This past weekend saw members of the New England Motor Press Association (NEMPA) gather at the world headquarters of Public Radio Car Talk's Spiritual and Menu Advisor, John "Bugsy" Lawlor to drive various vehicles (as well as partake in the usual chow-down) and select the group's Official Winter Vehicle.
While the ballots are still being counted, let me give you some thoughts on the vehicles I drove. While I don't know which will win the overall award, I voted for what one wag called the "New Hampshire Cadillac," the Subaru Forester. The "flat" 4-cylinder boxster engine and all-wheel drive provide good handling in sloppy weather. Plus the car is quick and can get respectable gas mileage (I logged near 26 mpg on the highway over a couple hundred miles).
Toyota's new Venza crossover features a unique storage area found under the rear-sliding cup holders on the center console. However, the large shifter above the console reminded me of one found in a bus.
Ford had some nice leather interiors based on what I saw in the Flex and Lincoln MKX and MKS, although the MKX instrument cluster looked rather "cheap" for a luxury SUV (below).
The BMW X6 came with all that automaker's luxury and bells and whistles. The automatic transmission shifter was annoying to me because it was akin to an aircraft side-stick controller. It remains in the same position after you select the mode you want, via movement and switches, with no "tactile feedback" (i.e. position of the shifter) to impart information without the driver having to look at the instrument panel for an electronic indication.
But once in awhile, you get into a car and get a feeling that, "This is nice!" Such was the case with the Jaguar XF (left). The quality interior impresses as you slide into the seat. Pushing the start/stop button brings up a surprise, with panels on the smooth metal dash rolling up to form the air vent system (I know it is superfluous (and can be turned off) but it's cool when you see it for the first time.) The automatic transmission shifter is a round knob on the console, again unique. Pushing the windshield washer reveals the nozzles are attached to the wiper blades to cover the windshield as they sweep. And on the road, the not-too-tight handling reminds me why I always like these cars.