By on July 31, 2020

“Awful” can mean a lot of things, some of them pretty benign. A car can simply a boring appliance, and to some, this makes said car awful. Others might disagree.

Other vehicles might boast many positive attributes, only to have reliability issues render them awful in the minds of many. Yet an awful car can still be a thing of beauty, in the purely physical sense. Name one. (Read More…)

By on July 30, 2020

In the cinematic classic National Lampoon’s Loaded Weapon 1, screen legend Kathy Ireland’s character is asked, under intense police questioning, whether she knows the traitorous General Mortars.

“Well, I drive a Buick,” she responds.

See? This proves the name General Motors confuses people. All the more reason to throw out that dusty moniker and write a new script. (Read More…)

By on July 28, 2020

2017 BMW X5 xDrive35i iDrive Navigation, Image: © 2017 Jeff Wilson

Listen, we don’t want to hear about that summer after high school… unless it involved a road trip requiring precise and detailed navigation!

That’s right, today we’re talking about finding one’s way through life in the most literal sense. Charting a course. These days, reaching your destination usually involves a pre-programmed route, satellite linkup, and a detached female voice ordering your every move, barking commands at every turn.

Do any of you still hang on to the old ways? (Read More…)

By on July 24, 2020

It’s a film I reference often, but in this case it fits. The absolutely fantastic movie Twelve O’Clock High concerns itself with a U.S. Army Air Forces bomber group stationed in the south of England during WW2.

Tasked with “precision” daylight bombing over occupied Europe relatively early in the conflict, the group goes about its missions without fighter escorts, leaving themselves wide open to every Messerschmitt and flack gun along the route. It’s a deadly business, but orders are orders. Every day, B-17s take off into a clear blue sky, many never to return.

So many, in fact, that the base earns a stigma of being home to a “hard luck group.”

The equipment is fine, as are the men behind the controls, but luck isn’t on their side. And just as circumstances can sink the fortunes of an otherwise competent outfit like the 918th Bomb Group, so too can hard luck fall on a car. (Read More…)

By on July 23, 2020

1977 Chrysler New Yorker in Denver junkyard, front view - ©2020 Murilee Martin - The Truth About Cars

Yesterday’s attempt by Mitsubishi to generate excitement and anticipation among brand loyalists (are there any?) got your author thinking.

Thinking, as a movie character once said, is a thing a man should never do, but it happened just the same. These thoughts revolved around brands, loyalty, passion… and hate. (Read More…)

By on July 22, 2020


Surfing around the Twitter machine the other day, I saw a reference to the late, not-so-great Pontiac Aztek. It occurred to me that despite working in the service trenches at a Pontiac store for a summer, and despite once working alongside someone who owned an Aztek, I’m not sure I’ve ever driven one.

Which got me thinking – what normal, attainable car have I not driven? The same question applies to high-end (but not unobtanium) metal.

(Read More…)

By on July 21, 2020

The setting: a dimly lit bar, which is the best kind of bar, and one that seems to have stepped out of another time. Old, overly varnished wood mingling with red faux leather on the chairs and booths, a stained glass lamp hanging over each corner nook, and a complete absence of daylight or identifiable exit. Are you even above ground? You can’t tell.

A din registering somewhere between pleasant background murmur and raucous cacophony ensures reasonable privacy from the introvert population of this half-filled saloon. The drinks adorning tables and bartop are not mango mojitos, but brown liquors. Some with ice, most without. This is a place where long-lasting, healthy relationships are not kindled, but where more than a few businessmen have stopped in for a last drink before jumping off that overpass or going home to clean dad’s rifle. Maybe Deep Throat drank here. Maybe, somewhere out there in the brightly lit streets that may as well be a million miles away, three-piece suits and sideburns are back in vogue, and every car has an ashtray.

As you ponder your surroundings, puzzled, disoriented, and more than a little intrigued, a figure moves towards your table. (Read More…)

By on July 16, 2020

A word is a powerful tool. It can instill deep feelings, trigger emotions, and just generally play with someone’s head. And when a singular word happens to be the name of a company, its creators had best choose wisely.

Wednesday’s joint announcement from Fiat Chrysler and PSA Group got plenty of people talking about words — well, one particular word. Let’s play a game. (Read More…)

By on July 15, 2020

A certain inhabitant of the Renaissance Center finds themself the odd man out. A member of the prestigious (but often tumultuous) Detroit Three club, this storied car builder now has the misfortune of having two rivals with something very similar to sell — something our protagonist, whom we’ll call The General, can’t seem to rustle up.

You all know what we’re talking about: A dedicated, right-sized, off-road SUV.

With two out of three members now fielding such a product, it is necessary for The General to join the fray and attempt to compete, or, in this time of cost constraints and uncertainty, is it better to stay put and carry on, rather than field a latecomer? (Read More…)

By on July 14, 2020

It’s time to render a verdict, fair jurors.

You’ve now seen the Ford Bronco from every angle, in every guise, and probably spend part of your evening figuring out just what you could afford (sorry, Canadians — the entry-level Base tops $40k in your overpriced country; it’s $28,500 before destination in the U.S.). Ford clearly put a lot of effort into its swing.

Was it a miss, or did the Blue Oval knock it out of the park? (Read More…)

By on July 13, 2020

Not since Toyota’s American brass debuted the new Venza from their own driveways at the height of the coronavirus lockdown has a new vehicle galvanized the public’s attention like this.

Discourse? There isn’t any, other than about this singular product. At this very moment your kids are probably watching other kids talk about it on their TikTok machines, or whatever it is they play with when they’re not tattooing images of Elon Musk on their necks and going vegan to fight hate. I’m no parent, and it shows.

If you’ve just arrived from a secluded cave in which you were held captive by a family of bears, free of any and all media except for nightly live-action stage plays (about bears), we should inform you that the Ford Bronco will, at long last, reveal itself tonight. Everyone, including your relieved family members, are aware of this. Ford worked overtime to generate as much buzz as possible, earning this date in history the moniker “B-Day” at the very online TTAC World Headquarters. Of course, it’s entirely possible you couldn’t care less about another SUV appearing in an already crowded segment, but don’t worry — you’ll still be able to participate in today’s QOTD. (Read More…)

By on July 10, 2020

Image: 2017 Dodge Journey SE, via FCA

By now you’ve heard, been told, or simply noticed that the Dodge lineup for 2021 contains but three models: the Charger, Challenger, and Durango. A trifecta of AARP members, now endowed with as much horsepower as Fiat Chrysler could rustle up from its deep parts bin.

Gone for ’21, but hardly forgotten, is the Grand Caravan, a pioneer of the minivan segment and a stalwart Dodge model seemingly immune to inflation. We knew its demise was coming. Same goes for the other model axed for 2021 — the Dodge Journey — though the discontinuation of this vehicle isn’t nearly as likely to elicit tearful, glowing eulogies at the wake.

Perhaps you’d like to say a few words? (Read More…)

By on July 9, 2020

The Twitterverse — which is a horrible place, by the way — finds itself rocked this week, torn asunder and factionalized by the mass signing of a remarkably anodyne letter supporting free speech and open discussion. Twenty-six-year-old NYC bloggers are up in arms; here at Casa Steph, the popcorn bucket’s working overtime.

But while these warriors clash in the online streets over the core tenet of liberal democracy, a great number of opinions, beliefs, and offbeat thoughts remain behind lock and key in our own minds. The subjects these thoughts cover are vast in scope, and one of them is surely cars. Yes, cars. And trucks, and those who build them.

Let’s exercise a little free speech today. (Read More…)

By on July 7, 2020

We all know someone who’s had a kid. Yup, procreation still happens in today’s enlightened society, and with that babymaking comes a rapid accumulation of stuff. It’s a scourge, and this disgruntled, childless writer has long railed against the steady onward march of this phenomenon.

Y’all are spoiling your children. They’ve got too much stuff.

More often than not — almost inevitably, really — this new addition to the household precipitates another change in either the driveway or garage. (Read More…)

By on July 2, 2020

As you read in the previous post, Lincoln has finally admitted what everyone by now knew — that the Continental’s days are numbered. The marque plans to shelve the model after pulling the plug on production at the end of the year.

Big sedans have all the appeal of an uncontrolled cough in a crowded elevator right now, so there’s dim hope that the Continental name will ever grace a stately, rear-drive sedan or coupe in anyone’s near future. At least we have our memories, though… not all of which are good ones. (Read More…)

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