Category: Car Reviews

By on March 17, 2020

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid

I’m not, generally speaking, a crossover fan. That said, I’m not a full-on hater, either — I understand that sometimes people need the utility offered by crossovers. And some of the compact five-seat crossovers, the small ones that aren’t rolling barges, seem to be decent tools for automotive multitasking, at least to my eye.

Take Toyota’s RAV4. Always a hit with the public, if not with enthusiasts, and the newest version is quite good.

And just like the Accord/Camry battles that have been fought since before I could legally drive, the CR-V and RAV4 are fighters in opposite corners, duking it out for buyer’s bucks. Including those buyers who want to go green.

There are many reasons one buys a hybrid — the fuel-economy gains, the green cred, or the “green” posturing/posing — but no matter what the why is, there are buyers out there who want that badge.

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By on March 12, 2020

On a cold January morning during the 2015 North American International Auto Show, Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn debuted the brand’s all-new pickup truck. It wasn’t a typical full-size, half-ton offering. Rather, it was a “tweener” that sits between the half-ton and three-quarter ton trucks currently on sale. Ghosn made the business case for the truck, stating that nearly 150,000 people every year switch from a half-ton to a three-quarter ton truck or vice versa because there’s no real truck out there to meet their needs. Additionally, the truck would have a 5.0-liter Cummins diesel V8 engine.

Fast forward to 2020 and things have changed. Sales of the first-generation Titan XD were lackluster at best, and the company has completely discontinued the diesel engine and regular cab options. Ghosn himself was smuggled out of Japan in an instrument case back to Lebanon to avoid the Japanese legal system. But there is a new version of the Titan XD, and Nissan claims things will be different this time.  Read More >

By on March 9, 2020

2020 Nissan Altima front quarter

A few years ago, the family and I rented a car and drove to a national park, just like thousands of others do every year. After a few hours of hiking and sightseeing, we found a restaurant in the park for lunch. Our rental that day? A silver Nissan Altima. Here’s the weird part: there were eight more silver Altimas parked side-by-side, all with minor trim differences and stickers from different rental agencies.

It was genuinely weird.

TTAC has a long history of reviewing cars from rental agencies – initially as a ward against potential influence from the automakers, and occasionally to review cars we don’t normally see in media fleets. This isn’t one of those. This 2020 Nissan Altima AWD is a marked improvement from the rental counter – it’s no longer the ubiquitous scourge of indifferent travelers.

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By on March 6, 2020

2020 Kia Telluride

My review of the all-new 2020 Kia Telluride last year was mostly positive.

There’s a reason for this – I thought it was pretty damn good. Especially given its price point, and that it was Kia coming up with a very good three-row crossover, seemingly out of nowhere.

Yep, Kia, a brand that hadn’t been a player in this segment since its last attempt, a body-on-frame SUV called Borrego, ran into the economic headwinds of the Great Recession. Kia had help from corporate partner Hyundai – that brand’s Palisade is the more urbane sibling to Telluride – but still, Kia’s reentry to the segment seemed remarkable.

After living with the Telluride for a week as opposed to a day, that remains true.

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By on March 4, 2020

 

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

What happens to an OEM that may have been caught napping while its competitors race to fill every possible niche with crossovers?

It takes its three-row crossover, lops off the third row and some rear space, gives it a name that plays off the existing moniker, and puts it out there.

Hence we have the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, which shares its platform with the Atlas (the wheelbases are even the same) but loses about three inches of length and a bit more than two inches of height while offering seating for just five.

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By on February 25, 2020

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt

Give Ford credit – the Blue Oval could, at any time, create a special Mustang Bullitt that’s little more than an appearance package.

Yet, the current Mustang Bullitt, like the one offered a decade ago, isn’t just a GT with cosmetic changes. It’s a certified bruiser that goes as well as it shows.

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By on February 19, 2020

2020 Volvo XC40 front quarter

I’m almost certain there is an unwritten code for automotive reviewers that TTAC has generally avoided, if not openly mocked. You’ve seen the fruits of this code on newsstands, where every other month either a Camaro or a Mustang asks the other, in bold print, to STEP OUTSIDE. Another example is the inevitable requirement for someone reviewing a Volvo to somehow reference the awful Dudley Moore flick Crazy People and the “boxy-but-good” tagline.

We won’t talk about the faux Jaguar ad here. This is a family joint. For more discussion, select “private mode” on your browser of choice and look for TTAC After Dark.

Seems the good folks in Gothenburg were affected by the lighthearted fictional criticism, as since the late 1990s Volvo has been applying styling to its previously staid machines. The current-generation models are all stunners, from the largest wagons (swoon) to the smallest crossover, like this 2020 Volvo XC40 T5.

But is the beauty more than skin deep?

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By on February 17, 2020

2021 Kia Seltos

We all know what happens to you and me when we assume, and a lot of folks will assume the 2021 Kia Seltos shares its bones with the also-new Hyundai Venue.

I know I did, and when I questioned Hyundai to fact-check myself, I didn’t get a clear answer (as the two companies tend to silo their information from one another).

The assumption that the Seltos is just a re-boxed Venue is wrong. The Seltos, despite playing in the same class as the Venue and being similar in size, is actually based on a different Hyundai – the Kona.

Yes, the Kona that I mostly like (in top-trim form) and Bark ripped (in lower trim) to shreds. The same Kona that Chris also dinged for pricing problems.

Not that you’d know it from looking at it. The Seltos has a busier, more futuristic look than the Kona, although it doesn’t have the latter’s odd headlight placement. Like the Venue, it offers two-tone styling, and at first glance it looks more like the boxy Venue than the wedge-shaped Kona.

Hence, the assumptions.

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By on February 10, 2020

2020 Jeep Gladiator

Jeep’s Gladiator pickup truck was one of 2019’s most anticipated vehicles. Fast-forward nearly a year, and it’s an award winner.

There’s no doubt it’s a capable off-roader, which is part of its appeal — and a part of why it’s an award-winning pickup. I’ve experienced it off-road, and so has contributor Chris Chin.

Thing is, most truck owners won’t taking it off-road that often, if at all. What’s it like to live with the Gladiator in urban and suburban settings? That is the key question.

In a word: Interesting.

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By on February 6, 2020

2019 Mini Cooper Oxford front quarter

I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of an Anglophile — at least in the automotive realm. I don’t take any interest in the drama surrounding England’s monarchy, nor do I drape my clothing with any form of the Union Jack. I’ve simply come to enjoy the cars of the British motoring industry.

After all, I did spend many nights and weekends as a kid rolling around a cold concrete floor, dusted in stale Castrol and kitty litter, helping to get my dad’s 1970 MGB running. I lost a pair of eyebrows to a massive backfire while sorting out tuning issues on the pair of SU carburetors. And I fondly recall the 2002 Mini Cooper S my dad and stepmother bought new — a car she still owns fifteen years after dad’s passing.

So when a new British car passes my way, I’m sure to take notice. Especially when it’s a car that has potential to create new young enthusiasts. This 2019 Mini Cooper Oxford Edition is one of those things — a bargain-price runabout that promises affordable fun.

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By on February 3, 2020

2019 Ford Raptor front quarter

Camera in hand, I left the truck idling as I descended the running board onto the dirt path. I’d planned to get a couple of quick snaps in a beautiful natural setting, considering the vehicle’s considerable off-road prowess.

The report of what could only be a 12-gauge shotgun fired a couple hundred yards away made me reconsider my artful ambitions.

Have I ever mentioned how much I appreciate good, clear rear-view cameras? I’m not the greatest at parking large vehicles, so the tech is useful in many situations — but this feature was especially helpful as the 2019 Ford Raptor and I quickly escaped a bad situation in reverse.

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By on January 30, 2020

2019 Mercedes-Benz Metris front quarter

Believe it or not, there are plenty of people who spend the majority of their days in a van of some sort. I’m not talking about the beautiful people on social media hashtagging their rebranding of the Seventies-era shaggin’ wagon as “vanlife.” I’m talking about tradespeople, for whom a van is as important a tool as a hammer or pipe wrench.

For most of my working life, I’ve worked alongside these van drivers — I’ve been selling various products to these workers for the better part of two decades. I’ve noticed over the years that the variety of vans has expanded recently. Where the parking lot of whatever supply house was once filled with cookie cutter vans from the Detroit Three — occasionally dotted with repurposed minivans — these days any variety of tall, Euro-styled boxes-on-wheels might greet me.

The Sprinter was the leader of this new vanguard, with workers praising improved driving dynamics and improved space efficiency. Now a smaller model comes, the Mercedes-Benz Metris, to deliver much of those improvements in a more city-friendly package. Can this sturdier (not-so)minivan replace the stalwarts?

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By on January 27, 2020

2019 Ford F150 Lariat FX4 front quarter

I’ve never owned a truck. Over my two-plus decades of driving, I’ve shopped for trucks new and used, but have always stopped short of stroking a check for something with a bed for various reasons big and little. Typically I needed something with more interior space, more lockable cargo space, or more comfort — but one thing always holding me back was fuel economy. Traditionally, trucks aren’t particularly efficient.

However, modern diesel engines can yield impressive economy, which is why we’re beginning to see them trickle into the half-ton range of pickups from each of the Detroit Three. Ford, long the sales leader in the segment, has given the Power Stroke treatment to this F-150, and we were curious if it improves an already impressive truck.

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By on January 23, 2020

2019 Toyota RAV4 front quarter

Well, maybe the crowd can’t always be trusted. Over the last two hundred-plus years, there have been more than a few instances where our plurality voting system has yielded suboptimal victors in statewide and nationwide elections alike.

I’ve promised before that I’d stay away from politics here, so I’m not getting any more specific than that. I’m sure I’d piss off someone who doesn’t feel like hearing my thoughts on Franklin Pierce.

Anyhow, in 2019 Toyota pushed nearly half a million of these compact crossovers out the doors, making the 2019 Toyota RAV4 the fourth best-selling passenger vehicle in America — and if you exclude half-ton pickups from each of the Detroit Three, the best selling vehicle, period. But why?

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By on January 21, 2020

2020 Hyundai Venue

At some point in the past few years, the word “basic” began being used as a pejorative, aimed at young men and women whose personal style and interests were “exceedingly ordinary,” in the words of the great Urban Dictionary.

You know the stereotype: pumpkin spice lattes and Ugg boots for women; untucked button-down shirts, Axe body spray, and dingy baseball hats for men.

Basic doesn’t have to mean bad, boring, or ordinary, though. It can also mean simple. And the 2020 Hyundai Venue is just that: Simple. And that’s not meant as a pejorative.

Which isn’t to the say the Venue is without flaws. But it’s meant for basic – there’s that word again – transport, and not much else, and it’s poised to do that job well.

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