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Toyota introduced the Avalon to the U.S. market way back in 1995 as its more upscale, full-size sedan slotted between the Camry and more luxurious Lexus brand. It originally rode on a stretched version of the Camry’s platform and even shared its 3.0-liter, V-6 engine. Generational changes in 2000, 2005, and again in 2013 have kept the Avalon fresh with revised looks, interior appointments, and updated drivetrains.

I recently spent a week getting to know a 2014 Avalon in its most well-appointed form. My Limited tester came coated in a really beautiful dark-blue color Toyota calls Parisian Night Pearl. Its interior came awashed in soft-touch, tan leather seats with contrasting Parisian Night Pearl stitching and accent pieces. Equipped with the Technology Package, my Avalon came fitted with Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Automatic High Beams, and the Pre Collision System. Also present was Toyota’s innovative Qi Wireless Charging system (pronounced "Chee") that works with like-enabled electronic devices.

Though those were the only two main extra-cost options, the Limited trim package took care of checking the other option boxes in one fell swoop, netting nearly every conceivable amenity desired on modern sedans. Heated and cooled leather seats with 10-way adjustments, moonroof, navigation, HID headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, and a laundry list of standard safety equipment.

Speaking of safety, the Avalon comes rated with five stars across the board from the NHTSA, except for the driver-side frontal crash, which earned a still-respectable four stars. Its other government ratings aren’t bad either. The EPA rates the Avalon at 21 mpg city, 31 mpg highway, and 24 mpg combined.

The Avalon might not be the most exciting product Toyota builds these days, but it fulfills its intended purpose of passenger comfort very well. Out of all the cars I’ve piloted lately, the Avalon would be my pick for a long-haul roadtrip with the family.

Click past the jump for the full review of the 2014 Toyota Avalon

***We will start this party at approximately 0945 US EASTERN TIME***

Ladies and Gentleman, you are invited to join us for a special early-week TopSpeed Podcast . The best part? It is totally live. Feel free to click the play button on the YouTube video to hang out with us; you can even chat and comment live to give us feedback and ask us questions.

I know the show is a few days early, but I have a special announcement to make. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it involves lots of horsepower and an epic road trip. You have to watch to see what the announcement is.

Beyond the special announcement, we are going to talk about Justin’s drive of the new 4-Series , the new McLaren P13 GT and the future of solar powered roads .

Mark is also going to regale us with tales of his time with the Chrysler Town & Country , and then we plan on discussing the changed coming to the 2015 Nissan Frontier and then we plan on covering the crazy Hyundai Veloster Midship Concept .

We may have another piece of news or two, and of course we will have viewer questions, and a round of Own, Drive, Burn.

Click that play button and hang out!

Every now and again, we get invites to quick test-drive events, and for the most part we simply ignore them. But when BMW invited us to test out the new 435i M Sport along with its nearest competitor, the 2014 Audi S5 , I would have been nuts to say "no." In one corner is the newest Bimmer with 300 horses coming from its TwinPower Turbo I-6 and all the cool little M Sport bits — brakes, wheels, suspension, etc. In the other corner is the tried-and-true Audi S5 with 333 horses and 325 pound-feet of torque.

This battle of German midsize coupes also includes a battle of power-generating philosophies. From Bimmer you have the new-age twin-scroll turbocharging system and from Audi you have the old, faithful supercharger. Many years ago there was no contest between the two, because the supercharger had no lag, while older turbos had serious lag issues, resulting in slower initial launches while the exhaust gases get the turbo spooling. The introduction of twin-scroll turbocharging and BMW’s perfection of the technology has rendered this a non-issue.

Both the 435i and the S5 are outstanding rigs and do the job of combining performance and luxury well without pushing the bounds of comfort like the wild RS5 and M4 . But which one is the victor in this quick, five-mile-long test in city traffic?

Click past the jump to find out.

The 2013 Nissan Juke Nismo is perhaps the most underrated and under-loved hot hatch on sale today. But I can’t seem to work out why. It takes the successful recipe utilized by names like GTI and Mazadspeed3 and adds a dash of Nissan flair. Sounds like fun to me.

Marketed as a crossover, the little Juke is the last car that anyone expected Nismo to fettle, but the results speak for themselves.

The car is basically pocket-sized, it is 16 inches shorter than a Honda Civic , but it comes loaded with a 197-horsepower, turbocharged four-cylinder, three pedals and six forward gears. That is more than enough grunt to make any enthusiast happy. You can pout all you want about the fact that the Mk VII GTI has 215 horsepower, but the current MK VI model only has 200 ponies, and it weighs more than the Juke to boot. The Juke will hit 60 in about 6.5 seconds, only a hair away from the Focus ST despite its 50+ horsepower advantage.

This little Nissan can hang with the big-boys, regardless of what that horsepower number says.

Read more about the 2013 Nissan Juke Nismo and see my video review below.

I’d honestly not given the S5 much thought before this week. Why, when Audi offers up much flashier models like the R8, RS7, and upcoming TT? It wasn’t until I drove the 2014 S5 Coupe that I discovered this hidden gem in Audi’s lineup. It might not be the most powerful version of the coupe, but with 333 supercharged horses under its mile-long hood and a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission sending power to all four wheels, I found myself finding excuses to go for a drive.

It hit me midway through the week that my black-on-black tester with satin chrome accents looks like something Bruce Wayne would drive when not fighting crime in the Batmobile. Its two-door architecture, sleek profile, and menacing color scheme lends itself for the perfect, if not stereotypical, wealthy bachelor’s car. The techno-filled cockpit further solidifies my thoughts as I found myself impressed with the level of refinement in Audi’s MMI infotainment system.

While the S5 might be better suited to a Bruce Wayne kind of lifestyle, it still performed decently enough when the time came to chauffeur the kids around. Yes, a full-sized child seat fits in the back seat. Ingress and egress was made easier by a quick-release lever on the front seatbacks that allowed the chairs to move forward without losing its last position. It afforded just enough room for crawling back to buckle the kiddo.

But a minivan this thing is not. The S5 is more at home on twisty, backcountry roads and making time on the interstate. Its demeanor changes with the driver’s mood – even without changing the Audi Drive Select system. The S5 makes a great grand touring car capable of long-distance travel and short distance track runs.

Click past the jump for the full review

There are few things in this country more American than a NASCAR race. Sure, apple pie and baseball might outrank it, but neither of those can compete with stock cars thundering around a track at 200 mph while continually riding on the brink of catastrophe as they race just inches away from a concrete wall and other drivers gunning to win. So when the opportunity arose to become deeply immersed in the culture during the recent All-Star race, I jumped at the chance.

It all started a few months ago with an email invite from Toyota. It read something along the lines of, “how about joining us at the NASCAR All-Star race and tours of the Joe Gibbs Racing Center and NASCAR Hall of Fame?” My reply went something like, “Heck yeah, I’ll be there!”

I decided to skip the crowded airports for a 2014 Lexus IS350 F Sport and a seven-hour drive through the heart of the eastern seaboard. I viewed this almost like a pilgrimage; setting out on a roadtrip for a destination of racing importance located in the rolling hills of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Once on the road, my choice of chariot was immediately affirmed. Unlike my last Lexus experience, the front seat was perfectly molded, padded, and bolstered. The more I drove, the more the car seemed to shrink around me, making tight maneuvering a thing of ease. The stout 3.5-liter V-6 offered plenty of grunt while the tight steering and sport-tuned suspension made each corner a memorable event.

Click past the jump for the full review of the 2014 Lexus IS350 F Sport and about my time spent at Joe Gibbs Racing Center

For all of the press and hype surrounding the Toyota GT 86 and the Subaru BRZ , not a lot of people know or have given love to the third model of the bunch, the Scion FR-S.

All that’s about to change because the Scion FR-S has arrived. For those that have shed rivers of tears when they found out that neither the GT 86 nor the BRZ were headed Stateside, news that the FR-S will arrive in America is tantamount to a post Thanksgiving blessing.

Now, we’ve actually seen a concept version of the FR-S - called the FR-S Concept - at the New York Auto Show , so it really didn’t come as a surprise to a lot of us that the sports coupe was coming to the US, but seeing the concept and seeing the production version are two different things.

It doesn’t even matter that we’re not getting the GT 86 and the BRZ. We have the FR-S, and just like a child that comes to us, we’re going to shower it with as much love as we can possibly give.

Updated 05/15/2015: Scion today announced prices and updates for the 2015 FR-S sports car set to go on sale just in time for summer. Updates for the 2015 model year include: a more rigid front suspension and re-tuning of the rear shock absorbers, larger exhaust tips and for the interior an updated panel with a carbon fiber look. The model will also get auto on/off headlights. Prices for the 2015 FR-S will start from $24,900 for the six-speed manual version and $26,000 for the six-speed automatic one.

Find out more about the Scion FR-S after the jump.

Minivans are strange beasts, wielding a two-edged sword of unmatched utility and a soccer-mom stigma. That stigma is hard to get past for some, but once the shear versatility and people-hauling capabilities have been explored, it’s hard to consider the minivan anything less than spectacular. I spent a week behind the wheel of Chrysler’s Town & Country to experience the conundrum for myself.

I’ve driven a number of rather interesting vehicles in my line of work, so I was admittedly a little weary about piloting the mom-mobile. However, as luck would have it, a minivan was just what I needed during the week. Up first was hauling my two-year-old around town for the week. The double DVD screens truly came in handy as a loveable mouse kept her attention off the “are we there yet?” statements. Next was chauffeuring a large group of friends to a social event. We had room to spare and all were comfortable.

Finally a family trip to the beach confirmed my suspension the Town & Country could do it all. With the third row folded flat, fishing poles lying between the second row captains’ chairs, and gear for the day packed all around, the Chrysler proved its worth. What’s more, the van’s front wheel drive also proved confident in the loose sands of Daytona Beach.

Click past the jump for the full review.

I recently spent a week behind the wheel of a 2014 Chevrolet Silverado 1500 decked out in the range-topping High Country trim and powered by the largest V-8 offered by The General . While the High Country competes with the gaudy western-wear cowboys from Ford and Ram , the Chevy pulls off the John Wayne look with a touch more class and refinement.

Missing is the dinner-plate belt buckle styling with embroidered seats and barbed-wire floor mats. In their places are simple saddle-colored leather seats with matching leather stitched atop the dashboard, door panels, and armrest. The look is just subtle enough to remind occupants of the truck’s western flair without choking them with the motif.

While the overall theme of the truck isn’t outlandishly equestrian, the Corvette-derived 6.2-liter, V-8 engine under the hood has no shortage of horses — 420 to be exact. Only a handful of parts separate the Silverado’s powerplant from that found in the new C7 Stingray , and after pressing the accelerator, that becomes clearly evident. Though the truck weights double the Vette, the 6.2-liter still motivates the truck with ease, hitting 60 mph in just six seconds.

Click past the jump for the full review

What comes after hump-day? The TopSpeed Podcast , of course!

Happy Thursday everybody, and welcome to EPISODE 010! of the TopSpeed Podcast. This week is special for a few reasons aside from our milestone number. Firstly, Justin is gone on vacation, so we brought in a special guest, Logan Utsman. Logan is an old friend and colleague of Mark and myself, and he is a proper hoon to boot. We hope you enjoy hearing him.

If you hated him, let us know that too. We will be sure to have him drawn and quartered for offending the masses.

Secondly we have a hybrid video podcast that has photos in it too. The first part is great news, the second part is less so. Thanks to some shaky internet, my recording PC dropped the video feed about halfway through. I filled the rest of the podcast with some photos from my personal portfolio to provide some visual entertainment. You can see the video after the break.

As for the show, our Weekly Wheels features a return of the Lexus ES 350 , a look at the Audi A3 TDI , and I discuss my time flogging some new Cooper Tires on a track with the Ford Mustang and BMW 3 Series .

News coverage includes a thorough look at Chrysler’s big five-year plan , what it means for SRT , Dodge and Ferrari , plus the return of the Grand Wagoneer and the official announcement of the Maserati Alfieri . The BMW i3 also makes an appearance in our news segment.

Our Q/A segment features more automotive destruction, a short look at the best lime-green hatchbacks you can buy, the oldest cars we have driven, and we speculate on dream drag races.

As always, we finish with Own, Drive, Burn. This week we have a trio of Ferrari models.

Please let us know if you have any comments, questions or concerns. You can reach us in the comments below, on Twitter @TopSpeedPodcast or by email: Podcast@TopSpeed.com

We are also on iTunes. If you wanted to subscribe, rate or leave us a review we would really appreciate it.

See you next week you crazy kids.

Weekly Wheels: Lexus ES 350, Audi A3 TDI, BMW 328i

Hosts: Christian Moe, Mark McNabb, Logan Utsman

Watch the video version after the break!


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