Tag: Road Test

By on September 1, 2016

2017 Cadillac XT5, Image: © 2016 Matthew Guy/The Truth About Cars

When the original Cadillac SRX appeared for the 2004 model year, it rode atop a rear-wheel-drive unibody platform, offered three rows of seats, and asked a question rarely asked today: “V8 with that?”

Six years later, General Motors saw fit to yank the SRX out of that class and plunge it into the murderously competitive front-wheel drive, two-row luxury crossover field, shoving it in direct competition with the segment’s dominant sales king, the Lexus RX. Hand-wringing ensued, yet that iteration of the SRX sold nearly 100,000 copies globally in 2015. Not bad for a five-year-old model on the outs.

For 2017, Cadillac — drunk on the New York City skyline and “image spaces” in SoHo — introduced its CT6 sedan before turning its attention to updating its best seller.

Will Cadillac’s new utility, now christened XT5 and built in Saturn’s old Spring Hill digs in Tennessee, follow the brand’s relentless path to Audi-ization?
(Read More…)

By on July 29, 2016

2016 Lexus RX 350, Image: © 2016 Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars

“I hope someone’s watching.”

That thought ran through my head on my first night in the 2016 Lexus RX 350. No, I wasn’t doing something the cops should know about. This is TTAC, not Vice.

See, night had just fallen, and Lexus’s stalwart midsize luxury crossover was taking me home. I pulled up to the last stop sign and signaled for a right turn. Well, didn’t the RX 350’s yet-unnoticed LED cornering lamps light up that street corner like a baseball diamond. Nice — this is what people pay for, I thought. I hope someone’s watching. 

It’s fickle, but it’s the little things that make you feel special. For my mother, it was the fender-mounted turn signal lamps that got her into her first new car — a ’76 Plymouth Volare (a decision she rightfully laments to this day.)

Cobble together enough feel-good features — ideally paired with a reliable powertrain (side-eye to the former Chrysler Corp.) — and you’ve got a pretty compelling package to dangle in front of buyers.

That’s assuming they like the face. (Read More…)

By on May 18, 2016

2016 Infiniti QX50 AWD Front 3/4, Image: © 2016 Matthew Guy/The Truth About Cars

From krill-hungry Lincolns to Predator-style Lexus grilles, the automotive market is littered with luxury crossovers like rocks covering the landscape of my home province of Newfoundland. With few exceptions, they’re all ponderous boxes offering the driving dynamics of tapioca pudding. Adding a sport package to these machines simply upgrades them to slightly warmer tapioca pudding.

The 2016 Infiniti QX50, though, surprised me … and I like surprises — for example, buying a new type of beer and finding it to my liking, or having a tool work better than expected. These are all experiences that give me pure joy. Heck, I even bought my first house largely based on the fact its floorplan wasn’t what I expected.

(Read More…)

By on May 13, 2016

2016 Volkswagen Beetle Dune Low Angle Front 3/4, Image: © 2016 Kamil Kaluski/The Truth About Cars

When a concept car is introduced at a major auto show, it provides a glimpse into the future of an automaker’s next model. Some concepts are really cool. Some are not. Most never make it into production. A few do. The Baja Bug-inspired VW New Beetle Dune Concept was unveiled at the 2000 Los Angeles Auto Show. It was an off-road-ready New Beetle powered by a 2.3-liter VR5 that sent its power to all four wheels via a six-speed manual transmission.

More than a decade later, a similar, but water-downed, Beetle Dune Concept was shown at the 2014 North American International Auto Show. That car was raised two inches, had a 210 horsepower engine, a cool ski rack, but was front wheel drive. That concept car finally made it into production this year with relatively minor changes — but should it have?

(Read More…)

By on April 22, 2016

2016 Mercedes-Benz GLE350, Image: © 2016 Steve Lynch/The Truth About Cars

Those of you who railed against Bark’s glowing review of the 2016 Ford Mustang convertible by claiming his “Ford bias” tainted his viewpoint might also think my yarn about this vehicle is spun in a similar vein. After all, I worked for Mercedes-Benz Financial Services for 17 years, and here I am reviewing my own Mercedes-Benz-subsidized retiree lease vehicle. How could I possibly be objective, you ask?

Before we find out, bear in mind that I’ve driven a total of over 60,000 miles in ten separate copies of the last generation ML350 and its variants, so I know this SUV’s predecessor inside and out.

Most changes made to the GLE are positive, but there are a couple glaring exceptions.

(Read More…)

By on March 1, 2016

2016 Totota RAV4 Hybrid Exterior-003

A few short weeks ago, I was inside a very purple 2016 RAV4 marveling that Toyota’s compact crossover nearly outsells the Mazda brand. My bottom line for that RAV4 read like this:

Why are the RAV4’s sales so high when there are more fun options out there? The reasons can be found in its strong value proposition, a soft ride about which journalists often complain, included scheduled maintenance and Toyota’s reputation for reliability.

The 2016 RAV4 isn’t going to light many souls on fire, but it gives the average CUV shopper more of what they obviously want.

Except fuel economy or performance.

That’s where the first full-hybrid compact crossover since Ford abandoned the Escape Hybrid five years ago comes in.

(Read More…)

By on February 11, 2016

2016 Ford Escape

It’s quite trendy nowadays for auto writers to trash the very notion of the crossover, mostly because it doesn’t fit in with their self-defined image of being a swashbuckling, tire squealing, craft-beer-drinking car guy. Also, the economics of writing about cars tend to dictate a certain set of values and behaviors upon said auto writers, meaning that they aren’t incredibly likely to have families or, you know, own a lot of stuff. Finally, don’t forget that in the world of automotive journalism, anything mainstream is lame and everything that sells in single digits annually is awesome.

Thus, it’s now become incredibly bold for an auto writer to say something that is patently and plainly obvious to the vast majority of people who actually buy new cars. So I will: The 2016 Ford Escape is a good vehicle that fits the needs of a great many consumers, and it represents a fair value in the automotive marketplace.

(Read More…)

By on February 8, 2016

2016 BMW X1 Exterior-008

When is a BMW not a BMW? Some would say: when it has four wheels. Others will say: when it’s front wheel drive. But here we are. BMW’s smallest crossover has ditched its BMW 3-Series roots for underpinnings shared with the Mini Countryman.

Say what?

Americans may be surprised to hear that the X1 is not BMW’s first front driver. Neither is it the last BMW with a transverse engine. Our European friends will soon be seeing the 2 Series Gran Tourer — a small 7-seat … minivan. Yes, a BMW minivan. What’s that sound, you ask? Minds blowing.

For purists, the notion of a trio of transverse-engined BMWs prowling around the countryside is an abomination; an affront to everything E46 M3 owners holds sacred.

For the rest of you? It’s no big deal. Seriously.

(Read More…)

By on August 5, 2015


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…)

By on July 7, 2015


Why yes, it has been only three weeks since our last Volkswagen Golf feature story. Why do you ask?

Maybe it’s because the little VW is on fire. The car is nearly single-handedly bringing back hatchback sales with the introduction last year of its 7th generation model. Winner of numerous national and international auto journo awards, MkVII Golf sales in the U.S. are up 230% through June over the same period last year, and are tracking towards a record-setting 84,000 sales for 2015.

There are two 2015 Golfs in my driveway this week: my own two-door GTI 6-speed and today’s tester, the above four-door TDI SEL with the DSG dual-clutch automatic transmission. This is not a comparison test but the variation between the two cars’ equipment levels makes for some interesting perspectives. (Read More…)

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