By on February 12, 2019

Chicago has proven a sleepy show for news for quite some time now.

This year, however, there was a hint of something stirring. While there still wasn’t a wealth of product news, there was more than normal — and most of it didn’t involve minor trim changes (okay, some of it did).

I wandered the halls at massive McCormick Place last week to take in what was a busier show than normal. Starting with Subaru, here’s my “hot takes” about what I saw on the show floor. Just for the hell of it, let’s embrace a grading gimmick.

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By on February 8, 2019

Image: JLR

No longer sharing bits sourced from former owner Ford, Land Rover’s smallest Range Rover-badged vehicle undergoes a comprehensive revamp for 2020. There’s a new, stiffer platform underneath and, while its overall footprint remains pretty much the same, a wheelbase stretch affords occupants a smidgen of extra room to stretch out.

First appearing on our shores in late 2011 as a 2012 model, the compact Evoque offered buyers a cheaper way to enter the tweedy brand. U.S. sales peaked in 2015; not a good thing in a market fueled by crossover lust. (Read More…)

By on February 7, 2019

The 2020 Subaru Legacy made its debut at the 2019 Chicago Auto Show on Thursday. While most casual observers will probably assume the model has undergone a mild visual refresh, what’s actually on display is an entirely new vehicle.

Whereas previous incarnations of the Legacy provided more of an upscale WRX experience, the outgoing sixth generation saw the car fitted with a livable continuously variable transmission and engine options that moved it away from anything that could be described as truly sporting. Fortunately, Subaru is attempting to remedy that for the 2020 model year. (Read More…)

By on February 7, 2019

2020_Sequoia_TRD_Pro_12_B2ACF20E83AD4B33C4DF05470FFE6DBB64480908

Thanks to Toyota’s glacier-like design cycle, the full-sized Sequoia SUV looks largely the same as it did when it rolled off the ark in 2008. With seating for seven, the big body-on-frame rig harkens back to the days when SUVs were unapologetically truck-based. For 2020, the Big T is tossing some of its TRD Pro toys at its house-on-wheels, including a set of dandy internal-bypass Fox shock absorbers.

While they were at it, Toyota engineers took the opportunity to breathe on the hot-selling Tacoma. You’ll have to look closely to see those changes but, if past sales performance is any indication, the company didn’t need to spend much money on a refresh, anyways.

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By on February 6, 2019

The Chicago Auto Show is less a trade event for showcasing new models and more of an industry dumping ground for special editions and appearance packages. Toyota is already bringing one of those to the party with the Land Cruiser Heritage Edition, but that’s not all it plans to unload from its trailer.

With the event just hours away, Toyota felt compelled to issue a last-minute teaser of an unidentified TRD Pro model. However, we’re disinclined to believe it’s destined for the updated Tacoma display. (Read More…)

By on January 29, 2019

Despite seeming to be older than the dirt on which it rolls, the Toyota Tacoma is enjoying massive sales growth. In fact, it recently had its best-ever December, quarter, and year since introduction. Seriously. It was up an enormous 24 percent for the year, enjoying thirteen consecutive best-ever months.

For 2020, Toyota is massaging the midsizer’s styling, bringing it slightly more in line with its big brothers. We’ve brightened the image to give you a better look.

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By on January 24, 2019

Eager to celebrate the Land Cruiser’s 60th birthday (in America), Toyota has released preliminary details on the 2020 model year’s Heritage Edition before its official debut at the Chicago Auto Show. While technically an appearance package with a handful of retro-themed clues hinting at the model’s lengthy lifespan, it’s one of the more endearing makeovers in recent times.

Suckers for nostalgia will love the vintage-looking Land Cruiser badge on the SUV’s D-pillars. But the limited-production model also comes with bronze 18-inch BBS wheels with some throwback charms of their own. Heritage Editions also receive widespread black accenting on the exterior and nixed running boards for a cleaner look.  (Read More…)

By on January 9, 2019

Mazda’s whipping something up to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the MX-5, issuing a teaser to elicit some excitement. Unfortunately, the photo doesn’t give us much to go on. The only meaningful conclusions we can pry from the series of streaks provided by the automaker is that the special-edition Miata can still fit inside a parking garage (phew) and will have a hardtop.

Where has Mazda chosen to celebrate the MX-5’s 30th birthday? The Chicago Auto Show, naturally. That was where the Miata first debuted in 1989, and that is where the manufacturer wants to preview the special edition on its big day. While we still think forgoing a hilarious Chuck E. Cheese tie-in was a minor mistake, both roadster and brand have matured to a point where the more tasteful choice was bound to win. We also have no evidence to support the idea that the pizza party venue was ever under consideration.  (Read More…)

By on February 9, 2018

Image: Hyundai

Hold on a minute, you’re thinking — you’re pretty sure you’ve seen this vehicle before. Yes, you have, as the conventional gas-powered 2018 Hyundai Sonata went on sale last summer with a revamped face, tail, and assorted other goodies.

What didn’t launch alongside the refreshed midsize sedan was its hybrid and plug-in hybrid siblings, which soldiered on with a 2017 face until just now. At the Chicago Auto Show Thursday, Hyundai had the distinct pleasure of pulling the wraps off a body already familiar to the buying public, just with different internals. Don’t worry, though, there’s still something new to talk about. (Read More…)

By on February 8, 2018

Image: Tim Healey/TTAC

Forgive the headline writer’s apparent shock. He thought Volkswagen was all about SUVs now, yet before him stands a premium midsize fastback sedan from none other than that German utility vehicle giant. Well, “sedan” isn’t entirely accurate.

In the interest of giving passenger cars that extra little bit of added utility, automakers are suddenly pretending it’s the late ’80s again, grafting liftbacks onto the back of sedans from Audi to Buick to VW. The strange-sounding Arteon is no exception. Arriving for the 2019 model year, VW’s Arteon dons a rear liftback as it accepts the role of the brand’s new flagship, replacing the departed CC.

With SUVs and crossovers taking over the world, it’s always interesting to see a new car model appear. (Read More…)

By on February 8, 2018

Image: FCA

We explored the Fiat brand’s troubles earlier this week, then put you in the driver’s seat and asked what you’d like to see done about it. Well, there’s no red telephone linking our comments section with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles HQ, so suffice it to say many of your suggestions probably fell on deaf ears up in Auburn Hills.

However, Fiat does have a plan to stimulate some renewed interest in its flagging 500 city car, but it’s not through a shocking redesign or by positioning the tiny vehicle as a trail-conquering off-roader. Up until now, non-Abarth 500s have, to put it mildly, underwhelmed from a performance standpoint. Double-digit torque figures are a rarity these days, but they’ve just become rarer. (Read More…)

By on February 6, 2018

Tacoma TRD Teaser CAS 2018

Toyota not-so-subtly confirmed that the Tacoma TRD Pro will soon be available with a factory snorkel via a teaser photo on Tuesday. The automaker wants to remind everyone that new Toyota Racing Development 4×4 models will appear at the Chicago Auto Show later this week.

Mounted high enough for the Tacoma to drive through miles of bumper-deep volcanic ash or water without suffocating the engine, the snorkel showcases Toyota’s commitment to off-roading — or at least the associated trappings. (Read More…)

By on February 10, 2017

2016 Fiat Toro

Ralph Gilles, global design head for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, just loves the little Fiat Toro pickup. He can’t get enough of it.

Unfortunately for FCA, and especially the Fiat brand, Americans certainly can say “no” to FCA models adorned with a classic Italian badge. Fiat, which returned to these shores just six short years ago, is floundering in North America, so ears perked up in Chicago yesterday when Gilles seemed to imply the brand might introduce a life-saving model into the U.S. market.

Alas, the company appears to have no intention of trying something desperate to stop the sales bleeding. (Read More…)

By on February 10, 2017

2018 toyota rav4 adventure

You’d never know it from the Internet, where the Code Of Hammurabi rules with an iron hand and people on the forums are comfortable recommending the death penalty for everything from “stancing” your car to the unjustified application of an AMG badge purchased on eBay — hold on, I kind of agree with that last one — but it is probably not a crime not to use every last iota of your vehicle’s rated capabilities. You’re allowed to own a sportbike without racing it in WERA or doing a 140-mph stand-up wheelie past a police station. It’s morally acceptable for you to purchase a Porsche 911 Targa and never run it in any sort of Targa event whatsoever. And, as difficult as you may find this to believe, not everybody who acquired a Chevy Monte Carlo was a native citizen of, or even a past visitor to, the Principality of Monaco.

Still, it’s difficult not to feel a minor bit of disdain for the various pretensions that currently animate the automotive market. Not that you’ll pick that up from reading the new-car coverage at Chicago. Most of us don’t feel comfortable doing much more than what’s encapsulated by Pope’s delightful turn of eighteenth-century phrase: Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer, / And without sneering, teach the rest to sneer.

Let’s take a break from that not-quite-good-natured approach for a moment.

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By on February 9, 2017

2017 Nissan Titan King Cab and Titan XD King Cab, Image: Nissan

In 1977, Nissan released the revolutionary King Cab option for the Datsun 620 pickup, which opened up 10 extra inches of space behind the front row of seats for people or stuff.

Forty years later, Nissan has revealed the new King Cab for the Titan and Titan XD, joining the Crew Cab and Single Cab options to round out the product line.

Interestingly, the Titan and Titan XD King Cab is offered with a rear-seat delete option, giving extra cargo space behind the front row for the coveted work-truck market.

(Read More…)

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