The Right Spec: 2022 Hyundai Santa Cruz

Our own Tim Healey recently found himself behind the wheel of Hyundai’s new trucklet, where he proclaimed it to be an all-around performer while tooling around the tony environs of Palo Alto. Whether he stopped into Tesla HQ for Elon’s take wasn’t mentioned and doesn’t matter.

What does matter is the Santa Cruz starting price, anchored at the end of a swimming pool that’s usually filled with commuter cars and small hatchbacks. Its sticker does climb to nearly 40 grand when all the option boxes are checked, however, leaving us with the question of finding the right balance of price and features

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QOTD: Pulling From the Past?

Our recent first drive of Volkswagen’s warmed-up Jetta — the revamped and newly potent GLI — sparked a fair bit of discussion among the TTAC crew about front-drive cars that live double lives.

As sedans of all stripes cower beneath the executioner’s wavering blade, fears are mounting that we could lose even more practical and attainable fun vehicles in the years to come, forcing all of us into Ford EcoSport STs or something of that vein. Yes, front-wheel drive cars can be fun, and there’s certainly a lot to be said for a hotter, performance-focused mainstream FWD sedan that offers its driver a chance to work out the stress of a hard week on a twisty stretch of backroad. A roomy Jetta with the heart of a GTI, manual transmission box checked? Sign me up.

Drivers are slightly spoiled these days on that front, as the GLI pairs nicely on the shopping list with Honda’s Civic Si. But let’s travel back in time for a debate.

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Piston Slap: Calibrate AWD for an SRT-4?
Geovanni writes,

Hi, I have a 2008 Dodge Caliber SRT-4 and for a while I’ve been looking for someone that might be able to help me convert it from FWD to AWD. I was wondering if you think there’s a way of making an AWD Caliber SRT-4 without dumping more money into it than its worth? I think a guy in Russia did it but haven’t found anyone in the states willing to help me out. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

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Piston Slap: Sanjeev Gets a Grip on Snow Tires?

Sanjeev writes:

Hello Sajeev, I am Sanjeev.

I moved to Michigan last year and have been driving a used 2006 Corolla. I can definitely afford a better car, but this one is serving me good. Agreed that it doesn’t have all the needed electronics and sex appeal; I am not swayed by that. The recent snow (about six inches) in Detroit area made me think of buying a car with needed ESC, ABS for better handling and driving. I have heard, read a lot about FWD and AWD cars and their handling on snowy roads but haven’t fully comprehended RWD cars on a snowy road.

Many online articles generally suggest that RWD is a bad idea during winter. Still, I see many of many colleagues driving RWD 300s, Durangos, and CTSes. Is RWD better or not on snowy roads?

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Ask Jack: All (Wheel Drive) or Nothing at All?

Politics, the man once said, is downstream from culture. It applies to cars as well. Maybe cars are in fact downstream from both politics and culture. You never know.

Everybody who was alive in the 1950s tells me it was kind of a dicey time. Children kneeling beneath a combined 1.25 inches of plywood that was supposed to have some sort of palliative effect on a locally detonated hydrogen bomb with a thousand times the power of Little Boy. The Iron Curtain clamping down across Europe, hundreds of millions of people disappearing into a regime where twisted social science operated a political machine lubricated liberally by the blood of kulaks and a generation of Soviet O’Briens insisting they could float off the ground if they just wished it so. Meanwhile, the United States was grinding through the task of reintegrating a few million young men who had often gone directly from their shoeless rural existence to the meat grinders of Iwo Jima and Normandy Beach.

Yet I defy you to look at a ’57 Chevrolet and not tell me somebody was feeling optimistic. The roads were covered in pastels and chrome and the good times were surely just around the corner. It was as if the styling chiefs of the Big Four (or however many there were) looked at the world around them and said, “Oh, the hell with this, let’s PUT FINS ON CARS!”

Sixty years later we’ve got all the Netflix and chill we can handle but most people look at the future as something that will impoverish, assail, endanger, or boil them. The climate and the economy seem to have more malevolence than the old Soviet shoe-bangers could ever muster but, instead of responding with Bel Airs, we’ve all decided to lock ourselves into tall, tippy metal boxes that promise to isolate us from every possible contaminant or concern. Each box must be sufficient for all imagined tasks, whether it’s clearing the Rubicon or circling the Nurburgring.

Most of these things scale half a ton more than a ’76 Cutlass Supreme Brougham with the 403. They are chock full of features we neither need nor want, and the hunchback king of those assembled unnecessaries is called All. Wheel. Drive.

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Piston Slap: The Case for the Front-Mounted Transaxle?

DAG writes:

Why don’t automakers design front-wheel-drive cars with the transaxle in front of the engine? This moves the front wheels forward and improves weight distribution; offers better potential for aerodynamics and leaves space under the hood for pedestrian protection. With a turbo four-cylinder, the engine could have clearance from the firewall. Also, the engine and transaxle could be mounted on a pivoting subframe, hinged at the front, to drop down at the back for major maintenance; disconnect steering and exhaust to drop cradle.

The engine would sit in the space where rack and pinion generally resides; steering gear design would be a challenge for direct mechanical actuation. Perhaps traction would be reduced. Would crashworthiness also be affected?

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QOTD: Is Dodge Durango FWD or AWD?

Welcome back to Question Of The Day, where I will be answering the questions that YOU, the Google Search customer, use to find our humble website. Your first question, Is Dodge Durango FWD or AWD, was asked by two different people! It deserves an answer, and the answer is: Sometimes it is one of those things!

Let’s see what else you wanted to know but were too afraid to publicly ask …

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2016 BMW X1 Review - The Un-BMW

When is a BMW not a BMW? Some would say: when it has four wheels. Others will say: when it’s front wheel drive. But here we are. BMW’s smallest crossover has ditched its BMW 3-Series roots for underpinnings shared with the Mini Countryman.

Say what?

Americans may be surprised to hear that the X1 is not BMW’s first front driver. Neither is it the last BMW with a transverse engine. Our European friends will soon be seeing the 2 Series Gran Tourer — a small 7-seat … minivan. Yes, a BMW minivan. What’s that sound, you ask? Minds blowing.

For purists, the notion of a trio of transverse-engined BMWs prowling around the countryside is an abomination; an affront to everything E46 M3 owners holds sacred.

For the rest of you? It’s no big deal. Seriously.

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Winter Tires: Business Up Front or Party in the Back?

Suppose you have a front-wheel-drive vehicle and you’re looking to fit a set of winter tires. Also, let’s assume that two of those tires have much more tread depth than the other two. On which end of the car do you install the better rubber?

According to the CBC, a woman in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada (that’s my town!) ran into just this problem, complete with conflicting advice from two repair shops: One said putting the fresher rubber up front is safer as the vehicle is front-wheel drive, while the other said giving the rear more grip is the best course of action to reduce the chance of a spin out.

Which one is correct?

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Ask the Editor: Does a Front-wheel-drive Honda S'Accorde With Canadian Weather?

Pete writes:

I find myself in a situation uniquely suited to seek out the counsel of the wise and insightful folks at TTAC (Sajeev, Mark, and the B&B).

I have been a long time resident of Tampa, Florida, where my ’98 Honda Accord and my wife’s ’04 Honda Accord perfectly suit the needs of my family (which includes our two boys, ages one and three). The ’98 has about 175,000 miles on the clock. I am just handy enough to do all required maintenance and repairs myself.

My employer has offered me the opportunity to relocate to Ottawa for the next three years. My wife works as a CPA and all of her clients are here in Tampa or greater Florida. The plan for now is for her to spend the tax seasons in Tampa with the boys while I enjoy the Ottawa winters solo.

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No Fixed Abode: I Want To Believe

Three years ago, around this time, I begged the nice people at Ford to build a proper Lincoln. This was shortly after I begged Cadillac to put a V-8 in the ATS. If you put the two articles together, you might get the sense that I have the completely antediluvian mindset that an American luxury car needs a V-8 and rear-wheel drive and main-battle-tank proportions to be completely legitimate. And you would be correct, because that is how I feel and, last time I checked, the nice people at Lexus and BMW and Mercedes-Benz felt the same way because most of the cars that they put on the cover of the Robb Report and the like seem to at least meet those basic criteria.

Well, the spy photos of the new Lincoln Continental are making the rounds. I can see that they have deliberately failed to honor my requests, the same way Cadillac stuck two fingers in my eye by afflicting the ATS-V with the asthmatic blown six when the same-platform Camaro SS has the mighty LT1 from the sublime Stingray. This is a retro Continental alright, but the retro-rockets are only firing back to 1988 instead of 1963.

You remember that 1988 Continental?

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Piston Slap: I Like the Sprite in You?

Nicholas writes:

A friend recently acquired the carcass (very deliberate choice of words) of a Bugeye Sprite. We were discussing what engine might go into it, and I was thinking that the turbo three-cylinder Ecotec would be a light but sufficiently powerful choice. However, I know very little about what is involved in turning an engine 90 degrees to run the rear wheels.

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Nissan IDx is Super-Dead, But Parts May Live On in FWD Platform

Nobody at Nissan is talking about IDx.

That’s what we learned from Pierre Loing, Vice President of Product Planning for Nissan North America. But, there’s a chance certain styling elements could make their way to other products, or possibly even a front-wheel drive performance option below 370Z.

While at the 2016 Nissan Maxima media preview in Nashville, Tennessee, we had a chance to prod Loing on what could be the future of IDx considering its overwhelmingly positive reception in Tokyo and Detroit.

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Piston Slap: A Silver Arrow Through the Heart?

TTAC commentator confused1096 writes:

Sajeev, I need some insight and good advice from yourself and the B & B. Here’s the problem: After my wife’s back surgery we no longer use my ’99 Buick Riviera Silver Arrow (#120) since it’s not comfortable for her to sit in (too low down, shape of seat etc.).

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Piston Slap: Taking Control of Torque Steer?

M.D.K. writes:

Good Afternoon. This will be my third query to this column, the first being an ill advised plan to put my wife in an old Mercedes hatched in an Afghan Bunker, the Second being for our Afghan Trailblazer that wouldn’t run. The Benz never materialized (thankfully) and the Trailblazer was made to run reasonably well with a fuel filter and removal of the clogged catalytic converter (The EPA man wasn’t coming to Bagram). Sadly about a week after we got the Trailblazer running they collected it in an effort to go to an all diesel fleet. It was replaced with a TaTa pickup.

This actually pertains to a vehicle in my own fleet, my wife appliance grade 2007 Hyundai Tucson.

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  • MaintenanceCosts This used to be my favorite class of car but at some point they just became too much. The V6 S6 is more than fast enough and will have a more comfortable ride, and I can't see what the extra $45k or so for the RS6 gets me except a V8 engine note.
  • Mike Beranek If any one of these jokers tries hacking into my vehicle, they'd better bring a lot of hacksaw blades, cuz they aren't getting in any other way.
  • Brn "Curry and his band of hackers took what they learned to SiriusXM, which issued an immediate fix. "Good for them, both Yuga and Sirrius.
  • Luke42 I see a lot of EVs on the road in my small city in Central Illinois.What most observers who don't live here don't realize is that "blue states" and "red states" still have a highly polarized urban/rural divide. I live in a small city, and we have a globally connected tech economy here.If I drive ten miles out of town, though, the necks are just as red as they are in Texas. Those folks do things the country way.American-city-culture loves EVs. The cars are an improvement in every way over, say, a Honda Civic used for commuting.Many American-country-culture icons assert that EVs must be the worst thing ever because city-people like them. It's self defeating for the country-people to think that way, of course, because the cars are good and electricity is cheaper (and, therefore, more plentiful) than gasoline. But there is a kernel of truth to their skepticism in that some use-cases aren't easily filled by EVs just yet -- but they would rather complain about the fact that EVs exist than to objectively pick the right tool for the right job.Long distance commuters (usually rural people who work in the city) have the most to gain from commuting via EV.EVs are pretty popular in small cities in flyover country, assuming the city is prosperous enough for its residents to afford new cars at all.
  • FreedMike The FJ Kult is even cultier than the Tacoma Kult…and that’s saying something.