Category: Car Reviews

By on March 3, 2021

2020 Hyundai Venue

We love to daydream about Hellcats and TRXs and Shelbys and even affordable sports cars like a Type R, but there are many among the masses who care not for such iron, and don’t have enough paper for those things even if they did.

Some of these folks need and/or want something even more basic than your standard Civic or Corolla. Or they want some boxy utility with paying the premium commanded by so many crossovers.

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By on February 23, 2021

2021 Ram 1500 TRX

When the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX launched last fall, the usual suspects on auto-journalist Twitter started complaining that the truck offered more power than anyone really needed, at a terrible cost to the environment, since a truck like this would suck down fuel at a distressing rate.

These folks had a point, though they seemed to ignore that the TRX is likely to sell in such small numbers that it’s unlikely these trucks will add much fuel to the climate-change fire.

Arguments about possible contribution to the destruction of our planet aside, there really is no logical reason to buy a TRX. You buy a 702-horsepower dune-jumper because you want one and can afford it. That’s pretty much it.

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By on February 22, 2021

2020 Toyota Camry TRD

I once wrote that the Toyota Camry is a jack-of-all-trades kind of car – a balanced machine that does lots of things well but not one thing in any spectacular way. I’ve also long told anyone shopping for a mid-size sedan that while the Camry is great, if they want something sporty, they need to give their attention to Honda and Mazda.

Toyota has decided to do something about that.

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By on February 19, 2021

Just then, they came in sight of thirty or forty sporty crossovers that rise from that plain. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them.

Such is the life of the sports-sedan enthusiast these days, tilting at the hulking windmills as we pray for a low, lithe vehicle with handling and power aplenty – matched with a real trunk. We ask for these things from automakers who have proven that once upon a time, such mythical creatures did indeed exist and did indeed move from showroom floors in appreciable numbers.

I’d hoped beyond hope that the 2021 Nissan Altima SR on these pages might have rekindled the old four-door sportscar soul deep within Nissan. See those “SR” letters? They look awfully close to the “SE-R” trim that graced generations of sporty Sentras and even an Altima way back when. “VC-Turbo,” too, hints at performance potential. Can this turbocharged sedan meet the increasingly quixotic and depressingly small market for three-box motors with verve?

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By on February 17, 2021

2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E

I’ve been waiting to get my grubby mitts on the steering wheel of the Ford Mustang Mach-E for over a year now.

I spent a good chunk of a weekend learning all about it before the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show. And I was all set to trek to Detroit to drive it last fall. But, well, COVID travel restrictions forced me to keep my FIB (if you know, you know) self out of Michigan. So we sent friend of the site Chad, since he was unencumbered by such things.

Finally, a scant few months later, the electric Mustang (yeah, I know. It’s on a different platform and I’m on record as not liking the use of the Mustang moniker) graced my garage.

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By on February 16, 2021

In the lead-up to my seat time with Maserati’s latest on the big track at Willow Springs International Raceway and the nondescript streets surrounding it, the automaker held a press briefing via video conference. Here, company PR chief Kas Rigas explained the “duality” of the brand, citing the original Quattroporte as the prime example.

Launched in 1963, it was Maserati’s first road car after a long string of successful, purpose-built race cars, and it featured a motorsport-derived, all-aluminum DOHC V8 ensconced in a Pietro Frua-designed grand-touring sedan wrapper.

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By on February 12, 2021

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

Several years ago now, I called the Volkswagen Atlas three-row “German comfort food.” It remains that – a boxy, slightly bland crossover that nonetheless does the basics well.

Enter the Cross Sport, which is supposed to liven things up, at least a little, by being lowered and shortened, while losing the weight that comes with the nip/tuck and the removal of the third row of seats (at least in theory. With all-wheel drive, the 2.0T is a skosh heavier than a four-cylinder, three-row Atlas. Generally, however, the two-row is lighter.). The front facelift that matches the larger Atlas is also meant to make things more interesting.

These changes only go so far. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Here we have a vehicle that is smaller but no less comfortable, and as you will see, that is just fine.

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By on February 11, 2021

2022 Acura MDXOne thing I’ve observed in my decade-plus covering this industry is that Honda and its luxury brand, Acura, seem to respond more quickly to criticism than most OEMs.

I note my bias here – I once owned an Accord – but I don’t think my former ownership of a used Honda is throwing me off. My observation, difficult to quantify as it admittedly is, seems correct.

Specific to Acura’s case, the luxury brand was panned earlier this decade for unflattering styling, subpar luxury accouterments for the class, and a slide in performance. Not all of this criticism was fair – a manual ILX is on my “weird cars I’d like to own but probably never will” list, because that thing was spunky – but nevertheless, Acura has seemingly addressed it, and addressed it well, in recent history.

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By on February 10, 2021

2021 Mazda CX-30 TurboSome cars are segment tweeners. The 2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo is one of those.

The raised hatchback is just barely a crossover, but Mazda lists it as such. Whatever it is, it does stay true to Mazda’s “zoom-zoom” marketing, and turbo power helps with that.

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By on January 29, 2021

I’m trying to imagine the buyer who walks into a Lexus dealership, ready to buy an SUV. The options can be overwhelming. No fewer than five distinct models with a bit of ground clearance dot the clean, modern showroom and perfectly aligned aisles of fresh deliveries.

The RX is the gold standard of luxury crossovers, of course – and it’s now available with a third-row great for small children, small dogs, or golf clubs. The NX and UX lean toward the more affordable scale, for upwardly mobile folks who don’t need to be mobile with a ton of stuff.

The 2020 Lexus GX460, however, is in a weird spot. It really doesn’t give the passengers much additional space over the RX, but it’s a much bigger vehicle overall. It’s a rugged, body-on-frame beast that can tame many an off-road trail. It doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the Lexus lineup – bigger LX notwithstanding. But it clearly meets the needs of many, many drivers.

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By on January 26, 2021

2021 Kia Seltos S Turbo AWD

Kia’s little Seltos urban runabout has been getting plaudits from pundits since the first drives took place last year, right before the world shut down.

Those plaudits are well earned. The Seltos isn’t spectacular, but it does what its asked of it. And while we review plenty of cars/utility vehicles/trucks around these parts that do way more than what’s necessary – seriously, the last three reviews are of two utes and a coupe of the high-performance variety – the average vehicle buyer, particularly the one without a large bank account, only really needs a car that does what’s asked of it. Competently.

That’s the Seltos. It won’t turn heads, and it probably won’t impress your friends, unless they care about practicality at a good price. But it’s no depression box. You won’t feel depressed to see it in your driveway.

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By on January 25, 2021

2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53 Coupe

For most folks, a $96K price tag is just too much. It is indeed a steep price to pay for any automobile. But spend enough time behind the wheel of the sublime Mercedes-Benz AMG E53 coupe, and that amount of cash outlay suddenly seems like a bargain.

A car this good typically fetches well over six figures.

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By on January 22, 2021

2021 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio

Following up on my previous review of the 2020 BMW X5 M Competition, I’ve got another luxurious “sporty” crossover in my crosshairs. Today’s target: The 2020 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.

Except this one has at least some Italian heritage, instead of German. Trading schnitzel for stringozzi, so to speak.

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By on January 14, 2021

2020 BMW X5 M Competition

Ridiculousness is a word – I checked. And it describes the vehicle I am about to tell y’all about perfectly.

Ya see, the BMW X5 M Competition is a perfectly fine luxury crossover that BMW decided needed a bit more spice. Never mind that the X5 has generally been one of the sportier of the lot (sporty being a relative term when applied to these types of vehicles, of course).

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By on January 4, 2021

2020 Ford F350 Tremor front quarter

I’d like to think the term wouldn’t need an explanation at this point, but for the sake of those just tuning in from parts of the country where vegan eateries outnumber personal automobiles, I’d like to offer a definition. A “brodozer” is a pejorative reference to a full-sized pickup truck, modified typically by the owner (either with traditional wrenches or the good old VISA wrench) with larger wheels and more ground clearance – among other mods.

Generally, one never sees a brodozer using that additional ground clearance for anything other than clearing curbs, but it’s nice to know that the ability to negotiate deeply rutted backwoods trails is there. The other advantage to the ground clearance is the gatekeeping function – old people without significant flexibility will struggle to ascend into the cab – making the brodozer the exclusive province of the young.

All brands of full-size trucks have been built into brodozers, but in my experience, the Blue Oval dominates the breed. Naturally, Dearborn has responded – first, with the F-150-based Raptor, and now with this 2020 Ford F-350 Tremor. It’s lifted, it’s huge, and it’s packing plenty of power. It’s a brodozer with a monthly payment.

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