When we found out the 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA ($29,900 Base) wouldn’t be available stateside till September, we were willing to do anything to get our hands on it early; we even pondered selling our souls to the devil. Fortunately, we didn’t have to go quite that far. All we had to do was fly to the South of France for a day and half of driving. Yes, we spent 26 hours in the air to get 13 hours behind the wheel of this sub-$30,000 German ride.
The Ultimate Dreamliner
Bentley is undoubtedly a mega-luxury brand that backs up ridiculous comfort with serious performance. Take the 2014 Bentley Continental GT Speed Convertible ($240,000 base), for instance. Though its looks and interior are nearly pornographic in their excesses, it’ll also punch you in the throat and drink your beer without hesitation. After taking it for a drive in non-ideal conditions — and almost wrecking it on the icy streets of Squaw Valley — I got firsthand experience on why the brand is held in such high regard.
One hell of a legacy
The SLS AMG by Mercedes-Benz is truly the 300SL Gullwing reincarnate. Only the resurrected version is so much faster, you’ll wonder what happened to your eyebrows. How do we know? We got behind the wheel and watched it make people’s necks sore.
From isn't to IS
The suburbs of Austin, Texas are hilly, colorful and vast, and look especially pretty when seen out the windshield of the latest, all-new sports sedan. They’re even better looking when reduced to a racetrack blur. The 2014 Lexus IS F Sport has been redesigned to look sexier, feel more solid and drive harder, and recently gave us the distinct pleasure of melting scenery around the track at Driveway Austin while testing out its sporting mettle.
Luxury within reason
On the heels of the NSX concept last year and the brand new entry-level ILX, the longer, leaner Acura RLX looks nothing like the car it replaces, so we were piqued when Honda’s luxury division invited us up to Napa to experience all the RLX has to offer. Fine wine and luxury cars. Makes sense to us.
True British Muscle
Aston Martin recently decided that being one of the most prestigious and sexiest car makers on the planet wasn’t enough. They needed to be audacious. Their execution of this? Surgically transplanting the 6.0-liter 510 hp V12 from the DBS into their smallest and lightest offering, the Vantage. The Carbon Black edition adds carbon-fiber side strakes, lightweight carbon fiber and Kevlar seats, piano black accents and gloss black painted wheels, which convey the same kind of ballsy aggression as the drivetrain underneath that extruded aluminum body. Read on for a video and photo essay of this Brit stunner.
An unincorporated territory, a Mini, and some wild roads
Puerto Rico is a peculiar place. It’s not an American state but is under US law. It’s only 100 miles by 35 miles but has a thriving car culture. Though it feels a world away, it’s only three and a half hours from JFK. This land of contradiction was the perfect place to experience the new Mini Paceman ($24,000 Base), which at first glance appears to be a small version of Mini’s largest offering.
Driving in a Winter Wonderland
My winter BMW driving history is a sad one, littered with shattered taillights, bent frames and too many loaner cars. After one too many calls to my insurance agent, I finally gave up on the Bayerische Motoren Werke for good, moving on to more sensible Scandinavian cars that understood what winter is all about. Given my less-than-stellar driving past, the prospect of piloting a 2013 BMW 650i Gran Coupe, in Germany — in winter — both thrilled and mortified me. On the one hand, the opportunity to put the whip to 445 twin-turbocharged horses on the very roads for which they were bred was a once in a lifetime opportunity. But it was December, and my PTSD flared up, with visions of mid-Autobahn donuts making my palms sweat.
What Ford has done in the few years is nothing short of brand reinvention. A new focus on technology and consolidation of their various models sold globally and in the States has left many a test driver of a new Focus, Fiesta, Fusion or Escape asking “Is this really a Ford?” The 2013 Focus ST ($24,000 Base) continues this leave-drivers-impressed trend. We take a quick spin.
S is for Sexy
We want everything — always. That’s the American way. We want our gourmet burger with egg, parmesan crust and arugula, our clothes to fit well, be cheap and last forever; we want to marry the veritable hot girl who drinks beer… craft beer… at a football game. Audi’s answer to this consumer desire to have it all(ish) is the S7 ($79,000+). Despite the A7′s success, rumor has it (thanks, Adele) the performance division of Audi wasn’t satisfied yet — so they snuck into the garage one fateful night and replaced the standard 310 hp V6 turbo with a 420 hp 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8. The S7 emerged.
King of the hill and vale
The remote West is a far cry from where most modern SUVs claim their stomping grounds, but it’s exactly where we found ourselves recently. Utah’s desert landscape isn’t what you’d call sparse, as far as scenery is concerned. Sedimentary rock formations that range from the utterly massive to the small and bizarre are scattered as far as the eye can see, peppered by small patches of remnant snow and capped by the beautiful winter desert sky. But this is where we tested the 2013 Range Rover — and the car felt right at home.
Fun Per Gallon
If a hybrid vehicle is what you seek, there are two ends of the spectrum. On the left: the Toyota Prius, sipping fuel at 51mpg through an uninspiring 98 hp engine for $24K. On the right: the Porsche Panamera S Hybrid, which will run you close to $100k, with an “is-this-really-a-hybrid” 22mpg due to its…
Accountants in search of flair, take note.
The original Hyundai Azera wasn’t exactly sure what it wanted to be, despite Hyundai’s goal of slotting it between the Sonata and Genesis sedans. The placement made sense, given the huge gap in pricing between the two aforementioned cars. And though the Azera was a practical bargain with its roomy interior and V6 engine, it…
Not just another cushy ride
Lexus, once the darling of middle-aged Asian-American women everywhere, is focusing more nowadays on driving experience as opposed to driving you to boredom. Lexus has also revised their design language to be more edgy, adventurous and sporty in appearance — relatively speaking, of course. What they’ve wrought is more than just a new brand-identifiable spindle grille, and it’s a change in the right direction. We’ve been tracking Lexus all year and even got in some track time in their new GS sporty sedan earlier this year; we came away impressed.
Porsche's finally done it.
Previous Boxster owners were largely perceived as the type of people Ron Swanson might hate — pastel wearing, shoulder sweater draping, Mediocre University Honors graduates who yearned for the 911 Cabrio but either couldn’t afford it or couldn’t muster the skills. Of course, it was a Porsche, so it drove well and handled well, but aside from the S model, it seemed to lack that Stuttgart Blitzkrieg-like power that Porsche drivers expect. So with this new generation of the German roadster, Porsche decided to make it worthy of her pedigree.
The Charge of the Ford Brigade
It wasn’t that long ago that driving a Ford was done simply out of loyalty to Made in the USA. They were cars made in America for America, and though “this land is your land, this land is my land” is a nice sentiment, most vehicles from “our land” were built from a “this is how we’ve always done it” mentality. No real innovation. No real style. No real appeal.
425 lb-ft. Diesel. 'Nuf said.
The BMW X5 xDrive35d is a mouthful, an earful and a pocketful all at once. Its visually eclectic nomenclature is BMW speak for all-wheel drive and a diesel powertrain. Yes, we said diesel. Get used to it, because the clean-burning fuel is here to stay — providing both efficiency (relative, of course, for something this…
A sublime encounter with the bull
In the world of exotic Italian automakers, the Lamborghini name needs no introduction — especially with the legacy of V12 superbeasts like the Miura and the Countach. Such icons adorned the walls of many a high school boy’s room just a few decades ago, and still ring true in our memories as a couple of…
Biscotti, Pavarotti, Maserati
Maserati’s singular focus on high-end beautiful Italian machinery has made them masters. The GranTurismo, GranTurismo Convertible and the Quattroporte are all essentially a variant on one auto. They’re vehicles with gorgeous lines and roaring V8s; each is designed to be (Maserati vernacular) “a good host” (however, as Olivia Munn and Mario Lopez demonstrate, good hosts…
Semi-hot hatched at birth
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, Hyundai is making some serious waves in the automotive industry. With a new design language pervading the lineup and cars that compete in just about every segment (Hyundai pickup truck, anyone?), Hyundai is seeing monumental growth. Last year, the Korean automaker came out with the radically styled Veloster; now they’ve…
Korean car makers are creating huge waves in the industry, and the Kia Optima is a perfect example of this automotive tsunami. Just a few short years ago, you’d be hard pressed to find such a car in their lineup (the awfully poseur-like Kia Amanti didn’t exactly qualify). We always end up tooling around in…
Its worst emission? Burnt rubber
The second coming of the very popular and virtually unpronounceable Volkswagen Touareg (“Too-a-regg”) now comes in Hybrid form, which actually makes more sense than hybridizing a compact car that already gets better gas mileage than its larger automotive counterparts. And though its 20/24 city/highway mileage numbers don’t truly impress (the Touareg TDI gets better fuel…
Four on the floor
With fresh changes to design language inside and outside of recent models like the XC60 and C30, Volvo has impressed buyers in the luxury/European markets, tempting some potential German-made owners to their (safe) side of the road. In hopes of continuing that trend, Volvo’s released an affordable AWD option for their entry-level, 2.5L engine 2013…
Drop Top Gorgeous
Legend has it that when you drive a supercar, your biceps and pectorals enlarge by up to 30% and your testosterone levels climb rapidly, giving your confidence a much needed kick in the basement. On the down side, you become increasingly discourteous and you can’t seem to supress the desire to purchase (and wear) a…
The longer, faster cat's meow
Jaguar cars, long known for their sexy lines and classic proportions, were growing extremely long in the tooth with their XJ platform, a design that was pulled, smoothed out and tweaked since the Series 1 cars in 1968. In cat years, that’s food for worms. Well, in 2009, Jaguar took the much needed leap into…
Creature comforts where creatures roam
New Mexico seems other-worldly to those unaccustomed to the arid nature of the South West. But the desert-like atmosphere isn’t as stark as you might think. From Albuquerque to Santa Fe, the adobe style homes fit in well with the captivating landscape. Blue sky and enormous cumulus clouds as far as the eye can see…
The second time's the charm
Back in May, we whet your appetite with photos of the Lamborghini LP550-2 Spyder, and we promised you a revisit in a video clip. What you need to know is that even though Lamborghini specializes in their all-wheel-drive setups, the rear-wheel-drive LP550-2 Spyder is perhaps one of the most exciting to drive, largely due to…
Anything but mini
Mini Cooper, Maxi Clones. The sprawling lineup from BMW now includes a car with a hat, the Mini John Cooper Works Coupe, the answer to a question nobody really asked. Though it’s not really a coupe, since it technically qualifies as a hatchback, the appearance is certainly so. Okay, so it’s not the best looking…
The sound and the fury
If ever there was a car that could make you an instant superhero with the neighborhood elementary school boys (and girls, for that matter), it would be the Porsche Cayman R, specifically painted in Peridot Metallic (a.k.a., Chernobyl Green). Consider it the ultimate Hotwheels sports car, come to life. We had the chance to toss…
Toyota’s sports car submission has been woefully absent from the automotive scene since the MR-2 Spyder bit its last customers in 2005. Well the Scion FR-S ($24,930) has something to say about that. Recently introduced with its sister vehicle, the Subaru BRZ, the FR-S is a game changer for the automaker. Initially, Toyota wasn’t too…