Category Archives: Everyday Normal Cars

I call them “Transportation Appliances”, but this is what most people are looking for.

What I Learned Driving the Alfa Romeo Stelvio back-to-back with the Giulia

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Regular drivers in regular cars doing regular things in their regular lives. If you ask most people, they don’t aspire to be just regular, yet, overall, most of us wind up doing regular shit day in and day out. Life defaults to being excruciatingly routine if you let it. The “good enough” mindset sets in, and one day you wake up just another average Joe or Jill. It’s a fact of life. We all make sacrifices in the name of convenience and practicality because to do otherwise usually causes more struggle than necessary. That makes everything work smoothly, but it also totally dulls your life experience, and frankly, it’s depressing.

Compromise is the reality, though. The fact is, most genuinely remarkable things in life are exceedingly impractical and don’t really fit into the lives of most people. In our minds, we’d all love to be that stylish and interesting person who’s always going on adventures, seemingly without a care in the world… or a budget, for that matter. That idealistic perception can never really be fulfilled, but what we all can do is make our compromises intelligent. Okay, maybe you can’t really be the guy who daily drives a sexy classic Italian sports car. Even if you can afford one, if you have a family it doesn’t really work out that well, and that’s not even counting the car’s functional lack of reliability. The dream doesn’t have to die with a boring minivan or nameless sedan, though. There is a very real middle ground that can give you most of the experiences you’re yearning for while also satisfying your practical needs.

Car enthusiasts, like myself, are well aware of this, but the average consumer may not be as turned on to it. I’ve seen a lot of more casual car people go from driving something genuinely fun to something awful like a Minivan or a mundane SUV. It’s sad, and it’s not necessary. Meet Alfa Romeo, a company that makes sports cars of different sizes and shapes.

Continue reading What I Learned Driving the Alfa Romeo Stelvio back-to-back with the Giulia

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Test Driven: BMW X3 xDrive M40i (Grade: B)

BMW X3 XDrive M40i Cargo Area

Compact crossovers have taken the American market by storm in epic proportions. Sales of sedans are declining, and sales of luxury crossovers from brands like Mercedes, Audi, Lexus, and the like have gone through the stratosphere. Cadillac’s best selling vehicle is the XT-5, the replacement for the SRX. Meanwhile, BMW started working this segment with the first X5 way back in the Bush Administration. Two Presidents and eighteen years later, we face the new X3, a car that I mocked often when it launched in 2004. Now in its third generation, I took the keys to this blue M Sport (as ridiculous as it sounds) and found it to be quite an eye-opener. Continue reading Test Driven: BMW X3 xDrive M40i (Grade: B)

Infiniti Q70: Luxurious and Sporty with a touch of Amnesia

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I spent a weekend with this Infiniti Q70 while visiting my family in Minnesota. I decided to splurge on the rental because I knew the trip would have a lot of long drives in only a few short days. My Uncle George’s house on the lake is around 3 hours away from Minneapolis, so the drive actually takes longer than the flight from Philly. We were also planning to visit my Great Uncle Bill, who lives about an hour and a half away from my Uncle. So we were guaranteed at least 9 hours of continuous driving on big open roads during this trip, might as well have a car that would make it a pleasure!

I had originally booked a “Q50 or similar” but the Q70 is what they had available. It’s a car I’ve always managed to forget about, but I knew it would be nice for the drive. By the end of the trip, the Q70 had made me a big fan. It went from fairly anonymous in my mind to a practical favorite… and I had just recently driven the all-new BMW 540i.

Continue reading Infiniti Q70: Luxurious and Sporty with a touch of Amnesia

Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti AWD: Is an Italian Daily Driver a Good Idea?

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Italian cars are frustrating. Their good aspects are beyond wonderful, as in they will genuinely make your life worth living. The problem is, there’s always a catch, some significant issue (usually “issues”) that counter-balance the positives to such a massive degree that buying one is often a bad idea if you’re thinking rationally. Italian cars are made to give you an in-depth emotional experience, but like people, the great times come with the hardships. The Italians have always built cars this way, and it has always made their cars intriguing because they seem like so much more than cold machines. It makes them feel genuinely alive.

Because of their unpredictable nature, there’s always something daring about buying an Italian car. It’s not a sure bet, but the rewards are so immense when things are going well that it always seems it may be worth the risk. A test drive in an Alfa will make you ask yourself deep philosophical questions like, “Am I really living the sort of life I want?”

Playing it safe works, but are you really living, or do you just merely exist? There’s a big difference between the two, and that’s what Alfa Romeo is all about. It’s the sort of car that will give you a reason to get out of bed in the morning, and will have you lusting all day for your drive home.

I literally fell in love with the Alfa 4C Spider when I drove it because it spoke deeply to my inner desire. How can an object make you feel so fulfilled and so happy to be alive? It was insane.

The Alfa 4C is an impractical sports car, though. Meant to be a second car for the weekends, it’s Italian imperfections are more tolerable than they would be in an everyday sedan. That brings us to the Giulia Ti you see here. It is an everyday luxury sport sedan, here to take on the BMW 3 Series and the Audi A4. There’s surely less room for error in this market of everyday sedans.

That brings up my big question: Has Alfa kept the Italian magic alive in the Giulia sedan, and how much Italian “character” is tolerable to sedan buyers? Have they watered it down in an attempt to compete for the mass market?

I had heard good things about the car, but many people seem to let the car’s shortcomings overshadow its strengths. Knowing the risks of reliability and build quality, I wanted to know if the upsides were worth the the gamble on this Italian 4 door.

Continue reading Alfa Romeo Giulia Ti AWD: Is an Italian Daily Driver a Good Idea?

Hyundai Elantra Sport DCT Review: An Unknown Gem

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Many good things in life fly just under the radar. Like the other day when I went to lunch at work, and noticed a bright blue Hyundai Elantra parked out front. The color caught my eye, but I figured it was just another Elantra. Then I noticed the wheels, the slightly aggressive body styling, and the dual exhaust tips protruding from the diffuser-looking rear valance. I thought to myself, “Damn, Hyundai is really trying to make the Elantra look like a performance model.” I saw the word “Sport” displayed on the back, and the subtle “Turbo” badge on the front grill. That prompted me to get out my phone and Google the Elantra Sport over lunch. What I found out was very intriguing.

Continue reading Hyundai Elantra Sport DCT Review: An Unknown Gem

Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Review: My Next Daily Driver?

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I’m starting to consider options for replacing my Volkswagen CC as my practical daily driver, and I’ve had numerous people tell me to try out the new turbocharged Honda Civic.

Now before any of you scream “Civic Si” or “Civic Type R” at the screen, just know that I need an automatic here because my girlfriend, Gab, needs to be able to drive the car. I have my Miata and my STI when I want to shift my own gears. Also, the mighty Type R is vastly out of my budget for this move.

I’m not going too deep into financials, but I’m considering a lease that would be the same or less than what I currently pay on my CC. I also want a car that is realistically capable of touching 40 MPG when I’m cruising.

So, automatic, 40 MPG capable, and a relatively cheap monthly payment. Sounds like driving excitement may not really be a factor here, right? The options are certainly limited, but the new Civic Hatchback Sport quickly captured my interest when shopping around. I’d heard some great things about the new 1.5L turbocharged engine, and it seemed like Honda had made the Hatchback Sport model a junior Si, of sorts.

I figured if I was going to try out the new Civic, I might as well try the one most likely to catch my interest. The 1.5L Turbo is available on all the Civic models, but the Sport would have the tighter handling and the sport exhaust, which would make it more my kind of car.

So, after work, I went to go check it out, and see if the Civic Hatchback Sport was the “8/10ths Civic Si” I was hoping it would be.

Continue reading Honda Civic Hatchback Sport Review: My Next Daily Driver?

The Lincoln Mark VII LSC Chronicles, Part 2: June, July, and August -The Plot Thickens

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This is Part 2 in a series.

Where we last left this story, I had taken a few interviews and the Lincoln had barfed coolant all over South Jersey. By the beginning of June, I’d parked the poor thing and taken back to driving the Legacy nearly full-time. I’d hit off on a few good interviews in the beginning of June, and while walking out to take the Lincoln to the center of town to pick up election results with my friend Damon, I got the offer as I started the engine. What started out as another day in the pack, had become a blessing. A blessing that turned into a curse, within due time. Continue reading The Lincoln Mark VII LSC Chronicles, Part 2: June, July, and August -The Plot Thickens

The Lincoln Mark VII LSC Chronicles, Part 1: April and May – Continuing The Story.

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This is Part 1 of an occasional series.

On April 16, as most of you dear readers know, I purchased this big gray Lincoln Mark VII LSC to replace my Miata, which I’d sold to Nick. What most of you don’t know, is the rest of the story. Through this occasional series, I will work to chronicle the past six months of what I’ve done with this gigantic piece of American history, and how it has fit into the other parts of my life in that time. Continue reading The Lincoln Mark VII LSC Chronicles, Part 1: April and May – Continuing The Story.

Toyota RAV4 XLE 2WD Review: More Ground Clearance With Less Compromise

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Last weekend my girlfriend, Gabrielle, and I travelled deep into the lake country of Minnesota for a family gathering of sorts. I don’t get up there as often as I’d like to, and I always feel like the visit is too short when I do. This trip was different in a few ways, though. My Grandma Ann’s health had been declining, to the point where I knew we needed to get out to try and see her. I wanted her, and the rest of the family, to meet Gab, and I knew time was becoming a factor. Unfortunately, as it happened, our visit came a few weeks too late.

Our trip to Minnesota became about finding solace as as a family, and showing support for my Grandpa Don in this most trying time in life. On the lighter side, Gab got to meet everyone, many of whom had been anxiously waiting to see if she was real for some time. We really had a great time, and it was beautiful just being together with everyone as a family. It was a short trip, but it was extremely valuable.

Now, me being me, I don’t like to rent a car without doing an article on it. Gab likes crossovers and she loves bright blue, so this particular Toyota RAV4 seemed to check all of the right boxes in the car park. It’s not the sort of car I usually review either, so I figured it might add some relevancy for this site in areas other than expensive sports cars.

A few years back, my parents and I had a RAV4 in Sedona, Arizona, and we were thrilled with how well it did with some rather intense surprise off-roading. That one was 4WD, though, and this one was 2WD, so I guess it’s more of a “RAV2”. Even still, rural Minnesota has some off road areas, so I figured the ground clearance may come in handy, along with that legendary Toyota dependability.

Continue reading Toyota RAV4 XLE 2WD Review: More Ground Clearance With Less Compromise

BMW i3 Review: Expectations are Everything

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The BMW i3 is just a car in the same way that an iPhone is just a phone. It does the job, but it’s really about so much more than basic functionality. It is a techy gadget on wheels, and it’s as much a personal brand statement as it is a mode of transportation.

As a new age city car, a Toyota Prius C will do the exact same functional job as the BMW i3 for less than half the price. But you could say the same for any other BMW as well, compared to a normal car. BMWs are pure luxury items, just like an Apple products, so we need to look at the car in that way.

As a car reviewer, I have my experience driving the car for a few minutes, hours or days, and then I give the car back. Owners have to live with the car, day-in and day-out for extended time. Consequently, our two experiences can often wind up pretty different.

The BMW i3 is one such car. I had my experience driving it, and I developed my initial opinion based on that. But then I looked around online to see what actual customers were saying, and I found much more I needed to consider before rendering my verdict. I think a lot comes down to how you approach the BMW i3, and how you intend to use the car.

Here is my take from both my drive in the car as well as from further research I’ve done.

Continue reading BMW i3 Review: Expectations are Everything

Volkswagen Touareg TDI: The Dieselgate Review

This 2011 Volkswagen Touareg TDI is my dad’s daily driver, and despite us owning it for nearly 5 years now, I’ve yet to do a review on it until now. But with the advent of Dieselgate, which now affects our Touareg, I figured it was time.

In the video I review the Touareg, and how it’s been for our family over the years. Then, with that in mind, I give my take on Dieselgate and what we plan to do as things progress.

I wrote an article on Dieselgate earlier, before the V6 diesel models were affected, but now that our Touareg has been drawn into it, I wanted to do show my take on the full issue on video.

Enjoy!

Here are some pics of our VW Touareg TDI shot by our friend, Dan Valanzola:

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-Nick Walker

Jeep Renegade Limited Review: The Italians Have Made A Jeep You’ll Love!

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When you think of Jeep, you think of the iconic Jeep Wrangler. Drawing its heritage all the way back to the army jeeps of World War II, the Wrangler has become the staple off-road vehicle of choice for many.

Many people just love the Wrangler’s unique style, though, without much interest in actually using its vast off-road capabilities. These buyers spell big opportunity for Jeep.

You see, while the Wrangler is quite “cool”, it’s strict off-road focus gives it some pretty serious drawbacks when it comes to everyday on-road driving. Anyone wanting to drive a Wrangler for its style points will have to be willing to sacrifice on fuel economy, practicality, handling, comfort, and security (with open models). Kind of a tough sell.

The big solution for Jeep was to create an all-new model that would take the Wrangler’s DNA and distill it into a more useable package for normal on-road use.

The new Jeep Renegade is that solution. Where the Wrangler is an off-roader first and daily car second, the Renegade is daily car first and an off-roader second.

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Renegades are selling well, and I do think Jeep may have a home run on their hands here. Honestly, there are more buyers out there who just want a Jeep for the unique style of the brand, rather than to actually go rock crawling in the desert.

My girlfriend, Gab, is a perfect example. She’s all about the Jeep image, and she loves the car’s features, but she’s not all about getting it muddy or traversing the Mojave desert in her spare time.

Gab got this black 2015 Jeep Renegade Limited a little over a month ago, and she’s been letting me drive her around in it. I feel I’ve gotten to know the car pretty well at this point, and now it’s time to share my take on it with you, my dear readers.

So put your boots on and lets get to it! Continue reading Jeep Renegade Limited Review: The Italians Have Made A Jeep You’ll Love!