By on March 27, 2020

2020 Audi A6

Once upon a time, if you were shopping for a luxury vehicle that drove like a sports car, you’d get a BMW or, in some cases, a Jaguar. If you wanted one strictly for its comfort and opulence, you’d get a Mercedes-Benz or a Lexus. If you wanted a sort of ‘tweener, then you’d consider an Audi, particularly since it was one of the few in its segment to offer all-wheel drive. But these days, the German (and Japanese, and British) luxury giants have become so competitive with each other, they’re no longer separated by the unique characteristics that once defined them.

When it comes to the midsize-luxury-sedan trifecta, this trend couldn’t have been any more apparent. The BMW 5 Series seemingly gave up some of its enthusiast-minded “ultimate driving machine” superiority to focus on technology innovation while the Mercedes-Benz E-Class lost its allure for over-engineered excellence during its mix-up with the DaimlerChrysler merger of equals. Meanwhile, Audi took the lead with the A6, dethroning its direct competitors from their winning pedestals in numerous class comparisons over the years just by ticking all of the boxes incredibly well.

Does the story remain the same with the new fifth-generation model, which recently launched in our market?

(Read More…)

By on March 25, 2020

2019 Maserati Levante GTSOne of my longstanding beefs with certain luxury brands that share corporate families with mainstream nameplates is that many of them don’t do enough to differentiate their high-priced metal from what’s on offer further down the ladder.

Count Maserati among that number — at least when it comes to the Levante GTS. While it boasts Italian designer looks on the outside, its connection to “lesser” Fiat Chrysler models is apparent on the inside.

(Read More…)

By on March 17, 2020

2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid

I’m not, generally speaking, a crossover fan. That said, I’m not a full-on hater, either — I understand that sometimes people need the utility offered by crossovers. And some of the compact five-seat crossovers, the small ones that aren’t rolling barges, seem to be decent tools for automotive multitasking, at least to my eye.

Take Toyota’s RAV4. Always a hit with the public, if not with enthusiasts, and the newest version is quite good.

And just like the Accord/Camry battles that have been fought since before I could legally drive, the CR-V and RAV4 are fighters in opposite corners, duking it out for buyer’s bucks. Including those buyers who want to go green.

There are many reasons one buys a hybrid — the fuel-economy gains, the green cred, or the “green” posturing/posing — but no matter what the why is, there are buyers out there who want that badge.

(Read More…)

By on March 6, 2020

2020 Kia Telluride

My review of the all-new 2020 Kia Telluride last year was mostly positive.

There’s a reason for this – I thought it was pretty damn good. Especially given its price point, and that it was Kia coming up with a very good three-row crossover, seemingly out of nowhere.

Yep, Kia, a brand that hadn’t been a player in this segment since its last attempt, a body-on-frame SUV called Borrego, ran into the economic headwinds of the Great Recession. Kia had help from corporate partner Hyundai – that brand’s Palisade is the more urbane sibling to Telluride – but still, Kia’s reentry to the segment seemed remarkable.

After living with the Telluride for a week as opposed to a day, that remains true.

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By on March 4, 2020

 

2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport

What happens to an OEM that may have been caught napping while its competitors race to fill every possible niche with crossovers?

It takes its three-row crossover, lops off the third row and some rear space, gives it a name that plays off the existing moniker, and puts it out there.

Hence we have the 2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport, which shares its platform with the Atlas (the wheelbases are even the same) but loses about three inches of length and a bit more than two inches of height while offering seating for just five.

(Read More…)

By on February 25, 2020

2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt

Give Ford credit – the Blue Oval could, at any time, create a special Mustang Bullitt that’s little more than an appearance package.

Yet, the current Mustang Bullitt, like the one offered a decade ago, isn’t just a GT with cosmetic changes. It’s a certified bruiser that goes as well as it shows.

(Read More…)

By on February 17, 2020

2021 Kia Seltos

We all know what happens to you and me when we assume, and a lot of folks will assume the 2021 Kia Seltos shares its bones with the also-new Hyundai Venue.

I know I did, and when I questioned Hyundai to fact-check myself, I didn’t get a clear answer (as the two companies tend to silo their information from one another).

The assumption that the Seltos is just a re-boxed Venue is wrong. The Seltos, despite playing in the same class as the Venue and being similar in size, is actually based on a different Hyundai – the Kona.

Yes, the Kona that I mostly like (in top-trim form) and Bark ripped (in lower trim) to shreds. The same Kona that Chris also dinged for pricing problems.

Not that you’d know it from looking at it. The Seltos has a busier, more futuristic look than the Kona, although it doesn’t have the latter’s odd headlight placement. Like the Venue, it offers two-tone styling, and at first glance it looks more like the boxy Venue than the wedge-shaped Kona.

Hence, the assumptions.

(Read More…)

By on February 10, 2020

2020 Jeep Gladiator

Jeep’s Gladiator pickup truck was one of 2019’s most anticipated vehicles. Fast-forward nearly a year, and it’s an award winner.

There’s no doubt it’s a capable off-roader, which is part of its appeal — and a part of why it’s an award-winning pickup. I’ve experienced it off-road, and so has contributor Chris Chin.

Thing is, most truck owners won’t taking it off-road that often, if at all. What’s it like to live with the Gladiator in urban and suburban settings? That is the key question.

In a word: Interesting.

(Read More…)

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.

(Read More…)

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.

(Read More…)

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?

(Read More…)

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