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2017 Ford Explorer – Driven

2017 Ford Explorer – Driven

The iconic SUV for the modern family

Okay, mom and dad – you need a vehicle that can carry six or seven people, but isn’t a minivan. What left on the menu? Three-row crossovers and SUVs, of course. And which SUV has been SUVing longer than most? Yep, the Ford Explorer. It debuted back in 1991 and has evolved from a utilitarian two-row brute to a plush, luxury-lined, power-everything family hauler. The current generation has been around since 2011 and received a mid-cycle refresh for 2016, which brought the high-end Platinum trim with Lincoln-like levels of refinement and the 365-horsepower 3.5-liter EcoBoost.

Nothing changes for 2017, but that didn’t stop me from spending a week with Ford’s grandest mid-size SUV. The Explorer is sandwiched between the smaller Ford Edge and the body-on-frame, F-150-based Ford Expedition. The Platinum trim comes equipped with nearly every major option as standard, only leaving customers to choose from the $695 second-row bucket seats, the accompanying $150 center console, and the $1,995 rear-seat entertainment package. Fitted with all but the rear TVs, my Ruby Red tester stickered at $55,420. That’s a sizable price for a family hauler, but few SUVs come packed with such utility mixed with luxury backed by a name with heritage.

Continue reading for the full driven review.

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2015 Lexus IS 350C - Driven

2015 Lexus IS 350C - Driven

The Lexus IS has been around since the year 2000, and has done quite well for itself. In fact, it has helped push the Lexus brand into the limelight, propelling the once fledgling luxury moniker into legitimate fights with Germany, Britain, and America’s best. But as the IS lineup enjoys its all-new redesign for 2014, the lone IS C continues unchanged, riding on the old IS platform and wearing the same IS design.

Now as 2015 comes to a close, Lexus has not official announced a replacement for the IS C, leaving it to serve as the brand’s only convertible. It’s tasked with competing against the BMW 4 Series, Audi A5 Cabriolet, and Mercedes C-Class Convertible – all of which are more up-to-date.

Of course, Lexus won’t leave the IS C out-gunned for much longer, or at least I hope. Though the updated IS Sedan could serve as the underpinnings for Lexus’ next convertible, I’ve got a sneaking hunch that there’s something new coming – something involving the new-for-2015 RC. The 2+2 coupe would make a fantastic foundation for hard-top convertible, and with its RC F derivative, could offer solid competition to the sportier models of Audi, BMW, and Mercedes’ convertible fleets. Only time will tell.

In the mean time, I had the chance to get behind the wheel of a 2015 IS 350C. I spent a week driving the drop-top around with the family in tow, doing everything from grabbing groceries to formal family functions.

How did it do? Keep reading to find out.

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2015 Ford F-150 - Driven

2015 Ford F-150 - Driven

To say Ford has a lot riding on the F-Series pickup is a gross understatement. The full-size trucks are some of the most popular models for the automaker, representing between 600,000 and 800,000 units sold each year. While those numbers include the entire F-Series lineup, made up of the Super Duty models and the half-ton F-150, much of the sales can likely be attributed to the F-150. I say “likely” because Ford doesn’t publish the breakdown between the two classes. Still, the F-150 is an immensely popular truck.

That’s why it was so critical for Ford to nail its next-generation F-150. Completely remade from bumper to bumper, save for some carryover powertrains, the new-for-2015 F-150 took the leap into aluminum, ditching its steel body for high-strength tin foil.

Well, calling it tin foil might not be accurate. Ford will quickly point out the aluminum used on the F-150 is “military grade” stock. While that sounds great, the basic premise is this: the truck is lighter without its strength being compromised. Much of that strength doesn’t actually come from the aluminum, however. The F-150’s new frame is comprised of high-strength steel. Fully boxed, the frame is stronger than before, yet weights nearly 60 pounds less than the 2014 F-150’s frame.

All this is designed to let the F-150 do work. Configured correctly, the pickup truck will haul 3,270 pounds of cargo and tow 12,200 pounds worth of trailer. Those are numbers one-ton trucks like the F-350 couldn’t match a decade ago.

Despite those outrageous numbers, the F-150 is no stripped-out tractor. In fact, I had the chance to sample Ford’s range-topping trim level for the 2015 model year, the Platinum. While 2016 is bringing the even-more-luxurious Limited trim, the Platinum rivals the best mid-level luxury sedan in terms of comfort and equipment.

Let’s take a look

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Video: Go behind the Scenes of the Ford GT with Forza Motorsports

Video: Go behind the Scenes of the Ford GT with Forza Motorsports

The Detroit Auto Show brought us both the announcement new 2017 Ford GT and Forza Motorsports 6, and it was glorious. The announcements came together as the Ford GT is going to be the hero car of the new Xbox One racing game, and it will appear on the box art. The Ford GT is more than a simple model for the front of the game as Ford and Turn 10 studios are working together to make sure the Ford GT in the game is as accurate as possible to real life.

Part of that collaboration means exclusive access to the car and its design team. This was shown today with a new video from Turn 10 and Microsoft that goes in depth into the design and creation of Dearborn’s newest supercar. The video features interview footage of several of the key people involved in bringing this carbon-fiber supercar to life, and it gives you an idea of just how passionate and dedicated they are to their craft. It’s a great watch.

Plus it gives you a really nice and really close look at all the interesting and subtle details that make this car special and unique. I think I need to go watch it again, actually.

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2015 Lexus NX - First Drive

2015 Lexus NX - First Drive

Lexus has dominated the midsize luxury crossover market since its RX lineup debuted back in 1998. Its small size, fuel-efficient engines, and long list of luxurious amenities make the RX a hot seller. In 2013 alone, the RX sold over 103,000 units within the U.S. Lexus seems bent on gaining even more sales and growing its SUV lineup by offering a completely new product, the NX. Smaller than the RX and with striking features inside and out, the NX is poised to further solidify Lexus’ position as a luxury leader. The NX is all-new for 2015 and comes with two available powerplants, front- and all-wheel-drive, and room for five. Two separate models — the 200t and 300h — offer a wide range of choices and additional packages for customers looking to buy that just-right crossover.

Lexus says it only plans on selling roughly 36,000 units per year within the States, but if the RX and other crossover sales have any indication, the NX will easily surpass Lexus’ conservative estimates. The NX is also going global, selling in more than 80 markets worldwide. And while the official pricing hasn’t been released, the NX is estimated to undercut the RX’s price by some $5,000, meaning it will start in the mid-$30,000 range.

I recently spent some time behind the wheel of the new 2015 Lexus NX in the rolling hills of Nashville, Tennessee. What I discovered was a competent-handling, fun-to-drive vehicle that makes the trade-offs of owning an SUV less impactful, while still retaining all the benefits of a utilitarian crossover.

Click past the jump for the full review of the all-new 2015 Lexus NX

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2008 Hyundai Veracruz

2008 Hyundai Veracruz

The 2008 Hyundai Veracruz was first introduced to the public in October of 2006, and started production in 2007. It is Hyundai’s largest and most luxurious vehicle to date. The seven passenger SUV’s price tag starts at a reasonable $27,000. The price is attractive but very similar to the competition; the acclaimed Mazda CX9 ($29k+) or the newly redesigned Toyota Highlander ($28k+). All Veracruz trims are equipped with the same 260 horsepower V6 engine, matted to a six-speed automatic transmission. Our Veracruz Limited version is loaded with all wheel-drive, leather seats and a navigation system. At an MSRP of $38,000, it is not any cheaper than a loaded Toyota Highlander Limited.

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Ford Flex

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2008 Hyundai Sonata review

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2008 Land Rover LR2

2008 Land Rover LR2

The Land Rover LR2 is a descendant of the 2001 Freelander. Unfortunately, sales of the Freelander were crippled by quality problems and the Freelander went out of production in 2005. Like any good car manufacturer, Land Rover did not stop there and decided to start from scratch with a new entry-level vehicle. The all new LR2 is trying to make its way to the top with a stylish exterior and luxurious interior while keeping the price tag under $35k.

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