First Drive

First Drive articles

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.

2018 BMW 550i XDrive



MIAMII — BMW — which is much easier to remember than“Bayerische Motoren Werke” AG, or in English, “Bavarian Motor Works” — has championed the slogan “The  Ultimate Driving Machine” since the 1970s, and it doesn’t take a long time behind the wheel of just about any of its models to see that that is no idle boast. Though I haven’t had the opportunity to drive every one of its offerings, I have never been disappointed by the performance of any of those I have.

2018 Honda Civic Type R



PHOENIX — The Honda Civic is one of the most popular, affordable, reliable and best resale value cars one could hope to purchase. It’s also one of the most staid, sedate and uninspiring vehicles one could drive. Even Honda acknowledged that Civic had grown boring and placid over the years.

2018 Jeep Wrangler



TUCSON, Ariz. — One could easily argue that the Jeep Wrangler is the most instantly recognized vehicle in the world. Even my three-year old grandson would excitedly call out “Jeep, Papa! look!” whenever he saw one. Born in 1941 as the Willy’s Overland MB, it was specifically tailored to Army specifications for the Allied soldiers in World War II. Most were sent to soldiers in England and Russia under the Lend-Lease program.