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    • By William Maley
      Ever since Mazda launched the MX-5 Miata back in 1989, competitors have been trying their best to out-maneuver it.; whether that is through better design, handling, or more power. While all have come and gone, while the Miata is still kicking around. What do you do in this case? If you can't beat them, join 'em. That's the case with Fiat as a few years ago, they would take the place of Alfa Romeo of developing a new roadster using the Miata as a base. The end result is the 124 Spider.
      Fiat’s designers wanted to do a modern interpretation of the 124 Spider designed by the legendary Pininfarina design house. The problem was trying to get that design to work with the MX-5 Miata’s structure. To pull this off, designers would add five inches to the overall length of the 124 Spider. The front end features many of the design touches found on the original 124 Spider with teardrop headlights, trapezoidal grille, raised fenders, and twin-power bulges on the hood. Around back is where the design begins to fall apart. The overall shape and certain choices such as the overhanging trunk lid don't fully mesh with the front. It looks like Fiat had two design teams working on either end of the vehicle, but put a curtain between them so they couldn’t see what the other was doing.
      The Abarth version of the 124 Spider does get some special touches to help it stand out from the other trims. They include a darker grille opening, 17-inch alloy wheels finished in a dark gray, and a quad-tip exhaust system. The only item we would change is making the Abarth badges smaller. The large size really detracts from the iconic look Fiat is trying go for.
      Putting the soft top down in the 124 Spider is very easy. Simply unlatch the mechanism holding the top in place and fold it back into its little storage space. Raising the top is just as painless as you just need to pull a latch behind the seats and pull the top forward. It will only take a few tries before you’re able to put the top up and down in just a few seconds.
      Moving inside, the only real differences between the 124 Spider and MX-5 Miata are the Fiat badge on the steering wheel, different fonts used for the gauges, and soft-touch plastics on the top of the door panels. Otherwise, the 124 Spider features the same layout and quirks of its donor vehicle. Controls readily fall to hand for either driver or passenger. Abarth models come with a 7-inch touchscreen with the Mazda Connect infotainment as standard equipment. On the plus side, Mazda Connect is easy to grasp thanks to an intuitive interface and a simple control knob. Downsides include the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto;, and the awkward placement of the control knob. It will get in the way whenever you are shifting gears with either transmission.
      Snug is the keyword when describing the experience of sitting inside the 124 Spider. I’m 5’ 8” and had to set the driver’s seat almost all the way back to not feel cramped. Once I was able to find the right seat and steering positions, it felt like I was a part of the vehicle and not sitting on top of it. The passenger will complain about the lack of legroom as the transmission tunnel protrudes into the footwell. The seats themselves provide excellent support and will hold you in during an enthusiastic drive.
      The motivation for the 124 Spider is provided by Fiat’s turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir four-cylinder. The Abarth produces 164 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The base Classica and up-level Lusso see a small decrease in horsepower to 160. The difference comes down to the Abarth featuring a different exhaust system. Our tester featured the optional six-speed automatic with steering wheel paddles. A six-speed manual comes standard. Although the 124 Spider has higher power figures than the Miata, it isn’t that much faster. Reviewers who have run 0-60 tests say the Miata does it under six seconds, while the 124 Spider takes over six seconds. There are two reasons for this: First, the Miata is lighter than the 124 Spider by an average of about 120 pounds. Second is the engine has a bad case of turbo lag. The turbo doesn’t fully spool up until about 2,000 to 2,500 rpm, leaving you wondering where all of this power is when leaving a stop. Once it’s going, power is delivered in a smooth and somewhat linear fashion.
      The automatic transmission is another weak point of this powertrain. It loves to upshift early and leaves you without any turbo boost. This can be rectified by using the paddles on the steering wheel or throwing the automatic into the manual shift mode. The manual transmission is the better choice as it allows more flexibility with the engine.
      EPA fuel economy figures for the 124 Spider stand at 25 City/36 Highway/29 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 28 MPG.
      If there is one place that the 124 Spider Abarth can give the MX-5 Miata a run for its money, it is in the handling. The Abarth feels more athletic and confident when entering a corner with little body roll and fast transitions thanks to a sport-tuned suspension. Steering is the same as Miata with excellent road feel and quick turning. The downside to the athletic handling is a very stiff ride. Road imperfections are directly transmitted to those sitting inside. There is also an abundance of wind and road noise coming inside the 124 Spider.
      In some ways, the 124 Spider is better than the MX-5 Miata. The Abarth provides crisper handling and the interior is slightly nicer than what you’ll find in the Miata. But in other areas, the Miata is the better vehicle. The turbo lag from the turbocharged 1.4L saps a bit of the fun out of the vehicle and the design is somewhat unflattering. We can understand why someone would pick the 124 Spider Abarth over the Miata as it is something different. But is it the better Miata? The answer is no.
      Disclaimer: Fiat Provided the 124 Spider, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Fiat
      Model: 124 Spider
      Trim: Abarth
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 164 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 184 @ 3,200
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/36/29
      Curb Weight: 2,516 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
      Base Price: $28,195
      As Tested Price: $30,540 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      6-Speed AISIN Automatic RWD Transmission - $1,350.00

      View full article
    • By William Maley
      Ever since Mazda launched the MX-5 Miata back in 1989, competitors have been trying their best to out-maneuver it.; whether that is through better design, handling, or more power. While all have come and gone, while the Miata is still kicking around. What do you do in this case? If you can't beat them, join 'em. That's the case with Fiat as a few years ago, they would take the place of Alfa Romeo of developing a new roadster using the Miata as a base. The end result is the 124 Spider.
      Fiat’s designers wanted to do a modern interpretation of the 124 Spider designed by the legendary Pininfarina design house. The problem was trying to get that design to work with the MX-5 Miata’s structure. To pull this off, designers would add five inches to the overall length of the 124 Spider. The front end features many of the design touches found on the original 124 Spider with teardrop headlights, trapezoidal grille, raised fenders, and twin-power bulges on the hood. Around back is where the design begins to fall apart. The overall shape and certain choices such as the overhanging trunk lid don't fully mesh with the front. It looks like Fiat had two design teams working on either end of the vehicle, but put a curtain between them so they couldn’t see what the other was doing.
      The Abarth version of the 124 Spider does get some special touches to help it stand out from the other trims. They include a darker grille opening, 17-inch alloy wheels finished in a dark gray, and a quad-tip exhaust system. The only item we would change is making the Abarth badges smaller. The large size really detracts from the iconic look Fiat is trying go for.
      Putting the soft top down in the 124 Spider is very easy. Simply unlatch the mechanism holding the top in place and fold it back into its little storage space. Raising the top is just as painless as you just need to pull a latch behind the seats and pull the top forward. It will only take a few tries before you’re able to put the top up and down in just a few seconds.
      Moving inside, the only real differences between the 124 Spider and MX-5 Miata are the Fiat badge on the steering wheel, different fonts used for the gauges, and soft-touch plastics on the top of the door panels. Otherwise, the 124 Spider features the same layout and quirks of its donor vehicle. Controls readily fall to hand for either driver or passenger. Abarth models come with a 7-inch touchscreen with the Mazda Connect infotainment as standard equipment. On the plus side, Mazda Connect is easy to grasp thanks to an intuitive interface and a simple control knob. Downsides include the lack of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto;, and the awkward placement of the control knob. It will get in the way whenever you are shifting gears with either transmission.
      Snug is the keyword when describing the experience of sitting inside the 124 Spider. I’m 5’ 8” and had to set the driver’s seat almost all the way back to not feel cramped. Once I was able to find the right seat and steering positions, it felt like I was a part of the vehicle and not sitting on top of it. The passenger will complain about the lack of legroom as the transmission tunnel protrudes into the footwell. The seats themselves provide excellent support and will hold you in during an enthusiastic drive.
      The motivation for the 124 Spider is provided by Fiat’s turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir four-cylinder. The Abarth produces 164 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. The base Classica and up-level Lusso see a small decrease in horsepower to 160. The difference comes down to the Abarth featuring a different exhaust system. Our tester featured the optional six-speed automatic with steering wheel paddles. A six-speed manual comes standard. Although the 124 Spider has higher power figures than the Miata, it isn’t that much faster. Reviewers who have run 0-60 tests say the Miata does it under six seconds, while the 124 Spider takes over six seconds. There are two reasons for this: First, the Miata is lighter than the 124 Spider by an average of about 120 pounds. Second is the engine has a bad case of turbo lag. The turbo doesn’t fully spool up until about 2,000 to 2,500 rpm, leaving you wondering where all of this power is when leaving a stop. Once it’s going, power is delivered in a smooth and somewhat linear fashion.
      The automatic transmission is another weak point of this powertrain. It loves to upshift early and leaves you without any turbo boost. This can be rectified by using the paddles on the steering wheel or throwing the automatic into the manual shift mode. The manual transmission is the better choice as it allows more flexibility with the engine.
      EPA fuel economy figures for the 124 Spider stand at 25 City/36 Highway/29 Combined. Our average for the week landed around 28 MPG.
      If there is one place that the 124 Spider Abarth can give the MX-5 Miata a run for its money, it is in the handling. The Abarth feels more athletic and confident when entering a corner with little body roll and fast transitions thanks to a sport-tuned suspension. Steering is the same as Miata with excellent road feel and quick turning. The downside to the athletic handling is a very stiff ride. Road imperfections are directly transmitted to those sitting inside. There is also an abundance of wind and road noise coming inside the 124 Spider.
      In some ways, the 124 Spider is better than the MX-5 Miata. The Abarth provides crisper handling and the interior is slightly nicer than what you’ll find in the Miata. But in other areas, the Miata is the better vehicle. The turbo lag from the turbocharged 1.4L saps a bit of the fun out of the vehicle and the design is somewhat unflattering. We can understand why someone would pick the 124 Spider Abarth over the Miata as it is something different. But is it the better Miata? The answer is no.
      Disclaimer: Fiat Provided the 124 Spider, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017
      Make: Fiat
      Model: 124 Spider
      Trim: Abarth
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.4L MultiAir Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Rear-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 164 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 184 @ 3,200
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/36/29
      Curb Weight: 2,516 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Hiroshima, Japan
      Base Price: $28,195
      As Tested Price: $30,540 (Includes $995.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      6-Speed AISIN Automatic RWD Transmission - $1,350.00
    • By William Maley
      FCA US Reports November 2017 Sales
      FCA US retail sales up 2 percent, compared with same month a year ago A 25 percent year-over-year decline in fleet sales is in line with the FCA US strategy to reduce sales to the daily rental segment Chrysler brand sales up 14 percent; Chrysler Pacifica minivan posts best sales month ever Sales of all-new Jeep® Compass up 34 percent; best ever November sales December 1, 2017 , Auburn Hills, Mich. - FCA US LLC today reported sales of 154,919 units, a 4 percent decrease compared with sales in November 2016 (160,827 units).
       
      In November, retail sales of 129,539 units were up 2 percent compared with the same month in 2016 and represented 84 percent of total sales. In line with FCA’s strategy to reduce sales to the daily rental segment, fleet sales of 25,380 units were down, as expected, 25 percent year over year. The largest planned volume reduction in November fleet sales came from the Jeep® brand, which reduced its fleet sales number by 75 percent year over year. Fleet sales represented 16 percent of total FCA US November sales.
       
      The Chrysler Pacifica minivan and the all-new Jeep Compass each posted record sales in November. Pacifica sales were up 51 percent for its best sales month ever, while Compass sales increased 34 percent for its best November sales ever. The Jeep Grand Cherokee recorded its best November sales since 2003. Other FCA US vehicles posting year-over-year sales increases in the month of November were the Chrysler 300, Fiat 500L, Jeep Cherokee, Jeep Wrangler, Dodge Grand Caravan, Dodge Durango and Ram ProMaster City.
      Chrysler Brand
      Chrysler brand sales were up 14 percent in November, compared with the same month a year ago. Both the Chrysler Pacifica minivan and the Chrysler 300 full-size sedan posted sales increases in November. Pacifica sales were up 51 percent, the minivan’s best sales month ever. Green Car Reports named the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid as the 2018 Best Car to Buy. Its sister publication, The Car Connection, named the Pacifica as the 2018 Best Minivan to Buy. Sales of the 300 were up 15 percent in November, its best November sales since 2015. The 300 won the Large Car segment in Edmunds’ Most Wanted awards last month. This recognition honors the most in-demand vehicles based on sales, days-to-turn and shopper interest data on the Edmunds website.
       
      Jeep Brand
      Sales of the all-new Jeep Compass increased 34 percent for its best November sales ever. The Jeep Wrangler, Jeep Cherokee and Jeep Grand Cherokee each posted year-over-year sales increases. The Grand Cherokee turned in its best November sales since 2003. In addition, Jeep brand retail sales were up 13 percent in November, compared with the same month a year ago. The Jeep brand earlier this week introduced the next-generation 2018 Jeep Wrangler at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The all-new Wrangler – the most capable and recognized vehicle in the world – builds on its legendary history with an unmatched combination of off-road capability, open-air freedom, advanced fuel-efficient powertrains, authentic Jeep design, superior on- and off-road dynamics, and a host of innovative safety and advanced technology features.
       
      Dodge Brand
      Sales of the Dodge Grand Caravan and the Dodge Durango SUV were up year over year in November. Grand Caravan sales increased 28 percent last month, while the Durango posted a 9 percent increase, compared with the same month a year ago. The Dodge brand announced last month that it has begun shipping the 2018 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon – the most powerful muscle car in history – to its Dodge dealers in the U.S.
       
      Ram Truck Brand
      Sales of the Ram ProMaster City van were up 21 percent in November, compared with the same month a year ago. In addition, Ram Truck brand retail sales were up 3 percent in November. The Ram Truck brand last month unveiled its new, special-edition 2018 Ram 1500 Hydro Blue Sport. The Hydro Blue Sport will be the final special-edition Sport the brand will offer in the 2017 calendar year. Previously, Ram launched Sublime (Green) and Copper Sport limited-edition trucks earlier this year and an Ignition Orange edition in late 2016.
       
      FIAT Brand
      Sales of the Fiat 500L increased 32 percent last month for its best November sales since 2015.
       
      Alfa Romeo Brand
      Alfa Romeo brand sales of 1,440 units were up significantly compared with the same month a year ago as the launch of the all-new 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio SUV continues in U.S. dealerships. Earlier this week, the editors of Motor Trend named the Alfa Romeo Giulia as its 2018 Car of the Year, best representing exceptional value, superiority in its class and impact on the automotive scene.
      FCA US LLC Sales Summary November 2017
                          Month Sales
      Vol %
      CYTD Sales
      Vol %
        Model
      Curr Yr
      Pr Yr
      Change
      Curr Yr
      Pr Yr
      Change
        Compass
      9,368
      6,984
      34%
      74,510
      86,107
      -13%
        Patriot
      384
      8,568
      -96%
      40,495
      114,117
      -65%
        Wrangler
      13,289
      12,957
      3%
      176,822
      176,053
      0%
        Cherokee
      16,551
      11,479
      44%
      150,524
      183,356
      -18%
        Grand Cherokee
      18,614
      17,230
      8%
      217,074
      189,023
      15%
        Renegade
      7,795
      10,067
      -23%
      95,892
      94,561
      1%
        JEEP BRAND
      66,001
      67,285
      -2%
      755,317
      843,217
      -10%
        200
      359
      2,849
      -87%
      18,125
      54,651
      -67%
        300
      2,951
      2,566
      15%
      45,511
      49,657
      -8%
        Town & Country
      5
      350
      -99%
      571
      58,805
      -99%
        Pacifica
      13,195
      8,753
      51%
      107,130
      52,083
      106%
        CHRYSLER BRAND
      16,510
      14,518
      14%
      171,337
      215,196
      -20%
        Dart
      128
      2,203
      -94%
      9,943
      41,877
      -76%
        Avenger
      0
      1
      -100%
      12
      45
      -73%
        Charger
      6,047
      9,138
      -34%
      81,521
      88,200
      -8%
        Challenger
      3,860
      3,908
      -1%
      60,029
      59,176
      1%
        Viper
      7
      62
      -89%
      576
      571
      1%
        Journey
      4,868
      7,133
      -32%
      85,243
      96,991
      -12%
        Caravan
      8,550
      6,696
      28%
      118,573
      120,991
      -2%
        Durango
      5,385
      4,934
      9%
      63,214
      62,678
      1%
        DODGE  BRAND
      28,845
      34,075
      -15%
      419,111
      470,529
      -11%
        Ram P/U
      36,714
      36,885
      0%
      455,816
      441,862
      3%
        Cargo Van
      0
      0
      0%
      0
      21
      -100%
        ProMaster Van
      2,555
      4,702
      -46%
      37,131
      35,746
      4%
        ProMaster City
      1,121
      924
      21%
      13,967
      14,625
      -4%
        RAM BRAND
      40,390
      42,511
      -5%
      506,914
      492,254
      3%
        500
      782
      1,147
      -32%
      12,018
      14,026
      -14%
        500L
      127
      96
      32%
      1,553
      3,016
      -49%
        500X
      556
      822
      -32%
      6,992
      10,869
      -36%
        Spider
      268
      350
      -23%
      4,191
      2,225
      88%
        FIAT BRAND
      1,733
      2,415
      -28%
      24,754
      30,136
      -18%
        Giulia
      756
      0
      New
      7,892
      7
      New
        Alfa 4C 
      27
      23
      17%
      381
      457
      -17%
        Stelvio
      657
      0
      New
      1,724
      0
      New
        ALFA ROMEO
      1,440
      23
      6161%
      9,997
      464
      2055%
        FCA US LLC
      154,919
      160,827
      -4%
      1,887,430
      2,051,796
      -8%
                       
    • By William Maley
      Most wagon options in the U.S. fall under the slightly-lifted off-road category. The reason is quite simple as buyers like the looks and capability on offer when compared to standard wagons. Case in point is the latest member of the Golf family, the Alltrack. Volkswagen recently revealed that 75 percent of Golf SportWagens sold in the U.S. are Alltracks. We happen to be big fans of the Golf SportWagen as it builds upon many of strong points of the regular Golf by making it more practical. Can the Golf Alltrack do the same?
      The small changes made to the Golf Alltrack’s exterior help make it stand out somewhat. It begins with the slight 0.6-inch increase in ride height and a larger tire and wheel combination. Our SEL tester feature 18-inch wheels, while the S and SE make do with 17-inch wheels. Other exterior changes include new bumpers and lower body cladding. Volkswagen didn’t make any changes to the Alltrack’s interior which is a good thing. It retains the clean if a somewhat boring design that makes it easy to find the various controls. Build and material quality is very solid.  SEL models get a 6.5-inch touchscreen with Volkswagen’s Car-Net infotainment system and navigation. We like how fast the system is with switching between various functions, physical shortcut buttons, and integration with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Car-Net loses some points for low-resolution graphics and the navigation system looking very dated.  The seats are quite comfortable with excellent support and good bolstering to keep you planted when traversing down a winding road. Head and legroom are excellent in both rows of seats. A turbocharged 1.8L four-cylinder with 170 horsepower and 199 pound-feet of torque provides the motivation for the Golf Alltrack. This is paired with a six-speed DSG transmission (a six-speed manual is available on the S and SE) and Volkswagen’s 4Motion all-wheel drive system. Despite being about 300 pounds heavier than the SportWagen, the Alltrack doesn’t break a sweat. It feels just as fast as the SportWagen we drove last year with strong acceleration throughout the rpm band. The DSG still exhibits some sluggishness when leaving a stop, but improves when you’re up to speed with rapid and smooth shifts. Fuel economy is disappointing with EPA figures of 22 City/30 Highway/25 Combined. We saw an average of 25 MPG with a mix of 70 percent city and 30 percent highway driving. Ride and handling characteristics is much like the standard Golf and SportWagen. No matter the road surface, the Alltrack’s suspension was able to provide a comfortable ride. Around corners, the Alltrack does show a little bit of body roll. However, it feels as agile as the standard SportWagen and the steering is quick to respond to inputs. The Golf Alltrack begins at $25,850 for the base S with manual transmission. Our loaded SEL tester totaled $35,705 with the Driver Assistance and Light package. That’s a lot of money for a compact off-road wagon, especially considering you can get into a larger Subaru Outback 2.5i Limited with the excellent EyeSight active safety system for around the same money. If we were buying a Golf Alltrack, we would drop down to the S with the DSG and order the Driver Assistance package, bring the total price to just over $28,500. The Alltrack is a worthy addition to the Golf family as it provides something a bit more capable while retaining many of the plus points of the standard Golf. We do wish the DSG was smoother during low-speed driving and fuel economy was slightly better.  
      Disclaimer: Volkswagen Provided the Golf Alltrack, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2017 
      Make: Volkswagen
      Model: Golf Alltrack
      Trim: SEL
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.8L TSI DOHC Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Six-Speed DSG, All-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 170 @ 4,500
      Torque @ RPM: 199 @ 1,600
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/30/25
      Curb Weight: 3,351 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: N/A
      Base Price: $32,890
      As Tested Price: $35,705 (Includes $820.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      SEL Driver Assistance & Lighting Package - $1,995.00

      View full article
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