Car Review: 2015 Hyundai Genesis AWD 3.8

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When Hyundai released the all-new Genesis sedan a few years back, folks in the auto business wondered out loud whether the car would pay off. Well, with the second generation Genesis on the market, it only takes one look to realize something special was accomplished. The 2015 Genesis represents a bold step forward for Hyundai, continuing to build upon its successful strategy of marketing its premium models under the Hyundai brand umbrella, rather than a costly separate luxury brand sales channel. The new Genesis is incredibly well-equipped in every configuration, offering even more content than the first-generation Genesis. This additional content includes a generous suite of standard safety and convenience features, unsurpassed in its class.

EXTERIOR

Since its 2009 debut on the Sonata sedan, Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture design philosophy has been continually enhanced and refined, progressively influencing every model in the Hyundai lineup. The all-new Genesis is the first Hyundai to embody Fluidic Sculpture 2.0, the second-generation of this convention-shattering design theme. Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 encapsulates a trio of main design elements: fluid aesthetics, the modern Hyundai look and a premium ambience. Fluidic forms are still present but with a more refined and precise presentation. This latest design philosophy is adaptable to a wider range of vehicle types and sizes, from CUVs to premium-luxury flagships. The all-new Sonata sedan, to debut later this year, will also clearly manifest the Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design philosophy. You have to tip your hat to Hyundai as the sleek sculpture of the 2015 Hyundai Genesis AWD 3.8 is an eye-catcher from every angle.

The 2015 Hyundai Genesis expresses a truly modern design through distinctive exterior styling with a sleek, upscale appearance. Evoking a premium feel, the design cues display a new Hyundai family aesthetic: simple and harmonious design with refined fluidic elements. The design features the modern Hyundai look, with a striking hexagonal front grille as a key geometric element, a dynamic crease accent running along the flanks of the car, and a dynamic rear design. Design surfaces convey a kinetic elegance, relying more on voluminous body sections than surface details to create dramatic forms. Proportions demonstrate a long dash-to-axle length, longer wheelbase and shorter overhangs than its predecessor. These proportions clearly convey the performance rear-drive configuration beneath the sheet metal. The single-frame 3D-hexagonal grille ensures the front end of the all-new Genesis is not only striking, depicted in semi-gloss chrome, but also encompasses available HID headlamps, LED indicators and fog lamps. In profile, the Genesis daylight opening is more expressive, with fluid lines and blended surfaces, a sleek C-pillar helping to emphasize the sporty styling. The rear of the all-new Genesis benefits from a sculptural aesthetic with jeweled, full-LED tail lamps.

INTERIOR

The cabin space in the 2015 Hyundai Genesis AWD 3.8 certainly carries a wow factor that rivals costing 20K more could only dream of achieving. The cabin layout of the all-new Genesis has been designed to benefit all occupants with a spacious, comfortable ambience. The simplification of the switchgear and instrument panel ensures an intuitive layout and open feel. This user-centric design has sought to connect the various interior parts effectively, particularly the center stack with the console, upper-instrument panel and B-pillar with the headliner. Genesis displays ultra-precise fit and finish, with ergonomic seat design and a generous, natural feel. Particular design attention has been paid to the storage of practical items such as mobile electronics of all shapes and sizes, along with the flexibility of the cup holders. The steering wheel design and grip has been improved and onboard switchgear was redesigned; a number of switches previously found on the center console of the original Genesis were relocated and reshaped on the Genesis. Further ergonomic improvements to ensure ease of reach and control have been meticulously evaluated and executed using a specially-designed laboratory tool created to measure occupant operational force for ergonomics.

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First Drive: 2015 Dodge Challenger

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We came to the City of Roses to test drive the 2015 Dodge Challenger. But that was really a misnomer. Yes, we drove the Challenger — well, three of them — but the real news here was brand expansion rooted in horsepower. Dodge wants to reassert its heritage as a mainstream performance brand, and with the 2015 Dodge Challenger, it takes a big step in that direction by offering a product for just about every power niche when the new Challenger goes on sale in the third quarter.

Dodge offers a literal avalanche of variants. When the new Challenger goes on sale in the third quarter, trim lines will include the SXT, SXT Plus, RT and RT Plus, RT Shaker, RT Plus Shaker, Scat Pack and 392 Hemi Scat Pack. The variants are so numerous they rival the powertrains on pickup trucks.

But at the heart of this Dodge Challenger product assault are the engines, and all four of them get no less than 300 horsepower each. This menu of muscle cars is topped by the 707 horsepower 2015 Challenger SRT Hellcat. It is in a class by itself, and we’ll deal with that particular model in greater detail later this week.

Power for the lineup starts with a 3.6-liter V6 that makes 305 horsepower and 268 pound-feet of torque; this is the lone Challenger engine that has only one transmission, an eight-speed automatic. Then there is the 5.7-liter V8 HEMI that makes 372 horsepower and 400 pound-feet of torque, but that output is when it is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. With a six-speed manual gearbox, the horsepower is bumped up to 375 with 410 pound-feet of torque. That incremental uptick in power makes a difference to a true enthusiast. This engine has a cylinder shut off system for fuel savings when it is mated to the eight-speed automatic transmission. It has an EPA rating of 16 mpg in city driving and a respectable 25 mpg on the highway.

The 6.4-liter HEMI developed by Dodge’s Street and Racing Technology Team (SRT) was more direct. With an eight-speed automatic or the six manual, this engine made 485 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque. We secured a 2015 Dodge Challenger 6.4L HEMI Scat Pack for the drive on historic U.S. 30 to the Crown Point Vista. It is the first purposely built scenic highway in the U.S., and the section we were on cut through the heavy foliage of the Columbia River Gorge. It was a winding, tight-turn, two-lane highway with tree-formed canopies and speed limits of 25 or 30 mph along this section. In other words, it was no place to unloose a car with almost 500 horsepower.

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Car Review: 2014 Kia Soul

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The new 2014 Kia Soul is a testament for just how far small utility vehicles have progressed in today’s market. We drove a solar yellow Soul for a week and discovered that this is not only a fun car, but refined beyond what we expected. The 2014 Kia Soul’s all-new take on design, driving dynamics and desirable features totally transform one of Kia Motors America’s best-selling cars into an urban utility vehicle that is as comfortable in the city as it is on the open highway.

EXTERIOR

When the wild Track’ster concept made its debut in 2012, Soul enthusiasts and pundits alike urged Kia to turn the aggressively fun fantasy into reality. With 18 months from design freeze to production, the stage was set for the all-new Soul, and many of the concept’s dramatic design cues can be found in the production vehicle. The upright stance, squared shoulders and distinctive fender flares are instantly recognizable as Soul. Combining a longer 101.2-inch wheelbase (up 0.8 inches), overall width that’s broadened to 70.9 inches (increased by 0.6 inches) and a reduced overall height of 63.0 inches (decreased by 0.4 inches) adds a more aggressive edge to the all-new Soul’s appearance. Likewise, the wraparound greenhouse, high-mounted tail lights and upright stance are all hallmark design elements. Premium touches such as available LED front positioning lights and rear LED halo lights help connect Soul to siblings within the Kia lineup that share similar design cues, such as the 2014 Sorento CUV and 2014 Forte sedan.

Exterior Track’ster similarities are easy to spot. The large trapezoidal lower air intake is nearly a direct carryover from the concept, and the location of the available fog lights – down low and pushed to the leading edges – mirror those found on the Track’ster. Kia’s signature grille is present, but it’s been reworked to more closely resemble the concept. Adding a touch of flair, the unique “floating” body-color panel inset into the lift gate originated with the Track’ster as well. Subtle enhancements include a wider (by 2.4 inches over the previous Soul) opening for the lift gate, allowing Soul to swallow more stuff. There is a smooth feel to the skin of the 2014 Kia Soul that exudes confidence and appeals to the eyes. The Soul Exclaim as tested adds to the Plus, with standard features like 18-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 235/45R-18 tires, fog lights, body-color bumper “tusks,” projector head lights, front LED positioning lights and rear LED halo lights.

INTERIOR

Our test model was equipped with extra options from head to toe, and we appreciated them more and more as the week moved on. Overall, the design paid particular attention to instilling a more premium look and feel to the 2014 Soul’s interior. Liberal applications of soft-touch materials are found on the instrument panel, center console and door panels. Details such as our media car’s leather trimmed seating with improved lateral and thigh support, and the use of high-gloss piano-black trim pieces on the center console and dash, elevate the Soul’s interior to new levels of sophistication. The panoramic sunroof with a power sunshade was spectacular, navigation with a whopping 8-inch screen was bright and clear, and the Infinity audio system was spot on with a strong bass!

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Car Review: 2014 Lexus GS 350 F SPORT

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We set out to drive the 2014 Lexus GS 350 Sport Sedan with the formidable F SPORT package and came away with very favorable impressions. Lexus has moved the needle on styling in recent years and continues to challenge all rivals on the performance front. This car was up to that challenge!

EXTERIOR

Behind its distinctive spindle grille, which creates an unmistakable brand identity, the Lexus GS 350 shines bright with a refined but aggressive body. You first notice the 19-inch alloy wheels that pop along the amazing Riviera red paint. The GS 350 F SPORT is exclusively equipped with 19-inch staggered width wheels paired with 235/40R19 front and 265/35R19 rear summer compound tires for RWD models, while AWD models will have 235/40/19 all-season tires in the front and rear. The F SPORT stands apart with exclusive front bumper and rear lower valence styling, a rear lip spoiler and F SPORT mesh grille inserts. The rear bumper integrates a distinctive exhaust diffuser and centered aero fins to help control underbody airflow.

INTERIOR

Even with its sweeping, coupe-like profile, the Lexus GS 350 provides ample headroom for rear-seat passengers. The new-generation GS offers greater rear headroom, knee room, legroom and foot space than the previous GS, yet in a sleeker package. The trunk, too, grew with the redesign and can easily accommodate four golf bags. The sumptuously detailed cabin, trimmed in perforated leather and matte dark brown walnut wood, comes with standard 10-way power front seats. Some competitors charge extra for leather, even in this price range. Rear seat passengers are treated no less regally, with deeply scalloped seats providing excellent support and generous legroom for long trips.

Lexus recognizes that temperature is a personal preference, with passengers often having diverse needs. The GS 350 addresses this situation quite effectively. A first-in-class technology, the energy-saving S-Flow automatic climate control system detects if there is a front passenger and directs airflow only to the occupied front seat or seats.

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Car Review: 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata PRHT

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Hot summer days demand drop-top cars to truly enjoy this time of year in the Midwest, and the 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata answered the call for us. We drove and drove the MX-5, soaking up everything this car and the summer breeze had to offer, and never left the wheel disappointed. After a week of driving, it’s no wonder to us that the MX-5 is still by far the best-selling two-seat roadster in the world.

EXTERIOR

The MX-5 Miata was developed primarily for the North American market, and throughout the vehicle’s history, the region has come through to remain dominant in global sales. Available with two distinctive and easy-to-operate head wraps, the 2014 MX-5 Miata comes standard with a Z-fold design soft-top or an industry-leading Power Retractable Hard Top (PRHT) as tested. The soft top, available on all trim levels, continues to set the industry standard with its simplicity and ease of use. With a central latch handle, the top requires only a simple hand motion to fold and stow behind the seats. The top itself descends into a cleverly designed storage well, thus leaving the 5.3 cubic feet of cargo space completely untouched.

An available option on Club and Grand Touring trims only, the PRHT is stored in the same manner as the soft top, again not affecting storage space. Designed to perform in any climate, PRHT models outsell soft-top models by a 4:1 ratio worldwide. Using a single-button operation, the PRHT offers one of the fastest power-operated open-and-close cycles for a hard top in North America at an efficiently expedient 12 seconds.

The true red paint coupled with the shiny black hard top looked amazing and really popped with the dark gunmetal 17-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 205/45R17 street-sticky Bridgestone Potenza RE050A tires.

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