posted Jul 6 2015 4:58PM
2015 Jaguar F-Type R Convertible
People read car reviews for lots of reasons. Some people need a big minivan or SUV to haul their kids and gear around; some want the best off-roading choice; others are shopping for a fuel-efficient machine to save them a few bucks.
This review will appeal to the person who values one thing in particular, and I’ll sum it up in one honest sentence: In the fifteen years that I’ve been writing car reviews, no car - not one - has elicited as many comments from strangers as the ’15 Jag F-Type Convertible.
Intersections. Grocery store parking lots. The gas station. My neighborhood. In the week that I drove this car, at least twenty people stopped me to talk about it. So, if the most important criteria for your next car purchase is head-turning, well, your search is over.
Personally, I need a little more than just eye-popping looks, but Jaguar has taken care of most of that. (And I have to admit that every time I parked the damned thing, I’d look back at it as I walked away. It’s like the prettiest girl in town, right?)
You can take your pick from a variety of F-Types, from coupe to convertible (get the convertible), from V6 to V8, from base model to S trim to R. I drove the top-of-the-line R (twist my arm), which putters along (ha ha!) on a mere 550 horsepower. Sheesh, even just STARTING the car makes you wanna put on a racing helmet. The engineers had some fun with that - the car will (on its own, no foot on the gas) rev thru the redline at the start, a rocketing, majestic growl that people hear from blocks away.
(I’m serious about that; I usually leave my house at about 4:30 in the morning to get to the radio station, and I found that I had to start the car with my garage door closed in order to not frighten my sleeping neighbors.)
As far as the exterior . . . wait, never mind. Just look at the photos. C’mon.
Inside, Jaguar has steeped the F-Type in luxury, with handsomely-stitched seats that conform to your butt perfectly, and just the right amount of sparkle and glimmer. The instrument panel is well-adjusted (unlike many of us drivers), and the touch-screen console is sufficiently-user-friendly.
My favorite thing about the cockpit - and something that got comments from more than one guest - was the grab-handle (or whatever you call it) on the passenger side. Dude, with 550 horses - and a zero-to-60 time under 4 seconds - your passenger will want something to grasp.
Like the earlier-reviewed BMW 2-series convertible, the Jaguar sports a soft-top for the convertible. And, just as I felt on the BMW, it’s the right call. The fabric version saves on weight, and doesn’t take up as much room in the trunk as the retractable hardtops out there.
And that’s good - trunk space is already at a premium here. Hell, you aren’t driving this to the airport anyway; with the speed of this car you’d probably be able to drive instead of fly. But the point is, you’re not carrying luggage in this car. (And there’s no back seat at all, not even a tease like you get with some other sports cars.) In fact, there’s no real storage space anywhere. And this time I didn’t care.
The wind deflector does an admirable job, allowing normal conversation, even over the husky tones of the engine.
Mileage . . . okay, for the R and its V8 monster, turned out to be around 18 overall (combo city and highway), but that’s actually better than I expected. When I first drove it out of the ‘hood I figured I might get 14. So that’s a plus.
And while I almost always list the sticker price, I’m not going to this time. Let’s put it this way: the MSRP is exactly twice what I paid for my first home when I was in my 20s, and that had three bedrooms, two baths, and a two-car garage. Just sayin’.
Safe to say that the Jaguar F-Type R Convertible is for someone who has arrived. Ironic, since this is such a fun way to get there.
Reviewed by Dom Testa
Car provided by manufacturer
posted Jul 4 2015 10:39AM
I had an experience this holiday weekend that was at first frustrating, then aggravating, and finally enlightening and VERY fulfilling. And it all involved a barbecue grill and memories of my dad. Wanna dive in? This will take you right there. Enjoy, and happy 4th to you and your family!
posted Jun 25 2015 6:00AM
The timing couldn't be better! On the heels of the mega-successful new Jurassic movie, this Saturday (June 27th) Dom will be hosting a fun day of dinosaurs (and books) at the Barnes & Noble on Colorado Blvd in Glendale.
It's an all-new Get Your Nerd On Day, starring world-famous paleontologist Dr. Scott Sampson, the host of PBS Kids' Dinosaur Train. He'll be signing his books and talking dinosaurs. Plus, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science will be there with their Sculpt-a-saurus project. Kids in grades 2 and up can create their own dinosaurs! Although it's free, you DO have to reserve your spot by calling 303-691-2998.
And, oh yeah, Dom will be there signing his Mindbender books and Galahad books. You can get all of the information right here, so click away!
posted Jun 6 2015 10:47AM
2015 Mercedes GLA250 4Matic
Reviewed by Dom
Car provided by manufacturer
I pulled around the corner, saw the review car parked in front of my house, and said, “Oh, check it out, Mercedes made a hatchback. And it’s BROWN.” But don’t let the German automaker hear you say that; to them it’s a “cocoa-brown compact crossover.” Um, okay. Crossover it is. (But it’s still brown.)
After I got past the idea of a brown hatchback, the truth is I spent a few days behind the wheel of a well-made, comfortable luxury car. Granted, it’s storage space isn’t what some of the competitors can trumpet, but there’s certainly a place for this car in the segment.
Specifically, it’s a possible choice for anyone who lives in the city and prefers cars that can fit into small parking spaces, or for someone in the ‘burbs who has to fit a couple of cars into a small garage. The GLA is several inches shorter (both length and height) from it’s sibling, the Mercedes GLK.
Let’s accept that it’s a crossover vehicle, which means you get used to the flowing lines pretty quickly. The car seems to have a wide footprint, which translates into very good handling. No complaints there. The ride itself wasn’t the best Mercedes experience I’ve had, but still sits nicely in the upper half.
It might take you a little time to get used to the gear selector, which juts out of the steering column. It’s not an intuitive way of shifting, but once you get the hang of it you’ll appreciate the space-saving that it allows.
And once you start your drive you’ll also need to acclimate to the anti-idle, which several manufacturers are currently in love with. It will shut your car down at a red light, then fire back up when you let off the brake. In the Jaguar I recently drove it was a lightning-fast response; in the GLK it took a second or so longer to come back to life. End of the world? No. But the car did seem to hesitate off the green light.
Grab the base 250 or the 250 4Matic and you’ll get 208 horsepower; the souped-up AMG model jumps up to 355 horses. I drove the 4Matic and never felt like it was underpowered. Other than that split-second pause coming off the anti-idle, the car has good acceleration.
The interior is blessed with the usual Mercedes soft touches and classy appeal. The center console is slightly confusing, even more so with the Nav package that adds a popped-up screen which somehow (can’t put my finger on it) looks a little out of place. The controls themselves for things like sound and climate took a bit of time to figure out. The optional rear-view camera had a glitch, operating only about 20 percent of the time. I’ll chalk that up to the specific test model I drove, because I’ve never had the problem with a Mercedes before.
You can choose either front-wheel or all-wheel drive with the GLA. Mileage rolls in at an average (city/highway) of 27mpg, and your MSRP for the 4Matic begins at around $33k. My test car added a few things like Bi-Xenon headlights, 19-inch wheels, as well as the Premium Package (upgraded sound/heated seats/etc.) and the Multimedia Package for a total sticker of about $42k.
The GLA has serious competition from the likes of Infiniti, BMW, and Audi, but if you’re in the market to scale down (at least size-wise), the Mercedes entry is worth a look.
You don’t have to get brown.
posted May 9 2015 9:57AM
2015 Toyota Camry XSE
For 16 of the past 17 years - an incredible run, no matter how you measure it - the Toyota Camry has been the bestselling car in America. (Trucks are a different story; we’re talking sedans here.) There are some who claim that Toyota’s run at the top is nearing the end, which might explain why the car giant did yet another redesign of their top dog. The goal is obviously to recapture some of the attention grabbed by Ford and Mazda.
Reviewed by Dom
Car provided by manufacturer
Camry has a new look on the outside to go along with an updated interior. Sleek lines replace an exterior look that never collected second glances from anyone. The grill is larger, giving it a somewhat-more-aggressive face, and overall its curb appeal has improved.
Slip behind the wheel and you’ll find that Toyota invested a bit more in materials and design. With some of the trim levels (there are four to choose from, not counting the hybrid model) you’ll have access to a simulated leather that looks and feels better. The quality of the seats and center console pieces have moved up a notch, too.
posted May 3 2015 3:31PM
2015 Lexus NX 200t F Sport
Car provided by manufacturer
Reviewed by Dom
People love their crossovers. The entire segment has grown in popularity over the last few years, and Lexus has cashed in with the RX350. So why would they need another crossover?
Dunno. To my eye the RX seems like more of a traditional SUV, which opens up a spot for the NX.(Sheesh, car makers, enough with the alphabet soup! How about going back to NAMES for these things? But that’s another article.)
Lexus throws you a curve by powering the NX with a 2.0 liter/4-cylinder engine, one that puts out 235 horsepower; it’s plenty for scooting around town. And as with all Lexus vehicles, the ride is remarkably quiet. Well, unless you turn up the ASC (Active Sound Control), which pumps up the engine noise inside the cockpit to let you enjoy the growl. Kinda silly in some respects, but I suppose there are fans.
From the outside the NX looks quite pleasing, with nice lines and a graceful style. You’ll never exactly make crossover vehicles look too far removed from their station wagon relationship (don’t shudder), but at least they look more eco-friendly than their SUV sibs.
posted Apr 20 2015 4:19PM
2015 Toyota Avalon Hybrid
Reviewed by Dom Testa
Car provided by the manufacturer
I don’t know if this disclaimer is even important, but I’m compelled to say up front that I drive a hybrid myself (the Lexus ES300), so I do have a warm place in my heart for the green machines.
And Toyota definitely seems to have a jones for this segment, because they have seven different hybrid models. Some want to start in the smaller market and run with the Prius, while others want something a little beefier. That’s where the Avalon comes in. It takes the power plant of the Camry hybrid and sneaks in a few more frills.
Don’t think for a moment, though, that you’re sacrificing much by choosing a larger car and a gas/electric combo. Sure, it’s a 4-cylinder gas engine, which ultimately ends up producing about 200 horsepower. But in the week that I spent behind the wheel I never felt like the car was underpowered at all. In fact, the Avalon has a nice acceleration, even in those times where some oomph is critical.
Let’s start with the outside. The Avalon has a nice, somewhat sophisticated line that doesn’t look that different from some European big shots - but at half the price. A friend of mine said it was “handsome.” Okay, I can live with that.
Slide behind the wheel and you’re treated to leather (in all of the trim levels, not just the Limited). The seats are spacious and comfy. Plus there are nice features throughout. Even the entry-level model (which is still called Premium - I’m confused) spoils you with an impressive array of standard features: heated mirrors, auto-dimming rear-view, heated seats, keyless ignition, and more. You do get your money’s worth.
Step up to the Limited and add things like ventilated seats and rear power sunshades. With various option packages you can build on quite nicely, too.
Toyota did a nice job with the dash layout, too. Everything is easy to find and figure out. Cheers to car makers who don’t try to blow your mind with gadget grief. You’ll like the Toyota Entune system, which is standard on all of the models.
I like the storage in the Avalon, whether it’s the front seat compartments or the trunk space. I’m a stickler for sizable center storage bins, and this car doesn’t disappoint. Plus, Toyota includes their eBin, which can accommodate charging two phones, along with USB and another wireless connection. It also includes the Qi wireless charging station, although that has garnered some mixed reviews (mostly due to how long it takes to actually charge - people can never be happy, can they?).
On The Road
The Avalon’s ride is smooth and - as you’d expect with a hybrid - quiet. The only ding that I dealt with was a strange rattle coming from the sun roof; I have to believe that’s an issue with this particular review car.
And of course there’s the mileage factor. At about 40 mpg - and with a 17-gallon tank - you’re looking at (potentially) 650-plus miles between fuel-ups. And that’s all of the dashes I want to use in one paragraph.
If you’re in the market for a full-size sedan, but one that will save you lots and lots of money at the pump while still delivering a comfortable/classy ride, the Avalon hybrid is a terrific choice.
by Dom in the Morning
posted Feb 27 2015 7:30AM
This event is such a blast! Get Your Nerd On Day with the Colorado Avalanche. And tickets are drastically reduced (practically half-price), but you can only get them through this link right here
The Big Brain Club teams up with the Physics Department at DU for a day of fun, science, and hockey! You'll get in to the Pepsi Center a few hours before the days open to the public, and totally get your nerd on!
Again, here's a link for the tickets
. Get 'em before they're gone!
posted Jan 17 2015 3:05PM
Is it just me, or is TV getting better? And is that a good thing or not?
I wrote a piece about how I went from watching almost NO television, to suddenly having more shows in my Netflix and Amazon Prime queues than I can keep up with.
You might enjoy the post. Here's a link for you to check it out
. I'd welcome your comments, too.
by Dom in the Morning
posted Jan 7 2015 10:56AM
I know that I have a lot of habits – some good, some bad – but I’d never considered how much they really dominate my everyday life.
And then I read Charles Duhigg’s book on the subject. I’ve read plenty of books that were interesting or influential, but there are only a handful of them that have cause me to instantly adjust the way I live.
The Power of Habit isn’t just an eye-opening look at how our habits create subconscious patterns, it also explains how simple little tweaks can help you to take a bad habit and make it something of value in your world.
And it’s not just in your personal life. Businesses are beginning to suggest that managers and employees spend some time with this book. There’s an entire section on the habits of successful organizations. If anything, read the segment on how Target was able to use customers’ habits to actually predict when a woman became pregnant. It’s fascinating.
If you’re looking to make some changes in your life (either personal or professional – or both) then it’s worth a read.
The Power of Habits is available at all three locations of The Tattered Cover Book Store, and if you mention at checkout that it’s part of Dom’s Book Club, then you’ll get 20% off.