Chevrolet Silverado — Solid improvement

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Our first look at the all-new Chevrolet Silverado full-sized pickup came last December when it was unveiled to the press a few weeks before the Detroit Auto Show. At first glance, it appeared devoid of styling changes. And then the announcement that it would be powered by a 4.3-liter V-6 or a 5.3-liter or 6.2-liter V-8, the same engine displacements that have been found under the hood for years. It left us wondering, "what was General Motors thinking?"

2014 Infiniti QX60

GOLDSBORO, N.C. — After just one year on the market the stylish and good-selling seven-passenger Infiniti JX35 crossover has been scrapped by Infiniti. It's gone from the 2014 lineup. The 2013 JX will become a one-year wonder, equivalent to music's one-hit wonders.

2014 Toyota 4Runner

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — Nearly all of the truck-like body-on-frame sport utilities have been transformed into unibody crossovers, which is great for getting to soccer practice, but what about the rock climbers? The mud boggers? The mountain men (and women)? In other words, what’s left for the real adventurers?

Jeep Patriot — Small crossover with iconic Jeep style

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The Jeep Patriot has a charm about it, an endearing quality that gives it an appealing demeanor despite some shortcomings. We like the rugged iconic sport utility stance with a hood that sits out front in the driver's view — its upright Jeep grille from the past; its large round "Jeep" eyeball lights; its good seating position behind a back-to-basics dashboard layout that proved a rather delightful break from the electronic complexity of modern switchgear and "infotainment" systems; and its maneuverability with a tidy 35.6-foot turning circle.

Nissan Versa Note — Room for a family

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Nissan introduced its new Versa sedan nearly two years ago and since then it has become the best-selling subcompact in the country. Now the hatchback version, which is now tagged around the world as the Versa Note, has the makings of becoming a best seller in North America.

2014 Toyota Tundra

JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — Bear with me, here. Do you remember when Charlie Bucket went on the tour of Willy Wonka’s amazing chocolate factory? Remember all the choices and options there were? Lickable, flavored wall paper. Everlasting Gobstoppers. Chewing gum that packed a 3-course meal into one delicious treat.

Chevrolet Cruze Diesel — High efficiency

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Diesel engines have become more powerful, more refined and more fuel efficient, yet the number of diesel-powered cars in the U.S. remain almost non-existent. People who want the advantages of a diesel engine in their family vehicle have turned to Volkswagen, which for years has held a virtual monopoly on the affordable diesel-car market.

Acura MDX — Moving forward

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

While Acura trimmed some significant weight from the latest version of its best-selling MDX crossover it also cut horsepower and subtly advanced the design. This may sound like playing it too safe with the all-new third-generation, but we discovered that Acura actually took a solid step forward. The proof is in the details — and the driving.

Jeep Grand Cherokee — A sport utility for all seasons

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The exterior has been refreshed, but there’s no mistaking the 2014 model as a Jeep Grand Cherokee. While the basic body structure and sheet metal is retained from 2013 on closer inspection you will discover handsome new front-and-rear treatments that include new headlights, taillights, grille and bumper covers.

2014 Fiat 500L

BALTIMORE — We've spent time with two Fiat 500 models on home turf over the past two years and our usual small crowd of "what are you driving now?" folks were enthralled by the two-door mini hatchback, never having seen one or ridden in one. Both times the 500 "won" over people whose previous knowledge of Fiat was limited to "they aren't very good cars, are they?"