Where To Test Drive The 2014 Scion FR-S (Good Luck Convincing Your Local Dealer)

2014 Scion FR-S front view
2014 Scion FR-S.
It's been two years since our last shot at the wheel of a Scion FR-S and a lot has changed.  TireKicker World Headquarters has relocated to Sacramento, California from Phoenix, Arizona. We've gained winding, twisting mountain roads and the best travelling companion one could ask for.

The FR-S is pretty much the same car that we drove in the summer of '12...still packing the Subaru 2.0-liter boxer four-cylinder that makes 200 horsepower, with a six-speed manual (you can pay extra for an automatic, but for the love of God, why would you?), 17-inch alloy wheels, an independent MacPherson strut front suspension and a double wishbone rear suspension with a Torsen Limited Slip differential. There's a new touchscreen audio system standard (but if you want navigation, that's extra).  Base price is up $200 from the original 2013 model, to $24,700...and ours was optionless, so with $755 delivery processing and handling fee, the bottom line was $25,455.

When I knew we'd have the FR-S in our possession last weekend, I asked Navigator to find us a good winding, twisting road.

She found three.


Why The 2014 Hyundai Tucson Is Going Away

2014 Hyundai Tucson front 3/4 view
2014 Hyundai Tucson.
We're on a bit of a roll here at TireKicker when it comes to small crossovers, or what they used to call "Cute-Utes".  The Phoenix Bureau just posted its review of the 2014 Nissan Rogue this afternoon, I updated my review of the 2014 Toyota RAV4 earlier in the week, and it was about a month ago that I reviewed the 2015 Mazda CX-5.

So where does the 2014 Hyundai Tucson fit in that incredibly competitive segment that also includes the Honda CR-V, Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Escape and Kia Sportage?

How The 2014 Nissan Rogue Has Grown Up

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Nissan Rogue
2014 Nissan Rogue.
To fully appreciate the changes to the 2014 Nissan Rogue, it is extremely helpful to read Michael's review of the first-generation Rogue, written a bit more than five years ago.  The pictures tell part of the tale. The new Rogue is much more put-together, more of a mini-Pathfinder than a Versa wagon.

The biggest surprises are that the new Rogue is still using the original 170-horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that powered the original half a decade ago, and that, despite gaining 117 pounds, it now gets much better mileage.  That's because of a new Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission that Nissan says generates 40% less friction loss.  Last year's EPA-estimated 23 miles per gallon city and 28 miles per gallon highway is now 26 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.


What $2,720 Extra Buys You In The Toyota RAV4 Limited (UPDATED)

2014 Toyota RAV4 Limited
The 2014 Toyota RAV4 Limited.

A shade over 4 months ago in this space, we reviewed the 2013 Toyota RAV4, the XLE model...and liked it a lot.

Well, you can get a RAV4 three ways...the base LE model, the XLE we tested and the Limited. Given that the Limited is only $3,710 more than the LE and a mere $2720 higher than the XLE we tested, we thought it would be worth a look.

Does The 2015 Kia Sorento Look Familiar To You?

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Kia Sorento
The 2015 Kia Sorento.
Regular TireKicker readers will certainly recognize this crossover...a frequent visitor to the "Most Viewed Reviews This Week" feature in the right-hand column in both its 2013 and 2014 model years, and which we reviewed, in different trim levels, not once, not twice but three times in MY 2014.  We had two SX front-wheel drives (one in Arizona, one after the move to Sacramento) and a lower-spec EX all-wheel drive. Each time we came away impressed with the Sorento's overall goodness, to the point that I said (and will stand by) that if I were shopping in this segment, playing with my own money, the Sorento would be the one to beat.

Now the 2015 Sorento is already on the streets, getting a multi-month jump on the competition...so what's new?


Why The Lexus CT200h F-Sport? Really, Why?

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Lexus CT200h
The 2014 Lexus CT200h.

Almost 2 years ago, Michael reviewed the Lexus CT200h F-Sport, expressing surprise that there was really a market for a $30,000-plus Lexus small hatchback hybrid, much less an extra-cost one offering no performance benefit that, as equpped, approached $40,000.

"Do you see something here we're not seeing?" Michael asked.  And no one answered. Averaged out over the four model years of its existence and forecasting 2014 based on the first six months of the year, Lexus manages to find homes for about 16,000 of them per year. That is not huge, but it is certainly more demand than driving it would suggest it would generate.

Is The 2014 Lexus RX350 F-Sport Worth The Extra Money?

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Lexus RX350 F-Sport
The 2014 Lexus RX350 F-Sport.

Eight days shy of a year ago, we had our first test of the Lexus RX350 F-Sport.  At the time, surrounded by  the relatively flat streets and urban freeways of Phoenix, Arizona, we had to work in a side trip on the winding roads along the edge of Camelback Mountain to determine whether the F-Sport package (which leaves the stock RX350's 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 in place but adds an 8-speed automatic with paddle shifters and an F-Sport tuned suspension) was worth the additional seven grand plus change on top of a stock RX350.

Well, as is so often the case, it really depends on where you live and drive. Since moving to Sacramento last fall, winding roads have become a way of life. And the 2014 Lexus RX350 F-Sport, $100 more expensive than last year's model at a base price of $47,450, proved itself day in and day out.

A stock RX350 is an isolation tank...very little feedback from the road or your surroundings.  That's by design.  The F-Sport turns the equation inside out...feedback and control are your new best friends. Whipped cream on wheels transforms into a textbook on tight, taut and tossable.


Why The 2014 Hyundai Azera Is One Of The Two Best Large Family Sedans You Can Buy

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Hyundai Azera
The 2014 Hyundai Azera.
Two weeks shy of a year ago, I reviewed the 2013 Hyundai Azera, compared it to that year's Chevrolet Impala, and pronounced the Azera the winner.  At that point, I had yet to drive the all-new Toyota Avalon.  That's been remedied (the Phoenix bureau has reviewed the Avalon Limited, I drove the Avalon Hybrid), so, we're back to the question...among full-size sedans, which is the best buy?

If you read the reviews of the two Avalons, you may think you know the answer, as both landed well north of $40,000 and the bottom line of the Azera Limited we're talking about here is $37,905.  But we're not comparing hybrids here, and there are a lot of differences between the standard equipment on an Azera Limited and an Avalon Limited.  That's because Toyota has four different trim levels (not counting hybrids) of the Avalon, while Hyundai has two.  The more direct comparison to a Hyundai Azera Limited is actually a Toyota Avalon XLE Premium.

The Azera is $1,305 more expensive than the Avalon ($34,750 versus $33,445).  There are things the Hyundai has the Toyota doesn't...fog lamps, a memory exterior mirror, speed-sensitive wipers, a memory steering column, standard satellite radio (it's an option on the Avalon), standard navigation (again, an option on the big Toyota), front power memory seat, and a folding rear seat. Optioning up the Toyota so that it more closely matches the Azera, it's still about $100 less expensive (most of that can be accomplished by stepping up to the Avalon XLE Touring, which adds other features including some the Hyundai doesn't have, and tips the $100 price difference the other way).

In this class of car, $100 is a rounding error, so we move on.