12.27.2018

Tech Update: The 2018 Nissan Rogue Sport

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Nissan Rogue Sport
The 2018 Nissan Rogue Sport.
About a year ago, our now-former Phoenix Bureau tested the 2017 Nissan Rogue Sport, pronouncing it a worthy competitor to small crossovers like the Toyota CH-R and the Honda HR-V.  That hasn't changed, but for 2018, some other things did, and for the better:

12.26.2018

Christmas Wish Fulfilled: The 2019 Mazda CX-9

Front 3/4 view of 2019 Mazda CX-9
The 2019 Mazda CX-9.
Regular TireKicker readers know of our fondness for the Mazda CX-9, an appreciation that was deepened in the summer of 2017 during our two-week vacation to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.

12.21.2018

Leading With Your Rear: The 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Front 3/4 view of 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback
The 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback.
About that headline.  It's the type of thing that, in my earliest days of committing journalism, on the staff of the Bishop Union High School Bronco Roundup (1970-73),  I would have been called by our no-nonsense Advisor, Mrs. Martinson to explain ("and it better be a really good one, Hagerty").

What I'm saying is that, with the 2019 Toyota Corolla, Japan's biggest automaker is taking the unusual approach of introducing the hatchback ahead of the rest of the lineup, which won't come along until the 2020 model year.

Calling it a "hatchback" is also an unusual move, given that most automakers avoid that term like the plague and Toyota itself, in the 70s and 80s, called them "liftbacks".

12.20.2018

S-Class From Seoul: The 2019 Kia K900

Front 3/4 view of 2019 Kia K900
The 2019 Kia K900.
Once upon a time, not that long ago if you're of a certain age, the Mercedes-Benz S-Class was considered the finest sedan in the world.  Best-engineered, best-equipped, best-built.  Then everyone got in the act---everyone largely being Lexus---and the big Benzes were built to a price point, and not an engineering standard.

These days, it's really more features and brand preference that will steer you in your decision to buy a Mercedes S Class, a BMW 7 series, an Audi A8, a Tesla Model S or a Lexus LS.  So why not break free of the caste system and save a few tens of thousands in the process?  

Yes, we're suggesting you consider taking a pass on the big five of luxury sedans and buy a Kia.

12.19.2018

Longform Luxury: The 2019 Lexus RX450hL

Front 3/4 view of 2019 Lexus RX450hL
The 2019 Lexus RX450hL.
As strong a seller as the RX series has been for Lexus, one can't help but wonder how many sales were lost for want of a third row.  For 2019 (and 2018 before it), that lack of wayback seating has been rectified with new "L" models.

The one we drove is arguably our favorite of the RX lineup, the RX450hL hybrid.

12.18.2018

Last Chance: The 2018 Mazda 3 Four-Door Grand Touring

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Mazda 3 Four-Door
The 2018 Mazda 3 Four-Door Grand Touring.

If you, like us, love the current-gen Mazda 3, this would be a very good time to get one.  Early next year, there will be an all-new 3, a clean sheet of paper.

12.17.2018

One of Three: The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid
The 2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid.
After a year of being a California-only, fuel cell-only vehicle, Honda has expanded the Clarity model lineup to include a pure electric and a plug-in hybrid. 

The fuel cell model, running on hydrogen with a range of 366 miles, is of limited use even in the state of California, since once outside the metropolitan Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento areas, hydrogen filling stations are few and far between.  The pure electric is limited by a range of just 89 miles.  This, at a time when the Tesla Model 3 can break 300, properly equipped, the Hyundai Kona EV is good for 258 and the Chevy Bolt 238.  The latest generation of the Nissan Leaf now boasts a range of 150 miles. 

The Clarity Plug-In Hybrid is, then, the one of the most usefulness to the greatest number of people, since it can be bought outright (the fuel cell and pure electric are available through lease only) and boasts a combined range of 340 miles.

11.30.2018

Good Companies Doing Good: The Turn 5 Scholarship Winners

Turn 5 Logo

One of the proudest associations we have here at TireKicker is with Turn5.  That name may not ring a bell, but Turn5 owns American Muscle and Extreme Terrain, which have been advertisers on TireKicker since 2012 and American Trucks, which joined the party at the beginning of this year.

Advertising on TireKicker doesn't buy a company editorial coverage, but Turn5 does a lot of good.  We've told you about their Positive Payload Program, which gives money to charities that use American pickups in their service to the community twice a year.  

The news this time around is a twice-yearly scholarship program---actually, three scholarship programs---one each for American Muscle, Extreme Terrain and American Trucks. 

American Muscle's scholarship is an essay-based program.  Entrants write about how they plan to use their automotive education to drive change in the custom car industry.  Four winners are selected, two per semester. The scholarship is $2,000 each.  It's been going on since 2013, with 20 winners so far---the two newest just this month---Jade Perreira of the University of Hawaii and Sheikh Ahamed of Iowa State University's PhD Mechanical Engineering program.

American Trucks started its own scholarship program last year, focusing on students striving to contribute to the construction and building trades.  Each year, four winners were awarded $2,000 each and this semester's winners are Tommy Moncur of Utah Valley University and Kolby Lusk of the College of Eastern Idaho.

Extreme Terrain's program awards $3,000 once per semester.  This month's winner is Natalie Murphy of Reed College.  The money helps in the pursuit of degrees in Environmental Studies.

All told, Turn5 has awarded $88,000 in scholarships to deserving students in the past five years, beginning the year the company was founded---giving back right out of the gate.  That's not only newsworthy, it's noteworthy and admirable.  Again, we're proud of our association with Turn 5.


11.09.2018

Conversation Starter: The 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody

Rear 3/4 view of 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody
2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody.
I was in the parking lot of a motel in my wife's hometown of Ukiah.  It was the Sunday morning after a big family gathering and Mrs. TireKicker was in the room putting the finishing touches on her hair and makeup while I was loading the trunk of the 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody.  Suddenly, there was a voice.

"Ow's yer car?"---in a thick Irish brogue.

I looked to see a man, I suppose in his 50s, slender build, a bit shorter than I, walking toward me.

"Fine.  Fast.", I said.  It was early-ish and I hadn't had coffee yet.

He pointed to the five silver letters on the black panel between the taillights that read "DODGE".

"'Harry Chapin wrote a song about a Dodge, y'know.  "Learned about love in the back of a Dodge", he sang" (the song "Taxi", from 1972,  the late Chapin's first hit and perhaps his best-known after "Cat's in the Cradle", contains that lyric).

Further conversation revealed that my newfound friend was named John, that he was on his first visit to the States, just off the plane the day before after landing in San Francisco.  Given the brand's non-existent profile in Ireland, he may have thought a Dodge was a Dodge and that Harry and Sue in the song had learned about love in the back of something close to what he was examining, with great fascination, in this parking lot.

I gave him my business card, which has TireKicker's web address on it.  John, lad, if you're reading, the Dodge Harry was singing about probably looked something like this (click the link).

Still, the 2019 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody manages to provoke cases of mistaken identity even among U.S. natives and especially car buffs.

11.08.2018

The Upside of Upsizing: The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas V6 SEL with 4Motion

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Volkswgen Atlas SEL
The 2018 Volkswagen Atlas SEL.
Volkswagen, once a purveyor of a line of cars that were very different from each other (Beetle, Squareback, Hatchback, Bus, Thing and Karmann Ghia) is now doing what most manufacturers do---offering the same sausage in different lengths.  That's certainly the case in its SUVs, where the shape and styling of the Tiguan can be found in a larger size known as the Atlas.

11.07.2018

More of What Makes a Subaru a Subaru: The 2019 Subaru Ascent Limited

Front 3/4 view of 2019 Subaru Ascent
The 2019 Subaru Ascent.
Imagine being Subaru.  You pretty much started the whole smaller SUV game 40 years ago with a series of useful full-time four-wheel drive vehicles.  The problem is you've never been able to play above the midsize.  Your attempt at a larger SUV, the 2006-2014 B9 Tribeca, didn't cut it.   Not quite large enough and cursed at birth with a goofy design that took Subaru's march to a different drummer too far.

No, what you need is a bigger version of what you currently deliver in three smaller sizes, the Crosstrek, the Forester and the Outback.  And that's the 2019 Subaru Ascent.

11.06.2018

Forward Into The Past: The 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt

Front 3/4 view of 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt
The 2019 Ford Mustang Bullitt.
Steve McQueen (no, not that Steve McQueen, this Steve McQueen) fans rejoice.  Ford Motor Company has given us another opportunity to live out our fantasies that we, somehow, some way embody 1/1000th the cool of the '60s coolest film star with the third in a series of Bullitt edition Mustangs.

11.05.2018

Road Master: The 2018 Ford Expedition Max


2018 Ford Expedition Max front/side view in Monument Valley, Utah
The 2018 Ford Expedition Max in Monument Valley, Utah.
I've said it before, I'll say it again.  Time and miles reveal a lot about any given vehicle.  At the end of a trip, you're either happy it's over or in love with the machine that took you there and back---with a deepened appreciation of exactly what that car, truck, minivan or SUV is all about.

I've said it before because TireKicker has an annual tradition of a summer roadtrip, lots of miles to and from interesting places.  Among the most memorable, our week-long Utah trip in 2014 in the 2015 Kia Sorento SXL and last summer's two weeks in Grand Teton and Yosemite National Parks in the 2017 Mazda CX-9 Grand Touring.

This summer (actually straddling the end of summer and the beginning of autumn)'s trip was the most ambitious yet, and as wonderful as both the Kia and Mazda were, the latest and largest version of a venerable American SUV seemed the perfect match.  Ford Motor Company and its prep and delivery partner here in Northern California, Page One Automotive, graciously made possible a three-week loan of the all-new for 2018 Ford Expedition Max.  Two weeks on the road, plus a few days either side for packing, unpacking and cleaning.

9.15.2018

Signature Achievement: The 2018 Mazda 6 Signature

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Mazda 6 Signature
The 2018 Mazda 6 Signature.
Regular TireKicker readers know of our fondness for the Mazda 6.  Of all the mid-size family sedans available, the 6 is the most engaging to drive.  For 2018, the 6 gets an interior and exterior refresh, plus a new trim level---Signature.

9.14.2018

Beauty Is Only Skin Deep: The 2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Ultimate

Front 3/4 view of 2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Ultimate
The 2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo Ultimate.
I've always been a bit confused about the target market for the Hyundai Veloster, as I admitted in my review of the 2017 Veloster Turbo.  Three-door hatchbacks with quirky styling might seem to be a segment car companies would take a pass on, but the Veloster has done well enough to not only survive, but be succeeded by a new-generation model, an early 2019.

9.13.2018

They Grow Up So Fast: The 2018 Lexus NX 300 F SPORT

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Lexus NX 300 F SPORT
The 2018 Lexus NX 300 F SPORT.
Three model years ago, when Lexus rolled out the NX series, I remember thinking that it was awfully small.  That came from a quick comparison with the familiar RX, which had been the only Lexus crossover for literally decades.

Now, there's a thoroughly refreshed NX and after a week with it, the NX seems exactly right.

9.12.2018

BMW With A Side of Kimchi: The 2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD
The 2018 Kia Stinger GT2 AWD.

"This is the car they said couldn't be built by this company."  That's been said a lot about Kia products
over the past 24 years as the South Korean carmaker kept stepping up its game, first in terms of content, then quality, then styling and now, performance.

With the Stinger GT2 AWD, Kia has built a 167 mile per hour, zero-to-60 in 4.7 seconds, 12.9 seconds in the quarter-mile sports sedan.  And lest you think that the headline above is hype, Kia benchmarked the BMW 4-series in developing the Stinger.  And most of its performance stats put it right in the hunt with mid-sizers from BMW, Audi and Mercedes.  The 0-60 time is actually a tenth of a second quicker than the BMW 440i Gran Coupe, and a full second quicker than the Audi A5 Sportback.

9.11.2018

Walk on the Wild(ish) Side: The 2018 Toyota Camry XSE V6

Side view of 2018 Toyota Camry XSE
The 2018 Toyota Camry XSE.
For 35 years, Toyota's Camry has been the car that everybody bought.  What's new in 2018 is that it has become the car that everyone notices.  Like the lab assistant who takes off her glasses and lets down her hair ("Good heavens, Miss Sakamoto! You're beautiful!"),  the Camry has stopped blending in and is now considered....kinda hot, even in hybrid form.

8.13.2018

Redefining Mid-Price Luxury: The 2018 Volkswagen Passat V6 SEL Premium

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Volkswagen Passat V6 SEL Premium
The 2018 Volkswagen Passat V6 SEL Premium.
Around 1980, Los Angeles Magazine did a comparison chart of old money versus new money, where people would live, what kind of watch they would own, what car they would drive, etc.  "New Money" was a red Mercedes-Benz 450 SL.  "Old Money" was a midnight blue four-door Honda Accord.

I was reminded of that chart during my week in the 2018 Volkswagen Passat V6 SEL Premium, because, to me, it's the perfect  blend of the virtues of a 1980 Benz (though not the SL) and the early Honda Accords.

8.06.2018

Back On Top (for now): The 2018 Lincoln Navigator 4X4 Black Label

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Lincoln Navigator 4X4 Black Label
The 2018 Lincoln Navigator 4X4 Black Label.
Fifty years ago (!), the folks at Motor Trend had an annual battle they called "King of the Hill", in which they pitted the Lincoln Continental Mark III (and later IV) against the Cadillac Eldorado. The object was to see which was the pinnacle of American luxury, and, to be honest, American and perhaps global excess.

Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  The battleground for American luxury is no longer found in two-door coupes, but in massive SUVs.  And the two players are, in 2018, still Lincoln and Cadillac.  In 2017, Lincoln wasn't a player, selling the positively ancient last-gen Navigator.  But for '18, the all-new Navigator lands while Caddy is still preparing the next-generation Escalade.

7.25.2018

Pictures Don't Do It Justice: The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0T SEL Premium

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 T SEL Premium
The 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0T SEL Premium.
We all know those people who are good-looking but can't seem to take a good picture. 

That's the story of the 2018 Volkswagen Tiguan.  In photos, it looks somewhat featureless, almost generic.  In person, though, the lines flow, the proportions are just right.  There are details, some of them downright elegant. And, the really good news is that it's just as interesting once you're at the wheel.

7.23.2018

More Than Just One Big Boat: The 2018 Nissan Armada Platinum Reserve 4WD

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Nissan Armada Platinum Reserve 4WD
The 2018 Nissan Armada Platinum Reserve 4WD.
Webster's defines "armada" as "a fleet of warships".  Nissan's largest SUV kinda comes off that way.  Describing it as a "boat" somehow feels inadequate. 

That's both bad and good.  Bad because it looks and feels like something from an earlier era of SUV, one before the double-whammy of the recession and high gas prices ten years ago prompted redesigns of full-size SUVs that emphasized (relative) lightness and efficiency.  Good, because, in this era of car-based crossovers, anyone who longs for the good old days of a truck-based full-sized rig will likely have the Armada on his or her short list.

7.16.2018

Turns Out There Is A Substitute For Cubic Inches: The 2018 Ford Mustang Ecoboost Coupe Premium

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Ford  Mustang Ecoboost  Coupe Premium
The 2018 Ford Mustang Ecoboost Coupe Premium.
My son-in-law-to-be wanted to know about the Triple Yellow Mustang parked in the lot outside the winery where a family wedding was winding down.

"What engine does it have?"

"Two-point-three-liter Ecoboost turbo four."

He made a face.  He's 20.  He's allowed.

"A four in a Mustang?  I didn't know they did that."

"They did from 1979-82", I said, conveniently leaving out the whole sorry 1974-78 Mustang II affair.  I also left out the 1984-86 Mustang SVOs, which were also fire-breathing 2.3-liter turbocharged fours.  He's 20, they're almost 35.  It'd be too much explaining.

Instead, I just took him for a ride.

7.09.2018

Heart Transplant: The 2018 Ford F-150 4X4 SuperCrew Power Stroke Diesel

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Ford F-150 4X4 SuperCrew Power Stroke Diesel
The 2018 Ford F-150 4X4 SuperCrew Power Stroke Diesel.
It's been forty or more years since they used the slogan in their advertising, but...Ford has a better idea.  Diesels are terrific for towing, because of their serious torque, and for offsetting the often-dismal fuel economy of the truly big 3/4-ton and larger trucks they're used in.

So, why not put a smaller diesel in a half-ton pickup, put some serious towing capacity in the hands of buyers who don't really need the monster F-250 Super Duty,  and offer some significant fuel economy to buyers of the F-150?

6.26.2018

Progress: The 2018 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD
The 2018 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD.
Refreshed significantly for 2017, Nissan isn't letting any grass grow under the feet...um, tires...of the 2018 Pathfinder. This year brings a host of new features.

6.25.2018

Keeper: The 2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Touring

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Touring
The 2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Touring.
Confession:  It's pretty cool writing about cars.  Every Wednesday, someone takes away the old and delivers the new. There's no time to get bored with any one machine.  Heck, rarely enough time for the car to get dirty enough that you might consider a run to the car wash.

And then there are the ones that you wish for more time with.  The ones that have you saying, "If the testers stopped tomorrow, I could live with this car from here on out."  They are few and far between, these cars.  But the 2018 Honda Accord 2.0T Touring is absolutely one of them.

6.19.2018

Truckin': The 2018 Toyota Tacoma TRD Offroad 4X4 Double Cab


Front 3/4 view of 2018 Toyota Tacoma TRD
The 2018 Toyota Tacoma TRD Offroad 4X4 Double Cab.
Gotta hand it to Toyota.  In the decade or so where the Americans got out of the midsize truck business entirely and Nissan allowed the Frontier to roll on unchanged, Toyota kept improving and refining the Tacoma.  Now, with Ford and Chevy rushing back into the segment, and Ford promising a Raptor version of the Ranger, Toyota's reminding the world that the gold standard for off-roading midsize pickups is none other than the Toyota Tacoma TRD Offroad 4X4 Double Cab.

6.18.2018

Sonata For The Masses: The 2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T
The 2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T
In music, a sonata is a composition meant to be played by a soloist.  In the automotive world, the Sonata is increasingly a car for the masses.  In one of the quickest learning curves we've witnessed, Hyundai has found the formula for making cars arguably as good as the competing offerings from Toyota and Honda, at a price just slightly lower than the Japanese.

6.11.2018

Track Star: The 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club


Rear 3/4 view of 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club
The 2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club.
We'll start with how we ended our last review of a Miata...the 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring:  There is no bad MX-5 Miata.  There are different models for different purposes...all with the 155-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder rated at 26 city/33 highway. 

The Grand Touring is for a dash of comfort with your sport.   The Club is all about winning (in the appropriate category) at track day. We've reviewed the Club before...two and a half years ago.  The biggest change is the availability this year, at no additional cost, of the dark cherry soft top, which we think looks great.

5.22.2018

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: The 2018 Lexus ES 300h

Front 3/4 view of the 2018 Lexus ES 300h
The 2018 Lexus ES 300h.
One of the hardest things to do is a smaller, reasonably-priced luxury car.  Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar...they've all had swings and misses on that score.  Arguably, the Lexus ES 300 originally fell into that category.  It was, largely, a Toyota Camry with richer-looking paint colors,  a leather interior and copious amounts of sound deadening insulation.

That changed five years ago, when the ES was moved to the Avalon platform and took advantage of the greater interior room to create a true luxury car.  We've been a fan ever since.  And of the available trims of the ES, our favorite is the ES 300h hybrid.

5.21.2018

One More Time: The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE AWD

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE AWD
The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE AWD.
We are, as of this writing, about three or four months away from an all-new generation of Toyota's popular small SUV, the RAV4.  So our last experience with the current-gen is likely to be the week we just completed in the 2018 Toyota RAV4 Hybrid SE AWD.

5.05.2018

Head Held High: The 2018 Ford Fusion Platinum Energi

Front 3/4 view of the 2018 Ford Fusion Platinum Energi
The 2018 Ford Fusion Platinum Energi.
The Ford Fusion will probably be the last conventional four-door sedan the Ford Motor Company builds.  By now you've likely heard the news that over the next two years, Ford will end production of most of its passenger cars. The Fiesta, Focus and Fusion are goners.  Market forces at work. The trend is sharply away from three-box (hood, passenger compartment, trunk) cars.

The Ford portfolio in North America will consist of the F-150 and larger (F-250, F-350, etc.) pickups, the Expedition SUV, crossovers, a crossover variant of the Focus called the Focus Active, and the Mustang.

Word is the Fusion will outlast the Fiesta and Focus by a few months, making it the last one out the door.  But it will go with head held high.  This generation Fusion is the best, and I'll go so far as to say the best sedan Ford has ever built.

5.01.2018

Bellisima: The 2018 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso
The 2018 Fiat 124 Spider Lusso.
I've told the story before...how my Uncle Ron's refusal to own anything but a convertible ('53 Corvette, '55 Thunderbird, '59 Thunderbird, '63 Thunderbird Sports Roadster, '69 Cougar XR-7) made me a lifelong sucker for an open car. 

Make it a beautiful convertible and give me an El Dorado County, California backroad on a late afternoon in early spring, and I'm a goner.

4.17.2018

A Pony No More: The 2018 Ford Mustang GT Premium

Rear tire smoking of 2018 Ford Mustang GT Premium
The 2018 Ford Mustang GT Premium.
Fifty-four years ago today, on April 17, 1964, Ford introduced the Mustang.  From that point on, it and its eventual competitors (Plymouth Barracuda, Chevrolet Camaro, Pontiac Firebird, AMC Javelin, Dodge Challenger) were known as pony cars.  They were all sporty compacts, not outright performance or muscle cars.

The 2018 Ford Mustang GT Premium changes all that.  What we have here is a budget-priced, four-seat Corvette competitor.

I can hear the purists howling already.  But let's look at some facts:

4.16.2018

30 Minutes With: The 2018 BMW 640i xDrive Gran Turismo

Front 3/4 view of 2018 BMW 640i xDrive Gran Turismo
The 2018 BMW 640i xDrive Gran Turismo.
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 features cars we spent half an hour driving 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, get a different car at The Quail, and repeat. Apart from an hour's lunch (this year sponsored by Nissan), this is the day from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., although heavy rains forced us to call it a day at 2:30 this year, reducing the number of cars we could drive.

4.13.2018

30---Okay, 75---Minutes With: The 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD
The 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport 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 features cars we spent half an hour driving 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, get a different car at The Quail, and repeat. Apart from an hour's lunch (this year sponsored by Nissan), this is the day from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., although heavy rains forced us to call it a day at 2:30 this year, reducing the number of cars we could drive.

Car number four for the day was the second Alfa Romeo I've ever driven, just minutes after the first, the 2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio Ti Sport AWD.

4.12.2018

Good Bad But Not Evil: The 2018 Dodge Durango R/T AWD

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Dodge Durango R/T
The 2018 Dodge Durango R/T.
Being a child of the 60s and 70s, who was old enough to have posters on the wall during what we thought was the Golden Age of Muscle Cars, only to have the party end thanks to emissions regulations, insurance surcharges and Arab oil embargoes just as I got my license, I just have to love Dodge.  With the exception of the sad-sack Journey and the pre-historic Grand Caravan (which we liked---in 2010),  Dodge is just one big toy store, full of things that any red-blooded American boy or girl could use to have fun, cause mayhem and lose one's driver license.

4.11.2018

30 Minutes With: The 2018 Alfa Romeo Guilia Ti Lusso Q4

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Alfa Romeo Guilia Ti Lusso Q4
The 2018 Alfa Romeo Guilia Ti Lusso Q4.
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 features cars we spent half an hour driving 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, get a different car at The Quail, and repeat. Apart from an hour's lunch (this year sponsored by Nissan), this is the day from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., although heavy rains forced us to call it a day at 2:30 this year, reducing the number of cars we could drive.

Twenty-one years of professional TireKicking (I reviewed cars on TV and radio before launching TireKicker in 2008) have put me behind the wheel of just about every make of automobile available in the USA.  One of the few that I'd never driven is an Alfa Romeo. Alfa left the U.S. market in 1995, two years before I began writing about cars.  And while they've been back for four model years now, I've never been booked in one from a press fleet.   Enter Media Days 2018.   The 2018 Alfa Romeo Guilia Ti Lusso Q4 became car number three for the day, on the one-way run from the Quail Lodge to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.


4.10.2018

Silence Is Golden: The 2018 Lexus GX460

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Lexus GX460
The 2018 Lexus GX460.
It's been four years since our last week in a Lexus GX460.  So what's changed?  Virtually nothing.

And that's a good thing.

4.09.2018

30---Well, Actually 90---Minutes With: The 2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet
The 2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet.
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 features cars we spent half an hour driving 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, get a different car at The Quail, and repeat. Apart from an hour's lunch (this year sponsored by Nissan), this is the day from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., although heavy rains forced us to call it a day at 2:30 this year, reducing the number of cars we could drive.

Car number two for the day was the most exclusive and expensive car I'd sample (and possibly the most exclusive and expensive of the 60 or so available for drives that day), the 2018 Mercedes-Benz S560 Cabriolet.  The run: From the Quail Lodge to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (and, as it turned out, back to the Quail).


3.26.2018

Mini-Lexus: The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Platinum

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Toyota RAV4 Platinum
The 2018 Toyota RAV4 Platinum.
Twenty-three years ago, Toyota began the small crossover SUV revolution in earnest with the original RAV4. It was inexpensive, utilitarian and rugged.

Today?  Pretty much the same formula.  Except....if you're willing to go all the way and check all the boxes...you can also get one that could very nearly pass for a model from Toyota's luxury division, Lexus.

3.23.2018

30 Minutes With: The 2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i

Front 3/4 view of 2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i
The 2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i.
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 features cars we spent half an hour driving 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, get a different car at The Quail, and repeat. Apart from an hour's lunch (this year sponsored by Nissan), this is the day from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., although heavy rains forced us to call it a day at 2:30 this year, reducing the number of cars we could drive.

I took the 2018 BMW X3 xDrive30i for the first run of the morning (the longest of the day, from the host Monterey Tides Hotel at Sand City, past Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca , onto Laureles Grade and back west via Carmel Valley Road to the Quail.

3.14.2018

Minimalism Has Its Upside: The 2018 Kia Rio LX 5-Door

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Kia Rio LX 5-Door
The 2018 Kia Rio LX 5-Door.
It's been a while since we said it (for that matter, since we've been given the opportunity, with all the fully-loaded top-of-the-line vehicles that have landed in our driveway), but the real test of a car's goodness is to drive the base model.  With no panoramic sunroof or thousand-watt audio system to distract you, you can focus in on what the manufacturer got right and wrong, decide if the car is something you'd enjoy owning for the length of a loan and then make decisions about higher trim levels or option packages.

The Kia Rio 5-Door came to us in LX (base) version a few days ago, with only two options...an automatic transmission and carpeted floor mats. 

And we love it.

3.13.2018

More MPG, Less Money: The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander 2.4 SEL S-AWC

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander
The 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander.
Value for the dollar.  That's what the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander is all about.  As we've noted in previous reviews, when judged against the competition for features and freshness, the Outlander is fighting a losing battle.  This is a vehicle introduced five years ago that, because of Mitsubishi's financial straits at the time, was far from cutting edge then. 

But there are people in 2018 for whom a brand-new 2013 vehicle with a 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty at a significant discount would be exactly the right thing...and the Outlander fills that role like no other.

3.12.2018

The Next Step: The 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid Limited

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid
The 2018 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid.
Last year, the big news from Hyundai was the introduction of its Prius-fighter Ioniq Hybrid.  Now, for 2018, there's a plug-in version---and we like it better than the original.

3.05.2018

Vehicular Fitness: The 2018 Honda Fit Sport

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Honda Fit Sport
The 2018 Honda Fit Sport.
When you want to offer a "sport" version of a car, but can't offer a more powerful engine, it's time for paint, trim pieces, black wheels and a six-speed manual.

That, in a nutshell, is the formula for the 2018 Honda Fit Sport.

2.28.2018

More Motivation: The 2018 Lexus LS 500 F SPORT

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Lexus LS 500 F SPORT
The 2018 Lexus LS 500 F SPORT.
It was a few days into the week that I had the all-new 2018 Lexus LS 500 F SPORT.  Mrs. TireKicker and I were walking back to the car in a parking lot, and about 50 paces away, I saw the entire car from the side for the first time.

"Damn", I said, "that is just gorgeous."   And Mrs. TireKicker agreed.

It is the second time in three months that Lexus has grabbed both of us by our sense of aesthetics.  Regular readers will recall our Thanksgiving week trip to Los Angeles in the 2018 Lexus LC 500h hybrid coupe...which we still want, $101,385 price tag be damned.   That review was entitled "Motivation", since I'd need (using my dad's formula of never buying a car that costs more than half your annual salary) to make $202,770 a year (minimum) to buy one.

2.27.2018

A Step In The Right Direction: The 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum AWD

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
The 2018 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.
Let's give credit where credit's due.  Toyota has done a great job with its mid-cycle refresh of the Highlander.  What had been a heavy, unflattering nose has been smoothed out, the interior is a nicer place to do the business of driving, and...in the case of the Hybrid, fuel economy has improved and the base price has been lowered.

2.26.2018

The Original Hot Hatch: The 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI Autobahn

Front 3/4 view of 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI
The 2018 Volkswagen Golf GTI.
Thirty-five years ago, a co-worker of mine was dating a very rich man who also knew, liked and had good taste in cars.  Dude could have bought anything on four wheels.  He bought one of the first Volkswagen Rabbit GTIs. 

At a time when BMW 3-series were managing 11-second 0-60 runs and the SAAB 900 Turbo was considered blistering fast at 10 seconds flat, the GTI did it in 10.6, for a fraction of the price (roughly $8,500 at the time).  And it handled like it was on rails.  The GTI was a revelation in 1983.