Category: Car Reviews

By on April 2, 2020

2019 Toyota Avalon Hybrid Limited

Time was, you couldn’t pay me to drive a Toyota Avalon.

Okay, that’s not true – part of this job I’m paid to do requires me to drive cars and review them. Including many vehicles that would never be on my wish list.

Allow me to rephrase, then: There was a time I wouldn’t have driven an Avalon unless I was being paid.

Times change.

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By on April 1, 2020

2020 Cadillac XT6 front quarterYou’ve seen them lurking in your neighborhood. The suburban ninja. Clad head to toe in skintight black – usually from Lululemon, but other brands work here, too – they jog early in the morning and late at night, oblivious to the world beyond their AirPods. They’ll never jog on the sidewalk, either. They’re always in the street, ready to strike the hood of your car.

Drivers are taking back the streets, however, defending themselves and their precious rides by all means necessary. Cadillac has upped the game with the available Night Vision camera on the 2020 Cadillac XT6. No joke, the feature saved the good folks at Cadillac PR from headlines such as “Hack Journalist Slays Jogger.”

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By on March 31, 2020

2019 Volkswagen Jetta GLI 35th Anniversary Edition

“Schläfer” is the German word for sleeper, or so Google tells me (I spent my foreign language education on Spanish, and I can perhaps order in a restaurant using that language. Maybe). Perhaps it should just be changed to 2019 Volkswagen GLI.

Yeah, there are still sleeper cars on the market – and this delightful spin on an already reliable German econobox is one of them.

I’ve found the normal Jetta to be solid, affordable transport. But for those who want to spice up their schnitzel, so to speak, the GLI does the trick nicely. And unlike just about all of the other sporty compacts, include corporate stablemate Golf GTI, it does so without advertising what it is. Your mother-in-law won’t know this is a performance car, unless you dig deep into the throttle. Or downshift in anger to pass a slowpoke.

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By on March 30, 2020

Considering the insanity our consumer markets have seen over the past few weeks, I’m kicking myself for having let my warehouse club membership lapse a year or so ago. I reasoned that there was absolutely no need for me to buy staple foods (or paper products) in bulk quantities. There would be no circumstance short of the apocalypse where my regular supermarket could not adequately fill the needs of my family.

Yeah, I’m kicking myself.

Anyhow, that got me thinking about other things that one could buy in larger packages than normal. Looking at the photos of the 2020 Mini Cooper S Countryman I drove a few weeks ago, it clicked – this is the bulk package Mini Cooper. A fair bit more Mini than the standard three-door hatchback, the Countryman is the Mini for families.

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By on March 27, 2020

2020 Audi A6

Once upon a time, if you were shopping for a luxury vehicle that drove like a sports car, you’d get a BMW or, in some cases, a Jaguar. If you wanted one strictly for its comfort and opulence, you’d get a Mercedes-Benz or a Lexus. If you wanted a sort of ‘tweener, then you’d consider an Audi, particularly since it was one of the few in its segment to offer all-wheel drive. But these days, the German (and Japanese, and British) luxury giants have become so competitive with each other, they’re no longer separated by the unique characteristics that once defined them.

When it comes to the midsize-luxury-sedan trifecta, this trend couldn’t have been any more apparent. The BMW 5 Series seemingly gave up some of its enthusiast-minded “ultimate driving machine” superiority to focus on technology innovation while the Mercedes-Benz E-Class lost its allure for over-engineered excellence during its mix-up with the DaimlerChrysler merger of equals. Meanwhile, Audi took the lead with the A6, dethroning its direct competitors from their winning pedestals in numerous class comparisons over the years just by ticking all of the boxes incredibly well.

Does the story remain the same with the new fifth-generation model, which recently launched in our market?

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By on March 26, 2020

2019 BMW M340i front quarter

Do you consider yourself a responsible, wholesome driver? Are you a driver who maintains control in all driving situations? Or are you tempted to leave each stoplight in a snarl of revs and a haze of vaporized Michelin?

At the moment, BMW does not offer its flagship sports sedan, the M3. We are left with this, the 2020 BMW M340i. While the M3 – when it comes – will likely offer a batshit crazy amount of horsepower, I’m reminded when I drive this sensibly-powered M340i of Lord Acton’s chestnut: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

I’d like to think that I’m a decent, incorruptible fellow, thus 382 horsepower is enough for me. It’s probably enough for you, too.

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By on March 25, 2020

2019 Maserati Levante GTSOne of my longstanding beefs with certain luxury brands that share corporate families with mainstream nameplates is that many of them don’t do enough to differentiate their high-priced metal from what’s on offer further down the ladder.

Count Maserati among that number — at least when it comes to the Levante GTS. While it boasts Italian designer looks on the outside, its connection to “lesser” Fiat Chrysler models is apparent on the inside.

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By on March 17, 2020

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid

I’m not, generally speaking, a crossover fan. That said, I’m not a full-on hater, either — I understand that sometimes people need the utility offered by crossovers. And some of the compact five-seat crossovers, the small ones that aren’t rolling barges, seem to be decent tools for automotive multitasking, at least to my eye.

Take Toyota’s RAV4. Always a hit with the public, if not with enthusiasts, and the newest version is quite good.

And just like the Accord/Camry battles that have been fought since before I could legally drive, the CR-V and RAV4 are fighters in opposite corners, duking it out for buyer’s bucks. Including those buyers who want to go green.

There are many reasons one buys a hybrid — the fuel-economy gains, the green cred, or the “green” posturing/posing — but no matter what the why is, there are buyers out there who want that badge.

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By on March 12, 2020

On a cold January morning during the 2015 North American International Auto Show, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn debuted the brand’s all-new pickup truck. It wasn’t a typical full-size, half-ton offering. Rather, it was a “tweener” that sits between the half-ton and three-quarter ton trucks currently on sale. Ghosn made the business case for the truck, stating that nearly 150,000 people every year switch from a half-ton to a three-quarter ton truck or vice versa because there’s no real truck out there to meet their needs. Additionally, the truck would have a 5.0-liter Cummins diesel V8 engine.

Fast forward to 2020 and things have changed. Sales of the first-generation Titan XD were lackluster at best, and the company has completely discontinued the diesel engine and regular cab options. Ghosn himself was smuggled out of Japan in an instrument case back to Lebanon to avoid the Japanese legal system. But there is a new version of the Titan XD, and Nissan claims things will be different this time.  Read More >

By on March 9, 2020

2020 Nissan Altima front quarter

A few years ago, the family and I rented a car and drove to a national park, just like thousands of others do every year. After a few hours of hiking and sightseeing, we found a restaurant in the park for lunch. Our rental that day? A silver Nissan Altima. Here’s the weird part: there were eight more silver Altimas parked side-by-side, all with minor trim differences and stickers from different rental agencies.

It was genuinely weird.

TTAC has a long history of reviewing cars from rental agencies – initially as a ward against potential influence from the automakers, and occasionally to review cars we don’t normally see in media fleets. This isn’t one of those. This 2020 Nissan Altima AWD is a marked improvement from the rental counter – it’s no longer the ubiquitous scourge of indifferent travelers.

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By on March 6, 2020

2020 Kia Telluride

My review of the all-new 2020 Kia Telluride last year was mostly positive.

There’s a reason for this – I thought it was pretty damn good. Especially given its price point, and that it was Kia coming up with a very good three-row crossover, seemingly out of nowhere.

Yep, Kia, a brand that hadn’t been a player in this segment since its last attempt, a body-on-frame SUV called Borrego, ran into the economic headwinds of the Great Recession. Kia had help from corporate partner Hyundai – that brand’s Palisade is the more urbane sibling to Telluride – but still, Kia’s reentry to the segment seemed remarkable.

After living with the Telluride for a week as opposed to a day, that remains true.

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By on March 4, 2020

 

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

What happens to an OEM that may have been caught napping while its competitors race to fill every possible niche with crossovers?

It takes its three-row crossover, lops off the third row and some rear space, gives it a name that plays off the existing moniker, and puts it out there.

Hence we have the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, which shares its platform with the Atlas (the wheelbases are even the same) but loses about three inches of length and a bit more than two inches of height while offering seating for just five.

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By on February 25, 2020

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt

Give Ford credit – the Blue Oval could, at any time, create a special Mustang Bullitt that’s little more than an appearance package.

Yet, the current Mustang Bullitt, like the one offered a decade ago, isn’t just a GT with cosmetic changes. It’s a certified bruiser that goes as well as it shows.

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By on February 19, 2020

2020 Volvo XC40 front quarter

I’m almost certain there is an unwritten code for automotive reviewers that TTAC has generally avoided, if not openly mocked. You’ve seen the fruits of this code on newsstands, where every other month either a Camaro or a Mustang asks the other, in bold print, to STEP OUTSIDE. Another example is the inevitable requirement for someone reviewing a Volvo to somehow reference the awful Dudley Moore flick Crazy People and the “boxy-but-good” tagline.

We won’t talk about the faux Jaguar ad here. This is a family joint. For more discussion, select “private mode” on your browser of choice and look for TTAC After Dark.

Seems the good folks in Gothenburg were affected by the lighthearted fictional criticism, as since the late 1990s Volvo has been applying styling to its previously staid machines. The current-generation models are all stunners, from the largest wagons (swoon) to the smallest crossover, like this 2020 Volvo XC40 T5.

But is the beauty more than skin deep?

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By on February 17, 2020

2021 Kia Seltos

We all know what happens to you and me when we assume, and a lot of folks will assume the 2021 Kia Seltos shares its bones with the also-new Hyundai Venue.

I know I did, and when I questioned Hyundai to fact-check myself, I didn’t get a clear answer (as the two companies tend to silo their information from one another).

The assumption that the Seltos is just a re-boxed Venue is wrong. The Seltos, despite playing in the same class as the Venue and being similar in size, is actually based on a different Hyundai – the Kona.

Yes, the Kona that I mostly like (in top-trim form) and Bark ripped (in lower trim) to shreds. The same Kona that Chris also dinged for pricing problems.

Not that you’d know it from looking at it. The Seltos has a busier, more futuristic look than the Kona, although it doesn’t have the latter’s odd headlight placement. Like the Venue, it offers two-tone styling, and at first glance it looks more like the boxy Venue than the wedge-shaped Kona.

Hence, the assumptions.

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