Thursday, October 19, 2006

Review: 2006 Toyota RAV4


A lot is expected from the all-new Toyota RAV4.  Aside from being the newest offering in the compact SUV segment, this model was responsible for popularizing the concept of the “cute-ute” way back in the 1990s.  The second iteration caused an equal amount of awe with Toyota pushing the RAV4’s styling to a new direction.  Compared to its perennial rival, the Honda CR-V, the RAV4 looked more advanced with its rakish design and exaggerated features be it the Mk. I or Mk. II models.  Having found the right success recipe though, Toyota decided to play it safe with the Mk. III.  Designers and engineers toyed around with the standards set by its predecessor—a good starting point, considering RAV4s were always handsome and always driver-oriented.

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Review: 2006 Mercedes-Benz B 170


Visions of Mercedes-Benz usually involve long stately limousines, flashy roadsters, or Kimi Raikkonen’s own chrome-plated weekend drive.  What to make then of this, a stubby hatchback that proudly displays a large three-pointed star on its snout?  Mercedes’ ad campaign ostensibly states that this car is for everybody—moms, dads, families, lovers, young and old.  That immediately raised the alarm: any such formula usually results in a muddled product suitable for nobody.  Those contemplating a first purchase of a Mercedes via the B-Class can take heart: the ad planners may be sending out mixed messages, but the product itself is well suited for its particular audience.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Review: 2006 Audi A4


As early as three years into its life, Audi was pressured to come out with a new A4.  When Audi engineers were already beginning to reach the same levels of driver satisfaction and build quality as the E46 3 Series, the new E90 3 Series was already on its way.  Knowing all too well that the goal post was once again moving towards BMW's direction, the folks at Ingolstadt had to work fast.  This was in 2002.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Review: 2006 Hyundai Accent CRDi


“Surprise and delight the customer” may be a common marketing goal these days, but it’s unusual to find a car that genuinely fits the bill.  After all, we expect a Porsche to be fast and an Expedition to have enough room for two basketball teams.  During the six weeks of testing for Car of the Year 2006, one vehicle stands out in my mind long after the dust has settled on the roads of Forest Hills, and it takes the bulbous shape of the new Hyundai Accent CRDi.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Review: 2006 Mercedes-Benz S 350 LWB


Just last weekend, I was checking the classified ads looking for how much a new house might cost these days. After a few flips, I found an interesting middle-class real-estate project with prices that start at P8 million. The units have no furnishings—just painted concrete shells with metal tin roofs. This took place just a few minutes before I got to drive the similarly priced Mercedes-Benz S350. And after spending the better part of the day in the flagship Merc, all I can say is that the house will definitely have to wait.

Review: 2006 Hyundai Matrix CRDi


The moment you set your sights at the Hyundai Matrix, you immediately think: that doesn’t look right.  I don’t blame you.  The rest of humanity doesn’t blame you either.  Whether it’s red or silver or any other color for that matter, the Matrix stands out.  And that’s not a good thing.  It steers clear of everything that’s considered beautiful in automotive design and comes out as something rather, err… unique.  Ah, so the Koreans have done it again—a product that’s literally a design joke, probably penned by blind men in a windowless design studio.  Not quite.  For instance, on the c-pillar reads “disegno Pininfarina”.  Still, having an Italian design studio isn’t any guarantee of beauty or desirability.  In the case of the Matrix though, it relies less on its design studio origin but more on function and get this, performance.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Review: 2006 Mitsubishi L200 Strada GLX


I’ve got this soft spot when it comes to Mitsubishi off-roaders. Call them crude, but there’s something—either with their stance or look that simply makes them ruggedly beautiful.  This is especially true with the likes of the first L200 and Pajero that became Filipino favorites.  Even today, the amount of L200 that you still see plying the roads is a testament to their excellent durability.  As the years past through, these modern day workhorses soon became overfed and overweight.  Soon, the Strada (as what the 4WD model is now called), the L200 gained all sorts of fender extensions, needless interior knickknacks and other hefty accessories that simply penalized performance (if the 2.5-liter 4D56 engine wasn’t already being pushed to its limits).