By on April 2, 2019

2019 Volkswagen Jetta

Volkswagen’s latest iteration of the Jetta is a well-rounded commuter car, but a tad boring. VW had an easy fix for that in mind – just implant the heart of the GTI hot hatch along with some Golf R bits. Boom, instant sports sedan.

There’s been a GLI version of the Jetta since 1984, and every previous one I’ve driven has been a fun little hoot to drive; a way to put a little spice in the otherwise sorta bland Jetta recipe. This one, though, ups the ante. Instead of a nice little sprinkle of seasoning, someone in the kitchen doused it with cayenne pepper.

What you get here is not just a Jetta that’s more fun to drive, but a proper affordable sport sedan. (Read More…)

By on April 1, 2019

2020 Jeep Gladiator

Jeep engineers and PR folks wasted no time in telling media, assembled in Sacramento to drive the all-new 2020 Jeep Gladiator mid-size pickup, that this truck is more than just a Wrangler with a pickup bed slapped on the back.

Technically speaking, it’s true — there are key mechanical and structural differences. So no one who uttered this assertion was lying.

But while those mechanical differences are important, they don’t change the fact that the Gladiator still feels just like a Wrangler with a bed. No matter what anyone from Jeep tells you, the Gladiator is, in a way, a Wrangler with a bed.

And that will be a good thing for many, if not most, potential buyers.

(Read More…)

By on December 18, 2018

2019 Ford Ranger

If you’ve paid attention to any of Ford’s marketing lately, you’ll know the company has been making vehicles for 115 years. When it comes to F-Series, the best-selling pickup truck line in the country, they’ve been ahead of the pack for 41 years. It should shock nobody that the company knows how to build a pickup truck.

There’s more to the success of the 2019 Ford Ranger than just whether or not the company can build a good pickup truck. The Ranger is a good truck. But will it be able to draw new customers to the growing midsize truck segment, and will it be able to attract people from Colorado and Tacoma?

(Read More…)

By on December 14, 2018

While an inarguable success for Toyota, the Prius lost considerable clout through some odd styling decisions, a market trending toward crossovers, and smug owners who put a sour taste in everyone else’s mouth. I was never really a fan of the model, but I appreciated what it offered — outstanding economy, sufficient utility, and rather good comfort (especially in the current generation) for a reasonable price.

Hoping to reach new customers living in the snowbelt and restore some of its lost groove, Toyota has updated the Prius and will begin offering the model with all-wheel drive. Well, I say “all-wheel drive,” but things are a little more complicated than that.

The 2019 Prius AWD-e utilizes a small, magnetless motor to drive the rear wheels, while keeping the aft axle completely independent from the existing 1.8-liter hybrid system and its own pair of motor/generators. Fortunately, I had an opportunity to explore the new system in the wintry wilds of Wisconsin to see if it’s any good.

(Read More…)

By on December 10, 2018

Hyundai’s hydrogen-powered Nexo is so ludicrously specialized that it’s utterly impossible to make a case for it outside of California. In fact, even that might be overstating its usefulness — allow me to try again. The Nexo Fuel Cell works near Los Angeles or San Francisco and absolutely nowhere else in North America. And, while that’s primarily due to its dependency on hydrogen fueling stations, which exist almost exclusively in two relatively small corners of the Golden State, it’s not the only reason.

You need to be a certain type of person to want to drive the Nexo. Someone who likes making a statement, is interested in green tech, and possesses absolutely zero interest in spirited bouts of driving. It’s slow, appliance-like, and offers nothing to the typical enthusiast crowd, save for some interesting styling. However, if you want something eye-catching that runs on alternative energy and routinely spend a large portion of your day in horrible LA traffic, it could be the right tool for the job.  (Read More…)

By on October 9, 2018

As I shuffled, exhausted, into the airport bathroom, a whistle-shaped fan was attempting to dry its freshly mopped floors — picking up the scent of the urine-soaked tiles and wafting it directly into my nostrils. It was not shaping up to be a good week and I had another 2,000 miles to go before I arrived in Utah to sample the 2019 Ford Edge ST and Edge Titanium.

Ford’s Edge has been a guilty pleasure of mine ever since I used one to follow the PGA tour almost four years ago. That experience ended with me feeling worse about golf but much better about a vehicle I had previously written off as uninteresting. The Edge Titanium I basically lived out of during that period didn’t become more exciting. But every time I had to park it and traverse eighteen holes of nearly consistent boredom under the hot summer sun, I’d look back at its fresh red paint and whisper “take me away from all of this.” And that’s exactly what it did when my time with the tour ended.

I loaded up the massive rear compartment, shuttled a few locals home, and drove it back to New York City under budget on fuel, where I found that it was actually small enough to park on the street. I was damned pleased with it, but thrilling performance wasn’t part of the overall appeal. That’s why I was legitimately excited to try Ford’s new Edge ST — a model that replaces the Sport trim for the 2019 model year and was dubbed by its creators as the quickest ST ever made.  (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…)

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