Mixed Emotions: The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata
The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata.
Never before have I been so conflicted in writing a review.  Regular TireKicker readers know the Mazda MX-5 Miata has long been one of our favorite cars and has occupied a place in the TireKicker's Best Cars list on the right of this page since we began that list more than five years ago. I've eagerly awaited this new generation.  And now that I've driven it...

A Whole New Thing: The 2016 Hyundai Tucson Sport

Front view of 2016 Hyundai Tucson Sport
The 2016 Hyundai Tucson Sport.
If you want a sense of just how big a leap forward the 2016 Hyundai Tucson Sport is, look no further than our review of the 2014 Tucson. The pictures alone tell the tale.  The last-Gen Tucson was a 2009 vehicle in a 2014 world.

Excellence (Slightly) Refined: The 2016 Lexus IS350 F-SPORT

2016 Lexus IS350 F-SPORT front view
The 2016 Lexus IS350 F-SPORT.
Less than two months ago, I wrote the latest in what has become a series of TireKicker reviews praising the Lexus IS350 F-SPORT.  So why another?  Because that was the 2015 model, and I have just driven the 2016.

Honey, I Shrunk The CX-5: The 2016 Mazda CX-3

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Mazda CX-3
The 2016 Mazda CX-3.
If you've read TireKicker before, you know of our admiration of and appreciation for the Mazda CX-5. In the past three years, what had been the "baby" Mazda crossover (smaller than the CX-9 and CX-7) never put a foot wrong.  But now, the CX-7 has been dropped from the lineup, the CX-5 is the middle child and there's a new baby in the family.


Slow and Steady Wins...What, Exactly? The 2016 Lexus CT 200h F-SPORT

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Lexus CT 200h
The 2016 Lexus CT 200h F-SPORT.
What we have here is a contradictiton in terms.

F-SPORT is Lexus' performance brand.  The CT 200h is a stylish hybrid hatchback for Lexus buyers who can't bring themselves to save money on a loaded Toyota Prius.


Time Waits For No SUV: The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander GT S-AWC

Side view of 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander GT S-AWC
The 2016 Mitsubishi Outlander GT S-AWC.
About two years ago, I wrote an overwhelmingly positive review of the 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander GT. I meant it, and wouldn't change a word of how I described the Mitsu (apart from how they've fixed the delayed-reaction touchscreen that plagued us in the '14 car).

But this will be a different review.

Still Wondering: The 2016 Toyota Tundra 1794 CrewMax

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Toyota Tundra 1794 Crew Max
The 2016 Toyota Tundra 1794 CrewMax.
If you are looking at the headline of this review and wondering what I am still wondering about, it's simple:

Why is the Toyota Tundra not one of the top three best-selling pickup trucks in America?


Smart Money: The 2016 Lexus ES 300h

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Lexus ES 300h
The 2016 Lexus ES 300h.
The cost or cost saving of owning a hybrid is a difficult thing about which to make a blanket statement. Some cost so much more than the non-hybrid equivalent and improve fuel economy by such a small percentage that it will take 11 years or more to pay for itself in gasoline saved.

Then, there's the Lexus ES 300h, which makes the math extremely compelling.


2016: A Cheaper Odyssey (The 2016 Honda Odyssey SE)

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Honda Odyssey
The 2016 Honda Odyssey.
Minivans have become expensive.  At least in fully tricked-out form.  The last time we drove a Honda Odyssey, it was the 2014 Touring Elite model.  Base price $44,450.  With destination and handling charges, a shade over $45,000.  A 2016 Touring Elite stickers at $44,750.

But what if you could get an Odyssey with some of the more popular options for about eleven grand less?


2016 Scion iA: The Mazda 2 We Never Got

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Scion iA
The 2016 Scion iA.
When the first wave of very small cars hit American shores five years ago, The Mazda 2 was among them.  In 2011, our Publisher and Executive Editor lavished high praise on the low-priced, low-content, high-fun factor car.

The 2 did not break any sales records, however, so Mazda has withdrawn it from its North American product lineup.  Yet it lives...and in a version not before seen here.

Drawback Removed: The 2016 Honda Accord EX-L with Apple Car Play

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Honda Accord
2016 Honda Accord.
A year ago this week, I wrote about the 2015 Honda Accord EX-L, saying it was a continuation of the Accord's greatness, with one drawback...the antiquated audio and nav system. For 2016, it's been addressed.


The Future For Scion? The 2016 Scion iM

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Scion iM
The 2016 Scion iM.
Twelve years ago, Toyota launched the Scion brand, the object being to lure younger buyers who saw Toyota as "Mom and Dad's" brand.  The Scion xA and xB not only didn't set the world on fire, they sold largely to Grandma and Grandad.

More recently, Scion has introduced cars with some genuine youth appeal, the tC, which did well for a while, but has faded, and the FR-S, a car we like so much that it (as of this writing) is in the list of TireKicker's Best Cars on the right hand side of this page. Still, it's a low-volume car and Scion could use some sheer numbers.  The new iM may be just the car to do that.


Good Things, Small Package: The 2016 Honda HR-V

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Honda HR-V
The 2016 Honda HR-V.

If you'd asked me if there was room or need for a Honda crossover smaller than the pioneering CR-V, I'd have said no.

I'd have been wrong.


Swagger With Style: The 2015 Toyota Sienna Limited Premium

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Toyota Sienna Limited
The 2015 Toyota Sienna Limited.
At the beginning of this year, we reviewed the Toyota Sienna SE and its updated "Swagger Wagon" video.  And as we have since the 2010 re-design of the Sienna, we liked it (the Sienna more than the Buster Rhymes video). But if your tastes run more toward luxury, there's only one trim level of the Sienna that matters.

Small Change(s): The 2016 Scion FR-S

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Scion FR-S
The 2016 Scion FR-S.
What is there to say about the 2016 Scion FR-S that we didn't say about the 2014 or the 2013...or for that matter its identical cousin, the 2015 Subaru BRZ?  After all, there's no change under the hood and the styling remains the same.

Relentless Pursuit: The 2015 Lexus IS350 F-SPORT

Front 3/4 view of the 2015 Lexus IS350 F-SPORT
The 2015 Lexus IS350 F-SPORT.
For several years, our Executive Editor and Publisher wrote of the ever growing presence in the rear-view mirror of Honda and Toyota---a speck that grew each year until, in less than five years, it filled the mirror, crowding the rear bumper and ready to pass.  That presence was Hyundai/Kia.


Unicorn: The 2015 Ford Transit 150 XLT Wagon

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Ford Transit 150 XLT Wagon
The 2015 Ford Transit 150 XLT Wagon.
First, apologies for the misleading headline.  You'll see plenty of 2015 Ford Transit 150 XLT wagons on the road.  They'll be airport shuttles for rental car companies, hotels, convention centers...you know, the usual.

But how many will you see in people's driveways?


What This Country Needs Is A Good $40,000 Pickup Truck: The 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 4WD Custom

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Custom
The 2015 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 Custom.
You may have noticed some feature stories of late in the mainstream media about how pickup trucks are big sellers.  And not just pickup trucks, but expensive pickup trucks. Seems you can't load them enough, can't run the sticker up high enough.  50 grand?  You're barely trying.  The top-of-the-line fullsize trucks from Ford, GM and RAM break that before you get into options.

But what of those of us who'd like a nice truck but don't have gigabucks to spend?  It appears the folks at Chevrolet have been thinking about us.

Honed: The 2015 Ford Edge

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Ford Edge
The 2015 Ford Edge.
It was Saturday. I was sick. Strep throat, the nurse practitioner had said on Tuesday (though a couple of weeks later we'd learn there was also an underlying bronchial virus).  Feeling somewhat on the mend, looking forward to a weekend of rest in the heaven that is Folsom, California.

Then I looked out the window. Smoke thick as London fog and falling from it, in our driveway, ash from the Butte Fire in nearby Amador County. Inhaling it would be a very bad idea. Navigator had things to do, so I did one of my least favorite things since we've been together...took a road-trip alone.

Option Creep: The 2015 Jeep Patriot Latitude 4X4

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Jeep Patriot Latitude
The 2015 Jeep Patriot Latitude 4X4.
Looking through TireKicker's vast archives (more than 800 reviews in seven years), I find that we've said this about the Jeep Patriot three times already.  Let's make it an even four:

If you are looking for the true spiritual successor to the 1980s Jeep Cherokee (simplicity, low base price, true Jeep Trail-rated status), this is the Jeep from today to have.

Improving The Breed: 2015 Ford Mustang Convertible

Front view of 2015 Ford Mustang Convertible
The 2015 Ford Mustang Convertible.
There were a million ways the first clean-sheet redesign of the Ford Mustang in a decade could have gone wrong.  I thought I'd spotted a few where it did.  And then I drove it.


The Middle Child: 2015 Nissan Sentra

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Nissan Sentra
The 2015 Nissan Sentra.

Nestled between the small Nissan Versa and the midsize Nissan Altima is the Nissan Sentra.  Park them next to each other and stand back 20 feet and you might have trouble telling which is which.  The family resemblance is that strong.

Might The Long Road To Redemption Begin Here? The 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf SEL Premium

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf
The 2015 Volkswagen e-Golf.
There is no question that Volkswagen has a long road ahead of it in recovering from the TDI emissions cheating scandal, and that it really has only just turned onto the on-ramp.  Not only does it have to repair a global brand image, but it needs...in a hurry...to salvage whatever cred it has in the green community.  The e-Golf could help.

Holding Its Own: The 2015 Toyota Highlander

side view of 2015 Toyota Highlander
The 2015 Toyota Highlander.
The current-generation Toyota Highlander hasn't been one of TireKicker's favorites, which is putting it mildy (our Publisher and Executive Editor found several faults with the re-design in his review 15 months ago).  But three-row midsize SUV buyers appear to disagree.

Regarding Volkswagen

Volkswagen logo
Having been sidelined for a month with a combination of strep throat and a bronchial infection, I may be the last automotive journalist to weigh in on the Volkswagen TDI cheating scandal.  But better late than never.

As you most likely have read, the Environmental Protection Agency has accused Volkswagen of inserting code into their TDI Clean Diesel models that sensed when the car was in emissions test mode, and only activated its emissions control system when it was.  Volkswagen has admitted it's true.

In normal driving, the emissions controls switched themselves off, performance and fuel economy were enhanced and the cars, according to the EPA, emitted as much as 40 times the legal amount of certain pollutants, including nitrogen oxides, which have been linked to respiratory problems including, but not limited to, athsma.  11 million cars with the VW and Audi brand are affected.  Almost half a million of those are believed to have been sold in the United States since 2009.

Volkswagen's CEO has resigned.  Others will no doubt lose their jobs.  Owners of the affected cars have been promised their vehicles will be recalled and brought into compliance.  In other words, they'll be as clean as the law requires, but most likely slower and less fuel-efficient.

The cars affected are the 2009 to 2015 TDI Volkswagen Golf, Jetta, Beetle and Audi A3s, and the 2014 to 2015 Passat, all with the 2.0-liter TDI engine.  We here at TireKicker have reviewed the 2010 Golf TDI, the 2014 Passat TDI, the 2014 Beetle TDI, the 2015 Audi A3 TDI, the 2015 Golf Sportwagen TDI and the 2015 Golf TDI.  Apart from our driving impressions and observations regarding speed and fuel economy, which were unknowingly based on the same trickery that fooled the EPA and the world for six years, we stand by our observations about the cars in terms of styling, construction, handling and features. And we stand by our reviews of other VW/Audi product with other engines and thus not under the current cloud.

While we are disappointed that Volkswagen would stoop to cheating, we remain objective in our evaluation of their products going forward, as we do with every vehicle we review. Some with an appetite for snark may interpret this as going easy on VW.  But justice for VW should be and will be focused and far more serious than a couple of cheap shots in a review.  We'll be keeping our eyes on the road and bringing you straightforward information you can use.


Michael Hagerty
Publisher/Executive Editor, TireKicker


All That's Missing Are The Buyers: The 2015 Toyota Tundra Platinum

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Toyota Tundra Platinum
The 2015 Toyota Tundra Platinum.
Toyota is the company that seems to be able to dominate the sales charts when it puts its corporate mind to it.  Is there a family sedan more American and more ubiquitous than the Camry?  You'd expect it to be able to work the same magic in full-size pickup truck sales.  But that hasn't happened.  The Tundra continues to rank sixth, behind Ford's F-150, Chevy's Silverado, The RAM 1500, the GMC Sierra and Toyota's midsize pickup, the Tacoma.


High Performance, High Style: The 2015 Volkswagen Golf R

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Volkswagen Golf R
The 2015 Volkswagen Golf R.
Bags packed, car loaded, Navigator and I were only a few minutes into our latest adventure when she said "This (car) is nice.  How much?"

"Thirty-nine thousand dollars", I replied, inadvertently leaving 90 bucks off the 2015 Volkswagen Golf R's base price.

"Why would a VW Golf cost $39,000?"  she asked.

With a smile, I pressed my right foot to the floor.


Still The One: 2015 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ
The 2015 Chevrolet Suburban LTZ.
So many people (yours truly included) had full-size American SUVs in the 1990s that it became something of a fad.  Like all fads, it ended and the people who really didn't need such huge machines (yours truly included) moved on to more practical conveyances, and the segment contracted.  20 years on, the survivors are few, and the fittest of the survivors is the big wagon that started it all 80 years ago...the Chevrolet Suburban.


Another Step: 2015 Lexus RC350

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Lexus RC350
The 2015 Lexus RC350.
As both our Executive Editor and Publisher and I have been telling you for some time now, Lexus is on a march. The destination: To be taken seriously as a competitor to German sport-luxury cars.  25 years ago, the original Lexus LS sedan knocked the Mercedes-Benz S Class off its perch---a $20,000 lower base price helped---but winning the hearts and minds of Audi and especially BMW intenders has not been such an easy task.

X, As In Multiplied: The 2016 Fiat 500X

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Fiat 500X
The 2016 Fiat 500X.
If you love the little Fiat 500, and we do, you may be hoping for one a bit larger and more practical.  Fiat actually makes one of those, the 500L, but very few people are buying them.  The problem appears to be aesthetic.  They got the proportions wrong and the L looks rather ungainly, a cardinal sin for a vehicle that, in its two-door form, sells largely on style.  So Fiat is giving it another try with the 500X.


Less Is More: The 2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD 2.0 T

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Kia Sorento
The 2016 Kia Sorento.
Regular TireKicker readers know of our deep appreciation for the Kia Sorento.  It more than earned it a year ago when it was our mode of transport for an eight-day, 1800 mile camping trip from Folsom (suburban Sacramento, California) to Utah and back. More recently, a week in the redesigned 2016 Sorento with the V6 engine ended with a spot on the TireKicker's Best Cars list on the right side of this page. So what more is there to say? Plenty, as it turns out.

A Tale Of Two SUVs: The 2015 Nissan Rogue SV FWD and SL AWD

2015 Nissan Rogue front 3/4 view
The 2015 Nissan Rogue. 
It doesn't happen often.  In fact, we here at TireKicker World Headquarters in Folsom, California work hard to avoid it.  But every once in a while, the Phoenix, Arizona bureau and we get the same car. The good news is that they are rarely identical and in the case of the 2015 Nissan Rogue, it worked out beautifully because the two models are different in trim level, the number of driving wheels and the price spread is such that each likely appeals to a different buyer.


Pioneer Wagon: The 2016 Acura MDX

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Acura MDX
The 2016 Acura MDX.
There was a time, fifteen years ago, when there was no such thing as a luxury crossover SUV with three rows of seating.  One vehicle changed that and created a market all by itself.  It was the 2001 Acura MDX.

The Comeback Kid: 2015 Kia Sedona SXL

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Kia Sedona SXL
The 2015 Kia Sedona SXL.
Ford and General Motors got out of the minivan game a few years back, never to return...conceding defeat to the Chrysler Town and Country, the Dodge Grand Caravan, the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey.

Kia's Sedona sat out the 2013 and 2014 model years, but it's back for 2015.


Unlikely Sex Symbol: The 2015 Chrysler 200S

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Chrysler 200S
The 2015 Chrysler 200S.
The more I see the 2015 Chrysler 200 on the streets, the more it grows on me.  The car looks very good in the sheetmetal, with balanced proportions, a purposeful stance and an upscale look.  About eleven months ago, I reviewed the top-of-the-line 200C AWD and liked it a lot, finding the price to be the only real drawback.

Beauty Is As Beauty Does: The 2015 Ram Promaster City Tradesman

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Ram Promaster City Tradesman
The 2015 Ram Promaster City Tradesman.
European designs have never ruled American streets.  Not to say there aren't a healthy number of vehicles from the Eurozone sold in the USA every year, but they've never been dominant here. However, they are taking over one segment of the market...vans.


South Korean All-American: The 2015 Hyundai Azera Limited

Front 3/4 view from above of 2015 Hyundai Azera Limited
The 2015 Hyundai Azera Limited.
Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote that the 2014 Hyundai Azera was one of the two best large family sedans you could buy (the other being the Toyota Avalon). Summertime and large family sedans naturally suggest a vacation, so Navigator and I packed the trunk of the all-new 2015 Azera the day after it arrived at TireKicker World Headquarters and hit the road.

What's In A Letter? The 2015 Volkswagen Jetta GLI

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Volkswagen Jetta GLI
The 2015 Volkswagen Jetta GLI.
The difference of a single letter.  In this case, "L" instead of "T".

For the uninitiated, I am drawing a comparison between Volkswagen's GTI (a Golf hatchback) and its GLI (a Jetta sedan). And the truth is, that single letter changes a lot of things.

Breakthrough: The 2016 Acura ILX Tech Plus A-Spec

Front 3/4 view of the 2016 Acura ILX
The 2016 Acura ILX Tech Plus A-Spec.
Regular TireKicker readers know of my frustrations with the 2013, 2014 and 2015 Acura ILX. Follow that link for the full run-down, including links within to each individual and disappointing experience with every trim level of that car.  The short version:  It was a nicer Honda Civic but not nice enough to justify the price premium (as much as nine grand over its Honda cousin).

For 2016, Acura addresses the problems, ditching the 2-liter, 150-horsepower four and five-speed automatic for a 2.4-liter, 201-horsepower four mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic.  That alone brings a massive improvement in performance and even a slight uptick in fuel economy over the smaller engine (now 25 city/36 highway).  That's even better mileage than the '15's rarer than rare ILX Premium with the 2.4 and a six-speed manual.

Without Compromise: The 2015 Lexus LX570

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Lexus LX570
The 2015 Lexus LX570.
Compromise is how most things in life get done.  You give a little, I give a little, each party gets some, but not all, of what they had hoped for.  There are many who believe compromise is good.  Thank God Lexus does not, for compromise and excellence are almost always mutually exclusive.  And the LX570 is all about excellence.


Hybrid Home Run: The 2015 Lexus NX 300h

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Lexus NX 300h
The 2015 Lexus NX 300h. 
Whatever your opinion of the Toyota Prius, that car has given upscale corporate cousin Lexus a mighty weapon to use. The brand now offers seven of its models in "h" (for "hybrid) form, all based on the Prius' hybrid powerplant technology.  And the newest of these is the newest Lexus, the NX small crossover.


Un-American, In A Good Way: The 2015.5 Volvo V60 T6 R-Design

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Volvo V60 T6 R-Design
The 2015.5 Volvo T6 R-Design.
There's been a lot of buzz in the media this week about the most American car being the Toyota Camry. The source is Cars.com's annual American-Made Index, which lists the cars with at least 75% of their parts content coming from the U.S. or Canada. The longtime champ, the Ford F-150, fell below that 75% threshold with this year's alumnium-heavy redesign.


At Last: The 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT
The 2016 Hyundai Elantra GT.
It was just less than a year ago when I reviewed the 2014 Hyundai Elantra GT and wrote about the elephant in the room:  Hyundai's ground-breaking first legitimate hot hatch was showing its age.  At a time when the Hyundai/Kia cousins were cranking out freshened and all-new models at a seemingly non-stop pace, the Elantra had gone since 2011 without an update. Now, Hyundai has leap-frogged past the 2015 model year and brought us a mildly refreshed 2016 Elantra GT.

A Happier Medium: The 2015 Lexus LS460 F SPORT

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Lexus LS 460 F SPORT
The 2015 Lexus LS460 F SPORT.
The word "uncompromising" is considered a compliment in many circles, especially in performance automobiles.  But compromise can be necessary, even good. And the 2015 Lexus LS460 F SPORT is a classic example.

I'd Still Buy The 2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid

2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid front 3/4 view
The 2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid.
Thirteen months ago, I reviewed...okay...raved about...the 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid. That was after a 470-mile plus journey from Folsom (suburban Sacramento) to Ukiah, up to Mendocino and down Highway 1 to California 116, inland to Santa Rosa and then home all in a four-day weekend.

As luck would have it, Navigator and I had another road trip scheduled for the weekend the 2015 Avalon Hybrid would be with us, though this one was considerably shorter.

Same Car, Less Money: The 2015 Lexus GS 350 F SPORT

Front 3/4 view of  2015 Lexus GS 350 F SPORT
The 2015 Lexus GS 350 F SPORT.
Just shy of eight months ago, I reviewed the 2014 Lexus GS 350, in a piece called "What An Extra $5,695 Can Do For Your Lexus GS 350".  By all means, click through and read it, but the summary is that I said that adding the optional F SPORT package to the GS 350 made it a better-handling and more desirable automobile.


2016 Acura RDX Advance: Freshness Date Extended

Partial front view of 2016 Acura RDX Advance
The 2016 Acura RDX Advance.
The pace of technology is such that mid-cycle refreshes, when an automaker makes substantial changes to a vehicle without creating an all-new, next-generation model, are more important than ever. A clean-sheet is too expensive to do every three years, but you'll get killed  by the competition if you're waiting for the next go-round to bring the goodies that were too expensive, not available yet or no one in the segment had been offering when you launched the current generation.


And The First Shall Be Fashionably Late: The 2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport
The 2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport.
For the company that invented the modern luxury crossover with the RX 350, Lexus has taken a comparatively long time making its entrance into the hottest segment in the automotive industry...the small luxury crossover.

Navigating Troubled Waters: The 2015 Lincoln Navigator

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Lincoln Navigator
The 2015 Lincoln Navigator.
It is hard to remember now, but the Lincoln Navigator was the first, and for a time, most successful of the big luxury SUVs.  In 1997 (as a 1998 model), it beat Cadillac's Escalade to the market by a full year and sold 44,000 units.  By 2014, sales were down to a point where it would have taken more than five years to sell that many.

Muscles In A Tuxedo: The 2015 Chrysler 300C Platinum

2015 Chrysler 300C Platinum front view
The 2015 Chrysler 300C Platinum.
In the ten years the Chrysler 300C has been with us (in this incarnation), there have been endless comparisons to Bentley. Most of it was prompted by the simple visual of a big grille with a large winged badge on it. Others had to do with the smooth yet substantial shape and wide, determined stance of the 300C, which had more than a passing resemblance to the Bentley Flying Spur sedan introduced the year before.