Eight Days, 1800 Miles And Two Big Surprises In The 2015 Kia Sorento SXL

A good trip is made infinitely better by good traveling companions.  I'm blessed with the best one ever in Navigator, and so the thought of eight days on the road, much of it behind the wheel at the end of August, was a most pleasant one.

Folsom-Utah trip map
(source: Google Maps)
The trip: A tour of some of Nevada and Utah's national parks and monuments.  The overall plan:  Folsom (suburban Sacramento, California) to Great Basin  in Nevada on day one.  Two days each at Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bryce Canyon (all in Utah), then home a different way...stopping to see family in the impossibly tiny town of Newcastle, Utah on the seventh day, with a dawn-to-dusk final leg across Nevada and through the Sierra back to Folsom on day eight.

Oh.  And except for the one night with family, we'd be camping. So a tent, sleeping bag, clothes, food and firewood to last eight days....it all had to be accomodated. Go big enough (Tahoe/Suburban) and cargo would be no sweat, but there was at least 1600 miles to cover with gas at an average price of $4.00 a gallon.

So what to drive?  8 days required extending the usual one-week press loan to two weeks, and the fine folks at Kia and STI stepped up, offering the new version of an old friend...the 2015 Kia Sorento.


Why The Beetle TDI Is The Most Beetle-Like Of All

2014 Volkswagen Beetle TDI front 3/4 view
Volkswagen Beetle TDI.
For a car that is an exercise in nostalgia, there is very little that really connects the current-generation Beetle with the one that captured America's hearts from 1949 to 1979.  As I illustrated in my review of the Beetle R-Line this summer, the current Beetle is a much larger car, with styling meant to evoke rather than emulate the original.  It is certainly much more complex, much more expensive (even when adjusted for inflation, today's Beetle costs nearly double what the original did at any point in its production) and, as every wag who used to own one will point out---the engine is in the wrong place.


UPDATE: How The World Has Caught Up With The 2014 Toyota 4Runner

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Toyota 4Runner
The 2014 Toyota 4Runner.
Four years ago in this space, I wrote a review of the Toyota 4Runner in which I quoted Casey Kasem's most famous outtake, linked to Sajeev Mehta's piece in The Truth About Cars comparing it to fat Elvis and basically said the 4Runner was going the wrong way for the times.

Well, times change.  That was written in the aftershocks of the 2008 crash, and while there has by no means been a complete recovery and gas prices are higher now (the Sacramento average for a gallon of regular as I write this is $4.11), the world has continued to spin and Americans have, as they always have, adapted, adjusted and bought as large as their credit scores would allow. In those intervening four years, I have driven an additional 200-plus new vehicles and, in the current landscape, the 4Runner no longer seems out of place.

Mind you, I still think Toyota is slicing the SUV spectrum mighty thin with RAV4, FJ, Highlander, 4Runner, Sequoia and Land Cruiser...but (apart from the FJ, which is in its last season) it seems to be working.

Why The 2014 Lexus IS 350C Looks Like The Last Generation IS

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Lexus IS350C
The 2014 Lexus IS 350C.
There is a sleek, svelte new Lexus IS in town.  You have seen it, on this very site.  About seven months ago, I reviewed it, in the form of the IS 350 F-Sport. But the IS 350C retractable hardtop convertible and the high performance IS-F sedan still carry the rounder, smoother design from the previous-generation IS.


This Could Be The Start Of Something Big: 2015 Hyundai Genesis 5.0

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Hyundai Genesis
The 2015 Hyundai Genesis 5.0.
The story on Hyundai the past few years has been how quickly it has roared up onto Toyota's rear bumper...from the butt of more than a few jokes (Rodney King was widely presumed innocent in car circles because his Hyundai couldn't possibly have been going 110 to 115 miles per hour as the California Highway Patrol had claimed) to a serious contender.

Now, the 2015 Genesis 5.0 makes a case for the brand having done the same to Toyota's luxury division, Lexus.