First Drive

First Drive articles

2013 Buick Encore



ATLANTA — Luxury in a small, fuel-efficient package is the new hot commodity in the automotive world. We want our good stuff, but we want it in a tidy container that makes us feel good about saving precious resources and disposal income that otherwise would land in the pockets of big oil. In this vein, Buick is offering up for 2013 the very tidy and compact crossover Encore.

2013 VW Beetle convertible



LOS ANGELES — Few of us were around in 1949 when the type 15 Convertible was introduced by Volkswagen. In essence it was the first Beetle convertible and over a 32-year span the company produced more than 330,000 of the popular little cars. With a salute to the past, the third-generation Beetle convertible, introduced at the L.A. Auto Show, has three specific editions that harken back to the three distinct decades of the iconic vehicle in American history: the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s.

2013 Toyota Avalon



SAN ANTONIO, Texas — We give Toyota designers a standing ovation for their work with the 2013 Toyota Avalon, which turned a predominately senior citizen's entry-level-luxury sedan into a vehicle that should appeal to a wider — and younger — audience. Toyota officials say this is their new design direction for the entire fleet.

2013 VW Jetta Turbo Hybrid



SANTA FE, N.M . —  If one believes the automotive hype, the new darling of the industry seems to be electric vehicles. But, maybe not. There is a technology that seems to be appearing in many car lines that’s been around a while…but hasn’t received the respect it deserves — and this time I’m not referring only to diesels. What I’m talking about is hybrids.

2013 Nissan Pathfinder



NAPA VALLEY, Calif. — Do you honestly think that because of high gasoline prices the sport utility vehicle market is a dinosaur? Revise your thoughts. The all-new fourth-generation Nissan Pathfinder is in the flesh to dispel the myth and it’s doing so with superb design and style. The original Pathfinder, introduced more than 25 years ago, became an instant success and achieved the reputation of being the “perfect family adventure vehicle.”

2013 Buick Enclave



BIRMINGHAM, Mich. — Five years may not seem like much in the overall span of time. However, in the case of the Buick Enclave it’s been the length of an evolution. First debuted as a 2008 model in May 2007, the Enclave is a prime example of a vehicle whose instant success more than doubled Buick's annual sales volume.

2013 Buick Verano Turbo



LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Buick Verano sedan is a very good small Buick, based on the Chevrolet Cruze/Chevrolet Volt platform taking the well-executed Cruze to a new level of refinement. The Verano fits right into the new Buick mold of smaller, firmer cars with European design and flare, and with more interior refinement than Buicks of the preceding two or three decades.

2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS



SAN FRANCISCO — If ever I’ve driven a vehicle that was the poster child for shedding a few “grams” and getting back into shape it’s the all-new 2013 Chevrolet Sonic RS. The EPA lists this as a subcompact and it is on the small side. However small though it is the Sonic RS casts a large footprint of excitement — particularly for those behind the wheel.

2013 Audi A4/S4



BEAVER CREEK, Col. — My, how the family has grown! The Audi A4 family has been Audi’s best-selling product line for the past four decades and if history means anything the new 2013 version, the eighth-generation A4, will proudly carry on the family tradition. Often referred to as the “entry-level Audi,” as if such a moniker would apply, the new A4 brings a lot to the table in the way of performance, luxury, comfort and just plain driving fun.

2013 Chevrolet Malibu Turbo



SAN FRANCISCO — For too many years the midsize sedan segment has been populated by a group of plain-Jane’s that were adequate for the job, but quite honestly a little underwhelming when it came to styling and performance. If complacency was the disease then Chevrolet has found the cure.