The parade of press cars continues this summer and here's a summary of driving impressions of four four-passenger cars (five-folks in a pinch for some) we've recently taken to the road.
While I wasn't able to log much time in the Saab 9-3 Turbo X sport sedan, the macho-black car certainly looks like the Batmobile and handles with tight steering and suspension. Control is enhanced with Saab's "cross wheel drive" putting power at each wheel as needed to maintain grip.
Next up was Toyota's Scion XD hatchback, essentially the same car as the Pontiac Vibe GT subcompact reported on in a previous blog. While the Vibe was spritely with a 2.4-liter, 158 hp 4-cylinder engine, this Scion had a 1.8-liter, 128 hp engine, which combined with the weight and friction of the all-wheel drive system produced anemic performance and noise at highway speeds. On the plus side was getting over 30 miles per gallon.
Another similar subcompact was the Suzuki SX4 Crossover Touring II with all-wheel drive. Here the drive system can be set in any of three modes: Front-wheel drive; all-wheel; or automatic to cycle between the previous two, as dictated by driving conditions. Other automotive electronics of note include passive keyless entry and starting, and electronic stability control. These and other features are included in this car with a total price of $16,870. Fuel economy was in the mid-20 miles per gallon range.
Finally, my favorite of this gang of four was the Mini Cooper S convertiblealways an outdoor treat in the summercoupled with traditional BMW tight handling. The retro instrument cluster glowing in the summer night with the top down will win over any driver who can step up to this package (MSRP = $26,050, but other versions of this droptop start at $22,600). Economy with the top down was not bad either, coming in in the high 20 miles per gallon area. How cool is this car? When testers have to return it, small children in their families are first to ask, "Where's the Mini?" with some having been brought to tears!
(We actually drove the John Cooper Works edition of the S-car which for some strange reason is not listed on the previous link at the Mini Cooper Website.)