GMC has long made a fuss about its Denali sub-brand, which is meant to signify the most luxurious trim available for any given GMC model. GMCs, of course, are supposed to be more upscale versions of Chevrolet trucks and SUVs, even without Denali badging.
Enter a new sub-brand – AT4. First available as an off-road-oriented trim on the Sierra full-size pickup, and intended to become available on all GMC models within the next two years, AT4 is a trim that aims to emphasize off-road ability – or at least look the part.
While the Sierra’s AT4 trim offers mechanical changes that serve to improve the truck’s off-road prowess, the Acadia version is more about off-road looks, all-terrain tires and standard all-wheel drive notwithstanding. GMC knows the Acadia is a suburban shuttle, not a bad-ass off-roader, and has adjusted the AT4 treatment for this vehicle as such.
Does retro work when the retro becomes just plain old? The late Nineties and early Aughts saw an explosion of cars designed to ape cars of yesteryear – possibly to comfort a car-buying public terrified of what a new millennium might bring. The PT Cruiser, the HHR, and the New Beetle were among many models intentionally built to look backwards.
Mini, on the other hand, was an entire marque created out of nostalgia, and for two decades has traded on a wistful look back at the pioneer of the small front-drive econobox with an ever-growing portfolio of “same sausage, different lengths” models. Today, we look at the 2019 Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop – the original flavor three-door hot hatch. Does it still evoke the spirit of the Sixties, or is it a thoroughly modern conveyance in hand-me-down clothes?
Automotive journalists have long labeled the Lexus ES, and especially the hybrid version, as “boring.”
Count me among that number.
To its credit, Lexus has worked to remedy that reputation. The current-gen ES is still no sex machine or thrilling sports ride, but it’s more engaging than before without sacrificing the isolating comfort Lexus is known for. A new F Sport model does provide a bit more pizzazz, but even the fuel-saving hybrid is less of a snooze-fest than before.
I got my hands on one in North Carolina earlier this year, just to get a sense of how much less yawn-inducing it is than before.
The entry-level Mercedes-Benz sedan has an odd history. Until the W201 series in the mid-Eighties, there really wasn’t anything truly in the smaller classes, and the nomenclature (190E) seemed deceiving, reminding some of the larger E-class. Still, these were popular cars, even spawning the epic twin-cam powered Cosworth models that allowed the smallest Benz sports sedan to go race in the DTM series, and eventually bearing a more natural “C” class naming syntax.
But the C got bigger and more expensive, and soon upstart luxury brands began nipping at the heels of the three-pointed star on the lower end. The first A-class was underwhelming, though with the typical application of AMG-style power it could be fun.
This newest A-class, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 4MATIC, has a good deal to answer for. Will the typical Stuttgart amenities be enough to sway those remaining small sedan buyers, or will they shy away from the babiest of Baby Benzes?
One of the more frequent comments I’ve heard since the C8 Corvette dropped is some variation of “the Acura NSX is screwed.”
That comment makes sense – Chevrolet is promising similar performance numbers from the newly mid-engined ‘Vette, with a base price that is nearly $100K cheaper.
So yeah, if the next Corvette fulfills Chevy’s promise at a significantly lower cost than the NSX, that could spell trouble for a supercar that’s already selling slowly by supercar standards.
Still, the NSX has two things going for it. One, logic and rationality doesn’t always matter among the well-heeled – in other words, some will pay for the pricier car, regardless of specs, because of brand name/loyalty, or styling, or whatever.
Two, the NSX is just plain fantastic.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
You needn’t be an automotive writer to know that when a key is tossed in your direction, you catch it. If it’s the key to a winter-garaged, low-mileage, 2005 Lexus LS430, you grab the key and run.
I rode to a work two weeks ago on the new Suzuki DR-Z400SM with which I replaced my 2013 Scion FR-S. It’s something I do a few times per week. The bike’s fun. It’s a riot. It’s a rip-roaring good time. But it is a process. Want to meet the fam for a hastily arranged early lunch? Once I’m all geared up, I head outside and wait for the carbureted Suzuki to rediscover a happy idle. Gloves on. Cuffs straightened. Helmet cinched. Leg heaved over the lofty supermoto. Many minutes later, I’m finally on my way.
So much for the early lunch.
Two Tuesdays past, however, my good friend Jeff heard me heading out and said, “Hey, take the Lexus.” His dad’s Lexus, that is, and formerly his grandfather’s Lexus. In this moment, I not only entered deeper into the vehicular recesses of an infamous Island clan, I set up an impromptu comparison test the likes of which may never again occur.
If we were to have told you a few short years ago that The General would soon be producing mass copies of a rear-drive vehicle powered by a turbocharged straight six diesel, you’d have had us committed to the nearest madhouse. After all, such a bumf reads like sport European sedan from the eighties, when cars were cars and most passengers were terrified.
But it isn’t a sports sedan, nor even a performance coupe. Getting inline at GM these days means moving into a Silverado half-ton pickup truck, the latest entrant from the Detroit Three in a quickly escalating war of diesel supremacy in trucks not competing in the Dreadnought-class. These are the volume trucks, folks, and all of the diesel powertrains — Ford, Chevy, and Ram — displace an identical 3.0L from their six cylinders.
Differences abound between the three, causing your friendly neighborhood gearhead’s mind to temporarily out of control, even more so than it does after his third ration of Lamb’s Rum. Let’s dive in and decipher it all.
As I’ve been reviewing cars for this venerable publication for nearly three years, I’ve noticed how easy it is to become jaded about new cars. While I’m not like some journalists, getting handed keys to six figure exotics every week, I am rather lucky to experience cars on a regular basis that frequently cost more than I’d likely ever spend with my own money.
I’m reminded of this most often when something unusual graces my driveway, and a neighbor strikes up a conversation — or when I’m walking back to the car from the supermarket and someone is waiting to ask about the car. It doesn’t happen often — but this new 2019 Chevrolet Blazer RS seemingly compels conversation.
Plan your trips accordingly.
Around these digital pages, Buick gets a bad rap. Some have negative connotations of Buick as an old person’s car (disclaimer, my paternal grandfather was a Buick man) or hold grudges simply because the brand was continued while Oldsmobile and Pontiac were killed off during the Great Recession (disclaimer, my father was an Oldsmobile man), seems few have good things to say about the division from Flint.
Disclaimer: I hate the theme music from Buick’s TV commercials.
Let’s make a deal, then. Let’s try and ignore the badges on this 2019 Buick Envision for a few minutes. Let’s evaluate this entry-level luxury crossover against the competition, rather than against whatever demons lurk within our collective subconscious.
It’s back, baby! Enthusiasts cried in 2001 when, amid The Fast and the Furious fever, Honda pulled the plug on their bigger sports coupe offering, the Prelude. It wasn’t selling well, as the Civic had grown to fit American tastes, and the beloved Acura Integra had just been supplanted by the more powerful RSX. Still, there are enthusiasts who lament the loss of the beloved coupe.
While I detest the “four-door coupe” moniker being applied to sedans with a steeply raked backlight, it doesn’t take a big stretch of imagination to see a coupe atop this page if you squint. Thus, I’m calling it – this 2019 Honda Accord 2.0T Sport is the return of the Prelude. The postlude, perhaps.
Allow me to take you on a trip in the Wayback Machine for a moment. The year was 2001, and a 23-year-old Bark (that’s me) had just gotten a job as a Kiosk Sales Representative for Verizon Wireless. My first month, my sales quota was 55 new phone activations — I ended up selling over 120. If you doubled your quota, you qualified for a 300 percent payout. The regular commission was $27 an activation, which meant that I earned $81 per activation on 120 or so sales. I literally didn’t know what to do with all of the money — my dad was still paying my rent, and I didn’t have a dime of debt. A lot of it ended up going to a lovely young professional dancer named “Skyy,” if I remember correctly.
The rest of it, I took to Hatfield Hyundai for a down payment on a 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe GLX. Hyundai Finance was kind to young buyers back then, and they allowed me to pay something like 5 percent APR over 60 months for the new-for-2001 SUV. My black and gray version had every box checked — leather, V6, and all-wheel-drive. My Santa Fe was the only one I had ever seen with chrome door handles, and I door-handle checked every other model I saw on the road just to confirm. I think the princely sum I paid was somewhere around $23k.
Yes, it’s true that Hyundai overstated the horsepower numbers, and the car had some minor issues along the way, but when I traded it in on my RX-8 in 2005, I had gotten about 100,000 worry free miles from Hyundai’s first SUV effort. Overall, I was incredibly pleased with the ownership experience — bland, perhaps, but reliable and competent.
Well, fast forward about eighteen years or so, and Hyundai has another small SUV on the market, and it’s roughly the same price that my Santa Fe was in 2001 (yes, I’m aware of inflation). But unlike that Santa Fe, this one is awful. It’s called the Kona, and what I’m about to tell you about it flies directly in the face of every other review you’ve read. Why? Read on.
Ever since Volvo showed the V90 wagon in Detroit in 2017 – in journo-bait brown, no less! – I’ve been keeping an eye out for this stunningly styled family hauler. I never see them, especially not in that lovely Maple Brown hue. Are wagons dead?
I rather hope not.
So, while the V90 is still nominally available, the very similar Volvo V90 Cross Country is a more frequent sight on our roads. With a few tweaks to appeal to those who want to cosplay as an uncouth mountain dweller, the low-slung wagon is transformed into something resembling a crossover.
As much as I’d like to write every review the instant a loaner car leaves my site, sometimes travel or other duties take precedent and the review gets back-burnered for a while. Sometimes, a long while.
That’s usually okay – I take notes and have a pretty good memory for each vehicle. But on rare occasions, a car starts to fade from memory before the taillights even disappear from sight.
That’s usually a bad thing. Usually. But I get the sense that sometimes a certain car is engineered to be unmemorable.
Upon reserving a car in the Full-size Sedan class from the people at Enterprise, your author’s mind filled with visions of Passat and Fusion, or something similar. But over on the TTAC Slack channel, Adam Tonge assured me, “They won’t have a full-size sedan for you.”
Turns out he was right. Of the three “upgrade” options presented, none was a sedan. So I picked the largest one, and the only option with a V8: this dark blue 2019 Tahoe, in LT trim.
The other two options presented were a high-trim Dodge Journey in Ticket Me Red and a presumably basic Grand Caravan in Appliance White. The Tahoe seemed like the best option, though after the completion of over 800 miles, perhaps the lesser of three evils might’ve been a more apt description. Let’s go back in time a few days… or maybe a couple of decades. It’s hard to tell.
Y’all are probably gonna flay me for what I am about to write. I know, because one of our contributors took it on the chin (no pun intended) earlier this year after writing up the 2020 Corolla sedan.
That’s okay. I can take it. You guys out there fling arrows at us sometimes and we’re cool with it. It’s part of the job. Still, I am ducking (metaphorically speaking, do you know how hard is to type while ducking? Hurts your neck, man).
The howling denizens of the Internet may not be a representative sample of real life, but they are loud nonetheless, and they’ve seemingly had it in for the Toyota Supra since the wraps came off.
It’s too much a BMW, they say. It doesn’t feel like a real Supra, thanks to all those German parts underneath. Others (understandably) whined about teaser fatigue, or complained about the car’s styling.
While subjective complaints about a car’s looks are understandable, and while I understand the complaints about the new Supra not being Toyota enough (I did ask for a percentage breakdown of Toyota/BMW parts content; the company politely declined to comment), all of the noise ignored one thing – what it’s like to actually drive the damn thing.
That’s what will likely matter most to those who will drop over 50 large on this car.
Oh, that “GR” stands for Gazoo Racing, but everyone is just gonna call it Supra.
Somehow, while I wasn’t looking, the box office has become dominated by movies featuring superheroes. Iron Man, Batman, Spider-Man, Wonder Woman, and the like have used various superpowers to make tons of cash for stale popcorn purveyors worldwide. Avengers: Endgame is raking it in as I type.
I won’t pretend to drop any movie references here – I’ve never really been into the genre. Nothing against the various costumed fantasy characters and those who love them, but my heroes typically wear Nomex. Jerry Titus, Dan Gurney, Ronnie Bucknum, and Parnelli Jones are some of the legendary drivers who drove heroic machines to glory.
The machine is important in this movie, too. Loud, brash, and most importantly fast, a noble steed for motorsports triumph is critical. Ford has drawn upon an incredible back catalog to refine the Mustang into this, the spectacular 2019 Shelby GT350. Built for track duties, but with enough refinement to make it livable on the street, the GT350 is the All-American Superhero. Captain Blue Oval, perhaps.
And the only spoiler alert I need here comes with a Gurney flap.
The large-car class is a weird place these days. Not exactly a ghost town, but not exactly a hotly contested segment, either.
Rear-drive remains the purview of the Dodge/Chrysler bunch, while the rest of the segment consists of entry-luxury cruisers (Toyota Avalon, Lexus ES) and semi-sporty cars such as the Acura TLX, Nissan Maxima, Buick Regal GS, four-cylinder Kia Stinger – and now the 2019 Volkswagen Arteon.
Finally reaching our shores after a delay due to unspecified homologation hangups, the Arteon is positioned as the brand’s flagship, and it is in some ways a successor to the late CC.
Volkswagen gave us a crack at driving the Arteon, offering an opportunity to figure out exactly where it fits in the market.
I’ll grant that I’ve established a pretty cool second job for myself with this gig writing about cars. What gearhead wouldn’t love to get paid to talk (well, write) about their favorite subject — and often, drive some of the coolest new cars around? It sure beats flipping burgers to put extra cash in the wallet.
The not-so-secret side of this? It’s generally not the coolest cars that generate the most clicks. Most readers tend to care about cars they’ll legitimately consider buying, rather than a $100k sportscar. Thus, reviews of basic commuter cars, while not nearly as fun to drive, are much more important.
My job was made easy for me with the 2019 Kia Forte. It doesn’t overwhelm with outlandish styling. It doesn’t get the juices flowing with incredible performance. It simply makes the daily commute effortless and economical. What else can you ask from a car?
Take a good look at the state of the sports sedan. Once defined as four doors, compact dimensions, rear-wheel drive, and a manual transmission, there are precious few new cars sold today that fit that narrow criteria. The German manufacturers who made their names in this segment have abandoned the third pedal.
The only choice left is this 2019 Genesis G70 Sport – fitted with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a six-speed manual transmission, and rear wheel drive. Does it win by default as the last car standing in a shrinking market, or is it worthy of accolades on its own merits?
I sheepishly handed the keys over with an apology. Life conspired to keep me from the car wash before the truck was due to go back, and as you’ll see in the photos below, I was not bashful about making this truck properly dirty.
“Not a problem. Trucks are supposed to get dirty,” the friendly driver from the Detroit press fleet office responded. Still, I was ashamed. He’s likely delivering that truck to another journalist and would need to spend a good bit of time dislodging the mud.
But, goodness, did I ever enjoy getting this Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 absolutely caked in muck. It’s what I do for you, my dear readers – taking myself outside my usual routine to properly test each new vehicle as it’s meant to be used. That means, in this case, four-wheelin’.
You know you’re getting old when you start using phrases like “back in my day” on the regular. Indeed, as I’m rounding my fortieth lap of the sun, I find myself reminiscing entirely too much. And, considering this tidy second career I’ve picked out, it’s not surprising that my daydreams revert all too often to vehicles of my youth.
Back in my day (there it is) compact pickup trucks were everywhere. Every mainstream automaker had one – occasionally, it was a rebadged import, but it was an important segment in which to compete. The Ranger was just another player in a crowded marketplace.
These days, the compact pickup doesn’t exist in North America. The midsize truck is the new hotness, but even this segment is relatively immature. Ford looked at its overseas portfolio and saw a model that could readily be adapted – thus, the 2019 Ford Ranger seen here. Is the Ranger competitive with the stalwarts, or is it a matter of too midsize, too late?
Does a crossover really need to be good to drive, or is mere competence good enough to win buyers? Most carmakers settle for “good enough,” and yet they keep selling.
Mazda, of course, doesn’t settle. Performance is baked into everything it offers. I’m certain that if Mazda offered a panel van, some fool out there would start racing a Mazda Los Pollos Hermanos truck.
Thus, I had high hopes when a turbocharged crossover was announced. Already the best-driving crossover available, the 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature adds power and class to family hauling perfection.
Hyundai turned itself into a successful brand by building sensible, reliable cars and crossovers that match up nicely with the competition. Where rival carmakers have a product, Hyundai has a very similar alternative. Making a sale by imitating the class leaders is generally a winning strategy.
And then you have the 2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo – a car that really has no similar rival. No other automaker offers an asymmetrical three-door, sloped-rear-light hatchback. No matter how functional it is or how well it drives, all conversations about the Veloster start with its funky layout.
The script for the first-gen Range Rover Evoque included downsizing the Discovery luxury experience to a compact size and extending the distinct styling and off-road capability the brand is known for. The first-generation Evoque came in two-door and four-door variants, followed by a two-door cabrio version.
The second-gen Evoque follows the original script, but drops the three-door and cabrio versions. Land Rover will offer Evoque in six trim levels: S, SE, First Edition, R-Dynamic S, R-Dynamic SE, and R-Dynamic HSE. I tested several pilot-production 2020 European-spec SE trimmed Evoques during a media-launch program. In freakin’ Greece, of all places.
Over several days we were able to test the Evoque on-highway, off-road, and even suspended high in the air – more on that shortly. After all that extensive on-road driving and some mild-to-moderate difficulty wet/dry off-road driving, here’s what buyers can expect of the second-generation Evoque.
One of my personal auto reviewer “rules” is that I try to test any vehicle I drove on a press junket later, at home, even if it’s months later (and even if it’s many months before I get around to writing about it). I do this because the potholed roads and unpredictable weather of the city I call home stand in stark contrast to the pleasant places where automakers hold their splashy first drive events.
I also do this because driving a car in normal grocery-getting duty is different than driving it hard on a twisty road, because I don’t always get to drive on the freeway on a junket, and because a car reveals things about itself over the course of several days or a week that it wouldn’t in just a few hours.
Enter the 2018 Hyundai Kona. Several months after driving it on the Big Island of Hawaii (not long before that volcano erupted — the same one I toured while there. Did I piss off the volcano gods somehow?), I took possession of one here in Chicago. Would I think differently about the Kona, in one way or another, after a week behind the wheel? Or would I just end up confirming my first-drive review?
Spoiler: It’s more the latter than the former.
My first installment centered around the neglected, beancounted “heart and soul of an American hero,” with a sense of pride in bespoke platforms and powertrains. But the re-killing of the Ford Taurus lacks nationalistic sorrow: the hometown hero was a name looking for a globally-engineered sedan, in a declining market, foolishly butted up against another Ford sedan with cooler stuff (a la hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and a SHO-worthy Sport with 325 turbocharged horses).
Ouch. RIP Ford Taurus.
Today’s crossover craze may be in part a rebuke of minivans, but that hasn’t stopped Chrysler from putting effort into the class.
After all, if the company that more or less invented the modern version of the people-toting minivan was offering up a subpar effort in the class, that wouldn’t reflect well on it. Chrysler doesn’t have to worry about that, as its Pacifica minivan has fought the Honda Odyssey for top billing in the class seemingly since its launch.
One thing the Pacifica offers that the Odyssey doesn’t? A hybrid version.
Volkswagen’s latest iteration of the Jetta is a well-rounded commuter car, but a tad boring. VW had an easy fix for that in mind – just implant the heart of the GTI hot hatch along with some Golf R bits. Boom, instant sports sedan.
There’s been a GLI version of the Jetta since 1984, and every previous one I’ve driven has been a fun little hoot to drive; a way to put a little spice in the otherwise sorta bland Jetta recipe. This one, though, ups the ante. Instead of a nice little sprinkle of seasoning, someone in the kitchen doused it with cayenne pepper.
What you get here is not just a Jetta that’s more fun to drive, but a proper affordable sport sedan.
Welcome to the least hip car segment – the minivan. It’s what our parents drove, right? Nobody wants to be as tragically uncool as their parents, even as they themselves become parents.
Might I, an experienced parent, suggest something to the millennials and hipsters who are starting to reproduce? Consider getting back to the minivan genre before it becomes cool again. Be the parent who values utility and comfort over the overstyled, overstuffed crossover that every other new parent rushes out to buy. The moment you ease a rear sliding door open with one hand while swinging the bucket-style baby carrier right into the seat with the other is a revelation, especially after dealing with narrow-opening traditional doors found on sedans and SUVs.
In other words, it’s van time. Be the envy of the other new parents. Be different. And take a good look at all your options, because beyond the usual suspects lies this 2019 Ford Transit Connect Wagon. It has some surprising features that make it stand out.
Jeep engineers and PR folks wasted no time in telling media, assembled in Sacramento to drive the all-new 2020 Jeep Gladiator mid-size pickup, that this truck is more than just a Wrangler with a pickup bed slapped on the back.
Technically speaking, it’s true — there are key mechanical and structural differences. So no one who uttered this assertion was lying.
But while those mechanical differences are important, they don’t change the fact that the Gladiator still feels just like a Wrangler with a bed. No matter what anyone from Jeep tells you, the Gladiator is, in a way, a Wrangler with a bed.
And that will be a good thing for many, if not most, potential buyers.
“Ask the man who owns one,” Packard once implored readers from the glossy depths of various Depression-era magazines. While clearly not interested in courting the female buyer (I hope they’re dragged on Twitter for this insensitive tagline), Packard’s core message still holds up today.
No one loves poo-pooing other people’s buying decisions quite like auto journos, but each and every buyer has their own reasons for choosing the way they did. Shocking though it may be to some, buyers often walk (okay, drive) away quite pleased with their purchase — even with crossovers plucked from a homogenous pool of now limitless depth.
And, barring quality headaches down the road, their feelings might stay that way, too.
While I never held any deep dislike for Lexus’ compact NX, aside from the fact that its nose is undoubtedly the most prominent — and unprotected — in the industry, desire or even “interest” were never needles that budged off the baseline. What could change this perception? Driving one.
A big luxury sedan is sedate, ponderous, and numb. Insulation from everything outside the cockpit is paramount. Arriving refreshed and relaxed is the order of the day in this class of car.
The little F-Sport badge on the tail of this 2019 Lexus LS 500 changes everything. While one can still chauffeur grandma to church in class and comfort, after she’s been dropped off that drive can quickly change from refreshing to invigoration with a turn of a knob. The idea of a LS F-Sport is nearly as absurd as that of a Miata Brougham with a padded vinyl roof and opera windows. It’s a Brooks Brothers suit with a pair of Brooks running shoes.
It’s unexpected – but it works.
Think of an occasion in which something really good appeared in a place where it was underappreciated. A fantastic steak at the downtown greasy spoon, perhaps? Beautiful new windows installed in a student rental house? My writing on this website? Wait, I wasn’t supposed to say that last one out loud…
Buried in the mire of Ghosngate at Nissan is some nifty new tech that should be turning the car world on its ear. The company’s variable compression engine, displacing an industry-typical 2.0 liters from a turbocharged four pot, is actually about as far from industry-typical as Yugo was from being a class leader in fit and finish. It’s able to vary its compression from 8:1 to 14:1, thus offering the best of power and economy characteristics. It’s been called the “holy grail.”
So where does this engineering marvel and technological triumph first appear? In the company’s sports car? Don’t be silly. It’s under the hood of a grey crossover, of course.
Talk about being underappreciated.
Yet another three-row crossover. Yawn.
It’s even painted white, like the appliance it’s certain to be.
But people keep buying these things, like it or not. Since few want my ideal family hauler – the minivan – this genre is the best way to haul more than five people. And I’d argue that this 2019 Mazda CX-9 is the best of the breed.
Life is often a matter of timing. Ask Kia about the difference between the 2020 Kia Telluride crossover and its last attempt at something similar – the Kia Borrego.
Remember the Borrego?
I do. That body-on-frame SUV wasn’t a poor vehicle – I drove one, briefly, and liked it – but it came to market right as the Great Recession and a rapid rise in gas prices were conspiring to work against expensive, gas-guzzling SUVs. Sure, plenty of nameplates survived the carnage, but a newcomer like the Borrego, produced by a brand once known for cheap compact cars, had no chance against those market headwinds.
Enter the Telluride, which is so different from the Borrego that about the only things they have in common are class, amount of seating rows, engine displacement, and door count. Unlike the body-on-frame Borrego, the unibody Telluride is entering a market where the winds are a bit more favorable – crossovers are still hot and there’s no sign of that changing anytime soon.
So Kia won’t have to worry about fighting an uphill battle, at least in terms of market forces. It’s going to be all about the product this time. And the product is quite good.
The luxury crossover realm is a weird one. The market has been built on the age-old plan of taking a more basic model and adding profitable flash. The problem lies when the base model is good enough for most buyers.
Indeed, starting out with the best-selling non-truck in America means building something distinctive atop the platform is a challenge. Distinctive most certainly describes this Lexus NX 300h, in more ways than one. But beneath the surface lies a solid performer.
Remember 2005? An old, ugly English prince marries for the second time. A hurricane devastates the U.S. Gulf Coast. Newlywed Chris signs a mortgage on a house and begins to prepare said house for the arrival of a newborn. And Nissan reveals the D40-chassis Frontier.
Fast forward. Charles wonders when his mom will give it up. New Orleans is still recovering. The house, the marriage, and the kid remain. And the 2019 Nissan Frontier continues on, relatively unchanged.
Stability is a good thing in life. Being able to rely upon trusted institutions is reassuring. Few passenger vehicles can be considered institutions – but the Frontier certainly qualifies.
Let’s face it. Most Toyotas are boring. Sure, enthusiasts get tossed the occasional bone – the 86 and the upcoming (controversial) Supra – but otherwise, the lineup doesn’t excite.
I believe that there are gearheads deep within the bowels of Toyota R&D, however. Those who recall the days when several proper performance cars shared a lot with the ubiquitous Camry.
Here is proof. No, this 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback isn’t a hardcore sportscar. It could certainly do with more power. But that Toyota brought out a new car – with an optional manual transmission, no less! – in a climate where the crossover dominates speaks volumes about the future of driving enthusiasm at one of the world’s biggest manufacturers. There is hope for drivers.
Part of the appeal of pickup trucks is that they can be many things to many people.
Tow machine to haul your boat? Check. Home-improvement aid? Sure, throw those 2x4s in the back. Guarantee that your friends will call you when they need help moving, even if they never call you any other time? Sure. Cowboy Cadillac? If you like cruising the streets of Texas in comfort, pardner.
Ford’s F-150 is already at least perceived as doing all those things well – Ford doesn’t sell approximately a zillionity billion for no reason – and adding a diesel powertrain to the mix doesn’t hurt.
Approaching my Ascent tester behind a not-so-local dealer, I felt a presence. Like a pre-war bank, this thing was solid, monolithic, immovable, looming over all of humanity and granting entry to only a choice few. Given the profit Subaru’s going to make off these things, it’s not an inaccurate comparison.
The last Subaru I drove was an Impreza. Not a WRX or its hotter sister, but a stock Impreza sedan. You don’t see many of them. Before that, it was a Crosstrek. Or was it a Forester? No matter, really. Before that, it was a friend’s short-lived SVX, some 16 or so years ago.
Compared to those compact rides, the midsize Ascent crossover is like the HMS Dreadnought moored alongside a torpedo boat, and that’s exactly what Americans — or what Subaru thinks Americans — want. Thankfully, having found myself behind the wheel of a great number of crossovers of late, the Ascent at least held some quirks to set itself apart.
That headline has two meanings, at least as pertains to the 2018 Stinger.
One meaning: Watch your right foot. It’s easy to quickly get this car above the speed limit.
Meaning number two: When I first drove the Stinger, I harped about its tendency for greater than desired body roll in corners. Well, that tendency doesn’t show up in urban commuting, because I wasn’t driving the car the way I did in the California mountains during its launch.
Drive it a little less hard, and its biggest flaw stays hidden. Problem solved.
I’ve long scoffed at the class of trucks often referred to “Cowboy Cadillacs,” those seemingly built for the well-heeled Texan deep within every suburban dad who wants to prove he’s the king of the bagged mulch pick-up lane at Home Depot. Loaded down either from the factory or a catalog with big wheels, low-profile tires, buckets of chrome, boastful badging, and plush leather, these rigs seemingly took everything that was good about a proper full-size truck and amplified the douche factor.
Then I drove one — this 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn. With badges illogically glorifying both Wyoming and Texas, I fully expected to be underwhelmed.
Nope. Not one bit. The newest Ram half-ton has had every possible superlative heaped on it, with good reason. This Ram is easily the best full-size truck you can buy right now.
There’s a reason why the Volkswagen Golf GTI is fetishized by journalists and enthusiasts as perhaps the perfect daily-driver sporty car.
Because if it isn’t, it’s damn near close.
Changes for 2018 were minimal. The 2018 got a mild standard horsepower bump (assuming you’re using premium fuel) to 220, up from 210. Other changes included a reshuffled trim lineup, newly available LED headlights, larger infotainment, and driver-assist tech that was now standard on the SE and Autobahn trims. It also gained the Golf R’s brakes and an available electronically controlled limited-slip differential.
I had a nickname for the Toyota Corolla once. Back in my days as an overly judgmental prepubescent teenage boy, I used to call Toyota’s honest economy car the “Crapolla.” Growing up in an affluent North Jersey neighborhood in the ‘90s, everyone and their mother had a Bimmer, Benz, or even a Bentley. If you drove a Corolla, you were either a maid at the McMansion down the street or the underpaid seventh-grade social studies teacher of the local school district.
Although a by-word for cheap, efficient, reliable, and honest transportation, I simply couldn’t see beyond its reputation as a soulless tin econobox. It was far from a total dog. Yet, it still clearly gave off the impression that it was for people who didn’t have a pulse and couldn’t care less about cars or driving them. And let’s be honest, with the Toyota Corolla surpassing the Volkswagen Beetle as the best-selling automotive nameplate in history – over 46 million Corollas sold over its 11 generations – the vast majority of the car-buying public might have a questionable pulse.
My teen years were almost 20 years ago and the Corolla has certainly changed since then. Up until 2012, the Toyota Corolla maintained complete anonymity and was more inconspicuous than a loaf of Wonder Bread. It was hardly any more exciting than the loaf in nearly every aspect.