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Ferrari 458 Spider a top-down, top-rung sportscar

4:25 PM EDT, October 28, 2011

Ferrari 458 Spider a top-down, top-rung sportscar

Not for a second will I complain about the usual diet of Hyundais and Hondas and half-ton pickup trucks that those of us who get to test new cars are typically fed, but once in a while, getting a taste of a Bentley, a Lamborghini or Aston Martin gives us a peek into how the other half drives.

February 18, 2011

Cadillac CTS-V wagon:A ridiculous, wonderful move for conservative GM

With vehicles like the new plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt and the 30-miles-per-gallon Buick Regal, General Motors Co. seems to be selling itself as the sensible-shoes car company, populating its lineup with plucky, practical cars that offend no one.

Restyled Toyota Avalon retains old-school appeal

5:45 PM EST, February 7, 2011

Restyled Toyota Avalon retains old-school appeal

With the introduction of the Toyota Avalon in 1995, replacing the Cressida, the company made it very easy for customers for whom a car is essentially an appliance. Toyota gives those customers three choices: small (the Corolla), medium (the Camry) and large (the Avalon).

Dodge Viper rumbles into the sunset – for now

4:57 PM EST, January 21, 2011

Test Drive: 2010 Dodge Viper SRT10 Coupe car review

Dodge Viper rumbles into the sunset – for now

Yes, it's a bit odd to be reviewing a 2010 vehicle in the midst of the 2011 model year, but there are two extenuating circumstances: One, the manufacturer didn't cease production of the Dodge Viper until last summer, and since there is no 2011 model, they built some extras to give dealers a few to sell for a little longer.

All-new Ford Explorer raises bar for SUVs

3:02 PM EST, January 3, 2011

Text Drive: 2011 Ford Explorer

All-new Ford Explorer raises bar for SUVs

Numbers don't lie: There's no denying that the Ford Explorer, introduced in 1990, was an enormous success, quickly becoming — year after year — the top-selling SUV. The four-door, V-6-powered sport utility vehicle filled an enormous hole in Ford's lineup, as the models that preceded it, the Bronco and smaller Bronco II, were never offered with rear doors.

Durango puts Dodge back into the SUV battle

1:25 PM EST, December 22, 2010

Durango puts Dodge back into the SUV battle

Dodge was startlingly late to the four-door SUV party, a problem not solved until 1998, when the company introduced the Durango, based on the platform of the Dakota pickup truck. It was an immediate hit, as Dodge adapted the tough Ram truck look to the smaller SUV.

Land Rover LR4 equally capable on the road or off

January 9, 2011

Land Rover LR4 equally capable on the road or off

When Land Rover redesigned the mid-level LR4 SUV for 2010, many of my colleagues proclaimed that it was a leaps-and-bounds improvement over the model it replaces, the LR3.

A $65,000 Hyundai? Yes, and worth the price

December 17, 2010

A $65,000 Hyundai? Yes, and worth the price

Twenty years ago, or even 10 years ago, the idea that anyone would pay more than $65,000 for a Hyundai -- for a Hyundai! -- would be unthinkable.

Nissan Juke feints at SUV, delivers like sports car

November 29, 2010

Test Drive: 2011 Nissan Juke review

Nissan Juke feints at SUV, delivers like sports car

Judging from its initial unfocused advertising campaign, Nissan doesn't seem to know exactly what to do with the 2011 Juke. And after a week testing it, I see the problem: It doesn't fit into conventional categories.

A truck with the grace, power of a Clydesdale

October 15, 2010

A truck with the grace, power of a Clydesdale

I've written often about vehicles that will quicken your pulse -- a Chevrolet Corvette, a Dodge Viper, any Ferrari or Lamborghini -- but there's much to be said for a vehicle that can actually lower your pulse rate. That's the feeling I get behind the wheel of the Dodge Ram 2500, a truck so big and brutally capable that you feel in control of most any situation.

2011 Honda Odyssey: Better? Yes. Prettier? No.

October 25, 2010

Test Drive: 2011 Honda Odyssey

2011 Honda Odyssey: Better? Yes. Prettier? No.

Good news for Chrysler: The company's minivans are no longer the ugliest in the new-car showroom, now that Honda has introduced the redesigned 2011 Odyssey.

Restyled Nissan Rogue a right-sized SUV

7:03 PM EST, November 12, 2010

Test Drive: 2011 Nissan Rogue SUV review

Restyled Nissan Rogue a right-sized SUV

Nissan was a little late to the compact crossover SUV party -- with only its truckish Xterra to battle car-based products like the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outlander and Ford Escape -- until the 2008 Nissan Rogue was introduced. The fact that the Rogue was based on the Sentra platform was not encouraging -- the Sentra was fine as an entry-level car, but how would it work as the basis for an SUV?

Chevy Volt electric car — is it, or isn't it?

5:32 PM EDT, October 16, 2010

Steven Cole Smith: Chevy Volt electric car — is it, or isn't it?

General Motors' touted Chevrolet Volt rolls into Miami and Orlando late this month as part of a 12-city national road show, designed to introduce the high-mileage sedan to a curious public. Unfortunately for GM, it arrives under a cloud. Whether it is one of those little white fluffy clouds, or a big dark storm cloud that threatens to rain on the Volt's parade, you decide.

Altima coupe is fun, but more sporty than sports car

July 1, 2010

Test Drive: 2010 Nissan Altima 3.5 SR Coupe review

Altima coupe is fun, but more sporty than sports car

Two-door coupe versions of popular four-door sedans have been fading in popularity since designers figured out how to make four doors look sexy. Gone is the Toyota Solara, a two-door Camry. Ford has never sold a two-door version of the Taurus or Fusion, and Chevrolet's Monte Carlo, essentially a two-door Impala, lives on only in the memories of NASCAR fans. Honda still has a two-door Accord, but sales pale compared to the sedan.

Mazda MX-5 still tops fun-to-drive category

September 10, 2010

Mazda MX-5 still tops fun-to-drive category

In 1990, Mazda got it right with the Miata, and it has not strayed far from the formula with the 2010 Mazda MX-5.

2:12 PM EDT, May 5, 2010

Test Drive: Super-quick Jeep will make you feel young again

On paper, few vehicles make less sense than the 2010 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8: Huge, thirsty engine; not that much room inside; and though it's four-wheel-drive, it's too low-slung for off-roading. While the big chrome-plated dual exhausts look great, they stick out right under the license plate, effectively eliminating a full-sized trailer hitch.

Test Drive: 2010 Volvo C70 remains solid, underappreciated

11:57 AM EDT, June 9, 2010

Test Drive: 2010 Volvo C70 remains solid, underappreciated

It's sobering how close Volvo and Saab came to joining Mercury, Pontiac, Saturn, Hummer, Plymouth, Isuzu, Daewoo and Oldsmobile on the lengthening list of recently shuttered brands.

3:00 PM EDT, May 26, 2010

Test Drive: Sporty look gives Mazda CX-7 its edge

There's a long, long list of very competent sport utility vehicles in the $25,000 range, and really not that much to differentiate them.

12:07 PM EDT, April 30, 2010

Test Drive: 2010 Honda Element: Quirky SUV even Fido could love

If the "Dog Friendly" badges don't tip you off, the thick rubber floor mats with a dog bone pattern should: This 2010 Honda Element is equipped with a special optional package that should appeal to dogs — and, presumably, their owners.

12:20 PM EDT, April 21, 2010

Test Drive: Mercedes C300 is a steal for the money

The term "entry level" can mean a lot of things in the automotive market — with Hyundai, it means a sub-$10,000 Accent, and with Ferrari, it means a $188,000 F430. Somewhere in between is the entry-level Mercedes-Benz, which is the C300, at just more than $34,000.

9:29 AM EST, March 5, 2010

Test Drive: You can’t copy BMW’s ride

You'd think it would be easy for other manufacturers to copy – just buy a BMW, dismantle the suspension and duplicate it, and you could match the ride and handling. But for reasons I can't explain, BMWs still feel like BMWs, unmatched for road feel and the ability to offer both a comfortable ride on the highway, but still make you feel like you last name is Andretti on winding backroads.

7:56 PM EDT, April 9, 2010

Test Drive: Honda’s Fit a good fit

Fit is go!

5:16 PM EDT, April 16, 2010

Test Drive: Nissan’s Versa hatchback easy on eyes, pocketbook

The 2010 Nissan Versa hatchback is an attractive car, with one downright gorgeous feature: The window sticker. At most any trim level, the Versa is one of the best buys in the entry-level category.

2:34 PM EST, February 19, 2010

Test Drive: Dodge Ram 3500 Laramie MegaCab is a really, really massive truck

Manufacturers seldom place really big, heavy-duty pickup trucks in media press fleets, because members of the media tend to run into things. A few years ago, a big six-wheel "dualie" pickup was sent back to Detroit before I ever even saw it, because colleagues kept crunching the extended rear fenders.

9:31 PM EST, January 22, 2010

This Cadillac is old school

Seldom has a vehicle worn its federal Gas Guzzler tax — $2,600 in this case – so proudly as the 2010 Cadillac CTS-V sedan. With a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 – that's 376 cubic inches – under the hood, the smallest Cadillac with the largest engine amounts to a finely tuned blunt instrument.

5:23 PM EST, January 8, 2010

Test drive: 2010 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback is slick, sporty ride

The Mitsubuishi Lancer has long been the company's alternative to the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla, and this current version — on the market since 2007 — matches up well with the two market segment leaders.

December 31, 2009

Sporty 2010 Acura ZDX: Nice weekend getaway vehicle for couples

It isn't unusual to go to a car show, admire a concept vehicle and say, "Wouldn't it be neat if they actually built that car?"

December 17, 2009

Test Drive: Bentley offers it all, for a lot

Once in a while, life serves up one of those little disconnects that reminds you of an old dubbed-into-English Japanese horror movie, where the actors' lips seem to be saying one thing, their voices something entirely different.

November 25, 2009

Lexus mostly hits the mark

Lexus introduced the IS 300 sedan for 2001, taking direct aim at the perennial leader of the entry-level luxury import segment, the BMW 3-Series, and coming pretty close to the bull's-eye. The IS sedan remains an appealing alternative to the BMW, but has yet to knock the German off the throne: In the first nine months of 2009, BMW sold 67,220 copies of the 3-Series in the U.S., while Lexus sold 27,911 of its IS model.

December 3, 2009

Test drive: Ford's new van does the job

Several years ago, Ford gave a preview to members of the automotive media, showing some future and prospective products. One that caught my eye was the Ford Transit Connect, a purely-European little delivery van that has been selling well overseas for six years. There was, and is, nothing like it in the U.S., and for that reason, when Ford executives were working the crowd, looking for input, the Transit got my vote as the most interesting product on the floor.

November 6, 2009

Steven Cole Smith: GTI is sweet by any name

Let's get this out of the way first: The Volkswagen GTI is based on the new 2010 VW Golf. Yes, the Golf name is back: In 2006, Volkswagen dropped the Golf, returning to the Rabbit, which was the original name for this car from 1975 through 1984. Then it became the Golf, then in 2006 the Rabbit again, in 2010 the Golf again. Why? Even the people at Volkswagen don't seem to know.

November 13, 2009

Steven Cole Smith: LaCrosse shows Buick still has it

As part of its restructuring, General Motors executives decided to save Buick, kill Pontiac and Saturn. I remain unconvinced that this was the right decision, but I have to admit that the 2010 LaCrosse makes a very strong case that there is life left in Buick.

October 23, 2009

Steven Cole Smith: GMC Terrain just right for 5 folks

With the Acadia and the Yukon, GMC has the mid- and full-sized SUV market covered, but the company has lacked something smaller. I hesitate to say "entry level," because the all-new 2010 GMC Terrain SLE starts at just under $25,000, and at the top end, like the SLT test model, can hit $35,000. But for SUV customers who only need five seats, the Terrain is an attractive option.

October 9, 2009

Steven Cole Smith: Porsche busts mold on styling

Pity the poor Porsche loyalists: Just as they've gotten over the heresy that is the Porsche Cayenne sport utility vehicle — a Porsche SUV! Blasphemy! — now comes the 2010 Porsche Panamera, which resembles a stretched Porsche 911 that has, count 'em, four doors, a big back seat and nearly 16 cubic feet of luggage space in the rear.

October 16, 2009

Steven Cole Smith: Pontiac Vibe: Last of the brand

I wrote my first test drive in 1984, and plenty of them were obituaries for departed brands that either died or left the U.S. market — Oldsmobile, Plymouth, Peugeot, Daihatsu, Daewoo, Yugo, Eagle, Isuzu, TVR, Bitter, Laforza, Merkur, Renault, Sterling, Alfa-Romeo, AM General — and man, that list turned out to be a lot longer than I thought it would be when I started writing this sentence.

September 25, 2009

Steven Cole Smith: MazdaSpeed3: Still fast, pricey

There's a class of performance cars called "pocket rockets" — small, powerful vehicles that come in a compact package, but still pack a punch: The Honda Civic Si, the Chevrolet Cobalt SS, the Volkswagen GTi, the Subaru Impreza WRX — and the MazdaSpeed3.

July 19, 2009

Steven Cole Smith: 2010 Toyota Prius: Love that MPG

Careful, Steve: Careful what you write about the Toyota Prius, which judging from the newspaper's parking lot, is on its way to becoming The Official Car of the Orlando Sentinel. Prius owners tend to be committed, even evangelical. Write the wrong thing, and I could be sitting on a whoopee cushion tomorrow.

September 18, 2009

Steven Cole Smith: Mercury Milan may be best hybrid yet

Seldom does a week go by that I don't get at least one call or e-mail that accuses me of favoring import brands over domestics, and another that insists I bang the drum for American cars. Fine: If both sides think I favor the competition, then I must have found some sort of balance.

September 11, 2009

Steven Cole Smith: Hyundai scores with 'evil twin'

Hyundai is billing the 2010 Genesis Coupe as the "evil twin" of the Genesis sedan, which was named the North American Car of the Year for 2009 by a panel of 50 automotive journalists that included me.

August 30, 2009

Steven Cole Smith: 2010 Kia Forte is strong offering

Kia has spent the past few years phasing out competent but mediocre products and phasing in class-competitive vehicles. The latest has just arrived: The 2010 Kia Forte replaces the nothing-special Spectra, which was built on the last-generation Hyundai Elantra platform.

July 12, 2009

Steven Cole Smith: Volvo thinks outside box

In 1990, Dudley Moore starred in Crazy People, a film that featured patients in a mental institution writing painfully honest advertising slogans such as, "Quaker Oats — how does it taste? Who knows, but the box is cute!" or for a "Visit New York City" campaign: "There were fewer murders last year."

June 28, 2009

Steven Cole Smith: Good move for 'new' GM

The first all-new product from the all-new General Motors is bound to be scrutinized. After all, bankrupt GM has, like Chrysler, been propped up by your tax dollars, so it seems fair to pay close attention to how our money is being spent.

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