First Drive

2015 Audi A3 e-tron First Drive

2015 Audi A3 e-tron First Drive

Say hello to the newest member of Audi’s A3 lineup for 2015: the A3 Sportback e-tron. Sure, at first glance it may look just like a regular A3 Sportback, but don’t let that fool you: this one’s special. As with many things in life, two is better than one; so, aside from a regular 1.4 TSFI engine there’s also a 75 kW electric motor. In a nutshell, this is Audi’s first production implementation of a plug-in hybrid, and the future of driving that, according to the company, is without compromise.

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2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat first-drive

2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat first-drive

Before I tell you about my driving experience with the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat, I’m just going to get this off my chest: this is one powerful, fast and, yes, chest-poundingly badass car. Your knee-jerk reaction might be “holy cow, $60k+ is a lot for a Challenger!” While that might be true, for a car even Dodge’s own CEO describes as a “science project”, in many respects the 700 HP Lamborghini Aventador I drove months ago was equally badass, but how many of us have got half-a-mil to drop on a supercar? From that perspective, the Challenger gives you the performance, a great looking car, creature comfort driver-focused cockpit and a decent fuel economy. But that’s now what you care about. You want to hear how the Hellcat roars.

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2015 Acura TLX first-drive: The subtle sports sedan

2015 Acura TLX first-drive: The subtle sports sedan

Acura has something to prove with the new 2015 TLX. Honda’s top-drawer division credits itself with having co-created the midsize luxury sedan segment with the original TL, though it’s now one of the most competitive and the big German brands like Mercedes-Benz and BMW have weighed in with their own take on the category, Meanwhile rivals like Lexus have been joined by upstart budget alternatives from Hyundai and others, leaving Acura’s TL and TSX looking tired. Can the new TLX set Acura back on the right track?

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2015 Lexus NX first-drive: Crossover Crunchtime

2015 Lexus NX first-drive: Crossover Crunchtime

The 2015 Lexus NX isn’t your accountant’s Lexus. Aggressively designed, and breaking new ground for Lexus with its first turbocharged engine, the new NX attempts to distill what has worked for the RX into a package more appealing to hip urbanites, young families, and those who might more regularly find mountain bikes in their trunk than Whole Foods bags. True to recent form, there’s even a warmed-up F SPORT version to offset the hybrid worthiness just a little. The NX doesn’t hit the US officially until the end of this year, but I grabbed some early time behind the wheel to see how it’s shaping up.

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First Drive: 2015 Porsche Macan S and Macan Turbo

First Drive: 2015 Porsche Macan S and Macan Turbo

We’re a long way from the outrage of the first four-door Porsche, and a compact SUV/crossover was almost inevitable. The 2015 Porsche Macan is a direct result of the successes of the Panamera and Cayenne, with a name derived from the Indonesian word for tiger and a surprisingly broad price range depending on your heavy-handedness with both the options sheet and your right foot. As I found, picking the best match of those options isn’t as straightforward as you might think.

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2015 Hyundai Sonata first-drive: CarPlay & Android Auto onboard

2015 Hyundai Sonata first-drive: CarPlay & Android Auto onboard

Hyundai has something to prove in the midsized segment, and the 2015 Sonata is the car it's aiming to do that with. Dropping the droopy design for a tauter, more sturdy appearance, and stepping up its game with more usable performance, clever electronic toys like smart cruise control, and interior space that belongs with a class above, the new Sonata wants you to forget the Camry, Passat, and Fusion in favor of a US-made Korean alternative. Ambitious, but as I found behind the wheel there's plenty to recommend it.

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2014 Camaro Z/28 first-drive

2014 Camaro Z/28 first-drive

Chevrolet has resurrected a legend, with the Camaro Z/28 finally granting its muscle car the badge enthusiast drivers have been crying out for. Building on the seven-liter V8 LS7 engine from the old Corvette Z06, Chevy’s engineers hand-squeeze out 505 horsepower and 481 pounds per foot of torque, mounted in an aero-treated body that’s been built for speed and downforce. So, when Chevrolet called to see if I wanted to be among the first to drive the Z/28 on the track, I didn’t say no.

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ST Octane Academy: Ultimate owner driving experience

ST Octane Academy: Ultimate owner driving experience

Take a compact car, add a meaty engine, and you’ve got a recipe for success, and Ford is aiming to show drivers just how fun its high-performance small cars can be. Held at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, the ST Octane Academy puts new Focus ST and Fiesta ST owners on the track with racing instructors to make sure they’re getting the best out of their cars. Ford invited me along to try my hand at the wheel.

There’s an art for squeezing the fastest lap times and the most fun out of a fast - but not supercar fast - car. In a supercar you almost certainly fall short of nudging its limits (my time behind the wheel of the Lamborghini Aventador was evidence of that) and can generally count on electronics and power to get you out of most situations.

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I took Lamborghini’s Aventador on the track (& only just survived)

I took Lamborghini’s Aventador on the track (& only just survived)

The promise of 700 horsepower is throbbing ominously behind me, audible even through the crash helmet, eager to show me what $400,000 worth of Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4 can do when faced with an open track and an eager right foot. I know I should be checking the GoPro cameras suction-cupped to the windshield one last time, or memorizing the dashboard so I can tell you what hand-stitched Italian leather smells like, but all I can do is grip the contoured wheel and stare at the pace car ahead of me. Then the world clicks into hyperspeed.

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2015 Honda Fit first-drive

2015 Honda Fit first-drive

Subcompact cars needn’t be underwhelming or underspecified, at least that’s what Honda believes with the 2015 Fit. Making a small, affordable, and capable car is arguably tougher than a $65k+ luxury sedan: sticking to budget while still delivering that premium feel just about every driver now demands. There’s plenty riding on the new Fit, especially since it’ll also be the basis for Honda’s upcoming “urban SUV” later this year. SlashGear spent some time behind the wheel to see if it’s more than Fit for purpose, and whether the new Honda Link infotainment system really can bring the best of your iPhone to the dashboard.

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