Category: Features

By on April 21, 2017

BMW 4 Series

To industry watchers, the manual transmission’s future seems as rosy as that of the Steve Miller Band, circa 1983.

Automakers on both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific have pried the stick shift out of an ever-increasing number of vehicles, and some manufacturers have chosen to drop the technology altogether. With market share reaching never-before-seen lows, the three-pedal lifestyle seems headed towards an unavoidable (and imminent) grave.

Blame technology. Blame laziness. Blame yourself.

Over in Munich, the sentiment seems quite similar. BMW has long occupied the ranks of true driver’s cars, but its leaders make no bones about the brand’s eventual abandonment of the row-your-own transmission, even in relatively stick-happy Europe. Lately, even dual-clutch transmissions appear to be in Bimmer’s bad books. And as for an American solution to its manual transmission problem, well, forget that. Read More >

By on April 21, 2017

2017 Cadillac XTS, Image: © 2017 Charley Baruth

(Everybody say HAYYYYYYY to our guest reviewer du jour, Danger Girl! —jb)

The creaky old 737-300, lacking wi-fi and assigned seating but chock-full of oversized roller luggage, touched down in Queen City at about 9:40 p.m. on a Monday night. My hopes for what I would find in the Charlotte Douglas International Airport Executive Emerald Aisle were about as high as the hopes I’d had when I ran from gate A8 to B15 at BWI, knowing my connecting flight had been boarding for a solid 15 minutes. Which is to say: lower than low. To my surprise, this was not the case at the Executive Emerald Aisle. I’d expected the automotive equivalent of my back-cabin center seat, but this was more like the delightfully unoccupied space on the aisle side of the exit row.

I walked past the Tahoes, the Escalades, and a Cadillac XTS thinking I was in some alternate universe known as the Elite section, or that “Hertz Dream Car” area Jack sometimes rents from. I was looking for the standard 300C, Challenger, or base Mustang to which I’ve become accustomed. An agent happened to walk by me. In an effort to pinch myself and make sure this was really happening, I asked him if the XTS was, in fact, part of the Executive Emerald Aisle. “Sure! Take it!” he said.

Well, alrighty then.

Read More >

By on April 19, 2017

BMW CPO commercial Toyota Camry screenshot - Image: YouTube screenshot

Call them frenemies. BMW and Toyota are working together on a high-profile sports car project that will result in a long-awaited Supra successor and a replacement for the Z4. Two heads are better than one.

“The concept works, the platform can deliver and now we have two proud sets of engineers — one group German, one group Japanese — who are each fighting and arguing for the car they want,” BMW sales boss Ian Robertson said last year.

The fighting and arguing extends beyond the R&D facilities in Munich and Toyota City.

On a mission to exalt its 3 Series in a certified pre-owned commercial, BMW sought to make fun of a typically bland midsize sedan. 2001 Chevrolet Malibu? 2006 Kia Optima? 2017 Subaru Legacy?

No. BMW chose the most basic, beige, new Toyota Camry to make a point on behalf of a bright red pre-owned 3 Series.

Hardly the work of a BFF. Read More >

By on April 19, 2017

2017 Mazda MX-5 Sport

Sometimes a manufacturer churns out a base model in which it might be more prudent to spend one’s extra cash on aftermarket upgrades and not a more expensive trim. Here’s a candidate.

Many songs of praise have been penned and much digital ink spilled of Mazda’s rear-wheel drive, two-seat roadster. From the original version in 1990 to the current fourth-gen model, Mazda has always managed to keep a lid on cost and weight, two things which generally spiral out of control in both successive iterations of a popular vehicle and my own personal lifestyle as I age.

A total of $5,150 separates the base MX-5 Sport from the top rung Grand Touring model. Is that sum of cash better spent on DIY upgrades? Or should buyers spring for the high-zoot MX-5? Let’s find out.

Read More >

By on April 18, 2017

Snowstorm/Tesla Motors Club forum]

Earlier this month, we detailed the plight of a Toronto-area man whose newly delivered Tesla Model S 90D — a six-figure vehicle boasting cutting-edge technology — arrived from the factory with a sizable crack in the A-pillar.

Because the A-pillar forms part of a one-piece aluminum side member, the defect represented a structural fault that couldn’t be ignored. It wasn’t the kind of PR Tesla wanted, especially as it ramps up production (and stock value) ahead of the Model 3 launch, and it certainly wasn’t something a first-time owner and admitted Tesla fan wanted to find.

After airing his story on the Tesla Motors Club forum, the owner provided TTAC with updates on his vehicle’s status. Read More >

By on April 18, 2017

2017 Honda SUV lineup – Images: Honda

American Honda will build a Pilot-based SUV intended to carve out a space between the Honda CR-V and Honda Pilot.

According to a report published by WardsAuto with AutoForecast Solutions, Honda will assemble this Co-Pilot in Alabama alongside the Pilot beginning in the fall of 2018.

Co-Pilot? How about Honda Pilot Sport? Nah, that’s Michelin territory. Honda Pilot Sidekick? Suzuki grabbed that one already. Honda Pilot Junior? Too juvenile.

The name matters less than the positioning. Is there room for a midsize two-row utility vehicle in between the CR-V, traditionally America’s top-selling SUV/crossover, and the Pilot, one of America’s most popular three-row vehicles?

It’s a gap Ford, Nissan, and Hyundai have no trouble filling. Read More >

By on April 15, 2017

chrysler200-rear

If you’re planning to buy your teen son or daughter their first vehicle — rather than let them work a retail job to save up for a rusting heap — the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety wants a word.

There’s good and almost-as-good choices for used cars out there, and none of them are a ’95 Cavalier with a blown suspension and more fluid leaks than the Bismark. While the IIHS top picks pack piece of mind for parents, kids might cringe at the less-than-sexy choices. Read More >

By on April 15, 2017

2016_nissan_leaf_12

How do you keep a very long-in-the-tooth model alive when competitors have bypassed it in terms of technology and practicality? Offer sweet deals, obviously.

Nissan’s venerable Leaf, which saw its first U.S. sales in late 2010 and still hasn’t confirmed a North American successor, needs all the help it can get. Not only are electric cars a tough sell in America, but the Leaf faces a growing crop of rivals that top its paltry driving range by roughly 2:1.

Nissan wants to know: would you feel differently if it was much, much cheaper? Read More >

By on April 13, 2017

2017 Subaru Ascent Concept - Image: Subaru

Still nearly eight months away from being revealed in final production form, it’s already assumed inside Subaru HQ that the 2018 Subaru Ascent will generate the bulk of its conquests from inside the Subaru family.

Subaru expects to sell approximately 60,000 Ascents on an annual basis in the United States. But according to statements made about the long-awaited three-row Tribeca replacement by Subaru CEO Yasuyuki Yoshinaga at last month’s Geneva Motor Show, the Ascent won’t be stealing many sales of the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse, and Nissan Pathfinder.

Hey, Outback and Forester: Subaru’s looking at you for donations to the Ascent’s cause. Read More >

By on April 13, 2017

2017 Mazda 6 Sport

Before we start this Ace of Base, we need to get one thing clear: no one listens to automotive journalists. We can carp about bad cars and exhort the good ones, but at the end of the day, customers go out and buy whatever they want.

I’m saying this with tongue firmly in cheek, of course, but there is a nugget of truth. The Mazda 6 is one of the best driving sedans in the mid-size segment, wrapped up in a good-looking body with plenty of interior space. Naturally, it sells at approximately the pace of glacier progression.

Read More >

By on April 10, 2017

2017 Mazda 3 5-door – Image: Mazda

Mazda hasn’t always proven capable of winning hearts and minds in the U.S. marketplace. But in buff book comparison tests, Mazda possesses a recipe for success.

Possessed.

Nine months ago, for instance, a 2016 Mazda 3 i Grand Touring spanked the Nissan Sentra and scored substantial victories over the 2016 Chevrolet Cruze LT and 2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited in a five-car Car And Driver comparison test. Only the 2016 Honda Civic EX came close. Car And Driver was quite right in pointing out the Mazda 3 overachieved “in a world where excellence isn’t always rewarded with sales.” TTAC’s east coast reviewers came to the same conclusion four months ago.

Indeed, U.S. sales of the Mazda 3 fell to a 10-year low in 2016. Now, with sales in 2017 on track to fall to a 13-year low, the Mazda 3 has lost a comparison test.

And not just to one car, but two. Read More >

By on April 7, 2017

subaru emblem logo

Subaru is an automaker known for offering a highly specific brand identity and a quality product, but compelling styling has always been low on its list of priorities. While acknowledging the retro charm of its earliest Japanese models, it can be said that the company has never produced a particularly handsome automobile. The SVX was futuristic and interesting, but it wasn’t overtly sexy. And the visual appeal of the old bug-eye WRX or BRAT hinges entirely upon how oddball they were.

After 63 years in the business, Subaru finally wants to change that and place a stronger emphasis on design. However, despite having the least visually stimulating lineup in recent memory, the company could probably stay the course and still be fine. Subaru has done incredibly well in the United States. Annual U.S. deliveries hovered around 187,000 vehicles from 2002 to 2008 but grew fiercely in the following years. Subaru had a record-breaking 615,132 sales in 2016 and looks prepared to break that record this year.

So, why even bother changing anything when the current recipe works so well? Read More >

By on April 6, 2017

Image: Snowstorm/Tesla Motors Club forum]

Imagine you’ve just taken delivery of a car with a price tag of $127,100. You’re leasing it for a monthly sum that could pay for a nice two-bedroom apartment in most North American cities.

The A-pillar is torn. Split. Structurally compromised. And it was delivered that way from the factory.

According to one Toronto-area man, that’s the situation he’s facing with a brand-new Tesla Model S 90D. Read More >

By on March 29, 2017

tdiengine

Earlier this week, we reported on an influx of complaints from diesel owners who were required by law to permit Volkswagen to rectify their emission rigged engines. The consensus was that the company has not done a great job. If a veterinarian fixed a pet in the same manner that VW “fixed” these cars, you would probably put it out of its misery and then throttle the vet for butchering your now-ruined family companion.

Owners of the vehicles have complained of units lacking their former oomph, shuddering, stalling, and even being difficult to restart. While not every driver reported identical problems, the majority agreed Volkswagen had ravaged the engines’ ability to make power. At the time, nobody knew exactly how extensive the losses were. But, as the powerband-sapping solution closes in on North America, those numbers have come in.  Read More >

By on March 28, 2017

2015 Honda Odyssey EX PEI - Image: © Timothy Cain

I’m an idiot.

Thursday night, I filled up a car with gas. That was clearly in the background of my mind when on Friday, we loaded up our 2015 Honda Odyssey for a long-weekend trip to Prince Edward Island. Luggage, children, dog, stroller, front door locked, back door locked, side entrance locked, patio door locked, heat turned down, and finally, departure.

I hadn’t driven our Odyssey in a couple of weeks, having focused my attention on the Toyota Corolla iM and Hyundai Ioniq discussed on these pages already. Distracted by a thousand tasks, and presumably still conscious of a trip to the fuel pumps the night before (in the Ioniq, it turns out), I ignored the signs at the approach to the Cobequid Pass that warn of a lack of services for the next 27 miles.

We drove up the Cobequid Pass toward the tolls when I finally noticed we had no fuel. Estimated range? 0 km. Fuel gauge? Well below the Empty line.

Fortunately, from that point of realization until the Ultramar in Thomson Station 16 miles later, our 2015 Honda Odyssey travelled at a rate of 35 miles per gallon. Read More >

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