For Audi's Q5, the big news for 2014 is that the compact luxury crossover gets a turbo-diesel option, which is the model we drove. We're fans of the TDI engines — Audi calls them "clean diesels" — and this Q5 did nothing to change our opinion.
Appearance: Aside from the huge TDI decal on the body, there's nothing that's ostentatious about the Q5. (Rest easy, buyers. Audi is proud of its diesel technology, but these large decals are only for vehicles in its press fleet.) The Q5, of course, sports Audi's trademark large trapezoidal grille, which is flanked by xenon headlights with sharp LED running lights. We like the chiseled good looks of this SUV, which also sports attractive integrated roof rails and 20-inch five-arm aluminum wheels....
From the moment Chevy announced that the all-new 2014 Corvette would carry the Stingray name, the expectations were high. That's understandable given the sports car's history and passionate fan base. We were anxious, too. The previous generation Vette underwhelmed us with its place-holder design and dated interior. This new Vette — our tester was a convertible — more than makes up for those shortcomings....
Chances are, motorists who roll up next to a redesigned-for-2015 Subaru WRX won't give it a second look. Unlike the STI, a higher-performance version of the compact sedan, this WRX has no ready-for-takeoff rear wing to announce its capabilities. The wow factor comes when you drive it.
Appearance: The changes to this fourth-generation WRX are subtle, with only the hood scoop giving away its performance capabilities. Subaru has dropped two things for 2015: "Impreza" from the name (the model the car is based on) and a hatchback version. This new WRX has a slightly more chiseled look with pronounced fenders, hood creases and a more angular grille. The headlights have been narrowed and are more upswept. We liked how the black alloy wheels on our WRX Limited tester contrasted with its shimmering WR Blue Pearl paint....
We interrupt this Daily Drivers column to present a car that's decidedly not a daily driver — unless you're a member of the 1 percent class. For the rest of us curious about what a half-million dollars on wheels is like, we present the 2014 Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé — an apotheosis of luxury.
Why so much? First, the cars are hand-crafted in Goodwood, England. Buying a Rolls-Royce is like going to a Savile Row tailor — it's a custom, or "bespoke," experience limited only by what you want to spend. For example, our $568,900 tester — the most expensive car we've ever driven — had almost $20,000 in teak-wood decking and brushed-steel on the hood and door pillars. Then there were the 21-inch, fully polished seven-spoke wheels for almost $11,000. The Silver Haze finish is $9,500. And those are just the standard dealer options. Add some Bespoke features like piping ($3,200), personalized clock face ($9,500), white instrument dials ($7,700), and the price jumps drastically...
The GX 460 sits between the sleek RX crossover and the giant LX 570 in the Lexus lineup. The seven-seat GX seems more suited for the dimensions of city driving than does its big brother. The interior design may seem a bit dated, but then it is a traditional SUV that can handle light off-roading while doing so in Lexus luxury.
Appearance: There's no denying the GX 460's bulk, but the tall SUV at least manages to look stately. The GX's more contemporary vibe comes courtesy of the spindle grille that's now the standard-bearer for the Lexus line. LED headlamps, daylight running lights and new clear taillight lenses also help. Our Luxury-trim tester also had LED fog lamps and 18-inch six-spoke wheels in liquid graphite finish....
Peter was at a Toyota dealer not long after the redesigned 2013 Avalon hit showrooms. He recalls a salesperson telling him that some traditional (read: older) Avalon buyers weren't in love with its modern redesign. That about summed up Toyota's full-size sedan, which, before this new model, looked bland yet had a loyal following. Our tester was the '13 model, but there were minimal changes for 2014....
For 2014, Volkswagen's Touareg gains a sporty R-Line trim — one of almost a dozen models — as the automaker tries to "pump up the swagger" of the now venerable midsize SUV.
Appearance: We've always thought of the Touareg as a more subtle Porsche Cayenne. The resemblance is fitting because the Touareg shares the same platform as its curvy corporate cousin. Now, in its R-Line finery, the Touareg gains 20-inch Mallory alloy wheels, a body kit with lower bumper extensions and side skirts, LED taillights, chrome accent trim and chrome exhaust tips. The overall effect is one of tasteful sportiness. The R-Line trim, however, does not include the hands-free easy-open liftgate found on other Touaregs....
One thing about the Viper, its reputation — difficult to drive and even unforgiving — precedes it. Having never driven Chrysler's super snake, which returned in 2013 as an SRT brand instead of a Dodge after a two-year hiatus, we were pleasantly surprised by its sophistication and refinement. But it still deserves your respect.
Appearance: The new Viper is part Italian exotic and part American muscle. It's also menacing: "serpent eye" headlights and a bulging, clam-shell hood with prominent air scoops and Viper badge. All the air ducts and vents are functional. Even the "double bubble" roof has a purpose: to give the driver wearing a helmet more headroom. The Viper looks long, but it's actually shorter than a Porsche 911. Our tester's paint — Venom Black Clear Coat — was lustrous. Each Viper is given several layers of paint and is wet-sanded before each coat....
The five-door Lexus LX 570 is a 2014 model, but it seems to belong to another era — one when bigger was better and pump prices weren't a concern. The imposing, full-size SUV is a luxury version of parent Toyota's venerable Land Cruiser.
Appearance: Stately? Boxy? The LX 570 may have a retro vibe, but it has contemporary touches, such as LED running lights, illuminated running boards and 20-inch, double-spoke wheels with a graphite finish. Shorter drivers, especially, will need those running boards — the SUV is tall at 75.6 inches, and the seat sits high....
Peter is a big fan of Audi's "four-door coupe," the A7, which we drove when it first came out. He liked its luxury and hatchback practicality, as did Lyra, who was less enthusiastic about the car's profile. Now, Audi adds performance to the A7's portfolio with the all-new RS 7, which is a product of quattro GmbH, its tuner division.
Appearance: The RS 7 is striking. Audi's familiar trapezoidal grille gets polished-black honeycomb and is flanked by gaping air intakes. The look screams performance. The narrow headlights have Audi's full LED system. The roof is significantly raked, much like a coupe, which does limit rear-seat headroom. It's an aerodynamic design, but Lyra still doesn't like the cropped rear end. Some options enhanced the car's visual impact, such as 21-inch five-spoke blade-design wheels and the Optic Package ($950), whose matte-aluminum trim stands out against the Misano Red Pearl paint ($500). The RS 7 has dual-oval exhausts integrated into the bumper design. ...
We'll be the first to admit that we don't readily associate "Honda" and "hybrid." Sure, Honda was first to the market with its quirky 1999 Insight, but it wasn't long before it was passed by Toyota and its dominant Prius. Plus, almost every automaker now seems to have a hybrid sedan. So is the all-new Honda Accord Hybrid anything special?
Appearance: The hybrid model looks like the Accord. The only hint of what's under the hood are some discreet touches of blue in the grille slats, headlight bezels and small "Hybrid" badges. The wheels are 17-inch blade-like alloys that help with aerodynamics, as does the integrated deck-lid spoiler. ...
Can a minivan really be sinister? Dodge, the pioneer of the modern minivan, thinks so. Maybe that's why the Grand Caravan SXT now comes with an available Blacktop appearance package. So did we go over to what Dodge calls its "dark side"? Not entirely.
Appearance: The overall style hasn't changed since Dodge last updated the Grand Caravan for the 2011 model. Our tester came with the Blacktop package ($595), which includes a blacked-out grille, black headlight bezels, 17-inch aluminum wheels with black-painted pockets, black interior with silver accent stitching, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob. An important deletion to note with this package: a roof rack. We have to admit: The Blacktop package does make a stock minivan look as aggressive as is possible. We'd go as far as to borrow a competitor's line and say it has some swagger....
The new Mazda3 gets a redesign that brings the compact in line with the midsize Mazda6 and the CX-5 crossover with a wider body, longer wheelbase and, most importantly, no more Joker grin up front. In its place is the more sophisticated grille found on the 6. It's now time for this oft-overlooked compact to draw more attention.
Appearance: The third-generation 3, which comes in sedan or hatchback, is striking; its lines seem to flow even when not in motion. This is especially true of the hatchback, which is the model we drove in S Grand Touring trim. The 3's sinewy lines extend the length of the car and give it a dynamic profile. The gloss-black grille has a slender chrome accent that results in a much more elegant fascia. The large headlights are graceful — slender and upswept. The 18-inch wheels looked great on our tester. Lower trim levels get 16-inch wheels. From the rear, the hatchback has a wide stance and a more chiseled look....
Last summer, we drove the redesigned 2014 GMC Sierra 1500 and found it to be a smooth-riding, well-appointed and practical full-size pickup. The new Chevrolet Silverado 1500 is its nearly identical General Motors cousin, and we were no less pleased with it.
Appearance: The Silverado maintains its wide-set stacked headlights, which now fit into a heavily chromed wraparound grille. Much like the GMC Sierra, the Silverado has been given pronounced wheel arches, which recall GMC's Terrain SUV. Chevy added a clever step built into the rear bumper to hoist yourself up onto the bed. There's also an E-Z Lift tailgate that won't slam open and can be closed with one hand. ...
For car lovers, the first reaction to news that Jaguar was again introducing a proper sports car must have been, "What took so long?" (This surely was followed by concerns that the new roadster might detract from the iconic E-Type's legacy.) After spending the holidays with the F-Type, we're here to say: It's a gift that keeps on giving.
Appearance: Jaguar calls the F-Type the "spiritual successor to the E-Type," which was the epitome of 1960s cool and is considered one of the most beautiful cars ever made. The two-seater is smaller than it looks in photos, with styling cues that invoke the E-Type, such as the long nose, chrome-trimmed black-mesh grille and hood bulge and hood vents. The F-Type's sweptback headlights are underscored by sharp "J-Blade" LED accent lights. Our tester came in the eye-catching Firesand Orange Metallic, an attention-getter. The rear of the F-Type is wider and the sheet metal curves up along the wheel wells. Very sexy. The fabric convertible top opens in 12 seconds and can be raised and lowered at speeds of up to 30 mph. The top tucks away compactly, revealing roll bars for the occupants....