2015 Jeep Renegade

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Jeep's timing is impeccable, introducing its new Renegade just when the small SUV crossover segment is expected to grow by a whopping 80 percent over the next two years. To make matters even better for the Jeep brand, the Renegade hits the bullseye joining the subcompact SUV ranks with a capable and affordable vehicle for suburban living while giving hardcore Jeep enthusiasts on a budget a true off-road warrior.

Hyundai Sonata — Now with a more conservative stance

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

More than four years ago Hyundai answered the criticism that all mid-sized sedans look the same by stepping away from the stereotypical styling with the 2011 Sonata, a car so daringly different that it set a new tone for the design future of the popular segment. It was a smash hit not only for its good looks, but for its above-average performance, generous standard features, and improved build quality.

Volkswagen Passat 1.8T — Making a compelling case

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

For a spacious mid-sized family sedan with European feel and style it would be difficult to find a better product than the Volkswagen Passat. And usually when discussing the Passat, we recommend the company's outstanding diesel engine, which has been updated with 10 more horsepower for 2015. But these days we have reassessed that recommendation.

Kia Soul EV — Charging up the hamsters

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

Kia picked the perfect vehicle for its first electric car effort and surely the hamsters are dancing in the streets charged up by a jolt of electricity. The second-generation Kia Soul was introduced for the 2014 model year loaded with style and character and it's now the company's second-best seller. So it seems a no-brainer to turn the hip urban crossover into the company's first all-electric zero emissions vehicle.

2015 Chevrolet Trax

SAN DIEGO — Asked about the reasoning behind the launch of the Chevy Trax, chief engineer Al Manzour answered with refreshing honesty: “Originally, the Trax was scheduled to launch in 2012 just behind the Buick Encore, but it was delayed to see if the sales we thought were in this segment actually were there.”

Mercedes-Benz S550 is a tool for uncompromised travel

By Casey Williams

In a former life, I flew on company jets for trade shows and factor visits. There was nothing better than returning to the airport at the end of a long day, with many miles still ahead, and see the plane sitting on the tarmac with its strobes flashing, stairway down, and cabin aglow. You could envision those comfy leather chairs as the captain welcomed you aboard. It was like coming home.

BMW M4 Convertible — A droptop with attitude

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

The M4 replaces the M3 in the BMW lineup, with slightly increased size and sleeker styling, and it's definitely a worthy successor with potent twin-turbo inline six-cylinder power that effectively replaces the V8 (downsized to enhance gas mileage), and slot-car-like handling. BMW created the 4 Series for the 2014 model year and added the coupe and convertible M editions for 2015.

2015 Ram ProMaster City

AUSTIN, Texas — We started the morning on the streets of Austin, then moved onto the highways that ring the Texas capital city, and from there to a handling "test" track set up at Troublemaker Studios, a film production company. It gave us a good feel for the new 2015 Ram ProMaster City work van and how it could comfortably fit into the daily chores of such businesses as a floral delivery company or a plumbing repair shop.

Honda CR-V — Award-winning upgrades

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

We were astounded when we heard that the 2015 Honda CR-V had won Motor Trend's prestigious Sport Utility of the Year award because this was anything but an off-year for new crossovers and SUVs. A large group of vehicles, all-new for '15, provided fierce competition. We don't think it was unreasonable in expressing surprise that a vehicle undergoing a mid-cycle refresh copped the honor.

2015 Nissan Murano

NAPA, Calif. — When Nissan introduced its first crossover more than a decade ago it stormed into the market with a flashy, aerodynamic design penned in its North American studios. The 2003 Murano broke new styling ground with a rounded eye-catching appearance that looked ahead of its time. The design has aged well through two generations, but even with some significant updates, it is becoming dated.