Off Into The Sunset: The 2019 Volkswagen Beetle Final Edition Cabrio

Front 3/4 view of 2019 Volkswagen Beetle Final Edition Cabrio
The 2019 Volkswagen Beetle Final Edition Cabrio.

You probably saw the articles and videos earlier this year---“Volkswagen Beetle ends production after 70 years!”  I hate to be a buzzkill, but I hate hype and inaccuracy more, so indulge me a moment, please. 

The Volkswagen Beetle that started production 70 years ago ended production 40 years ago. There was a whole big farewell for that one, too---in 1979.  And the triple-white Final Edition convertibles are still on the street in a whole lot of American towns.

Once that one went away, there wasn’t a Beetle for sale in America for 19 years---until the arrival of the 1998 New Beetle, which had zero in common with the original apart from a rounded body.  The engine was in the front, not the back, it was water-cooled, not air-cooled---it was a rounded Beetle-inspired body on the chassis of a Jetta.  But we’re not mourning the retirement of that car after a 21-year run, either.  Its last year was 2011.

No, the model that we’re saying goodbye to is the current Volkswagen Beetle---which has been in production since 2012.  But “Volkswagen Beetle ends production after 7 years” isn’t much of a headline, is it?


Rugged Luxury: The 2019 Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury

Front 3/4 view of 2019 Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury
The 2019 Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury.
The idea of "rugged luxury" seems like a contradiction in terms...but it's not. Proof positive of that is the 2019 Land Rover Discovery HSE Luxury. It's a very rugged, extremely capable SUV that can go pretty much anywhere you don't need an airplane or boat to get to, but it's quiet, refined and exceptionally well-built.


Time, Miles and Love: The 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum AWD

Front view of 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum AWD
The 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum AWD.
I've said it before, I'll say it again. You don't really know if you love a car until you've lived with a car for a bit. Hours and miles are the best way to know just how good the machine to which you trust your life and your family's lives really is. Five minutes in a test drive around the block with a salesman at your side doesn't cut it. And even the typical car reviewer week around town isn't the same as getting out on the open road for an extended period of time.

Mrs. TireKicker and I take our annual big camping trip in late September every year. This time it was nine days, with the ultimate destination being Telluride, Colorado---and the folks at Toyota Motors North America and their prep and delivery partners at DriveShop were terrific enough to provide a two-week loan of the 2019 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Limited Platinum All Wheel Drive.


Emphasizing The "Sport" In Sport-Utility: The 2019 BMW X2 M35i

Front 3/4 view of 2019 BMW X2 M35i
The 2019 BMW X2 M35i
Small crossover SUVs are a thing right now---and most of them lean to the "utility" part of "Sport Utility Vehicle". There's a cure for that, and it's the 2019 BMW X2 M35i.


Status Symbol With A Tailgate: The 2019 Ford F-150 4X4 SuperCrew Limited

Front 3/4 view of 2019 Ford F-150 4X4 SuperCrew Limited
The 2019 Ford F-150 4X4 SuperCrew Limited.
Mrs. TireKicker and I were driving down the street the other day, came to a corner, and as I stopped I saw something that seemed----weird. It was a newer pickup truck---but one with only two doors, in one color, with black trim and steel wheels. Now, back in the day, that was a pickup truck. Today, they're called "work trucks", but not too long ago, they were all work trucks. You could make them a little fancier with colored vinyl seats or a two-tone paint job, but a truck was a truck.

And then they got nicer, and bigger, and grew a second set of doors, and got bigger again, and nicer again.

That trend accelerated in the past decade or two and now, apart from bare-bones work trucks, a pickup truck can be, and most often is, a luxury vehicle. Those Cadillacs and Imperials and Lincolns your grandparents and their friends drove? They're now Silverados and Sierras and RAMs and F-150s.

Want proof? I present the 2019 Ford F-150 4X4 SuperCrew Limited. If you've ever envied your neighbor's F-150 King Ranch, this is the answer. It's two levels of luxury above and beyond the King Ranch (there's also a Platinum trim between the two).


Beginnings: The 2019 Honda HR-V AWD Touring

Front 3/4 view of 2019 Honda HR-V AWD Touring
The 2019 Honda HR-V AWD Touring.
Back in the 1970s and 80s, there was a perfect car for young people starting out on their own---the compact hatchback. Everybody made 'em. Everybody bought 'em. And with good reason---they were Corollas and Civics and whatever Datsun/Nissan was calling its small car that year, but instead of a trunk, the whole back end opened up, the rear seats folded flat and you could carry stuff without driving a station wagon.

Somewhere along the line, the word "hatchback" became as uncool as the term "station wagon"---but they're actually back. They're now the smallest of the small crossover sport-utility vehicles---the Nissan Kicks, the Toyota C-HR and the Honda HR-V.


Meeting The Revolution Halfway: The 2019 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid

Front 3/4 view of 2019 Hyundai Ioniq
2019 Hyundai Ioniq Plug-In Hybrid.

Look around you in traffic.  It may be a bit different where you live, but here in Northern California, I guarantee you that you can hold your breath until you see an electric car and pretty much not interrupt normal breathing.  

Yes, being an area full of highly-educated people, early adopters and where they make Teslas stacks the odds a bit, but even on our nine-day camping trip that took us through remote areas of Utah and Colorado, not a day went by that I didn't see a Tesla Model S or Model 3, a Nissan Leaf or a Chevy Bolt.

But what if you’re not quite ready to take the all-electric plunge?  A plug-in hybrid is a great way to go---in fact, I think PHEVs are the underappreciated gateway to electric mobility for the majority of Americans.


Life Is Good: The 2019 Maserati Levante S GranSport

Front view of 2019 Maserati Levante S GranSport
The 2019 Maserati Levante S GranSport.
“My Maserati does 185.  I lost my license. Now I don’t drive.”

Far more people have heard Joe Walsh sing that lyric over the years than have ever seen, let alone driven, a Maserati---so that’s probably a good place to begin talking about the 2019 Maserati Levante S Gransport.

First of all, this Maserati does 187, so Joe’s car, a gorgeous 1960s 5000GT, has nothing on it (in fact, Joe indulged in a bit of artistic license in the song---top speed of the 5000S is 168).   

What’s most impressive is that the Levante is an SUV.  That’s right, a 187 mile per hour Sport Utility Vehicle.