Chrysler 200 — Becoming competitive

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The mid-sized sedan, one of the la
rgest and most profitable segments in North America has for years left Chrysler in the dust, its only entry, the aging and bland Sebring and the more recent 200. Non-competitive was an understatement.

To improve on the outgoing 200 was not even close to an adequate goal when Chrysler stylists and engineers began developing the new sedan. It needed to be competitive with such mainstream vehicles as the Nissan Altima, Honda Accord and Ford Fusion. To the rescue is an all-new 200 that is so much better in virtually every way than the outgoing model that comparison is an exercise in superfluity.

Volvo S60 Drive-E T6 — Oh, what a feeling

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

To say we were blindsided by Volvo's S60 Drive-E T6 is an apt description of our positive feelings after the first few miles. To steal a long-ago slogan from another car company, "oh, what a feeling." And to think this initial perception was not based on a horsepower-infused V-8 or a twin-turbocharged V-6, but on new four-cylinder engine technology that is just short of astounding.

2015 Honda Fit

SAN DIEGO — Honda hired a professional packer to demonstrate the interior size of its third-generation 2015 Fit at an event introducing the all-new subcompact hatchback. The packing theatrics provided auto writers with a few minutes of entertainment as she worked to shove and push and cajole five full-sized bean bag chairs into the cargo hold behind the rear seats.

2015 Audi A3 sedan

PALO ALTO, Calif. — It’s a natural tendency for each new generation of a car to be slightly larger than its predecessor. I was vividly reminded of that when I walked out of a store just a couple of weeks after the all-new 2015 Audi A3 sedan was introduced and saw one in the wild so to speak. Initially I thought it was an A4 before I recognized it as the new A3, the smallest car sold by Audi in the USA.

2015 Chrysler 200

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The big hole in Chrysler's lineup is the mid-sized sedan, which just happens to be one of the largest and most profitable segments in North America. Its only entry until now was an aging Chrysler 200 — formerly known as the Sebring — and the rather bland sedan has not been competitive in recent years.

Subaru WRX — A new take on high performance

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The sleek and useful five-door hatchback is gone and an optional continuously variable transmission has been added. At first blush this does not bode well for the all-new fourth generation 2015 Subaru WRX performance juggernaut. However, we believe the newest WRX, now in sedan format, is mighty good and it should please the hordes of speed-geek fans out there.

2015 Kia K900

NEWPORT COAST, Calif. — Escaping the mass market and still offering an exceptional value sounds like daunting task. Mixing luxury and value in an arena that houses basics is a challenge that could take years to overcome. These are the things facing Kia as they want to entice new customers to their showrooms; new customers that never thought, heard or cared about Kia.

2015 Chevy Suburban, Tahoe

SQUAW VALLEY, Calif. — There's a reason the Chevrolet Suburban has the distinction of being the longest continuous automotive nameplate in the world. Since the first model rolled into showrooms in 1934 as a 1935 model it has met the needs of Americans who desired a large station-wagon-like vehicle capable not only of hauling large families and their cargo, but doing it in a go-anywhere sport utility vehicle truck.

2015 Volvo 60 Series

LAS VEGAS — In many ways, Las Vegas was the perfect setting for the first drive of Volvo’s “60 Series” (XC60, V60, S60) vehicles. The weather was nearly 70 degrees (Fahrenheit) warmer than Detroit, which — like much of the mid-section of the country — was in the grips of the “Polar Vortex” that kept temps in the single digits. Visitors wandered about looking for entertainment and big returns on their bets. And underneath all of the glitter, something was missing.