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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By on August 29, 2019

2020 GMC Sierra HD

Heavy-duty truck buyers tow things often. So do many light-duty truck buyers. So perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to be be asked, shortly after stepping off an airplane, to get behind the wheel of an HD truck towing something like 13,000 pounds of RV.

This, despite having trailering experience that hovered near zero. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve trailered. I did it years ago in Maryland on another GMC event, and last year in the same region (Jackson Hole, Wyoming) with the light-duty Chevrolet Silverado, but until last week, that was about it.

Gulp.

GMC would tell you that the combination of its trucks’ capability and some high-tech doodads make trailering easy, even for the novice. GMC would be correct on that count, but there’s more to the story when it comes to this year’s crop of trucks.

We were turned loose in a variety of GMC Sierra trucks over the course of two days – and not all had a mobile home’s worth of weight behind them. Still, towing and hauling were a bit part of this particular junket; even when we weren’t towing, we were driving trucks with beds full of logs. We also did a bit of light off-roading.

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By on August 28, 2019

2020 GMC Acadia

GMC has long made a fuss about its Denali sub-brand, which is meant to signify the most luxurious trim available for any given GMC model. GMCs, of course, are supposed to be more upscale versions of Chevrolet trucks and SUVs, even without Denali badging.

Enter a new sub-brand – AT4. First available as an off-road-oriented trim on the Sierra full-size pickup, and intended to become available on all GMC models within the next two years, AT4 is a trim that aims to emphasize off-road ability – or at least look the part.

While the Sierra’s AT4 trim offers mechanical changes that serve to improve the truck’s off-road prowess, the Acadia version is more about off-road looks, all-terrain tires and standard all-wheel drive notwithstanding. GMC knows the Acadia is a suburban shuttle, not a bad-ass off-roader, and has adjusted the AT4 treatment for this vehicle as such.

(Read More…)

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.

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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.

(Read More…)

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.

(Read More…)

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