Category: Features

By on April 16, 2019

All-new 2018 Jeep® Wrangler Rubicon

Studies have shown that purchasing a new Jeep Wrangler is almost as stable an investment as buying gold. In terms of retaining value, the Wrangler is king, boasting a rate of depreciation that undercuts the industry average by half.

With this in mind, it’s not common to see people shopping around, sniffing out boffo bargains on hard-to-sell Wranglers polluting local dealer lots. It simply isn’t a thing. If you’re in the market for one, however, now may be a good time to start searching. Read More >

By on April 16, 2019

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

“Ask the man who owns one,” Packard once implored readers from the glossy depths of various Depression-era magazines. While clearly not interested in courting the female buyer (I hope they’re dragged on Twitter for this insensitive tagline), Packard’s core message still holds up today.

No one loves poo-pooing other people’s buying decisions quite like auto journos, but each and every buyer has their own reasons for choosing the way they did. Shocking though it may be to some, buyers often walk (okay, drive) away quite pleased with their purchase — even with crossovers plucked from a homogenous pool of now limitless depth.

And, barring quality headaches down the road, their feelings might stay that way, too.

While I never held any deep dislike for Lexus’ compact NX, aside from the fact that its nose is undoubtedly the most prominent — and unprotected — in the industry, desire or even “interest” were never needles that budged off the baseline. What could change this perception? Driving one. Read More >

By on April 15, 2019

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo front quarter

Hyundai turned itself into a successful brand by building sensible, reliable cars and crossovers that match up nicely with the competition. Where rival carmakers have a product, Hyundai has a very similar alternative. Making a sale by imitating the class leaders is generally a winning strategy.

And then you have the 2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo – a car that really has no similar rival. No other automaker offers an asymmetrical three-door, sloped-rear-light hatchback. No matter how functional it is or how well it drives, all conversations about the Veloster start with its funky layout.

Read More >

By on April 13, 2019

Inmage: Nissan

Regardless of which angle it’s viewed from, Nissan’s next-generation Versa stands atop a box and screams “Nissan!” for all to hear. From the side, you’d be forgiven for thinking someone shrunk the Maxima. Looking at the upward-sweeping character line and upstairs/downstairs door handles, its identity could be that of the new Altima. Head-on, a pedestrian might think they were being run down by a Leaf.

Yes, the 2020 Versa keeps it in the family in terms of design, donning a corporate grille and styling flourishes borrowed from its larger siblings. Perusing the car’s specs, it seems that — flat-bottomed steering wheel aside — its mission hasn’t changed one iota. Read More >

By on April 11, 2019

2018 Hyundai Kona

One of my personal auto reviewer “rules” is that I try to test any vehicle I drove on a press junket later, at home, even if it’s months later (and even if it’s many months before I get around to writing about it). I do this because the potholed roads and unpredictable weather of the city I call home stand in stark contrast to the pleasant places where automakers hold their splashy first drive events.

I also do this because driving a car in normal grocery-getting duty is different than driving it hard on a twisty road, because I don’t always get to drive on the freeway on a junket, and because a car reveals things about itself over the course of several days or a week that it wouldn’t in just a few hours.

Enter the 2018 Hyundai Kona. Several months after driving it on the Big Island of Hawaii (not long before that volcano erupted — the same one I toured while there. Did I piss off the volcano gods somehow?), I took possession of one here in Chicago. Would I think differently about the Kona, in one way or another, after a week behind the wheel? Or would I just end up confirming my first-drive review?

Spoiler: It’s more the latter than the former.

Read More >

By on April 11, 2019

Tesla Model 3, Image: Tesla

Tesla’s lackluster first-quarter deliveries report did more than spook analysts and investors — it also provided the rationale for Panasonic to reevaluate its relationship with the automaker. Japan’s Nikkei Asian Review reports that the battery maker, which partnered with Tesla on the automaker’s Nevada Gigafactory 1, has grown cold feet.

The publication reports the two companies have frozen spending on the Nevada plant, culling plans for an expansion of battery production. Not only that, Panasonic has decided not to invest in Tesla’s Shanghai vehicle/battery production facility. Read More >

By on April 5, 2019

2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

Today’s crossover craze may be in part a rebuke of minivans, but that hasn’t stopped Chrysler from putting effort into the class.

After all, if the company that more or less invented the modern version of the people-toting minivan was offering up a subpar effort in the class, that wouldn’t reflect well on it. Chrysler doesn’t have to worry about that, as its Pacifica minivan has fought the Honda Odyssey for top billing in the class seemingly since its launch.

One thing the Pacifica offers that the Odyssey doesn’t? A hybrid version.

Read More >

By on April 4, 2019

Image: GM

As new vehicle prices continue to climb, many wonder how high MSRPs can go before the public decides to take a pass — assuming they haven’t already. Sales growth is slowing, even in seemingly bulletproof markets like China. Even before this ominous backdrop unfurled, dealers were making noise about new car prices that had grown overly ambitious, claiming they couldn’t endure another period of sustained economic hardship.

Edmunds estimates that the average transaction price of a new vehicles reached $36,495 in December 2018 — a 3 percent increase compared to December of 2016 and a 13 percent increase compared to December of 2012. Taking that knowledge, Road & Track compiled a broader picture of the new-car market and where it might be going.

Spoilers ahead if you don’t want the unpleasant non-surprise ruined.  Read More >

By on April 4, 2019

2019 Ford Transit Connect front quarter

Welcome to the least hip car segment – the minivan. It’s what our parents drove, right? Nobody wants to be as tragically uncool as their parents, even as they themselves become parents.

Might I, an experienced parent, suggest something to the millennials and hipsters who are starting to reproduce? Consider getting back to the minivan genre before it becomes cool again. Be the parent who values utility and comfort over the overstyled, overstuffed crossover that every other new parent rushes out to buy. The moment you ease a rear sliding door open with one hand while swinging the bucket-style baby carrier right into the seat with the other is a revelation, especially after dealing with narrow-opening traditional doors found on sedans and SUVs.

In other words, it’s van time. Be the envy of the other new parents. Be different. And take a good look at all your options, because beyond the usual suspects lies this 2019 Ford Transit Connect Wagon. It has some surprising features that make it stand out.

Read More >

By on April 3, 2019

2019 Lexus LS 500 front quarter

A big luxury sedan is sedate, ponderous, and numb. Insulation from everything outside the cockpit is paramount. Arriving refreshed and relaxed is the order of the day in this class of car.

The little F-Sport badge on the tail of this 2019 Lexus LS 500 changes everything. While one can still chauffeur grandma to church in class and comfort, after she’s been dropped off that drive can quickly change from refreshing to invigoration with a turn of a knob. The idea of a LS F-Sport is nearly as absurd as that of a Miata Brougham with a padded vinyl roof and opera windows. It’s a Brooks Brothers suit with a pair of Brooks running shoes.

It’s unexpected – but it works.

Read More >

By on April 2, 2019

2020 Ford Escape

Ford unveiled the all-new 2020 Escape in dramatic fashion by turning the fabulous Henry Ford Museum’s Greenfield Village into “Escapeville.” The automaker seated members of the media on bleachers, but in a moment of trickery, it turned out said bleachers were mobile (insert Jim Hackett “mobility” joke here), and as they moved rearward, the Escape moved out from under sheets (Ed. note — This sentence has been changed to provide clarification. The original wording incorrectly implied that the Escape drove out from under the bleachers). Quite the effort, but it shows how important the Escape is, especially to Ford’s sedan-free future.

Initial press reaction to the Escape’s frontal appearance was, “huh … unexpectedly nice.” Following the moving bleacher introduction was a trip down a fictitious “Main St., USA,” with groups of actors playing out scenes of 2019 Americana, doing things that Americans do. Playing basketball. Unloading suitcases. Dancing, singing, and playing instruments. A man in camo returning home from war, presumably, with a dog that was being fed many treats to comply with his military master’s directions.

As we passed over an intersection, the first car left and three more entered our field of view.  The whole town joined in celebration around the new Escapes as the music ended.

As we sat in the middle of a transformed Greenfield Village, I couldn’t help but wonder … is Ford trying to convey that the new Escape might be to today’s market what the Model T was to America a century ago?

Read More >

By on March 28, 2019

It used to be that, if you were a “Ford Truck Man,” that’s all you drove. In fact, this author and his friends used to frequently quote the Toby Keith classic anytime someone exhibited an overabundance of brand loyalty. The borderline hysterical ad includes a scene with Keith hitchhiking through the desert, refusing rides from anything that lacks a blue oval on the grille. Hyperbolic for sure, but it kind of felt like that’s how people shopped for trucks back then.

Plenty of people still shop for a new pickups in this manner but, according to a recent survey, buyers are becoming increasingly less loyal as truck prices continue to climb.  Read More >

By on March 27, 2019

TTAC’s Slack channel honed in on muscle cars the other day. As the discussion progressed, a question came to light which your author hadn’t previously considered. It’s a simple enough inquiry, yet there are many variables to consider.

Today we talk about the least sporty muscle cars.

Read More >

By on March 26, 2019

Image: FCA

As Fiat Chrysler prepares the Jeep Gladiator for its highly anticipated dealer debut, consumers are gearing up for the first midsize pickup conceived of outside the boundaries of established industry norms in quite some time. The Gladiator is very different from the competition. It looks like a modified Wrangler, has a removable windshield, soft or hardtop roof, and doors, and even comes with a manual transmission option. It’s also new, which is noteworthy in itself.

Midsize pickups have a tenancy to linger. The second-generation Chevrolet Colorado first appeared in 2012 and Toyota’s Tacoma typically enjoys a ten-year lifespan before the manufacturer feels the itch for a full redesign. Even Ford’s Ranger is a reheated leftover sourced from the global market. While not necessarily a shortcoming in itself, the segment suffers from a distinct lack of innovation — and that’s exactly where the Gladiator could find its place in the sunRead More >

By on March 25, 2019

Earlier this year, Mazda showed off its all-new 3 sedan in Los Angeles. The new compact’s intent is to impress a revised, upscale image on the brand. While the 3 delivered in quality, overall refinement, and driving enjoyment, it managed only middling marks with regard to power.

Now, Mazda has upped its game with a more stylish hatchback variant and the additional capability of an all-wheel drive system. But do style and substance mesh in the more expensive hatchback? We went back to California to find out.

Read More >

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