Long-Term Garage auto news

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2014 Jeep Cherokee: June 2014

07/10/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Crossovers/CUVs, Jeep, Long-Term Garage

Jeep Cherokee

I got a text message from Editor-In-Chief Sharon Carty one afternoon proclaiming that her new favorite SUV is our long-term 2014 Jeep Cherokee. And she's not alone. I'm not sure if anyone else on staff would go so far as to use the "favorite" descriptor, but after just over a month of honeymooning with our new long-termer, it's safe to say that the Jeep is quickly finding its way into the good graces of a number of Autoblog staffers.

There's good reason for all that praise, too. Thus far, the Jeep has proven itself to be incredibly competent and comfortable for daily life - it's functional, quiet, and packed with a host of amenities that make it easy to live with. It's been wholly trouble-free (with less than 4,000 miles on the clock as of this writing, it ought to be), but even nitpicks have been few and far between.

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2015 Subaru WRX: Introduction

06/10/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sedans/Saloons, Sports/GTs, Subaru, Long-Term Garage

Subaru WRX

"As far as street-legal rally cars go, there's still nothing better than a WRX." I wrote that line following my first drive of the 2015 Subaru WRX late last year - one of the better motoring experiences I had in 2013. Sure, a particularly involving drive route helped, but I don't want to sell the new Subaru short: it's a seriously good car - easily one of the sharpest, best-driving little turbos available today.

When I drove the even hotter 2015 WRX STI in January, it was a similar love-fest. The STI is infused with all of the WRX's greatness, but it's sharper, meaner, and on good roads (and race tracks), the winged wonder is really outstanding. But because of its higher price tag, less forgiving suspension tuning, and only marginal performance increases, I'm convinced that the STI isn't the best WRX for the money. And much as I love it, I just don't think I'd ever buy the STI over its more sedate sister (though I totally understand why others might).

So when it came time to add a new long-term car to the Autoblog fleet, many votes were cast in favor of the WRX. There was a lot of debate about whether or not to get the standard version, or the mightier STI. But at the end of the day, my argument that the basic WRX is the better daily driver - nee, one of the best all-around, all-weather performers money can buy - carried the day.

Our WR Blue turbo darling has landed. Will our hearts still be aflutter after 12 months of hard use?

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2014 Jeep Cherokee: Introduction

05/28/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: SUVs, Crossovers/CUVs, Jeep, Long-Term Garage

2014 Jeep Cherokee

When we look back at some of the more shocking product launches of recent years, the Jeep Cherokee is certainly high up on the list. And we aren't just talking about its off-the-wall, polarizing design.

For starters, it brought back the iconic Cherokee nameplate - something Jeep enthusiasts have coveted for ages. But beyond that, it brought a new evolution for the Jeep brand. After all, the Cherokee is car-based - using the same compact platform that underpins the Dodge Dart and Chrysler 200. It has a greater focus on technology and refinement than ever before, in an effort to appeal to a new crop of Jeep customers. And powering it all is a new (optional) V6 engine paired with an equally new nine-speed automatic transmission.

Can the Cherokee's car-based roots still allow for a vehicle that's superb when the going gets tough? Will its design still be a love/hate affair in one year's time, or will it start to blend in? Is the powertrain strong enough to not only support the needs of daily driving and road trips, but blaze a few trails as well? We're aiming to answer all these questions, and more, over the next 12 months. Welcome to the Autoblog long-term garage, Cherokee.

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2013 Nissan Pathfinder: Wrap-Up [w/video]

05/13/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Crossovers/CUVs, Nissan, Long-Term Garage

2013 Nissan Pathfinder

Despite our tendency as enthusiasts to clamor for things like wagons and hot hatchbacks, it's hard to argue with the buying public's increasing demand for functional crossovers. In fact, the great SUV craze of the late-1990s has all but faded in favor of the easier-driving, better-packaged, more-efficient crossover. That's even true at the larger end of the market - just look at what happened when Ford redesigned its body-on-frame Explorer into a stylish and well-equipped CUV. And now look at the similar success Nissan has had in repurposing its rugged Pathfinder sport-ute as an appealing crossover.

But happily, we report the following line: out of every long-term vehicle Autoblog has ever tested, not a single one has been as in-demand as the 2013 Pathfinder Platinum you see here. After 13 months of solid use, we added 24,372 miles to the Pfinder's odometer - and that's without the vehicle ever leaving the hands of our Detroit-based team (sorry, West Coasters).

There's good reason for that high-demand usage, too. After spending a little over a year with our Mocha Stone tester (a color that earned this Nissan the nickname "Sweet Brown") we came to appreciate its vast versatility, comfort, all-weather prowess, and the way it absolutely ate up the miles on long trips. We drove it all over the United States, in all four seasons, filling it with our families, friends, and occasionally using its capacious cabin for sleeping on the road. Through good and bad, the Pathfinder was a trusty friend. But like any good friendship, that wasn't without a couple of fights.

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2014 Mazda6: Winter's End Update

04/14/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sedans/Saloons, Mazda, Long-Term Garage

2014 Mazda6 Long-term

The Winter Without End is seemingly dead. Outside my office windows, my brown and yellow lawn is fully exposed to the increasingly powerful sunshine, the morning birdsong is louder than anything until the garbage trucks start rolling, and I'm seriously considering having the summer tires put back on my personal fleet. That last one is a little scary, as I'm a firm believer in the April Snow Jinx, but you get the idea.

The long-term Mazda6 has also long since left my driveway. Looking back on my notes from the time it was in my charge, however, I see all remarks are dominated by one highlighted section at the top: "worst winter drive of all time." I hardly need the reminder, to be honest. Here's what happened.

When the Mazda showed up at my door, we'd already fitted the thing with its new winter rubber: Bridgestone Blizzaks. Plunking down for dedicated snow tires was a near necessity this year - as it almost always is in Michigan. We didn't see much reprieve from snow-choked, iced over roads here in Ann Arbor, and the knobbier rubber proved invaluable in getting me out of my house time and again.

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Long Term: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder: May 2013

06/07/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Crossovers/CUVs, Nissan, Long-Term Garage

Long-term 2013 Nissan Pathfinder - Front three-quarter view

Despite the snow-capped photos you see here, our long-term Pathfinder has been the subject of some proper pre-summer lovin' here in metro Detroit (we're working on a new gallery). Now that the warm weather has hit Michigan, many of our staffers have eagerly grabbed the keys to our big, brown Nissan for road trips all over the place. And the Pathfinder has indeed proven itself to be quite the worthy long-distance hauler, as editors John Neff and Seyth Miersma have already experienced.

This time around, a couple of our colleagues from AOL Autos put hundreds of miles on our trusty Nissan. And while everyone agrees that the Pathfinder is a solid vehicle for the task of road tripping, there are a couple of specific pros and cons that have been mentioned on several occasions.

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Long Term: 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo: May 2013

06/04/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Economy, Sports/GTs, Hatchbacks, Hyundai, Long-Term Garage

Long-term 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

Although I went on the Portland launch of the regular-strength Veloster back in late 2011, my time in the Turbo model was previously limited to one very brief commuting experience, so I was glad to get some time in our long-term matte gray model this month. In a way, I lucked out, grabbing the key fob to our Hyundai just as the weather in mid-Michigan finally acknowledged spring's existence. The temperature change afforded us the chance to swap out the all-season Kumho Solus KH25 rubber that it arrived with in January for its optional ($1,200) Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires (215/40ZR18), an almost absurdly major-league, high-dollar set of shoes for what is actually only a hottish hatch.

You might have expected the Veloster Turbo to slide under the radar in such high-performance and shouty company, but the truth is it was a little magnet for attention.

With the new footwear freshly installed, I made a beeline for South Bend, Indiana for the start of this year's One Lap of America, an event I've been staffing for well over a decade. I rolled into the Tire Rack headquarters' expansive parking lot, parking the VT alongside the competitors, whose vehicles appeared "cunningly disguised as racecars," covered with all manner of sponsorship stickers and graphics. You might have expected the Veloster Turbo to slide under the radar in such high-performance and shouty company, but the truth is it was a little magnet for attention.

Most of the One Lappers I spoke with had seen standard Velosters before from a distance or at auto shows, but none of them had firsthand experience with them, let alone with the Turbo. While not everyone loved its looks, a good number truly did, and several asked if the car's matte finish was a wrap - all were impressed to learn that it wasn't. They were also pretty blown away by the inclusion of Michelin Pilots on a car of this price and mission, and everyone appreciated that it had a six-speed manual and a "real" third door. At least a couple of drivers pronounced it a "great kid's car" and vowed to have a look at it for their own progeny after the weeklong rally. As much as I enjoy the car, it was frankly a warmer reaction than I had anticipated amidst a crowd of hardcore car guys and gals.

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Long Term: 2014 Mazda6: Introduction

05/30/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sedans/Saloons, Mazda, Long-Term Garage

An Extended Stay With The Sexy Six

2014 Mazda6

The new-for-2014 Mazda6 sedan is more than just a pretty face. For Mazda, it marks the company's best effort yet at competing in the highly competitive midsize sedan segment, all the while staying true to the brand's core value of offering high levels of driver involvement above all. We certainly came away impressed after our first drive of the sleek Six in France last fall, and we knew right from the start that this would be a car we'd want to spend a lot of time with back here at home.

So with that in mind, the folks at Mazda graciously agreed to loan us the fully loaded Soul Red tester you see here for a one-year stay in the Autoblog long-term garage. Because of how important this car is to the segment, and to Mazda as a brand, we know there's going to be a lot to talk about it over the next 12 months. Right now, though, allow us to introduce you to the newest member of our long-term family.

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Long Term: 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo: April 2013

05/02/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sports/GTs, Hatchbacks, Hyundai, Long-Term Garage

Learning To Love Understand You

2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo

I will admit, I haven't had the nicest things to say about our long-term 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo since its arrival in our fleet earlier this year. I can't exactly say that I've bonded with our turbocharged Hyundai, despite the fact that I've driven it quite a bit since its arrival in the Autoblog Garage. Several of my friends will no doubt recall me saying things like, "I love everything about this car - except driving it," which is a shame, since the driving aspect is what's supposed to make this car so special. I'm a big fan of the base Veloster, and this one has the extra power bump that the naturally aspirated could really benefit from. So what gives?

Recently, I took a trip to the south of France, where I drove the brand-new Ford Fiesta ST along the lovely roads of the Alps. I adored that car - it's everything a hot hatch should be, and it's priced right, too. But when I came home and picked up the Veloster Turbo at the airport, I found myself disappointed. The Ford I drove in Europe was similar to the Hyundai in terms of size, function, equipment and price, but it was far better to drive. To be fair, that car wasn't even out to benchmark when the Veloster Turbo debuted, but my already sour feelings only got worse at that moment.

But this matte gray cloud does have a silver lining. And all it takes is a bit of rethinking.

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Long Term: 2013 Nissan Pathfinder: April 2013

04/27/2013   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Crossovers/CUVs, Nissan, Long-Term Garage

Not Just For Families

2013 Nissan Pathfinder

Since our long-term 2013 Nissan Pathfinder joined the Autoblog Garage in late December of last year, the only time I've really spent with it has been during the short periods of time between my co-workers' longer loans. Until now, my experiences with our Mocha Stone tester have been limited to pick-ups and drop-offs at various locations around the greater Michigan/Ohio area, not to mention keeping the vehicle clean inside and out, as well as handling our first bit of scheduled maintenance in late March.

I was pleased, then, to actually be able to spend most of the month of April with our Pathfinder, finally giving me a chance to see what everyone else does and does not like about Nissan's new crossover. But here's the thing: I'm admittedly not the ideal person to test a family-minded vehicle. I'm single and in my late twenties, so something like our other long-term car, the 2013 Hyundai Veloster Turbo, is better suited to meet my everyday needs.

But as I found after my stint with the Nissan, there's a whole lot to like about the Pathfinder no matter what your lifestyle demands. Allow me to explain.

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