Tag Archives: First Drives

First Drive: 2014 Hyundai Equus

By Seyth Miersma

2014 Hyundai Equus Ultimate

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A Lesson In How To Out-Lexus The LS

I think that the new BMW 4 Series is an attractive coupe. The design is a little bit on the wrong side of “fussy” I’ll grant you, and I don’t particularly care for the look of the scalloped, black-bordered vents on the fender sides – functional though they may be. But for the most part, I find the coupe to be pretty pleasing to look at.

You all, by and large, do not care for the 4 Series. (For the sake of constructing my intellectual argument, I’m going to make the ridiculous statistical assumption that the 140 or so comments on our 4 Series First Drive provide a representative opinion of our readership as a whole.) In the first 24 hours after we published our review of the car, you felt moved to comment that it was “ugly,” “REALLY ugly” and “a disappointment” among other, less reprintable statements of ardor.

So clearly we see things a little differently in terms of styling, but what does any of this have to do with the 2014 Hyundai Equus?

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2014 Hyundai Equus originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 31 Jul 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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First Drive: 2014 Buick LaCrosse

By Seyth Miersma

2014 Buick LaCrosse - front three-quarter view

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A Nice, New Buick Aims For Middle Of The Road

Any time someone describes some portion of a car or a driving experience as being “nice,” I want to either A) throttle them or B) run as fast and as far as I can from that vehicle. “Nice” is among the most insidious words in the English language – at best it’s vague, and at worst, it conveys the exact opposite of its literal meaning. Yet it seems to be used with damnable frequency when it comes to verbally illustrating vehicles. “It looks really nice,” or “These seats feel nice,” or, heaven forefend, “It’s got a nice ride,” are all windy signifiers of absolutely nothing resembling a concrete opinion. “Nice” is the adjectival equivalent of meekly smiling and nodding your head.

Of course, I’m as guilty as the next person of having thrown English’s least powerful descriptor around. There’s even a chance that, rant aside, you’ll catch me making nice in reviews to come. That’s fine, but you should know that when you stumble upon such usage, past or future, that you’ve found a sentence in which I’m simply applying a bare minimum of effort to the task.

Right, let’s talk about the newly updated 2014 Buick LaCrosse.

Continue reading 2014 Buick LaCrosse

2014 Buick LaCrosse originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 24 Jul 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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First Drive: 2014 BMW 4 Series

By Steven J. Ewing

2014 BMW 4 Series

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Because Four Is Greater Than Three

Say what you will about the name 4 Series, there is a method to BMW’s madness. On one hand, it’s easy enough to just buy into the logic that odd numbers are reserved for sedans and wagons, and that even numbers are reserved for coupes and convertibles. On the other hand, consider the idea that the higher numbers are used to separate the more dynamic, more engaging vehicles that use the same platform. It’s that sort of separation that differentiates the 6 Series so nicely from its 5 Series roots, after all. And if we’re being cynical, it also allows BMW to charge a bit more money for its lower-volume offerings.

So with the new two-door version of the 3 Series, BMW has gone the route of strengthening the dynamic virtues of its F30 chassis to create a car that’s more removed from its sedan kin than one might think. And after spending some time with the new 4 Series on the roads around Lisbon, Portugal, as well as the famous Circuito do Estoril racetrack, it’s increasingly clear that calling this car a 3 Series Coupe simply wouldn’t be fair.

Continue reading 2014 BMW 4 Series

2014 BMW 4 Series originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 23 Jul 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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First Drive: 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV [w/video]

By Jeffrey N. Ross

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV

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Side Effects May Include Grinning and Tire Chirping

For anyone who has yet to experience the joys of indoor go-karting, you’re missing out. Electric karts race around the inside of former big-box retail establishments, warehouses and the like delivering more excitement than you typically get from those rickety old concession karts powered by lawnmower engines. Since we can’t afford anything wearing a Tesla badge, these usually come to mind when someone mentions an electric vehicle that’s fun. After driving the 2014 Chevrolet Spark, though, our mental association might just be out of date.

Thanks to their instant torque, an EV being a hoot to drive shouldn’t come as a complete surprise, but Chevy’s all-new Spark EV is making its bid to rise to the top of this growing class, a field that includes the Fiat 500e, Mitsubishi i-Miev, Nissan Leaf, Scion iQ EV and Smart Fortwo ED, and it’s doing so with more torque, better efficiency and a lower price. With a name like “Spark,” it would be easy to assume that this small car was conceived with an EV model in mind from the beginning, but that’s not the case.

Even entering its third generation in 2009 (the first two weren’t sold in North America), General Motors admitted that the Spark was not designed with an EV drivetrain in mind. Just four years later, though, the Spark EV is hitting America’s roads – in California and Oregon – so we headed to scenic Portland, OR to check out Chevy’s new battery electric vehicle (BEV) and the first EV for General Motors since the controversial EV1.

Continue reading 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV [w/video]

2014 Chevrolet Spark EV [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 22 Jul 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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First Drive: 2014 Audi RS7 [w/video]

By Matt Davis

2014 Audi RS7

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Stunning Sportback Gets The Performance To Match

Saying the 2014 Audi RS7 Sportback is not as good as the not-for-North-America Audi RS6 Avant we recently tested is a bit like saying one more strip of crispy bacon would make our Waffle House All-Star Special breakfast even more special. The RS7 goes to ten while the RS6 goes to eleven, maybe, but they both rock our world. The RS7 is meant for the far wider buying audience worldwide, not just for western European family bombing runs, as with the RS6 Avant.

But, hey, this RS7 simply hurtles down the road in a singularly sexy way. And if you really want this bodystyle – and who could blame you? – the RS6 Avant doesn’t really even matter anyway. After a full day on perfect dry and warm Swabian two-lanes driving this Audi very hard, we barely thought about it at all.

Continue reading 2014 Audi RS7 [w/video]

2014 Audi RS7 [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 17 Jul 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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First Drive: 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class [w/video]

By Chris Paukert

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Technology Meets Magic In The New Standard Bearer

If you’re like us, you’ve been eagerly awaiting this car for the better part of 10 years. No, not the 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class specifically, but rather the technology underneath it. Perhaps you remember the Bose active suspension system? Yes, Bose – a company better known for overpriced audio equipment – revealed an amazingly sophisticated automotive suspension system about a decade ago, demonstrating it via a pair of 1994 Lexus LS luxury sedans. One LS was fitted with the system, and the other went without. The two could be seen on split-screen video performing a battery of ride and handling exercises, with the Bose car experiencing remarkably little body roll and head toss thanks to its network of electromagnetic motors and microprocessors. It was as if the car looked at the road ahead and the suspension used that data to actively counter inputs and keep the chassis level and drama-free. Bose revealed the technology back in 2004, but it had been working on the technology since the Carter Administration. We’ve seen active suspensions before and since, but even now, the Bose’s performance seems positively next-level, with body control that boggles the mind. And that’s before the jump at the end of the video presentation.

As it turns out, the Bose demonstrator car was keyed to the course it ran in the video – it wasn’t examining the road at all, it was preprogrammed to expect those surface conditions. This might explain why a decade on, we still haven’t been able to buy such a system in a production car. It’s that missing anticipatory quality – the road scanning – that hasn’t happened. Until now. The 2014 Mercedes-Benz S-Class features just this sort of technology, though the suspension itself shares nothing with Bose’s architecture. Daimler’s so-called Magic Body Control combines the S-Class’ hydraulic Active Body Control (ABC) suspension with stereoscopic twin cameras mounted ahead of the rearview mirror to scan ahead and relax or firm up the suspension in preparation for the road surfaces ahead. Hitting your first speed bump with the system activated is nothing short of spooky – the Michelins feel for all the world like they’re sluicing through the traffic-calming nuisance as if it’s made of room-temperature brie. Like it isn’t even there. You’ll laugh and clap – we did.

The Michelins sluice through the traffic-calming nuisance as if it’s made of room-temperature brie.

Yet this brand of Magic has its limitations: it only works during the day, foul weather can cause the system to pack up (if the camera gets blocked by snow, for instance) and it’s really most effective over large disturbances like the aforementioned speed bump, as it’s not yet quick-witted enough to catch subtler potholes and such. Oddly, it also only works …read more

Source: FULL ARTICLE at Autoblog

First Drive: 2014 BMW i3

By Matt Davis

2014 BMW i3

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A Purer Than Ever Sort Of Driving Pleasure

This all started back in 2007 when the megacity urbanization trend hit full stride and BMW began brainstorming the 2020 future of mobility. The product was thus originally called the BMW MegaCity vehicle. Then the ‘i’ division of BMW was officially born in 2011, and we have since been exposed to various “leaked” images and official prototype unveilings of both this i3 and the i8 eco sports car. The latter (called i12 in the halls of Munich) was originally called the Concept Vision Efficient Dynamics and presented as a diesel-hybrid.

The time is now upon us for the market launch of the plug-in i3 (called i01 internally). The wider motoring public already has its opinions and BMW is listening to all of them, so there’s a bundle of nerves around these limited drives of the i3 for a select few members of the media, Autoblog included. We came to an airfield outside of Munich and were handed an i3 test car to drive around a set course filled with blue- and white-striped cones. BMW tech experts were everywhere and some of the discussions around the various technical displays even got a little heated.

After our vast amounts of coverage during the gestation period of this new i3, we are well aware of the vocal – or at least written – sentiment of doubt among many computer users and BMW faithful. Not that this undertow of nay doesn’t have its place in BMW’s execution of the deliberately gradual i3 information rollout, but Munich and Leipzig (where the production center for i is located) are almost exclusively focused on customers who are new to BMW. These customers lack preconceived notions of BMW as a performance brand, and also crave the latest and greenest expression of their environmental concerns, preferably in an insanely networked and connected premium package. BMW i representatives have announced publicly that interest in the i3 is huge among newbies. Could the i3 become the Toyota Prius Plug-in for the no-Toyota-thank-you crowd?

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2014 BMW i3 originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 15 Jul 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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First Drive: 2013 Fiat 500e

By Sebastian Blanco

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Cinquecento’s Electrifying One-Price Strategy Is A Gas

America’s electric vehicle segment is getting crowded, but sales remain tiny compared to the overall market. Listening to EV pitchmen, a key phrase heard over and over is “no compromises.” This particular EV, the seller says, offers all* the things you want in a car, without the gasoline and without compromises. That asterisk thing? Well, sure, the electric vehicle paradigm requires you rethink the “one car that does everything” mentality, but once that’s out of the way, there are no compromises here. No siree.

Of course, all EVs require compromises – but the truth is that every car forces owners to make compromises. Big SUVs don’t always fit into parking spaces and suck down fuel. Subcompacts can’t hold a gaggle of children and dogs. High-performance sports cars compromise wallets. Once you wrap your head around the idea that choosing electric is an option just like vehicle size or color – where no one choice is right for everybody, even if it’s perfect for some – the 2014 Fiat 500e, going on sale this summer, asks a simple question: when you’re driving in a city, why would you drive anything except an EV?

Fiat has been making the 500e at its Toluca, Mexico plant since early December, but it isn’t busy building a million so that just anyone can own one. In fact, the automaker is going out of its way to make sure you don’t buy a 500e if it’s not right for you. The official website will soon have a “compatibility matching service” that will use information you feed it to determine if you’re an EV candidate (we’re guessing a short commute, an understanding of new technology and a place to charge at home will be the key factors). If the system doesn’t think you’re EV-ready, it’ll propose a different 500 for you. Nice, huh?

So, does the 500e actually offer pure electric mobility without compromises? Yes and no. Mostly yes, and it’s a fun yes.

Continue reading 2013 Fiat 500e

2013 Fiat 500e originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 15 Apr 2013 11:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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First Drive: 2014 Fiat 500L [w/video]

By Matt Davis

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Practicality From The Italian Ministry of Cute

As seen in the correct Italian/European light, Fiat is rightly dubbed a small car kingdom. This is not the marque’s whole story, though, and it’s certainly not a way Fiat appreciates being pigeonholed. But even the brand itself sort of has to admit that, in the end, without clever and right-priced smaller cars in its lineup, it might not even exist today.

Between the early 1980s and the dawn of the 21st century, however, the Fiat brand seemingly did everything it could to wreck itself and its core compact-car reputation by producing a series of certifiably unamazing cars that mostly looked drab and behaved below average. Just go have a gander at the Ritmo, the Uno, the Duna, the 1992-98 Cinquecento, 2004-07 Seicento/600, and the most recent European mega-flop, the Stilo, discontinued in 2008. Thankfully, almost right out of the gates since the mid-aughts, however, that has no longer been the case.

Jammed in this self-inflicted Catch-22 of small-car dependence, Fiat finally started capitalizing on the millstone hanging around its neck and turned it into a positive with the introduction of the new 500 back in 2007. The 500 and its wildly popular Abarth interpretations have allowed Fiat to at last create good premium-subcompact profits because these cars have become personalized trend and fashion statements worldwide.

Now I’ve driven this cheeky 2014 Fiat 500L mini-MPV, which should arrive in the US by the end of June. It’s the next chapter in the Fiat brand’s rise from the ashes and re-entry in America. The latter has been perhaps a much slower rise than desired due to the Great Recession and a European car market that continues to collapse in on itself in pretty scary fashion, but there is now light at the end of the Fiat tunnel. After a whole week of normal day-to-day with child and friends and stuff and many miles traveled, I was genuinely convinced by the 500L after not really knowing at all what to expect.

Continue reading 2014 Fiat 500L [w/video]

2014 Fiat 500L [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 02 Apr 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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First Drive: 2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo [w/video]

By Matt Davis

2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo

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BMW Gets Much Closer To The GT Look And Feel It Seeks

The 2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo is being launched to a pretty cynical automotive press brigade. You know it. We know it. Heck, even BMW knows it. We’ve just returned from driving it on the rather unforgiving and sometimes nasty roads of Sicily, and even before we got behind the wheel, many of our media colleagues were busying themselves doubting the 3 GT‘s very raison d’ĂȘtre. So, despite the always excellent Sicilian hospitality, the day’s atmosphere was kind of fragile.

While the press in attendance seemed determined to nail every product expert to the wall for having been even tangentially associated with the larger 5 Series Gran Turismo, it seemed that BMW decided ahead of time to not introduce such a sensitive discussion topic. That strategy would do little to smooth things over as everyone started digging for dirt on BMW‘s so far clumsy Gran Turismo franchise.

As it turns out, we like the 3 GT despite so many packaging and design cards being stacked against it just by association with the 5 GT precedent. Automotive journalists are sometimes wrong en masse and this case of prejudice toward the 3 GT is one of those times.

And besides, much in the way the entire Buick brand still exists because China fell in love with it (entirely to General Motors‘ dumb-luck surprise), the 5 GT has somewhat thrived due to similar circumstances. The odd-duck 5 Series version – arguably the least appealing design ever to roll out of the halls of BMW – has found its savior almost exclusively in the Land of Confucius. After driving this new 3 GT, we have no reason to doubt it will find far more favor not just in China, but in all of BMW‘s major markets.

Continue reading 2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo [w/video]

2014 BMW 3 Series Gran Turismo [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 21 Mar 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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First Drive: 2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series [w/video]

By Jonathon Ramsey

2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series

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Now Even Sharper Than The Razor’s Edge

There have been five Black Series models since the Mercedes-Benz SLK55 AMG Black Series introduced itself to European audiences in 2006. Following that, the Black Series club has hosted appearances by the 2008 CLK63 AMG Black Series, the 2009 SL65 AMG Black Series and last year’s 2013 C63 AMG Black Series. The sixth member of the group is one we would have thought already was a Black Series car in its standard guise. Right out of the box, the SLS AMG is loud, frenetic, cozy, boisterous and frightfully easy to oversteer. How much more Black did it need to get?

Quite a bit so, apparently. The SLS AMG Black Series has lost weight, gained power and been refitted with upgrades and aero bits from front to rear. If you liked the way it looked before, you’ll probably be an even bigger fan of this one. If you thought it looked ungainly, well, this one should stay even further away from pageants. Regardless of where you come down this is the best SLS AMG variant we’ve driven.

Continue reading 2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series [w/video]

2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 13 Mar 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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First Drive: 2014 Volkswagen XL1 [w/video]

By Matt Davis

2014 Volkswagen XL1

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World’s Most Efficient Car Impresses, Not Without Compromises

Among our many duties at the recent Geneva Motor Show, we were offered a pretty exclusive drive in the new Volkswagen XL1 hyper-efficient plug-in diesel hybrid. There is so much that is interesting about a car like this reaching production from a major automaker that it’s tough to know where to begin.

First off, you should know that – at least for this generation – there is absolutely no chance in Albuquerque that this “1-liter vehicle” (i.e. a vehicle that can burn just one liter of fuel to travel 100 kilometers, or 62.1 miles) will ever make it into the hands of North American customers. We, too, were having trouble imagining an XL1 in typical American traffic, surrounded by comparatively massive pickups and SUVs. The driving experience had us recalling a couple of weeks in 1999 when we drove the then-revolutionary Honda Insight hybrid on US roads. We keenly remember the feeling of being very small and vulnerable, even as we felt proudly green in our 61-mpg Tochigi pod. Thing is, the Volkswagen is smaller still, and nearly as light despite its more complex drivetrain and safety features.

In fact, the VW XL1 drive experience itself is very much like what we experienced in the Honda. Start talking about those details, however, and the XL1 reveals itself as a new way of seeing ultra-efficiency at work. The main technical difference is that the XL1 runs off of the parallel combination of a 27-horsepower electric motor that derives its current from a 5.5-kWh lithium ion battery pack, plus a 47-hp 800-cc turbocharged and direct-injected two-cylinder diesel engine. The whole parallel powertrain is located in back, while the 12V battery for ancillaries and the lithium-ion assembly, which can be charged via plug and gets some energy through brake recuperation, is positioned up front.

Continue reading 2014 Volkswagen XL1 [w/video]

2014 Volkswagen XL1 [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 11 Mar 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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First Drive: 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Sport

By Matt Davis

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Mercedes Makes A Mighty Little Sedan

We got overexcited when the W203 Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedan came out in 2001, calling it the “Baby Benz” when it really wasn’t. We knew that, too, but our enthusiasm for a model more like the old 190 of the ’80s was so strong that we were willing to stretch the first-gen C-Class to fit that mold. Today, the C-Class has done what all German premium cars do: grown in size. In this case, grown to satisfy the market intentions of the previous E-Class.

There was the tall A-Class sold from 1998 through 2010, but we never considered that a serious small Benz in the proper spirit, nor was it ever offered in the US. Regardless, we’ve been craving a smaller, premium, sexy sedan all the while.

As you read this, Mercedes-Benz has just unveiled, with great fanfare at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, the production CLA-Class. We saw the car at the Detroit Auto Show in January, and the Concept Style Coupe that led to the CLA was first seen in China at the 2012 Beijing Motor Show. The CLA – a.k.a. “the baby CLS” – is finally here and we’ve driven it.

Continue reading 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Sport

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA250 Sport originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 06 Mar 2013 12:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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First Drive: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel

By Jeremy Korzeniewski

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel

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Choose Your Own Adventure… But Choose Wisely

Jeep has got you covered. We can say this without even having to know what it is you want, because there’s hardly an option or configuration that you won’t find in the 2014 Grand Cherokee. There are three different engines, three different four-wheel-drive systems (plus rear-wheel drive), four different trim levels – not counting SRT – two different suspension setups and five different settings for various off-road terrain conditions. If you happen to check the box for Quadra-Lift, you’ll also have five different ride-height settings for the driver-selectable air suspension.

As you might expect with so many customization possibilities, the way a buyer checks the options sheet can have a profound effect on the final product and its capabilities, to say nothing of its price. Nowhere is that more true than with the Grand Cherokee‘s choice of engines, with the brand-new 3.0-liter EcoDiesel V6 stealing the spotlight from the still excellent gasoline-fueled 3.6-liter Pentastar V6 and 5.7-liter Hemi V8 powerplants that carry over from last year. No matter which engine you choose, though, it will be paired up with Jeep’s new standard eight-speed automatic transmission from ZF. This, ladies and gentlemen, is very good news indeed.

We took to the ranch lands surrounding Austin, Texas at Jeep’s invitation to put the 2014 Grand Cherokee through its paces, both on road and off. Read on for our initial report card.

Continue reading 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel

2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee EcoDiesel originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 26 Feb 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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First Drive: 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class [w/video]

By Matt Davis

2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class - front three-quarter view, silver

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Three-Pointed Star’s Cash Cow Gets Significant Updo

On sale since 2009, with some enhancements already done in early 2011, the eighth-generation W/S 212 Mercedes-Benz E-Class has once again been put under the knife to stay in step with the automaker’s never-ending desire to be the world’s Number One purveyor of premium motors. Whereas the smaller C-Class is the best-seller worldwide for Mercedes-Benz, the E-Class pulls in oceans of dough per sale, also at immense volumes.

Beyond a reworking of the overall engine strategy in this second midlife massage, a majority of the E-Class’ exterior panels have been redesigned. Additionally, many of the assistance systems to be offered on the next S-Class are being introduced to the E-Class segment for the first time. Occasionally, these sorts of comprehensive refreshes nearly create a new generation of the car, and this freshened E-Class comes damned close to that.

While Mercedes-Benz wants to talk a lot about the new engine lineup and the S-Class-style convenience and safety systems, we were struck immediately by the redesign. Frankly, to our eyes, these past few years of the Mercedes family look could have used a little more finesse and less knife-slice coldness. That general feel of chilled sharpness on the E-Class is set to be history in short order. Even the chiseled “haunch” line is gone from the rear bodyside – the sort of sheetmetal change you almost never see on a mid-cycle update.

Continue reading 2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class [w/video]

2014 Mercedes-Benz E-Class [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 20 Feb 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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First Drive: 2014 Porsche Cayman S

By Zach Bowman

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A Blue-Blooded Valentine

I need you to understand what it’s like to drive this car. I’m not talking about your ability to comprehend the words on this page or process the figures that surround the 2014 Porsche Cayman S, but rather what it feels like to take control of a car conceived, designed, engineered and manufactured to set your prefrontal cortex alight with all the glee a Zippo typically reserves for pine needles marinated in jet fuel. From the instant you put your tail in the driver’s seat, the Cayman sets about impregnating your veins with a full and varied spectrum of ludicrous emotion. It’s not like taking the family pickup to market, I can tell you that much.

For 2014, the next-generation Cayman features many of the same styling tweaks first displayed on the coupe’s drop-top cousin, the Boxster, though a spate of mechanical changes, more power, less weight and better efficiency join the party to further differentiate this model from its predecessor. And while additions like rev-matched downshifts and electronic power steering help push the Cayman into a new era, one fact remains unchanged: This is one of the best driving cars on the market. Period. Bear with me and I’ll try to explain exactly why that is.

Continue reading 2014 Porsche Cayman S

2014 Porsche Cayman S originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 19 Feb 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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First Drive: 2014 Acura RLX

By Steven J. Ewing

2014 Acura RLX

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Good. But Good Enough?

Spoiler alert: The 2014 Acura RLX is a good car. But that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Despite the fact that Acura is subject to a lot of criticism for things like its odd positioning in the automotive landscape, questionable styling choices in recent years, and the fact that, more or less, its products feel like lux’d-up Hondas rather than something truly unique, the cars have always been inherently good – decent to drive, nice to sit in and reliable to own. That’s what happens when you ride that sort of “affordable luxury” line.

Because Acura’s sedans don’t really fit into any one definable segment, the brand hopes it can draw customers from a broader range who aren’t necessarily dedicated to a certain marque. And while there’s certainly rhyme to that reason on the more entry-level end of the spectrum, that proposition makes less sense as you move toward higher price points. (Have a gander at the Hyundai Equus, if you will.) On the other hand, Acura pulled data from a 2012 Strategic Vision survey that showed the number one purchase decision for luxury buyers last year was value for the money, with manufacturer reputation coming in at a close second.

Which brings us to the 2014 RLX, a flagship that will compete in the mid/high luxury segment, battling cars like the BMW 5 Series and Audi A6, but, according to Acura, reaches up into 7 Series and A8 territory, as well.

“This is the best car Acura has ever produced,” said Michael Accavitti, the automaker’s vice president of national marketing operations. And he may be right. But is it truly good enough to be a more renowned player in this higher-end segment than the outgoing RL was? (That shouldn’t be too hard, given the fact that the RL was the worst-selling car of 2011.) We hit the roads around Napa Valley to find out.

Continue reading 2014 Acura RLX

2014 Acura RLX originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 15 Feb 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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First Drive: 2013 Land Rover Range Rover

By Jonathon Ramsey

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The Imperial Super Star Destroyer of SUVs

2013 Land Rover Range Rover

Andrew Polsinelli, Land Rover North America’s head of product planning, told us this is what owners requested of the new, fourth-generation Range Rover: “Don’t change it, just make it better.” Superficially, the request appears to represent that species of conflicted, mashed-potato yearning that births other such entreaties as “I want it to be non-fat but still rich and full of flavor,” and “I’d like more cashiers and better service at the 99-cent store.”

Focus on the word “it” in the first part of that demand, though, and one can begin to find clarity. When they say “Don’t change it,” that isn’t a command to leave everything untouched on the 42-year-old SUV franchise that can simultaneously rule the farm and the Bolivian highlands and a refugee camp and the vogue enclaves of any national capital. They mean don’t change the ‘Range Roverness‘ of it, the feeling that it’s penthouse automotive luxury – a donked-out Rolls-Royce if you will, a Phantom on thirty-sixes but without the rapper/kingpin connotations. Beyond that comes the knowledge that if you want to get from Los Angeles to Miami in your Range Rover, you can take the straight shot over the I-10 freeway or a slight detour through the Canadian tundra. And it’s still the only SUV extant that will have the driver looking for buttons with the icons for serfs or footmen upon arrival (because you can’t be expected to have to do things yourself, can you?).

That feeling remains in the 2013 Range Rover. And the latest generation is better. So there’s the prime directive accomplished. Furthermore, it is so capable that it’s not wrong to call this the Super Star Destroyer of SUVs.

It does, however, look a little different.

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2013 Land Rover Range Rover originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 04 Feb 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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