By on May 5, 2016

2016 Lincoln MKX EcoBoost Exterior, Image: © 2016 Alex Dykes/The Truth About Cars

The Lexus RX isn’t a sales success; it’s a sales phenomenon. It’s a magical cash generating unicorn that can seemingly do no wrong. The RX outsells every other luxury vehicle in America. Despite sales being down 6.5 percent in 2015, the RX crossover nearly outsold the entire Lincoln brand. When the numbers were tallied, Lincoln brand as a whole beat the single Lexus model by just 617 units.

Why do I bring up the Lexus RX so early in a review ostensibly about a Lincoln crossover? Two reasons. We might as well talk about the elephant in the room and I genuinely don’t understand why the RX outsells the MKX by nearly 5:1. As I discovered during a week with the latest incarnation of Lincoln’s MKX, the Lincoln is quite simply a better Lexus than the RX.

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By on February 1, 2016

2016 Nissan Sentra-006

Traditional car shoppers are moving away from small sedans and toward compact crossovers. That’s the conventional wisdom used to explain the slowing sales we see in some models. But could there be another reason? Could it simply be a lack of focus and attention to the compact segment?

There is one model that’s seen a meteoric rise in sales since 2013: the Sentra. Nissan’s complete overhaul three years ago and aggressive pricing doubled Sentra sales since then, moving it from a “top 15” player in sales to number five in 2015.

In an effort to maintain the trajectory, Nissan opted for a major refresh after just three years on sale. (Sounds like the Honda plan with the Civic, doesn’t it?) Perhaps the key to compact success is a combination of frequent updates and more gadgets for shoppers to choose from. That sums up the 2016 Sentra perfectly.

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By on January 19, 2016

2016 Lexus IS 200t Exterior

Lexus has tended to prefer conservative design in almost every aspect of product development. Words like reliable and dependable usually spring to mind before sporty or exciting.

Yet, the brand has been trying to change that over the last few years with love-it-or-hate-it designs; in particular, Lexus’ new “Predator mouth.” The changes aren’t simply skin deep. The current-generation IS sedan also stepped outside the luxury brand’s comfort zone with sharp handling and a focus on dynamics. Of course, this is Lexus we’re talking about, so this change in a more aggressive direction is happening at, you guessed it, a conservative pace.

Now in its third year of production, the third-generation IS isn’t getting a refresh like we’d typically see in from ze Germans. Instead, Lexus has decided to focus its attention under the hood with a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a de-tuned V-6 for mid-level shoppers.

Can a refreshed drivetrain help the IS stand out in a crowded segment? Let’s find out.

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By on November 30, 2015

2016 Audi S7 Exterior Front

Coupé-like styling is one of the biggest buzzwords at new car launch parties. Although this is more of a modern phenomenon, the root of the seemingly contradictory four-door coupé is older than you might think.

In 1962, Rover dropped the rear roofline on its P5 sedan and dared to call it a four-door coupé. In 2004, Mercedes picked up on this idea with the CLS-class Coupe. It was only a matter of time before Audi and BMW joined the party with the A7 and 6-Series Gran Coupé.

Now, many of you may say we already have a name for the four-door coupé. It’s a sedan. I agree with you. Audi isn’t entirely convinced by the “coupé” designation either, and they only dare mention it twice in the 62-page brochure. This means the S7 is a $12,000 styling exercise atop a tasty and more practical S6.

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By on November 23, 2015

2016 smart fortwo exterior-005

America loves big cars, big trucks and fat crossovers. If you doubt me, all you need to do is look at 2015’s top sellers. The top five vehicles account for 13 percent of all vehicles sold in the USA this year, and the smallest of the five is the Toyota Camry. Not so small. Check the top 20 list, and the smallest entry is the Corolla which has grown so large we would have called it “midsized” in the ’80s.

Today, we’re looking at a very different kind of car: the 2016 smart fortwo (yes, that’s all lower case for some reason), a car that is six feet shorter than the Corolla.

2008 was Smart’s best year in the USA with some 24,000 cheeky micro cars sold. Since then, sales haven’t been swift. Yearly sales numbers in the USA bounce between 5,000 and 14,000. Canadians, however, seem to love them. Sales volumes in the Great White North hover around half the US volume. Not impressed? The entire Canadian market’s sales numbers are “smart-sized” compared to the United States. Heck, Smart outsells Maserati in Canada. Could it be that, like nationalized healthcare, the Canadians are up to something good? Or, just like healthcare, is this a good idea somewhere else, just not in the USA?
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By on September 8, 2015

2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Exterior Front-001

2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

2.0-liter, DOHC I-4, CVVT, hybrid (Gas engine: 154 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 140 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm, Electric motor: 51 horsepower @ 1,770-2,000; 151 lb-ft @ 0-1,770 rpm)

6-speed automatic

Lithium polymer battery

40 city/44 highway/42 combined (Hybrid SE, EPA Rating, MPG)
39 city/43 highway/41 combined (Hybrid Limited, EPA Rating, MPG)

40.8 mpg (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Limited trim, Ultimate Package

Base Price:
$26,825*
As Tested:

$35,425*

* Prices include $825 destination charge.

Hyundai hit the styling ball out of the park with the last generation Sonata. The 2009 model was as dramatic and exciting as the previous models were drab and boring. Although the 2009 didn’t alter Hyundai’s value proposition, nor did it really break any new ground in the family car segment, the sexy curves were responsible for nearly doubling the Sonata’s sales from a middling 120,000 a year to well over 200,000. The design is widely credited for putting Hyundai firmly in the top 5 for midsized sedans and #8 on the car sales chart in general.

With the new seventh generation Sonata, Hyundai is working to prove that they are more than a one-hit wonder. The 2015 model launched their latest school of design and a new turbocharged “Eco” model that uses a 1.6L engine and a 7-speed dual clutch transmission to net 32 combined MPGs. Just one thing was missing in 2015: a hybrid model to compete with the big hitters from Ford, Honda and Toyota.

That’s where the 2016 Sonata Hybrid and the 2016 Sonata Plug-In come in.

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By on May 11, 2015

2015 VW GTI 2-Door Exterior Front

Although GTI sales are on an upward trend, the American hot hatch is a rare breed as there are just three options. We have the aging Ford Focus ST, and a new pair of hatches from Germany: the Volkswagen GTI and the MINI Cooper S. (Yes MINI fans, I’m calling the MINI German.) The last time I reviewed the GTI and Focus ST, the Focus came out on top despite the greater refinement Volkswagen offered. This time we have an all new GTI while Subaru has kicked the 5-door WRX to the curb, BMW has redesigned the MINI Cooper JCW and Ford has “gone Euro” by jamming a 2.3L turbo in the Mustang. Where does that leave the GTI?

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By on May 4, 2015

2015 Lexus IS 350 F-Sport Exterior -002

BMW moved over 140,000 3-Series’ last year in America. They didn’t do this by being the most luxurious option or by being the best handling option. (The truth is hard to hear, I’m sorry.) Instead, BMW did this by doing exactly what shoppers asked for; luxury car buyers want a comfy ride with a luxury logo on the front, good fuel economy and to read reviews that extol the track-day virtues of their car of choice. The average buyer will never be on a track, but it’s critical to know your car belongs there.

What BMW dealers don’t want you to know: there are two sedans in this segment that are arguably better on the track than a 328i or 335i and we’re talking about one of them today, the IS 350 F Sport.
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By on April 16, 2015

 

IMG_7070

EV “conversions” make for strange bedfellows when it comes to competition. There is no gasoline Kia Soul that competed even slightly with Mercedes or BMW. Oddly enough however, when you electrify one of the least expensive cars in America, you end up with with a Kia on the same cross-shop list as the i3 and B-Class Electric. Obviously a Kia Soul EV vs i3 vs B-Class comparison table is at the extreme end, but I am surprised how many folks wanted to hear that comparison. It isn’t just the luxury-cross shops that become possible however, comparisons normally considered to be “one-tier up” and “one-tier down” become more reasonable as well. For instance, the gasoline Soul isn’t a direct competitor to the Fiat 500 or the Ford Focus, but in EV form they are head to head.

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By on March 27, 2015

2016 Acura ILX Exterior Front.CR2

It has been two years since we last looked at the ILX, and my conclusion went like this:

The 2.4L engine needs an automatic and some infotainment love, the 2.0L engine needs more grunt and the hybrid needs to be euthanized. Without changes like these, the Acura ILX will remain a sensible Civic upgrade but as a competitor to Buick’s new-found mojo, Acura has some catching up to do.

2016 brings what I was expecting: a mid-cycle refresh with a new nose and new rump to keep the photos fresh. What I didn’t expect was for Acura to also address the major mechanical systems that we all complained about. Neither did I expect the ILX to be so transformed by a “simple” heart transplant. Can the ILX live up to the legendary Acura Legend? I snagged the keys to a “A-Spec Technology Plus” model to find out.

(Read More…)

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