11.21.2017

Batman Goes To Yosemite: The 2017 Lexus RC-F

Front 3/4 view of the 2017 Lexus RC-F
The 2017 Lexus RC-F.
On the day the 2017 Lexus RC-F was delivered to my driveway, I walked out, saw it there, all menacing in black (Lexus calls the color "Caviar") and I said to Glenn, the delivery guy "...and then one morning, I wake up and I'm Batman".

Seriously.  This IS the Batmobile.  Okay, so I'm not Batman (tragically) nor is Mrs. TireKicker Robin (thankfully).

We did have an adventure planned.  One that didn't include crimefighting.  We were off in search of beauty unknown in Gotham City.  And, as regular readers know, for us, that usually involves a lot of twisty back roads.



11.18.2017

Battle Wagon: The 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite
The 2018 Honda Odyssey Elite.
About that headline...

For all the talk about how the hottest segment of the market is in small crossovers (which is true), the tightest battle in the biz is between minivans.  Only a few thousand copies a year separate the Chrysler Pacifica, Toyota Sienna and the Honda Odyssey.  The Pacifica being the newest design and an excellent interpretation of what a contemporary minivan should be, it's gained a slight advantage over the Sienna and Odyssey, which haven't seen a re-design since 2011.

Until now, that is.  The Sienna is still awaiting an update...but the new Odyssey is here now.  And it's more than ready for battle.

11.09.2017

Green With Less Beige In It: The 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE

Front 3/4 of 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE
The 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE.
There are very few things that haven't happened to me in 20 years of professionally reviewing cars (there was 11 years of doing just that on local radio and television in Arizona before we launched TireKicker globally in the fall of 2008 and expanded five years later with a move of TireKicker World Headquarters to Folsom, California while maintaining a bureau in Phoenix). 

$75,000 Jaguar bent...not bashed, but the frame bent....by an 80-something lady in a (then) 18-year-old, four-cylinder Mustang with handicapped plates backing out of a space at the supermarket and cutting the wheel too soon, then pressing harder and harder on her accelerator when her car stopped backing up (because it was pressed up against the rear quarter-panel of the Jag)?  Check. 

Flat tire in a pre-production Chevy Tahoe during a press event with no spare on board and the two-way radio out of range somewhere in the Superstition Mountains?  Check. 

Brand new Mercedes-Benz (the unloved C230 coupe) that decided, while parked in a mall parking lot, to put reverse where third gear should be and every other gear in someplace other than where the good Lord intended?  Been there, done that, got the sheepish apology from M-B who thought I must have abused their ride until they found out that someone at the factory forgot to tighten a bolt.

But never...never...has anyone stopped to compliment me on a Toyota Camry.  And with the new 2018 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE it happened three times.

11.08.2017

Worthy: The 2018 Acura TLX 3.5L AWD A-Spec

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Acura TLX 3.5L AWD A-Spec
The 2018 Acura TLX 3.5L AWD A-Spec.
One of the great mysteries of our time:  How can my fellow automotive journalists fall all over themselves in praise of the Honda Accord and be so lukewarm about the Acura TLX, which, at its heart, is a performance variant of the Accord?

11.07.2017

The Fixer: The 2017 Subaru BRZ Limited

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Subaru BRZ
The 2017 Subaru BRZ.
I have long been a fan of the Subaru BRZ, nearly identical cousin to the Toyota 86.  Its driving dynamics and pure fun for the money make it one of the great cars of our time...the spiritual successor to the original 1970 Datsun 240Z. 

That affection may have been somewhat obscured in my review, a year and a half ago, of the 2016 Subaru BRZ Series.HyperBlue (yes, that was really its name), in which I praised the car and cursed the Starlink infotainment system, which was a source of constant frustration. Well, they worked the bugs out of the '17, at least in the head unit (the Starlink app is still getting brutal reviews at the app store, and we didn't even go there this time around).

11.06.2017

Beauty With a Touch of Beast: The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth
The 2017 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth.
Back in January, I wrote about the Fiat 124 Spider Lusso, saying that, as a beauty addict, I found it in many ways more desirable than the current-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata on which it is based and which ain't no slouch (the Miata ranks a solid #3 on the TireKicker's Best Cars list on the right-hand side of this page). 

11.05.2017

Smooth Operator: The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport 2.0T Ultimate FWD

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport.
Family responsibilities have had Navigator (the finest traveling companion known to man) and myself on the road quite a bit this year, with 350-mile roundtrips to Mendocino County and back becoming fairly commonplace (every three to six weeks lately).  That gives us a lot of hours on roads ranging from freeways to switchbacks to evaluate what we're driving and compare it to what we drove on the same route last time.  Perhaps the most impressive so far is the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport.


10.03.2017

American Icon: The 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland 4X4

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland
The 2017 Jeep Cherokee Overland.
Okay, so the styling is still somewhat (!) controversial.  It's been four years since I saw the first one and the front end is still something I haven't warmed up to.  But the current-generation Jeep Cherokee is what it is and, Godzilla grille aside, it is the right car in the right segment at the right time.

10.02.2017

Practicality Is A Virtue: The 2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Premium

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Premium
The 2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Premium.
With hundreds of different vehicles currently available in the USA, it's staggering to realize that one car could probably fit the needs of a majority of drivers.  And even more staggering to realize that the car comes from what most people would consider a niche manufacturer.

But the truth is that for the way most people use their cars most of the time, the 2017 Subaru Impreza 2.0i Premium is pretty much what they need.

9.09.2017

The X Factor: The 2017 Fiat 500X Trekking FWD

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Fiat 500X Trekking
The 2017 Fiat 500X Trekking.
A couple of years ago, the Phoenix Bureau reviewed the Fiat 500X, in Pop trim.  We're here to say that review pretty much nailed it.  Whatever your pre-conceptions of the Fiat 500X, if you haven't driven it, you're probably wrong.

9.06.2017

An Offer We Can't Refuse: The 2017 Hyundai Elantra Value Edition

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Hyundai Elantra
2017 Hyundai Elantra.
There's no denying we here at TireKicker are big fans of the 2017 Hyundai Elantra.  Since its introduction as a very early 2017 model in early 2016, we've been impressed by the handling and agility of this compact sedan...so much so that we've not even blinked at the $27,710 bottom line of a loaded Hyundai Elantra Limited or at the $25,010 tab for the 201-horsepower Elantra Sport.

But now, Hyundai's gone and done it...sweetening the deal with a best-of-most-worlds model called the Value Edition that starts with a low one-price-no-options-beyond-floormats number, then immediately carves four figures off of that with an "Elantra Value Edition Standard Equipment Discount".

9.05.2017

The Time May Be Right: The 2017 Kia Cadenza Limited

Front 3/4 view of the 2017 Kia Cadenza Limited
The 2017 Kia Cadenza Limited.
Three years ago, Kia launched the new-for-2014 Cadenza.  The ad campaign called the car "impossible to ignore".  Car shoppers managed.  I can't find the '14 sales figures, but in 2015, they sold all of 7,343 of them, which puts it in Buick Cascada territory.  2016 was worse, with sales down to 4,738, which makes it the 225th best selling car in America (the list only goes to 298), outselling the Porsche Panamera but running behind its similarly targeted cousin, the Hyundai Azera.

Part of the problem, as I wrote at the time, was that Kia was promoting the '14 Cadenza as a luxury car when, in fact, what they'd built was a very good full-size family sedan with several features usually found on more upscale cars.  Commendable, especially at $35,100, but not a luxury car.  Even with another six grand-plus worth of options that took the bottom line to $41,900.

8.24.2017

American Classic: The 2017 Toyota Tundra Limited Crewmax 4X4

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Toyota Tundra Limited Crewmax
The 2017 Toyota Tundra Limited Crewmax 4X4.
It was just a shade more than four years ago that I wrote the first of several TireKicker reviews (including a few from the Phoenix Bureau) wondering why it was that the then-new Toyota Tundra wasn't posing a major threat to the full-size American trucks from Ford, Chevy, GMC and RAM.

In it, I said "it's as though Toyota City had moved to Texas."  And in the intervening years, it pretty much has.  Toyota's new North American headquarters opened in the Dallas suburb of Plano this month, and the the 2017 Toyota Tundra Limited Crewmax 4X4 that we tested was built in San Antonio.

A lot has changed in four years---things that should help give Toyota the cred it needs to shake up the full-size pickup truck market the way it did passenger cars almost 40 years ago.

8.23.2017

SuperTruck: The 2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4X4 Crew Cab

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4X4 Crew Cab
2017 Ford F-250 Super Duty 4X4 Crew Cab.
Used to be there was a stark difference between a half-ton and a 3/4-ton pickup. The bigger ones were clearly meant for work, or hauling very large horse or travel trailers.  You could tell just by looking.

Standard half-ton pickup trucks like the Ford F-150 have become so big and so rugged that you might wonder what an F-250 Super Duty is for.  Or, if you're a long-time Super Duty buyer, you might be underestimating an F-150's capabilities.

It's even tougher to sort out just by eyeballing, since both models can be loaded up with luxury extras that were once reserved for machines with a three-pointed star on the hood.

No, this is going to require a hard look at the facts.


8.22.2017

Loud and Proud: The 2017 Ram 1500 Night Edition Crew Cab 4X4

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Ram 1500 Night Edition Crew Cab
The 2017 Ram 1500 Night Edition Crew Cab.
There is very little to prepare you for the sound that comes when you push the "START" button in the 2017 Ram 1500 Night Edition.  The best written approximation is:

BAROOOOOMMMMMBURBLEBURBLEBURBLEBURBLEBURBLEBURBLEBURBLE

And after you've eased it out of your driveway and you give it....oh, let's say 1/16th throttle to start down your street:

BBBBBWWWWAAAAAHHHHHHHRROOOOOAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

Yes, that thing's got a Hemi.

8.20.2017

Soul With Speed: The 2017 Kia Soul ! (Exclaim)

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Kia Soul ! (Exclaim)
The 2017 Kia Soul ! (Exclaim).
The Kia Soul has proven itself to be the best of the funky little urban "is it a car or a crossover?" boxes that came along at the beginning of the decade.  In fact, save the Nissan Juke, which moves a fraction of the number of copies the strong-selling Soul does, the others (Scion xB, Nissan Cube) are dead and gone.

The Soul simply offered a stronger blend of utility, price and features.  And now, performance enters the mix.

8.08.2017

Don't Call It A Bus: The 1937 White Yellowstone National Park Motor Coach



Somewhere, as a kid....National Geographic back issue?  Old stuff at my grandmother's?....I had seen and fallen in love with the old yellow buses that roamed Yellowstone National Park.   I remember wanting to ride in one if I ever got to Yellowstone.  And I was certain as time went on that they'd be long gone.

So when this summer rolled around, Mrs. TireKicker and I took a two-week, 3300-mile roadtrip that included Yellowstone and they were still on the road, I could barely contain my excitement.

8.05.2017

Something So Right: The 2017 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring

Side view of 2017 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring
The 2017 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring .
The right car for a trip is like the right tool for a job.  It can make or break the whole enterprise.  So when Mrs. TireKicker and I cooked up our first-ever two-week summer vacation roadtrip, we knew we had to get the right car.

Regular readers will remember three years ago, when, for a shorter eight-day camping trip to Utah, the 2015 Kia Sorento SXL proved to be a terrific traveling companion.   This time, Mazda and their prep and delivery partners at Drive Shop partnered to provide a 2017 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring for three weeks, allowing time for packing and cleanup.

7.25.2017

A Little Bit Extra: The 2017 Ford F-150 4x4 SuperCrew Platinum

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Ford F-150 4X4 SuperCrew Platinum
2017 Ford F-150 4X4 SuperCrew Platinum
Pickup trucks have become all about the extras.  Humble two-door standard cabs do not cut it anymore, except as work trucks for public utilities.  No, a privately-owned pickup truck today has to be a pickup truck, a performance vehicle, a luxury vehicle and, ideally, bigger, glitzier and more expensive than the neighbor's pickup truck.

7.24.2017

Return of an Icon: The 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD

Front 7/8 view of 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD
The 2017 Volvo V90 Cross Country T6 AWD.
The Volvo wagon.  In the 1980s and early-mid 90s, nothing said you were smart about however much money you had quite the way a Volvo wagon did.  Somewhere along the way, Volvo wagons lost that cachet...along with much of the Volvo lineup.  But now, the V90 is back, based on the S90 sedan  that yours truly pretty much lost his mind over last fall.  And it could take a Volvo wagon right back to being that type of understated status symbol for the next couple of decades.

6.30.2017

Niche No More: The 2017 Honda CR-V AWD Touring

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Honda CR-V AWD Touring
The 2017 Honda CR-V AWD Touring.
Nine years ago, when I was launching TireKicker, small SUVs were just starting to catch on.  They had a nickname: "Cute-Utes".  And, if that sounds somewhat dismissive, well, I guess it was.  It suggested that they weren't really up to the task that, in those days, we assigned to Ford Explorers and Chevy Tahoes.

What a difference nine-tenths of a decade makes.  The landscape has changed so much that not only is the Honda CR-V outselling Explorers and Tahoes, it is, for the year so far, the fifth-best selling vehicle in the USA.

6.29.2017

Fitting Into The Family: The 2017 Toyota Corolla iM

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Toyota Corolla iM
The 2017 Toyota Corolla iM.
Twenty months ago, I wrote that the iM was the future for Scion.  At that moment, none of us outside the walls of Toyota knew the brand had no future.  It was four months and four days after that review posted that Toyota announced it was shutting down Scion.  Some models were killed off, but homes were found for others, including the iM, which is now the Corolla iM.

6.28.2017

More MPG And More: The 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid AWD Advance

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid AWD Advance
The 2017 Acura MDX Sport Hybrid AWD Advance.
Seven months ago, we reviewed the new, better-looking Acura MDX.  The one with a regular gasoline engine.  Everything we said about that MDX stands for this one, so follow the link.

So what's this one about?  A different engine, a different transmission and very different city fuel economy.  All the while providing more...yes, more...power.

6.27.2017

Rx For Excess: The 2017 Toyota Camry XSE

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Toyota Camry XSE
The 2017 Toyota Camry XSE.
As you read this, truckloads of 2018 Toyota Camrys are heading for your local dealer.  Toyota, in its continuing quest to put its "beige" image behind it, has styled the new Camry very aggressively, causing some, even those who believe Toyota needed to be more exciting, to wonder how far is too far (see the current Prius).

If you are among that group, now is a wonderful time to get what is still this year's car---the 2017 Toyota Camry XSE.

6.26.2017

The One To Have? The 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring RF

Front/side view of 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF
The 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF.
Our fondness for the Mazda MX-5 Miata is well documented throughout the nine-year archives of TireKicker.  You'll find it firmly ensconced at number two on the list of TireKicker's Best Cars on the right-hand side of this page.

So what could make it even better?  Well, how about a hardtop that keeps out the noise and the rain that also goes away without the problems of where to store the roof or clunky styling (a problem with the previous-gen MX-5 Miata PRHT)?

That is exactly what the new MX-5 Miata RF delivers.

6.07.2017

Brilliance on Four Wheels: The 2017 Audi A4 Sedan 2.0T quattro S tronic

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Audi A4 Sedan
The 2017 Audi A4 Sedan 2.0t.
Our Publisher and Executive Editor said it four years and some months ago, when last TireKicker reviewed an Audi A4: "The worst part of a successful car is keeping the ball rolling...doing the freshening needed to keep the car relevant without losing the thread and screwing it all up."  Michael's assessment at the time was that Audi had succeeded---that the 2013 A4 was, in his words, "simply tremendous".

That meant meeting or exceeding a very high bar this time around.  And more.

6.06.2017

Just One Thing...The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid
The 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid.
There are four words to keep in mind when discussing fuel economy.  They are the disclaimer in every advertisement that touts an EPA estimate: "Your mileage may vary."

You see, what we have here in the 2017 Hyundai Ioniq Hybrid Limited, at least in the humble opinion of yours truly, is a perfectly-timed Prius killer.  There's just one thing...

6.05.2017

Sweet Spot In A Hot Segment: The 2017 Lexus NX 200t F SPORT

Front view of 2017 Lexus NX 200t F SPORT
2017 Lexus NX 200t F SPORT.
In this third model year of the Lexus NX series, it is without question a success.  Sales are good, outpacing those of direct competitors like the BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA-Class.   In fact, the NX has sold nearly as many copies this year as BMW has the midsize X3.  It is only a couple of thousand sales away from the bread-and-butter BMW 3-series.

6.02.2017

Even Better: The 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring AWD

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring
The 2017 Mazda CX-5 Grand Touring.
One of the surest ways into my heart is to be a good travel companion.  I've married the best human one I know, and in terms of vehicles, the Mazda CX-5 is certainly on the list.

It earned its place two years ago, when Mrs. TireKicker (known at the time as Navigator) and I took her two daughters to Southern California for a few days of fun and sun, museums and observatoriesa legendary restaurant, a then-endangered coffee shop and an Iranian ice cream parlor...oh yeah, and 16 hours at Disneyland.  And our ride for those four jam-packed days was the then-new 2016 Mazda CX-5.

6.01.2017

Lunacy Within Reason: The 2017 Dodge Durango R/T

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Dodge Durango R/T
The 2017 Dodge Durango R/T.
Let us, for a moment, say that you, like I, read our Publisher and Executive Editor's review of the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT last month and thought "That's a fun vehicle", but blanched a bit at the 485 horsepower, the EPA fuel economy estimate of 13 city/19 highway and the as-tested price of $78,355.  Suppose you like the idea, but would like to dial some of that down a notch or two, still resulting in a faster and sportier than average SUV without quite the same penalty at the payment book and the pump?

Let me introduce you to the 2017 Dodge Durango R/T.

5.31.2017

30 Minutes With: The 2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400
The 2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400.
Publisher's note:  Normally, the cars you read about here at TireKicker are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days.  Seven is typical.  Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days.  Our "30 Minutes With" series are cars that we spent half an hour behind the wheel of during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Days in Monterey, California.

Day one of Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca via Laureles Grade.  Once there, you swap cars with another journalist for the drive back, and then swap cars again once back at the Quail. Apart from an hour's lunch, this is your day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Each run is about half an hour, and driving 10 to 12 cars back-to-back-to-back gives you interesting points of reference about the next one.

My tenth and final car of the day was a sleeper...The 2017 Infiniti Q60 Red Sport 400.

5.30.2017

Redefining A Genre: The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring-L Plus

Front 3/4 view of the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring-L Plus
The 2017 Chrysler Pacifica Touring-L Plus.
Having had only a few minutes behind the wheel of the (at that time) pre-production Chrysler Pacifica at last year's Western Automotive Journalists Media Days, I was hoping to get some time at the wheel of a production model.  My first impressions in those few minutes more than a year ago were good ones, but how well would they hold up once I'd had a chance to see a few Pacificas on the street and had the opportunity to live with one for a week?

5.26.2017

30 Minutes With: The 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392
The 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392.
Publisher's note:  Normally, the cars you read about here at TireKicker are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days.  Seven is typical.  Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days.  Our "30 Minutes With" series are cars that we spent half an hour behind the wheel of during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Days in Monterey, California.

Day one of Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca via Laureles Grade.  Once there, you swap cars with another journalist for the drive back, and then swap cars again once back at the Quail. Apart from an hour's lunch, this is your day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Each run is about half an hour, and driving 10 to 12 cars back-to-back-to-back gives you interesting points of reference about the next one.

My ninth car of the day was one of the most fearsome...the 2017 Dodge Challenger T/A 392.

5.25.2017

What A Bit Of Restraint Can Do: The 2017 Toyota Highlander SE

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Toyota Highlander SE
The 2017 Toyota Highlander SE.
It has been a little more than a year since our last review of a Toyota Highlander.  That one was a loaded Limited Platinum that nudged the as-tested price perilously close to the $50,000 mark.  For a vehicle that TireKicker has always been somewhat lukewarm about since its last redesign---and don't get us started on the dubious value proposition of the Highlander Hybrid---that was a bit much.

Some good news: Toyota has freshened the look of the 2017 Highlander.  The chrome strip behind the Toyota badge on the grille has been banished, and a body-color strip at what would be the bumper line has been moved up and thinned out.  That breaks up what had been a bottom-heavy and, to our eyes, awkward-looking grille.  It's a definite improvement.

5.24.2017

30 Minutes With: The 2017 Toyota Mirai

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Toyota Mirai
The 2017 Toyota Mirai.
Publisher's note:  Normally, the cars you read about here at TireKicker are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days.  Seven is typical.  Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days.  Our "30 Minutes With" series are cars that we spent half an hour behind the wheel of during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Days in Monterey, California.

Day one of Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca via Laureles Grade.  Once there, you swap cars with another journalist for the drive back, and then swap cars again once back at the Quail. Apart from an hour's lunch, this is your day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Each run is about half an hour, and driving 10 to 12 cars back-to-back-to-back gives you interesting points of reference about the next one.

My eighth car of the day made up for some small amount of the hydrocarbons I'd been spewing in the first seven...the 2017 Toyota Mirai.

5.23.2017

Boyhood Dream Come True: The 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor
The 2017 Ford F-150 Raptor.
When I was a kid in the 1960s, the coolest thing on God's green earth to me was a late 40s-early 50s Dodge Power Wagon.  It was the ultimate expression of a pickup truck.  Go anywhere, do anything.  And growing up in the Eastern High Sierra from 1965 on, there were actually a few of them doing just that for this young man to admire.

Dodge has tried to recapture that magic on occasion (but not very hard) by applying the Power Wagon name to its trucks.  But the folks at Ford, they get it...and when it comes to a modern-day Power Wagon, they've got it.

5.22.2017

30 Minutes With: The 2018 Jaguar F-Pace S

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Jaguar F-Pace S
The 2017 Jaguar F-Pace S.
Publisher's note:  Normally, the cars you read about here at TireKicker are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days.  Seven is typical.  Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days.  Our "30 Minutes With" series are cars that we spent half an hour behind the wheel of during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Days in Monterey, California.

Day one of Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca via Laureles Grade.  Once there, you swap cars with another journalist for the drive back, and then swap cars again once back at the Quail. Apart from an hour's lunch, this is your day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Each run is about half an hour, and driving 10 to 12 cars back-to-back-to-back gives you interesting points of reference about the next one.

My seventh car of the day was my third Jaguar and second in a row, having begun the day with the XE 35t AWD and just having gotten out of the phenomenal F-Type SVR.  And it was the one I had wondered most about...the marque's first SUV.

5.17.2017

Prius Fighter Plus: The 2017 Kia Niro Touring

Front 3/4 view of the 2017 Kia Niro Touring
The 2017 Kia Niro Touring.
It was just over a month ago that we reviewed the 2017 Kia Niro FE, the base trim level for Kia's new hybrid...and our take was that, at 52 miles per gallon city/49 highway and $23,785 including delivery, the Toyota Prius has reason to worry.

Now, we've just finished a week in the top-level 2017 Kia Niro Touring and we're still very, very impressed.

5.16.2017

30 Minutes With: The 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR
The 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR.
Publisher's note:  Normally, the cars you read about here at TireKicker are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days.  Seven is typical.  Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days.  Our "30 Minutes With" series are cars that we spent half an hour behind the wheel of during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Days in Monterey, California.

Day one of Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca via Laureles Grade.  Once there, you swap cars with another journalist for the drive back, and then swap cars again once back at the Quail. Apart from an hour's lunch, this is your day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Each run is about half an hour, and driving 10 to 12 cars back-to-back-to-back gives you interesting points of reference about the next one.

My sixth car of the day was something I frankly wasn't expecting.  Pre-recession, Jaguars were fairly common in press fleets and I'd drive a few a year.  Smaller publications like TireKicker fell off their radar when times got bad.  In the seven and a half years since I last drove a Jaguar convertible, much has changed.  Namely, the level of ferocity.  In 2009, Jag was building fast, comfy droptops. The 2017 Jaguar F-Type SVR is much, much more than that.

5.15.2017

Blazing A New Path: The 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack TSI SEL w/4Motion

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack TSI SEL
The 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack TSI SEL .
Plato said necessity is the mother of invention.  And a diesel scandal that stays on the TV, internet and newspaper pages for two years has created necessity for Volkswagen.  Namely, a plan.  One that keeps Volkswagen in the sweet spot of active young carbuyers who want to explore Mother Nature without inflicting damage.

The plan:  Target Subaru.  And if the 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack TSI is any indication, Subaru has cause for concern.

5.12.2017

30 Minutes With: The 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona 392

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona
The 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona 392.
Publisher's note:  Normally, the cars you read about here at TireKicker are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days.  Seven is typical.  Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days.  Our "30 Minutes With" series are cars that we spent half an hour behind the wheel of during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Days in Monterey, California.

Day one of Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca via Laureles Grade.  Once there, you swap cars with another journalist for the drive back, and then swap cars again once back at the Quail. Apart from an hour's lunch, this is your day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Each run is about half an hour, and driving 10 to 12 cars back-to-back-to-back gives you interesting points of reference about the next one.

My fifth car of the day was a big change from the first four (Jaguar XE 35t AWD,  Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC,  BMW 540i, Lexus IS 200t), in that it replaced refinement with raw, brute power: The 2017 Dodge Charger Daytona 392.

5.11.2017

Haulin' (literally): The 2017 Ford Transit 350 HR Cargo Van

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Ford Transit 350 HR Cargo Van
The 2017 Ford Transit 350 HR Cargo Van.
If you've been reading the "30 Minutes With" series of reviews (including the BMW 540i, Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 and Jaguar XE 35t AWD, among others), then you have some knowledge of the Western Automotive Journalists Media Days, an annual event in Monterey each spring in which members of one of the largest groups of automotive journalists in the country spend a couple of days driving exciting new cars through beautiful country on day one and on the track at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on day two.

It's a wonderful event full of fellowship and fun.  The only downside to it is that, for that week, press fleet vehicles become scarce.  Many of them are going to be driven at Media Days, and need to be serviced, cleaned and if necessary (stuff happens) repaired beforehand.  Last year, there wasn't one available for me.  I drove Mrs. TireKicker's 2013 Nissan Versa (a fine car that doesn't deserve the bad rap it gets from automotive journalists) the 207 miles from Folsom to Monterey.

This year, there was one.  And just one.  A 2017 Ford Transit 350 HR (stands for "high roof") Cargo Van.  There are car scribes who would have said "thanks, but no thanks", and rented something flashy to show up in, or who would have driven their wife's car or their beater.  But I had a "honey do" list item that the Transit 350 HR was tailor-made for.

5.10.2017

30 Minutes With: The 2017 Lexus IS 200t F SPORT

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Lexus IS 200t F SPORT
The 2017 Lexus IS 200t F SPORT.
Publisher's note:  Normally, the cars you read about here at TireKicker are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days.  Seven is typical.  Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days.  Our "30 Minutes With" series are cars that we spent half an hour behind the wheel of during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Days in Monterey, California.

Day one of Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca via Laureles Grade.  Once there, you swap cars with another journalist for the drive back, and then swap cars again once back at the Quail. Apart from an hour's lunch, this is your day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Each run is about half an hour, and driving 10 to 12 cars back-to-back-to-back gives you interesting points of reference about the next one.

My fourth car of the day was one the Phoenix Bureau liked a lot when they reviewed it at the beginning of last year...the Lexus IS 200t.

5.09.2017

Going Rogue In Hybrid Mode: The 2017 Nissan Rogue SV Hybrid AWD

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid
The 2017 Nissan Rogue Hybrid.
Small crossovers are still the white-hot part of the market.  And for model year 2016, Toyota had the field all to itself when it came to gasoline/electric hybrids, with the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.  Longtime archrival Nissan chose 2017 to freshen its Rogue, and we liked the gasoline version we drove at the beginning of this year very much.

As we noted at the end of that review, it's the value equation that makes the Rogue a contender, and this year, Nissan has brought a Rogue Hybrid to market that keeps the value strong.

5.08.2017

30 Minutes With: The 2017 BMW 540i

Front 3/4 view of 2017 BMW 540i
The 2017 BMW 540i.
Publisher's note:  Normally, the cars you read about here at TireKicker are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days.  Seven is typical.  Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days.  Our "30 Minutes With" series are cars that we spent half an hour behind the wheel of during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Days in Monterey, California.

Day one of Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca via Laureles Grade.  Once there, you swap cars with another journalist for the drive back, and then swap cars again once back at the Quail. Apart from an hour's lunch, this is your day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Each run is about half an hour, and driving 10 to 12 cars back-to-back-to-back gives you interesting points of reference about the next one.

My third car of the day was one of my favorite cars, the 2017 BMW 540i.

5.05.2017

Endurance Racer: The 2017 Chrysler 300S

2017 Chrysler 300S front view
The 2017 Chrysler 300S.
I remember the first time I saw a Chrysler 300 in the flesh.  It was 2004.  Although there was a refresh six years ago, the effect is still pretty much the same.

This is called not messing with success.  There is a market for a large, Bentley-esque (if you squint) American sedan with a range of powerplants under the hood...from a six-cylinder for the rental market to a Hemi V8.

5.04.2017

30 Minutes With: The 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC

2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC front 3/4 view
The 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC.
Publisher's note:  Normally, the cars you read about here at TireKicker are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days.  Seven is typical.  Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days.  Our "30 Minutes With" series are cars that we spent half an hour behind the wheel of during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Days in Monterey, California.

Day one of Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca via Laureles Grade.  Once there, you swap cars with another journalist for the drive back, and then swap cars again once back at the Quail. Apart from an hour's lunch, this is your day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Each run is about half an hour, and driving 10 to 12 cars back-to-back-to-back gives you interesting points of reference about the next one.

After driving to the Quail from the host hotel, the  Monterey Tides at Sand City, in the 2017 Jaguar XE 35t AWD, it was straight into the 2017 Mercedes-Benz GLA 250 4MATIC.

5.03.2017

New Millenium 510? The 2017 Nissan Sentra NISMO

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Nissan Sentra NISMO
The 2017 Nissan Sentra NISMO.
Half a century ago---Lord help us---Datsun (the marketing name for Nissan in North America at the time) set the economy car world on its ear with the 1968 Datsun 510 sedan.   When a simple economy four-door would have done, Nissan sweated the details, focused on suspension bits and handling and came up with a car that was a budget alternative to BMW's 2002.

5.02.2017

30 Minutes With: The 2017 Jaguar XE 35t AWD

Front 3/4 view of the 2017 Jaguar XE 35t AWD
The 2017 Jaguar XE 35t AWD.
Publisher's note:  Normally, the cars you read about here at TireKicker are loaned to us by the press fleets of the various manufacturers for several days.  Seven is typical.  Occasionally, we'll get a longer period of time, and sometimes it'll only be three or four days.  Our "30 Minutes With" series are cars that we spent half an hour behind the wheel of during the just-concluded Western Automotive Journalists Media Days in Monterey, California.

Day one of Media Days is a driving program, with journalists taking cars from the staging area at Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca via Laureles Grade.  Once there, you swap cars with another journalist for the drive back, and then swap cars again once back at the Quail. Apart from an hour's lunch, this is your day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

I jumped in the 2017 Jaguar XE 35t AWD for my first run of the morning (the longest one of the day, from the Monterey Tides Hotel at Sand City, past Mazda Raceway, onto Laureles Grade and then back west via Carmel Valley Road to the Quail.

5.01.2017

Choosing Wisely: The 2017 Lincoln MKZ Reserve Hybrid

Front 3/4 view of 2017 Lincoln MKZ Reserve Hybrid
The 2017 Lincoln MKZ Reserve Hybrid.
The math behind hybrids is critical:  How much more will you pay for using less gasoline?  And how long will it take to make up in fuel savings the extra outlay for the hybrid?

The 2017 Lincoln MKZ Reserve makes it a no-brainer.  Both the gasoline and the hybrid versions cost the same...a base price of $39,670.