A biweekly roundup of automotive news, good, bad and just plain weird: Fiat and Mazda partner up on MX5-based Alfa-Romeo
To say that I love the latest iteration of the Mazda MX-5 would be a bit of an understatement. Despite those who rushed to tell me what a girly car it is, the MX-5 is such a hoot I went completely head-over-heels for it: girls just wanna have fun.
But for those looking for a car that's a bit more - shall we say - Mrs. Robinson, the MX-5 might lack that curvy European je ne c'est quoi. Good news though: she's back, and she's still trying to seduce Dustin Hoffman.
Alfa-Romeo parent company Fiat has recently announced a joint venture with Mazda to use the bones of the upcoming next-gen MX-5 to build a successor to the little red Spider that captured so many imaginations while sailing over the Golden Gate in 1967's The Graduate.
The new car will be built by Mazda in Japan, and will boast its own unique drivetrain options, as well as that pretty Alfa styling.
Speaking of preconceived notions, you can forget about your Fix It Again Tony memories of the last Italian cars that were sold to us Canadesi. The modern range of Fiat-sourced engines available in Europe are both reliable and, dare I say it, perhaps even a bit sweeter-revving than the lively powerplant of the current MX-5.
Coming to America: VW Jetta Alltrack
It's even more Euro-love with rumours that Volkswagen is likely to bring a lifted, off-roady version of their Jetta Wagon (Golf Wagon in our market) over to our side of the pond.
Basically a jacked-up Jetta with a bit of extra bodycladding Ã la Subaru Outback or Audi All-Road, the Alltrack has the spacious interior and efficient engine options of its less-outdoorsy cousins, but adds clearance for logging road excursions and ski trips.
"But wait!" you cry, "Do we really need this car, given that the cross-over Tiguan exists and does pretty much the same job?"
Good point. However, the current Tiguan is slated to pull the inflation cord and balloon to a seven-seater configuration suitable for those who want a bit more space but don't want to outlay Touareg money. Having a small, flexible wagon would plug the gap nicely.
CP Rail strike affects new car buyers
Think the CP Rail strike isn't a problem for you, since you commute by car? Think again.
Aside from Japanese-and Korean-built vehicles that make their way to our shores on the massive, boxy Ro-Ro (roll-on, roll-off) vehicle carriers, almost every new car sold in Canada makes its way to the lot by riding the rails. Pity those in the Prairies as they get their JDM Hondas via rail as well.
Now that the Canadian teamster union and CPR management have decided not to choo-choo-choose to come to an agreement over contract disputes, railways are grinding to a halt. That means delays for factory orders, less inventory on dealership lots and less discounting as supplies dwindle.
The good news? Let's say the strike is resolved by late summer, just as the 2013 models are rolling out. Dealer incentives on '12s are usually good at this time of year, and with a backlog of vehicles to clear out, there may be deals to be had for the patient.
Ditch the motorcycle, Erik
Estrada: CHiP chooses Ford Explorer
While attending the new Honda CR-V launch at an inappropriately lavish hotel, the driver of the Lincoln Town Car shuttling us from the airport had a question. "Hey, you guys are auto-journalists. What are they going to replace this car with?"
A very good question. As I recall, I dodged it by pretending my cellphone was ringing.
The Panther-platform Town Cars and Crown Victorias are kaput and fleet companies everywhere are struggling to replace them. Limo companies have turned to Escalades and Tahoes.
The fuzz? Well, the California Highway Patrol has just picked out their new cruisers.
Replacing the black-and-white Crown Vics will be another Ford product: the Explorer. Technically, this model is dubbed the Ford Police Interceptor Utility which, now that I think about it, kinda sounds like an app for your iPhone.
Anyway, the 5-0 Explorer won a four-way shootout which included police-special versions of the Dodge Charger, the Chevy Tahoe and the Ford Taurus. It was robust enough to chase down baddies if they left the road; quick and nimble enough to rabbit through traffic; spacious enough to hold four officers and all their gear. We also assume it's really good at driving through a stack of chicken crates in slow motion.
76 Aston Martin 1-77s left (and counting)
Owning a 700 horsepower, $1.4 million Aston Martin 1-77 puts you in a very exclusive club, with just 77 cars ever built.
Now, that club just got exclusiver. Exclusive-ier. Uh, more exclusive.
Pictures are all over the Internet of a 1-77 that bit the dust in Hong Kong this week. In a single-car accident (reportedly after clipping a curb), the A-M picked up a patina referred to in furniture as "distressed."
Off goes the 1-77 to Aston Martin for evaluation (verdict: yep, it's crashed), and perhaps a future life as a carbon-fibre Pepsi can. Still, with something like one third of the Aston ultra-cars owned by a single mysterious buyer, there will surely at least be one example preserved for future generations to gawk at.
Follow Brendan on Twitter: @brendan_mcaleer, or submit your own auto oddities to firstname.lastname@example.org.