Category: Car Reviews

By on October 30, 2020

2021 Chevrolet Tahoe front quarter

Let me indulge in a bit of inside baseball for a moment. Those of us who make (at least something resembling) a living talking about cars tend to read a good bit of our colleagues’ work – and then discuss it at length via whatever channel we have at our disposal. Indeed, that’s what has made TTAC great over the years – we’ve brought light upon those who are clearly in this field for the perks.

At times, you get the feeling that some of these people don’t even like cars. It’s like sending a vegan to rank the best barbecue joints in North Carolina.

Anyhow, we who live most of our lives online have clucked our tongues lately at a number of automotive journalists trying to bring shame upon both the makers and buyers of modern trucks and SUVs, much like this 2020 Chevrolet Tahoe. These pearl-clutching writers have willfully ignored the strides that have been made in these markets over the past few years. Shame, really, because this latest Tahoe is a genuinely great SUV.

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By on October 29, 2020

2020 Dodge Durango SRT 392

There’s a stereotype of the American tourist in Europe being loud, brash, crude, and rude – all while being what doctors would call “overweight.” It’s a popular trope to be mocked in pop culture – The Simpsons, Family Guy, and others have done it many, many times. I’m pretty sure both those two animated shows about buffoonish men and their families have hit on the theme in multiple episodes.

National Lampoon went there, too, in the ‘80s, with European Vacation, though Chevy Chase looked pretty skinny back then.

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By on October 27, 2020

2020 Audi Q8

Maybe I am softening in my old age, or maybe crossovers are getting a bit better to drive, or both, but I found myself semi-charmed by Audi’s Q8 crossover. Of course, a luxury crossover should be somewhat enticing, lest the buyer feel he or she wasted money each month when that car payment auto drafts out of the bank account.

I say semi-charmed for a few reasons. One, the Q8 is still a crossover, not a sport sedan. Two, there were tradeoffs.

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By on October 26, 2020

2020 Honda Civic Si front quarter

There was a time, not all that long ago, when I was all about Honda. I’ve lost count – at least seven variants of the big H have spent time in my various garages. Once, I even owned a Civic race car – no, it never raced in my care, but that’s a long story for another day.

Honda, despite the staid image presented by the majority of the lineup, makes it clear there are some gearheads building their vehicles. Full disclosure – some of those gearheads are friends of mine. They’ve always offered a few cars that make the experience of driving a genuine joy. Many have worn the red Si badge on the trunklid.

The thing is…after spending a week with the latest 2020 Honda Civic Si HPT, I don’t feel like I’ve driven the best that Honda can do. It leaves me wanting more. And that baffles me.

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By on October 23, 2020

For many years, the Ford Raptor has lived without any competition. Sure, there are trucks out there that claim to be “Raptor killers,” but none have competed head-on with Dearborn’s flying aluminum monster. That is, until now. The 2021 Ram TRX is not only legitimate competition for the Raptor, it beats the Raptor in a lot of ways that matter.

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By on October 20, 2020

2020 Ford Expediton. Image: Rob Eckaus/TTAC

In August of 2009, I wrote in the Ode To The Suburban that I couldn’t imagine hauling seven people around without at least a cylinder per person. Thanks to Ford’s Ecoboost 3.5-liter turbocharged V6, the Expedition Max King Ranch does just fine with only six cylinders. This engine pairs well with the joint venture Ford/GM 10-speed automatic transmission.

Ford built the massive Excursion in its lineup to counter the market-leader Suburban until 2006. The Expedition Max was introduced for 2007, adding approximately one foot in length to the cargo space, which translates to about 15 more cubic feet of space thanks to a 9.1-inch wheelbase increase. This fourth and latest-generation Expedition was introduced in 2018.

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By on October 5, 2020

Many automotive enthusiasts are excited about new luxury wagons or high powered sports cars. In TTAC’s case, many of our Best and Brightest are excited about H-Body Oldsmobiles. While I too share your excitement for the Olds Eighty Eight, the average new car buyer does not. They care about the crossovers. The compact crossover has become this generation’s Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, or Ford Taurus. The best-selling cars of yesteryear have been increasingly replaced in American garages by the Toyota Rav4, Honda CR-V, or Nissan Rogue.

Because of their popularity, whenever an auto manufacturer releases a new high-volume crossover, it’s a big deal. Last year, full-sized trucks from the Detroit Three were the best selling vehicles in America. However, the next three best-selling vehicles were the Toyota Rav4, Honda CR-V, and Nissan Rogue. Manufacturers have been hyper-focused on making these vehicles the first choice for American families. Last year, the Nissan Rogue was America’s sixth-most purchased vehicle, despite the fact that it is seven years old. So when Nissan invited TTAC to drive the all-new 2021 Nissan Rogue, we were happy to attend.

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By on September 30, 2020

Much ink has been spilled in the automotive press over the decades making reference to the “same sausage, different lengths” philosophy of product planning prevalent within the premium German marques. Generally, that’s been a rap on the highly-derivative styling between the three (or more) varieties of sedan each automaker would offer.

Today, sedans don’t matter. I mean, of course, they matter – but not so much as the almighty SUV. Who knew that when Dearborn slapped leather and a wagon body on their compact pickup truck those many years ago, it would evolve into Mercedes-Benz offering eight sorta distinct tall beasts across the lineup?

Today, we drive the smallest such offering from the three-pointed star, the 2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA250. With a starting price under $37K, it’s attractively priced to woo customers looking up from mainstream brands. Is it enough to keep them from wandering the lot?

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By on September 28, 2020

2019 Honda Ridgeline EXL Cape Tryon PEI - Image: © Timothy CainAuto high beams were not the feature I thought I’d miss when our family switched from a 2018 Honda Odyssey to a 2019 Honda Ridgeline. I spent more than three decades living in urban environments. High beam use was limited to vacations or weekend getaways in country idylls.

Even after three years of rural life, auto high beams still seemed to me to be just a frivolous luxury. At least they did, until we gave them up in the switch to the Ridgeline, which isn’t the top-spec model needed to acquire the auto high beams. It was a switch that occurred during some of the longest days of the year, when there are roughly 16 hours between sunrise and sunset on Prince Edward Island.

Now the daylight hours are shrinking and I am forced to repeatedly push and pull a signal stalk forward and back with the sheer strength of an index finger, like some sort of penurious Suzuki Equator driver. It’s cruel and unusual punishment, that’s what it is. DIY high beam engagement may well be an enhanced interrogation technique, the details of which have not yet been uncovered in a David Shepardson exposé.

Fortunately, almost everything else about the 2019 Honda Ridgeline has fostered an increasingly contented ownership experience, the likes of which I’ve ever encountered in a 5,000-mile/4-month test. Read More >

By on September 25, 2020

2020 Toyota Highlander AWD Premium

The 2020 Toyota Highlander is a pretty good improvement over the previous generation, building off an already strong foundation, but unfortunately for Toyota, it comes along just as Kia’s Telluride and Hyundai’s Palisade soar towards class dominance.

Ask anyone who made big plans for after March 1, 2020, and they’ll tell you – timing is everything.

In Toyota’s case, a very, very good three-row family hauler is getting lost in all the hype about the two outstanding Korean entries.

Somewhere, a Toyota sales manager sobs in his coffee in between Zooms.

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By on September 18, 2020

2020 Dodge Charger Hellcat Widebody. Photo: Tim Healey/TTAC

I didn’t plan for it to happen. It just did.

I had requested a Shelby GT500 loan because I’d driven the car on the launch but wanted to see what it’s like to live with the king of current Mustangs in the real world. Because the car is likely in high demand among Chicago-area automotive journalists, the loan would be short. So I’d have a gap in my schedule.

I don’t need test cars to get around. I am not dependent on them – I don’t feel beholden to the fleets or the automakers. I have other ways to get around, whether it be walking, biking, using a cab/Uber, or whatever. But I try to schedule cars each week, either so I can review them for TTAC (even if it takes a while to actually get around to the write-up, sorry gang) or at least use them as background for knowledge and comparison.

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By on September 14, 2020

2020 Chevrolet Corvette front quarter 2

Some of the best driving roads on the continent, the Hocking Hills of southeastern Ohio, lie roughly one hour from my front door. Not coincidentally, those roads are also merely four hours from every Detroit-based ride-and-handling engineer, not to mention the buff books. These twisties, shaped by the glaciers, have been worn smooth by generations of gearheads.

The hour of driving to get to the hills, however, is via a mind-numbing highway slog, often well patrolled by the local constabulary and the notorious Ohio Highway Patrol. There’s no shortcut.

This is where the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray shines. Making a sportscar manage sportscar things, while certainly no easy feat, is right in the wheelhouse of the speed-addled engineers. Making that same car not just livable on the highway, but genuinely excellent, takes some serious doing. Chevrolet has done exactly that here with the C8.

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By on September 4, 2020

2020 Lexus LS 500h AWD

Hey there, Mr. or Mrs. CEO who just got charged with making your company more “green”. Lexus has a car for you.

It carries a hybrid powertrain and boasts features meant to coddle.

You just have to get past the styling. This LS is curvy and bears a large “spindle” grille that has become a hallmark of Lexus of late — and that grille is quite polarizing.

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By on September 3, 2020

2020 Lexus ES 300h

Sedans continue to take up a significant chunk of the marketplace, but with the ever-evolving and more functional crossover SUV becoming less compromised in terms of efficiency and safety, the crossover sales takeover continues. That said, lighter-weight sedans, especially hybrids, can still net you some fuel savings.

To wit – the 2020 Lexus ES300h.

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By on August 26, 2020

The bad news comes at you daily, it seems. No, I’m not talking about the pandemic, the state of our economy, politics, or the dumpster fire that passes for public discourse these days. I’m talking about bad news that hits even closer to our hearts – the slow demise of the traditional manual transmission.

Pundits may wring hands. Activists may cling to Save The Manuals hashtags. But we know that automakers, while occasionally misguided by trends, are not collectively idiots. They only build what can sell – and very few cars with three pedals will sell anymore.

Mazda may be our last hope. The company that singlehandedly revived the affordable roadster market offers a stick in this, the 2020 Mazda 3 hatchback. Might it finally revive the enthusiast we hope lies deep within every compact car buyer?

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