Category: Car Reviews

By on December 16, 2019

Hyundai RM19

I drove the racetrack-ready Hyundai RM19 prototype, and I didn’t crash it.

The day after the Los Angeles Auto Show, while most of the rest of the assembled automotive media was either at home or in an airplane heading that way, I was in a shuttle bus heading north from Westwood/Beverly Hills towards the desert. Awaiting me would be the RM19 high-performance version of the Hyundai Veloster N.

The bus was ferrying me to Hyundai’s Proving Grounds located in/near California City, California. In addition to driving the RM19, I’d autocross a production Veloster N against the clock – something I did on the launch last year, outside of Sacramento – and be offered the chance to ride right-seat with a pro driver on an autocross in a race-prepped Veloster N. I’d also get to off-road a Palisade SUV and take a Nexo fuel-cell crossover around the high-speed track.

I skipped the right-seat ride due to lack of time, and I have little to say about autocross or the off-road. Those were merely repeats of experiences I’ve had before. The story here is the RM19, which Hyundai claims is a preview of future N products.

That exact future isn’t yet clear.

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By on December 13, 2019

2020 Mazda CX-30 lead image

Keen observers of the new car market have taken note of the proliferation of compact and subcompact crossovers, with new models shoved into niches seemingly too small to fit yet another jacked-up hatchback. Where once there might have been but a single model, today there are four or more edging more traditional cars off the showroom floor.

Mazda is no different. The CX-5 and CX-9 have won accolades as the driver’s choice among the myriad indifferent blobs clogging the lanes of every interstate and supermarket, while the subcompact CX-3 has proven to be a decent entry choice. But much like that one person behind you in the left lane who is determined to win the race to the exit half a mile ahead, Mazda is wedging its shield-shaped grille into any gap it can find.

Thus, the 2020 Mazda CX-30. Logically, this would be the CX-4, but a different vehicle exists in other markets (China, mostly) using that badge – and since so many consumers cross-shop dealerships between Beijing and Bay City, it pays to minimize badge confusion.

Where does the CX-30 fit on the Mazda lot? And does it fit in your garage?

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By on December 10, 2019

2020 Hyundai Sonata N Line

We all have that one friend who puts Tabasco sauce on everything. Even foods that aren’t meant to be spicy are doused – this person has to give their food a kick.

Hyundai’s 2020 Sonata N Line is sort of the midsize sedan equivalent of that.

I flew to Arizona to test the redesigned 2020 Hyundai Sonata, and while there I got a surprise – I’d be driving an N Line prototype part of the way back to the hotel from lunch.

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By on December 9, 2019

2020 Hyundai Sonata

Near the start of this decade, I thought the Hyundai Sonata was perhaps the most attractive mid-size sedan on the market.

I also thought it drove like crap.

The steering was disconnected from the road, it felt slower than its rivals, et cetera.

Hyundai’s next Sonata was better in terms of driving dynamics and on-road behavior, but its styling was conservative to the point of boring. It felt like Hyundai was flailing about, unsure how to build a car that both drove well and looked good, while its rivals were having no problem doing the same. Even its corporate sibling, Kia, was offering up an engaging and handsome Optima.

Enter the 2020 Sonata. It looks good (better from certain angles and with certain colors), but does it drive well? Can it walk and chew gum at the same time?

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By on November 25, 2019

2019 Honda Civic Type R profile

As I’ve mentioned before, reviewing cars here at TTAC is not my primary career. At best, I get a few hours a week working in my basement office to pound out prose that the Best and Brightest loves to critique. As such, I don’t always get around to writing about each car I’ve driven until several weeks (or more) later.

As the calendar pages tear away furiously toward a new year, like many I’ve taken stock of what I’ve done over the past eleven months. I’m realizing that of the cars I’ve had the pleasure of wheeling, there are only a few that I can legitimately picture myself buying. These cars are objects of desire and obsession for a gearhead like yours truly.

The 2019 Honda Civic Type R is at the top of the list, certainly. The blend of incredible performance and everyday utility make it a favorite of many reviewers. But that’s the problem – everybody’s written about it. What can this part-time auto scribe say about it that hasn’t yet been said?

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By on November 22, 2019

2012 Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi front quarter

Do not adjust your dial. Despite all appearances to the contrary, you have not been magically transported back in time to halfway through the Obama administration. Yes, we know the design of this venerable website hasn’t changed significantly since then, but you have to trust us on this one – it is indeed late 2019, and yet I’m driving a cab from 2012.

It’s the 2012 Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi, fresh from service on the mean streets of New York City, and with over four hundred thousand miles on the original hybrid powertrain. It’s been stripped of the meter and medallion, of course – can’t have shrimp-eating journalists trying to double-dip by hacking while being a hack – but otherwise is very close to how it rolled into Ford’s care a few months back.

It’s a marketing stunt, to be certain. Ford is using one of its oldest, highest-mileage hybrids to sell journalists and the general public on the durability of this solution to electrified motoring. I’m here to say that, while I was skeptical of this stunt, I’m now a believer.

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By on November 18, 2019

Nissan’s full-size Titan pickup truck has a problem that Nissan engineers, marketers, and product planners will probably never fix.

That problem? The truck isn’t built by one of the Detroit Three automakers.

Ram, GM, and Ford each have such loyal followings that it seems like the full-size truck market is simply impenetrable. It’s not just Nissan, either – Toyota’s Tundra faces the same challenge.

To its credit, Nissan seems to understand this. Company reps say that they know that conquest sales will be tough, so they’re focused on the over half-million truck buyers (their number) that don’t really harbor any brand loyalty, as well as current Nissan owners who may be looking to move into a full-size truck.

That may just be PR speak – putting a positive spin on things is their job, after all. Then again, perhaps it isn’t. While the Titan doesn’t have the built-in brand loyalty of its Detroit rivals, it’s not a bad truck. It’s not on par with the segment’s best two – Ram’s 1500 and the Ford F-150 – but it’s ready to tangle with Chevy and GMC. On its own merits, it’s plenty competent.

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By on November 13, 2019

There’s not a lot of major change that would be acceptable to Jeep Wrangler buyers. They have a set image of what the vehicle should look like and what it should be. Deviate too far from that formula, either in terms of style or mission, and there will be trouble.

According to Jeep brand bosses, there was one thing that buyers were “clamoring” for — an item that would change the model’s character without affecting styling or negatively affecting capability, on- or off-road.

That thing? A diesel engine.

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By on November 12, 2019

2019 Hyundai Kona front quarter

Crossovers are our future, it seems. Every time I crack open another issue of this dusty website, I’m confronted and confounded by the proliferation of tall (and not-so-tall) hatchbacks in every possible size category.

The 2019 Hyundai Kona is, for the moment, the smallest of five crossovers in the Hyundai lineup – at least until the inexplicably-smaller Venue shows up very soon. Where does it fit? Or is it destined to be a misfit?

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By on November 11, 2019

The biggest news concerning the mildly updated 2020 Honda Civic Si is either the changed final drive ratio, the addition of a volume knob, or the inclusion of Honda Sensing — the company’s safety suite of driving aids — as standard equipment.

Obviously, this means the car hasn’t changed a whole hell of a lot.

That’s a very good thing.

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By on November 4, 2019

2019 Cadillac XT4 front quarter

The race to fill every nook and niche within the crossover market is on. No gap between existing models is too small, as consumer demand for tall wagons seems insatiable. A crossover for every purse, right?

Cadillac has often been seen as trailing broad trends over the decades, and fittingly the lux brand from GM has been sedan-heavy of late. Still, the midsize XT5 has been selling well, so shrinking it a bit to fit more wallets makes sense. Thus, this 2019 Cadillac XT4 has appeared. Will it, like the marketers claimed years and years ago, become the standard of the world?

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By on November 1, 2019

If trucks are tools, some are meant for just one job, while others are capable of performing multiple tasks.

Count the 2019 Toyota Tacoma among the latter.

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By on October 29, 2019

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

Cinched into a five-point racing harness, with a head-and-neck support device attached to my helmet, I felt a bit of nerves as I awaited my turn to pilot the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 at full-tilt-boogie around a road course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Without the benefit (or restriction, depending on your point of view) of a pro driver riding right-seat.

Just a tiny bit, anyway. I’m no Bark, but I have track experience. I’d just handled a similarly powerful Hellcat Dodge Charger at an arguably more difficult track with no drama just a few weeks prior. And unlike some of the folks who fill up the press-junket buffet line, I know my limits. If I’m slower than some buff-booker with an extensive resume of laps, so be it. I’m not going to drive off into the desert in service of my ego.

That last bit helped keep me calm while waiting for my turn, but there was also this bit of knowledge on hand to keep my heart rate down: If the Mustang’s on-road behavior was any indicator, this 760-horsepower muscle/pony car wouldn’t be half as intimidating to drive at speed as it looked. This snake would be a sweetheart.

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By on October 28, 2019

They’re coming for our cars, people. “Alternative mobility solutions” are all the rage at many big automakers attempting to virtue signal (and electric-scooter) their way into social acceptability. I’m pretty certain that I heard a sweaty politician say something like, “Hell yes, we are going to take your crossover!” Even some automotive journalists have called for outright bans of private cars.

I suppose this is where I photoshop a Momo Prototipo into the infamous “from my cold, dead hands” Charlton Heston photo.

Do me a favor, friends. Let’s stem the tide. Take these car-haters for a ride in a proper sports car, like this 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF. Better yet, let them drive. All other worries of the world wipe away like raindrops on the windscreen as the right hand slots the shift lever into third, all while the corners of the mouth gently turn upward. The Miata is our last hope for motoring freedom.

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By on October 14, 2019

2020 Dodge Charger Widebody

No one has a need for a large family sedan that produces over 700 horsepower.

But I’m glad one exists.

Dodge is now offering a wider Charger Hellcat and Scat Pack in a bid to keep reminding us enthusiasts that the Charger’s aging platform may still have plenty of life left in it. Somehow, this trick continues to work.

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