Talking Cars (MP3)

Our end-of-the-year episode highlights testers’ personal highs and lows of the year. These cars don’t necessarily bracket our formal ratings, but they stand out in our collective memory. We really like cars that balance sport and practicality, with positive votes for the Porsche Macan, BMW M235i, and Volkswagen Golf/GTI. Minority votes also went to the Range Rover, Subaru Outback, and Chevrolet SS. Cars that made our least-liked list generally promised more than they delivered. Despite its storied marque, several of us dissed the Maserati Ghibli for falling short of luxury sport car expectations. Other cars earning brickbats include the Chrysler 200, Mercedes-Benz GLA and CLA, and the Infiniti Q50. Reaching beyond 2014, some of us dug up some older-introduced cars that still bug them today.

Direct download: 1412ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_57.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EST

Some car buyers emphasize practicality, while others prioritize driving fun. This episode of Talking Cars spans those extremes. First off, we take a look at the updated 2015 Toyota Sienna and redesigned 2015 Kia Sedona. While we applaud the space - and child-appeasing gadgetry - of minivans, we also note that SUVs are catching up or surpassing them in fuel economy. Next, we answer two viewer questions about what makes a car really fun to drive. Great steering plays an important role, but it isn't everything. Neither is the ever-increasing size of cars, despite a viewer's passionate pleas otherwise.

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Two bite-sized German luxury SUVs face off in this episode of Talking Cars. While the Audi Q3 sticks to many of the brand qualities you'd expect, the Mercedes falls short in refinement. We talk about the market situations that created these cars, and how crowded the SUV market gets around this pricepoint. Next, the super-popular Honda CR-V gets an update for 2015, including a CVT and an infuriating radio. Moving on to a Canadian-themed bunch of questions, we help a viewer pick a comfy sedan. Finally, we wrap up by comparing the Volkswagen Golf and the Mazda3.

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Modern-day muscle cars dominate this episode of Talking Cars, as we discuss the new 2015 Ford Mustang and updated Dodge Challenger. The gang debates who will buy which car, but everyone agrees that the Mustang has dramatically upped its game. Next, we detail the problems suffered by the Scion FR-S and Subaru BRZ as determined by our reliability survey data. Another viewer takes offense to Tom's frequent mentions of interior quality. A viewer question asks us to discuss the Acura TLX, but without comparing it to a Honda Accord. We try, and mostly succeed. Finally, we suggest alternatives to a BMW X3. 

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New truck news takes over this episode of Talking Cars. Ford updates the truck-based Expedition; we discuss how the extended-length EL version compares to the Chevrolet Suburban and GMC Yukon XL. The Ford's high point: its new EcoBoost 3.5-liter V6. Next, we sample GM's new compact truck, the GMC Canyon and its twin Chevrolet Colorado. We're impressed overall, but buyers expecting the driving experience of a car-based crossover SUV in this truck might be disappointed. (Like Tom is.) Plenty of viewers asked questions about our reliability data. One protests factoring infotainment systems into vehicle reliability, while another asks about improving reliability in a car's later model years. We answer a question about the Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ vs. the Honda Civic Si. Funny how that question helps us answer another viewer's query about a reliable coupe for under $20,000. The gang struggles - only for a bit - to choose between the Honda Accord V6 and the Acura TLX. Finally, we tease next week's episode, featuring the Dodge Challenger.

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With over one million vehicles spanning back a decade, Consumer Reports' annual reliability survey gives us plenty to talk about. Once again, most reliable brand status goes to Lexus and Toyota. For a change, some good news for GM: they're the most reliable domestic automaker. Ford rebuilds after a crop of extensive - and unreliable - redesigns. Fiat-Chrysler struggles with the problematic Jeep Cherokee and Grand Cherokee. Not all Japanese brands are reliable; Mazda and Subaru do well with launching reliable cars. Nissan is in a deep slump, with the Altima proving unreliable in its second year and problems at Infiniti. Audi makes the top five most reliable brand list, but Mercedes-Benz gets drug down by the CLA and S-Class. We wrap up by looking at the latest reliability info on the Tesla Model S.

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Once again, Tesla makes the news, this time by adding all-wheel-drive and a high-performance version of the Model S, as well as some capabilities that verge on self-driving. More important for more people, Toyota updates the 2015 Camry, but the bulk of the changes are skin-deep. A recent AAA study suggests they're distracting, and perhaps dangerous - but we suggest there's more to the question. One possible solution might be Apple's CarPlay, and we try it out at the track. Viewer questions about our wardrobes (really) and affordable used pickups come next. Finally, we ask for help with naming our online videos.

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We're celebrating our 50th episode of Talking Cars! This reader-question-only episode is our way of saying "thanks" to all of our fans, and even some of our naysayers. Can our talkative bunch answer 15 questions in 15 minutes? As you'd expect, topics covered are diverse: We correct our error about automatic 4wd availability in the 2015 Ford F-150, talk Ford Mustang history, discuss the state of Nissan (and our tendency to ignore them), revisit the Subaru WRX, and seriously wonder about buying a Ram 1500 diesel for New York City.

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Redesigning the top-selling vehicle in America is already fraught with peril. But taking a big leap in materials and engines is another thing altogether. We discuss the new 2015 Ford F150 pickup and the impact of its aluminium body and downsized engines. Ford's EcoBoost 2.7-liter turbo V6 might be half the size of rival truck engines, but with 325 hp and 375 lbft of torque in a 5,060 pound truck, it sure doesn't feel like it. We also answer viewer questions about upscale sedans, including the Volvo S60 and Buick Regal.

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Most electric and plug-in hybrids have an image problem, seen as earnest transportation pods. The BMW i8 shatters that stereotype, earning attention normally reserved for Italian exotics but with a particularly modern sensibility. We talk about driving this very high-tech car. Wrapping up, we answer some critical YouTube comments about our Subaru WRX review. 

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This episode features a special car - the new 2015 Ford Mustang - and a special guest, Wayne Carini from Chasing Classic Cars. Wayne and CR's Jake Fisher talk about Mustangs through the years, how the car's evolved, and how classic cars compare to today's technology-laden wonders.

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Long an enthusiast favorite, the latest Subaru WRX certainly puts down the numbers in testing at the Consumer Reports track. Whether the car is a livable daily driver, or much fun out on the open road, proves to be another issue entirely. Next we discuss the new 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata; everyone now knows what it looks like and that it's lighter, but not much else. Reader questions about modifying engine computers to game CR tests and our non-housebroken Ford Transit Connect are answered. Lastly, we have a new top-rated pickup truck: the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel. It proves satisfying for far more than just its impressive fuel economy. 

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It's a decidedly practical episode of Talking Cars, talking all about boxes on wheels. First up, a viewer question asks about the Ford Transit Connect. Consumer Reports just finished testing one, so we have plenty to say. Other viewers ask about minivans, including why they don't have diesels, and why no one ever mentions the Nissan Quest. 

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It's one of the most frequently-asked questions that we get at Talking Cars: what's a good car to buy for a newly-licensed teen driver? We talk about the essentials, including why electronic stability control is so important. Viewer comments also point out some common concerns, opinions, and misconceptions about good cars for teens. Finally, we discuss the role of advanced driver training and where our vehicle recommendations overlap with the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety - and where they deviate.

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They both have rear hatches: that's about all that the Honda Fit and Porsche Macan share. Each occupies totally different places in the value vs. practicality scale. The Honda Fit might just be the most practical car you can buy, especially given the price. But we don't all agree on the car's refinement. At the other extreme, our Porsche Macan costs over $63,000, but proves to be a rather satisfying guilty pleasure. In between, we discuss test results for the Chevrolet Suburban, Chevy Tahoe, and GMC Yukon. A lot hinges on equipping these big SUVs with one particular option: GM's magnetic ride control.

Direct download: Talking_Cars_S01E43.mp3
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Sure, the electric Tesla Model S is the top-scoring car in Consumer Reports ratings, and their owners love them. But over 15,000 miles of driving, the Model S we bought has had more than a few problems. We talk about those issues, public reaction, and what it all means. Next we discuss another electric car, the BMW i3. It's unlike any BMW you've ever seen. Bringing things back to more "normal" cars, we introduce our 2015 Subaru Outback test car. Subaru's been listening, because they fixed a lot of the shortcomings in previous Outbacks. Finally, we answer whether a first-time new car buyer should get an Outback and plan ahead for kids.

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Flogging a new F80 BMW M3 around the Consumer Reports test track proves to be a good time, but the jury's out about how much fun it is on the street. A Lexus owner complains about CR's complaints about their controls, leading to an inadvertent iPad mistake that shows the dangers of complex controls when driving, or recording a podcast. A viewer asks about buying a small crossover and if buying one from an upscale brand is worth it to him. Finally, a young viewer has the chance to get a free Range Rover for his first car.

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Fuel efficient cars and their manufacturers are all in the news this week. Tesla announces that other car companies can use their patents, hoping to spur innovation in electric cars by mainstream manufacturers. Of course it winds up being a PR coup too. Ford's PR isn't as rosy as they announce errors in calculating fuel economy for their hybrids, leading to changes in the EPA numbers on their window stickers and goodwill payments to customers. We then answer some viewer questions about buying a good mid-sized family sedan that will go the distance, plus respond to a YouTube commenter who doesn't quite get the idea of a show called "Talking Cars."

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