9.02.2014

Now With Two More MPG City and Highway: The 2015 Mazda 6 I Grand Touring

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Mazda 6
The 2015 Mazda 6.
Regular TireKicker readers know of our love for the Mazda 6. We fairly raved about the 2014, and promptly put it on our list of TireKicker's Best Cars.

The 2015 is in dealer showrooms now and while there are no visible changes, there's a nice one you'll see at the gas pumps.

9.01.2014

Why The 2014 Volkswagen Passat 1.8T SEL Premium Competes Against Itself

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Volkswagen Passat
The 2014 Volkswagen Passat. 
And now, a quandry from Volkswagen.

A week driving the 2014 Passat SEL Premium reveals it to be a competent, comfortable family sedan, capable of getting very good gas mileage (24 city/34 highway).  That is thanks to its 1.8-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine.  That engine is small for its class---most of the competition has 2.5 liters---VW relies on the turbo to provide extra power on an as-needed basis, allowing the Passat to benefit from a gas-sipping engine most of the time.


8.31.2014

Spending To Save: The 2014 Lexus GS450h Hybrid

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Lexus GS450h
2014 Lexus GS450h.
"Conspicuous consumption" and "hybrid" would seem to be mutually exclusive terms, but not at Lexus. You can, in fact, spend $120,000 with that carmaker for a hybrid that only gets 19 miles per gallon in the city and 23 on the highway...the outlandish LS600h L (a "base" LS460 costs nearly $50,000 less and gets 16 in the city, 24 on the highway).

But if you'd like to make a somewhat smaller statement about your personal status and a larger one about the environment, the next step down the Lexus hybrid ladder gets you a much more rational, yet still luxurious, vehicle.

8.10.2014

UPDATED: Where We Took The 2014 Lexus GX460

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Lexus GX460
The 2014 Lexus GX460.
A typical test drive is a lousy way to get to know a car.  But it's all most people get. Ten minutes or so in the blocks around the dealership, with a salesman in the passenger seat distracting you from really absorbing what the car does well and not so well.

Even after you buy it, you'll probably spend less than an hour a day in your new car, so you don't get a real sense of what your vehicle is about until the first good road trip.  Since TireKicker World Headquarters relocated to Sacramento late last year, we've been doing those on a semi-regular basis (see our day trip to Placerville via back roads in the Mazda MX-5 Miata, to Ukiah and Mendocino in the Mitsubishi Lancer and to Ukiah then down the coast in the Toyota Avalon Hybrid), and our most recent was just two weeks ago, in the Lexus GX460.

How The 2014 Lexus IS-F Might Be A BMW-Killer

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Lexus IS-f
2014 Lexus IS-F.

418 horsepower.  371 pounds per foot of torque. 8-speed automatic transmission with paddle shifters. Zero to 60 in 4.2 seconds.

It's a Lexus sedan.

I'll give that a minute to sink in.  You'll be excused for being surprised, because Lexus still has this image out there of being pure luxury vehicles...Toyotas swaddled in leather and wood, all noise, vibration and harshness hunted down and eliminated until the driving experience is one of riding on a perfectly silent wave of whipped cream.

And it's not true.  Not for the most part, anyway and not in recent years.  Regular TireKicker readers have seen our reviews of F-Sport models from Lexus (GS 350, RX 350, IS 350, LS 460), which usually involve suspension upgrades and in one rather unfortunate case reviewed by the Phoenix bureau recently (CT 200) simply is a trim package.

But if you want the whole F-Sport experience, apart from the $300,000-plus LFA supercar, you need to get behind the wheel of the IS-F sedan.