Archive for the ‘First Drive’ Category

First Drive: 2019 Volvo V60

A wagon for those who want style, function and performance, not just trendiness.

by on Jun.11, 2018

The new 2019 Volvo V60 shows that Volvo is still the leader when it comes to wagons.

“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows,” or so Bob Dylan once sang, and this particular morning, we know the wind – carrying some torrential rain – is blowing in off the Mediterranean as we head out for a day’s drive in the all-new Volvo V60. But before we can get much beyond the gates of our hotel in the suburbs of Barcelona, Spain, our new wagon will have to do a good impression of the taller, more off-roadworthy Volvo XC60, fording a good foot of water swirling like a tempest under the railroad bridge leading to the main highway.

The torrent cleared, the rest of the drive up through the now-sodden countryside and up towards the millennium-old abbey atop the craggy Montserrat mountain will be a relative breeze although, on this particular morning, the rain in Spain is definitely not just falling on the plain.

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While we’d certainly have preferred the sort of warm and sunny day the Catalan coast is known for, the stormy weather is actually giving us a chance to test the mettle of the 2019 Volvo V60 at the extremes, and as we will discover by the end of a long day’s driving, it’s more than up to the task. While it might not be as trendy as the taller XC60, the SUV that was named North American Utility Vehicle of the Year in January, the V60 boasts the sort of nimbleness, functionality and styling that should make even wagon-averse Americans pause to take notice. (more…)

First Drive: 2019 Lexus ES 350

Bigger, faster, roomier — better.

by on Jun.07, 2018

The new Lexus ES is bigger, more powerful and has more tech than its predecessor.

Lexus has built its reputation on the quality, reliability and durability of its luxury cars and utility vehicles. But now, with the new vehicles such as the ES, Lexus is reaching out to match its German and Japanese competitors in styling and overall performance.

For one thing, the new 2019 ES 350 is impressive looking all the way around. The new exterior sheet metal is clean and gives the car a sportier and more up-to-date appearance that should wear well over the years. The front fascia on the new 2019 Lexus ES also more refined and just looks better than the previous generation and car just looks handsome when it is sitting at the curb or in motion.

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Each of the three variants of the ES – the standard, the new F-Sport and the hybrid – are separated by design details but overall the differences, to my eye, are relatively minor. (more…)

First Drive: 2019 Acura RDX

Design, performance and tech add up in an appealing new package.

by on May.31, 2018

Acura has delivered an almost entirely ground-up remaker of its compact RDX crossover for 2019.

Its been more than three decades since Acura helped redefine the luxury car market, the original Legend model proving a Japanese sedan could stand up against key European and American competitors. But what would Honda’s highline brand bring to market if it were to debut today? The answer is pretty much unambiguous: a ute. Or, more precisely, a crossover like the new 2019 Acura RDX.

It’s not just the names on the field that have changed since Acura’s 1985 debut. The luxury market has, like more mainstream segments, rapidly shifted from sedans and coupes to SUVs and CUVs in a broad array of sizes and shapes. And the good news for Acura is that while its traditional passenger car models have lagged behind, it has done reasonably well with utility vehicle offerings like the big MDX. But it’s the compact CUV market where most of the growth is taking place, so it’s no surprise that Acura has put so much effort into developing the third-generation RDX model.

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The Japanese marque has focused on three key pillars: design, performance and technology. And the payoff is readily apparent. While there are limits to what you can pull off with a so-called “two-box” design, the RDX is one of the more handsome CUVs to reach market lately, while also delivering a fun-to-drive experience. Add to that an array of new comfort, convenience and safety systems – though not everyone is going to be enchanted by the RDX’s distinctive True Touch controller.

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Acura Launches NextGen 2019 RDX at $37,300

Add $6,200 for reborn A-Spec.

by on May.29, 2018

With the launch of the 2019 RDX, Acura brings back the A-Spec performance design package.

Acura was the first of the Japanese luxury brands but, in recent years, it has lagged behind rivals Lexus and Infiniti. Could the stars finally be coming together for Honda’s high-line marque, however?

While Acura’s passenger car models continue to struggle, the automaker has done far better with its SUV line-up, and it expects to gain even more ground with a complete makeover of the compact RDX. The timing likely couldn’t be better considering the U.S. luxury market’s accelerating shift from sedans and coupes to SUVs and CUVs. Add the fact that Acura is bringing back the A-Spec version of the RDX for 2019.

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The first new model to really deliver on the promises of Acura new Precision Concept design language, the 2019 model offers an array of new and updated features, from its new turbocharged 2.0-liter powerplant to a completely redesigned infotainment system dubbed AcuraLink with True Touch. But what may garner even more interest is the fact that the 2019 Acura RDX starts at the same price as the outgoing, 2018 model: $38,295, which includes $995 in delivery charges. (more…)

First Drive: 2019 Subaru Ascent…Proving Bigger is Better

The Japanese automaker learns its lesson with all-new three-row SUV.

by on May.23, 2018

The Subaru Ascent's X Mode is able to handle a wide variety of conditions, including wet sand.

An hour-some outside of Portland, as you head for the rugged Oregon coast, you’ll pass through the quaint old town of McMinnville. It’s known, it seems, for three things: walnuts, the annual Alien Festival – which celebrates a local farmer’s alleged encounter with a UFO – and the Evergreen Air and Space Museum. Dwarfing an indoor football stadium, the star of the collection is the legendary Spruce Goose, among the biggest aircraft ever built.

With eight radial engines mounted across its 321-foot wingspan, the 220 foot-long “Flying Lumberyard” was designed as a troop transport able to squeeze in nearly 800 soldiers on a trans-Atlantic flight. There are times when having plenty of passenger space, it seems comes in handy – something we had in mind before heading to McMinnville for a couple days to drive the all-new Subaru Ascent.

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While dwarfed by what was officially known as the H-4 flying boat, the 2019 Ascent is the Japanese automaker’s biggest offering yet, capable of seating up to eight passengers in a good bit more comfort than soldiers would have experienced had the Spruce Goose ever gone into service. Equally important, it has the styling and features that were sorely lacking when Subaru launched its first three-row model, the ungainly B4 Tribeca back in 2005.

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Funky Town Meets Funky Car: First Drive of the 2019 Hyundai Veloster

Slightly more practical, Korean entry is still an oddball.

by on May.21, 2018

The second-generation Hyundai Veloster gets a larger grille, bolder fenders and wheel arches and a number of powertrain updates.

In their nearly three-decade history here in the U.S., the Koreans have seldom shied away from introducing oddball offerings. And while it’s not quite as quirky as the Kia Soul, the Hyundai Veloster doesn’t readily fit into any neat category. Consider the fact that it has three doors – not including its hatch – one on the driver’s side, two on the passenger side.

While clearly not mainstream, the Veloster has a loyal following, enough to convince Hyundai to ignore current trends that have led most automakers to trim back on their passenger car line-ups – and Ford to all but drop out entirely.

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Fittingly, when it came time to launch an all-new, second-generation version of the Veloster, Korea’s largest automaker invited us down to Austin, Texas, a town locked in a battle with Portland, Oregon, for bragging rights as the country’s weirdest city. We won’t take sides on that debate, but after some time behind the wheel of several turbo versions of the 2019 Hyundai Veloster we can weigh in on its merits.

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First Drive: 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir

Luxurious interior, leading-edge tech and great road manners.

by on May.18, 2018

The 2018 Buick Enclave Avenir is based on an all-new version of the three-row SUV.

Utility vehicles of various sizes but similar shapes now account for nearly half of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. and the competition is getting fierce carmakers admit.

Notions of luxury have evolved during the years right along with SUVs but one vehicle holding its own is the stylish Buick Enclave Avenir with its gorgeous interior, portfolio of optional technology and pleasant road manners that fit nicely into the American tradition of upscale vehicles.

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The exterior of the 2018 Enclave has a stately aura about it that makes a careful bow to the brand’s historic tradition with a careful display of sleek lines and jeweled corners and at the very same time it moves the vehicle into the 21st century with its 21st century silhouette. The front grille and fascia is not ostentatious and the rear is equally restrained but nicely set off by the lighting display. (more…)

First Drive: 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback

Improved power, comfort and tech in an attractive package.

by on Apr.30, 2018

The 2019 Toyota Corolla Hatchback features more power and tech for the small hatch.

While sales of small cars have dwindled in recent years, hatchbacks have made a slow, steady of comeback of sorts.

Now Toyota, one of the largest and most versatile carmakers in the world, is adding a new hatchback to its popular Corolla family. The 2019 Corolla Hatchback arrives with new styling, a more powerful engine and clever technology that will help the car stand out in a crowded segment.

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In fact, Toyota is describing the Corolla Hatchback as the most “technologically advanced” small car it has ever built, which is saying something for a company that has more or less dominated the small car market around the world for past 50 years. (more…)

First Drive: 2018 Chevrolet Colorado Redline

Flexibility, looks, power all in one midsize truck package.

by on Apr.20, 2018

The Chevrolet Colorado Redline is one of several variants to the brand's highly successful midsize truck.

While pickup trucks share some of generic similarities, the stylistic differences are always critical and one of the trend setters since it first appeared has been the Chevrolet Colorado.

The Colorado seems to be a perfect size for working in urban spaces since it’s relatively easy to maneuver into urban or suburban parking spaces. It also has a spacious interior and looks handsome either sitting at the curb or out in traffic.

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Chevrolet has also smoothed out the ride by beefing up the suspension and improved the steering and brakes on the truck so it’s easier and more enjoyable to drive even if you are traveling a good distance. (more…)

First Drive: 2019 Volkswagen Jetta

No, VW hasn't gone all-SUV, at least not yet.

by on Apr.13, 2018

The R-Line version of the 2019 VW Jetta.

Volkswagen officials have been talking a lot about SUVs, such as the new Atlas, these days. And when they change the subject, they’re as likely as not to focus on battery-electric vehicles like the upcoming I.D. Buzz microbus.

That might seem worrisome for fans of traditional VW sedans and hatchbacks. The good news is that the people’s car brand isn’t abandoning its traditional line-up. True, you won’t be able to get a diesel in the U.S. anymore, but there are some solid alternatives under the hood of offerings like the all-new 2019 Volkswagen Jetta that we had a chance to spend some time with in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina earlier this month.

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“It’s one of our most important products in the U.S.,” said Jan Dickmann, head of the compact car line, before we headed off into a Carolina countryside just starting to burst with spring color. Worldwide, VW has sold 17 million Jettas, including 3 million in the U.S. alone. So, while the automaker might be gaining traction with products like the Atlas and smaller Tiguan, it has a lot riding on the success of the seventh-generation Jetta sedan. (more…)

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