Talking Cars (HQ)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Direct download: 1412ATC_Talking_Cars_Episode_55_HQ.mp4
Category:general -- posted at: 12:00pm EDT

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

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