Auto Drive

Three new full-size sedans liven up the marketplace

2017 Genesis G80 -- cropped for webThe 2017 Genesis G80 is the new name for the Hyundai Genesis.          COURTESY PHOTO  

It's become vogue in automotive journalism to declare that the sedan – a bedrock of the automotive marketplace – as a dying breed in the face of roomier, more versatile crossovers. First to go, pundits contend, are the full-size four-doors.

But if you are looking for a big comfortable sedan, your options these days are better than ever, as recent tests of three leading contenders in this class suggest. The freshly rebranded Genesis G80 and the newly redesigned Buick LaCrosse and Kia Cadenza effectively use their extra size both to flaunt their styling and to improve their interior space. And all have the sophisticated interior quality, long list of available features, and quiet ride that you'd expect of a luxury car – though it would be hard to expect otherwise at these sedans' price points.


Hyundai's Elantra, Sonata see great benefit from 'Eco' treatment

2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco -- cropped for webThe 2017 Hyundai Elantra Eco is a sensible, affordable compact sedan that competes well with the Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. COURTESY PHOTO  

On many cars, you have to buy a lot of luxury features if you want to get the best engine. Curiously, though, Hyundai has taken nearly the opposite approach with its Elantra compact sedan and Sonata midsize sedan.

On both of those popular models, few buyers will get a chance to purchase the engine that's the best blend of acceleration, refinement and fuel efficiency. Hyundai has limited the turbocharged 1.4-liter and 1.6-liter engines to the Elantra Eco and Sonata Eco models, respectively, and doesn't offer those trims with such niceties as leather upholstery or a sunroof, or advanced safety features such as automatic emergency braking.


Reviews of the 2017 Buick Envision and Honda Accord

Buick's premium crossover isn't Mercedes-grade

2017 Buick Envision -- cropped for webThe 2017 Buick Envision is a compact crossover that's more luxurious than it looks. COURTESY PHOTO  

At first glance, the new Buick Envision doesn't look particularly notable. This compact crossover blends quietly into traffic, without dramatic styling cues or a badge that screams luxury.

But there's more to it than meets the eye. The Envision, first introduced as a 2016 model, boasts a posh, feature-laden interior and wears a price tag that starts at $34,990 and can surpass $50,000. And it's notable as the first model line to be fully imported to the U.S. from a factory in China.


Reviews of the Subaru Impreza and Acura MDX

Compact Subaru edges toward mainstream appeal

2017 Subaru Impreza -- cropped for webThe redesigned 2017 Subaru Impreza doesn't have dramatic styling but it has significant improvements under the skin. COURTESY PHOTO  

Subaru has often played in the fringes of the passenger-car market, with its most popular vehicles being the Forester and Outback crossovers. But the company's long-running Impreza compact car just saw a redesign for 2017, bringing this vehicle more in line with competitors' in-car technology, fuel efficiency and overall refinement – while retaining the existing qualities of a roomy interior, excellent safety record and class-exclusive all-wheel-drive system.


Auto Drive: Reviews of the Honda CR-V and the Lexus RC 200t

Redesigned CR-V is the crossover that does it all

2017 Honda CR-V -- cropped for webThe redesigned 2017 Honda CR-V is a marked improvement over an already excellent compact crossover. COURTESY PHOTO  

As crossovers grow in popularity, they've begun to outsell sedans as some automakers' highest-volume vehicles. It's understandable – these vehicles blend the everyday comfort and fuel economy of a car with the versatility and high seating position of an SUV. 


Reviews of the Acura ILX and Mazda MX-5 Miata

Acura's premium compact sedan misses the luxury mark

2017 Acura ILX -- cropped for webThe 2017 Acura ILX offers a premium badge at an affordable price – but the humdrum experience isn't worth the money. COURTESY PHOTO  

Ever since Acura started trying to turn the Honda Civic into a luxury sedan back in 2013, the idea had potential. The Civic had solid bones, as a roomy and pleasant-to-drive little car; all Acura needed to add was more upscale styling, a fancier interior, more features and a more powerful engine.


Reviews of the GMC Acadia and Toyota Yaris iA

GMC's big crossover sheds bulk during redesign

2017 GMC Acadia Denali -- cropped for webThe redesigned 2017 GMC Acadia Denali gives up its predecessor's massive interior volume in favor of superior handling, fuel efficiency and maneuverability. COURTESY PHOTO 

Until recently, shoppers seeking a General Motors crossover with three rows of seats had relatively limited options. GM did offer three such models – the Buick Enclave, Chevrolet Traverse and GMC Acadia – but the trio was mechanically identical under the skin. And notably, all three were notably bigger than such popular competitors as the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander.

But with the redesigned 2017 Acadia, GM is now covering a broader swath of the market. The Acadia is now smaller and lighter – sized more like those competitors – and, consequently, more agile, maneuverable and fuel-efficient. Meanwhile, a redesigned 2018 Traverse that was unveiled this month continues to be bigger, heavier and more spacious.


Reviews of the BMW 330e and Kia Forte

Plug-in BMW sedan offers a taste of electricity with few compromises

2016 BMW 330e -- cropped for webOnly the charging port on its front fender reveals that the BMW 330e runs partially on electric power. COURTESY PHOTO  

Think of eco-friendly cars, and the BMW 3 Series sports sedan probably isn't the first thing to come to mind. But for 2016, BMW added a plug-in hybrid version to that lineup – the 330e, which promises 14 miles of all-electric range before operating like an ordinary 320i. You get those miles by plugging the car into a wall outlet; the battery can also recharge at times the gas engine is running.

To be sure, that range pales in comparison to a pure electric vehicle, including BMW's own i3 hatchback (118 miles); the popular Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid (53 miles); or even the roomy Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid midsize sedan (21 miles). But the 330e stands out for bringing gas-saving qualities to a vehicle renowned for its outstanding driving enjoyment.


Modern Jeeps haven't abandoned off-road heritage

2016 Jeep Cherokee -- cropped for webThe 2016 Jeep Cherokee is a compromise between the everyday comfort of a crossover and the all-out off-road ability of a traditional Jeep. COURTESY PHOTO  

During a recent test of a 2016 Jeep Cherokee, a passenger remarked that it wasn't what she pictured when she thought of the brand. Indeed, from the vertical slats on the grille, there isn't much resemblance between the Cherokee and the World War II military vehicle that birthed today's Chrysler-owned SUV brand.

This Cherokee was the official 75th Anniversary Edition – “Since 1941” is printed on the steering wheel, and profile views of vintage military Jeeps adorn badges on the front doors. But otherwise, from looking at this vehicle, could be any of the many modern crossovers that are popular today for merging SUV-like style with the everyday comfort and convenience of a station wagon.


Reviews of the Hyundai Santa Fe and Lexus GS

 With updated crossover, Hyundai bobbled shot at being a class leader

2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate -- cropped for webWhile no longer one of the best big crossovers, the 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Ultimate offers three rows of seats without feeling big and bulky. COURTESY PHOTO

When it first came out as a 2013 model, the current generation of the Hyundai Santa Fe was a breath of fresh air compared to most of its competitors: a big crossover with three rows of seats that felt like a much smaller vehicle from behind the wheel.

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