Mark Savage

Automotive Contributor

Mark Savage writes the auto review column, Savage On Wheels, for WUWM (formerly for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) and Savageonwheels.com. He is also the executive editor of American Snowmobiler magazine and editor of FineScale Modeler magazine, both part of Kalmbach Media in Waukesha.  Savage is an Indianapolis native where he fell in love with cars, the Indy 500 and all things fast, dating back to his pedal car days. He speaks with fellow contributor Dan Harmon each month.

Mark Savage

I’m not a bigger is better sort of guy. My parents used to tell me the best things come in small packages.

So I’m not one to automatically rave about Toyota’s new Highlander because it has grown dimensionally, about 2.5 inches of wheelbase and overall length. But if you’re a larger family looking for a super reliable mid-size sport-utility vehicle to haul seven or eight folks, that extra room is as welcome as a stimulus check.

It means more legroom in row two and a touch more in the always tight confines of row three and the cargo area.

Mark Savage

What vehicles catch folks’ attention these days? If you’re thinking big pickups or SUVs, you’d be way off base. That’s what folks buy, not what tickles their eyeballs.

Sporty wagons, now that’s a sensory surprise.

This week’s 2020 Volvo V60 T5 AWD Cross Country (that’s a lot of name) was as surprising to car watchers as a politician telling the truth. The Volvo is sleek, sexy and debonair. If James Bond drove a wagon, this is what he’d drive. The V60 looks as tailored as one of Bond’s tuxedoes.

Mark Savage

A few years back I declared hybrids the way to go until all-electrics gained more range and the infrastructure to remotely recharge electrics grew substantially. Nothing has changed my mind and if anything, the growth of quality hybrids makes my point all the stronger.

This week’s drive proves that point in electrons!

Only a few months back I tested Honda’s popular small SUV, the CR-V. It’s a top-seller and pretty much leads a closely contested market segment. I feel the hybrid version of its top-level Touring model should be its top-selling model.

Mark Savage

Determining if a vehicle is a hatchback or a crossover can sometimes cause consternation. Take the case of Lexus' small hatch/crossover, the UX.

That name provides no clue as to what this is, other than there’s an X in the name, so the vehicle designers probably considers it a crossover. Most of the time crossovers offer AWD or 4WD and again, the UX sort of splits the difference.

READ: 2020 Hyundai Venue SEL Review

Mark Savage

In some ways you’d think Nissan would own the large SUV market.

Its small Rogue is extremely popular as is its mid-size SUV, the Pathfinder. Consider too that Nissan’s large SUV boasts the most power in its class and is one of the lower priced big people haulers on the market.

READ: 2020 Ford Explorer ST AWD Review

But, when I mention the Nissan Armada, do you think of a top-tier large SUV?

Mark Savage

Subaru’s Outback is as close to a cult car for seniors as is it for middle-agers with a couple of teens still living at home. Its sales just continue to grow, resulting in one parked in nearly every other suburban driveway.

Spoiler alert: there’s a 2017 version in my driveway.

That said, Outback just keeps getting better, which may lead to trade-ins among some of its earlier devotees. The latest Outback Onyx Edition XT is the latest case in point.

Mark Savage

Mercedes-Benz has been dominating Formula 1 racing for six years and it has a long history of dominant race cars dating back to the 1930s. Famous race drivers such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, and now Lewis Hamilton have put Mercedes squarely in the public eye.

Mark Savage

If I were to vote on my car of the year today, it would be the Mazda CX-30, a new larger subcompact crossover, up a step from Mazda’s current CX-3.

This new crossover in the fastest growing part of that market is easily the most stylish, most luxuriously finished and most fun to drive to date. It’s a thing of beauty and performance.

READ: 2019 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD Review

2020 Lexus GX460 Review

Jun 14, 2020
Mark Savage

A few years back we drove an old Toyota RAV4 loaner while our car was in the shop. The RAV had no power windows, just cranks, and a radio with six buttons, no screen. It felt refreshing and fun to drive.

So why not a little mild throwback design on cars and their features?

READ: 2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro Review

Mark Savage

OK, I oohed and aahed so much over the gas-powered 2020 Hyundai Sonata you might ask, how could I be any more enthusiastic for the hybrid version?

Well, you asked!

Mark Savage

Toyota’s Camry has won three NASCAR championships and a fair number of “stock car” races to get there, but be honest, do you think of a Camry as racy?

Camry mostly conjures the image of a practical family sedan. But that could change, and all because of Toyota’s 2020 Camry TRD. For those not versed in car jargon, TRD stands for Toyota Racing Development. That’s the Toyota division that concentrates on making racing equipment for its vehicles, and race cars for various series.

Mark Savage

If you’re belly-aching about the costs of new cars you obviously haven’t driven a Hyundai Venue.

This all new crossover from Hyundai is as good as it gets for entry-level vehicles, the kind recent college grads and others just working their way into our economy can afford. But this is not a cheap econobox, a base car that you’d feel embarrassed to drive. No way!

READ: 2020 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro Review

Bill Pugliano / Getty Images

Since the coronavirus outbreak began, sales of new cars across the country are down significantly. Auto manufacturing has been hindered by disruptions in the supply chain, and some plants have shut down.

Despite low interest rates and new safety precautions at dealerships, it may not be enough to encourage people to buy a new car, especially since consumer spending is down. Plus, with many of us working from home, we’re spending even less time in our cars.

Mark Savage

A quick history lesson on Mitsubishi for new and younger buyers. The Japanese car maker, most famous for making the nimble Zero aircraft during World War II, used to have a small, but fairly full vehicle lineup.

But tough times and a shrinking, aging lineup hurt Mitsubishi in the early 2000s. Its biggest claim to fame and popularity was its sporty Eclipse, but then even that went away as Mitsubishi began to claw back into the market by offering small SUVs. Last year it sold 121,000 vehicles a 2.5% gain over 2018 and its third year of 100,000+ sales and seventh year of growth.

Mark Savage

Seems collectively we’ve forgotten that it’s fun to drive a car, a sports car in particular. Instead the driving nation thrives on the high-riding muscle of big pickups and SUVs that 25 years ago might have been considered farm implements, or candidates for a Monster Truck rally.

Mark Savage

Seven years had passed since my last test of Honda’s hot-selling CR-V, its small sport-ute, but the wait was worth it.

I felt the 2013 model had fallen a bit behind the curve in the small ute market but be assured Honda is back atop its game with the 2020 model. Mine was an Aegean blue metallic Touring model with all-wheel drive. That’s the top-level CR-V and it was fully equipped, so much so that there were no options.

Mark Savage

Seeing Hyundai’s eighth-gen Sonata makes me feel a bit like Charlie Brown when he sees “the little red-haired girl.” Not sure it’s love at first sight, but “wow” the 2020 Sonata is stirring. Yet that’s not a description many family sedans evoke.

Hyundai, which along with cousin Kia continues to up the styling ante, has outdone itself with the new Sonata. After stunning buyers with the sixth generation Sonata in 2011 and then coasting on styling for the seventh gen model, this one rocks the sedan market.

Mark Savage

Some people still enjoy driving a car, its feel, its handling, its sharp engagement of power, yet their bank accounts don’t allow for a BMW.

What to do?

Mazda has an answer, its Mazda3 in either sedan or hatchback mode. Both are driving dandies. This week’s drive was aboard a dark metallic gray ($300 extra) Mazda3 Premium sedan, its top of the line trim. Making it even better, this one added all-wheel-drive, something only Subaru’s Impreza offers in this price range and market segment. This car was made for Wisconsin.

Mark Savage

Technology dominates much of our lives and increasingly our automotive lives. So finding a nice blend of tech along with fun and practicality is a stretch.

Well, Infiniti’s QX50 makes that stretch without even glancing over its shoulder. Two things, no, make that three, stand out on this small- to medium-sized SUV. One you’ll barely notice, the other two become obvious fairly quickly.

Mark Savage

Let’s be clear, a lot of people have purchased Ford Escapes over the years. It is one of the most popular compact SUVs on the market and for 2020 it’s majorly restyled, making it slightly lower and wider.

Its new nose looks a lot like a Porsche Macan, which one would think should help sales and at least mentally plant the seed that this is a sportier SUV than in the past. And maybe it is in some ways because it offers four engine choices, has adjustable ride control and a revised suspension system with vibration absorbing rear subframe mounts.

Mark Savage

I’m a fan of Subaru’s Outback wagon/crossover, but the Legacy sedan has always been a bit too fuddy-duddy looking for me. Seems Subaru forgets about styling when it comes to the Legacy.

That’s odd as Subaru’s sedan competes against heavy hitters like Toyota’s Camry and Honda’s Accord, both of which have been restyled, mostly for the better, in the past few years. Legacy has the advantage of standard all-wheel-drive, yet even in its newest 2020 duds, the Legacy’s styling is, well, more dud than dude.

Mark Savage

With a name like Corsair the history buffs among us might expect Lincoln’s new compact luxury SUV/crossover to fly, and it does.

Well, it flies as in it rockets away from stoplights. Lincoln has ditched its MKC model in favor of Corsair and put the emphasis on power and handling, but less on luxurious ride. This sharp-looking ute in the tested AWD Reserve trim rocks out with a 2.3-liter turbocharged I4 that pounds out 295 horsepower. Boom!

That mark exceeds the power curve on many of its competitors, such as Cadillac’s XT4, Acura’s RDX and Lexus NX, to name a few.

Mark Savage

Do you prefer old school or retro to an overabundance of digital doodads? Do you prefer driving your vehicle to your vehicle driving you?

Nissan has an answer for SUV lovers. Its name is Pathfinder. This is a fine SUV with room for seven passengers, but with a modicum of the gizmos and gadgets that can make today’s vehicles safer, but often frustrating to drive. I enjoyed this drive without a lane-departure system beeping or tugging at the wheel and everything else on the dash being simple enough that having an electronics degree wasn’t necessary.

Mark Savage

Chrysler has been making minivans since the 1984 model year. But its latest, the 2020 Pacifica, is easily the best of the bunch.

Chrysler minivans have nearly always been comfortable and easy to drive. The company’s Stow 'N' Go seats were a brilliant addition, as were its earlier rear seats that could be rolled out for easy removal and storage. But, let’s be honest, there were some mechanical issues, something about transmissions. That’s behind the company, now part of Italian conglomerate, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles.

Mark Savage

Looking for a new car can be overwhelming. That's why we turn to Mark Savage — Lake Effect's car contributor who test drives about one car a week. His experiences culminate in the annual Zoomie Car of the Year awards. After a four-year hiatus, 2020 marks the return of the Zoomies.

Mark Savage

Dodge’s Durango SRT is the truck version of a NASCAR stocker.

SRT is all about power, muscle and grunt with an engine grumble that sounds like a stock car ready to bust out of the pits and head up the banking at Daytona. Otherwise, it’s a fine, luxurious mid-size SUV that will haul a family, or a load of friends in comfort all the while satisfying their need for speed.

How so?

Mark Savage

My wife calls Toyota’s 4Runner a manly man’s truck, and it certainly is.

Tall, muscular looking, big tires and wheels, a hood scoop, a husky luggage rack on the roof and an engine that growls along with knobby tires that rumble on the road. Yes, manly and a serious off-roader, made even more so by being the TRD Pro edition.

Mark Savage

Mitsubishi’s Outlander Sport crossover is simple, yet effective.

By that I mean it’s nothing fancy, but it’s a solid family hauler with four-wheel-drive, enough safety equipment to satisfy most folks and a sporty new nose so it doesn’t look like the styling fairy has passed it by.

Mark Savage

Occasionally I get to test drive a new model twice within a year or 18 months because the car makers fill their fleets with their newest models. The hope, of course, is that us auto writers will drive, and write about, said new wheels, and sales will blossom.

Hard for much to blossom in Wisconsin in winter, but the Genesis G70, launched early last year, is a rose among thorns when it comes to pricing and value in the luxury sport sedan market. As I said in my earlier review, Japanese and European luxury sport sedan makers better beware.

Mark Savage

There’s no denying a certain panache in the Land Rover name and a certain pride a Rover driver feels in its ability to crunch through the Serengeti brush and ford rushing hippo-infested streams as it takes you deep into the rugged, wild outback.

Yet Rover is no rough and tumble Jeep. It has evolved into a luxury brand and proudly wears a hefty price at which one should expect all the finery a car maker can pack into a leather-slathered interior.

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