Category: Car Reviews

By on August 5, 2015

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Has there ever been a longer running runner-up in an automotive category than the Ford Expedition? The large three-row SUV has been outsold by the Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon XL twins for years by as much as a 2:1 margin in the ever-shrinking large SUV segment. Throw in the Tahoe and regular Yukon numbers and the Expedition lags even further behind. The Expedition does outsell its luxo Lincoln stablemate, the Navigator, by about a 4:1 margin.

It may not be able to overcome the years of momentum and iconic brand image of the Suburban — proclaimed back in 1986 as the “National Car Of Texas” — but the latest iteration of the Expedition is fighting back. Read More >

By on August 3, 2015

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Subaru’s Legacy is unique in the midsize sedan segment, not just because it is the only entry with standard all-wheel drive, but also because it also comes with a standard continuously variable transmission and the $21,745 price tag is just $405 higher than the least expensive entry, the Passat. The value of that standard CVT and AWD system is around $2,600-$3,000 effectively making the Subaru a much better value than the base Volkswagen that is front-wheel drive with a manual. This value proposition is the key to understanding Subaru in general and the Legacy in particular.

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By on July 31, 2015

2015BuickRegalGS-3

It’s not often you get to see the future when you look at a car.

Admittedly, the 2015 Buick Regal GS AWD looks nothing like a crystal ball — it’s a deep shade of white that I never knew existed and its 20-inch wheels wrapped with summer rubber are … challenging.

But I can see the future of Buick in this car.

Read More >

By on July 30, 2015

2015 Nissan Micra S (2 of 10)

Staring at a Monroney sticker with a four-digit MSRP would only excite you if spending a weekend clipping Sam’s Club coupons while sipping Faygo is a “fun night in.”

With a base price of $9,998 in the Great White North, the Nissan Micra is the definition of Quebec Special: an entry-level car in the lowest of trims and absolutely zero options. Wind-up windows. Manual locks. An actual, honest-to-goodness metal key. All it needs is a cassette deck and a bench seat to take you back to a time when parachute pants were cool and Wesley Snipes was paying taxes.

Yet, this diminutive, red hatchback is much more than its price and lack of options suggest. While my predecessor likened the Micra to the EK Civic, I’m going to take it one step further: The Nissan Micra is a four-door Mazda Miata.

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By on July 30, 2015

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In my youth I was a vital, virile, male Manly Man. So manly that when I got a new ’86 GTI as my first “nice” car, I left off not only the automatic transmission but also the power steering. Mind you, it drove great — when it drove at all.

One night my parents tossed me the keys to drive them home from the restaurant. Mom’s whip was a mid-trim, 4-pot ’88 Camry. Yes, its limits were low, it was gutless, and it was tailored to bourgeois tastes with pastel upholstery here and fake stitching there. However, it was up front about its limitations, pridefully built, civilized in all its moves, and driving it was just so…easy. I one-fingered steered all the way home and made an earnest mental note.

Fifty VW defects later, I went Japanese and never looked back.

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By on July 28, 2015

2015 Chevrolet Camaro SS

It is truly a great time to be a gearhead. Not in the sense of there are no bad cars, because there still are, but rather because the cars that are good are really damn good. Take for example this Camaro SS. For three days, I lapped it around the freshly repaved tarmac of Gingerman Raceway in South Haven, Michigan.

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By on July 27, 2015

2015 Ford Edge Exterior Front-002

The large two-row crossover is a rare breed. With compact crossovers getting less compact and folks defecting to supersized three rows, Toyota and Honda chose to kill the Venza and Accord Crosstour while Ford pressed on with a redesign of the Edge. You can think of the Edge as a “tweener” crossover slotting between the Escape and the Explorer while at the same time being the spiritual successor (in modern form) to the Bronco and two-row Explorers of yesteryear. Although Ford says the Edge is a complete redesign, you could be forgiven for thinking this is more of a refresh, and that’s not a bad thing since the Edge was already one the most appealing options in this phone-booth-sized segment.
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By on July 24, 2015

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In the space of 48 hours last week, I saw a first-generation Jetta plying its rusty way down the middle lane of a freeway near Columbus, Ohio and I saw some spiky-haired hipster girl driving a fourth-gen Jolf on Interstate 75 north of Lexington, KY. It was a reminder of the Jetta’s uneasy position in the Volkswagen hierarchy. On one hand, it’s the uncoolest of the watercooled VWs, the American-market special loathed by the kind of Euro-fanatics who make up the vast majority of the company’s loyalists in the United States. They view the existence of the Jetta as an open expression of German contempt for Baconator-eating Americans, and the sharp divergence between Jetta and Golf that took place in the sixth generation hasn’t exactly poured oil on the waters.

On the other hand… it’s been the best-selling VW in this country more often than it hasn’t. It’s the official VW of sorority girls, single moms, adventurous empty-nesters, and rental fleets. It’s the Volkswagen we deserve, because we sign on the dotted line for it more often than we do the Golf and the GTI and the Tiguan combined. As such, it deserves a full slate of TTAC reviews. Our Managing Editor, Mark Stevenson, had kind things to say about a loaded-up Jetta TDI, and our good friend and itinerant contributor Blake Z. Rong was less complimentary about the GLI. Which leaves just the infamous “2.slow” 115-horsepower base model and the newly-remixed 1.8 TSI mid-ranger.

I chose the latter for a cheerful little 514-mile jaunt the other night, from just south of Asheville, NC to just north of Columbus, OH. It rained for much of the drive. There was fog. I witnessed the aftermath of three massive accidents, including one semi-trailer that had skidded sideways across one of Interstate 40’s most treacherous segments then flopped over in the median. I had some nontrivial time pressure and I’d already been awake for fifteen hours when I got in the car to begin the trip. Lousy circumstances, to be certain. So how did the Jetta do?

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By on July 23, 2015

2015 Volkswagen Golf Sportwagon TDI (1 of 14)

Great. Another diesel Volkswagen. This time it’s the Golf SportWagen — a car every enthusiast said, “I’d buy that with real, non-Internet money.”

We all know exactly how this is going to go:

  • The Golf is better than the Jetta.
  • The Golf SportWagen is better than the 5-door Golf if you have two kids and a dog.
  • The 1.8 TSI is more fun than the 2.0 TDI.
  • The 2.0 TDI is more efficient than the 1.8 TSI, but not enough to justify the increased MSRP when fuel prices are low.
  • You should get the manual if you can.
  • Stop buying Tiguans and get the Golf SportWagen instead. (Never mind. Nobody’s buying Tiguans.)
  • You should also buy this if you care about manuals and wagons and diesels, especially as a package. (Brown is for Luddites.)

It’s with these points in mind I plunged into a week-long test of the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen — just a mere two weeks after driving the Jetta TDI.

And as much as I like it — really, really like it — the long-roof Golf is hard to justify for exactly two reasons.
Read More >

By on July 21, 2015

2016 Hyundai Tucson (5 of 7)

When you are one of the world’s largest automakers, deep in what is a healthy growth period in American automotive sales, and you can’t muster sales gains … well, it’s time to re-evaluate your strategy.

This is the situation in which Hyundai finds itself.

After entering the U.S. utility market in 2000 with the Santa Fe, the Korean automaker has never fully expanded a solid line of compelling crossovers and SUVs to tantalize buyers. Instead, Hyundai has focused on building their quasi-luxury Genesis sub-brand as they crank out compact car after subcompact car, and growing when non-utility volume was good. Now, not so much. Utilities are the present and future.

Hyundai’s lineup is getting better, mind you, but there are still gaps. Compounding Hyundai’s sales woes is its smallest offroader offering — the Tucson — wearing age in not-the-most flattering of ways.

A little late to the party, Hyundai is looking to right the ship with a new Tucson. While the third-generation model looks good on the outside, it must be more than a pretty face if it wants to take on the Japanese army of CR-RAVs and their ilk.

Read More >

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