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Video Review: 2015 Audi S5

June 5th, 2015 No comments

The Audi S5 has been a success since debuting way back in 2007, and Audi has done nothing but polish the edges each year since, so it’s no surprise that any contender in the large Sports Coupe segment will have to dethrone the S5 first. Considering the design is holding up so well even eight years on, we’re not sure anybody can beat the slinky two-door on looks. Read more…

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Video Review: 2015 Volkswagen GTI S Performance Pack

April 12th, 2015 No comments

The GTI has been rewarding drivers with a hard-to-beat combination of performance and practicality since day one and we are thrilled to report that the new seventh-generation polishes the package to near perfection. The turbo four now makes 258 lb-ft of torque starting at just 1,500 rpm so the car provides a smooth and refined punch away from every stop. Add in the Performance Pack hardware like a trick electronically controlled differential and larger brakes and the GTI is a very willing dance partner when the back road traffic disappears. The interior has been bumped up a level to shame anything else in the sub-$30k class and you can still order your hot hatch with a true clutch pedal six-speed manual. Volkswagen truly has the GTI formula figured out. We’re hoping they never change it.

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Video Review: 2014 Mazda3 s Grand Touring Hatchback

January 11th, 2015 No comments

You might be getting tired of reading about the Mazda3’s greatness on these pages, but we’ll never tire of proclaiming it so long as Mazda keeps pushing it to the head of the class. This week’s example is the fully loaded hatchback version with the gutsy 2.5-liter I4. With sweet steering feel, handling that chews up any corner and responsive brakes there really isn’t much left for us to ask Mazda for. That’s especially true now because for 2015 Mazda has listened to the vocal enthusiasts among us who want to do their own shifting with the more powerful 2.5-liter and made the stick the standard transmission with both engines. Better rest up because it sounds like you might be hearing some more about our favorite small car once we get our hands on one of those.

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Video Review: 2014 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum

January 11th, 2015 No comments

Toyota wants to move the latest Highlander onto more buyers’ radar and they’re doing that by toughening up the style to attract more men and refining the family friendly features to keep it’s female fan base from straying to the competition. We like what they’ve done inside with smart designs like the massive center console, useful full-width dash shelf and teen-friendly second row captain’s chairs. Toyota has given us less to get excited about under the skin with carryover engine and a 6-speed automatic that doesn’t push any envelopes. Do we recommend the total package or suggest a pass? Our latest video review has that answer.

Video Review: 2014 BMW 328i xDrive Sport Wagon

January 11th, 2015 No comments

We’re a weird bunch. For many reasons probably, but primarily because the AT staff is part of that slim subgroup of auto enthusiasts who believe the only way to improve on a BMW 3-Series is to extend the roofline and add a liftgate. In other words, we would spec our 3 as a Sport Wagon. So you can imagine how happy we were to have a week with the latest Sport Wagon after first fearing that BMW may stop importing the cargo-friendly version when the latest generation debuted. Yes, we would like the option of a 6-speed manual and rear wheel drive in place of the all-weather capable xDrive setup that BMW wrongly assumes everyone wants, but there’s still plenty to love here as you’ll see in our latest video review.

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First Drive: 2015 Lexus RC 350 and RC F

September 12th, 2014 No comments

Lexus Makes a Big Entry into a Small Segment

It’s been a long time since Lexus offered a sport coupe. Too long, we’d say, since we’re not counting the folding hardtop luxury cruiser that the SC became in the 2000’s. Lexus knows that for years it sent prospective buyers seeking a stylish two-door to the likes of Audi and BMW, and it knows their new offering will have to be special to bring them back. The confident tone of the brand’s executives convinced us they’re certain the RC will now have the looks and performance to win new buyers to the brand.┬áBased on our spirited drive through New York’s Hudson Valley and subsequent flogging around Monticello Motor Club’s 3.6-mile road course, the wait has been worth it. Read more…

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Video Review: 2014 Kia Cadenza

September 8th, 2014 No comments

It took a few tries, but Kia now has a legitimate competitor to the excellent Buick LaCrosse and it’s called the Cadenza. Kia has equipped the Cadenza with a strong V6 that uses 293 hp to move it around just as well as the slightly stronger Buick and, although the looks might not quite match the Lacrosse’s luscious lines, it smartly uses a little chrome to pass off as a player that belongs. Inside is where Kia really did their homework, offering all the appropriate features like an excellent Infinity audio system, heated seats all around, a heated steering wheel, panoramic roof, rear sunshade, even a driver’s ventilated seat. Done up nicely with two-tone black and cream leather and stylish dark wood, the Cadenza has to make no apologies for its quiet and comfortable cabin. If we snap into our hyper critical mode the switchgear on the center console lags the best of the competition and the front grille still lacks personality in our opinion, but consider the pluses and add in the value of a ten year warranty and the $42k sticker price is spot on.

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Video Review: 2014 Lexus IS 250 AWD F Sport

August 14th, 2014 No comments

F Sport is Lexus talk for sport package equipment and styling layered onto one of their mainstream models. We’ve come to like the idea, especially in the GS F Sport configuration which feels far livelier and more rewarding to drive than lesser GS models. Unfortunately the IS 250 F Sport we just spent a week with doesn’t feel as comprehensively upgraded as it should. The result is a tidy little sedan that should be light on its feet and responsive being hampered by a transmission that shifts slowly even in sport mode and steering that doesn’t deliver the corner carving connection that you can find in other F Sport models. Of course the F Sport package does improve the IS’s looks with attractive wheels and the gauge cluster is one of the neatest on the market. We’re afraid it’s just not enough to win our recommendation for Lexus’ little sport sedan.

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Video Review: 2014 Volkswagen CC Executive

August 14th, 2014 No comments

If you want style in the Volkswagen lineup you’re going to be shopping for a CC. One of the original “four door coupes” continues in 2014 as a entry level luxury sedan distinguished by sleek styling and an athletic turbo four cylinder that may be rated at only 200 hp but feels like closer to 250. During our week with the oft-verlooked Passat alternative we came to enjoy features like opening the trunk with a wave of your foot under the bumper, the easy to fold down back seats and the superb cabin materials. We didn’t find much love for the slow to respond infotainment screen or the couple rattles that materialized around the interior. With strong competition in the mid to upper $30k segment the CC has to rely on its looks to get by but for some buyers driving a car that isn’t found in every driveway in the community is appealing enough to sign on the dotted line.

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Video Review: 2014 Mazda3 i Grand Touring

July 10th, 2014 No comments

Mazda knows how to build cars we like. From the rewarding 6 and consistently excellent 3 to the newcomer CX-5, which brings sporting dynamics to the crossover market, the little Japanese manufacturer keeps giving us what we want. So you can bet we were excited to get behind the wheel of the new 41 mpg third-generation 3 recently. Of course you’ll want to watch the video for all the details, but we’ll drop a spoiler here: if you buy another small car, you’ve made the wrong choice.

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