Category: Features

By on June 14, 2019

Allow me to take you on a trip in the Wayback Machine for a moment. The year was 2001, and a 23-year-old Bark (that’s me) had just gotten a job as a Kiosk Sales Representative for Verizon Wireless. My first month, my sales quota was 55 new phone activations — I ended up selling over 120. If you doubled your quota, you qualified for a 300 percent payout. The regular commission was $27 an activation, which meant that I earned $81 per activation on 120 or so sales. I literally didn’t know what to do with all of the money — my dad was still paying my rent, and I didn’t have a dime of debt. A lot of it ended up going to a lovely young professional dancer named “Skyy,” if I remember correctly.

The rest of it, I took to Hatfield Hyundai for a down payment on a 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe GLX. Hyundai Finance was kind to young buyers back then, and they allowed me to pay something like 5 percent APR over 60 months for the new-for-2001 SUV. My black and gray version had every box checked — leather, V6, and all-wheel-drive. My Santa Fe was the only one I had ever seen with chrome door handles, and I door-handle checked every other model I saw on the road just to confirm. I think the princely sum I paid was somewhere around $23k.

Yes, it’s true that Hyundai overstated the horsepower numbers, and the car had some minor issues along the way, but when I traded it in on my RX-8 in 2005, I had gotten about 100,000 worry free miles from Hyundai’s first SUV effort. Overall, I was incredibly pleased with the ownership experience — bland, perhaps, but reliable and competent.

Well, fast forward about eighteen years or so, and Hyundai has another small SUV on the market, and it’s roughly the same price that my Santa Fe was in 2001 (yes, I’m aware of inflation). But unlike that Santa Fe, this one is awful. It’s called the Kona, and what I’m about to tell you about it flies directly in the face of every other review you’ve read. Why? Read on.

Read More >

By on June 13, 2019

2017 Chrysler 300C - Image: FCA

Brace yourselves and hide the kids. The Chrysler 300, an aging full-size sedan whose best sales days are long behind it, wants to add a little flair to its top-flight 300C model.

No, there won’t be a monster of an engine borrowed from a Satanic-sounding Dodge. There won’t be head-turning paint options. Instead, Fiat Chrysler will endow its glitziest model with something found on the lesser-ranked 300S. Read More >

By on June 10, 2019

fca

The domestic pickup torque wars have flared up again. Following a brief period of dormancy that came after General Motors’ 3.0-liter Duramax 3.0-liter inline-six topped Ford’s 3.0-liter Power Stroke V6 by 20 foot-pounds (460 vs. 440), Fiat Chrysler has arrived on the scene to declare itself king of the hill.

For the 2020 model year, FCA’s EcoDiesel 3.0-liter diesel V6 returns, this time without the baggage and after-the-fact modifications ordered by the federal government. It also pulls harder than its competition. Read More >

By on June 6, 2019

FCA

There’s drama in Auburn Hills tonight. And, by the sounds of it, for many days leading up to this point. Reid Bigland, Fiat Chrysler’s U.S. sales boss and the appropriately imposing head of the cash-cow Ram brand, has filed a whistleblower lawsuit against his employer.

Bigland, who joined Chrysler in 2006 and soon found himself heading up Maserati, Alfa Romeo, and Dodge, plus serving as CEO of FCA Canada (a role he maintains), claims the company’s HQ is awash in bad blood. The exec says he’s being punished for not taking the fall in a federal investigation into FCA’s sales reporting. Read More >

By on June 5, 2019

Mazda fans on this side of the Atlantic will have to wait patiently for their turn, as the innovative Skyactiv-X-powered Mazda 3 now available in Europe won’t show up here for some time.

On Wednesday, the company announced that continental buyers can begin placing orders for models equipped with a Spark Plug Controlled Compression Ignition (SPCCI) 2.0-liter four-cylinder, tossing out fuel economy and power figures along the way. Read More >

By on June 4, 2019

Upon reserving a car in the Full-size Sedan class from the people at Enterprise, your author’s mind filled with visions of Passat and Fusion, or something similar. But over on the TTAC Slack channel, Adam Tonge assured me, “They won’t have a full-size sedan for you.”

Turns out he was right. Of the three “upgrade” options presented, none was a sedan. So I picked the largest one, and the only option with a V8: this dark blue 2019 Tahoe, in LT trim.

The other two options presented were a high-trim Dodge Journey in Ticket Me Red and a presumably basic Grand Caravan in Appliance White. The Tahoe seemed like the best option, though after the completion of over 800 miles, perhaps the lesser of three evils might’ve been a more apt description. Let’s go back in time a few days… or maybe a couple of decades. It’s hard to tell.

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By on June 3, 2019

2017 ford fusion sport

It doesn’t come as a surprise, but it still hurts to learn that Ford’s modern-day take on the ’60s family performance sedan will die with the 2019 model year.

While the automaker’s doomed Fusion nameplate will live on for 2020, the brawny, all-wheel drive Sport variant will not. The automaker confirmed the model’s discontinuation on Monday, meaning performance-minded Blue Oval breeders must now turn their attention (and lust) to the brand’s ST-badged crossovers. Read More >

By on June 1, 2019

Ram Heavy Duty Saltillo Mexico assembly, Image: FCA

The profit-focused appeal of building vehicles in low-cost jurisdictions propelled many automakers to boost manufacturing capacity in America’s southern neighbor — a decision that now haunts them.

After President Donald Trump issued a Thursday statement declaring his administration would levy a 5 percent tariff on all Mexican-made goods starting June 10th, some $17 billion in market value evaporated from top automakers the following day. Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler all saw their share prices tumble. Should Trump follow through on his promise of an escalating tariff (a threat designed to stem illegal migration into the U.S.), the pain felt by both companies and their customers will be extreme.

Naturally, the industry is pushing back the best it can. Read More >

By on May 31, 2019

gm

“2.7L Turbo” — that’s General Motors’ preferred description of the large-displacement four-cylinder found in Chevrolet’s 2019 Silverado 1500. When wearing a Cadillac crest, however,  the motor generates additional grunt and serves as the main motivator for the new CT4-V, a sportier version of Caddy’s new compact.

The CT4-V (seen above) debuted alongside the hotter version of its midsize sibling, the CT5-V, in an event held in Detroit Thursday night. No, the regular CT4 was not there. After getting over the shock of a V-badged Cadillac with a four-banger mill, guests were confused to learn that there may be additional V-badged versions of these two sedans. Read More >

By on May 29, 2019

While Toyota remains tight-lipped about its next-generation Tundra pickup, the online commentariat is abuzz with rumors these past several months. The automaker holds no aspirations of unseating the Ford F-150 as king of the full-size truck segment, but numerous reports suggest Toyota at least wants to offer something on par with its modern domestic rivals. Perhaps even class-leading.

The rumors include the possibility of the Tundra sharing its new platform with its midsize Tacoma stablemate, the adoption of an air suspension system (or perhaps even an independent rear setup), and now this: a hybrid turbo drivetrain. Read More >

By on May 28, 2019

A new addition to the Ford Mustang lineup arrives this fall, just in time to do battle with a new addition to Chevrolet’s Camaro stable. As sales falter, the pony car wars are heating up. However, while these two steeds do not differ greatly in price, their means of motivation are quite dissimilar.

Now that pricing has been revealed for the 2020 Mustang High Performance Package, we can contrast it with the equally new Camaro LT1 — a bargain V8 model slotted below the SS. It’s four cylinders versus eight. Read More >

By on May 24, 2019

Image: Kia

You have to give Hyundai Motor Group credit — it’s certainly not shy when it comes to design. It hasn’t been for a while, and the 2011 Sonata can attest to that. After Hyundai toned things down for the follow-up generation, the brand realized its mistake: to get noticed alongside Camry and Accord, you needed to go way out and wild.

Perhaps too wild, some who’ve viewed the 2020 Sonata might say. However, if Hyundai’s midsizer is too much for your stomach to handle, Kia’s sister car may be the remedy you’re looking for. You know, if you’re still into sedans and all that. Read More >

By on May 23, 2019

2013 Scion FRS front snow - Image: © Timothy Cain

A lot of life changes occurred in conjunction with the sale of my old website, GoodCarBadCar. We also sold the family home in Nova Scotia, moved to rural Prince Edward Island, and quickly began spending more time behind the wheel of a Husqvarna lawn tractor than behind the wheel of any car.

From an automotive standpoint, however, the major ensuing change involved the acquisition of an older Miata. A lifelong dream became a 14-month possession, costing scarcely a dollar while entirely living up to expectations. But with a second toy acquired, in the form of a Suzuki Kingquad, attempting to justify the use of a seasonal two-seater seemed laughable considering there are two young children at home.

Naturally, I sold the Miata and bought that famed minivan alternative, a 2013 Scion FR-S. (Our family vehicle is a 2018 Honda Odyssey.)

10 months later, with most of the time spent on winter tires, the FR-S is gone. It was just too practical. Too flexible. Too reasonable. Too functional. Too pragmatic. Read More >

By on May 14, 2019

As much as it pains us to say it, manual transmissions are on their way out. While car enthusiasts bemoan the matter incessantly, as we just did, the reality is that most drivers aren’t interested in owning something with a stick. It’s gotten to a point where many automakers no longer offer vehicles with a manual transmission, or just keep one high-performance model around with an optional clutch pedal just to appease a subset of their customer base.

Toyota, which sells more manual models than most, recently spilled its guts to CarBuzz after the outlet requested the company reveal the percentage of its new cars still sold with a manual while attending the Supra launch event.

The resulting figures are about what you’d expect.  Read More >

By on May 14, 2019

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Orange Fury On Track

Somehow, while I wasn’t looking, the box office has become dominated by movies featuring superheroes. Iron Man, Batman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, and the like have used various superpowers to make tons of cash for stale popcorn purveyors worldwide. Avengers: Endgame is raking it in as I type.

I won’t pretend to drop any movie references here  – I’ve never really been into the genre. Nothing against the various costumed fantasy characters and those who love them, but my heroes typically wear Nomex. Jerry Titus, Dan Gurney, Ronnie Bucknum, and Parnelli Jones are some of the legendary drivers who drove heroic machines to glory.

The machine is important in this movie, too. Loud, brash, and most importantly fast, a noble steed for motorsports triumph is critical. Ford has drawn upon an incredible back catalog to refine the Mustang into this, the spectacular 2019 Shelby GT350. Built for track duties, but with enough refinement to make it livable on the street, the GT350 is the All-American Superhero. Captain Blue Oval, perhaps.

And the only spoiler alert I need here comes with a Gurney flap.

Read More >

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