First Drives

2019 Honda Insight first drive: relief in a rising sea
2019 Honda Insight first drive: relief in a rising sea

Consider us as proverbial frogs, adrift in the rising oceans and paying nickels, dimes, and quarters more for gallons of the same gasoline every time we go to the pump. Impervious to the slow march toward $5 a gallon again, we’ll march happily along in crossovers and pickups until our credit...Read More»

2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
2019 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter first drive: generational shift, but as useful as ever

When you consider that new-car life cycles are usually measured in years, not decades, it seems silly to describe new models as “generations.” The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter is an exception: the 2019 Sprinter is only the third generation of Mercedes-Benz’s flagship van since its...Read More»

2018 Nissan Kicks
2018 Nissan Kicks first drive: the used-car alternative

Tasked with spending $20,000 on a transportation, most shoppers head to the classifieds. The 2018 Nissan Kicks wants to be the antidote to a used Honda CR-V or Ford Escape. It wafts its eau du voiture nouveau toward budget-conscious shoppers, luring them away from the pre-owned lot to the main...Read More»

2019 Lexus ES
2019 Lexus ES first drive: a luxury staple breaks into three-part harmony

Freed from its burden of being the mid-size sedan for every luxury buyer, the 2019 Lexus ES sedan, now in its seventh generation, grows slightly sharper in each of its several distinct flavors. The 2019 ES350 plays the middle-of-the-road luxury role, the ES300h hits hybrid high-economy notes while...Read More»

2018 Mazda MAZDA6
2018 Mazda 6 first drive: a blown opportunity

Accords and Camrys long ago became shorthand for family cars. Fusions and Malibus have thousands of showrooms for buyers to stumble into. In the vast universe of mid-size sedans, the Mazda 6 has toiled in semi-obscurity. It’s a fringe player, a Pluto with rarer news pegs. Mazda’s blurry...Read More»

2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo R-Spec
2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo first drive: the benefits of bodybuilding

Austin, Texas, may have weaponized food trucks in our culture wars, and turned weirdness into a commodity, but it can’t take away one thing. It can’t take away the 2019 Hyundai Veloster Turbo’s asymmetrical doors. We know, because we just spent a day driving the Veloster in a big...Read More»

2019 Subaru Ascent first drive
2019 Subaru Ascent first drive: my other family crossover is a canoe

Contrary to common understanding, Subaru did not create the tall-wagon-crossover-hatchback vehicle. Subaru just created six different reasons to buy the same one. Want a wagon? How about an Outback. Want a mid-size crossover? How about an Outback. Want an off-roader? You get the idea. DON'T MISS...Read More»

2018 Volkswagen Atlas
2018 Volkswagen Atlas: A third row worth fighting over

As we hammered out plans for my buddy Doug’s bachelor party––cigars, trap shooting, the usual Minnesota stuff––my main contribution became clear: to procure a massive vehicle to haul a crew of full-grown men who would absolutely act like teenagers. It seemed like the...Read More»

2019 Toyota Corolla hatch
2019 Toyota Corolla hatch first drive: first steps to sport

The same words have applied to the Toyota Corolla for nearly all of its 12 generations on sale in the U.S.: economical, practical, dependable, or smart. Sporty? The Corolla has felt lazy like Sunday mornings sometimes. The 2019 Toyota Corolla hatchback may change that. This year, Toyota will sell...Read More»

2018 Ford F-150 Power Stroke
2018 Ford F-150 Power Stroke first drive: the uncertain diesel pickup truck

Dark clouds above. Snow flurries falling. Gloomy view ahead. Seat heater engaged. It may be the end of April, but Colorado Highway 72—known locally as Coal Creek Canyon Road—isn’t ready for spring. The diesel-fueled 2018 Ford F-150 Power Stroke I’m piloting up this winding...Read More»

2019 Toyota Avalon
2019 Toyota Avalon first drive: full-size sedan with a sassy chassis

First, the Toyota Avalon came for old luxury buyers with old-school ideas. It had stretch-out space, comfortable ride, and it was quiet like the No. 17 tee box at Sawgrass. Then it came for the rest of us. Lagging racier competitors, including the Nissan Maxima, the Avalon looks to shed a stodgy...Read More»

2019 Volkswagen Jetta
2019 Volkswagen Jetta first drive: steady and staid

Two decades ago, ubiquitous would have been too soft a word to describe the Volkswagen Jetta’s presence on the manicured grounds of a prestigious college like Duke University. I recently found myself dodging students with backpacks on the narrow roads surrounding the stately campus in leafy...Read More»

2018 Lexus RX 350L
2018 Lexus RX 350L first drive review: playing catch up in a game it created

Sometimes two rows just isn’t enough. Strollers are getting bigger, car seats are bulkier, and nuclear families may as well need a battleship to go out to the movies for a night. Lexus gets all that. Meet the “U.S.S. 2018 Lexus RX 350L”—or at least it feels that way. With...Read More»

2018 Hyundai Kona first drive
2018 Hyundai Kona video road test

Make way for a big addition to the Hyundai crossover family: the pint-sized 2018 Hyundai Kona. This small crossover has big ideas—including some future powertrains that’ll have us buzzing soon—but it’s the basics that we’re in Hawaii to discover. The Kona sits at the...Read More»

2018 Hyundai Kona first drive
2018 Hyundai Kona first drive: small crossover hit parade

Some of us remember when dirt-cheap hatchbacks were the first stop for first-time new car buyers. Freedom was a fold-down rear seat, longboard, and sleeping bag for the only weekend vacation we could afford. The small cars only asked that we compromise our expectations for a tall ride, decent...Read More»

2019 Ram 1500
2019 Ram 1500 first drive: the luxury car of pickup trucks

The 2019 Ram 1500 has fully adapted to the way most drivers use their trucks: livability trumps utility. Sure, the latest Ram is powerful enough to lug a trailer weighing up to 12,750 pounds, but that didn’t matter to me as I took in the warm scent of leather and ran my hand across the...Read More»

2019 Kia Sorento
2019 Kia Sorento first drive: a subtly better crossover

The 2019 Kia Sorento is not a German crossover SUV. It’s far from Teutonic. But the 2019 Sorento Kia assembles in Georgia is beginning to feel less like a cut-rate Audi and more like a real one. Tweaks made to the three-row crossover’s steering and suspension for the 2019 model year...Read More»

2019 Volvo XC40
2019 Volvo XC40 first drive: a subscription worth renewing

There was molten lava under my feet, and it was relaxing. Harmonious, even, as it thumped gently to the music. It wasn’t a trippy dream, but rather bright orange felt-like carpeting and a Harman Kardon subwoofer hidden behind the dashboard supplying mellow bass tones. The unconventional...Read More»

2019 Jeep Cherokee
2019 Jeep Cherokee first drive: more conventional, more power, still rugged

Jeep didn't get it right with the Cherokee when it revived the revered name in 2014. The six-eyed styling bugged us—mainly, it looked like an insect. The base 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine was gutless, and the 3.2-liter V-6 was a neutered version of the strong 3.6-liter V-6 found elsewhere...Read More»

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