midsize cars

midsize cars

  Midsize cars offer a compromise between expensive luxury and cheap cars. They are comfortable and nicely equiped but they often look a bit dull and not real fast. But they will often be the best deal for the money conscious consumers.

The term "sleeper car" goes back to the 1950s, when American manufacturers started building high output cars that would eventually spawn into muscle cars a decade later. Tracking the first sleeper is a daunting task, but most stories lead to the 1955 Chrysler C-300, a two-door, luxury coupe motivated by a 5.4-liter V-8 engine rated at 300 horsepower. It was the first production passenger car to come with 300 ponies on tap and a design that had nothing to say about that. The "all go and no show" car was born, a trend that would continue with vehicles such as the Mercedes-Benz 450SEL 6.9, the Lotus Carlton or the Audi RS2 Avant.

Sleepers are still among us in 2014. Looking for a very fast car that doesn’t scream "I’m fast as a bullet!"? There are plenty of options to choose from that cover various segments. Sedans , wagons, SUVs , you name it. Be careful though, you might miss them due to their bland styling. Make sure you have a look under the hood and check that spec sheet.

Meanwhile, I put together a list of Top 5 Sleeper Cars available today. It includes a few American-built vehicles, and a couple more coming from cold, snowy Sweden and rugby-loving Australia. Check them out past the jump and tell me your thoughts in the comments section. Did I miss anything? Is there a vehicle that shouldn’t be on this list?

Click past the just to read more about the best sleeper cars on the market.

You may recall my first drive experience with the all-new 2015 Hyundai Sonata. It took place in the heartland of Alabama, along I-65 at Hyundai’s Montgomery Assembly Plant. There I spent time in with all three Sonata models: the 1.6-liter, I-4 Turbo in the Eco model, the 2.4-liter, I-4 volume engine, and the sportier, 2.0-liter, I-4 Turbo. All three made a positive impression during the short routes over the busy afternoon. A more extended test was in order.

I recently spent a week behind the wheel of a Sonata 2.0T painted in Urban Sunset, much like the tester I had in Montgomery. Even the options list — or lack thereof — looked the same. Carpeted floor mats costing $125 was the only added extra my recent ride had. That’s not altogether terrible, as the Sonata comes with a healthy list of standard features, including the proximity key entry and push-button starting, Blind Spot Detection with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, a five-inch touchscreen in the dash with SiriusXM and Bluetooth connectivity, HID headlights, and LED taillights. The most noticeable feature missing is navigation, but it is available.

The Sonata proved to be a helpful tool in the week’s chore list — a list that included a trip to IKEA, hauling four other passengers around town, and jaunting down the highway while riding solo. So how did the Hyundai handle the week? Click past the jump to find out.

Click past the jump for more on the 2015 Sonata

Holden has built small utility vehicles since the early 1950s. At first it was the Special-based Utility. The Kingswood-based coupe utility followed in 1968 and remained an integral part of the lineup until the model got the axe in 1984. The body style returned in 1990 as part of the Commodore family and adopted the familiar Ute name. Since Chevrolet cut the El Camino from its lineup in 1987, the Ute remained the only mainstream utility coupe manufactured by General Motors. The Holden Ute has become increasingly powerful over the last two decades, especially with HSV building its beefed-up version. Unfortunately, the Ute saga will come to an end in 2016, when Holden is scheduled to cease vehicle manufacturing operations in Australia. As the 2015 model year looms, HSV is bidding farewell to its iconic muscle pickup by launching the GTS Maloo, the most-powerful Ute ever created in Australia.

Still cranky about GM not wanting to import the Commodore Ute to North America? Well, then get ready to have a seizure because the GTS Maloo is the coolest coupe utility since the 1970 El Camino SS 454 LS6. And it’s supercharged!

Click past the jump to read more about the 2015 HSV GTS Maloo.

Cadillac recently dropped a press release in our inbox that contained plans to offer advanced “intelligent and connected” vehicle technologies on some 2017 model year vehicles. Naturally, our curiosity kicked in because words like “intelligent” and “connected” have become even more important in today’s auto industry. So we read through the release and found some nuggets of information that indicated what Caddy’s got up its sleeve.

The first technological advancement will be an advanced driver assist technology called Super Cruise. A yet-to-be-named 2017 Cadillac will feature this new system, which will offer customers improved driving experience through hands-off lane following, braking and speed control in certain highway driving conditions. Super Cruise is being developed to become a boon for drivers, specifically those driving on highways under a variety of road conditions. The description’s pretty interesting, although it’s hard to judge how effective it’s going to be until we see it in action.

Moving on, Cadillac also announced that the 2017 CTS Sedan will feature vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology. According to the automaker, this new system is supposed to improve traffic congestion by sending and receiving safety information between vehicles that are approaching each other. It’s going to be like these cars will be able to talk to each other and warn drivers of incoming road conditions that they can avoid beforehand.

We’re not sure how that’s going to work on surface streets, but on the highway, drivers can use these kinds of information to divert their routes before they get stuck in traffic.

That’s pretty cool.

Click past the jump to read more about Cadillac’s future intelligent technology.

Toyota is turning up the fun factor with the heavily refreshed 2015 Camry, making it more exciting to drive, quieter inside, and more appealing to look at. A new interior includes better materials and even a handy wireless phone charger in the center console. This update comes only two years after the Camry’s last refresh, but in its quest to excite customers with a more upmarket sedan, Toyota is staying poised on its toes, jabbing at the competition.

Though much of the car’s underpinnings are not new, the car will have a fresh feel and character. Revised suspension components make the Camry a better handler while upgraded insulation keeps NVH levels to a minimum. Outside, every body panel except for the roof has been replaced in a effort to liven up the Camry’s demeanor.

While the Camry gets a new look, the greasy bits under the hood will carry over. The 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder and the 3.5-liter V-6 return, as does the six-speed automatic transmission. The hybrid trim carries over as well, utilizing the same Atkinson Cycle 2.5-liter I-4 mated to an E-CVT. All three engines are good performers and get impressive fuel economy numbers, though none of them will be setting lap time records or leaving burnout marks up Interstate on-ramps.

The Camry might not be setting records around a racetrack, but it sure has set plenty of sales records, leading the pack as the best selling sedan for the last 12 years. Toyota has sold nearly a million Camrys in the last two years alone. So is messing with success worth it? Click past the jump for all the details on the new 2015 Camry and decide for yourself.

Updated 09/02/2014: Toyota announced prices for the 2015 Camry set to be put on sale in late September. Prices will range from $22,970 for the LE trim and up to $29,980 for the Hybrid XLE version. Details after the jump.

Click past the jump for the low down on the 2015 Toyota Camry

Introduced in 2000, the first-generation Kia Optima was essentially a rebadged Hyundai Sonata. Only minor exterior styling details and equipment packages set it apart from its Hyundai sibling. The sedan arrived in U.S. dealerships for the 2001 model year with a V-6 engine under the hood. A redesigned, second-gen model was launched in 2005. The new Optima differed further from the Hyundai Hyundai Sonata it was based on. The vehicle was slightly larger and received a wide range of four-cylinder and V-6 engines. The Kia Optima Kia Optima was revamped yet again for the 2011 model year. Now sharing its underpinnings with the Hyundai i40 Hyundai i40 , the third-gen Optima saw the introduction of Kia’s new design language, which included the already familiar "tiger nose" front grille and "ice cube" LED headlamps. A huge success for Kia, the third-gen Optima will retire after the 2015 model year to make way for a redesigned sedan.

A fourth-generation Optima is already being tested in Germany, according to our spy photographers, who have supplied us with a preliminary set of photos. Naturally, the mid-size sedan is camouflaged to the teeth, leaving very few details for us to ogle at. Read on to find out what we know so far.

Click past the jump to read more about the 2016 Kia Optima.

The Vitara, one of Suzuki’s most iconic vehicles, was launched in 1988 as a compact SUV . Dubbed Escudo in Japan and Sidekick in the United States, the small crossover came to North America for the 1989 model year. The Vitara name, mostly used in Europe and some South American and Asian market, was introduced in the United States starting 1999. That’s when the second-gen Vitara was born as a slightly larger, pricier and more powerful version of the first-gen model. A replacement was developed for 2005, but the current Grand Vitara has very little in common with the original concept. For 2015, however, the Vitara nameplate is making a surprising return to its roots, as it’s pinned as a compact SUV destined to compete against the Nissan Juke .

Set to break cover at the 2014 Paris Motor Show in October, the brand-new Vitara promises to have "a striking road presence," a "distinctive design," and numerous personalization options, the latter a feat Suzuki rarely offers. So is the Vitara signaling the Japanese are reinventing themselves? It’s a bit too early to draw a conclusion, but the compact SUV is definitely a new approach for a company such as Suzuki.

Click past the jump to read more about the Suzuki Vitara

The U.S. auto industry have given us some of the most incredible automobiles over the last 100 hundred years. Starting with the Ford Model T , the first vehicle mass-produced on moving assembly lines, and ending with the aluminum-bodied, 2015 Ford F-150 pickup truck, America has made a name for itself as one of the world’s biggest automobile manufacturers. Before the Great Depression, the U.S. produced over 90 percent of the vehicles sold globally, and after World War II it was responsible for 75 percent of the world’s production. That’s no longer the case in 2014, when China manufactures nearly 20 million vehicle a year, more than both the U.S. and Japan.

Sure, these numbers don’t mean U.S. manufacturers have lost their touch. Just look at the new Mustang and Corvette Z06 , and you’ll notice the brilliant engineering and the passion are still there. However, it’s common knowledge that global production works on different standards which restrict the availability of certain models in certain markets. It works both ways. Europe, for instance, can’t have many of the vehicles sold in the U.S., while Americans can’t buy cars made by a variety of European brands. Ironically, North American manufacturers have launched a bevy of nameplates that can’t be had in the U.S. And while most of them wouldn’t stir any interest on these shores, some vehicles have caused great frustration to the American enthusiast.

I’m going to talk about the latter. The cool cars we can’t buy and drive over various production or import issues, or even the manufacturer’s lack of interest in the U.S. market. Take a look at my choices below and tell me what you guys think. I narrowed the list down to 10 vehicles, so feel free to let me know which ones you think I should have included in the comments box.

Click past the jump to read more about the cool cars we can’t buy in the U.S.

Audi appears to be readying the next version of the popular A4 sedan. Our spy photographer captured these images in Europe as the driver had seemingly stepped away. Though the outside still looks like the current-generation A4, this is certainly an Audi test mule. The hood appears to be secured by latches, there are odd caps over the center of the wheels, and the interior is loaded with testing equipment and black coverings.

Lucky for us, the driver apparently forgot to drape the covers over the dashboard, giving an open view to the camera. The most noticeable difference is the placement of the infotainment screen. No longer is it housed within the dash, but is perched atop the dash like the current A6 . It also appears the vents within the center console have grown larger.

What’s more, the center display in the gauge cluster shows an overview of the car, or what really looks to be an A4 Avant. Perhaps this is what the next A4 Avant will look like? Another clue is that 6,000-rpm redline on the tachometer, suggesting the current 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-four is under the hood. Audi’s battery of tests also appears to include some light towing as the A4 is complete with a hitch sprouting from under its bumper.

It will likely be late 2015 before Audi releases the updated A4 as a 2016 model, so we have a while to wait. Then again, if Audi engineers keep leaving test mules uncovered and unattended, we may get a sneak peak long before then.

Click past the jump to read more about 2016 Audi A4

Discontinued in 2012 as Saab was filing for bankruptcy, the 9-3 sedan made a surprising return in 2013, when the brand was revived under National Electric Vehicle Sweden (NEVS) ownership. But instead of launching the third-generation model that was in the works before Saab went bankrupt, NEVS started building second-gen cars at the company’s Trollhattan production plant. Identical to the 2012 model, the "new" sedan arrived in dealerships without the trademark griffin logos and with a turbocharged, 2.0-liter, four-banger under the hood.While NEVS is undoubtedly working on a modern replacement for the 9-3 , the next-generation vehicle won’t be launched for at least two more years. Instead, the Swedes are reportedly looking to reintroduce the 9-3 SportCombi and have already confirmed plans to offer an electric iteration of the current sedan.

The EV is still not ready to go into production, but NEVS has just unveiled the prototype that will become an actual Saab product in the near future.

Click past the jump to read more about the Saab 9-3 EV Prototype


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