Honda Civic Si — High-revving entertainment

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Most vehicles reaching the fifth year of their life cycle are in need of replacement. Even with continual upgrades they are outpaced by newer and more up-to-date competing models and appear a bit long in the tooth. That’s why most vehicles these days are mostly on a five-year cycle, replaced by an all-new model in the sixth year.

Mazda Speed3 — Hot shoe fun and functional

 By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

We were just getting back into our 2010 Mazda Speed3 at a rest stop on Interstate 40 when someone approached us. “Hold on, hold on, I want to ask you something,” came the voice.

Not good. Our first inclination in such circumstances is to quickly fall into the seat, shut and lock the door and carefully but forcefully back out of the parking space not wanting to hear the usual hustle. But, for some reason, we got out of the car and met the man who then asked, “Is that the new Speed3, I just have to take a look if you don’t mind.”

Lincoln MKT EcoBoost – Technology that works

 By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

One of Ford’s bright ideas back in the late ’90s was to build a luxury version of its full-sized Ford Expedition sport utility. It was called the Lincoln Navigator and was such a huge success and such a profit generator that General Motors, caught flat-footed, threw some luxury knickknacks and a Cadillac grille on the Chevrolet Tahoe and began selling it under the name Escalade. The tarted-up Tahoe was almost as successful as the Navigator.

Dodge Viper Roadster — the end of an icon

 By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Perhaps it was part good luck and part cautious driving. But we managed to roll through nearly 200 miles in a 2010 Dodge Viper roadster on main streets, four-lane highways and winding rural roads without incident  while testing the redline limit in second gear, challenging some of our favorite twists at record speeds — for us — and hitting triple-digit numbers on several occasions.

BMW X5 diesel – a smart extension of the brand

By Al Vinikour 

It never ceases to amaze me how tone deaf consumers and lawmakers have become when considering diesel power. Mention “hybrid” or “electric” or “fuel cell” and this same group will get wild in the eyes. Trying to emulate the European economy is not a good idea. Conversely, trying to duplicate Europe’s fuel choice is not a bad idea. Diesels have been around for about a century and ignoring it is like having Alex Haley as an uncle and not asking him about family history.

Subaru Legacy — there are reasons for success

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

For many years Subaru with its standard across-the-lineup all-wheel drive has been popular in the colder climates, but a slow seller in the rest of the country. Quirky styling, also kept Subaru a niche brand, something like Saab but in less expensive clothes.

Acura ZDX – a battle between form and function

 By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The newly conceived Acura ZDX is a conundrum. On the one hand, it offers many things that make Acura vehicles desirable including solid performance and outstanding handling, a hushed interior with quality materials and stylish surroundings, and a cutting-edge audio and communications system.

Suzuki SX4 SportBack – amazing bang for the buck

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

We were taken back three years ago that Suzuki was selling a small, practical vehicle called the SX4 in sedan and hatchback formats with all-wheel drive, a host of options including keyless start, and a long-term warranty for less than 16 grand. We thought, “Amazing.”

Suzuki is still selling the same practical small car in 2010, but with numerous enhancements. All-wheel drive is still available in the high-roof “crossover” hatchback format and still at a bargain price in 2010 dollars of $16,849, just a thousand bucks more than the comparable two-wheel drive model.

Ford Taurus – a return to prominence

 By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

It’s been a quarter century since Ford rolled out its first Taurus at a super party on the back lot of 20th Century Fox in Los Angeles that was also a swansong for departing Ford chairman Phil Caldwell. Twelve-hundred people celebrated and lauded a jellybean-shaped mid-sized sedan designed to do combat with the growing ranks of Japanese and European competition.

Taurus was a hit, praised by critics and embraced by the car-buying public, eventually becoming the bestselling car in America.

Mitsubishi Outlander GT – worthy of a close look

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The small crossover sport utility segment has grown like a weed in a vacant lot over the past decade. The segment is populated with attractive products differentiated by little of substance.

The more popular models get the ink, big advertising dollars, and word-of-mouth endorsements and tend to lead the pack year-after-year. The top choices throughout the past decade — based on sales — have been the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, and Ford Escape. Second-tier players, include the Nissan Rogue, Hyundai Tucson, Subaru Forester, Volkswagen Tiguan and Jeep Liberty.