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.

(Read More…)

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.

(Read More…)

By on July 14, 2018

Having released the pint-sized Kicks crossover into the North American market last month, Nissan needed marketing material to help boost visibility. Normally, car ads are platitudinous, offering little in the way of novelty to get us truly excited. The reason for this is because trying something different can result in an overwhelmingly bizarre experience. Kia’s reverse aging of Steven Tyler inside the Stinger GT is a prime example. It was the wrong rockstar for its target demographic and left us scratching our heads.

Other automakers allow marketing companies to pilot the brand into weird abstractions where they aren’t selling a car so much as an identity. Cadillac stumbled into trouble with this a few years ago, leaning into a more product-based advertising strategy ever since.

So what of the Kicks? The vehicle is clearly aimed at trendy youngsters seeking a good deal and some style. Will its ads cater to them, offering something vaguely informational, or will it be another televised dud(Read More…)

By on June 8, 2018

2018 Nissan Kicks

The subcompact crossover class may possibly offer more varieties of flavor than most. Not in terms of available models, but in types of mission for each model.

You have rugged off-roaders (Jeep Renegade), quirky runabouts (Toyota CH-R, Kia Soul), jack-of-all-trades (Honda HR-V, Hyundai Kona), urban scooters (Chevy Trax/Buick Encore, Ford EcoSport), tall wagons (Subaru Crosstrek), and now the Nissan Kicks.

Nissan employees will quickly correct you if you assert the Kicks is a replacement for the company’s previous entry in this segment, the Juke, which is no longer on sale in North America (but remains available in other markets across the globe). They’ll tell you the Juke was/is aimed at a different customer than the Kicks.

That may or may not be true, but if it is, it also evades at least two other truths about the Juke – it was too weird and too pricey for our market.

Enter the Kicks. Although it still has plenty of quirky details and styling, the overall look and feel is much more conventional. And the price tag is much, much lower than not just the Juke, but some of the key competitors.

(Read More…)

By on July 18, 2017

2018 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T, Image: Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars

As Tim Cain put it so succinctly earlier this afternoon, the seventh-generation Hyundai Sonata’s exterior design, coming on the heels of the quite edgy 2011-2014 model, didn’t set American’s hearts aflame.

Even as standard content increased and the model’s value proposition burned just as brightly as before, its distinctively watered-down design turned off buyers. Well, Hyundai wants its apology heard loud and clear. For 2018, the Sonata atones for the previous generation’s sins by showing up with something to look at.

Namely, a brand new face. Oh, and how about that rear end, now with less ovals? While fore-and-aft facelifts are the hallmark of a mid-cycle design refresh, the 2018 Sonata’s changes aren’t just skin deep. (Read More…)

By on July 10, 2017

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT (Image: Steph Willems)

Years back, a neighbor of mine worked as an electrician’s apprentice while we both occupied different corners of a sketchy four-plex. Good guy. When an emergency arose, especially if the emergency was a sudden lack of tape, this was your man.

Anyway, with barely enough cash to buy beer on weekends, let alone a half-decent used pickup, the tools of his trade journeyed to the job site in a roomy, economical, and seemingly indestructible four-door liftback. It was, of course, a first-generation Hyundai Elantra GT, only with the contents of a small hardware store filling the area aft of the front seat.

A useful, if tepid, vehicle then, but one far more worthy of the GT moniker now.

The Korean automaker launched the Elantra GT in 2001, and has no intention of dropping the useful compact hatchback from the marketplace anytime soon, even though its U.S. executives required a dose of friendly Canadian persuasion to keep it alive south of the 49th parallel (according to Hyundai Canada brass). The pressure paid off, leaving Americans with yet another option in the “hotter hatch” segment.

No longer is the GT a one-engine affair, nor is it likely to continue as an afterthought in the minds of consumers. For 2018, Hyundai chose to spread the widest possible net with its newly enlarged hatch, hoping to lure would-be buyers away from better-known rivals while offering a sportier alternative to small crossovers. (Read More…)

By on December 12, 2016

2017 Honda CR-V Green in forest, Image: © 2016 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

Update: An earlier version of this story stated the 2017 Honda CR-V was “American-made.” However, the CR-V is manufactured in both the United States and Canada for North American consumption. Sorry, Allistonians.

We sat down for dinner in a rented space shortly after arriving in Monterey, California. The food, standard fare for such a gathering, consisted of no less than three different types of meat, the usual suspects of sides, and one or two items my small-town mind couldn’t infer from the non-Anglo-Saxon names printed on the buffet placement cards.

This was normal for a manufacturer press launch dinner: provide just enough “exotic” items for attendees to feel fancy, privileged, and cultured, but make sure the usual assortment of normal standbys are present so as not to confuse the rest of us with indecipherable choice.

Not adventurous enough to take on that mystery sushi? Here’s some roast beef.

That sauteed vegetable of dubious origin giving you second thoughts? Here, have a potato.

To the front of the room stood two new 2017 Honda CR-Vs. Much like the edibles offered to the journosaur guests, one of the examples wore a resplendent, bright hue; the other a more muted pigmentation for those with more conservative sensibilities.

(Read More…)

By on August 10, 2016

2017 Buick LaCrosse, Image: © 2016 Matthew Guy/The Truth About Cars

I’m going to wager you’ve gorged yourself at a sprawling Chinese buffet at least once. Back in my college days, Emerald Palace was a favourite: big portions, ample choices, reasonable prices. Sometimes, the proprietors would limit choice, holding back the good stuff for busier, higher-profit nights. It was annoying because you knew — knew! — a few scrumptious menu items were locked away in the kitchen walk-in, just out of reach.

The previous-generation Buick LaCrosse debuted in the dark recesses of 2009, when the domestic auto industry — hemorrhaging red ink and tottering towards bankruptcy — cried and shovelled back tub loads of Ben & Jerry’s. Buick was on the minds of Chinese buyers for a few years by this time. This played a large part in the brand escaping the executioner’s axe seven years ago. The second-generation LaCrosse was Buick’s all-in gambit on The Red Dragon.

Domestically, Buick’s been making a splash lately, and some of that swagger is apparent in the team that worked on the LaCrosse. Not content to simply chase its existing customers, the tri-shield brand plans to make the LaCrosse one of its “conquest models,” drawing buyers’ attention out from behind the wheels of competing marques. To this extent, the LaCrosse is actually two very different cars, depending on how you tick the option boxes.

(Read More…)

By on June 20, 2016

2017 Honda Ridgeline at boat launch ramp, Image: © 2016 Mark Stevenson/The Truth About Cars

Honda is playing the long game when it comes to its cute little pickup truck. After selling the original, first-generation Ridgeline for an almost-unheard-of nine years (for perspective, the ninth-generation Civic lasted an incredibly short five years, including a mid-cycle emergency refresh), the second coming of the unibody, light-duty hauler is here.

And guess what? It’s absolutely phenomenal — but there’s a massive catch.

(Read More…)

By on October 28, 2015

2016 Honda Civic Sedan (15 of 34)

It only took Honda 15 years to get the Civic right again.

After Honda, a company known for engineering prowess in the 1990s, attempted to make the Civic a more palatable option for plain jack and janes — enthusiasts either hung on to what they had or went elsewhere.

To me, the last real Civic was the sixth-generation model, which Honda sold from 1996 to 2000. It was also the last generation that Honda sold as an honest to goodness hatchback in North America. Sure, the British-built Si came to our shores later, but you needed to shell out big bucks for Honda’s pride and joy from Swindon.

Thankfully, the automaker is going back to its roots — 15 years in the past — to deliver a driving experience I’ve missed since saying goodbye to my 2000 Honda Civic Coupe many, many years ago.

And, to top it all off, there are now two flavors — regular and turbocharged.

(Read More…)

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