Category: Car Reviews

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 17, 2017

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid and 2001 Suzuki Katana - Image: © Timothy Cain

Gil’s my next-door neighbor. We live in very similar homes, we share a fondness for canine companions, and we would both happily live on pizza alone.

But Gil and I couldn’t be more different. Gil is cool, you see.

Gil’s young; I’m not not as young as I used to be. Gil can change the alternator on an old Ford Explorer in mere minutes; I can change a lightbulb if given time. Gil goes out on Friday nights; I have little children to put to bed.

And while I spent the last week driving a basic version of the outgoing 2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid, Gil pulled his Suzuki Katana out of storage. Yes, Gil drives a motorcycle. I drive a silver Camry Hybrid LE.

But who does Gil call in the middle of a workday when his Suzuki breaks down?

Camry Man, naturally. Mr. Dependable. Read More >

By on April 12, 2017

2017 Buick Encore Premium AWD – Image: © Timothy Cain

You’re about to read a review of the 2017 Buick Encore Premium AWD, and you’re quite possibly well aware of the criticism the Encore has endured here at The Truth About Cars.

“The Encore is one of the worst cars I’ve driven in a long time,” TTAC’s former managing editor wrote in 2015. “Is the Encore the worst Buick ever?” Corey Lewis asked late last year.

Meanwhile, the Encore has appeared on my personal list of the eight vehicles I don’t want to own for four consecutive years.

Building good small cars is hard. It turns out, building good small SUVs — we can call them subcompact crossovers — based on those small cars can be just as challenging. That doesn’t mean Buick got the Chevrolet Sonic-based Encore all wrong. Refreshed for 2017, the Buick Encore has some redeeming qualities.

Would I buy one? At $35,825, you can’t be serious. But I’m beginning to understand why your mother might want an Encore. Read More >

By on April 11, 2017

[Image: Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars]

“You weren’t kidding when you said it was big,” she said, flashing me a smile.

“I never lie,” I said, lying.

She was, of course, talking about the 2017 Buick LaCrosse. Get your depraved minds out of the gutter.

I’d told my longtime friend I’d pick her up in a “big, red Buick,” and I certainly came through on that promise. And, as this friend — a former owner of a pinot-grigio-colored ’89 Skylark — settled herself comfortably into the sedan’s commodious front passenger seat, it seemed the LaCrosse had fulfilled its own obligations.

Sadly, it’s a relic in a rapidly shrinking segment. The last of a dying breed that once proliferated across the American landscape in numbers that would make pre-railway buffalo herds jealous. Yes, the LaCrosse is the last real Buick, even as it adopts the latest in safety and convenience features and fuel-saving technologies.

As a lover of every landau-topped barge from the golden age of motoring (or malaise, depending on who you ask), it was a somewhat bittersweet experience to spend time in the LaCrosse, as it does its job quite well. It’s a good soldier, and it surprises in many ways. But it can’t be a dog-and-Playskool-swallowing crossover, and that’s why it and the other holdouts in its segment are effectively doomed.

There’s a train a comin’, and the .45-70 Sharps rifles on board are firmly grasped by legions of singles, families and geriatrics who’ve come to love a taller ride height and spacious cargo hold. Read More >

By on April 7, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Atlas grey front quarter off road

For whatever reason, Volkswagen has shied away from the mainstream, large, family vehicle market for decades. When most American parents and spawn headed to Wally World in massive station wagons, Volkswagen offered the Microbus. When minivans became the rage, the sages of Wolfsburg set forth the quirky, rear-engined Vanagon. And through the ‘90s, as the SUV became the default soccer mom transport, the Eurovan continued the tall and narrow van theme.

Certainly, the Routan was a typical minivan — albeit provided by Chrysler — and the Touareg followed a traditional (if pricey) luxury SUV path, but VW hasn’t been a player in the meat of the market. Considering the challenges the company has faced over the last couple years, Volkswagen simply cannot afford to yield high-volume market segments. Besieged dealers need something bigger than a midsized sedan to sell.

Most of all, as noted by Michael Lovati, Volkswagen’s Vice President of Midsize and Fullsize vehicles in North America, “VW needs to regain trust.”

Step one in rebuilding trust is the all-new, American-made 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, which aims squarely at the ever-popular three-row midsize crossover market, especially the beloved Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot.

Does Atlas hit the bulls-eye, or miss wildly?

Read More >

By on April 4, 2017

2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid

You might look at the 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid and think, “Hmm … maybe it’s just me, but that looks a lot like the normal 2017 MDX.”

But don’t be fooled. This seven-passenger midsize SUV is just an incognito NSX; a tiger in Montessori parking lot camouflage. Hey, sometimes you have to ferry around the kids — and, holy God, have you ever tried hauling groceries in a two-seater? Those multiple trips eat into “you time.”

Okay, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but that’s what Acura wants you to think. Honda’s luxury division is in the midst of overhauling its image, and it’s doing so by injecting a little NSX into its products — both spiritually and mechanically. While that supercar, reborn as a hybrid last year following a decade’s absence, might seem totally removed from Acura’s popular — and tastefully refreshed — MDX, some familiar DNA appears beneath the new Sport Hybrid’s sheetmetal. (It also appears in the RLX sedan, if you weren’t aware.)

Oh, you’ll get better fuel economy with the MDX Sport Hybrid, but don’t talk to your friends about that. You bought it for the power. Capisce? Read More >

By on March 31, 2017

2017 Lexus GS200t front quarter

Midsized luxury cars are a tough sell these days. The SUV craze shows no sign of ebbing, with new models coming out frequently from nearly every automaker (though if Caterham starts offering an assemble-it-yourself crossover, I’ll hang up my keyboard for good). Further, these midsizers are squeezed by models upmarket and down — the compacts keep adding content, while smaller engines in the full-size models offer space and economy for not much more cost.

Lexus is unique in this space with two very different models: the front-wheel drive ES, and this GS, offered with either rear or all-wheel drive. While the Avalon-based ES is perennially one of the best-selling, this GS lingers mid-pack. Thus, it’s no surprise rumors have swirled.

Still, Lexus has generally impressed me, so I was intrigued when this 2017 Lexus GS 200t appeared since I see so few of them in the wild.

Read More >

By on March 31, 2017

2017 Audi Q3 Quattro Daytona Grey - Image: © Timothy Cain

Some cars genuinely suck. There is essentially no price at which, for instance, wooden ride quality and inept handling and nonexistent acceleration and uncomfortable seats and disappointing fuel economy are worth the asking price. There are simply far too many decent alternatives for a vehicle such as, oh, I don’t know, the Mitsubishi Mirage.

Some cars, however, only suck in the context of their respective MSRPs. Take the Ford Flex we reviewed recently as an example. Though showing signs of age, it’s still a fine family hauler. But at the $50,000 as-tested price, the Flex is uncompetitive.

Then there’s this 2017 Audi Q3. Perhaps it’s an acceptable machine at its $33,875 entry price. But optioned up to $44,150, the aged Q3 may be guilty of simply resting upon the laurels of its four-ring badge.

Does the 2017 Audi Q3 suck, or does it only suck when it strays out of Single-A ball into the Major Leagues? 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 >

By on March 27, 2017

1992 Honda Prelude Si vs. 1992 Acura Integra GS-R

Tyson Hugie is my hero. My Phoenix friend recently purchased a small house with a seven-car garage, the better to store his five 1990s-era Acuras along with his 2013 Acura ILX. From an NSX to a Vigor to a pair of Legends, his collection is a reminder of the halcyon days of Acura. You know, the days when Acuras had actual names.

Hugie’s latest acquisition is a 1992 Acura Integra GS-R five-speed three-door hatchback with 238,000 miles. I recently purchased a 1992 Honda Prelude Si five-speed two-door coupe, now with 101,000 miles. We found no head-to-head tests ever conducted between these two Honda siblings, so consider this story yet another TTAC exclusive — or a harebrained scheme wherein two auto journos thrash their own 25-year-old cars like they belong to somebody else. Read More >

By on March 27, 2017

2004 Toyota Camry V6 LE - Image: © Timothy Cain

Is this the best car in the world?

Not necessarily this car, but the 2002-2006 XV30-generation Toyota Camry in general. Is this Camry better than all the rest?

It doesn’t handle like a modern Mazda 6, doesn’t stop as well as a modern F-150, doesn’t have the perceived interior quality or features of a modern Honda Fit, and has suffered greatly from the effects of alloy wheel corrosion over the last winter.

But the 2004 Toyota Camry LE V6 we told you about last fall just made its way through another harsh, Prince Edward Island winter. Another 7,000 miles were smeared across its odometer. One trip was taken all the way from Prince Edward Island to Toronto; another from Prince Edward Island to Hamilton, Ontario, and another from Prince Edward Island to Mont Tremblant, Quebec.

Credit a single oil change. Read More >

By on March 24, 2017

2017 Ford Raptor, Image: © 2017 Garrett Martin

In the coming years, we will begin driving riding around in the quiet electric embrace of autonomous convenience. We will look back on the 20-teens as a golden age when the last ounces of performance were wrung out of the internal combustion engine and automakers created cars for every conceivable market niche. New and presently unknown products will one day surprise and delight. But let’s stick with the present, which is a special time for auto enthusiasts.

Consider that the 5,600-pound 2017 Raptor is as fast to 60 miles per hour as the 2007 Mustang GT. Forced induction or not, the Raptor labors under a one-ton weight disadvantage, an unknown coefficient of drag penalty, and a 30-percent displacement deficiency versus the original pony car. A decade ago there was not a single stock vehicle available at any price capable of bounding through the desert at freeway speed that was also able to head back to civilization to pick up the kids from school.

Not convinced? In November, Ford raced a Raptor in the Baja 1000 Stock Full class. It got a roll cage, fuel cell, and a few other tweaks. Of almost 250 entries, the Raptor was among 142 rigs that finished the race. And after taking the checkered flag, it returned under its own power to Ford’s Arizona Proving Grounds 400 miles to the north.

The superlatives associated with Raptor are legion. What’s not to like?

Read More >

By on March 24, 2017

2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid – Image: © Timothy Cain

If you want to beat Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray or Rafael Nadal, you have to be better than Roger, Novak, Andy, and Rafa.

It doesn’t matter if it costs less to train you. It won’t matter if you’re better looking. It will never be sufficient to merely stack up better on paper; to be taller and stronger and younger.

You have to be better.

Sorry to have to break it to you this way, but, you’re not.

To upset a paradigm that’s been in place for two decades, the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid can’t merely be less expensive than the Toyota Prius. People are willing to pay a premium for a superior known entity. The Hyundai Ioniq can’t merely be more attractive. Indeed, how could the Ioniq not be more attractive than the 2017 Toyota Prius? Moreover, the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid won’t succeed simply because of superior on-paper achievements; of greater cargo space or hiproom or horsepower.

If the Ioniq Hybrid is to succeed at weaning green car buyers off their beloved Prii, the Hyundai Ioniq must be a better Prius.

It is. Mostly. Read More >

By on March 23, 2017

1999 Acura TL, Image: © Jim Travers

Some of you have asked us to tell you more about the Acura that inspired this series about updating an older car with new tech. I’m more than happy to oblige, especially if doing so might inspire one of you to tender an offer.

Read More >

By on March 22, 2017

2017 Kia Niro EX front quarter

Is it or isn’t it? A crossover, I mean. That’s been the discussion over the 2017 Kia Niro ever since it bowed. No one seems to care whether the all-new hybrid functions as it should. Instead, the argument revolves around dimensions, and everyone knows that no one wins when someone whips out a ruler.

A couple of weeks ago, Corey took one glance at a photo I shared with the TTAC staff comparing the Niro to my mother’s 2014 Corolla. The photo showed the rather insignificant difference in overall height between the two compact vehicles, and fueled the argument that the Kia Niro is not a crossover.

I’m struggling to disagree.

Read More >

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