Tag: Road Test

By on May 18, 2017

2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI MV Confederation - Image: © Timothy Cain

I was lost. Rather, I was about to be lost.

As I drove an eye-catching white silver metallic 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI onto the MV Confederation in Caribou, Nova Scotia, it dawned on me. I had never driven across Prince Edward Island by myself. But I was about to, if I could find my way.

Mrs. Cain and the kids had already made it to Prince Edward Island, having departed earlier in the week to begin our house hunt after our Nova Scotian home sold in 24 hours. Sunshine and a quick car made me realize that the MV Confederation’s perfectly timed departure would allow for some sorely needed blood pressure reduction, sitting on the deck of a ferry for an hour in the middle of a Friday afternoon.

But I left my iPhone charge cord at home on the dining room table. My phone’s battery was below 5 percent with pictures yet to be snapped. I couldn’t use my phone for directions. I didn’t trust the island signage to be sufficient — we’re not big on signs around these parts. And then a light came on: the ferry’s tourist bureau would have maps. Maps! Maps, my dear Watson. Maps. I studied that arcane sheet for, well, it had to be minutes. In the belly of the ship, with everybody else back in their cars, I spent a few more minutes folding that sucker up with every ounce of dexterity my parents’ genetics afforded me.

Not until I arrived at my Summerside destination did it dawn on me. The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI has a navigation system.

Maybe that’s why it costs $29,815. (Read More…)

By on May 18, 2017

2018 Acura TLX, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

Stop multi-tasking and listen to me for a minute, because I’m going to tell you the most important thing you’ll read this week.

Many years ago, when I was still in the pharmaceuticals game, I had a business mentor of sorts. He was a thick-set, bald, African-American fellow in his early 60s who dressed exclusively in velour tracksuits and, at the time of this story, had an custom-ordered pink S500, an SL500, and an aftermarket-droptop Lexus SC400 in his garage.

We were sitting at dinner one night and I was griping about a fellow we knew who had been given every chance possible by both of us to become remarkably wealthy. Yet every time one of us gave him a chance, he pissed it away through random acts of fiscal impropriety or domestic violence. I couldn’t understand why this dude could not get his act together and handle his business in an appropriate manner.

“Listen up, young blood,” my mentor said, stabbing me in the chest with a finger about the size of a Mag-Lite flashlight, “you cannot want something for someone they do not want for themselves.” I think I dropped my fork. He was right, of course. In the years since then, I’ve had occasion to remember those words again and again. You cannot want something for someone they do not want for themselves.

I need you to keep that in mind as you read this review. If you are like most automotive enthusiasts, you want Acura to return immediately to the glory days of the beautiful first-generation Legend and the sublime twin-cam Integra. But you cannot want something for Acura that it does not want for itself. Acura is perfectly content with being primarily known as the manufacturer of the RDX and MDX sport-utility vehicles. Those two products are market leaders and they’re more than enough to guarantee Acura’s continued existence. If you continue to hope that Acura will build razor’s-edge sporting compacts and M3 rivals, you will continue to be disappointed. Period, point blank. Got it?

Let’s continue.

(Read More…)

By on May 15, 2017

2018 Honda Odyssey Silver Front Quarter

“Remember, you are in a minivan,” my better half commanded as I tapped the left-hand gearshift paddle, grabbing a lower gear to power out of the improbably banked corner on a mountain two-lane. The 19-inch Bridgestones squealed in protest as I pushed it a bit wide, just as the kid squealed from the third row over a funny movie.

What was I to do? It’s not like the roads Honda chose for this drive are the typical minivan haunts — namely suburban surface streets or long interstate slabs. There are no real suburbs on the big island of Hawai’i, and interstate drives would get quite wet after a couple of hours in any direction. So I pressed on, trailbraking as if I were hustling a much smaller car around an autocross course.

It’s indeed a minivan, but the new 2018 Honda Odyssey is surprisingly rewarding to drive. While the majority of miles racked up by any minivan undoubtedly result from a commute, either on city streets or the interstate, taking the long way home in this Odyssey won’t feel like punishment.

(Read More…)

By on May 15, 2017

2017 Chevy Colorado ZR2

In the first installment of the Jurassic Park franchise, we’re introduced to the vicious raptors — a breed of dinosaurs who tear, smash, and maul their way through the storyline (and more than a few characters). By the time we see them in the most recent installment of the series, Chris Pratt has managed to tame them to a certain degree, creating creatures that obey a few commands but will still rip his face off if given the opportunity.

Chevrolet had a 2017 F-150 Raptor on hand at its launch of the Colorado ZR2. Hammering its loud pedal, the beast ripped across the hot Colorado asphalt, its psychotic twin-turbo exhaust note sounding like Marilyn Manson screaming obscenities into a vacuum cleaner hose. Backing off to 7/10ths, it struck me that the Raptor and ZR2 bear more than a passing resemblance to those fictional silver-screen scoundrels.

(Read More…)

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 27, 2017

2015 Ford Fiesta 1.0 EcoBoost SFE, Image: © 2016 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

It’s been a year. On this very day one year ago, I took delivery of an oval-badged, ovoid-shaped, three-cylinder hatchback.

My 1.0-liter Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta, with its five manually-operated forward gears and turbocharged torque has provided 12 months and over 10,000 miles of mostly trouble-free driving. Two oil changes and no need for other maintenance have kept operating costs low. And its 17-inch Maxxim Winner wheels, provided by Discount Tire, and Michelin Premier A/S tires have classed up the joint much more than I could from the factory.

I don’t regret my decision to plunk down my own hard-earned cash on Ford’s most diminutive vehicle (in terms of overall size and engine displacement) sold in North America, but it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, either.

(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 31, 2017

2017 Lexus GS200t front quarter

Midsized luxury cars are a tough sell these days. The SUV craze shows no sign of ebbing, with new models coming out frequently from nearly every automaker (though if Caterham starts offering an assemble-it-yourself crossover, I’ll hang up my keyboard for good). Further, these midsizers are squeezed by models upmarket and down — the compacts keep adding content, while smaller engines in the full-size models offer space and economy for not much more cost.

Lexus is unique in this space with two very different models: the front-wheel drive ES, and this GS, offered with either rear or all-wheel drive. While the Avalon-based ES is perennially one of the best-selling, this GS lingers mid-pack. Thus, it’s no surprise rumors have swirled.

Still, Lexus has generally impressed me, so I was intrigued when this 2017 Lexus GS 200t appeared since I see so few of them in the wild.

(Read More…)

By on March 31, 2017

2017 Audi Q3 Quattro Daytona Grey - Image: © Timothy Cain

Some cars genuinely suck. There is essentially no price at which, for instance, wooden ride quality and inept handling and nonexistent acceleration and uncomfortable seats and disappointing fuel economy are worth the asking price. There are simply far too many decent alternatives for a vehicle such as, oh, I don’t know, the Mitsubishi Mirage.

Some cars, however, only suck in the context of their respective MSRPs. Take the Ford Flex we reviewed recently as an example. Though showing signs of age, it’s still a fine family hauler. But at the $50,000 as-tested price, the Flex is uncompetitive.

Then there’s this 2017 Audi Q3. Perhaps it’s an acceptable machine at its $33,875 entry price. But optioned up to $44,150, the aged Q3 may be guilty of simply resting upon the laurels of its four-ring badge.

Does the 2017 Audi Q3 suck, or does it only suck when it strays out of Single-A ball into the Major Leagues? (Read More…)

By on March 24, 2017

2017 Ford Raptor, Image: © 2017 Garrett Martin

In the coming years, we will begin driving riding around in the quiet electric embrace of autonomous convenience. We will look back on the 20-teens as a golden age when the last ounces of performance were wrung out of the internal combustion engine and automakers created cars for every conceivable market niche. New and presently unknown products will one day surprise and delight. But let’s stick with the present, which is a special time for auto enthusiasts.

Consider that the 5,600-pound 2017 Raptor is as fast to 60 miles per hour as the 2007 Mustang GT. Forced induction or not, the Raptor labors under a one-ton weight disadvantage, an unknown coefficient of drag penalty, and a 30-percent displacement deficiency versus the original pony car. A decade ago there was not a single stock vehicle available at any price capable of bounding through the desert at freeway speed that was also able to head back to civilization to pick up the kids from school.

Not convinced? In November, Ford raced a Raptor in the Baja 1000 Stock Full class. It got a roll cage, fuel cell, and a few other tweaks. Of almost 250 entries, the Raptor was among 142 rigs that finished the race. And after taking the checkered flag, it returned under its own power to Ford’s Arizona Proving Grounds 400 miles to the north.

The superlatives associated with Raptor are legion. What’s not to like?

(Read More…)

By on March 22, 2017

2017 Kia Niro EX front quarter

Is it or isn’t it? A crossover, I mean. That’s been the discussion over the 2017 Kia Niro ever since it bowed. No one seems to care whether the all-new hybrid functions as it should. Instead, the argument revolves around dimensions, and everyone knows that no one wins when someone whips out a ruler.

A couple of weeks ago, Corey took one glance at a photo I shared with the TTAC staff comparing the Niro to my mother’s 2014 Corolla. The photo showed the rather insignificant difference in overall height between the two compact vehicles, and fueled the argument that the Kia Niro is not a crossover.

I’m struggling to disagree.

(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 3, 2017

2017 Jaguar XE 35t AWD R-Sport Front 3/4, Image: © 2017 Jeff Wilson

It smells like a proper Jaguar.

That’s what came to mind after climbing into the XE’s driver’s seat for the first time. Jaguars tend to play on the senses – and consequently the heart – more than other cars, which has surely helped many owners look past some of the brand’s idiosyncrasies (and, let’s face it, quality woes) in the past. This one seems to have its sensory appeal in check.

Several years ago I drove a then-new XJ, a supercharged V8 model that somehow dazzled me despite a clunky transmission and sagging suede headliner. It was a car that’d be hard to recommend a friend or loved one spend a hundred large on, but somehow still appealed to the irrational side of me. The sound of the exhaust note, the sensual styling and yes, the smell of those cattle hides swathing the interior all conspire to blur one’s vision toward the (ahem) occasional quality lapse.

Since then I’ve logged seat time in several other Jaguars, including a 2,200-mile journey in a flawless XF a few years ago. The modern-day Jaguar – now ruled by Tata Motors – seems to be wringing out the English from the electrics and producing competitive and wholly contemporary luxury cars, for better or worse.

The new compact XE sedan has generated positive buzz in the automotive media for being an engaging drive, and as a past owner of three different BMW 3 Series sedans, I was keen to see how the Jaguar’s first compact since the lamentable X-Type stacks up.

(Read More…)

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