Category: Car Reviews

By on October 30, 2015


* A cautionary tale. 

Traversing the great state of Wyoming with hundreds of pounds of men, gear (including a Chairman Mao stencil) and snacks needs no fewer than 14 cupholders.

(Two cupholders were used for drinks, the rest were used for toy cars and various empty wrappers.)

Building a family car isn’t a trick. Rather, it’s a compromise between size and economy, comfort and capability, familiar and futuristic. Anyone can build a battleship, but moving it down the road at 25 miles per gallon requires some finesse.

This isn’t a story about the Littoral combat ship. Instead, it’s a story about three overweight men, eight hours to wonder aloud in a van in Wyoming about Nixon, road noise and absolutely no legal marijuana from Colorado crossing interstate lines. (Sorry to get your hopes up.) Read More >

By on October 29, 2015

2015 Land rover land rover sport hse front 34

My childhood was a bit different than most kids. My mother informed me that when I was 4 years old I didn’t know a cow from a sheep, but I knew the make and model of just about every car on the road.

For that, she was pissed at my father, who would read car magazines to me — not children’s books. It was his insistence to watch things like Camel Trophy and Formula 1 races, and not a soccer games, that has sculpted me into the car nut I am today.

And it was his influence and experience that led me to believe that a certain brand makes the best four-wheel drive, by far.

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By on October 28, 2015

2016 Honda Civic Sedan (15 of 34)

It only took Honda 15 years to get the Civic right again.

After Honda, a company known for engineering prowess in the 1990s, attempted to make the Civic a more palatable option for plain jack and janes — enthusiasts either hung on to what they had or went elsewhere.

To me, the last real Civic was the sixth-generation model, which Honda sold from 1996 to 2000. It was also the last generation that Honda sold as an honest to goodness hatchback in North America. Sure, the British-built Si came to our shores later, but you needed to shell out big bucks for Honda’s pride and joy from Swindon.

Thankfully, the automaker is going back to its roots — 15 years in the past — to deliver a driving experience I’ve missed since saying goodbye to my 2000 Honda Civic Coupe many, many years ago.

And, to top it all off, there are now two flavors — regular and turbocharged.

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By on October 27, 2015

2015 Honda Civic Si Sedan Exterior-001

BMW has M, Audi has a whole alphabet and Honda has Si. In truth, just the Civic has Si. Honda’s “Sport injection” trim started back in the 1980s but never expanded beyond its compact offerings in the U.S. Honda’s performance trim also never expanded beyond sharpened responses, a modest dollop of power and some looks-fast trim additions. The first Honda Si model came to our shores in 1985, but the first wasn’t a Civic — it was a Prelude. The Civic Si joined us a year later in 1986. But I digress.

Cars like the Civic Si are popular with journalists like me. The reason is simple, quite like the Civic itself. Unlike some performance packages, the Si treatment still favors sharpened responses and improved feel over simply jamming an over-boosted turbo engine under the hood. While the later is obviously a hoot and a half, the former is ultimately more pleasing to my peculiar tastes.

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By on October 21, 2015

2016 Volkswagen Passat (2 of 14)

“What brings you to Vermont?” asked the young woman I was sitting beside on my flight to Burlington to drive the newly refreshed Passat.

“Volkswagen,” I replied simply.

After a pause, and with an eyebrow raised, she came back with the question: “Diesel?”

This is how every conversation about Volkswagen will start for years to come. And, to be fair, it’s also how we’ve talked about Volkswagen for the last 20 years — minus the eyebrow. Volkswagen is as intrinsically connected with diesel as Vermont is to small-town values that border on being Canadianesque.

Except now, conversations about Volkswagen diesels are punctuated with that eyebrow — and for all the wrong reasons.

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By on October 19, 2015

2016 Volvo XC90 Exterior-001

Many of you have asked why we bother to review a car we’ve already reviewed based on a few hours at a launch event. The all-new 2016 Volvo XC90 is a textbook example of why more time with a car allows for a more complete review.

At launch events, you have no time to perform acceleration or brake tests of a vehicle (and, of course, you aren’t testing the car on the same circuit that the rest of the cars have been tested upon) and you have no ability to drive the competition back-to-back to get a sense of comparison. There is a reason that first drive reviews tend to be fact based: it’s hard to review a car in a vacuum.

So why is the XC90 a textbook example? Because of my own biases. Biases are interesting things. They can blind you to a car’s faults, or they can lead you to overcompensate and find fault.

After digesting my time with the XC90, I started falling into the latter camp. Edmunds 0-60 tested the XC90 and found it slower than expected. I started wondering if I had been wearing rose-colored glasses and asked myself: “Was it really that good?” Therefore, I had to get my hand on one again so I could run it through our battery of tests and drive it on my own for a week to find the answer.

The answer: It is better.

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By on October 16, 2015


According to my nephew and me: If one is good then 100 is a good place to start.

My nephew is 11. I’m 33. Hopefully his gene pool is deeper than mine. But excess is extra good in my life. I appreciate a larger-than-I-need TV most nights and not one, but two, cheeseburgers in my value meals sometimes. If a Forester is good then a turbo Forester must be great according to my juvenile definition of the world.

Already one of the best crossovers on the market, the Forester actually benefits from Subaru’s glacial powertrain pace: flat-four up front, all-wheel drive underneath — and they’ll check back sometime during the next decade. The naturally aspirated, older 2.5-liter flat four does work in pedestrian Foresters; its 170 horsepower is competent like gas station coffee. Force feeding 80 more ponies — to a total of 250 for the turbo XT — should make the Forester better. It could, right?

I’ll put it this way: Does gas station creamer make gas station coffee better?

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By on October 14, 2015

2015 Mitsubishi RVR (1 of 11)

A preconceived notion — or simply, a bias — forms easily when correlations exist to support it.

Take Mitsubishi.

While the Japanese automaker has seen recent sales success, their newest nameplate — Mirage — has become the butt of many jokes and is often associated with a group of buyers one degree removed from the “Buy Here, Pay Here” crowd. Whether the Mirage deserves that reputation is another story.

The company’s largest model, the Outlander, recently received a refresh that is more than skin deep, but still not very dramatic. A new front fascia and revised rear sheet metal bring up the visual appeal a notch, and Mitsubishi does say numerous engineering changes have been employed on its latest and greatest crossover, but the crossover still houses the same, tired, premium fuel-drinking V-6 engine as always.

The recent news that Mitsubishi will shut down its manufacturing operations in Normal, Illinos, a plant that’s been open since 1988, also doesn’t help optics on the surface. And, unfortunately for the automaker, stories about sales gains just aren’t sexy enough to grab the attention of the average consumer.

Therefore, with all this bad news and bad press, you’d think the Outlander Sport (RVR in Canada) is just another zit on the face of the Japanese automaker.

But you’d be (mostly) wrong.

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By on October 13, 2015

Shelby® GT350R Mustang at Grattan Raceway

Have you ever heard of the word anticipointment? It’s one of those Urban Dictionary words that seem to be all the rage with the kids nowadays. Basically, it means that you look forward to something with great anticipation, but the experience ends up being incredibly disappointing.

Yeah, that’s kind of how I felt after attending the GT350 Track Tour at Sebring International Raceway. Let me count all the ways that this event wasn’t awesome.

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By on October 12, 2015

2016 Audi A6 3.0T Exterior-001

Audi is a brand associated with all-wheel drive, well-fitted interiors and design evolution that requires you to park a new model next to an old one to tell what has been changed. The 2016 A6 doesn’t diverge much from this formula despite being a thorough refresh of the outgoing A6.

This Audi plays in the crowded midsize luxury pool with competition coming from every angle. The big boys are, of course, the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but 2016 also brings an all-new and all-aluminum Jaguar XF. We also have Cadillac’s latest CTS, a Maserati Ghibli for those that want something less reliable than a Jag, the Lexus GS and Infiniti Q70 from the land of the rising sun and the Koreans have the Genesis — and that’s before we start including the more distant competition from Volvo, Acura, Lincoln, etc. The last A6 was a midsized luxury unicorn, because not even Nissan thought they could sell a front-wheel drive luxury car in America with a CVT. As it turns out, not even Audi could defend the CVT in a luxury entry, so 2016 sees the end of Audi’s dalliance with the cogless tranny. Fear not folks, the A6 is still the odd German out since the base model is still front-wheel drive.

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  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Bark M., United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
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