Driven Reviews

2019 Chevy Silverado 1500 - Driven

2019 Chevy Silverado 1500 - Driven

Few bragging rights, but not such a bad truck

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.

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2020 BMW M850i - Driven

2020 BMW M850i - Driven

BMW has decided to bring back the 8 Series, a model that was last produced in 1999. Since then, BMW did have the 6 Series Coupe, but now the 6 Series is only available as a four-door, while the new 8 is the top of the line coupe. The 8 series is available as an 840i with a six-cylinder engine or as an M850i with a V-8. We decided to test the V-8 version to see if the M850i is any good.

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2019 Chevrolet Blazer - Driven

2019 Chevrolet Blazer - Driven

The Lexus RX alternative

The Chevy Blazer name dates back to 1969 when Chevy introduced the K5 Balzer, a large, rugged SUV with some serious utility and off-road chops. The Blazer name remained in use for this specific model until 1994 when GM decided the Tahoe name was a better fit. In 1983, 11 years before the K5 Blazer was discontinued, Chevy slapped the Blazer name on a smaller SUV known as the S-10 Blazer. From 1990 to 2000, there was a rebadged Tahoe sold in certain markets as the “Grand Blazer.” Despite the different shapes and sizes and designs over the years, there’s one thing all of these models stayed true to, and that was their beastly nature and ability to go anywhere while taking one hell of a beating. This trend continued all the way until 2005 when Chevy discontinued the S10 Blazer and shelved the name for what we thought would be forever. Then, 2019 came, and here were are looking at the Blazer name all over again.

The problem with the new, 2019 Chevy Blazer is that it has attracted polarizing opinions. For some, the new Blazer is too much of a family hauler with little ability to go off-road and, thus, just doesn’t live up to the Blazer name – especially when you consider Ford’s bringing back a boxy Bronco and Ram is bring back the RamCharger. Others, however, seem to like the design of the new Blazer – it’s sporty thanks to its Camaro design cues, has decent interior space, and may even be a good family vehicle. This second group of opinion makers are, obviously, the ones that didn’t look at the old Blazer as a part of Chevy heritage. But this is where we are now, and when we got the opportunity to try out the new Blazer to see how it holds up in the real world, we couldn’t turn down the opportunity. Does it oppose a true threat to the segment, or did Chevy drop the ball? Join us as we explore the all-new Chevy Blazer and how it holds up against the competition.

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2019 Infinity QX80 - Driven

2019 Infinity QX80 - Driven

A proven but aging body-on-frame recipe.

The Infiniti QX80 isn’t exactly a spring chicken. If you count the three years that it was on the market as the “QX56,” this full-size SUV has been on the market for nearly a decade. This is a rather long lifestyle for an SUV in today’s automotive climate, but the QX80 is a very niche vehicle; not in size and purpose but in terms of sales for the brand. When you look at overall sales of the XC80, the figures don’t look that great. In 2016, Chevy sold more than 103,000 Tahoes, and even Cadillac sold some 23,000 examples of the Escalade. The QX80, though? Infiniti moved just 14,085 over all of 2016, and that was an 8.3-percent increase over 2015. With that in mind, the company can’t exactly give it a short lifespan like other automakers can their full-sized, wide-selling SUVs.

That doesn’t mean the QX80 has been ignored, however. On the contrary, it was actually refreshed when Infiniti swapped its name over from QX56, and it was refreshed again in 2017. The overall appearance of the QC80 isn’t displeasing to look at, and when we were offered the chance to spend a few days and give it a good thorough test drive, we couldn’t turn down the offer. Immediately we started asking ourselves questions: Can it still hold its own in a market with much newer, more advanced vehicles? Does it’s aged chassis still deliver driving dynamics and comfortability that’s on par with other full-sized, luxury SUVs on the market today? Should someone really pay anywhere between $65,000 and upward of $90,000 for a vehicle that’s due for retirement? Well, we’ve set out to figure out just how well the QX80 has aged over the years – you just might be surprised.

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2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Driven

2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Driven

A magical machine that only keeps improving

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.

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2019 Land Rover Range Rover SV Autobiography by SVO - Driven

2019 Land Rover Range Rover SV Autobiography by SVO - Driven

All trimmed up to take on the SuperSUV competition

When you put words like luxury, performance, and SUV in the same sentence, the first names that probably come to mind are BMW, Audi, Bentley, or maybe even Lamborghini. But, what about Land Rover? It seems to be a brand that resides in the shadowy depths of our brains instead of up front where it really belongs. This never became more evident until we managed to get our hands on a Land Rover Range Rover SVAutobiography. From the second we came into contact with the SVA, the exterior design started tickling our interest, and we only became more fascinated with it once we sat down inside. In short, we couldn’t wait to drive it and experience the whole package. How does it handle? Is it comfortable for longer drives? Is that 557-horsepower V-8 too much for a vehicle like this or not enough, and how does its performance stack up against the competition? We decided to find out for ourselves, and this is our experience with the 2019 Land Rover Range Rover SVAutobiography.

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2020 Kia Telluride - Driven

2020 Kia Telluride - Driven

A three-row crossover that’s no mere family-hauler

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.

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2019 Lincoln MKC - Driven

2019 Lincoln MKC - Driven

A domestic alternative to luxury crossovers

Lincoln has updated the MKC crossover for the 2019 model year, and with this refresh, the manufacturer aims to make its smallest SUV more attractive among the many talented rivals in its segment. The pre-facelift MKC was already pretty good, although not perfect, but now Lincoln says there is even more to like about it.

We tried the top of the range, The 2019 Lincoln MKC “Black Label”, with the more powerful of the two available engines, the 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder turbo. In this spec, the MKC doesn’t leave you wanting for power, presence, or luxury, but at the same time it’s not perfect and we understand why these aren’t flying out of showrooms.

It is by no means a bad way to spend around $50,000 on a posh compact SUV that also happens to be made by an American brand. In the configuration we tested it in, it’s actually quite pleasant to live with - it’s even fun on occasion, especially with the 2.3-liter engine that comes as standard with grippy all-wheel drive.

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2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI 2.0 Autobahn Driven

2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI 2.0 Autobahn Driven

The pocket-rocket Golf Mk VII - Enhanced flavor

For 45 years, the Volkswagen Golf has proudly carried the compact hatchback flag for Volkswagen. For 45 years, the Golf has established itself as one of the most popular models in its segment. And for 45 years, the Golf continues to be one of VW’s most popular models. Generations have passed and versions have come and gone; through it all, the Golf name has remained front and center in the conversation on the best hatchback models in the market. That reputation has extended to the Golf’s sporty alter-ego, the GTI.

It’s no secret that the Golf GTI has evolved into a separate model with a separate identity from its Golf brethren. Need proof of that? Look no further than the 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI Autobahn, the range-topping version of the current GTI line that proudly carries the name of Germany’s famous thoroughfare. Does the 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI Autobahn live up to the billing as one of the finest sporty compact hatchbacks in the market today? More importantly, does it live up to the billing of the Golf name from where it traces its roots and the Autobahn from which it was named after? We got our hands on a 2019 Volkswagen Golf GTI Autobahn seeking answers to these questions, and, for what it’s worth, our questions were answered emphatically.

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2019 Chevrolet Blazer Driven

2019 Chevrolet Blazer Driven

The Camaro of midsize crossovers...kind of

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.

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2019 BMW i8 Roadster Driven

2019 BMW i8 Roadster Driven

The reasonably powered supercar

The BMW i8 Roadster is the car you want to have if you want to make more statements at once. If you want to look wealthy, unusual, and with an eye towards our future, you should park an i8 in your driveway. The 2+2 sports car still looks fresh six years into its production cycle and, as much as we love the glassed roof of the coupe, this roadster version is the one to have during the summer months. We took one for a spin to see if BMW has lost the lead in the hybrid sports car segment or if the i8 is still the king of the crop.

Now, the first thing you must know about the i8 Roadster is the concession it pushes you to make: due to the fact that you no longer have a fixed roof over your head and, instead, you have to make do with a soft top, there are o back seats. The place where the back seats used to be is eaten up by the two-piece, electrified roof when it’s folded away from view. On the other hand, you do get just as much oomph as in the case of the Coupe, namely 369 horsepower combined that translate to a 0-60 mph time of 4.4 seconds. Also, the roofless i8 was the first to come with the 11.6 kWh battery pack that feeds the single synchronous electric motor on the front axle and the one that sits on the back axle, near the engine.

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2019 Mercedes-AMG S 63 Coupe - Driven

2019 Mercedes-AMG S 63 Coupe - Driven

Mercedes rock the boat!

In rankings of popular super luxury grand tourers, the Mercedes-AMG S 63 Coupe often gets the shaft when compared with the likes of the Bentley Continental GT, Aston Martin DB11, and Rolls-Royce Wraith. It’s not conventional to think of the AMG S 63 Coupe in the same category as these models, and yet, the German saloon has proven, time and again, that it doesn’t only belong in the conversation, but it can also lay claim to being the best of the lot. The 2019 Mercedes-AMG S 63 Coupe, in particular, personifies the split identity of this segment. It’s civil and brutal at the same time, deliberate and raunchy, advanced beyond measure yet ferociously savage when it needs to be. It tugs at the essence of what a grand tourer should be, and in doing so, it’s staking claim to a throne that has previously — and unfairly — been out of its reach.

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