Perhaps it's telling that Mitsubishi's all-electric acronym, the city car known as the i-MiEV (Mitsubishi innovative Electric Vehicle), was trucked to us from Miami. The bulbous little car has a range of 62 miles when fully charged. So, how is it in the city? We had it for only a couple of days, but we got the general idea.
Appearance: Pick your description: a bug, an eggplant or a jelly bean. Lyra thought it looked like an anime character with its long, upswept headlights and parking- and fog-light dimples. Contributing to the cuteness factor: small, 15-inch alloy wheels. Despite its diminutive size, the i-MiEV is a four-door hatchback....
When it comes to its identity, Acura continues to be a work in progress. Is it an aspirational luxury brand or merely a Japanese version of Buick: a step up on the ladder but not the top rung? Now along comes the RLX, the new flagship sedan for Honda's luxury division, which does improve on its predecessor, the RL.
Appearance: First to catch your eyes are the sparkling Jewel Eye LED headlights, which Acura says are brighter than halogen or HID lights. Beyond that, the RLX looks like a rather ordinary, slightly stretched midsize sedan. The front fender bulges contribute to this elongated look. The grille is a more subdued version of Acura's shield. Chrome trim and 19-inch alloy wheels add a sporty touch. ...
Volkswagen redesigned the Beetle for 2012, attempting to broaden the Bug's appeal by toughening up its cute look. (Translation: Appeal to the male buyer.) For 2013, VW has rolled out three limited editions: '50s, '60s and '70s. We drove the '60s trim. While it didn't conjure memories of Flower Power, it did impress us with its performance.
Appearance: The redesign left the distinctive Beetle style, but flattened out some of its roundness with a flatter roof line and wider stance. The front still has the signature round headlights and wide fenders. Lyra loved our '60s edition's Denim Blue color, but it seems more baby blue than any pair of jeans we've ever worn. Peter: "I'm not sure what's '60s about this color. Haven't VW designers ever seen Woodstock?" The one bright color on our tester was the red brake calipers that peek out from the 18-inch, five-spoke alloy wheels. There's also a rear spoiler that announces this Beetle means business. When the cloth top is up, the silhouette is almost identical to its hardtop counterpart. With the top down, the Beetle retains its sleek look. The top goes down in less than 10 seconds — even when you're moving at speeds of up to 31 mph. The cloth top folds compactly and doesn't hinder visibility. VW provides a cover that gives the folded-down top a neater look, but it doesn't strike us as being worth the trouble — and it is trouble, says Lyra. Just leave the cover at home to reclaim some trunk space (7.1 cubic feet)....
Mitsubishi's Outlander Sport is neither an Outlander, like its bigger SUV sibling of the same name, nor sporty. But the Outlander Sport, which has been updated for 2013, is a compact SUV that can be had for slightly less than $20,000 in its base trim. In a refreshing change, we didn't get a manufacturer's fully loaded model.
Appearance: The look is athletic. Mitsubishi has made tweaks to the body including the front fascia, the rear LED taillights and the lower-body panels, which are now painted black. The Outlander Sport still carries the angry-looking scowl that looks much better on Mitsubishi's sporty Lancer. That chrome-trimmed grille, with a body-color bumper running through it, is the most striking feature of the SUV. The look definitely provokes a love-it or hate-it response....
This is the golden age of the midsize sedan. The family car is the most competitive class in the auto industry, and consumers reap the benefits of this one-upmanship. The latest proof of this is the stylish all-new Mazda6.
Appearance: We love the new look, which presents itself as aerodynamic, with sensuous curves and, finally, an elegant front grille. Grilles have long been a design conundrum for Mazda (think "grin" or "smile") but this design is striking, accented by chrome trim integrated into the flanking headlights. Peter thinks you can really see the Japanese aesthetic at work here. The front fenders flare for a more aggressive look — one that is becoming a familiar design element for all manufacturers. Those fender creases flow nicely into the doors — Mazda calls this "soul of motion" — and a slight crease runs all the way to the rear of the car. The rear of the 6 also is nicely detailed with chrome trim, a deck-lid spoiler and elongated taillights. The twisted spokes of the 19-inch wheels really set off the Soul Red paint (an upgrade), which has deep hues that look stunning in the sun. Want a nondescript family hauler? This is not your car....
Forget what you know about diesels. Forget the arguments about whether Porsche should be making SUVs. The Cayenne Diesel, especially if you can ante up for the pricey options, will change any preconceived notions.
Appearance: The midsize Cayenne looks like what you'd expect a Porsche SUV to look like up front: raised fenders, creased hood, sleek tri-oval headlights. This look sweeps back to a fairly standard crossover design. There are now larger and bolder taillights, an improvement that goes better with the wide rear end and dual exhaust. Our optioned-out tester had a sporty look with black 21-inch wheels (a $6,505 option including arch extensions) and black trim around windows and wheel wells, which was a nice contrast to the Classic Silver Metallic color ($790)....
Sometimes, we get as excited over a modestly priced car as we do over the latest exotic. We're serious. An economy car has to provide more bang for the buck in areas that matter to busy families. So we appreciate when a car delivers. Kia's all-new 2014 Forte sedan does this surprisingly well. It should hit dealerships any day now.
Appearance: Overall, this new Forte is longer, lower and wider than its predecessor. If you say it resembles the Honda Civic, we won't correct you. We think so too — especially in profile. And while Kia probably doesn't like to hear it, we submit that such suggestions are high praise. (Peter is a Civic owner). This new Forte looks more aggressive; it has Kia's distinctive black-mesh "tiger-nose" grille and is framed in chrome. The design is tied into aggressively upswept headlights that feature LED "eyebrows." The lower black-mesh air intake is flanked by foglights. The body side panels are tastefully creased, recalling its Hyundai cousins' "fluidic" design. Complementing this handsome package are sculpted 17-inch alloy wheels....
The Subaru Forester was introduced in the 1990s as a crossover wagon, and it became popular with buyers in snowy climates who valued practicality and safety with the automaker's standard four-wheel-drive. For 2014, Subaru has redesigned the Forester, which has resulted in a vehicle that's incrementally larger and looks more like an SUV.
Appearance: Peter can't help but feel that the Forester has lost some of its quirky "Subaru-ness" by shedding the station-wagon design. Our turbo model featured an aggressive-looking front fascia with mesh grille and chrome trim. (The look is much better than that of the plainer nonturbo Foresters.) Maybe because of the rake of its windshield, this fourth-generation Forester doesn't look as tall as its predecessor. We both liked our tester's Marine Blue Pearl paint, which was complemented by upswept headlights and 18-inch alloy wheels....
Hyundai introduced its Genesis coupe in 2010 as a traditional rear-wheel-drive performance car for the budget-minded. Since then, the carmaker has refined its design philosophy and given the 2013 Coupe styling and horsepower updates — for both 4-cylinder and V-6 models — to keep pace with the rest of the Hyundai line.
Appearance: The Genesis keeps its muscular look and "fluidic sculpture" styling, but gone is the small grille that looked like a leftover from the Hyundai parts bin. In its place is a much larger hexagonal blackout grille similar to Hyundai's Veloster. The hood gains character with airstream creases and faux air scoops, and the taillights are now upswept and of the LED variety. Lyra finds the new grille too gaping and unflattering; Peter likes the bolder look. We both liked our R-Spec's 19-inch alloy gunmetal wheels and the dual chrome-tipped exhaust. When last we drove a Genesis Coupe, it came in shade-your-eyes-neon Lime Rock Green. Now it appears that Hyundai has toned down its choices to more mainstream colors. ...
Talk about an offer we couldn't refuse: Would we like to drive Aston Martin's all-new Vanquish and a DB9 Volante? The only thing quicker than our answer may be the Vanquish itself. Both British-built models are high-performance grand tourers or GTs. For most of us, they are dream cars. So in that spirit, here are our impressions.
Price as tested: $309,605 plus delivery fee...
The stylish XC60 puts Volvo's Scandinavian style into a small luxury crossover SUV. The XC60 comes in three trim levels. Our tester was the middle of the lineup — the all-wheel-drive T6. Think of it as this generation's Volvo wagon.
Appearance: We first drove the XC60 when it was introduced as a 2010 model and the design remains unchanged, which is a good thing. The SUV is still one of the more handsome we've seen, with a high stance, elegant roofline and a curvy rear end with vertical taillights shaped like some modern sculpture. The tall XC60 is set off by silver low-profile integrated roof rails. ...
Scion's new FR-S was a joint endeavor between its parent, Toyota, and Subaru, which sells a nearly identical version as the BRZ. The project satisfies the need for a low-cost enthusiasts' car that adds driving excitement to both automakers' lineups. For us, the FR-S awakened memories of our fun first rides — back when cars still had names.
Appearance: Peter thinks the little coupe's design is fairly generic, with its only striking feature the indented "pagoda" roof that's said to help the car's aerodynamics. Lyra was much more impressed, saying it harkened back to Toyota sports cars of the '70s and '80s, and declaring the low-slung car sexy in its contours and creases....
Buick seeks to broaden its customer base and has introduced cars that appeal to driving enthusiasts, such as the Regal GS, and to younger drivers, such as the new Encore. This small crossover SUV looks like anything but a traditional Buick, and that's a good thing.
Appearance: The Encore is built in South Korea and that makes visual sense, because it looks like one of that country's automakers' stylish SUVs, with a curvy profile, sculpted body lines and lots of chrome trim. (It's also built on the same continent as China, where Buicks are popular.) The only touches that read Buick are the signature waterfall grille and faux portholes on the hood. The Encore's blue, translucent projector-beam headlamps are a design feature themselves, imparting a modern look to the small crossover that shares a platform with the Chevy Sonic. Our tester was set off by 18-inch polished wheels, sculpted taillights and chrome exhaust tips....
It says something about our super-size-me world that a 4,600-pound vehicle can be classified as a midsized SUV. But then the Acadia slots between GMC's Terrain and its barge-sized Yukon. For 2013, the Acadia gets a facelift that brings it in line with GMC's urban-macho aesthetic. We need to look rugged in those school car lines, after all.
Appearance: The Acadia's refreshed design gives it a more chiseled look that taps into the family features of the smaller Terrain. The most prominent change is a front that's more trucklike with a bold three-bar grille. The headlights, hood and fenders also get tweaks. The LED daylight running lights wrap around the headlight assembly for a modern look. The rear glass also is a wraparound, which makes the Acadia look streamlined and long. Our tester came in Crystal Red Tintcoat, which brought compliments from a soccer mom, surely the demographic that makes GMC giddy....
Readers often ask: How come the cars you drive always are loaded with expensive options? True, it's rare we get a base model. But carmakers want reviewers to experience all their features, which is why we often get top-of-the-line models. So the Passat S, which is one of the base models in the Volkswagen sedan's expansive lineup, was welcome.
Appearance: The made-in-America Passat, which got a redesign last year, is unchanged for 2013. The European design is handsome without dramatic touches, save for the three-blade silver-tone grille. The hood's creases extend to the grille, which blends with slender, swept-back headlights to give the car a lean look. Our tester came in beautiful Night Blue Metallic set off by 16-inch alloy wheels....