2021 Volvo V60 Cross Country - Driven
It’s almost ancient history now, but the Volvo station wagon spent years as a staple of upscale families. Luxurious without being ostentatious, known for its safety, and able to carry plenty of cargo, it was a fixture at field hockey practice — at least until SUVs took over that mantle. Even in the Volvo lineup, the station wagon is an afterthought next to the XC40, XC60, and XC90 crossovers.
But is that because SUVs are better than station wagons? Or are wagons unfairly overlooked and deserving of more attention? Volvo does still sell two wagons: the compact V60 and the midsize V90. We spent a week with the Volvo V60 Cross Country to see what a Volvo station wagon has to offer in this decade.
2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime - Driven
Any new version of the Toyota RAV4 is automatically a big deal. Aside from a few big pickup trucks, the RAV4 is America’s favorite vehicle. And it has also been a winner among eco-conscious buyers; not long after the gas/electric RAV4 Hybrid debuted in 2016, it became America’s favorite hybrid — even outselling Toyota’s iconic Prius.
So when Toyota announced the 2021 RAV4 Prime, it was a big deal. Forget about the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, a low-range plug-in hybrid version of a forgettable SUV. Forget about a planned Ford Escape plug-in hybrid, which doesn’t offer all-wheel-drive and whose on-sale date got bumped back a year over fire risks. Forget about various plug-in sedans and hatchbacks, and various expensive luxury plug-in hybrids that can barely crack 20 miles of low-speed all-electric use. And forget about the range anxiety that keeps many people away from fully electric vehicles. No, it’s the RAV4 Prime that promises to make Americans plug in their cars en masse.
We spent a week in the new 2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime to see how it bridges the gap between the gasoline and electric worlds. Here’s what we found.
Volkswagen Passat - Driven
Sometimes, a car needs a full redesign to address a fundamental flaw. Perhaps it’s too small, or too big. Maybe its styling is stale or unappealing. Or perhaps its platform can’t support modern needs.
The 2020 Passat has revised interior and exterior styling, more standard features, and an updated engine. That’s a cheaper set of changes than a full redesign, and Volkswagen is passing those savings on to the customer. Is that enough to excuse the Passat’s old bones? Or are you better off opting for a fresher competitor? Here’s what we learned from our time behind the wheel.
2020 Cadillac CT4 - Driven
With so many Americans rushing from cars into crossover SUVs, only the strongest sedans are surviving. That’s not good news for Cadillac. Its huge, decadent luxury sedans were once desired all around the world. But while its Escalade SUV is still an international icon and its crossovers are fairly successful domestically, Cadillac failed to establish itself among the leading luxury-sedan brands today. The few remaining luxury sedan buyers more often turn to Audi, BMW, Lexus, or Mercedes-Benz. Some will try out critically acclaimed but unconventional options like Volvo and Genesis. And a growing number are choosing all-electric Teslas over any traditional luxury sedan.
It’s into this backdrop that Cadillac has overhauled its two luxury sports sedans: the midsize CTS and compact ATS. They wear new styling and new names: CT5 and CT4, respectively. This 2020 Cadillac CT4 delivers a sophisticated rear-wheel-drive sports sedan platform at the price of the Germans’ subcompact front-wheel-drive sedans. We recently spent a week in the new CT4 to see whether that’s enough to earn a second glance from the people who still want a luxury sports sedan. Prices start at $32,995.
The first-generation Nissan Titan was a bold, brash, revolutionary pickup. Back in 2003, it marched into Detroit’s stronghold with a monster 5.6-liter V8 engine — making a then-mighty 300 horsepower — and an aggressive, head-turning design. It was the first and last time Nissan set out to make a class-leading full-size pickup truck. Nearly two decades later, the current Titan hasn’t changed dramatically under the skin or under the hood.
These days, it’s Ram that’s making waves. In the famously brand-loyal segment, Ram started winning market share with the 2009 model’s unusually smooth ride. It continued its luxury focus by introducing an extra-posh interior in the current generation, which arrived as a 2019 model. Smooth, quiet, elegantly finished, and filled with advanced technology, the current Ram 1500 is a master of civility while still offering commendable capability. The 2020 model also marks the return of a capable yet fuel-efficient “EcoDiesel” engine.
But even if Nissan isn’t making headlines anymore, it never stopped making Titans. It introduced the second-generation Titan as a 2017 model, and it followed up with new features, upgraded infotainment, and some mechanical updates for 2020. We recently spent back-to-back weeks in the updated Titan and an EcoDiesel-equipped Ram 1500. Here’s what we learned about these two trucks.
2020 Acura NSX - Driven
Most supercars live a life of unexplored potential. In a world where a Toyota Camry can hit 60 mph in a once-shocking six seconds, and six-figure performance machines have to cut that time in half to be relevant, few cars can be pushed to their limits in legal conditions. And the higher the limits, the fewer the chances you have to approach them. That means most supercars spend their days flaunting their looks — along with the prestige associated with their extreme capabilities — between occasional bursts of all-out speed.
2020 Toyota Highlander - Driven
Last year, the Toyota Highlander was in its final model year of a generation that wasn’t great even when it was new. This three-row crossover lacked the spaciousness, slick driving manners, extra-easy ergonomics, modern infotainment, and upscale interior details of the latest competitors. Yet by a healthy margin, it outsold every other seven-seat vehicle in the country. Buyers were drawn to a trusted name, and even if the competition might have been more impressive, loyal customers didn’t find enough wrong with the Highlander to try their hand with, say, a Mazda CX-9 or Kia Telluride. Now, there’s a new Highlander, and it’s time to see where Toyota has made marked improvements.
In recent decades, few Lincolns have been known for excellence. The company has largely settled for making marginally nicer Fords at marginally higher prices. That’s not a bad niche to occupy — for example, recent Lincolns like the MKZ sedan and Nautilus crossover provide comfortable interiors, rich leather, lots of features, and a quiet ride for less money than sportier, more opulent Mercedes-Benz or BMW competitors — but this approach did little for the brand’s prestige.
Now, Lincoln is undergoing a renaissance. New Lincolns do still borrow from Fords mechanically. But starting with the redesigned 2018 Navigator, the brand’s models have been packing a greater visual punch, differentiating themselves from their Ford cousins and from the competition. One of the latest beneficiaries is the new 2020 Lincoln Aviator, a luxury version of the Ford Explorer that Lincoln had last sold in 2005.
The new Aviator stands comfortably apart from the Explorer, sharing its family-friendly seven-seat layout and its new rear-wheel-drive-based platform, but with a unique and eye-catching exterior and interior design. From its striking looks to its standard 400-horsepower engine to a host of thoughtfully executed details, this isn’t a Lincoln that aims for being merely “acceptable” or “pretty good.” Some buyers might wish for sportier handling, a few details could be improved, and our test car’s $76,310 MSRP feels steep. But when you stay closer to the $51,100 base price, the new Aviator is a head-turning combination of performance, seven-passenger seating, and stunning design.
2020 Lexus LX 570 - Driven
From the company that invented the luxury crossover, the 2020 Lexus LX 570 is a decided throwback. This is a full-sized SUV that’s derived not from a car platform like you’d find in a Mercedes-Benz GLS or BMW X7, or even from the family-focused Toyota Sequoia.
Instead, it borrows its underpinnings from the Toyota Land Cruiser — one of the most capable SUVs you can buy. The LX 570 is no mere leather-lined cocoon, but also a boulder-climbing machine that employs a mix of electronic gizmos and burly suspension components to tackle challenging terrain.
Everything about the Tesla Model Y looks like the car of the future. From its pod shape, to its silent but explosive acceleration, to its all-encompassing infotainment screen with no physical buttons, the electric-car maker’s new entry-level crossover is more about sensibly reducing gasoline usage. It gives you a peek into the decades to come, and it gives you a rollicking good time while you do it. It’s not just an electric car, but a special vehicle that triggers a powerful emotional response. This is one way to electrify an SUV.
Then there’s Mitsubishi’s way: the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander Sport PHEV. All-electric cars eventually run out of charge, even long-range models like Teslas. So Mitsubishi made a plug-in hybrid whose gasoline engine can help out when you use up the battery or need more power. To keep costs down, the battery isn’t huge and the motors aren’t wildly powerful. And Mitsubishi already makes many gas-powered crossovers, so rather than wasting resources to develop a new one, it retrofitted electric components into its flagship model, the compact Outlander.
The result is a left-brain approach to the segment — the Outlander PHEV makes perfect sense, but it’s an improved present rather than the future. At best, you’ll feel something between mildly impressed and grudgingly accepting. It’s hard to imagine falling in love.
2020 Nissan Sentra - Driven
The last two generations of Nissan Sentra have followed a simple formula: a spacious interior, a smooth ride, great gas mileage, and low prices. For plenty of compact-sedan buyers, that’s a winning formula. But it came at the expense of driving pleasure — to the extreme. Last year’s Nissan Sentra wasn’t merely dull, but downright awful if you try to get some grins. Its wheezy 124-horsepower engine struggled under all but the gentlest acceleration, and its handling betrayed an alarming lack of composure for a modern small car. And while its upright styling could be considered elegant from some angles, it just looked tall and narrow from others.
For the 2020 model year, Nissan has worked to reinvent the Sentra. A striking new body sits atop a more sophisticated suspension and wraps around a more potent engine and a fancier interior. All the while, Nissan has kept prices in check and even improved the Sentra’s gas mileage.
Do the changes turn the Sentra into a class leader? Not exactly. Even after this year’s improvements, you can still find quicker, sharper-handling, more luxuriously-finished small sedans. And if you loved the old Sentra because you could get a huge backseat and trunk at a fire-sale price, the new model will feel like a step backward.
By becoming more similar to competitors like the latest Toyota Corolla, Hyundai Elantra, and Kia Forte, the 2020 Sentra loses the old model’s standout spaciousness and value — but it brings fresh advantages to the table all while keeping costs in check.
2021 Kia Seltos - Driven
The subcompact crossover class has so much potential. Best-selling “compact” models like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Nissan Rogue, and Chevrolet Equinox have gotten fantastically spacious, refined — and expensive. A modern CR-V or RAV4 is just as big, fancy, and costly as midsize models used to be. For lots of people, they’re still a great deal: for as little as $25,000, you get ample space for four or even five adults and their stuff, all the latest advanced safety features, a fully featured touchscreen infotainment system, and great gas mileage. But lots of people don’t need or even want something this big, or at least aren’t eager to pay for it. So most automakers now offer a subcompact model that’s smaller and less expensive than their compact.
What’s puzzling, though, is how flawed most of these subcompact crossovers have proven to be. Many of them are polarizing styling statements, sometimes with looks that compromise their utility even more than their scaled-down dimensions do. A surprising number of them offer no all-wheel-drive. Some suffer from execution flaws like underpowered yet inefficient engines, compromised interior layouts, or clumsy driving dynamics. Each model that gets a lot right has also had at least one serious flaw — whether it’s the fun-to-drive but cramped Hyundai Kona and Mazda CX-3 and CX-30; the spacious but slow, noisy Honda HR-V; the pleasant but overpriced Nissan Rogue Sport; the off-road-ready, on-road-jerky Jeep Renegade and Subaru Crosstrek; or a host of other would-be contenders. That’s to say nothing of the ones that, well, don’t get a lot right. Why, oh why, couldn’t someone just take everything that people love about a compact crossover and simply make it a little smaller and less expensive?
At long last, that call has been answered. The all-new 2021 Kia Seltos is a mechanical cousin to the Hyundai Kona, but it’s taller and longer. And that’s just what was needed to address the Kona’s lower, more car-like seating position and its tight rear seating. This makes the Seltos the first truly well-rounded subcompact crossover, delivering all-around competence with no disastrous downsides. It’s handsome, functional, fun to drive, fuel-efficient, and affordable. While no car is perfect — certain buyers will gravitate toward the specific advantages of some Seltos competitors — this is the only subcompact crossover that has something for just about everyone.
2020 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque - Driven
Back in 2012, the Range Rover Evoque was a radical departure. This Land Rover sub-brand made a name for itself with powerful, comfortable SUVs, with big, boxy, classic styling. The “Baby Range Rover” Evoque was a subcompact crossover with a sleek silhouette and tiny windows. It looked like a bold concept car that instead hit the streets. The bet paid off — the Evoque not only brought new customers into the Range Rover fold, but it successfully previewed the brand’s direction. This once-radical face now adorns the Range Rover Velar, Range Rover Sport, and even the flagship original Range Rover.
What the 2012 Evoque didn’t have was perfect luxury-grade substance. It was a head-turning little luxury SUV upholstered in expensive leather, but built from old Ford parts. Buyers who fell in love with the looks had to live with mediocre ride, handling, and acceleration, to say nothing of its cramped cabin and tight outward visibility. And while many buyers happily did so, Land Rover redesigned the Evoque this year to improve its substance without compromising its style.
We recently spent a week in the redesigned 2020 Land Rover Range Rover Evoque (apologies for the long name) to evaluate how well the company did. We found it to be improved but still imperfect: loyal owners should have nothing but praise for the changes, and there are enough improvements to bring in some new buyers to the fold. But purely on substance, we’d be hard-pressed to call the Evoque a leader in the cutthroat subcompact luxury SUV segment, particularly at above-average prices that start above $42,650. Let’s discuss why.
2020 Genesis G90 - Driven
For 2020, Genesis has performed a styling update that makes the 2020 Genesis G90 look a decade newer than last year’s model. The new design, along with some other updates, make the G90 more worthy of its flagship status. Still, this is a Korean car with a base price of $72,200 — a combination that’s going to be a tough sell regardless of the vehicle’s merits, and despite the fact that its closest competitors are even more expensive. What does Genesis do to earn these big bucks? We spent a week in a top-of-the-line G90 5.0 Ultimate to find out.
2020 Lexus RX450hL - Driven
The Lexus RX invented the luxury crossover. It invented the luxury hybrid. And it’s consistently America’s best-selling luxury SUV. That’s why the current-generation RX’s shortcomings have been so surprising. It debuted in 2016 with polarizing styling, limited cargo space, no available third-row seat, cumbersome controls, and missing infotainment features.
At least based on the sales numbers, buyers registered no objections. They either embraced or accepted the RX for what it is, continuing to be drawn to its quiet ride, rich leather, and promise of headache-free reliability. But Lexus has steadily improved the vehicle since that 2016 debut. It added an extended-length three-row model for the 2018 model year, known as the RX L. Now, the 2020 RX features an upgraded infotainment system and tweaks to the styling and suspension.
Comparing the Smallest Crossovers: 2020 Hyundai Venue vs. 2020 Kia Soul vs. 2020 Nissan Kicks
Ever since Subaru lifted the Legacy’s suspension, slapped on some body cladding, and called it the Outback, it’s been harder and harder to draw a firm line between ’regular’ cars and SUVs. And we recently drove three vehicles that are right in that blurry area. Their manufacturers call them crossovers, and they’re tall and plastic-clad. But they’re tiny and come only with front-wheel-drive.
Whatever you call them, the all-new 2020 Hyundai Venue, the freshly-redesigned 2020 Kia Soul, and the 2020 Nissan Kicks are a lot of vehicle for the money. They all start below $20,000, all get at least 30 mpg, and all have higher seating positions and more cargo room than a sedan. They slot under their brands’ crossovers that already wear the pint-sized label of subcompact — the Hyundai Kona, Kia Seltos, and Nissan Rogue Sport — to provide an even lower price and even more city-friendly parking abilities.
2020 Mazda 3 - Driven Review
Flying in to Newark International Airport last month, I arrived at the Budget Rent a Car counter and received the keys to a familiar staple of rental fleets: a 2019 Nissan Sentra wearing scratched-up Ignore Me Silver paint. Plenty of travelers would likely ask if, pretty please, anything else was available. This previous-generation Sentra (the car was fully redesigned for 2020) is generally reviled by anyone who appreciates a fine automobile. It’s underpowered, it lacks handling poise, and it’s drab-looking inside and out. And yet, it was just what my family of three needed for a three-hour drive home to Maryland. The Sentra’s plus-sized rear backseat was perfect for our rear-facing child seat, and its big trunk swallowed our suitcases and stroller with ease. Its generously sized windows offered excellent outward visibility, and it could go 41.3 miles before burning a gallon of gasoline. And, keeping our rental rate in check, the Sentra provided plenty of features at low prices.
This brings us to the subject of today’s review: the 2020 Mazda3. Like the Sentra, it belongs to the compact economy car market segment. But that’s pretty much where the similarities stop. For two cars in the same segment, it’s hard to get more dissimilar than our tested Mazda3 and our rental Sentra — for better and for worse.
The Mazda3 is basically a luxury sports sedan (or, like in our test car, a five-door hatchback). It’s beautifully styled, elegantly finished, laden with features, and — although it’s not as energetically zippy as it once was — a pleasure to drive. It even offers all-wheel-drive, just like an Audi or BMW. Yet like a luxury car, it’s also more expensive, has a cramped rear seat and tight cargo hold, has slits for windows, isn’t cheap for its class, and gets lousy gas mileage. It would have been absolutely the wrong choice for a family road trip, even for our small family. But if you appreciate something finer than a Sentra and won’t often carry more than one extra passenger, the Mazda3 brings a high-end experience at relatively affordable prices — starting from $21,500.
2020 Infiniti QX50 Impressions - What’s Changed from 2019?
When we reviewed the redesigned 2019 Infiniti QX50 in October, we called the Japanese luxury brand’s newest model “decidedly ordinary.” As we explained, this premium compact crossover wasn’t a bad car, but unless its voluptuous styling hit the spot for you, it merely got the job done without making a splash — all while a series of small annoyances, such as an awkward throttle calibration and some downscale interior bits, wore away at even this theme of general competence. So did Infiniti resolve these issues for the 2020 model year?
2020 Subaru Legacy - Driven
One automaker after another is facing a new reality: Most people prefer SUVs to cars. That’s nothing new to Subaru, whose cars have played second fiddle to its crossovers ever since it turned the midsize Legacy station wagon into the Outback in 1995.
A crossover before the term “crossover” existed — before even “car-based SUVs” had really emerged on the scene — the Outback was a Legacy with some butcher detailing and, soon after its launch, a higher ground clearance. Since then, the Legacy has dwindled from Subaru’s flagship to a minor part of the company’s lineup, while the Outback has become its No. 1 product. Last year, the company sold five times as many Outbacks as Legacys.
Other companies’ buyers stuck with sedans longer. That’s probably because Subarus’ famously standard all-wheel-drive system already attracted the type of buyer who wanted more utility than a sedan. But now, nearly across the board, sedan sales are falling as crossover sales rise.
Some automakers have responded by discontinuing their sedans. Many of the survivors are focusing on what makes sedans stand out from SUVs: low, sleek proportions and a sporty driving experience. The latest iterations of the Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Nissan Altima, and Toyota Camry have all dialed up their style and their performance chops. The idea is that if someone still wants a car today, they really want a car — something beautiful, something fun, something interesting.
The redesigned 2020 Subaru Legacy, meanwhile, isn’t really any of those things. It sticks firmly to the old-school midsize sedan rules: a smooth ride, a big back seat, a fuel-efficient powertrain, and easy outward visibility. And, just like it has for decades, it comes standard with the same all-wheel-drive system that you’d find in a Subaru crossover. There’s little pizzazz to the design, which is nearly indistinguishable visually from the previous-generation 2015-2019 Legacy. The driving experience isn’t zesty like an Accord or like some past Legacy generations. This is a sedan that blends into the background, and Subaru doesn’t use discounted pricing to lure the remaining sedan shoppers. Even the Legacy’s storied all-wheel-drive advantage is dwindling; the Nissan Altima recently introduced an optional AWD system, and the Toyota Camry is following suit this year.
The Legacy is a safe, comfortable, no-nonsense midsize sedan. The new generation is roomier than before, it gets better gas mileage (especially if you opt for the optional new turbocharged four-cylinder, which replaces last year’s thirsty six-cylinder), and it has a bigger infotainment screen on most models. If you think excitement is overrated, you don’t have to count out this Subaru — though we’re going to go over its shortcomings as well. Prices start at $23,645, including the mandatory $900 destination charge.
2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio - Driven
“An Alfa Romeo SUV?” asked the older man parked beside me. “What does it cost to get into an Alfa Romeo SUV?”
“The base price is around $40,000,” I replied.
The man whistled, an automatic response to the stratospheric sum he’d clearly been imagining. Then he paused as the true figure sank in. He looked at his Toyota RAV4, a similarly sized crossover that approaches $40,000 with all the options. Then he looked again at this 2019 Alfa Romeo Stelvio. “That’s actually not bad.”
It definitely isn’t......
2020 Nissan Rogue - Driven
It’s far too easy for car aficionados to dismiss an aging vehicle. “Just look at that dashboard — straight out of 2014. And that hopelessly uncompetitive engine, ugh; to keep up, it needs at least 11% more horsepower. Junk!”
Now, we’d never suggest that cars never fall behind the curve. Quite the contrary, it happens all the time in today’s fast-paced marketplace. But when a vehicle gets the important stuff right from the start, especially if it also benefits from updates over the years, it can still be a great choice in its segment throughout its lifespan. And that’s precisely the case we’re finding with the 2020 Nissan Rogue compact crossover, one of America’s best-selling vehicles. The Rogue still brings a handsome face, a pleasant driving experience, great gas mileage, and a spacious cabin. And it’s now laden with advanced driver-assistance technology, even on the base model.
True, the Rogue hasn’t changed much since its current generation debuted as a 2014 model. Yes, its interior still has the sort of humdrum plastics and plain shapes that most newer competitors have moved away from. And its 170 horsepower is undoubtedly on the low side for the segment these days. The Rogue isn’t one of the compact crossovers that brings a high degree of luxury, sporty performance, or overall pizzazz. But we’d challenge its critics to spend a week in one, study how it compares to its competitors, and still write it off as a tired relic. We found the Rogue to be a solid family vehicle at compelling prices, and we were pleasantly surprised by how much we enjoyed our time with it — and with the glowing praise it received from passengers. Prices start at $26,39, including destination charge.
2019 Infiniti QX50 - Driven
Infiniti was early to what has become one of the industry’s hottest market segments: the compact luxury crossover. The 2008 EX35 was much more of a car than an SUV, a slightly elevated, slightly roomier version of the acclaimed G35 sports sedan. Infiniti bet big that buyers would sacrifice utility for performance — and it bet wrong. Despite beating most competitors to the market, and even after numerous upgrades over the years (including a longer wheelbase and a name change to QX50), it never made a splash. Later arrivals were able to emulate the more successful compact luxury crossovers and avoid Infiniti’s mistakes.
So not surprisingly, for its first full redesign in more than a decade, the 2019 Infiniti QX50 similarly gravitates toward the class norm. It became taller and wider, adopting more SUV-like proportions. It switched from a V6 engine and a rear-wheel-drive platform to a turbocharged four-cylinder and front-wheel-drive (still with optional all-wheel-drive). All of that mirrors such top rivals as the Acura RDX, Lexus NX, and Cadillac XT4, though a few other competitors still have rear-wheel-drive roots.
But beyond being merely typical, the QX50 is decidedly ordinary as well. It checks general boxes for the luxury crossover class without managing to dazzle. It neither fun and sporty nor vault-like in its serenity. Its infotainment isn’t cutting-edge. It has advanced engineering behind its variable-compression engine, but the real-world effect is less notable.
To be sure, calling a luxury car “ordinary” compared to its peers is no great insult. That means it’s meeting the high standards of its class, even if it doesn’t exceed them. So if you’re looking for a comfortable, quiet, respectably spacious, and generally easy-to-drive small luxury crossover, the QX50 is one of many potentially attractive choices. Prices start at $37,645 including destination change.
2019 Toyota Prius - Driven
Every morning when I get to work, I wind my way up to the roof of a six-story parking garage. And every evening, I wind my way back down. It’s a good half-mile round trip at plodding speeds. In a normal car, I watch the trip computer’s fuel economy readout tick down as I circle round and round through the garage. But in the 2019 Toyota Prius, I can go all of the way down and even most of the way up using purely electric power — burning no gas at all.
That’s the beauty of a well-executed hybrid: It often uses the least gas in circumstances where normal cars would use the most: Bumper-to-bumper traffic, neighborhoods with a four-way stop at every corner, or crowded parking lots. As long as you keep a gentle touch on the throttle — and in these conditions, there’s no reason not to — you can watch your mileage rise rather than fall. And this isn’t a plug-in hybrid that costs more and requires charging infrastructure; the Prius’s battery recharges as you drive normally, capturing energy from the gasoline engine and braking friction.
To be sure, the Prius hatchback is hardly the only hybrid on the market on which such technology achieves similar results. The Hyundai Ioniq hatchback, Kia Niro wagon/crossover, and the Honda Insight sedan are all newer designs than the current Prius, which dates back to 2016. There’s even an all-new 2020 Toyota Corolla Hybrid, which puts the Prius mechanicals in the body of a brand-new sedan. All these models rival or even beat the Prius’s EPA fuel economy ratings, and they all cost a little less; the 2019 Prius starts at $24,725. But the Prius still has the best blend of real-world utility and efficiency. It’s impressively spacious, and it’s more willing to putter around with its gasoline engine shut off than the Honda, Hyundai or Kia are.
Toyota has added another unique strength for 2019: a class-exclusive all-wheel-drive system, which is optional equipment on certain Prius trim levels. The car’s controversial exterior design also got a makeover this year, though its equally contentious interior design (and aging infotainment system) did not. Nor did it get a horsepower boost to address complaints about leisurely acceleration. Let’s go through the full rundown on how the iconic hybrid fares in today’s marketplace.
2019 Chevy Silverado 1500 - Driven
In the world of half-ton pickup trucks, Ford has emerged as the market’s technological innovator. The F-150 boasts lightweight aluminum all over its body and turbocharged “EcoBoost” engines under the hood, employing every bit of wizardry to maximize performance and fuel economy without diminishing capability. Meanwhile, the Ram 1500 has doubled down on decadent luxury, with a gorgeous cabin and smoother ride quality. And the redesigned 2019 Chevrolet Silverado 1500? What’s its specialty? Well. It’s a truck, too.
It’s easy to be harsh on a redesigned vehicle that doesn’t clearly move the needle from its predecessor. And the latest Silverado is the model’s second-straight cautious redesign. There hasn’t been a radically improved Silverado since 2007. Even some famously loyal pickup buyers appear to be shifting their allegiances, with Ram recently overtaking Chevy for the No. 2 sales slot.
All that being said, the 2019 Silverado remains a competitive truck in many respects. Like all the competition, it has a comfortable cabin with an available giant back seat, a quiet ride and tons of optional luxury gear. Like all the competition, it has absurd towing and payload limits that make a mockery of the “half-ton” moniker. And like the other leading full-size pickups, its available V8 engines deliver strong acceleration and surprisingly acceptable fuel economy. All this is to say that Silverado is in the same approximate league as the Ford and Ram. It just doesn’t have a particular standout specialty, even at similarly sticker-shock-inducing price points. Being basically OK at everything isn’t going to win many hearts, but neither is it a complete disaster — especially in a market segment with few models to choose from.
2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Driven
It’s so difficult to make a truly special automobile, and so easy to lose the formula over the years. If a great car succeeds, automakers are tempted to further expand its appeal — often diluting its original glory. And if a great car fails to attract buyers, well, that “problem” usually solves itself as the model fades into obscurity. But the Mazda MX-5 Miata has escaped those pitfalls, remaining stubbornly true to what’s always made it glorious. It’s tiny, it’s light and it’s relatively affordable. It’s low and rear-wheel-drive in an era where tall front-wheel-drive cars dominate. It’s an open-top sports car that’s devoted to driving pleasure rather than spec-sheet victories. It’s a survivor that only manages to improve, rather than be diminished, as the years go on.
2020 Kia Telluride - Driven
As I photographed the 2020 Kia Telluride in a Maryland park, a fellow visitor peeled off from his family to ask about the car. It made sense. Full-size crossovers like the Telluride are the chariot of choice for many families today, thanks to their three rows of seats and long lists of amenities. And the all-new Telluride had just hit the market. But as it turned out, the man wasn’t eyeing the Telluride for himself. It was his teenage daughter who’d sent him across the parking lot to check out this newly released SUV. It looked cool, she told him, kind of like a Range Rover. And she wanted one.
2019 Chevrolet Blazer Driven
Think about what makes a Chevy Camaro different from other cars. Its engines are powerful and its suspension is beautifully composed. Its headlights and windows are sinister little slits. You spin its big dashboard vents to adjust the climate control.
The new 2019 Chevrolet Blazer transfers some of that Camaro magic into the midsize crossover class. The exterior design certainly evokes that sporty coupe rather than the Blazer’s heritage as a hardy off-road machine. And inside, sure enough, you spin the big dashboard vents to adjust the climate control. Even the driving experience is a little bit special, with nimbler handling than the midsize crossover norm and a powerful 308-horsepower V6 engine. With the Blazer, though, fun is relative. This is basically a shortened Chevrolet Traverse, not a tall Camaro. On the other hand, the Blazer’s styling sacrifices less functionality than the Camaro’s. Even if it’s less roomy and has worse visibility than most midsize crossovers, it’s still a midsize crossover — and not even one of those dubious “coupe” models that the Germans keep cranking out.
We’ve probably all heard critics grouse and grouse about the Blazer being reborn as a crossover, rather than returning to its roots as a traditional SUV. (Chevrolet discontinued the old pickup-truck-based Blazer in 2005.) But whatever it’s called, the new Blazer fills an obvious hole in the Chevy crossover lineup - between the compact Equinox and the full-size Traverse. It’s priced from $29,995 to $50k-plus and faces competitors that include the Ford Edge, Honda Passport, Hyundai Santa Fe, and Nissan Murano. While the Blazer’s relatively tight cargo space and fast-rising prices make it a tough sell on paper, it’s not without merit once you get to know it. Join us as we share more of what we’ve learned from spending a week in a 2019 Chevrolet Blazer.