By on August 27, 2018

2019 Chevrolet Malibu RS front quarter

I thumbed the start button, adjusted the mirrors, and backed away from the coffee shop. A couple of miles later, my co-driver/navigator was distracted and we missed a turn on our route guide. I hustled around an unexpected roundabout, trying to make up time, and the mid-sized sedan dove into the corners like a much smaller car.

It’s remarkable how unremarkable the 2018 Chevrolet Malibu RS really is. I expected a dull car with dull responses and no power — which would provide ample opportunity for devastating snark. And yet, I can’t stop thinking about how surprisingly well this Chevy drives.

(Read More…)

By on August 14, 2018

2018 Hyundai Sonata front quarter

In 2011, Hyundai was flying high. No longer the butt of reliability jokes, and buoyed by the ten-year 100k mile warranty, Hyundais no longer needed to be sold as the “value” choice. Thus, the stunning 2011 Sonata, which flaunted eye-catching styling to generate plenty of showroom traffic.

Fast-forward seven years, and every midsize sedan has bold styling features. Big grilles and swoopy C-pillars are the name of the game as automakers try and eke out bigger slices of the ever-shrinking midsize sedan pie. Hyundai has, surprisingly, been conservative when restyling their entry. The 2018 Hyundai Sonata SEL may not be a big hit like its predecessor, but it’s no mere B-side.

(Read More…)

By on August 2, 2017

2014 Dodge Avenger R/T - Image: FCAEvery midsize car on sale in the United States reported declining year-over-year volume in July 2017. Every car except the Dodge Avenger, which came back from the dead with 10 reported sales after a nine-month hiatus. 2014 was the Avenger’s last model year.

But forget that sales stat quirk — Pentastar Avenger Blacktop Edition, be still my soul. Every other midsize nameplate generated fewer sales in July 2017 than July 2016, with losses piling up fastest at Ford and Hyundai, with the Fusion and Sonata, respectively.

Between major Fusion and Sonata losses and decreased volume everywhere else, U.S. midsize car volume fell by a fifth in July 2017 — a 36,000-unit decline. (Read More…)

By on July 24, 2017

2018 Honda Accord Interior - Image: HondaThe 2018 Honda Accord is not a refresh. It’s not a refurbished, reconditioned revamp.

The 2018 Honda Accord is very much a new car, a 10th-generation follow-up to the five-year, 2013-2017 run of the outgoing Accord. That’s obvious when you look at the design of the new Accord — another midsize car attempting to banish boredom in an attempt to maintain healthy U.S. car sale volumes when more and more people want crossovers. You see it in the 2018 Toyota Camry, the 2018 Hyundai Sonata’s new grille, and the 2018 Accord’s squarer nose and faster roofline.

But Accord buyers will spend far more time inside the car than they do looking at its exterior. For owners, Honda wanted to make the 10th-generation Accord roomier, more capacious, better suited for ferrying five passengers.

So Honda moved the two front passengers closer together. (Read More…)

By on June 21, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry XLE Hybrid - Image: Toyota The 2018 Toyota Camry will be priced from $24,380, including delivery, when it goes on sale this summer — a $425 increase compared with the base 2017 Camry.

Riding on an evolution of the Prius and C-HR’s Toyota New Global Architecture, the 2018 Camry is an all-new design for the first time since the 2012 model year. Market positioning is key, even for a Camry that’s been America’s best-selling car for 15 consecutive years, as demand for midsize sedans is quickly falling and even Toyota is seeing greater interest in the RAV4 than the historically dominant Camry. With new competitors approaching from Honda and Nissan, Toyota isn’t fooling around with this hugely important launch.

All eighth-generation Camrys are equipped with an eight-speed automatic. There’s essentially no tangible weight increase. The Camry offers the most standard horsepower in the midsize segment, the optional 3.5-liter V6 now produces 301 horsepower, and all Camrys now include Toyota Safety Sense P with pedestrian detection, radar cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assist, and auto high beams.

Perhaps most notably, highway fuel economy jumps all the way to 41 miles per gallon; above 50 mpg for Camry Hybrids. (Read More…)

By on May 8, 2017

2017 Ford Fusion Sport Front 3/4, Image: © 2017 Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars

“Dad, you need to buy this car!” screamed my godsons from the backseat, needling their Scion xB-driving father with an outburst fueled entirely by speed-induced adrenaline and youthful innocence.

I remember being just a little older than these two kids — I was in Grade 4 to be exact — when a low-budget field trip to nowhere brought me into contact with my kindly homeroom teacher’s adolescent son. Or maybe he was 26? You can’t make a call at that age. Anyway, volunteering-son-of-teacher’s daily driver that day was a Fox-body Ford Mustang GT, gray in color.

Already a tall kid, I folded myself into the backseat, excited to not be confined to the third row of the Caprice (or Safari) wagon hauling seven other classmates to look at frogs or tadpoles or whatever it was that day. Up front, the Mustang’s 5.0-liter V8 roared to life, the clutch dropped, and I suddenly forgot all about the abundance of loose change I’d discovered littering the Stang’s floor.

So, I knew how my godsons felt when I said, “Check this out,” and hoofed the throttle of the new-for-2017 Ford Fusion Sport on the way up to their dad’s cottage. A heavier car this time, but with more power on tap. Far more room, too, and the kind of stealthy anonymity you only really appreciate in the pragmatic embrace of adulthood.

It’s a large-ish midsize domestic family sedan, but kids dig it. The question is: can adults live with it? (Read More…)

By on March 31, 2017

2017 Lexus GS200t front quarter

Midsized luxury cars are a tough sell these days. The SUV craze shows no sign of ebbing, with new models coming out frequently from nearly every automaker (though if Caterham starts offering an assemble-it-yourself crossover, I’ll hang up my keyboard for good). Further, these midsizers are squeezed by models upmarket and down — the compacts keep adding content, while smaller engines in the full-size models offer space and economy for not much more cost.

Lexus is unique in this space with two very different models: the front-wheel drive ES, and this GS, offered with either rear or all-wheel drive. While the Avalon-based ES is perennially one of the best-selling, this GS lingers mid-pack. Thus, it’s no surprise rumors have swirled.

Still, Lexus has generally impressed me, so I was intrigued when this 2017 Lexus GS 200t appeared since I see so few of them in the wild.

(Read More…)

By on January 12, 2017

2018 Toyota Camry – Image: Toyota“When you get into next year and you look at 2018, I believe with these three products
and the excitement they bring back to that segment, I don’t see it falling anymore.”

– Jack Hollis, Toyota Motor Sales USA’s VP of marketing

U.S. sales of midsize cars tumbled by more than 250,000 units in 2016 even as new vehicle volume rose to record highs. The rate of decline was sharper than the decline experienced by the car sector at large. Only Chevrolet, with the all-new Malibu, and Subaru, with the relatively low-volume Legacy, sold more midsize cars in 2016 than in 2015.

Fleet sales excluded, retail data manifests a worsening of results as the year wore on. According to J.D. Power’s PIN December Industry Health Report, midsize car market share fell below 10 percent for the first time ever.

But Toyota USA’s marketing chief, Jack Hollis, believes 2017 could mark the end of the midsize decline, and 2018 sales of midsize cars could even begin to increase. (Read More…)

By on June 6, 2016

2016 Mazda 6 GT Soul Red

Stop. Wait a second before you get in. Study the Mazda 6’s curves and tell me this isn’t the best-looking car in its class.

Alright, now hop in, depress the starter button, and listen to that sweet honey of a 2.5-liter inline-four purr. Ah, see, I tricked you into associating a gorgeous exterior (and interior) with other qualities you seek in a new car, and you up and let your imagination run away with itself.

Purr? In the 2016 Mazda 6, it’s more like a groan, a bellyaching protest, a teenager hiding under the covers after you remind him that science class begins in 17 minutes. (Read More…)

By on April 19, 2016

2016 Honda Accord Sport at Sunset Front 3/4 Image: © 2016 Jeff Jablansky/The Truth About Cars

Quality of life is about making the best of your surroundings. There isn’t a car on the market today that reflects that ethos more than the Honda Accord.

After years of growing to make room for smaller models in the lineup, the Accord — which has gathered accolades as the most reliable choice in the family car segment for decades — has skipped having a midlife crisis, and is still playing like a kid. It would be easy to say the Accord has always been a favorite for us, but as the competition improves, we wanted to come back and give the Accord another go.

Here’s what we learned after several days of puttering around southern California in the Accord Sport, the value-priced model that hits the sweet spot of what you have and what you want.

(Read More…)

By on January 21, 2016

front quarter

The dog startled me, as much as I likely startled him. A blind corner coming over a rise, a low-hanging tree branch, and a bit too much aggression on early morning dew-sparkled tarmac conspired to pucker canine and human alike. The stability control kicked in moments after oversteer presented too much of the Fusion’s glowing taillights to Fido.

No, you aren’t reading the wrong review. It’s simply been too long since I’ve driven any car as the mobile portion of my personal fleet is of the SUV and minivan variety — none of which has a sporting ride height. The sports car in my fleet has been a shelf for a couple years now, falling victim to cascading failures, including the “can’t take two kids and their gear to soccer practice in a Miata” fault that has doomed so many sportscars for generations. So to be let loose on magnificent backroads in any low-slung car is exhilarating.

(Read More…)

By on December 29, 2015

00-2001_Nissan_Maxima

TTAC Commentator Eliyahu writes:

Sajeev,

My 2001 Maxima, bought new, just rolled past 100,000 miles. It’s still a good car, but the mechanic says it has a very slight oil leak from the main seal. While not strictly necessary, the pitted original windshield could be replaced, the radio only gets Click and Clack, and the driver’s window motor sounds tired. The engine control module was replaced six months ago. Apart from that, repairs have been limited to motor mounts, suspension components with bushings, shocks, steering rack, and the usual tires and batteries. Oh, and new front brake pads.

(Read More…)

By on December 3, 2015

Volkswagen has recently confessed admitted to a steep decline in sales this past November thanks to a 25-percent decline for the Volkswagen brand and a mind bending, 60-percent cliff dive for the soon-to-be replaced Volkswagen Passat.

Apparently, there are still plenty of 2015 Passats and Jettas available to loyal would-be owners along with a variety of other weird birds, such as the 2015 Volkswagen Beetle R-Line Convertible and whatever dark backlot corner is still molderizing the aptly named Final Edition Volkswagen Eos.

All this corporate bloodletting brings on an interesting distinction for the Passat. You can now buy the very last, brand-new mid-sized sedan in America that is less than $15,000: a 2015 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T S with a 5-speed manual.

Should you?

(Read More…)

By on October 21, 2015

2016 Volkswagen Passat (2 of 14)

“What brings you to Vermont?” asked the young woman I was sitting beside on my flight to Burlington to drive the newly refreshed Passat.

“Volkswagen,” I replied simply.

After a pause, and with an eyebrow raised, she came back with the question: “Diesel?”

This is how every conversation about Volkswagen will start for years to come. And, to be fair, it’s also how we’ve talked about Volkswagen for the last 20 years — minus the eyebrow. Volkswagen is as intrinsically connected with diesel as Vermont is to small-town values that border on being Canadianesque.

Except now, conversations about Volkswagen diesels are punctuated with that eyebrow — and for all the wrong reasons.

(Read More…)

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