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11 Apr 2014

2014 Fiat 500L

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2014 Fiat 500L

The saying goes that man cannot live by bread alone, and neither can automakers live by selling one car alone. This holds especially true for automakers with a budding dealer network to support, like the Fiat brand, which returned to US shores in 2011 after a 28-year absence. The company’s single car to sell at the time was the Fiat 500, a cute retro rebirth of the original, iconic Cinquecento, which your toddler now calls Luigi thanks to Pixar.

Since then, the new 500 has sold reasonably well here in the US, and the Fiat brand has been following the same playbook that another purveyor of pint-sized autos, Mini, has used: sell as many variants as you can of the one model you’ve got. So we have the 500, 500C drop top, high-performance 500 Abarth, all-electric 500e and a few additional trim levels and special editions to further fill dealer showrooms. But the axiom that automakers cannot live selling one car alone still stands, and so Fiat has finally introduced its second model, the larger 500L.

Executive Editor Chris Paukert completed our First Drive of the 500L back in June, and was left pleasantly surprised by its combination of utility, offbeat style, fun-to-drive demeanor and value. We’ve also, however, read some scathing reviews, like this one from The New York Times. I wasn’t sure where the truth lay when the keys for this top-trim 2014 Fiat 500L Lounge were handed to me, but finding out would be but a short week of together time away.

Continue reading 2014 Fiat 500L

2014 Fiat 500L originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 04 Dec 2013 12:33:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

2014 Acura RLX

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2014 Acura RLX

Earlier in the year, I reviewed a powder-blue Volkswagen Beetle Convertible, and I witnessed a group of high-school-aged girls ogling the car as it sat in my driveway. In my head, I found it to be a funny-yet-fitting scene that I didn’t think of again until a 2014 Acura RLX showed up in my driveway. This time around, an elderly neighborhood couple stopped to give the big Acura sedan a closer look. The RLX is trying to shed past stereotypes of its predecessor, the Acura RL, just like the Beetle. Hoping to avoid becoming the de facto “grandpa car,” Acura has completely reworked – and renamed – its flagship sedan.

As the bookend to the new entry-level ILX, the addition of the 2014 RLX might give Acura its strongest sedan lineup ever as the automaker looks to break the cycle of being a middle-of-the-road luxury brand. Stepping up to the big-boy table isn’t going to be easy, though, as the competition keeps getting tougher. Forget cars like the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5 Series, the Acura RLX is going to have its hands full with the likes of the Cadillac XTS, Lexus GS and Hyundai Genesis, not to mention a strong consortium of lower-priced, mid-luxury sedans like the Hyundai Azera, Toyota Avalon and Chevy Impala. The one thing all of these cars have in common is a reputation for being an old man cruiser.

I spent a week with the new RLX to see if it could shake the stigma of its outdated predecessor or if it would just leave me searching for the nearest early bird specials.

Continue reading 2014 Acura RLX

2014 Acura RLX originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 19 Nov 2013 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

2014 Lexus IS 350

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2014 Lexus IS 350

Long regarded as one of the best driver’s cars of all time, the BMW 3 Series has always been targeted by luxury automakers trying to create their own exciting, bang-for-the-buck sport sedan. For years, BMW has managed to ward off would-be rivals to its iconic 3 Series, but the combination of a softened F30 and solid, hard-hitting competitors could soon relieve the car of its crown. While the all-new Cadillac ATS has received the most publicity in this segment since its introduction, the 2014 Lexus IS has come on strong in its third generation to put plenty of heat on the 3 Series as the current-best luxury sport sedan.

The IS might be Lexus’ most important launch in some time, as a new, strong attempt to draw younger buyers into showrooms. Rather than taking the same conservative path as the preceding IS, Lexus attacked the new car’s design with enthusiasm. Exaggerated exterior styling, while certainly polarizing, definitely gets this car noticed.

We’ve certainly noticed the 2014 IS, with a couple of first drives (for the IS 250 prototype and the IS 350 F Sport) and a Quick Spin so far. This time around we had a chance to get a little more intimate with a staple of the new IS lineup: the non-F Sport, rear-wheel-drive IS 350.

Continue reading 2014 Lexus IS 350

2014 Lexus IS 350 originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 04 Feb 2014 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

2014 Chevrolet SS

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2014 Chevrolet SS

Not everyone is an automobile enthusiast, but for the most part, those who possess valid driver’s licenses are usually able to differentiate between a performance car and a luxury car. Furthermore, they are usually capable of telling approximately how old a car is based on its styling.

But not with the 2014 Chevrolet SS.

Even as its true devotees acknowledge the sedan’s Pontiac GTO and Pontiac G8 ancestors while hoping that GM’s latest will finally earn the merit and recognition it deserves, this made-in-Australia model is a real head scratcher to most. The low volume, rear-wheel drive sport sedan, fitted with a powerful V8 and the world’s shortest options list, sits in most Chevrolet showrooms as nothing more than a $45,000 mystery to most of the customers who walk in.

“What is it?” was the most common question during my week with the Chevrolet SS. The answer took me a full seven days to figure out.

Continue reading 2014 Chevrolet SS

2014 Chevrolet SS originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 03 Apr 2014 11:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

2014 Kia Cadenza

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2014 Kia Cadenza

Teenage passengers are often among the first people I turn to for second opinions about a test vehicle. While they understandably aren’t allowed behind the wheel – most aren’t even old enough to drive – their honest and generally unbiased observations, coupled with a complete lack of understanding about what a particular vehicle costs, can provide a wealth of insight.

An open-minded approach is especially important when taking a closer look at the 2014 Kia Cadenza, a premium sedan from an automaker best known for providing affordable transportation for entry-level buyers. But unlike the Rio and Forte, low-priced compacts designed to cater to consumers looking for fuel economy and value, this more substantial four-door sedan asks for twice the out-of-pocket investment in exchange for promises of luxury and technology.

With an impartial mindset and a genuine curiosity, I recently spent a week with the more substantial Cadenza to see if it could live up to its aspirations.

Continue reading 2014 Kia Cadenza

2014 Kia Cadenza originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 19 Mar 2014 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

2014 Volkswagen Tiguan Bluemotion TDI

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Volkswagen Tiguan TDI

What are auto writers always asking for from global automakers? “Give us your hip European wares,” we plead, “give us your diesels and your manuals and your wagons, your tauter suspensions and Welsh B-road handling, your neat matrix lighting and your funky little Hello-Kitty-sized trailer hitches to haul the little Hello-Kitty-sized caravans that we’ll also need you to start exporting.”

How do the automakers almost always respond? At best, “We’ll gauge demand.” More likely, “No,” because for whatever reason, “We just don’t think it’s right for the US market.”

If that’s how they had answered us in the case of the Volkswagen Tiguan “Track & Style” Bluemotion TDI, they’d actually be right. Volkswagen recently brought this Euro-spec compact crossover to the US for a ‘Get to know me!’ tour, and while we hate to drag the cute little thing into the public square to acquaint it with the whip, well, we have no choice. See, it’s just not right for the US market.

Continue reading 2014 Volkswagen Tiguan Bluemotion TDI

2014 Volkswagen Tiguan Bluemotion TDI originally appeared on Autoblog on Tue, 18 Mar 2014 11:58:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

2014 SRT Viper GTS

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2014 SRT Viper GTS

My boyhood shelves were packed with all sorts of toys, but my favorites were miniature diecast cars. Even though I’d spend hours building challenging gravity tracks for the smallest and sleekest of the bunch, my prized vehicles were not scaled-down production models. Instead, I preferred to daydream about the fascinating showcars and fictitious models with their radical styling, giant wheels and oversized engines. They were the standouts that didn’t need to roll down a plastic road, as they could shoot across the carpet, launch over a book and drive up the walls with impunity.

Understandably, then, I was recently compelled to shake off a flood of youthful memories when a 2014 SRT Viper GTS was dropped off in my driveway, complete with bright-red paint, black racing stripes, massive tires and the biggest engine in the land. It was exaggerated and outrageous – nothing short of a life-size version of my favorite childhood Matchbox car.

Only this time, I was handed a real key.

Continue reading 2014 SRT Viper GTS

2014 SRT Viper GTS originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 17 Mar 2014 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

2014 Maserati Ghibli S Q4 [w/video]

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2014 Maserati Ghibli S Q4

For one reason or another, this is a car people stare at. They might be drawn to its curvaceous shape riding on immense wheels. They could be intrigued by its gaping, blacked-out grille which houses an equally outsized trident logo, or doing quick calculations about the last time they saw a car wearing the name Maserati. It may be its sports-car-like proportions mixed with achingly long, four-door bodywork that draws their eye.

Or, and I urge you to consider this theory carefully, the people taking notice of this Maserati Ghibli S Q4 might simply be newly alert after hearing the sound of its exhaust ricocheting off any solid thing nearby as I drive past grinning like a certified asshat. Did you hear an Italianate engine song careening through your Ann Arbor, MI neighborhood, in the black of the early morning, just a few weeks previous? Sorry, guy, that was probably me.

I spent a week hammering this all-wheel-drive Ghibli as hard as I dared in the last truly miserable stretch of the God Awful Winter of 2014. I can honestly say that I enjoyed myself, shocked at both the frank way this new challenger luxury car went down the road as well as the attention it garnered in the process.

Since the Ghibli left my charge, I’ve also spent a lot of time thinking about how significantly flawed the newest Maserati is, just how I’d explain that to all of you, and how I almost love it despite its failings. A story of desire and conflict – how Italian.

Continue reading 2014 Maserati Ghibli S Q4 [w/video]

2014 Maserati Ghibli S Q4 [w/video] originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 12 Mar 2014 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

2014 Honda Accord V6 Touring

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2014 Honda Accord V6 Touring

America’s midsize sedan segment is one of the most crowded and fiercely competitive in the business. The Toyota Camry has long been our nation’s best seller, while the Honda Accord has dutifully come in second place, like some sort of codependent Cal Naughton Jr. riding Ricky Bobby’s back bumper.

There was that one year, 2001, when the Accord briefly broke the Camry’s streak, marring what would today have been a 17-year-long run of best-selling car titles. The Accord pulled the opposite move in 2011, letting sales slip far enough to let not only the Toyota by, but the Nissan Altima and Ford Fusion, as well. Aside from those anomalies, the Camry and Accord have been first and second in this segment since before many of you readers could even drive.

It’s 2014, and these frenemies have never before faced a threat to their world order as strong as today’s class of family sedans. The aforementioned Altima and Fusion are perhaps the most capable challengers, but the Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Volkswagen Passat and Mazda6 are all capable of convincing new buyers to walk their way.

Continue reading 2014 Honda Accord V6 Touring

2014 Honda Accord V6 Touring originally appeared on Autoblog on Mon, 03 Mar 2014 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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11 Apr 2014

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD

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2014 Buick Regal GS AWD

“This is just silly,” I said as I laughed my way sideways around the icy track at Circuit ICAR, a racecourse, drag strip and kart track at the Montreal-Mirabel International Airport in Quebec. It wasn’t the activity that had me cracking up, though. After all, winter driving experiences aren’t uncommon in this business.

No, in this particular case, it was the car that had me chuckling. I wasn’t in a mad hot hatch or a rally-derived rocket – I was in a Buick. The 2014 Regal GS, to be more precise. Somehow, despite its recent product renaissance (not to mention its distant – yet storied – history of performance models), I was having a hard time believing that this attractive, turbocharged, all-wheel-drive sedan sliding around the Great White North could possibly be wearing a Tri-Shield badge on its nose.

But it was, and slide about it did. While having access to a vehicle in this setting is fairly rare, what’s rarer is the fact that I’ve had so much exposure to it. In Mr. Ewing’s recent Volkswagen Golf R drive story, for instance, his ice capades were his first experience with the new model. In my case, though, I was lucky enough to first test the refreshed Regal GS for a week back in December before flying to Quebec to drive it on the snowy, icy, winding roads of Canada’s most fiercely independent province and on the track at Mirabel.

Continue reading 2014 Buick Regal GS AWD

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD originally appeared on Autoblog on Thu, 27 Feb 2014 11:57:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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