One Car, No Waiting: The Immediate Payoff of the 2015 Buick Regal eAssist

Side view of 2015 Buick Regal
The 2015 Buick Regal. 
Our so-fresh-the-pixels-aren't-dry-yet reviews of the 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid and the 2015 Lexus ES 300h hybrid illustrate the wide range of time it can take for the fuel savings of a hybrid to pay for the extra cost over the gasoline version of the same vehicle. The Highlander's small difference in fuel economy and large difference in price result in an 11.6 year wait to break even, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Hybrid Cost Calculator.  A narrower price gap and bigger gain in fuel economy cuts the wait to just 4.6 years for the ES 300h.

But what if you could cut the wait to zero?  Start saving money immediately? What would that take?

Penciling Out: The Case For The 2015 Lexus ES 300h

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid
The 2015 Lexus ES 300h Hybrid.
Yesterday's review of the 2015 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum and the 11.6 years it would take you to recoup the cost of it over the gasoline version in fuel savings may have some of you thinking hybrids are a bad deal or that Toyota doesn't know how to price them or get the best fuel savings from them.  Not true, as the 2015 Lexus ES 300h illustrates.


Personal Best: Beating The EPA Estimates In A 2015 Toyota Prius

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Toyota Prius
The 2015 Toyota Prius. 
All my previous encounters with the Toyota Prius (and there must have been more than a dozen in the seven years TireKicker has been in existence, plus another dozen in the years I was reviewing cars elsewhere) have been in what is presumed to be its natural habitat, city streets and freeways. And on its intended mission, it has excelled.  When some customers were complaining that they couldn't reach the EPA combined fuel economy estimate of 50 miles per gallon three years ago, I was getting 50.2.

Having never used it as one, I never thought of it as a highway car.

More Mini, But Not Maxi: The 2015 Mini Cooper S Hardtop 4 Door

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Mini Cooper S Hardtop 4 door
The 2015 Mini Cooper S Hardtop 4 Door.
Four wheels and fun is a tough combination to beat.  What happens when you add four doors to that equation?  That's been a difficult issue for Mini, which added larger models (Clubman, Countryman) that haven't exactly burned up the sales charts and have even (or maybe especially) the faithful deriding them as big and ugly.  So for 2015, Mini tries a smaller big...stretching the Mini from two-doors to four without trying to make it a wagon, crossover or whatever.


Not-Quite-Identical Cousin: The 2015 Lexus ES350

Side view of 2015 Lexus ES350
The 2015 Lexus ES350.
More than half a century ago, there was a weekly TV sitcom called "The Patty Duke Show".  Patty Duke, then in her teens, played identical cousins, one American and one British.  As the theme song went, "they laugh alike, they walk alike, at times they even talk alike".  Casting was a breeze, since both roles were played by the same actress.

Which, hot on the heels of our review of the 2015 Toyota Avalon Limited, brings us to its not-quite identical cousin, the 2015 Lexus ES350.

Autojourno Nirvana: The 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI SEL

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI SEL
The 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI SEL.
There's a bit of an inside half-joke in automotive journalist circles that the ideal car is a brown diesel station wagon with a stick shift.  Well, it wasn't brown and it didn't have a stick (though you can get one), but the all-new 2015 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen TDI checks off all the other boxes and shows just why those of us who eat, sleep and write cars find the combination so appealing.

Satisfaction: The 2015 Toyota Avalon Limited

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Toyota Avalon Limited
The 2015 Toyota Avalon Limited.
In its third year of this generation, the 2015 Toyota Avalon continues to impress.  Last year, I wrote that the Avalon is the modern-day equivalent to the late-1960s Ford LTD or Chevrolet Caprice. Those cars were nine-tenths of what you got when you bought a Lincoln Continental or a Cadillac Sedan or Coupe deVille, but at six-tenths of the price.

Magazine ad for 1967 Chevrolet Caprice
1967 Chevrolet Caprice magazine ad.


There's Life In The Old Brand Yet: The 2015 Acura TLX 3.5 L SH-AWD ADV

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Acura TLX
The 2015 Acura TLX. 
Regular TireKicker readers know of my deep respect for the now-departed Acura TSX, which spent more than two years on our TireKicker's Best Cars list.  And you may be aware that not long ago, I wrote that the new Lexus IS250 had taken its place in my heart, if not on the list.

I may have spoken (okay, written) too soon.

German For Hybrid: The 2015 Volkwswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL

Front 3/4 view of 2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid
The 2015 Volkswagen Jetta Hybrid SEL.
As with the just-reviewed 2015 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring, Volkswagen's Jetta Hybrid is taking a different path from the "look at me" hybrids...cars like the Toyota Prius that proclaim their difference with styling that stands apart from more conventional cars. As we've noted before, it's a risky path, as hybrid buyers seem to want to call attention to their purchase so that friends and strangers alike know they've chosen to save gas and pollute less.

Why Isn't This Car Crushing The Prius In Sales? The 2015 Honda Accord Hybrid

2015 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring front 3/4 view
The 2015 Honda Accord Hybrid Touring.
America loves the Honda Accord.  It was the second-best selling car in the country in 2014, and has at various times in the past 39 years, been number one.  But break it down into the hybrid variant, and the numbers are far behind those of the best-selling Toyota Prius hybrid.

Part of it is Honda's choice.  They simply are not making and shipping enough Accord Hybrids to meet demand. But even if they did, hybrid history seems to show that the best-sellers are the cars that scream "I'm different" from the first look...and the Accord Hybrid looks very much like every other Accord.