Category - Speed Reads

Thrifty Thrust — Lexus CT200h vs. Kia Optima Hybrid vs. Infiniti M35h

Photos courtesy of Infiniti, Lexus and Kia media relations.

It’s hard to believe that more than ten years have passed since the introduction of the Prius–a car which either revolutionized the vehicular landscape for the better or, alternatively, represented the beginning of the end for automotive enthusiasm, depending on who you ask. Over the past decade, hybrids have made their way into just about every segment, and while production hybrid sports cars aren’t quite here yet, several manufacturers have tested the waters of marketing hybrid vehicles to the enthusiast crowd. Honda did it first with the Accord Hybrid back in 2005, if you’ll recall, and the result wasn’t pretty. While very few critics disliked it, it was outwardly identical to regular Accord, and boasted a heavier, more complicated, more expensive powertrain that returned only marginally better gas mileage than the V6 on which it was based. Oh, and the engine interacted with the stereo. That was kind of a big deal back then, though if you lurk on any BMW-friendly message boards, you know it’s still kind of a big deal now.

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Driven: 2012 Ford Focus Hatchback

My girlfriend had a Tercel. Well, I say “girlfriend,” but she wasn’t my girlfriend at the time. It was a white coupe, a 1996, if I remember correctly. One thing I know for certain: like all of her cars, it lasted exactly 130 thousand miles before rendering itself stationary in an inconvenient location. This time, it was the parking lot in front of the redbrick strip mall where she worked as a general purpose college-chick grunt in fairly successful party supply store. At quittin’ time, she found that her trusty Toyota had quit as well. I, her car-savvy friend, got the call.

The diagnosis: Transmission… something. Car savvy though I was, I didn’t have the hands-on knowledge of broken and misbehaving automobiles that I have today. As busy as she was in a town which expanded outward rather than upward, being carless even temporarily was a depressing prospect, and like most college students, she was comfortable self-medicating. “Byron’s here,” she told her dad on the phone. “He’s going to get me drunk.”

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Speed Read: 2012 Kia Sorento SX

Photos courtesy of Kia Motors America

I’ve dedicated a lot of blog space and thought to Kia and Hyundai over the last couple of years. It occurred to me while retrieving those stories that it?s unusual for me to cover a single Korean vehicle in a review?a failing that I intend to make up for.

This is not the first time I?ve driven a Sorento, but it is the first time I?ve dedicated a review to it, and that?s not really fair. For one thing, the Sorento is a good car, easily as good as the Journey that I referred to in my Genesis Coupe story above. But more than that, driving a Sorento convinced me that Kia was the real deal.

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Second Look Speed Read: Nissan 370Z

As you may recall, I took a look at Nissan’s latest two-seater back in December of 2009. My snowbound adventures in the 370Z made for great pictures, but not the best driving impressions. Fortunately, Nissan has seen fit to refresh the press fleet this year with a spanking-new collection of 370Zs, and I was able to talk my way into this Solid Red Coupe Sport for a fresh look.

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Speed Read: 2012 Fiat 500 Cabrio

Stock photos courtesy of Chrysler Group Media Relations

Back in January, we brought you a first drive of the 2012 Fiat 500, which we found to be a respectable cute-commuter entry in the subcompact market. Since then, Fiat’s studios (their word for dealerships) have been popping up left and right, and to further augment their product lineup after a 27-year hiatus in the United States, they’ve brought out their first Cinquecento variant, the Cabrio–or in Fiat’s own shorthand, the 500c.

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Hittin’ the Trails: 2011 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited

Photos by Zerin Dube, Video by Tim Goldmann, Stunt Driving by Mike Frismanis

It should come as no surprise to long time S:S:L readers that the Jeep Wrangler has quickly become one of our favorite vehicles of any type to drive around in. Whether we’re hitting the trails of Texas, or off-roading the middle of the Pacific, there is simple no other vehicle on the road that delivers the feeling of freedom the way the Jeep Wrangler does. With its iconic styling and rugged off-road capabilities, there just isn’t a better feeling cruising with the windows down and top off in a Wrangler.

For 2011, Jeep has taken the Wrangler upscale by making several small but significant changes to make the driving experience even better than before. Of course, here at S:S:L we are skeptical of any changes a manufacturer makes to “improve the driving experience” because many times this translates to the edge being taken off for the sake of comfort and luxury.

To make sure that Jeep didn’t lose their way by adding all these niceties to the Wrangler, we got our hands on a 2011 Jeep Wrangler Sahara Unlimited and headed out to our favorite off-road proving grounds at Creekside Edge Off-Road Park.

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