Tag: Review

By on February 22, 2018

mercedes benz cla 250

To be honest, I would have rather had anything else on the lot, and I do mean anything. However, when I arrived at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, National Car Rental was a bit short on cars on the ol’ Emerald Aisle. There was a line of people about ten deep waiting for cars to be brought up from the overflow lot, and I had a meeting to get to. So I did what anybody else (who rents 40 cars and spends about $10,000 annually with National) would do — I walked over to the “upgrade” area, hopped into the least expensive “luxury” car available, and drove it to the exit booth.

“I won’t be paying any extra for this,” I explained to the booth attendant, “because a Mercedes-Benz CLA 250 is not an upgrade.”

Three days and a couple hundred miles later, I realize how prescient I’d been at the time. I would have rather had a Chevrolet Impala, a Dodge Charger, or even a Nissan Altima over the Hungarian Baby Benz. Here’s why.

(Read More…)

By on February 21, 2018

2018 Jaguar E-Pace

Jaguar claims the F-Pace, its first crossover SUV, more or less doubled the automaker’s sales almost overnight. That little factoid makes a statement about the state of the automotive industry – namely, that crossovers are hot and that just about every brand needs to sell one to survive, regardless of a brand’s history.

Just ask Porsche. If not for the Cayenne (and now the Macan), could that company continue to afford to build the venerable 911, as well as the Boxster and Cayman?

The answer, of course, is probably not. That’s a big part of the reason why even “exotic” brands such as Bentley and Lamborghini have gotten into, or are getting into, the SUV game.

Certainly, Jaguar has picked up on the trend. Following the F-Pace comes the smaller E-Pace, and soon to follow is the I-Pace, complete with an all-electric powertrain. It may still seem weird to many of us that Jaguar is building and selling crossovers, but we’re also living in an era in which former Jaguar owner Ford offers a turbocharged four in the Mustang (as something other than a weak “base” powerplant) and Mitsubishi is planning on using the Eclipse name on a crossover. Things change, man.

(Read More…)

By on February 20, 2018

We all like comfort food. It’s not sexy, it may even be bland, but it keeps us feeling full and fulfilled. Meatloaf, a basic steak and potatoes, a hot turkey plate – all of these items serve that purpose.

I don’t know enough about German cuisine to guess what constitutes comfort food in Wolfsburg, and I don’t want to stereotype with guesses about spaetzle and schnitzel. Whatever passes for hale and hearty fare in Lower Saxony likely shares a lot with the feel of the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas.

Big, boxy, and brawny-looking, the blocky Atlas has one main mission – get up to seven folks from point A to B simply and comfortably. While there are plenty of modern features, that doesn’t mean there’s frills or design silliness, and while it offers enough power to do the job, it’s not precisely built for speed. (Read More…)

By on January 4, 2018

2017 Kia Soul ! Turbo lead image

Some years ago, product planners at Nissan, Honda, and Kia each decided to cut stylists out of the design process for a new car line and hand everything over to engineers. Those engineers, looking for the most practical and efficient shape to haul maximum cargo – fleshy or otherwise – each decided to use a cube for inspiration. Nissan didn’t stray far even for a name.

Each of those boxes was marketed toward the youth of the day – when they came out, I was part of that target demographic. Problem was, the kids didn’t have money to spend on a new car. That’s why many Elements, Cubes, and Souls tend to be driven by older, somewhat more affluent folks who appreciate the practicality, and can also afford it.

Well, I’m now approaching that second demographic. My forties are within sight. Is the 2017 Kia Soul right for me? In other words, is an old soul right for a new Soul?

(Read More…)

By on December 22, 2017

26.1 pounds of boost. A seriously stiff suspension. Matte paint finish. Brash red-painted brake calipers. A showy wing. A silly loud exhaust.

Do any of those describe your mental image of a Mercedes-Benz product? Or, when presented with that combination of features, do you conjure a car rejected from one of the early The Fast and the Furious films?

When the Mercedes-AMG GLA 45 was revealed a couple of years ago, I recall writing it off as a pretender – after all, it’s a crossover! After spending some time in this absurd vehicle, however, I began to appreciate the magic of AMG.

(Read More…)

By on December 18, 2017

2018 Honda Clarity PHEV, iMAGE: mATTHEW gUY/hYBRID cARS

(In keeping with our goal of providing interesting and varied content, we sometimes bring you stories published by TTAC’s sister sites that we feel will satisfy your discerning tastes. This first drive review of Honda’s Clarity plug-in hybrid comes to us from a familiar name. It was first published by Hybrid Cars.)

Honda has rolled out its newest salvo in the effort to wean drivers off gasoline.

In a three-pronged approach, a team simultaneously deploys multiple solutions to solve a particular problem. We see this tactic at work when your humble author tries to assemble furniture or harried parents attempt to get their toddler to eat dinner.

Rather than placing all their eggs in one particular alternative-fuel basket, Honda has decided to pursue a cadre of options: a plug-in hybrid, a battery-powered all-electric, and a hydrogen fuel cell car. So confident are they in their gambit, the company has developed a car that can be equipped with either of these three powertrains.

The machine you see here is the Honda Clarity. (Read More…)

By on December 15, 2017

2018 Mini Cooper Countryman S E ALL4

Mini Coopers are one of those cars that easily starts a debate among the TTAC staff in our Slack channels. Are they fun to drive or not? Too “cutesy” or no? Is there a place in the market for them? Are they overpriced?

I’ve long been of the mind that Minis are fun to drive, too expensive, and it’s up to the beholder when it comes to the styling. I also think there is a place in the world for small “city” cars – though I’m biased, as I live in the kind of congested area where small cars thrive.

What I struggle with is why this Mini needs to exist. Other than a cynical attempt at boosting corporate fuel economy numbers, I don’t see a need for an all-wheel-drive plug-in hybrid that doesn’t have much EV-only range and doesn’t really need to be plugged in. Of course, if you don’t plug in, you get a shorter fuel range when running on gas than that of its stablemates.

(Read More…)

By on December 11, 2017

2018 Lexus LC 500 grey front quarter

For several years, outlets around the Web have been alternately asking and telling us about the impending doom facing cars. That “millennials” don’t want cars. That “kids these days” don’t want to learn to drive, as their parents will chauffeur them wherever they need to go.

It’s certainly anecdotal, but in my brief time driving the new 2018 Lexus LC 500, kids and millennials alike were absolutely astonished by it. I’ve never driven anything that attracts so much attention.

The youngster shoving shopping carts at Kroger respectfully asked to photograph the car as I ran in for milk. The twentysomething – in a similarly-stunning G-Body Hurst/Olds, incidentally! – driving down my suburban street turned around and cruised by slowly for another look. The high school football team gawking – “Yo, that’s a Lexus LC 500!” (seriously) – as I negotiated the treacherous speedbumps past the stadium to retrieve my kid from softball practice. These youths were certain that, even if they didn’t know exactly what this car was, they had a primal need to get closer.

(Read More…)

By on October 31, 2017

2017 Lincoln MKX, Image: Steph Willems

Utility vehicles are nothing new at Lincoln, but where there was once a single heritage-diminishing (but lucrative) oddity built to give Cadillac’s Escalade a run for its money, there now sits three models with rear liftgates. A fourth looms.

Now back from a near-death experience, Lincoln isn’t alone in requiring a lineup stocked with high-riding vehicles. Sticking with tradition bodystyles is akin to suicide these days. We can eyeball the resurrected Continental and debate whether Lincoln went far enough, style-wise, in rekindling the famous nameplate, but the reality is the brand sells far more utilities than cars, hands down, and will continue doing so. Buyers overwhelmingly want SUVs, and woe is the automaker that remains mired in the past.

Even the ancient Navigator, poised for a long-overdue revamp for the 2018 model year, sold just 148 fewer units than the Continental in September.

Leading the Lincoln sales pack is the midsize MKX, now sporting an identity comfortably divorced from its Ford Edge underpinnings. Fully redesigned for the 2016 model year, the SUV, which reportedly awaits a Continental-esque front end treatment and a transmission swap sometime in 2018, ended last year with its best sales showing since 2007. In doing so, it knocked the MKZ sedan down to the silver medalist podium.

There’s an abundance of power. There’s butt-coddling opulence. But is there enough refinement and cross-generational appeal to lure buyers back from the Germans and Japanese? (Read More…)

By on October 20, 2017

2018 Honda Fit LX - Image: © Timothy CainSubcompacts, if they ever were in favor, have quickly fallen out of favor in the United States. In 2017, sales in the first three-quarters of the year plunged by more than a fifth, year-over-year. The Honda Fit, modestly updated for the 2018 model year, is on track in 2017 to fall to a five-year low of around 50,000 sales, a far cry from the nearly 80,000 American Honda sold a decade ago.

The Honda Fit, not now in third-gen form nor in any prior iteration, has never sold on the strength of style. There have always been less expensive subcompacts, faster subcompacts, and better-equipped subcompacts, as well.

There have not, however, at least not during the Fit’s tenure, been any subcompacts that offer the flexibility of the Honda Fit. But does the fact that the 2018 Honda Fit is likely the only current subcompact that could operate as my family’s lone vehicle make up for the fact that the Fit lags behind rivals in key areas? (Read More…)

By on October 10, 2017

2017-ford-f-350-super-duty-platinum

After introducing the Super Duty in 1998, Ford kept making upgrades to the same basic cab and frame all the way up to 2016. Multiple refreshes across three generations could not hide the fact that this truck rode on old bones, making the 2017 model year redesign a welcome change.

We had a chance test out the new design by borrowing a 2017 F-350 Platinum for a recent trip to West Virginia, which appropriately featured a Miata on trailer behind us. While our race car and trailer combo only made up a fraction of the maximum towing capacity of the diesel-powered behemoth, it gave us an appreciation of having a little extra room while towing.

Our schedule said we had to be on track at Summit Point for a drivers meeting at 8 a.m. on Saturday morning, so we tried to pack as much as possible before the Super Duty arrived in order to hit the road quickly. When the truck arrived on Friday afternoon we ran over to the U-Haul store to pick up a trailer. Hooking up was a breeze — even in the tight confines of the back lot — as the backup camera, along with the birds eye view, quickly got us lined up with the trailer and on our way to load the race car. (Read More…)

By on September 18, 2017

2017 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth gray front quarter

I suppose it’s a bit like buying a car, but at once more limiting and liberating. Anytime I take the keys of a press vehicle, I must sign a long legal form agreeing, basically, not to be too stupid while driving someone else’s car. Invariably, near the top of the form is a serious restriction – that no one other than the person who signs the form is to drive the car.

I find this somewhat limiting. I understand the reasons, but occasionally some input from others can help evaluate the car. Thankfully, I found a loophole while driving the 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth – I asked my 23-year-old self to drive the turbocharged roadster, alongside the current 38-year-old edition.

At twenty-three, I didn’t have kids. I had a mortgage on a starter condo with my eventual wife, but the full weight of life’s burdens were not yet bearing down upon me. So Young Chris decided not to wait until middle age, and he bought a sports car.

That’s why this discussion between Young Chris and Old Chris is an enlightening look at the modern Italian sports car, by way of Hiroshima.

(Read More…)

By on August 9, 2017

2018 Hyundai Elantra GT, Hyundai Elantra GT

Back in late June, Hyundai’s Canadian division bundled myself and a group of fellow journalists into a Quebec hotel, then proceeded to explain how crossovers are eating the compact car’s lunch.

The 2018 Elantra GT, the company’s representatives said, almost didn’t happen because of the unstoppable popularity of high-riding, cavernous utility vehicles. Hyundai’s U.S. crew apparently needed convincing that the next-generation GT was even worth the trouble. Essentially just an overseas-market i30 with a name change, the new GT’s North American salvation came from the fact few buyers opted for an Elantra-badged hatchback in recent years. Far more buyers take home a Ford Focus or Mazda 3 with five doors.

And so, having been assured that a much-improved GT — a hatchback with more cargo room, more available power, greater handling and sporting prowess, and cohesive, flirting-with-premium looks — would boost overall Elantra sales, we’ve come to this. An Elantra GT, now with more GT.

In GT Sport trim, the vastly reshaped, fourth-generation compact hatch dons the turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder from the Elantra Sport, calls dibs on its athletic cousin’s sporty transmissions, and goes to town delivering value-packed driving excitement for the commuter who likes taking the long (and twisty) way home. This tester, however, is no Elantra GT Sport. Nope. It’s the plain ol’ Elantra GT — the Elantra GT you’ll see far more often than the throaty, scrappy Sport, probably while its owner performs the mundane cargo-hauling duties Hyundai so desperately wants its buyers to attempt.

Even in base form, Hyundai hopes the Elantra GT’s sporting abilities and generous cargo volume whispers a siren song would-be subcompact crossover buyers simply can’t ignore. Is it a convincing come-on? (Read More…)

By on June 21, 2017

2017 Chevrolet Bolt

It was my shooter, Myle, who picked up the Chevrolet Bolt press car we had for the week. I was too busy getting my ass massaged in a Lincoln Continental in the meantime. Besides, Myle owns a house, and I live in a crummy apartment, so it made more sense for him to park his all-electric Bolt EV at the house for charging.

It turned out to be a very bad idea, as he lives in the middle of a cornfield in Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec. His house was built over 60 years ago, so his electrical system couldn’t keep up with the modern tech this electric car is fitted with. “Dude, it takes 20 hours to charge, how the hell will I get to work tomorrow?” he barked at me angrily over the phone. Meanwhile, I was enjoying the overabundance of freedom provided by my V6-powered, gasoline-fed, American luxury barge.

Welcome to the realities of electric propulsion in its early years. (Read More…)

By on May 31, 2017

[2017 Ford F-150 King Ranch, Image: Steph Willems/The Truth About Cars]

It’s better than a 1937 Nash Lafayette, though fuel economy — in real world driving — seems to be slightly less, if I’m to believe the results of the Mobilgas Economy Run.

I’m referring to my great-grandfather’s 1937 (or ’38) Lafayette, a fixture of my mother’s otherwise carless childhood in postwar Baby Boom Alberta. What brought up this unlikely comparison, you ask? What could a technology-laden 2017 Ford F-150 King Ranch pickup possibly have in common with a six-cylinder Depression-era sedan?

Running boards. In my mother’s earliest memories, the running boards of her granddad’s car were fixed, spanning the distance between two fenders dulled by Prairie dust and providing easy access to the spartan cabin of a long-lived touring car. In the Ford’s case, they’re electrically operated, lowering into place upon the opening of any of the pickup’s doors, then receding out of sight below the rockers, propelled by engineering ingenuity and cash.

It’s an option I’ve always found ridiculous, especially in a climate where road salt is a depressing reality. I like a fixed board. Nothing fancy. However, to my mom, who I chauffeured to a Mother’s Day meal in the King Ranch, that feature alone was enough to make her consider pulling a bank job to meet the truck’s MSRP.

With this particular truck, payload capacity and off-road prowess is an afterthought. (Read More…)

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