The Open Road [SUBS OPEN]


The Open Road is an automotive publication based in Boulder, Colorado. Launched in 1958 at the height of the tailfin era of American cars, the magazine’s attitude reflected the hopeful, romantic aura surrounding cars back then. The title reflected this, evoking the image of cruising down the road for no reason other than enjoyment.

Nonetheless, TOR did quickly adopt a holistic review style, reviewing cars on capabilities and figures as well as looks and feel. The reviews read like a story instead of a set of categories, reflecting the actual pace of the magazine’s road test procedure, while a stats breakdown is included at the bottom. Think a Car and Driver or Road and Track review style.

TOR was sold as a paper magazine for its entire lifetime, though they now have a companion website featuring exclusives like recent road test bloopers, as well as an archive for their old magazine copies (Free access 2000-, paid access earlier years). Apart from the road tests featured in this thread, the magazine itself featured industry news, technical explanations of various new (and old) mechanical solutions in cars, repair tips and a car catalogue listing all cars offically for sale that month. Most issues also featured some sort of comparos; in the Internet Age, those began to be released both in article and video form.

READ THIS SECTION BEFORE SUBMITTING Submissions will be received by DM whenever I flag the sumbissions status as open (Top of this post). I will halt submissions at will, mostly if I get like 8 cars in my queue, if an update drops, or if I have exams; please respect this, as your submission will be ignored and discarded if you send it in when submissions are halted.

I do not require 5-straight-days-of-work levels of effort, because that’s not what makes a car good or interesting to review. However, I would like all cars to have some work put into them. If it’s painted lime green, has an engine that grenades itself, has 5 fixtures and no plates - it’s probably not getting reviewed. An interior is highly recommended, and lack of one will result in a far briefer review. TL;DR, Knugcab-style effort rules apply.

Entries should be more or less realistic; you can get away with more than in a CSR, but don’t run wild. Catalytic converters mandatory after 1985, safety should not be more than a decade behind, and unless you want me to carelessly flip all your car’s pictures, please stick to right-hand-traffic cars (that means steering wheel on the left).

Submission DMs have to include the below template. If yours does not, I will ask you to resubmit; this is not a competition, so don’t worry about getting ‘binned’ or anything. An explanation of the template’s function will follow after.

Car File:

Company Thread (Optional, If Present):

Car Context and Unique Features:

Let’s go over each prompt so it’s not confusing.

The Car File prompt is where you put your exported .car file. The naming schema is
TOR - [Username]
for the car model and engine family; car trim and engine variant are free spaces.

The Company Thread prompt is where you put the forum thread of your car company, if you have one. If you don’t, leave this blank and don’t worry about it. The only use I have for your company thread is to turn it into flavor text.

The Car Context and Unique Features prompt is for you to clarify the significance of your car, as well as any interesting or quirky features that Automation doesn’t let you showcase. You don’t have to write much here, just basic lore like: “Based on upscale midsize sedan. DTM homologation version. Only 200 built.” or “New nameplate for 1992. Marketed as lifestyle item. Equal-length half shafts”. You can also leave this blank, but here’s the thing: The less information you give me, the less exciting the review will probably turn out. The more information you give me, the more creative I can be with the road test’s specifics.

EXAMPLE REVIEW: What to expect




Issue #11, 1977 (Road Test #E4): Anhultz Dione B


Issue #4, 1992 (Road Test #E1): Saarland Kosmos SR Hatch

Issue #9, 1995 (Road Test #E2): Kaizen VFC


Issue #10, 2021 (Road Test #E3): Theta L400 AWD


Road Test: 1992 Saarland Kosmos SR Hatchback
(Example Review #1)

Highs: OOOOOOOOOOOIIOOOOO Masterful handling; Intuitive interior; Fresh design Lows: OOOOOOOOOI..OOOOOJarring ride; Rough, unrefined engine; Inadequate power Summary: OOOOOOIIOOOOA warm hatch/hot hatch identity crisis. Shell out on ES instead


From Issue #4 of 1992

Europeans do compacts better than we do. This piece of gospel truth has held true 40 years ago, when there was no need for small cars in America, through the 1970, where there was plenty need but no means, and to today, when the means are there but the effort isn’t. So when an American brand wheels out a brand-new model name for the foreigners to flatten, it’s no big deal. Maybe they make this one in Korea now, or maybe that one is supposed to be trendy. Whatever. With the Germans at Saarland, however, it’s different. The Adjunkt, their previous front-drive compact, had been in production since the 1960s, with numerous generations and refreshes in that time period. This new-for-1992 model could have just as well been another Adjunkt - but it isn’t. It’s a Kosmos. Cue a collective eye quirk at the Open Road office.

To be precise, it’s a Kosmos hot hatchback - despite this being the new compact’s first model year, it’s already had its trunk hacked off, turbine wheels bolted on, and an SR badge parked on the tailgate. And while it’s as rounded off and aerodynamic as most new models, this Saarland is surprisingly mean-looking. This impression is helped by the brilliantly shiny obsidian-black paintjob; we wouldn’t be surprised if you could fry an egg on it. And whereas most Kosmos trims are powered by engines in the 1-liter range, this one has a 2-liter mill, making it much more versatile and less likely to run out of steam on the highway. There is actually an even hotter version of the Kosmos, called the ES - but that car is more expensive and premium, with a price tag outside typical compact hatch figures - so we decided to test this trim first to see if you can get away with less.

We were surprised that for all its visual bark, the Kosmos was quite sane and rational on the inside: comfortable front seats, a rear bench that’s perfectly suitable for non-amputees, adequate storage space and proper climate control - though the sliders have a pretty long travel. The gauge cluster is clear and sufficient - there are no oil gauges, but you do get a coolant temperature and voltage gauge. Minor gripes we do have are manual windows despite the near-top trim and the position of the central cubby hole: behind the manual shifter.

So far, then, the Kosmos SR is a mean-looking hatchback with a clean-feeling interior. That felt confusing, so we went for a spin in the sleek new compact to clear everything up. Sure enough, right off the bat, the Saarland rode quite harshly and unevenly, with a reasonable front suspension response followed by a jarring bounce from the rear whenever we hit a bump. The overdamped rear’s effect was exacerbated by the low-profile sports tires, making the Kosmos uncomfortable on bumpy roads. The noise level was also above average even with this sort of vehicle, with the 2.0 engine being loud and rattly above 65 miles an hour - that’s the point at which you need to lay into the throttle in fifth gear. The drone is neither pleasant nor welcome, and the ‘sporty’ gearing attached to the vehicle gets much of the blame. On the plus side, even with this sort of gearing, the Kosmos SR hits its EPA-rated high of 37 to the gallon on highways.

So, a rowdy car that’d be at home on the track? We took it to ours, and it started making sense. The rear suspension, so merciless on a bumpy road, becomes magical in high-speed cornering, producing skidpad numbers rivaling serious sportscars. You can’t tune a twist-beam rear suspension to be both sporty and smooth, so that explains the rough ride. The low-pro sports rubber did its part, too, so road noise can be forgiven as well. The brakes are extremely powerful - if underventilated - and can terminate a 60-mph sprint in a mere 118 ft. And in spite of said brakes’ slight fade, the gas shocks and generally improved components means the car has a lot of staying power at the circuit. In fact, with the way the Kosmos tracks a perfect line, and the way it almost automatically recovers from powerslides with no snap, we would be tempted to call it ‘world-class’. Would be, however, is the key phrase here. To see why, let’s take a more detailed view at the iron-block, aluminum-head mill under the hood.

The 2.0 liter dual-cam Saarland straight-4, while a good highway performer, is a severely flawed engine even after 4 years in production. It does not use any balance shafts, making it rougher than it ought to be; the pistons are cheaply made and generate more friction and noise than is necessary; in fact, it feels like the twin camshafts and 16 valves are the only advanced thing about the engine at all. But this isn’t a performance engine, not like the superior mill in the ES trim: It has long, limiting intake runners, a lazy camshaft, and an ECU that knows the word ‘lean’ and little else. Yeah, the car sips gas and all, but is that the point of a hot or even warm hatch? but Worst of all, a conservative fuel cutoff system kills the engine’s revs immediately after its power peak, making our acceleration runs uneven and unsatisfying - so the prospect of the car being a fun, teenager-friendly power trip is ruined just the same. For all of the Kosmos SR’s immense handling prowess and chic styling, it is crippled by an engine in need of some serious troubleshooting.

So, there you have it. The Kosmos range is a practical, modern line of economical compacts, with a stylish look and everything you could ask for in a car of this size and expense. The Saarland Kosmos SR Hatchback, meanwhile, is little more an ES with most of the equipment, edge and expense, but without any significant display of the latter’s awesome twin-cam power. Retailing for AM$21000, it’s by no means a bad value, however it frustrated the better part of our staff by how much better it could have been if not for a couple of questionable design choices.

By The Numbers Price as Tested:OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOI.OOOOOOOOOOOOAM$21,000 Body and Layout: OOOOOOI.OOOOO3-door hatchback, transverse front-engine front-drive

Engine: OOOOOI122ci straight-4, 16-valve DOHC, iron block/alu head, electronic port injection

Suspension(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOOI.I.OOOOO MacPherson Struts/Twist Beam Axle
Brakes(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOIOOOOO 11.2in steel disc/9.2in steel disc
Wheels: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOIOOOOO Alloy rim, 185/55ZR15 tire


Acceleration, 0-60 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 9.1 s
Best-fit Gear Passing, 50-75 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOI.O.OOOOIOOOO 6.2 s
Braking Distance, 60-0 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOIOOOOO 118 ft
Roadholding, 200-ft circle: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOIOOIOOO 0.96 g
EPA Fuel Economy (Combined/city/highway): OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.O 32/29/37 mpg

Thanks to @Knugcab for the car. If you want your own car reviewed, please read the directions in the thread’s first post.


Very good, you’re obviously a skilled writer.

Car did what it was supposed to do. All show, no go, punish you because you were too cheap to buy an ES.

Road Test: 1996 Kaizen VFC
(Example Review #2)

Highs: OOOIIOOO Luxurious and loaded; Wonderful grip and technology; Surprising economy Lows: OOOII.OOONo selective ride; Power-to-weight could use work; Needs more excitement Summary: OOOOOOOIOOOOOA seasoned middleweight boxer wearing weighted clothing


From Issue #9 of 1995

Kaizen has always been gutsy. Other Japanese brands have been taking on their German rivals using practicality, bulletproofing, bargain prices, the like; Meanwhile, Kaizen has been challenging the Germans at their own game, power and technology being their great selling points. The VFC sports sedan - the top-of-the-line, fire-breathing version of the FC premium compact - has always been one of the company’s testbeds for space-age gizmos, and this year, this roadgoing Zero fighter has a few new tricks up its sleeve.

The 1996 car’s facelift is the third update the car is getting in its four years of production, and it’s arguably the most important one. Kaizen’s new, all-aluminum straight-six now lives below the hood of the VFC, displacing 3 liters as usual but now sporting a massive array of smart valvetrain tricks which we’ll get to later. The car’s exterior has only undergone minor tweaks, keeping the car’s handsome and muscular appearane; the most notable change are the new ring-shaped running lights - though you won’t notice them too much unless you’re Canadian.

Our test car was finished in a stunning jet black, with a black leather interior. Inside, there are all sorts of luxury like a good-quality CD player, a spacious console storage unit, cupholders and even rear climate adjustment. The controls are mostly intuitive - with the notable exception of the hazard light switch, which is positioned annoyingly between the radio and climate controls. We would have definitely put it up higher, perhaps even in place of the out-of-place analog clock. Speaking of analog, gauges are large and clear.

On the road, the Kaizen is extremely stable and confident, if a little harsh; the fixed-rate gas shocks are tightly wound, doing wonders for roll mitigation. The car’s disposition is generally very taut, running counter to our assumptions that a heavier (over 3400 lbs), more luxurious car such as this would permit itself to wallow a bit. The 6-speed manual has tall enough gears that cruising is rather quiet and dignified, not running into the “3000+ RPM drone” issue that some other, 5-speed sports sedans tend to catch. Most bizarrely, however, the VFC’s engine is extremely economical, running north of 30 mpg combined and knocking on the door of 40 on the highway. This is enabled by the new aluminum engine’s comprehensive variable valve control, with variable phase on both camshafts and continuous variable lift. Now, mind you, the lift portion of the system is extremely heavy and still largely behaves like a sanded-down traditional VTEC system, but the fact that Kaizen has been able to implement continuous lift variation and get such economy from it is an achievement in and of itself.

We had very high expectations for the VFC as we lined up our track tests - so high, in fact, that the car’s actual performance has left us slightly underwhelmed. The aluminum block’s weight savings are welcome, but offset a fair amount by the complex cylinder head and new safety systems. Armed with a lavish interior, dual airbags and all that sort of stuff, the stocky Japanese took 5.8 seconds to get to 60 - slower than even some less powerful German rivals, though ultimately still fast. A notable complaint from our test driver had to do with the 1-2 gear shift, which he called mis-spaced; sure enough, if the gearing charts are to be believed, the first upshift corresponds to a jarring 70-horsepower drop. And whereas the Kaizen was steady and sharp through a corner, there is a slight plow as if to say: I’m forgiving. I won’t let you crash me. And in a sports sedan, that’s not exactly what we’re looking for.

But maybe it’s our expectations that are the problem, not the car itself. When we took delivery, the Kaizen VFC looked purpose-built to beat the best of Munich - but looking closer, it’s much more of a Stuttgart beast, or, dare we say, a Detroit one. The VFC is still cheaper than its premier German rivals at 44,000 AM$ and is much cheaper to run due to its economy, and it does deliver an ever-satisfying mix of performance and luxury. Just don’t expect it to beat lap records in stock form. The Kaizen is in the same place as it used to be: Still a bold and direct rival with neat tricks up its sleeve, and still not quite able to pull away from the competition. Though that’s mostly because the competition’s so darn stiff.

By The Numbers Price as Tested:OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOI.OOOOOOOOOOOOAM$44,000 Body and Layout: OOOOOOO.OOOOOO4-door sedan, longitudinal front-engine rear-drive

Engine: OOI.OIOI183 ci straight-6, 24-valve DOHC, alu block/alu head, electronic port injection

Suspension(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOOI.I.OOOOOOO MacPherson Struts / Multi-Link
Brakes(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 13.0 in vented steel disc / 11.0 in vented steel disc
Wheels(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOOO.OIOOO Alloy rim, 225/45ZR17 / 245/40ZR17 tire


Acceleration, 0-60 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 5.8 s
Best-fit Gear Passing, 50-75 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOI.O.OOOOIOOOO 3.7 s
Braking Distance, 60-0 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOIOOOOO 112 ft
Roadholding, 200-ft circle: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOIOOIOOO 1.04 g
EPA Fuel Economy (Combined/city/highway): OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.O 32/29/37 mpg

Thanks to @66mazda and @Portalkat42 for the car. If you want your own car reviewed, please read the directions in the thread’s first post.


Those words could not have been more apt for the VFC, which may not be the fastest car of its kind, but handles well enough. It actually reminds me of a contemporary Toyota Chaser Tourer V, but with an all-alloy naturally-aspirated I6 instead of the Chaser’s turbocharged iron-block 1JZ/2JZ.


I just hope that it is less prone to catch fire…
Another great review indeed.


Road Test: 2022 Theta L400
(Example Review #3)

Highs: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.OOO Glorious driving dynamics, luxurious interior Lows: OOIIIOOOObjectively outdated transmission and design, cumbersome weight, high price Summary: OOOI.OOOA smorgasbord of genuine luxury and last-gen tech that just doesn't cut it.


From Issue #10 of 2021

Not all brand-new car models are, well, brand-new. All sorts of components are reused between a company’s various offerings, ranging from the most basic switchgear to entire powertrains. The reasons for this are myriad: budget constraints, production commonality, and the good old “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” rationale. So looking at the 2022 Theta L-Series luxury sedan, which has invited doubt from industry specialists due to some heavily reused features, our question was: How dated must a feature be before it’s “broke”?

Well, the first obviously dated feature on the Theta is the appearance. The car is slab-sided, with the doors being vast planes of nothing; the rear fascia is high up on the trunk lid, making everything below feel just as empty. The front fascia is better, as its obvious “conservative” design direction will appeal to people who are bothered by recent trendy huge grills; still, little to write home about here.

On the inside, the Theta does have most of your typical luxury bells and whistles: big screen, soft seats, panoramic roof, stuff like that. With the braced gearshift are and staggered cupholders, it’s actually artsy - but not practical, and the wood-adorned steering wheel is definitely not 2022 material. What is 2022-grade, however, is the safety arrangement, lauded as some of the best in class by the NHTSA.

That shifter is connected to a six-speed automatic gearbox; That number of gears in a longitudinal luxury transmissionsounds like something plucked from the last decade, and translates to rough, slowed off-the-line performance. The unusual, but competent 60-degree-angle 4.2-liter turbocharged V8 makes over 500 horsepower, and coupled with an advanced torque-vectoring differential, that should be enough for a better 0-60 time than 4.7 seconds - even with all of the car’s cumbersome 5000 pounds of weight.

There are other things that are outmoded. The brakes are pretty grabby and coarse, especially in the rear - the result of using one huge piston to brake each rear wheel. The turbochargers are laggier than most in this class: not a good look for a luxury sedan where power must come on demand. The mufflers are basically oversized gun silencers: Yes they work, but it’s not weight- or power-efficient at all.

That said, we did find things that worked for us. The active suspension is very good at its job, and the handling profile is surprisingly dynamic, with almost totally neutral steering and a skidpad figure of 1.02 g - on stock, non-performance rubber! The instrument panel also proved neat and intuitive, though it was perplexing when the test car was delivered to us with bits of packaging still on the dashboard (OOC: the dashboard model cuts through the gauge cluster. I am not a big interior buff, but this discrepancy made it impossible to get a good driver POV shot).

In the end, the L400 sedan is a perfectly serviceable luxury offering. You will feel comfortable in it, it gets acceptable gas mileage, and it drives pretty well. The kicker is, it costs close to 90 grand, which is where many of its executive competitors are. With the carryover last-gen tech, Theta could have made this car make sense as a value proposition, at least to some extent - but no, the L400 is being positioned as a full-bore, side-by-side competitor to modern warm luxury sedans, and it just falls short in that regard - no two ways about it.

By The Numbers Price as Tested:OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOI.OOOOOOOOOOOOAM$86,900 Body and Layout: OOOOOOOOOOO4-door sedan, longitudinal front-engine all-wheel-drive

Engine: OOOOOO257 ci V8, 32-valve DOHC, alu block/alu head, direct injection, turbocharged
Transmission: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOO6-spd automatic

Suspension(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOOOIOOOOOOOOO Control Arms / Multi-Link
Brakes(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 15.4 in vented steel disc / 13.6 in vented steel disc
Wheels: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.OOOOOOOOOOIOOO Alloy rim, 265/40R20 tire


Acceleration, 0-60 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 4.7 s
Best-fit Gear Passing, 50-75 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOI.O.OOOOIOOOO 3.1 s
Braking Distance, 60-0 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOIOOOOO 117 ft
Roadholding, 200-ft circle: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOIOOIOOO 1.02 g
EPA Fuel Economy (Combined/city/highway): OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.O 22/20/25 mpg

Thanks to @Lanson for the car. If you want your own car reviewed, please read the directions in the thread’s first post.


Road Test: 1978 Anhultz Dione B
(Example Review #4)

Highs: OOOOOOOI.OOOOO Immaculate fit and finish; Practical and user-friendly; Rugged Lows: OOOOOOOOO.O.OOOSloppy, hesitant handling; Relatively thirsty; Underequipped Summary: OOOOIOOOOOOIf you hate mechanics and love your family, accept no substitute (barring the Dione C or D)


From Issue #11 of 1977

Mons is glamorous. Arlington is innovative. And Anhultz? Anhultz is unkillable. The midsize Dione has been a rare import staple on our soil since the 1950s, offering a stylish, moderate European alternative to the admittedly gratuitous offerings of domestic manufacturers. After first offering its unit body cars last decade, the Dutch manufacturer has focused on making its cars ever more refined and reliable: an evolution-instead-of-revolution approach. This new generation of the Dione - the eighth to date overall - brings a familiar yet modernized assortment of features.

For this road test, we have taken the basic B-trim of the Dione out for a spin. At AM$22,400, it’s nowhere near the cheapest midsize, and we weren’t sure if it was cheap enough to justify the working-class cloth upholstery we got to sit in. That being said, it’s good cloth, and the plastic that surrounds it is durable, well-fitted and refreshingly silent - no creaks and no rattles. The HVAC controls and radio are easy to use and well-placed, while the large steering wheel harkens back to the days of un-assisted turning and enables an unobstructed view of the equally massive gauges. Don’t worry, though, the steering is appropriately boosted. Over at the back, a fold-down rear bench offers sufficient leg room, and a hatchback rear provides a nice and large cargo space. It’s a practical car, have no doubt of that.

The focus on durability shines through yet once more in the chassis construction: The Dione is galvanized and features thick steel body panels along with carefully layered paint (Which can be any color as long as it’s orange: All other options are at least AM$300 more expensive). We are guessing it will never rust. The drivetrain is traditional rear-drive with a three-speed automatic; this allows those of us with a lead foot to order a V8 on higher trims of the Dione, and a powerful one at that. This car, however, is stuck with the good old 2.4 V6 engine: Practically the aforementioned V8 but debored and with two cylinders less. Anhultz’s venerable twin-carburetor manifold can be found perched atop it, improved with auto-choke and given even more robustness. We appreciate the clockwork-like operation of the setup, but the question remains: Is there really any benefit here over a single twin- or quad-barrel carb? What does this costlier setup accomplish? The engine itself is typical Anhultz fare. Overhead cams, passable emissions system and 100 horsepower. The crummy fuel economy is the only real miss here.

We were satisfied with the Dutchman’s ride: expensive, soft gas shocks keep impacts manageable even in the face of stiffer than normal springs, and a front sway bar keeps roll at bay. Not much more positives to mention here: the Dione is still anything but sporty, and the narrow, economy-minded tires are only just enough to keep you confident. Brakes only start to fade after several stops - but powerful as said brakes may be, the aforementioned tires didn’t let us make even a single short and uneventful stop. The only small mercy is that the front disks lock up first.

Still, we think the Dione B is a fairly competitive midsize package, lack of sixth seat notwithstanding. It’s just enough of everything you might need and will see Rapture before it sees rust, so it’s genuinely a good choice for everyday transportation. That being said, since the Dione is liable to last as long as it will in your service, it might be a good idea to wait until the next engine refresh: perhaps we might see less restrictive emissions equipment or a less primitive intake, and it’ll be less than a bore to drive.

By The Numbers Price as Tested:OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOI.OOOOOOOOOOOOAM$22,300 Body and Layout: OOOOOOIOOOOO5-door hatchback, longitudinal front-engine rear-drive

Engine: OOOOOOOO.I146ci V6, 12-valve SOHC, iron block/iron head, dual 1-bbl carburetors
Transmission: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOO3-spd automatic

Suspension(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOIOIOOOOO Control Arms/Diagonal Trailing Arms
Brakes(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOIIOOOOOO 11.2in steel disc/9.2in drum
Wheels: OOOOOOOOOOOOOIOOOOOOOOIOOOOO Steel rim, 175/80R15 tire


Acceleration, 0-60 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOIIOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 14.9 s
Best-fit Gear Passing, 50-75 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOIOOOO 10.5 s
Braking Distance, 60-0 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOIOOOOO 149 ft
Roadholding, 200-ft circle: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOIOOIOOO 0.70 g
EPA Fuel Economy (Combined/city/highway, period-correct): OOOOOOOO.O 18/16/22 mpg

Thanks to @Elizipeazie for the car. If you want your own car reviewed, please read the directions in the thread’s first post.


I start to believe that in one way, Anhultz in the 70s is kind of what happens if you combine the best of Volvo, Mercedes and Saab of the era.


Yes, and I find them pretty inspirational too

Road Test: 1962 Saarland Adjunkt

Highs: OOOOOOOOOOOIOOOI.OOOOO Very low cost; Very efficient; Quite reliable Lows: OOOOOOOOOOO.OOOOOOOOO.O.OOO Physically tiny; Highway racket Summary: OOOOIOOOOOOOOOOOOONot smart enough to be this small. Get a Volks.


From Issue #5 of 1961

The German auto maker Saarland has recently made landfall in the United States, and is now offering several models here in the United States. As with most European cars, each car is more equipped than comparably-sized domestics; This is because space and materials come at a bigger premium overseas than they do here. This means that the Saarland Kardinal, for example, competes with full-size domestic vehicles in price and equipment despite being just slightly larger than, say, the new Arlington Alpha - a large compact in our book. The car that competes with the Alpha itself, meanwhile, is over 10 inches shorter, and that’s plenty short even for someplace as crowded like New York City. Saarland, however, has decided to import something smaller still - something that would look diminuitive in the French Quarter of New Orleans. The car in question is the Saarland Adjunkt, and we’re here to tell you all about it.

The Adjunkt is cheap. We feel the need to start with this because it serves to explain a lot of the design choices we will shine light on today. The tiny car seats four - while the manufacturer states that the rear bench could fit three, the cutouts in the seats for the structural wheel arches tell a diiferent story. Even if those weren’t there, the interior of the Adjunkt measures just 46 inches at shoulder level - meaning you’d be hard-pressed to fit three middle schoolers in there. The gauge set includes a fuel gauge, a speedometer and a coolant temperature gauge; neither an oil temperature gauge nor a tachometer are provided, though they are not strictly necessary on an automobile like this, either. The four-speed shifter for the standard transmission is mounted on the column - we’d like to see one on the floor and with a pattern decal with this number of gears. The tightness of the interior remains pervasive: despite the novel sideways-engine layout, space is not used in a particularly smart way: in particular, the firewall intrudes far too much into the interior, leading to driver legroom being utterly abysmal. That said, our test car was equipped with an interior fan and a radio - good for a car this size and price.

The small and light body does provide one advantage to the Saarland pintsize: it’s light. The 1-liter engine, while small, is more powerful and lively than those of the Adjunkt’s competitors, and the car accelerates to 60 in around 22 seconds - which is several seconds faster than other European supercompacts. Handling was also pleasant: steering on the skidpad revealed no abnormal behavior, with neutral response right up until the vehicle runs out of steam. The ride is more than a tad harsh, however, with our biggest gripe being with the front suspension. This is no car for road trips - especially not on the highway, where each of our test drivers agreed they’d rather pay twice as much for gas than listen to the raspy four-cylinder engine furiously work away at near full blast for hours on end. In the city, while it is much more bearable, the Saarland is still far from an enjoyable experience, as there is so little space that more often than not you’ll accidentally smack your knee with the gear lever when trying to shift. As said in the beginning of this review: This car is made for a culture where space is at a much more serious premium, and as such worth more sacrifices.

Thus, we do not recommend the Adjunkt simply on the basis of it being so ill-adjusted to this country’s way of motoring. That being said, it’s not even the best vehicle in its class: the recent compact from Britain is even cheaper, yet has a more spacious interior. The only real advantage the Adjunkt retains is a larger, conventional trunk. Or if you pay around AM$800 more, you can get a Beetle - and lo and behold, people with regular knees and shoulders will actually fit in there.

By The Numbers Price as Tested:OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOI.OOOOOOOOOOOOAM$11,100 Body and Layout: OOOOOOIOOOOOOO4-door sedan, transverse front-engine front-drive

Engine: OOOOOOOOOO61ci straight-4, 8-valve OHV, iron block/iron head, 1-bbl carburetor

Suspension(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOIOIOOOOOOOOO.O Control Arms/Dead Axle
Brakes(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOIIOOOOOOOO 8.8in drum/6.6in drum
Wheels: OOOOOOOOOOOOOIOOOOOOOOIOOOOO Steel rim, 145/90-12 tire


Acceleration, 0-60 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOIIOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 22.1 s
Best-fit Gear Passing, 50-75 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOIOOOO 34.2 s
Braking Distance, 60-0 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOIOOOOO 145 ft
Roadholding, 200-ft circle: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOIOOIOOO 0.65 g
EPA Fuel Economy (Combined/city/highway, period-correct): OOOOOOOO.O 29/28/29 mpg

*Thanks to @Knugcab for the car. If you want your own car reviewed, please read the directions in the thread’s first post.


I get “put it in H” vibes from the review. :wink:

Motorsport Spotlight: The World Rally Car

From Issue #3 of 1997

The World Rally Championship doesn’t grace our shores every year, and it doesn’t attract many US viewers - we’re satisfied with our short-track dirt racing, and the like. Nevertheless, over the past two decades US car buyers have taken a bit of an interest in the series. The reason is that up until this year, each car racing in the WRC had to have a limited-production roadgoing version which is known among enthusiasts as a ‘homologation special’. These cars pack tremendous power, maneuverability and technology into unusual and lightweight packages. However, this tradition might just be coming to an end: The new World Rally Car standard, introduced before the beginning of the currently running season, does not require the production of any souped-up road versions, and as such we expect most manufacturers to stop bothering with them entirely. One such manufacturer is Hakaru - whose rally team, Hakaru Castroil WRT, has offered our staff a close look at the future of rallying.

We arrived in Uddeholm, Sweden just a couple of days after the conclusion of the rally that took place there. Hakaru Castroil WRT (World Rally Team) had arranged several driving experiences for yours truly - a driver and passenger experience on the road stages, and a passenger-only one on snow. And before you label our field reporters and insurance consultants cowards, remember that the passenger of a WRC bolide has to provide navigation - that is, bark upcoming turns at the driver so that he may turn without thinking or even really slowing down. And bark loudly I did, because the spartan, rollcage-adorned body of the Hakaru Carica WRC had precisely zero sound isolation aside from the paper-thin panels themselves.

The engine, as required by current regulations, is a 2-liter, 4-cylinder turbocharged engine with a severely restricted intake that is supposed to limit peak horsepower to 300. However, there are no regulations on boost or torque - so new WRC cup cars, the Carica included, can generate said 300 horsepower at pretty much any RPM. This makes the car feel dangerously twitchy (as if you’d just dumped the clutch) at low speeds even in high gear. On the other hand, it means you hardly have to shift at all until you slam into the redline - and can tank speed drops that would bog conventional engines, as well. The cost is tremendous heat and pressure in the induction system and high overall pressure ratios in the combustion chamber, necessitating a heavier than usual engine overall as well as generous donations of high-octane race gas regardless of load and speed. This power is tempered by a four-wheel-drive system with torque-sensing differentials, just about taming the get-up-and-go on launch, but only evening out offroad traction, not eliminating wheelspin. As a result - as some of the readers will no doubt remember from documentaries on the ill-fated Group B - the cars are flung into dirt corners in a slide, never achieving full traction even in a straight line. That’s apparently largely why our insurance jacked up the price on putting me behind the wheel on the dirt.

Driving the Carica WRC on the road was a ball once I got used to it, with mountains of power, grip and yaw making the little subcompact formidable even to roadgoing supercars. Likewise, observing the offroad work of Parkins, the rugged Welsh driver of the car, was as fun as it was humbling. There is, however, a marked drawback to the otherwise breathtaking (and do trust me, it is) format of WRC: TV broadcasts are not nearly as all-encompassing as either oval, road course, or formula racing, as the rallies take place over hundreds of miles. And if the odd devout American fan decides to fly to another continent to see a rally, they will witness the power and fury of all the WRC and legacy Group A machines… Once, maybe twice. And now that the new regulations no longer require strict homologation, we’re not going to be seeing any rally-tuned road cars - and that’s a loss and a half.

By The Numbers Price as Tested:OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOI.OOOOOOOOIOOO Not for Sale Body and Layout: OOOOOO.OOO3-door hatchback, transverse front-engine four-wheel-drive

Engine: OOOOO.I122ci straight-4, 16-valve DOHC, alu block/alu head, electronic port injection

Suspension(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOIOOOOOOOOO MacPherson Struts / Multi-Link
Brakes(F/R): OOOOOOOOO.OOOOOO 12.8in vented steel disc / 10.2in vented steel disc
Wheels: OOOOOOOOOOOOIOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Alloy rim, 215/40R17 tire


Best-fit Gear Passing, 50-75 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOIOOOOOOIOOOO 2.5 s
Braking Distance, 60-0 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOOIO.OOOOOOIOOOOO 108 ft
Roadholding, 200-ft circle: OOOOOOOOOOOOOIO.OOOOOOIOOIOOO 1.23 g
EPA Fuel Economy (Combined/city/highway, period-correct): OOOOOOO.O.O 19/20/17 mpg

Thanks to @Executive for the car. If you want your own car reviewed, please read the directions in the thread’s first post.


Road Test: 1986 IVERA Executive

Highs: OOOI.OOOOO Unrivaled ride quality; Immaculate fit and finish; Startling performance Lows: OOOOOOOOOOOO.IO.OO Labyrinthine complexity; Questionable-at-best design Summary: OOOOIOOOOOOOOOIOOSweden hasn't built anything this grand in decades.


From Issue #5 of 1985

Here at The Open Road, we have always held firm to one principle: There’s more than one way to skin a cat. In the pasat decade, this has been proven time and time again: each and every market segment that’s solidified since the Oil Crisis contains automobiles that vary seriously in their layout, design and function. The ultra-luxury sector of automobiles is no exception, with new US front-drive unibodies fighing their traditional frame-bodied, rear-drive counterparts; and in the midst of it all, the European luxury sports sedan - both in price and power truly in a league of its own - looms ever larger over domestic offerings. The Swedes, of course, have a fourth option: The IVERA Executive. It’s… A hatchback.

To begin with, using a hatchback as a flagship is not necessarily unprecedented. Rover did it in the UK with its striking yet problematic SD1. However, the IVERA is hard to compare to an SD1 - it’s close to 20 inches longer, and it doesn’t crib Ferrari design elements. In fact, with that monstrous light cluster at the front - giving the illusion that the car actually has eight eyes - it doesn’t look like anything else. It does somewhat call to mind one of the boxy luxury cars we make here, but the roofline instantly lets you know that you aren’t dealing with a formal, elderly-friendly Detroit brick. In summary, the design is very strange, looking like an extremely elongated Arlington Analog Hatchback or something of the sort. It feels like the person who drew it tried to please literally everybody. We were pleased by the rock-solid, intensely comfortable interior - but IVERA suits told us to hold off on photographing that until the car hits dealerships next month. A pity, too.

Running gear on the Executive, though, is first-rate. The impressively advanced 5-liter V8 features aluminum 4-valve heads and a camshaft for each bank. The 276 horsepower it produces is not entirely class-leading, but no other executive sedan with that engine displacement matches it. The automatic transmission has an electronically-controlled overdrive, and the independent rear axle features a limited-slip differential. The result is that the car maintains a ride quality comparable (if not superior) to a Somervell, while turning much, much harder at the limit. This is helped even more by the sophisticated hydropneumatic suspension. Top speed? 155 mph. Now, all this performance does come at a degree of technical complexity not seen on most other cars, but it’s not like the IVERA Executive’s German rivals are particularly simple. If you can afford the as-tested LXT top trim, you can afford the service charges. The only real complaints we have are the overly grabby brakes, which are only tempered by the novel anti-lock system, and the insufficient overdrive.

Overall, in terms of objective specifications the Executive is a powerhouse. Its high-quality unitized body construction allows it to be stronger, lighter and safer than most cars in its class, and the aforementioned world-class suspension and drivetrain make it luxurious in a way few other vehicles can match. Now, it’s also true that it’s priced in a way few other vehicles can match, but that’s to be expected from Europe. If you’re looking at luxurious offerings from Germany and aren’t turned off by the lack of a hyper-formal roof, the IVERA offering is definitely worth considering.

By The Numbers Price as Tested:OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOI.OOOOOOOOOOOOAM$59,300 Body and Layout: OOOOOOIOOOOO5-door hatchback, longitudinal front-engine rear-drive

Engine: OOOOOOOO305 ci V8, 32-valve SOHC, iron block/alu head, electronic port injection
Transmission: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOO4-spd automatic

Suspension(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOOI.I.OOOOOOOO Control Arms / Control Arms
Brakes(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 13.2 in vented steel disc / 13.2 in vented steel disc
Wheels: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOIOIOOO Alloy rim, 205/65ZR17 tire

Acceleration, 0-60 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOO.OIOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 8.2 s
Best-fit Gear Passing, 50-75 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.OOOOIOOOO 4.7 s
Braking Distance, 60-0 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.OIOOOOOOIOOOOO 138 ft
Roadholding, 200-ft circle: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOIOOIOOO 0.80 g
EPA Fuel Economy (Combined/city/highway): OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 15/14/18 mpg

*Thanks to @TheYugo45GV for the car. If you want your own car reviewed, please read the directions in the thread’s first post.


Road Test: 1984 Hinode MID2

Highs: OOO.O. Highest grip recorded on any non-supercar ever; eager engine; good sound system Lows: OOOIO.OOO Unforgivable ride and noise; Cheap interior materials; Insufficient prestige Summary: OOOOOOIO.O.OOOOThe best four-pot performance on sale today - if you dare.


From Issue #8 of 1983

What is Hinode? Faced with this blanket question, most will tend to identify it as a manufacturer of affordable and reliable, yet dimensionally-challenged transportation. And on that last count, the new-for-1984 MID2 will not challenge this stereotypical portrayal: It is very, very small. In fact, it weighs well under a metric ton. Where the MID2 stops sounding like an ordinary import is when you discover that the front subframe - engine at all - has been dropped into the back, not far behind the driver’s ear. It is thus a mid-engined sportscar, joining the illustrious ranks of premium Italian and British offerings which prioritize performance over all else. Can this bite-sized beast from the East upset the European aristocracy? Read on to find out.

Right from the start, the MID2 clearly shows that it doesn’t care about being an aristocrat itself. The stubby, boxy body resembles fellow Hinode products, with the roof actually being high up enough for regular people to situate themselves comfortably - and that’s with the space-sapping moon roof. On the inside, the driver is provided with a comprehensive cluster of analog gauges, power windows, and a cassette player… But also lackluster seats that might look sporty but are in fact just flimsy, adn don’t measure up. In fact, we broke one trying to adjust it. Visibility, however, is excellent - as it should be from a vehicle without an engine hanging off the front.

Understatement of the century: The MID2 is not a good highway vehicle. Whilst decently reliable as all Hinode products are, the angry twin-cam mill runs itself up to almost 4000 RPM at highway speeds, which would be a decent figure to accelerate at but certainly not to hover around for an extended period of time. The ride is extremely harsh for a road car, with the front struts in particular feeling welded; this is not helped by the overall low-profile tires. The wide-ratio transmission shifts harshly due to the unavoidable power drops between gears, a reality imposed by the narrow powerband. The brakes are grabby, and in an emergency stop you’ll find that the rear will lock up and step out before the front in many cases, chiefly at low speeds.

That said: These same qualities above make the Hinode runt a force to be reckoned with on the track. The tires are most certainly too wide for the car’s weight; combined with a sticky factory compound and a functional rear wing, grip exceeds that of much higher-end sports cars. The peppy engine, churning out 124 horsepower - over 75 a liter - propels the MID2 to 60 in a measly 7 seconds, a full second less than many current luxury coupes and convertibles with 2 to 4 more cylinders. The two above achievements are partially due to the sophisticated torque-sensing differential on the rear axle, enabling a wheelspin-free experience in almost any situation. We at The Open Road would go as far as to say that the MID2 is the most focused and brutal four-cylinder mid-engined sports car ever conceived - and yes, that includes the Lotuses.

All this performance obviously comes at a price, and for 1984 that price is AM$27,300. That’s a big lump of money for such a tiny car, one with few amenities, a suspension and seat combination that’ll shatter your spine and the most utilitarian badge you could possibly come across. Make no mistake, though: this Hinode is a pro-stock track weapon, and we expect many velocity-minded invidiuals to pick them up. We only hope that the resources Hinode gets from them are enough to refine the car in the years to come… Perhaps get some civilian sales, as well.

By The Numbers Price as Tested:OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOI.OOOOOOOOOOOOAM$27,300 Body and Layout: OOOOOOO.OOOOOOO2-door coupe, transverse mid-engine rear-drive

Engine: OOI.OIOI97 ci straight-4, 16-valve SOHC, iron block/alu head, electronic port injection

Suspension(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOOI.IOOOO MacPherson Struts / MacPherson Struts
Brakes(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 10.8 in vented steel disc / 10.4 in vented steel disc
Wheels(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOOO.OIOOO Alloy rim, 175/60UR14 / 205/50UR14 tire


Acceleration, 0-60 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 7.0 s
Best-fit Gear Passing, 50-75 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOI.O.OOOOIOOOO 5.3 s
Braking Distance, 60-0 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOIOOOOO 109 ft
Roadholding, 200-ft circle: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOIOOIOOO 1.06 g
EPA Fuel Economy (Combined/city/highway): OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.O 26/25/28 mpg

Thanks to @S_U_C_C_U_L_E_N_T for the car. If you want your own car reviewed, please read the directions in the thread’s first post.


Road Test: 2006 Apex TriStar

Highs: OO.I Superior performance; Good value for money; Forward-thinking entertainment system Lows: OOOOOOOOOOO.OIOOO Muted engine; Jerky gearbox; Confusing segment shift Summary: OOOOOOOO Germany's 575 is now Germany's Corvette, and much better off for it.


From Issue #5 of 2005

The current generation of the Apex TriStar came onto the scene several years ago as a supposed grand tourer. It ran into a very embarrassing problem, however: It was not a very good grand tourer. Too short and cramped, too unpretentious - and also somewhat mismatched in its component parts. It was not a hit. The refreshed-for-2006 TriStar, then, aims to make things right.

That being said, it’s not that easy to fix a car that’s physically too small for its intended purpose, so the new “GT2” Apex simply got a different purpose. Instead of a GT, the Apex flagship is now a true two-seater sports car, with the remaining interior space has been earmarked for mere storage space. The remaining passengers are well-cared for, though, with plenty of legroom, a new and highly stylized interior - yes, Apex, we can see the toggle switches - and last but definitely not least, a state-of-the-art navigation system with the highest-resolution screen in any production car to date. It also features a voice system that also doubles as the warning light alert, and has one single voice setting that’s supposed to reflect its personality. We are pretty confident whose idea in the Takahashi corporate hierarchy this was: Never change, Japan.

The pivot from GT to OMG has predictably bruised the public road driving experience. The standard transmission is now an electronic clutchless manual (which would love to pretend it’s actually a sequential) which requires you to jab at a meaty lever in the center of the dash to shift. You can go up, you can go down, or you can go to hell. The shifting action is stiff and jarring, and the fact that you might lose up to 100 horsepower per shift certainly doesn’t help. We would have easily picked an actual stick-shift with an H pattern over this. The previously-standard auto is still available as a no-cost option, and unless you’re a track maniac we frankly recommend that. That being said, the seats are a masterpiece of both bolstering and padding and the TriStar retains its predecessor’s revolutionary active suspension, and on the highway - where you don’t need to shift out of sixth gear - the car feels great. Honestly, we’d eagerly go on a roadtrip and just sit there, on top of the highway food chain, for hours with 550 horsepower just three downshifts and a broken neck away.

Speaking of the performance: It’s real good. A judicious use of aero, the powerful Apex twin-turbo V8 and that road-hating transmission come together for a 3.6 second time to 100 - enough to outrun anything this side of AM$100,000. There is a computer-controlled differential, thick and highly staggered tires (255 in front versus 315 in back). There is also a stability control system to tame all the power, but no speed limiter - the car only just stays on this side of 200 mph. The steering is excellent, just on the predictable side of neutral, and the car is heaps of fun on the track. Hell, we even appreciated the visceral feel of dragging the shift lever back as the speedometer climbs. Our main complaint about the track experience, though, is the engine’s sound: It sounds remotely like a Ferrari, except you’re listening to it through a World War II radio with Messerschmidt jets in the background. The turbos… Definitely, unmistakably ruin the exciting noise of the flat-plane V8, and we can’t help but think that with all the variable-valve and direct injection technology, Apex could have made the TriStar’s V8 mill make the same power with a bit more revs and displacement rather than the twin turbos and kept the sound and fury. This is an old issue, though; we’ve had the same complaint since the TriStar GT1 came out years ago.

Don’t let these minor gripes of ours get in the way of one certainty, though: The TriStar is still a monstrously powerful, track-capable coupe with GT-level appointments - minus the 2 rear seats - for under 90 grand. It’s beautiful to look at and exciting to drive - at least much of the time - and has the best entertainment facilities short of an S-class. We do encourage any sports car aficionado with the means to own a TriStar to give it a spin and see if it’s your kind of dragon.

By The Numbers Price as Tested:OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOI.OOOOOOOOOOOOAM$82,900 Body and Layout: OOOOOOO.OOOOOO2-door coupe, longitudinal front-engine rear-drive

Engine: OOOIOOIOI262 ci V8, 32-valve DOHC, alu block/alu head, electronic direct injection, OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OIOItwin turbo charger
Transmission: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.OOOOO6-spd semi-automatic

Suspension(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOOI.OIOOOOOOOOO Control Arms / Multilink
Brakes(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 15.2 in vented steel disc / 15.2 in vented steel disc
Wheels(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOOO.OIOOO Alloy rim, 255/35YR20 / 315/30YR20 tire


Acceleration, 0-60 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 3.6 s
Best-fit Gear Passing, 50-75 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOI.O.OOOOIOOOO 1.9 s
Braking Distance, 60-0 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOIOOOOO 105 ft
Roadholding, 200-ft circle: OOOOOOOOOOOOOIO.OOOOOOIOOIOOO 1.15 g
EPA Fuel Economy (Combined/city/highway): OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.O 21/21/20 mpg

Thanks to @ldub0775 for the car. If you want your own car reviewed, please read the directions in the thread’s first post.


Road Test: 2021 ZKF C140t

Highs: OOOOOOOOOIOOOOOOOO.O. Great comfort; Potent chassis; Lots of features Lows: OOO.OO Unhinged pricing; Underwhelming powertrain; Boring shape; Generally soulless Summary: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Simply put, a stretch. Get a Gran Coupe.


From Issue #8 of 2020

The ZKF brand went down with its playboy CEO forty years ago. That’s a very long time. Even when the brand was revived in 2012, the downtime was enough for the auto industry to be turned on its head several times over: ZKF cars at the time of its demise still used carburetors, whereas the reboot immediately kicked off with direct injection. The current workhorse, the C-car, has recently been given a new generation, and has attracted some interest here at The Open Road HQ due to its… Ambitious pricing. Now that we’ve gotten our hands on the new C140t - a midrange model - we may at last figure out where the money went.

Straight away, the interior gives off a distinct air of ‘up to the task’. Comfy seats, clean dash, gorgeous futuristic steering wheel, advanced audio system, even real aluminum inserts - if there’s one thing this car doesn’t lack, it’s stuff. The presentation of the whole thing is very clean and tidy, and there is sufficient - if not outstanding - rear seat room. It’s just too bad that we can’t say the same at all about the outside of the car: apart from the obviously eh form-factor of a flat-back hatch, the C140t is also an absolute teardrop, with all design elements feeling so flat to the aerodynamic surface they may as well not be there. It looks less premium than a Gold from out here… Not a good look.

Highway performance is nothing special, and passing isn’t all that quick - not helped by the fact that until the turbo spool happens, you’re stuck with all of 1.4 liters - however, the transmission deserves high praise. It’s very well geared, with overdrive allowing totally stress-free driving; just generally, the small engine is incredibly smooth and quiet. Thumbs up there. Ride is good; unlike some wannabe-premium manufacturers, a true independent multilink suspension is standard in the rear, so bumps are soaked up beautifully.

That engine which passed trial by highway, however, struggles with any sort of spirited driving. It’s simply too little and too small; equivalently-priced and at times even cheaper cars in the premium compact segment will give you anywhere from 30 to 60 extra horsepower compared to this sorry lump. Now, it is extremely efficient - in fact, it’s been blessed with expensive individual throttle bodies, virtually frictionless pistons, and a proper twin-scroll turbo with precise electronically-controlled boost in the service of that goal. It still doesn’t excuse the chasm of a power gap its rivals have on it. We’ll just say this straight: No 1.4-liter, 170-horsepower car should cost what the C140t costs. This boring engine sends power to the ground through the boring front wheels sheathed in boring hard, economical tires - which, while not disturbing our highway test too much, did disturbe the maximum grip numbers we could achieve greatly. Mind you, the car’s suspension is rather well tuned for these tires, as if to say: don’t even think about fixing this problem we have given you. With the chassis’ potential - and the huge leeway the aerodynamic shape gives in terms of allowable economy numbers - it’s a crying shame that the car’s handling has been thrown to the wolves.

For the length of this review, we haven’t actually mentioned the C140t’s price. The price of the model as tested can be found in the section below, but the bottom line is: Your base model with less bling than what is seen on this car costs over AM$40,000, and the top-level easily breaks through 50 grand. The body panels are apparently pure aluminum and the chassis’ steel components are space-grade, but what does it matter on a premium hatchback? It’s still all this car will ever be. It lacks the character, the power or the brand name to make itself anything more than that. The car might just pay for some of its price with its excellent fuel economy, but then all you’re left with - again - is a weak-engined, well-blinged, frankly faceless compact. Even the so-called Gran Coupes of today are less cynical and tasteless. Sadly, this generation ZKF C-series is just what we feared ZKF would devolve into ever since its restoration by the current owners: A “luxury utility”, like a Chinese-market luxury minivan.

By The Numbers Price as Tested:OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOI.OOOOOOOOOOOOAM$48,700 Body and Layout: OOOOOOOOOOOO5-door hatchback, transverse front-engine front-drive

Engine: O.OOIOI85 ci straight-4, 16-valve DOHC, alu block/alu head, electronic direct injection, OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOItwin-scroll turbo charger
Transmission: OOOOOOOOOO.OOOOOO.OOOOO7-spd dual-clutch semi-automatic

Suspension(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOI.OIOOOOOOOOO MacPherson Struts / Multilink
Brakes(F/R): OOOOOOOO.I.OOOOOO 13.2 in vented steel disc / 11.6 in vented steel disc
Wheels(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOOO.OIOOO Alloy rim, 215/50VR18 / 215/50VR18 tire


Acceleration, 0-60 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 8.0 s
Best-fit Gear Passing, 50-75 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOI.O.OOOOIOOOO 5.2 s
Braking Distance, 60-0 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOIOOOOO 125 ft
Roadholding, 200-ft circle: OOOOOOOOOOOOOIO.OOOOOOIOOIOOO 0.89 g
EPA Fuel Economy (Combined/city/highway): OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.O 45/41/54 mpg

Thanks to @BannedByAndroid for the car. If you want your own car reviewed, please read the directions in the thread’s first post.


Cool, I like the style! You chose the background colour well. This reads like a real car rewview!!

Road Test: 1994 Isshin Concerto

Highs: OOIO Rear-wheel drive; Vast array of interior equipment; Plucky handling; Great economy Lows: I..OOOOOOOOOOO Dearth of modern mechanical equipment; Unrefined powertrain Summary: OOOOOOOOIOOOOA bit more performance and it could be a legendary sleeper


From Issue #9 of 1993

The Concerto is the latest compact car offering from Isshin, a manufacturer we don’t often discuss on The Open Road due to their tendency to make very small, basic cars that don’t fit the needs of most US consumers. And initially, we became interested in this new compact because we wanted to confirm that Isshin could at least still excel at that but found a very different revelation beneath the surface. Read on to find out.

Let’s start with things that are “simply good” - the interior appointments. Isshin have gone out of their way to make the inside of the car modern: A CD player is standard, something not even a Corvette can say for itself,and all windows are power-operated: unheard of for a compact. There’s an airbag, cupholders, climate control, fully lit instrument panel - the works. It’s a “Concerto” of modernity and ergonomics, if you will.

Where things aren’t as idyllic, however, is under the hood. Even a nn-car person is likely to notice that the engine is oriented differently from most current compact cars, because the Isshin Concerto… Is a rear-drive car. Now, to be fair, so were all of the other Isshins before it, but back then this traditional layout wasn’t as taboo on small cars. With the previous cars, though, it was clear that they were made that way for ease of restyling and to focus all of the company’s efforts on robustness and practicality.

This was shown to clearly not be the case during our public-road test drive. The Concerto exhibits many of the qualities a “sporty” car might exhibit on the road: The springs are stiff and the gearing is quite short, with the engine running at a stout 3000 RPM at highway speeds. Said engine, Isshin’s 2-liter four-pot, is pretty buzzy owing to its lack of balance shafts - but with 130 hp in this small package, at least there’s really no reason to complain in terms of power; a more pressing issue is the overactive rev guard, which engages pretty much immediately after the power peak - hampering acceleration. The final shortcoming we recorded is overly light steering at highway speeds, a natural consequence of the non-variable power steering. Overall, driving quality is alright for a car its size, but it could - and in fact should - have been better from a car whose independent suspension setup mirrors that of a BMW 3-series compact.

We took the Isshin to the track, expecting some serious performance out of it. Unfortunately, between the open differential, budget tires and the aforementioned rev limiter, there wasn’t that much. If the Saarland Kosmos tested a couple years before suffered from a lack of power and a bangy suspension, then this Isshin suffers from a lack of easily obtainable components seemingly at random: an example being that the Concerto possesses four-wheel vented disc brakes, but the primitive shock absorbers froth up before the brakes even begin to fade and still cut your track time short. What the Isshin did give us is a great amount of fun: The tail is controllable but easy to kick out, and that’s something no front-drive car in the segment can say.

For your AM$20,600, the Isshin Concerto is a fairly good car. As a sporty compact, it certainly entertained us more than the Saarland Kosmos. However, there are simply serveral more steps the people at Isshin have to take to make it a true champion of cheap performance in the vein of the AE85 and AE86 Corollas a decade before - and those steps mostly have to do with better components. The engine already has variable valve lift, it just needs internals capable of letting it rev out more. The drivetrain and suspension are already entirely sufficient, but they need better factory tires to get more usable grip, as well as gas shocks. We think that the Concerto is a fine - if somewhat unbridled - car for the money, but we are convinced it would be a much better one with AM$1000-2000 worth of better hardware. The good news is, with the automotive press largely concurring on the Concerto’s flaws, it’s likely that Isshin will work to fix them in a future model year or facelift.

By The Numbers Price as Tested:OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOI.OOOOOOOOOOOOAM$20,700 Body and Layout: OOOOOO.OOOOOOO4-door sedan, longitudinal front-engine rear-drive

Engine: OOOOOO122ci straight-4, 16-valve DOHC, alu block/alu head, electronic port injection

Suspension(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOIIIOOOOO MacPherson Struts/Semi-Trailing Arms
Brakes(F/R): OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOIOOOOO 10.8in steel disc/9.0in steel disc
Wheels: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOIOOOOO Alloy rim, 185/55HR15 tire


Acceleration, 0-60 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO 9.3 s
Best-fit Gear Passing, 50-75 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOOOI.O.OOOOIOOOO 5.9 s
Braking Distance, 60-0 mph: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOIOOOOO 128 ft
Roadholding, 200-ft circle: OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.OOOOOOIOOIOOO 0.85 g
EPA Fuel Economy (Combined/city/highway): OOOOOOOOOOOOO.O.O 37/35/40 mpg

Thanks to @mben92 for the car. If you want your own car reviewed, please read the directions in the thread’s first post.