First Drive

First Drive articles

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.

2018 Audi A5 Sportback



INDIANAPOLIS — If it’s January, it’s time for the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.  Arriving at the glitzy affair requires a comfortable car for the long drive, agile quick performance to get you there safely, and elegant style to set valets back on their heels.  It’s guaranteed to be snowy, so having all-wheel-drive is a big plus.  I couldn’t have picked a better traveling companion than the 2018 Audi A5 Sportback.

2018 Mini Countryman plug-in



MIAMI — The Mini Cooper is not yet at the stage where it needs to be upgraded to the “MAXI” Cooper, but it seems to be moving in that direction. Launched in 1959 as a trend-setting, two-door sub-compact that was 120.25 inches long — not much more than the wheelbase for many large vehicles — and weighed in at just over 1,300 pounds, the Mini now is available as a four-door wagon that is four feet longer and weighs in at twice the original hardtop’s heft.

2018 Buick Enclave



INDIANAPOLIS — Buick can be described as BE and AE, or before and after Enclave.  Before Enclave, Buick built large fluffy sedans for large fluffy people.  After Enclave, Buicks found homes in the exclusive driveways of younger style-conscious professionals.  Beyond that, though, Buick virtually invented the concept of a luxurious three-row crossover that’s become a staple of every luxury automaker.  After a decade, the Enclave goes in for a makeover.

2018 Mercedes AMG C63



PHOENIX — 503 horsepower, 516 lb-ft of torque, AMG SPEEDSHIFT MCT seven-speed transmission. The car is flanked by 19-inch front/20-inch rear AMG forged cross-spoke wheels. It goes from zero to 60 mph in 3.8 seconds and is brought to a smooth but certain stop with large 15.8-inch cross-drilled and vented ceramic brakes with specially painted brake calipers. All this goodness came wrapped in a gorgeous brilliant blue drop top Mercedes-Benz AMG C63 S. This car is the bomb.

2018 Alfa Romeo Stelvio



PHOENIX — At over 9,000 feet, Stelvio Pass is the highest and most dramatic paved pass in the Eastern European Alps. While not the most beautiful, it is a stunning road to view, and the wall of 48 hairpin switchback turns running up the north face renders it iconic for car enthusiasts around the world.
Befitting the name, the all-new Alfa Romeo Stelvio has terrific handling, agility, steering and power to lend both credibility and worthy kudos sufficient to naming it after Italy’s most famous mountain pass.

2018 Smart Fortwo Cabriolet



SAN DIEGO — A year ago, Daimler announced the decision to convert the Smart brand to all-electric in North America, discontinuing gas-powered Smart cars. Smart cars are built by Daimler in France and sold exclusively through Mercedes-Benz dealers in the U.S. The current and third generation of the Smart Fortwo was introduced in 2015 in gasoline form. In June 2017, the Smart Fortwo Electric Drive went on sale and was recently followed by the cabriolet (convertible) model that will go on sale in spring 2018.

2018 Nissan Leaf



NAPPA. Calif. — Most news stories regarding battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are about Tesla and the great things Elon Musk is doing…or not. But what’s known but by a few is that the world’s best-selling electric car to date is the Nissan Leaf. At the start of 2016, more than 200,000 have been sold worldwide. The Leaf is the only BEV built in three different manufacturing plants in three different countries, including Smyrna, Tenn.