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First Drive: 2016 Nissan Titan XD
Carving out space in the heavy-duty truck segment

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You tow things. You have toys that get dirty, a camper or a boat. You’re going to need a truck that can handle the heft you’re hauling, and this means deciding on playing within the 1/2-ton segment or jumping into the world of the 3/4-ton. There’s a fair difference between those trucks, and one can often find themselves either wishing they’d stepped up to the 3/4-ton pickup or perhaps finding that they barely use the capabilities of a 3/4 and could’ve saved tons of dough by opting for the 1/2 ton.

This is where the 2016 Nissan Titan XD comes into play, and it’s an “in-betweener” truck that’s hoping to capture those fluctuating between big boys toys and, well, bigger boys toys. It’s tough to make a name for yourself in the full-size truck segment unless you’ve got a Ford of Chevy badge on the front (Fine, Ram too… but to a lesser degree, based on sales numbers). Nissan is looking to carve out its own niche with the Titan XD, and snag some market share from both sides of pickup party fence.

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Classic Nameplates: Volvo brings back the S90 saloon for 2016

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For a number of Volvo drivers, the S90 badge stands for the last “real” Volvo. It was indeed the last one in a long line of rear wheel drive Volvos, and it was more closely related to the early-1980s 740/760 than the added plushness and filed corners wanted to make clear. But everybody knew what a straight piece of iron it was, and a lot of people loved the cars for it – the V90 wagon included.

In a satisfying turn of events, the S90-replacing S80 name is now being replaced by, yes, S90 again. For 2016, Volvo unveils this larger, more menacing, more noticeable executive saloon that has nothing apologetic about its design. Make the jump for more photos.

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First Drive: 2016 Honda Civic

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We’ve come a long way from that first Honda Civic… This is the 2016 Civic, and it’s the 10th generation of Honda’s plucky compact. For the first time, the American Honda team has led the development of the car, and they’ve given us a Civic that’s incredibly well rounded. It should be, considering that Honda looked towards German premium and luxury vehicles for inspiration.

This is our first taste of the new Honda Civic. We’re eager to get our grubby mitts on the upcoming Civic Si and definitely on the Civic Type R. For now though, we’ll settle for an initial sampling of the all-new machine by starting with the Civic Sedan Turbo, and it’s new 1.5-liter forced-induction mill.

[Disclaimer: Honda flew my but from Boston (where I was visiting family) to NY to sample its latest Civic. They put food in my belly, and gave me a place to sleep as well.]

First Drive: 2016 Infiniti QX50

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One of the main reasons you wouldn’t have purchased an Infiniti QX50 (Formerly the EX35), was that the rear-seat legroom bordered on cruel and unusual punishment. Fix that issue and you might just wind up with something enjoyable for those of us who actually like driving their cars and crossovers.  Infiniti did just that with the refreshed 2016 QX50, so we trekked down to San Diego to see how it stacks up.

Under the hood sits a 325-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 and it can send power out to the rear wheels or through an all-wheel-drive system, depending on which model you opt for. The performance is solid, the styling is lightly updated, and there is now room to sit in that second row.

Add in the value proposition for those shopping in the compact luxury crossover segment, and the QX50 might have just bought itself a few more useful years until it needs a full redesign.

[Disclaimer: Infiniti put us on a train and put us up in a San Diego hotel so we could sample the all-new QX50. I “sampled” some beers in the hotel later that night…]

How I learned to stop worrying and love the Miata: A quick drive

Right now, Mazda is touring the nation with their new Miata, letting the faithful from far and wide experience the fourth coming of everyones favorite roadster. I was lucky enough to get to tackle Austin Driveway (a local track with a few fun turns) in a 2016 MX-5 in Grand Touring trim and with the 6 speed manual. Here are my quick thoughts on the car, the experience, and whether it’s the savior of all things driving. … Continue Reading

First Drive: Rezvani Beast
Coachbuilding is back?

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You don’t hear about coachbuilt cars anymore. Back in the day, you used to pick a chassis or platform, and then you’d bring it to the company you’d want building the body for it. It still happens, but it’s quite rare and often quite expensive.

Ferris Rezvani wants to alter that a little bit. His latest creation is called the Beast and at $140-$150,000 it’s still expensive. Considering what you’re getting, however, maybe it’s a bit of a deal. It’s certainly a return to the day good ole days of coachbuilding passed…

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First Drive: 2016 Hyundai Tucson

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We have to face the music… crossovers are not only here to stay, but they’re growing in numbers. The good news is that they’re also getting better every time a new one comes to market. Need more proof? Take a look at the all-new 2016 Hyundai Tucson.

We trekked to Minnesota to sample the latest from Hyundai, and we were pleasantly surprised by what we found. This crossover comes packing a new 1.6-liter turbo four cylinder engine, heated and ventilated front seats, a power rear liftgate, and all of the tech bits you’ve come to expect from a modern car.

Additionally, Hyundai teamed up with Magna to develop the all-wheel-drive system that’s available on the Tucson. This is the same company that makes the AWD unit for Porsche and its Cayenne. Don’t expect Porsche-levels of performance of course, but know you’re getting a system designed to do its job well.

It’s getting harder to choose a definitive winner in this segment, as every automaker offers one up and it’s usually quite good. You have to dig into the nitty-gritty of features, driving dynamics, and styling to find the one that appeals to you.

If you’re shopping for a crossover, you almost can’t make a wrong choice. Well, you could’ve picked a wagon, but those, sadly, are getting harder to find…

[Disclaimer: Hyundai flew me to Minnesota to sample the new Tucson. They put me up in a hotel room right on the U. of Minnesota Campus. I tried to use that campus gym (because it’s massive and lovely), but was asked if I had a student attending… do I look that old already? Dammit… don’t answer that.]

First Drive: 2016 Honda HR-V

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Believe it or not, the sub-compact crossover is pretty much a new class of vehicle here in the States. The luxury or premium versions hit the market first, and now the standard machines are ready to flood the streets… and flood the streets they will.

Which will be crowned king? Well, with our first taste of this segment being the 2016 Honda HR-V, we might have just met his majesty.

We love wagons, but we live in a crossover world… and this will surely be one of the best ones out there.

[Disclaimer: Honda wanted us to check out the new HR-V so they flew us to Miami. I tried a hand-rolled cigar after dinner, and yep… I still don’t love cigars. Also, they had a selfie contest during the trip and I won. You can think less of me now if you’d like.] 

First Drive: 2016 Acura ILX

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The entry-level luxury market is a hot spot right now in the industry. Strong competition amongst the offerings typically breeds great options for the consumer. You have plenty of ways to get in with an upscale automaker, so deciding on the best course of action is a good problem.

Acura has an updated answer to the problem with its 2016 ILX. This is the second go-around for the car, which launched a few years ago and was viewed as not more more than a slightly more fancy Honda Civic.

Acura knew it needed to bring more to the table, so let’s dive in and see if that’s the case here…

[Disclaimer: Acura flew me to Napa and let me toss the ILX around on the backroads around wine country. I’m still waiting on the day that we switch to beer and cicerones over wine and sommeliers.]

First Drive: 2015 Volkswagen Golf R

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Volkswagen is pretty much cooking up a Golf for everyone on the planet. You have the standard Golf, the diesel TDI, and an all-electric eGolf. Enthusiasts around the globe love the GTI. There’s also a wagon version coming soon called the Golf SportWagen.

This, however, is the one for… us. This is the Volkswagen Golf R, and it’s a turbocharged, all-wheel-drive hot hatch designed to make you a happier person. For just under $40k, you can pilot a nearly 300-horsepower five-door that also happens to have one of the (if not THE) best interior in its class.

Oh and Hans Stuck helped make sure the handling doesn’t suck.

Win-win? You best believe it…

[Disclaimer: Volkswagen invited me down to San Diego and put me up in a hotel for the evening. I took a train down to the location so I could drive a Golf R back and spend even more time with the car. Nice ride down… better ride back.]