2016 Ford Flex AWD Limited Review - It's What's Inside That Counts
“Get that thing off my driveway!” was how Ford’s former executive director of design Peter Horbury described his wife’s reaction the first time she saw the newest people-mover from Ford back in 2008. It was a radical shift for a company that recently exited the minivan market (goodbye Freestar) in favor of something more in tune with the times.
At least that was the plan.
2016 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid Review - The Crossover Unicorn
A few short weeks ago, I was inside a very purple 2016 RAV4 marveling that Toyota’s compact crossover nearly outsells the Mazda brand. My bottom line for that RAV4 read like this:
Why are the RAV4’s sales so high when there are more fun options out there? The reasons can be found in its strong value proposition, a soft ride about which journalists often complain, included scheduled maintenance and Toyota’s reputation for reliability.
The 2016 RAV4 isn’t going to light many souls on fire, but it gives the average CUV shopper more of what they obviously want.
Except fuel economy or performance.
That’s where the first full-hybrid compact crossover since Ford abandoned the Escape Hybrid five years ago comes in.
2017 Audi Q7 Review - The Three-Row Flagship
We recently reviewed the 2016 Volvo XC90, the long overdue redesign of Volvo’s family hauler. First introduced as a 2002 model, the XC90 was a teenager by the time it was finally replaced. Oddly enough, it’s a similar story with the Audi Q7.
In response to Volvo’s then-new XC90, Audi began development of the seven-seater Q7 in 2002, which later hit the market in 2005. It received a facelift in 2009, but the basics of the slab-sided Audi remained. Eleven years later, and at around the same time as the new XC90, Audi has finally reinvented the Q7 as a sort of soft-road A8 Avant.
Can it compete against the new XC90 for the hearts and minds of luxury-minded families?
Junkyard Find: 1982 AMC Eagle Station Wagon
I live in Colorado, where the AMC Eagle sold as well in the 1980s as the Subaru Outback does now, and so I see the all-wheel-drive versions of the American Motors Concord and Spirit everywhere here. This means they show up in Denver-area self-service wrecking yards like clockwork, and I photograph them when they do (and I walk right by most air-cooled Beetles, which I know is wrong).
So far, I have documented the demise of this ’79 wagon, this ’80 coupe, this white-with-plaid-interior ’80 wagon, this GM Iron Duke-powered ’81 SX/4, this ’82 hatchback, this ’83 SX/4 Sport, this ’84 wagon, this ’84 wagon, this ’84 “woodie” wagon, and this ’85 wagon. Now we’ve got this gloriously brown-and-tan-and-beige-and-brown example of Malaise Era proto-crossover Kenosha goodness.
Ask Bark: What Should I Buy For My First Whip?
Ask Bark? is picking up steam like a train on the island of Sodor, man! Thanks for all of your questions after last week’s installment, as well as the great advice you gave our friend, Josh.
However, be warned — Bark will not be punked like the author of “Ask Amy” was this week. Don’t write in with any questions about buying a Saab convertible, okay? I’m not gonna fall for it.
Now, on to this week’s question from youthful reader Greg:
I’m about to turn 16 and will be looking for a car soon. Being a car guy, I’ve been looking at sportier cars that won’t break the bank. My total spending budget is about $11,000.
2015 Ford Edge Titanium Review - Manufacturer of Doubt
As soon as I finished my time with the 2015 Nissan Murano, my mind immediately wandered to the new Ford Edge.
You see, the Murano is fantastic. It’s effortlessly comfortable. The ride is sublime. When you’re driving the Murano, everything is damn-near perfect. But the Murano could only be considered pretty by someone subjected to the “ Ludovico Technique” and thousands of flashing images of the Infiniti [s]QX56[/s] QX80.
The Murano is the violently green neon dress and pink knee-high boots to the Edge’s fitted black number and Saks Fifth Avenue pumps. At a black-tie affair, one of those is going to stick out, and for all the wrong reasons.
Yet, looks can be deceiving. It was underneath that retina-burning attire I found an incredibly comfortable, competent crossover in the Murano. It’s hard to fault it with your eyes closed.
Now it’s the Edge’s turn. Would I find the same characteristics in it that made me fall in love with Nissan’s lifestyle-mobile?
Junkyard Find: 1995 Eagle Summit AWD Wagon
It’s hard to keep track of all the twists and turns of the drama involving Chrysler, Mitsubishi, and American Motors vehicles and branding during the last quarter of the 20th century — and that’s without even bringing Rootes Group stuff into the cast of characters.
The Eagle Summit Wagon, which was a left-hand-drive Mitsubishi RVR slapped with the badges of a marque named for a long-defunct AMC vehicle and not much related to the Mirage-based Eagle Summit car, is a good example of an obscure Mitsu-Chrysler sold just a few years before a bunch of Daimler DNA got added to the Chrysler genome.
We saw this ’93 Eagle Summit FWD Wagon a couple of years back, and now here’s an AWD example that I spotted in Denver last month.
Junkyard Find: 2002 Isuzu Axiom
Remember the Isuzu Axiom? Of course you don’t, because this Rodeo-based SUV was sold (in tiny quantities) for just the 2002-2004 model years and was then replaced with the Chevy Trailblazer-clone Isuzu Ascender.
Oddball, 21st-century marketplace flops are interesting to me, for whatever reason, so we’ll follow up the Kia Rondo Junkyard Find with this Denver wrecking-yard inmate.
Piston Slap: A Spoonful of Sugar for Bitter Medicine?
2016 Subaru Forester XT Review - More Isn't Always More
According to my nephew and me: If one is good then 100 is a good place to start.
My nephew is 11. I’m 33. Hopefully his gene pool is deeper than mine. But excess is extra good in my life. I appreciate a larger-than-I-need TV most nights and not one, but two, cheeseburgers in my value meals sometimes. If a Forester is good then a turbo Forester must be great according to my juvenile definition of the world.
Already one of the best crossovers on the market, the Forester actually benefits from Subaru’s glacial powertrain pace: flat-four up front, all-wheel drive underneath — and they’ll check back sometime during the next decade. The naturally aspirated, older 2.5-liter flat four does work in pedestrian Foresters; its 170 horsepower is competent like gas station coffee. Force feeding 80 more ponies — to a total of 250 for the turbo XT — should make the Forester better. It could, right?
I’ll put it this way: Does gas station creamer make gas station coffee better?
2015 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport - Diamond Star in the Rough
A preconceived notion — or simply, a bias — forms easily when correlations exist to support it.
While the Japanese automaker has seen recent sales success, their newest nameplate — Mirage — has become the butt of many jokes and is often associated with a group of buyers one degree removed from the “Buy Here, Pay Here” crowd. Whether the Mirage deserves that reputation is another story.
The company’s largest model, the Outlander, recently received a refresh that is more than skin deep, but still not very dramatic. A new front fascia and revised rear sheet metal bring up the visual appeal a notch, and Mitsubishi does say numerous engineering changes have been employed on its latest and greatest crossover, but the crossover still houses the same, tired, premium fuel-drinking V-6 engine as always.
The recent news that Mitsubishi will shut down its manufacturing operations in Normal, Illinos, a plant that’s been open since 1988, also doesn’t help optics on the surface. And, unfortunately for the automaker, stories about sales gains just aren’t sexy enough to grab the attention of the average consumer.
Therefore, with all this bad news and bad press, you’d think the Outlander Sport (RVR in Canada) is just another zit on the face of the Japanese automaker.
But you’d be (mostly) wrong.
2015 Nissan Murano SL AWD Review - Suave Ugly Duckling
2015 Nissan Murano SL AWD
3.5-liter VQ35DE DOHC V-6, Continuously Variable Timing Control System (260 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 240 lbs-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm)
Xtronic continuously variable transmission (2.413:1 – 0.383:1 range, 0.958:1 final drive)
21 city/28 highway/24 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
22.4 mpg on the Soccer Dad test cycle, 75 percent city (Observed, MPG)
Tested Options: SL trim, all-wheel drive
Base Price (S FWD):
$30,445* (U.S.)/$31,858* (Canada)
As Tested Price:
$39,435* (U.S.)/$41,393* (Canada)
* All prices include $885 destination fee (U.S.) or $1,860 destination fee, PDI and A/C tax (Canada).
“Damn, that’s ugly,” I thought to myself — in addition to saying it openly amongst my automotive journalist friends when Nissan unveiled the new, third-generation Murano at the 2014 New York Auto Show.
“Who’s going to buy this?” I asked myself — in addition to everyone who would possibly listen to my whining.
“I bet this won’t sell,” proclaimed my inner monologue — in addition to my external one.
Boy, was I wrong on that last point. The new Murano’s year-to-date sales in Canada have already eclipsed last year’s entirely (sales surpassed 1,000 units in June 2015 for the first time ever in Canada), and it will likely sell more in the U.S. than it has in the last couple years at the very least.
When I had a chance to drive the newest “lifestyle” crossover from Nissan, I realized why my predictions were so wrong. If you can look past the sheet metal, the aging VQ35DE V-6 engine and the continuously variable transmission that’s become ubiquitous with the Nissan brand, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what is arguably the best lifestyle crossover on the market.
That should be no surprise. One could make a case for the Nissan Murano being a pioneer in this segment. Back in 2002, Nissan rolled out the first-generation Murano to either fanfare or fiery criticism, depending on who you asked.
The non-luxury softroader was born — whether you liked it or not.
2016 Honda Pilot Review - The Sensible 8-Hauler
2016 Honda Pilot Elite AWD
3.5-liter i-VTEC SOHC V-6, direct injection, cylinder deactivation, CVVT (280 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm,
262 lbs-ft @ 4,700 rpm)
9-Speed ZF 9HP automatic
19 city/26 highway/22 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
21.6 mpg (Observed, MPG)
Tested Options: Elite Trim
* Prices include $880 destination charge.
My sister-in-law announced that she and her husband were having child number four. As a result of this announcement, they decided it was finally time to sell the five-seat sedan and buy another crossover. Since she is constantly flooded with a parade of visiting family members, she asked what sounded like a simple question: What’s the best 8-passenger crossover with a comfortable third row and room for cargo. My answer: Buy a minivan. No, seriously, just buy a minivan. Think you need AWD? Get some winter tires. Really, really need AWD? Get a Sienna.
I’m sure you can guess what she said: “I am not driving a minivan.”
The problem is, aside from minivans, there are few 8-passenger options that aren’t expensive, full size, body-on-frame SUVs. Those options are: the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander and GM’s identical triplets — the Chevy Traverse, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave. That’s it. If you need more room, be prepared to shell out for a Suburban, Escalade, Navigator or a few other spendy options.
Today we look at the freshest entry in this phonebooth-sized segment, the all-new 2016 Honda Pilot.
2016 Mazda CX-3 Review - Nomenclature, Be Damned
2016 Mazda CX-3 Grand Touring AWD (U.S.)/GT AWD (Canada)
2.0-liter SKYACTIV DOHC I-4, direct injection, dual S-VT (146 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm; 146 lbs-ft of torque @ 2,800 rpm)
6-speed SKYACTIV-Drive automatic w/ Sport mode and paddle shifters
27 city/32 highway/29 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)
30 mpg on the camping-gear-laden test cycle, 80 percent highway (Observed, MPG)
Tested Options: i-ACTIVSENSE Safety Package (U.S.)/Technology Package (Canada), i-ACTIV all-wheel drive (U.S., AWD is standard on GT trim in Canada)
$20,840* (U.S.)/$22,680* (Canada)
As Tested Price:
$29,040* (U.S.)/$32,490* (Canada)
* All prices include $880 destination fee (U.S.) or $1,995 destination fee, PDI and A/C tax (Canada).
For as long as I can remember, my parents always had two vehicles while I was growing up. The first one I can vividly remember was the precursor to GM’s dreaded Cavalier and Cobalt, a 1987 Chevrolet Chevette, with an interior as roomy as any compact you can buy today. The second conveyance in our driveway was a 1992 Suzuki Sidekick, Jay Green in color, and rugged as my father needed for his job traversing Cape Breton Island’s vast spaghetti network of logging roads.
In the early 1990s, the Chevette ended with a bang. As I laid on a bed at my grandmother’s apartment, attempting as much as a young child would to get to sleep (translation: not trying at all), I was startled by tire squealing, a loud bang, silence, then more tire squealing. The Chevette had been dispatched by a freshly licensed 16-year-old driving a Hyundai Pony and fueled by Vitamin O. Write-off total: approximately $500 — for both cars.
The Chevette, now off to the scrapyard, was replaced by a Pontiac Firefly five-door, known for its economical three-cylinder engine outputting double-digit horsepower whilst solidly achieving double-digit miles per gallon halfway to the centripulcate. As a daily runabout, it was solid, economical, and — with its wagon-esque virtues — incredibly versatile.Back then, my parents were about the same age I am now. They were the last of the Baby Boomers and in the 1990s faced what many Millennials face today. My parents were done with school and working on budding careers and a growing family inside their newly acquired home. There are some key differences between them and me however: I have one extra dog (for a total of two), lack children and I don’t own a home.
It’s in this context that my girlfriend and I headed out on one of my family’s favorite pastimes from when I was a child — a weekend camping trip — in the millennial-focused 2016 Mazda CX-3.
2015 Subaru Legacy 2.5i Premium Review (with Video)
Subaru’s Legacy is unique in the midsize sedan segment, not just because it is the only entry with standard all-wheel drive, but also because it also comes with a standard continuously variable transmission and the $21,745 price tag is just $405 higher than the least expensive entry, the Passat. The value of that standard CVT and AWD system is around $2,600-$3,000 effectively making the Subaru a much better value than the base Volkswagen that is front-wheel drive with a manual. This value proposition is the key to understanding Subaru in general and the Legacy in particular.