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

Car Reviews

Outdoorsy Communism

2015 Subaru Outback

Years ago, the Subaru Outback was the car of bucolic rural types who needed a car with some hauling capacity, and the ability traverse muddy dirt roads. Somewhere along the line, the Outback was discovered by outdoorsy communists and ladies with short-hair and broad shoulders. Since then, it’s become an increasingly upmarket vehicle, probably because Trotskyites have always been a little hazy about financial matters, so they’re easier to fleece.

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The Middle Way

2014 Buick Encore AWD

Driving a Buick says something about you. It says that you’re the sort of person who can’t afford a Cadillac, but not the sort of dirty, poor person who drives a Chevrolet. Buick is the brand for the middle class. While Chevrolet is the brand for the factory worker, and Cadillac is the brand for the factory owner, Buick is the brand for the senior software developer in the factory’s IT Department. Continue reading

Soul Searching

2014 Kia Soul Base

I wouldn’t have thought that Hamsters would be an effective marketing tool. Especially urban hamsters, with their hip-hop music and baggy clothes. I would, of course, be wrong, because that’s exactly how Kia markets the Soul. Apparently, the marketing works, because there seems to be a lot of them around. It works so well, in fact, that the Soul is Kia’s best-selling model.

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Sibling Rivalry

2015 Kia K900 Sedan

Kia is generally referred to as the sister company of Hyundai. That’s not an entirely accurate depiction, as Hyundai actually owns about a third of Kia Motors. But if we go with the “sisters” analogy, Hyundai would be the studious, sober sister, while Kia is the prettier, sluttier one. That’s not to say that that Hyundai is above flashing a little cleavage, in the form of the Genesis Coupe, which in its 6-cylinder Track or Touring spec, is pretty sexy in Korean car terms. But, in general, Kia’s cars are more fun to drive Hyundai’s.

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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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My Happy Place

2014 Jaguar XF Supercharged

Jaguar is a brand with a long and storied history. It was Jaguar, for instance, that gave us what Enzo Ferrari called “the most beautiful car ever made”, the original E-Type. When it was introduced at the Geneva Auto Show in 1961, it became an instant icon of 1960s motoring. Jaguar also gave us the best getaway car ever made, the Mk. II, which was used by every robber in Britain who could get their hands on one, mainly because the police had nothing that could catch it.

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Horsemanship

2014 Ford Mustang GT

For fifty years, the Ford Mustang has been the Pony car standard. Indeed, the Mustang is why we call them Pony Cars. It might seem that this isn’t the best time to review the Mustang. With the 2015 Mustang, the Pony will be smaller, lighter, faster, and will come standard with an independent rear suspension for the first time. Someone at Ford apparently realized it was 2014, i.e., past time to ditch the live axle in the back. Drag racers will still be able to order the solid rear axle, but for those of us who would like to, you know, turn, we’ll be getting a modern rear suspension.

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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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The Poor Man’s Hyundai

2014 Hyundai Accent GS Sedan

Let’s say you’re a young person who wants a new car. But, sadly, you’re a high-school drop-out, knocking tin in the construction industry as an air conditioning installer. Or you’re a recent college graduate working at your first office job in the mailroom. Basically, you’re young, and just starting out in life. Unless you have rich, benevolent parents, that means you’re a dirty, poor person.

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Coming Attractions

It’s been an extraordinarily busy week and a half for me. Last weekend was almost completely taken up with going up to Orange County and getting the GTO, while this weekend was taken up with getting the GTO fixed up a little bit, and running errand we missed doing last week. Add in the business of working, teaching my college business class, and doing client-related stuff, it’s been a bear. I have not, however, been completely idle with things for the blog, so here’s a preview of coming attractions for the next week or so.

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The Luxury of Speed

2014 Cadillac CTS-V

Let’s postulate three requirements for the rear-wheel drive car of your dreams. First, you want it to have outstanding performance and handling. Second, you want it to cosset you in luxury, with every imaginable convenience available at your fingertips. Third, and finally, it must be an American car. Not too long ago, the proper response to these requirements would be “Choose any two.” The car that satisfied all three requirements was, quite frankly, imaginary. And, honestly, the car that satisfied the first two requirements was German.

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Not a Luxury Car

2014 Audi S4

Several years ago, Audi went through a bad patch. People were accusing Audis of unintended acceleration. The story was that you’d be plodding along through a school zone at 10 MPH when the Audi you were driving would suddenly accelerate at maximum speed into a gaggle of children. Audi disputed this. Consumers didn’t believe them, most likely because the media hyped the story, a lot. Turns out it was most likely the idiots behind the wheel. It still put a lot of hurt on Audi, and their US sales cratered.

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Unjustly Unloved

2014 Mazda6 Grand Touring Sedan Review

The Honda Accord and Toyota Camry sell well. They aren’t bad cars, either, though they’re inoffensive and boring. Honda and Toyota sell quite a lot of them, too. They’re one of the bread and butter sedans you see on American roads. They aren’t the only choices, though. They may not even be the best choices. Even Toyota now seems to realize this, as this week, one of Toyota’s chiefs told the motoring press that Toyota has decided to start making cars that excite 10 people out of 100, instead of trying not to offend all 100. Still, the Camry is what it is, for now.

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Always buy the KitchenAid

2014 Honda Accord EL-X V6 Sedan

Some cars are appliances. They aren’t exciting and massively powered. They don’t cosset you with sumptuous luxury. You just, you know, drive them, and they take you places. The Honda Accord is one such appliance. But the thing about appliances is that they aren’t all the same. In fact, some of them are quite good. You can buy a mixer from Hamilton Beach, and it’ll be alright, and do what you expect it to do. But, if you want a mixer that will not only do a fantastic job, but can be passed down to your great-grandchildren, you buy a KitchenAid.

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