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  • 2024 Toyota Corolla Hybrid Nightshade review: Get the Prius

    This economical and affordable sedan scores big in economy 2024 Toyota Corolla Hybrid SE review by The Road Beat Words and pictures: Mitchell Weitzman While the new Prius certainly wins in the looks and performance department, the everyday fuel economy king torch has been passed to the Corolla Hybrid. Why should you consider a Corolla Hybrid? Because this SE Nightshade model easily returned 44 MPG during our week together. For those keeping score, that's actually a two MPG improvement over the last Prius I tested. However, there's really no other reason to buy a Corolla Hybrid other than to bask in its hybrid fuel economy glory. That's not to say the Corolla Hybrid does much wrong, but rather it's one that only accomplishes a single objective attribute greatly, while the rest is resigned to modest and humble numbness. Toyota did improve the Corolla Hybrid's performance slightly upon previous model year iterations, now producing 134 total system horsepower verse 121 in 2022, but it's still a slow and noisy racket (a coarse and blender-inspired four-cylinder), and those seeking actual acceleration decency are better off stepping up to a Prius. Wow, what a weird thing to even think of saying, yet here we are in this strange new world where the Prius is not only just not slow, but even kind of quick. Corolla Hybrids can be had in either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive, and while it's next to impossible to notice any changes in driving demeanor on the road, the all-wheel drive is a practical and thoughtful option for those that seek extra security in more wintry and challenging climates. Still, stomp your right foot to the floor, and this Corolla Hybrid can reach 0-60 MPH in nine seconds dead. Slow, sure, but a pre-2023 version took over 10 seconds...so that's an improvement at least! And because this hybrid uses a continuously variable transmission paired to its rough combustion engine, there is a constant droning and unbalanced ruckus emitted anytime you accelerate. Engines like this are what helps make the smooth and silent nature of fully-electric power units much appreciated. You might be thinking that I'm being harsh on a sub-$30,000 car, but other brands make four-cylinders that are easily smoother and increasingly pleasant, and they're not even what I'd consider smooth forms of combustion to begin with. Obviously, the answer would be to turn up the stereo to drown out that four-banging trash compactor, and you might be hopeful when you spot the JBL-branded optional stereo this example has fitted for an extra $600. Yet, it's a terrible sound system, being thin and sterile, and turning up the bass to compensate just makes it worse as fidelity is lost. I've never been a fan of the supposedly JBL 'premium' sound systems that Toyota uses, and this reaffirms my predisposition. It's so disappointing, a friend even commented on it because they, too, expected more upon seeing the famous 'JBL' letters on a speaker grille. The rest of the interior is a tired and gloomy affair, appearing and feeling rather outdated. It was a breath of fresh air for Corollas when this generation was introduced in 2020, but it just as easily could have been 2012 by the aesthetics and rubbery materials. At least this SE Nightshade has a leather steering wheel, rather than the atrocious, 80-grit sandpaper item they equip as standard. If you are commonly taking adult passengers, the rear seats are snug and are best left for either children or short journeys. At least the outside shows some effort thanks to the SE Nightshade package, even if those bronze wheels and rear diffuser look wildly out of place for such a slow vehicle. Also, what is up with the badges adorning the rear? Why is the SE and Hybrid so large, and why are they tilted at an angle? I guess it's to follow the angle of the tail lights, but it just looks crooked instead and as if the badges were purchased cheaply on eBay. Very distasteful. It's a pity the powertrain is so absent-minded, because the steering is actually decent, with accurate responses and more weight than the zero-gravity, toy car steering that inhabits the Prius. Athleticism is notably improved over past Corollas, but this is still not a car that lives for corners. If you like turning, a Mazda3 or Honda Civic will easily provide the satisfaction you (and I) crave. But, compared once again to its competing stablemate, the Prius actually does handle better, with increased poise and a balance that the Corolla Hybrid lacks. "Back to the start," says Chris Martin in Coldplay's seminal "The Scientist," and so let's go just there, to happier times, because it is fuel economy where the Corolla Hybrid shines. Actually, that's about the only area where the Corolla Hybrid convincingly delivers. As this Nightshade comes in at just under $30,000, I would greatly encourage to look at the Prius instead, with its modern interior, exotic looks, and drastically better performance. Likewise, a 1.5L turbocharged Honda Civic Touring is a much nicer car in each way besides efficiency, and even then it still averages 35 MPG even without any hybrid assist; That's a sacrifice that is well worth the upside in everyday pleasure and enjoyment. Does the Corolla Hybrid make sense in any circumstance? Maybe at its most basic offering, where it retails for under $25,000, but then you'll have to make do with that aforementioned shitty carboard steering wheel. This car is so sensible and economical that, in translation, it has neighter a sense of fun nor quality. Buy it for one reason and one reason alone: the great fuel economy. 2024 Toyota Corolla Hybrid SE Nightshade As-tested price: $29,971 Pros: Magical economy Cons: Tight rear seat; No semblance of fun to be found here 2024 Toyota Corolla Hybrid SE Nightshade review by The Road Beat. All photos by Mitchell Weitzman of www.mitchellweitzmanphoto.com

  • 2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF review: Automatic is pointless

    The newly improved Miata can't show its real talents because of a mediocre (and thankfully optional) automatic transmission 2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF review by The Road Beat Words and pictures: Mitchell Weitzman I've been here before, and most regrettably, Mazda has the ignorance to continue diluting their press fleet with automatic transmission-equipped Miatas. This car might as well have had the grave misfortune of being on the receiving end of a dementor, because sadly, vast quantities of soul are lost here in application and limit my ability to properly judge the revised ND3 MX-5. It's true that the 2024 model is improved in a variety of the subtler ways. On the surface you wouldn't know it, but the bones have seen enough reworking to warrant a new internal model designation, dubbed the ND3 now. However, the changes are not all that plentiful, including some freshened headlights and wheels outside, some added center console padding (which, granted, is actually noticeable), and an updated and larger 8.8" infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay. Mechanically, top manual models gain a revised differential (not applicable here), but all models gain revised steering that should improve on-center and overall steering feel, increasing driver connection further. Are said changes noteworthy? Yes and no. The center infotainment screen is definitely larger than before, but it's still lags in operation at times and is not a touchscreen, which many prefer. Interestingly, Apple CarPlay can be used as a touchscreen, but touch operation is restricted to speeds under 3 MPH. I'm not even kidding as I tested this: CarPlay was only functional via your finger either completely stopped or when at a walking pace. Idle too fast and the touch function ceases to work. Amazingly annoying, Mazda; Good job. The interior on this Grand Touring model is a very nice place to be, with soft materials all around that give it a luxurious vibe to it, minus the fact that the driver's interior door grab handle was clearly loose each time I reached for it, not boding well for the build quality of a brand new car with under 1,000 miles. So, when on approach, it appears like a genuinely nice car inside, and it's definitely increasingly upscale compared to, say, a Toyota GR86, but it's more visual stimulation than anything. For example, there's still next to no storage inside including no glovebox, the cup holders are in strange and inconvenient locations, and the center storage is nestled between and behind the seats, taking yoga skills and flexibility (which I lack) to open and close, and it's flimsy at best. Then there's the road noise, which there is plenty of. You might hope that a folding hardtop model like the RF would be quieter than a ragtop roadster, and indeed it is, but it's also like the difference of first standing next to a jackhammer and then covering your ears with your hands; it's still going to be damn bloody loud. There was also a constant rushing of turbulence behind my left ear, almost as if the little quarter window isn't sealed properly. Unfortunately, I don't think the RF gives a very authentic convertible experience, even after the top automatically folded away. Resembling more of a 'targa top,' you don't get the same wind-in-your-hair event as the standard and cheaper soft top Miata. Instead, you're left with mostly just light rustling of your top hairs coupled to nigh-unbearable wind noise over 50 MPH. It's so loud with the roof off that, on my first drive home on the freeway, I immediately regretted it; I couldn't even hear the music without blasting it (which the stereo sounds pretty poor anyways), and then it's all made worse if you're next to other cars, as the roar of their tires are at ear level given how low the MX-5 sits. Oh, and you cannot hear any exhaust or engine noise with the roof off at higher speeds as well, something I find rather disappointing in a sports car. On slow country roads, under 50, it's very nice, as you're not having to bump the stereo to oblivion, the wind dies down, and you can talk to passengers without having to shout. So on tighter (slow) mountain roads, it works as 'vert, but even at a light trot, the wind noise picks up in multiples. To ward off fears that I must just hate convertibles, I don't; I've driven plenty of other drop tops that are perfectly bearable at higher speeds with the roofs removed. Those same cars are also considerably more expensive and have clever ways of mitigating buffeting and excess turbulence. So, maybe it's just too expensive to fix, or Mazda could hopefully just gain more time in the wind tunnel on future models. Put it this way, I've driven other convertibles that have less wind noise with their roofs folded all away than the Miata RF does with its hardtop in place . On a happier note, the good news is that the MX-5 Miata drives better than ever. Are the steering changes actually detectable? To most people, probably not, but I do find there to be a slight improvement in overall tactility and during transitions. The most simple result is a car that's easier to go straight now as you're more aware of nuanced corrections, but the adjustments do pay dividends elsewhere, too, and for the better. Body roll is still wildly present when you get frisky with the wheel, but I also have liked this about Miatas, as this gives extra visceral feedback and confidence by allowing you to really lean on the tires and understand the grip available to you. Despite soft suspension, the ride quality is still choppy and unpleasant on even lightly imperfect roads, but it's fitting of a supposedly raw and analog sports car. Look, get past my previous complaints and I'm here to tell you that, when a road gets twisted like one of Wetzel's best, there are few other cars that deliver thrills and connection in the real world that a Miata can. Fantastic fun doesn't even begin to describe the simple joys a simple car like this can produce. With such sweet, playful balance and handling, how is that so many cars have forgotten how to be truly enjoyable when driven? But (and this is a big but), is where things implode on this particular test example: the price and the wretched automatic transmission. This Grand Touring RF costs an eye-watering $39,895- for a Miata . I'm sorry, but that's actually absurd in all sense of the word. Luckily, you can have a cheaper manual transmission soft top for nearly $10,000 less, and that's definitely the one to get over this bloated and blasphemous incarnation of one. Concerning the transmission, if you're already going to willingly deal with the space constraints, the noise, and overall impracticality - if you're already putting up with all that - why would you neuter the experience and poor car with an automatic? That makes no sense to me, and nor it should to you. And it's not like the automatic is some quick dual-clutch unit, but rather a measly six-speed slush box with far too long gearing that hinders performance from the two-liter four-cylinder. It might rev to a convincing 7,500 RPM, but with second gear maxing out at nearly 65 MPH, performance never feels anything more than typically tepid. A high-revving and small capacity engine begs for quick, short gear ratios in any circumstance (which the manual helps with), but this automatic does the opposite. At least it averages over 30 MPG in daily driving, but the last manual Miata I tried also enjoyed over 30... I'm not here to hate on Miatas because I can really, really , enjoy these fun roadsters. However, this RF Grand Touring with an automatic is literally the worst spec you can possibly have in a new Miata, ironic that it's also the most pricey. It's far too expensive for what it is, and that transmission just zaps the fun like a mosquito. Besides, with the manual transmission that's available being so dang good, you have literally no reason for choosing an automatic MX-5 other than literally being a heretic due for exorcism. Take the pureness out of a Miata and you're sadly left with something that is in all essence not a Miata anymore. And last I checked, that inflated price tag now places the Mazda perilously close to a whole other realm of sports cars. Are there improvements to the Miata? Yes, but for the love for all that is holy, just get the cheaper soft top with a proper manual and have fun the way the MX-5 Miata was truly destined for. 2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Grand Touring As-tested price: $39,895 Pros: Still looks good; Deft and accessible handling Cons: Expensive; Automatic transmission; Noise 2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF review by The Road Beat with Mitchell Weitzman.

  • 2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road Review: too improved?

    The first major Tacoma redesign in decades has yielded an advanced and different kind of Tacoma 2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road review by The Road Beat Words and pictures: Mitchell Weitzman Toyota has finally redesigned the aging Tacoma pickup. Literally decades since the last major overhaul, the new Tacoma has an all-new look, engine, and (unfortunately) pricing, too, in a quest to modernize this segment stalwart of midsize trucks. Faithful fans of the Tacoma may hate it, such is the departure from past popular models, but there's now reason to legitimately recommend one, too. However, through its vast revamp, some of the charming character has sadly gone missing. For those counting their beans, this TRD Off-Road model was heavily-optioned and cost a shocking $54,748. Pricing is indeed scary on the all-new generation of Tacoma. While the starting price is still below well $40,000 for basic work transit, the desirable models have seen substantial increases in retail entry, with the top-dog Trailhunter and TRD Pro models now carrying sticker prices of, wait-for-it, over $65,000. Yes, a Tacoma can now cost over $70,000 after tax and license, not to mention the markups that dealers like to carry on the special models. These trucks sure are capable and carry an armament of impressive off-road kit, but a sticker price of $65,000, for a Tacoma? You've got to be kidding me. This particular Blue Crush example has a starting price of $42,900 before the $8,800 Premium package (SofTex heated and ventilated seats, 14" center display, JBL stereo, moon roof, power open and close tailgate), a$1,230 for a sway bar disconnect system, obligatory $1,495 destination fee, and a few other hundreds of dollars of random items creeps the price right up to below $55,000. Suddenly, 55 grand for this TRD Off-Road model seems like a good deal then, even if it itself has a clinically diagnosed case of sticker shock. This does beg the question: when did affordable Toyotas command such a premium? Granted, this is a significantly more capable edition than the prior model year TRD Off-Road, being more in-line with the old TRD Pro in terms of mud-running aptitude. Okay, pricing out of the way, let's talk about the big differences you'll notice and also not notice. The look is entirely new to the Tacoma lineup and is derived from the full-size Tundra pickup. However, the new design language easily fits the proportions of the Tacoma better, though the new edgey box motif certainly isn't as timeless as the impossibly cool Tacomas of old. Inside, the cabin is heavily improved in terms of technology and quality. No longer is this a bargain basement interior of a cheap, throwaway rental car, but rather a pretty decent place to be (and more premium than the nicest Honda Ridgeline I've tested in the past). The huge screen looks nice and is easy to use, there are also a multitude of sharp and helpful cameras that can show behind, above, and in front, and there were no rattles, even when pummeling a derelict gravel and washboard-textured backroad. The faux leather seats are made from a fine synthetic, even if the seats themselves are still too flat, though not nearly as close to resembling a slab of concrete like the back seats. An unexpected positive concerning the seats? Probably the most powerful and effect ventilated seats I've ever experienced. On a hot day, these are ones you can actually feel. Not devoid of disappointment, though, there are some flimsy bits such as the rotary controller for operating the electronically-controlled part-time 4WD system. It simply feels like a cheap toy and is too loose and fragile in operation; That definitely needs attention. I also didn't use the multi terrain selector because I got a warning proclaiming it to be unavailable for whatever reason. It wasn't necessary in my exploits, so didn't explore further why it would not engage. Another thing you may notice is the large footprint, further emphasized by the TRD Off-Roads lifted ride height and large 32-inch aggressive tires. On paper, it's barely any larger, maybe an inch longer and taller than past comparable double cab models, but it looks massive in due part to the chiseled and boxy bodywork that increases surface area, not to mention the tall hood. Visually, it looks bigger than ever, yet the back seat is still only really best suited to children. What you can't see is the addition of Toyota's 2.4L turbocharged inline-four engine, of which there is an option for a more potent (and costly) hybrid model. Paired with the newly-introduced eight-speed automatic transmission, the powertrain completely transforms the traditional Tacoma driving experience. Now (finally), you have a transmission that doesn't hunt for the correct ratio and is smart enough to know what gear you actually want, while offering quick and undetectable shifts. The engine has a wave of midrange torque that obliterates the old and weak V6 of past models. 0-60 MPH might not reveal the largest of changes, shaving off less than a second, but in the open world, having that access to power so much sooner has made for an intensely faster Tacoma in all practical and non-practical situations. Even as the standard engine option here (with no additional and instant hybrid assist), the throttle response is marvelously connected and largely devoid of turbo lag even. Well done, Toyota. Will it be as reliable as the legendary Toyota engines of the past? I certainly cannot speak for that aspect. Because there are two less cylinders, you might expect fuel economy to also be more attractive, and you would be right! However, I wished for larger gains in this area, with this model returning 19.5 MPG in my daily routine, or only marginally (about 2 MPG) better than the old model. Honda's Ridgeline still has a big V6, and that recently returned 22 MPG during my same testing routine...Less thirsty, but still thirsty then when it comes to Tacoma gas mileage. When pavement does run out, the Tacoma TRD Off-Road shows mountainous prowess. South of El Dorado Hills lies South Shingle Rd, a stretch of twisting asphalt that becomes strictly dirt for several miles, and is best suited to trucks and 4WD vehicles. Crawler enthusiasts have also carved out ruts and obstacles for their own enjoyment and practice, something I took advantage of. Look, it's easy to proclaim that a Corolla could cross this stretch of unfinished road, but you'll be doing at 5 MPH or less for fear of the car rattling and shaking itself to death while it shrieks and scrapes over the imperfect earth. The Tacoma? I was flying down at a fully-confident 30 MPH+ over washboard, buckling straight sections and the cabin and chassis were a bank vault; tight . 30 MPH might appear modest, but the giant cloud of dirt behind me would argue otherwise, and I didn't feel like subjecting a vehicle that isn't mine to the hard and natural speedbump-like divots in the dirt that you can't see until you're right on top of them. Advanced Bilstein dampers did a killer job absorbing and shrugging off the terrain like it wasn't even there, working so well that it begs a question of what the fancy (expensive) spool-valve Multimatic dampers in GM's AT4 and ZR.2 equivalent models are even for. I even went down some of the steep crawler trails, and the enhanced ride height and frontal clearance (note how the front bumper is sharply angled and fitted with a skid plate to aid ascending and descending) paid dividends to keep rolling without any contact or struggle, and these were sections that a new stock 4Runner would struggle with and scrape like crazy. You can also stay in 2WD for most areas and switch off the stability controls and have some RWD sliding fun in the dirt, helped by the prodigious and predictable turbocharged punch. If there's one aspect I didn't warm to, it's that the electric power steering is too light in this terrain and driving, which makes it easy to drive, but you do lose confidence, resistance, and feedback in places where you want all of that. Yes, it's wonderful off-road, which is fitting of a vehicle with off-road literally in its name. Maybe besides wanting extra ground clearance, or fitting 33" or even 35" tires on it, this is a completely stock vehicle you can comfortably take off-road just about anywhere, which is an amazing achievement for a series production Toyota. But, some of these accomplishments don't translate as well to the road. Lateral grip is low, which should be expected, but it's less than I had hoped, wallowing in corners that are taken with increased fervor. And the steering that was too light in the dirt also lacks security on the road. Though it's more civilized than past models and therefore comfortable and easier to keep straight at speed, the lack of information is a step backward. On tightly wound stretch of backroad, the Tacoma needs lots and lots of steering input to navigate turns, and that character coupled to the light and airy nature of the steering just doesn't sit that well with me. I also hoped the off-road tuned suspension would mean soaking up bumps quite well on the street, but it actually rides unfairly firm, transmitting audible low-frequency thuds into the cabin from even minor shunts. It feels as tight and secure as always, but the barrage of intruding impact noises put me off when I was hoping for a smooth and relaxed demeanor. Reason for my optimism stems from past off-road vehicles I've driven, like a Ford Raptor or RAM TRX, which glide over pavement like a cloud. Toyota's full-size Tundra pickup also can suffer from letting low-frequency intrusions in its cabin. Despite the modernized coil-spring multi-link rear suspension, I had hoped for extra civility. Look at the spec sheet alone, and the Tacoma is a vast improvement over the archaic model it replaces. Lots of these upgrades translate well to the real-world experience, but in some ways, is this perhaps too much of a departure from the Tacomas of yesterday? Some of the charm of the Tacoma has always been in its simplicity and conquering durability and dependability; Its criticisms were also its strengths. There are also more than a few out there who won't trust the new turbocharged engine the same way they would trust the foolproof V6. And with so many advanced electronics onboard, it lacks the purity and old-school mentality. The resultant new Tacoma isn't so much different than other competitors like the Canyon and Colorado, and the price increases might be a real limitation to prospective (repeat) buyers. And then you also can't forget the all-important aesthetic factor, and the looks will not be for everyone. While objectively improved in countless ways and a clear step forward, the Tacoma might subjectively not be the improvement many were wanting. 2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road As-tested price: $54,784 Pros: Excellent engine and transmission; Proper off-road ability Cons: Expensive price tag; Light steering; Still thirsty 2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road review by The Road Beat. All images by Mitchell Weitzman and mitchellweitzmanphoto.com . #2024tacoma #2024toyotatacoma

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  • New Car Reviews and Automotive Photography | The Road Beat

    2024 Toyota Tacoma TRD Off-Road Review: too improved? 2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF review: Automatic is pointless 2024 Acura TLX Type S review: Audience unknown Professional and honest automotive reviews and photography of the latest new cars, SUVs, and trucks 2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF review: Automatic is pointless 2024 Acura TLX Type S review: Audience unknown 2024 Honda Odyssey review: Time for an update 2024 Lexus NX 350h review: Mainstream quirks 2024 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport review: Big and stylish 2024 Mazda CX-30 Turbo review: The almost hot hatch all reviews The lens behind The Road Beat | Mitchell Weitzman Photography view portfolio Photographer with accredited experience photographing the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, SRO GT World Challenge, NTT IndyCar, MotoAmerica, and historic racing. www.mitchellweitzmanphoto.com contact The Road Beat | Professional Car Reviews and Automotive Photography The Road Beat provides an honest look and perspective of the most popular new cars on sale today. Not afraid to ignore teething faults and call out manufacturers, The Road Beat is here to give real-world, practical insight to help make your next purchasing decision easier.

  • About and Contact The Road Beat

    About The Road Beat Contact The Road Beat was founded at the turn of the millennium by Lawrence Weitzman in Northern California. His son, Mitchell, continues the Road Beat today, providing expert car reviews and world-class photographs of the latest new cars to consumers. ​ Mitchell Weitzman grew up in Placerville, CA. Having been around cars since birth, it's only natural he came to have a great love for these amazing machines. He holds a rare and distinct honor of attending every Monterey Car Week and Pebble Beach Concours since birth. 2020 was the first time not attending after it was canceled. Thanks 'Rona. ​ Mitchell graduated with honors from UC Santa Barbara, attaining a degree in English Literature. His love of writing and cars were only natural to be combined at some point. ​ Mitchell has done numerous track days across America, including Laguna Seca, Circuit of the Americas, Palm Beach, Thunderhill, and the Thermal Club. His first car was a cheap and high-mileage E36 325is BMW which still remains his favorite, even years after selling it. He enjoys photography immensely and sees it as a way to tell a story about cars and people. ​ Mitchell's hobbies (besides aforementioned cars and photography) include Formula 1 and Le Mans/Sports Car racing, scotch, movies, house design, and just getting out and exploring. ​ visit mitchellweitzmanphoto.com for more photo galleries and bookings.

  • Mitchell Weitzman Photography | Sacramento photographer

    Mitchell Weitzman Photography The Road Beat's Mitchell Weitzman has always been interested in photography, first with cars, but it quickly expanded far and beyond to become life passion. Below are galleries and example work from automotive and motorsports, landscapes, candids, portraits, as well as event photography. See more: weddings , concerts, events . Visit MW Photo Contact All images and works by The Road Beat©

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