By on January 21, 2020

2020 Hyundai Venue

At some point in the past few years, the word “basic” began being used as a pejorative, aimed at young men and women whose personal style and interests were “exceedingly ordinary,” in the words of the great Urban Dictionary.

You know the stereotype: pumpkin spice lattes and Ugg boots for women; untucked button-down shirts, Axe body spray, and dingy baseball hats for men.

Basic doesn’t have to mean bad, boring, or ordinary, though. It can also mean simple. And the 2020 Hyundai Venue is just that: Simple. And that’s not meant as a pejorative.

Which isn’t to the say the Venue is without flaws. But it’s meant for basic – there’s that word again – transport, and not much else, and it’s poised to do that job well.

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By on January 15, 2020

2020 Ford Mustang GT PP2

In order to promote the Mustang Mach-E that would be unveiled later that night, Ford gave journalists who’d flown to California for the reveal the chance to drive the rest of the Mustang lineup.

From Shelby GT500s and GT350s to GTs and EcoBoosts, they were all on hand for a run up the Angeles Crest Highway.

Perhaps unintentionally, the drive was a reminder that the Mach-E probably isn’t going to fit right in. It may actually be fun to drive – certainly, as an EV, it will have plenty of torque – but we won’t know that for a while. Still, it’s hard to picture it running the mountain the same way the two-door coupe Mustangs do.

Which is to say, pretty damn well.

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By on January 13, 2020

When your author’s 2019 Golf SportWagen (to be revealed soon) went into the shop for warranty work after just two weeks of ownership, the dealer provided a service loaner for a couple days (or four). And it was a brand new Passat, but one company PR would never release into the hands of any journalist: the most basic version.

Let’s see if the spacious S sedan is an Ace of Base.

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By on January 9, 2020

2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited X

I knew I might need wheels during a week-long trip to Los Angeles. I was hoping for something well-suited for a run over the Angeles Crest Highway.

Instead, a Jeep Grand Cherokee was the vehicle available. I hadn’t driven one in years, but I’ve always been fond of the current generation — a generation that is aging rapidly. Would the ravages of time sour my opinions?

Short answer: No. While aging, the Grand Cherokee remains a pleasant SUV for around-town commuting, with off-road capability in its back pocket.

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By on December 16, 2019

2020 Nissan Sentra

I was focusing on the road while piloting the 2020 Nissan Sentra down the canyon roads just outside Los Angeles, yet somehow I didn’t notice the previous-generation Sentra headed in the opposite direction that my drive partner pointed out.

In fact, I had a hard time even picturing in my head what the outgoing Sentra looks like. That’s because, like the cheaper Versa, the old Sentra had become quite forgettable.

And just like the newest Versa, the newest Sentra is actually memorable again.

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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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