Produced in association with our pals at BestRide.

Car Talk Test Drive Notes

Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4WD (2017)

  • Pro List Icon Pros
  • Improved handling. Last time we drove the Pathfinder, in 2014, the handling was reminiscent of a 1972 Buick. The body lean and jello-like suspension practically made us seasick. That’s been improved, and the extreme floatiness is gone. It still handles like a large SUV, but it doesn’t feel like you’re piloting the Staten Island Ferry on corners anymore. Handling is now acceptable.

  • Comfort. A few years ago, the Pathfinder moved to a unibody, car-type platform, and gave up the truck underpinnings. That results in a very comfortable ride. The driver and passenger seats are wide and comfy, too. The cabin was well appointed in our Platinum test car, with butt heating and cooling, and all of the other luxuries one could reasonably want.

  • Power. Plenty of power from Nissan’s 284 hp, 3.5 liter V6.

  • All-wheel drive. The all-wheel-drive system in the Pathfinder normally operates as front-wheel drive to save fuel, shifting power to the rear wheels only when necessary. If you live in the snow belt, AWD is a real plus.

  • Versatility. Large, car-based SUVs, like the Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander, and Chevy Traverse are the new minivans. And while they’re not as versatile as actual minivans, they come with three rows of seats. One of the problems with an SUV-as-minivan-substitute is that it’s difficult to access the third row of seats. The Pathfinder helps by providing a second row seat that slides forward pretty easily, allowing the still-agile to clamber into the third row — where you’ll immediately want to escape. But at least getting out will be easier, too.

  • Accessibility. For passengers whose seats are adjacent to doors, the Pathfinder is easy to get in and out of. A nice, low door sill makes ingress and egress a snap.

  • Available safety features. You can get automatic emergency braking, rear cross traffic warning, and blind spot monitors. And you should.

  • Birds Eye View rear camera. Every car should have one of these. Makes backing a large SUV into a tight parking space pretty darned easy.

  • No gauge needed to fill tires. Nissan’s “Easy Fill” system is a nice innovation; the car uses the tire pressure monitoring system while you’re adding air, and honks the horn when you reach the correct pressure. May not be life altering, but it’s good thinking.

  • Con List IconCons
  • Noisy CVT. While the Continuously Variable Transmission works fine, and is unobtrusive under gentle acceleration, when you step on it, it brings on a harsh engine roar.

  • Visibility. We mentioned the bird’s eye view camera, which is great for backing up the Pathfinder. It’s available on the highest trim level Platinum. All trim levels could use it because visibility out back is limited by a smallish rear window, large D pillars, and rear seat head restraints. Don’t expect to see anything behind you without technology.

  • Lots of buttons. We often praise car makers for using hard knobs and buttons for frequently used functions (volume, temperature), so you don’t have to navigate through screen menus and take your eyes off the road to make common adjustments. Nissan went a little overboard in the Pathfinder. There’s the touchscreen/controller combo up top on the console, and then a slew of buttons below that. They’re all useful, but they’re small and there are so many that you still have to take your eyes off the road to use them.

  • Mileage. It’s nothing special. Rated at 13/25 with 18mpg overall, we got about 12 in the city, and less than 18 overall.

  • Reliability. Oddly for Nissan, this vehicle gets notably poor grades for reliability from That Major Consumer Magazine.

Other notes:

  • Want more info? Read the 2017 Nissan Pathfinder review from BestRide's Nicole Wakelin here.

  • Looking for a deal on a 2017 Nissan Pathfinder? BestRide gets your search started here.

  • Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Limited (2016)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • Easy to live with. It’s a versatile, compact, all-wheel-drive vehicle with a higher seating position that’s easy to drive and maneuver. Subaru seems to be inheriting Honda’s approach; practicality and usability uber alles.

    • Gas mileage. The Crosstrek is EPA rated at a very good 29 mpg overall. 26 city, 34 highway. We got about 27 in more stop and go city than highway driving.

    • Simple, airy interior. It feels large for the car’s small exterior footprint. The space is allocated to passengers and skimped on, a bit, in the cargo area, but that’s probably how most of us would prefer it. There’s even pretty good headroom up front. Sometimes, altitudinally-challenged fans ask us to recommend a car in which they won’t scrape their noggins. We often recommend the Crosstrek’s sibling, the Forester. But the Crosstrek isn’t bad either.

    • Price is right. Even with all-wheel drive, and the latest safety equipment including blind spot monitoring (Subaru’s $3,000 EyeSight package comes with automatic pre-collision braking), the Crosstrek feels reasonably priced for what you get. Our test Crosstrek 2.0 Limited with all that stuff stickers at $28,840.

    • Decent visibility. It’s not as good as Subaru’s Forester, but you don’t feel like you’re in a cave either, like you do with many of today’s crossovers. It has a large front windshield, good-sized side windows, and nice, big rear view mirrors. Visibility out the back window is not too bad, either, although rear side visibility is limited.

    • Easy to get in and out of. The seat height and large doors make getting in and out of the Crosstrek a snap.

    • Nice, simple ventilation controls. No adult education course required to turn the temperature up or down.

    • We love Subaru’s little “beep beep” notification when a car in front of you has moved. So if you’re stopped at a light, and you’re daydreaming (or texting with your bookie), when the car in front of you moves, the Crosstrek alerts you -- before the guy behind you in the Freightliner alerts you by sitting on his 400dB horn.

    • Subaru's reputation for durability. It’s unlikely to be quite as repair-free as a Honda or Toyota, but with a reasonable amount of care and feeding, Subarus often last 150,000 miles or more.

    • Con List IconCons
    • The CVT. The continuously variable transmission obviously contributes to the good gas mileage (3 mpg more than the same car with a 5 speed manual). But we found it to have a rubber-bandy feel sometimes at very low speeds, and brings on the engine noise when you really mash the pedal. But at modest speeds around town, it's great.

    • Noisy interior. The engine noise and road noise are pretty constant companions. You’ll make regular use of the volume knob on the entertainment system.

    • Handling is appliance-like. Good quality appliance like, but not what anybody would call sporty. We felt confident driving it. But steering is pretty numb, and the higher ground clearance makes it lean a little more in corners than the Impreza it’s based on. The rear suspension, in particular, occasionally plonked back down after hitting bumps or speed bumps. However, most people will just like how easy it is to drive and maneuver in the course of their normal, every day driving life—most of which takes place on suburban and urban streets, and not on twisty backroads at high speed.

    • Fundamentally, it’s a raised up, more rugged looking Impreza. While the Impreza handles a bit better, and comes a little cheaper, lots of people want the crossover body style now, with the more rugged look and higher seating position. Just know you’re paying a premium for it.

    • Why do Subaru’s doors always feel so light, compared to other cars? Obviously, they're safety is tested and well-rated, so they do the job. But they always feel tinny when you open and close them. It’s a mystery.

    Other notes:

  • Want more info? Read the 2016 Subaru Crosstrek 2.0i Limited review from BestRide's Philip Ruth here.

  • Ready to test drive a Crosstrek? BestRide jump-starts your search here.

  • Cadillac XT5 Platinum AWD (2017)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • Size. This car hits one of the sweet spots. It’s basically a mid-size-sedan, except that it’s a crossover—which is what everybody wants right now. You can carry four or five people in it, plus a bunch of stuff in the cargo area. There will be a lot of interest in this car.

    • Roomy, good quality interior. There’s more room in the XT5 than in the SRX it replaces. It feels larger and airier. Seats are very comfortable. The materials and switches that you see and touch are good quality. The interior remains quiet even on the highway. It has a luxury car interior.

    • Smooth power. The six-cylinder engine and eight-speed transmission are more than adequate, and operate without any distractions.

    • Handling and ride are both pretty good. Steering feels firm and precise. There’s little body lean. And on our top trim Platinum version, the automatically adjusting suspension keeps the ride comfortable, even with gigandous 20-inch wheels.

    • Decent array of safety options. You can get forward collision warning and city-speed automatic emergency braking. For some reason, the XT5 does not offer highway-speed automatic emergency braking.

    • Rear-view camera includes a helpful bird’s eye view. And on the top trim model, the Platinum, you see the rear camera view in your rear-view mirror. We did not get a chance to test it in the rain.

    • The shifter. While we think the classic PRNDL shifter is still the one to beat, Cadillac is offering a more newfangled shifter that reminds us of BMW’s. Only it made a significant improvement. With some of the finicky new shifters, like BMW’s, it’s not easy to know when you’ve engaged Reverse. Cadillac solved that problem by requiring you to pull the shifter to the left to get into Reverse. At least it’s clear.

    • Con List IconCons
    • Fuel mileage is still mediocre. The XT5 has cylinder deactivation which turns off two cylinders when they’re not needed. It also has an automatic start/stop system that shuts off the engine at traffic lights. Even with those features, and the eight-speed transmission, the XT5’s on-board computer calculated our overall mileage to be 18.8 mpg, in more city than highway driving. It listed our “best” mpg, presumably highway mileage, at only 20.2. EPA estimates 18 city, 26 highway, and 21 overall for the all-wheel-drive model.

    • Is it that different from the other new GM mid-size crossovers based on the same platform? We’d have to drive it side-by-side with the new GMC Acadia or Buick Enclave. But will it distinguish itself enough to command a premium price? Or will it just feel like a well-padded (OK, very well padded) GM mid-size crossover?

    • Most people will like the sharp design. However (and Cadillac will hate this), one thirty-something woman looked at it and said, “Oh, a bling-y mom car.”

    • Reflection from the light-colored dashboard. The dashboard is made of very nice looking leather and suede. But Cadillac opted to use a beige colored material for the top of the dashboard on our test car. It created a very distracting reflection on the windshield (but only when it was light out…if you only drive your XT5 at night, you’ll never notice it). The other oddity is that the projector hole at the front of the dashboard for the useful heads-up display created a black reflection right in front of the driver’s eyes. So you have an overall beige reflection with an odd black hole in the middle of it when you look out the windshield. So opt for the black dashboard.

    • CUE system. Still confusing. And, please: a volume knob. Por favor!

    • Price as tested: $63,845. That’s a lot, but in line with higher-end versions of its competitors, the Lexus RX, the Lincoln MKX, BMW X5 and others.

    Other notes:

  • BestRide's John Goreham looks at the new technology in the Cadillac XT5.

  • Looking for an XT5 for sale near you? BestRide gets the search started.

  • Lincoln MKC Black Label (2016)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • This is a very well-padded Ford Escape. The interior is luxury-car plush. The seats are extremely comfortable, the materials all feel high quality, and interior feels quiet and solid.

    • The MKC continues the trend of smaller luxury. Used to be that luxury cars were all big cars. Now you don’t have to pilot a boat to have your butt pampered, and get all of the luxury amenities and safety features that you want. You want heated power mirrors? We knew you did. Heated and cooled Venetian-leather 10-way power seats? We thought so. An alcantara headliner under your panoramic sunroof? Check! All in a smallish vehicle.

    • The MKC is a nice, compact size, providing adequate room in the back seat and a modest amount of room for cargo behind that. Fold the rear seat down and you can lug home all the cases of chardonnay you can possibly drink.

    • The 2.3 liter eco-boost four-cylinder, turbo-charged engine is extremely powerful. It’s rated at 285hp. But what you need to know is that this car goes when you step on it. There’s no delay, no lack of oomph anywhere. The six-speed transmission operates transparently (just how we like our automatic transmissions in luxury cars). This car has power and a smooth drivetrain.

    • Available with most of the safety equipment you should have, including a standard rear view camera that worked well. The Black Label MKC comes with blind spot monitoring and cross traffic alert. The $2,300 MKC Technology Package adds forward collision warning, adaptive cruise control, and lane keeping assist. No automatic emergency braking, unfortunately.

    • Sync 3 system is miles better than the previous Sync 2, also known as MyLincoln Touch. The new touchscreen with lots of hard button options is intuitive, easy to operate, and easy to understand. It even works.

    • The Black Label thing includes some optional equipment, some exclusive labels, and some Black-Label-Club-only services, like getting your car washed at the dealership anytime you want. Now, if you can find the Lincoln dealer in downtown Manhattan, maybe you can drop it off for a car wash while you go to dinner and the theater, thereby not only getting your car cleaned, but saving $120 in parking!

    • Mileage was not bad. The all-wheel-drive MKC is rated at 18 city, 26 highway. We got a little over 23 mpg in more-highway-than-city driving.

    • Con List IconCons
    • The passenger compartment seems oddly detached from the chassis. The Ford Escape, on which the MKC is based, is a pretty good-handling little crossover. But in order to coddle the MKC riders in luxury, we guess they put such soft bushings in there that when the MKC turns, it takes a second for the passenger compartment to catch up. It’s an odd feeling that none of the optional suspension settings was able to eliminate. The MKC is utterly smooth and isolating when going straight on smooth pavement, but take a corner or hit a bump and the body rolls.

    • Early reports of unreliability have plagued the MKC. We don’t see enough of them in the shop to confirm it, but the major consumer magazine that tracks these things shows a lot of red circles in its first year. It’s something to keep an eye on.

    • Lincoln has adopted a push-button shifter system that lines up push-buttons for P-R-N-D-and-L vertically down the left side of the center touch screen. All the buttons are the same size and shape. So it eliminates your ability to operate the shifter by feel, and it’s pretty easy to press the wrong button. We were once in the middle of the three-point u-turn, and hit Park instead of Reverse. Of course, straddling the opposite lane of traffic wasn’t a good place to Park. It seems like a gimmick, and not a particularly good one.

    • The price seems somewhat, how shall we put this? Outrageous. Yes, it’s the top trim level, and yes, you can get all the free car washes you want. But $57,900 for the smallest Lincoln crossover? If they straightened out the relationship between the turning wheels and the passenger compartment, it’d be a pretty darned nice car. But even then, at $10,000 less, you’d have to shop around before pulling the trigger.

    Other notes:
    Read the review of the 2015 MKC from BestRide's Lyndon Johnson.

    Audi A4 (2017)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • Ride comfort. Audi’s ride comfort is usually pretty good, if on the firm side of comfortable. With the redesigned 2017 A4, it's a notch closer to straight-out comfortable now, without giving up any handling attributes. The A4 absorbs bumps easily and smoothly—it even passed the speed bump test with flying colors. We mostly drove it in “Automatic” drive mode. You can also choose Comfort or Dynamic, too. Dynamic is Audi’s term for uncomfortable. The Automatic setting seemed to leave it in Comfort most of the time, which is where most people will want it.

    • Handling is typically good for Audi. Steering is precise, cornering is excellent, with no body lean. Maneuvering it and parking in city traffic is easy. It’s sporty and fun to drive, even in Automatic suspension mode. An excellent all-wheel-drive system is available for those who live in slip-slidey America.

    • Dual-clutch transmission. We’ve driven a bunch of dual-clutch automatic transmissions over the last few years (they purport to add both responsiveness and fuel economy), and many of them were flawed. They would shift abruptly at low speed, or cause an unexpected lurch. The Audi’s is the best we’ve driven to date. It feels like an excellent automatic transmission. It goes mostly unnoticed, which is what you want from an automatic transmission.

    • Great interior. It feels like a comfortable room you enjoy spending time in. It feels high end, but not claustrophobic or overly decorated. A nice place to spend that part of your life that you spend driving. Front seats are very comfortable. In addition, it’s nice and quiet, even on the highway.

    • Visibility is pretty good. The cabin feels airy, and open.

    • Tech. Audi offers something they’re calling a “virtual cockpit.” It replaces the instrument cluster with a high-quality screen, and computer-generates the speedometer, tachometer, and other relevant information. It’s somewhat configurable, so if you want the navigation map to be large, you can reduce the size of the speedo and tach to make room. It’s a nice idea, and it works. The quality of the screen is such that there really is no difference between seeing the speedometer on the screen and seeing a real, live speedometer.

    • Heads up display. The Audi has an optional Heads Up Display that projects key information, like speed, in the driver’s field of vision, appearing as if it’s sitting at the front end of the hood. It’s helpful.

    • Excellent safety options. Not cheap, but you can get all of the safety features you want and, in our opinion, should have now. Forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring and more.

    • Very good, clear, high-quality back-up camera that comes on quickly and works very well.

    • Con List IconCons
    • Questions about tech reliability. We love the “virtual cockpit,” but anyone want to guess what it’s going to cost to replace if that screen or computer buys the farm? Or how long it’s typical lifetime will be? We won’t know the answer to that last question for several years, at least.

    • Automatic shifter is a little weird. I guess the problem is that it looks exactly like a standard automatic shift lever, but it doesn’t operate like it. You push it forward for Reverse, pull it back for Drive. Then you push a button on the handle for Park. In a week of testing, we never quite got used to it.

    • Although the redesigned A4 is a scoche larger than the old one, it’s still on the small end of mid-sized. Rear seat room is adequate, but by no means copious. There are carve outs in the front seat-backs to create more knee room. But taller people will feel the headliner.

    • It looks exactly the same as the old Audi A4. Whereas Audis often seem somewhat fashionable, this redesign is particularly conservative. And the car itself is fairly conservative looking. That’s neither good nor bad, unless you want people to know you ran out and got the newest Audi.

    • Fuel economy: EPA estimated fuel economy is very good. 25 city, 33 highway, 28 overall. But we got a lot less than that. Granted it was almost all city driving, but our average was closer to 19 or 20. We’ll be curious to see what others report as more of these new A4s get on the road.

    • Price: As Ricky would say, “That’s ’spensive, Lucy.” With the Premium package, Technology Package and a few other add-ons, the sticker price of our test A4 was 51 large. Sure, it’s comparable to fully loaded competitors like BMW and Mercedes, but those are expensive, too.

    Jeep Renegade Limited (2016)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • Cute. Like the Mini, Jeep has designed a vehicle that looks different from all the other compact crossover offerings. It’s immediately recognizable. It’s more cute than tough—which is a departure for Jeep--but it’s boxy, unique, and, like the look or not, stylish. It’s built and designed by Fiat, and shares its underpinnings with the Fiat 500X. And it looks, somehow, like exactly what you’d get if you crossed a Jeep with a Fiat.

    • Versatile. It’s a small, all-wheel-drive (optional) vehicle, with a surprising amount of cargo room in the back, and even more cargo room if you fold down the rear seats. It’s boxy and tall, which maximizes interior space.

    • Controls. Controls are well laid out, easy to understand, and easy to use. The heating and cooling controls are straight forward, with large round knobs. The shifter is straight forward. The larger UConnect touch screen system is one of the more logical and easy to navigate systems on the market. The smaller version that comes in the Renegade isn’t quite as good. It’s a little harder to see, and not quite as well thought out. But it’s not bad. Jeep also provides a feature we love; volume controls on the back of the steering wheel, right where your right index and middle fingers naturally rest.

    • Pretty good drivetrain. The Jeep had the nine-speed automatic transmission that we really hated in the Chrysler 200. It felt improved in the Jeep. We felt some shifts, but there were none of the annoying, harsh, inappropriate shifts that we experienced in the 200. The 2.4 liter, 180 hp, four cylinder engine is not fast, but it feels adequate in most circumstances, especially in town.

    • Available true, off-road capability. You can order the Renegade with the Trailhawk package, that, by all reports, can handle real off-road circumstances as well as other Jeeps (and we mean more than the unpaved driveway to your ski house).

    • Two big removable sun roofs. They really open up the car. But they’re not sliding sunroofs like most cars have. They’re removable panels. So if you’re on the highway, and run into a rainstorm, or get tired of the wind, closing the sunroof will require pulling over and getting the panels out of the cargo compartment by the side of the road — or at the Denny's at Exit 8.

    • Available Safety Equipment. Not all cars in this price range allow you to order pre-collision warning and automatic braking. Jeep lets you have both in a $33,000 version of this car. Blindspot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert are also available, and recommended to counter visibility issues.

    • Available luxury features. Our test Renegade had dual climate zones, heated seats, and a heated steering wheel.

    • Con List IconCons
    • Ride and handling are mediocre. The ride is on the firm side. While the Renegade feels solid, road imperfections sometimes create a side-to- side motion, which leads the suddenly swaying driver to shake the steering wheel, which leads to more side-to-side motion. Cornering is fine, but nothing special. Most cars this size feel easy to drive and maneuver. The Renegade, on the contrary, drives bigger than it is, and is never fun to drive. At least on-road.

    • Visibility. The Renegade has some of the largest A pillars we’ve ever seen. "A pillars" are the columns on either side of the windshield. They are thick enough to block your view of crossing pedestrians or other obstacles. The view out back is even worse. Especially out the rear sides. Backing up the car into traffic or across a sidewalk feels dangerous, even with the backup camera.

    • Mileage is OK, but not great. We got about 21 mpg in more city than highway driving. That’s what EPA says you’ll get in the city. They predict 24 overall and 27 highway. Other compact crossovers, even some larger ones, do better.

    • Too cute? There are little Jeep icons everywhere, and hidden Jeepy Easter eggs to be found. Sometimes it seems a bit much — like the fake mud splat (we kid you not) in the redline area of the tachometer.

    • Reliability. Both Chrysler and Fiat have long had lower than average reliability scores. What happens when you put them together? Who knows. Chrysler has proclaimed several times over the years that they’ve addressed their quality issues, only to leave us disappointed. Have they done it this time? We won’t know for years, but we have to assume they haven’t until they’ve proven otherwise. The truth is there are larger, better handling compact crossovers like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forrester that have long records of going 150,000 fairly trouble-free miles. They don’t have the style of the Renegade, or the off-road capability if you really need that. But they have great track records of reliability.

    • Range prediction. This is a small complaint. Like many cars, the Jeep has a “range” indicator, that predicts how many more miles you can go before refueling. But rather than taking your average mpg, and doing the calculation, the Jeep constantly recalculates your range depending on how hard you’re stepping on the gas. This felt less than useful, and it constantly changed. One second you have 136 miles before refueling, a second later as you’re coasting, you have 219 miles to go.

    Toyota 4Runner Trail Premium 4x4 (2016)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • This thing is a beast. It really goes anywhere, and crawls over any surface. If you need an enclosed vehicle that handles steep, barely passable roads, the 4Runner will do it. And they’ve updated the interior enough that you’re not driving a stone age horse-cart the rest of the time.

    • Part of the week long road test happened to include carrying a full load of cargo and people down a very steep, narrow, potholed dirt road down the side of a canyon to a river bank. Other vehicles couldn’t make it, but the 4Runner didn’t break a sweat. It even backed up the hill without skidding at all.

    • Using the electronics that already work the stability control and ABS systems, Toyota has added several, electronically controlled off-road modes that make this thing even more unstoppable.  We never had to use them, because even in basic, 4WD-high, the 4Runner never faltered.

    • Toyota durability and reliability.

    • Reminds us of what the Toyota Land Cruiser used to be, before Toyota upscaled it and starting charging $80,000 bucks for it. The 4Runner Trail Premium is more of a basic, capable, non-luxurious, go-anywhere truck. Although the definition of basic is now $41K, and includes things like a touch screen, Bluetooth, and a few modern safety features.  

    • Good amount of room in the cargo area, especially with the back seats folded down. Sliding platform helps with loading things.

    • We got a little more than 18 MPG combined.  For a real truck, that isn’t awful. The much more comfortable (but less off-road competent) Highlander only gets 20 combined. 

    • This thing looks capable.  It looks like it could go absolutely anywhere.Think Tonka. Brings out the eight-year-old boy in most grown men. Looks even better when it’s dirty.

    • Con List IconCons
    • As great as it is off road, it’s highly compromised on road. The ride, handling, and braking are distinctly truck-like. They reflect the 4Runner’s original pickup-truck roots. We wouldn’t recommend the 4Runner as an everyday vehicle unless you really need its capabilities. For people who travel 99 percent on road, you can do better.

    • Plus, unless you’re actually using this thing to do what it’s designed to do, you’ll probably come off looking like a poseur. I mean, who needs a quasi-monster truck to go to Starbucks for a decaf latte with 1 percent milk?

    • Women are either intimidated or uninterested in it.  So if you’re looking for a vehicle to help you attract women, this is not it. If you’re looking to attract men, however, this is your ride.

    • It’s tall. Not a single person entered this vehicle without emitting a grunt while heaving him or herself up onto the seat.

    • Rear cargo floor is high off the ground, too, which makes loading heavy objects difficult.

    • The large, off-roady tires are noisy and contribute to loose handling on the highway.

    • The engine, while it has plenty of grunt off road, wheezes a bit in normal highway driving. It’s an old-style, big, four-liter V6. In these days of much smaller, twin turbo V6s and powerful turbo 4s, this engine feels like it’s ready for an update. 

    • Touch screen is small, and it’s not always easy to make selections while driving.

    Ford Fusion Hybrid Titanium (2017)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • Good looks. The Fusion stands out in a sea of Camrys and Accords. If you’re looking for a mid-size, family car with some style, you’ll like the Fusion.

    • Very good handling. It’s almost sporty. Steering is precise and cornering is surprisingly flat. It’s got a good balance of handling and comfort.

    • Ride. Very good ride. Comfortable and composed over lots of types of road surfaces.

    • Quiet: The cabin stays very quiet, with the exception of when the gasoline engine revs up. Then you hear a bit of harshness. But mostly, it’s pretty damned serene inside. It’s especially quiet on the highway, compared to the Camry and Accord.

    • Mileage: We got a combined 38 mpg. And it’s a large car. That’s impressive.

    • Range: After a fill up, the Fusion Hybrid’s range (how far you can go before needing to fill up again) was listed at a phenomenal 489 miles. We like electric cars, but this kind of range reminds us that hybrids still give you the best of both worlds…actually better than either world alone.

    • vSync 3: We love that’s it not Sync 2. It’s vastly improved, from what we could tell in our week-long test. Most importantly, it’s now not something you'll hate about your car. The controls are logical, and easier to use without driving off the road, or smashing your fist against the touch screen.

    • Price: Our loaded Fusion Hybrid Titanium stickers for just over $35,000. It’s a large car with great mileage, power leather seats, European-esque handling, a 12-speaker sound system, adaptive cruise control, pre-collision warning, pedestrian detection with automatic emergency brake assist, blind-spot monitoring and a bunch of other stuff.

    • Con List IconCons
    • It’s a pretty large car. If you’re looking for small-car maneuverability, you might think carefully. Plus, the interior doesn’t quite match the exterior in terms of size—some of the size is devoted to style. Rear seat room is certainly adequate, but not as roomy as you’d think for a car this long.

    • Visibility is limited by sleek styling. Fortunately, there’s a rear camera (standard on our Titanium version) and blind spot monitoring (optional) to assist you.

    • Reliability, historically hasn’t been as good as Toyota’s.

    • The gasoline engine does make a buzzing sound when it’s revving, which may bother some people. It’s not annoyingly loud, but it’s noticeable.

    BMW X1 xDrive 28i (2016)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • Size. This is exactly the kind of vehicle that a lot of people want right now. It’s a compact crossover. It looks like an SUV, but drives more like a car. It’s big enough to hold four, maybe five passengers. Plus it has a cargo compartment in the back where you can easily toss a Golden Retriever, an off-road stroller, or a couple of boxes of recycled “Manatee Weekly” magazines.

    • Looks. It’s a good-looking vehicle. Looks very upscale and modern, but not controversial. Classy looking. The combination of size, styling, and BMW’s reputation makes us think they’re going to sell a gajillion of these.

    • Cornering. Like most BMWs, the X1 holds the road. Cornering is good for a crossover on twisty roads, and at higher speed on highway curves. It provides a confident feeling ride.

    • Transmission. The X1 features BMW’s excellent 8-speed automatic transmission that operates mostly unnoticeably.

    • Interior room. Unlike other BMWs, this entry level crossover is based on a front-wheel-drive platform that it shares with Mini. That opens up a lot of room, especially up front, where driver and passenger have far more room than they have in rear-wheel-drive BMWs. Even the back seat is pretty comfortable for two.

    • Interior looks. It’s got a classic BMW interior. The controls, switches, and materials are a good match for more expensive BMWs.

    • Mileage. The X1 is rated at an impressive 22 city, 32 highway, and 26 overall. We got just about 24 in mostly city driving.

    • Con List IconCons
    • Noise. The first thing we noticed about the X1 (after admiring the looks, and BMW-like interior) was the engine noise. It seems loud inside the cabin, and doesn’t sound like a luxury car engine. It’s a 2.0-liter four cylinder that you’ll also find in the Mini Countryman, where refinement expectations are a little lower. But it’s odd to hear an engine that sounds like something in an economy car in a BMW.

    • More Noise. The second thing we noticed was the road noise. Once we got going, the road noise was pretty loud. If we were advising BMW, we’d put “lots more insulation” on the list for the next version of the X1.

    • Ride. It’s fine, but in no way cushy. The ride leans towards stiff, which you really notice on less-than-perfect roads. Often, that’s the price you pay for a great-handling car. But the X1 is good handling, not great handling. Despite its solidity and cornering ability, it somehow doesn’t feel sporty. If you’re looking for “fun to drive,” or “very comfortable,” you might be a little disappointed. If you buy it for the styling, the packaging and the prestige, you’ll be fine.

    • Price. BMW is known for its expensive options, and our test car, with a base price of $34,800, rolled out the door at $45,200. The add-ons included navigation, LED adaptive headlights, a heated steering wheel, a rear view camera (optional!), partial automatic braking, premium sound, and a bunch of other nice stuff. Still, that’s a lot for a crossover that doesn’t quite drive like a premium vehicle.

    • Lack of Standard Safety Equipment. The rear view camera is optional, and requires you to buy a $1,000-plus Driver Assistance Package. The basic forward collision warning and automatic braking system require an additional $700 package plus the navigation system at $1,200. And if you want the full speed automatic braking option (which we strongly recommend), plop down another $1,000 on top of that. Strangely, no blind spot monitors are available, even while we’re seeing them on Nissans that cost half the price of the X1.

    Toyota Mirai (2016)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • Nothing comes out the "exhaust pipe" except water (OK there’s no real exhaust pipe). The technology absolutely works. There’s a fuel cell up front that converts the hydrogen into electricity and water. Every once in a while, the Mirai will purge its water. So it doesn’t "make water" at an inopportune moment (like while you’re picking up your date, or in your garage), the Mirai has an H20 button that allows you to preemptively purge the water holding tank.

    • You get a 250-mile range on a tankful of 5kg of hydrogen. Compared to other electric vehicles that are now just crossing the 100 mile range, you forget about range anxiety altogether when you’re driving the Mirai. At least until you get down to 50 miles left and you have to leave enough fuel to get to the one area hydrogen station that’s 20 miles away.

    • Quick refueling. Unlike battery powered cars, “recharging” takes about the same amount of time as refueling a gasoline-powered car. It’s a little slower, because the pump turns on and off while pressurizing the tank. But it’s five to eight minutes, not not five to eight hours. That also means long trips are possible in certain parts of the country, with some planning.

    • Wonderfully smooth power delivery.

    • Solid, comfortable ride, and pretty flat cornering. Comfortable seats, luxury feel. It’s a very heavy car at 4,500 pounds, and the weight makes it feel planted. We didn’t take it on any twisties, but around town, the center of gravity felt reasonably low and the body lean at modest speeds was minimal.

    • Good room for four adults, with very comfortable back seats.

    • Prius-like controls inside, with more luxury.

    • Full suite of modern safety features including automatic emergency braking.

    • Rebates galore. Hydrogen cars have a cart and horse problem. Until there are more hydrogen fueling stations around, people won’t buy hydrogen fuel cell cars. Until more people buy hydrogen fuel cell cars, filling stations won’t add hydrogen. The solution? Incentives galore. You can get up to $8,000 from the feds, $5,000 from the state of California, and $7,500 from Toyota. That turns a $58,000 car into a $38,000 car. Or a $499 a month lease for three years. Plus Toyota will give you up to $15,000 worth of fuel over the first three years, good for about 15,000 miles a year by our calculation.

    • Con List IconCons
    • Excuse me, can you tell me where the nearest hydrogen station is? (Nope.) While the technology is great, whether you can even consider a car like the Mirai depends on how close you are to a hydrogen filling station. From what we could discover, there’s one in Massachusetts, one in Connecticut, one in South Carolina, and a couple of dozen in CA, with Los Angeles pretty well covered. More are planned for California in the next year or two, which is the key market for the Mirai right now. But Toyota says the Northeast is next for growth in hydrogen stations.

    • Hydrogen Fueling Station Locations

    • Fuel is pricey. At our local hydrogen station, fuel was available for $16.78/kg. The Mirai takes 5kg, and after refilling, the on-board computer predicted a range of about 250 miles. That comes out to about 33 cents a mile in fuel costs. Compare that to the slightly larger Toyota Camry, which gets 28 mpg overall. At three dollars a gallon, the Camry’s fuel cost is about 11 cents a mile. A Camry Hybrid, rated at 40 mpg, would cost you about 7.5 cents a mile. Toyota will pay for your gas for the first three years, so your cost for those first three years is zero. But after that, you’ll presumably be paying a premium.

    • Large A pillars can block out pedestrians when you’re turning right in city driving.

    • The small- to mid-sized Mirai weighs about 4,500 pounds. A bunch of that mass comes from the fuel cell. That weight gives it a very solid feel on the road. But you can also feel the front-heaviness on sharper corners.

    • Other than that, there’s nothing to dislike about the Mirai. If you live near a hydrogen station, you could become a very happy early adopter.


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    I bought a brand new e-Golf, Nov 2015. Drove it 4 days and broke! It's been 1 month in the shop and still not repaired.

    Volkswagen America answer (3rd week) - We will never give you a new car, that's why it has a warranty. - We will not give your money back. - We don't have to provide you a loaner nor pay for your transportation while your car is being repaired. - You will not get compensated for anything. - You owe us this month lease payment, btw!

    Volkswagen America answer (4th week): We are not allowed to talk you. Get an attorney to reach out to us.

    Still considering to buy an e-Golf?? Good luck!

    Crispy Critter

    You guys need to do a review of the 2016 Ford Focus RS when it comes out this summer. It's been five years since you've done a Focus review, and this (actually it's brother) is one of the best selling cars on earth. My impression is that if you think the BRZ/FRS is fun to drive you'll be blown away by the Focus RS.

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