First Drive: 2016 Scion iA and iM

As Scion introduced its new iA and iM models in Santa Monica, I was thrilled to be back in my SoCal stomping grounds to test these new vehicles on the beautiful mountain and canyon roads around the Malibu area. The winding roads and climbs would offer a perfect setting for our test drive, and we started off on a beautiful summer day by making our way North up PCH with spectacular views of the Pacific to our left.

The drive started with the all-new 2016 iA, the first sedan model ever offered by Scion. The iA grabs your attention right away with a bold and pronounced front grille. The sporty and aggressive lines of the front end of this entry-level compact sedan gives the impression of a more expensive model and will certainly appeal to buyers looking for a distinctive design.

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First Drive: 2016 Nissan Maxima

I’ve been waiting for this one for a while. Several decades ago the Nissan Maxima was one of the few sedans you would think of apart from the German cars when someone mentioned they really wanted a sport sedan. Fortunately for other car brands that has changed in the years since, but for Nissan it puts more pressure to get the new Maxima right in today’s more competitive environment.

The most recent generation Maximas weren’t bad but there wasn’t much that made the vehicles stand out. With the all-new 2016 Maxima we now have the eighth generation and Nissan appears to have another winner on its hands.

Exterior

It all starts with the exterior design, which you can see from the photos is impressive from all angles. I was curious as to what Nissan would do with the front grille of the Maxima after seeing the more cautious designs for the front of the Altima and the Sentra. Instead we see a more distinctive, unique and ambitious “V-Motion” front grille that’s similar to what we saw with the Rogue. At first I wasn’t sure if I liked it, but as our day went on it started to grow on me. It works with the rest of the vehicle which is beautifully designed and it fits the more aggressive image of the Maxima.

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Road Trip: 2016 Kia Sorento

Our friends at Kia offered us the opportunity to take the all-new 2016 Kia Sorento on a road trip and I gladly accepted, particularly when they explained the trip would be between NBA playoff games in Cleveland and Chicago!

Not only would we be able to enjoy the games, but we’d be traveling in style with the 240 horsepower, turbocharged 2.0L AWD version of the Sorento. It became clear right away when we headed to Chicago that we had an ideal road trip vehicle that offered the comfort and luxury you’d want on a long drive. (Read more about our road trip here.)

Exterior

I liked the previous generation Sorento, but the exterior styling has improved dramatically with the all-new generation introduced for the 2016 model year. It all starts with the aggressive and prominent front grille, narrower and longer headlights and eye-catching LED front fog lights. The result is a distinctive look from the front that sets the tone for the entire design.

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First Drive: 2015 Volkswagen Golf R

SAN DIEGO – The high-powered, low-volume 2015 Volkswagen Golf R could play a big role in getting the German automaker’s U.S. sales back on the good foot. That would mean more VWs rolling out of showroom doors.

Here’s the deal: the VW Golf recently was named Car of the Year by two very prestigious organizations. Now, the Volkswagen Golf R helps to fill out a lineup that includes the regular Golf, a performance version of that compact car, a diesel powered Golf and an electric Golf. A station wagon is on the way, but we came here to test drive the Golf R. It is the high-powered version of this car.

By the numbers, this Golf R has a 2.0 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine under the hood that makes292 horsepower and 280 pound feet of torque. It’s mated to a direct sequential gearing, read six-speed dual clutch, automatic transmission branded (DSG). This version goes on sale in the spring. It will be joined by a six-speed manual Golf R this summer that will be sold as a 2016 model; it will about $1,000 less than the automatic.

With the fast-shifting DSG, the Golf R can get to 60 mph from a standing start in a blistering 4.9 seconds and it has a top track speed of 155 mph. Because of low sales for the two-door Golf R in the past, the 2015 version will only be sold in this market as a four-door. Mileage is expected to be 23 mpg in the city, more than 30 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined.

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Car Review: 2015 Hyundai Sonata Sport 2.0T

I first drove the 2015 Hyundai Sonata last summer when the all-new design was introduced, and I noted then how much I liked the evolution of the Sonata design. The Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design language led to a more refined and upscale look for the Sonata that should help the vehicle stand out in the crowded mid-sized sedan market.

I recently had the opportunity to drive the new Sonata for a full week and this experience reinforced the positive impressions I had last summer. I tested the Sport 2.0T which features a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine that is optimized for lower-RPM drivability and produces 245 horsepower and 260 lb. ft. of torque. I pointed out in my original review that you could feel the difference driving the turbo over the standard 185 horsepower engine so I was happy to have the turbo for the week. It won’t blow you away with its performance but the consistent responsiveness made this an appealing every day vehicle.

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