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....
Here’s the latest example of the perils of celebrities becoming the face of global brands. Scarlett Johansson is taking heat for her new ad campaign for SodaStream, an Israeli drinkmaker that recently signed her to be its first “global brand ambassador.”
According to the AP, SodaStream has come under fire from pro-Palestinian activists for maintaining a large factory in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank....
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....
2014 Lexus IS250: There was just something about the feel of this midsize sedan that impressed us. Sliding behind the wheel, you could be forgiven for mistaking the IS250 for a sports car. We also liked its athletic new look. Alas, the horsepower won't remind you of a sports car, but that just means Lexus can make an easy fix for the enthusiast.
2014 Mercedes-Benz E250: The newest Mercedes-Benz E Class sedan features a 4-cylinder biturbo diesel that in its rear-wheel trim can get about 45 mpg in highway driving. And it's a quiet performer. Throw in the Mercedes luxury and, well, who really needs a hybrid?...
Land Rover's vehicles have a well-deserved reputation for both luxury and off-road capability. For most of us city dwellers, however, we just want the comfort and the cachet. Land Rover ups the ante for 2014, especially with the all-new Ranger Rover Sport. Both the Sport and the larger Range Rover are handsome and powerful performers.
2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport HSE
Base price: $62,600, $76,270 as tested. 3.0-liter supercharged V-6, 340 horsepower, 332 pound-foot of torque, full-time four-wheel drive, single-speed electronic transfer box with Torsen differential, 8-speed automatic with Command shift, electronic air suspension....
Like other successful midsize sedans, Hyundai's stylish Sonata has a hybrid counterpart. For 2013, the Hybrid gets an upgraded electric motor and a smaller — and lighter — battery. Hyundai says this results in improved fuel efficiency. Also new, the Limited trim level, which was the model we drove.
Appearance: The Hyundai badges and a prominent logo on the trunk lid announce it's a hybrid. It also has styling features unique to the hybrid, such as a blacked-out hexagonal grille instead of the regular Sonata's horizontal chrome slats. The look is more like Hyundai's Elantra or Genesis Coupe. The hybrid shares the "Fluidic Sculpture" design philosophy that was a breath of fresh air in the midsize sedan market when this generation Sonata was introduced as a 2011 model. This design philosophy translates into a curvaceous car with front-to-back body creases and an elegant roof line. The car's solar-control windows are large, which helps reduce blind spots. Both the upswept headlamps and taillights get LED accents....
The Toyota RAV4 is credited with being the first compact crossover SUV. Now, Toyota has given it a makeover befitting the fourth generation of the RAV4, with a sleeker, contemporary look and more modern features.
Appearance: The RAV4's more agile bearing resembles some of its newer competition with its chrome-accented grille and upswept headlights. The sheet metal is more sculpted, especially in the fenders. Strong character lines, which complement the sloping roof, run the length of the vehicle. Most notably, Toyota has ditched the rear-mounted spare tire (good riddance) and the tailgate now opens upward instead of sideways. One carryover is the cladding under the grille that continues on the sides of the RAV4. For some reason, maybe to foster a more rugged image, manufacturers can't quite quit this practice. They get the balance mostly right in the RAV's case, with a little too much cladding up front but a minimum on the sides. None of that distracts from the handsome lines of the vehicle. Our Limited trim tester had 18-inch alloy wheels and the convenient height-adjustable power liftgate....
You've no doubt seen Will Ferrell's Anchorman character Ron Burgundy in commercials for the 2014 Dodge Durango, humorously praising, among other things, the glove box — "It goes on for inches!" — of the large SUV. Dodge has now given the Durango a midcycle refresh, and there's much more to like about it than the glove box.
Appearance: When the Durango was redesigned for the 2011 model year, it gained a muscle car's bearing. For 2014, that look gets bolder with new fascias and a tweak to Dodge's cross-hair grille. The headlights acquire LED bling, and tail lamps now span the rear of the vehicle and are the same Racetrack ribbon you see on the Challenger and Charger. Sharp. The Durango sits high, like a truck, and shorter drivers might find getting in and out a challenge. (Says Lyra: Ladies, it's not the best car to be driving in heels. It's a long step to the ground.) Our tester, the R/T, came with 20-inch alloy wheels, body-color accents and chrome-tipped exhausts....