Over the past two months, I’ve had two chances to take a Ford Lightning for a quick spin — once around the scenic village of Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin (which you probably know as the home of the famed Road America racetrack) — and once around the block in a part of Chicago dotted with strip malls.
Is it possible to be both overwhelmed and underwhelmed? Does the whelming up and down cancel itself out, leaving one with just the right amount of whelm? Or is there some sort of exponential curve, resulting in either a surplus or deficit of whelmification?
The red squiggly lines provided by the good people behind Microsoft Word tell me that I’m stretching the bounds of both language and reason here – but reason may not have been in the room when the folks in Munich plotted this 2022 BMW M8 Competition Gran Coupe. Heck, we can quibble on the language there, too, when considering the traditional definition of a coupe. But looking at the specs and the window sticker can lead one to conclusions that are occasionally not delivered upon slipping behind the wheel, thus leading to my conundrum.
It’s a new week, and I’m back with another German car Rental Review for your enjoyment! Today’s rental is one of two American market entrants into the premium compact five-door liftback segment, and not a car one expects to find in an Enterprise lot. Presenting a 2020 Audi A5 Sportback, two years and 50,000 rental miles later.
As a fan of the midsize luxury sedan class, it’s sad to see how many manufacturers have given up on the segment. The German trio still has their stalwarts, but Japan gave up in 2020 (RIP Lexus GS), the only American still in the ring is the Cadillac CT5, and its outlier status is accompanied by newcomer Genesis with the G80.
It’s a dying class, which is why your author was especially pleased to spend the Memorial Day weekend with a longstanding headliner of the German luxury sedan genre: A 2021 BMW 5-Series.
While I’m nobody’s idea of an environmentalist, I do my best to make an effort here and there to reduce my impact on the world at large. I recycle what I can. I try to choose products that are reusable where possible. I try to leave my thermostat reasonably cool during the winter and encourage my kids to follow President Carter’s advice to put on a damned sweater.
I live, however, almost exactly two hundred miles from Detroit – the font from which all of my media loan vehicles spew forth. Until quite recently, I was thus unable to sample electric cars such as this 2022 Nissan Leaf, since the advertised range wasn’t quite enough to get such a car to me. As such, the following shall be both an assessment of Nissan’s EV and of the state of charging infrastructure in non-coastal areas.
Those of us with memories longer than a goldfish can think back all the way back to last year and remember the hype surrounding the Hyundai Santa Cruz. A hype train that quickly derailed when Ford’s Maverick launched just a few months later and proved itself better at doing “truck things” than the Santa Cruz.
Thing is, as great as the Maverick is, the Santa Cruz is still a pretty cool little trucklet – if you understand its limits.
Lawyers are the fun police, aren’t they? Always getting in the way of you doing something interesting and/or stupid, right? Every week when I get a new vehicle to test, it’s prefaced by a few pages of legalese to be electronically signed, with a number of restrictions and prohibitions on what you can and cannot do with the vehicle.
Upon scheduling the delivery of this 2022 Nissan Kicks, I spoke with a Nissan representative, thinking I might be able to weasel my way past one of those lawyerly lines keeping my teenage daughter, turning 16 the day the Kicks arrived, from driving the smallest Nissan. No dice, I’m afraid, so I had to put myself (figuratively, of course) into her shoes, imagining what the Kicks might be like for a new driver.
No one needs a V8 in a Jeep Wrangler. But sometimes brands do things just because they can. Which is the case with this particular Jeep – there’s a freakin’ Hemi underhood, for no other reason than Jeep can do it.
Well – there’s one other reason. The company can rake in some serious cash.
The words ‘all-new’ and ‘seismic shift’ are too frequently hurled around by those who peck their way around a keyboard between visits to shrimp-laden buffet tables. Still, when the country’s best-selling vehicle – the image of which is so closely tied to America that it might as well have a baseball hat and an apple pie in its glovebox – is fitted with an entirely new method of powering its way down the freeway and around job sites, even the j-j-jaded TTAC team will sit up and take interest.
Compared to other efforts in the electric pickup truck space, such as ridiculously angular examples loudly and annoyingly defended by fanbois jihads groups of rabid admirers, the Ford F-150 Lightning actually exists in vast numbers and is actively being cranked out of a factory near Detroit. There’s no shortage of vaporware in the EV truck segment, with numerous Barnum-like companies making grandiose promises amounting to naught, taking the hopes and cash of others down along with them.
With the F-150 Lightning, Ford is definitely *not* peddling vaporware. It’s here, it’s real, and we drove several examples last week in – where else? – Texas.
I’ll admit it – I sometimes forget Kia’s Sportage exists.
That’s not because the current-generation Sportage is a bad vehicle. No, it’s because it competes in a crowded class and certain stalwarts and newcomers have commanded the market’s attention in recent years.
Enter the 2023 Kia Sportage. Thanks to a major redesign, this five-seat crossover is ready to ram its way back into the spotlight, for better or for worse.
Everybody’s going electric these days, it seems. Or at least, electrified. The 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe is Jeep’s latest entry in the electrified-vehicle space (sorry for that bit of marketing speak, I must need more coffee), following, of course, the Wrangler 4xe.
Getting electrified might be good for the ‘ole CAFE standards – but is it worth the price premium? Will electrification change a vehicle’s character – and if so, for the better or for worse?
To find out, I headed deep to the heart of Texas last month.
I’m well aware that I’m remarkably privileged to do what I do here at TTAC. I’m a car enthusiast, getting paid to go play with cars. Friends often will ask what I’m driving this week, rather than the usual small talk about the weather. A touch of envy seeps into the conversation when I reveal that I’m driving a high-end luxury car or some powerful sportscar.
When it comes down to it, however, I’m using whatever car arrives in my driveway that week as my primary driver: First, to properly evaluate it for you, dear reader, and secondly, to keep miles off the cars in my driveway. But I’ll always need my own cars, as I need to get to my office for the day job and I don’t always have media loaners upon which I can rely. One of my own cars, however, will be reappropriated soon as my eldest turns sixteen in about a week – and my other car – a vintage Miata – isn’t particularly suitable for year-round driving.
So, this is where my privilege comes in – I’ve been using this second career as an extended test drive to find my next daily driver. While those high-end luxury cars would be a lovely addition to the fleet, quite frankly they don’t pay me enough here. So, I’m looking toward more reasonably-priced ways to get where I’m going – and something that provides cheap thrills like this 2022 Volkswagen Jetta GLI might very well be the ideal choice.
The “hot compact” segment has its players, and they all seem to have a defined role.
This is especially true when we’re talking about compacts with more than two doors, especially if they offer a three-pedal option and are priced under $40K.
The Subaru WRX is the all-wheel-drive one. The Honda Civic Si is the bargain one. The Volkswagen GTI is the balanced hatchback one. The Hyundai Veloster N is the quirky three-door one. The Volkswagen Jetta GLI is the refined one.
In some cases where a product is offered in a series, each successive generation is improved and is greater than the last. In other cases, the maker hits upon relative perfection early and later generations can never quite live up to the legend. In the arts, for example, while Indiana Jones fans can argue the merits of Raiders of the Lost Ark versus The Last Crusade¸ you won’t find any sane person suggesting that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is anything but a dank shadow of the past glories. Similarly, my fanatic daughter tells me that the third book (Prisoner of Azkaban) in the Harry Potter series is the best, and all other editions pale.
We are now looking at the eighth generation of hot hatches from Wolfsburg with this, the 2022 Volkswagen GTI. Is it the greatest GTI ever, or has Indy jumped into a lead-lined refrigerator with this latest redesign?
The popular image of Henry Ford must be rolling over in its gilded grave at the proliferation of option packages and customization choices available these days. Of course, I’m talking about his ode to speeding up mass production – “Any color, so long as it is black” being the supposed mantra to make the Model T line move more efficiently.
While most automakers don’t let you run quite as wild with the options list as one might have in the Sixties, some cars do offer a dazzling array of options packages and standalone features allowing you to “customize” your vehicle to your anticipated needs. The 2022 Ford Bronco seen here is one of the most prolific in that regard, offering (by my count) eight different trim levels taking the offroader from mild to Wild(trak) and beyond.
This two-door Outer Banks trim sits somewhere in the middle of the lineup – it offers more luxury and convenience features than the base trims while wearing a set of road-focused, somewhat low profile all-terrain tires and 18” wheels compared to the sixteen and seventeen inchers found on the more hardcore models. Could the Outer Banks be the Goldilocks package?
There’s an argument to be made Mazda is the little car company that could. Representing a sliver of the American market compared to its larger competitors, the Hiroshima-made vehicles are typically infused with the type of driving fun that’s seemingly been surgically removed from the vehicles with which it competes.
Actually, the term ‘Hiroshima-made’ is no longer totally correct. With the introduction of the 2023 CX-50 crossover you see on these digital pages, Mazda now has a manufacturing footprint in this country to the annual tune of 150,000 vehicles. It’s only fitting they’d deploy this new capability for the type of rig most Americans prefer: An all-wheel-drive crossover with an off-road attitude.
We love categorization, don’t we? We must always define exactly who or what something or someone is before we can be satisfied. Whether by gender, race, political persuasion, religion, society has always done great things when we reduce to base characteristics and put everyone into their neat little boxes.
Cars are like this too. We have definitions for compact, subcompact, full-size, and midsize cars – but the definitions are always in flux. Crossovers and SUVs are their own Linnaean nightmare – and don’t get me started on how to define luxury. It used to be 10 steers worth of leather and enough road isolation to allow for delicate medical procedures in the backseat, but times have changed. The 2022 Genesis GV70 is a different look at tall car luxury.
The deck was stacked against the CT4-V Blackwing long before it rolled into my driveway. My seat time in Cadillac’s latest compact sports sedan came after not only a stint in the unfortunately-styled-but-otherwise-very-good G80 BMW M3 but also the Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, the latter of which is arguably the greatest sports sedan that’s ever been produced. Yes, the CT5 occupies a different space (and price point) in the market, but these two cars are so similarly styled, it’s easy to mistake one for the other at a glance.
You’ve probably seen them, especially if you live in a big city. Three-wheeled vehicles that straddle the line between car and motorcycle that often travel in packs, driven mostly by men in their 30s and 40s.
Adult toys of the non-sexual variety.
Can-Am Spyders. Morgan 3 Wheelers. And Polaris Slingshots. I was loaned one of the latter last year.
Ford loves to dig from the well of history when it comes to naming various versions of its Mustang performance coupe. We all know that.
Perhaps, though, that inadvertently puts pressure on each edition to live up to expectations set by past models sharing a moniker. Expectations that may have been set decades ago.
Fortunately for us enthusiasts, Ford has generally made sure any Mustang that gets slapped with a special nickname has lived up to the name. That’s true of the most-recent Shelby models, the recent-vintage Bullitt, and now, the Mach 1.
Back in 2016, I had plenty of nice things to say about Cadillac’s flagship performance model of the day, the third-generation CTS-V. But while Cadillac’s naming conventions have become much more convoluted over the past six years, on paper the CT5-V Blackwing seems like more of the same: A big, boosted V8 still remains under the hood, and it’s still underpinned by an updated version of GM’s Alpha platform. The interior still isn’t on par with its German rivals, and because it’s still rear-wheel drive, it’s still a few ticks behind its all-wheel-drive competition in the sprint to 60 MPH.
Yet despite these objective facts, the CT5-V Blackwing proves to be a stone-cold revelation. Yes, the re-introduction of the six-speed manual transmission plays a significant role in that, but there’s much more going on here than just the availability of a third pedal. Not only has Cadillac addressed virtually all of the shortcomings that held the CTS-V back from venturing into instant-classic territory, they’ve refined and improved the formula in so many subtle ways that the CT5-V Blackwing feels like a totally different car.
I took a few days off in December for a vacation, flying out to New Mexico just in the nick of time to avoid the rise of the Omicron variant of COVID. I’d need a rental car to get from the airport in El Paso, Texas, to Las Cruces – and to tool around town a bit, maybe.
Being on an automotive journalist’s salary and knowing I’d likely never have more than one passenger at a time, I decided to go the least-expensive route and get a compact – “compact” by the rental-car company’s definition, but subcompact per the EPA.
“Nissan Versa” or similar, the Web site said. Not great, but something I could live with for a few days. I didn’t need a lot of space or comfort.
Ford’s full-size Bronco has been hogging the spotlight all year long, but the smaller Ford Bronco Sport, which actually rides on the Escape platform, is doing all it can to get some attention.
Exhibit A: The off-road chops of the Badlands trim – which is meant to spend time in the dirt. This little ‘ute is pretty dang good on pavement, but it also did things that shocked and surprised me when I took it to the Badlands Off-Park in Attica, Indiana. The name is just a coincidence.
Let me start this by saying that I considered the previous Golf R to be the all-around best enthusiast vehicle available in its price range during its time on sale. That’s particularly high praise coming from someone whose performance tastes generally gravitate toward V8-powered, rear-wheel-drive coupes, but I think Volkswagen had achieved something remarkable with the Mk7. It was a car that had the dynamic chops to hang with some very serious hardware out in the canyons but didn’t need to shout about it from an aesthetic standpoint, and it also sacrificed very little in terms of daily drivability and practicality to get there.
Beyond the fundamentals, the Mk7 Golf R had other important elements sorted out too – solid interior materials in a well laid out and comfortable cabin, a class-leading infotainment system with a nice-sounding stereo – that sort of thing. Automakers can get away with phoning in some of that stuff when it comes to their top-tier performance cars because enthusiasts tend to have different priorities than mainstream buyers do, but Volkswagen didn’t half-ass it. This is all to say that the Mk7 Golf R set the bar pretty high.
Continuously-variable automatic transmissions (CVTs) are often criticized – and that criticism is often well deserved. Some CVTs, however, operate seamlessly and smoothly, and Nissan makes more than a few of those.
Unfortunately, the CVT in the 2021 Nissan Sentra SR I tested earlier this year does the opposite. Its unrelenting whine and drone spoil an otherwise surprisingly good time.
The GMC Yukon formula is familiar. Big and comfortable with a powerful engine getting things motivated. It’s a winning formula, too – the Yukon is quite popular, as you know.
Underneath, the formula remains the same. Stylistically, though, chances were taken. And that roll of the dice doesn’t pay off quite as well.
GMC had the sense not to mess with the powertrain, but the attempt to keep the styling current is a bit of a messy miss in this application.
There’s a meme floating around, as memes do, with little localized variants. The one I see here in my little slice of Ohio reads something like: “Treat yourself like Interstate 70. Never stop working on yourself, no matter how much it inconveniences others.” Like most humor, there’s a bit of truth there – it always seems as of I-70 west of Columbus stretching at least to Indianapolis is in a constant state of either construction or in need of construction.
It was here on the pockmarked slab west of town I found myself driving on a brisk Sunday morn in the 2021 Volvo XC60 T8 Polestar Engineered, hoping to experience the floaty-but-controlled ride I knew from my old 740 wagon and other spawn of Gothenburg. Not here. That Polestar Engineered badge adds a serious dash of sporting intent to the midsized crossover – a car already quick from three, count ‘em three, power adders to the ubiquitous two-liter four.
Really, this crossover has the feel of a buttoned-down hot hatch. How does it work, as the Brits like to say, on the school run?
BMW has become a bit of a wild card. From confusing naming conventions to controversial styling decisions, the Bavarian automaker has become no stranger to various forms of ridicule lately, particularly from the enthusiast set. With a rich performance history on and off of the track, the company has amassed a fervent fanbase that’s somehow both stuck in the past and impatient for the future.
They cite classics like the E30 M3 and E39 M5 with rose-tinted nostalgia and wonder why BMW can’t capture lightning in a bottle again – while also adding the performance, technology, safety, and comfort that they’ve come to expect, of course. And never mind the fact that the BMW Group reported record-breaking sales numbers in the first quarter of this year while largely ignoring the peanut gallery.
Jeep has one of the tougher challenges in the business, especially when it comes to its longest-running nameplates, such as Wrangler and Grand Cherokee.
That challenge is this – how to keep models that are based on an old-school formula, one that heavily involves off-road chops and, in this case, an optional V8 engine, modern.
Jeep has been up to the task so far with the Wrangler, even introducing a hybrid to the line. Now it’s the Grand Cherokee’s turn.
Just like with the heavily updated Golf GTI, that’s cause for a sigh of relief.
Perhaps even more so, since the Jetta GLI doesn’t get the same high-falutin’ interior treatment. Thank God for keeping it old school.
If you’re a Volkswagen Golf GTI fan, you were probably worried that Volkswagen would screw it up as they refreshed it for 2022.
Here’s the good news – the company (mostly) didn’t do that. Especially when it comes to the most important part of GTI ownership – on-road driving performance.
The 2022 Volkswagen Golf R remains a potent backroad weapon – almost too potent.
I came to this conclusion while driving part of North Carolina’s famed Rattler highway. The Golf R, one of the hottest of hot hatches, was making me feel a bit like a superhero thanks to stout brakes, the ability to shorten straightaways, and firm and accurate steering that allowed me to place the wheels exactly where I wanted/needed them to be.
And all this while I was driving relatively conservatively because I was on a public road. Imagine this car unleashed on a track.
For car freaks – and they don’t get any freakier than the B&B – a car is more than just a transportation appliance. We end up involved with our cars. We care for them. We worry about them. Some of us even name them.
My last car, a ‘15 Audi A3 2.0T Quattro, was Mitzi – petite, German, cute, fun … and not very easy to live with. If Mitzi had been a human female, she’d have been a blast in the sack and high-maintenance and kind of clueless the rest of the time. A great mistress and a lousy partner, if you will. The “it’s not you, it’s me” conversation had been coming for a while, and when used car prices went bonkers, it felt like the right time to kiss Mitzi on the forehead and say goodbye.
That’s how I ended up on a car-search journey that took several months and ended with one of the best hard decisions a car freak can be faced with: Choosing between a VW GTI or Jetta GLI. Which one won my heart? Read on.
Country Squire for the Modern Era
Coming off my second consecutive Buick Enclave lease, I decided it was time to add a smidgen of efficiency to the primary goal simply being roomy enough for the family. This is a car for my wife and her driving is skewed heavily toward city driving in congested traffic situations. I have three children who are all involved in year-round sporting activities and these days the miles are piling up fast.
The family hauler is used quite extensively, racking up about 20k miles per year. So, 15 mpg and 250 miles per fill-up just weren’t cutting it anymore. Interior space for my family of five, which includes giant offspring, is of course job one. My 14-year-old son is 6’2″ and my 11-year-old daughter is already 5’6″. They aren’t going to be shoehorned into the jump seats that some popular three-row vehicles pass off as being fit for human occupants … especially on multi-hour trips for travel sports, vacations, etc.
I’ve long struggled to understand the existence of four-door hatchbacks that are called “coupes” (to me, a coupe has two, not four, doors), have sloping rooflines, and are typically sold by import luxury brands.
I struggle a lot less when one is hopped up on the vehicular version of steroids.
“You don’t need it, but you’ll want it.”
It’s a common refrain when discussing bonkers performance vehicles, particularly ones that are based on family haulers. I’ve said a version of that a time or two in reviews I’ve written here and elsewhere. But some cliches are cliches because they’re true.
On the other hand, sometimes just because you want something cool, it’s not the practical choice.
Enter the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT Hellcat.
When the Grand Cherokee originally debuted back in 1993, Americans were just warming up to the idea of daily driven sport-utility vehicles. The idea was pretty straight-forward: Take the capability of the Cherokee XJ, tune it for real-world drivability, tweak the look, and add some creature comforts that shift the scales away from the utilitarian toward the premium.
Nearly three decades later the concept remains largely the same, but the all-new Grand Cherokee L is worlds apart from the first generation ZJ. Aside from the third row (a first for a Grand Cherokee), this decked-out SUV rolls around on decidedly massive 21-inch wheels, boasts massaging front seats covered in quilted Palermo leather and a 19-speaker McIntosh audio system, and floats on an adjustable air suspension with adaptive dampers – latter of which is also a first for the model.
Minivans are rarely sexy, but that won’t stop companies from trying to make them attractive, with varying degrees of success.
The gang in Auburn Hills decided that eye-pleasing design might help the 2022 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid capture sales. With that whole “hybrid” thing thrown in for a good measure of green cred.
The approach mostly worked, at least within the limitations that the van shape imposes on creativity. The Pacifica Hybrid is, dare I say, stylish.
In the beginning, someone created the buggy. Now the buggy was primitive and lacked more than a couple of horsepower, and darkness was over the surface of the automotive world because this buggy had leaf springs.
And some engineer said, “Let there be a functional suspension,” and there was a coil spring – and, if you liked Mopars, maybe a torsion bar. And this engineer called the coil spring good and the leaf spring crap. And so, there was day and night, buggy suspensions and a reasonable ride, and the engineer created cars in his own image, and old trucks were the serpent.
And so, trucks from time immemorial have been infested by poor-riding leaf springs because they could handle great loads. But these trucks, they did handle like the Leviathan, so some have moved to the proper coil spring, good and true, to hold up their cargo. The 2022 Toyota Tundra has been so blessed with coil springs, among many other improvements. But is it good?
Remember that scene in the famed 1968 shoot-em-up Bullitt where Lieutenant Bullitt, after surviving a harrowing car chase up and down the streets of San Francisco, a chase that ended in the fiery deaths of some black-suited bad guys in a Dodge, went and picked up his Saint Bernards from the dog groomer and then took his daughter and her boyfriend to lacrosse practice in his four-door Mustang GT crossover electric vehicle?
You don’t remember it (unless you regularly attend Phish concerts) because Ford has never built a four-door ‘Stang before the Mach-E, and it certainly has never built an all-wheel drive pony car, and for the love of Pete, ‘ol Henry’s namesake most certainly has never built such a thing with the “GT” moniker, the label it reserves for its most throaty, hairy-chested, terrifying torque-monster of a street ‘n strip muscle car.
Until now of course. I submit the Mustang Mach-E GT, pumping out a gajillion horsepower and a bazillion lb-ft. o’ torque, and what has two giant thumbs and got to drive such a device on his favorite Northern California backroads? This guy.
If you want a large SUV and want performance, Dodge is happy to oblige. I mean, the brand even built a Hellcat Durango, fer chrissake.
Of course, not everyone wants the insanity that is a Hellcat, yet some buyers still want performance that goes above and beyond the norm.
Enter the 2021 Dodge Durango SRT 392.
Mid-size luxury sport sedans sometimes come up short when it comes to the sport part of the equation. Acura’s TLX, for the most part, does not.
Yeah, I know, I just gave away my conclusion upfront, thus violating a basic guideline of writing a review. Stick around to find out why I came to that conclusion after the local press fleet tossed me the keys all those months ago (hence the snow).
When Volkswagen invited us to test drive the all-wheel-drive version of the ID.4 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, I hesitated.
Fly all the way to Tennessee just for a slightly different version of a car I drove a few months ago? A place that’s been one of the worst COVID hotspots during the Delta variant surge, no less? Is it worth the time out of office, even if COVID wasn’t a thing?
Then it hit me as I blasted some forlorn backroad with Eddie Rabbitt’s “Driving My Life Away” – apt for an automotive journalist – blaring on the radio. I was thinking too old school.
While Audi, Mercedes-AMG, and other luxury automakers hold performance driving programs at various race tracks across the U.S. and abroad, years ago Porsche decided to take a different tack. Now operating in seven different locations around the world, its Porsche Experience Centers are basically automotive playgrounds that showcase the brand’s performance heritage and contemporary racing efforts while also providing a facility for customers to build out custom specifications in the Personal Design Studio. The most interesting feature of the PECs, though, is the Driver Development Tracks. These purpose-built proving grounds allow drivers to put the capabilities of Porsche’s various vehicles to the test – whether that’s the at-limit handling of a Cayman or the off-road prowess of a Cayenne.
Volkswagen is in the midst of remaking its SUV lineup.
Just in the past few years the company has added a five-seat version of the Atlas – the Atlas Cross Sport – as well as adding the Taos small SUV and the ID.4 EV. Now the venerable Tiguan, which was the veteran of the group, has gone under the knife.
Like the Nissan Pathfinder it shares its bones with, the 2022 Infiniti QX60 is redone for 2022.
Infiniti folks try to shy away from the Pathfinder references and comparisons because it’s their job to sell consumers on the differences, as well as why one should pay more for the QX60 when it’s mechanically a Pathfinder.
Never mind that most car buyers, regardless of their level of industry knowledge, know that Infinitis are Nissans in fancier clothing, just like Lexus with Toyota and Acura with Honda. Luxury-car shoppers know this and don’t care – they are spending bigger bucks on the luxury brands for some combination of the following reasons: Standard features, available features, the dealer experience, interior materials, and styling.
I can’t speak to the dealer experience, but Infiniti has gotten the differentiation right when it comes to the rest of that list, especially the styling and materials. As for the feature and content mix, well, that’s going to come down to what you’re willing to spend.
As I’m sure many of you who’ve read my work here know, I’m not a full-time automotive journalist. I work in a sales career – my nights and weekends, when not occupied with my kids and their activities, are spent in my dungeon of a basement office, mashing out car reviews and other stuff. I literally take vacation from my day gig to go on the occasional new car launch for TTAC and other places. So, I don’t get to write about every car I drive – and occasionally, it takes me a while to publish on a car I’d driven months ago. Witness reviews publishing in June that have snow in the background (Ed. note: You’re not the only one. Ahem).
I’m mentioning this as it’s been about three months since I drove the 2021 Genesis GV80. It’s been a busy summer, to be certain, but I’ve had time. But every time I open a new Word doc and title it “2021 Genesis GV80 Review.docx,” I sit staring at a blinking cursor for what seems like hours before I pack it in and resolve to write another day.
My struggle comes from my complete lack of complaint about the GV80 – and my total concern that I come off to you, the Best & Brightest, as a Genesis shill. If a midsized premium SUV/wagon/crossover thing is what you need, I can think of no other vehicle that is better. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up.
It’s probably exciting to be working in transportation media at a dawn of an all-new product category. Imagine the journalists in 1964 witnessing the birth of the pony car. What about those in the mid-Nineties covering the birth of the crossover – never mind, that probably wasn’t all that thrilling. I’m picturing, instead, the newsroom at The Truth About Buggies in 1884, with cigar-chomping editors looking at telegraphed press releases touting the first automobile, sending poorly-paid flunky journalists on junkets via train with a typewriter.
Perhaps we’ve witnessed our own segment birth – or, really, re-birth – with the reimagining of the compact pickup truck market. The 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz, it would seem to anyone watching, would be the first entrant into that category. Hyundai, inexplicably, would rather you not call it a truck.
Have you ever seen those wobbly hitch-mounted cargo carriers obscuring the license plates on slow-moving SUVs – usually with a Yeti cooler and some camp chairs strapped down? Perhaps the Santa Cruz is more like that – a Tucson with a well-integrated, weather-resistant (when properly equipped) cargo carrier.
The differences between the 2022 Jeep Grand Wagoneer and the 2022 Jeep Wagoneer aren’t many.
The latter has a smaller-displacement V8, less power, an available 4×2 drive train, a cheaper price tag, and isn’t quite as deluxe. But it’s still upscale – just not quite as much as the SUV with Grand as part of the moniker.
That means the overall experience of driving the Wagoneer isn’t too different from the Grand Wagoneer, yet there are still some noticeable variations.
When the invite hit to drive the 2022 Jeep Wagoneer and Grand Wagoneer hit my inbox, I found myself a tad surprised by the location – New York City.
Or, to be precise, the roads outside the city in the Hudson Valley and Westchester County. We’d merely be laying our heads in Manhattan, with the real action taking place in the suburbs. With brief forays into strange lands named New Jersey and Connecticut.
There’s a reason why so many first drives are held in California – good roads and good weather. It’s the same reason why drives don’t take place as often in places like New York, Chicago, or even Detroit. The roads aren’t as fun to drive and are often in bad shape, and the weather is less predictable. Events that involve the (mostly) controlled environment of a track are an exception, of course.
I was still rubbing sleep from my eyes when I checked my phone upon waking. I was scheduled to drive the Hyundai Santa Cruz, and here was a notification of an email saying something about driving the Hyundai Kona N instead. Was Hyundai short a truck or something?
Nope, they just had two Kona Ns around for media to drive at the lunch stop, and those Ns had to get there somehow. Would I like to drive one?
Life circumstances force some folks to buy minivans. Others do so for the utility – coolness be damned.
Regardless of why one buys a minivan, he or she probably anticipates that the driving experience will be far from fun. But that’s not always the case – Chrysler’s Pacifica Hybrid (review forthcoming) isn’t a chore to drive. And Honda’s Odyssey is more engaging than the Chrysler.
Relative to the class, of course. We’ll get to that.
On paper, the 2021 Nissan Kicks doesn’t seem all that different.
And really, it isn’t – most changes involve the addition of new features, though the exterior is also refreshed, getting a new grille and available LED headlights.
The only real mechanical change is the addition of rear disc brakes for the SV and SR trims.
Yet when Nissan loaned me a Kicks some months back (the snow in some of these pics is a giveaway), I immediately noticed a difference, in terms of ride and handling, between the 2021 model and previous versions I’ve piloted.
The difference was slight but nonetheless noticeable.
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