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

 

There’s no denying that pickups are the dandies of our nation’s auto buyers. Ford’s F-150 has been the top selling vehicle in the U.S. for 37 years now and Chevy’s Silverado pickup has been No. 2 most of that time. Chrysler’s Ram pickup is No. 3 now, just a sliver behind the Chevy.

That’s right, the top 3 best-sellers are all pickups, and the Ford by a wide margin, nearly 2 to 1 vs. the Chevy and the Ram.

Mark Savage

What should you expect when buying a car for $100,000?

Certainly standout looks and performance are in the top couple “must haves.” But do you expect a hybrid sports car with supercar looks and a steady whine?

Well, Lexus delivers on looks, performance and comfort with its hot sports coupe — the LC 500h. That “h” signifies this is a hybrid, so it even delivers better fuel economy than could be expected in a hot coupe. But there’s also a whine here that doesn’t befit the car’s luxury standing.

Mark Savage

Kia’s first big SUV is a perfect game. Whatever superlative sports metaphor you’d choose, the Telluride is all that.

It’s harder to write a glowing review than one that picks a few nits, yet I found none to pick in this review of Kia’s new Telluride SX AWD. That’s the top level model, but there are four trims, so one should fit in most folks’ budget.

Mark Savage

BMW is as synonymous with racing as Porsche and Ferrari. But BMW is also known for making road-worthy sedans and coupes that offer at least a modicum of civility and practicality.

As its 3 Series and 5 Series cars have continued to grow, both in size and price, BMW wisely stepped back toward its roots to create both a 1 and 2 Series. These are smaller and less pricey, comparatively, from its mainstream offerings.

Mark Savage

No words, no matter how many, can adequately describe RAM’s heavy-duty 3500 pickup. But I’ll try.

Check in the dictionary under “cowboy Cadillac” and I’m pretty sure you’ll see an image of my fancy metallic walnut brown test truck. This was the RAM 3500 Laramie Longhorn Crew Cab with four-wheel-drive and a long bed, just one notch down from RAM’s top-level Limited.

2020-toyota-corolla-hybrid-review
Mark Savage

After 60 years in the U.S. market, Toyota continues to impress when it comes to value. And its redesigned 2020 Corolla is a prime example.

Toyota revamped its popular Corolla to lower its ride height, widen its track, lower the cowl for better visibility and looks and then shorten the front overhang and lengthen its rear overhang. Still, you likely won’t drop a molar in excitement, but the compact is modestly pleasing to the eye.

I’ve owned a couple Mazdas through the years. I’ve liked them for their sporty handling and edgy styling, which sets them apart from many competitors.

The new 2019 Mazda3 Hatchback does nothing to spoil those differentiators. In fact, it improves on the looks and upgrades the interior to make it even more attractive. Mazda also adds all-wheel drive (AWD) as an option, putting it in direct competition with the sporty AWD Subaru Impreza, but with a touch more zip.

Mark Savage

If you’re in the market for a compact crossover there’d better be a good reason you haven’t test driven a Hyundai Santa Fe yet. You’d be crazy not to.

The five-passenger Santa Fe, formerly the Santa Fe Sport, practically sets the bar for this crossover segment for everything perhaps except handling. Mazda’s CX-5 excels there.

Mark Savage

Hyundai cranks up the heat on Japanese and European luxury sport sedan makers with its new “entry level” Genesis G70. It’s long on performance and luxury, but modestly short on price.

OK, the tested pearly “Casablanca White” AWD 3.3T model with the Prestige and Elite packages, logs in at $50,995. A bit beyond many pocketbooks, but compare that with BMW’s 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz’s C Class, Audi’s A4 or a Lexus IS and you’ll think you’ve stumbled on a bargain.

2019-Kia-Optima-SX-Turbo
Mark Savage

If you prefer driving a car rather than a truck or crossover and have been searching for the perfect sport sedan that will fit your budget, yet carry five folks comfortably, look no further.

Kia’s Optima SX Turbo wants to be your playmate. It’s standing next to other makers’ sedans, jumping up and down and yelling, “Pick me, pick me.” And you should.

Mark Savage

Mazda may have dumped its zoom-zoom tagline, but the Japanese carmaker hasn’t eliminated it from its vehicles: witness the CX-5 compact crossover.

While most carmakers are happy to offer decent power, meh handling and a useful interior, Mazda doubles down on excellent power, sports sedan handling and ride, plus AWD, luxury interior and an exterior that garners attention.

2019-volvo-v60-inscription-wagon-car-review
Mark Savage

Something strange happened as I was testing Volvo’s new wagon, the V60. People waved and gave me an approving thumbs up. "Awesome car," a young man yelled to me at the gas station.

I remind you, this is a wagon. Is it possible we've started to tire of minivans and look-alike crossovers? One can hope. One also may hope that more car makers decide to give their cars enough style to make us look, and linger a moment.

2019-honda-pilot-review
Mark Savage

Not that long ago Honda’s Pilot was a boxy ol’ thing that frankly was as stylish as a shoe box jacked up on 20-inch wheels.

But like its chief rival, Toyota, Honda seems to have suddenly gotten the word that blah styling doesn’t help you stand out in a crowded market. Brilliant!

So, the 2019 Pilot finally gains a bit of style with more rounded edges, creases in the hood and a chrome trim line above the grille that wraps around the front fenders over slimmed down headlights.

2019-nissan-altima-car-review-outside
Mark Savage

Outside of engines there’s not much difference between Nissan’s Maxima, tested a few weeks back, and the latest version of Nissan’s Altima.

The sedans are nearly identical in size now, the Altima actually having a longer wheelbase than the Maxima, which used to be the larger of the two. Overall length is just a hair from identical and weight is similar too.

toyota-tacoma-TRD-pro-awd-review
Mark Savage

A 20-something friend assures me Toyota’s Tacoma TRD Pro is a bro truck.

This Voodoo Blue TRD model, complete with 4-wheel-drive and in double cab layout is aimed directly at young guys with some coin in their pocket and a need to prove their manhood. It’s menacing looking, but shiny enough to get other folks attention. And that TRD, which stands for Toyota Racing Development, indicates it’s a mean dude that will kick butt off-road. One assumes that machismo also rubs off on its owner.

From an image standpoint, the TRD Pro rocks. It delivers.

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