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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First Drive: 2015 Honda CR-V

2015 Honda CR-V

Honda called it a major-minor model change. The automaker increased the fuel economy and added another trim line to the 2015 Honda CR-V, but they also improved their best-selling entry level crossover vehicle in 60 other areas.

For 2015, the Honda CR-V has a new grille, new headlights, new front bumper, new skid plate and a tweaked front suspension. The rear end has a new fascia, new license housing and new bumper. It looks wider from the rear and now the crossover can be equipped with 18-inch wheels, in addition to its normal 17-inch rubber.

LED running lights are also available, a power tailgate is now offered and there is an available smart key.

The interior has gone high tech too. It has dual information screens. The center console is configurable, with easily reachable USB ports and the abilityto hold an iPad and large soft drink cups from fast food outlets. The dash has a clean saddle bag look to it as each soft touch layer flows down to a thin wood-like trim that spans across its width.

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First Drive: 2015 Lexus RC F

There’s something about straight-line acceleration that’s exhilarating when you’re driving a car with balls, so the memory of flooring the Lexus RC F on the straightaway at the track at the Monticello Motor Club is seared into my brain. This all-new sport coupe from Lexus has some serious power with 467 horsepower that can go from 0-60 in 4.4 seconds. The engine also produces a memorable growl that’s sure to put a smile on your face as you gain speed through the straightaway.

Lexus gave us the opportunity to test the RC F along with the RC F Sport at the picturesque Monticello track that features 18 turns per lap, so we got to test much more than the straight-line speed. For our safety, however, they added some cones and an S curve in the middle of the straightaway so we wouldn’t get too carried away with speeds we couldn’t handle going into the hard right curve.

As for those curves, the handling of the RC F was pretty amazing as it gripped the corners effortlessly at high speeds. Lexus has built a car that’s fun to drive regardless of your skill level. I pushed the F as hard as I could around that track and frankly had a blast.

The RC F is the most powerful Lexus V8 performance car ever and is a worthy successor to the 416 horsepower Lexus IS F launched in 2007 and the LFA carbon-fiber supercar that featured a V10 engine with 552 horsepower. If you’re looking for a performance coupe you have to check this one out.

In addition to the F model Lexus is also introducing the RC 350 featuring a 306 horsepower V6 along with an F SPORT model with Electronic Suspension Damping and Rear-Wheel Steering. We had the opportunity to drive the F SPORT at the Monticello track as well, and while it obviously can’t match the more powerful and more expensive RC F in terms of performance, it’s still an impressive vehicle that was quite fun to drive on the track.

Exterior

Both the RC F and the RC 350 feature the signature Lexus spindle grille, with the F and F SPORT models looking more aggressive in a black mesh pattern. I love this new look for Lexus and it’s definitely changed the image of the brand. Also, the F SPORT models are bringing younger buyers to Lexus. As you can see from the photos above this is a beautiful coupe that will get plenty of attention.

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First Drive: 2015 Hyundai Genesis

hyundai_genesis_1

Hyundai stopped just short of calling its redesigned 2015 Genesis a luxury performance sedan. The Korean automaker opted to call the car a midsize premium sedan.

Nonetheless, the automaker said that German luxury brands, as well as Lexus and the newly resurgent Cadillac, are Genesis’ main competitors. In order to really compete with midsize offerings from the automakers, the new sedan has to offer a bunch of comforts and engineering prowess.

First, there’s the look. The 2015 Hyundai Genesis has a single-frame hexagonal grille. In other words, the sedan has a distinct face, low hood and short rump. It looks very athletic.

It also took Hyundai’s fluidic design to the next level, or 2.0 in Hyundai-speak. The lines are flowing, sharp creases are evident from stem to stern, and they end at the trunk with distinctive tail lights and either dual or quad exhausts.

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