Mazda has refreshed its large crossover, the CX-9, for 2013, essentially giving the family hauler a new front end that carries the "Kodo" design philosophy seen in the rest of the automaker's lineup, especially the all-new Mazda 6 sedan.
Appearance: We really loved the new design on the Mazda 6, and on the CX-9 the update mostly does a good job of modernizing the starting-to-age platform. Slender chrome trim sets off the elegant grille, which extends into new wraparound headlights. It's simple and tasteful. (Only in profile does the new front end look a bit ungainly.) The fenders also have slight flares over the wheels that contribute to the sleek look. Our tester had the 20-inch aluminum alloy wheels and chrome dual exhaust, which stood out nicely against the Meteor Gray paint....
Appearance: This Impala, now the 10th generation, has been reborn as a head-turner. During our week with it, the car brought quite the reaction. Note to Chevy marketing: One tattooed young man rode up on his bicycle to tell Peter he'd made a "good choice" and how much he liked both the car and its commercial, which is set to Frank Sinatra singing Fly Me to the Moon. (Indeed, Peter's wife called it a "guy magnet.") Maybe all that reaction is because the Impala's slender grille recalls the Camaro, as does the recessed hood with its center bulge. Overall, the design is bold, with a lot of chrome accents, sweeping roofline, slightly flared panels over the rear wheels and what automakers like to call a "high belt line." The wide rear end has an integrated deck lid spoiler....
There's a new Jeep Grand Cherokee from Street and Racing Technology (SRT), which has become Chrysler's stand-alone branch as it soups up some other cars in the family. This Jeep is now the big, bad 470-horsepower bully on the block. SRT calls it the "ultimate performance SUV."
Appearance: As part of the facelift for 2014, the vertical-slat grille has been narrowed and set higher to give the Jeep a leaner and more aggressive look. Blacked-out Bi-Xenon headlights add to the menace and are rimmed by LEDs. The taillights get a similar treatment. Standard are 20-inch five-spoke wheels; the ones on our tester were Black Vapor Chrome. The raised, sculpted hood has two functional exhausters carved into it. A hatch-top spoiler is attractive as well as functional, creating more down force....
Honda rolled out the ninth-generation Civic for 2012, and it met with a lukewarm reception. Critics found fault with its interior quality and its new 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. (We detected some cost-cutting in cabin materials, but still thought it a solid sport compact.) As a result of the criticism, Honda quickly refreshed the Civic for 2013. Our tester was the performance Si Coupe. Having driven previous Si models, we were eager to try it....
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. ...