Trying to make a connection with a Mazda

Recently a customer called to tell us that her 2006 Mazda Tribute was acting strange. The check-engine light, ABS light, traction-control light, cruise-control light, battery light and brake lights were on or flashing. In addition, the speedometer needle was jumping up and down, and the odometer was flashing.

When the car arrived at the shop, I went to confirm the complaint. The speedometer head looked like a Christmas tree, so we knew we were going to have to pull error codes by hooking the car up to our computer. When we tried to pull codes from the data-link connector (DLC), there was no communication with any module.

2018 Expedition Max: Ford keeps on truckin'

Courtesy of Ford
The Ford Expedition’s engine produces 375 horsepower and the vehicle gets 24 mpg on the highway.

By now, most people interested in automobiles have heard that Ford, the company that put America into motor cars, is getting out of the car business – with the exception of the Mustang – choosing to instead focus on trucks and SUVs.

Fortunately, Ford makes some good trucks for people who need truck capability to haul their horse trailer or boat but want to travel in an SUV while doing it. For them, there is the truck-based Ford Expedition, completely redesigned for 2018. We didn’t really need the largest SUV on the market for the Monterey Classic Car Week, but that was what was available. We’re pleased to say that in Max trim, we agree with other commentators who say this is the best full-size SUV on the market. Yes, it costs $72,185, but there is no other vehicle that is ready to tow a 9,000-pound trailer and seven passengers in comfort, or haul up to 121 cubic feet of cargo. The engine may produce only 375 horsepower, but with Ecoboost, it puts 470 pound-feet of torque to the rear wheels through its 10-speed automatic transmission. Even with this power, the engine technology manages 17 mpg in the city and up to 24 mpg in highway use.

What impressed us

Lane-keeping technology, part of the semi-autonomous safety package, is a big help in keeping this 19-foot-long vehicle on the road. The system extends to preventing a trailer from destabilizing its steering and balance, a very important feature for people who don’t tow a heavy trailer that frequently.

A question of practicality

We have to wonder how many people really need this much vehicle most of the time.

Overall impression

Honda Clarity Plug-in Hybrid is best all-around EV available

Courtesy of Honda
The Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid has a 48-mile range on a quick charge.

For most people, automotive transportation is a necessary part of suburban life, and for them, the best car we’ve driven – since the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid is likely to be discontinued next year – is the plug-in hybrid version of the new Honda Clarity, powered by a four-cylinder engine and an electric motor.

For typical use getting to and from work in one of the adjacent towns and running errands on a daily basis, the 48-mile range from a quick charging-station or overnight charge is more than sufficient to drive this car only on electric power for weeks at a time.

Genesis G90 is an alternative to other high-priced luxury cars

Courtesy of Hyundai
Fully equipped, the Hyundai Genesis G90 sells for just under $74,000.

Success comes with benefits, and for people with significant personal transportation needs, one benefit is the opportunity to drive a truly comfortable automobile.

Such cars were previously manufactured by the significant German, Japanese and – still hanging on – two American manufacturers. But recently Korean manufacturer Hyundai has entered the scene with its Genesis brand. Our recent experience with the Genesis G90, introduced in 2017 and unchanged for 2018, indicates that there is definitely a new kid on the block – at a substantially lower price – that is worth getting to know if you’re in the market for a luxury sedan.

VW Passat offers stunning quality in a family sedan

Courtesy of Volkswagen
The 2018 Volkswagen Passat comes with a 280-horsepower engine and gets up to 28 mpg on the highway.

Today’s motor-vehicle buyer seems more focused on crossovers, SUVs and performance cars than traditional family sedans. Nevertheless, there is still a small, steady market for a solid traditional four-door with good space for back-seat passengers and a large trunk.

As a consequence, companies with a proven product like the Volkswagen Passat are still promoting its quality – they’re just not investing much in development.

VW Golf R a good fit for millennials

Although fewer millennials are driving cars these days – ride-sharing and shuttles are a good option for many – there are still young people who see car ownership as more than just transportation. For them, we have the perfect car: the 2018 Volkswagen Golf R hatchback, combining practicality and performance.

With 292 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, along with an all-wheel-drive sport-tuned suspension, it offers as much performance and handling as any baby driver would want. It even comes with a six-speed manual transmission – almost a retro touch these days – though an efficient seven-speed automatic is available for those with a long stop-and-go commute to endure each day.

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