Lexus’s comfort-oriented, near-luxury cruiser – the ES – has passed through my hands on more than one occasion. In fact, I’ve sampled its every iteration – although to be fair, there are really only two: the ES350 and its hybridized sister, the ES300h. Refreshed for 2016 with a sharpened maw and more equipment, the ES350 nevertheless remains true to its principles of low-key, fuss-free transportation.
Tag - Audi
The two cars facing you on this page probably aren’t what you would describe as natural competitors. An Audi versus a Chevy? C’mon. Take a gander at their spec sheets, however, and you might be forced to change your mind – because these two line up almost identically not only in mechanical makeup, but sticker price as well. And the domestic more than holds its own against its trendier German competition.
2015 saw the true coming of age of the small crossover – a surprising number of them popped up almost overnight from various mainstream brands, suggesting that the development work required to bring one to market required little more than a stretch in roof height and a marketing team to name it. Premium marques certainly aren’t immune from the segment’s charms of quick showroom turnover and easy profits; indeed, the luxury “big four” of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus and Audi now each have small utility vehicles of their own filling dealer lots, most of them based on each brand’s entry level sedan offering (and Infiniti’s bowed just recently). We think a lot of the A3 and S3 sedans, which have a small footprint but carry themselves like Audi’s larger offerings. How convincing was the transition of the Q3 – based on the same platform – from sedan to crossover? Let’s find out.
I’ve been a fan of nearly every A3 model I’ve yet driven from Audi, from the entry-level 1.8-liter, front-driven A3 sedan to the range-topping S3 Quattro. The droptop version of Audi’s junior line finally found its way to my doorstep a few weeks ago, and though its cutesy looks might be received more favorably among the sorority house set than by the patronage of your average sports bar, it nonetheless holds some appeal in the sun-soaked state of Florida this writer calls home.
Car writers and hatchback aficionados have long extolled the many virtues of Volkswagen’s original GTI – its nimble chassis, willing powerplant, and generous helpings of practicality and value all conspired to make it a pleasure to live with on a daily basis. It formed the basis for the entire hot hatch genre, and numerous copycats owe VW a debt of gratitude for popularizing the segment. I learned of the GTI’s virtues first hand as a highschooler, when my father counted a 1998 Mk3 VR6 among our family’s stable. Ever since that car, though (and many would argue the heavy VR6 wasn’t all that representative of the original GTI ethos), the marque has had a bit of an uneven history. Depending on who you ask, nearly every generation save the original has had its share of detractors, though the “marks” ending in odd numbers do seem to be the most universally beloved. This Mk7 version should be in fairly good standing, then, right? Yep – this one’s definitely a winner.
Anyone – alright, any car nut – who’s travelled to Germany likely remembers their first time being greeted outside the airport or train station by a gleaming row of custard-colored Mercedes E-klasse. Nearly every one of them probably had a diesel engine ticking away, an interior outfitted with cloth seats and perhaps even plastic wheel covers, of all things. It’s a memorable image because for those who were raised in the US, Mercedes-Benz has a long-held image as being a builder solely of luxury cars. And luxury cars certainly don’t sit outside train stations with fare meters on the dash and surly cab drivers behind the wheel. Jarring and amusing in a single instant, it crystallizes the understanding for the travelling auto enthusiast that in Germany, Mercedes-Benz is simply a full-line car maker – churning out everything from vans to cabs to front-wheel drive economy cars.