Do you remember the ending scene of Rocky IV? Stallone knocks the stuffing out of a fearsomely huge Drago (played by Dolph Lundgren) to reclaim his world championship. In his victory speech, Rocky somewhat indiscernibly sputters out, “If I can change, and you can change, maybe we all can change.” Saab is hoping that their newly revamped 9-3 might coax some “change” from traditional BMW, Audi and Mercedes patrons (and their pockets). Saab has long been considered uncon-ventional in their approach to building and designing automobiles.
In the automotive world, we’ve seen the popularity explosion of SUV’s that run the gamut from plump to absurdly obese. And, with escalating gas prices, environmental concerns and congested city streets, many buyers have realized that perhaps owning a two and a half ton truck equipped with a thirsty V-8 may not be the most economical mode of transport for ferrying young Jimmy to soccer practice. Throw in the cornering prowess of Ben-Hur’s chariot, and more body roll than a Richard Simmons infomercial, and you’ve got an idea of how exciting piloting one of these mastodons down a winding mountain pass can be. While there are people who legitimately use the off-road capabilities of SUV’s, a majority will never trek over anything worse than a gravel road. Knowing this, General Motors and Toyota have joined forces to “cross-pollinate” the best attributes of a car and an SUV. The result of their efforts: the Pontiac Vibe (and its fraternal twin, the Toyota Matrix).
Heads whip around, people point and smile, and kids look excited and even wave. No, it’s not the Christmas parade through Time Square—it’s what happens when you hop into your new MINI and navigate a busy street. We even had a dog take notice of us as we cruised to the beach. Now that’s universal appeal! The styling elements are familiar, but the designers have done an exemplary job of infusing the past with what’s “hot” in modern automobile fashion.
2003 MazdaSPEEDUnless you’re a car manufacturer with an enviously storied racing pedigree (i.e., Porsche, Ferrari), apparently the latest and coolest tack is to assemble a group of your most accomplished, enthusiastic engineers, and dedicate them to building high-performance versions of your run-of-the-mill production models. Sounds far-fetched?
If you’re a fan of Japanese sport car culture, the legendary Nissan Skyline GT-R needs no introduction. Spanning several generations, the GT-R was a showcase of Nissan’s most brilliant performance-related technology. Complexities such as a potent, twin turbocharged inline-6 (ridiculously underrated at the Japanese-instituted maximum of 280 horsepower) and a sophisticated, computer-controlled, all-wheel drive system, earned the GT-R cult status as a rather unassuming four-place sport coupe with supernatural abilities.