Category: Car Reviews

By on March 19, 2019

 2018 Lexus NX 300h front quarter

The luxury crossover realm is a weird one. The market has been built on the age-old plan of taking a more basic model and adding profitable flash. The problem lies when the base model is good enough for most buyers.

Indeed, starting out with the best-selling non-truck in America means building something distinctive atop the platform is a challenge. Distinctive most certainly describes this Lexus NX 300h, in more ways than one. But beneath the surface lies a solid performer.

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By on March 12, 2019

2019 Nissan Frontier front quarter

Remember 2005? An old, ugly English prince marries for the second time. A hurricane devastates the U.S. Gulf Coast. Newlywed Chris signs a mortgage on a house and begins to prepare said house for the arrival of a newborn. And Nissan reveals the D40-chassis Frontier.

Fast forward. Charles wonders when his mom will give it up. New Orleans is still recovering. The house, the marriage, and the kid remain. And the 2019 Nissan Frontier continues on, relatively unchanged.

Stability is a good thing in life. Being able to rely upon trusted institutions is reassuring. Few passenger vehicles can be considered institutions – but the Frontier certainly qualifies.

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By on March 11, 2019

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback front quarter

Let’s face it. Most Toyotas are boring. Sure, enthusiasts get tossed the occasional bone – the 86 and the upcoming (controversial) Supra – but otherwise, the lineup doesn’t excite.

I believe that there are gearheads deep within the bowels of Toyota R&D, however. Those who recall the days when several proper performance cars shared a lot with the ubiquitous Camry.

Here is proof. No, this 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback isn’t a hardcore sportscar. It could certainly do with more power. But that Toyota brought out a new car – with an optional manual transmission, no less! – in a climate where the crossover dominates speaks volumes about the future of driving enthusiasm at one of the world’s biggest manufacturers. There is hope for drivers.

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By on March 8, 2019

Part of the appeal of pickup trucks is that they can be many things to many people.

Tow machine to haul your boat? Check. Home-improvement aid? Sure, throw those 2x4s in the back. Guarantee that your friends will call you when they need help moving, even if they never call you any other time? Sure. Cowboy Cadillac? If you like cruising the streets of Texas in comfort, pardner.

Ford’s F-150 is already at least perceived as doing all those things well – Ford doesn’t sell approximately a zillionity billion for no reason – and adding a diesel powertrain to the mix doesn’t hurt.

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By on March 5, 2019

That headline has two meanings, at least as pertains to the 2018 Stinger.

One meaning: Watch your right foot. It’s easy to quickly get this car above the speed limit.

Meaning number two: When I first drove the Stinger, I harped about its tendency for greater than desired body roll in corners. Well, that tendency doesn’t show up in urban commuting, because I wasn’t driving the car the way I did in the California mountains during its launch.

Drive it a little less hard, and its biggest flaw stays hidden. Problem solved.

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By on March 4, 2019

2019 RAM 1500 front quarter

I’ve long scoffed at the class of trucks often referred to “Cowboy Cadillacs,” those seemingly built for the well-heeled Texan deep within every suburban dad who wants to prove he’s the king of the bagged mulch pick-up lane at Home Depot. Loaded down either from the factory or a catalog with big wheels, low-profile tires, buckets of chrome, boastful badging, and plush leather, these rigs seemingly took everything that was good about a proper full-size truck and amplified the douche factor.

Then I drove one — this 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn. With badges illogically glorifying both Wyoming and Texas, I fully expected to be underwhelmed.

Nope. Not one bit. The newest Ram half-ton has had every possible superlative heaped on it, with good reason. This Ram is easily the best full-size truck you can buy right now.

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By on March 1, 2019

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe front quarter

Ah, the mainstream compact crossover. Quickly overtaking the traditional midsize sedan as the new family vehicle of choice, every manufacturer has to have one or more with which to fill the lot. The formula is simple — usually two rows with five seats, a reasonably powerful four-cylinder, benign handling, and striking-but-instantly-forgettable styling. No need to trawl manufacturer websites or dealer lots, either. Five minutes of searching for an open space at the grocery on a busy Saturday will allow you to closely inspect every possible contender in this hot class.

Hyundai’s been playing in this market with a pair of similar models for a few years — the Santa Fe with three rows, and the shorter Santa Fe Sport, with two rows. No longer (or shorter). The old embiggened three-row soldiers on as the Santa Fe XL, while the two-row model is now simply this 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe. Now that we’ve sorted the names, does this Santa Fe satisfy?

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By on February 27, 2019

2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI

There’s a reason why the Volkswagen Golf GTI is fetishized by journalists and enthusiasts as perhaps the perfect daily-driver sporty car.

Because if it isn’t, it’s damn near close.

Changes for 2018 were minimal. The 2018 got a mild standard horsepower bump (assuming you’re using premium fuel) to 220, up from 210. Other changes included a reshuffled trim lineup, newly available LED headlights, larger infotainment, and driver-assist tech that was now standard on the SE and Autobahn trims. It also gained the Golf R’s brakes and an available electronically controlled limited-slip differential.

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By on February 26, 2019

2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited front quarter

I want first to apologize to the Jeep owners of northern Columbus, and by extension all brethren of the seven-slot grille everywhere. In my week driving this 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, I neglected to properly wave in most cases.

It’s a Jeep thing, and apparently I don’t understand.

I suppose it’s an ethical thing — can I be a properly unbiased journalist if I gonzo myself into the Jeep subculture? Moreover, is this, a Jeep Wrangler with a hybrid system, a proper Jeep?

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By on February 26, 2019

2020 Toyota Corolla

I had a nickname for the Toyota Corolla once. Back in my days as an overly judgmental prepubescent teenage boy, I used to call Toyota’s honest economy car the “Crapolla.” Growing up in an affluent North Jersey neighborhood in the ‘90s, everyone and their mother had a Bimmer, Benz, or even a Bentley. If you drove a Corolla, you were either a maid at the McMansion down the street or the underpaid seventh-grade social studies teacher of the local school district.

Although a by-word for cheap, efficient, reliable, and honest transportation, I simply couldn’t see beyond its reputation as a soulless tin econobox. It was far from a total dog. Yet, it still clearly gave off the impression that it was for people who didn’t have a pulse and couldn’t care less about cars or driving them. And let’s be honest, with the Toyota Corolla surpassing the Volkswagen Beetle as the best-selling automotive nameplate in history – over 46 million Corollas sold over its 11 generations – the vast majority of the car-buying public might have a questionable pulse.

My teen years were almost 20 years ago and the Corolla has certainly changed since then. Up until 2012, the Toyota Corolla maintained complete anonymity and was more inconspicuous than a loaf of Wonder Bread. It was hardly any more exciting than the loaf in nearly every aspect.

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By on February 25, 2019

2020 Kia Soul

When you look at a Kia Soul, you likely peg it for just what it is – a boxy, utilitarian commuter vehicle. You wouldn’t expect it to be a blast to drive, or full of coddling luxury materials and content.

Sometimes, what you see really is more or less what you get. This is one of those cases, with some pleasant surprises along the way.

The updated Soul has new exterior duds, a re-imagined cabin, and a newly available turbo mill.

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By on February 19, 2019

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross front quarter

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” That adage, from George Santayana, has a less well-known corollary that I just made up: “Those who do remember the past are doomed to watch idly while our memories are sold out to create something much, much worse.”

Take the 2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross seen here. When Mitsubishi dusted off a beloved sports car nameplate to slap on YET ANOTHER CROSSOVER, enthusiasts everywhere started screaming. Their memories of late-night cruising and loud exhausts were being trampled by another jacked-up hatchback with no sporting pretense.

Yes, I was one of those enthusiasts hating the name. But then I drove the car, and I recalled that the target Eclipse Cross buyer probably doesn’t remember that not-too-distant past where the stylish Diamond Star coupes ruled the streets, and they’ll simply buy on merit, not memories.

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By on February 12, 2019

Subaru Ascent

Subaru landed on these shores with a raft of cars and totally-not-trucks (thanks, Chicken Tax) that were certainly capable when shown a rough road but were, in a word, quirky. Since then, the Pleiades brand has filtered out some of its weirdness in an attempt to capture more customers but – as we will learn – still marches to the beat of its own drummer … or at least to the beat of a flat-four.

What’s changed since our first drive of the Ascent eight and a half months ago? Anything? Did the big Subie acquit itself well during the Polar Vortex? Does our Associate Editor wear army boots?

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By on February 11, 2019

2019 Mazda CX-3 front quarter

The Napoleon complex, of course, is where those of smaller stature overcompensate by being overly aggressive. Named for the legendarily short French emperor (who may or may not have actually been all that tiny), those so afflicted may be excessively loud, with a temper matching their height.

We car enthusiasts tend to anthropomorphize our four-wheeled friends, at the very least giving them names, if not attributing characters and personalities. The original Mini, for example, is frequently compared to an English bulldog.

Thus I feel compelled to toss the Napoleon complex label on the 2019 Mazda CX-3. It’s appropriately tiny, but with spirited handling well beyond the typical in the class. It’s also quite loud.

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By on February 4, 2019

2019 Acura MDX A-Spec Front Quarter

Imagine a world in which The Fast And The Furious movie never had a sequel, let alone eight. Dom Toretto and the team didn’t keep being criminals or fighting crime — they just settled down in Southern California and had families.

In this imaginary offshoot of an imaginary world, there is one question that needs to be answered: What would Brian O’Conner drive? He and Mia certainly have a pack of towheaded children that require shuttling to daycare and soccer.

I think your answer is right here: a three-row crossover with some tuner highlights, including a pair of massive exhaust tips and big, blacked-out alloy wheels. The 2019 Acura MDX A-Spec is perfect for cruising the strip on Friday night, followed by a Saturday of dance recitals and antiquing.

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