Category: Car Reviews

By on January 22, 2016

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As I exit the sleek, svelte coupe and to buy some ice cream, the car is crackling and popping like a campfire doused. I feel there’s something contradictory about this. After what I did for last hour or so — blasting around back roads at speeds far above socially acceptable levels, manhandling the tiller just to keep it straight under throttle, thundering through hairpin turns and using massive traction provided by a limited-slip diff — I should be doing something manly. Chomping on a fat steak and downing a beer; not licking a sweet cone filled with a frozen, sugared dessert. And the car behind me should be a butch, masculine coupe; not a curvy, chic little Peugeot.

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By on January 21, 2016

front quarter

The dog startled me, as much as I likely startled him. A blind corner coming over a rise, a low-hanging tree branch, and a bit too much aggression on early morning dew-sparkled tarmac conspired to pucker canine and human alike. The stability control kicked in moments after oversteer presented too much of the Fusion’s glowing taillights to Fido.

No, you aren’t reading the wrong review. It’s simply been too long since I’ve driven any car as the mobile portion of my personal fleet is of the SUV and minivan variety — none of which has a sporting ride height. The sports car in my fleet has been a shelf for a couple years now, falling victim to cascading failures, including the “can’t take two kids and their gear to soccer practice in a Miata” fault that has doomed so many sportscars for generations. So to be let loose on magnificent backroads in any low-slung car is exhilarating.

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By on January 20, 2016

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Once more into the breach, dear friends / Or close up the segment with our heavily-rebated dead.

This is the third time I’ve encountered this generation of Ford Focus SE, having enjoyed the car on its press preview and suffered through an overheated PowerShift sedan in Florida traffic a year later. Now I return once again to this vaguely-Germanic ground, this time for a 448-mile odyssey through the Michigan winter.

Since we last met, the Focus SE has been given a thorough and comprehensive revamp, from the new global front end to what looks like an all-new interior. The price has also been favorably adjusted. Is it enough to put the aging Euro-compact back on your personal radar screen?

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By on January 19, 2016

2016 Lexus IS 200t Exterior

Lexus has tended to prefer conservative design in almost every aspect of product development. Words like reliable and dependable usually spring to mind before sporty or exciting.

Yet, the brand has been trying to change that over the last few years with love-it-or-hate-it designs; in particular, Lexus’ new “Predator mouth.” The changes aren’t simply skin deep. The current-generation IS sedan also stepped outside the luxury brand’s comfort zone with sharp handling and a focus on dynamics. Of course, this is Lexus we’re talking about, so this change in a more aggressive direction is happening at, you guessed it, a conservative pace.

Now in its third year of production, the third-generation IS isn’t getting a refresh like we’d typically see in from ze Germans. Instead, Lexus has decided to focus its attention under the hood with a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a de-tuned V-6 for mid-level shoppers.

Can a refreshed drivetrain help the IS stand out in a crowded segment? Let’s find out.

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By on January 13, 2016

2016 Audi TT Roadster Exterior-002

Most luxury roadsters are related to a practical, rear-wheel-drive sports sedan, but Audi prefers to march to a different drummer.

Since its inception in 1998, the Audi TT has been based not on the A4, but on the Volkswagen Golf. The original TT was the product of Audi’s best and brightest and it not only blew minds at its debut for its design, it was a hoot to drive as well.

The second generation of the TT on the other hand, failed to impress. It’s not that it was a bad car, it just didn’t excite me like the first generation did. The handling was good, but BMW’s Z4 and Mercedes’ SLK were more fun. The exterior was bolder and meaner than the original, but the interior was too “VW Golf” for the price tag. Every time I sat in one I would say to myself, “Something is missing.”

As luck would have it, Audi’s engineers were also searching for that “something.” And they found it.

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By on January 12, 2016

accord5

Twenty-three months ago, your humble author did what virtually nobody in this auto-journo game does — I went out and paid my own money for a thoroughly mass-market, middle-of-the-road vehicle. In just seven months, my 2014 Accord V6 Coupe 6MT and I made it to twelve thousand miles. Starting this spring, the pace at which I put miles on the big Honda slackened significantly as I diverted about 7,500 miles of commuting to my motorcycles.

Other than an oil change and imaginary tire rotation, the Accord didn’t require anything in 2015. Which bring us to January 2016, the 30,000-mile mark, a set of new shoes, and some long-term-style observations.

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By on January 6, 2016

2016 BMW i8 Hybrid Exterior Front

“Looks like sex, goes like stink” is the usual supercar mantra, but BMW’s guru was humming a different tune when penning the i8.

You see, the i8 isn’t just a sexy car with “butterfly doors.” It’s also a production prototype of sorts styled after BMW’s 2009 Vision EfficientDynamics concept.

Most supercars have exotic engines with high cylinder counts and drink premium gasoline at an alarming rate. BMW’s mission with the i8 was to make an efficient supercar and at the same time production-test technologies that will trickle down to its higher volume cars over time.

The i8’s efficiency is the key to understanding this sexy German. The i8 isn’t the best handling supercar, or even the best handling BMW. Neither is it the fastest BMW, the most luxurious BMW, or (oddly enough) the most efficient BMW. Instead, the i8 delivers M235i like lateral grip, M4 like acceleration, fuel economy that bests the 320i by a few miles per gallon and lines so sexy I got a thumbs up from a passing F430.

This isn’t your average sports car.

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By on January 1, 2016

2016 Volvo XC90 Exterior-001

Checking the files, I drove over 120 different cars, trucks, SUVs and crossovers in 2015. On track, off road, and in the Taco Bell drive-thru line. No wonder I’m tired and fat.

Here are my eight top picks from 2015. If you’re car shopping and you don’t buy one of these, you should be forced to own a Mitsubishi Mirage. Yes, I said it.

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By on December 30, 2015

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As my personal GTI is powered by gasoline, you might think this will be the first Volkswagen story you have read in the past three months that doesn’t mention Dieselgate.

You’d be wrong. Read More >

By on December 29, 2015

2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06

I was recently reminded that comparing cars to ladies is beyond cliché and sexist. Yet, once I settled on one particular comparison, I couldn’t shake it from my consciousness.

Every move made by the new Corvette Z06 brought to mind Miranda Lambert. Not the newly single, thinner Miranda. Naw, I mean Kerosene Miranda: more dramatic than you can handle, prettier than you will admit and better than most will ever know.

She’s at the bar after having already downed two shots of bourbon. The right word will get you a dance. The wrong one gets you punched. Do you have the guts to approach? With 650 horsepower on tap, you better be damn sure.

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  • Bark M., United States
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