With state governments enacting countless changes during the current health crisis, many have risen up to decry the walking back of our civil liberties. Some are absolutely convinced leadership has crossed a line by prohibiting (or criminalizing) rights guaranteed to them by the United States’ founding documents in a time of crisis. Others are just angry because they think the economic ramifications of shutdown orders are screwing things up more than the coronavirus itself.
One group that is assuredly not complaining, however, is Georgian teens.
Extending its state of emergency, Georgia is indefinitely suspending the need for youngsters to pass their road test in order to procure their driver’s license. That’s per one of the many executive orders issued by Gov. Brian Kemp this month. He remains adamant that the state needs to reopen for businesses, but says it has to be done smartly, with some businesses revived while others have to wait. Allowing parents to vouch for children with a learner’s permit is seen as part of the plan.
I was incredulous. My eyes must have been deceiving me. The number at the top of the page surely did not belong with the number at the bottom of the page. I rubbed my eyes, took another swig of the awful office coffee, and looked again at the window sticker that arrived in my inbox.
The price was indeed right. Audi would be delivering a $58,725 Q7 to my door the next day.
However, the 2.0T nomenclature at the top of the page was a shock. A three-row luxury SUV from a premier German manufacturer with a four-cylinder engine under the hood? Inconceivable. Can the two-liter turbo really move this big SUV with Teutonic aplomb?
After a four-hour journey that included a ferry ride across the Northumberland Strait from Prince Edward Island, we arrived at one of the largest import car meets in Atlantic Canada in Bedford, Nova Scotia. There, owners showed off rows upon rows of cars in varying states of modification and personalization, from tasteful to tasteless.
My car club friends and I walked though to say hello to other folks we’d only previously chatted with on our local import forum, all the while gawking at some of the wildest vehicles east of Quebec. Body kits, massive turbo setups, and convoluted engine swaps ruled the day. But I only remember one vehicle vividly, parked at the end of a row and free from the usual slack-jawed, drooling masses: a pristine, unmodified, 1999 or 2000 Honda Civic Si Coupe (actually an SiR in Canada) still wearing its factory Electron Blue Pearl paint.
To me, back in 2007, this was automotive perfection.
Fast forward some 10 years later. I had the chance to meet the 2017 Honda Civic Si, a quicker, more mature, and more usable younger sibling wearing a similar shade of blue — then proceeded to act like a 22-year-old again and drive the ever-living snot out of it.
High performance sport utilities are nothing new. Porsche’s Cayenne has been around for a while (15 years, in fact), and for the most part the diehard Zuffenhausen aficionados have at least accepted, if not embraced it. Jeep continues to make its ridiculous SRT variation of the Grand Cherokee, which has the ability to consume fuel and tires at an equally distressing rate. GMC is to blame for starting this foolishness in the early ‘90s with the Typhoon version of its otherwise lamentable S15 Jimmy.
BMW isn’t immune to the desire for a padded bottom line and has provided buyers with several variations of the South Carolina-built X5 mid-size SUV for 18 years now too, including M-branded versions with their own eyebrow-raising performance.
So while comparably priced and dynamically superior 5 Series wagons languished in showrooms, North American drivers climbed over themselves to grab a trendy SUV instead.
It’s better than a 1937 Nash Lafayette, though fuel economy — in real world driving — seems to be slightly less, if I’m to believe the results of the Mobilgas Economy Run.
I’m referring to my great-grandfather’s 1937 (or ’38) Lafayette, a fixture of my mother’s otherwise carless childhood in postwar Baby Boom Alberta. What brought up this unlikely comparison, you ask? What could a technology-laden 2017 Ford F-150 King Ranch pickup possibly have in common with a six-cylinder Depression-era sedan?
Running boards. In my mother’s earliest memories, the running boards of her granddad’s car were fixed, spanning the distance between two fenders dulled by Prairie dust and providing easy access to the spartan cabin of a long-lived touring car. In the Ford’s case, they’re electrically operated, lowering into place upon the opening of any of the pickup’s doors, then receding out of sight below the rockers, propelled by engineering ingenuity and cash.
It’s an option I’ve always found ridiculous, especially in a climate where road salt is a depressing reality. I like a fixed board. Nothing fancy. However, to my mom, who I chauffeured to a Mother’s Day meal in the King Ranch, that feature alone was enough to make her consider pulling a bank job to meet the truck’s MSRP.
With this particular truck, payload capacity and off-road prowess is an afterthought.
I have zero patience with people who make pricing comparisons between new cars and used cars. It is almost always done to show off the supposedly superior financial acumen, automotive knowledge, or enthusiast credentials of the person making the comparison. “I sure feel bad for that single mother emergency-room nurse who just wasted her money on a new CR-V. Doesn’t she know that she could get an ’86 Silver Spur for that kind of money? Or a early 308GTS roller chassis? Or a Cessna 152 that just needs a major overhaul to be pretty close to airworthy?” I have a pal, Freddy, who specializes in that sort of article for the nice folks at Jalopnik: “For the price of a new Mirage, you could be the owner of a 1991 Mercedes-Benz 600SEL with 178,000 miles on the clock and half of a wiring harness!”
Just this once, however, I am going to make an exception to my own self-imposed rule, and it goes something like this: Last week, I rented the 2016 Nissan Pathfinder S that you see above. I drove it from Columbus, Ohio, to High Point, North Carolina, over the course of a long morning. It was pretty much okay, as you will read below. If you go a Nissan showroom, you will see the 2017 Pathfinder, which offers some nontrivial improvements, starting at $30,200. And you will see the Nissan Rogue Sport, which is the company’s smallest crossover in this market, starting at $21,800 or thereabouts. But if you open up the used-car search engine of your choice, you will see that a 2016 Nissan Pathfinder S — just like the one pictured above with reasonable mileage and still very much under the factory warranty — can be had for the mildly astonishing sum of $18,000.
So let’s evaluate this Pathfinder in the context of its current price, which is $18,000. Is it worth paying less to get “more truck” than you would get with a brand-new Rogue Sport? Or should we leave questions like this to the Bring-A-Trailer types out there?
I was lost. Rather, I was about to be lost.
As I drove an eye-catching white silver metallic 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI onto the MV Confederation in Caribou, Nova Scotia, it dawned on me. I had never driven across Prince Edward Island by myself. But I was about to, if I could find my way.
Mrs. Cain and the kids had already made it to Prince Edward Island, having departed earlier in the week to begin our house hunt after our Nova Scotian home sold in 24 hours. Sunshine and a quick car made me realize that the MV Confederation’s perfectly timed departure would allow for some sorely needed blood pressure reduction, sitting on the deck of a ferry for an hour in the middle of a Friday afternoon.
But I left my iPhone charge cord at home on the dining room table. My phone’s battery was below 5 percent with pictures yet to be snapped. I couldn’t use my phone for directions. I didn’t trust the island signage to be sufficient — we’re not big on signs around these parts. And then a light came on: the ferry’s tourist bureau would have maps. Maps! Maps, my dear Watson. Maps. I studied that arcane sheet for, well, it had to be minutes. In the belly of the ship, with everybody else back in their cars, I spent a few more minutes folding that sucker up with every ounce of dexterity my parents’ genetics afforded me.
Not until I arrived at my Summerside destination did it dawn on me. The 2017 Volkswagen Jetta GLI has a navigation system.
Maybe that’s why it costs $29,815.
Stop multi-tasking and listen to me for a minute, because I’m going to tell you the most important thing you’ll read this week.
Many years ago, when I was still in the pharmaceuticals game, I had a business mentor of sorts. He was a thick-set, bald, African-American fellow in his early 60s who dressed exclusively in velour tracksuits and, at the time of this story, had a custom-ordered pink S500, an SL500, and an aftermarket-droptop Lexus SC400 in his garage.
We were sitting at dinner one night and I was griping about a fellow we knew who had been given every chance possible by both of us to become remarkably wealthy. Yet every time one of us gave him a chance, he pissed it away through random acts of fiscal impropriety or domestic violence. I couldn’t understand why this dude could not get his act together and handle his business in an appropriate manner.
“Listen up, young blood,” my mentor said, stabbing me in the chest with a finger about the size of a Mag-Lite flashlight, “you cannot want something for someone they do not want for themselves.” I think I dropped my fork. He was right, of course. In the years since then, I’ve had occasion to remember those words again and again. You cannot want something for someone they do not want for themselves.
I need you to keep that in mind as you read this review. If you are like most automotive enthusiasts, you want Acura to return immediately to the glory days of the beautiful first-generation Legend and the sublime twin-cam Integra. But you cannot want something for Acura that it does not want for itself. Acura is perfectly content with being primarily known as the manufacturer of the RDX and MDX sport-utility vehicles. Those two products are market leaders and they’re more than enough to guarantee Acura’s continued existence. If you continue to hope that Acura will build razor’s-edge sporting compacts and M3 rivals, you will continue to be disappointed. Period, point blank. Got it?
“Remember, you are in a minivan,” my better half commanded as I tapped the left-hand gearshift paddle, grabbing a lower gear to power out of the improbably banked corner on a mountain two-lane. The 19-inch Bridgestones squealed in protest as I pushed it a bit wide, just as the kid squealed from the third row over a funny movie.
What was I to do? It’s not like the roads Honda chose for this drive are the typical minivan haunts — namely suburban surface streets or long interstate slabs. There are no real suburbs on the big island of Hawai’i, and interstate drives would get quite wet after a couple of hours in any direction. So I pressed on, trailbraking as if I were hustling a much smaller car around an autocross course.
It’s indeed a minivan, but the new 2018 Honda Odyssey is surprisingly rewarding to drive. While the majority of miles racked up by any minivan undoubtedly result from a commute, either on city streets or the interstate, taking the long way home in this Odyssey won’t feel like punishment.
In the first installment of the Jurassic Park franchise, we’re introduced to the vicious raptors — a breed of dinosaurs who tear, smash, and maul their way through the storyline (and more than a few characters). By the time we see them in the most recent installment of the series, Chris Pratt has managed to tame them to a certain degree, creating creatures that obey a few commands but will still rip his face off if given the opportunity.
Chevrolet had a 2017 F-150 Raptor on hand at its launch of the Colorado ZR2. Hammering its loud pedal, the beast ripped across the hot Colorado asphalt, its psychotic twin-turbo exhaust note sounding like Marilyn Manson screaming obscenities into a vacuum cleaner hose. Backing off to 7/10ths, it struck me that the Raptor and ZR2 bear more than a passing resemblance to those fictional silver-screen scoundrels.
“Dad, you need to buy this car!” screamed my godsons from the backseat, needling their Scion xB-driving father with an outburst fueled entirely by speed-induced adrenaline and youthful innocence.
I remember being just a little older than these two kids — I was in Grade 4 to be exact — when a low-budget field trip to nowhere brought me into contact with my kindly homeroom teacher’s adolescent son. Or maybe he was 26? You can’t make a call at that age. Anyway, volunteering-son-of-teacher’s daily driver that day was a Fox-body Ford Mustang GT, gray in color.
Already a tall kid, I folded myself into the backseat, excited to not be confined to the third row of the Caprice (or Safari) wagon hauling seven other classmates to look at frogs or tadpoles or whatever it was that day. Up front, the Mustang’s 5.0-liter V8 roared to life, the clutch dropped, and I suddenly forgot all about the abundance of loose change I’d discovered littering the Stang’s floor.
So, I knew how my godsons felt when I said, “Check this out,” and hoofed the throttle of the new-for-2017 Ford Fusion Sport on the way up to their dad’s cottage. A heavier car this time, but with more power on tap. Far more room, too, and the kind of stealthy anonymity you only really appreciate in the pragmatic embrace of adulthood.
It’s a large-ish midsize domestic family sedan, but kids dig it. The question is: can adults live with it?
It’s been a year. On this very day one year ago, I took delivery of an oval-badged, ovoid-shaped, three-cylinder hatchback.
My 1.0-liter Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta, with its five manually-operated forward gears and turbocharged torque has provided 12 months and over 10,000 miles of mostly trouble-free driving. Two oil changes and no need for other maintenance have kept operating costs low. And its 17-inch Maxxim Winner wheels, provided by Discount Tire, and Michelin Premier A/S tires have classed up the joint much more than I could from the factory.
I don’t regret my decision to plunk down my own hard-earned cash on Ford’s most diminutive vehicle (in terms of overall size and engine displacement) sold in North America, but it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows, either.
For whatever reason, Volkswagen has shied away from the mainstream, large, family vehicle market for decades. When most American parents and spawn headed to Wally World in massive station wagons, Volkswagen offered the Microbus. When minivans became the rage, the sages of Wolfsburg set forth the quirky, rear-engined Vanagon. And through the ‘90s, as the SUV became the default soccer mom transport, the Eurovan continued the tall and narrow van theme.
Certainly, the Routan was a typical minivan — albeit provided by Chrysler — and the Touareg followed a traditional (if pricey) luxury SUV path, but VW hasn’t been a player in the meat of the market. Considering the challenges the company has faced over the last couple years, Volkswagen simply cannot afford to yield high-volume market segments. Besieged dealers need something bigger than a midsized sedan to sell.
Most of all, as noted by Michael Lovati, Volkswagen’s Vice President of Midsize and Fullsize vehicles in North America, “VW needs to regain trust.”
Step one in rebuilding trust is the all-new, American-made 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, which aims squarely at the ever-popular three-row midsize crossover market, especially the beloved Ford Explorer and Honda Pilot.
Does Atlas hit the bulls-eye, or miss wildly?
Midsized luxury cars are a tough sell these days. The SUV craze shows no sign of ebbing, with new models coming out frequently from nearly every automaker (though if Caterham starts offering an assemble-it-yourself crossover, I’ll hang up my keyboard for good). Further, these midsizers are squeezed by models upmarket and down — the compacts keep adding content, while smaller engines in the full-size models offer space and economy for not much more cost.
Lexus is unique in this space with two very different models: the front-wheel drive ES, and this GS, offered with either rear or all-wheel drive. While the Avalon-based ES is perennially one of the best-selling, this GS lingers mid-pack. Thus, it’s no surprise rumors have swirled.
Still, Lexus has generally impressed me, so I was intrigued when this 2017 Lexus GS 200t appeared since I see so few of them in the wild.
Some cars genuinely suck. There is essentially no price at which, for instance, wooden ride quality and inept handling and nonexistent acceleration and uncomfortable seats and disappointing fuel economy are worth the asking price. There are simply far too many decent alternatives for a vehicle such as, oh, I don’t know, the Mitsubishi Mirage.
Some cars, however, only suck in the context of their respective MSRPs. Take the Ford Flex we reviewed recently as an example. Though showing signs of age, it’s still a fine family hauler. But at the $50,000 as-tested price, the Flex is uncompetitive.
Then there’s this 2017 Audi Q3. Perhaps it’s an acceptable machine at its $33,875 entry price. But optioned up to $44,150, the aged Q3 may be guilty of simply resting upon the laurels of its four-ring badge.
Does the 2017 Audi Q3 suck, or does it only suck when it strays out of Single-A ball into the Major Leagues?