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By on March 22, 2017

Subaru STI bobsled

Most automotive advertising has little to nothing to do with the actual car. It’s usually about presenting an image or hawking brand identity and then loosely associating it with a vehicle — Mercedes’ current “Grow Up” campaign is a perfect, cringeworthy example. However, enthusiasts know that the best car ads feature incredible shenanigans and loads of life-or-death action.

Dave Chapelle mocked Mitsubishi for its pop-and-lock Eclipse spot, while Top Gear honored Land Rover for winching a Defender up the side of a dam. Keenly aware of this is Subaru, which, after sending Mark Higgins and a WRX STI around the Isle of Man TT course in 2014, brought both man and vehicle to the world’s oldest bobsled run in St. Moritz, Switzerland to record another automotive spectacle.

Unfortunately, Subaru is more than 50 years too late for this particular publicity stunt. Ford filmed an identical feature in the Italian Alps with the Cortina GT way back in 1964. It even named the car after the Cortina d’Ampezzo ski resort, where it later held the event. Subaru may be calling it “boxersledding” today, but it’s really just a rehash of Ford’s classic “auto-bobbing.”  Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

hardtop-available-for-mx-5-cup-race-car-1024x554

Nor should they, really. Mazda’s MX-5 Miata already offers the option of an aluminum-and-steel overcast with its delightfully gimmicky and functional RF variant.

Still, past MX-5 owners often shelled out for a simple and attractive fiberglass top to accompany their factory cloth top. You’d often find it stashed in the garage next to the lawn mower. So popular were these aftermarket accessories, Mazda saw fit to offer customers the all-weather confidence and convenience of a retractable hardtop, starting in 2006. With the RF, it chose a different way of letting the sun shine in.

Well, there’s now a new removable top available to MX-5 owners, but you’ll never see it on the street. Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

2017_toyota_prius_prime_premium_014_8d5a6573abb048f9ab660135c367b951ccab9f15

Can a hybrid vehicle really shine when there’s a plug-in sibling hogging both the spotlight and the technological podium? For some automakers new to the game, time will tell. But at Toyota, which first made “hybrid” a household word, it seems the introduction of a new Prius variant has tentatively confirmed doubts about the viability of the stock Prius.

We’ll gain better perspective as 2017 plays out, but so far, it’s looking like the Prius Prime plug-in is doing well, and the Prius is maintaining the status quo. Which is to say, it’s not doing well. Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

2018 Toyota Sienna Limited - Image: ToyotaSurely it’s time for a new minivan from Toyota. Despite significant interior updates for the 2015 model year and significant powertrain improvements for 2017, the third-generation Toyota Sienna that launched in 2010 is still kickin’, seven years later.

First, the 2015 Kia Sedona shook things up. Then the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica confounded expectations. Landing shortly is the 2018 Honda Odyssey, which won’t surprise anyone if it’s the best in its class.

Clearly then, it’s your turn, Toyota.

Uh… Toyota, hello? Paging Toyota. Call for Toyota on Line 1, all-new Sienna required on the Princeton, Indiana, production line.

The 2018 Toyota Sienna gets a facelift. A refresh. An update. A refurb. What’s up with that? Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

WorkbootsLet’s get one thing straight right from the start: like last week, this comparison isn’t going to change anyone’s mind. Truck buyers are a notoriously loyal lot, so the online bleatings of a shrimp-filled journalist are unlikely to curry favor with folks whose work boots are firmly entrenched in one of these three camps.

Thing is, though, I do know a thing or two about trucks. Plus, I had a deadline to meet and needed a topic for today. Having recently completed the trifecta by finally getting the chance to drive all three diesel behemoths listed here, I started to ask myself how these workhorses would compare in single cab, four-wheel drive, base trim. Fleet managers, please click on through: we’re about to step into the world of bare-bones diesel trucks.

Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

U.S. Mexico Border

Now that Mexican negotiators aren’t reacting specifically to President Trump’s heated rhetoric over foreign trade policies, their terror and rage has begun to subside. The North American Free Trade Agreement might even continue to exist for the time being.

Trump’s previous attacks on NAFTA, import tariff threats, and promise of a border wall incensed Mexican officials to a point where many suggested Mexico should simply abandon the renegotiation talks on principle. However, now that cabinet officials will be speaking on behalf of the president and the focus of the negotiators have shifted toward the fundamentals — and not the politics — Mexico can relax a little.  Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

2017 Kia Niro EX front quarter

Is it or isn’t it? A crossover, I mean. That’s been the discussion over the 2017 Kia Niro ever since it bowed. No one seems to care whether the all-new hybrid functions as it should. Instead, the argument revolves around dimensions, and everyone knows that no one wins when someone whips out a ruler.

A couple of weeks ago, Corey took one glance at a photo I shared with the TTAC staff comparing the Niro to my mother’s 2014 Corolla. The photo showed the rather insignificant difference in overall height between the two compact vehicles, and fueled the argument that the Kia Niro is not a crossover.

I’m struggling to disagree.

Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

2016 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible, Image: Chris Feola

I am the unfrozen cave man of car buyers. Every decade or so, a machine shaman whispers the magic words in my ear — You’re gonna need a new engine — and I leave my cave, shaking my fist at the great ball of fire in the sky, and go looking for one, always packaged in a new steed.

This habit has several interesting side effects. There are crazed leaps in technology when you only go car shopping once a decade or so. In 2001, I turned down a $1,500 option to add a hard wired Motorola Razr to my BMW X5; in 2016, Bluetooth, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay were standard on my base 2016 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible.

Another is that I’ve just purchased my fourth car, despite being well into my fifth decade driving.

Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

2018_toyota_yaris_01_12e90e8bedc710042b70543cfdc7b82c262cf824-1

If you didn’t stay up to the wee hours last night excitedly singing the Toyota Yaris’ praises in an internet chat group, you’re forgiven. Demand for the subcompact hatch has fallen to remarkably low levels compared to years past, as newer, more dynamic hatches increasingly hijack buyers’ attention.

Still, the subcompact segment isn’t one Toyota wants to yield to its rivals. As such, the little Yaris (not to be confused with the Mazda 2-based Yaris iA) is due for a makeover. While the refreshed 2018 Yaris hasn’t been to the gym, it does look like it stared in the window and took notes. Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

Cadillac XT5 and XTS Badges, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

Don’t listen to anybody who tries to tell you that all new cars are about the same nowadays, even if they’re referring to the inhabitants of a particular market segment. While I was at my local auto show last week, I took a few minutes to pretend that I was still my 2005-or-thereabouts self and that I was in the market for a new car. I was a different man back then: childless, fancy-free, still pushin’ those Schedule Twos, and personally addicted to flossin’ in the finest full-sized sedans that did not attract a Flying Spur’s worth of attention from the authorities.

Back then, I divided my street car, four-door wheel time between a Volkswagen PhaetonAudi A8, and Mercedes-Benz CL55 AMG. I thought I’d look at a few bland big-ballers and pick a favorite using the same criteria that drove my decisions lo these many years ago. Started with the Genesis G90. Now this is a nice car. Lots of room, acceptable interior quality, and the blank-faced menacing mien that used to come standard with fuselage New Yorkers. And such a bargain, too. Make mine the V8 AWD. Hell, I thought about buying one right now but I can no longer justify spending more than $50,000 on a new car unless it has a snake badge on the nose.

Next up: Lincoln Continental. The G90 makes it feel tight inside but this is the one to have for interior ambiance. Bright, airy, and chock-full of unashamed, authentic design for design’s sake. I never thought the day would come when an American car would be able to compete heads-up with Audi in the cockpit, but the Continental absolutely makes the case.

Last on the list, the Cadillac CT6. Well, what can we say about that?

Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

LFA airborne. Picture courtesy Team Gazoo

Stereotyping is something we all do, for better or worse. It’s in the normative for people to establish an immediate set of parameters around a person, place, or thing (so, nouns) without a second thought. The human brain is comfortable within these predetermined expectations. Similarly, consumers have expectations and stereotypes of brands. X/Y/Z brand are expected to offer a particular style, model, or paint color — and many brands exist in these stereotypes entirely without any joie de vivre, or whatever French phrases people throw out to sound intellectual.

But today I want to know what cars stand out within their brand. Which models past or present threw the marque’s guideline book out the window to become par excellence? (Ugh.)

Read More >

By on March 21, 2017

Uber (freestocks.org/Flickr)

Uber’s president Jeff Jones is quitting the car-hailing business after a brief six-month stretch.

Jones’ choice of a swift departure is essentially down to the company’s controversy laden decisions and apparent degenerate corporate culture. In addition to allegations of widespread sexual harassment, Uber has managed to routinely anger local governments by ignoring autonomous testing laws and by employing algorithms that denied service to potential investigators, regulators, or law enforcement officials. It’s also been accused of property theft, and CEO Travis Kalanick is exhibiting behavior unlikely to win people over.

It’s a real shit show.

Read More >

By on March 21, 2017

2017 Nissan Rogue SL AWD Palatial Ruby infotainment, Image: © 2017 Chris Tonn

The company once known mainly for its televisions is growing ever-longer tentacles into the automotive industry.

Panasonic, which is already a major battery supplier for electrified vehicles, has bought a majority stake in a Spanish auto parts supplier, giving it a larger foothold in the automotive realm. Read More >

By on March 21, 2017

2016 Jeep® Compass 75th Anniversary edition

Thanks to the weird and inexact science of pinning down a model year for a new introduction, Jeep finds itself playing a game of “hide the Compass.” The old Compass, that is.

You know the one. Barely updated over its decade-long lifespan, hated by TTAC but loved by consumers? That Compass. Certainly not the larger, second-generation model, with its new platform, upgraded looks and carryover engine. That global model is the one Jeep wants everyone to know about and, of course, buy.

Unfortunately, the model year conventions found in some overseas countries means the global model launching this spring carries a 2017 designation. As does the final cohort of the old Compass. Read More >

By on March 21, 2017

tesla model x

Despite garnering below-average reliability ratings, Tesla is probably the one car brand with the most fervent disciples. While not all Tesla fans are blindly loyal, most are willing to cut the company much more slack than you would Ford the next time your Focus’ bum transmission acts up. Granted, Tesla’s automobiles do possess elements that most Fords do not — namely prestige and a highly unique driving experience.

An elegantly fashionable car will, of course, be more easily forgiven for its missteps than some plain-Jane model. However, the Model S and X have suffered more than just the occasional mechanical error. The Model X is infamous for its malfunctioning electronic doors and wonky electronic interface, while the Model S has suffered from quality control issues since day one. Still, every time an owner voices a concern about reliability or the company’s lackluster ability to service its vehicles, their complaint usually comes with an addendum specifying that they still adore their purchase.  Read More >

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