years ago, I asked then-GM Vice President Bob Lutz what
he thought the prospects were for full-size automobiles,
which were once the heart and soul of the American
full-size car is dead," he said.
was an amazing statement from a top executive at an
American car company, one whose market share had been
slashed through a combination of bad products, disregard
for the customer and intense competition.
he was wrong.
two OPEC oil embargoes, rising oil prices and Americanís
changing tastes, the large car survives ó no thanks to
the companies that had once held them up as the ultimate
expression of an American car. Sadly, in recent years,
it seemed as if they held such cars in contempt.
GM large cars of several years ago: the Chevrolet
Impala, Buick Lucerne and Cadillac DTS. All were modern
and up-to-date when introduced but, aside from styling
updates, the company let them wither into automotive
senility. It was as if there was an assumption that
buyers of full-size domestic cars were among the most
loyal, and would buy any big boat the domestics put out.
that was the case at Ford, where the Ford Crown
Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis and Lincoln Town Car
soldiered on for decades without a total redesign. Their
platforms dated to 1979, which means their engineering
was first initiated in 1974. Yet these cars were still
on sale in 2010.
it to Chrysler to prove that large cars could be
Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger were, and continue to be,
fashionable, full-size and fun to drive. They prove that
large cars can attract a crowd beyond the aging
blue-hairs that Detroit assumed were the only audience
for its cars. Given the benign neglect GM and Ford paid
to the full-size fleet, this attitude proved a
automakers had no such issue. The BMW 7 Series,
Mercedes-Benz S-Class, Lexus LS and Audi A8 all continue
to be extravagantly equipped, beautifully built and
desired by buyers who can and canít afford them.
in the market, the Toyota Avalon and Hyundai Azera are
two artfully realized big boys that have captured the
notice of traditional American car buyers. Meanwhile,
the Chrysler and Dodge are still wonderful cars, with
great handling, an easy-to-use infotainment system and
and GM have responded, with mixed results.
Ford Taurus and Lincoln MKS are both large cars with
large trunks, but suffer from surprisingly cramped
interiors that donít feel as spacious as they should.
GMís big cars, the Buick LaCrosse and Cadillac XTS,
are mechanically similar. The XTS is the better car,
with a beautiful interior and one of the most
technically advanced instrument panels available on any
car. The Buick is very nice, but outward visibility is
severely restricted and, as with the Ford vehicles, the
interior feels remarkably small.
the fray is the 2014 Impala, an all-new version of the
car that reclaims its place as the quintessential
American full-size car, with handsome, sporty styling, a
useful, roomy cabin and a price close to that of an
upper-level midsize car.
back, full-size domestic cars. We missed you.