Category: Features

By on September 19, 2017

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Toyota is attempting to morph itself into an edgier, bolder, and sexier brand — to varying degrees of success. However, much of the company’s makeover has been purely cosmetic. The exception is Gazoo Racing, the automaker’s motorsport division and new in-house performance arm behind Toyota’s GR-series passenger cars.

Interestingly, Gazoo literally means “image” in Japanese and some of the upgraded models have been about little else. Still, some of the limited edition cars look like hoonable maniacs when compared to the base unit. The supercharged Yaris GRMN (Gazoo Racing Masters of Nürburgring) with over 200 horsepower is a prime example.

Aiming to go more mainstream, Toyota has decided to unfurl a range of GR and GR Sport models that won’t be handicapped by limited production numbers. Among them is the bewildering Prius Prime GR Sport, a hot hatch variant of the economy-minded hybrid. Toyota has officially lost its mind.  Read More >

By on September 17, 2017

2017 Toyota C-HR Turkey assembly plant

Toyota has been the brand par excellence in terms of quality and reliability for as far back as many of us can remember. But, as value became its hallmark, someone decided to turn the excitement volume down to a faint whisper — breaking the knob off entirely in the mid-2000s, when the MR-2 and Celica were discontinued. Even with the company’s introduction of the 86 in 2013, its mainstream designs were about as safe a play as one could make.

If you haven’t noticed (let’s face it, you have) Toyota’s styling has changed immensely of late. The automaker has a new attitude and affixed angry gaping maws onto the core brand and added folds to the bodywork we never would have anticipated.

This wasn’t an accident. Toyota is intentionally trying to push the envelope in terms of design and rattle a few cages along the way. Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota Motor Co., decreed that boring cars would be a thing of past and has given designers the means in which to accomplish that goal.  Read More >

By on September 15, 2017

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Lucky is the new car buyer who isn’t saddled with a trip to the dealer for recall work within the first few years of ownership. The modern age provides us with a great many wonderful things — avocadoes year-round, transmission cogs we can count on all 10 fingers, UberEATS — but it hasn’t turned the average vehicle into a paragon of reliability.

Last year, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles issued a recall for 323,400 2014 and 2015 Jeep Cherokees, as well as 2015 Renegades, Chrysler 200s, and Ram ProMasters. FCA threw the 2018 Fiat 500X in there for good measure. The problem stemmed from the automaker’s finicky nine-speed automatic transmission. Thanks to insufficient crimps in the transmission sensor cluster’s wire harness (and the subsequent trouble code sent to the vehicle’s diagnostic system), some owners suddenly found their Jeep, Chrysler or Ram coasting along in neutral — a default position — instead of drive. Can’t have that.

The recall — a minor fix — didn’t seem like a big deal. The vehicles would normally be drivable (for a time, anyway) after the engine was shut off and turned back on again, making a trip to the nearest certified FCA dealership relatively trouble-free. For one Cherokee owner, however, the repair work stood to cost him $2,000 more than what he paid for the vehicle. Read More >

By on September 15, 2017

2018 Ford Escape Titanium aWD - Image: FordFor the 2018 model year, your local Blue Oval dealer will sell you an India-built Ford EcoSport Titanium AWD, with a handful of options, for $29,960.

Yes, that’s an uncomfortable MSRP for the funny-looking, tippy-toe-styled EcoSport, which Ford likes to pronounce echo-sport as if it’s a particularly athletic Toyota subcompact sedan circa 2003. But the entry point for Ford’s new entry-level crossover is much, much lower. At $20,990 including delivery — a 16-percent discount compared with the Ford Escape S — a 2018 Ford EcoSport sends power from its 1.0-liter turbo triple to the front wheels through a standard six-speed automatic transmission.  Read More >

By on September 13, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry XSE white - Image: ToyotaThe launch of the all-new 2018 Toyota Camry began in July 2017 and delivered a big boost to America’s best-selling midsize car in August 2017.

As its competitors combined for a 12-percent loss valued at nearly 16,000 fewer sales than in August 2016, Toyota Camry sales jumped 13 percent, a gain of 4,187 sales. That figure includes 6,805 new-gen Camrys imported from Japan, where the Camry’s home market factory is being relied upon while Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky, assembly plant gathers steam for the entirely different Toyota New Global Architecture.

With falling sales across much of the category and rising volume at the top seller, Toyota got exactly what it called for in August 2017: a huge market share increase. But did the Camry provide the rumored boost to the segment overall? Quite clearly no, not yet. Read More >

By on September 13, 2017

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Not long ago, I wrote glowingly about the new Honda Civic Type R. Part of my praise was based on the fact that the Type R is bargain-priced compared to its competition.

Yeah, I liked the Type R. A lot. Even took a little crap in the comments for it (fair enough). But again, a big reason for my praise was the price. If the Type R was stickered the same as its three main competitors – the Ford Focus RS, Subaru WRX STI, and Volkswagen Golf R – would it still be “all that?”

On its own merits, sure. It’s very, very good. Great, even. But a strong argument can be made that all things being equal, the Golf R is even better. And I’m about to make it.

Read More >

By on September 9, 2017

2018 Camry Hybrid, Image: Evan Williams

As part of a larger group of automotive publications, TTAC has access to a variety of content. We wanted to bring you some of the unique content we think lives up to TTAC’s standards and offers legitimate insight or a properly critical viewpoint to car evaluation. This story, by Hybrid Cars author Evan Williams, showcases the 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Toyota’s replacement for its popular hybrid sedan – sales of which have been falling off this year – comes along with the thorough overhaul of its entire Camry line. After years of cars that were reliable, efficient, and perceived by some to be boring, Toyota wants the new model to be reliable, efficient, and fun to drive. No, really.

Toyota is selling the new Camry as being an emotional choice, not just a rational one. Chief Engineer Masato Katsumata called it “visceral.” A strong word for a family sedan. Read More >

By on September 8, 2017

Adam Levine and James Valentine with Honda Civic

While Honda has a long and storied automotive history, it has lost much of its luster in recent years. We won’t fault the Accord, as many of us have deemed it miraculous, nor the CR-V, which continues to gain sales momentum as the rest of the industry slows. But something definitely went wrong.

Pinpointing the first misstep is difficult, however. It might have been that we became accustomed to decades of repeated success, followed by a series of middling models that weren’t bad but showcased limited progression in the new millennium — past Civics being a prime example. Maybe it started with the sudden influx of recalls, kicked off by a reputation-crippling 11 million units equipped with Takata’s infamous and extremely dangerous airbags. Perhaps it was when Honda thought it would be a good idea to replace a simple volume knob with a touch-sensitive slider or its untenable partnership with Maroon 5 and Nick Cannon in 2013.

We could speculate endlessly. But the point is that Honda knows it screwed up somewhere along the line and has become trapped by a more stifling version of the methodology that once made it great. It’s now seeking a way out.  Read More >

By on September 7, 2017

2018 Chrysler 300 Limited - Image: FCAOnly two models remain in Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ U.S. Chrysler lineup, but both models will benefit from dramatic price cuts for the 2018 model year.

The 2017 Chrysler 300 was marketed with a U.S. base price of $33,435. That car, the Chrysler 300 Limited, will be renamed for 2018 as the Touring L, CarsDirect reports, one notch above the 300 Touring. Meanwhile, the Chrysler 300C loses its standard V6 engine and is now sold exclusively with the 5.7-liter V8 and rear-wheel drive.

As for the 2018 Chrysler Pacifica, a new Pacifica L below the Pacifica LX allows the 2018 Pacifica to sit well below the Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna in the minivan price hierarchy.  Read More >

By on September 7, 2017

Eight Toyota Camry Generations - Images: ToyotaThe launch of the 2018 Toyota Camry in July 2017 marked the arrival of America’s eighth Camry. Near the end of Ronald Reagan’s first term, the first Camry — not the first Camry, but the first Camry available for U.S. consumption — was launched in front-wheel-drive sedan and hatchback formats.

By 1997, the Camry was America’s best-selling car — a title it has held in each of the last 15 years.

The second-generation Camry spawned a V6 powerplant, available all-wheel drive, and a hatchback-replacing wagon. The third-generation Camry kept the sedan and wagon, dropped the AWD, added a coupe, and was built in America. The fourth iteration of the Camry, 1997-2001, dropped the wagon and began to be seen as the automatic choice for America’s midsize sedan buyers. The fifth Camry, which ran from 2002-2006, was sturdy enough to be form the foundation for two more Camry generations. The sixth Camry was the first to be available as a hybrid, but it put an end to the coupe, which in the prior two generations was known as Camry Solara. The seventh Camry, 2012-2017, sometimes hailed as the most American-made of all cars, benefited from a thorough refresh for 2015. The eighth Camry, at dealers now, represents much more than a major overhaul, with significant increases in fuel economy standing out as a leading improvement.

But which Toyota Camry is best of all? Read More >

By on September 6, 2017

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Let me start this review off with a promise: I will try to avoid any “VTEC kicked in, yo” jokes.

That’s in part because the 2017 Honda Civic Type R doesn’t exhibit the behavior of past VTEC engines that inspired the jokes, but mainly because the meme is played out.

Full disclosure: Honda provided us with travel to the Seattle area, and provided us with airfare, food, and lodging. They even used a seaplane to get us from Seattle to the hotel and fed us dinner on a small cruise ship. We got some track time in the Type R in addition to on-road drives. Also, they gave us seat time in go-karts, in which I spun out a lot. They left us with a scale-model Type R which will likely never leave its box. If it does, I will use it for living-room races against a scale-model Ford Focus ST I have from a previous gig, if I ever take that one out of its box.
Read More >

By on September 5, 2017

2018 Honda Odyssey - Image: HondaIt’s all about product, they say.

Product, product, product.

When in doubt, add product.

New product, they say, will reinvigorate the American midsize sedan category. New product, one might have imagined, would provide an ample boost to America’s minivan segment.

Yet in August 2017, only the third month on the market for Honda’s fifth-gen 2018 Odyssey, overall minivan sales increased for just the second time in a year despite another sales decline from that very same new product, the Honda Odyssey.
Read More >

By on September 1, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan Habanero Orange - Image: © Timothy CainIt took Volkswagen forever. But finally, in 2008, more than a decade after the compact SUV craze began, the first-generation Tiguan landed on U.S. shores. The Tiguan was more premium-priced than it deserved to be and smaller than it needed to be, but with a potent powerplant and fun-loving on-road behavior, those who could afford it and fit in it were happy.

It took Volkswagen forever. But finally, in the summer of 2017, nearly a decade after the first Tiguan arrived and eventually watched the release of two new Honda CR-Vs, two new Hyundai Tucsons, countless rival redesigns, and a bevy of new competitors, the second-generation Tiguan landed on U.S. shores.

The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan is now competitively priced. It’s properly sized — marginally larger than many rivals rather than distinctly smaller. This time, however, because of extra weight and an intransigent powertrain, the Tiguan doesn’t feel quite so punchy off the line. And in place of a dynamic repertoire vaguely reminiscent of an Mk5 Golf GTI — lively steering, quick turn-in, grippy cornering — the 2018 Tiguan is comfort-focused, keen on absorbing and mollifying and coddling.

Bigger, more comfortable, and arguably more attractive? The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan finally sounds like a Tiguan American crossover buyers might actually want. Read More >

By on September 1, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry SE and 2016 Toyota Camry SE - Images: ToyotaThe 2018 Toyota Camry is the first truly, completely, all-new Toyota Camry since 2002. Built on Toyota’s New Global Architecture, it’s stiffer, safer, and by all accounts, substantially better to drive than the 2017.

Fuel efficiency took a leap forward. Horsepower did, too. The feature count, including the safety department, was elevated. The 2018 Toyota Camry even has a sense of style, whether you like its sense or prefer less offensive past examples.

With an all-new architecture for an in-demand car — yes, even as sedans slow, the Camry is still the 15-time best-selling car in America — comes a lack of willingness on the part of Toyota to deal. That’s made all the more true by the current cost of importing Camrys. While production will eventually be in full swing at the Camry’s Georgetown, Kentucky, assembly plant, early copies of the 2018 Camry hail from Japan.

Rare will be the buyer who heads into a U.S. Toyota store this Labor Day weekend with a strong preference for the old Camry, still available in abundance on dealer lots. Even with concerns (albeit modest concerns; this is a Camry) regarding first-model-year reliability, the MY2018 Camry is the bright and shiny object.

The 2018 Toyota Camry is better than the 2017 Toyota Camry: objectively, subjectively, on paper, on the road. But is it 41-percent better? Read More >

By on August 30, 2017

Minivan collage - Sienna Odyssey Pacifiica - Images: FCA/Honda/ToyotaIt was quicker, quieter, more fuel efficient, and less expensive, but the all-new 2018 Honda Odyssey failed to win its first Car and Driver minivan comparison test.

The fifth-gen Odyssey is also the newest minivan redesign. The Toyota Sienna was updated for 2017 with a new powertrain but remains in large part the same minivan that arrived for the 2011 model year. The first Chrysler Pacifica minivan — aka the second Chrysler Pacifica — has been on sale for nearly a year and a half. The Kia Sedona, having lost its previous Car and Driver comparison test, was not deemed eligible for the test. Likewise, the Dodge Grand Caravan, while currently America’s top-selling minivan, was rendered ineligible by past performance.

With only three minivans in the test, all upper-crust examples of their specific nameplates, each contender finished on the platform. But lofty expectations for the all-new Odyssey failed to come to fruition, and the segment progenitor’s party trick produced a solid victory.

Stow’N’Go isn’t the only differentiator, however. Read More >

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