First Drive

First Drive articles

2017 Jeep Compass



SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Jeep, a brand that builds nothing but more than capable SUVs, is absolutely booming. Overall sales are up for the seventh year in a row, including three straight years of one million vehicles sold, with a record breaking 1.4 million in 2016. It doesn’t hurt that American car buyers have made a dramatic shift from traditional family sedans to utility vehicles; the hottest segments are compact and subcompact crossovers.

2017 Honda CR-V



INDIANAPOLIS — I remember seeing the Honda CR-V during its Detroit Auto Show debut nearly 20 years ago.  There, in the middle of this grand hall, was a tiny little crossover among a sea of large full-framed SUVs.  I, and many others, laughed until our stomachs cramped.  Nobody laughs now as the CR-V has become America’s best-selling SUV.  Turbo power and a fashion makeover ignite this rocket’s fire.

2018 Lexus LC 500



KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii — Almost everything about Lexus’ new flagship coupes screams “irresistible.” Inspired by the 2012 LF-LC concept car, the LC 500 and LC 500h hybrid have presence and savoir-faire that are nearly off the charts. At the recent media introduction of the all-new Lexus LC500 on the Big Island of Hawai’i, Lexus executives made it abundantly clear that their objective is for the words “boring” and Lexus never to be used in the same sentence.

2017 Mitsubishi Mirage G4 SE



PHOENIX — When shopping for a new car, the Mitsubishi brand is one that seldom bubbles to the top of consumers’ consideration set. That isn’t a surprise, since the Japanese automaker has little relevancy compared with stalwarts like Toyota, Honda, Nissan and others. Mitsubishi has had an on-again, off-again approach, with a complicated marketing history.

2017 Toyota Prius Prime



PHOENIX — When it comes to pioneering vehicles that get exceptional fuel economy, Toyota is the world’s leader, with more than 25 years of alternative fuel vehicles under its belt. Product offerings include the gas-electric hybrid, plug-in hybrid and even a hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle in a few select markets.

2017 Mercedes CLA250



INDIANAPOLIS — Every generation of entry-level compact Mercedes endured criticisms.  My grandmother loved her 1987 190E and drove it 170,000 miles, but that car received constant carping from journalists for its cramped interior, underpowered engine, and supposedly low-rent interior materials.  Having driven many 190E miles, the first two were correct, but the last is nonsense.  I’ve heard similar carping about today’s compact Mercedes, the CLA250.

2017 Kia Forte



PHOENIX — When it comes to shopping for compact sedans, most buyers immediately think about small-car stalwarts like the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla, with good reason. They have an excellent reputation for quality construction, reliability, and bang for the buck — and those manufacturers spend a lot of money on advertising.

2017 Audi R8 V10



GOLDSBORO, N.C. — Before I could shut the car off coming back from a routine errand the neighbor lady was tapping on the passenger window asking if I would take her 14-year-old son for a ride. "He''s been dying to ride in that car, he loves cars and this is one of his favorites," she implored. So off we went in the 2017 Audi R8, which also garnered a lot of attention from adults during our test week.

2017 Chevrolet Cruze Hatch



PALM BEACH, Fla. — All new for 2017, the Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback joins its sedan sibling in delivering a world-class cabin, tons of technical doodads and solid fuel economy for a competitive price. It may not send droves of owners scampering to trade in their Civics, but it can certainly go toe to toe with the Honda, or any of the other Asian compacts for that matter.

2017 Genesis G90



INDIANAPOLIS — I remember when Hyundai occupied a little erector set of a display in the basement of Cobo Hall during Detroit’s North American International Auto Show.  Clearly, the Korean automaker has traveled great distances in the past couple of decades; it’s now one of the most respected global players.  It’s also come a long way since it launched the Genesis sedan in 2008 with a sub-$35,000 sticker.  Now a separate brand, Genesis goes after an elite class of luxury buyers with the G90.