No longer just a lame substitute for a real SUV, crossovers have grown in terms of quality, capability and available amenities such that there seems virtually no end in sight. Mercedes-Benz has been busier than just about anyone lately when it comes to redesigning their lineup and introducing new models, and the GLA Class is the latest to come down the Teutonic pike to fill this new crossover mold. We made our way to Málaga, Spain to take two iterations out for a spin: the GLA250 4Matic and the zippier GLA45 AMG.
Power For The People
Volkswagen is making some driver-friendly improvements to their 2014 model line. Good: they’re replacing the somewhat disappointing 2.5-liter five-cylinder engine option in the Jetta and Passat with a torquey (for its size) 1.8-liter, direct-injection turbo four. Better: five models will be given VW’s hot rod R-Line treatment for the 2014 model year. Best: we got to drive them all.
Steering in the Right Direction
The 2014 Infiniti Q50 (essentially the next generation G37 with a new name) brings ground-breaking tech, a strong engine and grown-up styling to the table and could be a major pivot point for the brand as they leave the shadow of parent company Nissan. We took a quick spin in the upgraded Q50S ($43,550), which is loaded with even more tech and an interesting new Direct Adaptive Steering system.
The Caddy that wows
The CTS Vsport ($59,995) takes a big step forward in Cadillac’s new era of design and driving excellence. The car is more elegant than the previous model thanks to a leaner profile; the front grille is smaller but no less noticeable; the faux vents aft of the front fenders from the previous car are, thankfully, gone. This clean-up is part in parcel of a smoother and more unified countenance that’s attractive and less busy. The result is the first Cadillac that elicits automotive desire a la BMW, Mercedes and Audi — and we had a chance to get behind the wheel.
When Godzilla gets Juke'd
Have you ever seen “that couple” — the short, rotund Geek Squad individual and the Olympic beach volleyball player walking hand in hand? A similarly weird aura surrounds the incredibly unnecessary yet blissfully real 545 horsepower Nissan Juke-R ($665,000). We got some seat time in this, one of the rarest production automobiles in the world.
Stirs the senses, not the wallet
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.
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.
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.
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.