Category: Car Reviews

By on April 15, 2016

2016 Ford Mustang V6 Convertible, Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars

Ever since I left the city, you, you, you
You and me we just don’t get along
You make me feel like I did you wrong
Going places where you don’t belong

—Drake, “Hotline Bling”

Biloxi, Mississippi is a place where dreams go to die. Sad imitations of Vegas casinos line the coast half-filled with retirees giving away their fixed income, one pull of the lever at a time. Nobody ever wants to be there. You go to Biloxi if you can’t afford to go to Vegas, or if you can’t make time to get down the coast to Tampa Bay. Biloxi was punched directly in the gut by Hurricane Katrina, but nobody ever talks about Biloxi the way they talk about New Orleans. If Biloxi recovered, nobody noticed.

So it was appropriate that when I arrived at the Gulfport/Biloxi airport rental counter, nobody could seem to find my reservation. In my six years of renting a different car every week, that has never happened. Maybe I should have taken it as a sign to just go home, but I didn’t. After I found my reservation number on my app, the frazzled woman behind the counter apologized profusely for the delay, and whispered to me, “I’m going to give you something really nice to make up for the inconvenience.

Oh, no.

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By on April 12, 2016

2017 Hyundai Elantra Limited, Image: © 2016 Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars

Sometimes, circumstance hands you a perfect metaphor.

While driving Hyundai’s redesigned and all-around updated 2017 Elantra, a brand-spankin’-new Honda Civic bolted out from a side street, led me for a short while, then put the hammer down before it took off into the distance.

Up ’till that moment, the electric blue Elantra tester (in option-heavy Limited form) had proven itself a comfortable, roomy, good-handling compact by soaking up the worst potholes, frost heaves and patches that early spring could throw at it. But here, all of a sudden, was its main competitor — the award-winning Civic, the car to beat in the compact class — and I could almost feel the worry emerge from the Korean plastic and steel that encased me.

No car exists in a vacuum (thank you, capitalism!), so the Elantra’s mandate can’t simply be to improve on its own past — it must present a compelling argument against the Civic. Is it up to the task?

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By on April 11, 2016

2016 Fiat 500X exterior front 3/4, Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars

Dear Fiat (FIAT?),

I didn’t want to love your little 500X crossover. I frankly find the very notion of it ridiculous. In fact, the only reason why I selected it as my rental car last week was because the keys were strangely missing from the cabin of the Ford Edge SEL that I really wanted to borrow. If I hadn’t picked your bug-eyed cute monster, I would have had my choice of three different colors of four-cylinder Altimas. Not cool, Emerald Aisle. Not cool.

So, as fate had it, I picked the 500X. And like all the best romance stories, our inauspicious beginning led to a quirky, odd pairing that neither one of us wanted to end. Well, at least I didn’t. You probably didn’t give a fuck.

But this is our story.

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By on April 11, 2016

2016 Nissan Titan XD exterior with empty trailer, Image: © 2016 Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars

Japanese car companies have been trying to break into the American full-sized pickup market for decades. Despite Japanese trucks having a sterling reputation for dependability and reliability internationally, ‘Muricans are a different bunch. Not even Ford’s switch to “European-style” twin-turbo engines and aluminum bodies could stop the freight train that is the F-Series sales chart.

On the opposite end of that sales chart is the last-place Titan. Nissan sold just 12,140 Titans last year, 1/10th of Toyota’s own meager volume and 1/65th of Ford’s truck sales.

Rather than picking up its marbles and going home, Nissan thought outside the box and came up with a novel idea. Why not “right-size” a 3/4 ton truck and sell it for a little more than your average 1/2 ton? With the Detroit Three engaged in serious towing and payload wars, the heavy-duty pickup segment looks more like a Freightliner convention.

That’s where the diesel Titan XD comes in.

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By on April 11, 2016

2016 Audi Q3 at Hartlen Point, Image: © 2016 Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

A week during which I recently spent driving an Audi Q3 clarified once and for all that, against everything pointing to the contrary, there’s not a bone of pro-Audi bias in my lanky frame.

My father didn’t claim that his handful of Audi 5000 Turbo Quattros — including a couple beige examples — and his red Audi Coupe were the absolute best driver’s cars, but he never wanted to drive what everybody else was driving. No BMWs, no Benzes, no Lincolns.

All five of us kids loved those Audis. One of my older brothers and I would pretend that the unbuckled middle seatbelt attachment was a microphone as we called the race home between Bobby Rahal in the Chevrolet Celebrity alongside, Emerson Fittipaldi in the Ford Taurus up ahead, and our dad in the Audi. And what a race it was. Mr. Cain didn’t take it slow until the four-cylinder Subaru bug bit 15 years later.

With all my childhood experience in five hard-driven Audis, you may forgive the natural eventuality, that in my career as a full-time auto writer, I wouldn’t be able to escape a pro-Audi bias. I’m only human, right? Read More >

By on April 8, 2016

2016 Ford Flex Limited Exterior Front 3/4, Image: © 2016 Jeff Voth/The Truth About Cars

“Get that thing off my driveway!” was how Ford’s former executive director of design Peter Horbury described his wife’s reaction the first time she saw the newest people-mover from Ford back in 2008. It was a radical shift for a company that recently exited the minivan market (goodbye Freestar) in favor of something more in tune with the times.

At least that was the plan.

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By on April 7, 2016

2016 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 front 3/4 view, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

“I love it,” the man once said, “when a plan comes together.” And this was the mother of all ad hoc, free-range, domino-effect plans.

Avant-garde pianist Hiromi Uehara, along with six-string bass monster Anthony Jackson and noted over-drummer Simon Phillips, had a 7:30 p.m. gig one evening in Fort Lauderdale. Southwest had a nonstop from Columbus that touched down in Fort Lauderdale at 6:35 p.m. Could I get off the plane, get a rental car, and make it to my fourth-row center-stage seat by 7:30 sharp? Google Maps said that the drive was 27 minutes. This was the kind of concert where they don’t take you to your seat if you show up late.

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By on April 5, 2016

2016 GMC Yukon, Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars

“My advice for aspiring writers is go to New York. And if you can’t go to New York, go to the place that represents New York to you, where the standards for writing are high, there are other people who share your dreams, and where you can talk, talk, talk about your interests.”

— Walter Kirn 

I quote Mr. Kirn to begin this review not only because his novel, Up In The Air, may as well be an unauthorized Bark M. biography, but because he’s right. Writers need to go to New York. More specifically, autowriters need to go to the New York International Auto Show. Detroit is the biggest. Geneva gets all the supercars. But to see and be seen? To network with fellow writers? To get your finger on the pulse of what’s shaking in the car biz?

There’s only one show that matters, and that’s New York.

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By on April 4, 2016

2016 Audi A3 Sportback E-tron Exterior Front 3/4, Image: © 2016 Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars

Emissions legislation politics is a hairy subject at the company holiday party. But there are some unexpected benefits regardless of your take on California’s ZEV mandate or the EPA’s CAFE standards.

Without this legislation we may never have seen Audi’s smallest station wagon return to America. Yep, Audi’s first plug-in hybrid comes in the form of a small hatchback-cum-station-wagon. That means if you want an Audi plug-in, a compact wagon is in your future. If you want a compact wagon, you aren’t going to get one without a plug.

Fortunately, the Audi in question is the tasty new A3 Sportback E-tron.

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By on March 30, 2016

2016 Ford Mustang and Boeing 747, Image: © 2016 Seth Parks/The Truth About Cars

The automotive press expends much effort (present company included) telling OEMs what they should and should not do. Automakers may not always take action, much less seem to care, but they value your opinion. Otherwise they wouldn’t have given me a car for a week in hopes of influencing your next buying decision.

I’m thankful they did. The 2016 Ford Mustang contains a long list of items the fourth estate has been asking for: contemporary design, competitive interior, independent rear-suspension, and a roaring V8. And this from a nameplate that’s been near death multiple times, almost been forced to go front-wheel drive, and was inches away from shedding cylinders in favor of forced induction.

Thankfully, none of those doomsday scenarios came to pass. This is now the pony journalists have been asking for in Mustang reviews from the last decade.

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Staff

  • Contributing Writers

  • Bark M., United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Bozi Tatarevic, United States
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic

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