Auto News & Reviews

  • 20 Jul 2019 11:10 PM | Danny Harrison

    If you buy the 2019 Toyota C-HR, I’m guessing it will be because it is such a good-looking vehicle, kind of like an awesome Hot Wheels car, and not because it gave you chills to drive it. And I’m good with that. It really is a hot-looking car.

    Let’s go ahead and list what’s not hot about the C-HR, and then we’ll get to what still makes this a pretty cool ride.

    It’s not fast. Consumer Reports says they clocked it at 11 seconds to reach 60 mph. It’s got go-fast styling, but it has stay-in-your-lane performance. The powerplant is 2-liter, four-cylinder engine delivering 144 horsepower. The 2019 Corolla hatchback we reviewed earlier this year was also a 2-liter, but it offered 168 horses.

    It’s not roomy. The letters C-HR stand for “compact high ride”, so they don’t promise roominess. Unfortunately, it fails my sit-behind-yourself test, so I wouldn’t recommend it for six-foot drivers with six-foot passengers. There’s plenty of headroom, surprisingly, but even little kids who ride with their legs sticking straight out will find the back seats uncomfortable if the front occupants push their seats back at all.

    It’s not cheap. The C-HR Limited we reviewed started at $26K, but a list of extras brought our copy up to $29K. You can get a stripped-down, basic version for just north of $22K, but you can also choose from several less-expensive, roomier, quicker vehicles on the new car market. To be fair, though, the C-HR is right in there with the Honda HR-V on price and performance, and unsurprisingly this Toyota is much prettier. If you’re determined to get a sub-compact SUV/crossover kind of vehicle, you may as well grab yourself a C-HR.

    Incidentally, you don’t get good visibility from the driver’s seat of the C-HR, either. The rear windows are victims of the super-awesome styling, and you will have large blind spots. This seems counter-intuitive for something posing as a sort of SUV.

    So why do I still love this car?

    It’s fun to drive. No, you’re not going to beat anyone off the line, but it does handle well, and strangely it is even fun to drive through a parking lot. And that means it’s a good cruising car. (Do kids still “go cruising”?) Other than needing a sunroof, this is the car you want to take cruising on summer vacation to the beach. Just make sure you pack light (remember you have limited storage) and don’t accidentally drive it on the beach. You’ll be calling a tow truck, because the C-HR doesn’t have an all-wheel-drive option.

    It sounds great. Some vehicles because of the way they are designed physically limit the performance of their sound systems, even if they’re blessed with the factory’s top-of-the-line option. The C-HR we reviewed sounded amazing, which surprised me. It only has a six-speaker system, but it really kicked, and it projected a good, strong range of sound.

    It looks amazing. I know I already mentioned this, but you really have to see the C-HR in person to appreciate how sharp it looks. The low-profile tires on 18-inch wheels adds to the big toy persona.

    The C-HR was originally designed to join the cool-kid Scion lineup, but when parent company Toyota shut down Scion, the C-HR in development became a Toyota product. It has been on the market for around two years now.

    [Danny Harrison is a veteran journalist who cut his teeth in the newspaper industry in 1995. He is the public relations specialist for a bustling municipality just south of Atlanta, but he still enjoys writing news features and reviews in his personal time. He is an active member of the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association. He and his wife have five children, all of whom fancy themselves to be automobile critics.]

  • 19 Jul 2019 12:18 AM | Danny Harrison

    I love it when Toyota sends me a lower-trim version of one of their vehicles. Luxury is nice from a selfish perspective, and Toyota/Lexus in my opinion is nailing the luxury segment, but most of us out here with our heads on straight are going to have to at least consider the less expensive options when buying a new car, because those nonessential options (an oxymoron?) can lift the price considerably into the thousands of extra dollars and even an extra hundred a month or so on the payment side.

    When I was e-mailed the Monroney ahead of the delivery of the 2019 Camry, I was please to see it was a four-cylinder SE coming my way. That’s the seventh down the line of 10 trim levels, with the XSE V-6 topping the list, and the L 4-cylinder hanging out on the bottom rung. (Yes, that was an “L” and not “LE”, which is the second rung.) Last year, we spent a week in the top-trim Camry, which rivals its own cousin the Lexus ES 350 with its 300-plus horsepower V-6. This year, just a few weeks ago, we spent a week in a mid-trim copy that still managed to deliver more than 200 horses, which is impressive for a four-banger.

    I think back to my 1998 Grand Prix days, and I remember that 3.8-liter V-6 only churning out 195 horsepower, and I thought that thing was lightning-fast. What they’re doing these days with dual injection and variable valve timing is amazing.

    What’s really impressive as well on the performance side of the SE is the fact that this four-cylinder Camry is giving you plenty of pep while treating you to significant savings at the fuel pump. The copy we tested boasted 28 mpg/city and 39 mpg/highway, the latter being twice the mileage per gallon I’m getting presently with my 2007 minivan.

    So that’s the kind of thing that gets me thinking it may be time to consider a newer vehicle (still not a brand-new one, mind you). That for me would probably be a $50-60 savings monthly in fuel costs, not to mention the repair costs I’m incurring over the last couple of years. The numbers aren’t lining up yet, but they might in the next year or two.

    Back to this Camry, when you see the styling, you may be disappointed that it only provides 200+ horses, because it looks much sleeker and faster than that, which was not the way with Camrys only a few years ago. On the other hand, you may be exceptionally pleased that you’re getting pretty much the same sporty look in the $25K model as you’d have gotten in the one that costs $10K more. Toyota in recent years has really taken the prize, in my opinion, when it comes to styling. Where I think Toyota/Lexus tried to copy Mercedes-Benz years ago, it seems that the other car makers are now trying to copy Toyota/Lexus.

    Let’s keep talking about the styling for a minute. Seeing the Camry finally get the sporty good looks that it deserves is kind of like seeing that otherwise cool classmate back in high school finally get that much-needed new hairstyle that gives them a sense of distinction. And in the Camry’s case, it’s not overbaked like so many car makers have done with their dullards over the years, the Pontiac Grand Am being one of the worst offenders. The Camry performs like a good-looking, fun car, so it’s nice that the designers spruced up the exterior aesthetics a bit more to suit it.

    Now, let’s think like old men for a minute. The Camry is still super-duper practical. It has your good gas mileage options, it is comfortable and spacious, and as the best-selling car in the United States for most of the last two decades, it historically has a good resale value. This is the car you keep and then hand down to your children or grandchildren when they start driving.

    As much as I enjoyed the 2019 Camry, I’d much sooner put my money toward a 2017 model right now, because you can find loads (in the Atlanta area, at least) for around $15K with 25K or fewer miles. They do tend to be four-cylinder models, but you’re getting a great price for a car still under a year’s worth of bumper-to-bumper warranty and three years’ worth of drivetrain coverage.

    The Camry SE we tested had a $25K base price but was kitted out to sell for around $30K. I’ll look forward to seeing it on the used lot at the dealership in few years.

    [Danny Harrison is a veteran journalist who cut his teeth in the newspaper industry in 1995. He is the public relations specialist for a bustling municipality just south of Atlanta, but he still enjoys writing news features and reviews in his personal time. He is an active member of the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association. He and his wife have five children, all of whom fancy themselves to be automobile critics.]

  • 27 Jun 2019 12:23 AM | Danny Harrison

    The 2019 Lexus GX 460 was one of the more challenging vehicles for me to review over these last several years, not because I didn’t understand its features, but because I don’t entirely understand why it still looks and performs almost exactly like the last GX 460 they sent me about four years ago.

    Don’t assume you know where I’m going with this review, though. You may be surprised.

    When my family tested the 2015 model, we took it full-bore down to Amelia Island, Florida and drove it on the beach. It exceeded our expectations by offering a relatively quiet, comfortable ride down the Interstate, despite being built on what is essentially a truck chassis. Luxury touches like vented seats and quick-acting, zoned climate control made getting in and out of the car on hot days much more tolerable. In short, we fell in love with the vehicle.

    One of the great charms of the GX is that it is true luxury vehicle with full off-roading capabilities. It’s 4.6-liter V-8 engine delivers better than 300 horsepower and around 330 lb-ft of torque. That loose, golden sand was no problem for this beautiful beast.

    This 2019 copy is no less amazing than the 2015, but that’s primarily because it’s pretty much the same vehicle. It still has the 4.6-liter V-8 that still delivers 301 horses, and it still looks the same on the interior and the exterior.

    The price range is the same. The one we drove four years ago stickered at $63K, and this comparable one rolled off at just north of $70K.

    Frankly, this new GX 460 lacks technological features that are now standard on the Toyota Corolla (Lexus, for any who may not already know, is Toyota’s luxury line), and that really was shocking considering the price gap.

    Initially, I was surprised by this lack of progress, and then I looked up the sales figures. Turns out, Lexus sold more than 27,000 GX 460s in the United States in 2017, and just a few thousand shy of that figure in 2018. Could it be that Lexus knows its market better than car reviewers do? Could it be that there is still a strong segment of the population who wants a luxury SUV that looks and drives exactly as the GX 460 does now and has done for the last several years?

    A few years ago, I marveled that the owner of the newspaper where I worked (and dozens more) showed up for tri-annual visits to our facility in an older model Jaguar. It is the same vehicle he had been driving for many years.

    He is wealthy, we thought. He could drive anything he wants, we said. So then why would he drive an older-model Jaguar?

    And we missed the point. Of course he could drive whatever he wanted, and he wanted to drive that car. We don’t need to understand why.

    So that’s my take on the new GX 460. It’s still the same amazing, stately, powerful, comfortable, beautiful SUV that is has been for half a decade, and if you want a brand-new copy of it, they’re still up for grabs at the Lexus dealership.

    I’m not finished wondering, though.

    I hear rumors that, despite the still-strong sales figures, Lexus is redesigning the GX 460 for 2020. Will it be quicker, stronger, sleeker, bolder, more youthful? Will it have cutting-edge technology that blows us away?

    Conversely, would Lexus be so bold as to just change the 19 to a 20 and roll this same vehicle back out again?

    Whatever the case, I’m counting on a return of the GX to the 2020 Lexus lineup, and whatever it turns out to be, someone, and probably a lot of someones, will buy it.

    [Danny Harrison is a veteran journalist who cut his teeth in the newspaper industry in 1995. He is the public relations specialist for a bustling municipality just south of Atlanta, but he still enjoys writing news features and reviews in his personal time. He is an active member of the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association. He and his wife have five children, all of whom fancy themselves to be automobile critics.]

  • 06 Apr 2019 9:12 AM | Danny Harrison

    When I wrote last year about the 2018 Toyota Sienna minivan, I said something about how the front looked like a lizard, because the hood rose to sharp brows over the headlights. I like lizards, and I like minivans, but…

    I was pleasantly surprised this mid-March when the 2019 model was delivered for my week-long review and those eyebrows were lowered a bit. Or at least they seem to be. I didn’t measure them, though now with neither Sienna in my driveway, I wish I had. It’s a detail you won’t find in any product brochure.

    Thanks, Toyota, for listening to that suggestion. Now go back and notice the part of that review that suggested you offer a V-8 option. Your 4.6L V-8 truck engine would do nicely.

    So, did we like the 2019 Sienna? Of course we did. It still has the 3.5L V-6 delivering 296 hp, the optional entertainment packages (dual-view DVD screen for the kids, phenomenal sound for all), the generous storage spaces, and the cup and bottle holders all over the place. Crazy as it sounds, when you’re a dad who actually loves having the whole family of seven under one headliner, you dig the bottle holders. Slide past Aldi for a case of water and a bag of baby carrots, and you’re set.

    We did something like that on the Saturday of our seven-day Sienna experience. All aboard, we took I-75 up to what is now Georgia State Stadium in Downtown Atlanta, and then we cruised surface streets up to the Buckhead Barnes & Noble and back. Especially along the motorway, we were all about the DVD screen for the kids and the we-time happening on Row One. With their third-zone climate control and clear view of the flip-down screen from all five seats, we heard nary a peep out of them.

    That third row, by the way, is more comfortable seating than you’re going to find in some competitors’ middle. That’s super handy for us, because our three older children ride aft, while our toddlers take Row Two. It’s nice to think long trips will be more comfortable for them, too, even if they don’t offer to help with the monthly payments.

    I noticed on the Monroney* sticker that the 2019 Sienna earned an NHTSA** five-star safety rating, which in all considers frontal crash, side crash and rollover test results. That kind of peace of mind is a luxury feature in itself.

    Here’s another bit of safety info. During that afternoon road trip, I accidentally activated one of the side doors, which closed on a daughter, but after nothing more than a gentle bump it retreated. We shared a laugh, I apologized, and we moved on. Things like that make you appreciate a vehicle. My Chrysler’s automatic side doors are not so sensitive.

    Not surprisingly, the 2019 Sienna takes top honors from Consumer Reports, which stamps the XLE trim level with a 78. (The Kia Sedona EX was second with a 74.) Of particular note for the Sienna XLE was the bevy of standard safety features, which include Forward Collision Warning, Automatic Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Detection, all of which are also standard down at the less-expensive LE and SE trim levels. More peace of mind. CR also gave Sienna high reliability marks.

    And that brings me to a fave feature. In five years of writing vehicle reviews, I think Toyota excels them all when it comes to cruise control, and in particular I love the always-improving Dynamic Radar Cruise Control. This allows you set a max speed while also setting a variable car-length distance from the vehicle you are following in the lane. There may be a few times in curvy, multi-lane traffic where it gets confused with irrelevant vehicles ahead of you in other lanes, but let’s be honest here: cruise control isn’t really meant for the Downtown Atlanta Connector.

    Another fave of the Sienna copy we reviewed is the body color, though I’m not fond of the name of that color. I’d call it an almost-Army green, but some bi-lingual high-earner somewhere decided it should be called Alumina Jade Metallic. Sounds like an anime character. Probably, that’s the point. It’s a stunner, though, especially given that Toyota/Lexus in well into this present era of sculpting front-ends to look like Battlestar Galactica robots. It looks battle-ready, especially when accented by the mid and rear tinted windows.

    This is the third Sienna we’ve reviewed in five years, and I look forward to the next. As I’m more of a late-model, used car buyer, I have paid closer-than-normal attention to the 2018 and 2019 models, because we’ll be in the market again within a year or two. This 2019 model starts around $30K ($45K as tested), but you can find the 2016 under $20K.

    *Monroney stickers are named for 1950s-era U.S. Senator Mike Monroney, who was from Oklahoma and had his own lizard-looking eyebrows.

    **NHTSA is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

  • 06 Apr 2019 9:09 AM | Danny Harrison

    You don’t need me to tell you that any Toyota Corolla is a good vehicle to consider if you’re in the market for a compact car, especially if you’re shopping the used lots. Up to now, the Corollas have been practical, reliable and predictable. And then came the 2019 Hatchback, and there went predictability.

    It took me a few days to get used to driving the all-new 2019 Corolla Hatchback, partly because the copy Toyota delivered was a manual six-speed, and partly because it rode so low to the ground. Even more, it was difficult to get used to the new stylings Toyota baked up for this new model, but well done, I say. Well done.

    I specifically asked Toyota to send me a compact, because I wanted to test my theory that they tend to pack most of their best features across the brand unlike some makes that strip their low end and try to pack too much into their top models and trims. I was right, which I’ll prove in a minute, but I was completely surprised that I would enjoy so much the process of proving my point.

    Since the fall of 2010, I had only for one day driven one vehicle with manual transmission (a 2016 Mustang GT 350-R, if you must know), so getting the feel for this Corolla took a couple of days. In the meantime, I checked out all the standard features, which still amaze me that they were included in this SE copy that stickered just below $21K. It had the entire Toyota Safety Sense 2.0 package, which features pre-collision detection, dynamic radar cruise, lane departure alert with steering assist, automatic high beams and road sign assist. In fact, this completely stock Corolla even had the new pedestrian detection technology that I later learned isn’t even available on the 2019 Lexus GX 460. (What’s up with that, by the way, Lexus?)

    The first real open-road experience with this Corolla came on a short trip for coffee and a browse to the nearest Barnes & Noble. There’s one short way and several fun ways to get there, and windows-down, we enjoyed every minute of a fun way. Pushing through turns, testing get-to-the-limit times, and flexing this car’s audio muscle was over-the-top fun, and it took me completely by surprise. Up to that Saturday, I had just driven it in traffic to work and back.

    Coming out of one of those turns, during which we stayed in second gear, I’m sure the engine made the same growl a linebacker makes when he has just made a big tackle and is gloating just a little. For such a small car (2.0L, 4cyl, 168hp), it projects confidence in its acceleration, its handling and even in its engine note.

    I have always appreciated the Corolla sedans, but after this six-speed hatchback experience, I’m not sure I could handle stepping back.

    The great thing about a car like this is that it’s fun to drive aggressively or conservatively. It’s a near-perfect car for parking in small spaces and mastering the grocery lots. But it also puts you in front of the traffic if that’s where you want to be. Because you’re hugging the ground, topping hills is a thrill as well.

    Something I found particularly endearing is how this Corolla Hatchback is just as aerodynamically crafted aft as it is forward. If you look at it from the five or seven o’clock positions, it looks a lot like the front of a European passenger train. You really can’t stop looking at this car from any angle, it strikes such an interesting figure.

    Forgive me for gushing, but this may be the surprise review vehicle to beat them all over the last five years.

    Consumer Reports ranked the 2019 Corolla Hatchback SE sixth out of 17 compact cars, trailing the number-one Subaru Impreza Premium by four points (76-72). In their scoring, they predict this vehicle will be more reliable than average for its class, but they also only forecast average owner satisfaction, to which my only comment is that Consumer Reports isn’t always right.

    I believe you will have a difficult time finding these on the used car market in the year to come. They’ll get there, because ultimately some people will just grow weary of driving a manual transmission, but they won’t stay on the used lot long. It’s just too fun to drive.

  • 02 Nov 2018 11:33 AM | Brian Medford (Administrator)

    When the need arises to move not only several people, but also their stuff while pulling a large trailer, there is no substitute for a full-size body-on-frame SUV. The Ford Expedition has been a staple of Ford’s SUV lineup since 1997. A derivative of the full size Ford F-150 platform, this body-on-frame SUV competes in the same space as the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, Nissan Armada, and Toyota Sequoia. The 2018 Ford Expedition marks the fourth generation of the Expedition with an all new redesign...

  • 17 Oct 2018 1:28 PM | Brian Medford (Administrator)

    One of the most unique events in drag racing is HOT ROD Drag Week. Race car builders from around the world are put to the test that is half drag race, half road rally. The challenge: to build the fastest street legal car that can still drive hundreds of miles between race tracks for five days straight. Simply surviving drag week is an accomplishment itself, but to be crowned the fastest street car is the ultimate prize...

  • 15 Jul 2018 5:18 PM | Danny Harrison
    When my son and I arrived at this year's GAAMA Family Car Challenge, we laughed as we spotted the one truck, the all-new 2019 RAM 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4x4, among the two dozen or so competitors. It's the first vehicle we tested that day, and my son said he was sure it would win.

    It won.

    Being the only truck that showed up at all for the event, it was on course by default to snag the Best Family Pickup Truck trophy (What's up, other truck manufacturers?), but it also won the overall prize: Best Family Car.

    All day long, manufacturer reps asked my young son what his favorite ride was so far. He stuck to his guns: "I think the RAM truck is going to win."

    We didn't stuff the ballot box, or in this case, the touchscreen voting app, but we did give the RAM 1500 pretty high marks. Always impressive is when a vehicle this big and powerful can rather nimbly negotiate urban roadways but then let rip down the highway on-ramp, taking whatever place you want in traffic. Equipped with the 5.7-liter HEMI V-8, this truck has a 395-hp engine delivering 410 lb-ft of torque, and it is rated to tow 12,750 pounds or haul 2,300 pounds in the bed, so while being a quick and quiet city-friendly vehicle, apparently it is ready to do business down the country, too, when needed.

    These one-day events don't afford much time to spend with each vehicle, but first impressions are that this is a very handy, capable and comfortable vehicle. Our copy was the Crew Cab, and the back seats flip and fold and get out of the way to offer loads of cargo space, plus the doors swing out to nearly 90 degrees. This is the vehicle you take to IKEA on a rainy day: if they can flat-pack it, you can get it in this truck.

    The copy we drove was a 5-seater, but they do offer a more practical and valuable (IMO) 6-seater.

    It was the price that concerned me at first. The Monroney sticker had this copy based at more than $64K and trimmed out just north of $75K. And then I realized that was a Canadian sticker price, and we all know how weak their Dollar is (gratuitous political jab). Here in the States, the RAM 1500 Laramie starts at a little more than $40K, with a just-as-powerful Tradesman edition starting around $32K.

    My son called it right from the outset, and I'm happy with the outcome. The RAM 1500 is a good truck. Car. Whatever you need it to be.

    Who were the other winners? Glad you asked.

    Best Technology Car: 2018 Honda Odyssey

    Best Green Family Car: 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

    Best Three-Row Car: 2018 Chrysler Pacifica

    Best Value Family Car: 2018 Mazda CX-5

    Best Luxury Family Car: 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Wagon

    This year, because we were pressed for time, we skipped the Luxury category, but we did test the Mazda CX-5, the 2018 Volkswagen Atlas, the Chrysler Pacifica Limited, The 2019 KIA Sorento SXL, the 2019 Toyota Avalon XLE, the 2018 Nissan Armada Platinum, the 2018 Lexus RX 350 and the 2018 Volkswagen Passat GT. We'll tell you more about those rides in subsequent reviews.

    Danny Harrison is a veteran journalist who cut his teeth in the Atlanta-area newspaper business the year before the Olympics came to town. His career path has led him out of state and overseas, but he has returned to his southern Atlanta suburban roots where he now works as a government public relations specialist. He writes car reviews and other automotive features as a member of the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association.


  • 21 May 2018 10:41 PM | Greg Morrison

    Atlanta, GA- A pickup truck has rolled away with the top honors at the 2018 GAAMA Family Car Challenge.

    The 2019 Ram 1500 was selected as the Best Overall winner after a day of driving and comparison by automotive journalists.  They chose from a range of vehicles including sedans, crossovers, wagons, minivans, and full-size SUVs and trucks.

               “Our winners this year provide an example of how consumers are moving from sedans to crossovers, minivans, wagons and even into full-size trucks – all viable choices considering how well vehicles are equipped these days for families,” said Daryl Killian, GAAMA president and host of The AutoNsider on News & Talk 1380 WAOK, an Entercom Radio Station.

    The 2018 award categories and winning vehicles were:

    Overall Winner, Best Family Car: 2019 Ram 1500

    Best Family Pickup Truck: 2019 Ram 1500

    Best Technology Family Car: 2018 Honda Odyssey

    Best Green Family Car: 2018 Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid

    Best Three-Row Car: 2018 Chrysler Pacifica

    Best Value Family Car:  2018 Mazda CX-5

    Best Luxury Family Car: 2018 Mercedes-Benz E400 Wagon


    “It is really difficult in this day and age with so many manufacturers making so many quality products to select a clear and concise winner in the GAAMA Family Car challenge,” said Killian. “I think all of our competitors were in great company and our winners should be proud of their victories.”

    GAAMA, the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association, is a professional organization of automotive journalists, OEM representatives, and Fleet managers. Our goal is to improve communications with the automotive industry and to encourage accuracy in the coverage of mobility and personal transportation.


  • 16 Mar 2018 8:58 AM | Brian Medford (Administrator)

    The Ford F-150 is one of the best selling vehicles of all time. With millions of units on the road, there is no doubt that over time some problems will happen more often than others. While not intended to be an all-inclusive list, we put together this 2009-2014 Ford F-150 common problems guide to help pinpoint a few of the nagging issues we think owners and potential buyers should keep in mind...

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