The NCAA Tournament for car guys is brought to you by CarBuzz, the #1 application for automotive news. Words by Phillip Harbor.
The NCAA Tournament is well underway and so is BUZZ Car Madness. The Powerhouse Bracket Round of 16 just finished and the Mid-Major Bracket starts today, consisting of economy and the more pedestrian production cars. A couple performance rides that didn't quite make the grade in the Powerhouse Bracket were thrown in here as well to compete against the pack. As always, the cars might not seem comparable but these are the models that made their debut at the Geneva Motor Show.
Check out parts 1 and 2 of BUZZ Car Madness to read about the Powerhouse Bracket matchups in detail. Mid-Major Bracket (Seeds in order from #1-16): Touring Superleggera Disco Volante, Mercedes-Benz A-Class Hatchback, Maserati GranTurismo, Jaguar XF Sportbrake, 2013 Porsche Boxster, ItalDesign Brivido, Audi A3 Hatchback, MINI JCW Countryman, Range Rover Evoque CrossCab, Ford Fiesta ST, Chevrolet Cruze Wagon, Volkswagen PoloBlue GT, MINI Clubvan, Hyundai i20 Facelift, SsangYong Actyon Sports, SsangYong Korando.
Mid-Major Bracket - Game 1: #1 Seed Touring Superleggera Disco Volante vs. #16 Seed SsangYong Korando The premier model that made it down to the Mid-Major bracket was the Touring Superleggera Disco Volante. The Milan-based coachbuilder's Disco Volante, based on the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione, features a longitudinally-mounted 4.7-liter V8 engine that delivers 450hp and 354lb-ft of torque in addition to flying saucer-esque looks and a $300,000 price tag. The aesthetically-pleasing SsangYong Korando has been revised for 2013.
It sports a chrome-coated mesh radiator grille and hybrid wiper blades along with interior upgrades like an LED-illuminated instrument cluster and high-gloss switchgear. It runs on a new 2.0-liter 149hp diesel engine, available as a 2WD and AWD manual, and a new 2.0-liter gasoline engine. The Touring Superleggera Disco Volante has generated an enormous amount of press and outclasses the SsangYong Korando SUV on every level, from style to power. It takes this #1 vs. #16 straight-up like North Carolina vs. Vermont. Winner: #1 Seed Touring Superleggera Disco Volante
Mid-Major Bracket - Game 2: #8 Seed MINI JCW Countryman vs. #9 Seed Land Rover Range Rover Evoque CrossCab Land Rover is building on the Nissan Murano CrossCab's legacy of producing a crossover cabriolet while turning a completely blind eye to looks or styling. The Range Rover Evoque Coupe-based CrossCab is essentially that - an Evoque Coupe with the top chopped off for an irony-induced open-top experience that you wouldn't want to be seen in. The MINI Countryman has been a John Cooper Works treatment for a powerful 1.6-liter twin-scroll turbocharged 4-cylinder engine with 211hp and 207 lb-ft of torque.
A short-time Overboost function pushes up that torque to 221 lb-ft for even more performance from the MINI. The great-looking black and red hatch features plenty of performance and looks while giving a MINI JCW-first optional six-speed automatic gearbox. Looks, performance and power all go to the MINI JCW Countryman, though more people are talking about the Range Rover Evoque CrossCab. Just not in a good way. Winner: #8 Seed MINI JCW Countryman
Mid-Major Bracket - Game 3: #5 Seed 2013 Porsche Boxster vs. #12 Seed Volkswagen Polo BlueGT The all-new third generation 2013 Porsche Boxster is powerful, muscular and more streamlined compared to its previous edition. The mid-engined two-seater will run on either a standard 2.7-liter flat-six with 265hp or the 3.4-liter flat-six with 315hp in the Boxster S. The Volkswagen Polo BlueGT was designed for dynamic performance and fuel efficiency in the form of a 140hp 1.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with ACT cylinder deactivation. When compared head-to-head, the Porsche will always win on luxury, power and performance.
The new 2013 Boxster garnered plenty of coverage, indicative of a new model (or anything Porsche, for that matter) and generated an enormous amount of buzz as it is a luxury convertible with a modest price tag for prospective luxury car buyers. The base trim can be had for $49,500 while the S commands $60,900. The Polo BlueGT is impressive and cool in concept but will only be sold in European markets. Global reach equals big points in the tourney. Winner: #5 Seed 2013 Porsche Boxster
Mid-Major Bracket - Game 4: #4 Seed Jaguar XF Sportbrake vs. #13 Seed MINI Clubvan The Jaguar XF Sportbrake is a captivatingly good-looking cat with back for days and publicity for weeks. The MINI Clubvan is perfect for deliveries, but seriously, this is like Wisconsin (#4 seed in NCAA East) taking on Harvard (#12 seed East) - the former performs well and looks terrific doing it while the latter is highly-specialized and wouldn't catch an eye cruising down the road. The XF Sportbrake's 2.2- and 3.0-liter diesels are impressive as well as its fitting luxury interior.
The Clubvan, however, boasts six attachment loops in the rear cargo area that are meant to secure items when in route and 12-volt sockets in the rear compartment for added practicality. If you put aside power and performance, the Jaguar XF Sportbrake's teaser photos were seen as front-page news long before the wagon made its debut. Now that's coverage. Winner: #4 Seed Jaguar XF Sportbrake