First Drive: 2016 Lexus RX

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I was invited by Lexus to Charleston, South Carolina to test drive the redesigned RX crossover. The traditional and historic setting of Charleston offered an interesting contrast to the sleek and ultra-modern design of the new RX, and the vehicle offered a very comfortable and luxurious mode of transportation as we toured some of the historic sites around this iconic Southern city.

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Car Review – 2016 Lexus RC 350 F Sport

Lexus introduced the RC as its new luxury sport coupe last year and we tested the new RC 350 F Sport for the 2016 model year. This Lexus delivered an all areas, from design to performance and comfort.

Exterior

The exterior of the RC is bold yet elegant, though I probably wouldn’t choose the Molten Pearl color of our test model pictures above. The Lexus signature spindle grille dominates the overall design with LED headlamps and separate L-themed daytime running lamps. The F Sport package offers some nice upgrades with the 19-inch alloy wheels with a distinctive 10 twin-spoke layout to create a deeply sculptured shape. Check it out from all angles and you’ll see a beautiful vehicle that fits the sport coupe segment perfectly.

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First Drive: 2016 Kia Optima

Kia recently brought us out to beautiful Aspen, Colorado to test drive the all-new 2016 Kia Optima on some stunning mountain roads. This sunny landscape with the lovely fall leaves was a perfect setting for Kia to introduce the redesigned version of the most important vehicle in the Kia lineup. The Optima has been a big hit for Kia and sales continued to increase nicely this past year. Naturally, Kia’s goal is to build on the success of this sharp yet practical mid-size sedan which has become one of the staples in a crowded segment.

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Car Review: 2016 Scion FR-S

The Scion FR-S is one of three models in a series of sports cars developed jointly by Toyota and Subaru. It’s known as the Toyota 86 outside the US and as the Subaru BRZ worldwide. I had the FR-S for a week through some mild November weather and was pretty disappointed to give it up.

Exterior

I’m impressed with the understated design of the FR-S with its clean, aggressive lines. It’s not gaudy at all and the designers resisted any impulse to go overboard. The low stance and aerodynamic shape fit the FR-S perfectly and I like the front headlights as well. The car looks great from every angle.

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First Drive: 2016 Mazda CX-3

Mazda has introduced the CX-3 as an all-new nameplate to take advantage of the growing subcompact crossover segment and I had the chance to drive it on some demanding roads through the canyons north of Los Angeles. With Mazda you know the company will try to make every vehicle in its lineup fun to drive, and with the routes selected I suspected they were particularly proud of how the CX-3 would perform. The vehicle exceeded even those lofty expectations.

Exterior

The CX-3 is shorter and lower than Mazda’s best-selling CX-5 with a long front hood and large wheels. It’s a beautiful vehicle as you can see from the photos and is the fifth vehicle in the U.S. with Mazda’s KODO—Soul of Motion design language. The designers tried to create the look of pent up energy so the vehicle always looks like it’s moving forward. I also love the front end as the Mazda grille continues to evolve and the headlights make the vehicle look alive. It’s a much more aggressive and interesting look than the smiley face impression of some Mazda models of the past. The CX-3 comes with 16-inch wheels and the option for 18-inch wheels that contribute to the distinctive look. Overall the design of this vehicle gives Mazda an obvious hit even before you sit inside and then start driving.

Interior

What I remember most about the CX-3 interior is that the seats were very comfortable and would hug your body, which was particularly helpful as I powered through the curves on our drive route and made up for the lack of power seats. The overall design of the interior is quite bold and should appeal to most consumers, with a prominent 7-inch touch screen and standard rear camera. The various color combinations in the interiors we also very impressive.

Standard features also include a push-button starter, Mazda Connect infotainment offering Bluetooth phone pairing, audio streaming, and USB ports for phone charging and entertainment connectivity. Optional features include blind spot monitoring with cross-traffic alert, which frankly would be hard to live without these days for this spoiled driver.

Performance

As expected, the CX-3 isn’t one to just rely on its good looks. The vehicle handled beautifully on the route through the winding curves as we enjoyed the canyons north of LA. The CX-3 showed nice responsiveness and acceleration, particularly in Sport mode, and it hugged every turn daring you to push it harder.

All trim levels (Sport, Touring and Grand Touring) come with a SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter engine paired with a six-speed automatic transmission producing 146 horsepower and 146 lb-ft of torque. While CVTs are getting better I’ll take a six-speed transmission any day and you can feel it in the linear acceleration.

The CX-3 also incorporates Maxda’s SKYACTIV Technology, so while front-wheel drive comes standard, Mazda’s predictive i-ACTIV AWD system is also available on all trim levels. This system improves handling in bad weather by using sensors to route power to the most surefooted wheels as you’re driving.

Overview

The subcompact crossover segment is growing quickly, and Mazda characterizes the CX-3 as their attempt to “defy the category.” The Mazda team acknowledges there may be some overlap with the Mazda3 hatchback for consumers but that didn’t deter them. There are many impressive options in this category but frankly the new CX-3 is the must-drive vehicle in this class if you’re out test-driving options. It’s one of the best vehicles we’ve tested in 2015 and we’re confident you’ll be impressed.

  

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