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.

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.

toyota-rav4-suv-car-review
Mark Savage

There’s no denying that Toyota has done well with its RAV4, one of the first small SUV/crossovers on the market, and it continues to be among the most popular in its segment.

For 2019, Toyota restyles the RAV4 to give it a more chiseled nose that easily calls to mind Jeep styling. Plus, it’s a throwback to its own boxy FJ Cruisers of years past. From the outside the new RAV looks fabulous, exuding more personality than ever before.

The RAV is practical too in that it historically holds its value and lasts an eternity.

Mark Savage

If you’re looking for a sporty family sedan, one that looks stylish, rides sweetly and generates plenty of V6 power, well, you’re among a shrinking minority.

Still, a few automakers continue courting this formerly mainstream market. Nissan is trying to woo you with its near-luxury Maxima sedan that offers refreshed styling and equipment tweaks for 2019 that may entice you to offer it a rose as you move toward amiable companionship.

Mark Savage

Got a bad case of the wants for a mid-size crossover that is both peppy and fun to drive, but also will do some of the driving for you? Infiniti’s all-new QX50 Essential model should be on your most-wanted list.

Nearly identical in size and intent as the Ford Edge, the QX50 is a technology tour de force, but also a pleasure to drive, when you choose to.

Mark Savage

Ford revamps and upgrades its popular Edge mid-size crossover for 2019, discarding its V6 for a twin-turbo I4 and a new 8-speed automatic transmission. The result is a fairly peppy crossover that will easily haul five adults with oodles of rear seat legroom and equally expansive cargo area.

2019-RAM-1500-Limited-Crew-Cab-4x4
Mark Savage

Imagine the poshest luxury sedan interior, then imagine it in a pickup, and not just any pickup, but a big ol’ crew cab pickup.

The 2019 RAM, made by Fiat Chrysler and formerly known as a Dodge Ram, is a luxury pickup along the lines of a Cadillac or Lexus luxury sedan. It’s the fanciest pickup I’ve ever driven, and I’ve driven quite a few.

volkswagen-jetta-r-line-review
Mark Savage

With all the trucks, SUVs and crossovers crowding showrooms these days, it’s refreshing to come across a sporty sedan like Volkswagen’s Jetta that also represents high value.

Jetta was restyled for 2019 and mostly that’s all good news. First, it continues the lean European look that VW has mastered over the past decade, second, the starting price is phenomenal, and third, the tested R-Line model (intended to be a bit racier), is an absolute blast to drive.

Mark Savage

Editor's noteAfter more than 30 years in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Mark Savage’s auto review column, Savage On Wheels, is moving to WUWM. Savage is a frequent Lake Effect contributor where he discusses auto industry trends. New columns on Sundays.

Barely a year had passed since I tested Nissan’s revamped Rogue, one of the best-selling small crossovers on the market, and particularly popular in the Milwaukee area.