Coupe exterior photograph courtesy of Hyundai. All other photos by the author.
Our last write-up of the current Hyundai Elantra was one of current SSL associate John Kucek’s earliest reviews. Written to a specific purpose, that series evaluated the then-new Elantra and Ford Focus to see which got the best mileage in a controlled loop (and, secondarily, to see how closely their real-world mileage matched that which was suggested by the EPA). A lot of water has flowed under that particular bridge since those articles were posted, and in the intervening time Hyundai has also introduced two new models to the Elantra lineup. For this piece, we’ll take a look at the Elantra Coupe and GT to see if these quirkier variants add any charm to Hyundai’s efficient and reliable workhorse.
When I first drove the 2013 CX-5 last year, I found it pleasant if a bit underpowered. That should come as no surprise. The original two-liter SKYACTIV gas engine was only good for 155hp and similar torque numbers. For 2014, Mazda has added a 2.5-liter SKY engine as an upgrade on the Touring and Grand Touring trims. At 184hp and 185lb-ft of Torque, this new mill makes the CX-5 power-competitive with the other non-turbocharged offerings within the class. It’s still not the clear leader in sheer grunt, but it brings enough hustle to keep it in the running in a class topped off by 250-horsepower Escapes and Sportages.
Thirty thousand units: it would represent a fantastic month for the Ford Fusion or Nissan Altima, but Mazda isn’t thinking in terms of months. That is the year-end sales goal for the 2014 Mazda6. Mazda sold 42,000 CX-5s in 2012—its abbreviated launch year—and more than 120,000 Mazda3s, but the number crunchers in Irvine are aiming for just 1.5% of what I’ve called the most important segment of the U.S. auto market, and one that represents more than two million sales in the United States each year.
Many will point to Alan Mulally and the “mortgage years” as the period during which Ford initiated its product renaissance. In my opinion, it started years before that—1998, to be exact—with the debut of the Mk1 Focus. The replacement for the decent-but-not-great Escort, the Focus charmed the automotive press, offering sophistication and refinement that had previously been exclusive to more expensive compact offerings. Volkswagen, at the time still building Jettas and Golfs on a chassis featuring a twist-beam rear suspension, took notice too, and decided to hire away some Ford suspension engineers to help them develop the rear multi-link setup found on Mk5 and newer compact Vee-Dubs.
In the U.S., those who normally disparaged anything domestic went to great lengths to downplay the excellent compact’s European heritage. “Just another F.O.R.D.,” they’d say. “Yeah, it has a neat suspension. So does the Neon.”
For the past few model cycles, Lexus has made a push to revitalize its image with enthusiast shoppers. Like the folks at Cadillac, the Lexus marketing team likely sees sportiness as a means to attract affluent young buyers away from BMW and Audi. How effective that strategy is, I can’t really say, but if it means Lexus continues to build cars like the refreshed Lexus IS-F, then I think the real winner is the enthusiast buyer.
In this piece, we’re going to look at two flavors of the midsized Lexus: The GS350 F-Sport and the GS450h. If we’re going to evaluate the GS properly, we need to answer three big questions. First: In a vacuum, is it fun to drive? Second: Does it sacrifice luxury in the name of sporty driving? And third: How does it compare to its peers, specifically with its closest analog at Infiniti? Let’s get started.
Lead photo courtesy of Scion. Other photos by the author.
I’m writing this only six weeks after driving the FR-S, but it feels like it’s already years too late. Thanks to the wonders of Web 2.0, the FR-S was old before it even debuted. Like the Nissan GT-R and the new Chevy Camaro before it, Toyota and Subaru’s joint project came in riding a wave of hype that would shame a lot of west-coast beakers, fueled by daily speculation and rumor seeping out from the innumerable followers of thousands of automotive forums and outlets.