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2018 New England International Auto Show: Key takeaways

JOTD visited the New England International Auto show about a week ago and we wanted to share some of our impressions, takeaways, and general thoughts on the show itself and some of it’s more notable attendees.

The good:

Photo credit: MotorTrend

The Audi RS3 looks even better in person than it does in publications (certain wheels aside).  It has a presence beyond it’s size and it’s up there in the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” category with the older M5.  Bonus points to Audi for making in tall-person friendly!


The Genesis lineup had a strong presence there and the cars did not fail to deliver.  Interior fit and finish is very tight and overall material quality is excellent.  I’m not saying they are on-par with the S-Class (yet), but at a fraction of the price, they are most definitely worth a serious look.  We loved the look of the G80 Sport with the copper accents and aggressive wheels (pictured here), well done Hyun…errr…Genesis!

The new favorite of many automotive publications everywhere, the Kia Stinger, was there as well.  Once again, pictures simply don’t do it justice.  It looked great up on stage and not overly bedazzled as it might appear in pictures.  The lines are aggressive but not overly so and we think it will age well, but the verdict on that will, obviously, have to wait.

The Lexus LC500’s taillights are an incredible detail on an already drop-dead gorgeous car, see for yourself.

The bad:

While the new Ford Expedition does look the part of the big family-hauling, highway consuming behemoth with a handsome, masculine exterior, the interior was far from impressive.  For a $70k truck, we’d expect more than a sea of hard black plastic for a dashboard (with a comparatively miniscule infotainment screen) and a few more luxuries to accompany it.

Where were Mercedes Benz and BMW in all this?  Did they both decide to call in sick?

Thanks for reading!


Performance bargain spotlight: Audi RS4

What do you get when you take an average AWD family sedan and inject it with 8 cylinders that scream to a glorious redline of 8250 rpm?  The answer, folks, is the Audi RS4.  Long coveted by enthusiasts looking for subtle speed, the RS4 was the fastest variant of the B7 A4 platform and is no longer available in the states.  We had the opportunity to glimpse one for sale out towards western Massachusetts, and it did not disappoint. 

With an original MSRP of over $80,000, this particular example from 2008 is finished in the ever-popular Daytona Gray with just a hair over 75k miles.  From the outset, it is clear this was a well-maintained car.  Service receipts are plentiful, and creaks and rattles are basically non-existent.  There are a few very minor blemishes on the car, but only ones you’ll spot if you’re really looking for them.  But then again, vehicles like this were never meant to be center stage at a concours d’elegance, these cars were meant to be driven. 

The interior shows some wear consistent with a nearly 10-year-old car, but there’s nothing that a little bit of TLC couldn’t fix.  The white interior sets off the gray exterior nicely and could look almost brand new with a good leather treatment.  

The car is located at Right Way Auto Sales in Southborough, MA and is listed at a very fair $29,995.  Considering the level of refinement, gobs of power, and overall desirability of the RS4, the price is quite appealing.  Here’s to hoping it finds a new home where the new owner will appreciate it for the wolf in sheep’s clothing that it is.    

Want to own a BMW M5 of internet fame? Look no further…

YouTube star Parker Nirenstein of Vehicle Virgins has decided to sell his e39 BMW M5 and is listing it for sale on the beloved auction site.

Notwithstanding its video documented car, e39 M5s are quickly climbing in value and this one is no exception.  If you weren’t already pining for a reasonable fun car with no electronic nannies, we bet you are now!

What keeps a car interesting?

For one reason or another, a vast majority of us will want a new car within a few years.  A combination of getting bored with the current ride and the allure of a fresh new set of wheels has the average consumer buying a new car every 6.5 years (actually, a dramatic increase as of late).  But out there right now is someone who has owned a car for decades and loved every minute of it, so what’s the magical combo that keeps a car interesting for that long?

For many, it’s the aftermarket support.  Part of keeping a car for that long means that it’s always evolving – never truly finished, and that means LOTS of parts to be swapped in and out as tastes change.  Whether that’s an abundance of wheels to try or 23 different types of exhausts to fit, the availability of aftermarket parts to keep rides looking up-to-date has always been a big part of the “it’s almost done, honey” perpetual project car.

A car that you always look back at when walking away, that’s when you know you’ve got something worth holding on to.  Whether it’s a 2017 or a 1987, a car with timeless looks can be the difference between trading up to the latest and greatest and holding on to your prized possession because “everything was better in the 80s”.  Of course, this is subjective, but a car that has captured your heart by way of your eyes is one that will usually be the object of your affection for quite some time.

What keeps you swooning over your car?  Is it the former or the latter?  If it’s one of the two, a combination of both, or something entirely different, leave your thoughts on what helps cars defy the odds and become un-sellable.

Best Bug-Out vehicles

While I think most of us can agree that the zombie apocalypse isn’t going to happen next week, that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun to dream about building up or buying a vehicle as the ultimate bug-out, go-anywhere-and-survive type of transportation.  So, without further ado, here is a list of the top vehicles that will keep you out of harm’s way in the most extreme (if not altogether unlikely) of scenarios.


1)      Avtoros Shaman:  You probably haven’t heard about this low-volume, Russian-made beast but that doesn’t mean it won’t put most anything to shame off the pavement. 8 wheel drive, 8 wheel steering, amphibious capabilities, and seating for 7 of your closest friends/family, what’s not to like?  Throw a mattress and a few packets of Quaker oatmeal in the back and you’re good to go. 


2)      Hagglund BV206:  Ever wanted to own a mini-tank but just didn’t pull the trigger because, well, it didn’t have a trailer?  Your search has ended.  The Hagglund was built for the sole purpose of going absolutely anywhere on the planet with all of the necessities to survive the harshest environs, including Antarctica.

 Image result for deuce and a half

3)      M35 2.5 ton cargo truck: Affectionately called the “deuce and a half” this military grade truck is a go-anywhere 6X6 that is fairly readily available.  Though its top speed is nothing spectacular, it will run on pretty much anything and laugh in the face of small road obstacles.  Throw a camper on the back and you’ve got yourself a pretty bulletproof truck.    


4)      Earth Roamer XV-LT:  If the zombie apocalypse forces you into the great outdoors, the Earth Romer is the vehicle to have.  Based on the Ford F550 platform, these cab-over expedition duty campers are designed to keep you comfortable wherever the path may lead you. 


5)      The “Kira” Expedition RV:  Brian Ferren of Applied Minds has built the ultimate go anywhere vehicle.  Designed to tackle terrain with the most powerful technology this planet has to offer, (not to mention a turbo-diesel motorcycle for light reconnaissance) you’d be able to head to the most remote reaches of the planet with ease (and a hot shower).


6)      The “Burlak”: Once again, the Russians deliver a monster of a truck capable of toppling mountains with a punch of the skinny pedal.  From the guys who brought you the Sherp (a smaller version of this, essentially) this vehicle has the space to take you and your family of 4 anywhere in relative comfort. 


7)      Russian “Vityaz” or DT-30PM: This is a just a fancy way of saying a tank with another tank as a trailer.  This “articulating tracked vehicle” or ATV is basically two tanks strapped together with a payload of 10 tons.  Popular in the then USSR, these vehicles saw military and civilian action all over the world gaining access to remote areas where nothing else could dream of going.


8)      Arctic Trucks Toyota Hilux AT44 6X6: One of the slightly more civilized and attainable vehicles of this bunch, the transformed Hilux has already performed admirably on Top Gear’s Arctic special (albeit in a slightly different form).  Toyota build quality with Icelandic arctic ingenuity and know-how, doubtful there’s a better cold weather combo out there. 


So when you’re preparing for the end of days, be sure to save up for some suitable transportation because these aren’t going to be cheap (or easy to find).  Drool away preppers, your vehicle has arrived! 

The legend lives on: The 2016 Toyota Land Cruiser

The Toyota Land Cruiser name has always been synonymous with go-anywhere capability but only in the 1990’s did it begin to garner some respect as a luxury vehicle as well.  Well this trend continues with this mid-model refresh for 2016, and you’ll be hard pressed to find a more capable luxury vehicle than this uber-posh off-roader.



For 2016, the front fascia of the Land Cruiser gets a refresh, the most prominent new feature being the quad-projector LED headlights that light up the night like the 4th of July.  The revised grill has been accused of being too Highlander-esque but there’s no mistaking this for the Toyota cross-over with much less machismo.  From the A-pillars forward, we have all new sheet metal and the taillights get a slightly refreshed look, but overall, there aren’t very many significant changes to the exterior of the Land Cruiser for 2016, unless of course you count the multiple little “Land Cruiser” embellishments on the headlights and bottom of the rear doors.



Inside is where you’ll notice the biggest changes.  2016 brings in a new era of gadgetry with a 9” touch screen shoe-horned into the center console.  In keeping with the Land Cruiser tradition, every feature is standard equipment, meaning you get Bluetooth, navigation, heated/cooled seats, 2 rear entertainment screens and a plethora of other luxury bits to keep you and your riders happy.  Quality materials are still used everywhere, and the new steering wheel not only looks and feels great, but also heats up for those cold winter days.  Legroom and headroom are still ample in both front and rear seats, but you do feel like you are in a bit of a cockpit with this latest generation having all manner of knobs and buttons very close to the driver.  Worth noting is that any surface, button or knob that gets used frequently exudes true quality.  The aforementioned knobs feel like solid metal, the switches most commonly used are like a well-oiled bolt-action rifle, simply perfection.  Additionally, the seats are very comfortable and would serve anyone well on long family expeditions.  Overall, a very nice place to be, especially with this author’s favorite, the optional Terra (brown) leather.



Safety is still a Toyota priority and the Land Cruiser is no exception.  As standard equipment, you’ll find blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warnings, and radar guided cruise control that can brake the vehicle in case the driver isn’t paying attention.  Not only is this vehicle a great cross-country hauler, but these features add a new level of safety that comes standard. 

On the road, the Land Cruiser still feels as solid as ever.  Speed bumps simply flatten out in fear, potholes and road imperfections are coerced into submission, there is really no better riding full-size SUV on the planet.  Road noise is minimal with the huge amount of sound deadening used, and the only drawback to this latest Land Cruiser is the visibility.  With the newly designed hood that is about the same size as a soccer field, forward visibility is reduced a bit.  The same 5.7L V8 comes back unchanged for 2016 as it still puts out a hefty yet buttery smooth 381hp and 401 lb/ft of torque, but don’t expect this monster to win any drag races as it tips the scales at 5765 lbs, not exactly light.  The new 8 speed transmission does its best to help in these cases, but you’d be hard pressed to notice a difference from the last gearbox other than that it seems to shift a bit more frequently and perhaps it does so q bit more quickly and smoothly.  Overall it still has great manners on or off the road, but long distance drivers especially will appreciate just how stress-free piloting one of these behemoths has become.



At roughly $85k, there’s no denying that this is not an inexpensive vehicle, but when you crunch the numbers on just how long these legends last with so few repairs required, things start to add up.  If you want the ultimate vehicle in luxury, capability, and reliability, look no further than the Toyota Land Cruiser.

What makes a car great?

People always wonder what makes a car “better” than others, what makes a car make the hair on the back of your neck stand on end or makes you get the chills when you hear it drive by.  The final answer is rather simple…the car has to talk to you.  However easy that may seem, arriving at this end goal can be difficult to say the least.  Which is why there is no magic recipe to follow, no assembly instructions to guide engineers and designers, this is a guessing game of buyers’ desires where some manufacturers fall short and others excel.  Despite the subjective nature of making a car desirable to us car-crazed individuals, there are a few things that most petrol-heads can agree are necessary ingredients in the sports car casserole.

Image is property of Mathieu Heurtault/Gooding & Co

Throttle response is paramount to making a car engaging.  Having to step on the loud pedal and wait……….. gets really tedious when you are trying to carve up a canyon.  A well sorted throttle makes a driver feel like their right foot is connected directly to the engine, the tires begging for traction while the tail kicks loose just enough to turn your knuckles white for a second.  Without this, a car feels like a mildly depressed sloth that hasn’t had its coffee. 

Image is property of Pintrest

The fingers are one of the more nerve-filled extremities on the body and as a result, we can gather and feel a tremendous amount through them.  Because of this, effective communication of the front wheels through the steering wheel is crucial to making a driver feel like they are a part of the car.  If you’ve ever driven a big, luxo-barge type SUV or sedan, a numb steering wheel that disconnects driver from road is commonplace, this type of vehicle being aimed specifically at people who don’t care about going fast.  Conversely, a steering system that makes a driver feel like the front wheels are 6 inches from their hands away is one of the most sought-after traits of good sports cars.  A well-weighted (not over-boosted) hydraulic system is most common nowadays, but electric systems are starting to take their place. Don’t throw a fit just yet, fellow gearheads, because according to most reviews, they still don’t have the perfect feel like their tried-and-true hydraulic ancestors, but who knows what the next few years will hold?

Image is property of Ohlins

Striking a balance between a comfortable ride and a strong showing at a track is one of the toughest challenges a car manufacturer can face.  On one hand, you don’t want the car to punish the driver too much with a bouncy, unpredictable, and unsettled ride but on the other hand, you don’t want to produce a car that rides like a 1950’s Cadillac.  The 1% of enthusiast buyers out there will argue that no car can be too punishing and that dedicated track cars are always going to be better at going fast in all situations, and they’re right (for the most part).  But for those of us that live in the real world, a fast car has to feel balanced in all situations whether it be a back-road bomb to grab some milk or a track day weekend at Lime Rock.  Achieving this feeling of stability at all speeds while simultaneously giving the car the ability to communicate exactly what all 4 corners  are doing is nothing short of automotive wizardry.

Image is property of Sharkwerks

Aural inspiration can be hard to find these days, which indicates that we’ve arrive at one of the more subjective parts of this equation…noise.  Most car enthusiasts will admit that a well-tuned exhaust note is crucial to the full enjoyment of a drive, and most car enthusiasts are right.  However, getting them all to agree on one particular exhaust sound is like trying to get everyone to agree to a universal favorite color….ain’t goin’ happen.  Some prefer the banshee wail of a Porsche flat 6 climbing to 7k rpms where others prefer to enjoy the deep bass of an AMG V8 starting a small earthquake, there’s no wrong answer here.  However, the need for a core-chilling, grin-inducing soundtrack to accompany a slow hairpin exit is an almost universally accepted notion amongst drivers.  A car sound that gives you goosebumps is more likely to get a gazillion hits on YouTube than one that sounds like a lawnmower, that’s a fact.     

While this list changes depending on an individual’s tastes, enthusiasts can generally agree that the above aspects are major contributors to the fun factor of a car.  Feel free to comment with your own additions if you think there are some other parts we’re missing. 

Land yachting on a budget: Luxury cars for dimes on the dollar

True luxury sedans are out of the reach of many of us.  With price tags that get perilously close to, and sometimes exceed, six figures and maintenance that can empty a bank account, it just doesn’t make much sense unless you’ve got money burning a hole in your pocket.  However, there are some used cars out there that have become relatively affordable relative to what they once cost so here is a list of some cars that might satisfy your need to be coddled in leather without forcing you to take out a second mortgage:

 *Disclaimer: Maintaining these vehicles gets expensive, so keep that in mind.

 1)      VW Phaeton:  This was a very limited run Volkswagen that was built to compete with the likes of Bentley (it was even called the ½ price Bentley by some).  The fit and finish are impeccable and it was available with a wonderfully excessive W12 engine with enough torque to get the behemoth moving to 60 mph in under 7 seconds.  To give you a sense of purpose behind this stealth-wealth beast, the Phaeton actually shared a platform with the Bentley Continental GT and the Flying spur!  Maintenance is going to cost you dearly, but this is one heck of a car that can often be found at under $30K used, a bargain considering how well these things hold up.


2)      Lexus LS: Now if you don’t need all of the bells and whistles associated with today’s modern cars, but still want to feel like you are the king of the road, a used Lexus LS is pretty hard to beat.  While they won’t have all of the fancy gadgetry that we have these days, a LS has one of, if not the, smoothest ride in the luxury world.  And as if that wasn’t enough, it is still a Toyota at heart so maintenance won’t cost you and arm and a leg.  Find a mid-2000’s model with low-ish mileage and the V8 and it shouldn’t cost you more than $17-$18k


3)       Mercedes S Class:  Some call this the king of luxury cars and they aren’t too far off.  The Mercedes Benz S-Class has been synonymous with luxury for decades and now you can find one for around $20K.  The fit and finish with these is still spot on even over a decade later, and while like most other higher mileage German-built sedans, it will cost more than average to own, that cost will still be a fraction of what it would cost to purchase a new one. 


4)      Hyundai Equus:  If your budget allows for some newer vehicles but you don’t like the price tag of the newer German offerings, check into the Korean automakers.  Hyundai’s Equus has been their flagship that has most everything the Germans offer at half the price. Right now there’s a 2014 listed on for about $37k with under 40K miles on it, a lot of car for the money.  Reliability will be better than average, and maintenance will be cheaper than most, we call that a win-win.


5)      Kia K900:  Another Korean automaker making big moves in the luxury segment.  Much the same can be said of this car as can be said of the Hyunday above.  All of the modern bells and whistles but with a price tag much lower than one would expect.  Additionally, these are generally much easier on the wallet when it comes time to service, so keep that in mind next time you look at upgrading the garage.


6)      Audi A8:  This is the four-ringed auto manufacturer’s flagship sedan representing the best in all-weather luxury transportation.  With the legendary Quattro all-wheel-drive, this is one of the few luxury sedans that would be just as comfortable in a snow storm as it is storming the autobahn.  Expect to pay in the mid $20k range for a mid/late-2000’s model with some miles on it.  This is one of the more engaging large sedans to drive with more driver-tuned suspension than most of the vehicles in the segment with a price tag of around $70K when it was new.


7)      Acura RL:  While not many know of this mid-large size vehicle coming out of Acura, it is worth considering on price alone.  In 2005, these were $50,000 cars but can be had for under 15k now without a problem.  While you won’t find big V8 grunt under the hood, the smooth V6 with 300hp and Acura’s Super Handling All-Wheel-Drive does plenty to get this Japanese behemoth moving.  As with any Honda/Acura product, maintenance will be relatively easy and cheap on these compared to its competitors.  This is definitely worth a look if you don’t need any of the XL offerings listed above.      

150K mile check in : Toyota Land Cruiser

These days, consumers are all about the next best thing.  The next phone, the next computer, the next car, and that means that some vehicles with plenty of life left are getting traded in for the latest and greatest.  Chief among these long lasting leviathans is the Toyota Land Cruiser, and yours truly just happens to own one with 155k miles on it, and guess what, it still runs!

Yes, you heard me right, my 155k mile, 10 year old car still runs like a top, and the world deserves to know how it is holding up because all too often, perfectly good cars are cast aside, destined for the auction block.

To be clear, is the ol’ Land Cruiser perfect?  No, but at 10 years old it’s about as close as it can be.

However, everything that’s important and crucial to the everyday function of the vehicle is working just as it should.  The engine runs like new, the suspension still feels great, the brakes (recently serviced) stop it on a dime and the transmission has no problem moving those cogs despite the hefty load of the LC.  The rattles are almost nonexistent and it still feels tight as a drum despite a decade in the world and the equivalent number of miles to circling the globe over 3 times.

The imperfections are minimal.  There are some dime sized sings here and there, a little rock chip in the glass that looks like it might spread if I cough on it hard, but aside from that and needing a vacuum, I’d personally jump in this truck and drive it to the southern tip of South America tomorrow without a moments hesitation, that’s how much confidence I have in it.

The point of this check in come rant?  No, it’s not for me to say look at how awesome my truck is (but kind of is).  It’s about getting consumers to wake up and realize that some cars will LAST if you put in the time and energy to maintain them and show them the TLC they deserve.  To be fair, there are plenty of vehicles out there that simply aren’t made to last long, but if you do your research and buy the right vehicle, you could find yourself owning a vehicle for a lot longer than the average owner, and that’s not only a point of pride, but also something that could keep a little bit more money in your pocket.

Picture of said Land Cruiser



The Underdog Cars: Vehicles that don’t always make the cut (but probably should)

There so many well-built, competitive cars rolling out of manufacturers’ doors these days that sometimes a “Top 5” list can exclude some great vehicles just by virtue of the number of cars on the list.  Popular, more established manufacturers often get on those lists for a lot of different reasons (not always on merit alone, mind you) and some strong offerings from lesser known or trusted brands get overlooked and are left collecting dust on dealership lots.  Well we are here to help you consider some of the stronger vehicle offerings in this collection of outcasts just in case you are looking for something a little different than everything else on the road. 



1)      Mazda CX-9:  The full-size offering from Mazda often gets overlooked for reasons unknown to us.  While it may not the largest in the full-size vehicle category, it still represents a strong value with a great interior and nimble handling for its size (plus a new look for 2016).  You know it will be reliable as the Mazda name is certainly a solid one, and the features list is extensive making the tech-focused buyer a happy one.  All in all, the big Mazda is definitely a strong contender for those looking for a little extra room but don’t want to sacrifice on style or driving manners. 


2)      Mazda 3:  In a world where Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas rule the compact market, the Mazda 3 offers a bit more sportiness than most.  The fun little car is a great alternative to the somewhat hum-drum options from the other Japanese automakers, offering better handling and a well-appointed interior, it is hard to see why buyers don’t grab these in the same numbers as its competitors.


3)      Kia Optima:  Korean manufacturers have been on the move these days, offering cars with great interiors, stylish exteriors, and a strong bang for your buck.  It’s safe to say that Honda and Toyota are starting to think more seriously about what to do here, but the Optima has been slowly taking sales away from the Japanese giants, and rightfully so.  Being in direct competition with the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry is not an easy place to be, but we think that this Optima is one of the better offerings out there in the mid-size sedan market with its upscale interior and the 10 year 100k mile warranty.


4)      Mazda 6: If there were ever a looker in the sedan segment, the Mazda 6 would be it.  While it may be lacking a bit in power, the build quality, interior fit/finish and overall driving dynamics make the Mazda a winner in this segment.  A fun to drive, well-proportioned vehicle that offers good gas mileage, all for a very reasonable price is a tough combo, but Mazda has done just that and it is surprising that these don’t leave dealership lots all that quickly.  Be sure to opt in for the upgraded HID headlights offering great visibility at night and in inclement weather.


5)      Volvo S60:  While some might argue that The S60 is a very popular car in certain areas, the numbers don’t lie and the Swedes can’t really keep up with the Camry and Accord in sales.  The S60 is a more contemporary, minimalist approach to the sedan with chic styling and a sparsely decorated interior.  However, it is still very feature packed and comes with an available AWD making it a great choice for those in colder, snow stricken climates.  


6)      Toyota Venza:  While this slightly portly looking crossover isn’t exactly the best looking vehicle in the segment, its slightly more upscale nature makes it a strong contender.  With the right trim level selected, this can be a very relaxing, well equipped vehicle that would make most buyers looking for a little bit more space than a car (but decent gas mileage) very happy with their purchase.  Couple that with Toyota reliability, and you have a real winner on your hands.


7)      Nissan Murano:  The crossover market is a tough one, but the Murano has received good reviews all around from most major publications.  A different offering than the Subaru Forester, Toyota Rav4 and Honda CR-V that you see most everywhere, the Nissan offers a few more features and a slightly more luxurious feel that its competitors, definitely something that people don’t usually expect out of a Nissan.


8)      Lexus CT-200h:  In the hybrid department, it is hard to top the omni-present Toyota Prius.  However, Lexus’s own luxurious attempt to corner more well-heeled buyers represents a significant step up in fit/finish over the Prius.  While the price difference might be enough to scare away some potential buyers, you are getting the build quality and luxury of a Lexus at a discount on some of their larger models. The baby Lexus makes for a neat little package for those wanting the Lexus feel but in a much more tidy package. 

So next time you are thinking about buying a car, check out some of the options above.  Just because a car doesn’t sell in high numbers doesn’t mean it isn’t a good option!