First Drive

First Drive articles

2013 Lexus GS 350

LAS VEGAS — It’s no secret the mere mention of the word “Lexus” connotes luxury. Lesser known, however, is the fact that some Lexus models, while fraught with the usual upscale amenities its owners have come to expect, are also drivers’/enthusiasts’ cars as well. Case in point is the all-new 2013 GS 350 Sport Sedan. Lexus has thrown all its gee whiz technology into a completely redesigned mid-size GS.

2012 Honda CR-V

SAN DIEGO — If you liked the previous Honda CR-V crossover you will surely be pleased with the all-new 2012 model. You probably won't detect much difference in performance or appearance — the powertrain is a carryover and the styling evokes the same theme as the third generation — but the 2012 Honda is decidedly more sophisticated with numerous technology upgrades, more standard equipment, a quieter interior and a smoother ride.

2012 Scion iQ

DETROIT — The quirky Scion family has just introduced its fourth vehicle and in doing so has created an entirely new segment — Premium Micro-Subcompact. The only other way to describe this 10-foot long vehicle is to call it the "world’s smallest four-seater.” At first glance the iQ looks more like an oversized golf cart. But the size of the vehicle makes it the perfect David Copperfield car because it, too, is an illusionist.

2012 Honda Civic Hybrid

GOLDSBORO, N.C. — We’ve been inundated these days with a host of economic plans designed to get the economy out of its significant rut. Perhaps the most ballyhooed is the 9-9-9 plan. Well Honda has an economic plan of its own. It's called the 44-44-44. Meet the 2012 Honda Civic Hybrid, designed to allow owners to keep more money in their pocket while driving a mainstream vehicle that does not scream, "Look at me, I am driving green."

2012 Buick Verano

NEW YORK — If Buick is as quiet in promoting its 2012 Verano compact luxury car as the vehicle’s interior is then nobody is going to hear about it. Buick pulled out all the stops, and interior noise to create a domestic vehicle that is set to take on the vaunted Lexus IS 250 and Audi A3 sedans. A dozen noise-reducing and noise-cancelling technologies are used in more than 50 areas of Verano’s body structure for increased cabin isolation and quietness.

2012 Kia Rio

AUSTIN, Texas — Kia continues to make a statement at each of its new car launches; be it a mid-sized sedan or a B-segment sub-compact. Here in Texas hill country Kia put its growing equity on the line with an all-new B-segment Rio three trim level hatch and sedan equipped with a 1.6-liter Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) four-cylinder engine with the option of either a six-speed manual transmission (LX only) or six-speed automatic.

2012 Kia Soul

AUSTIN, Texas — Three years ago Kia introduced an iconic little hatchback called the Soul that has now become the segment-leading compact crossover. For 2012 Soul has been refreshed and enhanced with new technologies, increased horsepower and if it’s possible, a more fun-to-drive demeanor. True to its funky ways Soul comes in three trim levels: Soul Base; Soul +; and Soul !.

2012 Toyota Camry

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In these times where cutting-edge styling seems to be in vogue, Toyota elected to play it safe with its all-new 2012 Camry; Camry has been the best-selling car in the U.S. for 12 of the past 13 years. The 2012 version is significantly improved in several areas, but will that be enough to keep it on top wrapped in plain brown paper?

2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK350

RALEIGH, N.C. — The 2012 SLK350 — the first offering in the sports car's third iteration — has entered the marketplace and comes with a new performance-strong 302-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. Other engines are on the way, but the new direct-injection V-6 gives the SLK a just-right performance persona.

2012 Mercedes-Benz C-250

KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine — Question: What’s the last thing you thought you’d ever see? A) a Unicorn; B) a Jewish delicatessen opening up in Tehran; C) the Chicago Cubs winning a World Series; or D) a Mercedes-Benz with a four-cylinder engine. If you answered anything but D you’re way off. Mercedes-Benz has always been associated with luxurious, performance automobiles — those that spend most of the time cruising the Autobahn at 135 mph (and slightly slower on North American freeways).