In The Autoblog Garage The Week Of March 15, 2015
  • Image Credit: Lexus

In The Autoblog Garage The Week Of March 15, 2015

As you probably know, many sets of keys pass between the team of editors at Autoblog. We do our very best to share impressions with every car we drive, with the aim of helping consumers and new-car shoppers like you decide what new models best suit your individual needs.

This week, our virtual garage runs the gamut from luxurious fullsize SUVS to funky hatchbacks and even a sport sedan that won't be available to purchase for several more months.

Follow along as we share important facts and driving impressions about five of the latest cars and trucks we've been driving this week.
2015 Kia Soul !
  • Image Credit: Kia

2015 Kia Soul !

– Brandon Turkus

BASE PRICE: $20,700
AS TESTED PRICE: $26,715
FUEL ECONOMY: 23 mpg City, 31 mpg Highway
WARRANTY: 10 Yrs / 100,000 Miles
ENGINE: I4 2.0L
TRANSMISSION: 6-Speed Automatic
PERFORMANCE: 164 hp, 151 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 mph in 8 seconds (est.)
SEATING: 5 people
COMPETITORS: Jeep Renegade, Chevrolet Trax, Honda HR-V

PROS:
– High-class interior, with sound materials
– Extremely comprehensive set of optional equipment, including air-conditioned seats,xenon headlights and a panoramic sunroof
– Smooth, refined powertrain, and a reasonably comfortable ride

CONS:
– Not available with all-wheel drive
– Fuel economy could be better
– Exterior styling may not be for everyone

CLOSING THOUGHTS: The second-generation Soul is a huge improvement over its predecessor, possessing a more upscale, grown-up interior without breaking the bank. That said, the lack of all-wheel drive hurts it, particularly for customers north of the snow belt who, right or wrong, won't consider a vehicle without four driven wheels.
2015 Lexus LX 570
  • Image Credit: Lexus

2015 Lexus LX 570

– Steven J. Ewing

BASE PRICE: $82,930
AS TESTED PRICE: $90,720
FUEL ECONOMY: 12 mpg City, 17 mpg Highway
WARRANTY: 4 Yrs / 50,000 Miles
ENGINE: 5.7L V8
TRANSMISSION: 6-Speed Automatic
PERFORMANCE: 383 hp, 403 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 mph in 7.5 seconds
SEATING: 7 people
COMPETITORS: Cadillac Escalade, Lincoln Navigator, Mercedes-Benz GL-Class

PROS:
– It's a Lexus, and that means the LX's cabin is an incredibly comfortable place to be. Leather everywhere, heated everything, tons of tech and premium features. It might be a step or three behind the competition in terms of newness, but the LX still has all of the equipment to compete with the best.
– The LX 570 is built on the Toyota Land Cruiser platform, so it's actually got some decent off-road capability – likely more than most other things in the class (save, of course, the Land Rover Range Rover). There are several driving modes, an adjustable air suspension, and a proper low-range mode for the four-wheel-drive system.

CONS:
– It's pretty horrible to drive, dynamically. Of course, no seven-passenger SUV is going to be a real treat from behind the wheel, but compared to the competition, the Lexus really feels like a dinosaur. The steering is super vague, there's a ton of body roll, and it's decidedly crashy over broken pavement. Of course, it's a proper SUV with a body-on-frame construction, so it's not going to be all comfort and grace, but compared to other traditionally constructed SUVs, the Lexus still falls behind the pack in terms of poise.
– For being so huge, it's surprisingly small inside. There isn't a ton of room for rear seat passengers, and if you need to use the third row, you'll be folding down two jump seats that attach to the walls.
– I could forgive a lot of the Lexus' shortcomings if it were priced below the competition, but this thing can climb above $90,000, which is absurd. For that price, you'd be better off with pretty much everything else in the class.

CLOSING THOUGHTS:
It may be able to stand toe-to-toe with the competition on paper, but from a usability standpoint, the Lexus LX 570 is way behind the pack. Most of this has to do with just how old the LX is – it really needs to be fully updated. Until that time, nice as the Lexus is, you'd better look elsewhere for a fully comprehensive, nice-driving, fullsize luxury SUV.
2015 Dodge Grand Caravan R/T
  • Image Credit: Dodge

2015 Dodge Grand Caravan R/T

– Adam Morath

BASE PRICE: $29,995
AS TESTED PRICE: $35,970
FUEL ECONOMY: 17 mpg City, 25 mpg Highway
WARRANTY: 5 Yrs / 100,000 Miles (Powertrain)
ENGINE: 3.6-Liter V6 24-Valve VVT Engine
TRANSMISSION: 6-Speed Automatic 62TE Transmission
PERFORMANCE: 283 hp, 260 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 mph in 7.2 seconds
SEATING: 7 people
COMPETITORS: Toyota Sienna, Honda Odyssey, Kia Sedona

PROS:
– Competitively priced
– More powerful than competition
– Various seat configurations
– R/T trim comes with performance suspension and interior upgrades

CONS:
– R/T trim comes with same powertrain as other Grand Caravan trims
– Slightly less cargo area than Honda and Toyota competitors

CLOSING THOUGHTS:
There's not much new on the Dodge Grand Caravan for 2015, but I'll take any opportunity to rep for the minivan segment – especially the one that started it all. Our press fleet variety of the Grand Caravan came in the top-of-the-line R/T trim, which was packed with winter-friendly features, including a heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel, remote start and remote power sliding doors. Spending a long weekend with the Caravan, you realize there is truly no substitute for the minivan bodystyle if your situation calls for third-row seating and the ability to haul lots of cargo. More spacious than a station wagon, more seating than a truck, and easier to access and larger cargo areas than most SUVs, the minivan is a truly indispensable tool for many families. And, with a competitive price and sportier looks and specs relative to the competition, the Grand Caravan should make your shortlist.
2015 Toyota Highlander Limited V6 AWD
  • Image Credit: Toyota

2015 Toyota Highlander Limited V6 AWD

– Greg Migliore

BASE PRICE: $41,300
AS TESTED PRICE: $45,620
FUEL ECONOMY: 18 mpg City, 24 mpg Highway
WARRANTY: 3 Yrs /36,000 Miles
ENGINE: 3.5-liter V6
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed automatic
PERFORMANCE: 270 hp, 248 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds
SEATING: 7 people
COMPETITORS: Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder, Mazda CX-9

PROS:
– I really like the new appearance Toyota gave the Highlander for its 2014 redesign. It's sculpted, attractive and makes the Highlander look like a luxury SUV.

– It's easy to drive for a vehicle this large. There is great visibility, and the elevated driving position provides confidence. The steering offers a connected feel, and the chassis is comfortable and well-sorted. The V6 isn't a rocket, but it's strong enough for this vehicle.

– Like the exterior, the cabin has an upscale vibe. The materials look and feel pleasing, and the small shelf that runs across the lower middle part of the dashboard is cleverly placed and useful. I put my sunglasses there, but its great for phones, coins and other small items.

CONS:
– It's not the most exciting vehicle out there from an enthusiast standpoint, though nothing in this segment will quicken your pulse.

CLOSING THOUGHTS:
I really enjoyed my brief time in the Highlander. It's big, inspires confidence on the road, and I think it looks appealing from all angles. The cabin is quiet, well-appointed and flirts with luxury territory in this Limited trim. It's an ideal vehicle for families on the go. It's hard to find a lot of negatives here, since the Highlander is well-executed in nearly every respect. The clichéd vanilla ice cream cone comparison applies, though with 2014's improvements, it's like the cone has been sweetened a bit. They may be a little bland, but who doesn't like sugar cones?
2016 Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG 4Matic
  • Image Credit: Mercedes-Benz

2016 Mercedes-Benz C450 AMG 4Matic

– Jeremy Korzeniewski

BASE PRICE: $54,000 (EST)
AS TESTED PRICE: TBD
FUEL ECONOMY: TBD
WARRANTY: 4 Yrs /50,000 Miles
ENGINE: 3.0-liter Bitirbo V6
TRANSMISSION: 7-speed automatic
PERFORMANCE: 362 hp, 384 lb-ft of torque, 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds
SEATING: 5 people
COMPETITORS: Audi S4, BMW 335i M Sport

PROS:
– It's quick. It's fast. And no, those aren't the same things, exactly. There's plenty of power from the twin-turbo V6 engine, enough so that most drivers aren't going to miss the two cylinders it's down on compared to its big brother, the C63. And it keeps pulling well past any sort of legal speed limit in the United States.

– It's practical, too. Four doors means it can be pressed into daily driving duties, if that's what you want, and it has a meaningful trunk. M-B hasn't released fuel economy figures yet, but we'd expect something just south of the outgoing C400's city rating of 21 miles per gallon and 29 highway mpg.

– All-wheel drive isn't absolutely necessary, but it's certainly nice to have. In the case of the C450 AMG, the 4Matic system is tuned at a constant 33-percent front/67-percent rear split, which is supposed to make it feel like a proper sports sedan. It works.

CONS:
– Well... not many, at least not ones that matter in the real world. This sedan may be good enough to stand on its own merit as an AMG product, but it's definitely playing second fiddle to its bigger, brawnier C63 brother. Note that the C63 is a Mercedes-AMG product, while the AMG follows the C450 on this car, which is supposed to be an important identifier. We're not so sure it's that big a deal, but if you're shelling out well over $50,000 to own an AMG, do you really want the second best?

CLOSING THOUGHTS:
– Brand dilution concerns aside, the 2016 Mercedes C450 AMG is a great car. I drove it back-to-back with the latest C63 in Portugal, and I didn't leave thinking the lesser AMG was a better AMG, but I wasn't disappointed, either. Far from it, in fact. I can't imagine that anyone who buys the C450 AMG is going to regret their purchase, and in the end, that's what really matters, right?
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