Over the past year or so, I’ve become pretty acquainted with the latest Sonata generation. Having first sampled the 2.4-liter four cylinder volume model and then the revamped Hybrid, just two powertrain variations stood between me and total Sonata model line familiarization- the miserly 1.6-liter Eco model, and the 245 hp 2.0T. You can probably guess which one of those proved a bigger draw for my horsepower-centric demeanor. Hint: it’s the model featured here.
Author - John Kucek
Imagine my surprise recently when the Focus that showed up at my doorstep, rather than the attention-grabbing ST or RS hatches, appeared to be but a lowly SE sedan in battleship gray. This one had a unique trick up its sleeve, however, in the form of an offbeat turbo three-cylinder and six-speed manual transmission powertrain combo.
Even as three-row crossovers become increasingly ubiquitous, the rate of change in this class isn’t exactly what you’d call fast-paced. The previous generations of the Toyota Highlander and Honda Pilot hung around showroom floors for six and seven model years, respectively. The current Ford Explorer has been with us since 2011, and after a refresh this year, appears set to stick around for quite some time to come. The Durango seen here also bowed in 2011, and plans for a follow-up act are still unclear. We like the Dodge a lot – I have fond memories of it being one of the first vehicles I reviewed for this site – but five model years is fast approaching “over the hill” in the car business.
It’s clear that despite strong sales, several of these vehicles could be accused of greying a bit around the temples. In fact, it’s the Enclave that really feels familiar – this largely-unchanged model first hit showrooms in mid-2007. Along with the 2008 Malibu, it’s the vehicle that most heralded the General’s return to competitive form. GM has adopted a “don’t mess with success” attitude toward the Lambda platform underpinning the Enclave (platform mates include the GMC Acadia, Chevy Traverse, and long-defunct Saturn Outlook) since in most of the model years since its introduction, its sales have steadily increased. 2016 will be the current generation’s final model year, with a complete redesign expected to be unveiled this winter.
Lincoln’s caught a lot of flack from the press lately for padding its product offering with what are basically gussied-up mainstream Ford products. The aspirational “premium” brands that Lincoln is gunning hard for also do this, but those vehicles are usually offset with some higher-end niche platforms. Take this MKC, introduced for 2015 – it’s well-proportioned and wears perhaps the best execution yet of Lincoln’s waterfall grille treatment yet. Under the skin, though, it’s little more than a Ford Escape – a crossover near the head of its class, albeit a class that starts about $15 – 20 grand cheaper. We like the Escape – but does the MKC have what it takes to charge up to $50k for its mainstream bones?
This Renegade, a plucky little toaster of a vehicle that’s probably been more divisive to hardcore Jeep enthusiasts than any new model the company has introduced short of the Compass, has been on my radar for “must-drives” this year. That isn’t because it’s composed of especially compelling parts – in some ways, I’ve already driven the Renegade a few times over. The Fiat 500X I sampled over the summer shares its underpinnings with the Renegade, as well as its powertrains. And in the case of this Latitude model, the hotter Abarth version of the Fiat 500 donates its 1.4-liter turbo and six-speed manual. Why, then, was I so compelled to drive the new Jeeplet?