Savage On Wheels

Mark Savage's auto review column, Savage On Wheels, looks at a new vehicle every week and tells consumers what’s good, what’s not so good, and how the vehicle fits into the marketplace. Value, simple functionality and good looks are always key components on Savage’s evaluation checklist. The Sunday column aims to give an honest account of a vehicle’s merits after a week’s test drive during which gas mileage is measured for a real-world report.

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

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?

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