Scion FR-S — A common man's Porsche

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

During time spent behind the wheel of the new Scion FR-S sports car it occurred to us that this delightful little road carver could live with a Porsche badge as an entry-level version of the Cayman. Call it Cayman light.

At the risk of being taken to the woodshed by Porsche fans, the lightweight FR-S — which is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder Subaru-derived boxer engine — is the kind of smile-inducing product that the Germans might build if their proclivity suddenly turned to products selling for under 30 grand, that is if Porsche were to build a sports car for the common man.

2013 Chevrolet Spark

SAN FRANCISCO — Chevy sure hit the nail on the head when it named its first mini car for the U.S. and Canadian markets the Spark. That’s just what it is — a spark plug of energy and driving experience. It’s a sporty four-passenger, five-door hatch and it is the perfect vehicle for city dwellers and first-time buyers.

Subaru Legacy — Now with 'EyeSight'

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

We are fans of "trickle down" when it comes to automobiles. New, cutting-edge technologies are usually first used in high-dollar luxury vehicles before eventually "trickling down" to more affordable mainstream cars. So we were delighted when we recently discovered that one of our favorite 21st Century innovations, adaptive cruise control, has trickled down to the 2013 Subaru Legacy.

2013 Ford Fusion

LOS ANGELES — When we got our first look at the 2013 Ford Fusion at the Detroit auto show last January we were astounded. What a great-looking mid-sized sedan. Since than it has received rave reviews from the automotive press.This is the bold styling that has been lacking at Toyota and Honda. But, we thought, will this turn out to be just a fancy new wrapper for the same old contents?

Ford Flex — An elegant people hauler with muscle

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

It's a big box that defies the current styling fashion of form over function. The Ford Flex squeezes the most out of its size, one of the most family-friendly vehicles on the highway today. No sloping roof that steals head room and cargo space, just a lot of cubic feet for people and belongings.

But there's more. There's a fox lurking under this sheep's clothing if you purchase the top-of-the-line Limited edition and check off the box for the optional twin-turbocharged EcoBoost V-6. The family hauler can be turned into a screaming stoplight juggernaut that can surprise an unwary motorist.

Ram 1500 — Taking the pickup to a new level

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Ram has taken a big step in advancing its half-ton pickup with an all-new 2013 edition that sets the bar for comfort and refinement while elevating performance, gas mileage and technology.

The new truck, which enters showrooms late this year with a full lineup of sizes and trim levels, gets the award-winning Pentastar 3.6-liter engine as standard equipment mated to a segment-first eight-speed automatic transmission. For those pickup buyers desiring more performance and more towing capability, the brawny 5.7-liter V-8 Hemi is back with more muscle at 395 horsepower, greater fuel efficiency and the new eight-speed automatic, a huge improvement from the standard four-speed found on the previous Ram.

Lexus GS 350 — No bad cars, but some better cars

By Al Vinikour

There’s a common belief that anymore there’s no such thing as a “bad car.” I tend to agree. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t “better cars” and lately I’ve put a fair amount of miles on one of the best — a 2013 Lexus GS 350.

2013 Honda Accord

YPSILANTI, Mich. — The common belief is “the third time’s the charm.” If that’s the case imagine how charming the 2013 Honda Accord must be, being the ninth generation of this venerable nameplate. Accord is the single most important car in the Honda lineup so getting it right isn’t just a goal; it’s an imperative. Furthermore, Honda is celebrating the 30th anniversary of building Accords in Ohio.

Audi allroad — Life between an SUV and wagon

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

While luxury wagons are popular in Europe, they are hard to find in U.S. showrooms. There's a reason for this paucity of cargo-capable sheetmetal — they simply aren't on the shopping list of North America consumers.

U.S. buyers want their upscale cargo hauler to fall into the sport utility crossover segment, the wagon moniker is verboten. For this reason Audi pulled the A6 Avant (Audi-speak for wagon) from showrooms after the 2011 model year and will discontinue the A4 Avant following the 2012 model year.

2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid

LOS ANGELES — Ford invited comparison to the larger Prius V during an evaluation of its all-new-to-the- U.S. 2013 C-Max Hybrid, a station-wagon-like vehicle about the size of a Ford Focus. The C-Max is popular in Europe where it lives in the fuel-efficient and cargo-friendly multi-purpose vehicle segment.
Ford thinks Americans are ready for such a vehicle, especially one that is EPA-rated at 47 mpg highway, 47 mpg city and (of course) 47 mpg combined.