Category: Car Reviews

By on January 13, 2022

Bradley Iger/TTAC

Back in 2016, I had plenty of nice things to say about Cadillac’s flagship performance model of the day, the third-generation CTS-V. But while Cadillac’s naming conventions have become much more convoluted over the past six years, on paper the CT5-V Blackwing seems like more of the same: A big, boosted V8 still remains under the hood, and it’s still underpinned by an updated version of GM’s Alpha platform. The interior still isn’t on par with its German rivals, and because it’s still rear-wheel drive, it’s still a few ticks behind its all-wheel drive competition in the sprint to 60 MPH.

Yet despite these objective facts, the CT5-V Blackwing proves to be a stone-cold revelation. Yes, the re-introduction of the six-speed manual transmission plays a significant role in that, but there’s much more going on here than just the availability of a third pedal. Not only has Cadillac addressed virtually all of the shortcomings that held the CTS-V back from venturing into instant-classic territory, they’ve refined and improved the formula in so many subtle ways that the CT5-V Blackwing feels like a totally different car.

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By on January 12, 2022

 

I took a few days off in December for a vacation, flying out to New Mexico just in the nick of time to avoid the rise of the Omicron variant of COVID. I’d need a rental car to get from the airport in El Paso, Texas, to Las Cruces – and to tool around town a bit, maybe.

Being on an automotive journalist’s salary and knowing I’d likely never have more than one passenger at a time, I decided to go the least-expensive route and get a compact – “compact” by the rental-car company’s definition, but subcompact per the EPA.

“Nissan Versa” or similar, the Web site said. Not great, but something I could live with for a few days. I didn’t need a lot of space or comfort.

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By on December 29, 2021

Ford’s full-size Bronco has been hogging the spotlight all year long, but the smaller Ford Bronco Sport, which actually rides on the Escape platform, is doing all it can to get some attention.

Exhibit A: The off-road chops of the Badlands trim – which is meant to spend time in the dirt. This little ‘ute is pretty dang good on pavement, but it also did things that shocked and surprised me when I took it to the Badlands Off-Park in Attica, Indiana. The name is just a coincidence.

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By on December 28, 2021

Bradley Iger

Let me start this by saying that I considered the previous Golf R to be the all-around best enthusiast vehicle available in its price range during its time on sale. That’s particularly high praise coming from someone whose performance tastes generally gravitate toward V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive coupes, but I think Volkswagen had achieved something remarkable with the Mk7. It was a car that had the dynamic chops to hang with some very serious hardware out in the canyons but didn’t need to shout about it from an aesthetic standpoint, and it also sacrificed very little in terms of daily drivability and practicality to get there.

Beyond the fundamentals, the Mk7 Golf R had other important elements sorted out too – solid interior materials in a well laid out and comfortable cabin, a class-leading infotainment system with a nice-sounding stereo – that sort of thing. Automakers can get away with phoning in some of that stuff when it comes to their top-tier performance cars because enthusiasts tend to have different priorities than mainstream buyers do, but Volkswagen didn’t half-ass it. This is all to say that the Mk7 Golf R set the bar pretty high.

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By on December 23, 2021

Continuously-variable automatic transmissions (CVTs) are often criticized – and that criticism is often well deserved. Some CVTs, however, operate seamlessly and smoothly, and Nissan makes more than a few of those.

Unfortunately, the CVT in the 2021 Nissan Sentra SR I tested earlier this year does the opposite. Its unrelenting whine and drone spoil an otherwise surprisingly good time.

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By on December 20, 2021

Tim Healey/TTAC

The GMC Yukon formula is familiar. Big and comfortable with a powerful engine getting things motivated. It’s a winning formula, too – the Yukon is quite popular, as you know.

Underneath, the formula remains the same. Stylistically, though, chances were taken. And that roll of the dice doesn’t pay off quite as well.

GMC had the sense not to mess with the powertrain, but the attempt to keep the styling current is a bit of a messy miss in this application.

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By on December 13, 2021

There’s a meme floating around, as memes do, with little localized variants. The one I see here in my little slice of Ohio reads something like: “Treat yourself like Interstate 70. Never stop working on yourself, no matter how much it inconveniences others.” Like most humor, there’s a bit of truth there – it always seems as of I-70 west of Columbus stretching at least to Indianapolis is in a constant state of either construction or in need of construction.

It was here on the pockmarked slab west of town I found myself driving on a brisk Sunday morn in the 2021 Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered, hoping to experience the floaty-but-controlled ride I knew from my old 740 wagon and other spawn of Gothenburg. Not here. That Polestar Engineered badge adds a serious dash of sporting intent to the midsized crossover – a car already quick from three, count ‘em three, power adders to the ubiquitous two-liter four.

Really, this crossover has the feel of a buttoned-down hot hatch. How does it work, as the Brits like to say, on the school run?
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By on November 22, 2021

Jo Borras/TTAC.com

The Mercedes-Benz EQS 580 4MATIC is the three-pointed star’s first real attempt at an all-electric flagship in its 100-plus year history, and its importance to the brand cannot be overstated. Simply put, Tesla is already beating Mercedes-Benz, and the upstart, 500-mile range Lucid Air isn’t going to pull any punches, either. The EQS must come out swinging, then, and it absolutely cannot fail to deliver on the promise of that “S”.

I recently had a chance to take an extended test drive in both the 2022 Mercedes-Benz EQS 450+ and 580 4MATIC models at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, and the experience was – let’s say “not what I expected”.

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By on November 17, 2021

Bradley Iger/TTAC.com

BMW has become a bit of a wild card. From confusing naming conventions to controversial styling decisions, the Bavarian automaker has become no stranger to various forms of ridicule lately, particularly from the enthusiast set. With a rich performance history on and off of the track, the company has amassed a fervent fanbase that’s somehow both stuck in the past and impatient for the future.

They cite classics like the E30 M3 and E39 M5 with rose-tinted nostalgia and wonder why BMW can’t capture lightning in a bottle again – while also adding the performance, technology, safety, and comfort that they’ve come to expect, of course. And never mind the fact that the BMW Group reported record-breaking sales numbers in the first quarter of this year while largely ignoring the peanut gallery.

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By on November 16, 2021

 

2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Tim Healey/TTAC

Jeep has one of the tougher challenges in the business, especially when it comes to its longest-running nameplates, such as Wrangler and Grand Cherokee.

That challenge is this – how to keep models that are based on an old-school formula, one that heavily involves off-road chops and, in this case, an optional V8 engine, modern.

Jeep has been up to the task so far with the Wrangler, even introducing a hybrid to the line. Now it’s the Grand Cherokee’s turn.

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By on November 12, 2021

2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI. Tim Healey/TTAC

The 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI may be changed, but its character remains the same.

Just like with the heavily updated Golf GTI, that’s cause for a sigh of relief.

Perhaps even more so, since the Jetta GLI doesn’t get the same high-falutin’ interior treatment. Thank God for keeping it old school.

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By on November 9, 2021

2022 Vokswagen GTI. Tim Healey/TTAC

If you’re a Volkswagen Golf GTI fan, you were probably worried that Volkswagen would screw it up as they refreshed it for 2022.

Here’s the good news – the company (mostly) didn’t do that. Especially when it comes to the most important part of GTI ownership – on-road driving performance.

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By on November 5, 2021

 

Volkswagen Golf R. Tim Healey/TTAC

The 2022 Volkswagen Golf R remains a potent backroad weapon – almost too potent.

I came to this conclusion while driving part of North Carolina’s famed Rattler highway. The Golf R, one of the hottest of hot hatches, was making me feel a bit like a superhero thanks to stout brakes, the ability to shorten straightaways, and firm and accurate steering that allowed me to place the wheels exactly where I wanted/needed them to be.

And all this while I was driving relatively conservatively because I was on a public road. Imagine this car unleashed on a track.

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By on November 2, 2021

For car freaks – and they don’t get any freakier than the B&B – a car is more than just a transportation appliance. We end up involved with our cars. We care for them. We worry about them. Some of us even name them.

My last car, a ‘15 Audi A3 2.0T Quattro, was Mitzi – petite, German, cute, fun … and not very easy to live with. If Mitzi had been a human female, she’d have been a blast in the sack and high-maintenance and kind of clueless the rest of the time. A great mistress and a lousy partner, if you will. The “it’s not you, it’s me” conversation had been coming for a while, and when used car prices went bonkers, it felt like the right time to kiss Mitzi on the forehead and say goodbye.

That’s how I ended up on a car-search journey that took several months and ended with one of the best hard decisions a car freak can be faced with: Choosing between a VW GTI or Jetta GLI. Which one won my heart? Read on.

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By on October 29, 2021

The Gamper

Country Squire for the Modern Era

Coming off my second consecutive Buick Enclave lease, I decided it was time to add a smidgen of efficiency to the primary goal simply being roomy enough for the family. This is a car for my wife and her driving is skewed heavily toward city driving in congested traffic situations. I have three children who are all involved in year-round sporting activities and these days the miles are piling up fast.

The family hauler is used quite extensively, racking up about 20k miles per year.  So, 15 mpg and 250 miles per fill-up just weren’t cutting it anymore.  Interior space for my family of five, which includes giant offspring, is of course job one.  My 14-year-old son is 6’2″ and my 11-year-old daughter is already 5’6″. They aren’t going to be shoehorned into the jump seats that some popular three-row vehicles pass off as being fit for human occupants … especially on multi-hour trips for travel sports, vacations, etc.

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