Tag: Reviews

By on February 6, 2020

2019 Mini Cooper Oxford front quarter

I’ll admit it. I’m a bit of an Anglophile — at least in the automotive realm. I don’t take any interest in the drama surrounding England’s monarchy, nor do I drape my clothing with any form of the Union Jack. I’ve simply come to enjoy the cars of the British motoring industry.

After all, I did spend many nights and weekends as a kid rolling around a cold concrete floor, dusted in stale Castrol and kitty litter, helping to get my dad’s 1970 MGB running. I lost a pair of eyebrows to a massive backfire while sorting out tuning issues on the pair of SU carburetors. And I fondly recall the 2002 Mini Cooper S my dad and stepmother bought new — a car she still owns fifteen years after dad’s passing.

So when a new British car passes my way, I’m sure to take notice. Especially when it’s a car that has potential to create new young enthusiasts. This 2019 Mini Cooper Oxford Edition is one of those things — a bargain-price runabout that promises affordable fun.

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By on February 3, 2020

2019 Ford Raptor front quarter

Camera in hand, I left the truck idling as I descended the running board onto the dirt path. I’d planned to get a couple of quick snaps in a beautiful natural setting, considering the vehicle’s considerable off-road prowess.

The report of what could only be a 12-gauge shotgun fired a couple hundred yards away made me reconsider my artful ambitions.

Have I ever mentioned how much I appreciate good, clear rear-view cameras? I’m not the greatest at parking large vehicles, so the tech is useful in many situations — but this feature was especially helpful as the 2019 Ford Raptor and I quickly escaped a bad situation in reverse.

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By on January 30, 2020

2019 Mercedes-Benz Metris front quarter

Believe it or not, there are plenty of people who spend the majority of their days in a van of some sort. I’m not talking about the beautiful people on social media hashtagging their rebranding of the Seventies-era shaggin’ wagon as “vanlife.” I’m talking about tradespeople, for whom a van is as important a tool as a hammer or pipe wrench.

For most of my working life, I’ve worked alongside these van drivers — I’ve been selling various products to these workers for the better part of two decades. I’ve noticed over the years that the variety of vans has expanded recently. Where the parking lot of whatever supply house was once filled with cookie cutter vans from the Detroit Three — occasionally dotted with repurposed minivans — these days any variety of tall, Euro-styled boxes-on-wheels might greet me.

The Sprinter was the leader of this new vanguard, with workers praising improved driving dynamics and improved space efficiency. Now a smaller model comes, the Mercedes-Benz Metris, to deliver much of those improvements in a more city-friendly package. Can this sturdier (not-so)minivan replace the stalwarts?

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By on January 27, 2020

2019 Ford F150 Lariat FX4 front quarter

I’ve never owned a truck. Over my two-plus decades of driving, I’ve shopped for trucks new and used, but have always stopped short of stroking a check for something with a bed for various reasons big and little. Typically I needed something with more interior space, more lockable cargo space, or more comfort — but one thing always holding me back was fuel economy. Traditionally, trucks aren’t particularly efficient.

However, modern diesel engines can yield impressive economy, which is why we’re beginning to see them trickle into the half-ton range of pickups from each of the Detroit Three. Ford, long the sales leader in the segment, has given the Power Stroke treatment to this F-150, and we were curious if it improves an already impressive truck.

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By on January 23, 2020

2019 Toyota RAV4 front quarter

Well, maybe the crowd can’t always be trusted. Over the last two hundred-plus years, there have been more than a few instances where our plurality voting system has yielded suboptimal victors in statewide and nationwide elections alike.

I’ve promised before that I’d stay away from politics here, so I’m not getting any more specific than that. I’m sure I’d piss off someone who doesn’t feel like hearing my thoughts on Franklin Pierce.

Anyhow, in 2019 Toyota pushed nearly half a million of these compact crossovers out the doors, making the 2019 Toyota RAV4 the fourth best-selling passenger vehicle in America — and if you exclude half-ton pickups from each of the Detroit Three, the best selling vehicle, period. But why?

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By on January 10, 2020

2019 Toyota Sequoia front quarter

Do you remember 2008? I do. I was six years into a career in sales with a Fortune 500 company that I figured I’d retire from. I had an 18-month-old daughter, with a second on the way toward the end of the year. I had a shiny silver Motorola Razr cell phone, though some of my colleagues were gushing about a newfangled device from Apple that married a phone with an iPod.

Well, I now have two daughters in and around their teen years, each of whom have a smartphone fancier than that first iPhone. I’ve moved around to a few different sales careers, supplementing my income (to pay for those daughters and their data plan) by writing. Things change.

Except at Toyota, it seems, as they are still making the 2019 Toyota Sequoia with very few changes since the waning days of the Bush administration. But people keep buying them, so there must be a reason for it.

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By on December 13, 2019

2020 Mazda CX-30 lead image

Keen observers of the new car market have taken note of the proliferation of compact and subcompact crossovers, with new models shoved into niches seemingly too small to fit yet another jacked-up hatchback. Where once there might have been but a single model, today there are four or more edging more traditional cars off the showroom floor.

Mazda is no different. The CX-5 and CX-9 have won accolades as the driver’s choice among the myriad indifferent blobs clogging the lanes of every interstate and supermarket, while the subcompact CX-3 has proven to be a decent entry choice. But much like that one person behind you in the left lane who is determined to win the race to the exit half a mile ahead, Mazda is wedging its shield-shaped grille into any gap it can find.

Thus, the 2020 Mazda CX-30. Logically, this would be the CX-4, but a different vehicle exists in other markets (China, mostly) using that badge – and since so many consumers cross-shop dealerships between Beijing and Bay City, it pays to minimize badge confusion.

Where does the CX-30 fit on the Mazda lot? And does it fit in your garage?

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By on November 22, 2019

2012 Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi front quarter

Do not adjust your dial. Despite all appearances to the contrary, you have not been magically transported back in time to halfway through the Obama administration. Yes, we know the design of this venerable website hasn’t changed significantly since then, but you have to trust us on this one – it is indeed late 2019, and yet I’m driving a cab from 2012.

It’s the 2012 Ford Escape Hybrid Taxi, fresh from service on the mean streets of New York City, and with over four hundred thousand miles on the original hybrid powertrain. It’s been stripped of the meter and medallion, of course – can’t have shrimp-eating journalists trying to double-dip by hacking while being a hack – but otherwise is very close to how it rolled into Ford’s care a few months back.

It’s a marketing stunt, to be certain. Ford is using one of its oldest, highest-mileage hybrids to sell journalists and the general public on the durability of this solution to electrified motoring. I’m here to say that, while I was skeptical of this stunt, I’m now a believer.

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By on October 28, 2019

They’re coming for our cars, people. “Alternative mobility solutions” are all the rage at many big automakers attempting to virtue signal (and electric-scooter) their way into social acceptability. I’m pretty certain that I heard a sweaty politician say something like, “Hell yes, we are going to take your crossover!” Even some automotive journalists have called for outright bans of private cars.

I suppose this is where I photoshop a Momo Prototipo into the infamous “from my cold, dead hands” Charlton Heston photo.

Do me a favor, friends. Let’s stem the tide. Take these car-haters for a ride in a proper sports car, like this 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF. Better yet, let them drive. All other worries of the world wipe away like raindrops on the windscreen as the right hand slots the shift lever into third, all while the corners of the mouth gently turn upward. The Miata is our last hope for motoring freedom.

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By on September 16, 2019

2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio front quarter
The exhaust note will suck you in. If you, like most readers of this fine publication, have a healthy appreciation for all things mechanical, you cannot help but be charmed by the baritone rasp of this twin-turbocharged V6.

I know that I was.

Thus, an impromptu road trip to Pittsburgh in the 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio naturally brought me through the Fort Pitt tunnel into the city. Yes, I opened the windows, twisted the drive mode selector to Race, and slapped the paddle shifter down a couple of cogs just to hear that exhaust echo among those tile-lined walls.

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By on September 12, 2019


I hardly watch television anymore. I’ve a couple of shows that I keep up with via on-demand or DVR, but generally my time is spent working or with my kids. Occasionally, however, I’ll end up at the in-laws, where invariably they’ll have the old Sony tuned to some half-hearted reality show. One of their faves is Dancing With The Stars, where washed-up tertiary celebs dress in tight clothes and strut for an hour.

Often, one of those stars is a washed-up football player who’s blown through his rookie contract and trying to increase his marketability before the league pension and/or CTE settlement dough starts rolling in. Getting those hulking beasts to move with grace is quite a sight.

You can see where I’m going with this. Yeah, the platform on which this 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody is old enough to vote. But Mopar engineers, in creating this package, have taught this bruising lineman to shake a leg in style.

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By on September 6, 2019

2019 Honda Passport front quarter

For those who don’t know, my day job isn’t in the automotive industry. Rather, I’m in sales – I represent various product lines in an industrial setting, and I talk to countless small business owners and technicians who look to me to help get their job done.

I’d like to think that the better part of two decades in sales has inoculated me to obvious marketingspeak – I can see through the jargon and bullshit most of the time, as I’m usually the one distilling the bullshit for my clients. It carries over outside the office, of course, so I was skeptical when presented with Honda’s tagline for this two-row crossover: “Passport To Adventure.” Surely the 2019 Honda Passport isn’t an overlanding rig meant to tackle the worst terrain the world can offer. That said, some of Ohio’s roads must be some of the worst terrain to be called “paved” in the western world.

Every commute is an adventure.

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By on August 22, 2019

2019 Mini Cooper JCW front quarter

Does retro work when the retro becomes just plain old? The late Nineties and early Aughts saw an explosion of cars designed to ape cars of yesteryear – possibly to comfort a car-buying public terrified of what a new millennium might bring. The PT Cruiser, the HHR, and the New Beetle were among many models intentionally built to look backwards.

Mini, on the other hand, was an entire marque created out of nostalgia, and for two decades has traded on a wistful look back at the pioneer of the small front-drive econobox with an ever-growing portfolio of “same sausage, different lengths” models. Today, we look at the 2019 Mini John Cooper Works Hardtop – the original flavor three-door hot hatch. Does it still evoke the spirit of the Sixties, or is it a thoroughly modern conveyance in hand-me-down clothes?

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By on August 20, 2019

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

It will surprise exactly no one to learn that a diesel engine option needs some sort of killer app in order to command the cash. Whether it’s power, towing capacity, or fuel economy matters not so long as it has some sort of advantage over its gasoline-powered brethren. Unfortunately for Ram’s EcoDiesel, the old engines were scarce on all three.

Being first to market is sometimes fraught with peril, but also has its advantages. Ram learned this in a number of different ways with its first couple of forays into the half-ton diesel game. Now that Ford and GM also have compression-powered arrows in their quivers, Ram is back with a third kick at the EcoDiesel jerry can.

This time around, it’s more than just a curious sideshow. This time around, it’s the first Ram EcoDiesel with a pulse.

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By on August 16, 2019

2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 front quarter

The entry-level Mercedes-Benz sedan has an odd history. Until the W201 series in the mid-Eighties, there really wasn’t anything truly in the smaller classes, and the nomenclature (190E) seemed deceiving, reminding some of the larger E-class. Still, these were popular cars, even spawning the epic twin-cam powered Cosworth models that allowed the smallest Benz sports sedan to go race in the DTM series, and eventually bearing a more natural “C” class naming syntax.

But the C got bigger and more expensive, and soon upstart luxury brands began nipping at the heels of the three-pointed star on the lower end. The first A-class was underwhelming, though with the typical application of AMG-style power it could be fun.

This newest A-class, the 2019 Mercedes-Benz A220 4MATIC, has a good deal to answer for. Will the typical Stuttgart amenities be enough to sway those remaining small sedan buyers, or will they shy away from the babiest of Baby Benzes?

(Read More…)

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