Tag: car review

By on February 21, 2017

2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S Sedan at Sebring, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

When Mercedes-Benz brought the W201 platform here as the somewhat oddly named 190E 2.3, it was immediately nicknamed the “baby Benz.” The successor to that car, yclept “C-Class” to fit precisely within Daimler-Benz’s new idiot-compatible nomenclature, became known as the “Cheap-Class” at Mercedes-Benz dealerships.

The car you see above, piloted by Danger Girl at Sebring International Raceway in what was not a violation of the Hertz Dream Cars rental agreement, is no longer baby-sized. Nor is it particularly cheap at the as-tested price of just over $74,000. So what is it, exactly?

Well, it’s absurdly powerful; the Pep-Boys-style block “S” at the end of the C63 badge indicates a full 503 horsepower from a twin-turbo 4.0-liter V8. It’s remarkably well-equipped, although there are a few omissions about which one could gripe and I’ll discuss those below. It’s as competent as you’d expect, being the top-spec sedan version of a car that is surprisingly decent even in its poverty-spec, MB-Tex-equipped four-cylinder form.

Most of all, however, the 2017 Mercedes-AMG C63 S is a sharp reminder that AMG isn’t what it used to be, for better or for worse.

(Read More…)

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 9, 2017

2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has been on a bit of a mental streak lately.

Rip the seats out of a Hellcat to create the Demon? Sure!

Drop a V8 engine the size of a grand piano into a Durango and perform all-wheel drive burnouts? Why not?

The level of brash, automotive lunacy on offer from Auburn Hills is appalling. I think it’s great.

It’s no surprise, then, Ram chose to amp up the capability and in-your-face style of its Power Wagon when it came time for a refresh. Big tires, bold grilles, and billboard-sized badges; customers in the market for a Power Wagon are not generally a bunch of wallflowers.

(Read More…)

By on February 7, 2017

2017 Ford Flex Limited EcoBoost - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

My sister hates the Ford Flex.

She’s never driven a Ford Flex, mind you. She just hates the way it looks.

I, on the other hand, am a huge fan of the Ford Flex’s exterior design, particularly in Blue Jeans paint, particularly without these black wheels.

There are only two sides to this argument. There is no middle ground on which you stand and declare, “Meh, it’s alright.” Since 2008, consumers have fallen on either one side of the fence or the other. You either love the Ford Flex, or you hate the Ford Flex.

Based on the Flex’s lack of marketplace success, there are apparently too many haters. Some nine years after the Flex was launched, inspired in 2008 by the 2005’s Ford Fairlane Concept, Ford’s alternative crossover is increasingly forced into an ever-narrowing niche. The style quotient remains high — at least in the eyes of those who’ve always loved it — but the Flex now manifests too many signs of old age in a market full of remarkably competent and more popular challengers. (Read More…)

By on February 6, 2017

2017 Nissan Rogue SL AWD Palatial Ruby Front Quarter, Image: © 2017 Chris Tonn

Internet eyeballs are like sweet candy to “content producers” like yours truly, so I apologize for the clickbait title. After all, the iconic, elemental roadster has nearly nothing in common with a two-ton, all-wheel-drive CUV at first glance — or even fifth glance. But look deeper at each vehicle’s mission, and I’m convinced the 2017 Nissan Rogue defines its category just as the Miata has become the universal sports car.

While I’d love nothing more than to see a pack of 50 Spec Rogues bashing each other at the SCCA Runoffs this September, I’m referring to how thoroughly each vehicle completely disappears around the driver. I felt immediately at home upon sliding behind the wheel, and my daily commute was as relaxed as any I’d experienced in any car.

(Read More…)

By on February 3, 2017

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Hotel Emma, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

Remember MTV? Back on September 18, 1983, the once-music-oriented television station — before its foray into an endless stream of mindless reality programming — broadcast a momentous event in rock history. The members of KISS, who’d never previously showed their bare faces in public, appeared in front of a camera without makeup for the very first time.

Instantly, the members of New York City rock band were normal — as far as rockers can be considered normal, I suppose.

In that same vein, Kia’s new Niro is the unmasking of the hybrid. Its crossover shape wouldn’t look out of place as a conventional, dino-juice powered vehicle on any dealer lot. The Niro sports no folded sheetmetal, no oddly proportioned kammback, and no spaghettified headlights.

It’s normal — as far as hybrids can be considered normal, I suppose. And that’s the point.

(Read More…)

By on January 18, 2017

2017 Toyota Corolla XSE – Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

So you say you want to understand Toyota. You want to look the company in the eye and get a sense of its soul. Without spending hours studying kaizen and poring over 2000GT imagery and learning the significance of the number 86, you want to know why Toyota is different from, say, Porsche.

Allow the 2017 Toyota Corolla to be your tutor. In LE Eco guise, the fuel-sipping Corolla’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder produces 140 horsepower. In “sporty” SE and XSE trims, the 1.8-liter produces eight fewer horsepower.

No kidding.

With nothing more substantive than rear disc brakes, bigger wheels, and wider low-profile tires, the 2017 Toyota Corolla XSE and its less luxurious SE sibling hardly bring performance to the Corolla lineup. The loss of eight horsepower — and the gain of two pound-feet of torque – compared to the more efficient LE Eco aren’t performance-altering characteristics, either.

Think then of this Corolla XSE as just a Corolla, as merely a Corolla, as only a Corolla, as perhaps the most prudent transportation-oriented purchase a North American car buyer can make this year.

Or as the most joyless way to spend $24,130 on a new car. (Read More…)

By on December 20, 2016

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Premier, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

“Smooth, silent, and heavy.” That’s what I said when I drove a first-generation Cruze with 55,000 miles on the digital odometer. Another thing I said: “Ready for prime time.” Daewoo’s, excuse me, GM Korea‘s first take on a compact-class world car was, to misuse a phrase from an Eighties Updike novel, “a thick, sweet plaything” that broke all Korean-car stereotypes by being substantially heavier, quieter, and more solid-feeling than any of its competitors.

It was an intelligent, thoughtful decision on General Motors’ part, assuming it was a decision and not simply a side effect of the General’s notorious inability to understand compact-car engineering. And it ensured the Cruze continues to have a reasonable reputation in the used market as a safe choice, marrying some of the J-car’s cockroach durability with vaguely modern over-the-road dynamics.

But there was a price to be paid, and that price was fuel economy. The Cruze was always a heavy drinker, exceeding four-cylinder Camrys and Accords in its fondness for the pumps. Something had to be done, and something was done. The new Cruze is “up to 250 pounds lighter” according to GM’s press releases.

I’m here to tell you that the SlimFast program worked. The Cruze now gets class-competitive fuel economy. Which leads to the question: If that’s what you gain when you “get the lead out”, so to speak, what do you lose?

(Read More…)

By on December 14, 2016

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback vs 2017 Mazda 3 5-Door - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

Until recently, American car shoppers generally treated hatchbacks with a level of disdain normally reserved for that fetid cheese you forgot about in the back of the fridge.

It made sense; most of them were base-model penalty boxes with all the charm of plain oatmeal. Now, though, the market is awash with five-doors featuring content levels and power outputs formerly reserved for much more expensive machinery.

Honda recently re-entered the hatchback game with its 2017 Civic, while Mazda has been hawking a five-door 3 since its introduction a dozen years ago. Last week, the stars aligned and the press-fleet gods shone upon TTAC by placing a Honda Civic Hatchback and Mazda 3 5-Door in the grubby hands of Tim and Matt during the same week.

While the two cars were optioned differently (a CVT-equipped Civic LX and a manual-equipped Mazda 3 5-Door Grand Touring), we nevertheless took the opportunity to get these two hatchbacks together and ask the question: “Which is gooder?” (Read More…)

By on December 12, 2016

2017 Honda CR-V Green in forest, Image: © 2016 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

Update: An earlier version of this story stated the 2017 Honda CR-V was “American-made.” However, the CR-V is manufactured in both the United States and Canada for North American consumption. Sorry, Allistonians.

We sat down for dinner in a rented space shortly after arriving in Monterey, California. The food, standard fare for such a gathering, consisted of no less than three different types of meat, the usual suspects of sides, and one or two items my small-town mind couldn’t infer from the non-Anglo-Saxon names printed on the buffet placement cards.

This was normal for a manufacturer press launch dinner: provide just enough “exotic” items for attendees to feel fancy, privileged, and cultured, but make sure the usual assortment of normal standbys are present so as not to confuse the rest of us with indecipherable choice.

Not adventurous enough to take on that mystery sushi? Here’s some roast beef.

That sauteed vegetable of dubious origin giving you second thoughts? Here, have a potato.

To the front of the room stood two new 2017 Honda CR-Vs. Much like the edibles offered to the journosaur guests, one of the examples wore a resplendent, bright hue; the other a more muted pigmentation for those with more conservative sensibilities.

(Read More…)

By on November 28, 2016

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

A friend once asked me — jokingly, mind you — what vehicle would be the ride least likely to arouse suspicion from the police. The anti-heat score, if you will. As a proud (multiple) past owner, I knew the correct answer — a grey, ubiquitous, anonymous five- to 10-year-old General Motors sedan. At least, I thought I did.

Well, I take it all back.

Only while driving a Hyundai Santa Fe Sport does one realize that everyone else drives a Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. Everyone. In fact, you’re probably reading this in a Hyundai Santa Fe Sport. Allegedly, Hyundai sells the popular crossover in splashy colors like red, but a shade reminiscent of the slate-grey November sky that murdered the Edmund Fitzgerald’s crew seems to be the go-to choice  for most buyers. Would-be bank robbers, scofflaws and undercover cops, take note.

If you’re one of the few who hasn’t yet signed on the dotted line for the Big Blue H’s lower-midsize crossover — newly refreshed for 2017, in case you weren’t aware — I drove one so you won’t have to.

Now, why does my mind keep returning to the ocean? (Read More…)

By on November 25, 2016

2017 Subaru BRZ Front 3/4, Image: © 2016 Jeff WIlson

Back in May of this year, TTAC reported the list of changes coming for the 2017 Subaru BRZ and asked if what amounted to a rather modest workover would get consumers excited enough to reverse the sports coupe’s declining sales trend.

Having spent a week acting barely responsible in Subaru’s only two-wheel-drive offering, my belief is no, the BRZ will not buck the trend. After commuting in it, doing school pick up duty and grocery runs — all in a most irresponsible way, revving the little four-cylinder boxer engine to redline again and again — I expect there will be a blip on the sales radar this year. Sadly, I also expect the BRZ (and its Toyota 86 twin) to slowly slip into automotive obscurity.

This terribly depressing thought has mostly to do with declining overall consumer interest in fun, driver-oriented cars, and it does nothing to celebrate what a wildly fun machine this is.

(Read More…)

By on November 20, 2016

2017 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE pulled over by police

It’s fall in the Mojave Desert. Morning greets us with a cool and blinding brightness at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada. Several of us mill about like the speed freaks we are, anxiously awaiting our next fix, sipping coffee, smoking cigarettes, pacing in anticipation.

And then it happens: someone hits the little rectangular start button on the SS 1LE to my left. Synapses fire up in unison with the 6.2-liter LT1 V8, brain buzzing to the rhythmic burble pouring from the quad tips of the Camaro’s Active Exhaust, one swift kick of the right foot away from liberating bliss.

(Read More…)

By on November 8, 2016

2017 Honda Civic Hatchback white rear through trees, Image: © 2016 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

As I drive the new 2017 Honda Civic Hatchback through the yellow leaves of Ontario’s autumn, a very tired metaphor comes to mind. You probably know the one. It includes a guy with the initials R.F. — and no, not the one who founded this particular corner of the internet.

I’m going to refuse this inspiration. Leveraging The Road Not Taken in automotive journalism is as banal as quoting Dom Toretto.

Instead, let’s talk about something else entirely: The ’70s.

(Read More…)

By on November 7, 2016

2016 Lexus RC-F Front quarter

In fairness, I was going too quickly even for the interstate. Even then, I’m pretty certain I saw a third numeral flicker on the dash display as I apexed the off-ramp onto the unfamiliar rural divided four-lane.

Then I saw a black and gold Dodge Charger sitting in the median.

I immediately asked myself if I can legitimately write off a speeding ticket as a business expense.

Fortunately, the deputy sheriff was either napping or texting, as the bellowing orange 2016 Lexus RC F was distinctly conspicuous as I slowed to socially acceptable speeds. I unclenched, took a breath, and continued in search of more enjoyable roads.

(Read More…)

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