By on November 8, 2021

1992 Ford Taurus SHO in California junkyard, RH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsFord introduced the high-performance version of the Taurus sedan— the SHO— in the 1989 model year, and enthusiasts rejoiced over the cheap new factory hot rod that blew away far more expensive European sedans. I’ve documented quite a few discarded SHOs during my junkyard travels, but this is the first ’92 I’ve photographed. Why is 1992 special for the SHO? Simple: It’s the final year for the mandatory five-speed manual transmission. Here’s one of those rare cars in a San Francisco Bay Area self-service yard. (Read More…)

By on October 25, 2021

1978 Fiat 131 Brava in Colorado junkyard, LH front view - ©2021 Murilee Martin - The Truth About CarsWhile an ever-increasing number Americans in the second half of the 1970s felt comfortable buying sporty German and Japanese sedans, the idea of relying on an Italian sedan for everyday transportation made sense to a much more exclusive group. For those Americans who craved a commute packed with Italian passion and artistry but needed something with rear-wheel-drive (ruling out the 128 and the Lancia Beta sedan) and cheaper than the Alfa Romeo Sport Sedan, Fiat offered the 131 on these shores for the 1976 through 1981 model years (changing its name to the Brava starting in 1978). As you’d expect, these cars are about as tough to find in junkyards today as Mitsubishi Tredias or Rover 3500s, but I ran across this ’78 in a Denver yard last week. (Read More…)

By on June 23, 2021

The 2021 Acura TLX Type S is currently being shined up in showrooms around the country in the hopes of catching the eye of people that still remember the brand formerly produced a handful of downright excellent performance vehicles. It’s specifically trying to recapture the magic of the TSX — which the rest of the world knew as the fun version of the Honda Accord — and appears to have been built under a similar philosophy.

Rather than committing itself to ludicrous levels of power or an overabundance of attitude, Acura has attempted to deliver a balanced, tasteful luxury vehicle that can still scramble like an egg. While the previous offspring of this mindset made do with roughly 200 horsepower, the TLX Type S produces a much more meaty 355 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque and recently dropped some additional marketing materials to drive that point home now that it’s on sale.  (Read More…)

By on June 22, 2021

Hyundai

Hyundai is sharing heavily doctored images of the upcoming Elantra N, offering a taste of what its performance arm plans to do when unleased upon the rest of the company’s lineup. Unlike N-Line products, which are more about supporting modest performance upgrades with visual embellishments, N models are basically as hardcore as the manufacturer can build a vehicle while still attempting to turn a profit.

Thus far the formula has only had sufficient time to produce the 275-horsepower Veloster N — a hatchback that seems intentionally designed to dunk on the more reserved Volkswagen GTI. But the Elantra is rumored to embrace the Veloster’s powertrain and a similar personality, resulting in something relatively unique for our market.  (Read More…)

By on October 20, 2020

Genesis has been planning a mid-cycle update for the G70 sedan for a while and has been obliging us with previews showing off how good its designers are at their jobs for months. But Hyundai Motor Group recently previewed the model in South Korea to prove that the improvements made went beyond mere aesthetics.

While the split headlamps and updated grille bring the model more in line with other Genesis products, sacrificing a bit of visual menace for a more upscale appearance, technological changes ensure it’s no less capable from a performance standpoint. Next year, the Genesis G70 will receive a new sports+ driving mode that tightens engine and transmission programming to squeeze out every ounce of performance available, a new dynamic AWD system featuring a built-in drift mode, and an exhaust with active valves to make the V6 sound as sweet as possible on demand.

(Read More…)

By on October 25, 2017

Subaru Viziv Performance Concept

After some light teasing, Subaru unveiled the Viziv Performance Concept in its entirety at the Tokyo Motor Show — showing what is very likely to the next incarnation of the WRX. While that’s not a guarantee, the Viziv’s symmetrical all-wheel-drive, boxer engine, squared taillights, hood scoop, and overall shape appears to be an obvious evolution of the brand’s beloved performance model.

Enthusiasts are likely to be pleased, too. While it was never gorgeous, the WRX has enjoyed ho-hum styling since 2008. Things took a turn for the better after a mid-cycle facelift in late 2009, but even the current generation lacks some of the character of those earlier examples. On the upside, Subaru continued to refine what was essentially a budget automobile with highly desirable driving dynamics.

But if the next WRX can maintain the Viziv’s more extravagant styling cues while also holding onto improved interior quality and performance, well, then this is all very exciting.  (Read More…)

By on May 18, 2017

2018 Acura TLX, Image: © 2017 Jack Baruth

Stop multi-tasking and listen to me for a minute, because I’m going to tell you the most important thing you’ll read this week.

Many years ago, when I was still in the pharmaceuticals game, I had a business mentor of sorts. He was a thick-set, bald, African-American fellow in his early 60s who dressed exclusively in velour tracksuits and, at the time of this story, had a custom-ordered pink S500, an SL500, and an aftermarket-droptop Lexus SC400 in his garage.

We were sitting at dinner one night and I was griping about a fellow we knew who had been given every chance possible by both of us to become remarkably wealthy. Yet every time one of us gave him a chance, he pissed it away through random acts of fiscal impropriety or domestic violence. I couldn’t understand why this dude could not get his act together and handle his business in an appropriate manner.

“Listen up, young blood,” my mentor said, stabbing me in the chest with a finger about the size of a Mag-Lite flashlight, “you cannot want something for someone they do not want for themselves.” I think I dropped my fork. He was right, of course. In the years since then, I’ve had occasion to remember those words again and again. You cannot want something for someone they do not want for themselves.

I need you to keep that in mind as you read this review. If you are like most automotive enthusiasts, you want Acura to return immediately to the glory days of the beautiful first-generation Legend and the sublime twin-cam Integra. But you cannot want something for Acura that it does not want for itself. Acura is perfectly content with being primarily known as the manufacturer of the RDX and MDX sport-utility vehicles. Those two products are market leaders and they’re more than enough to guarantee Acura’s continued existence. If you continue to hope that Acura will build razor’s-edge sporting compacts and M3 rivals, you will continue to be disappointed. Period, point blank. Got it?

Let’s continue.

(Read More…)

By on April 7, 2017

Audi RS3

German performance sedans aren’t exactly a steal of a deal, but Audi’s RS3 is coming to America with a price well-above its chief rival from the Fatherland. The RS3 sedan, available for the first time in the North America, will start at $55,875 when it begins appearing in showrooms later this year.

That’s $5,000 more than a Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG — which starts at $50,875. It’s also a couple grand more than BMW’s M2, even though the Bavarian coupe is a less direct comparison.

Audi isn’t trying to pull a fast one on us; just the opposite, in fact. Audi designed the new RS3 with the United States in mind and is giving Americans what we covet most — horsepower.  (Read More…)

By on April 6, 2017

2017 Honda Civic Si

Honda needed to put some distance between the much-anticipated Civic Type R and the forthcoming Si before giving up any additional specifications. With so much buzz surrounding the 306-horsepower Type R’s North American debut, any news on the more modest Si would have been lost in a sea of Honda fanboy fury.

Still, the automaker was probably also aware that some enthusiasts might get a little snippy when they find out that the Si’s massaged 1.5-liter mill won’t see significant horsepower gains over the previous naturally aspirated engine. In fact, it makes the same 205 hp as the old model.   (Read More…)

By on March 9, 2017

2017 Ford Fusion Sport Front 5/8, Image: © 2017 Jeff Wilson

There is no single car that appeals to the wants and needs of everyone — yet that hasn’t stopped Ford from trying.

Need a mid-sized family sedan? There’s a Fusion for that. What about a bare-bones four-door suitable for rental fleets? There’s a Fusion for that. Government-issue plug-in hybrid? There’s a Fusion for that, too. And now if you need a high performance sport sedan, there’s even a Fusion for that mission. Sort of.

The 2017 Fusion Sport takes the otherwise tame mid-size sedan market into a whole ‘nother realm thanks to the twin-turbo 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6 pillaged from the F-150. 325 horsepower in a mid-size sedan is interesting, but 380 lb-ft. of torque will grab a driver’s attention and keep it all the way up to “I’m sorry, officer.”

(Read More…)

By on March 8, 2017

mercedes-amg-gt-concept

Mercedes-AMG is, of course, calling its new GT Concept a “four-door coupe.” As perpetually annoying as that marketing trend has become, it’s refreshing to see a concept car that is somewhat representative of the future production model. However, GT Concept not just a glimpse into AMG’s future but also a celebration of 50 years worth of history at Mercedes’ AMG performance arm.

In addition to its AMG badge, the concept has also been adorned with a subtle EQ Power logo that denotes Benz’s fledgling electrified sub-brand and a hybridized powertrain. Mercedes describes the red devil as the evolution of the AMG-specific lineup and says the four-door GT will eventually exist as a genuine roadgoing vehicle — looking familiar, but not quite identical to the current concept. (Read More…)

By on November 1, 2016

2016 Lexus IS200t front quarter

To say I was shocked at the color is an understatement. Like many, I’ve always known Lexus as a builder of staid, solid, but uninspiring sedans for “older” people. As an impressionable youth who watched too much TV, I always wanted a Lexus commercial to come immediately after the “Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile” spot for the perfect “This Is Your Father’s Oldsmobile” juxtaposition.

I once even asked an exchange student if Lexus was a Japanese acronym for champagne beige pearl metallic.

No, this bright red (Lexus calls it Redline) 2016 Lexus IS200t F-Sport that appeared in my parking spot isn’t the dull sedan your dad may have driven. It’s potentially the sports sedan this dad wants to drive — but with one trivial flaw that might keep me from signing a note.

(Read More…)

By on March 10, 2016

2016 Cadillac CTS-V Front 3/4, Image: © 2016 Bradley Iger/The Truth About Cars

It’s been almost two decades since BMW unleashed the E39 M5 on the motoring public, and the sport sedan segment has chased its ghost ever since. Not long after the BMW was crowned mythic perfection, Cadillac made a substantial shift in its development focus to court younger, more performance-minded buyers.

Since then, Cadillac has generously pilfered the Corvette program parts bin to move the brand away from the retirement home and onto America’s non-existent Autobahn. In the meantime, BMW’s M Division has set its playbook on fire and begun heaping content onto its performance models.

When the second generation CTS-V broke the production sedan lap record at the Nurburgring in 2008, it became clear that the conversation was really starting to change.

(Read More…)

By on February 4, 2016

IMG_1122

Like cockroaches scattering in the light, Americans are fleeing sedans for the upright comfort and wagon-like space of crossovers.

The full-size sedan segment has recently been hit hard, Maxima included. Since 2012, the auto market has expanded 20 percent, while full-size sedan sales have contracted 14 percent. Based on an aging design and the entrance of Korean rivals, the Maxima’s 12-percent market share in 2012 dwindled to eight percent in 2015.

There is a fair chance no more than six people will read this review, and five of those readers will be future doctoral students deconstructing the final days of the sedan. Does that mean no matter how good the Maxima is — or could be — it’s doomed to fail?

(Read More…)

By on September 16, 2015

2016_Cadillac_ATS_Sedan_(1_of_11)

2016 Cadillac ATS Sedan

3.6-liter LGX DOHC V-6, variable valve timing, active fuel management and cylinder deactivation (333 horsepower @ 6,800 rpm; 285 pounds-feet @ 4,800 rpm)

8-speed 8L45 automatic transmission

20 city/30 highway/24 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

24.5 mpg combined in 60/40 city/highway, downtown traffic nightmare combined cycle (Observed MPG)

Tested Options: Driver Assist Package — $2,885 (Adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, seat belt tightening, electronic parking brake); Kona brown semi-aniline leather seating — $1,295; Power sunroof — $1,050; Cold weather package — $600 (heated seats, heated steering wheel); Dark Adriatic Blue Metallic Paint — $495.

Base Price:
$49,105*
As Tested Price:
$55,430*

* All prices include $995 destination fee (U.S.)

It’s easy to get caught up in the BMW-Mercedes-Audi hyperbole. Those automakers swap spec superlatives in generational battles for supremacy that, in all reality, won’t matter when it comes time for most of those buyers to pull the proverbial trigger.

In many ways, the Cadillac ATS gets left out in the cold. It doesn’t have the history, drama or marketing machine that the 3 Series and C-Class beat us over the head with everyday.

In fact, when Cadillac announced that it would take head-on those vaunted cars, most people laughed as long as it took for them to drive one. Then it became very real. Although the ATS competes with the Germans on price, it also competes in capability. The underpinnings are rock solid. The engine lineup is comparable. And the performance ATS-V is really damn good.

For 2016, little has changed with the ATS, but incremental improvements in interior tech and its top-of-the-range engine bring the car ever closer to being on par with — or in some cases better than — its German counterparts.

And for a lot of people, it’ll be an awkward, angular shaped pill to swallow for the future. (Read More…)

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