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car reviews

So. Many. Choices.

The 2021 Toyota Corolla sedan is a compact car with an affordable price. You can get behind the wheel of one for just $20,025 making it a good choice for those on a budget. It’s affordable, sure, but just because it’s not a luxury car with the matching luxury price doesn’t mean there’s not plenty to like about the Corolla.

Let’s start with the range of trims. There are nine different versions of the Corolla from which to choose. This includes a hybrid and special Apex and Nightshade editions of select trims in the basic five-trim lineup. There’s a Corolla for everyone and every budget. Even if you go all the way to the top of the trim ladder with the XSE Apex Edition, you’re still looking at only $28,310. It’s affordable in any guise.

Looks Good Inside and Out

The Corolla looks good with sporty almost aggressive styling. It has none of the too mild-mannered styling of old and attracts attention for all the right reasons. The story is the same when you open the door. We drove the XSE, which sits at the top of the lineup. Materials are appealing to the eye with plenty of soft touch surfaces and a minimal amount of plastic. It makes the Corolla look like pricier than its sticker.

Seating is comfortable with ample room up front for even taller riders, but the rear seats are another story. Although they’re comfortable they aren’t as spacious. Headroom and shoulder room are fine, but legroom is tight, especially if whoever is sitting up front has long legs and pushes the seats back.

The XSE has a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine with 169 horsepower and 151 lb-ft of torque paired to a continuously variable automatic transmission. It’s the more powerful of the two gas powertrains and it performed well. Not only did it get up to speed quickly, but there was no need to mash the gas to get extra power for passing. Our only complaint was the noise of the CVT, which is intrusive under hard acceleration.

Toyota Corolla

No Shortage of Standard Features

While many an affordable car makes key safety and tech features expensive extras, the Corolla makes many of them standard. Safety features including automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure alert with steering assist, and full-speed dynamic radar cruise control are all standard. There’s also a standard 7-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and, new for this year, Android Auto. You don’t have to move up a trim and spend extra just to get these features.

All in all, the 2021 Toyota Corolla is a compact sedan with appeal for a wide range of buyers. Lots of trim choices, two gas and one hybrid powertrain, key standard features, and a low price make the Corolla a great option.

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The Cachet of Cadillac

The Cadillac name is synonymous with luxury. It doesn’t matter which model you’re talking about because the brand alone says it all. Or does it? While every Cadillac is a luxury car, the Escalade sits at the top of the lineup as something unique unto itself.

The Escalade is the epitome of Cadillacs. It really doesn’t even matter if you need a three-row SUV with seating for up to eight. That might be part of your reason for wanting an Escalade, but that’s not why you buy one.

You buy an Escalade because of the statement it makes whether it’s sitting in your driveway, pulling into the office parking lot, or being loaded up with the family’s groceries. Owning a Cadillac Escalade tells the world you have arrived.

There are legions of three-row SUVs from which to choose with a wide range of prices that fit every budget. The Escalade does not fit every budget. Our test vehicle came in with a price of $109,500. There is no such thing as a cheap Escalade.

Impressive in Every Way

Even people who don’t know or care much about cars have likely heard of this one. It’s the car professional athletes and wealthy Hollywood types drive. People notice you when you drive around in an Escalade.

That’s in part due to its impressive size. This thing is big. I’m not going to lie. I may have passed a tight parking spot or two for something with a bit more room further away from the door of my local grocery store. You’ll get the hang of it eventually, just spend some time getting comfortable with that bulk before you head out into a congested city.

The upside to the Escalade’s size is an expansive interior. There’s room for seven adults, eight with an optional second-row bench seat. As is the case in most every three-row SUV, the third row is best for two unless you’re putting the kids in back. There are 25.5 cubic feet behind that third row with up to 109.1 cubic feet if your fold both second and third rows flat.

Yes, you can load up the Escalade with cargo, but cargo doesn’t care about luxury. People, however, very much care about luxury and that’s what makes this SUV stand out from the rest. The front seats on our Platinum trim were plush with rich leathers, 16-way power adjustability, heat, ventilation, and massage. Leather accents were everywhere from the steering wheel to the center console to the doors and the dashboard.

Cadillac Escalade

It’s All About Luxury

Striking, highly varnished wood trims enhance the interior’s luxurious first impression along with a sueded headliner and illuminated door sills. At first glance, it looks like the dashboard is one giant screen, but it’s a series of three, curved OLED displays that cover the dash in front of the driver. There’s a 16.9-inch infotainment touchscreen, 14.2-inch digital instrument cluster, and 7.2-inch touchscreen control panel. It’s impressive.

An AKG 19-speaker audio system is standard, but we had the pleasure of listening to the upgraded 36-speaker system. It fills the cabin with rich, immersive sound. It impressed my teenager. That’s saying something. From the materials to the technology to the comfort to the audio, the Escalade delivers a consistent luxury experience.

Cadillac Escalade

Well-Mannered Performance

It also delivers a luxury ride. The potholes of New England roads can rattle your teeth this time of year, but they went unnoticed in the Escalade. Passengers sit at the top of the priority list in a luxury car. They need to be not just comfortable, but downright coddled. The Escalade delivers with a ride that is smooth, composed, and quiet, even at highway speeds. Despite its size, handling is responsive so passengers remain comfortable while the driver stays relaxed and in control.

Our Escalade was powered by a 6.2-liter V8 with 420 horsepower and 460 lb-ft of torque paired to a 10-speed automatic transmission. It had no trouble managing this SUV’s bulk and it did so quietly. Remember, this is a luxury car. No one wants to hear the engine doing its work. It just does its thing unobtrusively in the background while you enjoy that fancy audio system and those supple leather seats.

The 2021 Cadillac Escalade offers the luxury, technology, and ride one expects from a luxury car. There might be other luxury SUVs that’ll do the job, but the Escalade makes a lasting impression that’s hard to duplicate.

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2020 Toyota Supra

It’s been a while, Supra.

In January of 2019, Akio Toyoda stood on the stage in Detroit. The throngs of media packed into the room knew what was coming and there was heavy anticipation. The Supra was back.

“They say all good things come to those who wait, even a really long time,” he said. “And now, finally, the next chapter in the story can begin!”

The Supra was officially launched in the US on the first day of 1979. With a 110-hp 2.6L six-cylinder engine, this offshoot of the popular Celica started at just over $10K. Five inches longer than the Celica, the Supra also included air conditioning, an AM/FM radio, and the option to add a sunroof and cruise control.

Alas, Toyota ceased production of the Supra in 2002, as demand waned; they had put the kibosh on exporting this sleek sports car.

Fun Fact: In 2001, Paul Walker drove a 1993 Supra stunt car in the first “The Fast and the Furious movie”. The characters worked it over and tweaked it until it was so fast that it beat a Ferrari on the street. It later sold for $185,000 at auction.

2020 Toyota Supra

A race car for every day

“I’m sure for each of you there’s been at least one car in your life that you have a particular attachment to, one car that holds a special place in your heart and for me, the Supra is it,” Toyoda told the crowd in Detroit last year. “Back in the day my old Supra and I spent countless hours together as I learned to become a master driver. But you can imagine the teasing and stares that I got from all the other manufacturers at Nürburgring, who were driving their beautiful new prototypes while I’m out there  driving what felt like an automotive version of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree. I mean it was a great car but you know, a guy can only take so much!”

Toyoda told the crowd that the brand had no plans to make a new Supra, but diehard Supra fans around the world clamored for its return.

REVEALED: the 2021 Toyota Sienna and Venza

2020 Toyota Supra

Why choose a Supra?

After taking it on an extended test drive three and a half hours across the state of Texas, I get it. The Supra is highly addicting and it’s plush inside, sharing some DNA and a platform with the BMW Z4. As F1 driver Fernando Alonso says, it’s like a race car you can drive comfortably every day.

It’s wonderfully loud, so don’t think you’re going to sneak up on anyone in a Supra. It’s not afraid to burst into the space with flair and attitude. That means there is some road noise inside, but it’s not terrible. Storage space is surprisingly ample for such a small car, and the designers found ways to make every inch count.

What you need to know

  • The Supra is a two-seater; leave the kids at home and take this one out on date nights or commute the office
  • Turbocharged 3.0L six-cylinder engine (335 horsepower, 365 lb-ft of torque)
  • RWD and automatic are the only options
  • Standard features include 19-inch wheels, remote start, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather and simulated suede seats and upholstery, power front seats, 6.5-inch touchscreen, and a 10-speaker audio system
  • Standard safety features: auto emergency braking, lane keep assist, and auto high beams
  • Highly recommended: upgrade to the Navigation + JBL package for an upgraded 8.8-inch touchscreen with navigation, along with Apple CarPlay and a 12-speaker JBL audio system

 

REVIEWED: 2020 Toyota Avalon TRD

Music pairing

The first cassette I ever played in a car while I was driving was Guns N’ Roses’ Appetite for Destruction. It felt so empowering to drive my own car and pressure from my right foot found the top range of the accelerator more often than I care to admit. As I was driving the Supra, this is the song that ran through my head:

 

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2020 cadillac CT4

The CT4 may be tamer than the CTS-V, but that’s not necessarily bad.

When the Cadillac CT4 showed up in my driveway, it evoked fond memories. Last year, I had a CTS-V in my possession for one glorious week. I took my mom on a three-hour drive north to Dallas for the day, and every time I revved the engine, she giggled. Every time the seat belt hugged us in for a tighter fit after we fastened it, she said “ooh!” The sedan topped out over $100K, but I can’t say it isn’t worth it: with 640 hp and a supercharged 6.2L engine, this was not your granddad’s Cadillac. It’s more of a luxury car with the heart of a muscle car, and it was awesome to drive.

Overall, the CT4 is a tamed steed versus a wild stallion. It’s smaller and lighter with half the horsepower. What you need to know, however, is that sometimes having a broken-in horse is the better choice – depending on what you need, of course.

Need more Cadillac? Check out the XT6

2020 Cadillac CT4

Two engine choices

The CT4 is an all-new sedan replacing the Cadillac ATS It’s part of the first generation of the sedan introduced for model year 2020. Compared frequently to a similarly-sized Audi A3 or a Mercedes-Benz A-Class, the CT4 can hold its own for fans of the brand.

The 2020 Cadillac CT4 is available in four trim levels: Luxury, Premium Luxury, Sport and the top-of-the-line V-Series. The one I drove this week was the Premium Luxury, which means it includes all the features of the ground-floor Luxury and is available with either the 237-hp 2.0L engine or an optional turbocharged 310-hp, 2.7L four-cylinder matched to a 10-speed automatic.

Engine choice alone is enough to choose the mid-range trim. Other features include auto-dimming mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, handsome 18-inch wheels, and forward collision alert (which flashes a big red box on the instrument cluster and emits a loud alarm if danger is imminent).

In the Sport trim, the CT4 comes with the same 2.0L engine as the Luxury model. The sport also adds meaty Brembo brakes and shift paddles along with a more athletic profile. Honestly, I’m perplexed by this combination of the smaller engine and bigger brakes on the Sport. It makes more sense that the next trim up (the CT4-V) comes standard with a tweaked version of the 2.7L turbocharged engine that generates 325 hp, and the Brembos.

If fuel economy is important to you, note that the epa-estimated mpg is 20 city/ 30 highway for the CT4. The CT4-V requires premium gasoline and costs about $6K more than the Sport trim.

What’s new on the 2021 Cadillac Escalade? 

 

CT4 or CT5? That is the question.

The CT4 is a smaller, more compact sedan. It’s nearly six inches shorter than the CT5 but interestingly, the headroom in front is only less than an inch taller in the CT5.  If you regularly ferry tall teens from place to place, the CT5 offers four inches more legroom, which will make a difference for them.

In terms of engine size, the base model of the CT4 and CT5 both come standard with the 237-hp 2.0L.

Base model pricing:

CT4 Luxury (2.0T engine) $33,990 $36,590
CT5 Luxury (2.0T engine) $37,890 $40,490

2020 cadillac ct4
In summary…

If a luxury sedan is on your mind, the CT4 checks all of the boxes. The drive was incredibly smooth and the seats supremely supple and comfortable. As an audiophile, I was a little disappointed in the sound quality of the Bose audio system and felt it might need some retooling of the locations of the speakers. On the other hand, I appreciated all of the options to change the station without looking down; there are three places to turn the volume up or down and two knobs to scroll through the channels. It all works together very well.

Musical pairing

Is the CT4 worth it? I say yes. It’s fairly priced and it’s a great choice for the luxury set.

This Missy Elliott song matches our theme well:

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