Tag: Review

By on May 8, 2017

2017 Ford Fusion Sport Front 3/4, Image: © 2017 Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars

“Dad, you need to buy this car!” screamed my godsons from the backseat, needling their Scion xB-driving father with an outburst fueled entirely by speed-induced adrenaline and youthful innocence.

I remember being just a little older than these two kids — I was in Grade 4 to be exact — when a low-budget field trip to nowhere brought me into contact with my kindly homeroom teacher’s adolescent son. Or maybe he was 26? You can’t make a call at that age. Anyway, volunteering-son-of-teacher’s daily driver that day was a Fox-body Ford Mustang GT, gray in color.

Already a tall kid, I folded myself into the backseat, excited to not be confined to the third row of the Caprice (or Safari) wagon hauling seven other classmates to look at frogs or tadpoles or whatever it was that day. Up front, the Mustang’s 5.0-liter V8 roared to life, the clutch dropped, and I suddenly forgot all about the abundance of loose change I’d discovered littering the Stang’s floor.

So, I knew how my godsons felt when I said, “Check this out,” and hoofed the throttle of the new-for-2017 Ford Fusion Sport on the way up to their dad’s cottage. A heavier car this time, but with more power on tap. Far more room, too, and the kind of stealthy anonymity you only really appreciate in the pragmatic embrace of adulthood.

It’s a large-ish midsize domestic family sedan, but kids dig it. The question is: can adults live with it? (Read More…)

By on April 7, 2017

2018 Volkswagen Atlas grey front quarter off road

For whatever reason, Volkswagen has shied away from the mainstream, large, family vehicle market for decades. When most American parents and spawn headed to Wally World in massive station wagons, Volkswagen offered the Microbus. When minivans became the rage, the sages of Wolfsburg set forth the quirky, rear-engined Vanagon. And through the ‘90s, as the SUV became the default soccer mom transport, the Eurovan continued the tall and narrow van theme.

Certainly, the Routan was a typical minivan — albeit provided by Chrysler — and the Touareg followed a traditional (if pricey) luxury SUV path, but VW hasn’t been a player in the meat of the market. Considering the challenges the company has faced over the last couple years, Volkswagen simply cannot afford to yield high-volume market segments. Besieged dealers need something bigger than a midsized sedan to sell.

Most of all, as noted by Michael Lovati, Volkswagen’s Vice President of Midsize and Fullsize vehicles in North America, “VW needs to regain trust.”

Step one in rebuilding trust is the all-new, American-made 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, which aims squarely at the ever-popular three-row midsize crossover market, especially the beloved Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot.

Does Atlas hit the bulls-eye, or miss wildly?

(Read More…)

By on March 16, 2017

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF, Image: © 2017 Seth Parks

Let’s get right to it. Retractable hardtop MX-5 owners will pay a 113-pound penalty for their motorized, targa-topped fun. 113 pounds. Mazda engineers and marketers do not take that sum lightly. But we can, because unless you are stripping down your Miata for competitive track work — in which case you will select the softtop anyway — you will not feel the difference.

The hardtop does absolutely nothing to diminish the balanced, driver focused, analog pleasure of the fourth generation MX-5. And for the purists, consider your baby may one day only be visible in the rearview mirror if Mazda can not expand the audience for this little icon.

(Read More…)

By on March 15, 2017

2017 Mazda CX-5, Image: © 2017 Seth Parks

Mazda wants you to know its 2017 CX-5 is more than just another compact crossover. Not in terms of size, power, or price, but in its transcendent experience. Media introductions are often an exploration into the esoterica of automotive design, and this launch is no different — except for a refreshing dose of substance sprinkled over a focused, if understated, redesign.

Compact crossovers recently eclipsed full-size trucks as the largest automotive segment. And right on cue, CX-5 is Mazda’s best-selling vehicle, accounting for 38 percent of its U.S. sales last year. Not only that, but it was Mazda’s fastest nameplate to earn one million sales worldwide. It’s thus no shock that as important as this little ute has become to Mazda, its first generation lasted just five years. Nor is it a surprise that its well received first generation is followed by an evolutionary and not a revolutionary second gen, with a diesel on the way to further extend its reach.

If it ain’t broke, tweak it.

(Read More…)

By on March 9, 2017

2017 Ford Fusion Sport Front 5/8, Image: © 2017 Jeff Wilson

There is no single car that appeals to the wants and needs of everyone — yet that hasn’t stopped Ford from trying.

Need a mid-sized family sedan? There’s a Fusion for that. What about a bare-bones four-door suitable for rental fleets? There’s a Fusion for that. Government-issue plug-in hybrid? There’s a Fusion for that, too. And now if you need a high performance sport sedan, there’s even a Fusion for that mission. Sort of.

The 2017 Fusion Sport takes the otherwise tame mid-size sedan market into a whole ‘nother realm thanks to the twin-turbo 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 pillaged from the F-150. 325 horsepower in a mid-size sedan is interesting, but 380 lb-ft. of torque will grab a driver’s attention and keep it all the way up to “I’m sorry, officer.”

(Read More…)

By on March 8, 2017

2017 Toyota Prius

Attentive readers will have, by now, recognized that my automotive choices tend to run towards the, shall we say, flamboyant side. Our family daily is an inky-black Dodge Charger with a vanity plate which is guaranteed to enrage bumper-ogling Methodists. New, oversized rims are scheduled to be fitted the minute all this snow goes away. Meanwhile, the Ram 1500 with which the Charger shares driveway space is painted Look-At-Me Red, accented garishly nicely with chrome 20-inch rims. I drove a Lincoln Mark VII with an uncorked exhaust for many years. My neighbours love me.

So what am I doing in a Prius when my tastes tilt to the extrovert end of the spectrum? Well, it’s always fun to see how the other half lives, and in this case, I wanted to see how the thing would fare on a 1,000-mile journey in the dead of winter.

(Read More…)

By on February 9, 2017

2017 Ram 2500 Power Wagon

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has been on a bit of a mental streak lately.

Rip the seats out of a Hellcat to create the Demon? Sure!

Drop a V8 engine the size of a grand piano into a Durango and perform all-wheel drive burnouts? Why not?

The level of brash, automotive lunacy on offer from Auburn Hills is appalling. I think it’s great.

It’s no surprise, then, Ram chose to amp up the capability and in-your-face style of its Power Wagon when it came time for a refresh. Big tires, bold grilles, and billboard-sized badges; customers in the market for a Power Wagon are not generally a bunch of wallflowers.

(Read More…)

By on February 3, 2017

2017 Kia Niro Hybrid Hotel Emma, Image: © 2017 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

Remember MTV? Back on September 18, 1983, the once-music-oriented television station — before its foray into an endless stream of mindless reality programming — broadcast a momentous event in rock history. The members of KISS, who’d never previously showed their bare faces in public, appeared in front of a camera without makeup for the very first time.

Instantly, the members of New York City rock band were normal — as far as rockers can be considered normal, I suppose.

In that same vein, Kia’s new Niro is the unmasking of the hybrid. Its crossover shape wouldn’t look out of place as a conventional, dino-juice powered vehicle on any dealer lot. The Niro sports no folded sheetmetal, no oddly proportioned kammback, and no spaghettified headlights.

It’s normal — as far as hybrids can be considered normal, I suppose. And that’s the point.

(Read More…)

By on November 20, 2016

2017 Chevrolet Camaro 1LE pulled over by police

It’s fall in the Mojave Desert. Morning greets us with a cool and blinding brightness at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Pahrump, Nevada. Several of us mill about like the speed freaks we are, anxiously awaiting our next fix, sipping coffee, smoking cigarettes, pacing in anticipation.

And then it happens: someone hits the little rectangular start button on the SS 1LE to my left. Synapses fire up in unison with the 6.2-liter LT1 V8, brain buzzing to the rhythmic burble pouring from the quad tips of the Camaro’s Active Exhaust, one swift kick of the right foot away from liberating bliss.

(Read More…)

By on September 6, 2016

2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune front quarter, Image: © 2016 Chris Tonn/The Truth About Cars

The youthful squealing could be heard down the long driveway and through several panes of glass. When I told my daughters that I’d be picking them up from the babysitter’s house in something different, they had no idea what chariot would ferry them to softball and cheerleading practice that eventing.

My girls aren’t gearheads by most definitions. While I’m not necessarily brainwashing their preteen skulls with minutiae and data about every car on the road, I’m not letting them become numb to the wonder that is the modern car. My youngest, soon to be eight, ran screaming from the door: “BEETLE!” That’s the power of an iconic brand.

However, I’m thinking the girls reacted most viscerally to the searing yellow paint.

(Read More…)

By on August 24, 2016

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4

I’m sitting on the pit lane of my local track — Atlantic Motorsports Park in Shubenacadie, Nova Scotia — surveying the empty course. My helmet is on the seat beside me, my hands are gripping the leather-wrapped wheel, and I can hear the low growl of three-cylinders idling as they wait for me.

But before I get to that, a bit about what I’m driving.

This is the Mitsubishi Mirage G4. It’s what happens when the oft-cheapest new hatchback in Canada (depending on who is offering what cash on the hood that month) grows a trunk. Under the hood: a 1.2-liter three-cylinder engine that has 78 horses in there somewhere. Connected to that is a continuously variable transmission, the only transmission available on this SEL trim tester.

I do a quick check of the course to make sure it’s still empty. My foot hits the floor.

(Read More…)

By on August 12, 2016

U-Haul U-Box Portable Storage

Kleenex is to facial tissue as Google is to searching the web; as Coke is to any soft drink in Metro Atlanta; as Nintendo was to video gaming in the ’90s.

In that vein, U-Haul is the Kleenex of moving vans.

At the beginning of each month, you’re bound to see at least five orange-and-white U-Haul misery machines piloted by sweaty-faced individuals attempting to transport their belongings, which they’ve hoarded over the last X number of years, to their new abodes. Their faces tell the tale: Moving is horrible. Everything about it is a nightmare. And U-Haul is intrinsically part of that nightmare.

But U-Haul doesn’t do just moving vans, trucks, and trailers.

During our move from Nova Scotia, on Canada’s Atlantic coast, to Oshawa, Ontario, some thousand miles to the west, we decided to give U-Haul’s newest product a whirl. It’s called U-Box and it promises to alleviate the needless torture of long-distance moving.

Promises are made to be broken.

(Read More…)

By on August 11, 2016

2016 Fiat 500X, Image: © 2016 Rebecca Turrell/The Truth About Cars

Fiat is marketing its new crossover as bigger, more powerful, and ready for action.

If you caught Fiat’s Super Bowl ad for the 500X, it relies heavily on sex appeal. The implication: that the 500X is more … erm … “excited” than the 500. So I was intrigued when a rental car branch recently told me the only SUV they had left was the 2016 Fiat 500X.

(Read More…)

By on August 3, 2016

Tesla Model S 85D, Image: © 2016 David Marek/The Truth About Cars

The Tesla Model S is neither new nor surprising anymore. When the electric sedan entered the market in 2012, it shattered perceptions of electric cars and proved electric motoring viable.

Since then, Tesla has established itself as the go-to brand for geeks and early adopters. We’ve driven the Tesla Model S before, so there’s no need to talk about its most obvious features. But recent events make this a great time to talk about its second-most-important feature: Autopilot.

Is Tesla’s autonomous system any good? Can it be dangerous? How far is it from being truly autonomous? And, besides that, how did the Model S improve over the last few years?
(Read More…)

By on July 26, 2016

2014 Honda Accord V6 Coupe 6MT, Image: © 2016 Jack Baruth/The Truth About Cars

Just slightly over twenty-nine months since taking delivery of my 2014 Accord V6 Coupe 6MT and I’m already out of warranty. That’s not strictly true; there’s still powertrain coverage until the 50,000-mile mark. Certain items, like seatbelts and airbags and catalytic converters, will be replaced on Honda’s time for the rest of this decade, if not longer. But that 3/36,000 bumper-to-bumper honeymoon period of being able to take the car to the dealer for noises and clunks and little broken parts? As my future third wife, Este, would say — those days are gone.

(Read More…)

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