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The arrival of a diesel engine in the luxurious and easy-driving 2014 Ram 1500 pickup is huge news. Until this point, diesel engines for all truck lines have been restricted to just 2500 and 3500 models.

Ford and Chevy continue without a small diesel engine in their light trucks, and are about to feel the hurt from the new 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel.

As much as car buyers traditionally loathe the idea of diesel engines, truck buyers adore it.

Under the chrome Ram hood, the 3.0-liter, V-6 diesel option even delivered a (momentary) 36 mpg via the standard eight-speed automatic during a light cruise on the test route. But that is not even the best part.

The Ram EcoDiesel packs all the benefits of 25-mpg-plus highway efficiency, but none of the typical diesel engine noise or the driving dynamics of an 18-wheeler. This is a machine whose huge torque reserves and lighter front end join forces to make a smooth, quiet and nimble truck. All that comfort on the air springs front and rear has virtually no major tradeoff in the capabilities tallies versus the F-150 or Silverado .

While both of those leading trucks — Ford F-150 and Chevy Silverado — are also quite refined in the drivetrain these days, none offer the absolutely S-Class -rivaling smoothness of the Ram 1500 Laramie over bumps.

Un-laden half-ton trucks might have smooth engines, but are still a pitter-patter of suspension clatter in back on good sunny days. On bad snowy or rainy days, that inherent over-sprung feel can become downright treacherous over mid-corner bumps.

Jittery and gas-guzzling pickups are starting to feel mighty obsolete in direct comparison to the swanky new Ram EcoDiesel.

Click past the jump for this exclusive TopSpeed Driven preview of the 2014 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel, which is arriving in showrooms across five trim levels starting in December.

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The Nissan 370Z was the first model to get the comprehensive Nismo upgrade from the revered tuning arm of the Japanese auto giant. Long housed in an anonymous mid-rise factory with only a bright red door to signal something special inside, the Nismo team is spreading its wings with further upgrades to normal Nissan models.

The best-known work from these honorable speed demons is, of course, the GT-R . As we will see, this is not a team who adds some stickers and a lightly revised ECU to cars that don the "Nismo" badge.

The pitfalls of creating a performance spin-off series are many. Too much change and the price can nearly double, cutting volume by four in the process. The previous Cadillac CTS-V suffered such a fate.

On the other side of the spectrum; too little enhancement, and the car is dismissed as badge and stickers job by those in the know. So there is a fine line to walk between the loaded 370Z Touring’s $38,000 price and the $43,000 base of the Nismo version.

After some seat time and some driving videos (viewable below), the 370Z Nismo is unlike any other Z-car driven to date. It features extensively restyled bodywork from every angle, a far lower ride height, and exhaust drums so large they might be packing oil reserves.

For those with allegiance to only hardcore performance, the 370Z Nismo really trumps the equivalent Genesis Coupe R-Spec s and Camaro s of the performance world. An apt comparison would be to the previous Ford Mustang Boss 302 that was basically a Laguna Seca time attack special.

The spec sheet of the 370Z shows how busy the Nismo team was in revamping the Z-car to its standards. This is far more than a body and paint shop; this car is purpose-built from the body-in-white chassis upward by Nismo.

Click past the jump for the full TopSpeed Driven review of the 2014 Nissan 370Z NISMO, including a few videos of driving impressions.

At the 2010 New York Auto Show , Hyundai unveiled the Sonata Hybrid , and the 2014 model that we got our hands on its nearly identical to the debut model.

Regardless of its age — about 40 years old in car years — the Sonata Hybrid still looks pretty modern, with its distinctive front fascia that shows off LED-trimmed headlamps and a wavy front grill. The LED taillights and aerodynamic rims are the only details that scream "hybrid." Though it remains relatively up to date, we do expect Hyundai to reveal a redesigned Sonata line for 2015, including the hybrid model.

The interior is very well-appointed, and only LCD gauges and "Blue Efficiency" button on the steering wheel clue you in that this is indeed a hybrid model. A quick press of this "Blue Efficiency" button, and the Sonata Hybrid awakens from its efficient — boring — mode. The hybrid system is attached to a 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine that pumps out 159 horsepower and 154 pound-feet of torque. The hybrid system chimes in with an extra 47 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. In all, this system puts down a respectable 200 horsepower, but don’t expect the mid-3,000-pound, midsize cruiser to pin you to your seat.

After some seat time in the Lexus ES Hybrid , we are a little spoiled, but we have to remind you that you get what you pay for. The Sonata checks in around $30,000, and it delivers a premium look and feel. Taking into consideration that hybrid cars tend receive a 20 to 30 percent premium over their gasoline counterparts, the Sonata Hybrid is a relative bargain.

Click past the jump to read more about the 2013 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited

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The 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG is finally out of its doldrums of quad-oval lights and messy body kits. The AMG Hammer is well and truly reborn with this latest generation of ultra-fast, luxurious and stylish new E63 models.

The E63 now wears the trendy sheetmetal to challenge even the sporty M6 and the Audi RS7 . Understated appeal has always been an AMG E-Class feature, but the new styling enhancements mean that the E63 is extremely serious, attention-grabbing and highly entertaining to enjoy up close.

Despite a subtle sedan shape, even blind people know that a very special car is approaching as the E63 AMG gurgles into earshot. This engine maintains much of the previous staccato machine-gun fire noise from the last cars’ naturally-aspirated engines.

In 2014, the E63 — for the first time — gains 4Matic all-wheel-drive as standard in the U.S. to go along with this beastly twin-boosted V-8, and a cabin whose luxury and comfort are contenders for world’s best.

Click past the jump for this exclusive TopSpeed Driven review of the 2014 Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG S-Model, including a few videos of the car in action as it slams through the gears on full throttle.

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Guess who got his paws on a 2014 Corvette Stingray out in the wild this week?

The joy of hooning this hotly anticipated sports car was spoiled only by having to give it back to Chevy at the end of the day.

Are the touted enhancements to the cockpit, performance and road stance enough to put the C7 on the radar of young enthusiasts for the first time in decades? Or just a bald fatty special like the C5?

Much as the pace and V-8 bellow was to be admired in the C5 and C6, the Vette was too Plastic Fantastic to cause much of a sensation to the uninitiated. The old Vette’s key buyer group of Wal-Mart-shopping "rich" people certainly would not help any car’s cool factor.

But the C7 feels about a million miles from those two Extenze-popping machines.

Despite screeching performance and the all-conquering ZR-1, the C6 Vette was mired in image hell based on some of its buyers. An interior so low rent that catching crabs was a real possibility only confirmed suspicions that America’s Sports Car was just for creeps and perves.

Big, big changes for the C7 line. In a dream scenario this week, we found ourselves set loose in the C7. It was the meat of a day that also included a frightening hour in the Nissan GT-R (that left me trembling with delight) and a brief intro to the lumbering and oddly off-putting SRT Viper GTS .

But what to do in that Nirvana moment: a full tank of gas, the brand-new Chevrolet Corvette C7, and a heavy right foot? We cooked the tires, did a few straight-line blasts, and took as many pictures as the camera would hold.

Luckily, the impression this incredible car left is etched in the memory with the staying power of a brain tattoo.

Click past the jump for this exclusive TopSpeed Driven review of the 2014 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, with nearly 75 all-new, high-resolution images of the production model we sampled.

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The new Pathfinder is lighting up the sales charts with its seven seats and a newly luxurious, efficient and smooth driving experience. Far from going soft, the Pathfinder is still able to do all the truck-like things that made its previous body-on-frame models so memorable.

The TopSpeed Garage is much classier with the 2014 Pathfinder Platinum in "valet 1st position" out front.

Have kid-friendly features totally stomped out the lenedary toughness of the chiseled hardbody Nissan SUV’s from the 1980s? The irrelevance of this question is pretty clear. This is a business, and Nissan knows it.

We’re thrilled to report that the Pathfinder has not lost its way.

Guiding the trails like it did as one of the first semi-premium, imported SUVs in the 1980s, the Pathfinder is on a new trail now — a much smoother trail. One that has dual video monitors in back, a sliding/reclining second row to stretch out with the wireless headphones, and even a heated rear seats for the ultimate in couch potato lounge amenities in back.

But what about the irritating and non-premium character of most previous CVT automatics?

As confessed CVT haters and without rug-rats (yet), our expectations were quite mixed before the 2014 Pathfinder Platinum rolled into the TopSpeed Garage . The latest CVT automatic is standard and truly is a new breed of lightweight and economical transmissions, and we took a quick video of a brake torque launch to show how snappy this new Xtronic box is.

Click past the jump for the full TopSpeed Garage review of the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Platinum 4x4, by far one of the most impressive seven-seat crossovers on the market.

With every passing year, compact cars seem to get better and better, so it’s no surprise that the the Sentra is not the same entry-level, cheapo Nissan it used to be. Our Sentra tester is fitted with the SR trim package, which adds in plenty of bells and whistles that you would expect from a more expensive vehicle, including keyless entry, push-button start and navigation. The best part is the price; at $21,550 as tested, the Sentra SR offers plenty of bang for your buck.

The Sentra SR’s exterior is very well appointed with LED headlight surrounds, sport front and rear bumpers, and side skirts that look like they belong in "The Fast and the Furious" series. Even the alloy wheels look pretty good for the price.

What really pulls the whole exterior together is that Electric Metallic Blue paint that we last saw on the 370Z a few years back. Sure, it’s not a Ferrari, but there’s a lot to take in for the price point.

Nissan Sentra SR

The interior is a not quite as satisfying as the outside, but the push-button start and navigation system for under $22k, we’re not complaining.

The seats are cloth, but they look good for the class, and the dash is padded with the more expensive, soft plastic. Add to that trimming that doesn’t feel like it was stamped in the same Chinese factory as your iPhone case, and the overall interior package is fairly attractive. Top that with good rear leg room, nice visibility all around and folding rear seats, and you have a flexible product with very little compromises.

On the road, the Sentra drives okay, but with a CVT driving the front wheels, it is not an overly exhilarating experience. The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels better than a lot of more expensive cars, and the CVT does a good job at limiting torque steer and unwanted movement in the steering wheel.

The suspension is comfortable for daily use, but it also allows you to take corners with confidence. We even caught ourselves taking a few corners fast enough to get a little feedback from the tires, which added a some extra fun to the drive. Is it Porsche fun? No, but it is above average for the econo-box class.

Overall The Nissan Sentra SR gives you a lot for your money. On the outside, it looks good enough to prevent your buddies from chuckling at you when you roll up in it, and inside, you have plenty of premium features to keep you happy for years to come.

Of course, with the 2014 Toyota Corolla debuting a sporty look, your choice of entry-level sedans is getting harder.

Toyota Corolla
Toyota Corolla
Nissan Sentra SR

The 2014 truck season is in full swing, and some of the main manufacturers are launching all-new variants of their resident pickups. Chevrolet already released its new 2014 Silverado , and Ford is set to reveal its all-new 2015 F150 that will be based on the 2013 Atlas Concept .

Even SUVs are off to a good start, with the debut of the 2014 X5 and 2014 Range Rover Sport . Toyota has been waiting patiently for the pickup market to come back, and its is now set to launch the 2014 Tundra with "Truck Of The Year" aspirations.

The Tundra looks quite similar to last year’s model but if you look closer, you’ll find that it is loaded with improvements.

Toyota invited us to the woods of Georgia to test drive it and see how it does on and off the road, as well as with a trailer hitched to the back end.

Click past the jump to read what we think of it.

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The 2014 STI risks getting lost in the shuffle of the next-gen WRX ’s launch at this fall’s Los Angeles auto show . As is customary for Subaru when upgrading the Impreza -based models, the next-gen STI will follow the regular WRX as a projected 2016 model year intro.

That is more than enough time to fall in love again with the current model’s brash styling, forceful turbocharged power delivery, and better tech integration in the cockpit than ever before. 305 horsepower and a 4.7-second sprint to 60 mph means the WRX STI is still a favorite here in the TopSpeed Garage .

Introduced for 2011, the current STI’s strength as a Subaru performance flagship is fully intact. As a low-volume model, its boxer rumble casts a performance glow over even the base $18,000 Impreza sedan. No changes to the STI for 2014, aside from the audio system now offering integration of Aha’s music app.

First-hand driving impressions of this track toy are included, as are comparisons with the WRX STI’s potent competition from the BMW 135i and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution .

Click past the jump for the full TopSpeed Garage review of the 2014 Subaru WRX STI, still a game-changer with wild turbo boost and AWD traction to make every corner seem like a straightaway.

The Grand Cherokee SRT is Jeep ’s real hero car, and the only one to compete effectively with the super-SUV benchmark from Porsche . The Jeep ’s drastic SRT makeover is arguably the most effective across the Chrysler range by blending the huge Hemi V-8’s torque with the sure-footed and quite advanced Grand Cherokee platform.

A change across the board from “SRT8” to “SRT” for all the performance trims prepares the range for its next generation of super and turbocharged SRT models - with forced induction making the SRT6, SRT4 etc cylinder counts much less meaningful.

The SRT conversion makes the Grand Cherokee one of the most entertaining models out of Auburn Hills, with all the track attitude and road muscle of the Viper but far fewer tradeoffs in daily driving.

As almost a totally distinct model from the Grand Cherokee range, the SRT version is new for 2014 with the latest interior tech upgrades, a new eight-speed auto transmission, and the tasteful headlight LED accents that were new this year on the base models.

Combined with the menacing nose graphic of the Grand Cherokee SRT, the additional LED lights update the nose appearance nicely. A black lower bumper shroud makes the SRT seem mean even with the lights off, with its 20-inch wheels and giant tires looking very prominent from all angles.

The real news with this latest Jeep is new launch control programming for the cutting-edge autobox that should offer an even quicker sprint than the last model’s 5.1-second rush to 60 mph. Smoothness, economy, and tow ratings are also all up across the board, making this Grand Cherokee SRT quite an appealing prospect for hot-rod SUV shoppers.

Will the loss of the "8" on the badge hurt its street cred versus the Range Rover Sport? Is the price premium and five-seat layout a problem versus the Ford Explorer Sport ?

Click past the jump for all the latest images and details of the 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT.


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