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Ben Lewis

Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round -- whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.

2022 Kia Carnival EX review by Ben Lewis

Kia’s been giving us a lot of great vehicles lately, from the 3-row Telluride SUV, to the brilliant K5 sedan, to fun and chuckable Forte GT. Rhe vehicles have great looks, high equipment levels and real value. So, when it came time to replace the aging Sedona minivan, Kia created the all-new Carnival to take on the big players, including the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey. Does Kia’s charmed lineup carry on in the minivan segment? Let’s take a look! The Real Swagger Wagon Remember that Toyota ad campaign a while back – calling their Sienna the “swagger wagon”? Well, …

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2021 Toyota Avalon TRD Review by Ben Lewis

We’ve always liked the Toyota Avalon. Toyota’s flagship full-size sedan has always exceptionally, comfy, roomy, well-turned out. Ok, kind of a Grampa car. What it really hasn’t been is exciting to drive. Toyota has been on a tear lately, though to make their vehicles a lot more fun, and after we tested the Camry TRD, (Toyota Racing Development is their in-house racing arm) we were so impressed, we hoping the company would do the same magic with the Avalon TRD. One Bad Grampa Ok, we have never had an Avalon that got this kind of attention before! The massive front …

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2021 Lexus NX300h Black Line Special Edition Review by Ben Lewis

So, this is always a tough thing to do – a review of an existing model when an all-new model has been previewed. Well, that’s the problem here – an all new 2022 Lexus NX is waiting in the wings, so the question is should you wait, or plump for the 2021 NX? Let’s take a drive in the current model and find out! Blue Thunder The NX hasn’t changed much visually since it got a refresh in 2018, but that’s okay, it was a stunner then, and it is still a bold, strong presence. Up front, you get key …

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2021 Subaru Forester Limited Review by Ben Lewis

Subaru’s are like old friends. Even when you haven’t seen them in a while, you feel immediately at home and comfortable. Good to be around. The Forester is certainly like that – we’ve recently been in a host of Outbacks, Crosstreks and WRXs, all great cars. But we miss our old buddy. Now friendship is one thing, but in the hyperventilating, ever-changing world of SUV’s you gotta keep up, too. So, is the Forester as good as we remember? A Familiar Face It’s no secret that the Outback and the Forester fight in the same arena for not-quite traditional SUV …

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2022 Acura MDX A-Spec review by Ben Lewis

If there’s one brand that’s working hard to reboot itself right now, it’s Acura. Honda’s luxury brand, it’s been cranking out impressive new products for the last year or so, starting with the excellent RDX and even more impressive TLX sedan. Of course, the big money currently is in the 3-row SUV segment, so when we got the new MDX to test we were excited. Let’s see if Acura keeps those fires burning! Bold New Style Like the RDX and TLX, the MDX is sharp, aggressive, and eye-catching. It looks bigger and more powerful, sitting on a wheelbase that’s 2.8-inches …

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2021 Hyundai Santa Fe Calligraphy Review by Ben Lewis

The Hyundai Santa Fe is a familiar name on the SUV landscape – it’s been around awhile, and has always stood for great value, room and style. But that landscape hasn’t sat still. With new players including bigger sibling the Hyundai Palisade and super popular Kia Telluride, can the Santa Fe Keep up with the big boys? Fresh New Look Hyundai has been on a roll lately, and it’s become a bit of style breakout. The Santa Fe has gotten a nice makeover that makes heads turn. Like almost every new model, a large grille is the way to go, …

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2021 Toyota Corolla XSE Review by Ben Lewis

When you think about it, the Toyota Corolla is like a McDonald’s Hamburger. In car-land the Corolla is the best-selling nameplate ever, with over 46 million sold. (For those playing at home, Mickey D’s has sold over 300 Billion burgers.) And with that popularity comes a familiarity, a confidence – Toyota and McDonald’s know what they’re doing. And in both, you can tell that while they may constantly tweak and improve, they stick with a recipe they know that works. So, while other competitors come and go, sometimes being spicier and flashier, there’s a comfort in familiar brands. You know …

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2021 Volvo V60 T5 Cross Country Review by Ben Lewis

Long before the SUV craze, those who needed extra room and capability found their way into the station wagon. With extra load-carrying, up to three rows of seats, they were the workhorses of larger families. And of course, no discussion of wagons can go without mentioning Volvo. Since the 122 Amazon to the iconic 245 wagon, the Swedish carmakers lived on a blend of function, extreme durability, and anti-establishment chic. Later models became much more stylish, much quicker, but owning a Volvo wagon still puts you a tasteful distance from the mainstream. We like that. And we also like that …

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2021 Mercedes AMG GLE 53 Coupe Review by Ben Lewis

So, here’s a challenge to many manufacturers – with SUV’s being so popular, how do you keep things fresh? One trend we’ve seen are the “coupe-like” SUV’s, which trade off some of the utility (and headroom) for a racy profile. It’s especially popular with the Europeans, with everything from VW’s Atlas Cross Sport to BMW’s X4 and X6. Mercedes won’t be left out either, so we’re now enjoying GLE Coupe. But with a coupe, you’re driven by passion, so we were especially excited to get our grabby little hands on an AMG GLE 53 Coupe. Big vehicle, larger-than-life performance. This …

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2021 MINI Cooper S Countryman ALL4 Review by Ben Lewis

There have always been a percentage of people out there who love the MINI Cooper’s bulldog looks, cheeky attitude and British persona (although BMW has owned them since 2003)  but just found the diminutive hatch a little too small. And MINI has been busy bringing in a variety of models, including the Clubman – longer and wider – and the Countryman – taller and wider. We’ve always liked the Countryman, it adds just enough usability to function like a small SUV, but still has that MINI charm. MINI points out that it’s the first model with an exterior length of …

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2021 BMW 540i xDrive Review by Ben Lewis

SUVs, SUVs, everywhere. With SUV/SAV/Crossovers pretty much the standard for family transport, it’s easy to forget that the Europeans like Audi, BMW and Mercedes made their name here with sedans. Some were 2-doors, some 4-doors, even wagons! But for a long time, the epitome of luxury was the 4-door premium sedan. And at the head of that class for enthusiasts has always been the BMW 5-series. Mercedes were ultra-luxury, but a little staid. Audi technically advanced but a bit spartan. The Bimmer though, that was a driver’s car. So now we have the 2021 540i, the 7th generation 5-er, with …

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2021 KIA Sorento Hybrid EX Review by Ben Lewis

We recently tested the 2021 Kia Telluride, and noted how for the past years, the Korean manufacturer has been on a roll, creating many exciting, desirable and affordable vehicles. Now we have an all-new, 3-row Sorento, which competes in one of the hottest SUV segments. Can Kia hit another one out of the park? Let’s see. Good Looking! Well if first impressions are the most important, the 2021 Sorento is off to a great start. The front end is recognizably Kia with the familiar “Tiger Nose” grill, although now the shape is more subtle, as it is framed by LED …

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2021 Kia Telluride SX V6 AWD Review by Ben Lewis

When we first tested the Telluride in 2019 we said Kia was on a roll. And honestly, that was the tip of the iceberg – everything from the fun Forte GT sedan and Soul SUV to the new K5 have wowed us. So, when we had the opportunity to re-visit the full-size 3-row SUV that really has been one of the brand’s biggest (figuratively and literally) success stories, we were thrilled. Was Big. Now Big and Bad. The big truck has had few changes for 2021, which is fine – this is one of the most handsome vehicles in its …

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2021 VW Arteon 2.0T SEL Premium R-Line Review by Ben Lewis

It’s got to be tough to be a brand like Audi. First of all, you’ve got Mercedes and BMW always gunning for you. And then, brands like Lexus. And the excellent Acura TLX we tested – another upstart. And then, you have to worry about your sibling…in this case the recently refreshed 2021 VW Arteon. Does VW’s handsome luxury flagship have what it takes to lure buyers out of those fancy, shiny dealerships? Let’s see. Simply Gorgeous You don’t see a lot of Arteons – frankly the brand is busy selling lots of SUV’s and churning up interest in their …

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2021 Acura TLX SH-AWD A-Spec Review by Ben Lewis

Here’s a term: Brand-lag – when a manufacturer is making big strides, but it takes a while for the word to get out. A perfect example, we recently tested the Kia K5, loved it recommended it to friends, and were surprised to hear “Hyundai and Kia? Oh, I wouldn’t get near one of those.” Where you been the last few years? Their new stuff is great. Acura is sort of in the same boat.  In the last few years though, Acura has really stepped up their game – we enjoyed the little ILX sedan, the sporty new RDX, and the …

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2020 Audi Q7 55 TFSI Review by Ben Lewis

When we used to go to movie theaters (and we can’t wait to go back!) they had a selection of sizes on the popcorn, and we liked the largest one – mostly because they unapologetically put the motto “Big is More” right on the tub. Yes, a tub. And the same is true of SUV’s – big is more. And if you need three rows of Audi SUV goodness, you can stop right here at the beautiful Q7. With some major improvements for the new Q7, it’s more than before. Let’s take a look. Big and Beautiful This is a …

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2021 Lexus UX 200 F SPORT Review by Ben Lewis

In marketing terms, UX is the shorthand for “User Experience”. So, it seems a natural question, does Lexus’ smallest Crossover/SUV give you the user experience luxury buyers expect? Let’s take a look. Familiar Sporty Style Look at the UX and you can see the family resemblance with the larger NX and RX crossovers. That’s a good thing – Lexus has really crafted its own style now, and these vehicles are modern and sporty with sharp angles and aggressive lines. Like our recent review of the Lexus ES250 AWD, the front end has that massive spindle grille, but like the ES, …

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2021 Lexus ES250 AWD Review by Ben Lewis

We still remember when Lexus launched in the US in 1990. It was a bold move – the Toyota company creating an upstart to take on the biggest luxury names in the market, including Mercedes and Cadillac. And its success is legendary, where it seems like Honda’s Acura, and Nissan’s Infiniti have never been able to quite get that cache. Why the history lesson? Well, there were two models when Lexus debuted, the LS400 and ES250. And now the ES250 name is back! So, if you’ve been waiting, your wishes have been fulfilled. Even more interesting, the ES250 is unique …

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2021 Toyota Venza Limited Review by Ben Lewis

Toyota likes to offer something for just about everybody. That’s what makes them consistently in the top two (sometimes 1st, sometimes 2nd to VW) manufacturers in the world. So, let’s say you have your heart set on a new SUV. Perhaps the RAV4 feels too small, and the Highlander too large. No worries! Introducing the all-new 2021 Toyota Venza, as they say in the three bears…this one’s just right. Sleek and Sophisticated One look and you know this isn’t your Auntie’s Venza! (That model went away in 2015). While the Venza shares a chassis with the RAV4, it looks entirely …

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2021 Hyundai Elantra SEL Review by Ben Lewis

Everyone loves a good success story, and you’d certainly be hard pressed to find a better one than Hyundai. Back in 1986 the Korean maker came to the US with the Excel with an extremely durable yet otherwise forgettable Excel sedan. But much like the Japanese carmakers in the late 50’s and early 60’s, Hyundai paid its dues, worked hard, and constantly improved its products to become what it is today – a top brand, with a wide variety of vehicles, three brands (Kia and Genesis also part of the fam), and as we’ve said in many recent reviews, the …

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2021 Mercedes AMG A35 4MATIC Review by Ben Lewis

Any enthusiast worth their salt knows AMG. The performance arm of Mercedes-Benz, it turns out some of the most powerful and desirable cars in the world. And to many, the pantheon of AMG products starts with handcrafted bi-turbo V8 screamers like the AMG C 63 S. A 503-hp rocket, it is an incredible piece of work. The problem is, starting at $76,200 and building from there, it’s breathing rarefied air few can afford. Which leaves many buyers scoping out older or CPO AMG products, just to get a foot (or dip a toe) in to the brand. But AMG also …

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2021 Kia K5 GT Review by Ben Lewis

When we recently tested the all-new Kia K5 GT-Line, we came away hugely impressed – a great looking and driving car. We found the 1.6-liter, turbo 4-cylinder to have plenty of punch, but we did think some added juice would make this even more fun. And now we have the Kia K5 GT (not to be confused with the GT-Line) with a 290-horsepower, 2.5-liter, turbo four. Well, that got our attention! But should it get yours? Let’s take a look. Blue Thunder! Like our previous K5, the GT shares the platform with the new Hyundai Sonata (we recently tested the …

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2020 Kia Cadenza Technology Review by Ben Lewis

With the huge popularity of SUVs/Crossovers/SAVs, we sometimes forget just how good a traditional luxury sedan can be. And one of the nicest – and smartest values – is the Kia Cadenza. Let’s take a look at the Kia we call “The Big Easy”. (Hey, it’s Mardis Gras…) Fresh Face For 2020, Kia’s handsome full-size gets an update to keep things fresh. While the “Tiger Nose” grille shape is still there, the grille has a new deeper waterfall design, the reshaped hood enjoys power creases, while there are also standard LED headlights, redesigned LED daytime running lights and new integrated …

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2021 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid Limited by Ben Lewis

We recently tested the new 2020 Hyundai Sonata and came away very impressed with its style, luxury, and neat gizmos like the self-parking feature. Would you use it much? Probably not, but it sure impresses your friends when you do. More than just another gizmo, Hyundai also has a very interesting Sonata Hybrid, loaded with even more tech and neat stuff, plus it offers up to 52 combined mpg! Test drive? Count us in. Unique and Elegant We loved the looks of our ’20 tester so we’re glad they didn’t do much to our ’21 Hybrid. The cross-hole grille has …

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2021 Mazda 3 Turbo Premium Plus by Ben Lewis

We were big fans when Mazda introduced the all-new 2019 Mazda 3 sedan and hatchback. Shortly thereafter the CX-30, basically a tall version of the 3 hatch came along as well. And they all shared the same DNA, bringing a new, more luxurious and upscale experience to the 3 line, while still keeping the Mazda love of the drive. And the Zoom-Zoom company has shown they’re not going to rest on their laurels – bringing their 2.5-liter, turbocharged engine into the 3. So, is the 250 horsepower turbo sedan the stuff enthusiast dreams are made of? Let’s find out! A …

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2021 BMW X5 X Drive 45e by Ben Lewis

Amazing how quickly time and technology change things. It used to be an EV was a golf cart, and a hybrid was one of the agrarian looking Toyota Prius models. The good thing is, there are a lot of talented engineers that work for the automakers, and the vehicles we get today are exciting and fun – no matter what may be under the hood. And a perfect example of today’s performance hybrid is the 2021 BMW X5 with the all-new 45e plug-in hybrid system. If you were expecting something for the Birkenstock and Bean Sprout crowd, the X5 will …

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2021 BMW 430i Coupe by Ben Lewis

Have you ever been all ready to dislike something, and then get won over? Well, we were kind of in that boat with the all-new BMW 4-series coupe. We had seen pictures, heard the grumbling, and based on just that, were ready to give it the cold shoulder. Except, pictures and grumbling are not a good way to evaluate a car – it needs to be driven. And drive the all-new Bimmer, and you’ll find it easy to love. Prominent Proboscis Okay let’s take care of the 800 lb. Gorilla in the room. The 4-series nose. The familiar BMW kidney …

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2021 Honda Pilot Black Edition by Ben Lewis

We recently tested the VW Atlas, and came away impressed with the 3-row SUV’s nice driving manners and European feel. A VW through and through to be sure. And now we have Honda’s competitor for your same hard-earned dollar the 3-row Pilot. So how does it stack up? Let’s take a look! Dressed to Impress Following the sensible design of such models as the CR-V and Passport, the Pilot was never one to knock you over. In fact, we loved the original Pilot, which was a big, square and blocky – so functional it was stylish in its own way. …

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2021 Mazda CX-5 Signature AWD by Ben Lewis

You don’t really have to twist our arms to get us to review a Mazda. Just about all of them are great fun to drive, from the Miata sports car up to the big CX-9 SUV. The Mazda 3 and CX30 are also faves. But the heart and soul of Mazda’s lineup – and for most manufacturers – is its compact SUV. And with some nice updates to make it more appealing, we’re excited to take to the road in the CX-5. Stay Classy, CX-5 For 2021 not much has changed on the CX-5’s shapely flanks, and that’s ok, it …

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2021 VW Atlas V6 SEL Premium R-Line by Ben Lewis

The 3-row SUV segment is a funny thing. It seems to get hot and cold. Suddenly everyone wants one. Then just as suddenly, only those with an absolute need want them. Right now the market is hot, hot, with big winners including the Kia Telluride, Hyundai Palisade and Toyota Highlander. Along with them has been the VW Atlas, which for 2021 gets a bit of a makeover, helping it take on these relative upstarts. How does it stack up? Let’s take a look! Bigger and Buffer While the Atlas has been the poster child for the “Big Box” SUV school …

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2021 Volvo XC60 T5 AWD Momentum by Ben Lewis

Volvo has always gone its own way. In the early days, they were stout little machines, that were some of the greatest innovators when it came to safety. Their rugged and reliable drivetrains helped make them rally champions, and became legendary for logging high miles. (Remember that guy with the P1800 that went over 3 million miles?). Outside of maybe the P1800, they weren’t really known for being stylish – they were sensible and functional, but design wasn’t on the menu. And then suddenly we got the modern Volvo, and taking a page out of Swedish Design, with its cool …

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2021 Honda Odyssey Elite by Ben Lewis

It’s always interesting to see what an Automaker does with a best-selling model. You want to keep things fresh and exciting, but you also don’t want to alienate the faithful, right? Such is the case with the Honda Odyssey minivan – America’s retail best-selling minivan for the past 10 years. It’s a great record. But do you mess with success, or play the conservative game? Let’s see what the 2021 Model Year brings for the popular Honda people mover. Fresh Face Well, the Odyssey was already quite a sporty looking vehicle, but that didn’t stop Honda from making it even …

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2021 Lexus IS350 F SPORT by Ben Lewis

We have a lot of vehicles that we like. And then the manufacturers manage to tweak and massage, and Boom! You get something really special. We felt that way with the larger-engined Subaru Crosstrek we tested recently.  And there was something about the latest Civic Coupe that just felt perfect. And now we’re ready to add the Lexus IS350 F SPORT to that list. Already a very good sport sedan, the changes for 2021 make it, as they say ….”just right”. Evocative Looks First impressions matter in sport sedans, and the IS350 F SPORT makes us feel all tingly. Slightly …

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2020 Subaru Outback Onyx Edition XT by By Ben Lewis

We recently tested the 2021 Subaru Crosstrek, and it’s a capable, honest and quite fun SUV. Between that and the Forester and Ascent, Subaru knows how to make an SUV. But interestingly enough, its best seller isn’t an SUV. Yet it competes with them and shows them up in many ways. Welcome to the Subaru Outback – a tall, capable All-wheel-drive wagon that offers those SUV attributes in a different package. Hey, we like different! And for 2020 the Outback’s all new, too. Let’s take a look. Familiar but tougher looks On the outside, you might have trouble distinguishing the …

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2021 Subaru Crosstrek 2.5L Limited by Ben Lewis

It’s hard not to like the Subaru Crosstrek – it’s a great looking small crossover, based on the equally likeable Subaru Impreza and it combines a nice compact size with good off-road abilities, and most of the friendly traits that make Subaru an agreeable brand. It has been hard to love the Crosstrek, though. It’s always felt a little underpowered, and the lack of power seemed to highlight the CVT transmission in a negative light. In short, a good vehicle looking for a better engine. Well, Subie heard our wishes, and for 2021, a more powerful 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder replaces the …

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2021 Kia K5 GT-Line by Ben Lewis

When Kia introduced the new Soul recently, we mourned the loss of the adorable hamsters in their ad campaign. But the all-new vehicle more than made up for it. This time Kia is killing off a model name – Optima – and replacing it with the all-new K5. Will we be as enthused as we were with the Soul? Let’s find out! Bigger Bolder, Badder The All-new K5 shares the platform with the all-new Hyundai Sonata, and it’s interesting how different they look. We’ll take the K5’s aggressive lines, and it definitely looks longer, lower and wider than the already-handsome …

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2020 Nissan 370Z 50th Anniversary Edition by Ben Lewis

Legend, Icon, familiar friend. All of these can be said about the Nissan Z. First offered as a 1970 model, the 240Z blew away the affordable sports car marketplace, making the MG’s and Triumphs of the day seem absolutely ancient, which they kind of were. Over the years, the Z has veered on and off the path of true sports car-ism, the 280ZX and early 300ZX were posh cruisers, but offered little thrills. The 1990 Z was a return to form – an excellent sports car. And the 350Z and the current 370Z continued the trend. So, we are happy …

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2021 Toyota RAV4 Prime XSE AWD

If I say name the fastest 4-door Toyota right now, with over 300 hp and 0-60 under 6 seconds what would you say? Camry TRD? Avalon? Nope. It’s the Toyota RAV4 Prime. Wait a sec. The friendly and familiar RAV4 SUV? A performance vehicle? Yep, and then some. Toyota has been on a roll lately, and they’ve making fun to drive a big part of their new direction as a brand. Camry, Corolla, Supra, heck, even the Highlander is a lot more fun than it used to be. And where hybrids used to be just for super-efficiency, Toyota is showing …

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2020 Honda Ridgeline RTL-E AWD by Ben Lewis

As we write this, GM just announced the GMC HUMMER EV, a full-EV pickup truck with an available 1,000 horsepower (no typo!), 0-60 in 3 seconds, and even hands-free Super Cruise technology. So, it kind of makes us wonder, what is the definition of a pickup truck? Other manufacturers have messed around with the idea – Dodge offered a convertible pickup, and all the major manufactures offer SuperTrucks that are a mix of muscle car and truck. Honda loves to engineer, and they went a different route – how about a pickup truck that gives you the comfort and ride …

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2020 Subaru Ascent by Ben Lewis

What if you love your Subaru Outback but find yourself needing more room, especially a 3rd row of seats? Or if you have a 3-row SUV and always wanted a Subaru to call your own? Easy, get yourself a Subaru Ascent. We worried that the transition to such a large vehicle might dilute the Subie goodness we’ve found in the Outback, Forester, Crosstrek – even the WRX. So, we had to ask. Is the biggest Subaru still true to the cause? Subaru Design on Display Well, it certainly looks that way. If you didn’t have a reference point, you might …

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2020 VW Golf GTI 2.0T Autobahn by Ben Lewis

We often get asked, what vehicle do you recommend for an enthusiast who also needs real-world practicality? While we would love to recommend something like the BMW M235i Gran Coupe we tested, we get it – it’s not inexpensive. Ditto for the Mini Countryman JCW. But for those who especially like European driving manners, there’s always been an easy answer – VW’s delightful GTI. And with a new model around the corner, we thought we’d take a last look at the 7th gen hot hatch to see if it still holds up as a great all-rounder. ( A new 2022 …

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2020 Mazda Miata MX-5 RF Grand Touring by Ben Lewis

Great cars seem to have a few things in common. But it really boils down to this – a great car always creates a sense of occasion, every time you drive. And that’s something you can say about every Miata since the first one came ashore in 1990. Yep, 30 years. While you can argue which model is best, there’s never been a mis-step, they’ve never tried to change its mission…a Miata is not a luxury car. Or an SUV. Or heaven forbid, a minivan. It’s a sports car, pure and undiluted. Let’s celebrate the MX-5’s big 3-0! Classic Proportions …

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2020 Toyota Highlander Hybrid Platinum L4 AWD by Ben Lewis

The Toyota Highlander has always been a solid choice in the mid-size SUV segment. By solid, we mean, well-built, good value, Toyota reliability. But ahem, nothing to get excited about. Well, until now. For 2020, there’s an all-new Highlander, and while it hasn’t lost any of the things that make a Highlander a stress-free choice, this one’s notably more passionate, from style, to driving, to features. You can now lust after a Highlander and not be locked up in the automotive looney bin. Big and Bold The first thing that hits you is the Highlander’s take-no-prisoners design. It looks bigger, …

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2020 Buick Encore GX Essence FWD by Ben Lewis

Have you ever been at a pizza place and seen something called “The Meat Lover’s Pizza”? Or a place that has “The Veggie Lover’s” sandwich? It’s called specialization – and why should food have all the fun. Introducing the all-new 2020 Buick Encore GX – we call it “The Tech Lover’s Buick. Stylish SUV Before we go any further, we need to point out that the Encore GX is not related to the previous Buick Encore, which is still available – small, fun, funky, and frankly one of our favorite small SUVs. But between the much larger Enclave and Envision …

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2020 Kia Niro PHEV EX Premium by Ben Lewis

We recently tested the 2020 Kia Sportage, and noted that Kia in a very Porsche-like manner, continuously tweaks and updates as it goes along, and like the Sportage, we find the same is true for Niro hybrid model. Since the Niro is one our favorite Hybrid, Plug-in Hybrid and EV models, that’s all good news for us. Let’s take a look at the changes. Updated Looks On the outside, the Niro has received some updates to keep it looking fresh. Up front, there are new projector-type headlights and fogs, dual chevron-style LED daytime running lights, and a new diamond-pattern grille. …

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2020 Kia Sportage SX AWD by Ben Lewis

We only somewhat jokingly called the Sportage SUV the “Korean Cayenne” for its Porsche like looks, and sporty personality. But it seems like Kia has taken that to heart, as it is continuously refining and improving the popular vehicle and making it better in every way. And it was pretty great to start with. Fresh Face The makeover for the Sportage starts with a more aggressive front and rear fascia, including new headlights with LED indicators and LED fogs, and a new front grille, bumper, air intake and skid plate. It still looks like a Sportage, but the design feels …

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2020 Hyundai Ioniq HEV Limited by Ben Lewis

It’s interesting how popular hybrids are these days. Historically, gas is relatively cheap, and with the pandemic, lots of people are driving less. Seems like a good excuse to get something crazy like the 485-horsepower Dodge Charger Scat Pack we recently tested. But no, being frugal, and eco-friendly seem to be trends that are not going away. So, we decided to test one of our favorite hybrid vehicles, the Hyundai Ioniq. And although the Korean carmaker was later to the market with this kind of vehicle, it has quickly become a major challenge to the Toyota Prius. Let’s see why. …

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2020 Dodge Ram 1500 Laramie Crew Cab 4×4 EcoDiesel by Ben Lewis

When we used to go to movie theaters (remember that?) our favorite large bucket of popcorn unapologetically wore the “Big is More” logo. You have to admire the honesty. And if a pickup truck ever deserved to have the Big is More graphic on it, it would be the 2020 Dodge Ram 1500. Big is Beautiful This is one gorgeous truck. And being a crew cab, it cuts a large swath wherever it goes. The massive front grille must look immense in the rearview mirror of traffic as pull up – other cars would scurry to get out of your …

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2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody by Ben Lewis

Sometimes we drive a car that makes us smile with joy. Heck, we grin just looking at it. And our 2020 Dodge Charger Scat Pack Widebody is such a car. And once you drive it – you’ll never be able to wipe that smile off your face. Green Giant Well the first thing to kick in the old endorphins is the new -for-2020 Widebody exterior. Originally seen on the Challenger model and offered on the 707-horsepower Charger SRT Hellcat model, the Scat Pack widebody adds integrated fender flares that add 3.5 inches in width. And the Charger was already a …

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2020 Lexus NX 300h by Ben Lewis

We always hear about “Best in Class”, “Class-Leading” or “Class Standard”, but what happens when you’re the only one in your class? And that’s what we have here, in its segment ,the Lexus NX 300h is the only regular hybrid in its class. Well, some manufacturers might take that as an opportunity to set the bar low – where else you going to go? – but not Lexus. Like all their products, they hold everything to a higher standard. But is it worth going to a hybrid, when there a lot of other interesting choices, including a non-hybrid Lexus NX?  …

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2020 Toyota Camry TRD V6 Sedan by Ben Lewis

Introducing Toyota’s hot new performance vehicle – the TRD Camry. Toyota Racing Development? The in-house racing division of the big T? And Camry? Sounds like two things that don’t go together – like jumbo shrimp. But just like that crave-worthy crustacean, it comes together quite nicely. And it just might be a performance bargain to boot. Big Bold Style When the Camry was redone in 2018, we loved the new aggressive look – muscular and wide, it looked more like a European sport sedan, and had real presence. To give it the “Competition Look” the TRD adds unique piano-black front …

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2020 BMW M235i xDrive Gran Coupe by Ben Lewis

We recently tested the MINI Clubman and remarked that there’s a lot of BMW under the skin. Well, in many ways, you could say the new BMW 2-series Gran Coupe has a fair amount of MINI under the skin – and just like the Clubby, it’s a good thing. Another way to think of the M235i Gran Coupe is the sedan version of the monster X2 M35i we tested – they share a lot of the same running gear – but going from SAV/SUV/Crossover to Sedan/Gran Coupe (stop with all the different names, please!) creates a very different beast. But …

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2020 MINI Cooper S Clubman by Ben Lewis

Is there anybody that still thinks MINI is a British company? Well, the truth is, it’s been part of BMW for a long time. In fact, many of the current BMW’s – like the X1 SUV – share MINI running gear. But that’s no reason to cry into your warm beer, as MINI is the best of both worlds. While the stylists who surround the MINI product make grand efforts to keep the bulldog-style, the fun and whimsical vibe, the knowledgeable folks at BMW continue to massage and refine the product. Ever year, there’s lots of little improvements. So, we …

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2020 Honda CR-V Hybrid Touring by Ben Lewis

Honda is often times a technology leader, but in the case of the Hybrid SUV’s, it’s been a bit slow. But good news is here for those who love the CR-V and want all the goodness a Hybrid can bring – for 2020 we have the all-new CR-V Hybrid. And with Toyota turning up the heat in the segment with the excellent RAV4 Hybrid, it’s perfect timing. CR-V Hybrid Exterior – The Best Looking CR-V Ever! For 2020, all CR-V models get a makeover, including bolder front and rear styling and redesigned wheels. And like the Civic Coupe we recently …

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2020 Toyota Avalon XSE Hybrid by Ben Lewis

It’s interesting how different technologies develop over time. A perfect example is the Hybrid car. With the original Prius, it was a technically interesting, but pretty agrarian little vehicle. Slow and a little clunky, it got very good gas mileage, but you had to be committed to the cause. Come round 2, and Hybrids got better, with little penalty to the driving experience, excellent gas mileage – our 2019 Prius tester averaged over 50 mpg! – but the appeal of hybrids remained in the camps of eco-friendliness. But now the Hybrid has another trick up its sleeve – it’s now …

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2020 Nissan Armada Platinum Reserve 4WD by Ben Lewis

Now more than ever, our vehicles have become our sanctuaries. And if you’re like us, you think, why not make my sanctuary a big, luxurious, comfy and powerful one? Allow us to introduce the perfect place to hang out – the 2020 Nissan Armada. Armada Exterior –Big, Bold, Style One thing we like about Nissan is that they don’t just do the same vehicle in different sizes. A Rogue is not a small Pathfinder, an Altima is not just a mid-size Maxima. Everything has its own vibe. And that’s especially true with the Armada. All-new in 2018, the Armada hasn’t …

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2020 Subaru WRX Series. White by Ben Lewis

Subaru does something very European. They never seem to be completely satisfied and are constantly tweaking the WRX. Of course, you have the big cycle changes, and the smaller ones, and don’t forget the Special Editions. Since 2002, when it was introduced, the WRX has evolved. But this is more than just that.  The WRX Series. White is something really special. The changes are subtle in the overall scheme of things, and yet, this thing just works. Impressively so. So is the Series. White the best WRX ever? Let’s find out.   WRX Series. White Exterior – the Plain White …

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2020 Subaru Legacy Sport Review – By Ben Lewis

We’ve always liked Subaru. They’re the perfect example of a company zigging while others zagged. Steadfast in their belief in all-wheel-drive (except for the BR-Z sports car), Subies gained a foothold in areas with lots of snow or slop and became beloved for their mountain-goat-like abilities. The brand has been smart, spreading the gospel of AWD, the horizontally-opposed “Boxer” engine, and has created a name with true identity; green, caring, safe. Subaru isn’t just for the snow-belt anymore. They use the word Love a lot in their ads. All good. Of course, the other brands aren’t just going to sit …

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2020 Hyundai Sonata Limited by Ben Lewis

Well, we are always excited to hear about a new Hyundai Sonata. It seems that the automaker always tries to do something special, and their flagship sedan also seems to get some hand-me-down (we should all be so lucky!) technology from its wealthy sibling Genesis. And if you saw the Superbowl commercial, it’s bringing some amazing tech to the segment as well. So, is this the sedan to beat Camry and Accord at their own game? We’ll see! Sonata exterior – Distinctive Styling Ok, you see the word “distinctive” and you wonder – and well you should. At first glance …

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2020 Mazda CX-30 by Ben Lewis

Okay, we’re spoiled for choice these days. If you say you can’t find a vehicle to meet your needs, you’re not looking hard enough. Let’s take small cars/SUVs/crossovers. And a manufacturer like Mazda. Need a small car? There’s the Mazda 3 sedan and the Mazda 3 hatchback. We’ve tested both and loved them. Maybe want a small crossover/SUV? There’s the Mazda CX-3. Also, excellent. But you say, well, I want something a little taller than a sedan/hatch, but not quite an SUV. Okay says Mazda – here’s the all-new CX-30! And it might be the perfect blend of all the …

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2020 Toyota GR Supra 3.0 Premium by Ben Lewis

It’s hard to remember a new Toyota vehicle that’s had this much attention around it. Yes, the new RAV4 was a big deal, and the new Camry was also important. But neither of them had car guys (and gals) drooling, dreaming, and scouring social media for info like the new Supra. And the Supra is a very important car for the brand. As Toyota has made huge efforts to make each new vehicle more exciting and better performing, they needed a halo vehicle to show what the brand is really made of. Enter one of the most popular performance cars …

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2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Limited X 4×4 by Ben Lewis

These days, we’ve been thinking a lot about “bug out” vehicles. Maybe it’s too much bingeing on the Walking Dead, but hey when the Zombies come a-munching, what you gonna do? We say hop in your 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee and head for the hills! Grand Cherokee exterior – familiar and friendly While the idea of a Zombie Apocalypse is really not that new, neither is the Grand Cherokee. But that’s not a bad thing. Jeep says it’s the most rewarded SUV ever, and that’s believable. And the Jeep GC continues to be the same tasteful, handsome vehicle it has …

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2020 Toyota C-HR Limited By Ben Lewis

It’s interesting how time changes things. When we tested the 2018 C-HR, it was one of the first of the mini-crossovers, and it looked like the small sedan was on its way of going extinct. Well, the small sedan still isn’t what it used to be, but it’s around. And we’ve found some really good ones lately, including the Toyota Corolla and Kia Forte GT. But what’s even more interesting to us, is that the mini-crossover has now been attracting the interest of a new type of buyer – those who were thinking about luxury vehicles, but with the economy …

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2020 Fiat 500x Sport by Ben Lewis

Are you a fan of Monty Python? (OK, we may be dating ourselves here..) Well, they used to have a segment with a newsman-like person at a desk saying, “And now for something completely different.” And you know, they could have been talking about the Fiat 500x. Fiat 500x Exterior – Thinking out of The Box It starts with expressive looks. While it shares the running gear with the Jeep Renegade, it won’t be confused with that, or any other small SUV. Last year, the 500x got a facelift, with new front and rear fascia that trade in a little …

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2020 BMW M340i xDrive Sedan by Ben Lewis

In every market segment there is the dominant player. Small affordable sports car? Miata. Import pickup truck? Tacoma. And when it comes to premium sport sedan, that would be the BMW 3-series. Which is not to say there isn’t competition there, in fact a bunch of wonderful sedans from the Audi A4 to the Genesis G70 to the Volvo S60 are gunning to be the quickest gun in town. But it always seemed that the BMW 3 is the benchmark. And now they went and made it incredible – welcome to the BMW M340i. M340i Exterior – Low-key flyer The …

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2019 Honda Clarity Plug-In Touring by Ben Lewis

If you love Honda, and want a full-on EV, there’s some bad news. You can’t get one. Honda has decided to discontinue the 100% Honda Clarity Electric. If you really want to be on the edge, there’s still the Hydrogen-powered model Honda Clarity Fuel Cell, but it’s a California-only model, and you’re really limited for fueling stations. But there’s good news, too. The Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid continues, and it’s one of our favorite PHEV’s as they’re known. In fact, you might love it, even if you have no interest in hybrids or EV’s at all! Honda Clarity Design – …

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2021 Kia Seltos S FWD by Ben Lewis

We recently tested the Hyundai Kona, and found it to be a stylish, sporty and well-equipped runabout. So, it’s easy to think that the all-new 2021 Kia Seltos, which shares most of the powertrain is its brother from another mother, but that’s not the case – it’s a completely different vehicle with a different purpose. Poised between Kia’s funky Soul and more traditional Sportage, it’s a small, rugged adventurer ready to tackle tough conditions. Kia Seltos Exterior – Bold and Eye Catching Kia likes to say that the Seltos has the same design theme as the big, bold Telluride SUV. …

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2020 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport by Ben Lewis

We recently tested the VW Atlas, the brand’s newest 3-row, 7-passenger SUV, and really liked it. And not just us, it’s been a strong sales success – an affordable, stylish, fun to drive 3-row SUV is a hot ticket these days. Just take a look at the Kia Telluride. But the brand famous for the VW GTI can’t just let that large SUV sit there. They wanted to make something sportier, with a little more attitude and fun. Voila’! Welcome to the swoopier 5-seater Cross Sport. And we found it surprisingly different from its 3-row sibling. Atlas Cross Sport Design …

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2020 Hyundai Venue Road Test Review by Ben Lewis

2020 Hyundai Venue SEL Review Here’s a term you don’t here that much anymore. Basic transportation. You probably remember them, usually a small car, no frills, no thrills, just get me to work (or school) and back. Thrifty and reliable. Well, those don’t really exist anymore. Part of that is good – comprehensive safety is becoming standard equipment on just about all vehicles. And with almost everyone using a smartphone, connectivity is important. And oh yeah, might as well make it a small SUV/Crossover – versatility and practicality won’t take a back seat anymore. So that’s opened the door for …

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2019 Audi RS5 Sportback Review by Ben Lewis – Green with Energy

To paraphrase a famous SNL sketch, Audi been very, very, good to us. Looking back, we spent quality time with the beautiful A5 coupe, the potent S5 Sportback, and now we’re driving the Uber-fast (not to be confused with Uber, fast) RS 5 Sportback. It’s a nice progression, as each one has built on the other, but you’re never really prepared for the jaw-dropping performance an Audi RS model can provide. Green, with Energy The first thing that hit us about our tester was its Sonoma Green Metallic paint. We loved it. Audi has a tradition of bringing some awesome …

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2020 VW Jetta GLI Autobahn by Ben Lewis

We recently tested the all-new 2020 Kia Forte and came away impressed. It’s the latest of the new-class of fun-to-drive sedans that are taking the fight to the small crossover/SUV market. And one of the most exciting members of that new class is the VW Jetta GLI. For a long time, the GLI has been the hot-tach GTI’s poor relation – nice, and fun, but no GTI. Well, all that changed last year with the introduction of the new Jetta, which included a new GLI. And VW did enthusiasts a solid – giving us the same running gear of the …

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2020 Kia Forte GT by Ben Lewis

Many have said that the small car is on the way out. That small crossovers like the Hyundai Kona or tall hatchbacks like the Mazda CX30 will pushing them out. And the numbers don’t lie, SUV crossovers are king. (outside of full-size pickup trucks). But the sedan isn’t ready to throw in the towel yet. In fact, struggling to stay relevant has brought some of the best 4-doors to market that we’ve seen in a long time. The new Toyota Camry is excellent and fun. The Honda Accord, too. Heck they even put a turbo motor in the Mazda 6. …

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2020 Hyundai Kona Ultimate FWD by Ben Lewis

Small SUV’s are a big thing, and they keep on getting bigger. And they’re not just aiming for small SUV and crossover buyers, they’re going after small car buyers too. The new Mazda CX30 for example, is more a tall hatch than anything else. The Hyundai Kona could fit into that mold as well. It definitely has SUV styling cues, but the size certainly wouldn’t turn off buyers coming from small cars. And as a bonus, this is one of the most fun small SUV’s to drive. Spending a week in a Kona is a much fun as…. well, a …

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2020 Mazda CX-9 Signature AWD by Ben Lewis

If you’ve been thinking about a 3-row SUV, but you’re not sure, you’re not alone. It seems like the automakers can’t make up their minds either. A few years ago, we saw a bunch of new models feature available third row seats. And while they initially took a bite out of the minivan segment, a lot of them have gone away, or made them low-volume models. Mazda’s CX-9 is one of those. But we wouldn’t weep about limited availability of a 3rd row, because frankly, the largest Mazda SUV is a dynamite vehicle. It’s a Looker We’ve seen a nice …

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2020 Toyota Land Cruiser Heritage Edition by Ben Lewis

Words like “Icon” and “Legend” get thrown around a lot in the automotive marketplace. Along with terms like “inspired by” and “an homage to” also thrown in. But there are a few deserving the title of greatness, and in SUV’s, you’d have to include Toyota’s Land Cruiser. First of all, it’s been around a long time, 60+ years. And while we’ve been through many iterations of the Cruiser, despite growing larger, more powerful and more luxurious along the way, it has always maintained its ruggedness, its off-road capability, and unbreakable nature. And it’s a world-wide favorite – from the Sahara …

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2020 Mini JCW Countryman All4 by Ben Lewis

You think you know Mini, but you don’t know Mini. Yeah, we know, cute fun little cars. Quick, with – everyone says it – “go cart” handling. But how about a high performance, sports car-stomping, lightning-quick Mini? And how about making that a Countryman? Behold the JCW Countryman, an unlikely superhero you can’t help but cheer for. For those not in the know, JCW is John Cooper Works. Cooper was a famous racer and performance builder of the original Mini in the 60’s, and we love that Mini remembers those who were so influential to the brand. A Super New …

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2020 Honda Civic Si 4-door by Ben Lewis

Normally, when a carmaker does a few mid-lifecycle tweaks to keep things fresh, it’s not a big deal. Maybe the looks get a little update, the electronics get brought up to speed, and if you’re lucky, they squeeze out a couple horsepower. So, when Honda offered us a 2020 Civic Si, we were happy to see it – we love the current-gen Si – but not really expecting much. But hold the phone! Those little things add up to be a big change. Fresh Face There was some moaning and groaning about the Civics’ exuberant styling when it first came …

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2020 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth by Ben Lewis

Ok, we’re spoiled here in California. While a great part of the country is dealing with old man Winter and shoveling their way to get cars out of the driveway, we’ve had a nice touch of warmth hitting the low 70’s. A perfect time for a zippy drop top like the Fiat 124 Spider Abarth. It’s a What? We forget sometimes that everyone isn’t a car enthusiast. But we had more than a few people asking us what our tester was. Well, it’s a Fiat, obviously, right? Until you notice that it does not say Fiat anywhere on the vehicle. …

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2020 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited Sahara 4×4 EcoDiesel by Ben Lewis

We recently tested the all-new Jeep Gladiator and came away extremely impressed. The Glad was an intriguing combination of Jeep, pickup truck, and convertible. But that’s not the only surprise coming to us from Jeep this year – there’s an all-new EcoDiesel model that’s been long awaited, and we were lucky enough to get our hands on one. Dive Right In Well that’s easy enough as our tester came in a beautiful blue Jeep calls Ocean Blue. From the front it could be any Jeep – and that’s good – we love the round headlamps, the seven-slot grille, and the …

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2020 Jeep Gladiator Sport – Road Test Review – By Ben Lewis

We’ve had our share of exciting new vehicles lately. Ones that drew crowds, from the Honda Civic Type R, to the Lexus LC500. Thing is, it’s usually of interest to a certain kind of buyer. The hi-po import guys for the Civic, the luxury buyers for the LC. But with the 2020 Jeep Gladiator, we’ve had tons of interest – not just from Jeep loyalists – but folks from all different backgrounds and interests. It’s the people’s vehicle! (Sorry VW) Friendly Looks The first thing that draws them in is the Gladiator’s exterior design. From the front, it’s pure Jeep …

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2020 Lexus RC F – Road Test Review – By Ben Lewis

For a long time, Lexus has stood for really wonderful cars. Beautifully built, wonderfully smooth, but it’s been the rare Lexus model that could turn the heads of buyers who pony up serious dough for Mercedes’ AMG, BMW’s M Division, and Porsche. Well, there was the Lexus LFA. And it was sensational, but priced new at $400,000 and going for mid-400’s to 600’s (yes, thousands) now, it was always a halo car that was going to be out of reach of almost all of us. (We do still buy Lottery tickets and dream, though). For the rest of us, Lexus …

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2020 Kia Soul GT-Line Review by Ben Lewis

The Kia Soul has long been one of our favorite vehicles – cool style, hip vibe, strong performance, loads of tech at a reasonable price. What’s not to love? And we were equally thrilled when we recently tested the all-new 2020 X-Line, we came away very impressed. Except we kind of missed the Hamsters that Kia has killed from their ad campaign. What Kia didn’t kill was the available turbo-engined model, which has always been the enthusiast’s choice. But with the new 2.0-liter, non-turbo we tested we didn’t miss the turbo rush as much as we he had remembered. So, …

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2020 Subaru Outback Limited – Road Test Review – By Ben Lewis

If there’s a company that epitomizes the “You Don’t Mess with Success” mantra, it’s Subaru. You rarely get a revolutionary, all-new, blow-your-mind model from the automaker. And we’re fine with that. Everything’s so good already, they prefer to perfect what they got. Introducing the all-new 2020 Outback! You didn’t notice? Well, it does look very familiar to anyone who has loved the previous five generations of Subie’s tall wagon. The size is about the same – 1.4” longer and 0.6 wider than the previous model. The lines look a bit crisper, with a large hexagonal grille, LED fogs and front …

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2020 Hyundai Palisade SEL FWD Review by Ben Lewis

We recently tested the all-new Kia Telluride, and came away mightily impressed. So, we couldn’t wait to try its sibling, the Hyundai Palisade. We were surprised in a couple ways. They’re very different, and yet both deserve your consideration. And Hyundai’s flagship SUV even has a surprising accent. (Not to be confused with the Hyundai Accent) Swedish Fish Many times we’ve pointed out that Kia design feels very European, thanks in part to putting Peter Schreyer the head of Audi design in charge. Hyundai has never felt that way, until now. Well, except for the front. Here we have a …

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2020 Toyota 86 Hakone Review by Ben Lewis

You have to give Toyota credit. After all, with home runs like the RAV4 (best-selling SUV in America) Camry (best-selling car in America 18 out of 19 years) Tacoma (best-selling mid-size pickup), they really don’t have to go out and sell sports cars. But they do. In fact, this year they’ve got not one, but two, the 86, and the all-new Supra. OK, you can argue the big T doesn’t go it alone – the 86 is a cooperative effort with Subaru that markets its near twin the BR-Z, and the Supra shares a great deal with the new BMW …

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2020 Honda Accord Touring 2.0T Review by Ben Lewis

We’ve mentioned before that car years are kind of like dog years. Two years in people time can be a long time on the showroom. Take the Honda Accord. When it was introduced as a 2018, it was the new hotness. One of, if not the best reasonably-priced family sedan. Time flies, though, and an all-new Toyota Camry and more recently Nissan Altima are vying to steal the Accord’s steak off the grille while it’s still sizzling. So, is the Honda Accord still hot? Bring Your Oven Mitts Well, in the ficklest of all areas – exterior style – the …

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2020 Acura RDX SH-AWD A-SPEC – Review by Ben Lewis

Acura has been on the move lately. We’ve been continuously impressed with vehicles like the fun and agile ILX, the luxurious and swift RLX, and the MDX Hybrid, which was a tech tour de force. But of all the nice products, the best may be the all-new RDX. The RDX has had an interesting life. The original model was ahead of its time, coming in   2007 with a turbocharged 4-cylinder engine and a very sporty chassis. For the second gen, the 2013 model featured a V6 engine, and was much more of a scaled down MDX. A very nice mainstream …

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2019 Lexus ES350 Ultra Luxury – Road Test Review – By Ben Lewis

For 2019, Lexus introduced an all-new ES350, and it’s a radical step up from the previous model. Due in part to the all-new Camry which the ES shares a chassis, it was the last sedan to get some bona fide’s in terms of performance and pizzazz. There may some though, that kind of liked the previous models focus on the luxury and away from sport. What to do for them?  Enter the ES350 Ultra Luxury. Sleek and Sexy Okay, there’s really not much difference exterior-wise between the Ultra Luxury and other ES350’s, but we don’t mind Lexus not being shouty …

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2019 Honda Civic 1.5T 2dr Touring – Road Test Review – By Ben Lewis

Love at first sight. Okay, not at first sight. The Honda Civic coupe has been around for a while now, but there’s something special about our tester that keeps us coming back for more. And we have an idea why. It starts with choosing the right Civic We have tested a wide range of Civics, and being enthusiasts, we’ve gravitated to the hi-po models like the Civic Type R, the Civic Si and the grins-for-the-buck Civic Sport.  The first thing we noticed, they’re all 4-doors. And in the case of the Type R (or CTR for those in the know) …

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2019 Mazda3 Hatchback – Road Test Review – By Ben Lewis

We recently tested the all-new Mazda 3 sedan, and with its premium feel and refined road manners, called it the best Euro sedan for the money right now. Not bad for a Japanese brand, eh? Well, Mazda seems to always serve up a hatchback on the 3 as well, to give those who want more practicality with a larger cargo bay, but the vehicles are usually pretty similar. (If you wanted a high-performance Mazda 3, the MazdaSpeed 3’s were built on the hatchback, but they haven’t done that in a while.) So, we were excited to test the all-new Mazda …

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2019 Subaru Crosstrek Plug-in Hybrid Review by Ben Lewis

Subaru loves to go their own way. That’s one of the things we love about them. We recently tested the WRX – a powerful sports sedan with rally-car DNA. The new Forester, a crossover with that same feel of something a little different from the mainstream. Need a 3-row SUV? You can get the Ascent, and enjoy that Subaru goodness in a larger package. It takes real engineering talent to stay true to your school (cue Beach Boys), and still meet, compete, and beat other vehicles in your segment. So, now we have the all-new Crosstrek Hybrid – the company’s …

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2019 VW Tiguan SEL Premium 4Motion Review by Ben Lewis

We recently tested the massive 2019 Toyota Sequoia, and we felt that it had earned the motto (ok, we read it on a popcorn box) Big is More. In its class the jumbo Toy makes the most of its size. But it’s not the only class where size matters. Take for example the 2019 VW Tiguan. The previous gen was one of our favorite small SUV’s – it felt like you were getting some GTI DNA mixed in with crossover practicality. When time came around for VW to update the Tig, it decided to aim directly for the U.S. market. …

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2019 Toyota Sequoia TRD Sport Review by Ben Lewis

We used to go to a movie theater that had catchy phrases on the popcorn containers. On the largest size was the especially memorable: BIG IS MORE. Well, there’s no arguing that in popcorn. Or full-size SUV’s. Which brings us to the 2019 Toyota Sequoia. If an SUV ever deserved that motto on the side, this would be it. But there’s plenty to talk about outside of the big and tall dimensions. Big is Beautiful The 2019 Sequoia is a good-looking beast. Unlike the new RAV4 (that we loved) that’s dressed up to look rugged, the big Toy bowls you …

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2019 Mini Cooper S Hardtop 60th Anniversary – Review by Ben Lewis

When we talk about performance cars, the benchmark is still 0-60. Which may be outdated, but it’s easy to get your head around and compare cars of the past with cars of today. (Spoiler Alert – cars of today are much faster today.) That said, we are talking 0-60 mph. But with the 2019, we are talking something completely different. 0 – 60 Years Yep, years. Hard to believe that the original Mini first bowed in 1959. Especially since a super-small, efficient and fun vehicle seems so now. 1959 was an interesting year – The first Barbie Doll was introduced, …

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2019 VW Arteon SEL 4Motion – Road Test Review – By Ben Lewis

We recently tested the all new Nissan Altima, and came away impressed and hopeful for the fate of the 4-door sedan. Yes, the Crossover/SUV is the new King, but there still seems to be plenty of room in the royal family for a sedan. And for a lot of manufacturers – especially luxury brands – there still needs to be a halo sedan. Enter the VW Arteon. Replacing the VW CC, which was a stylish version of the Passat Sedan, the Arteon, is bigger, more stylish and more expensive. So our question – Is VW’s new flagship a dreamboat, or …

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2020 Nissan Altima SR AWD Review by Ben Lewis

Sometimes, we wonder if family sedans sit around and reminisce about the good old days. Yeah, remember when the big box office was 4-doors? Camry and Accord, we ruled. The best-selling cars, the bring-home-the-bacon for most automakers. At least until…ugh…. SUV’s. Well, lately, it seems like auto manufacturers aren’t taking things sitting down. The all-new Camry and Accord are dynamite cars, with loads of style and performance and value. And now we have an all-new Altima – the sedan that’s always been a little different from the rest of the pack – but always a delight in its own right. …

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2019 Toyota RAV4 Limited – Review By Ben Lewis

We recently tested the 2019 RAV4 Hybrid, and came away hugely impressed. It’s a total rethink of the RAV4, and it’s bigger, better, more handsome. A winner. But in an interesting twist, Toyota made the Hybrid the performance model, with 219 horsepower, and in our XSE tester a performance tuned suspension. We’re wondering if we had been sucked in by the top of the line hybrid power version. So now, we’re back testing a well-equipped but non-hybrid model – the kind most people will end up buying to see if the standard model is as good. Looks Good Since we …

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2019 Lexus UX 250h Luxury – Review by Ben Lewis

There is an age-old conundrum in vehicles. At a certain price, should you buy the top of the line of a mainstream manufacturer, or go into the entry-level of a premium brand? And here is a perfect example – the Lexus UX 250h.  You’ll pay a premium in price over, say a RAV4 hybrid, but is it worth it? We think so. Why? It Looks Like a Lexus This is a second time we’ve tested the UX. We previously had the UX 200, and we really liked the lines of the vehicle. While it is the baby in the family, …

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2019 Subaru WRX Series.Gray – Review by Ben Lewis

Funny how things change. Today, if a friend tells you they’ve bought a Subaru, it’s probably a Forester, or an Outback, maybe an Ascent. And they’re all lovely vehicles. But back in 2002, when you bought a Subie, it was probably a WRX. And it was revelation – a rally proven, high-performance legend that the brand finally decided to bring over here. And it radically changed what people thought about Subaru. And it was the beginning of a long relationship between the cute little sedan or hatch and those who love to drive. Well, now we have the 2019 WRX …

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