Category: Car Reviews

By on October 1, 2015


2015 Volkswagen Golf R

2-liter DOHC I-4, turbocharged, variable intake and exhaust timing, variable
exhaust-valve lift (292 horsepower @ 5,400 rpm; 280 pounds-feet of torque @ 1,800 rpm)

6-speed DSG automatic transmission

23 city/30 highway/26 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

24 mpg on the 60/40 city/hwy, 45 percent boot-full of throttle everywhere (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Reflex Silver Metallic paint, Titan Black Leather interior; 6-speed DSG automatic transmission.

Base Price (Golf R):
As Tested Price:

* All prices include $820 destination fee.

Like walking in on your parents on a Saturday night, let’s take a minute to get this situation up to comfortable.

Volkswagen is in dire straits; there are no other words for it. For abusing consumer confidence and lying to the federal government, the German automaker will have to pay billions — and lose tens of billions more in repairs, buybacks, lawsuit payouts and expensive public mea culpas — before they can sniff legitimacy.

For lying and cheating their way through emissions standards with their diesel cars, anyone who has gone for a run in a metro area north of the Mason Dixon line in December for the last 10 years has a legitimate gripe against Volkswagen.

I won’t bury the lede here either: The 2015 Golf R isn’t the type of car that could forgive and forget all indiscretions, either. It’s too hard, too narrow and too expensive to be fit for mass-market consumption. It’s not the car that VW can ride through the rough stuff, mostly because it feels on the inside like it’s riding in a paint shaker.

But every atomic cloud has a silver lining.

For all that we’ve heard and read about Volkswagen over the last week, the larger picture remains: 4 out of 5 Volkswagen cars sold aren’t diesels, and as the world’s second-largest automaker (for now) there are a lot of cars that Volkswagen could talk about.

And we’re talking about the Golf R, and talk we shall. Read More >

By on September 29, 2015

2015 Ford F-350 Exterior3

2015 Ford F-350 King Ranch 4×4

6.7-liter OHV V-8, turbodiesel (440 horsepower @ 2,800 rpm; 860 lbs-ft @ 1,600 rpm)

6-speed 6R140 automatic

Not tested under EPA regulations*

14.1 (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: King Ranch trim, Super Crew cab, 4×4, 6.7-liter turbodiesel engine, 3.31 locking rear axle, Ruby Red paint, 5th wheel prep, spray-in bedliner, heated seats, upfitter switches

Base Price (F-350 XL Regular Cab 4×2 Flex-Fuel V-8):
As Tested:

* Heavy-duty pickups are exempt from EPA fuel economy ratings.
** Prices include $1,195 destination charge.

There was a time when a 1/2-ton pickup could haul around 1,000 pounds of payload and a 1-ton truck was good for around 2,000 pounds. Twenty years ago a good tow rating for a 1/2 ton truck was 7,500 pounds and 1-ton trucks were used by ranchers for hauling 14,000 pound cattle trailers around. Today things are different.

Now we have a Ford F-150 that can tow over 12,000 pounds and haul 3,300 pounds in the bed without batting an eye. In this world, we have 3/4- and 1-ton trucks boasting towing abilities that would have required a Class 5 medium-duty truck in the 1990s. It’s in this world that the F-350, F-450 and Ram 3500 now exist.

These trucks have pushed the envelope, boasting towing capabilities that 99 percent of pickup truck shoppers can’t even legally test. With massive turbodiesel torque figures, Ford and Chrysler’s latest trucks can tow 21,000 pounds more than my plain-old California Class C license allows. With the 2017 Ford Super Duty on the horizon sporting more aluminum than an Alcoa factory and Chrysler nearing the sale of their re-tweaked Cummins engine and its 900 lb-ft of torque, let’s deep-dive into the Super Duty you can buy now.

Read More >

By on September 21, 2015

2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Exterior-019

2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider

1.75-liter DOHC I-4, direct injection, turbocharged, CVVT (237 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 258 lbs-ft @ 2,200-4,250 rpm)

6-speed “Alfa TCT” dual-clutch automatic

24 city/34 highway/28 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

28.1 (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Rosso Alfa Red paint, Fascia Stone Protector, HID Headlamps, Carbon Fibre Trim Kit, Convenience Package, Racing Exhaust, Red Calipers, 18/19 Inch Staggered Wheels, Leather Package,

Base Price:
As Tested:


* Prices include $1,595 destination charge.

Up ’til now, if you wanted an Italian, mid-engined, street-legal track roadster made out of exotic materials, you needed to be a one-percenter to afford one. But all that is changing with the relaunch of the “other Italian brand,” Alfa Romeo. For the price of a single black-market organ “donation” you can get your hands on the new 2016 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider. Unlike Alfa’s last car sold in America — the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione — the 4C Spider is pronounceable, will be available in quantity, and is ostensibly attainable at $53,900 for the coupé and $63,900 for the rag top that we got our hands on.

Like the hardtop 4C, this exotic isn’t an enormous bruiser that’s as wide as Kansas, and it doesn’t have a V12. Instead Alfa opted for a small four-cylinder turbocharged engine and a serious dedication to lightweight construction. In some ways you might call this the Italian Lotus. Until we see the 2017 Alfa Romeo Guilia, FCA’s 3-Series fighter, the 4C and 4C Spider are spearheading the brand’s American reboot.

Is that good or bad?

Read More >

By on September 17, 2015

2015 BMW i8 front doors open lead

2015 BMW i8
1.5-liter DOHC I-3, VANOS, hybrid (Gas engine: 228 horsepower @ 5,800 rpm, 236 lb-ft @ 3,700 rpm; Electric motor: 129 horsepower @ 4,800)6-speed automatic (rear) and 2-speed (front), Lithium ion battery

28 city/29 highway/28 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

27.4 mpg on the ‘I didn’t plug-in the plug-in’ cycle (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Giga World package

Base Price:
As Tested Price:

* Prices include $995 destination charge.

This is the car that people in the 1970s predicted we would be driving in the year 2000. Fifteen years after the turn of the millennium, the BMW i8 is the machine that looks like no other BMW — and certainly like no other car on the road. Its gasoline and plug-in electric powertrain compliment its looks, bringing together the efficiency of an electric car and the convenience of an internal combustion engine.

But there is a lot more to understand about what the BMW i8 is and is not. Is it an exotic supercar? Or is it a dream of the environmentally minded automotive enthusiast? Or is it something else altogether? Could this be the one vehicle which we cannot currently classify? Or is it all of these things?

Has the future finally arrived?

Read More >

By on September 16, 2015


2016 Cadillac ATS Sedan

3.6-liter LGX DOHC V-6, variable valve timing, active fuel management and cylinder deactivation (333 horsepower @ 6,800 rpm; 285 pounds-feet @ 4,800 rpm)

8-speed 8L45 automatic transmission

20 city/30 highway/24 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

24.5 mpg combined in 60/40 city/highway, downtown traffic nightmare combined cycle (Observed MPG)

Tested Options: Driver Assist Package — $2,885 (Adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, seat belt tightening, electronic parking brake); Kona brown semi-aniline leather seating — $1,295; Power sunroof — $1,050; Cold weather package — $600 (heated seats, heated steering wheel); Dark Adriatic Blue Metallic Paint — $495.

Base Price:
As Tested Price:

* All prices include $995 destination fee (U.S.)

It’s easy to get caught up in the BMW-Mercedes-Audi hyperbole. Those automakers swap spec superlatives in generational battles for supremacy that, in all reality, won’t matter when it comes time for most of those buyers to pull the proverbial trigger.

In many ways, the Cadillac ATS gets left out in the cold. It doesn’t have the history, drama or marketing machine that the 3 Series and C-Class beat us over the head with everyday.

In fact, when Cadillac announced that it would take head-on those vaunted cars, most people laughed as long as it took for them to drive one. Then it became very real. Although the ATS competes with the Germans on price, it also competes in capability. The underpinnings are rock solid. The engine lineup is comparable. And the performance ATS-V is really damn good.

For 2016, little has changed with the ATS, but incremental improvements in interior tech and its top-of-the-range engine bring the car ever closer to being on par with — or in some cases better than — its German counterparts.

And for a lot of people, it’ll be an awkward, angular shaped pill to swallow for the future. Read More >

By on September 14, 2015

2016 Mercedes GLA 250 Exterior-008

2015 Mercedes GLA 250 4Matic

2.0-liter DOHC I-4, turbocharged, CVVT (208 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm; 258 lbs-ft @ 1,250 rpm)

7-speed “7G-DCT” dual-clutch automatic

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

26.5 (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: 4Matic AWD, Driver Assistance package, Active Parking, Blind Spot Assist, Wood Trim, HID Lamps

Base Price:
As Tested:


* Prices include $925 destination charge.

Every luxury manufacturer is in a relentless pursuit downmarket. There are a few reasons for this but the most important are increasing volume, amortizing common development costs and snagging life-long brand loyalists as early as possible. The Mercedes GLA is the latest entry in a growing segment: small luxury crossovers.

Small luxury branded vehicles are nothing new to our European friends, but until recently BMW and Mercedes kept anything small and front-wheel drive far away from American hands. Until now. In 2014, Mercedes took their A-Class FWD hatch and made a sedan out of it. Calling it a “CLA”, the Civic-sized sedan was a runaway success starting at $31,000. Since crossovers are the hot segment to be in these days, it didn’t take Mercedes long to jack the CLA up and add a rear hatch to create the GLA.

Does the GLA have enough luxury to convince Ford Escape shoppers to jump up to a Mercedes? And perhaps more importantly: is it a real Mercedes?
Read More >

By on September 10, 2015

2015 Jeep Renedate Trailhawk (15 of 20)

2015 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk 4×4

2.4-liter Tigershark SOHC I-4, MultiAir 2 variable valve and lift timing (180 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm; 175 lbs-ft of torque @ 3,900 rpm)

Nine-speed ZF 948TE automatic transmission w/ Jeep Active Drive Low 4×4

21 city/29 highway/24 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

20.5 mpg on the 50/50 city/hwy, 100-percent frustrated driver cycle (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Trailer Tow Group, Premium Leather Group, Premium Navigation Group, Safety and Security Group, My Sky Open Air Roof System – Power/Removable Panels, Keyless Enter ‘n Go w/ Push Button Start, Black Hood Decal, 9 Amplified Speakers w/ Subwoofer, ParkView Rear Back-up Camera, Remote Start System.

Base Price (Trailhawk):
$26,990* (U.S.)/$32,795* (Canada)
As Tested Price:
$33,255* (U.S.)/$39,525* (Canada)

* All prices include $995 destination fee (U.S.) or $1,795 destination fee and A/C tax (Canada).

There’s a reason why legions of buyers deplete their expendable income to welcome thousands upon thousands of Wranglers to their paved driveways in planned subdivisions every single year. Even if you never use all the capability offered by Jeep’s mainstay, you have the appearance of being able to tackle anything that comes your way, whether it be a blizzard in Southern Texas or spontaneous volcanic eruption in Manhattan. It also helps that you can take the top off, adopt the persona of one of those lightly bearded, unachievably cool college dropouts in the Jeep commercials, and see yourself living the perfect life that’s somewhere between Bear Grylls and Socality Barbie. (Though, pee-drinking endorser Grylls also endorses Land Rover over the much-romanticized Wrangler.)

So, what if you could have all that freedom in a more economical, slightly less brutish, equally colourful package? And what if it was “crafted” in Italy just like that Dolce and Gabbana bag that totally isn’t a Chinese knockoff?

Enter the Renegade. What used to be a special edition version of CJs and Wranglers is now a redressed Italian with more lifestyle gimmicks and kitch than one can fit in an artisanal Instagram feed.

Read More >

By on September 10, 2015


For those of you who haven’t been keeping track, I’m now a little over one quarter of the way through my 24-month Fiesta ST lease. It’s hard to believe that I’ve had the car this long, but it’s true. I just clicked past the six-thousand-mile mark on the odometer, and I’m just about to make payment number seven, so I’m driving it a little less than I’m permitted to by my lease. That being said, I have driven it more than double the amount of miles that I’ve put on my Boss 302 during the same timeframe.

As I was driving it to Ohio this week from my Old Kentucky Home, chewing up the hilly I-75 North route between Lexington and the Greater Cincinnati Area, a terrible thought occurred to me:

In just about seventeen months, I’m going to have to give the FiST back, and I absolutely don’t want to.  Read More >

By on September 8, 2015

2015 Audi S3 Technik (5 of 19)

2015 Audi S3 Prestige (U.S.)/Technik (Canada)

2.0-liter TFSI DOHC I-4, turbocharged, direct injection (292 horsepower @ 5,400-6,200 rpm; 280 lbs-ft of torque @ 1,900-5,300 rpm)

Six-speed S tronic dual-clutch automatic transmission w/ all-wheel drive

23 city/31 highway/26 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

23.1 mpg on the GIVE ME ALL THE BOOST! cycle (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Technology Package, LED Headlights, 19-inch 5-Parallel Spoke S Wheels, Spang Blue Pearl Effect paint, Audi Magnetic Ride, Red Brake Calipers

Base Price (Prestige/Technik):
$47,895* (U.S.)/$49,595* (Canada)
As Tested Price:
$52,395* (U.S.)/$54,845* (Canada)

* All prices include $895 destination fee (U.S.) or $2,095 destination fee, PDI and A/C tax (Canada).

Inline, four-cylinder engine. Turbocharging. All-wheel drive. More than 250 horsepower.

Ten years ago, that combination was a rarity in the compact performance segment. Now you can have it all day, every day from Ford, Mitsubishi, Subaru (with a boxer engine) and Volkswagen.

If you have some extra cash laying around — as you do — Mercedes, BMW and Audi will certainly fill your order.

In this sea of choice, turbocharging is the norm, all-wheel drive is becoming more commonplace due to astronomical output numbers, and active differentials and suspensions are programmed to give you Group B levels of confidence.

So, what separates them all from one another? Horsepower, certainly, if you are the type of person to count each and every calculated output unit and declare the top performer — which is the Mercedes-AMG CLA 45 — the winner. You could prefer the driving dynamics of rear-wheel drive, thus BMW would provide your only real option.

But, if you aren’t caught up in the numbers or mode of output, the Audi S3 does have a qualitative trick up its sleeve.


Read More >

By on September 8, 2015

2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Exterior Front-001

2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

2.0-liter, DOHC I-4, CVVT, hybrid (Gas engine: 154 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 140 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm, Electric motor: 51 horsepower @ 1,770-2,000; 151 lb-ft @ 0-1,770 rpm)

6-speed automatic

Lithium polymer battery

40 city/44 highway/42 combined (Hybrid SE, EPA Rating, MPG)
39 city/43 highway/41 combined (Hybrid Limited, EPA Rating, MPG)

40.8 mpg (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Limited trim, Ultimate Package

Base Price:
As Tested:


* Prices include $825 destination charge.

Hyundai hit the styling ball out of the park with the last generation Sonata. The 2009 model was as dramatic and exciting as the previous models were drab and boring. Although the 2009 didn’t alter Hyundai’s value proposition, nor did it really break any new ground in the family car segment, the sexy curves were responsible for nearly doubling the Sonata’s sales from a middling 120,000 a year to well over 200,000. The design is widely credited for putting Hyundai firmly in the top 5 for midsized sedans and #8 on the car sales chart in general.

With the new seventh generation Sonata, Hyundai is working to prove that they are more than a one-hit wonder. The 2015 model launched their latest school of design and a new turbocharged “Eco” model that uses a 1.6L engine and a 7-speed dual clutch transmission to net 32 combined MPGs. Just one thing was missing in 2015: a hybrid model to compete with the big hitters from Ford, Honda and Toyota.

That’s where the 2016 Sonata Hybrid and the 2016 Sonata Plug-In come in.

Read More >

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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