By on June 20, 2017

2017 Audi TTS profile - Image: © Timothy CainAs an automobile journalist, I’m supposed to qualify certain statements.

This car is gorgeous, I might say, but only with an asterisk that denotes beauty being in the eye of the beholder. This car is gorgeous, I might say, but not as gorgeous as its predecessors, and then I’d draw your attention to the fine print where I describe my lack of a fine arts degree.

Whatever.

The 2017 Audi TTS is gorgeous. Even more stunning than the exterior is the interior.

Yet just because the third-generation TT continues to major in the arts doesn’t mean Audi completely forgot to educate the TT in the modern STEM curriculum.

The Audi TT has always been focused more on style than substance. But the 2017 TTS is more than just a pretty face. (Read More…)

By on June 19, 2017

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic Coupe - Image: © Timothy CainTwo turbochargers. 362 horsepower. 384 lb-ft of torque. AMG’s 31:69 front/rear torque bias. 0-60 mph in 4.8 seconds. AMG-tuned air suspension. 14.2-inch front rotors. 285/40R20 rear tires. 640 watts and 14 speakers of Burmester surround sound.

Forget all that.

This is a story all about cargo volume. 10-14 percent more cargo volume. Sweet, sultry, scintillating cargo volume.

The 2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic lineup is two vehicles strong. In one AMG GLC43, your dog stands up and waits for the liftgate to close. In the other, your dog rolls over, plays dead, and doesn’t get up until the end of your journey.

This is the latter, the 2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic Coupe. It’s a genuine performance vehicle, with the power, grip, tenacity, and even finesse one expects from a performance vehicle, but also with style — love it or loathe it — that has practical implications for ol’ Bailey, the Bouvier des Flandres. (Read More…)

By on June 7, 2017

2018 Toyota C-HR profile, Image: © Timothy Cain

Forget, if only for the next few minutes, the way it looks. You may hate it, you may love it. But don’t let your interpretation of the 2018 Toyota C-HR’s exterior angles cloud your judgement.

While you’re at it, set aside class designations, as well. Whether you, like me, consider the 2018 Toyota C-HR to be unqualified for “crossover” status because it’s missing all-wheel-drive availability, the C-HR is still positioned as a rival for front-wheel-drive HR-Vs, Renegades, Encores, and CX-3s, among others.

The Toyota C-HR was initially intended to form part of the Scion lineup in North America, but with that brand’s demise, Toyota wisely moved the C-HR into its own lineup. Slotted below the Toyota RAV4 with dimensions that all but mirror the old Toyota Matrix, the 2018 Toyota C-HR is a $23,495-25,435 hatchback that’s garnered more attention during its stay with me than any vehicle I’ve ever tested.

To my surprise, almost all of that attention was positive. But is the Toyota C-HR worthy of such attention? (Read More…)

By on May 30, 2017

2017 Subaru Impreza 5-Door, Image: © Timothy Cain

There have been times when Subarus were good enough.

On top of being good enough, these Subarus were equipped with all-wheel drive as standard equipment. As a result, an increasing number of people purchased these Subarus, cars which didn’t excel in very many areas but which featured the all-wheel-drive system deemed so desirable by consumers in certain regions.

To be fair, not all Subarus were sold purely on the merits of being all-wheel-drive cars that were merely good enough in other ways. Forester XTs and WRXs, for example, weren’t simply decent AWD vehicles. Setting aside its desirable AWD system, the Subaru Outback has long been a high-riding wagon in a world largely devoid of high-riding wagons. Subarus have often been blessed with impressive crash test results, as well.

But was the Subaru Impreza — not only way back in first-generation form but even in its fourth iteration from 2011-2016 — an attractive proposition if not for its AWD appeal? Sure, it was good enough, but not by much.

Yet as of the 2017 Subaru Impreza’s launch, as of the arrival of this fifth-generation Impreza, the Subaru Impreza is finally strong enough to stand on its own two feet. Albeit still with four driven wheels. (Read More…)

By on May 24, 2017

2017 Kia Optima Hybrid - Image: © Timothy CainAutomobile manufacturers send a new car to my driveway every week. Last week, the manufacturer was Kia. The vehicle, an Optima Hybrid.

Spending a full week with a vehicle should expose a vehicle’s positive attributes, not only the most obvious traits but those hidden under the surface at a first-drive event in an exotic location or during a test drive where a yammering salesman regales you with tales of J.D. Power awards.

Spending a full week with a vehicle should also expose a vehicle’s faults, not just the glaring flaws. The kind of blunders only made evident when you truly get to know a car.

That’s my job. I’m given time to spot everything, because you won’t be afforded the same privilege. So what happens when a vehicle is unable to incite any passion in the automotive enthusiast erogenous zones while also avoiding the exposure of any intrinsic weaknesses? What happens when there’s nothing to spot?

Writer’s block. (Read More…)

By on May 18, 2017

2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI MV Confederation - Image: © Timothy Cain

I was lost. Rather, I was about to be lost.

As I drove an eye-catching white silver metallic 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI onto the MV Confederation in Caribou, Nova Scotia, it dawned on me. I had never driven across Prince Edward Island by myself. But I was about to, if I could find my way.

Mrs. Cain and the kids had already made it to Prince Edward Island, having departed earlier in the week to begin our house hunt after our Nova Scotian home sold in 24 hours. Sunshine and a quick car made me realize that the MV Confederation’s perfectly timed departure would allow for some sorely needed blood pressure reduction, sitting on the deck of a ferry for an hour in the middle of a Friday afternoon.

But I left my iPhone charge cord at home on the dining room table. My phone’s battery was below 5 percent with pictures yet to be snapped. I couldn’t use my phone for directions. I didn’t trust the island signage to be sufficient — we’re not big on signs around these parts. And then a light came on: the ferry’s tourist bureau would have maps. Maps! Maps, my dear Watson. Maps. I studied that arcane sheet for, well, it had to be minutes. In the belly of the ship, with everybody else back in their cars, I spent a few more minutes folding that sucker up with every ounce of dexterity my parents’ genetics afforded me.

Not until I arrived at my Summerside destination did it dawn on me. The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI has a navigation system.

Maybe that’s why it costs $29,815. (Read More…)

By on April 28, 2017

2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport - Image: © Timothy Cain

This is not the 2017 Hyundai Elantra GT3 Superleggera Stradale Competizione with an optional N Performance Package.

The 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport is not hardcore. It’s not SCCA-certified. It’s not extreme. It’s not uncompromising. And thankfully, it’s not obnoxious, ostentatious, outlandish, or overcooked.

The 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport is not a Ford Focus RS alternative; it’s not a replacement for your Subaru WRX STI; it won’t satisfy your Renault Sport 230 Renault F1 Team R26.R import cravings.

The $21,650 2017 Hyundai Elantra Sport is, instead, a remarkably balanced junior sports sedan with classy styling and a terrific value quotient, priced $5,100 below the top-spec Elantra Limited.

It’s the best version of Hyundai’s best product. (Read More…)

By on April 17, 2017

2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid and 2001 Suzuki Katana - Image: © Timothy Cain

Gil’s my next-door neighbor. We live in very similar homes, we share a fondness for canine companions, and we would both happily live on pizza alone.

But Gil and I couldn’t be more different. Gil is cool, you see.

Gil’s young; I’m not not as young as I used to be. Gil can change the alternator on an old Ford Explorer in mere minutes; I can change a lightbulb if given time. Gil goes out on Friday nights; I have little children to put to bed.

And while I spent the last week driving a basic version of the outgoing 2017 Toyota Camry Hybrid, Gil pulled his Suzuki Katana out of storage. Yes, Gil drives a motorcycle. I drive a silver Camry Hybrid LE.

But who does Gil call in the middle of a workday when his Suzuki breaks down?

Camry Man, naturally. Mr. Dependable. (Read More…)

By on April 12, 2017

2017 Buick Encore Premium AWD – Image: © Timothy Cain

You’re about to read a review of the 2017 Buick Encore Premium AWD, and you’re quite possibly well aware of the criticism the Encore has endured here at The Truth About Cars.

“The Encore is one of the worst cars I’ve driven in a long time,” TTAC’s former managing editor wrote in 2015. “Is the Encore the worst Buick ever?” Corey Lewis asked late last year.

Meanwhile, the Encore has appeared on my personal list of the eight vehicles I don’t want to own for four consecutive years.

Building good small cars is hard. It turns out, building good small SUVs — we can call them subcompact crossovers — based on those small cars can be just as challenging. That doesn’t mean Buick got the Chevrolet Sonic-based Encore all wrong. Refreshed for 2017, the Buick Encore has some redeeming qualities.

Would I buy one? At $35,825, you can’t be serious. But I’m beginning to understand why your mother might want an Encore. (Read More…)

By on April 11, 2017

[Image: Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars]

“You weren’t kidding when you said it was big,” she said, flashing me a smile.

“I never lie,” I said, lying.

She was, of course, talking about the 2017 Buick LaCrosse. Get your depraved minds out of the gutter.

I’d told my longtime friend I’d pick her up in a “big, red Buick,” and I certainly came through on that promise. And, as this friend — a former owner of a pinot-grigio-colored ’89 Skylark — settled herself comfortably into the sedan’s commodious front passenger seat, it seemed the LaCrosse had fulfilled its own obligations.

Sadly, it’s a relic in a rapidly shrinking segment. The last of a dying breed that once proliferated across the American landscape in numbers that would make pre-railway buffalo herds jealous. Yes, the LaCrosse is the last real Buick, even as it adopts the latest in safety and convenience features and fuel-saving technologies.

As a lover of every landau-topped barge from the golden age of motoring (or malaise, depending on who you ask), it was a somewhat bittersweet experience to spend time in the LaCrosse, as it does its job quite well. It’s a good soldier, and it surprises in many ways. But it can’t be a dog-and-Playskool-swallowing crossover, and that’s why it and the other holdouts in its segment are effectively doomed.

There’s a train a comin’, and the .45-70 Sharps rifles on board are firmly grasped by legions of singles, families and geriatrics who’ve come to love a taller ride height and spacious cargo hold. (Read More…)

By on March 31, 2017

2017 Audi Q3 Quattro Daytona Grey - Image: © Timothy Cain

Some cars genuinely suck. There is essentially no price at which, for instance, wooden ride quality and inept handling and nonexistent acceleration and uncomfortable seats and disappointing fuel economy are worth the asking price. There are simply far too many decent alternatives for a vehicle such as, oh, I don’t know, the Mitsubishi Mirage.

Some cars, however, only suck in the context of their respective MSRPs. Take the Ford Flex we reviewed recently as an example. Though showing signs of age, it’s still a fine family hauler. But at the $50,000 as-tested price, the Flex is uncompetitive.

Then there’s this 2017 Audi Q3. Perhaps it’s an acceptable machine at its $33,875 entry price. But optioned up to $44,150, the aged Q3 may be guilty of simply resting upon the laurels of its four-ring badge.

Does the 2017 Audi Q3 suck, or does it only suck when it strays out of Single-A ball into the Major Leagues? (Read More…)

By on March 24, 2017

2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid – Image: © Timothy Cain

If you want to beat Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray or Rafael Nadal, you have to be better than Roger, Novak, Andy, and Rafa.

It doesn’t matter if it costs less to train you. It won’t matter if you’re better looking. It will never be sufficient to merely stack up better on paper; to be taller and stronger and younger.

You have to be better.

Sorry to have to break it to you this way, but, you’re not.

To upset a paradigm that’s been in place for two decades, the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid can’t merely be less expensive than the Toyota Prius. People are willing to pay a premium for a superior known entity. The Hyundai Ioniq can’t merely be more attractive. Indeed, how could the Ioniq not be more attractive than the 2017 Toyota Prius? Moreover, the Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid won’t succeed simply because of superior on-paper achievements; of greater cargo space or hiproom or horsepower.

If the Ioniq Hybrid is to succeed at weaning green car buyers off their beloved Prii, the Hyundai Ioniq must be a better Prius.

It is. Mostly. (Read More…)

By on February 28, 2017

2017 Volkswagen Passat V6 rear - Image: © Timothy Cain

Time flies. 2017 is the sixth model year for the Chattanooga, Tennessee-built Volkswagen Passat, the Americanized family sedan that aimed for the heart of the market so routinely missed by its forerunners.

The other Passat, the Passat designed more for Europe’s tastes than yours, has since launched in new, eighth-generation form. Yet having lost all of the momentum created by Tennessee’s Passat in 2012, Volkswagen of America forges on with one particularly American cue: displacement.

An optional V6 engine is not entirely outside the midsize norm. In fact, the three best-selling midsize cars in America all currently offer a V6 powerplant. But it has become increasingly normal for competitors to skip the V6 in favor of turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder powerplants. That’s how Chevrolet, Hyundai, Kia, and (until recently) Ford play the game.

The 2017 Volkswagen Passat’s V6 is a 3.6-liter unit with 280 enthusiastic horsepower. All 280 ponies burble melodically at idle, as if to contradict the sober invisibility of the exterior design while heaping shame on the childish intake rasp of competitors’ four-pots.

Horsepower is undeniably intoxicating.

This new Passat, however, even with 280 intoxicating horsepower, is not a new car. And these 3,597 CCs cost a minimum of eight bucks per unit, or nearly ten bucks per CC in the case of our tester.

Unfortunately, there’s no replacement for displacement is only a valid statement if you’re willing to supplement your payment. (Read More…)

By on February 23, 2017

2017 Honda CR-V Touring Front 3/4, Image: © 2017 Timothy Cain

We’re all supposed to enjoy, or endure, an Alfa Romeo ownership experience at some point in our lives.

The 2017 Honda CR-V is diametrically opposed to everything the Alfa Romeo SZ stands for.

You’re supposed to drive a car that reveals its character through its flaws, as if a shifter that only slots into third at 2,755 rpm is somehow symbolic of soul.

The 2017 Honda CR-V doesn’t shift. At all.

You’re supposed to tell a great breakdown story that involves a leafy Vermont village, a greedy mechanic, and a 48-hour wait for a repair that resulted in the best drive ever with an ex-girlfriend who severed your relationship the next day.

Not a single word of that could possibly apply to a 2017 Honda CR-V.

You’re an enthusiast, you have taste, you’re vulnerable. We get it. But maybe you should just drive a Honda CR-V and accept the fact that boring, or dull, or soulless cars can be wonderfully effective ways of transporting one’s family.

I’m not thrilled by the realization. But I’m impressed by the all-new, fifth-generation Honda CR-V. (Read More…)

By on February 14, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Cruze PRemier hatchback - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

It’s not easy to live down past embarrassments.

In a junior high school basketball game, I banked in a free throw. Two decades later, do you think my older brothers have forgotten?

More than two decades ago, General Motors launched the third-generation Chevrolet Cavalier. The degree to which it was an abysmal excuse for a Honda Civic rival became increasingly clear over its decade-long run. Although its replacement, the Chevrolet Cobalt, won’t go down in history as an all-time great, it was a meaningful leap forward. The Cobalt’s replacement, Chevrolet’s first Cruze, was full of big car manners in a small car body.

Now we have the second-generation Cruze, thankfully offered in North America in a hatchback bodystyle.

The 2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback is by no means perfect, but if you haven’t already re-written the line in your brain under “Chevrolet Small Car Reputation,” it’s time to do so. (Read More…)

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