By on February 13, 2017

2017 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Limited

The 2017 Subaru Crosstrek has the bad luck of living in the shadow of a vehicle that doesn’t yet exist. That phantom would be the looming 2018 Crosstrek, which borrows the new-for-2017 Impreza’s modular platform and, no doubt, enough technological, mechanical and appearance upgrades to make the old model look ancient overnight.

So, if you’re stuck living in northern climes and counting pennies is your idea of a thrilling good time, now’s a great time to sit back and wait patiently for a killer deal on the outgoing model. Because, replacement or not, it’s popular for good reason. And no, not just because of Subaru’s newfound status as the go-to conveyor of the nonconformist middle class.

With little changed since its 2013 model year debut, save for the elimination of the “XV” prefix, a minor 2016 facelift, and the disappearance of a short-lived hybrid variant, the Crosstrek enters the last year of its first generation with confidence. This jacked-up Impreza 5-door has a life ahead of it and a fan base behind it. Anyone who questions the reasons for the model’s popularity had best pack their bags, head north, and experience a month where it snowed at least every other day. (Read More…)

By on February 1, 2017

Kia Niro, Image: Kia Motors

Kia’s foray into the hybrid segment might be ill-timed, considering the current contraction of sales for its main rival, the Toyota Prius, but the Korean automaker is betting big on the Niro’s traditionally boxy shape bringing in would-be Prius buyers offended by origami-esque sheetmetal.

Still, with that two-box silhouette comes some preconceived notions — like all-wheel drive.

While you want it, and Kia Motors of America would surely love to give it to you, there are a host of reasons why Kia’s newest hybrid-only crossover doesn’t offer all-wheel drive and likely won’t anytime soon.

(Read More…)

By on January 9, 2017

2002 Volvo V70XC Ocean Race in Colorado junkyard, RH front view - ©2017 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

I’m always on the lookout for small-production figure, special-edition cars during my junkyard explorations, and we have admired such classics as the Etienne Aigner Volkswagen Golf and the Daytona 500 Pace Car Pontiac Grand Prix in past installments of the Junkyard Find series.

Today, we’re moving into the 21st century, for a genuine, numbers-matching, one-of-650-made 2002 Volvo Ocean Race Edition V70 Cross Country, spotted in that hotbed of nautical action: Denver. (Read More…)

By on January 8, 2017

Mercedes-Benz AMG GLA 45 4MATIC Yellow Night Edition, X156, 2017

Mercedes-Benz has a total of seven model series in the SUV/crossover playing field, ranging from its granddaddy G-Wagen to the compact GLA. Given SUVs and crossovers are enjoying record sales numbers, it should be no surprise manufacturers are wont to outdo their competitors by keeping them as fresh as possible.

Applying their considerable engineering might, the boffins in Stuttgart will kick off 2018 with a neue version of the GLA — with some new bumpers.

(Read More…)

By on December 7, 2016

dodge challenger GT 2017

All-wheel drive is coming to the Challenger.

In the pony car race Mopar has historically trailed behind General Motors and Ford. However, that underdog status also gives it some wiggle room to experiment. Factory all-wheel drive on a Mustang or Camaro is nearly unfathomable, but you almost expect something like this from Dodge.

The addition of a transfer case could help bolster sales of the Challenger in less temperate climes and close the gap between it and the Camaro. However, many would have preferred that FCA somehow made use of the AWD package on the Charger Pursuit V8 reserved for law enforcement. Perhaps it’s saving that as a future ace in the hole, as the LX platform has a long way to go before retirement. (Read More…)

By on October 14, 2016

1988 Audi 90 Quattro Treser Hunter (B3), Image: Image: Treser-Audi.de

Who built the first 250-horsepower Quattro? The first turbocharged German wagon? The first long-wheelbase Audi with all-wheel drive? The first all-wheel-drive convertible? The first off-road-inspired Audi? The first aluminum space-frame car? The first mid-engine car with Volkswagen’s Audi Group underpinnings?

Not Audi.

They all came from the mind of one incredible engineer named Walter Treser.

It’s not that Treser was without connection to the company, though, as he was intimately involved with developing the legendary Quattro and other models, then later headed up Audi’s rally program. Sure, Ferdinand Piëch gets all the credit for being the visionary that made all-wheel drive possible, but Treser is the engineer that actually turned that vision into reality.

But he didn’t rest on his laurels for long.

(Read More…)

By on October 6, 2016

1988 BMW M3 Evolution (E30), Image: BMW

Finding an E30 M3 isn’t particularly hard.

Unlike contemporaries such as the Audi Quattro, locating a good example on any given day of the week is easy. eBay has no less than seven for sale at the time of writing, all in generally good shape. Specialists such as Enthusiast Auto Group (EAG) have the same number, none of which would be unwelcome at a high-brow show. Since BMW brought over 5,000 of these homologation specials to the U.S. market, you don’t need to search long and hard to find exactly the E30 M3 you want.

Paying for it is another matter entirely.

(Read More…)

By on September 23, 2016

Golf Country

The recent news that Volkswagen is pondering an all-wheel-drive Golf for U.S. customers surprised many.

“All-wheel drive is now part of the Volkswagen DNA,” commented Dr. Hendrik Muth of Volkswagen at the U.S. launch of the Alltrack.

That means Volkswagen will be taking on Subaru, the reigning king of all-wheel drive for the masses in the U.S. And since the Golf is already fairly dear in price, adding an all-wheel-drive option to the hatch will make Volkswagen’s compact a near-luxury item. At that price, why wouldn’t you just buy an Audi? It’s the brand with the all-wheel-drive expertise in the VAG clan.

But the reality of an all-wheel-drive Golf is now 20 years old.

Let’s take a look back at nine of the more interesting pre-Alltrack, pre-4Motion versions of the Golf that most U.S. customers have never even heard of.

(Read More…)

By on September 22, 2016

2017-audi a4

The dwindling supply of new vehicles offering a row-your-own driving experience spurs fewer tears than before, but the three-pedal setup isn’t dead yet.

In fact, offering a manual transmission is still worthy of boasting about through official channels. As it rolls out the 2017 A4, Audi wants you to know there’ll be an option to ditch the PRNDL pattern on all-wheel-drive models, allowing spirited motorists the increasingly rare opportunity to take full control of their gear changes.

Oh, and those other guys? Yeah, they don’t offer one. Audi made sure to remind us of that. (Read More…)

By on September 15, 2016

New Volvo V90 Cross Country Studio

What a difference a lift makes.

Always the purveyors of something different, Sweden’s Volvo Car Corporation has officially lifted the veil on its newest product — a lifted, all-terrain version of its elegant V90 wagon.

Just don’t call it a crossover. It’s a Cross Country. (Read More…)

By on September 12, 2016

2015 Volkswagen Golfs, Image: Volkswagen

Volkswagen is heavily considering adding an all-wheel-drive variant of the Golf hatchback to its North American lineup, TTAC learned during the media launch for the all-new Volkswagen Alltrack, itself an all-wheel-drive version of the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen.

Dr. Hendrik Muth, vice-president of product marketing and strategy, explained the addition of 4Motion production to Volkswagen’s Puebla manufacturing facility in Mexico has opened up more possibilities, including the addition of all-wheel drive to the standard Golf hatchback.

(Read More…)

By on September 6, 2016

2016 Dodge Challenger SRT 392

The Dodge Challenger is well known for fouling empty parking lots with smoke-belching burnouts, but Fiat Chrysler Automobiles clearly feels its muscle coupe needs four-wheel traction.

Horsepower lovers in northern climes are likely celebrating the news (reported by Automotive News) that the Challenger will gain an all-wheel-drive variant. (Read More…)

By on September 1, 2016

2017 Cadillac XT5, Image: © 2016 Matthew Guy/The Truth About Cars

When the original Cadillac SRX appeared for the 2004 model year, it rode atop a rear-wheel-drive unibody platform, offered three rows of seats, and asked a question rarely asked today: “V8 with that?”

Six years later, General Motors saw fit to yank the SRX out of that class and plunge it into the murderously competitive front-wheel drive, two-row luxury crossover field, shoving it in direct competition with the segment’s dominant sales king, the Lexus RX. Hand-wringing ensued, yet that iteration of the SRX sold nearly 100,000 copies globally in 2015. Not bad for a five-year-old model on the outs.

For 2017, Cadillac — drunk on the New York City skyline and “image spaces” in SoHo — introduced its CT6 sedan before turning its attention to updating its best seller.

Will Cadillac’s new utility, now christened XT5 and built in Saturn’s old Spring Hill digs in Tennessee, follow the brand’s relentless path to Audi-ization?
(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.

(Read More…)

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