2015 Volvo XC90 T6
I while back, in my review of the Volvo S60, I discussed the Swedish concept of lagom, which is the state of being acceptably good. The Swedes also have another, related concept, called Jantelagen. Basically, it means that, if you show your success too ostentatiously, you should be scorned and reviled. Frankly, the Swedes seem to hate and fear success, which seems a bit wacky. What this means in automotive terms is that, driving around in a high-status BMW X5 is a violation of Jantelagen, while driving around in a Volvo XC90 is not. And that seems wacky, too, because it’s totally wrong.
2015 Nissan Altima 2.5 S
If you’re looking for a reasonably priced, reliable, mid-sized family sedan, you’ve probably got the Nissan Altima 2.5 S on your list of cars to check out. And, on paper, nearly everything tells you that it should be a serious contender. Sure, if you’re a serious car aficionado, you might quibble over the front-wheel drive, but practically everything in the class is front-wheel drive, and literally everything in its price range is. Everything else on the spec sheet should fill you with a bit of enthusiasm, though. Like I said, on paper, it looks good.
2015 Acura TLX 3.5L
Soichiro Honda (1906-1991) was an automotive genius. In 1958, he created the Honda Supercub, about the least motorcycle you can buy, but which is still produced in many countries. There have been over 60 million Supercubs produced, making it the best-selling vehicle ever produced. His Honda Civic and Accord led the Japanese charge in the 1970s to overturn the Big Four’s control of the American auto market. The company he created, Honda Motor Co. Ltd., is the world’s number one producer of internal combustion engines. In 1986, it became the first Japanese automaker to create it’s own luxury brand in Acura. Which brings us to the big push Honda is currently making for the all-new 2015 Acura TLX.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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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