Tag: Review

By on September 1, 2015

2016 Audi Q3 Exterior-002

2016 Audi Q3 Prestige

2.0-liter, DOHC I-4, CVVT (200 horsepower @ 5,100-6,000 rpm; 207 lbs-ft @ 1,700-5,000 rpm)

6-speed Tiptronic automatic

20 city/28 highway/23 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

20.2 mpg (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Prestige Trim, Quattro AWD, Sport Package

Base Price:
$34,625*
As Tested:

$42,175*

* Prices include $925 destination charge.

Audi’s Q3 isn’t a new vehicle by any stretch. It was first launched in 2011 but didn’t make it to America until the 2015 model year. That’s because the Q3 plays in a segment that’s new to us — the even-smaller compact luxury crossover. This form factor isn’t new to the rest of the world, but until Land Rover brought the Range Rover Evoque to America and BMW followed up with the X1, there wasn’t a real focus on small luxury soft-roaders.

With crossovers being the latest craze and every luxury brand looking to move down-market to capture fresh young buyers, it was only a matter of time till Mercedes and Audi joined the party with the GLA and the Q3. With a “low” $33,700 starting MSRP, the baby Audi is the more practical counterpart to Audi’s sharp-looking A3 sedan. Although CamCord shoppers have to give up a great deal of room to upgrade to the A3, the Q3 has the potential to be a more sensible option.

(Read More…)

By on August 31, 2015

2012 Tesla Model S

Wall Street Journal columnist Holman W. Jenkins (great name) slammed Consumer Reports for its glowing review and better-than-perfect score for the Tesla Model S P85D, in part, because the $127,000 car still qualifies for a government tax break.

“Prostitute is not too strong a word,” he wrote. “… (Consumer Reports) is shilling not only for the car but the government policies that subsidize it.”

Jenkins takes aim at the state and federal tax incentives still available for the vehicle — which are going away in many places — and at the magazine for hyping its review so heavily, and subsequently giving it away for free on its subscription-based website. (Read More…)

By on August 28, 2015

2015_Subaru_XV_Crosstrek_(2_of_2)

In 1919, then-Army Major Dwight D. Eisenhower embarked on a transcontinental journey with a military convoy to show off to the country the mechanical might used to conquer the Kaiser.

From Washington D.C. to San Francisco, Eisenhower traversed the Lincoln Highway over 62 days. The going was relatively easy until Kansas, but the hardest part, he wrote, came in Utah.

“Aug. 20 (1919) Departed Salt Lake City, 6:30 am. … Last 6 miles was natural desert trail of alkali dust and fine sand up to 2 (feet) deep, with numerous chuckholes. No rain for 18 weeks and traction exceedingly difficult,” Eisenhower wrote in his journal.

“Aug. 22 (1919) Departed Granite Rock (Utah) 6:30 a.m. … Personnel utterly exhausted by tremendous efforts, and will rest at Black Point. … Reduced morale.”

Admittedly, my journey in a 2015 Subaru XV Crosstrek would be less dramatic. In Utah, Eisenhower reported the convoy of 80 vehicles took 7.5 hours to do 15 miles in near-biblical sand in lieu of bad roads. I could manage 80 miles an hour in the diminutive hatchback with 148 horsepower — which likely has more horsepower than the entire 1919 convoy. Resemblance? I have a few. (Read More…)

By on August 25, 2015

2015 Nissan Murano (1 of 13)

2015 Nissan Murano SL AWD

3.5-liter VQ35DE DOHC V-6, Continuously Variable Timing Control System (260 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 240 lbs-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm)

Xtronic continuously variable transmission (2.413:1 – 0.383:1 range, 0.958:1 final drive)

21 city/28 highway/24 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

22.4 mpg on the Soccer Dad test cycle, 75 percent city (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: SL trim, all-wheel drive

Base Price (S FWD):
$30,445* (U.S.)/$31,858* (Canada)
As Tested Price:
$39,435* (U.S.)/$41,393* (Canada)

* All prices include $885 destination fee (U.S.) or $1,860 destination fee, PDI and A/C tax (Canada).

“Damn, that’s ugly,” I thought to myself — in addition to saying it openly amongst my automotive journalist friends when Nissan unveiled the new, third-generation Murano at the 2014 New York Auto Show.

“Who’s going to buy this?” I asked myself — in addition to everyone who would possibly listen to my whining.

“I bet this won’t sell,” proclaimed my inner monologue — in addition to my external one.

Boy, was I wrong on that last point. The new Murano’s year-to-date sales in Canada have already eclipsed last year’s entirely (sales surpassed 1,000 units in June 2015 for the first time ever in Canada), and it will likely sell more in the U.S. than it has in the last couple years at the very least.

When I had a chance to drive the newest “lifestyle” crossover from Nissan, I realized why my predictions were so wrong. If you can look past the sheet metal, the aging VQ35DE V-6 engine and the continuously variable transmission that’s become ubiquitous with the Nissan brand, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what is arguably the best lifestyle crossover on the market.

That should be no surprise. One could make a case for the Nissan Murano being a pioneer in this segment. Back in 2002, Nissan rolled out the first-generation Murano to either fanfare or fiery criticism, depending on who you asked.

The non-luxury softroader was born — whether you liked it or not.

(Read More…)

By on August 24, 2015

Jaguar-F-Type-V6S-11

Earlier this year, I got a weekend job doing what I always thought was a dream job — driving brand new cars around; almost all makes and models.

It turns out that even a “dream job” can quickly turn into “Oh great, I have to go to work again”. But forget that. The cool part is still cool and I still get to drive brand new VWs, Audis, BMW’s, Porsches, Hondas, everything. Everything except Cadillacs. I don’t think I’ve driven a new Caddy yet. That part is great!

There’s one catch to this job of mine. I have to stick to a speed limit. “Who doesn’t?” you may ask. Well, this speed limit is a little lower than most. I’m stuck doing 15 miles per hour. 15 mph. Oh, and no radio and rarely A/C.

Here’s what I’ve noticed: Driving slowly gives you a chance to learn the vehicle more. How’s the ride? How’s the interior? When you’re in traffic or on a back road, you’re busy worrying about deer, the guy on his cell phone, and what the road is doing ahead of you. I’m not worried about those things. It’s just me and the car. So what I’m trying out here is a unique spin on the car review. You’re not going to get handling at the limit. You’re not going to get maximum acceleration. You’re going to get what I notice while driving 2-5 miles at 15 miles per hour — a Slo-Mo Review.

Let’s start with a good one. The Jaguar F-TYPE V6.

(Read More…)

By on August 18, 2015

2016 Honda Pilot Exterior

2016 Honda Pilot Elite AWD

3.5-liter i-VTEC SOHC V-6, direct injection, cylinder deactivation, CVVT (280 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm,
262 lbs-ft @ 4,700 rpm)

9-Speed ZF 9HP automatic

19 city/26 highway/22 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

21.6 mpg (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Elite Trim

Base Price:
$30,875*
As Tested:

$46,420*
* Prices include $880 destination charge.

My sister-in-law announced that she and her husband were having child number four. As a result of this announcement, they decided it was finally time to sell the five-seat sedan and buy another crossover. Since she is constantly flooded with a parade of visiting family members, she asked what sounded like a simple question: What’s the best 8-passenger crossover with a comfortable third row and room for cargo. My answer: Buy a minivan. No, seriously, just buy a minivan. Think you need AWD? Get some winter tires. Really, really need AWD? Get a Sienna.

I’m sure you can guess what she said: “I am not driving a minivan.”

The problem is, aside from minivans, there are few 8-passenger options that aren’t expensive, full size, body-on-frame SUVs. Those options are: the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and GM’s identical triplets — the Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave. That’s it. If you need more room, be prepared to shell out for a Suburban, Escalade, Navigator or a few other spendy options.

Today we look at the freshest entry in this phonebooth-sized segment, the all-new 2016 Honda Pilot.
(Read More…)

By on August 13, 2015

2016 Mazda CX-3 GT (1 of 25)

2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD (U.S.)/GT AWD (Canada)

2.0-liter SKYACTIV DOHC I-4, direct injection, dual S-VT (146 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 146 lbs-ft of torque @ 2,800 rpm)

6-speed SKYACTIV-Drive automatic w/ Sport mode and paddle shifters

27 city/32 highway/29 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

30 mpg on the camping-gear-laden test cycle, 80 percent highway (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: i-ACTIVSENSE Safety Package (U.S.)/Technology Package (Canada), i-ACTIV all-wheel drive (U.S., AWD is standard on GT trim in Canada)

Base Price:
$20,840* (U.S.)/$22,680* (Canada)
As Tested Price:
$29,040* (U.S.)/$32,490* (Canada)

* All prices include $880 destination fee (U.S.) or $1,995 destination fee, PDI and A/C tax (Canada).

For as long as I can remember, my parents always had two vehicles while I was growing up. The first one I can vividly remember was the precursor to GM’s dreaded Cavalier and Cobalt, a 1987 Chevrolet Chevette, with an interior as roomy as any compact you can buy today. The second conveyance in our driveway was a 1992 Suzuki Sidekick, Jay Green in color, and rugged as my father needed for his job traversing Cape Breton Island’s vast spaghetti network of logging roads.

In the early 1990s, the Chevette ended with a bang. As I laid on a bed at my grandmother’s apartment, attempting as much as a young child would to get to sleep (translation: not trying at all), I was startled by tire squealing, a loud bang, silence, then more tire squealing. The Chevette had been dispatched by a freshly licensed 16-year-old driving a Hyundai Pony and fueled by Vitamin O. Write-off total: approximately $500 — for both cars.

The Chevette, now off to the scrapyard, was replaced by a Pontiac Firefly five-door, known for its economical three-cylinder engine outputting double-digit horsepower whilst solidly achieving double-digit miles per gallon halfway to the centripulcate. As a daily runabout, it was solid, economical, and — with its wagon-esque virtues — incredibly versatile.

Back then, my parents were about the same age I am now. They were the last of the Baby Boomers and in the 1990s faced what many Millennials face today. My parents were done with school and working on budding careers and a growing family inside their newly acquired home. There are some key differences between them and me however: I have one extra dog (for a total of two), lack children and I don’t own a home.

It’s in this context that my girlfriend and I headed out on one of my family’s favorite pastimes from when I was a child — a weekend camping trip — in the millennial-focused 2016 Mazda CX-3.

(Read More…)

By on August 12, 2015

2015BMWX6M-1

2015 BMW X6 M
4.4-liter, twin turbocharged V-8 with direct injection and variable valve control (567 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 553 pounds-feet of torque @ 2,000-5,500 rpm)8-speed M Sport automatic

14 city/19 highway/16 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

16.8 mpg combined, 60 percent highway, 40 percent asshat (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Driver Assistance Plus – $1,900; Executive Package – $4,500; Enhanced Bluetooth and smartphone – $500.

Base Price:
$103,050 w/ $950 destination charge
As Tested Price:
$109,950 w/ $950 destination charge

For most people who find themselves burdened with the choice between fast and big: Salud, you’ve made it somewhere. For the small number of people who scoff at those physical encumbrances: pay your taxes, please. You’re using the road more than the rest of us. 

Imagine, if you can, a Venn diagram of two relatively equal circles representing a traditional buyer’s decision between two cars that, everything else being equal, represent the physical problem of mass and its direct effect on velocity. Two unrelated sets of realities — speed and size — very rarely converge in the physical world, unless those sets are colored Castrol red, Bavarian blue and of course, purple, I guess.

I’m making this point because the BMW X6 M seems, well, kind of pointless. On paper, the big SUV doesn’t scream that it wants to be taken off road (and dent those 21-inch wheels?!) nor does it seem like it wants to go that fast. After all, 5,185 pounds is large enough to have its own weather system.

(Read More…)

By on August 11, 2015

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2015 GMC Sierra Crew Cab SLT 4×4
6.2-liter OHV V-8, direct injection, cylinder deactivation, CVVT (420 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm; 460 lbs-ft @ 4,100 rpm)

Hydra-Matic 8L90 8-speed automatic

15 city/21 highway/17 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

16.5 mpg, mostly city driving while yelling “AMERICA!” at full trot. (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: 6.2L Ecotec3 V-8, navigation, polished exhaust tips, sunroof, spray-in bedliner.

As Tested (U.S.):
$52,300 w/ $1,195 destination charge (sheet)
As Tested (Canada):
$59,615 w/ $1,795 destination charge and A/C tax (sheet)

A farm, lots of mud thanks to rain from the previous day, and a dose of sunshine to dry out the ground just enough so my feet wouldn’t lose their boots in the slop. This is the perfect location — along with the perfect conditions — to test one of the latest from the pickup crop, the 2015 GMC Sierra.

Or is it?

Under the hood of the SLT-trimmed Sierra sits a V-8 less suited to farm duty and better equipped for automotive trolling.

Before we get into the meat and potatoes of the Sierra, I have a small announcement to make. TTAC now has an off-road area for testing trucks and SUVs. Sort of. It probably won’t be fully available for us for a little while, but shenanigans will be had before the end of the summer. Here’s hoping the automakers send us some metal so we can put it to the test at this newfound playland.

As for this Sierra, well, it isn’t a farm truck. Hell, it’s barely a work truck. The Sierra is available in four different trim levels — base, SLE, SLT and the top-trim Denali. Our SLT-trimmed tester arrived with its bench seat still intact, which is great for mid-summer-romance canoodling and one of the reasons girls dig guys with trucks, maybe.

Interior configuration aside, the real news for this Sierra is under the hood. The 6.2-liter Ecotec3 V-8, with its 420 horsepower and 460 pounds-feet of torque, is a nod to old-school solutions to making power and a pragmatic approach to efficiency. The pushrod V-8 might sound antiquated next to the new turbo and diesel units from Ford and Dodge, but that doesn’t make it any less valid.

(Read More…)

By on August 5, 2015

IMG_0322

Has there ever been a longer running runner-up in an automotive category than the Ford Expedition? The large three-row SUV has been outsold by the Chevrolet Suburban/GMC Yukon XL twins for years by as much as a 2:1 margin in the ever-shrinking large SUV segment. Throw in the Tahoe and regular Yukon numbers and the Expedition lags even further behind. The Expedition does outsell its luxo Lincoln stablemate, the Navigator, by about a 4:1 margin.

It may not be able to overcome the years of momentum and iconic brand image of the Suburban — proclaimed back in 1986 as the “National Car Of Texas” — but the latest iteration of the Expedition is fighting back. (Read More…)

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