Tag: Reviews

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.

(Read More…)

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.

(Read More…)

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.

(Read More…)

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.

(Read More…)

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…)

By on February 28, 2019

The world is full of surprises. From the Cleveland Browns making it to Week 16 to the continued unpredictability of Elon Musk’s Twitter account, there is no shortage of shock and awe on this planet. Know what else was surprising? Last week, it snowed in Vegas. For once, there were toques aplenty on the Strip.

What’s not a surprise is the new Ram Heavy Duty pickups are equally as desirable as their half-ton brethren, particularly in the spiffy new cabin. What does 1,000 lb-ft of torque feel like? Can it haul the mail?

You bet your Golden Nugget poker chips it can.

(Read More…)

By on February 19, 2019

2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross front quarter

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” That adage, from George Santayana, has a less well-known corollary that I just made up: “Those who do remember the past are doomed to watch idly while our memories are sold out to create something much, much worse.”

Take the 2019 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross seen here. When Mitsubishi dusted off a beloved sports car nameplate to slap on YET ANOTHER CROSSOVER, enthusiasts everywhere started screaming. Their memories of late-night cruising and loud exhausts were being trampled by another jacked-up hatchback with no sporting pretense.

Yes, I was one of those enthusiasts hating the name. But then I drove the car, and I recalled that the target Eclipse Cross buyer probably doesn’t remember that not-too-distant past where the stylish Diamond Star coupes ruled the streets, and they’ll simply buy on merit, not memories.

(Read More…)

By on February 12, 2019

Subaru Ascent

Subaru landed on these shores with a raft of cars and totally-not-trucks (thanks, Chicken Tax) that were certainly capable when shown a rough road but were, in a word, quirky. Since then, the Pleiades brand has filtered out some of its weirdness in an attempt to capture more customers but – as we will learn – still marches to the beat of its own drummer … or at least to the beat of a flat-four.

What’s changed since our first drive of the Ascent eight and a half months ago? Anything? Did the big Subie acquit itself well during the Polar Vortex? Does our Associate Editor wear army boots?

(Read More…)

By on February 11, 2019

2019 Mazda CX-3 front quarter

The Napoleon complex, of course, is where those of smaller stature overcompensate by being overly aggressive. Named for the legendarily short French emperor (who may or may not have actually been all that tiny), those so afflicted may be excessively loud, with a temper matching their height.

We car enthusiasts tend to anthropomorphize our four-wheeled friends, at the very least giving them names, if not attributing characters and personalities. The original Mini, for example, is frequently compared to an English bulldog.

Thus I feel compelled to toss the Napoleon complex label on the 2019 Mazda CX-3. It’s appropriately tiny, but with spirited handling well beyond the typical in the class. It’s also quite loud.

(Read More…)

By on January 29, 2019

2019 Kia Sorento front quarter

The three-row crossover has quickly become the bellybutton car. Everyone’s got one. Much as the full-size station wagon was the people hauler of choice in the Seventies and early Eighties, followed by the mighty, mighty minivan, this genre of sorta-big tall wagon is everywhere.

This 2019 Kia Sorento is a refreshed example of a generation first offered in 2016. Kia keeps making impressive strides year after year. The example I sampled was packed to the gills with nearly every luxury bit possible, but does the new Sorento keep up with the competition?

(Read More…)

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