By on May 26, 2016

2015 Honda CR-V

Once they’re behind the wheel of an SUV or crossover, it seems drivers stop wanting anything else.

That’s the gist of a report by IHS Automotive, which found that SUVs and crossovers have the highest owner loyalty rates of any body style in the industry.

Once you go big (and boxy), you never go back. (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 11, 2016

Subaru BRZ STI Performance Concept

Subaru, worried that it might be losing its coolness, could be planning to rebel against its new-found mainstream image.

That, Big Battery picks up steam, Tesla’s stock turbulence continues to amaze, NASCAR wants Millennials to watch a race, and Porsche thanks its lucky stars for SUVs … after the break!

(Read More…)

By on December 14, 2015

17 - 1983 Jeep Chrokee in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Because we still see them all over the roads today, the still-in-production (in China) XJ Cherokee is the best-known Jeep Cherokee. However, AMC made a two-door version of the original SJ Wagoneer, called it the Cherokee, and built it for the 1974 through 1983 model years (just to confuse things, a four-door SJ Cherokee was added to the mix a few years into production).

We saw an XJ Cherokee Junkyard Find a couple of weeks ago, and here’s a final-year-of-production SJ from the same Denver self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on December 9, 2015

12 - 2002 Isuzu Axiom in Colorado junkyard - photo by Murilee Martin

Remember the Isuzu Axiom? Of course you don’t, because this Rodeo-based SUV was sold (in tiny quantities) for just the 2002-2004 model years and was then replaced with the Chevy Trailblazer-clone Isuzu Ascender.

Oddball, 21st-century marketplace flops are interesting to me, for whatever reason, so we’ll follow up the Kia Rondo Junkyard Find with this Denver wrecking-yard inmate. (Read More…)

By on October 30, 2015

1999 Isuzu Vehicross

Most mainstream consumers don’t recall much about Isuzu. If asked, they’ll either remember their friends’ droptop Amigo back in college, or if they are of a certain age, they’ll know Joe Isuzu and his outlandish claims. Some enthusiasts might know Isuzu as the partner in numerous joint ventures with GM, Honda and Subaru, among others.

That said, Isuzu built some remarkably good SUVs worthy of both halves of that descriptor. The Trooper especially was a good, sturdy off-roader that could handle family duties.

However, for a few short years, Isuzu made a wacky, limited-edition truck that could handle nearly any terrain in style.

(Read More…)

By on October 9, 2015

2016InfinitiQX50_(2_of_12)

2016 Infiniti QX50 RWD

3.7-liter VQ37VHR V-6, with Variable Valve and Event Lift (325 horsepower @ 7,000 rpm; 267 pounds-feet of torque @ 5,200 rpm)

7-speed automatic transmission with manual shift mode and Downshift Rev Matching

17 city/24 highway/20 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

19 mpg on the 70/30 city/hwy grocery loop (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Technology Package — $2,750 (Intelligent cruise, blind-spot monitoring, lane departure warning); Deluxe Touring Package — $2,400 (19-inch wheels, power folding up second-row seats); Illuminated Kick Plates — $440 (!); Premium Package — $500 (Bose 11-speaker sound system, maple interior accents, aluminum roof rails); Premium Plus Package — $2,000 (Navigation, 7-inch touch-screen display, Bluetooth).

Base Price:
$35,445*
As Tested Price:
$43,535*

* All prices include $995 destination fee.

Cars will be built in China.

Scratch that — cars are being built in China already, but cars sold in America will soon be built in China.

It’s an inevitability that American car buyers will understand when Volvo brings over its long-wheelbase S60 that promises to be the first Chinese-made car sold in America. It’s already happened in most markets around the world — including Canada — but Americans are averse to cars being built in the C-word like, well, the C-word.

The 2016 Infiniti QX50 (formerly the EX35 in old-Infiniti nomenclature) was not built in China — but for all purposes that we’ll discuss, it was made in China. That’s because the car, which sold at a phenomenally slow pace in the U.S., has been thrown a lifeline from overseas. In China, the QX50 launched six months ago with a longer wheelbase to satisfy that country’s appetite for driving everyone, everywhere, all the time. It was a no-brainer for the U.S., but to justify significantly updating the car for our market, it needed sales — and to sell, it needed to be upgraded. And you can see where this is going.

We’ve had plenty of chances to buy one before now, it’s that just Infiniti hasn’t really ever given us a reason.

(Read More…)

By on April 22, 2015

13 - 1997 Oldsmobile Bravada Down On the Junkyard - Picture courtesy of Murilee MartinThe Olds Bravada started out as an Oldsmobized Chevy Blazer and ended (along with Oldsmobile itself) as an Oldsmobated Chevy Trailblazer. They show up in Colorado junkyards in startlingly large numbers. Who bought Bravadas? For that matter, who bought Isuzu Ascenders? Anyway, because the idea of an Oldsmobile-badged midsize SUV made about as much sense as an Oldsmobile-badged cruel-parody-of-a-luxury-car J-body and is thus sort of interesting, I’ve finally decided to do a Bravada Junkyard Find. We’ll return to the usual Pontiac-badged Daewoos soon enough. (Read More…)

By on September 6, 2012

The SUV arms race has been over for a few years now, with four-ton, leather-lined, full-framed trucks no longer appearing to be viable as the middle-class commuter machines they were during the SUV-crazed 1990s and 2000s. Oh, sure, you can still buy the things, but Times Have Changed. If we are to draw a parallel between the Golden Age of the Muscle Car (during which Detroit slapped off-the-shelf luxury-car engines and $27 worth of scoops and graphics on midsize commuter cars and made crazy money) and the Golden Age of the Big-Ass SUV (during which Detroit slapped off-the-shelf pleather and Simu-Wood™ trim and $27 worth of badging on full-sized work-truck chassis and made crazy money), then we are now in the SUV equivalent of about 1976. If so, this means that, in another decade or two, nostalgia for Navigators and Escalades will kick in, just as it did for GTOs and Super Bees in about 1985, and— just as with muscle cars— the love of these absurd luxo-trucks will take on symbolic connotations of past glory, an era before nanny-state killjoys, and so on. (Read More…)

By on December 9, 2011

This whole craze with the leather-trimmed luxury trucks, I’m against it. In my opinion, a real passenger truck is a big steel box with rear-wheel-drive, a floor-shift three-speed manual transmission, an AM radio, and a metal dash. Oh yeah, and it has to be built by a farm-equipment manufacturer. (Read More…)

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