Seeing Hyundai’s eighth-gen Sonata makes me feel a bit like Charlie Brown when he sees “the little red-haired girl.” Not sure it’s love at first sight, but “wow,” the 2020 Sonata is stirring. Yet that’s not a description many family sedans evoke.
Hyundai, which along with cousin Kia continues to up the styling ante, has outdone itself with the new Sonata. After stunning buyers with the sixth generation Sonata in 2011 and then coasting on styling for the seventh gen model, this one rocks the sedan market. Continue reading 2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited→
I’m a fan of Subaru’s Outback wagon/crossover, but the Legacy sedan has always been a bit too fuddy-duddy looking for me. Seems Subaru forgets about styling when it comes to Legacy.
That’s odd as Subaru’s sedan competes against heavy hitters like Toyota’s Camry and Honda’s Accord, both of which have been restyled, mostly for the better, in the past few years. Legacy has the advantage of standard all-wheel-drive, yet even in its newest 2020 duds, the Legacy’s styling is, well, more dud than dude. Continue reading 2020 Subaru Legacy Limited→
Hyundai’s Sonata is back on track to being a major challenger to the likes of Toyota’s Camry and others in the crowded mid-size sedan market.
Hyundai’s last generation Sonata wasn’t nearly as attractive as its predecessor. This one is a sharp looker with a distinctive nose and improved profile. That will snag buyers attention, but its new 8-speed automatic transmission and improved ride should seal the deal, along with price.
Always a high-value car, the 2018 Sonata has a lot going for it. Admittedly I tested the top-level Limited 2.0T that is heavy on sporty performance, and all the bells and whistles. But wait until you get a load of the price.
But first, the “Machine Gray” (metallic gray) Limited touts Hyundai’s strongest engine, a 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 that delivers a peppy 245 horsepower and a 260 torque rating. As with many cars and crossovers today there are a number of drive modes for the driver to select.
There’s Eco, which garners the highest gas mileage at the cost of power, Comfort, which is the middle ground of handling, power and ride, and Sport, which firms the steering and pumps up the power. That was great for accelerating onto the highway or away from a crowded traffic light when a lane change was in order. Continue reading 2018 Hyundai Sonata Limited 2.0T→
It may be a bit early in the calendar year to talk about hitting for the cycle, but the 2017 Volkswagen Passat does just that.
Rare is the mid-size car that delivers healthy power, refined handling and ride along with a quiet interior. Often a sedan with respectable power is noisy inside, or rides like a buckboard.
But the Passat is a pleasant blend that retains its sporty characteristics while delivering the “dreaded” practicality of room for five adults and their luggage, while also being a delight to drive and competitively priced. Its one drawback through the years (the car was redesigned for the 2016), has been reliability. The old model had issues. Time will tell if that monkey is off VW’s back for Passat, which is made in Tennessee.
From a driving standpoint I haven’t driven a more pleasurable mid-size car in ages. First, this pretty “Fortana Red” test car was the SEL Premium model with VW’s romping V6, a 3.6-liter number that creates a kickin’ 280 horses and 258 lb.-ft. of torque. Coupled with a 6-speed automatic the power comes on in a hurry and gives the front-drive Passat major power.
Better yet, that power is smooth, not a burst as with the standard engine, a 1.8-liter turbocharged I4 that makes 170 horses. You’ll drink more gas with the V6, 20/28 mpg vs. 23/34 mpg for the I4. But I still got 23 mpg in a mix of driving that leaned more toward city speeds. Continue reading 2017 Volkswagen Passat V6 SEL Premium→
When I last tested a Kia Optima I thought it among the best mid-size sedans I’d driven, plus it got 39.5 miles per gallon. Wow! But that was a hybrid model.
Well, the refreshed 2016 Optima is even more impressive. My one major hesitation with the previous model, a passenger’s seat that sat low in the car and was not adjustable, has been fixed. And the tested LX Turbo model got 37 mpg with its 1.6-liter I4 turbo. Sweet! Continue reading 2016 Kia Optima LX Turbo→
After all these years reviewing cars (30+) I find it hard to understand why Mazda doesn’t sell a lot more cars.
Its midsize Mazda6 is another gem that is sporty looking, handles well, provides a comfortable ride with good power and delivers extremely good fuel economy. Sounds like a lot of checkmarks in the average buyer’s “want” boxes.
Yet Toyota’s Camry and Honda’s Accord, among others, outsell the Mazda6 regularly, and have for years. Could it just be buying habits that work against other sedans that easily challenge those top dogs? Could be. But if you’re looking for a midsize family car with more pizazz, then the Mazda6 should be dead center on your radar.
I drove a sharp looking Blue Reflex (light silvery blue) Grand Touring model. That’s top of the line, so it’s loaded with standard equipment, leather seats, etc., plus this one added the $2,180 GT technology package, a cargo mat and door sill trim plates to push a $30,195 base price up to $33,395, including an $820 delivery fee. That’s almost exactly the average selling price for a new vehicle these days.
Hybrid gives us another good reason to buy a Camry
Toyota’s Camry was the best-selling car in the United States last year, topping the No. 2 Honda Accord by roughly 40,000 units.
In fact, Camry has been one of the top-selling cars for years, and for several, Toyota was happy to let it idle along. But a couple years ago Toyota decided that styling mattered and revamped Camry’s exterior helping it become one of the better styled family sedans.
Now along comes the hybrid version, which means it has a gas engine and hybrid electric system that work in conjunction to create excellent fuel economy. Add to that the Camry’s expected comfort, longevity and its newfound styling, which includes a large Audi-style grille, and, to be honest, there’s not much to fault.
The 2015 Camry remains a pleasant drive, and in my eye, much more stylish than an Accord. Toyota’s hybrid system is the best in the biz for functionality and consistently good gas mileage. I got 36.5 mpg in about a 50/50 split of city and highway. EPA rates this at 40 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. Regular unleaded is all the 2.5-liter I4 requires. There’s also an Eco mode controlled by a button on the console if you want to improve your mileage. But it does sap your power considerably. Continue reading 2015 Toyota Camry Hybrid SE→
What Legacy lacks in styling it makes up in quality feel, good interior design and performance. My Venetian Red Pearl (metallic red) test car was the top-end 3.6R Limited. Outside of an option or two, Legacy doesn’t get any better than this.
First, that number means it comes with Subaru’s strong 3.6-liter boxer 6-cylinder engine that generates 256 horsepower and 247 lb.-ft. of torque. The boxer, which is a flat engine that can be placed lower in the chassis for better balance, delivers heady power for getting on the freeway. Not sure about a boxer? Well, Porsche engines are of similar design!
Accord Hybrid quietly delivers improved gas mileage
Honda’s Accord has grown to be a larger sedan, but remains a smooth, quiet comfortable family car that will haul five adults while remaining a good family value. NOW, it adds a hybrid power system.
The tested silver Accord features a 2.0-liter i-VTEC 4-cylinder gas engine that creates 141 horses along with a hybrid electric system that combines with the gas engine to create 196 horsepower. So the power is there, but so is the gas mileage, and isn’t that why you go with a hybrid power system?
The hybrid Accord is rated 50 mpg city and 45 mpg highway. Ironically I seemed to get better gas mileage on the highway than in the city. The trip computer mileage rating dropped every time I tooled along city streets with their lengthy stoplights, especially along Blue Mound Road. Overall the car put me at 37.1 mpg and I recorded 35.2 mpg for the week, with roughly 350 miles on 10 gallons of gas, including a highway drive to Chicago where the computer put me at 40 mpg overall. I might have been disappointed by the gas mileage, but nearly every day I had the car the air temperature was below zero to start the day.
But is there sufficient power to get away from a stoplight or change lanes in a hurry if you so desire?
Yes, but on any incline, no matter how slight, and when you need real power to slip in and out of lanes on the highway or when pulling away from a stop, the car’s engine growls and sounds labored. The electronic-CVT (continuously variable transmission) seems to hesitate before building any torque. In fact, the hybrid system’s torque rating is a paltry 122. In gas-powered cars the torque rating is usually near, or better than its horsepower ranking. But acceleration through it all is adequate. Continue reading 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid→
I remember when the Chevy Citation was introduced by General Motors in 1980. This X-body car was Chevy‘s front wheel drive car. Because of the transverse mounted engine, no transmission hump, it had tons of interior space. My experience comes from working at two TV stations where the news department bought entire fleets of Citations. Those entire fleets sometimes spent more time in the shop than gathering the news. I was on a trip from Green Bay to Indianapolis to cover the 500, and on our way back, the clutch gave out just south of Chicago. So it was rush hour, on a Friday, a tow truck comes along, cha-ching, a couple hundred bucks, then tows us to a transmission shop, cha-ching, more hundred bucks. Luckily the shop had a hotel right across from it because we were going to have to stay overnight. So when I get back, this is good, you’ll like this, I hand in my expense account in and the bean counter questions the towing charge, ah, hello, you don’t make deals with tow trucks on the Illinois Tollway at rush hour, and then about the bill for the new clutch. So again, hello, no clutch, no car, so were my photographer and I supposed to push the car from shop to shop? Jeez, these guys. Don’t they know that sometimes you’re in a situation where there is no cheap?
Kind of got off topic there, back to the Citation. It was built to try to fight back the Japanese cars like the Honda Accord, still alive and kicking, and the Volkswagen Dasher, not around anymore. The Citation had through the roof sales its first year and the production lines were unable to keep up with the demand, causing huge delays in delivery to customers, some waiting nine months to receive their vehicle. Can you believe waiting nine months for a car? Well maybe a special one but not this one. First-year sales were more than 800,000, good enough for No. 1 among cars sold in the United States.
The automotive press loved it…but then didn’t
Car and Driver magazine named the Citation their 1980 Car of the Year but there was skullduggery a foot. Turns out that GM provided the writers with specially modified versions of the X-body vehicles in which the often noted torque steer (famous for) had been engineered out. Patrick Bedard of Car and Driver later admitted that they were completely surprised when they later drove a production version. In an article in 2009, the magazine put the Citation on their 10 Most Embarrassing Award Winners in Automotive History list. What a surprise, the 1983 AMC/Renault Alliance was also on the take back list. Go figure.
The reason it made the list was, because like so many other cars of that era (including AMC), were built crappy. Citation owners were having trim bits fall off in their hands, hearing their transmissions groan and seize, and the cars started rusting in a very short time. At times it seemed the suspension in some X-cars wasn’t even bolted in correctly. Because of an on-center dead spot in the steering, the ride motions grew funkier and funkier. GM tried to save the train wreck by introducing the Citation II along with the performance-enhanced Citation X-11. Chevrolet wanted to remind the car buying public that this front wheel drive newcomer was made by the same people as the Corvette and Camaro. It actually won at SCCA events running in the Showroom Stock B class. Bob McConnell drove a 1981 X-11 to SSB National Championships in 1982 and 1984. Of the 1.64 million Citation models built between 1979 and 1985, only 20,574 were in X-11 trim, meaning that surviving examples are a rare sight today.
And we’re done
GM dropped the Citation, and it’s other X-body siblings, after the 1985 model year, ultimately replaced by the L-body Berettacoupe and Corsicasedan in 1987. Better, sort of. This is a familiar car story from the 80’s, a ground-breaking car that never lived up to its billing. You have to wonder had the cars, GM’s or the other manufacturers, displayed both the initial build quality and lasting reliability of the Japanese competition, the automotive world might be very different today.
And they made a promo model
So I found this black one, an ’82, which is pretty good shape for being over 30 years old. Some minor scratches but otherwise everything was good but has little value, around 20 bucks. I suppose somebody might buy it to remind them of their time waiting in the shop. Then I found this Citation, probably a kit, and got a laugh. This guy probably hung around at the junk yards a lot. I know, I know, I’m an AMC guy so shouldn’t be throwing stones.