By on January 1, 2016

2016 Volvo XC90 Exterior-001

Checking the files, I drove over 120 different cars, trucks, SUVs and crossovers in 2015. On track, off road, and in the Taco Bell drive-thru line. No wonder I’m tired and fat.

Here are my eight top picks from 2015. If you’re car shopping and you don’t buy one of these, you should be forced to own a Mitsubishi Mirage. Yes, I said it.

Luxury Cars

2015 Kia K900

2016 Kia K900

Since I’m writing this with a bottle of wine in one hand and an $2,800 parts bill for my Super V8 (not repair bill since I’m doing the work), I’m going to start by including a car I drove 2014.

If you’re hunting for the best buy in the luxury segment, look no further than the Kia K900. Say what?

I wouldn’t say the K900 is the equal of a 740i or S550 but it’s half the price of the Merc. Ask yourself how much the Mercedes logo is worth to you. If the answer isn’t $70,000 then you should buy the Kia, swap in some new logos and enjoy your long warranty. For the best deal, lease one. Kia is throwing some serious cash on the hood. This car is on my short list for 2016 as my Jag replacement. It should be on yours too.

2016 Volvo XC90 Inscription Interior-004

2016 Volvo XC90

Volvo’s new flagship crossover arrived just as most luxury shoppers were forgetting the Swedes still built cars. While it’s about five years late, the XC90’s exterior and interior are worth the wait. The seats are comfy, the wood is divine, and somehow Volvo manages to make a front-wheel-drive-based, three-row crossover dance like an X5. While I’m still not sure about Volvo’s claim that a 2.0-liter engine will satisfy everyone, it did scoot to 60 faster than the X5 xDrive35i. And XC90 T6 is easier to say than X5 xDrive35i.

If you want the craziest drivetrain you’ve ever heard of, the T8 is turbocharged, supercharged, hybridized, and fitted with a plug. What could go wrong? Who knows? Leasing is your friend.

Crossovers

2016 Kia Sorento Limited Exterior-005

2016 Kia Sorento

Kia is on a roll these days and I have to think their relationship with Hyundai is the cause. Hyundai takes the first stab at a new car and Kia has about a year to tweak the related Kia model after seeing how Hyundai’s take was received.

The Sorento is a tweener crossover being neither compact nor mid-sized. Although trying to be everything for everyone usually ends in abject failure, the Sorento surprised on every front except fuel economy. It’s an upgrade to the RAV4 or CRV, a strong competitor to the Edge and Murano, and a value alternative to an MDX or Highlander Titanium. A close runner-up for me would be a Mazda CX-5 with a manual transmission. Why? #SaveTheManuals.

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior -001

2016 Lincoln MKC

The MKC is the only compact luxury crossover that’s not trying to be an X3. For that I am eternally grateful. The suspension is as supple as the leather, the 2.3-liter turbo gets the baby Lincoln to highway speed in 6.1 seconds, and you get real wood trim for $5,000 less than the Germans.

Don’t get me wrong, the MKC is eminently capable with high limits, but the softly tuned suspension and overboosted power steering make it hard to figure out where those limits are located.

If that sounds like the kind of product Lexus used to be known for (before they, too, started chasing BMW), you’re right. Is that damning with faint praise? Not at all. Remember, I willfully purchased a 2000 Chrysler LHS. Long live the soft American highway cruiser!

Performance Cars

53ace86dc4a8134c3190043689addcb0x

2016 Dodge Charger SRT 392 / 2016 Dodge Challenger SRT 392

Nobody does bat-shit-crazy like Chrysler, and that’s why the nonHellcat SRT is my top pick. Say what?

You see, justifying a 485 horsepower family sedan would normally be tricky, but the mere existence of the Hellcat changes everything. Just tell your wife that the 707 horsepower Hellcat “seemed excessive” so you opted for the “responsible engine choice.” See? Problem solved.

Chrysler’s shoe-string budget resulted in minimal body changes for SRT-duty, so 275-width tires are as big as you can go. That’s okay for 485 ponies, but swizzle-stick thin for 707 and a curb weight over 4,400 pounds. Does it matter? Not when a 6.4-liter V-8 sounds this good. If you’re gentle on the go-pedal, you can even approach 30 mpg on the highway thanks to the ZF 8-speed automatic.

God bless ‘Murica.

2016 Mazda MX 5 Miata Exterior-014

2016 Mazda MX-5

The Alfa 4C didn’t make it to the list. Neither did a list of other cars I’ve driven on or off the track, including the BMW i8, Audi S7, BMW M235i, Ford GT 350, Dodge Viper, Jaguar F-Type, or Corvette Stingray. Aside from the fact that I can’t afford or afford to operate any of those cars, the MX-5 bubbled to the surface anyway.

There’s something refreshing about a car that’s unpretentious and puts a smile on your face every time you drive. It’s not fast, it’s not quiet and it doesn’t handle as well as the list of cars above, but it’s the only one that I didn’t want to give back. ‘Nuf said.

Cars for the rest of us

2016 Scion iA Exterior-001

2016 Scion iA

The front of the iA looks like the unholy spawn of a Dustbuster and a catfish, but Scion’s new sedan is a well-disguised slice of forbidden fruit. You see, this is the Mazda2.

I was worried the Toyota/Mazda tie-up would produce the worst of both worlds but the opposite has happened (except for the front end). The iA is 100-percent Mazda, from the great driving dynamics to the slick manual transmission and high fuel economy.

What’s Toyota’s contribution? Pricing. It comes only two ways: with or without the automatic. The crazy-low price of $15,700 even includes the touchscreen infotainment system, pre-collision warning and navigation can be added for a tuppence after you buy the car. Move over Versa, the new King is in town.

Note to Toyota: Can you have Mazda design the next FR-S?

2016 Hyundai Sonata / 2016 Kia Optima

First there was Camcord, now there is Optinata.

As of December 1, more than 346,000 Optinatas have found new driveways in America. That’s one out of every five midsized sedans sold in 2015. While the Camcord basks in the glow of Honda and Toyota’s reputation for reliability and resale value, Optinata is a better value, has a longer warranty and is 41-percent less boring. If a more sedate style is your choice, go for Sonata. If you want a more aggressive look and slightly better steering feel, choose Optima.

Remember: friends don’t let friends buy Camry.

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125 Comments on “Alex’s Eight Best Drives of 2015...”


  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I really want to love Hyundai/Kia as much as you do… and I might, if I was in Canada, as you are.

    In the US, H/K seems to think the combination of manual transmission and cruise control is a Very Bad Thing.

    I’d buy a Soul if it offered me that combination of options. And Accent with that combo is almost $18k. Can’t get a Rio hatch that way either.

    My next car will have manual transmission and cruise. Unless that 2015 Accent Sport I have my eye on gets another price cut, I’m done with H/K.

    • 0 avatar
      tmport

      You can add OEM cruise control to the base M/T Soul very easily, for less than $100 and an hour of your own DIY labor. However, I take your point–Kia seems to have gone out of its way to de-content the M/T Soul. Compared to the A/T base model, no cruise control, not remote keyless entry (!), and no center console. Boo.

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      Last I checked Alex was in California, not Canada.

      My 2014 Elantra GT base model, no options, has a 6 speed manual and cruise control. But I do agree, hyundai has nothing else of interest to me that I could realistically justify buying. Kias Forte 5 door looks pretty nice and I’ve been seeing more of them lately on the road, but Kia likewise has little else of interest.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I’m a big, big fan of Hyundai and Kia. We’ve had several of their vehicles in the family (currently a 2007 Sonata SE V6, a 2012 Sonata Limited, and a 2014 Soul Plus) and none of them has given us one bit of trouble. But I have to disagree with you on the K900.

    It simply misses the mark. It’s big and ponderous and is probably the modern Town Car that Lincoln should have built. But as a competitor to world-class large luxury sedans?

    No.

    I understand a nice supple ride, but the K900 is compliant and softly-sprung to the point of just being plain uncomfortable in the city, and during spirited drives. It is really only suitable as a highway cruiser. There’s all sorts of pitch and roll that you won’t experience on the mainstream luxo-sedans if you try to do anything like, say, turn a corner. It’s also widely apparent where Kia cut back on the quality of the materials and fit-and-finish; the example I drove even had some excess molding flash on the driver’s door. And the styling is derivative (except for that hideous steering wheel; who okayed that?). Besides, the rate at which these depreciate mean that it’s probably financially wiser to go ahead and buy a CPO 7-Series or S-Class than a *new* K900.

    I kind of understand. It was really intended for its home market, which is extremely pro-domestic, and people there will buy it just because it *is* Korean. That it’s here at all is a sort of nice surprise. But from the worldview of a market less biased…it’s like Kia got to 8/10ths and then cut back. And that’s readily apparent.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The K900 does not -look- upscale either. Just just an Optima someone put in the microwave and blew up, like a Peep.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      I much prefer the looks and interior of the Genesis. If you want some sport and fun along with the big sedan feel and comfort the Chevy SS is a hoot and a reasonable value at well under 50K, and it has a stick available attached to a V8 which is something few other large sedans offer.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    I have an Optinata (or is it Sonatima?) in my driveway – our 13 Optima Hybrid and my son’s 11 Sonata, not to mention our 09 Sedona. They’ve all been great for us; I’m with Kyree in the H/K fan club.

    It’s interesting how different the drivetrain is between the hybrid and the non-hybrid. The non-hybrid is super responsive, but the Gen 1 hybrid simply doesn’t believe your requests. I guess the 15 and 16 versions are much better.

    As for the K900, it’s a better value used than new, but perhaps that’s true of most luxury cars.

    Also, I like the shopping logic on the Charger/Challenger 392 engine.

  • avatar
    hiptech

    With the exception of the Lincoln (not a Ford Fan) I pretty much agree with you on your picks. You neglected to mention the K900 should finally be available with the V6 for 2016 which definitely give it slightly better mileage and a wider audience. However, it would really help if they upgraded it to the current Genesis platform.

    As for performance cars, I want to like the Chryslers but their reliability has been suspect for a number of years. Pity too since the platform dates back about 10 years to the old Merc E-Class. Doesn’t seem they’ve invested as much as they should have in making it more reliable.

    Haven’t test driven the Sorento (but it’s on my list) but did drive the XC-90 and was very impressed. The only part I’m not so certain of is the acceleration. I am very partial to normally aspirated cars and this one didn’t feel as linear during take offs from a dead stop. Probably the turbo and supercharger at work here but with the salesman in one ear and the wife in the other I may need to take another test drive (alone) and try it again…

    Overall, good choices but then I tend to agree with your sensibilities and think we share common values.

  • avatar
    pdl2dmtl

    Alex, please don’t give in to the hype – no self respecting person that has owned a Volvo (past its factory warranty) would recommend a Volvo to his friend. That person would be a hypocrite.
    Like the expensive restaurant that charges you $50 for a pan seared steak in a Teflon coated pan, if you get my drift.
    In order to charge the money you must use the right “ingredients”.
    Peace.

    • 0 avatar
      kmars2009

      Hey now…get real. I am the current owner of a XC70…Mid aughts era…I have recently flipped past 205K miles. With regular maintenance and overlooking some Ford cost cutting (Hood latch cable breaking), it has been a solid ride. No turbo problems…even changed trans fluid that was supposed to be lifetime(no fluid lasts a lifetime).
      Anyway…point being…it has been a great car, with great gas milage, and great interior room….with few problems.
      I would take a used Volvo any day, before any manufacturer…except Mercedes…which happens to be my other car in my garage.
      Don’t be such a HATER!

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        I seriously considered an XC70 two years ago, but our experience with a new S70 was appalling – in just 5 years and 70k miles the needed repair list was atrocious. A shame too, since I loved that little tank.

        I ended up getting an Outback (nee Volvo-lite), but I still cast a glance of envy when I see one. Glad yours has been reliable…

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        The…..only…….Volvos…..worth….keeping….past….warranty…..are….20+…..years….old….now.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I do wish he wouldn’t over-ellipsicize as well.

          • 0 avatar
            kmars2009

            I might shout a little, but at least I try not to be SNARKY! Save the piss match for the bathroom.
            My spelling might slip once and a while…I didn’t realize I was writing my thesis, for all you professors out there.
            Sounds like I’m not the one picking fights…only those who are unable to control themselves are doing the picking.
            Apparently, I am unable to convey my experiences, without someone getting their panties in a twist.
            As I said earlier…get real!

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            I like to think hes just panting between breaths, waiting for that MOMENT TO LET HIS INNER vOLVO RAGE OUT!!!

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            So…..we cannot be snarky, but you can and you can yell at us….understood l.

      • 0 avatar
        pdl2dmtl

        @ kmars2009: Hater?
        Dude, why do you need to shout? If you need to pick a fight go to a Volvo forum.
        I can only tell you that I feel for you, seeing that you also have a Merc. Also, check your spelling: it’s “mileage”.
        As I said, peace.

        • 0 avatar
          kmars2009

          Didn’t mean to hurt your delicate nature. Also, I’m on a 2 week old LG G4 that is not catching all of my spelling errors. Anyway, it’s all good. Not everyone will have the same issues with the same car. It may also depend on usage. Living in Phoenix…a transplant from Ohio…I have never seen so many neglected cars, out of simple laziness. No wonder people have problems…they do not care to maintain their cars.
          Also @DaveM…the S70 was on the old platform…I can see why it was not the best.
          Happy New Year B&B….and TTAC. You are the best at what you do!

    • 0 avatar
      salhany

      You’re trolling.

      I’m on my second Volvo and going on 10 years of Volvo ownership and I’d unhesitatingly recommend one to a friend.

  • avatar
    CaseyLE82

    I love the entire Kia lineup (save the Soul). I personally prefer cheap cars and the little Kia Rio5 is probably the next car I will buy…but who knows. I tend to keep cars for a long time, and my Fusion is only 10 years old and only has 130,000 miles so it’s got lots of life left in it.

    • 0 avatar
      tmport

      What’s wrong with the Soul? It’s a great little crossover with plenty of power and, if you want it, luxury features. It’s also very practical given the box shape–it has a surprising amount of interior space.

      • 0 avatar
        jim brewer

        Poor on center feel makes highway driving stressful. Flinty ride. Plenty of room, but no trunk.

        Very nice looking, and the style grows on you, I’ll grant you that. Not horrible, but not good. For the right price its acceptable.

        • 0 avatar
          SC5door

          Then you haven’t driven the 14+ model. The ride is not hard by any stretch. The older models, yes.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          The Soul is absolutely not a crossover, either.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Not with its uselessly tiny cargo area, no.
            Otherwise, great little utility ride for my kind.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            My thinking was more that it does not have AWD available, even as option. The Juke is a crossover, and has even more ridiculous storage pretensions than the Soul.

            But it’s got AWD. And look, they actually fixed the styling for the next generation.

            http://content.worldcarfans.co/2015/9/23/big/2121634864752956451.jpg

            Much improved.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Heh.. soon as I submitted that I thought nah, Corey’s gonna say AWD is missing.

            Dat ’cause you young. Old drivers don’t need no stinkin’ AWD, just snow tires.

            That new version you linked to *does* look much more palatable. For someone under 5’10” who’d never, ever have adults in the back, pretty nice.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            C’mon brah, AWD is whey it is.

            The feeling you get when the car rotates itself correctly around a corner on slippery surfaces is excellent. The first time I felt it I was like QUATTRO ADVENTUREEE!

            (That new Juke looks like a Citroen/Renault.)

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            “when the car rotates itself correctly around a corner on slippery surfaces”

            That is EXACTLY what sold me on snow tires for FWD vehicles. They keep the ass-end tracking the front.

            Weather conditions (more snow or more ice?) and driving style obviously affect this discussion so I can’t claim to speak for everyone or everywhere else.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            AWD + winter tires is tremendous. However, I can buy the idea that adding the complexity of AWD is unnecessary when FWD + winter tires gets the average commuter to work with ease. My wife won’t, but that argument isn’t worth it.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Yep, that’s me, bball: average commuter on average terrain.

            If I lived somewhere with major hills to climb I’m sure I’d sing a different tune.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            My C-Max with winter tires will get through anything that I HAVE to drive in. However, there was one day last winter that my wife’s vehicle could get out of our dead end street (pre-plow), and I could not. That’s what PTO days are for anyway.

  • avatar

    I would say that the only thing Hyundai and Kia need for their cars is an absolute reliability repair and maintenance promise but the real issue is that their badges suck .

    I wouldn’t feel comfortable driving their car is unless I could completely be badge them and put on a skirt kit .

    Then I would drive very fast so everyone would assume I was in an Audi.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Alex,
    You did a great job reviewing cars this year – consistently thorough and objective.

    The lack of BMW and Honda entries on your list will not help get you hired by Car & Driver.

  • avatar
    RideHeight

    Littlest Angry Car made it!

  • avatar

    If the Tesla Model S P90D Ludicrous wasn’t so uncomfortable It would be my favorite car of the year.

    I may have to say the Volvo XC90 was my favorite new car as well.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Alex, you’re just drunk man who suddenly decided to tell us what are best out there. I’ll give you some credit, you did say “my eight top picks”. So, ok, these are your picks. We got it. What, Sonata? – Most boring car. Optima… I already posted on Optima. Not all as well as it looks on paper or from driver seat in Optima.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      A month ago a friend and I spent two Saturdays test driving 14 different cars to determine a replacement for her 2000 Infiniti. Audi, MB, Subaru, Acura, Lexus, Infiniti, Fiat…she was all over the $25-50k map (her limit).

      She ultimately bought a Sonata Hybrid; with the Ultimate package nothing from any of the others could touch its opulence and interior quality for under $50k. And the exterior design is tremendous – very cohesive.

      That she snagged the car for $32k with incentives was a bonus. Her runner up was the A4.

      HK has gotten its shit together. 5 years ago I would have recommended one in specific circumstances but still hesitated to fully endorse. Based on the experience of several friends and family with HK in recent years, I no longer have any reservations.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        I would still pick Accord for the ride/handling and steering. What good to have all the toys in your car if you can’t hit a mountain curve hard? That is where fun is, not in heated seats.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          If I’m stuck in traffic and weathers at about 10 degrees I’ll take the heated seats, good handling means little in regular commute (though good steering is nice to have).

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            Then just wear long undies and drive a CR-V, save 20K!

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            “If I’m stuck in traffic and weathers at about 10 degrees I’ll take the heated seats”

            What are you talking about? Unless you standing behind the wheel, in about 1 minute your seat temperature will be even with temperature of your arse and with cloth seats this is even faster. Your seat is made of foam and it is great insulator. So, even if you have leather, you would probably benefit more from cooling in summer than heat in winter.

            So, you going to trade handling that lasts forever to a heated seat that you sometimes need for first few seconds?? Sorry, but makes no sense to me

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Yes I’ll trade handling for heated seats, as cars age and soak up Americas battered roads, their handling fades away. Drive an old RX-7 and tell me it handles exactly the way it did back in 1985.

            fyi I owned an older Accord once, legendary FB fourth gen, age certainly had effected the handling by the time I got it.

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          “hit a mountain curve hard”

          You can’t effing SEE around a mountain curve!

          Does this not worry you?

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            @RideHeight Let me tell you a little story. Long time ago I had 1990 Civic hatch with oversized tires. Civic suspension was hard back then, it was really cool car in tight turns. So, I am hitting this narrow road with short hills and tight turns, in 3rd gear. Sort of road no one even knows is exists, one with 3 farm houses along the way. So, I am coming out of this one curve and 2 deer standing, one on each half. Speed limit 25 and I’m doing 40, split second decision and I buzz right between 2 animals. Looked back into rear view mirror – they didn’t even move. But I didn’t have time to think about, I had next curve to tackle.

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            So you learned nothing from that.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            Why? Of course I did. I learned that Civic needs a bigger engine

          • 0 avatar
            RideHeight

            The twain shall never meet.

            Unless *you’re* driving.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            I think that story owes itself more to good driving and good tires, put those together and you can overcome bad handling.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            My ’90 Civic Wagon was great fun when I was in highschool, but even then the short-travel suspension and stiff ride would get tiresome with Central NY’s roads. Stock suspension by the way. I ended up rebuilding the front end with new lower balljoints and an upper control arm, they were shot by 160k, as were the CV axles. My winter parking lot antics and corner carving on the way to class every morning didn’t help. In retrospect that’s not too bad of longevity, but boy did that thing beat you up over bumps. My friend’s ’95 Corolla was a Cadillac by comparison, as was my other friend’s ’98 Sentra. Of course, neither of those cars was anywhere as fun to toss around.

        • 0 avatar
          SC5door

          I’d like to know where all these mountains are in the midwest.

  • avatar

    So Kia makes best cars in the world. I got it.

  • avatar
    CJinSD

    We rented a 2016 Sonata when my family came to visit. While it isn’t a bad car, it absolutely sucked when three passengers are over 6 feet tall. If a Sonata suits your needs, you’d be better off with a compact. If you need a midsized sedan, the Accord and Camry are 41% more useful.

    The only selections you made that I can see as perhaps being worthwhile are the Miata and the Scion. Sure, the Fit is better than the Scion, but at least it isn’t the practical joke that buying any of your other recommendations would amount to. Who would take the advice of a Jaguar driver? Perhaps your reviews should be accompanied by your track record of purchasing the worst possible cars, so people will weight your opinion appropriately.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      “If a Sonata suits your needs, you’d be better off with a compact.”

      The mid-size and full-size options usually have better ride quality and powertrain options even if you don’t absolutley *need* the actual extra size.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        Not entirely truth – lot of mid and compacts share same powertrain. And ride quality is debatable thing. There are people who like Camry ride and then there are those who loves Mazda3. Sonata ride was described as most un-engaging and boring in its class.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          “lot of mid and compacts share same powertrain”

          The only one I can think of with a 100% overlap between the compact and mid-size is Mazda (and even then you have to up-option theMazda3) . A few (VW, Chrysler, Subaru) offer some overlap too, but the higher trims on the mid-size are available with a V6 or higher-output turbo not available on the compact. So if you want a larger or more powerful engine on certain brands, you’ll need the bigger car. With Buick the “premium” engine on the compact is the base engine on the mid-size.

          In Hyundai’s case I don’t believe there is any overlap between the engines offered on the North American Sonata and Elantra.

          With ride/handling, you’re right that some might prefer the experience of the compact car more. But, those that prefer the “Camry ride” would generally be better served shopping in the Camry class even if they don’t need the Camry size.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      The more I read this comment the more I scratch my head.

      For starters most people aren’t over 6 feet tall and if they are constantly hauling people around they are hauling around kids. So while the headroom gripe is legit its not that serious.

      Secondly the fact that you know what cars he owns (he has made videos about them and regularly refers to them) means that info is out there.

      Thirdly most car reviewers dont even own their own cars.

      Fourthly Id rather hear the opinions of a guy who drives ~100 cars a year and has + MAINTAINS his own fleet than some press release rehashing swill.

      Fifthly don’t you own Volvos? How are those any different from Ford era Jags?

      This was just a silly, poorly thought out post. Were you drunk when you wrote this?

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      “purchasing the worst possible cars, so people will weight your opinion appropriately.”

      I’ll weight it this way: He has a job reviewing cars on a regular basis, you’re just some dude on the internet.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Whoever hired him for his ability to make judgements about cars made a mistake. If you allow that person to hold sway over your own ability to put his value as a reviewer in perspective, you are an automaton.

        • 0 avatar
          Ryoku75

          Well either that or they hired him because he hardly ever insults the car he reviews.

          Thats why I say I’d be an awful car journalists, I’d nitpick and fuss everything!

        • 0 avatar
          wmba

          I pay little attention to Dykes’ reviews. Normally, after years of reading someone I can work out where that person is coming from, read between the lines, and come to interpret what they say and how it might apply to my situation. Not with Alex, sorry to say. Just cannot connect.

          I still find Karesh’s reviews the most realistic for me, but he doesn’t do many these days on True Delta. YMMV – so be it as I couldn’t really care less if anybody disagrees. I also like Tim Cain’s reviews. For me, and I stress it’s personal, these two get to the nitty gritty that matters to me. People should read Cain’s Bad Eight and Good Twelve for 2016 on goodcarbadcar.net. Better than this article by far for me.

    • 0 avatar
      ponchoman49

      Strange the 2014.5 Camry SE we rented vs the 2015 Sonata SE had the Hyundai product way ahead of the Toyota in just about every way including power train performance and refinement, interior quality and ambiance, comparable room and comfort, superior materials, better mileage and far far more features for the same price point.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Sign me up for the H/K fan club. The next Sportage looks like a store brand Cayenne and I love it for that. If it can sit a rear facing infant seat the SX Turbo will get a serious look. If they make that 1.6T with the DCT a mid level trim option it will be even more compelling. I have resigned to having a CUV in the house but I just can’t do something like a CR-V. And the CX-5 looks a little too cheap.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      Hk is like Nissan in some ways. The new cuv’s (and some other random products) from both are way nicer than their line up as a whole would lead you to expect. It makes it rather hard for me to love the brands though. The rio and sentra both put such a sour taste in my mouth that every post drive ends with f$ck this car, f#ck this company. I’m on family vacation right now with an example of each in our fleet and it’s enough to make me pine for home.

      The optima twins don’t suck, but I’d still much rather have an accord, fusion, passat, or even a 200. Then again I don’t ship in this segment. I see them as mostly altima/camry competitors.

  • avatar
    NotFast

    While I’ve recently noticed your love for Kia/Hyundai Alex – there is no way the K900 can compete with a V8 and rear-wheel drive. Why do these guys refuse to produce (much) with AWD except for their SUVs?

  • avatar
    TrailerTrash

    Ok…..my thoughts for what god they are.

    Volvo: ” While I’m still not sure about Volvo’s claim that a 2.0-liter engine will satisfy everyone, it did scoot to 60 faster than the X5 xDrive35i. And XC90 T6 is easier to say than X5 xDrive35i. ”
    Looked one over a few days ago when I was, for the second time, replacing a new tire due to a screw in its sidewall!, and was aghast at the MPG. I remember the overall being 24 or 25!!

    24 or 25 for a 4 cylinder? Forgetaboutit!

    Sorento: “the Sorento surprised on every front except fuel economy. ”
    Fuel economy IS THE CANNOT FAIL today. If you fail here…what good have you done? Both the Edge and Murano get way more hwy.

    MKC…I wanted this car to work. But Why why why make it smaller than the Escape? Why are the rear seats and cargo smaller than the Ford it is build upon?

    Challenger. I agree. I love the room, the economy and the power.
    I just don’t like the aged engine tech. Is it me or is Chrysler skating by on tech now 20 years old and hoping nobody notices????
    They are in trouble.

    Miata. I loved the reviews. I have tried to read every one. I even went and looked over.
    But I STILL come away saying you get a hundred times more car and a great better value IF you take a base Mustang V6 convertible. At 32K…and getting JUST the stuff you need like rear safety and back up…you get a far, far better car and can carry friends, family and stuff.
    As much as I want a Miata, every stang convertible that drives up screams.

    • 0 avatar

      “I just don’t like the aged engine tech. Is it me or is Chrysler skating by on tech now 20 years old and hoping nobody notices????
      They are in trouble.”

      Considering how well jeep and dodge you’re doing I would say they are in trouble. It is the manufacturers that constantly trying out new technology which is unreliable and untested who are in trouble .

      I’d put the reliability of my 6.4 L hemi up against any of this nonsense TwinTurbo crap coming out right now .

      • 0 avatar
        RideHeight

        Anything fancier than a pushrod V8 is too sissy-sh1t for me.

        HELLoKITTY!

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        I agree with btr. Those larger and older engines are the reason to get a Chrysler. Every hemi variant is great to drive, smooth, powerful over a wide Rev range,and I don’t believe they are the source of fca’s dismal reliability scores. They are also priced very competitively (ram, gc, charger). Not what I would buy, but I respect the proposition.

      • 0 avatar
        TrailerTrash

        BigT

        I like these cars..however,
        1) FCA is behind its main competitors in numerous categories including profit margin, R&D spending, fuel economy, hybrid technology,
        2)The only glowing part of FCA’s portfolio currently is the Jeep Wrangler, Cherokee and Grand Cherokee.
        3) profit margin in North America, FCA’s margins still remain well behind its competitors
        4) one of the main reasons why FCA is struggling with sales is that many of the company’s top-selling vehicles are still built on platforms that would widely be considered antiquated by other automakers.
        5) here isn’t a single FCA platform that underpins over one million vehicles a year, which increases costs for manufacturing.
        6) the FCA’s U.S. fleet averaged 21.1 mpg, which is last among all volume automakers in corporate average fuel economy.
        7) FCA has a net debut of $8 billion, while every other company is in a net cash position.

        So, sorry, but regardless of how much we all enjoy the old cars they have…they are indeed old.

        • 0 avatar
          SC5door

          “they are indeed old.”

          Sorta like the MKS and Taurus that you heap praises upon?

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Hahaha. Not only are they old, but they have one foot in the grave.

            I am pro used MKS, but new….esh…gotta go with something else.

        • 0 avatar
          slavuta

          My son is a college student and he constantly worried that he doesn’t remember things that he learned a year ago. And I tell him, “look, you only need to study well enough to pass tests well, to keep up great GPA so you keep on getting your scholarship. And don’t worry if you remember something you studied a year ago”. So, if FCA will make cars that will be praised by Consumer Reports and other auto reviewers, they will probably do better. Essentially, this is what Hyundai Kia did. They no longer get this, “if value is most important to you – buy Hyundai”. Now they get a lot of praise even though they do get a lot of things wrong in a long run. And FCA cars don’t get much good word about.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            “And don’t worry if you remember something you studied a year ago.”

            He’ll do excellent in a career with this advice.

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            @CoreyDL Actually – yes. Remember that when students entering college, they learn 2-5 year old technology. By the time they graduate, technology changes even farther from what it was on day 1. He’ll still have some basis but he will have to learn everything anew at his job.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            That’s really only true for strictly technical fields, which is not what most people end up doing in college ;).

          • 0 avatar
            slavuta

            @CoreyDL

            You may be right. And I see both in my family, those with technical professions – oil drilling engineers who make $250K 7 years on the job, software guys, who make $150K 7 years on the job. And then business degree, or liberal science, who make under $40K or better yet – deliver pizza.

  • avatar
    JD23

    Based on my experience with recent products, I still do not consider Hyundai to be a top-tier manufacturer that can compete successfully without a price and warranty advantage. Hyundais consistently have the worst suspension tuning of any brand I have experienced, including some of the small cars produced by GM at its nadir during the mid-00s. Hyundai suspensions are chronically underdamped, causing oscillations that induce seasickness. It is like Hyundai engineers are trying to create a comfortable, compliant ride, but do not understand how to optimize the tuning to minimize secondary motions.

    However, I rented an Optima earlier this year that had passable suspension tuning. I am not sure whether this indicates a widespread improvement across both brands or whether Kia is consistently better in this regard.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      Jd23

      This. Exactly this. The suspension tuning is so poor on anything not just redesigned that you have to wonder who was getting paid to achieve that standard. Steering feel as well.

      There was an interesting article a while ago in one of the magazines about hk beginning to hire consultants from lotus or similar to work on subjective feel. It makes a lot of sense to do so, but it also stands to reason that that kind of input can’t really be acted on until each model undergoes a complete redesign.

      • 0 avatar
        JD23

        Yes, H/Ks are competitive on a spec sheet and have decent styling, but feel like they were engineered by people who recently began driving.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        This was obvious comparing a 2015 Malibu to a 2015 Optima rental. The Chevy just felt more expensive, refined and better damped than the Kia but the Korean car was indeed an improvement over prior examples. Both had 16″ rubber

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      What kind of suspension tuning would give me molto pianissimo?

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      And which models are we talking about?

      The Sorento, Genesis, Tucson, Soul, and Sedona have all been well regarded for sorted suspensions for their respective mission.

      Sounds like another copy-paste of old complaints.

      • 0 avatar
        JD23

        This applies to the previous generation Genesis and Sonata and the current Elantra. The current Genesis may be a substantial improvement, but the previous model had a suspension that was unacceptably crude for its price.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      And also rear seat comfort. I was recently testing 2016 Optima and I wrote extensively in comments (recent 2016 Optima TTAC test) on rear seat in this car. This is disaster.

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    Eight best cars, on a auto journalist’s salary.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    “and an $2,800 parts bill for my Super V8”

    Is this for your Jag or something else?

    I’m probably one of the few here thats okay with the Korean love-fest, they’re Camrys but less ugly, cheaper, and more features!

    • 0 avatar
      RideHeight

      Korean stuff is fine but so close to J-car in price that I believe Korean market penetration has peaked. Enthusiasts don’t count; resale and reputation do.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Thats weird, I thought the whole point of buying Korean was to buy cheap!

        Do they have any extra standard features over J-Cars? Both are getting pretty ugly at this point so styling doesnt matter.

        • 0 avatar
          RideHeight

          Optima MSRP starts at 21.8K, Sonata at 21.1K, Camry at 23K, Accord at 22.1K. I’m sure they keep that same near-parity all the way up the gee-gaw levels.

          So unless Kia/Hyundai heavily play the incentives game the difference between K-car and J-car pricing is one merely of degree, not of kind.

          And if the Koreans dangle heavy enough incentives to make a real difference, what’s wrong with their cars that they need to do that?

          I’m afraid they just got into too tough a game too late in the day. Every year tens of thousands (at least) of Americans are giving the Koreans a good look and going “Yeaaah..No. I’ll go with what I know” and there’s another ka-ching for a J-car.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Yea those incentives were always kinda weird to me, newer Volvos could certainly use some Korean warrantys..

            On the used market they’re a better bargain if you can deal with depreciation, but certainly not new.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    …As of December 1, more than 346,000 Optinatas have found new driveways in America…

    No, a significant number found their way to rental lots across America. They will find their way to the driveways of America in 18-24 months, with 30K to 40K miles and frightening depreciation.

    The retail leader is, as it has been, the Honda Accord.

  • avatar
    stodge

    If the K900, why not the Cadenza instead as its more affordable. Or why not the Genesis instead with AWD, which generally gets excellent reviews. I’m starting to like Kia more and more these days. Hyundai not so much as I don’t like their styling. I like the Optima SX a lot but the steering is too disconnected and fake. I admit it’s near the top of my list for a midsize replacement. I like the interior.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    I’ve said it for a while, and have taken heat for it, yet it seems many agree with me: Alex rarely meets, drives or reviews a vehicle that he not only doesn’t NOT like, but he rarely meets, drives or reviews a vehicle that he doesn’t NOT essentially borderline-to-full on love, and his reviews are full of gushing praise in disproportionate & undeserving measure (and he has some weird boner for Kia products).

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    no worst list?

  • avatar
    Corollaman

    All those Korean luxury cars do not make good buys when new, they depreciate so much that you take a beating at trade-in time, unless you plan to keep it for over 5 yrs.

    • 0 avatar
      DeadWeight

      Almost all new vehicles depreciate horrifically.

      There are exceptions such as mid-trim Accords.

      My bold prediction for 2016, now that nearly every manufacturer has gone to a “sell the monthly payment, 24 month to 36 month, low mileage lease deal, as hard as you can” model:

      Used car prices will crater – even on a historical, relative basis – in 2016, lasting through at least 2019.

      There will be two & three year old, low mileage vehicles, from subcompact to mainstream Camcord to premium to luxury to CUV to pickup truck vehicles off lease that have 38% to 45% residuals.

      We’ll be seeing 2 to 3 year old vehicles selling AT RETAIL for 40% to 45% of sticker.

      Auction prices will crash due to a tsunami of fresh, low mileage used vehicles, and this will pressure new vehicle sales and force a ramp up in new vehicle incentives to levels not seen since 2009 to 2010.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I’ve been waiting for this crash, so far this hasn’t happened. Too much funny money in the system and foolish notes are being issued to people who shouldn’t be getting them. A pulse and FICO 550 drives today, and not only at the Mitsu dealer. Tighten up the financial aspect and watch things improve – except mfg production figures which apparently trump all.

        Another fun fact, Fed’s just recently gone to 0.5% yet I was told yesterday by a Subaru GM the average new car loan rate of their customers in the past few months has been 3.93%. The share savings account of the credit union I was looking at joining pays 0.05%… less than 0.1% for frack’s sake (incidentally their best rate on new car is 2.5%). This is some funny math to me.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        @DeadWeight I hope you’re right. Because I am really thinking to jump off new car buying and into 3 yo car buying. Buy, drive for another 3 and sell. Start over. Only, of course, I will not buy cars that depreciate a lot.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      May be, over 10 years.


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