Produced in association with our pals at BestRide.

Car Talk Test Drive Notes

Chrysler Pacifica Limited (2017)

  • Pro List Icon Pros
  • The minivan rules. There really is nothing as versatile as a minivan. Americans have embraced the three-row SUV as a less emasculating alternative, but it really can’t compete with the minivan in sheer versatility. The sliding doors, with their huge openings, make getting in and out easy — whether you’re a geezer with bad knees, or a sleep-deprived parent with a car seat in one hand and a drooly whiner in the other. The third row is actually comfortable (OK, comfortable enough) for adults. And, unlike a three-row SUV, getting to the third row is not a contortionists exercise—particularly in our Pacifica Limited model, which had two captain’s chairs in the second row. You just walk between them to get to the back. For flexibility and ease of use, nothing beats a minivan.

  • Stow n’ Go seats. Chrysler vans have long featured this easy-to-use, innovative seating system, where the second row of seats drops completely into the floor. And it does so easily. Other vans require you to remove seats, and store them where? At Costco, where you’ll come back for them later? The seating makes it easy to configure the van quickly, for passengers, cargo, or a combination of the two.

  • Interior. We drove the top of the line “Limited” version, and the difference inside the van, compared to the old Town and Country, is night and day. There are quality materials everywhere up front, versus the old hard plastic. There are lots of bins and storage cubbies. There are heated leather seats and a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel. There’s a modern looking dashboard and console. The only downside is when little Eleanor dumps her oatmeal inside this van, and you don’t find the petrified remains until 10 weeks later and you might feel a little worse than when she barfed in your old Town and Country where everything was plastic.

  • Exterior. OK, it’s still definitely a minivan, but Chrysler has improved the van’s appearance quite a bit. It’s probably the best looking minivan now. Yes, that’s like saying The Zune is Microsoft’s best music player. But it is a significant improvement.

  • Handling. This is a large vehicle. But the handling is pretty good. It’s not sloppy. The van responds quickly to steering inputs and handles well at moderate speeds. The ride is pretty good, too. It absorbs road imperfections pretty well, with only an occasional slap from the rear suspension when going over bumps.

  • The nine-speed transmission works. Chrysler has had a lot of complaints about this nine-speed transmission since it introduced it a few years ago, and this is the first Chrysler vehicle we’ve driven where it seems to work well. What you want from an automatic transmission is to not notice it. And we mostly didn’t notice this transmission. It had an occasional clunky downshift at lower speeds, but they seemed to have mostly fixed the programming. Durability is yet to be determined.

  • Visibility. It’s not bad. There’s a large windshield, which offers a good view of the road ahead (though the shape of the front of the car prevents you from seeing exactly where the front is). Front side windows are large, and even the rear window is large and easy to see out of. It’s rare, these days, that you can turn around and see anything out a rear window. But you can in the Pacifica. The pillars are pretty large, both the front A pillars and the particularly the huge rear D pillars. The optional surround view camera available in higher-end model helps tremendously with parking.

  • U-Connect. Chrysler’s infotainment system is pretty darned good. It’s clear and intuitive. The one ergonomic issue we had was with the controls for seat and steering wheel heat (I know, you’re weeping for us!). But we did test the Pacifica in the winter, and, dammit, we want our butts warmed! Instead of hard controls for these features, you have to select a sub-menu, which we found to be a pain in our chilly tuchuses. The controls do come up briefly, after you start the engine. But if you don’t respond quickly, that menu page disappears and you have to navigate back in to find them.

  • Let us also not pass up the opportunity to praise Chrysler for two wonderful conveniences that it put on almost all of its vehicles. 1) Volume controls on the back side of the steering wheel. The rocker switch is exactly where your index and middle finger rest when you’re holding the steering wheel, making one of the most used controls available without having to take your eyes off the road. 2) A lit up USB connection. USB connections tend to be in out of the way places. And they’re small. So we fight with them, by braille, to fit our USB cables into them. Chrysler supplies USB plugs with its perimeter lit up, making it a breeze to plus things in. Bravo.

  • Con List IconCons
  • Safety systems optional. While the most highly recommended safety features are available (pre-collision warning, automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning), they’re optional, and only available on the higher end models. That $2,000 package also includes the extremely desirable Surround View camera system.

  • Not so mini. If you’ve owned a minivan from the last decade or so, you know they’re no longer mini. This is a big vehicle, as big as a large SUV or an old, full-sized car. That makes it tricky to maneuver in small places, like parking garages, congested city streets and turns with curbstones. In the suburbs, you’ll probably do fine. But make no mistake, this is a large rig.

  • Noise. Although it’s not noisy inside per se, and they’ve done a decent job with sound insulation, the noise of the engine cuts through to the driver and passenger. The 3.6-liter Chrysler V6 is a little bit harsh and gravely—particularly compared to Honda and Toyota’s engines--and the sound is omnipresent when you accelerate. It’s not terrible, but it is a persistent presence. We also noticed wind noise at highway speed, which, perhaps, is to be expected in a tall vehicle.

  • Reliability Questions. Chrysler minivans have traditionally been at the bottom of the reliability rankings for their class. They’ve also had the tendency to develop lots of squeaks and rattles as they get older, suggesting that build quality had room for improvement. Will the new Pacifica be more reliable and more durable? How the hell should we know? We’ll find out when a bunch of these things get 150,000 miles on them, and you guys tell us. In the meantime, if you believe that past performance is the best predictor of future performance, you would have good reason to be wary, until proven otherwise. An extended warranty might be a wise hedge.

Other notes:

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

  • Looking for a Chrysler Pacifica near you? BestRide jump-starts your search here.

  • Cadillac CTS-V (2017)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • This is an impressive performance car. But let’s be clear from the outset: You’re not getting one of these. This is a toy for a small fraction of "the 1 percent"—the fraction whose wives said no to a Corvette. The CTS-V's competitors are cars like the BMW M5, the E63 AMG Mercedes, and Lexus GS-F (as you can see, spending 110 grand buys you lots of extra letters).

    • Handling. This is a very fast car that is more than just very fast. Unlike Cadillac's ocean going vessels of decades past, this thing holds the road like Amy Schumer holds her booze. It has a massive amount of grip, with fat, sticky tires all around, and a suspension that feels like it could handle high speeds on a race track. You won’t get to use most of this car’s abilities in your civilian life, but knowing they’re there may help you feel a little more smug at your next IRS audit.

    • Power. With 640 horsepower from a 6.2 liter supercharged V8, the CTS-V’s motto could be: No waiting. You step on the gas at any speed, at any time, in any universe here or forever known, and it pushes you back into the driver’s seat, responding with a howl and a quick downshift or three. The eight-speed automatic works mostly seamlessly, downshifting several gears at a time, when you stomp on it, and operating unobtrusively in relaxed driving. We had one incident, in a week of testing, when the transmission seem momentarily confused and then clunked into low gear.

    • Highway. This is not a quiet highway cruiser, but it does really hunker down on the highway and handle like a sports car there. The power on tap means passing is a breeze. And while not a Lexus, it’s not what we’d call punishing either.

    • Comfort. OK, it’s not cushy. But the comfortable seats do offset the firm ride. The CTS-V could work as a daily driver. It has various electronic suspension settings, and in Touring mode, it resembles a car. While the cockpit is not particularly spacious, it’s big enough for most people, and there’s good leg room in the back, although seat cushions are a little low back there. Trunk room is fine. Overall, it’s a nice sized car. Most people will find it roomy enough and pretty comfortable.

    • Interior. The interior is pretty darned luxurious. Our test car had the Luxury Package, featuring tasteful suede all over the place (if “tasteful suede” is not a contradiction in terms). The car is oriented towards the driver, with a good driving position, and easy access to the necessary controls. The optional Recaro seats in our test car are heavily bolstered, presumably to keep driver and passenger from sliding around during stupid cornering . (Can you imagine taking a sharp, high-speed turn in an old Cadillac DeVille? You’d slide across the bench seat and have your elbow out the passenger side window). But bolsters tend to be troublesome for those “wide of load,” so keep that in mind before ordering the Recarros, big dudes.

    • Safety features and heads up display. You get all the good stuff on the CTS-V, and it’s all standard. Forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, cross traffic alert, etc. You also get a very good heads up display that projects your speed, navigation, and other key information in front of you, appearing as if it’s floating at the far end of your hood. Adjustable height, tilt, and brightness make it very useful.

    • Con List IconCons
    • 12.2 mpg overall. About half city and half highway. Even with cylinder deactivation, that’s the price for 640 horsepower. Oh, that and 110 grand. Actually, to be fair, the CTS-V starts at $86,000. Our test car came with $23,000 worth of options, none of which we considered essential (lots of suede, three-zone climate control rather than two, huge sunroof, etc.).

    • Too much. It’s a complete waste of performance for most people. If you live in a town or city, you’ll never get your money’s worth out of this car. If your daily commute includes a stretch of the Autobahn, it would be a different story. But it’s doesn’t. The CTS-V is really overkill. Most people will sit in traffic in it while it gulps 11 miles to the gallon.

    • The CUE system. The CUE system is still pretty awful. It seems like Cadillac has made a few adjustments, but it’s no fun to navigate. Our car's touch screen had finger prints all over it by the end of our week long test. And CUE’s intuitiveness pales in comparison to, for instance, the U-Connect system from Fiat Chrysler (which has a similarly dumb name, but is much easier to use).

    • Touch controls. Even worse than the CUE system is Cadillac’s embrace of touch controls instead of actual switches and knobs. There’s no volume knob or fan speed knob. Instead, you put your finger in a spot on the console—taking your eyes off the road to home in on it because it all feels the same--and then hold your finger there and wonder if it’s working. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. Honda already capitulated and brought back the volume knob in their redesigned Civic. Cadillac should do so too, and the sooner the better.

    • Reflection. The CTS-V has a number of materials on the dashboard, all high quality. But the one furthest from the driver appears to be a carbon fiber looking slab that creates a large reflection in the windshield in direct sunlight.

    • Noise. This car has a certain show-off factor. While not a screaming pimp-mobile like the Dodge Charger Hellcat, it has flared fenders, carbon fiber pieces, and a hood vent meant to tell others that your bulge can barely be contained. Going along with this, the exhaust sound is noticeable and burbly. It’s not 100 percent obnoxious like the Jaguar F-Type R we drove, but you’re not going to quietly slip into the garage in the wee hours after “working late with your accountant." Nor are you likely to leave for work without every member of your household knowing. It’s not as bad as some, but you have to want to be noticed.

    • A Cadillac? While we’d never own a car like this, because it’s ridiculous overkill, it does show that Cadillac can make a competitive, high performance sports sedan. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really seem to fit Cadillac’s brand, which is a combination of luxury and performance. Sure, they’re right to “steer” the brand away from the nautical handling of the 70’s, and the blandness of the 80’s and 90’s. But can’t we have our performance from Cadillac with some more refinement?

    • There’s a harshness to this car. The engine is loud and lopey at idle. The ride is firm, and the whole experience is somewhat noisy. If you buy it for its performance, you’ll be happy. If you buy it because you want Cadillac quiet and refinement, you won’t.

    Other notes:

  • Ready to test drive a 2017 CTS-V? BestRide jump-starts your search here.

  • Volkswagen Golf Alltrack TSI S 4Motion (2017)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • Fun to drive. If you’re wondering what a Golf Alltrack is, think Jetta Wagon with some plastic moulding around the wheel wells. VW is trying to Subaru Outback-ize it’s Golf Wagon (now known as the Golf SportWagen) — trying to make it look a little more outdoorsy. The good thing is the donor car, the Golf SportWagen, is a fun car to drive. So the Alltrack has a sporty, zippy quality that you won’t get in the Outback.

    • The 1.8 liter, turbo, 170 hp four-cylinder is plenty for the Alltrack. It gives you all the pep you need, and works well with the dual clutch six-speed automatic. The transmission comes with a manual mode and paddle shifters that increase the fun when you feel the urge (and are driving alone — don’t put your passenger through it). A manual transmission is available, too.

    • Ride. Despite the sporty nature of the handling, the ride quality is good, and reasonably quiet. It’s that typical VW Golf firm-ish comfort, with a supple suspension and supportive seats. Overall, it’s a really nice balance that gives you both a fun-to-drive quality, and comfortable ride for a smallish car.

    • Visibility. In some ways, this car feels like a throwback. It’s simple, airy, and uncluttered inside. Visibility, both front and front-side, is excellent. It makes the Alltrack easy and pleasant to drive. You always feel like you know where the edges of the car are, and it’s confidence-inspiring and relaxing to feel like you can see the road (and pedestrians) so well. Even the view out back is pretty good. The Alltrack comes with an adequate rear camera. It’s not as helpful at night as it could be, but since the camera lives hidden under the pop-up VW emblem on the rear hatch, it stays dry in rain storms (which make a mess of lots of rear view cameras).

    • Versatile. While most people are opting for crossovers these days, the Alltrack (and SportWagen) offer much of the same utility, with far better handling. So you still get room for four people, and cargo space in the back. Plus it comes standard with all-wheel drive.

    • Clear, simple controls. Three, clear knobs for heating and ventilation, a volume and a tuning knob, and a nice, uncluttered dashboard and console. The small touch screen does what it needs to do.

    • Mileage. 22 City, 30 highway. 25 overall. Not bad.

    • Con List IconCons
    • It’s a pretty small car. It’s fine up front. In fact, the head room up front is notably good. But it’s narrower than a lot of cars these days. Those "wide of load" may notice that. The back seat is adequate for adults, but a little tight. There’s cargo room in the back, but not copious amounts of it. It’s a small wagon, smaller than the Outback in pretty much all dimensions. As a versatile car for two people, a baby and a dog, it’d be perfect. Add another baby or another dog, and things are going to start to get cozy.

    • It doesn’t look much different from the Golf SportWagen. The idea was to take the slightly homely looking, but lovable Golf SportWagen and make it look rough and tough, to appeal to potential SUV buyers. It still looks like a sensible shoe. They added a few pieces of black, plastic trim around the wheel wells and bumpers, and raised the thing up an inch or so, but to our eye, there’s not a big difference. Maybe you’ll feel differently, but we think Subaru has done a more credible job of "beefing up" the Outback with styling.

    • Safety equipment. This doesn’t necessarily belong in the “dislike" column, but it requires explanation. We want to give VW credit for sending us a base model (S) for evaluation. Most carmakers send us cars with every conceivable option, hoping the 48-speaker stereo will distract us from the buckboard ride. But VW sent us the most basic Golf Alltrack you can buy, to show us what a nice car it is. It even uses a key! How quaint! And what you get for your $27,700 is everything we describe above — a fun and easy-to-drive, comfortable, versatile, easy-to-see-out-of car.

    • What you don’t get are the current state of the art safety features.To get forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, you have to get a higher level trim, and add the Driver Assistance Package. Then you’re into the low $30’s. Oddly, blind spot monitoring, which we highly recommend, is not available on the Alltrack, but is available on the SportWagen.

    • USB Placement. Possibly the worst USB plug placement in the industry. It took VW a while to catch on to the fact that people want USB outlets in their cars. But the USB outlet in the Alltrack is directly in front of the shifter, in a cubby that your hand can’t fit into. So you have to place the end of the cable between your index and middle finger, and then, with your hand sideways, you have to slide it into the cubby, and try to push it into the outlet with just those two fingers. If that’s not bad enough, when in Park, the shifter is right in the way. If you have to plug and unplug a USB device frequently, this isn’t the car for you.

    Other notes:

  • Get started on your search for a Golf Alltrack here at BestRide.

  • Audi Q7 3.0T Quattro (2017)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • Driving Experience. One of the best-driving large SUVs we’ve ever tested. It drives much more like a good, European car than a seven-passenger vehicle. It doesn't have the “roll” or the “bounce” as so many large SUVs. Steering is precise, cornering is mostly flat and always feels well controlled. Bump absorption is excellent. Great combination of comfort and driving qualities.

    • The three-liter (333 hp) supercharged six-cylinder engine provides plenty of power, even for this 5,000 pound behemoth, making it feel zippy under pretty much all conditions. We haven’t driven the 2.0 four-cylinder Q7, but wonder how it would feel in such a heavy vehicle. The eight-speed transmission was very smooth, although not quite as imperceptible as BMW’s high-end eight-speed automatic. The Q7 comes standard with all-wheel drive.

    • Luxury car interior. As usual for Audi, the cabin is first class. Seats are firm but very comfortable, the materials are all high quality, and the interior is peaceful rather than too busy. There’s good room up front, and plenty of room for adults in the second row. It’s also extremely quiet inside, especially for an SUV.

    • Good visibility up front. With reasonably thin A pillars and low shoulders, there’s lots of glass up front and you can see particularly well through the large windshield and out the driver and passenger windows. Looking behind you is the typical story these days; you’ll need electronic help, but Audi provides it. The backup camera is a good one, with both a standard view and a bird’s eye view. The regular camera figures out when you’re parking and shows you a front view as you inch forward, too.

    • Good highway cruiser. Between the ride, the quiet, and audio system, you could happily drive a long distance in this thing.

    • Ergonomics are pretty good. The heating and cooling controls use hard knobs that are clear and simple. Volume is adjusted via a knob next to the shifter. Once you get used to it, it’s easy to reach and use. Audi’s MMI touch pad lets you draw letters with your finger to, for instance, enter a destination into the navigation. We tried to enter “S” and it kept showing “5.” So, not perfect, but easier than spinning a wheel until you get to the right letter, and the touch pad allows you to keep your eyes on the road more of the time (you still have to check and see if it registered the correct letter). The rest of the infotainment controls mostly make sense. The screen pops up out of the dash, which makes it easily visible. The Q7 comes with Apple Car Play and Android Auto.

    • The virtual cockpit works. Audi has been spreading its virtual cockpit across the model line, and the new Q7 has it. It’s a video screen that “creates" the instrument panel in front of the steering wheel, with the tachometer, speedometer, and other stuff. You can modify it, for instance, making the speedo and tach smaller, so you can see navigation directions instead. Or you can display the navigation map in its entirety instead of the instruments. I’m guessing all cars will have “virtual dashboards" at some point, as they become cheaper than actual instruments.

    • Great use of blind spot warning. We noticed this inadvertently. After parking at the side of a busy street and turning off the ignition, as we were about to open the driver's door, we noticed that the blind spot traffic warning on the driver’s rearview mirror was lit up. What a great use of the blind spot monitor! It stays on after you turn off the ignition, and lets you know if you’re about to open your door into an approaching car. We assume it would work for a bicycle, too. Brilliant. We haven’t noticed if other cars leave the blind spot monitors on after the ignition goes off, but they should all do this.

    • All of the safety stuff you want. Forward-collision warning and automatic, emergency braking are standard. Highway speed emergency braking and blind spot monitoring (both highly recommended) are only available on higher trim levels.

    • Stealthy looks. It looks rather plain. This might appeal to certain people. If you’re one of those folks who doesn’t want to broadcast that you dropped 70 large on a car, the Q7 is your ride. There’s nothing bling-y about it on the outside. Clean, classy, but not flashy.

    • Con List IconCons
    • It claims to be a seven-passenger vehicle. We’d call it a five plus two. The “two” being sub-ten-year-old-kids. There’s just enough room between the third row seat and the back of the second row seat for an eight-year-old tibia to fit.

    • Our well-equipped Q7 with the Premium Plus package and some other goodies lists for $69K. If you really want all of the things it offers, it could be worth it. But it is a lot of schkarole for most people.

    • The virtual cockpit is new. We don’t know what it’s reliability will be and what it will cost to replace out of warranty, should that be necessary.

    • Mileage is nothing great. Not any worse than other seven-passenger SUVs, but it’s rated at only 19 city and 25 highway, with 21 overall.

    Other notes:

  • Find a 2017 Audi Q7 at BestRide.

  • Lincoln MKZ Hybrid (2017)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • Based on the Ford Fusion, the Lincoln MKZ is a large, good-handling, comfortable-riding luxury car that is certainly competitive with the Lexus ES. While it can’t match Lexus’ record of reliability, the MKZ is somewhat more fun to drive. It handles better, and still soaks up bumps as well.

    • The hybrid powertrain really boosts the mileage. In mixed driving, without being careful, we got close to 35 mpg. And Lincoln makes the hybrid available at the same price as the base, four-cylinder turbo gasoline version.

    • The MKZ does a great job of absorbing bumps and road imperfections. At the same time, the handling is still pretty tight. It’s a combination that leans a bit more toward isolation, but it’s not floaty, like the Lexus ES can be.

    • The interior has luxury car credentials. Materials are soft touch, and feel like good quality. The steering wheel is fat, leather-wrapped, and solid in your hands. The leather seats are good looking and comfortable. Lincoln did a legitimate job of signaling “you’re in a luxury car, Bub” when you get in and sit down.

    • Ford’s Sync 3 system has replaced the previous MyLincolnTouch atrocity. A big improvement, and no longer a reason to avoid buying this car.

    • Very good ergonomics overall (with one exception, see below). Straight-forward volume and tuning knobs, easy to understand and reach temperature controls. The interior is clean and simple, and it’s easy to find and use the controls you need.

    • When the car is using its battery mode, it’s very quiet. Road noise and tire noise are practically non-existent.

    • Optional safety equipment includes collision warning, automatic braking, and blind-spot monitoring.

    • Con List IconCons
    • The biggest downside of the MKZ is the coarseness of the hybrid's gasoline engine. You start off in battery mode, and you feel like you’re driving in a quiet luxury car. The car is nearly silent, with wind and road noise kept out. Then a few second later, as you accelerate, the gasoline engine comes to life and the cabin is filled with a coarse thrum of the four-cylinder engine revving with the continuously variable transmission. And the gasoline engine operates much of the time you’re driving. It kind of spoils the luxury car pretensions. Maybe Lincoln did everything they could to insulate you from the engine noise, but if they didn’t, they need to try harder. It’s something you’d accept in the more-everyday Ford Fusion in exchange for the great mileage. But would it bug you in your Lincoln? It bugged us.

    • We have not driven the MKZ with its two other engine options. There’s a new, 2.0 four-cylinder turbo and a 3.0 liter V6. We’d be interested to experience a non-hybrid version of the car and see what it sounds like inside.

    • Visibility. The A pillars (the pillars on either side of the front windshield) are thick, and because of the steep rake of the windshield, they’re long, too. So it seems like they’re always in the way. The styling of the MKZ results in pretty small window openings, so visibility feels limited.

    • We’re getting used to Lincoln’s gimmicky push-button shifter on the dashboard (to the left of the touch screen), but we don’t love it. First of all, it requires you to take your eyes off the road and find the button you want. They all feel the same. Plus, if you brace your thumb next to the touchscreen, to select something on the screen, it’s possible to shift gears by accident. We’d get used to it, but it doesn’t feel like an improvement.

    Other notes:

  • Ready to test ride a Lincoln MKZ Hybrid? BestRide brings you a list of local Lincolns here.

  • Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat (2016)

    • Pro List Icon Pros
    • It’s not too late. If you didn’t have the coolest car in the high-school parking lot, you have another chance.

    • Is your Prius feeling a little pokey pulling away from stoplights? How about something with a 700 hp V8?

    • No waiting! It’s silly. It’s gross overkill. It’s gaudy and ridiculous. You’ll be shunned in your Whole Foods parking lot. But it is kinda fun to touch the gas and have your head slam back against the headrest.

    • If you always wanted a classic American muscle car, this is an updated version of one, very true to the original, obnoxious spirit, complete with burbling exhaust. It looks like one of those Hot Wheels cars you played with as a kid, minus only the slicks. And it may be the last gasp of American gasoline monsters.

    • It’s actually a comfortable car. Based on the old Chrysler 300 chassis, the car rides well, and is roomy inside. It’s an old-style, large sedan. There’s even room in the back seat.

    • Controls are clear and intuitive. The Charger has straightforward heating and ventilation controls, refreshingly old-fashioned volume and tuning knobs (plus finger controls for volume on the back of the steering wheel, right where your fingers naturally rest), and a good, clear infotainment touch screen that works well. The shifter is straight forward, and has a manual mode with paddle shifters.

    • The steering is intentionally heavy at low speeds. But at higher speeds it feels about right.

    • The car mostly handles well. We felt some occasional wheel squirm, from what we’re not sure. Could have been tires. But the car goes where you point it, and has considerably more grip than its muscle car ancestors, which were only designed to go fast and straight.

    • A surprisingly good and comfortable highway cruiser.

    • Very good and effective brakes. You’ll need ‘em.

    • Good selection of safety equipment, including the important ones; forward emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert, and blind spot monitoring.

    • Con List IconCons
    • It’s obnoxious. Especially as tested in “Pimp Purple" paint (actually called Plum Crazy Pearl by Dodge). It’s loud sounding, loud looking, and loud driving. You have to crave attention (and it tends to generate male attention, and female fear). Granted, in a less gaudy color, the “look at me” factor might be turned down to only mildly narcissistic.

    • You can practically hear the “glug, glug, glug” of the engine drinking gas. We got 12.7 mpg in mixed stop-and-and go city driving, and short highway commutes. EPA claims 16 overall. Good luck getting there.

    • If your neighbors don’t hate you now, wait until you wake them up at seven a.m. every morning firing up in this slightly muzzled Gatling gun. On start up, it revs a little north of 2,000 rpm for a bit, just to be sure nobody ignores you.

    • It’s really too much power. On a rainy day, we tapped the gas to pass a slow moving truck on the highway, and the back end momentarily broke loose and fishtailed. And there’s really almost nowhere you can even step all the way down on the gas within the boundaries of civilization. It’s admittedly (and embarrassingly) kind of fun to have that power at your disposal, but it’s hard to even use it.

    • If there’s an extended warranty on the drive train, you might want to pick it up. Seven-hundred plus horsepower is going to pound the transmission in this car.

    • This fantasy will cost you 70 grand. And you thought the big hurdle was going to be getting your wife to allow you to get the purple one.

    Other notes:

  • BestRide has a video of SRT Engineer Marty Jagoda lighting up the tires on a 2015 Charger Hellcat

  • Searching for any trim level of the Dodge Charger in your area? BestRide can help you do that.

  • 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.


    Comments

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    SiliconValley2000

    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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