Talking Cars (MP3)

Turns out the first relatively affordable long-range electric car isn't from Tesla; the Chevy Bolt beats the Tesla Model 3 to market. We found the Bolt to be enjoyable and practical, but wonder if buyers will be turned off by its dowdy styling.

Direct download: 1610CRO_Talking_Cars_Episode_103.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Which car brands build the most - and least - reliable new cars? Which models are the most trouble-prone? What usually goes wrong with new cars? We discuss the results of Consumer Reports’ 2017 reliability survey. Exclusive reliability scores for over 300 models are available at consumerreports.org/reliability

Direct download: 1610CRO_Talking_Cars_Episode_102.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:45pm EDT

The Buick Cascada fills a hole in the affordable convertible marketplace, providing a well-finished open-air cruiser that isn’t special to drive. We then discuss whether SUVs will go out of style, help viewers choose among luxury and practical SUVs, and explain why the Toyota Yaris scores low.

Direct download: 1609CRO_Talking_Cars_Episode_101.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 6:55pm EDT

Our 100th episode is recorded live at the track with an audience of loyal fans. We answer questions about our backgrounds, essential safety equipment, the future of fuel economy, hated test cars, best and worst parts of our jobs, the death of the manual transmission, and our fascination with "soft-touch" plastics.

Direct download: 1608CRO_Talking_Cars_Episode_100.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Cars with semi-autonomous features are becoming more common, but when does a car actually drive itself? We discuss the Mercedes-Benz E-Class and Volvo S90, both of which have these features. We also answer a viewer question about two Ford SUVs.

Direct download: 1607CRO_Talking_Cars_Episode_99.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 5:52pm EDT

Two new luxury SUVs share the spotlight: the Buick Envision and the Jaguar F-Pace. We also answer your questions about comparing the Toyota Prius and Chevrolet Volt and whether Ford's Sync 3 infotainment system is an improvement.

Direct download: 1607ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_98.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 3:00pm EDT

The new Cadillac CT6 sedan and XT5 SUV highlight the brand's split personality. We also answer your questions about three-row SUVs, why we mention the Audi Q7 more than the Volvo XC90, and if we'll test a Toyota Land Cruiser.

Direct download: 1606CRO_Talking_Cars_Episode_97.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

We answer your questions about the new Mazda CX-9, the Tesla Model X, a good pickup truck choice, and a luxury SUV with serious towing capacity.

Direct download: 1606ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_96.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Driving the Tesla Model X SUV feels just like a taller Model S. But many gee-whiz features reduce utility or are over-complicated, like the falcon-wing doors. GM adjusts fuel economy measurements for some SUVs and we discuss the redesigned GMC Acadia.

Direct download: 1604ATC_Talking_Cars_95.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Two new cars join the Consumer Reports test fleet, the Kia Sportage and the Jaguar XF. Both highlight the design trends of their respective manufacturers; the Kia improves on the earlier-released Hyundai Tucson, and Jaguar is rebuilding their mainstream fleet.

Direct download: 1605ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_94.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 11:57am EDT

Mitsubishi admits to incorrect fuel economy numbers, and Snapchat is criticized for having a feature that may tempt teenage drivers to speed. Chrysler recalls confusing shifters, and we discuss the Mini Clubman.

Direct download: 1604ATC_Talking_Cars_93.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Prompted by a viewer question, we review the compact pickup truck market and discuss our test of the updated Toyota Tacoma. We also discuss the redesigned Audi A4 and Chevrolet's new Spark and Cruze. Finally, we answer one of the most oft-asked viewer questions: what cars do we own?

Direct download: 1604ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_92.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Tesla finally unveils their high-volume Model 3, but we find that plenty of unanswered questions remain. Chrysler reinvents (and renames) their Pacifica minivan, which breaks a streak of lackluster new products from the company. Finally, we answer a bunch of viewer questions about sports sedans from our New York auto show episode, discussing the Lexus IS, Jaguar XE, Audi A4, and Cadillac ATS.

Direct download: 1604ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_91.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 3:24pm EDT

Talking Cars comes to you from the floor at the 2016 New York Auto Show. Important introductions were few and far between. Subaru brings out a new Impreza, Hyundai takes on the Prius with the Ionic, and Kia redesigns the Cadenza. Jake is impressed by the potential of a concept Genesis sports sedan, while Lincoln puts gullwing doors on a Navigator. Acura adds standard advanced safety gear to their MDX, which we applaud. Finally, Tom wants the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF, but Jake wants a real liftback.

Direct download: 1603NYAS_Talking_Cars_Episode_90.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 11:52am EDT

What exactly makes a car fun? Raphael Orlove, a writer from enthusiast car website Jalopnik.com, joins us to discuss the conventional wisdom surrounding that question. His theory: you can have fun in any car, simply by viewing it as a tool for learning and as a gateway to new experiences. We debate whether the Toyota Avalon really can be considered "fun," and we talk about our automotive regrets.

Direct download: 1602ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_89.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

It's that time again - time to unveil our annual Top Picks, the best automotive choices in 10 different categories. Consumer Reports introduces our new Overall Score, incorporating not only road test results from our track, but also reliability, owner satisfaction, and safety scoring. We discuss the changes needed to do this, and what effect it will have on scores in the future. (Hint: They'll change a lot more often.) We then run through the Top Picks, discussing why each car earned its place on our list. One car not on the list this year is the Toyota Prius, a perennial Top Pick. We discuss why the just-redesigned Prius didn't qualify to make the list yet, and reveal our first impressions of Toyota's hybrid cornerstone.

Direct download: 1602ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_88.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:45pm EDT

Even though the new default family car might be a small SUV, mid-sized sedans offer a lot for the money. We look at two redesigned entries in this mature and highly-competitive segment: the Chevrolet Malibu and Kia Optima. Proof that not all mid-sized sedans are great, we also discuss the updated Nissan Altima. Moving on, we got a lot of viewer feedback about the pros and cons of self-driving cars. Finally, as a bit of dessert to balance a rather responsible podcast, we answer a viewer question about sports cars from the last 15 years.

Direct download: 1601ATC_Talking_Cars_S01E87.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Self-driving cars have been in the news a lot recently, hot off the heels of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas and the Detroit Auto Show. We discuss the latest developments in technology and policy, and how they can benefit drivers. Next we look at two new German small SUVs: the BMW X1 and the Mercedes-Benz GLC300. They compete in different segments, and highlight the importance of starting with a good foundation and proper tuning. We then answer viewer questions about large sports sedans and cars for teens, as well as discussing Acura's Precision Concept car from Detroit and the new Chrysler Pacifica minivan.

Direct download: 1601ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_86.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Talking Cars comes to you from the floor of the 2016 International Auto Show in Detroit. Chrysler unveils the new Pacifica minivan, important to see if the company can develop clean-sheet designs after the Fiat merger. The new GMC Acadia is downsized to match mid-sized SUV competition, while the Buick Envision comes to us from China. Luxury sedans from Volvo, Genesis, Lincoln, Mercedes, and Audi fill the show floor. The stunning Buick Avista steals the show, while the Kia Telluride suggests an appealing large SUV.

Direct download: 1601DAS_Talking_Cars_Episode_85.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 7:57pm EDT

In what's become an annual tradition, we take a look back at the cars that stood out over the last year, both the good and the bad. But no review of 2015 would be complete without discussing the Volkswagen emissions scandal. Our testing reveals that VW themselves may have created an efficient alternative to diesels, with their new 1.4-liter turbocharged gasoline engine. Moving on, we look at the cars that most impressed us. It was a good year for SUVs, with mentions going to the Kia Sorento, Ford Edge, and Volvo XC90. We're even more in agreement about the test cars we disliked the most over the last year, including the Fiat 500X, Acura ILX, and Land Rover Discovery Sport.

Direct download: 1512ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_84.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 2:18pm EDT

This week on the “Talking Cars with Consumer Reports” we hit the track with two spectacular Mercedes-Benz AMG models; the $140,000 AMG GT and the $80,000 C63 AMG. There's no question they're wildly different in looks, price, and practicality, but they share the same heart and intention. All of this high-powered excitement has lead us to wonder about the future of BMW. Is Mercedes-Benz considered the new "Ultimate Driving Machine”?

Direct download: 1512ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_83.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

A new Honda Civic is always big news. After the misstep of the previous generation, Honda takes a big leap with this new-from-the-ground-up 10th generation. After lots of viewer inquiries, we've got Consumer Reports' first impressions. While the new Civic is a transformation, the redesigned Lexus RX sticks true to its highly successful formula, even if that's not evident at first glance. We discuss the cars that are liked least by their owners, fresh from our 2015 owner satisfaction survey. A lot hinges on meeting buyer expectations, and Nissan appears to be falling behind. Finally, we help a viewer find a safe and easy-to-drive car for his elderly mom.

Direct download: 1511ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_82.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Jake and Tom hit the highway in our Tesla Model S P85D to discuss its Autopilot system, which can steer the car and keep it within its lane on its own. There are some advantages to the system, especially on long highway trips and in stop-and-go traffic, but this beta-level system is still working out some bugs. We also talk about the temptations posed by the technology, both for increasing distracted driving and for using it on roads where it is far from optimized. Finally, we contrast Tesla owners' willingness to purchase and try out this system, compared to the difficulty typical car buyers have in understanding the value of advanced safety systems like forward collision warning and autobraking.

Direct download: 1511ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_81.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Consumer Reports' annual reliability survey covers more than 740,000 vehicles. The 2015 survey results are out, and we discuss the trends, highlights, and lowlights in this year's results.

Direct download: 1510ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_80.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:45pm EDT

Many of the car buying questions we receive come from viewers requesting all-wheel-drive. But having four driven wheels isn't enough to ensure wintertime safety. Testing at the Consumer Reports test track found that AWD can help you get moving, but does nothing to help you corner or stop in the snow. For that, you need winter tires. We also evaluate three popular small SUVs - the Subaru Forester, Toyota RAV4, and Honda CR-V - at our track to see how they fare in the snow, results that are also backed up by exclusive Consumer Reports survey data. Reader questions inquire about AWD sedans, Subaru manual shifters, and comparing the Mazda CX-3 and Mazda3.

Direct download: 1509ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_79.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Volkswagen admits to cheating on EPA emissions testing for its TDI diesels, subjecting it to possibly billions of dollars in fines. Talking Cars digs into the issue and what it might mean for owners. If you own one of these cars, we'd love to hear how this has affected you; please visit ConsumersUnion.org/vw-stories.

Direct download: 1509ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_78.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 3:00pm EDT

Talking Cars gets lots of questions and comments; we love feedback from our loyal viewers and listeners! It's been a while since we've done a question-only episode, so we're making up for lost time. No surprise: we got lots of comments about the test results of the Tesla Model S P85D. Viewers comment on whether the Model S can be a practical only-car, the merits of home recharging, how we scored the P85D, and whether you need to be able to afford a Tesla in order to rate it. Moving on, we answer questions about sports sedans, cars for new drivers and going off to college, and replacing a well-worn Honda Odyssey minivan.

Direct download: 1509ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_77.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

It's official: the Tesla Model S P85D "broke" Consumer Reports' ratings scale. We explain why the P85D earned this distinction, and how we ultimately scored it a 100. As we discuss though, that doesn't mean the P85D is the perfect car. For starters, there's the matter of its $127,820 price tag. 

Direct download: 1508ATC_Talking_Cars_S01E76.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am EDT

Scion makes a near-clean sweep of their product lineup, adding the new iA and iM. We take a look back at the genesis of Toyota's youth-oriented brand, and discuss how things didn't quite work out as expected. Although the funky xB box-on-wheels is gone, both the iA and iM prove surprisingly satsifying to drive, especially at their sub-$20,000 price tags. We also answer viewer questions about Episode #74 on tiny SUVs, including the perceived omission of the Kia Soul, Subaru XV Crosstrek, and Nissan Juke.

Direct download: 1508ATC_Talking_Cars_S01E751.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Subcompact SUVs have become a new market niche, as automakers create SUVs to match every conceivable buyer whim and budget. We discuss what you gain - and what you give up - when you buy a super-small SUV, illustrated by our test results for the Honda HR-V, Chevrolet Trax, and Jeep Renegade. This trio isn't that impressive, but we hold out hope for the promising Mazda CX-3. Moving on, we highlight Consumer Reports' research into car insurance premiums; you may be surprised by what dictates your rates. Much more information is online at www.consumerreports.org/fixcarinsurance. Finally, we answer a viewer question, one that we hear a lot these days: how do you pick between a Subaru Outback and a Volkswagen Golf SportWagen? 

Direct download: 1508ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_74.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Some cars burn a lot of oil between oil changes. An extensive look through Consumer Reports' survey data highlights which engines are most likely to suffer this problem. Many German brands appear on the list, as well as Subaru. We discuss the factors behind this trend, how various automakers are responding, and what consumers can do. We then dig through the digital mailbag, answering viewer comments about choosing a sports sedan.

Direct download: 1507ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_73.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

It doesn't get more "all-new" than the Volvo XC90, as the Swedish brand redesigns their flagship SUV from the ground up. In many ways, this car is a revolution for Volvo, featuring all four-cylinder powerplants, high-tech infotainment, and a stunning interior. Two station wagons get rather different receptions from our panel. The Volvo V60 Cross Country doesn't make a convincing case, while the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen proves appealing despite quibbles over its TDI diesel engine. We then answer a reader's question about which sports sedan to purchase, only to find that giving clear advice is tougher than it seems. 

Direct download: 1506ATC_Talking_Cars_S01E72.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Jake and Tom talk about final test results for the Ford F-150 and Chevrolet Colorado, recorded while driving around the track in our F-150 2.7-liter. While the F-150's engineering is revolutionary, the driving experience winds up being surprisingly mundane and truck-like, ultimately costing the truck points in our tests. Likewise, the Colorado finally gives the compact truck market a modern competitor, but it too has a host of flaws. How much those flaws matter to individuals winds up being a point of discussion, revolving around yet another viewer asking about buying a Mazda6. Another viewer complains about us complaining about the Mazda MX-5 Miata's seats. Finally we answer which is more enjoyable to drive: the Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ or the Miata?

Direct download: Talking_Cars_S01E71.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

A new Mazda MX-5 Miata doesn't come along everyday, so the new 4th generation car is big news. While so many cars grow with each redesign, the Miata fights this inevitable bloat. Jake argues that the Miata's biggest competition is the wide variety of used Miatas available at any time; Tom hopes that people keep buying new ones so he can get one used someday. Moving on, the CX-3 small SUV brings the Miata's DNA to the subcompact SUV market, a segment that really lacked a truly desirable product. Finally, the Honda Pilot finally gets redesigned for 2016. While not immune from all of Honda's recent product gaffes (like annoying audio controls,) the Pilot proves appealing at first glance.

Direct download: 1505ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_70.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Two Ford F-150s were purchased for our test fleet, one with the familiar 3.5-liter EcoBoost V6 and the other with Ford's new 2.7-liter EcoBoost V6. Acceleration results from our test track proved surprising. Less surprising were the fuel economy numbers from the lightweight aluminium-bodied truck; we put those into perspective. In other news, our Tesla Model S P85D suffers an early malfunction, highlighting Tesla's customer service. We then reach deep into the mailbag, answering a variety of inquiries. Vehicle collaborations that were reliable, comparing the VW GTI to the Golf R, Acura ILX hate mail, sporty small SUVs, and the forgotten Mazda CX-9 are all discussed.

Direct download: 1505ATC_Talking_Cars_S01E69.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Jeep sales are setting new records, driven by models like the new Renegade. These models might help Fiat-Chrysler Group’s balance sheet, but do they risk alienating traditionalists? To find out, we invited George to bring in his off-road-ready 1999 Jeep Cherokee. Other than mercilessly mocking his project Jeep’s various shortcomings, we talk about how the Renegade fits with the brand, how it matches customer expectations, and if it’s a good value or not. Next we answer some reader complaints about reliability and recommendations, particularly comparing the Jeep Cherokee and Volkswagen Golf. Finally, we look at the VW Golf R, the top-trim model of the legendary GTI hot hatch. As expected, the gang is split on the car’s appeal and value.

Direct download: 1504ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_68.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

We see it all the time in the YouTube comments: questions about the Mazda6 and CX-5. Both models were updated for 2016, so Talking Cars highlights the changes. Both cars stay true to form, with sharp handling and impressive fuel economy. We discuss if Mazda was successful in reducing interior noise, long a brand shortcoming. Also updated for 2016 is the Acura ILX. Despite changes, the car doesn't reach far beyond its Honda Civic roots, making us seriously question its $30,000 price tag.

Direct download: 1304ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_67.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Back in Episode #62, we asked our Talking Cars viewers if we should buy a Tesla Model S P85D, and heard a resounding "yes." Your support and interest was one reason for us to buy our most expensive test car yet. While the P85D delivers "insane" performance combined with impressive energy efficiency, that wasn't the only reason for our purchase. This latest Model S also offers Autopilot, with upcoming software updates that will make the Model S one of the first self-driving cars you can buy.

Direct download: 1504ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_66.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Talking Cars hits the road, covering the 2015 New York Auto Show in an episode recorded right from the show floor. Honda surprises everyone with a 10th generation Civic. Old-school rivals Cadillac and Lincoln face-off, with the soon-to-production CT6 and the Continental concept. Lexus goes down a different road with the now-sportier RX: will it alienate previous buyers? The Chevrolet Malibu loses hundreds of pounds, yet gains four inches of needed rear seat room. While the Malibu looks way different from the previous car, it takes a much closer eye to spot the changes in the redesigned Kia Optima. The new Nissan Maxima draws on its oddly enduring brand equity. Subaru teases us with a BRZ STi while Scion outsources their iA and brings out a Corolla-based iM hatchback. Finally, the Volkswagen Golf Sportswagen Alltrack sets off a discussion about mainstream vs. enthusiast wagons.

Direct download: 1504NYAS_Talking_Cars_Episode_65.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 4:18pm EDT

Other car companies promise self-driving cars, coming years in the future. Tesla just shrinked that timeframe to months, thanks to software updates to the Model S. With the technology leading legislation, this raises a bunch of questions. We discuss how the car is becoming a rolling supercomputer, how that affects vehicle design, and what this all means for driving enthusiasts. 

Direct download: Talking_Cars_S01E64.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

The magic number for this episode is "two." We look at two new two-row SUVs, the Ford Edge and Lexus NX, both powered by 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinders. While the Lexus tries to be sporty (with some success), the 2015 Edge winds up being the better "Lexus," thanks to a redesign that transforms the car. Normally Toyota does hybrids well, but the hybrid NX300h isn't as fulfilling as the turbocharged NX200t. Viewer feedback ran deep from our annual Top Picks episode, asking about the lack of a sports car pick and our small car choice. Finally, we talk about the possibility of buying a Tesla Model S P85D.

Direct download: Talking_Cars_S01E63.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Coinciding with our annual April auto issue, it's time to reveal Consumer Reports' Top Picks for 2015. Selections have to be among the top-scoring cars in their category, and must have average or better reliability according to our survey data. Two big trends emerge this year: American brands are fighting back, taking three of the ten top spots. Subaru also continues to dominate, grabbing three of the other spots. We discuss each pick, why there isn't a choice for top pickup truck this year, and look at some cars that almost made the list.

Direct download: Talking_Cars_S01E62.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:45pm EDT

Right now, it feels like we're buying nothing but SUVs for the Consumer Reports test fleet. The two latest additions are the Kia Sorento and Chevrolet Trax. While the Sorento is a well-finished rival to rivals like the Toyota Highlander, the Trax literally comes up short - except for its optimistic price tag. We then dive into the viewer mailbag, answering questions about wintertime testing. Finally, several viewers didn't agree with us about the Cadillac Escalade, as discussed on episode #60.

Direct download: Talking_Cars_S01E61.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

They're both big, plush, and expensive: the Cadillac Escalade and Lincoln Navigator join the Consumer Reports test fleet. Each scores points in this skirmish in different ways, but we can't help thinking that this segment's heyday has come and gone. We also look at the new Nissan Murano, which aims for a upscale look and feel at a price point dominated by family haulers. After complaining about the Murano's steering feel, we debate how much that matters to its buyers. Finally, we answer two viewer questions from the Detroit Auto Show: Could Buick build the Avenir concept car without stepping on Cadillac's toes? And, could brands other than Volvo overcome the reputational baggage that comes with selling Chinese-built cars in America?

Direct download: Talking_Cars_S01E60.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

We cover all the news from the 2015 Detroit Auto Show floor! High-performance was a theme, whether it's supercars like the Acura NSX and Ford GT, or off-road-oriented trucks like the Ford Raptor and Ram Rebel. Diesel pickups also build up speed, with a fuel-efficient version of the Ram EcoDiesel and the new Nissan Titan XD. A revised Toyota Tacoma suggests new life in the small truck market, and Hyundai shows their Santa Cruz small truck concept. Buick has a strong show, with the stunning Avenir and the Cascada ragtop. Turns out our predictions for North American Car/Truck of the Year were half right, with the Ford F-150 taking the prize for trucks, but the VW Golf topping the Mustang among cars. We also look at new stuff from Volvo, Infiniti, and Lincoln.

Direct download: Talking_Cars_S01E59.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

Maybe CES stands for Consumer Electronics Show, but the big Las Vegas event is becoming a car show in its own right. We look at the latest technology coming from the show floor, and discuss the impact when (or if) it hits the showroom. Automated or self-driving cars stole the show, with Audi, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz showing off their latest. Alternative fuel news includes Toyota allowing other companies to use their fuel cell patents, much like Tesla did with their electric car development. Gesture controls are all the rage, but we question how much they will really reduce driver distraction. Finally, new infotainment systems look promising. Ford dumps MyFord Touch for Sync3, and Hyundai and Volkswagen debut systems that use both Apple's CarPlay and Android Auto.

Direct download: 1501ATC_Talking_Cars_S01E58.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 5:00pm EDT

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 EDT

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.

Direct download: 1412ATD_Talking_Cars_Episode_56.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 3:00pm EDT

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.

Direct download: 1412ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_55.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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. 

Direct download: Talking_Cars_S01E54.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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.

Direct download: 1411ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_53.mp3
Category: -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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.

Direct download: 1410ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_52.mp3
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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. 

Direct download: Talking_Cars_S01E46.mp3
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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. 

Direct download: Talking_Cars_S01E45.mp3
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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.

Direct download: Talking_Cars_S01E44.mp3
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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.

Direct download: 1408ATC_Talking_Cars_42.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00pm EDT

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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