New Car Review: 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

Front 3/4 view of 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport

The original idea behind the crossover SUV was to get people from huge trucks to carlike sport-utes...eliminate some of the bulk and achieve some efficiencies in both packaging and fuel economy. For the most part, it's worked. But there's one thing the Suburbans and Tahoes and Expeditions whetted an appetite for that's not going away...and that's the third row of seats.

Many manufacturers have simply crammed in a final row at the expense of cargo room. Others are making their crossovers bigger to accommodate the extra seating. Hyundai, on a roll lately, came up with what looks to be the intelligent solution...keep the Santa Fe at its current size as a five-seater and offer a new, slightly larger model with three rows of seats.

The only confusion is, to capitalize on the equity in the Santa Fe name, that's what they're calling the new three-row crossover. What was the Santa Fe last year is now the Santa Fe Sport. But it's been re-designed, refined and just plain made a lot better.


New Car Review: Lexus GX460

front 3/4 view of 2013 Lexus GX460

15 years as a professional TireKicker (automotive journalist) and there are still things to learn.

When I got the Lexus GX460 for a week, I thought it was a spectacularly dumb design for one thing...the tailgate. The window would open upward, but the whole assembly didn't swing up and the gate below the window wouldn't swing down. Drove me nuts. Why would Lexus build a $60,000 SUV and make you load the cargo compartment from the rear seat?

A few hours later, my teenage son walked up to the GX for the first time, and opened the door out to the side.


I could cut myself some slack and say it's an unusual, if not unique design for a rear door on a big SUV, but for many years I owned a Suburban with barn doors, so I really have no excuse.

Why am I telling you this? Because it's the only thing I could find wrong with the GX460...and it wasn't.


Spock vs. Spock for Audi

Will this sell Audis? Will it cause Mercedes-Benz intenders to have second thoughts?

Don't know. Don't care. This spot is priceless. Use the little buttons at the bottom of the post to share via Twitter, Facebook and/or e-mail.

New Car Review: 2013 BMW X1

Front 3/4 view driving shot of white 2013 BMW X1

Comes a point when a crossover becomes so carlike that the term "crossover", much less "small SUV", no longer really fits.

The BMW X1 is at that point. With low ground clearance, this really is more a station wagon than anything else, though BMW likely won't be happy I said that.


New Car Review: 2013 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design

Front 3/4 view of blue 2013 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design

The phrase “Mid-size Volvo sedan” no doubt causes some eyes to glaze over, especially for those who think they know what Volvo’s all about. But the key is to ask “Which mid-size Volvo sedan?”

Yes, they’re all called the S60, but that car comes in three different turbocharged flavors these days: The T5, a 2.5-liter 5-cylinder with 250 horsepower; the T6 AWD, which adds half a liter, one cylinder, two more driving wheels and 50 additional ponies; and the T6 AWD R-Design, which pulls 325 horsepower out of the same 3-liter six. And that’s the one we’re talking about here.


New Car Review: 2013 Lexus RX 450h

Front view of 2013 Lexus RX 450h

You have to give Lexus credit. They were early to the party (first, in fact) when it came to putting hybrid power in luxury vehicles, opening up a market among buyers who had extra money to spend.

They started 8 years ago with a hybrid version of the RX crossover (it was the 400h then). There have been changes along the way, but this year, there are several significant revisions:

The basic RX design has remained constant for 15 years, but 2013 brings a freshening that gives all RX models the signature Lexus spindle grille, a new bumper and headlamp design, LED daytime running lights, updated tail lamps and four new colors (Silver Lining Metallic, Claret Mica, Deep Sea Mica and Fire Agate Pearl).


New Car Review: 2014 Mazda CX-5 Skyactiv

Blue 2014 Mazda CX-5 front 3/4 view by ocean.

Big changes rarely happen in year two of a new vehicle. But Mazda’s not known for coloring within the lines and, frankly, it can’t afford to hold good stuff back for the mid-cycle refresh three or four years down the road. It needs your attention now. And if the 2014 Mazda CX-5 doesn’t get that attention, it’ll be your loss as well as Mazda’s.

The big news is a second engine option:  A 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G mill brings 29 more horsepower and 35 more pounds per foot of torque to the party than the standard 2.0-liter SKYACTIV-G, but gives up only one mile per gallon, dipping from 26 city to 25 and 32 highway to 31 (EPA estimates for automatic transmission front-wheel drive models).