Last autonews about reviews and auto makers (Hyundai, GM, Dodge, Chevy, Mercedes-BenzB, Cadillac, BMW, Toyota), photos/videos of supercars and from auto shows
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2014 Audi SQ5

07/24/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sports/GTs, Crossovers/CUVs, Audi, Reviews, Luxury

2014 Audi SQ5

It may be obvious at this point, but here in the United States, European manufacturer routinely give us the short end of the stick. Now, I'm not talking about models or brands that don't come here, like the Mercedes-Benz A-Class or the entire Renault line. No, instead, I'm referring to cars that are sold right here in the Land of the Free in one bodystyle, while Europe enjoys the same vehicle with a wider variety of configurations.

A prime example of this is the Audi S4/S5 line. In America, we can have the supercharged twins in two-door coupe, four-door sedan, and cabriolet body styles. Meanwhile, our Euroland cousins get the same trio of bodystyles, as well as the A5/S5 Sportback, a characterful 'four-door coupe,' and a versatile hauler, the S4 Avant. At first glance, Audi of America lacks a vehicle that can compete with the latter's blend of performance, versatility and subdued looks. So, what's an American with around $60,000 and an obsession with quick, conservative haulers to do? Well, he can buy an SQ5. (Though it bears mentioning, our US-spec SQ5 is vastly different than what's available to our European friends.)

The SQ5 has a huge number of things going for it that make it a viable alternative to a proper hot wagon, and foremost among them are its looks - this is a sleeper. Audi has thankfully decided not to molest the clean looks of the standard Q5 when penning the sportier model.

The SQ5 gains a unique set of wheels: 20-inchers are standard, but our tester was fitted with a set of 21-inch rollers. Visually, neither make a huge departure from the standard Q5 though. Other standard features of Audi's S models are also found on the SQ5, including a set of quad exhausts, silver mirror caps and mildly different front grille and foglight surrounds. If anything, the Q5 TDI diesel I tested late last year looks sportier than today's tester.

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2015 Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat [w/videos]

07/22/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Coupes, Sports/GTs, Videos, Dodge, Driving, Reviews

Darrell Waltrip once said, "If the lion didn't bite the tamer every once in a while, it wouldn't be exciting." The sentiment behind that aphorism is causing my adrenal gland to wake up as Dodge and SRT drivers and engineers - somber-faced to a man - give me the track talk that will precede my driving the 2015 Dodge Challenger SRT on the circuit at Portland International Raceway. PIR might not be Daytona, and the 707-horsepower Challenger Hellcat might seem tame to a legend like ol' Jaws, but there's a not-small part of me that's thinking about how hard Dodge's fire-breathing kitty might bite.

Just a few hours previous, I'd gotten behind the wheel of the Hellcat for the first time, letting its hyperbole-spitting, supercharged V8 Hemi pull me yieldingly through Portland's morning commuter traffic. Lulled into a cocky certainty by the Challenger's good manners at low speed, I drove the throttle just a hair too deep, too fast when I ran on to the highway ramp. For just an instant the rear tires were utterly drenched in torque, and the back end of the big Dodge loosened up like a drift car on a wet track. Throttle steer lives at the fleeting whim of your right foot in this car.

It was no big thing to lay off the gas and pull the Hellcat back in line as I entered the highway, but the incident did get me to thinking: What will this car do to me on a road course?

With the track talk ended, I picked up a helmet and a head sock - stand-ins for the whip and the chair every good lion tamer needs - hoping like hell I wouldn't end up as a gravel-track snack for the new biggest predator in the muscle car circus.

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2014 Hyundai i40 Tourer / Sonata wagon

07/08/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Wagons/Estates, Hyundai, Australia, Reviews, Diesel

2014 Hyundai i40 Tourer

Recently, we took a vacation to Australia, because sometimes we have to get away from all of that other travel and good living that we withstand in order to bring you the latest car news. While there, we grabbed the keys to a Hyundai i40 Tourer, essentially the Sonata wagon we never got a chance to love here.

Even though it didn't have a manual transmission, it did have a diesel and, for reasons beyond that oil-burner, our enduring affections. No, this story will not include another plea for Hyundai to bring it to the US - it likely wouldn't stand a chance against our crossover- and size-crazed mania, but it's a brilliant fit for markets that appreciate tidy haulers.

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2015 Hyundai Sonata

06/30/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sedans/Saloons, Hyundai, Driving, Reviews

2015 Hyundai Sonata

Completely redesigning a vehicle competing in a fiercely contested segment requires delicately balancing styling, performance, safety, efficiency, innovation, passenger comfort and pricing, while simultaneously not alienating model loyalists. In other words, it's no simple task.

Automakers generally follow one of two paths. Some take a conservative approach and choose to raise each bar marginally, in an effort to appease all and estrange none. Others strategically take risks and focus on specific attributes in an attempt to shift perception about their vehicle.

With its all-new 2015 Sonata, Hyundai has taken the second approach when overhauling one of its best-selling vehicles. The Korean automaker has executed an impressive number of targeted improvements, yet it's also softened some of its predecessor's qualities in an attempt to demonstrate greater refinement and position its midsize sedan upscale. Whereas the outgoing car successfully aimed to establish itself as a credible contender in the midsize segment, the new model is gunning for customers that might otherwise be seeking entry-level models from luxury automakers.

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2014 Mini Cooper S

06/27/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sports/GTs, Hatchbacks, MINI, Reviews

2014 Mini Cooper S

One of the big challenges as an automotive journalist is reviewing cars that you have a personal connection to. I have a strong passion for Minis. My first new car was a 2004 Cooper S, and I still own a 2006 model. It's this affinity that's left me with a general disdain of the 2007 to 2013 model relative to my first-gen.

The last-generation cars, with their turbocharged engines, softer suspensions, duller steering and homelier looks are, in my mind, inferior to their 2002 to 2006 predecessors. As a car reviewer, though, I couldn't in good conscience argue the same point. The R56, as the last-gen cars were known internally and by enthusiasts, was a better-balanced vehicle that retained the lion's share of the abilities and character of the first-generation, R53 Cooper S, but they were better thought out, better designed, more livable, and felt like more complete products.

Before the third-generation of the reborn Mini Cooper S landed in my driveway, I couldn't help but wonder whether the model would continue its slide towards mass appeal, or if it would re-embrace the enthusiast realm with a stronger driver-focused mission. As I found out during my week with the car, it was a bit of both.

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2014 Jaguar XJL AWD 3.0

06/25/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sedans/Saloons, Jaguar, Reviews, Luxury

2014 Jaguar XJL AWD 3.0

A bit of British nobility floods the senses when piloting the 2014 Jaguar XJ. It's an emotional rush, a perception based on physical surroundings that influence the mind in much the same manner that a stein of pilsner tastes best when consumed in a German beer garden and no sand is softer than that found on a warm Caribbean beach. Jaguar has been assembling cars for nearly 100 years, and few automakers are as equally adept at capturing aristocracy and timelessness within the rich cabins of their luxury offerings.

Jaguar would have no concern if it were the only game in town, but that's far from the truth. The premium full-size luxury segment, which includes vehicles hovering just under or at the six-figure mark, is a contentious grouping that includes the Audi A8, BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS, Mercedes-Benz S-Class and Porsche Panamera. Each of those brings its own game to the battle, and none are easy to dismiss.

To better understand the British perspective and evaluate its latest offering on a land without royalty, I recently spent a week with a long-wheelbase, all-wheel-drive Jaguar XJ in Southern California.

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2014 Hyundai Elantra

06/23/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Economy, Sedans/Saloons, Hyundai, Reviews

2014 Hyundai Elantra

The reality of growing up and living in Detroit is an interesting one. You're essentially born with minute traces of gasoline in your veins and everyone you know is associated with the auto industry in some way. That's not an exaggeration. They might be the child of a line worker at the local auto plant, or they may hold down a job at a restaurant frequented by employees at a big supplier, but no matter what, everyone is part of the auto-industry ecosystem.

Because of this, the stories you may have heard about Detroiters and their distaste for foreign cars is, frustratingly, true. Simply put, Toyota and Honda are blatantly disliked by most, while BMW and Mercedes-Benz are merely tolerated. For a car reviewer who prides himself on making egalitarian recommendations, it's a frustrating environment to live in, particularly when friends and family ask that inevitable question - which is followed by an equally inevitable qualifier - "What should my next car be?" and "One more thing - it can't be foreign." It's this attitude that's perhaps the reason no one I know even considered buying a Hyundai Elantra.

Despite the fact that the compact sedan is built in Montgomery, AL and that Hyundai maintains a shiny, new, sprawling tech facility less than 45 minutes outside of downtown Detroit, the Elantra's status as a "foreign" car immediately precludes it from most Motown buyers' shopping lists. This is to their detriment, as I discovered during a week of testing the refreshed-for-2014 Hyundai Elantra.

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2015 Alfa Romeo 4C [w/video]

06/16/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Coupes, Sports/GTs, Alfa Romeo, Reviews, Luxury

2015 Alfa Romeo 4C

The dissonance between first look and first wheel turn was jarring.

Alfa Romeo had chosen a suitably hip venue in which to showcase the coupe that will mark the brand's honest-to-God return to the US market - a graffiti-festooned warehouse housing a boutique furniture company in San Francisco's Mission District. The curvilinear sports car proved a lovely stylistic counterpoint to its concrete and metal backdrop while feeling perfectly synced with the eye-watering square-footage prices of the environs. Where the young, rich, beautiful people gather, the 2015 Alfa Romeo 4C will be a star.

And wherever they drive, expect things to get pretty loud. No sooner had I doubled over, dropped into the driver's seat, and fired to life the Alfa's utterly raucous little 1.7-liter engine, did the 'symphony' of the 4C begin. An introductory note of an inevitable chin scrape as I pulled out of the hipster parking lot and into the street was quickly followed by the uncivilized racket of the engine warming up, with only wafer-thin glass to filter the hubbub just behind my head. At a cold idle, the sound isn't unlike what I'd imagine it would be like to live inside of a Volkswagen TDI engine bay.

Thankfully, as traffic cleared and The City's streets turned swiftly into undulating coastal roads, the experiential delta between heartthrob looks and project-car manners started to shrink. Unlike the last Alfas to be sold en masse on our shores, this is no beautiful boulevardier. What the 4C is, however, is hot hell's own driver's car.

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2015 Chrysler 200S AWD [UPDATE]

06/02/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sedans/Saloons, Chrysler, Reviews

2015 Chrysler 200S AWD

I love road trips. Honestly, one of the best parts about this job is the freedom we're given to experience the open road, whether at new car launches or while bombing around with whatever we're testing on our home turf. But the longer-form road trip is equally special to me, and it's something I'm always eager to do. Air travel stinks - that's not news. So if I can drive, I will. And without our dear TSA to fight with, I can pack all the chainsaws and gallon jugs of chocolate milk that I want.

So when it came time to attend the 2014 New York Auto Show this past April, I thought, "Why not drive?" Typically, the route from downtown Detroit to Manhattan is something like 10 hours, but I decided to bake some extra time into the journey and planned for the vast majority of my travels to be off the beaten path. Doing the "avoid expressways" route allows you to see parts of America you've never encountered before, and to meet people with stories and opinions that you've never heard. It's a great way to travel if you have the time. There's something uniquely serene about seeing the country in a great car on a great road.

Let's talk about that "great car" line for a moment. Ideally, long stretches of backroads are best done in something fast, comfortable and involving - a Porsche 911 comes to mind. Or, another school of thought says to pick some fun little spitfire like the always-lovely Mazda MX-5 Miata, for top-down, sun-drenched fun. But for this trip, I chose the 2015 Chrysler 200, in fully loaded S guise with all-wheel drive. Now, settle down; I'm not about to compare it to either the Porsche or Mazda. The point I'm making is this: after 1,500 test miles under my butt, I can emphatically state that the new 200 is indeed a great car in its own right.

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2015 Chrysler 200S AWD

06/02/2014   [Original: Autoblog]
Category: Sedans/Saloons, Chrysler, Reviews

2015 Chrysler 200S AWD

I love road trips. Honestly, one of the best parts about this job is the freedom we're given to experience the open road, whether at new car launches or while bombing around with whatever we're testing on our home turf. But the longer-form road trip is equally special to me, and it's something I'm always eager to do. Air travel stinks - that's not news. So if I can drive, I will. And without our dear TSA to fight with, I can pack all the chainsaws and gallon jugs of chocolate milk that I want.

So when it came time to attend the 2014 New York Auto Show this past April, I thought, "Why not drive?" Typically, the route from downtown Detroit to Manhattan is something like 10 hours, but I decided to bake some extra time into the journey and planned for the vast majority of my travels to be off the beaten path. Doing the "avoid expressways" route allows you to see parts of America you've never encountered before, and to meet people with stories and opinions that you've never heard. It's a great way to travel if you have the time. There's something uniquely serene about seeing the country in a great car on a great road.

Let's talk about that "great car" line for a moment. Ideally, long stretches of backroads are best done in something fast, comfortable and involving - a Porsche 911 comes to mind. Or, another school of thought says to pick some fun little spitfire like the always-lovely Mazda MX-5 Miata, for top-down, sun-drenched fun. But for this trip, I chose the 2015 Chrysler 200, in fully loaded S guise with all-wheel drive. Now, settle down; I'm not about to compare it to either the Porsche or Mazda. The point I'm making is this: after 1,500 test miles under my butt, I can emphatically state that the new 200 is indeed a great car in its own right.

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