First Drive

First Drive articles

2019 Toyota Avalon



SAN DIEGO — There’s a pretty good chance that if you’re not wearing reading glasses to read this review, don’t read newspapers or have the slightest clue what the letters AARP stand for, then you probably have no idea what a Toyota Avalon is — let alone have exciting thoughts about trading your current ride for one.
That’s because average age of a current Toyota Avalon buyer starts with the number six. But that isn’t stopping the folks at Toyota who aim to knock a decade or so off the median age of the owner by introducing the fifth-generation 2019 Avalon sedan.

2018 Ford EcoSport



INDIANAPOLIS — In the fastest-growing automotive segment, Ford only had one entry.  Compact crossovers have become the new mid-size sedan as sub-compact crossovers supplant sub-compact cars.  Ford has the Escape crossover, but needed something a little smaller — a vehicle to compete with the Honda HR-V, Chevy Trax, and Subaru Crosstrek.  Fortunately, there was the little EcoSport being built in India and it arrives stateside for 2018.

2019 Ram 1500



SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Pickup trucks are more popular than ever and the market for them is about to get even hotter and more competitive for the 2019 model year. Ford raised the stakes this year with a refresh of the industry’s top-selling F-150. Chevrolet has already previewed an all-new Silverado, and GMC has an all-new Sierra. Further, Ram has just introduced its totally redesigned 15th generation Ram 1500.

2018 Hyundai Kona



KONA, Hawaii — Rolling into dealer showrooms across the U.S. now, the Hyundai Kona, a little late to the small crossover-utility market, is going up against some of the most solid and serious performers in its class: Subaru Crosstrek, Mazda CX-3, Jeep Renegade and others. Still, we think it’s one of the best.

2018 Honda Clarity Plug-In



PHOENIX — Honda has introduced an entirely new model line of vehicles called Clarity. It encompasses different fuel powertrains including a hydrogen-powered electric car, a fully electric vehicle, and a plug-in hybrid.  For now, the hydrogen-powered electric car is only available in California, and only as a leased vehicle. The all-electric model is only available in California and Oregon, while the plug-in is for sale nationwide.

2018 Buick Regal TourX



INDIANAPOLIS — One of my favorite cars is the green 1970 Buick Estate wagon, woodgrain and all, that co-starred in the movie, The Way Way Back.  It’s a classic America family car so familiar to Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers.  But, in a world of crossovers, wagons have taken a third-row seat to SUVs of all types.  The Subaru Outback, built in Lafayette, Ind., is now the nation’s best-selling wagon.  Somewhere between the Outback and The Way Way Back is a new-generation Buick wagon — The 2018 Regal TourX.

2018 BMW 530e



INDIANAPOLIS — BMWs conjure many images for many types of people — a luxurious four-door sedan with a power plug probably isn’t one of them. But, it is a reality with the 530e, a mid-size BMW with power and posh to spare…and fuel efficiency never before experienced. If it wasn’t for the “eDrive” logos on the C-pillars, and an extra door on the driver side front fender, you may never know there’s anything special about the 530e. 

2018 Mercedes AMG GT R



PHOENIX — AMG, the high-performance speed shop for Mercedes, has been hammering out a steady stream of unrestrained, tire-shredding, asphalt-ripping street machines for more than 30 years. The GT R is its latest sports car. If you’re familiar with Germany’s Nurburgring (nickname Green Hell), it’s worth knowing that the GT R got around the track in a record 7 minutes and 10 seconds, which Mercedes claims is a record for rear-wheel-drive cars.

2019 Jeep Cherokee



MALIBU, Calif. — With 9 million sales worldwide and 2 million in the U.S. alone, the compact crossover utility vehicle is “the largest SUV segment in the world,” says Scott Tallon, director of Jeep Brand. Up against segment leader Nissan Rogue and big sellers like Honda CRV, RAV4 and Ford Escape, the Jeep Cherokee makes up just 9.5 to 10 percent market share in the segment.

2018 Audi A5 Cabriolet



PHOENIX — The A5 is an attractive version of Audi’s A4 sedan and is available as a coupe, four-door Sportback, and a Cabriolet, tested here. The A5 Cabriolet is available in a choice of two trim levels: base ($49,600) and the performance-oriented S5 version ($62,300). Both trim levels are luxury drop tops with an attractive exterior and a formal interior. Both are well tailored with superb build quality, top rate materials — leathers, wood veneers and brushed aluminum or stainless steel trim — comprehensively engineered with impeccable attention to detail.