Category: Car Reviews

By on May 25, 2015

21015 Dodge Charger RT Road and Track Exterior

The first car I bought new was a 2000 Chrysler LHS. (I single handedly lowered the model’s average age demographic.) It was the very pinnacle of Chrysler’s Iacocca turn-around. It was large, competitive and made from Chrysler’s universal parts bin. Then Mercedes came on the scene promising to “synergize” product development with their luxury brand. The plan had a promising start with the 300 HEMI C concept, but the production reality was a big sedan with a plastacular interior and Mercedes hand-me-down parts.

Now that Mercedes and Chrysler have divorced, we’re starting to see what a real German-American synergy looks like. For 2015, the Dodge Charger has gone under the knife to look leaner and meaner with a new German transmission. Like my 2000 LHS, this may just be the pinnacle of the Marchionne turn around. It’s big, it’s bold and it’ll make you forget why you stopped to look at that Toyota Avalon last week.

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By on May 23, 2015

2015 Ford Explorer Exterior Three Quarter

I’ll put the pedal to the flo-ah/of my two-tone Ford Exploh-ah

You know how it’s done.

– Ice Cube, Down For Whatever

The great O’Shea Jackson penned that lyric in 1993, and I know exactly what Ford Explorer he meant. Back in the day, the Explorer Sport was a three-door SUV that could be bought as either RWD or 4WD. It was based on the Ranger, and it was available in a black-and-silver combo that would have undoubtedly pleased Cube, who was the world’s most famous Raiders fan (somewhat presciently, he also accented the word Fleeeeeeex in that song). Back then, the Explorer was being leased by everyone from wannabe rappers to bored Northern Virginia Housewives because Ford was guaranteeing residual values that were simply otherworldly. It was the first SUV that I can remember being that ubiquitous.

Then the whole Firestone thing happened.

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By on May 21, 2015

2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD

Volvo seems to be on the long road to recovery. Although sales have continued to slip in the USA, the numbers were up worldwide last year. In an interesting twist, 2014 was also the first year more Volvos were sold in China than North America. That could be cause-and-effect since Volvo had been more focused on their European-only new compact sedan and wagon. 2016 finally showers some Swedish love on America with a complete redesign of the XC90, the SUV originally designed for us. Because China is now a bigger market than we are, this XC90 isn’t just for us, but for China and the growing number of big crossovers clogging up Europe as well.

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By on May 20, 2015

2015 Smart Fortwo ED

I like Smarts.

It’s not a guilty pleasure, for I am not ashamed. It is a bizarre pleasure, however, lacking consistency and believability.

I’m a true blue car enthusiast with a love of V8 rumble, turbocharged torque, supercharged sizzle, manual shifters, and performance wagons. And yet, I can’t help myself: I like the way the Smart Fortwo steers. I’ve adapted to the way it wants to be shifted. I love the feeling of interior airiness. And I periodically enjoy well and truly pushing a car to its limits just to make proper forward progress. Approaching the limits in those performance cars I love? That’s a recipe for jail time. Read More >

By on May 18, 2015

2015 Lincoln MKC 2.3 Exterior Front Quarter-001

Lincoln has been working to get their luxury mojo back for a while, but up to this point it has tried to sell models a half-step larger to luxury shoppers. That meant a major value proposition, but engineers often skimped on luxury to keep prices low. The MKC is an entirely different animal however. This Lincoln is essentially the same size as the Lexus NX and Mercedes GLK. Although the MKC is finally the same size as its competition, it marches to a different drummer, and after a week I finally realized something. It’s refreshing to have something different.

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By on May 17, 2015

fabia_front_side_against_sky

Small cars used to be for the city. Now, they say a small car can work just like a big one. To find out what’s what, I borrowed a current Škoda Fabia, then took another new Fabia on a 400 mile trip.

I’m writing this in a hotel room balcony with a beautiful view of the Alps and Wörthersee lake, paid for by Škoda. The company wanted me to see the tuner culture at Wörthersee GTI Treffen (more about that in later article) and some of their concepts. To do that, they handed me the keys to a new Fabia, almost identical to a press tester I drove not even a month ago.

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By on May 14, 2015

2015 GMC Canyon V6 SLE All Terrain (2 of 18)

Today we are running two reviews of the GMC Canyon at the exact same time – one V6 and one 4-cylinder – for your reading pleasure. If there ever was a time to compare the same truck with different powertrains (and two reviewers with different perspectives), this is it.

The last (and only) truck to grace my driveway in an ownership role – a 2008 Ford Ranger – taught me as much about itself as it did pickups in general. The 3.0-liter Vulcan V6, while durable, was as effective as a donkey pulling a container ship for towing. And just because a truck is rated to tow or haul X pounds certainly doesn’t mean it should. There were also times I would’ve rather had an automatic transmission, like when I inadvertently jumped on Connecticut’s Merritt Parkway. In a snowstorm. With a trailer. 3-4-5-4-5-4-3-4-5. Wipe sweat. 3-4-5-4-5-4-3-4-5.

For better or worse, the Ranger did everything I absolutely needed of it: haul, tow and not throw a rod as I traveled the no-stop, shoulderless freeways over Louisiana swamp.

Creature comforts? Fuhgeddaboudit. Crank windows. No A/C. Not even a CD player.

The new GMC Canyon, with its 3.6-liter V6 engine and semi-plush interior in SLE trim, is nothing like my long departed Ranger. And while it’s logical to compare the Canyon to the Toyota Tacoma and Nissan Frontier on most fronts, it’s more fitting to put it up against the full-size competition on others.

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By on May 14, 2015

2015 gmc canyon front 34

Today we are running two reviews of the GMC Canyon at the exact same time – one V6 and one 4-cylinder – for your reading pleasure. If there ever was a time to compare the same truck with different powertrains (and two reviewers with different perspectives), this is it.

Let’s begin this review with a disclaimer: I don’t get pickup trucks.

Having lived in or near a big city my whole life, I simply don’t understand the need or appeal of the pickup. To me they are work vehicles with cramped cabins and no trunks. Heavy and inefficient, too. They were great when I worked construction in college, where we loaded the bed with crap and trailered a skid-steer behind, but I just can’t understand why anyone would choose to drive a pickup daily. But two million Americans buy pickups every year, so clearly they must know something I don’t.

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By on May 12, 2015

2015 Jaguar XJL AWD

In February of 2013, when speaking to the opening breakfast of the Chicago Auto Show, Andy Goss, the head of Jaguar Land Rover of North America, made a couple of comments about the luxury market in the United States. He said that 90 percent of vehicles with luxury nameplates are sold with V6 engines and  you can’t sell a luxury car north of the Mason-Dixon line if you don’t at least offer all-wheel drive. The 2015 Jaguar XJL AWD Portfolio is the result of Goss’ perception of the lay of the luxury land. Read More >

By on May 11, 2015

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Front

Although GTI sales are on an upward trend, the American hot hatch is a rare breed as there are just three options. We have the aging Ford Focus ST, and a new pair of hatches from Germany: the Volkswagen GTI and the MINI Cooper S. (Yes MINI fans, I’m calling the MINI German.) The last time I reviewed the GTI and Focus ST, the Focus came out on top despite the greater refinement Volkswagen offered. This time we have an all new GTI while Subaru has kicked the 5-door WRX to the curb, BMW has redesigned the MINI Cooper JCW and Ford has “gone Euro” by jamming a 2.3L turbo in the Mustang. Where does that leave the GTI?

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