New Car Review: 2014 Kia Cadenza

Front 3/4 view of 2013 Kia Cadenza

Credibility.  It's a big deal.  Especially when you're trying to get people to embrace a new concept.  Like Kia making a different type of car.

And that's where details matter.  Kia wants you to believe they've built an extraordinary near-luxury sedan. They want you to believe the woman driving the car is going to her 20th high school reunion.  Which would make her 38. Two years shy of 40. Her name is Teresa Moore, she's a supermodel and she's a lot closer to her 20th birthday than to her 20th high school reunion. There's a reason you didn't notice her in high school. She was across town in day care.

There's another version of the ad that uses mainly the night driving shots and blurbs from reviews including one from CNET that says "The Cadenza proves Kia can do luxury."  Okay, CNET said that (at least in the headline of its review).  But it's hype.

Both those things are small in the world of advertising, but it's especially a shame to see them related to the Cadenza because the Cadenza should be viewed and promoted as what it is...an amazing achievement in large family cars, a compelling competitor to the new Chevrolet Impala, Toyota Avalon, Ford Taurus, Nissan Maxima and Hyundai Azera.


New Car Review: 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara

Front 3/4 view of 2013 Jeep Wrangler Sahara

Times change.

Vehicles change.

People change.

35 years ago I came thisclose to buying a Jeep Wrangler.  It was known then as the Jeep CJ.  There was the CJ5 (6-cylinder) and CJ7 (V8).  As useful as it could have been (I was living in Reno, Nevada and considering the purchase during an especially snowy winter), the CJ7 was noisy, crude, thirsty and expensive.  The CJ5 was the first two and only a little less of the second two.

I bought a Toyota Corolla SR5 Liftback instead.  It was the right move at the time.

But after five days at the wheel of the Jeep Wrangler Sahara 4X4 (Chrysler needed it back two days early for an event, but I'm sure they'll find some way of making it up to me...may I suggest a long-term test of a Wrangler Sahara Unlimited?), the once unthinkable is making a lot of sense to me.  Is it me or is it the Jeep?


New Car Review: 2014 Acura RLX

Front 3/4 view of the 2014 Acura RLX

Rarely have I approached a car with such trepidation as I did the new Acura RLX.  Not only has Acura followed parent Honda off the clearly-defined path that once delivered great cars like the original Legend for a similar decade-long walk in the wilderness (plus $10,000 per car and more buttons on the dashboard), but consider this:

The RLX is replacing one of the dullest cars known to man, the RL.  Anything should get a "most improved player" award.  Yet enthusiast magazine and online reviews have largely been yawns and, scarier still, Consumer Reports, in its rave review of the Chevrolet Impala, a car costing $20,000 to $35,000 less, depending on how you option the cars, said in its print edition that the Impala was competitive with the RLX.  Yeah, they also said the Impala could run with the Audi A6, Lexus LS460L and Jaguar XF, too...and as much as we love the 2014 Impala, that's really just CR needing to call the doctor because it's been more than four hours.


TireKicker Turns 5!

Where does the time go?

Five years ago today, with almost 11 years under my belt as an automotive journalist for other people in radio and television, I started writing for myself.  As I've written before, I stared at the blinking cursor on a blank screen and wondered if I'd be able to write anything anyone would want to read even once.

Well, I've done it 688 times since.  And yes, people have, read, commented, even posted links to them from their sites.  And the number of people doing that continues to grow.   We're nowhere near done yet.  Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Michael Hagerty


Dick Van Dyke Wants To Sell You His Jaguar

It's a bit smoke and water damaged....fire-damaged, too...as you'll see in the video.  Dick makes the offer at the end of the video.

The actor, 87, is fine.


New Car Review: 2013 Toyota RAV4

Front 3/4 view of 2013 Toyota RAV4

They grow up so fast.

The Toyota RAV4 was among the first wave of small SUVs, then called "cute utes", more than a decade ago.  It was set apart from the rest  (which came to include the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Chevy Equinox, Nissan Rogue, Mazda CX-5, Subaru Forester, Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage) by it's somewhat stubby profile, rounded edges and the spare tire mounted on the tailgate.

The others have matured, grown and moved on in terms of materials and technology.  In 2013, it's the RAV4's turn.


New Car Review: 2013 Toyota Highlander

Front 3/4 view of the 2013 Toyota Highlander

It's an interesting automotive phenomenon....how certain cars are invisible until you start driving one, and then you notice all the others like it on the road.

For most people it only happens with rentals or every few years when it's trade-in time, but for professional TireKickers like yours truly, it's a weekly occurrence, with an ever-changing group of invisicars drifting into and then falling off the radar.

Which brings us to the Toyota Highlander.  The Highlander has been with us for almost 13 model years now...and part of its relative invisibility might be that it changes relatively little.  For Hyundai and Kia, 13 years would bring at least four full re-designs...but the 2013 Highlander is the Gen 2 model...rolling on essentially unchanged since 2008.

And it's a groundbreaking vehicle, too...the first of the car-based crossovers...intended to eventually replace the truck-based 4Runner (which, rumor has it, may actually happen in the next year or two).


New Car Review: 2013 GMC Acadia Denali

Front 3/4 view of 2013 GMC Acadia Denali

Full disclosure:  20 years ago, I signed on the dotted line for five years worth of payments on a brand new 1993 GMC Suburban.  We had a small child, another on the way, Mrs. TireKicker didn't like to fly and so with a week or two worth of vacation clothes, a double stroller, a Pak N' Play and all the rest, the big 'Burban seemed like a sensible family vehicle.

As I said, that was 20 years ago.  Since then, GMC has renamed the Suburban the Yukon XL, and while it's still in production along with its identical cousin, the Chevrolet Suburban, those vehicles have gone back to their roots as vehicles for folks who really need that sort of size and capability.

The mass market for SUVs has found its way into crossovers. You can get seating for seven and double-digit cupholders in surprisingly small packages these days.

Which makes the original big crossovers, which seemed tidy and compact when they arrived six years ago, seem big now.  But big is as big does.  And GMC's done a great job keeping the Acadia Denali on top of its game.


Concept Car: Mazda Deep Orange 3

Front 3/4 view of Mazda Deep Orange 3
Photos courtesy Art Center College of  Design and Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research

Here's a real sneak peek into the future of cars, as viewed by people who are at the very beginning of their careers.

The Mazda Deep Orange 3 is not only a concept vehicle, it's been designed and engineered from the ground up by students: Fredrick Naaman from the Art Center College of Design and a team of automotive engineering students  at Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR).

New Car Review: Ram 3500 Laramie Crew Cab

Front 3/4 view of 2013 Ram 3500 Laramie Crew Cab

There are trucks...and then there are TRUCKS.

A Ram (the truck formerly known as Dodge) is a big truck even in 1500 (half-ton) form.  Step up to the 2500 (three-quarter ton) model and "huge" is more the word.

Friends, this is no mere 2500 (a vehicle a 2500 owner referred to as "a baby" while looking over our tester)....no, this is the 3500.  It'll hold 6,080 pounds in its rear bed. It'll tow 29,260 pounds. That is just shy of 15 tons.  It has SIX wheels.

What's it for, you ask?  Towing stuff.  Like a really big horse trailer. The surprise is that, as much as the laws of physics allow, the Ram folks have made this truck surprisingly livable in everyday use.

New Car Review: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder

Front 3/4 view of 2013 Nissan Pathfinder

If you surf around on the web, Googling things like "2013 Nissan Pathfinder review", you'll find more than a few autojournalists bemoaning the fact that the Pathfinder is no longer about rugged off-road utility and has become a carlike crossover.

That's true...but here's a little secret gleaned from driving a few Pathfinders as news vehicles in television:

The last generation wasn't the best vehicle for that kind of thing (off-roading) anyway.  It had become too big, too ungainly.  For the past nine model years, the best choice for adventure where the pavement ends at your Nissan dealer was...and still is...the Xterra.

Time to either kill off the Pathfinder or re-invent it.  And given that crossovers are a thing, killing it would be leaving money on the table.


New Car Review: 2013 Hyundai Azera

Front 3/4 view of 2013 Hyundai Azera

By this point, I'm going to assume that you've paid enough attention that you're aware Hyundai is no longer the punch line to a joke.  They worked on quality control for most of the last decade, comfort and convenience after that and moved on to power and even....(gasp!) styling.  And in the process, made a couple of standard-bearers (Toyota, Honda) look stodgy.

With the Azera, Hyundai is moving into a highly competitive but somewhat smaller niche of the car market...the big full-size sedan.  It's head-to-head now against Toyota's Avalon, the Ford Taurus and the Chevrolet Impala.

And, in what should come as a surprise to no one, Hyundai turns in a thoroughly worthy effort.  In any other year, it would probably walk off with the prize, but there's the truly remarkable 2014 Chevy Impala to contend with.  So, how's the Azera stack up?


New Car Review: 2013 Nissan Sentra

Front 3/4 view of 2013 Nissan Sentra

It doesn't get the kind of press that Hyundai and Kia have been getting, but Nissan has been taking some big leaps in terms of improved product lately.  Regular TireKicker readers know we love the new Altima enough to include in our Top Ten Cars (So Far)...and now, it's the 2013 Sentra that's knocking our hat in the creek, with one possible reservation (more about which as we go on).