By on December 10, 2019

2020 Hyundai Sonata N Line

We all have that one friend who puts Tabasco sauce on everything. Even foods that aren’t meant to be spicy are doused – this person has to give their food a kick.

Hyundai’s 2020 Sonata N Line is sort of the midsize sedan equivalent of that.

I flew to Arizona to test the redesigned 2020 Hyundai Sonata, and while there I got a surprise – I’d be driving an N Line prototype part of the way back to the hotel from lunch.

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By on December 9, 2019

2020 Hyundai Sonata

Near the start of this decade, I thought the Hyundai Sonata was perhaps the most attractive mid-size sedan on the market.

I also thought it drove like crap.

The steering was disconnected from the road, it felt slower than its rivals, et cetera.

Hyundai’s next Sonata was better in terms of driving dynamics and on-road behavior, but its styling was conservative to the point of boring. It felt like Hyundai was flailing about, unsure how to build a car that both drove well and looked good, while its rivals were having no problem doing the same. Even its corporate sibling, Kia, was offering up an engaging and handsome Optima.

Enter the 2020 Sonata. It looks good (better from certain angles and with certain colors), but does it drive well? Can it walk and chew gum at the same time?

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By on November 18, 2019

Nissan’s full-size Titan pickup truck has a problem that Nissan engineers, marketers, and product planners will probably never fix.

That problem? The truck isn’t built by one of the Detroit Three automakers.

Ram, GM, and Ford each have such loyal followings that it seems like the full-size truck market is simply impenetrable. It’s not just Nissan, either – Toyota’s Tundra faces the same challenge.

To its credit, Nissan seems to understand this. Company reps say that they know that conquest sales will be tough, so they’re focused on the over half-million truck buyers (their number) that don’t really harbor any brand loyalty, as well as current Nissan owners who may be looking to move into a full-size truck.

That may just be PR speak – putting a positive spin on things is their job, after all. Then again, perhaps it isn’t. While the Titan doesn’t have the built-in brand loyalty of its Detroit rivals, it’s not a bad truck. It’s not on par with the segment’s best two – Ram’s 1500 and the Ford F-150 – but it’s ready to tangle with Chevy and GMC. On its own merits, it’s plenty competent.

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By on November 13, 2019

There’s not a lot of major change that would be acceptable to Jeep Wrangler buyers. They have a set image of what the vehicle should look like and what it should be. Deviate too far from that formula, either in terms of style or mission, and there will be trouble.

According to Jeep brand bosses, there was one thing that buyers were “clamoring” for — an item that would change the model’s character without affecting styling or negatively affecting capability, on- or off-road.

That thing? A diesel engine.

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By on November 11, 2019

The biggest news concerning the mildly updated 2020 Honda Civic Si is either the changed final drive ratio, the addition of a volume knob, or the inclusion of Honda Sensing — the company’s safety suite of driving aids — as standard equipment.

Obviously, this means the car hasn’t changed a whole hell of a lot.

That’s a very good thing.

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By on November 4, 2019

2019 Cadillac XT4 front quarter

The race to fill every nook and niche within the crossover market is on. No gap between existing models is too small, as consumer demand for tall wagons seems insatiable. A crossover for every purse, right?

Cadillac has often been seen as trailing broad trends over the decades, and fittingly the lux brand from GM has been sedan-heavy of late. Still, the midsize XT5 has been selling well, so shrinking it a bit to fit more wallets makes sense. Thus, this 2019 Cadillac XT4 has appeared. Will it, like the marketers claimed years and years ago, become the standard of the world?

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By on November 1, 2019

If trucks are tools, some are meant for just one job, while others are capable of performing multiple tasks.

Count the 2019 Toyota Tacoma among the latter.

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By on October 29, 2019

2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500

Cinched into a five-point racing harness, with a head-and-neck support device attached to my helmet, I felt a bit of nerves as I awaited my turn to pilot the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 at full-tilt-boogie around a road course at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Without the benefit (or restriction, depending on your point of view) of a pro driver riding right-seat.

Just a tiny bit, anyway. I’m no Bark, but I have track experience. I’d just handled a similarly powerful Hellcat Dodge Charger at an arguably more difficult track with no drama just a few weeks prior. And unlike some of the folks who fill up the press-junket buffet line, I know my limits. If I’m slower than some buff-booker with an extensive resume of laps, so be it. I’m not going to drive off into the desert in service of my ego.

That last bit helped keep me calm while waiting for my turn, but there was also this bit of knowledge on hand to keep my heart rate down: If the Mustang’s on-road behavior was any indicator, this 760-horsepower muscle/pony car wouldn’t be half as intimidating to drive at speed as it looked. This snake would be a sweetheart.

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By on October 28, 2019

They’re coming for our cars, people. “Alternative mobility solutions” are all the rage at many big automakers attempting to virtue signal (and electric-scooter) their way into social acceptability. I’m pretty certain that I heard a sweaty politician say something like, “Hell yes, we are going to take your crossover!” Even some automotive journalists have called for outright bans of private cars.

I suppose this is where I photoshop a Momo Prototipo into the infamous “from my cold, dead hands” Charlton Heston photo.

Do me a favor, friends. Let’s stem the tide. Take these car-haters for a ride in a proper sports car, like this 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF. Better yet, let them drive. All other worries of the world wipe away like raindrops on the windscreen as the right hand slots the shift lever into third, all while the corners of the mouth gently turn upward. The Miata is our last hope for motoring freedom.

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By on October 14, 2019

2020 Dodge Charger Widebody

No one has a need for a large family sedan that produces over 700 horsepower.

But I’m glad one exists.

Dodge is now offering a wider Charger Hellcat and Scat Pack in a bid to keep reminding us enthusiasts that the Charger’s aging platform may still have plenty of life left in it. Somehow, this trick continues to work.

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By on September 20, 2019

2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost High Performance Package

During Ford’s product presentation, held just north of the famed Golden Gate bridge on a chilly Bay Area morning in September, one of the men who worked on the 2020 Ford Mustang EcoBoost High Performance Package trotted out a not unexpected comparison.

He brought up the old LX trim available on Fox-body Mustangs of yore, and compared today’s four-cylinder Mustang to that model.

It’s not the world’s worst comparison, although the LX back then was available with the same renowned 5.0-liter (yes, I know it that it’s really a 4.9) V8 that was under the hood of the GT. The LX’s claim to fame was that it was lighter, cheaper, and perhaps less expensive to insure, while still offering V8 power and a five-speed stick. That’s why your author bought a used ’89 example in the late 1990s.

As someone who owned that LX Fox body for five years, I sniggered a bit, since the Mustang parked in front of us had just half the cylinder count, but of course today’s turbocharged four-banger could smoke the V8 of yore. I understood where Ford was going with this, though – the EcoBoost Mustang High Performance Package is meant to be the value performance buy, and not just a rental-fleet darling or the car for Mustang shoppers who care more about show than go.

Of course, when I relayed this spiel to the ne’er do wells in the TTAC Slack channel, contributor Chris Tonn shot back “SVO”, typed out repeatedly, a la Nicholson’s manuscript in The Shining.

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By on September 19, 2019

2020 Ford Escape Hybrid

The 2020 Ford Escape Hybrid faces the same problem as its gas-engined sibling: Styling.

That’s the bad news for Ford. The good news is that this particular hybrid doesn’t sacrifice too much of the gas Escape’s fun-to-drive factor in the search for better fuel economy.

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By on September 18, 2019

2020 Ford Escape

Ford says it is eventually going to phase out most of its cars – save the Mustang – but the brand isn’t above basing a compact crossover on a car platform.

Yeah, it may be called a crossover, especially by people who draw paychecks from the Blue Oval, but the 2020 Ford Escape is based on the company’s European Focus platform.

Perhaps it’s a bit of a cynical approach, especially with a more rugged “baby Bronco” on the way. But if ride and handling are something you care about, even when shopping crossovers, the results may be pleasing to you.

Possibly more pleasing than the Escape’s styling, anyway.

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By on September 11, 2019

2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport

The 2019 Hyundai Elantra Sport makes a compelling case for saving the manual transmission. But perhaps not compelling enough, as between the time I drove this car and wrote this review, Hyundai killed the stick in the 2020 Elantra Sport.

I daresay that’s not the car’s fault — the stick-shift Sport would be on my shopping list if I were eyeing a sporty compact commuter. Market forces continue to kill off manual transmissions and, while some brands are fighting the good fight, Hyundai must not have seen a business case in doing battle.

That’s too bad, because the budget buyer looking for value in a sporty compact car just lost one option.

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By on September 9, 2019

2020 Kia Soul profile

Names and categories used to matter when referring to cars. Coupes used to have two doors, period. Porsche got a bunch of flak last week when they called their electric sedan a Turbo. Tesla uses the term Supercharger for a device that isn’t connected to a crankshaft with a big belt.

Click through to Kia’s website (open a new tab, please – don’t leave me here alone!) and you’ll note five distinct categories. Sedans, hatchbacks, minivans, and hybrids/electrics all follow the hot one – SUVs and Crossovers. Unsurprisingly, this 2019 Kia Soul sits right atop that list, though by any traditional automotive taxonomy this box is a hatchback. Peel back the sharp edges, however, and the Soul offers many of the advantages of a popular crossover without the compromises.

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