Category: Car Reviews

By on July 2, 2015

2016 Scion iM (9 of 21)

To wonder aloud: How long can cool be, you know, cool?

For Scion, “cool” has a half-life of around 12 years and the youth-oriented brand from Toyota has a significant turn to right the ship back toward sales from the its first year in America. Last month, Scion posted a 20-percent dip in sales, discontinued two models — iQ and xD — and spelled out an end for its xB — the only Scion to post anything resembling sales growth.

Is it better to be dead or cool? Didn’t Kurt Cobain write a song about this?

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By on July 1, 2015

IMG_0257

It’s been said that with the last Crown Victoria produced, the death of Ford’s Panther platform represented the extinction of the species, American sedanus body-on-framus, the last of the dinosaurs. Keeping in a biological frame of mind, it seems to me that the BOF American sedan didn’t go extinct, but transformed. Its trunk developed into an open cargo bed and those varieties with high ground clearance seem to have been particularly adaptive.

That’s the closest analogy I can come up with to describe how the 2014 Toyota Tundra CrewMax Plantinum drives – it reminds me of the big American cars that were on the road when I got my driver’s license back in the early 1970s, and it should. It has body-on-frame construction, double A arm suspension up front, a live axle on leaf springs in the back, seats as flat as a sofa, and a powerful V8 engine up front, just like those old land yachts of yore. Oh, and it’s big. Read More >

By on June 30, 2015

2016 Acura RDX Exterior-005

Acura has been a brand of highs and lows for a while. The MDX has been a perennial best-seller while their large sedans have largely sat unsold. The RDX, meanwhile, has had an interesting history.

Acura’s first attempt at a 2-row crossover was ahead of its time with a 2.3L turbocharged engine producing 240 horsepower and Acura’s Super Handling AWD system capable of sending 90 percent of engine power to the rear. The ride was criticized by Motor Trend as “harsh” and folks complained about turbo lag from the segment’s only four-cylinder turbo engine.

As the segment grew, most entries used naturally aspirated 6-cylinder engines and RDX sales failed to achieve orbit. All indications were that Acura’s compact crossover was destined to be a low-volume niche player in one of the fastest growing segments. Then Acura did something unexpected.

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By on June 25, 2015

2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4x4 with Rebecca Turrell

Maybe it’s the horrific condition of most New England roads. Maybe it was because we just had snowiest winter in Boston since anyone’s been counting. Or maybe, just maybe, I have finally fully succumbed to my Napoleon Complex.

“The great proof of madness is the disproportion of one’s designs to one’s means.”
―Napoleon Bonaparte 

What started off with me buying my first liter bike has blossomed (*tear*) into the purchase of my first pickup truck: 2015 Toyota Tacoma TRD Sport 4×4 double cab short bed with a…..dun dada dun….6-speed manual gear box. I know the Tacoma has remained relatively unchanged since 2004 – actually, it’s pretty much the same truck I’ve been lusting over since 2007. I know that it doesn’t have great fuel economy. I know that there are trucks with better technology in them. But hear me out!

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By on June 22, 2015

2015 Chevy Silverado 2WD LT Crew Cab

Just a couple of months ago, GM quietly announced their factory 5 year/100k mile powertrain warranty was going to henceforth be downgraded to a 60k mile powertrain warranty because their cars are all fine now and customers don’t care about long-term warranties.

About 48 hours after this was announced, my wife found herself limping along the side of a major road in our 2010 Malibu with 90k miles on the odometer, engine revving, but little transmission of power taking place between the engine and the wheels.

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By on June 22, 2015

2015 Ford F-151

Ford’s F-150 is an important vehicle for Ford and it’s not too much of an exaggeration to say it’s an important vehicle for America. In 2014, the F-150 was not just the most popular truck in America, it was the most popular anything in America, selling more than 740,000 examples. For those that love their numbers, that is more F-150s than everything Hyundai sold in the USA put together.

Redesigning the F-150 isn’t just putting Ford’s profits on the line. Hundreds of suppliers and countless employees are worried about Ford’s aluminum gamble.

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By on June 19, 2015

1998 Alfa Romeo 164 2.5 TD

One clever man who likes powaaah, steaks and punching people once said that you are not a real petrolhead until you’ve owned an Alfa Romeo. Seeing how Alfas are either considered terrible, unreliable crap by sane and rational people or totally revered by devoted fans, I assumed there has to be something about them. Maybe it really is that fabled “automotive soul” everyone talks about.

When I drove modern Alfas, I tended to lean towards the “they’re crap” crowd. The Mito is just a Fiat Punto that’s been made worse and more expensive, while the Giulietta can be a hoot to drive, but you want to douse it in gasoline and light on fire every time you need to use it as transportation. It’s like someone did the first 90% of development and then decided to have some chianti instead of finishing the rest. Which is probably what happened.

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By on June 18, 2015

2015 Volkswagen Jetta TDI (4 of 8)

Diesel torque? Fuel efficiency? Compact three-box sheetmetal? You only have two non-premium choices in the U.S.: the Chevrolet Cruze and this, the Volkswagen Jetta TDI.

That’s a serious dearth of variety.

Even after expanding body style and size limitations to mid-size sedans, hatchbacks, and coupes, that still only includes two brands offering up all of the available diesel cars in the non-premium bracket. More importantly, Volkswagen has embedded itself into the collective diesel consciousness and Chevrolet isn’t even a blip on the radar. You need to actively think of today’s diesel options before you remember the Cruze even exists.

VW’s ingrained diesel association and the Jetta’s more affordable compression-ignition cost of entry compared to the Cruze shows in the sales numbers. The Jetta TDI outsells the Cruze 2.0TD by more than 5 to 1. In fact, GM sells so few Cruze diesels, a California DMV employee is more likely to register a new e-Golf – yes, the all-electric VW Golf that wasn’t even on sale last year – or the California compliance Fiat 500e than a Cruze diesel.

So, when it comes to arrive-and-drive-away compact diesel sedans, there’s only one real option. But, does that alone make the Jetta worth buying?

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By on June 16, 2015

DSC_0229-15

They call it the first A-segment CUV in the world, which should be enough to make you run in the opposite direction. An SUV the size of a Fiat 500 is something that should never exist on any planet I want to live on. But, surprisingly, after driving one for a week, I realized that it may, in fact, have a point and a purpose.

And I came close to answering the crucial question – would Opel Adam Rocks make a good Buick David? Or would it be better to import something bigger?

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By on June 15, 2015

canamspyder 036

Let the record show that, on the morning that I rode one hundred and seven miles each way to ride the new Cam-Am Spyder F3-S, I nearly dropped my motorcycle.

I’m still not quite sure how it happened. Something like this: I was turning my VFR800 Anniversary Edition around on the slope of my driveway. My left foot slipped on a bit of oil or maybe just water and the whole 539-pound machine fell as my foot continued to slide. About a tenth of a second before it would have been too late, I caught some traction with the outside of my heel and then all I had to do was arrest the slide with my left arm. It felt like deadlifting twice my weight and, for a moment, I thought my thrice-broken left wrist was going to snap again and add a medical bill to the cost of a replacement fairing.

When everything came to a halt and I’d yanked the VFR to vertical, I paused for a moment to consider the following: I’m forty-three years old, I’ve broken eighty-plus bones, and the day that I drop a motorcycle is coming fast. So with that in mind, I clutched in, grabbed first gear, and headed north to meet what I was now quite happy to think of as an un-droppable motorcycle.

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