By now, you've no doubt heard that Consumer Reports has gone gaga over the 2014 Chevrolet Impala. I mean, the Amish have heard.
When CR takes a first-year American sedan and leapfrogs it over everything but the Tesla Model S and the BMW 135i, giving it a rating of 95 out of 100, that's news. Especially when last year's model got a 63. That's the difference between "buy now" and "kill it with fire" in Consumer Reports-speak.
But CR also said it considers the Impala competitive with the Audi A6, the Lexus LS460L, the Acura RLX and the Jaguar XF. Which makes me think that Consumer Reports, long the dullest, dryest read possible when it comes to cars, has found its inner hype machine. They should schedule a lunch with Motor Trend to talk about the possible long-term effects should the product not live up to all that (Car of the Year 1971: Chevrolet Vega....1974: Ford Mustang II...1976: Dodge Aspen/Plymouth Volare...1980: Chevrolet Citation...1983: AMC Alliance)
So, here's the rational counterpoint to Consumer Reports.
In a time when mid-size SUVs can blow right past the $50,000 mark, it's refreshing to drive one that comes in about 20 grand below that.
Generally, the manufacturers like to put their highest or second-highest trim line vehicles, loaded with options, into the press fleets that TireKickers (automotive journalists) like myself drive.
If they'd done that with the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee, let's say a top-of-the-line Summit 4X4, we'd be looking at a base price of $50,995. And as loaded as the Summit is, there's still another $7,000 plus worth of available options. We could have been bumping up against 60 grand.
But Jeep chose to introduce us to the heavily refreshed 2014 Grand Cherokee by giving us the base Laredo 2-wheel drive. Starting price? A very reasonable $28,795. It comes with a 3.6 liter V6 that produces 290 horsepower and 260 pounds per foot of torque, is mated to Chrysler's new 8-speed automatic transmission, and gets an EPA-estimated 17 mpg city/25 mpg highway.
Not too shabby.
Two of the things we focus on rather regularly here at TireKicker are practicality and value.
But when a vehicle starts out with limited practicality to begin with, why not go all the way? That appears to be the thinking at Mini, which is expanding its lineup with an ever-increasing number of variants on the basic Mini Cooper.
Mini hasn't sent many our way, so as much as I'd love to tell you about the Clubman, Paceman and Countryman, I can't. I can, however tell you about the latest, the John Cooper Works Roadster, close cousin to the John Cooper Works Coupe and a more distant relative of the John Cooper Works Convertible.
Think of big pickup trucks and odds are the names that spring to mind are American...Chevy, Ford, GMC, Ram.
The Japanese have tried to get a significant piece of the American truck market. They started out too small (and Honda, deliberately, has stayed there with its Ridgeline), and even after learning from that mistake and bulking up, Nissan with its Titan, Toyota with the Tundra, they're still not making the Detroit 3 (Chevy and GMC are both General Motors products) lose any sleep at night.
If ever there was a truck that could do that, it would be the 2013 Toyota Tundra. It absolutely hits the target of "full-size American truck". It's as though Toyota City had moved to Texas.
If you'd asked me what you could do to improve the Subaru Forester, I'd have been struggling for any answer other than "just don't screw it up".
The Forester has, since its introduction sixteen years ago, been one of those rare vehicles that knew what it wanted to be, what its customers wanted it to be, and then hit that target year after year, generation after generation.
When I walked up to the 2014 Forester for the first time, I was worried. It's bigger. And bigger in these machines can be duller and dumber.
Among enthusiasts, Lexus has something of a bad reputation. Despite stunners like the LFA supercar and the recently-reviewed-here IS-F sedan, the image is stil that of isolation chambers on wheels.
And out of the Lexus lineup, the vehicle that gets singled out for perhaps the greatest amount of abuse and derision among the smugly superior driver's set is the RX crossover. It is, intentionally, the least sporting Lexus, designed to be a supremely comfortable conveyance appealing primarily to middle-aged and well-off females. And it's been selling like hotcakes for well over 15 years.
But Lexus is on a mission to be taken seriously, and so this year, there's an F Sport edition of the RX 350. Unlike the IS-F, there's no engine swap, just a much-appreciated upgrade of the transmission, suspension and some nice trim bits.
About six weeks ago, we raved about the 2013 Honda Accord and made mention of how it was evidence of Honda recovering.
The Crosstour is what the Accord is recovering from.
Don't let the Honda-supplied images throw you. The Crosstour is nowhere near that sleek and svelte. It's a last-gen Accord pulled and stretched and jacked up and.....
It's year-end clearance time! Gotta move out the '13s and make room for the new 2014 models!
Those of you who've bought a few cars know that, in fact, you can do well by being patient, not needing the latest and grabbing the last remaining of last year's models.
Good case in point, the Lexus IS-F. In a matter of weeks, as I write this, the photos and words here will be obsolete as an all new 2014 Lexus IS-F comes to market. But in the meantime, there exists a very, very compelling '13 IS-F and you might be able to score one and save a few bucks.
What is an IS-F? Well, it's the serious performance variant of Lexus' sportiest model (save the LFA supercar), and if you've read our recent review of the IS 350C retractable hardtop you know we're duly impressed by the goodness of the basic package.
Once upon a time, Volvo built a neat little sporty car called the P1800 and, after a few years, the P1800 ES, which had a big glass hatchback. They were cool-looking cars and went a long way toward furthering Volvo's image as being about more than just rugged, safe boxes on wheels.
A few years back, Volvo gave us the modern-day successor to the P1800 ES, the C30. In fact, a straightforward stock C30 was one of the first cars reviewed here on TireKicker nearly five years ago.
When Lexus introduced the ES, its entry-level model, 23 years ago, there was no mistaking what it was: A Toyota Camry swathed in leather and wood, painted in richer colors than the donor family sedan could be ordered in and loaded up with sufficient sound-deadening material to make the interior quieter than any other Japanese car of the time, save the big-brother LS sedan.
Despite the rather pedestrian roots, the formula worked…so much so that Lexus hasn’t bothered to do much more over the past couple of decades than take the latest-generation Camry and give it the above-mentioned treatment.
We've said it before (about a year and a half ago), we'll say it again. The Jeep Patriot doesn't get much respect. In fact, if it weren't for the not-really-a-Jeep Compass, the Patriot wouldn't get any at all. But at least it's more of a Jeep than something else in the lineup.
Or so goes the conventional wisdom. As we've suggested before, though, the Patriot is the closest thing you can get in 2013 to the fondly remembered 1984 Cherokee...the first of the small SUVs.