CAR REVIEWS

The 2017 Dodge Charger maintains a classic muscle car look unlike anything else on the road today, a rarity in the modern cookie-cutter car world.

I recently read a news story about a person arrested after leading police on a chase that including him going roughly 150 mph -- He was driving a Dodge Charger.

Not that you should do that, unless you like jail, but it’s a testament to what this brand is about; speed and power.

Even on the lower ends of their spectrum, Dodge’s vehicles stand out. I recently tested a more pedestrian version of the Charger (SXT model with just 292 horsepower, as opposed to the optional 707 horsepower Hellcat version) and I’m back with a full report (and no, I didn’t try to hit triple digits, though I’m sure it would have been a blast).

 

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2017 Dodge Charger SXT
  • Price as tested: $36,165
  • Best feature: That patented Dodge power, roomy interior
  • Rating: 3.5 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Those seeking a powerful ride, within reason, and still want to tote the family around
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The 2017 Chevy Bolt and its estimated 238 mile top range are a sign of the future for EVs

The future is now. That’s how General Motors sees things, at least.

Having announced this month a move toward a future heavy with electric vehicles (aka EVs), and an estimated 20 new General Motors EV models promised by 2023, GM (and other automakers) are banking on this being the way we travel in the future. The biggest brand in the Motor City sees a future not of loud hot rod engines, but of quietly humming EVs.|

I was able to spend some time in the brand new Chevy Bolt EV this month, and it’s not a stretch to call this vehicle GM’s biggest news in decades. I have driven many EVs in recent years, and the Bolt was arguably the best experience I’ve had in one -- mainly because due to its very impressive 238-mile maximum electric range. I never once had even a thought of “range anxiety,” the issue that has plagued previous EV models and limited their success.

My initial thoughts on the Bolt were that it’s an awesome leap for GM to put out those kind of numbers. This puts other EVs to shame (outside of a pair of overpriced Tesla models that beat the Bolt’s numbers), and has drawn some eyes to GM who normally would not look at the brand.

Built in Michigan at GM’s Orion Township plant, the Bolt ditches the gas backup engine you’ll find on the Chevy Volt (essentially rendering the Volt obselete), and despite being a true EV it actually drives like something pretty close to a normal car. The Bolt offers 200 horsepower from the electric motor, and features a 60-kWh battery pack. Regenerative braking charges the battery, so it’s most efficient in stop-and-go traffic.

Read on for my full take on the Bolt EV, and the future of EVs in general.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2017 Chevy Bolt EV
  • Price as tested: Starts at $37,495 ($29,995 after tax credit)
  • Best feature: Best extended range on an affordable pure-electric vehicle
  • Rating: 4.5 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Those who want to make the jump to full EVs and were waiting for some proper range
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The Lexus Hybrid Drive system provides an impressive driving experience in the 2017 Lexus ES 300h.

In this age of full-on plug-in EVs with extended range and autonomous cars edging closer to reality, talking about hybrids seems almost old-school. But there was a time when this technology was the one being hotly debated. Think back to when the Prius first came around two decades back and some people wondered if it would survive.

Nowadays, hybrids are accepted with little discussion, and recognized as one more option for the eco-friendly crowd or for those who just don’t like stopping to get gas (or paying for it.).

Most automakers now offer some hybrids, and a few reside in the luxury realm inhabited by Lexus.

That’s where my test vehicle, the 2017 Lexus ES 300h, comes in. This sedan aims to provide not only strong fuel economy but also an enjoyable driving experience. It’s a smaller hybrid sedan, with limited direct competition in the segment, but does it deliver enough to get the attention it seeks?

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2017 Lexus ES 300h
  • Price as tested: $48,213 (starts at $41,820)
  • Best feature: Impressive performance for a hybrid; bold design
  • Rating: 3.5 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: People seeking a luxury hybrid that’s also fun to drive
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The 2017 Subaru Impreza's standard AWD is a claim nobody else in the compact car segment can make.

 

Sales numbers are important in the auto industry, but so are trends. And if you’re searching for a brand with an impressive track record over the past few decades, look no further than Subaru. The smaller brand has, with minor blips, been trending consistently upward -- especially in the past five years, and that’s due to a series of impressively redesigned vehicles and a reputation for safety.


Case in point: The 2017 Subaru Impreza, the brand’s redesigned compact car which comes in both sedan and hatchback models. I recently got to test the hatch, and one thing jumped out at me from the start -- standard All-wheel drive, something you just don’t see in the segment. Add to that the fact that this Impreza is being built in America (in Lafayette, Indiana) for the first time, and people’s ears are already perking up.

But when you are battling the likes of the Civic, Focus, Cruze, Corolla, Forte and more, you need a full package. So how does the Impreza measure up?

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2017 Subaru Impreza hatchback
  • Price as tested: $29,260 (base model starts at $18,395)
  • Best feature: Standard AWD; Subaru Eyesight safety features
  • Rating: 4 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Compact vehicle buyers who seek a safe and engaging ride, and standard AWD
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The 2017 Mazda6 is one of the most fun to drive offerings in the midsize sedan category.

If I were to say the words “midsize sedan”, there are probably some bigger names that would come to your mind than the Mazda6. But as Goliath once found out, bigger is not always better.

Having driven pretty much every midsize sedan on the roadways, from Camrys and Accords to Fusions and Malibus, I find they all have their strong points (reliability for some, design for others) but most of them can’t claim to be a vehicle that I could call truly enjoyable to drive. I can say that about the 2017 Mazda6t.

LOOKS

The Mazda6 seats five passengers comfortably -- two in front and three in the rear.

Its exterior isn’t what I’d call visually stunning, but I can say it’s among the better looking sedans in the class, including an understated but classy looking grille design.

Inside, the leather-trimmed seating in my test vehicle was quite high-end, better than I thought I would get in a Mazda, and heated seats were also included, along with a moonroof. The design of the tech setup was also very intuitive, but more on that later.

 

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2017 Mazda6
  • Price as tested: $34,530
  • Best feature: Sporty drive, high MPG
  • Rating: 4 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Midsize sedan buyers who are looking to enjoy their daily drive
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The 2017 Toyota Corolla iM features a sharp look that is sure to attract attention.

The death of the Scion brand in 2016 was greatly exaggerated. It didn’t really die -- several of its models simply joined the Toyota lineup under new names.


Case in point: The hatchback formerly known as the Scion iM is now a hatchback version of the Toyota Corolla called the Corolla iM. I recently got a chance to test a 2017 Corolla iM and I’m back with a full report on whether it was worth the effort to bring it on board.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2017 Toyota Corolla iM
  • Price as tested: $20,355 (starts at $18,750)
  • Best feature: Standout exterior design; storage space
  • Rating: 3.5 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Small car buyers who are looking for something with a sharper look and more storage than a sedan
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The bold front grille of the 2017 Lexus GS is part of its unique look.

Flair.

Personality.

Chutzpah.

 

Whatever you want to name it, any vehicle you put out in a luxury segment has to have it, if it’s going to put up a good fight.
With so much strong competition, even a company with as respected as name as Lexus has to always come with its A game and offer something different. That’s just reality when you’re battling Audi, BMW, Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz and others for every point of the luxury market share.

 

The segment at hand is the midsize luxury vehicles -- in which Lexus has offered the GS sedan to compete against heavyweights like the Audi A6, BMW 5-series and more.
And how do they do it? By being different of course. I tested out a 2017 Lexus GS 200t recently and here’s a full report on how it measures up.

 

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2017 Lexus GS 200t
  • Price as tested: $52,295
  • Best feature: Smooth drive; stylish and bold look
  • Rating: 4 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: Luxury car buyers who prefer Lexus’ bold design approach
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The trend of massive tablet as center console screen continues in the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime.

So you’re the Toyota Prius, the most well-known and successful hybrid car ever made and you want to take it to that next step.

What do you do? Like Bob Dylan in the 60s, you go electric and announce the 2017 Toyota Prius Prime.

Now to be fair, there was already a plug-in Prius, but this new version doubles the battery size and allows for a longer electric-only ride. How much longer? Stay tuned. As that’s the key to whether this will be a vehicle people want to pick up.

Additional Info

  • Vehicle: 2017 Toyota Prius Prime
  • Price as tested: $33,985
  • Best feature: Its ability to avoid the gas station
  • Rating: 3.5 out of five stars
  • Who will want this vehicle?: People with short commutes who can take advantage of the limited electric-only range (and who prefer Toyota over Chevy)
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