By on August 22, 2017

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Confirmation bias can be a tricky thing to overcome in this business. You might not know this, but some people in this business think I have a bit of a preference for the Blue Oval. Some of my frenemies in the automotive journalism world have accused me of being pro-Honda. As for me, I’d like to think that I can objectively evaluate any car, but let’s be realistic here — we’re all humans. We have experiences and biases that rear their ugly heads even when we are doing our damnedest to shove them deep down inside ourselves.

But there’s a entire class of car I personally find reprehensible, for no other reason than I find the types of people who drive them to be, well, reprehensible. When I think “Luxury Compact CUV,” I think “Basic Bitch.” These vehicles serve no actual purpose. In most cases, they have less space than their compact car siblings, worse gas mileage, and prices that soar at least $5-7k higher. The only reason to purchase or (more likely) lease such a Basicmobile is to fit in with the other SAHMs in your subdivision who have seamlessly transitioned from college frat mattress to PTA vice-president in only 10 years flat. When a female friend of mine texted me recently with, “What do you think about the Audi Q3?” my response was so vile that I can’t put it into print (and if you think about the things I’ve written, that’s saying something).

As a result, I was absolutely determined to hate the 2017 Audi Q3 Premium when I selected it from the Emerald Aisle at Miami International Airport. There was only one problem with drinking this particular flavor of haterade.

It’s a pretty damn good car.

(Read More…)

By on August 7, 2017

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The blower motor in my WRX seemed to be getting louder by the day and, while adding an insulation panel seemed to help, I still wasn’t satisfied. The noise was intermittent, making it hard to reproduce, though a tech working at my local dealer discovered a technical service bulletin and offered to replace it while the warranty was still in effect.

So, I scheduled an appointment to drop the car off to replace the blower motor and perform a technical service bulletin to resolve my squeaky clutch pedal issues. Because they needed time to get some extra parts in, I was told I’d be given a loaner for a few days. I dropped the WRX off and expected to walk out to a base Impreza, but was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a plush Legacy 2.5i Limited.

(Read More…)

By on July 24, 2017

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“You wanna roll up to this thing with Magnus tomorrow?”

It’s amazing how many times I’m just minding my business, living my best life, and I run into my old friend Matt Farah. In this case, we happened to both be in Miami at the same time for work. My work, of course, being of the cubicle-dwelling, advertising-selling variety, and his being of the driving-an-Aventador S-around-Wynwood-slowly-in-front-of-cameras variety. Naturally, I insisted that we meet up at the most Miami place I could think up, Lagniappe, for some wine, jazz, and excellent company on a Tuesday night.

Turns out that Matt’s good friend and occasional TTAC subject, Magnus Walker, was doing a book signing the following evening at Parkhaus1, a veritable institution in the Porsche community. I normally despise this sort of thing. I’m not a particularly social person to start with, and while I had never made the acquaintance of Mr. Walker and I assumed he was a pleasant and genial fellow, I’m not one to stargaze at another grown man.

“Nah, man. Besides, what would I show up at Parkhaus in? My rental Grand Cherokee (which, by the way, is an excellent vehicle and totes deserving of its own review)?”

“Why don’t you get on Turo and rent something dope?” (Matt says “dope” a lot. And “dank.” I’ve tried his vernacular on for size but it doesn’t work for me.)

Now there’s an idea.

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By on May 26, 2017

2016 Nissan Pathfinder S, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

I have zero patience with people who make pricing comparisons between new cars and used cars. It is almost always done to show off the supposedly superior financial acumen, automotive knowledge, or enthusiast credentials of the person making the comparison. “I sure feel bad for that single mother emergency-room nurse who just wasted her money on a new CR-V. Doesn’t she know that she could get an ’86 Silver Spur for that kind of money? Or a early 308GTS roller chassis? Or a Cessna 152 that just needs a major overhaul to be pretty close to airworthy?” I have a pal, Freddy, who specializes in that sort of article for the nice folks at Jalopnik: “For the price of a new Mirage, you could be the owner of a 1991 Mercedes-Benz 600SEL with 178,000 miles on the clock and half of a wiring harness!”

Just this once, however, I am going to make an exception to my own self-imposed rule, and it goes something like this: Last week, I rented the 2016 Nissan Pathfinder S that you see above. I drove it from Columbus, Ohio, to High Point, North Carolina, over the course of a long morning. It was pretty much okay, as you will read below. If you go a Nissan showroom, you will see the 2017 Pathfinder, which offers some nontrivial improvements, starting at $30,200. And you will see the Nissan Rogue Sport, which is the company’s smallest crossover in this market, starting at $21,800 or thereabouts. But if you open up the used-car search engine of your choice, you will see that a 2016 Nissan Pathfinder S — just like the one pictured above with reasonable mileage and still very much under the factory warranty — can be had for the mildly astonishing sum of $18,000.

So let’s evaluate this Pathfinder in the context of its current price, which is $18,000. Is it worth paying less to get “more truck” than you would get with a brand-new Rogue Sport? Or should we leave questions like this to the Bring-A-Trailer types out there?

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By on April 21, 2017

2017 Cadillac XTS, Image: © 2017 Charley Baruth

(Everybody say HAYYYYYYY to our guest reviewer du jour, Danger Girl! —jb)

The creaky old 737-300, lacking wi-fi and assigned seating but chock-full of oversized roller luggage, touched down in Queen City at about 9:40 p.m. on a Monday night. My hopes for what I would find in the Charlotte Douglas International Airport Executive Emerald Aisle were about as high as the hopes I’d had when I ran from gate A8 to B15 at BWI, knowing my connecting flight had been boarding for a solid 15 minutes. Which is to say: lower than low. To my surprise, this was not the case at the Executive Emerald Aisle. I’d expected the automotive equivalent of my back-cabin center seat, but this was more like the delightfully unoccupied space on the aisle side of the exit row.

I walked past the Tahoes, the Escalades, and a Cadillac XTS thinking I was in some alternate universe known as the Elite section, or that “Hertz Dream Car” area Jack sometimes rents from. I was looking for the standard 300C, Challenger, or base Mustang to which I’ve become accustomed. An agent happened to walk by me. In an effort to pinch myself and make sure this was really happening, I asked him if the XTS was, in fact, part of the Executive Emerald Aisle. “Sure! Take it!” he said.

Well, alrighty then.

(Read More…)

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.

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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 September 26, 2016

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I’ve told epic tales before. Specifically, I’ve told you a story or two about the times I’ve spent at EPIC Hotel in Miami. In your author’s humble opinion, it’s the best hotel in America. The combination of the brilliant customer service, the enormous suites overlooking Biscayne Bay, the rooftop pool, the jazz club, and the best Japanese steakhouse anywhere makes EPIC, well, epic, even before all the kids were saying it.

I stayed at EPIC this past week while working in Miami, and there was only one thing about my week that didn’t fit the description: my rental car — a 2017 Jeep Renegade Trailhawk.

In a place where everything about the experience is finely crafted and authentically brilliant, the Trailhawk is that awkward kid who’s trying too hard to fit in.

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By on August 5, 2016

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I rented a Jeep last week, and let me tell you, this thing was a Jeep. It defiantly looked like a Jeep. I could tell it was a Jeep because it said “Jeep” in many places, including right on the hood, which is just so Jeep. It wasn’t a Wrangler or a Grand Cherokee but it was a Jeep, to be sure.

To read about all the cool, wondrous, amazing, and super things this Jeep did, click the Jeep.

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By on June 29, 2016

2016 Infiniti QX60

There’s much talk in the automotive world about luxury. Companies are seemingly always redefining it, according to their clever ad campaigns. Luxury is something to which we aspire, a vague idea that is difficult to define. But, much like pornography, we know it when we see it.

I’ve seen the 2016 Infiniti QX60, and whatever luxury is, this ain’t it.

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By on May 31, 2016

2016 Chrysler 300C Front 3/4, Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars

Greatness isn’t always universal. Being a great sprinter doesn’t make one a great marathoner. In fact, exhibiting greatness in one sense will often make for a fatal flaw in another. If you need any proof of this, simply pick up the closest Greek tragedy and read it.

The same can be be said of rental cars. The qualities that make a car a great rental don’t necessarily translate into a great daily driver. That being said, after four days in Northern California, I’m prepared to remove the Chevy Impala from its lofty perch as the best rental car money can buy (or rent) you.

The 2016 Chrysler 300 C is the best rental car in the world.

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By on May 4, 2016

2016 Ford Taurus Limited

Well, Ford, I’ve gotta hand it to you. You did it, something that TTAC readers probably thought unlikely, improbable, maybe even downright impossible. I’m about to type some words that most of you never expected me to say.

I found a Ford that I don’t like. Its name? Taurus Limited. And we had a wretched week together.

(Read More…)

By on April 26, 2016

2016 Chrysler 200 Exterior, Image: FCA

A few months ago, my esteemed colleague Ronnie Schreiber found himself in possession of a McLaren 675LT for the week. Not having a tremendous amount of personal experience with supercars, and not in a position to kill $10,000 worth of consumables in a single day at Thunderhill, Ronnie decided not to write a conventional review of the 675LT. Instead, he wrote an “Appreciation” of the Macca, eschewing the world-weary, seen-it-all shtick of the print-rag supercar review for an honest description of what it’s like to be a regular fellow who just happens to be holding the keys to something truly outrageous. Check it out, if you haven’t already read it.

Last week, I had the occasion to put 515 miles on a rented close-to-base-model Chrysler 200 in about a ten-hour period. It’s safe to say that most of you don’t like Chrysler’s entry-luxury take on the Fiat Compact platform. As a matter of fact, the 200 is currently a strong contender for Mr. Stevenson’s reanimated TWAT awards.

I’d like to see if I can change your mind about that.

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By on April 21, 2016

2016 Dodge Journey SXT, Image: © 2016 Bark M./The Truth About Cars

You’ll have to forgive me for having a bit of fun with you yesterday. Somewhat odd/disturbing was that some of you actually enjoyed it.

If you want a review that mostly talks about everything you can learn about a car from reading the manufacturer’s website, or one that just reprints the press materials, I’m afraid you won’t enjoy reading a typical Bark rental review. However, if you want a story about my experiences while driving an everyday car that can be selected from a rental agency, by all means, keep reading.

(Read More…)

By on April 20, 2016

2016 Dodge Journey Crossroad, Image: FCA

I rented a Dodge Journey last week.

(Read More…)

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