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First Drive: 2016 Chevrolet Volt

More reasons to plug in as Chevy does a ground-up on its extended-range electric vehicle.

by on Oct.07, 2015

The 2016 Chevrolet Volt gets a new look, a new powertrain, and more range and power.

Few recent product launches have sparked more interest than the debut of the original Chevrolet Volt, the world’s first mass-market plug-in hybrid. But after an initial flurry of sales, demand has sharply slackened off. The question is whether Chevy can charge things back up as it launches an all-new version of what it prefers to call an “extended-range electric vehicle.”

Coming barely a half-decade after the debut of the original model, one might have expected this to be a modest, mid-cycle update. But the 2016 Chevrolet Volt is a ground-up makeover, something that’s apparent from the first quick glance. It becomes even more obvious when you slip inside and hit the Start button. About the only thing carried over is the goofy sound effect sequence that tells you it’s ready to roll.

Plug In!

By the numbers, there’s more to like: the 2016 Volt not only squeezes in another passenger but also squeezes out 40% more range on battery power alone – now an EPA-estimated 53 miles. By Chevy’s accounting, most owners are now likely to clock as much as 1,000 miles before they have to fill up the gas tank feeding the range-extending I-4 engine – which is also new on the ’16 model.


The Hottest Car Launches of 2016

New model-year bringing plenty of hot products, new tech.

by on Sep.08, 2015

The Honda Civic Concept made a surprise debut in NY. It's all but identical to the production model.

As we push past summer and head into what, for the auto industry, is the start of a new year, there’ll be lot of things happening at showrooms across the country.

The 2016 model-year will bring not only a new of major new products but some significant new technologies, the latter list including the first applications of the Apple CarPlay and Google Android Auto infotainment systems, as well as new semi-autonomous driving features that will allow a limited amount of hands-free driving.

Your Guide to the Hottest New Products!

In terms of product, there’ll be a bit of something from everyone, from the market’s smallest vehicle, the second-generation Smart ForTwo, all the way up to some of the biggest and most expensive products on the market, such as the completely redesigned BMW 7-Series sedan and Bentley’s first-ever SUV, the Bentayga. Here’s a select list of some of the most important models for set to debut over the coming 12 months:


First Drive: 2015 Volkswagen Golf R

Taking things to the next level.

by on Feb.27, 2015

The 2015 Golf R adds another strong entry to the expanding Golf hatchback family.

What do you do when you’ve nabbed some of the industry’s top honors? How do you one-up yourself after being named both North American Car of the Year, as well as Motor Trend Car of the Year.  If you’re Volkswagen, you take things to the next level with the launch of the new Golf R.

With its turbocharged, 292-horsepower inline-four, a pavement grabbing all-wheel-drive system and an electronic differential lock designed to keep you always pointed in the right direction, the 2015 Volkswagen Golf R is more than just the sportiest member of the fast-growing Golf “family.” It’s also the sort of product the German maker needs to kick-start a brand that has been unable to take advantage of the overall recovery of the U.S. car market.

The Last Word!

If you think this is just a slightly upgraded version of the GTI, well, you need to spend a little time behind the wheel of the new Golf R. Preferably on some fast roads with plenty of aggressive corners. We were lucky enough to be handed a set of keys and a route map that took us into the winding mountain passes east of San Diego – with, of course, a stop for some pie in Julian, a pleasant little mountain town that time has virtually passed by.


First Drive: 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport

Traversing the land of fire and ice.

by on Jan.30, 2015

The 2015 Land Rover Discovery clambers out of a frigid Icelandic river crossing.

Legend has it that the ancient Vikings attempted to mislead potential invaders by naming an inhospitable spit of Arctic turf Greenland. Discovering its frozen wastes, the logic seemingly went, they’d steer clear of the even more dismally named Iceland. Visitors to the capital city of Reykjavik unfailingly find the humor in this tale – until the polar winds descend, as they did earlier this month, howling in windswept gusts approaching 100 miles an hour.

But it was precisely the sort of weather we had come looking for as we clambered into the new 2015 Land Rover Discovery Sport, steering our way along the frozen coast and then heading into the interior of a volcanic island used as the backdrop for some of the most desolate winter scenes from the popular TV series, Game of Thrones.

The Last Word!

The Disco Sport, as it is commonly called, is the latest in a series of new products to emerge from the British maker’s design and engineering studios in recent years. With the top-line Range Rover family essentially complete, Land Rover is working on the second leg of its three-segment stool, the Sport being the first of several Discovery models to come.


First Drive: 2015 Hyundai Sonata

“An athlete in a tailored suit.”

by on Jul.10, 2014

The 2015 Hyundai Sonata's styling may be toned down, but it remains a striking entry in a segment that has typically emphasized bland design.

First introduced in 1985, the Hyundai Sonata was a largely overlooked entry into the crowded midsize market, but that all changed with the launch of the 2011 sedan which quickly put to rest all those bad jokes and nasty reviews the Korean maker earned – often deservedly – during its early year in the U.S. market.

The sixth-generation Sonata broke the rather restrictive mold carmakers used when designing the midsized sedans. Instead of a drab, boxy silhouette, the recession-era Sonata was sleek, curvy and nicely proportioned. And it marked Hyundai’s coming of age as a serious global player – suddenly a serious challenger to top-rated Japanese brands such as Toyota and Nissan.

Reviews You Can Trust!

Now Hyundai is rolling out the Gen-7 Sonata for the 2015 model year, and while it has actually toned down the over-the-top styling that made the outgoing model a visual standout, the Korean carmaker intends to build on the value story that turned Sonata into a major hit for the company.


First Drive: 2015 Subaru Legacy

Aiming for the mainstream.

by on May.21, 2014

Subaru goes more mainstream with the 2015 Legacy.

Subaru has long been one of the best-kept secrets in the U.S. automotive market, a brand with a loyal but limited niche following. But with the launch of the all-new, sixth-generation Legacy sedan, the Japanese maker is taking aim at a more mainstream audience, and midsize buyers would be wise to put it on their radar screen.

When the new sedan was unveiled during last month’s New York Auto Show it marked the 25th anniversary of the Legacy nameplate. Like the rest of the Subaru line-up, it has long been popular in Snowbelt cities like Boston and Denver, and has developed an especially strong following among such targeted groups as young, active outdoor fans, nurses and even the gay and lesbian community.

In Drive!

But while the 2015 Subaru Legacy maintains some of the basic features that have long appealed to its loyalists – such as the brand’s Symmetrical All-Wheel-Drive system – the latest-generation sedan adds plenty of other appealing attributes, including what is now one of the industry’s best CVT gearboxes, great fuel economy, and a roomy, well-appointed interior. The new Legacy also gets the latest update of Subaru’s camera-based EyeSight safety system.


First Drive: 2014 Toyota Highlander

In the hunt.

by on Dec.20, 2013

The 2014 Toyota Highlander offers three different powertrains, including a hybrid option.

The Highlander doesn’t get the kind of attention lavished on the Toyota Prius or the Camry, which continues to anchor the Japanese automaker’s line-up as the best-selling passenger cars in the U.S.

However, the Toyota Highlander represents one of the Japanese giant’s more successful forays into the truck side of the business where, despite the enormous popularity of its brand, it has encountered some disappointments over the years, notably with the tepid response to the Tundra, its full size pickup truck.

Product News!

The Highlander came into the U.S. market in 2001 as Toyota was accelerating its ambitious plans to overtake General Motors as the world’s largest automaker.  It was Toyota’s entry into the fast growing-midsized utility markets and was one of the first SUVs constructed around a unibody, rather than truck-like body-on-frame, platform.  And it caught on, in part, because of the company’s reputation for building durable and reliable vehicles.


First Drive: 2014 Nissan Rogue

Affordable, stylish, comfortable.

by on Nov.01, 2013

Nissan strives for segment design leadership with the launch of the 2014 Rogue.

Compact crossovers have become one of the U.S. market’s hottest segments right now. And as sales surge, a growing number of manufacturers are competing for buyers attention with new or restyled offerings.  Over the last year or so we’ve seen major remakes of the Toyota RAV4, the Honda CRV and the Ford Escape, to name a few.

Now, Nissan is weighing in with a redesigned version of the Rogue targeting a broad cross section of consumers, from older, empty nesters to young buyers just starting families.

Your Trusted Auto Review Source!

The second-largest Japanese maker is taking an unusual approach, however, launching a new 2014 Nissan Rogue while maintaining the old model as the budget-priced Nissan Rogue Select. Whether that strategy will work remains to be seen, especially if Nissan hopes to get buyers to shell out the several thousand additional dollars it takes to get into the newer model.


First Drive: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

Tipping the Scales at 50 mpg.

by on Oct.18, 2013

After a short absence, the Honda Accord Hybrid is back for the 2014 model-year - with an all-new drivetrain.

While Toyota and its Prius hatchback have dominated the hybrid market in recent years there was a time when the Japanese giant was locked in battle with its Asian rival, Honda.  But the smaller maker’s original alternative, the quirky 2-seat Insight, as well as latter models, failed to generate near the following, in part due to shortfalls with the original Integrated Motor Assist, or IMA, hybrid drivetrain.

A dozen years after it got into the battery-electric market, Honda is making another big push, this time with a trio of alternative hybrid systems, including the lower-priced, single-motor technology introduced on the latest Civic. A high-performance, three-motor hybrid package will soon be introduced for Acura models including the MDX, RDX and reborn NSX supercar.  But perhaps the most promising system – at least on a mass-market scale, is the two-motor hybrid debuting on the 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid.

The Last Word!

We could probably sum up the biggest part of its appeal in four words, “50 miles per gallon.” That’s a hard number to argue with and comes within a hairsbreadth of the 54.5 mpg Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard that the Obama Administration has put in place for 2025.  But there are other reasons to be impressed with the new Accord Hybrid.  Unlike so many other mainstream gas-electric offerings it actually delivers a reasonable amount of performance. Add a well-appointed interior and Honda has a package that should appeal to those who want more than just a mileage miser.


First Drive: 2014 Kia Soul

Subtle changes yield big improvements.

by on Oct.07, 2013

Kia's 2014 Soul remake delivers subtle visual tweaks but more significant interior changes and revisions to drive dynamics.

Few cars have done a better job of putting a relatively unknown brand on the radar for a broad swath of American car buyers.  The 2009 Kia Soul and the hip-hop hamsters who became its spokes, er, rodents have carved out a unique and enviable niche in the market. So, with the launch of the 2014 Soul, Kia faces both risk and opportunity.

Anyone who has watched TV or gone to the cinema in recent weeks probably knows the slimmed-down “Hamstars” are back, their latest, catchy spot, backed by Lady Gaga vocals, meant to draw attention to the launch of the updated urban crossover.  Their help is needed. The 2014 Kia Soul’s distinctive design undergoes evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, changes that might otherwise be missed by most buyers.

Your Trusted Review Source!

That said, Kia’s priority was coming up with a more comfortable CUV that resolves some of the earlier model’s issues with driving dynamics and refinement. Our experience during a Minneapolis driving event suggests the Koreans have largely succeeded.