Tag: Review

By on February 5, 2016

2016 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro front

Since the introduction of its fifth generation, the Toyota 4Runner has been sold in three flavors: the base SR5, the loaded Limited, and the off-road focused Trail. But Toyota has a history of making small batches of special edition models and, for 2015, the carmaker showed off the Trail-based TRD Pro.

The TRD Pro featured unique suspension with remote reservoir Bilstein shocks and taller springs, black TRD wheels wrapped in Nitto Terra Grappler A/T tires, unique skid-plates, grille, badges, interior trim, and one special red color.

For 2016, the TRD Pro is back, and this time it’s in everyone’s favorite color: Brown Quicksand!

(Read More…)

By on February 4, 2016

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Like cockroaches scattering in the light, Americans are fleeing sedans for the upright comfort and wagon-like space of crossovers.

The full-size sedan segment has recently been hit hard, Maxima included. Since 2012, the auto market has expanded 20 percent, while full-size sedan sales have contracted 14 percent. Based on an aging design and the entrance of Korean rivals, the Maxima’s 12-percent market share in 2012 dwindled to eight percent in 2015.

There is a fair chance no more than six people will read this review, and five of those readers will be future doctoral students deconstructing the final days of the sedan. Does that mean no matter how good the Maxima is — or could be — it’s doomed to fail?

(Read More…)

By on February 1, 2016

2016 Nissan Sentra-006

Traditional car shoppers are moving away from small sedans and toward compact crossovers. That’s the conventional wisdom used to explain the slowing sales we see in some models. But could there be another reason? Could it simply be a lack of focus and attention to the compact segment?

There is one model that’s seen a meteoric rise in sales since 2013: the Sentra. Nissan’s complete overhaul three years ago and aggressive pricing doubled Sentra sales since then, moving it from a “top 15″ player in sales to number five in 2015.

In an effort to maintain the trajectory, Nissan opted for a major refresh after just three years on sale. (Sounds like the Honda plan with the Civic, doesn’t it?) Perhaps the key to compact success is a combination of frequent updates and more gadgets for shoppers to choose from. That sums up the 2016 Sentra perfectly.

(Read More…)

By on January 29, 2016

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Did you ever have to find a way to survive and you knew your choices were bad, but you had to survive?

Irving Rosenfeld, “American Hustle

The rental car lottery is a funny thing. Some days you win; other days you end up having your olfactory receptors assaulted by an invisible army of plastic-forming chemical fumes.

Faced with choosing between a Dodge Dart, Chrysler 200, Toyota Corolla and Hyundai Veloster this past Monday, I called our fearless leader: “Which one of these things do we need a review of?”

After Mark did a quick perusal of the site’s history, we agreed that, since our last Veloster review was over four years old, I would grab the keys to the visually, erm, interesting Hyundai.

It’s a decision I’ve been regretting ever since.

(Read More…)

By on January 28, 2016

2016 Honda Civic EX Exterior

Honda received much flogging from the press for the last-generation Civic. The 2012 model was the result of Honda improperly reading the Magic 8-Ball amid the global slowdown. Honda’s decision makers assumed shoppers would be looking for something more modest, perhaps even austere, and changed direction to suit. The competition, assuming shoppers would be looking for greater creature comforts in a smaller package, went the opposite direction and doubled down on luxury features.

The conventional wisdom has been that Honda “stepped in it” with the ninth-generation sedan. Journalists complained about the plastic quality, the styling and … customers paid little attention. The Civic’s sales dipped slightly in 2011 during the changeover, but rapidly rebounded to over 315,000 units a year since. Some would say that Honda’s “emergency refreshes” were the reason for the sales success, but I propose a different answer: the continued sales success of the lesser-than Civic and an increase in sales of “premium” compacts showed there was plenty of room in the segment for both.

Whatever the reality, one thing is for certain: When it came time to design the tenth-generation Civic, Honda had “austere” removed from the company dictionary.

(Read More…)

By on January 13, 2016

2016 Audi TT Roadster Exterior-002

Most luxury roadsters are related to a practical, rear-wheel-drive sports sedan, but Audi prefers to march to a different drummer.

Since its inception in 1998, the Audi TT has been based not on the A4, but on the Volkswagen Golf. The original TT was the product of Audi’s best and brightest and it not only blew minds at its debut for its design, it was a hoot to drive as well.

The second generation of the TT on the other hand, failed to impress. It’s not that it was a bad car, it just didn’t excite me like the first generation did. The handling was good, but BMW’s Z4 and Mercedes’ SLK were more fun. The exterior was bolder and meaner than the original, but the interior was too “VW Golf” for the price tag. Every time I sat in one I would say to myself, “Something is missing.”

As luck would have it, Audi’s engineers were also searching for that “something.” And they found it.

(Read More…)

By on December 17, 2015

2015 Ford Edge (6 of 43)

As soon as I finished my time with the 2015 Nissan Murano, my mind immediately wandered to the new Ford Edge.

You see, the Murano is fantastic. It’s effortlessly comfortable. The ride is sublime. When you’re driving the Murano, everything is damn-near perfect. But the Murano could only be considered pretty by someone subjected to the “Ludovico Technique” and thousands of flashing images of the Infiniti QX56 QX80.

The Murano is the violently green neon dress and pink knee-high boots to the Edge’s fitted black number and Saks Fifth Avenue pumps. At a black-tie affair, one of those is going to stick out, and for all the wrong reasons.

Yet, looks can be deceiving. It was underneath that retina-burning attire I found an incredibly comfortable, competent crossover in the Murano. It’s hard to fault it with your eyes closed.

Now it’s the Edge’s turn. Would I find the same characteristics in it that made me fall in love with Nissan’s lifestyle-mobile?

(Read More…)

By on December 14, 2015

2016 Mazda MX 5 Miata Exterior Front

If there is one constant in the automotive world, it is that every redesigned vehicle gets bigger, more powerful, heavier and more complex. Bucking that trend is Mazda’s latest MX-5, one of the smallest and lightest cars sold in the United States.

Since the launch of the Miata in 1989, Mazda’s tiny roadster has been a beacon of light to those who prefer a “pure” driving experience. The MX-5’s core mission of being an affordable, lightweight, two-seat convertible has hardly changed. More impressive: The 2016 MX-5 is about the same size as the original Miata, and the new roadster is only 182 pounds heavier despite producing 50-percent more power and being 30-percent more fuel efficient. The price tag has also been kept in check. The 2016 model still costs about the same as a mid-sized sedan.

Making the MX-5 even more special is that it stands alone in America. Sure, Alfa is now selling their sexy and expensive 4C here, BMW still has a Z4 roadster, and Scion and Subaru are selling their two-door coupé — but none of these are like the MX-5 and that’s a good thing for Mazda.

(Read More…)

By on December 10, 2015

2016ChevroletCamaro_(17_of_30)

No good deed goes unpunished.

When Chevrolet announced its fifth-generation Camaro in 2008 after a long hiatus, many hailed (including yours truly) its avant-garde style and sleeker sheet metal. A starring role and skyrocketing sales couldn’t dim its usual criticism shortly thereafter. Fully four years into that model, good feelings waned; its overweight chassis and zest for precious, expensive gasoline overshadowed most of its good attributes.

Even our sixth-generation tester — which we picked up in Bozeman, Montana on a dreary November morning in between snowstorms and set under overcast skies — didn’t entirely impress.

The lipstick red V-8 clad SS — shod with snow rubber and little else to handle an unforgiving Western Montana winter climate — seemed overmatched with the task of climbing Lookout Pass and into Eastern Washington and beyond. A rear-wheel drive sports car could find friendlier confines than the Montana plains and mountains in winter’s first offensive. (Read More…)

By on December 9, 2015

2016ToyotaPrius_(6_of_10)

Seemingly overnight, the Toyota Prius became a victim of its own success. A frumpy, frugal automotive fringe player was suddenly a Hollywood starlet and a Conservative America villain, all at the same time.

Toyota got the message but ignored all the criticism. It didn’t matter that the seats were quasi-uncomfortable, the dash was the color of unroasted tofurkey (which I love, by the way) or that the Prius looked like a space egg on low-rolling resistance tires. An automotive icon needs less attention than a vehicle, apparently.

The last Prius came in 2009, which was timed worse than a teenage pregnancy. The world was looking at cheap gas and salivating at expensive trucks with equal amounts of cash burning through its pockets. The Prius kept pace with eco, budget buyers, but couldn’t sustain the car’s meteoric rise from the previous generation. The follow-up is the worst part. (Read More…)

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