Category: Editorials

By on August 17, 2016

2017 Ford Explorer Limited, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

I’ve long since given up on the idea that it’s possible to have a truly unbiased review of an automobile — or anything else, for that matter. Nevertheless, we should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good. In the service of that, I’m going to say up front that I completely despise this generation of Explorer. I didn’t like it when I reviewed an early model five and a half years ago, and I like it even less now that alternatives like the refreshed Grand Cherokee exist.

The worst thing about the Explorer is that it’s fundamentally a crappy version of the Ford Flex. The Flex is a thinking person’s station wagon. The Explorer is an idiot’s SUV. Perhaps a kinder, and more accurate, way to put it is this: the Explorer is a Flex remixed to appeal to women. I’ve yet to meet a woman who likes the Flex. In order to stop this from being a 1,200-word combo-diss-fest-and-Flex-hagiography, I’ve hired the infamous Danger Girl to offer some balance in my review of this brand-spanking-new-with-24-miles, $44,065, front-wheel-drive SUV.

Let’s do this.

Read More >

By on August 17, 2016

Chevy Suburban profile

Sometimes a manufacturer churns out a base trim that is — all things considered — the primo choice for that particular model. Here’s an example.

A couple of weeks ago, Tim spelled it out for us: Americans finally bought more SUVs than cars.

Now, a good many of these weren’t real SUVs: Rouges, RAVs, and RDXs are pathetic shadows of the segment’s forebears. The Suburban, however, has been unabashedly truck based since 1935. The current model is powered by a 355-horsepower V8 engine fuelled by ground up Priuses and oiled with the tears of David Attenborough. Cargo space is measured in acres instead of square feet.

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By on August 16, 2016

2013 Lexus GS350

Mike writes:

If you were shopping for a reliable, full featured, cheap to own, and generally “good” car, why would you not get a Lexus? I’ve been struggling with this question for the better part of a year now.

The problem: I need a car I’ll drive every single day in God-awful urban traffic. There’s little to no fun had behind the wheel in congestion. No using the sporting personality of whatever machine I’m operating. The only reasons I want a Lexus are for the comfort and peace of mind that come with one, along with working AC and a great stereo that’ll truly brings out the subtleties in Jad Abumrad’s diphthongs. Since I can’t afford nor really want a brand new car, I’ve been looking at used.

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By on August 16, 2016

2007 Honda Element EX, Image: American Honda

“About twice a week, I’ll come out to the parking lot and see that somebody’s left a note asking to buy it,” Peter said, chuckling. “But the only reason I’d sell it would be to get a newer one. And the prices on those are even crazier. So I’ll keep it. Forever. It’s my car for life, no matter what else I buy or own or whatever.”

A devoted ultra-marathoner and trail-runner who thought nothing of running 30 kilometers on Saturday and then doing it again on Sunday, Peter was the photographer assigned to me on a recent project for another media outlet. He was (obviously) hugely fit, extremely disciplined, and very much in love with his car.

But what kind of car could inspire that kind of affection from a guy like Peter, to say nothing of all the parking-lot stalkers who keep trying to buy his car? Is it a Boss 302? A 458 Speciale? A pristine MkIV Toyota Supra Turbo? I’m afraid not. The belle of Peter’s ball is a homely little box of a car that, when it was new, rarely left a showroom without the assistance of a massive trade allowance, a flatbed tow truck, or possibly both.

Read More >

By on August 16, 2016

2017 Mercedes-Benz C-Class Wagon

The Canadian new vehicle market is not merely a mini-representation of the U.S. auto industry. Full-size pickup trucks own a significantly larger percentage of the Canadian market, for example, and Canadians are nearly three times more likely to buy a Toyota Corolla than a Toyota Camry.

The Canadian market can, however, be a useful test bed.

Some new vehicle pass the test, such as the BMW X1 which enjoyed 16 fruitful months in Canada before grabbing a slice of the American pie. Others, such as the Chevrolet Orlando, wilt under the pressure of the Ontario-built Dodge Grand Caravan, endure a brief four-year run, and never even get a chance to make it in America.

Other cars aren’t prone on a test bed, they’re simply the response of different automakers to different markets. We already looked at seven U.S.-market vehicles which don’t make their way through the Detroit Windsor Tunnel. These are the eight current vehicles which are marketed in Canada, not the United States. (We’ve already examined the seven cars Americans can buy that Canadians can’t.) Read More >

By on August 16, 2016

2016 Chevrolet SS blue

Michael Phelps has won more gold medals in the pool at the last four Summer Olympics than the whole Team Canada claimed, across all events, in the last seven.

Despite currently producing more total medals per capita than the American team in Rio, we Canadians can be found suffering from an inferiority complex. And yes, per capita medal counts are the kinds of statistics you can expect from the citizens of a nation that suffer from an inferiority complex.

It doesn’t help that Canada’s new vehicle market, one-ninth the size of the U.S. market, is deemed too small to benefit from one of the planet’s best sports sedan values, the Chevrolet SS.

Yet the Chevrolet SS is by no means the only new vehicle on sale in the United States that doesn’t cross the border. Read More >

By on August 16, 2016

6631409989_f87e752934_z

Earl writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I want to get my wife a used SUV. We tried a Volvo wagon, but it’s just too unreliable. My first choice is a 4Runner, but the prices here are insane, even for 10-15 year old ‘Runners. I’ve noticed I can buy a Cayenne or an X5 for similar prices to the aforementioned 4Runner, and that’s with fewer miles and years newer.

So, what gives?

Read More >

By on August 12, 2016

All-New 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

“I do see people buying Chevy trucks all the time, but I call them victims, not customers. That’s different than what I’m trying to do.” Thus spake Scott Adams, known to most of us as the creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip. As someone who has made his living as a commercial UNIX sysadmin, I’m not much of a “Dilbert” reader, for approximately the same reason that Jodie Foster probably doesn’t read The International Journal Of Pinball Table Collectors. There’s only so much trauma that anybody should be forced to relive.

I do, however, read Mr. Adams’ blog, mostly because I’m fascinated by his particular approach to understanding the current Presidential election. In a pair of recent posts, he has taken a break from discussing the “Master Persuader” strategy to complain about the process of buying a new truck from a Chevrolet (or Ford) dealership. Mr. Adams describes himself as a “certified genius,” but as you will see below, the old dealership chestnut that “buyers are liars” applies to even those of us who find the WAIS-IV to be a trivial challenge.

Read More >

By on August 12, 2016

U-Haul U-Box Portable Storage

Kleenex is to facial tissue as Google is to searching the web; as Coke is to any soft drink in Metro Atlanta; as Nintendo was to video gaming in the ’90s.

In that vein, U-Haul is the Kleenex of moving vans.

At the beginning of each month, you’re bound to see at least five orange-and-white U-Haul misery machines piloted by sweaty-faced individuals attempting to transport their belongings, which they’ve hoarded over the last X number of years, to their new abodes. Their faces tell the tale: Moving is horrible. Everything about it is a nightmare. And U-Haul is intrinsically part of that nightmare.

But U-Haul doesn’t do just moving vans, trucks, and trailers.

During our move from Nova Scotia, on Canada’s Atlantic coast, to Oshawa, Ontario, some thousand miles to the west, we decided to give U-Haul’s newest product a whirl. It’s called U-Box and it promises to alleviate the needless torture of long-distance moving.

Promises are made to be broken.

Read More >

By on August 12, 2016

2017 Lincoln MKZ Reserve Hybrid

With your left hand’s thumb, scroll through the steering wheel-mounted controls and select Settings. Move up to Driver Assist. Proceed to Drive Control. Then select Comfort.

Now your 2017 Lincoln MKZ Reserve Hybrid is a good ol’ fashioned barge of an American car, with enough rear end float to make pregnant women seasick. Firm? Far from it. That dip in the pavement half a mile ago is still causing the rear occupants’ bellies to teeter-totter as the MKZ attempts to locate its equilibrium.

Pair this menu selection with a prod of the Eco button to the right of the central touchscreen and you now have a modern Lincoln that mostly ignores throttle input, steers with remarkable lightness, and turns potholes into pillows. That sounds like the perfect Lincoln for a customer base that has all but gone extinct.

Fortunately, the refreshed MKZ Hybrid does not need to be driven in Comfort/Eco mode. In fact, the 2017 MKZ is at its best when, as is often the case, Lincoln allows the MKZ to manifest its deep-seated Ford Fusion roots.

So why not buy a Ford Fusion instead? Read More >

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