Posts By: stephwillems

By on August 14, 2019

In the bittersweet recent history of the traditional full-size sedan, no move comes across quite as desperate as Toyota’s TRD-ification of the admittedly competent Avalon. No one — repeat, no one — thinks of the Avalon as a taught, corner carving sports sedan, though the model did gain stiffer bones and better handling via its 2019 model year revamp. Frankly, few people think of the Avalon at all.

Which is a shame, as no one loves large, conservative cars more than your author. Add to that the fact that the current inhabitants of the full-size segment have a lot going for them, cargo capacity excluded, and the Avalon is well-known for being among the longest-lasting vehicles on the road.

In donning the Toyota Racing Development badge, the Avalon can’t help but get noticed, though the reaction of passers-by might fall along the lines of “WTF,” rather than “Oh, dammnnnn…” That’s assuming they ever see one. (Read More…)

By on August 14, 2019

Image: Ford

In all fairness, the newly announced FX2 Package does boost the off-road cred of the two-wheel drive Ford Ranger, albeit modestly. If memory serves this writer correctly, RWD trucks can be a load of fun in the rough, assuming that backcountry trail isn’t too slick, greasy, or soupy.

An obvious ploy to capture the hearts and minds of those enamored by Ford’s popular (4×4) FX4 Off-Road Package, the FX2 seeks to slightly improve the off-roadability of rear-drive Rangers while elevating the truck’s visual brawn. (Read More…)

By on August 13, 2019

Image: Acura

Acura pulled the digital wraps off its Type S Concept two days ahead of its public debut at Monterey Car Week, heralding the Type S designation’s return to the brand’s model line. The car seen here hints at what to expect of the looming next-generation TLX and its confirmed Type S performance variant.

“Performance.” That implies something more than just a racy appearance package and maybe an upgraded brake and suspension setup, right? Ideally, yes, but in this case Acura does promise more “go” to back up the show.
(Read More…)

By on August 13, 2019

All-new 2018 Jeep® Wrangler Sahara

Reports of alarming oscillations transmitted through the steering wheels of various Jeep Wranglers started landing on the NHTSA’s lap last year, years after off-road enthusiasts began complaining of the same issue. A product of a solid front axle, higher speeds, and an unexpected jolt ⁠— like hitting a bump in the road ⁠— the so-called “death wobble” sparked a class-action lawsuit that alleges Jeep’s Wrangler boasts an inherently unsafe axle and suspension design.

Now Fiat Chrysler says it has a solution to the wobble, with notifications headed to owners’ mailboxes from coast to coast. Will the supposed fix serve to pour cold water over the lawsuit? At this point, it doesn’t seem so. (Read More…)

By on August 13, 2019

2017 Subaru Impreza Indiana Assembly Plant - Image: Subaru

The cooling off of the U.S. auto market wasn’t immediately and universally addressed via a production slowdown, but as year-over-year sales losses piled up, automakers began to get in line. Downtime rose, shifts were cut, and the country’s bloated new car inventory began to thin.

August brought the trimmest number of unsold vehicles seen in the past year, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be flying off lots. (Read More…)

By on August 13, 2019

Image: Honda

Ten speeds, that is. While the 2019 Odyssey only offered a 10-speed automatic in the lofty Touring and Elite trims, for 2020 the tranny becomes standard across the range. What’s the occasion? Well, a quarter century of life, for one, but the continued decline of the once-hot minivan segment can’t be discounted.

For buyers eager to unload an extra $1,500 on their 2020 Odyssey, Honda has a birthday package ready to go for all trims. Minivan ownership is already a special experience, but Honda wants owners to rub it in everyone’s face. (Read More…)

By on August 13, 2019

2018 Honda Accord Touring 1.5T - Image: Honda

The Senate won’t have to worry about approving the nomination of Heidi King as National Highway Traffic Safety Administration boss, as King won’t be there to fill the seat. The acting administrator of the NHTSA announced her resignation late Monday.

King, who joined the road safety agency as a deputy administrator in 2017, will leave her office at the end of the month. While President Donald Trump nominated King for the administrator job in 2018, the nomination never went to a full Senate vote — though she was twice approved by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. Now, someone else will have to tackle the job of rolling back fuel efficiency standards. (Read More…)

By on August 13, 2019

2017 Toyota Corolla XSE interior - Image: © Timothy Cain/The Truth About Cars

Cars, like their drivers, often fly so far below the radar that they may as well not exist at all. Despite the best intentions of designers to stimulate (but not over-stimulate) loyal buyers, a great number of vehicles roll off the drawing board and into reality with an exterior tailor-made to avoid being noticed.

Some vehicles are nothing less than rolling anonymity. Which, depending on your line of work, may be just the thing you’re looking for. (Read More…)

By on August 12, 2019

2018 Ford Expedition, Image: Ford

Unlike in the F-150 lineup, Ford’s returning Expedition King Ranch does not sit comfortably in the middle of the trim range. It’s on a higher shelf, sandwiched between the Limited and the range-topping Platinum. And, as you’d expect, the King Ranch version of Ford’s largest SUV, last seen in 2017, demands a premium over lesser Fords.

If looking like a refugee from Southfork doesn’t appeal to you, it’s easy to outfit your Expedition Limited to King Ranch specs for less money. (Read More…)

By on August 12, 2019

Image: Lincoln

Got your eye on Lincoln’s upcoming Aviator? You’ll be pleased to learn the brand’s premium midsize crossover will enter your driveway with more bragging rights than previously thought. Specifically, more power for the same price.

As Lincoln doles out a small fleet of 2020 Aviators to a cabal of shrimp-loving auto scribes, the provided spec sheet held a surprise. The model’s certified power figures are not the same figures listed during the Aviator’s 2018 LA Auto Show reveal. (Read More…)

By on August 12, 2019

Can you kill a ghost? While Hollywood and some Catholic priests say yes, in the automotive realm the process of ridding oneself of a spectre usually involves a new sheet on the drawing board, not a ceremonial ritual.

As you may have already heard, a ghost long rumored to haunt Detroit’s future product stable has reportedly disappeared into the ether from which it came. It never had much of a form, its name carried a question mark, and no one officially admitted to its existence. It only had a clear rival: the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited and upcoming Ford Bronco. (Read More…)

By on August 12, 2019

Eager to reduce R&D costs, Jaguar Land Rover and BMW forged a cross-channel bond earlier this summer, but the increasingly cozy relationship between the Anglo-German rivals likely won’t end with the mere sharing of electric drive units and internal combustion engines.

A number of JLR vehicles poised to drop from the product pipeline could come to fruition thanks to a piece of Bimmer architecture. (Read More…)

By on August 10, 2019

As it blows out the candles on its 30th birthday cake, Infiniti’s biggest problems aren’t rocks and trees, but sales. That, and a shaky financial foundation underpinning its parent’s house.

Unlike in 1989, when the fledgling premium brand tempted buyers to pick up a new Q45, um, sight unseen, Infiniti is doing all it can to draw pairs of eyes to its real, physical vehicles, launching an Edition 30 trim package to mark the anniversary. (Read More…)

By on August 9, 2019

2018 BMW 6 Series Gran Turismo - Image: BMW

Admit it ⁠— when you think of the BMW 6 Series, it’s the long prow of the mid-80s 633 or 635 CSi nosing into your brain, not the oddly-shaped 2019 640i xDrive Gran Turismo. That sleek Reagan-era coupe can continue to roam throughout your mind for years to come, as it won’t have any competition.

For the 2020 model year, the last bearers of the 6 Series designation fade from the American landscape, joined in their vanishing act by an unloved 3 Series four-door with a liftback. (Read More…)

By on August 9, 2019

mercedes-benz logo

Suspected emissions manipulation could net Daimler AG, parent company of Mercedes-Benz, a steep fine, but it seems the automaker already anticipates the expenditure. According to a report out of Germany, the auto giant stands to face a fine potentially topping $1 billion, which is a relative bargain compared to the bill handed to rival Volkswagen Group over its widespread emissions cheating.

It’s bad news Daimler doesn’t need in these turbulent times. (Read More…)

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