2019 Nissan Rogue - Driven
The Nissan Rogue is in its second generation, but it has been soldiering on since it was introduced in 2014 with only a mild facelift in 2017 and a safety equipment update in 2018. With all of the wide selection of compact SUVs on the market, we thought it would be a good idea to see how the aging Rogue holds up on an oh-so-competitive market. Does the Rogue’s appearance, interior comfort, safety systems, and technology hold up against the ever-growing crop of small crossovers or is Nissan in dire need of majorly updating the Rogue? Well, we found that out for ourselves and more – this is our experience with the 2020 Nissan Rogue.
2019 Fiat 500 Abarth Driven
The reborn, retro-chic, Fiat 500 first graced North American shores back in 2011 and now, eight years down the line, we got behind the wheel of the peppy Abarth version to get one final sting from the scorpion as the entire 500 range is being discontinued by Fiat-Chrysler. Prepare for some top-down driving as we assess whether we’ll miss the 500 for what it is or for its vibe akin to an endless summer holiday in the rolling hills of Tuscany.
The Chevy Traverse had an identity complex during its first 8 years of life, with the first-gen model being a weird blend of crossover and minivan with GM’s old, not-so-attractive styling inside and out. Fortunately, the 2018 model year became the host of the second-gen Traverse, and it came with a true SUV appearance that doesn’t require the hardcore (and heavy) full-size truck DNA under the metal. As the roomiest three-row SUV on the market without those full-size truck underpinnings, we’ve been wondering how the second-gen Traverse really holds up against competitors like the Ford Explorer and Mazda CX-9. Finally, after two years on the market, we finally got the chance to get behind the wheel to find out for ourselves. This is our experience with the 2020 Chevy Traverse.
2019 BMW i3 - Driven
There aren’t too many models out there that can legitimately lay claim to being funkier than the Nissan Juke, but the BMW i3 is one of them. It was introduced in 2013 as BMW’s first step into the electric market with a single purpose in mind – to see if people would actually be interested in an electric BMW. Well, the i3 has served its purpose very well and actually received a lot of attention. Whether that attention was received because of its funky minivan-like hatchback appearance or because it was an electric BMW is up for debate, but after 6 years on the market BMW has no choice but to dig into the electric car segment even more, so you can write the i3 off as a success either way.
That success, however, doesn’t come without a price, and in this case, the BMW i3 is paying the ultimate price – it will eventually die off as BMW focuses on other electric vehicles. With the i3’s time on the Earth limited to the next few years as BMW runs out parts inventory, we decided it would be a great time to test out the i3 before it fades off into oblivion. After all, it’s the last of its kind and, therefore, is probably as good as it will ever get. This is our story of a week well spent with the soon-to-be-extinct BMW i3.
2019 Cadillac XT4 - Driven
Back in 2018, Cadillac finally decided that it was tired of missing out on sales in the compact SUV market and launched the XT4. This compact crossover was designed to compete against the best in the market, including the BMW X1, Mercedes GLC, Infiniti QX50, and Lexus NX, among others. Now that the XT4 has been on the market for well over a year, we decided it was time to get behind the wheel and see how it really holds up. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really seem to hold water against models from BMW, Mercedes, or Audi, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t compete in the market at all. This means there are a lot of questions to answer: How does the Cadillac XT4 drive, does it have enough passenger space, and what about cargo room? What models does the XT4 actually compete against? Well, we spent a week with the XT4, and we’re here to answer all those questions and more . This is what we’ve learned after spending a week with Cadillac’s latest compact crossover.
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.
The Chrysler Pacifica was introduced in 2016 as a replacement for the Chrysler Town & Country, but it wasn’t until 2017 that the Pacifica Hybrid was launched. As a model that only has a couple of years under its belt, the Pacifica is still relatively fresh on the market and is one of the few minivans that are still in production for the U.S. Market. What’s even more interesting is the fact that Chrysler has managed to create its own little niche of sorts, as the Pacifica Hybrid – the model you see here – is the only hybrid minivan on the market. That means it doesn’t have any prerequisite standard to live up to and is responsible for setting its own standard. With it competing against non-hybrid minivans we have actually been very curious about how well it stacks up against the less-sophisticated competition.
Is the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid really worth buying in terms of fuel economy, comfort, and value? Is it a worth competitor for the new Honda Odyssey or nearly decade-old Toyota Sienna? Well, we managed to score a week with the Pacific Hybrid, and we set out to answer these questions and more. Here’s what we learned after spending a week with the market’s only hybrid minivan.
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.
BMW Introduced the seventh-generation G20 3 Series for the 2019 model year and with it came a new design language, update engines, and some features from models like the 5 Series and X5, among others. To top all this off, it’s also just a bit larger and more aggressive than the seven-year-old F30 3 Series that it replaced. We didn’t get a chance to run the new 3 Series prototype around the track on the original pre-release test days, so we’ve been itching to see just how much better new the 3 Series is and whether or not all that new technology and new driving dynamics live up to the hype. So, we started reaching out in hopes of getting our hands on a new 3 Series tester, and BMW delivered. In fact, it delivered so well, that we got to spend a week with none other than the new 2020 BMW M340i – the best model you can get without going full-on M.
So, is the M340i really a poor man’s M3? Does it really compete against the Mercedes-AMG CLA45 or the Audi S5 Sportback? Does the M340i really deserve its time in the limelight? Well, after a week of a weird, love-hate affair with the 2020 BMW M340i, we have answers to all these questions and more. Here’s our experience….
2019 Ford Mustang GT
The Ford Mustang has a rich history that dates all the way back to the 1962 Ford Mustang I two-seater concept. It wasn’t until mid-1964 that it was introduced in production form (just two weeks after Plymouth introduced the first Barracuda) and has been in production ever since, with the sixth-generation model, the model you see here, being introduced in 2015. For one reason or another, we haven’t had a chance to get our hands on a sixth-gen model, but all that has changed now, and we happened to be graced with the 2019 Ford Mustang GT Convertible. With the bright green pony car sitting in our parking lot, we couldn’t wait to drive it. And, despite the fact that we had a whole week to get acquainted, we got right to putting the GT Convertible, and its 5.0-liter V-8 to the test.
Does it compete well with the Chevy Camaro Convertible? What about, on the other end of the spectrum, the BMW 4 Series Cabriolet? Well, this is our experience and what we thought about it. Strap in folks, this is going to be one long ride.
2019 Peugeot 508 Allure 2.0 BlueHDi 180 S&S EAT8 Driven
It was 2010 when the rules changed after two Peugeot models were killed off: the 607, which was almost completely based on the 605 model from 1989, and the 407, which seemed like it was roaming between segments in an attempt to get into the wallets of two social strata. It wasn’t like Peugeot roamed around wearing blindfolds, though. This was more of an attempt at creating a global trend founded on personal identity; however, Peugeot couldn’t find its ground when it came to cars whose length was more than 4,5 meters (177 inches).
Mind you, Peugeot wasn’t the only one, as similar strategies were employed by Volvo, Renault, and even Ford. And then they were back with another attempt – one car that would be interesting to those in need of a spacious family car, but also those who were in search for a business saloon or the second best thing at least. As the wheelbase for the 607 was 2.800 mm (110.23 in), and 2.725 mm (107.28 in) for the 407, Peugeot found itself in uncharted territories in 2010 given that its 508 (albeit shorter than the 607), had a wheelbase of 2.817 mm.
So, the two generations of the 508 model found its way to more than 400,000 buyers in Europe alone. Despite steadily declining sales figures, Peugeot wasn’t ready to euthanize the model. Instead, the company decided to cut the administrative costs, and adequately entice its designers and engineers. They came up with a new product and Peugeot revealed it in March 2018 at the Geneva International Auto Show as the new 508.
2020 Mercedes-Benz CLA 220 AMG Line - Driven
Mercedes has really improved the CLA sedan in its second generation. It looks better, it’s considerably more comfortable and it packs even more tech than before too. It’s not quite perfect, but given how sleek and fancy it looks, you won’t have troubles forgiving the few flaws that it does have.
You’ll definitely notice the all-new interior, which is basically the same as in all current compact Mercedes models. It’s such a big improvement over the so-so interior of its predecessor and higher-spec examples now feel properly posh inside - this was never the case with the first generation CLA, whose interior was lackluster by Mercedes standards, whichever way you specced it.
However, while the exterior and interior pack quite a visual punch, what’s happened under the CLA’s skin is equally significant - whereas the previous model had a jarring ride and may have felt overly-sharp to some drivers, this new CLA has a softer, slightly more relaxed edge to it. It still feels sporty, but it doesn’t punish you for it like the old car did.
My tester was a 2019 Mercedes-Benz CLA 220 with the AMG Line pack and it felt really special to be in. Sure, maybe the €15,000 worth of extras it had on it helped seal the deal, but I was able to channel them out and focus on the core experience - and it was still good, still compelling and overall a solid car, even while ignoring the bells and whistles.
Photography by Andrei Nedelea
2019 Land Rover Range Rover Sport - Driven
Despite offering one of the most premium cabins in its SUVs, Land Rover is still not recalled as a luxurious brand. It is, however, synonymous with reliable, tough off-roaders. But, if you have spent some time with any of the latest models, you will realize that the brand has come a long way in terms of spoiling and pampering the customer. It can give the big three Germans a tough fight in this aspect. And the Land Rover Range Rover Sport further strengthens this faith. Just like any other model in its lineup, the Range Rover Sport will definitely age gracefully and blend well with the upcoming new crop of EVs that look like they belong to another planet. But is the Range Rover Sport all about the aesthetics and luxuriousness? We laid our hands on it and our answer is...of course not!
2019 Mercedes V300d - Driven
Mercedes pitches the V-Class (known as the Metris in North America) as a cavernous van that can cater for both people and cargo carrying duties. And because it is a Mercedes, the passenger versions can be specced up to an almost unbelievable level, with comfort and luxury features you’d normally associate with the brand’s flagship S-Class sedan, or one of their other top-tier models.
The V-Class was recently lightly facelifted, but the refresh is so light that it’s clear Mercedes thought it was already quite good as it was. On the outside, the facelift only changed the front bumpers you can have on your V, depending on which version you opt for, as well as four all-new wheel designs that range in size from 17 to 19 inches - that’s it.
But Mercedes wasn’t sloppy in its effort to improve the V-Class (which in its third and current generation was introduced in 2014) and it mainly concentrated on improving its interior. For Europe, Mercedes swapped out the older 2.1-liter four-cylinder diesel available in several states of tune, replacing it with a new (and better) 2.0-liter that is just better in every single way.
My tester was a V300d, motivated by the new four-pot oil-burner in its most powerful guise, in Avantgarde trim and with the AMG Line pack fitted on. The latter transforms the look of the big V, especially since it swaps out the front bumper for a sportier looking one that is as aggressive as on any other AMG pack-equipped Mercedes. Essentially, it adds an AMG pack-specific grille and AMG pack-specific rims (in this case seven-twin-spoke 19-inch rims that have a silver-black two-tone finish and they really match the vehicle’s silver paint).
Photography by Andrei Nedelea
2019 Mercedes-AMG GT C Roadster - Driven
When you see one on the street, you can’t stop staring. The long hood, the aggressive nose with the classic-looking grille, the big wheels hiding sizeable brakes and the short tail. It’s got all the ingredients of a Gran Turismo built by the book and, in Roadster trim, it offers limitless headroom for those endless summer days.
The AMG GT is everything the SLS was plus some more and the AMG GT C Roadster is the most powerful and fastest AMG GT with a drop-top that you can get Stateside for now, as no GT S Roadster is offered for the 2019 model year. Still, with 550 horsepower and a top speed that comes perilously close to 200 mph, it’s hard to see why you’d want more. The good news is that, in spite of all of the muscle, the AMG GT C Roadster still offers all the refinement you’d expect coming from a product of the Mercedes house.
If you want to enjoy the best that Affalterbach’s got to offer, you can’t go wrong with the Mercedes-AMG GT, the two-door sports car from the brand with the three-pointed star that’s ready to take on all of the GTs on the market, including the 911, the Corvette, and the Audi R8 - and do it with an added dose of style. Yes, the gullwing doors that made the SLS feel extra special are no more but let’s not forget Lamborghini isn’t offering scissor doors on all its models either - and you can hardly complain when behind the wheel of one. The chassis is on point, as is the paddle-controlled automatic transmission that helps you get from naught to 60 mph in just 3.7 seconds. We tested one to see if the $34,150 price gap between the standard AMG GT Roadster and the C version is worth it. Read on to find out.
The Fiat 500 L is classified as a Compact MPV – Minivan, as we know the term here in the United States – but it’s really more of a compact SUV or large hatchback. It’s been on the global market since 2012, but Fiat didn’t bring it to the states until the 2014 model year. It’s been on the market ever since, and was updated in 2018, but the truth of the matter is that the 500 L is still nearly eight years old. With this in mind, we’re kind of curious if the city car on steroids – remember, it’s based on the 500 city car – is still a viable choice in today’s market.
So, we spoke with our press fleet coordinator and managed to get our hands on a 2019 Fiat 500 L. A couple of weeks later, a 2019 Fiat 500 L Trekking showed up at Top Speed headquarters. This trim level sits above the entry-level Pop trim, but below the upper-class Urbana and Lounge trim levels with a starting price of $23,575. It is certainly positioned right in the middle of the affordable price bracket, but how does it drive? Is the aging 500 L comfortable and up to par with the competition? Does it provide the same thrills and entertaining experience as the smaller 500 that it’s based on? Well, after spending a week with the 2019 Fiat 500 L, we have answers to these questions and more – this is our story.
2019 Genesis G70 - Driven
We know and you know that if you want a compact luxury sedan without thinking twice you’ll check in at your local Audi, BMW or Mercedes-Benz dealer and ask for an offer on one of the Famous Three. But we reckon there are better options out there, cars that’ll cost you less and offer more than you could ask for at that price point while also not disappoint you in terms of performance, comfort, quality, and maintenance. Such a car is the Genesis G70, the 2019 North American Car Of The Year. We drove one powered by the 3.3-liter turbocharged engine and we think you shouldn’t jump straight to a Merc C43 or BMW M340i before taking a good close look at the G70.
The compact luxury sedan market is packed at the moment, as it always has been. The German stranglehold on the segment may seem like an unbreakable status quo and it’s not for lack of trying from the likes of Infiniti, Acura or Lexus. More recently, the Koreans also want a piece of the action and there’s some promise in what they offer: Kia’s coming forth with the Stinger that has impressed us in its top-of-the-line specification while Genesis, Hyundai’s luxury brand, launched the G70 in 2017 as its third model and a direct rival to the 3 Series, C Class, and A4. It was penned by the same guy who came up with the Stinger’s aggressive lines but the G70 is a much more traditional-looking sedan. Still, it’s not a car you would be blamed for turning around to get another look at and it’s got more tricks up its sleeve under the skin. Overall, it may not be a complete match for the offering from Stuttgart, Munich, and Ingolstadt but we think this is a car that’s perfect for the conscious buyer who’s stepping up to a luxury compact sedan.
2020 BMW M850i Convertible - Driven
The year was 2018, and it was time for BMW to have a Halo car outside of the aging i8, but BMW didn’t go for another EV or a high-powered supercar. Instead, after a 20-year hiatus, BMW decided that it was time to revive the 8 Series name, and that’s exactly what happened on June 15, 2018. The modern, sporty 2019 BMW 8 Series shot like an arrow straight to the heart of purists as BMW let out the roaring promise of crippling power in a sexy coupe silhouette – 523 horsepower in M850i form, to be specific. Since the return of the new 8 Series that hot day in the middle of June, the 8 Series lineup has expanded to include the 840i, M850i, M8, and the soon-to-launch Gran Coupe that should be offered in both M850i and M8 form.
Like most BMW fanboys, we started picking apart the new BMW 8 Series. We wondered: Is it worthy of the 8 Series name? Will it be worth the near-six-figure price? Can this large of a car really offer up the performance, handling, and luxury that not only have we come to expect from BMW but from something that wears the crown of a halo car? We’ve set out to find the truth on a number of occasions, and have even compared it on paper to the 6 Series, the Aston Martin DB11, and the Mercedes S-Class. It wasn’t until Summer of 2019 that we actually got to sit behind the wheel of the new 8 Series, though. But, when we did, we were graced with the honor of driving the M850i Convertible – a model that is said to blend 523 horsepower, world-class driving dynamics, and the best open-air feeling on the market.
The question now is, however, does the all-new 8 Series actually live up to the bold claims made by BMW? Well, we spent a whole week with the M850i Convertible, and this is our story. You might want to buckle up because things get interesting!!
Mercedes-AMG C43 Convertible - Driven
As an entry-level luxury performance cabriolet within the AMG lineup, the Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet continues a famous line of Mercedes-branded convertibles that shaped this part of the automotive landscape. With the latest redesign, the Mercedes-AMG C43 Cabriolet brings more power, a more aggressive exterior, and refined tech onboard. Our test drive revealed if it still has the grace and unique character that every Mercedes cabriolet carries with pride.
2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon MOPAR - Driven
Few vehicles on the market today roll off the production line ready to handle the open road and the rockiest of paths, but the Wrangler is probably the most prominent of the few. There have always been a few caveats, though. It’s great for on- and off-road use, but you don’t exactly get the quietest cabin in the world. The on-road ride has also, traditionally, been a little rougher than other models in this segment. Or, at least that’s what we thought until we actually had a chance to take the new Wrangler JL for a test drive. After spending a week with the JL Wrangler we’ve come to realize that the Wrangler actually sits in a segment all its own. Despite our efforts, we can’t find another model this size, with a full-frame, that comes off the showroom floor ready to handle the business.
The real question is, however, whether or not the new JL Wrangler can still handle those off-road thrills but provide a more modern feel inside and more comfortable on-road ride. That’s a tall order for something designed for off-roading first, but the natural evolution of the Wrangler has put it in a unique position on the market. It honestly has no direct competitors in a true sense, and its go-anywhere mentality has been improved with fresh on-road manors. Is it enough to widen the Wrangler’s appeal and make it interesting to those that have traditionally searched for softer crossovers? Does the full-frame, solid-axle arrangement still stand on its own in this ever-evolving market where unibody construction and independent suspension is the norm? Is the JL Wrangler still a jack of all trades that’s good for a weekend of fun and carrying a small family during the week?
These are questions that we now have answers to, thanks to a week spent with the 2019 Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. We didn’t just have any run-of-the-mill Rubicon, though. The Wrangler that showed up at TopSpeed HQ also included a ferocious amount of MOPAR parts that makes it more off-road ready than ever. So, that raises one more question that we have to answer – at what point does molesting the MOPAR catalog move the Wrangler from a modest daily driver to something that’s more suited for weekend thrills? This is our full, hands-on review of the 2019 Jeep Wrangler JL (with tons of Mopar parts) and our story of a week’s worth of fun, honest acclimation into a world that we seldom get to experience.