AK House Clean ’14


As it happens, there are some cars I’ve driven that don’t make it onto AutoKinesis for various reasons. Sometimes, it’s a car I’ve driven at an event where the time spent with the vehicle isn’t enough to justify a full review. Other times, the car is a replacement for another that I scheduled, but was cancelled last minute due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control.

Regardless, I always take the time to do as full a shoot as I can with the vehicle, often left with a hard drive of photos that I never get to share. Seeing as how this year, with the AK team more busy behind the scenes than in front, I figured we’d start a segment for these wayward reviews with a segment called AK House Clean.

Nissan Juke Nismo

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Nismo badge does not a sports car make.

  • CUV
  • FWD (with optional torque vectoring AWD)
  • 1.6L turbo i4 Engine 197hp , 184 lb-ft torque
  • CVT Transmission
  • est. 30mpg highway – 25mpg City
  • $23,170 starting MSRP

The Juke Nismo was a bit of a head scratcher to me, and I requested it mainly because I wanted to see just how “Nismo-y” it was. Sure, there was a sport tuned suspension (which, incidentally, is a phrase I’m starting to become rather skeptical about) and a less-than-ten horsepower increase, but I think it was an excuse to put their sport division badge and some red accents on their diminutive CUV. It felt fine enough to drive, but it never inspired taking the long way somewhere or explore its potential. To me, the Juke was always this japanese-anime reinterpretation of the Murano, but the Nismo body kit and red trimming made this a pretty interesting thing to look at. Also, this was shortly after Nissan saw fit to shove a GT-R engine into one of these and produced the 545hp Juke -R, which I think might’ve been a drunken dare mistakenly commissioned into reality, and this lunacy sort of upped the Juke’s profile temporarily.

Toyota Tundra

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I like big trucks and I cannot lie, them other haulers cant deny, that with a wide wheelbase and new transfer case, you get sprung!

  • Full-Size Pickup Truck
  • 4WD
  • 5.7L V8 Engine 381 hp, 401 lb-ft torque
  • 6-speed Automatic transmission
  • est. 13mpg city – 18mpg highway
  • $37,220 MSRP (limited trim, double cab, standard bed)

A little trip to Georgia was arranged to put the new Toyota Tundra through it’s paces. The trip did indeed sound like an adventure worthy of a pickup driver’s dream lifestyle: off roadin’, skeet shootin’ and whiskey drinkin’ (to be clear, none of these activities mixed). The Tundra itself hit all the marks, with its big 5.7L V8 and considerate touches to design that anticipated the rough and tumble a truck would be put through, things like a segmented tail bumper whose components could easily be swapped out instead of purchasing one entire piece if a corner got dinged. The terrain set forth for us to traverse was nothing the Tundra couldn’t handle, even with my clumsy offroad driving. If I had misjudged the speed heading towards a trough of dirt, the Tundra just plowed over it like it wasn’t there.

As it turned out, this was about the extent of the driving available on the trip. The open-land trail wasn’t very long and, all told, I did about 4 laps over the course of half an hour. Between that and a few photos, this was the extent of my time with the car. I vaguely remember having an inordinate amount of whiskey and having an emphatic, drunken conversation about Star Trek: Deep Space 9 with someone I’d never seen before or since.

Kia Soul

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I’m not even gonna mention the hamsters.

  • “Urban Hatchback”
  • FWD
  • 2.0L i4 Engine 164hp – 151 lb.-ft torque
  • 6-speed automatic transmission
  • est. 23mpg city – 28mpg highway
  • $20,300 MSRP for the “exclamation point” trim

This was one of those instances where the car was swapped last minute as the car I requested, the Kia Cadenza, had to be shifted to a different press fleet. While marketed as an urban fun machine with wheels, it boils down to an average city commuter that’s easy to drive, but not terribly exciting. For what it’s worth, it does have its own charm, and you do feel like taking it to do fun stuff. I loaded it up with three friends and did one of those glow-in-the-dark 5K runs, which is an excuse to run around with glow sticks and neon paint, and the Soul sort of fit that evening’s spirit.

Toyota Corolla

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Remember all those Miami-based films that featured the Corolla? Me neither.

  • 4-Door Sedan
  • FWD
  • 1.8L i4 Engine 140hp – 126 lb.-ft torque
  • CVT Transmission
  • est. 29mpg city – 37mpg highway
  • $19,000 MSRP ( “S” trim)

I flew to Miami to drive the new Toyota Corolla, because when you think “Miami”, this is the car that’s sure come sharply to focus in your mind (he said, dribbling with sarcasm). The refreshed car was improved in the looks department with a very sporty front fascia on the S model, and the CVT made for a smooth ride through the rev band. The car is fine, just fine, which i believe is at the root of the issue with this non-review: no matter how well they make the Corolla (which they do improve upon, and has had a very solid decades-long run) the Corolla will always be just fine. It will never be “great” or “amazing,” it will always be “good” or sometimes “very good.” That’s what it’s supposed to be and this is what people want from it.

So to take us to awesome Miami, where we indulged in beaches, cuban cuisine, cigars and sound machines? How were we supposed to even remember the Corolla when we returned home? I suggest that test drives take place in cities of equal or lesser excitement than the car being driven. For all the qualities the Corolla had, in that town, it felt little more than a rental.

Buick Verano

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“Nice. Nice… Not thrilling, but nice.”

  • 4-Door Compact Sedan
  • FWD
  • 2.0L Turbo i4 250hp – 260 lb.ft torque
  • 6-Speed automatic transmission
  • est. 21mpg city – 30mpg highway
  • $29,065 MSRP

Driving the Verano was like sitting down next to an older person and finding that their advanced age hasn’t prevented them from leading an active lifestyle and that they still retain enough social awareness that stories of past experiences aren’t banal and tedious. You’d probably leave the interaction thinking something like “hey that old person was actually pretty cool,” but you’d never say such things out loud or write them on a website lest people think you insensitive.

The Verano had enough pep to make commutes hassle-free and had an equal level of comfort. It didn’t particularly stand out, style-wise, but had a modern cut to it’s fittings so that it was still contemporary in the looks department. It doesn’t want to be all things to everyone, nor does it really need young people to like it, it’s happy with where it is right now in life and it’s got plenty of years ahead of itself to do things. Be nice to Buick owners.

Lexus IS-F

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backwards compatible.

  • Performance Sedan
  • RWD
  • 5.0L V8 416hp – 371 ft.-lb. torque
  • 8-speed direct-shift transmission w/ paddle shifters
  • est. 16mpg city – 23mpg highway
  • $61,600 MSRP

Another replacement car, although not bad as far as replacements go. The problem was that it’s a car stuck in time. the 2013’s and 08’s are indistinguishable. There’s something to be said about Lexus’s “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” attitude towards the car, but for something that has seen the most minimal of updates, it feels like the most well maintained used car you’ve ever sat in. All the fonts and design lines throughout the interior feel like, well, an old Lexus. Not too long before, I drove the updated 350 IS-F Sport, which wildly surpasses the IS-F in contemporary style, technology and design.

When I drove it, the new generation of game consoles were just rolling out, and this is what it felt like: a great example of the previous generation’s hardware. I know 416hp V8 though is hard to argue against, but it’s just so stagnant a vehicle and vestigial in their lineup. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to see the IS-F go anywhere, it’s just due for a refit of sorts.

Words & Photos By – Alex Kalogiannis


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