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Wednesday, 06 December 2017


Mazda has been pretty consistent with good looks. Now I'd like to see them also become a leader in fuel efficiency and carbon emissions. These days the average car should be around 80 mpg, and manufacturers should be bragging about it when they do better than that. Instead we still see horsepower wars.

Fun exercise! I currently own an SUV, but that is only because I am not rich. If I was rich I would own a pickup, a sporty sedan, a small motorhome, and a tractor. Now my 2005 Lexus GX470 does the work of all four in a mediocre manner.

Back to the task at hand...I don't like many current model SUVs, but do think that the Ford Explorer looks pretty good. My father in law recently acquired one and I like the way it drives as well.

Since the late 1940s, I've owned various cars including a Ford Model A, a Lasalle, an Austin a40, a Volvo 544, and a Citroen DS. But the car that I have the fondest memory of is the 1937 LaSalle Coupe.

I now drive a Toyota Camry.

Mike, I agree with you!! The Lexus RX L and most other contemporary trendy crossover/SUV play trucklets ARE asshat-fugly. They have so many problems, it is hard to list them.
1. They are example of poor engineering: large bulk, mass, and resource use for surprisingly minimal passenger and cargo capacity. Good engineering is the opposite: minimal material use to accomplish the goal safely and economically.
2. They are tall for the sake of making their drivers feel powerful and mighty and therefore block the view of other drivers at stop lights or street corners.
3. They appeal to the worst of our consumer society. "I don't give a crap about anyone else so I'll buy the biggest and baddest crossover regardless of the resource use and inconvenience to anyone else. I'm the only one who counts."
4. Most are so complicated and electronic-laden, they are difficult to troubleshoot/maintain/repair long term and therefore are destined for crushing soon after the original factory warrantee runs out.
5. They are fraud-mobiles: not really sporty, not really roomy, not really with much utility except for the two front seat occupants. But they sure make their drivers feel invincible.
6. Their poor ergonomic design requires engineering solutions like backup cameras and stability control to attempt to mitigate factors like high center of gravity and slit-like rear windows.
I better stop now and go take some photographs.

It is a pretty vehicle, and Car and Driver ranks it first among mid-sized cross-overs and SUVs. It's also relatively affordable -- in top trim, according to C&D, it costs $45,255, about half of the most expensive vehicle rated in the group (Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, a losing proposition if there ever was one.) However, the Mazda really is a station wagon, and if I'm going to buy a station wagon, I'd like to have it look like one (like the BMW 3 series, a really elegant looking vehicle, IMHO; they look especially good when driven by a 40-ish blonde with LA sunglasses and diamond stud earrings.) A genuine SUV is built on a light truck frame and has substantial off-road ability. They're really made to haul stuff, rather than people (Chevy Suburban.) The fact that some of them are made to function as school buses and haul soccer teams around, rather than stuff, doesn't diminish the fact that you can put a sheet of 4x8 plywood inside and take it home. Bet you can't do that with the Mazda, pretty as it is. And if I were going to buy a cross-over like the Mazda, I'd probably go for a Porsche Cayenne, which I think is just as pretty, but in a more rugged way.

The one vehicle that comes to mind is the Honda Element. I think it is a good looking small general purpose transportation. I think it looks like the vehicle it is. But everyone I know hates it. Go figure.

I was considering buying an Element. A friend works on computers and the Element allows him to get into places that a standard SUV can't. Here in Laguna Beach you really need a small vehicle to get through our old and narrow streets.

But the Element had two problems according to various sources. Bad gas mileage and hard on tires so I never got one and now they've been out of production for a few years.

Then I ended up with a PT Cruiser. And I think it is ugly, gets lousy mileage and goes through tires. It also is no longer in production.

Note that the Cruiser and Element were never improved in any way. And that says it all.

Complaining is easy, everybody can do that. Coming up with constructive suggestions for improvements is much harder but also more rewarding in the end.

I've owned three Mazda's over the past 14 years: a 2000 extended cab, B3000 pickup truck, and two Tributes (2002 and 2004). The 2004 is my current vehicle. The truck met my needs to pull my 19'foot sailboat on thousand mile trips and perform light utility work with ease but carrying luggage in the open bed on trips always put it at risk from the weather. The Tributes (essentially the same as Ford Escapes),which I opted for when I decided that I really no longer needed a truck, ironically came with bigger wheels, a lot more horsepower, and a lot less utility than the truck. Both pulled the boat with ease but they are somewhat overpowered, less fuel efficient and without much in the way of real cabin space. As I am fond of saying, they are "longer in the sport and shorter in the utility." I agree, SUVs are a pretty goofy design and ultimately an artifact of automakers' efforts to beat the CAFE standards and sucker consumers into driving what are essentially tricked-out trucks. With that said, I love Mazda's for their generally great reliability.

And those are still butt ugly- but then, most cars nowadays, foreign or domestic are butt ugly! Even the MINI Cooper SUV version is fugly, and if that wasn't bad enough, one of the few good looking cars of the last several years- the Mini Cooper itself has been fuglified into one cheap looking disaster.

I rather sing the praises of what I like than put down what I don't- ya just don't get to do much of the former, in this life.

I own a 2014 Mazda 6 in Soul Red and, I have to say, I've really come to love the car. It is absolutely beautiful--I have never owned a car where people I don't know regularly walk up to me to say how much they like the looks of the car and to ask me about it. Also, I really like the way it drives, which surprised me. Yes, it has a 4 cylinder engine so it doesn't exactly scream off the line, but, once the car is in motion it is fun to drive. I think that the engineers who designed these Mazdas are people that love to drive and have cranked that into the design. The car has excellent road feel, the steering is responsive, the frame is stiff enough, the suspension is just right, the transmission is perfectly matched to the rest of the drive train, and the end result is that it puts a smile on my face. Add in a stylish/comfortable interior, a great audio system, and 38 miles/gallon on the highway without resorting to a hybrid or diesel, and its a great total package. Way better than its Camry/Accord/etc. competition.

Agreed, the Mazda 6 sedan is a superb exercise in styling — and with a combination of low-end torque and significant horsepower it should be a world class sedan. This from guy who is still mourning the loss of his 2012 Miata, traded in of necessity to upgrade the 13-year-old Honda CRV to a new one for my wife’s daily use and frequent trips. As with cameras and lenses, truly prudent decisions may not add a lot of zing to life.

I love SUVs. So does the rest of my family. They work well in snow country, aa well as desert terrain. My wife's 1978 4WD Chevy Suburban 's interior was huge—and my son's Boy Scout troop would fill-it-up with bicycles and camping gear. Both her Suburban, and my 1974 4WD Toyota FJ40 Land Cruiser pulled a 21 foot travel-trailer on many family camping trips. When we lived in the California high-desert there were plenty of days when we needed those 4WDs to get to work—and to get the kids to-and-from school. BTW did I mention the the large interiors are great for hauling fresh melons, pumpkins and salad-greens from farms on the east-side, peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots and honey from Littlerock and cherries and nuts from Leona Valley.

We all have our likes and dislikes—me, I could never live in a place that didn't have palm-trees. Your-milage-does-vary 8-)

SUVs are not called Sport Utility Vehicles because they're fast and maneuverable like a sports car.

The "Sports" in the name refers to their original purpose, before they were bastardized into overpriced luxury cars.

SUVs were originally for hunters and fishermen to carry their gear in. They were four wheel drive and set high off the ground because outdoorsmen often drove them on rough roads or off-road to get to hunting and fishing spots, and they had big engines to allow pulling a boat trailer.

At the risk of going OT on your OT - in my humble opinion, too many SUVs are trying to look like an SUV - all S and no U. I bought a Subaru Forester in manual (stick?) in order to have 4 wheels doing the driving, plus high/low range, when driving out to the start of bush walks (trail head?). 2 wheel drives just won’t do it. It’s not a proper off-road 4 wheel drive vehicle, but it suits my needs. At least it did until our child came along :) Now it has the child seat, because the extra height makes it easier to get kids in and out without breaking one’s back.

You're setting a good example, Mike. Though some might say you were just "dickin around", I think you were in pursuit of something well worth your (and our) time. The world would be a better place if we took up Nell's challenge more often.

Sorry, most SUVs, including the Mazda to a somewhat lesser extent, look like overinflated balloon versions of their relative hatch or sedan stablemates - with overinflated price tags to match. The only exception being the Tesla Model X. Only $200,000 here in Australia. I'm off to the shop.

I agree with you on the wagon-wheel and rubber-band fad. As a kid back on the farm I remember the wagons, such as the manure spreader had metal wheels. Then the state said they couldn't be driven on paved roads with those wheels so we used metal wheels with about an inch or so rubber tread glued on. Now we see 700HP muscle cares with these manure spreader wheels. Only difference is that now they are chromed or just painted black.

Older early 70's VW rabbit diesels. Go most anywhere other than the real need for a 4x4. Fuel mileage in the high 40's/low 50's per gallon. Insurance is low and the vehicles just run and run and run. Either the sedan or the pickup - they are simple to mainain.

Don't get too excited about that hopped up mazda6. It doesn't come with anything but a slushbox automatic tranny with that motor. So sad. No stick no sale.

I realize this isn't in the spirit of the post but...there's a scene in an old episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee where Jerry starts a 1974 Gremlin and Jon Stewart says, "That...is the sound of virginity."

Please don’t laugh, but I love my Honda van.
Plenty of room for people or paintings, and the side doors slide open with a button push.
King of the road.

Don't forget the RangeRover - father of all SUVs.
Mine was the last model before BMW and Tata messed them up.
It even has a proper chassis. Not the modern monocoque rubbish
17 years old and still taking the family and all our photo kit effortlessly off-road through the Maritime Alps.
Great drive, feels stable in the trickiest situation.

Mazda is on a roll where design is concerned. Their whole range is using the same design language and it works on every model. In my part of the globe an Audi Q7 or Volvo XC90 are obnoxioulsy big (even though many drive them) so the Mazda CX-5 is the most popular SUV from the brand.

The recently released Alfa Romeo Stelvio is set to give the Jaguar F-pace a run for the money. Yes, I know, SUVs from Alfa and Jaguar... Last week I saw the first TV add for a Mercedes pick-up truck, so I guess Rolls-Royce sub-compact econo-car can't be too far off.

I rented a Volvo XC60 for Thanksgiving week. It's one of those devices working overtime to tell me what I should do, and how I should do it. Totally frustrating. It may look good, but quickly lost it's charm when I realized that "auto on and off" was the default, and you must navigate through three screens to change from AM to FM.

I'll be ordering another Ford Flex - just an ugly toaster on wheels, but at least it lets me drive the car, not the other way around.

Just this morning I parked next to some kind of Lexus SUV at the local Dunkin' Donuts and paused for just a moment to regard it with a mixture of amazement and dismay. I was reminded once again why I still drive a 2001 Jeep Cherokee (my third one). Nice looking, comfortable, not too big or tall, totally functional, tows 5000 lbs. I can get the lawnmower in the back or tie things on the roof rack without a stepladder. It even bears a passing resemblance to the Volvo 140 station wagons of yore.

I'm on my second BMW 3 Series wagon. I'd still be on my first one if it hadn't got rear ended. Such a practical fun to drive car. Not too bad price-wise if you don't load it up too much.

I saw a Cadilac Escalade the other day with huge wheels and as about as low as you can go sidewall tires. First impression was a stage coach. Kind of cheesy.

There's one other exception to "all Mazdas are underpowered" - some versions of the RX-7 and RX-8 - only 200-250 horsepower, but light cars with sub-6 second 0-60 times... Slower than a Porsche 911 of the same vintage, but about the same as a 928 or 944.

I am on my 2nd mazda 6 and my wife and I have owned 6 Mazdas them between us (going back to a CLC I had in college)

They have always looked good. The latest ones look even better.

But my 2016 6 gets excellent mpg for it's size, non-hybrid. Never less than 30 mpg. high 30's in mixed driving if you take it easy. Straight line on a highway over 40 mpg is pretty easy. And it has such excellent road feel. I could have gotten it with a stick-shift but the mileage penalty seems to have finally gone away, so I went for the old man automatic.

Great cars, as you know, Mike, and always well-priced. It's like belonging to a cult.

In my heart I now that there is only one "SUV" I could ever own.

A Landrover Defender 110.

[Now THAT'S an SUV. --Mike]

The one thing that I like about SUVs is that I can use my favorite word when discussing them - avoirdupois.

I am appreciating these posts on esthetics. They may be off topic, but all design choices are ultimately linked.
I'm shopping for a new SUV. I want something with AWD and highish ground clearance. The Honda CRV ticks all the right boxes at the best price. And, I just can't pull the trigger. It looks like a hawk with s balloon welded to the back end. I would hate a perfectly functional vehicle until it wore out, which for a Honda might be a long time.

Contrary to our Humble Editor, what I would be looking for a car is character. And as such, many of the current market offerings are lacking that, or are suffering from the German Success Syndrome [GSS]. And nowadays, everything looks as if having just a tad too much aesthetic surgery. They all look as if trying too hard: charachter lines, stretched lines and sliced and pinched too much. The last car I truly was smitten by was the Renault Megane II, itself derived aesthetically from the Renault Avantime. I do understand it is a very difficult aesthetic language to swallow in the USA. However, the Renault Megane II was a runaway success in Europe. It oozed character. It still does not look old 14 years later. And, it is a very french way to look and go around aesthetics [it was a good car to drive, in a very french way. Soft, but very stable].

For some reason, we are still attached to the concept of freedom and possesion a car has. A success comparative tool, as well. As an industry, they are trying too hard to move to MAAS [mobility as a service], a kind of Adobe Subscription model.

Luckily enough, I don´t need to own a car. Nor I want to. I discovered the luxury of not having to have a car.

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