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 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 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 November 8, 2016

Ferrari steering wheel

Ferrari CEO Sergio Marchionne — who’s also the CEO of some other company — says the Italian automaker’s stable will be full of hybrid technology in three short years.

This isn’t an initiative designed to take Ferrari from red to green. Rather, it’s the only way it can boost sales without running afoul of the law. There’s cash to be made, and Sergio’s on the case.

(Read More…)

By on August 12, 2016

2017 Lincoln MKZ Reserve Hybrid

With your left hand’s thumb, scroll through the steering wheel-mounted controls and select Settings. Move up to Driver Assist. Proceed to Drive Control. Then select Comfort.

Now your 2017 Lincoln MKZ Reserve Hybrid is a good ol’ fashioned barge of an American car, with enough rear end float to make pregnant women seasick. Firm? Far from it. That dip in the pavement half a mile ago is still causing the rear occupants’ bellies to teeter-totter as the MKZ attempts to locate its equilibrium.

Pair this menu selection with a prod of the Eco button to the right of the central touchscreen and you now have a modern Lincoln that mostly ignores throttle input, steers with remarkable lightness, and turns potholes into pillows. That sounds like the perfect Lincoln for a customer base that has all but gone extinct.

Fortunately, the refreshed MKZ Hybrid does not need to be driven in Comfort/Eco mode. In fact, the 2017 MKZ is at its best when, as is often the case, Lincoln allows the MKZ to manifest its deep-seated Ford Fusion roots.

So why not buy a Ford Fusion instead? (Read More…)

By on June 16, 2016

Koenigsegg Regera NY Auto Show - Image: © 2016 Ronnie Schreiber/The Truth About Cars

Considering I’ve driven hundreds of miles to attend music concerts and recently spent Memorial Day driving across three states to buy a guitar not far from Memphis, I suppose driving 600 miles or so to New York on the odd chance that I’d get to interview Christian von Koenigsegg wasn’t actually that odd.

The Koenigsegg car company scheduled a press conference at the New York Auto Show, and I wanted to shake the hand of a man who — along with just a few dozen of his fellow Swedes — managed to show that Ferdinand Piech and the VW empire’s Bugattis aren’t necessarily the biggest BSDs in the automotive world. (Read More…)

By on March 26, 2015

2016-Toyota-RAV4-Hybrid-rear

Toyota is set to debut a hybrid RAV4. I’m not sure what’s taken them so long.

(Read More…)

By on December 17, 2014

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The next 25 years of automotive powertrain technology belongs to the internal combustion engine, according to oil & gas giant ExxonMobil. While many will dismiss this as the wishful thinking of an industrial dinosaur, it’s worth remembering that 25 years isn’t that long of a timeframe in the automotive world.

(Read More…)

By on October 27, 2014

2010-2011_Toyota_Prius_--_12-21-2011

“I think it’s fairly interesting from a cultural memory standpoint, that American car buyers, for the most part, don’t seem to have memory of gas prices two, three or six months ago,”

–  TrueCar President John Krafcik speaking to NPR about slumping hybrid sales.

(Read More…)

By on August 19, 2014

2013-Hyundai-Sonata-Hybrid_44

 

While the next big product on Hyundai’s horizon is the long-rumored compact CUV that could take on the Nissan Juke, it seems that Hyundai has not one but two potentially significant products in the works.

(Read More…)

By on August 4, 2014

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How do you help move the Cadillac ELR? Simple: drop the price down to one that the market will bear.

(Read More…)

By on June 3, 2014

09 - 2001 Honda Insight Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinSince we started out this week with a relatively late-model Junkyard Find, I’m going to jump into the 21st century and share the first Honda Insight I’ve ever found in a high-inventory-turnover, self-service wrecking yard. I’ve seen a few thoroughly stripped early Priuses and didn’t think they were worth photographing, but the tiny two-seater first-gen Insight made the Prius look like a fuel-swilling pig and that makes it a much more interesting car to me. 61 highway miles per gallon, all sorts of advanced aluminum components, and a coefficient of drag of just 0.25… and yet this one couldn’t stay clear of The Crusher. (Read More…)

By on April 21, 2014

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While the notion of a hybrid car that features a 6.75 liter internal combustion engine might seem a bit oxymoronic to some, rich folks like to demonstrate their environmental bona fides as much as anyone. With so many supercars like the Porsche 918 or the McLaren P1 featuring hybrid powertrains that combine green cred with mind-boggling amounts of total power and torque, high end hybrids have become the automotive version of eating your cake and having it too. Bentley’s new plug in hybrid concept is based on their Mulsanne flagship and they’re featuring it at the 2014 Beijing auto show. It manages to reduce CO2 output by 70% while increasing power by 25% and has a battery-only range of 31 miles (50 km). (Read More…)

By on February 26, 2014

2010_Honda_Insight_LX_--_10-03-2009

Sales of the slow-selling Honda Insight will end, with Bloomberg reporting that production will end this month. Despite being released before the Toyota Prius, the Insight has lagged far behind it in sales.

(Read More…)

By on February 22, 2014

Reading Alex Dykes’ review of the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid, I was reminded of something by Alex’s description of the Accord’s drivetrain layout. Unlike the Toyota and Ford parallel hybrid systems (similar in function but arrived at independently), or the Chevy Volt’s Voltec drivetrain (a different spin, no pun intended, on the same basic idea that allows the Volt to operate mostly in pure electric or serial hybrid modes), which all connect electric motors and a gasoline engine to a planetary gearset, the Accord now uses an inline serial/parallel hybrid system, a concept that actually goes back a century to the Woods Dual Power automobile. (Read More…)

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