I write stuff. A lot of it is about cars and motorcycles.

2013 Cars

The Triumph of Style

2013 Nissan Juke Nismo*

There are cars that have hatchbacks, but are too big to be called a “Hatchback” and too small to be called an SUV. So, their manufacturers created a new category of vehicle: the “Crossover”. Nissan’s entry in the Crossover category is called the Juke, and they’ve turned it over to their in-house performance team, creating the Juke Nismo.

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Hanging In There

2013 Honda Fit

“Why,” you may be asking, “are you writing reviews of 2013 models when we’re already a couple of months into 2014?” Well, the thing about the Honda Fit is that there isn’t a 2014 model. The tsunami in Japan last year messed up things at the factory in Sayama where the Fit is made, forcing them to skip the 2014 model year. A new 2015 model has been announced as the next refresh of the model, and it will be an all-round update to the car, inside and out. For now, though, the 2013 model is the only Fit you can buy.

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Enraging

2013 Ford Focus SE Sedan

Car enthusiasts know all about the Ford Focus ST. It is the quintessential hot hatch, dropping 264 horses of fun through the front tires. It has a stiff suspension, hard ride, aggressively bolstered seats, and a pleasing manual transmission. The Ford Focus SE Sedan is almost exactly unlike this in every possible way.

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Frugality

2013 Hyundai Genesis 5.0 R-Spec Sedan

The BMW 550i sedan is a really nice car, there’s no doubt about that. It’s got 449 HP, and lots of leather and brushed aluminum bits, and all sorts of electronic wizardry. But there are some downsides, the primary one being the $63,000 base price. Add some decent options to it, and you’ll find the sticker price soaring over $70,000. That’s the equivalent of one-third of a house. Or a couple of very nice houses in Detroit. Yes, it’s fast, luxurious, and comfortable, but it costs quite a lot. Of course, horsepower, as they say, costs money, but does it have to cost that much?

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Bland Ambition

2013 Chrysler 200 Touring Review

Chrysler is a brand of cars that I just don’t understand. They only make four models of car, and, really, those cars are just rebadged Dodges. The mechanicals are all the same, and so are the materials used in the interiors. The only difference between the Chrysler and Dodge versions of a car is that the Dodge incorporates exterior styling that makes it look like it wouldn’t mind slitting a few throats if it got bored. Chryslers have softer exterior styling, and look a little less blue-collar than Dodges on the inside.

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Doctor Hoon

2013 Mini John Cooper Works GP

At about the same time that Britain was giving us Doctor Who, they also gave us the original Mini. Badly underpowered by today’s standards, it was so responsive and fun that it quickly became the original hot hatch, and began tearing up rally and racing tracks all over Europe. The years have been more or less kind to both British cultural icons. Doctor Who is in its tenth or eleventh incarnation on TV, and Minis are being built again in Old Blighty. Happily, rather than being built by British Leyland communists in the Midlands, the Mini is now built by Germans in Oxfordshire, which means when you go out to start it in the morning…it will.

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Save It for the Weekend

2013 Jeep Wrangler Review

If you want to talk about the classic, go-anywhere, do-anything American off-roader, the only vehicle to discuss is the Jeep Wrangler. Since World War II, it’s been an American icon, and unlike many American icons, it actually does exactly what it’s supposed to do—like rock climbing on the Rubicon Trail—very well. Roads, dirt roads, or no roads, the Wrangler will still take you there.

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Italy’s Re-Entry Vehicle

2013 Fiat 500 Abarth Review

Italian cars have a bit of a reputation, and it’s both good and bad. The good part of their reputation is that they’re usually pretty, and fun to drive. There’s something that the Italians and their automotive engineers just get about the act of driving, and about how a car should look. The bad part of their reputation is that they don’t get everything else about cars, like, say, reliability. The bad part of that reputation has lingered in the US, because Fiat and Lancia bid goodbye to these shores in the early 1980s after a series of disastrously unreliable cars, followed by Alfa Romeo in the early 1990s.

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Sweet Torture

2013 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution MR Review

The Subaru WRX STI has only one real competitor as a rally-bred street car: The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, called the Evo, for short. The Evo is the one bright spot in Mitsubishi’s otherwise sad line-up of mediocre-performing, front-wheel drive, budget cars. The thing is, the STI and Evo people each love their vehicles desperately, and they hate the owners of the opposing vehicles with a passion that burns with the heat of a thousand suns. Much insult and ridicule is exchanged between the two groups.

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Making Johnny Polar Bear Happy

2013 Ford Fusion SE Hybrid Review

There are a lot of reasons why you might want to use less gasoline. Maybe you think all the ice is melting and Johnny Polar Bear will lose his home. Maybe you’re tired of buying gas from Johnny Foreigner. Maybe you just want some extra cash for coke and hookers. On the other hand, you don’t want a Prius, partly because you don’t need to display a smug sense of moral superiority, but mainly because a the Prius is a horribly dull car.

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Comfy Spice

2013 Range Rover Evoque Coupe Review

The full-sized Range Rover is probably, as Jeremy Clarkson would say, the best SUV…in the world. But it’s a big vehicle, with a huge V-8 engine. Luxurious and off-road capable, sure, but big and fuel hungry. But let’s say you want a smaller but still off-road capable SUV and you don’t want to give up luxury and drive around in a shabby Subaru or Nissan? Or even worse, a Land Rover LR2, with its sad, horrible, under-powered V-6. The answer, according to Range Rover, is the Evoque.

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Good Enough

2013 Volvo S60 T6 R-Design Review

Safety. Reliability. Swedish stolidity. That’s what you think of when you think of Volvo. For the most part, that’s what the Swedish automaker wants you to think. The Swedes have a philosophy that permeates their society, called lagom. It describes a state of being just good enough to evoke a sense of comfortable satisfaction. Not too good, so as to be extravagant or showy, and not too bad, as to be obviously flawed or defective.

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Less Beige

2013 Lexus GS 350 F-Sport Review

Here’s the thing: whether you buy a Toyota, a Scion, or a Lexus, almost all the cars made by the Toyota Motor Corporation are beige. Bland. Which is sad, because Toyota used to make some cars that tended decidedly towards the red end of the color spectrum. There was the Toyota Celica GTS, the nearly-supercar-fun Supra, and even the entertaining, mid-engined, two-seater MR2. Toyota used to make fun cars, then they just…stopped.

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The “S” Stands for “Spock”

2013 Volkswagen Jetta S Review

From 1945 until 1974, Volkswagen’s tiny Type 1, affectionately known as the “Beetle”, was the very byword for low-cost transportation. With its little 1.3L air-cooled engine, it wasn’t fast, and it wasn’t very roomy, but it was, by the standards of the day, cheap and economical. It was replaced by the Golf in 1974, a car which is still with us today and, in the GTI model, is still the only car you really need.

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