To say the Sorento’s transformation from rugged body-on-frame SUV to car-based softroader has been a sales success is putting it mildly. In the first 27 months of production Kia shifted more Sorentos than they did the 8 years prior. Sales numbers like that catapulted the Korean krossover (couldn’t help it) from CX-9/Xtera/Murano competition to 7th place in the midsized battlefield. Three model years later, Kia is spicing things up with a refresh. I know what you’re thinking: why bother looking at a refresh? Because 2014 brings enough changes to call the 2014 Sorento a redesign.
Our last look at the Accord was back in September when we ran a two-parter (part 1, part 2) after being invited to the launch event. Yes, shockingly our invite wasn’t lost in the mail. As TTAC has said in the past, there are problems with launch events. Usually you’re running around in a pre-production car that may not be “quite right” yet, you have to split your driving time with some dude from another publication (shout out to Hooniverse on that trip). Drive time is limited, and exclusively done on roads selected by the manufacturer. Sometimes you don’t get the trim level you want either. What I wanted was one step up from the base model, the mainstream EX and I wanted it on the same roads I’ve driven the other Camcord competitors. Here’s that review.
I remember when the RX rolled onto the scene in 1998. It was truly the first successful crossover as we would know it today. While everyone else was trying to produce a truck-based luxury SUV, Lexus took the Camry/ES platform, put a jelly-bean inspired box on top and jacked the ride height up to 7.7 inches. The result was instant sales success. As we all know however, success has a price. The marshmallow-soft FWD RX lacked road feel, steering feel and sex appeal. Although it’s a bit late in the game, Lexus has decided to fix that last problem with the introduction of the 2013 RX F-Sport. (Read More…)
There’s a “problem” with the modern performance variant: they are too easy to review. You see, dropping a high-horsepower V8 into anything makes it good. Take the last generation Chrysler 300 SRT8. It’s interior was made from plastics rejected by Lego and Rubbermaid and you’d be hard pressed to tell it apart from the $9.99 rent-a-car special. The big difference with the SRT versions was that Chrysler stuffed a 425HP 6.1L V8 under the hood and a set of pipes that made the 300 sound like sex. The uncomfortable seats, crappy dash plastics and 1990s stereo were distant memories. If Chrysler had managed to fit the same V8 into the Sebring, it would have been the best convertible ever. This time is different. Before the 2013 300 SRT8 arrived, I decided I would not be seduced by Chrysler’s larger, meaner, sexier, more powerful 6.4L engine and review it like any other car. Can that be done?
The Avalon has been something of a caricature since it wafted on stage in 1994. The stretched Camry was low on soul, devoid of style and soft of spring. In short, it was the Buick that wouldn’t leave you stranded. Since then Toyota has struggled to divine a mission for their full size sedan, a problem complicated by the re-invigoration of the large sedan market by the American brands. In hopes of resurrecting sales numbers, which have slid to 25% of their 2000 year shipments, Toyota has injected something hitherto unseen in an Avalon: style. Is it enough?
Redesigning retro is a herculean task. You need to change the vehicle enough to be worth the effort, meanwhile maintaining an iconic retro theme. If you don’t change enough, shoppers won’t see a reason to trade in their old flashback for the new time capsule. Change it too much and you’re left with a caricature. The task is so daunting that few even attempt it. (Just look at the one-hit-wonders: PT Cruiser, HHR, SSR and Thunderbird.) VW on the other hand is different. After all they continued to build and sell the same Beetle with minor tweaks for 65 years straight. If anyone can tweak retro and convince people they need it, it’s VW. Sure enough, 2012 was the best Beetle sales year since 1973. As a chaser to VW’s revived retro-mojo, the Beetle is now offered sans-top and VW tossed us the keys to a brown-on-brown model for a week so we could get our 70s on. Can you dig it?
While BMW has been turning the 7-Series into a luxuriously silent highway cruiser, Lexus has been busy injecting sport into their isolated lineup. In 2006 we got the 417HP IS-F, in 2011 came the insane LF-A super car, and in 2012 we were introduced to Lexus’ styling and suspension tweak brand F-Sport with the GS350 F-Sport. It was only a matter of time until the spindle grille and the looks-fast F package appeared on Lexus’s flagship LS. Can a “looks-fast” and “handles-better” package help the LS regain the sales crown? Or does Lexus need to go back to the drawing board for some go-fast love?
Buick’s been on a roll this year, their sales are up and their owner demographics are younger than they have been in recent memory. The cynic in my says that’s because half their clientele died of old age, but it has more to do with their product portfolio. Say what? Yep, it’s true, the brand I wrote off for dead last decade is targeting younger buyers with designs imported from Europe and finding sales success. The Verano turbo shattered my preconceptions, but can Buick do it again? A brown Encore arrived one rainy morning to see if it was possible. (Read More…)
Every car company hates the BMW 3-Series. It’s always the benchmark, always the sales champion, always the golden boy. BMW shifted nearly 100,000 3-Series models in America last year and they did so not by being “the best” luxury sedan, but by pandering to the shopping public’s desires. Buyers have shown they want a comfy ride with a luxury logo on the front, they want good fuel economy and they want to hear journalists say how well the car handles on a track. The average buyer will never be on a track, but it’s critical to know your car belongs there. The old IS was a good car on the track, but its demure looks sold more on Lexus’ reliability and dealer reputation than the car’s track diaries. As we know from Volvo and Lexus’ sales numbers in this segment, two things don’t move metal: reliability and safety. For 2014 Lexus went back to the drawing board completely redesigning the IS sedan to be their most dynamic sedan ever. Does it have what it takes to take on the Germans and Infiniti’s new Q50?
The ES has been Lexus’ best-selling sedan for 15 years yet the front-driver started life as something of a side-show. In 1989 the ES was a thinly veiled Camry, supposedly rushed to market because Lexus dealers couldn’t envision launching a brand with one vehicle (the LS 400) and were unwilling to wait for the SC and GS. This explanation makes sense to me and explains why the ES was the only FWD car in a brand created to compete with the Germans. Of course, this odd fit within a full-range RWD luxury brand is exactly why the ES sells. Wonder why Acura’s wares never had the sales success of the ES? It’s all about the brand baby.
Apparently I’m a stereotypical Subaru shopper. I’m in my 30s and live on 9-acres of redwood forest in Northern California where I run a small organic egg farm. My nearest neighbor is a mile away and the closest concrete or asphalt driving surface is a 3 mile trek through the woods. During the winter I value AWD and high ground clearance, not because I need it (my 2005 Jaguar XJ has never been stuck) but like most Americans, I feel safe and secure by having a larger margin for error. I also have a special place in my heart for station wagons. It was therefore no surprise to my neighbors when I drove home one day in the Outback’s little brother, the XV Crosstrek.
Want a fuel-sipping, tree-hugging sedan with stunning good looks? Ford thinks they have the answer in the 2013 Ford Fusion Hybrid. Can jamming a gasoline/electric drivetrain behind Ford’s sexy grille continue the love affair the press has had with Ford’s world-car? More importantly, can this Ford hybrid live up to its EPA numbers? Let’s find out.
The full-sized luxury market used to be a small pond before the Lexus LS appeared. Up to then all Mercedes had to worry about was the German brand known for their delightfully crude 2002. Jaguar? 1980s Jags spent so little time running they were more garage ornament than transportation. Fast forward to today and BMW is the new Mercedes and the full-sized luxury segment is getting crowded with entries from Audi, Porsche and an XJ that spends enough time running to count. Where does that leave the S-Class’ old foe? BMW tossed us the keys to their most popular 7 to find out.
Our recent looks at the Ford Edge Ecoboost and GMC Terrain prompted an email from a reader asking us to take a look at the 2013 Toyota Venza with these two American entries in mind. If you have a request or suggestion for a vehicle review, just click the contact link at the top of the page, or find us on Facebook and drop us a note.
The popular wisdom among folks in the auto-biz of my generation (1970s) is that Buick only exists because of China. Why didn’t GM kill Buick in America and keep it in China? The answer is obvious: you can’t sell your brand on its “Americanness” if it isn’t also sold in America to Americans. Buick then is a brand hunting for a mission. It’s also a brand hunting for fresh customers that don’t remember the Century and Skylark, two abominations firmly burnt into my mind. In attempt to solve these problems Buick has ditched their badge-engineering mantra and is rolling out new products targeted at folks from the 80s and 90s. Forced induction and a manual transmission aren’t new to Buick, but the possibility of a desirable small sedan from the triple-shield is earth shattering. Have they managed it? GM tossed us a set of keys to find out.