Toyota’s one of the world’s biggest automakers, but not all of its models are headline-grabbers. We hear lots about the Camry, Prius, Corolla, even the Highlander -- but the name Avalon isn’t often uttered.
For those of you who may not know, the Avalon is Toyota’s full-size sedan offering -- debuting over 20 years ago in the early 1990s and still kicking to this today. This segment has been diminished in stature in recent years with the rise of SUVs as the primary family vehicle choice, but the Avalon has persevered.
- Vehicle: 2015 Toyota Avalon hybrid
- Price as tested: $38,455
- Best feature: Quiet ride, goes far on a tank of gas
- Rating: 4 out of five stars
- Who will want this vehicle?: Folks looking for a large sedan who want strong fuel mileage too
In today’s alphabet soup of car-naming schemes (with so many vehicles named along the lines of GSQXES352ISA56), most vehicles don’t end up with their name embedded in the mind of the average car buyer. Most of today’s rides will never be iconic and enduring for decades to come.
But some names from long ago still endure today -- and here in the good old U.S. of A., few vehicles are more beloved than the Mustang -- Ford’s gem of a ride that has been part of our country and pop culture for exactly half a century.
The name and image on the car tell the story -- a Mustang is a fast pony, always has been and always will be. I recently spent some time behind the wheel of the latest iteration of the Mustang, and I’m back with my impressions of driving this iconic vehicle.
- Vehicle: 2015 Ford Mustang GT Coupe
- Price as tested: $44,480
- Best feature: Distinct and attractive muscle-car design, 5.0-liter V8 engine option
- Rating: 4.5 out of five stars
- Who will want this vehicle?: Fans of good-old American muscle who want to turn heads as they are driving around this summer
Most big automakers have one brand where they can experiment and have a bit of fun.
For BMW, that brand is MINI. In contrast to the luxurious and top-of-the-line offerings from the main brand, the MINI lineup is the definition of a niche product. The brand offers mostly very small vehicles, with different shapes and paint jobs. They are not expected to be huge sellers, just a small part of the company’s overall bottom line.
Still, you do want to have enough sales to justify your effort, so the MINI lineup is constantly changing, adding different versions to attract new clientele.
I recently tested out one of the MINI models -- a 2015 MINI Cooper S Hardtop 4-door -- and I’m back with a full report on my experience on my time in this little ride.
- Vehicle: 2015 MINI Cooper S Hardtop 4-door
- Price as tested: $35,900
- Best feature: Zippy engine gets you moving fast
- Rating: 3 out of five stars
- Who will want this vehicle?: Young people and short adults who want a fun and speedy vehicle that’s got a truly unique exterior look; but it’s definitely not a family ride
Diesel engines are a path most automakers in the U.S. car market tend to avoid.
Sure, there are some diesel options, but the vast majority of automakers steer clear other than an occasional model -- with one notable exception. The very European lineups at Volkswagen and Audi have no fear of the diesel; and offer a large number of vehicles with diesel options here in the U.S.
I recently tested one of those optoins, the 2015 Audi A3 TDI, and I’m back with a full report on my experience.
- Vehicle: 2015 Audi A3 TDI sedan
- Price as tested: Base price: $32,600 Price as tested: $43,295
- Best feature: Excellent mileage, minimalist but attractive design
- Rating: Four out of five stars
- Who will want this vehicle?: Luxury car buyers seeking Audi excellence combined with strong mileage
Owning a Mercedes is a goal of many upwardly bound car buyers; the name has a certain buzz around it and it’s associated with elegance and quality.
But is that buzz justified or just hype?
I spent some time recently in a 2015 Mercedes C-class sedan, which underwent a major redesign for this model year, and I’m back with a full report on whether this Mercedes offering lives up to its brand’s lofty name.
- Vehicle: 2015 Mercedes-Benz C-class sedan
- Price as tested: Base price: $40,400 Price as tested: $52,295
- Best feature: Stylish design inside and out; smooth ride
- Rating: 4.5 out of five stars
- Who will want this vehicle?: Luxury sedan buyers looking for a high-end vehicle that lives up to its reputation and offers some cool new tech features
Luxury vehicles come in all shapes and sizes, from speedy little 2-seat sports cars to rare ultra-luxe imports that only sultans and kings can afford.
Toward the upper end of what I’d consider vehicles the average affluent person can afford is the full-size luxury sedan category -- These vehicles have starting prices in the $60K to $80K range, and with added packages some of them can jump over the $100,000 mark.
But for that price, what are you getting?
I recently drove one of the strongest entries in this category -- a diesel-powered version of the 2015 Audi A8 L sedan -- and I’m back with a full report. Quick hint: There’s a lot to like.
- Vehicle: 2015 Audi A8 L TDI
- Price as tested: Base price: $85,100 Price as tested: $98,575
- Best feature: Luxurious interior design, high-end tech features
- Rating: 5 out of five stars
- Who will want this vehicle?: Buyers who want a sharp exterior look, sharp interior, strong mpg and sharp ride in a full-size luxury sedan
Even with relatively lower gas prices recently, people still like to keep their money in their pockets and out of the hands of oil barons, so compact cars will always be popular to some extent unless gas suddenly becomes free.
That’s where vehicles like the Toyota Corolla come into play. They’re bigger than tiny rides like a smart car or those baby Scions that look like golf carts, but still smaller than the midsize vehicle that dominate the market (think Camry, Fusion, Accord). It’s a sweet spot for many car buyers who want some room but don’t need a lot, and the under-$20K pricetags are enticing.
- Vehicle: 2015 Toyota Corolla
- Price as tested: Base price: $16,950 Price as tested: $20,895
- Best feature: Affordable price, exterior and interior design
- Rating: 3.5 out of five stars
- Who will want this vehicle?: Compact car buyers on a budget who seek a spacious ride and are not focused on power
When you’re battling established names in the automobile business, it can be tough sledding. You’ve got to come out with guns blazing, with a strong vehicle with impressive specs and performance that can battle those giants without fear.
That’s what Mazda is aiming to do in the midsize sedan market, as its new 2016 Mazda6 aims to shoot down some of the biggest vehicle nameplates in the business with its looks and performance and overall driving experience.
I recently spent some time in a 2016 Mazda6, and I’m back with a full report on what the vehicle has to offer and if it’s up to the task.
- Vehicle: 2016 Mazda6 Touring model
- Price as tested: Base price: $24,995 Price as tested: $29,315
- Best feature: Great gas mileage, good price, in-car tech system among the best in the business
- Rating: Four out of five stars
- Who will want this vehicle?: Folks looking for an affordable midsize sedan with decent speed and a strong design
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