Category: Car Reviews

By on July 24, 2017

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“You wanna roll up to this thing with Magnus tomorrow?”

It’s amazing how many times I’m just minding my business, living my best life, and I run into my old friend Matt Farah. In this case, we happened to both be in Miami at the same time for work. My work, of course, being of the cubicle-dwelling, advertising-selling variety, and his being of the driving-an-Aventador S-around-Wynwood-slowly-in-front-of-cameras variety. Naturally, I insisted that we meet up at the most Miami place I could think up, Lagniappe, for some wine, jazz, and excellent company on a Tuesday night.

Turns out that Matt’s good friend and occasional TTAC subject, Magnus Walker, was doing a book signing the following evening at Parkhaus1, a veritable institution in the Porsche community. I normally despise this sort of thing. I’m not a particularly social person to start with, and while I had never made the acquaintance of Mr. Walker and I assumed he was a pleasant and genial fellow, I’m not one to stargaze at another grown man.

“Nah, man. Besides, what would I show up at Parkhaus in? My rental Grand Cherokee (which, by the way, is an excellent vehicle and totes deserving of its own review)?”

“Why don’t you get on Turo and rent something dope?” (Matt says “dope” a lot. And “dank.” I’ve tried his vernacular on for size but it doesn’t work for me.)

Now there’s an idea.

Read More >

By on July 21, 2017

Image: 2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, image © Corey Lewis

Power and performance. Luxury and emotionBalance and elegance. These are the seductive adjectives experts in automotive marketing insist can be found in a company’s newest offering, especially in the premium sports sedan segment.

After spending time on the back roads of Tennessee with the revised-for-2018 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport 400, is the marketing hype true? Does it really deliver all the desirable adjectives you’d like in your premium sports sedan offering?

In a word, no.

Read More >

By on July 18, 2017

2018 Honda Odyssey - Image: © Timothy CainYou buy an iPhone 6 assuming you will like it more en-han you liked your old iPhone 5. You were excited to read Tender Is The Night because The Great Gatsby was a worthy tale. You had high hopes for The Godfather Part II on your Christmas holidays in 1974, having waited more than two years since The Godfather permanently altered cinema.

Expectations are everything, and my expectations for the  2018 Honda Odyssey Elite, a 280-horsepower, $47,610, eight-seater were high precisely because our garage houses a 2015 Honda Odyssey EX. My van isn’t perfect, but I’d happily buy another. And seven years after the fourth-generation Odyssey went into production, expectations for the fifth-generation model have grown significantly.

It’s 2017, not 2011. We expect quieter cabins, more powerful and more efficient engines, better interior materials, more standard features, and novel equipment.

In almost every facet, the fifth-gen 2018 Honda Odyssey is multiple steps beyond the fourth-gen Odyssey I own. But not every step forward is a step in the right direction. Read More >

By on July 17, 2017

2017 Jeep Compass Trailhawk - Image: © Timothy CainThis is the new, second-generation 2017 Jeep Compass, tested here in $35,200 Trailhawk guise, including $5,510 in options.

It’s two inches shorter than the old Compass but two inches wider. The new Compass offers 20-percent more cargo capacity than the old Compass and, according to the specs, marginally less space for passengers. The Trailhawk’s 8.5-inches of ground clearance is up by four-tenths of an inch.

Forget the specs, though. And for a moment, forget the price. This new Jeep Compass is better than the old Jeep Compass.

It would be difficult not to be.

But comparisons with the an old Jeep Compass that went on sale in 2006, while making for easy reading and easy writing, won’t take us very far. Rather, our goal is to determine whether the new 2017 Jeep Compass is a worthy compact utility vehicle today.

Because improving upon a vehicle that, in 2006, TTAC called “ an ugly, gangly, underpowered, mud-aversive half-breed,” a vehicle that “stomps all over Jeep’s reputation as America’s purveyor of authentic off-road vehicles,” wouldn’t be surprising, sufficient, or significant. Read More >

By on July 17, 2017

2017 Toyota Land Cruiser, Images: Garrett Martin and Seth Parks

There are more than 40 brands offering 230-some nameplates in America today. Not a single one is a direct Land Cruiser competitor. So what is the Land Cruiser’s mission?

It’s not aimed at the towing crowd. A $50,000 full-size half-ton anything can tow more than the Land Cruiser’s 8,100 lbs. It’s not for hauling people. A Sequoia, or any other full-size SUV, offers more interior volume, with at least $20,000 left over. It’s not for brand snobs, as Toyota offers the nearly identical and vastly more popular Lexus LX for those people. And no, it’s not even for the radical off-road enthusiast. There are Wranglers, Tacomas, 4Runners, and Raptors with off-road capabilities to match the impressive Land Cruiser.

The market analysis justifying the Land Cruiser is contained somewhere deep inside Toyota’s North America’s product planning offices in Plano, Texas. But until a disgruntled employee or careless contractor leaks the file, we will simply need to speculate.

The Land Cruiser appeared in commercial quantities in the 1950’s and from there went on to earn its reputation for go-anywhere durability. I can personally attest to the utility and capability of the 70-Series Land Cruiser based on my time in a high-roof troopie that shrugged off poor driver decisions in Malawi (always check water crossings before going wheels wet) and baboons (there is a fine line between curiosity and malevolence). But today’s North American spec Land Cruiser originated with the J50, which bifurcated the Land Cruiser lineup back in 1967. Thereafter, the Land Cruiser badge would be placed on a growing range of light commercial vehicles (J20/30/40/70), as well as on easier to live with yet highly capable passenger-oriented SUVs (J50/60/80/90/120/150/100/200).

None of these products were designed for the North American market. And today’s Land Cruiser is no different. It receives minor adaptions to confirm to the peculiarities of our market. But at 112 inches, its wheelbase is four to 10 inches shorter than other full-size SUVs. And its width and overall length are likewise three-quarter size. Sure, it has Toyota’s 381 horsepower 5.7-liter gas V8 and a speedo that reads in mph, but these alterations hardly conceal a vehicle as close to African spec as you will find on a dealer lot in North America. This is one of the few unadulterated foreign market vehicles journalists and enthusiasts pine for.

The average Toyota dealer sells seven of these rigs annually. Read More >

By on July 12, 2017

2017 Mini Countryman S, Image: Myle Rockens/Appearance

If you’ve come here to read a Mini Cooper S review, I suggest you look elsewhere. What we have here is a vehicle that has very little to do with the small, lightweight and simplistic design of Sir Alec Issigonis’ original Morris Mini concept.

This is nothing more than a disguised BMW X1.

But if you’re currently in the market for a subcompact luxury crossover that blends style with practicality, all while remaining somewhat fun to drive, then the 2017 Mini Cooper S Countryman should serve you well.

Notwithstanding the model’s status as a travesty of platform sharing, this vehicle isn’t all that bad to drive. Read More >

By on July 10, 2017

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT (Image: Steph Willems)

Years back, a neighbor of mine worked as an electrician’s apprentice while we both occupied different corners of a sketchy four-plex. Good guy. When an emergency arose, especially if the emergency was a sudden lack of tape, this was your man.

Anyway, with barely enough cash to buy beer on weekends, let alone a half-decent used pickup, the tools of his trade journeyed to the job site in a roomy, economical, and seemingly indestructible four-door liftback. It was, of course, a first-generation Hyundai Elantra GT, only with the contents of a small hardware store filling the area aft of the front seat.

A useful, if tepid, vehicle then, but one far more worthy of the GT moniker now.

The Korean automaker launched the Elantra GT in 2001, and has no intention of dropping the useful compact hatchback from the marketplace anytime soon, even though its U.S. executives required a dose of friendly Canadian persuasion to keep it alive south of the 49th parallel (according to Hyundai Canada brass). The pressure paid off, leaving Americans with yet another option in the “hotter hatch” segment.

No longer is the GT a one-engine affair, nor is it likely to continue as an afterthought in the minds of consumers. For 2018, Hyundai chose to spread the widest possible net with its newly enlarged hatch, hoping to lure would-be buyers away from better-known rivals while offering a sportier alternative to small crossovers. Read More >

By on July 10, 2017

2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Cabriolet - Image: © Timothy CainTo be very honest with you, those of us who track traffic and take the odd look at analytics already know the TTAC audience for a review of the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C43 4Matic Cabriolet is small.

At first glance, it doesn’t make sense. Reviews are the most reliable source of traffic on The Truth About Cars.

The TTAC audience, the B&B, is a pragmatic bunch of car enthusiasts, however. A sensible group of auto industry intellects. $72,305 German convertibles? Not exactly right up the alley of the proverbial 2004 Honda Accord.

And with good reason. Sensible pragmatists don’t see the point in the incremental performance upgrade of a $162,850 Porsche 911 Turbo from an $80,490 Chevrolet Corvette Z06; the off-road credentials of a $52,275 Lexus GX460 over and above a $35,930 Toyota 4Runner; the scant luxurious advantages of a $58,050 BMW X5 in contrast to a $47,140 Kia Sorento SX Limited.

But what if the four-seat, twin-turbo, all-wheel-drive, German convertible was actually worth 83 percent more than the basic C-Class; 43 percent more than a basic C-Class Cabriolet?

Then, maybe, TTAC could actually find an audience for a review of an expensive car. Read More >

By on July 7, 2017

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“It’s been a long time. I shouldn’t have left you.”

-Rakim, I Know You Got Soul

Anybody who was thinking Aaliyah when they read that quote, feel free to click “X” in the top corner of your browser. To everybody else, it’s good to be home at TTAC. Since my last post here, people across social media have been asking me three questions:

  1. Whatever happened to your Focus RS? Do you still have it?
  2. So, how about that Focus, huh? Are you ever going to update us on it?
  3. ????

Okay, so it’s really only been one question. Fear not, friends. I’m back like a rebel making trouble to tell you all about my first nine months of FoRS ownership. Also, my thoughts on Maxine Waters. No, just kidding. We’ll stick to the Focus thing.

Read More >

By on July 5, 2017

2017_mazda_mx5_rf_soul_red_7Got $2,755?

That’s how much extra coin Mazda wants in order to swap out the 2017 MX-5 Miata’s soft top, install a pair of buttresses, and replace the soft top with a foldable, targa-style hard top.

You’re not just paying $2,755 extra for the seasonal benefits of a hard top. At least half of those two-thousand-seven-hundred-and-fifty-five additional dollars are surely attributed to the RF’s sense of style. Love it or loathe it, the 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF is a far more eye-catching car than the regular, fourth-generation MX-5.

Nevertheless, the MX-5 Retractable Fastback, which isn’t a fastback and doesn’t have a retractable roof, would be a distinctly more enticing proposition if it could save Miata buyers $2,755, rather than cost Miata buyers an additional $2,755. Read More >

By on June 25, 2017

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With contributions by Sebastien Bell and Sam McEachern

Mechanics have made their last-minute checks, drivers circulate sur la piste managing tire and brake temperatures, engineers confirm strategies; cars stage on the starting grid, the dissonant cacophony of twenty 1.6-liter V6 hybrid Formula 1 engines spooling reverberates through the grandstands as five red lights illuminate sequentially…

Hosted on Montreal’s Île Notre-Dame since 1978, the Grand Prix Du Canada has always been a special place for the Formula 1 paddock. For decades, drivers have loved the city’s vibrating atmosphere and unbridled passion for the sport, but what they really love is the circuit’s proximity to a devilish downtown core drowning in alcohol and impeccably dressed women.

Why do you think we like it? Read More >

By on June 21, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

It was my shooter, Myle, who picked up the Chevrolet Bolt press car we had for the week. I was too busy getting my ass massaged in a Lincoln Continental in the meantime. Besides, Myle owns a house, and I live in a crummy apartment, so it made more sense for him to park his all-electric Bolt EV at the house for charging.

It turned out to be a very bad idea, as he lives in the middle of a cornfield in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec. His house was built over 60 years ago, so his electrical system couldn’t keep up with the modern tech this electric car is fitted with. “Dude, it takes 20 hours to charge, how the hell will I get to work tomorrow?” he barked at me angrily over the phone. Meanwhile, I was enjoying the overabundance of freedom provided by my V6-powered, gasoline-fed, American luxury barge.

Welcome to the realities of electric propulsion in its early years. Read More >

By on June 20, 2017

2017 Audi TTS profile - Image: © Timothy CainAs an automobile journalist, I’m supposed to qualify certain statements.

This car is gorgeous, I might say, but only with an asterisk that denotes beauty being in the eye of the beholder. This car is gorgeous, I might say, but not as gorgeous as its predecessors, and then I’d draw your attention to the fine print where I describe my lack of a fine arts degree.

Whatever.

The 2017 Audi TTS is gorgeous. Even more stunning than the exterior is the interior.

Yet just because the third-generation TT continues to major in the arts doesn’t mean Audi completely forgot to educate the TT in the modern STEM curriculum.

The Audi TT has always been focused more on style than substance. But the 2017 TTS is more than just a pretty face. Read More >

By on June 19, 2017

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic Coupe - Image: © Timothy CainTwo turbochargers. 362 horsepower. 384 lb-ft of torque. AMG’s 31:69 front/rear torque bias. 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds. AMG-tuned air suspension. 14.2-inch front rotors. 285/40R20 rear tires. 640 watts and 14 speakers of Burmester surround sound.

Forget all that.

This is a story all about cargo volume. 10-14 percent more cargo volume. Sweet, sultry, scintillating cargo volume.

The 2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic lineup is two vehicles strong. In one AMG GLC43, your dog stands up and waits for the liftgate to close. In the other, your dog rolls over, plays dead, and doesn’t get up until the end of your journey.

This is the latter, the 2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic Coupe. It’s a genuine performance vehicle, with the power, grip, tenacity, and even finesse one expects from a performance vehicle, but also with style — love it or loathe it — that has practical implications for ol’ Bailey, the Bouvier des Flandres. Read More >

By on June 16, 2017

2004 Mazda MX-5 Miata 2015 Honda Odyssey - Image: © Timothy CainSince purchasing my 2004 Mazda MX-5 Miata out of a driveway in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia little more than one month ago, I have not driven the car nearly as much as I’d hoped to.

Surprised?

Of course not.

I’m a relatively young father of two little ones. I have taken on increased responsibilities at TTAC. I must drive a manufacturer-supplied test car each week. Our family is scheduled to move to Prince Edward Island this week. I’m busy.

Also, this is spring on the east coast of Nova Scotia. The weather has been, shall we say, iffy.

But I’ve driven my little roadster enough to learn plenty about Miata life, almost all of which is good. Read More >

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