The life of an automotive writer is not always glamorous.
This year alone, I could count on one hand the number of glamorous moments I had in doing this work – make that three fingers. Everything else required plenty of legwork, groveling, a few local and intercity bus rides, disguises, overt and covert research, humility, eschewing dating or other extracurricular activity outside of a few social events put on by my community, other tasks assigned by the editorial staff(s), and balancing introversion and extroversion.
No need to pity me. It is what I do. It is what I enjoy doing.
But not everything gets a full treatment on this site (and others). As a rule, if I drive something for a brief moment and do not have the capacity to create a full piece on it – it gets the "Short Attention Span" treatment. Every year, I try to summarize other vehicles driven or experienced throughout the year. It is not because they do not deserve a full discussion. They will get mentioned on here because they are indeed newsworthy.
A short drive for a short period of time is not enough to lay down a full analysis on how the thing works. Yet, I allow my own intuition to generate immediate thoughts on how it does perform. Those thoughts are store somewhere in the cobwebs of my mind – only to find space on a Word file.
No more waiting…let us just get to it…
2012 CHRYSLER TOWN & COUNTRY: Sergio Marchionne made a few pronouncements in the late spring that took us for a bit of a loop. Once was the decision to give Dodge the next minivan and convert Chrysler's entry into a crossover. The pundits were puzzled as to why one of the best minivans in the market was to be…well…converted into something else.
Sometime after these press clips were regurgitated online, I wound up at a drive event that featured the entire Chrysler brand lineup. It dawned on me that it had been quite a while since I drove the T&C – the last one being before the makeovers for 2011. The black Limited model was a treat, slathered with a saddle-beige leather motif, the Pentastar V6, power sliding doors and Stow-N-Go, plus all the trimmings.
Granted, "enthusiasts" have been praising the latest Honda Odyssey, Nissan Quest and Toyota Sienna. I also know they had not forgotten about Chrysler's two entries in this dwindling market segment. Neither have I. Yet, our short memory may have forgotten how organic the T&C was. Frankly, I would not feel as comfortable and cozy in a Sienna, Quest or Odyssey compared to the T&C.
No wonder why most minivan owners would pick the Town & Country above all comers.
2012 CHRYSLER 200 S CONVERTIBLE: You find it odd that Chrysler would market its droptop separately than its sedan sibling. I do, but I understand the reason why. Though the 200 is a vast improvement over the Sebring, the opportunity to improve the entire lineup benefitted the Convertible by employing the same driving dynamics package and cabin upgrades as the sedan. Now, you can say that the 200 'Vert is even more distinctive and desirable than before.
Consider this is the third convertible I ever drove. It should have been my first. You see, a Chrysler convertible is either a vacation car for a gay couple or a special car for the same demographic. Yet, I always passed up the convertible because of this image…a bad decision on my part. It is not that I abhorred the Chrysler convertible for this and other reasons.
The 200 Convertible changed my perspective completely. In fact, I came away impressed. The S package truly changes everything on the 200 'Vert. By adding a tauter suspension, better bolstered seats and more grunty noise from the 3.6litre Pentastar V6, the convertible regains its sporty credentials and induces less leisurely driving. You actually leather the 200 S Convertible through some good roads, if you wish.
If I must, I will take the 200 S Convertible, please? The Touring and Limited would simply have to sit on the lot.
2013 NISSAN ALTIMA: We all want to "get it right." Nissan have been on a mission to make their best midsize sedan in their history. They also want market leadership. They got a taste of it a few months when the 2012 Altima was the best selling passenger car in the USA. You can say "fleet sales" and "incentives" all you want, but the outgoing Altima was not bad at all. The previous Altima was pretty good, too. Yet, the last two generations had their quirks and shortfalls that fueled the development of the brand new 2013 edition.
My colleagues in the automotive media were very high on the new Altima. My first touch/feel of the Altima at a Twin Cities' dealership was extremely positive. Then, I drove it. Well…it was very, very good.
The 2013 Altima's design and interior space alone are superior to anything I have seen in the marketplace over the past decade or so. The 2.5litre four has always been a strong motor, but held back by the last generation Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission. A new CVT had been plunked in the new Altima. The result is better reaction from the CVT to the throttle despite some wallowing on some of the ratios. Not to mention a better handling/ride package for the new Altima.
From just a brief drive, I can conclude that Nissan finally got the midsize sedan right.
DISCLAIMER: Vehicles were provided by Chrysler Group, LLC and Lupient Nissan of Rochester, MN.