Another birthday is in the books for America, and with much of the country roasting on low-broil (even our beers seem to be sweating) it’s easy to forget another important summer holiday: July 31st is Mutt’s Day, a celebration of our furry, mixed-breed, four-legged best friends. Here at Automotive.com we’re getting in on the party.
Amid endless buyouts, mergers, and acquisitions, the patriotic automakers of yore are the corporate-multinationals of today. Globalization has confused vehicle origins like never before. Your “German” BMW may come with a side order of South Carolina’s finest grits. Your “American” Ford might prefer a few jalapeños and salsa to ketchup and cheese on its burger. And the Toyota Camry isn’t any more authentically Japanese than a California roll.
The mix-and-match global auto industry doesn’t always produce the best cars, but in these cases they do. In honor of Mutt’s Day, we’re picking five of our favorite half-breed autos, cars that embody the spirit of collaboration, successful partnership and automotive harmony.
What: Mini Cooper
Mutt Credentials: Tea and Crumpets Meet Brats and Sauerkraut
The Mini has been pleasing drivers since the little car first debuted in 1959. Through the decades the brand was bought and traded among British automakers, until BMW acquired it in the ’90s. Wanting to keep Mini’s retro-iconic style but in a more modern automobile, BMW set its design team to work on a new Mini.
The end result was an accessibly priced ride that was modern, spunky, and long on thrills, pairing Mini’s decades-established cool with German sensibility. Mini’s interior is surprisingly roomy, and Clubman and Countryman versions allow for a few of your friends to tag along for the zippy ride in comfort. Like BMW owners, Mini’s can appreciate high-resale values and overall quality. The base 1.6-liter engine offers enough power while remaining fuel efficient, and those craving even more oomph can opt for a turbocharged version.
What: Bentley Continental
Bentley is one of those companies that evokes images of unsteady, grainy black and white film footage of mustachioed men smoking up a storm, with early model Bentleys strewn about the polo field in the background. From its early goings in pre-war England to its decades-long partnership with Rolls-Royce, the automaker is rooted in British iconography. Even the most modern Bentley’s design can be traced to the 1965 Bentley T.
In the ’90s, Germany’s Volkswagen group acquired Bentley. Once again we see German engineering matched to underpin a long-standing British icon. The Bentley Continental was styled in harmony with previous generations, but placed on the same platform as an Audi A8, sharing many parts with Volkswagen. The Bentley Continental GT features a twin-turbocharged W12 engine, compliments of Audi, that on the standard 6.0-liter produces a fierce 567 horsepower. Paired with the interior refinement that defined the brand for nearly a century and we’re left with one of the world’s finest supercars.
What: Lotus Evora
Mutt Credentials: Sexy British Looker Gets Sedate Japanese Family Sedan Engine
Sedate, reliable, dependable, smooth riding, boring. These are not words used to describe a well-loved sports car! But they perfectly describe the highly successful Toyota Camry, one of the best selling cars in the U.S.
On the other hand, Lotus has won over sports-car enthusiasts the world over for its handling, acceleration, and design. Its latest creation is the Evora, which continues in the same tradition. What’s most surprising is that the Evora’s 276-hp 3.5-liter V-6 engine is straight out of…a Toyota Camry. Nonetheless, the strange bedfellows engine gives the Evora a commendable 0-to-60 mph time of 4.9 seconds. The Evora S uses a supercharged version of the same engine, upping power to 345-hp, and reducing the 0-60 time to about 4.4 seconds.
What: Chrysler 300
The Chrysler 300 is no newcomer to the market, though it was in a three-decade-long hibernation. The large family sedan was first introduced in the “Mad Men” age of lunchtime martinis and Technicolor films. Throughout the 1950s the 300 was a beauty of a ride and provided enough American muscle to make for a happy dad. But like a once young athlete, motivation seemed to wither and fatigue set in.
Today’s Chrysler 300 was introduced during the days when Mercedes-Benz was running the company and it was known as DaimlerChrysler. True to the corporation’s blended name, the Chrysler 300 was based on the mechanical underpinnings of a mid-90s Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The two share the same front-seat frames, wiring harnesses, rear suspension, and five-speed automatic transmission. The 300 was such a hit when introduced in 2005 it was named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, and even though it received significant styling update this year, the Mercedes-Benz heritage remains largely unchanged.
What: Ford Flex
Mutt Credentials: Promiscuity Clouds Identity
The Ford Flex has endured a confused identity since birth. The Flex offers Ford buyers a hip alternative to traditional minivans and SUVs, and still offers seven-passenger seating, a fridge capable of storing a couple big bottles of soda, and unique styling. Yet the Flex doesn’t know what it is exactly: Modern station wagon? Urban SUV? Or should we just throw it into the loosely defined “crossover” category?
A road-kill view gives us a little insight. The Flex is based on a modified and larger version of the previous-generation Ford Taurus and Taurus X. Those cars were actually developed from the underpinnings of Volvo’s S80, S60 and XC70, among others. It’s safe to say, with so many different vehicles in its DNA, the Flex is one confused mutt.