Category: Car Reviews

By on July 8, 2019

2020 Ford Explorer

For four generations, Ford offered the Explorer with rear-wheel drive as standard. It went front-drive for the fifth.

Now, the standard drivetrain is rear-drive again. Back to basics, so to speak.

Except, not really. First-gen Explorers didn’t have infotainment systems, or 10-speed automatic transmissions, or available hybrid powertrains. Those staples of modernity have been added over the years.

Whether it was out of nostalgia or an attempt to capitalize on the resurgence of dinosaur-themed tent-pole cinema, or simply an attempt to make us overfed journos get a quick guffaw, Ford PR trotted out an early ‘90s example, complete with Jurassic Park livery, for us to gawk at (rumor has it we may be able to get behind the wheel someday. Fingers crossed). I opened the door and was greeted with what was the new-car smell of my youth. This Explorer needed no 10-speed, no Sync, no hybrid, to charm. Could the 2020 version do the same as it returned to a rear-drive base?

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By on June 26, 2019

In case you haven’t noticed, America’s truck wars are in full swing. Now, more than ever, the Detroit Three are gleefully beating each other over the head with a proverbial chair printed with towing and torque figures. Prodigious power? Sure. Enormous cabins? Yewbetcha. Grilles to the moon? They got ya covered, buddy.

Hot on the heels of a half-ton rethink, the crew at Chevrolet turned their attention to the Heavy Duty series of pickups. In a perpetual race with their competition, and the introduction of new engines and no fewer than fifteen camera views, you know this thing is going to haul trailers like a large poutine from Frank’s Diner turns your author’s bloodstream into artery putty.

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By on June 25, 2019

2019 Buick Envision front quarter

Around these digital pages, Buick gets a bad rap. Some have negative connotations of Buick as an old person’s car (disclaimer, my paternal grandfather was a Buick man) or hold grudges simply because the brand was continued while Oldsmobile and Pontiac were killed off during the Great Recession (disclaimer, my father was an Oldsmobile man), seems few have good things to say about the division from Flint.

Disclaimer: I hate the theme music from Buick’s TV commercials.

Let’s make a deal, then. Let’s try and ignore the badges on this 2019 Buick Envision for a few minutes. Let’s evaluate this entry-level luxury crossover against the competition, rather than against whatever demons lurk within our collective subconscious.

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By on June 25, 2019

2018 Suzuki DRZ400sM 2005 Lexus LS430 - Image: © Timothy Cain

You needn’t be an automotive writer to know that when a key is tossed in your direction, you catch it. If it’s the key to a winter-garaged, low-mileage, 2005 Lexus LS430, you grab the key and run.

I rode to a work two weeks ago on the new Suzuki DR-Z400SM with which I replaced my 2013 Scion FR-S. It’s something I do a few times per week. The bike’s fun. It’s a riot. It’s a rip-roaring good time. But it is a process. Want to meet the fam for a hastily arranged early lunch? Once I’m all geared up, I head outside and wait for the carbureted Suzuki to rediscover a happy idle. Gloves on. Cuffs straightened. Helmet cinched. Leg heaved over the lofty supermoto. Many minutes later, I’m finally on my way.

So much for the early lunch.

Two Tuesdays past, however, my good friend Jeff heard me heading out and said, “Hey, take the Lexus.” His dad’s Lexus, that is, and formerly his grandfather’s Lexus. In this moment, I not only entered deeper into the vehicular recesses of an infamous Island clan, I set up an impromptu comparison test the likes of which may never again occur. Read More >

By on June 24, 2019

2019 Chevrolet Blazer front quarter

As I’ve been reviewing cars for this venerable publication for nearly three years, I’ve noticed how easy it is to become jaded about new cars. While I’m not like some journalists, getting handed keys to six figure exotics every week, I am rather lucky to experience cars on a regular basis that frequently cost more than I’d likely ever spend with my own money.

I’m reminded of this most often when something unusual graces my driveway, and a neighbor strikes up a conversation — or when I’m walking back to the car from the supermarket and someone is waiting to ask about the car. It doesn’t happen often — but this new 2019 Chevrolet Blazer RS seemingly compels conversation.

Plan your trips accordingly.

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By on June 24, 2019

If we were to have told you a few short years ago that The General would soon be producing mass copies of a rear-drive vehicle powered by a turbocharged straight six diesel, you’d have had us committed to the nearest madhouse. After all, such a bumf reads like sport European sedan from the eighties, when cars were cars and most passengers were terrified.

But it isn’t a sports sedan, nor even a performance coupe. Getting inline at GM these days means moving into a Silverado half-ton pickup truck, the latest entrant from the Detroit Three in a quickly escalating war of diesel supremacy in trucks not competing in the Dreadnought-class. These are the volume trucks, folks, and all of the diesel powertrains — Ford, Chevy, and Ram — displace an identical 3.0L from their six cylinders.

Differences abound between the three, causing your friendly neighborhood gearhead’s mind to temporarily out of control, even more so than it does after his third ration of Lamb’s Rum. Let’s dive in and decipher it all.

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By on June 19, 2019

2019 Honda Accord Sport front quarter

It’s back, baby! Enthusiasts cried in 2001 when, amid The Fast and the Furious fever, Honda pulled the plug on their bigger sports coupe offering, the Prelude. It wasn’t selling well, as the Civic had grown to fit American tastes, and the beloved Acura Integra had just been supplanted by the more powerful RSX. Still, there are enthusiasts who lament the loss of the beloved coupe.

While I detest the “four-door coupe” moniker being applied to sedans with a steeply raked backlight, it doesn’t take a big stretch of imagination to see a coupe atop this page if you squint. Thus, I’m calling it – this 2019 Honda Accord 2.0T Sport is the return of the Prelude. The postlude, perhaps.

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By on June 14, 2019

Allow me to take you on a trip in the Wayback Machine for a moment. The year was 2001, and a 23-year-old Bark (that’s me) had just gotten a job as a Kiosk Sales Representative for Verizon Wireless. My first month, my sales quota was 55 new phone activations — I ended up selling over 120. If you doubled your quota, you qualified for a 300 percent payout. The regular commission was $27 an activation, which meant that I earned $81 per activation on 120 or so sales. I literally didn’t know what to do with all of the money — my dad was still paying my rent, and I didn’t have a dime of debt. A lot of it ended up going to a lovely young professional dancer named “Skyy,” if I remember correctly.

The rest of it, I took to Hatfield Hyundai for a down payment on a 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe GLX. Hyundai Finance was kind to young buyers back then, and they allowed me to pay something like 5 percent APR over 60 months for the new-for-2001 SUV. My black and gray version had every box checked — leather, V6, and all-wheel-drive. My Santa Fe was the only one I had ever seen with chrome door handles, and I door-handle checked every other model I saw on the road just to confirm. I think the princely sum I paid was somewhere around $23k.

Yes, it’s true that Hyundai overstated the horsepower numbers, and the car had some minor issues along the way, but when I traded it in on my RX-8 in 2005, I had gotten about 100,000 worry free miles from Hyundai’s first SUV effort. Overall, I was incredibly pleased with the ownership experience — bland, perhaps, but reliable and competent.

Well, fast forward about eighteen years or so, and Hyundai has another small SUV on the market, and it’s roughly the same price that my Santa Fe was in 2001 (yes, I’m aware of inflation). But unlike that Santa Fe, this one is awful. It’s called the Kona, and what I’m about to tell you about it flies directly in the face of every other review you’ve read. Why? Read on.

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By on June 11, 2019

2019 Volvo V90 CC front quarter      

Ever since Volvo showed the V90 wagon in Detroit in 2017 – in journo-bait brown, no less! – I’ve been keeping an eye out for this stunningly styled family hauler. I never see them, especially not in that lovely Maple Brown hue. Are wagons dead?

I rather hope not.

So, while the V90 is still nominally available, the very similar Volvo V90 Cross Country is a more frequent sight on our roads. With a few tweaks to appeal to those who want to cosplay as an uncouth mountain dweller, the low-slung wagon is transformed into something resembling a crossover.

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By on June 7, 2019

As much as I’d like to write every review the instant a loaner car leaves my site, sometimes travel or other duties take precedent and the review gets back-burnered for a while. Sometimes, a long while.

That’s usually okay – I take notes and have a pretty good memory for each vehicle. But on rare occasions, a car starts to fade from memory before the taillights even disappear from sight.

That’s usually a bad thing. Usually. But I get the sense that sometimes a certain car is engineered to be unmemorable.

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By on June 4, 2019

Upon reserving a car in the Full-size Sedan class from the people at Enterprise, your author’s mind filled with visions of Passat and Fusion, or something similar. But over on the TTAC Slack channel, Adam Tonge assured me, “They won’t have a full-size sedan for you.”

Turns out he was right. Of the three “upgrade” options presented, none was a sedan. So I picked the largest one, and the only option with a V8: this dark blue 2019 Tahoe, in LT trim.

The other two options presented were a high-trim Dodge Journey in Ticket Me Red and a presumably basic Grand Caravan in Appliance White. The Tahoe seemed like the best option, though after the completion of over 800 miles, perhaps the lesser of three evils might’ve been a more apt description. Let’s go back in time a few days… or maybe a couple of decades. It’s hard to tell.

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By on May 21, 2019

2019 Toyota Corolla

Y’all are probably gonna flay me for what I am about to write. I know, because one of our contributors took it on the chin (no pun intended) earlier this year after writing up the 2020 Corolla sedan.

That’s okay. I can take it. You guys out there fling arrows at us sometimes and we’re cool with it. It’s part of the job. Still, I am ducking (metaphorically speaking, do you know how hard is to type while ducking? Hurts your neck, man).

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By on May 14, 2019

2019 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 Orange Fury On Track

Somehow, while I wasn’t looking, the box office has become dominated by movies featuring superheroes. Iron Man, Batman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, and the like have used various superpowers to make tons of cash for stale popcorn purveyors worldwide. Avengers: Endgame is raking it in as I type.

I won’t pretend to drop any movie references here  – I’ve never really been into the genre. Nothing against the various costumed fantasy characters and those who love them, but my heroes typically wear Nomex. Jerry Titus, Dan Gurney, Ronnie Bucknum, and Parnelli Jones are some of the legendary drivers who drove heroic machines to glory.

The machine is important in this movie, too. Loud, brash, and most importantly fast, a noble steed for motorsports triumph is critical. Ford has drawn upon an incredible back catalog to refine the Mustang into this, the spectacular 2019 Shelby GT350. Built for track duties, but with enough refinement to make it livable on the street, the GT350 is the All-American Superhero. Captain Blue Oval, perhaps.

And the only spoiler alert I need here comes with a Gurney flap.

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By on May 13, 2019

2020 Toyota Supra

The howling denizens of the Internet may not be a representative sample of real life, but they are loud nonetheless, and they’ve seemingly had it in for the Toyota Supra since the wraps came off.

It’s too much a BMW, they say. It doesn’t feel like a real Supra, thanks to all those German parts underneath. Others (understandably) whined about teaser fatigue, or complained about the car’s styling.

While subjective complaints about a car’s looks are understandable, and while I understand the complaints about the new Supra not being Toyota enough (I did ask for a percentage breakdown of Toyota/BMW parts content; the company politely declined to comment), all of the noise ignored one thing – what it’s like to actually drive the damn thing.

That’s what will likely matter most to those who will drop over 50 large on this car.

Oh, that “GR” stands for Gazoo Racing, but everyone is just gonna call it Supra.

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By on May 8, 2019

2019 Volkswagen Arteon

The large-car class is a weird place these days. Not exactly a ghost town, but not exactly a hotly contested segment, either.

Rear-drive remains the purview of the Dodge/Chrysler bunch, while the rest of the segment consists of entry-luxury cruisers (Toyota Avalon, Lexus ES) and semi-sporty cars such as the Acura TLX, Nissan Maxima, Buick Regal GS, four-cylinder Kia Stinger – and now the 2019 Volkswagen Arteon.

Finally reaching our shores after a delay due to unspecified homologation hangups, the Arteon is positioned as the brand’s flagship, and it is in some ways a successor to the late CC.

Volkswagen gave us a crack at driving the Arteon, offering an opportunity to figure out exactly where it fits in the market.

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