By on August 19, 2019

2019 Lexus ES 300h

Automotive journalists have long labeled the Lexus ES, and especially the hybrid version, as “boring.”

Count me among that number.

To its credit, Lexus has worked to remedy that reputation. The current-gen ES is still no sex machine or thrilling sports ride, but it’s more engaging than before without sacrificing the isolating comfort Lexus is known for. A new F Sport model does provide a bit more pizzazz, but even the fuel-saving hybrid is less of a snooze-fest than before.

I got my hands on one in North Carolina earlier this year, just to get a sense of how much less yawn-inducing it is than before.

(Read More…)

By on August 12, 2019

2019 Acura NSX

One of the more frequent comments I’ve heard since the C8 Corvette dropped is some variation of “the Acura NSX is screwed.”

That comment makes sense – Chevrolet is promising similar performance numbers from the newly mid-engined ‘Vette, with a base price that is nearly $100K cheaper.

So yeah, if the next Corvette fulfills Chevy’s promise at a significantly lower cost than the NSX, that could spell trouble for a supercar that’s already selling slowly by supercar standards.

Still, the NSX has two things going for it. One, logic and rationality doesn’t always matter among the well-heeled – in other words, some will pay for the pricier car, regardless of specs, because of brand name/loyalty, or styling, or whatever.

Two, the NSX is just plain fantastic.

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By on August 5, 2019

2020 Nissan Versa

Nissan’s Versa was previously known for one thing – being the cheapest car you could buy.

That will no longer be the case with the 2020 Nissan Versa.

An increase in price, however modest, should, in theory, correspond with an increase in quality and/or performance. The previous generation had little to recommend it beyond its bargain-basement price. Nissan is aiming to change that – the redesigned Versa will cost you more, but there’s improvement on offer.

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By on July 29, 2019

2020 Cadillac XT6

Earlier this year, on a cold winter’s evening in the city of Detroit, I snuck into a building in the Midtown area that I think is normally an art gallery, in order to see whatever Cadillac was showing at the North American International Auto Show.

I wasn’t party crashing because we’d been black-listed — I’d simply erroneously been under the impression that the event was open to all show-going media when it wasn’t. But I got in anyway.

What I saw wasn’t pleasant — a slab-sided three-row crossover called XT6 that didn’t exactly scream — or even whisper — “Cadillac.” My concerns for the brand’s present and future got worse.

Fast-forward seven months. I found myself on a plane to Washington, D.C. to drive the damn thing.

I always work to keep an open mind — what looks ugly on a show stand or on paper might actually prove to be well-built, well-priced, and a good vehicle to drive. Heck, even styling can look different in the real world as opposed to under auto-show lights.

Would the XT6 surprise me? Or would the doubt I expressed in the Motor City be borne out?

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By on July 18, 2019

2019 Volvo S60

Mid-size luxury sports sedans are supposed to strike a balance between comfort, sportiness, and safety. Consider the 2019 Volvo S60 well-rounded.

Riding on the same platform that underpins all 60 and 90 series Volvos, the S60 T6 I tested came with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder that is both turbocharged and supercharged to the tune of 316 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque. Transversely laid out, this engine connects to an eight-speed automatic transmission and the drivetrain is all-wheel drive.

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By on July 16, 2019

2019 BMW X7 front quarter

I wanted to hate this big crossover so much. My expectations were minimal. How on earth could BMW, the standard-bearer of legitimate sports sedans for half a century, build a massive three-row SUV? It’s just a cash grab, I was certain.

Yeah, I’m supposed to be unbiased — but finding anyone that reviews cars that has absolutely no bias is a fools’ errand. Everyone here knows I’d give ten thumbs up should Renault bring a Mégane RS Trophy-R stateside. We all have our automotive loves. There are thousands who adore their Roundel-clad sedans — and will turn their nose at any perceived dilution of the brand.

I’m loath to say it, but this 2019 BMW X7 is worthy of the badge. You won’t find a racing series dedicated to the big three-row beast, but I’m sure in time you’ll find plenty in race paddocks with a caged E36 in tow.

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By on July 12, 2019

2020 Hyundai Palisade

Hyundai and sibling brand Kia were once known for being cheap, but not necessarily the best value. That’s because cheap and value aren’t always synonymous — especially when it comes to consumer products.

That’s changed over time. Both brands have mostly shed their reputation for crap quality and have been steadily offering up products that can compete with everyone else on that front while still offering value pricing.

Kia’s Telluride is an example of that — it’s a well-built machine with premium content available at a price that undercuts rivals like the redesigned Ford Explorer. Logically, it follows that the Hyundai Palisade would pursue a similar path, since it and the Telluride are strongly related.

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By on July 10, 2019

2019 Hyundai Tucson front quarter

I’ve owned this pair of New Balance running shoes for at least 10 years. I don’t know why I call them running shoes – I’m a fat, middle-aged guy who doesn’t run unless being chased by a predator. Anyhow, they are old, worn, with dark stains from 10w-30 and greenish stains from mowing the lawn. These are not casual shoes to wear out on the town – unless your idea of date night is a run to Home Depot. They aren’t fancy, but they are always comfortable and will seemingly never wear out.

This 2019 Hyundai Tucson is the automotive equivalent of those shoes. I’m not saying it’s covered in grass stains or is otherwise ugly – but neither is it a flashy special collectors-edition limited colorway pair of hypebeast sneakers. It’s simply a solid, comfortable car that is incredibly easy to live with. I put a ton of miles on the Tucson in my week with it, and it felt like home. Like those old suburban dad shoes.

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By on July 8, 2019

2019 Lexus LX 570 front quarter

In the beginning, Willys created the sports-utility vehicle. Now, the sports was negligible and the utility was strictly for the military-industrial complex, and darkness was over two continents at war. And when the war ended, Willys said “let there be civilians who want to drink cheap beer and go rock crawling,” and there were knobby tires and lift kits.

Then the off-roaders began to multiply, each taking their own form. And it was good. But then one saw that the fruit of a tree in the garden looked like a half-used bar of soap — this tree, known as the crossover, represents all that is evil.

Lexus has embraced everything within the realm of the sports-utility spectrum. From tiny crossovers to this massive 2019 Lexus LX570, nearly all needs can be covered. But is this biggest Lexus good or evil?

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By on July 8, 2019

2020 Ford Explorer

For four generations, Ford offered the Explorer with rear-wheel drive as standard. It went front-drive for the fifth.

Now, the standard drivetrain is rear-drive again. Back to basics, so to speak.

Except, not really. First-gen Explorers didn’t have infotainment systems, or 10-speed automatic transmissions, or available hybrid powertrains. Those staples of modernity have been added over the years.

Whether it was out of nostalgia or an attempt to capitalize on the resurgence of dinosaur-themed tent-pole cinema, or simply an attempt to make us overfed journos get a quick guffaw, Ford PR trotted out an early ‘90s example, complete with Jurassic Park livery, for us to gawk at (rumor has it we may be able to get behind the wheel someday. Fingers crossed). I opened the door and was greeted with what was the new-car smell of my youth. This Explorer needed no 10-speed, no Sync, no hybrid, to charm. Could the 2020 version do the same as it returned to a rear-drive base?

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By on June 7, 2019

As much as I’d like to write every review the instant a loaner car leaves my site, sometimes travel or other duties take precedent and the review gets back-burnered for a while. Sometimes, a long while.

That’s usually okay – I take notes and have a pretty good memory for each vehicle. But on rare occasions, a car starts to fade from memory before the taillights even disappear from sight.

That’s usually a bad thing. Usually. But I get the sense that sometimes a certain car is engineered to be unmemorable.

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By on May 21, 2019

2019 Toyota Corolla

Y’all are probably gonna flay me for what I am about to write. I know, because one of our contributors took it on the chin (no pun intended) earlier this year after writing up the 2020 Corolla sedan.

That’s okay. I can take it. You guys out there fling arrows at us sometimes and we’re cool with it. It’s part of the job. Still, I am ducking (metaphorically speaking, do you know how hard is to type while ducking? Hurts your neck, man).

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By on May 13, 2019

2020 Toyota Supra

The howling denizens of the Internet may not be a representative sample of real life, but they are loud nonetheless, and they’ve seemingly had it in for the Toyota Supra since the wraps came off.

It’s too much a BMW, they say. It doesn’t feel like a real Supra, thanks to all those German parts underneath. Others (understandably) whined about teaser fatigue, or complained about the car’s styling.

While subjective complaints about a car’s looks are understandable, and while I understand the complaints about the new Supra not being Toyota enough (I did ask for a percentage breakdown of Toyota/BMW parts content; the company politely declined to comment), all of the noise ignored one thing – what it’s like to actually drive the damn thing.

That’s what will likely matter most to those who will drop over 50 large on this car.

Oh, that “GR” stands for Gazoo Racing, but everyone is just gonna call it Supra.

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By on May 8, 2019

2019 Volkswagen Arteon

The large-car class is a weird place these days. Not exactly a ghost town, but not exactly a hotly contested segment, either.

Rear-drive remains the purview of the Dodge/Chrysler bunch, while the rest of the segment consists of entry-luxury cruisers (Toyota Avalon, Lexus ES) and semi-sporty cars such as the Acura TLX, Nissan Maxima, Buick Regal GS, four-cylinder Kia Stinger – and now the 2019 Volkswagen Arteon.

Finally reaching our shores after a delay due to unspecified homologation hangups, the Arteon is positioned as the brand’s flagship, and it is in some ways a successor to the late CC.

Volkswagen gave us a crack at driving the Arteon, offering an opportunity to figure out exactly where it fits in the market.

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By on May 6, 2019

2019 Kia Forte front quarter

I’ll grant that I’ve established a pretty cool second job for myself with this gig writing about cars. What gearhead wouldn’t love to get paid to talk (well, write) about their favorite subject — and often, drive some of the coolest new cars around? It sure beats flipping burgers to put extra cash in the wallet.

The not-so-secret side of this? It’s generally not the coolest cars that generate the most clicks. Most readers tend to care about cars they’ll legitimately consider buying, rather than a $100k sportscar. Thus, reviews of basic commuter cars, while not nearly as fun to drive, are much more important.

My job was made easy for me with the 2019 Kia Forte. It doesn’t overwhelm with outlandish styling. It doesn’t get the juices flowing with incredible performance. It simply makes the daily commute effortless and economical. What else can you ask from a car?

(Read More…)

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