topspeed garage

topspeed garage

The Lexus ES 350 is an interesting car. It combines the niceties of a luxury sedan like wood trim, heated and cooled leather seats, and large amounts of posh with the humble underpinnings of a basic, daily commuter. That’s not to say the car is bad, but it certainly creates an interesting combination. I recently spent a week getting to know the ES 350 pretty well and I came away with mixed emotions.

Based on the Toyota Avalon platform, the four-door sedan affords plenty of legroom both front and rear with generous amounts of hip and shoulder room as well. Its ride falls somewhere between luxurious and sporty. It somehow tastefully walks the fine line between the two, never offending the senses nor outright pleasing them.

Come to think of it, non-offensive is a good way to describe the ES 350. It coddles its occupants from its garage within the gated community to the theater or museum with no fuss. It’s torquey 3.5-liter V-6 does a swell job of propelling the car forward without exerting an exceeding number of revs while its six-speed transmission shifts like warmed butter — firm but not hard; soft but not squishy.

The amenities list on my tester was long. In fact, the panoramic glass roof and 18-inch wheels seemed to be the only notable features missing. The remaining options made for a comfortable ride with enough gadgets to satisfy my inner geek. I did have one complaint about my ES 350 , and it centering on the most important human-car touch point within the vehicle.

Click past the jump for the full review

Few companies cater to the petrol-head quite like Porsche . Sure Ferrari provides excitement, and Lamborghini is the maestro of theater, but Porsche has cornered the market on feel and precision.

Beyond that, Porsche also seems to demonstrate a peculiar, un-German ability to create cars that are very pretty. Not the sensual beauty the Italians have mastered, but still pretty.

Late last year the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh decided that Porsche had done so much in the field of design, that it deserved to be recognized. They then began the laborious task of collecting an eclectic assortment of metal from the brand’s storied history; from the Type 64 of 1938 up to the 911 GTS R Hybrid race car .

As a man with a slight fetish for German autos, the exhibit intrigued me. The NCMA is only a six-hour drive from my house, through some of the most beautiful roads and scenery in the U.S., and I had just been granted the keys to a 2014 Porsche Cayman S .

It was a recipe that sounded like a Porsche enthusiast’s perfect weekend.

Read on to find out more about my journey, the Cayman S and the NCMA exhibit.

Thundering around town in a three-row SUV isn’t typically an exciting event. Slow and cumbersome with loads of body roll and understeer can make for a rather uninspiring trip. Then again, the refreshed 2014 Dodge Durango isn’t a typical SUV.

Coated in Granite Crystal Metallic paint with matching 20-inch rims, blacked-out windows, color-keyed bumpers and grille, and that ‘racetrack’ LED taillight fixture out back give this bad boy a snarling bad attitude. Equipped with the Rallye Appearance Package, this Durango seems to hold up an inappropriate gesture to any sneering onlookers.

Get on this bad boy’s good side, however, and you’re coddled like a king – even in the third row. The revised interior for 2014 is much improved over last year and includes numerous refinements. There’s an all-new steering wheel with standard paddle shifters controlling the standard TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic, a reworked center stack with the optional 8.4-inch Uconnect system, and a large seven-inch TFT display within the gauge cluster.

Though this Dodge is refreshed for 2014, all the good stuff from its 2011 total makeover is still present. The killer exterior looks, the loads of room in the second and third rows, its two optional engines, and all-wheel-drive set-up are among the most notable features in the Durango’s returning repertoire.

I recently spent a week with this beastly SUV, doing everything from commuting around and hauling kids, to blasting around cloverleaf interstate on-ramps. Head past the jump for my full run-down.

Click past the jump for the full review

Under the shadow of BMW’s Spartanburg manufacturing plant nestled in the rolling hills of South Carolina, I found myself ripping through corners of back county highways in the new 2015 Hyundai Genesis. And though the plant only produces BMW’s popular SUVs and crossovers, the Genesis’ intent to conquer giants became blatantly obvious the farther I traveled through the sweeping hills.

The roads along my path were littered with hairpin turns and switchbacks followed by long straights with varying pavement conditions. Besides the few locals traversing the trail and that one tractor creeping along behind a blind curve, the road was nearly mine. The Genesis’ new, more rigid chassis and upgraded suspension system with a driver-selectable Sport Mode rode tight with a very balanced feel that inspired confidence.

The steering in my RWD tester felt light yet properly weighted while its variable ratio kept my inputs in check. With the car weighing in at 4,138 pounds, I was amazed at how well the Hankook tires griped the road without howling complaints. Only under mid-corner power was I able to induce noticeable understeer. I’m no Mario Andretti, but I was giving it the beans. The Genesis just tracked like it was on rails with almost no body roll.

Click past the jump for the full report on the new 2015 Hyundai Genesis

For 2014, Mitsubishi gave the Outlander a full overhaul, and you couldn’t ask for a more comprehensive overhaul. The Outlander has lost all that made it unique in the crossover SUV realm and inherited a rather boring look. In fact, it looks totally out of place in Mitsubishi’s lineup, to be perfectly honest. The Outlander wasn’t all bad though, as the tester that I received had a lot of options added, which made for a nice week driving it around.

Under the hood of my tester was the base 2.4-liter four-pot that only produced 166 ponies and 162 pounds of twist. Why Mitsubishi didn’t send it with the optional V-6 is beyond me. The 224 horsepower and 215 pound-feet would have likely made for more fun and a quieter ride. Not that the V-6 isn’t underpowered in its own right.

The Outlander is really a love it or hate is type of vehicle. Traditionalists likely enjoy its normal styling, but generation X and Y likely think it is too boring to compete. Can its features overcome the sharp looks of the Toyota RAV4 and the larger third row in the Kia Sorento ?

Click past the jump to read the full Driven review to find out.

The Mazda3 has been roaming the roadways since it replaced the Protégé in 2004, and despite a "second generation" in 2010, the design remained nearly the same throughout its lifespan. When Mazda announced its Kodo design language would make its way to the 3 in the 2014 model year, I couldn’t help but get excited, as the Mazda6 looked awesome in its new dress. Well, after I drove the Mazda6 , I called up my fleet supplier and specifically requested the Mazda3. They contacted Mazda, and they happily shipped one out to me.

The new Mazda3 was a stunner from the second it rolled into my driveway, I loved the Meteor Gray Mica paint draped over the revised body. Walking up to the car, it looked like a much more expensive car, and sliding into the cabin really kicked thing up a notch.

On the surface, my love for the revised Mazda3 only grew, but did I still love it after a week behind the wheel?

Click past the jump to find out.

The Honda Accord has been around for what seems like forever, and it has undergone more changes that I don’t care to count. After a nice redesign just a year ago, the Accord carries into the 2014 model year with no changes at all. I got my hands on a range-topping Touring version of the 2014 Accord , which had just about every gadget and gizmo imaginable in a mainstream, midsize sedan .

The Accord has long had one of the most boring cabins in its segment, and the redesign takes care of some blandness, but it remains pretty blah. Besides the sleepy design, the Accord Touring’s cabin was very nicely equipped, thank to standard leather, 360-watt audio system, blind-spot camera, Bluetooth and heated seats.

Under the hood, Honda continues with its tried and true 3.5-liter V-6 that nets the sedan just under 300 horsepower. That’s decent power for a midsize sedan, but automakers are now moving toward smaller, turbocharged engines to increase fuel economy, but maintain power output, and Honda is still missing this boat.

So how does the Accord stack up to the likes of the Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Camry ?

Read my full Driven review after the jump to find out.

I recently spent a week behind the wheel of a 2013 Toyota 4Runner , and while it missed Toyota’s 2014 mild refresh , it still had the guts of a true off-roader and honest-to-goodness sports utility vehicle. My 4Runner was decked out with the Trail package that included part-time four-wheel-drive, a locking differential and Toyota ’s KDSS suspension system with Multi-Terrain Select. With all the right option boxes checked, this 4Runner was set to live up to its name.

It was 1984 when the 4Runner began making its name known to Americans as the SUV adaptation of Toyota’s popular pickup. In fact, the 4Runner was basically a Toyota pickup, or Hilux as its known outside the U.S., with a removable fiberglass camper shell over the bed and a removable rear seat installed inside. It competed directly against the Ford Bronco and Chevrolet Blazer and won a loyal following with its nimble size and bulletproof powertrain.

Over the years, the 4Runner has undergone many changes and became its own vehicle apart from the pickup. But that body-on-frame construction, four-wheel-drive, and nimbler size still lives on. Even in a time when the traditional SUV is becoming an endangered species, the 4Runner hasn’t lost its rugged appeal. The crossover crowd has the Highlander , and that’s just fine, as it leaves the 4Runner to cater to a more adventurous crowd who still use low range and the trailer hitch.

Click past the jump to continue reading our review of the 2013 Toyota 4Runner

Acura has had a run of disappointments in recent years, particularly when I happened to receive the Acura TL in place of an RLX that had some "issues" preventing me from getting a fair shot at it. And it was little more than a Honda Honda wrapped up in an Acura costume. In fact, my tester Accord had more features than it, but I digress. I am here to talk about the 2014 Acura MDX.

For 2014, Acura scrapped the old MDX body and slapped on some brand-new sheet metal with all sorts of sharp angles and gorgeous lines. No longer does it look like a Honda Pilot wearing a different mask. It honestly looks like something that belongs in the same class as the BMW X5 and Mercedes GL-Class — at least in the press images it does.

So you can imagine that I was pretty antsy to get my hands on it, and that was multiplied by my crappy experience with the TL. So, what did I think of the TL once I got my chance behind the wheel?

Click past the jump to read my full Driven Review and find out.

There’s just something about a sports sedan that just does it for me. Maybe it’s the fact that I now have a family and a sports sedan caters to both the father and teenager inside of me, by offering up four doors, a stylish look and acceptable performance. Then again, maybe I am just an old man that has grown used to rocking a sedan, man purse and a diaper bag — yeah, that’s probably it.

Well, enter in the 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer GT that I got my hands on for a week, and was really surprised with what I saw. I am definitely no fan of the Lancer as a whole lineup — sans the EVO , of course — because it has become a stale look that feels really, really dated. But add in the GT trim level that tosses in the 18-inch wheels, big rear wing and some niceties on the inside, and it was acceptable. Sure, I would have preferred the 237-horsepower Ralliart model, but at least the GT looks the part.

The Lancer never really gets its fair chance in the compact sedan market, as the Focus, Corolla , Civic and Forte really hog up all the attention. So, we’re here to give it a chance to warm our hearts.

Click past the jump to read my full Driven review of the 2014 Mitsubishi Lancer GT.


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