Dodge Ram 3500 Heavy Duty — A beast of burden

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

We acknowledge the many virtues of the Ram 3500 Laramie Heavy Duty Mega Cab (crew cab) dually, but one of them is not as a daily driver. (Note: Ram Truck is now a brand within the new Chrysler Group and Dodge is now solely a car brand.)

Honda Accord Coupe — Shifting into fun

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Fun can be spelled in many ways. We just rediscovered one spelling — Honda Accord coupe with a manual transmission.

It’s a mouthful, but this tossable Accord is loaded with entertainment, otherwise known as fun on four wheels. While many people wouldn’t get behind the wheel of a car without an automatic, this vast majority is missing out on a delightful experience.

Nissan Cube — Small, efficient and a bit cartoonish

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

A 20-year-old relative said she simply could not own the Nissan Cube, one of the new breed of small, tall, boxy vehicles aimed at the youth market now making their way into the American automotive mainstream. It’s too cartoonish, she said. “[It] reminds me of the movie ‘Roger Rabbit.’ How could I live with that?”

But she doesn’t completely defy the so-called demographics she is the owner of a Scion tC, a trendy sports coupe, but more in the styling mainstream.

Toyota Matrix — More than a movie

By Al Vinikour

Mention matrix to someone under 30 and chances are they’ll equate it to the series of hit movies starring Keanu Reeves. Mention matrix to a mathematician and he’ll get all wild in the eyes and start to hyperventilate. Mention matrix to a car guy and he’ll think Toyota Matrix, a compact hatchback developed off the Corolla platform (and often referred to as the Corolla Matrix).

Toyota Venza — five doors, no waiting

By Al Vinikour
Special to MotorwayAmerica

Full discloser: I’ve been a Toyota Camry fan since they were first introduced in North America as a relatively ugly compact car called the Celica. Over the years the vehicle grew into a mid-sized family car and in 1988, production for North American vehicles began at Toyota’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant. For more than a decade – with few exceptions – Camry has been the best-selling car in the United States. The mere sight of a Camry doesn’t pose a threat to those with high blood pressure but Camry’s reputation for quality and reliability has been one of its strongest selling points.

Toyota 4Runner — Breathing life into a classic

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

A combination of uncertain gas prices, the severe economic downturn, and a flood of competing crossovers sent the once wildly popular mid-sized Toyota 4Runner over a cliff.

Only 19,675 4Runners were sold in the U.S. in 2009, a far cry from four straight years of 100,000 sales or better earlier in the decade.

Toyota Prius — Gains in size, efficiency and applications

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Toyota brought us a Japanese spec right-hand-drive first-generation Prius hybrid not long before the turn of the century. It was a unique experience. Driving from the right side in a left side country was strange enough. But stopping for the first time on a busy street was even more interesting. The engine cut off. We were told this would occur, but as we waited for the light to turn green, we couldn’t help but wonder if we would be holding up a long line of honking traffic.

Suzuki Kizashi — A step in the right direction

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Suzuki’s new mid-sized sedan gets most things right, making it a worthwhile investment in practical and comfortable transportation. We might even suggest it is smart investment with touches of unexpected refinement.

But the newest Suzuki will not get equal treatment in the marketplace.

Subaru Outback — A formula for success

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Month in and month out for more than a year there have been new and depressing automotive sales statistics, for one brand or another. While the government’s Clunker's program had a positive impact and things now appear to be stabilizing few carmakers have been as fortunate as Subaru, which has been in the black every month of 2009 showing gains in month over month comparisons to 2008.