Is It There Yet (The 2014 Hyundai Equus)?

1964 Toyota 700 print ad
Print ad for the 1964 Toyota 700.

50 years ago, a Japanese car was a punch line in America.  World War II vets who carried a grudge 19 years after the end of World War II couldn't imagine driving one instead of a 20-foot GM, Ford or Chrysler sedan, and the phrase "cheap Japanese knockoff" was still in common usage.

40 years ago, thanks to the oil crisis, the small, economical models (Toyota Corolla, Datsun B-210) began to do very well.  30 years ago, family sedans like the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry started beating the domestics in sales.

Then, about 25 years ago, Toyota founded its Lexus division and took Mercedes-Benz on head to head.  There were a lot of doubters.  But building a high-quality alternative to the big German S-Class sedan with more features at two-thirds of the price proved to be a winning formula.  Within a couple of years it was clear Mercedes had competition...and in fact, during that time, they've changed their cars in fundamental ways so that they can better fend off Lexus.

In the past ten years, the story has been replaying with a twist.  This time, it's the South Koreans roaring up behind the Japanese.  The punch-line status for Kia and Hyundai ended about a decade ago, with rapid growth and acceptance the past five years as their cars kept ramping up the quality of materials and workmanship.  There are very few buyers of Toyotas, Nissans, Hondas and Mitsubishis who still wonder if they'd be taking a step down to go with Kia or Hyundai.  And it's the same formula as Lexus...match quality, add features, and do it at a lower price.


The Texas-ization Of The 2014 Toyota Tundra (The 1794 CrewMax 4X4)

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Toyota Tundra CrewMax 1794 and its reflection in a pond
The 2014 Toyota Tundra 1794.
What will it take for Toyota to become the official pickup truck of the U.S.A.?  Despite being built in Texas, which should boost its credibility with the more than one million people who buy pickup trucks every year, Toyota's big truck is still sixth in sales, behind Ford F-150, Chevrolet Silverado,  Ram 1500, GMC Sierra and Toyota's own mid-size Tacoma.

Back in January, in a review of the 2014 Toyota Tundra Limited, Michael hit on some very likely reasons for the continued struggle to make Toyota's big truck as dominant in its segment as the Corolla and Camry are in theirs.

For now, Toyota's answer appears to be to double-down on Texas. For purely business reasons, most of the company's marketing arm is packing up and leaving Southern California for the Lone Star State soon. And this year, Tundra has added a fifth trim level, a step above the previous top-of-the-line Platinum, the 1794.

How The Lexus ES 350 Has Finally Come Into Its Own

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Lexus ES 350
The 2014 Lexus ES 350.
If, as the Phoenix bureau suggests, the Toyota Avalon is the new Caprice or LTD, then this must be the new Buick Electra or Mercury Marquis.  Not the grand leap that a Sedan DeVille or Continental was from the Ford or Chevy back in the day (late 60s/very early 70s, before the great Brougham plague), the Lexus ES 350 is still a significant step up from the Toyota sedan with which  it shares so much of its architecture.

Meet TireKicker's Most Expensive Pickup Truck (So Far): The 2015 GMC Sierra 2500 HD Double Cab SLT

Front 3/4 view of 2015 GMC Sierra 2500 HD
The 2015 GMC Sierra 2500 HD.
An odd thing about living in Arizona that is also probably quite common in places like Texas, Montana and Wyoming:  Heavy Duty pickup trucks are used like passenger cars.  People take them to the mall, to the grocery store.  You will even occasionally see them at a nice restaurant or cultural event, causing no small amount of fear and trepidation for the valet parking people.

These are really trucks that are made for things a normal full-size half-ton pickup cannot accomplish, such as towing very large house or horse trailers.  They are really not meant for urban commuting.  Yet, people do.


How The 2014 Toyota Sienna Wins On Swagger and Capability, But Loses At The Pump

Okay, it's four years old, but it's still pretty darn funny.  And creative.  And a surprising number of people are still only seeing it for the first time.  Toyota tried to infuse a sort of humorous cool into the hopelessly unhip idea of "we need a minivan" with this music video for the then-new Sienna.

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Toyota Sienna Limited AWD
The 2014 Toyota Sienna Limited.
They were rollin' in the HOV in an SE, but we recently had a top-of-the line Limited AWD, yo (I promise, no more of that)...and where you might expect anything four years into its product cycle to be feeling a bit less than fresh, the Sienna struck me as still being on top of its game.

Now, that may be because it and the Honda Odyssey have pretty much taken the minivan as far as it can go.  They are, as noted in the Odyssey review we posted recently, the two dominant minivans, and as the Phoenix bureau noted recently, the dark horse Nissan Quest has a lot going for it, too.


Why I'd Buy The 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Rear 3/4 view of the 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid
The 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid.

The Phoenix bureau has already sung the praises of the 2014 Toyota Avalon.  But perhaps too softly.  Mind you, it got the basic tune right.  Having had experience at the wheel of great fullsize American sedans (my earliest experiences at the wheel were in my mom's 1970 Mercury Monterey Custom Coupe with a 429, and my Bishop Union High School Driver's Ed car was a 1972 Pontiac Catalina with a 455), the new Avalon does indeed feel like the best of that long-gone breed, with modern attributes baked in.

Ask yourself:  What were those cars just brilliant at?  Answer...long-distance highway cruising.  So when Easter weekend coincided with Navigator's dad's birthday, with 14-year-old daughter in tow, an Avalon was a natural choice for the run from Sacramento to Ukiah and back. Even better, ours was the Avalon Hybrid, EPA-rated at 40 mpg city/39 highway. We could ace the 340-mile roundtrip and still have gas in the tank.

Well, we could...if we weren't us.


What The 2014 Volkswagen Eos Has That Other Retractable Hardtops Don't

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Volkswagen Eos Sport
The 2014 Volkswagen Eos Sport.

Volkswagen calls the 2014 Eos "The only hardtop convertible with a built-in sunroof". And that's true.  With all other retractable hardtops, which includes the Chrysler 200, Lexus IS 350C, the Mazda MX-5 Miata PRHT and the BMW Z4, you can either look at the sky above by putting the top down, or not, by leaving it up.

The Eos has a sunroof built into the retractable hardtop, giving you a third option: A little sun, without having to take the top all the way down.  On its own, it is somewhere between a great feature and a cute gimmick, and it is also a very subtle reminder of Volkswagen's role in popularizing sunroofs, dating all the way back to 1950s Beetles with a canvas sunroof that rolled back to let the sun shine in.


In A Perfect World, The 2014 Audi A6 2.0t quattro Tiptronic Would Be In Your Garage

Front 3/4 view of the 2014 Audi A6
The 2014 Audi A6.

The difficult part in reviewing the 2014 Audi A6 is not to gush.  This is a car that is so clearly engineered and designed, not built and styled.  Every detail on the A6, and most Audis for that matter, has been clearly thought out.

The One Feature That Makes The 2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite Worth Every Penny

Front 3/4 view of the 2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite
The 2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite.

"Cheap minivan" has become something of an oxymoron.  You're talking more than $25,000 to start for the base model of anything other than a Dodge Grand Caravan, a long-in-the-tooth design that can be had for the bargain-basement price of $20,595.

$28,825 (plus destination and handling) is what it takes to even say hello to the lowest of the five Honda Odyssey trim levels, the LX.  Leaping to the other end of the spectrum and getting a minivan with all the bells and whistles...the new-millenium equivalent of a loaded Country Squire...that's more. A lot more.

The base price of the 2014 Honda Odyssey Touring Elite is...


How Much Is An Extra 12 MPG City Worth To You? The 2014 Lexus RX 450h

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Lexus RX 450h
The 2014 Lexus RX 450h.

The basic Lexus RX crossover design has remained fairly constant for 16 years, but last year brought 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).

What Makes The 2014 Acura RDX A Driver's Crossover

Front 3/4 view of the 2014 Acura RDX
The 2014 Acura RDX.

As we told you recently, the 2014 Acura MDX is a solid contender for your large luxury crossover dollars.  But what if you want something a bit less large...a bit more involving behind the wheel?  Say, 17 fewer horsepower in a 150-pounds lighter package...tilting the fun ratio in your favor.

Well, that would be the 2014 Acura RDX.  It's most of what makes the MDX good (high quality materials and construction, high feature count) in a smaller, more maneuverable, sportier and significantly less expensive package.

How Many People Know About The 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid?

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid
The 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

A little over a year ago, Michael wrote a review of the Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid. In it, he pointed out that the key to the Toyota Prius' dominance of the hybrid market was as much about it being instantly identifiable as a "green" car as it was its fuel economy.  He noted that hybrids that look like their gasoline-powered equivalents do not sell as well.

Why The 2014 Honda Crosstour May Not Be As Wretched As I've Been Saying

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Honda Crosstour
The 2014 Honda Crosstour.
Last summer, I wrote an especially tough review of the Honda Crosstour.  I suggested that it was ungainly and nearly impossible to see out the rear window.  I also noted that it was based on the previous-generation Accord, the one where Honda had pretty much lost the plot.

Seeing it on the schedule, I mentioned to Navigator that it was among my least favorite cars.  When it arrived, though, she looked at me and said "This isn't all that bad."  That gave me pause, because Navigator is a woman possessed of good taste, good sense and whose opinion I have held in high regard for many, many years.


How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The 2014 Lexus GS350

Front view of the 2014 Lexus GS 350
The 2014 Lexus GS 350.

TireKicker Deep Truth #178: Where you drive a car has a lot to do with your impression of it.

That's not a huge secret.  It's why car companies spend kajillions of dollars to fly journalists from all over the country (and in some cases the world) to one specific spot to drive their newest machines.  Sedona, Carmel, La Jolla, Napa...almost always some wonderful scenic spot.  Rarely are there ride-and-drives in El Paso or Scranton.

Last year, I drove and wrote about the new-for-2013 Lexus GS350 and was somewhat let down...opining that the styling promised what the chassis did not delliver. Fortunately, I had driven the GS350 F-Sport the following week, wrote a combined review and found the F-Sport to be significantly more engaging.

At that time, I lived in Phoenix.  Although I am a careful driver (last ticket in 2002, last accident 1983, last at-fault accident 1977) I may in fact have been getting some agressions and frustrations out vicariously from behind the wheel and been looking for a bit of attitude, which the F-Sport happily provides.

How The 2014 Nissan Quest Ended My Life-Long Anti-Minivan Bias

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Nissan Quest
The 2014 Nissan Quest. 
Given my frequent observations on cars as art, this may come as a surprise, but my favorite minivan thus far is the 2014 Nissan Quest.

And it has nothing to do with looks.  Frankly, it is awkward, appearing like nothing so much as a loaf of bread on which a careless bagboy put something heavy.

UPDATE: New Car Review: 2014 Kia Sorento

2014 Kia Sorento front 3/4 view

How popular is the Kia Sorento?

Consider this:  One of the most-read reviews here on TireKicker is a review of the 2013 Sorento, which we published almost two years ago.

Kia's product cadence (the schedule on which they release all-new or significantly updated vehicles) is so brisk that as fresh as the '13 seemed, the 2014 Sorento is clearly a better looking, better-designed, more refined machine.


Why You Should Want A Honda Fit EV And Who Will Make You Crazy When You Get One

Front 3/4 view of the 2014 Honda Fit EV
2014 Honda Fit EV.

Your humble TireKicker would like to stipulate the following:

1: I like the Honda Fit.

2: I like the idea of electric vehicles in certain circumstances.

C: Indexing isn't my strong suit.

4: A Honda Fit EV should be a great idea.

If you sense a "but..." coming, well, yeah.  But it's not the car's fault.

Why Autojournos Who Hate The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage Are Missing The Point

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage
The 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage.

Say hi to the car everyone in the motoring press loves to hate.  Well, most everyone.  There are a few of us willing to stick our necks out and say that there's a place for basic....very basic...transportation.  And the 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage is that.

Why The 2014 Acura ILX Hybrid Just Doesn't Cut It

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Acura ILX Hybrid
2014 Acura ILX Hybrid.

You have no idea how much I want to say really good things about the 2014 Acura ILX Hybrid.  Not gonna happen here, I'm afraid.  13 months ago, I compared the transformation of a Honda Civic into an Acura ILX to the Ford Granada/Lincoln Versailles and Chevrolet Citation/Cadillac Cimarron rebadges.  Silk purse from sow's ear.

Yes, this is the ILX Hybrid, which buys you 15 miles more per gallon in city traffic, according to the EPA and 3 more on the highway than a gasoline-powered ILX (39 city/38 highway, if you're keeping track)...but that's about it.


Where The Acura MDX Is Taking Luxury Crossovers

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Acura MDX
The 2014 Acura MDX.

There is one car Acura makes that has set the standard for its segment and this is it: The MDX.  It was one of the earliest upscale crossovers---this is its 14th year on sale---and some say if it weren't for its continued success, Acura would have a difficult time making the business case for continuing.

How the 2014 Toyota Corolla Blends Old And New

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Toyota Corolla LE ECO
2014 Toyota Corolla LE ECO.

The Toyota Corolla is no one's idea of aspirational transportation.  In fact, as Michael suggested here back in September, buying one of the last 2013's was a sensible idea since most Corolla buyers are focused on price and reliability, and with a new model, price usually goes up and reliability often goes down.

The 2014 Corolla, however, may make you glad you waited, if you did.  It is a much better-looking car.  The price increase is minimal and despite Toyota's claims that the car is "all new", it is essentially the same under the skin.  The body and interior are redesigned, but not much else.

Keeping the same platform has two advantages. One is cost, the other is reliability.  The car, the actual mechanicals, are tried and true.  That allows Toyota to deliver its number-one asset in a package that is better able to compete with the increasingly aggressively styled Hyundais and Kias.