Category: Car Reviews

By on August 14, 2015


2015 Ram 1500 Rebel Crew Cab 4×4

5.7-liter, variable valve timing, multi-displacement system Hemi V-8 (395 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm; 410 pounds-feet @ 3,950 rpm)

8-speed 8HP70 automatic

15 city/21 highway/17 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

15.1 mpg, 60 percent highway/30 percent off-road/10 percent at a lousy, never-ending stoplight (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Rebel Package; Dual rear exhaust with bright tips; Luxury group, $560 (Heated mirrors, auto-dimming mirrors); Protection group, $150 (Transfer case and front suspension skid plating); Monotone paint; Rear Camera and Park Assist, $595 (Backup camera, ParkSense rear park assistant); ZF 8-speed automatic, $500; Anti-spin differential rear axle, $325; 5.7-liter Hemi V-8, $1,150; Rebel instrument cluster, $175; Four corner air suspension; Uconnect 8.4-inch touchscreen w/nav, $1,005; RamBox cargo management system, $1,295; Trailer brake control, $230; Spray-in bedliner, $475.

Base Price (Ram 1500 Rebel 4×4):
As Tested Price:

* All prices include $1,195 destination fee.

Any debate about Jeep inevitably ends on a common, agreeable topic for all parties involved:

“Jeep really needs to make a pickup already.”

The idea that stuffed shirts at Auburn Hills, who make more in a day than we do in a year, have somehow missed the point is entirely possible (remember the center-mounted exhausts in the Grand Cherokee SRT8, effectively prohibiting any sort of towing?) but highly unlikely.

In fact: Jeep now has a pickup. It’s called the Ram Rebel.

Obligatory disclosure: I have no skin in the pickup game. None. My father owned exactly one of the following: A white Ford F-150, a black Chevrolet Silverado and a green Dodge Ram (when they were called as such). They were all new when he bought them, of 1990s-era vintage and equally pampered. No, we were not a wealthy family, and no, I still couldn’t back up a trailer with a gun pointed to my head.

To be even clearer: The only pickup I fondly remember is a dingy 1996 Toyota Pickup (pre-Tacoma years) that my brother took to college. It was five in speeds and six in cylinders; gutless and indestructible. It couldn’t run up a hill and run the A/C at the same time, but it felt like it could run over anything.

Put simply, in the domestic pickup war for dominance, I am Switzerland.

Now that you know where my allegiances fall, let’s get on to the important stuff.

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By on August 13, 2015

2016 Mazda CX-3 GT (1 of 25)

2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD (U.S.)/GT AWD (Canada)

2.0-liter SKYACTIV DOHC I-4, direct injection, dual S-VT (146 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 146 lbs-ft of torque @ 2,800 rpm)

6-speed SKYACTIV-Drive automatic w/ Sport mode and paddle shifters

27 city/32 highway/29 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

30 mpg on the camping-gear-laden test cycle, 80 percent highway (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: i-ACTIVSENSE Safety Package (U.S.)/Technology Package (Canada), i-ACTIV all-wheel drive (U.S., AWD is standard on GT trim in Canada)

Base Price:
$20,840* (U.S.)/$22,680* (Canada)
As Tested Price:
$29,040* (U.S.)/$32,490* (Canada)

* All prices include $880 destination fee (U.S.) or $1,995 destination fee, PDI and A/C tax (Canada).

For as long as I can remember, my parents always had two vehicles while I was growing up. The first one I can vividly remember was the precursor to GM’s dreaded Cavalier and Cobalt, a 1987 Chevrolet Chevette, with an interior as roomy as any compact you can buy today. The second conveyance in our driveway was a 1992 Suzuki Sidekick, Jay Green in color, and rugged as my father needed for his job traversing Cape Breton Island’s vast spaghetti network of logging roads.

In the early 1990s, the Chevette ended with a bang. As I laid on a bed at my grandmother’s apartment, attempting as much as a young child would to get to sleep (translation: not trying at all), I was startled by tire squealing, a loud bang, silence, then more tire squealing. The Chevette had been dispatched by a freshly licensed 16-year-old driving a Hyundai Pony and fueled by Vitamin O. Write-off total: approximately $500 — for both cars.

The Chevette, now off to the scrapyard, was replaced by a Pontiac Firefly five-door, known for its economical three-cylinder engine outputting double-digit horsepower whilst solidly achieving double-digit miles per gallon halfway to the centripulcate. As a daily runabout, it was solid, economical, and — with its wagon-esque virtues — incredibly versatile.

Back then, my parents were about the same age I am now. They were the last of the Baby Boomers and in the 1990s faced what many Millennials face today. My parents were done with school and working on budding careers and a growing family inside their newly acquired home. There are some key differences between them and me however: I have one extra dog (for a total of two), lack children and I don’t own a home.

It’s in this context that my girlfriend and I headed out on one of my family’s favorite pastimes from when I was a child — a weekend camping trip — in the millennial-focused 2016 Mazda CX-3.

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By on August 12, 2015


2015 BMW X6 M
4.4-liter, twin turbocharged V-8 with direct injection and variable valve control (567 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 553 pounds-feet of torque @ 2,000-5,500 rpm)8-speed M Sport automatic

14 city/19 highway/16 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

16.8 mpg combined, 60 percent highway, 40 percent asshat (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Driver Assistance Plus – $1,900; Executive Package – $4,500; Enhanced Bluetooth and smartphone – $500.

Base Price:
$103,050 w/ $950 destination charge
As Tested Price:
$109,950 w/ $950 destination charge

For most people who find themselves burdened with the choice between fast and big: Salud, you’ve made it somewhere. For the small number of people who scoff at those physical encumbrances: pay your taxes, please. You’re using the road more than the rest of us. 

Imagine, if you can, a Venn diagram of two relatively equal circles representing a traditional buyer’s decision between two cars that, everything else being equal, represent the physical problem of mass and its direct effect on velocity. Two unrelated sets of realities — speed and size — very rarely converge in the physical world, unless those sets are colored Castrol red, Bavarian blue and of course, purple, I guess.

I’m making this point because the BMW X6 M seems, well, kind of pointless. On paper, the big SUV doesn’t scream that it wants to be taken off road (and dent those 21-inch wheels?!) nor does it seem like it wants to go that fast. After all, 5,185 pounds is large enough to have its own weather system.

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By on August 11, 2015


2015 GMC Sierra Crew Cab SLT 4×4
6.2-liter OHV V-8, direct injection, cylinder deactivation, CVVT (420 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm; 460 lbs-ft @ 4,100 rpm)

Hydra-Matic 8L90 8-speed automatic

15 city/21 highway/17 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

16.5 mpg, mostly city driving while yelling “AMERICA!” at full trot. (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: 6.2L Ecotec3 V-8, navigation, polished exhaust tips, sunroof, spray-in bedliner.

As Tested (U.S.):
$52,300 w/ $1,195 destination charge (sheet)
As Tested (Canada):
$59,615 w/ $1,795 destination charge and A/C tax (sheet)

A farm, lots of mud thanks to rain from the previous day, and a dose of sunshine to dry out the ground just enough so my feet wouldn’t lose their boots in the slop. This is the perfect location — along with the perfect conditions — to test one of the latest from the pickup crop, the 2015 GMC Sierra.

Or is it?

Under the hood of the SLT-trimmed Sierra sits a V-8 less suited to farm duty and better equipped for automotive trolling.

Before we get into the meat and potatoes of the Sierra, I have a small announcement to make. TTAC now has an off-road area for testing trucks and SUVs. Sort of. It probably won’t be fully available for us for a little while, but shenanigans will be had before the end of the summer. Here’s hoping the automakers send us some metal so we can put it to the test at this newfound playland.

As for this Sierra, well, it isn’t a farm truck. Hell, it’s barely a work truck. The Sierra is available in four different trim levels — base, SLE, SLT and the top-trim Denali. Our SLT-trimmed tester arrived with its bench seat still intact, which is great for mid-summer-romance canoodling and one of the reasons girls dig guys with trucks, maybe.

Interior configuration aside, the real news for this Sierra is under the hood. The 6.2-liter Ecotec3 V-8, with its 420 horsepower and 460 pounds-feet of torque, is a nod to old-school solutions to making power and a pragmatic approach to efficiency. The pushrod V-8 might sound antiquated next to the new turbo and diesel units from Ford and Dodge, but that doesn’t make it any less valid.

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By on August 10, 2015


Luxury shoppers have an interesting “problem.” If you want something spendier and more unique than a Lexus LS, but aren’t ready for a baby-Bentley or Roller, you have but one option: the Mercedes S-Class. Trouble is the last generation S-Class lagged behind more plebian options in both gadgets and luxury. That was a serious problem since the price tag on the S spans from just under $100,000 to nearly a quarter of a million. Like the new C-Class, the redesigned S-Class is restoring my faith in the premiere German luxury brand.

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By on August 5, 2015


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


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


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.

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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


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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  • Contributing Writers

  • Jack Baruth, United States
  • Bark M., United States
  • Chris Tonn, United States
  • Doug DeMuro, United States
  • Steven Lang, United States
  • Brendan McAleer, Canada
  • Vojta Dobes, Czech Republic
  • Matthias Gasnier, Australia
  • W. Christian 'Mental' Ward, United States
  • Cameron Aubernon, United States