The VW Mk8 GTI Is A Pleasant Upgrade

A New Generation Of The Iconic Hot Hatch Has Arrived, But How Good Is It?

For decades, the Volkswagen GTI has enjoyed being the go-to hot hatch for enthusiast drivers who crave a fun, practical car. Arriving in Europe in 1976, and landing on U.S. shores in 1983, the GTI has been a massive success for longer than I’ve been alive. Growing up from a truly inexpensive, basic, and peppy little three-door hatchback, VW has kept it real, making reasonable upgrades with regard to power and features in the GTI over the previous seven generations. When I tested the Mk7 GTI two years ago, I looked at it as a sendoff for what I considered the best generation of the model’s extensive history.

With this new eighth generation, VW has given the GTI a full makeover, with a bump in power output while receiving fresh exterior looks and a redesigned, more tech-focused interior that brings the hot hatch into the current decade. VW has a good group of competitors aiming to take its spot atop the hot hatch throne, with Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota in the mix. Thankfully the hot hatch market is still a healthy one, but is the VW GTI still the right one to buy? I took a week-long test to sort that out.

The Useful Specs

The 2022 VW GTI packs a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine that produces 241 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque (up 13 and 15 ticks over the Mk7 GTI, respectively), giving it an advantage over the updated Honda Civic Si I reviewed earlier this year. With your choice of a 6-speed manual transmission or a 7-speed DSG, this tester was equipped with the two-pedal setup. The Mk8 GTI can sprint from 0-60 in 5.1 seconds, which is about 0.7 seconds quicker than the last generation. Top speed is still limited to 155 MPH, which no one should ever try to hit in a little hatchback.

Built on Volkswagen’s long-used MQB modular platform, the GTI shares its underpinnings with several fun compact VAG models. With a full slate of touch-ups to the suspension and chassis, VW claims this new generation of the GTI is more composed yet more capable in the corners. Making several design changes with the body, the Mk8 GTI also looks a bit more upmarket while offering some striking angles. The cockpit receives plenty of changes too, giving the GTI a more modern take on the hot hatch cabin you’ve been familiar with for ages.

Offering three trim levels, VW added a bit more standard equipment to the base S trim, with the SE and Autobahn trim levels still available as the price increases in reasonable chunks. The base price of the GTI S starts at $29,880, SE models begin at $34,630, and the Autobahn has an MSRP of $38,330. The test model VW sent me is the SE trim level, painted a fantastic shade of Kings Red, with Titan Black–and plaid–cloth interior, optioned with the 7-speed DSG (an $800 option), which hits a total MSRP of $36,485.

The Enjoyable City Hatchback

It should come as no surprise that the Mk8 GTI is a great city car that can serve a small family nicely while being a fun weekender. With the standard Golf no longer in the VW lineup, the GTI is the only hatchback from the German manufacturer offered to Americans, with the push for people to buy the Taos crossover. VW also axed the 3-door GTI option, with the 5-door being the only way to take this hot hatch home, which is the practical option for most people.

Sticking to its roots, the Mk8 GTI makes any boring commute or errand run more entertaining. As the car market has cranked up engine specs to levels few people can truly handle, the GT packs enough juice under to satisfy your thirst for fun. Sneaking in and out of slower traffic is definitely enjoyable in this new GTI, and never was I thinking it was lacking power. VW’s refinements to the GTI’s suspension make it cope with bumpy downtown streets with ease while still offering good feedback. EPA fuel economy estimates are 25/34/28, and I managed 27 MPGs during my week with the GTI. Not bad considering I was driving it with more fun intended, rather than trying to optimize efficiency.

Updating the styling of the GTI was done perfectly. Sharper lines are done tastefully, and the new headlight housings add a hint of anger to the package. The Mk8’s wheelbase matches the previous generation, at 103.6 inches, but the overall length bumps up to 168.8 inches. At 57.6 inches high and 70.4 inches wide, a more planted look is given to the Mk8 GTI, met with wide front air intakes at the front and a punchier shoulder line. Sporty 18-inch wheels complete the refreshed GTI’s look wonderfully without looking too busy.

With proportions that fit four people and their stuff, the new GTI might be small next to traffic filled with crossovers, but it’s perfectly sized for reasonable people. The updated seats look the part of a modern hot hatch, while the plaid pattern in the center material gives a nod to GTIs of yesteryear. The front buckets definitely keep you in place when playful driving happens, with lateral support nicely designed where it’s needed. Cargo space isn’t massive, so don’t expect to take a family of four on a road trip with the Mk8 GTI, but the hatch will easily carry a week’s groceries and handle a few roller bags.

A new cabin design theme adds a more tech-heavy setup, with a new 10-inch infotainment screen commanding your attention in the center console. VW gives the new system Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which are frankly better to use than the native software. Screen taps and swipes are a little on the slow side, which isn’t great for this new system. The all-digital instrument cluster is a nice upgrade compared to the somewhat basic analog dials in the Mk7 I reviewed, with all sorts of ways to configure your GTI’s ideal display. Digital controls make their way to the steering wheel too, which don’t have any feedback when using them, and are easy to accidentally tap when turning the wheel.

My biggest gripes with this new setup are divided between the lack of a volume knob–opting for a digital slider instead–and the same style of buttons for the climate control. Neither of these are backlit, so making adjustments at night is a complete guessing game. Why VW overlooked illuminating these controls is a mystery, and losing physical temperature buttons or a volume knob is something too many OEMs are doing to otherwise good cars.

Playing In The Twisty Stuff

Escape the daily grind, and seek your nearby curvy farm-to-market routes, because that’s where VW’s eighth-generation GTI shines. Opt for the sport drive mode, and the GTI quickens its pulse without feeling too feisty. I liked the custom drive mode to let the suspension feel a little smoother, but even the sport setting wasn’t too firm when I gave the GTI a good flogging. The turbocharged engine doesn’t exhibit much lag at all, and the throttle response is steady and direct. Exhaust notes from the GTI aren’t the most inspired, but it’s not too boring either. I’d also like a bit more real noise from the tailpipe rather than some fake tones sneaking through the cabin speakers.

While most GTI buyers will opt for the DCT, to reduce the effort needed to motor around, VW still offers a slick-shifting manual for the purist. Being an analog driving experience fan, I have no complaints with the dual-clutch ‘box in this Mk8 GTI, with a stubby little shifter like Porsche uses for the 992 with a PDK. Hooked up to an electronically-controlled limited-slip differential that adds to grip and confidence in the corners, the front-wheel-drive GTI doesn’t exhibit the usual torque-steer twitch typically felt in front-drive cars equipped with a mechanical LSD. When providing quick steering inputs, the Mk8 feels smooth and precise, as one would expect from this iconic hot hatch. Brake feel was a bit on the soft side, but never did I feel like the GTI wasn’t equipped with enough braking power to control and scrub speed as needed.

VW threw a ton of suspension upgrades at the Mk8 GTI, and compared to the Mk7 I love, this new generation feels more compliant yet easier to stuff into a fast bend. 225/40/18 H-rated Pirelli P Zero All Season rubber is definitely the limiting factor in truly unlocking the fun times behind the wheel of the Mk8 GTI. Damping is great, considering the S and SE trim levels stick with traditional dampers. If you want adaptive dampers, you’ll have to spend a bit more cash for the Autobahn trim, which also gets leather seats and a few other comfort upgrades in the cabin, but the 19-inch wheels wrapped with summer performance tires are a big advantage. Craving the ultimate performance from your hot hatch? VW still offers a Golf R variant that packs 315 horsepower and all-wheel-drive.

The Popular Hot Hatch Improved, But It Isn’t Perfect

With a history spanning generations of loyal buyers, VW continues to satisfy the demand of an enthusiast driver with the new Mk8 GTI. This iconic hot hatch may be inching its way upmarket while increasing its price, but VW is still delivering a fantastic driving experience in a practical package. Not without gripes in the cabin, thanks to some button-less controls, the new GTI is still a wonderful successor to the Mk7 I praised. The challenge is that the GTI now has some great competition in the form of the Civic Si and Hyundai Veloster N.

Even though it’s down on power versus the GTI, I still prefer the handling dynamics of the new Honda Civic Si I tested, which had sharper steering feedback and more enjoyable sensations in quicker corners. Honda only offers the Si as a sedan, which gives the GTI one advantage in my eyes. The Si also has one of the best feeling shifters currently fitted to any new car, and costs $8,000 less than the GTI SE. With a price that sneaks up near $40,000, the GTI is pricing itself against Honda’s Civic Type-R, which is due for a new generation later this year. However you decide to spend your money, I can easily say you’ll still be happy opting for this new GTI.

Audi RS e-tron GT: This Fast EV Thrives In A Crowded Segment

The cousin to the Porsche Taycan ticks different boxes, yet still rocks as an enthusiast driver’s electric car.

If you’re in the market for a large electric performance four-door, you have no shortage of options. In a field Tesla enjoyed being the only entrant into for ages, Porsche, Lucid, Mercedes, and Audi have decided to snag good-sized pieces of the pie. With options to suit any driver’s needs for luxury, outright performance, long range, or a special cool factor, electrified speedy sedans are now all over the road.

As if the Volkswagen group didn’t have a strong enough seller with the Porsche Taycan, with its full slate of trim levels and body styles, it decided to throw an Audi option into the mix. Audi’s e-Tron line started with the practical hatchback A3, and later added crossover options, but it didn’t have a sedan. Fixing that problem, Audi introduced the e-Tron GT, which you might recognize from Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame film.

In its standard form the new Audi e-Tron GT is stylish, well-equipped, and properly quick, but for some enthusiasts, that didn’t quite do the trick. To scratch their itch, Audi delivers something a bit more stout, and added its RS badge to the equation. Having tested a bunch of good EVs over the past couple years, I wanted to see what was up with Audi’s new RS e-Tron GT, and was lucky to get one for a week.

The Juiced Specs

Audi packs the RS e-Tron GT with a 93 kWh battery pack that cranks out 590 horsepower in normal conditions, and bumps up to 637 in boost mode, paired with 612 lb-ft of torque. This power output is in between the Porsche Taycan GTS and Turbo variants. With a permanent magnet motor strapped to each axle, a single-speed transmission up front and a two-speed transmission at the rear, Audi connects its quattro all-wheel-drive to propel the RS electric four-door from 0-60 MPH in just 3.1 seconds on the way to a top speed of 155 MPH.

The RS e-Tron GT’s battery pack is set up with an 800V electric architecture, offering DC fast charging. EPA estimates that the RS e-Tron GT can cruise up to 232 miles of range on a full charge (only sacrificing 6 miles compared to the standard e-Tron GT, and offering about 30 more miles than its Porsche cousins), with MPGe estimates of 79/82/81 (city/highway/combined).

Pricing for the standard Audi e-Tron GT starts at $102,000, with the RS variant bumping up to $139,900. with the Year One package optioned (which adds 21-inch wheels with summer tires, laser headlights, black Audi rings and badges, ceramic brakes, loads of carbon fiber trim inside and out, Nappa leather all over the cabin and seats, power steering plus with rear wheel steering), and Tango Red Metallic paint gracing its exterior, this RS e-Tron GT tester hit a total MSRP of $161,890 after destination.

The Fun Way To The Office

Commutes to work and errand runs are a blast in the RS e-Tron GT, and every single person you pass will give it favorable second looks thanks to sharp styling lines that take some cues from Audi’s attractive A7. Quickly I was reminded that this EV has an RS badge slapped on the back, with the batteries ready to dump their energy to shove you past slower moving traffic. Using the steering wheel paddles engages the trio of brake regen modes, which the most aggressive works nicely for one-pedal driving around the city.

I toyed with the individual drive mode in Audi’s Drive Select system, and put the power in the most efficient mode, tightened up the suspension, and calmed the fake engine sounds to enjoy a refined sport sedan that was still ready to strike in an instant. In the comfort drive mode, this e-Tron will feels remarkably composed, with the three-chamber air suspension softening the bumpiest city streets, and neatly masking the 5,100-pound curb weight as I maneuvered around town. Even putting the suspension in its sportier setting doesn’t disrupt ride quality, while sharpening response when you want to be more playful.

Bang & Olufsen provides the audio system to this electric Audi, and they thump nicely with exceptional clarity. Those speakers definitely feed in a variety of propulsion sounds depending on the drive mode, but you’re able to customize this, but I was surprised how much road noise made its way into the cabin. Attribute some of this to the more eco-friendly version of Goodyear’s Eagle F1 rubber fitted to the optional 21-inch wheels.

Seats in this RS model definitely hit the marks for a performance model, but are refreshingly comfortable during longer drives. Having heating, ventilation, and massage modes for the front buckets are great too, although the ventilation fans are quite loud compared to other cars I’ve tested. Stuffing the kids in the back seat of the RS e-Tron GT won’t punish them, but your adult friends will feel cramped in a space that doesn’t offer much more legroom than the smaller Audi RS5 Sportback I drove last summer.

Trunk space is a bit small too, which is a shame for a four-door with such big dimensions. I wish Audi had some sort of wagon option for this fast EV, or at least made this e-Tron a sportback, but imagine the Volkswagen brass didn’t want to cannibalize the Porsche Taycan’s Sport Turismo and Cross Turismo options. If you really need a bunch of boot space from a fast Audi, the RS6 Avant I reviewed–albeit petrol-powered–will be the way to go.

The RS e-Tron GT has a fantastic cockpit design, which is more conventional than the Porsche Taycan or Tesla Model S, thankfully filled with physical buttons for all the useful controls. Audi’s virtual cockpit controls the 12-inch instrument display, with plenty of ways to configure your perfect layout and data points. If you’ve spent time in any new Audi in the past few years, you’ll have no trouble getting acclimated to the switches inside the RS e-Tron GT. The steering wheel features the great controls Audi has implemented for nearly two decades, sticking to the “if it ain’t broke…” methodology.

As I’ve praised in other Audis I’ve reviewed in the past couple years, the latest version of MMI is wonderful. Featuring a cool design that’s still intuitive, the high-resolution 10-inch touchscreen is neatly integrated into the dash, with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto installed. There’s also a wireless mobile charging slot vertically hidden in the center armrest. I like how Audi hid a pair of USB-C ports under the center of the rear seat, making it easy for your friends and kids to charge their devices.

Electrified Performance Aplenty

Audi didn’t just smack its RS badge on the back of this EV lightly, because this e-Tron means business when it comes to flogging it along a canyon road. Engage the dynamic drive mode, and this electric performance car adjusts its mood to be a madman. Unleashing the 600+ horsepower results in a savage shove of acceleration, with a noticeable kick from the second gear change from the rear gearbox, and no difficulty planting you firmly into the seat back for the duration of any go pedal application.

While it may not boast silly peak figures like its rivals, the RS e-Tron GT will happily rip from corner to corner, instantly making straightaways disappear. To keep up with its Tesla and Lucid rivals, Audi should probably introduce some sort of wild power package to keep up with those competitors that offer some truly ridiculous peak figures. Not that the power in those models is fully usable, but there are buyers who want that flex and are willing to spend stupid money to acquire it.

An alcantara-wrapped version of the same steering wheel I liked in the RS6 Avant is installed, with the perfect rim thickness to allow for feeling a crisp turn-in. I appreciate the optional power steering plus and rear axle steering fitted to this e-Tron, making cornering wonderfully sharp, seemingly shrinking the size and mass it actually possesses. The Goodyears are good at managing grip in the bends, but do give up a hint of traction in faster corners. I wish there was a tire more focused on outright performance fitted to the RS e-Tron GT instead of one that has a bit of its design meant to improve battery range. That big carbon fiber diffuser out back actually manages airflow nicely, improving stability while cleaning up turbulence to maintain a super slippery 0.24 drag coefficient.

Carbide brake rotors are fitted to the RS e-Tron GT by default, compared to steel ones on the standard model, and the ceramic discs included in the Year One package came in handy. Because the RS e-Tron tips the scales at over 5,000 pounds, any harder back road thrashing session would likely induce some fade in the non-carbon rotors. Initial pedal feedback is lighter than I prefer (especially in one of the less aggressive brake regen modes), but firmer applications will result in a good bit of bite to effortlessly slow this performance EV when approaching a corner.

The Usual EV Demands And Challenges

Because it packs an 800V architecture, the Audi RS e-Tron GT can rapidly charge to get you back on the road. Find a super fast charging point, and Audi says this e-Tron model can juice up from 5% to 80% in as little as half an hour. Like the Porsche Taycan, Audi fits a pair of charing docks to the front fenders of the RS e-Tron GT, with a Level 1 & 2 jack on the left side, and the DC fast charging port on the right side. While having a fast charging setup in the RS e-Tron GT is great, maximizing its capabilities at a public charger isn’t truly likely in the States.

Even though the Volkswagen group has rolled out a decent charging network–thanks to Dieselgate–Electrify America doesn’t have enough charing points within major cities, typically placing them at the edges of metro areas to make longer drives easier to manage. If you want to juice up on EA’s wickedly fast charging points, you’re likely to waste a lot of miles to get to them and back home. The Electrify America points near Austin are far from the city center where I live, stuck with the nearest one being about 30 miles away at an outlet mall.

I’ll concede that buyers who can afford the RS e-Tron GT will likely have a home with a garage paired with the budget to install a fast charger, but public charging infrastructure still has a long way to go to promote real EV adoption growth. Thankfully Audi’s native navigation system allows drivers to search and filter charing station results based on charging speed and availability, which can come in handy if you’re driving in unfamiliar territory.

At 232 miles of maximum range on a full charge, this fast Audi EV doesn’t have miserable range, but it’s not fantastic either. While it has a bit more to offer than its Porsche relatives, Audi needs to give the e-tron GT more range if you want to enjoy it on a road trip. With Tesla offering around 400 miles of range as an option in its Model S, and Lucid stretching range up an astonishing to 520 miles, the game has changed, and this Audi should provide more. Given that most RS e-Tron GT owners will likely stick to their local area and rarely take a long road trip, this EV’s range will probably be fine for them.

The Segment Didn’t Need It, But Audi Supplied A Great Fast EV Anyway

Audi’s e-Tron lineup is only growing, in a time when OEMs need to reduce emissions and improve economy, but thankfully the RS badge is getting added to the mix. Because it lands in the middle of the Porsche Taycan sampling, both in terms of performance and price, the e-Tron’s justification comes down to the sharper appearance and more traditional cockpit layout to get my attention. I imagine Volkswagen is happy to have people considering its fast EV options across multiple manufacturers.

Because the Taycan GTS has a Sport Turismo option (which this wagon lover adores), boasting a bigger cargo area with better access, it gets my vote. If the storage space isn’t a hot ticket item for you, the Audi RS e-Tron GT will be a fantastic performance EV sedan to scoot around the city while being an absolute blast on canyon roads. Should the enthusiast driver not be ready to make the switch to a fully electric car, the less expensive Audi RS6 Avant is still a wonderful dino juice-chugging wagon that’s sitting on the same showroom floor.

The Audi S5 Cabriolet Is A Speedy Drop-Top

A fun open-air experience doesn’t need an impressive spec sheet. This quick German convertible is a hoot.

The Audi S badge means a more performance-focused model over the standard variant, built to deliver its drivers in comfort while covering miles at a rapid pace, and the S5 model has been around since 2007. When Audi chose to offer the S5 as a Cabriolet a couple years later, it replaced the S4 version that had grown seriously long in the tooth. Taking on a couple iterative updates in this generation, the S5 Cabriolet now looks sharper, and adds a bit more tech to the standard features list.

Somewhat more tame than its RS5 sibling–which I enjoyed testing last summer–the S5 model doesn’t flex big stats, but intends to deliver a solid driving experience. In its Cabriolet guise, this two-door Audi’s fun increases considerably with the element of an open-air experience. Competing with the BMW M440i convertible and Mercedes-AMG C43, the S5 has some strong rivals. With some good weather in the forecast, I happily accepted the arrival of this fun-focused drop-top Audi.

The Key Figures

Audi’s A5 is the standard form of the coupe and cabriolet model, powered by a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, with the S5 being the more fun-focused variant. Stuffed under the angular hood of the Audi S5 Cabriolet is a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 that produces 349 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. The S5 Cabriolet’s output is just less than the drop-top versions of the BMW M440i and Mercedes-AMG C 43, but the Audi’s acceleration figure is nearly identical. Through an 8-speed automatic and standard quattro all-wheel-drive, the Audi S5 Cabriolet can sprint from 0-60 in 4.7 seconds on its way to a top speed of 155 MPH. EPA fuel economy estimates are 20/26/22 (city/highway/combined), which is on-par with its other German rivals.

Pricing for the base A5 Cabriolet begins at $52,200, and the quicker S5 increases the base figure to $63,400, making it similarly priced to the M440i and C 43. Thankfully Audi makes packaging easier on buyers, with three distinct trim levels that package lots of features, and I tested the top Prestige trim–an upgrade costing $8,100–which adds a Bang & Olufsen audio system, adaptive cruise control with traffic jam assist, Audi’s virtual cockpit instrument cluster, head-up display, and a stack of tech and safety features. With a stunning shade of District Green paint (a $595 option) and 20-inch wheels and summer tires fitted, this S5 Cabriolet hit a total price of $73,540 after destination.

A Composed City Convertible

While the Audi S5 Cabriolet is designed to be a blast to toss around, it’s still a luxury car at heart. Thanks to thick insulation within the acoustic top, cruising around with the roof closed makes the S5 Cab remarkably quiet. I appreciate how well the S5’s suspension smooths out the bumpiest city streets without disconnecting the driver from a responsive chassis with balanced feedback. The hint of electric assist to the steering rack makes city streets simple to tackle, and maneuvers in tight parking garages effortless.

The twin-turbo V6 may reward a spirited driver on a fun route, but keep the Audi Drive Select in the comfort mode, and the behaved operator will enjoy a daily driver that’s refined and comfortable. The turbos and exhaust tone down fun noises out of the back of the S5 Cabriolet, so if you want raunchier sounds, the dynamic drive mode is your friend. Shifts from the 8-speed Tiptronic are nearly imperceptible in the comfort mode, and sharpen ever so slightly in the dynamic drive mode.

The S5’s seats look sporty, but are definitely comfortable for long treks. The back seats are only going to carry younger kids, so don’t try to stick your adult friends behind you when driving unless they’re professional contortionists. Instead of worrying about seating capacity, I deployed the manually-fitted mesh wind deflector that covers the rear seating area to calm cabin turbulence. Dropping the S5 Cabriolet’s roof takes about 20 seconds, including operating all four of the side windows, and tucks away into a storage box that has to be manually dropped in the trunk.

Touch points are intuitive and use quality materials, and I like that there’s just enough digital instrumentation throughout the cockpit. The Audi Virtual Cockpit features a 12-inch high-resolution screen that allows for three distinct viewing modes, in addition to a simplified display for less distraction when taking night drives with the top down. As many manufacturers concede that drivers will opt for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (both are standard with wireless connectivity in the S5 Cabriolet), Audi still delivers a great MMI infotainment system that has clear and easy software incorporated into another high-resolution display that measures 10 inches across.

Wonderful Open-Air Performance

Compared to its faster RS5 sibling I reviewed, the S5 is definitely more tame, but don’t sleep on its capabilities when you attack a twisty back road. Toggle the dynamic drive mode, and instantly feel the engine adjust its mood, with the idle rising while the exhaust tone gets throatier. Boost from the S5’s turbocharged V6 engages smoothly, delivering surprisingly quick response to help this quick convertible close long gaps between the bends. A performance car doesn’t need a massive horsepower figure to be a blast, and the S5 Cabriolet is more than competent as an open-air sportscar.

Grip from Audi’s quattro all-wheel-drive is fantastic, aided by the Dunlop Sport Maxx summer tires that are part of the 20-inch wheel upgrade. Even in its sportiest settings, the S5 Cabriolet is still composed, and does an exceptional job of concealing its 4,167-pound curb weight. I’d like a hint firmer ride in the dynamic mode, but the S5 still drives like it’s on rails. If you demand more cornering abilities from the S5, tick the $2,500 S Sport package option box to equip a sport rear differential, adaptive dampers, and cool red brake calipers, and the $1,150 dynamic steering system will add electric assistance to the steering rack to improve the S5’s steering in any condition.

Audi prepares the 8-speed transmission with shorter gear ratios for the lower gears, pairing with the twin-turbo V6’s low-end torque to enable quicker response and acceleration, but wisely fits taller ratios for the upper gears to keep revs low while conserving fuel. I played with the manual shifts with the paddles, and enjoyed the flexibility, but was still impressed with the automatic shift mapping Audi gave the S5 Cabriolet.

The Positive Points

This S5 Cabriolet is in its second generation, with Audi making significant updates in 2020. Most noticeably, the S5 Cab’s exterior was sharpened to be more impactful, with a cooler fascia with a grille that resembles the look of the one fitted to the quicker RS5 model I reviewed last year, and sports more aggressive lines from nose to tail. I can’t say enough good things about the District Green paint applied to my tester, which has pink and bronze sparkles lightly mixed in which erupt in the sunlight.

Audi does a great job of providing a cabin that’s subtle yet cool. A good blend of leather, carbon fiber, and metallic trim completes a cockpit that’s sporty yet upmarket. If you’ve been inside any Audi over the past ten years, you’ll have no trouble using every switch and button inside the Audi S5 Cabriolet, applying the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mindset effectively. The Nappa leather sport seats are not only upholding the Audi Sport lineup theme, but provide great support in their basic setup, while having great power lateral boosting to keep you planted when tossing the S5 Cab into corners.

A Couple Deductions

Making use of the convertible feature will significantly eat into the storage capacity, making my run to the airport during this test a little more complicated to stash a carry-on roller bag in the boot. When driving with the top up, the blind spot on the passenger side is significant, making you rely on the side mirrors and blind spot indicators. This is why I prefer roadsters over coupes adapted into convertibles, which make a fewer compromises. At least the top stores away completely concealed, with a hard panel covering it.

I didn’t apply too heavy a right foot during my week-long test with the S5 Cabriolet, but managed to only achieve 16 MPGs on average (versus the 21 city EPA estimate). I also feel that the drive modes Audi offers in its S and RS models could have better distinguished characteristics to provide a better overall experience. These complaints are tiny though, as the overall positives of the S5 Cabriolet far outweigh the negatives.

This Drop-Top Is Surprisingly Good

Audi does a great open-air sportscar with the S5 Cabriolet, providing plenty of fun in a great looking package. As is the case with many Audi S and RS models, the company does a fine job of blending style with a luxury car that will happily gobble up miles on longer adventures. I’d happily take road trips in the S5 Cab, and make sure to make several detours along winding routes.

If more hardcore performance is what you need, the Audi RS5 variant will tickle your fancy but sadly there’s no cabriolet version in the RS line (only offering a coupe or four-door sportback) which gives the BMW M4 an advantage against Audi and Mercedes. If a bigger stat sheet isn’t as important, the S5 Cabriolet will be a great addition to your drive, no matter if it’s to the office or along a canyon roads.

The Genesis G70 Crashes The Sport Sedan Party

The soirée for a bunch of German saloons was just shown up by one good Korean.

In a not so quiet manner, Genesis has rebuilt its brand identity, placing some well-established German marques in its sights. With each Genesis model I’ve reviewed over the past two years, there’s been an immediate enjoyment with a sleek exterior design met with a stunning cabin, and some exceptional driving impressions to boot. To attempt to sway the buyers of BMW, Audi, and Mercedes, Genesis is not just using its great looks and features to accomplish the task, but the price points for its models are catching attention too.

In the smaller premium sport sedan class, the Audi S4, BMW M340i, and Mercedes-AMG C43 have long-enjoyed the established base of drivers who want those models, and Genesis wants a slice of the pie. With the 2022 G70, Genesis freshened its looks inside and out to get up to speed with the rest of the lineup, and wants to inform the enthusiast driver that plenty of fun can be had behind the wheel too. Having tested several Genesis models and the competition it wants to grab market share from, I wanted to see if the Genesis G70 was a worthy adversary.

The Important Figures

Genesis offers the G70 sedan with two different engines, including a 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder and the upgrade to a 3.3-liter twin-turbo V6. The 2.0T produces a respectable 252 horsepower and 268 lb-ft of torque, and the 3.3T cranks out 365 horsepower and 376 lb-ft of torque. Rear-wheel-drive is standard, and all-wheel-drive is optional. The Audi S4 is the only rival which has less peak horsepower (349) than the top-level G70, with the BMW M340i and AMG C43 both producing over 380. The Audi and AMG offerings both come standard with all-wheel-drive, and the BMW M340i has rear-wheel-drive standard with all-wheel-drive optional.

An 8-speed automatic is the only transmission offering in the G70, with shift-by-wire and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. For those who want to impress at the stoplight, the 4-cylinder G70 will scoot from 0-60 in around 6 seconds, and the V6 turbo with AWD can complete that task in as little as 4.5 seconds (4.8 with RWD) with the Sport Prestige package that adds a limited-slip differential, keeping it within inches of its competition at the end of a sprint. The Genesis G70 measures 184 inches of overall length, 72 inches wide, and 55 inches tall, with a 111-inch wheelbase, making it similarly sized next to its German rivals.

Genesis is smart with packaging its options, allowing for easy selections of two different packs. One (Sport Advanced, $4,300) focuses on cool features and amenities, and the other (Sport Prestige, $4,000) adds premium materials for the interior, but the upgrades to the G70’s brakes, limited-slip differential, and electric adaptive suspension are the more appealing ones. Opting for all-wheel-drive adds about $2,000 to the sticker too.

Base price for the Genesis G70 starts at $37,775 for the 2.0T with rear-wheel-drive, and the 3.3T bumps up to $42,350. The G70 tester I was sent was equipped with the 3.3-liter engine, rear-wheel-drive, and ticked both of the package option boxes to ring up a total price of $51,445 after destination. That figure is massively attractive against the G70’s foes. The S4 starts at $51,000, the M340i begins at $54,000, the C43’s base price is $60,000, with those numbers increasing significantly as option boxes get ticked.

Upgrading Your Commute

Spending hours a day commuting isn’t wonderful, but if you’ve got to waste time in traffic, the Genesis G70 is a nice place to be. Others on the road definitely give the redesigned 2022 Genesis G70 plenty of approving second looks, especially as that massive black chrome grille and split LED lights both front and rear catch a glimpse. Genesis delicately balances itself as a bargain performance luxury brand, and the G70 nicely executes an added hint of style versus its German counterparts. I definitely find it the more attractive option next to the S4, M340i, and C43.

Response from the twin-turbo V6 is nicely responsive in the comfort drive mode, and shifts from the 8-speed automatic are smooth. Go easy on the throttle to best hit the EPA fuel economy estimates of 18/27/21, because I barely hit 17 MPGs during my week-long test with this Genesis that may have involved a hint more spirited driving. The G70’s upgraded adaptive suspension is a fantastic job of minimizing any bumps in the road surface, yet still offers good response when having a hint of fun on any detours between home and the office. Steering feel is just heavy enough, without requiring too much elbow grease at city intersections.

The G70’s cabin is nicely appointed, especially with the upgraded Nappa leather ventilated seats wrapped around you. I love the quilted stitching pattern utilizing red contrasting over the soft black leather that adorns the cabin, and appreciate just enough brushed metallic trim pieces completing a sporty yet refied look. Thankfully there isn’t a single bit of piano black trim inside the G70’s cockpit either. There’s a bit of plastic used for key touch points in this entry-level Genesis, with climate knobs that are closer to Hyundai quality than other Genesis models, but the placement and controls are all intuitive.

Occupants both front and rear will enjoy a cabin that’s more spacious than it appears, with adults having enough legroom for a drive to dinner. Genesis has a smart pair of buttons on the inside shoulder bolster that allows the right rear passenger to adjust the recline and depth of the front passenger seat, in case they need additional space (something I’ve noticed in every new Genesis I’ve reviewed). Storage capacity is big too, with a passthrough and folding rear seats to improve space and access. Tech is plentiful in the Genesis G70, with a 10.25-inch touchscreen infotainment system that features Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. I like that the G70’s instrument cluster that utilizes a digital screen for the center and right third, with the latter switching to a side view camera display when indicating a lane change.

I appreciate how Genesis groups together its option packages. The Sport Advanced package adds parking sensors, cool 19-inch wheels, a sportier trim inside the cabin, ventilated front seats, a bigger sunroof, wireless mobile device charging, a dark chrome grille, variable exhaust, power seat bolster and cushion extender, the Genesis digital key, and a Lexicon 15-speaker premium audio system that has loads of tone where it matters.

Surprisingly Good Performance

Enjoying a weekend sprint along a canyon road is something the Genesis G70 is surprisingly good at. To contend with its German competitors, the G70 packages together an exceptionally sharp handling dynamics. I was stunned with how composed the G70’s chassis was during more spirited driving. The 4-cylinder will probably provide enough power for the average driver, and can save several thousand dollars, but the V6 is the engine an enthusiast wants. Boost spools up more effectively when you smoothly apply the throttle, and displays a hint more lag when the driver smashes the go pedal, so be smart with your inputs to have the most fun.

In its sport or sport+ drive modes, the G70 noticeably changes its personality, wanting to pounce the curves and unleash its fantastic powerplant. The driver aids noticeably relax their desire to step in when in sport+ too, so you better be on your game if you’re trying to flog the G70 in this mode. Upshifts wait a bit longer than the comfort mode, allowing the engine to rev more freely, but the shift logic when needing to bounce up and down does exhibit a slight delay, so I employed the manual shifts for optimal fun.

The Genesis G70’s adaptive dampers firm up pleasantly in the two sportier modes, without being too rigid. I found that my happy custom drive mode put them in the simple sport setting, and the same went for the steering, which felt over-boosted in the sport+ setup, but I definitely enabled the powertrain’s abilities. Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tires are wrapped around 19-inch wheels, providing confidence in the bends and plenty of heat allowed into the compounds before they want to break traction. If you’re in a region that experiences snowfall, dropping $2,000 on all-wheel-drive will help you better cope with the winter conditions, but I like the G70’s rear-wheel-drive setup that allows the tail-end a hint more rotation and requires a bit more steering skill from the driver. Taking some weight off the front axles is something I prefer too.

The driver who cares about having a blast on a twisty road should spend the extra $4,000 on the G70’s Sport Prestige Package that adds bigger Brembo brakes with monoblock calipers, a limited-slip differential, and an adaptive suspension. The Brembo brakes are fantastic on longer runs along winding back roads, allowing harder inputs with great feel and feedback. Opting for the $4,300 Sport Advanced package also includes a variable valve exhaust system while upgrading a bunch of tech and amenities, but I have to offer a little gripe about the big oval-shaped openings in either side of the bumper being fake while concealing two smaller exhaust tips.

A Fantastic Alternative To The Usual German Sedan Selection

As Genesis has finished refreshing its entire lineup, the G70 is a fantastic upgrade to an already good sport sedan. Now boasting the same good looks as its siblings, the Genesis G70 is a stunner with proportions that I love. Not just possessing a body and cabin that are easy on the eyes, the Genesis G70 is a wonderful sport sedan that offers a fantastically balanced chassis paired with a potent engine.

This Korean manufacturer picks a fight with German contenders that have held onto their title belts for a little too long, and will please those who bet on the underdog that exhibits shockingly good performance at a bargain price. Against the Audi S4, BMW M340i, and Mercedes-AMG C43, the Genesis is easily my favorite to drive along a twisty road, look at, and enjoy knowing how much cash it saves those who choose to stick it in their garage.

The Honda Passport TrailSport Isn’t Truly Rugged, But It’s Good

Not quite the off-road champ it wants to be, this Honda still works.

As if the midsized affordable SUV marketplace isn’t packed enough, Honda thought it would offer another one. With its three-row Pilot selling reasonably well, some drivers didn’t need the extra seats from a good platform. Enter the Honda Passport, which is a slightly smaller version of the midsized SUV that ditches the third row for more storage space. Featuring a near-identical cabin and powertrain to the Pilot, the Honda Passport saves a couple bucks, holds more stuff, and goes on family adventures with a hint of style.

To please the driver that wants a bit more rugged appearance, Honda has introduced the Passport TrailSport trim level that slots into the middle of the Passport offerings, and eliminated the most basic Sport trim level. Looking a bit beefier than the more conventional family hauler spotted at the school pickup line or at soccer practice, does this go anywhere look work for the Honda Passport TrailSport? I gave it a whirl to find out.

The Helpful Specs

Honda stuffs its 3.5-liter V6 under the hood of all Passport models, with 280 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque on-tap. A 9-speed automatic is the only transmission choice, and two-wheel-drive is the standard driveline on the base model Passport, but this middle trim TrailSport package and the top Elite trim level come standard with Honda’s torque vectoring all-wheel-drive system. Honda’s Intelligent Traction Management system also includes several drive modes for various terrains.

To make the Passport TrailSport look the part of a tougher family SUV, Honda gave it several distinguishing styling touches inside and out. The exterior gets a unique grille treatment, and more aggressive front and rear bumpers are paired with silver-painted skid garnish details. The grille and tailgate get bright orange TrailSport badges. TrailSport-specific machined-finished 18-inch wheels with pewter gray details are shod with beefier 245/60R18 Firestone all-terrain tires to add to the slightly meaner look, compared to other Passport trims which get 20-inch wheels with lower profile tires.

Cabin treatments in the TrailSport include orange stitching on the seats, door panels, and steering wheel, with the front seat headrests receiving embroidered TrailSport logos. The TrailSport trim gets standard all-season rubber floor mats which also get that unique orange logo. The gauge pod in the TrailSport has the updated gray lighting and white needles as the rest of the Passport lineup, but features a black chrome gauge surround that’s only installed in the TrailSport. When cruising around at night, the cabin is lit with TrailSport-exclusive amber ambient lighting.

Pricing for the standard two-wheel-drive Honda Passport begins at $37,870, which increases by $2,100 to add all-wheel-drive. The top Elite trim comes packed with features at $45,430. The middle trim TrailSport has a starting MSRP of $42,470, and with a $395 premium added for Platinum White Pearl paint and a $1,225 destination charge, this Passport TrailSport tester hit a total price of $44,090.

The Competent Family Carrier

It comes as no surprise that the Passport TrailSport is a good midsized SUV, given Honda’s track record for reliability and functionality. The powertrain is proven, albeit a little on the older side, and is potent enough to get this family hauler moving effectively. Not needing to impress with the stat sheet, the Passport’s V6 is smooth and strong where it needs to be, and the 9-speed automatic shifts smoothly to keep it composed in the city. EPA fuel economy estimates are 19 / 24 / 21 (city / highway / combined), paired with a 19.5-gallon tank, allowing longer treks with fewer stops to fill up with regular unleaded.

Ride quality is composed, with a good bit of body roll when you try to carry some speed into a corner, but the Passport’s chassis stays where it needs to. Bigger sidewalls around 18-inch wheels on the TrailSport trim make for greater compliance, making street bumps disappear while minimizing chassis disruption though a suspension that’s still better on pavement than gravel. I also appreciate how light and direct steering inputs are in the Passport TrailSport.

The Passport’s interior is no-fuss quality that’s expected from Honda, with an intuitive cockpit that features a tidy layout. If you’ve been inside a Honda Pilot or Ridgeline lately, you’ll recognize the components and design throughout the Passport. Space inside the Passport is massive, with loads of room to stretch out whether you’re in the front or back seats. Lateral support from the Passport’s seats could be slightly better, but the comfort level is great. Because the Passport has a shorter overall length than the Pilot and ditches the third row seats, cargo volume is downright massive, offering 50 cubic feet of space behind the second row seat and boasting a whopping 100 cubic feet with the second row folded flat. In the cargo area, the Passport also has a concealed storage compartment for stashing away reasonably-sized items.

Carrying the same infotainment software installed in other Honda models, the Passport TrailSport has an 8-inch touchscreen with plenty of customization options and a cool way to enable shortcut buttons on the screen. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are on-board too, although without wireless connectivity options, and there’s a wireless charging pad ahead of the shifter. The standard 215-Watt audio system features 7 speakers and a subwoofer, which isn’t bad, but if you care about premium audio, you’ll want to upgrade to the Passport’s Elite trim level to upgrade to 540 Watts ands 10 speakers.

Appearing More Rugged, But Reasonably Capable

A quick glance at a TrailSport will quickly reveal that it’s the cooler looking Honda Passport. Not just a dressed up version of an already good family hauler, the Trailsport’s front and rear track widths are increased 10 mm to increase stability and provide a wider stance. For those who need to pull their boat, off-road toys, or camper, 2WD Passports can tow up to 3,500 pounds, and AWD models up the towing capacity to 5,000 pounds with Honda’s towing package installed.

Ground clearance is 7.5 inches for a two-wheel-drive Passport, and the all-wheel-drive upgrade increases the figure to 8.1. Approach angle is 21.1°, and the departure angle is 24.3°, which isn’t too hardcore, but isn’t too pedestrian either. Honda equips the Passport with snow, sand, and mud off-road drive modes, which are quickly engaged with a button next to the gear selector. The modes do a good job of dialing in the right amount of grip needed to cope with the trails, but you’re not going into any ridiculous rock crawling events in the Passport TrailSport.

In a muddy and slightly rocky patch at a nearby park, I was more than happy with what the Passport TrailSport offered, knowing it’s not intended to tackle extreme conditions like a Ford Bronco or Land Rover Defender. For the adventurous family that wants to escape the city for a nice state park that has reasonably muddy or mildly rocky trails, this SUV will get you there and back in peace.

The Good Bits

I’ve always felt that the Honda Pilot looked too bloated for a family SUV, and the Passport is a refreshingly smaller package. The proportions are better balanced with this model, and the TrailSport’s bigger sidewall tires complete the look nicely. If someone really needs the third row of seats, the Pilot will be a nice addition to the family’s driveway. The updated fascia, chunkier rear bumper, and bigger exhaust tips are cool too.

Rather than padding the bottom line, Honda includes its Honda Sensing suite of safety features as standard equipment, offering adaptive cruise control, lane keeping assistance, road departure mitigation, forward collision warning, and emergency braking without charging thousands more. Honda also has some proprietary software in its lane keeping system that seems to eliminate the annoying ping pong sensation other systems do between the lane lines.

Intuitive functionality inside the Honda Passport TrailSport is fantastic. Switchgear doesn’t have to be wildly stylish or made with space age materials to work, and Honda did a good job with switches and buttons that are well-placed. The gear selection buttons will take a quick adjustment, but I like how they save space in the center of the cockpit. USB ports and power outlets are simply placed in the Passport’s cabin, giving the kids plenty of options to charge their devices during a road trip. Space is effectively used in the Passport’s interior, with loads of flexible spots to store items of all shapes and sizes.

Less Than Great Things

Understanding that Honda offers a practical SUV for families, and not a real deal tough off-roader, there are stylish details that could have been more functional. In the TrailSport trim, Honda gave this Passport some rugged looking treatments, but metal skid plates and tougher fender trim would have done it some favors. Same goes for the thicker sidewall tires that could be a hint wider to really complete the off-road look. Thankfully Honda indicated that it will offer meatier tires and an off-road tuned suspension in the next couple model years.

While I praised Honda for giving the Passport’s interior plenty of thoughtful design elements, the instrument cluster leaves a bit to be desired. There’s a lot of wasted real estate, and the center screen should be able to provide more usable data on the fly while also offering a higher resolution display. Storing your gear in the back of the Honda Passport TrailSport is easy, thanks to a square-shaped tailgate and storage area, but the power tailgate only gets a hands-free feature on the top Elite trim level. Those who want a more rugged go-anywhere model want easier ways to put their mountain bike in the back after ripping up the trails.

This Practical SUV Gets It Done

Honda did a good job giving the Passport TrailSport more rugged touches within the exterior and the cabin, making it cooler than the typical family SUV. As someone who likes to conquer off-road trails on a somewhat regular basis, I wish Honda would have thrown somewhat tougher kit at its exterior to make it better at taking a beating. For most families, this won’t be an issue.

Deep down, Honda knows its buyers, their demands, and how to move a reliable product. The Passport TrailSport delivers the features and looks that Honda’s core buyers want, and makes its drivers slightly cooler than the usual parent at soccer practice. It’ll also go just enough places off-road during family trips to make the trip memorable. For those reasons, I think Honda did a good job with the Passport TrailSport.

The Ford Maverick XL Hybrid Is A Brilliant Budget Pickup

The most basic new truck you can buy is surprisingly good.

The mini truck used to be an exceptional option for plenty of drivers. A compact offering that carried a decent amount of stuff in the bed, had a little engine that got the job done while providing decent fuel economy, and a no-fuss cabin that did enough for making a commute or work trek barely comfortable. As pickups have become massive, thirsty, and wildly expensive, the world needs a basic compact truck that can get simple tasks done while providing more versatility than a crossover without breaking the bank. Ford has figured this out, and introduced the Maverick as a compact pickup to be reasonably functional, moderately powered, fuel efficient, and attractively priced.

A few months ago, I reviewed the Maverick’s middle XLT trim level, in all-wheel-drive form, with the punchier engine option, and thought it was the perfect small truck for anyone at around $31,000. What I wanted to learn more about was the most basic model Maverick Ford offers, its XL hybrid model. With front-wheel-drive in a pickup, real truck guys might scoff at it, but the entry level hybrid Maverick focuses on massive fuel economy at a starting price of $20,000. I had to see what was up with this budget pickup.

The Key Specs

Ford builds the new Maverick on a unibody platform, specific to the Maverick. In its standard form, the Ford Maverick is propelled by a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder hybrid that produces a combined output of 191 horsepower and 155 lb-ft of torque. The Maverick’s optional engine is a new 2.0-liter EcoBoost turbocharged 4-cylinder that produces 250 horsepower and 277 lb-ft of torque. A CVT with front-wheel-drive is the default drivetrain, with all-wheel-drive paired with an 8-speed automatic available as an option for either engine.

All Maverick models are SuperCrew four-door pickups, with a 54-inch bed. Dimensions include an overall length of 199.7 inches, a 68.7-inch height, 72.6-inch width, and 8.3 inches of ground clearance. The Maverick’s wheelbase is is 121 inches, with a front track measuring 63.4 inches, and a rear track of 62.8. Compared to the Hyundai Santa Cruz, the Maverick has a 4-inch advantage with its overall length and wheelbase, but gives up two inches in the overall width and track categories. I’ll dive into the towing and cargo capacities in a moment. The big draw to the Ford Maverick isn’t just its reasonable proportions, but also its price.

At a base price of $19,995, and a destination charge of $1,495, the total MSRP of this Maverick XL hybrid is $21,490. That figure makes it several thousand dollars cheaper than the Hyundai competition, which in all fairness starts with a bit more equipment. Opt for the XLT trim, and the base price is $22,360, with the range topping Lariat starting at $25,860. Adding the 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine adds about $1,000 to any trim level, and upgrading to all-wheel-drive (which is only available with the 2.0L) will add another $2,000 to the ticket. Go wild on upgrading with a leather interior and heated seats, adaptive cruise control, improved towing capacity, and off-road capability, and the Maverick’s sticker price can shoot up to a still reasonable $35,000 (matching the loaded Santa Cruz’s figure).

Basic Daily Functionality

Budget packaging is clear with the XL trim level of the Ford Maverick, but that doesn’t make it unpleasant to drive. Ride quality is a bit on the firm side, thanks to spring rates designed to cope with cargo being tossed in the bed. Handling is still decent in the front-wheel-drive Maverick that has a basic twistbeam rear suspension rather than the independent multi-link trailing arm setup provided with the all-wheel-drive models. Surprisingly the Maverick is more agile than any truck I’ve driven, with dynamics that resemble a small sedan rather than a pickup. Crossovers I’ve reviewed in the past couple years don’t feel as nimble as the Maverick.

Instead of having a tachometer in the instrument cluster, Ford gives the Maverick hybrid a power consumption gauge to indicate how much you’re consuming when hitting the throttle and the amount being regenerated under braking. When coming to a stop, the digital display will show how much energy has been recaptured under braking and deceleration too. The hybrid engine has decent power on-tap, and the hybrid assistance provides a reasonably smooth torque curve. The 2.0-liter I tested in the Maverick XLT is noticeably quicker, but if power isn’t important, take advantage of the obscene fuel economy offered by the hybrid engine.

While the all-wheel-drive EcoBoost engine has EPA fuel economy estimates of 22/29/25, its front-wheel-drive variant gets a slight bump of an added mile per gallon in each condition. The hybrid Maverick increases the fuel savings dramatically, offering a whopping 42/33/37 (city/highway/combined) MPGs according to the EPA estimates. During my week-long test, I hit an average of 38 MPGs, which is fantastic for a truck of any size, and beats plenty of new compact cars currently on sale.

Despite its compact intentions, the Maverick’s cabin is actually quite roomy. Seating position up front is somewhat low, allowing for a great amount of headroom. The width of the cockpit is reasonably spacious too. At 5’11” I’m not terribly tall, but even when sitting behind my driver seat position, the back seat of the Maverick didn’t feel too cramped. A couple friends had no trouble hopping in the back seat when we made a dinner run, but did mention the ride was a bit stiff for them.

Ford’s Sync infotainment system is installed within the somewhat small touchscreen, but it gets the job done. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard, but in the most basic XL trim, the Maverick doesn’t have Sirius XM satellite radio. I have a hunch Ford has prepared the Maverick’s interior for future updates, as is clear when spotting the big storage hole next to the infotainment display. I appreciate the smart design of the door handles, that allow for easy grabs from any angle, while using an unconventional appearance. Same goes for the nicely separated compartments ahead of the cupholders and shifter, where anyone can pop their phone or other small items.

The Humble Worker Bee

A front-wheel-drive pickup isn’t going to attract big truck buyers, but the Ford Maverick is designed as a solution to drivers who need a hint more function than the sedan or crossover they’ve had for ages. Thankfully intelligent all-wheel-drive is available at a reasonable price, in addition to Ford’s FX4 off-road package with beefier tires than the Continental all-seasons fitted here, should you want to go places far from the city streets. Even as a basic pickup, I got the nod of respect from several construction and electrical workers I came across around downtown Austin (which is seemingly under constant construction), which was pleasantly surprising. When I was parked to take pictures of the Maverick, I had separate groups of people walk over to ask me about it and poke around. This truck has plenty of appeal.

One key advantage of the Ford Maverick is bringing simple versatility to the masses without trying too hard to appear rugged or functional. A 4.5-foot bed may not seem big enough, but for weekend warriors, mountain bikers, or casual campers, that bed will be more than enough to tote their belongings. Anyone who has paid attention to the fleet at an auto parts store will remember when small pickups were the ideal solution, and the Maverick will be appealing to them.

Ford designed smart Flexbed features from its larger trucks into the Maverick’s cargo area, with plenty of factory and dealer-installed accessory options to fit the bed however the owner needs. From tie-downs, power outlets, bike racks, and tool solutions, Ford really put some effort into planning the Maverick’s workhorse capabilities. Base payload capacity in the Maverick is only 1,500 pounds, but that’s not bad for the average person. Standard towing capacity is 2,000 pounds, which can increase to 4,000 pounds with an optional towing package. You won’t be pulling a massive boat with the Ford Maverick, but that’s not the focus of a pickup in this segment.

Cabin functionality is somewhat simple, but the rear seat does fold flat (once you drop the headrests), allowing for the interior to serve as an additional secure storage area. What’s really interesting is Ford’s crowdsourced 3D printing platform known as Ford Integrated Tethering System (FITS), which allows Maverick owners to design, produce, and install various storage and functional solutions that fasten into the cabin’s receiving points.

Simplistic At Its Core

Hitting a price target of $20,000 meant that Ford went truly spartan with its base XL trim. From the basic steel wheels wrapped in basic all-season tires to the black plastic body cladding and rear bumper, the Ford Maverick keeps costs low with simple features. The XLT and Lariat Maverick trims get cooler wheels wrapped with better tires, and are touched up with better exterior trim too, if the cheaper exterior is a breaking point. At least LED headlights are standard on all Maverick models. One funny feature is the practical beep tones emitted from the Maverick when reversing, as the hybrid model uses its silent electric power when backing up.

I can complain that Ford went with some seriously dated switchgear you’d recognize from a 10-year-old Focus, instrumentation that’s truly plain, and single-zone climate control components to hit the Maverick’s price target, but at least these details have the core functions they need to provide to drivers. The Maverick XL’s cockpit is really cost-cutting compared to the next level up XLT trim level, with bigger use of hard plastics and cheaper cloth seating surfaces, but Ford didn’t make this cabin sound too cheap. It surprised me how quiet this budget pickup was during my driving around a busy city, without any rattles or squeaks. Upper trim levels will carry over the touch points from the XL, but the seats, door trim, and center console will be treated to softer materials.

Basic Isn’t Bad In A Little Truck

Ford hit a home run with the new Maverick. With a massive gap in the pickup market, people needed an inexpensive model that offered good functionality versus the crossover they’ve been stuck with. Whether you’re an occasional camper, frequent cyclist, gardener, farmer’s market vendor, or skilled laborer, the Ford Maverick will tick several boxes for anyone who wants a pint-sized truck that gets the job done. The only challenge for Ford is keeping up with the immense demand for this new little truck, as dealer’s can’t keep them in stock. Pickup purists and manly men may scoff at the compact Maverick, but Ford makes plenty of trucks to satisfy any their needs.

If the Maverick is too small or too simple, there’s an all-new Ranger coming later this year, to meet the demands of the midsized truck driver. The daily drivability and massive fuel economy of the Maverick should impress anyone, especially when opting for the efficient hybrid model during a time of wildly high gas prices. For those who know exact what they need from a small truck, the Ford Maverick will meet their demands and go easy on the wallet both with monthly payments and at the gas pump. I think the Maverick is a great small pickup, and a massive hit for Ford.

The 2022 Mazda CX-9 Doesn’t Quite Hit The Spot

With three rows, four cylinders, and lots of tech, this SUV still raises plenty of questions.

Wander to any grocery store, mall, or soccer field, and you’ll come across plenty of three-row family SUVs that likely cover a dozen different manufacturers. This seven-seat SUV segment is flooded with so many options against the Mazda CX-9, including the Ford Explorer (which I recently reviewed), Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, and Hyundai Palisade. Back when Mazda introduced the CX-9 in 2006, it was based on the same platform as the Ford Edge, and shared the same V6.

While this big Mazda CX-9 offers the features parents look for, has decent looks, and focuses on reasonably enjoyable driving impressions, to sway buyers from other manufacturers, it has to assemble a package to make itself attractive, practical, affordable, and fun. There’s no shortage of crossovers in Mazda’s lineup, with a couple appealing introductions in the past year. With this second generation CX-9 still rolling around since its update in 2016, does it keep up with its rivals?

Some Useful Figures

Mazda powers the CX-9 with the same turbocharged 2.5-liter SKYACTIV-G engine that produces 227 horsepower and 310 lb-ft of torque when filling the tank with 87 octane regular unleaded fuel, and bumps up to 250 horsepower and 320 lb-ft of torque when opting for 93 octane. Paired with a 6-speed automatic and all-wheel-drive, Mazda also fits the CX-9 with its version of a torque vectoring system to give drivers more confident handling.

At a curb weight of 4,409 pounds, the Mazda CX-9 tips the scales at a similar figure to its rivals. The CX-9 has 3,500-pound towing capacity, which is a bit less than much of the competition. Despite having a turbocharged 4-cylinder under the hood, the 2022 Mazda CX-9 has EPA fuel economy estimates of 20/26/23 (city/highway/combined).

For 2022, Mazda made the starting price cheaper for customers while adding all-wheel-drive as standard equipment, now at a base of $35,280. In its most loaded Signature trim, this tester starts at $47,210, and after adding Machine Gray Metallic paint for $595, the total MSRP is $49,030 after destination.

Family Practicality Over Fun

The 2022 Mazda CX-9 has a reasonable footprint for a seven-seat family SUV, and doesn’t feel massive inside or out. When on the road, there’s a sensation that it weighs a bit more than it truly does, and I think much of that is because of how firmly sprung the CX-9 is, even though there’s a good bit of body roll in the corners. Given the same steering wheel as the Mazda 3 models that compete with cars like the Honda Civic, the CX-9 could use a larger diameter unit instead, to help with steering effort around the city. Slower 90º turns took more work to complete, with much more input required than I expected from a car in this class. The Bridgestone Ecopia all-season tires wrapped around 20-inch wheels aren’t sporty either, focused more on efficiency. There are drive modes, including a sport option, but there wasn’t much a difference in overall driving personality when toggling the sport setting.

Mazda defines its driving experience in the CX-9 as Jinba-ittai, a philosophy that lies at the heart of Mazda’s development, which describes the relationship between a horse and its rider. The challenge is that the 2022 CX-9 doesn’t truly feel as engaging as the “Zoom Zoom” sensations that used to get me excited about Mazda’s offerings. From the same company that provides a pure driving experience in the iconic MX-5, the CX-9 doesn’t make any drive more engaging. Equipped with the same engine as the Mazda 3, the CX-9 is downright underpowered as a three-row SUV. Having to spend more on premium fuel to get the most of its engine, the CX-9 is still woefully slow against a few of its competitors, facing a 30 or 40 horsepower disadvantage against several that don’t require premium unleaded to enjoy better power.

For parents who aren’t concerned about having a lot of fun on errand runs or trips to drop the kids off at school, the Mazda CX-9 provides a reasonably comfortable cabin, with decent space for stuffing kids in the rear two rows. Mazda is smart to make the second row seats adjustable on a slider, in case slightly taller passengers hop in the back, and even in that forward position, adults won’t feel too cramped. The CX-9’s cargo space is good too, with 14.4 cubic feet of space with all the seats up, 38.2 cubic feet with the third row down, and a whopping 71.2 cubic feet of storage volume with the second row folded flat too.

Mazda provides a 10.25-inch infotainment screen that has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto installed, but uses a knob and buttons below the shifter to adjust settings and controls, rather than being a touchscreen. There’s wireless charging in a compartment ahead of the gearshift, but if you want to make use of it you’re losing CarPlay functions as wireless CarPlay isn’t available in the CX-9.

Good Details And Trim On A Reasonable Budget

In this Signature trim, Mazda gives the first- and second-row seats Nappa leather treatments, with nice stitching patterns and good lateral support. I like the patterns of the contours too, finished with white piping along the bolster edges. Touches of wood accompany nice polished metallic trim along the CX-9’s interior, giving it a hint more class than its competition.

I appreciate the three-zone climate control system working quickly and effectively, in addition to the heated and ventilated front seats met with heating functions in the middle row. The 12-speaker Bose audio system incorporates active noise cancellation, which was great for quieting outside disturbances along busy downtown streets.

The Highs and Lows

To provide the second- and third-row passengers more space, Mazda seemed to compromise cabin volume for the front two seats. A look at the CX-9’s profile will show how short the front doors are versus the rear, making it easier for the rear passengers to get in and out, but I felt cramped in the driver’s seat. At 5’11”, the front seat was far too high off the floor, making my head feel too close to the roof while being far above the dash. The side view mirrors are also too far back, making me have to look all the way to my side to check my blind spot. Mazda should have mounted them a good ten inches further ahead, to provide more natural visibility.

Mazda describes its interior design as the result of studies on how humans move, attempting to engineer its cars to feel like a natural extension of the driver’s body, which is clear when using any of the CX-9’s controls. While I appreciate this focus, I don’t love that the pieces in the top-end CX-9 are the same stuff used in the Mazda 3 that competes with a more basic Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla. At nearly $50,000, the CX-9 needs to feel like a premium model. As several manufacturers have switched to capacitive touch components, Mazda is sticking with more functional switchgear. The digital instrument cluster uses the same white color for the rings, numbers, and increments, so it all blends together. Having some contrasting color or larger speed indication would help a lot.

Getting a stack of safety systems is pretty common in family SUVs, and Mazda makes sure the CX-9 gets adaptive cruise control, pedestrian detection, and collision mitigation features to keep you moving smoothly with less chance of incident. Having tested a few of the Mazda’s competitors over the past year, the lane keeping and adaptive cruise features weren’t great when tested on the freeway. The lane keeping aid didn’t seem to function most of the time I tried it along a well-defined stretch of expressway, even in a toll lane with dividing posts.

This Family SUV Just Isn’t Good Enough

In its base trim, the Mazda CX-9 is a more attractive buy for the family on a budget, but as the trim levels and price go up, the value proposition of this three-row SUV goes down. At just shy of $50,000, the CX-9’s price is on-par with its rivals’ best offerings, but that’s inching toward a higher segment of car. For nearly the same money, one could get a 2022 Acura MDX in its lowest–yet still impressively equipped–trim. The only sacrifice would be ventilated seats. I’d go that route instead, or at least consider a loaded Honda Pilot.

Mazda provides a good looking, nicely equipped, and safe family SUV with the CX-9, but it’s lagging behind its competition. The driving impressions don’t capture any of the “Zoom Zoom” sensations of Mazda’s past, and the interior switchgear isn’t as nice as it should be. Riding on a reputation of quality cars a family can afford while being fun, the 2022 CX-9 doesn’t get the job done. Mazda needs to give its top model a heavy update that includes significantly more power and a nicer cabin, and if it did that, it would be a contender again.

This 2022 BMW M240i Is A Purple Pocket Rocket

An updated sports coupe gets plenty of improvements.

Proper M models from BMW are legit contenders in their respective classes, and to capitalize on this, the Munich marque was smart to slap a lighter version of that celebrated letter on several of its models. When the 2 Series got this treatment nearly a decade ago, the M235i was instantly hot. A bargain version of the iconic brand, offering some stellar performance for your enthusiast dollar. Sure, having more numbers after the M meant it wasn’t quite the hot model in the lineup, but BMW hit a sweet spot.

For 2022, the 2 Series coupe got an upgrade in both sheetmetal and powertrain, but the styling is going a different direction than its truly polarizing 3 and 4 Series siblings, while still testing the patience of BMW loyalists with its looks. Thankfully the exterior lines aren’t too edgy, and the numbers on paper catch the eye, but is this new 2 Series a true sportscar player at a price that’s easier to stomach?

The Important Figures

Under the 2022 BMW M240i’s hood is the B58, a twin-scroll turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six–also found in the BMW M340i sedan–which cranks out a healthy 382 horsepower and 369 lb-ft of torque. A ZF 8-speed automatic is the only transmission (clutch your pearls, manual fans), and BMW’s xDrive all-wheel-drive is the default driveline too. With this powertrain, the M240i will sprint from 0-60 MPH in just 4.1 seconds, on its way to a 130 MPH top speed on all-season run flat tires (or 155 when fitted with optional summer performance tires).

BMW adjusted the 2 Series coupe’s dimensions for 2022, now sporting a 62.2-inch front and 62.8-inch rear track, which is nearly identical to the faster M2. A 2-inch longer wheelbase now measures 107.9 inches, and the weight distribution is 53.1/46.9 front to rear. The entry level 230i coupe is standard with rear-wheel-drive, and this quicker M240i comes with BMW’s xDrive setup that spins all four wheels. Due to possessing all-wheel-drive, the M240i conceals a bit more weight than the proper M2, tipping the scales at 3,871 pounds.

Because of its compact coupe size, the power it packs, and the price point, the 2022 BMW M240i has a mixed group of competitors. Cross shoppers could consider a Toyota Supra, Porsche 718 Cayman, or Audi S3, depending on which of those categories tickles their fancy most effectively. At a base price of $48,560, the BMW M240i catches plenty of enthusiasts’ attention. After ticking a few options boxes, and adding a stunning shade of Thundernight Metallic paint, this tester hit a total MSRP of $56,845.

A Compliant Cruiser

BMW is nailing the civility challenges some sports cars can’t overcome. The M240i is a fantastic daily driver, benefitting from the adaptive dampers from the last generation 2 Series’ M2 CS–that I called the best driver’s car BMW has ever produced–that provide a sublime city driving experience. Surprisingly, the M240i doesn’t feel as heavy as it truly is, and the adaptive suspension is the primary reason. There’s good responsiveness from the M240i’s suspension, but the tech softens any chassis harshness one would expect from a sporty coupe.

Electric assistance makes the M240i’s steering feel light yet sharp in its comfort and eco modes, and only gets properly heavy when put into the individual or sport modes. Now boasting all-wheel-drive, the BMW M240i offers greater confidence when the weather is less than favorable. In standard trim, the M240i comes with a square setup of 19-inch wheels wrapped in 225/40/19 all-season rubber, but this tester was fitted with M Sport 19-inch wheels with meatier 245/35/19 front and 255/35/19 rear Pirelli P Zero summer tires for added grip.

The turbocharged engine concealed beneath the M240i’s sculpted hood is a gem, offering plenty of smooth torque that helps it scoot past slower commuters effortlessly. While there’s sufficient power ready to consume lots of premium unleaded, BMW does have an eco drive mode to tame the throttle response and mapping, making the EPA fuel economy estimates of 23/32/26 more attainable. I like that each of the eco, comfort, and sport drive modes in the M240i can have individual configurations, giving the driver greater flexibility for dialing in the perfect setup for any driving mood. My errand running setup was in the eco pro mode, but I made the steering tighten up, and kept the suspension in comfort.

Once you slip into the driver’s seat, the M240i’s cockpit looks identical to that in the bigger brother BMW 4 Series, down to the thick-rimmed multifunction steering wheel. Even the console for the shifter, drive modes, and iDrive puck look like they were plucked from the upper segment BMW model. Similar to the 4 Series is the M240i’s infotainment and climate control cluster, which neatly includes easy to use controls.

A tasteful update over last year’s 2 Series, the materials in the 2022 BMW M240i definitely aren’t entry level, giving it an advantage over its rivals. For an extra $150, BMW gave this M240i cool aluminum tetragon trim too. Seats are big and plush, with good headroom and shoulder width up front. Legroom in the back seat isn’t great, but this is a compact coupe, so as long as your adult friends aren’t stuck back there for anything longer than a quick run to get a bite to eat they’ll live. Trunk space is plentiful in the M240i too, and if you need even more storage, the rear seats fold flat.

BMW’s adaptive cruise control is great, which I tested thoroughly on a couple Austin-area toll roads, but it’s part of the $1,450 driver assistance package that also includes extra parking assistance, a drive recorder, and a 3D surround view on the infotainment display. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard in the M240i’s infotainment system, with a wireless mobile charging pad installed in the compartment which also conceals the cupholders. I suggest spending an extra $875 to upgrade to the Harman Kardon audio system, which sounds fantastic.

A Proper Back Road Plaything

It may not be a full-fat BMW M model, but don’t sleep on the M240i. Possessing under 400 horsepower doesn’t make big headlines in the sports car world, but don’t scoff at the M240i’s 382 peak horsepower output. The straight-six is pleasantly punchy, offering its peak 369 lb-ft of torque across a massive plateau from 1,800 – 5,000 RPM, allowing this purple machine to scream with ease. Could this enthusiast driver be happier with more power? Sure, but frankly the M240i’s power is more than sufficient. Exhaust notes from the M240i aren’t the most striking, but this M-lite model is supposed to be more composed than its proper M siblings, even if it’s apparent there are fake engine sounds being pumped through the speakers.

BMW’s choice to fit all-wheel-drive may have added weight over the front axle, but that is a compromise I’ll happily make because the upgrade certainly improves front-end stability when tossing the M240i into fast sweepers. If you’re really pissed about BMW having all-wheel-drive, you’ll be happy to know that the M240i will have a rear-wheel-drive option later this year. I expected a bit more understeer with all-wheel-drive, versus rear-drive 2 Series models I’ve tested in the past, but the M240i still likes to slide its ass-end, thanks to a bit of rear-wheel bias. The standard M Sport rear differential effectively manages slip angle too, making it exit any corner smoothly even if you’re heavy on the throttle.

My sport individual setup put the engine and transmission in sport plus, steering in sport (because sport plus just seemed a little too heavy and sensitive), but like every other grumpy 40-something reviewer I stuck the dampers in comfort. Unless you’re on the smoothest track, keep the suspension in its soft mode, particularly as the adaptive suspension will perfectly compensate for any bumps while providing the perfect amount of firmness faster than your synapses fire.

BMW says this new M240i has more negative camber than the last generation, helping the Pirelli contact patch stick where it’s supposed to in the corners. I still don’t love the P Zero, and will continue to crave the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S as the all-around rubber champ until something better comes along, but the Pirellis held up quite well when I gave the M240i a good thrashing session along a twisty road just outside of Austin. The bright blue calipers clamping on steel rotors didn’t get too hot during fun sessions either, and the pedal feedback was bang-on.

The M240i’s revised front end sports new kidney grilles–which thankfully aren’t massive like the M3 and M4–that incorporate air flap control to reduce drag when the engine is running at optimal temperatures while sliding open when additional cooling is required. Out back, the M240i gets a neatly integrated rear lip spoiler. While crafting a new body design, BMW claims it reduced the M240i’s lift by 50% thanks to optimized aerodynamics.

The Pros And Cons

Thank you, BMW, for offering the M240i with this wildly cool paint as the launch color. Thundernight Metallic isn’t just a cool name, but the deep purple shade has a great amount of metallic flake mixed in to create a stunning look when any dose of sunlight hits it. Reshaping the new M240i was an overdue task, and this finished product has mixed results. Overall, the look is good, and the more pronounced fender flares give this compact sports coupe a more muscular stance, but BMW didn’t get the fascia right. The new kidney grilles are cool and functional, but I don’t understand why the angled side vents are so big and sharp. Then there’s the tail end. Much like the front, the lines seem too edgy, and slightly cheapen the look of this upmarket sports car.

Details around the M240i have some positives. I like the new adaptive LED headlight housings, which have circular lighting projectors within the sharper housings. The texture worked into the daytime running light element is futuristic too. Gray metallic caps are used over the side view mirrors, offering a hint more contrast to this compact BMW’s body, and the shadow line trim around the bumpers and grilles is a nice feature. The M240i’s seats are comfortable to spend hours in, and subtle in appearance, as opposed to the ones fitted to the M3 and M4. I also like the blue contrasting stitching that completes a sporty look.

There are a couple points deducted in the cockpit. I am not a fan of the gauge cluster. It is now a fully digital display that can be customized, but the needles for the tachometer and speedometer are tiny, and the numbers all blend together too easily. Nothing about them truly stands out to make a needle nor number clearly visible. Drive modes have individual buttons, so you have to take your eyes off the road to make sure you’re pressing the correct one. I wish there was a knob for this function, like there are in other German sports cars.

The climate control system doesn’t have a sync button on the dash, so if you want to align all the ventilation, you have to tap the A/C menu button and make a couple extra adjustments on the infotainment screen. Buttons are also less than intuitive on the steering wheel, with the roller used to change menus on the gauge pod, rather than adjusting volume. Instead that’s done with the + / – buttons. Those last two items are small complaints though.

A Great Little Sports Coupe

BMW gave the M240i a great stack of updates for 2022. Its power is plentiful, the steering is precise, and the handling is fantastic. The new M240i’s exterior appearance may not be as tidy as its predecessor’s, but the refreshed body is more stylish without being as polarizing as the M3 or M4. The M240i may not offer flashy stats like its bigger M siblings, but there’s more than enough performance to satisfy this enthusiast. I won’t deny that I look forward to reviewing the next iteration of the M2 and its faster variants, but this lesser M model still ticks plenty of boxes.

When I evaluate the M240i’s capabilities, its compact packaging, and its sub-$60,000 price, I compare it to BMW’s E46 M3. Still one of my favorite performance cars from the early 2000s, it offered stellar performance at the right price, with proportions that nailed it for me. When viewed in that light, the M240i is a modern interpretation of that iconic analog driving gem, ready to put a massive grin on your face as you conquer a twisty road, and I think that makes it a big hit.

The 2022 Honda Civic Si Keeps It Real

The updated bargain sport sedan still hits its marks.

Since the 1980s, Honda has cranked out the ideal fun car for those with more modest budgets, in the form of the Civic Si. When it first arrived, the Civic Si was a compact hatchback with a slight bump in performance over its normal offerings, focused on the driver who wanted a little more enjoyment from their weekday commute and weekend drives. Having previously owned three earlier generations of the Civic Si personally, I was easily the target demographic that loved what Honda produced in the segment.

When I tested the 2020 variant of the Si just over a year ago, I thought it was the best way to spend $26,000 on a new car. It may have had some edgy styling cues that would please the youths more than the responsible adult, but Honda sold tons of them. Now in its eleventh generation, the Honda Civic has moved upmarket inside and out. With fresh exterior lines that resemble those of the Civic’s Accord big brother, the 2022 model tidies up its appearance with a more mature look, but underneath it still possesses the goodies the fun driver wants. To see if the new Civic Si was still holding up its reputation, I gave it a fun test around the streets of Austin, Texas.

The Key Specs

For 2022, Honda built an all-new Civic, and when I drove the top-end Touring trim last fall, I thought it was a great new edition of the best-selling compact sedan. Carrying over the majority of the powertrain from the 2020 Si, this new one has a retuned version of the 1.5-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that 200 horsepower at 6,000 RPM. In revising the Si’s engine mapping, the 2022 model’s torque curve is wider, with its peak 192 lb-ft of torque available 300 RPM sooner, and staying steady from 1,800 – 5,000 RPM. Unlike its early versions, the 2022 Honda Civic Si is not the high-revving VTEC screamer of those B-Series years, now having a redline of just 6,500 RPM.

A 6-speed manual is the only transmission in the 2022 Civic Si, hooked up to a lightweight single-mass flywheel and helical limited-slip differential to drive the front wheels. In spite of having a more flexible power band, the 2022 Si accelerates from a standstill slightly slower than the car it replaces. Now hitting 0-60 MPH in 7.1 seconds, and tripping the lights at the end of a 1/4-mile run in 15.3 seconds, the 2022 Si isn’t going to leap off the page, but Honda isn’t focused on winning drag races with this new Civic.

Competing with the VW Jetta, Subaru WRX, and Hyundai Elantra N, this new Si has some strong rivals in the bargain fun sedan segment. As one would expect from an all-new model that takes on a bunch of upgrades, the 2022 Honda Civic Si price is up around $2,000 versus the 2020 model. Thankfully Honda makes pricing simple, with one factory option being stickier summer tires over the standard all-season performance rubber. The 2022 Si’s base price is $27,300, and the HPT (high performance tire) option adds just $200. This tester added Blazing Orange Pearl paint, for another $395, to hit a total MSRP of $28,910 after destination.

A Daily Driving Sleeper

Act surprised, a Honda Civic Si is great to drive as a city car. The turbocharged engine is punchy enough to make your errand runs run, without exhibiting the erratic energy of a heavily caffeinated terrier. Jumping onto a freeway is definitely enjoyable, with enough power to effortlessly scoot past slower moving traffic. Opt for a shade a paint more subtle than this orange example, and you’ll easily sneak up on fellow motorists who underestimate the fun this Si packs.

Because its powerplant doesn’t have to rev to the stratosphere to make its power, as opposed to earlier Si models, the 2022 Honda Civic Si offers good flexibility across its rev range without the need to downshift if you’re under 4,000 RPMs. Keep the Si in the normal drive mode, and the throttle response is composed and light, making it easier to achieve the EPA fuel economy estimates of 27/37/31 (city/highway/combined) MPGs. I was a bit more playful during my week-long test in the Civic Si, and only averaged 27 MPGs.

Though its suspension includes plenty of upgrades to improve its performance on more fun stretches of pavement, Honda didn’t make the Civic Si too firm when completing more typical errand runs and commutes to the office. Gone are the adaptive dampers I appreciated in the last generation Si, and I suspect this was to reduce costs. I was shocked Honda included them in a car that was under $30,000, and hoped they’d stick around in this all-new Si, as they worked nicely to calm bumpy city streets while offering more confidence when playing behind the wheel of the Si. With a hint of electric assist, the Civic Si has light yet precise steering feel, and the leather-wrapped wheel fits neatly into my hands.

The 2022 Honda Civic Si receives the same cabin upgrades as the standard models, getting hardware that a new Accord driver would recognize. The new infotainment touchscreen measures 9 inches across, and the updated instrument cluster features a new 7-inch LCD setup with customizable gauges. Wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard equipment pumping through a new 12-speaker Bose audio system, which Honda claims is the best system ever featured in a Civic Si. Sticking with USB-A ports, Honda provides a pair of them just ahead of the shifter, where there’s a good cubby to toss your phone, keys, and any other small items.

Practicality is still at the high Honda standard, with plenty of storage space (and big bottle holders) in the doors, center armrest, and in the trunk. Properly functional cupholders are placed between the seats, with good depth to keep a massive fountain drink cup stable. Legroom and headroom are great for back seat passengers, thanks to Honda adding 1.4 inches to the Civic Si’s wheelbase, now a class-leading 107.7 inches. There isn’t much in the way of lateral support for the back seat, so don’t get too wild when running to lunch with a couple coworkers in the Si.

Those who care about safety will be happy to know that Honda still makes its Honda Sensing® suite of driver-assistive and safety technology standard, and added traffic sign recognition and a driver attention monitor to the 2022 Si. A couple under-appreciated features are Honda’s adaptive cruise control that smoothly maintains speed without that rubber band sensation, and the lane keeping assistance system that continually centers the Civic without that ping pong effect between the stripes.

Keeping Up A Sporty Reputation

Days of the wrapping up the tach to get any fun out of a VTEC engine are gone, and the 2022 Honda Civic Si allows the driver to enjoy some punch at nearly any RPM. Sure, this 1.5-liter engine loses some revs, but Honda figured out that the enthusiast will appreciate some available torque that doesn’t resemble the low-end output of a weed eater. Honda also says it revised the engine’s power to not taper off as the tachometer needle surges past its peak output, while also sharpening throttle response. The result is a good little motor that still likes to rev, but provides some good pull when you want it to take off at lower RPMs.

Like most sporty cars, Honda gives the 2022 Civic Si a drive mode selection for normal, sport, and individual modes, although the individual one doesn’t have many variables to toy with. Thankfully there is good separation between the sport and normal modes, giving this updated Si noticeably different moods. It won’t blow the doors off many cars at a red light, but that doesn’t matter to me. The power band in the Si is smooth, and the engine is a joy to set free. Tight gear ratios provide a little extra punch without falling out of the boost too easily, and the exchange of each through the new shifter is nothing short of exceptional.

When I drove the Civic Type-R Limited Edition last summer, I thought it had the best shifting this side of a Porsche 911 GT3, and the Civic Si exhibits very similar directness and a positive click, with 10% shorter throws than the 2020 Si. The leather-wrapped aluminum knob is not only cool looking, but fits my hand perfectly. Clutch engagement is simple and clearly established, and I praise Honda for sticking to its roots by only offering a stick in the Civic Si. The 2022 Si now has rev-match control to keep the RPMs in the sweet spot, while make you look cooler when downshifting with a friend in the passenger seat. Speaking of seats, the front buckets in the Civic Si keep you planted when flogging this quicker Civic.

The new Si’s suspension sports stiffer springs (8% stiffer in front and 54% stiffer in the rear), firmer dampers, and its anti-roll bars are thicker (27 mm hollow front and 18 mm solid rear) than a standard Civic, translating to fantastic sensations on twisty roads. Borrowing the front and rear compliance bushings, upper arms and lower B-arms from the Civic Type-R, the Si is ridiculously composed in the bends. I just wish Honda didn’t get rid of the fantastic two-mode adaptive dampers the last generation benefitted from. Steering feel is improved using a 60-percent stiffer torsion bar connecting the steering shaft to the steering rack pinion gear. Thanks to an extra half inch of rear track and a 1.4-inch longer wheelbase than the 2020 model, the 2022 Civic Si allows the driver to toss it around with greater agility. Lateral grip is surprisingly high in the 2022 Si, shrugging off the understeer you’d expect from a front-wheel-drive compact car. Attribute much of that stability to the limited-slip diff, and Honda’s tinkering with the steering system that greatly improves feedback in the bends.

I appreciate Honda offering sportier tires as a factory option on the Civic Si, but I’m not a big fan of the Goodyear Eagle F1 rubber that’s wrapped around the cool black 10-spoke wheels. While they’re more than confident in the corners, with a square 235/40R18 setup, the noise level is a bit high. I love the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S over damn near any tire, but understand that every OEM isn’t going to equip them. Maybe Bridgestone’s 5001 would be a good alternative, like I’ve tested on a few affordable fun cars. An upgrade over previous generations of the Si, this 2022 model gets bigger brakes than the standard Civic models, now with 12.3-inch front rotors (up 1.2 inches), and 11.1-inch rear rotors (0.9 inch larger). If your weekend plans include track or autocross duty, you’ll want to upgrade the pads and fluid, as a longer stint of tossing the Si got the brakes to exhibit a bit of fade.

Rather than being a bit over-the-top like its Type-R sibling, the Civic Si receives more subtle styling. Honda wants people to recognize the Si as a fun variant, and I appreciate that its packaging is more tame. Simple badges adorn the decklid and front grille, and a reasonable black rear lip spoiler is fixed to the trunk. Even the exhaust pipes are more civil on the 2022 Civic Si, using a small tip on each side of the rear bumper, a departure from the big central trapezoidal outlet that was fitted to the 2020 model. The note resonating from the exhaust isn’t exactly gnarly, but at least the turbocharged Si isn’t totally muted in an era of OEMs being concerned about melting glaciers.

Some Pros And Cons

Revising the Civic Si’s looks was a smart move by Honda. The 2022 Si can attract slightly more mature buyers who still want a fun yet practically priced car. Gone are the aggressive and downright pointless exterior angles, replaced by smoothly flowing contours from nose to tail. The Civic Si’s cockpit is neatly upgraded too, getting a smaller version of the good steering wheel from the Accord, which utilizes physical switches and buttons for the audio and cruise control system. Deviated red stitching completes a sporty effect too. Honda is now offering a cabin that’s as nice as the one in the VW Jetta, and is definitely better sorted than its Subaru and Hyundai rivals.

The Si’s front seats are woven with sporty red cloth centers, get black Alcantara outer sections, and are pulled together with red stitching. Not as flashy as the seats in the Civic Type-R, the 2022 Si’s are slightly calmer. This theme carries over to the door cards, competing a tastefully fun interior. My one gripe with them is that Honda got rid of the heated function to the front seats, which was a standard feature in the previous generation Si.

In its effort to move upmarket, the Civic gets a few treatments from its Accord big brother, including a similar instrument cluster. I’m not in love with this gauge pod, as it’s a bit too spartan. The last Si had a more prominent speed display in the center, and the overall look of the cluster was more sporty. Now it’s kind of plain. With a huge amount of cargo space in the trunk, the Civic Si can haul a ton of your stuff, with added capacity when folding the rear seats 50/50. I just wish there was a bit more versatility and compartments in there, to better stash smaller items away.

A honeycomb design element is featured in the quick Civic’s front grille, and there’s a hint of that look used in the cabin’s vents. While they’re cool at first glance, what’s lacking in the Civic Si is dual-zone climate control, which was standard in the last generation, and is only available in more nicely-appointed Civic trim levels. As someone with a frequent passenger who’s often colder than me, that’s a big feature to delete, Honda. At least the control knobs for the climate control system have a nicely textured finish and a positive detent.

Still The Affordable Fun Car You Want

Honda has continually upgraded the Civic Si with each new generation, but it maintains its identity. It’s a blast to drive, offering enough power for a car of its size, boasting plenty of grip in the corners, and has one of the best manual shifting experiences available. At the same time, the Civic Si is still the practical sedan you expect from Honda.

I can’t help but offer a tiny gripe that Honda has taken away a few creature comforts while bumping up the price a couple grand. In the past generations, the Civic Si was a steal in its class, offering a load of standard equipment and performance for less cash than its competitors. While sneaking in at just under $30,000, which is on-par with its rivals, Honda still delivers a great value play with the Civic Si, and it’s definitely the fun compact sedan I’d opt for.

THE MERCEDES-BENZ S580 RAISES THE EXECUTIVE SEDAN BAR AGAIN

Boasting supreme luxury and cool styling, this loaded flagship sedan leads the field.

When Mercedes-Benz launches a new S-Class, the industry takes note. Always the pinnacle of the German marque’s capabilities, the S-Class brings new tech, features, and styling cues to the lineup, and makes the competition step up its game. Recognized as the sedan that hauls bank executives, dignitaries, and celebrities alike, this Mercedes-Benz icon has serious expectations to conquer.

Competing with the BMW 7 Series, Audi A8, and Maserati Quattroporte, the S-Class will always have rivals at its heels. In its newest form, Mercedes has unveiled its executive sedan to suit the driver as much as the driven occupant. Having reviewed a variety of ultimate luxury sedans including the Rolls-Royce Ghost and Bentley Flying Spur, I wanted to see how a slightly more attainable luxury sedan got along, so I gave it a comprehensive test.

THE KEY SPECIFICATIONS

Mercedes-Benz offers the new S-Class with two different engine options. In the S500, a turbocharged 3.0-liter straight-six (shared with the AMG GT 53 I reviewed) makes its way under the hood, coupled with Mercedes’ EQ Boost 48V mild-hybrid system, producing 429 horsepower and 384 lb-ft of torque. In S580 guise, Mercedes provides its exceptional 4.0-liter biturbo V8, also equips its EQ Boost system, which bumps the output to 496 horsepower and 516 lb-ft of torque. The S580 is driven by a 9-speed automatic that powers all four wheels, and the sprint from 0-60 MPH takes only 4.4 seconds.

At 208 inches long, 77 wide, and 59 tall, the S-Class has a 65-inch front and 66-inch wide rear track, and a wheelbase measuring 126 inches. In its ultimately appointed–and more expensive–Maybach offering, Mercedes extends the wheelbase and overall length seven inches, providing the rear cabin occupants a massive space to be driven in. Thanks to extensive use of aluminum in its construction, this luxobarge tips the scales at just 4,775 pounds.

Mercedes offers the S580 in three distinct trim levels, with the Luxury Line being its standard model, at a base price of $117,700. The upper trim is the Executive Line model, which adds seating and entertainment upgrades to the rear cabin, focused on the driven occupant. The model I tested is the AMG Line, in the middle of the lineup, adding sportier details inside and out, with a base price of $122,000.

Painted Obsidian Black, treated with Sienna Brown and Black Exclusive Nappa leather, and trimmed with Slate high-gloss poplar wood trim, my tester added 22-inch AMG wheels with performance tires, rear-axle steering, the Burmester 4D high-end audio system, warmth and comfort package, night package, and 3D technology package to hit a total MSRP of $142,090.

THE BEST WAY TO COMMUTE TO THE OFFICE

As expected from a car of this caliber, the all-new Mercedes S580 is wonderful to spend time cruising in. While the standard inline-six in the S500 is a good powerplant, the biturbo V8 stuffed into the S580 is the one you want. With its peak 516 lb-ft of torque available from 2,000 – 4,000 RPM, there’s no hesitation when you want the S-Class to surge ahead, complimented by the smoothest torque-ll provided by Mercedes’ EQ Boost mild-hybrid system. Unfortunately Mercedes no longer has a 12-cylinder option in the S-Class, like is standard in the Rolls-Royce Ghost I enjoyed, and is optional in the Bentley Flying Spur and BMW 7 Series.

The S-Class glides over the bumpiest city streets, thanks to its adaptive AIRMATIC suspension that prevents any disruptions inside this massive chassis. Despite being a huge executive sedan, the S580 is remarkably nimble, and the rear-axle steering is a great option box to tick for added agility. Pirelli P zero rubber is wrapped around the 22-inch wheels in the AMG Line, which denitely help it cope in the bends. I took this S-Class along twisty roads on multiple occasions, and was more than pleased with how confidently it carved corners.

The dynamic drive modes offer eco, comfort, sport, and sport plus defaults, and my favorite individual setup involved putting the engine in comfort, the suspension in sport, and the steering in sport too. I liked a hint firmer response–but not too stiff–from the adaptive dampers, as the comfort mode was more floaty than I prefer. Demand even more cornering prowess? Drop $6,500 on the E-Active Body Control that employs a stereo camera system that works in harmony with the 48V electronics in the suspension to minimize body roll, pitch, and dive characteristics under any driving condition. Even if that drive is only made between one’s massive house and the office or country club.

The new S-Class is treated to a cabin that’s upholding the new Mercedes look that perfectly balances cool and luxurious. The S580’s seats are supremely good, with loads of support in the right spots, and heating, ventilation, and massage modes that will spoil you along any drive. The pillows attached to the headrests are a nice touch too. I suggest taking a long road trip to truly exploit the comfort provided in this flagship Mercedes.

The Burmester 3D surround audio system (a $6,730 option) is among the best I’ve heard in any car, even versus the Naim for Bentley system in the Flying Spur and the Bespoke Audio in the Rolls-Royce Ghost I reviewed, detailed with cool metallic speaker grilles (featuring tweeters that unscrew outward when the system is on). If the speakers aren’t potent enough, Mercedes supplies laminated glass that’s heat and noise-insulating, and IR-reflecting, to make sure you aren’t affected by any outside elements.

BEING DRIVEN IN COOL LUXURY

While driving the new Mercedes S580 is great, spending time in the back seat is fantastic. Even without opting for the Maybach model that boasts an extra seven inches of wheelbase that benefits the rear cabin, the legroom rear passengers will enjoy in the S-Class is massive. The optional warmth and comfort package adds rapid heating, cool ventilation, and power adjustments to the rear seats, while also giving the front passengers added heating in the center and door armrests.

If you’re the person being driven more often than driving, spend the extra cash for the Executive Line S580 that enhances the seating setup with massaging modes, a footrest on the right side, four-zone climate control, and upgrades to the MBUX infotainment system to allow for easier controls while utilizing a tablet that docks in the cooler center armrest that also conceals a wireless charging pad.

THE EXCEPTIONAL DETAILS

While the Mercedes-Benz S580’s exterior may project that it’s an understated executive sedan, but there are countless details that make it cool. The sculpted panels carry subtle styling lines that flow smoothly around its body, cleanly connecting the headlights to the taillights. The classic grille contains the cruise control radar components, and there’s still the iconic Mercedes-Benz hood ornament installed.

Under its fine sheetmetal, Mercedes-Benz has gone wild appointing its interior with some of the coolest tech you’ll spot inside any car currently on sale. An additional $3,000 will upgrade the cockpit with an augmented reality heads-up display and a 3D instrument cluster. The 64-color ambient light modes can be adjusted as desired, but I went for the cool Miami Sunset theme that cycles through retro pastel shades.

While cool speakers, ambient lights, and space age materials aren’t new to luxury cars, Mercedes has a party trick few can match, tucked into its infotainment’s settings: “Energizing Comfort” modes. Whether the S580’s occupants are in need of a boost of energy, want to calm themselves after a long day, or have just taken a dose of their favorite psychedelics (please don’t do this and drive), the S-Class will set up a mind-blowing experience.

Depending on the mode selected, an adaptive color theme is introduced through the ambient lights, the seat and armrest heaters crank up if it’s a warming theme or the seat ventilation fans activate, a unique massage mode begins, and the Burmester audio system flexes its prowess as instrumentals blast through all its numerous speakers. It’s an immersive experience like nothing else, and I strongly recommend making friends with a new S-Class owner, wandering to an open space at night, and firing up one of these modes.

THE POSITIVE POINTS

As more luxury manufacturers are making bold styling changes, Mercedes insists on keeping the S-Class refined. Every panel has the tiniest gap that is perfectly measured around the entire body. Soft-close doors silently operate, yet still have a solidly-weighted feel. Door handles are similar to those found on a Tesla Model S, but with smooth and silent extending and concealment when entering or exiting the S-Class.

I expected the new S-Class to be extremely well-assembled inside, but this S580 is exquisite. A blend of big high-resolution displays for the instrument cluster and MBUX infotainment system, fine quilted leather, and cool metal trim that compliments large wood panels complete a cabin I adore. Follow any stitching, wood, or metal trim line, and you’ll never spot a deviation or imperfection. Considering the S580 costs half the price of the Bentley Flying Spur and a third of the cost of a Rolls-Royce Ghost, the interior detailing of the S-Class is on-par with them both.

A FEW TINY COMPLAINTS

Where the complete outer proportions of the Mercedes S-Class are great, the front grille is a little large when presented between the smaller headlamp housings. I get that Mercedes wanted the front-end to be striking, but the main grille element needs to shrink about 20 percent. This is about as much of a complaint as I can find around the S580’s body, as it still looks ridiculously good.

Continuing the trend throughout its updated cabin designs, Mercedes has incorporated more capacitive touch controls for the seat adjustments, and I would prefer some physical movement that’s given more of a positive click when making each of the many seat sections move. The same gripe extends to the steering wheel setup that I didn’t love in the Mercedes E350 I drove not long ago. With physical controls being eliminated, Mercedes makes you take your eyes off the road to adjust the climate control or volume of your favorite music. At least the volume slider adjusts intuitively when you slide your finger either direction.

“THE BEST OR NOTHING” EPITOMIZED

More than a catchy tagline, the principle of “The Best or Nothing” is effectively applied to the new Mercedes S-Class. As is the case each time Mercedes-Benz releases a new S-Class, the luxury flagship benchmark has been reset with this newest edition. Best of luck to the S-Class’ rivals, in an attempt to compete with what is the best offering in its class by far. The S580 demonstrates the finest engineering and craftsmanship Mercedes can produce.

Met with timeless looks outside, the S580’s cabin is treated to wonderfully modern styling touches and a cool factor like no other flagship sedan. Pair a refined chassis with a mild-hybrid powertrain that creates a truly smooth surge, and the Mercedes-Benz S580 is as joyful behind the wheel as it is from the back seat. There’s nothing like a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, and I think it is absolutely the executive sedan to buy.