Tag: Reviews

By on June 14, 2019

Allow me to take you on a trip in the Wayback Machine for a moment. The year was 2001, and a 23-year-old Bark (that’s me) had just gotten a job as a Kiosk Sales Representative for Verizon Wireless. My first month, my sales quota was 55 new phone activations — I ended up selling over 120. If you doubled your quota, you qualified for a 300 percent payout. The regular commission was $27 an activation, which meant that I earned $81 per activation on 120 or so sales. I literally didn’t know what to do with all of the money — my dad was still paying my rent, and I didn’t have a dime of debt. A lot of it ended up going to a lovely young professional dancer named “Skyy,” if I remember correctly.

The rest of it, I took to Hatfield Hyundai for a down payment on a 2001 Hyundai Santa Fe GLX. Hyundai Finance was kind to young buyers back then, and they allowed me to pay something like 5 percent APR over 60 months for the new-for-2001 SUV. My black and gray version had every box checked — leather, V6, and all-wheel-drive. My Santa Fe was the only one I had ever seen with chrome door handles, and I door-handle checked every other model I saw on the road just to confirm. I think the princely sum I paid was somewhere around $23k.

Yes, it’s true that Hyundai overstated the horsepower numbers, and the car had some minor issues along the way, but when I traded it in on my RX-8 in 2005, I had gotten about 100,000 worry free miles from Hyundai’s first SUV effort. Overall, I was incredibly pleased with the ownership experience — bland, perhaps, but reliable and competent.

Well, fast forward about eighteen years or so, and Hyundai has another small SUV on the market, and it’s roughly the same price that my Santa Fe was in 2001 (yes, I’m aware of inflation). But unlike that Santa Fe, this one is awful. It’s called the Kona, and what I’m about to tell you about it flies directly in the face of every other review you’ve read. Why? Read on.

(Read More…)

By on June 11, 2019

2019 Volvo V90 CC front quarter      

Ever since Volvo showed the V90 wagon in Detroit in 2017 – in journo-bait brown, no less! – I’ve been keeping an eye out for this stunningly styled family hauler. I never see them, especially not in that lovely Maple Brown hue. Are wagons dead?

I rather hope not.

So, while the V90 is still nominally available, the very similar Volvo V90 Cross Country is a more frequent sight on our roads. With a few tweaks to appeal to those who want to cosplay as an uncouth mountain dweller, the low-slung wagon is transformed into something resembling a crossover.

(Read More…)

By on June 4, 2019

Upon reserving a car in the Full-size Sedan class from the people at Enterprise, your author’s mind filled with visions of Passat and Fusion, or something similar. But over on the TTAC Slack channel, Adam Tonge assured me, “They won’t have a full-size sedan for you.”

Turns out he was right. Of the three “upgrade” options presented, none was a sedan. So I picked the largest one, and the only option with a V8: this dark blue 2019 Tahoe, in LT trim.

The other two options presented were a high-trim Dodge Journey in Ticket Me Red and a presumably basic Grand Caravan in Appliance White. The Tahoe seemed like the best option, though after the completion of over 800 miles, perhaps the lesser of three evils might’ve been a more apt description. Let’s go back in time a few days… or maybe a couple of decades. It’s hard to tell.

(Read More…)

By on May 9, 2019

2019 Honda Passport

There always seems to be room for one more at the SUV and crossover table, regardless of marque. Witness mighty Mercedes-Benz, a company filling every niche and crevasse in its lineup with an ever-expanding portfolio of high-riding wagons. When the late Alfred Sloan posited a vehicle for every purse and purpose, this is hardly what the man had in mind.

It is where we are, however, and automakers are only too glad to serve up an ever wider buffet of all-wheel drive options. Honda, for its part, has been surprisingly recalcitrant in the SUV onslaught, soldiering on for years with simply the CR-V and Pilot. It took a relative age for the HR-V to appear and, along the way, the offbeat Accord Crosstour came and went.

That “H” badge carries a lot of weight, so you knew Soichiro’s Dream was eventually going to produce a two-row SUV with off-road pretensions and a lot of familiar Honda feel. Given all this, one thing is certain: the 2019 Honda Passport is going find buyers. A lot of them.

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By on April 30, 2019

2019 Genesis G70 front quarter

Take a good look at the state of the sports sedan. Once defined as four doors, compact dimensions, rear-wheel drive, and a manual transmission, there are precious few new cars sold today that fit that narrow criteria. The German manufacturers who made their names in this segment have abandoned the third pedal.

The only choice left is this 2019 Genesis G70 Sport – fitted with a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder, a six-speed manual transmission, and rear wheel drive. Does it win by default as the last car standing in a shrinking market, or is it worthy of accolades on its own merits?

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By on April 16, 2019

Image: Steph Willems/TTAC

“Ask the man who owns one,” Packard once implored readers from the glossy depths of various Depression-era magazines. While clearly not interested in courting the female buyer (I hope they’re dragged on Twitter for this insensitive tagline), Packard’s core message still holds up today.

No one loves poo-pooing other people’s buying decisions quite like auto journos, but each and every buyer has their own reasons for choosing the way they did. Shocking though it may be to some, buyers often walk (okay, drive) away quite pleased with their purchase — even with crossovers plucked from a homogenous pool of now limitless depth.

And, barring quality headaches down the road, their feelings might stay that way, too.

While I never held any deep dislike for Lexus’ compact NX, aside from the fact that its nose is undoubtedly the most prominent — and unprotected — in the industry, desire or even “interest” were never needles that budged off the baseline. What could change this perception? Driving one. (Read More…)

By on April 4, 2019

2019 Ford Transit Connect front quarter

Welcome to the least hip car segment – the minivan. It’s what our parents drove, right? Nobody wants to be as tragically uncool as their parents, even as they themselves become parents.

Might I, an experienced parent, suggest something to the millennials and hipsters who are starting to reproduce? Consider getting back to the minivan genre before it becomes cool again. Be the parent who values utility and comfort over the overstyled, overstuffed crossover that every other new parent rushes out to buy. The moment you ease a rear sliding door open with one hand while swinging the bucket-style baby carrier right into the seat with the other is a revelation, especially after dealing with narrow-opening traditional doors found on sedans and SUVs.

In other words, it’s van time. Be the envy of the other new parents. Be different. And take a good look at all your options, because beyond the usual suspects lies this 2019 Ford Transit Connect Wagon. It has some surprising features that make it stand out.

(Read More…)

By on April 3, 2019

2019 Lexus LS 500 front quarter

A big luxury sedan is sedate, ponderous, and numb. Insulation from everything outside the cockpit is paramount. Arriving refreshed and relaxed is the order of the day in this class of car.

The little F-Sport badge on the tail of this 2019 Lexus LS 500 changes everything. While one can still chauffeur grandma to church in class and comfort, after she’s been dropped off that drive can quickly change from refreshing to invigoration with a turn of a knob. The idea of a LS F-Sport is nearly as absurd as that of a Miata Brougham with a padded vinyl roof and opera windows. It’s a Brooks Brothers suit with a pair of Brooks running shoes.

It’s unexpected – but it works.

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By on March 29, 2019

2019 INFINITI QX50

Think of an occasion in which something really good appeared in a place where it was underappreciated. A fantastic steak at the downtown greasy spoon, perhaps? Beautiful new windows installed in a student rental house? My writing on this website? Wait, I wasn’t supposed to say that last one out loud…

Buried in the mire of Ghosngate at Nissan is some nifty new tech that should be turning the car world on its ear. The company’s variable compression engine, displacing an industry-typical 2.0 liters from a turbocharged four pot, is actually about as far from industry-typical as Yugo was from being a class leader in fit and finish. It’s able to vary its compression from 8:1 to 14:1, thus offering the best of power and economy characteristics. It’s been called the “holy grail.”

So where does this engineering marvel and technological triumph first appear? In the company’s sports car? Don’t be silly. It’s under the hood of a grey crossover, of course.

Talk about being underappreciated.

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By on March 20, 2019

Steph Willems/TTAC

Approaching my Ascent tester behind a not-so-local dealer, I felt a presence. Like a pre-war bank, this thing was solid, monolithic, immovable, looming over all of humanity and granting entry to only a choice few. Given the profit Subaru’s going to make off these things, it’s not an inaccurate comparison.

The last Subaru I drove was an Impreza. Not a WRX or its hotter sister, but a stock Impreza sedan. You don’t see many of them. Before that, it was a Crosstrek. Or was it a Forester? No matter, really. Before that, it was a friend’s short-lived SVX, some 16 or so years ago.

Compared to those compact rides, the midsize Ascent crossover is like the HMS Dreadnought moored alongside a torpedo boat, and that’s exactly what Americans — or what Subaru thinks Americans — want. Thankfully, having found myself behind the wheel of a great number of crossovers of late, the Ascent at least held some quirks to set itself apart. (Read More…)

By on March 19, 2019

 2018 Lexus NX 300h front quarter

The luxury crossover realm is a weird one. The market has been built on the age-old plan of taking a more basic model and adding profitable flash. The problem lies when the base model is good enough for most buyers.

Indeed, starting out with the best-selling non-truck in America means building something distinctive atop the platform is a challenge. Distinctive most certainly describes this Lexus NX 300h, in more ways than one. But beneath the surface lies a solid performer.

(Read More…)

By on March 12, 2019

2019 Nissan Frontier front quarter

Remember 2005? An old, ugly English prince marries for the second time. A hurricane devastates the U.S. Gulf Coast. Newlywed Chris signs a mortgage on a house and begins to prepare said house for the arrival of a newborn. And Nissan reveals the D40-chassis Frontier.

Fast forward. Charles wonders when his mom will give it up. New Orleans is still recovering. The house, the marriage, and the kid remain. And the 2019 Nissan Frontier continues on, relatively unchanged.

Stability is a good thing in life. Being able to rely upon trusted institutions is reassuring. Few passenger vehicles can be considered institutions – but the Frontier certainly qualifies.

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By on March 11, 2019

2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback front quarter

Let’s face it. Most Toyotas are boring. Sure, enthusiasts get tossed the occasional bone – the 86 and the upcoming (controversial) Supra – but otherwise, the lineup doesn’t excite.

I believe that there are gearheads deep within the bowels of Toyota R&D, however. Those who recall the days when several proper performance cars shared a lot with the ubiquitous Camry.

Here is proof. No, this 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback isn’t a hardcore sportscar. It could certainly do with more power. But that Toyota brought out a new car – with an optional manual transmission, no less! – in a climate where the crossover dominates speaks volumes about the future of driving enthusiasm at one of the world’s biggest manufacturers. There is hope for drivers.

(Read More…)

By on March 4, 2019

2019 RAM 1500 front quarter

I’ve long scoffed at the class of trucks often referred to “Cowboy Cadillacs,” those seemingly built for the well-heeled Texan deep within every suburban dad who wants to prove he’s the king of the bagged mulch pick-up lane at Home Depot. Loaded down either from the factory or a catalog with big wheels, low-profile tires, buckets of chrome, boastful badging, and plush leather, these rigs seemingly took everything that was good about a proper full-size truck and amplified the douche factor.

Then I drove one — this 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Longhorn. With badges illogically glorifying both Wyoming and Texas, I fully expected to be underwhelmed.

Nope. Not one bit. The newest Ram half-ton has had every possible superlative heaped on it, with good reason. This Ram is easily the best full-size truck you can buy right now.

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By on March 1, 2019

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe front quarter

Ah, the mainstream compact crossover. Quickly overtaking the traditional midsize sedan as the new family vehicle of choice, every manufacturer has to have one or more with which to fill the lot. The formula is simple — usually two rows with five seats, a reasonably powerful four-cylinder, benign handling, and striking-but-instantly-forgettable styling. No need to trawl manufacturer websites or dealer lots, either. Five minutes of searching for an open space at the grocery on a busy Saturday will allow you to closely inspect every possible contender in this hot class.

Hyundai’s been playing in this market with a pair of similar models for a few years — the Santa Fe with three rows, and the shorter Santa Fe Sport, with two rows. No longer (or shorter). The old embiggened three-row soldiers on as the Santa Fe XL, while the two-row model is now simply this 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe. Now that we’ve sorted the names, does this Santa Fe satisfy?

(Read More…)

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