that debuted in 2008 under the direction of GM Vice Chairman and car guru, Bob Lutz.  It was to be as good as the Japanese competitors and was awarded the highly revered title of North American Car of the Year.

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