On this page you'll find the latest updates to our Long-Term Road Tests. The topics covered in these ongoing vehicle reviews range from things like fuel efficiency and comfort to highlights of specific features like GPS and audio technology. Check back frequently as our auto reviews are updated on a regular basis.
A few days ago, I read some of the updates we have on our old 2007 Mini Cooper S. I have fond memories of that '07 car, but I was concerned that I was thinking back and only remembering the good parts, which would be like saying I really liked Star Wars: The Phantom Menace because all I remember is the light saber battle between Darth Maul and Obi Wan/Qui-Gon. And sure enough, there were Jar Jar Binks aspects about that car that we didn't like. Reacquainted with all things Mini, I came to the conclusion that our 2014 Mini Cooper is a much better car for the majority of small car shoppers.
I swear I'm not trying to gloat, but it was 85 degrees and sunny in southern California just a few days ago. While the east coast was being attacked by snownadoes, I was breaking in to a sweat just by going outside. That meant I had the air conditioning in our long-term 2015 Lexus RC F set to "LO" and the ventilated seats set to their highest output setting.
I suggested the use of the cooling function on the seat to a friend of mine when she got in the Lexus. After a few minutes, she commented that she could feel them working from both the back- and butt-positions. I had my seats set to the highest ventilation position, too, but I couldn't feel a thing. Apparently, this difference came down to a choice in wardrobe.
We bought our 2015 Chevrolet Colorado with the Trailering Package because we wanted it to be ready to do some towing. The 3.6-liter V6 is good for only 3,500 lbs. without this option, but that jumps to 7,000 lbs. when the package is present.
Among other things, the trailering package pre-wires the truck for a 7-pin trailer connection, the kind that supports electric trailer brakes and trailer battery charging via the alternator when on the move. It's all built into the wire harness and fused in the under-hood fuse box.
The only thing missing is an electronic trailer brake controller. The current-generation Silverado options list offers a built-in one, but that option is not available on the Colorado.
This isn't that unusual. Built-in trailer brake controllers in full-size trucks are a relatively new development. So we simply did what truck owners always did up until a few years ago: We installed our own.
In the recent past, pre-wired tow-package trucks would come with a small sub-harness that was stuffed in a bag in the glove compartment or hidden under a seat. It'd have a connector on one end and bare wires on the other. The idea was you'd splice you're trailer brake controller to the bare wires and plug the connector into a waiting receptacle under the dash.
I went looking for something like this and ran into a roadblock.
After some initial seat time in our 2015 Nissan Murano I'm glad it comes standard with a V6. Sure, there are plenty of smaller, turbocharged four-cylinder engines that deliver similar levels of output these days, but the broad range of torque from the Murano's 3.5-liter V6 makes it feel far more responsive, especially for a vehicle of its size.
Before my daughter was born, a Volkswagen GTI (Mk VI) was going to be our family car. Because she arrived quite a few weeks earlier than we expected, we hadn't yet installed her infant car seat in it to assess the fit. Of course, the car seat fit fine. But due to its shape and our respective heights, my husband and I did not. We said a hasty goodbye to the VW and bought a Mazda 5.
That doesn't mean we don't miss the GTI, nor does it mean we won't buy another one someday. So it was with some excitement that I approached the task of installing our rear-facing convertible car seats in the long-term Mk VII 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI.
The adaptive cruise control in our long-term 2015 Ford Mustang GT is almost perfect. It's a $1,195 stand-alone option, but there's no doubt in my mind that it's worth the cost.
For starters, when set to the closest following distance (pictured) the system follows the car in front of you (if they're travelling slower than your set speed) close enough to deter most other motorists from wedging into the gap, but it's not so close that it feels like I'm tailgating. The ACC doesn't react too abruptly to minor changes in traffic flow either and it even has a feature that seems to anticipate passing maneuvers before you make them.
We knew that our 2014 Jeep Cherokee was due for service soon but we snuck in a couple of road trips anyway. It had 12,925 miles when I pulled into the service drive for a 7:00 a.m. appointment at Glenn E. Thomas Dodge in Long Beach. On the agenda were scheduled 10,000-mile maintenance items and a phone pairing issue Josh encountered.
In less than 45 minutes the oil and filter were changed and the tires rotated. Then I waited. The next 2 hours and 15 minutes in the customer lounge were highlighted by a Michael Strahan versus Shaquille O'Neal dance-off and the woman seated next to me, who spilled a cup of coffee in her husband's shoe...
Our 2014 Toyota Highlander last visited the dealer in October. A couple of days ago, the big blue crossover notified us it was due for routine service. The 15,000-mile interval called for a tire rotation and visual inspections of the brakes, wiper blades and fluids. I took the Highlander to Puente Hills Toyota just after noon.
I'm surprised that the start/stop system in our 2015 Porsche Macan S isn't smoother, mostly because everything else in this performance SUV is excessively precise. From the sharp-shifting transmission to the buttons on the steering wheel, most everything works with a click or a snap.
While we wait to get our truck back in one piece, here is one of our adventures that happened before the mishap.
A lot has been said about the ride quality in our 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, and rightly so. It bucked the trend (see what I did there?) of full-sized trucks being rough riding, bouncy affairs and instead showed us that, with a little suspension black magic, a big truck could indeed have a comfortable, relaxed ride.
Well that's all well and good for people, but what does it mean for cargo strapped into the bed? Kinda exactly what you'd think it'd mean.
I like to listen to my iPod in the car. I'm not real fussy about the sound, so this is not an audio review of the 2015 Volvo S60. As long as it's playing, I'm happy. I'll be singing along anyway, so the sound quality is not an issue.
One of the reasons my mother loved her first- and third-generation Honda CR-V was the open floor space in between the front seats as well as the low and/or non-existent center console. There were two reasons. First, she appreciated the sense of openness. Second, she'd usually keep her purse in that open area, or it would at least make it easier for her to access her purse when it sat on the floor. It was with this in mind that I knew my mother would love the 2014 BMW i3.
Although some members of our staff would like our 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI better if it had a manual transmission, I'm fine with its automatic. That's because Volkswagen's Direct Shift Gearbox is one of, if not the best, automatics on the market.
After 100 miles of dashing through the twisty bits of my local mountain roads, I should've had a wide smile on my face given that I had our long-term 2015 Lexus RC F for the weekend. This 467-horsepower luxury sport coupe is comfortable, and there's plenty of power on tap. As Jay Kavanagh previously mentioned though, it's just too heavy, especially for this kind of Sunday fun.
One of the design changes for the new-generation 2014 Mini Cooper was the elimination of the distinctive, but often unloved, oversized speedometer right smack in the middle of the dash. This time around, all Coopers have a circular outline fitted with a display screen and buttons. Base 2014 and 2015 Coopers get a basic audio display screen, but when you upgrade to the Mini Connected option (available as a stand-alone option or as part of certain packages such as the Media or Wired packages) you get a larger 6.5-inch screen and a variety of technology upgrades.
Our long-term car has the Mini Connected system. If you're familiar with the newest versions of BMW's iDrive, you'll also quickly realize that Mini's Connected system is just the Mini version of iDrive. I, for one, happen to think this is a pretty good deal.
Kurt may fill you in on the details of his ongoing Yamaha project bike (1976 Yamaha DT400) in subsequent posts, but his most recent obstacle to two-wheel happiness came when the bike up and died on him, forcing him to endure the taunts of young neighborhood groms while walking the bike back to the house.
After some investigation, he suspected a faulty stator, which meant removing the flywheel. Which meant an impact wrench serious enough to remove the crusty flywheel bolt and a trip to the Edmunds studio/workshop where such tools live.
Some cars display the current speed limit based on GPS data and some read the street signs. Our long-term 2015 Volvo S60 obviously reads the street signs. The problem is that in Los Angeles you don't always get a street sign.
Scott recently brought a failing window switch on our 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe to my attention. The auto-up feature wasn't working properly. Sometimes this means the switch is broken and needs replacing, but most often, it needs reprogramming. Two steps should do it:
While I think it is certainly a good idea that the 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI offers an automatic transmission option, there is absolutely no way I would ever consider getting it. Although VW's DSG dual-clutch automated manual is a good, reasonably sporty automatic, it is still an automatic. With it, our long-term GTI just feels like a slightly faster Golf with a significantly worse ride.
Most luxury sedans are moving away from using a V8 engine as the standard offering. The 2015 Kia K900 not only comes standard with a 420-horsepower V8, there are no other options. Thankfully, it gives you very few reasons to want anything else.
Driving our long-term 2014 Mini Cooper around town can be fun, but it's not until you hit up a road like the one pictured that you can fully enjoy the Mini experience. As the ad tagline goes, "let's motor."
When John and Marla moved in next door to my mother in 1989, they brought their 1985 Ford Mustang GT with them. Almost thirty years later, they still live next to mom and they've still got their Mustang. And yes, it still runs and drives.
I drove to mom's house last weekend to take her to lunch in our long-term 2015 Ford Mustang GT and with the two cars parked next to each other, I wondered exactly how much had changed in the last three decades.
You want a decent amount of suspension articulation if you're going to venture off the pavement very far, especially if you see yourself getting into the kind of frame-twist situations where one tire could hike up off the ground. It turns out this is fairly easy to measure and quantify in terms of Ramp Travel Index (RTI), so named because the frame twist maneuver is artificially created by driving up a ramp.
Last week I drove our 2015 Ford F-150 SuperCrew 4x4 pickup up a 20-degree RTI ramp of our own making to see how much suspension articulation the new Ford has to offer.
While I like my sports cars shiny, I like my pickup trucks to value function over form. Shiny-ness is not a requisite. Happily, this seems to be the case with the gauges in our long-term 2015 Chevrolet Colorado.
Our 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo requested windshield wiper fluid despite receiving scheduled maintenance at Santa Monica BMW just a few months ago. Coolant, power steering, brake and windshield wiper fluids are topped off during normal service. So we couldn't explain why it was low again already.
There is almost nothing I don't like about seeing our long-term 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI in my driveway. My husband and I spent a couple of years with an MkVI VW GTI (base-model 2011, United Gray Metallic, three-pedal setup), and we were sad to part ways with it. With all the improvements on the seventh-generation car, there's no reason to think I wouldn't like it even more.
Of course, soon after getting behind the wheel of our long-term GTI for the first time, I got right into a pocket of stop-and-go traffic. As Chris wrote, the car's six-speed, dual-clutch automated manual transmission (the DSG) can be bothersome in these situations when left in D.
Switching to S mode is a reasonable solution, but then when traffic picks up again, you've got to switch back to D because S locks out overdrive and has the engine revving needlessly at a 65-mph cruise. I could shift it manually, but if this is the "automatic-transmission" GTI, why should I have to?
Look past all those plastic parts on the engine in our 2015 Hyundai Sonata and you'll find a very refined four-cylinder power plant. Whether you're wringing it out while getting on the highway or just cruising around town, the 2.4-liter engine sounds and feels well suited to this sedan.
Loading the 2015 Porsche Macan S with miscellaneous stuff seems almost sacrilegious. But then, if Porsche didn't want you to use their vehicles for mundane tasks, why would they build a "low-priced" SUV?
Last weekend I found myself approaching the same long downgrade that had earlier goaded our 2015 Kia K900 into doing wrong things in an effort to keep its speed in check. But this time I was in our new 2015 Ford F-150 Lariat 4x4 pickup, which presented a perfect opportunity to set the cruise control at the same speed and see if the F-150 could do any better.
Before I reveal how it went, allow me to first set the table. I was alone. I wasn't towing or hauling anything, so there was no need for Tow/Haul mode. And this simple interstate cruise wasn't the appropriate time or place for so the newly added Sport mode, either. This was routine stuff, everyday driving in "D" with the transmission in its normal default mode.
With cruise engaged, the truck approached the grade at the desired 65 mph in sixth gear at about 1,750 rpm. Nothing changed in the first moments of the descent, but as the slope got steeper the truck's speed crept up to 66 mph, then 67 mph.
For the most part, I like our long-term 2015 Ford Mustang GT. It's bright orange, it's got a 435-horsepower V8 and a smooth-shifting six-speed transmission, but I wish it were louder. I have the same opinion as Mark when he wrote about the exhaust in an earlier update but here are a few videos of the Mustang's exhaust note so you can judge for yourself.
They're far from the most expensive tire in the land, but according to TireRack.com they cost $189 dollars each on closeout. Not exactly chump change. And the last time we had a puncture back about 11,000 miles ago we paid over $350 for one.
The good news is that these tires last a good long time.
Kia's strategy with the 2015 Kia K900 is as obvious as it is brilliant: Build in some Lexus engine character, make it as quiet as a big Benz, load it with every executive-level creature comfort in the factory, then sell it all for about the price of a BMW 5 Series. It's hard to argue with the results. If you deal high-grade narcotics and need to stay under the DEA radar, but can't bring yourself to drive a more plebian sedan, you could do worse than the K900.
One of the first things I do when I get into a car is connect my iPod. This small space by the shifter in our long-term 2015 Nissan Murano is hard to reach in with your hand and plug in the USB connector.
My Giant XTC hard tail is a fairly big mountain bike. Confusingly, small Giant bicycles exist, but mine truly fits the name: it's an XL-sized frame and it rolls on 29-inch wheels. Despite its dimensional bigness, it fits in the back of our 2015 Porsche Macan, but only just.
Considering its small footprint, our 2015 Volkswagen GTI packs a lot of space into the cabin. It's not obvious from the driver seat, but sit in back and you realize there's enough room for an average-sized adult to sit comfortably.
It's almost a backhanded compliment to say that electric cars make great city cars, because well, they aren't good road trip vehicles unless you have access to Tesla's Supercharger network, right? But our long-term 2014 BMW i3 is really an excellent commuter car and there's nothing backhanded about that praise.
I don't actually live "in the city" but in a congested suburb that was once considered well outside the city but is now among L.A.'s inner bedroom communities. It takes me an average of 70 minutes to cover 20 miles between home and the office.
Not only did I enjoy using our BMW i3 for my slog, it was interesting as a comparison to our old long-term Mini E. All EVs are still science projects to some extent, but the i3 is a far more practical vehicle than its forbear.
If you have kids, Mini offers a couple of family friendlier vehicles these days: the Cooper Countryman crossover, which has been out since 2011, and the four-door Cooper hatchback, which is new for 2015. But if you want to stay traditional in your choice of Mini Coopers, the two-door hatchback might still work out all right. I've come to that conclusion after taking my two kids to school each day for about a week.
This morning I fired up the big blown V8 in our long-term 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe and was immediately greeted with a low-tire warning light on the two-seater's instrument cluster.
Not the way you want to start your day.
The car was telling me that the Jag's right rear Pirelli was down to 27 psi, which is low, but not low enough to panic. I exited the car and took a look. Sure enough, a Phillips head screw was stuck in the tread.
Our Macan's TPMS measures the psi as the vehicle is moving. But unlike our long-term Mini Cooper it performs this action very quickly. It's complete by the time I get out of our parking garage. And if I leave the display on the instrument panel, it keeps adjusting on the fly.
It hasn't been an issue for us, but other 2014 Jeep Cherokee owners have been experiencing some problems with the shift quality from the standard nine-speed automatic transmission. According to Jeep, there's nothing physically wrong with the transmission, it simply has a few software glitches that occasionally result in abnormal operation.
Even though our 2015 Ford F-150 was at the repair shop for a few weeks thanks to a sledgehammer-related incident, our truck passed the 1,000-mile mark within its first month in our long-term fleet. The engine was fully broken in according to the manual, so it was ready to go to our test track. Read on to find out how well the new turbocharged 2.7-liter V6 moved our full-size pickup.
I didn't go on any hot dates in our long term 2015 Jaguar F-Type R Coupe. No track time, no power slides, no car shows. What I did get to do was drive this Jaguar the same way I drive my 1998 Tahoe LT two-door. Slowly. I know, that sounds like a bit of a letdown. But before you chastise me for letting this fireball of jaw-dropping aggression go to waste, let me describe my weekend.
After installing a rear-facing convertible car seat in the rear center position of our long-term 2015 Audi A3 sedan, I observed that due to the backseat's relatively narrow dimensions, it would be a squeeze to have an adult ride on either side of the car seat.
Our 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI has good seats. Really good seats. Possibly you remember the wildly over-bolstered seats in our 2013 Ford Focus ST? They were polarizing. Some people loved the support they offered, but many, like me, thought it possible to offer similar support without such aggressive bolsters.
Everything seemed normal as I was driving my daughter to school in our 2014 Ram 1500 Ecodiesel. Well, almost normal. Five minutes earlier it had cranked an unusually long time (3 or 4 seconds) when I'd started it at home. That rather innocuous incident marked the third such occurrence in three consecutive days, so I made a mental note to tell the dealer about it at the next oil change before I backed out of my driveway and set off.
That plan abruptly changed as I rolled up to a green light and began a right-hand turn. A single-note chime resonated through the cabin, and I glanced down to find a brand new check-engine light glowing on the dash. Ten seconds later the engine died abruptly as I was slowing for the next red light.
I was gently brushing the brakes going no more than 20 mph when it happened, but the sudden loss of power brought me to a stop three truck-lengths short of the line. It was as good a spot as any for something like this to happen. This was a little-used shortcut with almost no traffic. But I was out in the second lane. I needed to move on or move over. So I pushed the start button and attempted a restart.
It was no good. The starter simply cranked and cranked until it timed-out after 25 seconds. I tried again and got the same result.
I absolutely love the front seats in our 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited. Every time I get in, it's like settling into a comfy leather armchair. There's just the right amount of padding and support in the seat bottom. It's soft but not squishy, firm but not stiff.
With the exception of the R8, Audis have looked pretty much the same for the last 10 years. I feel like I should be tired of this design by now, and on a car like the A6 (which I feel is too big to be fun on a good road, yet too small to be out-and-out luxurious), I really am tired of it. Yet, our long-term 2015 Audi A3 sedan looks fresh and new to me every time I walk up to it.
After getting some seat time in our 2014 BMW i3, I was struck by how it reminded me of our old Nissan Juke long-termer. Before you question my state of mind, let me elaborate. As with the Juke, the i3 is, at least to my eyes, ugly. Really, with such a disjointed look, especially in profile, it looks as if the three blind mice were given the project. But as with that frog-like Nissan, the i3 quickly won me over with its engaging personality.
For some time we've toyed with the idea of equipping our test trucks with spray-on bedliners. Without any sort of protection they get scratched up, which comes across (to some) as unsightly. Truck bed scuffs can also diminish resale value and increase the risk of future corrosion.
We could have equipped our 2015 Ford F-150 Lariat 4x4 pickup with a factory spray-on bedliner for $475, but we'd never spent any time with the factory offering in real life. Besides, Ford's bedliner department still follows old Henry Ford's famous line: any color you want, so long as it is black.
The brilliant "Blue Flame" paint on our truck is not a particularly dark color, and the Lariat Sport package adds enough black accents of its own. We figured a color-matched bedliner would look much better, so we turned to Line-X, a stalwart in the spray-on truck bedliner business.
Line-X is a franchise business, so prices vary a little across the country. Our local shop in Orange, California sells the basic black one for about the same price as Ford: $485. A UV-resistant topcoat that prevents the black from fading costs $150 more, but the color-matched UV-resistant topcoat we had in mind is a $300 upgrade. Do the math and you'll see that our total came to $785. More money, for sure, but better-looking.
They said it'd take about three hours to prep and spray our truck. After that I could take it home so long as I didn't load anything into it and kept it dry for the next 24 hours. So I showed up at their front door at 8:30 a.m. and texted my wife to say I'd be back in time to take her to lunch.
Normally, a subcompact car with a fairly upright profile and a three-cylinder engine would not be an example of an agreeable highway companion. But this new-generation 2014 Mini Cooper hatchback is more refined than ever before. And compared to many other small cars we've tested recently, our Mini Cooper is actually one of the quieter vehicles out there.
The first time I drove our long-term 2015 Nissan Murano I sat for a minute to familiarize myself with its features. I adjusted the seat, mirrors, steering wheel, seatbelt height, A/C to my preferred temperature and direction, put on the seat heaters, plugged in my iPod. My usual routine. As you can imagine, it takes me awhile to get out of our parking garage.
One of the first functions I came to appreciate in our 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI is its navigation system's interface. This is a small detail, but it's one I always notice. First, the zoom function is accomplished using a knob. Knobs are always better than buttons, especially touchscreen buttons.
After a round of home improvement projects over the last couple of months, I had a side yard full of wood scraps and other junk to get rid of. Despite not having a protective bed liner, our Ram 1500 handled the task with ease, and without a scratch.
Our 2015 Porsche Macan S isn't the biggest SUV on the block. Trading the size of the Cayenne for the extra maneuverability and fuel efficiency is generally a tradeoff I'm happy with and I generally like SUVs.
Until a girl who lives in my house sees it and says "Sweet, you brought home an SUV. Let's go to Ikea."
So there I was, exiting the freeway in our 2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI hatchback near Los Angeles International airport. I was on my way to a parking structure before catching a flight to Barcelona, Spain to drive the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata.
All of a sudden an alert popped up. There were two of them, in fact: one on the small information screen wedged between the gauges and another covering whatever had been showing on the large central audio/navigation screen. The larger one wouldn't go away until I acknowledged it by pressing "OK" on the touchscreen.
Apparently there was a wrong-way driver on I-5 at Cannon Street.
But I was a dozen miles from Interstate 5's nearest tangent point. And even though I'd heard of Cannon Street, I couldn't place it. I looked it up after I parked the VW and unloaded my luggage.
Cannon Street is in Carlsbad, California. It's the Legoland exit in northern San Diego County. In other words, the alert referred to something going on 93 miles south of my position. Some 4 million people live between here and there.
What a waste of my time and attention. This car has navigation. It couldn't issue the warning if it didn't. It knows where I am. It knows the distance to the threat. And it knows I'm not neither headed in that direction nor traveling on the road in question.
A fluke, you say? Apparently our Audi A3, a close relation to this V-dub, has done this, too. But I'm not done with my GTI rant just yet.
Most of our trip into the not-so-wilds of Nevada had our long-term 2014 Jeep Cherokee Limited on well-groomed dirt roads. The roads were so civilized, that we never saw the need to switch into any of the off-road drive modes. That was, until one of the locals told us that we should check out an area up in the hills.
For people shopping for a large luxury sedan, the 2015 Kia K900 might not immediately come to mind. It's a new car, and the Kia brand name isn't exactly synonymous with "flagship luxury sedan" yet. But I think if a friend were to ask me about what kind of large sedan he or she should consider, I'd certainly mention the K900.
When I got into our long-term 2015 Porsche Macan S in the morning, the TPMS went off immediately. It said the right rear tire was down 7 psi. I got out to look it over and found a large nail embedded in it.
Day 4: Willcox, Arizona to Lake Forest, California, 562 miles.
Although I guess you could say I was "working" on a Saturday for the last day of my Austin Road Trip, the nice thing about driving on the weekend is that there isn't so much of a "rush hour" period that you have to make sure to avoid. I veered off Interstate 10 to Interstate 8 West toward San Diego, but to be honest it's a crapshoot as to how bad traffic will be down there, too.
The 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo and I hit considerable rain all morning in Arizona, but the GT pushed through without any trouble. As I mentioned previously, this is a solid and stable car. It gives you a good sense of security to press on at reasonable speed even in less-than-perfect road conditions.
† Edmunds.com received the highest numerical score in the proprietary J.D. Power 2014 Third-Party Automotive Website Evaluation Study℠. Results based on responses from 3,381 responses, measuring 14 companies and measures third-party automotive website usefulness among new and used vehicle shoppers. Proprietary study results are based on experiences and perceptions of owners surveyed from January 2014. Your experiences may vary. Visit jdpower.com.