2016 Jaguar XF 35t R-Sport Review - The Tweener Kitty Goes Aluminum

Luxury car companies are practiced at the art of completely redesigning a car, yet styling those new models so much like their predecessors that you’d need an illustrated guide to tell them apart. Jaguar was the king of this design exercise in the ’90s and 2000s. My personal 2005 Jaguar Super V8 may look like Jags of yore inside and out, but under the wood and leather is a thoroughly modern aluminum luxury chassis that — with updates — underpins the modern XJ.

On the other side of the equation we have the XF. The 2008 model signaled a major shift for Jaguar’s styling, but under the sleek and modern exterior sat a reworked Jaguar S-Type chassis. The first generation XF won praise for the M5-chasing XFR and a design that came to define the modern Jaguar.

For the second generation of the XF, Jaguar played it safe with an image retaining the bulk of the styling from the previous generation. Under the familiar styling is Jaguar’s all new, aluminum-intensive iQ platform that’ll be the basis for the XF, XE, F-Pace and two other mysterious Jaguar Land Rover products in the next few years.

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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?

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2016 Audi TT Roadster Review - Not Just a Pretty Face

Most luxury roadsters are related to a practical, rear-wheel-drive sports sedan, but Audi prefers to march to a different drummer.

Since its inception in 1998, the Audi TT has been based not on the A4, but on the Volkswagen Golf. The original TT was the product of Audi’s best and brightest and it not only blew minds at its debut for its design, it was a hoot to drive as well.

The second generation of the TT on the other hand, failed to impress. It’s not that it was a bad car, it just didn’t excite me like the first generation did. The handling was good, but BMW’s Z4 and Mercedes’ SLK were more fun. The exterior was bolder and meaner than the original, but the interior was too “VW Golf” for the price tag. Every time I sat in one I would say to myself, “Something is missing.”

As luck would have it, Audi’s engineers were also searching for that “something.” And they found it.

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2016 BMW I8 Review - The 'Affordable' Plug-In Supercar

“Looks like sex, goes like stink” is the usual supercar mantra, but BMW’s guru was humming a different tune when penning the i8.

You see, the i8 isn’t just a sexy car with “butterfly doors.” It’s also a production prototype of sorts styled after BMW’s 2009 Vision EfficientDynamics concept.

Most supercars have exotic engines with high cylinder counts and drink premium gasoline at an alarming rate. BMW’s mission with the i8 was to make an efficient supercar and at the same time production-test technologies that will trickle down to its higher volume cars over time.

The i8’s efficiency is the key to understanding this sexy German. The i8 isn’t the best handling supercar, or even the best handling BMW. Neither is it the fastest BMW, the most luxurious BMW, or (oddly enough) the most efficient BMW. Instead, the i8 delivers M235i like lateral grip, M4 like acceleration, fuel economy that bests the 320i by a few miles per gallon and lines so sexy I got a thumbs up from a passing F430.

This isn’t your average sports car.

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Report: General Motors Cheated Fuel Economy, Emissions With Opel Zafira

General Motors on Thursday denied that its own internal testing revealed the Opel Zafira 1.6-liter diesel flouted European emissions and fuel economy standards, Bloomberg reported ( via Automotive News).

A German news magazine program, Monitor, said officials at Opel knew its midsize crossover polluted up to 15-percent more carbon dioxide than advertised, and that the automaker knew its fuel claims couldn’t be substantiated. The report also said that separate testing at a Swiss facility showed the Zafira exceeded advertised fuel consumption and emissions by 20 percent.

Or, in other words: Another chapter in the “ Everyone Cheated/Just Volkswagen Cheated” saga.

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2016 Smart Fortwo Review - Honey, I Shrunk The Car [Video]

America loves big cars, big trucks and fat crossovers. If you doubt me, all you need to do is look at 2015’s top sellers. The top five vehicles account for 13 percent of all vehicles sold in the USA this year, and the smallest of the five is the Toyota Camry. Not so small. Check the top 20 list, and the smallest entry is the Corolla which has grown so large we would have called it “midsized” in the ’80s.

Today, we’re looking at a very different kind of car: the 2016 smart fortwo (yes, that’s all lower case for some reason), a car that is six feet shorter than the Corolla.

2008 was Smart’s best year in the USA with some 24,000 cheeky micro cars sold. Since then, sales haven’t been swift. Yearly sales numbers in the USA bounce between 5,000 and 14,000. Canadians, however, seem to love them. Sales volumes in the Great White North hover around half the US volume. Not impressed? The entire Canadian market’s sales numbers are “smart-sized” compared to the United States. Heck, Smart outsells Maserati in Canada. Could it be that, like nationalized healthcare, the Canadians are up to something good? Or, just like healthcare, is this a good idea somewhere else, just not in the USA?

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Piston Slap: Does Automotive Racism Exist?

June writes:

Greetings, editors. I love your website. It has taught me a tremendous amount about cars and the industry. This is my first time writing. I would love to see a piece about auto reliability, perhaps from an insider engineering perspective. What I’d like to see addressed is the question of why some cars and makes are more reliable than others.

I know these issues often result in pissing contests between:

1) those who claim to be “real auto enthusiasts” and would drive nothing less than a German sports car with a stick, despite the verifiable quality control issues that afflicts all the German manufacturers, and,

2) those who value reliability, fewer headaches, fewer trips to the mechanic, and more money saved in the long run, perhaps at the expense of an “emotional” engagement with their car.

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2016 Volvo XC90 T6 AWD Review - Sweden's New King (Video)

Many of you have asked why we bother to review a car we’ve already reviewed based on a few hours at a launch event. The all-new 2016 Volvo XC90 is a textbook example of why more time with a car allows for a more complete review.

At launch events, you have no time to perform acceleration or brake tests of a vehicle (and, of course, you aren’t testing the car on the same circuit that the rest of the cars have been tested upon) and you have no ability to drive the competition back-to-back to get a sense of comparison. There is a reason that first drive reviews tend to be fact based: it’s hard to review a car in a vacuum.

So why is the XC90 a textbook example? Because of my own biases. Biases are interesting things. They can blind you to a car’s faults, or they can lead you to overcompensate and find fault.

After digesting my time with the XC90, I started falling into the latter camp. Edmunds 0-60 tested the XC90 and found it slower than expected. I started wondering if I had been wearing rose-colored glasses and asked myself: “Was it really that good?” Therefore, I had to get my hand on one again so I could run it through our battery of tests and drive it on my own for a week to find the answer.

The answer: It is better.

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2016 Audi A6 3.0T Review (With Video)

Audi is a brand associated with all-wheel drive, well-fitted interiors and design evolution that requires you to park a new model next to an old one to tell what has been changed. The 2016 A6 doesn’t diverge much from this formula despite being a thorough refresh of the outgoing A6.

This Audi plays in the crowded midsize luxury pool with competition coming from every angle. The big boys are, of course, the BMW 5-Series and Mercedes-Benz E-Class, but 2016 also brings an all-new and all-aluminum Jaguar XF. We also have Cadillac’s latest CTS, a Maserati Ghibli for those that want something less reliable than a Jag, the Lexus GS and Infiniti Q70 from the land of the rising sun and the Koreans have the Genesis — and that’s before we start including the more distant competition from Volvo, Acura, Lincoln, etc. The last A6 was a midsized luxury unicorn, because not even Nissan thought they could sell a front-wheel drive luxury car in America with a CVT. As it turns out, not even Audi could defend the CVT in a luxury entry, so 2016 sees the end of Audi’s dalliance with the cogless tranny. Fear not folks, the A6 is still the odd German out since the base model is still front-wheel drive.

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2016 Jaguar F-Type S Review - Row Your Own Kitty [w/ Video]

2016 Jaguar F-Type S 6-Speed Manual

3.0-liter AJ126 DOHC V-6, supercharged (380 horsepower @ 6,500 rpm; 339 lbs-ft @ 3,500-5,000 rpm)

6-speed ZF Manual

16 city / 24 highway / 19 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

20.1 (Observed, MPG)

Base Price:
$65,995*
As Tested:
$89,250*

* Prices include $995 destination charge.

Jaguar has long occupied an interesting niche in the luxury segment due to not being a full-line brand. With a few exceptions, the English brand’s primary targets have been the E-Class/5-Series, the S-Class/7-Series and whatever high-end coupe and convertible the Germans are selling at the moment. That is changing now that Jaguar has decided to expand their portfolio with the 3-Series fighting XE and the brand’s first crossover, the F-Pace. (Yes, I know that Jaguar has had SUVs for decades called Land Rovers, but I digress.)

Part of Jaguar’s renaissance has been product based, and part has been returning to Jaguar’s sporting roots. While many folks still think of Jaguar as the brand that makes the “English Town Car” (yes, that is a Lincoln reference) like the 2005 Super V8 that sits in my driveway, my “stuffily” styled Jag was actually the start of the modern Jaguar we’re seeing today. You see, the X350 generation XJ was all-aluminium and as a result it could actually be described as “light and nimble” compared to an S-Class of the era. The F-Type harkens back to the old E-Type Jaguars of yesteryear, but this time Jag skipped ye olde styling and created one of the sexiest looking Jags ever. For 2016, Jaguar has re-tweaked the coupé and convertible adding AWD and a manual transmission.

You heard that right manual lovers: this kitty has a stick.

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2015 Mercedes GLA 250 Review (With Video)

2015 Mercedes GLA 250 4Matic

2.0-liter DOHC I-4, turbocharged, CVVT (208 horsepower @ 5,500 rpm; 258 lbs-ft @ 1,250 rpm)

7-speed “7G-DCT” dual-clutch automatic

24 city/32 highway/27 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

26.5 (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: 4Matic AWD, Driver Assistance package, Active Parking, Blind Spot Assist, Wood Trim, HID Lamps

Base Price:
$32,225*
As Tested:

$42,800*

* Prices include $925 destination charge.

Every luxury manufacturer is in a relentless pursuit downmarket. There are a few reasons for this but the most important are increasing volume, amortizing common development costs and snagging life-long brand loyalists as early as possible. The Mercedes GLA is the latest entry in a growing segment: small luxury crossovers.

Small luxury branded vehicles are nothing new to our European friends, but until recently BMW and Mercedes kept anything small and front-wheel drive far away from American hands. Until now. In 2014, Mercedes took their A-Class FWD hatch and made a sedan out of it. Calling it a “CLA”, the Civic-sized sedan was a runaway success starting at $31,000. Since crossovers are the hot segment to be in these days, it didn’t take Mercedes long to jack the CLA up and add a rear hatch to create the GLA.

Does the GLA have enough luxury to convince Ford Escape shoppers to jump up to a Mercedes? And perhaps more importantly: is it a real Mercedes?

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2016 Audi Q3 Quattro Review - New-To-You Utility [w/ Video]

2016 Audi Q3 Prestige

2.0-liter, DOHC I-4, CVVT (200 horsepower @ 5,100-6,000 rpm; 207 lbs-ft @ 1,700-5,000 rpm)

6-speed Tiptronic automatic

20 city/28 highway/23 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

20.2 mpg (Observed, MPG)

Tested Options: Prestige Trim, Quattro AWD, Sport Package

Base Price:
$34,625*
As Tested:

$42,175*

* Prices include $925 destination charge.

Audi’s Q3 isn’t a new vehicle by any stretch. It was first launched in 2011 but didn’t make it to America until the 2015 model year. That’s because the Q3 plays in a segment that’s new to us — the even-smaller compact luxury crossover. This form factor isn’t new to the rest of the world, but until Land Rover brought the Range Rover Evoque to America and BMW followed up with the X1, there wasn’t a real focus on small luxury soft-roaders.

With crossovers being the latest craze and every luxury brand looking to move down-market to capture fresh young buyers, it was only a matter of time till Mercedes and Audi joined the party with the GLA and the Q3. With a “low” $33,700 starting MSRP, the baby Audi is the more practical counterpart to Audi’s sharp-looking A3 sedan. Although CamCord shoppers have to give up a great deal of room to upgrade to the A3, the Q3 has the potential to be a more sensible option.

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2015 Volkswagen Beetle 1.8T Review (With Video)

Once upon a time, Volkswagen’s iconic Beetle sold primarily on its low sticker price, durability reputation and ease of maintenance. VW’s new Bug, however, sells on retro style and a healthy dollop of nostalgia.

The Bug before us today is the second generation “New Beetle” first resurrected in Europe as a 1998 model based on VW’s Golf and A3 platform. It was then redesigned for 2012, sharing its bones with the MK5 Golf and Jetta.

Redesigning retro is always tricky. This explains why the original Bug barely changed over the years and why the other retro-flashbacks like the PT Cruiser and Chevy HHR turned into one-hit wonders. If you don’t change enough, shoppers won’t see a reason to trade Herbie in for a new time capsule. Change it too much and you’re left with a caricature. Either way you slice it, retro comes at a cost.

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2015 BMW M235i Review (With Video)

We’ve talked about BMW’s portfolio expanding faster than an American on a midwest diet before, but I’m going to do it again because it’s the key to understanding the 2-series in general and the M235i in particular.

The M235i is not an M2, it is not a 235i M Sport, and it is more than the former 135is. Are you confused yet? The M235i is the first of BMW’s “M Performance” vehicles which are not to be confused with “M Sport.”

Here’s how BMW’s new four-tier system works:

Things start with M Sport which is a “looks fast/handles well” package, then we get “is” which adds a dollop of performance, followed by the new M Performance where we put M in front of a three digit model number (M235i) denoting increased power, improved handling, improved braking and suspension tweaks, before going full-on-M.

In theory, the full treatment includes body modifications like wheel well enlargements, carbon fiber bits and a dual-clutch transmission. If you’re not totally confused yet, continue reading.

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2015 Volkswagen GTI 2-Door Review (With Video)

Although GTI sales are on an upward trend, the American hot hatch is a rare breed as there are just three options. We have the aging Ford Focus ST, and a new pair of hatches from Germany: the Volkswagen GTI and the MINI Cooper S. (Yes MINI fans, I’m calling the MINI German.) The last time I reviewed the GTI and Focus ST, the Focus came out on top despite the greater refinement Volkswagen offered. This time we have an all new GTI while Subaru has kicked the 5-door WRX to the curb, BMW has redesigned the MINI Cooper JCW and Ford has “gone Euro” by jamming a 2.3L turbo in the Mustang. Where does that leave the GTI?

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  • Jwee You can avoid American cities, and both you and the Americans would be happier.
  • Bryan I used Costco a while back, and didn't care for it - you still wind up going to the dealership.The last time I bought a new car I used an actual car broker and I'll use one again the next time. Whatever they charged me was the best money I spent that year.
  • SCE to AUX Just add a split rear window, and the hybrid sins will be forgiven.
  • SCE to AUX Just add a split rear window, and the hybrid sins will be forgiven.
  • SCE to AUX Maybe those union dues will help soften the landing. Employment there used to be 4000 people, and the plant has been at risk for 15 years. Stellantis did recently say that it would be trimming dead wood so it could rebuild the company. The Cherokee is finished, but I bet the plant reopens with a smaller workforce once Stellantis figures out what to do with it.