By on April 24, 2019

This year’s New York Auto Show left me feeling a bit baffled. The 2018 edition was fairly eventful, both in terms of what was shown at the Javits Center and what I experienced during my off hours (no one randomly approached me on 8th avenue attempting to sell me cocaine this year), but this year seemed, as a fellow employee of our corporate mothership said, “chill.”

Not too chill – the morning was busy. And there was at least one important reveal after lunch.

Still, compared to 2018, the 2019 edition of the New York International Auto Show felt a tad more relaxed.

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By on April 17, 2019

It’s getting increasingly difficult to decide what constitutes a luxury vehicle these days. Premium manufacturers seem preoccupied with technology and providing customers with entry-level compacts they’re supposed to pay big money for. Fortunately, things get clearer as you move up the food chain. Nobody would think to doubt the S-Class’ luxury credentials, and Mercedes-Benz is now ready to offer the next generation of the self-proclaimed S-Class of SUVs.

We’re talking, of course, about the large and luxurious GLS. All-new for 2020, the model boasts a longer-wheelbase, more interior space, a “carwash” mode, and an active suspension paired with the brand’s very first mild-hybrid V8.  (Read More…)

By on April 17, 2019

Genesis Motors revealed a small city car in The Big Apple this week. However, the model’s debut wasn’t part of the daily goings-on at the New York International Auto Show. Instead, the company decided to unveil the Mint Concept at Hudson Yards, ahead of the trade show’s official press days — utilizing terms like “urban icon” and “reductive versatility” while somehow expecting to be taken seriously.

“As a brand, Genesis embraces progressive design values, and the Mint Concept reinforces this commitment from a previously undiscovered perspective,” Manfred Fitzgerald, Genesis’ executive vice president, said at the vehicle’s introduction. “Mint belongs in the city, and we are proud to introduce our evolution of the ideal city car in New York.”

This is the kind of industrial-grade nonsense your author absolutely despises. However, I am elated Genesis did this, as it’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to be exceptionally critical of a Korean brand. Outside of Hyundai’s Nexo, the country’s been on a hot streak lately. It’s wonderful to be able to prove that I’m still an unpleasant crankshaft without bias.  (Read More…)

By on April 17, 2019

 

2020 Toyota Highlander

While you were sleeping, Toyota rolled out the fourth generation of its three-row Highlander crossover. It is an all-wheel drive box powered by a V6 engine, packed with gadgets, and offering an optional hybrid powertrain. Given the tastes of car buyers in this segment, none of these things are surprising.

What is surprising is that this nameplate has been around for 20 model years. Perhaps it’s because your author has never been in the market for a rig like the Highlander, or that the model’s ubiquity has caused the thing to fade into the background like proverbial wallflowers. Whatever the case, Highlander is nearly old enough to order its own drinks, and it’s put on a new set of clothes for the occasion.

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By on April 16, 2019

Fifty years ago, Datsun showed New York that Japan was perfectly capable of producing a sporting automobile that offered everything drivers wanted, without breaking the bank. It may not have been cutting edge, but the 240Z was a GT car well worth coveting. Somewhere between the nimble, although sometimes underpowered, European roadsters and clumsy but savage American muscle cars, Datsun’s Z provided a well-balanced package for enthusiasts and racing teams alike.

This week, Nissan’s paying tribute to the vehicle that launched the Z line with the 2020 Nissan 370Z 50th Anniversary Edition. Painted to resemble the No. 46 BRE (Brock Racing Enterprises) 240Z that helped John Morton win back-to-back SCCA National Championships in the 1970s, the Anniversary Edition is the upside of living in the past.  (Read More…)

By on April 10, 2019

It is arguable that the original Subaru Outback was one of the vehicles that blazed trails for the whole “rugged wagon” movement that eventually morphed into the crossovers we see flooding driveways across America. Those of you with long memories will recall that “Outback” was originally a trim on Legacy wagons, before making the jump to being a standalone model.

Fast-forward to the 2020 model year and we find Subaru in an enviable position: taking advantage of market trends and posting a gob-smacking 88 consecutive months of year-over-year growth. Next week, the company will drop a new Outback at the New York Auto Show.

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By on March 27, 2019

Seeking to quench the American public’s seemingly insatiable thirst for crossover vehicles and SUVs, Hyundai has announced it will introduce yet another machine of this type at next month’s New York Auto Show.

To be called the Venue, this will be a new entry-level CUV set to slot in underneath the Kona, a vehicle that is already exploring the limits of legroom and cargo space. It is popular, however, and with good reason – its funky shape, combined with a strong value proposition, is proving an easy sell to a lot of shoppers. Will the Venue follow that path? Or, like Fleetwood Mac, will it go its own way?

(Read More…)

By on April 3, 2018

2019 Toyota RAV4

Outside of my hometown of Chicago, New York City remains one of my favorite metropolises. I don’t know why – Manhattan is overstuffed with cars and people, garbage is put out on the sidewalks, hotel rooms are no oasis from street noise, and most goods and services are way too expensive.

Perhaps New York has a unique sort of charm that compensates for all its flaws, some sort of charisma that continues to exist despite the continuing transformation of Manhattan into a living Disney city for the wealthy.

I mean, in what other city would I be brazenly approached by a young man trying to sell me cocaine as I walked back to my hotel after some late-night pizza (partake, I did not. Drugs aren’t my thing. Pizza was good, though) while almost within sight of the most famous urban intersection in the world – one that was undoubtedly crowded to the gills even at that hour? In what other city would I have a surreal on-street argument with a fellow pedestrian over an innocent, touristy picture I took of a street sign? There’s this “only in New York” feeling, a sense that certain things happen to you that just wouldn’t elsewhere.

It’s the kind of place where you can swear bloody murder because the F train didn’t show, but find value in the 40-minute walk across lower Manhattan you undertake instead, all because you don’t feel like doing the logical thing and hailing a cab. SoHo, Little Italy, and Chinatown all look much better from on foot.

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By on April 2, 2018

The RAV4 has quickly become Toyota’s most important vehicle. While the Corolla still trumps it in overall global volume, the small crossover has made a ridiculous amount of headway over the past decade. Prior to the recession, domestic sales of the RAV4 just barely surpassed 70,000 units per year. Then, after the introduction of the model’s third generation in 2006, volume suddenly doubled — progressing to 2017’s all-time high of 407,594 deliveries.

Still, Toyota thinks it can further broaden the model’s appeal. It wants to see more men behind the wheel of the redesigned 2019 model that debuted at the New York International Auto Show last week. The recipe involves a more butch design, added power, an upgraded all-wheel drive system, and new trim levels giving a nod to sporting aspirations. Meanwhile, an updated interior provides more space for manspreading and big rubbery knobs some gentleman find totally irresistible.  (Read More…)

By on March 28, 2018

Mazda Kai Concept

Mazda recently dropped a very brief teaser video suggesting a reveal of some sort during the New York auto show. Only the smallest of glimpses were given of a Mazda-esque headlight and grille edging, leaving speculation running from a CX-9 crossover refresh to an all-wheel-drive 6 sedan.

Well, wonder no more, as Mazda has just shown a new RX-9 coupe with twin rotary engines, a rear-drive 929 sedan, and an importation of the Bongo Friendee.

No, wait, hang on. What I meant to say was Mazda spent nearly 30 minutes talking about a new marketing campaign and about how its customers aren’t customers — they’re fans. Sigh.

At least the tantalizing Mazda KAI Concept, a vehicle which this author has dubbed “Son of Brera,” was in the background during the TED Talk press conference.

(Read More…)

By on March 28, 2018

2019 Acura RDX

Acura’s reputation, at least as of late, has been that of a brand that’s lost its way. With the exception of the flagship NSX, the current lineup is, generally speaking, underwhelming.

The 2019 Acura RDX could be the first step back in the right direction for the brand, or it could be a dud. At a glance, it seems that Acura has the right idea, even if it expresses the message in eye-roll-worthy marketing gobbledygook.

Twist is up over the previous model by 28 lb-ft, thanks to a standard 2.0-liter turbocharged, direct-injection four-cylinder. Gone is the previous-gen model’s 3.5-liter V6. The compact crossover’s power output now stands at 272 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque.

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By on March 28, 2018

2019 Nissan Altima

In a flurry of robots and futuristic music, Nissan introduced the 2019 Altima today at the New York Auto Show. With available all-wheel drive and a variable compression engine, the sixth-gen Altima has a couple of tricks up its sleeve to take on the Accord and Camry.

Writers in different corners of the internet have been, rightly or wrongly, sounding a death knell for the traditional three-box sedan, citing sales declines for most models in the segment. For certain, Altima sales are off by about 100,000 units since its 2014 peak, but over a quarter-million buyers did drive off in a new Altima last year. That is not a number at which to sneeze.

(Read More…)

By on March 28, 2018

2019 Cadillac XT4

Full disclosure, right up front: While I am in New York City for the auto show, neither myself or anyone from the TTAC team was invited to the XT4 unveiling the night before the show’s first media day.

I only mention this to point out that I can’t, as of this writing, judge the newest luxury compact crossover in the flesh, although I will likely see it 12 hours or so after I type this.

Hot takes aside, it’s common knowledge by now that crossovers are hot and just about every brand feels it needs to cover the subcompact, compact, and midsize classes. Cadillac has the midsize class covered with the XT5, so naturally, it’s time to go one smaller.

(Read More…)

By on March 28, 2018

While the fourth generation of Toyota’s RAV4 contained a touch of menace, the model has always been an easygoing compact utility vehicle. When it hit North America in 1995, it didn’t have a lot of competition. General Motors’ collaboration with Suzuki resulted in a bevy of micro SUVs that weren’t spacious or comfortable enough to compete with Toyota’s compact crossover. Likewise, a lot of consumers found it made more sense to purchase something that was more capable on pavement than off-road, and the Corolla-based ute definitely fit the bill.

Two decades later and the RAV4 now has more than its fair share of competition, yet remains totally relevant. In fact, it spent most of 2017 beating the snot out of the Honda CR-V and Nissan Rogue to retake its place as America’s best-selling small SUV — a miraculous feat considering the current generation has been around since 2012.

While Toyota could probably keep selling them unchanged at ludicrously high volumes for another two years, the time has come for a redesign. The automaker absolutely has to hit a home run; the RAV4 is Camry levels of important at this point. It may not have the sedan’s history, but it has the numbers — and with the crossover craze stronger than ever, it absolutely has to be a unmitigated success.  (Read More…)

By on March 27, 2018

Regardless of where we think Volkswagen’s true strengths prevail, the company is dead set on electrification. Granted, much of this is the direct result of the diesel emissions fiasco. But it doesn’t appear to be solely interested in providing lip service to an angry public; it wants to build these cars and it really wants you to be excited about that.

The brand’s current lineup doesn’t include much in the way of electrics, e-Golf notwithstanding, but CEO Matthias Mueller has promised to unveil a new EV “virtually every month” as its multi-billion-dollar investments into new battery technologies and charging infrastructure begins to bear fruit. In the meantime, we’ve grown accustomed to seeing VW parade a steady stream of electric concept vehicles. Normally, these are part of Audi’s e-tron lineup or the VW’s new I.D. sub-brand. However, the electric push has started spilling over into the core brand, and the latest product is more than just a battery-driven green machine. It feels tangible, like it might be meant for everyone — not just EV enthusiasts.

Volkswagen’s Atlas is a relatively spacious three-row, midsize crossover — fairly fuel efficient for its size, but not a hoot to drive. VW wants to remedy this by hybridizing the MQB platform, chopping a row of seats, and adding a helping of power that won’t jack up your weekly fuel bill. More importantly, this two-row model seems to bridge the gap between practicality and fun.  (Read More…)

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