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.