Category: Features

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 21, 2017

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio - Image: FCA

Jalopnik published its review of the 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio (man, Quadrifoglio takes forever to type) and the world discovered that Jalopnik’s Giulia did not require a tow truck.

That sounds terribly sarcastic, but we wouldn’t be compelled to point out the relative reliability of Jalopnik’s Giulia Quadrifoglio (my goodness, Quadrifoglio takes forever to type) if Giulias hadn’t failed so miserably at other prominent publications in the recent past.

Jalopnik’s 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio didn’t struggle with remote starts, spend time getting fixed at a dealer, stall while parking, or die in traffic. Bless its thumping Italian heart. But Jalopnik’s Giulia Quadrifoglio was far from perfect. Editor-in-chief Patrick George says he doesn’t care: “I am willing to do what the Alfisti have done for decades and chalk up most of its flaws to that thing that is so elusive in modern cars: character.”

But George told me yesterday, “It’s not weirdo enthusiasts like me that Alfa Romeo has to convince. It’s normal folks who might otherwise buy a BMW or a Lexus.”

“And they’re not going to put up with these issues.” Read More >

By on March 15, 2017

2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti - Image: FCA

In the latest episode of Consumer Reports’ Talking Cars YouTube show, hosts Jon Linkov, Gabe Shenhar, and Mike Monticello discussed the persistence with which their bought-and-paid for 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti has visited the dealer.

Only recently purchased by Consumer Reports’ undercover team, the new Alfa Romeo Giulia has hardly been able to undergo Consumer Reports’ testing.

“It’s a sexy car,” Shenhar says in introducing the new Alfa. “It has a really storied brand name. As compelling as it might look,” Shenhar says, introducing the new Alfa,”I don’t know if I’m ready to send anyone to buy this car.”

“It’s been back to the dealer about three times since we bought it.” Read More >

By on March 15, 2017

2017 Mazda CX-5, Image: © 2017 Seth Parks

Mazda wants you to know its 2017 CX-5 is more than just another compact crossover. Not in terms of size, power, or price, but in its transcendent experience. Media introductions are often an exploration into the esoterica of automotive design, and this launch is no different — except for a refreshing dose of substance sprinkled over a focused, if understated, redesign.

Compact crossovers recently eclipsed full-size trucks as the largest automotive segment. And right on cue, CX-5 is Mazda’s best-selling vehicle, accounting for 38 percent of its U.S. sales last year. Not only that, but it was Mazda’s fastest nameplate to earn one million sales worldwide. It’s thus no shock that as important as this little ute has become to Mazda, its first generation lasted just five years. Nor is it a surprise that its well received first generation is followed by an evolutionary and not a revolutionary second gen, with a diesel on the way to further extend its reach.

If it ain’t broke, tweak it.

Read More >

By on March 10, 2017

Tree at Crash Site of Journalist Michael Hastings, Image: By Lord Jim (flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Three and a half years ago, I expressed some suspicion regarding the death of investigative journalist Michael Hastings. I didn’t have any inside information or unique knowledge on the subject; I just didn’t like the way the aftermath of the crash looked when evaluated in light of the “official” story that was being handed out at the time.

A lot of people thought I might have a point. Another, perhaps larger, lot of people thought I was crazy. Well, there’s now some information available to all of us, thanks to WikiLeaks, that might shed some additional light on the topic.

Read More >

By on March 9, 2017

2017 Subaru Outback - Image: Subaru

“Washington is not a place to live in. The rents are high, the food is bad, the dust is disgusting and the morals are deplorable. Go South, young man, go South and grow up with the country.” —Not Horace Greeley

Subaru generates 60 percent of its global sales in the United States. For a Japanese brand that still relies on imports for half of its volume in its largest market, Subaru knows that 60-percent reliance on America is way too high.

Subaru needs strength in other markets. Subaru needs to diversify its portfolio. Subaru needs another America.

Unfortunately for Subaru, history suggests the brand won’t quickly find strength in other markets. History suggests Subaru’s attempts to diversify its portfolio won’t succeed.

Fortunately for Subaru, however, there is more America.

“It’s true we want to increase sales in other countries, but in terms of the place with the best chance to increase sales, it has to be America’s Sun Belt,” Yasuyuki Yoshinaga, CEO at Subaru’s Fuji Heavy Industries parent company, told Bloomberg.

In other words, Subaru wants to add some New Orleans to its order of New Hampshire; Burlington with a side of Birmingham; Kennebunkport supplemented with a dose of Port St. Lucie. Read More >

By on March 9, 2017

2017 Ford Fusion Sport Front 5/8, Image: © 2017 Jeff Wilson

There is no single car that appeals to the wants and needs of everyone — yet that hasn’t stopped Ford from trying.

Need a mid-sized family sedan? There’s a Fusion for that. What about a bare-bones four-door suitable for rental fleets? There’s a Fusion for that. Government-issue plug-in hybrid? There’s a Fusion for that, too. And now if you need a high performance sport sedan, there’s even a Fusion for that mission. Sort of.

The 2017 Fusion Sport takes the otherwise tame mid-size sedan market into a whole ‘nother realm thanks to the twin-turbo 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 pillaged from the F-150. 325 horsepower in a mid-size sedan is interesting, but 380 lb-ft. of torque will grab a driver’s attention and keep it all the way up to “I’m sorry, officer.”

Read More >

By on March 7, 2017

2018 Honda Odyssey - Image: American Honda

Got $43,695?

Honda spoke excitedly about the inclusion of an all-new, Honda-designed 10-speed automatic in the 2018 Honda Odyssey lineup when the van debuted at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit two months ago. Along with a higher-powered 3.5-liter V6 and a standard 10-speed automatic from the Pilot, Honda made clear that the 10-speed would be reserved for “upper grades.”

Now we know precisely how high up the Odyssey food chain you must climb to obtain the minivan world’s first-ever 10-speed.

And it’s quite high. Read More >

By on March 6, 2017

2017 Chrysler 300 Interior, Image: FCA

Once upon a time, a three-on-the-tree shifter or a floor-mounted unit with a lever the length of a ski pole was the norm for rowing through the gears. Then GM graced us with the automatic transmission, and the world soon grew used to a column-mounted shifter with a selector gauge mounted atop the steering shaft, smack dab in front of the driver’s eyes.

With a few exceptions caused by automakers trying to be sexy, this trend carried over into console-mounted shifters. Americans liked their beer cold, their country free, and their PRNDL choices straightforward and obvious.

Unfortunately, with mechanical linkages no longer required, a shifter can now be anything the automaker wants it to be, leading some companies — Fiat Chrysler Automobiles especially — into new and potentially deadly territory. With backlash against unorthodox shifters growing, it seems FCA has received the message. Read More >

By on March 3, 2017

2005 Jeep Gladiator Concept Vehicle, Image: FCA

With the possible exception of the upcoming Ford Bronco, no automotive product has more Americans feeling giddy with anticipation than the pickup version of Jeep’s beloved Wrangler.

Dreamed of by wistful Jeep aficionados for years, the go-ahead given to the Holy Grail of Jeepdom seemed to signal that yes, your dreams really can come true. Unfortunately, this seems to be a case of “all good things come to those who wait,” because wait you will. Two and a half years, to be exact.

Some of that time will be spent figuring out a name that doesn’t offend people. Read More >

By on March 1, 2017

2015-cadillac-ats-sedan

Navigating the new car market can be treacherous, but the used market is significantly larger and riddled with more hidden pitfalls. Used cars also offer the best potential value for your money, provided you don’t end up with a lemon. Even something that passes your initial scrutiny might be a few months away from becoming a clattering heap.

Fortunately, Consumer Reports keeps a running tally on the worst second-hand garbage that money can buy. Taken from its most recent ranking, here are some of the more common models from the last 10 years that scored so poorly in reliability that they aren’t even worth your consideration. Read More >

By on February 27, 2017

2017 Mazda CX-3 AWD – Image: Mazda USA

Operating in the burgeoning subcompact crossover market that’s soon to welcome new entries from Toyota and Ford, the still fresh Mazda CX-3 is already suffering from declining sales.

And the CX-3 is not declining from a particularly high and lofty point achieved earlier in its short lifecycle. There was no hot start for the Mazda CX-3, no early high-volume response to hyped-up demand from which sales would inevitably decrease.

Over the last three months, U.S. sales of the Mazda CX-3’s direct competitors have grown 21 percent, year-over-year. Yet sales of the CX-3 during the same period have declined 4 percent.

The Mazda CX-3 is a new model, only on sale for a year and a half. It’s attractive and highly regarded by reviewers. Yet sales are slowing at the very same time as sales of its competitors are flourishing.

Mazda doesn’t intend to chase volume for volume’s sake, but Mazda does intend to get the CX-3 product mix right before the CX-3 is labelled a flop. Read More >

By on February 27, 2017

2017 Ford Focus Titanium Hatchback, Image: Ford

It disappeared in the night. There was no fanfare. No protest. No grand announcement. Barely anyone even noticed. They all just kept buying amorphous transportation blobs with available all-wheel drive. No one took the time to look at the options list on the compact car bolted to the dealership floor.

That’s right. In the United States of America, the 2017 Ford Focus hatchback is no longer available with a manual transmission outside of the ST and RS.

Read More >

By on February 23, 2017

2017 Honda CR-V Touring Front 3/4, Image: © 2017 Timothy Cain

We’re all supposed to enjoy, or endure, an Alfa Romeo ownership experience at some point in our lives.

The 2017 Honda CR-V is diametrically opposed to everything the Alfa Romeo SZ stands for.

You’re supposed to drive a car that reveals its character through its flaws, as if a shifter that only slots into third at 2,755 rpm is somehow symbolic of soul.

The 2017 Honda CR-V doesn’t shift. At all.

You’re supposed to tell a great breakdown story that involves a leafy Vermont village, a greedy mechanic, and a 48-hour wait for a repair that resulted in the best drive ever with an ex-girlfriend who severed your relationship the next day.

Not a single word of that could possibly apply to a 2017 Honda CR-V.

You’re an enthusiast, you have taste, you’re vulnerable. We get it. But maybe you should just drive a Honda CR-V and accept the fact that boring, or dull, or soulless cars can be wonderfully effective ways of transporting one’s family.

I’m not thrilled by the realization. But I’m impressed by the all-new, fifth-generation Honda CR-V. Read More >

By on February 23, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback LT Front 3/4, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

It wasn’t long ago that the Detroit Three were fending off the Japanese on home soil as the Land of the Rising Sun cranked out reliable car after reliable car for the American masses. Then came the Koreans — Kia and Hyundai — who brought over cheap metal to win market share but quickly turned around their quality and reliability woes and produced some of the best products in the industry.

So why is it that, after 108 years of building automobiles, General Motors still manufactures abysmal garbage?

Read More >

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