First Drive

2016 Kia Optima First Drive

2016 Kia Optima First Drive

Fourteen years ago, Kia was last on J.D. Power's quality survey; today, it's second behind Porsche. That's a big deal, but what does it have to do with the new 2016 Optima? Turns out, pretty much everything, inside and out. It's Kia's best-selling vehicle for the past three consecutive years, not to mention its first model to top the 150,000 yearly sales mark, with demand up 480-percent versus 2010.

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Driving Fifty Years of Classic Mazda Rotary Power

Driving Fifty Years of Classic Mazda Rotary Power

In the early 1960s, Mazda was facing a crisis. The Japanese government, seeking to mold its nascent automotive industry into a powerful global force, had set in motion plans to combine the many different companies operating within its borders into three large conglomerates. Sensing that Mazda was on the verge of losing its identity and being absorbed into a faceless megalith that would be forced to produce only the specific vehicles deemed 'appropriate' for export by elected officials, its president, Tsuneji Matsuda, sent a group of engineers to Germany to investigate an intriguing technology developed by NSU - the Wankel rotary engine.

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Driving this electric Honda was more fun than the new NSX

Driving this electric Honda was more fun than the new NSX

You know something is up when a Honda engineer giggles while he's talking to you about his car. Turns out, the Honda "4-Motor Electric SH-AWD with Precision All-Wheel Steer" prototype - a clunky name for a heavily modified CR-Z - is enough to cut through the usual restrained enthusiasm of Honda Japan's handling experts, and turn them into squeaking fanboys. Then I drove it myself, and instantly understood why.

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2017 Acura NSX First Drive Preview

2017 Acura NSX First Drive Preview

We've been waiting for the new 2017 Acura NSX so long, I was starting to worry I'd find it passé even before I drove it. It's been three years since Acura first showed off the NSX Concept, and only a little less than that since their abrupt about-face on the powertrain that turned what was shaping up to be a relatively mainstream sports car - albeit with an iconized nameplate - into a complex hybrid.

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2016 Lexus GS F First Drive

2016 Lexus GS F First Drive

“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.

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2016 Honda Civic first drive

2016 Honda Civic first drive

What do you expect from a mainstream car? If you're talking about the 2016 Honda Civic, then those expectations vary hugely, with what's considered a "must-have" proving just as broad as the age range of the car's audience. It's no small issue, and one Honda can't afford to ignore. Some drivers prioritize economy above all else; others demand space and luxury features; style is vital but potentially divisive; and even in this mass-market segment, driving feel can't be ignored.

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2016 Chevrolet Volt first drive

2016 Chevrolet Volt first drive

Not all electric cars are created equal and, as Chevrolet proved with the first-generation Volt, there's more than one way to wean drivers off gasoline. Fans of electric vehicles can debate pure-EV, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and any other combination all they like; at the end of the day I'm a pragmatist, and so for me it's the Volt's ability to boost fuel-efficiency without introducing range anxiety - and without being too pious in the process - that makes the second-gen 2016 car so appealing.

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2017 Audi A4 first drive: A8 for the everyman

2017 Audi A4 first drive: A8 for the everyman

Hardly had the lights flashed on the new 2017 Audi S4 at the Frankfurt Auto Show, when a handful of journalists were whisked off to Venice, Italy to test drive the next generation A4. Set to go on sale in Q1 of next year as a 2017 model, the new A4 is still some months out, but thanks to this early preview I got a chance to see just what’s going on with the subtle yet appreciable - not to mention critical - changes to both the exterior and interior design over the outgoing car. With 12 million A4 sold worldwide, there’s a lot riding on this ninth-generation (“B9”) model, especially as it faces down the likes of Cadillac's ATS, BMW;s 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz's C-Class.

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2016 smart ForTwo first-drive: Better, not bigger

2016 smart ForTwo first-drive: Better, not bigger

The ForTwo is unmistakably a smart car and unique in many ways, but it's still a car that isn't for everyone. You either love it - and are willing to shell out the not-inconsiderable amount of money to buy one - or you hate it. The middle ground for the ForTwo is nonexistent, as far as I can tell. That being said, for owners of the original, the ForTwo is in my opinion a worthy upgrade. A refined chassis: check. More horsepower, performance and handling: check. A newly redesigned interior offering a more luxuriously grown up look and feel: check.

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2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang First Drive – Golden Pony

2016 Ford Shelby GT350 Mustang First Drive – Golden Pony

There's always the lingering fear, when faced with a famous nameplate like Shelby, that the car it's attached to will be more about branding than performance. I needn't have worried about the 2016 Shelby GT350 Mustang. Since it first broke cover at the start of the year, I've been itching to get behind the wheel of the uber-pony. Happily, neither the GT350 nor its monster GT350R sibling disappoints.

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2016 Lexus RX first drive – Best-seller goes bold

2016 Lexus RX first drive – Best-seller goes bold

There's no arguing with quite how important the RX is to Lexus. The company credits it with kickstarting the "midsize luxury crossover segment" - that's fancy SUV to you and I - back in 1998, and since then over 1.2m have been sold. You could forgive Lexus for playing it safe, then, when it comes to refreshing the best-selling model in its line-up.

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2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country first-drive – Swedish Oddball

2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country first-drive – Swedish Oddball

The Swedes aren't the first people you'd associate with wacky projects, but the 2016 Volvo S60 Cross Country may force us to change that perception. Latest in the company's line of 60 series variants, it takes the venerable S60 sedan and gives it an unexpected lift, promising exclusivity along with the oddball looks.

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