Talking Cars (HQ)

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

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

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

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

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Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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

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Category: -- posted at: 7:47pm EDT

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

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Category: -- posted at: 2:13pm EDT

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

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Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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

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

Direct download: 1511ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_81_HQ.mp4
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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

Direct download: 1510ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_80_HQ.mp4
Category: -- posted at: 12:45pm EDT