By on September 21, 2017

2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Coupe - Image: © Timothy CainAt new car dealerships, coupes are thin on the ground. The demise of the Honda Accord coupe at the end of the 2017 model year shutters the mainstream midsize coupe segment, a category long since diminished by the disappearance of two-door Camrys, Altimas, and the Avengers.

Compact coupes are rare, too. You won’t find two-door versions of the Chevrolet Cruze, Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, Nissan Sentra, Subaru Impreza, Toyota Corolla, or Volkswagen Jetta, although their predecessors all offered coupe variants.

Chevrolet Monte Carlo, Chrysler Cordoba, Ford Thunderbird? Long gone. But coupes — genuine two-doors such as the pillarless Mercedes-Benz E400 4Matic I’m driving (and being massaged by) this week, or the Honda Civic, or the Infiniti Q60, or the Rolls-Royce Wraith — are still available.

Would you buy one? (Read More…)

By on September 14, 2017

2018 Chevrolet Tahoe Grande sliding doors - Image: Chevrolet, FCA, The Truth About CarsWould a minivan with all-wheel drive, added ground clearance, and wheel arch cladding ever stand a chance of being called an SUV?

It’s not so far-fetched. There was a time when the Subaru Outback was perceived as nothing more than a wagon, but times changed.

What about the other way around: does the Chevrolet Tahoe Grande’s sliding doors necessitate a minivan designation for America’s top-selling full-size SUV? In other words, is a full-size SUV with sliding doors no longer an SUV?  (Read More…)

By on September 7, 2017

Eight Toyota Camry Generations - Images: ToyotaThe launch of the 2018 Toyota Camry in July 2017 marked the arrival of America’s eighth Camry. Near the end of Ronald Reagan’s first term, the first Camry — not the first Camry, but the first Camry available for U.S. consumption — was launched in front-wheel-drive sedan and hatchback formats.

By 1997, the Camry was America’s best-selling car — a title it has held in each of the last 15 years.

The second-generation Camry spawned a V6 powerplant, available all-wheel drive, and a hatchback-replacing wagon. The third-generation Camry kept the sedan and wagon, dropped the AWD, added a coupe, and was built in America. The fourth iteration of the Camry, 1997-2001, dropped the wagon and began to be seen as the automatic choice for America’s midsize sedan buyers. The fifth Camry, which ran from 2002-2006, was sturdy enough to be form the foundation for two more Camry generations. The sixth Camry was the first to be available as a hybrid, but it put an end to the coupe, which in the prior two generations was known as Camry Solara. The seventh Camry, 2012-2017, sometimes hailed as the most American-made of all cars, benefited from a thorough refresh for 2015. The eighth Camry, at dealers now, represents much more than a major overhaul, with significant increases in fuel economy standing out as a leading improvement.

But which Toyota Camry is best of all? (Read More…)

By on August 31, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Suburban interior column shifter - Image: ChevroletSetting aside the glorious wonders of the manual, DIY shifter, is it not becoming increasingly clear that the automatic transmission shifter reached its zenith with the traditional column shifter?

One thing is certain: the column shifter is quickly fading away. The electronic controls behind many shifters are more often linked to unnecessarily complicated shifters than a simple, intuitive, steering column-mounted unit. There are pushbutton affairs on the center stack in Lincolns, rising and falling console-mounted pushbutton arrangements in Hondas and Acuras, rotary dials in everything from the Ford Fusion and Ram 1500 to the Jaguar XJ, monostable shifters with no detents in vehicles of every sort, and a horizontally opposed array of buttons and switches in a GMC Terrain that GMC felt necessary to explain for three hours.

We’re not sure these alternative shifters have shoved society along the path toward enlightenment.

But when Ford’s North American product communications manager, Mike Levine, tweeted a picture of a 2018 Ford F-150 with a 10-speed automatic and a column shifter — merging the past and future — we naturally wondered whether column shifters deserve more involvement in the present. (Read More…)

By on August 24, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Malibu Premier vs. Malibu L - Images: Chevrolet.comSometimes the little things make a big difference. Body color door handles, for example, can take a simple compact car from appearing fit for penalty box duty to appearing worthy of driveway placement. Swap those black side mouldings and matte black mirror housings for body color paint and you’re home free.

In other instances, the absence of foglights in foglight housings turns a decent front fascia into a disappointment. A bigger front air dam has the potential to suggest the addition of horsepower. Chrome window surrounds, upgraded lighting, metallic paint, and red-trimmed grilles can add a premium aura to otherwise pitiful products.

Oh, and don’t forget the wheels. Wheels can cover a multitude of design errors.

But does any car benefit more from big, stylish wheels; body colour mirrors; and LED daytime running lights than the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu? And does any car suffer more from small wheels with puffy tires, black mirrors, and stock lighting than the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu? (Read More…)

By on August 17, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Tiguan - Image: VolkswagenThe Nissan Juke and Mini Countryman arrived in the United States in 2010. The Subaru Crosstrek appeared two years later.

Buick’s Encore appeared at U.S. dealers in 2013; its Chevrolet Trax partner the following year. 2015 saw the arrival of the Fiat 500X, Jeep Renegade, Honda HR-V, and Mazda CX-3. The (FWD-only) Toyota C-HR landed in April 2017. The Hyundai Kona was unveiled in June 2017 and will show up in U.S. Hyundai stores this coming winter.

And on August 23, 2017, Volkswagen will unveil the T-Roc, which isn’t likely to go on sale in the United States until 2019. That’s nine years late.

Will the T-Roc’s tardiness cause the subcompact Volkswagen crossover to suffer the marketplace consequences just as its overdue siblings always have? (Read More…)

By on August 10, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry and 2018 Honda Accord - Images: Toyota & HondaBy the time the all-new 2018 Honda Accord debuted at a July 14, 2017, launch event, the all-new 2018 Toyota Camry was already on sale.

There are still sedan buyers alive in this world, you see. You might just be among them. Toyota and Honda will sell some 700,000 Camrys and Accords in the United States in 2017, roughly four out of every 10 midsize cars.

So, presented with two new options from the preeminent manufacturers of midsize sedans, what choice do you make? A 2018 Toyota Camry right now, with all the glory of a J-VIN and a 301-horsepower V6? Or do you wait a few weeks for the 2018 Honda Accord, a sports sedan on the cheap with a 2.0T and a six-speed manual? (Read More…)

By on August 3, 2017

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport - Image: FCAThere are a large number of major new vehicle introductions happening in the United States in 2017.

The all-new 2018 Toyota Camry is arriving at dealers as we speak. The all-new 2018 Honda Accord is weeks away. Ford’s 2018 F-150 revamp is a thorough mid-cycle update. The Kia Niro, a unique Toyota Prius alternative, arrived early this year. Mazda brought a new bodystyle to the MX-5 Miata in RF trim. The Subaru Crosstrek, quickly becoming a mainstream compact car option, is new for 2018. The Alfa Romeo rebirth continues with the Giulia, still ramping up, and the arriving-now Stelvio. The all-electric Chevrolet Bolt arrived in late December, as did a new version of America’s historic best-selling utility vehicle, the Honda CR-V. The list goes on: Tesla Model 3, Jeep Compass, Ford Expedition, Land Rover Discovery, Lexus LC, Toyota C-HR, Volkswagen Atlas, Volvo XC60.

And, thank our lucky stars, we can’t forget the early summer arrival of Honda’s fifth-generation Odyssey.

New engines, new transmissions, new wiring harnesses, new technology, new roof-folding mechanisms, new Italians. Is it just too much… new everything? Would you buy any of these vehicles in 2017, or is it best to wait until the second model year? (Read More…)

By on July 27, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry Georgetown Kentucky assembly plant - Image: ToyotaAmericans who take possession of a new Jaguar E-Pace can check their VIN to see that the subcompact luxury crossover was assembled in Austria. Each of the 36,813 Buick Envisions sold in the United States through June were imported from China. The Ford Fusion comes from Hermosillo, Mexico; the Honda Accord comes from Marysville, Ohio.

BMW builds SUVs in South Carolina. Mercedes-Benz builds cars and SUVs in Alabama. Volkswagen builds the Atlas and Passat in Tennessee. The Toyota Camry is built in Kentucky, although there’ll be a handful of new 2018 models coming all the way from Japan.

The global automotive market has spoken. “A lot of consumers have no idea where their cars are built,” Renault’s Francois Mariotte tells AutoExpress. Perhaps there are customers who struggle with the notion of German cars being assembled in Mexico, for example, but as Renault’s Mariotte says: “The quality of the car is never determined by the country it’s built in. It’s determined by the processes we put into the factory.”

But do you care where your next new vehicle is assembled? (Read More…)

By on July 20, 2017

2018 Buick Regal GS - Image: BuickUse whatever designation you must, but you know what we’re asking. In 2017, is Buick one of America’s premium brands? A competitor for Lexus and Audi? A rival for BMW and Jaguar?

On July 19, Buick released the first images, specs, and pricing details for the next-generation 2018 Buick Regal GS. While dropping the price of the basic Regal to $25,915 — not that much money for a 250-horsepower 2.0T midsize hatchback — Buick apparently improved the sporty GS in every way. The result: the GS is only ten bucks away from being a $40,000 car. The more powerful Ford Fusion Sport is $5,510 cheaper. The Audi S4 is some $12,000 more costly.

But Buick is more than just an intangible no-man’s-land price point. Buick is also a brand that sends mixed messages: advertising that suggests it’s not worthy of praise on the one hand; the new Avenir sub-brand on the other.

What say you: is Buick just another luxury wannabe, or is Buick selling premium goods at a discount? (Read More…)

By on July 13, 2017

NIssan Nalley GT-R Versa - Image: NissanLast week, we told you that Americans are paying more for new cars than they’ve ever paid before while enjoying record-high incentives. Car buyers are able to spend more in large part because the payment terms are longer than ever before.

The average new vehicle purchase now requires a $32,900 expenditure, made possible by incentives of $3,550 per car and a loan term of 69.3 months. The average payment is now $517 per month.

But how much would you pay? What’s your maximum price, your maximum payment, your maximum term length? (Read More…)

By on July 6, 2017

10 Generations of Honda Accord - Images: HondaAgainst its normal methodology, Honda is already leaking details regarding the all-new 2018 Accord, the tenth-generation of Honda’s venerable midsize car.

With continued manual transmission availability, a hi-po turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder in place of a V6 upgrade that was part of the lineup for more than two decades, and another generation of coupes, the tenth-generation Honda Accord has the potential to be a terrific car.

But will it be the best Honda Accord?

American-built for 35 years, on the market for four decades, and the most popular car among TTAC’s devoted readership, the Honda Accord is a known entity. But not all Accords were created equal. Judge using whatever methodology you prefer: style, reliability, ride and handling, efficiency, interior quality. Then tell everyone which Honda Accord is the best Honda Accord. (Read More…)

By on June 29, 2017

2016 BMW 330e iPerformance - Image: BMWBMW intends to unveil an all-electric 3 Series at the Munich Auto Show in September, according to German business newspaper Handelsblatt.

Will BMW report the intake of hundreds of thousands of $1,000 deposits for an all-electric, next-generation BMW 3 Series? Probably not.

But which car are you more likely to purchase: a 3 Series EV from long-heralded BMW with roughly 250 miles of range, or the much-hyped, oft-discussed Model 3 from nascent Tesla, production of which should be in full swing by the time the 3 Series EV appears?

This may be the next Mustang vs. Camaro, a quasi Accord vs. Camry battle to end all Accord vs. Camry battles, an F-150 vs. Silverado skirmish without the 87 octane. (Read More…)

By on June 22, 2017

2017 Chrysler 300C - Image: FCAThe American new vehicle market is evolving. Indeed, the rate of evolution suggests it may be evolving fast enough to be deemed a revolution.

Passenger car market share is down to 37 percent through the first five months of 2017. We’re not even a decade removed from a time when passenger cars accounted for more than half of all U.S. auto sales. Cars have lost 4 percentage points of U.S. market share in just the last year. While pickup trucks, SUVs, and crossovers added 225,000 sales, year-over-year, in the first five months of 2017, passenger car volume tumbled by more than 145,000 units.

As a result, automakers are giving up on cars. Not wholeheartedly, not across the board, not routinely. But in specific areas. And this couldn’t be more obvious at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, where the company no longer has entries in the two largest passenger car sectors. Heading into 2018, FCA’s car branch will market two Dodges, one Chrysler, and a handful of Fiats, Maseratis, and Alfa Romeos.

Is that enough? Or does Fiat Chrysler Automobiles need more cars? (Read More…)

By on June 15, 2017

2017 Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic Coupe - Image: © Timothy CainVehicle classifications are important. They enable governments to better regulate. They allow uninformed buyers to get a grip on the market. They foster competition. They clarify conversation.

The passenger car sector is subdivided in countless ways, and not just by size. In the car realm, there are hatchbacks and liftbacks, convertibles and roadsters, station wagons and shooting brakes, sedans and coupes.

Yet when it comes to utility vehicles, besides differentiating (or attempting to differentiate, if there’s even any point) between SUVs and crossovers, much of the classification conversation revolves purely around size, from the subcompact Honda HR-V to the full-size Chevrolet Suburban.

So what’s this? I’m driving a Mercedes-AMG GLC43 4Matic Coupe this week. But we all know it’s not a coupe, which is traditionally known as a car with two doors and a fixed roof. Sometimes the coupe’s definition is even narrower. Yet never has the traditional coupe definition allowed for vehicles such as the GLC, BMW X4, BMW X6, or Mercedes-Benz’s GLE Coupe to be called coupes.

Still, we need to call them something. (Read More…)

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