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Saturday Morning Car Tune!

Here are some awesome gearhead restaurants for your next Southern California trip

Following a recent trip to view the soft launch of the new-to-us Fiat 500e, I decided to extend my stay to tour the local touges and sample SoCal’s finest eateries, soon realizing there were plenty of places that serve someone in search of both. Call these a cafe racer’s delight! Yes, I know that term is primarily for motorcycles, but bear with me here as I showcase to you a few of the best places in LA that I’ve discovered to be culinary havens for car enthusiasts in one way or another.

Some on this list may be blatantly in-your-face about their affinity for car culture, while others serve as more of a mere convenience to gearheads due to their location rather than a tribute. Either way, every place I’ve tried on this list is a worthwhile destination for your next LA excursion, and I implore you to take that damn McDonald’s pin off your CarPlay map and indulge in some real Californian eats.

The cherry on top? All these places are within a stone’s throw from some iconic driving roads. Or, well, you know. A stone’s throw by California traffic standards.

Neptune’s Net – From that one scene in that one movie

On Highway 1, next to Yerba Buena Road, minutes from Decker Canyon, Topanga, Tuna Canyon, and more

Acceleramota Eats Neptunes Net
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

What’s hot?

  • Self-service fridge full of drinks (like a convenience store)
  • Slap bang in the middle of many technical Malibu mountain roads

What’s not?

  • Pretty expensive menu items
  • Woefully crowded on any weekend

“What’s the retail on one of those?”

“More than you can afford, pal. Neptune’s Net Sampler combo.”

You already know. After beating up on Ferrari F355s on Highway 1 or coming down a downhill rager on Yerba Buena, you can treat yourself to a buffet of self-serve refreshments and some roadside food at that one set from that one movie. Established in 1956, Neptune’s Net has seen its fair share of pop culture usage, even being recreated in Grand Theft Auto V. Today, its popularity fails to waver for better or worse.

Seriously, don’t even bother on a weekend unless you’re ready to box a mom and her kids for a parking spot.

Still, the litany of convenience store refreshments, from energy drinks to booze, and the top-notch fried seafood are worth the adventure, even if the price tag can climb quite a bit. The fried shrimp and scallops are my favorite, and the coleslaw actually ain’t bad! Haters be damned. I’ll eat their slaw every time. Burgers, salads, and sandwiches are also available, although I have yet to try them in my months of visiting here.

Fujiwara Tofu Cafe – Here’s one for the racers and weeaboos alike

Off the 10 in El Monte, CA, 30 minutes from San Gabriel Canyon Road and Glendora Mountain Road

Acceleramota Eats Fujiwara Tofu Cafe
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

What’s hot?

  • A fun, unconventional menu like few milk tea shops around
  • Doubles as a lifestyle brand for Initial D and local grassroots motorsports fans

What’s not?

  • Soymilk-based everything is an acquired taste
  • Most merch is usually only sold online or at events

Order food. Order drinks. Play the arcade games, and go tear up Glendora Mountain Road afterward. Doesn’t matter to me. Just don’t spill the water.

A personal favorite of mine that I’m now shoving down all of your throats, Fujiwara Tofu Cafe is probably one of the best, most honest, and true-to-its-roots take on a themed eatery outside of an amusement park. I mean, come on. There’s Initial D playing on the tele. The order counter is adorned with various car culture, racing, and Initial D stickers with signage from Bunta’s tofu shop overhead. Over the ordering tablets is an AE86 Corolla door with the tofu shop script. And beyond that, they’re a retailer for kickass automotive lifestyle merch and Initial D memorabilia and a venue for small-scale car meets. Oh yeah. And the menu.

Iketani Senpai (green Thai tea) is my current favorite, which is ironic because I hate Iketani in the show. The fried tofu with its sweet-and-sour sauce is (insert Italian hand gesture emoji), and as a Filipino-American, their tofu puddings send me into Anton Ego mode, vividly reminding me of taho.

Doesn’t matter if you’re a fan of the franchise or not. If that doesn’t scream car enthusiast haven, I don’t know what does. Go here and give them your money. Sure, soy-based everything is an acquired taste, and I have an even split of friends who love and hate the menu, but it’s certainly a whimsical take on your typical tea shop offerings and still worth every bit of your time to stop by after a long road trip or a hard canyon drive.

Wild Oak Cafe – Brekkie under the trees near LA’s most famous driving road

On Chevy Chase Drive in Glendale, CA, minutes from Angeles Crest Highway and Angeles Forest

Acceleramota Eats Wild Oak Cafe
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

What’s hot?

  • Expansive breakfast and coffee menu for a small shop
  • Gorgeous patio area and decor

What’s not?

  • Limited parking spaces
  • In the middle of a neighborhood, so don’t be a dick if you have a loud exhaust

Perhaps the least car culture-oriented place on this list and the most quaint, serene, and lowkey. Wild Oak Cafe is saddled right in the middle of a lovably peaceful Glendale neighborhood in the hills at the base of Angeles Crest Highway, one of the most famous driving roads in the LA area. Just a few minutes from the entrance of the road is this breakfast joint seemingly built out of an old market or gas station, with trees filtering the sunlight over the hilltops and potted plants and a dilapidated old Model T setting the mood.

The entire dining area is outdoors on the patio, and you can treat yourself to an array of familiar and cozy breakfast dishes to start or end your morning drive. Breakfast sandwiches, burritos, traditional American breakfasts with eggs and bacon, and waffles are staples here. A treat for those who’ve never had it would be the Armenian coffee served in a traditionally small portion but brewed with enough of a kick to the teeth to jumpstart any coffee junkie.

No, it’s not really car enthusiast-centric, but its location makes it the perfect stop before or after the canyons. Just don’t be a dickhead and respect the neighbors who probably paid an arm and a leg for homes I can never afford in my lifetime.

Motoring Coffee – Mochas, matcha, and motor oil in the air

On Olympic Boulevard in Los Angeles, CA, 25 minutes to downtown and 30 minutes to Topanga Canyon

Acceleramota Eats Motoring Coffee
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

What’s hot?

  • Top-notch coffee shop offerings
  • Starbucks doesn’t have a Honda Acty dining table

What’s not?

  • Being a storage facility for privately-owned cars, you can’t get too close
  • Limited food menu

Not that hungry but can go for some caffeine? Meander on over to Motoring Coffee between downtown and the coast, where LA’s eclectic upper echelon of car enthusiasts have decided to turn their storage facility into a hip public business. Just don’t breathe too close to someone’s car.

The food menu is quite limited to basic coffee shop affair, like croissants and cookies, and their drinks menu is comprised of fairly standard offerings you’d find at any other cafe. Thankfully, they put forth effort to do it right and make them as good as they can be. Their mocha and matcha lattes are sweet and satisfying without being overly decadent like the liquid candy masquerading as coffee from a chain coffee shop, and the vibes of being surrounded by classic 911s, old Land Cruisers, and a few trick motorcycles make for a pleasant place to kill time for a short period.

Cons? Well. I wish I were a member. Their private rooms in the back, separate from the coffee shop front, are just the place I want to be when I say I feel like going for a drive, but the sheer weight of my laziness keeps me from actually making it to any worthwhile road. So please stop by for a drink and at least feel like a million bucks as you spill coffee all over their Honda Acty dining table.

Sigh. Man, I miss FoodTribe. Those were the days.

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The best cars we’ve reviewed (so far) ranked!

Welcome to the start of our ever-expanding home base of car reviews, where we file the best cars we’ve driven so far in order. Don’t think of this as an outright competition to see what is the definitive best vehicle out of a few classes. We’ve got more than that, anyway. Best EVs, best sports cars, best compacts, best trucks, and more! Think of this as all our existing car reviews coming together to help you decide on what are some hot ticket choices to look out for on the new or used car market. 

Check out the linked subheadings for full reviews with specs and pricing, and check back occasionally as we continue to grow our portfolio of car reviews!

(Editor’s Note: Updated 3/1/2024 with pickup trucks and EVs category!)

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Best EVS

1. Audi Q8 e-tron – A proper take on urban luxury EVs, even if it’s not a spec sheet winner

What’s hot?

  • Proper luxury car interior with all the accouterments
  • Serene ride and NVH

What’s not?

  • Some minor Audi MMI glitches
  • A tough sell with a high price and okay-ish range

Is it too late for the legacy automakers to topple the startup giants? Will no one eclipse them in terms of price, production output, or range? Ah, screw it. Let ’em have it when automakers like Audi still know how to build a damn good car and damn good features. The Q8 e-tron may not take home any victories in Top Trumps or bar stool drag racing, but that doesn’t mean it should be dismissed, because what Audi has delivered is a sublime urban EV for those who’ll heed its offerings. Ride quality is plush, even on such big wheels, and the interior is well-built and well-equipped, with enough screen to satiate the especially tech-indulgent without appearing cheap or gaudy.

The Q8 e-tron is a fine automobile. We just wish it could be an easier sell so more folks can bask in what it gets right. But we get it. What it gets wrong are things that wouldn’t be the fault of any sensible buyer should they say turn the e-tron down. With a price that starts at $74,400, it’s already an uphill battle. And with a range of only 285 miles, it’s tough to convince folks to fork over the dough for one of these instead of the comparable Tesla or a cheaper Mach-E. But give it a chance and let it thrive in the urban environments it was made for, and you may see that the numbers game isn’t the point of the e-tron. The point is to just be a great product.

2. Chevrolet Blazer EV – That one SUV from the Barbie movie is actually quite a stunner

What’s hot?

  • Sharp and sporty like its looks
  • Quiet and refined

What’s not?

  • Range lags behind key rivals, including fellow Ultium-based EVs
  • Oh boy, yet another expensive electric SUV

Hey there, Barbie! Let’s go party! And party indeed, as the Blazer EV is actually quite the charming and likable EV, with polarizing styling that contrasts with the sea of egg-shaped lunchboxes that also occupy the pantheon of electric SUVs. But for that price, you get a highly configurable package, with trim levels to match anyone’s wants, and drivetrains that offer front, all, or rear-wheel drive. Can’t think of another vehicle where you can pick either three. The Blazer also matches its sharp looks with dynamics that don’t fall on its face in the twisties and acceleration that earn the top trim its SS badge. And if you like cockpit-like interiors, the Blazer certainly fits the bill with a digital dash and infotainment setup that vaguely reminds us of a C8 Corvette and Alpha-platform Camaro blended together.

If we had to complain, there’s that sorry excuse for a frunk that’s easily trumped by rivals in its class. Range is only okay and doesn’t set any new records, with the most frugal trims seeking out 324 miles. Oh, and there are the embarrassing software issues that plagued early cars enough to cause a stop-sale. Ironically, not long after winning a round of praise and awards from all who’ve driven it. Oh, Chevy.

3. Mercedes-Benz eSprinter – Electrified mobility for businesses and tradesmen

What’s hot?

  • Fairly quick and responsive at low speeds
  • Still perfectly capable of around-town work

What’s not?

  • Uncomfortable seats
  • No dual-motor variants as of yet

Not much to say here, is there? It’s an electric cargo van with plenty of space for products or tools, enough pep for stoplight drags, and just enough range to accomplish a day of work and still have some to spare. The Mercedes eSprinter is exactly as advertised: a nicely made, well-appointed, electrified take on work vans intended for urban environments. And you know what? That’s a-okay with us. The interior is standard Sprinter, with an attractively-designed and functional infotainment system and seats that are less than optimal but get the job done. Hey, you’re getting paid to work, not lounge!

Aside from wanting more comfortable seats, a 42-minute max charge speed to 80% is only okay, there are currently no dual-motor variants available as of yet, and the payload takes a significant hit versus any gas or diesel Sprinter. Gardeners and Geek Squad folks will be fine. But no trying to smuggle kei cars in the back, you hear me?

Best plug-in hybrids

1. Mazda CX-90 PHEV – Bridging the gap between family crossovers of the past and future

What’s hot?

  • Commendable EV range for such a massive thing
  • Mazda edges closer and closer to the luxury car kingdom

What’s not?

  • Not the most cavernous three-row SUV
  • Rotary dial infotainment controls only

Mazda has been on a not-so-secret upward spiral toward faux luxury car stardom for some time now. From smooth, sporty driving dynamics to interiors with actually pleasant build quality and aesthetic design, the Zoom-Zoom brand has been making quite the name for itself. The CX-90 three-row crossover cements its status as a serious brand worth more than just one mere damn, and the plug-in hybrid variant acts as a wonderfully executed bridge between family cars of the past and present. 26 miles of EV range? Not bad! 24 mpg in the city? Heck yeah! 369 pound-feet of yoinking power? Now, you got me flustered. And these are just the specs. We haven’t even started with the gorgeous, airy, wood-lined interior that can shame the Germans or the sporty dynamics that can actually put the “sports” in sports utility vehicle.

Okay, so a big lunk like this will never score the range or MPGe of smaller plug-in crossovers. And its towing capacity and average mpg took a hit versus the Bimmer-flattering inline-six. Oh, and touchscreens be damned because the Mazda’s infotainment is controlled via a rotary dial only, which will definitely not resonate with anyone who hasn’t come from an older BMW. But if you can live with those nitpicks, you’ll still be left with one of the most compelling products to come, not just from Mazda but from any automaker in recent memory.

2. Alfa Romeo Tonale – A commuter a way only the Italians can

What’s hot?

  • A family crossover that’s actually a drop-dead stunner
  • Commendable performance and handling

What’s not?

  • Dodge Hornets are cheaper if you don’t mind the styling differences
  • Dodge Hornets have an ICE-only powertrain if you don’t care for plug-ins

Nothing says car enthusiast like anything sporty from Italy. Nothing says drab and dreary appliance like a compact crossover. Combine the two, and you might just have the recipe for a fun little urban runabout, as Stellantis has proven with the Alfa Romeo Tonale. Although ICE variants exist elsewhere, we Yanks get a bold, powerful plug-in powertrain as our sole option. It pairs a spunky little 1.3-liter turbo four boosted to high hell with an electric motor to yield over 30 miles of handy EV range and produce 285 horsepower and 347 pound-feet, which, last time I checked, is a lot more than your average compact crossover.

Sadly, it also costs a lot more than most compact crossovers and is lined up squarely against competent, similarly powerful rivals like the RAV4 Prime. Those who are a fan of spunky Italian dynamics but are willing to forgo the spunky styling can also step down to the cheaper Hornet, which produces more torque, has a similar EV range, and offers a significantly cheaper ICE powertrain. Still, flawed or not, there’s a lot to love about the Alfa Toe Nail, and there’s something to be admired when offered a fun, stylish alternative to the usual crop of cookie-cutter family cars on the market.

3. Dodge Hornet R/T – I’m like the guy right above me but with less swagger

What’s hot?

  • Fun and fast for lil’ crossover!
  • Usable EV range

What’s not?

  • Why is there no Regular-Ass Prius mode?
  • Minor electronic annoyances

“I do everything the guy above does, but better,” says the Dodge Hornet R/T, probably. Psst, it’s not better, but it is just ever so slightly different.

Not much to say here that hasn’t already been said about the Tonale. I don’t think we can say anything until we score an all-ICE Hornet GT to sample. But here it is, the Americanized take on Italy’s dandy little compact crossover, complete with the same KONI two-valve shocks, vividly red Brembos, and sticky Michelin Pilot Sport All-Season 4 tires. The car receives the same plug-in powerplant in R/T trim, albeit with an extra motor to help it yield 288 horsepower and 383 pound-feet of faux hot hatch fury. It costs a few grand less for a comparable Hornet R/T versus a Tonale, too. What’s not to love?

Well, it’s still a Tonale. This means it still suffers from the typical Italian (or perhaps just Stellantis) electronic hiccups that make it difficult to recommend, from awkward lane centering and intermittently dysfunctional safety sensors. It may also be too small for some families, and asking for the R/T skyrockets the price tag fairly quickly. But if you can live with all of it, the Hornet is still a lovable, fun-to-drive alternative in an otherwise ho-hum segment of effective yet uninteresting cars.

Best hybrids

1. Toyota Prius – shockingly fun but still lovably practical

What’s hot?

  • New powertrains are punchy
  • Easiest 50-mpg solution on the new car market

What’s not?

  • Some interior ergonomic quirks
  • Still viable in today’s world of plug-ins, EVs, and upscale economy cars?

Go ahead. Laugh. But you won’t be laughing for long when a $30 or $40 fill-up nowadays buys you well over 500 miles of range, not including the short bits of EV cruising you can manage behind the wheel of the current-gen Toyota Prius. Did I make fun of Priuses before? Of course! Do I still do? On occasion. Do I love them, though? You bet your ass.

City slickers, you can’t beat 50-plus mpg and all-electric parking lot creeping in a car with the forward and side visibility of a fishbowl (the rear is a different story) and a footprint small enough to fit in nearly any parking space. There’s an abundance of nifty safety and convenience tech to make you feel as though you’re in a more substantial vehicle, and the new chassis and powertrain result in a Prius that’s a bit of a hoot to fling around.

The question remains if the Prius is still the obvious solution when compact family sedans and crossovers are now as efficient as ever while sitting at a slightly lower price point and offering comparable, if not better, practicality and ergonomics. Not to mention the growing waves of affordable EVs and plug-ins if efficiency is really your absolute top priority. But if a middle ground between them all is what you’re eyeing, then the new Prius remains a fantastic, well-rounded entry, even if it’s not necessarily the best.

Best luxury sports sedans

1. Lexus IS 500 F Sport Performance – A final bastion for V8 sports sedans

What’s hot?

  • N/A V8 rear-drive sports sedan? For real?
  • Typical Lexus premium vibes, inside and out

What’s not?

  • Not a true IS F replacement
  • Could go for more low-end torque

If you can’t find an ounce of love for something like this, you’re either not human or one of those stereotypical Tesla fans we were warned about on social media. The Lexus IS 500 was a last hurrah we didn’t expect, but we couldn’t be happier it exists, even if it’s for a moment. Lexus delivers a compact executive sedan with rear-drive, go-fast suspension and braking hardware, and a monstrous, free-breathing V8 pushing 472 ponies! What a day to be alive! And in typical Lexus fashion, it oozes style and quality inside and out, from the way it drives and handles to the materials and tech. 

Sure. It’s not a true IS F successor in the same vein as the RC F coupe. The platform is quite old, dated, and small by car industry standards. But perhaps we shouldn’t complain about its age and shortcomings. For less money than a BMW M3, here’s a final bastion for naturally-aspirated V8 sport sedans with more charm and character than a current M3 will ever have.

2. Genesis G70 – A bonafide sports sedan to challenge the Germans

What’s hot?

  • Actually fast, fun, and engaging across all trim levels
  • Oozes style and quality at a strong price point

What’s not?

  • Fuel economy pales in comparison to German I4 and I6 engines
  • No hotted-up M, AMG, or F rival (yet)

I’ve driven and ridden in a small handful of Korean cars over the years, each getting more and more alluring the newer they got. Now, the icing on the cake, the Genesis G70 cements a notion in my head that’s been parroted by auto journalists since the Sonata got good: South Korea will take over the world. Good. Let them. Because they can build a damn fine sports sedan.

The latest G70, the only Genesis product I’ve yet to sample, sports a buttery smooth 8-speed auto directing power from either a 300-horsepower, 2.5-liter turbo four, or a 365-horsepower, 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6. You can get it dipped in rear-drive or all-wheel-drive sauce, and V6 cars can be sprinkled with a serving of electronic suspension and limited-slip diff. Sounds like a good time, yeah? But thankfully, Genesis knew not to sully the car’s luxury mission with an overly “sporty” setup, so it remains posh, refined, and quiet, perfectly balanced for wannabe touring car champs and yuppies alike.

No, there’s no super-hot M3 killer yet. And no, the fuel economy is good but not great, as BMW’s crop of turbo engines beg to differ. By like, a lot. Backseat space can be a bit tight, and interior design, while impeccably well-built, may not offer enough flair and pizazz as one might like. But these minor nitpicks shouldn’t stop you from considering the G70, especially when you get the chance to experience all that it gets oh-so right.

Best luxury SUVs/crossovers

1. Acura MDX Type S – Quick and cushy

What’s hot?

  • Genuinely fun to drive
  • A cushy, coddling cruiser for the whole family

What’s not?

  • Not as sporty as it could be, especially in the face of German rivals
  • Curse these touchpad infotainment controllers

We love a good, unsensible dose of automotive debauchery. Manic vehicles with fire-breathing engines or cyberpunk-esque EVs with more gimmicks than goodwill. Are they useful? Not always. But they sure are fun. Yet, here stands the Acura MDX Type S as the near-perfect Goldilocks’ choice of crossovers. A cavernous interior invites occupants to revel in plush leather seating accented with real wood and metal accouterments, controlled via logically arranged hard buttons to show that physical switchgear ain’t going out of style just yet! And once you take control, you’re rewarded with a lovably pleasant driving experience, defined by a powerful and silky V6, well-tuned automatic transmission, and supple suspension that’s still competent in the canyons and freeway on-ramps. Sometimes, it’s good to enjoy the middle ground.

Of course, it’s not without faults. The most glaring of which is that infernal touchpad infotainment controller, which will apparently bow out in favor of a better system in future Acuras. Good riddance. And of course, people eying the Type S badge hoping for a true M or AMG fighter may be disappointed. It’s not that car. It’s fun and engaging. Really fun, actually. But it’s not that car. In a day where clout-chasing is king, the MDX Type S reigns itself in and stays true to its family crossover roots without being afraid to have just a little senseless fun every once in a while.

Best hot hatches and sports compacts

1. Acura Integra Type S – The surprise knockout

What’s hot?

  • Chassis, brakes, engine, and pretty much everything else by the gods
  • Easily daily-drivable for thousands of miles on end

What’s not?

  • Exhaust is too quiet for how raucous it can be
  • Expensive for its class

Oh, Integra Type S, my beloved. How incredible you are clubbing GR Corollas and Golf Rs over the head with the sheer force of your awesomeness. The gods bestowed upon you suspension soft enough for tattered highway commutes yet taught enough for unflappable canyon cornering prowess. You’ve been granted a rev-happy powerhouse of a turbo four-banger with a Bimmer-rivaling 320 ponies channeled through a manual whose shifts hit crisp like ice water with a mint. And you carry yourself with civility and politeness when it’s time to calm down for the long journeys home. 

Could you tell I’m obsessed? The Acura Integra Type S is an easy winner and a rockstar in its segment, delivering Civic Type R attitude in a slightly more comfortable and mature package. Perhaps the only reason we leave here at Number 1 is because we haven’t yet tested a real Type R, which sports more supportive bucket seats and a whimsically cool wing for several thousand dollars less, trumping any value proposition the Acura had. Until then, the Acura will stay our king of the sport compact hill. 

2. Hyundai Elantra N – Shattering Korean car stereotypes

What’s hot?

  • Rip-snorting lil’ WTCC car for the road, even with the dual-clutch
  • Premium interior and performance at a stellar price point

What’s not?

  • Bucket seats are a pain on road trips
  • Ugly duckling

“Am I the only one who understands the complexity of this ambitious automotive masterpiece? This car isn’t stupid! You’re stupid!” – Billy, probably.

Hyundai’s N division has proven to be a massive disruptor in the performance car world, building comparison test winners and headline stealers since the Veloster N in 2019. The Elantra N carries forward much of the same spirit and hardware, routing 276 horsepower from its 2.0-liter turbo-four through your choice of a good ol’ six-speed stick or a snappy 8-speed dual-clutch. 

Brakes rock. Adaptive suspension rocks. The selection of drive modes that all make a meaningful difference rock. Everything rocks. And, best of all, the Elantra N goes about its performance biz with genuine chassis feel and an eager, soulful playfulness seldom found in European sports sedans. Couple that with its strong value proposition, and you have an affordable halo car that poses a serious threat to our current sports compact king. 

3. Volkswagen Golf R – The mature grown-up’s hot hatch

What’s hot?

  • Sports sedan performance with all-wheel-drive versatility 
  • Mature, elegant bodywork with hatchback practicality

What’s not?

  • Controversial infotainment system is a tad bit of a learning curve
  • On the steeper side of the pricing fence

The Mk8 Volkswagen Golf R is a divisive product, as praiseworthy as it was a source of ire among auto journos for a variety of reasons. But one thing is for certain, and it’s that no one can really hate on the fiery powerhouse that is the EA888 four-cylinder, pushing 315 ponies in Golf R trim, a sliver more than its Audi S3 cousin. It also features a trick Haldex all-wheel-drive system with Drift Mode for sideways action and Volkswagen’s baby-PDK DSG dual-clutch. 

That said, the mighty Golf R has some Achilles heels. It’s not the fiercest, most playful thing in the toybox, trading the antics of something like a Focus RS or Type R for a more upscale and serious demeanor befitting its German heritage, which may or may not resonate more with certain buyers. Its heftier price tag may also push some buyers away, as well, sitting comfortably above the likes of Elantra Ns, GR Corollas, and its not-too-dissimilar, front-drive GTI sibling. Oh, and that love-it-or-hate-it infotainment. Sheesh. At least they’re bringing buttons back.

Best affordable sports cars

1. Subaru BRZ – Jack of all trades, master of many

What’s hot?

  • A palette-cleansing trendsetter of what proper driver feedback should be
  • 2.4-liter engine staves off most desires for extra power… most

What’s not?

  • GR86 is more playful for slightly less money
  • Lame engine and exhaust sounds

Here comes the little Subaru BRZ trying to prove it has everything you need and nothing you don’t. 228 horsepower and 184 pound-feet from its 2.4-liter flat-four quells most complaints about the last car being gutless, bolstered by short gears and a svelte 2,800-pound weight. There’s a supple ride, CarPlay, Bluetooth, dual-zone climate, and options for banging sound system and scalding heated seats. 

Sure, it’s not perfect. Far from it, actually. The flat-four in stock form makes some pretty gruff, uninspired engine and exhaust noises. Space and practicality will never rival that of a hot hatch. And then there are those pesky RTV shards and daunting oiling pressure woes that have forums in a frenzy for permanent fixes. Still, if you want a track-capable, confidence-inspiring, infinitely tunable plaything that’s at home on the daily drive as it is high up in the canyons, few cars come close.

Best luxury sports cars

1. Chevrolet Corvette Stingray – “Budget supercar” is no hyperbole

Black Corvette C8 at Joshua Tree National Park
Image credit: Gabe Carey (Acceleramota)

What’s hot?

  • Faux supercar performance for a fraction of the price
  • Impressively practical

What’s not?

  • The usual supercar headaches in traffic and urban settings
  • Some stylistic quirks and nitpicks

Value is important when choosing a car. And I don’t think the value gets much stronger than the C8 Corvette Stingray. You’re telling me I can snag a base one for between $60,000 to $70,000 and still have the time of my life? Hell. Yeah. And before you snark at me and say no one gets the base model, know that me and Gabe’s tester absolutely was. No Nappa leather. No Z51 pack. No aero kit. Just the C8 ‘Vette in its most pure form.

Even with none of the extra fancy thingamajigs like MagneRide, auxiliary coolers, and Pilot Sport 4S tires, which I’m sure would have been transformative in the LA canyons and on SoCal freeways where we tested, we were still blown away at the base Corvette’s unfathomably serene ride and handling balance. It can haul all our camera gear for the LA Auto Show in the frunk, stow a body, uh, extra luggage in the rear, comfortably soak up all the expansion joints and potholes California had to throw at us, and still be an engaging ripper in the canyons.

Sure, it could be a little sharper. It could be a little lighter. It could be a little more connected. My advice? Don’t drive a 718 Cayman GTS before this. But I suppose for the money, this thing is a tough act to follow. A really tough act to follow.

2. Lotus Emira – A driving enthusiast’s dream come true

What’s hot?

  • Shocking ride and handling balance, even with Sports suspension setup
  • One helluva’ V6

What’s not?

  • Somewhat baulky manual shifter when cold
  • Not long for this cruel world

I can’t say it any better than Peter, so I’ll slip in a little excerpt.

“The 2024 Lotus Emira First Edition is a very special sports car for this day and age. It one-ups everyone else by making the most of old steering technology. This blissful steering then combines with a wonderfully communicative chassis, manual gear shift, rousing supercharged engine, and overall brilliant driving dynamics to make it a true top-level driver’s car.”

The Emira looks like so many other sports cars and supercars out there, but beneath the skin, it’s a rare breed like few others, if any at all. So it’s not the most practical or efficient thing on this list, nor is it that strong of a value in the presence of Porsche. It’s not even long for this world, slated for replacement by 2027. But when it comes to a pure driving experience, you can’t argue with some good ol’ analog fun, or as Rob Crespo and I call it, “oldfashionedasfuck.” And you know what? That’s exactly how the fanboys want it. And it’s how Colin Chapman would want it.

3. Maserati GranTurismo Trofeo – A true grand tourer with sports car chops

What’s hot?

  • Near supercar fast!
  • Sports car reflexes don’t hurt its cross-country comfort

What’s not?

  • Annoyingly long in parking situations
  • Priced smack dab in the middle of some serious rivals

God, no one does a driver’s car like the Italians. And yes, this portly, (possibly) two-ton, leather-clad, land yacht is a driver’s car. From its hellaciously fun Nettuno twin-turbo V6 to the trick Skyhook adaptive suspension with air springs. I didn’t quite know what to expect with the GranTurismo Trofeo. I kind of expected it to be a bulky, lazy touring car with tons of cross-country cred, as a car of its class should have. But I’m happy to report it can also straddle the line between touring car and sports car shockingly well, with quick, intuitive steering and a well-tuned all-wheel drive system that never lets the threat of understeer rear its ugly head in the tightest of Malibu canyons.

Sadly, its occasional electronic quirks, which range from meh to motherfu-, ahem, excuse me. It’s Stellantis-ness makes itself apparent. Not that it feels cheap. It sure as hell does not! It just has hiccups. And it better not feel cheap, not at nearly $230,000 as-tested! That’s a touch cheaper than GTs from more prestigious nameplates, but it places the GranTurmismo right in the middle of key rivals like the Mercedes SL, Porsche 911 Turbo, and even Maserati’s own MC20 supercar.

Best pickup trucks

1. Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 Bison – A serious contender in factory-fresh prerunners

What’s hot?

  • A bonafide adventurer with otherworldly suspension!
  • Plush, well-appointed interior

What’s not?

  • Steeply priced
  • Limited to crew cab with short bed only

Huzzah! Chevy’s baby Ford Raptor before Ford brought their own baby Raptor stateside. The ZR2 Bison is a phenomenally capable, lovably riotous off-roader that defies the weak and feeble stereotypes of smaller mid-size trucks. Not that today’s crop of mid-sizers are what anyone would call small, especially the Bison and its hulking 35-inch rubber. Like the new batch of Colorados, the interior is reasonably spacious, modern, and well-appointed, even including ventilated seats, which is a thoughtful addition for desert rats on Chevy’s behalf. The turbo four-banger plucked and retuned from base-model Silverados proves strong and more than up to the task of rocketing this Tonka truck cosplayer down sand dunes with ease, and the Multimatic suspension is every bit as capable and impressive as you’d expect from this company.

If you can live with the presumably abysmal fuel economy and the questionable styling, then this is a worthy rival to any fast Ford on the trail or in the open desert. Just mind the steep price tag, because ticking the Bison box on your build sheet will skyrocket the already pricey ZR2 to right around $60,000. You could buy Raptors for not that much more not long ago.

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EVs Explained range no text
EVs Explained

The secret to electric car range estimates—and why Tesla always scores big

Welcome to yet another lesson on what’s perhaps the biggest selling point on today’s crop of electric cars: EV range. Yes, everyone would love to have an EV that can keep pace with, if not outlast, their gasser companions on the open road, but what some may not know is that those big ol’ range numbers people use in their games of Top Trumps come from tests. Different tests. Not every EV is held to the same standard and, therefore, can produce wildly varying range numbers in real-world scenarios, oftentimes as a bid to earn the bigger number just to say they can.

Gasp! You mean an automaker can willingly choose a method of range testing if it means being able to advertise that they can wave a bigger stick, even if the product doesn’t necessarily yield the same results in practice? That’s obscene! They would never choose a less honest route just to fluff up their brand image, would they?

Ha! Well, yes. Yes, they can. And they have. Many electric cars have been recorded not to hit their original estimates, and only a few are noted to match or exceed. Tesla and, recently, Lucid have been accused of being the worst offenders in magazine range comparisons, and there’s angst out there regarding it. Enough for me to pen up this EVs Explained piece just to tell you all about the wonderfully riveting world of EV range testing. Don’t get too restless. Like an old compliance car, I won’t take you too far.

A white 2023 Kia Niro EV is seen driving through the city.
Image credit: Kia

One size fits some

Varying EV range tests have been a thing for some time. Such methodologies include America’s EPA, Europe’s Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicles Test Procedure (WLTP), Europe’s now-obsolete and unrealistically optimistic New European Driving Cycle (NEDC), and the controversially unrealistic China Light Duty Vehicle Test Cycle (CLTC).

On a recent press launch, I had the opportunity to discuss such varying test methods with Edmunds test editor, Reese Counts, who commented on his Mach-E long-term loaner’s range. And although it didn’t quite hit its EPA estimates, as he commented that almost no electric car does, he does enjoy that it was a very “real” range estimate and didn’t leave him feeling as though a buyer would be conned. As a youngin’ in this field, I asked him what he meant.

Each agency has slightly different testing practices, which already yield different numbers on just the window stickers alone. In America, automakers have a choice of two routes within the EPA’s own set of rules. Because of this, it’s become a clear trend for certain cars from certain brands to come closer to their estimates than others, while others are seemingly blatant lies, except they’re not actual lies. They’re just tested under optimal conditions that favor them. Frequently, it seems these test results can be too optimistic, as seen in some of these big-name magazine range tests, where some cars consistently leave egregious gaps, sometimes as big as 100 miles or more, between their as-tested range and their advertised estimate, like the Tesla Model 3 or Lucid Air in Motor Trend’s recent test.

Mustang Mach E in the snow
Image credit: Ford

“They don’t bullshit you,” summarizes Counts regarding automakers with comparatively uninspired range claims for cars that can at least come close in the hands of normal drivers on real roads. Then he recounts cars that willingly choose alternate tests to bolster the range numbers as yet another example of “overselling but underdelivering.”

“Their numbers rarely line up with each other and can also differ from real-world ranges because each organization has its own specific test procedures,” explains Jeremy Laukkonen in a tech explainer for Lifewire. Enough content exists on the internet to explain at least some of those in greater detail, but I’ll summarize them with key highlights as best as I can.

EPA vs. WLTP vs. CLTC range testing

Basically, all EV range tests involve strapping a car down to a dynamometer or dyno, a “rolling road” as they’re sometimes referred to and basically function as a treadmill for cars. The vehicles are then charged to full, left overnight, and run through various cycles to simulate city and highway driving until the batteries can’t power the car. The vehicle is then recharged and run again and again for many tests. EPA and WLTP function similarly but have a few slight twists to them to make their estimates vary.

There’s enough nuance and small details to spin each agency’s test methods off into their own article… which we may actually do at some point. But for now, here are quick, digestible breakdowns of each one.

For greater detail, please consult your doctor (this breakdown by InsideEVs) to see which EV range testing method is right for you (less of a load of crap, in your opinion).

EPA

EPA gives the automakers a choice of a “two-cycle” or “five-cycle” range test, which essentially just dictates how many times the car goes through testing cycles. More on those cycles in a bit, as those are what give us the bigger and smaller gaps in real-world range numbers. City test cycles are conducted for a hair over 11 minutes at a time with a top speed of 56 mph and an average speed of just over 21 mph. Highway test cycles are run for a bit over 10 minutes at an average speed of 48 mpg and a top speed of 60 mph. The combined range figure is estimated by weighing together the city and highway numbers, with city driving accounting for 55% of the score and highway driving for 45%. To further simulate the range-dropping factors of real-world environments, the range is then multiplied by 0.7 to lower it.

In 2008, the EPA added three more cycles an automaker can test for that would better indicate range in real-world conditions, including a 95-degree hot weather test with air-conditioning on, a 20-degree cold weather test, and a high-speed test. Again, the results of using these extra cycles are detailed in a section below, but first, let’s see how they do things across the pond.

WLTP

Like EPA, WLTP uses cycles to test vehicles, but they’re also broken down further into classes based on max speed and power-to-weight ratios. The higher the vehicle’s performance, the higher the test speeds, hence why a Model S Plaid won’t be held to entirely the same standard as, say, a Renault Twizy. A WLTP test will be broken down into Low, Medium, High, and Extra High sub-cycles and run for 30 minutes over 14.4 miles at an average speed of 31 mph and a top speed of over 81.

Unlike the EPA range tests, the lab temperature is static at 73.4 degrees Fahrenheit, and they do not add the 0.7 real-world multiplier to lower the final range numbers. This is partly why EPA numbers are typically lower than their WLTP counterparts. For instance, the combined range of the most frugal Mustang Mach-E in America is rated at 300 miles. Compare that European Mach-E estimates of up to 372. Want another? The refreshed Tesla Model 3 Highland Long Range has a range of 305 to 341 miles, depending on wheel choice, but WLTP estimates peg it between 390 and 421.

Ah yes, the Long Range’s range is indeed long.

CLTC

This is a China-exclusive measure that isn’t necessarily relevant to Western EV buyers unless you enjoy speculating and eyebrow-raising. Criticized as “pushing an EV down a hill in a vacuum,” this methodology has been panned for the same reason as the now-defunct NEDC by producing highly optimistic range figures that may not be anywhere near indicative of what a real-world owner may experience. Unless they apparently push their car down a hill in a vacuum.

This CLTC test is conducted at a constant cruise of 25 mph until the battery goes kaput and is then adjusted for weather, terrain, and other factors via data compiled from real Chinese drivers across its many regions. While yes, this very much plays into an electric car’s inherent lows-speed efficiency and is not quite representative of what Western-driven cars will see, it’s important to remember that this is a Chinese test for Chinese market cars, so EVs are held to a different standard for their own driving environments, which are often dense, slow, and without too much intercity travel on massive high-speed highways.

Two-cycle vs five-cycle range testing

EPA test cycles
Image credit: fueleconomy.gov

Okay. So, different regions in the world conduct varying range tests and score different figures. Alrighty then, but what about the rampant talk of some brands like Tesla and even Lucid having massive disparities between lab-brewed estimates and real-world numbers?

As Counts explained to me when talking Mach-E numbers, this widdles down to the number of test cycles an automaker chooses to use.

As mentioned, the EPA offers a simple way to test for city and highway ranges with a city and highway cycle. Most automakers opt for this two-cycle test, while a few, particularly smaller startups, opt for the five-cycle test, which, as you can imagine, tests the car over more cycles. As detailed in another InsideEVs piece, it’s not that these companies are conning anyone or cheating a system. They’re just using the options available to them to gain an advantage. Such an advantage yields them a higher number that, therefore, looks better to the press and consumers and puts these startups or anyone else who uses the five-cyle option on a pedestal.

Why is this? Simple.

More cycles let EV makers take advantage of a car’s low-speed efficiency since they’re obviously exerting less energy to move at slower speeds and are bolstered by goodies like regenerative braking. The additional test cycles reportedly also include “high-speed” or aggressive driving, hot weather with air conditioning, and cold weather tests, all of which are done at a low enough speed to work in an electric car’s favor. Cool beans, except when magazines and owners conduct their own independent tests, typically on highways and at far higher speeds than the EPA’s lab experiments. This means the range disparity is, well, to say “noticeable” would be an understatement. Still, this practice of extra low-speed tests is allowed by the EPA and is totally legal, even if it’s not exactly aligned with other automakers’ decisions and doesn’t perfectly convey real-world range results on American roads.

“Such variance. Much wow.”

In case this article, its more detailed source material, and the embedded videos haven’t engrained this into your head by now, there is a mindboggling, brain-jerking, head-spinning array of variance and inconsistencies involved in EV range testing and, by extension, MPGe testing. Not only do global agencies use different methods, but there are also different cycles and sub-cycles within these methods that all yield different results for different cars. On top of that, it doesn’t help that electric vehicles are politically and societally forced to be one of the fastest evolving niches of cars on the road today, with vehicles from several years ago being nearly unrecognizable from a technical perspective from electric cars produced today.

“EVs are one of the fastest-changing areas that we deal with in our laboratory just in terms of how fast this technology is moving,” says engineer, Jarrod Brown, in CNBC’s look at EPA EV testing. “If you look at a vehicle that we had in here even five years ago, a 2016 or 2017 electric vehicle looks almost completely different internally from what we’re seeing in vehicles coming in 2024.”

When testing for range and efficiency, automakers have different ways of recording data for certification, and their cars can all use power differently. One car may not allocate the same energy to running HVAC systems as another, or they may intake and exert electricity to propel the car differently, and so on.

“Every manufacturer kind of has their own way of reporting data on where the power is coming into and going out of the vehicle,” Brown continues regarding the complexity of EV power distribution. “How it’s moving around between the motors and the batteries, or if it’s doing things like regenerative braking, or strategies about how power goes to the heating and cooling system versus how to keep the battery at the right temperature.”

The EPA system, with its many cycles, strives and often succeeds to at least come closest to what consumers can see on their commutes. But this level of added complexity and nonstop evolution may have the current ways of lining up their rulers all tripped up and out of spec. Many critics agree that modern EVs have well outgrown their archaic methods and that a new wave of standardization must come in order to bring realism and uniformity to electric car efficient measuring.

And if the word is true, change is indeed coming. One popular suggested method is providing city and highway range estimates like how the EPA already does for MPG and MPGe instead of weighing together the two for an average number. That way, consumers know what their best and worst-case scenarios are and don’t take a singular number as the definitive range their cars will always achieve.

Class dismissed

Did I lose you yet? Summary time!

The world has its many ways to measure range, all of which controversially lack a resemblance to real-world range tests, an issue which can be attributed to a variety of reasons, such as different test lengths and speeds, varying methods of averaging out final numbers, or even a lack of air resistance being in a lab strapped to a giant automotive treadmill. Europe currently has WLTP, China has CLTC, and America has the EPA, the latter of which offers a two and five-cycle test for automakers to run their EVs through.

Tesla EVs Explained range
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

A two-cycle test is a fairly basic test with cycles to simulate city and highway driving. The longer optional five-cycle test introduces high-speed, air-con, and cold tests conducted at fairly low-ish speeds, which works in favor of EV manufacturers since electric cars are incredibly efficient in urban use and deliver the best mileage at slower speeds. This, along with a final range number that favors 55% city and 45% highway driving, makes the five-cycle incredibly alluring to startups like Tesla and Lucid, who claim the biggest numbers in the game yet tend to show the biggest disparity in real-world range come independent tests, which are often done at higher speeds over mostly highway. And while it doesn’t deliver the prettiest, most headline-worthy figures, other automakers opt for the simpler two-cycle test as it yields the more realistic final number that is then more likely to be met by actual owners or at least have come close to.

So go forth and stay educated! And remember this one big takeaway: Like gas mileage, EV range can vary greatly. Everything from weather, road conditions, speed, and HVAC usage can affect your range, and, like these many different magazines, your own electric car’s range may be different from what any agency or even another owner gets. Your driving style may yield a 10-mile range disparity or a 100-mile one. Who knows? Just know that whatever car you buy, whether from some big-name legacy automaker or a fancy-schmancy startup, take those window sticker estimates with a grain of salt.

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Fiat 500e
FeaturesHot TakesNews

The all-electric Fiat 500e is one of the coolest new EVs, but does it belong in the U.S.?

Perhaps I’m not the ideal candidate to write this piece, given my family’s affinity for the lil’ Ciquecentos, but no one else will, so here I go. It’s official. The all-new, all-electric Fiat 500e, reborn for the European market in 2020, now makes its way to American shores as we speak, heralding a new era for Fiat in the United States and Fiat’s first real, non-compliance-car attempt at an EV for the North American market. Hipsters rejoice! Rise, my beloved tinker toy! Rise!

At first glance, it’s undeniably easy to dismiss the new 500e as some unimpressive cash grab by Stellantis to resurrect the recently deceased (to Americans) 500, with okay range and Corolla performance numbers. But that’d be completely ignorant of us, even if it is very on-brand for mindless consumers in a blatantly more-is-better society. The new 500e is not here to wow us with any victories in the numbers game. It’s not here to win any drag races or set any world range records. As Fiat puts it, it’s just here to be a “damn good car.” And a damn good car, it might be. But is it the right car for this market?

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What is the new Fiat 500e?

The last Fiat 500e, while actually well-received for delivering solid driving dynamics, was often dismissed as a mere compliance car, something to keep Fiat’s foot in the door in California and nothing really more than a gasser Fiat 500 converted to run on electrons… for, like, less than 90 miles. It was akin to many other ICE-cars-turned-battery-powered science projects of the time, just a little over a decade ago, but that didn’t excuse its afterthought development, California and Oregon-only sales, and lack of usable range. Even Fiat’s own CEO famously slammed it as a money pit spawned out of necessity. Ironic that it garnered a cult following in the years since, and now half my neighbors have snatched one up to use as grocery store shuttles.

The new 500e rides on a bespoke platform intended for EV use from the start and is available for all 50 states. It ditches the old compliance car’s 24-kWh battery for a 42-kWh lithium-ion/nickel manganese cobalt unit, helping it produce a healthy 118 horsepower and 162 pound-feet. Despite the extra battery capacity, it weighs roughly 50 pounds less than the outgoing car, making it 600 pounds heavier than the old gasser 500s but hundreds of pounds lighter than any other EV in its segment. Keeping the battery down low and pairing the car’s revamped suspension with a wider stance and standard 17-inch wheels wrapped in 205-wide tires should translate into a superbly fun-to-drive commuter with more high-speed stability than any previous generation 500. Inside is a 10.25-inch touchscreen with UConnect 5, wireless CarPlay and Android Auto, built-in GPS navigation, a digital gauge cluster, and adaptive cruise control.

Fun facts. That wheel and tire package is the same size as the outgoing Abarth’s. And if certain tidbits inside and out seem familiar, it’s because they better be. The platform is bespoke, but consider that 500e’s details to be a little parts-bin hodgepodge of Stellantis’ finest. The 10.25-inch screen is from the Alfa Tonale/Dodge Hornet, while the door handles, start button, and interior door release buttons were plucked from Maserati. Get that. This shares a start button, and door switches with a GranTurismo and MC20. Viva Italia!

Base prices:$32,500
Motor/battery choices:AC three-phase with permanent magnet w/ 42 kWh lithium-ion nickel manganese cobalt
Transmission choices:Single-speed direct drive
Drivetrain choices:Front-wheel drive
Power:118 horsepower
Torque:162 pound-feet
Weight:2,952 pounds
Zero-to-60 mph:approx. 8.5 seconds
MPGe:TBA
Range:149 miles

The Fiat 500e cares not for your silly little numbers game

“Cares not for your silly little numbers game,” I say. Proceeds to infodump a bunch of numbers. Oops.

The 500e is part of Fiat’s “Dare Forward” bid to achieve 50% EV sales in the U.S. and 100% in Europe by 2030. And I’m sure they can get there if buyers can see the little econobox for what it is: perfectly fine urban transportation. It’s not meant to wow anyone with world-beating range estimates or instant charge times. Fiat knows this. And to many North American consumers, that may be enough to have them look the other way. Not the best first impression. Except the 500e was tailored to excel at being accessible transportation for urban environments, delivering just what you’d need and nothing more.

The average American commute is around 50 miles if not a little less. Fiat gives you 149 to work with. Most EV owners charge at home, assuming the car is sitting for hours overnight. The 500e will fast charge to 80% in 35 minutes, and the base price includes a Level 2 charger or Free2Move charge credits for those who already have their own charger. How thoughtful of them. 0-60 in 8.5 seconds is roughly on par with today’s econoboxes, and 162 pound-feet of torque available at 0 rpm means stop light drags or darting up and down the hills of San Francisco are more effortless in this 500 than in any prior iteration, turbocharged Abarth included. And did I mention this is reportedly the third most affordable EV on the market, third behind Nissan Leaf and Chevrolet Bolt?

Starting to see the gist here? Fiat is aiming for a usable EV that can thrive in most urban environments in a far more attractive and charismatic package than any Bolt or Leaf. No disrespect to those fine vehicles. But there’s no substitute for the Cinquecento’s cutesy Italiano vibes, which Fiat claims has the potential to shift and change throughout the 500e’s life cycle.

The Fiat 500e lineup will always evolve

According to Fiat North America’s current head honcho, Aamir Ahmed, the current 500e will launch in the U.S. and Canada as a fairly simple RED model (yes, it comes in more colors than red), serving as a sort of study as they see what buyers want and what Fiat thinks they can pull from European cars. There will initially be the sole RED model, which features three available colors and the option of all-seasons or summer rubber, but that’s only the start.

Fiat 500e
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

One way Fiat aims to make the 500e more appealing is through its goals of constantly evolving its lineup, like all the fan favorites in the automotive kingdom, from Mustang to 911 to Challenger. Buyers are told to expect something new, whether it’s some sort of flamboyant collaboration with brand partners, like the fashion brand concepts they debuted before, or a more content-rich model with goodies pulled from European cars, set to debut in “drops” like this initial drop of RED models. If Americans want a ragtop cabrio or a rip-snorting Abarth, then sure. They’re all certainly on the table, according to Ahmed, but Fiat is just playing its cards carefully for now while they see what really clicks and doesn’t click with American audiences.

And you know what? They’re right to tread carefully. Fiat should navigate its revitalization with extreme caution. Time to talk skepticism surrounding one of the most wishy-washy automakers in America.

Will the 500e survive?

Oh yeah, and that’s the other thing. I said it wasn’t a compliance car like the old 500e. It’s not. It’s a “compliance car” in different ways.

The Fiat 500e carries the torch of the outgoing generation and welcomes the Fiat 500 lineage back into North America. But sources have shared with me that it’s not the definitive end-all Fiat vehicle for our market, or at least it won’t be for very long, nor is it the cash grab I originally speculated it to be. Like a handful of other unique EV curiosities to have launched lately, the Fiat 500e is a placeholder. An appeaser. A stopgap. It’s a way to keep the Fiat name relevant until a new wave of “proper” USDM cars reportedly arrive in a few years, earn Stellantis some tax credits in the process, and allegedly serve as a low-cost, low-effort guinea pig for experimenting with their direct-to-consumer sales tools. Smart, I suppose. But that means it’s not the next big 500 I was hoping for. And frankly, this 500e could never be that, no matter how cool.

The 500e has been a hot seller in Europe since it dropped in 2020, moving hundreds of thousands of units in a few short years. That’s Europe. This is America, where EVs are the politically charged bane of many people, distances are long and far, and buyers can be a bit, uh, stubborn? Superficial? Extra careful and particular about car buying in the wake of shit-ass interest rates? Let’s say all of the above. In a time where even members of the Big Three are backpedaling on their heavy-handed EV efforts to explore other avenues, citing slow demand growth and high costs, here comes a company that failed to hang on in a highly competitive, ever-evolving market resting its hopes on a sub-200-miles EV city car without any other angle other than it being good in cities.

Sources have also fed me more deets regarding the 500e’s gestation, such as a troubled and confusing entry into the U.S. market stemming entirely from the notions of being “a day late and a dollar short” and “great car, wrong market.” It’s nearly identical to the European hot-seller but coming to a market that’s on the fence of EVs, has comparatively ill-prepared infrastructure, and lacks the sheer size, versatility, and practicality other EVs or even normal cars offer for similar money. Yes, it’s a solidly engineered, well-built car that oozes style and character. But how many American buyers are picking low-cost EVs based primarily on that? On top of that, being constructed in Turin, Italy hurts its chances of qualifying for all the possible EV tax credits, if any at all.

These are going to be sold or leased to careless hipsters who really, really want it (i.e., me) and affluent folk looking for a grocery getter as their fourth or fifth car. You’re not prying a prospective Model 3 Standard Range buyer away for this. And that’s a bit of a shame.

Fiat 500e
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

As Ahmed put it best, “We don’t want you to care that it’s electric or not. We just want you to care that it’s a damn good car.”

And I’m sure it will be a damn good car. Engineers and Euro journos alike all preach that it is indeed a damn good car. Time will tell how well the 500e will truly perform Stateside, but it will be viewed as a cutesy fashion statement for the few who want it. If you want one and your lifestyle can accept one, then by all means, get one! This thing will be just dandy in its intended environment, like New York, the Bay Area, or even my home of Las Vegas, where distances are short. Fiat’s efforts are welcome, but history and stigma work against any dream of cementing itself in our market with any semblance of stability and permanency. Perhaps they’ll surprise us. Perhaps not. But hey, any Cinquecento is better than no Ciquecento. So welcome back, little fella. Good to see you again. Please tell your 500e Abarth kin overseas I said hello and that I’d love a visit.

Fiat 500e
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

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Used Crosstrek review
Used Car Reviews

The Subaru Crosstrek is a sporty, fuel-sipping adventurer

Welcome to a new segment on Acceleramota, where we sample popular picks for used cars to see if they’re really all the rage or if they just belong at a junkyard. Today’s pick? America’s compact little sweetheart for hikers, overlanders, outdoorsy folk, and hipsters who just really, really love avocado toast. Say it with me. Subaru. Crosstrek.

They’re everywhere. From down on the Malibu coast to high in the Appalachians, we can’t seem to get enough of Subaru’s plastic-clad Impreza on stilts. And surely, it’s for good reason. Over the course of a day behind the wheel of a Turo rental (plus a healthy serving of research), I sought to discover the appeal of one of Subaru’s hottest sellers and find out if a used Subaru Crosstrek is the move for budget transportation. Time to see how its image stood the test of time and if its actually for real or all a facade.

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2024 Subaru Crosstrek Premium 2.0
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Price and specs

Crosstreks come fairly well-appointed across all trim levels and generations. As expected, every Crosstrek rocks a variant of Subaru’s smooth operator of a flat-four, which usually churns out something in the 150-ish horsepower ballpark. Only recently did they make Sport versions available with an enlarged 2.5-liter flat-four pumping out a healthy 182 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. Both current and last-generation cars I’ve sampled prior were base models sporting identical 2.0-liter engines that made 152 horsepower. All Crosstreks rock Subaru’s Symmetric All-Wheel Drive, and all are essentially lifted, plastic-clad Imprezas, built on the same platforms and sporting similar design cues inside and out.

New prices (2024):$25,195 to $32,195
Approximate used prices:$12,000 to $32,000
Engines choices:2.0-liter flat-four, 2.5-liter flat-four, 2.0-liter flat-four + 0.55 kWh nickel-metal hydride battery pack (Hybrid only), 2.0-liter flat-four + 8.8 kWh battery pack (PHEV only)
Transmission choices:six-speed manual, CVT
Drivetrain choices:all-wheel drive
Power:148 to 182 horsepower
Torque:145 to 178 pound-feet
Weight:3,000 to 3,700 pounds
0-to-60 mph:7.5 to 9.5 seconds
1/4-mile:16.1 seconds @ 88 mph to 17.5 seconds @ 83 mph
MPG:23 to 29 city, 29 to 34 highway, 25 to 31 combined, 90 MPGe (PHEV only)
Fuel capacity:15.9 to 16.6 gallons, 11.3 gallons (Hybrid only)

Expect most secondhand Subaru Crosstreks to hover in the mid $10,000 to mid $20,000 range in today’s market, depending on mileage, trim, and condition, of course. You can expect to see first-gen cars trade hands at a far lower price, with dealers asking between $12,000 and $15,000 for seemingly well-kept examples that all sit comfortably above 100,000 miles. Unsurprising, given the nature of these cars. Current-gen cars and the last years of the second-gen cars can easily double those used car prices but often with half the mileage, and lightly-used examples of hot trims like the Sport and Wilderness can hold their value close to, if not a touch higher, than their original MSRP.

First-generation XV Crosstrek (2013 to 2017)

Subaru Crosstrek
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Welp. There she be. The one that started it all. 148 horsepower, 2.0 liters of fury, and unashamedly Impreza styling. Referred to as the “XV Crosstrek” for “crossover vehicle,” it helped amplify and solidify Subaru’s place as a hipster chic adventuring brand and was met with mostly positive reception for delivering ruggedness and versatility with affordability and efficiency in a way few cars did at the time. A less-acclaimed and arguably half-baked hybrid variant existed for this generation, should you want one,

Second-generation Crosstrek (2018 to 2023)

Subaru Crosstrek
Image credit: Rutger van der Maar, Wikimedia Commons

The second-gen continues the trend with little-to-no change in its intended mission. The front fascia got a little more aggro, and that plastic cladding on the fenders got just a tad more pronounced to remind you it still yearns for dusty fire roads and mint chocolate Clif Bars. CarPlay, Android Auto, and EyeSight safety tech join the family, as does a massaged 2.0-liter powertrain that bumps output from 148 horsepower to 152. Torque remains unchanged at 145 pound-feet, but peak power and torque figures hit a couple hundred rpm sooner. Sport models introduce the more desirable, 182-horsepower 2.5-liter engine. A more polished plug-in hybrid model arrived for the second-gen Crosstrek, as well.

Third-generation Crosstrek (2024 to present)

Subaru Crosstrek
Image credit: Ethan Llamas, Wikimedia Commons

The current generation of the Crosstrek is easily the most vividly styled pick of the bunch and an easy fit for Subaru’s current design language, defined by its skinny headlights, an abundance of sharp creases, and heavily pronounced fender cladding. Powertrains carry over, but the manual gearbox is dead (F in the comments), leaving the CVT as the only option. The vertical 11.6-inch StarLink touchscreen is introduced alongside a more adventurous and off-road-ready Wilderness trim.

What’s hot?– Can easily defy EPA mileage figures
– Surprisingly fun, agile, and composed!
– Superbly spacious despite being based on a compact hatchback
– Usable ground clearance for off-road escapades
– Hybrid variant gets superb fuel mileage and range
– Strong value, especially after the initial depreciation hit

Review round-up

Shall we embark on a trip down memory lane for one of Subaru’s most popular offerings? Since 2013, the Crosstrek has earned heaps of praise from consumers and journos alike. Its high ride height provided meaningful clearance for mild off-pavement excursions while serving as the perfect platform for rally and overland builds. Its flat-four powerplants and later plug-in hybrid variant scored proper econobox fuel economy that often beat out EPA estimates, and the Hybrid even delivered a respectable 17 miles of EV-only range. And, of course, there’s its strong value proposition.

As beloved as it was and still is, the Crosstrek is still not without a handful of faults, many of which simply stem from it being an affordable car built to a price point. At $32,000 or less brand new, the touchscreen infotainment systems aren’t regarded as the most reliable or quickest responding, even in newer cars with their Tesla-style vertical screen. Build quality was merely okay, at least early in the cars’ lifespans, with some consumers reporting creaks and rattles popping up over the course of their ownership. And perhaps the most frequent headache of all from journos and owners alike: the powertrains aren’t that powerful, and the base cars are especially slow. Acceleration test numbers for 2.0-liter CVT cars over the years nearly reflect that of more meager econoboxes, like the Fiat 500, Toyota Corolla, or Nissan Sentra.

On the flip side, those meager powertrains motivating the Crosstrek are known to easily match or beat EPA fuel economy estimates. If consumer and auto journo experiences are anything to go by, you shouldn’t have to work too hard to match 29 mpg combined and hover between 33 and 35 mpg on the highway. As I’ve experienced and will soon discuss with you, those economy numbers come shockingly easy.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Premium 2.0
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

First, it’s the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek Sport. Over 12 months, we put 16,581-miles on this Impreza-based utility, and averaged 29.9 miles-per-gallon from its 2.5-liter flat-four. Almost exactly what EPA estimates say to expect. This isn’t our first long term Crosstrek, and they’ve yet to disappoint, as there just seems to be something special about it.   While this Crosstrek isn’t the biggest, nicest or fastest long-term test vehicle we’ve ever had, it’s probably in the running for most-loved because it’s just so useful. And while I’m rattling off adjectives, I’ll throw in practical because of things like these spill-resistant, yet stylish StarTex seats. I think the Crosstrek embodies Subaru’s ultra-dependable spirit as well as any model in the lineup. That spirit manifests itself with a great 20.8 cubic-feet of cargo space, sturdy roof rails, 8.7-inches of ground clearance, and hard rubber mats protecting the floors throughout.

MotorWeek staff, MotorWeek 2021 Crosstrek Sport long-term review, May 2022

Plenty of staffers used the Subaru for long trips, and for good reason. Besides the comfort level, the Crosstrek has a large 16.6-gallon tank and delivers 33 mpg on the highway with the CVT. The rear seats are roomy, and the cargo area should be large enough for most. Apple CarPlay (or Android Auto) keeps passengers entertained, and if there is an emergency, simply hit the SOS call button near the map lights. Additionally, even though visibility is good, the added assistance of the large yellow warning light of the blind-spot monitoring system will help keep things safe. If your trip is in the mountains, engine braking is surprisingly strong, and the paddle shifters are responsive.

Micahel Cantu, Motor Trend 2018 Crosstrek long-term verdict, March 2019

 The XV Crosstrek’s handling is essentially transparent. This new crossover goes around corners and in a straight line without making a negative or positive impression, although it is capable enough to handle aggressive driving. The electrically assisted steering is accurate if somewhat uncommunicative, the braking is without drama, and the ride is closer to that of a family sedan than a four-wheel-drive soft-roader.

Fred M.H. Gregory, Car and Driver 2013 XV Crosstrek instrumented test, January 2013

We encourage all prospective Subaru buyers to be wary on test drives, as nearly all of the company’s cars feature aggressive throttle tip-in that gives the impression of eager off-the-line acceleration as soon as you touch the gas pedal. But while the Crosstrek might feel zippy around town, the powertrain quickly runs out of steam when tasked with merging or passing on the highway. Depress the pedal farther into its travel and you’ll soon find that there’s not much additional grunt to be had.

Joey Capparella, Car and Driver 2018 Crosstrek intrumented test, February 2018

This really is the little car that could. Both of my Crosstreks have been used to the max; pulling a trailer, loading kayaks, and hauling large dogs. While it doesn’t go from 0-60 lickety split, once its cruising at 70 mph, it really can pick it up to 85 quickly. Gas mileage has been consistently good. The cargo area is deceiving, with the back seats down the space is huge, I have hauled my large working dog in his crate on a daily basis, I have car camped fully stretched out (5’7″), and I have loaded my market stall with canopies and tables and bins. The Crosstrek does it all. The seats are comfortable. The center console could be better. Having a removable rubber insert like Volkswagen would be great for keeping it clean. There are two plugs for 12V or USB; one in the console, one under the dash. There is an adequate light in the cargo area and tie downs on each side. If I had any complaints, it would be the paint chips pretty easily. Most of my driving is highway so I’ve had my share of rocks from trucks. Also, the headlights could be brighter. I love this little car and won’t be switching brands anytime soon.

Consumer review on 2019 Crosstrek, Kelly Blue Book

I love my Crosstrek, I really do. I love the performance and gas mileage it gets. It is the perfect size for what I need it for… But ever since it hit 5 years old things have been starting to go. It started off with my steering wheel peeling, then it was the driver side back door automatic lock stopped working, and now the passenger side isn’t working. ($700 each to fix so I am not having that done). Then my horn stopped working but it wasn’t due to something simple like the actual horn or a fuse. It was the clockspring, a part I didn’t even know existed. I don’t have that many miles. At a little over 6 years old, the car has 72,217 miles, not high for its age. I was already worried about what might go next, and then I heard about a friend of mine whose 10-year-old Subaru with 182k miles needs a new transmission. My first car was a Subaru; it had belonged to my grandmother and then my sister, who I bought it off of. It was 15 years old by the time I got it and nothing was wrong with it. I know Subaru’s reputation, but it seems like maybe the quality isn’t as good as it used to be.

Consumer review on 2016 Crosstrek, Kelly Blue Book

Feels like they cut cost . My 2017 was nicer. Bigger. Better made. I don’t like the big box in the windshield by the top of mirror. I don’t like the navigation system. Seats are smaller. It cost too much for what you get. I’m disappointed.

Consumer review on 2024 Crosstrek, Kelly Blue Book

First off, if your looking for a drag car, look elsewhere. That being said, so far, it is priced extremely well for an AWD/off-road capable/overland-excelling vehicle. Comfort and style are great but lacks lower lumbar support, so if you need that, you may want to look elsewhere. Three-month ownership, love the vehicle. Wish I could default the car into Sport mode rather than having to turn it on every ignition. Short-term ownership. Slap some Maxxis Razor ATs on and rejoice that if you get in a gridlocked situation on the highway, you’re just a left turn through 90% of the medians away from freedom. If safety is at all close to the smaller brother of the Impreza, which I unfortunately was in a high-speed deer strike. Rest easy, I’ve never driven any vehicle that reduces the impact as a Subaru. Frankly amazing and well-earned, top-notch safety ratings

Consumer review on 2021 Crosstrek, Kelly Blue Book

Other than plasticky tinker toy construction and wheezy engines, the Crosstrek remains in good standing with most who cross paths with it. For the most part, reliability seems to be stout, with owners reporting Crosstreks easily scooting well into the 100,000-mile range with only bare basic maintenance. However, other owners report abnormal oil consumption or premature CVT problems that aren’t replicated by a substantial chunk of the community. It could simply be a lack of maintenance or an overly stressful life under some folks’ ownerships, however, so buyers beware.

As one owner who was aware of the issues but never experienced them and couldn’t discern causes of failure summarized: just take care of your car.

Driving impressions

A reasonably tech-laden econobox

Alrighty. My turn.

My time with the Crosstrek has been limited to two iterations: a fairly spartan 2021 second-gen car and a similarly-specced 2024 third-gen model. Both were saddled with Subaru’s Symmetric AWD, 2.0-liter flat-four, and their respective versions of Subaru’s StarLink infotainment systems. I say that with air quotes as they’re fairly comprehensive and feature-rich for what are ultimately lifted hatchbacks that start well under $30,000.

Second-gen Crosstreks feature a 6.2-inch touchscreen, with a 7.0-inch one available on higher trims. Second-gen Crosstreks also donned wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto that, in my experience, worked about as flawlessly as you’d imagine. Although the base 6.2-inch units are a tad small and can be a bit tricky to read, they’re always within easy reach.

The 2024 car I had recently sampled marks the start of a new generation of Crosstrek and, in doing so, ditches Subaru’s smaller screens and auxiliary dash-mounted info display in favor of a vertical touchscreen plucked straight from an early-year Tesla Model S. Featured in Premium models and up, it measures 11.6 inches and can display climate controls, which are complimented with a few hard buttons, CarPlay, radio, and vehicle settings. Some users have reported incessant lag and latency, but I found the system in this 7,000-mile loaner to be decent enough for what it is. If anything, I’ve only really noticed a split-second delay between tapping the screen and it actually doing something. Could be better. Could be worse.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Premium 2.0
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

But of course, I can talk tech without talking about what makes Subaru a Subaru. No, not love. I mean a smorgasbord of handy safety goodies all packaged into this plastic-clad gift basket. That includes backup cameras, pre-collision braking, blind-spot monitoring, lane centering, and adaptive cruise control; all worked intuitively and inoffensively, never screaming at me with loud beeps or yanking the wheel with enough force to send me into the next lane over. Subaru EyeSight is certainly one of the best in the biz at one of the best price points around. It was an add-on in Premium and Limited-trim second-gen cars between 2018 and 2023, now made standard for 2024, including the stripped-down Base trim. Yes, it’s actually called “Base.”

First-gen cars, while mechanically near-identical, never received CarPlay or Android Auto, and were never offered EyeSight safety goods until 2015. So be aware of that while shopping.

A smooth (and sporty) operator

The Crosstrek continues to impress on the open road. I can’t personally attest to the Crosstrek’s off-road prowess, but I’ll take the word of literally everyone else around me, including the legions I often see flooding the trails at nearby campgrounds and national parks. But as an urban runabout and highway cruiser, the Crosstrek was a shockingly competent companion. Road trips? Commutes? Parking garages? Hell’s Revenge, apparently? No problem. None at all.

Well, unless you have to pass a semi on the I-15 when you’re already going 80 mph but traffic speed is freaking 95. Then the mopey CVT and modestly-powered 2.0-liter base engines start to show their weaknesses. But I suppose that’s the cost of achieving 35 mpg on the freeway in my hands and averaging over 31 mpg on my mostly-highway loan with the 2024 car.

Around town darting from light to light, the CVT does an ample job at simulating short “gearing,” making ample use of the flat-four’s torque and making the Crosstrek feel far more athletic and lively at lower speeds. Dare I even say this thing is quite fun to drive? While I haven’t sampled one yet, I’m eager to sample the reportedly transformative 2.5-liter mill in a Sport or Wildnerness model.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Premium 2.0
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

The high-riding Subie’s mild playfulness is amplified by the car’s surprisingly composed and nimble handling, keen to turn into corners at your local mountain pass and only feeling neutered by the eco-minded all-seasons. Steering is appropriately weighted and accurate, although it’s a little light for my tastes. But that just makes it a sweetheart in parking lots. Ride quality is as supple and smooth as the powertrain. While the Crosstrek is on the smaller side, a sizable wheelbase and fat sidewalls absorb most impacts well and make any speedbump more of a suggestion than anything else. A blue-collar rally car you can drive every day, indeed.

Neither of the two variants I drove exhibited any of the interior rattles that people had mentioned in consumer reviews. But if their word and my own BRZ are any indicator, it’s only a matter of time until a couple faint ones pop up. Unfortunately, we can never expect total perfection at this price, and an econobox will always do econobox things.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Premium 2.0
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco
What’s not?– Base model engines can be quitesluggishc
– Infotainment systems can be a touch laggy at times
– Cheap-O rear-seat accommodations
– Fuel economdivesve with manual transmission
– Questionable plastic build quality
– Even a good CVT is still a CVT

Should you buy a used Crosstrek?

Should you even bother? Well, like any car, that depends. I’ve inferred this since the first generation Crosstreks dropped in 2013, and I can confirm it now after driving two of the suckers. The Subaru Crosstrek may very well be among those jack-of-all-trades cars that are almost perfect at almost everything.

They’re fun and lively to drive for what they are while still returning superb fuel economy, comfort, and practicality in a nimble package that’s as affluent with adventuring as it is with commuting. Go to the trails. Go to Whole Foods. The Crosstrek will do it all eagerly and efficiently. Conversely, nothing hides that it’s a cheapo hatchback with cheapo plastics and silky-yet-asthmatic powertrains, and those looking for more ruggedness will be better served by real crossover SUVs or a compact pickup truck.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek Premium 2.0
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Is fun-sized versatility your jam? Is that what you need for your life? Only you can decide that for yourself. I’m just a messenger. But I hope the message I deliver here is clear: So long as you take the Crosstrek for what it is and don’t pretend it’s something it’s not, you’ll easily see that it’s a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful car with a great spread of talents at an agreeable price point, new or used. And in an age where many of us don’t have the disposable income for a second or third car, perhaps that affordable jack-of-all-trades approach is what we need more of.

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A motor court driveway full of vehicles overlayed with the text "Acceleramota presents: The best car deals of the day"
Deals

The 30 best lease deals and car sales of March 2024

Among our favorite pastimes at Acceleramota is mindlessly scrolling through car deals and sharing the best ones to help people like you (or myself) save money. Ask my wife. The only way I can muster the strength to get out of bed is to find the most cursed Facebook Marketplace listing that morning, and from the laughter-induced dopamine rush, I emerge. But, in genuine pursuit of the best lease deals and finance offers, nothing beats CarGurus. Our marketplace of choice for new and used cars, CarGurus will connect you directly with a local dealer to redeem these sweet, sweet car lease deals and sales you’ll find on cars from all the top auto brands, including Kia, Mazda, Jeep, Chevrolet, Honda, and more!

Quick notes before I set you loose! As some dealers recently signed up with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to apply EV tax credits at the point of sale, keep an eye out for these models. Purchasing one from the right dealer could add even more savings – up to $7,500. That said, if you lease, any electric car, including plug-in hybrids like the Mazda CX-90, is eligible. In my experience leasing an Alfa Romeo Tonale, dealers are happy to pass on the savings. And when you’re in the market for a luxury vehicle, leasing can make more sense than buying anyway. Especially when you can write it off on your taxes.

And don’t forget: If you think you can score a better lease deal than what’s advertised here, you probably can! Dealer-specific lease offers can sometimes beat out what’s advertised by the manufacturer depending on inventory and regional trends. So, if you suspect you can score an even hotter lease deal, then by all means, contact your local dealers, which you can still do through consumer sites like CarGurus.

Skip to featured manufacturers:

Hyundai deals and finance offers

2024 Hyundai Elantra | $199 per month for 36 Months ($3,499 due at signing)

Expires 2/29/2024

Image credit: Hyundai

One of the most affordable cars on the market, the Hyundai Elantra is in a class all its own. The 2024 version sees leaps in both tech ad style. The modern and streamlined shape makes it perfectly stylish for everyday and long-haul journeys. This compact sedan also allows you to turn your phone into a key. Create a digital key to share with loved ones so they can unlock doors without your assistance. Integrating technology seamlessly into our vehicles and lives is all we’ve dreamed of.

2024 Hyundai Kona | $232 per month for 36 Months ($4,012 due at signing)

Image credit: Hyundai

The Kona is on the smaller side of SUVs, yet it manages all weather conditions with confidence and skill. Don’t let size be a deterrent; this is a safe and featureful vehicle. The Kona’s all-wheel drive maintains a firm grip on the slickest of streets, making it a great pick for locations with ever-changing forecasts.

Mazda deals and finance offers

2024 Mazda CX-30 | $276 per month for 33 Months ($2,999 due at signing)

Expires 2/29/2024

Image credit: Mazda

Elegance was certainly in the minds of the designers for the Mazda CX-30. It quite literally is a work of art. Light and shadow are perfectly captured as this vehicle moves at all speeds; a constantly shifting S-curve dances along the doors. But it is also there as you admire the car from different angles, even at a standstill. It’s a beautiful illusion. The CX-30 is also one of the safest and most affordable vehicles on this list, with a 5-star rating from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Alfa Romeo deals and finance offers

2024 Alfa Romeo Giulia | $520 per month for 42 Months ($5,500 due at signing)

Expires 2/29/2024

Image credit: Alfa Romeo

An Italian with luxury and performance, no, not that car maker. We stan the other famous brand, Alfa Romeo, ’round these parts. The Giulia is no exception; the quality and horsepower we’ve come to love from this renowned manufacturer are well on display. With its roots deep in motorsports, why wouldn’t it produce a car with the most powerful standard turbo engine in its class? The Quadrifoglio isn’t just a good luck charm. It’s a status symbol.

2024 Alfa Romeo Tonale | $379 per month for 27 Months ($5,275 due at signing)

Expires 2/29/2024

#image_title

Another beautiful Alfa Romeo makes the list. When I saw this at the 2023 New York International Auto Show, I gasped. It’s actually breathtaking. And as you would expect from Alfa Romeo, the Tonale handles like a dream. Our founder, Gabe Carey, also agrees with the sheer brilliance of the Tonale’s performance and appearance. We here at Acceleramota, would rather be in an Alfa than a Ferarri. Sorry, not sorry.

Honda deals and finance offers

2024 Honda Accord | $279 per month for 36 Months ($3,669 due at signing)

Expires 2/29/2024

2024 Honda Accord driving quickly around a corner on a public road
Image credit: Honda

Built for everyday driving, the Honda Accord is a popular mid-size sedan for a good reason. Responsive steering, braking, and a comfortable ride are all reasons why you’ll find this model at the top of many lists. While this deal is only for the LX base trim, you’re getting the basics like Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a slew of driver-assistance features.

2024 Honda CR-V | $319 per month for 36 Months ($3,499 due at signing)

Expires 2/29/2024

Image credit: Honda

The CR-V is a top-seller car for Honda. This sporty hybrid is rugged, yet still sleek and efficient. It’s a distinctive style for sure, less angular and Gundam-esque than Toyota’s design language. You don’t need to be heading out for a weekend of camping to truly get the most out of this vehicle. So many of the features make everyday life easier, like the hands-free access power tailgate. Imagine loading in groceries and having the ease of the door just opening with a wave of the foot. What a time to be alive.

Nissan deals and finance offers

2024 Nissan Altima SV | $289 per month for 36 Months ($3,349 due at signing)

Image credit: Nissan

Manufacturers are getting better with safety and technology, and Nissan is at the forefront. The very reliable Altima is right there. The intelligent all-wheel drive system remains vigilant on the state of the road and can react quickly. A feature like this is so important for driving in busy areas or long commutes. America loves this car for a very good reason.

2024 Nissan Sentra | $269 per month for 36 Months ($3,059 due at signing)

Image credit: Nissan

If you’re looking for efficiency, the Sentra is an excellent option. The 2024 version enhances every drive you take with cutting-edge technology, a dynamic style, agile performance, and a luxurious inside and out. Make your commute a little more comfortable with smooth handling and intelligent climate control.

Toyota deals and finance offers

2024 Toyota RAV4 LE | $399 per month for 36 Months ($2,999 due at signing)

Image credit: Toyota

The RAV4 was made for the outdoors but handles just as beautifully in the ‘burbs or city. A darling vehicle for Toyota, the RAV4 is prepared to take you and your family anywhere. This compact crossover SUV is prepared to navigate trails with ease just as smoothly as it cruises the highway.

2024 Toyota Camry | $329 per month for 36 Months ($2,999 due at signing)

Image credit: Toyota

There is a very good reason the Toyota Camry is America’s best-selling midsize sedan. It’s everything you look for in a vehicle: style, performance, and safety. This sleek, smooth car has been a US fan favorite for 21 years, and the 2024 version keeps that tradition alive and well.

Kia deals and finance offers

2024 Kia Carnival | $409 per month for 36 Months ($3,499 due at signing)

Expires 3/04/2024

Image credit: Kia

It’s like they always say, there ain’t no carnival like a Kia Carnival. This eight-passenger minivan features a spacious interior, cutting-edge safety tech, CarPlay, Android Auto, and of course, it wouldn’t be a minivan without power sliding doors. Bear in mind that this deal only applies to the most basic LX trim.

2023 Kia EV6 | $359 per month for 36 Months ($4,999 due at signing)

Image credit: Kia

Heart set on an electric SUV? The Kia EV6 is a stylish midsize option with decent cargo along with sharp steering and handling. Its performance is impressive too – you’re looking at Kia’s most powerful production model, complete with 576 horsepower. Go from 0-60 in only 3.4 seconds at a big discount. While this price is exclusive to the rear-wheel drive Wind model, check with your dealer because there may be incentives on other trims including the all-wheel drive version.

2023 Kia Forte | $209 per month for 24 Months ($2,799 due at signing)

Image credit: Kia

The Kia Forte is a sophisticated little sedan with above-average utility and great value for the money. With a long list of available amenities, this comfy ride is an affordable dream for commutes and trips. The Forte offers excellent value when paired with good performance from the GT trim, high fuel efficiency, and a comprehensive warranty.

Subaru deals and finance offers

2024 Subaru Outback | $305 per month for 36 Months ($3,055 due at signing)

Image credit: Subaru

TikTok’s favorite manufacturer, Subaru, has rizz. The Outback is an excellent SUV and, for years, has outranked others in this category. Subaru boasts that 97% of Outbacks purchased in the last decade are still on the road today, so this is a very good investment to make. Those engineers are doing something very right, the Outback has become the definition of reliable and durable.

2024 Subaru Crosstrek | $299 per month for 36 Months ($2,549 due at signing)

Image credit: Subaru

A compact SUV paired with Subaru’s legendary Asymmetrical All-Wheel Drive traction makes this a killer pick for those on the go and off to the forest. The 2024 Crosstrek goes hard. This is the safest version of the vehicle that’s ever been on the market. Subaru upgraded their EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, as well as other detection sensors, to alert at a moment’s notice. Very smart to have in low visibility areas. They have also improved their Starlink connection for extra safety, which could be handy in dark, isolated woods.

2024 Subaru Impreza | $269 per month for 36 Months ($2,569 due at signing)

Image credit: Subaru

The 2024 Impreza is the ultimate all-weather vehicle, packed with cutting-edge technology, premium engineering, and a versatile sleek hatchback style. For this reason, the Impreza was selected as a SmartChoice winner for High Retained Value for two consecutive years by experts at IntelliChoice.

Chevy finance deals and offers

2023 Chevy Bolt EV | $299 per month for 36 Months (up to $6,639 due at signing)

2023 Chevy Bolt parked in front of attached garage
Image credit: Chevrolet

For the longest time, the Chevy Bolt EV compact hatchback was the EV price defender’s greatest weapon against their adversaries. Not only is it affordable, but it squeezes a lot of power into a compact package. Making considerably more horsepower and torque than the Chevy Sonic it supplanted, the standard Bolt EV can zip from 0-60 in just 6.5 seconds while carrying five passengers up to 259 miles at a time.

2024 Chevy Camaro LT1 | $279 per month for 24 Months (up to $6,689 due at signing)

2023 Camaro (silver) and 2023 Camaro (red) facing opposite directions
Image credit: Chevrolet

Few things scream American more than a V8, but alas, 2023 marked the beginning of the end for big block, high-displacement engines. So, why not make the most of it by leasing one of the last great muscle cars, the Chevy Camaro? Get ’em while they’re hot… and going out of production. The LT1 trim, as the name suggests, shares its 6.2-liter LT1 V8 small block engine with the Corvette C7, making 455 horses and 455 lb-ft of torque. Ain’t nothing wrong with that! Although current Chevy lessees can get away with putting $5,189 down, you will have to plunk down a sizable chunk of change if you’re new to the brand.

Dodge lease deals and finance offers

2023 Dodge Charger | $776 per month for 48 Months ($5,352 due at signing)

Image credit: Dodge

We are a bit biased here, but this is a good-looking car. This might also be sentimental, with the production of the Charger coming to an end, but it’s still a stunning piece of ingenuity. Dodge is releasing six packages, inspired by some of the make’s most iconic looks. Either on the racetrack or just cruising on the highway the horsepower will have a special place in history and our hearts. Probably a good idea to grab one now.

2023 Dodge Challenger | $666 per month for 48 Months ($4,986 due at signing)

Image credit: Dodge

Past and present, the Dodge Challenger is a stunner. Even in its modern iteration, there is something beautifully timeless about it. Dodge knows how to make pretty perfect muscle cars. Another make getting sent to the junkyard in the sky, the 2023 Dodge Challenger is a glorious send-off version. The incredible horsepower and speed is something to behold for years to come. Instant cool points here.

Volkswagen lease deals and finance offers

2024 Volkswagen Tiguan | $299 per month for 36 Months ($3,499 due at signing)

Expires 3/04/2024

Image credit: Volkswagen

Its spacious cabin comfortably holds up to seven people. It comes standard with heated front seats, and right now, lessees in select regions can take home the S model with 4Motion all-wheel drive for $299 per month – that’s like half the price of a monthly parking spot in NYC!

2024 Volkswagen Jetta | $299 per month for 36 Months ($2,999 due at signing)

Expires 3/04/2024

Image credit: Volkswagen

An American fan-favorite, the VW Jetta is a modern sedan that is actually cool. Volkswagen doesn’t overlook any detail in this update. All materials were carefully selected to make the interior as cozy as possible, like a home away from home. This is especially true with a state-of-the-art digital cockpit, for an intuitive user experience. Clear, concise driving information helps you get safely and efficiently anywhere. We get why this is a hit.

Ford lease deals and finance offers

2023 Ford Escape | $349 per month for 48 Months ($3,347 due at signing)

Expires 4/02/2024

2023 Ford Escape side profile (red)
Image credit: Ford

While the Ford Escape might not be the most exciting car on the road, sometimes you just need an affordable, reliable daily to get you from point A to point B without spending half your salary on fuel. And that’s exactly what the Escape is: a practical, front-wheel drive family hauler with the option of all-wheel drive across trim levels. But even without any upgrades, the 2023 Escape includes all the bells and whistles we’ve come to expect from modern vehicles, including a touchscreen infotainment system, a backup camera, Bluetooth connectivity, and a six-speaker sound system.

2023 Ford Explorer | $559 per month for 39 Months ($4,395 due at signing)

Image credit: Ford

“Built Ford tough,” is a very true statement, and no vehicle exemplifies this better than the Explorer. This SUV was made to work, as it can tow up to 5,600 lbs. The Class IV Trailer Tow Package makes bringing your camper or boat along on your wilderness vacation quite simple. You don’t need to love the great outdoors to get the most out of the Explorer, but it doesn’t hurt. With Ford’s Co-Pilot360 Technology, stay completely in control no matter where you roam.

Volvo lease deals and finance offers

2024 Volvo V60 Cross Country | $609 per month for 36 months ($3,985 due at signing)

Image credit: Volvo

A roomy, hardy, and reliable wagon built for all adventures. The Volvo V60 Cross Country can literally weather all storms and road conditions. Regenerative braking with this mild hybrid means that energy gets stored in the  48V battery, and this helps cut fuel consumption and tailpipe emissions.  With all-wheel drive, an off-road mode, and high ground clearance, this is everything outdoorsy people search for in a car.

2024 Volvo S60 | $455 per month for 36 Months ($3,775 due at signing)

Image credit: Volvo

Volvo’s mild hybrids save fuel without sacrificing performance in the process, their S60 is a beautiful example of this. The S60’s smooth takeoffs and gentle acceleration tackle the streets of cities and bumpy highways with ease. If you didn’t love driving before, you will after experiencing this car.

Mercedes lease deals and finance offers

2023 Mercedes S-Class | $1,619 per month for 36 Months ($11,033 due at signing)

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It’s ok to be posh, no judgment here. Every year the S-Class evolves into a more intuitive and advanced vehicle, and that’s exactly what embodies the Mercedes-Benz User Experience. The sportiness of this sedan and its very recognizable grille not only help it stand out in the mix but also make it unmistakably an S-Class. This is kind of a beauty and brains situation and it gets our thumbs up.

Porsche lease deals and finance offers

2024 Porsche Taycan | $1,149 per month for 39 Months ($9,809 due at signing)

Image credit: Porsche

Unlike VW, its more affordable sibling, it’s not cheap to own a Porsche, and the Taycan is no exception. Despite its $90,900 starting price, the base model Taycan might not keep up with the Tesla Model S in a straight line, but its two-speed transmission on the rear axle, superb handling and suspension system, and sportier interior make it a great family cruiser that’s still plenty capable on a track.

2024 Porsche Macan | $849 per month for 39 Months ($8,649 due at signing)

Image credit: Porsche

One might expect the 2024 Porsche Macan to cost an ungodly amount, but it’s quite reasonable. The Macan is Porsche’s other bread-and-butter sports ute behind the Cayenne and will soon be their second EV alongside the Taycan sedan. Porsche was able to create this Macan with a strong emphasis on the brand’s signature driving dynamics and steering feel. They ate with this model, and you’ll definitely turn heads cruising in it.

Best car subscription deals

Finn | $200 off first month

Promo code: FINN11XACCELERAMOTA200

Image credit: Finn

Finn is completely changing the process of what it’s like to shop for cars. In fact, we called it the best car subscription you’ll find in 2023. Browse its selection online of an ever-growing catalog of different makes and models, select your subscription term length, and then confirm your order. Your car will be delivered right to you if you live in the Northeast. And right now, we have an exclusive discount to save $200 on the first month of your subscription. Just use the code FINN11XACCELERAMOTA200.

Car accessories, merch, and collectibles

RevMatch | 15% off ANY coffee bag

Promo Code REDLINE15

Image credit: RevMatch

Don’t go falling asleep at the wheel. RevMatch has a wide selection of small-batch, craft-roasted coffee to help you start your engines (wake up in the morning). Right now, you can use the promo code REDLINE15 to receive 15% off everything on the site.

Acceleramota Merch | 20% off

Promo code: INSTANTTORQUE20

We’ve finally launched our merch store! And, starting off, we have a selection of T-shirts, crewneck sweatshirts, and hats to choose from. Be sure to use our promo code INSTANTTORQUE20 for 20% off your order for a limited time.

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Image credit: Rob Wilkinson / AiM / APEX Pro / Garmin
Buying GuidesDealsSaturday Morning Car Tune!

These lap timers will help you become a better track driver

Attending track days is one of the most fun and fulfilling ways to express one’s automotive enthusiasm. What’s not to love? You’re in a safe and controlled environment where you can drive at way higher speeds than pretty much any other place on paved earth. This enables ample opportunity to truly enjoy what your car was designed and/or modified for, sharpen your driving skills, and even become a safer motorist along the way.

Then, there’s the bit about track driving that’s even more fun, and incredibly addictive: Setting and gradually dropping lap times. Changing your line, turning in earlier or later, refining your acceleration and braking; the process of setting and achieving goals to go faster is a fun one, and along with it comes a hearty sense of pride and accomplishment. It may not be the most financially healthy activity for car nuts, but hey, it sure beats hard drug use!

One tool that’s of massive help along the way by giving you all the information you need to go faster is a good GPS-based digital lap timer. 

Guidance from a qualified instructor is another top method, and certainly shouldn’t be overlooked as part of the learning experience. A lap timer that records data is a strong accompaniment—analyzing and digesting this data post-track session expedites the learning process and paints a very detailed picture of what it takes to get faster. Let’s go over three popular digital lap timers and discuss their various positives and negatives. We won’t rate them, but rather to help you figure out which is best for your budget and learning style.

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Image credit: Peter Nelson

For the most digestible data and video on the spot: Garmin Catalyst Driving Performance Optimizer

Garmin Catalyst lap timer
Image credit: Garmin

What’s hot?

  • Includes video
  • Simple, fool-proof setup
  • Very easy to digest data post-session
  • Logical software
  • Stays plugged into a 12v outlet or USB, so won’t lose power on track

What’s not?

  • Expensive
  • Doesn’t allow as deep of a dive into data as other systems
  • Requires earbuds or another improved hearing method

Kicking off this list is a comprehensive system by Garmin. I call it a system because using it requires a bit of setup time. Inside its fairly hefty box lives a bunch of wires, connectors, plugs, and various electronic doohickies, plus the sturdy Garmin tablet itself that’s the brain of the whole operation. Read the directions and allow ample time to properly piece it all together—don’t do it 10 minutes before you head out on track—and you’re golden. In fact, it’s a good idea to turn it on the night before, connect to Wi-Fi, and ensure all software is up-to-date.

Once the Catalyst is all set up and running, it’s so incredibly pleasant to use: Select the track you’re at, and it’ll automatically start and stop recording both lap times and video. While filming laps and displaying lap times, it has a delta timer that shows how much faster or slower you are compared to your best-recorded lap. It also utilizes its various sensors and GPS to record accurate data covering acceleration/deceleration, speed, your precise location on track, and so on.  Then, the footage it puts together includes a very handy data overlay for even easier data digestion, which you can review as soon as the session is over.

Image credit: Peter Nelson. Note the camera mounted to the center of the windshield, and the tablet attached via its suction cup high off to the side.

Post-session, pulling the tablet off its mount and tapping around to look at different laps, examine speed, acceleration/deceleration, and track position, as well as learning where opportunities to improve lie, is incredibly easy. It’s as easy as surfing the world-wide-web on an iPad. Plus, the layout/interface is incredibly logical, so it takes no time at all to get used to.

The Catalyst also makes suggestions on how to cut time, but does so based on your own performance—it’s not going to compare you to Lewis Hamilton. Then, by dividing the track up into different sectors, it puts together an optimal lap of all your best ones; think of it as essentially a Best Of compilation. It’s a fun challenge to try and replicate—or better yet, improve upon—this lap in a future session.

Here’s an example of what the recorded video looks like.

One downside is that its spoken instruction (that’s right, it’s got that too) is awfully quiet. The optional earbuds are a must if you’re on track with most track day organizations, as they require you to run with the windows down for safety reasons. These simple suggestions are definitely worth listening to as well. They include stuff like “brake later next lap,” “turn in earlier next lap,” and so on.

After discussing the Garmin Catalyst at length, with almost all positive remarks, here’s the catch: It’s an expensive system. It’s knocking on the door of one thousand American dollars, which isn’t exactly pocket change for most folks. In fact, that’s more than a set of good track tires in many common sizes. Though, for its ease-of-use, video, and coaching aspects, and easy data digestion, it could prove to be a very wise investment in your lapping education.

The OG for extra-deep data potential: AiM Sportline Solo 2 DL GPS Lap Timer and Dash Logger

Image credit: AiM

What’s hot?

  • The best display
  • Easy to fire up and start recording
  • Mid-tier price
  • Excellent application integration
  • Programmable lights

What’s not?

  • Potentially too much data for some folks
  • Expensive to integrate a camera
  • Slight learning curve, though all of the units in this list have that to some degree

The AiM Solo 2 DL is the oldest of the bunch, but that’s by no means a knock against it. This capable device has a lot going for it.

First and foremost is setting it up: it’s so easy to turn the DL on and begin recording once you’re underway on your warm-up lap. Like the Catalyst and APEX Pro, it utilizes GPS to figure out where you’re at and suggest which track you’d like to select from its massive database, which saves precious seconds while prepping to head out on track.

Also like the other two, its GPS is quite accurate: In my experience, all three record lap times that are within a hundredth of a second of any track’s conventional transponder-based timing system.

But where AiM’s product beats the others is its crystal-clear backlit screen: I consider it the easiest to quickly look at and understand, especially on very sunny days and other harsh lighting conditions. Not only that, but it also has a very clear delta timer. However, like the Catalyst’s, this feature can be hazardous at times, as it often motivates folks to really push braking zones and hang out on the ragged edge of the grip.

Image credit: Peter Nelson

Like the APEX Pro below (which I’ll get to shortly), the Solo 2 DL has a system of lights, but here you can program them to mean different things. For instance, the DL part of its name means data logger, specifically its ability to pull data from the OBD2 port and log it with the data it produces itself (G readings, location on track, etc.) You can program the lights to serve as a shift light, meaning it’s pulling this data from the ECU in real time—though, this requires some work with a PC and its desktop application to set up. They can also be programmed to convey predictive lap timing, though this function I’m not as familiar with.

Mounting up the Solo 2 DL is easy with a suction cup mount or a more permanent solution, though, like the Catalyst, there are some wires to run for OBD2 data integration. You can also choose to wire its power into a 12v circuit somewhere with the right wiring option. This is so you never have to worry about recharging, which is convenient for purpose-built track steeds.

Between the Catalyst, APEX Pro, and Solo 2 DL, only the latter two are able to pull and integrate vehicle OBD2 data. This means that folks who like to dig deep into this kind of stuff are better off with one of the two. 

And speaking of digging into data, AiM’s software makes for a very, very thorough experience. You can review sessions on your phone, but its full potential is best enjoyed with the brand’s desktop application. Seriously, you can spend hours and hours examining everything it produces.

For diving a little deeper into data: APEX Pro Gen II Lap Time Optimizer

Image credit: Apex Pro

What’s hot?

  • No wires means easy portability and setup
  • Convenient app-based program makes post-session review a snap
  • Much less expensive than other systems
  • Good battery life

What’s not?

  • Has a learning curve (though it isn’t steep)
  • Additions cost extra
  • Some folks might not like the system of lights

Where the Garmin Catalyst has a bunch of wires to run and a camera to set up, the Apex Pro Gen II is as easy as magnetically attaching a little box with lights to a glued-down post or suction cup mount. It’s also a good idea to keep your phone strapped down somehow, like with a quality Ram Mount.

No, really, it’s that simple, and a big part of the APEX Pro’s appeal. All you do is turn the unit on, open up your phone’s app and connect it, calibrate the unit’s position, and then hit “Drive.” It’s just a few taps and is as quick and easy to get used to as the Catalyst.

When the session’s done, you’ve got a list of laps on the APEX Pro app and a bunch of data. These include speed, track position, acceleration/deceleration G, and more, which help you see where you could improve, where you did well, and so on. It doesn’t make suggestions like the Catalyst, but the company has a lot of useful resources to help you figure out a good plan of attack for the next session. It also utilizes its GPS sensor to record your lap on a track map, which makes zeroing in on and analyzing certain sectors a cinch. Finally, having the ability to page through various graphs containing pertinent data points is very useful; once again, it takes a little bit of education to learn how to read these. My favorite is examining the lateral vs. longitudinal G scatter plot—it’s a simple x and y axis, so it’s easy to take a quick look to see how much of the lap you were on the edge of grip, and didn’t leave any G force on the table.

See that little thing on top of the dash? That’s it!

Instead of the APEX Pro giving you real-time verbal suggestions on track, it does so with a system of lights. These can indicate many things, from leaving speed on the table to being off the right line (especially in regards to your speed) and more. For example: All green lights: You’re golden. Almost all green lights: You’re doing well, but you’re leaving speed on the table. Once again, reading over the instructions is required.

Finally, you can export your data and analyze it even further in certain desktop applications, which is great for those who’d really like to get into the weeds with numbers and pinpoint where there’s time to shave.

One downside to the Apex Pro is it takes time to figure out its way of doing things. Though, once you’re there, you’ll have no problem quickly diving deep into analysis. Another is needing to purchase accessories or subscribe through your OS’ app store for more features. If you’d like to include OBD2 data (a super helpful data addition), you’ll have to buy the company’s dongle. If you’d like expanded features like recording via your phone’s camera, that’s an added subscription. Still, it’s a great overall system that’s quite comprehensive and easy to use, and quite a bit lower in price than the Garmin Catalyst.

Check out the lights in action!

Go forth and analyze

You can’t go wrong with any of the above digital lap timing units, it just comes down to your learning preference, what you want features-wise, and what your budget looks like. They’re all sturdily constructed, so you can toss ‘em around a bit like other track equipment. Though, I wouldn’t use any of them to chock your wheels in the paddock. Video is certainly a useful accompaniment, which the Catalyst does best as its camera is a default accessory to its function. The APEX Pro requires a subscription but does it well enough, and the AiM requires its expensive SmartyCam to put two and two together here.

I should point out that the Racelogic Performance Box Touch, Racelogic VBOX Sport, and RaceBox Performance Meter Box are also well-regarded options, but I don’t have any familiarity with them personally.

GRIDLIFE Laguna 2023
Image credit: Jeric Jaleco

Regardless of which option you go with, make sure you spend time reading through its instructions, do a little perusing through any applicable Facebook groups and/or forums, and ensure it’s set up properly before heading out on track. Then, head out there and enjoy setting and achieving all your lap time goals!

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Audi Q8 e-tron
FeaturesNew Car Reviews

2024 Audi Q8 e-tron nails everything but range… But that’s not the point

The longtime knock against Lamborghini’s Urus SUV has been that buying an Audi RSQ8 delivers seven-eighths of the car for about half the money. Not that such things bug Lambo owners, but what if the all-electric Q8 e-tron with gobs of low-end torque could keep up while drag racing against an Urus?

Now, Audi sells a re-named version of the EV formerly known as e-tron. The newly minted Q8 e-tron comes with the choice between a Sportback roofline or a taller SUV canopy that cuts into range estimates ever so slightly. Neither, however, can hold a candle to a Lamborghini Urus in a straight line or while canyon carving and unimpressive EPA range numbers for both are something of a bummer—but that’s not the point here. 

Instead, Audi clearly built the Q8 e-tron hoping to entice any lingering holdouts among luxury urban buyers looking for the perfect EV to haul the fam, go grocery shopping, or take out for nights on the town. And in those regards, this luxury SUV from Audi—which just happens to be electric—absolutely nails the brief.

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Price & Specs

Base price:$74,400 
As-tested price:$88,990
Motor/battery:Dual motor + 114 kWh lithium-ion battery pack
Transmission:single-speed
Drivetrain:e-Quattro all-wheel drive
Power:355 horsepower; 402 horsepower w/ Boost mode
Torque:414 pound-feet; 490 horsepower w/ Boost mode
Weight:5,798 pounds
0-60 mph:5.4 seconds
¼-mile:13.9 seconds @ 101 mph
Top speed:124 mph
MPGe:80 city, 83 highway, 81 combined
Range:285 miles

Audi Q8 e-tron exterior design

The Q8 e-tron’s styling winds up simultaneously similar to both the former e-tron SUV and all the Q8/SQ8/RSQ8 siblings. Not quite as aggressive as the range-topping RSQ8—nor the Urus, obviously—the electric version still sports subtle fender flares and a statuesque profile, especially with the air suspension pumped up to the highest setting. A closed-off grille and lack of exhaust tips serve as the main hints that an electric drivetrain hides beneath the crispy skin.

This loaner from Audi arrived in a spectacularly understated “Plasma Blue Metallic” paint job (a $595 option well spent) that approaches shades of matte Nardo Blue in some lights with a hint of sparkle in others. And the 21-inch wheels might look simple from afar, but a closer inspection reveals pure sculptural art in rolling form.

What’s hot?– Quintessential Audi design, inside and out
– Buttery smooth ride, even on massive wheels
– Absolutely silent and serene NVH
– Spectacular heated, cooled, and massaging seats
– Bang & Olufson sound system is all that much better in an EV

Q8 e-tron pricing breakdown 

The base Q8 e-tron starts at $74,400 before options and a $1,195 destination charge. Standard equipment includes a 114-kWh lithium-ion battery, dual motors for single-speed Quattro all-wheel drive, and adaptive air suspension that raises and lowers the body depending on selection of drive modes. Ticking the box for the most opulent “Prestige package” adds another $10,400 to those numbers, which explains most of this loaner car’s $88,990 MSRP along with the Black optic package (another $2,000) and rear side airbags ($400).

Two years of free charging at Electrify America also come standard, and Audi’s four-year/50,000-mile warranty applies to everything on the car. To true buyers rather than lessors, the high-voltage battery is covered by an eight-year/100,000 warranty.

Audi Q8 e-tron
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Q8 e-tron interior and tech

As usual for Audis since the first-gen TT back in 1998, the Q8 e-tron’s interior design stands out from the bland, overly plasticine era overtaking most luxury automakers. Plenty of leather and brushed trim abounds, though a few pieces of piano black plastic have snuck in here and there. Otherwise, the deft application of angularity and ergonomics leaves most controls sufficiently intuitive and satisfying to operate—other than the distant volume control knob, that is, another Audi standard for the past decade or so.

Audi Q8 e-tron
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

But maybe the highlight of the entire driving experience so often goes overlooked: the steering wheel. The Q8 e-tron sports a four-spoke design that offers multiple comfortable hand placement options, with minimal buttonry to get in the way. Then there are the seats, quite possibly some of the best in existence, and obviously equipped with heating, ventilation, and surprisingly firm massaging functions.

Onboard tech, however, falls a bit short by most modern EV standards. Sure, the dual touchscreens for climate control and infotainment require a pleasing amount of haptic pressure to actually make selections—but not always, sometimes only a light touch does the trick. For some reason, however, the Q8 e-tron forgets drive modes regularly enough to approach annoyance, requiring the constant selection of regen settings via paddle shifters even after just turning the adaptive cruise control on or off. 

Lane keep assist also intrudes regularly, the seats find new positions upon every start-up (which might change for a more permanent owner using a consistent key), and the range estimate seems to vary wildly. Did the engineering team truly need to reinvent the shifter for the umpteenth time? 

Audi Q8 e-tron
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

An EV for the last urban luxury holdouts

Slipping into the Q8 e-tron for the first time, a sense of serenity and confidence emanates from the entire interior. Luxury buyers not accustomed to the more typical over-technologized interiors of most other EV options might even be forgiven for struggling to recognize a difference between the controls for an internal combustion or all-electric Q8. Hell, there’s even a stop-start button!

Most importantly, anyone still poo-pooing the Q8 e-tron’s range estimate of 285 miles needs to take that initial impression into more consideration. The whole point of this car, clearly, is to convert any stubborn holdouts who simply don’t want to shift their thinking too much while making the switch to electrification. Audi even withheld aggressive regeneration, which means the Q8 e-tron cannot be driven in a full one-pedal mode. 

Otherwise, the gauges and dash seem very familiar, halfway between an Urus and other Audi models. The interior even smells similar to a first-gen TT or a 2016 A3, despite the lack of gasoline, gear oil, and belts to warm up on a cold day. Similarly, the gauges offer multiple customizable readouts for either more or—to the point—less EV-specific information. 

Audi Q8 e-tron
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

But the Q8 e-tron still prioritizes the benefits that electric cars offer, too. The large and spacious interior allows for plenty of legroom in the second row, which, when folded down, then opens up to a cavernous cargo area big enough for ski bags or bicycles. Even more importantly, this thing rides so damned quiet that the lack of sound can almost get creepy. Zero tire or wind noise until about 75 miles an hour absolutely bedevils the mind, especially compared to other EVs not named Lucid. Talk about NVH as a priority.

And the suspension rides in god mode, insanely smooth, given 21-inch wheels and 265-mm wide Hankook eco tires. Everything from asphalt ripples to pavement cracks and speed bumps simply evaporates. Only the most unpredictable road surfaces create the occasional rafting sensation when one wheel popping upward forces the entire skateboard chassis to lift noticeably.

Audi Q8 e-tron
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

Power and range in line with ICE performance

For any EV aficionados, however, the Q8 e-tron’s power and range wind up on the slightly disappointing end, without a doubt. The dual electric motors deliver plenty of peppy acceleration, from a standstill or while passing at highway speeds, but nowhere near the neck-snapping jerk of other EVs at similar, and even lower, price points. Typically featherweight Audi steering actually becomes slightly firmer on center, then lightens up while whipping around corners. But those eco tires start to squeal early when pushed hard.

Switching between drive modes lifts the suspension’s ride height while adjusting throttle response and traction control modes. Out on the dirt roads of Johnson Valley, raised all the way up in “offroad” mode, the prospect of puncturing a low-profile tire prevented any true Quattro rally-racing shenanigans. And yet the air suspension and dampers still gobbled up washboards on rough graded surfaces with ease.

Most of the time, the Q8 e-tron putters around happiest in “efficiency” mode, which dulls down throttle response and lowers the suspension to minimize aero drag and maximize range. But on the drive out to Johnson Valley, the onboard range estimate’s programming almost immediately caused some serious range anxiety.

Theoretically, a 99% full charge with 280 miles of range remaining should be plenty to drive 135 miles at highway speeds. Yes, EVs run most efficiently in stop-and-go traffic, but come on now. Instead, almost immediately, the Q8 e-tron started eating through miles of range—to the point that only 20 miles into the drive, the estimated range left only 90 miles to spare. This is despite purposefully staying below 80 miles per hour.

Switching to Audi’s onboard MMI navigation, rather than using Waze through wireless Apple CarPlay, seemed to change the estimated range available as the computer took into consideration traffic and elevation changes. Around 65 miles later, with about 154 miles of range remaining, the situation started to plateau. But then, driving up the 15 Freeway towards Victorville restarted the range, plummeting to the point that hypermiling behind semi trucks seemed prudent (while searching for nearby Electrify America charging stations to use those two years of free charging).

Back at speeds below 60 miles per hour on State Route 247, the dissolving range once again settled down. Upon arrival at Johnson Valley, the range estimate still read 78 miles remaining. And then, on the last leg of the drive home, the remaining range actually increased over the total course of a 90-mile journey. Such wild fluctuations in Audi’s ability to predict range might not affect city slickers quite so much, and presumably, a family spending $90,000 on an EV commuter owns another car for road-tripping. But still, better programming would be nice—or maybe Audi just believes in ceding all trust to the machines.

In town, while charging regularly at home or at the occasional fast charger, those 280 miles of range should serve 99% of owners just fine. Most range anxiety, after all, comes from false promises of a life lived on the adventurous edge. Even without a pre-conditioning button to push, the Q8 e-tron topped up from 66% to an overstuffed 99% at an Electrify America charger in Culver City in just 55 minutes. Not bad.

A few other general gripes might require a longer adjustment period than the mindset shift to EV life. Audi’s extremely aggressive driver aids—similar to the Urus, in fact—will absolutely yank the car away from lines on the road, to the point of pulling tires well into dangerous areas or cutting off lane-splitting motorcyclists regularly. (A button on the turn signal stalk turns off lane-keep assist, which cannot be controlled by any of the various settings deep in the MMI system either.) Automatic emergency braking can also sound and feel similar to tapping bumpers while parallel parking, partially because tipping into the go pedal afterward requires a bit more toe due to EV regen. 

Lastly, the MMI regularly disconnected the entire smartphone interface with a warning banner, which required turning the car off and then on again, then re-connecting the Bluetooth (only possible when fully stopped, of course). This might just as likely be Tim Cook punishing any older iPhone users, though…

Audi Q8 e-tron
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle
What’s not?– Range more akin to previous generation of EVs
– No full one-pedal driving
– Priced high as the market keeps expanding
– Doesn’t remember drive settings at all, even between switching cruise control on then off
– Infamous MMI glitches out and disconnects smartphone regularly

Can luxury be defined at the right price?

In reality, nobody will mistake a Q8 e-tron for a Lamborghini Urus, and not just because of the mild EV whine. But similarities across the entire Volkswagen AG conglomerate do shine through, mostly for the better. 

The question of Porsche’s newly announced Macan EV then starts to crop up. Sure, the Q8 e-tron is bigger by a fair amount, but the Macan’s 380-mile range capability adds to the impression that this Audi hails from a previous generation of electric vehicles—which it does.

Audi Q8 e-tron
Image credit: Michael Van Runkle

And yet, for the refined urbanite waiting to make the jump to an EV without giving up the familiarity of ICE cars, regardless of newfound nomenclature, the Q8 e-tron remains a solid option that delivers most of Audi’s strengths with just a few of the old weaknesses cropping up. In an increasingly crowded electric crossover-SUV market, such steadfast engineering likely combines the right attributes at the right price to stay fairly popular for the foreseeable future.

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Buying GuidesFeatures

These are the five best used cars to look out for in 2024 (plus five more!)

(Editor’s note: updated 2/14/2024 with five runner-up choices)

Buying a car is an important milestone in your life and should be a celebration, but don’t think you need to buy a brand-new car with the ridiculous dealer markups that ruin the car community by gatekeeping cool cars. Instead, consider buying used cars that may be just as good or even better than what you can get brand new. By buying a cooler second-hand car, you can get those special features and trim levels at a relative bargain versus new cars, which traded hands for an average price touching $48,000 just last fall. Just think, why buy a cheap, basic new car in a bid to beat inflated prices when you can get a specced-out second-hand diamond in the rough?

Need any ideas? Take a look at these ten different used cars across five categories that you should keep an eye on in 2024. And no. It’s not “Ten Best Used Cars.” It’s Acceleramota’s “Five Used Cars N’ Five More” deal. Get it right.

Best used truck for 2024: Nissan Frontier

What’s hot?

  • Reliable and has great performance figures
  • Trucks (and parts) are readily available as they have been out for so long

What’s not?

  • The interior of the Frontier offers very little in terms of modern amenities or quality
  • The new one is markedly better

It may not be the mighty Ford F-150 or any Ram with a Cummins engine, but if you are in the market for one of the best-used trucks you can spend your money on, look no further than a Nissan Frontier

This is no daisy-picking pavement princess. The Frontier is built for and proven to be durable as it is used in countries where the roads have more potholes than actual roads. Sure, the Frontier may not have the best features, and the interior is relatively sparse (for reference, Nissan was still selling the “old” Frontier generation three years after the heavily modernized 2017 Toyota Tacoma dropped). But if you are looking for something cheap, cheerful, and robust enough to outlast you, the Frontier should be one of the choices on your shopping list. 

The truck comes with either a 2.5-liter inline-four or the correct option of a 4.0-liter V6 that allows you to have a towing capacity of 6,500 pounds. The final year of this generation was offered the updated 3.8-liter V6 found in the current Frontiers. The performance figures, plus the reliability of the truck, put it almost on par with the arguably overpriced Toyota Tacoma of the same era.

Sure, this may not be the first choice for many people, but if you are looking for a reliable truck that can perform the tasks you need, then look no further than a Nissan Frontier. 

Runner-up: Toyota Tundra

Image credit: carpixel.net

What’s hot?

  • For a heavy vehicle, it still has a 0-60 MPH of under seven seconds
  • TRD Pro variants are raucous off-roaders with Fox suspension

What’s not?

  • The second-generation Tundra is an old platform with woefully inefficient powertrains 
  • Older generations’ infotainment pales in comparison to rivals

The Toyota Tundra is an icon for Toyota’s North American market, combining respectable performance and capability for work or play with that classic Toyota reliability. Million-mile commuter? No problem. Off-road racer? Sure, why not? While being a capable pickup that can haul the goods, you can still haul ass with the hellacious 5.7-liter V8 found in nearly all second-gen Tundras. However, if you can snag a newer twin-turbo V6 for a decent price, that wouldn’t be half bad either, although it would come at a higher price tag. The Tundra TRD Pro models come alive on the dirt with the use of the impressive dampers from Fox, which allows the Tundra to race over any bumps or obstacles effortlessly. 

A known issue with the TRD Pro version or any model outfitted with the TRD parts catalog exhaust is the drone, so be wary if you’re not so tolerant of NVH. It does make the pickup sound raw and throaty with its V8, but it does come with the added consequence that the cabin can get that annoying and unpleasant exhaust drone that can often make the driving experience not worth it. Additionally, the best value will likely be the second-gen trucks, which are plentiful but also built on an old, dated chassis, made apparent by woefully inefficient powertrains and infotainment systems that feel more than just a generation old.

Best used sports car for 2024: Mazda MX-5 Miata

What’s hot?

  • It is a Miata, duh! Always. The. Answer.
  • Great handling car that will carve any canyon road or race track with ease. 

What’s not?

  • It only has two seats with a diminutive trunk
  • The horsepower figure may be kinda low and lackluster for some

I don’t think I even need to explain this. A Mazda MX-5 Miata is always the answer for an affordable sports car. If you want a classic sports car, get a Miata. If you want a sports car that is easy to drive, get a Miata. If you want pop-up headlights, get a Miata. If you want to drift your car, get a Miata. Trust me when I say the best-used sports car you can get is a Miata. Acceleramota founder and editor, Gabe Carey, even had one.

With a design philosophy that has been perfect since 1989, the small Japanese sports car is undoubtedly fun and enjoyable to drive, plus it will always receive a ton of attention. It may not be a Corvette or Mustang, but in my opinion, you can have more fun in a car when you can push the limit of the car without having to worry about the people around you or blitzing way beyond the speed limit.

With four different generations of Miatas, you can easily find the car that suits you. If you want a more refined and comfortable drive, why not look at the third and fourth generations of Miatas? The ND generation (pictured above) can be had in the cushy, luxurious Grand Touring trim or in the wannabe racer Club with an available BBS wheel and Brembo brake performance package. If you want to modify and upgrade your Miata or perhaps have a nice modern classic worthy of a Radwood show, look at the first and second generations of Miatas. With parts and modifications so readily available, you can set up your tiny sports car to your liking. Heck, stick a turbo on it and make a baby supercar killer, or turn it into a drift missile. It’s the perfect blank canvas for an aspiring enthusiast.

Runner-up: Ford Mustang

Image credit: carpixel.net

What’s hot?

  • Classic styling and high levels of power equals one hell of a pony car
  • Near-infinite trims and configurations to choose from

What’s not?

  • Antiquated chassis up until the S550 generation
  • Big fella can never have the agility of a smaller sports cars

The Mustang is one of the best cars to come out in a long time. With a powerful engine and still being affordable, you can easily pick up a good used Mustang. Especially since the “S197” fifth generation came out in 2005, the Mustang has proven to be a well-engineered, highly configurable sports car that corners well, not like the older Mustang models. Antiquated chassis, sure, but it was able to defy stereotypes and even churn out some serious track monsters like the 2011-and-onward Shelby GT500s and the Boss 302. Later S550 generations with independent rear suspension have just as big of an aftermarket and their own crop of in-house specials, like the GT350 and Mach 1.

Just mind the crowd killer stigma.

Drawbacks? Yes, of course there are some. Even at its very best, the big ol’ Mustang may never have the agility to topple smaller sports cars or even some sports sedans, at least not without a bit of aftermarket love (or driver mod). Past generations are also quite dated, not only in terms of chassis but also materials, build quality, and infotainment. And, of course, while they’re not exactly terrible, don’t expect V8 Mustangs to be model citizens in fuel efficiency either.

Best used SUV/crossover for 2024: Mazda CX-5

What’s hot?

  • Spacious interior with premium features and build quality for its price
  • Excellent fuel economy for its size.

What’s not?

  • Reports of Mazda paint easily fading and chipping diminish the brand’s premium reputation 
  • Reported hiccups with electronic parking sensors across Mazda vehicles 

Two Mazdas, one list! One of the best SUVs you can get at the moment is the Mazda CX-5. This Mazda SUV is known for its reliability, build quality, and unexpectedly spunky driving dynamics, with many luxury and quality-of-life features that come standard for the car. This SUV was even a staffer’s pick for one of the best cars they have ever driven

The model I personally suggest you look at for your second-hand SUV is the 2021 model year. You can either get the small standard 187 horsepower four-cylinder, or you can get the turbocharged version that produces 250 horsepower on 93 octane or a still-potent 227 on 91, with the latter powertrain still seeking out a respectable EPA rating of 28 mpg highway.

With an interior that rivals much more expensive SUVs, with every trim model of the current CX-5 coming with a 10.25-inch infotainment system equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, this Japanese SUV will be one of the best purchases you can make in 2024. This is especially true when considering that well-equipped variants with not that much mileage currently trade hands anywhere in the high-teens to mid-twenties range, undercutting many similar examples of the Toyota RAV4.

Runner-up: Lexus RX

Image credit: carpixel.net

What’s hot?

  • The unique styling inside and out
  • Well-built interior with lots of storage space across all generations

What’s not?

  • Touchpad infotainment system from some generations is a pain
  • Does not put the “sport” in sports utility

With a sporty and edgy appearance, you may think this premium SUV will have a harsh and uncomfortable ride. However, the Lexus RX is actually the opposite. Lexus is the pioneer of the luxury SUV market, and the RX model range does not falter from that history, with a supple and cavernous interior across all generations. Powertrains are punchy, if not exactly exciting, and suspension is often compliant, as a luxury car should be. Just don’t expect any sort of BMW M killer from the F Sport models.

If you prefer to be a little understated, however, might I suggest avoiding the later model years with their angular creases and razor-sharp hourglass grille? Additionally, Lexus’ touchpad infotainment system that has plagued some recent generations has quite the learning curve to it.

Best used hatchback for 2024: Volkswagen Golf

What’s hot?

  • Good interior space and build quality for the size of the whole car 
  • While being a fun car, it is still great on gas mileage 

What’s not?

  • Reliability can be a major issue for Volkswagens, particularly with older transmissions
  • No more base models are available after 2021; Mk8 is only the pricier GTI and Golf R 

The Volkswagen Golf is one of the most popular car models on the global market. The spacious and practical hatchback still offers its owners a fun and enjoyable drive. And despite any reservations some may have against German cars, the Golf is generally regarded as a mostly dependable vehicle, with a 2021 J.D. Power Quality & Reliability score of 73 out of 100 and a RepairPal rating of 4.0 out of 5.

The seventh generation of Golf is the model you want. With options such as sunroofs, an excellent infotainment system, and even the sporty and iconic GTI version, the Golf offers everything you need in a car. The seventh generation Golf brought new and improved digital displays and gadgets that still hold up well to this day, elevating the Golf well into a premium sector of the compact car market, so if you enjoy underdogs that punch above their weight, the Golf may be for you. Current-generation Mk8 Golfs further up the ante with a more intriguing exterior and interior design, which may polarize some, especially the capacitive-touch-only interior controls.

As the Golf is a hatchback, you will not get the biggest trunk space when you compare it to an SUV, but the Golf handles better and has better fuel economy. So, for everyday use, the Golf will be an excellent choice to pick. Just be wary of quirks with engine and transmission reliability as you start diving into older and older generations.

Runner-up: Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Image credit: carpixel.net

What’s hot?

  • Easy to drive and handles remarkably well
  • Has that famous Toyota reliability and build quality at a stellar price point 

What’s not?

  • Smaller than some rivals, inhibiting interior and cargo space 
  • Rivals can be seen as a better value

You may hear the words Toyota Corolla and think of the stereotypical idea of a boring and basic car. However, the newer Toyota Corolla Hatchback is an awesome and spirited daily car that offers drivers a great time when driving it with 168 horsepower from the XSE’s 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Did we mention some models can be had in an easy-to-drive, fun-to-row stick shift? Huzzah! Not bad in a cushy, modern, 30-plus-mpg commuter car.

For an everyday and practical hatchback, the Corolla is almost the perfect car, if you’re willing to deal with its few shortcomings. If want more oomph, there’s no turbo powertrain other than the expensive and rarer GR Corolla hot hatch. It’s smaller than some rivals. And being the newer platform here, you may not find one as cheap as older rivals. Maybe a Toyota Matrix counts if you want to go old school.

Best used sedan for 2024: Honda Accord

What’s hot?

  • Has a comfortable cabin with good seats. 
  • Often the sportier choice among front-drive family sedans

What’s not?

  • Some lower-trim model engines are a bit lackluster
  • No available AWD system, which may sway people towards an SUV (or Subaru Legacy) 

The Honda Accord is the pinnacle of reliability and affordability as the car is built to perfection for what it needs to do. It’s currently Car and Driver’s number one pick for family sedans at the time of writing for a reason. A prime rival to the likes of the venerable Camry, but arguably more premium and sporty. This mid-size family sedan will probably outlast you with its reliability and will probably outdrive any Camry at the Circuit de Costco, too.

The reliability and drive quality are so good you can comfortably get to any place you want with ease, and you do not need to stress about space as there is ample room for all your needs with its large trunk space and generous interior. Recent generations have greatly amplified Honda’s strides for a premium feel on a budget, with chic, modern interior designs, although the smoothed-out exterior of the latest generation and the deletion of the hot 252-horsepower turbo-four has aroused some ire among auto journos. But thankfully, the frugal Hybrid remains, earning up to 51 mpg city and 48 highway in its most efficient trim, thanks to a 204-horsepower, 247-pound-foot powertrain aided by a measly 1.3-kWh battery.

Runner-up: Hyundai Sonata

Image credit: carpixel.net

What’s hot?

  • Sonata has a spacious interior and trunk 
  • Long list of features and available technology

What’s not?

  • Base models can feel underpowered
  • Less rear legroom compared to other cars in its class 

Korea’s answer to the Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry comes in the form of the Hyundai Sonata. The features that come standard even in the base model, such as blind-spot detection, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and even lane-keeping assist, make the Sonata an excellent daily driver for you and your family. 

The power delivery of the Sonata does not feel sporty or extreme but can be seen as spirited if you have the 2.0-liter turbo in the top trim spec. The car will not feel like anything new or innovative to drive, but for an everyday family car, it’s more than enough. You can also say that storage space and trunk size are a plus for this car, even if rear legroom lags a bit behind competitors. 

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Buying Guides

Here are five great used SUVs for family hauling on a budget

New SUVs are expensive! You can thank dealer markups and cost of living expenses for that terrible news. However, not all is lost. If you want to get yourself or your family a nice SUV, you just need to look at a good used SUV that can do what you need without robbing you at the dealer. Now presenting our round-up of five great used SUVs that you can get in 2024 year that will help you find and choose the best soccer practice shuttle for yourself. 

Subaru Forester

Image credit: Carpixel.net

What’s hot?

  • Comes standard with all-wheel drive 
  • The Forester comes standard with many EyeSight driver assists 

What’s not?

  • Lackluster performance from the engine
  • “Meh” CVT

Subaru is often overlooked when it comes to buying cars, but that does mean the price of the Forester is often much lower, and you can get your money’s worth when buying one used. That does not mean the Forester is a bad SUV. In fact, it is beloved by people who like to overland and who love to explore the wilderness. 

The inviting size of the cabin and the features that come standard on the Forester make it an ideal family SUV. With Apple CarPlay and Android Auto being a feature since 2019, the infotainment functionality of the Forester is up with there with other premium cars, even if its appearance is a bit dated.  The engine and transmission of the Subura Forester is what many people complain about as the engine feels lackluster and the CVT introduced in 2014 is, well, a CVT. Even the best ones can make an engine drone and moan like a complaining brat. If you don’t mind the age, older variants with more conventional autos would do nicely, and you may even be able to find a turbocharged XT with a stick! However, the easygoing handling and impressive all-weather and all-terrain capabilities of the Forester make it an easy pick, nonetheless. 

Honda Pilot

Image credit: Carpixel.net

What’s hot?

  • Tons of cargo space and interior space.
  • The Pilot is reasonably fuel-efficient with its V6 engine. 

What’s not?

  • The third-row seats are not comfortable for long-distance
  • The infotainment system isn’t the most user-friendly in older generations

The Honda Pilot follows in the footsteps of Honda’s reputation of being practical and reliable but still has that premium feel. The Pilot shares the same platform as the Honda Odyssey but loses the interior space due to it being limited to becoming an SUV. This means that the Pilot does have a third row like the Odyssey, but the seats are not as comfortable for long distances. 

The exterior looks of the Honda Pilot are nothing special, and you can easily forget what the Pilot looks like when you compare it to rival cars. Even the driving experience is nothing special. This does not mean it is a bad thing, especially if you want an SUV that can easily tow between 3,500 to 5,000 pounds, is reliable and you do not want a flashy SUV.  The Pilot does come with many driver assists that come standard on all trim levels of the car, making it a very practical SUV to drive.

Ford Explorer

Image credit: Carpixel.net

What’s hot?

  • The rear-wheel drive improvements help with towing
  • Abundance of interior and cargo space 

What’s not?

  • Wind noise can be harsh at highway speeds
  • The interior material, build quality, and the seats weren’t that great

By owning a Ford Explorer, you can be seen as one of the most hated SUVs on the road, but you can have fun with it. I’m talking about how the Explorer is used by Police, and many people may mistake your SUV for a police Explorer (psst, get one in silver or dark blue for that near-universal Highway Patrol cosplay).

With the 2020 redesign of the Ford Explorer, you can get the SUV either in rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. This is an improvement over previous versions that offered the front-wheel drive version. The interior of the Ford Explorer wasn’t always up to par with rivals such as the Honda Pilot or Santa Fe. The infotainment systems and the safety technology inside the Explorer are very competitive when you compare them to rivals, especially in newer generations. It just the materials of the interior is that bring down this SUV, particularly in generations past. 

Hyundai Santa Fe

Image credit: Carpixel.net

What’s hot?

  • Some powertrain choices of later years are a hoot
  • The infotainment system is top-notch.  

What’s not?

  • There are a lot of hard plastic interior bits 
  • Some model years don’t have third-row seating

The 2.5-liter turbo inline-four in the Hyundai Santa Fe boasts impressive figures, making it a strong performer. Plus, the dual-clutch eight-speed transmission is just as willing to play along with you as it will happily downshift to get into the torque range of the engine. This means that you can surprise many unsuspecting cars at the stop light when you take off. 

While being a bit playful due to the power figures, you still get a great family SUV that is reliable and has infotainment systems that all modern SUVs and cars need to thrive in today’s modern world. One possible issue with the interior is the abundance of hard plastics that can make the interior feel cheap when you compare it to rival SUVs. Some used Santa Fe options may come with the upgraded premium quilted Nappa leather seats, but they are not as good as full luxury seats in more premium vehicles. 

Toyota RAV4

Image credit: Carpixel.net

What’s hot?

  • Easy to drive with excellent handling
  • Exciting powertrain in the RAV4 Prime plug-in hybrid

What’s not?

  • Interior can suffer from wind noise gruff engine noise
  • Ride quality can be harsh in more adventurous off-road variants

As the world’s first urban SUV (or so Toyota insists), the RAV4 has become a popular choice for people to buy. Due to it being parked in nearly everyone’s driveway for a very long time, it has become the standard on which many other SUVs are judged. And for good reason. RAV4s have always been reasonably efficient. Reasonably spacious. Easy to drive and easy to live with, all backed by that reputation of Toyota reliability.

The RAV4 has excellent features, as some of the later models come with wireless Android Auto and Apple Carplay. You also get great safety systems that include automatic braking and automatic high-beam headlights. Adventure and TRD Off-Road variants, if you can find them used, score standard torque-vectoring all-wheel drive, and hybrids offer an efficient yet lively driving experience, especially the Prime plug-in.

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