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…)

By on March 14, 2018

If there’s a great way to piss off Subaru buyers, the quirky Japanese brand hasn’t thought of it yet. Few automakers can boast of Subaru-like annual sales increases, and even fewer can say their customers are more likely to stick with the brand at trade-in time. Actually, only one brand can say that.

Subaru holds the distinction of actually seeing its U.S. sales rise during the recession, and from 2008 to 2017, volume rose by more than 245 percent. One of the models contributing to its success is the unassuming but remarkably capable Forester — a boxy, upright compact crossover with a tall greenhouse and an interior larger than its outside appearance would suggest.

Screwing up the next-generation Forester, which debuts later this month as a 2019 model, could hurt Subaru badly. No surprise, it looks like the automaker is choosing to play it safe. (Read More…)

By on March 14, 2018

Lexus RC F Sport Black Line

Lexus is hopping on the black craze by offering a new appearance package, starting with the RC F Sport. Limited to only 650 units, the brand’s “Black Line” special edition is also only available in one of two colors: Caviar (black) and Atomic Silver (orange). Additional visual enhancements include matte black wheels, orange or black brake calipers, and darkened chrome. The upgrade also includes Lexus’ navigation and Mark Levinson premium audio packages — as well as a moonroof, parking assist, and triple beam LED headlamps.

Extensive orange stitching differentiates the Black Line from the standard cars and appears on everything from the seats to the dashboard and doors. The vehicles also receive an exclusive wood-trimmed steering wheel that features “distinctive shades of black” created by a 200-year old Japanese calligraphy shop. (Read More…)

By on April 11, 2017

2017 Ram 1500 Sublime Sport

Ask any real estate agent worth their salt and they’ll tell you the easiest way to increase the curb appeal of an aging house is to slather it with a new lick of paint. With a trifling of effort and minimal investment, new sets of eyes will be drawn to the place.

With that in mind, may we present the latest special editions — sorry, factory-custom designs — headed our way from the truck builders in Auburn Hills.

(Read More…)

By on April 4, 2017

2018 Audi TT RS

Math was never this writer’s strong suit, but it’s easy to work out what the looming Audi TT RS means for its occupants: 100 horsepower per passenger. (Does anyone ever venture to that abbreviated backseat?)

That’s right, Audi’s smallest offering will gain an impressive amount of brawn when the new-for-2018 RS variant bows at the New York International Auto Show. It also grows an extra cylinder. (Read More…)

By on March 29, 2017

toyota-ft-4x-teaser-0

Four words. That’s the extent of the details dropped by Toyota today, along with a picture that displays not quite an entire wheel. Perhaps the automaker should take a page from Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and release 397 feature-length films about each of the mystery vehicle’s components.

The four words and one picture depict the upcoming FT-4X, a Toyota concept bound for a New York Auto Show unveiling on April 12. From the few clues we have, this concept — in Toyotaland, “FT” prefixes mean “future Toyota” — should boast some measure of off-roading bona fides, possibly enough to make Jeep worried. (Read More…)

By on March 8, 2017

2018 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T, Image: Hyundai

If public backlash against the sixth-generation Sonata, mainly in its home country, caused Hyundai to pour cold water all over the midsize sedan’s edgy design, consider the 2018 Sonata a reaction to its toned-down predecessor.

The refreshed 2018 Sonata unveiled in Seoul, South Korea, today aims to shelter the popular midsize from accusations of “safe” or “boring” styling. While the sedan’s flanks are easily recognized, the previous model’s this-won’t-offend-anyone front fascia has given way to a wholly new design. (Read More…)

By on March 3, 2017

2018 Toyota C-HR - Image: Toyota

Toyota hasn’t even delivered the new 2018 C-HR to dealers and there are already plans to supplement the automaker’s subcompact crossover lineup.

In concert with the C-HR’s U.S. launch next month, April 2017 will also play host to the Toyota debut of a small crossover concept at the New York International Auto Show if all goes according to plan.

“I think we’re very well set up (with the C-HR and midsize RAV4 CUV), but we’re also kind of looking at what else could we be doing there if this continues to be a growing segment, which we anticipate it will,” Bill Fay, vice president for the Toyota division, told Wards Auto.

Toyota expects to sell 60,000 C-HRs in the United States annually, more than the Yaris, Yaris iA, and Prius C combined. For America’s third-highest-volume SUV brand, that’s apparently not enough.

Slip an extra SUV on the barbie. (Read More…)

By on March 2, 2017

Dodge Demon Driveline

Like a professional dancer performing north of the Arctic Circle, the Dodge Demon’s strip tease is arduous and painful, beginning with a parka, moving on to the moccasins, then the toque, and … you get the idea.

But the latest installment of the Demon’s online strip tease may have just nuked an earlier rumor regarding the new SRT’s driveline.

Subaru fanboys — this angel of rubber-shredding death (probably) isn’t for you.

(Read More…)

By on March 23, 2016

2017 Acura MDX Front

Acura has two big changes in store for the refreshed 2017 MDX; one up front and in your face, the other hidden beneath its mainly familiar flanks.

The automaker’s flagship luxury SUV, revealed at the New York Auto Show, drops the “silver shield” grille that has adorned the face of Acuras big and small for years, favoring a diamond pentagon mouth reminiscent of the Acura Precision concept.

Acura said the Precision signaled a new design direction for the brand, so consider this the first shield to drop. (Read More…)

By on March 22, 2016

2017 Fiat 124 Spider Elaborazione Abarth

After teasing Americans from a distance at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this month, a production version of a meaner Fiat 124 Spider has been unveiled by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles in advance of its New York premiere.

The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Elaborazione Abarth is a mouthful to pronounce, but the Old World name should help add some metaphysical distance between this massaged roadster and its Mazda MX-5 Miata underpinnings. (Read More…)

By on March 16, 2016

Scion tC Release Series 10.0

If you’ve been holding out on buying a Scion tC until the right special edition came along, this is your last opportunity.

Scion’s parent, Toyota, took the youth-oriented brand behind the woodshed last month, making the upcoming Release Series 10.0 version of the tC coupe an aerodynamic swan song. (Read More…)

By on March 15, 2016

Mercedes-AMG CLA 45

Mercedes-Benz has released details about the refreshed 2017 CLA bound for next week’s New York International Auto Show.

Changes to the sedan (or “four-door coupe,” if you must) are mainly limited to minor upgrades all around — an exterior facelift both front and rear, increased trim and wheel options, as well as technological improvements.

(Read More…)

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