First Drive

First Drive articles

2019 Hyundai Santa Fe



PARK CITY, Utah — There was a time not all that long ago when Hyundai’s product lineup, while generally good, was unremarkable and easily blended in with the wallpaper. To be sure, their design was on the weird side – case in point, the Santa Fe compact crossover utility vehicle that debuted in 2000 as a 2001 model.
But over the years Hyundai has evolved nicely, with significant improvements in reliability, gas mileage, and its game-changing 10-year, 100,000-mile warranty.

2019 Ram 1500 eTorque



LEXINGTON, Ky. — Ram has developed a unique hybrid system for its lineup of 2019 Ram 1500 V-6 and Hemi V-8 pickups designed as a seamless way to improve gas mileage while at the same time add significant torque to both engines. It has rather appropriately been dubbed eTorque. The eTorque 48-volt mild-hybrid system will be standard equipment on all V-6 models and comes as a $1,450 option on the V-8 models.

2018 Maserati Levante



CHELESA, Mich. — Maserati, an Italian automaker with a rich and noble racing heritage delivered by its luxurious high-performance sedans, sports cars and coupes, has, for the first time, added the brand’s trident badge to a much needed sport utility vehicle. Named the Levante (pronounced la-von-tay) for the tropical Mediterranean winds, it is uniquely Italian and positioned to compete directly against vehicles like Porsche Cayenne and Range Rover Sport.

2019 Honda Insight



INDIANAPOLIS — The first two generations of the Honda Insight hybrid did not exactly challenge Toyota’s Prius for compact hybrid dominance.  The first one, which debuted for 2000, was a futuristic two-seater while the second one, which arrived for 2010, never got beyond its mediocre fuel economy.  Returning for Round 3, the Columbus, Indiana-built 2019 Insight may finally be the car to win enthusiasts.

2018 Lexus RX 350L



INDIANAPOLIS — Our society teaches our little brains that longer is better, whether we’re talking about hot dogs, vacations, or, um, car hoods.  But, longer is not always better.  Nobody needs a longer workday, dentist visit, or hurricane.  But, a longer Lexus RX crossover with a third-row seat?  Yeah, that’s definitely better.

2018 Challenger Widebody



PHOENIX — Since Dodge reintroduced the Challenger for the 2008 model year, both the Mustang and Camaro muscle cars have undergone complete refreshes. Further, Camaro is expecting another update for 2019. By contrast, the Challenger has basically remained unchanged for the past 11 years, except for one minor mid-cycle refresh back in 2015. Still, sales keep climbing and thus far in 2018, it is outselling the three-year-old Camaro.

2019 Infiniti QX50



PHOENIX — There’s no denying that the U.S. car-buying community is crossover-crazy, shunning traditional family sedans for a piece of the upscale driving action you get with the likes the popular Audi Q5, Mercedes-Benz GLC, Jaguar F-Pace and numerous others including the Infiniti QX50, the long awaited replacement for the EX and QX50 predecessors after a one-year hiatus.

2018 BMW M5



MIAMI — You’ve no doubt heard the term “sports sedan” used to describe regular family cars that have enhanced performance characteristics, but did you know that the genre dates as far back as the 1930s? I confess I didn’t until I did a “Google” search (Is there any other kind?) and found it was first used in the 1930s to describe “sports saloon” versions of British-made Rover cars.

2018 Nissan Kicks



MIAMI — Though the vehicle started arrivng in showrooms in May, Nissan took time to “introduce” its latest model, a subcompact crossover dubbed Kicks, at a preview for media. It is the second such session company publicists have conducted for automotive journalists, the first being earlier in June in San Diego.

2018 Audi S4



PHOENIX — Last year, Audi updated its fifth-generation A4 sedan. Audi didn’t do anything radical, with the basic dimensions staying the same, but Audi aficionados certainly recognized some significant changes. So, understandably, for 2018 the A4 is almost exclusively a carryover from last year, and a much stronger performance-oriented S4 has joined the lineup.