Category: Car Reviews

By on November 29, 2013

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A business trip sent me to Tampa last week. I had decided that I would rent a car for my own use while I was there. The plan was to visit family in Fort Myers and then drive back to Tampa for the meeting. After a particularly bad day at work prior to leaving for Florida, I decided on the plane that I would upgrade to a convertible. You know, as a gift to myself. From myself.

Me: What convertibles do you have available?

Rental Car Guy: (Looks at the computer, makes a phone call, and asks for something “sporty”) There’s a Chrysler 200 and a BMW Z4.

If he had said anything other than a 200 I would have picked the more reasonable choice. A Mustang? Right on. A Camaro? I’m there. I would rather drive anything other than a 200. Renting a BMW wasn’t something I had considered but it seemed like a really good idea.

Me: How much is the Z4? A million dollars?

Rental Car Guy: Not quite.
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By on November 29, 2013

back

Buying a new car is exciting and if you are like me, you spend weeks comparing the possible candidates. You start out by looking at photos and reading road tests. You gather sales brochures, pour over the spec sheets and examine the option packages. You compare prices, build fleets of similarly optioned virtual vehicles at the manufacturers’ websites and eventually head to the dealership. You kick the tires, poke, prod and handle the merchandise. You find things you don’t like and things you do. You take a test drive, go home to think and come back to drive again. Eventually you buy.

Signing the papers on a new car is pure euphoria. It’s an orgasm of consumerism. Your signature spills out the end of the pen and onto the paper in the ultimate release after weeks of delicate maneuvering and pent-up anticipation. It is the point where years of scrimping and saving intersect with the idea that the future is a real place and that you are committed to going there. When the act is completed, you are exhausted but happy. You’ve made your choice, are locked into the relationship and have no choice but to be happy with what you’ve done. You have invested too much to admit to making a mistake. Read More >

By on November 26, 2013
Courtesy of GM Middle East

Courtesy of GM Middle East

My boss and I drive the same style rental slug Toyota over here, but when his was due for service, instead of a replacement Fortuner, I spotted a 2011 Chevy Caprice in his parking spot. Having spent almost a year without a proper V-8 under my foot, I convinced him we needed to take that one out.

I also introduced him to a new term…hooning. Mental's Abu Dhabi Dispatches

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By on November 26, 2013
Ah. Muffy's perfect SUV

Ah. Muffy’s perfect SUV

Toyota is one of the largest manufacturers of cars in the world. It’s not a surprise, especially if you have travelled out of the US. They are everywhere. I have only owned three Toyotas; a coma-inducing silver Camry DX, and two MKII Supras.

Despite my lack of ownership, I have spent a sizeable portion of my career abusing Toyotas. Maybe it is latent Nissan loyalty surfacing as abuse, Dad was a Datsun salesman before I was born and continued in one form or another until I graduated from High School. To Toyota’s credit, they have taken it all without complaint.

A notable case was an innocent preppy green and gold Land Cruiser. An aircraft electrical malfunction resulted in an unscheduled stop in Boise Idaho and gave us a week to kill. A ladies NCAA tourney had snatched up all the econoboxes, so the unsuspecting agency offered up the keys to a new 2003 Toyota Land Cruiser. I grabbed them, signed the contract and was out of there faster than a Taylor Swift romance.

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By on November 25, 2013

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Yaris: It’s A Car! If you go to the Toyota website to learn about the logical successor to the original, and fabulous, Corolla Tercel, that is the slogan with which you’ll be confronted.

Yaris: It’s A Car!

What you won’t find is any mention of how much power the Yaris makes (106 horsepower) or the specific type of transmission fitted to the vehicle (the venerable Toyota transverse four-speed automatic). Nor will you be tremendously impressed by the listed EPA mileage (37mpg highway). This isn’t an oversight on the part of the Toyota hivemind. It’s a way of qualifying customers. If your expectations for the Yaris are that it will, in fact, be a car, and that it will get about 37 miles per gallon on the highway, then strap yourself down, my friend, because your expectations are about to be met!
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By on November 19, 2013

2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I’ve never cared for the phrase “as American as apple pie” as apple pie is far from an American invention. Instead, we should say as “American as the pickup truck.” In 1925 Ford crafted the “Ford Model T Runabout with Pickup Body” and America’s love affair began. The Chevrolet Silverado, and its mechanical twin the GMC Sierra, may not be the best-selling vehicle in America (that award goes to the aging Ford F-150) but the Chevy alone has outsold the Toyota Camry by 55,000 units this year. Toss in the Sierra and there are more GM trucks sold on our shores in a year than all the Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche products put together. The high sales number and high profit margins explain the intense Ford vs Chevy vs RAM rivalry. With a new RAM in 2013 and a light refresh only a year later, GM is firing back with an all-new Silverado and Sierra. Does Chevy’s new half-ton have what it takes to be king of the hill?

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By on November 14, 2013

focus

D. Alexander is back with another reader review. If you’d like to be where he is — and I don’t mean flexing your maxed-out biceps in the company of a bunch of attractive people, as he’s always doing on Facebook, but rather on these hallowed pages — let me know! — JB

Nothing makes you appreciate your own car quite like giving it up for a day. I recently put about a hundred miles on a 2013 Ford Focus SE sedan. Since my daily is a late-model Nissan Maxima, the gilded Altima that I once reviewed for this site, that’s my (unfair) benchmark for this review.
Powertrains and handling tend to blow my skirt up, but let’s start with the interior.
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By on November 13, 2013

mark944

There is much discussion on this site about Porsche ownership and the joys and perils therein. David Walton has opined about his very positive 993 purchase and experience. The EIC, owner ofa few Porsches himself, has lamented the recent decline of Porsche, both from a product and merchandising perspective. However, there is one TTAC contributor whose Porsche ownership experience predates even theirs. That’s right, it’s your dear friend, Bark M.

The year was 1999. The scene? The lush campus of The Ohio State University in the serene Midwestern metropolis of Columbus, Ohio. I had just turned in my 1996 Infiniti G20 at the end of a thirty-six month lease, and, much to the chagrin of my father (who had been paying for it), it had been a very painful experience. Three years in the streets, parking lots, and loading zones of the world’s largest college campus had not been kind to my rebadged Primera. There were several dings in each panel, and my band’s touring schedule throughout the Midwest meant that I was about fifteen thousand miles over my 36,000 mile limit. Yikes.
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By on November 13, 2013

2014 Buick Enclave Exterior, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

I’ve dished out plenty of Buick love lately. The Verano beats Acura and Lexus at the entry-luxury game and the tiny Encore is an oddly attractive (albeit underpowered) crossover that is outselling the Mini Countryman and Range Rover Evoque by a wide margin. What can we attribute this sales success to? I posit that the original Buick Enclave is the impetus. Landing in 2007 as a 2008 model, it was the poster child of the “new Buick.” On the surface, the Enclave was the replacement for the Buick Rainier, the only GMT360 SUV I haven’t owned. (Just kidding, I’ve only owned 2 of the 11 varieties.) But that’s a simplistic view. In reality the Enclave was intended to elevate the brand enough to compete with three row luxury crossovers from Germany and Japan. This brings us to today’s question: six years and a mild face-lift later, does the Buick still have the goods?

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By on November 12, 2013

desertside

As part of TTAC’s reboot, we promised you, the readers, many things. One of them was “no more luxury car puff pieces”. Jack and I had every intention of adhering to this rule as well, until our staff email inbox received a message from Rolls Royce Motorcars, asking us to come drive the all-new Wraith.

“Go on the program,” said Jack, “and imagine that you are reviewing a Camry”.

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By on November 11, 2013

Rapid_TSI_Side

 

Some time ago, I ranted on these pages about European methods of testing fuel mileage (and thus also CO2 emissions), and the way they give unfair advantage to downsized turbocharged engines, compared to good old N/A units. So it’s quite convenient that for my first TTAC European review, I got a Škoda Rapid, powered by a 1.2 TSI turbocharged four-cylinder – a typical example of downsized powerplant. With the Rapid being a relatively small and light family car,  the little four-banger may have an opportunity to really shine, and show us whether downsizing works. Or not.

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By on November 8, 2013

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Every couple of years, somebody releases a study claiming to show that the average palate can’t differentiate between a good red wine and a cheap red wine, a good red wine and a good white wine, or a good red wine and a tumbler-full of Thunderbird mixed with antifreeze and raw gasoline. Survey says: it’s all the same juice, right?

Previously, amidst the vineyards of the Napa Valley, EIC Pro Tempore / sommelier Jack Baruth decanted a few forced-induction Germanic vintages and ran us through the tasting notes. He left one machine off – the turbocharged version of VW’s Beetle. So what do we think: GTI wine in a rotund bocksbetuel? Read More >

By on November 5, 2013

2014 Lexus IS 250 Exterior

After taking a sales hit due to tsunami-related production woes, Lexus has been trying to regain their mojo with a new product offensive. Things started out with the new Lexus GS sedan that Jack Baruth and I loved on and off the track, followed by a revised RX. With the redesigned IS, the bulk of their lineup has been overhauled. Initially, I was a little concerned that the Lexus IS sedan would receive nothing more than a new nose and some LED lights for 2014 but the Japanese 3-Series fighter came out swinging when we were invited to the launch event earlier in the year. I came away impressed with the IS 350′s road manners, but most buyers will be shopping for the less powerful IS 250 and it’s taken us this long to get our hands on one.

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By on November 5, 2013

(image courtesy Douglas Millar on Flickr)

Please welcome TTAC reader “psychoboy” as he tells a story of a rare encounter with the rarest of Honda Preludes — JB

A few months ago, I was convinced to get involved with what has turned out to be The Worst LeMons Car Of All Time, the mighty ‘Super K’ Plymouth Reliant wagon, as part of the “K-It-Forward” program. As bad of an idea as that was, it turns out that, compared to my attempt to buy a chop-top Prelude, it might have marked a bit of a high point in my automotive adventures this year.

Way back, way way back, in 1979, my family decided to trade in our nondescript late-Seventies Chevy Sedan on the newest, hottest, sports car to come from Japan: the brand new Prelude. Silver paint, Bordello red velour interior, giant moonroof, luggage rack on the trunk. This car had it all. It even beat Lexus to the market by a few decades with a concentric speedo and tach, and Chevrolet by ten years with an irreplaceable (in the sense that you couldn’t find a replacement) radio in the cluster shroud.
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By on November 4, 2013

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Six days a week, Monday through Saturday, I get up at 4:45 am – five o’clock and I’m plonked in front of the keyboard, staring at the blinking cursor of my computer screen, fuelled by caffeine and ready to start shovelling words into its gaping maw. Six days a week, but on the seventh day I sleep in.

Sunday, a day for rest. But this day, I rise at my usual time to drive a hundred and fifty miles through the blackness and the pouring rain. Read More >

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