Driven Reviews

2019 Genesis G70

2019 Genesis G70

Almost as good as the German competition... for $10k less!

We all know Nissan’s Infiniti or Toyota’s Lexus, but we’re just getting to grips with Korean automaker’s Hyundai luxury brand, Genesis. It’s only four years old and, now, we got a taste of its latest offering, the G70, a compact luxury sedan that slots below the brand’s current offerings, the G80 and the G90. Genesis hopes to shake up the German constabulary in the segment, but this won’t be easy in a world where people sometimes look for a certain badge above all else when getting ready to take out their wallets.

In general, luxury car manufacturers are gathering a clientele by assuring its devotees that the car they’re getting is more than just a means of transportation, that’s a way for them to show to the world who they are and what they are. That’s why the brand image is vital in the luxury segment. That’s why companies that have been around the block for a while and have been able to build this image and project it onto the world (making it possible for its customers to project it back onto others) are successful while newer brands sometimes struggle to get off the ground. Genesis, which should never be confused with the Hyundai Genesis, tries to convince people that they should stray away from their Audis and Mercs and even their Lexuses and, instead, try the Korean recipe.

Considering how far Hyundai but also Kia have gone in the past decade and a half, is it safe to assume that Genesis can put its money where its mouth is? Well, that’s why we were more than happy to have a closer look at a G70, a car that’s supposed to fend off the BMW 3 Series, which has just climbed up to a new generation, the Mercedes-Benz C Class, and the Audi A4 - if we are to mention just the ICE-powered Germans. In fact, the compact luxury sedan segment is so large, Genesis will have a hard time making any sort of headlines but, as we’ve seen, it’s been able to do just that so this car is one that’s certainly strong on its feet although it has no history to rely on (and that may be a good thing).

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2019 BMW 320d xDrive - driven

2019 BMW 320d xDrive - driven

Is the fresh G20 3-Series the new compact executive sedan benchmark (again)?

Whenever BMW launches an all-new 3-Series, this is a big deal on the sporty executive sedan scene. It’s like when Mercedes launches a new S-Class, only at the other end of the size scale. The new 2019 G20 BMW 3 Series promises a lot and I got to drive the grippy, frugal and very fast 320d xDrive for a few days to see if the model has reestablished itself as the class benchmark.

It is a bit bigger and also has different proportions compared to the outgoing 3-Series, the F30, and the visual changes really make it seem new and also stand out among other BMWs. The front part is unusually long, and you especially notice this from a side profile view mainly because the windscreen pillars are positioned quite far back. But this is not a negative point as it gives the car a lot of presence.

BMW has definitely managed to freshen it up a bit compared to the old model, and the same can be said of its interior which now feels far more contemporary than that of the F30. The interior is completely new, hardly anything has been carried over, and the result is a much more modern ambiance than what you felt in the old model which was really starting to feel... old.

In terms of driving experience, the new 3-Series does drive like the slightly bigger car than it is. In fact, you feel like you’re in a bigger car with that huge hood extending in front of you from the driver’s seat, but once you show it some corners, it’s definitely a 3-Series through its high level of agility and not the larger and slightly more comfort-oriented 5-Series.

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2019 Ford Mustang 4-cylinder Convertible

2019 Ford Mustang 4-cylinder Convertible

When you say Ford Mustang, it can conjure up a very wide and different array of iconic models in peoples head. Most will probably associate the name with a V-8 coupe of some sort or maybe an old-school muscle car, but nowadays you can buy the Mustang as a drop-top four-cylinder. And, we bet you aren’t yet convinced whether one is worth the money or not.

Well, it depends a lot on what you plan to do with your new Mustang. If you want to have a fast daily that’s properly quick, you get the V8-powered GT. Meanwhile, if you want to take your car to regular track days, you spring for the GT350R, widely acknowledged as being the best car ever to bear a Mustang badge. So, where does that leave the Mustang convertible with a four-pot? It’s for people who don’t want to go around corners at crazy speeds faster than the next car just have to out-accelerate most cars on the road.

It has softer suspension than the hardtop, and because it has no roof, it doesn’t have the coupe’s structural rigidity. This translates into a far more relaxed driving experience where you are not edged to drive faster, brake later, and whip the car’s tail out at every opportunity. It can still do all these things very well, but when you subject it to them, the feedback it provides you suggests it is not enjoying the treatment.

As a swift cruiser that looks great and, maybe more importantly, you look cool in, there are few better cars out there for the money. Its turbocharged engine is pokey enough to make any overtaking maneuver a breeze, and because it is downsized, it returns much better efficiency numbers compared to the V-8. The automatic gearbox on our tester could have been snappier, and even though this convertible is a really relaxed flavor of Mustang, getting it with the six-speed stick makes a lot of sense.

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2020 Toyota Supra - Driven

2020 Toyota Supra - Driven

The legend returns for round five

Toyota introduced the Supra nameplate back in the late ‘70s with the A40 Celica Supra. The second-gen A60 arrived in 1981, followed by the third-gen A70 in 1986, and the fourth-gen A80 in 1993. Unfortunately, following dwindling sales numbers and stricter emissions laws, the U.S.-spec A80 got the axe in 1998. Now, more than two decades later, this import performance icon is back for an all-new fifth generation. Unsurprisingly, the Supra has been subjected to nearly endless scrutiny from both the motoring press and the enthusiast public, but first-hand experience has been sorely lacking. Until now, that is. Toyota flew me out to Virginia to drive the 2020 Supra both on a racetrack and on the street, and I found out exactly what it brings to the table.

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2019 Mercedes GLC Coupe 250d 4Matic - driven

2019 Mercedes GLC Coupe 250d 4Matic - driven

A sloping roofline, unique looks and less cargo - is it a good tradeoff?

Mercedes sells the GLC Coupe for those who want a tall driving position and the apparent feeling of safety provided by SUVs, but the look of a rakish coupe and a driving experience that has to be accomplished, sporty, and fun. It’s, therefore, a vehicle that has to do quite a lot, and it actually succeeds in most of those areas... for the most part.

It has a very distinctive and unique look, much more so than the regular two-box GLC crossover. Its roofline dips towards the rear and its rear haunches are also widened over the regular GLC to give it a more butch appearance. And they do, creating a vehicle that looks very aggressive from pretty much any angle. I think it also looks better from the back than its main rival from BMW, although with some minor changes it could have won this contest hands down - right now it’s not miles ahead, but still more pleasing to behold in my book.

Out on the road, the GLC Coupe feels stiffer and more planted than the regular GLC and while it’s not the last word in sporty SUV handling, it’s very surefooted, it doesn’t lean into corners too much and its steering is refreshingly precise and undramatic. There is no vagueness when it comes to the way it handles, and my tester, even if it was powered by a diesel engine, had enough shove to nicely round out the sporty first impression it successfully makes.

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2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S - Driven

2019 Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S - Driven

An ode to the Exotic Sedan!

Ever since Mercedes acquired AMG, in 1999, the Three Pointed Star has been hot on BMW’s heels making increasingly good (and good to drive) super sedans. Now, it looks like we have reached a point where the current Mercedes-AMG E63 is as good as BMW’s M5, if not better in several areas.

This is unprecedented because previous hot E-Class models were fun to slide around while producing plumes of tire smoke and also launch off the line (an experience also often accompanied by a bit too much tire smoke). Now, the current E63 S has all-wheel drive to reign its massive power and torque figures in, it has excellent body control, sharp and direct steering, and it’s now a car that definitely appeals to exactly the same people who would consider buying the current BMW M5.

There is no question about it: the latest E63S AMG 4Matic+ is a precision machine with considerably more finesse to its handling compared to previous models. According to some, it’s currently the most accomplished, rewarding and best-to-drive vehicle in its class and, after spending some time with it, we agree. It’s bonkers fast but not really usable on the road, unless you fancy a run-in with the law (or running into the guard rails), so if you really want to explore its breadth of abilities, you take it to a track.

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2019 Mazda3 Skyactiv-D hatchback - Driven

2019 Mazda3 Skyactiv-D hatchback - Driven

Forbidden Diesel-drinking Mazda3 you can’t get Stateside is a smooth blend of style and efficiency

Mazda has created one of the most beautiful shapes in the compact hatchback segment, its new Mazda3 hatch, a shape that lifts it above any competitor in terms of design. It has a pretty face, nice sides, and a unique rear end that lends it a lot of personality, but at the same time, it also needs to do all the boring, practical stuff well in order to be a serious class contender.

Its interior feels upmarket, and the driving experience is precise and relaxed, especially if the power plant under the hood is Mazda’s latest diesel engine, still available in the 3 and other models the Japanese manufacturer sells in Europe. This latest model doesn’t feel as sharp as its predecessor nor is it the best in class, but it’s far more relaxed and refined than the car it replaces, and it exudes an overall desirable and premium feeling.

The car it replaces was a great all-rounder, although it suffered from excessive tire roar inside at speed (and generally not the best soundproofing), plus its interior didn’t feel as nice as some rivals’, and it also lagged behind in terms of tech. Mazda has addressed all these concerns and more with its new 3, and the result is a much better all-rounder with an even prettier face than before, plus that rear end that will sure to draw a lot of gazes.

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2019 Infiniti QX50 - Driven

2019 Infiniti QX50 - Driven

The Infiniti QX50 has been around since 2013 but drove straight into its second generation for the 2019 model year. The second-generation QX50 does look sportier, and it does feature better interior materials, but the real news in the VC-Turbo engine under the hood. This is Inifinities prized variable compression engine that is supposed to provide impressive performance along with superb fuel economy. And, it’s all controlled depending on input from the driver. When economy is desired, and the engine is under light load, the engine runs at high compression to cut fuel usage but, if you put your foot through the floor, compression will drop to as low as 8:1 and you’ll get fairly decent performance – almost like feelings Honda’s V-TEC kick in. We got to spend a week with a $55,000 version of the QX50 and, while we weren’t extremely impressed with it, we didn’t exactly hate it either. Check out our photo gallery and thoughts in our review below.

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2019 Subaru WRX

2019 Subaru WRX

FUN affordable sport sedan STILL exist!

The Subaru WRX is one of those sporty sedan rally cars that every enthusiast should drive at least once in their life. It went through a generational shift for the 2015 model year that made it even better, bringing new exterior looks, a longer A-Pillar, LED exterior lighting, a roomier interior, better outward visibility, and a new 2.0-liter four-banger that was 0.5-liters smaller than the outgoing unit but offered three extra ponies and 14 extra pound-feet which really helped to offset the 50+ pound weight gain than came with the new-gen model. It’s only been a couple of years since the new-gen model hit showrooms, and Subie put together some minor revisions for the 2018 model year. There was no power gain to speak of, unfortunately, but it did make some minor exterior styling updates, improved the suspension setup, updated the manual transmission, and now offers a new optional Performance pack – the latter of which you really want to know about if you’re hoping to ride off into the sunset with a new WRX. For 2019, there were no changes to speak of but we were excited to get our hands on one anyway. This was our experience.

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2019 Subaru Forester

2019 Subaru Forester

Is it the perfect weekend warrior?

Subaru went all in with the 2019 Forester, and it really paid off. When you add up the fresh, modern look, all that interior space, a little bit of extra power, and loads of updated safety tech, it’s hard not to be mesmerized by this amazing piece of machinery. Of course, looks and features are only half the story, though. What about the experience of being behind the wheel? How does the Forester handle quick maneuvers? How is it for long trips? Well, we spent some one-on-one time the 2019 Forester, and this is our experience.

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2019 Hyundai Santa Fe

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe

The 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe represents the fourth generation of Hyundai’s most noticeable SUV. On the market since 2000, we’ve seen it transform from a basic, compact SUV into something that’s a little closer to being midsized but also closer to the premium category. For 2019, it’s more attractive and more advanced than ever. With a new exterior look, more upscale cabin (with more space than ever), and a lineup of fuel-efficient drivetrain choices, you really can’t go wrong with the Hyundai Santa Fe. We actually got our hands on a 2019 model and put it through the paces. Our tester was a 2.0T model, so we had the turbocharged engine that was very enjoyable to drive. As you’ll find out from our driven review below, the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe is easy to enjoy.

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2019 MINI Cooper 5D hatchback with Sport Pack - Driven

2019 MINI Cooper 5D hatchback with Sport Pack - Driven

You can now get the current MINI Cooper in three distinct body styles: the traditional three-door, the Clubman wagon and, the most recent addition, the five-door hatchback (known as the four-door in the U.S.). It aims to offer additional practicality over the standard MINI, but at the same time avoid the slightly more utilitarian feel of the Clubman load lugger.

But is it really the best of both worlds - the sharpness of the smaller wheelbase MINI with some extra practicality but without any extra burden to carry? Well, yes and no, because while it is a very valid MINI product to consider buying, I don’t think it has quite enough going for it in order to win out over the three-door and the Clubman.

Don’t get me wrong. The five-door Cooper, with the Sport Pack fitted, is a hoot to drive. It has all the usual MINI traits that people just can’t get enough of, but out of all the models the lineup has to offer, I’d probably just ignore this one and just get the three-door. It has the sharpest handling, the lowest weight and, therefore, the best driving experience.

If you can’t live without four full-sized doors and don’t want the Clubman wagon, then buying the five-door Cooper can be a good compromise, as you’d be getting the modern MINI recipe, with a dash of extra practicality. The driving experience is very close to that of the three-door, and for most drivers that are not motoring journalists or driving enthusiasts (or both), the difference will feel nonexistent.

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