Category: Car Reviews

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?
Read More >

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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By on June 10, 2016

1981 Fiat 2000 Spider Side, Image: © 2016 Kamil Kaluski/The Truth About Cars

The new Fiat 124 Spider may be thought of as a spiritual successor to the classic Fiat 2000 Spider. It’s no secret, however, that the new car is really a re-skinned Mazda MX-5 Miata powered by the same engine as the current Fiat 500 Abarth. The only parts truly new to the Fiat are some exterior panels. That’s not a bad thing as the new Miata seems to be quite amazing in all regards.

The question, despite Jack’s opinions, is whether the Abarth engine and some suspension tuning will give the 124 Spider that much coveted Italian flair, the sales numbers Fiat desperately needs, and the passion and drama that we all love so much. For better or worse, that’s been somewhat absent from the Miata over the years.

To answer that question, and to discover the ingredients in that secret Italian sauce, I recently spent some time in the classic Fiat roadster.

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By on June 10, 2016

2017 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth, Image: FCA

If you weren’t in on the secret, much of this morning’s presentation at the Park Hyatt Aviara would have made no sense. A series of four FCA personnel stood up to talk about the new 124 Spider, which was behind them to stage right. On stage left was a pristine Euro-bumpered 124 Sport Spider from the late ’60. Each of them talked about “what’s changed on the car.”

“It’s five inches longer, with all-new exterior sheetmetal,” one presenter said. “It’s got an aluminum panel in the folding roof, and thicker rear glass,” another noted. “The suspension tuning is completely different,” stated yet another. I could see the confusion on the faces of some of the older auto journos from the newspapers. It’s five inches longer than the original 124? It’s got thicker rear glass? The suspension is different? Well, duh, right? For more than an hour, Fiat’s marketing, styling and engineering personnel talked about “what’s changed on the car.”

There was the word that never escaped anybody’s lips, not a single time. Even when I raised my hand to ask “how the weight compares,” I couldn’t quite bring myself to say the word. But we can say it here on TTAC: Miata. The new Fiat 124 Spider is based on the ND-generation Mazda Miata, the car that your humble author drove in Spain a year and a half ago and which has been quite justifiably hailed as the finest small roadster of this century. The 124 Spider is assembled right next to the Miata in Japan, with a “J” VIN. The primary difference: where the Miata has a 2.0-liter Skyactiv normally-aspirated four-cylinder, the 124 has the turbo 1.4-liter MultiAir four-banger from the Fiat 500 Abarth, built in Italy and shipped to Mazda’s assembly line.

Fiat would prefer that we didn’t mention the Miata. But, as we’ll see, the 124 Spider need not fear any comparisons with its store-branded sibling. Quite the contrary, in fact.

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By on June 9, 2016

2016 Chevrolet Camaro SS Exterior Front 3/4, Image: © 2016 Alex Dykes/The Truth About Cars

Automotive crossbreeds don’t always turn out for the better. GM’s past is littered with parts-bin-assembled cars that should never have existed. Pontiac Aztek and Hummer H3 are just two examples of good ideas gone horribly wrong.

The 2016 Camaro is not another example; this is parts bin raiding gone right, oh-so right.

In a nutshell, the new Camaro SS is what happens when you take a Cadillac ATS Coupe and a Corvette Stingray engine and wrap them in the latest Chevy stormtrooper styling. The result is something of an automotive unicorn. Under the hood lies a 6.2-liter small-block V8, yet the Camaro tips the scales at a svelte 3,685 pounds and boasts BMW-like weight balance.

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By on June 8, 2016

2016 Mercedes-Benz C300 Exterior Front 3/4, Image: © 2016 Steve Lynch/The Truth About Cars

In 1984, during my Honda-hawking days in Texas, our neighboring Mercedes-Benz dealership was all atwitter upon Daimler introducing the first “Baby Benz,” the 190E sedan. We knew our waiting-list-only Accord was a far superior automobile but that didn’t stop two of our salespeople from buying 190Es while the rest of us stuck with our Chevy trucks. The little Mercedes was a turd: terribly unreliable, cramped and slow. Much to our delight, the media said the 190E was not worth twice the price of an Accord.

Fast forward to 2016, your humble site’s readers and writers voted the latest entry-level Mercedes, the stylish front-wheel-drive CLA250, as one of the Ten Worst Automobiles Today. Like with the 190E, the CLA is flying off dealers’ lots, so what do we know?

Mercedes-Benz introduced the latest version of the C-Class two years ago and it’s now the brand’s best-selling model in America by a large margin — not to mention handily outselling its top competitor, the BMW 3 Series.

This is finally one small Benz that everyone loves and for good reason. The C300 is a miniature S-Class. Read More >

By on June 3, 2016

Ford Ranger 3.2L TDCI Wildtrak exterior beauty shot, Image: Radek Beneš/The Truth About Cars

Over the last two or three decades, the American full-size pickup truck has morphed into something thoroughly and completely different. What was once utilitarian and practical is now imposing, luxurious.

Is it possible that the truest successor of the original F-Series is currently sold in Europe with a five-cylinder diesel engine?

I tested the new Ford Ranger to find out.

Read More >

By on May 31, 2016

2016 Chrysler 300C Front 3/4, Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars

Greatness isn’t always universal. Being a great sprinter doesn’t make one a great marathoner. In fact, exhibiting greatness in one sense will often make for a fatal flaw in another. If you need any proof of this, simply pick up the closest Greek tragedy and read it.

The same can be be said of rental cars. The qualities that make a car a great rental don’t necessarily translate into a great daily driver. That being said, after four days in Northern California, I’m prepared to remove the Chevy Impala from its lofty perch as the best rental car money can buy (or rent) you.

The 2016 Chrysler 300 C is the best rental car in the world.

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By on May 27, 2016

2016 BMW M2 Front 3/4, © 2016 Bradley Iger/The Truth About Cars

For decades BMW worked tirelessly to cultivate a reputation for building performance machines that could hit above their weight classes. Although the 2002 is a well-regarded classic, and the homologation special M1 is a bonafide supercar of its era, it wasn’t until the debut of the E30 M3 in 1986 that BMW’s high-performance road cars really started to find favor with the general public.

In recent years, BMW has sought to recapture some of that E30 magic with cars like the M235i and the 1M before it. While both of those models have their virtues, they fall short of the mark largely by way of an unidentifiable, intangible element. After a stint behind the wheel of the M2, I discovered that “fun” is that elusive character trait, because this car has it in spades.

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By on May 25, 2016

2016 Kia Sedona Exterior Front, Image: © 2016 Alex L. Dykes/The Truth About Cars

Let’s face it: Nobody wants to drive what their parents drove, even if it’s the right vehicle for the task at hand. Minivan shoppers balked at their parent’s station wagon, and CUV shoppers seem to believe that minivans are the gateway to mom-jeans and velcro sneakers.

My sister-in-law is the perfect example of a conflicted minivan shopper. With four kids, she needs a minivan. However, because she grew up sitting in the back of a string of Chevrolet Astro vans, she has a special hatred reserved for minivans. It probably doesn’t help that her parents recently traded in an Oldsmobile Silhouette for a Chrysler Town & Country.

Technically, a family of six will fit in your average three-row crossover, but even the biggest CUVs have a cramped back seat and limited cargo compared to the average minivan.

Seeing an opportunity to differentiate itself, Kia decided to put a different twist on the Sedona when it was redesigned for 2015. The latest Sedona gives up some traditional minivan practicality in an attempt to appeal to crossover shoppers on the fence.

Read More >

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