First Drive: 2015 Nissan Murano

If you’re looking for beauty and comfort in a vehicle, the Nissan Murano was created with you in mind. Nissan created a distinctive vehicle with the first Murano in 2003 and they’ve aimed high for the all-new, third generation Murano that enters a much more crowded and competitive market for 2015.

Nissan has a very specific demographic in mind for its flagship crossover, targeting empty nesters who will often go out on the town with another couple. The car is designed for adult passengers to interact with one another in a “social lounge” kind of setting, so attention was paid to the experience in the rear seats.

Exterior

Take a look at the slideshow above and you’ll see that this third-generation Murano looks like another design home run worthy of Nissan’s original model. We drove the Murano from the heart of Sonoma wine country out to stunning Goat Rock Park on the Pacific Ocean. You can see the use of glass and the flowing lines of the compelling new design.

Nissan stressed three key elements from the Murano that will show up in future designs – the V-Motion front end, signature lighting and the ‘floating’ roofline.” The roofline in particular stands out along with the boomerang-style headlights and taillights which were originally introduced on the Nissan 370Z. It all comes together beautifully in a package that will certainly appeal to the target demo. The new model also sports a 16 percent improvement in overall aerodynamics versus the previous generation design.

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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 Sonata

Hyundai keeps moving forward. That’s the big takeaway from my drive of the all-new 2015 Hyundai Sonata on a beautiful summer day in Michigan. Hyundai has been on a roll with its bold, fluidic structure design language, and now we’re seeing an evolution as Hyundai introduces a more sophisticated and refined version of that design with the new Sonata.

Exterior

Hyundai refers to the design evolution as its Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design language. Everything starts with the new front facia of the Sonata, with cleaner lines and sharper edges. The previous model gained attention by looking trendy while the new Sonata looks more elegant. The new design makes the Sonata one of the more attractive mid-sized sedans on the market and it will likely get more attention from professionals.

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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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