Category: Car Reviews

By on June 29, 2016

2016 Infiniti QX60

There’s much talk in the automotive world about luxury. Companies are seemingly always redefining it, according to their clever ad campaigns. Luxury is something to which we aspire, a vague idea that is difficult to define. But, much like pornography, we know it when we see it.

I’ve seen the 2016 Infiniti QX60, and whatever luxury is, this ain’t it.

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By on June 29, 2016

2015 Honda Odyssey EX

365 days ago, we drove away from the Honda dealer in a brand-new 2015 Honda Odyssey EX.

While minivan ownership was never an aspiration of mine, neither was I ever of the mindset that minivan ownership made it obvious that I was a parent. I figure the first boy we brought home from the IWK Health Centre had already made that apparent enough; my wife’s womb swollen with another boy serves as further evidence.

Children, a 70-pound Boxer/Ibizan Hound mix, periodic child care responsibilities, an ever-present InStep bike trailer, frequent grandparent visits, and a home renovation that’s not quite two-thirds complete don’t mandate minivan ownership.

But minivan ownership sure does make life easier.

One year into this four-year Honda Odyssey experiment, there are no regrets. Read More >

By on June 28, 2016

Toyota Tundra Pro Runner Ocotillo Wells 8, Image: © 2016 Seth Parks/The Truth About Cars

Do you yearn to feel your truck lunge forward under moderate throttle, the hood heaving up before you? Do you ache for that gentle linear pre-runner sway into every corner? Does your current rig sport a sticker with Calvin maliciously relieving himself on a Blue Oval? If so, Dealer Services International’s Tundra Pro Runner may be the truck for you.

The Raptor is said to have no real peers. And while that is strictly true, this Toyota makes a compelling argument to look hither. But it’s not the truck’s canyon-absorbing wheel travel, miraculous hydraulic bump stops, or bad-ass 18-inch black aluminum wheels in 35-inch rubber that make this Tundra exceptional. What makes this a viable Raptor alternative is that you can buy one right off a Toyota showroom floor today. No lapse in warranty coverage, no payload penalty, and no need to max out your credit card for the modifications.

The Pro Runner gives Raptor drivers more than one reason to check their rearview mirror.

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By on June 23, 2016

Ronnie's crashed Honda Fit, Image: © 2016 Ronnie Schreiber/The Truth About Cars

It’s been a stressful few weeks, but when I remember my children and grandchildren are healthy, everything else is gravy.

TTAC’s long-term test of the 2015 Honda Fit EX came to a sudden halt at 7,987 miles just after I began a left turn through three lanes of stopped traffic south of a red light on Groesbeck, a major road in Macomb County on the east side of Detroit.

I was going to a music store, but couldn’t remember exactly where it was, which landed me traveling in the wrong direction on Groesbeck. To effect a U-turn, I pulled into the left turn lane of the seven-lane highway to turn into some business frontage. Read More >

By on June 21, 2016

2016 Ford C-Max Hybrid SE

The overwhelming majority of mileage I accumulated in manufacturer-supplied test cars in May was spent in direct hybrid rivals from Ford and Toyota.

The 2016 Ford C-Max SE, Ford’s base model, visited for one week. Then following a stretch in the 2016 Volkswagen Golf R, a base version of Toyota’s new, fourth-generation Prius was dropped off for an extended stretch.

I’ll take the C-Max, thanks.

Scratch that. I’ll take the Golf R.

But if left to choose between the dedicated hybrids from Ford and Toyota, the C-Max is the one I’d have. So why do car buyers plug their ears when they hear such a recommendation? Read More >

By on June 20, 2016

2016 Toyota RAV4 SE AWD

“Competent” — it’s one of the least sexy words in the dictionary. Hell, the word “dictionary” is arguably sexier. You’ll find the term next to “cardigan” and “financial adviser,” which are probably familiar words for someone known to be competent.

Competent Guy is that dude in the office who doesn’t cause you any grief. He never fails to complete a task, doesn’t cause any drama, and avoids pissing everyone off. He’s the reliable friend people ask to help them move. It’s guys like this who keep an operation humming along, and their reward is being able to put down roots, grow old, and enjoy the spoils that come from being a respectable member of society.

The Toyota RAV4 is the Lucy fossil of crossover SUVs, and it didn’t get there by making a bad impression. No nameplate reaches 22 years of age by frustrating owners, and you don’t become (and stay) the top-selling crossover by being hard to live with. For volume-hungry automakers, the RAV4 (aka. Competent Guy) is a rolling how-to guide for sales success — do the basics well, avoid controversy, don’t offend with styling, and make a good enough impression during the test drive that buyers take it home after the date.

It’s after the vows are exchanged that Competent Guy starts to show off his quirks. Read More >

By on June 20, 2016

2017 Honda Ridgeline at boat launch ramp, Image: © 2016 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

Honda is playing the long game when it comes to its cute little pickup truck. After selling the original, first-generation Ridgeline for an almost-unheard-of nine years (for perspective, the ninth-generation Civic lasted an incredibly short five years, including a mid-cycle emergency refresh), the second coming of the unibody, light-duty hauler is here.

And guess what? It’s absolutely phenomenal — but there’s a massive catch.

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By on June 17, 2016

2016 Ford Focus EV Front 3/4, Image: © 2016 Jeff Voth/The Truth About Cars

The debate about the relative merits of electric vehicles is certain to be ongoing for years to come. For some, it represents the new frontier in automotive engineering and design. Electric powered vehicles for the masses; no more oil taken from the ground and clean air for all. It’s an interesting concept, but I am not fully convinced at this time in history to throw all my gasoline-powered chips in that pile and call.

Companies such as Tesla have made significant waves in the industry and I do think they’ll continue to experience success going forward. In my opinion, Elon Musk is a true automotive pioneer in the same vein as Karl Benz and Henry Ford. I don’t dispute the idea of EV’s for all; I just see a balance between gasoline, diesel, electric and possibly hydrogen-powered vehicles as a better alternative; at least for now.

It appears Ford is hedging its bets on this combination as well. I recently had the chance to test drive the 2016 Ford Focus EV for a week. In short, I was very impressed for the most part. It was comfortable, quick to accelerate, looks un-EV-like and turned a surprising number of heads, which to me is always a good thing.

But is it a car I would buy? On that question, I am keeping my cards to close to my chest.

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By on June 14, 2016

2016 Chevrolet Malibu LT

We were in our Honda Odyssey last Saturday, transporting our dog to a special canine event 20 miles from our home, when the gorgeous 2016 Mazda6 was taken from our house and a Chevrolet Malibu was backed into the driveway.

Not the ninth-generation Malibu, a car which drew my ire in a TTAC review last spring. This is the all-new 2016 Chevrolet Malibu, a follow-up to the abbreviated ninth-gen car that chronically underperformed despite GM’s swift (and insufficient) response to early critiques.

Surely I’m no different from many of you. I’m predisposed to disliking Malibus, not because of inexplicable inner bias or a distaste for the Bowtie or a fondness for Honda Accords, but because the Malibu has spent much of the last two decades sucking. The eighth-generation car, which GM sold from 2008 to 2012, was an exception, but its two immediate predecessors were sad examples of the midsize breed. The 2013-2015 Malibu was a step backwards. As a result, the Malibu name conjures up memories of wooden dynamics, harsh interiors, strange noises, and pitiful styling.

Yet with each passing day of its stay at GCBC Towers, I’m steadily finding more and more things to like about the new 2016 Chevrolet Malibu.

What’s happening to me?
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By on June 13, 2016

2016 Shelby GT-H

“Please hold,” the woman with the handheld Hertz computer said, as if she and I were on opposite sides of a WATS call instead of standing twenty-four inches apart, “for a manager.” I didn’t have to hold long. The manager was a short Hispanic man with an all-business disposition.

“You have fun?” he inquired, kneeling to pay close attention to one of the odd little carbon-fiber winglets between the rear wheelwell and the doors. His tone implied that I could be in trouble for having fun, but also, perhaps, that I would have been equally remiss in not having fun. After all, this was a rental car that cost a staggering $343 per diem. In a country where the SNAP program provides a struggling family just $14/day for meals, what kind of bloodless, Zuckerberg-esque Asperger’s alien from the posthuman investor class would spend that kind of money to not enjoy this sullen-faced snorting Mustang?

“I had … ” and here I did some rough privilege calculus of the sort familiar to all college-educated German-Americans in the year 2016, balancing my Chester Barrie sport coat and the dull glitter of my platinum AMEX against my coarse features, Allman Brothers haircut, and visibly crippled left leg, just trying to figure out what I was allowed to say without committing a microaggression.

“… a bit of fun, yeah. But really, I drove it to the hotel and back. Mostly.”

“Is that so,” he said, like a pint-sized Torquemada, and with a quick, knowledgeable motion he swiped his finger across the gap between two spokes of the left front wheel. “Is that so.”

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