In this week's Autoblog Podcast, Editor-in-Chief Greg Migliore is joined by Road Test Editor Zac Palmer. This week, they talk about the cars they've been driving, including the 2021 Volkswagen Arteon, 2021 Kia K5 GT, 2022 Acura MDX and long-term 2021 Acura TLX. In this week's news, they talk about the possibility of a Nissan Xterra return and break down what's going on over at Lotus — the British sports car company is axing its current lineup and replacing the Elise, Exige and Evora with a new car called the Type 131.

Transcript

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GREG MIGLIORE: Welcome back to "The Autoblog Podcast." I'm Greg Migliore. Joining me today is our road test editor, Zac Palmer. How are you doing, man?

ZAC PALMER: Not too bad. It's finally starting to look like winter out there, it seems. We've had a pretty mild one so far, but maybe it's time for some winter activities finally.

GREG MIGLIORE: I think so. I've only shoveled maybe once before this winter. And I wasn't even sure I really needed to, because it melted pretty quickly afterwards. But it's about time. There's only about five days left in January. So let's jump right in. We've got some great cars to talk about.

Zac, you've been driving most of them-- the Volkswagen Arteon, the Kia K5, the Acura MDX, and then we'll do another quick Acura TLX update as I continue to navigate winter here in our long termer-- our newest long termer. We'll talk some news here about the Xterra coming back, some news out of Lotus, then may be a couple other things if there's time. So let's jump right in.

The Arteon I've always found to be an interesting car for Volkswagen. They've dabbled in some higher-end models, like the CC I always thought was memorable-- beautiful car. The Phaeton, going back a little bit-- cars that were beautiful that didn't sell really. But the Arteon is sort of their, I think, opportunity to make it maybe a little bit more accessible. But still, it's a pretty good-looking car. They didn't do a ton as far as the updates, but just enough to kind of keep it fresh. You drove this back actually a few weeks ago. Thoughts-- what do you think?

ZAC PALMER: Yeah, the Arteon is a weird one, I must say. It's one of those cars that really feels like it would play well in Europe, but just sort of hit with the wrong timing here in the US. Whereas when somebody wants to spend $45, $50,000 on a car, nowadays they're buying a crossover.

You know, they're buying a Volkswagen T-bonne or Volkswagen Atlas. And that has really been the Achilles heel of the Arteon so far. They really haven't sold many of them at all-- just a couple few thousand per year, which is not great when you're talking about a midsize sedan-- sort of about the same size as a Honda Accord or, you know, any midsize sedans like those.

But just like you said, Volkswagen has updated it this year. And it's still the same basic car, the same premise. But I think that they've sweetened the deal by making it a little bit more premium. The interior is really where they spent most of their time on. It sort of was priced in that budget Audi range before, but now it really looks and feels like a budget Audi in there.

You have all the big touch-haptic controls. You know how Audi has their dual touch screens with most of their new cars, well, this is sort of like a quasi-dual touchscreen approach-- and the center stack, again. And you have some really great ambient lighting-- you can choose from 30 different colors.

The whole dash gets a redesign that makes it look a lot more premium Before, it just sort of looked like a semi-gussied-up Passat, which just isn't great when you're charging $10, $15,000 more than a Passat. And they even went the whole touch-haptic route in the steering wheel too, which I actually found to be pretty useful, unlike the Mercedes touch-haptic steering wheel that I recently tried out in the new E-Class.

That thing was just impossible to use from an ease-of-use standpoint. But in the Arteon, there's a nice combination of touch-haptic feedback and actual physical controls there that feels right and is not distracting to the road.

So that's about it on the inside. On the outside, they did one design thing that I think really makes a difference is that they've extended DRLs all the way into the center, so it's almost like there's a front shield on the car of light. And it looks luxurious. It doesn't look like a cheap Volkswagen or anything like that. And the design, really, I think is the number one thing with the Arteon, why somebody might buy it is the thing is just so pretty.

You know, there's maybe only one or two sedans that I think sort of get up to that level right now. And one of them is the Kia Stinger GT, which is this car's main competition being a hatchback. And really, I think, the Kia Stinger is its biggest problem too. Because instead of giving us the Volkswagen Arteon R, like Europe gets a performance version, we still stick with the standard Arteon that has 2-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, 268 horsepower, front-wheel drive standard, all-wheel drive available.

And the car is just-- well, it's just not very sporty. It's your typical just boulevard cruiser-- very comfortable, very sedate. It's not particularly quick. It doesn't handle particularly well. It's just sort of good, whereas you can buy a Kia Stinger or Kia Stinger GT for just about the same price. And that thing is a roaring sports then-- way, way more fun than the Arteon.

And I think that that price issue, you know, when you're looking at $45,000-ish-- I mean, I was tracking these things back before the update, like, sort of what kind of discounts they were going for. And you could find scads of them on Autotrader and dealer lots for upwards of $10,000 off the sticker. And you know, at $35,000, I think that the car really starts to become something that you should consider-- something that's a great value buy.

But you know, at its highest trims, like the one that I tested, the one that I drove was about $48,000. You know, at that price, it is just really, really tough to actually recommend this when you can have a car that's comfortable, fast, a premium interior, all that hatchback utility in the Kia Stinger-- the Arteon just falls flat as this sort of Volkswagen enthusiast, design enthusiast vehicle.

And it's just sort of like floating out there. You mentioned the Phaeton right off the top, and that's a car that's weirdly dear to my heart. My mom actually daily drove one of those when I was growing up. My dad bought one used, traded his C5 Corvette for it. This was after they hit the crazy depreciation, because those things were over $100,000 new.

But those sold-- I think its best year ever sold about 2,000 of them. And that was somewhat solid proof that people didn't really want to pay a ton of money for a Volkswagen-- a car with a Volkswagen badge on it. Obviously, the Arteon is on a whole other level of-- it's way cheaper than Phaeton, but it's still playing as that flagship piece that people would just rather have an Atlas at $50,000 if you're just going to buy a car that is not especially fun or especially this special piece. So yeah, I don't know. What do you think about the Arteon, Greg?

GREG MIGLIORE: Well, I'll say this-- earlier today in Slack, we were talking about how the Kia K900 and the Cadenza are donezo. I just have a feeling at some point we're going to be having a discussion about how the Arteon is donezo. Even though that may be sounding cynical-- because the car is lovely. I agree with everything you said.

I just don't really think there's a really solid spot for it. I think pricing is tricky-- even though tricky, it's, like, reasonable. When you look at the average price of a new car is, like, around $41-- $45 for all the stuff you get, for a car that looks like this, is actually a pretty good deal. I would wager you get more on this than you do, like, your average Mercedes in that price point.

So you know, there's definitely some things going for it, let me put it that way. But I just-- I don't really think the buyer, frankly, exists. You know, I mean, there's-- like, sedans are a tricky proposition right now. And I think if you're looking for a sedan in this price point, and you want it to have some for premium-- a bit of a premium or luxury feel, you're just looking at, like, something else. You know, it's not a Volkswagen.

You're going to the Acura store, you're looking maybe even at Genesis. You're seeing maybe how much you can sort of slide into a Mercedes, you know, for that price point-- maybe make some compromises if you're trying to stick to a budget. So to me, it's sort of like, you know, a car without really a market. You know, and I think it's really tricky as auto journalists, because we always are talking about how much we love sedans.

But then we tend to criticize these like, you know, really, like, good efforts that are put forth. But I mean, it's tough. You know, Ford killed basically all of its sedans. The Impala is gone. You know, those are larger cars, but I mean, still, it's a very challenging proposition to find an audience, because usually you've got to either be luxurious or sporty.

Just, like, sort of nice, and premium, and kind of expensive, it's a little too ubiquitous. It's a little too nebulous. It's pick your adjectives and your superlatives. This one just seems like it's going to get kind of lost in the shuffle-- although I agree with your assessment. It sounds like a perfectly lovely car. I have no issues with the car itself.

ZAC PALMER: Yeah.

GREG MIGLIORE: So we'll see.

ZAC PALMER: That's the toughest thing is that the car is legitimately good. And you know, it just is not finding any homes. You could buy an A5 Sportback, which is a very similarly-sized, you know, just a little bit smaller-- but also a hatchback, it has an Audi badge on it for around the same price as a mid or top-trim Arteon. What are people going to do when they go down to their local Volkswagen Audi dealer?

You know, a lot of people are probably going to go for the Audi, even though you might get a few more features or tech things on the Volkswagen for a little bit cheaper. It's a tough argument to make for Volkswagen. And yeah, you might not be wrong about the whole not being long for the world thing.

I really hope that it sticks around. And I wish that Volkswagen would really put some marketing shove behind it and put it in front of more people's faces. But the way of the world is the crossover right now. So I'm afraid it just might not work out.

GREG MIGLIORE: For sure. And I think the thing, too, is VW has not quite made, like, the transition like Volvo has to a point where I think we as critics would say many Volvos are very premium feeling. When I look at Volkswagen, there's a whole slew of different things you can do. You can get a relatively cheap one, or you can, like, sort of scale up to something that's more expensive.

And they're trying to be both, whereas a brand like Volvo isn't. And I would say even 10 years ago, they were a little bit closer together. You know, VW was obviously the namesake brand of this enormous company. You know, the identity wasn't really in question. Volvo looked like it might not exist. And now it seems like, hey, Volvo, just because of their beautiful design and some of the risks they've taken with their power trains-- and of course, safety-- has been able to sort of secure that, like, prestige position.

But that's lot on a car that was basically a light refresh and we're not sure is going to exist much longer. Let's move along here to the K5, speaking of sedans hatchbacks. It's a very attractive car too, but I think this one's future and its prospects are a bit more promising. Did you do anything fun with the K5?

ZAC PALMER: Yeah, so this is the Kia K5 GT. So it's the hot one. It's the one that I've been pretty excited to drive this ever since I drove the standard K5 a few weeks ago. That car was nice and all, but it had a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that just wasn't all that potent or special. It was just your run-of-the-mill midsize family sedan.

The GT, on the other hand, is rocking a 2.5-liter turbo-charged 4-cylinder with an 8-speed dual clutch automatic. Now, that automatically grabs my attention, because there are not many non-luxury, non-premium vehicles out there that have an engine as big as that and as powerful as that. And I should mention, 290-horsepower, 311 pound feet of torque-- that's better than the Accord 2-liter turbo. That's more than the Mazda 6 with its 2.5 turbo charged engine.

It's some very, very good horsepower that that thing is producing. And I should also mention that the GT is not just an engine like some of those cars are. You know, it's also better suspension, better wheels. Obviously, the 8-speed dual clutch transmission makes a big difference as well. And it's also design. There's a styling package that comes with it. The interior is a lot nicer-- has much bigger bolsters on the seats.

Overall, the car is a properly sporty package that you get there. And first impressions are, this thing sort of reminds me of what the original Mazda Speed 3 was like, and that there is just a stupid amount of power going to those front wheels. And it's just sort of scratching around like a little puppy dog, can't get a grip, there's tons of torque steer.

And yeah, this thing, it's a lot of fun. But it has that sort of good and bad side to it. And right away, I was like, oh man, this thing would be really, really good if it had a limited slip diff like the Veloster N, because you're going along through a corner, and as soon as you start getting on the throttle, boom, torque steer. It's yanking the wheel out of your hands.

And yeah, I mean, that's the pluses and minuses of sending that much power to the front wheels without doing a whole lot to counteract those forces. It's like everywhere I go, you know, you have to be super, super light on the throttle, otherwise you're just going to do a front wheel burnout in this thing. It halfway reminded me of a scatpack that just instantly spins the tires all the time. Except, obviously, these are the front are spinning, not the rear wheels spinning.

The suspension upgrades, I think, were really well done. It's not too stiff that it's uncomfortable as a daily driver at all. It's just enough to give it a little more sharper edge when you're actually on a good road. But when you're taking a highway trip or bouncing along a pretty bad city road, it's not uncomfortable or anything.

If you're getting out of, like, an Accord 2-liter turbo sport and hopping into this, it's not like you're hopping into some hardcore sports car or anything like that. I should also note that they are fixed dampers. It's not an adaptive damper system that you can switch between comfort and sport. The sport seats themselves, those are really good.

I think that it's just the right amount of bolstering for daily driving. You know, you can slip in and out of the seats nicely, but it's not like you're climbing over anything. And it's really holding you in nicely when you do want to drive quickly. And the appearance package I think is good. They might have been able to go a little further with it.

It has these really nice quad exhaust tailpipes back there, and they look good. They're real. There's no fakery going on back there, which is nice to see as an enthusiast car. But you get some Stinger vibes. I might just want a little bit more from it, especially with how quick it is.

They claim 0 to 60 in 5.8 seconds. That's a good number. It's not, like, blow your socks off crazy fast. And I know I definitely haven't been able to hit that-- maybe in the warm with some really prepared, nice roads. But in the really cold winter driving we've been doing around here, there's just not enough grip.

And honestly, this car could be a lot different than how I've described. And it's crazy just torque steer all over the place just because we are in such cold winter weather. So I would be curious to see how it drove on a nice 80-degree day to see if I still think the same about it just being too much power to the front for its own good.

But it's a riot. And if you're in the market for something like this, you're thinking, oh, Honda just dropped the manual in the Accord with the 2-liter turbo. Well, this thing has an 8-speed dual clutch transmission, and it shifts super quickly. It's obviously not three pedals, but it's better than what pretty much everybody else is doing with a slush box torque convert automatic that's quick-ish.

But this is more like a transmission from a BMW-- like, the ZF speed, in that it responds pretty quickly to your commands. So all around, lots of fun, could definitely be improved. It feels like it's sort of, like, middle of the way. It's, like, really, like, halfway leaning into the sport, halfway, you know, not completely going all the way in-- but nonetheless, a really, really cool and interesting effort from Kia, I think.

GREG MIGLIORE: Yeah, no, that's a good synopsis. And I think it's interesting too-- you mentioned some interesting competitors. And just, you know, when I was kind of reading about this car ahead of time, it's drawing a lot of different comparisons-- like, even some favorable to the BMW 3-Series, which maybe is a stretch in some ways. But to me, this is a really big step forward for Kia, considering that the K5 replaces the Optima, which was fine.

You know, but to me, just even switching the name, it feels edgier, it feels cooler. It feels like they're trying to do something more ambitious. It's a beautiful car. You know, again, they took some risks with the design and with the powertrain options. Adding this GT line is, I think, very impressive. But I give them a ton of credit for that.

You know, I kind of wonder, like, who exactly this buyer is. But on the other hand, this is like-- this car seems so good to me, that I feel like it will find its identity as this, like, enthusiast hatch-- that the Arteon that we were just discussing is probably going to struggle to find its spot in the market. So excited to drive the GT line.

I think that is definitely the one that as enthusiasts, we would be most into, I think. And yeah, I mean, to me, Kia has done a lot of good things for enthusiasts in the last two, three years. I mean, the Stinger, we loved it. We had a long termer that was really impressive. You know, there were some issues, particularly with the interior, particularly as our year with it went on.

But to your point, very good first effort, and same with this-- very good first effort. Not quite there, it sounds like, based on your impressions, but getting there. And you know, I'll also give Kia a lot of credit too for-- they're trying to really become an enthusiast brand. It's something they've been working on for the better part of a decade.

They got into racing. They've been trying to, like, make that a part of their pedigree. And it's not easy to do. I remember I was at a track just outside of Las Vegas a few years back now, and Kia was taking us for rides in the race cars. And literally the PR guy was like, you know, we've got to be good at this, and we've hired some of the best people we can. Because if we're not good at this, we're going to get laughed out of this.

You know it's sort of like, you know, Ford and Chevy that have been racing for hundreds of years-- Honda, Toyota-- that have those backgrounds, you can have a bad year, you can have a bad car-- like, they were very mindful. They were like, hey, we have to get this right in, basically, our first attempt. And I give them a lot of credit for doing that, you know, because it's tough to not have performance in motor sports at all in your background and know that you may not even get there and to take that risk.

So I think it's cool. We're seeing it pay off in their cars, in their performance chops. And you know, as an enthusiast, I'm impressed. I like it when brands go for it. And that's what we're seeing from Kia right now.

ZAC PALMER: Yeah, 100%. I mean, the Hyundai Veloster N, I think, is the biggest step that the Hyundai Motor Group has made as far as performance goes, again, in a long time. The Stinger was great, the G70 was fantastic, but the Veloster N, that's a true enthusiast car. And there's going to be the Kona N coming up. I think that thing's probably going to be a riot if they give it the same treatment as the Veloster N.

This K5 GT feels like, you know, an echelon below-- if I were to compare this to AMG, because that seems like the easiest thing to do-- like an N is like a 63, and then GT as far as the Kia line is sort of like 43. And that's sort of how I would rank them as far as those echelons go. And I should also mention that there will be a Hyundai Sonata equivalent to this called the Sonata N-line. It's the same engine, same setup, same 2.5-turbo with the 8-speed dual clutch. So it'll be interesting.

At that point, it'll almost just be, which do you like that looks better? Which interior do you like more? Because they're pretty much going to be the same underneath. And I think that James in Portland is going to be driving that Sonata for us soon. So I'd be curious to see what he thinks of this thing.

GREG MIGLIORE: Yeah. It's interesting too, I think, as Hyundai Motor Group has really dialed down on performance and sort of shared that through both Hyundai and Kia. Every-- as I think back, every trip I have been on with two of those two brands recently had a track component, which isn't something you would think about. And you know, they would draw comparisons to their sort of sibling brand-- sometimes, like, sort of trying to, like, one up the other, which I think is cool. So we'll see.

ZAC PALMER: Yep.

GREG MIGLIORE: But let's transition to the Acura MDX, which is kind of a hard fade here. That's not like either of these two sedans we've been talking about-- very important vehicle for Acura, though. And it's basically a vehicle that is among, you know, the better selling vehicles, crossovers. So this is something that's very mainstream, very important. Impressions-- what do you think?

ZAC PALMER: Yeah. So we might think that it's very different from, you know, the performance-ish slanted GT, but Acura has made performance a bit of a priority with this three-row crossover too, which is sort of weird to say off the top. But that's the way that Acura is really going these days.

You saw them emphasize performance with the RDX, and they really emphasized performance with the TLX. Greg is obviously going to chat about our long termer right after this. And some of the good things that I have to say about the MDX also can be said about the TLX-- most specifically the SH all-wheel drive system. They're pretty much one and the same.

And it's one of the best torque vectoring systems out there. But I think what's really important with this MDX is the design. And this thing, it looks totally different than the outgoing MDX and that it's riding on a totally new platform with a much longer dash to axle ratio that makes it look like some of its rear-drive competitors, like an Audi Q7, some similar proportions to something like a Lincoln Aviator-- but of course, with Acura's own design slant on it.

And, man, it looks really, really good in person. This is, honestly, one of my favorite looking luxury crossovers from this segment, of course, right now. So they've done that well, and they've also done the interior really well too. This thing no longer looks like it's from the early-2010s, late-2000s as it was before with its weird to touch screen and then, I don't know, just total mash-up of buttons in there.

No, it looks modern, it looks luxurious, it looks sporty inside. It's a bit of a tech pantheon, really. It's the first digital instrument cluster from Acura that we've ever seen. And if you don't count the Honda E, it would also be the first as far as Honda and Acura go. Obviously, we don't get that little electric car here.

But no, I think that the MDX is a great car to showcase it on. One little Easter egg-- I'm not sure if it is an Easter egg, but it's cool in that when you put it into sport mode, the tachometer looks just like the S-2000s tachometer in that it arcs across the top in this sort of horizontal half circle. It looks straight out of an S-2000, and I just thought that was a really cool touch-- you know, just sort of a throwback to Honda's performance heyday right there.

But you got a little bit more utility. They made the third row usable back there. Before if you were an adult, you wouldn't want to sit back there at all. Now I think if you have a family and, you know, even taller, larger kids, or even an adult could sit back there comfortably, because they gave it a couple more inches of legroom, a couple more inches of headroom-- overall, just a lot more spacious back there now.

The third row has this really neat little feature-- I should say the second row has this really neat little feature that you can fold down the middle seat, and that becomes this massive center console, or completely take the middle seat out, and then you have captain's chairs. So you don't really have to choose from the dealer like, oh, do I want this captain's chairs from the factory, or do I want three-across seating?

You can have both, because it's super easy to take that center seat out. I did it in about five seconds. It's light, and it's a really, really great design, I think. So as far as, like, a family vehicle goes, I think Acura did a good job in the updates here. And as I was saying with the interior, Acura has just made huge strides on interior quality in general with its past few models.

I'm sure you've noticed it with our TLX, Greg, but this MDX is the same way-- slathered in a bunch of really great leather, the infotainment screen is quick and snappy. You know, it's that interesting and weird touchpad technology that definitely takes a minute to get used to. But I've driven enough Acuras as of late that I'm really starting to get to like that infotainment. I'm still not 100% there, but I have a feeling with some more time in the TLX, that I will be more of an advocate of that system.

GREG MIGLIORE: That's an interesting point. I'm not sure I'm there with you on that infotainment. I've been popping in and out of the TLX every couple of days-- you know, without a commute, you know, drive every day usually. But every time I get in there, I'm like, oh my gosh. How does this work again?

And I found with, like, cold fingers, it's kind of hard to get that touchpad to, like, do what I want. So yeah, I'm getting educated. I don't know. I don't know if I'm ever going to get there. And that's why we do long-term tests, we get multiple opinions here. You know, other people like pick these things right up, but, man, I don't know-- it took me literally, like, five minutes just to go from satellite to FM radio the other day, and I was like, what is happening here? So I would say my issue with it is not that it doesn't work, it's not intuitive. So--

ZAC PALMER: Yeah, I agree. It's definitely not intuitive. And the first time I tried it like a year ago in the RDX, I was like, what is this madness? It makes no sense at all. But as I keep using it more, and more, and more Acuras, I'm starting to learn it. And I imagine if you actually own one of these things, you would learn it, and it'll become more like second nature. But that doesn't mean you have to like it at all. You can still prefer a touchscreen if that's what you like.

GREG MIGLIORE: That interior sounds brilliant to me, though. I actually didn't know that part about how you could move the seats around and sort of configure it how you would like. I think that's something we should see more of in three-row SUVs, because I think with that part of the market really growing, really becoming something people want, it's not necessarily that people want three rows, it's that they like the idea of a larger vehicle, and they might want to have three rows-- but they don't want it all of the time.

So for some people, that means you essentially have a five-seater or a four-seater SUV, because you're driving with that third row put down. And then if you can sort of move the middle seating around, all the better because, again, with an SUV crossover, you've got to be able to, like, move stuff and people. And the circumstances change.

You know, if your life is static and you're not, you know, like, you know, things aren't changing, maybe you go for a sedan, or a sports car, or something. But one of the reasons you buy a crossover like the MDX is that functionality. So I'm excited. And I'm actually super excited about that S-2000 callback.

That is-- like, that puts me right back in-- like, I remember driving the S-2000 club racer back when I started out in this business-- bright yellow. Oh man, that car was amazing. You got so much attention in that, the gearbox was amazing. And again, just watching it light up-- it was almost like an '80s, like, kind of "Knight Rider" theme, if you will.

Like, it was really throwback even 13, 14 years ago. So that's a nice cue. That's like when you see some of these-- I'll make a bad comparison, but, like, if you watch different sporting events and you're like, oh, that team's wearing throwback jerseys, or the numbers are throwbacks this week-- I always like that stuff. So that's good to hear.

ZAC PALMER: Oh yeah. And it's a good segue to this car's performance in that it's not like your boring three-row crossover to drive. That new platform, way more rigid than the outgoing one. It also has Acura's double-wishbone suspension design that it's getting into most of its new cars-- same with the TLX. It handles way better than I figured a 4,500-pound crossover would.

And I've driven most of the competitors. This thing feels more light on its feet, feels agile, changes direction quickly. It's tough to really throw it-- to actually get it feeling like the big crossover SUV that it is. And that's really great. And I will credit [? DSH. ?] I will drive for some of that, just because its torque vectoring ability to really pull you through turns and, you know, send power left to right, front to back is among the best in the business at that.

As far as actual acceleration forward, it still has the 3.5-liter V6 it's had for what feels like forever at this point. It does get a new transmission-- has a new 10-speed automatic instead of the 9-speed, which is good, because they gave it a lower first gear that helps acceleration. Still doesn't feel fast, it just feels a little quicker than it did before, which, you know, as far as, you know, just a family workhorse goes, that's all fine and dandy because the Type S is coming. And that'll have the 3-liter turbo charge V6, it has 355 horsepower.

So if you really want something quick, the Type S is there. And that's in summer. For now, though, you can get this MDX, which I think is a really good car. And value wise versus some of the others out there, especially if you're looking at a German, you're getting a ton for your money. You know, you still won't get something as fancy as a three-row Mercedes-Benz crossover with just lavish accouterments and, you know, the type of quality that goes into those cars. But for what it is, you know, fully loaded at just over $61,000, MDX is a really, really good luxury buy, I think.

GREG MIGLIORE: I think in broad strokes, you've kind of described how I feel so far about the TSX sedan. Again, we intro'd this last week on the podcast. We're going to try and make our long-termers a little bit more of a regular part of the podcast this year. Just quick hits here, but again, drove it for another week. Look for that introduction, we're going to have that up on the site fairly soon.

The words are done, I just need to take some pictures of this car. But it's a beautiful car. And I think some of the things I've been noticing as I've been spending more time in it is I think Acura has done a nice job of cleaning up its interiors a little bit. Obviously, this one, which is an ace-back trim is gorgeous inside, with a lot of the different, like, racing cues, like the sports steering wheel, which is flat-bottomed, and some of the stitching. Obviously, there's some exterior cues as well.

But the interior is very nice, and it feels very-- I would say it feels more natural than some of the interiors Acura has been rolling out recently. At times, it seemed like the shapes were a little bit too much. The TSX is nice. In some ways, it's a cleaner experience than many of the BMWs I've been in lately like the 5-Series and the 3-Series, where it just feels like the insides are, like, bulging kind of at you.

So that's been a pleasant surprise. Like, I knew the TSX was a gorgeous car. I was very excited about it from that perspective, because it's very clear that without even knowing what it is, you would assume it's like a rear-wheel drive car. You know, it's just got that long hood, you know, the dash-to-axle ratio-- all the things that you expect. It's all-wheel drive and front-wheel drive, in fact.

But you know, you get inside, and I think Acura interiors have been a little bit of a mixed bag in recent years. And this is nice-- it's a good step forward for them. Yeah, I mean, this one-- it's got the 10-speed, which is good. It's got the 2-liter turbo, turn-72 horsepower.

The Type S, which is coming this spring-- we haven't heard it's not. We're talking about 355-horsepower. You know, my take is that it's actually good we got the ace-back with just the 2-liter turbo. If this is the car that most people who are going to try to get into it are going to buy, I may be proven wrong on that, I don't know. Maybe people will decide if I want a sports sedan, I want all that power-- I don't know.

But my thought is this one, ours is coming in at $47,000-- just a little bit over. It really feels right to me, you know? If, again, we're talking about that average transaction price of $41,000 just in the US, this one for $47 feels like you're getting a lot of car for that price-- it feels like a good value. So yeah, I mean, I guess I haven't driven it that much since we last podcasted, you know, the more I've been getting into it, like, testing its limits, trying different things about it, noticing different things-- you know, it's been, like, kind of through osmosis, you know, like, I've been absorbing it.

You know, and, again, that interior is something just this week I would highlight is almost a pleasant surprise. You know, I mean, you know, we'll see about that infotainment system. I'll be interested to hear your take on that. Some of the driving modes have been interesting. I've been-- you know, comfort is fine. The Sport 1 is fine too.

It's been tough, you know, in these conditions to really stretch this car out a little bit, to really figure out, hey, what do we have here? So I'm excited in the spring. Maybe we can at least drive it quicker and not worry about flipping off the expressway or things like that. But you can feel the performance chops here.

The 2-liter turbo is a very good engine. It sounds good. The revs build quickly. There's nothing in there that's, like, oh, wow, they really swung and missed on this. It feels good. So I know you're an Acura guy. I imagine you can't wait to try and get this one and give it some time. But I think we're going to like this car. I think the question is, does this sort of live up to, like, these high, aspirational notions we have of it?

And I think it will. I think the other good part about this is the theme so far has been, like, sedans and their place in the ether-- Acura is making no bones, this is their car. You know, the RL is done. The ILX is-- you know, I'm going to write this, that's just like a Civic, essentially, with some nicer parts. And I like the Civic better, to be perfectly honest.

So if you want, like, a premium sedan from Acura, this is it. And it's got to be good. And I feel like they're on that path. And I think as we go on, you know, the literal and figurative journey with the TSX this year, I think it's going to prove that out. But we'll see. I mean, that's what a long-term test is all about.

ZAC PALMER: Yeah, no, I'm really excited to spend some good time with this car. Like you said, I'm a bit of an Acura guy. I own a 2001 Integra GSR myself. I've owned it for many, many years. And Acura, I haven't been feeling that performance love from them for the past-- been a while at this point-- besides the NSX, of course. But--

GREG MIGLIORE: Yeah.

ZAC PALMER: This is a car that was engineered and designed from the ground-up to please enthusiasts like ourselves. So here we are with a year. I hope and I expect to be pleased. So I will obviously check back in once I steal the car from Greg eventually and see what it's all cracked up to be.

GREG MIGLIORE: You know what I think is smart about Acura, what they've done with the mission of the TLX is there's not many sedans in the lineup right now. They're not having this big, floaty, like, want to be, like, sort of flagship vehicle, sort of like the RL was, that people weren't really buying, that was probably too big, there wasn't a spot for it. They're not trying to go super small-- like Mercedes has just decided they're going to take over the a-segment with, like, four different offerings apparently.

And that's fine. That's their strategy. I mean, I think they're all pretty good, to be honest. But it does seem a bit much-- I digress. But I mean, Acura is like, we put our resources into this car, and that's what we're going to do. And you feel it. And I think that's pretty smart. You know, we'll see.

They've got a great history. They've got a great motor sports history. The NSX is a brilliant supercar right now. I feel like it's starting to fly below the radar, like that people-- I mean, when you, like, just look at the car enthusiast universe, the NSX isn't something that's popping up. You know, it's like Lambos, Ferraris, R8's-- these are the cars that, like, really pop and everybody's, like, consciousness-- Porsches.

I really feel like the NSX is starting to slide off the radar, because it's kind of been around for a while. And that's fine-- cars like this tend to have a long gestation period and a long life. They don't need to do much. I drove one last spring, and it was brilliant. But again, you got to have more than that. The line I put in my story was, like, it's great to have a halo car, but it's got to reflect its light on something.

I think that's where the TSX can hopefully make some hey. I was struggling to make connections with this car, just diving through some of the dusty pages of Acura's history. You know, right now, I'm like, it's got to go back to maybe the Legend, which was a great sedan, like, 30 years ago, but also was a coupe. You know, then you get into, like, more recently, the TL, which Snyder and I were talking about in the last podcast just how much we enjoyed driving that car with the manual and the super-handling all-wheel drive.

The TSX, actually, when I was really trying to, like-- I guess I had a little too much time on my hands today-- the TSX was actually the one that was more of the critical, like, Darling. Like "Car and Driver" put it on their 10 Best three straight years. At this point, I'm reading from Wikipedia. But I mean, you know, beyond that-- you know, Acura started to drop off.

Their cars got a little too nebulous. The interiors got a little too not what we're looking for-- or not inspired. That's what I'm trying to say here-- like, the inspiration, the ethos started to slip away. So I don't know. I mean, they've been around since 1986. People forget that Acura came before Lexus.

You know, they were the ones that, like, sort of laid the groundwork for, like, other kinds of luxury brands. You know, they're doing-- without Acura, you know, who knows what happens? So I give them all the credit in the world, because they were, like, the original risk-taking brand that could challenge the Americans, and the Germans, and say, hey, look, at what we can do. Look at this other style of luxury.

And it obviously has taken off. And putting a lot on the shoulders of the TSX, but these are all the things that are going through my mind when I'm driving it, you know? So--

ZAC PALMER: Yeah.

GREG MIGLIORE: We'll see.

ZAC PALMER: I mean, and looking at history, back when the original NSX launched, 1991, a whole slew of awesome Acuras followed.

GREG MIGLIORE: Yes.

ZAC PALMER: This new NSX launched, you know, just a few years ago now. Let's hope a whole slew of awesome Acuras follow. I have my fingers crossed. It's looking good so far. So yeah, we'll see.

GREG MIGLIORE: Let's talk some news then. Running over to the Nissan Xterra-- we had a news hit this week talking about that dealers are demanding that this thing come back. I can't disagree. I think the Xterra-- when you talk about identity, it definitely had one. Nissan has a rather aged SUV lineup, and I think the Xterra was a name that, frankly, had some equity into it.

So my take right away here is, yes, they should. Bronco, Hummer, the Wrangler, the 4Runner, Land Cruiser-- you name it, the segment is huge just depending on the size and price point. Nissan's got some credibility there. 100%, I think they should do it.

ZAC PALMER: Me too. I mean, when they decided to go full unibody with the Pathfinder, they lost, you know, obviously, a true body-on-frame off-roader like that. The only one they have now is the Armada, which is huge. To me, an Xterra feels like a perfect 4Runner competitor. That thing, as aged and as ancient as it is, still sells like gangbusters.

There's a certain amount of cachet with the Xterra name. I don't look at it with, like, huge stars in my eyes or anything like that. But it is an off-roading name that people will know and remember seeing this rugged type of vehicle. And if Nissan can come and put something that's legitimately good off-road, but with that name on it, it can probably succeed right now. So yeah, just like you said, I am all for bringing some sort of off-road Xterra-like vehicle back into Nissan's lineup.

GREG MIGLIORE: I think it should be a slam dunk. I think when dealers are saying things like that, they usually know what they're talking about. So let's move along to Lotus, a brand that does not have very many dealers. But they also don't have many cars either. Reading another news hit, it's the new type 131. And that means the Elise, the Exige, the Evora are all donezo.

Check it out on "Autoblog." Ronan Glon, one of our contributors, he wrote this story. He wrote the Xterra story. So do check those out-- great writing here by Ronan. You know, I don't know how I feel about this. I think those names actually have a bit of equity. The strategy makes some sense, just because Lotus is so niche that, sure, you don't need three cars.

I don't know-- this is one of those kind of head-scratchers at times where you-- I really like Lotus-- Loti, Lotuses. You had one the summer, which was kind of neat. But you know, I don't know, seems like kind of a bold move. And I kind of wonder if this is a sign that maybe they're in a little bit of trouble. I don't know. You know, what's your take?

ZAC PALMER: You know, I think this is good, but it's also sort of sad. I think it's very sad to see, you know, a name like the Elise go away that has been synonymous with the most hardcore track vehicle any enthusiast could buy. Obviously, you haven't been able to buy one new in the US for some time now due to our regulations. But regardless, it's still sad to know in the back of my head that Lotus is not going to be selling the Lotus Elise anymore.

Obviously, there's the Evora out there that we can buy, which, as you alluded to, I drove this summer and is a brilliant, brilliant driver's car. So that's also sad to be going away. But I think the light that we can see in this is that this is going to be-- the new type 131 is going to be a car that is done in the same vein as the Evora and Elise with the same ethos.

It's going to be a super lightweight sports car. The reports claim that there's not going to be any kind of electrification. I can pretty much guarantee you that there's going to be a manual transmission available. There will probably be some sort of automatic as well. If they're smart, there'll be a dual-clutch, super quick, fast-shifting automatic to maybe increase sales.

But all signs point to this being a very, very good sports car. And at the end of Ronan's story, I think he has more great news for us is that it will be sold in North America. So we haven't been able to buy the Elise for some time now. So we can't be too sad about that one dying other than its heritage. And now here is a new Lotus coming to us. That hasn't happened in a long time.

I think the Evora was back in 2009, 2010. So yeah, no, I'm pretty pumped about this. The only other car that Lotus has said that is even coming is the Evija, which is the super crazy electric hypercar. And this type 131 looks totally different than that. Hopefully it's in the $100,000-ish price range just like the Evora-- you can compare it to, like, a Cayman GT4 or cars of that ilk.

So yeah, I am super pumped to see what Lotus can do. Hopefully it'll be a little more modern, won't have an alpine head unit in it that looks straight from the local RadioShack. Yeah, this is good news as far as I'm concerned, even if I am a little sad to see those nameplates go away.

GREG MIGLIORE: I was at the Paris Motor Show in either 2010 or '12, and Lotus rolled out literally everything. They were going to do, like, a new Esprit. They had all these concepts, and then none of them happened. So I'm always a little cynical about, well, are they ever going to pull this thing off that they say they're going to do? But I hope they do.

I am someone who really likes seeing a lot of brands exist. I feel like it's great for enthusiasts particularly, because generally when you're, like, a connoisseur of something, like we are of cars, we like to have choices. You sometimes like to play from the bottom of the deck.

You know, it's like you ask a watch person, what do they like, and they'll tell you some brand you never heard of. And you're like, OK, sure. And I feel like a brand like Lotus-- I mean, they're obviously famous, historic-- but most people, let's be honest, probably don't know who they are outside of, like, the "Autoblog" type of person. So I like to see that a brand like this can survive. I think it's a good thing.

And I think we'll see. You know, I mean, I hate to see these names going away, but we'll see what's next. And that's all the time we have this week on "The Autoblog Podcast." Thanks for joining me, Zac. What are you driving this week?

ZAC PALMER: I'm actually still in this Kia K5 GT, but I'm going to be driving a Nissan Maxima 40th anniversary edition here very soon. So I will report back on that dinosaur. I am semi-excited, just because it is the 40th anniversary edition. So yeah, we'll see. It's sedan time over here.

GREG MIGLIORE: Sedan time over here too-- the TSX. I'm going to keep that for at least a couple more weeks-- got another couple story ideas, at least one I want to get out. I've got to obsess over the design of this car. So more on that to come in the coming weeks. Send us your Spend My Moneys or any questions you have.

We love doing mailbags. That's podcast@autoblog.com. Be safe out there. We'll see you next week.

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