Mazda knows how to build cars we like. From the rewarding 6 and consistently excellent 3 to the newcomer CX-5, which brings sporting dynamics to the crossover market, the little Japanese manufacturer keeps giving us what we want. So you can bet we were excited to get behind the wheel of the new 41 mpg third-generation 3 recently. Of course you’ll want to watch the video for all the details, but we’ll drop a spoiler here: if you buy another small car, you’ve made the wrong choice.
The Passat has been a comfortable and roomy family sedan since we were gifted our own built-in-America version a few years back. What it has lacked is a good base engine and a bit of style. The Passat Sport aims to address both with a few design flairs, and thankfully, a new 1.8-liter turbo four to replace the lethargic I5. Are the updates enough to warrant a recommendation? You’ll have to watch to find out, but if passenger space is high on your priority list then the Passat should be high on your test drive list.
The Nissan Rogue didn’t earn any fans around our office when we drove it last year, and we actually encouraged prospective buyers to hold off for the inevitable redesign that we hoped would address many of the model’s shortcomings. Now that we’ve driven the all new 2014 Rogue, you’ll be glad to know that if you listened to our advice (and why wouldn’t you?!) you’re going to feel a lot better about sending that payment off every month! Watch our video review to find out why.
The full-size SUV market is shrinking, but Nissan is still trying to get a piece of it with their commodious Armada. We came to realize during our week with a fully-loaded Platinum version that they have their work cut out for them going up against major new players like the 2015 Chevrolet Tahoe and Ford Expedition. The problem is that you don’t even have to be in the car review business to see the Armada’s shortcomings. The engine is down on power with only 317 hp on board this nearly three ton people mover, and unfortunately the outdated 5-speed automatic can only partner with it to return 12 mpg city and 18 mpg highway. That’s an expensive reality even by class standards standards. The disappointment continues inside with subpar ergonomics, materials that are out of place in a $54k vehicle and a small infotainment screen. Now it’s not all bad by any means. We loved the comfortable seats, the second row DVD screens and the 2-speed transfer case gives the Armada a fighting chance in the worst weather Old Man Winter can drop on you. But was it enough to earn our recommendation in the end? You’re five minutes from finding out.
For as long as we can remember the Corolla has been forgettable. Of course, that abstract truth hasn’t stopped Toyota from selling millions of them over the model’s long life. Still, we’d argue it’s more a testament to their ability to build a reliable car at a low price and take care of their customers better than just about anyone than some burning desire American’s have to make 60 monthly payments on a new beige Corolla. However, for 2014 Toyota is looking to inject a bit of desire into the Corolla lineup with trims like the sporty S we recently had in the AT Garage. Did we like what we found? You’ll have to find the play button to find out.
If the weather in your area condemns the Corvette to the garage for half the year, there’s something to be said for continuing to satisfy your Driving Enthusiast desires with an all-wheel drive turbocharged rally car for the street. Although Subaru is just now getting back into the game with its all-new WRX, Mitsubishi has continued to offer the Evo to fans who like their performance rude and crude and turbocharged to within one psi of meltdown: i.e. guys under 30. The biggest benefit in our eyes is that one of the best all-wheel drive systems in a car under $40k is standard and gives the Evo the traction needed to laugh in Old Man Winter’s face. Unfortunately, you’ve got to be a hardcore breed to look past the Mad Mitsu’s glaring shortcomings, but we’re still glad we’ve got the choice to get in touch with our inner hooligan and drift around our own personal rally stage. Snow be damned.
Toyota deserves some credit just for continuing to duke it out in the full-size pickup market. That’s no easy task when the market is dominated by offerings from Ford, Chevy and Ram and all of the competition seems to roll out annual upgrades to stay ahead in a fiercely competitive segment. Toyota let us have a go in their redesigned-for-2014 Tundra and there’s a lot to like, starting with the stout V8, slick 6-speed auto and an interior that should all but erase memories of the cramped pickup cabs we endured in the ’90s. Not everything catches the class average though, like an EPA combined rating of 15 mpg and some interior materials that leave a bit to be desired in something designated Platinum Edition. For our full opinion you’ll need to tune into our video review above.
Mazda Goodness Just Keeps Getting Better
We’ve been fans of the Mazda6 since the start. Our Senior Editor even parted with his own hard-earned money to put a rare manual 5-door hatchback in his fleet. You’ll understand our excitement then when the opportunity came to review the latest generation of the enthusiasts’ favored family sedan. Unfortunately, winter weather prevented us from strapping on the camera equipment for a full video review so what follows are some brief thoughts from our week with a fully loaded Grand Touring trim ($29,695 base / $33,145 as-tested) and a plea for Mazda to send it back up when spring has sprung. Read more…
Exploring the Lowlands in the new Highlander
Ironically, Toyota invited us to the lowlands of Charleston, S.C. to test its new Highlander and while bounding through sprawling plantations and zipping around historic downtown streets something became clear: the all-new Highlander is very good. That can only help sales accelerate considering 2013 was the final year of the outgoing model and unit growth was still increasing to the tune of more than 120k last year. With a focus on providing smart and functional details for family use, Toyota wants to cement the Highlander’s reputation as a first-class family hauler for moms and attract some new dads to Toyota showrooms with bolder styling and improved performance. Read more…
The unveiling of the 2015 Cadillac ATS coupe at the NAIAS is a significant car in more ways than one. First, it is a sign that Cadillac is serious about going head-to-head with the European premium brands by offering multiple body styles off with its lowest cost offering. Second, it shows that Cadillac is committed to the flair that a coupe body style offers to the buyer that is clearly buying more car than needed. For a short while it appeared Cadillac had given up on the coupe bodystyle having offered four coupes in 1992 to only one by 1994 only to surprise the world with its dramatic CTS coupe in 2010. Indeed, if we trace back the heritage bestowed upon the ATS coupe we see that this latest Cadillac has much to live up to. Read more…