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24 Apr 2014

2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo

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2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo

“The Ultimate Driving Machine” has been BMW’s tagline for nearly 40 years. Launched in the 1970s, the marketing campaign was a stroke of genius by ad firm Ammirati & Puris, as the phrase helped differentiate the imported Bavarian cars from their fellow European rivals by subtly pointing out that Mercedes-Benz and Audi were offering luxury models, while BMW was selling sporty and youthful driving dynamics. The campaign worked – some would argue that stands among the most effective ad campaigns ever – and countless Baby Boomers embraced the brand’s fun-to-drive image by taking delivery of the company’s new models.

BMW still boasts that its vehicles are “The Ultimate Driving Machine” four decades later, but the brand is very different today. It offered just a few model lines in the mid-1970s, and only a handful of vehicles within. In 2014, the automaker offers an exhaustive range comprised of nearly a dozen lines with almost 50 different models. To survive and thrive, BMW has decided it must massively broaden its appeal.

One of the latest arrivals to BMW’s ever-growing stable is the 2014 3 Series Gran Turismo. The five-door hatchback is best thought of as a smaller version of the company’s 5 Series Gran Turismo built on stretched 3 Series platform that, in the case of this test car, shares the running gear of the 328i xDrive sedan. On paper, the five-passenger vehicle checks all the proper boxes with regards to performance, utility and economy. But does this family-focused 3 Series still deliver driving dynamics that qualify it for the title of Ultimate Driving Machine?

Continue reading 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo

2014 BMW 328i xDrive Gran Turismo originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 24 Apr 2014 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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22 Apr 2014

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible

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2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible

It may be impossible to spend a day in Chevrolet’s new C7 Corvette without someone asking what you think about the iconic sports car – magnetism is an understatement. I was approached by strangers in a grocery store parking lot, parents waiting for their children after school and enthusiasts on a canyon road after I had pulled to the side to take in the view.

All sneak up with a curious smile on their face, take a deep breath and then start spitting out questions like an overly aggressive prosecuting attorney. Is this the new Corvette? What do you think of it? Is it fast? How much does it cost?

While a closed-roof coupe offers a protective shield from the verbal onslaught – it’s hard to field questions through a solid roof – the droptop Stingray Convertible allows the full inquisition to rain down each time one slows to a stop. These opportunities include incessant chatter with complete unknowns at stoplights, street corners and even while stuck in traffic.

Continue reading 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible

2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Convertible originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 22 Apr 2014 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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21 Apr 2014

2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

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2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

“No Land Rover has any business sounding like that!”

My dad’s words hung in the air like the few stray puffs of exhaust trailing in my wake as I motored away from him following a nice dinner. His parting statement to me really summed up the experience of driving this Chile Red Range Rover Sport. This is a vehicle unlike anything else Land Rover has ever built – and it needs to be. The Sport has been the British marque’s best-selling vehicle since it went on sale in 2005 – even in its predecessor’s final full year of sales, 2012, it still netted a four-percent bump. That kind of staying power needs to be preserved.

Doing that would be difficult, though, as Land Rover launched a pair of particularly notable products before it was time to redesign the Sport. The Range Rover Evoque has set the design benchmark for the Land Rover brand, while the all-new, fourth-generation Range Rover was the best sport utility vehicle Land Rover has ever built, and arguably one of the very best on the road, full stop.

The task seemed clear, then: build a worthy successor to an SUV that customers have been clamoring to buy for the better part of decade, while also adding the design chutzpah of the Evoque and living up to the class-leading standards set by its big brother.

Continue reading 2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport

2014 Land Rover Range Rover Sport originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 21 Apr 2014 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

2014 Infiniti Q50S

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2014 Infiniti Q50S

Ten years ago, nearly to the day, I took delivery of a brand-new 2004 Infiniti G35 6MT. The sporty rear-wheel drive sedan, equipped with its throaty 260-horsepower V6, slick manual gearbox and limited-slip differential replaced my 2001 BMW 330i because the Japanese competitor touted a product that was roomier, better equipped, quicker and lower priced. The G35 trumped the German in nearly every measurable category – at least on paper.

The 2014 Infiniti Q50 is the direct descendant, albeit two generations later, of the car I owned a decade ago. It is dimensionally about the same size, but it has gained more than 300 pounds of mass thanks to numerous safety upgrades and technical innovations. The additional weight is largely dismissed by a larger and more efficient powerplant that delivers an additional 68 horsepower, a welcome arrival, but the manual gearbox that charmed enthusiasts has been pushed out of the picture by a mandatory seven-speed automatic transmission.

As it has in the past, Infiniti touts its all-new Q50 as a luxury sport sedan worthy of the title. Decades ago, impressive performance statistics may have sealed the deal. Yet there is much more to the assignment today, as the model must offer premium appointments, sophistication and engaging driving dynamics if it’s going to entice and capture the next-generation of young, premium buyers – much like the G35 did for me ten years ago.

Continue reading 2014 Infiniti Q50S

2014 Infiniti Q50S originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 03 Feb 2014 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

2014 Mazda3

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2014 Mazda3

Almost by definition, affordable compact cars aren’t supposed to be fun. Sure, hot hatches get our blood pumping, but not long ago, the terms “compact car” and “economy car” could safely be used interchangeably. A key exception for the last decade has been the Mazda3, a car that has consistently delivered more dynamic thrills and tactile feedback than its contemporaries. Competitors have picked up their game significantly in recent years, however, leaving the Mazda3 wanting in several areas, including overall refinement, in-car technology and cabin appointments, so Mazda went back to the drawing board to create this all-new third-gen model for 2014.

Including this redesigned 2014 model, Mazda’s recent crop of new products have targeted North America’s hottest non-truck segments – compact car, midsize sedan and compact crossover/SUV. Yet it might be fair to call this launch the most important of them all, as the 3 remains the Japanese marque’s best-selling vehicle. While America’s pool of compact hatchbacks isn’t exactly deep, the 2014 Mazda3 still has a challenging road ahead of it competing against two-box compacts that include the popular Ford Focus and recent additions like the all-new Kia Forte and the still-new Hyundai Elantra GT.

Continue reading 2014 Mazda3

2014 Mazda3 originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 28 Jan 2014 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG

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2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG

If working from home these past few years has taught me anything, it’s that I genuinely miss commuting. Yeah, you heard me. Maybe it’s because, historically, my commutes have always been pretty enjoyable – not like the opening scene from Office Space, one of those stop-and-go-until-the-end-of-time grinds. When I had to drive to an office every day, I always managed to find routes that didn’t involve the highway, or at the very least, they incorporated a fun on-ramp or two. In my more recent, working-from-home years, I’ve made a point of spending my lunch hour on the road. Not only does doing so allow me to put miles on test cars, it’s a nice break from the nine-to-five – especially when there’s a particularly interesting car in my care.

The 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG arrived late on a Tuesday morning, just before I would normally sign off and take lunch. The CLA has always intrigued me, and to say I’ve been particularly hot on the 45 AMG would be a gross understatement. So it was with enthusiasm that day that I shut my laptop just as the clock struck noon. There was a CLA45 sitting outside, the keys were in my pocket and I had some time to kill.

Following my quick lunchtime spin, I spent the rest of the afternoon gazing fondly at the CLA sitting outside, its menacing face trying to coerce me to fake some sort of illness (“no, really, I’m soooo sick”) and spend the rest of the day flogging it out on the road. The CLA45 is one heck of tempting siren.

Continue reading 2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG

2014 Mercedes-Benz CLA45 AMG originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 20 Jan 2014 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

2014 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic Sedan [w/video]

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2014 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic Sedan

The great all-arounder. A concept as familiar to sports fans as it is dear to gearheads, the expression sums up a person or thing that excels by way of diffuse – rather than concentrated – excellence. This is an especially formidable concept in the picky midsize sedan segment of the luxury car world, we’d argue, where brand loyalty and the force of history often power purchases as much as a car’s feature set. Do nothing wrong and win, assuming your brand is strong and your model’s reputation sterling.

In the case of the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, both brand and model are held in high regard, of course. What’s more, the current iteration of the car, substantially revised for 2014, is very much in the competitive mix with other luxury sedans in most categories, without really being the best at any one thing.

The question is, does that make it the best choice in its segment overall?

We grabbed the keys to a well-optioned E350 4Matic sedan in an attempt to answer just that. Though rear-wheel drive is standard for the E-Class; diesel- and V8-power available; and coupe, convertible and wagon bodystyles are on the offer sheet, the V6-propelled, all-wheel-drive sedan seems to be a bread-and-butter choice for executive shoppers here in the northern part of the country. And, of course, BMW, Lexus, Audi, Cadillac and all the other contestants make sedans with similar drivelines, power and price tags.

Continue reading 2014 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic Sedan [w/video]

2014 Mercedes-Benz E350 4Matic Sedan [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 09 Jan 2014 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

2014 Nissan Rogue

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2014 Nissan Rogue

The compact crossover segment is crowded because it offers near-perfect transportation for small families and empty nesters alike. As more and more consumers discover the benefits of compact crossovers – riding tall in traffic, enjoying four-cylinder fuel economy and the confidence of all-weather traction – automakers are jumping into the game to meet the increasing demand. Today’s choices, in no particular order, include the Honda CR-V, Jeep Cherokee, Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, Mini Countryman, Subaru Forester, Chevrolet Equinox, Kia Sportage, Volkswagen Tiguan, Ford Escape, GMC Terrain, Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyota RAV4 and this Nissan Rogue. Nearly all start around $22,000 in base trim and work their way reasonably upwards with more appealing trim levels and options. If you spend much over $33,000 in this segment, you are a glutton for frosting.

The latest player from Nissan is its all-new second-generation Rogue, introduced late last year as a 2014 model. After a brief First Drive in October, we recently welcomed back the Rogue for a week-long review. The plan was to embed the compact crossover into a family routine during the holidays, where it would receive a hearty workout hauling everything from five adult passengers and their shopping bags to trays loaded with warm honey-glazed hams and pecan pies for a dinner party. The compact CUV handled all with poise, but everything wasn’t as sweet as its edible cargo.

Continue reading 2014 Nissan Rogue

2014 Nissan Rogue originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 08 Jan 2014 11:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage

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2014 Mitsubishi Mirage

This could have been something great. Last fall, Mitsubishi slapped its triple-diamond badge on a dainty little hatchback called Mirage, offering plenty of functionality and 44 miles per gallon on the highway, all starting at a super-low $12,995. For budget shoppers, this seemed to be a good thing – not to mention a much-needed breath of fresh air for the company’s waning US automotive arm.

I will fully admit to being a bit harsh on the Mirage following its debut at the 2013 New York Auto Show, often making it the butt of jokes with my colleagues. But at the end of the day, I love cheap, basic, honest little cars like this, and I wasn’t prepared to write off the Mirage until I spent some time behind the wheel. After all, on paper, a Mazda2 looks pretty unremarkable, and yet it’s one of my favorite small cars to drive.

Much as I wasn’t looking forward to putting my foot in my mouth, I was sort of hoping to feel the same way about the new Mirage. It’s a bland package, but it could have been filled with the same spunky spirit and well-meaning composure of vehicles like the aforementioned Mazda, or even stuff like the Honda Fit or Chevy Spark and Sonic.

It could have. And in this day and age, it should have.

Continue reading 2014 Mitsubishi Mirage

2014 Mitsubishi Mirage originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 07 Jan 2014 11:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

2013 Nissan NV200

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2013 Nissan NV200

Moving is not fun. On the scale of adult activities, it ranks somewhere between taxes and jury duty. Boxes need to be loaded, furniture needs to be lifted and the entire affair is typically fueled by a combination of pizza, beer and pain killers (a combo my friends affectionately refer to as “moving fuel”). It’s not fun, and it’s rarely easy.

While it doesn’t make the activity any more enjoyable, having the right vehicle for the job is the difference between loading and unloading half a dozen times and doing it once or twice. When taken as a whole, a proper moving van can shave hours off a day of labor, not to mention untold years of physical and mental stress for those who must take to their wheels every day.

That truism was borne out once again when I borrowed a loaded Nissan NV200 SV to help my girlfriend move into her new house. The little Nissan was a comfortable and able companion throughout the day, managing everything from a mattress and box springs to countless boxes of clothes, dishes and other necessities. Throughout the day, the NV impressed not just with the amount of stuff it could fit in its cavernous back end, but with the features it had to make moving anything easier.

Continue reading 2013 Nissan NV200

2013 Nissan NV200 originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 30 Dec 2013 11:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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