When the 2014 Subaru Forester was introduced last year at the LA Auto Show, it looked to be a solid improvement over the already-successful outgoing Forester model, with increased interior room, improved ergonomics and materials, better fuel economy, and a long list of available safety and comfort features. Living in the Northwest, where the Forester and its Subaru stablemates are extremely popular, I was eager to see how the new Forester stacked up.
Remember the Hyundai Veracruz? It was Hyundai’s Lexus RX-ish three-row crossover (though the RX that it looked like never had more than two rows of seats) that was a slow seller. Well, Hyundai figured out a way to increase sales of the Veracruz: name it the Santa Fe. You see, Hyundai discontinued the Veracruz model at the end of its life cycle and instead split the Santa Fe into two models – the Santa Fe Sport (5 passenger, four cylinder only) and Santa Fe (6 or 7 passenger, V6 only). Though the two models share (most of) a name and all sheetmetal from the B-pillars forward, they really do feel quite different from behind the wheel. The non-Sport Santa Fe is just launching, so Hyundai invited us to New York a few days ago to put it through its paces outside the city.
What makes a vehicle a “crossover”? I thought I knew, and that it was some sort of small car-based SUV/tall wagon type vehicle, like a Honda CR-V or Toyota RAV4. That being said, the CR-V, RAV4, and CX-5’s of this world fall more into the “cute-ute” camp rather than crossover, at least in my book. To take my misguided understanding a bit further, I consider cars like the XV Crosstrek, Volvo XC70, and Audi Allroad to be just jacked-up wagons. Suffice it to say, I don’t have a clear understanding of the definition of “crossover” in my own mind.
“Evolve, or die.” –Eckhart Tolle
With the all-new 2014 Jeep Cherokee, it appears that, despite bringing back the name of the Jeep that everyone loved, Jeep has finally given up on trying to recreate the mojo of the 1984-2001 XJ Jeep Cherokee. God knows they tried; the wrapped-in-an-American flag Liberty of 2001 tried, the boxy Liberty of 2008 tried harder, the 2006-2010 Commander tried, and even the car-based Patriot tried. But none of these vehicles captured the classic, Dick Teague-styled looks of the XJ Cherokee.
Here at Autosavant, the Ford Flex holds a special place in our hearts. I’ve personally reviewed two of them, and we ended up getting one as a long-term tester (thanks to Kevin Miller making the monthly payments on it). The Flex was intended as Ford’s minivan replacement, since Ford waved the white flag several years ago with the death of the Freestar minivan. Though the Flex doesn’t quite live up to the potential of having the utility of a minivan with the style of a crossover, it’s a fine family hauler. We asked for an updated 2012 model to see if MyFord Touch ruins the Flex or improves it. Continue Reading →
I just completed a two-week test of the all-new Ford Explorer Sport. It was a revelation. The last time I spent two weeks with a Ford Explorer—or, indeed, any time at all with an Explorer—was in 1996. I rented a handsome ice-blue version of the then-innovative SUV and drove from my new home in south-central Texas to do some book readings and meet up with family members in Washington, D.C.. (Ah, those were the days. K Street! The Mall! Billary in the White House!) It took, if memory serves, most of three days, with stops on the way in Hope, Arkansas, where a cornucopia of kitschy Clintoniana greeted the visitor to the great man’s birthplace, and the following night in some dump in Tennessee whose name escapes me because I deleted it from my memory banks as soon as it faded into the distance; I remember a dank motel, surly desk manager, ominous sounds in the night.
Once upon a time there was a French hatchback, and a very nice hatchback it was. It was called the Renault 16, and it caused a revolution in automotive design and functionality whose reverberations can still be felt. It wasn’t the first hatchback—the Kaiser Traveler and Renault’s own 4L came before—but it was the first mass-market, middle-class hatchback to sell in large numbers: over 1,845,959 R16s were produced during the car’s 15-year lifespan.
If you live in Manhattan and own a car larger than, say, a Lotus Elan, you become the urban equivalent of That Guy with a Pickup Truck Down the Street. Your weekends, once set aside for relaxing with a cup of coffee at a neighborhood cafe, are suddenly filled by new friends’ moving and hauling tasks. And as much as you fight the urge, you suddenly find yourself ready, willing, and able to do favors at a moment’s notice. Could the car-based, 2012 Mazda CX-9 stand up to the task? Continue Reading →
For reasons I can’t understand, small luxury crossover vehicles are very popular in North America. European manufacturers have all but stopped importing wagons to our shores, instead choosing to send us crossover vehicles with higher centers of gravity, less efficient engines, and higher profit margins. Audi’s entry in this segment is the Q5.
How’s this for a crazy notion: Is Chrysler the new Hyundai? The answer, I think, is “no,” but there are some interesting parallels between two automakers who at face value probably could not be any more different. Specifically, I’m referring to the fact that recent Hyundais have been dramatically better than the models that they replaced. Where Hyundai previously sold cars mostly on the strength of its warranty coverage and price, its products are now improved to the point that they occupy positions among the class leaders.
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