Victory Lap: 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PRHT

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PRHT
The 2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata Grand Touring PRHT.
I've said it many times in 17 years of reviewing cars...the Mazda MX-5 Miata makes me smile.  And in this, the final year of production for this generation of Miata, nothing has changed, including its spot atop the TireKicker's Best Cars list.

Find me, if you can, a two-seater weekend toy that is also so thoroughly livable as a daily driver...especially in PRHT (Power Retractable Hard Top) form.


Consistency Is A Virtue: The 2015 Lexus GX460

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Lexus GX460
The 2015 Lexus GX460.
The 2014 Lexus GX460 endeared itself to us late this spring, when we took it on a lengthy road trip through the Eastern High Sierra and Yosemite. A big, brawny SUV, it's an uncanny melding of luxury and rugged utility.

The Start Of Something Big, Part III: The 2015 Hyundai Genesis 3.8

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Hyundai Genesis
The 2015 Hyundai Genesis 3.8.
If, on the day I launched TireKicker in August of 2008, I had posted that the day was coming when Hyundai would be a threat to Lexus, this blog likely would not be here today.  No one would have believed me. Credibility would have been lost on day one. I didn't believe it then. What a difference six years and three months makes.


Substance Over Style: 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer SE

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer SE
The 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer SE.
Nine years without major changes can transform just about any car into rolling wallpaper...with zero chance of sticking out from the crowd.  Factor in said car never having been a hot seller, and from a company that is a perennial favorite on the list of car companies that won't be doing business in the USA much longer, and you've got a recipe for invisibility.

Which, in the case of the 2015 Mitsubishi Lancer SE, is a shame.

The Start Of Something Big, Part II: The 2015 Kia K900

Front 3/4 view of the 2015 Kia K900
The 2015 Kia K900.
A couple of months ago, we reviewed the 2015 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 and suggested that it should be regarded as a serious competitor to Lexus' flagship LS460, at a significantly reduced price. Now, from Hyundai's corporate cousin Kia comes the K900.  And it is every bit as impressive, if not more so.

Why The 2015 Mazda 3 Is Our Favorite Compact Sedan

Front 3/4 view of the 2015 Mazda 3
The 2015 Mazda 3.
It takes a lot to stand out in a crowded field.  Take compact sedans. You've got Ford Focus, Chevy Cruze, Dodge Dart, Volkswagen Jetta, Toyota Corolla, Nissan Sentra, Honda Civic, Mitsubishi Lancer, Kia Forte and Hyundai Elantra.

And then there's the Mazda 3. Which, for our money, tops 'em all.

The 2015 Honda Accord: Another Model Year of Greatness (with one drawback)

Front view of 2015 Honda Accord EX-L
The 2015 Honda Accord EX-L.
It was only nine months ago that I wrote about the Honda Accord EX-L...suggesting that buyers go for the four-cylinder version of this benchmark family sedan because I honestly thought I was driving the more expensive and thirstier six-cylinder for the entire week I had it.

That was the 2014 Accord.  Now we've had a week in the '15.  What's changed?


Beauty Is As Beauty Does: The 2015 Hyundai Sonata

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata.
The previous generation Hyundai Sonata was such a styling breakthrough...lithe, lean, more than vaguely Italian....that the new one, blockier, with a more upright nose, has a lot of my fellow automotive journalists whining about how Hyundai's great styling revolution may have been a flash in the pan.

Let's set the record straight, shall we?  There are factors (pedestrian safety, placement for the distance-keeping smart cruise control) that pretty much dictate the taller hood and more upright grille. And beyond the subjectives of styling, the new Sonata is simply better than the one it replaces.

Four Acura ILXs From Three Model Years In 20 Months: Same Verdict.

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Acura ILX 2.0 Tech
2015 Acura ILX 2.0L Tech.

I am, by nature, a fairly positive person.  An optimist at heart, I'm always looking for (and usually finding) the good in most situations, places, people and things. Regular TireKicker readers know that negative reviews happen here, but are, on balance, in the minority.  As my Dad's buddy, Jim Ellis, who owned Ford dealerships in the Eastern High Sierra of California where I grew up, told me during my hyper-critical teenage assessment of the new 1972 somethingorother, every car is the right one for someone (actually, Jim said "There's an ass for every seat", but the sentiment is the same).

That's why the Acura ILX frustrates me so.  Because in four go-rounds in just over a year and a half, in models from three different model years (2013, 2014 and 2015), I can't bring myself to recommend it to anyone.

Six Thousand Dollars For Nine Extra MPG In The City: Is The Toyota Highlander Hybrid Worth It?

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid
2014 Toyota Highlander Hybrid.

Back in June, Michael wrote a fairly unflattering review of the newly redesigned Toyota Highlander.  I have to agree with most of the points he made apart from the lack of headroom (I'm not as tall as he).  It's not a terribly attractive vehicle, it does not carry quite as much behind the seats as the previous model did, and the instrument panel, while attractive, puts virtually every control that matters---especially the HVAC, audio controls and touchscreen---well out of the reach of most drivers.

But would a big boost in fuel efficiency offset those sins?


UPDATED: The One Option Your 2014 Lexus LS460 Should Have

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Lexus LS460
The 2014 Lexus LS460.

About 12 years ago, the Lexus LS460 passed the Mercedes-Benz S-Class as the luxury car I recommend to friends for whom cost is no object.  I've never looked back.  Oh, I've compared each successive year of the LS to the S-Class, the BMW 7-Series, the Audi A8 and others, all great cars, but the LS has never lost the thread.  It's every bit as good, only better, because it's a Lexus.  It won't break. It won't leave you stranded.  Those 2002 LSs that I told folks to buy are still out there and still look good.  Heck, so are the 1990 models.

But we're here to talk about the 2014.  I drove one in Phoenix shortly before moving to Sacramento.  Three, actually...a side-by-side-by-side comparison of the LS460, the AWD LS460 and the LS460 F-Sport in which the F-Sport came off least well, feeling like an attempt at building a BMW M7 that just didn't quite put all the pieces in balance.

Generally, here at TireKicker, we work to avoid duplication between the cars in the Sacramento and Phoenix offices, but I said yes to an LS460 here and I'm glad I did, because I think I've found the Goldilocks solution for people who want more sport, especially in handling, than a stock LS offers.


Why The 2014 Toyota Avalon Is The New Caprice or LTD

Front 3/4 view of the 2014 Toyota Avalon
The 2014 Toyota Avalon.

Among the casualties of the 1970s energy crises were large family sedans that aspired to be a bridge to luxury cars. Ford was the first of the type, adding better upholstery and nicer trim to the 1965 Galaxie to make it the LTD.  Chevrolet followed the next year, applying the same formula to the Impala and creating the Caprice.  Dodge and Plymouth did it as well, but less successfully.

For many middle-class families of the time, a well-optioned LTD was the next best thing to a Lincoln Continental, and there were those who could afford a Cadillac who couldn't see the sense in spending the extra money for one when a fully-equipped Caprice was everything a Cadillac was just two years before.

But, especially after Energy Crisis II in 1979, the concept withered.  Part of it was the downsizing of all American cars. Another was that the buying age for traditional American luxury had risen.  It was no longer the man in his mid-to-late 40s who had arrived.  Buyers of Cadillacs and Lincolns were suddenly, or so it seemed, in their 60s.  And the middle-class, middle-aged American family man and woman were no longer buying full-size Chevrolets and Fords.  The market had shifted to Toyotas and Hondas, specifically Camrys and Accords.

How The Lexus ES 300h Isn't Just A Re-Badged Toyota Avalon Hybrid

Front 3/4 view of the 2014 Lexus ES 300h
The 2014 Lexus ES 300h.
Choice is among the things that make America great.  It can also make life difficult, or at the very least confusing.

A wonderful example is the Lexus ES 300h.  Based on the same platform as the Toyota Avalon Hybrid of which Michael is enamored enough to buy, given the wherewithal, powered by the same hybrid system of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine and a High Output Permanent Magnetic Drive electric motor with a continuously variable transmission and promising the same EPA fuel economy rating of 40 miles per gallon city, 39 highway, it has a base price $2,050 lower than the Avalon Hybrid, a nicer interior and a more prestigious nameplate.

Why would you buy the Toyota?

How The Lexus IS250 Charmed Me

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Lexus IS250
2015 Lexus IS250.

There is a place in the world for right-sized, decently powered vehicles with balanced handling.  For many years, my favorite in that class was the Acura TSX. It's gone now, replaced by the somewhat larger TLX, which we should be reviewing here at TireKicker World Headquarters soon.  But it'll have to be very good, because the TSX's place in my heart has been taken by the 2015 Lexus IS250.

The Lexus IS-F Has HOW Much Power?

Rear 3/4 view of 2014 Lexus IS-F
2014 Lexus IS-F.
418 horsepower.

Zero to 60 in 4.2 seconds.

I had to look it up, but here are the cars that the 2014 Lexus IS-F is just as quick as from zero to 60:

The 2015 Lexus RX 450h: Frugality Redefined

2015 Lexus RX 450h front detail
2015 Lexus RX 450h.

If you're ever a contestant on the TV game show "Family Feud" and the category is "Why People Buy Hybrids", you can't go wrong with "to save gas".  That's pretty much everyone's number one answer. But outside of TV game shows, it begs the question:  How much will you save?

A surprising number of people out there believe all hybrids get 50 miles per gallon, like the Toyota Prius. Regular TireKicker readers know that's not true. There are vehicles that use hybrid technology to go from passable gas mileage with a regular powerplant to better-than-average.  The Lexus RX 450h is one of those.


What An Extra $5,695 Can Do For Your Lexus GS350

Front 3/4 view of 2014 Lexus GS350 with F-Sport Package
Lexus GS350 with F-SPORT Package.
Lexus builds some fine sedans, the GS350 included, but they had until very recently been trapped by their image, one of sterile perfection.  No, there was nothing wrong with Lexus cars, they were utterly reliable, well-built and used fine quality materials, but they lacked sizzle, emotion and performance, making it difficult to attract buyers beyond those who were already Lexus fans.

Why The 2015 Subaru Legacy Looks Different

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Subaru Legacy
2015 Subaru Legacy.
Snub nose, swoopy rear roofline.  Subaru, the automaker that has always marched to a different drummer, has joined the parade with the 2015 Legacy, coming up with a car that, if you swapped the badges, could be mistaken for a Nissan Altima.