2019 Nissan Versa - Driven
The third-generation Nissan Versa was launched and the 2019 New York Auto Show, and with it came an all-new design inside an out. The new Versa features a wider body, was finally updated to feature Nissan’s V-Motion grille, and the rear end benefits form boomerang-shaped tail lights. We got the chance to test the SR model, so it had the extra spoiler on the rear deck but overall, as a package, the new Versa is sportier and more aggressive than before.
The interior felt a dramatic revamp as well, borrowing features from the recently updated Maxima and Altima. The new “Gliding Wing” instrument panel is probably the most recognizable change here, but we also had the SR model, so we were focused on things like the flat-bottom steering wheel, seven-inch infotainment display, and the red and black interior. In terms of cargo room, the Versa will swallow up 14.3 cubic-feet of goods with the rear seats in place or as much as 88.9 with the seats folded down.
Under the hood of our SR tester sits a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that was completely revamped from the last model. It delivers a meager 122 horsepower and 114 pound-feet of torque, which is, impressively, 12-percent more horsepower and 7-percent more torque. The engine sent the power to the front, 17-inch wheels via an automatic transmission. Pricing for the Versa SR starts at $18,240, but ours was priced at $21,490 with a few option boxes checked. Stay tuned for a full, in-depth review of the 2019 Nissan Versa SR.
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.
2020 Ram 2500 HD - Driven
Although Ram has been around the block for almost four decades, it was not until recently that the brand became a household name and a serious contender to the undisputed king of the industry, the Ford F-Series. Ram is essentially a by-product of Dodge and is a fully-owned subsidiary of the FCA since 2014. The name might be new, but the company has been building trucks since the 1970s under the name ’Fargo Trucks’ which was sold outside the United States.
The marque has essentially gone through a paradigm shift over the last decade and is consistently rising up the sales chart. In 2019, Ram sold over 630,000 examples; almost 60,000 more than the Chevy Silverado, to occupy the runner-up position. A lot of it can be credited to the fantastic engines in the lineup, and Ram’s constant effort to infuse luxury into its cargo-haulers. Not to mention, it has been paying a lot attention to safety as well. To top it all off, these trucks became an overnight sensation when Ram announced a 1,000 pound-feet of torque figure for the 3500 series. The Ram 2500 doesn’t boast of that, but it still has a lot going in its favor to be deemed as a potent threat to the Blue Oval and the Bowtie.
The model that arrived at the TopSpeed HQ was a black Ram 2500 HD Laramie. This is a mid-level trim that may not come with the best features that Ram has to offer, but it is one of the most practical trims to buy that covers all the basic essentials you would need on a daily basis. The truck came with a Cummins engine under the hood, a large touchscreen system on the inside, and a fairly wide, intimidating footprint that would shoo away all the smaller vehicles on the road with ease. But, when you pit it against the like-for-like trims of Ford and Chevy products on paper, it feels a little weak.
With that said, the Ram 2500 HD Laramie is still a strong contender and worthy of being shortlisted in your book if you’re in the market for a heavy-duty truck priced at around $50,000.
The seventh-generation Subaru Legacy debuted at the 2019 Chicago Auto Show, and less than a year later, we finally got to get behind the wheel of one. Right away, we were impressed. It’s built on top of Subaru’s newly optimized global platform, which means it’s stiffer in all the right places. And, thanks to Subaru’s newly adopted Dynamic X Solid philosophy that makes the Legacy more expressive than even – something that’s clearly visible in the front end design and in the rear where the rear decklid is morphed into a makeshift spoiler of sorts.
The interior probably got the biggest update, though, with the major highlight being that new 11.6-inch, vertically oriented infotainment display. It’s dubbed “HD Subaru Starlink,” and it’s about as modern as you can get without stepping into a Mercedes. Other interior features worth boasting is the new Nappa leather – a first for the Legacy and Subaru as a company – improved headroom and legroom, and improved cargo capacity.
Subaru has finally decided to Turbocharge the Legacy for the first time since 2012, and our Legacy XT tester featured a 2.4-liter Boxer engine that delivers a cool 260 horsepower and 277 pound-feet of torque. All of that is sent through a CVT with a somewhat decent manual mode. It doesn’t make up for the lack of a manual or something with real gears, but it’s definitely not the worst CVT on the market. Four-wheel drive is, as you’d expect, a standard affair, and it took our tester just 6.1 seconds to hit 60 mph – not bad for a family sedan that’s also safe. The Subaru Legacy starts out at $22,745, but to get an XT model like ours, you’ll have to pony up at least $34,195 or $35,895 for the XT Touring.
2020 BMW X7 - Driven
The BMW X7 is one of the newest models in Bimmer’s lineup, and it serves a noble purpose as the brand’s flagship SUV (or Sports Activity Vehicle, if you listen to BMW’s “we-need-to-be-different” nonsense.) It was announced back in 2014, and shown off in concept form (the BMW X7 iPerformance Concept) in 2017, but wasn’t available at dealers until March 2019. Since then, we’ve been itching to get behind the wheel of one, and BMW was happy to oblige.
As you might expect from a flagship model, the X7 is about as luxurious as you can get without dipping your toes in the six-figure range. It comes close, with the X7 XDrive50i commanding an MSRP of $92,600, but it won’t cross that big mark unless you start checking off option boxes. Even the M50i falls just shy of six figures at $99,600. Under the hood of our xDrive50i sat a 4.4-liter V-8 (the same one that may be discontinued soon enough,) and it was good for 456 horsepower and 479 pound-feet of torque. The sprint to 60 mph was rated at 5.2, but we got there in just a hair over 5 seconds, mighty impressive for a vehicle that weighs 5,617 pounds.
Interior space of the X7 was great, but what really caught our attention was the air suspension that would raise or lower as needed. Loading something into the rear? No problem, the suspension will drop to make it easier for you. Going over rough roads? Raise it up a notch. Spirited driving? The suspension will help keep things level. It’s like there’s nothing it can’t do. Comfort was on par with what you would expect, while materials and fit and finish were top notch.
We’re busy writing out in-depth review and driving impression of the 2020 BMW X7 right now, but until we’re done, we’ve posted our awesome photo gallery in the slider above and further down the page – be sure to check it out.
2019 Volkswagen Golf GTi - Driven
We have been itching to get behind the wheel of the 2020 Volkswagen Golf Mk. 8 and would really love to try out the yet-to-be-released Mk. 8 Golf GTi, but we’ve been told we still have to wait a while. To make things good, however, and hold us over, Volkswagen decided to send out an MK. 7 2019 Golf GTi and, while it wasn’t exactly what we wanted, we have to admit that the week we spent with it was beyond memorable.
As you can see from the photo gallery organized into the slider above and the page below, the Golf GTi, even in its older design, is quite the looker. It’s attractive from all angles, and the interior really gives you the feeling that you’re sitting in a proper hot hatch. The flat-bottom steering wheel and eight-inch infotainment displayed helped in the regard, but the overall fitment of the seats and materials put together one hell of a package.
The 2.0-liter turbo-four under the hood isn’t the most powerful four-cylinder on the block – the title is reserved for the Mercedes-AMG A45S – but it’s powerful enough to keep just about any enthusiast happy at 228 ponies and 258 pound-feet of torque. Volkswagen claims that’s good for a 5.7-second sprint to 60 mph, but we actually got there around one-tenth faster. More impressive than that is the fact that this baby is as nimble as can be. The 35.8-foot turning circle means it can turn on a dime (this is much better than both the Focus ST and i30 N that it competes with) while the 5.1-inch ride height feels like the sweet spot in terms of dealing with typical road conditions.
All told, our week with the Golf GTi isn’t one that we’ll forget, and we can’t wait to try out the MK.8 to see just how Volkswagen will manage to improve. Until that happens, though, you can enjoy our massive photo gallery. We’re busy putting together an in-depth review on the 2019 golf GTi, so be sure to check back in with us soon to learn the finer details!
2020 Lincoln Aviator - Driven
The Aviator name was revived back in 2019 as a replacement for the Lincoln MKT. Ever since, we’ve been dying to get our hands on one to see just how well it actually represents Lincoln as a brand and if it can actually handle the stiff competition in the premium SUV segment. Well, our requests were finally answered and a Lincoln Aviator showed up at TopSpeed HQ with full tank of gas and the paperwork that said we could drive it for a week. And, drive it we did.
Any negative preconceptions we had about the Lincoln brand or the Aviator in general were axed the second we stepped inside. The cabin, for the most part, feels highly premium and the layout was very spacious. We didn’t have the hybrid model, so all our power came from the 3.0-liter V-6 that was good for 400 horsepower and 415 pound-feet of torque, two figures that proved themselves to be more than enough for a vehicle this caliber.
We were equally impressed with the amount of available cargo room (up to 77.t cubic-feet with all the seats folder flat, and the technology inside felt really upscale compared to what we expected based on previous experience with Lincoln models. Our model started out at $51,100, but our tester was fitted with a couple of options that made it a little more expensive. We’re busy putting together an in-depth buyer’s guide for this very vehicle, so until then check out the full, high-resolution photo gallery that we’ve added to the slider above or the body of the page below.
2020 Audi TT-RS - Driven
Audi updated the TT-RS for the 2019 model year, and after just a year on the market, we finally managed to get our hands on one. To our surprise, we found that the updated front and rear designs actually give the TT-RS a more dynamic, yet aggressive look. That is thanks to, at least in part, the new honeycomb grille up front that’s paired with the contrasted front spoiler lip.
Further emphasizing the sporty appearance of our TT-RS tester were the black mirror caps, the black accents on the rear spoiler, and the black diffuser-like elements in the rear fascia. Most people wouldn’t recognize some of the smaller bits, but those black legs for the spoiler, for instance, really stand out with the black accents on the rear decklid and the taillights.
The interior design of the TT-RS just screams performance and, at times, we almost felt like we were driving a Porsche. Maybe it’s the honeycomb inserts on the seats, the low seating position, or the material on the flat-bottom steering wheel. Honestly, it was probably a combination of all three, but we were so mesmerized by the crispness of the Audi virtual cockpit it was hard to look away.
Under the hood sits Audi’s classic 2.5-liter inline-five with 400 horsepower and 354 pound-feet of torque. We really wish we had a six-speed manual, but unfortunately, the best we could ask for was the seven-speed automatic. The AWD was nice and, despite Audi’s claims of a 3.7-second sprint to 60 mph, we actually clocked the same run somewhere in the high-3.5 to low-3.6 range on multiple occasions. If we had tried a top speed run, we would have been limited to 155 mph (we didn’t break the highway speed limit, though) however, if you’re willing to pay for it, you could get that limit raised to 174 mph. Pricing for our tester, as you see it here, was $77,490.
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 Peugeot 208 - Driven
We don’t have to tell you that Europe’s supermini segment is one of the toughest, cutthroat arenas in the car world, despite the fact that crossovers based the said superminis are poaching clients at a fast rate, just like they did with the sedan segment. In this context, Peugeot launched the new 208. No, it didn’t change its name to 209 as we would have expected, and that’s because Peugeot thinks the previous 208 had so much success that the same nameplate should stay for the new generation, too.
The French carmaker is adamant that the 208 is primarily a city car and, in accordance to that creed, Sochaux took all the measures it saw fit to make its new hatchback as appealing as possible. The fact that it will have to do battle against the likes of VW Polo, Renault Clio, Ford Fiesta, Opel/Vauxhall Corsa, and Dacia Sandero counted a lot in the general direction Peugeot led the new 208. We had the opportunity to get up close and personal with the sleek-looking hatch during a first-contact test drive, so here’s what we can report.
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 Audi A7 - Driven
In the past 20 to 25 years, automotive executives have been looking at ways to activate new areas of the public by coming up with weird niches, some more successful than others. The Audi A7 is a proud flag-bearer of the four-door coupe segment that’s managed to keep its head above the water as consumers flock to buy the latest crossover SUV. Get behind the wheel of Audi’s sleek answer to the Mercedes-Benz CLS and it’s easy to see why as this might just be one of the best models Audi currently sales Stateside.
Introduced back in 2017, the second-generation Audi A7 set about fixing just about everything that was wrong with the original luxury four-door coupe from Ingolstadt. Broadly speaking, the Germans have managed to tick all the boxes while also improving in areas that didn’t really need improving such as the design - one of Audi’s undeniable strengths despite what you may consider as an overly aggressive brand recognition strategy that ended up making all of Audi’s products look alike. Still, the A7 manages to stand out from the crowd with the single-piece rear light cluster and it looks sportier than ever, the muscular vibe given by the exterior being bolstered by its handling and performance. While not new on the market, we jumped at the opportunity of driving the A7 right away to see if there’s any wind left in the sails of this quirky niche.
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.