2021 Kia Sorento SX First Drive - Competent Crossover Seeking Spark
Kia’s slogan of the moment is “give it everything.” Problem is, the brand only gave the 2021 most of the things, not everything.
The result is a solid crossover choice that doesn’t feel quite as well finished as the company’s larger Telluride or its K5 mid-size sedan.
I was loaned a Sorento for a very short time, but I still managed to take it out on my preferred driving loop, and my quick take based on the short drive is that the overall package here is quite good, but there are more nitpicks around the margins than I’ve had with any Kia vehicle in recent times.
2020 Hyundai Venue Denim Review - Basic Done Well
We love to daydream about Hellcats and TRXs and Shelbys and even affordable sports cars like a Type R, but there are many among the masses who care not for such iron, and don’t have enough paper for those things even if they did.
Some of these folks need and/or want something even more basic than your standard Civic or Corolla. Or they want some boxy utility with paying the premium commanded by so many crossovers.
2021 Ram 1500 TRX Review - You Don't Need It, But You'll Want It
When the 2021 Ram 1500 TRX launched last fall, the usual suspects on auto-journalist Twitter started complaining that the truck offered more power than anyone really needed, at a terrible cost to the environment, since a truck like this would suck down fuel at a distressing rate.
These folks had a point, though they seemed to ignore that the TRX is likely to sell in such small numbers that it’s unlikely these trucks will add much fuel to the climate-change fire.
Arguments about possible contribution to the destruction of our planet aside, there really is no logical reason to buy a TRX. You buy a 702-horsepower dune-jumper because you want one and can afford it. That’s pretty much it.
2020 Toyota Camry TRD Review - Spicing It Up
I once wrote that the Toyota Camry is a jack-of-all-trades kind of car – a balanced machine that does lots of things well but not one thing in any spectacular way. I’ve also long told anyone shopping for a mid-size sedan that while the Camry is great, if they want something sporty, they need to give their attention to Honda and Mazda.
Toyota has decided to do something about that.
2021 Nissan Altima SR VC-Turbo Review - Seeking Extra Raciness
Just then, they came in sight of thirty or forty sporty crossovers that rise from that plain. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them.
Such is the life of the sports-sedan enthusiast these days, tilting at the hulking windmills as we pray for a low, lithe vehicle with handling and power aplenty – matched with a real trunk. We ask for these things from automakers who have proven that once upon a time, such mythical creatures did indeed exist and did indeed move from showroom floors in appreciable numbers.
I’d hoped beyond hope that the 2021 Nissan Altima SR on these pages might have rekindled the old four-door sportscar soul deep within Nissan. See those “SR” letters? They look awfully close to the “SE-R” trim that graced generations of sporty Sentras and even an Altima way back when. “VC-Turbo,” too, hints at performance potential. Can this turbocharged sedan meet the increasingly quixotic and depressingly small market for three-box motors with verve?
2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E Premium AWD Review - Ready for a Revolution That Isn't Here Yet
I’ve been waiting to get my grubby mitts on the steering wheel of the Ford Mustang Mach-E for over a year now.
I spent a good chunk of a weekend learning all about it before the 2019 Los Angeles Auto Show. And I was all set to trek to Detroit to drive it last fall. But, well, COVID travel restrictions forced me to keep my FIB (if you know, you know) self out of Michigan. So we sent friend of the site Chad, since he was unencumbered by such things.
Finally, a scant few months later, the electric Mustang (yeah, I know. It’s on a different platform and I’m on record as not liking the use of the Mustang moniker) graced my garage.
2021 Maserati Lineup First Drive: The Song Remains (Mostly) The Same
In the lead-up to my seat time with Maserati’s latest on the big track at Willow Springs International Raceway and the nondescript streets surrounding it, the automaker held a press briefing via video conference. Here, company PR chief Kas Rigas explained the “duality” of the brand, citing the original Quattroporte as the prime example.
Launched in 1963, it was Maserati’s first road car after a long string of successful, purpose-built race cars, and it featured a motorsport-derived, all-aluminum DOHC V8 ensconced in a Pietro Frua-designed grand-touring sedan wrapper.
2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport 2.0T SEL Review - Subtract Seats, Keep the Comfort
Several years ago now, I called the Volkswagen Atlas three-row “ German comfort food.” It remains that – a boxy, slightly bland crossover that nonetheless does the basics well.
Enter the Cross Sport, which is supposed to liven things up, at least a little, by being lowered and shortened, while losing the weight that comes with the nip/tuck and the removal of the third row of seats (at least in theory. With all-wheel drive, the 2.0T is a skosh heavier than a four-cylinder, three-row Atlas. Generally, however, the two-row is lighter.). The front facelift that matches the larger Atlas is also meant to make things more interesting.
These changes only go so far. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Here we have a vehicle that is smaller but no less comfortable, and as you will see, that is just fine.
2022 Acura MDX First Drive - Driver's Choice Crossover
One thing I’ve observed in my decade-plus covering this industry is that Honda and its luxury brand, Acura, seem to respond more quickly to criticism than most OEMs.
I note my bias here – I once owned an Accord – but I don’t think my former ownership of a used Honda is throwing me off. My observation, difficult to quantify as it admittedly is, seems correct.
Specific to Acura’s case, the luxury brand was panned earlier this decade for unflattering styling, subpar luxury accouterments for the class, and a slide in performance. Not all of this criticism was fair – a manual ILX is on my “weird cars I’d like to own but probably never will” list, because that thing was spunky – but nevertheless, Acura has seemingly addressed it, and addressed it well, in recent history.
2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo First Drive - Turbocharged Tweener
Some cars are segment tweeners. The 2021 Mazda CX-30 Turbo is one of those.
The raised hatchback is just barely a crossover, but Mazda lists it as such. Whatever it is, it does stay true to Mazda’s “zoom-zoom” marketing, and turbo power helps with that.
2020 Lexus GX460 Review - A Retro Classic You Can Buy New Today
I’m trying to imagine the buyer who walks into a Lexus dealership, ready to buy an SUV. The options can be overwhelming. No fewer than five distinct models with a bit of ground clearance dot the clean, modern showroom and perfectly aligned aisles of fresh deliveries.
The RX is the gold standard of luxury crossovers, of course – and it’s now available with a third-row great for small children, small dogs, or golf clubs. The NX and UX lean toward the more affordable scale, for upwardly mobile folks who don’t need to be mobile with a ton of stuff.
The 2020 Lexus GX460, however, is in a weird spot. It really doesn’t give the passengers much additional space over the RX, but it’s a much bigger vehicle overall. It’s a rugged, body-on-frame beast that can tame many an off-road trail. It doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the Lexus lineup – bigger LX notwithstanding. But it clearly meets the needs of many, many drivers.
2021 Kia Seltos S Turbo AWD Review - Routine Competence
Kia’s little Seltos urban runabout has been getting plaudits from pundits since the first drives took place last year, right before the world shut down.
Those plaudits are well earned. The Seltos isn’t spectacular, but it does what its asked of it. And while we review plenty of cars/utility vehicles/trucks around these parts that do way more than what’s necessary – seriously, the last three reviews are of two utes and a coupe of the high-performance variety – the average vehicle buyer, particularly the one without a large bank account, only really needs a car that does what’s asked of it. Competently.
That’s the Seltos. It won’t turn heads, and it probably won’t impress your friends, unless they care about practicality at a good price. But it’s no depression box. You won’t feel depressed to see it in your driveway.
2020 Mercedes-Benz AMG E53 Coupe Review - A $96K Bargain
For most folks, a $96K price tag is just too much. It is indeed a steep price to pay for any automobile. But spend enough time behind the wheel of the sublime Mercedes-Benz AMG E53 coupe, and that amount of cash outlay suddenly seems like a bargain.
A car this good typically fetches well over six figures.
2020 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio Review - Italian Hustle
Following up on my previous review of the 2020 BMW X5 M Competition, I’ve got another luxurious “sporty” crossover in my crosshairs. Today’s target: The 2020 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio.
Except this one has at least some Italian heritage, instead of German. Trading schnitzel for stringozzi, so to speak.
2020 BMW X5 M Competition Review - Ridiculousness
Ridiculousness is a word – I checked. And it describes the vehicle I am about to tell y’all about perfectly.
Ya see, the BMW X5 M Competition is a perfectly fine luxury crossover that BMW decided needed a bit more spice. Never mind that the X5 has generally been one of the sportier of the lot (sporty being a relative term when applied to these types of vehicles, of course).
2020 Ford F-350 Tremor Review: Factory Brodozer
I’d like to think the term wouldn’t need an explanation at this point, but for the sake of those just tuning in from parts of the country where vegan eateries outnumber personal automobiles, I’d like to offer a definition. A “brodozer” is a pejorative reference to a full-sized pickup truck, modified typically by the owner (either with traditional wrenches or the good old VISA wrench) with larger wheels and more ground clearance – among other mods.
Generally, one never sees a brodozer using that additional ground clearance for anything other than clearing curbs, but it’s nice to know that the ability to negotiate deeply rutted backwoods trails is there. The other advantage to the ground clearance is the gatekeeping function – old people without significant flexibility will struggle to ascend into the cab – making the brodozer the exclusive province of the young.
All brands of full-size trucks have been built into brodozers, but in my experience, the Blue Oval dominates the breed. Naturally, Dearborn has responded – first, with the F-150-based Raptor, and now with this 2020 Ford F-350 Tremor. It’s lifted, it’s huge, and it’s packing plenty of power. It’s a brodozer with a monthly payment.
2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E First Drive: Tesla Model Y Challenger
“Is the 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E a proper Mustang?”
It’s a fair question, and one that I’m not sure I can answer. For many of you, a Mustang is a two-door, rear-drive car powered by a V8. If that’s the case, then this is NOT a Mustang. But if you are looking for a car that’s probably more fun than it needs to be, with decent storage and practicality, then the Mustang Mach-E might be something you want to look at. If you extend the Mustang definition to mean “a fun car,” then the Mach-E delivers.
2021 Ford Bronco Sport First Drive - Baby Bronco Done Right
My first car was a hand-me-down 1984 Ford Bronco II that my parents bought new. I took possession of it as a hot-to-trot teenager in 1997, happy to finally be a licensed driver and glad I was lucky enough that my parents could gift me a car, even if it was over a decade old and even if my end of the bargain was to get a job bagging groceries to pay for insurance and maintenance.
Many teens, even in the relatively well-off suburb I grew up in, don’t get a car when they reach driving age. I had friends from families who were wealthier than mine who ended up hitching rides, as they didn’t have their own wheels. So I knew I was lucky to have a vehicle to call my own.
2020 Ford Mustang Bullitt Review - Going Back to Improve the Present
We all know about the Ford Mustang Bullitt’s heritage and its connection to the movie Bullitt. We all know the main chase scene with McQueen in a Mustang and the bad guys in a Dodge Charger cemented its status as one of the great car chases in Hollywood history. The actual car used in the movie, a GT390, was owned by a family for decades, and the owner even turned down an offer from Steve McQueen himself, documented by a letter in their possession. This tale just adds to the legend.
After Driving Two Turbocharged Mazdas for Two Weeks, Mazdaspeed is Actually Kind of Alive
We all asked Mazda for more power. It was a cry rising up from virtually every corner of the automotive industry – enthusiasts, observers, analysts, insiders, owners, fans – largely due to the fact that Mazda marketed an entire lineup of vehicles as machines for keen drivers, and none of those machines offered meaningful horsepower.
The Mazda 6 dropped its V6 engine after the 2013 model year, which led to horsepower maxing out at 184 in the following iteration. The Mazdaspeed 3 and its sub-14-second quarter-mile likewise called it quits in 2013. In 2014, the Mazda 2 was still fighting with a measly 100 horsepower. While Ford sold Escapes with 245 horsepower (and 275 lb-ft of torque), the 187-horsepower Mazda CX-5’s naturally aspirated 2.5-liter was merely enough. In fact, up until 2018, the only Mazda with more than 200 horsepower was the roughly 4,400-pound Mazda CX-9.
By way of the CX-9’s 2.5-liter turbo, 2018 brought more than 300 lb-ft of torque to the Mazda 6. The same engine appeared in the CX-5 for 2019 (when Mazda amped up the MX-5 to the tune of a sub-6-second 0-60 time), and is now finding its way under the hood of the Mazda 3 and Mazda CX-30.
Two-hundred and fifty horsepower at 5,000 rpm. Three-hundred and twenty lb-ft of torque at 2,500 rpm. Six distinct body styles. Base prices (including freight) ranging from $31,000 to $35,060. Doesn’t it kind of sound as though the officially defunct Mazdaspeed performance sub-brand is actually, what’s the word we’re looking for here … alive?
Honda Talon 1000X-4 Off-Road Review: Dedicated Ride for Rocky Terrain
I’ve been very fortunate to attend eight driving schools. This one was definitely the slowest, but the fun factor was unquestionably among the highest. I was driving a four-passenger Honda Talon 1000X-4; a fantastic machine for the miles of trails present in the northwestern region of Maui. Yes, that Maui.
Featuring stadium seating for the rear passengers, Honda Talons are quite accommodating. Utilizing a 116.4-inch wheelbase (think Dodge Challenger), they are powered by a 999 cc parallel twin-cylinder engine. The acceleration was very good, even with the throttle rarely pinned to the floor. When was the last time you said that about a rental car – or off-roader?
2021 Dodge Durango Hellcat First Drive: The Three-Row, One-Year Wonder
Putting a Hellcat motor in every vehicle you sell, at this point, comes off as a bit lazy. We’ve become almost numb to cars in the Dodge lineup making 700 horsepower or more, so numb that we sometimes forget how insane 700 horsepower is in a family car. But the tactic works for Dodge, and each subsequent Hellcat I drive I find them more and more surprising. For the 2021 Dodge Durango Hellcat, the same thing applies.
2021 Mazda 3 Turbo Premium Plus First Drive - Maturing Gracefully
In my mid-20s I had a boss who once said to me “We all gotta grow up sometime”.
I don’t remember the specifics of why he said that, other than he wasn’t chewing me out or anything like that. I think maybe we were talking generally about post-college life and the responsibilities of adulthood.
The specifics don’t matter. What does, at least for the purposes of this post, is that the Mazda 3 is learning that lesson. With Mazdaspeed more or less shelved and the manufacturer trying to move the 3 upscale, away from its spunky past, while not leaving the “zoom-zoom” reputation fully behind, the 3 is supposed to be all grown up yet still cool.
2021 Ford F-150 First Drive: Now With Even More Torque
Ford Motor Company’s 2021 Model Year is full of new trucks, crossovers, and SUVs. The one hundred and seventeen-year-old company has a renewed focus on these profitable categories while no longer offering a sedan in North America. The Bronco, Bronco Sport, and Mustang Mach-E expand Ford’s vehicle portfolio while adding new segments for the brand. These are all very important products for the future of Ford Motor Company. However, none of those vehicles provide the company with the same level of revenue as the other new vehicle in the 2021 lineup; the 2021 Ford F-150.
It’s safe to say that the F-150 is Ford’s most important product. It has been the best-selling vehicle in America since 1977 and is in a segment where average transaction prices are near $50,000. In 2014, in order to create a more capable and more fuel-efficient truck, Ford moved the thirteenth-generation F-150 to an all-aluminum exterior. But between that release and today, the full-sized truck segment has become even more competitive. General Motors released an all-new Silverado 1500 and Sierra 1500 and FCA introduced a brand new RAM 1500.
2021 Hyundai Elantra/Elantra N First Drive: Opt for the Ridiculous
While the world seems to be abandoning small cars, Hyundai is committed to making them and making them great. How great? We spent some time in the entire lineup of Elantras recently to find out, including special access to the new Hyundai Elantra N.
2021 Honda Accord Hybrid First Drive - High Mileage Family Hauler
When Honda sent out the press release detailing the updates for the 2021 model-year Accord and Accord Hybrid, I shed a tear (figuratively) for the loss of the manual-transmission option in the gas models, and wondered why they were bothering with the hybrid. There didn’t seem to be much changed.
That may be true, but perhaps it’s because there wasn’t much to fix to begin with?
2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport S Review - Poised for Urban Life
Jeep loves to talk about its off-road heritage. And it has the goods to back the claims of boulder-bashing prowess that it makes.
That said, most utility vehicles spend most of their time on pavement. And sometimes, the tradeoffs made for off-road capability aren’t worth it.
2021 Chevrolet Tahoe 4WD RST Review - Nobody* Needs* This Big of a Truck
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.
2020 Dodge Durango SRT 392 Review - Loud, Crude, Large, Americana
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.
2019 Audi Q8 Quattro Review - Technocratic Sport
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.
2020 Honda Civic Si HPT Review - A Blank Canvas
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.
2021 Ram TRX First Drive - Welcome to Jurassic Park
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.
2020 Ford Expedition Max King Ranch Review - Comfort to the Max
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.
2021 Nissan Rogue First Drive: Value and Safety
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.
2021 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC Review - GLAd to Have Choices
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?
2019 Honda Ridgeline Long-Term Update: 4 Months and 5,000 Miles
Auto 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.
2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum V6 AWD Review - Victim of Timing
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.
Life in the Fast Lane: A Week With 1,467 Horsepower
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.
2020 Chevrolet Corvette Review: Highway Star
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.
2020 Lexus LS 500h AWD Review - Quietly Being Green
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.
2020 Lexus ES300h Review - The Relentless Pursuit of Fuel Economy
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.
2020 Mazda 3 Review: Stick It To Me
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?
2021 Ford Bronco First Ride - Love at First Glance
Last week marked the Ford Bronco’s 55th anniversary, with the model’s creator celebrating the momentous occasion by throwing an exclusive and socially distanced Bronco party in Holly, MI.
At this off-road soiree, Ford showed off its Bronco family adventure concepts, announced that 165,000 Broncos have been reserved since the July 13 reveal, and proclaimed that Austin, TX would be the first location of the Bronco Off-Roadeo (Ford’s spelling, not a typo) off-road adventure playground.
While all these pieces of information are great, they aren’t exciting enough to headline a Bronco Anniversary party. Instead, the headliners of this party were the off-road ride-alongs in the 2021 Ford Bronco Sport and the 2021 Ford Bronco 2-door.
2020 Genesis G90 AWD 3.3T Premium Review - Upstart Luxury
Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury arm, is the new kid on the block. And it’s already fitting in well, if not embarrassing the established players.
Consider a flagship luxury car that’s priced below most of the competition while performing on par and offering the requisite comfort and convenience features. The new kid might just be showing up the regulars.
2020 BMW X1 XDrive28i Review - German Wagon, German Luxury Price Tag
Crossovers often get mocked by auto journalists as “tall wagons.” These scribes – and there are many, myself included, who have used this term – don’t understand why people don’t buy actual wagons.
Indeed, just the other day, the section of the Twitterverse reserved for auto writers had a discussion about why the public likes the much-loathed crossover so much.
There’s the obvious reason, of course – most of the people in the car-buying public are either not car enthusiasts, or they’re enthusiasts forced into crossover life by budget and life needs. We’ve been over this before.
2020 Toyota Yaris XLE Sedan Review - Fare Thee Well
Just when Toyota’s Yaris finally adorned the name of a fun car, the brand kills it.
It was once the Scion iA, but a couple years ago, Toyota bestowed it with the Yaris moniker after retiring the Scion brand. Once attached to underwhelming subcompacts, the name was now slapped on the side of a more-fun small car.
It’s not shocking that the brand killed the Mazda 2-based Yaris sedan. The culprits? Slow sales and new regulations.
Slow sales is a big story in the subcompact class, and in 2019 the Yaris was down 5,000 units from the year before. Coronavirus may have ushered the Yaris out the door, too, since Toyota planned to limit North American production to adjust to the difficulties posed by the pandemic.
Monument Valley and Sedona in a 2019 Ford Expedition
According to pre-COVID-19 data from the American Automobile Association, 53 million Americans were expected to pack themselves and their stuff into 12 million automobiles and hit the road for an average 300-mile road trip in 2020. Most point to the relatively low cost, schedule flexibility, and reduced packing constraints as reasons to use their car versus anther conveyance.
But it’s the joy of the journey, baked together with a healthy dose of nostalgia, that drives me. Cars are necessary mobility implements in most of our day-to-day lives, but come road trip time they transform into chariots of adventure. Conduits to discovery.
As a kid, a 1979 full-size Chevrolet Van was my family’s dutiful wagon of exploration. We crisscrossed the West from Glacier National Park on the U.S.-Canadian border to Yosemite National Park in the central Sierra, up and down the Pacific Coast Highway, and points between. Road trips were coveted family time and these van-born experiences played no small part in the development of my love for the American West, as well as the automobile. And like all parents, I want to share the peak experiences of my childhood with my progeny.
2020 Jeep Gladiator Mojave Review - Meant for the Desert, at Home in the City
Jeep sent me a desert-running rig, and I took it to the grocery store.
Let’s back up a bit. Jeep introduced the Gladiator Mojave at the 2020 Chicago Auto Show, with the intent of this trim being meant for blasts across the desert, while still being as capable as any Gladiator, if not more so, on a rocky trail.
I was all set to join others in the automotive media on a junket to drive the Mojave, almost certainly in the actual desert, in Southern California this spring. Then the world shut down.
2020 Saleen S302 Review - GT Alternative
First, a disclaimer. I appreciate the Mustang and maintain that it belongs on the short list of anyone shopping sub-$50,000 performance cars. However, this is not a Mustang review. This is a Saleen S302 White Label review. Saleen has been a purveyor of modified Mustangs since 1984.
The White Label is the entry offering from their S302 White, Yellow, Black Label range.
At a glance, the S302 White Label’s over-car stripe and copious badging place it in good company with its predecessors. They also put it at risk of presenting as a stripe and sticker package. There are no fewer than 12 Saleen badges on the exterior, 10 on the interior, and one under hood (I may have missed some). A look beyond the badges reveals bespoke 20-inch wheels (20×9.5 front, 20×11 rear) wrapped in ZR-rated rubber tucked neatly into the wheel arches, a relatively subtle high air-flow grill, and a high down-force rear spoiler. In addition to the interior brand reminders are a substantial shift knob on shortened shaft, white-face gauges, Alcantara-trimmed steering wheel, and the obligatory serialized plaque under the passenger side binnacle. Underneath are RaceCraft front and rear springs and sway bar pivot bushings, as well as mildly upgraded brakes. Saleen also adds its PowerFlash calibration, which nets owners a 15 horsepower bump over stock to a new peak of 475 horsepower.
All this comes at about an $8,000 premium over whatever Mustang GT you select. So, is Saleen trading on its racing heritage and hoping some supercar over-boost will sell Mustangs, or has it built a compelling performance proposition? To address this burning question, I sacrificed one long weekend.
2020 Mazda CX-9 Review - Tasty, but Too Easily Filled
If you read nothing else about the 2020 Mazda CX-9, let me be clear: this is the first car in which I’ve experienced a llama gnawing on the exterior trim, and yet I didn’t need to make a dreaded phone call to the automaker to explain any unusual damage.
Day 124 since lockdown yielded, for once, a new experience. Rather than our usual day of driving somewhere remote to get away from humanity, we drove somewhere remote to get closer to nature. Well, caged nature, at least, as we trekked to a drive-through safari/zoo in northern Ohio just to break the kids away from YouTube and Netflix for a few hours.
This biggest Mazda not only shed the licks and nibbles of captive animals – the mark from a bison’s horns wiped off with a towel – but it proved a comfortable long-distance hauler with better than expected fuel economy.
2020 Volkswagen Passat 2.0T R-Line Review - Sleepy Time
The next time certain product planners in Wolfsburg look in the mirror, they have a question to ask themselves: “How did we let the Volkswagen Passat get so damn dull?”
Especially after a refresh.
It’s not like the company is incapable of producing quality, fun sedans. The Jetta GLI is a hoot. The Arteon might struggle to find buyers, but that has little to do with the car’s dynamics, as it’s pretty fun to pilot. Even the non-GLI Jetta mixes practicality and pleasure well enough.
Why, then, did the Passat, which was once relatively engaging, if not an outright sports sedan, get so boring?
2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited Review - A New Contender Emerges
The idea of Honda and Toyota slugging it out for midsize sedan supremacy, with every other contender — from the very good to the mediocre to the also-rans — fighting it out for sales scraps, is pretty much an auto-journalism cliché at this point.
Other contenders dance in and out of the ring, but never quite stay part of the conversation. Hyundai’s Sonata has long been one of those. Certain generations of the Sonata were very much a part of the mix at the top of the class. Others were forgettable, hanging out in the muddled middle.
2020 Fiat 500X Sport AWD Review - Long, Tall, and Falling Short
The Fiat 500X counts as a crossover, somehow. Yes, it shares a platform with the Jeep Renegade, but then again, it also shares that platform with the Fiat 500L.
At least it looks better than that rolling blob of anonymity.
New for 2020 is a Sport model, although how much sport is gained is debatable.
Reader Review: 2019 Honda Accord Sport 2.0T - Peak Sedan
I have long been a family sedan buyer and was looking at replacing my aging ride. I have enjoyed rowing my own gears for more than two decades now, with the occasional automatic transmission thrown in the mix.
This time was a little different, in that there are so many extracurricular activities with three kids. My wife and I frequently find ourselves having to divide and conquer to get it all done. Making the challenge more difficult has always been the fact that I prefer a manual transmission, while she avoids driving a stick-shift like the plague, despite being fairly well versed in the three-pedal dance. I guess, like the market in general, she just doesn’t find joy in that level of engagement.
So, the writing was on the wall: An automatic transmission was in my future when I began hunting for a new whip.
2019 Volkswagen Arteon SEL Premium Review - Gliding Under the Radar
Have you seen a Volkswagen Arteon in traffic?
Odds are, you probably haven’t.
According to our friends at GoodCarBadCar, Volkswagen sold less than 3,000 units in 2019, and 788 through March of this year. To date, there hasn’t been a month in which more than 400 units were sold.
2020 BMW M8 Gran Coupe Review - For the Fun CEO
There are certain flagship luxury cars that suggest the driver has “made it” – assuming “making it” means climbing the corporate ladder to the point that owning and driving a large, imported luxury sedan with a six-figure price tag is no sweat, financially speaking.
The Lexus LS, BMW 7 Series and 8 Series, and Mercedes-Benz S-Class have typically been the cars most people think of when the phrase “flagship luxury sedan” is spoken. And rightfully so – those are all worthy vehicles. But sometimes, the boss likes to cut loose.
Which is why the LS has an F Sport trim, and Merc has an AMG S-Class, and so on. As you no doubt know, “M” is the magic letter when it comes to BMWs.
2019 Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison Review - Slow and Steady Rock Crawler
On paper, a midsize truck with a diesel powertrain and bad-ass off-road gear sounds like a recipe for fun.
And based on our first drive of the Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison, it is – provided you actually get an opportunity to leave the pavement behind.
On road, however, in an urban environment — well, you get a truck that’s not much fun at all.
2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid LE Review - Incognito Prius Alternative
Add the Toyota Corolla to the list of nameplates that were accused of losing the plot in recent years, before being righted — at least partially — by a redesign or refresh.
We’ve talked about this with the Nissan Altima (and Sentra, and Versa), as well as other vehicles. Now, it’s the Toyota’s turn.
I got my grubby mitts on a Corolla Hybrid and put it through its paces around Chicago. I’ve been critical of the car before – the last-generation model’s steering felt like it was constantly out to lunch, and the seating position was uncomfortable, especially for a tall, beer-gutted dude like me.
These flaws might’ve been acceptable if the car didn’t also feel downmarket, even accounting for its price point. Honda, Hyundai, and others were offering compact sedans that were even with (or better) than the Corolla for similar money.
Toyota took a step in the right direction with the Corolla hatch, but did the sedan follow? Well, sort of.
2020 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross SEL 1.5T S-AWC Review - In a Word: Weird
Mitsubishi burned a lot of what little street cred it had left by taking the name of a once-beloved affordable sports coupe and plunking it onto yet another crossover.
The good news, if there is any, is that the crossover that now bears the nameplate is more than a little quirky.
The bad news – it’s not an affordable, fun-to-drive sports coupe.
Not to mention that the brand may soon be history, at least on these shores.
2020 Nissan Altima Review - Happy in the Middle
The Nissan Altima was once in the mix with the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord in the mid-size sedan conversation.
That’s no longer the case, and hasn’t been for some time.
Nissan is working hard to get back in that mix, and while the 2020 Altima takes the right strides forward, there’s still more work to be done.