Category: Car Reviews

By on March 16, 2015

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The idea of the Mercedes SLK is just two years younger than the idea of the Mercedes SL. Of course, back in 1954 the marketing folks didn’t quite have the clout or imagination they have now, so the original SLK was simply called the 190SL. Like today’s SLK, it was based on small-sedan mechanicals and shared very little with the high-end “Gullwing” 300SL. It also outsold its more glamorous relative about eight to one, mostly to the coasts where it served as respectable fair-weather transport for the well-heeled.

The 190SL extracted 104 horsepower from a 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine. Even by the standards of the day, it was all show and no go — but it was handsome enough and it was also very popular with the right kind of people. The 1.8-liter, 201-horsepower junior variant of the SLK is that car’s natural descendant, so when I found myself at loose ends in Palm Beach this past Saturday, it occurred to me that renting one might be just the ticket for the weekend. Although I have extensive wheel time in the previous two generations of the snub-nose convertible Benz, including a self-funded Nurburgring test day in a second-generation SLK200, I had yet to try out the current model. This would be my chance to see if the SLK is still firmly on the “touring” side of the sport/touring continuum.

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By on March 14, 2015

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Back when I was a kid in the 90s, the word “select” seemed to mean something. Our town of 30,000 had one select soccer team which entertained over a hundred kids at tryouts every year for fifteen coveted spots.  We had one select baseball team—a team that was so good that a future major leaguer got cut from it. To be considered “select” was to among the most elite of the elite. You had to be, you know…selected.

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By on March 13, 2015

2015 Nissan Murano Exterior Front-001.CR2

If you look at the numbers, sales of the Murano are on fire with a 72% sales jump in January of 2015 vs 2014 thanks to the new model. Looking more closely however, you’ll see that there was practically nowhere to go but up as the Murano barely outsold the now-dead Venza. Putting that in perspective, Nissan’s compact Rogue is the 6th best-selling SUV in America and the Murano is 26 rungs lower on the sales ladder. Nissan sells more Rogues in 6 days than Muranos in an entire month. Rather than killing the model as Toyota did with the Venza, Nissan decided to re-invent the formerly bland soft-roader into a flagship crossover. This actually makes sense, because it helps keep the mid-sized 5-seat CUV from being the awkward “middle child” between the 7-seat Rogue and the 7-seat Pathfinder. Does the all-new and all-curvy Murano have what it takes to compete with the Edge, Grand Cherokee or even the RX 350?

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By on March 12, 2015

2015 Kia Forte 5 SX Turbo whiteKia’s second-generation Forte, a successor to the Spectra and Sephia, spawned coupe and hatchback derivatives just like its predecessor. But in second-gen form, Kia took it a step further by inserting the 1.6L turbocharged four-cylinder from the Hyundai Veloster Turbo into top-spec Forte5 hatchbacks and two-door Koups.

While Forte EX sedans top out with a 173-horsepower, naturally aspirated 2.0L four-cylinder – a 28-horsepower upgrade from the 1.8L in the Forte LX sedan – Forte5s and Koups come standard with the 2.0L and, in SX trim, are fitted with this 201-horsepower, 195 lb-ft 1.6L turbo. With the SX Premium and Technology packages and a 6-speed automatic transmission, the Forte5 SX’s price in the United States rises from $21,715 to $26,915.


• As-Tested USD Price: $26,915

• Horsepower: 201 @ 6000 rpm

• Torque: 195 lb-ft @ 1750 rpm

• Observed Fuel Economy: 26.4 mpg


You’re responsible for rendering the final stylistic verdict, but the Forte5 SX garnered more compliments during its stay with me than the Ford Mustang the week before and the Audi TTS the week before that. I think it looks especially nice from the rear three-quarter, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll all readily acknowledge that its the wheels that set the SX apart.

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By on March 11, 2015

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It seems that whenever you read a review of a Jaguar, it’s never of a model that most people buy. It generally has a supercharged V-8 which is powerful enough for law enforcement to be on a first name basis with the driver. Its exhaust is loud enough to force the homeowners’ association to call an emergency meeting. The price tag is enough to send someone to a private college for a year and a half. It would be lucky to make less trips to the gas station than Nordstrom. The maintenance costs will come to rival its owner’s property taxes. Jaguar will probably make less than 10,000 units of that model during its lifespan for the entire world.

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By on March 9, 2015

Ford F-150 grey, side

This review begins with a car, a broken car, a miserable broken ungrateful little four-wheeled implement to which I have sunk too much money and too many pulled hairs, both of which I will never recoup.

My stupid, silly Mazda Miata has been out of commission since, oh, last May, befallen by a faulty engine and then, uh, another faulty engine. (The details are sordid: first time was a journal bearing, if anyone’s keeping track, and the second, a failed oil pump. Someday I’ll gather all of my thoughts on this Horrible Misadventure in Transportation Ownership and publish the eight-thousand word screed to any miscreant willing to stomach it.)

The Miata of my obsessions. Sadly.

The Miata of my obsessions. Sadly.

The third engine, as pointed out by snickering colleagues, has got to be the charm. That warm glow of schadenfreude doesn’t feel as good when you’re the poor dumb bastard.

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By on March 8, 2015

CharleyCameraThill 229

It was one of those weekends where nothing went quite right. The first rental car I got was pretty banged-up on all corners, and the interior reeked of menthol cigarettes. Worst of all, it wasn’t even a Mopar, and since I was on the way to Thunderhill so I could race a Neon with famous Mopar engineer, Hellcat inventor, and Viper-related head-shaver Erich Heuschele, I decided to Gold Choice my way into a Dart. Both Erich and I are still awfully passionate about Neons despite the fact there hasn’t been a Neon for sale for quite some time now, and I thought that the Dart, as the Neon’s authentic successor, would be a good choice.

The first thing I noticed about the Dart was that it had nearly 35,000 miles on it. The second thing was that someone had swapped the front tires out for astoundingly noisy, unbalanced cheapo replacements. The third thing I noticed was that it did not have cruise control, and by then it was too late to turn back.

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By on March 6, 2015

2015 Honda CR-V Exterior Front

Refreshed, redesigned or updated, whatever you want to call the changes to the CR-V for the 2015 model year, it’s hard to argue with this model’s success. The CR-V isn’t just the best-selling compact crossover in America, it’s the best-selling crossover period and the 7th best-selling vehicle overall. With sales success on the line Honda did what any Japanese company would do: make minor changes that give you more of what shoppers want without upsetting the apple cart. Does that make the CR-V just right? Or is it a compact bore-box?

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By on March 5, 2015

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I have talked about diesel, manual wagons in this space a few times already, so you probably know that I don’t like them. I don’t like their clatter and I don’t like their limited rev range and turbo surge. I don’t like the massive servicing costs of the common-rail ones, which is the price you pay for the reduction in clatter. And I hate the tons of soot they spit out.

There is one thing, though, at which they are hard to beat. It’s providing a combination of practicality and driving fun combined with fantastic fuel mileage. But hard to beat doesn’t mean impossible to beat. So, let me introduce a car that should, in theory, kick the diesel, manual wagon’s arse at its own game. The Škoda Octavia 1.4 TSI G-TEC.

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By on March 4, 2015

Is there a car enthusiast whose pulse does not quicken when he or she hears the brrrap brap of the exhaust  when the North American spec Fiat Abarth fires up? TTAC’s managing editor Derek Kreindler is correct, the Abarth does indeed sound faster than it actually is, but it still sounds glorious. Don’t tell me that an inline four can’t sound as exciting as a V8 or even a V12. Saying that an eight or a twelve “sounds better” than a four is like saying that a big band sounds better than a trio, as if you can’t enjoy both Duke Ellington and Cream.

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