I want first to apologize to the Jeep owners of northern Columbus, and by extension all brethren of the seven-slot grille everywhere. In my week driving this 2018 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited, I neglected to properly wave in most cases.
It’s a Jeep thing, and apparently I don’t understand.
I suppose it’s an ethical thing — can I be a properly unbiased journalist if I gonzo myself into the Jeep subculture? Moreover, is this, a Jeep Wrangler with a hybrid system, a proper Jeep?
Ah, the mainstream compact crossover. Quickly overtaking the traditional midsize sedan as the new family vehicle of choice, every manufacturer has to have one or more with which to fill the lot. The formula is simple — usually two rows with five seats, a reasonably powerful four-cylinder, benign handling, and striking-but-instantly-forgettable styling. No need to trawl manufacturer websites or dealer lots, either. Five minutes of searching for an open space at the grocery on a busy Saturday will allow you to closely inspect every possible contender in this hot class.
Hyundai’s been playing in this market with a pair of similar models for a few years — the Santa Fe with three rows, and the shorter Santa Fe Sport, with two rows. No longer (or shorter). The old embiggened three-row soldiers on as the Santa Fe XL, while the two-row model is now simply this 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe. Now that we’ve sorted the names, does this Santa Fe satisfy?
When you look at a Kia Soul, you likely peg it for just what it is – a boxy, utilitarian commuter vehicle. You wouldn’t expect it to be a blast to drive, or full of coddling luxury materials and content.
Sometimes, what you see really is more or less what you get. This is one of those cases, with some pleasant surprises along the way.
The updated Soul has new exterior duds, a re-imagined cabin, and a newly available turbo mill.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” That adage, from George Santayana, has a less well-known corollary that I just made up: “Those who do remember the past are doomed to watch idly while our memories are sold out to create something much, much worse.”
Take the 2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross seen here. When Mitsubishi dusted off a beloved sports car nameplate to slap on YET ANOTHER CROSSOVER, enthusiasts everywhere started screaming. Their memories of late-night cruising and loud exhausts were being trampled by another jacked-up hatchback with no sporting pretense.
Yes, I was one of those enthusiasts hating the name. But then I drove the car, and I recalled that the target Eclipse Cross buyer probably doesn’t remember that not-too-distant past where the stylish Diamond Star coupes ruled the streets, and they’ll simply buy on merit, not memories.
Subaru landed on these shores with a raft of cars and totally-not-trucks (thanks, Chicken Tax) that were certainly capable when shown a rough road but were, in a word, quirky. Since then, the Pleiades brand has filtered out some of its weirdness in an attempt to capture more customers but – as we will learn – still marches to the beat of its own drummer … or at least to the beat of a flat-four.
What’s changed since our first drive of the Ascent eight and a half months ago? Anything? Did the big Subie acquit itself well during the Polar Vortex? Does our Associate Editor wear army boots?
The Napoleon complex, of course, is where those of smaller stature overcompensate by being overly aggressive. Named for the legendarily short French emperor (who may or may not have actually been all that tiny), those so afflicted may be excessively loud, with a temper matching their height.
We car enthusiasts tend to anthropomorphize our four-wheeled friends, at the very least giving them names, if not attributing characters and personalities. The original Mini, for example, is frequently compared to an English bulldog.
Thus I feel compelled to toss the Napoleon complex label on the 2019 Mazda CX-3. It’s appropriately tiny, but with spirited handling well beyond the typical in the class. It’s also quite loud.
Imagine a world in which The Fast And The Furious movie never had a sequel, let alone eight. Dom Toretto and the team didn’t keep being criminals or fighting crime — they just settled down in Southern California and had families.
In this imaginary offshoot of an imaginary world, there is one question that needs to be answered: What would Brian O’Conner drive? He and Mia certainly have a pack of towheaded children that require shuttling to daycare and soccer.
I think your answer is right here: a three-row crossover with some tuner highlights, including a pair of massive exhaust tips and big, blacked-out alloy wheels. The 2019 Acura MDX A-Spec is perfect for cruising the strip on Friday night, followed by a Saturday of dance recitals and antiquing.
My first press trip as the M.E. at this august website had me driving the Honda Civic Type R on a track outside Seattle. And on road, as well. I pronounced it worthy of the hype.
So naturally, I had to see how it handled the daily grind. There’d be no track driving – I asked, but Honda would’ve needed to do special prep, so that was a no-go – so treks to the grocery store and the suburbs would have to suffice.
Was it still “all that?” In a word, yes.
Honda really wants to prove that its 2019 Passport five-seat crossover has off-road chops.
To that end, it’s possible I had more wheel time on washboard-surfaced gravelly roads than I did on paved surfaces during my day with the newest trucklet on the block. Some of this was by my choice – I chose to get more time off-road for the sake of photos. Still, Honda definitely wanted to show that the Passport is capable off-road.
Which it was, at least on the route we drove. Frankly, most crossovers with decent ground clearance would’ve survived our trek through the cold and sunny high desert, although two of the Passport’s benchmarked competitors, the Ford Edge and Nissan Murano, might not be included in that “most.” More on that in a bit.
Thing is, and this refrain dates back to the earliest days of the SUV – few buyers will ever take the Passport off-road. Few buyers of any vehicle in this class take their rigs off-road. Only the owners of the highly capable Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota 4Runner are likely to, and even then, I’d bet the percentage who actually do is small.
Why all the hullabaloo from Honda about off-roading, then? Is the Passport truly on par with the JGC and the ‘Yota when out in the sticks? Is the Passport so bad on-road that Honda emphasized off-road driving? Or did someone on Honda’s PR team just really want to see southern Utah?
The three-row crossover has quickly become the bellybutton car. Everyone’s got one. Much as the full-size station wagon was the people hauler of choice in the Seventies and early Eighties, followed by the mighty, mighty minivan, this genre of sorta-big tall wagon is everywhere.
This 2019 Kia Sorento is a refreshed example of a generation first offered in 2016. Kia keeps making impressive strides year after year. The example I sampled was packed to the gills with nearly every luxury bit possible, but does the new Sorento keep up with the competition?
We travelled to the small and traffic-free city of Los Angeles last week to check out the newly revamped 2019 Mazda 3, the first product launched under the automaker’s equally new premium philosophy. The next-gen compact apparently heralds the introduction of other higher-end models.
So, is this all-important foundational compact car any good? Let’s find out.
I get it. No real enthusiast should like crossovers. They’re tall, handle poorly, slurp gas, and aren’t as space efficient as the cars upon which they’re based. They aren’t a true sport-utility vehicles, either, as their on road-focused designs can’t handle rough terrain.
I used to be like you. I’m a car lover, and always will be, but the market has spoken, and it seems that most new vehicles coming our way will be high-riding wagons of some sort. So it’s time to get on board.
The 2019 Volvo XC40 T4 might be the tipping point for me. It’s not perfect — few cars are — but it works so incredibly well for its mission, moving people and stuff in style. That it is reasonably priced and has truly excellent fuel economy are merely bonuses.
Fully electric cars keep popping up, from startups and legacy automakers alike. They are likely the future. But I’m not ready for them, and likely neither are you.
Until nationwide infrastructure and car charging technologies allow for both a 300-mile range (typically the range of a kid’s bladder) and a 10-to-15 minute full recharge time, the internal combustion engine will always find a home in my driveway. I need the flexibility to drive across several states without plugging in.
That’s where a plug-in hybrid, like this 2019 Chevrolet Volt, makes all the difference. While it can run for over 50 miles without using gasoline, the gas engine charges the batteries, allowing for range similar to that of a traditional car. It’s the real-world way to go green.
When the good folks who bring me cars for review each week mentioned that a Lexus GX460 would be coming to my door, I honestly forgot what the GX was. That’s the curse of a alphanumeric model naming scheme — unless the car itself is iconic, with decades of enthusiast love behind it, it’s hard to develop a connection to a few letters and numbers.
It’s not exactly invisible in the showroom, however — it’s big, and it’s been selling for years with little change. It’s hard to miss, though it lives in the shadow of both the ubiquitous RX and the iconic big-brother LX.
While not perfect, the Lexus GX460 has the versatility to haul the family and a boat either across the country or through the woods in total comfort.
Automotive journalists are often accused of falling in love with wagons just because of their bodystyle. Sometimes, however, a wagon is likable for reasons that have nothing to do with shape.
Take the 2018 Jaguar XF Sportbrake. Sure, it’s a sexy looking wagon, but Jaguar hasn’t forgotten that there’s more to life that just being really, really good looking.
Ford’s 2018 introduction of the EcoSport is one of the most cynical attempts to quickly capture sales in a suddenly hot category in the long history of automakers trying to do just that..
Challenged to quickly find a way into the fast-growing subcompact crossover class, Ford simply moved the EcoSport – already available in other markets – to the North American market. While that move looks logical on paper, it ignores the reality that the product just isn’t very good.
The idea was as obvious as it was brilliant. Take the hottest segment of motor vehicles on the market and stick an improbably high fuel economy figure on the window sticker. The hybrid revolution made the ungainly Prius a certified success — so why not a crossover? And why not add a plug to it, letting it run on battery power for a longer distance?
In 2013, Mitsubishi did just that, only overseas. Americans would have to wait.
Finally, the 2018 model year brought the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV to stateside showrooms. Boasting around 22 miles of all-electric driving range, this plug-in hybrid crossover could meet many drivers’ commuting needs without using a drop of fuel. Was it worth the wait?
As all loyal Bark fans know (Hi Mom), I travel extensively for the ol’ day job. Thanks to Uber and Lyft, I don’t always have to rent a car when I’m on the road, but most of the time it’s actually cheaper to rent a car for $35 a day than it is to use ridesharing services, not to mention to increased convenience and saved time. Plus, I’m a firm believer in job creation, and somebody needs to keep those valets at the hotels employed.
In 2018, I used National’s Emerald Aisle Executive services 21 times, which is a bit low compared to my average over the last 10 years. Nevertheless, let’s see what I can remember about all of my rental rides that I borrowed this year, and then I’ll make some sweeping generalizations that are sure to offend many of you. Go!
Twenty years ago, Lexus created a new segment: the luxury crossover. That 1998 RX 300 was a revelation — buyers with means who wanted something with a higher seating position were previously relegated to traditional, truck-based SUVs. Those old-school machines generally had poor on-road behavior due to their trucky roots.
Not the RX. In eight short years, Lexus had ascended from nothing to the pinnacle of plush. The division eyed customers buying high-trim Ford Explorers and never exploring, and from this the RX was born. Two decades on, the RX still leads the segment it created.
With the Lexus RX 350L — the “L” means long, I assume — that class-dominating RX should be able to coddle a driver and up to six passengers in quiet, leather-wrapped style. Will this three-row, extended-line extension stretch the customer base?
It’s especially bad at speeds below “parking lot.” Foot off brake, crawl, foot on brake, repeat. It’s even worse when you’re piloting a stick – shift to first, release clutch pedal, roll, brake, clutch in, shift to neutral. And repeat.
Not all commuting is that slow, of course. There’s also the block-to-block drag race. First to the next stop sign or stoplight wins. If you’re lucky, you’ll hit 30 mph and get to third gear before doing it all over again.
At one point during my time with the 2018 Dodge Challenger GT, I fired it up and shook my head.
“That can’t be right,” I thought. “It sounds like a V8, but the GT is a V6.”
Which it is – all-wheel drive GT models are powered by a 3.6-liter V6 making 305 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque. No V8 on offer here.
Yet, the V6 has a bit of the aural aura of a V8, if not the acceleration.
Anyone else fondly recall Sport Compact Car magazine? For over two decades, that dead-tree, updated-monthly blog brought the latest in import performance trends to newsstands and mailboxes. I know that I waited for my copy impatiently, just knowing that this month would be the one where I found the perfect stuff with which I could poorly modify my ancient Accord.
Each issue brought forth little cars with tons of character, but after a while a theme was established — big wheels, big exhaust tips, and a lowered suspension with little compliance became the standard. With the dying of that great magazine, and the de-evolution of the Fast and Furious franchise away from accessible cars, the tuner culture seems to have drifted away from mainstream consciousness.
There aren’t many new truly compact cars that invite this sort of tuning, let alone those that come so equipped from the factory. The 2018 Fiat 500 Abarth is a throwback to those days — days where a loud exhaust and a booming stereo meant fun on Saturday night.
If you’ve paid attention to any of Ford’s marketing lately, you’ll know the company has been making vehicles for 115 years. When it comes to F-Series, the best-selling pickup truck line in the country, they’ve been ahead of the pack for 41 years. It should shock nobody that the company knows how to build a pickup truck.
There’s more to the success of the 2019 Ford Ranger than just whether or not the company can build a good pickup truck. The Ranger is a good truck. But will it be able to draw new customers to the growing midsize truck segment, and will it be able to attract people from Colorado and Tacoma?
If a gearhead is asked for car shopping advice, there’s a pretty good chance one of their recommendations will be a Mazda. The little Hiroshima Highway Hawks generally land on the sporty side of the segments in which they compete, whether one is talking about compact cars or SUVs.
For ages, the CX-5 has been a stylish entrant in the compact crossover class and is Mazda’s best-selling vehicle in America. It is a car notable for not being imbued with “Handling by Novocain (TM)” like so many of its competitors. For 2019, the CX-5 gains an optional 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-four, meaning the CX-5 finally has a mouth to match its trousers.
And, oh yeah, the guy in charge captained one of the most prolific racing teams in the 24 Hours of Lemons.
First impressions have a way of biting you in the ass. After seeing the trailer for the first time, I declared with absolute conviction that a movie about a slow-witted Southerner who blunders his way through a tumultuous period in American history would leave theatre seats as empty as store shelves before a Category 5 hurricane. Alas, Forrest Gump was not the colossal flop I predicted.
Nor was the suddenly sportified Lexus ES 350 that appeared in my driveway the embarrassing wannabe I envisioned after learning my tester wasn’t the basic ES 350. (Testers are rarely ever basic, sadly.) All new for 2019, Lexus’s most conservative passenger car gains not just a version of the new TNGA platform shared with the equally new Toyota Avalon, but also the F Sport badge found elsewhere in the Lexus lineup.
While dressing up traditional sedans seems to be a compulsion at Toyota these days, this ES 350 F Sport, red leather and all, managed to throw a number of assumptions back in my face. Some … but not all.
As you may or may not know, invitations for press junkets often arrive quite some time in advance. So when Nissan sent the invite to drive the 2019 Maxima more than a month before the wraps came off the real thing in Los Angeles, I was excited.
See, I’ve always liked the idea of Maxima – a large, front-drive sedan endowed with a little bit of sportiness. Maybe it’s not the four-door sports car of yore, but surely it’s less sleepy than an Avalon, less generic than an Impala, and less in-your-face than a rear-drive Charger/300.
So, if the execution fell a bit short, and if the look grew a bit stale, well, maybe now is the perfect time for an update, I thought. After all, the smaller Altima is all-new. It seemed like the Maxima would be next in line for a full-zoot reboot, even though it launched a little less than four years ago.
While an inarguable success for Toyota, the Prius lost considerable clout through some odd styling decisions, a market trending toward crossovers, and smug owners who put a sour taste in everyone else’s mouth. I was never really a fan of the model, but I appreciated what it offered — outstanding economy, sufficient utility, and rather good comfort (especially in the current generation) for a reasonable price.
Hoping to reach new customers living in the snowbelt and restore some of its lost groove, Toyota has updated the Prius and will begin offering the model with all-wheel drive. Well, I say “all-wheel drive,” but things are a little more complicated than that.
The 2019 Prius AWD-e utilizes a small, magnetless motor to drive the rear wheels, while keeping the aft axle completely independent from the existing 1.8-liter hybrid system and its own pair of motor/generators. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to explore the new system in the wintry wilds of Wisconsin to see if it’s any good.
Crossovers are the future. As much as I hate to say it, more and more buyers vote with their wallets every year, choosing a smaller-yet-taller, less fuel-efficient alternative to the traditional sedan. Automakers would build nothing but brown, diesel, manual station wagons if buyers would buy them — so you can’t fault the manufacturers for tossing every possible permutation of the CUV as chum for the always-hungry shopper.
Mitsubishi is no different. Of the four distinct models it offers here in the States, three are crossovers. But which one is right for you? Today, we look at the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, the smallest of the trio. Is it distinct enough to be worthy of your driveway?
Hyundai’s hydrogen-powered Nexo is so ludicrously specialized that it’s utterly impossible to make a case for it outside of California. In fact, even that might be overstating its usefulness — allow me to try again. The Nexo Fuel Cell works near Los Angeles or San Francisco and absolutely nowhere else in North America. And, while that’s primarily due to its dependency on hydrogen fueling stations, which exist almost exclusively in two relatively small corners of the Golden State, it’s not the only reason.
You need to be a certain type of person to want to drive the Nexo. Someone who likes making a statement, is interested in green tech, and possesses absolutely zero interest in spirited bouts of driving. It’s slow, appliance-like, and offers nothing to the typical enthusiast crowd, save for some interesting styling. However, if you want something eye-catching that runs on alternative energy and routinely spend a large portion of your day in horrible LA traffic, it could be the right tool for the job.
How much would you pay for a midsize truck that was just as capable off-road as Ford’s full-size Raptor?
I am not asking about a Ranger Raptor, since that seems unlikely to be sold here for the moment. So if you want to boulder-bash in size medium, it’s either the Toyota store or the Chevy dealer down the street that will tempt you. One with the Tacoma TRD, the other with the Colorado ZR2 Bison.
Tempt Chevy stores will, but for $50K, is it worth your monthly payment?
Life gets in the way. No matter how much you plan, there will always be circumstances that, at the very least, interfere with that plan — if not throw it completely out the window.
For instance, when I test a car that specifically touts efficiency, I always plan a relatively rigorous regimen of fuel economy measurements, including filling and refilling the tank at the same pump, and maintaining a consistent driving style. But then a school bus is late and I have to rush to the office, keeping me from the fuel pump before the car goes away — and keeping my foot to the floor a bit more than ideal. Or a charging plug falls out of the wall socket you’ve been meaning to replace for a decade.
But this time, as I tested the 2018 Kia Niro PHEV, everything went right. I was able to drive and charge this plug-in hybrid like a normal person who has to keep it for more than a week. Full charges greeted me each morning. And, at the end of my test, some seriously impressive fuel economy blew my mind.
Driving my family can be a harried experience. The pair of tween girls in my brood constantly chatter about whatever both to each other and to nobody in particular. Or they’ll be silent save the bleeps and boops of their cell phones or Nintendo 3DS, playing silly games and texting nobody in particular.
Thus, when the kids hopped in the back of this 2018 Genesis G90, I expected more of the same, turning up the stereo in reflexive compensation. But, to my astonishment, the girls became immediately calm — the youngest dozed off quickly en route to Grandma’s house, located just across town. Quieting a hyper 10-year-old — that alone can sell a car to moms and dads everywhere.
I’m old — I just turned forty. The Z is also old. It will be fifty in about a year. Thus, the Heritage Edition 2019 Nissan 370Z tested here isn’t a misnomer — there is plenty of heritage in the various generations of the first Japanese sports car to make a serious impact in the American market.
As far as I know, there is no Heritage Edition Chris available.
But is the latest 370Z still relevant in a market increasingly edging away from sports cars? Or does heritage simply mean washed up?
Before we go any further, I just want to point out one thing — I hate the BMW X3. I loathe even the idea of it. I grew up on the E30 3 Series and the E23 7 Series, both of which were in my father’s driveway well before most people in Suburbia knew what the hell a “Bimmer” even was. I find the concept of an Ultimate Driving CUV to be a blight on the brand itself, a disgrace of the highest order.
The last generation of the X3 was total trash. It was a rough-riding, fuel-guzzling exercise in badge whoring. Its sole purpose was to impress other moms in the school pick-up line. There was nothing the previous X3 could do that literally any other entry in the small CUV sector couldn’t do better. I’m including the Kia Soul in that comment, by the way.
So when I saw a 2018 BMW X3 on the Emerald Aisle at MIA, I was excited to rent it. Not because I thought I would enjoy it, but because I thought it would give me the chance to write a hateful screed about another automotive abortion from Spartanburg. Alas, it was not to be. Because the new X3 is likely the best car BMW makes today.
The 2019 Toyota RAV4 wouldn’t, at first glance, be my first choice for a run down famed California Highway 1 from just south of Monterey to the famed Bixby Bridge and back.
It probably wouldn’t be yours, either.
So I was pleasantly surprised when a mid-morning coastal ride in the RAV4’s Adventure trim showed me something I’d not seen from a RAV4 before — a personality. Not to mention on-road manners that were quite good by crossover standards. I already had the review written in my mind before I even swapped seats with my drive partner. Before long, however, I was reminded that snap judgments are often wrong.
When I was a wee lad, a four-cylinder full-size pickup was an unheard of idea. Truck buyers looked askance at any gas engine that wasn’t a V8. That’s obviously changed in recent years.
While I’ve already had a crack at the redesigned Silverado in Wyoming earlier this year, that drive focused on the V8s. So Chevy brought media to suburban Phoenix for a go-round in the four-banger, with the Chevrolet Colorado Bison also on hand to test (more on that next month when the embargo lifts).
Do not adjust your monitor. This full-size SUV is indeed painted something other than the piano black of livery companies and Uber drivers trying to emulate livery companies. I didn’t pick anyone up at an airport while driving this beast, nor did I drop passengers at a tony downtown restaurant.
It says something about our world when large luxury SUVs have become the default conveyance for the well-heeled. But this 2018 Lincoln Navigator Black Label turns that idea on its head, as beneath the the many plush layers is a proper truck, ready to haul in style.
The hot hatch segment is about to lose two stalwarts in the Ford Focus ST and Fiesta ST. Who, oh who, now will compete with the class-leading Volkswagen Golf GTI and Honda Civic Type-R?
Will it be Subaru, bringing back a hatch version of the WRX? Chevy with an actual hopped-up Cruze hatchback? Perhaps Toyota with a performance version of the new Corolla hatch?
No. As you no doubt know by now, the newest player in the hot-hatch game is Hyundai, with the N version of its Veloster three-door entering the fray. Positioned above the sport-trimmed R-Spec Veloster and the top-trim Veloster Turbo (which blends luxury with sport), the N is meant to be an affordable track-ready toy that’s ready to go from the moment it leaves the showroom while still being usable a daily driver.
A peach in the streets and a freak off the streets, as it were.
Today’s vehicle represents a couple of firsts for the Rare Rides series. It’s the first time a Rare Rides has featured an old car that’s still new, and it’s also the first time your author actually drove the Rare Ride in question.
An Aegean Blue luxury coupe awaits.
Acura’s entry level ILX is redesigned for the 2019 model year. With new styling and additional technology on board, it fulfills the brand’s desire to display a cohesive design language across all models. But is this refresh of a refresh any good? We headed to Columbus to find out.
Kia has done a remarkable job at building a brand here in the U.S., and has done so without treading the well-worn path of appealing to enthusiasts. No, the Kia brand is built on solid small cars and utilities, with price and a great warranty being top of mind. Not squealing tires.
You knew that had to change. There is plenty of money in Kia’s corporate warchest to move away from the meat-and-potatoes commuter appliances to a nice, exciting cake or pie. Thus, the 2018 Kia Stinger GT — a tasty treat for the eyes and the butt dyno. But does it satisfy?
Until recently, anyone wanting a purely electric vehicle capable of driving beyond the confines of a daily commute was stuck shelling out the big bucks. Then Chevrolet introduced the Bolt in 2016, proving that 200+ miles of range wasn’t out of the question. With most EV competitors achieving just over half that, it seemed like it might be awhile before we saw another mainstream nameplate surpass that achievement.
Keen to one-up the Americans (even though the Bolt was technically developed by GM Korea), Hyundai has come forward with the 2019 Kona Electric. This subcompact crossover replaces its standard four-cylinder and fuel tank for an electric motor and 64-kWh battery pack. The end result is a familiar platform with an unfamiliar powertrain that’s capable of 258 all-electric miles, according to the manufacturer. It also happens to be quite enjoyable to drive. The Kona even hums like an an angel at low speeds, something I found wildly entertaining as I wheeled it around Los Angeles.
If I had to be run over by a car, I would love for that noise to be the last thing I heard before the world went dark.
Mazda has long been an enigma within the Japanese automaker realm. Never quite the volume player of Toyota or Nissan, Mazda targeted enthusiasts via the RX-7 and Miata — models that cast a echo of driving enjoyment over the rest of the lineup. While Mazda attempted to go after the premium end of the market in the early Nineties with the stillborn Amati brand, the automaker has generally left the high end alone.
Much like the Denali line within GMC’s lineup, Mazda has unleashed its Signature trim, which adds a layer of lux upon an already impressive midsizer. This 2018 Mazda 6 Signature melds plush and performance into one.
In some segments, familiarity is a good thing. The General has been the beyond dominant ruler of the king-size SUV segment for ages, ever since its competitors either stopped playing in the field or opted to equip their machines with V6 engines and independent rear suspensions. Both of those features are nobly forward-thinking but have yet to be rewarded by customers who seem to favor things they already know.
Casting a large-and-in-charge shadow, the Suburban you see here is endowed with seating for eight, cargo space best measured in acres, and 22-inch wheels. What’s absent? Oh yeah, a 6.2-liter engine.
As I shuffled, exhausted, into the airport bathroom, a whistle-shaped fan was attempting to dry its freshly mopped floors — picking up the scent of the urine-soaked tiles and wafting it directly into my nostrils. It was not shaping up to be a good week and I had another 2,000 miles to go before I arrived in Utah to sample the 2019 Ford Edge ST and Edge Titanium.
Ford’s Edge has been a guilty pleasure of mine ever since I used one to follow the PGA tour almost four years ago. That experience ended with me feeling worse about golf but much better about a vehicle I had previously written off as uninteresting. The Edge Titanium I basically lived out of during that period didn’t become more exciting. But every time I had to park it and traverse eighteen holes of nearly consistent boredom under the hot summer sun, I’d look back at its fresh red paint and whisper “take me away from all of this.” And that’s exactly what it did when my time with the tour ended.
I loaded up the massive rear compartment, shuttled a few locals home, and drove it back to New York City under budget on fuel, where I found that it was actually small enough to park on the street. I was damned pleased with it, but thrilling performance wasn’t part of the overall appeal. That’s why I was legitimately excited to try Ford’s new Edge ST — a model that replaces the Sport trim for the 2019 model year and was dubbed by its creators as the quickest ST ever made.
A few Beloit College professors have made plenty of hay over the years by publicizing their Mindset Lists — lists of the things each new class of incoming freshmen will not be able to relate to. For example, a new class in college right now doesn’t know a world with Tupac or JonBenet Ramsey.
Kids today, amirite?
I’m of a different mindset when it comes to car prices. As I turn forty later this year — meaning if I had any sort of game in high school, I could have been the daddy of one of those incoming freshmen — I can clearly recall a time when a new car could be had for around $4,000. Not a good car, mind you — that would have been closer to $10k in 1986 — but it gives me an appropriate reference point for a modern car.
Thus, I clench a bit when I see a sticker price over $20k for a subcompact hatchback, like the one on this 2018 Kia Rio EX. It takes a mental reset to realize I can’t buy basic transportation so cheap anymore. I have to consider exactly what it is I’m getting for the money, and at that point the numbers start to make sense.
People, pets, and cars all arrive on this planet in different shapes and sizes. Alert readers know this author’s proclivity for Large Machines which bend the macadam with their shocking curb weights and lot-hogging girth. I remain unrepentant.
It was a surprise, then, for the diminutive little roller skate you see here to spin my crank in a positive direction. Yes, it measures several sizes smaller than most other crossovers — smaller, even, than some of its direct competitors.
Like a Jack Russell terrier, what the Mazda CX-3 gives up in size it more than makes up for with excited exuberance. It’s like a Miata with a backpack.
Midway through my drive in the 2019 Nissan Altima, I was ready to pronounce it a bit “meh” – decidedly improved over the previous-generation car, but lacking in verve. That’s been a Nissan hallmark of late – a conservatism has descended upon the brand, taking out of some of the sportier cachet it was once known for.
Instead, we’ve been getting good-looking vehicles that cruise the highway just fine but lack a little bit of charm and character. This, from the brand that once called a large sedan a four-door sports car with a straight face?
My outlook changed a bit after we left lunch behind. Pulling out of the parking lot of one of California’s myriad beaches, I punched it to get up to speed. The acceleration from the 2.0-liter variable-compression turbocharged four-cylinder wasn’t life-changing or anything of the sort – we’re talking about a mid-size sedan, here, remember – but it was enough to make me remember, for the umpteenth time, that power cures a lot of ills.
I’m a very bad person. At least, I’m a bad neighbor. Shortly after we moved into this mature subdivision, I raised the ire of several mature neighbors by foolishly attempting to part out old cars in my garage — and occasionally my driveway, after the projects overflowed. Code enforcement was involved twice.
My car hobbies have evolved, and those neighbors have moved on in one way or another. But I’m still a child around fun cars.
I think the new, younger residents of the house next door have forgiven me for the 2018 Ford Mustang GT PP2 that graced my driveway for a week. I never switched the active exhaust to “Quiet” mode. Rather, I always switched to “Race” mode for a Parnelli Jones-inspired soundtrack with my morning coffee.
“Dare Greatly,” Cadillac’s slogan du jour, is open to a wide spectrum of interpretation.
Daring greatly could mean being the first to achieve something of note, like when Amelia Earhart became the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean; it could mean being the first to not do something, like that one kid at school who talked to the new guy instead of making fun of him; it might even be refining or simplifying existing memetics, like Apple did when it changed the way we interact with music through the iTunes ecosystem. Then there’s the case of the late-arriving Cadillac XT4.
Sure, it may be the last of the major-branded luxury-compact crossovers to report for duty in a segment that has been glowing red hot for several years now, but Cadillac’s great dare in this space is a bet that consumers won’t really care which chicken came before the egg, just if there’s a vegan alternative to the omelette. As a late entrant, Cadillac claims it’s been able to study the segment, getting to know the intimate needs of the younger demographic it’s been working to understand and engage for the past five years. And if there’s one thing the thirty-something, upwardly mobile, cosmopolitan, condo-dweller loves more than engineering a career, spinning, and brunch, it’s a puppy.
Imagine a world in which the crossover SUV, the blight of our roadways, was the default transportation option. Where most vehicles are tall, bloated, with poor handling.
Some might say that we’re already there — heck, we’ve been saying that.
But in our imaginary world where the crossover has been the standard for decades, consider what the impact of a marketplace disruptor like this 2018 Mazda 3 GT could be. All of the utility of a CUV, but with better fuel economy and handling. In this bizarro world, this revolutionary compact hatchback might indeed be all the rage. Thus, I’m calling the Mazda3 “The Crossunder.”
Many crossovers are really just tall wagons, and the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan looks the part. It has a boxy overall shape with angles and curves mixed in. Drop its ride height, and it’s a wagon.
Fine. That’s sort of the point – crossovers promise the utility of wagons with a taller seating position. We’ve been over this before.
Getting a crossover to stand out requires a little extra effort, beyond just being a tall wagon. In the case of the Tiguan, Volkswagen remembered that it’s the same company that makes the Golf/Golf GTI, and has the MQB platform available for use in underpinning its compact crossover. Unlike the larger, bulkier Atlas, which also shares the platform but is tuned for comfort – the Tiguan makes better use of the sportier aspects of its platform.
Acadia. Denali. Two National Parks that connote wilderness adventure. Acadia — the easternmost National Park — covers much of an island off the coast of Maine. Denali, named after the eponymous mountain that was occasionally named for the best President to come from Ohio in the twentieth century — is a park larger than the state of New Hampshire. The names make you think of wide open spaces, which should be a desirable trait in a family-sized crossover.
Not even a month ago, Associate Editor Steph Willems professed his love for the 2018 edition of the Acadia Denali. And while Steph and I are of similar mind on certain features on this three-row crossover, he and I have diverging uses for such a vehicle. For many, I’m sure, the 2019 GMC Acadia Denali is ideal. Due to some space issues, however, it isn’t the perfect family hauler for me. It comes up a bit short.
Kia’s message to media assembled in Pittsburgh to sample the 2019 Kia Forte was simple – “Play It Loud.” The Korean brand’s been on a rock n’ roll kick for a while now, trying to play the feisty little sibling to Hyundai. Kia’s the one still on campus, partying it up, while Hyundai plays the part of the elder with the real job and the business-casual wardrobe.
Unfortunately for Kia, loud can be both good and bad. Zeppelin cranked to 11? Good loud. A four-cylinder thrashing under heavy throttle? Bad loud.
Think back to your youth — no matter your age — and picture a proper luxury car from that era. Unless you’re a precocious teen stumbling upon this site, I’m certain you imagined some sort of plush sedan. Whether a powerful yet reserved Mercedes-Benz, a Broughamtastic Cadillac Sedan DeVille, or a stately Lincoln Town Car, the traditional three-box sedan has defined the ultimate in automotive opulence since the Second World War.
No longer, it seems. Today’s titans of industry are wholly given over to unfamiliar affections, finding happiness in another kind of conveyance: the big SUV. Whether Escalade, Navigator, or G-Class, rising above the poors means being seen above the poors. If design govern in a thing so large, whither tradition?
Since the default for extravagant luxury seems to be a full-size SUV, the traditional big floaty sedan’s days seem to be numbered. Does the 2018 Cadillac CT6 rage, rage against the dying of the breed? Or does it go gentle — with Super Cruise — into the good night?
It would have been nice to make it to a 10th anniversary, to celebrate a full decade as a contributor to this august website. Oh, that a man might know / The end of this day’s business ere it come! / But it sufficeth that the day will end / And then the end is known. My first contribution to TTAC appeared on December 20, 2008. This is the last one. I’m not quitting the business; you can find me at Road & Track, Hagerty Magazine, Watch Journal, Bicycling, Popular Mechanics, Zoom-Zoom Magazine, and a few others. It’s time to move on to work on some other projects.
Oh, well. Let’s enjoy our final moments together. Come with me as I open the throttle on Mercedes’/AMG’s mild underachiever of a three-liter twin-turbo V6 from the Thai border to Hatyai and from there to Hua Hin. The speeds are outrageous, the 7-Elevens along the way are serving hot sandwiches, and the monkeys that hang from cages mounted to late-model diesel Hiluxes are giving us quizzical looks.
Sometimes one just has to appreciate the complete absurdity of a vehicle. The never-ending available horsepower in the current pony car wars, for example. The over-the-top quilted interior of the limited-run Bentley Continental GT3-R. And then we have the 2018 Nissan Armada, which is completely and totally ridiculous in its own right.
It’s substantially bigger than anybody could ever possibly need it to be. It’s superfluously more expensive than any Nissan has a right to be (come at me, GT-R fanbois). The engine is more forceful than you’ll ever require it to be.
But I kinda like it anyway. At least, I think I do.
The word Camaro, depending on who you ask, is either French slang meaning “friend” or a Spanish word for shrimp. But GM PR reps, when the name was unveiled in 1966, had a carefully crafted definition for the inevitable question from gullible, likely gin-soaked journalists: “A Camaro is a small, vicious animal that eats Mustangs.”
That’s it right there — for over fifty years, the Camaro has been defined by the competition. But that competition is a bit different now, as there’s a good turbo four-cylinder available from Dearborn. Not content to target the usual opponents, the 2019 Chevrolet Camaro Turbo 1LE has both track-day glory and compact imports in its sights.
I want to love you, CKD.
But who, or what, is CKD? It stands for Completely Knocked Down, and it’s a term used for a rather strange way to build a car. It works like so: A “mother plant” builds a new car. But not all the way. Just into sub-assemblies that can be put together in another plant devoted specifically to final assembly. Think of Ikea furniture; that’s CKD. That Tamiya Hornet you built back in 1985? Miniature CKD, my friend. I think you get the idea.
Now, it so happens that there are some countries out there that like to stimulate local employment by placing heavy tariffs on cars built elsewhere. Malaysia is one of those countries. So in March of 1967, Volvo opened a plant there to assemble CKD Volvos sent over from Sweden. This wasn’t “manufacturing” in its purest sense, but CKD assembly is often how “transplant” factories are jump-started; the first Accords made in Ohio were CKDs and now Marysville is itself a Global Mother Plant that is capable of making CKDs to be assembled elsewhere. Sure enough, after a while the Malaysian plant came up to speed and started building Volvos from soup to nuts.
In 2016, Volvo introduced the T8 “Twin Engine” version of its razor-edged S90 sedan. Compared to the S90 T5 I reviewed last year, the T8 has another 63 horses from increased boost pressure, plus an 87-horsepower electric motor driving the rear wheels. That S90 T5 was made in China to be sold in America. China is a long way from the United States. It is not a long way from Thailand. So when the owners of EVOLTN Magazine asked me to drive a Malaysian-assembled Volvo S90 T8 across Thailand, it seemed reasonable to assume that the CKD “kit” from whence it sprang would be Chinese. But as we all know, when you “assume”…