"What's with the bee?" An angry insect might not be the most obvious mascot for a 485 horsepower muscle sedan, but the 2015 Dodge Charger R/T Scat Pack certainly has enough sting to keep the hive happy. And, though it's not the Hellcat that tops the Charger line-up, kicking off at under $40k makes this particular Dodge a very interesting one indeed.
The first Chrysler 300 was a near-perfect expression of stereotypical Americana. Big, blunt-nosed, and aggressive, its high shoulder-line and crisp edges were 60s muscle on a modern forecourt; think Felix Leiter and his CIA issue suit in the classic Bond films of the sixties.
I am not a rapper. I'm not even - to my parents constant disappointment - a superstar DJ. Instead I'm a 5'8 British man, and I really shouldn't like the 2016 Cadillac Escalade. In fact, as someone who believes in climate change and gets vaguely embarrassed by expressions of outlandish and obvious excess, I should probably hate it.
“Man, this is nice,” my driving partner says, as if a little surprised. We’re just seated inside the 2016 Lexus GS F, awash in colorful leathers, soft Alcantara, and crisp digital displays. While I’m trying to figure out how far we are from the Circuito de Jarama track, our destination for the day, 8:30a.m. traffic engulfs Madrid on the roads all around us.
It felt almost blasphemous, turning up at Tesla's Model X launch in the vast 2016 Toyota 4Runner. Stood in line outside, surrounded by Tesla owners - many of them preorder customers for the new electric SUV - discussing the longest trip on a single charge they'd made, or the money on gas they'd saved, or just how generally superior to dinosaur-juice burning cars their electric steeds turned out to be, I couldn't help but dwell on the 4Runner's 4.0-liter V6 engine and its 18mpg mileage.
Scion needed a hot hatch on a budget, and so under $20k gets you the 2016 Scion iM and a handful of compromises. If you're European then you might get a sense of deja-vu from the iM. Scion didn't look far afield for its donor car, effectively just rebadging the Toyota Auris sold across the Atlantic and slapping a body kit on the outside.
The first time I saw the Audi TT, I can remember saying to myself, “wow - what a great looking car - I can't wait to grow up and buy one.” I was 21 when Audi first introduced the original TT in 1995; now, 20 years later and in it's third generation, it’s still a great looking car. Technology doesn’t stand still, however, and so the latest TT is more refined and technologically advanced both inside and out. Question is, has two decades been generous to the TT or just put it firmly into middle-age.
Nissan calls the 2016 Maxima a "four-door sports car" but it takes more than branding and some fighter-jet inspired design tweaks to make a true performance sedan. With 300 HP under the hood, lashings of segment-above level luxe in the cabin, and aesthetics that are certainly striking, the Maxima makes a strong jab at living up to its billing. Question is, has all that punch been pulled with a CVT transmission?
When you're driving a bright orange Lexus RC 350 F SPORT, you quickly realize two things. First, that even when you're in laid-back San Francisco, people are going to stare, even if they’ll try to make it look like they’re not interested. Second, that nobody is going to let you out of junctions or to merge in their lane (though they'll often match your speed, just ahead or behind of you, so that they can peer at the badge; Lexus is still more associated with sensible - maybe staid - sedans than outlandishly swoopy coupes). Like the RC 350 F SPORT itself, relationships on the road are complicated.
The Alfa Romeo 4C is spectacular, an exotic “baby Ferrari” that has taken me from point A to point B with more than the normal diversions in-between, and with a permanent grin from ear to ear. First astonishing US drivers in rarefied (and, at nearly $70k, more expensive) Launch Edition form, but finally available with a base price starting at $53,900, it's Alfa’s triumphant - and niche - return stateside. Achingly pretty but as demanding as a thoroughbred, only 1,200 Alfa 4C's will be imported from Maserati’s Modena plant. Should one be on your driveway?
It's never been tougher to be a small, sporty sedan. Luxury buyers are being wooed by the segment above, while the gradual up-speccing of full-sized sedans below is making it harder and harder to stand out. Factor in the growing number of more practical coupes on one side, and nimble sports crossovers squeezing in from the opposite direction, and the risk of being seen as a staid four-door is considerable. Lexus’ answer to that in 2013 was the new IS, a stark departure from the company’s previous playbook, and it’s the 2015 IS 250 that’s been on my drive trying to coerce me from behind the wheel of a BMW 3 Series, Mercedes-Benz C Class, or Audi A3.