Category: Car Reviews

By on August 9, 2019

2019 BMW X4 front quarter

There was a loud, painful sounding thunk. It wasn’t the sound of the door closing that has been compared for generations to that of a bank vault. Rather, my teenaged daughter whacked her head on the low, sweeping C-pillar, reminding me of the countless concussion protocol waivers I’ve digitally signed over her years in various competitive sports.

No damage that required missing a game, thankfully – only wounded pride. But it served as a reminder that there is a price to be paid for style. The current fashion of four-door “coupes,” whether of the sedan or crossover variety, may be trendy, but for those raising kids of greater than average height, this 2019 BMW X4 might not be the ideal statement vehicle.

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By on August 8, 2019

2019 BMW M2 Competition front quarter

Water always finds a way. Our land masses are shaped by the movement of glaciers over millennia. Our geopolitical lines are often defined by bodies of water, be it a lake, river, or ocean. Importantly to this audience, many of our greatest roads owe little to a civil engineer and all to the meander of a mountain stream.

Water finds a way, trickling from the hillside to create a damp path across one of those roadways, just over a blind ridge beyond which a sextet of motorcyclists have stopped in the middle of a narrow roadway to discuss something most certainly of incredible importance.

Turns out other liquids find a way, too, as a wee bit of wee might have leaked as I engaged any number of acronym-laden safety mechanisms designed in Bavaria to prevent headlines such as “Journalist Slaughters Six.” With the slightest sideways step, the 2019 BMW M2 Competition heeled and heeded my commands upon the two leftmost pedals, and after a few minutes to reset my blood pressure and mutter contempt for the idiot bikers, I proceeded to enjoy the rest of my drive with a massive grin.

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By on August 6, 2019

2019 Mazda Mazda3 front quarter

While professional sports in America are generally the envy of the world – especially when it comes to the variety of high-level team sports available to the fan – soccer (football to the rest of the world) does wonders for maintaining a competitive balance amongst teams due to the system of promotions and relegations. For those uninitiated, the last-place teams in the top level of the various soccer/football leagues are relegated to the next lower league, while the top teams in the lower levels move up a rung on the ladder.

Imagine this system were in place in mainstream American sports. The Cleveland Browns would be competing against high school teams by now.

I can see eyes glazing over already. “Stick to cars! Stay in your lane!” – just like every sports reporter hears any time they venture into politics. I’m getting to that. Basically, Mazda has long been compared to other mainstream Japanese brands – Honda, Toyota, Nissan. But now, they’ve put forth efforts to be promoted to an entry-level luxury brand, and the newest 2019 Mazda 3 AWD sedan seen here is ready to play in that league.

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By on August 5, 2019

2019 Toyota Avalon front quarter

You’ve seen the type. The solo diner, eating while working through emails at the restaurant or FaceTiming with their kids while in the lobby of the Hampton Inn out by the interstate. The salespeople, making the wheels of commerce and commission turn with each mile glued to the windshield, travelling the highways in search of the next big sale.

These professional drivers don’t need a CDL, though many log enough miles in a year to rival some truckers. They need a comfortable, dependable steed that doesn’t warrant a second thought – it just does exactly what they need.

While many Willy Lomans have moved to midsized crossovers for their work vehicles, there is something comforting and familiar to a big sedan for slogging multiple hours on the highway. Had I had a choice back when I was out on the road for work, something like this 2019 Toyota Avalon would have been ideal. A trunk, hiding whatever samples I was carrying from prying eyes, is something you don’t get in some me-too crossover.

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By on August 5, 2019

2020 Nissan Versa

Nissan’s Versa was previously known for one thing – being the cheapest car you could buy.

That will no longer be the case with the 2020 Nissan Versa.

An increase in price, however modest, should, in theory, correspond with an increase in quality and/or performance. The previous generation had little to recommend it beyond its bargain-basement price. Nissan is aiming to change that – the redesigned Versa will cost you more, but there’s improvement on offer.

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By on July 29, 2019

2020 Cadillac XT6

Earlier this year, on a cold winter’s evening in the city of Detroit, I snuck into a building in the Midtown area that I think is normally an art gallery, in order to see whatever Cadillac was showing at the North American International Auto Show.

I wasn’t party crashing because we’d been black-listed — I’d simply erroneously been under the impression that the event was open to all show-going media when it wasn’t. But I got in anyway.

What I saw wasn’t pleasant — a slab-sided three-row crossover called XT6 that didn’t exactly scream — or even whisper — “Cadillac.” My concerns for the brand’s present and future got worse.

Fast-forward seven months. I found myself on a plane to Washington, D.C. to drive the damn thing.

I always work to keep an open mind — what looks ugly on a show stand or on paper might actually prove to be well-built, well-priced, and a good vehicle to drive. Heck, even styling can look different in the real world as opposed to under auto-show lights.

Would the XT6 surprise me? Or would the doubt I expressed in the Motor City be borne out?

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By on July 26, 2019

2019 Kia K900 front quarter

I’m not quite to the tin foil hat stage, but I’m certain that Google’s ad servers have their cameras trained on me. No, I didn’t get caught up in that face aging app nonsense a couple weeks ago — and I’m not one for selfies. Rather, I’m sure I’m being watched, as with every new gray hair that sprouts on my beard, I seem to get more advertisements for products meant to help with aging.

From retirement planning advice, to literal beard dying products, to (ahem) virility potions and devices, there seems to be no end to the market reminders that I’m much closer to the dirt nap than I am to a nap in a crib. And the vitamin ads never stop.

Maybe this 2019 Kia K900 is yet another solution to my advanced years, with comfort and luxury meant to coddle my aching back. But I like to think of it as one of those once a day vitamins. It’s easy to use, just like a simple daily pill — but like that pill, you don’t think about it much when you’re done swallowing it. And, again like the daily dose, it’s forgettable for Kia, who sold roughly one K900 per day last year.

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By on July 18, 2019

2019 Volvo S60

Mid-size luxury sports sedans are supposed to strike a balance between comfort, sportiness, and safety. Consider the 2019 Volvo S60 well-rounded.

Riding on the same platform that underpins all 60 and 90 series Volvos, the S60 T6 I tested came with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that is both turbocharged and supercharged to the tune of 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Transversely laid out, this engine connects to an eight-speed automatic transmission and the drivetrain is all-wheel drive.

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By on July 16, 2019

2019 BMW X7 front quarter

I wanted to hate this big crossover so much. My expectations were minimal. How on earth could BMW, the standard-bearer of legitimate sports sedans for half a century, build a massive three-row SUV? It’s just a cash grab, I was certain.

Yeah, I’m supposed to be unbiased — but finding anyone that reviews cars that has absolutely no bias is a fools’ errand. Everyone here knows I’d give ten thumbs up should Renault bring a Mégane RS Trophy-R stateside. We all have our automotive loves. There are thousands who adore their Roundel-clad sedans — and will turn their nose at any perceived dilution of the brand.

I’m loath to say it, but this 2019 BMW X7 is worthy of the badge. You won’t find a racing series dedicated to the big three-row beast, but I’m sure in time you’ll find plenty in race paddocks with a caged E36 in tow.

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By on July 15, 2019

2019 Nissan Kicks front quarter

I’m not a well-traveled man. While I’ll happily drive for fifteen hours or more from my Ohio home, I rarely fly anywhere — and now that I have kids, the expense involved in winging it keeps my wallet firmly in my pocket as I gird for some windshield time. Accordingly, other than a couple of very brief hour-long jaunts to Niagara Falls and Windsor, I’ve never traveled out of the US.

But this publication — and, ultimately, my paycheck — comes from Canada. Thus, I’ve been casually dreaming of a road trip to the Great White North, exploring where many have been before — and doing it like a local. I’d stuff myself with poutine, Timbits, and donair, all while driving the unofficial car of Quebec — the dirt-cheap Nissan Micra.

I’ve yet to apply for a passport. But I have Tim Hortons here in Ohio, and I can drive something close to the Micra – the 2019 Nissan Kicks. Sure, it’s a crossover rather than a microcar, but the essence remains. Cheap, efficient, cheerful, and not-at-all sporty make for an appealing package to this dad on a budget — especially as one of the kids will be driving in a couple of years.

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By on July 12, 2019

2020 Hyundai Palisade

Hyundai and sibling brand Kia were once known for being cheap, but not necessarily the best value. That’s because cheap and value aren’t always synonymous — especially when it comes to consumer products.

That’s changed over time. Both brands have mostly shed their reputation for crap quality and have been steadily offering up products that can compete with everyone else on that front while still offering value pricing.

Kia’s Telluride is an example of that — it’s a well-built machine with premium content available at a price that undercuts rivals like the redesigned Ford Explorer. Logically, it follows that the Hyundai Palisade would pursue a similar path, since it and the Telluride are strongly related.

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By on July 10, 2019

2019 Hyundai Tucson front quarter

I’ve owned this pair of New Balance running shoes for at least 10 years. I don’t know why I call them running shoes – I’m a fat, middle-aged guy who doesn’t run unless being chased by a predator. Anyhow, they are old, worn, with dark stains from 10w-30 and greenish stains from mowing the lawn. These are not casual shoes to wear out on the town – unless your idea of date night is a run to Home Depot. They aren’t fancy, but they are always comfortable and will seemingly never wear out.

This 2019 Hyundai Tucson is the automotive equivalent of those shoes. I’m not saying it’s covered in grass stains or is otherwise ugly – but neither is it a flashy special collectors-edition limited colorway pair of hypebeast sneakers. It’s simply a solid, comfortable car that is incredibly easy to live with. I put a ton of miles on the Tucson in my week with it, and it felt like home. Like those old suburban dad shoes.

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By on July 8, 2019

2019 Lexus LX 570 front quarter

In the beginning, Willys created the sports-utility vehicle. Now, the sports was negligible and the utility was strictly for the military-industrial complex, and darkness was over two continents at war. And when the war ended, Willys said “let there be civilians who want to drink cheap beer and go rock crawling,” and there were knobby tires and lift kits.

Then the off-roaders began to multiply, each taking their own form. And it was good. But then one saw that the fruit of a tree in the garden looked like a half-used bar of soap — this tree, known as the crossover, represents all that is evil.

Lexus has embraced everything within the realm of the sports-utility spectrum. From tiny crossovers to this massive 2019 Lexus LX570, nearly all needs can be covered. But is this biggest Lexus good or evil?

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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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