The folks in the car business think that reusing a name is mining for more gold on the original spot. Remaking classic cars and reusing past names is a longstanding tradition in the car business, sometimes even crossing manufacturer lines. Is the new Shelby Mustang an heir to the throne? What about BMW's new versions of the Mini? And why do car companies persist in using names which translate poorly, like Chevy's Nova in Spanish or Audi's e-Tron in French? Let's see if new is always an improvement, or not.
In 2020, a new Ford Shelby Mustang, the GT500, is ready to run against other drag-ready cars like the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat Redeye, complete with 760 hp from a supercharged V8. Comparing with earlier models is simple -- it's the fastest ever. The new GT500 and existing GT350 both have performance-specific handling and feature packages, which make them expensive but satisfying cars to drive on the track as well as the open road.
The new Fiat 500 was launched in 1957 following the original Topolino 500 (which is the Italian name for Mickey Mouse). Another generation of these compact city cars arrived fifty years later in 2007. Much like the original VW Beetle versus the newer versions, later 500s have offered a lot more than basic low-horsepower transportation. Starting with 13 hp in 1957, models produced in 2019 run 135 to 169 hp, though the vehicle weighs about twice as much as the original.
Ford is consolidating both the Ranger pickup and Bronco SUV as new global vehicles. They'll likely have similar drivetrains, steering, and suspensions, according to what information is available so far. There are also notes being passed about a Baja-ready race vehicle based on the new Bronco, which means that it's not being lowered into the soft space where citified crossovers live. The return of the Bronco will be a solid, working-vehicle event. One change that seems to be common in 2020 model renewals is hybrid powertrains, so look for more advanced options than the sturdy truck drivetrain of the past, as well as more technology and comfort in the cabin.
This is not your stock Trans Am since that's no longer a GM possibility. Still, if you've got a lot of cash to spend (starting over $100k), you can pick up an upgraded Camaro translated to Trans Am, which compares well with the Dodge Challenger Demon -- and at 1,100 hp, has a few more horses under the hood. Lingenfelter Performance Engineering is the organization filling the gap, for now, designed with a 1971 original Trans Am sitting nearby to guide them spiritually and aesthetically.
Back in the 1950s, Mercedes-Benz brought two models to the USA: the 300SL, which offered sports performance and style but at a price, and the 190 SL, which was a great choice for those inspired by the 300SL but happy to enjoy a top-quality roadster in the same tradition. The lineage from the 190 SL's W121 model to the 550 SL's R231 is fairly direct and more of a continuous reinvention than a respin of an old classic. The 300 SL parallel track might be seen in models such as the SLS AMG, which also featured gullwing doors up to 2015.
As the new mid-engine C8 Corvette arrives in 2020, it's time to look back at 1953's C1 model, which had a two-speed transmission and 150 hp. The base model for 2020 -- there are more to come -- throws 490 horsepower through an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic. Either way, they've somehow carried the Corvette style through the generations, albeit with a deeper wedge shape for greater aerodynamics. Two key changes for 2020: no more manual transmission, and a bit of a stretch to the length, a change to the Corvette size which disrupts a 50-year consistency.
BMW took this one and ran with it, putting the Mini name to good use as it switched from British parts to German. Just as for the Corvette, the manual transmission is being shelved for a dual-clutch automatic in 2020, and both the 3-cylinder and 4-cylinder engines are turbocharged. Mini has always had a legacy of feisty competition-quality performance, but wow.
The original Dodge Challenger from the 1970 start of the pony car line used Chrysler's popular 225 cu in and 318 engines with options up to the powerful 383 and 440 and muscle car-style appearance. In 2020, we've got a great evolution of the original Barracuda-derived style into a body which just looks right emerging from a cloud of tire smoke, and performance drivetrain packages which do the original cars an honor by providing way more power than any sane driver would need, just as in the past.
When it first came out of the gate in 1966, the Charger came standard with a 318 engine, fastback design, and bucket seats. In 2020, the Charger has been performance-tuned for shocking amounts of power, such as the 707 hp model, with suspension and refined interior comfort to match. Dodge has done a great job in carrying forth the muscle car ethic of the early 70s. In an important appearance and performance change, both the 2020 Charger and the Challenger are offering widebody versions to support new handling packages.
Since the new Challenger and Charger designs have gone over so well, what happened to the new Dart? It was a popular model in the 70s, especially with the economical 225 engine, and gradually transitioned from a full-size car in 1960 to the 1970s compact version. The new compact version of the Dart, which was discontinued in 2016, tried to revive that market segment in parallel with the pony and muscle car lines. Perhaps all that needs to be said, however, is that in some markets it was sold as the Fiat Viaggio.
What do you do with a so-called land yacht in a time where ostentatious autos are swimming against the cultural tide? Specs from the 1940s included a couple of tons in weight, and available engines included a V12. The 2020 Continental keeps the size, comfort, and gas-guzzling features. It has even brought back the ever so popular suicide doors.
Sometimes a car model name is banished to the hinterlands for various reasons, such as guilt by association where people's memories of previous models under that name are just too damning. Take the Ford Pinto, for example, where problems with gas-tank ignition in rear-end collisions created a vivid image associated with the name. The Cavalier was just another lackluster 1980s model with a poor safety record, which made it to 2005 in the USA, but the name has carried on overseas in China until the present year.
The Ranger name has been tossed around the Ford product list as an F-series truck trim level, a pickup truck in its own right in various international markets, and the basis for a variety of other SUVs. There was also a game of naming ping-pong between Ford and Mazda involving the Japanese company's B-series small pickup line. Starting in 2018, Ranger is finally a global name for a current line of Detroit-made mid-sized pickups, consolidating in SuperCab and SuperCrew configurations with upscale packages such as the new FX2 4x4-comparable feature option. A confusing past, but definitely a name upgrade!
If you remember the Chevy Blazer from the 1960s through the 1990s, you probably have an image of a workhorse vehicle, something like a pickup truck with a permanent cap and seating. No longer -- the name is now carried by a stylish, urban-oriented mid-size crossover, one of many on the market. Purists will certainly greet this changeover with cries of that's not a Blazer!
Once a personal luxury vehicle invented to go against the Ford Thunderbird in the markets of the 1960s and 1970s, the design was approaching a sleek and futuristic form in the last generation. Buick is now a car in China, and a concept Riviera from 2013, seems to be a placeholder for a possible new direction for the vehicle, including electric versions and gullwing doors, in the years to come.
The evolution of the BMW 8 Series, which began in 1990, has been a bumpy road of dissimilar models. The 8's took over from the 6-series as a step beyond offering only a two-door coupe with V8 and a V12 engine available. It was restarted with two- and four-door models, which connected more directly with the former 6-series, and BMW added both a diesel engine option and an M8 performance model. While this sounds confusing, in the end, the 8-series seems like a jazz composition, which eventually resolves into harmony, and reviews are excited about the power, spaciousness, and luxury of the new models, all under one simple numeric model name.
Featuring plug-in hybrid powerplants, a new and even more luxurious generation of Jeep's Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer are in the works at a Detroit-area manufacturing facility. The names are being revived to add much-needed three-row SUV capacity to FCA's crossover and minivan lineup. The old Wagoneer line, which ended in 1993, was a boxy SUV perfect for trips to the lake house and other upscale expeditions. The new version is a nicely reinvented, tech-enhanced version to take over the role.
With all the name transfers from truck-based SUV lines to crossovers, what about the enormous Suburban? The 2020 Suburban is adding luxury and keeping to its truck-based heritage, but pressure from the Ford Excursion Max is forcing a renewal. Suburban is actually the longest continuous automobile name in use, with models rolling out of several manufacturers' factories under the same name starting in 1934 for Chevy. Back then, it was not that different, a station wagon built on a commercial frame with a hefty engine, but not with today's luxury, of course.
Alfa Romeo's reuse of GTV over the years can make it hard to compare models. It stands for "Gran Turismo Veloce," essentially a term for sport grand touring. Models with the label GTV go back to a Bertone-designed car in the mid-1960s, while the GTV6 Alfetta was produced from 1972 to 1987. There was a GTV produced from 1993 to 2004, and a new 2021 version is expected to compete with the Mercedes C-class, Audi A5, and BMW 4-series.
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