Every year, our reviewers test drive the latest cars to bring you in-depth reviews. We’re now two months into 2019, and we already have a hefty list of reviews of 2019 cars. Here are our leaders in each scoring category.
In each of our Test Drive Reviews, we look at six key categories: Look and Feel, Performance, Safety, Form and Function, Technology, and Cost-Effectiveness, along with an Overall score.
Top Performance: 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata–10/10
Our reviewer gives the 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata a rave review, noting its 26-horsepower increase under the hood and the manual transmission that comes standard, which he calls “a delight of its own, thanks in part to a new lightweight dual-mass clutch flywheel.”
Runner-up: 2019 Ram 1500–10/10
Top Form and Function: 2019 Ram 1500–10/10
Our reviewer raves about the functionality of the 2019 Ram 1500, pointing out the smaller details meant to make life easier for loading and unloading gear, like rear doors that open a full 90 degrees and rear seats that flip up easily and even recline. And the Ram 1500 also has a power-release tailgate–but our reviewer notes that works only on the way down; you’ll need to manually close the tailgate.
Runner-up: 2019 Acura MDX–9/10
Top Technology: 2019 Hyundai Elantra–10/10
With the 2019 Hyundai Elantra, our reviewer notes that the infotainment system is easy to use, with plenty of knobs and buttons to make navigating through the different features a breeze. Our reviewer also mentions the 3-year trial subscription to Blue Link Services, allowing you to connect the Elantra to smartwatches and voice assistants.
Runner-up: 2019 Kia Soul EV–10/10
Top Look and Feel: 2019 Mazda CX-3–10/10
“Mazda gets many things right with its cars and SUVs, and design is one of them,” our reviewer says of the 2019 Mazda CX-3. That’s probably why the Mazda CX-3, a crossover, is tied with the Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class, a luxury sedan, atop our Look and Feel category. Our reviewer notes that the CX-3’s interior has an upscale feel, with redesigned seats and upscale features like suede trim and leather seats–and all for under $30,000.
Runner-up: 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLS-Class–10/10
Top Safety: 2019 Kia Sorento–10/10
Many safety features, like reversing cameras, already come standard on new cars. The 2019 Kia Sorento has safety features like adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warning, and lane-departure warning, all of which come standard on the EX trim. For 2019, lane-keep assist and a driver-attention-monitoring system also come standard on EX trims and above.
Runner-up: 2019 Subaru Forester–10/10
Top Cost-Effectiveness: 2019 Volvo S60–10/10
Our research has found that buying a car is one of the biggest financial decisions for shoppers. And we’re here to help you get the most bang for your buck. So while our reviewer isn’t a big fan of the 2019 Volvo S60’s Sensus infotainment system, “the styling of the S60 is so fantastic, so mature, so upscale, that we can overlook its warts. The S60 looks stunning inside and out, and just as importantly, it drives with the taut composure many buyers want from an upscale sports sedan.”
Runner-up: 2019 Hyundai Elantra–10/10
Top Overall: 2019 Ram 1500–8.8/10
Think of our “Overall” category like the Oscars’ Best Picture. We take into account all the different features and capabilities–along with cost-effectiveness–to come up with a final score. Is it any wonder that the 2019 Ram 1500 scores the highest overall? Our reviewer describes it as a full-size truck that “takes that everyday commuter-truck concept to new heights. This truck offers more comfort and refinement than any truck we’ve ever driven.”
Runner-up: 2019 Kia Forte–8.7/10
Did your favorite 2019 vehicle win? Let us know!
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Ford recently announced its plans to build an electric F-150, making it the latest automaker to turn its gas-powered workhorses electric. (Want to see what it’ll look like? Check out the photos.) It will have plenty of competition from strictly electric carmakers like Tesla. How will these electric trucks compare with the gas-powered ones we know and love? We take a closer look.
The gas-powered heavyweights
Let’s start with gas-powered heavyweights like the full-size Chevy Silverado 1500. The Silverado offers up to 2,285 pounds of payload capacity and 12,200 pounds of towing capacity, depending on the configuration. Then there are midsize trucks like the Ford Ranger. The Ranger came back for 2019, offering up to 7,500 pounds of towing capacity and 1,860 pounds of payload. And when it comes to fuel efficiency, it’s not bad: EPA estimates suggest it’ll get up to 21 mpg city, 26 highway, and 23 combined.
The electric contenders
Despite the number of automakers investing in electric, only a few electric trucks are currently available to consumers. At the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, Rivian debuted its R1T, a pickup truck that, with the 180kwh battery, can go 400 miles between recharges and offers 700 horsepower and 826 pound-feet of torque with a maximum towing capacity of 11,000 pounds. Should shoppers opt for the smaller battery, 135kwh, torque stays the same while horsepower increases to 745. The smallest battery, 105kwh, offers 402 hp and 413 lb-feet of torque.
Another company forging ahead is a smaller operation based in Ohio called Workhorse. It makes the W-15, a hybrid that can tow up to 5,000 pounds and go 80 miles between charges. It also includes features that will make it friendly for shoppers that need, well, a workhorse at work sites, including a 7.2kw outlet you can use for power tools without the truck running.
The challenges of electric trucks
Automakers face a few obstacles with creating electric trucks. The first is price. We’ve talked before about the disappearance of the affordable pickup truck, and electric trucks are no exception. Prices can start at $60,000. If you add range extenders, you may be looking at an even higher price tag. Those high prices may not be a deterrent for some, but a poll of CarGurus shoppers found that they’re less willing to pay a higher price, even for a longer list of features and gadgets.
The second is capability. If you use your truck for everyday tasks, you may not need to tow 12,000 pounds. However, if you rely on your truck to help with heavy-duty tasks, you may be left wanting. The third is us, consumers: We’re wary of electric vehicles. CarGurus recently conducted a survey and found that many shoppers want more infrastructure before they’ll buy an electric vehicle.
Hybrids may be the answer (for now)
Shoppers who want a truck that will go longer between fill-ups have few options. The Chevy Silverado 1500 can come with an Ecotec V8, which disables cylinders when they’re not needed, ultimately improving fuel economy. Ford also offers its EcoBoost engine in the F-150, offering more power and using less fuel. And Ram now offers eTorque in the 2019 1500 for both the V6 and V8. But for now, gasoline-powered trucks still rule the roost.
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We’re in the midst of winter—and no one likes the prospect of something going wrong with their car in snowy weather. At CarGurus, we wanted to create an CarGurus Emergency Maintenance Guide that will help you stay prepared. Download this guide straight to your smartphone! Here’s what we cover:
Use CarGurus Emergency Maintenance Guide to help you stay safe this winter!
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Who remembers the “wood”-paneled station wagons of our childhoods? We can’t help but wonder whether they’re making a comeback despite the declining popularity of sedans.
If you scan the headlines, SUVs and crossovers are taking over and the sedan is dead. But CarGurus data shows the story is more complicated than that: Younger shoppers still want new and used sedans, because they offer more value and are still great options. But most American automakers have nixed sedans, with the exception of performance vehicles. European automakers continue to make sedans, such as the 2020 Volkswagen Passat, which offer more premium features and design elements, such as heated front and rear seats and dual-zone climate control. But what of the wagon? Let’s take a closer look at some recent debuts.
The wagon comeback
In the past two years, we’ve seen the introduction of several new wagons. Volvo, which already had the V60, debuted the new V90 in 2017 (a previous version was offered in the US in 1998), which we reviewed the 2018. Shoppers can now get an off-road friendly version of the V90, called the V90 Cross Country, which offers more ground clearance, black cladding around the wheels, and, of course, all-wheel drive (AWD). Jaguar, known for its luxury sedans like the XJ Series, broke tradition and introduced the XF Sportbrake in 2018. Its starting price is in line with the rest of the luxury brand’s vehicles, and it offers 20-inch wheels, soft-close doors, heated seats, and more cubic feet of cargo space than the F-Pace.
Buick is the other automaker that introduced a wagon in 2018 with its Regal TourX. Our reviewer notes the Regal TourX can work as a premium alternative to brands like Subaru, with its much-beloved Outback. The TourX has premium touches, like dual-zone climate control, while also featuring more rugged details like plastic cladding around each wheel well and a roof rack along with AWD.
We looked at the number of searches for each of these three wagons in the second half of 2018 and compared that to the first six months of the year. While two of those new wagons saw an increase in searches, we were surprised to see that the Buick Regal TourX had the bigger boost, with a staggering 69% increase. The V90 saw a 30% increase in the number of searches. Only the XF Sportbrake saw a decrease, of 4%, in the second half of 2018 compared to the prior six months.
The future of the wagon
Based on searches on CarGurus, the wagon is indeed making a comeback. Bloomberg suggested the increased interest in wagons is a result of shoppers now having more wagon choices. It also may be due to the smaller number of options for sedan shoppers. Wagons, thanks to their lower center of gravity, feature less body roll and better handling than their crossover and SUV counterparts while not losing any of the capabilities or close-to-the-road driving experience a sedan would offer.
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While the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) was relatively quiet this year, there was still plenty to see. Here are the top cars we saw.
The 2020 Toyota Supra finally debuted! As excited as we are about that, its reception has been mixed – partly due to its lack of a manual transmission. It wasn’t the only speed demon available at NAIAS, though. The 2020 Ford Shelby GT500 also made waves, offering a whopping 700+ horsepower and a 0-60 time of just over 3 seconds.
Subaru’s WRX STI S209 was another speed demon that caught our attention, in part because it’s the first S-line vehicle available to American consumers. Limited to 200 vehicles, the S209 is 1.7 inches wider than the STI with a 2.5-liter boxer engine that produces an estimated 341 horsepower along with Brembo brakes. It also includes standard all-wheel drive (AWD) and 19-inch gold wheels.
The 2019 Ram 3500 accomplished a first-in-class milestone: It now has 1,000 pound-feet of torque available along with 400 horsepower, if you specify it with the 6.7-liter Cummins turbodiesel inline-6 engine. It also sets new benchmarks in payload and towing capacity for a heavy-duty pickup: 35,100 and 7,680 pounds, respectively. Other updates include a center console big enough to fit a 15-inch laptop and a tire-pressure-monitoring system for up to 12 tires.
The 2020 Ford Explorer gets more towing capacity, now up to 5,600 pounds when properly equipped and with the V6 engine. If you prefer a sportier daily driver, you can find that in the performance-focused ST trim. It features a 3.0-liter EcoBoost engine making 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque and taking the car to a top speed of 143 mph.
The 2020 Kia Telluride is a 3-row crossover made for the American market: It’s big and boxy, bringing to mind classic SUVs like the Ford Bronco. You can deploy the second-row seats with a push-button to access 46 cubic feet of cargo space. The Telluride also taps into our desire for a luxury crossover that we can take off-road with handles next to the cupholders and optional all-wheel drive (AWD).
The 2020 Cadillac XT6 should be ideal for those who like to drive in style. You can choose between the Premium Luxury trim – complete with chrome details and wood-trim accents inside – or the Sport trim, which swaps out those features for carbon fiber accents.
Yup, sedans like the 2020 Volkswagen Passat made news at the Detroit Auto Show. The exterior is fully redesigned with a wider, bigger grille and a coupe-like profile. Inside, it offers luxury features like heated seats and dual-zone climate control. This new look potentially sets up the Passat to compete with premium sport sedans like the Acura TLX.
The 2020 Cadillac CT6-V also makes news during this auto show. It features a hand-built twin-turbo 4.2-liter V8 engine that makes 550 horsepower and 627 lb-feet of torque. Similar to the S209, production of the CT6-V will be limited – in this case to just 275 vehicles. While it’s got a high price tag – close to $90,000 – you’ll also get two days at the Cadillac V-Performance Academy as part of your purchase.
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The 2019 Detroit Auto Show brings forth the new 2020 Toyota Supra. We last saw the Supra in 1998–but CarGurus shoppers haven’t lost interest in this car.
This is the fifth generation of the Supra, slotting in above the 86. Why do we love this version? Underneath the Toyota skin, it’s a BMW, promising excellent handling and a performance engine. But the delight over the latest Supra is based on its previous generations. It first debuted as the Celica Supra in 1979, going through another three generations before getting discontinued.
Supra, at the beginning
The Toyota Celica Supra first went on sale for $10,118 in 1979–just over $34,000 in 2019 dollars. A manual came standard, and the car had the distinction of being the first Toyota vehicle (in the US) to offer cruise control. While a sports package has been available since the birth of the Celica Supra, it wasn’t until the third generation that the Supra leaned into its sportiness with a targa top and a limited-slip differential, among other features. The base trim cost approximately $18,000, or just over $41,000 in today’s dollars. (If you have your heart set on the third-generation Supra, you can find it on CarGurus.)
By the fourth generation, the Supra had carved out a niche as a performance car – and at a premium price. It cost $34,225 in 1993–equal to $59,695 in 2019 dollars. We found that CarGurus shoppers are more interested in the fourth generation than the third generation – three times more interested, in fact. And we can see why. Among other improvements, it lost 200 pounds, thanks to more aluminum parts, and gained a twin-turbo engine.
Interestingly, of all of the fourth-generation cars, the 1994 Supra garnered the most searches. The 1994 Supra will come at a premium: Versions on CarGurus are going between $40,000 and $50,000. If you don’t want to pay the high sticker price, you can take a look at the 1993s and 1995s, which are available on CarGurus for under $30,000.
You can also find several features from the Supra in used cars for a fraction of the price. Take the Targa top, which was also featured on the Honda Civic del Sol and came out around the same time as the fourth-generation Supra. Or the Nissan 300ZX, which debuted in 1984 and was available with a turbo engine.
The future of 2-door sports cars
So with the long-awaited return of this 2-door performance car, will we see more like it from other automakers? Perhaps. The MX-5 Miata, introduced in 1990, has continued to win fans. And Acura upgraded the NSX for 2019 to offer better performance. More automakers may join their ranks. Nissan revealed a refreshed 370Z at SEMA in 2018, featuring a new engine and (gasp!) a manual transmission, but the company hasn’t confirmed when – or if – we’ll see those changes on dealer lots this year.
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The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) kicks off again — and automakers show they’re thinking about more than self-driving cars.
Over the past few years, the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas has become a platform for automakers to showcase their latest innovations, which used to be reserved for auto shows. One of the most common innovations on display at CES has been self-driving technology. This year was no exception; Toyota made headlines this year with its autonomous technology. But unlike other companies, Toyota wants to keep the focus on humans driving. Its “Guardian” driver-assist system, based on fighter jets, works in the background, ready to take over to keep the driver safe.
This year also shows companies focusing on more than just self-driving cars. Amazon’s Alexa will now be baked in to the navigation systems of future cars. Drivers would likely consider this an upgrade, as the only way to get help from the voice assistant at present is to connect it to a navigation app on one’s phone. For shoppers who already own an Echo at home, having Alexa in the car seems like a natural next step. For Alexa to make an impact for drivers, it will have to function much like Google Maps, providing real-time directions and traffic conditions.
Ford and Audi are working with Qualcomm to showcase cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technology. Audi previously made headlines with this technology, which will be available in the new e-tron, allowing drivers to pay tolls automatically. Other uses for C-V2X include the ability for cars to “talk” to one another, along with traffic lights, buildings, and pedestrians, to avoid collisions at intersections, among other things. (The “c” in C-V2x is what will identify pedestrians, since our phones can emit a small signal.) Ford plans to have this tech in all cars by 2022, according to a post by Don Butler, executive director of Ford’s Connected Vehicle Platform and Product.
Augmented reality and virtual reality
Audi, which has had a partnership with Disney’s Marvel since 2008, has created a virtual-reality experience for backseat passengers. By wearing VR goggles, passengers are dropped into the Guardians of the the Galaxy universe to guide a spaceship through different obstacles. But this is more than just a decidedly cool video game. The virtual spaceship moves in sync with the car. When the car speeds up, so does the spaceship; when the Audi takes a right turn, the ship does the same. By creating a VR experience that moves with the car, Audi may have tackled one of the biggest challenges of VR: motion sickness.
BMW also made headlines in relation to virtual reality, thanks to its partnership with North Face, with its FutureLight Camper. Instead of traditional (metal) body panels, the Camper features a lightweight, waterproof fabric shell.
For many publications, Hyundai takes the cake for the most ambitious concept vehicle of CES with its concept called Elevate. Hyundai calls it the “ultimate mobility vehicle” (UMV), and it can climb over debris and across different terrains, making it ideal for first responders in the wake of a hurricane or earthquake. If we ever see a production-ready version of this vehicle, it may take some time for us to get used to its insect-like legs and its ability to grow taller like the robots of “War of the Worlds.”
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MINI’s JCW (that’s John Cooper Works) name is older than you might think. Its heritage stretches back to John Cooper, the British racing driver and engineer who not only pioneered the rear-engined layout in single-seat racers, but also figured out that the Issigonis-designed BMC Mini would make a rather good race and rally car. A point that went on to be proved most famously by Paddy Hopkirk’s fabled win in the 1964 Monte Carlo rally.
Admittedly, the raucous, 1.6-litre turbocharged, 208bhp, front-wheel drive ‘R56’ version of the MINI JCW we are focusing on as today’s Half Price Hot Hatch is a long way from the original Mini in nature. But the fact you can now buy a second-hand one from as little as £6,000 is something to be celebrated.
Launched in 2008 and then in production for six years, this particular JCW is based on the second generation of BMW’s reimagined modern MINI. Its high price put it up against more practical but equally rapid competition including the Ford Focus ST and Honda Civic Type R, but it had enough MINI magic to justify the price. Compact yet butch, and with an aggressive theatricality (not to mention a premium badge and a tendency to hold its value far better than its rivals), the Mini JCW had a lot going for it then, just as it does now.
A 0-62mph time of 6.5sec arrives in a fizz of turbo whine from the four-cylinder engine (actually a unit borrowed from Peugeot), which has a bigger turbo, modified valves and cylinder head, and a more free-flowing exhaust over the standard Cooper S. Stick it in Sport mode for maximum overboost thrills, and it’s beyond 5,000rpm that the JCW’s modifications really show, with usefully better high-end responses than you’d enjoy in lesser MINI models.
An electronic diff-lock can apportion up to 100 per cent of the power to either wheel and helps to give the JCW the ability to claw its way out of corners with liberal early-on-the-throttle forgiveness. Just be wary of the odd squirm of torque steer, but otherwise this most tenacious of MINIs (short of the hardcore, limited-run GP version) is almost like a small, front-wheel-drive Subaru Impreza STi.
Certainly, it has a similar bolshie brutality to its heavy steering and planted, chuckable handling – and the same insatiable appetite for rabid point-to-point drives. Which in turn will make you all the more grateful for the impressive stopping power of the standard Brembo brakes.
One pay-off for all this gumption is the stiff suspension. Certainly, a Volkswagen Golf GTI will be a more comfortable daily driver, but the MINI JCW will still be a fine daily commuter for anyone that’s keen to keep the hot hatch thrills near the surface of their driving experience. It’ll even do 40mpg in sensible use and there’s an automatic gearbox on offer, too, although the manual is much more fun.
Cars built between 2007 and 2011 should have been seen for a recall affecting the water pump, too, while poor idling can suggest coke build-up, and it’s worth being alert to clutch feel as these can also go at surprisingly low mileages. The sunroof is also a known weak point with this generation of MINI and it can start to leak or become reluctant to open or close.
With such potential issues to be aware of, it could be worth paying more up front for a meticulously maintained JCW to minimise the chance of expensive bills. For the same reason, a post-2011 car is a better bet if you can stretch to it, plus it’ll benefit from the improved interior that came in with a 2010 facelift.
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