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By on October 19, 2017

2017 Hyundai Ioniq Electric, Image: Steph Willems

Governments big and small can issue far-off bans on gasoline and diesel all they want, but in the here and now, no one’s stopping you from taking home a Ford F-350 crew cab for family hauling duties. There’s no shadowy apparatchik barring the front door at the local Dodge dealership, preventing you from signing on the dotted line for that 392 Scat Pack or Hellcat.

Choice, glorious choice, awaits us all. Enjoy it while you can. For now, only the number of coins in our pockets (and maybe our parking situation) can keep those automotive love affairs at bay.

So, is it any wonder few people buy an electric car? The future’s electric, CEOs tell us, but high prices, low ranges, and a fledgling recharging network means EV ownership was mainly — at least until the Chevrolet Bolt came along — the domain of those dropping big bucks on Mr. Musk’s long-range wondercars. Destitute, but still achingly green? A used Nissan Leaf can haul your butt across town for a price rapidly approaching $0.

Is there room in this lopsided landscape for a new Hyundai with no exhaust pipe, a price lower than the competition, and a body that doesn’t scream “status”? If there is, can you live with it? Read More >

By on October 19, 2017

2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid - Image: ToyotaFor five consecutive years between 2012 and 2016, the Honda CR-V has been America’s most popular utility vehicle.

In fact, the CR-V has topped America’s SUV/crossover sales charts in nine of the last 10 years, a streak of dominance that began in 2007.

It appears increasingly likely in 2017, however, that the Honda CR-V’s streak will be broken by the Toyota RAV4. Thanks to 20-percent year-over-year growth through the first three-quarters of 2017, the RAV4 leads the CR-V by more than 31,000 sales and the Nissan Rogue/Rogue Sport by more than 15,000 sales with scant time remaining for the RAV4’s rivals to make up the gap.

The difference maker? Toyota’s RAV4 Hybrid. Read More >

By on October 19, 2017

flat tire - tire change

It always happens when you aren’t expecting it. You’re cruising along in your automobile, listening to the radio and making wonderful time. Then, all of a sudden, the steering feels odd — there is an overabundance of vibration and the car keeps pulling to one side. You’ve got a flat tire.

Annoying, to be sure. Fortunately, this isn’t your first rodeo and you pull off to swap the punctured rubber with a spare. However, if you own a brand new car, you might be disappointed to learn there’s decent chance it doesn’t even have one. According to a recent study conducted by the American Automobile Association, 28 percent of 2017 model-year vehicles aren’t equipped with spare tires — leaving you breaking out the compressed air and sealant or calling for a tow truck.

Read More >

By on October 19, 2017

2012 Lamborghini Urus Concept - Image: LamborghiniThe company that sells SUVs together stays together.

So it goes, or is likely to go, with Lamborghini. Keep in mind that the Volkswagen Group supercar manufacturer has already seen massive sales growth. During the half-decade before Stephan Winkelmann took over as boss at Lamborghini in 2005, the brand was selling only 800 cars on an annual basis. But by the time Winkelmann was done a decade later, Lamborghini was averaging 2,300 annual sales. In 2016, Lamborghini sold 3,457 vehicles around the world, including more than 1,000 in the United States.

Those figures will soon seem paltry because the unfortunately named Urus SUV will double the brand’s volume. But what does such a massive change do to Lamborghini’s operations? Read More >

By on October 19, 2017

Image: Nissan Titan No Lazy Horses AdvertEarlier this week I was presented with a little advertising to enjoy, via Facebook and courtesy of Nissan. The ad is part of a new campaign launched on October 14th. In it, Nissan throws a couple of strangers together in a predicament involving the Nissan Titan XD and a previous-generation (debadged) Ford F-150.

I’m not impressed.

Read More >

By on October 19, 2017

Cadillac Escalade/Lincoln Continental - Images: Cadillac & LincolnCadillac enjoys some of the highest average transaction prices among premium auto brands operating in the United States. After years of Lincoln MKS disappointment, the new Lincoln Continental actually looks the part. Globally, Cadillac sales are rising month after month after month. In the U.S., Lincoln is rare among auto brands in a declining auto industry in 2017: sales at Ford’s upmarket brand have risen 3 percent this year.

Indeed, while discussing the apparent appeal of the Tesla brand last week, Jack Baruth said, “You might say that General Motors and Ford are going to build better, more reliable, and more thoroughly developed electric cars than Tesla can, and you’re probably right.”

“But the world doesn’t want an electric Cadillac or Lincoln,” Jack accurately points out, “for the same reasons it doesn’t want gasoline-powered Cadillacs or Lincolns.”

Regardless of how you grade the momentum of Cadillac and Lincoln, they are mere blips in the global luxury automobile market and remain rather inconsequential players in their U.S. home market, as well. Will that change in your lifetime? Read More >

By on October 18, 2017

2018 Honda Accord Touring 2.0T - Image: Honda

If the 2018 Honda Accord tickles your fancy, you can head to your local Honda store and plunk down some cash on the hood (figuratively, of course – cash on the hood would just blow away in the wind).

We’ve driven the new Accord, which drops the V6 and coupe models, and we came away liking it but wishing for a little more sport.

Regardless, with the rival Camry also being all-new for 2018, Honda has made sure it has a fresh, new generation on hand to continue the rivalry. All this despite concerns about the mid-size sedan segment as a whole – concerns Honda has dismissed.

Read More >

By on October 18, 2017

2017 Ford F-150 Dallas Cowboys Edition, Image: Ford

On Wednesday, Ford Motor Co. recalled 1.3 million F-150 and Super Duty pickups to fix faulty side door latches. In the affected vehicles, a frozen door latch or a bent actuation cable could result in a door that neither opens or closes — nullifying the only thing it’s responsible for.

However, the real risk comes from faulty doors that appear to be functional but latch improperly when shut. Points of entry that may appear to have shut as intended could still have latches that don’t engage with the striker effectively, allowing for a seemingly closed door to swing open suddenly while a vehicle is in motion.  Read More >

By on October 18, 2017

Toyota Fine Comfort-Ride Concept

Still glued to hydrogen as the fuel of the future, Toyota will unveil a new fuel cell concept at the Tokyo Motor Show that could be summarized as a mobile lounge. Existing somewhere between a crossover and minivan, the “Fine Comfort-Ride” concept vehicle underscores a more roomy and relaxing automotive future.

At 190 inches long and 77 inches wide, it isn’t a petite transport. However, that mass translates into a spacious cabin — with ample room for six — affixed with all the luxuries you’d want to see in the car of tomorrow. It has lavish swivel chairs, mood lighting, connectivity for each passenger, and windows that double as infotainment screens.

Unfortunately, it has the face of Droopy Dog. This may be the first time an automaker has molded a vehicle’s bodywork into jowls.  Read More >

By on October 18, 2017

Nissan Murano production

Nissan Motor Co. has recalled 1.2 million new vehicles it sold in Japan over the last three years after discovering vehicle checks were not being performed by certified technicians. After a lengthy internal investigation, the company stated it continued to conduct unaccredited final checks as recently as last week.

News of the discovery came on Wednesday, more than two weeks after Chief Executive Hiroto Saikawa publicly stated only certified technicians had conducted checks since September 20th. Despite attempts to remedy the widespread issue at its Japanese factories, there were at least two technicians lacking the necessary training and credentials at its Shonan Plant located in Tsutsumicho, near Hiratsuka City. Read More >

By on October 18, 2017

Car in a Driveway, Image: Bigstock.com

Picture a suburban street in an average middle class neighborhood. In each driveway sits two vehicles, as tradition states no modern American suburban family can make do with just one. Think about those two vehicles for a minute now.

Are they evenly matched? In other words, are they the same size? Do they fulfill the same requirements laid out by a single segment? Doubtful, and your mind’s eye already made this clear. One’s a Safari or Caprice wagon, the other’s a Datsun 210. One’s a Corolla, the other, a Suburban. A Focus and an F-150, and so on.

Does owning an economy car compel new car buyers to splurge when new-car buying time rolls around? Logic, and now science, says yes. Read More >

By on October 18, 2017

2012 Jaguar XK - Image: Jaguar“The XK being dropped was much to my frustration.”
– Jaguar design director Ian Callum

The Jaguar XK ended its 19-year-long run after the 2015 model year, undone by disappearing demand and the success of the smaller, more affordable Jaguar F-Type. But it wasn’t supposed to be this way, Jaguar design director Ian Callum says. The XK was supposed to roll along in third-gen form alongside the first-gen F-Type.

“The F-Type was never meant to kill the XK,” Callum tells Autocar.

In fact, despite the design work that had already begun on the next Jaguar XK — a car that never materialized — the marketing execs at Jaguar didn’t see the need for two coupes. The third-gen XK never enjoyed any engineering development.

Yet Callum’s outsized influence at Jaguar appears to be producing XK-shaped fruit in Jaguar’s product planning department. While there’ll likely be a new Jaguar F-Type first, you can begin inspecting your local Jaguar showroom for the next Jaguar XK in 2021. Read More >

By on October 18, 2017

_dsc0974-610

Outside of perhaps its front styling – especially the slightly bug-eyed headlamps and the pinched grille – the Kia Niro doesn’t really stand out in a crowd.

It’s quiet, thanks to a hybrid powertrain. It’s compact in length and height. It has a driving experience that isn’t memorable in ways good or bad.

And none of that preceding paragraph is meant as an insult.

Read More >

By on October 18, 2017

2016 Nissan Leaf, Image: Nissan

Over the past twenty or so years, I have come to firmly believe that the largest problem facing humanity is lack of consciousness. Sounds trite, doesn’t it?

But I’m not talking about “mindfulness” or “caring” or any of that New Age woo-woo. What I mean by “consciousness” is the same thing that Douglas Hofstadter means: the ability to temporarily step outside the actions you are performing, or the thoughts you are having, and consider them from a distance, as a whole. If you can’t do that — if you are unable or unwilling to occasionally evaluate your behavior, your preconceptions, and your desires as if they belonged to someone else — then you are truly no more intelligent than a dog or a computer program or a hurricane.

The conscious individual periodically steps out outside his situation so he can consider whether what he is doing makes any sense whatsoever. You can think of it as “the state of stuckness,” as Robert Pirsig did, or you can call it a “strange loop” as Hofstadter does, but you should learn how to do it. Without that consciousness, you will always be the victim of your environment and whatever information you consume. Lack of consciousness makes people susceptible to everything from autonomous-car crashes to investment bubbles to conspiracy theories.

In this day and age, one of the biggest pitfalls facing the unconscious among us is susceptibility to so-called “fake news,” which I will define here as any news that reinforces our beliefs and cherished ideas but which cannot stand up to even a modest bit of examination. Fake news is the processed sugar of brainfood and, just like processed sugar, we consume it because it makes us feel good in the short term. (Believe me, I know.) What follows is the story of a particularly tempting morsel of processed sugar. Call it a funnel cake, maybe, one that was eagerly consumed everywhere from The Drive to CBS News.

Read More >

By on October 18, 2017

2020 Polestar 1 profile - Image: PolestarBy nature, we’re skeptics. It’s in the job description.

Thus, while it’s hard not to fall in love with the idea of Volvo’s new 2020 Polestar 1 offspring — I mean, just look at it — we also know how hard it is to kickstart a new luxury brand, regardless of whether Polestar wants to sit far outside the luxury mainstream or right at the heart of the matter. We can’t help but wonder whether the Polestar 1 is not representative of the ideal luxury brand launch.

As doubters, as pessimists, as cynics, as preternatural killjoys, as wary realists, we have questions about this new upstart premium automotive entity. Many questions. Read More >

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